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The 7 Dangers to Confidence

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DANGER

Heartbreak. Disappointment. Stubbed toes.

Life’s perils are many, but none are as dangerous as the things you do to yourself that undermine who you are and what you can do.

These creeping, insipid and hidden patterns of behaviour are things that you might have been doing for years, without ever knowing. All you know is that you’re not where you intended to be. That your spark is dimmed. That you wanted so much more for yourself.

These then, are the 7 danger to confidence.

People pleasing

I like to please people. It’s awesome when someone looks pleased as a result of something I’ve done or is thrilled with something I’ve made happen.

Pleasing people is a good thing, unless it comes at the expense of your own sense of self.

You can try to solve someone’s problem for them, which can be a lovely and thoughtful gesture, unless it’s because you want their gratitude. You can give of your time or attention, which can be rare and remarkable, unless it’s because you want their validation. And you can diffuse a potential conflict by standing down, which can be a compassionate move on your part, unless it’s because you don’t want to attract judgement or blame.

Every time you endeavour to please someone—because that’s how you get to feel whole—you’re chip-chip-chipping away at your confidence like Woody the Soul-Sucking Woodpecker.

Perfectionism

There’s a moment that keeps happening with clients, a moment so wonderful and painful and hopeful and emotional that it gets me every single time.

It’s when we uncover how their pursuit of perfection is really just masking deep feelings of not being good enough.

Perfectionism is a way of sidelining the feeling that you’re not good enough and forestalling the fear of being found out as not good enough.

It’s a fictional narrative that says, look, as long as I keep 3 steps ahead and do every single thing right, I might just get through this. Don’t know about you, but that sounds exhausting and about as much fun as a vacation in a cold-war gulag.

But more than that, perfectionism destroys any notion that you’re already good enough.

Self-doubt

Life is, in what some people are calling the greatest understatement of our times, hard.

When faced with a fresh challenge, when a new situation demands we step up or show up, or even when a whole new day opens up ahead of us, it’s easy to doubt our ability to get through in one piece.

Self-doubt is the persistent wondering, down in the dark corners of your head or your heart, if you’ll ever be enough.

It’s the thing that drives you toward safety, because you couldn’t bear it if you tried and failed. It would be proof, yet again, that you’re not up to it. And the great part is that all the time you don’t try, your self-doubt will never win.

Only, it does win. Every single time you hold that little bit of you back it diminishes you. Inch by inch by inch.

By creeping fences, self-doubt destroys your confidence.

Second-guessing

If self-doubt is the deep wondering whether you’ll ever be enough as a person, second-guessing is the worry that your actions and decisions will never be enough.

Did you take the right job? Did you move to the right city? Are you dating the right person? It also projects forwards. How do I know which job is the right one? How do I know where I should move to? How do I know if this relationship will work out?

Once again, I’m exhausted just thinking about how it would be to live like that. Every day, undermining your decisions by wondering about whether it’s right or whether it will work out.

It’s an attachment to outcomes and results and goals over having trust in your ability to make choices and deal with whatever happens.

Fitting in

I remember at college, thinking how great it would be to be part of the crowd who had the cool parties and had all the pretty people. They seemed to be having all the fun, but fitting in with them would have meant being something I wasn’t. I was geeky and academic and a little shy, and luckily I never tried to fit in.

But that urge is a mighty one. To be part of a group. To blend in. To fit.

The urge to fit in comes from a couple of different places. First, it’s the need to be part of a social group—programming that goes deep in our brains. And second, it’s the need to be safe and not be singled out, because that’s how you get judged and maybe rejected.

Each of these urges requires that you do what other people expect. All the time you tick their boxes you’ll be blending in seamlessly. All the reward of belonging, none of the risk of rejection.

Only, it’s not real. You’re pretending. You’re not showing up as you.

And the more you do that, the more you’ll forget what showing up as you ever looked like.

Self-flagellation

I have really high standards, and when I sense that I’m falling short or missing something, I can be pretty hard on myself.

At least, I used to be. I used to gather evidence to support the belief that I’d never get to where I wanted to go, and I used to find every detail to support the fact that I wasn’t good enough.

I searched for, found, sometimes fabricated and used data to beat myself up.

But why would someone do that? Gathering ammunition for the express purpose of beating yourself up seems crazy, like trying to fight fire with actual, burny, screamy fire, right? Well, the simple reason is because it’s easier to set yourself up as not good enough than to have your hopes crushed.

You diminish yourself so nobody has the chance to do it to you.

Which, of course, is like putting your confidence in a blender and reducing it to smooshy pink stuff.

Treading water

People wait. We wait for the perfect conditions to switch jobs. We wait for the perfect partner. We wait for the perfect time to speak up. We wait for the perfect idea before we start to execute. We wait for just a little more in the savings account before we go it alone. We wait for someone else to make a great decision.

The motivation for waiting and treading water is safety, of course. And safety’s great and all, but if you want your life to be all about safety then one of the safest places on Earth is six feet under in a casket.

Treading water is only ever a useful tactic if it directly honours or demonstrates one of your personal values. Otherwise, without the nourishment that living in line with your values brings, your muscles atrophy, your bones ossify and your life shrinks down to nothing

Treading water is too often trading possibility for comfort, and that has a real and tangible cost. Make sure you know what it is before you decide that’s the route for you.

The Balm to the 7 Dangers

These 7 dangers are perilous indeed. More perilous than a blindfolded skunk in a bomb vest balancing on a cliff-edge in a strong wind with a school bus full of kids beneath.

The balm—something that heals, soothes, or mitigates pain—at first seems complex, multi-faceted and impossible to systematise. but it boils down to this:

Compassionate knowing

It’s an area I’m digging into more and more, because there’s truth here. Learning too. I think there are 3, vital elements to it.

  • non-judgemental – doesn’t make judgements of value or worth based on moment to moment experience
  • respectful – respects value, wholeness and boundaries
  • allowing – allows the full experiencing of emotion and experience

This is a deliberate practice. A radical practice. A necessary practice.

And it’s a lifelong practice.

Those 7 perils are still there, and they’re always ready to pull the rug out from under you—and that will happen—but this compassionate knowing thing really is a balm.

It doesn’t fix things or give you an easy out.

But it helps.

And couldn’t we all use a little help once in a while?

Embracing Possibility Over Fear: The Philosophy, The Strategy and The Hack

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Embracing possibility

Possibility.

noun
– the state or condition of being possible
– anything that is possible
– a competitor, candidate, etc, who has a moderately good chance of winning, being chosen, etc
– (often pl) a future prospect or potential

synonyms:
action, circumstance, hazard, hope, opportunity, fortuity, chance

antonyms:
certainty, safety, surety, plan, impossibility, unlikelihood

What’s your catalyst for action?

Is it the sense that something’s possible, even if it’s risky or scary?

That delicious sense that it just might happen.

Or do you need to get to grips with it first? To figure it out. Think it through. Make a plan. Get it right.

If you’re in the latter camp, stick around—I’m going to show you a hack, a strategy and a philosophy for embracing possibility. If you’re in the former group, you’ve probably already gone and started a new project, are off to your co-working space or are diving out of a plane, in which case you won’t be reading this so I can really just say anything… Tiny horses will inherit the earth. That guy next to you is an imposter. You shoes are made of cheese and magic.

So, now that it’s just us, I know how tough possibility can be.

I really do. I’ve grappled in that space between what’s known and what isn’t, and I’ve erred on the side of caution more times than I like.

You might think that’s an odd thing for a confidence coach to admit, and maybe it is. But I’m human, just like the next guy, and it’s through the decisions I’ve made as much as the behaviour I’ve observed in others that’s allowed me to dig into the murky depths between safety and possibility.

There’s a books worth of content on this (agents, feel free to hit me up!), but in the interests of brevity here’s a philosophy, a strategy and a hack for you to start embracing possibility, more.

The Philosophy

The known and unknown are always there, right through the centre of your life, like a tightrope. On one side, it’s safe and warm with lots of soft padding should you fall, and on the other, it’s dangerous and scary and full of sharp edges that will make you bleed.

No wonder we prefer to stay safe, when we see things that way.

But you and I both know what happens when that’s the only way you see things.

You get small. Life becomes all about what’s comfortable and what can be predicted. Your spark goes out.

That’s not how I want to live my days; as a small man in a tiny life.

I don’t want that to be my story. I don’t want that to be my example. I don’t want that to be my legacy.

I’m still figuring out what the alternative is, but I know sure as all hell that there is an alternative.

Balancing on that tightrope doesn’t always equal a choice between falling into marshmallows or plummeting into knives. In fact, seeing it as a tightrope doesn’t help at all because it creates a tension. A tension between the two sides and a tension in the rope that you’re hoping will support you.

So what if there wasn’t a tightrope? What if there were no “sides”. No fluffy pillows and no jagged rocks.

What would be left, then?

Just you. No expectations about this or that. Just the ground underneath your feet and the sense that you’re not constrained by a straight line or motivated by the tension in the rope.

You get to carve out your own path and your own story, independent from any fears about what might go wrong or how you might screw up.

This is the philosophy of personal possibility. Worth exploring, no?

The Strategy

You want a strategy—a thing you can employ as a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result—to embrace more possibility, more frequently? You got it.

Step 1: Notice
It all starts with noticing. A gentle, non-judgemental noticing of what happens in your head when faced with possibility.

There’s a bucket load of fear about fucking up. A sense of not wanting things to change (even though you might think you want things to change). The feeling that you’ll discover you’re not good enough, after all.

Just see it. Feel it. Welcome those sensations in like old friends, which, in a way, they are.

You can’t make any smart move without first of all noticing where you are.

Step 2: Open
Then, get curious. Ask questions that will increase your learning and awareness. Questions like:

  • What else is there to learn about this situation?
  • What is it I’m feeling here?
  • What is there in the way I’m feeling that I might be able to learn from?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What story am I making up here?

Go digging. Dig into what’s really happening and do so in a spirit of curiosity and exploration. There are no judgements to be made here, just insights.

Step 3: Values
Now’s the time to bring out the big guns. Your values.

These are the things in yourself, in others, or out there in the world that matter most to you, and any decision you make that’s underpinned by them will be the perfect decision for you.

Your values are hardwired into you. They’re ten-thousand feet inside you and tell you what really matters. They’re the foundations, building blocks and cornerstones for who you are.

Dig into the moments in your life when you felt most alive, most at peace, most in flow, and those will be the moments when you were honouring, expressing or demonstrating one or more of your values.

Figure out what your values are (and just holler if you need a hand doing that), and they become like a star in the sky letting you know which way is north. These values of yours aren’t just an abstract concept, they’re things you can apply right at the point of change to make a decision that honours everything you already are.

Step 4: Action
No amount of enquiry or clarity is worthwhile unless it fuels meaningful action.

Taking action is the scary bit, of course, but if you’ve followed the 3 preceding steps then 3 things will have happened:

  1. You’ll no longer be invested in the fear-laden story you’ve been telling yourself
  2. You’ll have fresh perspective on how you may have been holding yourself back
  3. You’ll have a deep impetus to engage and connect in ways that matter to you

Here, in this place, action flows. You may need to take a deep breath and find a burst of courage, but the choice to act has already been made and the permission needed to move forward has already been granted. Now you just need to follow through.

It just so happens that this strategy spells out NOVA – a star that suddenly becomes thousands of times brighter.

The Hack

When it feels like you have to get it right, to nail it, to try for something and still be safe, embracing possibility is tough, if not impossible, right?

Fortunately, there’s a hack that cuts right through that like a blowtorch through butter, and it’s all to do with running experiments.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to invest your whole future or your bodily safety in your next decision. You can run an experiment for a week, 2 weeks or a month and see what happens, then change course as appropriate.

  • If you’re thinking about changing career, run an experiment to see who you can connect with or what conversations you can have inside the next 2 weeks around that.
  • If you’re frustrated with how your relationship is going, run an experiment for 1 week to practice deliberately responding to your partner with compassion and generosity.
  • If you want to start up your own business, run an experiment to offer your product or service to as many people as possible in 1 week and learn from what happens.
  • If you want to relocate or move overseas, sublet your place out and run an experiment for 3 months to see how you like it, then figure the rest out from there.
  • Or if you want to open more possibilities in terms of passion projects, run an experiment for a month where you try 4 different things (volunteering, taking a class, going to a local meetup, etc).

Experiments take off the pressure. You get to learn from an experiment, rather than judging an outcome. You get to challenge a premise or idea from a place of curiosity rather than defensiveness. And you get to change one or two variables to see what happens rather than feeling like the die is cast.

Running an experiment is a hack that short-circuits the normal fight or flight response, bringing out natural confidence and opening possibility up rather than closing it down.

And that’s what embracing possibility is about. Being open to it rather than closed to it.

Because a life without possibility is like an egg without salt, the sky without blue or Bert without Ernie. Bland, dark and lonely.

So, how will you embrace possibility?

Why Everyone Wants You to Fuck Up

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Why Everyone Wants You to Fuck Up

Ever been so excited about an idea that you couldn’t keep it in any longer and told your friend who was all a bit “meh” about the whole thing?

Ever had an opportunity come along that might bounce you up to the next level or beyond and you sit down with your other half and talk about how amazing it might be and watch as they scrunch up their face and tell you all the ways it might not work?

Or have you ever worked and worked and worked only for your family to take you down a peg or two just as you start seeing how all that work will pay off?

Sometimes, people are schmucks.

Particularly when it comes to your success.

See, people don’t want you to succeed because they’re afraid.

They’re afraid that it will change how things are, even if how things are is shitty.

They’re afraid that it will change you, even if you’ll change for the better.

And they’re afraid that if you succeed, it means they’re not good enough.

Your failure is easy for people to get behind

Seeing you fuck up provides reassurance that things can continue on an even-keel, risk-free. Phew. Pressure’s off.

Seeing you fuck up offers relief that you won’t grow beyond the confines of the relationship or circumstances. Thank God. We can keep on being us.

And seeing you fuck up means they don’t have to ask themselves difficult questions or try to better themselves.

Your fuck up is their blessed relief, validating how risky it is out there and how much better they are staying safe in the confines of their old choices.

It gives them evidence that supports their choices not to take action, not to go for it, not to try, and it shrouds their insecurity and fear in a warm blanket of comfort and the feeling that they’re the smart one.

But sometimes, sometimes, there are people who see things differently.

These are the people who will cheer you on when you had no clue what you were doing warranted a cheer.

These are the people who will tell you how wonderful it is to see what you’re building and how proud they are to know you.

These are the people who will offer their time, spirit, focus and experience for no other reason than they believe in you.

These people are fucking awesome, and while I definitely don’t have it nailed and occasionally catch myself sneering in the face of someones’ success, I’m trying my best to be like that.

So don’t be an ass-hat who wants people to fuck up just because you don’t have the cajones to peer into your own insecurity and lack of self-confidence.

Be the other kind of person.

Be the one who believes.

What it Takes to Beat the Fear of Success

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What it Takes to Beat the Fear of Success
I was 12 years old when Mr Saatchi (yeah, of the mega-rich Saatchi’s) asked for my help. I was a geek at the time (some things never change), having got my first computer a year earlier and getting into trouble for hacking the school network, and my Dad was doing some work for him.

I guess they got to talking about their kids, and the next thing you know Dad comes home and tells me that Mr Saatchi wants me to teach his son all about computers. He’d pay me and send a car to ferry me to and fro, how about it?

Opportunities like that rarely come up for your average 12 year old kid. So I said no.

I regret that now, of course I do, but at the time it felt like a lot of pressure. It felt like my attempt to teach Mr Saatchi’s son would be scrutinised, and while I was sure I could teach his son a couple of things I also knew I’d need to put effort into figuring out some kind of program or structure or we’d just end up playing video games. I had no idea how long I’d be expected to teach, and the safety of my normal routine pulled at me hard. I didn’t want to miss my cartoon shows. And then if I really nailed it, I was scared of being sucked into an orbit that wasn’t my own, where Mr Saatchi called the shots.

I was scared of what doing it—and what succeeding at it—would mean, and it was the first time I experienced the fear of success.

It’s safe to say I’ve experienced it many times since then, and I’m willing to bet it’s not unfamiliar to you either.

It’s one of those unspoken, insipid fears that drives you towards being small and saying no, when a little bit of courage or faith just might change your trajectory for the better. Which, of course, is exactly what’s so damn scary about it.

There are 3 places that the fear of success come from…

Fear that you’ll lose what you have right now

You might have a steady job, a comfortable lifestyle, a great partner or a rich social life. Perhaps you’ve got an awesome balance between work and life. Or maybe you finally have a bit of security; something solid and known under your feet.

So it seems logical that any shift towards greater success will take you away from what you have today.

Say yes, and everything you’ve worked so far for might crumble away.

Fear of unsustainability

Let’s say you get there. You succeed. You’ve nailed it.

Congratulations.

Now all you have to do, is keep it going.

The thought that you can fleetingly get where you want to go, only to watch it all slip away or watch it get taken away from you, is enough to create a stomach-plunging anxiety. It’s like wanting to run for President but then becoming terrified that you’ll screw it up, get impeached or lose your second term by a landslide. Or like seeing your business take off and then saying yes to everything because you don’t want it to go as quickly as it came.

The pressure of expectation is huge.

Fear of being found out

You did it! Awesome. Good for you.

Now, better hold your breath because it’s just a matter of time before everyone discovers what a fluke it was and how much of an imposter you really are.

How embarrassing would it be to get called out or found out? What if your new peers see who you really are?

The fear of being found out is the fear that you were never really good enough to have success in the first place.

What might be…

You might have noticed what these 3 fears have in common, how they’re all based on assumptions and stories about what might happen.

Other things that might happen in the future include:

  • the discovery of Atlantis and a whole new race of fish-people just off the coast of Wales
  • Jimmy Fallon cage fighting Putin for his freedom after being kidnapped by the FSB
  • God appearing drunk, live on Ellen, and telling the world he might swap around our arms and legs for shits and giggles
  • the Internet becoming sentient and taking a sabbatical in Thailand to get away from the crowds, then dropping out and starting a folk duo with Joaquin Phoenix.

Many, many things could happen, but have you stopped eating fish and booked your personal submarine tour of the Irish Sea yet? Have you put any money down on Fallon vs Putin? Are you recording every episode of Ellen just so you don’t miss the moment when everyone starts walking and eating upside-down? Or have you dug out that fax machine because it’s only a matter of time before the Internet packs its bag and fucks off?

No. You haven’t (at least, I hope you haven’t). And nor should you base your decisions and consequent behaviour on your assumptions about the potential impact of a success event.

Any moment of change, whether that change is one you label success, failure or whatever else, means a shift between what was and what is. Change always involves loss.

Confidence at the point of change

Which is why confidence is nothing unless it’s applied right at the point of change.

Trust. Faith. A deep breath. A gentle smile. A graceful welcoming.

These are the things that help you to acknowledge that you are not “no good”. You are not “not good enough”. You are not “not up to it”. You are not “not worthy of success, or love, or belonging”.

Beating the fear of success is just choosing where to put your trust. Do you trust the stories you make up about what might happen, or do you trust your ability to approach a moment in time in as someone’s who’s already whole and has nothing to prove?

What would it take for you to take trust in the latter?

Is Taking Offence the New Black?

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241/365

Cecil the lion. And that Dentist.

Starbucks cups getting de-Christmas’d

The Stanford rapist outcry.

Poor ol’ Harembe the gorilla.

And then, of course, you have all the cooties. And you suck. And smell. Of poop.

That’s right. You heard me.

What’s that? You take offence?

Well, yeah, that’s kinda understandable. I was just prodding you for a reaction.

Taking offence is a new currency of communication; increasingly powered by the Internet and bandwagoned by people to show just how damn engaged and outraged they are.

Something in a magazine, or in a movie creates a meme of outrage on social media. Something a friend or family member said starts a fight or a bubbling resentment. Something you saw on the news, or an outrageous story you read about online results in a public apology that doesn’t put a dent in the outrage.

People seem to be becoming more polarised in their views of what’s “good” and “bad”, and are less shy about keeping that to themselves. It typically consists of train of thought that goes something like this:

I just heard a thing. That thing I heard doesn’t fit with what I think. That thing I heard is wrong. How can someone else believe that? How can someone else think that it’s okay? That’s all kinds of wrong. I’m offended by the thought of it. I should let everyone know.

Offence, powered by the Internet

The world we live in celebrates and elevates the individual. Build a personal brand, they tell us. Don’t let them get you down. Follow your passion. Don’t compromise your values. Plant your feet and don’t back down.

In a time when the individual is Queen (or King), the altar of self, that towering edifice people build in honor of who they are, is the very thing that makes people become self-righteous pricks who think that other people shouldn’t offend them.

You know, you do have the right to take offence at something. And there’s a lot of stuff out there to take a view on and perhaps get offended by. With so much content out there, it’s easier than ever to be offended.

You even have the right to think that you’re right and the other guy’s wrong (which, incidentally, doesn’t mean that you are right).

But you don’t have the right not to be offended by something, and there’s a huge difference between genuinely taking offence and being outraged that someone had the gall to offend you.

Using your outrage at being offended as a vehicle to steamroller your point of view is pious narcissism.

The Great Illusion

And then sometimes, taking offence is a response to the lack of control you feel.

It’s a way of controlling the uncontrollable, even if it means deriding, besmirching or repudiating it.

It’s a way of maintaining the illusion of control and feeling more confident as a result.

But confidence founded from control isn’t really confidence. It’s wrapping yourself in a blanket of certainty and being swaddled in the notion that you’re right, when you know ten-thousand feet down that you’re just about managing to hang on.

Taking offence can fuel both self-righteousness on the surface and self-doubt underneath.

The next time you feel yourself taking offence at something, pause.

Instead of slipping right into that opposing view, get mucky in the uncomfortable and murky greyness that sits between the “bad thing” and your reaction to it.

Look at what it says about you and whether it brings out the best or worst in you.

Reside in a some backbone or dauntlessness rather than permanent offence.

Consider how things might change if you brought something like compassion or empathy to the table.

And never, ever resort to piety over enquiry.

How The Need to Be Right Will Royally Fuck You Up

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European Flag

My eyes flicked open on June 24th, just after 6am, the alarm not really an alarm at all, but a shuffled playlist of 200 of my favourite songs. What can I say, I prefer to ease into the day with a song that makes me smile rather than a blaring klaxon of doom.

I reached across and grabbed my phone, knowing that the result would be in. One swipe was all it took to see the headline that had been pushed onto my phone – “The UK has voted to leave the EU”.

I was a “Remainer”, with the firm belief that we’re better off forging a bright future as part of something that’s bigger than just us, and things didn’t go my way.

So the Brexit vote is a decision I’m having a hard time with, to be honest.

I don’t get it…

I don’t get the jingoistic rhetoric or the denial of the turmoil that’s already happening. I certainly don’t get the increasingly bitter split, right down the middle of the UK.

All over Twitter and Facebook, on the news and on debate shows, and even in the pub between friends, I’ve seen increasingly vitriolic comments and jabs that are increasingly divisive.

I’ve seen smart people saying dumb things, and it’s all just…increasing. (I even thought about linking directly to some of these posts, but that just made me feel all dirty inside).

Yes, I’m going to be a bit angry and confused for a while, and I may continue to throw around words like jingoism or even hypocrisy.

But while I disagree strongly with the outcome and how it came to be, that doesn’t mean I’m right anymore than eating a steak makes me a cow.

Everyone’s so damn interested in proving how right they are or how wrong the other guy is. It’s being right at all costs, even if that comes down to playground name calling or public shaming.

The flip-side of wanting to be right is, of course, not wanting to be wrong, and not wanting to be seen to be wrong.

Being right is a pursuit that robs you of your senses and good judgement. It subverts and it derails. It distracts and it damages.

Ass-hats and angry bears…

As well as turning you into a total ass-hat, the pursuit of being right will fuck you over like an angry bear, tearing chunks out of you as you cling onto being right as a means to being whole.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong when it comes to the EU. I honestly don’t care either way.

I’m just trying to find ways to make sense of it that allows me to move forwards in ways that bring out my best, not my worst.

Acceptance and pragmatism over judgement and bitterness.

I’m not there yet, but I know it’s a process.

And this is the nub of it.

Letting go of the need to be right is an active, ongoing choice. It takes work and it requires uncertainty, which is why it’s easier not to bother.

But in the face of uncertainty, I would much rather proceed with grace and a gentle confidence rather than posturing and blame.

That’s gotta be a better way.

Am I right?

How to Confidently Say No Without Being An Asshole

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It's a No!

Can you just do me a quick favour?

I need you to drop what you’re doing, run down to the end of the road, flag down a car, take a ride to the mall and get hold of some floral print wallpaper, a pair of chinos and a Lego Princess Castle. Can I get that stuff in the next hour, cool?

What do you mean, no?

Okay, so that’s a bit of a silly example, but what if you were asked to stay late at work through this week? What if a friend asked you for a loan? What if your partner asked you to get matching tattoo’s? What if someone at work asked you to help them out in covering up a screw-up? And what if someone you weren’t in love with asked you to marry them?

Saying “No” is one of those things that make us feel horrible. Like we’re doing wrong by someone. That we’re letting someone down. Or that it makes us an asshole for not saying Yes, because helping people out or grabbing opportunities is what we’re lead to believe is the “right” thing to do.

But the balance between the things you say Yes to and the things you say No to is one that can spin your life into a confidence-free realm of people-pleasing and validation.

Your confidence can vanish in the face of a conflict or a difference of opinion, so here’s how to say no without being an asshole.

1. Know that it’s your right

The meme that grabbing life with both hands means saying Yes to everything you can is wrong like penguin pie and panda pudding at a Greenpeace picnic.

So check out what your beliefs are around this. Do you believe that saying No is unhelpful or inherently negative? Do you believe that saying No to someone is letting them down? Do you believe that saying Yes is what successful people do, or that saying Yes more often is a desirable trait?

Saying No is your right. And it’s a right you can employ when:

  • offering the resources asked for will cause you or someone else harm or damage
  • saying Yes will fly in the face of what matters to you (i.e. one of your personal values)
  • you simply cannot afford, on a physical, emotional or spiritual level, to say Yes

Exercising that right doesn’t make you mean, it doesn’t make you selfish and it doesn’t make you an asshole. It makes you assured and confident in knowing your self.

2. Make it less dramatic

It’s easy to see the act of saying no as something that’s inherently conflictive, that it sets up a situation where one of you is right and one of you is wrong. And sure, sometimes it might lead to a difference of opinion or even a polarization.

But it doesn’t need to be a drama or a screaming catfight. It can be “I’m really sorry, I can’t this time” rather than “No, fuck the fuck off“.

Look at what’s in your head around creating or avoiding conflict (after all, unless you’re Blofeld or Trump nobody really likes entering into conflict) and see how you might be conflating that with saying no.

Replace the thought that wants you to avoid conflict with one that says, “It’s okay if I say no to this”, and remove the drama from the act of saying no by recognising that you’re not rejecting the person asking, but simply saying no to what they’re asking of you in that moment, and for good reason.

3. You Don’t Have to Wound

I’ve said no in my work, in friendships, in relationships and in the bedroom. And through the act of saying no I’ve learned how easy it is to mess it up.

I’ve hurt someone by rejecting them or their idea rather than saying, “You know, that’s really not for me.” I’ve offended someone by attacking the fact they asked in the first place rather than saying , “I love that you asked me but I can’t right now.” And I’ve wounded someone by unwittingly making it personal instead of saying, “I won’t be able to do that, but how about we do this instead?”

Sometimes you avoid saying no because you don’t want to hurt, offend or wound, right? But you don’t have to make it personal and you can say no with compassion and empathy.

Compassion and empathy don’t require that you understand the reasons why they’re asking, only that you appreciate that they’re doing their best with what they’ve got.

So what if you took it as a compliment that you’re being asked? What if you could express gratitude for the fact that they reached out and asked you for something? What if there was another way—perhaps even a better way—you could help or add value?

Come from a place of love, compassion or empathy and you never have to hurt, offend or wound.

But, above all….

Clarity counts.

If you employ these strategies and the result is a jumbled forest of grey trees with a good point lost somewhere inside, then you’re doing both of you a disservice.

You can stand firm and be clear where you need to be, and indeed, often that’s exactly what’s called for.

Think, “Sorry, I can’t do that” rather than “Well, maybe when I have a bit more time or when the days get longer or when there’s a full moon or when my cat learns the merengue.”

Saying no doesn’t make you an asshole. It makes you a person who trusts they can make a good decision.

It makes you confident.

5 Ways to Be More Confident than Trump

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Donald Trump sure looks to be confident, right?

Here’s a little something I put together that goes through five ways I think Mr Trump mistakes bluff, bluster, arrogance and real, natural confidence.

What do you think?

How do you see the difference between Trump-confidence and real confidence?

Success Can Go Shove Itself Up Its Own Ass

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I do / don’t want be successful.

Part of me is scared of it because, shit, how do I keep it going? What happens with that extra pressure? And what if it all crumbles around me and all I’m left with is a broken heart and a reclamation notice for my shiny new speedboat?

And then part of me wants it because, shit, what’s the alternative? To not be successful? To keep trying for something that never happens, to always be close but never getting the cigar?

Success.

Geez.

You’re a complex Mistress.

Hustling is still, somehow a badge of honour. When I go into digital agencies I routinely see people staying late into the evenings, working weekends and giving everything they have to their work. Why? Because that’s what they’re supposed to do, right? It’s sure as hell what everyone around them seems to be doing, so it’s gotta be normal. Right?

But there’s a thin line between “normal” and “expected”.

Normal is what you assume is expected of you, and is what you think you need to do to fit in.

And when it comes to the notion of success, normal doesn’t even exist, despite the tropes and tomes dedicated to its name.

We’ve been worshipping at the altar of a false God, one who, so we were told, would reward us with riches if only we work, work, work ’til we bleed.

But that God isn’t a benevolent philanthropist.

He’s a dick.

He’ll have you dancing to his tune even if you hate the song.

He’ll have you running around in circles for no better reason than he suggested that you’ll be left behind if you don’t.

And he’ll have you chasing the next shiny thing, because that’s where it might all just come together.

I’ve said it before many times, so I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a broken record. Actually, screw that. I’m not sorry. I’ll keep banging on about this ’til they lock me up in iconoclast jail.

Success is not what you need to pursue.

Why not?

Because when you pursue success solely, you’re making it easy to compare yourself to others and beat yourself up for not being further ahead. You’re creating rich soil for weeds like status, validation and recognition to take over. And you’re laying the groundwork for never feeling like you’re good enough to get where you want to get.

Meaning, is where it’s at.

It’s where it’s always been at.

Something that means something to you. Something that rings true. Something that resonates.

All you have to do is go after something that matters to you.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, life-changing or world-changing.

Maybe it’s being the best boss you can be, because it matters to you that your team enjoy their work and do get to do great work. Maybe you want to be the best damn parent you can be, because the world needs good people. Maybe it’s being the best friend you can be, because you value the connection that comes from true friendship.

Expressing love, embarking on a creative project, moving through grief, nourishing yourself, lending an ear, contributing to a community, helping people in pain, clearing the way for a team and bajillion other things.

Some of what matters to you will flux and evolve, and there will be other things that won’t change–a shining, crystalline core of what has always mattered to you. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter the order in which you engage. It doesn’t matter the pace or scale of that engagement. And it doesn’t matter if you find something that matters more as you travel.

The only thing that matters is making the choice to engage in something that means something to you, whatever it happens to be today.

Do that, and success is irrelevant. Or maybe, success is already embedded in that engagement, because to not do what matters is, for me, the definition of waste.

So please, help me spread the word.

Success can go shove itself up its own ass.

3 Ways to Stay Confident After Graduation

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When you graduate, taking your first steps out of College or University into the big, bad world is, how to put it…

…a little bit fucked up.

The structure and support of your education and peers is no longer there to lean on. You might have just moved back home, bringing a whole new set of pressures and expectations. Then there’s the challenge of finding a damn job, maybe even something related to what you studied. It feels very much like you have to start being responsible, with few of the tools and little of the means to do so.

In the post-graduation transition, it’s easy to feel lost and confused, not knowing which way you should go while feeling like you have to get it right or you’ll fuck it all up.

Your confidence can disappear like a fart in a fan factory.

So here’s how to remain confident and trust yourself, even in the middle of all the uncertainty and change that this brave new world brings.

Stop feeling like you should have all the answers

After all that time in education and having now graduated, it feels like now’s the time when you can start reaping the rewards, and the pressure to make all the right decisions and start nailing it is palpable.

But as you try to equip yourself with all the right answers, so come more questions.

Which company culture will be the better fit for you? Which direction offers the best opportunities for growth? How can you leave your mark most effectively and most rapidly? Should you relocate or maybe take a year out? Which way is the right way?

This is about your relationship with uncertainty, and the felt need you have to counter it with answers. Truth is, uncertainty is the way things are, and trying to fight is like trying to fight an angry bear with a wet fish. It’ll just leave you exhausted, scared and broken.

There’s no such thing as “having all the answers” and nobody knows what they’re doing all the time, despite how much they might pretend that they do.

So relax a little. Understand that uncertainty is natural, and when the urge to have the right answer bubbles up, know that doing your best is plenty good enough as a response. That’s all you can do, and it’s always enough.

Prioritise play over success

Expectation demands that you’re successful. Often, as quickly as possible.

It’s an expectation that can make you look at the surest way of achieving success, which may well mean getting a job—any job—so you can start earning the dollars.

Employment is a good thing, and earning money can be even better. Cash gets you stuff, like your own place, or travel, or big nights out. A lifestyle.

But success is a trap, peddled to you by people who don’t give a shit about whether you really succeed or not.

Extrinsic success is easy, cheap even. It means nothing, and it’s where many, many, many people find themselves some years down the line, feeling lost and with all self-confidence eroded.

So please don’t go pursuing success. Just look for where the energy is, look at what seems to be tugging at you, and look at what might be a whole heap of fun.

You don’t have to figure out what it might lead to and you don’t have to sweat whether it’s “sensible” (that’s looking for the answers again, right?), because simply engaging with something that connects, lands or resonates with you can open whole worlds to you that you never even thought of before.

Bottom line: meaningful success won’t happen all the time you’re chasing an extrinsic notion of success.

So it’s through play—through engaging with the things that make you feel joy or connected or in flow—that you find meaning, make connections and experience more success than fitting in with expectations will ever give you.

Stop comparing

Through your education, chances are you’ve had your performance compared with that of your peers. You probably do some of that yourself too. You see someone who seemed to ace every test and wonder how they do it so effortlessly. You see someone who’s pulling ahead and wonder what they’re doing differently. And you see someone who got landed an amazing job and wonder what they have that you don’t.

The system is designed for comparison, but it’s not just the fault of the system.

A 2002 study into primates showed that status equals survival, with monkeys who were higher in the pecking order having lower baseline cortisol levels (the stress hormone), living longer and being healthier. While (sometimes) not as hairy, us human beings aren’t so different. Your brain is hard-wired not only to figure out where you sit in the pecking order against others, but to reinforce your position in that pecking order.

To figure out who’s higher and lower in status your brain uses similar neuronal circuits as it does when processing numbers, giving people with a higher perceived status a higher “score”.

But today, every time you compare yourself to someone else, you threaten to:

a. undermine your self and your efficacy, or
b. inflate your ego and become an ass-hat

While some people will become arrogant ass-hats, more often than not the act of comparison just gives you ammo to beat yourself up with.

Comparison short-circuits you toward shame.

Stopping that cycle starts with understanding that the act of comparison compromises your ability to approach a decision or a moment as a whole human being. It starts by practising the noticing of comparison (“oh hey, what do you know, I’m comparing myself again”), a practice that creates the opportunity to do something different.

Comparison is irrelevant. The only thing that’s relevant is your ability to approach a decision or a moment knowing that you’re already whole and enough. That knowledge and that feeling doesn’t need anyone else to
function.

It just needs your trust.

Let me know in the comments what your world is looking like after graduation, and how confidence and fear are showing up in that.

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