8 Lessons I Learned from Clearing Bamboo.

Some time ago one of my neighbours called me over to show me a retaining wall that was beginning to be pushed over by a lush and tall bamboo cluster on our side of it. The numerous slender poles that were closest to the wall were swaying in the breeze and when they made contact with the wall, their collective push had been enough to bein dislodging a few blocks at the top. I had to get onto this, quickly.

Of course the poles that were closest to the wall were also the least accessible, behind a beautiful lush and dense band of lots more poles that I had no intention to remove.

I eventually got it done, and in reflecting upon it these 8 ideas came together. I hope they can be useful to you too, you may wish to read them again when you are feeling daunted by your next big endeavour.

1. I could only remove one pole at a time.

Focus on one action, the one simple step you can do immediately, the one you must do in order to progress in your endeavor. Don’t waste your energy figuring out how to do a bigger more impressive thing, just do the simple one that you can. Nothing advances until that humble action has been taken, and you have cleared the way to the next one.

2. I got scratches – lots of them!

Any worthwhile endeavor will lave marks on you, there will be painful experiences, but like scratches, those will heal before the fruits of your labour ripen.

3. I had to work in really uncomfortable spaces.

Sometimes I had to squeeze in between poles and the wall, and twist in ways I never thought were physically possible, and then keep cutting! You will need to get out of your comfort zone, and twist yourself into awkward and unnatural shapes in order to reach what you need to reach. Working there will test your determination, your arms may feel to short, you may not be able to get a good grip on the saw, and each movement will seem like a huge effort with minimal progress. But keep going, and you will inevitably eventually cut through it.

4. I had to be persistent and patient.

At times I took a break to contemplate tthe work done, and wondered what I had actually done – I could not not see much progress! Whatever it is you are doing, it takes work and time. If you are not doing, you are not progressing. (Of course planning is doing in many cases, but it only pays off when it is followed by action!). Whether you are in an uncomfortable spot or not, there are always moments when thing that you need to achieve seems to take far more effort than seems reasonable. These are the times when you need to remind yourself why you are doing this!

5. Small poles that were awkward and difficult stood in the way of the ones I needed to get to.

You will have to get stuff out of the way that prevents you from getting to the meaningful things. It is often those secondary obstacles that make tasks seem difficult, because they may not appear important, or are not directly tied to our end result. We are easily put off by those things because often clearing those is harder and takes more effort than the main task that we want to get done.

6. Cutting through the knots was much easier.

Take the time to find out what can give you an advantage. Knowing this often the difference between keeping going or giving up. The bigger the task ahead, the more time you can afford to invest in exploration and discovery, in finding your advantage.

7. I had to figure out the best tool.

What you think you need to accomplish your goal may not be the best tool. Don’t be afraid to change tactics if the one you are using is not working. Try out a few things quickly early on and then stick with the ones that work best.

8. Ants and insects were crawling over me.

This this did not particularly concern me, but the point still applies. You will get emotionally bitten by others, you will be constantly surrounded by objectors and discouragers. They will crawl around you and interfere with your work. Don’t ever let them get the better of you!

 

Five things that will spoil your recipe for success (and a happy life)

There are about as many definitions of success as there are recipes for Bolognaise Sauce. Everyone has one, and everyone believes theirs is the original one.

But regardless of what your Bolognaise Sauce of Success recipe tastes like, there are some fundamentals that – if ignored, will sabotage the dish. Like the pasta recipe, I have no doubt that there are a thousand more, but here are my top 5, all equally important.

  • Never ever bite back. It does not matter what people do to you – it only ever matters what you do. Retaliation and revenge do not make a better world, the instant that you engage in it you create for someone else the same terrible experience that you just have had. It propagates. You want to make everyone’s experience of you a good one. You can never reverse what has happened, but you can do your part ot ensure noone else ever has to experience that from you. You will not instantly become wealthy, (in time you may!) but it will definitely make you more attractive. Compassion has a radiance that is unmatched by anything else.
  • Never take more than you give. Ok – wait a minute – isn’t that back to front? No it is not. I am not suggesting that you live above your means. I am suggesting that you should not haggle about opportunities to help others. When you offer a service give more value than what people pay you for. Genuine and meaningful value, not token stuff. Share your knowledge freely. Let’s face it – most people will have forgotten your grand idea the moment they leave the conversation. But they will walk away with trust and perhaps also inspiration. Always, always, always give more than you get.
  • Never forget to stop talking. Regardless what you have to say, it ceases to be interesting to others the instant that they can no longer contribute and share their thoughts. Besides, you learn only when you are listening. Shut up. Listen deeply – be open to learning. There are no exceptions. It took me a long time to learn and master this!
  • Never pretend to be who you are not. The real meaning of “Fake it till you make it” is not that you pretend to be someone else, but that you embody the successful version of yourself. You are unique. Become acquainted with your uniqueness, get comfortable with it, wear yourself with authenticity and  pride. Being genuine means being truthful (neither deprecating nor arrogant) to yourself, about yourself. Authenticity increases your self-confidence and makes you trustworthy to others.
  • Never berate, undervalue or underestimate yourself. This is a tough one and probably the one I personally have struggled with the most. It means that you know what is great about yourself, and that you never stop improving it. There will be moments – sometimes very long ones – where we doubt ourselves, our capacity, our wisdom, our expertise, so we downgrade. By no means should you cease to be  critical of yourself, but know your benchmark. You will need to look outside of yourself to define it. We all have a yardstick of excellence – if in doubt refer to it. Don’t guess!.-  Value yourself. When you know what you have to offer, you are in your strength, and will continue to be of service as long as you remain humble.

Each of these deserve a post all of their own, and over the coming months I will revisit these in more detail.

If you can think of something that you have experienced that is part of your Bolognaise Sauce of Success recipe, please send me a note – i’d love to hear from you.

Failed a 30-day challenge? Now what?

I recently heard a talk encouraging people to take on a “30-day challenge”. This proposition was of course relevant to that audience, who were in general highly accomplished people, and therefore already had well established self-discipline. But for the majority of people, a 30-day challenge is a long slog, especially if you don’t have a structured framework or support team that you can rely on to stay motivated and on track. Just think of last week’s post – did you make it to day 30?

So what can you do, if the last time you attempted such a challenge – you almost made it through the first week, and then things started to go really wrong?

 

Go back to basics. Keep it simple. Really simple.

My suggestion (and I am not being facetious!) is the One-Day Challenge.

Yes, its not a typo. It says One, and I meant One.

One day? So where is the challenge in that?, you ask.

Did you rise to the challenge?, I ask.

If you did, congratulations. But I doubt you really did.

Did you commit 100%? Did you give it all you had? Honestly?

We are naturally resistant to change, and any time we introduce something new into the picture, the level of commitment we put in is tempered by caution. That is normal, but when we want to make a change, it’s not helpful. But if you can just commit to a one-day challenge, you have overcome the biggest resistance that you will ever encounter in the process: you got started!.

Next time you need to embark on a life-changing project, don’t set your sights on sustaining a massive effort (and all the grueling mental battles that go along with it) for 30 days. The anticipated exhaustion will keep you stuck at the starting blocks.

Start with one.

Make it count. It is only a day, and at the end of it you will know if you gave it all you had, or held back. If you held back on the 1 day challenge, you almost certainly would not have made it to day 30 anyway.

It is easier to do a 1-day challenge. By tonight it’s done. Dusted. Victory.

And then you already know you can do it again, easy. And again. Maybe 5, 7, 30 or 90 times.

If you are struggling with a goal, start by setting yourself a 1-day challenge.  I’d love to hear what it is you may be struggling with, so if you feel brave, email me your 1-day challenge or post it in the comments, and afterward let me know how you went…!