Archive for the ‘Self Development’ Category

Expand your mind: Oxford University Podcasts

December 3, 2008


Mansfield College, Oxford

Mansfield College, Oxford

Many people are bored at work. They while away the hours pushing email around. Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fit the time allotted, and you have until 5pm daily. A lazy day is fine now and then but a challenge is important otherwise you will be miserable. 


You can now get lectures from some of the best Universities online for free – so take advantage of this and listen on your commute or plugged in while doing mundanity at work. 

Oxford University podcasts are on many topics: try History of Art for some culture, Interviews with philosophers for depth, Quantum Nanotechnology to blow your mind, Steve Wozniak speaks to the business school for netsavvy tech, or try listening to an English tutorial at my alma mater, Mansfield College (pictured)


Write a book…10 reasons you should do it

September 23, 2008


Create your own book

Create your own book

Studies have shown that 82% of people want to write a book, but few of these actually ever achieve that goal. Here are 10 reasons you should overcome your blocks and write your book.


  1. Say something important. Maybe you are passionate about a cause, maybe you have a story that needs to be told. Your voice is important and your words can be heard if you get them out there. Write your story and inspire others. You don’t know how your words can help other people in their own lives.     
  2. Demonstrate your expertise. You may have spent long years gathering your expertise in a subject. You have notes and seminars, training programs and articles. You may even be a speaker on your subject. But having a book elevates you in people’s eyes so they perceive you as the expert.
  3. Use as a product to sell. You can create another stream of income by writing a book and selling it, either on the internet or in bookstores. You can create spin off products that relate to the book that your market may be interested in.   
  4. Grow your business. If you market your books to a wider audience, it can be a means to attract new people to your business. They may read your book and then want your professional services to help them in their business. The book then functions as a giant business card.  
  5. Start a new career. If you have always wanted to be an author, then writing a book is the way to start this career. Many people talk about being “an author”, but you do actually have to write something to become one! It may take a few years, but you can have a career as an author.   
  6. Fulfil a life goal. If 82% of people want to write a book, how many of these consider it a life goal worth achieving? In these days of digital printing, print-on-demand and small print runs, you can achieve your goal of writing a book even with a small budget. So state your goal, and get writing!
  7. Be immortal. A print book will contain your words after you are gone. The internet will become ever more cluttered, but print books are difficult to throw away so they carry on giving for a long time. People may give them to charity shops, or to friends, but seldom will they go in the trash.  
  8. Status and confidence. Authors are generally respected. People look at you differently when you say you are an author. They know you must have worked hard for it, and most people consider it a worthy profession. It gives you a certain status in some people’s eyes. This will also give you confidence. If you can write a book, and achieve your goal, then you have become a more interesting and accomplished person in the process.
  9. You don’t have to do it alone. If you want to write but you are unsure how to, there are plenty of courses and tips online to help you. If you have the raw material, you can find a freelancer to help you write or edit it. If you need a community of people to discuss your ideas with, there are groups online and locally you can join. Writers are everywhere. Start to share your ideas and you will find the support you need.   
  10. Learn about yourself and open the door to new opportunity. Writing a book can reveal many things, and you can become someone new in the process of writing. It can open your eyes to new opportunities and ways you can improve your life and other people’s.  

So pick up that pen, or sit down at the computer and get writing!
If you need some help getting started, you can get a f.r.e.e. e-workbook at

To be an employee…or not to be

September 5, 2008
employee or contractor

employee or contractor

I was at a management meeting today. Death by Powerpoint. Managers managing more managers. Jargon bingo. But it made me think about the difference between employees and contractors, and why I have alternatively swung between the two approaches in my career.

Why be an employee?
– You are on a career path. The company invest in you and train you. You don’t have to be an expert to start with, as they will mould you into what they want. You are happy being part of a bigger organisation that has a structure, processes and a support network.

– You like the stability and security of being part of a company. You know how much you get paid every month, and you get paid for sick days and holiday. You have a contract that doesn’t have an end date.

– You like the kudos or prestige of working for X company. You have won that job and it makes you proud.

– You have more options being part of a company. If you want to try something new, you can ask your Manager and can move into a new position.

– You get benefits like pension/superannuation/car. You don’t have complicated taxation affairs. You don’t have to think about the money; it just arrives in your bank account.

Why be a contractor?

– You don’t want to be on a career path. You are a specialist in what you do. You don’t want to do performance appraisals, or be in management meetings. You like being independent.

– You want flexibility of lifestyle, geography and the freedom to move on when you want.

– You like having a variable wage. You can earn a lot more in less time, and then take 3 months off. You don’t need stability.

– You like managing your own money and taxes, or you hire someone to do it for you.

– If you want training, you pay for it yourself – or you do the same job over and over again (and risk being bored)

Both of these ways of working have their benefits and drawbacks. Both involve working for other people (working on your own business will be tackled in a different post).

I started out as an employee – then went contracting. Then back to an employee, then back to contracting. Repeat twice more, and I am currently in the contractor cycle…and heading towards working in my own business altogether. So there is room for all types….. which do you prefer?
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Questions to shape your future

August 22, 2008
Stop and smell the flowers...

Stop and smell the flowers...

Someimes life flashes by so fast, you wonder where the time has gone?
Do you remember what you vowed back in 2000 when we all made big plans? Have those dreams come to fruition?

In 5 years time it will be 2013 – the Olympics happened last year in London, and Obama is entering his second term. What will you have achieved by then?

It is said that people overestimate what they can achieve in a year, but underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years. So, try for 5!

Here are some questions to think about today that will shape your future. Don’t constrain yourself to what you think is achievable. Sometimes you need to set big, hairy audacious goals and leave it to the Universe to help you achieve them.

  1. Where are you in 2013? A different house, different city, near the beach, in the forest, with your family, living alone, partying hard in the city or quietly by the sea. Where do you want to be?
  2. What are you doing with your life in 2013? What is your job? Do you work for a big company with lots of perks? or a small company where you make a difference? Do you own your own business? Do you love what you do? Do you wake up full of energy and ideas every day?
  3. What are your relationships and family like in 2013? Are you happy in your marriage/partnership? Do you have children? Do you spend time with other members of your family? How are your close friends?
  4. How is your health in 2013? Are you fit and active? Have you stopped smoking/drinking hard? Have you done the marathon you always said you would? Are you confident in your body? Do you love yourself?
  5. How are your finances in 2013? Are you financially free? Do you have savings? Can you buy your dream home/car/holiday? Can you afford school fees? Do you have investment income from shares, property or term deposits? (HINT: If you invest in 2008, you will be able to say yes!)
  6. How is your spirituality in 2013? (however you define it). Are you happy that your life is not just material and transitory? Do you have meaning beyond the daily grind and weekly dramas?

What are your dreams? Not just your goals – but your dreams. Free up some time and write these answers down. You don’t need to know how to get there, just listen what you want.

If you know this, you can start now – and in 2013, you won’t be in the same situation you are unhappy with now.
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Career Change: 7 steps to a new you!

July 22, 2008

Career Change

Career Change

It is now accepted that people will have several career changes in their working lifetime. As individuals develop and grow, their aspirations and goals change, and they need new challenges. This may be a new career, or a change in direction for a small business, but the process of change is essentially the same.





  • 1. Find out what you really want to do. What are your priorities for the change? Do you want more time with family, different working conditions or more money? Do you want to change the direction of your business, or change your role in it? What do you love doing and how could you incorporate that into a new direction? Spend time asking yourself these questions and identify a clear goal.
  • 2. Plan. Sketch out the steps you need to get to your goal so you can visualise the path. It could be a few lines to show your commitment or a multi-page business plan, but you need something concrete that lays out what you will do and when. This will help to keep you focussed in a general direction, although you may change your mind about the specifics along the way. Career change can often take longer than you expect and you may also need to work out a budget.
  • 3. Research. Before you make any bold moves, find out about your chosen path. Talk to people who have already taken the steps you have. Find a mentor, or pay for professional advice if necessary. Research job or business opportunities in this area and make sure you understand the practicalities of what it will be like in the future state.
  • 4. Retrain and develop new skills. You may need to do some training or development to get to your new career. This can be an exciting and challenging time as you learn new skills and formulate the details of your plan. This step often takes time and money, but will give you the boost you need to make the change.
  • 5. Try it out. Find an opportunity to try out your new career in a low risk way. This may be as voluntary work, or working from home on your business while still in the day job. It may be changing your role in your own business for a short period of time, while people adjust to the new way. Testing the water in this way will give you the confidence to continue, and also to make any changes to your plan at this stage. Remember you always have the choice to change your mind!
  • 6. Commitment and persistence. These underpin the whole process, as often significant career change can take some time and it is easy to just stick with what you have. Remember why it is important to you to achieve the change. How will you feel if you don’t make it this time?
  • 7. Break Out! Make the change, even if the timing is not perfect. Celebrate how far you have come!



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Work Life Balance: “What Matters” by Daniel Petre

July 12, 2008
Success and Work-Life Balance

What Matters: Success and Work-Life Balance

If your work life balance is non-existent, or you work for a company that expects your soul in exchange for your pay – then you need to read this book. Your life doesn’t have to be this way – and this book can help you look at what really matters in your life, and make the change.

Daniel Petre understands the corporate 27 hour day having worked at Microsoft and other large companies. But he chose to focus on his family and his life outside of work, facing criticism from other executives who seemed to resent his choices. This book challenges the practices of office face-time, number of hours worked as the yardstick for reward, office centred social life as well as work, and the only way is up.

Here are some of the insights I gained from reading this book:

  • It is important to figure out what is most important to you, work out how to do your job in the most efficient and productive way and then allocate time to other activities in your life – “be ruthless with your diary” and make sure you have time for the people and activities that mean the most to you
  • Remember that you don’t always have to move upwards in a company. You can choose to move sideways e.g. retrain or downwards e.g. work part-time or take less responsibility. People may criticise you for this, but you don’t need acceptance from your work colleagues. You need to make sure your life is focussed on the right things.
  • Concentrating only on work is a short term view – your employees and colleagues will not be there when you are sick, or need a friend, or when you retire. Those nights out on the corporate expense account are great sometimes, but not every week while your family eats without you and your kids go to bed without seeing you all week.
  • Studies have actually found that changing the way employees are treated boosts productivity more than changing their pay. Motivating people by treating them well is also cheaper – so everyone wins!
  • Sustainable leaders must understand themselves, develop and reward competence, cherish diversity, advocate equity, have the ability to communicate at all levels, have a deep understanding of the organisation, vision and strategy. They must be a human being first, then a corporate executive. They must have perspective – where life has many aspects and work is just a part of it.
  • A life of sustained success has all facets – health, family, wealth, work, social legacy, balance – “people obsessed with work end up lonely, sad, bitter souls”
  • When we were children balance was encouraged – we did lots of different things. Then suddenly we spend the bulk of our waking hours on one thing and nothing else is supposed to matter. We are sucked into this culture and we all want to fit in – but we mustn’t forget what is really important
  • Companies focus on asset maintenance for their machinery – but what about employees as assets? There should be a focus on maintaining people – and we are all responsible for making sure we ourselves are sustainable.
  • Get a reality check now and then. Remember how lucky you are even on the worst day at work. Perspective brings home what is important – your family, your health, your home.

This is a great book that will help you take stock of your personal situation now and reflect on where you are going with your career. You get what you focus on, and if work is everything, then the rest will fall away. Is this what you want?
There are exercises in the book that will help you identify what is important, where you spend your time and challenge your perspective. There are also cautionary tales of people who have had stellar corporate careers but are left with little happiness on retirement.

So, if you are struggling with work/life balance – I highly recommend this book!

If you would like to buy the book, it is available here
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Picasso: Lessons for a working life

July 11, 2008

Picasso in thoughtI went to the Picasso exhibition at Brisbane Modern Art Gallery last week. It was an exhibition of lesser known drawings, prints and some of his own personal collection of paintings as well as photos of him in his various studios.

It was a welcome cultural fix but I also learnt some lessons that can influence our working lives.

  • You don’t have to be perfect. Not everything Picasso did was a masterpiece. There were sketches and doodles displayed that he could have dashed off in no time at all when he was clearly just playing. We should be more like this. Don’t expect everything you do to be a masterpiece first time. Don’t expect to walk into your perfect job tomorrow. But play…try things out…ask your friends…relax…and in time one of the things you do will be a masterpiece.
  • Be authentic. Many of the pieces Picasso collected were from friends or by friends, people he admired, phases he went through. Each tells of something he saw in them that wasn’t necessarily obvious. Some of the pieces are rough and basic, some of great artistic importance. He just collected what he liked. The sketches were of real people, with bulbous noses, or real stomachs. Naked people with no airbrushing. Sex without the porn. All of these images are authentic and untouched by media worship. Stop trying to be what others want you to be. Stop trying to like what you think others want you to like. Just be authentic. Get to know yourself and investigate the original you. What makes you light up with enthusiasm?
  • Don’t put yourself in a box. You can be many people. Don’t constrain what talents you have. Did you know that Picasso also wrote poetry? He was not just a visual artist. He expressed himself in many ways. You don’t have to define yourself by your job alone.
  • Let inspiration guide you. One of Picasso’s most famous paintings is Guernica, a copy of which is displayed in the United Nations headquarters. He was inspired to paint it after the Nazi bombing of this little Spanish town and it has continued to inspire people with it’s anti-war message. We need to allow ourselves to be moved, and when we are inspired, to act. Don’t let the day in-day out working life kill inspiration and passion. You can still be someone who is moved and who acts powerfully. You are still someone important.

It is necessary to get out of your normal head space sometimes, in order to see beyond your current situation. The lessons we need to learn can sometimes come from surprising places.
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iTunes U: Get your self-development here!

July 7, 2008

This is a momentous event in the world of self-development!

iTunes has launched iTunesU – a portal for education, featuring online lectures in audio and video format. You can download these for FREE making learning accessible and easy whenever you can spare some time.

I am a huge fan of self-development and devote an entire chapter on it in my book “How to Enjoy Your Job” . I recommend using your commute to develop your brain, and your spare time to expand your opportunities by learning new things. Here is a brilliant (and free) way to do it!

Here are some of the available lectures for FREE at iTunesU that sounded pretty cool to me. You may think these are wierd and not for you – but check out the selection on line as there is something for everyone.

  • The psychology of blink: Understanding how our mind works unconsciously: Allen Edwards Psychology lectures
  • Money 101: Buzzwords: Clear the confusion with simple, direct discussions of key economic jargon
  • Ben Franklin and the world of the enlightenment
  • A holiday in France: Language lectures
  • Ask a Biologist: cool lectures such as Nanobiology
  • Einstein and the Mind of God
  • Really achieving your childhood dreams – Randy Pausch (Carnegie Mellon)
  • Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 Commencement Address at Stanford University
  • The Persistance of memory: Salvador Dali

To find these and so many more – go to iTunes store, and choose the iTunesU link.

Happy learning! and Post here if you find some cool lectures you want to share!
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Trapped in your job? Change your reality

July 3, 2008
Expand your reality

Expand your reality

It is important to break this cycle of thinking and change your perception of what is around you. What you perceive is just a tiny piece of the actual reality. There are unlimited possibilities; you just need to break down the mental barrier that stops you seeing them.

The brain processes a great deal of information from the world around, and in general people are unconscious of most of it. What is perceived consciously is controlled by your personal filters developed over time based on past life experiences and expectations. These filters construct the wall around your own world, and it can be hard to see beyond this.

What are some of the thoughts that control your situation?
Are there ways you could change your thinking to alter how you see the world?

If you are trapped in a certain way of seeing yourself and your situation, your brain filters will only allow that type of information to be processed and you will not see the means to your escape. If you think that this job is the only one you can get, it will be the only one available to you. If you believe you are trapped, you will be.

But there are opportunities, you just need to see them and the way will be opened for you.

“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing,
that we see too late the one that is open.”
Alexander Graham Bell

Excerpt and diagram from Chapter 6 of “How to Enjoy Your Job”

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Don’t wait until you are lonely at the top of the world

June 30, 2008

At The Top

At the top of the tallest building in the world
Sat the saddest man in the world
And inside the man
Was the loneliest heart in the world
And inside the heart
Was the deepest pit in the world

And at the bottom of the pit
Was the blackest mud in the world
And in the mud lay the lightest, loveliest, tenderist,
Most beautiful, happy angel in the universe

By Michael Leunig

I read this poem and it made me think of those people who work all their lives to get to the top office, or the biggest salary, or the best title, or the most direct reports. They may end up rich and powerful, but is this success? Is this happiness?

Find your angel at the bottom of the pit, and follow it to your dreams. Start now.
Don’t wait until you are lonely at the top of the world.  

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