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You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself. – Galileo

If you open your eyes in the morning and you are still breathing, then you are alive.  Every thing else is a bonus.

Part of my training as an Infantry Officer required me to go to Ranger School, which is primarily a leadership school for combat soldiers who want to join the Army’s elite light infantry fighting forces known as the Rangers.

When I went through Ranger School, it was a 68-day course.  There was the Benning Phase, The Mountain Phase, The Desert Phase and the Jungle Phase.  Ranger courses run all year long, I drew the unfortunate short straw of having to attend during the winter months.  I have never been so cold in my life (well except maybe the time I nearly froze to death in a snow storm when I was 14).

One morning we were huddle together like seals trying to stay warm.  We had on our Gortex winter jackets and we were still cold.  One of our Ranger instructors came strutting out of his command post and yelled,  “Take those Gortex jackets off men.  It ain’t cold out here.  It’s 80 degrees out!  Cold is a state of mind.”

We groaned and shuffled and did as we were told.   Watching us shiver from the cold, our Ranger instructor said with a big old grin on his face, “Men if you make it through Ranger School, for the rest of your life, every day will be a holiday and every meal a feast.”

He wasn’t wrong.

Life is a mental game, and the quality of the game is determined by how you perceive the game in your mind.  If your perception is that life is hard, then you will attract the conditions in your life to make it hard.  Our Colonel told us, before sending us off to Ranger School, that “nothing is as hard as it seems, but if you think it’s hard, it’ll be harder than it actually is.”

To play the game of life well, you must first play a good game in your head.

What’s your mental game like?

The third P when developing a successful personal brand is as the title suggests, is Persistence.

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day or the brand Coca-Cola, neither will your personal brand be established in your marketplace in a day. You will need to be clear on your passions, clear on your plan and then be persistent in both. As we all know it takes time to build a brand. Large companies might have billions of dollars to throw at a brand. You probably don’t and to be fair, you don’t need to. Your currency is persistence.

What does that look like?

Well, you need to set aside regular time to develop your brand. That means maybe reading, studying, writing, networking. Chalk it into your diary well in advance because the day-to-day activity will fight for your time.

How will you make sure you stay focussed on your end goal? What are you going to use as your motivating factors when the going gets tough?

 

Consider realistically how long you think it will take for you to fulfil the plans you chalked out in the previous step. That way, you are aware of the amount of commitment required.

Finally think about why you are developing your personal brand and what the consequences of inaction might be. In the words of another famous brand, you know you’re worth it 🙂

 

 

This video by Tim Clague is a very simple idea that can make team meetings a whole lot more bearable, help you be even more productive this year and avoid that ‘headless chicken’ syndrome.

“How is it possible to measure soft skills?” was the question that someone recently asked on LinkedIn, and the answer which was chosen as ‘best answer’ was written by yours truly. Here is what I wrote:

Taking the term ‘soft skills’ to be a wide range of skills in interacting with people, there are definitely ways in which one can measure these skills.

As a company we have started to employ Branching Video as a method of testing soft skills.

Let me explain:

We recently trained 1500 sales managers across Europe for a large financial services company. Part of this was to show them on how to run 1:1 meetings.

To evaluate their learning in this case, we used branching video of a one to one meeting in action, and asked the delegates to explore possible outcomes.

In each instance they would see the stem, a piece of video that outlined part of the meeting. They could then explore two or three further video clips showing ways that they could deal with the situation.

Following this they would make a decision and go on to see the consequences of those decisions. A critical part of evaluation is to encourage people to make decisions and evidence those decisions as well as understanding the impacts of those decisions.

This part of the evaluation strategy was very popular and effective and is now being expanded to incorporate other areas of the business.
Of course this method could be used for a variety of soft skills and provide an ability to measure an individual’s learning.

By applying certain key performance indicators to each soft skill, one is therefore able to measure the ROI as well.

Seth makes an interesting point here around unemployment and what you do with all that spare time.  We can’t avoid it, redundancies are happening and if you are unfortunate enough to be one of those people how do you become more than just another statistic?

Seth talks about freelancers with more time on their hands but what about people who were actually employed by somebody, what do they do?

The effect of being made redundant is harsh and  can be incredibly debilitating.  For years of your life someone or something has given you something to do for at least 7 hours of the day, now if you don’t motivate yourself nobody is going to find another job for you.

Is finding a job full time work in itself?  It can be, initially at least but then gaps start to appear in the day and you find yourself watching TV shows you wouldn’t normally know even existed.  This is wasted time, time we’ve never had before and time we don’t automatically know how to use so it is easy to unknowingly treat it as leisure time.

Seth suggests to the freelancers to increase their reputation and visibility.  As a former employee you may not even have a reputation outside of your own workplace so maybe it is time you began to build one.  What are you good at?  Think about both in and out of the workplace.  Think about anything and everything.  

For example maybe you were employed as an accountant and maybe you are an expert in a piece of accounting software such as Sage.  It’s time to promote this ability by helping others and offering support on the most popular forums.  Start a Sage for Dummies blog where you give simple plain advice every day.  Talk to your local newspaper about writing a tax column.  After as little as a year doing this your reputation and visibility will be so high you could probably start your own business and the best thing is your customer base will be already waiting – they are your fans, followers and readers with whom you have built the utmost confidence.

Alternatively maybe you have an interest outside of work that could turn a profit if you put your mind to it.  That star seller rating you earned by accident on eBay could give you a head start on becoming a reseller for a product or range of products or maybe your love of the kitchen could give you a good base for a culinary qualification or even starting your own bistro.  Believe it or not you don’t even need a store front to do such a thing, a local couple here in Bournemouth run a successful ding venture whereby people pay to be their dinner guests in their own home.

It is time to think on your feet.  Next time you find yourself sitting in the void find a way to fill it.  It could just turn things around.

I’ve spoken on here regularly about my early rising antics and about how well it works to put me in the right state of mind for work.  This morning I rose 15 minutes earlier than usual with the hope of achieving even more.

This mornings objective was to go for a run.  It was only the second time in my life I’ve been out on the streets for a jog, the last time I think I was in my early twenties and my camera lecturer at film school told me I needed to get into better shape to operate a TV camera… obviously it didn’t last long but that is probably down to lack of knowledge about how to jog.  On that occasion I ran solidly for 30 minutes and returned home an absolute wreck.

This time its different and with a bit more guidance and I made it through a 30 minute programme without feeling too bad at the end. If fact after I recovered I felt incredibly refreshed and ready for the day, and I feel I made even better use of my morning time.

The most difficult thing is dragging myself out of bed to go out running, but put simply it’s only another 15 minutes at the front end of my day and if it make me feel better and work better it can only be a good thing.

Tomorrow is a day off and then back out on the streets again on Saturday.  Will I be so keen then I wonder?

I overslept this morning.  I Hate it when that happens.  Oversleeping for me though doesn’t usually mean waking up at 8:58am and rushing off to working without cleaning my teeth, when that rare treat happens it really freaks me out.  In my terminology oversleeping means only having 30 minutes or so thinking/personal time.

I get up every day at 6:45am.  This gives me 1.5 hours to do whatever the heck I want – eat breakfast, watch the news, relax, do some research, prepare for the day etc.

This thinking time is invaluable for me, it really gives me a chance to reflect on the day ahead.  Also I find it gives me time to fully awaken.  How many people just roll into work half asleep?  If I miss out on this time I find it has a dramatic impact on my productivity for the rest of the day.

The knock on effect happens at the other end of the day though and I often find myself getting tired around 9:30pm and then becoming more active again at 10:30, something I’ve talked about before here.

Trouble is as I get older I’m finding it more difficult as my normal time for going to bed is around midnight.

I read something the other day though which challenged these preconceptions.  Steve Pavlina is a successful blogger who specializes in self development techniques.  The difference with Steve is that he doesn’t recommend stuff unless he has thoroughly tested it himself.

Some of Steve’s favourite experiments are around sleep.  He’s tried all kinds of things, including the controversial polyphasic sleep where you sleep regularly for only 20 minutes.

In this particular post Steve recommends going to bed when you are tired but always setting an alarm and getting up at the same time every day.  This means some days you will get more sleep and some days less but hopefully it should be self regulating.  This technique does rely on self motivation though, which means when the alarm goes off you get up straight away.  Don’t hit the snooze button!

I tried this technique last Friday night as I knew I had a busy day on Saturday with a lot to fit in.  My body said I was tired at 9:30pm, so begrudgingly I went straight to bed.  Part of me was thinking I would be missing out on doing some great things by going to bed at this stupidly early time but to counter this I set an alarm for 6am to give me more time before the day really started.

The experiment was a success.  I woke up when my alarm rang, leapt straight out of bed and felt immediately refreshed.  I then did all those things I felt I was missing out on the night before, but with a fresher perspective.  Then I had an incredibly productive day, fitting in much more than I expected.

Obviously a one day trial does not equal a successful experiment but I’m going to continue with a full trial starting tonight.  More as it happens.

Well the captains of industry wrote an open letter and took a full page out in The Times to tell everyone to work on their skills and to get behind some serious training. And we agree.

Full page ad from The Times and The Platform

Full page ad from The Times and The Platform

Last night I was forced into a quandary.  I’d had to confine myself to one room of the house as the rest of my house was being ventilated in order to get rid of the smell of petrol fumes (long story, don’t ask). Luckily the room I was allowed to spend my evening in just happened to be my study which houses my all-round entertainment/work station, my iMac.

So I was left with a choice, a choice which I didn’t figure out until 4 hours into my evening;  I could either try and recreate a lounging around in front of the TV scenario or I could use my time productively.

Initially I chose the former and spent a couple of hours being frustrated at broadcasters on demand/streaming services.  After that I spent a little more time just browsing the web, again very unproductively and again frustrating.  More importantly by this time boredom was setting in but it was at this point the thought struck me, what could I be learning right now?

The answer to this question was a new piece of software that I’d been meaning to get to grips with, which I then sat down with for an hour and thoroughly enjoyed my time.

So the moral of the story is this, sometimes the environment we find ourselves in doesn’t lend itself to what we want it to be.  If this is the case, don’t just sit around getting bored and frustrated, do something about it and try to use that time for the greater good.

As for me, the fumes will probably still exist in my house tonight so I will probably spend another evening (or maybe even two), in my new learning zone.

A conversation with someone you don’t know very well can be extremely difficult.  From the beginning it’s a brief slippery slide down the slope of small talk before the conversation runs dry.

There is a simple trick though that everybody can pull off and it doesn’t take a genius to execute it either. It involves 3 little words – “Tell me more”.

The simple fact is this, you can’t just talk at somebody for a conversation to work, in fact if you really want to engage a person you need to dig deeper to find out some common ground.

For example I went to a christening at the weekend and even though I knew a few people there it certainly wasn’t enough to pass for 4 hours of entertaining conversation, so an extra effort had to be made.  I got chatting to a guy and during the usual small talk about the weather he let drop that he got caught in a shower out on his bicycle.  A-ha, some common ground there as I like cycling too.  “Tell me more.”  He cycles to work everyday and then goes off for an extra bit of exercise after that.  “Tell me more.”  He finds that cycling is really good for keeping the legs in shape but doesn’t help with the belly at all.  “Wow, I wondered why I wasn’t getting rid of my gut. Tell me more”… and so on.  Before you know it you’re gassing like old friends.

This technique also works extremely well in business too.  Building a relationship with somebody before you hand out your business cards is really important.  Dig deep, find out what your potential customers might be looking for before offering them a solution.  

Let them express themselves, discover common ground, share a vision.  

Repeat until successful.

 

Image courtesy of http://www.lhsdrama.com

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