Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chances are you will not have a great career - unless...

I recently rewatched Larry Smith’s TED Talk Why you will fail to have a great career. I watched it when it first came onto TED about two years ago now, but being caught up in My Year of TED the message didn’t sink in very well.

Larry contends that you will not have a great career because you can only do that by following your passion, and very few people ever do this. Of course, we all know we should do it, everyone keeps telling us that is what will make us happy, and that is what will make what we do truly memorable – but you won’t do it.

He goes on to explain the reasons you won’t do it, which boil down to the fact that you will make excuses for not finding your passion. These include the ideas that you have to be lucky to find it and be able to pursue it; that geniuses are the only ones who ever get there; or that the people who do it are weird in some way, and I am normal – all complete crap by the way.

Worse still, people convince themselves that if the concept that working hard will give you a good career is true; working really, really, really, really hard must give you a great career. That is totally wrong, and I hope you all realise that. If you work really, really, really, really hard all you will get is burnt out, underappreciated, used up, and completely frustrated that you put in so much effort – and still do not have a great career.

And even if you do search for your passion
The second part of Larry’s talk is even more interesting – that some of you will try to find your passion, but you will either fail to identify it, or fail to live it. The people who fail to identify often do so because they confuse an ‘interest’ with passion – which will not carry you through to that great career.

Those that do find it may not fare any better, since the majority of the people that find their passion and do nothing with it. As Larry explains, most people will use the ‘human relationships’ excuse – they are not willing to pursue their passion at the sake of their relationships. That a great career requires sacrifice and a commitment of time and energy that precludes being a great <father, friend, husband, mother, wife, etc.>

This is a ridiculous point of view, since following your passion and leading a great life, can benefit everyone around you. People who have great careers – the artists, scientists, engineers, astronauts, politicians, doctors, educators and so forth, who inspire people with the creations, achievements and abilities – are seldom remembered as being ‘bad people’ who lacked any form of interpersonal relationship.

The whole idea of using this as an excuse for not pursuing your passion is just that – an excuse. The real reason that you will fail to have a great career, Larry comes to at the end of his talk:
You know why. In your heart of hearts, you know why, and I'm being deadly serious... It is because you are... You know what you are. You're afraid to pursue your passion. You're afraid to look ridiculous. You're afraid to try. You're afraid you may fail. He’s right, you all know that he is completely and utterly right.
Fear is the thing that will hold you back from pursuing your passion, from having a great career – and an even greater life. I lived with the first of these fears for many years: a fear of trying to discover my passion. In hindsight, it was driven a little by not thinking I was remarkable enough to have a great career, but mainly it was driven by the belief that I wasn’t anything enough to be an exceptional person who deserved one.

Overcoming the fear, yeah who am I kidding
Committing to My Year of TED was a massive mindset shift for me – I had overcome this innate fear that my passion would be ordinary, or unachievable. To my surprise, I managed to get over that hurdle, and now I’m on the second part; overcoming the fear of pursuing my passion. After the confidence of clearing the first hurdle, I know I can clear the second.

Even still, I am constantly afraid of all of the things that Larry lists: I am afraid that I am not enough to do what I have to do; that I will pick the wrong way to pursue my passion; and that I will end up failing. But I keep Larry’s final line in mind...
So, those are the many reasons why you are going to fail to have a great career, unless... Unless... 
I am living the ‘unless’, I have been since the middle of 2011 when I started this whole crazy experiment with my life – and I will live the unless right up until the point that I do have a great career, regardless of how it looks. I refuse to give up just because I am afraid of failure; there are worse things out there after all – like a mediocre life for one.

Are you brave enough to have a great career? Have you even faced the first fear of understanding your passion?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dry your eyes princess! Why I cry more now I acknowledge I'm imperfect

The perfect Kylie that I tried to be for all of those years seldom cried - I will clarify that. When life got too hard, as it always does, she would cry tears of sadness, frustration, anger and loss - but they were the main feelings that brought about tears. The positive tears were not very present in my life, and that may be because I shut myself off from positive emotions as well.

Since making these incredible life changes over the last couple of years there has been a massive shift in displaying (and even feeling) my emotions. I doubt that a day goes by when I don't cry now, and more often than not they are tears of joy, happiness, compassion and hope. It could be something I read, or something I watched (TED Talk, YouTube video, TV), or an interaction with someone else - but I cannot think of a day in the last month that tears have not welled up in my eyes and I have allowed myself to express these positive, or negative, emotions.

Yesterday it was watching one of the TED2014 videos Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best. It is a discussion more than a talk, with Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, and just thinking about it is making me tear up again. For those of you who don't remember, Gabby was the US Congresswoman who was shot in the head in early 2011. Her recovery is amazing, and the love and devotion of her husband is so precious to see.

I think it's a vulnerability thing
I think that this flow of tears, which is a flow of emotion more than anything else, is an indication that I have truly broken down that wall of perfection that I used to protect myself for all those years. The sad thing is that I failed to realise how much it stopped me from connecting with myself, and all of the positive sides of my emotions, as much as it was stopping others.
Yes, BrenĂ© Brown does talk about this in all her wholeheartedness work it just took a while to sink in.
So I cry a lot more now because I feel a lot more now - I feel more connected to everyone and everything else in the world. Sometimes this annoys me, and I couldn't tell you why exactly, but sometimes I catch my internal critic saying things like "for f#$k's sake, cut it out!" She's not a fan of emotions, well good emotions - I think that she likes the negative ones because they keep me on my toes.

It's another benefit from My Year of TED that I don't think I had realised until recently, there are a few of these popping up now and then. Whilst it is scary being so much more emotional, I'll post something else about fear one day, it is wonderful and freeing at the same time.

Are you connected with your emotions? Or were you like me, trying to suppress them all? Do you realise how much lovely emotion and connection you suppress with the bad stuff?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When your mindset goes rogue

I have a confession to make, my mindset needs to be adjusted again. I have slipped back into some
bad habits and I need to regain my mindfulness around some of the thoughts I believed I had under control after My Year of TED.

I'm not surprised, habits of a lifetime are hard to break, but I am a little surprised at just how bad I allowed it to get before I realised just how bad it was. Do you do this? Do you find yourself feeling unsettled and unhappy, but you aren't able to put your finger on why? And then one day you wake up and realise that it's all in your head, it's all about your attitude and the negativity that has crept into your life.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this - and I'm sure that I'm not alone in my reaction to it. Of course my first reaction was to beat up on myself, because that is how it always used to work, and remember this was a slip back into old mindsets. I caught that one pretty quickly though and sat myself down to have a supportive conversation about what was happening.

The problem with being brave
Reminding myself that the old mindset wasn't productive, I gave myself a big internal hug and started to work through what was going on. It turns out that this has been a slow spiral since late January. As you know one of my words for 2014 is Brave, and I've been pushing bravery pretty hard this year - so hard that a small voice in my head (that used to be much louder) has had too much opportunity to get in under my skin.

You see, one of the main issues with being brave is that you live with a constant level of fear and anxiety. There are heaps of quotes about this, but it boils down to this - bravery is when you are scared but you do it anyway. If I wasn't scared then doing something wouldn't require bravery, and quite frankly for the longest time I've been in a constant state of fear (I'll write more about that at a later stage).

For me, and again I don't think I'm alone here, this constant state of uncertainty and discomfort has allowed an old mindset to creep in - the one that likes to tell me that I'll never be able to do this, that I'm not good enough, that I'm not worthy of success anyway. It snuck in under the cover of darkness and set up camp in the corner of my brain again, but this time it was more cunning. It quietly started chipping away at my positive mindset, rather than drawing attention to itself so I could send in the troops to banish it back to the recesses of my brain.

Tackling the problem head on
Fortunately, I have some incredible people in my life now who don't let me get away with bullshit and they will call me on things I say that aren't aligned to who I want to be. There were two conversations in two days that alerted to troops to a disconnect that we hadn't identified earlier. It took a few more days, but we finally found her hiding in the bushes.

So you might ask what we did about it? Well we gave her a really big hug and explained that we understand that she thinks she is helping protect us, but that we don't want to be protected any more - the fear and anxiety are part of a greater process. They will eventually subside, oh they will never go away, but all of us live with a level of fear and anxiety in our lives.

We took her by the hand and showed her all of the dreams that we have, and how wonderful our life will be when we make them a reality. We made her a cup of tea and sat her down and explained that what she does is important for us, but that the world has shifted and if she wants to pull us up on possibly overstretching then she needs to do it while sitting at the table with my confidence, my self-compassion, my ego, my wisdom and the other parts of me with skin in the game. No more hiding in the shadows, no more subterfuge, because when she does things like that we all suffer far too much.

She seems to be deliberating about it at the moment, I don't think she's at the table, but she has gone quiet and my mindset is clawing it's way back. Which is a good thing because I have quite a few new things to be brave about in the coming months - stay tuned for details.

How do you deal with the the rogue elements of your brain when they turn on you? What's your method for getting your mindset back on track? I'd love for you to share it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Real danger vs perceived danger and why you need to watch this TED Talk

Some of you might know that TED2014 is currently on in Vancouver. It is the 30th anniversary of the first TED conference, which means that I'm expecting some amazing things to come out of this one. Some of the most popular and powerful speakers are returning to give an update about what has happened since their TED Talks - people like Elizabeth Gilbert, Susan Cain and Simon Sinek, to name a few. If you look at the list of TED Talks I used you can see why I can't wait to see what gets published on the site in coming weeks and months.

Anyway, they have already put up two amazing talks - well and interview with Edward Snowden and a TED Talk. The TED Talk is by Chris Hadfield, aka the Major Tom signing astronaut. It's called What I learned from going blind in space and it is an awesome talk.

I watched it about 4 hours ago, and at the time I thought it was great - he even closes with a little bit of Major Tom :-) But I listened to it while doing other things, so it has taken a while for some of it to permeate to the other parts of my brain. Then the quote above was posted by TED onto Facebook and suddenly the idea exploded in there, and I realised just how universal a truth this is.

I'll let it go through the rest of my brain for a bit longer before I go into full rant mode, what I will say is this - just how true is this to your life? What negative and destructive reactions are you going through to a danger you perceive, as opposed to the minor and insignificant danger that might actually exist?

My mind has been blown away with this simple rephrasing. Thank you Chris :-)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Freedom, authenticity and why I have a tutu now

I mentioned in my free manifesto that one of the things we lose when we lose our authenticity is that free abandon that you see in children - the freedom to act without fear of judgement.

I've been thinking about that a lot in the last couple of months, as I wrote my manifesto and afterwards. You see I have an image I carry around of this, well there are a number of images but one sticks in my head. It is of a small girl that I watched while shopping one day, she was dressed in a pink tutu, pink shirt, brown cardigan, yellow tights and topped off the whole outfit with gumboots (from memory they were red, but I know how flawed my memory can be).

The girl was walking with her mother, holding hands, and she had that aura of pride that you see in young children when they have obviously dressed themselves in their favourite things. I've seen that a lot of times in children - the boys who convince their parents they should wear their superhero costume out to a restaurant; the girls who are obviously in their favourite summer dress when it is all but snowing outside; and a whole range of children who are obviously dressed just a little oddly for the occasion/weather/colour coordination/comfort.

Do you remember that feeling?
They all share that look though, the pride of making their own decisions and wearing what they want to wear, irrespective of what anyone else might want. I can't remember that feeling - and I've tried so hard lately to remember it. My embarrassment/conformity gene is a little over-active, so whilst I am sure that I did this as a young child, I can't remember it. I also don't remember doing it as an adult very much either - I spent a whole activity trying to address how much I used clothes to hide from the world.

I know that I am not alone in this, 30 days of fashion was probably the most commented on activity from My Year of TED. Yes, it was the most noticeable change that I made, but most of the comments were from other introverted people who also wanted to be more relaxed and have more fun with their clothes. I challenged a few of them back then, and I can still remember the look on my ex-manager's face when I saw her in the top she told me was "too dressy" for work. It was a little like the look that those children get - unfortunately when I pushed the boundaries I just felt self-conscious.

So why do I now have a tutu?
Anyway, this whole post is to explain the tutu (above). You see, when I thought back about that little girl I realised that I never owned anything as outlandish as a tutu, so I decided that I should. And what better way to get what I want than by making myself one, a pretty crazy one at that. I may never wear it in public, but I love the fact that I own something so outlandish (and girly). It's given me something that I can't really put into words - I have been trying to do that for you but I'm at a loss. It sits in my studio, next to my desk, and it reminds me that if I wanted to, I could wear a tutu with complete abandon as well.

The funniest thing is, I can't remember ever wanting a tutu, but somehow it has come to represent something very important for me. I think that we all have that one thing in our lives (or in our minds), that makes us feel so free and awesome. For me, it is the crazy tutu that I made - what is it for you? Do you have an item of clothing that gives you that look of pride? Or that allows you to feel totally yourself, in a slightly crazy way?

Just a little footnote to this, if I am ever game enough to wear this in public I will post up a photo - hopefully I will have "that look" :-)