CategoryThinking

The Missed Networking Opportunity

The opinion or voice of others can be extremely valuable. Whether advice is needed or just for confirmation that you are doing the right things. Often people will reach out to those they respect, seeking a mentor. It is also common for people to connect with those they believe are in a similar position as themselves in order to exchange ideas or for confirmation that they are doing the right things. However few people will seek those who are less progressed as themselves; in the position you were in 5, 10, 15 years ago. This is a lost opportunity.

The three tiers for networking

tier 1

People who live the life you want to live. They have achieved a goal you want to achieve. They may have more knowledge and/or experience. You want them as your mentor.

tier 2

People who are equal with you. They work at a similar level, they have similar challenges to you and you can work together to move forward. You can both teach each other valuable lessons.

tier 3

People with less knowledge and/or experience than you. They share similar ambitions however they are less able to make them a reality. Usually younger (although not always), they may view you as a mentor.

In my experiences all three levels are important and can provide huge benefits to your progression.

How can they help me?

For the lower tier the usual response would be to ponder how they can help you. If they have less knowledge and experience, surely they can’t teach you anything. This may be true, perhaps they can’t teach you anything directly, however you may be surprised as to how much they can help you teach yourself. What do I mean? Well here are the main benefits I’ve had from connections with these people:

1 – Action

I have recently become friends with an entrepreneur from my old college. He has less academic knowledge and potentially less ‘business knowledge’ – I say it like that as what I viewed as business knowledge is sometimes not even considered by him – and yet he is moving forward at a fast pace.

For myself at the moment I feel a strong requirement to understand the business theory behind the actions I must take and to strategically think through all steps. That means one important thing is missed out, action. Finding this person re-opened my eyes to the value of action and the value of jumping straight in and learning as you go.

2 – Questions

What do you do with a mentor; ask questions. So what do you think will happen if someone views you as a mentor? They will ask you questions.

I love speaking to someone with less technical knowledge than myself about a piece of work because when they ask questions to learn more, it tests my own knowledge. Often I may not have an answer and that shows me where my weak spots are.

 

It is important to understand that when I talk about networking with people who have less knowledge or experience than you, I’m not saying that the stupidest person you know will help you find your answers. Find people who are a similar path to you, just a few stages behind. As long as they have ambition, they are worth the time it takes to get to know them!

What My First Year At University Has Taught Me

This week marks the end of my first year at university, and I will admit I am sad that soon I will no longer be a first year! I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction into university life. I have chosen the above picture as it sums up the year nicely; I’ve met great people, in a great place, doing great things!

To say the time has gone quickly would be an understatement. It feels like it was only yesterday that I was moving in, however the number of incredible things that have happened in between are endless. I’m confident I have some memories that will stay with me forever, although admittedly some memories are a bit blurry 🙂 Nevertheless, first year at university is one I will never forget!

With the amount that’s happened I’ve decided to sit down and reflect on what first year has taught me – apart from how to cook, or how long it takes me to drink a pint. Whilst valuable skills, I have certainly not mastered either!

There are more hours in the day than you realise!

Ok, yes everyone has 24 hours in their day. But before I came to university I certainly hadn’t made the most of them all. This is probably first discovered by most students when they leave a project or essay until the last minute and a long night of working is needed.

The 9-4 ritual of schools before university got me into the habit of only wanting to work in these times. However I soon found that for me there isn’t much difference between 1pm and 9pm. If I don’t have any plans I can easily use that time productively. What I most like about this is the freedom it presents. If you’re happy to get you work done around 6-8pm when not much is happening, it opens up the whole day for other things!

Give it a go

The number of events, socials and talks happening each week are endless. It can be very easy to ignore the posters and facebook invites and carry on with your week as normal. However I started the year with an aim to attend as much as I could and engage. Whilst for some people they won’t leave their flat unless it’s for a lecture (for some, lectures aren’t even enough), I wanted to fill my days with extra events. This has only ever turned out well.

For me, most of these events ended up being business and enterprise based. This opened my eyes to a whole new path which I’ve followed without looking back. If I was to only give one piece of advice to someone just starting university it would be to go to events and give things a go, you might be surprised by how much you like it!

Everyone has something to offer

Once I had been introduced to entrepreneurship I wanted to get involved straight away, however I didn’t feel like I had anything to add to other people’s work, especially if they’re older and more experienced. Often I would think, ‘how can I help, I’m only a first year!’. Once I’d built up confidence to ask to be involved in events and projects and put my knowledge to the test, the responses I got usually went something like this, ‘I can’t believe you’re only a first year!’. That wasn’t because people thought I was too clever to be a first year, it was because most first years don’t get involved.

I soon found that I could contribute as equally as anyone else and that when it comes down to it, age doesn’t matter. Even if you do know less, it is your attitude that counts!

 

In short, your first year at university is a time to try anything and everything, meet amazing new people and discover more about who you are and who you want to be!

 

How conversation creates remarkable change

Last month I was able to attend my first TEDx event – TEDxLancasterU

When I first sat down to see that I had 14 talks and performances ahead of me I did start to think I was in for a long night. However, by the end I was pleading for more. A huge well done must go out to the organising team for getting together a fantastic line up.

All of the talks got me thinking and I would happily write a blog reflecting on each one. However if I did that I would be in for a long night! Instead I have decided to give my view on the talk that was most relevant to me. That talk was by Fraser Williams – How conversation creates remarkable change.

 

In his talk, Fraser shares the three tools he has used to turn an idea into action.

Ignore your emotion

Fraser shares his experiences in competing in Taekwondo, he talks about the nerves he had before competing in the European Championships. Having competed in large sporting competitions myself I know this feeling all too well. The voice in your head that thinks everything will go wrong, that doubts your ability and wants you to back out just to feel safe.

Fraser believes that this emotion needs to be ignored. Compete or commit anyway, despite that fear. Whilst I agree that it is not good to take this emotion seriously, I believe it can be countered rather than ignored. The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters explains how these emotions are the instincts of the ‘chimp’ inside your head. They won’t go away, but they can be trained. Therefore I’d say, understand the emotion, know when it will appear but also understand that you can pass it and instead feel excitement.

chimp paradox

Fraser ended this part of the talk by modifying a quote from Winston Churchill, he said:

“Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal. It is the courage to start that counts.”

When I first heard this I had very little to add, other than YES, YES, YES.

Embrace the sceptic

Our friendship groups hold all types of personalities; pessimists, optimists and those in-between. Fraser emphasises the importance of recognising these people and embracing them all, especially the pessimist as they are the ones who will point out the flaws which can then be turned into challenges and opportunities.

This is an extremely valuable tool and I’m glad to see it included in this talk. I completely agree that the sceptic needs to be embraced, however I feel like a warning message needs to put beside this tools – Be prepared to feel annoyed and believe that the person talking is wrong.

Sometimes you don’t have to embrace the sceptic for them to speak, they may be the person you least expect and so whenever you talk to anyone about an idea you must be prepared to hear some negatives. If you are caught off guard, chances are your defence mechanisms will kick in and you will disregard what is being said. I say, always be prepared to hear negative views and then embrace those – evaluate them, evaluate the source and then decide how to act.

Turn motivation into momentum

“Have one conversation and then have 100 more!”

When you get that initial rush of excitement and energy for your project, take action instantly. If you hold back, your enthusiasm will diminish, acting instantly will lead to quicker results and even more energy.

When talking about this tool, Fraser does an excellent job at including all types of people when discussing who you can talk to. I believe this is the most important part of this tool. Reach out to anyone and everyone, they may contribute in ways you couldn’t have predicted. Too often people hold back discussing their idea, believing people either won’t get it or won’t have anything worthwhile to add. This may be the case but often it will not. Don’t judge what a person will have to say until they have said it!

 

I will end this blog the same way Fraser ended his talk, by asking:

“What action can you take in the next five minutes on the idea that sits in the back of your head?”

 

How To Use Sport To Get Closer To Your Life Goals


Grit is proven to be the number one factor to determine who will succeed in different scenarios. I’ve been looking into how to build grit with Fraser Williams, we’ve written this blog together. You can find Fraser’s blog here.


Angela Lee Duckworth went on a mission to find out what separates those who excel from those who don’t.


In her TED talk – The key to success? Grit – she reveals that grit is the number one factor to determine who will succeed in different scenarios. She defines grit as passion and perseverance for long term goals. Viewing life as a marathon, not a sprint.

Fraser and I believe that ‘grit’, in simple terms, is the ability to constantly put yourself in positions where you feel challenged and uncomfortable.

However, she ends the talk with the question, how do you get grit? For us, we believe sport is a school for grit.

My sporting life has been in badminton. Having started playing from a very early age I have had lots of success as a junior, representing Wales on numerous occasions and competing in the Junior Europeans.

badminton

Fraser’s sporting experience is in Taekwondo. He trained from the age of 8, and achieved the rank of third degree black belt at the age of 18. He went on to fight for the national squad in the European championships.

Fraser

How does sport develop grit?

The nature of sport demands commitment and hard work with a conscious effort to implement it. To improve in sport, hours of dedication to training are required, discipline in maintaining health and well-being is important and a competitive side is built up in athletes.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

– Muhammad Ali

 

Every athlete will tell you about the importance of training and so they don’t think twice about it. Early morning runs, hours and hours in the gym or at practice and countless loses learnt from.

Athletes build up a discipline to ‘give it everything’ at training, as that’s where they improve and grow. It’s a form of mental resilience.

This attitude is natural to people competing in sport. David Williams wrote a very popular article in Forbes magazine, explaining why companies should hire ‘athletes’. He highlights the traits of athletes that are developed in sport, and how they impact a person’s day to day actions.

“Athletes have the drive to practice a task rigorously, relentlessly, and even in the midst of failure until they succeed”

– David Williams

 

Hence, grit really boils down to your ability to set a goal, and boldly take each step regardless of how you feel inside. The process of acquiring grit is both complex and simple…

Complex: Build the habit of ‘willingness to put myself in uncomfortable situations’. Once you have this incredible habit built up, incoming challenges will become much more achievable, and your ‘yes I’ll do it’ response will be almost automatic. The challenges may not be less scary, but they will become doable, because you’ve built up the mental resilience required.

Simple: Do the thing. Do it constantly. Teach yourself that challenges are always scary, but facing them will build up a habit that enables you to face them.

How do we build the habit of grit day-to-day?

Fraser and I suggest you can cultivate grit through dedication to a sport. With sport, we have learnt that you have to go to battle time and time again in training, before you can lift the trophy.

Sign up to something you enjoy, then go to battle at every training session.

Develop mental resilience that will become the habit of ‘grit’.

Then, once something comes up that scares you, you’ll have the ability to walk boldly towards it.

The Idol Illusion

First published on Chasing ED

Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mo Farah, your parents, maybe even your teacher… The list of idols in our lives is endless. People who have been there and done that, people who live the life you want to live. Whatever the key to success is, they know it and they live it – don’t they?

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.” – Kurt Cobain

“Role models and idols are important in life because they help to guide us. We can learn from what they have done and hope to recreate their success.” That is probably the expected answer if you ask someone why they have an idol. I agree it is extremely important to have an idol to look up to, to study and learn from. However, they are often taken too seriously.

Perfection is not attainable

If Bill Gates dropped out of university then to be successful I must, right? Ok, I am exaggerating. I doubt many people have dropped out of education purely because their idol did, however the principle is still in play in lots of situations.

It is easy to assume that the path your hero took is the ‘perfect path’. However in reality it may be the worst path for you, there are lots of different factors that need to be taken into account when making career decisions. It is up to you to work out what the best move is in your situation. That may include seeking advice or considering what others have done, however when considering an option also think about the number of people who didn’t succeed from that choice, they are almost always overlooked.

Question your idol

A common trait of successful people is the ability to constantly question and be curious, not being afraid to act differently and implement new methods. Consider this; no matter who you idol is, they could be smarter, funnier, stronger, improved in some way. They didn’t make all the correct choices, they haven’t always had the best outcome.

Challenge yourself to study successful people in your chosen career and look to see how they could improve, what they could have done better. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

“Give a man a fish..”

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The principal behind this well-known quote holds true here; perhaps re-wording it may make it more applicable:

“Act as another has and you follow in their shadow; act as you decide and you’re open to the sun.”

When you are faced with a decision to make, you are forced to learn about your current position; environment, people around you, future prospect etc. This teaches you about your strengths and what needs changing. Only then will you be open to where you want to go and how to get there. Don’t get me wrong, having the sun in your eyes can be uncomfortable but without sunlight nothing will grow!

Metaphors aside; the future belongs to us individually and we must decide ourselves where we want to go, learning as much as we can on the way.

Plan to Act

First published on Chasing ED

I entered the ‘world of entrepreneurship’ within my first few weeks at university, although it wasn’t necessarily an intention of mine before starting.

Like most students I joined my fair share of societies, however, unlike a lot of people I was eager to join an executive (the executive board of a society gets an involvement in how the society is ran) at the first chance! It didn’t take long and within a few weeks I was looking at an application for the Entrepreneurs Society. An interview and a vote later and I was in!

A few weeks into the term and I had attended a handful of talks, however I still hadn’t quite been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. It took 54 hours at Lancaster Startup Weekend for that to happen. After seeing a speaker from a previous talk pitch his idea, I decided to approach him with the hope of somehow joining his team. Within the next couple of hours I found myself sitting in a common room surrounded by 3rd year students and a recent graduate, talking about business models, brand identities and marketing strategies. It is safe to say I felt a lot like the small fish in a big pond.

Fast-forward a month and I am now helping plan events for the Entrepreneurs Society, working for a company start-up and writing an article about the entrepreneurial dream – something I didn’t have a few months back. So where did it go right for me? I believe it is because I had a plan on how I wanted to behave in each situation.

They don’t know me

By starting university I was entering a new community of people; people who didn’t know my name, my interests or even which year I was in. In honesty, approaching new people is a weakness of mine. However, knowing that people have no knowledge of who you are, not even a rumour, is quite exciting to me as it means I can create my own image instantly. At Startup Weekend I knew hardly anyone and so I would end up on a team full of new faces. I was determined to make sure I gave myself the best chance to end up working with people who I could really learn from!

Listen, listen and listen some more

I love to talk, share ideas, suggest alternative methods and be involved. However during discussions at Startup Weekend I was conscious that I had less experience and generally knew a lot less than others, however I was still eager to contribute. I had to fight my own temptation to jump in too soon with an opinion, only to be told a different point that I hadn’t considered which would cancel out my opinion.

Listening is a great way to learn, but also a great way to evaluate. By listening to people’s points fully it meant I understood them fully. Then by listening to counter points it allowed me to consider different angles. I found that by taking the time to listen during a discussion I could create a more detailed picture of people’s thoughts. Then, if I had noticed something that had been overlooked or had a second opinion on something, I spoke.

Yes please!

With anything I have been doing this year, I have wanted to get stuck in! I enjoy working and challenging myself and so having a target or something to work on is important for me. Whilst I have worked hard to surround myself with people who know more than me, that leaves one down side; you are not first choice for a task. I had to understand that this would be the case, it meant I had to not be picky and if anything was offered to me, to say yes! Say yes, do the work to the best of your ability, stay busy, learn more and then more and more tasks will be offered to you. I knew it would be unreasonable for me to demand to do certain tasks and so staying busy and learning seemed far more appealing than hanging on for a better role.

I don’t believe that there is one approach that will work for everyone and although these behaviours worked for me, they may contradict another person’s personality completely. I am a strong believer that it is very important for people to decide how they act, however each person must decide for themselves.

Take some time before entering any environment and decide for yourself what you want to do.

 

 

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