Two Cents on Teamwork

Two Cents on Teamwork

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16 DECEMBER 2018

written by Mike

Two Cents on Teamwork

 

Everything is all about teamwork these days. Synergy, team get-togethers, motivational speeches and management courses are all about running a proficient and a happy team. A quick detour to LinkedIn is an excellent example of then, every hiring agency writes about the importance of the team and team culture.

I’m also guilty of that, in the past I wrote about how much better it is to work in the team versus being a solopreneur. How it helps to come up with better ideas and achieve the goals much faster. However, I’ve also learned, through a hard way, that being part of the team – as a member or supervisor – is a tough task.

It often goes like this – at the beginning of a new team in a startup or freshly created environment (or just a new team of people in an established company) it’s always about the direction and management.

It’s difficult enough to have strangers spend so much time together, and it’s especially tough to get them working towards the same goals. The first step is to get everyone aligned and pumped up. Get them excited to go to work every day.

But, let’s say that everyone is motivated. Excited about the project, the opportunity, money, status and what have you. They understand their place in the machine, and they start working hard. Weeks and months pass by, team members help each other out, the workload gets big but everyone is on board, the success seems to be just around the corner.

Then it happens. The business starts running well, and the project gets recognition. Customers, users and fans love the product, the company and the team. The hard work paid off, and the show starts running like a well-oiled machine. Everyone is still working hard, but there is no need for constant meetings, get-togethers or even helping each other out as much. It’s because everyone knows what they are doing, and they are doing it well.

After these few paragraphs you may think to yourself – so what? If everything is going so well, what seems to be a problem?

I had a bit of luck to be in this particular position a few times. When everything worked great, the consensus was that because people know what they are doing, management can take a step back. That’s right, there is no need for holding hands anymore, but without a proper feedback platform it is quite easy to start taking things for granted.

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When everything is going great, the business is thriving, sales are coming through the door, you get new likes, viewers and positive comments it is tempting to think that you figured it out. Finally, after all this time, you found the magic formula and repeating it will bring more success.

There is no need to overcomplicate anymore.

In my short experience, these are the times that you have to be even more aware than before – to plan for the unexpected, to tackle small issues, to communicate even more.

Unattended issues tend to appear when we least expect them when we think that everything is and will always go our way. Maintaining relationships is as important as starting them, it doesn’t matter if it’s at home or in your business.

If you are in a position of any power, make yourself available, encourage conversations and transparency. Make sure that everyone is aware of the feedback platform and safe space where they can speak their minds.

What I found is that it is easy to forget that. To think that everybody around you knows they are appreciated and valued, that the work speaks for itself.

It’s not as easy. There are as many approaches to management and teamwork as many people in the world and most of us need some validation, praise and feeling of significance. To know that others value what we do and appreciate it.

It can be as easy as setting up a weekly team meeting when you catch up on everything and anything that happened: not just work but any issues, as casual or as serious as they can be. Making sure that everyone has a chance to speak and is free to discuss anything.

Emails that merely say you appreciate your team’s hard work are essential too, making sure that the work makes the difference and without their input, the project wouldn’t be as successful.

The big issue is also that you have to back up your words and make sure you mean it. Only recently I had a chat with someone close to me who complained about their boss.

On the surface, they were asked for an opinion, input and comments and were praised for it. However only few days later it turned out that everything they said was disregarded and the management has gone with their own decision.

That’s fine too; however, it wasn’t explained why that happened, and for the rest of the week, the boss strategically avoided meeting with the said persons.

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It’s all about feeling that you mean something, that you are not just a replaceable cog in the machine. You can disagree, and civilised arguments should be welcomed as avoiding the issue almost never ends well.

I worked in environments that both respect and appreciate every input as well as in the top-down hierarchy when the hard work was expected, and only mistakes were pointed out.

I remember one time after working overtime for weeks and overstretching myself and the team to bring the big project to a close it was finally over. We were tired and drained, and when we had our end of the project review, the management picked on a couple of errors that we made utterly omitting all the hard work that went into finishing the project.

I don’t need constant praise and pats on my back, but even though this happened years ago, I still vividly remember that moment. My disappointment and feeling worthless stayed with me for months and ultimately led to leaving the team.

Each way of management has pros and cons, but I’m more motivated to press extra hard when I know that my input is appreciated and mistakes are learning opportunities. I would like to believe that most people are like that too.

I’m all for the tough love approach, and I hate tiptoeing around the issues, however transparency, understanding and respect do not exclude any of that.

People are afraid of speaking their mind, and they want to keep their jobs, they don’t want to cause trouble. Making sure that from the get-go they know that they can raise any issue they want will make problem-solving much more comfortable and faster, but without proper communication channels, it won’t work.

We don’t hear it often but success can often be a trigger for a downfall too, and it usually happens where you least expect it.

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Make Money Freelancing Online

Make Money Freelancing Online

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07 AUGUST 2018

written by Mike

MAKE MONEY

FREELANCING ONLINE

 

Making money online is a relatively new thing. People were doing business around the world for hundreds and hundreds of years, but the idea that you can sit in your bedroom with a laptop and run a company is new.

It may seem obvious to you now but a lot of people, even my age, aren’t sure how to start and if they could do it. The beautiful thing is that anyone can. There are no restrictions, no limitation and you will only be judged by the value you bring to the table.

It’s not easy, and things are changing very fast. However, anyone can start now, right this second.

There are many ways of making money online, but today I want to focus on freelancing, selling your skills online. It, of course, applies to lots of professions but I will be using audio production as my example.

 

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Your Online Presence

I know many people want to go against the trend, that’s good, not all directions are positive. However, if you’re going to start doing work online it will be much harder if you don’t have Facebook, Twitter or other social (and not just social) media profiles. You need to be visible.

There are hundreds of thousands of people hustling online, how can you stay a few steps ahead of everyone?

Start creating your online presence today. Don’t think about making money just yet, but start creating content and joining conversations online. It’s challenging to give personalised advice on the topic; it all depends on your strengths and likes.

For example, the big trend right now is video, Instagram rules and blogging is a thing of the past. Think about what you would like to post and create profiles around that, maybe it’s a podcast, not a vlog?

 

Skills and Gear

Next step is writing down your skills and available equipment. Try to niche yourself down; generalists don’t charge near what experts make. For example, with my abilities and system, I could do a lot of things in music and sound production space but my niche at this moment is podcasting and audio storytelling.

The skill needs to be transferable online, if you are a photographer, it will be hard to take photos online, but you could offer product photography services.

Go to top accounts on eBay or Amazon, join some Facebook discussion groups and offer your services. Online selling is all about the perception, and the sellers know about this. Set up a small studio at home, get people to send you the products and charge for photos.

With audio, you could be offering music production, mixing, mastering, editing, scoring, design and other services that I don’t even know.

Also if your skill isn’t transferable, think what can you add to your portfolio, what else can you learn. I was working as a dialogue editor on blockbusting movies; it’s safe to say to they wouldn’t allow me to edit their content in my bedroom. However, podcasting and audiobooks are more comfortable, not as much pressure. I just had to learn the new medium and adjust my skills.

The gear also matters, with an old computer you won’t be able to do much, especially in audio. Think about where you can upgrade and what can you do with what you have. For some time I was working solely on trial and demo versions until I could afford a full license on top of the shelf software.

 

Platforms for freelancers

There are many places online where you can find work. Not all of them are great, and most are so-called ‘race to the bottom’ on price. However, it’s a good enough start to learn how the whole online world works.

Platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, People Per Hour allow you to create a profile and bid for jobs, usually very low paid.

Apart from that, write to people on LinkedIn, studios and production houses. Be upfront and say that you are looking for freelance work, they may write back to you, when they are under a deadline.

Facebook groups, Reddit and forums are other places to look for work.

It is the hard part as it can take weeks before you start moving, however, don’t be discouraged and keep the ball rolling. One client leads to another and another and another, and you never know who will you meet online.

That’s how I started on Casefile.

 

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Areas to consider for audio professionals

Editing

Look at podcasts and audiobooks. Right now it’s the best time to get in the game as a lot of people are either starting their podcasts or doing audiobook narrations. Of course, not all of them will pay well but if you are starting out, contact smaller profiles. It will give you time to learn, hone your skills and make some side cash.

Let’s say you want to charge £50 per podcast (I know it’s not a lot, but you have to start somewhere) and do ten shows per week. That’s £500 per week, £2000 per month working from home. Then when you are good enough, leave the smaller pods for someone else and move up the ladder.

If you know how to produce music, offer that. Again podcasts are a great area to explore as most podcasters don’t know much about sound production and they will need your help. Writing intros, theme music or even bespoke score for storytelling shows could be a great way to make extra money and practice your skills.

 

Audio Restoration 

Audio restoration is another niche area to keep an eye on. A lot of content creators dismiss the art of recording sound and leave it until the end. Then they often realise that their recording is not as good as it should be and it doesn’t only apply to podcasters. Youtube creators, narrators, online teachers – find people who are making money online, and if you think that you could help them, offer your services.

Audio restoration requires specialised software and skills but if I can learn it, then anyone can.

 

Online Courses

Online courses are booming right now. There are plenty of platforms such as Coursera or Udemy, and of course, people selling their course on Teachable. The video is one thing, but again, most creators dismiss the importance of audio. Search for courses and creators who achieved some success and offer them your help. By making their work sound better, hopefully, they can find more students and develop their practice, and usually, with online courses, there is a lot of material to go through.

 

Acquire extra skills

The secret to being successful online is to have multiple streams of income or to be top of the world expert in one thing. So unless you are bullish on one thing only, start thinking what extra skills you can acquire that make sense for you and your business.

When I started online work a few years ago, I didn’t know what to do, but I needed cash right away. Audio work is niche and harder to find than video production, as everyone is jumping on the medium. I started offering video editing and production services, first video for free as a ‘test’.

I have no professional backing, and I’ve never done paid video editing work before. I started learning Premiere, and After Effects and for the first few months when I worked on my online presence, 80% of my income was from video editing. It may sound weird given the fact that I’m an audio professional, but it’s true.

Also, but knowing both sound and audio, I could offer more value than other people, and suddenly I had twice as many options as others.

Many creators who needed video editing asked me to clean up the sound too, so I had plenty to do. It was crucial to develop that skill and have that income, because the first year or so when we were working and creating Casefile we had no money.

Think what else you want to do, how can you do it online and start hustling!

 

Learn, read, train, practice and apply!

A beginning is often hard, but we can’t stop progress, even if you are not keen on the state of technology, social media and the online world right now – get used to it and embrace it.

The future will be digital so start making the transition right now, and you never know who you will meet out there. Every now and again, one of the ‘another jobs’ can turn into a long-term relationship, and an awesome project like Casefile did for me.

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Intro to Effective Communication

Intro to Effective Communication

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05 JUNE 2018

written by Mike

INTRO TO

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

 

Effective communication is a bedrock of all relationships – inside and outside of business. An idea isn’t worth much if it’s not communicated with others, making the skill highly valuable.

After working in many different jobs, as well as running my own business, I noticed a lot of patterns when it comes to relationships between people. It may be co-workers, managers, other business owners – it’s clear to see when you meet someone who is right in communication and speaking, and who isn’t.

Like any other skill, communication needs practice and studying. Reading books, watching YouTube videos or listening to audiobooks will help but getting in front of people and talking is where the training takes place.

For that, there are groups such as Toastmaster, where the safe environment helps to hone the skill and allows for critical feedback. I’ve been attending one, and it’s a perfect club to get out of the comfort zone and learn valuable skills!

Even if you work mostly from home (like I do now) communication is vital; it may be even more as with ‘face to face’ meetings you also have the whole body language to help you convey the message. It’s hard to do that as well on email or conference call.

In my opinion, first and last impressions count the most. The first impression rule is well known, most of us jump to conclusions quickly and judge other before we even speak to them. Making a good first impressions goes a long way.

However, I also think that last impressions are as important as first.

How many times did you attend an awesome event, music gig, party to have the end spoil it somehow?

It is illogical – why would just the small part of the experience ruin the whole thing? But when the spoiling bit is at the end – it usually leaves us with the bad taste.

Same with impressions. You can meet an amazing person and have an interesting conversation, but if the persons do something at the end that creates a dissonance with your beliefs, it can change the whole perception.

Some people are naturals; they make friends quickly, they are easy to talk to, they are extroverts. Others are not. However, the lucky thing is that the skills of effective communication are just that – a skill. And any skill can be learned and polished when you put in enough work and practice.

In this short article, I won’t be sharing lessons from the book or a course. Instead, I will share you a few things that in my opinion you should do and shouldn’t do in social situations.

All of that is from experience, from situations I observed and decided to learn from.

 

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WHAT NOT TO DO

 

Lunch and table manners.

When I worked at a big company, we often had team meetings over lunch. It wasn’t just meetings, sometimes we went out to celebrate the end of the project and had a lovely meal in local pubs. One of our colleagues would quite often answer his phone at the table and talk loudly, to his friend of family members. We were an international collective so it didn’t help that he spoke in his native language and no one could understand anything, therefore making the whole ordeal even more awkward.

Dress Code.

Even though I worked in places without a strict dress code, some people would take it to the extreme. Casual still means taking care of your hygiene and basic grooming.

Gossiping.

Gossiping is the worst you can do at work. Unfortunately, it is the most straightforward tool to make friends – a common enemy always helps. However, you shouldn’t talk about others in a way you wouldn’t want others to talk about you.

Negativity.

Having a co-worker who is always negative about everything is not an example of effective communication. Complaining just for the sake of it never helps.

Swearing.

Casual environments are great as not everyone likes to wear a suit to work. However swearing needs to be taken with caution, it may be ok to do that around good mates from work, but when clients are around, it’s best not to risk it.

Personal life.

Unless asked, there is no need to diverge into personal life and problems, especially at work. Of course the longer you spent at the place of work, the more you became like a family, and you can share with others. However, when you just started, try to keep it professional.

 

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WHAT TO DO

 

Greet everyone with a smile.

It helps, especially in the morning. Even if you don’t see a person, like on a conference call – having a positive tonality in your voice will make the communication so much easier.

Offer help.

Whenever possible, offer help. Not a piece of advice or solution but help, more than often just the offer will be appreciated.

Dress appropriately.

Dress to impress is the saying. I would add to that – dress in what makes you feel good and look good. Most people are quick to judge, especially with their eyes.

Of course, we all want to move past that, but having a good style does not hurt.

Thank people.

If someone offers you help, advice or feedback – thank them. You may not agree or use the information, but be thankful for the effort rather than criticise them.

Understand body language.

Like I said before, some people are natural at this, others (like me) aren’t. However, we are lucky to live in times where we have access to limitless information – read books, watch courses, study effective communicators.

Learn how to use your body to your advantage and get comfortable with body language.

Don’t argue in hallways.

Hallways are usually big and resonant. If you have a personal matter to resolve or a conflict brewing, there is no need to put it on display. Especially in a professional environment.

Have a discussion in the office or isolate room, somewhere where others can’t hear you – otherwise you will start the gossip trend.

Learn basic psychology, biases and fallacies.

People often give in to assumptions, jump to conclusions and are quick to judge.

I am guilty of it as much as anybody else. In my opinion, learning about the mind, the psychology and faults in our thinking help to develop logical thinking and effective communication. It’s easy to go into a defensive mode when you don’t agree with someone, rather than to listen, by studying the triggers and heuretics of the mind we can quickly make the communications better.

 

The presented arguments are just tip of the iceberg. The call to action is to learn more, observe the patterns and develop the skill of communication. It’s so easy to coast on what we already know – but it’s only by challenging our ideas, habits and understandings we can genuinely progress and make the relationships with others more meaningful.

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Managers and Leaders

Managers and Leaders

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24 APRIL 2018

written by Mike

MANAGERS AND LEADERS

Depending on the size of the team, sooner or later, there will be someone who starts managing and leading the way. In small organisations it may be just one person doing it all, in big corporations, there are usually layers of administration. In my opinion, there are differences between managers and leaders, the way they operate.

Since immigrating to the United Kingdom over 11 years ago, I held over a dozen jobs. I carried plates, I moved speakers, I worked on movies and in a pretzel place. Each environment was unique, and each had a slightly different structure.

Since the first job I’ve always analysed and watched how the places were run by the owners, the managers, the teams. It doesn’t matter if the business was operating millions or thousands, it was always down to people. I’ve learned how difficult it is to manage a workplace successfully, and I’ve learned it from the best and the worst too.

First, let’s dissect the difference between a manager and a leader.

In my opinion, a leader is a person with a vision, with a big picture goal. He/she leads everyone there, makes sure that the goal is clear. A leader motivates, inspires and uplifts. He/she is the first one to make the step, first one to experiment, first one to take the blame. Leaders are rare, especially natural ones.

Can leadership be taught?

I think so. Not to everyone, but I saw many people step up to the opportunity and become good leaders. I also knew some who weren’t fit for the role and got overwhelmed by it.

What about managers?

Managers manage everyday situations, the work, the grind. Managers need to focus on running the place on a daily basis, the big picture goal is fine, but it’s the work and consistency that will get you there. That’s why managers are essential to keep the teams going. To organise, systematise and adjust when needed.

Management can also be taught, in my opinion, is much easier to manage than to lead, because more than often managers are following the established rules. However, it’s also not a position for everyone, especially for someone who abuses power for their own benefit.

Of course, one person can be both, especially when you are starting something new, a startup, a freelancing business, a small agency. When it’s down to three people, there will be shared responsibility but more than likely, one will take a role of leader/manager until the idea gets off the ground.

Through the years I observed many managers and leaders, and I always tried to learn from each person.

Everyone is different, every situation will have different consequences. However, I noticed that few main traits define good and bad leaders, more and less capable managers.

 

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Let’s start with the good ones. All of them apply to people who are in the position of power. It can be a founder but also a supervisor. It doesn’t matter what leadership position you have, you can still make sure you do it best.

Long-Term Thinking

Visionaries tend to think long term. Day to day grind can put you down, and everyone has doubts, but true leaders know that the pain is crucial to complete the journey. It’s not about gambling and making a quick buck, it’s about investing and building robust structures that can last for a long time.

Listening

Good managers know how to listen and understand the feedback. They take the suggestions on board, reflect on them and acknowledge the initiative. It doesn’t mean agreeing to everything, but everyone wants to be heard, to feel significant. Capable managers know how to create such environment.

Approach

When you start to manage people, you begin to realise that not everyone thinks in the same way and not everyone thinks like you. It’s hard to overcome that but understanding that people are wired differently is an essential trait for aspiring leaders. To align a big team towards one goal, you need to understand that one size does not fit all.

Feedback Platform

Everyone knows that feedback is essential. However, most places I worked in have not had established that. Even though people complained in the corridors, most would sit silently during the meeting. It’s not that they were scared, they just didn’t bother to raise any issues, thinking that it won’t change anything.

A good manager knows that to get people talking, a transparent place needs to be created where feedback is heard, acknowledged and correct steps implemented.

Fun Environment

Most work is stressful however a manager who understands that right culture can make the most boring task fun, will take steps to create such environment.

I’ve worked in places where management changed and only by changing the person in charge the whole atmosphere shifted. It is an eye-opening observation when you notice that the same place, the same work that 6 months ago made you happy, now makes your dread each morning.

 

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Planning

A manager and a leader will always have a plan. A detailed one for day to day tasks and a big picture plan. They will also plan for the unexpected and know when and how to adjust.

A good manager will bring the change to the forum and won’t be afraid to create a new strategy. Plan with an understanding that it can all change in an instant.

Humility

A leader will take blame and responsibility, a manager will listen to feedback and learn from it. We are all human, and we make mistakes, but too many times I’ve seen issues swept under the rug, and problems left to themselves.

It never ends well, an open and transparent conversation is way more helpful even though it’s painful, but a right person in charge is not afraid of that.

Can Do Everything

It’s not about knowing it all. Thoughtful leaders and managers know that they need to hire people smarter than them to do the great work, but they also should have an understanding of all elements of the business.

To be able to listen to people, to understand their issues and aspirations, the leader should know what they are going through and how important the task is for them. The job that may not seem important to you, someone else can be passionate about it. It’s not about doing it better than another person, but understanding how are they doing it so you can establish a connection.

Walk The Talk And Care

Great leaders and managers care. Care about the people, the business, the work and they show it. It’s so easy to write company principles, the mission, the goals. However if people in charge don’t follow them, the rest of the team will quickly disregard them too. When it comes to inspiration and motivation, it should be from top to bottom. You don’t want to lead people by force, but by example.

 

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I know that this is not a definite list of good traits, but if you want to be a manager or a leader, it’s a good starting point. I know that the best people that I worked with had all of that checked. Everyone is human and makes mistakes but owning the faults and learning from them is not something that everyone does.

But what are the bad traits of managers and leaders?

There indeed are few and unfortunately, these are more common than good ones. More than often I met people in charge who were not fit to lead or manage. These are things that I learned from them:

Micro Management

One of the worst things you can do as a manager is to control every aspect of the job. Yes, checks are important, same as deadlines, but managing every aspect of the task is always counterproductive. For most people, especially those who have experience and expertise in the field, it’s best to leave them alone to do the job.

Why does it matter if someone takes longer breaks if the results are the same or better than others? Let people be creative and only manage if there is a need for it.

Emotional Panic

In every job, there are stressful moments. It doesn’t matter if I was making pretzels or working on a big blockbusting movie worth millions. During these moments emotions tend to take over, and panic creeps in.

Best managers are anchors and can keep the balance, bad managers make things worse. If you see your leader falling apart, it’s hard to persist and push through. Leading by example means that if the example is wrong, people will still follow the lead.

Passing The Blame

Some managers can’t handle the responsibility, they tend to look for an easy way to escape tight situations. It’s always somebody else’s fault. It may be, but the right manager will handle the situation nevertheless. Pick up the slack if they need to and deal with it swiftly.

It’s not about sweeping things under the rug, mistakes should be seen as learning opportunities rather than a chance to stir conflict in the team.

 

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Keeping The Word

As you may have guessed, it’s the opposite. I’ve attended so many meeting where the manager had the list of changes to do, everyone had their say, the team was excited. Then a week passes, and another and another and everything goes back to normal. Usual habits, same routines.

It’s so easy to make promises but implementing them seems to be only reserved for the best leaders, everyone else is afraid of the pain that comes with the necessary change.

Pettiness

Some managers tend to abuse their power. I saw time and time again where the person in charge would be unnecessarily sarcastic and belittle their own staff. Being friends with only a handful people from the team, making jokes on the expense of others.

Things like that can ruin the whole working environment. I’ve quit jobs because I saw that some were treated better by managers, just because they were friends outside the workplace. The place for the manager should be clear of bias, everyone should be able to state their case, and only the best should rise to the top.

Indecisiveness

When met with a tough situation, you need a quick decision. It may not be the best one but it needs to be fast, inaction often leads to bigger problems. Bad managers can’t handle that, they change their minds too often, they are scared to take the responsibility of making a tough choice.

More than likely if you are in a similar situation you won’t have all the facts and information you want and need. Sometimes you have to do with what you know, but someone has to do it.

Being a person in charge means that you should be the one that makes the final call.

 

So that’s it.

It’s not to say that there isn’t more traits and lessons I’ve learned.

Most of the work is based on human relationships, great leaders understand that it’s a team that can achieve the big goals. Being single-minded does not help, trying to convince that you are always right won’t get you far.

Listening, empathy, learning from mistakes – it seems so simple when you think about it. However, it’s so rare to find these traits in people in charge.

If you don’t know anyone who is like that, maybe it’s time to lead by example.

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Education and Learning

Education and Learning

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11 MARCH 2018

written by Mike

EDUCATION

AND LEARNING

 

In hindsight these two terms are identical, both mean acquiring knowledge and skills. However, for the purpose of this short post, I want to make a distinction – education as formal schooling and learning as personal development. In most countries in the world, people are legally required to attend a standard education system – to go to school.

In my home country, I had to attend kindergarten, primary school, grammar school and high school. After that most people reach 18th – the adult age. You can continue in higher education or start training for work.

My youngest brothers grew up in England, the UK and the system is quite similar there. There are different paths to choose, however, until you reach 16th you are expected to attend school. Again, after that, there are options for higher education as well as job training.

I’ve always loved reading and learning, acquiring new skills that interest me and following latest technological trends. Like most people I understand the value of schooling and put a lot of pressure on higher education – I’ve attended two higher education schools.

That’s what most successful people do, right?

Go to school, acquire skills, get a good job.

 

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Unfortunately, with time, I became disillusioned with the system. I dropped out of one of the schools and decided to learn what other choices we have.

I realised that a lot of people tend to think that learning finishes after school, that’s when we are ready for work. The learning that happens after is usually linked with the career that we chose. Training at work, getting certificates, going to seminars.

To get a promotion, you need to learn new system and responsibilities; when you change a job, you need to learn things about new employer and how they do things.

However, for good and bad, when we attended school in our youth, we learn lots of different things. I might have liked one subject more than others but had to read and learn basics of geography, math, human studies, biology, music, history and many others.

That should be of course the first step to lifelong learning. Professional skills are essential in fast-changing job landscape. The times have changed, in the past, my grandfather had one job for 40 plus years. If you say to millennials that they have to stay in one place for that long, most will think you are joking.

To be few steps ahead, you need to think about additional knowledge, to develop critical thinking and to learn more about the world.

There are many ways to learn – books, podcasts, audio, online courses. Thanks to the internet there are plenty of free resources, there are also paid options much cheaper that higher education in some countries.

Setting time aside for learning will be crucial in further development, I understand it may be hard with full-time work on top, and it may mean cutting off leisure such as watching TV or gaming. However, in my opinion, if you learn about something that interests you and it’s beneficial to your life, it will be as exciting as getting another level in a game.

But there are so many options! Where do we start?

 

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First, it is important to recognise where do you live and what do skills will be helpful to your life. There are many different cultures, economic systems, job markets so choose what benefits you now and for foreseeable future.

For example, I live in the UK so knowing the tax system here is helpful for me.

I could learn about Japan’s taxes, but apart from using that during a casual conversation with someone who has an interest, the knowledge has no benefit to me apart from taking up ‘space’ in my head.

A general point of view could be beneficial, but inside knowledge makes no sense.

Few areas to start considering:

Job/Career

To be able to stay ahead it’s important to recognise and learn about new trends, new opportunities and new ways of using the skills you already have. At most job places you will learn about what they already do, especially at established, big companies.

Find a new angle and either try to implement it at work or when the time comes, find a new job that allows you to develop in that direction.

Health

For me, health is the priority. We know what we should and shouldn’t do to be healthy. But why? What is the science behind it?

Is meat terrible, or beneficial? What about sugar? Coffee?

Learning and researching different sources can often lead to contrasting views, but knowing what you should do regarding eating, exercising and healthy habits will go a long way, rather than relying on commercials and hearsay.

Finances

It all depends where you live, but in most countries, you need money to survive. Most find investments and money to be a boring subject, too complicated, too dry. In the same sentence, people tend to complain that they don’t have enough cash. My position is, to know how to make money, you need to learn how it works. Basics of monetary systems, currency, loans, savings and investments will help you in making your financial situation better.

Relationships

It’s easy to say to you are either have social skills or don’t, however, when you enter the ‘adult’ world you will quickly learn that the skill of effective communication is the most crucial of all. It’s often not what you know, but who you know that will further you in life and career. On top of that add romantic relationships, family, friends. Learning about relationship dynamic, listening, communication and psychology will help you to become more understanding of others, make the partnerships more valuable.

Other cultures

It’s easy to judge others, especially others who do not come from the same place that we do. We often stand confused why others do what they do and don’t respect the same values. It can be religion, politics, business among many other differences. To argue your position is one thing, but to efficiently argue you will need to, at least try, understand the view of others.

If you were born in their position, would you behave the same?

Would you hold the same values? Would some ideas even make sense?

Travelling to other places is the best way to learn, however later in life it’s not always possible, so reading, watching and asking questions will often be your next best bet.

 

Lifelong learning is something that I advocate all the time. Start small, start with hobbies that can make your life better, then start adding more complicated ideas.

It’s better than video games because you are levelling up your life.

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Vision and Goals

Vision and Goals

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14 JANUARY 2018

written by Mike

VISION AND GOALS

 

I am a big believer in setting clear goals, writing a vision down on a piece of paper and following it.

The vision can apply to anything – your career, your business, your health, your relationships. However what I noticed is that without it is so easy to fall back into procrastination and old habits. I noticed that with the gym. Exercising and sports were never my primary interest, I understood the value but didn’t follow the regimen of ‘good health’.

The illness and passing of close family member made me aware that in reality, health is the only thing I should care about. Without it, everything else suffers – the career, the relationships, the money. No one wants to be the wealthiest man in the grave.

A few years ago I overhauled my exercising schedule and focused on health. I set clear goals and stuck to them for a couple of years – I stopped smoking, drinking and eating junk and started working out regularly.

It worked – I started to look better, felt better and healthier.

Now, because the initial goal was achieved, the workouts became shorter and not that intensive. I had an occasional pizza or burger and laid back a little. Low and behold, I lost few kilos of muscle, I started feeling tired and lost the will to push.

It’s because I didn’t have any goals to reach. The gym became a boring habit where I constantly looked at the clock, counting down the 45 minutes I planned on being there.

To cut the story short – it doesn’t matter what you are trying to achieve, people need challenges. Otherwise, we stagnate and procrastinate. The work itself won’t keep you moving forward, and soon you will start cutting corners. Skip sessions here and there, smoke a cigarette, have that sugary drink.

It’s the same in business and career. Once you feel comfortable, it’s easy to lay back and distract yourself with the phone.

Without challenges, without vision and goals, we are not moving. We are stagnant. So many times I’ve seen it happen to my friends and of course, it happened to me too.

‘You have to study then get a job.’

Now what? Is that it? What’s the next goal?

Without searching, without setting the bar higher, you are also missing out on other, possibly life-changing, opportunities. Stagnation can lead to depression, health risks and just a general ‘giving up’ attitude.

 

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In my opinion, one possible resolution is to set a goal, a long-term vision and stick to it.

The problem, of course, is following the plan. Most things take time; it’s not like you will see the results after one session at the gym – you (and I) need patience. The most straightforward solution to it is to enjoy the journey rather than a destination. Don’t take the eyes of the prize but be happy with the process as much as the final results. Once you do that, it will be so much easier to push through everyday grind.

I love planning and making goals, however, after years of doing that I learned the apparent fallacy – things never go according to the plan.

Today I focus on short-term planning – what are my tasks for today? What do I need or want to accomplish?

I write them down and cross them out when done. I also write more general plans for the month and big plans for the whole year, some of them are logical and sound, others more outrageous.

The critical issue is to know when to adjust. So you are planning to advance your career in the next year.

What if robots take over and you are left jobless? Do you have a plan B? Will you be able to change the direction?

I try not to be too romantic about my plans or ideas. Health, relationships and financial stability are crucial for the peace of mind, but the rest can quickly be adjusted. Times change, people change, and trends change too.

It’s important to be open, be ready to have your convictions challenged and sometimes overturned. Be okay when the plans change, it’s much easier to swim with the stream, rather than against it. Having discipline in place grants freedom and freedom allows for relatively pain-free adjustments. As long as you know that you have done the best you could in a given situation, there shouldn’t be many moments when you give in to regret.

It’s essential to have a clear vision of what you wish to accomplish and stay focus on that. Otherwise, you will be pulled in many directions, too many opportunities. Doing it all is hard.

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