Almost Forty

I realised today when it happened. Ageing that is. It happened when I finally started living a life that made me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people who appears to coast through life in a state of ease and joy. I’ve had more than my share of hard times as have most of us. But now, acknowledging the times that have come before makes me more grateful for today that I think I have ever been in the days leading up to today.

What strikes me most clearly is that as soon as I got genuinely happy and stopped being what other people wanted (or what I thought other people wanted) everything started to move as though on fast forward. The days, adventures, laughs, even tears sped up with an enthusiasm that would make roller coasters look like the lazy river.

Alice

Equally notable, is the snail’s pace that the hard times seemed to take, even in my memories. I’m amazed by how absorbed I was with how other people perceived me and how I wanted them to perceive me in my twenties. It seemed to last forever. It certainly felt like a millennium of repeated bad days.

The gaps between should be and perceived by cost me hours (weeks and months in some cases) of trauma that not only moved slowly, they seemed to trap me in neutral. Even when I reflect on them the scars still seem fresh. Normal, I suppose, but when contrasted with the laughs that happened just yesterday already fading away, it seems cruel.

That is the thing about the good times, they fly quickly and without the internet reminding us of fun moments we had back when we can easily forget they existed. Strangely, the moments of turbulence seem etched in my memory in a high definition familiarity I wish I had with today’s breakfast.

So that is what I am going to talk about. Questing for good times every damn day. I know that my life is flying past and that each second is fleeting and precious. Time is not on my side (Sorry Mick) and soon enough my almost forty will become one of the things in my not so recent history so I better get started.

Why today?

I asked myself this too. One answer is that I have the confidence to put my words in the universe because I don’t care if you like them. The alternate is that I am old enough to have experiences worth sharing to those who follow in my footsteps.

Both are bullshit.

Maybe you are asking why you decided to give moments of your precious time for this garbage. My ego tells me that you did because this tome is only going to be read by people who know me and most never made it far enough into this post to see these words.

That being said, if you are someone who gave money to travel the internet and somehow arrived here for my words: Thank you. Send me your postal address and I will mail you a card saying something clever about how you help me to be myself. I will probably need to write it out a few times, edit, and rewrite before I feel good enough to tell you such things, but that is the power of the voices in our heads.

In the fourth grade I wanted to be a writer, but… I soon realised that writers don’t often make a great living and so decided to go a different way.

Fuck You pragmatic ten-year old self.2017-09-24 08.24.24

Sidebar: I think I was actually 6 in this photo and the fat lip is courtesy of my older sister and the teeter-totter.

Seriously. Growing up in a world where struggling to make ends meet and “broke” stole a dream and traded it for self sufficiency is just plain old shitty. For the record: we need to do more to support the working poor.

Well here is the thing about being a grown up: You can change your mind if you want to so that is what I have done. I am now self-sufficient, I have gathered up some confidence in my words, and today I am going to share them even if it doesn’t make me rich, because satisfaction cannot be purchased at any price.

Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing-Benjamin Franklin

In the last couple of years I was inspired to start writing in a way I have always secretly hoped to. My friend Anna makes me feel good about the ideas in my head and the words I assemble onto uhm paper? Digital documents? Whatever. You get the idea. She said nice stuff, I gained confidence, I wrote more stuff. Now you are reading said type of stuff.

Why we face complicated ideas such as what and who we should be so early in life and follow that decision made in the midst of hormone fuelled chaos for decades is beyond me. Shouldn’t we be happy? Shouldn’t success be defined with experiences instead of things you can buy at a store?

So hey there ten-year old Erin, better late than never right?

Onto things of more value: My next steps

When I was young I used to think that I knew the path I was supposed to take. I was supposed to find a good guy, get a job that pays the bills, buy a house, live the life. Happily. Ever. After.

I did those things. I hated my life.

My entire existence was muscle memory the way you continue to read the instructions on a bottle of shampoo as you go through the motions in the shower each morning. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

That is decidedly not living.

Birthdays have been something that I have spent most of my life ignoring and just let them slip by. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point in my late teens I decided that they shouldn’t be such a big deal and that making yourself the centre of attention just brought on criticism.

Since then both the big and little numbers have skated quietly by for almost two decades.

20 came and went to an unhealthy relationship and what I remember being a pretty massive fight. I recall coming up on 30 and after a friend made an absolute spectacle of their big day all I could think was how I didn’t want to be like that. Because of him that milestone went all but unmarked with a partner who forgot.

When I turned 30 I made the decision to redefine what I wanted my life to look like. What I wanted it to look like was not the life I had spent time building. It wasn’t a collection of pretty things or looking the part. It was experiences. It was people I loved that made me laugh so hard tears stream down my face. It was adventures and unexpected items around corners I got to explore because I was busy living life.

It was certainly not life on autopilot.

That being said, 35 was sucked into the vacuum of days at the start of my MBA and a new job, though there was a particularly fantastic meal at Jacob’s …..mmmm steak.

That’s what makes this year important to me to mark in some way. I’ve decided that it is not about the particular day, but rather how you fill the ones that aren’t as discernible. I am now a distance that can be counted in hours away from my next milestone and am doing everything I can to relish the moments that are passing in memorable ways. I’ve spent the last few months working to capture mental pictures of flashes that make up who I am today and who I am yet to be.

To start this next batch of ~3600 days I thought I would reflect a little on the growth that got me through the last decade.

  1. Physically: I have challenged my body by training, running, hiking, and endurance cycling. Even better, I haven’t once died or failed to find the finish line.
  2. Mentally: Yup, all it takes is three post graduate efforts and a little collection of letters after my name in order to remind me that I am smart enough.
  3. Professionally: by having a chance to expand my skills across countries and continents with people from different cultures and experiences, I am a different and more balanced person.
  4. Emotionally: learning to overcome the voice in my head that said I couldn’t as well as through pushing my own limits to discover empathy and human capacity that had long since been tucked away.

This type of stretching matters because we naturally become comfortable doing what we know, with people we know. Committing your life to remaining flexible means more than just being able to touch your toes.

It means that you are willing to try, to fail, and sometimes to flounder in uncertainty while figuring it out as you go.

Today we are faced with ever lengthening life spans and I don’t want the next sixty plus years to look the same. I refuse to allow myself to get too comfortable.

My promises to myself and you.

More languages and more cultural explorations

The goal for now is German, French, and Te Reo (Māori), after that maybe Japanese and sign language… we will see. I can’t guarantee what is coming up around the next corners and am prepared to adapt my plans on the fly as I go.

More physical challenges

Despite what the voice in my head might say I am strong and capable. Our bodies are something that with care can last the hundred or so years I plan to be on the planet, so if I treat this almost forty year-old body well, it will continue to serve me for the rest of my time. A couple of weeks ago I climbed to the top of a volcano in Indonesia. A few weeks from now I will tramp Old Ghost Road in New Zealand. I haven’t made too many plans for 2018 yet, but I promise there will be time spent exploring both new and familiar mountains, forests, and beaches.

Erin Burrell Mt. Batur Bali
This is what you do to welcome 40

More letters

I love learning and my academic endeavors are far from over. I really do want to be a polymath.

More words

I abandoned writing in my teens and have rediscovered a passion for sharing my thoughts and ideas in both formal and informal forums. That is going to continue for sure, you don’t have to read them, but I know that I do have to write them.

More collaboration

It’s not a secret that I am not a big people person. However, I love the way working together can create amplification and multiplication of ideas as smart humans build from one another. The world is full of complex problems and to start solving them we need people with broadly different paradigms to tackle them together.

More failures and confusion

Failing and stumbling are critical parts of learning and growth. Confusion is simply our brain finding ways to connect knowledge we have with new ideas or things we are being exposed to. Instead of considering confusion as something that shows us as less than, consider it watching your brain creating new pathways between what it knows about and what it is discovering in real time. (You want to try it right now, don’t you? It’s ok. I will wait…).

Growth as a feminist and advocate for personhood

No, I am not being cheeky. This is not about one thing. Feminism provides a foundation for humanity. It sparks the flame of true equality for so much more than just gender. Our world is not binary and nor should policies be. People need to be kind to one another regardless of things as defined by hashtags as gender or sexual orientation and as complex as socio-economic status. We are now responsible for embracing the realisation that most of us are becoming citizens without a base as we begin to face life as a global community.

There is more on my list to be sure, but these are the road markers that will remind me that I am progressing when I feel insecure and less than. Goals are complicated things that should be written down and reviewed regularly. I keep a list of them with me and while many items stay until I can tick them off the list, others get removed as I evolve.

So.. that’s it. Happy almost birthday to me.

May we all spend our moments creating sparks for the fires that will warm us tomorrow.

 

 

Borrowed Bravery

Hey there…. I know that lately you haven’t been feeling it. It’s hard to see the finish line when the world becomes a 24/7 obstacle course. I’ve been there and am here to offer you all the bravery you need to get through this moment.

Here’s the thing… I know that you are on the cusp of awesome and I know what it feels like to be scared and unsure. It’s because I’m so familiar with what you must be feeling today I thought I would let you know that I have some extra brave that is yours no questions asked.

I see you hesitating. Let me just stop you there. I know every single one of your arguments.

You’re afraid of failure.

You aren’t ready yet.

You don’t have enough skills, intelligence, education, or good old fashioned gumption to do the thing you want to do.

The rest of the world knows how much you don’t deserve this chance.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

I’ve been where you are right now. Paralysed by inadequacy. Sure that at any point someone is going to point out what a faker you are. I understand completely. I’ve been there before and I am very aware of the fact that at some point I will be there again.

So.. here’s the deal. You can borrow my brave today. I have enough confidence for both of us that you are EXACTLY the right person for the job.

I also know that with the little boost that my bravery can give you, you are going to be Ah-Freakin’-May-ZING. I know that what you don’t have today, you will work for and will turn this little boost into a rocket towards a future you can’t yet imagine.

That’s right, for the total price of nothing but a signature on the dotted line, you can have every single one of the talents you see in front of you right now. I have enough brave for both of us today, so I’ve got your deficits covered.

All the confidence, all the skills and knowledge I have collected over the years they are 100% yours to use. I paused for a second to think about what you WILL accomplish with just 10% of the faith I have in you. GAWD… You will be unstoppable.

But there’s a catch. (Damn sales pitches and their fine print).

You can’t keep it. You can use my bravery as long as you need to, but when you have a cup full of bravery of your own you need to give the extra away.

Bravery is a thing that MUST be paid forward. As soon as you realise that you are no longer drowning in fear and inadequacy, you HAVE to give some of that brave away. Someone else will need it more than you and it’s critical that you help another when they are in need.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

Until you are ready just use my faith in you to push through the scary bits on your way to filling your own cup of brave, I’ve got plenty and am happy to share.

Ready? You’ve got this. 

Forget about all of the reasons why you can’t. Take a big gulp from my cup of brave and kick some ass.

 

 

Uphill both ways

When I was a kid my dad used to tell me a story about how when he was my age he had to “walk uphill both ways to school”. Occasionally this was combined with an aggressive slamming of his baseball mitt sized hand to his chest with a sidebar of “..and the snow was this high! You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”

As an adult I know that he meant this as a story that would motivate me. What I’ve since realised is that often the way we interpret things can be dark and scary OR overwhelmingly motivating. It is all about how we chose to take it.

The words he was saying were about how life could be hard and that likely someone nearby had it worse than I did. In hindsight this isn’t a bad lesson, though I wish he had placed a little focus on what I could be doing to make that other person’s life a little bit better, but he wasn’t that type of guy. Most of his stories roll up to being about looking out for number one.

What troubles me is what the kid in me heard when he told that story. I heard that life is always going to be a struggle. I heard that nobody was going to help you find a shorter, easier way. I heard that you should not complain and just trudge through.

This lesson served to damage a little seed inside me that was trying to grow into something soft and kind and it has taken a long time for me to release that outlook. Today I hear a very different message from his words and this is the one I want to share with you.

If the road in front of you is hard, do not be afraid, be brave and optimistic. The laws of physics are on your side. No route should be uphill both ways. That is not to say that your path will be an easy one to travel. Life is only as hard as you make it. If the track you are on says that you should suffer, stop and question everything about it.

Ask yourself if there is a different way over, under, around, or through. Ask yourself if this was the way you wanted to go in the first place because sometimes a left turn takes you to where you should have been heading all along.

Do not accept the status quo. Learn from things that do not go your way and choose not to allow things not going in your favour to stop you on your journey to greatness. 

Make the decision that you are the only one who can change the rules for you and those who come after you.

One choice, one decision, one mistake, one obstacle will not make or break you, but sitting down and letting the world crush the seeds of awesome inside you will. Sometimes plans don’t go our way. Sometimes we need a better plan, or better yet we need to collaborate with awesome people to create a new way forward all together.

My dad told me a story that was supposed to lift me up and it crushed me for a while. That is a reality of how each of us interprets the things we hear and see. It took longer than it otherwise might have for my little seed to push past these obstacles and bloom.

I consider myself lucky that I was able to hear it differently today because so many hopes and dreams are lost in these situations of misinterpretation.

In light of our global political climate, I want to remind everyone that this single setback should not serve to crush the seeds of hope that have been planted. It may delay the blooms the way a late frost might, but I am here to remind you that summer is coming and together we can make a more beautiful world.

Join me in a left turn towards greatness.

The art of Procrastivity

People talk about how bad procrastination is, but I think that there is a way to procrastinate productively. I dub this effort PROCRASTIVITY and it helps me to do #ALLTHETHINGS!

Yes, that is a made up word…mind you if we look at the way language evolves it might be a real word soon enough. I digress, but really it’s just the synergy of how my avoidance of particular tasks can actually match up with my goals and deliver more outcomes in less time than you might expect.

To be honest I have a lot of things on the go at any one time. Collaborative projects, writing commitments, grad school, work for clients, hobbies, etc. etc. I do a lot of things in my quest to be a polymath and when I procrastinate I have discovered that I often avoid one work effort by doing another.

What? I decide that I don’t want to do my expenses and say…uhm…spend the time instead of doing my expenses writing a blog or doing research for a client. I’m not unproductive, just producing differently. You might be familiar with the feeling of being struck by a powerful need to clean out your closet when you should be doing your homework, or maybe the urgent need to squeeze in that week of meal prep before you can contemplate going to the gym. If you use your desire to avoid a task as fuel to complete another you can be abundantly productive.

While I have to admit that sometimes I do avoid tasks with the help of my couch and Netflix (I’m human people!) when I am avoiding one thing I am primarily working on something else that adds value to one of my goals.

So often we hear about the downfalls of procrastination. We hear stories of how people struggle to accomplish their basic life tasks and rarely hear positive stories. I’m here to tell you about how the act of deferring one task in favour of another can actually help people to deliver more than they thought possible.

Strategic diversity

In order to master procrastivity you need to make some choices about how you want to grow as a person. From making space to develop a creative skill, growing your career, or investing in a dream, your alternate projects need to deliver value to your life plan or personal goals. By doing this you will be assembling items that regardless of what you pick will be doing something good for you.

Think of it like a menu from your favourite restaurant, no matter what you select, it is sure to be tasty and fill your belly. BUT…… you also cannot and should not live exclusively on junk food anymore than you should limit your goals.

Implementing procrastivity

Make the initial list of everything you want to do and prioritise it. Include all the things that you want to do personally, with your loved ones, and professionally. Do not skip concepts like relaxation, fitness, and time with your family as they need to fit in just as much as getting that new certification or promotion might.

Note: The items on your list do not need to add instant value, but MUST add long term value to YOU (nobody else needs to get anything from your goals). Make sure that you are thinking thoughtfully about the things you are adding to your to-do list and how they might contribute to your overall quality of life and personal goals.

An example of this strategic diversity might be goals like learning a language, educating yourself about your professional field, training for your first marathon, doing your day job, and spending time with your family. While this might seem like a big roster of items you can easily slot them all in if you are aware about what items you can be flexible with and what items you need to stick to a schedule with.

Something like education in your professional field could have complete flexibility because you are reading/listening to content about the topic or maybe taking part in a MOOC. These items can be done in the time you wait in a queue for coffee or when you have a few moments free waiting for transit. Comparatively, things like our day jobs can’t be quite as flexible so you have to slot the other items around them.

Most items sit in the middle zone. Training for a marathon for example might require a certain commitment of hours on the road so you need to find a block of time a few days a week before or after work, while family/partner time might be very flexible about the when and not about the how much so you block most of your weeknights to dedicate to your goals and spend your weekend adventuring with your loved ones.

You also have to accept that the priority must correlate to how much time you can invest in each item right now. Maybe that means that something is not going to get as much attention in the short term because of current demands, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t continue to progress as time allows and may become more focused when something else reduces in volume or effort.

Opportunity for connections

So often when we are in the middle of something specific we develop tunnel vision. We forget about other perspectives or options. It’s not our fault, it just happens.

Procrastivity allows us to see new links between seemingly disparate topics through reflection and new knowledge creation. Personal reflection is often powered by walking away from a task and provides us with chances to let our subconscious brain problem solve as it places the new knowledge into slots in our brains. More often than not something that I have been working on for one thing can serve to inform another when I least expect it.

Learn new things

I know this is a bit overly simplified, but doing more than one thing intentionally helps you to learn and grow as a person. We can never know how a passion to learn to play the guitar might result in finding your dream job because of a connection you make or a place you go. Creating a plan to extend your comfort zone will be sure to drive you forward in more ways than the single skill you are acquiring or developing in that moment.

So, now that you have realised that procrastivity is the way forward what are you going to do about it?

new-piktochart_block_2
#Procrastivity for the WIN!

There are also some great to-do lists that can help you to master procrastivity. I really like this one from That’s what she said.

Feeding the seeds around us

I was inspired by a TedTalk that introduced me to the word prevernal a few years ago. Defined as the critical point where something has begun to grow, but is not yet mature. It talks about those early blooms on spring plants and can be used just as easily to describe our growth as people.

Some things can grow despite circumstances, while others begin life at a deficit and must be encouraged if they hope to discover opportunity.

Growth comes easily and naturally to some of us. Breaking through still-frozen ground is something that many can do successfully, but I don’t want to talk about them.

I want to talk about those prevernal people and ideas that need care and support.

Breaking the surface

We must sometimes offer help to others in order to see them achieve what they are capable of. These are the flowers that without someone clearing the snow and offering food to support their growth will never come into being. People need sustenance in this way more than nature might display. It could be because we only see the seeds that manage to break ground, in their effort to flourish and we don’t even know how many perished in the effort to just break the surface.

The word break implies that something must be destroyed in order to have another bloom, and I think that this is really quite true. When we discover change, there is always some lost part of us that lives in the wake of our evolution.

Once the change has occurred, it can no longer claim to be just a seed. The plant has broken through into the earth surrounding it. Both are changed forever. The earth is disrupted and the sprout can never return to seed.

Pollination

Many changes are for the better. So many show us the opportunity for more blooms and growth and with them comes the tipping point. In horticulture, many blooms are not enough on their own and require nurturing in the form of pollination. In people, the same lesson holds true.

You can just as easily stomp out that seed through intention or accident. You must be aware of the seeds around you and make a conscious decision to offer them support for their growth or at the very least stay out of their way.

Feeding the seed

Feeding can happen without being disruptive. It can be something so simple as keeping pests that may attack it away or as complex as daily nurturing and providing sustenance.

As leaders and mentors, we often combine these tools into our approaches. By sheltering that growing seed from negative impact, we are offering them the chance to find their own way. They may never make it out, but you were there to offer them some protection from the elements and enemies.

Through daily nurturing we can help those people and ideas to flourish when they might not have been able to. As individuals, we often think back to some person who offered food to the seed inside us. They told us we were good enough, or that we deserved success and opportunity despite the deficit we come from.

Deciding how to care

People are unique in their needs, but in many cases the same approach will help many, and from there you can customise the care to the individual. Five steps that work for both plants and people are below:

  1. Protect them from pests that may hurt them.
  2. Offer a safe environment to grow in
  3. Provide adequate sources of fuel
  4. Shine some light to help them grow
  5. Don’t try to squeeze too many seeds together or they will fight for space

Great leaders know that growth is a personal experience. It is our responsibility to give back to the world by providing new seeds a chance to bloom. Set those around you up for success and watch your garden grow.

Redefine Average

It’s time to redefine our positions in life. If you want to be awesome, surround yourself with awesome people. If you want to be smarter, surround yourself with people who have more knowledge and experience than you do. If you want to stop being afraid of the risks find someone who knows the methods that will keep you safe.

Find a mentor, become a mentor, learn a new skill, volunteer some of your time, or take on any other thing that allows you to stretch your boundaries.

Each of these tasks does the same basic thing. It helps you to redefine what your perception of normal is.

Jim Rohn was once quoted as saying:

Jim Rohn Quote erinburrell.ca
“You are the average of the five people
you spend the most time with.”-Jim Rohn

You commonly find this type of scenario in sports. If you constantly train with a group of athletes that are more talented than you, the odds are high that your skills will improve until you begin to hold your own.

When you think about it, finding average is a bit of a math equation.

Sally and Steve are both incredibly thoughtful people, let’s call them each a 9/10, unfortunately, Joe is a 4/10 and your partner is a 2/10. Total group score 24/40.

If you follow Rohn’s thought process this group of people likely leave you somewhere around a 6/10. Want to be more thoughtful? Hang out with more people like Sally and Steve and the number will start to rise.

But how you ask can you possibly be capable of raising your averages. You can’t just go out and make new friends, this isn’t kindergarten.…..Or can you?

A few years ago I would have said that this was an impossible concept. I love my friends. I wouldn’t want to spend less time with any of them.

Then it happened.

Not intentionally, it was an accident. I started to spend time with some new friends because of a charity that I had gotten involved in. My old friends were no less important, but they did become less frequent entries in my social calendar and I found myself changing for what I consider the better.

I discovered that I was capable of more empathy because of friends who lived their lives caring for others. I was more able to handle stress and navigate challenges because the people around me were able to offer guidance and their gifts of hindsight. My ability to deal with conflict increased and I went from being an attacker to becoming the person who helps to resolve issues. I became more willing to learn from others by surrounding myself with people passionate about learning.

My averages had moved. I had become a reflection of those around me without meaning to change.

After all these years, my mom was right. You are who you associate with.

Is the prize worth the cost?

Have you ever been to a fair and tried to win the teddy bear? Often if you are not incredibly skilled you will spend much more than the teddy bear is worth trying to win a game. I can recall more than once standing in front of a game I knew I couldn’t win thinking that maybe I should just go to a store and buy myself the toy and save the trauma of losing again and again.

Careers and life choices sometimes follow the same path. Sometimes there is a cost to quality, ethics, standards, or personal values to get to that finish line.

You may get a prize but is it worth doing whatever it takes to get it?

I recently had a coaching session with a talented lady who was concerned that she hadn’t progressed her career as quickly as another person on her team. She expressed frustration at the fact that the other person was getting increased prestige and, of course, more money and here she was in the same desk.

I challenged her with the idea that this other person must have made different choices than she had in order to achieve the increase in their status. She nodded her head and went into a stream of activities that she wasn’t willing to compromise her values to do. My response was simple, clearly she needed to surround herself with people who wouldn’t ask her to pay such a toll for the same rewards. (Fast forward a few months and she is in a new role with an organisation that isn’t asking her to compromise values for promotions.)

Easier than it sounds

Jim Rohn’s point was simple. Being in the middle of a group of amazing people isn’t bad, but in order to get there you need to surround yourself with the greatness you aspire to.

Anyone is capable of shifting their scores by being humble enough to realise that. So go out and find a new average and don’t settle until your calculation adds up to awesome.

The art of pushing through

Pushing Through-Erin Burrell
The art of pushing through

adjective push·ing \ˈpu̇-shiŋ\

Definition of PUSHING

  1. marked by ambition, energy, enterprise, and initiative
  2. marked by tactless forwardness or officious intrusiveness

preposition \ˈthrü\

Definition of THROUGH

  1. into one side and out the other side of (something)
  2. from one side or end to another side or end of (something)

Based on these definitions in order to push through (you) must be marked by tactless forwardness or officious intrusiveness into one side and out the other side (of something).

It is the concept of officious intrusiveness that makes getting through personal blockages so key in my mind. It’s the idea that in order to get past/over/through something hard you have to stop being polite. You need to knock down the things between you and your goal in a bit of obstacle bowling so to speak.

When you are alone there are a thousand things that you can use as excuses as to why you can’t. They are all about being polite.

I have other things I should be doing: Really? Your laundry will wait for you to write that novel or climb that hill. We know you have clean underwear left in the drawer.

It’s not really what I want anyway: (I’m shaking my head as I write this phrase.) We cannot (and should not) give up greatness because it is too hard. If you want something: GO. DO. Carpe Diem is thousands of years old. Seize the damn day people!

Support-Erin Burrell
Sometimes we need a little support

It’s hard for a reason

If the things you hope to achieve are easy, they aren’t special. When you reflect on the lessons you have learned in the process you will be reminded why so many people never get to say they did this or that. Many years from now you might think back to a challenge you were faced with and it won’t be the finish line that you reflect on, but the hurdles along the way that you defeated.

Remember that you are overcoming something in order to feel the joy of achievement. The rush of victory is a powerful motivator, but you have to get out of your own head and stop listening to your excuses.

Stop being polite and start taking names

Excuses are your enemy. Between you and I we can come up with heaps of them.

Reasons why you shouldn’t be the hero in your story. Reasons why that goal was too big for you. Even reasons why you don’t deserve that achievement.

We are WRONG. The world is yours. Goals are specifically designed to be stacked up and knocked down like freaking dominoes.

Keep moving forward

My friend Anna was writing something that wasn’t easy to say. She is a woman of many talents and professions and had lots of reasons to walk away from the keyboard. BUT she didn’t. She pushed past the voices in her head that told her not to finish it. (You can see her thoughts on a page over at Too Convoluted. She’s funny and honest, read her stuff.)

Facing these fears and thoughts of inadequacy is never easy. They might have slowed her progress, but they didn’t stop her, she kept writing. One. Word. At. A. Time.

It took longer than it should have. It was harder than it usually is. It is some of her more thoughtful writing and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I get to say that because, she did it. She was marked by ambition, energy, enterprise, and initiative into one side and out the other side. I know that her next goal will be bigger, harder, and more complex than the last and I can’t wait to cheer her on.

There is no easy button on things worth pursuing.

No, it isn’t easy. No, it isn’t fast. It is, however really freaking worth it.

She was reminded (as was I) that by persevering past the blockage, that she could. The mere fact that she was able to do this thing reminds us all that we can continue to pursue bigger goals and achievements.

Pushing through to greatness

  1. Don’t apologise for wanting something for yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with empowering people who don’t accept excuses. They can help get you through the hard times.
  3. Choose big, hairy, goals. Goals that intimidate regular people. Goals that make you a bit afraid just by thinking about them. Then when you accomplish them you will dance by the light of victory.
  4. Use your fear of failure (and actual failures) as fuel. Let them remind you that the odds of achieving your goals can improve when you learn from your previous mistakes
  5. Don’t stop trying until you get there. Famous entrepreneurs, athletes, celebrities cite failure as their strongest motivational factor. A friend and accomplished endurance cyclist gave me some advice on how to achieve a goal. His thought was that any forward momentum, no matter how slow or small was getting you closer to your goal.

It is because I continue to be inspired by great people like Anna that I have accomplished what I have so far. Hopefully, these few words help to remind you that you are capable of doing something great as well.

The value of mentors (and why you should become one)

Recently LinkedIn told me that I should be thanking my mentors. While I think gratitude is important and I am an advocate for saying thank you publicly, I feel that the best thank you comes through action. I see the need to pay forward my gratitude in physical ways whenever possible and I think this is the lesson many of my mentors would like to have seen me learn.

Many people credit their mentors for offering them the insights they need to succeed while others state that it was their mentor that taught them not to be hard on themselves while they were learning. I see both of these concepts as adding value, but feel that we should all be reminded that no matter what age or career level we may have achieved, we have something to offer to other people.

Becoming a mentor/advocate is the most meaningful role I have ever held. Today most of the wins I experience are not my own. Instead, they are the achievements of people I have been lucky enough to work with and contribute to the development of.

Mentoring involves hard and soft skills

Dealing with conflict at work or challenges with navigating business politics are common themes for mentors. It is our gift of hindsight that helps to inform the knowledge we share with our mentees. However, it is the ability to see what worked and didn’t in our past experiences that leads us to offer tools, models, and approaches that will support our mentee in their hard skill development.

If you read Harvard Business Review you will discover that most articles regarding leadership success or management involve being a mentor to those below you and learning from those above you. I started to look for a particular article that displays this brilliantly and discovered this one.

While it also talks of the evolution from manager to leader, I don’t see any of the concepts being less relevant for those at any level in their career. Including ideas such as seeing the micro and macro pictures and understanding when to fight and when to negotiate will help to grow every resource.

What’s in it for you?

Victory in business and personal efforts feel fantastic. When you add those of your team and direct reports that feeling is increased immensely. Ultimately it comes down to the reality that helping someone else feels good for you.

What always surprises me is how much I learn when I’m mentoring. From the reminder to be excited about challenges, the desire to face new tasks with reckless optimism (often hard for those of us with battle scars), to the ability to be humble and learn new skills, my mentees teach me every day.

When you win: you feel good. When they win: you feel good. How can you possibly lose with that approach?

My lesson for you

Before you merely thank your mentors, become one and learn why acting is more valuable than speaking.

A few of the lessons I take with me daily from great leaders I am proud to have my career crafted by:

Work with people you love and respect.

Work with people you want to spend time with. While the relationships weren’t always critical to business success, it was worth the exchange for enjoying work more. Sometimes this means you don’t get the cheapest deal or resource, but making less profit and loving your day will be more impactful over the long term. Jeff Rushton

Detail matters in everything you do.

Going back and reviewing your work or someone else’s won’t ever hurt your business. As he always said “circle the wagons” (to make sure your load is stable). Mario Policicchio

Silence is powerful.

People are afraid of silence. It makes them uncomfortable. They will rush to fill the space you leave empty and that is where you will learn what to do next. Be quiet, watch, and listen. Andreas Lorenzen

Dr Seuss Quote
Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

What I learned from doing my MBA

I recall back to when I was researching grad schools I was frantically trying to find content that would tell me about the experience. I searched forums, youtube, and websites all resulting in next to no content.

I was so frustrated. Nobody was there to really tell you what they felt like as a student. I couldn’t figure it out. There was information before they started and information after they finished, but hardly anything about life completing an MBA.

I would change this! I promised myself that I would document the experience. Boy was I wrong.

The reason that there was next to no content about how life really felt during an MBA was because: THEY WERE TOO BUSY DOING THEIR MBA’s. I too failed in my personal promise to document the journey. What little I wrote can be found here.

Taking on an Executive MBA program while balancing family, work, and life means that there will be sacrifices. It’s been a year since I finished, and I have only managed to just lose the weight I put on from sacrificing fitness during the degree so that my other commitments wouldn’t completely fall by the wayside.

I gave up a lot of things during my degree like my fitness, movies with my partner, evenings visiting with friends and family, and relaxing vacations. I also lost some things which may never recover like friends I wasn’t able to keep regular contact with that have all but faded away.

In exchange for my sacrifices I was given many things which I consider to be of higher value. Lessons like increased ability to problem solve and work with a team to think critically and deliver effectively. I also pride myself on my resiliency and ability to balance demands coming at me from all sides. Something I wasn’t aware of before I started in the degree.

In the end, my answer to those who ask is that it is a hard balance to take on a degree as a working professional. It requires you to be humble about what you can and cannot accomplish and forces you to make decisions about what matters most every day.

Sorry I wasn’t able to share these insights in real time, I was too busy doing the work, to write about how the work felt…. Now onward to another degree I’m just about to tackle an MA… maybe this time I will be able to better document the experience…. or maybe not.

An open letter of immense gratitude

As I began to write the list of acknowledgements for my graduate project I realised that most of my thanks need to go to many who will never read such a document. Gratitude this large and passionate deserves broadcast to an audience wider than just that of a paper filed neatly in a folder somewhere.

My life has changed a lot over the last few years. I have a new partner, friends, company, job and now a new country. The person many of you met was going through a massive change and I credit my success this far to each and every one of you.

I’ve finally started to become a version of myself that I respect, on my way to being the person I want to be when I grow up. Certainly, not the version someone else wants, but one I was seeing in my head and heart not so long ago. I jumped into a hurricane and ended up on a quest to this new life by walking the yellow brick road and meeting all of you along the way.

There have been scary times during this adventure I promise. I have made choices that are not at all popular and certainly unconventional but I have grown and evolved. Today I feel that it is time that I offer credit to all of you who helped me get here.

To my partner: you are my everything, my future and I am (literally) willing to follow you to the end of the world.

To my family: yes, I am different than what you thought I would be. No less flawed, but it is with the knowledge that you will love me anyway that I have had the courage to make the leaps I have so far and those I am merely plotting for the future.

To my support system and chosen families: you know who you are. You cheered me on, heard me cry, told me I WAS good enough, strong enough and smart enough. You pushed me up hills that I never would have challenged both physically and emotionally. You offered honest and sometimes hard feedback to help me grow and change and I am forever in your debt.

To my team, company and customers: it has been the act of working for you that has made me willing to forget about myself. Thank you for helping me to see the big picture.

To my scholastic colleagues and leaders: each day I spend with you in my life I become stronger and more capable to face what the future brings. I am lucky to know each of you and credit you among my nearest and dearest.

So, with a little love and honesty I need to offer credit to each of you for the massive dent that my bucket list has taken over the past few years. I credit your support for the fact that it has also more than doubled despite the long list of items marked happily with a strike through. You are helping to push me forward and for that I am eternally grateful.