Six strategies for improving

6 Strategies to unparalleled Wellbeing and Happiness

IMPROVE YOUR WELL BEING BY ACQUIRING THE GRATITUDE ATTITUDE. Listing three things that you are grateful for in life or three events that have gone especially well over the past week can significantly increase your level of happiness for up to a month. This, in turn, will cause you to be more optimistic about the future, which can improve your physical health. The best way of doing this is to develop the routine of writing your “happy” diary weekly, but even writing up a list of things that you are grateful for, and that makes you happy, on an occasional basis will have a significant positive effect on your well being.

BECOME HAPPIER BY BEING A GIVER. People become much happier when performing the smallest acts of kindness. Those who give a pound to a busker, buy a small surprise gift for a friend or a loved one, donate blood, or simply hold the door for a fellow commuter on the underground are inclined to experience a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness instantly. Interestingly performing five small acts of kindness during the course of one day will result in a greater and more long-lasting effect than if the same acts of kindness were spread over five days.

EAT MORE HEALTHILY BY HANGING A MIRROR IN YOUR KITCHEN. If you want to eat more healthily place a mirror on your kitchen wall. Seeing your own reflection whilst cooking makes you more aware of your body and more likely to eat food that is good for you. Standing in front of a mirror when you are presented with different food options can result in a remarkable 32 percent reduction in consumption of unhealthy food.

STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP BY WRITING ABOUT IT. Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost the chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such “expressive writing” results in partners’ using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship, many fewer rows and much longer lasting marriages.

BE MORE SUCCESSFUL BY VISUALISING YOURSELF DOING, NOT ACHIEVING. If you visualise yourself taking the practical steps needed to achieve your goals you are far more likely to succeed than if you simply fantasise about your dreams becoming a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: in other words to visualise yourself as others see you. This can make you about 20 percent more successful than those who adopt a first-person point of view where you only see your actions from your own perspective.

STAY ON TRACK WITH YOUR GOALS BY CONSIDERING YOUR LEGACY. Staying on track with your long-term goals is hard and requires discipline and determination. It’s all too easy to loose your focus. Spending just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at your funeral and reflecting on your personal and professional legacy can help you confirm your long-term goals and assess the degree to which you are progressing toward making those goals a reality.

Managing yourself and your team

3 Tips For Managing Your Team Better And Strengthen Relationships With Colleagues At Work.

STRENGTHEN PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS BY PRAISING EFFORT OVER ABILITY. You can strengthen professional relationships and raising a colleague’s performance by praising their effort rather than their ability by saying “Well done. You must have worked very hard on this project”. Recognising their effort without evaluating the result will encourage them to try harder, regardless of the consequences, therefore sidestepping fear of failure, which will lead to more productivity and better results by the person in question. This, in turn, also makes them more likely to attempt other challenging problems, find these problems enjoyable, and try to solve them on their own time—and you will have a more loyal co-worker in the office.

GET PEOPLES COOPERATION BY A LIGHT TOUCH ON THE UPPER ARM. A lightly touch on someone’s upper arm whilst making a request for assistance makes them far more likely to agree because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of a higher status of the person touching. In one study conducted in the USA such a touch produced a 20 percent increase in the number of people who agreed to perform a small favor for a stranger when approached in the street. In the work place use this technique judiciously, however, or you may have a lawsuit on your hands for inappropriate behavior, which is not the outcome you are looking for.

HOW TO SPOT A LIAR AND NOT BE TAKEN FOR A RIDE. People touching their nose, avoiding eye contact or making odd facial expressions are not actually reliable signs of a person lying. The most reliable cues are in the words that people use whilst lying. Liars tend to lack detail in what they are saying and they use more “ums” and “ahs” when giving an untruthful account of a situation; and in order to disassociate them selves from what they are saying they tend to avoid self-references such as; me, mine or I. Furthermore, people are about 20 percent less likely to lie in writing than in a telephone call, because their words are on record and therefore more likely to come back and haunt them. So to get to the truth of a situation of office conflict don’t just have a conversation; ask for a written account.

Thriving as an artist

How To Be A Thriving Artist In The New Arts Market

Coaching has become the buzzword of the decade in personal development, especially when it comes to a change in professional circumstances. It’s true that coaching is invaluable when moving from one chapter in life to another but nowadays we face such transitions constantly. Globalization and the digital revolution have transformed the job market and many, if not most of us will have more than one career during the course of our professional lifetime. Career transition is, therefore, no longer a rare event but an endless process of shifting circumstances; and for an artist perhaps more so than for most other professionals. The contribution coaching can make to the arts world in today’s times of change is perhaps more significant then may be imagined.

For an artist to be successful it is no longer enough to be master of his or her craft; today, everyone involved in the arts needs to be an entrepreneur and to have many skills at their fingertips. In fact, it was never enough only to master a chosen field to do well in it. The vast majority of the greatest and most successful artists throughout history were multi-talented, multi-skilled and entrepreneurial: and, more often than not, if they did not come from a prosperous background were adept at acquiring wealthy sponsors on their march to the top. To be fair, many may have suffered for their art but few actually starved, or they would never have been able to create their legacy and produce the body of work they left behind.

In previous centuries, working conditions were different for a practising artist. The pace of life was slower, society less complex; fewer choices were available and cultural conditions probably more straightforward. Those involved in the arts had more time to focus on their craft, whatever it may have been, to develop appropriate skills and come to grips with the demands of the market. Yesterday, a master craftsman could demand respect based on his skill alone. In today’s fast-changing, intensely competitive world with its myriad possibilities how we define art and artistic success has changed. Instant communication and infinite possibilities for self-expression have altered everything forever.

The arts market today demands greater agility and readiness to change than ever before. The digital revolution has brought with it many tough challenges, but also many exciting opportunities to be embraced by the aspiring artist, because there has never been a better time to explore new avenues of creativity. The Internet makes it possible for anyone to showcase his or her art to vast audiences at virtually no production cost. There are new avenues to explore for anyone who wants to practise their art in public, without the need of a producer, agent or publisher. It is now possible to distribute music and choreography via YouTube and have thousands, millions even, of viewers: writers can make their work available on blogs or self-publish a book on Amazon: photographers have Instagram at their disposal. But to navigate a career through this obstacle course of opportunities requires extraordinary determination along with the ability to adapt to shifting circumstances and a willingness to adopt new trends.

For any creative artist it will always be imperative to change and evolve. The most successful artists do this regularly, not only focusing on their particular field but becoming multi-disciplined masters of many skills as well. That’s the challenge of working in the new ‘gig economy’ where a jack-of-all-trades approach creates opportunities like never before. So how then do we enable artists, whose first duty is to their work and who more often than not toil away on their own, to thrive and to marry their craft with the set of interests and skills essential for success in today’s demanding arts market into a body of good work?

Enter coaching, not only as a one-off intervention but also as ongoing professional support, sharing as it does with the arts the spirit of generosity present in every creative act. Coaching is the perfect collaborator with the artistic creative process. The ethos of coaching fits totally with the artistic one, so it provides invaluable help for artists who want to develop their work alongside learning to cope with the multiple demands involved in managing a career. The coaching process is totally objective, unencumbered by any vested interest in the artistic product as such, and would therefore not judge its value. Its only purpose would be to support the artist in maximizing his or her talent and skill. Coaching provides the ideal helping hand for an artist who wants to remain in charge of their creative output but with the benefit of having a personal champion behind them. Coaching will help an artist create action plans and not just make them come to fruition but go beyond what they may otherwise have thought impossible.

To be a thriving artist today requires resilience and, as was mentioned earlier, mastering the many skills the modern world demands. To be successful contemporary artists need to manage their careers and carve out a place for themselves within this highly complex and competitive system. They will face many challenges – cultivating patrons and make funding applications; finding collaborators and building partnerships; dealing with marketing and social media; managing relationships with exhibition and performance venues; dealing with copyright issues and, crucially, learning to charge an appropriate fee or price for their work to enable them to make money and to survive another day to create more work.

Artists have always faced these demands and the successful ones have always managed to do so efficiently, so in this respect nothing has actually changed. What’s different today is the magnitude of the task. One could take a cynical view and argue that market forces should dictate who succeeds and who fails. However, if we accept this in a world where instant fame is now a reality some truly talented artists with a less worldly approach to career management could well run the risk of being overshadowed by commercially more savvy, but potentially less worthy, operators.

And therefore, now that skilled coaching is widely accessible, and if we accept it as a truly effective and kind facility, what’s not to like about it? And given that, I would suggest that as a matter of course, funding bodies, both public and private, should insist on providing coaching support for any artist or creative project that receives subsidy. We owe this to the taxpayers, to the wellbeing of a thriving arts market, and finally most importantly to artists and the creation of excellent Art.

This article was first published in IAM, International Arts Manager, in January 2018.

10 Strategies Excellent Speakers Use To Present Themselves With Confidence

Do you sometimes feel you are not presenting yourself in the best possible way? Do you feel nervous before a meeting or presentation? Does the idea of public speaking fill you with dread? Do you get a dry mouth and clammy palms in meetings when you are faced with a group of people looking at you expectantly? If this sounds like you the chances are that you are suffering from a touch of performance anxiety. In this article you will find ten practical strategies for dealing with performance anxiety that you can apply immediately.

Performance anxiety is a fairly broad term. It ranges from an actor’s stage fright or the Olympic athlete’s adrenaline-fuelled nervousness before a race, to the discomfort felt by an introverted person at a drinks party. For the actor and the athlete it may be brought on by an expectation to produce excellence under the pressure of public scrutiny. For most of us, however, it is usually brought on by lack of confidence and self-limiting beliefs, which can have seriously debilitating effects on a person if not managed well.

Few of us will compete at the Olympic Games or grace the stage with our interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays, but most of us will at some point in our life be expected to make a speech, perhaps at a wedding, or make a sales presentation. And when that day comes you want to be able to step forwards confidently and without being wobbly on your pins.

Public speaking is listed as most people’s number-one fear before a solitary death, which comes in at number five, and loneliness at number seven, which I guess means that most of us are less afraid of dying alone than of making fools of ourselves in front of others? You may have heard the joke that some people would prefer to be in their coffin rather than read the eulogy at a funeral. While this is probably an exaggeration most of us do feel a degree of nervousness when preparing to speak in front of a group. Those who are filled with severe feelings of dread and panic in such situations are at a distinct disadvantage with a resultant loss of self-esteem that can adversely affect performance in every other part of their life.

I am a dyed in the wool, 100% confirmed introvert, but despite this I spent 25 years of my life as a successful ballet dancer, performing on stages in front of thousands of people throughout Europe and the rest of the World. I had to learn to manage my performance nerves on a daily basis. Now, as a Performance Coach this is an issue I come across with my clients frequently. These are some of the tactics I have used myself before going on stage so I know they work.


Focus on the job in hand, not on yourself and your fear of making mistakes. Remind yourself that you are contributing something of value to your audience. They have come to see or hear you because they are interested in what you have to say; they want you to succeed and they admire you for your courage to stand up there in the first place – just as you admire those that have the courage to step up to the mark. Try to connect with them, thinking of them as friends and supporters. The old trick of making yourself feel better by imagining your audience in their underwear does not work. Such mental images will be distracting rather than helpful.


Thoughts of what might go wrong are not helpful. Anxiety is a problem with negative thinking so one way to combat it is to make yourself think positive thoughts, so try to relax and visualize your success. Always focus on thoughts and images that are reassuring; and on your strength and ability to handle challenges. Performance anxiety is self-sustaining because it creates a mind set that focuses only on mistakes and expectation of “judgment” by others. The fact is that your audience is probably much less judgmental about your performance than you are.


Practice ways to stay calm, such as deep-breathing and relaxation exercises, or meditation. Hundreds of books on Mindfulness have been written containing countless pieces of good advice, most of it valuable. In this context the only thing you need to understand about Mindfulness is its essence – namely, that by becoming fully aware of the present, by calmly focusing your mind and breathing deeply, you can eliminate worry about the past and fear of the future. It may take practice, but it works. Why? Because it is worrying about the past and fearing the future, neither of which you can do anything about, that lie at the heart of every kind of anxiety.


Professional performers will always have a personal ritual that puts them in the right frame of mind to face an audience. Emulate the professionals and create you own deliberate ritual. The very act of performing a ritual will contribute to the healing process. Your ritual has to be personal but I would suggest it contains at least one but preferably all three of the following elements.

1. A calming breathing exercise, which can be combined with a brief moment of mindful meditation.

2. Visualizing a successful outcome of what lies ahead.

3. An “anchor”. This is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique of deliberately making a gesture or action that you associate with feeling confident. The act of consciously doing this will influence your sub-consciousness to replicate that same positive state of mind. By frequently practicing such an “anchor” it can become a remarkably effective tool for shifting your mind into a more positive state.


There is a good reason why musicians, actors, singers and dancers spend 99% of their working lives rehearsing and practicing their skills, so learn from the professionals – practice your material in advance. If possible do it in front of someone who can give you constructive feedback. The pressure of practicing in front of another person will also prepare you for the added pressure of doing the real thing in front of a proper audience. If you are making a presentation or giving a speech it is imperative that you read it aloud to hear your own voice, because words that look good on the page may not necessarily sound as good when spoken.


Don’t try to improvise; it never works. That said it is necessary to be open minded and flexible. If you have too rigid an idea of how your presentation or speech should turn out you will give yourself no margin for error, which means that if something does go slightly wrong you will find it difficult to recover. This in turn will increase any anxiety you felt already. In the event that the unexpected does happen, simply slow down for a second—take a deep breath—then pick up where you left off. This brief moment will give you a chance to regain your composure and gather your thoughts. You will probably find that no one even noticed that something went wrong. Such a pause might even add a touch of gravitas to your presentation.


Pay attention to your body language. Your physical attitudes speak volumes about who you are and what you are feeling. An audience is very perceptive to how a person in front of them feels. Therefore to make yourself feel and look more confident stand up straight, lift your eyes off the floor and move in a self-assured, confident manner. This will have an immediate positive effect both on you and on your audience because when you move with confidence you will feel confident, and when you feel confident you will project confidence to your audience; it’s a win-win situation. So by simply deciding to move and stand with confidence you are in fact creating a self-perpetuating, upward-moving cycle of positive feelings.


Take care of your health. I know I’m stating the obvious when I say exercise, eat well, and practice a generally healthy lifestyle. Avoid eating a heavy meal before you have to appear in front of an audience. Your digestion needs time to process foods heavy on protein and carbohydrates, which will make you feel tired and sluggish, so stick to lighter foods and go easy on alcohol and caffeine. This may sound fairly obvious but it is always good to be reminded about the importance of maintaining a sensible approach to your physical well-being when you are facing a challenging task.


Aim for excellence but give up trying to be perfect. It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, an audience will be more sympathetic towards someone who makes an occasional mistake because it makes them feel they are in the presence of someone who is as human as they are. Research has shown that an audience perceives a person who makes some minor mistakes during a presentation as more likable then someone who seems too perfect. If you do make a cock-up acknowledge it and move on, but you will find that a slip-up is far more noticeable to you than to an audience.


Whatever you do don’t try to emulate someone else’s performance. At best you will be seen as a second-rate version of that person. You will be much more successful as a first-rate version of you. Remember that you are unique. It does not matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. No one has your particular combination of knowledge and qualities to bring to the table. If you know what you need to say only you can say it the way it should be said.


Anxiety itself can create more anxiety. It has been established that different kinds of anxiety are likely to fuel each other, so performance anxiety can bleed into other parts of your life too. Therefore to reduce performance anxiety you need to address your overall anxiety levels.

There are probably good evolutionary reasons for the Limbic brain system (which controls emotional responses among other functions) to kick in and trigger the fight-flight-or-freeze reflex when you’re about to speak in public. Because appearing in front of an audience brings with it the subconscious fear of being seen as different from the “tribe” and therefore facing the possibility of exclusion and reduced chances of survival in the wild. Knowing this is interesting but not of much help when you are standing in front of an audience with your heart pounding in your chest and with a sweaty brow.

Avoiding scary challenges may provide short-term relief, but never to address the problem at its core will reinforce your anxiety in the long run. If your performance anxiety is connected to public speaking improving your presentation skills is good up to a point, but it’s generally not enough to eliminate the problem completely. You must tackle all your negative cognitions and self-limiting beliefs. Getting to know yourself and accepting the person you are is at the root of healing, and one way of doing this is through working with a personal coach.

The good news is that if you have the courage to extend your comfort zone, little-by-little, day-by-day, there is no limit to how far you can go in improving your competence, which will strengthen your confidence in all areas of life.

Midde age - personal development

Middle-Age is the time for Men to have a Life Coach

If at the time of reading this article you are somewhere between 45 and 60 years old you belong to the “sandwich generation”; the age group wedged between retired baby boomers and the younger generation of digital natives. Many men in this position feel more than a little marginalised, caught between the traditional male role of being the sole breadwinner in the family and the ‘new man’ who identifies himself as his partner’s co-washer-upper and baby-minder. If that rings a bell you may be experiencing manopause, an often-overlooked phase of a man’s life caused by testosterone deficiency, affecting between six and 12 per cent of men over the age of 40. Symptoms can range from erectile dysfunction and low sex drive to depression, weight gain and fatigue. But the chemical changes in your body do not make you any less of a man—it just makes you a different kind of man—and you have in fact more going for you than you might realise.

Not being a medical man I cannot comment on the physical changes a man may experience in his middle years, but as a life coach specializing in working with middle-aged men I can recognize this as a time of change on many other levels; a time that can—with some focus and a little bit of help—be turned into an opportunity for personal reinvention and rejuvenation of spirit. Because this is the time in a man’s life when maturity and experience make him truly capable of taking up the challenge of personal development, and therefore a time when he is most likely to benefit from life coaching—and if you understand how coaching works you’ll understand why this is so.

Coaching is based on the principle that a person is ultimately responsible for how their actions today impact their life tomorrow, which presupposes that a person is in charge of their own life, able to find their own answers, develop their own skills, and change their own attitudes and behaviour. Coaching is a collaboration between coach and client explicitly for the purpose of following the client’s agenda and meeting his needs. The role of the coach is not to judge a client’s ideas, opinions and values, but to encourage his creativity and support him in achieving his goals.

With these fundamental principles of coaching in mind it becomes clear that if you are a middle-aged man of integrity and intelligence you have, when you reach this stage of life, developed the personal qualities that will enable you to fully engage with, and benefit from, the coaching process. You will have gained self-awareness and earned the right to self-determination; you have acquired maturity and a fair degree of worldly wisdom, and in the course of your life you have probably already experienced change; professionally, socially and personally. This is an ideal starting point for experiencing effective and successful coaching for two reasons: First you are at a stage when you may feel a genuine need for something new to happen in your life, and second, a lifetime of experience has established the potential for you to work effectively with a coach.

Research shows that a large portion of middle-aged men feel unfulfilled by their work and personal life. After dedicating decades to building a career it’s not uncommon for them to look around and think: “Is this it?” They’ve devoted their lives to family, wives, kids; developing their career and business and have often put themselves last. And because of how men have traditionally been raised they feel they should deal with any lack of satisfaction in their life on their own and with no support whatsoever.

Enter life coaching: It is totally objective in approach and unencumbered by any emotional attachment, just right for a man who wants to take charge of his own destiny. And for someone who is used to being self-reliant it provides the ideal helping hand towards personal development without making him feel any sense of failure. Coaching will enable him to gain greater insight into his own circumstances and recognize opportunities for potential change; it will help him examine his own choices, set realistic and achievable goals, and create step-by-step action plans not just to realize these but to go beyond what was thought impossible.

Coaching is a great way for increasing a person’s sense of fulfillment and his performance at any stage of life but perhaps never more so than when facing the challenge of moving from one chapter of life into the next. Given the choice I am fairly certain that most middle-aged men would give up a large part of their annual income in exchange for waking up each morning feeling stimulated and excited about the day ahead. When he looks back on his past achievements, and forwards to what life may hold in store, coaching may provide the perfect solution for a man who wants to make the remainder of his life satisfying and meaningful.

Elevate your thinking

How to Keep a Sharp Mind in Middle Age

If you think you have stopped learning just because you have become middle-aged you are wrong. Learning is part of the evolutionary process and it goes on throughout life whether you know it or not. Although there is no reliable research demonstrating that brain cells continue to regenerate until we die there is ample evidence to show that by keeping your mind keen you may be able to delay the onset of conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. By maintaining a reading habit it is possible with relatively little effort to exercise your cerebral capacities effectively and continue to learn new, often sophisticated skills.

Learning such skills and acquiring knowledge is tremendously satisfying. And I would argue that the older you get the more fulfilling it becomes; perhaps because discovering later in life that learning new things is possible makes personal development all the more rewarding. Take me for instance – age 60 – writing an article about learning; because as a life coach specializing in working with men it is important that I develop skill as a writer in order to share my thoughts on the challenges of being a man in his middle-years. As I sit here, tapping away on my keyboard and making revisions to the text and then making revisions to the revisions, I’m having a great time.

The worst thing you can do to your mental health, and therefore probably also to your life expectancy as well, is to stop being curious about the world and come to think that you can no longer learn. I would suggest the most significant difference between you and a three year old who is learning new life skills on a daily basis is your belief in your ability to learn. Maybe this is because your willingness to try to learn has diminished.

Even if your preferred area of improvement is something practical and physical, one of the most tried-and-tested routs to developing any new skill is, along with practice, reading. Some of the busiest people in the world dedicate a surprising amount of time in their day-to-day reading. A quick search of the Internet throws up information about the very impressive reading habits of people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. The objective is not necessarily to join the ranks of the super-successful but if they can manage to find the time there’s no reason why you can’t.

Maintaining a reading habit that goes beyond the latest Jack Reacher novel does require both focus and discipline. For a start you have to be honest with yourself. How often do you choose watching television over reading a book? Saying that you’re too tired, too busy or not having enough time in the day to read is simply no excuse at all! Of course you have time to read if you chose to make this a priority. We all have the same number of hours available during the day. The only difference is how we chose to spend our free time.

For men of a certain age reading in bed late at night is probably not the best strategy if you want to absorb anything more demanding than the latest thriller or whodunit. Let’s face it, within minutes of going to bed, we all tend to end up snoring away, with the reading light still on, and the book if not on our face, then an inch or two from it, so you need to find other times in your day that you dedicate to constructive reading. Commuting to work by train, tube or bus, for instance, is an excellent opportunity to read rather than spending your time travelling staring at your mobile phone.

There’s no need to punish yourself by reading really boring or heavy stuff but try to cultivate some intellectual resilience and willpower. Pick subjects that not only interest you but that will extend your mental capacities to some degree. If everything you read stretched you by, say, ten or even five percent, the accumulated development you would achieve over a relatively short period of time would be remarkable.

Be disciplined. Perhaps set a timer to ensure you fit in 30 minutes of reading every day. Most people can read 20 pages in 30 minutes. If you genuinely do dislike reading cut it down to 15 minutes but time will pass quicker than you think and the chances are that you will soon change you opinion about reading. Curiously, most children are avid readers, a habit that many of us lose as we grow older. If that’s you, you may want to start by checking out How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler, 1940). It is still the definitive work on how to read effectively for both pleasure and study.

Sustaining an ability to pick up new skills, retaining facts and pinpointing information pertinent to you is not only good for keeping your mind keen and feeling youthful and motivated, it is increasingly becoming essential to survival in our society. The rate of growth in the 21st century is exponential and at the speed of progress today the development humanity might experience over the next century could, according to some sources, be equivalent to as much as the previous 20,000 years of social development. The upshot is that he who cannot keep up will lose out.

It is true that none of us know how many days, weeks, months or years we have left on Earth, but all of us have the choice of what we do with NOW. Would it not be much more satisfying spending the rest of your time developing in some way and feeling proud about your ongoing achievements rather than just waiting for it all to finish? You may not be able to follow everything that happens in the world, but trying to keep up with that which is relevant to your life will keep you sharp and make you feel better about yourself. Good luck!

Children working together to grow

Is the Bromance you need Missing In Your Life?

Have you thought about how many close male friends you have? Not day-to-day acquaintances or the multitude of friends you have on Face Book (which may delude you into thinking that you are still connected) or colleagues at work who are really only friends by proximity that you rarely meet outside the office. I’m talking about close, lifelong friends; friends you can be yourself with and trust with your innermost thoughts, without fear of being laughed at.

What brought about such solemn existentialist reflections about my life? Working as a coach has made me aware that loneliness is not uncommon amongst middle-aged men. Isolation is one of the most prevalent health issues today; some say more so than smoking and alcohol abuse. Studies have shown that loneliness can seriously impact on a person’s life expectancy, and that socially isolated individuals are more likely to succumb to physical and mental health problems during a given period of time than people who are more socially connected. I’m not suggesting every middle-aged man is heading for an early grave but it has made me reflect on my priorities in general and friendships in particular.

Many men go through a long period in their life when their main focus is on embarking on a career, getting married, work, providing for their family and work again. This is not a bad thing; if you are blessed with a family this is a happy time but your focus is mostly on your family, and your career development and not so much on you. Most social interactions during this period are probably with couples you meet together with your partner or the parents of your children’s friends that you get to know whilst waiting for your kids by the school gate. As a family man you make room in your life for family time, and if you are lucky ‘me-time’ too at the gym or when you go jogging, but probably at the cost of ‘friend-time’. You short-change your friendships and before you know it decades have passed without you having had a sincere conversation with your best mate.

When it comes to personal issues men suffer from two major failings. One – they are often emotionally inhibited, and two – they tend to be thoughtless about personal communication. The upshot is that they let friendships lapse without even realizing it and suddenly they end up feeling isolated. Women maintain strong friendships by talking to each other over the telephone; most men on the other hand depend on some sort of activity to maintain personal connections. Research shows that when women talk together they do it mostly face to face, but men tend to communicate standing side by side. This is why strong male friendships are often forged during intense shared experiences, such as playing sports or during military service.

Thanks to greater acceptance of, and more openness about, mental health issues it is now easier for men and women to own up to problems such as depression and anxiety but it is still difficult for a man to admit to feelings of loneliness. Because advertising and popular culture glorifies the notion of the strong, self-sufficient male hero, feeling lonesome has stigma attached to it: loneliness is not perceived as being manly, and so it can make lonely men believe they are losers. Add to this a general male resistance to asking for help and you have a formula for a potentially unsettling and unhappy existence at a time in a man’s life when things should be looking bright.

So even if you’re the Marlboro man you probably need to pay more attention to your friendships with other men. Take a moment and make a mental inventory of that handful of guys in your life who are friends in the truest sense of the word, someone who if asked for any sort of help would give it unstintingly and without question. It is only a mental exercise so you can allow yourself to indulge in a bit of sentimentality if necessary. Then give one of them a call and arrange to go out for meal together, somewhere not too noisy where you can have a good chat. It’s more than likely they feel just as you so and would welcome the chance for a good one-to-one with you. Do it today; don’t leave it too late to re-kindle the bromance in your life.

Differences are beautiful

Courage is the way to achieve Coaching Excellence

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Do you have a problem selling your coaching services? Do you worry because you’re not collecting enough leads for consultations? Does becoming a successful entrepreneur seem to linger just beyond your grasp? And do you get fed up with hearing every Tom Dick and Harry on social media telling you how to become prosperous, how to create customers, how to be motivated and how to live the life you want? If you’ve answered ‘Yes!’ to any of these questions, then this article may be for you—not because it will necessarily offer a solution to any problems you may have, but because it may strengthen faith in yourself and give you courage to continue down the path you have chosen.

I have been in the process of establishing myself as a coach for some time now. I’m a very good coach, on this score I have no doubt, but I have been really giving myself a tough time for not being more effective at building a client base. My own coach (Yes! I have one!) keeps advising me on sales strategies and what I could be doing differently to get more clients. He’s a good man and good coach and he is absolutely right in everything he says. So why, then, do I find it so difficult to enter into the spirit of the entrepreneur revolution.

My professional background is in the performing arts. I have spent five decades working in the ballet world, as a dancer, teacher and artistic director. This is the environment where I learned about professionalism, excellence and the courage to live the life you chose. Deciding to pursue a career in dance takes guts, passion and resilience. To become a top-flight ballet dancer demands about ten years of daily training, after which the chances of having a significant and successful career as a well-known dancer are minimal at the best of times and the potential for financial success is virtually non-existent for the vast majority of professional dancers. Yet around the world there are thousands of them who turn up day in, day out to produce excellence on a daily basis. They are on the whole underpaid and over-worked; but they ceaselessly and passionately go through their daily practice for no other reason than that it will uphold standards.

So, with my background firmly rooted in the arts, and my professional values shaped by spending thousands of hours in a rehearsal room practising and refining my skill, I find it difficult to come to terms with the overabundance of self-proclaimed success experts I come across on social media. Many of these on-line purveyors of “failsafe” sales systems, in my view the modern equivalent of the proverbial snake oil salesman, deliver their messages in formulaic short marketing videos of little substance. I don’t wish to cast aspersions on those who want to be successful, make money and live a comfortable life. Far from it, we should celebrate the Internet revolution and rejoice because of what it has made possible, and video marketing is set to dominate the media in the next two to three years at least. There is no getting away from this so if you want to keep up with the Joneses you just have to join in. The flip side is the proliferation of mediocrity. In the olden days being a snake oil salesman was a highly skilled profession. Nowadays anyone can do it.

So why, then, is it difficult for some people to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship? After all, if social media is to be believed, it should be fairly straightforward. But is it? My experience is that social-media selling is relentless and discouraging and that it diverts attention from my original objective: to become an excellent coach. I do understand the need for marketing and sales strategies but to use them to sell myself as someone who provides excellent coaching services (and I know I do provide excellent coaching services) doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I hear all the arguments – too many to list here and all of them absolutely reasonable – as to why I should just get over myself and accept the realities of being a sole trader, an entrepreneur; if people don’t know I exist, then how can they use me as a coach? But therein lies the crux of the matter for me, if I attract clients through clever sales strategies rather than through the excellence of my coaching, to me the value of my work somehow seems diminished. I blame it on my ballet background but if I am not true to those values that have stood me in good stead throughout my dancing days, I do not believe I will make it as a coach.

I am assuming you, too, have chosen to be a coach because you want to transform lives, so I hope that it stands to reason that that’s where your focus should be—on being as good and professional a coach as you can be. Not a perfect one but an excellent one. Every professional of integrity understands that perfection is unattainable but that excellence is achievable; because excellence is a state of mind, an attitude, not a sales figure. Excellence is a personal choice where you set your standards and professionalism a priority above all else. It is passion for excellence that drives an artist onwards, not ego and not desire for success. Any true artist or artisan, and I consider a coach an artisan, understands that the quality of their work and the integrity by which it is delivered comes before profit. Because it is what you finally put in front of an audience, or the product and service you deliver, that you will be judged by, and it is only when you embody values of integrity and quality that genuine success will follow.

It’s sometimes a good thing to stand outside of yourself and ask yourself why you became a coach in the first place. If your only objective was to become a wealthy one, then, quite frankly, you’ve made the wrong career choice because wealth doesn’t necessarily equate with success and excellence. Have the courage to stick to the path you chose because quality beats quantity any day; and sincerely held values together with clear principles will always triumph over strategy because, as the saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Allow your coaching practice to grow organically, one client at the time, and accept it may take time. This will not make your business more lucrative in the short term perhaps, but it will make you a better coach and at the end of the day that’s what matters. It’s always the quality of your work that will ultimately determine your level of success, [as a coach] not the number of leads you manage to clock up. Remember that you only have one client—your next one—delivering great value to him or her is the only thing that will truly make a difference to your business: remember, a word of mouth recommendation trumps a slick video any time!

So, to sum up, it is imperative to let people know that you, a profession and well-established coach, are there for them. If social-media selling is not your thing, you need to find another approach to link up with potential clients: if people don’t know you exist, how can they get in touch with you: how can they buy your services? So don’t be a shrinking violet. Fortune favours the brave, so be courageous. Find opportunities, any opportunity, to talk about who you are and what you do. And talk with pride, passion and enthusiasm – your three most effective marketing tools. Then get back to practising your skill as an excellent coach, so you can continue transforming lives; one life at the time.


Think And Grow Rich By Napoleon Hill – A Summary

Think and Grow Rich is one of the most recommended books for people who are into personal development. It was written by Napoleon Hill at the commission of Andrew Carnegie and based on interviews of 500 of those who history now remembers as some of the greatest American minds of the early 20th century, including Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilbur Wright, and W. Howard Taft. It was first published in 1937 and has now sold more than 70 million copies, giving it the distinction of being the all-time bestseller in the personal success category. Given the pedigree of those on whose advice this book was based, as well as those in today’s age who have recommended the book, it is fair to assume it contains valuable information that we can learn from. If some of the advice seems a little “out there,” or a little too intangible to be useful, remember whom it’s coming from, and suspend judgment until you’ve tested it for yourself. But it stands to reason that uncommon success must come from uncommon thoughts and actions. I must hasten to admit that what follows is not my own work. Unfortunately I do not know who the original author is, but I am hoping he or she will not mind that I share this with you.

1. Desire: The Starting Point of All Achievement

It may be stating the obvious, but growing rich starts with the desire to do so. The desire discussed here is not simply wishing, but is an intense, burning obsession, which must be coupled with both a plan and persistence in sticking to the plan. The author presents a six-part method to ensure that this is the type of desire you are starting with:

1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire

2. Determine exactly what you intend to give for this money

3. Establish a definite date by which you intend to acquire this money

4. Create a definite plan to acquire the money, and take the first step immediately

5. Put the four items above into a clear, concise sentence describing each part

6. Read the statement aloud twice daily, in the morning and at night

The principle here is that desire has ways to “transmute” (transform) into its physical equivalent. This is the beginning of the key principle of the book: that the subconscious mind acts beneath the surface to accomplish what it is directed to accomplish.

2. Faith: Visualization of, and Belief In Attainment of Desire

Of course, the subconscious mind must believe that something is possible in order to act on it. Faith is an interesting concept, but in this context the author defines it as “a state of mind which may be induced, or created, by affirmation or repeated instructions to the subconscious mind, through the principle of autosuggestion.” He goes on to assert, “Repetition of affirmation of orders to your subconscious mind is the only known method of voluntary development of the emotion of faith.” It is by this practice that you can convince your subconscious mind to “translate that impulse into its physical equivalent, by the most practical procedure available.”

The author attributes both good and ill fortune to this practice. In other words, someone who lets himself believe negative things has communicated to his subconscious to act upon those negative beliefs and translate them into reality. Someone who neglects this practice, and allows his subconscious to go where it will, risks being set up for failure by the operation of the subconscious that will continue regardless.

Let me illustrate with a practical example from outside the book. It has been well established that consciously choosing to exhibit confident body language when you are in fact not feeling confident will actually make you confident. Various experiments have shown the natural mechanics of this process, with the release or inhibition of certain neurochemicals (testosterone, cortisol, etc.). The point, however, is that a conscious choice influences your subconscious, which in turn directly and immediately causes a change in outcomes in the external world.

The author recommends “deceiving” your subconscious in a similar way – by acting as if you have already achieved whatever it is you are instructing your subconscious mind to do.

3. Autosuggestion: The Medium for Influencing the Subconscious Mind

This is another one of those words that probably sounded strange to Napoleon Hill’s contemporaries, and definitely sounds strange in the 21st century. Simply put, autosuggestion is the practice of communicating to yourself using your conscious mind for the purpose of convincing your subconscious. As humans, we can exercise complete control over what reaches our subconscious mind (through our five senses), but most people don’t often exercise that control.

The author asserts that exercising this control requires both conscious attention, and the mixing of emotion (a word the author uses interchangeably with “belief” or “faith”) with what you tell yourself. He presents repetitive visualization as the best method of accomplishing this mixture – actually picturing the appearance of a specific amount of money, consistently over time. Eventually, this will cue your subconscious to “hand over” specific plans to begin to make it happen.

The author recommends that twice a day, morning and night, you close your eyes, say out loud the amount of money you intend to obtain, when you intend to obtain it, and how (in general terms) you intend to obtain it. In addition, he contends you must write this statement down, place it where you will see it in the morning and at night, and commit it to memory.

This is the core of the book: combining desire with faith to successfully autosuggest achievements to your subconscious mind. The ensuing chapters consist of various tools for successfully applying this practice.

4. Specialized Knowledge: Personal Experiences or Observations

In this chapter, the author finally makes a down-to-earth assertion – that general knowledge itself is useless in accumulating wealth. You must have specific knowledge and skills (how to fix a leaky faucet, diagnose a disease, build a financial model, etc.) in order to add value and be paid for it. While this is a commonly misunderstood principle, it should be evident to anyone that general education does not correlate with wealth; instead, specific knowledge applied to specific tasks is what actually leads to money. This is one of the central themes of one of the other classic books about wealth, Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! In Rich Dad Poor Dad, author Robert Kiyosaki contrasts in detail his highly educated but monetarily poor father with his best friend’s dad, who lacked distinguished formal education but spent his life building specialized knowledge and growing rich in the process.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to have the specific knowledge in your own head; you could also simply make sure to have access to those who do. However you gain access to specialized knowledge, the application of imagination to that knowledge is what leads to the ideas that in turn lead to wealth.

5. Imagination: The Workshop of the Mind

Mr. Hill separates imagination into two conceptual types: synthetic imagination, which simply rearranges existing ideas into new concepts, and creative imagination, which creates something from nothing. (See Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel for the opposing viewpoint on the importance of the two types.) Transforming desire into money requires specific plans, which come most often through synthetic imagination. The author scoffs at the idea that riches come from hard work; more often, he contends, riches of great quantity have come “in response to definite demands, based upon the application of definite principles… when a creator of ideas and a seller of ideas got together and worked in harmony.” The ideas that come from imagination are the forces that cause things to come into being. You must add imagination to specialized knowledge to grow rich.

I’d recommend you check out James Altucher’s Daily Practice for a more detailed guide on how to exercise your “idea muscle” and become an idea machine.

6. Organized Planning: The Crystallization of Desire Into Action

This sixth step toward riches requires an alliance with a group of people for the purpose of carrying out your plans – the “master mind” that will be discussed later in further detail. To succeed, you must be sure to compensate these individuals in some manner, meet with them at least twice a week, and maintain harmony
with each individual in the group. Faultless plans are essential for the growing of riches, and only the abilities and imaginations of multiple individuals will allow the creation of plans that are perfect, or as near so as possible.

This process of planning must be continuous and persistent, since failure will often come before success despite your best efforts. You must select individuals who are likewise persistent. In addition, you must develop the qualities of a leader if you expect to lead such individuals in any endeavour.

This is the lengthiest chapter of the book, and in order to avoid getting lost in the details I will refrain from listing the 11 qualities of leaders that Mr. Hill presents, as well as his 10 major causes of leadership failure, 30 causes of failure in life in general, and 28 questions you should be asking yourself annually to gauge your progress. There are any number of insights within this list, but nothing monumental that isn’t already discussed by other authors on the subject of success. The takeaway here is that you should be in the regular practice of considering these matters and creating organized plans to address them.

7. Decision: The Mastery of Procrastination

However, one cause of failure stood out to the author above all others in his analysis of successful and unsuccessful people: the lack of decision. He claims that without exception, all successful people have the habit of making decisions promptly, and of changing them slowly. People who have no desire of their own are heavily influenced by the opinions of others, and are not likely to succeed. Great accomplishments come from courageous decisions.

The ability to decide quickly comes from knowing what it is you want, and it is that ability that defines leaders. As the author states, “The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.”

8. Persistence: The Sustained Effort Necessary to Induce Faith

The addition of willpower to desire is the basis of persistence, which must be applied to the other principles in this book in order to grow rich. Persistence is a state of mind that can be cultivated by having definiteness of purpose, desire, self-reliance, definiteness of plans, accurate knowledge, cooperation, willpower, and habit.

9. Power of the Master Mind: The Driving Force

In this chapter, Mr. Hill delves further into the necessity and power of the mastermind discussed earlier, discussing both the economic and “psychic” features of having such a group of individuals to support you. The economic is simple; as discussed earlier, the combination of experience and brainpower is a serious economic advantage. However, despite the pages devoted to discussing the psychic feature of the mastermind, that particular component is more difficult to pin down.

I’m personally skeptical of the author’s discussion of how “the spiritual units of energy of each mind form an affinity,” and I’m unable to translate the concept in a way that reconciles with modern scientific and psychological understanding, as I have been able to do with earlier concepts. However, there are abundant examples of the mastermind at work, from the earliest annals of history, to the founding fathers of America, to the PayPal mafia of modern times, which illustrate the phenomenon that Mr. Hill attempted to describe.

10. The Mystery of Sex Transmutation

This chapter takes the prize for most bizarre title. Actually, the concept is fairly simple: because sexual desire is the most powerful human desire, the exercising of willpower to redirect this compulsion from physical expression to another productive purpose or creative outlet is an extremely powerful tool. As the author puts it, “When driven by this desire, men develop keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times.”

Without specifying any names, the book asserts that certain men of great accomplishment credit the ability to exercise “sex transmutation” for their success. I’ll leave you to ponder the awkwardness, political incorrectness, and veracity of this concept without further comment.

11. The Subconscious Mind: The Connecting Link

Specifically addressing the central subject of this book, the author reminds us that directing the subconscious mind via the other principles discussed throughout this book is something that can be done only through habit. To grow rich, you must continually draw upon the positive emotions, rather than allow your mind to dwell on the negative ones. Faith cannot coexist with fear.

12. The Brain: A Broadcasting and Receiving Station for Thought

In this chapter, Mr. Hill reiterates the principles discussed earlier from the perspective of the brain’s role in the process, but doesn’t offer much useful material not previously discussed. Given science’s limited knowledge of the brain in the 1930’s, this is to be expected.

13. The Sixth Sense: The Door to the Temple of Wisdom

The sixth sense is defined as “that portion of the subconscious mind which has been referred to as the Creative Imagination,” through which “you will be warned of impending dangers in time to avoid them, and notified of opportunities in time to embrace them.” The author’s flowery language about the “Universal Mind” and “Infinite Intelligence” is probably best summed up as what we call intuition. I’d recommend Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell for a more modern and scientifically informed treatise on the role of intuition.

Mr. Hill then goes on to describe a thought exercise that takes the concept of visualization a step further. Immediately before going to sleep, he closes his eyes and pictures a council of advisors, which for him consists of men such as Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Ford, and Carnegie. He has selected each man for a particular trait that he desires to imitate, and acts as the chairman of this invisible council.

The book describes the imaginary interactions among the various counselors in great detail, which gives the impression that the author takes this exercise very seriously. He maintains that this practice is the best way to channel the sixth sense because of the way in which it impresses the subconscious (via the auto-suggestion principle discussed earlier) with certain characteristics that he wishes to emulate.

14. How to Outwit the Six Ghosts of Fear: Clearing the Brain for Riches

Because faith cannot coexist with fear, one must master fear to grow rich. The author divides fear into six types, which in order of prevalence are the fears of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age, and death. Because fear is a state of mind, and because you have control over your states of mind, you can choose to exercise your will and banish fear, worry, negativity, and alibis that we use to excuse failure or lack of action (if I only had a better education, or more time, or more money, etc.).


Believe it or not, I’ve actually filtered out a good deal of the crazier elements contained within this book. Hopefully this has had the effect of providing a summary of useful practical steps, but you may want to read the book for yourself to see what you can glean from some of the more outlandish content. (Napoleon actually suggests you read the book in full at least three times.)

While I may not consider all of Mr. Hill’s conjecture and embellishment to be valid in light of modern scientific knowledge, I believe there is enormous value in the key principle of the power of the subconscious mind. Since the writing of this book, science has confirmed the author’s claim that the subconscious mind directs far more of our life than we realize. To my knowledge, the practical steps in this book for harnessing that power are the best available.