Improving yourself

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One thing I am very passionate about is improving myself. My wife and me are always looking for ways we can improve our lives, our world and ourselves. We both want the best in life and don’t like settling for anything less.

The most important thing to us is how we spend our time. This is something we have recently been looking in to and studying. Through studying we have now learnt ways to maximize our enjoyment of each day and maximize our productivity. We know before each day, what we want to get out of it and how we are going to make it work.

Teach yourself something new

Knowledge and skills are other important areas to us. We both study through different sections of Open University, whilst holding down jobs and my wife especially is always learning new skills. Online there are a wealth of tutorials and teach yourself videos that are absolutely free, so there has never been a better time to teach yourself something new.

One key area in our life is the food we eat and the health choices we make. We try our upmost everyday to get in as many different fruit and veg as possible, whilst making healthy meal choices. We have also started drinking a lot more water recently and cutting back on the tea & coffee, which has also made a big difference.

Make a change

Whatever stage or state of life you are in, there are always ways to improve your life, your world and yourself. The great thing is, that most of the best & most important changes you can make don’t cost anything! A simple change you make for free could be worth so much to you later in life. Don’t miss an opportunity to make a change now, which could benefit you for years to come.

Changes don’t have to be big, as it can be the smallest changes that make the biggest difference. My only advice would be to make changes you can and are willing to commit to. Make your changes a way of life, not just something you do for a day or two. Think about what is important to you and why it is important that you stick to a change you have made. We can always improve ourselves and my plan is to never stop trying to improve myself.

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The art of complaining

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At the moment I am in the middle of an on-going complaint with a big multi-national company. I won’t name them or say what the complaint is about but I do think the art of complaining is like the art of negotiation.

In every negotiation the key is to remain calm. It is only by remaining calm that you put over your argument clearly and thoroughly. By keeping calm you also keep your position strong. People will be more likely to deal with you and help you if you remain calm.

Resolutions

When complaining you need to know what your ideal resolution is and what the resolution you would settle for is. When complaining someone can offer you a number of different resolutions, but during this process, if there is something you want, you have to keep remembering what it is you want or else you will settle for something less and be dissatisfied with the outcome.

Politeness doesn’t cost anything but can get you a long way. When you deal with someone either over the phone or face-face, there will be many different actions this person can take. The more polite you are when you complain, the more likely you are to get them to take the action, which is the best they can do for you. If you are rude to someone that you want to help you, the chances are that they won’t try as hard to help.

Keep on top of things

Be organised! Write down all your points of complaint and the reasons for them when you start. After you have that, make sure you keep a track of all correspondence to do with your case. It is important that you are aware of everything that has been said and refer to it wherever possible. The more you can keep to the facts and the history of the case, the more pressure you can put on someone to do something about your case.

Know your position, your rights and your argument. When complaining about something the person or company you are complaining to will normally have a get out clause. If they do, you will have to make sure your argument is strong and compelling enough to make them act. When you deal with a company you need an angle and you need to work it. Whether it be attacking their customer service, quality of product, quality of service or the potential damage to the company brand.

Get legal

Not all clauses companies put in are legally binding and some can’t be upheld. So don’t let a clause put you off in the T’s and C’s. My advice would be to speak to someone in the legal profession and get a legal opinion. If you can quote the law correctly in your argument, it might be enough to make a company reconsider their position.

My advice when you complain would be to never give up and if one approach isn’t working, keep trying others until something works. Bad news travels fast in this world and not many companies want bad news associated with them so keep that in mind.

Is the risk worth the reward

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Many people say that to achieve great things in life you need to take risks, this is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Life is a journey of trying to achieve as many rewards as possible and most times you need to take risks to get them. Rewards can be anything, getting rewards isn’t just about doing something just to get something out of it. Rewards are the great things that can sometimes come from taking risks.

When taking risks you have to use a lot of personal judgement, as sometimes the risk in something can heavily outweigh the possible rewards. If the risk outweighs the reward it doesn’t always mean you shouldn’t do it, as if you aren’t usually a risk taker it can be good to try it once in a while and feel more empowered to take risks when the reward is much higher.

Making life better

There are some risks, which are just stupid to take; these are any risk that involves endangering the safety and wellbeing of yourself or those around you. When I talk about risks, I am talking about doing things you wouldn’t normally do or things that take courage to do. Taking risks should be about making your life better.

Risks are things that you can do pretty much instantly normally and are usually things that you control; however the rewards aren’t. Sometimes it may take months or years to receive a reward from a risk that you took. When you have taken a risk be happy and proud that you took it, but don’t be expecting that instant reward. If you can find happiness in taking the risk, you have already received a reward and more may follow later.

To me taking risks are things like speaking up when you have a thought or opinion that could help a situation, contacting someone you have never come in to contact with before, taking opportunities and having the strength to turn down the wrong opportunities.

Risks are about what you get out of them

Never underestimate the risks you take in life, we can all be risk takers and it doesn’t need to be this big dramatic event to be the biggest and best risk in your life. Risks are about what you and the people around you get out of them, not what you do.

Risks don’t always go well or turn out the way you plan but please don’t let that stop you from taking risks. Not every risk is the right risk to take but until your try you will never know and as I say often, I would always rather know what would have happened if I had of taken that risk, than spend time thinking about what would have happened. Sometimes opportunities to take risks are very fleeting so you have to be ready to jump on board at any moment, in life sometimes it is about what you do in a moment that can change your life forever.

Life is a risk, embrace it and don’t be scared or fearful of it.

Get Involved

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One thing I would like to encourage all my readers to do this week is ‘get involved’ in something. Most of us have many things we would like to do in our life, but sadly for most they will stay in the ‘like to do’ category forever, instead of moving in to the ‘something I tried’ category.

It is not until you try something that you will know whether you like it or could be any good at it. I would rather try something, fail at it and cross it off the ‘like to do’ category, so I could find more things that I would like to or get closer to finding the thing that I do want to do.

Getting involved makes life more fun

If there is something you like watching or listening to, I find that by getting more involved in it, makes life even more fun. It could be anything from making your own videos, making your own music, helping out at events to running a fan site.

If you want to help someone or something, get in touch with them and offer your services as a volunteer. I have a passion for football, so I got in touch with my local youth club, volunteered my services, became a coach and now a chairman. Being involved in football at the grassroots level over the years has given me an outlet to use my knowledge and experience of football. I have been able to contribute something meaningful in something I love.

Do it better

If you think you can make something better or do something different that hasn’t be done before – get involved. Don’t spend your life being an armchair critic. Criticism never changed the world, but action always does. If you get involved and contribute, more people will be willing to listen to your views and you have a better chance of actually making change. Your viewpoint from your armchair is pointless and doesn’t change anything.

Don’t get me wrong; trying new things isn’t always easy. There will be times where it makes you upset or causes you frustration, but to me that only means that you care and that you should keep going. Sometimes you can start trying to do something you want to do with your life but have to go and pursue it in another way or in another place than you first started. When you get involved and try something new, you have to find the place that is right for you. Never be afraid to change, but before you do always ask yourself if it is yourself or your environment that needs to change. Always try and position yourself where you can make the most impact.

More action – less talk

Don’t be one of these people that say, “I could do that” “I could do that better” or “I would have done that differently.” Be the one that actually does something, nobody likes someone who is all talk and no action. It is much harder to do something than it is to talk about doing something, so I will always do my best not to be negative towards people that are trying to do something.

I have impacted so many more people by getting involved in things than I have from just wanting to do things. So today I want to encourage you to get involved and give something a try.

Offering your skills and being empowered

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This year I started with a plan to change my world and to invest in what I can offer to the world. One of the ways I have done this is by helping run social media for my church, Saltash Baptist in the South West of England.

Although I have no formal training or experience outside of running my own social media feeds, it is something I have a passion for and think I have a natural gift for. Social media is something that intrigues me greatly, I am always reading up on latest trends in the social media world and how it is evolving, as well as experimenting with my own personal output.

Passion

I have been eager to use this passion to help the church for some time, so a little while back I plucked up the courage and asked the Minister if I could help with the social media side of things at the church. He was very receptive of my offer and we arranged a meeting, from that meeting we made plans and he empowered me to run with the passion I had.

Social media is a platform where churches and Christians can engage with their communities in a very quick and effective way. Church leaders have many important tasks on a day-to-day basis to complete and it can be hard to juggle social media as well, which can by itself quite easily consume your life. This is why I think it is important for people within churches that have a passion for it to offer support. With the amount of time we all invest in our personal social media use, I’m sure most of us could give some time to help an organisation like a church.

Reach

To reach the under 40’s generation social media is important and is worth investing the time in as a church. An online representation of a Church can be the reason why someone new comes to a church on Sunday. When my wife and I moved to a new area we went online to search for the churches in the area and drew up a shortlist to go to by what we saw online.

So to get back to the title of this blog, I think it is very important to not just sit on the skills we have but to find a way to use them. I believe we have all been given our skills for a reason and that there is a way for everyone to use them. I offered my skills and because of it I am now getting to use them in a fantastic way. Every week I am gaining experience and learning even more, whilst engaging with so many more people in my local community. I am learning how to write for social media on behalf of an organisation and being able to do creative things that I wouldn’t of had the chance to do on my own social media feeds.

Empowerment

If someone comes to you offering their skills, services or time and you think they are the right person for the job, you need to empower them. There is nothing like feeling empowered or empowering someone else. Help these people to make the most of their skills and to feel great about using them. Empowering people is the only way we are going to get more people being brave enough or willing enough to give up their skills, services or time to better themselves and your organisation.

I believe people are this world’s greatest resource so lets use them and lets help them shine.

You succeed when you help others succeed

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One thing I can’t stand in life, is when I see people who are deliberately trying to stop other people from succeeding. If you work for a company or as part of a team, at some point or another to achieve success you are going to need the support of others to succeed. Sadly, in most endeavours it’s not just about what you do and how you act that will determine how successful you are.

To get ahead and stay ahead it seems that most opt to try and keep others down and go out of their way to make sure that others don’t succeed. This can be done in many ways, from not supporting someone, not sharing information with them, keeping ideas to yourself, criticising them and talking badly about them to others.

Dismissive People

The problem with people who act in these ways is that they think they are better than others, but they don’t know if they truly are or not. These types of people don’t look objectionably at someone or their work; they just dismiss them and their work. Most of the time this will be before even looking at what they have done as they have already decided they are going to try and find holes in it.

If people stopped to help others and talk with them, not only would they help them but I think they would learn a thing or two, which will help them succeed in the long-term. By stopping others from succeeding you are just getting in your own way. The people around you can have lots of experience and ideas that you can benefit from, they are a resource so lets be sure to use them.

You will learn more from others around you in life than you will from most other sources. Sharing their ideas, energy and enthusiasm can help you achieve so much in and out of work. Other people will help you think in different ways and share experiences that you may never have yourself, but if you all do is criticise them they will probably be reluctant to share all these things with you.

Invest Your Time Wisely

If people invested more of their time in helping others and themselves than they did in criticising and stopping others then they could be even more successful than they ever thought possible. People think stopping others succeeding is a sign of strength but I think it’s the biggest sign of weakness.

If all you do is constantly criticise then with every word of criticism that comes from your mouth the less impact it will have. If this is all you do, people will soon stop listening to you and you might as well just be talking to yourself.

Thinking of Others

Are you willing to put the success of a project or a company above your own issues and problems? I think most people in a professional sphere are judged by the projects they have been involved in and most companies are looking for people who put the good of the team before themselves. So just from an employability standpoint alone, it makes sense to help others working on the same project as you succeed, because if they succeed hopefully the project that has your name attached to it will.

If I ran a company I would want each and every one of my staff to succeed, because I know if they were succeeding my company would succeed with them, as success breeds success.

I think if you are in a position of power it is important to make sure that you discern who around you is trying to succeed and do all you can to help them. It is also important to discern when criticism levelled at people is unjust criticism and do all you can to help and support those involved, from the one doing the criticising to the one on the other end of it.

Getting Ahead

Never forget when whilst you are criticising someone, someone else somewhere is investing that time in learning more, gaining more skills and improving themselves. I know what I would much prefer to be doing. I’ve never seen a job advertised with criticism in the title or criticism of others being a required skill.

People who just criticised never changed the world but people who were brave enough to do things and try things did. Lets not let this be a race to the bottom with whoever can bury someone the deepest winning, lets make this a race to the moon.

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.