Remember the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”…

I watched a good friend of mine cross the Ironman finish line after 15 hours of pain and fatigue. A friend who only 12 months ago tore his patella tendon requiring surgery. He never thought he would do it. To be honest a few of us who have trained with him also had doubts as to whether he was fit enough etc…

I feel ashamed to admit but my friend does not look like an ironman. He has a sturdy build and like me is not the svelte like Adonis we generally see on the triathlon circuit. I know I have had and still have nagging body shape issues but then I realized that not many people look good in tri suits!

The reason I feel ashamed is that I judged my friend on whether he could do this epic event by the way he looks. Something that people judge me on. I gave him no credit for his mental ability and that is what an ironman is all about. The race is won or lost in your mind. Not many people gave me a hope of completing the marathon but I never had a doubt I would complete it. Just like my friend he never doubted he wouldn’t finish the Ironman as long as his knee held up.

The elation on his face as he crossed the line, the hours in training the mental win that he did it. He managed himself through that event and he can call himself an ironman with all the accolades that should bring.

For me, a realization, that whilst I never wished him to fail, I judged the book by its cover and knowing how that feels vow never to do that again. I should have realized that of course he was fit enough, after all he put in the training hours, so if he can do it in training why couldn’t he finish. He is a man of great resolve who has completed everything he has put his mind to, from making a film to setting up an ironman type event here. He has proven beyond a doubt that he has the strongest will there is and only something catastrophic would stop him for achieving what he wants.

I’m sure he will come across this missive over the next few weeks, I hope he understands my mistake and that the transparency of our friendship means he is not offended as this is really an admission of guilt for assuming he was weaker than he is. After all he is now an Ironman of Iron will! Congrats Buddy

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You have been doing conferences all wrong – Try this!

#SHRM15

So I am currently stuck in the Las Vegas Airport – don’t you just love when they don’t tell you about a schedule change, which causes you to miss your flight! So I have a 7 hour wait plus I missed my connection so have to overnight in Miami before flying home. Trying to see the upside in every situation I thought I could bang out a couple of missives. Mainly because the people I met at this years SHRM15 conference were simply amazing and some of the best bloggers in the country.

Before I left for SHRM15 (Which is the biggest HR conference in the world) I had already made up my mind that I was going to do this one differently. For the last couple of years I have attended this event in Orlando and Chicago and its done on a simply epic scale. 20,000 people hundreds of sessions and probably over 1000 exhibitors in the convention hall. It is mind blowing. But I think many people miss what a conference is all about. They spend hours ruminating over which session to go to, who is going to be good what topic they want to learn about . They busy themselves by scheduling everything so that their days are locked in, it’s almost like being in school. I have honestly seen draft fanatics spend less time figuring out their strategy than some of the HR folks spend figuring out their session planner. But they miss the biggest fundamental reason that we go to conference for. Meeting people!

I asked a colleague who was “locked In” how many people they had met or connected with their response “I haven’t time for all that I need to learn stuff”. Now forgive my cynicism but how much are your really going to learn in an hour session that would be worth more than connecting with an expert that you could pick up the phone to later down the line?

So I mixed it up:

  • I didn’t plan one session
  • I went to the networking sessions
  • I reached out to a couple of people I was interested in meeting as they would be at the conference plus they were also speaking
  • I let people know I would be there in case they wanted to meet me.
  • I only booked one evenings entertainment (A show, it is Vegas after all)

The result:

  • So much more relaxed
  • I met up with a great speaker buddy called Tim Sackett and we hit the convention center together. He is a pro at this and knows everyone so I got introduced to plenty of people as we hit the booths. Made some great connections
  • A by product of this was I was allowed access to the bloggers lounge, guess what I met more really interesting people who were the writers behind many of the blogs I read so for me it was like meeting celebs. I connected in person with around 10 members of our blogging community who we have swapped details and a few stories. Plus they were all interested in coming to speak at my conference in Cayman.
  • All of them are experts in different levels of HR and many have held the very top jobs in our industry so I f I need to learn something, guess what I’m picking up the phone.
  • It was interesting to hear who they were going to see speak and see them speak, so my sessions revolved around who was saying something the blogging community thought was interesting rather than just blindly picking horses (you get what I mean). In turn I attended several really interesting session that gave a different insight or some big data revelation’s.
  • I was invited for drinks with a few of them so I went, lets just say its Vegas, it got messy and we ended up in a penthouse suit of the cosmopolitan at a small private party!
  • I attended the international networking event – but I participated and did the “passport game” (You have a card and you have to get people from different countries to sign it then you put it in a draw for a prize) – I met a bunch of people from all over the world and guess what – I won a prize in the draw a new Ipad which was awesome as mine had just broken. I had done this event for the last 3 years and always just talked to the group I knew. So it paid off big time.
  • I met up with a couple of people who reached out to me on twitter, they were great meetings with something coming from both of them.
  • Within just 3 days I met more people and went to some of the best sessions I have been to simply by allowing myself to be flexible and understanding that I know nothing about where is going to be the right event or session.

So in summary I will never do a conference the old way, this one was so much more fun. Made more so by they accepting nature of a few new friends that allowed me to tag along, were accepting of the introduction and happy that I was happy to meet them.

Tim, William, Laurie, Jennifer, Dawn, Jess, Matt, Career builder, Mel, Sarah, Merren, Robin, Heath and the many others – thanks

“A cure for Sunday-itis” TEDx Talk done !!!

A cure for Sunday-it is!

TEDx Talk Bucket list done!!!

This week I did something that’s been on my bucket list since I saw my first TED talk a few years ago. There had been a few ideas bubbling up but this one seemed to catch the attention of the TEDx planning committee on the application.

For those who have yet to fill in a TED application form they are a load of fun! They take some time and require some thought but they are designed to look for something different so you cant cheat them!

Below is the outline of the talk I wrote but what I presented was very different to this and in a very different style. However it did give the cure for Sunday-it is!

TED.com will release the final video but the live stream version is still live at the time of publishing this and you can see it at TEDxsevenmilebeach.com watch online. I present at 2hrs 53.

I hope you enjoy it!

“I hate my job”

I admitted that to myself on a Monday morning sometime in the middle of 2006.

I had Sunayitis – do you know what Sundayitis is?

Well I’m sure there is a medical term for it but I call it “ The absolute dread of going to work on Monday” The feeling that what I am going to do tomorrow is going to sap the life from me.

I would have this internal dialogue with myself about all the ways I could get out of going to work tomorrow. I could be sick, I could arrange a meeting that would allow me a little longer lay in. Seriously this thought process would start as early as midday on the Sunday!

But why? I had been in the same field of work for 5+ years, I had been promoted, I ran teams and as my wife said “I was good at it!”

So why was I trying to not go and do something I was good at?

Eventually this Sundayitis became so severe that I had to do something, look for a way out change my career, because it became all-consuming. The inner dialogue was turning into a full on conversation on an almost daily basis

“Your back here again, you think that guy is a jerk, you haven’t done anything about this, your not going to do anything about this…”

So I had to make it stop!

This is where everyone needs that friend, mum , wife or person who is not going to put up with you whining and simply say.

“Its your life change it”.

Now that’s easier said than done, financial burdens are ever present and I wasn’t in a situation where I could just give up a good job. I had a mortgage, student loans and a passion for food, wine and fun!

My wife repeated the phrase why do you hate something your so good at? But this time I heard her….

We often listen but don’t hear, and significant people in our lives often give us great nuggets and we can miss them and I wish I had heard her the first time she asked this because it was the catalyst for me to shut up that internal dialogue.

OK – So I hate my job – but do I really hate my job or do I hate something else and it just relates to my job?

Hate is such a strong word but if you have ever suffered sundayitis it’s the only word that seem to be able to help define that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach when you really don’t want to do something but know you have to do it.

I evaluated my job – and came to the following conclusions:

1 – I liked how I made people feel (I got them jobs!)

2- I liked helping people

3- I did make a difference

4- I needed more

Now it was point 4 that really got me excited, ok ok now I know I need more, fantastic I don’t hate my colleagues or my company I just need more….

Problem is I haven’t a clue what more meant…but I did know it had to be somewhere else. I had become so used to the bubble in which I lived that I hadn’t noticed that I had outgrown my bubble.

My bubble was defined by – my gym, my shops, my friends, my house, my environment it was all so safe, I needed an adventure.

The reason I was excited was that my “Spidey sense” was in full gear telling me this was going to happen. I just didn’t know when or how it would happen. So My wife and I started making plans, with no idea how, where or why we would do these things they were just plans, dreams, paths to follow.

We started by looking at selling our house and buying some property in Spain… we even took a trip there three times looking at property trying to figure it out.

But then the universe made something happen. I got a phone call about a job in Bermuda….. WOW …. Adventure has come knocking at my door!

SO now its serious, we have a path laid out in front of us that could lead to something amazing…. So I had to ask Kym the question do you really want to do this? The reason I asked her was that my spidey sense was screaming that this was the thing for us to do, this was the right path, I would love my job doing somewhere exciting. So I asked her…. “Are you sure about going to Bermuda because if I go for this I am going to get it…”

Her response – “Where’s Bermuda”……

Two weeks later we were on a plane to Bermuda to go look – we rented our house and moved there less than one month after that trip.

We took a chance, we followed the Bermuda path

My gut had told me change was coming because I knew I needed change, but “spidey sense” had said look out for it because its there….

All through my career I have been listening to my spidey sense I just didn’t know it. My gut would tell me if this was going to be a great client meeting or if this project wasn’t going to work. Subconsciously I had changed the projects/meetings/events so that they worked.

This became even more transparent after we left Bermuda to return home.

Kym had a great job with John Lewis in the UK I was back inside my bubble and realize that for me it was a mistake to come back to the safety net of my bubble because it hadn’t grown but I had so now it was even more constrictive. I had traveled live in a different country met amazing people had actual stories to tell. Yet I was back – reverted to type – reverted to the same work in the same area with a lot of the same people which kept on saying why did you come back? I knew it was a mistake when I couldn’t answer them. I even turned down several options including working in the Cayman islands because Kym was happy so now I would allow her to follow her dream.

Whilst we were back one of my best friends wife at 34 died within 18months of being diagnosed with Cervical Cancer. Around 2 weeks after the funeral Kym and I were sat in a pub on her 39th birthday and she said to me why are we not in the Cayman Islands? You see I had been so caught up in allowing her to follow what I thought was her dream that I never asked her if this was what she wanted. All the time her gut was telling her she was not going to turn 40 living in Birmingham. The death of a friend so young crystalized both our spidey senses and the next day I called back a man named Steve McIntosh who had asked if I would come to the Cayman Islands and inside of a week was on a plane to check it out.

That was 4 years ago.

I want to leave you with a final story that really emphasizes the importance of listening to your spidey sense

In September last year I was approached about going on a trip to Guatemala, from the moment this was mentioned that voice/feeling in my gut said yes, yup your going to do this and its going to be epic.

The trip was part of a program called the Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP) it’s a program that allows you to sponsor a child to go to school. To help break the cycle of poverty through education.

One of my friends who had done this trip before advised me to sponsor a child before I go as I would get to met them and their family when I was there and it would be an amazing experience. So for $70 a month I did.

That trip showed me what human beings can endure, how the human spirit can get through adversity, but more importantly it put my path through life on a path that affected someone else’s in a dramatic way. I returned having sponsored a second child knowing that the difference I had played in their lives was huge even though to me it was a small amount of money every month.

I had found my something more, through travel, adventure, charity and I have connected my spidey sense with real life. I’ve learnt to listen to that internal monologue and act on it.

I’m doing the same job I’ve been doing for 15+ years and I love it.

Stop using the internet to analyze every decision, use your gut instinct it will never let you down if you truly listen. Don’t miss a path lay the path as you go!