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Comparison – should we do it?

Should we compare ourselves with others?

A quick google search and you’re met with the top 10 results, all titled and aimed towards providing tips on how you can, or should, stop comparing yourself to others.

It’s a principle and life secret that gets passed on to us as pearls of wisdom. “It’s dangerous” we’re told, “it can only make you value yourself less”. And I get, I’ve felt negatively when comparing myself to others. We only see their success and we interpret that to mean we’re failing. We wish we were doing what they were doing, achieved what they achieved, and so on.

It can lead to low confidence and lack of drive. But why do we have to have these results? Can’t we compare for the sake of good? Can’t we compare in a safer environment to help us? Yes we can! We just need to stop getting so caught up on the instant position and competition.

I still find myself constantly comparing myself to others. Sometimes I might think “my god I wish had done that” and for that moment I might be annoyed or disappointed. But then I realise, I can do that… so let’s do it. I can use comparison as a way of finding ideas for things to do or try. If I haven’t achieved something I haven’t even tried to achieve, I shouldn’t feel negatively when someone else achieves it.

It is also a good accountability check if you choose the right people. Find someone that might be comparing themselves with you. When they appear to be doing something better, remind yourself that they might be thinking exactly the same about you and instead of feeling inferior, you can feel equal yet ready to improve in some way.

You need to look past the instant competition facing you and use comparison as a tool to determine your next steps -and always remember there are many people admiring plenty of things about you!

Sharpen The Saw

I recently finished the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. There are many books that attempt to explain the secret to success, sometimes coming across far too practical; if you don’t for X or Y you won’t achieve Z. Whilst others are too vague and ‘spiritual’, giving no tangible actions – this book seemed to find the balance!

The book tells stories, gives examples, and provide frameworks to help understand and implement the habits. The whole book was very interesting; sometimes obvious, other times eye opening.

There’s one habit I want to talk about, habit 7: Sharpening the Saw.

Image result for sharpen the saw 7 habits

Essentially this habit is the ability to take a step back and re-charge to become for effective. The analogy is a workman sawing away at a tree. He is in the zone and working 100% efficiently, however, the saw it blunt. Someone suggests he stop and sharpen the saw. Scared of breaking his rhythm he angrily refuses, exclaiming he may never be as efficient again if he were to stop. Yet if he sharpened the blunt saw, he could chop down the tree in half the time, even with a slower motion. The principle makes sense!

However, there is another reason this habit sticks in my mind so clearly. A quote from Gary Vaynerchuk on ‘meditation and mindfulness’. (Jump to 21min 50sec)

Doesn’t this sound exactly like the workman? Or perhaps Gary really is superhuman 🙂

 

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Today I helped with a school visit. Primary school children coming to 3M to learn about our technologies, try some challenges, and learn about careers. The latter is where I came in; sat down ready to talk about school, education, and how it all leads into careers.

I started with the usual; “how’s your day so far?”, “what are your favourite subjects?” etc. These were soon followed with the classic “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

I was shocked by how quickly this question stood out as something ridiculous. What was I expecting them to say? Of course, they had answers, but they didn’t have a set plan or know what the job even involved sometimes. It’s a question we always ask children, sometimes far too seriously. Here’s the good and bad side of that question.

Bad – They felt ashamed when they couldn’t answer

Their heads dropped and volume lowered as they timidly said they didn’t know. They said it as if it was an incorrect answer, as if they would get in trouble. They believed they should know and be able to tell me exactly what they wanted to do in 20 years time. It’s obvious how ridiculous this is, yet for some reason they felt that way.

Those that knew spoke proudly about it.

Good – They still dare to dream

“Either a doctor or an 800m Olympian”, “a DJ”, “a robot builder”, “a world famous engineer”.

These were some of the answers that greeted me. I was shocked by the number of kids that wanted to be the best in their future career and actually thought they would be – and why not think that!

Ask them in another 10 years time and the answer might be a similar field but with less ambition or purpose, and that annoys me.

They don’t fear big ambition or dreams, they know they have a big future ahead of them and they are willing to say it! If only more of us could continue with that trait.

 

Perhaps it is good to ask the question, to people of all ages. But support uncertainty and encourage ambition. Nothing is certain, nothing is unachievable. The more we can encourage children to dare to dream, the more that actually will when they do eventually grow up.

I Don’t Care What You Think About President Trump

Today Trump became president. Whether I like him or not is not my topic for this blog, I have my view and I will share them if asked, but I don’t want to express them for no reason, politics causes lots of debate and we’d be a lot better off if we actually listened – that is in part what I want to share with you.

It has been a frustration to see the constant back and forth in the election process, with lots of aggressive views (mainly on social media), in fact this applies to many other ‘hot topics’. The frustration is that people refuse to believe their opinion is wrong and that the opposing people are stupid. Always keep in mind, people always think they’re doing good. Rarely to people act to extreme lengths with the motive to promote what they think is wrong. Both sides think they’re right.

So ultimately I want to use this blog to get you to watch this video and to pause the next time you see an opinion you disagree with. They think they’re right and so do you, so how can you actually work around that to make progress rather than forcefully tell someone they’re wrong even if they actually are.

How Ed Sheeran Won With Snapchat

Over the last 12 months, Snapchat has really cemented itself are one of the top social media platforms, for use at least with up to 150 million active users daily.

However, it’s also been a bit of a marmite platform for business. Some hailing it as the go-to place for cheap and successful marketing, others saying it doesn’t have a wide enough demographic and its metric are useful for calculating ROI.

I sat in the first camp, I’ve loved Snapchat and always thought it is a hugely untapped platform for any business use or promotion. The question in my mind has always been, ‘how’s best to use it?’. You can use it as a general user, communicating with fans, customers etc, share a ‘story’ to send communications to all of your user base, or create sponsored filters so all users within your specified area.

All have their pros and cons, some are authentic but lack reach, others have the reach but scream of sponsored content which can be a turn off for end users.

However, with some creativity, the perfect strategy for your content can be found, and I believe Ed Sheeran (or his team) has done exactly that.

Just the other week I was playing around on the app, checking out the new filters as they change quite often. I scrolled through the ‘sponsored’ filters impressed to see what was there, but knowing I wouldn’t use them. I then came across a new filter, sunglasses with background music. A concept very similar to a pre-existing and very popular filter, but with a change in music and style of glasses, I promptly recorded and sent a snap of me bobbing along to the beat.

No wording, no sponsored badge, just the graphics. I beat of the song however stuck in my head, I had no idea what it was or who it was by, but I liked it. I used the filter quite a few more times over the following days until one day I heard the same beat playing on the radio. I quickly found out that the song was a new release from Ed Sheeran – Shape of You. The song has been a huge success since release, becoming the UK number 1 straight away and I believe the filter is a big reason.

Firstly, the hardcore fans recognised it was him straight away and took to social media to share the tease of his new sound, creating a huge online buzz even before release. Secondly, for other listeners like myself, it got the song into my head without any pre-judgement of who it was by. I loved the song before I’d heard more than 30 seconds and so as soon as the full song was released I was listening straight away, I don’t I’d be so hooked without that first interest.

So why I am I sharing this. In my opinion, this is a PERFECT example of how to be clever with social media. It’s not about making a sale straight away, it’s about building a buzz ready for the bigger thing.

In case you missed the filter, here’s a video of it being used – sadly it’s no longer live.

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

A conversation this week reminded me of my drum teacher back at the ages of around 13/14.

“Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent”.

Hardly a lesson went by without him saying this phrase. Perhaps it was the because of it’s repetition, but it really stuck with me.

“Perfect practice, make perfect. It’s will be no use you going away and practising it incorrectly, you’ll come back being able to the play the beat with your eyes shut… but it will be wrong!”

It stuck with me because it makes complete sense. You can just magically become perfect at something through repetition – you’d be insane to think that, according to Einstein at least.

So why’s this variation so important? Well, to me it highlights the need to control all the other variables that can help achieve ‘perfection’. Of course, practice is a huge part, but so is coaching/teaching/mentoring; someone who knows what perfection looks like and can direct you toward it, someone that will correct the faults and introduce the next steps. I believe it also emphasises the need to questions things, if I was practising a beat on the drums I had to stop and ask myself “was the correct?”, “how should  these notes be played?”, “is the timing right?”, asking such questions not only helped me improve what I was playing, but it also helped me to understand why things happened, so if I saw a piece of music in the future with similar note patterns, I might have a good idea of how it should sound.

Practice must be carried out with intent and validation checks to ensure you’re not practising the wrong thing, otherwise you’re really just wasting time.

 

Please Stick to your New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve written before about why I’m not convinced by New Year’s Resolutions. I think if you want to make change, make it there and then and not wait until the new year.

But, if you insist, please at least stick to them!

I can’t say I’m an expert in habit setting or goal achievement,  but if I want to start and maintain something here’s what I do:

1 – Change my phone wallpaper

A constant reminder can be a huge help. Whether it’s a reminder of what to do, what we want to achieve, or even what we want to avoid.

We look at our phones constantly and therefore it is the perfect place to put that reminder. Find an image or some text that summaries the resolution and put it as your phone background, that way you will see it many times a day and it will begin to set in.

Also, I find my phone to be quite a personal thing – not many other people will see my phone in the day and so by setting a goal on there I find I set it personally. I’m not making a note of it for all to see. Also, the reminder can be personal, something only you understand. For example, you want to lose weight before a holiday – your background could be a picture of holiday destination, no one else has to know what your true goal is.

2 – Be tough for the first month

The success of goals is often determined by the setting of habits; going to the gym, reading, learning, practicing etc. Often it involves a repeated action. But the whole reason behind the resolution is the lack of said action in the previous year. So you’re unlikely to just be able to start doing it continuously, otherwise you’d already be doing it.

To set a habit I need to be tough at the start. No excuses, extra planning to ensure I get what I need done, not missing a day. After the first hurdle it becomes part of routine and so you can let up a little. However, always be cautious that a habit can slip, so keep an eye on it – if you start to waver, be tough again!

3 – Tell someone who cares

It can be really easy to convince ourselves for why we aren’t doing something we should be doing. We can create excuses or scenarios as to why it was feasible. But it isn’t always to easy to tell another person.

Find someone that cares about you achieving this goal and get them to remind you of and make you accountable. When they ask if you have completed an action and you say no, make sure they demand why. The accountability will keep you in check, after all you don’t want to disappoint them and be seen to be failing.

 

The resolutions won’t just stick – you have to implement mechanisms to help them become routine. Find what works for you and make 2017 the year you complete you New Year’s Resolutions.

The Importance of Reading

How many of you will have a book on your Christmas list?

This year, for a Secret Santa, I gave a book and received a book (if you’re interested, I gave ‘1984’ and received ‘What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20’).

In my opinion, books, podcasts, interviews, videos etc are some of the most valuable tools for learning. Exposure to different ideas, stories and experiences. Yet very few people utilise them. Here’s why I think such things are invaluable.

1 – You can learn from the mistakes of others

They say failure is a lesson to be learnt – make mistakes, learn from them, don’t make them again, and improve.

Well by hearing the failures of others, you can learn the lessons without having to go through the hardship. You can recognise situations before they happen, you can learn what to expect or how to prevent things – or on the flip, how to encourage and force a positive situation.

2 – You can see a new perspective

One of the biggest challenges we face is the blinkered view we have of the world. It can be hard to see and understand alternative views and opinions. We can have our minds expanded through experiences, but those can be few and far between.

An example that is recent for me on this topic is a podcast from Malcolm Gladwell – revisionist history. He covered the topic of Toyota’s out of control accelerating cars. Toyota paid out billions for cars that accelerated out of control and lead to deaths. It was a huge story and a dark time for the company. It would be easy to have a negative view of the company from this, however after listening to this podcast you’ll learn that the car actually had zero faults, the cause of the out of control acceleration was something else – listen here to find out what the cause was, it will shock you.

3 – It’s a distraction and an enjoyment

Some books will teach you lots through facts and stories, others will take you to a new, sometimes make believe, world. Don’t underestimate the power or importance of either of these. Facts are great, they will teach from those that have been there and done it. Yet, a fiction story can be extremely powerful. Sometimes it’s an escape and a relaxation from day to day life. Sometimes it’s a thrill that stimulates your mind, other’s it’s a pick me up – it’s will just help.

 

All I say is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and be committed. You don’t have to read, I listen to audio books. Youtube is full of amazing material, iTunes podcasts the same. Find aseriess you enjoy and follow it!

 

 

Why do we leave things until the last minute?

There’s so much value in getting things done early… yet we always leave things until the last minute?

I’d be quite interested to understand why we do leave things until the last minute. I could speculate as to why, and I guess many people do, but that topic can be saved for another time.

Recently I’ve spoken to a couple of people about starting projects and setting things up and I found myself emphasising the same point – do what you can now so you’re prepared. Have a store of content to get going with, be ready for delays later down the line by getting things checked off now.

Often projects aren’t completely solo, they will rely on another person in some way and this can instantly cause delays. In fact, the delays from other people don’t even need to be specific to your project, it could be related to something else, yet it impacts other things you’re doing. For example, you want to write an essay but suddenly a group member from another piece of coursework is “ill” and you have to pick up their work. Now you have double the work in the same time.

It just makes sense to get things done earlier, doesn’t it!

I’m by no means a master of this, and like many others, I probably wished I was. However, I do have a few techniques that I use to try and get things done well in advance.

1 – Break down every single step

This gif will explain the importance of this.

Image result for when im starting an essay gif

When you look at writing an essay, you don’t know where to begin and so you don’t begin. You ponder and think and times keeps ticking on.

So break down every step, from research for each point to references for a definition. Do 3 or 4 small steps and suddenly your introduction is written. It all starts to build up without much delay.

2 – Make yourself busy

They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. That’s because they know they have no time to waste, they won’t procrastinate, they will do!

Get involved in more projects, make plans for your evenings, do whatever you need to do to restrict the time you have available. Wen you know you don’t have any option but to do the work there and then, mot of the time you’ll get going.

 

If you’ve got any great tips please share!

Win a medal only to have your funding scrapped

Today UK Sport announced their funding plans for the road to Tokyo 2020. This news was not good for anyone related to Archery, Fencing, Weightlifting, Wheelchair Rugby, and the sport that got me upset – Badminton.

Before I get into the news of today. Lets have a quick look at what the UK Sport Funding actually is and how it helps.

“The primary role of UK Sport is to strategically invest National Lottery and Exchequer income to maximise the performance of UK athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the global events which precede them.

“Investment decisions are made on a four year basis wherever possible to cover a complete Olympic or Paralympic cycle but are focussed on an eight year performance development model.

“Success is measured by the medals won, the number of medallists developed, and the quality of the systems and processes in place to find and support the nation’s most promising future champions.” – UK Sport website

There’s even a nice flow chart to show where the money goes.

The money is allocated according to performance bands, plans are written, and targets set – with the outcome essentially being to win medals at the next Olympics. The more success we have, the more money is put into funding; the funding for Rio 2016 was 11% than that for London 2012. In fact, on average each medal in Rio cost £5.5m in funding.

UK Sport has built a reputation for firm decision making when it comes to fund allocation – if your sport doesn’t make the cut, you don’t get a cut of funding. Perhaps it is in part throwing your eggs in one basket as sports such as cycling saw big funding increases post-Beijing. Many critics also believe the tactics are damaging grass root sports; in one cycle there’s plenty of money to fund development projects, in the next it has all gone.

Here’s a summary of the funding allocation for recent Olympics.

This chart has never been a great site for any badminton fan, with funding slowly falling. This isn’t really much of a surprise; Beijing target 1 medal – not achieved, London target 1 medal – not achieved.

Despite no medal since 2004, the Rio target was once again set as 1 medal – this time ACHIEVED.

Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge caused a big upset by winning a bronze medal. They wouldn’t have been top of the list of UK competitors likely to win a medal, yet they delivered. It was a signal of the improvement of UK Badminton’s increased strength in depth – we have players that can compete at the top level in a number of disciplines.

Goal reached, so a funding increase should follow right? The next aim should be 2 medals, yes?

Well, the target may go up – it will certainly again be at least 1 medal – yet UK Sport announced that funding for Badminton is to be cut completely. It’s been a huge shock, and it raises the question, what happens now?

Badminton doesn’t attract the levels of sponsorship to be self-sufficient, it’s current development programs are already under-funded, many top athletes can’t afford to train and play without the critical backing from the governing body.

Quite frankly, this is a massive blow to the sport in the UK that can really impact any future success. I feel for the next generation of UK athletes that won’t receive the support they deserve, I feel for the program developers that will see their hard work reach a stop if funding is retracted, but mostly I feel for the two medalists who, only 3 months ago, achieved what was really only a dream of theirs, they reached the pinnacle, yet today they find out that the sport they love and have committed their lives to is being crossed off the list.

© 2018 Adam Ian Stewart

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