CategoryThinking

How to know if you’re improving

Self-awareness is probably the answer many would give to this question. You need to be aware of where you were, what you’ve done and where you are now. If you see progress in yourself, then you’ve improved.

I strongly agreed with this statement – and I probably do. But it’s only recently that I’ve realised how hard this is!! There are two situations that I’m realising this in.

Badminton

This is normally pretty easy to monitor improvement in, play tournaments and see if you are getting better results, beating people that you’ve previously lost to. But what happens when you stop playing tournaments and when you start again there’s a whole new group of people to play against, and thus no bench mark. That’s the situation I’m finding myself in. Playing new people, winning some, losing others – but struggling to know if I’m a better player now than I was a year ago, it’s not like I can remember exactly how I played back then.

Business Knowledge

I’m learning a huge amount whilst on placement and being exposed to new things all the time. It’s a wealth of knowledge that’s bound to improve my understanding of business and general decision making in the field. But how can I measure this?

I’m very confident that I know more than I did before starting my placement, but I wonder if other areas of ‘thinking’ or ‘decision making’ that aren’t as prominent during my placement will decline, again I pose the question, how can I measure this?

 

I think the best solution must be to make yourself vulnerable and accountable to others that will see you grow and develop. They will notice changes and improvements, and if your conversation is open and honest then they will be able to tell you.

Does university teach you enough to start a business?

A question that has come to my mind a number of times these past weeks and even more so today after watching the snapchat of Fraser Williams, co-founder of Repairly.

His story today showed him and the team working on plans for Repairly, mainly financial plans.

 

fraser-snapchat

He spoke about the importance of planning but also mentioned how one of his co-founders compliments the team well as he’s good at planning – implying Fraser isn’t?

In any case, planning isn’t necessarily a skill you will learn at University, mainly because there are endless ways to go about it. Yet planning is something I am learning a tonne about now on my placement – so is some ‘experience’ needed initially to gain that skill set?

It’s a concern that has come across my mind on several occasions when looking at young entrepreneurs – do you really know enough yet?? I certainly don’t feel like I am even close, yet many around me are starting businesses successfully… so do they know a lot more than me?

Fraser goes on to say that he doesn’t believe planning is necessary for the starting phases – it takes time away from the hustle. Planning, however isn’t the only skill; sales, finance management, people management etc. all skills that you won’t be guaranteed to learn at university yet are crucial for business success.

So how do people succeed – they bring in the right people!

Repairly’s team is growing, constantly bringing in new people that compliment nicely. So no, university doesn’t teach you everything you need to know to start a business, yes experience will help you improve, but you’ll never know it all – as they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

 

(Hear from Fraser himself on snapchat @fraser357)

Talent vs Skill

“No, no, I think you’re born with talents and you acquire skills” were the words of one of my colleagues only a few days ago. Words that got me thinking about what talents and skills actually are and how people acquire them.

Are you born talented? Or do you have to work to develop it? What about skills; surely some people are naturally gifted to have a certain skill set, but can’t everyone eventually learn a skill?

It reminded me of a saying – Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.

So let’s dissect the two areas and see what we have…

Talent

‘Natural aptitude or skill.’

If someone is born with a natural ability for something they are said to have a talent for it. Whether it’s genetics that makes someone more suited for something or it some mystical ability that a person happens to have from birth, it seems that talent can’t be taught, it is natural.

By this definition, aren’t we constantly using the word in false context? “Roger Federer is very talented” – well firstly, at what? You can’t really answer ‘tennis’, he wasn’t born a Wimbledon champion, it took years of work for him to develop the ability to be a champion. So what was the talent he was born with? Mentality, perhaps good genetics to train his body hard, good eyesight, or will we just have to classify it as an unknown set of abilities that work for tennis and he is able to excel faster than others because of this head start, whatever it may be.

Skill

‘The ability to do something well’.

You can definitely learn a skill, playing the piano, for example, is a skill that is learnt. It may take longer for some people than others but everyone can make some progress in learning a new skill. It is the development of an ability.

Roger Federer has hundreds of skills that accumulate to make him a world class tennis player; his serve, his ability to read the game, perhaps even his work ethic is a skill. Are they all built up over time or was he born able to do such things?

 

I view skills and talents are very mutual things, you can’t have one without the other.

I do believe in natural ability – a talent – and therefore do think that some people are born with a head start, not everyone can run like Usain Bolt! However, I believe talent can be extended upon through the accumulation of skills as if they’re building blocks. Have enough blocks in place and you have extended, or create a new, talent.

talent-v-skill

 

Perhaps if this depiction is accurate, hard work really can beat talent, if talent doesn’t work hard.

A Message to Recruiters

Dear recruiter,

If you aren’t headhunting University students, you’re missing out!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a university student and would love for some of the big name companies to headhunt me, or because I’ve been listening to the autobiography of Elon Musk and heard about his recruiting tactics, that I felt an urge to write about this.

When sourcing the best, young engineers for SpaceX, Elon Musk contacts teaching assistants or college administrators to ask for the details of engineers with good results and a passion for building things outside of their academic work. On several occasions, he offered jobs within weeks of first hearing a student’s name.

Why? Because university students are unique…

1 – They can be moulded

A student with little experience is not yet ‘set in their ways’, they can’t use the phrase “oh, we’ve always done it like that”, because they have never done it.

This was appealing for Musk in a unique aerospace company that was breaking all the rules. A new recruit wasn’t aware of the rules and so had no concerns breaking them. He could influence their style of work to suit him – this was more valuable than years under their belt in his opinion.

2 – They aren’t tied down

No house, family, only some (student) debt, and freedom to move. It’s a lot easier to hire and move new graduates than it is to ask a recruit from another company to move homes with their family to join your company.

3 – They have lots of energy (most of the time)

The right students will work tirelessly. Maybe longer hours, maybe multiple jobs. They want to prove themselves and will do everything they can to prove it.

This might pose the issues that it can be harder to keep young recruits entertained, but if your company is good enough and the role is flexible, that problem will solve itself.

4 – You might not get a second chance

You can build loyalty by showing faith and providing an opportunity. Whether you want to hire to retire or just utilise young recruits for their creativity whilst they’re fresh, if you miss your chance to get yourself known, it may not come back around.

 

Of course, in many cases, there is no substitute for experience, but if you’re looking for people to work hard and bring in new ideas, you’ll find those people in University. But don’t always expect them to come to you, you need to go to them.

Pitching – Control What They See (Version 2)

Just over a year ago I posted ‘Pitching – Control What They See’. It was one of my first posts, and is still one of my most read!

Events this week have made me remember this post. I wanted to explore what I said to see if I still agree.

1 – The Voice

I gave the advice that you need to be in control of your voice and recognise when it might speed up or shake.

This is harder than it sounds, it means you have to not only think about what you’re going to say, but also what you just said. You need to listen to spot when you might be sounding unnatural and correct it.

I mentioned that you can pause and take a breath. What I would add is that you shouldn’t be afraid of silence. If your content is good and you’re engaging with your tone and body language, then the audience will be very patient. You can take your time to make your words clear and effective!

2 – Body Language

Here I mentioned the uniqueness of people’s nervous movement. I’ve come to see many more variations on this over the year. Every time you can see a person wishing the movement wouldn’t happen, but they seem to not have control. Again it’s about self-awareness; find out what it is you do and be ready to spot and control it.

Now, my general advice for body language is to be open. Legs shoulder width apart, and don’t be afraid to take a few steps. Arms away from your side and talk with your hands, it displays lots of confidence whilst actually giving you an outlet to release the nerves!

3 – Content

The sentence I used to sum this up a year ago is definitely the sentence I’d still use –

Understanding, rather than learning.

Think about it, you could talk about your childhood, school, hobbies etc. a lot easier than astrophysics (unless that’s your hobby), because you know and understand what happened and why. You aren’t remembering lines, you’re remembering memories, stories, and information that are then turned into words to speak.

This is where you can over-rehearse. Practice saying the same thing in a different way, then if you feel nervous you’ve still got multiple ways to proceed.

 

To this day I still feel nervous when pitching, yet I try to portray confidence. As mentioned in the original post you can’t control what people think, but you can control what they see!

Russia and the Olympics

This week the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian Athletes failed to overturn their suspension from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

After claims of state-sponsored doping programs involving Russian athletes were revealed, the IAAF suspended Russian Track and Field Athletes from competing. A situation that is very unique due to the scale of the suspension. Individual athletes being suspending for drug and doping related offenses is, unfortunately, common. However, a nationwide conviction is rare. This is what happened –

_90435700_russian_doping

What do I think? I’m glad and far from surprised!

Widespread drug use and doping will be common!

I feel it is naive to believe a sport is clean. The incentives for top athletes is far too great, the pressure from governing bodies is far too immense, and the hunger to win is far too powerful.

I don’t believe all athletes are cheating, I am confident many are 100% clean, however I’m sure they know that their competitors are gaining an unfair advantage over them! I also believe that sporting bodies know what’s happening!

So why don’t they speak up?

Wide spread convictions will ruin a sport!

Look at the story of Lance Armstrong. Comes back from cancer to win the Tour de France 7 times!! What a powerful story to build the popularity of the sport. What a strong idol for juniors to follow. The sport grows, generates more money, and gets more coverage and so on.

Revealing that Lance was cheating would destroy the fairy tale. Instead it wasn’t until he retired and there were new idols that the truth came out.

Athletes taking drugs improve their ability, improves the standard of the sports making it a better spectacle. This benefits of this are obvious, and so turning a blind eye to it allows sporting bodies to grow the sport.

It is improving

I think now sporting bodies are beginning to reveal the truth and punish those cheating. The Russia case confirms this. So what needs to be done next?

Well, I think national bodies need to step up. The Russian scandal was state sponsored. If national bodies are implementing programs the cover up for athletes then sporting bodies begin to lose control. However, again, with aims to meet such as gold medals at the Olympics, jobs, reputation and pride are on the line and drugs and doping are the easy way to try and gain that all important advantage.

Are Plans Necessary?

Whilst recording a podcast earlier this week (stay tuned for it to be released next week!) I asked the question about the value of University. The response surprised me a little, my guest spoke about the need to have an aim, purpose and plan for what you want to accomplish and do at University. It makes sense, right? Yet, I found it almost impossible to do this when I look back. I didn’t know who I’d meet, what I’d do, what I’d like and dislike, and so to be able to have a clear aim before arriving seemed pointless.

It’s made me think, how important are plans? One of my first ever blog posts was about this – Plan to Act.

This coming Monday I’ll be starting my placement, a big change and a new challenge, and this has made me rethink about this topic.

Here’s what I think now…

1 – Plan by thinking

What is a plan? You could say it’s a list of aims, set of objectives or steps.

But what if you don’t know what can be done or achieved?

I believe ‘planning’ could just be thinking. Take University, before you start, have a think about things that would be good to try, skills to learn, places to go… They might not be possible, also there will be new things to see and do which you can’t actually plan to do before arriving. Therefore, think about what you do know and have an idea of how to approach the challenges.

However, it’s unlikely that you can literally plan steps to achieve things, sometimes an ambiguous aim is all you can have, but it’s better than nothing.

2 – Be flexible

Don’t be afraid to change from day one!

New people, information and thoughts. Be flexible to change your aims straight away! Each day, in a new situation, will teach you something new about what’s possible and so you’ve got to use that to help you plan. It can be ever evolving.

3 – It doesn’t have to be formal!

When you tell someone to plan, they think of lists and mind maps and time spent doing nothing other than making notes to finalise later on.

A plan can be a small thought that comes to you at any time. You can plan by talking to others, by hearing from others and asking questions. You don’t always need a long list of steps, a plan can be a single sentence – “I want to leave University with a first”.

 

To return to the point made at the beginning, do you need a plan, aims and a purpose before starting something new? Well not like you think… it doesn’t have to be big or complete, but make sure you do know why you’re going. If you have a why you have a reason to do things and make the most of it.

What My Second Year at University has Taught Me

Today is a historic day. The UK has just announced it will leave the EU, and now I sit, with uncertainty about the coming years, potential future jobs and freedom to move around. Despite being a strong believer for remain and extremely disappointed about today’s result, if University has taught me anything, it’s to not fear the new and instead to embrace and make the most of it. I do not agree with the decision, but I will continue to work hard to ensure the best possible future for myself, friends and family, and any other people I can help.

With that said, I now want to use my last day of year 2 to look back at the main 3 things I have learnt over the year.

1 – ‘You are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with’ is very true

I have always understood the logic behind this statement, but had never truly experienced (or realised it) until this year.

The people you spend time with at University will almost certainly change at least a little bit each year, however, it can change a lot more depending on your situation – for example, starting a new module and being with new people, playing more of a sport, spending more time in your flat or joining a new society. Each situation introduces you to new people with different views, work ethics, behaviours and opinions.

This year more than ever I have seen and experienced the effects of changing between, and being part of, different groups. Not necessarily for a negative, the variety can be incredibly beneficial, however getting the people right for each situation is vital. It will determine how hard you work on your course, how you approach a sport/activity, how you socialise, and so on.

2 – Good habits are extremely easy to lose if you aren’t careful

Whether it’s waking up on time, going to the gym, making notes in lectures, even washing up. The daily habits that can happen automatically, for me have fluctuated a lot. When presented with a slight barrier of travel, I found I went to the gym less. When I started to sleep less, I struggled to wake up easily – something I was very good at in year one.

These were things that I could correct if I wanted, however, suddenly they took a conscious effort to act upon. I believe it is due many new things happening within the year, new aims, new challenges, new focuses.

When I have thought about a habit – e.g. blogging each week – I have been successful. It just takes time and effort to put in place the building blocks.

3 – Get the little things right and the big picture will take care of itself

W all have a grand vision and goals. We all want big things to happen quickly. But they can’t be reached in one big jump. Take the small steps that are possible now and you’ll be there in no time.

I have seen the truth of this mostly in badminton this year. We have had our most successful year to date and as captain, I feel proud of what we achieved. Yet I can’t take credit that this was the outcome of my master plan, rather the opposite. I started the year with the aim to ensure all team members enjoyed playing badminton. When they enjoy playing, they train more, they get on with the team and are hungry for success. I took the little steps to listen to the team, to make each session enjoyable, to focus on each match individually and to not invoke nerves with plans to win everything. Taking it one step at a time led to a league, cup and varsity win, and the achievement of team of the year.

I didn’t use some special formula, instead, I gave each team member the platform to showcase their ability and that is what lead us forward.

What’s next for adamianstewart.com?

1 year of blogging complete.

It’s time to try something new….

Starting next Friday, instead of posting written blogs, I will be posting podcast interviews!!

Don’t worry, all content will continue to be posted on this site, so no need to go anywhere!

What 1 Year of Blogging Has Taught Me

This week marks the 1 year anniversary for this blog! For 52 consecutive weeks I have posted every Friday without fail. I’ve covered topics from books I’ve read, to life at University and my thoughts on business.

Some posts have been very successful, with lots of shares, reads and interaction, others not so much… but I’ve still carried on posting. Throughout the year a lot of people have had the same question – why?

I don’t make money from this blog, I haven’t secured a job through it, in honesty the potential external rewards of a blog haven’t really shown up for me. Yet the year has been extremely rewarding. So why do I blog? And what have I learnt?

I’ve learnt how to summarise faster!

On more than one occasion I’ve had to finish the post in a bit of a rush. However I’ve always wanted the quality to be respectable. It used to take days of planning and research for me to write a post. Now, if I know what I want to talk about, it will take 20 minutes.

I’ve noticed the benefits of this in my University work. Finishing coursework with ten minutes to spare, writing the conclusion quickly. Then when receiving the feedback I see a comment “very well written conclusion!” I put this completely down to the summarisation of points I carry out every week in these posts!

Our thoughts are very contradictory

Until you actually understand what your thoughts, beliefs and morals are and then compare them across situations, you won’t quite realise how often you can contradict yourself!

“Always do what you want to do, at the end of the day enjoyment is a priority” is probably a belief I hold true for a number of situations, but then when I write a post about revision it suddenly becomes obvious that I clearly don’t think the initial statement is relevant or even helpful in many other situations.

That self-awareness is so important to understanding how you wish to present yourself and act in different situations.

People don’t ‘hate’, they just don’t care

Before starting my blog I was worried about what people might think, what they would think of me for it. Does it make me sound big headed? Am I talking complete rubbish in my posts? Will people make comments or remarks about it when I see them?

The truth is, most people don’t care enough to form a negative opinion. Most people might read one or two, quite like them but not read another. Never have I had a negative opinion expressed at me for them. Of course, people don’t always agree with the content, but I don’t expect them to.

It has surprised me how many positive comments I have had from people. Often at unexpected times – “oh, by the way, I really liked your blog this week!” Just knowing that someone has taken the time to hear my opinion really makes it worthwhile!

 

Since starting I have spoken to a number of people wanting to start something similar. I say the same thing “start now and plan later.” The hardest thing is the commitment and motivation to stick at it. If you wait until you have a perfect plan, you’ll never start, if you jump straight in you’d better start getting your content ready otherwise you’ll be missing your deadlines straight away!

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