I am sitting here on a Sunday morning afternoon with my coffee in hand, music in the stereo and laptop in my lap writing articles and content. I enjoy doing this, and Sundays are pretty much the only day a week that I get enough peace of mind for this.

At the same time, I am chatting to a group of friends as we are summarizing last night out. As I sit here doing these two things, I am reminded of a discussion that I had with a friend of mine, Lina, recently about “opportunities that just arrive”.

Both of us felt that throughout our respective careers so far, opportunities have always seemed to present themselves. Still, we both concluded, we work pretty hard to achieve this.

And it strikes me that while I often too feel that things just happen, I do work a lot to achieve the results that I see. For example, I am indeed sitting here writing the week’s articles and posts, and I do that every Sunday. And that’s just the start.

Lina and me concluded in our discussion that another key factor for this is how we are always looking to expand our network (even the fact that we know each other is a testament to that).

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this very topic, and how to explain that things indeed keep happening without me seemingly feeling that I am doing something advanced.

And maybe that is just it, and the key. We aren’t doing anything special or advanced, but we are always looking to genuinely meet and get to know other people, be out there, present ourselves and be active. And that sees results.

Not only on a professional level, but on a societal level we seem predisposed to always want to blame someone if something doesn’t go right. This is unfortunate. All we gain from this is some false level of comfort.

There are plenty of times when someone isn’t to blame for something that has happened. I would argue that more times than others, things fail for a multitude of reasons where many each have a small role in what happened. All we could really say is that the situation went bad.

Yet even in these cases we want to blame someone. We have an extremely hard time to accept collective failure and want to find the scapegoat, to little real effect. Blaming such a scenario on just one single person is ultimately only going to make us feel marginally better and will definitely not go to any lengths ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.

Blaming someone for something that didn’t go to plan is natural and comforting, but we should take care in overdoing it. Finding a scapegoat when there is in fact no clear one is contra-productive and will only make things far worse. A lot of the time a series of unfortunate consequences just happen without any specific person actually being at fault. We should learn to accept this.

On Prioritizing

We all have 24 hours a day. It might seem like a cliché, but eventually you might run up against having many more great ideas that you want to pursue than you have hours in the day to do them in.

The solution is definitely not to sleep less, or work crazy hours. Your body and mind can’t sustain that. Instead, what successful and smart people do is realize this limitation and do one of the following:

  1. Prioritizing. Focus on the truly awesome ideas, giving the merely great ones a miss.
  2. Increasing Productivity, giving them more hours to spend on executing greatness.

It can be hard to pass on a great idea. You just have to make sure that what you instead chose to work on is even better and bring even better returns.

Having loads of improvements you want to do is great. It means you see potential for change. The trick however is knowing which ones to focus on, knowing that you (sadly) can’t do them all.

If you’re a small business owner you have probably encountered this dilemma plenty of times before. A project comes up that you truthfully don’t feel like taking, but can’t reject because it would bring in a decent amount of cash. End result? The project lingers on and turns ugly.

This has happened far too many times than I would like to admit. Each time, I promise myself that I should never take these kinds of projects again, trusting my gut feeling. And yet, it happens again and again.

In fact, this year I have turned this into a new years resolution of sorts, not taking projects like this, despite them securing a bit of cash. As small business owners, we of course love financial stability. It is easy to forgo the alternative cost, that is, not having time to do a more lucrative project (either in motivation, financials or both) that comes along shortly thereafter.

So, I’d like to stress what I think we all know deep down. Most of the time, this extra financial stability now, is not worth the troubles that this project might bring. Turn it out and sleep like a baby afterwards. Trust your gut feeling and go with your instincts on this. Chances are, you will not regret it.

On Saying No

Saying no is something I find very tricky. Whether it is for friends or clients, I am a person who loves to help others and see others succeed. Part of this is why I enjoy doing what I do, but it also makes it tricky to say no.

Not saying no however has dire implications for yourself. That is, you will inevitably end up spending so much time doing this for others and overloading yourself with various type of work that you neglect your own well-being.

Sadly, there is no magical recipe for saying no, other than to start doing it and practice. Start with smaller things. One of the best techniques, that will also capture your professionalism, is to offer alternatives rather than just blatantly blurting out a no.

Offering an alternative solution and course of action for the person will free you of the obligation, which let’s face it you really didn’t have time for if you are honest with yourself, while still sounding professional, since you are in fact partly helping them move on to a solution.

I am really bad at saying no, but I keep practicing. For my own well-being.