In the process of leaving a comment at the flyingsolo.com website inside a post that tells how "how a few words can change a life", I found myself writing a thousand word essay! So I decided to do a bit more research and make it a post, giving my own personal incite and experience to each heading. Little did I realise that I would spend all of Australia Day doing a lot of reading and writing! [Disclaimer]
One of the greatest rewards about free-motivation from peers and work colleagues is that momentary belief that maybe you aren’t worthless. Thus when I spotted these two words "FLYING SOLO" on the front of a book at the Borders Book store in Rundle Mall – I quickly picked it up! Yes, I had found the "Flying Solo – How to Got it Alone in Business" book. Within seconds of picking it up, I was reminded of traits about myself – but had forgotten until both this book and my work-colleagues had reminded me!
After only a few minutes of reading the "Flying Solo" book, I was very quickly reminded that I am worth more than the money I am paid in my day job, more than the people who mock/knock my initiative, and a whole lot more than any title or position. It is drive, creativity, activity and altruism that defines value. No, not karma, but simple pro-activity that defines your self and value. No book taught me that – just good upbringing, time and experience.
Opening at a random page, I was instantly drawn to a few simple sentences that say so much more than most people imagine. I quickly began relating the brilliantly written paragraphs to my own situation. Each title alone made me realise I have more to offer than my good looks! ;)
"Successful Soloists can … because they think they can"
Couldn’t agree more. The act of thinking outside the known walls is often foreign to the average Joe-Citizen. I was talking with some live-to-work colleagues a few days ago. I’d said, "There’s got to be more to life than your cubicle!". But no, they said, this is more than enough. Anymore and I’d have to think. Woo! How sad is that?!
Which is why I constantly question things around me. I’m always thinking about new and better ways to achieve goals that have been completed with the same methodology for over ten years. Unfortunately there are people that follow the adage "If it ain’t broke, why fix it?". Because of these types of people, many parts of their life goes stagnant and stuck-fast in old-fashioned ways whilst technology changes around them. Like the guy that folds the top corner of paper to join them when a paper-clip can do it better!
Interestingly, the friends I have are most impressed by my ‘how-can-do’ attitude. Not just a can-do, but a ‘How can we do it better? Can the current methods being streamlines, improved, and will we profit from the change?’ mindset. (Time-profit. It’s not always about money!)
"Successful Soloists are savvy with marketing principles"
This is one area where I openly admit I need a lot more ‘aggressive self-force’. It is one thing to have a great idea or product, it’s a completely different kettle of fish to tout your wares to an unknown audience. Like many people of my generation, we are able to sell a tangible product, but it takes a whole new force to sell our skills and abilities.
So one would presume that self-transferral is required. What I mean to say is: Imagine yourself selling your favourite vehicle – then talk about yourself. No, you’re not a car with all the options, but a human being with specialized options. You come with a complete set of skills:
- Your FREE-Air is actually initiative and an open-minded attitude to changes in your work-place.
- Those mag-wheels are your professional grooming.
- When you talk about the amazing engine under the bonnet, you are mentioning good health, regular extra-curricular commitments and willing to join the company-volleyball team!
Marketing yourself is no different to selling a product — it’s all about transferring the principles, and keeping up to date with the methods!
"Successful Soloists love their work"
This is an interesting statement. One should remember that ‘work’ includes exercise, sleeping, the people, the boss, the office, and interpersonal interaction – and in no particular order. When most people say the word "work", you often hear a venomous undertone suggesting a dislike for anything that involves work. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
I have saying in my office(-at-home) that says "Work is the one thing you are doing when you’d rather be doing something else." I’ve had people say, "Oh yeah, ain’t that the truth!" I don’t think those people are reading correctly. What this statement says to me is that ANYTHING I am doing that I find fun and exhilarating is not work. Do you believe you are working when having fun? Wait and think before you answer that question…
Do you enjoy cooking? What do you enjoy? The preparation? The purchasing of the food? The cleaning of the kitchen before and after, yes? Please explain to me how this is not work?!
Loving work means enjoying the whole journey. Learning the skills is the first component. Have you heard how many people did not enjoy their high-school years? And how many who really did not enjoy attending classes in college or university? I hear this and it concerns me. Learning is a fantastic journey. When one has learned a skill, it can change you quite significantly. We’ve all heard it before: "Knowledge is power". Yeah, well, that’s nice. I prefer to say "Knowledge: Know Life." Because without knowledge, there is no life. (And I should know. I lived an un-educated life for a very long time before I saw the light!)
There’s nothing deep and philosophical about it: It’s simply a realization that learning to learn, apply and utilise a skill is what helps us to travel down different paths in life. Unfortunately this is not taught at any school: Too often this isn’t learnt till you have lived a long time!
Love your work, love your life. Know your skills, know yourself.
Oh, and one last thing: Don’t let pessimism, jaded, cynical and shallow-minded people stop you from going forward. It’s not expected that your boss, your friends, not even your family will agree with your ideas. It’d be a perfect world if everyone agreed one what is right and wrong. Therefore, get out and live the life you want: How can you learn from people who have not found out for themselves?
"Successful Soloists hold themselves accountable"
This is one area where I constantly remind myself that the ‘buck stops here’. When I do something, I am the last person in the circle. I try not to pass on a problem to another person: That’s called double-handling. More people should take this attitude. When you call your bank or service-centre for help, do you like being transferred from section? Do you like staying on hold whilst each person finds someone to ask?
Admittedly, sometimes this is unavoidable. We cannot be expected to know everything. But that’s not the point! Let me explain this another way:
When you answer a phone, receive a message, or get asked to perform a function – take it on as a project. No, not do the project, just accept it as your project to complete. There is a difference. Make it your project to obtain all the necessary information, compile it, write it up if necessary – then forward to the asker.
One of the most amazing results of this is knowledge, pure knowledge. In the process of compiling information, the data will undoubtedly have to be read. Yes, you, reading information that would not normally be apart of your job! Imagine that!
Then you might need to rewrite it. Well, if you cannot understand it – may be the person who wants it cannot either. This process will truly test you. It’s also a process that will involve interaction with other people. Well, you wouldn’t want your data to go out un-edited, would you? Yeah, interacting with people with the relative knowledge is a sure way of ensuring you understand what you’ve written. Good stuff!
Ok, so you have the information. Now you will need to ring, send, respond, talk and communicate back to the original asker. This is another action that needs skill, diplomacy and tact.
Do you have your phone-voice ready? It’s a known fact that most people have a different voice when on the phone. I know I do. My wife works in a call-centre. Her mannerisms are amazing. Even though the person cannot see her, she often moves her hands about, smiles continuously and will even stand when enjoying herself. Why? Because communication has so many facets to it. As much as we take e-mail and SMS for granted, they are nothing compared to actually speaking to someone face-to-face! Since the beginning of time, humans have relied on facial expression, hand-language, and body-position to fully comprehend the message.
So now you have to complete the project. Ready to finalise the project, and take responsibility for your actions? Yes? Good, because now the rewards will come in – and all for you. Even though you got the information elsewhere, the client is getting it from YOU. Yep, you. Even if you tell the client that you had to speak to other people, they will still be impressed that you took the time to accumulate the correct information – and call them back.
What does this tell you? Simple really. Accountability for the quality of your work will reward you with quantity skills, compliments and knowledge. And this might mean a pay-raise. (Because that matters to a lot of people!)
"Successful Soloists cherish their independence"
This is the most important asset of any soloist. Whilst they also work well in teams, they also work well alone. Soloists are people who are secure enough in their skill sets to complete their duties, jobs, and projects without much consultation with others. I often find myself in this position. I have taught myself a variety of computer programs to a point where I know more than the workers around me. I’ve even used my spare-time to learn more, thus enabling my skills to surpass people who should know more than me.
But as the book says, "it does come with the cost of discipline". I find discipline not to be a cost, but a reward. My office is organised down to the last paper-clip, my daily duties are completed in a particular order, yet I can chop and change at a moments notice. The reward:
When I take a break, I can.
When I return, I know exactly where I was, what to do next, and that everything is within reach. Too often I find desks where the personal and work items cross over to the point that if I touch anything I will be infringing on someone’s personal space! Your work area should be clearly defined. Being disciplined about your time, space and knowledge will ensure that you are able to go ‘tail up, head down’ through a project to its completion!
"Successful Soloists have their priorities right"
I’ve modified this somewhat:
"Successful Soloists have their actions in order of priority"
The meaning is not any different, but it’s the consequence that matters.
Throughout my day – from jumping out of bed through to getting back in late at night – every moment has an action. Some relate to personal improvement, others to correctly complete my work-duties. Some ensure I get a respectable amount of sleep and enough to eat.
Setting and meeting short-term goals that build up to long-term achievements, keeping a easily-read task-list, and a calendar of events ensures that every moment of the day is not wasted at all!
So when people ask me what I do in my spare time, I say "Sleep." Interestingly, colleagues of mine say they enjoy sitting around doing nothing.
Me: "Nothing? You do nothing? You sit around staring at the walls?"
Them: "No! I do stuff, just nothing important."
Me: "So your time is nothing important?"
Me: "You are not going to live forever. Waiting for Friday to arrive is like waiting for your funeral. If you continue to waste your time waiting for time to pass by, one day it will – and you’ll be wondering where it went. Dwell on that … but not too long!"
This is usually met by a blank face. Some people actually live for the weekend alone. They forget that everyday is their life, not just the weekend. I believe these lifeless souls have forgotten there is more to life than work. They are still "living to work", rather than "working to live"!
"Successful Soloists keep their cool"
Ha, I have always been like this. Even when everything is falling down around me, I start thinking of a Dilbert-joke I once read. I rarely write it as I originally read it, but the meaning is still there:
Dilbert: "You don’t have failures?"
Wally: "Nope. But I do have opportunity’s to improve, mistakes to learn from and second chances."
Yes, massive change. I could neither find nor remember the exact cartoon! But it has the same message.
Wally has it worked out. He doesn’t get angry with himself when he fails – he simply moves on to the next project. Actually, this is an ideal way to look at everything you do in life. Admittedly there are times when mourning is necessary – but not in your work-place! If you fail to please the boss, find out where you failed and put in the extra effort next time.
Wally keeps his cool by not sweating the small stuff.
According to the late Richard Carlson (writer of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work and other great books),
"There’s something incredibly peaceful in recognising and surrendering to the fact that small stuff does happen, and that the nature of life is that it’s full of conflicting choices, demands, desires and expectations. It has always been that way and always will be. Rather than wasting your valuable energy banging your head against walls, you remain calm, deal with the issue as best you can, and move forward."
Never a truer word has ever been said. Even I have had moment where aggression has built up to the point that I wanted to do something drastic. But I have learnt to push this energy into constructive creativity, resulting in an explosion of writing, coding or designing. There is nothing that cannot be solved by counting backwards from ten slowly!
"Successful Soloists are doers"
This is one of those areas that we so often joke about corporate management. We see them attending lunch-meetings, blingo-meetings and committee-meetings, all of which have no resolution. They simply continue to meet, discussing the actions that will be taken to resolve an issue that should have taken minutes – but end up taking months of consultancy fees, mass-debates and numerous costly luncheons where PowerPoint presentations display un-related statistics. Sound familiar?
The difference between this scenario and a Successful Soloist is TIME USAGE. Soloists are proactive thinkers who don’t dwell too long on the process. Oh, they think long enough to go over the options. But they are skilled in their abilities enough to know what can and cannot be done. They take in all the information, asking as many questions as possible, quickly discussing the pros and cons with the client – then doing what is necessary.
Doers believe in the NOW, not the NEVER. The only time they don’t do a job is when they READILY admit to not being able to. But as said, Soloists will be accountable: They will ensure that any person involved with completing an action does exactly that! They make great team-leaders because they like to make sure that the project is completed.
I not only understand this statement, it is a law that I abide by. Every action must be completed – if not by me, but by someone I find to complete it.
"Successful Soloists are happy to go with the flow"
This does not mean what you think it does. "Going with the flow" is not letting time slip by watching the moment disappear. It’s being spontaneous in the face of fear. It’s taking the courage to jump out of a plane alone for the first time. It’s making up the plan as you go along and stuffing the consequence – because life is about having a go, having fun and learning from whatever happens.
Living life means jumping into the raging water with nothing but a helmet and a life-jacket. Hitting the rock-wall happens. Bumping into other Savvy Fearless Accountable Independent Doers along the way makes the journey more fun! Soloism means sometimes forgetting why and simply enjoying the ride.
As we all know, life has an uncanny way of catching us unawares. If you continue to live a soulless life in a dead-end job, you will rarely get the opportunity to jump in the river with or without a life-jacket. You will probably never meet someone offering you a free parachute-jump, nor even an opportunity to learn from your mistake. Fearing making mistakes is pointless: Everything you do has consequences, both good and bad. Bad things are there to learn from. Don’t lose the opportunity to find out where your failings are!
"Successful Soloists are fearless"
This is different from ‘going with the flow’. Being fearless enables the soloist to accept the direction head in a specific destination – both without fear of reprisal, mistakes, of any feelings being overwhelmed. A smart soloist knows those ‘stomach butterfly’s’ are a prerequisite for any project. Those bugs that tie their stomach in knots are simply reminding them that, in the whole scheme of things, we are as significant as we believe ourselves to be.
Without those moments of hesitation, Soloists (both new and potential) would trip over their own enthusiasm. When you hesitate, you think for a second. Thinking is important, neigh, imperative. Take time to think before jumping. But jump fast before you stop to think too long!
That’s my incite into the various attributes that make up the profile of many successful soloists. Can you find yourself in this list? I highly recommend you take the time to read the book to get the full explanation of what it takes to be a successful soloist!
Disclaimer: This not meant to steal Sam Leader’s thunder, but as an affirmation of how this book has had a positive impact on current thinking and my future ventures.