The rollercoaster – are YOU on one?

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A friend emailed me yesterday to say her business had been a ‘rollercoaster’. Know the feeling?  Loads of ups and downs following one another in frighteningly (or exhilaratingly) quick succession.

Dawn from my tent flap, Lisebotn Fiord, Norway.
Dawn from my tent flap, Lysebotn Fiord, Norway, Aug 09.

Assuming ‘ups’ are the tough bits and the ‘downs’ easier, we tend to see in the next few cycles what fits our expectations.  Here are two alternatives for a person going through a tough time:

a) “Whatever good times I go through they always seem to be followed by one of these debilitating climbs. It is really hard.”      Or…

b) “I often go through tough times, but there is always a good time after that. I just keep going till I break through.”

Or as an old preacher used to say, “As surely as the Lord paints the sunsets, the dawn will come!” He knew a thing or two.

Same ride (it’s called Life), different responses. Here are two comments to think about:

1) If you’re wanting to make the most of the ups and downs, look for the trends:  Are the good times getting more or less frequent? Are the steep times getting tougher or less tough? It helps you step back a little and see a bigger picture.

2) Remember that people who see the good times live longer, are happier healthier and richer. They are not merely to be written off as ‘optimists’ refusing to face the facts. They live with a crucial ingredient for healthy living – hope.

Both these attitudes help us as business people to respond to the situations in hand without being tossed about by them emotionally too much. Let them affect you.

Remember when the darkness has set in: sunrise is inevitable.

Work-Life Balance?

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I’ve a confession to make: I don’t spend much time thinking about ‘balance’. To start with, I don’t like the implied superiority of assuming we have a ‘balanced’ opinion, or the implication that ‘we need to keep a balance here’. Even when I’m riding my motorbike, I only have to consider balance when the bike is going oh-so-slowly or is stopped. The moment the wheels turn and we’re moving forward, balance happens by itself, quite naturally. In fact the only times the bike has become unbalanced and fallen over has been when it was stopped.

Now there’s a thought.

She looked so out of place.
She looked so out of place.

Let’s go one step further. The most powerful moments in the histories of both the world in general and my life in particular have been those times when something has happened (good or bad) to profoundly upset the balance, to over-write the status-quo, to destabilise daily life.

Those are the times when our lives take on new learning, we develop at a faster rate, find out about our strengths and weaknesses and grow as individuals. We learn that stability is not a human right or even a human need.

Progress is.

Progress is the process of moving beyond where I am now to a better place, and a better one after that. Of course I’ll only do that when I know where I want to go and am not afraid to go there.

This is regularly reflected in the lives of many of my clients who want me to coach them. It isn’t that they’re troubled by a lack of balance; it is that they feel stuck, trapped by fears. Their lives have become stable, so they  deliberately invite in someone beyond themselves to invade their life and thinking, upset the balance and overcome the fears, so that progress is restored again.

So what of the ‘work-life balance’ debate? Is ‘balance’ an enemy or a friend?  Personally I think it is much more a distraction. It is also an indicator of a lack of personal vision, an absence of a sense of purpose, a presence of fear.

Focused, passionate people are not distracted by concerns about balance. They know that balance mitigates against progress.

If you are concerned about ‘work-life balance’ at the moment, step back and ask questions like these instead: What is my purpose on this earth?  What progress am I making in the fulfilment that purpose? What needs to happen to take my progress in the fulfilment of that purpose into another league, two, three, (eight?) levels higher. (Big steps are often much more satisfying than little ones.)

Of course you could always email me and we’ll find out together.  It’s funny, isn’t it, how September is the natural month to think again about your sense of purpose.  I’m enjoying it.

Fit?

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how our society has been taken captive by ‘experts’ (a wildly generic term!) and the way some are highly respected and over the years others – or maybe the same ones –  become discredited. Freud seems to ebb and flow in acceptability. The great Mr Churchill is now having history re-written about him. And then there is Darwin.

My one gripe with Mr Darwin is that potentially intimidating phrase attributed to him, ‘The survival of the fittest.’

Whatever the purist scientific meaning of that phrase, it is patently obvious that it is not only the fittest that survive to live fulfilled and happy lives.  We live in a world with billions of opportunities, communication, business deals, and uncountable connections between people, that cannot afford to write off the rest, the merely fit and those who are less than fit. When it comes to human survival at least, there is not merely one, the fittest, that survives, but lots more besides. Survey the natural world too, and you will see from the myriad different expressions of just about every creature, that it is the ability to adapt, to flex, to change, that makes the difference.

Fitness does not mean endless hours down the gym. “Fit” means that two or more things come together and connect in some way to create something new. That connection doesn’t have to be perfect, and only in a world of limited opportunity would the ‘fittest’ principle apply. The nice thing is, we don’t live in such a world. There is room for the fit and even the significantly-less-than-fit too, to survive and develop. Thankfully.

In Norway last week I encountered a small Italian man riding a huge bike. He had to get his (very attractive) lady pillion friend to pull him up onto it. The bike was much too big for him and loaded to the hilt. If I was going to be a little unkind I’d say he reminded my of the phrase I call AGNI: All the Gear, and No Idea. Yet he still managed to ride it wildly round the tiny village with stereotypical Italian panache, unperturbed by the fact that he could  reach the ground only with the toes of one foot!  The fit was terrible and probably dangerous, but no doubt his huge Italian personality will make up for any shortfall (…if he has one).

The Adventurous Italian
The Adventurous Italian

You don’t have to compete with the brightest, the best or the biggest to survive, just find out where you fit. It is almost certain that you will be able to improve your ‘fit’ by being adaptable, flexible and ready to revise, change, update, and refresh. You’ll also be able to ‘fit’ other perhaps more exciting and rewarding opportunities by being flexible, and of course in our physical bodies flexibility is a key factor in fitness. I spend my life helping people to live happier lives by working with them to adapt to their world and enjoy it more.

Yesterday in London I worked with three completely different people who want to make the most of every day. For each of them, they were getting more ‘fit’ by adapting their minds, their lives, their thinking, their business models, their marketing, their outlook and even the way they remembered and dealt with past challenging (crippling even) experiences. Well done to each of them – and to you too, as you develop your flexibility.

“Fittest” could mean I get taken out or spend my time looking over my shoulder to check on the opposition, or annihilate it.  “Fit” – hmm, now I can work with that.

Have a good day.

Marketing yourself?

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Just enjoying preparing for a new seminar for our Powerchange guys on ‘Marketing Yourself’ – the perceived beneficial exchange of what you have with what others have.

It reminded me of when I was a kid on our farm and being ‘allowed’ to go to market with my dad when he had animals to sell. Of course I understand the process much better now than I did as a teenager and preparing this material has been a great therapy for me.  Of course it will help our business too, because I’ve learned that “what you focus on gets bigger” and I am focusing on marketing! (I guess it helps that I’ve written a book on it too.)

National foods being marketed in Copenhagen last week.
National foods being marketed in Copenhagen last week.

But all sorts of psychological complications arise for people when they think about marketing themselves: “I’m not worth anything.”  “What will I feel if no one wants me?”  “I don’t like me much, so how can I expect other people to?” … and a myriad more!  I’d love to know what question arises for you when you think about marketing yourself. (Let me know:  andrew@powerchange.com)

The ‘trouble’ is, marketing is essential, and we do it all the time – yet often very badly.  The clothes we wear, the tone of voice we use, the colour of our skin – all send out a message to people who are interested in ‘buying’ our product or service. And If I don’t ‘trade’ my time, energy, knowledge, love, and friendship with the people around me, I’ll soon be on the street, lonely and destitute.

When I first moved into the commercial business world properly – only 10 or so years ago – it was a shock to realise how little I knew about how I came across to others. Since then I’ve made strides in improving that, and my life is much happier as a result.  And I have now given the rest of my foreseeable life to helping those around me live happier, richer, and stronger lives too. I’m trading what I have learnt and I know I need to keep learning so I have more that is of benefit to the market. Like every good deal, its a win/win/win.

They looked as if they'd been trading love and friendship for many a decade!
They looked as if they'd been trading love and friendship for many a decade!

Unlike the market in which my Dad bought and sold his cows that only happened on Wednesdays in Chichester, West Sussex, the market place in which I live is 24/7. Like you, my ‘customers’ are all around me every day. I exchange friendship and love with my wife, Sue. I give my grown up children love and attention – and they kindly offer it back. And of course I trade my knowledge and skills commercially as I coach and train others. I want to make sure they all get the best I can manage.

By the way, the seminar is part of our Powerchange GOLD Training in Hammersmith, London, on Sept 13th. If you think you need to come, or know someone who does, let me know. We can probably fit you in.

Have a great day today in the market place of your life today.  For me, its back to prepping that seminar!

Eight hours at the end of the World

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Lisbotn Fiord at 6.00am
View from my tent at 6am

A few months ago I knew I needed a new challenge.  How about visiting ten countries in my first year back in biking?  (BMW R1200gs, 2008 for those who care.)  I’ve just done twelve in twelve months: France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Denmark, Belgium, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany. The last seven took me 3,500 miles in eleven days. Big cities, tiny communities, and vast areas of empty space.

But that isn’t the point.

I needed to get out on a limb, to do something different and comparatively unusual. You can see southern Norway for half the price it cost and in much more comfort. I slept in a tiny tent each night. But out on a limb something else happens inside. Each of us needs to find a deeper solitude that has no relation with loneliness or isolation. I needed to remind myself that I’m comfortable inside my own skin. I needed to drink deep of something other than coffee and red wine – or even water. I needed to reconnect somehow, to renew my relationship with the word ‘play’.

Lisbotn Fiord 1km high
1,000 metres high and 500 metres deep

Lisbotn Fiord is, in one place, an entire kilometre from the top of the fiord sides to the water’s surface, a sheer drop. The wall continues for another half kilometre underwater. And at the end of the fiord, after a 30 mile road trip over the mountain pass, the road stops. Dead. At Lisbotn. You wait for the ferry. No one told me that the 7.00am ferry was passengers only, so I was up bright and early. But the car ferry comes at 3.00pm. I waited for eight hours at ‘the end of the world’.

And something happened. Staring down the ’empty’ fiord, miles from anywhere and no where to go, all day and nothing to do (except wash my socks and stare at that fiord – the tourist season finishes early in Lisbotn) I felt that amazing connection with the one I know as ‘God’ again. Sensed ‘his’ presence (he’s not male or female). Sensed his approval. Sensed his unconditional love. Reminded myself, as I stared at the fiord, just how big the world is and how comparatively small I am, and how little that matters when you belong.

Of course I might be totally misled, with God not there, and me not mattering… but in Lisbotn that didn’t matter either. Such is the nature of any ‘faith’, and mine is strong enough not to have to be defended. It was wonderful to be small, wonderful to remind myself that I’m ‘comfortable in my own skin’, that I don’t need to be ‘big’. I just stared in wonder at those huge rock faces for a day and loved being small.

How small are you?  Great isn’t it.

Feeling out of my depth!

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I often do. I read (somewhere) that you should bite off more than you can chew in order to find out you can chew it. Not find out IF you can. I consistently do that. Over the weekend I did it again on the Powerchange training I ran in London, deliberately taking myself out of my depth – and out of one or two other peoples’ depth too. Result? We learned better how to swim. The longer term results will be SO worthwhile. If you do that too, I’m interested. Let me know.

About

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P9150001_3I’m Andrew Sercombe, I’m married to Sue and we have three amazing children. I love life, especially travelling around Europe on an enduro motorbike, usually camping wild.  I taught Design Technology for ten years when I left college.  I’m an internationally published writer, broadcaster, and businessman. I love learning. In March 2000 I founded and now lead the personal development service Powerchange, which is recognised for its fresh approach to personal change for adults and young people. My responsibility in Powerchange is to provide the vision, develop powerful life-enhancing materials, and hone the creative edge of what we do. Sue and I live in the heart of West Sussex, right next door to the relaxing and beautiful South Downs National Park. If you want to get in touch, feel free.

Hello world!

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Today I can start a blog. I don’t know much about doing one.  I’ve only had a flimsy attempt before, but so what.

Beginning gives rise to questions.  Can I keep it up? Will anyone read it?  Is there any point?

Let’s start with that last one first. Yes, there is a point.  I want this blog to serve you some how, to be a resource that will help you.  And of course that will have to be a two way street – you’ll need to help me write it please.  I’m sure good will come out of it.  And you’ll need to help me with that too!

What do you need to begin today?