The irony of “Career Fear”

How many times in your career have you been afraid?
… of taking some action?
… of speaking out?
… of going for promotion?
… making ‘that’ call?


When I advise people regarding ‘Career Fear’ the irony is that what they are usually afraid of is failure, and in refusing to take appropriate action(s) they are inviting failure.

I have written in previous blogs that it is my belief that it is far better to take action and learn from mistakes than to refuse to take action and suffer regret of ‘what might have been’.

One great system for overcoming fear is to replace it with curiosity. Be curious about potential outcomes and trial different ways of approaching actions. Don’t try to be a future teller. Be curious.

Another way of getting around fear is to think about it differently. This mnemonic may be helpful:
F – Focus! be resourceful and be present. What will help me right now?
E – Experiment! be prepared to get it wrong and learn
A – Attitude! recognise that you have the resources and choose to use them
R – Rehearse! practice, practice, practice

The irony of ‘Career Fear’ is that it usually results in the thing that most people I encounter are desperately trying to avoid – failure.

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The Cognitive Career Triad

When I assist people in their professional lives, I often “borrow” the methodologies of clinical psychology to demonstrate some key areas for awareness and self development to invite the delegates to view their career from a different perspective.

The internal dialogue and beliefs that are being deployed by individuals I work with can often be somewhat distorted.

To borrow the work of Aaron Beck and his infamous cognitive triad, I would like to invite you to consider three key areas that may help you or give you some inspiration to help others, such as colleagues or friends.

Self – How do you perceive yourself in the work place? What value are you bringing every day? “What am I prepared to do?”

Environment – How do you perceive the environment in which you conduct your day to day activities (including co-workers, managers..etc)? “What would I change?”

The Future – What is your perception of what the future holds for you in the role that you do and in your place of work? “What do I want to happen?”

If any of the above have been ‘distorted’ by what we tell ourselves …or what others have told us, it can seriously affect our productivity and well being in the work place, not to mention inhibit our ability to progress in our careers (and our lives).

Neuro Image

To counter negative thoughts and distorted beliefs, my suggestion is to conduct the following:
1. Draft a ‘Success Chart’ with all of the areas/projects where you have been involved. Include your contributions (both direct and in-direct), who was involved, challenges overcome, ultimate outcomes and, if appropriate, bottom line revenue contribution.
2. Draft a list of the things that you would like to change about your work environment. Split the list into two categories: (a) things I can affect/control/change and (b) things that are outside of my control. This now leaves you with a course of action: make an impact on what you can, change your attitude towards what you can NOT impact.
3. Visualise a future of your choice. Start with ‘lottery’ winner mentality and then decide on the areas that you are prepared to compromise on.
4. Decide whether it is time to change jobs or simply change your attitude towards your job.

Often things are no where near as bad as they seem when you break them down rationally. It merely needs a change of thoughts….. or a change. Both of which we can control.

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Find your joy!!

Sometimes in life we can all feel a bit lost and unsure of our purpose. During these moments we can doubt ourselves, doubt those around us, doubt our place in the world (work, home and play…etc) and unknowingly start killing the joy in our own life.

If you ever find yourself in one of these moments, I would like to invite you to consider a few things.

You have the power to affect everyone you come in contact with today!

You have the power to utilise the resources around you!

You have the power to visualise an amazing future for yourself!

There are also a few steps that you can follow to re-discover your ‘joy’:
1. Make a list of things you do that make you happy. These can be pastimes, family times, moments in time, hobbies..etc. To help you with this list imagine that you won the lottery; how would you choose to spend your time?

2. Make a list of the people you admire most and what you admire about them. Once you have a list of qualities, ask yourself; If I choose to, what is stopping me from living/displaying these qualities every day?

3. Make a list of what you are really good at. For some of you this question can be quite challenging as it is very introspective, so ask some people that you trust to give you input. This is not a time to be modest, be brash, be brave and be proud of your qualities.

4. Make a list of everything and everyone in your life that you are grateful for. I urge you to consider the small things first; being grateful that you have food, being grateful for having a home…etc.

5. Finally, review your lists and choose to be conscious every day about what makes you happy, what qualities you would like to display, use your skills and be grateful.

According to an eastern proverb I once heard, there are three important questions that we ask ourselves at the end of our time:
Did I live?
Did I love?
Did I matter?

I hope you find your joy as many days as you can.

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An Insanely Brave Moment can change your life

In my job, I advise people in their careers, particularly CTOs, CIOs and IT Directors. This community are traditionally known for being relatively risk averse.

My advice and guidance is usually sought and often centred around a change of some kind; either personal or professional change.

I have a common theme through all of my career training seminars and that is around being ‘brave’, sometimes insanely, wildly and incredibly uncomfortably brave. In my life experiences, both great and challenging it is my intention to have far more of “oh well, that didn’t quite work out as planned” moments than “Oh Damn!, I wish I had just gone for it..” moments.

pooh bear brave

When coaching senior execs I can usually quickly uncover their past regrets and make it my business to limit people’s exposure to future regrets by encouraging them to embrace those uncomfortable moments and take a chance, say yes, be braver than usual, take a leap of faith. If you are an experienced individual at what you do, if you are a successful professional, sometimes you need to trust yourself and your abilities (including your ability to recover, if things don’t work out).

Whilst I don’t advocate recklessness; In the end, it will be the moments of insane bravery that will give you the most joy,…. and potentially the best results.

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Wisdom of Pooh!

I was reading a bedtime story to my youngest (4 years) last night and happened upon a fantastic quote that I am very keen to pass on.


It’s from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. The summer is nearly over and Christopher Robin is going to school. His friends are concerned that they will not survive without him and think that the world as they know it is about to change beyond all recognition and become a scary place. Christopher writes a note for his friend, Winnie the Pooh that I think is fantastic…..

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

I am having this made into a poster for our office.


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Making things happen!! – 5 things you should never say

Are you determined to progress this year? Have your goals been set and written down?

Assuming that the answer to the above questions is ‘YES’, then I would like to share with you 5 statements to avoid in order to make even more progress.


  1. Can I do that? If you are asking yourself permission to be successful, you are potentially falling foul of not having a clear goal. This question is also counter intuitive to self development. The better question is; ‘What do I need to do in order to achieve this?’ 
  2. I can’t do that! The question I always ask in response to this statement is; According to whom? We often put limitations on ourselves if we have experienced failures in the past. In previous blog posts I covered building a good level of resilience. In addition to resilience, it is worth being aware of the times when you are communicating limiting beliefs. Past failures can be a blessing, if you choose to learn lessons, adapt your approach and move on smarter – then you can do that,…just differently.
  3. I have to go through proper channels! One of the elements of career development and self development is to create and maintain a great network. Without a great network you will come up against ‘blockers’, ‘jobs-worths’ and ‘gate-keepers’ who will unintentionally make life difficult for you. With the right people in your network, opportunities will present themselves, and role models will be easier to access. N.B. A great network requires constant maintenance! 
  4. That will do! / That’s good enough! I have witnessed many careers fall away by this attitude. If you allow yourself to believe that something is ‘good enough’ you have stopped momentum and have begun to go backwards. Your career and self development needs constant forward motion. I am not suggesting that you don’t enjoy ‘quick wins’ or ‘small victories’ but don’t tell yourself that you have reached your destination. Maintain relentless focus and you will continue to progress.
  5. That’s not my responsibility! This statement can indicate someone who is not focused on self development or progression. I am not suggesting that you should take on the world’s woes, but I am suggesting that this statement is a ‘cop out’ and is highly indicative of a person who does not care about the bigger picture. If you focus only on your small part of the world, there is a risk that your part of the world will become even smaller.

Please remember; every statement, every question, every action, every day is your choice. Never allow yourself to believe that you have no control. Your self development is based on a series of choices.


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Personal Excellence – what is it?

What is your quest? What makes you feel fulfilled? What gives you joy? What would you like to change?

The above questions are ones I pose to individuals when I coach them through career/life changes. Recently one of my delegates advised me that they were searching for ‘Personal Excellence’. When I pressed him, it became clear that personal excellence was term that he heard at a party somewhere. However, it got me thinking; are we all looking for personal excellence? or are we looking for a version or a perception of excellence that we have been given by others?


As it approaches the new year, here are a few of my tips for you to devise your own version of personal excellence:

  1. You will make mistakes in life, love, career…etc Get over them quickly, and ask yourself; what were the lessons to be learned? Make and effort to turn every mistake into a life enriching experience.
  2. Who do you admire? what is it that you admire? Examine your role models and you will find that you can choose to adopt some of their behaviours, language patterns, commitment and attitude in your life.
  3. Be thankful! we all have so many things to be grateful for and so many things and people we take for granted.
  4. Self development. When was the last time you challenged yourself without being asked to do so? When was the last time you studied something new?
  5. Take responsibility. Lets not play ‘blame top trumps’. Take control and be responsible for what happens in your life.
  6. Create a mind map of yourself – What are your existing key skills? What evidence do you have where you have used these key skills? What have others said about your contributions? What will you do in the future with your key skills and your experience? How does this benefit others? 
  7. Create your day – every day! You can choose how you start your day and you can choose the attitude that you bring to every day.

It is my belief that you can choose personal excellence every day, if you wish to.

Wishing you all a magical Christmas and an ‘excellent’ 2014!

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn” Waldo Emerson

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