Things We Lost in the Fire

No doubt you will have heard on the news about the terrible wildfires that are currently raging all over the world, including in my home country Greece. It is a disaster which is often hard to comprehend in areas where the ecosystem is less ‘flammable’.

Within days, often hours, whole areas are destroyed. Animals and trees are wiped out, and people’s properties, which whole generations have often worked hard to build over decades, literally go up in flames.

People who suffer such catastrophic loses often show a remarkable resilience in the big scheme of things. Their view of the events is often philosophical, and they remind themselves that as long as they (and their friends and relatives) are alive and in good health, they can always re-start and rebuild their material wealth.

What can we learn from this resilience? I recently asked the members of my Facebook group ‘If you were to lose everything in a fire, what personal quality would help you regain all that you need?’ Some of their answers were:

  • Acceptance that things are the way they are meant to be; if all is gone, it means I don’t need it any more and I am free to start afresh
  • My personal resilience
  • It would probably be a good riddance, as I have too much stuff anyway

As a kid, one of my most vivid memories from Greece is a quote my mum had put on the bathroom door. It read a bit like this (my own translation from Greek): ‘If you love something, set it free. If it returns, then it’s yours. if it doesn’t, then it was never yours in the first place’.

What are the attitudes, beliefs and habits you need to set free in your life right now?

Slow Down in Order to Go Faster

Like many others, I have been fascinated by the Olympic Games and the thrills they bring. Despite empty stadiums and the lack of an audience, top athletes have been pushing their boundaries and setting new Olympic records every day. 

Of course, not all favourites have performed well. In fact, some of them have not performed at all. I am of course referring to Simone Biles, the charismatic top gymnast who has given up on her disciplines in order to prioritize her mental health.

Anyone can draw their own conclusions from her decision. Personally, I learned the following:

  • Your mental health is not negotiable. Even if you lose everything else, taking care of your mental wellbeing will always allow you to return at the centre, start all over and forge a new path that better suits your needs
  • Success doesn’t equal mental wellbeing. You can be enormously successful and still suffer mentally every single day. You can also be gloriously happy in a non-eventful, ‘unsuccessful’ existence (based on the criteria for success in our Western world).
  • It’s good to know your limits and your vulnerability. The only person who can determine how far you are willing to go in order to achieve success, is you.

Like many other coaches, I often work with ambitious people who want to achieve many goals in a short period of time. It is wonderful to see their progress and achievements, that’s what we coaches are doing this for.

But sometimes I see it as my task, rather than keeping pushing these clients forward, to help them to take a step back and look at the big picture. How ecological are their goals? What are the implications on their mental health and their family life? Are they prepared to live with the consequences of their actions?

As small business owners, solopreneurs and creatives, we all want to achieve success and reach our goals as soon as possible in our journey. But sometimes it is necessary to jump off the coach before the final destination. Particularly if that coach is on a course to crash.

What are the consequences of our ambitions? Will our achievements come at the expense of friendships, relationships and our mental wellbeing? They might serve us short-term, but will they still serve our values, happiness and wellbeing in a year, 3 years or 5 years from now?

As a solopreneur, you have chosen to live your passion and to take ownership of your career dreams. Always remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to reach the finishing line you have set ahead of you, you may need to pace and preserve your energy rather than giving it all right now. 

Stepping back when it matters so that you can take the right decisions, can propel you forward much faster than when you keep running and only focus on what is immediately ahead. You can see the trees, but can you also see the wood?

Another week has just started. If you don’t achieve the goals you have set out to achieve, start over again next week. There will be plenty of other weeks ahead.

How To Measure your Power and Determination

I was recently invited to participate in a board break during an NLP Master training session. When my mentor Dr Bridget invited me to attend, I first thought that a ‘board break’ was some sort of clever NLP metaphor. I was expecting detailed mindset work that will bring to the fore the dirty wash of my unconscious mind, as NLP often does!

But as it turned out, it was LITERALLY that: the breaking of a wooden board, an action which requires quite some mental preparation, as well as determined action. Before you proceed to break a board, there are quite a few things you must get in order first.

 You symbolically write on one side of the board the limiting beliefs that are currently holding you back, and on the other side those you want them replaced with. Then you work on your breathing, prepare your mind, practice your moves and eventually go ahead and execute them. 
It is a great way to measure your power and determination. It requires the perfect coordination of a number of factors:

  • Modelling success behaviour 
  • Following a tried and tested process to get results 
  • Reaching beyond your goal, in order to achieve it 
  • Taking massive action when the time is right
  • Having unwavering self-belief about the outcome of your actions 

So maybe, the breaking of a board is an NLP metaphor after all. Just have another look at the five factors above. Wouldn’t doing these sort of things regularly and consistently be your shortcut to personal and professional success? I think it would!

Here’s to a week in which you show those around you your power and determination!

Kostas

Money Does Buy Happiness

Despite common beliefs and an influential study from the past, recent research suggests that there is a strong link between income and wellbeing. A study at the University of Pennsylvania found no evidence for a ‘wellbeing plateau’ related to income. With other worlds, wellbeing keeps increasing with income!

Crucially however, research indicates that it’s not so much about how much we earn, but about how much we earn compared to those surrounding us, that affects our wellbeing. We are social animals and comparing ourselves to others is normal behaviour. However, an obsession with what others do and earn (or, as a fellow coach puts it, ‘comparisitis’) is not healthy and detrimental to our wellbeing.

I often find that conversations about money tend to centre around ‘how much’ and not enough around ‘what for?’ Studies have consistently found that buying experiences rather than things creates greater wellbeing. However, we often need things in order to create these experiences in the first place. While I love the experience of playing my keyboards, none of it would happen had I not been able to buy a good quality instrument in the first place!

Money also often creates time, and interestingly this also works vice versa. The greater the income, the more flexibility you have to do what you desire in your spare time. For us solopreneurs, extra income means that we can choose to create more time for ourselves, by working ‘smarter rather than harder’! And likewise, we can continue to increase our wealth exponentially if we decide to use that spare time to create more wealth (whether we want do to this, will of course depend on our values and our priorities in life).

What does all this mean for your and your business? It highlights the importance of giving money and income the place it deserves in your life. Be honest about it, and embrace money as your friend, rather than the source of evil, a personal obsession or an elusive entity you are constantly chasing! The following tips can help you to achieve this:

  • Develop an abundance mindset: when you believe there is plenty for everyone out there and you act accordingly, then you will spot opportunities to ethically increase your wealth
  • Detach yourself from negative emotions you have attached to money. Money is just an exchange of energy. Ask yourself more helpful questions, such as: ‘what does money really mean for me?’ Does it mean more freedom, more time to see friends and family, buying all the things you have dreamt of? Does it mean security such as having your own property, buying yourself memorable experiences, enhancing your social status?
  • Increase awareness of your unconscious money beliefs, and what life events led to them (these are often hidden in your childhood). Be in control of your finances, and don’t let the thought of money control your life!
  • Don’t waste your time constantly comparing your income with that of people around you. There will always be people who are wealthier, as well as poorer than you. Figure out what you need from life (and therefore from your income), rather than considering it as a contest with others!
  • Use your income to do good. Being generous and helpful to others will reflect on you in your time of need. Giving money boosts happiness, and happy people give more! Giving creates a virtuous spiral of increasing benefits. My mum, who has always been generous and helpful with her clients in her business, was showered with gifts and presents during lockdown, and many of her clients pre-bought courses of treatments even when it was completely unclear when she would be able to re-open again!

Many small business owners have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with money. They know its benefits and value it, but at the same time they seem to be afraid or threatened by it. Creating a more detached and consciously aware relationship with money, will help you use it to your benefit so that you can create your own path to wealth and financial freedom.

PS there are some exciting and interesting discussions in my FREE facebook group right now! Have you checked it out yet? Click here to join the conversations!

You Are the Fortune Teller

Earlier this week, I asked my Facebook tribe what a famous fortune teller would predict about their future. Some people took this question literally (“Why should I go to a fortune teller if I knew what they are going to predict?”). Others aligned themselves with the spirit of the question, talking about how their future will look like.

Magical things often happen when you start thinking about the future, and even more so when you start predicting your future. This is the case especially when your daydreams concentrate on what YOU will be doing, rather than on the actions of others, or of external events unfolding.

The stronger your vision of the future, the more likely the prediction will happen. There is transformative energy in purposeful thinking. Spend regularly some time thinking about what you want to achieve in the near and not so near future. Make sure you create a positive, compelling picture with plenty of visual and auditory detail. What do you see, hear and feel in your ideal future?

The more positive and compelling the vision of your future, the more you will want to achieve it. The more desire to achieve it, the more your present actions will align with your wishes and your dreams.

Start now by spending 15-30 minutes visualising your future, and write down what you see, hear, feel. The more detail you put into your future picture, the better. Make sure you concentrate on your own actions, and that the image is positive and desirable. Do this regularly, and soon you will realise that you are your own fortune teller. The future doesn’t yet exist, but purposeful thinking and acting in the present will shape it to your liking.

Compose Your Own Freedom

As a music composer committed to help others (and myself) to find the freedom they desire, I often think about the composition of freedom. Just like a musical composition, where you can in principle write any tune you like in any key you want, we have complete control over our freedom. Just like a musical composition, where the tune or piece can only be expressed in seven notes and twenty-four keys, our freedom is constrained by days limited to twenty-four hours and external events that impact on our lives on a macro and micro level.

But what does freedom mean? This is an age old question, and a whole philosophical school called existentialism has been dedicated to formulate an answer to that question. The famous French philosopher Sartre stated: freedom is what we do with what is done to us. The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously proclaimed: Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

In your day-to-day life as a solopreneur, the concept of freedom can be translated into a practical, actionable way of life. Freedom arises from taking control of your time, your finances and your location (choosing where you want to live and work, with online working become a huge game changer in that respect). While most small business owners focus on the finances, your most precious asset is in fact your time: unlike money, time is finite and can not be recuperated.

With every day constrained to 24 hours, we all have the same amount of time available to succeed in our business. But while you can’t magic up additional hours to your day, you can optimize your time in such a way that it may feel like you are stretching it. Tony Robbins, Elon Musk and Richard Branson all have exactly the same hours in the day you have. However, they compose their days so effectively that they give you the illusion of creating additional hours on top of the same 24 hours ‘common mortals’ have available. The good news is that you can do the same if you wish. Here are various ways in which you can ‘stretch’ your time by optimizing the way you are using it:

  • Find out which are the 2-3 actions that will make all the difference to your vision and goals. Ensure these actions are prioritized and completed consistently every single day. Ditch, or if possible delegate the rest of your ‘to-do-list’ as it will only serve as a distraction to your goals
  • Concentrate on what is ‘important’ rather than what is ‘urgent’.
  • Create clarity in your life through effective habits and systems that help you automatically repeat the actions that will bring you closer to your goals. Spending time procrastinating or thinking about what to do next, is a wasteful use of your resources. Instead, set a specific time slot every week to review your priorities and ensure your day-to-day actions are aligned to them. This will save you a lot of time on the long run

Doing all of the above consistently will ensure that you take control of your time, which in turn will improve your finances and give you more life and business choices. Ultimately, you will be able to compose your own freedom in the way you see fit.

The Business of Making Art

Tomes of books have been written about the Art of Doing Business, but today I want to say a few words about the Business of Making Art.

As a part-time musician and composer, one of my obsessions is helping musicians and artists in general to achieve their goals. These goals vary, and I can confidently say that more often than not, most artists I am talking to are not clear about what they want to achieve, or how to go about achieving it. So part of my task as a coach, is to help them understand in the first place what they actually want.

Being an artist often means that strong emotions are involved when it comes to your art. This makes it sometimes difficult to calmly and objectively evaluate what you need in do in order to be successful. The problem is often related to mindset as can be evidenced by the following symptoms:

  • X-factor mentality: the idea that you have to ‘wait to be discovered’ by a gatekeeper
  • The idea that once a label will sign you, your work as an artist is done, and all you need to do is concentrate on your art. The reality is that you will still have to do the work. Labels much prefer artists who have a proven track record of pulling crowds and selling merch, rather than unknown quantities
  • The illusion that you need thousands or even millions of paying fans in order to make it; I’m sure you heard of Mr Ludwig Van Beethoven or Mr Johann Sebastian Bach. Neither of them had thousands of raving fans!

So why not ditch the misguided thinking above, and embrace the following instead:

  • Apply marketing principles to your artistic career
  • Know your audience
  • Figure out your artistic niche and how to reach and engage your fans effectively
  • Figure out how to consistently attract new fans
  • Always give existing fans a great experience. Create ‘superfans’!
  • Find 1000 fans who are willing to pay you £100 a year
  • Ask for compensation for you efforts. Even as a beginning artist, you can negotiate getting paid for your petrol expenses; by setting clear expectations, you invest in your future career and build on your confidence at the same time
  • Don’t listen to the artist’s myth that good art sells itself; It doesn’t. I know of plenty of talented artists who never reached the success they wanted, and less talented artists who reached success beyond their wildest dreams. They did this by figuring out how to make their offer appealing, so that their fans couldn’t resist!

In order to master the Business of Making Art, you first need to master the Art of Doing Business. This is possibly your most important insight on your way to conquer your fears and insecurities and to find the success you yearn for.

11 Ways to Stop Overthinking

Are you one of these people who think a million thoughts a minute, ruminate about the smallest detail and regularly struggle to find the serenity and peace you crave? Then I really feel for you. The good news is that you are not alone.

As a notorious ruminator myself, I sometimes struggle to keep my thoughts at bay, whether they are positive or negative. Creative, positive impulses such as musical ideas, genius flashes of inspiration for new lyrics or sharp insights about ways to help a client get unstuck, seem to go hand in hand with excessive worrying and overthinking, which includes contemplating worse case scenarios and possibilities of utter failure.

There is a saying going around that overthinking is the art of creating problems that weren’t even there. While there is undoubtedly an element of truth in the statement, most overthinkers will recognize that ruminating is not a conscious process. The issue does not present itself on a rational level, but rather on an emotional, unconscious one. We know that it’s bad for us and that it creates stress and anxiety, but sometimes we can’t help doing it.

Having said that, even the worst overthinker can develop strategies to control and tame their negative train of thoughts. I recently asked my Facebook group tribe about their strategies to stop them from overthinking things. Here are some of these strategies that people in the group, including me, have found helpful:

  1. Aligning self to purpose and values

This is one of the pillars of my Vision to Action group coaching program. When the big picture (your identity, vision and values) are aligned with your day-to-day actions and habits, then you act with purpose and confidence. When you act with purpose and confidence, clarity and freedom are present, while negative stress and overwhelm are far away.

2. Being organized

Having the right systems and/or personnel in place to automate your day-to-day actions, ensures that you don’t waste your precious time with activities that should be automated, or done by someone else. Stress and overthinking are often the result of feeling that you are wasting your time doing urgent yet unimportant things

3. Beverages that help you relax

Of course I am not going to argue here for the benefits of consuming illicit substances and alcohol. Many of us know however that a glass of wine or a gin and tonic can temporarily relax our minds and take the edge of anxiety and overthinking. A cup of coffee can sharpen the brain so that you focus on the task in hand. The key word here is ‘temporarily’. Using alcohol and drugs to tackle long-term problems is not a recommended strategy, as their long-term effects are often more detrimental than the problem they are trying to solve. So proceed with caution in this case, it’s all about the balance.

4. Exercise or Martial Arts training

Any form of exercise such as yoga, jogging or martial arts training, helps to focus our minds on our bodies, regulate our breath and give us a sense of control by creating purposeful movement. When focus and a sense of control are present, anxiety and overthinking are far away.

5. Public speaking

Many of us are familiar with the finding that fear of public speaking is more often present than the fear of death. So this strategy to cope with overthinking is not for everyone. Personally, I love talking to a group of people about topics I am passionate about. It helps me structure my thoughts and formulate my beliefs in a rational and coherent way. Being able to make an argument eloquently and rationally, is a great remedy against anxiety and overthinking, as you are in control of your thoughts, rather than these thoughts controlling you.

6. Walks in nature

If exercise is not your thing, you can still achieve the same effects with regular walks in nature. A walk in nature has many benefits. The natural hues calm the mind, relax the soul and keep negative thoughts at bay, as natural beauty draws you in being present at the moment.

7. Focusing on completing tasks and achieving your goals

Focusing on completing tasks and goals you want to achieve, is another way of creating a sense of control and acting purposefully. By now, it should be clear than a sense of control and purpose is the enemy of stress, overwhelm and overthinking!

8. Distracting yourself and Pattern Interrupt

Some people are good at focusing on a new distraction whenever they feel rumination is around the corner. In Neuro Linguistic Programming, we talk about Pattern Interrupt: an activity which interrupts an existing pattern, replacing it with another one. E.g. putting on your make-up or taking a walk in nature, are both ways of interrupting existing patterns with completely new ones.

9. Changing your environment

Most of us, focus too often on things inside of us (e.g. our motivation and goals) rather than creating the right circumstances outside of us. Changing your environment to make it more compelling and inspiring, goes a long way towards helping you to take control of your actions and create a sense of purpose. E.g. I arranged my musical instruments and recording equipment in such a way that they are always in an inviting position. They are a visible reminder that my personal satisfaction and pleasure are only a click of a button away.

10. Guided meditation or hypnosis

Any form of guided meditation or hypnosis is another effective way to tackle overthinking. It helps us to focus on being present at the moment, and hearing another voice giving us commands mutes that negative inner voice.

11. Accepting the natural flow of things

Ultimately, what will be, will be. We seldom have full control of events unfolding around us, something which has been recently highlighted by the Covid 19 pandemic. All we can do is focus on our response to these events. Focusing on the things we can control and accepting that there are things we can’t, goes a long way towards stopping rumination and overthinking.

If you are a bit of an overthinker, it’s likely that you will have used some of the above strategies at some point. Which ones did you find most useful, and which ones didn’t help? Post your comments below.

Who Do You Want To Be?

In business and in life, we often think that our success is dependent on having the right answers ready to the questions reality asks. A true mark of success, we reason, is being able to know the solution to every challenge and problem in our area of expertise. After all, isn’t this what successful entrepreneurs, leaders and managers do?

I have to admit that I have often fallen into this rabbit hole myself as a manager and team leader. A manager or leader, I was told, is someone who goes around solving problems people and teams within organisations encounter. Like a weathered fireman (or firewoman) a manager extinguishes fires others have started, occasionally shaking their finger at them in disapproval. Like a good father (or mother) figure, the manager then pats the errant employee on the back offering forgiveness and allowing them to play with the matches again, this time with extra supervision. Until the inevitable next fire occurs.

However, life has become unpredictable and our reality is changing at a fast pace. In our modern world, there are not many ‘answers’ that can solve a big range of problems. Especially in areas where we deal with the behaviour of individual people and teams, understanding and leveraging context and dynamics so that your staff are empowered to seek solutions to their own problems, is the key to both your team’s wellbeing and your business’ success.

And this brings us to an important realisation: what makes the difference in this fast-paced environment is not so much the answers we give, but the questions we ask. Asking the right questions whenever a new challenge occurs, goes a long way towards solving this particular issue we are facing rather than seeking the universal formula that will solve this and all similar problems in the future.

So what questions are we typically asking ourselves as business owners and solopreneurs? The most common questions I have heard are what questions, such as:

  • What do I need to do in order to succeed?
  • What are my goals? What is my vision?
  • What separates me from the competition?

Another common type of questions business owners are asking themselves, are how questions:

  • How am I going to do this?
  • How will I tackle this challenge?
  • How will I stay afloat?

Another type of question, less common but crucially more important than the first two (as answering it with honesty is more likely to motivate you to continue doing what you are doing), is a why question. Why do I do what I do? What is my ‘why’, what drives me? Such questions can be answered with the assistance of a range of coaching tools such as the Purpose Venn Diagram (often wrongly referred to as the Ikigai), visioning exercises and value elicitation.

A type of question which is of equal importance, but which I rarely encounter, is a who question. It goes like this: who do I need to be in order to succeed in my goals or to realise my vision? This ‘who’ is often referred to as our self or identity. In order to understand your (desired) identity, ask yourself what you need to be doing regularly and consistently in order to become what you want to be.

If you want to be a writer, then you need to write consistently. So ensure you show up every single day, whether you are motivated or not, and decide how much time you will devote daily into sitting on your desk and writing.

A salesperson needs to close sales. So ensure you make the calls every single day and keep going even when you experience a particularly bad batch of calls. If you decide you want to be an artist or musician, then ensure you devote time every single day to practice, reflect or create, regardless of your muse being available or not.

Doing all of the above consistently, whether you ‘feel like it’ or not, will eventually convince you consciously and unconsciously that you are the person you want to be. ‘Fake it till you make it’ if it helps to beat the imposter syndrome with, as long as you remember that making it is all about repeatedly doing what you need to be doing in order to become who you need to be.

Vision with Action Changes the World

Vision without action is just a dreamaction without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.” (Joel A Barker)

I am about to complete the current intake of my Vision to Action program. A small group of dedicated solopreneurs have over the last three months gained in-depth awareness of what drives them and what motivates them. They drew their long-term vision, elicited their values and used them as compass for their marketing and businesses. They created clear and detailed goals, prioritized effective actions and built habits that will create sustainable success.

 Having spent enough time working with self-employed business owners, one recurring issue I noticed is the lack of ‘success formulas’ in the real world, despite what the gurus will try to tell you. The only constant I have observed, is the importance of your ‘why’ and your commitment to bring it into action. It’s about being clear on what drives you to do what you do, as well as using that knowledge to make your actions more purposeful, effective and authentic.

It is simply not enough to know what your vision and values are. You also need to understand how to transform them into purposeful action and sustainable habits. And in order to align the big picture (vision/values) with the small, day-to-day actions, you need two more intermediate chain links: you need to be clear on your goals and plans (what you are going to do and how you are going to plan for it) and crucially, your identity (who you need to be in order to achieve these goals).

Once all these different layers are aligned, you are ready for a business life full of clarity, freedom and purpose. The solopreneur’s elusive dream of ‘working smart, not hard’ will be within reach.

Go on and change the world,
Kostas
PS there are some exciting and interesting discussions in my FREE facebook group right now! Have you checked it out yet? Click here to join the conversations!