The year of 2014 proved to be a remarkably interesting year. I relocated 4 times, worked in 42 new cities across 4 Continents , made more money than any previous year and managed to spend more time with loved ones than ever before. With all that happened in 2014 I am certain that there were some very strong lessons served up and today I sat and considered what those top lessons are.
#1 It ALWAYS starts with a dream
I remember a point in my life when I was discussing some of my life plans and someone close to me at the time called me a “Dreamer” as a derogatory term!
At what point in life does using your imagination to create a better environment shift from being endearing and exciting to becoming such a bad thing? Everything that has ever been achieved in life at first started as a dream and being the parent of two young girls I have first hand knowledge that dreams can be enchanting, exciting and often magical. I am also fully aware that many of the things that we dream are far from the realties that we currently experience. Please don’t let what is real today constrict what could be real in your future; DREAM BIG and don’t let anyone steal your dreams.
#2 Look after your primary asset
Every year of my working life a major focus has been towards succeeding at my work and taking care of my loved ones. Amongst all of that I forgot to look after the most important asset that delivers on all of the current and future promises, I forgot to look after me, my body and mind. When I turned 30 years of age I started to notice for the first time that what I consumed directly impacted on my waistline and the infectious energy level that I took for granted could often find itself exhausted. With the help of some amazing people in my life (One in particular) I have finally managed to find time to prioritize my health and well-being. It has also become clear to me that if I took the same energy I was applying to finding reasons why I couldn’t make improvements in this area and applied it to simply making improvements then the results would be amazing.
For those who are interested here are the 4 changes I have made that have made the biggest differences to me.
- Eating less crap food
- Running 3 miles at least twice a week
- Practicing Yoga and stretching to increase flexibility and improve posture
- Reducing my alcohol consumption
#3 Don’t resist momentum
Starting anything always requires the most effort and once something has started successfully you never know where it might take you. With every project I have learnt that if you can give it huge effort from the get go then you can get it to the first check point. Keep that effort level maintained and the project then reaches a new level and that’s when momentum really kicks in. At this point you have no choice but to run with it. The momentum may well take you in a direction that is slightly different to the original plan, by embracing the direction of the momentum the actual destination is often far further forward than ever imagined and the journey is way more exciting.
#4 Do the right thing at the right time
My life has me spending huge slabs of time travelling, working across large differences in time zones and juggling many projects both personally and professionally. The result is that I have clearly identified that time is my most precious asset and applying it in the right way brings the biggest rewards.
My top tips for increasing effectiveness are:
- Don’t end your workday until it is finished on paper. This means scheduling all actions, sending all follow on communications and grouping together any notes from the current day. By acting on things why they are fresh it saves a lot of time in the long run.
- Plan your travel time.Travel time for many is often entirely non productive. Planned right then this outcome can be reversed. If travelling on public transport then this time can be valuable alone time to put on your headphones, block out the world and complete any important administration required. If you are controlling the vehicle yourself then use the time to make important account management catch up calls or worst case to listen to a great audiobook or seminar.
- Give pessimistic deadlines.By providing projected completion dates way past your expected timeframes you allow yourself the ability to complete the actions at the most appropriate time, can manage priorities easier and always over deliver to your clients and customers.
- Be 100% present Whatever you are doing be engaged in this activity in its entirety. If you are responding to emails then put your phone out of sight, if you are in a meeting then don’t be thinking about the call you need to make later and if you are with your loved ones then don’t be thinking about what you need to be doing at work.
- Act immediately when possible So much time is wasted by reading the same email over and over again or by writing simple required actions onto “to-do” lists for many consecutive days. If you can take the time to read the mail then commit to either: reply, file, schedule your next action or delete. If you keep rewriting an action then commit to either doing it immediately or deciding not to do it at all.
#5 Agility beats rigidity
Selling my house in the UK and terminating the lease on my UK office was both daunting and hugely liberating. Cutting loose the ties of needing to staff an office everyday, maintain a large property and manage the operations of multiple staff has presented me with so many great opportunities that I would have not have been able to experience when constrained by such liabilities. Consider conducting your own life laundry and check that all that you have become so used to is as necessary as you once believed it to be. Can you reduce monthly overhead by letting go some of the perceived life luxuries to make room to experience a whole new level of luxury?
#6 Everything is a choice
With most of the world looking to someone else to enable success in his or her life, it is no surprise to me that personal responsibility is something hugely lacking in modern society. The minute you accept that everything that happens to you is all your own doing then life itself becomes more empowering. Every day we have the ability to choose how we feel about things, our feelings in turn impact on our actions and our actions drive our outcomes. I am sure this can read as being remarkably simple and many people could write so much more about the subject.
This last year has demonstrated to me that this statement is so fundamentally true that it requires no further explanation. If you don’t like something then CHOOSE to do something different about it. If you can’t change the outcome then simply CHOOSE how you feel about it and you soon make room for more happiness in your life.
#7 Your second biggest asset is your journals
Regardless of what you think the truth is that your memory is awful. Combining that fact with the understanding that our daily thoughts are so powerful then taking the time to keep great journals will serve you in so many ways.
- Committing your thoughts to paper is proven to make you more than twice as likely to remember them.
- Emptying your head can be seen as great therapy and a journal is truly the best listener as it casts no judgment, has a warm heart and never forgets.
- Taking notes in meetings with others enhances your ability to be fully present and provides valuable reference points for all future work.
- Your life is your own legacy, there will be points in time when you look to reflect and see how far you have come. Keeping a journal makes this process so much more fulfilling.
#8 Remember to give back
I know that you are the most important person in your life and it can be difficult to find the time or money to give back to others. Failing to give back leaves a huge part of you very empty. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs demonstrates our need for self esteem and our self-esteem is best rewarded with the recognition of genuinely providing help to others. Committing to give back in whatever way you can is one of the core principles of humanity and my experience is always that everybody wins, as the more you give then the more you get back.
#9 Maximise your ROI with everything!
The last 12 months were a huge wakeup call to me for how much I was leaving behind with nearly every action that I was taking. As a proud preacher of the philosophy “If you don’t as then you don’t get” I recently realized that I have not been perfectly practicing what I preach. Here are some examples that I have had success in getting more out of everything in 2014:
- Asking all of my major suppliers for improved terms of business – By extending payment terms with many suppliers I have improved cash flow massively.
- Speaking to every previous major client and gaining either more work or a referral into a new opportunity.
- Making restaurant reservations through mobile apps like Opentable and collecting points as well as letting them know what we are celebrating and often receiving some wonderful surprises. –
- Registering for all loyalty schemes with every airline and hotel that I visit – Upgrades, Premium lounges and jumping lines now comes as standard.
- Using credit cards for all expenses and gaining air miles or cash back from every purchase – I have enjoyed 4 return flights from London to NYC in the last 12 months from simply swapping my spending from my debit card to a credit card.
- Asking for discounts at every opportunity – Even at major stores this has garnered success by obtaining free gifts as opposed to discounts.
#10 If it is not right then it is wrong
We can all do anything but we cannot do everything. To gain the success that is desired then you must create the space to grow. Often we become attached to people, jobs and things out of habit and stick with them to create certainty in our lives. Certainty delivers the feeling of control and for many delivers an emotion of security. Our emotions are the key difference between our race and every other living thing and trusting our instincts have historically lead to so much greatness. If instinctively we know that something is right or wrong then trusting that instinct and committing to it fully can lead us to places beyond our current beliefs. If there is something or someone that you know is holding you back as opposed to driving you forward then perhaps its time to listen to the year’s biggest grossing movie and “Let it go”.
Thanks for listening to these lessons and “Cheers” to your continued success in 2015.
Thanks a million