Tales Of A Battle-Scarred Self Improvement Junkie Stumbling His Way Through This Thing Called LIFE
A Bit About Me And My Take On Life
It’s very easy to make sweeping judgements and generalisations on just a few, usually completely disconnected, bits of information.
Let’s look at some evidence:
- I have written six of my own self development books and one work of non-fiction - 2 commissioned by conventional publishing houses, 3 self published in print and on Kindle, and 2 completed but not yet “out there”.
- In the last year alone I have been featured in The Sun, The Daily Mail, been on BBC Radio 5 Live and was interviewed for the Times Educational Supplement and another magazine who’s name escapes me because the journalist failed to follow up on their promise to send me a copy of the finished article.
- My friends on Facebook get to see my updates about whichever foreign airport I am landing at next as I make my way to speak at some conference.
Just on those three pieces of evidence, it might be very easy to come to the conclusion that I am a “success”.
I know that is a possibility because I’ve lost track of just how many times I have been told I am by people ranging from friends and family to casual acquaintances and people who find themselves in my audience.
Of course it is all relative.
And here is the big killer line….
“If only they really knew…”
Because alongside all of my “achievements” and “successes” there have been many long periods of self doubt, uncertainty, heartache, failure, discontent and many other feelings of dis-ease.
It has felt like I have run two parallel existences - the public existence of success and achievement and the private one littered with self-recrimination, unfulfilled potential and immense frustration.
I have lacked confidence…
…And I have lost, found and then again lost my self esteem.
I have been utterly paralysed by fear of doing even the simplest of things…
…And at times I have wallowed in self pity and indulged in pure victim behaviour.
I have done stupid things when I shouldn't have done them…
…And I have avoided doing sensible things when I should have done them.
I have been routinely ineffective and unproductive on a daily basis…
…And have wasted hours, days, weeks, months and even years of my life.
I have unwittingly upset people I care about…
…And I have knowingly let some I hardly know affect how I am feeling.
I have wrestled with trying to get even simplest of messages across to those willing to listen.
…And I have struggled to understand, retain and recall what others have share with me.
Of course there have been moments of joy and euphoria, but there is only so long you can celebrate completing a level of Angry Birds… (stick with me - it’s not all doom and gloom - I promise 🙂
…And for years I struggled with all of this because…
…Because I thought I was flawed, at fault or just not destined to be happy and successful.
But let’s just travel back in time briefly….
When I was 16 years old I discovered a book called “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz.
I was given it by a friend when I was a young apprentice in the very first few months of my engineering career and it was my first foray into Self Improvement.
Using what I learnt in that book, I managed to achieve an early degree of success just by applying a few simple things that got me noticed in my quest to succeed in my chosen profession.
It had a big impression on me and as my first fix of “positive”, it kicked off an addiction to similar books and courses and gurus that continues to this day.
Now for a long time I sipped from this cup of communication that overflowed with should’s and must’s and have to’s on how to live a happier, richer, more fulfilled and with my early reading, a more memorable life.
I used to think that if I wasn’t achieving everything promised in the material I was reading then it must be flawed in some way… and so I sought out my next fix.
Invariably after the initial excitement of finding “it” - the secret sauce that would help me turn my life around, it either got too difficult, was ineffective, or another bright shiny object appeared to distract me.
…And so it was on to the next book…or tape…or video programme.
Can you imagine how my A.D.D. further developed with the advent of the Internet, YouTube and Kindle!!!
Hence a rather large collection of personal development books and audio programmes (usually delivered on tape back in the day) has grown over the years.
Here is just one of my Bookcases of books gathered over the years (there are 2 others) - the picture doesn't include the 200 or so similar books I sold on eBay a couple of years ago when I had to downsize.
I probably have the equivalent number of books on my kindle too.
AND of course there was the many, many thousands of pounds spent on a variety of training courses.
I have walked across fire and thrown myself off a perfectly good (upright) 60 foot telephone pole with Tony Robbins.
I have broken perfectly good arrows using my throat with gurus like Brian Mayne (Goal Mapping).
I have broken inch thick wooden boards with my bare had with a variety of organisations (none of whom had anything to do with Martial Arts).
I have mind mapped with Tony Buzan (the inventor of that incredible system).
I have NLP’d and been NLP’d with a variety of gurus.
I have chanted, I have meditated, I have set goals, I have planned, I have visualised and I have have manifested.
I have tried to get in touch with my inner child (what a spoilt brat he was!!).
I’ve been inspired and motivated by gurus ranging from the aforementioned Mr Robbins, Brian Tracy, Earl Nightingale, Napoleon Hill, Les Brown, Colin Turner, David Allen to more recent guru elects like Brendan Burchard, Chip and Dan Heath, Tim Ferris, Ryan Holiday and Tai Lopez.
…And I have been coached with varying degrees of success by an equally varying quality of coaches and mentors.
But despite all of this, I never really achieved what I was hoping for… or should I say I never really got to feel the feelings I was hoping to feel (more of that later).
Now - at this point in the “How To Write Persuasively” manual it would say
“explain to your reader the pivot point - the moment of inspiration - the flash of insight - your enlightened epiphany. Share with them how things suddenly turned around for you so you can get them excited about the journey ahead for them…”
Well unfortunately there was no single point of radical shift in my psyche that opened the floodgates to a river of success, achievement and happiness.
Sure, many of the lessons I needed to learn were there right in front of me.
However I was too “stoopid" to learn from them.
I realised I was “in class” - I just didn’t recognise the teachers or absorb the lessons.
But over the many years I have been banging my head against the brick wall of “self improvement” I gradually began to get it.
Here is the secret.
Not a flash of inspiration.
Not a lesson from a book.
Not a powerfully delivered quote from an engaging and highly motivational slick guru.
Just the revealing of a truth that is as old as the hills and one that perhaps we as a society have forgotten…
Life is Hard!
Yup… it’s tough.
It is meant to be otherwise we wouldn't have the concept of “survival of the fittest”.
The trouble (as far as weak willed people like myself are concerned), is that “hard” equates to “uncomfortable” and discomfort is something that should be avoided…. in my case sometimes….AT ALL COSTS!!!!
But to be fair it is not all my fault.
As a human being, like you, I am biologically and neurologically hardwired to react and to focus on the short term.
My natural, hardwired survival horizon (and as a biological organism on this planet we are ALL survival driven organisms) doesn’t extend much beyond my next meal and certainly no further than the arrival of darkness and the onset of sleep.
Similarly like you, I am then chemically rewarded in the brain (dopamine, serotonin et al) for any gain I make in that short term.
So if we drag that same organism (you and I) out of the savannah and thrust it (yup, still me and you) into the concrete and virtual jungles of today, nothing has really changed.
We still want what we want.
It is usually based on short term, primeval desires.
And the easier and quicker those desires can be satisfied the better.
That is the fundamental operating system that drives our behaviour.
It is the human version of iOS - I Only Survive!
Now whilst we may not individually run around clubbing furry animals to death anymore to eat their flesh and clothe ourselves in their fur, at the root of of our seemingly sophisticated behaviours (compared to other species on this planet) is a survival drive.
When it is threatened, we get stressed.
When it is satisfied, we feel a sense of reward (that’s the brain chemical stuff going on).
And this is all in the context of life being hard.
Where is this going?
This is where it all comes round in a full circle.
I started with me sharing with you how much of my effort in trying to apply self improvement techniques didn't yield the results I wanted (nay demanded!!!).
Well that doesn't mean to say that Self Improvement doesn't work.
I am thrilled, delighted, inspired, excited and humbled to tell you that it can work and it will work for you.
There is some great stuff out there that can make a tremendous difference to your life. You can short circuit a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish and save a lot of time by following proven systems.
As Sir Isaac Newton said - “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
So why reinvent the wheel if someone has already trodden the path you want to take.
The only thing you need to be aware of is that there are a few things you need to be aware of.
Fundamentally, if a promise of information or a blueprint or a system for “success” or “achievement” really appeals to you but in the back of your mind feels like it is too good to be true… it probably is….
There is no such thing as a free lunch and when presented with a quick and easy option that will give you rapid perhaps near immediate results….REMEMBER… these promises are appealing to your primeval drivers.
Over the years as I have matured as a human being (though some would question that statement) I have come to realise that we can all become better across numerous areas of our lives.
However to do so isn’t as simple, as quick or even as easy as some of the marketing blurb would have you believe.
After using myself as a self improvement laboratory for most of my adult life, having personally shared my thoughts live with over 100,000 people, having written development programmes shared with (at last estimate) nearly 2 million young people and having spent the last 5 years working directly with over 2500 leaders there are a few things I have learnt.
The lessons are many, but here are probably the most important ones for me:
- This stuff will only work if you do.
- Hard work and persistence will trump talent nine times out of ten.
- If at first you don’t succeed….
- Clarity is key.
- Concentration of effort in one small area will yield bigger and more satisfying results than thinly spread application over a broad range of options.
- There is a lot of bullshit out there.
- There are a lot of bullshitters out there.
- You can short cut your way to even better results with a little bit of knowledge about the brain and how it works.
- It isn’t the achievement that we want - it is the feeling of the achievement.
- True success is one YOU define and that usually isn't around fame, fortune or looking fabulous
- Your path to your goals will ALWAYS be littered with challenges, obstacles and setbacks.
- And finally - You have to take complete and utter responsibility and accountability for finding YOUR way through your problems - you can get advice and guidance from others BUT you might need to make minor tweaks to make it work for you.
This journey through life can be an exciting, enjoyable and stimulating one and ultimately it can be fun.
There is information and ideas and techniques out there that can help you avoid unnecessary diversions.
I’ve found many that work, lots that don’t and continue to explore new ideas and approaches to help me in my life and help those I encounter in my work.
If you would like to hear more from me, just send a blank e mail to this address and I’ll add you to my regular mailings list.