Freedom & positive attitude in the land of the beautiful people

Freedom & positive attitude in the land of the beautiful people

A good few years ago in Ireland we used to go to parties and comment on the divide between the ‘op’s and the ‘bp’s as in the ordinary people and the beautiful people. It’s funny that now, this all comes back when I am living in the land of the beautiful people….In our often drink infused conversations we used to imagine that it would probably have to take a lot of effort in order to be so perfectly beautiful and then other days or a few drinks later we would comment that maybe you just had to live in a beautiful bubble and know no better. Living here in Sweden, I have to say it often feels like the latter prevails even with completely sober thought processes behind it.

I often feel as if I am traversing an alien universe when having conversations with colleagues where everything is blissful and super. What happened to a little natural cynicism, a good rant, some polarised opinion differences or the odd whinge? Is this only reserved for everywhere else but here and maybe that is just it. Maybe these things are only reserved for the anglo-saxon world where the muppets in the balcony and a lot of other great satire or societal commentary was invented.

It is extremely tiring and difficult to have to narrow down your personality to a one sided reflection in order to fit into the perfect bubble. The risk if you don’t is standing out from the crowd, which is considered decidedly uncool. Somehow in my world this seems very limiting and stiffling, what happened to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I am wondering what it will take to actually get it right some time…. and more so whether I will ever be able to do what it takes to fit into this society as one of the ‘same same’ believers. For now I am a total non-believer in that concept, I reject average as a rule and aim for excellence and the best even if that means standing out from the crowd and upsets the status quo of cosy comfortable sameness.

I am starting to wonder also if there is a cultural difference in the definition of positive attitude. I always was challenged by the happy clappy brigade and earlier blog posts will have probably expressed exactly that, so I wonder is there degrees of positive?

I don’t have the answers and wouldn’t even now where to start. I guess the best is to do some self-reflection and decide how many steps on the positive stakes one choses to take. Silence and modesty can often be misunderstood for negativity also or so I am learning, criticism on how something doesn’t work is equally classed as dangerously un-positive. So what can you say or do, without becoming a fake actor version of your own self. To me that approach would be a definite recipe for self-loathing…

I wonder if it is only in the arts and press that one can have strong opinions and be respected for them and followed for them even if they are outright negative? I also wonder whether being part of the enterpreneurial few is an escape into freedom of expression?

The question I am toying with is whether it is possible to create a society where difference is considered a positive or even an organisation based on differences?

So far I haven’t got the answers nor do I know if they already exist…

In any case living in the land of the beautiful happy people reminds me of a comment a German friend of mine made when I told him I was moving here, which still comforts me namely ‘Be ready to be brainwashed that everything is better and greater in Sweden and that perfect society only exists there’. I often have to admit that his observation seems to be part of the perfect icy bubble.

Lead and stand out for what you believe in

Lead and stand out for what you believe in

It’s amazing when you are questioning and in pursuit of better all the time, what nuggets come your way at the right time. When I left Ireland I questioned leadership especially the political leadership of a country, which had been thriving albeit not always on real economic levers, but artificially hyped ones. In some ways it was the very lack of leadership and vision that made me lose interest and faith to remain in a country where the economy and policies only seemed to go in natural free-fall. I had been asked on more than one occassion to enter the political arena and even with the minor glitch of my actual nationality, I questioned my own leadership ability and vision in this setting.

It is amazing though that some of these questions still follow you around, no matter where you go and what is equally fascinating is that the answers usually pop up in the least expected moments. A few weeks back I was randomly  tv-channel hopping and stopped at a movie, where the main moral of the story was something along the lines of ‘You were born to stand out’. It was one of those interesting bolts that to me meant ‘I am born to stand out, so stop trying to fit in’. Truly I never felt I fitted in anywhere, but I have been afraid to stand out and played a smaller game, which I always regretted after.

Then a short time after another gem of knowledge came my way in a typical ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ kind of fashion. The lesson here being, that leaders stand for what they believe in. That I have often found hard to do, although I have always had very strong and equally outspoken ideas, hence I wouldn’t have a blog or wouldn’t have occassionally put my foot in a thorny issue by expressing what everyone thought but nobody was courageous enough to speak out loud.

Well here is my stance, I believe in the pursuit of excellence and making a mark in this lifetime. We only have one, so why waste an opportunity. In my work I have always and continue to strive to be the best at what I do and along the way I make mistakes that will utlimately make me better and more informed for the future, but it may temporarily slow me down, but it will not stop me. It also means that under no circumstances will I settle for mediocre and that goes from mediocre politicians, to mediocre living, etc. Hence I have always had a full schedule with things I enjoyed from sports, to writing and to charity or volunteering. Now I am just a little more selective and living in a new city still finding out the routes to this fullness. But I guess the search for my apartment was definitely a clear sign mediocre wasn’t going to be acceptable and 600 applications later I live somewhere beautiful.

So the question to you is, what do you believe in and are willing to take a public stand for?

In a way all I am suggesting is that you do what the big leaders in our lifetimes have done, such as  Martin Luther who had his dream.., or business leaders like Branson, Jobs, Gates or Buffett who all have something they clearly stand for and publicly vouch for. In this economy more than any other time do we so need leaders to step it up a notch.

In my leadership quest I will continue to strive for excellence and demand it from people all around me and when they don’t feel this is appropriate then the choice is pretty easy step out of the way or get with the programme. Either you have a track record of achievement and excellence or you savour the realms of mediocrity and to be honest I think that is exactly what has been wrong with recent economic policy makers too much fear of change and not enough forward thinking to keep challenging the status quo especially when that meant making unpopular decisions or challenging the majority when their choice was blatantly wrong.

I am glad that we always have the opportunity to start again and revise our stance, when our first option may have been wrong or an approach failed. The worst would be to ignore the signs and keep going regardless. Whatever you do, if you like me have a leadership bug that keeps wanting to show up, stop trying to fit in and stand out….stand out for what you believe in…

Looking forward to hearing from your leadership stances…

In the mean time I will get back in pursuit of excellence and lead with my belief that I aim to make a difference in everything I do. How about you, you know you want to…I dare you!

The spirit of cool-mass

The spirit of cool-mass

It is amazing how different cultures celebrate Christmass or not as the case may be. One thing every fairy tale or christmas movie, book or story has in common is to look after those without family or those people not able for whatever reason to celebrate Christmas the same way as everyone else with presents etc.

When I lived in Ireland I often experienced this true spirit of christmas personally with people inviting me to their house, the warmth and friendliness of being accepted into their family. Friends and people you didn’t necessarily know very well getting together and extending their celebration to include who-ever would be left alone. And negotiating your way out of it was often and mostly futile, no matter what weather condition.The true spirit of christmas for me in the last number of years has always been the Cork Rotary Christmas Tree Project where people put a ribbon on the tree to remember those that can’t be with them for christmas. The stories you often heard of what people were going through and how much they missed family members was always chilling and very grounding. I miss not being able to attend there.

I don’t miss the usual Irish frenzy of shopping for Christmas presents and here in Sweden most regular Swedes are so well organised that they have it ordered and it doesn’t seem such a big deal after all. With that also comes an extreme cool-ness of people. I have a great bunch of colleagues, but when work ends that is where the contact also ends.

Moving from one country to the next brings new habits and new ways of living, which is to be expected. This time of year I find particularly difficult, I don’t like the whole commercial side of Christmas and I guess that is all I have seen here. Because of recent house moves I am staying Stockholm based for the coming days and I have to say I am contemplating renaming it ‘Cool-mass’, with minus double digit figures to go with the term it is probably apt.

In my current limited experience Sweden is a very closed society where everything is guided by rules and limited to specific boxes. Work is work and it doesn’t cross over. I would hate to be old and alone in this country, because I doubt people would care much or I don’t see it. Reaching out and including someone doesn’t quite happen. If something is to happen, you have to do it yourself and nearly impose your presence on people. If you invite people they are too polite to decline, but then would stop by for a very short period, not even enough for a chat or a real getting to know. I don’t know whether it is the weather or just the way society works, but I would love to know what warms or thaws out the coolness.

So whilst I figure out how to keep myself entertained with movies, some activities and nice food in a beautiful city with beautiful looking people and cool temperatures for company, I sure wish you and yours all the best for the Christmas period.

Some spirited gift suggestion:
“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To your opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. to a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” – Oren Arnold

Snow flake philosophy

Snow flake philosophy

With -20 C outside and a nice carpet of the fluffy white stuff covering both Stockholm as well as my previous home of Cork, it only seems the right thing to do to write about my snowflake observations. Let me tell you after days of watching them falling from the sky from the warmth of my little house, I have plenty of analogies and observations….some may need a stretch of imagination, some are probably obvious.

Each little snowflake is unique, has it’s own shape and constellation. It is beautifully perfect without any need for it to be improved. It is just perfectly shaped as it is. Each one of us also came to the planet like this, perfectly shaped, unique and beautiful in our own way.On it’s journey from the sky, some snowflakes stick together and form little clusters and other seemingly prefer to go it alone. Either way the snowflakes make the journey at their own speed, some taking a trip with the wind others heading straight for the target. As human beings we can learn from the snowflakes, we can choose to come together with other and enjoy a journey together or we can choose to go it alone. No matter what get’s in the way, the snowflake reaches it’s destination and largely goes with the flow on it’s way there. If other get in the way they just join up in little groups and make bigger flakes, if they hit a higher up target that may well be the end of the journey. No matter what their journey is graceful and usually silent.

Maybe there is a lesson in this for us too…..graceful at least if nothing else ;-)The power of the snowflakes really is only manifested when thousand upon thousands come together assisted by a low temperature and form this magnificent white carpet, which crunches when you step on it and feels like fluff when it’s fresh. What if we all set a positive intention of beauty and feeling good….I wonder could we have the same effect as the snow flakes world wide….Imagine having the same impact as the millions of snowflakes sticking together, wouldn’t that be something?!

Each snow flake has a temporary journey, some end quickly when they reach a warm hand for example, some remain part of the white landscape for weeks and months on end…it just depends on their environment and possible a bit of wind and luck.

For most of us our journey is equally limited on this earth, we can give it our best and most beautiful shot or we can choose not to… in the end of the day our environment and choices play a part in our impact we make. We probably have a bit more input in whether we become part of a magnificent outcome or something more equal to a black slusshy mess. We can fight all the way or go with the flow dealing with obstacles as they come along and change direction when the winds of fortune change.

Some of us become an avalance of success and greatness and others one of destruction … whilst the snow flake is best in it’s unique beauty, I fully believe all we can do is show our best side up too…even if the winds of fortune and change may often steer us in a new direction or off course, we always still have our inner unique beauty and potential. Never forget you are perfect and beautifully unique and that is just the way you were supposed to be, just like those thousands of snowflakes.

I just want to finish my snowflake philosophy on a Brian Tracy quote I came across this week: “The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.”

Enjoy life through the eyes of a snowflake…

Dealing with financial pressure

Dealing with financial pressure…

Financial pressure seems to be all around us at the moment from government to business to private individuals, nobody has been left untouched. If you are in the fortunate situation of having plenty, do one thing teach one other person what you have obviously learned somehow already.

Dealing with money has always been a great taboo in many companies but also in many households. In many families most children don’t find out what it takes to pay bills until they are well into their teens and when they very likely have already picked up the handout mentality of mum & dad will pay for it. If you were one of the lucky few that was taught to save a few euro’s everytime you received some, you possibly learned the best habit and if you kept it up throughout your working life you possibly are one of the few happy and unworried people in this crisis.

Most companies (and if we may say so governments too) spent everything they had and saved very little or invested very little. Very few companies did a lot of cost control in the good times and in fact that is possibly the best time to do it. In a harsh climate all of a sudden the excess will get stripped back and if you are wondering whether you should, just go ahead and work costs down to the bare essentials. It is amazing if you ask each and everyone of your staff members to come up with cost saving ideas, what will actually be saved, from trivia such as stationery to more expensive outgoings such as rent, etc.

Cutting costs has to work in tandem with increased sales efforts in order to ride out the storm. It may mean that what you are offering will need to be revised in order to suit a demand that is currently in the market and to suit a target audience that still has access to cash. In other words put the creative hats on and do some brainstorming around target markets and reworked services or products to suit a recession.

When it comes to dealing with money shortage, face up to reality as soon as you can. Talk to the people you owe money to, the banks, your staff, your family, etc. You very likely are not the only one in the market with this issue and in the end of the day honesty will stand for you in the long run. When you have no money to pay for something, come clean and say so. With the uncertainty that is around, making promises that you can’t keep isn’t helpful nor good for your reputation and whilst you may feel your pride get’s hurt when explaining that you have no money, it is worse when you have to face the stressful place of court cases and other orders against your name.

In order to function as a human being, you do have to compartmentalise your financial stress to one side. If it starts to consume each and every hour and every minute, you are in a downward stress spiral and unlikely to make good decisions for your business or yourself and that is if you are actually still making decisions. Compartmentalising financial pressure can be a challenge, but set aside an hour every day to deal with what you cand deal with in terms of money, whether that is credit chasing, invoicing or renegotiating bills payment or payment terms, just make it a finite amount of time. Then after that park the financials until the next day and focus on creating new business or looking after the business you still have. The clients you have now and that are consistently paying are the ones to keep for the long haul, so make sure you look after them.

If you find your mind wandering back to money worries consistently then it’s time to retrain it in parking the item for the hour that you have set aside. Pick a point in the office, preferably a walk away from your desk and any time your mind starts to worry about money again, write tthe worry out on a piece of paper and go put in it’s dedicated place. After a number of times your mind will catch on to continue on with the other business your were supposed to be doing instead. It is a matter of playing mind games as well as tackling the problems head on.

When you have staff or a partner if the financial stress is palying out at home, then explain your system and agree that only once a day will you discuss the money issues and look at potential solutions. Harping on about them consistently has never made them go away. If you really do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, go look for advice as soon as you can. Whatever you do don’t ignore it.

If the worst comes to the worst and we hope it doesn’t happen to any of you, but if you were stripped of all your posessions, your assets, etc. what is still left is you. It may be a dented and less proud version of the previous you, but your core, your mind, your values and what you stand for cannot be taken from you. Possessions can be but your inner self you have to keep and nobody outside of you can touch that. If this is your reality, then have a good look and maybe now is the time to re-decide and re-think what you want to do with the remainder of your life. If for a short time you need to lie low or take it easier in order to get back on your feet, then be gentle on you and go with it.

Whatever happens, know that bad times are always followed by good times, it is the law of economics.

We wish all of you struggling out there a bit of a boost both mentally as well as financially and we hope that you have the courage and calmness of mind to keep on working towards your goals even if they may take a little longer or a new route.

Have a prosperous final quarter of 2011.