Can we improve our emotional intelligence?

I am very fortunate to have Martyn Newman as a trusted and inspiring friend. He is a clinical psychologist and thought leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence. He would often share his knowledge during our interesting dinner conversations to help me address personal and career development issues.

I would like to share the essence of his advice with you. It boils down to developing three crucial emotional intelligence skills:

  1. Self-Reliance
  2. Confidence
  3. Optimism
Me and Martyn spending holidays together with our families

Developing these skills (yes, they can be developed!!) has enabled me to make the right decisions and navigate with confidence the challenging times we are in.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

We used to think that our behavior is explained almost exclusively by intellect and personality and that these things are fixed by the time we are 20.

The social and behavioral sciences discovered that before our intelligence is involved, physical and emotional experiences arise within us that shape our intellectual response. Our judgments and behavior are really driven by these primary experiences.

The effective management of emotions in ourselves and other people is crucial for being effective and successful.

This is what Emotional Intelligence in essence is about. Unlike personality, the skills of emotional intelligence can be learned and developed.

We now know that emotional intelligence skills are those that make exceptional leaders. We all have these skills dormant within us and we can develop them to access our full potential.

I will elaborate on the three skills that are most frequently found in great leaders.

Self-Reliance

This skill enables us to go inside ourselves and find the courage to take responsibility for our thoughts and our actions. It means, learning to influence our mindset to create beliefs that will motivate us to rise above the limiting circumstances and take bold actions.

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” – American Congressmen Bruce Barton

Often life brings suffering. Those who thrive, rather than simply survive, are those that have learned to protect their minds being brought down by negative emotions, panic, or fear. Self-reliance is the first step in reclaiming our personal power, instead of becoming a victim of the negative circumstances.

To develop self-reliance, we simply need to start taking action. If it fails, admit it frankly and try again something new. Experimentation and persistent action are key to developing this leadership skill.

Confidence

This skill is about feeling good with ourselves. Healthy self-confidence is based on two factors:

  1. Self-liking
  2. Self-competence
Photo by Rene Asmussen, Pexels

The first factor, liking yourself, is a decision you can practice. When you look inside yourself, whatever you find there, you need to make the decision to like it. Because if you don’t, no one else will.
By accepting who you are, the good and bad stuff, you will protect yourself from spending your life compensating for not really valuing who you are. It doesn’t mean that you should not change the things you are less happy with instead, it means to be self-compassionate. You may not be everything that you like to be, but still, begin to treat yourself more kindly.

Self-competence is being shaped in childhood, but can also be learned. Parents who are overprotective can limit their children from experiencing the positive learnings of taking risks. Instead of acknowledging the creative, resourceful, and brave actions of their children, they focus solely on safety and rules. These children do not learn to trust and see themselves as competent.
Micromanagement on the workflow can have the same devastating effect on people. Overcontrolling managers have difficulty with the delegation of tasks. They fail to create a culture where people feel free to be themselves, feel valued and competent.

Luckily, we can take things into our own hands. To boost confidence, we need to start taking risks, developing new initiatives and new skills, and backing up our opinions. This will clearly get us out of our comfort zone, but the more we do that, the faster we will get the nurturing benefits of self-licking and self-competence.

Optimism

In twenty years of psychology research, optimism is the single most reliable predictor of how well people will do in life. I am not talking about some superficial pink glasses through which we should look at the world, neglecting the circumstances. What I mean is choosing optimism as a strategy of not giving up. It is a skill of being creative, looking over the horizon to see what is possible, recognizing opportunities that will help you bounce back from a setback.

I love how Melinda Gates has described optimism as a conscious choice to not look away. This is what she said once she visited one of the hospitals that Gates foundation sponsors in Africa:

Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better – that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.

According to the founder of positive psychology Martin Seligman when people are suffering prolonged adversity, the default and automatic response is helplessness, a sense of a lack of control of our environment.

Optimism is not an inborn quality, but the skill that enables us to protect and maintain hope. We need to learn to deal with the helplessness. We need to learn how to maintain hope, the perception that we can control, and harness the unpredictability around us. The ways to develop optimism are by looking ahead into the possibilities, by experimenting with alternative solutions, by learning lessons from the current situation, and last but not least, by taking constant action.

Emotional Intelligence is all about building leadership skills. If you want to learn more about it, I suggest you read Daniel Goleman.

The main message I wanted to convey with this article is that self-reliance, confidence, and optimism are not inborn skills.
Anyone who puts effort into improving them, can learn how to influence his mindset, protect his mood, and stay flexible and strong in difficult circumstances.

Get in the driver’s seat and create the life you love!

Own Business As Alternative To MBA

Do you want to bring your career and life to the next level and are ready to develop new skills? Are you considering an MBA?
The MBA studies are the standard answer to your need for growth however, creating your own digital business might be even a better investment of your precious time and money.

The MBA Promise

I must admit that the MBA promise sounds really attractive.

You will become a leader with a purpose who can create her job description based on her clear vision. You will unlock your full potential, stand out, be able to identify solutions to complex problems and reflect on your values, goals, and beliefs. You will produce significant value to others and you will be paid abundantly in return. You will be free from financial worries. You will show to the world how much more you have to offer

In my opinion, in the current post-pandemic economic climate, the chances that you will achieve the above goals through an MBA study are much lower than if you would study how to start a digital business instead.

Here are the five reasons why I chose to learn how to start my own business from scratch with the SFM over the MBA.

Comparison Between MBA and Starting Your Own Online Business

I chose to become a digital entrepreneur for the following reasons.

Higher increase in income

  • MBA graduates report salary increases between 60% to 200%
  • SFM student sets up his own digital business during the studies and can start earning while learning. My forecast is that my business will become profitable by the end of the first year. Opposite to how a salary works, I can scale my income, and have seen many fellow students do it, to six figures and beyond. This solely depends on my effort and dedication to develop my business further.

Lower costs

  • In the UK, the tuition fees for a full-time MBA can cost anything from £30,000, to £90,000.
  • The SFM education costs around £100 per month for group online lessons, including access to over 10,000 e-Learning courses in Business, Marketing, Creative and Technology and free access to all the Linkedin Courses. If you want Expert Mentorship, Masterminding & Over-the-Shoulder Training it will cost you another £2000 per year.

Bigger Return On Investment – ROI

  • Only after the MBA graduation, you can profit from a higher salary position. However, given the current situation, an MBA might not make any difference to the recruitment opportunities as big companies will be looking hard at their bottom lines.
  • The digital economy on the other hand is booming and the pandemic is even accelerating this trand. According to the latest research of HSBC Global Markets and Banking, some 10 – 30% of retail sales are currently online in most developed countries with double-digit growth over the past year. They estimate that about half of goods consumption could be online in many developed markets by 2030.
    With SFM you can earn as you learn. Usually, it takes 3 to 6 months to start getting revenue from your digital business and then you can focus on developing and fine-tuning your strategies to become profitable in a very agile way.

More freedom and flexibility

  • In your new MBA role, you will most probably be working longer hours than before, be under much higher pressure, and still selling your time for money in a very hierarchical environment.
  • Once you set up your own digital business, it runs on autopilot. You can establish valuable relationships with customers all over the world and run your business from the comfort of your home or where ever you want to travel or be.

Personal growth

  • With an MBA you will probably stay in the corporate world and develop knowledge and leadership which is specific to your role and industry.
  • On the contrary, your own business is centered around your purpose and the things you love to do. You will provide services or products that play to your strengths and that you would feel are truly worthwhile.

Conclusion

I hope you can use this comparison study between MBA and Starting Your Own Digital Business to decide what is the best way to bring your career and life to the next level.

The new circumstances brought by the global impact of COVID-19, have stimulated many people to reimagine their future and ask an even bigger question than the choice of education.

If you are interested in developing new skills and are prepared to invest some time and spend some money to do so, what would you really like to do?

What is that service or product that plays to your strengths, that someone will pay you for, and that you would feel is truly worthwhile?

To learn more about the digital economy opportunities and the SFM educational platform, check the free Webinar given by Stuart Ross, one of the top digital business strategists I have the honor to have as a mentor.

Finding your place in the sun

Imagine yourself jumping out of bed excited and full of energy to start working on the things that you love. Wouldn’t that be great? Imagine being inspired and motivated every day.

Very recently, I realized, that to have this feeling every morning, we need to figure out what is the unique value that we can give to the world. This shouldn’t be some abstract concept, but very concrete service or product that others are willing to pay for.

Me and my brother some 10 years ago

Some lucky people know from their infancy what they want to become, and they identify with that profession for all their life. My brother is one of those people. He was interested in privacy and security since he got his own room in our house. I remember him convincing my parents to buy him a safety box at the age of 12. His favorite pages from the newspapers were the crime investigations where he was analyzing the security breaches that led to these unfortunate events. Today he runs a successful cybersecurity business in Canada.

In contrast, I found it very challenging to determine which profession would fit me. I was one of those kids who got good marks in school but didn’t have any preferences. The things I was passionate about were more in the social domain. I did well at talking to people and was extremely interested in foreigners and other cultures.

I remember coming back home, without notice, with two Korean girls, which I have met on the train from Ljubljana to Skopje, explaining to my flabbergasted parents that they should stay with us for a couple of days and that we should show them around.

Limiting beliefs

Somehow, I developed the limiting belief that exciting things are for your free time.
The things you do for money and your profession, you choose by other criteria, ones that meet the expectations of the society and your parents. Therefore, I have chosen to study computer engineering, like my brother. And again, I finished the studies thanks to my natural intelligence and hard work, but my passion and interests were outside of the IT domain, in the theater lessons and the language courses I attended, with my international friends, in my travels and anthropology books.

Me in the IT land

When I started working as a software developer, I knew deep down inside that this is not my profession. I was struggling to fit because I didn’t share the same passion as my colleagues and I felt I am delivering mediocre results.

However, nothing is black and white in this world. There were many aspects that I loved, such as solving problems, logical thinking, a good salary, and the availability of jobs all over the globe. Also, being a girl who could successfully navigate the nerdy, men’s world gave me some kind of prestige.

For many years, I kept this unfulfilling job and was satisfying my real interests in my free time. First I found a job in Ljubljana, then in Amsterdam, then in France. By being soaked in new cultures and friendships I have managed to tolerate the uncomfortable feeling at work.

All the same, the need to find my place under the sun, a spot where I would feel confident and proud, valued, and respected for what I am, for my unique qualities kept growing within me. Doing so during my free time only, was not enough.

The quest of finding out what makes me tick

At first, I thought I should leave the IT industry and invested in New Media Studies. However, after observing some colleagues I admired, I found a domain within the IT industry that resonated with me. That was the business analysis. As a business analyst, I needed to speak with customers who were looking for IT solutions to support and enable their businesses. I needed to have knowledge of the IT world, which I did, but I also needed to understand the business world of my customers.

I loved that I was able to bridge the gap between the business domain and the exciting world of digital technology! Expressing business needs and visualizing them for the business stakeholders felt great.

Find your place in the sun, perhaps Île de Porquerolles?

I felt more alive, but not there yet.


More self-exploration needed to be done! Once I got the taste of working with pleasure and passion, I wanted more of it.

I continued to pursue a series of new assignments and education programs in the fields of digital strategy, human behavior, marketing, and business and personal leadership. I was massively going out of my comfort zone, both financially and socially.


I regret none of it and I am convinced the best is yet to come!!

You should see my smile in the mornings, waking up to do what I love and what people appreciate.

Never stop searching for a sunnier spot!!

Why We Need Business Mentors

Where would we be without mentors in our lives?

From the day we are born we rely on mentors. Our parents and siblings are our first mentors. They teach us how to walk and eat and what are the norms and the values of our family and culture.

Then one day, we become adults and we expect do be able to do everything on our own. Although I strongly believe each of us has everything needed to succeed, asking, and receiving guidance and help can accelerate the process significantly.

Mentors empower us! They accelerate our success and help us reach our goals!

Here is the remarkable story of Maria Konnikova, a Russian-American writer and psychologist, who seemingly out of nowhere, has dared to approach the poker legend Erik Seidel for mentorship. Thanks to this smart move, within a year she won a major title, made multiple final tables, and amassed close to $300,000 in live tournament winnings

Find a Mentor To Get On The Fast Track

In the face of sudden, frightening disease, Maria starts researching the nature of luck and stumbles upon poker. A game that would never have caught her interest quickly becomes her dedicated pursuit.

In just two years, starting from scratch, she beats the luck and makes income she could never dream of during the academic writer’s career.

Besides knowing what she wanted to learn, Maria also set a goal to learn it fast. She then knew that the best way to accelerate the learning is to get mentored by someone who is already a successful player.

Although totally new in the field of poker, she made a thorough research, just like she would do for the books and the articles she was writing. This is how she determined that Erik Seidel, one of the legends in the poker world, will be her mentor.
Despite the fact that Erik has never had students before, with her academic approach and eagerness to learn, Maria managed to get his attention and commitment.

Personal Growth and Winning Mindset

Maria learned the rules and strategies of the poker game. She got so skilled that she created am additional income stream, an additional business next to her academic career. But more importantly, mentoring catalyzed her personal growth in ways that can serve her entire life.

She learned:

  • to trust and challenge her thinking and make decisions with confidence, knowing that she can never be completely certain or have all the information needed at hand.
  • emotional resilience, going for the long term success and not being taken away by a single unfortunate outcome by focussing on perfecting the process and not on the luck.
  • how to embrace uncertainty rather than fear it, reframing the lack of control into a source of power.

“Anyone can get lucky – or unlucky – at a single hand, a single game, a single tournament. One turn and you’re on top of the world – another, you are cast out, no matter your skill, training, preparation, aptitude. In the end, though, luck is a short-term friend or foe. Skill shines through over the longer time horizon.” – Maria Konnikova

These are the exact mental skills and winning mindset we need to become successful in life and business.

Meet my mentors

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Like Maria, I am am very grateful for the mentors in my life. I would have never thought I am capable of running my own business. Or having the self-confidence to share my views and teachings via blogs and webinars. But then, with the support of talented and experienced mentors, their encouragement and constructive criticism, I excelled at my expectations and created even bigger dreams.

Realizing big and complex goals, like a career change or a business venture alone is close to impossible.

If you are looking to excel and develop your digital marketing, leadership, or entrepreneurship skills, then I am very excited to help you with the choice of trainers and mentors.

Contact me or create a free account with my mentoring community and see if this business world is right for you. 
You can create your free account here

Just how much of your life will you take credit for, and how much will you leave to simple dumb luck?


Well, you can certainly take credit for finding the right mentor and make sure you achieve that what matters to you the most!


Make Money Doing What You Love

The long and sultry summer holidays are ideal for contemplating life. Away from my regular job and the habitual routine, on a magnificent island in the South of France, I took time to go through the 3 steps that will bring me closer to making money by doing what I love. Let me share them with you:

  1. Find out what is most important to you
  2. Design products and services to offer
  3. Take action
Ile de Porcquerolles

1. Find out what is most important to you

Some people know already from their childhood what is important to them and what makes them happy and fulfilled. My brother was like that. He was interested in security since he was born, ordering a safe in his room at the age of 10, nowadays running a successful cybersecurity business. I, on the other hand also knew that I wanted to do something amazing and magnificent :-), but had to do some more self-exploration and study of my habits to discover what I love doing.

If you are anything like me, start paying attention to these things to figure out what is important to you:

  • Look around your house or office and see what objects you like to see and surround yourself with.
  • Pay attention to what you are doing with your time, especially your free time.
  • What do you talk to other people about?
  • Which activities give you energy and a feeling of flow?

What is important to us is determined by our highest values. Our highest values define our decisions, actions, thoughts, and interests. We spend the most time, money, and energy on our highest values. When we do not live according to them, we feel uninspired, disempowered, and lacking purpose. When we consciously respect our highest values we flourish, awaken our unique talents, and feel expanded and fulfilled.

For example, I noticed that I always have several books I am reading in parallel next to my bed. Whenever I have free time, I am always following a course to learn a new skill or language. I love asking my friends and colleagues about the books they have found inspiring.
So, I figured out that one of my top values is to grow, learn, and expand my mind.

Go ahead, take a pen and paper, or some digital equivalent, and jot your top values. Now that you know what truly is important to you right now, you are ready to go to step 2.

2. Design products and services to offer

Most probably you already provide some services to your friends and family with the things you love doing. I am the girl people come to when they need a book recommendation or a partner for hiking. How about you? Are you fixing the computer of your mother or providing your friends with advice on the latest toys for boys?

When we serve friends and family we call that caring. When we serve to the rest of the world, we call that selling” – Dr. John Demartini

To earn money with what inspires you, you need to define what you love doing in terms of exchangeable value. You need to define it as products and services that are of value to other people. Be creative and bold like an entrepreneur and use your imagination. You can follow these steps described in the excellent, practical guide “Inspired Destiny”.

  • Think of your top 3 highest values you have determined in step 1;
  • Recall the services you have already provided for people around you, for example, “I have helped my neighbor organize his house” or “I have created an audiobook by recording my reading for my father who is blind”;
  • Write down a list of your skills and assets that would be valuable to provide for others as a service and circle those which are most inspiring to you;
  • Identify individuals and groups who can benefit from your service and who would love to pay in return. Start with the people from your immediate environment and what they may need, but do not stop there. Think as big as you can.

For example, in my case of loving to expand my knowledge and read a lot, I could start blogging book reviews. Once I have built a significant audience on social media, I could start earning commissions by recommending certain books as an affiliate marketer. See the book above 😉
Furthermore, I could design a subscription service of matching people’s interests with the books they would love to read. Then I could focus on certain topics and as I have grown my knowledge by reading I could start speaking publicly on those topics, etc.
You get my point, right?

What inspires you?

Now it is your turn.
Once you have clarified how you can provide value to the other people you are ready to go to step 3.

3. Take action

The third step is to start the change of what you currently do to earning money with what you love to do. This is a process much like a career change and is very well described by Herminia Ibarra, a professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School.

Change only happens when you take action. Take action every day! Small but consistent action every day can bring you to amazing places in a year or two.

Perhaps you can start a small project on aside and test the service or product designed in Step 2. Establish a relationship with potential customers. Find mentors for the knowledge and skills you need to gain. Associate with individuals who share your highest values to build a support and accountability network.
Refine your service design based on the customer’s feedback.

And most of all, enjoy working on the things that inspire you. The natural energy, creativity, and motivation that comes from doing the things you love are your biggest selling point and will eventually get your own business running successfully.

Conclusion

It is very important to find out what inspires you and what is that you want to dedicate your life to.

“The meaning of life is to give life a meaning”Ken Hudgins

This is a continuous 3 step process of consciously paying attention to your highest values, developing entrepreneurial skills to invent services that others find worth paying for, and taking constant action every day.

Making money by doing what you love is living a fulfilled life and making the biggest and unique contribution to our wonderful, colorful world.

Too old to start a business?

If you are over 50 and your job is at stake due to the COVID-19 pandemic then you are most probably very worried about the future. The prospect of having to search for a new job might feel paralyzing, knowing that this will be a very challenging task in the current state of the economy. Not to talk about age discrimination which is, unfortunately, an undeniable fact.

As hopeless and discouraging as this situation might look at first, it can also be a huge kick in the butt to finally set up your own business and start doing the things you always wanted to do.

Middle age is the Ideal age to start your own business

Here is why I think that your age is your biggest advantage in becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Silver startups are more successful

Did you know that the chances of startups run by older entrepreneurs are twice more likely to survive?
Or that the highest rate of entrepreneurship worldwide has shifted to the 55–64 age group? (Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor)

This does not strike me as a surprise.

Take a moment to think of all the valuable and diverse experiences and wisdom you have accumulated so far. Think of the extensive network you have garnered over the length of your career. These are the advantages that can set you up perfectly for starting a business.

Our desire to grow and explore does not decrease with age, neither do our productivity and mental capacity. We have all the resources we need to succeed.

Midlife brings you to your purpose

Midlife is the period when we naturally question the choices we’ve made, realize our limitations, and truly come to know who we are. At this age, we are closer to knowing what our purpose in life is and thus, creating a life that has more meaning. By now, you are probably asking yourself, how this relates to starting a business?
Knowing your purpose gives you the framework for defining the right products and services that will make your own business unique, competitive, and valuable.

If finding your purpose sounds like an impossible or vague task, I suggest you get some inspiration from the memoir of Viktor Frankl. He argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

Easier to get initial investment

Members of the 50+ club have bigger chances of being able to self-fund their business. This is due to accumulated savings or inherited wealth. For this age group, it is also easier to access their retirement funds, thanks to new, more flexible regulations.

Even if this is not your case, in today’s digital economy, you can start an online business with no initial financial investment. Check out, for example, the lucrative affiliate marketing opportunity, where you can choose to promote products and services that reflect your values and interests from the comfort of your home and get paid for performing a valuable business service.

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Conclusion

My intention was to outline some of the advantages of starting a business at an older age. Entrepreneurship is not only a source of income. It is also a very powerful gateway to personal growth, achieving social recognition, and a deep sense of meaning.

I hope your view of the future is a bit brighter and broader now.
In the highly unlikely case that you still think you are too old for embarking on an entrepreneurship adventure, please spend a few moments here for a reality check.

The Power Of Writing

Do you sometimes feel moody or sad and unable to pinpoint the reason? Is it difficult for you to imagine your desired future in vivid detail? Or perhaps, you would like to be able to transform anger into constructive action?

All these and much more can be achieved by the simple act of writing.

Journaling to get in touch with yourself

Intuitively, I have felt the profound power of writing and have been keeping a journal since my student days. This was the time when I started living on my own and had to rely on my own judgment. On the days when I felt uncomfortable and irritated or excited and overwhelmed, I would find a quiet place – that was easy back then without kids 🙂 – and talk to my journal.

I would write whatever came to my mind and for as long as the words kept streaming out of my pen. After that, I felt lighter and calmer with a sense of clarity and direction. This practice is called journaling. Even just 10 minutes are enough to harmonize your mind and emotions.

If you want to start journaling just do it. All you really need is a pen and paper. For more guidance check the advice of Dr. James Pennebaker.

Writing to boost your imagination

Writing is also a perfect way to boost your imagination. This is important because imagining how you want your life to be, is the first step in creating the life you love.

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
― Albert Einstein

Here is a fun writing exercise you can do.

Recall a feel-good, positive memory and write it down. Then rewrite it to be not only positive but perfect, like in your wildest dreams. Let me give you an example.

Here is a memory of mine:

I am having a holiday and for a week I don’t have to waste my time commuting. I have all the freedom to choose how to spend my time. At the end of this week, the feeling of joy and freedom is replaced by nervousness and dread as I face the moment of entering the rat race again. The thought of spending my time on endless, unproductive meetings and commutes instead of on the things that matter to me, makes me unhappy.

Now I will use my imagination to rewrite it. I do that by removing (crossed out) words and adding new (bold) imaginary experiences until it feels perfect.

I am having a holiday and for a week I don’t have to waste my time commuting work. Yet, my work is so interesting that even when I am on a holiday I enjoy focussing on it now and then. I have all the freedom to choose how to spend my time. At the end of this week, the feeling of joy and freedom is replaced by nervousness and dread as I face the moment of entering the rat race again. The thought of spending my time on endless, unproductive meetings and commutes instead of on the things that matter to me, makes me unhappy. In fact, since I have started my own online business, I have all the freedom to choose how I spend my time in general, not only during the holidays. I am really pleased with myself as I reflect on the fact that I dared to stretch myself and create this freedom to live life on my own terms. 

Your unconscious mind can not tell the difference between a real or imagined event. So, by doing this writing exercise you are actually instructing your unconscious on how to support you in achieving your goals. Interesting isn’t it?

Feel like exploring more? This book gives practical guidance on how to harness your unconscious mind.

Write to channel your anger

Writing is also a fantastic way to calm down anger and channel it into productive action. I have taught this simple technique to my daughter and see her regularly applying it.
When she was around 7 years old she used to have difficulty accepting no as an answer. Often she would burst into anger, for something very insignificant, like not being allowed to have another ice cream.
The technique is really simple.

young_manuel13.jpg
Creative Commons: Credit to Manuel Noah Angeja

When her anger tantrum was beginning, I would give her a piece of paper and suggest she draws or describes what she feels. And to my surprise, she would accept my suggestion and stay in her room busy with that paper for quite some time.

She would come out of her room, calm and approachable. I was amazed at how transformational and healing writing was, even at such a young age.

All in all, writing is a very simple and powerful tool to understand and manage yourself better. And who knows, one day you might even discover that you have a talent and the world will be yearning for more of your amazing stories.

Do you have time for the things that matter?

Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilized? Have you ever caught yourself complaining that you have less and less time?
In addition, as we age, we perceive that time passes faster and the urgency to do something great with the time left increases.

There are far more interesting things to be done and opportunities to be pursued in this world than we have time to invest in. To help you focus on the things that matter to you the most, I am describing 3 practices which I find useful:

too many choices
Our world of endless choices
  1. Find your purpose
  2. Filter the opportunities
  3. Get support

By applying these practices you will be able to manage your time wisely and focus on the important and exciting things.

Find your purpose

For some people this might be totally unknown territory. Others consider finding their purpose as the ultimate and mandatory spiritual journey. I prefer to look at it from the practical side and regularly ponder these 3 questions to figure it out:

  1. What do I feel deeply inspired by?
  2. What am I particularly talented at?
  3. What meets a significant need in the world?

By finding the answers to these thought-provoking questions, we can start seeing how we can add value to the world by developing our talents and interests. In my opinion, this should be our purpose, finding the intersection of these 3 domains, finding our highest point of contribution.

We all have experienced that very special feeling when we were doing something we were passionate about. Do you remember the excitement, the lost sense of time, the feeling of being “in the flow”, the extreme focus, the satisfaction?

Once you have at least a slight idea of your purpose you can start filtering the activities and opportunities coming your way.

Filter the opportunities

All you need to do from now on is, ask yourself every time you are required or tempted to do something, “is this task/project/opportunity aligned with my purpose?”

Instead of working harder and trying to do it all and please everyone, your purpose gives you a framework to explore and evaluate different options before committing. You can deliberately choose to focus on the things that matter and leave the rest aside.

In my case, this was easier said than done. I was not able to choose, for example, between working on my passions on Sunday or spending time with my family. I would always underestimate the necessary efforts and try to squeeze both in my agenda, unrealistically hoping that somehow I can successfully manage both activities. My exhaustion was telling me day in day out, that my energy is limited and that I should change my approach. I am so glad I found a perfect way to deal with this concern in this engaging book:

Today when I am planning my day, instead of asking myself “What do I have to give up?” I reframe the question as “What do I want to go big on?”. This small change has a profound impact on how I perceive my spending of time. It enables me to embrace the inevitable trade-offs as strategic choices instead of ignoring them or even worse, letting them make me feel guilty and stressed.

Once you pick an option worth committing and you have accepted the trade-offs, you will experience peace of mind and freedom to go big on it, show your beautiful authentic self and make your highest contribution.

Get support

If you are serious about focussing on what really matters to you, I encourage you to read the Essentialist book I mentioned above. It is a treasure of tips and tools on how to manage yourself and your time better so you can focus on the matters that are important to you.

Obviously just reading the book will not do the magic. You will need to engage discipline in place and develop habits to consistently and rigorously keep cleaning your life from the non-essential clutter. You will also need to develop self-confidence and leadership skills to be able to say a deliberate no, for example to your boss or family, while continuing to be respected and appreciated.

I am so glad I do not have to do this on my own. Through my SFM membership I have access to a world-class education, talented mentors, and like-minded people to help me along the way. The SFM membership is much like my membership to the fitness center and for the same price, only it focuses on my leadership and digital business skills.

At the SFM, I am not only learning how to create time for the things that really matter, but also how to run a profitable online business from doing those things.
If this sounds attractive to you as well, then you can check the ALL-IN Package membership below.

The SFM All-In Package

Once you gain clarity of purpose, it becomes easier to determine and stick to the activities and efforts that really matter. You will be in control of your time and will have the freedom to make your best, authentic contribution. You will be experiencing joy, and tapping more of your unique potential.

3 Tools To Help You Stay On Track

I am going to tell you nothing new and yet it will be valuable if it moves you to take action. These are the 3 easy to apply tools that will help you progress in a stable and consistent way, whatever your current goal might be:

  1. Define your KPIs
  2. Maintain an action tracker
  3. Focus on one thing at a time

I will dive into each of these standard business tools in some detail below. As I said, they might be known to you already, but the secret of their power lies in applying them on a regular basis.

Define your KPIs

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator and it is used to measure performance towards a certain goal. For example, if my goal is to become an authority on a given subject and I do that by blogging, some of my KPIs worth tracking could be:

KPI: Number of blogs per week
  • My Productivity: number of blogs per week ( my goal is 7, I am almost there ;-))
  • Audience Engagement: number of blog page visits, number of comments left on my blogs, number of newsletter subscribers, etc.

For each KPI you can set an initial goal and work towards it. Once per week, or in any case on a regular basis, you need to seat down and evaluate your success. You will either have a moment of great satisfaction cause you are moving in the right direction. Or you will have some insights on what needs to be adjusted if the results are not as expected.

Maintain an action tracker

This one is really easy and it takes no more than 5 minutes a day. You need an excel sheet or any other tool that supports To Do Lists.
Write down the most important actions that you need to do tomorrow to progress towards your desired goal. You do not have to write all the things you do, just the most important, challenging ones or those actions which are not yet part of your daily routine.

For some time I used my paper journal for this, cause I love writing with a pen. However, it is difficult to spot trends over a longer period by flipping the pages all the time. For this excel is a much better tool. Every day at some point you need to do a quick check on how far are you with the actions of today and write down the actions for tomorrow. I do it in the evening before I go to bed.

With this tool, you are holding yourself accountable. You can see trends such as procrastination of some important actions for weeks or on a more positive side, you can realize that you have been exercising 3 times per week for a month now, just as you wanted, so make sure celebration is on your action list for tomorrow.

Focus on one thing at a time

Related image
One bite at a time

When you are enthusiastic about something or have a big, exciting project ahead, it is often very difficult to know what is the next best action to do today. If you have 10 things, all contributing to your goal, how do you prioritize them?
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and inefficient, switching from the one to the other task, you need to focus. In other words, the only way to eat a whole elephant is bite by bite.

I personally love multitasking and for me, it is very difficult to stay disciplined and focused on one thing at the time. Luckily, there are books to help me manage myself better. If you are like me, I recommend you to read this book by Greg McKeown.

It talks about how to make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter to you. It talks about how to free time by focussing on the essential stuff and actively and consciously acknowledging and accepting the trade-offs we make, the things we leave for later, or maybe never.   

All in all, these 3 tools are very easy to use, but it takes a systematic discipline to make them move you in the desired direction of reaching your goals. 
Let me know what are the tools you use to stay on track! 

3 Changing Beliefs Since I Started An Online Business

Now that I am on this exciting journey of building my own online business, I am noticing that some of my hardened beliefs are starting to change. There are plenty of practical things to organize and new skills to learn in this phase.

From configuring my digital assets to mastering new marketing and communication tools. They all contribute to my progress however, I feel that the shift in my beliefs is the biggest accelerator towards the much-desired financial freedom and more meaningful life.

Selling is bed
Photo by Xiaolong Wong on Unsplash

So here are the 3 changing beliefs:

  1. Selling is bad
  2. Keep work and personal life separate
  3. Entrepreneurship is risky

Selling Is Bad

I am raised in a culture where modesty was one of the highest virtues one could have and selling was the exact opposite. Selling was seen as a dubious job of pushing people to buy something totally useless by applying manipulative tricks and lies.
I was convinced that I am not a good salesperson and that I should not even think of becoming one.

In the process of setting up my own business, I started thinking about my purpose and the value I am adding to the world. Pretty soon, I figured out, that the only reason my business will thrive is if I am adding value to my customers. If my products and services, genuinely help, inspire positive change, inform, educate, or solve people’s problems, then I should be proud of what I am selling, right?

I realized that selling is much more about listening to the customers and understanding the situation they are in and with that knowledge, focusing on the value you can create for them.

Selling is thus a good thing to do when you motivate people to challenge the status quo, take action, and achieve what they desire. As this business school professor told The Harvard Business Review, selling is not about putting undue pressure on and talking incessantly. Rather, selling is persuading, inspiring, and leading to drive change.

I am glad I am honing my sales skills as we speak because they are actually very useful in all kinds of situations, not only in business.

Every leader needs to be good at sales. Whether you want to move your neighbors to invest in a certain good cause or guide your children to develop healthy habits, the sales skills come in handy. They will help you create strong relations with these people, grab their attention, and inspire them to make the desired change.

Keep Work and Personal Life Separate

The second thing I believed is that my work and private lives should be kept separate. I believed that I should strive to integrate well in my work environment by adopting the well-established norms while leaving all my unique traits, dreams, and exciting ideas at home.

You could easily observe this strong division in my wardrobe. The ironed, stiff and boring gray and blue clothes hanging on the one side, and the colorful, comfortable ones expressing my unique personality on the other side.

Me having a video conference with my colleagues while enjoying some fresh air at home

Working on my own business has helped me merge these two worlds and get the best out of them. Working for many years in corporate and consulting jobs has taught me how to blend in my customers’ culture, listen actively, and understand their pains and desires.
On the other hand, my own business is teaching me to cherish the unique experience I have and trust that it is the best source for creative and innovative ideas. I am not talking just about the things mentioned in my corporate cv, but especially about all the turns and the choices, places, events, and insights that influenced me becoming the person, I am today.

Becoming your own boss is the best way to accelerate personal growth.

I believe now that the better you get to know yourself and the more your share your perspective, the more connected you will become with likeminded people, and the sooner you will discover what is the unique value you can provide to the others. And if the others are happy with it, they will be more then willing to reward you.

Entrepreneurship is risky

The risk was my major reason to avoid considering entrepreneurship until I realized that the security I have by working for one company is fake. This is unfortunately confirmed today as we watch millions of people who have been impacted by the current COVID-19 crises.

Someone who works for a company has one source of income, their employer. An entrepreneur can create many different sources. If the employee gets laid off, they are out of a paycheck, but if an entrepreneur loses a customer, they have many more to fall back on.

Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

Once I understood these dynamics and realized that no one owes me anything, not my company nor my government, it became crystal clear that I should take full responsibility for my financial future.
This is what motivates me to invest in myself and my business, to figure out what is my unique contribution to this world, to imagine the ways to achieving it, to find the methods that increase my productivity, to persist, to be the creator of my life!

When managed properly, being an entrepreneur can actually be one of the safest and most fulfilling careers possible.

Conclusion

I am thankful to have discovered that entrepreneurship is the constant fire that energizes and challenges me to be a better version of myself every single day. Since I have started on this amazing leadership and personal growth journey, I have challenged many of my limiting beliefs and created new possibilities for me and the people around me.

If entrepreneurship and setting up your online business sounds interesting to you, check this excellent training below.

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