On Improving Life

I ended a post a couple of weeks ago saying that me and you are both flawed, because we are humans. I closed off by saying that you can always strive to constantly improve.

Improving your own life, while simple in theory, may be one of the hardest things we do. Forming new habits are incredibly difficult. Breaking up old ones is both scary and even more difficult.

Yet, I think, this is something we need to challenge ourselves with despite how hopeless it sometimes may seem.

Personally, I have many things I want to change about myself. Some of them are traits that I just don’t like in myself, and some are things that while I can accept them as part of me and be happy anyway, I just would like to improve on.

One of the things I have always tried to do is get motivated to go to the gym and work out more. I never had that as part of my life growing up with parents who didn’t either, and so, it is no surprise that it is not part of my life.

I’m one of those people who have a hard time getting started on that working out habit but still realize how important it is, and still love how good it feels afterwards. Interesting, isn’t it?

I bring up this mini-story because I am now reaching the 10 week in a row mark with two weekly workout sessions. For some of you, this might not seem like a big ordeal. But it is for me. All it took was the help of a friend to get started a few times.

Change is scary. If we do it together with other people who support us, and show that while you yourself care about your faults, they don’t, change is much easier.

There is nothing that I admire more in a human being than being able to embrace her faults, be happy in herself regardless, and also successfully manage to work towards changing something she wants to change.

That is the utmost reflection of mental strength.

The other week I was chatting to a good friend of mine who shared an interesting story that illustrated a pet peeve of mine: That talking more about anything is better than being quiet.

Normally, I have found that in student settings in particular, it is thought that just saying something, regardless of what, makes you seem eager and get on the radar of the expert you are talking to. If you are talking to a person of “higher status” from an organization, you will often see people make up completely unnecessary things to say, just to speak.

I have experienced this many times myself in meetings both in general, and with young professionals with great ambitions. People sometimes just want to add things, to make sure they are seen and remembered. Even if this means almost completely just saying the same thing as another person said just before.

Why is this? Why are we taught that this is a good thing? One reason, I guess, is in part because we are in school always asked to say things ourselves to show that we know.

In a business setting. This is annoying. And it is useless. The more high level people you are talking to, the more busy they are. Being able to shortly and concisely sharing what you think is the real skill.

If you are asked if you have anything to add, it doesn’t mean that you should have or that you should feel forced to.

If there is one career skill that you should master if you are in meetings and you want high-level people in an organization to like you professionally, this is a good one. Practice expressing yourself concisely and to the point. Trust me, all of us will love you for it.

All of my feed readers and social feeds seem to be jam packed with articles on how to be successful, the top skills you need to have to be happy and the traits you definitely cannot have if you ever want to be happy.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that it would be funny to gather all of these tips in a master document to see the absurdity that you get with these type of articles.

This morning, one of the articles in my feed outlined 50(!) traits that meant you are born to be an entrepreneur. Probably the most absurd article to date.

Here’s the thing. It’s not that the traits, tips and skills outlined in these articles are wrong per se. Usually what’s listed are all really helpful things for the topic at hand.

What I don’t like is that they promote a negative view of yourself. See, you are going to be reading these articles wanting confirmation. You want it to tell you that, “Yes, I am awesome!”. Since you are human, I guarantee you won’t truthfully check off all the traits. I daresay nobody in the world does.

Yet, with these kinds of articles you subconsciously think that this is what it takes. You subconsciously feel bad about yourself. You subconsciously add a great amount of pressure to yourself.

I shouldn’t care what other people think of me, yet I do, and you probably do to. It’s important to us as humans, and I daresay a good thing in moderation.

The real skill here for being mentally strong is believing in yourself, being happy in who you are. Realize that you are flawed (we all are!) and try to slowly improve these areas. But don’t feel like you can’t do that. And don’t feel like you aren’t good enough as you are already.

On The Value of Research

Knowledge is power is an old saying. In society, this is completely true. Have you ever met someone who seemed to be in the loop on almost any topic? The level of respect you sense in the air around these people is awesome in the proper sense of the word.

While we all have different interests in learning things, we can all learn from this. Whether you are going to a job interview or pitching a client, you will be better off knowing things about the company or person you are meeting.

Doing your research ahead of time will not only set you apart, but create the impression that you are well-informed and serious. That’s a great image to present, especially given how little time it takes to do some basic research.

So, regardless if you’re the kind of person who loves soaking in information, or not, just doing some basic research will set you apart from the competition. Greatly.

A while ago, I wrote about the problem of us thinking that we are always more busy than we are. Recalling this, you might be wondering why I seemingly today write the other complete opposite? The benefits can be found in business.

If you have a pretty clear calendar for the week ahead, how do you approach scheduling something with a client? Do you say “I’m pretty open this week, just pick a day and time!”? If you do (and I do this at times too), I’m sad to say you are doing it wrong.

In this case, it actually pays off to signal that you are busy. Because being busy creates the signal that you are an expert in demand. And we value people in demand.

You don’t need to lie to adopt this either. Just pick a few times a week when you are open to meeting clients and stick to them. You’ve got tons of other things to do in your week anyway, so you aren’t lying either.

Together with other techniques, this can help drive your reputation as an expert in demand, which ultimately results in people respecting you and your time more. Consciously, or unconsciously.