On the nature of ‘tomorrow’.

Now as we know, it is often said that tomorrow never comes.  Well that’s kind of not true, however it does need a bit of thinking about.  Here goes:

Today, tomorrow is the day after today.  Then when tomorrow comes it will be today and today will be yesterday.  The the day after tomorrow, tomorrow will be yesterday and today will be the day after yesterday.  Confused?  Good.

The point of all this nonsense?  Well I’m just trying to convey the message that the only day you can really count on is today, so use it wisely.

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How To Win Friends And Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Wow! This is surely the Daddy of all Self Help Books. Written in 1936 its message is as relevant and crystal clear today as it’s always been. If you rub someone up the wrong way, it is extremely unlikely that they will do anything to help you. Get on their right side, by understanding what drives them and what they like to do, and they’ll more than likely assist you in anyway that they can.

In essence what Carnegie teaches is that, when you are trying to influence someone, you should subordinate your personal interests to those of that person. I made this mistake once, when a customer of mine was talking about his favourite football team – one that I happen to dislike. Instead of keeping my big gob shut, I had to wade in saying that his team was a bunch of ne’er-do-wells and vagabonds. Result, I nearly lost my customer.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

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Why You Should Develop Yourself

You need the skills to be able to do your job. FACT. From the least techincal job to being a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, there is no getting away from it, you aren’t going to last long if you do things the wrong way.

Call it training, call it personal development. Whichever way, look on training as an opportunity to change your look on life and your approach to it – and therefore to change your life to something that you want it to be. As with Time Management, you need a list of goals, so that you can set your training requirements accordingly.

I’m going to say that there are two type of training. The first is how-to-training. The nuts and bolts of your chosen business. If you’re a plumber, you need to know how to bend pipes and to join them together and so on. But then you’ve also got softer skills to learn – lets call this personal-development-training. E.g. improve your confidence, improve your conversational skills, and win more customers.

Magic Wand

Remember there is no such thing as a magic wand. Many personal development books and courses make very similar, highfalutin claims. These are not entirely untrue. However, no book in the world will make you do the things that they claim, unless you do something too.

When I was an -employed person, we’d get sent on many such courses. I’d go along to the workshops, join in all the fun, really throw myself into learning the techniques. I’d learn stuff like ‘how to get my boss to do what I want him to with him knowing’ then go back to the office and attempt the techniques in the work place… deathly silence… tumble weed blows across the office…

The course notes would sit there and gather dust. I’d always have excuses. ‘Yeah, but it’s all right doing it in the workshop, that’s only a bit of fun,’ and so on. FACT, these were free courses that my employer had sent me on. If nothing else, it was my duty to take on board what was said and put it into practice.

Used To Wonder

I used to wonder why the people who run such courses can manage to convince big companies into paying them extremely large sums of money for taking their employees out of the office for a couple of days at a time, whilst neglecting the important business of carrying out the company’s core tasks. Now, having been self-employed for a while, I’ve realised that what these consultants teach is worth so much more that whatever pittance they get paid.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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Why Be Self Employed?

Please accept this bit of wallowing (c) Paul McGee. It won’t last long – just the first paragraph. You can skip to the next one if you want to. That way you don’t have to read my whinging. But, it may strike a chord, it may help you to make the decision?

Fact is, I worked for the same company for twelve years. At first, I though that they were great – after all said and done, they were the only company that had ever offered me a job and they still are! However, once my skills and knowledge started to develop and I acquired specialities I soon realised that this was a company where you didn’t necessarily get on just because you were good at your job. In fact, quite the opposite was true. It was the gobby ones, those with self-confidence and a high profile, those people with the ability to get up and speak to a crowd, to portray knowledge of their subject under pressure who got on. I’ve also got a few words for so-called positive discrimination. Basically, this is a myth, and a dangerous one. This is because for every instance of positive discrimination, there is always someone affected in a negative way. Coupled with my lack of self-confidence, lack of profile and a lack of the, ahem, attributes required to have positive discrimination work in my favour, I was holed beneath the water, waiting to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Of course this might just be paranoid nonsense, and in fact I should have been looking a little closer to home in order to find out why I wasn’t cutting it. But hey, I did say that I was going to spend a few moments wallowing (thanks Paul).

What to do as a self-employed person?

Ok, you can start reading again… There are many jobs that you could do as a self employed person, and it’s not for me to tell you what you should do. Choose an occupation that you are comfortable with. You need to be able to make you living from it, so don’t do anything that you don’t feel at home with. HOWEVER, please remember that self-development is only possible by placing yourself in a series of situations of which each one challenges you to move on and improve on the previous one. You can stay in your comfort bubble for the rest of your life, e.g. by remaining in employment, having your training organised, your tax and NI paid by PAYE and ultimately your salary and other rewards decided by someone else. Or, you can set yourself a series of goals, each one building upon the previous one, by putting yourself in ever more challenging situations. Once you are comfortable with a task, it’s time to move on and take on another challenge. This is called EXPANDING YOUR COMFORT ZONE.


No daily grind.

M62, M25, M6, M40, M whatever. A1, A14, A5, A-now-hang-on-a-minute. I hear about these roads and many others on the radio in the morning as my wife and I are preparing the kids for school. We hear them all again in the afternoon when the kids are having their after-school snack. It can’t be right can it? All this stress, this sitting in a queue of traffic just to get to your place of work, and more importantly to get back home again when your day’s labours are done.

Now I’m not advocating that we all give up our well-paid job just to avoid sitting in traffic. Think about Lynne Bowles and Sally Boazman. If you all give up our jobs they’d lose theirs. But my point is, why do it, if you don’t have to? There are plenty of people with vocations to be engineers, lawyers, bankers, teachers, journalists etc, but if you’re not one of them, than why on earth are you joining them day after day in all of this traffic. Just think, if the really driven, career minded people were left to get on with going out to work and keeping the country running, there would be so much less traffic on the roads that their drive to work would be so much more pleasurable, and Lynne and Sally would be able to offer a much more positive message to their listeners. Well it’s just a thought.

You choose your hours.

Just to go back to my previous point for a minute, there are many responsible employers out there who do encourage their employees to stagger their working hours in order to help with their childcare commitments or to avoid the really ugly traffic queues. To be fair, when the going got tough for us for a while, mine was one of these employers. But there are just as many who demand that their employees arrive at nine on the dot and don’t leave until five, with a half an hour break for lunch. Ask yourself, what hours would you keep if you were your own boss? Obviously, you will have to fit them in around your clients, but this can be done by negotiation. If you are say, a plumber, you can discuss with your client, when you are going to arrive and when you are going to leave their premises. You may have to pick up tools and equipment, parts and the like. This can all be fitted in around your actual time commitment to complete the work for which you’re being paid.

You choose your salary.

This is closely allied to choosing your own hours. Seems strange I know, but when I was going out to work, I knew that for every hour extra I put in, my financial reward was negligible. Now I accept that putting in the extra time to do the job quicker is a good thing in the grand scheme of things, in order to get yourself noticed by your employer and move your career on. But think on this, if your employer is a large company with a large workforce, the only person likely to notice is your immediate boss.

This then begs the following question:

Q. In how many large companies does this person have the power to give you a pay-rise?

A. Not very many.

If this person were indeed highly enamoured with your performance, how many hoops would they have to jump through in order for you to be recognised with more pay? From my own experience the likely upshot of such a request would be that personnel would respond saying that you already get paid as much as your current job is worth under the Hayes scale, so if you want to earn any more money, then you need to apply for a new job. So, you apply for a new job possibly upsetting your current manager and spoiling a good working relationship.

My message here is that the career structures in large companies are not tailored to get the best out of the workforce in order that the company can grow. Whatever the intent in such organisations, what happens is the stars of the organisation are generally, not technically capable. They are good at getting up on their feet and speaking with authority on any subject on a superficial level. Question them further, and if the question is not on the area of their original expertise then the stock answer is given, “I’ll get back to you on that one.” The vast bulk of the work done in organisations such as this is done so by an army of technically gifted people who do not receive the financial reward that they deserve.

As a self-employed person, however, you do stand or fall upon you own abilities and the effort that you are prepared to expend in carrying out your chosen job. In my chosen self-employment spheres, I know that my reward is directly proportional to my training, aptitude and effort.

Being in control.

If you are employed, you are not able to set your own acceptability parameters. Setting aside the concept of having clients for a moment, being self-employed means that you are the final arbiter of what is or isn’t acceptable. In doing work for a manager, you could spend many hours finishing and refinishing the same piece of work in order to make it satisfactory to them. They may then take it to their own manager who will no doubt require you to do yet more polishing. As a self-employed person, even working for a client, it matters not what anybody else thinks of your finished work. You may shout, that this sounds odd, and it probably does, but let me explain. If the standard of your work is not up to scratch then your client is perfectly at liberty to withhold payment. So, you’ll soon learn that you need to get things right or you won’t make a brass bean. If you get a picky client, complete the job, get it right and move on. Choose a new client. This is much preferable to constantly having your work criticised, and you having to re-hash it in order to please your manager’s-manager’s-manager.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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Being Self Employed

Before you make the leap and plunge in headfirst to the world of self-employment, you need to remember one thing. This is more of a semantic point than anything, but I believe that it requires some careful consideration.

Of the two words ‘self’ and ‘employment’ one is more important than the other. It’s not necessarily the one that you’d imagine. For me, the key word is self. Through years of agonising about giving up working for ‘the man’ to go self-employed, I worried about what I would be able to do to facilitate the leap. This is a perfectly rational, understandable set of concerns. But looking back from where I am now, I’d say that I was missing the point somewhat. So long as you recognise and understand that it’s all down to you it perhaps doesn’t matter so much what you actually do. Now of course it’s much preferable to be doing something that you like and enjoy doing – else why leave employment? – but ultimately it’s about understanding that you are in charge now. You are the boss. You stand or fall purely on your own abilities and competences and ultimately your own actions, or lack thereof.

It’s interesting to think a bit more deeply on the employer/employee relationship. Once you become self-employed, you take on both roles. You may have staff, or you may be working on your own. For a while, let’s ignore the situation where you have employees and just consider the situation when employer and employee are the same person, i.e. you.

Whatever you can get away with not doing in your current employment (and let’s face it, we all tried to get away with something when we were working for the man), you are answerable to yourself now, so any ickle white lies you tell are lies told to yourself, and tasks not carried out with 100% effort, concentration, commitment, or whatever will end up costing you reputation, goodwill and eventually money. Sagging off at 3.30 – 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon is a well and good when you’re working for somebody else, but when you are your own boss, you cannot afford to do this unless you have planned it. By this, I mean that as a self-employed person, your working hours are significantly altered. Perhaps not to the extent of being 24/7, but certainly, you will need to make time sacrifices. I quite often find myself out and about in my line of business in the evenings. But then, I’ve been able to do the school run at both ends of the day, and stop EVERYTHING (except Radio 2) to make pizza (from scratch, with fat and flour in a bowl) on Friday afternoon, so it’s quid pro quo.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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S.U.M.O. – Paul McGee

This is a great book. The acronym stands for Shut Up, Move On. Say it to yourself (or to someone else) when you’re thinking, and therefore behaving in a way that is likely to hinder our ability to succeed. The first part is the Shut Up bit. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘belt up and get a grip’ – you are allowed some time to wallow – it’s more of an opportunity to re-evaluate your postion, and then Move On.

Photo credit, NatanahelioThis second element is the one that requires you to do something, i.e. it’s the action bit. Without action, you can re-evaluate to your heart’s content, but if you don’t change then why bother with all the re-evaluation? Actually, this is a very good point about this book, or any other self-help book for that matter. I used to think that just by buying a particular tome that all of my problems (whether real or perceived) would be solved, just like magic! Of course I was wrong – action is required.

Anyway, Paul goes on to describe how you can take control of your life and therefore fulfil your full potential. Perhaps the best chapter is the last one, with the rather quirky title – Ditch Doris Day. It’s not meant as a direct reference to Doris, more to her most famous song, Que Sera, Sera. Paul’s point being that life should be what you make it, not the chance outcome of a series of coincidences. He’s obviously more of a Talk Talk man it seems.

Photo credit, Natanahelio


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