You Can Get It If You Really Try

Vintage Ad #1,177: Tired of Being Skinny?

Vintage Ad #1,177: Tired of Being Skinny? (Photo credit: jbcurio)

There is something about being in a supportive environment, I think, that makes success easier to achieve.  Here are a couple of instances to mull over.


First, it is worth noting that Joe Weider died not so long ago, at the age of 93.  Who was he?  Well he was the physical culture mentor to an Austrian body builder named Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the 1970s.  According to Arnie’s web site Mr Weider was responsible for teaching Mr S and his fellow gym regulars that:


“…through hard work and training we could all be champions.”


Who knows, without Mr Weider’s unwavering support would Mr Schwarzenegger’s CV include film actor, Planet Hollywood co-founder, Governor of California and whatever else he has up his sleeve?


Second, as the cliché goes, some people talk, others actually ‘do’.  Someone who has been actively trying to make his mark, since the age of 10, is Nick Daloisio.  Now at 17 years of age he is an employee of Yahoo, that company having purchased his ‘Summly’ software application supposedly for £19m.


His interview with the Guardian newspaper makes him sound quite down to earth and not money mad.  His mother Diana says:


“[she is surprised his success] happened so soon, but we always knew Nicholas was technical and talented.”


There seems to be a lot of faith invested in the young millionaire by his family.  They certainly gave him licence to spend plenty of time on his computer getting his ideas together.  It wasn’t a get-rich-quick vision either.  He says in the same article that:


“… If the motivation had been money, I’d be going off laughing. But because the motivation was technology and product, this is just the beginning of what I want to do.”


If Mr so inventive at 17 I wonder what influence he will be wielding in the world of software at 27?

Equally, if one’s working or home environment is not so supportive how much effort is required to find others to share one’s dream and make it happen?

The Things You Learn From Rock And Roll

Yannis Philippakis singing with Foals at the B...

Yannis Philippakis singing with Foals at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have read my posts about David Bowie, or the Rolling Stones, you’ll know I like music created by established artists.  Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with newcomers, with the right attitude.  That attitude involves doing what you love for reasons other than wanting to be famous, straightaway.

That attitude is voiced neatly in a recent BBC News article on the Foals and the Maccabees.  The Foals frontman, Yannis Philippakis, gives a great quote to the BBC about his musical ethos.  He says:

“Music is its own reward and making music is what you do it for, it’s for the fulfilment and the beauty of the creative moment”

Equally important is the nurturing approach that record companies have toward their artists.  If the company is into making quick money from the talents of the winner from a singing competition like the X Factor they will drop the artist quickly if sales don’t meet expectations.

As a side note, I guess it helps if you have a robust sense of your own talent if you are entering those talent shows – like Will Young or JLS seem to have – since you know your abilities are strong enough to transcend the here-today-gone-tomorrow environment which introduced to the spotlight.

Anyway, record companies interested in developing their artists, rather than quickly exploiting them, form substantive working relationships built for the long term.  The BBC article notes what Martin Mills, founder and chairman of the Beggars group says about longevity being vital in the independent sector.

“You’re looking for artists that are more than just one moment, people that we think can grow over a period of time and become even greater”

The moral for the creative musician (and maybe for the person seeking a fulfilling non-creative career) seems to have a flavour of Laura Berman Fortgang’s philosophy: find your reward and fulfilment from doing what you love to do; build a relationship with an employer who supports your growth over the long-term; live the best life you can.

Is Success Subjective?

David Miliband

David Miliband (Photo credit: dominiccampbell)

I heard David Miliband speak about his vision for opposition 18 months ago.  He was passionate about his vision for improving others’ lives whilst his political party – Labour – was in Opposition.  It seems like a sensible move for him to now find a way to do just that -improving lives – this time on a much larger stage, as chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, based in the United States.

It is odd that identifying this fulfilling goal, and pursuing it, is being characterised by some media outlets as a failure.  Being the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary; an Opposition Leadership contender; and then CEO of a humanitarian organisation in New York sounds like the content of a successful CV to me.  Perhaps some media commentators are being too tribal about the man.

Under Pressure

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it is a sign of the (tough) times in which we live, or a more enlightened attitude to the subject, either way mental health stories are becoming more prominent in the media.

Mental health related pressures that young people, and their teachers, face are the subject of two recent BBC stories.

The first feature notes some imaginative work with story telling that allows young people to work their emotions into a narrative they create. This allows them to explore anxieties in a safe way.  Hopefully it also opens the door to the young people getting the support they need.

The second article records the increasing trend towards emotional or behavioural outbursts in the classroom that members of the Association Teachers and Lecturers have to deal with.  More effective training and support may help manage those classroom tensions.

What a huge challenge it must be to have the goal of delivering effective learning for a class of 25 when one or two students are intent on acting out.  Equally, how grim are the personal circumstances of some students that they cannot turn to supportive parents or carers to help manage their distress instead all they can do is challenge their teachers.

That is not to say all is lost, if disruptive behaviour leads to permanent exclusion from school.  As the feature article in the Observer newspaper suggests, Sirach ‘Angel’ Charles’ budding musical career proves there is life after the Pupil Referral Unit.

After The Final Whistle

Michael Owen

Michael Owen (Photo credit: Steve_C)

I think we’ve established in previous posts that there is a difference between sports people saying they are ‘retiring’ and the same words coming from a regular 9 to 5 worker.


No surprise then that the media have picked up on a statement posted on Michael Owen’s website today.  In the post he confirms that at the end of his current season with Stoke City he is bringing the curtain down on his playing career.  I like that he says in his statement that:


“I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey that like many young players starting out, I could only have dreamt of.”


There have been plenty of commentaries and plaudits from the football world in response.  I had to dig around a bit to find out how he has answered the inevitable question a successful 33 year old asks when replacing one buzz for another: What next?


According to the Guardian newspaper Adrian Bevington, Club England’s managing director, said:


“We are already in talks with Michael about how he can share his international experience with our younger players in the future in an ambassadorial role”.


That seems a fairly modest next step.  Beyond that role it seems to me several opportunities may open up in the months and years to come.  There may be openings in the arena of sports presenting (following in the footsteps of Gary Lineker or Sue Barker); motivational speaking (John Amaechi springs to mind) or even politics (Tanni Grey Thompson or Sebastian Coe have done okay for themselves).


It will be interesting to see where Mr Owen’s journey takes him in 18 months’ time.  Wherever he is situated I hope his post retirement role brings him as much job satisfaction as his footballing career has done


Starting. Stopping. Starting Again.

You have within you, right now, everything you...

You have within you, right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you. -Brian Tracy (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

It is easy to start making progress and feeling good about achieving modest changes, then stop to admire the view.  Starting again and keeping going is a harder challenge.  Outstanding results are probably the product of a commitment to keeping going with a determination to achieve higher standards.


I was thinking about differing levels of commitment the other day as I came across the notes I wrote nine months ago on a client I worked with last summer.


My client was a woman considering career change options that would improve her work / life balance and allow her to grow as a person.  After two constructive sessions I was looking forward to a third discussion about what steps she was prepared to take to incrementally progress toward her goals.  From what the client said at the end of the second session she too was motivated to do more work next time.


However, for reasons unknown, my client wasn’t ready for that conversation.  In fact she wasn’t ready for any further contact.  I didn’t hear from her at the appointed time, or subsequently either time I offered her an alternate date for a fresh session.  Her silence was eloquent in itself.


I hope, when the time is right for her, she will find a supportive helper with whose assistance she can move forward.


I contrast that level of commitment to self-development to a seemingly narrow comment about succeeding in the music industry which the song-writer Cathy Dennis made recently.  Ms Dennis was addressing a music industry writers group, Basca, and The Institute of Contemporary Music in London.  On reflection her comment actually has a universal applicability I think.  Speaking about the inspiration necessary to get started and to keep going in the music world (and create hits for Kylie, the Sugababes, and Katy Perry along the way) she said:


‘If you believe in yourself you have to be prepared to knuckle down and put in the hours and really commit to what you want to do…[decision makers] told me I wasn’t right, I wasn’t good enough – and that was great for me because every time that happens you realise you are going to have to take control and do it for yourself’.


Perhaps it is easier to strive to attain outstanding results in a field which you are driven to operate within.  If you are trying out different options – to see which one fits – it might be harder to acknowledge things are not working out.  It must be daunting to hold your hand up and say, can I try something else, this isn’t working for me?.


So for me one of the three essentials on the client’s side of the coaching relationship (along with Clarity and Commitment) is Honesty.  You can only begin to take steps toward getting what you want – it seems to me – if you are clear about your goal (in true Brian Tracy fashion); committed to attaining it; and honest with yourself about how important it is to you.


Digital footprints

I’ve blogged about thoughtful use of social media before – most recently in the October 2012 post In Cyberspace Not Everyone ‘Likes’ You  – however a spate of recent stories caught my eye.


Black Eyed Peas anyone?

Black Eyed Peas anyone? (Photo credit: Twitchietai)

First, there is the revelation that seemingly innocuous ‘Likes’ on Facebook can reveal much more personal detail than users imagine.  According to a Cambridge University  study, quoted in the press, important facets of one’s personality such as social standing; religious identity; even sexual orientation are – supposedly – discernible from what users say on the platform.


Then there is the sobering thought that if you get into a virtual feud with someone on Twitter they may very well track you down, for a very real confrontation.  If in doubt look at what boxer Curtis Woodhouse did to confront the critic who mocked him on line.


Finally, there is recognition that young people are savvy consumers of new media but are not necessarily skilled in producing it.  Former Black Eyed Peas vocalist has donated £500,000 of his own money to the Prince’s Trust to support the development of young people’s knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the STEM subjects) where skills are lacking.


Unless we choose not to have a digital presence, these stories indicate we should carefully decide just how we manage our online life.  They also nudge us to develop our relationship to new media / technology so that we keep up to date as they grows in influence.

‘Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?’

John Lewis DAF LF

John Lewis DAF LF (Photo credit: kenjonbro)

Nothing is certain in the world of work these days.  Staff are hanging on to their jobs to see whether the economy picks up over the next couple of years.  They certainly aren’t chopping and changing jobwise (to try something new), as they might do in less harsh times.

The Guardian reports that in the commercial sector at least one bouyant employer, the John Lewis Partnership, is able to award 17% bonuses, reflecting the good year they have just enjoyed.  I wonder how many staff there are likely to have itchy feet and to be looking for other jobs?

Equally, in the legal field at least one employee is looking to spread their wings, the Guardian’s work-blog confirms.  The employee has been head hunted through a recruitment firm.  Admittedly there have been redundancies in their existing firm, so they may be motivated to move away from an uncertain atmosphere, even though it features a good salary, flexibility and enjoyment too.

The advice offered to the would-be escapee below the article is varied.  Some comments basically say ‘stay’, some suggest the employee ‘go’.

My contribution is near the foot of the page (see comment from RogerAD).  It is based on:

–  the coaching adage that people are more motivated to move toward what they want, rather than away from what they don’t want.

– An element of Brian Tracy thinking too (the idea that successful people plan their lives and attain the goals they focus on).

– A bit of personal curiousity, as I also wondered to what extent the job-change  reflected the escapee’s key work values (salary, flexibility, enjoyment).

What advice would you have offered?

Women Hold Up Half The Sky

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, Internat...

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8 March is International Women’s Day.  The BBC News site has been subtle when integrating women-centred stories in each of its sections.  I spotted consideration of women’s issues in terms of:




and, sadly,  the cost of gender-based strife women face daily


Usually the focus of stories would be focused on individuals like

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde

– former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

– or world beating Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling

How often are the individual stories put into the larger context of women’s lives?  What could be achieved if more people thought about the inter-connectedness of people’s lives?  Thinking about this topic, alongside other ‘What Ifs’, could make a difference for each of us


Honourable Members?


Palace-of-westminster-at-dawn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the recent media coverage is accurate, women in the Palace of Westminster need to keep their wits about them.  Part of the story is that some of the older Members of Parliament have old fashioned or chauvinistic views.  The rest of the story is that they are a law to themselves.

Holding the post of honourable, or right honourable, member puts you outside the reach of employment law apparently.  Misbehaviour becomes an issue for the Whips to address.  It seems that there is no Human Resources section to defer to either.

Coaching junior staff to confidently establish a professional set of boundaries for themselves, is probably quite important now.   Less harassment may result when there is a clear understanding of an indivdual’s boundaries,  and the consequences of crossing them.

Equally, coaching more senior colleagues to understand the damage they do to their organisation – if they misbehave – is definitely desirable.  Perhaps at the moment too many senior people think they can chance their luck, without consequences.

It should not matter if the person, allegedly, at fault is a Peer of the Realm, or a Cardinal in the Church in Scotland .  Making unwelcome advances to work colleagues is not acceptable.