A blog about business, life, learning from failure and striving towards successn
|Posted on 30 April, 2015 at 17:05||comments ()|
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“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
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“Grace met me where struggle left me”
― Ikechukwu Izuakor
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The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.
I awoke this morning with an insight I'd never had before. Usually I forget these when I drift back to sleep, but this morning I managed to remember. For you this insight may already appear obvious, or even common sense, but for me this new level of insight brought with it a kind of peace and a greater depth of understanding about the nature of our existence...whoah, sounds deep doesn't it?
Anyway, what I realised is that life itself is analogous to a giant canvas. We are all artists in that respect, with each of us working within the confines of a small fragment of that original canvas. As we collectively go about our everyday lives we focus on an area that is right for us, either out of choice or borne under the weight of circumstance. As our focus narrows we become more involved and naturally more partial to our own unique take on the world, our own piece of the canvas, and it is simply this narrow focus that leads to division - because it is in fact division. When we take a step back however, whilst still using the metaphor of painting a picture, we can see that our neighbours and in fact our greatest enemies are all painting on the very same canvas - the canvas of life and what they are painting is absolutely essential to the overall picture. In fact what they are painting is beautiful. Now I realise this may be an overly romantic way of thinking and if your thinking is more of a classical nature - as defined by Robert Persig in his 1974 classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, then perhaps you could view the world as a giant machine, with the various components collectively leading to the efficient functioning of this giant machine. In either case it's quite clear that each person is but a small piece in a much larger pie and whether we believe it or not we are all working towards the same goal, even if it's not immediately apparent or conscious just what that goal is.
As the events of the past few years have painfully reminded us, we are all different. Terror attacks and wars have led us down the path of trying to solve our differences. We see more and more in education that the focus is on understanding. We are encouraged to learn about others so we can understand them better and in this manner our focus is on difference. I believe this is going down the wrong track, and what I am saying may be controversial, but I don't mind. I believe that we are not going to solve the problems created by difference by focussing on difference. We should instead be focussing on our similarities - as Einstein once said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."
It seems self-evident to me that by focussing so much energy on points of difference it actually helps to define and solidify those differences, further strengthening mental positions, to the point where we see people who couldn't have cared less suddenly identifying with a position because it has been defined more and more by the media and society in general. If my only frame of reference for being understood and accepted is my own unique viewpoint, then my life will be a constant battle to be heard. Being heard will not lead me to silence, but on the contrary, it will surely fill me with the desire to spread my message further - to gain even more influence?
We cannot ever truly understand everybody else, this is not to say we should remain ignorant, don't get me wrong, but it seems much easier to focus on our similarities and what makes us all humans than to focus exclusively on difference. It is a lot less complex and a lot quicker route in my opinion and I also believe it will unite, rather than divide us. By continuing to focus on difference we are inadvertently creating greater division, rather than the kind of unity that we are all seeking inherently.
|Posted on 19 April, 2015 at 17:40||comments ()|
"What a man can be, he must be."
In 1943 American psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper with the title "A theory of Human Motivation" in the Psychological Review. The basis of Maslow's paper was that just like social status, our needs as human beings were structured in a hierarchial fashion, with the pinnacle of these needs being the need for self actualisation.
Maslow's now famous hierarchy of needs is often represented by a pyramid - the true shape of any hierarchy, with the base of the pyramid being our Pysiological needs - in other words, our basic metabolic needs for survival. This need incorporates the need for basic sustenance - food, water and shelter.
Beyond the basic need for survival is the desire for safety. Once we have our basic survival needs met, we instinctively pursue safety and security, which may manifest itself in a variety of forms such as personal security, financial security, health and well being. In modern times this may include savings accounts, insurance policies, health care and so on.
Once our physiological and safety needs have been met, the next step in our pyramid - and Maslow's hierarchy of needs, is the need for love and belonging. Maslow believed that humans generally need to feel accepted as part of their social groups. Humans also have the need to be loved sexually and non sexually by others and it is a lack of this love he argued that often leads to anxiety, loneliness and depression.
The next level in Maslow's hierarchy is the need for Esteem. Over the past few years we've seen a proliferation of psychological literature aimed at developing positive self-esteem and self-respect in individuals. Esteem is higher than love and belonging in Maslow's hierarchy because it fulfills a human's basic desire not only to be accepted, as in the prior level of needs, but also to be valued. People will often engage in professions or even hobbies that will give them a sense of contribution, but will also give them a chance to gain recognition as being valuable to society. Within this level Maslow observed two distinct levels of esteem: the first and consequently lesser esteem was the kind of esteem that included a need for recognition, fame and attention, whilst the higher need was more in line with self - respect, evident by the desire for individual mastery, strength and confidence for its own sake, rather than for social acceptance.
This brings us now to the pinnacle of all the needs in Maslow's hierarchy, which we touched upon briefly above, and that is the need for self-actualisation. This level affords the individual with the need to accomplish everything one can do and be - to realise one's full potential. This need may vary from person to person. For one it may express itself in the desire to create beautiful art, for another it may manifest itself athletically, or even socially, but without the constraints of "lower" levels of need which have already been fulfilled in the individual.
Interestingly, in his later years Maslow criticised his own theory, suggesting that there was a further dimension to the hierarchy beyond self actualisation - self-transcendence. Thus he believed that the self could only find true actualisation by giving itself to something outside of oneself.
This theory is certainly interesting and can be applied to a variety of situations, both individually and collectively in the form of interest groups, organisations, businesses and even governments. Where are you on the scale? Can you recognise some of these traits in yourself or others? Maybe you can see parts of yourself in all of them?
|Posted on 18 April, 2015 at 18:05||comments ()|
I'm very happy this morning because my football team - Port Adelaide, won their first game of the regular season against our arch nemesis North Melbourne at Etihad stadium. To celebrate I thought I'd post a practical video, rather than my ususal philosophical ramblings (which are yet to garner any comments!) - I am after all running a garage automation business! If there is enough interest I will publish part 2 also.
|Posted on 17 April, 2015 at 18:10||comments ()|
"Every snowflake is unique, yet they are each perfect."
Donald L. Hicks
In a world of how to it is sometimes easy to lose our way. It's easy to forget our own unique take on the world because the still, quiet voice inside is drowned out by all the noise. But I'm here to tell you that that voice needs to be heard, because we're each here to celebrate life.
Charlesd Du Bos once said "Joy is but the sign that creative emotion is fulfilling its purpose." Creative emotion is born out of the freedom and emancipation that comes with being unique. This uniqueness, or point of difference is also something that is gaining more and more traction in the business world. When starting a business it's easy to follow set formulas that are tried and tested - the rational side of our beings all know this. Yet in a world where everyone is trying to get their messages across, sometimes the only way to get that message through to others is to be different, to stand out in some particular way. It may even border on the absurd, something author Seth Godin may refer to as a "purple cow." These zany and funky absurdities - such as a purple cow, may seem strange to an entirely rational being, but our creative and romantic beings not only love creating these differences, but receiving them from others also.
Not everyone needs to go to the lengths of creating the absurd to gain attention however. If we could analyse the principles as to why absurdity creates attention, it has its roots in uniqueness. You and I can create a point of difference without being absurd that not only celebrates uniqueness, but also celebrates authenticity - and that's important. Being authentic means staying true to the values in your heart and using that value system as a compass when offering your products and services to the market place.
There are a limitless ways to do business, as there are limitless ways to do life. Having the courage to celebrate our way, not only breeds confidence, but I also believe it breeds success. Other people will pick up on your authenticity and it will silently give them permission to be authentic as well. What's best is you won't have to think of a way to express yourself - it will arise spontaneously from the depth of your own being and it will feel right. You will know it, others will know it and even if there are others who don't agree or approve, you'll be happier because it's a celebration of your own uniqeness and authenticity and it will feel right in your heart.
|Posted on 16 April, 2015 at 17:50||comments ()|
"Eighty percent of success is showing up." - Woody Allen
There it is again, that dreaded 80/20 concept! But seriously, I think Woody was onto something when he penned those now famous words. It's always the small quotes I find are filled with the most wisdom. Although some may argue that showing up is common sense, it is surprising how few can do it consistently on a long term basis - I should know, I have plenty of experience in the past not doing it!
I really find it surprising that in some circumstances I have called other businesses for quotes or for information and no one gets back to me - ever! This has not been a rare occurence and actually happens quite frequently. I often wonder how much money everyday businesses are losing by simply not following up on the leads that they receive? Surely I am not the only customer? Now don't get me wrong, I"m not trying to be negative by demoting these businesses or bragging about my own consistency, I simply find it interesting and somewhat intriguing, particularly when you compare the level of service (and consequent success) to big, successful companies like McDonalds for instance.
You can say what you like about the quality of food at McDonalds, but one thing for sure is: they have a great business system. I've read the book by Ray Kroc ("Grinding it Out - The McDonalds Story"), the middle aged milkshake maker salesman who in 1954 took the concept the McDonald brothers initially established, franchised it and turned it into an international superstar. Kroc was indeed a smart man, but a lot of his success I believe is attributable to the simple positive habits he developed and implemented - showing up for example. Walk into any McDonalds in the world and not only will the food quality be identical, but also, and more importantly the level of service will be identical. In most cases you're assured of being served within a few minutes, sometimes even less. There's usually only a couple of registers open, but have you noticed how many there are? What happens when a line develops? A new register is opened. The process repeats until all of the registers are full - then people have to wait..... right? Wrong! When I was in London I visited McDonalds after a game at Wembley Stadium and what I saw blew me away. Initially I was skeptical of even entering the store, for I didn't think we would get served for hours, but to my surprise, not only were McDonalds serving people at the registers, but they had other staff circulating with palm held tablets taking further orders so people didn't have to wait. We walked out of that jam packed McDonalds in less time than usual!
What McDonalds gets right then and what I intend to follow in my own business, is that they value every customer and they don't let customers (and their money) walk out the door. They are not complacent, despite their massive size. It would be easy for a company like that to rest on its laurels and live on the credibility it has developed over the years, but they never do that, they are always proactive. I've been into fast food restaurants where there are 15 -20 people waiting and there is only one person on the cash register who doesn't seem to be in any hurry and doesn't apologise to any of the customers for the wait. I usually walk out of these places, not because I'm impatient, but because I think it is not treating a paying customer with respect. I never usually go back either. Has this happened to you? Am I the only one who is bothered by this?
Anyway, enough rambling for today. I simply wanted to share what I believe to be the secret of success - showing up. It sounds too simple to be even taken seriously, but it works. Ray Kroc proved it in McDonalds and you and I can prove it too. We just have to show up. What a wonderfully simple and beautiful philosophy that is!
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|Posted on 12 April, 2015 at 19:10||comments ()|
"The two greatest warriors are patience and time"
I'm reading a book at the moment as part of a new commitment to read a book every week. It's called "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson. It is a fantastic book and I encourage anyone who wishes to make a positive change in their lives to read it. The core message in the book for mine, was that of persistence. Jeff gives an excellent example of what he calls the slight edge in the development of a child (you or I) learning to walk. At the beginning we slowly dragged ourselves up, but quickly fell down again because we didn't have the strength to maintain our new posture, but we got up again. We fell down again. But we didn't stay down, we kept on getting back up and everytime we did that we got a little stronger. We got up. We fell down. We got up. We fell down. Day by day and week by week we eventually took one step, then two, then 3 or 4 - falling down constantly along the way, but before long we were almost running.
I tell this story of past to remind us all that we all have what Jeff expounds upon in his book - that slight edge, that natural persistence seemed so inherent in our early childhood - our learning to walk is proof of this, but somewhere along the way we started to give up on things. In the same book Olson talks about how by the time we reach school age we have already heard the word "no" 8 times more than we hear the word "Yes." Is it any wonder he suggests, that only 5% of people go on to achieve all the goals and success they desire by the time they reach the end of their lives, whilst 95% of all people flounder and do not achieve their deepest desires? What separates the 5% from the 95% according to the book, is not a lack of "How To Manuals", because there has never been more information than there is today, but more of a lack of understanding as to how to do the how - if that makes sense?! It is our personal philosophy which guides our attitude and this attitude influences the actions that lead us up towards success or down towards failure.
Success then is achieved by a series of small habits repeated daily, not by some quantum leap - though we fantasise that this will be the case with us. There are many reasons why we do not stick with good habits according to Olson, but one of the overwhelming reasons is that we fail to see progress straight away. In a world of instant everything we also want instant results, but how long did it take us to put on those 10 kilograms we need to lose? How long did it take to start losing touch with our families and friends? These things didn't happen overnight, but they did happen. A reversal of fortunes will also take time, but it will also take persistent, consistent action over the long term.
To round off this post I'll leave you with a story that was told by Jeff Olson's daughter in the book. She is also an inspiring young individual who lives the same kind of philosophy as her father. She told a story about Will Smith, who we all know to be an incredibly successful actor. Apparantly as the story goes Will's father tore down a wall in their shop that was 16 feet high and around 30 feet long and asked Will and his little brother to rebuild it. They also had to dig a 6 feet hole for the foundation. Trouble is, Will was only 12 years old at the time. He told his Dad it was impossible, yet nevertheless he and his brother set to work to build the wall, mixing the concrete by hand, failing many times along the way. Every day after school for a year and a half Will and his little brother would build the wall, mixing concrete by hand. Will said in an interview with Charlie Rose that he remembered standing back looking at the wall and thinking "There's never going to be anything more than a hole here!" because of the sheer enormity of the task, yet in 18 months they laid the final brick. His father stood back with Will and his brother out the front of the shop and simply said (in Will's words) "Now don't y'all never tell me you can't do somethin" and walked back into the shop.
We may not all have a literal wall to build, but we all have a figurative wall that we need to work on. A wall, like a pyramid is built brick by brick and only by building in this manner it seems, can we accomplish what we set out to do.
|Posted on 12 April, 2015 at 6:25||comments ()|
“If you reveal your secrets to the wind,
you should not blame the wind for
revealing them to the trees.”
― Kahlil Gibran
I guess it all begins somewhere...for me and for Garage Door Automation it begins here...right now I'm wondering what I'm doing, why I've decided to start a blog and the usual insecurities that I guess come with this ground - will anyone read it? Will it show my vulnerability? Will it make me look stupid? Well I guess possibly all three may happen. What I'm hoping though is that it can prove an insight into my philosophy of life so that others may not only understand me and what I'm about, but also grow to trust in my business, rather than it being just another face in the crowd. I guess then I want to put a personality behind the face. I want the face to talk back to you and to communicate with you, not just try to sell you something. I guess I also love writing, because with writing people have the choice as to whether they wish to read it or not, in that sense it is a lot more priveleged than the spoken word. You can always "tune out" to the spoken word, but sometimes it's not always easy to make an escape when there's something else you wish to be doing - social conditioning is a bummer in that sense!
I realise it's probably not a normal thing to do (blogging) given my industry, nevertheless these musings may or may not provide valuable lessons for people starting a business in the future - either what to do, or what NOT to do! Ha, ha. They'll also be a memorable reminder to myself hopefully. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here, for this is only the beginning.
For those who know me, this is not my first business venture - and this is where Kahlil Gibran's words whisper into my ear quite loudly and anxiously. It's probably my fourth serious business in which I've invested a decent amount of time and capital in. The first was a tutoring business I started in London that almost made ends meet. The second was a company I started called "Simple Cleaning" here in Adelaide upon returning from Europe and the third is an Ebay business that is still going and growing slowly, but run almost exclusively by my wife. In between there's been countless other projects and ideas that either fizzled out or were dropped like the proverbial hot potato.
Looking back now I guess these two aforementioned businesses "stuck" because they were fulfilling - in that they helped others, but they also filled a genuine need people had. The first two businesses and currently the third never quite got across the line in terms of earnings, but it was close and I believe with the benefit of hindsight that if I had have stuck it out, things might have worked out differently. But hindsight is always a wise counsellor and the lessons I have learnt through these earlier failures in fact have progressively taken me to greater levels of success. I guess what I'm trying to say is that success seems to me to be nothing more than building upon failure. Failure could be seen as the foundations of a pyramid (to use a real world metaphor) with every failure progressively decreasing in size towards the apex. Each step of the pyramid is consequently a step closer to success and it's failure that is under your feet.
I am not immune to failure, as the above clearly demonstrates. The difference now is that I seem to have more clarity on why failure led me to the greater understanding I have today. I am consoled by the fact that if failure should happen again, then I will have built another layer in the pyramid of life. I also realise that sometimes you have to persevere with the tools you have whilst you wait for better tools to arrive. As my Dad always says " A good tradesman never blames his tools."