Want to work smarter? Stop asking questions…

I want to see people start to do well and one of the biggest problems that I see with people who are a little more timid is that there is a fear to take the next step, purely because you’re worried about going to go a little bit wrong. And how do we get around making a mistake? By learning from others and asking lots of questions, of course.

Now this is excellent advice, especially if you are new to a subject area and there is a lot to learn. It seems silly to make a whole load of mistakes that somebody else has already made when you could just ask the question and avoid a whole load of aggravation. But there comes a point where you are asking questions for the sake of just asking questions and this just makes no sense.

When I decided to swim the channel for the first time I had very little knowledge of how to go about it. I had been a swimmer as a kid, so I knew what I was letting myself in for physically, but I didn’t know about any of the logistics and the planning. However, I knew that I could get lost in tonnes of advice and ultimately talk myself out of the idea of doing the swim at all. So what I did was sign up for the swim and then start my research afterwards. And even then, I focused on getting myself into training above asking any questions of other people. It didn’t take a genius to work out that lots of long distance was the way to go; I didn’t need to hang around in a chat group to find that out.

However, you would be amazed how many people there are out there that do hang around in said chat rooms, asking how many lengths they should be swimming during each session and a week by week breakdown of it all. These are the people who generally do end up talking themselves out of it. Or worse still, they sign up and then fail because they’ve been procrastinating for so long.

It seems like basic common sense but sometimes we need a good shake to remind us what is sensible. I got across to France with a year of training and no faffing around with Facebook groups that just would have drained my energy. My personal opinion is that a lot of these people on there, want to find an excuse to not go ahead with the swim. And this is the case with so many things in life. There are a lot of people who want to find that one piece of information that will make it OK for them to back out. Do you want that? Are you actually hoping for a reason not to go ahead with your dream? Perhaps the thought of possibly failing is too painful to deal with so sabotage is the better option. Or perhaps you don’t want to put in the hard work?

By all means, build a supportive community of friends involved in the same thing and get yourself educated enough to decide whether or not you should spend time and energy on a project. But once you’ve made that decision, just go for it! It’s fine to be worried and anxious, but nothing great has ever been achieved without taking some risks and making a few mistakes of your own along the way.

With that in mind, here are five ways to stop yourself from getting carried away with too many questions:

  • Read one or two good books on the subject and then stop! If you pick wisely you should have a good enough outline to get started without the need to read a whole library.
  • Limit the number of support groups you join. This is particularly the case if they are on social media because you can lose days looking at every single post and not concentrating on your own task in hand.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. We all make them and as long as you learn from it, there’s no need to become over reliant on other people. Leaning on people too much after a set back only encourages us to waste more time.
  • Devote chunks of time to solely working. If it’s a clothing line that you are building then say that in a five hour day, four of those hours have to be spent creating and being a business person and only one of those hours can be spent speaking to other business owners about what they would do in any given situation.
  • Really celebrate your successes because this will make you more confident. And it is confidence that will help you to trust your own instincts. If you have this confidence then you won’t need to turn to other people.

So get your head down and go for it. It seems like such a shame that your good ideas might be put to waste because you’ve spent too much time asking questions and not getting stuff done. I want to see all of you do amazingly well and I hope that this has given you some motivation.

Do you worry that you don’t have the knowledge to get started and what would be the thing that helps you to get over it?

Have you ever given up on a dream because you’ve entered into information overload or worried that you could never have enough information?

If you could start anything tomorrow without the need to do any long and boring stretches of research, what would it be?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Want to be successful? Then be a bitch…. (plus a bonus poem)

Or that might be what it feels like sometimes, doesn’t it? If you’re a quiet and sensitive person. If you’re living your life in a way that involves not stomping all over people’s hopes, dreams and self confidence, it can sometimes feel like you are not deserving of success and happiness.

I was in the grips of alcohol addiction when I first watched The Devil Wears Prada. I was therefore craving money and attention and general adoration from everyone around me and so there was something about this movie that just resonated with me and everything that I wanted. I looked at Meryl Streep’s character like she was some sort of goddess; the epitome of what I wanted to be. She was rich and successful and everybody worshipped the ground that she walked on.

I also didn’t seem to be aware that the reason these people all bowed down to her like she was a goddess was because they were actually terrified of her. The respect people had for her was born out of fear and it’s not like anyone would ever want to go out to the pub with her after work. She wasn’t loved like a friend or a mother figure. And people only wanted to impress her so that they didn’t get stomped on, or because they wanted to impress her to advance their own careers.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where Meryl’s character was a jolly and rotund woman who dished out hugs and invited people into her office for cups of tea when they were stressed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could celebrate kindness rather than fear? Is that even possible or would society fall to pieces if we took away those ball breakers who ‘make things happen’?

I would love to see that happen and I hope that my little online community and friend group can help to make this a reality. I don’t see why empathy and kindness can’t win the day and I would love to hear people’s thoughts and ideas on whether this could be encouraged. Because now that I am free from my addiction and not so focused on power and money I realise the level of misery that ball breakers can inflict is high and unnecessary! Why spread all that pain when it’s not needed?

So let’s all pull together and try to help the nice ones rise to the top. And here are a couple of tips for being kind in the work place (or anywhere else in the world):

  1. Try not to get on other people’s wick,

Because it just makes you look like quite the little dick.

2. If you have nothing nice to say,

Just save it for another bloody day.

3. If something said, hits a little nerve,

Don’t hate back, but smother it with lurve.

4. Rise above the gossip and the hate,

It’s not worth it, don’t take the fucking bait!

5. And lift the the nice ones way up high,

Because manners, empathy and love are never things that you can buy.

The first step to success is this…

Are you struggling to get yourself moving in life? There are so many areas that we are trying to juggle and sometimes it’s really easy to drop one of the balls. And the way to make sure that you are able to pick it back up and get moving again is to tell people about it.

Perhaps your fitness goals have fallen off the radar and you know that you need to pour some time and energy into that area of your life. Perhaps you have decided that the way to do this is to run a 10k or a marathon, or even an ultra marathon! It’s all very well setting yourself this goal, but how are you going to hold yourself accountable?

The most obvious way is to TELL SOMEBODY ABOUT YOUR GOAL! If you tell somebody then you have to put the training in otherwise they are going to be disappointed when they next check in with you. And that person can help! They can be your cheerleader and encouragement on the journey. If you are starting a new business they may be able to provide that key contact to jet propel you to the next level. If you’re trying to stop drinking that person you tell can be the person to take you off to the cinema rather than a night at the bar with all your boozy friends.

You also need to tell people what you need emotionally. It helps to tell people if you’re feeling drained because then they know what to do to help you. It might just be a case of them coming around to have coffee with you to perk you up when you’re feeling low. Tell your friends and colleagues how you feel! And tell them what you need!

This video goes a little deeper into this topic. Please give it a watch and hopefully it will give you a push in the right direction.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

Find your ONE person

So I’m a creative type and that means I like to make things. I like to make lots of things and pump them out into the world. And that is really fun but sometimes I really want success and I just don’t get it in the way that I sometimes want. I sometimes want numbers and I want them as high as possible.

But like so many people I don’t get those high numbers. So why would I want to carry on? It’s because I really want to touch a person’s heart and it doesn’t matter if it is just one person. I want to know that at least one person has read my work or seen a picture that I’ve drawn and it’s made them feel better. I don’t really care all that much if my instagram has less than 100 followers, as long as one of those followers smiles when they see what I post.

I heard a writer once say that they were at a signing and somebody came up to them and said that their book changed there life. And she said that was better than making the New York Times best seller list, and that was great. So find your ONE person and be grateful that you could have that effect on someone.

How to be a productivity bad ass (or not) (a poem)

I have spent a lot of time looking into how to be more productive and there are so many things out there that can help. Everything from calendar blocking to bullet journalling can help with the organisational side of things. And then you can look at all the self help stuff to help you with your procrastination and fears. But doing all of this stuff doesn’t actually get the work done. And what exactly are we trying to achieve in the first place. Being busy for the sake of being busy is just a sure fire way to get yourself burnt out.

So what is the optimum working speed? Should we all be pulling all nighters and working until our fingers bleed? And how do we measure how well we have done? Is it by how many words we have typed, or how many likes we have received over the course of a day? Or is it based on monetary return? There are so many ways of measuring but one way that is very rarely looked at, is how much happiness an activity has brought you.

What good is it to earn a fortune and to not feel fulfilled at the end of the day? There was a time in my life when my identity was so tied up in how much I achieved and at what speed that I quite literally felt hollow. I could produce loads of work but I wanted to gouge my eyes out by the end of the day.

So, when you are watching any of these videos on youtube that show you how to make your day more worthwhile and full, think why you are watching it and what you want from the work that you are doing. Sometimes, doing some arts and crafts (which you are doing for enjoyment only and not to sell the fruits of your labour) can be much more rewarding than working away at the blog that is making you tonnes of money. Sometimes, doing some voluntary work is the way forwards. And sometimes just doing nothing is pretty awesome too. In fact, the people who can sit and do nothing without feeling irritable are the people who are most at peace with themselves.

But, if you are wanting to get more done then try and take the distractions out of your life. Things like social media and TV would be the first things to get rid of. And then really think about what you want out of a piece of work. It doesn’t have to make you money to be of use. If you know what you’re looking to get out of something then it’s far easier to keep motivated and on track. It’s also worth writing out goals and monitoring progress as this can also help when you start to flag. I’m always far more likely to procrastinate when I’ve lost my passion for a project and this is normally because I don’t know what I’m aiming for any more.

With all of these things in mind I wrote a little poem about being productive and how money shouldn’t always be the end game.

The thought to me that is most seductive,

Is “what if I could be a little more productive?”

If I were, would I smash my every goal?

Would I seem like I was on a roll?

I’d be sure to make a tonne of cash,

And live a lifestyle that’s really very falsh.

But this could come at such a price,

That no amount of clothes could be that nice.

So do the things that you enjoy,

Because the money myth is just a ploy,

To make you think that you’re not good enough,

That you’re not made of the right stuff.

But, my dear, you really are,

Already quite the shining star.

Too scared to start and 3 ways to overcome that fear

It was Oprah who once said that nervousness is actually a selfish emotion. When I first heard this I thought she was having a laugh. As someone who has been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder I get nervous about lots of situations and I thought it was a bit rich of her to say that made me selfish. But when I read her reasoning behind this statement it made me start to at least try and change my mind set when tackling new and scary things.

When Oprah made this statement she wasn’t trying to say that us anxious types were horrible people; what she was saying was that a safe amount of anxiety is no reason to deny the world of your idea. Saying that you’re too scared and then not carrying through with it because of that fear could stop something really great from being released into the world. And who are you to say that nobody can experience that thing you dreamt up? What would have happened if Fleming had decided he was too scared to tell the world that he had discovered penicillin in case something went wrong and everyone laughed at him? Or if Mandela hadn’t fought for the end of apartheid because he knew that he was going to get resistance? The world could have been a very different place, and don’t go thinking that your small idea couldn’t make the biggest of waves.

If you’ve read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert then you may be familiar with the idea that any inspiration that comes flying into your head is a gift and it should be treated as such. If somebody gave you a gift of a million pounds and told you to spread it between your favourite charities you wouldn’t then put it in your bank and keep it to yourself. Surely this should be the same with gifts that are given to us from God? Use them and help to make the people around you happy.

So yeah, I totally get what Oprah meant when she said that it’s a selfish emotion. She meant that we need to push through our own feelings so that we can make the world a better place. If you’re struggling to get past this first step towards success because you’re feeling frightened then keep these things in mind:

Number One- Most people will be secretly impressed that you’re trying.

Because, news flash! Everyone else is scared too! If people are standing in the wings waiting for you to fail then it’s because it backs up their own theory that they shouldn’t try. If the people around you are real friends then they will support you no matter what you try and it won’t matter whether you succeed or fail.

Number Two – What’s the worst that could happen?

Even if things do go really badly you can still turn it around again. Most of the super successful people in the world have had some pretty serious setbacks. Some very famous billionaires have filed for bankruptcy several times. Hopefully you won’t be at the point where you are doing that, but this is proof that it can still not necessarily mean game over.

If you’re scared of people’s opinions then the worst that could happen is that those people fall out of your life. And would you really want those people in your life?

On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that things could go well, and then what? That business could take off or the book could get published and then you’ll be left wondering what you were ever wondering about in the first place.

Number Three – Try to see these risks like a book of puzzles

If I buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, I normally expect that I can get one or two wrong. But there are normally a hundred or so other puzzles in the book that I can have a go at. There are an infinite number of challenges out there in the world and I can have a go at them even if I’ve already failed at something else.

Keeping with the same analogy, there is nothing stopping me doing a puzzle in pencil so that I can rub it out and have a go at the same one a second time. I had this experience when I first started ultra running. I had a go at a 100 mile race and got to 54 miles before I bombed out. I could have said ‘screw that, I’m not doing that again!’ But I didn’t. I dusted myself off and started training again and it took me another three years, but eventually I did it.

So when you’re scared of taking that first step remember what you could be depriving the world of and keep in mind that even if you do fail miserably, failure is the way that you refine your skills, learn and become the very best you can be at something. So take a deep breath and have a go!

5 kick ass reasons why stopping drinking will make you a freaking super hero

Not all of us have a drinking problem and it’s fine if you just want a glass or two at the end of a hard day. That’s your choice as a fully grown human being. I did have a bit of a problem so stopping completely was a must but I’ve noticed so many differences in myself since stopping that I now realise they would be applicable to everyone. I could make a list so long you will be reading until next June so I’ve kept this one to five of the best. Here goes:

Number One – You wake up with a clear head

This one is probably the most obvious. No headaches or fuzzy brains means that you can work harder in the day and get more done. It used to take me an hour or two to start functioning in the morning and now I bounce out of bed so that also gives me an extra couple of hours per day that are productive.

Number Two – You make better decisions

Because you have a clearer mind you are far less likely to make dumb choices. In my work day I can think more quickly and concentrate for longer. Not having a fluffy brain makes a world of difference to how much work you are able to produce.

But more importantly than that, you can’t make dumb decisions while drunk. How many times have you woken up and had to look at your phone to check that you haven’t drunk dialled an ex or emailed your boss to tell him exactly what you think about him? I’ve got into so much trouble over the years because my tongue loosened up quite a bit once I’d had a drink or two.

Number Three – Your motivations change

When you are drinking too much your brain is hungry for everything that it can get hold of that is addictive and unfortunately money is one of the most potent drugs out there. This means that as an addict you are far more likely to be chasing the money at the expense of everything else. Happiness and friendships fall by the wayside as you try to get that next elusive bonus or promotion.

Once you sober up and your perspective on life starts to change you start to have other ideas about what’s important when it comes to earning a living. The big houses and fancy cars look less attractive and bigger causes take on a more important role. I decided to go part time and although I earn far less money I get to spend time with the family and being outside in nature. I’m far happier now because my sober brain has allowed me to take a step back and really look at what is important to me and to stop worrying so much about what society says I should be doing.

Number Four – You stop self-sabotaging

This is really a form of low self confidence. I didn’t believe in myself so whenever I was starting to do well I would drive myself into a ditch to stop the good things from happening. I knew that I couldn’t handle the responsibilities that came with the good things so it was easier to just trash it myself and then blame everyone else around me.

It helps that I now know what I want in life so the choices I make are far less scary. I can still be ambitious and take risks, but now I do it in areas that I feel passionate about. For example, I’d no longer consider going for a management position at work but I’d be quite happy to spread my wings by helping at the youth group at church, putting my face on Youtube or signing up for an ultramarathon. They’re all difficult things but they are a world away from what I was trying to do while drunk and rather lost.

Number Five – You become a nicer person

When you stop drinking you realise that there is a whole world out there and, shockingly, you are not at the centre of it! When you spend every evening sitting on your sofa drinking wine and eating Cheetos, you forget that there are things going on outside.

Put down the drink and you can start to volunteer at your local food bank or night shelter. You start to become aware of the issues that are going on in your community and when you start to get your confidence back you realise that you can help and you can make a difference. This is the single most empowering thing you can discover as a human being; that you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

One of the most important elements of the twelve step programme that helps so many addicts is that of service. To be of service to your community is so empowering and fulfilling. And if you’re starting a business you will be starting it on the right foot if you are thinking outside of yourself.

So, by all means have a drink, but next time you pick up that glass of Chardonnay consider whether you really need it and think whether there is anything better that you could be doing with your time. And of course, as always, just make sure to be a really nice person.

Take the bloody pills (plus poem)

So here we go. Let’s just acknowledge the fact that if we’re all going to do well in this crazy world we need to look after our minds. Mental health awareness has improved so much over recent years but there is still a long way to go. With people like the Cambridge’s drawing attention to the matter things can only get better which fills my heart with joy.

There are so many ways to help improve your mental health and none of them should be a cause of embarrassment. When I first got sober and decided I wanted to do something with my life I decided to go to therapy. I was so scared of what people thought of me and I felt really ashamed. But now that I have been going for just over two years I see therapy as a sensible thing to take advantage of. It’s really expensive but I was quite happy to spend my money on booze, so why not use that money that’s now freed up to do something positive for myself? I now think that you don’t have to be in crisis to go to therapy. I think it’s useful to talk through all problems in life with someone impartial.

And then there’s medication…..

So many people think that it’s ‘cheating’ to rely on a pill to make themselves feel better but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. If it’s going to make your life easier and more enjoyable then why wouldn’t you take it? If you were in physical pain you would take a painkiller and this is no different.

If your mental health is suffering then you just can’t perform anywhere near your best. The quiet sensitive people of the world really struggle with things like anxiety and although a little bit of stress can help performance it’s really easy to tip over the edge and have some serious problems. So love yourself and be kind to yourself. If you are struggling then speak to somebody, preferably a doctor or therapist. Life is there to be enjoyed so make sure that you can make the most of it.

Here’s a little poem I wrote to encourage you to look after your noggin and make you realise that there are people in the world who care about you, want you to feel good and definitely don’t want to loose you!

She said just take the bloody pills,

Your behaviour is the type that kills.

She told me with her tear filled eyes,

That what I do is not too wise.

You need to stop those crazy things you do,

Or else you may not make it through.

So go on, get up out of bed,

And sort your pretty little head.

You do deserve so much more,

You can’t imagine what’s in store.

So take the meds and do the work,

Chase your demons from where they lurk.

REMEMBER, it’s not a weakness to take the medication,

It’ll only help you chase your dreams with dedication.

The power of saying “I don’t know”

When I was in my twenties I was perfect. Or at least I thought I was in my own head. I could do no wrong and if anyone questioned me or my actions I would go into meltdown. And guess what? I failed miserably at almost everything I did. There were a few flukes where things went really well but a lot of the time I was languishing in my own self pity while outwardly telling the world that I was the most knowledgeable person on the planet.

Anyone who has been reading the past posts on this blog will know that I’ve had trouble with addictions in the past and one of the big character defects that you see time and time again in addicts is that they can’t see the error of their own ways. Why else would they drink themselves to near death and financial ruin?

However, when we get better we have the advantage of being able to see things from two very different perspectives and I’m glad that I was so steadfastly adamant that I had it all right because now I know that that is impossible to achieve and it’s laughable to think that you can get anywhere in anything without a little help from those around you. It’s no coincidence that all athletes say that they couldn’t have won their gold medal without their families and their coaches. It really is true. Without that support they’d still be jogging round the park with the rest of us.

So saying “I need help” or “I don’t know” or “can you tell me how?” is anything but the weakness that I first thought it was. It means that you are able to use a whole heap of resources and information and advice that comes your way from just asking. Think of the time and energy that will save by just asking the question!

This is precisely why it’s important to find a mentor or a group of people that you trust who can guide you and support you in difficult times. If it is just you weathering the storm on your own then there is nowhere near as much chance of success. Taking it back to what I’ve learnt from getting sober I know that it is near impossible to do that on your own. People who are the most successful are those that have a sponsor and go to meetings so that they have a huge network of people to call on when they’re having a bad day.

My argument against telling people that I didn’t know the answer was that it would make me look stupid. Actually I’ve learnt that when you are open about the fact that you have flaws and holes in your knowledge, it makes you appear just a little bit vulnerable and quite a lot more likeable. Nobody likes a smart ass, especially when they are just talking a load of rubbish. If people are going to buy into your ideas and your visions then they have to see you as a human being that has hopes and dreams and feelings just like them.

The worst thing that you can do when you don’t know, is to pretend that you do and I’ve learned that the hard way (trust me on that one!). You just look like a fool because you’ll always be found out. Even if you’re doing your first Saturday job in a clothes store, if someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, go get the manager. A customer would rather wait and get the right information!

Having said all this, I would put up a word of warning and say that you should always arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. If you keep saying ‘I don’t know’ people will start to think that you don’t know your stuff. You’ll just have so much more confidence going into a situation if you are fully prepared and you can back up what you are saying with examples, even if they are just examples that are personal to you.

So go out there and practice. You might find that you learn more than you expected and you branch out and meet new and interesting people just by saying that you don’t know the answer to a question. The doors that it could open are infinite. Whole communities have been built on wanting to learn more about a subject and you could be at the heart of it. To me, that sounds like a really fun and exciting place to be.

How to find your passion and does it really matter?

So many people go into business or start some kind of new project solely with the aim of having big numbers. This could be numbers of views, clicks, likes or most notably, money. We live in a society where our very worth is determined by numbers and it’s so easy to slip into the mindset that it is the only thing that matters.

But if you are going to do something, day in and day out, then you’d better be sure that you really enjoy it and that you are passionate about the thing that you are filling your time with. After all, numbers will give you that initial high that comes with finding something that you are good at, but can it actually last?

There are things that we are specifically gifted with and it is so important that you really start to explore what your thing is before you commit to going into business yourself. There are so many opportunities out there in the world and so there is bound to be SOMETHING that will resonate with you. If you try and go after somebody else’s dream then it’s more than likely you will run out of steam before very long. I, for example, am bloody terrible at selling but I love to teach and to write. So what’s the point in me even trying to go into a sales position? I have been tempted with the promise of money before and gone into a sales role that was totally unsuitable for me. As could be expected, I didn’t make a single sale and I bombed out of the job after just 11 weeks. It’s funny to look back on now, but it was a horrid experience to go through and if I can save just one person from making the same mistake then I think I may have done my work in this post.

Your passion in life should not be influenced by numbers in the slightest because your passion is the thing that sets your heart on fire. You know you’ve found it if you can feel that burning desire for it every time you talk about it. And the truth is that even the most unprofitable of subject matters can become good ideas if you have drive behind it and can frame it in a way that will make others feel the same way. For example, somebody who has a passion for pole vault may not have a big captive audience but if you look at the athletics community in general and then the sporting community too, you already have a huge amount of people who could be at least open to your message about pole vault. Pretty crap example, I know, but you understand where I’m coming from.

I think that the way to find your passion is to remember what you loved as a kid. When we become adults we get bogged down with worries about how other people view us and how we are going to pay our bills. When we are kids we can really find the joy in things we like with none of these worries holding us down. Try to picture what it was that brought you to life as a kid and that’s probably a good starting place. Of course, tastes change but you will find that if you were an arty person as a kid, you’re probably still an arty person as an adult; you’ve just forgotten about it because you’re too busy working for some knob in an industry you don’t have any interest in.

You also need to start reading and watching as much material as you can about business and start getting ideas about what you could do. Also, talk to as many people as possible because you’ll be surprised by what is out there. There are probably a tonne of things that you’d enjoy doing that you didn’t even realise where profitable jobs. “What do you do for work?” is one of the first questions I ask anyone I meet and I am often surprised by their answers.

But above all, passion will give you the drive to keep going. There are so many failed ventures out there and so many dreams that are just given up on and a lot of it is because people have run out of steam. If you have a passion for something you are far more likely to find other avenues and routes to success. Not many entrepreneurs get success on their first rodeo and the reason they pick themselves up and have another go is because they really, genuinely love what they do.

And remember that business isn’t just about selling something. I would have given up a long time ago if that was the case. I’m quiet and I want to inspire other people who a bit introverted and just want to be ‘nice’. I don’t want to be the ball-breaker that everyone is scared of and is all about the sell, sell, sell! We can all club together and support each other and there are lots of ideas out there that rest on this kind of foundation. So think about what you are good at, what you enjoy and what your vision is for a world that you want to live in. That’s a great place to start and you’ll probably end up surprising yourself a bit in the process.