I was recently asked to deliver a motivational talk to a group of year 12s (16 and 17-year-olds).
Quite frankly, I was reluctant to try motivating them because I didn’t know them and wasn’t sure what made them tick. While racking my brains about what would be useful to these teenagers, it dawned on me that it had actually been 19 years since I had left school. I was pretty much twice the age of the audience!
A lot has happened since I left school, and I have experienced and learned much, mainly from my mistakes and failings. In the end, I decided to talk about 19 of the most significant life lessons that I had found most useful in the 19 years since leaving the school!
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So, in no particular order, here are 19 valuable lessons learned from my life:
1. Eat that frog
“Eat the Frog” is the title of a book by Brian Tracy that I recently read. His book centres around living the life by the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule or the Pareto’s law states that 80 per cent of your output comes from 20 per cent of your input.
In short, what the law can tell us is: don’t waste time getting all of the small tasks done. Jump right in and get the most laborious task done first.
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We’ve all been there when we’ve got the pressure of a deadline for school/uni/work assignments. We somehow pull it out of the bag last minute and get the task done! But imagine, if you just got on with it earlier on how less pressure you would feel.
Eat the frog, get it done and you will get better overall results!
You really can learn something from everyone! So take the time to listen. You don’t have to agree with absolutely everything you hear but listen at least twice as much as you speak. As the old saying goes, there is a good reason we were given two ears one mouth.
I recently heard that the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk had told his employees to walk out of meetings, which are unproductive. I’m not suggesting you should be rude, but he has a point. I’ve been to many meetings where people speak for the sake of speaking because perhaps it makes them feel important or that they are getting the point across. Most of the time it ends up in a pointless waffle.
Listen, make your point and act.
Photo by Heisenberg Media via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
3. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
This is something that I often hear Tim Ferriss say in his podcasts. Everything you want is just outside of your comfort zone. If you cruise in life, you will go backwards, just because everything else around you will move forwards!
In any area of your life, you are looking to progress you have to push yourself, whether it be exercise, studying, or in your career. Moreover, if you want to achieve something, sometimes it’s going to be uncomfortable. You are going to feel pain, anxiety, tiredness… I could go on.
But if you get used to pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, you will learn to better adapt to the many uncomfortable situations that life throws at you unexpectedly.
4. Learn to fail
Let me be blunt with you. You are all going to fail, or not get what you set out for at some point in your life. Whether it is in exams, getting that job you want or in business activity. Then, someone who has never failed has never tried anything.
Athletes set themselves up to fail in their training every day; the biggest tech companies in the world Google, Facebook or Uber use split testing of customer engagement and by doing so set themselves up to fail. You will encounter failure so get used to dealing with it; which brings me to my next point:
5. Learn from failure
Those same tech companies analyse the results of their split test, i.e., they look at which page design, got the best interactions. Athletes will become stronger, fitter, faster and better from “working to fail.” You need to do the same.
You are going to fail, so you can either wallow in pity or learn from the failure and move on!
6. Learn to say no!
No one can say yes to everything, in business, in social life, or in the sport. If you keep saying yes to everything, firstly you are going to end up letting people down, and secondly, you won’t be putting enough energy and focus into what will give you and your life the most positive impact.
I’ve learned this the hard way in the past, by saying yes to that one opportunity too many.
Saying no is an art! And, more importantly, it makes you more reliable. Reputation for reliability takes years to build but can you can lose it in a split second.
7. Be patient
Over the years I’ve met a lot of people who were making fast money doing the next big thing, whether it be a pyramid scheme, dealing (yes in illegal substances), or even becoming shredded in the gym very quickly with the aid of stimulants. Yes, they get fast results, enjoy it for a bit, but it never lasts!
Good things really do come to those with patience and long-term thinking.
The best businesses in the world are the ones that begin with the end in mind! Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has been cited as the world’s wealthiest individual. However, he led Amazon to a loss for years, just because he always took a long-term view of his operation.
Somehow, I think his reported $135bn net makes the wait worthwhile.
Photo by James Duncan Davidson, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
8. “Assume positive intent.”
This exact saying comes from the author Daniel Pink. It served me well always to be open-minded about people’s intentions when you meet them. Be polite and give people the benefit of the doubt until something tells you that you shouldn’t.
People, in general, are good. If you read or listen to some aspects of the media, you would think everyone who is not your typical middle-class Brit is the enemy of the state. You know the type of headlines, “Swarms of immigrants coming in to scrounge off the system.”
It’s not true. Most people want a fair shot at life and to better themselves.
Be vigilant but don’t think everyone outside of your circle has questionable intentions. If you go out and meet an arsehole, then accept it happens, and you move on. But if you go out and think everyone around is an arsehole, then I’m afraid you are probably the one with the issue!
When I was organising nightclub events, I found that the most powerful tool in dealing with 99% per cent of problems was a smile.
No matter where I’ve been in the world, even when coming across what many would assume is a hostile environment. A genuinely warm smile breaks down many walls. Try it!
Photo by Alicia Jones on Unsplash
10. Find out for yourself
I recently met one of the editors in chief at CNN. I confessed that I used to be a news junkie, but in the last few years, in all honesty, I’ve stopped watching the news so much because I don’t know whether what I am seeing is true or just brainwashing. There are people in America who believe two versions of the same story based on what media outlet they watch, Fox or MSNBC.
Let me tell you news is a business, they sell advertising and sensationalise things to boost ratings. I was recently in Russia and found that people were terrific. But before I went, I was being questioned “Why are you going there? You will get poisoned, nuked or kidnapped.”
I experienced nothing but positive vibes while I was there and that’s including when attending a football match.
11. Sw2+WC = MO
The equation originates from an interview with Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb. His company shook up the hotel industry and annoyed many people. People were slating the app, saying it would never work; people would never use it, etc.
He came up with a formula Sw2+WC = MO
“Some will like it; some won’t + Who Cares = Move On.”
You could apply this to a lot that you try in the years ahead, and to the people that you meet. Some people will like you, some won’t, but who cares, just move on, and continuously develop.
12. Learn to learn!
Education is important! Very important, and in my eyes learning never ends. BUT. Don’t learn to get you through your next exam. I know the pressure is there, I’ve done it. I parrot fashion learned a whole module on game theory and came out with 98% in a final year Uni exam.
But in this day and age, there are kids in Asia who will out parrot fashion you. You are playing on a global field. Today, I can go to a website called Upwork and can hire a typist in the UK for £100 an hour or from India for £10 an hour. They’ve both learned the same thing, but I get it a lot cheaper in India. Why as a business would I pay more for the same thing?
However, I will pay for a thinker. Someone who can create creative, imaginative content or branding.
Be the person who never stops learning, not the person who only learned how to play the system.
Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash
One of the reasons I don’t feel that I have reached that place where I call myself successful is because I don’t think I’ve focussed enough of my skills on helping others. I was at a conference in Lisbon, and Al Gore (environmentalist and former US Vice President) was a guest speaker.
He challenged the talent in the room to develop ideas that would help the greater good of humanity. Ask yourself, would you instead be remembered for the money you had in your bank or the person who stopped the world using harmful plastics?
14. Be grateful
Every day when you wake up, try to be thankful for three things in your life. Even if you have had a bad week, there will be at least three things to be grateful for.
And, be grateful for the fact that you are living in this day and age. Forget all the rubbish that there are no jobs out there. For the first time in history, you can start a business from your bedroom and compete with big companies with little investment on a level playing field.
15. Look after your health
A couple of years ago I fell ill with TB. The month I was in the hospital wondering what was wrong with me (because the doctors could not pinpoint a diagnosis), I couldn’t have cared less about money, who was emailing me or, to a large extent, where my business is headed. I just wanted to get better and feel good again. Health really is your wealth. Treasure it!
16. No such thing as normal
In his book Purple Cow, Seth Godin talks about how we have been conditioned from a very early age a school to conform to a controlled or a normal way of doing things. From the school bell to lining up, we are taught not to be the odd one out. While for many years this system has worked, “normal” is no longer a thing. He goes on to say, “It’s riskier to be safe, and safer to be risky.”
If you desire to get all top grades in your exams, go on to Uni, get a degree, get your graduate job, meet a partner, have kids, work till your 65 and then have enough in the bank to travel, that’s cool. There is nothing wrong with that, but don’t do that just because you think it’s normal.
On the other hand, if you want to do your exams, go traveling for ten years, meditate in silence in a cave, and then decide to adopt hyenas and the write a blog about your time with them, that is great. As long as you are happy, and you are not harming yourself, or anyone else. But that isn’t normal either.
Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash
The whole concept of normality has been turned on its head; in fact, I’m not sure when it comes to careers it exists anymore. You can create your career path following something that you are passionate about, and this is the best time ever to do it. My only advice as someone who has done this is, be creative and be determined. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
You aren’t following the “normal path” because it doesn’t exist.
17. Value time over money
As I mentioned above, there are so many ways of making money in this day and age, but remember money can come, and money can go. Time, on the other hand, it goes, and that is it. Spend time with your loved ones, friends and live in those moments.
18. Back yourself
This is coming from someone who got a 1 st Class Honours Degree, has Masters in Economics and was repeatedly told I was mad and stupid for not going into an economics-related career, especially when I decided to do nightclub promoting as an alternative.
I’ve met “superstars” people who are celebs, or millionaires and top athletes, and you know what they all have in common? They are human! Just like you and me, they are people, but they are people who backed themselves.
Even when everyone else tells you, it’s never been done before or what you desire is not possible — back yourself!
If you want to do it and set out a plan to execute it, it can happen.
The final valuable lesson on my list does not need much more explanation than to say life goes fast, so along with everything above, enjoy your life!