Earlier this week, I spoke at Hull Business Week about a topic I’m passionate about – Unlimited Potential or UP!
I define UP! as being “In a state of mind which allows opportunity + success to flow to you, whilst remaining happy, aligned and committed to those things that matter in your life.”
The deeper I’ve delved into what makes me tick, in modern terms my Emotional Quotient (EQ), the more success and opportunity has seemed to come my way. I spoke to the audience about a number of different things that work for me personally. Here are 15 bullet points covering some of the content I covered in no particular order: -
- Create your personal vision, Mission and Values to set your pathway, main effort and moral compass up.
- Always be in the right ‘state.’ That is, giving your brain the opportunity to think expansively and at higher frequencies. You achieve this by ditching devices and partaking in things like cycling, swimming, walking, which moves your frequency utilisation up from the low teen’s to the mid-sixties.
- Focus on being brilliant at being you. The best possible, highest level of your personal potential, whatever that looks like.
- Read the book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr. Steve Peters to better understand how your brain works and practice positive self-management.
- Live Every Day. Like it was the first day and the last day.
- Stop being offended (accept everyone has an opinion, even though it might not be yours).
- Let go of your need to win (says more about you).
- Let go of your need to be superior (says more about you).
- Let go of your need to have more (says more about you).
- Be open to everyone, everything (don’t judge, there’s opportunity in everything).
- See every opportunity as an opportunity to learn (Every interaction and experience).
- Have the mindset of an opportunity engineer (Always seek to think what the thing in front of you right now could bring to you).
- Forgive, Forgive, Forgive (holding onto anger simply weakens you).
- Be “MAD” for it (seek to make a difference to something or someone every day).
- Work on your Mind, Body and Soul. Don’t ignore any one of these. Read a book a month, stay fit and do things that touch your heart more frequently.
I once got called the “King of the Three Letter Acronym” (TLA). I do use them a lot when speaking and presenting, but also to remind myself of great insights or when talking with others. TLA’s can be very useful in ensuring an audience goes away with “one key thing” from a talk, something they can easily remember.
One that I use in my own life is “TIM” which stands for “This Is Me”. Early on in my career I spent my time fitting in. Wearing the right corporate uniform, using the right business jargon, saying things I felt people wanted to hear and conforming. I guess I just was trying to be liked and doing what needed to be done to move up the ladder!
Only later did I realise that I wasn’t doing myself any favours by diluting who I was with others. Effectively I was two people, one person at the office, another at home. This led to a fundamental misalignment of self, which needed correction. Misalignment stops you being the best possible version of you and I continue to meet lots of people who can really identify with this concept of a “private me” and a “professional me”.
You can align those two things into a common definition of “me” which then becomes the true and authentic version of you. Life is far simpler and you spend less time on what other people think about you and more time on your own happiness. A recommendation I always give to people is to have clear in their mind their own Vision, Mission and Values (VMV).
Vision – What are you doing this all for? (An easy to remember one-liner).
Mission – What are the major things you need to do to make this happen? (tip, don’t create too many, keep it simple. Think of your main effort(s).
Values – What things really/truly matter to you in life?
One extra I like to add….
Morals – What are your “no-compromise” morals?
I have those things in my mind, stored across multiple devices and written down in key places. They are a constant reference point and act as a great compass in the journey. From first thought to the final list took me a couple of months of thought, refinement and deletion. When finalised, you’ll get a great sense of perspective of the real you. Acknowledge and accept that, then go and be you. Change a few things if you have to as there is no set of rules anyway that you have to be wedded to the past definition of you, whether that’s internalised or how others may view you.
So, in your head think of this TLA. “Hi, I’m TIM” – (This Is Me).
If you do prepare your VMV and get some clarity as a result, will you let me know via a comment or a note on Twitter.
Over the years, I’ve read a huge quantity of books around leadership from biographies to methodologies. It’s easy to copy a successful formula if you are trying to develop your leadership capabilities however you may end up not being the true and authentic version of you.
As I rose up within my own business, it started to dawn on me that I got far more done when I spent more time just being me, not trying to be a Jack Welch clone. People responded to me far more when I stopped trying to be something/someone I wasn’t. From that point my career rocketed, on to lead the UK organisation from humble beginnings as a fax salesman.
To this day, I could kick myself for the “work mask” that I had developed in my early years. Only when I began to work with business psychologists in 2000, did I realise the error of my ways. Over the following years, my leadership style has simply been focused on being the best possible version of me – that’s it. Let me share with you 10 simple things that I have learned about leadership as a framework which may work for you: -
- Being truthful with yourself.
- Being truthful with others.
- Respecting everyone regardless of where they sit.
- Pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL on your past and living in the now.
- Letting your true personality come through not what you think other people want to see.
- Being compassionate when making tough decisions.
- Always giving space for others to give a view.
- Being fair.
- Admitting your shortcomings and mistakes.
- Seeing everyone and everything as a potential for learning.
Back to my opening paragraph, this is not about creating an army of “me’s”. These are just some of the things that allowed myself to be the best possible version of me, when heading up a large organisation. I’ve found that the topic of leadership is more about respect. Respect for self, others and your wider environment, however you define it. When you practice that, it drifts you more towards the familiar descriptions of what “leadership looks like” in a book but with your personality stamped all over it.
Stored belief systems can be incredibly damaging if not updated, think of them like APPS on a smartphone which need to be constantly upgraded to fix bugs to function correctly and at their optimum.
Your brain is amazing supercomputer, which functions 24/7/365. Keeping your heart beating, your eyelids blinking, your legs moving, your imagination whirring and turning your thoughts into words – all without you giving it much thought. It is constantly running in the background, predicting outcomes, regulating your temperature and storing your experiences like a massive hard disc.
With something so powerful, you’d want to be sure that the operating system and software that you use with it is in tip top condition and bang up to date. To do this, you need to ensure that all it’s stored beliefs are updated and that – like a sat nav – it’s updated with the very latest route planner for you.
A tip I often give to people is to work out your personal vision, mission and values. These act as your sub-conscious route planner for your brain when needing to decide it’s direction of travel, left/right turns and the like. Like a corporate mission statement your vision (what I call DING!) needs to be clearly defined, this is your top line “what’s it all for” statement. Your mission is the actions you are going to take each day to achieve that vision. Your values should be those things most important to you which become the basis for your moral compass.
When you have those things defined – and it will take a good deal of thought – write them down somewhere where they are easily accessible at all times. I have them synced in Evernote across all of my devices, so they are never far from reach. Refer to them regularly, memorise them as much as possible, make them part of your core operating system and see what happens.
Decisions become clearer, purpose jumps to the fore and clarity ensues. Your brain will then start to store them deep in your parietal lobe, the key area for auto-pilot responses, and update itself with your personal direction of travel. Hopefully that place is a destination called “success”. Let me know how you get on.
Been thinking about these words a lot of late and worked them into a few talks.
It’s amazing how your thoughts can conspire to constrain you, with past experiences creating a hard disk memory in your parietal brain which may auto-pilot you to never repeat something or your limbic brain telling you a thousand reasons why you should retreat, not invest. I’ve met so many people, wearing their virtual black armbands or past experience, failing to forgive and move on.
Successful people, have mastered the notion of ubiquitous opportunity. They don’t pre-judge, they stay open to everything and closed to nothing. Even if that means repeating a previously unsuccessful thing on a different day as the outcome may be different. Your past experiences can end up pre-programming you to be closed to opportunity, unless you constantly update your stored experiences and beliefs with the up to date version of you.
Earlier I sent this tweet, “Opportunities are never lost,someone will always find the ones you fail to see/action”. It’s a great reminder that those who have moved on into the moment of now, rarely miss opportunity, as they see the possibility in everyone and everything at anytime. They have great listening skills, ask lots of questions, take lots of feedback and update their personal software.
People who have pre-formed opinions, want to spend more time arguing they are right or pre-judging outcomes rarely see as much opportunity. So spend more of your time reflecting as to whether you might be in that place, I have been and from experience I can tell you, the less hung up you are, the more UP! will come your way.
You’d have to live on space to have not seen the news around disgraced cyclist – Lance Armstrong – stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey (which many cynics labelled the “DOPRAH” interview).
After years of denying doping (use of banned performance enhancing drugs and techniques like blood transfusions), the evidence has become so overwhelming, that it’s not left not a shred of wriggle room for the usual “I’ve never failed a drug test” response that Armstrong has repeated so many times (does that remind you of a similar response by Bill Clinton – “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” when questioned on the Monica Lewinsky affair some years ago).
Now falling from grace, Armstrongs former team mates have all given sworn evidence of his doping to USADA, the evidence is irrefutable and now it’s all about news and reputation management. A big coup for Oprah, the Armstrong interview is his first step in re-gaining control of the story (Armstrong openly admits to being a control freak).
For those into road cycling (I’d count myself within that), his reputation has been under the microscope for years. Journalist David Walsh has written a great book which I’d recommend you read called “The Seven Deadly Sins” if you want to know more about it. If you want the first hand detail, read Tyler Hamiltons book ”The Secret Race” which goes into the specifics. Hamilton was a former teammate of Armstrong and a trusted lieutenant who broke ranks.
Armstrong has built a global reputation as the cancer survivor, offering hope to millions through his own personal story and the Livestrong foundation which he helped found. It’s been difficult for believers to now separate the two stories of cancer survivorship and his cheating in sports. The Livestrong bands, his auto-biographies and other promotional material have left their “personal buildings” with the same speed as the corporate sponsors – Nike, Oakley and Trek to name but a few.
Over the years of accuations, Armstrong has been vociferous in his responses to those who challenged him. Deploying legal teams, destroying the reputations of those who dared challenge him. Bullying, manipulating and narcissistic in his response, he took no prisoners, villifying those who dared speak out.
In his book “Mask of Sanity” – psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley cited sixteen common qualities of a psychopath, I’ve quoted ten of them below and I’ll leave you to judge whether you feel Armstrong has displayed any in his career thus far: -
- Superficial charm and good “intelligence”
- Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
- Absence of “nervousness” or psychoneurotic manifestations
- Untruthfulness and insincerity
- Lack of remorse and shame
- Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
- Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
- Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
- Specific loss of insight
- Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
There is of course a huge back story to this whole thing, much bigger than I plan to write about here, particularly relating to Armstrong’s lack of father figures in his life. It’s no surprise to me that he has this me vs. the world mentality, that’s how it must of felt his whole life. You’d need to read a few books to get the full picture, I compiled a list of five good reads on my cycling blog here.
What are the lessons to be identified?
So, ultimately what are the lessons for all of us here. Here’s 10 random things that I thought about: -
- The truth always catches you up. No matter how intricate the web you spin, it always seems to become untangled. Much more likely in the world of instantaneousness we now live in with smartphones permanently planted in peoples hands.
- Life has a karma. Doing bad to others ultimately always ends up in it coming back to you.
- Forgive your past. Don’t let the stored beliefs in your parietal brain determine your future. Update them and your current beliefs about yourself.
- Trust is so key in life. Breach trust and it’s very hard to ever re-gain it to the same previous levels.
- Bullying behaviour is all about the bully. Hiding their own insecurity, they manipulate others, it’s all about them, never about their victim(s).
- If you need to say sorry, mean it. A deep heart felt apology can assist in repairing a rift. A lot of viewers came away from the Oprah show feeling there not full and unconditional apologies given to some of those whose lives Armstrong had made very miserable indeed.
- The truth sets you free. Now he is admitting everything, it must be a relief to Armstrong to now have it all out there.
- Have a strong and well defined moral compass. If you have a strong belief system, then your moral sense check will help guide you. Write down the things that matter to you, the things you would never compromise on and keep them close at all times.
- Collective consciousness is a powerful thing. The bulk of the pro peloton were using performance enhancing drugs at this time in history. Using a principle called “the omerta” (code of silence) to ostracise anyone who ‘spat in the soup’ and broke ranks by talking to the press. There were clean riders whose careers were ruined who left the sport as they simply couldn’t keep up. Always be aware of where collective consciousness exists and ensure you walk your own pathway.
- Forgiveness is a powerful thing. I disagree with what he has done, the way he has acted, the deceipt, the manipulation and the lies he has portrayed. Despite all those things, it’s not worth holding on to personal anger ever for someone else, it’s simply energy depleting. To be at your best, you have to let those things go, or you get held back.
One thing I always remember from spending a day with the Apache Attack Force at Wattisham a couple of years back was that a lesson identified is different from a lesson learned. A lesson learned is where you took the things you identified and did something about them.
I hope that Armstrong can now learn from his mistakes and come out of this whole thing with a new purpose, a new perspective and a series of solid lessons for young sportspeople everywhere. If this is just some showpiece to set up a stage for a new book, a re-launched celebrity career, then it’s just a set of lessons identified.
This was the scene I had in front of me on Sunday morning – fantastic isn’t it. I was out on my bike, it was foggy and early in the morning so the roads were quiet. The sunrise was breaking through the haze and riding towards it, I couldn’t help but feel what an amazing scene it was, so I pulled over and took a picture with my phone.
Absorbing the detail of the view, the trees, the distance, the sunrise and combined with the slightly shivery conditions, I felt glad to be alive and equally glad to be out enjoying such a moment.
As I rode off towards the amazing sunrise, it made me reflect on why I no longer make New Years Resolutions, prefering “lifelong evolution” to short term “resolution” which sounds like you are doing a running repair.
When you are working to a greater purpose (for me it’s simply to make a difference to the people that I meet), you take little notice of days, months and years anymore. Your life is less goal centred and more orientated towards your bigger picture,with goals contributing rather than being the be all and end all.
For too many years I chose to make resolutions, which all lasted for a week or two before I got back into my old ways. Usual stuff, lose a bit of weight, get fitter or ring up an old friend. It wasnt until I turned forty that I began to realise that you don’t need a New Year to do any of this stuff, you can make the choice anytime of the day or night, on any given day on any given year. All you need is a wider purpose to make it meaningful for you, for you to get the motivation to break a habit and create a new one.
Everyone needs goals, they do help to motivate. But goals not linked to a purpose can end up becoming empty goals, or a shot at goal which goes wide of the net. Whether in business or your personal life, feeling connection to a strategic objective or life goal, is the surefire way to accelerate your journey towards it.
Those that may have seen me speak on this subject will have heard me refer to this as defining your “ding” – there is a short blogpost about it which you can read here. When you get that over-arching reason as to what you’re doing it all for, you’ll quickly realise that you can change anything about how you operate in the blink of one eye and change needn’t be driven by a date called the 1st of January which only occurs once per year. You can have twenty “1st of January’s” every day, if they are linked to a real purpose, all you have to do is decide what.
Happy New Year!
One thing about being a child of the 80′s (growing up) is that I’ve witnessed a renaissance in technology over the the last thirty years. When you just take a minute to step back and think a minute, you come up with a list that contains things like this (not exhaustive or in any particular order): -
- Fax Machines.
- CD’s (including portable CD players).
- The internet!
- MP3 downloads.
- Mobile phones.
- Personal Computers.
- Laptop Computers.
- Sky TV.
- Portable flash drives.
- Wireless Networks.
- Digital cameras.
- Satellite navigation systems.
- Social Media – Youtube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Wikepedia, Hotmail.
- The birth of Amazon and Google.
- Flat screen Televisions – LCD, Plasma.
- Apple (i-pod, i-pad, i-phone).
- Tablet computers.
- Cloud computing.
It’s quite incredible to think that in early 1990 when I entered the world of work, only a few of the things on this list existed in terms of technology. Everything else has been invented subsequently, in fact, life has changed totally. One characteristic of all this technology is that it has led to a world of consumption, with nearly all the tech listed contributing in some way to cramming every available moment we have.
The victim of this is quality thinking time. Waking moments are spent with screens in our hands, devices buzzing, status updates demanding attention and a need to fill down time with something. For you to be at your best, you need downtime from technology to re-connect and quieten the chatter in your head. Over a year ago I did this presentation (see slides 6-8), highlighting how being in this busy mode keeps your brain in a “beta” state, which is massively under utilising your capability to think creatively. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and I run a technology company, however I also know the importance of keeping a balance.
When you disconnect and invest some time away from technology, it can have a re-charging effect on you. Your brain moves into it’s “alpha” mode, which is far more creative, expansive and potential based – a brilliant place to be to come up with solutions to problems or your next big idea. Your internal dialogue quietens down and relaxation becomes easier, you begin to re-connect with the inner you.
Things will keep speeding up, that’s for sure. 2013 will see more platforms, more tech and more reasons to stay permanently connected to the internet. If you want 2013 to be a year of potential and achievement, combined with a feeling of peace and contentment, then make sure you disconnect regularly, don’t be a slave to the system and invest more time in quality thought to achieve your goals. When you do, marvellous things start to happen.
You’ll be amazed at the moments of synchronicity that come your way, how you navigate yourself sub-consciously towards your goals and how you can make more positive choice about your life direction. Don’t do it half-heartedly with a smartphone in one hand and a pen in the other, the best time to think is either on your own with no distractions and nothing on in the background (radios, TV) or when walking, running, cycling, swimming or partaking in some form of exercise.
Achieving your goals is about working hard and smart. Give yourself the edge and make one of your New Years resolutions to invest more time thinking, it will deliver fantastic results.
Happy New Year!
Hindsight in not always a wonderful thing, in fact it can be really damaging. When you spend time remorsing about outcomes in the now using words like “I wish” and “I should” they are simply wasted thoughts and energy.
The only moment that matters is now. You are where you are. Reflection of what you could have done differently from what has passed, now that is a different thing. Reflection allows you to take all the lessons and re-apply them to the future you to help refine and re-define who you really are, a better version of you.
Spending time remorsing about where you are based upon the decisions you have already taken is self-destructive. Your brain will happily indulge you – if you give it permission to – in the thousand different reasons why you’re circumstances are why there are right now. “If I’d of been six inches taller I’d of been a pro-basketball player and my life would be different to what it is now.” All that says is “I’m not taking responsibility for my past decisions, my current version of me and the energy I chose to put into creating my future.” If you want to stay stuck in the past or even your present, remorseful hindsight will keep you there.
Three Tips to Assist
- Eliminate the word “Should” from your internal dialogue and replace it with “could, but I didn’t”. So, “I should have done this” turns into “I could have done that, but I didn’t”. It quietens your internal dialogue, allows you to accept your past decisions and move.
- Always look to refine and re-define yourself. Every experience is an opportunity for you to learn more about who you really are. Take the constructive lessons from what you’ve been through, but never dwell by going back and back by comparing your current circumstances. Simply take the learning and get it applied – fast to your current circumstance.
- Fly TWA. See previous blogpost on this subject here.
It’s amazing how much past experience dictates current thinking. When you can move on quickly, life is far happier. I meet lots of people that still wear their “black armband” of remorse for a past event or behaviour, keeping themselves in this period of mourning for what they should have done differently. Ask yourself if you are wearing one? If you are – For what? For who? And for how long do you want to keep going over this?
With 2012 coming to a close, it’s always a good point to have some personal reflection time. Being the best possible version of you means simply taking all the learning from those experiences from 2012, updating your brains belief systems and moral compass and living “in the now”.
To all my readers, my seasonal thought for you is about “being happy”. Happiness is simply that state of mind when you feel “peace”, “joy” and “purpose” in the things you do, a lovely balance where everything just falls into place. You can re-create who you are in a moment with a brand new thought, what lies ahead of you is simply there to be created. See you out there.
Yesterday I spoke at the Cheshire Business Expo (organised by Profile Communications) on what small businesses can learn from big businesses and leaders of big businesses. I covered quite a lot of content but wanted to summarise some of the key points here for the people that attended as a reminder of the key takeaways. Bullet form for easy digestion: -
- Have a clear vision.
- Have the right people, in the right seat.
- Understand their economic engine.
- Are disciplined in Thoughts, Words and Actions.
- Don’t just have a plan A, but also a B) Big and C) Contingency.
- Know what their main effort should be to deliver the vision.
- Have a stop doing list.
- Confront the brutal facts.
- Act quickly on poor performance at all levels.
- Spend more time thinking about the future.
Successful Leaders of Big Companies
- Manage their emotional state.
- Make evidence led decisons.
- Look to data and facts.
- Check assumptions.
- Spend more time creating than reacting to things.
- Are focused on “being their best” not comparing to others.
- Are open to everyone and everything.
- Have their mind, body and soul aligned.
- Effectively delegate and spend their time coaching/aligning others.
- Know their Ding!
I spoke quite a bit about emotional intelligence, here are a few additional articles for you to read: -
- The Ocean of Opportunity (all about the future and not looking back).
- Fly TWA (why you should put thoughts and words into action).
- AFD-MO (why you should just forgive everything and everybody as the only moment is now).