Hard work creates opportunities

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If you are looking for an opportunity, the best way to get your hands on one is through hard work. The more you do, the more opportunities you expose yourself to. The people that give out opportunities are more likely to hand those opportunities out to those people that work hard, so make sure you are working hard.

I have been afforded many great opportunities in life, commentating at Wembley stadium, speaking at the House of Commons, writing for a national newspaper, coaching my team to a national final and the list goes on. Each of these I can honestly say I worked hard to achieve. None of them came easy and I was beyond thankful for each opportunity I was given but I believe I deserved all of them. That’s the thing; with every opportunity, I wanted to know that I deserved it and that I wasn’t just given it.

Unexpected

Sometimes opportunities don’t come quickly, sometimes they come from unexpected places and at times you don’t expect. It’s like this week I have been asked to be a trustee for one of the best theatre projects in the local area. I wasn’t expecting this opportunity and I have never worked with them before, but because of my hard work in the community they have found out about me and think that I can add something to their board.

When this week started I had no clue this offer would come in and was not expecting it, but it felt so rewarding to receive. The great thing with this opportunity is that it presents another chance to get stuck in and work hard in an organisation that creates opportunities for others. Because I have had so many amazing opportunities I want to do all I can to help create opportunities for others and be in a position where I can give opportunities to others.

Making the most of an opportunity

I now want to do the best I can with this opportunity that has been given to me. If you work hard to get an opportunity and then don’t make the most of it, then was the hard work worth it? I have got no clue where this latest opportunity will take me but I am excited to see where it does. That’s the thing with opportunities, sometimes you don’t know where they are going to take you but for many the journey itself is exciting enough and you never know what further opportunities this one opportunity may lead to.

So people its time to start enjoying hard work and its time to get yourself ready for the opportunities that may come your way. Don’t go in to everything expecting an opportunity to come your way but be ready for any that do. If opportunities don’t come your way then its time to start thinking of taking your hard work and investing it in something else that gets you closer to the opportunities you would like in life. The opportunities are out there and ready for those that want to take them.

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The Baby Business

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When you are having a baby the one thing the world wants you to buy in to is how expensive it is. The marketplace wants you to feel the need to spend hundreds of pounds on travel systems, changing stations, toys, clothes, cribs etc. etc. They want this to feel normal. For some this feeling puts them off having children, but I don’t think it would stop many that truly wanted to have a baby.

I however, want the world to stop buying in to this atmosphere, which is driven by the major companies. I would love to live in a world where buying second hand, accepting hand me downs and doing things on a budget were seen as the norm. It is the baby industry, which has driven us as a society to be working parents, with families seeing no other alternative than for both parents to be working just so they can afford all the things they think they need.

Investments

As a parent I want all my investments in my child and family to be about love and not money. My wife and I feel strongly about one of us being a stay at home mum or dad for our child until they have reached school age. We believe this is more important for her development than anything we can buy for hundreds of pounds. We know we have bills to pay, so one of us will always work but we still value time over any financial reward of being away from the house and being away from our child.

Yes we get pram envy when we see people pushing the latest and fanciest ones in the street, yes we see toys and clothes that we would love to buy for our child but what of these things is our child going to remember? I would rather invest money in her long term future like university than things she will only use for such a small portion of her life and have no recollection of when she is older, except for when she looks back at photos.

Shop around

My wife and I make sure our daughter has everything she needs and that we want her to have, we just make sure we get things for the best price. We shop around, look for deals, buy second hand and see what we can pick up for free. Just because you can afford something brand new doesn’t always mean it is a good investment and just because you can’t afford something brand new doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it.

My wife and I proudly only use cloth nappies on our child because not only are they a great money saver, they are better for her skin and much more beautiful than disposable nappies. Yes they may be more work but that it isn’t a factor in our decision making process, as we just want to do what is best for our child. Best for your child isn’t always buying everything and buying it brand new and this is what I want the world to understand.

Ideas

Last weekend my wife and I made a sensory space for our daughter using ideas we found on the Internet, a box, tin foil and Christmas tree lights. It didn’t cost us anything to make yet our daughter loved it and I think it will aid her development. In this internet age it is easier than ever to get deals and ideas, so there is no excuse to be lazy and just buy the first thing you see.

My advice for this week would be if you have children is to enjoy them, want the best for them but don’t get stressed and worried about affording things as everyone with a bit of effort can get the best for their child.

Back to School

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There seems to be a rise at the moment in the number of training and educational courses available for people to take these days online, in classrooms and through distance learning. Running courses has become a big industry and big business, with many new companies starting to run them.

Bettering yourself

I am a huge fan of people who want to learn more and want to do something to better themselves, either just for themselves or to help them in to a better or different career. I think learning shouldn’t stop when you finish school, college or university. Many of us learn things by ourselves without being on a course, which is great also but sometimes I think it is good to have a syllabus to follow and a qualification at the end of it, to recognise the learning that you have done.

A few years back I took my Certificate in Fundraising through the Institute of Fundraising here in the UK. I already knew a lot about fundraising but it was fun to put that knowledge to the test, to learn more and have my knowledge of the subject recognised with their certificate.

Choice

The problem with the proliferation of courses available, is finding the courses and providers that are quality and that are worthwhile doing. There are many companies out there who want to take your money and get you on a course, so you need to be careful what you invest in. Before picking a course you should take time to think about what you want to study and what you want to get out of your study.

When choosing what course to do, you want to know what you will actually be covering on the course and what people who have done the course before you have gone on to do and what they have got out of it. If your reason for study is to get on another course or to get a job, you need to be sure that your course is recognised by the institution or company you want to move on to next.

For many people the cost of studying can put them off. If you fall in to this category I have some advice. First thing is to look and see if there is any funding available to pay your course fees? If there isn’t can you put together a savings plan to help you cover the cost? Lastly is to look at what you earning potential might be if you had the qualification to work out if a loan was a sensible thing to take out to cover the cost.

Cost barrier

If paying for a course is out of the question, why not have a look at free courses that are available. There are many to choose from online and there may be some happening in your area. Learning is fun so don’t let money be a barrier to it.

I always want to learn more about the world around me and the things within it, so I am a big believer in studying just for enjoyment. I think studying and being successful on courses can make you feel better about yourself, which is something that everyone can do with in their life. So even if you can’t think of a reason to do a course, sometimes the only reason you need is because you want to. Never forget that there is always more to learn.

What do you trade your time for?

Over the last year it has really hit home to me, that we spend our lives here on earth trading our time for other things. There is very little we can trade to get more time on earth, so the best thing we can do is make the best trades we possibly can, with the time we have.

Some of the most common things we trade our time for, are money, education and family. During the week we spend most of our waking hours either at work, raising a family, or in school, college or university. For many people there are a million and one other things they would rather be doing, but have traded their time in this way in order to get an education (which will help them later in life), money to pay bills or raise their family.

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Time is a commodity

I think time is a very precious commodity that you can’t put a price on, but yet I think many people make bad trades or trades they aren’t happy with. I think it is only when you understand how precious your time is that you really start looking at the trades you make.

Trades can involve making short-term sacrifices in order to obtain a long-term goal, but I think it is important not to make a long-term sacrifice, as time is something you can never get back. There is nothing wrong with making sacrifices, as long as you know how that sacrifice is going to help you and how it is important to make that sacrifice, in order to get to a better trade later on.

What do you want to trade for?

To make a trade or think about making a trade you have to know what is important to you and what is worth trading for. You should want to trade for the best thing you possibly can and this will be different to different people. Is happiness the best thing? Is Money? Is a different way of living? You need to spend time thinking about what the most important thing is to you to trade for and then make sure you are positioning yourself to make the trade. To get to the point where you are trading your time for what you want you may have to make many smaller trades and sacrifices on the way, but you have to remember its that end position of trading that is important.

I think the more responsibilities you have the more challenging trading your time becomes. Responsibilities will put restraints on your time that you have to make other trades with as will the levels of money you need to be bringing in to uphold your way of living. It is important to recognise though, that those responsibilities can be a great motivator to make better trades with your time. Your responsibilities can also be the best trades with your time that you make, as these are in many cases responsibilities you have chosen to take on because they make you happy.

Using your time wisely

Time in your life is a complex thing and sometimes the more you fill it with, the quicker it can seem to pass and the less you look at if you are using your time in the best way. I think it is wise to take a step back and write down all the ways you use your time and really look at what are good uses of your time and which aren’t. Don’t let a complicated life or a busy life stop you from thinking about how you use your time and making the best trades you can.

The ultimate trade

Those people who are making the best trades in my opinion are those that are truly happy with their life and have the ability to do whatever it is they want to do, those that aren’t limited by anything. Other people may choose to do different things with their time than you do, but it doesn’t make their trades any worse or better than yours if they are using their time in a way that makes them happy.

So now you ask what do I want to trade my time for? I want to trade it for happiness and having enough money to make the dreams of my family to come true. I’m not quite there yet, but everyday I am thinking of trades I can make to make it happen and then making the trades that I currently can.

Time is precious, so spend it wisely and never forget that time spent is an investment in yourself, so lets make the best trades and investments that we can.

Competition

Those that know me personally will know I am a fan of Arsenal (an English football team in the Premier League). The team has a reputation for not being able to do what is needed to win the big games and beat the big teams. The team plays in a certain way and never change it, no matter who they are playing. This was up until yesterday, as Arsenal went away to play the defending champions, completely changed the way they play and won the game 2 – 0.

This got me thinking about personal development and competition. To succeed in life you need to have belief in yourself and what you are doing but I think that needs to be balanced with finding the right way to succeed, which may not always be the path, you want to take.

In media and performance art you need to know your audience. In business you need to know your competitors and your customers. In life, you need to know who the people are that can help you get where you need to go. Only a select few people and companies succeed without adapting and changing to beat who they are competing with or to win the crowd they want to entertain.

In all areas of life it is wise to know who your competition is, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and how you can beat them or be better than them. With that information you can find a way to adapt and compete, which is what you need to do in order to succeed.

If you want long term success you need to be able to adapt, as the more versatile you are the more problems you will be able to solve and the more versatile you are the harder it is for people to compete with you. If you always do things the same way, you will get left behind and found out.

This world moves at a staggering pace and we need to be able to move with it in order to succeed. What might have worked yesterday may not work today. Don’t forget that one victory doesn’t make success, its what you do after that victory that will determine how successful you are going to be in life.

Home Brewing

Over the last couple of months I have ventured in to the world of Home Brewing. After visiting friends in Baton Rouge and seeing them excel at it I caught the bug for it. Over the last year I have been reading up on it and getting advice about the art of making the perfect brew. Then a few months ago I went and brought my first set of equipment and got to work on making my first batch.

The process took a bit longer than it should have, but last night I finally got to taste the produce of my hard work. I went in with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by how drinkable it was and felt proud of my first attempt.

I think you get a great satisfaction and sense of achievement when you make something yourself. Adding skills to your belt is also so rewarding. By doing something different you have a new conversation topic around friends, you can make new friends through it and be encouraged to take on more challenges. I had a few trepidations when I started Home Brewing but I am so glad I pushed through.

I don’t like getting drunk but I do enjoy drinking the odd glass of quality alcohol. I think in the 21st century thanks to the aid of cooking programmes on TV and the internet we are, on the whole taking more care and being more creative with the meals we eat, so I think we should also take that approach in to what we drink.

By Home Brewing I know exactly what is going in to my drink, I can experiment with flavours not available in my local shops and can brew the beer, ale or lager to my taste. Home Brewing is also a good long term investment as after you have laid out your start up costs the ingredients to make a huge batch are quite cheap. You would be hard pressed to find a pub, bar or grocery store that sells it for cheaper than you can make it.

The message I have learnt from this is: when something seems hard or complicated don’t be put off, give it a go. You will learn more by doing something and failing than you will by just reading about something.

Life is a bit like Netflix

Like millions of others my wife and I subscribe to Netflix. We enjoy having all the films and TV shows available to us whenever we want to watch them. The amount of choice is unbelievable, but it’s that level of choice that sometimes makes it hard for me to decide what to watch.

I can spend ages just scrolling through all the categories adding titles to my list to watch later. I like expanding my list and having a great diverse range of brilliant films and TV programmes on there. After I have spent what feels like an hour doing this I will then go back to my list but then because I have so many good things on it, I then spend another age deciding what to watch from my list. By the time I have decided what to watch I could have watched a whole film in that time and by the time I have decided it’s probably time to go and do something else.

I think the same is true for life. We all have so many options and opportunities open to us in so many areas of our life that we can end up doing nothing because we can’t decide. In todays world decision-making is a more important skill to have then ever before. We are a generation that has an overload of information and media bombarding our lives and I think our future is defined by what we let in to our lives and how we react to it.

There is a school of thought that deciding to do something like a particular job or educational course means you are closing yourself off from the millions of other things you could be doing and losing some of your potential. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as the only way you are going to achieve in life is to commit to something. If you look at successful people in life, there aren’t that many jack of all trades but there are loads of people that committed everything they had in to one avenue, one talent or one area of specialism.

The only way we learn is by trying something. Like a film on Netflix the only way to find out if it is any good is to give it a watch as you will never know unless you watch it. Never forget that in life there will always be a new avenue, a new opportunity and a new life to lead much like on Netflix there will always be another film to watch.

Don’t be scared by the number of opportunities that are out there, be scared of not taking one. Don’t be scared of failing at them or taking the wrong one as all this does is get you closer to finding the right opportunity for you and the right path to go down.