I am writing this on the 8th floor of the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel, where I have just delivered my final seminar of 2016 – on change management and advanced communication – to the hotel’s management team. Before heading for the airport and home, I have some time to reflect on the past 12 months, during which I have worked in eight countries with clients ranging from small startups to renowned educational institutions, such as University College London and the University of Lausanne, and global conglomerates like Ericsson. In this final blog post of 2016, I would like to share with you some of the lessons I have learnt this year.
- Don’t just aim high, aim global
Ten years ago I could only dream that I would one day be addressing global audiences and companies like Microsoft, McDonald’s or Glaxo SmithKline. Hard work and determination have made the dream a reality. Believing in your ability – and dreaming about it – is the first step towards achieving your potential.
- Think on paper
I once read that “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” If that is true, then the second best way to make your dreams come true is to put your dreams and goals down in writing. In my one-on-one coaching sessions, I ask my students to write down not only their goals but also what they hope to become as a result of attaining those goals. The reason, other than the fact that I want them to visualize the result of their hard work, is this: the fastest and surest way to make your subconscious an ally of your conscious mind is to fool it into believing that you have already achieved your goal. As the great Napoleon Hill said, in his classic book Think and Grow Rich, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
- No man (or woman) is an island
International appearances and keynote speaking for some of the most renowned global brand names are never simply personal achievements. You can be sure that, behind every progressive man or woman, there is a team working and supporting quietly in the background. In my own case, I am proud and delighted to have the invaluable help of my wife Christine, my English editor John Vickers, my Greek editor Maria Loizou, my personal assistant Marina Diplarou, my graphic designer Doros Athenodorou and our computer wizard Fanos Kozakos. All of them have three essential qualities – promptness, politeness and professionalism – and much more besides.
- Records are broken in packed stadiums
Just as successful athletes need a crowd to urge them on – almost 98% of world records are broken in stadiums packed with cheering fans – I, too, have been able to stretch myself and make most of my dreams come true, thanks to the support of each and every person reading this. I wish I could list all of you – my loyal fans and friends – by name but that would turn this 1,100 word post into a 10,100 word one!
- Competition doesn’t hurt, it helps
Strange as it may seem, I would like to pay tribute to the people I consider my competitors – and there are some great ones – for making the ‘race’ more interesting and challenging. As noted above, records are broken in packed stadiums and, of course, only the very best can achieve something for the first time. Wanting to be up there with the world’s elite makes me try harder, see my weaknesses and work on them to improve.
- You are not special; you are unique
Even if you are considered to be one in a million (and who wouldn’t like to be described in this way?), it is worth remembering that, in our world of seven billion people, there are perhaps 7,000 as talented as you and maybe better. So why would someone choose you instead of one of the other 6,999? You have to convince them of your uniqueness among all others. In my case, (a) I am prompt in all my dealings, a quality that has served me extremely well; (b) I am an avid reader, which means I am constantly adding to my store or knowledge and I have learned never to make a point without proving it to my audiences. Those who have attended my “Address for Success” workshops know very well how the “STIR” process works; (c) I am thoroughly professional in everything I do. A week before I addressed Microsoft in Athens, I flew out at my own expense to check out the venue and explain to the conference organizers exactly how I wanted the room laid out. Don’t ignore the details.
- Wins are short-lived
When my address on “The Circle of Trust™” was voted best of the entire two days at the 5th HR Minds Forum in Berlin, Germany, I was walking on air! But I have learnt to always bear in mind that praise, congratulatory letters and offers of new engagements soon dry up and social media clicks on my videos will diminish as soon as my competitors upload new material (see point 5). As the well-known show-business saying goes, “You are only as good as your last performance.”
- Make time your ally, not your enemy
September 2016 was a very busy month for me, possibly my busiest in the last ten years with almost too many engagements at home and abroad. In the midst of all this activity, a leading insurance company sent me a last-minute invitation to be the keynote speaker at a major event and, although I had less than a week to prepare, I accepted. This was the biggest mistake of my life. I still received congratulations from many of the 200+ participants but, as my own harshest critic, I knew that, despite my best efforts and intentions, I had given a mediocre performance by my constantly high standards. The lesson here? Never accept an offer, no matter how tempting in terms of remuneration and prestige, without giving yourself the necessary time to prepare. This will be my golden rule in 2017. One below-par performance can harm the reputation of even the most consistently excellent speaker and/or trainer.
This time of year is ideal for looking back, not only at your successes (and feeling deservedly proud) but also at your failures. We all have them from time to time (see point 8) and we have to learn from our mistakes and use them as an incentive to improve in the future. I wish you all a Merry Xmas and a very happy and successful 2017!