2 Building skills to implement the vision

Not only has the previous chapter produced a vision, but it should also have increased your self-awareness. No longer are you judging yourself by external values, but by what you truly want and believe in. You now have your understanding of your skills rather than some other person’s evaluation based on academic qualifications and your performance against the skill set that they require. You also know what values you need to satisfy in order to be content with your work and home life rather than accepting the values of your peers.

What you now need is the confidence to implement the vision. Some people would argue that once you know what you want then you should simply go for it. They will come out with trite comments such as ‘life is not a rehearsal’! But, as we have already seen, going it alone requires the confidence to go against years of external conditioning. Even simple steps such as telling your friends you are not going to the bar every Friday night anymore can be daunting. So let’s look at ways of building confidence.

Firstly, it is important not to think of self-confidence as perfection. We all make mistakes and the person that didn’t ever make a mistake probably didn’t make anything. But you will have done a lot of things right in your life and they are things of which you should be proud. So start by making a list of all of your successes. Keep it handy, remind yourself regularly and add to it whenever you can.

Learn to speak up at work or in leisure activities. Set yourself the objective of speaking at least once in a staff meeting or in a group discussion with friends. Try and prepare for it. So if you know that your friends are likely to ask what you should all do, think of something and be prepared to voice it rather than go along with what others say. Be prepared to support your suggestion with a reasoned argument.

A person that lacks confidence often finds fault with himself or herself. For example, they don’t like their hair, they don’t think they are as funny as other people or they don’t think they are as good at their job as the next person. As well as accentuating the successes it is often necessary to confront the negatives. Too many people use negatives as an excuse for inaction.

Ask yourself why you feel this way and ask yourself what evidence you have for feeling that way. Often the negative is formed because of accepted norms from sources such as media or from putdowns from within your social peers. Just think how many people think they are fat because of the increase in size zero models in magazines and on television.

Ask yourself how any of these things can stop you achieving your vision. Will bad hair really stop you achieving your vision or are you looking for an excuse? If it really will damage your vision then get a good hairdresser, otherwise let it go and follow the vision. The same is true for all of the other negatives.

Another thing that will help to eliminate the negatives is a clearer understanding of failure and failing. Too many people see themselves as failure rather than recognizing that failure is an event not a person. Unfortunately the Western World has developed a belief that success is everything and everything has to produce a success.

In reality, most successes came from a succession of failures from which information was gleaned and future attempts were defined. As Edison once said, he didn’t fail ten thousand times when inventing the light bulb; he just found ten thousand ways that didn’t work. Had he lived in today’s world he would probably have given up and we would all still be using candles!

So this means that we have to re-programme the way we look at negatives and failure. We have to recognise that there will always be negatives and there will always be failures. The important thing is how to turn negatives into positives and how to learn from failures.

Sarah Blakely attributes much of her success to her father who would ensure every Friday was a family dinner night. At the dinner, she and her brother would be asked what they had failed at and what they had learned from it. This removed her fear of failure to the point that when she started her business she was prepared to do things that others said were not the way things should be done.

Self-confidence is about being positive about you; it is about not being afraid to try and it is about being able to learn from failure if it happens rather than retreating to the corner and adopting the foetal position.

Another aspect of lacking in self-confidence is the unwillingness to take compliments. Too often people lacking confidence will brush off compliments or make self-depreciating jokes to cover their embarrassment. Next time you receive a compliment, thank the person and accept it gracefully.

I personally have never been a great advocate of confidence building exercises that involve activities with groups such as standing in a circle and trusting the group to catch you as you fall backwards. Neither do I favour being asked to accomplish some difficult physical task up the side of a mountain where all of the team must trust each other in order to succeed.

However, I did find a solitary activity some years back that certainly did boost my self-confidence immensely. I had been going through a bad time and was not feeling very happy with myself. In fact I was subconsciously blaming myself for most of my problems and deciding that I deserved all of the badness.

Then suddenly, one night as I led in bed I decided not to evaluate my entire past life as this was too big a task. In any case there was nothing I could do to change it. Instead I decided to simply evaluate that day. I asked myself what had happened; how hard I had worked, had I been lazy, how did I treat others etc. At the end of the evaluation I decided that for that day I quite liked me!

For the next few weeks I continued the evaluation and the results came out the same pretty well every night. Occasionally I may feel that I had not been very nice to someone and this caused me to plan to improve that particular thing. Sometimes I may have felt that I had not been as thorough at work as I should have been and I planned to improve that.

But the primary effect of the exercise was that I stopped feeling negative about myself and realised that, like most people, I wasn’t very bad and that I quite liked me. It also gave me daily feedback on where I had slipped below my desired standard (not failure) and it gave me a chance to learn from it and improve.

So I would recommend this as an exercise in increasing your self-confidence. It is something that takes a couple of minutes every night and it has the added benefit of increasing the likelihood of a good night’s sleep!

I am also a strong believer in the power of positive thinking. Someone once said that if you believed that you would succeed you were probably right and that if you believed you would fail you were probably also right!

A perfect example of this came when I was working on this book whilst consulting in central Turkey. In this town there was always heavy traffic and people spent hours driving around looking for a space to park. The person I was with related that whenever he went into the centre of town he always found a parking space near to where he wanted to go. It happened so regularly that he began to wonder if he was psychic or living in a parallel universe.

One day he suggested to his friend that they go into town. His friend pointed out that there would not be anywhere to park but my friend stated that there would be a place. They went into town and my friend was right; there was a space right outside where they wanted to go. This happened several times and the friend was amazed.

One day the other person decided to drive even though they still believed that there would not be a space for them. Sure enough, as they drove around the person could not find a space. My friend looked at what was happening and realised that there where spaces but that the other person was not seeing them. My friend also realised that he was not living in a parallel universe!

What was happening was that when my friend drove around he expected to find a space and hence he saw the spaces. The other person expected not to find an empty space and hence was looking at the rows of full spaces rather than the empty ones. In other words, they were both looking to fulfill their expectations whether positive or negative.

Another aspect of training the entrepreneurial mindset relates to risk and failure. I came across a quote recently that said that ‘A ship in port is safe…but that is not what ships were designed for’! How often do we fail to try because it is safer not to try? More importantly, how often do we inhibit our children by not letting them try for fear that they may not succeed?

The Western business culture has created a society that is totally risk averse and where people feel the need to win much more strongly than the need to learn from attempting. Too many people brag about their children’s achievements as if they were their own achievements whilst trying to hide the times when the child does not succeed.

Even worse, parents increasingly attempt to remove children from situations where they may not succeed and create an environment where ‘don’t do that’ has replaced ‘lets give it a go’! Children are discouraged from exploring through physical play activities such that activities I remember like climbing trees and playing cricket in the yard are disappearing entirely from Western culture!

This refusal to try for fear of failure has also helped to create the convenience society; or perhaps the convenience society has helped to create the risk adverse society! Either way, we have come from a world where culinary experimentation has been replaced by fast food that is the same anywhere in the world!

Gone are the days of the brave explorers and early holiday makers who would bravely travel to other countries where they would go off and explore the surrounding sights and would eat local food whilst staying in a local hostel. Now people play safe with mass holiday resorts that are all-inclusive with little local food and where trips are sanitised and delivered by professional tour companies.

I recently discussed a possible trip with a local tour representative where I live, as it was a wonderful combination of quality culture in the most impressive archeological setting at an exceptionally reasonable price. The tour representative agreed with me but pointed out that they could not engage in the trip as it had not been ‘health and safety reviewed’! The particular site has been used for events for some 2000 years and I bet the Romans didn’t have the place health and safety checked.

We also see fear of failure and lack of risk taking in the workplaces of the Western world. People are getting to work earlier and earlier so as not to be seen as the last one in the office. Then they stay later and later so that they are not the first to leave. Even then they refuse to relax and continue to work on laptops, tablets and smart phones all of the way home.

Does anyone stop and think how much cleverer they would appear if they were to arrive at the normal time and finish on time with all of their work done and without the need to work on the way home? How much more impressive it is that you can accomplish the same as your colleagues in so much less time.

There are also other clear benefits to this approach. Suddenly you get home in time to see your children while they are still awake. You are fresher and much more willing to engage in real play rather than abdicating your parenting responsibilities to bulk training by schools and child-minders. You could go back to the days of your parents when mums and dads made up stories instead of leaving television cartoon characters to do your work.

With a bit of light supervision children can get so much stimulation from learning to ride a bicycle with their parents; from activities where first time success is very unlikely but where life lessons can be learnt. These lessons cannot be learnt when their only mode of transport is the back seat of the SUV!

It is interesting to note that a British survey conducted by the London School of Economics discovered that only just over half of young people over five owned a bicycle and less than half of them actually used it. This is despite a massive increase in cycle ways and the encouragement of cycling success in the Olympics and the Tour de France by British riders. And yet, well over 50% of 5–10 year olds in Britain had a mobile telephone as far back as 2006!

While there is clearly a need to address the education of our children in order to create the sort of entrepreneurial mindsets that we need for the future and in order to give them the best chance for a stimulating and meaningful life, this cannot be achieved unless we change the way that we ourselves look at life.

One exercise that you should try is to make a list of all of the things that you would really like to do while you are fit enough to do so. Then list alongside of them the reasons why you could not do them. Ask yourself what the worst thing is that could happen if you tried to do these things. Then ask yourself ‘SO WHAT!’

My wife is a great example of using this approach when faced with potentially fearful situations. I well remember an occasion a couple of years ago when we were having a short break in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. With it’s fantastic landscape dotted with volcanic fairy chimneys it was crying out for a hot air balloon trip. My wife was not particularly keen on sitting in a wicker basket at 500 feet with only a gas bottle and the wind for navigation.

However, when she looked at the reasons why she could not do this she found that she had all of the physical attributes to take part in a balloon flight and records showed that there was little risk given the safety record of this company. Moreover, she was prepared to try in the hope that she would enjoy it and to make sure I went and enjoyed it. By overcoming the fear she found that the experience was sensational and she is now the biggest advocate for hot air balloon flights over Cappadocia!

Having conquered the fear of heights, she has gone on to climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, go to the top of the Empire State building, stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon and fly around New York at night in a helicopter. Next stop are the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Moreover, she has repeated this approach and has used it to overcome fears that have led to swimming with stingrays, swimming with dolphins, establishing an international lunch club on her own, not to mention moving homes from one continent to another in three months. And before you start to imagine someone in her twenties or early thirties, she has children that are all grown up as well as three grandchildren!

The other attribute that is essential if you are to benefit from an entrepreneurial approach is the willingness to work hard to achieve things. Contrary to the impressions created by reality television, luck isn’t just something that happens. I love the quote that ‘The harder I work the luckier I get!’ Once you have overcome the fear and have gained the confidence to have a go then you need to put maximum energy into it.

Failure to do so usually means that there is a confidence problem or that there is still a fear of failure that prevents a wholehearted attempt. In other words you can say that ‘you tried’ as if that is enough. But that is a bit like those people that buy all of the right clothing for skiing but then simply stand around and enjoy the evening parties but never ski. No, you did not go skiing; you went to parties in ski clothing as if it was fancy dress!

In his book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell he spends some time discussing the concept of 10,000 hours. The discussion dismissing the concept that genius is born and not made. Whether it is classical soloist musicians, people like Bill Gates or the Beatles, tracing their history shows that they worked incredibly hard in order to become instant successes. He even managed to make the case that the boy composer, Mozart, had to complete his 10,000 hours before he started to write really good musical pieces.

No one is saying that simply by doing something for 10,000 hours you will become a star. Certainly, trying to win on X-Factor on the basis of a drunken karaoke performance will not do so. But life is not all about being a celebrity or the best in the world at disciplines defined by others. This book is about being successful in whatever you choose to do as defined by your own standards and desires.

It is about not being afraid to define a vision for yourself; it is about believing in yourself; it is about having the self-esteem and confidence to chase the vision; it is about being prepared to take risks and not to be afraid to fail, it is about getting up and trying again and it is about being prepared to work hard in order to make things happen. Most importantly, it is about taking control of your own destiny and not allowing society, parents, convention or anything else to control it for you.

There are many exercises that I cite in my lectures that I believe will help people to get back to being the creative child they once were. For example, I get people to start a failure log. This is not to depress them, but to face up to failure and to identify what they learned from the failure.

Other things that I suggest include making a meal from anything in the refrigerator without using a recipe and trying a fairground ride that you have always shied away from before.

But probably the best one is to draw an alien. The reason I choose this one is that this is the one activity you cannot fail at. Not only does it require your creativity; it is also something that you cannot fail at because no one has ever seen an alien. This means that your alien is as likely to be right as anyone else’s!

Mark Twain once said; “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”