A Christmas Message


Over the past decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource: our people. The tide of war is receding. ~Barack Obama

Today is Christmas Day and in churches around the world the Christmas message of peace and goodwill to all men and women will be one that is repeated frequently.

However contrast the Christmas message to the comment above from former US President, Barack Obama, originally quoted in the British newspaper the Sunday Express in July 2011.

Now I’m referring specifically to his observation that a trillion dollars had been spent on war over the preceding decade. Even for an economy the size of the United States that is truly a staggering sum of money, wouldn’t you agree?

And remember that the United Kingdom has also spent enormous sums of money on war since the turn of the Millennium. Not as much as the United States I know but billions of pounds nevertheless.

Now just think about how that money might have been spent, had it not been spent on warfare.

Some of it could have been used for building and improving schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Surely that would have been a major benefit, both in the USA and the UK, wouldn’t you agree?

Then again, some of it could have been used to improve the education of young people and for providing better care for the elderly. At both ends of the age spectrum people are struggling. That money would have helped, don’t you think?

Additionally some of it could have been used for research to find alternative sources of energy to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and hydro-carbons. Think of the positive environmental benefits we’d have gained had a solution to our energy needs been found.

Finally, some of it could have been used for better communication between people around the world and for improving the understanding between different cultures. Cultures may differ but people are people and really we’re all the same the world over. So anything that breaks down barriers between people has the potential to make life better.

All that money could have been used as a force for good. That would have been a great idea, don’t you think?

No doubt our politicians believed what they were doing was intended as a force for good and of course it is easy to reflect in hindsight. However it is hard to consider these numbers without wondering whether it was the best use of this money, particularly as it now translates into debt the weight of which will be borne mainly by future generations.

People not yet born may be impoverished by this debt bequeathed to them by their forefathers. If nothing else, you must question the fairness of this situation.

Dear Reader you must make up your own mind about the wisdom or otherwise of spending money on war. However I can’t help thinking that there must have been a better way. War doesn’t decide who’s right; only who’s left and at what cost. Wars create bitterness, resentment and misery. And they create more problems than they could possibly solve.

Personally I think we must work harder at getting along with each other and we must find ways to avoid conflict in future. If we can focus on what we all have in common, rather than any differences between us, then that would be a good first step. Well I think so anyway.

Wherever you go in my experience, people are just people; we laugh; we cry; we eat; we sleep; you cut us and we bleed. Actually we’re not so different at all, are we?

If only our focus could be on showing common courtesy to other people and making sure that resources are shared more evenly. These would be worthy objectives, don’t you think?

Wherever you are Dear Reader, if you’re celebrating Christmas today then I wish you a very merry Christmas and may it be peaceful and filled with warmth, abundance and the comradeship of family and friends.

However if for you today is just another working day, then I hope the environment in which you work is both friendly and peaceful. And I hope the world in which you live is peaceful too.

May God bless you all and may 2018 prove to be all you would like it to be.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Failure: Problem or a force for good?

1. What is success?

We all want our children to reach their full potential. We want them to lead lives in which they are happy and fulfilled. My definition of success is doing the very best I can with the potential I was given and enjoying each day as it comes. I want to enjoy the work I do but I want to stretch myself too. Even as a mature I adult, I remain keen to learn something new every day.  My philosophy of what constitutes success I gained from my parents and it is something I try to pass on to the next generation. Essentially my philosophy is that it’s better to try something and fail rather than wondering what might have been.

2. There’s no such thing as failure

However let me say this, I do not believe there is such as thing as failure. There are only outcomes other than the one we wanted. And those outcomes are simply lessons from which we learn before we try again. If we keep trying eventually we can be successful.

3. Teach your children well

The best way to teach children about success is to teach them that failure is not a bad thing. Teach them never to fear failure. Teach them to have a go and enjoy the experience. Let them know that either they’ll succeed or they’ll learn a lesson. So either way they’ll gain and they’ll grow in character. You can only appreciate success if you’ve experienced a few failures along the road.

4. Force for good

If you think about it, failure is in fact be a force for good. Failure is simply a natural part of life and learning. Everyone fails occasionally and at any given time we’re more likely to fail than we are to succeed. However learning from failure makes us wiser and tougher. Failure is never desirable but it is very useful. It’s also inevitable, at least sometimes. The only way to avoid failure is to avoid risks and challenges and then you cannot grow as a person.

5. Secret to success

The secret to success is to use unsuccessful experiences as stepping stones to achieving your aims. Failure is never final and we should not allow an unsuccessful experience to discourage us or cause us to give up.

Failure is not, nor will it ever be, a person. So next time your child gets an outcome he or she didn’t want, reassure him or her that though it might be disappointing, it’s not a problem. It’s simply an opportunity to learn which shouldn’t be wasted.

Anyone experiencing failure should simply reflect on their actions and the outcome to discover the lesson within. Then use the knowledge gained to guide future efforts. Perseverance and persistence will get us there in the end. We just use these experiences to be a bit smarter next time.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

How to build character

How to build character? Now that’s a frequently asked question. Whether it’s someone seeking to build their own character or to improve character in someone else, we hear it often. However the supplementary question is, what is meant by character?

Now there’s a difference between being ‘a character’ and being ‘of character’. Whereas the former just means being a little bit eccentric, a wit perhaps, or even a raconteur. That’s not the subject of this post, despite all these being admirable qualities, of course. The point being considered here is how to become a person of character.

So what does it mean to be a person of character? First of all people of character usually do what is right regardless of whether they’re being watched or not. They also display traits such as honesty, integrity, courage, manners, self-reliance, commitment, and determination. The comedian Will Rogers once jokingly observed that to be of character people should “live in such a way that they wouldn’t be ashamed to sell their parrot to the town gossip.

So being of good character is an important thing to be. If achieving sustained success is your aim them talent alone isn’t enough. Talent might get you into the limelight briefly but without strong character you’re unlikely to remain there for too long. The process of developing good character is one that is on-going. So you have to keep working at it.

Essentially character is composed of 3 things:-

  1. Values: Having the right values and knowing what matters most.
  2. Doing what is right: Even when no one is watching.
  3. Being a decent person: Showing wisdom, honesty, integrity, love, humility, loyalty, courage, compassion, empathy, self-awareness, and a willingness to recognise fair criticism.

Everyone has at least some work to do to become a person of good character. This is an area where constant improvement is necessary, however good you are now. Some people may be well on the way to being of good character, whilst others may have a lot of work to do yet. However those that are still some way off can change and they can grow in character. You can be better if you want to be better and you can practice the behaviours necessary. These include:-

1. Decide you will be better:

As mature adults our first duty is to take care of ourselves and to be the best people we can be. To live lives worthy of respect. So decide to be the person you really could be.

2. Life-long learning:

It doesn’t matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement. Improvement comes through education and learning, whether formal or informal, and experience is gained by doing, making mistakes and learning the lessons from mistakes made.

3. Work on yourself:

To quote the late Jim Rohn, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” We’re all works in progress. Make sure you keep getting better.

Don’t leave them saying, “He used to be really good.” When they speak of you, make sure they say, “He just keeps getting better. He’s an example to us all.

4. Pursue excellence:

If anything is worth doing then it’s worth doing properly. The way you live your life is no exception.

5. Add value:

Our contribution to society is the value we add. That might be in the example we set or the work that we produce. We don’t get paid for the hour. We get paid for the value we put into the hour. Leave every situation better than you found it.

6. Be determined:

If success is your aim, it won’t happen without hard work and determination. Being good is not enough. Being determined to get to where you want to go is everything.

7. Be persistent:

Never accept an answer unless it’s the want you want. Never accept an outcome as the final outcome unless it’s the one that you want. Never, ever quit until you get to where you want to be or you’ve achieved the goal you set for yourself. Remember; winners never quit and quitters never win. Be the winner you can be.

8. Accept every challenge:

Never underestimate the importance of taking on a challenge. A challenge provides us with experience through which we’ll learn lessons. It’s also a means through which character is developed in the process. Not only will we learn more about our own character, we’ll learn about our capacity to achieve.

9. Ask yourself some searching questions:

It is a fact that too many people go to their graves with their full potential unrealised. Never quite developing their characters to the point where they leave a genuine legacy and an example for others to follow.

Ask yourself this question, “If you were to die tomorrow how will you be remembered at your funeral?” What will they say about you? How would you prefer to be remembered? What would you like people to say about you? And how can you change now to ensure they do?

Depending on the answers to those questions, you may well decide to make a few changes in your life.

Where to go from here:

If that proves to be the case, start with value. What values will you live by and what value are you going to add from now on? Be a person with values and of value.

Then think about challenges you could take on to build your character.

In taking on a challenge we can often surprise ourselves in terms of just how far we can go. Through a challenge we can also learn new skills and improve our self-confidence.

A challenge is an opportunity to grow; it’s an opportunity to learn; and it’s an opportunity to make progress towards becoming the person you really could be.

It’s true that challenges are hard and they’re meant to be. Challenges push us out of our comfort zone and that’s the whole point. Unless we move out of our comfort zone, how can we possibly grow as people?

So embrace challenges but never fear failing at a challenge; your only fear should be never realising you full potential because you failed to move out of your comfort zone.

Do well in a challenge and it can provide you with benefits you couldn’t have imagined before you started. At the very least every challenge makes you that little bit stronger and builds your character, so you really can’t lose.

So do you have some changes to make? If so, what and by when? Write them all down and make a plan. Now! It’s never too late to be the person you could be.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

What makes a great idea?

What makes a great idea? How is it that one idea can be successful and another idea less so? Why has the iPhone been so successful and yet the Blackberry has all but disappeared? How do you know when one of your ideas might just make big a difference?

The key ingredient for a great idea is timing. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The trick is to know when one of your inspired thoughts is right for its time and therefore how hard to push it.

If you’re too far ahead of other peoples’ thinking, that inspired thought you believed was great will only be ignored because it won’t resonate with people. If you’re too far behind, then it will be ignored because they’ve seen it all before. If you can hit that sweet spot between the two extremes then you can generate value from your idea because it will capture the imagination of the people who are ready for it.

An idea whose time has come is a truly great idea. Though coming up with one is not so easy, of course. It’s because great ideas are so rare that they can become so valuable. And that value is why it’s worthwhile to seek great ideas constantly.

Should you decide the world is not quite ready for your inspired thinking then don’t worry. Not ready now doesn’t mean the world will never be ready. Therefore keep a journal and make a note of all those flashes of inspiration. You never know when the time is right.

Your journals could be a source of pure gold in the future so make sure you buy quality notebooks that you can add to your personal library as you fill them with your thoughts and inspiration. My personal preference is for the RHINO A4 160 Ruled NoteBook which can be purchased from a great selection of notebooks that Amazon has in stock. Now you might think that it’s a bit expensive but buying cheap notebooks is a false economy. In keeping journals you’re creating value. And value starts with a quality notebook which you can BUY HERE.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

How to declutter your life

Do you have a problem with clutter? Would you like some tips for how to declutter your life?

Clutter is perhaps the greatest curse of modern living. You keep buying and acquiring possessions but rarely do you have a good clear out, right?

It’s not easy of course. We all build up an emotional attachment to our possessions. However gradually your possessions are taking over your space and your life, right? And your world keeps getting smaller, doesn’t it?

Clutter just adds stress to your life and managing all your possessions can be a struggle. It’s a problem of course but what’s the answer? The answer is to develop the habit of ruthless decluttering. Do this and your life will be a lot easier. Keep your life as simple as possible and you’ll find it a whole lot less stressful.

Here are 8 tips for eliminating clutter in your life:-

  1. Personal inventory management:

We all have possessions and most of us have far more than we need. So the active management of your possessions is a continuous process.

Have a regular review of your possessions and be ruthless about getting rid of things you don’t need anymore.

It’s hard to get rid of everything all at once of course, so just do a little decluttering regularly and as often as you can.

  1. The one year rule:

If an item hasn’t been used for a year then you probably don’t need it at all. And if you don’t need it, get rid of it.

Perhaps you could sell it on eBay or in a garage or boot sale. Alternatively give it to a charity shop. However don’t make the desire to sell it the reason why you hold on to an item.

If you can’t get rid of it quickly, get rid of it anyway. The point is to minimize the clutter in your life and allow someone else to make use of an item if you no longer can. 

  1. Buy only what you need:

It is so easy to buy anything now that all too often we buy things without giving serious thought to whether we will use them or not.

For instance, we are browsing online and we see something that looks like an amazing bargain. So out comes our flexible friend and we purchase the item. The item arrives a day or two later and it goes into our wardrobe, a drawer or wherever and it’s then largely forgotten.

The instant gratification we got from making the purchase has largely subsided by the time the item arrives.  We mean to use it of course but all too often it never gets used. And when that happens it wasn’t a bargain at all it was simply a waste of money.

So before you buy anything ask yourself a few questions. Do I really need it? Will I really use it? Can I really afford it? If I didn’t have it, would it really matter? Unless you can be sure it fulfils a genuine need then it’s better not to buy. 

  1. Never impulse buy:

All too often impulse buys are a mistake. So it’s better not to browse online stores or do any window shopping in real stores.

Decide exactly what you need to buy in advance and then only go shopping for specific items. Stick to buying only what you have actually planned to buy because it fulfils a genuine need in your life. 

  1. The ‘one in, one out’ rule:

For clothing especially, rather than have your wardrobe bursting at the seams, each time you purchase a new clothing item it’s a good idea to see if there’s an old one you can throw out, sell or give to charity.

Nowadays you don’t have to throw things away literally. If it’s not too old and still in fair condition then you might be able to sell it on eBay or a Boot sale.

Alternatively perhaps you could give it to a charity shop.

Whatever your chosen approach to the disposal of items, you have to be ruthless to avoid holding on to clothing you’ll never wear again. 

  1. Don’t form an emotional bond with your possessions:

If you throw out an item you no longer use the world will not end. You’re not tied to your possessions and you’ll not experience physical pain should you get rid of them.

Individual items that you possess are simply a small and unimportant part of you. They don’t define you and they don’t control you.

They were there only to serve a purpose and if circumstances have changed and they no longer serve that purpose then it’s time they no longer played any part in your life at all.

Parting with possessions is not a bereavement. You’ll get over it quicker than you might imagine. Probably within minutes. 

  1. Enjoy the freedom:

Unburdened by unnecessary possessions you can enjoy a stress free life without all that clutter weighing on your mind.

You’ll be able to find those things you really need much quicker because they’ll no longer be buried beneath all that clutter. 

  1. Enjoy your space clutter-free:

Why live is a space dictated by clutter when you can live in space dictated by you?

You should be the master of your own space. Never be a slave to clutter.

Get the declutter habit and get it now.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

How to be happy in life

Diagram of success

How to be happy in life is a question frequently asked. If you’re going to be happy then one thing you need is a sense of purpose. Your work takes up one third of your life so it’s essential that you’re happy doing whatever you do. If the question on your mind is how to be happy in life then to find the answer it’s worth reflecting on your work and thinking about whether it’s right for you.

Does your work make you happy? Do you believe your contribution to your job is something which only you can supply? Would you say your work is aligned with your natural talents? Certainly if your job is a mismatch with their natural talents then you’re not going to be very happy.

Spending your life doing something you don’t enjoy is such a waste. You have so much natural talent that could be put to better use. Yes, it’s true every job has its chores. Things you have to do which you hate but accept as part of the job. No job is perfect. However tedium should be a small part of the whole work experience. To feel happy and fulfilled doing the work you do means you should enjoy at least 80% of your daily activity.

What happens if the job you do and your talents are mismatched? Human beings of course are flexible and adaptable. So even in the worst job situations people survive but at what cost to themselves? The further you are from applying your natural talents and abilities, the less likely it is that you will enjoy your work. And the less likely you are to be happy in life.

If you’re not happy then it’s difficult to make a genuine contribution to life and the lives of other people. And this matters, particularly for those people who are your loved ones.

If your loved ones have to deal with someone who is doing a job they don’t enjoy then it can make their lives miserable too. In fact it can be no pleasure for anyone around you.

If you derive no pleasure from your work then life just becomes a grind. Also it becomes stressful which is not good for your health.

The best and least stressful way to earn a living is by pursuing your interests and something which you both enjoy and is compatible with your natural talents. This is how to be happy in life.

If society encouraged people to pursue their interests and work to their strengths then we would not only be happier but we would become more productive.

And of course productive lives are happy lives too. We would all benefit and society would reap benefits too.

So think about your natural talents and how you can best apply them. Be happy in what you do and if you have yet to find work that makes you happy, keep looking.

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Why the education system fails children

What is the point of the education system if it’s not to prepare young people for adult life? Reading, writing and arithmetic are essential subjects of course because you can’t get too far in life without basic skills in those subjects. However where the education system fails children is in the complete lack of any teaching in other essential life skills. Important subjects like personal finance are not covered at all.

Amazingly we don’t teach our children about money or personal finance. Surely children should learn about how money is earned; how to manage money; how to budget to ensure they can pay their bills; and how to spend their money wisely. They should also learn about how they should prioritize expenditure to avoid getting into a financial mess.

Children should learn about debt. They should know the difference between secured and unsecured debt and the impact this will have on interest rates applied. They should learn about how compound interest can quickly turn a relatively small debt into a large debt. Credit card debt being the classic for this problem.

They should know that interest rates matter. They should also learn that they should never go into debt for the purchase of discretionary items. Better they save up for that discretionary purchase before they buy.

They should learn about how work is just doing stuff for other people in exchange for money and that the more value they can add through their skills the more they will earn. They should also be taught about the economics of supply and demand.

Kids should understand the difference between trading their time with one employer for a wage and the opportunity to serve multiple customers through their own creativity and their ability to create products which solve problems for customers. Essentially they should know the difference between employment and self-employment.

They should also learn about wealth, pensions and how to achieve financial freedom through putting money aside on a regular basis and investing it wisely. They should be positively encouraged to work towards achieving financial freedom.

Children should learn about the impact that inflation will have on the value of their money and how this can affect their savings, particularly for old age. They should also be taught about risk and its relationship with reward.

Children should learn about taxes and how the money they pay in taxes will be spent and often squandered by government. They should know that there is no such thing as government money only the taxpayer’s money. They should know that it is in fact their money being spent by government.

They should also know when governments borrow money this is simply the means for spending today and then passing the bill on to future generations. Borrowing is not a free lunch. Someone eventually must bear the interest payments as well as the repayment of the capital sum borrowed in future years.

Children should learn to question how their money is being spent and how to register their disapproval if they’re not happy with what is being done with their money in their name.

Sadly most people have little understanding of money which means they can be easily conned by sharp business practices, particularly in Financial Services, and by politicians driven only be their own self-interest.

Perhaps that’s why schools are not encouraged to teach personal finance as a subject. Parents should demand that their children are taught about money. If the education system fails children then, as parents, we must shoulder some of the blame. We will continue to get what we tolerate.

What do you think dear reader? Is this a fair point? Do you think teaching children about money is the responsibility of the school or should someone other than their school have that responsibility? Their parents for instance?

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Why you should take your work seriously

How do you regard work? Perhaps for you it’s a source of income but by no means a passion? Perhaps it’s something you must do because you need the income but it doesn’t really leave you feeling motivated to do the best job you can do? Perhaps mostly you’re just going through the motions, doing the minimum you can get away with each day and longing for the weekend? Perhaps you prefer to spend your time in the office chatting and drinking coffee with your workmates? Does that sound like you or perhaps a slightly exaggerated version of you?

If that’s not you and your work is your passion then this article is not for you. However it is aimed at readers who feel less than energised by the work they’re currently doing.

Work is your livelihood:

If you’re not pulling your weight in your current job then you should know that it won’t have gone unnoticed. Just because your boss has yet to say anything doesn’t mean he or she hasn’t noticed. And if you’re building a reputation for being a slacker then it’s only a matter of time before the company will find a reason to get rid of you, if you’re not careful.

You must appreciate that a business cannot carry costs which add little or no value to that business. That is, it can’t if its aim is to survive anyway. Commercial reality will very quickly kick any business in the butt should its management fail to keep a tight control on costs. Companies are not registered charities. Any costs must be covered by prices charged. If a business bears unnecessary costs for long then the result will be pricing that is simply uncompetitive.

Think about that for a second. As a consumer, if Company A is selling a product at a lower price than Company B, where will you buy it? You’ll go for the best price every time. No customer loyalty will survive even a small saving in price.

So if you’re not adding value potentially you’re at risk of losing your job. Your work is your livelihood, so losing your job could actually hurt you. In fact the best way to appreciate your job is to imagine your life without it.

Work provides you with a sense of purpose:

The very essence of what work is all about is simple. Work is just doing stuff for other people in return for money. It gives us an income but it also gives us a sense of purpose.

Through work we apply our skills and knowhow to deliver an output or an outcome for someone else. That may be an individual or an organisation but either way we are paid for what we actually deliver. Essentially that is the psychological contract we enter into when we agree to do work for someone.

If we’re not delivering what we’re paid to deliver then we’re not doing our job properly. We are not fulfilling the psychological contract that is work.

Taking pride in our work is important too. Our sense of purpose should drive us to do the best we can with the skills we have and we should be constantly seeking to improve.

If we don’t love what we do at any given time then we should be looking for ways to change our mind-set to take a more positive view. If we view our work positively then we’re more likely to be energised by it and if we’re energised by it we’re more likely to do it well.

Work is how we make a difference:

You must also recognise that there is a big difference between being busy and delivering real results. Never confuse industry with effectiveness. The two are very different things.

If I’m paying you to paint houses then the only measure I will use to judge you on is how well and how efficiently you paint houses. I don’t really care how helpful you might have been to the electrician or the refuse collector.

Being busy doesn’t count for anything unless you’re busy doing the right things. Doing the right things is how we make a real difference. And surely we’d all like to make a difference?

Other benefits:

Having a job actually provides us with many benefits. For a start with the income it generates, it allows use to put a roof over our head and bread on our table. Managed carefully, the money we earn will put clothes on our backs and allow us to heat our homes. And of course it provides so much more too.

Having a job gives us status and our own income gives us a degree of independence and freedom. All these things together improve our self-esteem. And of course work give us a reason to get you out of bed each day. Work is how we make a contribution to the society around us. Not just in what we do but also the taxes we pay. That’s how we pull our weight and justify our membership of the society in which we live.

However let us not forget the camaraderie we enjoy with the people with whom we work too. Yes, some of them will drive us nuts at times but mostly they’re good people just like us, with lives just like ours and with whom we can relate. We share their laughs and we share their tears too at times; the good times and the bad times; it all makes life worth living. Work allows us to engage with other people and that’s very important.

Your work can be your legacy too:

Work is what we do for other people and what we’ve done for other people is how we’ll be remembered long after we’re gone. So potentially your work is your legacy.

On that basis, whatever you do strive to do it well. It might not seem much to you but it will matter to other people. Have a sense of pride in your work whatever it is. It doesn’t matter whether you sweep roads or you’re a skilled heart surgeon we all have our place in society and we all have our contribution to make. And whatever role you play, no one is better than anyone else.

Enjoy your work or keep looking:

It’s important you find a way to enjoy your work because we spend a third of each day doing it. Sometimes it’s just a case of looking at your work in a different way in order to appreciate what you have. However sometimes even then for whatever reason you’ll feel unhappy.

If you can’t find a way to enjoy your work then find another job. One more suited to your natural talent perhaps. However until you find the right thing, you must grit your teeth and do your current work to the best of your ability.

And never just walk away from a job without another one to go to. It is ironic perhaps but it is always much easier to find another job when you already have one. Without a job a potential employer might wonder whether you’re unlucky or just a loser. And usually employers will be reluctant to take a chance on you if they’re unsure.

Conclusion:

The importance of work to our lives and our self-esteem should not be underestimated. So do the work you’re paid to do and do it well. Do that and success can be yours.

Don’t do your job properly and you’ll struggle to hold on to it for very long. Lose it and almost certainly you’ll regret it.

That’s the nature of work, it always has been and it always will be.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Why you must listen to criticism

How well do you deal with criticism? You’ve been working hard and doing your best but someone still thinks it’s necessary to offer you some words of advice about the work you’ve just done. Not a thank you; no acknowledgement of your effort; just some caustic words about why your work is less than perfect. Makes you feel a little unloved doesn’t it?

Perhaps your critic lacked sensitivity? Perhaps he or she failed to appreciate the value you’ve been adding to whatever you were doing at the time? Either way it’s natural if you feel a little hurt when all people can do is point to something they believe is wrong or incomplete. If it doesn’t actually hurt, certainly it can be irritating. It can also seem overly harsh at times.

The problem when hearing criticism is that our defensive barriers tend to go up immediately. And once we’re on the defensive we don’t tend to listen to the feedback we’re getting. We just concentrate on how we’ll respond in order to dismiss whatever’s being said.

This is unfortunate because if we did listen and reflect on what is being said, it’s just possible that our critic may actually have a valid point.

The importance of criticism is that it provides us with valuable feedback. And how we react to any feedback depends on our attitude and how we choose to look at it. We can get all hurt and defensive or we can choose to give our critic the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are trying to be constructive.

In other words we can embrace criticism positively and seek to use it to our own advantage. Certainly this is the mature and grown up way of dealing with any criticism we receive.

We must recognise that none of us are perfect and we’re all prone to making the occasional mistake. That’s human nature. However if our aim is to succeed then we have to become masters of our chosen craft or profession. We have to be very good at whatever we’ve chosen to do if we’re going to stand out in the crowd. In fact we have to be the best.

Being the best requires the constant honing of our skills. That means we must learn from our mistakes and any inability that might prevent us from delivering the results required of us.

Learning is a lifelong process and we should be constantly practising and developing our skills and improving on the results we deliver. In order to do that then we must learn from our mistakes. Some mistakes will be obvious to us but sometimes we’ll fail to recognise them. Fortunately others won’t.

The underlying point here is that criticism is simply feedback and feedback is essential if we are to improve our skills and become masters of our craft or profession. That’s why it’s important to listen. If we know where we fall short then we can do something about it.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of criticism, the first thing to do is to remind yourself that to feel hurt is quite natural. That’s simply an emotional response to a negative situation. However don’t take anything personally. Criticism is rarely groundless, though it’s often exaggerated.

Give your critic the benefit of the doubt and assume their intention is simply to provide you with some valuable feedback. Welcome that feedback. Don’t interrupt your critic with excuses. That will just make you look defensive. Don’t glower at them either because you might stop them sharing that crucial insight with you.

The truth may hurt, but the sooner you hear it, the sooner you can fix whatever it is you’re doing wrong, assuming you are doing something wrong. Listen and focus on hearing everything being said. When your critic has made his or her point, say thank you. That will show confidence, dedication and grace too.

Then ask yourself honestly, is the point being made by your critic a fair one? And you really do need to be honest with yourself here. If your conclusion is that your critic has a fair point then you must embrace the lesson. Learn from it; resolve to do better next time; and be determined to improve. That way you’ll go from strength to strength. You will gain the respect of other people too for your willingness to listen and learn.

However, critics are not always right. If honest reflection leads you to the conclusion that your critic is being unfair then just ignore it. Smile and move on. Never take it personally and never let anyone discourage you from the pursuit of your aims.

Conclusion:

Criticism is just feedback. Feedback is your friend. Embrace it; learn from it; use it to your advantage; but never take it personally.

Further Reading:

If this article has whetted your appetite for learning more about receiving feedback then there are some good books on the subject. One you might look at is Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.

This is a well-written book which is full of sound advice and plenty of examples which should make it easier to understand and follow. I found it useful and motivating and I think you might too.

You can check it out if you CLICK HERE.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved

Parenting: Children are your gift to the world

Fotolia_77072166_XS_3Parenting is one of life’s great experiences. It’s also an interesting experience. Anyone beyond the age of sexual maturity can become a parent, assuming they can find a suitable partner. However you don’t get any training for the role, nor do you realise the magnitude of the task you’ve taken on until the day you bring your first child home from the hospital. Only then does the size of the challenge begin to sink in.

As well as being a great experience, parenting is a great responsibility. Children are the gift we give to the world. They are the future. They will be the adults of tomorrow and they take the baton from our generation and carry it forward. So how they’re nurtured must be taken seriously.

Preparation begins with the place in which they live their early lives. A parent’s power to create a loving, stable home and a daily climate and lasting environment in which the child can develop, thrive and grow is so awesome it must be used both consciously and responsibly.

Discipline your emotions. Give them the light and warmth of love, hope and good cheer. Make a conscious effort to be positive, enthusiastic and supportive. This can have an enormous impact not only on the emotional well-being of children, but also on their ability to experience the joys and pains of childhood in healthy and constructive ways.

Enjoy every minute with them because the years fly by all too quickly. Fill your house with joy and laughter. Encourage them to strike a balance between their schoolwork and the pursuit of the things they genuinely enjoy doing.

Recognise the importance of an education which will both stretch them and broaden their minds. Instil a sound grasp of concept-based subjects. Foster their creative, sporting and vocational talents. Build self-confidence and sociability. And develop their ability to think, speak and write clearly. If they can also develop a dash of style, then that will really make them stand out amongst their peers.

Above all provide them with the moral framework within which they can lead their lives respectably. And remember; if you want them to live by the moral code you establish, then you must live by it too.

Have high, yet realistic expectations of them. Parental expectations are good for children in so far as it helps motivate them to strive to achieve and do their best. However temper those expectations with realism. Stretching a child can help them to realise their full potential but any stretching must be consistent with the child’s natural ability. Setting them up for an obvious failure would do more harm than good.

As they grow and mature, be sure to give them some regular chores to do and gradually place responsibility on the shoulders. Enjoy their achievements but don’t be too disappointed if they don’t quite manage to live up to everything you expect of them. As long as they’ve done their best, then that is all that can be reasonably expected of them.

If you can do all of these things you will produce that all too rare bird, the well-educated, polite, balanced and confident young person with a strong work ethic. Achieve that and the world should be grateful for your contribution to the future.

Never underestimate the importance of parenting. It is probably the most useful work we ever do.

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