How To Harness The Power Of Experiences

You will never guess what I got for my 21st birthday. It wasn’t an expensive watch or a lavish birthday party.

It was an airplane lesson at the local airfield nearby my hometown.

This may sound extravagant to some, but there is a difference.

I didn’t want to have something such as a watch which I would physically possess as memory of my 21st birthday.

I wanted something I could experience, something which would be etched in my memory for a lifetime.

In my opinion experiences (major and minor) are there to help us become stronger, wiser and smarter individuals.

For me it was about harnessing that feeling of freedom whilst I soared high in the air.experience josh chandler

I can still distinctly remember the roar of the engine, the power of taking control of the plane (with a brave best friend joining me and the flight instructor in the back) and the moment of pure bliss.

That memory is going to be there for life. I will certainly look forward to telling friends, family and loved ones about that flight.

For me there are three key ways to harness the power of the experience for a lifetime:

  1. Write a journal about the experience and keep hold of it
  2. Share in the moment with a close friend or family member
  3. Take plenty of photos and video if you can.

By doing those three simple things, I am now able to immortalise that moment with greater ease.

We cannot take each experience (big or small) for granted and I think by taking the time to just experience things in the moment we become more confident, interesting people.

Physical gifts and valuable items often only serve the purpose of showing off status or enhancing your life for a fleeting moment.

So which one would you choose? A well-rounded, memorable experience or a gift which serves one purpose?

Unfair Competition: The New Norm In The Modern Workplace

I am sure by now you have read the New York Times article (it has been shared 128,000 times on Facebook, so I am sure you have!) on the reported working practices at Amazon.

It has certainly opened up a broad discussion about how employers typically create an environment that ensures that cream rises to the top.

But it was two words in a follow up piece on NYTimes.com that really caught my attention.

Unfair competition.

There are two types of competition in this world, peer versus peer within the professional environment and competitive events such as sports.

Both encourage individuals to strive to gain or win something by maintaining dominance over another person or group.

Competition in a fair environment should enable those who provide the smartest ideas and who work effectively to empower others to be recognised as the true leaders they are.

Competition in the skewed work hard, play hard world results in people having to navigate office politics and outmuscle other people on their team for the top positions.

There is a key difference there. Competition used to mean we understood how to compete within the rules of the game, now competition means the winner takes all no matter who it affects and how they get there.

Let’s face it that’s not a new issue that has resulted from one feature article about a well-known online retailer.

But it is the effect it can have on a business’s strategic position, enabled by unfair competition which promotes the less qualified to executive positions, which can be the primary issue at hand.

You only need to look as far as companies such as Kodak to see what a dramatic effect it can have on the sustainability of a business.

I think when you look at the bigger picture of unfair competition it actually goes all the way back to how graduate employers actually plan their recruitment strategies for new university graduates.

In a report for High Fliers 83% of the 1,200 UK graduate employers surveyed confirmed that they are planning to recruit for graduate positions in London.

That should tell you more about why unfair competition in the workplace is starting to become the new norm then anything else could.

Let me just explain why I think that is the case.

The average graduate, according to most employers, is still grossly inexperienced in terms of commercial awareness, teamwork and communication.

Compare this fact to where graduate employers are mainly recruiting for (London and South East) to the fact that most universities outside the top 50 in most university league tables are located in the North and are often the lowest rated for quality of teaching.

Now are graduate employers unfairly favoring graduates from the South or have the Northern universities just not caught up in terms of how they prepare graduates?

No-one can say for sure.

But what I can tell you from my experience is that when you get graduate employers hiring mainly from the South you are already creating an unfair advantage that can result in smart people from elite universities creating a macho winner takes all environment.

This prevents those graduating from other universities who are taking the more traditional route of internships or applying through job advertisements from moving up within the organisation.

And that in itself is a problem.

Culturally speaking, we are always going to be driven by competition. But it is about how we frame the nature of competition and how we empower others that I think needs to be the focus of an organisation within the next 5-10 years.

Winner takes all needs to end, now!

Greece’s Productivity Dilemma

Greece has a dilemma when it comes to productivity. Bloomberg News reported today that Greek workers work for the longest on average in the whole of Europe.

Unfortunately for Greece the number of hours worked doesn’t equate to a fair reward for the Greek people.

Per gross domestic hour worked the productivity level in Greece ranks way below the European average.

And whilst Greece’s creditors are struggling to agree on terms of the new bailout deal, Greece’s economy is still on life support and in need of a serious injection of new business and new opportunities to restart its road to recovery.

In business productivity can make or break the success of the enterprise.

And being productive is so much more than the quantity of work produced or hours worked.

Productivity is about being able to work in the right environment, having opportunities to take charge of development through self directed learning, being able to balance work and home life and having a connection to the mission and vision of a company.

However the Greek people can’t exactly do any of those things when the majority of its citizens are too busy worrying about the future stability of the economy. (Hint: When 85% of your citizens believe that the European Union doesn’t understand your needs, you know something is wrong!)

I think we need to just change the paradigm when it comes to our views on Greece and how productive (or not) we believe they are.

Sure there have been times when Greece hasn’t pulled its weight on the global stage but in order to help the economy recover I do think we need to just focus on practical solutions that go beyond the financial side.

This may sound naive. It probably is. (But didn’t most people say the same about Thom Feeney’s Greek Bailout Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign?)

But I think we need to start making the narrative much more about reform in rebuilding the way Greek businesses operate and create more productive businesses.

Businesses which are conducive to providing an excellent working environment, fairer remuneration and a razor sharp focus on engaging employees in learning and development opportunities.

There are already small Greek startups starting to emerge which are hiring skilled workers who were previously unemployed, especially in the technology sector, to provide this type of work environment.

But it doesn’t just have to be the fast paced technology startups which start to seriously review how they operate their businesses.

I am certain that every Greek business will have some component it can improve to be more productive and more effective.

And the most effective change we (as people living and operating startups outside Greece) can do is to make a more forward looking bet on the people, rather than the government, of Greece and invest in them.

Non-EU businesses in particular are being incredibly risk averse when it comes to Greece, but we need to be incorporating more of the knowledge on building a productive economy from those non-EU companies with proven methods and tactics.

On the other hand I think we also need to see those Greek citizens who may be ready to use a different approach to building a productive economy actually commit to the future of Greece by staying in the country.

Whatever happens, Greece is not a country that in my opinion can become more productive through traditional methods, it needs something radically different (which I believe can be introduced through foreign direct investment from international companies) which will drastically improve Greece’s future.

The Forgotten Heroes Of Coffee Shops

Gunther Hawelka knows about the significance of excellent coffee. He owns and runs the family owned Cafe Sperl in Austria which is one of the original coffee houses built in 1939.

Cafe Sperl is somewhere steeped in historical value and remains one of the only coffeehouses in the world to remain untouched by modern design.

The view of what a coffee shop is today is a world away from the traditional view of the coffee house in the early 1900s.

We now use terms for coffee shops such as third places to describe the place between the office and home, have our pick of over 87,000 different combinations of drinks at Starbucks and unlimited access to free wi-fi wherever we go.

But I can’t help but feel we are forgetting the true heroes and pioneers of the coffee trading industry (from retail through to production)

People who value tradition over convenience. Original design versus modern. Staying true to their mission when the world around them is changing.

These are people who I am have a tremendous amount of respect for. The coffee industry is now incredibly commercialised and dominated by those who can control the supply chain and produce beverages at scale for the mass market.

No-one I have met who runs an independent coffee shop which maintains strength through traditional values and views about coffee shops says “Oh boy, I cannot wait to take down Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or Mcdonalds and be the number one in retail coffee production and sales.”

That is not how the world works and the heroes who maintain the original values of coffee don’t believe that they need to compete with the big conglomerates to succeed.

So I encourage you to think twice about the value of your favourite coffee chain and whether it actually strives to maintain a connection to the historical roots of coffee.

Who Says We Are Too Busy To Think?

I was on Quora today and I came across this thread entitled “How Do I Become A Better Thinker”

One of the first answers on this conversation (which has currently got 1.9k upvotes from the community) prefaced their excellent answer with the statement “We’re just too busy to think. Many of us are running from one place to another, trying to make our lives work.”

Busyness is much ado about nothing if you ask me.

If you are too busy to think, you are not doing the right things effectively.

And there is no “Aha” moment when it comes to being a better thinker. We all have the capacity to think out loud and in solitude about the most important issues and what we can be doing to proactively solve them.

The simplest starting point to being a better thinker is to labels to the level of importance a particular issue has.

My favourite organisational system to help focus my thinking is the “Eisenhower Matrix”.

I first discovered this matrix as I was looking for a way to organise my work at IKEA.

The best thing about this matrix is that it breaks down tasks/action and thoughts into simple “Yes/No” levels of importance.

The first category is “Important/Urgent”; These are the top level tasks which are both important and urgent and will need your immediate attention before anything else. This is your category to use during 70% of your working day in order to establish enough time to really think through the issues.

The second category is: “Important/Not Urgent”: These tasks are important but not urgent so can be looked at later.

I would probably assign 20% of your working day to these tasks because the important and urgent tasks need you to use your full mental capacity but these tasks will still benefit having you spend 20% of your working day thinking about them.

The third category is “Urgent/Not Important”. In order to be a better thinker, you need to be clearing your mind of worry about the Urgent/Not Important tasks.

The most important lesson I have learnt in life is that you can only influence what you can influence, so urgent but not important tasks which aren’t going to help you develop are immediate candidates for delegation to another co-worker.

The fourth category is “Not Important/Not Urgent”. These tasks shouldn’t take up any of your time because they are not helping you think through your action plan for developing a skill, client relationship or completion of a project.

This matrix has been a transformational guide for me in helping focus on spending time thinking about the right things which actually make a difference.

Each person will have their own method, but I certainly believe the Eisenhower matrix is a brilliant starting point.

The Tragic Reality Of Defining Success

Success. One of the most overrated words in life (personally and professionally)

It doesn’t take a genius to be successful and yet all we seem to do is judge success against a hypothetical measurement of what success means.

And it is that measurement which is creating a tragic reality in which we cannot be the best that we can be any more because we are always striving for the elusive goal of “being successful”.

So my challenge to you is what does success mean to you?

It cannot be someone else’s opinion of what it means to become a success because let’s face it you will never feel successful as long as you judge yourself by someone else’s definition of the term.

Personally success to me is knowing that one day I will be able to live each day being part of something bigger than myself.

Notice that I don’t say “I will be successful when I am earning £2 million every year through my own business”.

Success should be something which is defined by your mission and your values.

My mission is to be part of something bigger than myself every single day so by achieving that I know I am succeeding in what I want to achieve.

This way of thinking does mean you have to break the mould and take a giant leap out of your comfort zone, but it is so worth it!

So please, don’t ever try to define success. Live each day through your personal mission and values and believe that success can only  be defined by those metrics.

Why My Favourite Film Isn’t Even In The IMDB Top 250

There’s a film I have now watched a total of thirteen times. A film which I know line by line, scene by scene and yet doesn’t even feature in the IMDB Top 250 Most Watched Movies.

This film is ‘The Terminal‘, a 2004 movie directed by Steven Spielberg which starred Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Zoe Saldana.

It’s a story of a man called Viktor Navorski who is trapped in JFK airport after his home country Krakosia is taken over by a military coup which renders his citizenship (and therefore access to the US) non-existent.

My love for this film comes purely for the fact that it is based in the US (where I aspire to live one day), includes travel (which I aspire to do as part of my career in the next 10 years) and focuses on the heroic struggle of one man stuck in a foreign country with no-one to help him interpret the strange world around him.

So why did I include the mention of the IMDB Top 250 list in this discussion about one of the less well known Tom Hanks movies?

If I started by answering that question by saying that I still haven’t seen “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part 2” (rated by millions of people around the world of one of the great movies ever made) then I hope that starts to give you some idea about why I am using the IMDB Top 250 list as a reference point.

I can remember a time when I thought it would be smart to commit myself to watch all the films in that list. I purposefully subscribed to all the on demand video services and rented the DVDs from friends and do you know what I think I have probably in my lifetime still only watched about 5% of that entire list.

Furthermore if you were to ask me what recent films I had seen at the cinema or at home, I would be able to say with confidence that I have seen about 5% of all the new releases in the past 5 years.

That says a lot about my desire to choose the unknown film over the popular one. I don’t choose to subscribe to having to watch every popular film out there, I choose to watch what I want to watch.

On demand services have certainly expanded my horizons in that regard.

The simplicity of an always available selection of thousands of movies from a wide variety of genres and subgenres means you can pick and choose films which appeal to you rather than to what the masses are watching at the cinema.

And for me, it is all about finding the needle in the haystack. The Terminal is not a universally loved Tom Hanks film which ranks in the top 250 of IMDB’s ranking, but for me it will always rank in the top 10 of my favourite movies of all time.