How to be happy and why you should be

How to be happyHow to be happy? Now that’s a question I hear frequently.

Well, it’s my belief that, if you’re going to be happy, then you need a sense of purpose.

Now just think about that for a minute. Your work takes up one-third of your life so surely it’s essential that you’re happy doing whatever you do?

So dear reader, if the question on your mind today is how to be happy in life then to find the answer it’s worth reflecting on your work for a moment and thinking about whether it’s actually 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 that your work is closely aligned with your natural talents?

If your job is a mismatch with their natural talents then you’re unlikely to do it as well as you might do otherwise. If you don’t do it well then it’s hard to feel a sense of pride in your work, surely? And, if you’re not doing it well, your boss is likely to be giving you a hard time too.

So in this scenario, you’re not going to be very happy, are you?

Let’s face it, spending your life doing something you don’t enjoy is such a waste, wouldn’t you agree?

You have so much natural talent that could be put to better use.

Yes, it’s true that 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 only be a small part of your whole work experience.

To feel happy and fulfilled doing the work you do means that you should enjoy at least 80% of your daily activity.

What happens if the job you do and your talents are mismatched?

Human beings are flexible and adaptable of course. 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’ll enjoy your work in my experience. And being unhappy at work means you’re less likely to be happy in life. That’s a fact.

And 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’s 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 very good for your health either.

The best and least stressful way to earn a living is by pursuing your interests and something which you both enjoy and which 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 think how you can best apply them.

Be happy in what you do but if you’ve yet to find work that makes you happy, then keep looking and don’t give up until you find it.

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3 things you need to know about money

3 things you need to know about moneyToday I’d like you to think about some things you need to know about money dear reader. In other words, think about what it all really means.

It’s natural to dream about being rich, of course.

Most people dream about being able to buy whatever they want and go anywhere and everywhere they’d like to go, possibly even in a private jet.

The attraction of having that pot of gold is why a lot of people will chase every rainbow.

However, whilst money is necessary for sustaining life, there are some things you should really understand about money.

Here are three of them:-

Things you need to know about money:

1. Having money brings its own pressures:

A great fortune is a great slavery. ~Seneca

It’s reasonable to want to create wealth and build a fortune. As suggested above, you want to feel financially secure, don’t you? Why wouldn’t you?

However, being financially secure doesn’t mean you’ll have a life without problems and worry.

You’ll just have different problems and different things to worry about.

No one goes through life without problems. Dealing with problems and challenges is an inevitable part of human existence.

Put simply, having money brings its own pressures.

Once you’ve got money your biggest concern will be to ensure that you hang on to it.

Inevitably that means you can become a slave to managing your money, preserving its capital value and protecting your fortune.

Being wealthy may be a nice problem to have, but it’s no less of a problem for that.

So keep it all in perspective.

Things you need to know about money2. Money can never be more important than people:

We love to earn money, who doesn’t? It gets you things. ~Katie Price

Earning money is great and it does allow you to buy things you want and things you need. However money won’t take care of you when you’re ill.

Yes, it might enable you to buy in some hired help.

However, that’s not the same as having someone around who genuinely cares about your well-being. That someone for whom you matter much more than money ever will.

In my experience, whilst money is important, nothing in our lives matters more than friends and loved ones. Human beings are social animals. So only people matter to us really.

Never focus on money to the point where you neglect the people who should matter most to you. Forget about them and eventually, they will forget about you.

You can have all the money in the world, but you’ll have nothing at all without friends and loved ones.

Go out and earn lots of money by all means, and enjoy it too.

However, always maintain a sense of balance in your life and make sure that you allocate some time for the people who matter most to you.

An investment of your time in the people you love is an investment that will pay dividends.

3. Money is a precious resource so use it wisely:

A penny saved is a penny earned. ~Benjamin Franklin

I make no apology for repeating Benjamin Franklin’s money mantra, repeated frequently by generations of well-meaning parents to their profligate children. It’s as valid today as it was in his day.

Whether Franklin was referring to money saved when making purchases or money saved from income is not obvious in his statement but that doesn’t matter.

The underlying point is that you have to be careful with your money because saving money is the key to building wealth and becoming financially independent. No one ever got rich by wasting their money.

Money like time is a precious resource, so use it wisely.

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How to build character: 11 steps to success

How to build characterHow to build character? Now that’s a question I get asked frequently.

Whether it’s someone seeking to build their own character or wanting to help improve character in someone else, I hear it often.

However, the obvious, supplementary question is, what is meant by character?

There’s a difference between being a character and being of character.

The former expression just refers to someone being a little bit eccentric, a wit perhaps, or even a raconteur. However, that’s not the subject of this post, despite 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, I think.

Developing good character:

If achieving sustained success is your aim then 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 ongoing too. So you have to keep working on 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 recognize fair criticism.

We all have at least some work to do if we are to become and remain people of good character.

This is an area where constant improvement is necessary, however good you may be right 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:-

How to build characterDecide 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.

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 those mistakes made.

Work on yourself:

To quote the late, great 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, She used to be really good. When they speak of you, make sure they say, “She just keeps getting better. She’s an example to us all. That applies equally to ‘He’ too, of course.

Pursue excellence:

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

Add value:

Our contribution to society is in 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. What we actually get paid for is the value that we put into the hour. So make sure you leave every situation better than you found it.

Be determined:

If success is your aim, it won’t happen without hard work and determination.

Being good is not enough. You must be determined to get to where you really, really want to go. That’s everything if success is your aim.

Be persistent:

Never accept an answer unless it’s the want you want.

And never accept any outcome as the final outcome unless it’s the one that you want.

Most importantly, never quit until you get to where you really want to be or you’ve achieved the goal that you set for yourself.

Remember; winners never quit and quitters never win. Be the winner you can be, with determination and hard work.

Accept every challenge:

Never underestimate the importance of taking on a challenge.

A challenge provides us with experience through which we’ll learn powerful lessons.

It’s also the means through which character is developed in the process.

Not only will you learn more about your own character, but you’ll learn about your capacity to achieve.

Ask yourself some searching questions:

It is a fact that too many people go to their graves with their full potential unrealized.

They never quite develop their characters to the point where they leave a genuine legacy and an example for others to follow.

Ask yourself this question, If I were to die tomorrow, how will I be remembered at my funeral?

What would people say about you? What qualities would they use to describe 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 you recognize the need to change, start with your values.

What values will you live by, from now until dead?

Now, of course, it’s not just about values but value too. Be a person with values and of value.

So, what value will you add to the lives of others from now on?

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, you can learn new skills, sharpen existing skills, and improve your self-confidence.

Move out of your comfort zone:

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, of course, 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?

Never fear failure:

So embrace challenges but never fear failing at a challenge; your only fear should be never realizing your 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 really could be.

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How to handle criticism at work effectively

How to handle criticism at workHow to handle criticism at work? That’s a question most of us ask ourselves, at least occasionally.

Think about it. You’ve been working hard and trying to do your best but someone still thinks it’s necessary, with a critical tone, to offer you some words of advice about the work you’ve just done.

Not a thank you; no recognition of the effort you’ve put in; just some caustic words about why they think your work is less than perfect.

Naturally, that makes you feel a little unloved and probably slightly irritated too.

Perhaps your critic lacks sensitivity?

Perhaps he or she fails to appreciate the value you’ve been adding to whatever you were doing at the time?

And of course, your critic may not have had visibility of the constraints you were working under or the pressures you faced at the time?

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s natural if you feel hurt when all people can do is point to something they believe is wrong, incomplete or not as good as it could have been. If it doesn’t actually hurt, certainly it is irritating. It can also seem overly harsh at times.

The importance of criticism:

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 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’re genuinely 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.

Honing our skills:

We must recognize 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 of course but sometimes we’ll fail to recognize them. Fortunately, others won’t.

Criticism is feedback:

The underlying point here is that criticism is simply feedback and feedback is essential if we’re 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.

How to handle criticism at work:

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’ll gain the respect of other people too for your willingness to listen and learn.

However, remember this also, critics are not always right.

If honest reflection leads you to the conclusion that your critic is being unfair or is just plain wrong then just ignore the criticism.

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. And if following honest reflection you think they’re wrong then it’s perfectly reasonable to ignore it and move on.

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33 life lessons learned that are best learned early

Life Lessons LearnedLife lessons learned for most of us are learned the hard way. Here are 33 of those lessons that are best learned at early as possible, ideally in your teens or early 20s.

Life lessons learned:

1. On experiencing life:

Wherever you are, be there. Be present and experience the moment. You’ll remember moments with friends and family all your life, whereas you’re unlikely to remember social media posts moments after you’ve read them. No experience beats having a good laugh with your friends and family.

2. On making choices:

As an adult, you’re free to make your own choices but you must accept any consequences that follow. A wise adult learns to make good choices because the choices you make will dictate the quality of the life you lead. Your choices really matter. Make too many bad ones and your life experiences won’t be very good at all.

3. On the future (1):

Where you’re going is more important than where you’ve been. The past was a series of lessons to be learned. The future is where you’ll spend the rest of your life. You can’t change the past but your future has yet to be written, and you’ve got the pen.

4. On the future (2):

The future is an endless stream of opportunities that you can choose to seize, or not. However poor your past may have been, that doesn’t mean you can’t seize new opportunities and exploit them to your own advantage. You can, with determination and hard work. And, never let anyone discourage you from having a go. Better to try and fail than to spend your life wondering what might have been

5. On asking questions:

Intelligent people ask questions. So, never be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand something, or when you need clarification. Better to appear a fool momentarily than remain a fool permanently.

6. On attitude:

The greatest disability in life is a bad attitude. If you’ve got one you’d better change it, if you want your life to improve. Attitude matters. An average person with a positive attitude makes a much better employee than a genius with a chip on his or her shoulder.

7. On fairness:

Life isn’t fair. It never has been and it never will be. We’re all dealt a set of cards in life, and all we can do is to play that hand as best as we can. We could get angry about the unfairness of it all or we can just get on and make the best of what we have. The latter approach is much easier on our nerves, in my experience.

8. On bullying:

When you’re having fun at someone else’s expense, remember it may be fun to you, and you may not mean any harm, but for the other person the impact of such an experience can be humiliating, upsetting and it can cause significant, lasting and often permanent psychological damage to that person. So remember, it isn’t fun at all, if it isn’t fun for the other person. If it isn’t fun for them, it’s actually just bullying. And if you’re bullying, you’re not being cool, you’re being nasty.

9. On judging others (1):

You’re free to judge others if you’re absolutely sure that you’re perfect in every way. If your conclusion is that you’re not quite perfect then why would you expect others to be?

10. On judging others (2):

For everyone life is a struggle. No one is without problems, despite any external signs to the contrary. We just have to keep going for it’s the only way. Life goes on and we must too. If you’ve not walked two miles in someone else’s shoes, you’re not in a position to judge them. So, don’t.

11. On authenticity:

Authenticity is simply being who you are and not trying to be who you think you should be or who you think you’re expected to be. People will respect you for being who you are. An original is always better than a fake.

12. On trust:

Trust takes years to build and seconds to break. And once broken the way you’re seen by others will never be quite the same again. Trust is a valuable and precious commodity. Protect it.

13. On reputation:

Never underestimate the importance of your personal reputation. And if you wouldn’t be happy to read something about yourself on the front pages, don’t do it.

14. On communication:

If you want to tell anyone anything, speak softly and you’ll find that they’re much more likely to listen to you.

15. On success:

No one can ever be a failure but everyone can be a success. Failure is not a person it’s just an outcome you didn’t want. It’s also an opportunity to try again with greater knowledge and experience. Everyone can achieve some degree of success, if they believe in themselves, they’re determined and they’re willing to work hard.

16. On priorities:

We all have the same amount of time. 168 hours a week. It’s how we choose to use it that dictates whether we achieve anything significant or not. Time is a resource, pure and simple. So, decide on your priorities and allocate your time accordingly. And just because someone wants a piece of your time, doesn’t mean you’re obliged to give it to them. If it’s not a priority, nor an obligation, just say NO.

17. On watching television:

Few people seem to recognise this but there’s a significant cost to watching television. Not the cost of purchasing the television set or any cable or satellite subscriptions you may have. The real cost is the opportunity cost of your time. That is the time you spend watching television. Time is money and you could be doing something more profitable with your time. Learning something new perhaps or running your own little income-generating side-hustle.

18. On qualifications (1):

Most of the work done by most people in life doesn’t require a college degree at all. If you have one that’s great, but stay humble. A motivated individual with common sense and decent reading, writing and arithmetic skills can succeed in life without one.

19. On qualifications (2):

You may need a college degree to work for an employer but you don’t need one to work for yourself. If it’s your business, you make the rules.

20. On qualifications (3):

Plenty of people graduating from Harvard will end up working for people who didn’t. So, stay humble. Studying at a top university is no guarantee for career success, nor does it guarantee wealth. A Harvard, Oxford, or Cambridge degree may look good on your CV but five years after graduation the only thing that will really matter is what you’ve actually achieved in the workplace since.

21. On experience:

Doing is by far the best way to learn. The classroom is useful, of course, but nothing beats doing and learning from your mistakes. Making mistakes will teach you lessons that you’ll never forget. And learning from your mistakes will give you that valuable commodity known as experience. Knowing the theory is useful, whereas having experience is essential.

22. On employability:

You don’t sell who you are. You sell what you can do and the value you can add. Every job is about doing stuff for other people and delivering results. What is it you can do and what can you confidently deliver? Before you go for any job interview, make sure you have answers to these questions and make sure you can give examples of stuff you’ve actually delivered on previous occasions.

23. On work (1):

Employers can quickly replace you with someone just like you and you’ll be forgotten quickly. So be professional in carrying out your duties, of course, but not at the expense of your own interests or those of your loved ones.

24. On work (2):

Make sure you take good care of yourself. Employers will take everything you give and a bit more besides but if you died tomorrow your job would be posted online before your obituary. You’ll be replaced within days and the memory of your presence won’t last long.

25. On making money:

To make money you have to be doing stuff for other people. To make a serious amount of money you have to be doing stuff for multiple people simultaneously, even when you’re asleep. Sounds impossible but it can be done. For instance, serving the many with your own digital products, sold online, can lead to great wealth.

26. On sales:

Successful selling is not about tricking people into buying something they don’t need. The art of selling is in proactively finding customers who’ve got problems for which your products can provide the ideal solution. If you can offer solutions to problems, you’ll find customers in need of what you have to sell. Find the right customers and a good product will sell itself.

27. On change (1):

It’s easier to remain as you are than it is to change but unless you change your life will not improve. Embracing change is hard but it is well worth the effort.

28. On change (2):

For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better you have to get better. You can become more than you are but it won’t happen by accident. It all starts with you saying, I can; I will; and I won’t stop until I get there. And you must make any changes necessary.

29. On finding a life partner:

You’ll find, as you go through life, that Mr or Miss Perfect doesn’t exist. If you’re looking for a life partner, find someone whose faults you can live with. Yes, you’ll need to enjoy each other’s company. And yes, you’ll need to have things in common. However, everyone you meet will have faults of their own, even if they’re not immediately apparent.

30. On children (1):

When you have young children they need your attention much more than your mobile phone does. Your children should be your priority, particularly in the early years. You’re their role model. Be a positive role model and give them all the attention they deserve. The years pass quickly and your children, good or bad, are your legacy to the world.  Social media can wait. Anything less is simply a disservice to your child.

31. On children (2):

Children need continuity and they need boundaries. They need to be brought up with a set of values too. Fail to give them those things and you fail as a parent. Materialism is no substitute for the things that really matter most.

32. On your social life:

You’ll never fit into every social group, nor should you try. Just focus on finding a group of people that are right for you. In other words, find your tribe. People that are welcoming to you, with interests like yours and personalities that appeal to you. It’s better to be in the company of people that appreciate your company, rather than trying to fit into groups that don’t really want you there at all.

33. On experts:

There are plenty of people referred to as experts whose ideas and recommendations can prove to be stupid beyond belief. Listen to experts by all means but then use your own judgement. Don’t be fooled by people, just because they’ve got an impressive job title. If your instinct says they’re wrong, have the courage of your own convictions and act accordingly. Just because an ‘expert’ said it, doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

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And you’ll be helping your friends too. So you really can make a difference in the lives of others.

Thank you.

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4 cornerstones for how to speak so people will listen

How-to-speak-so-people-will-listenHow to speak so people will listen is a common challenge many of us face on a daily basis.

There’s an old saying which states that; it’s not just what you say but the way that you say it.

And it’s very true, how something is said is as important as the words being spoken.

Now just think about that for a second. We can use exactly the same words in different ways and we will deliver completely different messages.

How something is said also has an impact on whether people listen to us or not. We all met engaging people who capture our attention and we’ve all met a few boring people too.

In the video included here, Julian Treasure offers some excellent insight into how to speak so people will listen to you.

His underlying message in the video is that we must learn to speak with power if we are to get our messages across to other people.

Julian Treasure suggests that there are a number of habits we must avoid if we are to speak with power.

He says in his view there are Seven Deadly Sins of Speaking, albeit he does note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. His deadly seven are as follows:-

  1. Gossip: Speaking in an unkind way about other people.
  2. Judging: People are unlikely to listen if they feel they’re being judged.
  3. Negativity: It’s hard to listen to people with a negative attitude.
  4. Complaining: It’s hard to listen to a moaner too.
  5. Excuses: You won’t be taken seriously if blame is always elsewhere.
  6. Exaggeration: This can border on lying and who listens to a liar?
  7. Dogmatism: Where facts are confused with opinions.

So if we suffer from all or some of these deadly sins, can we change?

Yes, of course, but it does take a little work and a better understanding of how improvements can be achieved.

How to speak so people will listen:

In the video, Julian explains that there are four cornerstones to powerful speech. He uses the mnemonic HAIL to explain these as follows:-

  1. Honesty: Being clear and straight
  2. Authenticity: Being real and being yourself
  3. Integrity: Being true to your word
  4. Love: Wishing people well. And we all like to be appreciated, surely?

However understanding these cornerstones is only the beginning of the process because, as stated earlier, how you say what you’ve got to say is important too.

Julian then discusses aspects of speaking such as Register; Timbre; Prosody; Pace; Pitch; Volume; and the use of Silence. To address many of these issues you may need the help of a voice coach of course but knowing about them is a good start.

Julian also suggests some simple voice warm-up exercises for you to use before you give a speech. They’re so easy you can use them immediately.

Being a TEDTalk you’d expect this video to be both interesting and useful and it doesn’t disappoint. I found Julian Treasure’s ideas fascinating and if you’re someone who regularly speaks in front of an audience, large or small, then I am confident that you’ll find this video helpful.

This video has had over 22 million views on YouTube so clearly Julian Treasure’s ideas have resonated with a significant audience already.

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3 of life’s lessons learned you really should know

Lifes Lessons LearnedMany regular readers will be familiar with the three life’s lessons learned that I’ve included here today, but that won’t be true for everyone, of course. It all comes down to experience really, wouldn’t you agree?

Well dear reader, please don’t feel that you must make every mistake yourself in order to learn.

Learning directly from the mistakes of others is a perfectly valid strategy. You can also listen to and learn from lessons others have learned the hard way.

There’s no finer education than the University of Life, School of Hard Knocks.

So, allow me to offer you three of life’s lessons learned, that you’d do well to bear in mind.

1. Money can’t make you happy:

If you’re not happy without money then having money won’t change how you feel about yourself.

We experience happiness not through the things we purchase but through our personal philosophy, as well as our relationships with other people. Human beings are social animals, and we all need other people.

If you want to be happy you must never lose sight of the most important people in your life, i.e. family and friends.

Spend time with them and enjoy their company, especially your children. Make the most of every minute you have with your loved ones.

Yes, of course, go out there and make some money. I’m not suggesting money doesn’t matter because it does. It’s up there with oxygen for sustaining a life worth living.

So you must manage your money carefully and invest some of it too.

Enjoy some of your money, of course, and buy nice things occasionally too. Life’s too short not to enjoy at least some of your hard-earned cash from time to time.

However never focus on money and work, to the exclusion of your family and friends. Without them you have nothing. Money is important but the people in your life are far more important.

You could have all the money in the world but without your friends and loved ones you’d have nothing at all.

Lifes Lessons Learned2. Life is too short to do a job you hate:

You should never do anything for money alone.

Yes, you need an income and yes, it’s nice to have plenty of money in your pocket. Let’s face it we’d all like to have plenty of money, wouldn’t we? That’s human nature.

However, no amount of money will compensate you for the drudgery of doing a job you really hate.

If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you won’t do it well. And if you don’t do it well eventually you’ll come unstuck. It will all end in tears. Now is that really what you want, dear reader?

Remember this also; one day, you will die. You’re not going to live forever, nor would you want to.

What a shame it would be if on your death bed you felt you’d completely wasted your life. Now, how bad would that be?

So find a job you enjoy.

That really is important. You’ll spend one-third of your life in work and that’s a long time to be doing something you really hate.

And if you haven’t found a job you love yet? Then just keep looking, until you find something you’d do for free if you couldn’t earn a living at it.

When it comes to a job, money shouldn’t be your primary focus. Find the right job; do it well and add real value; and the money will follow, all in good time.

3. Greed can lead to expensive mistakes:

There’s a classic telephone scam, which never fails to catch some people out.

The way it works is a salesman or woman working in a ‘boiler room’ somewhere offshore calls you with an offer for you to purchase an asset at a price which they’ll tell you will guarantee you an enormous profit.

It might be stocks and shares or it might be plots of land in some faraway place but the underlying message is always the same.

Essentially they’ll tell you that next to no one knows about the availability of this asset just yet but when they do the price of the asset will go through the roof and just keep on heading in an upwardly direction.

They’ll tell you that whatever they have to offer is a steal and that you have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and make an absolute killing but you have to buy today or you’ll miss out.

The salespeople always sound friendly, very plausible and they’ll make it all sound very professional. They’ll even take a little time to make you feel that really they’re trustworthy.

This scam plays on our greed and our gullibility.

We believe what we’re being told because we want to believe it. We just love the idea that we might get something for nothing too.

However if you part with your money, when presented with such an offer, that‘s the last you’ll see of it.

The asset will be worthless or even non-existent. You’ll have been scammed.

Furthermore, if you’re foolish enough to buy, you’ll also be put on a ‘sucker list’ which means you’ll get inundated with similar calls from other high-pressure salespeople offering similar ‘deals‘.

In reality, any deal that sounds too good to be true will always prove to be too good to be true.

There’s no easy money to be had anywhere. Take that from someone who’s spent a lot of time looking.

And anyway, think about it, if it was that good a deal why would they be telling you?

If there really was a killing to be made, they’d simply invest their own money and bag the ‘profit’ for themselves, surely?

Never allow yourself to fall for it.

And never, ever allow yourself to be bounced into buying anything just because they tell you that this deal is only available today.

In sales language that’s known as a ‘call to action‘. It’s the oldest sales trick in the sales handbook.

The idea is to bounce you into making a purchasing decision before you have time to think it all through properly.

Don’t be a mug and don’t be foolish enough to line other peoples’ pockets at your own expense. As the old saying goes, invest in haste, repent at leisure.

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A Motivational A – Z Guide to Success

Guide to SuccessLooking for a guide to success? We could all use one, right?

Well here is a concise A- Z guide of the things you will need to bear in mind.

Perhaps it’s a little over-simplified, if I’m honest, but it does cover all the bases, of that I’m sure.

If you need a guide to success then print this list and pin it above your desk and refer to it constantly:-

A – Z Guide to Success:

  • (A) Achieve your dreams. Avoid negative people, things and places.
  • (B) Believe in yourself and in what you can do.
  • (C) Consider every angle and look at things from both sides.
  • (D) Don’t give up and never give in.
  • (E) Enjoy. Motivation happens when you’re happy with life.
  • (F) Family and Friends. Never, ever lose sight of them.
  • (G) Give more than what you believe is enough.
  • (H) Hold on to your dreams. These should drive you onward and upward.
  • (I) Ignore those who belittle your ambition. If you believe you can, what they think is irrelevant.
  • (J) Just be you. The key to failure is trying to please everyone.
  • (K) Keep trying no matter how hard life may seem.
  • (L) Learn to love yourself. You’re as good as anyone.
  • (M) Make things happen. The harder you work the luckier you’ll get.
  • (N) Never lie, cheat or steal. Always play a fair game.
  • (O) Open your eyes. Be aware of what’s going on around you.
  • (P) Practice makes perfect. Be a student of your craft and work towards mastery.
  • (Q) Quitters never win and winners never quit. Be a winner, not a quitter.
  • (R) Ready yourself. Be prepared and be ready when opportunity strikes.
  • (S) Stop procrastinating. Get on with it. It’s later than you think.
  • (T) Take control of your life. Discipline and self-control are key to success.
  • (U) Understand others. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
  • (V) Visualize it. What will success look like to you? How will you recognize it?
  • (W) Want it more than anything. It must matter to you if you’re to keep going when it gets hard.
  • (X) X-Factor is that little bit of magic that makes you different from all the other wannabes. When you’re truly motivated, you’ll deliver that extra something that will help you shine like a star. Shine like a star and you’ll get noticed. Get noticed and you’re on the way to achieving success.
  • (Y) You are unique. You have special qualities no one else has. So work to your strengths and do the things that only you can do.  That way you will begin to shine like a star.
  • (Z) Zero in on your dreams and just go for it. Don’t stop until you get to where you want to be.

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How to find the right job for you: Simply Explained

Do you enjoy your work? Do you have a job you love? Do you wake-up each morning filled with enthusiasm for the day ahead? Alternatively maybe you just feel your job allows you to earn an income but beyond that you can’t wait until 5 pm when the working day is over? Perhaps you’re constantly asking how to find the right job for you?

If that’s you then you’re not alone.

The acid test when you’re not sure is to ask yourself the lottery question.

What does that mean? If means you ask yourself this, “If I won the lottery and money ceased to be an issue; would I continue to do the work I’m doing now or would I try something else?

Yes of course if you won the lottery you’d have a little fun with the money first, but eventually your life would need a sense of purpose and routine again.

So how would you fill your time then?

If you enjoy what you do, and you are recognized as being very good at it, then you’ll do your job well and you’ll be successful at what you do. And if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Now, how good would that be?

So if you’re not happy with your job right now, the next question to ask yourself is, “What do I really want to be?

To answer that question, you really need to consider two things:-

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What do you enjoy doing?

These are quite different things but if you can find the sweet spot between them then you have the basis for finding a job you’ll love. So the steps to job heaven are as follows:-

STEP 1: What are you good at?

Not merely competent but really good at?

Think about that question carefully and be honest with yourself.

What activities are intuitive to you? Things you can do easily and readily without having to give them too much thought?

Ask friends and colleagues for their views, and ask them to be really honest with you. Ask people you work with about the tasks for which they consider you to be the absolutely, first choice ‘go-to’ person?

Gather together this information and make a list.

STEP 2: What do you enjoy doing?

Then make a list of all the things you really enjoy doing.

Which activities really give you a buzz?

What activities get you so absorbed that you really lose track of time?

What activities would you do for free or as a hobby, if you couldn’t make a living at them?

Paul McCartney once said that if he couldn’t have made a living out of writing songs and playing music, he’d have done it as a hobby, simply because he loved it so much. In fact, it was his hobby before it was his living.

What activities make you feel the same way? Make that list and don’t be reasonable.

All this requires time for reflection and careful thought, as well as feedback from other people. So do give it the time it deserves.

Don’t jump to conclusions. You do want to ensure you get it right, don’t you?

STEP 3: Where is the common ground between your lists?

When you have your two lists ready, the final step is to identify the common ground between them, the point at which the two lists intersect.

How to find the right job for youIf you find an item that is contained on both lists then you have found the Holy Grail.

Finding something you’re genuinely good at and have a real talent for, and which is also something you really enjoy, will give you the greatest chance of success in life.

It is essential you find the common ground between your lists because:-

  1. If you really enjoy it, you’ll stick with it.
  2. If you’re really good at it, someone will notice

And if you get it right, sometimes people will sprinkle fairy dust on you too. And then a magical career beckons.

Finding job heaven is never about luck.

If you’re doing something you enjoy doing and you’re doing it well, you’ll stick with it long enough to get someone’s attention. And when you get their attention, you’ll dazzle them because you’re doing it well.

That’s not luck; it’s hard work, perseverance and timing.

Once you’ve identified what you want, the next question is, “How do you get it?” That’s another challenge, entirely.

Have you managed to find job heaven? If so, you’re lucky indeed. Enjoy every moment.

If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking;

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The importance of teaching children about money

Teaching ChildrenThe importance of teaching children about money is not something that’s taken as seriously as it should be, in my opinion.

Certainly not in the education system. As far as I can see, financial education for children and young adults is rarely covered within the education system at all. It wasn’t when I was young and it isn’t now.

Some might say that money’s not the most important thing in life and philosophically that may be true.

However, money’s up there with oxygen and water when it comes to sustaining human life. In the modern age, life revolves around money, whether we like it or not.

Money’s a measure of the value we add to the lives of others and it’s also the oil that lubricates human existence.

Without money, living would be virtually impossible for almost everyone today.

1. The point of teaching children:

The point of teaching children is to prepare them for adult life, surely?

Our aim should be to equip them with everything they need to know, so they can function effectively as adults once they leave the education system.

Now reading, writing and arithmetic are all essential subjects, of course, because you can’t get too far in the world of work without these basic skills. And it’s through work that we really add value and maximise our income.

Nevertheless, where I believe the education system generally fails children and young people is the omission of the teaching of essential life skills, like earning an income and managing money. Important subjects like money and personal finance are never covered at all, certainly not in any significant way.

2. Money and personal finance:

To me, it’s truly amazing that we don’t teach our children about money or personal finance in their formative years.

Surely whilst at school, children should learn about:-

          • The way money is earned;
          • The way to manage money;
          • How to budget, so they can pay their bills; and
          • How to spend their money wisely.

Children should also learn about how they should prioritize expenditure to avoid getting themselves into a financial mess, in my opinion.

3. The pros and cons of debt:

Personally I think that children and young adults should learn about the pros and cons of debt.

They should learn about the difference between secured and unsecured debt, given the impact these factors will have on the interest rates that will be applied to such debt.

Young people should learn about the power of compound interest too. Not so much as a mathematical exercise but in terms of how it can quickly turn a relatively small debt into a very large debt, if we’re not careful.

And they should also learn to appreciate that credit cards are not just a convenient means for cashless payment.

Used thoughtlessly, credit cards can result in personal wealth destruction and excessive levels of expensive debt.

Children and young people should know that credit cards are a form of unsecured debt, which means they come with very high rates of interest, which accelerate a personal debt mountain rapidly, if not paid off immediately.

4. Interest rates matter:

Everyone should know that interest rates really do matter. They’re very significant and shouldn’t be treated lightly.

Children and young adults should learn that they should never go into debt for the purchase of discretionary items. It’s always better that they save up for that discretionary purchase before they buy, of course.

5. The nature of work:

Every young person 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 and know-how, the more they’ll earn throughout their life. So skills matter too.

Everyone should be taught about the economics of supply and demand and its impact on pricing.

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 business and their own creativity.

If they have the ability to create products which solve problems for customers, then they have the potential to make a lot of money.

Essentially kids should learn to appreciate the difference between employment and self-employment.

6. The road to financial freedom:

Young people should 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.

Once they’re financially free they can focus on doing things they enjoy doing rather than things they have to do, because they’ve no other choice.

If nothing else, this makes the goal of achieving financial freedom a worthy aim, in my opinion.

7. The impact 0f inflation, taxation and government borrowing:

Kids 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.

They should learn about taxes and how the money they pay in taxes will be spent, and frequently squandered by government.

Everyone should know that there’s no such thing as government money, only the taxpayer’s money. Our money!

Children and young people should know that it’ll be their hard-earned money that’s being spent by the government.

They should also know that when governments borrow money this is simply a means for spending today and then passing the bill on to future generations. In other words, our children and grandchildren will pay the bill for today’s government borrowing.

Government borrowing is not a free lunch. Someone eventually must bear the interest payments in future years, as well as the repayment of the original capital sum that was borrowed. And don’t forget, governments are borrowing money continually.

8. Holding government to account:

Children should be taught to question how their money is being spent by the government and how to register their disapproval if they’re not happy with what’s being done with that money, in their name.

9. Money matters:

Sadly most people have little real understanding of money, which means that they’re easily conned by sharp business practices, particularly in Financial Services, and by politicians driven only by 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, in my opinion.

If the education system fails children by not teaching them important life skills then, as parents, we must shoulder at least some of the blame, surely?

And as always, we’ll get what we tolerate.

For me, teaching children and young people about money is an issue for the education system, as much as it is for parents themselves.

Money really does matter and, in my opinion, we fail children and young people if we don’t provide them with the know-how and skills to make the most of it throughout their lives.

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