Learning From Those You Don’t Like

You can learn from anyone. You can learn from everyone. No matter what age, gender, culture, background or life experience. There is always something you can learn. You can especially learn from the person that you respect the least.

To be able to do that requires a special kind of attitude that recognises that even if you disagree with someone about most things or dislike a person with a great deal of passion, they still have something to offer you. They can teach you something about something.

On the flipside, even if someone disagrees with you about most things or dislikes you with a great deal of passion, you have something to offer them. You can teach them something about something.

As with most things that are difficult, it requires an act of generosity. The act of generosity in this is to recognise the fact that learning can come from anyone, and then to seek it out. Of course, it is easier said than done, but it is an act of generosity towards others and towards yourself also.

Towards others because when you seek to learn from someone you actually communicate to them that they have value. What greater generosity could there be?

Towards yourself because in seeking to learn from someone else, especially someone that you don’t like, creates a posture of humility, ready to learn and ready to grow. That is an amazing gift for you.

When it doesn’t feel good…

I recently ran in a 10km community run. I am fairly new to this process of waking up early on a Sunday morning and running around with total strangers, this was my second time. Having done it before and surviving I thought I had it nailed, so I was very relaxed before the event started.

After the starting gun (horn) sounded I was off, running strongly, overtaking people left and right but soon I began to struggle. I couldn’t get into a rhythm and I barely felt comfortable the whole time. As you could imagine, people began to overtake me – which did not feel good at all. I thought I would have the strength and stamina to catch up to them again; I did not. My focus shifted from the people who had already overtaken me, and I concentrated on not letting anyone else past. That did not work either. People kept coming from nowhere and running past like I was standing still.

Finally, I shifted my focus to just finishing the race. Not stopping. Just put one foot in front of another. This I did achieve, and I enjoyed crossing the finish line, but it didn’t feel like a good run. I felt defeated and embarrassed that so many people overtook me. Clearly I was out of my league.

It turns out, though, I ran a personal best time. The first few km’s I ran out of my skin, faster than I have ever run before, which is why I slowed towards the end – and why I never felt comfortable. I was out of my comfort zone the whole time. If this was the best I have ever run, then why didn’t it feel good?

This was me smiling. Everything hurt. Hooray for participation medals.

I think it has something to do with how we perceive progress. It is important to feel like we are getting somewhere. Progress, even if it is a tiny thing, is incredibly motivating.

However, progress, when based on comparison to other people’s success is incredibly demotivating because we see all the people in front of us (or overtaking us) in the journey. Plus, outside of an actual race, we don’t know where other people have started or where they will finish – they are most likely running a completely different race to you.  

The best way to create progress in our lives is to focus purely on ourselves. Not on the other runners. If we continue to put one foot in front of another, concentrate on the race we are running, looking to be better than we were last time/yesterday then we will see progress much clearer than if we are looking left or right. That way, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable, it will still feel good.

How to get Your Business involved with a Not-for-Profit (5 Easy Steps)

It’s nice to know that you want to do something to make the world a better place. It’s a great feeling. But then how do you do it?

Here are some key points which are the first things you can do to create something long lasting and sustainable for your business.

  1. Find an alignment in purpose

The first thing to do is to figure out what cause your business is naturally aligned with. If you are business that is food based, then maybe food based charities are your thing. Do you provide education and training? Then maybe causes around education would fit. Are you in the health field? Then something health related. Do you help businesses grow? Then definitely Opportunity International and microfinance are for you.

If you are unable to find an easy fit, take some time to think about what will connect with your business as a whole. You can select something that you care about individually but that will most likely end up becoming your own thing that may not create buy in from other staff. Plus, if you ever leave, your passion for that cause goes with it. Finding a solid alignment in purpose will create a long term relationship with a charity and long term solutions with impact.

2. Work out what your impact will be and how you will measure it

What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? Be specific about it and outlandish. I know of people who want to help 1 million people out of poverty or become a millionaire of souls. Once you have your numbers, figure out exactly how you will measure that.

3. Choose an organisation that will fit

Now is the fun part. You get to choose an charity that is working in the area you are interested in, can facilitate the impact you are after, can report back on that impact and are willing to work with you to help make it a reality. There are quite literally, thousands of charities to choose from, so you get to shop around.

4. Create a plan with that organisation

Put something in writing. Not only does that help make it official for you and your business but it also lets the charity know that you are in it for the long haul. It is very helpful to be specific about how you are going to achieve the impact you are aiming for. Without a plan, your impact is just a bunch of meaningless numbers. Any charity worth their salt will help you with this process.

5. Stay Connected to it

This is done through ensuring the plan and goal are connected with your business by keeping it somewhere we people (yourself included) are going to see it. Create a tally to update, keep information available to all staff and ensure the charity are regularly in contact with you. Invite them to the office to chat to the staff – we love that stuff!

Doing these five things will set you up to create a meaningful connection with a charity, and help you with your greater purpose of making a significant positive impact on the world.

3 Reasons Why Your Business Should be Involved with a Charity

Whether it is your own business or you are working for someone else, here are three benefits for supporting a charity, with 1 proviso:

  1. Good for your staff

We know that today, more than ever, business employees are looking for much more than a pay-check to take home. They are looking for career advancement, flexibility, autonomy and purpose. A great way to assist employees to find their purpose is to align with a charity through generosity. That way, your staff know that as they help the business grow and become more profitable, they are creating a positive impact on the world as you donate some of the profit to a worthy cause. This can provide your staff with a greater sense of pride, well-being and team cohesion just by turning up to work on Monday morning.

2. Good for your customers

Having an intentional alignment with a charity can positively impact your customers as they understand that just by making a regular purchase they are also impacting the world positively. Like employees, customers are looking to do much more with their purchasing power and showing them that your business is good for the world will assist them in finding some purpose in their daily life.

3. Good for your business

Good news and positive experiences are some of the best marketing tools as word of mouth spreads. Making a positive difference through a relationship with a charity is good marketing material as existing customers notice it, get excited about it and entice new customers. It is also extra social media content for you as you highlight the charity that you support.

Plus it will also bring good staff to you as potential employees see the relationship with the charity as the point of difference between your business and others in the same industry.

Proviso: The charity that you choose has to be aligned with your values. It cannot be something that you do just get good press, people will see through that very quickly. The key is to build a relationship authentically with a charity that can grow over time and show real impact.

My First Pay-Packet

I can remember receiving my first ever pay-packet. I was super excited to get it. It was back before it was all sent electronically; I was called into the cash office of the supermarket and was handed an envelope with actual cash in it. I still remember the feel of that small, windowless, locked office, and the smell of the envelope in my hand. There was no greater feeling.

I’m pretty sure I blew most of it on unnecessary stuff. But why not? It was my first one.

I’m sorry to say that my financial decisions didn’t really improve too quickly. I would buy clothes I didn’t need, eat out way too much and generally have nothing to show for myself after payday.

I’ve learned some hard lessons over time, most through necessity. I would like to think that I have a much better understanding on how to run my finances now, but occasionally I will buy something with no purpose or positive impact. I’m only human, right?

When we think about those who are living in poverty and how they spend their money, how would we feel if they spent what little they had on something wasteful.

There is the classic comedic line:

I didn’t want to give some money to the homeless person I walked past because they would just spend it on drugs and alcohol. Then I realised, that’s what I spend it on!

Why do we have greater expectations on people living in poverty than we would put on ourselves?

What is really difficult to stomach is the reality that many people living in poverty in Asia and Africa handle their money much better than most Australians. There have been numerous studies done which show that a cash injection to a family living in poverty, rather than being spent on alcohol, drugs and gambling, go towards education and health. Exactly what we would hope the money gets spent on.

And if the money can be in the form of a small loan to fund an entrepreneur who can start a business and work her way out of poverty, even better.

It is easy to forget that we can learn a great deal from other people, even if they are living in a slum somewhere in India, and even if it is about how to handle our finances.

Don’t Read This.

Don’t Read this. My Journey is not the same as yours.

I’ve seen quite a pattern emerging, and to be honest, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Everyone has 5 tips for this, the best 10 ways to create that, my two biggest takeaways from this. Heck, some of those I have created.

Whilst I love all of that content, and I think we can learn so much from each other, at some point what has worked for you will not work for me. If I just keep pushing through the tough times with an idea, or a business, or a strategy, will I actually come out the other side as successful as you? As wealthy as you? As well known as you? What if my idea, or business or strategy is awful? Will your simple strategy for super-fast business growth make me millions then?

Not everyone wins the gold medal. Not everyone tops the list, someone has to come second, or third or fourth. Is that still successful?

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I genuinely want to ask the question about suitability and blanket promises of success.

At some point wisdom will be required, right?

And what can wisdom teach us? We cannot escape suffering in life, that is guaranteed, but wisdom is choosing what is worth suffering for. It says ‘even if I spend all of my energy on my idea/business/strategy and it doesn’t work out and blows up in my face, it was worth it’.

Wisdom is harsh.

Tunnel Vision

Do you remember the last time you were really hungry? Not just peckish, but actually ‘missed out on lunch, breakfast was small and now dinner is late’ type of hunger. It is painful, but probably the hardest thing is that the only thing that you can think about in that moment is food. You can smell it, taste it and imagine how it would feel just being close to a meal that is ready to eat. Sure, you try to distract yourself and think about something else, but when the image of the perfect hamburger pops up in your mind then it’s all over. It’s food and nothing else that has your attention.

If you have experienced that, or something like it, then you are not alone. It is the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. There was a study that was done on the impact on people when they live on a starvation diet. Over time they grew so weak and thin, as you would imagine, but the impact on the mind was what caught researchers by surprise. They discovered that all the participants could talk about was food. They memorised recipes, compared food prices and shared about their favourite meals. So they decided to distract them with a movie but all they could focus on was the meals that the characters in the movie were eating. They were so consumed by what they didn’t have, their lack, that they couldn’t focus on anything else. They couldn’t see the big picture.

Not having enough of what you need can become the only thing that matters to you.

That is why the work of Opportunity International is so powerful. Providing a small loan to mothers who can start a business and create an income overcomes the scarcity problem, allowing people to shift their focus to other important things and make wise decisions.

Heaping Coals

I grew up in a home of Christian faith, and I distinctly remember a part of the teaching about treating people who are against you; your enemy. It said,

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

I remember reading as an adult too, and, you’ve got to admit, that is a pretty weird statement. The image that this created in my mind was that of an antagonist and that God was actually suggesting to people who have enemies, ‘treat them nicely so that they get really angry and fume, that will be pretty funny’. I could never work that out.

I recently discovered that there was an Egyptian custom in which a person who had made an error and was wanting to make an amends, would carry a pan of coals on their head as a sign of their remorse, and the above teaching is likely to be in reference to that practice.

That changed some things for me. It turned an antagonistic philosophy and transformed it into a message of returning good for evil in the hope that someone who was actively out to harm you would be in a restored relationship with you. Now, I don’t know that repentance and restoration is a guaranteed outcome of giving food and drink to someone who hates you. There is always a risk in any act of generosity, especially one as this counter-intuitive (eye for eye, remember? That’s a whole other conversation…). But the possibility that you could bring something amazing out of something awful is worth it. Even if it only means that you don’t have to live with an active resentment towards the person, because the act of generosity towards them can shift your perspective.

Death & Taxes

I don’t hear it much anymore, but it was colloquial for a long time – the only two certainties in life, being death and taxes. Both of which we still try to avoid.

We try to avoid one by hiring great accountants and we try to avoid the other by not talking about it…

The internet tells me that I am not alone when it comes to talking about death. It can be quite the scary and uncomfortable topic, and somewhat strange to discuss whilst we are still healthy.

There are numerous benefits to openly talking about a time when we will no longer be around, including gaining a greater perspective of life, what we value, what we have achieved and what we still wish to accomplish. It is such an important conversation as we will all die, although we can’t control how or when, we can control what impact we can have after we have died.

One of the greatest impacts we can have post-death, is to leave something to a charitable organisation in our will; a bequest. We are on the verge of the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in our history, so it makes sense to allocate some of that to the causes and charities that mean something to us.

It is very easy to do – as you arrange your affairs, mention to your lawyer that you would like to leave a certain amount or a certain percentage to a charity and they will take care of the rest. If you already have a will, you don’t have to re-do the whole thing, you can add a codicil which serves an amendment to your will, recording your wishes to leave a gift from your estate. Again, chat to your lawyer and they will help you out – also your favourite charity may have a copy of the codicil to get you on your way.

A bequest is a simple way to be generous when the terrible happens.

How To be Generous to Yourself (without letting yourself off the hook)

I love personal growth. I love consuming books, podcasts and videos about growth. I find it exhilarating. But I realised a little while ago, I must be exhausting to live with. I am always searching for the reasons why I do the things I do, how I can do life better, and how I can find the blind-spots that I have. Nobody wants to live with that, and to be honest, sometimes I am exhausted by it too. So I am slowly learning about what being generous to yourself means. I have been reluctant because previously I have been very good at letting myself off the hook for something and calling it ‘self-generosity’, but it was really just laziness and a lack of integrity.

Now, I have three sayings that I use which help keep things in check.

We are all a work in progress

This is helpful for me and for when I am dealing with others. Sometimes I can get frustrated with people who don’t seem to be trying to improve and this saying is a great reminder that I don’t know other people’s journey, and I certainly don’t know where they will end up. It helps keep me in check too, as I realise that I am a long way from where I want to be.

I am better than I was yesterday (but not as good as a I will be tomorrow)

To stop me slipping into the depths of despair and frustration when I make the same mistakes or fall into the same victim racket in my mind, I think of how far I have come and I can have confidence in my trajectory of growth. If I can keep doing to small things each day; reading, learning, keeping fit, then I know I am moving forward. Progress is slow, but it is still progress.

In this moment, I am enough

With all that said and done, I can know that right here, right now, I am everything that I need to be for this moment. I can’t do anything about any work or preparation that hasn’t been done because it is too late to change it, so I can own who I am and what I am doing.

What are your best sayings?