Why failure is the oxygen of success and happiness

By Paula Meir, Author of Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together

On a recent car journey with my son (age 20) the conversation turned to the subject of failure:

“I don’t put myself in a position where I fail mum, I usually bail before that happens”

He stopped short of saying “failure isn’t an option” but it’s certainly one of those subliminal messages that society drills into us. ‘Success at all costs…’ that testosterone fuelled mantra that leads to stress, unrealistic expectations, and ultimately nibbles away at our mental health.

“Failure is the oxygen of success”

He looked at me quizzically, as if I was speaking Flemish.

(I suppose I should have been happy he was at least trying new experiences! And I should have realised that careless deployment of metaphors rarely works when trying to reason with your children….)

But failure truly is the oxygen of success, just ask Robert the Bruce’s spider, or indeed any of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Without failure success cannot exist. That doesn’t mean to say failure is about risk taking, risk is more much mathematical than mental. For me, the most important element of ‘failure’ is being able to see it, recognise it, admit it, and be okay with it.

Success is the acceptable consequence of failure.

I often hear an ‘excusing’ of failure, avoidance of registering that anything or anyone was at fault as people desperately try to devise a narrative that subverts the very notion they have failed. Or even worse, people try blaming someone or something else in a vain attempt to avoid looking weak. Sometimes it’s just easier not to accept that visceral failing and then our life can, at least on the surface, revert some sort of Utopian state. And I’m not just talking about the corporate world. Denial of failure litters suburbia too. Getting our children the requisite number of qualifications so they can attend the ‘right’ university, and ensure bragging rights in polite society is just the tip of the iceberg in conditioning our children against the ills of failure.

Mental health in children would be vastly improved if we could teach them that things don’t always go to plan, we all make mistakes, and that is what makes us human, gives us humility and a greater respect for the world.

No parent likes to think their child isn’t anything but perfect (we might not agree with that behind closed doors but to the outside world it’s not something we readily and comfortably admit to). I mean if we were really honest about everything, what would we have to boast about at the school gate?! Yet, it is a very important life skill for our children to learn and be comfortable with.

Michael Jordan once said:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So…. to my children I say this: embrace failure, it will make you stronger, more resilient and give you a reason to get up and be successful the next time. Use it as a power, not a weakness, and it will serve you well.

By the way… it will also make you happy.

4 Reasons Why Sending Flame Mails Could Damage Your Relationships

By Paula Meir, Author of Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together

I’m not sure what it is about email that provides a platform for people to behave and communicate badly. Whether it’s because they are behind a screen and it makes people feel brave and authoritative in the moment I don’t know. In fact, I can guarantee that the person would never probably say something like this to the person’s face and they might sit next to them. What I do know is that these types of emails can have a far larger negative effect on the individual than anyone might realise.

There is no doubt that sometimes people mess up and feedback needs to be given to avoid the situation happening again, of course this can be frustrating but is email the way to deal with it? The thing about a flame mail is that it doesn’t just contain the example of the misdemeanour but quite often it also contains a passive aggressive sarcasm which bites at the target person. Contained in the words is an outpouring of negative emotion which could have been cooped up by the sender all day, and then just one thing unleashes the flow. Here is a good example of what I’m talking about.

Sarah,

I think I asked you to make sure that my document package for today was sorted before you left. I see that you made ‘some attempt’ to put it together but unless you want to make me look like a complete idiot I suggest that you make a better effort next time……if indeed you do get the opportunity of a ‘next time’. I’ve sorted it myself this time so you don’t need to worry about messing it up again.

Bill

I’ve seen emails like this and worse leaving the recipient either in tears or questioning their ability in turn knocking in their confidence. This can have a spiralling effect of the person being too scared or concerned about getting it wrong that they do get it wrong in their tense and anxious state.

So, what outcome is the sender trying to achieve. The ‘I put them in their place’? outcome? Or the ‘I certainly told them!’? Well both of those are technically true but this is also what you achieve when you send emails like this;

  • The use of status is a temporary power source; you may get a fear factor in the moment but in the mid to long term you won’t be liked or respected and it could negatively impact your career progression
  • You expose your inability to manage your own internal experience, all this type of email does is show that you can’t contain your emotions and that you need to use sarcasm and potentially aggression to make you feel better
  • You aren’t helping the person get better. Belittling them or making them feel bad is different from having a firm conversation around what they need to improve, the two don’t have to come together. What are they going to learn from you when you communicate in this way apart from that’s ‘what goes’ in your team or department. Is that the culture you want to create?
  • What kind of reputation do you want in the business? Do you want to be known as the boss or manager that tears a strip off people when they go wrong? Or do you want to be a leader who holds high standards but is supportive of a culture where people can fail but learn from their mistakes in a way which is confidence building and developing.

You have the power to set your culture within your team and make a difference in the way people communicate and build relationships with each other. Make it a good one.

Losing your job: could this be the best moment of your life?

By Paula Meir, Author of Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together

I know this isn’t the first thought that goes into someone’s mind when you are being shown the door. It can happen for a multiplicity of reasons and it might not feel fair or justified. However, there is hope around the corner.

You may be thrown onto a seemingly endless emotional rollercoaster with little or no light at the end….

Shock. Denial. Anger. Upset. Disappointment. Worry. Anxiety. Anger. Sadness. Disbelief.  

All of these emotions are usually followed by a future gazing narrative which often goes: “If I lose my job how are we going to pay the mortgage? What will people think? I’m going to struggle to get a job that pays as well as this. This is awful. I just don’t know what is going to happen.”

This is an entirely understandable and very human reaction.

Quite often loss of a job removes the control from the individual and threatens some of those elements on which we ostensibly rely on for survival, the sub-text of any negative story for a loss of a job runs something like this: “If I haven’t got a job, I haven’t got money, if I haven’t got money, how do I buy food and shelter.”

You losing your job is not necessarily an indicator or a sign of how good or not you are at your job. Fit, opportunity, relationships and culture play a large part in the mechanics of being successful. If it is performance based however don’t dismiss it out of hand, take the grain of truth and positively address it to ensure it doesn’t happen again next time. It might also just be time to move on but you haven’t noticed, or you have become stuck in a job that doesn’t make you happy and therefore not very productive or fulfilled. For one reason or another you haven’t done anything about it, you have sat there, frequently complained but not been motivated or perhaps too fearful to move into action.

Now is the time for you to change the story and turn this large negative into a HUGE positive.

A loss of a job can be your gift – if you allow it to be, your jet pack that gets you off the chair and out into the world, a world outside your current job and current company does exist and it is FULL of opportunity.

This is where you take control, there is nothing you can do to change the outcome of losing your job, but you can take control of what you do now, how it will impact you and whether you turn this into the most traumatic, negative event ever suffered with no hope on the other side OR you turn it into the best opportunity you have ever had to be happy.

What if you could be in a job that you loved? What if you could change career, transfer your skills and experience to a different sector or a different job? What if you could now do whatever it is that you have always wanted to do but never had the balls to do it…….

What if?…… I welcome you to ‘what if’, be grateful you have had the experience of even getting to a ‘what if’ crossroads.

Many don’t and they can stay stuck for years. You have an opportunity not to be one of those people.

You have a choice in how you react to your situation, which means that only you can decide on a different outcome. I promise you, it might not feel like it, but losing your job really could be the best thing that ever happened to you!

  1. It’s normal to go through the emotional rollercoaster of emotions, go with them, get annoyed and angry and then use that energy to flip the situation into moving forward. Feel the emotions (give yourself time limits if needed) but move forward.
  2. Get clear about what you might do instead. Make a list of your skills and experiences, how could these be transferred to another type of job, or sector, think big or think small but however you think, think ‘creatively’ put nothing off the table.
  3. Who do you know in your network that might be able to give advice, or support you, or refer you, don’t be shy on reaching out. Who could help you putting a c.v. together? Most people want to help people most of the time.
  4. What kind of life do you want to live and what ‘type’ of job would help you live it?, if you can’t realise your full dream or plan now, what gets you one step further along your timeline?
  5. Be careful spinning your negative story, sometimes friends and family can make the situation or the emotional impact on you worse (without intention) constantly trying to work out the whys and wherefores are not going to help you move on to a positive place.
  6. Don’t burn your bridges, whilst I know your company or boss might not be popular with you right now it’s a small world and people move on, people remember people, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Be the bigger person.
  7. Don’t look back, ruminate, or go over and over the situation wondering how things could have been different, they aren’t and that’s it. Over. Do not waste your energy.
  8. If your self-esteem or confidence has taken a hit remind yourself of all the things that have contributed to your success so far, there will be many. Add in your skills, your achievements and experience, you will remind and surprise yourself in equal measure.
  9. Put the whole experience into context, many people end up in your position, many people change jobs all the time. Will it be different, yes? Do people fear change, yes? All of this is normal and it’s going to be fine.
  10. In 12 months’ time look back on this episode of your life and ask yourself the question, ‘Was this the best thing that happened to me’? 9 times out of 10 the answer will be yes!

Make your candidate feel uncomfortable: you’ll be glad you did!

By Paula Meir, Author of Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together

Some candidates are very good at interviewing. Gifted communicators, who play well into the recruiting managers psyche, they can tune into their wavelength with ease and before you know it there is a meeting of minds.

Is this a good thing?

Well, hopefully, they can do the job too but it’s important we stress testing these types of candidates. We have several ways to get the ‘low down’ on candidates through social media platforms which can sometimes be both amusing and shocking in equal measure (it never fails to surprise me what some people will publicly post).

But how do we get under the bonnet of the occasionally superficial façade that some candidates create? Questions that might feel a bit uncomfortable are a good thing. Here are three areas to consider: –

  1. Ask questions about the softer skills of judgment, resilience, robustness, coping with ambiguity and ability to manage their own internal experience.
  1. How successful are they at influencing and engaging without authority. It is important to understand how they do this so it allows you to get a feel on how they interact with others and indeed if they are successful at it.
  1. Ask for personal examples of interaction when it didn’t go so well, and what they could have done better. Understanding a candidate’s ability to be able to self-reflect, take accountability, course correct, and know what they need to develop immediately shows an emotional intelligence they will need along with their technical ability to be successful.

I have had candidates get uncomfortable and visibly annoyed when their well-rehearsed interview and question answering doesn’t quite go to plan. This is where you see the real behaviours and personality coming through, not necessarily through their words but through their physical appearance – here are a few: –

  • Red colouring necks
  • Blinking
  • Fidgeting
  • Head rubbing
  • A look of ‘this might not be going so well’

It might feel uncomfortable for them, if it does, keep on asking and peeling back the onion layer by layer respectfully, and watch how they manage themselves.

These are all good indicators to pay attention to. None of us are perfect, that’s not what a good recruiting manager should be looking for, what we need is a self-aware individual who understands what makes them tick (inside and out), what they do well, but also what they need to watch out for in themselves AND more importantly how to course correct when things don’t go so well.

Transparency, honesty and above all authenticity is what you need to see, whether the story is perfect or not (if it’s perfect I would worry about that too!).

Once employed, if they are in times of pressure and stress this is what you are likely to see. Also, paying attention to how they manage the recruitment process is also important to what you will get if you hire them. Sparse communication, or delays in email responses or phone calls, impatience when they haven’t had the offer documentation yet whilst they are meant to be on their best behaviour does not bode well. I once had a very senior executive get quite aggressive over the time the process was taking to go through several stages, and it was concerning.

We didn’t end up extending the offer and a few days after he was fired from the position he held with his existing employer!!

It’s okay to make a candidate uncomfortable, it might save you a lot of time and money.

How Healthy is your Facebook Feed?

By Paula Meir, Author of Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together .

Too much smoking, sugar, and not enough exercise are all bad for our health.

We know this from decades of research and received wisdom. In fact, it’s fair to say there are lots of things we grew up with that have since been identified as being bad for our health.

But what about Facebook?

How will history judge the impact on our health of this ubiquitous social platform?

But I’m not talking about our physical health….

I’m talking about our mental health.

Facebook can be a wonderful window on the world. It can raise awareness, raise money and be a wonderful advocate for wonderful things.

This week I have been awash with cute puppies and dogs (this is normal given my preferences and pages I follow), they cheer me up and make me smile.

I have friends going ‘lean and clean’, weight watchers losing weight with inspirational plates of food, somewhat contrasted by the Indian Kitchen showing how to make some delicious but calorie laden food.

I even get a daily dose of what Trump is up to from some of my American friends.

Most of all I’m fortunate that I have friends all over the world that allow me to see that window of their life that they experience and whilst we are miles away we are comfortably connected and can have some shared experiences.

The darker side

That serendipity however, can sometimes be disrupted by the darker side of Facebook; I know some feeds can look quite different. Instead of a breadth of the world’s window the feed can feel myopic, narrow and secluded, negative and destructive.

There are people out there with glasses half empty and feel a need to put the world to rights by persecuting others or groups of people.

These negative voices can be influential and persuasive, of course they can spark some good debate, but, opinions all too quickly can become truths and facts and a little bit of knowledge on a subject can indeed be a dangerous thing when we are unable to know or will never understand the full story. Other people’s feeds can get ‘filtered’, we may only see the ‘brighter side’ of what can look like a perfect life and we can start feeling envious or wonder where ours has gone so wrong.

That ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ feeling can be natural but not healthy and catching yourself thinking it is a good way to reset your own expectations and question the actual reality of what you are seeing.

Disturbing images

I do however get most concerned about disturbing images that sometimes appear, that is a whole different kettle of fish for the brain.

On occasion, I get the odd disturbing image, I often I wonder how anyone could look at it themselves let alone share it (even though their intent of highlighting might be for the good) and I scroll away immediately.

Negative images can be very powerful at not only triggering our darker imagination, but can invoke an immediate negative emotional response.

Depending on whether we have seen or experienced something similar you can experience an even greater emotional impact on your brain and your body.

Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released into your body when the brain sees or decides a situation or visual is dangerous or disturbing. Visuals are sometimes harder for people to shift out of their mind, they can turn up in dreams or it can ‘bother’ us for some time, because of the linked emotions we attach to the image.

Fear Of Missing Out

You also may want to look at ‘how much’ you need to be connected, and whether your FOMO (fear of missing out) is having a negative impact on how much you need to keep viewing your Facebook feed.

We have all read how addictive phones can be, how we can feel like our right arm has been cut off, I know I can fall into that trap.

If you are repeatedly and I mean minute by minute looking at your feed, reading it whilst in bed instead of going to sleep, looking at it whilst you are meant to be in a conversation with someone or worried that you might be missing something (without consciously realising that’s what it is) you need to start weaning yourself off.

You aren’t going to miss anything, it will still be there in an hour’s or day’s time, get perspective life can’t be lived through a device of any kind.

Life is a mixed bag for everyone, some good, some bad and some that we would rather we never experienced again, you are never going to see all of that on Facebook.

Tips

So, what can you do to ensure that you have a healthy Facebook feed and can protect yourself from the darker side. Here are some tips:

  • Always remember that what you see and read is a ‘filtered’ view or story of the greater picture. People are going through all sorts of ‘stuff’ at various times of their lives and what they post or say may well reflect that.
  • Don’t be afraid to ‘de-friend’ people who don’t ‘add’ to your life or have a trend to display negative wording or images, life is hard enough without reading or seeing something you don’t have to. Don’t get dragged down by it.
  • If you get disturbing images or the odd thing from one of your ‘friends’ that jars with you but you don’t want to ‘unfriend them’ use the option to either ‘hide the post’ or ‘see less from this person’.
  • If you happen to see a disturbing image that you want to remove from your memory bank immediately look away. Do some deep relaxing breathing and think of one of the best happy images you have and attach all the good emotions to the image (feel what you felt and heard at that time). Replace it immediately.
  • If your feed is looking and feeling a bit unhealthy, start adding some good into it. There are numerous pages you can follow on healthy eating, exercise, mind and body, funny videos/photos etc. Change it up and change it for the better, anything that makes you smile, laugh and feel better has got to be worth it!
  • If you are concerned at how often you are needing to view your FB feed try to give yourself a time limit, or try leaving your phone outside of the bedroom (if you don’t already!). If you have the habit of checking FB whilst talking with someone just stop, now!
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