Kill your Sacred Cows

I have consulted with many clients. Almost 50% of my time is now focused on consulting with clients face-to-face or over video chat. I really enjoy advising and supporting clients as they look to grow and develop their business and their brand.

Continue reading

An embarrassing business venture which taught me an important lesson

In my younger years I did catalog sales to supplement my income. I’d just become a Dad and cash was really tight so it seemed like a great way to earn more money in a flexible way. I was young and eager and feeling the weight of providing.  At this point in my life I wanted to make some extra money and tried a few things to see what worked.

In the usual fashion any ‘home based business’ is part of an MLM network. If you sign people up to sell products via catalog you can earn more money. We focused primarily on selling products through the catalog and we were not really interested in signing other people up. I think partially because  I was a bit embarrassed to tell friends I was delivering catalogs in my spare time.

I was connected ‘up-line’ to a very excitable couple who were making thousands every month and passionate about getting us to sign up more catalog sellers. I was very cynical of the MLM part. I saw the couples house and car so I know their portrayed lifestyle was legitimate. They didn’t hide the fact that the vast majority of their income was commission from other people selling ‘down-line’.

Inside catalogs there was good products many of which you would see on a shopping channel today. There was a lot of products including Carrot peelers, Tupperware, and extendable garden hoses. Many of products were good but once purchased we would play with a few times and consign to the rarely used kitchen cupboard.

Part of being in the team, we were invited to monthly network meetings. These meetings were designed to keep everyone motivated and limit the drop out rate. Despite the mental picture I am probably presenting the people we met were all lovely and genuine. At nearly every meeting lead couple would always say ‘just get your books out’. When they said this they meant deliver your catalogs and collect them in, turn them around as fast as you can. If you have 200 catalogs put them out 3 times a week, not just once.

Their philosophy was to play a numbers game, the more people saw the catalog the more likely you were to make a sale. Make the most of the catalogs you had. Using the same catalogs three times in a week to triple your potential for orders. In business we’d call it sweating the asset. What was surprising is that they did practice what the preach, they delivered and collected 600 catalogs per week. They did their catalogs with finesses with their BMW 5 series estate and a branded trolley compared to my battered Renault Clio and a messenger bag.

There little saying has stuck with me. It’s become one of my personal mottoes. To me ‘get your books out’ means don’t just dream about it. Do it. Take action. Do as much as you can with what you have got. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect just ‘get your books’ out.

Circumstances will never be perfect. There will always be a reason to delay, postpone or do it next month, but we all have to act if we want achieve and succeed. In the catalog world a rainy day can be incredibly demotivating, but, if you want to get orders, come rain or shine those books have to go out.

I eventually decided to hang up my catalogs but we did make some semi decent money at the time. If you enjoyed walking, delivering and collecting catalogs each day, you could earn a modest income. The most profitable part of delivering catalogs, which has made me hundreds of thousands of pounds over the last ten years, was the day I heard the couple say “get your books out”.

How to overcome the fear of failure

Fear and failure are a toxic combination. Both fear and failure have positive elements to play in our lives. Fear can be a useful self preservation mechanism and failure can help us learn valuable lessons. When the two come together they pose a crippling and destructive cocktail which will ruin your life.

As I write this post, I am embarking on a new journey which will see me leave regular fixed income and taking a financial risk. I am excited, terrified but I am not going to let me fear prevent me from stepping into my future.  Writing this post comes from my own experience and so it is a little bit of therapy for me and hopefully will help you too.

The fear of failure left unchallenged will keep you from reaching your potential. No if’s, no buts, it is one of the most important things you have to take control over.

Where does the fear of failure come from?

I am no psychologist but I certainly have experienced throughout my life the fear of failure. If you struggle with the fear of failure you will run endless scenarios in your head of worst case scenarios. These fears usually come from our own personal hierarchy of needs (of the Maslow variety).

If we have unfulfilled or uncertainty in one of the levels within Maslow’s diagram, it will usually mirror itself in the fear of failure.

New Career  – What if I am not good enough?  – Self-Esteem

New Business – Do you fear not being able to pay the bills? – Safety

New Clothes – Do you worry about what people will think? – Love and belonging.

So how do we overcome the fear of failure?

Extreme’s rarely happen.

In life it is rare that extreme’s happen. Fear usually paints an extreme outcome. Just like the optimist writing a financial plan or a pessimist writing plan for world peace. The best and the worst case never usually happen. Outcomes are often somewhere in the middle of the best and the worst.

Define your fear.

It’s really easy for a concern to become a worry and worry to become fear. The first thing you have to do is regain control. Fear causes panic, you are never at your best when you are in panic. Panic causes all sorts of things to happen in our body, importantly it makes it difficult for us to control our emotions and think objectively.

In times of fear and panic you need to take back control of your emotional and mental state. Stop crying, stop thinking it over and over. It sounds easier than it is, but it starts with you talking yourself down from the panic and fear.

When you feel a bit more in control, write down the specific fears you are feeling. Be specific and write them all down. What exactly are you afraid of?

I won’t be good enough because….

I won’t pay my bills because….

I can’t wear those clothes because…

Now write down the reasons. Your afraid you won’t meet a deadline because your diary is full, you won’t pay your bills because sales are slow. You’ll find that the reasons once on paper are not as big a deal as you think. Fear makes mole hills into mountains.
Create an action plan to address your fear.

Every fear and every reason creates a series actions. Take your fear mountain and break it down in to workable chunks.  Often we think being fearful about something means we should not do it, but fear generally is telling us to act to prevent the fear becoming reality. If you listen to your fear, accept its concerns and then create a plan of action to prevent fear being proven correct.

If you are worried about paying the bills, find ways to bridge the gap, redouble your efforts to earn more money. Every time your fear surfaces, redouble your efforts.

Remember actions driven from panic will not solve the problem. Stay calm and in control. Panic based action just creates more problems.

You are not the only one

We all grapple with fear so you are not alone. Just a quick google search and you will learn quite quickly that many are searching about how to fight fear. Don’t be crippled by it, use it, channel it and make it work for you. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, how together your life it, you’ll always have some degree of fear, the difference that you can choose is how much control it has over your life.

That’s the real answer, we can’t get rid of fear, it will always be there, but if we get control of our fears, use them to help us, the power fear can hold over us diminishes. As fear’s power diminishes in your life, you’ll find it easier to manage.

Overcoming self limiting beliefs

What we believe has an incredible influence over our lives. Growing up in a working class family as, I did, it was very easy to accept that my career path would be stacking shelves or working in a blue collar job. Our inner belief system (and I am not talking about faith or spirituality here) shapes our thinking, understanding and actions.


Lots of our internal beliefs we develop over time based on our environment, what people have said to us and the upbringing. If you have grown up with negativity spoken over you all the time, no doubt you will have a negative view of yourself. If you’ve been told you are no good all your life, guess what? Deep inside yourself you will believe that to be true.

Why is this important? You’ve seen the people on TV shows like Idol and x Factor, who have amazing voices, but suffer from low confidence, you have seen the talented doubt themselves and drop out of the competition. This is all a result of self limiting beliefs.

You may have seen this before:

What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.

Self limiting beliefs start out as harsh words, bad experiences, stupid mistakes which wound our personality. The fester and develop until they take root so strongly, whenever we try to do something counter to those beliefs, we internally sabotage ourselves. Our internal voice tells us we will fail, we are not good, we can’t achieve it. We listen to that internal voice and so we avoid taking the risk, we do things half heartedly or we keep it as a good idea but we could never do it.

I struggle self limiting beliefs which are rooted in my working class background. Those beliefs tell me all sort of things which prevent me grasping my future. I have to decide to fight and oppose them. It’s tough and hard, but we all face to face our self limiting beliefs if we want to reach our potential.

Here is what I do:

Challenge the source of the belief.

Where did that thought come from? Don’t just recognise it as a self limiting belief, hunt it down. Why is that there, what is the reason I have this. Write down why you have the self limiting belief. I have believe this because….

Is the belief based on evidence.

What evidence makes it true? How much evidence makes it true? Write down the reasons it isn’t true. Sometimes we will come across substantive evidence of why certain things are true. They are not limiting beliefs, they are facts. I am not great at paperwork, that doesn’t mean I avoid it, it means I have things in place to compensate for it. Write down the factual evidence for holding that belief….

Is there evidence to disprove the belief.

This is important to hunt out. After you have listed some of your limiting beliefs, where they have come from and the evidence base to support them, you have to find reasons to prove they are untrue. Find evidence of people who have been in your position, challenge the narrative in your head. This is difficult because you are challenging something your inner self says is true.

Defy your limiting belief.

If you have a thought that tells you something negative. Do the opposite, literally defy the belief. Brian Tracy has a whole series of talks he does one beliefs, but one of the most important messages I heard from him is the key to defying self limiting beliefs. Firstly, do what it says you cannot do and secondly, have an argument with yourself and repeat the exact opposite to yourself in a mirror. It sounds stupid, but we have learned some stupid things over time by repeating them to ourselves internally. Try repeating the opposite to yourself externally to challenge your internal negativity. Brian advocates daily standing in front of a mirror and saying “I Like myself” over and over again to combat poor self image (which is one of the causes of shyness and low confidence).

Keep going

Changing your internal beliefs takes time. You’ve learned the limiting beliefs over years and so it takes a lot of work and challenging of your internal self to completely change your belief system. It may take weeks, months or years but it won’t be solved in one hit, repeating these steps over and over again will wear down your beliefs and eventually replace them with new beliefs.

Three ways to keep inspiration flowing

Inspiration is one of those things that we all need, but cannot easily quantify. For me I get inspiration from reading quotes, articles and stories but I can never quite predict which story, which article or which quote will trigger that inspiration. We all need inspiration for life.

The dictionary defines inspiration as

The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

I was watching TV a few months back and I received a big dose of inspiration through a powerful quote

“If you want to venture on a new journey, you have to take a step”

I don’t know who the author was and the whole context was around train journeys, but this little line resonated with me so powerfully that I knew I had to take a step. A step into the unknown.

Inspiration is often a little thought about a big idea. Perhaps a new business opportunity, a new product or even a new career path. Inspiration often challenges about existing thought patterns and shows us an alternative approach or way of thinking. Inspiration helps us see a new way forward.

It’s so important that our minds absorb new ideas and concepts because often we develop limiting beliefs which hinder our future. Inspiration challenges self limiting beliefs and allows you to see beyond some of the negative talk in our heads.

I personally believe that inspiration is more critical than motivation. Motivation is much easier to obtain, inspiration is something you cannot work for, it simply comes to you at the right time. Inspiration can help you see how change the world, motivation can help you fight for it. Inspiration help you relentlessly pursue what you believe in despite the odds. Here are some of my tips for creating an environment where inspiration can happen.

Inspiration needs rest

To be inspired you need to be relaxed and clear headed. Inspiration doesn’t come under pressure or on demand. Your mind needs to be in a restful place. Do something relaxing, make sure you have had a good nights sleep. If you are run down your mind cannot function properly. In recent research showed 75% of Americans are classified as suffering from some form of dehydration. Even mild dehydration can massively affect your mind and thought processes. Dehydration can be a factor in low mood, low motivation and reduced productivity levels Not drinking for 4-8 hours can cause mild dehydration.

Inspiration can’t be hunted.

Inspiration cannot be found by hunting for it, it is something you stumble upon. In your journey inspiration will come to you when you are in the right place mentally, emotionally and physically. You can create a good environment but inspiration is when two mental cog’s click together, it can’t be engineered or manufactured. That ‘clicking’ process is when your mind slots two things together.

I’ve read stories of inspiration being like trying to solve a difficult maths problem without a calculator. Often, it cannot be solved by just working at it, you have to mentally process the question over and over again until something clicks. There are two levels of thinking in our minds, concious and sub-concious thinking. Inspiration comes from your sub-concious which works in the background, like a duck swimming on water, you can only see the calm and chilled duck on the surface, but underneath the water the rest of it’s body is working away.

The Duck can’t bring it’s legs above the waterline and keep swimming, so we cannot easily access our sub-concious mind.

Stay in the moment.

Sometimes you can find moments which have special meaning or a significance you can’t quite understand. Try to stay with those moments for as long as you can. Often we can experience something or see an object which is partially triggering inspiration but we move on too quickly.

I often watch Murder, She Wrote episodes. The stories are all similar but there is always a ‘clicking moment’ for Jessica Fletcher where facts slot together. Information already known collates itself into an order which reveals the murderers identity.

These moments of inspiration, which trigger revelation, are usually brought about by a random comment of someone or observing something around. Make time for these moments.

So, these are my tips for gaining inspiration, what triggers inspiration for you?