Howard Feldman

5 counter-intuitive lessons for life

2018-10-18 07:02

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Buzzfeed is often credited for launching “The Twenty-Five things that All Successful People do Before Breakfast” lists. Number seven, incidentally, will shock you.

Anyone born prior to advent of the internet, however, will know that quick reference guides have been around since Moses (and God) decided that Ten Commandments was more than we could handle. Turns out it took a number of attempts to even get us to accept the limited number that was on offer. And once we did, it became clear that a good percentage of us had no intention of reading past number six.

Besides, today we prefer to be “encouraged” rather that commanded.

Lists, however, are useful and in keeping with current (and ancient) trends, I have decided to note Five Counterintuitive Lessons that I have learned through my entrepreneurial journey.

1. Don’t take yourself as seriously as you hope that others take you

We all have a need to be considered important, and to be taken seriously. The problem with this is that pushing this agenda, whilst not having the ability to laugh at ourselves, is most likely the very thing that will prevent us from reaching this goal. The ability to look from the outside in and to note our own quirks and idiosyncrasies indicates that we know who we are, that we recognise our own “stuff” and that others don’t need to feel responsible for verbalising it.

2. Tell your secrets

The fear of being “found out” is enormously powerful. No matter how small or large that hidden factor might be, the moment that it is no longer a secret is that moment that it ceases to control. I spent many years holding up a banner and projecting an image that I had constructed over many years. Only when I chose to lower the banner was I freed from the fear. And only then did I realise the incredible effort that it had taken to keep that banner flying.

3. Don’t worry about your reputation

Worry about doing the right thing. Worry about knowing that what you have done or that what you do is in line with your own value system. Truth and reputation will ultimately win. You just need the patience and the confidence to know that.

This is not to say that there is never a reason to clarify or to legally pursue someone who has defamed and is causing financial harm to you. But most cases exist beyond this realm and live around dinner tables and gossip centres.

Very simply, they are not worth worrying about.

4. Don’t indulge your mood

We are often told that it's OK to be in a bad mood. And that it’s important to not deny our feelings. But they are not mutually exclusive. Recognising that we are in a bad mood and changing it are two different things.

As a morning-show host I get up at 04:00 and am on the air at 06:00. Some mornings are tough. It might be cold, I might have had a late night and getting going is not easy. But I am aware that by the time my show starts at 06:00, I have the responsibility to be upbeat, energetic and most of all, pleasant. In order to do so, I award myself the biggest smile I own, I appreciate how blessed I am to be doing something that I love, and then I engage with my listeners. By doing so, my mood lifts and aside from my listeners, I am the one who benefits most.

5. Imagine the worst

I am often told that because I am a natural optimist, that I can’t relate to the anxiety people feel over things that might or might not happen. And how paralysing that fear might be. I have found that those who are natural worriers are seldom reassured by platitudes like “most of the things that you worry about won’t happen” – simply because there is no way of knowing that the current concern might be the rare event that transpires.

Rather than dismissing the fear, I believe in using a technique that Tim Ferris employs. He believes in listing everything that could go wrong. Once this is done then list a way to prevent it from happening. If even the prevention doesn’t stop the occurrence, then list what could be done to rectify the situation. It is rare that there will be no solution. I have found that visualising a negative outcome along with preventative options and possible solution disempower the fear.

But one can’t stop there. Once the above has been listed, then the participants need to imagine the “cost” of not doing anything. Inertia is not without its consequences and to be fair to the process one needs to look at the cost of inaction. Only then is the “worrier” ready to look at what the possible advantages are.

There is no list that works for everyone. As much as we love easy reference points and quick fixes, anyone who has tried to engage in a path towards growth and change will acknowledge how challenging, painful and difficult it is. But very few who have walked the path towards self-awareness will tell you that they have not been liberated by the process and that they are not grateful for the journey.

I know I am.

- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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