Category Archives: Development

Living My Legend in Stuttgart, part 2

I gave a presentation at Live Your Legend Stuttgart about my journey with Live Your Legend. To find out more about what lead to this event, see this post.

Much of what I talked about I have previously written about on this blog.

My presentation was recorded. I have taken this footage and edited it down into an online with presentation with slides and a transcript. You can also download the slides here.

Minutes before I gave this talk I had just received news that I had got a new job. One that I really wanted. Consequently I was very excited while giving the talk.

The presentation was given in the corner of a noisy cafe. So the sound is not great and the video quality itself is not great because of the lighting. But I think you are able to understand everything that is being said, despite me tripping over my words.

Living My Legend in Stuttgart

I started this blog in November 2015 as part of following the Live Your Legend (LYL) website. Throughout the following twelve months I had a lot of time and I tried to follow everything LYL suggested. My take on their philosophy was that you won’t know what you are truly meant to do in your career until you truly know yourself.

In that year I followed up on each of their blog posts, I did two of their courses, I went to other events, meetings, groups and courses. Trying lots of new stuff.

Then in November 2016 I got a new job. Not the job that LYL was leading to. But a full-time job that paid money. I needed it. From then on I did not follow every thing LYL posted about. I think a lot of it started to become repetitive anyway. But they had set my course in motion towards “living my legend”. I continued with all the new stuff I had been doing. I think, whether consciously or sub-consciously, I was continuing my self discovery.

One of the LYL courses that I did was “Connect With Anyone” (CWA). As part of this course I was put in a mastermind group which was given the name Cepheus. After CWA had finished, Cepheus remained a cohesive group. With members in London, Germany, Madrid and Denmark, we meet every week via Skype for an hour. I have found this group invaluable in helping me maintain the momentum of moving to something new and better in my life. LYL talks about having an accountability buddy to help you keep to your plan. Cepheus has become my accountability buddy.

Recently, because of LYL and Cepheus, two significant things have happened to me. Almost simultaneously.

As I had been at my new job for some months, I had to take some annual leave. I decided to visit one of the members of Cepheus – Annie in Stuttgart. As she was a member of her LYL Local group, I wanted to visit them then.

This snowballed, from just a visit, to me giving a presentation at their meeting. Also two other Cepheus members, Jonas and Miriam, visited from other parts of Germany. The meeting with LYL Stuttgart and with other Cepheus members all went really well. It was an incredible weekend. Much better than I could have imagined.

The presentation that I gave was about my journey with LYL so far. I gave a Keynote presentation and much of it was taken from this blog. At the end of the presentation I was able to report of some really good news. Which is the second of the significant things.

I got my current job back in November 2016. It was more or less the same kind of job that I had previously had. Not the great change that I wanted from doing LYL. However I had not had much employment in the year before this and I needed a job. And it was a job I could do well.

But as I had been following LYL, I had reframed my CV, my LinkedIn profile, the things that I was saying to employment agencies and, I think, my mindset. I had been pursuing the work I really wanted to do. Admittedly when I got my current job, I seem to stop. But, in the background of my life, the momentum was still there.

In late January an employment agent approached me with a new job. I thought there was no harm in looking and it turned out to be a very good fit for me, both in terms of the skills and experience that I had, but also in the direction that I really wanted to take my career. The application process when on for weeks and weeks.

Then literally ten minutes before the LYL Stuttgart event I got a call from this new employer saying that I had got the job. My final slide in my presentation at the event was asking the question, does LYL work. I think this news of my new job proves that it does.

My presentation was videoed. I have editing it, made a transcript and a PDF of the Keynote. These are available at this post.

Live Your Legend Stuttgart
Live Your Legend Stuttgart
Cepheus in Stuttgart
Cepheus in Stuttgart

Baby steps

One of the things that Live Your Legend emphasises is talking ‘baby steps’ towards your goal. I suppose this is for two reasons. 1. You have to walk before you can run and 2. A small step is not as daunting or as difficult as a big one.

I must admit, although I have been following LYL’s advice, I have doubted much of its effectiveness. But, then again, I doubt… in general. I am a doubter. So I have learnt to play along until I can have any evidence one way or another.

So, after almost a year after I started reading the LYL website, I think that I can say that some of their methodology is paying off.

Meetups
LYL suggests joining Meetups that align with your interest. I joined quite a few, and although they are diverting, I doubted their benefit. Last week I went to a very local Meetup, one that I had tried to go to before, but the first time didn’t see the group at the pub they were supposed to meet.

This time, at the same pub, I met the group and after an hour, I was deadly bored. I was about to slip away, but on the way back from the toilet, I saw a sign to a different Meetup upstairs. It turns out to be the Meetup I had intended to go to all along. There were a lot more people, they were interesting, the Meetup was fun. And I think I might have made some useful connections for work.

But what are the chances of two separate Meetups at the same pub, on the same night?

Meditation
It had been suggested to me, for years, that I try meditation. But I doubted it. So finally, at the suggestion of LYL, I bit the bullet. Even after doing it now for almost a year, I still doubt. And yet, I have also seen the benefit. It has helped with stress and anger. And if I am feeling either of those, meditation helps to dispel them.

Knowing thyself
I would say this is the central premise of LYL, although they don’t word it like this. If you know who you are, then you will know what you want to do. I still doubt that I have found the second, but nonetheless I am following the LYL program of choosing a direction and sticking with it. This has given me focus and I am enjoying it. Consequently, I am throwing myself into all things animation. I was doing this as part of my job before, but now this has become my focus.

There are a few other examples of small things that I have done, like reforming my LinkedIn page or being a bit more organised in my personal life. Generally, I think these baby steps are starting to help.

But I still doubt it.

Thank you notes, conversation points and accountability

As part of the Connect with Anyone course that I am currently doing, there are exercises that I have to complete.

Much of what I am learning about on this course is stuff that I already know. But there is a difference between stuff I already know, and stuff that I actually put into action.

Thank you notes

One example of this is the idea of a thank you note. Often when I have had a good meeting with someone, I will email them a thank you note. But it will probably be little more than just a thank you.

The exercise I had about thank you notes was to follow a set template, where the thank you note was more explicit and detailed. I suppose, previously I had always been worried about sounding insincere, despite knowing that people in client services do this sort of thing all the time.

So I chose my victim… sorry, recipient and sent her a thank you about a meeting we recently had. It was detailed and it was sincere. Part of the exercise was a suggestion to meet again. I made this suggestion and she wholeheartedly agreed. The thank you note worked very well.

Like I said, I think I knew all of this, but I was worried about seeming insincere. Having this exercise was like giving me permission to be open and explicit.

Conversation Points

Another exercise was about started conversations with complete strangers. Surprisingly, I don’t have any problem with this (or very little problem), and the point in the exercise were points that I already abided by. Specifically, the three second rule. Once you’ve decided to talk to someone, do it within 3 seconds, otherwise you’ll overthink it.

One of the useful points from this exercise was about subjects to talk about. I, unfortunately, often fall back onto the old standard of “what do you do?”. But as this exercise points out, maybe someone’s job is not the thing they want to talk about. It may be the least interesting, to them, thing to talk about. So this exercise gives a mnemonic of things to talk about: FISH – family and friends, interests, strengths and health & fitness.

I tried this with another new connection I had made. I asked him about his interests. And I got back an effusive response, included some interests that intersected with mine. From there we went on to have a lengthy and broad-ranging conversation. It really did work.

Accountability

As part of the Connect with Anyone course we have a weekly Skype call. At the end of the call this week, I was asked how the group could help me. I had achieved everything I wanted to from the last exercise, so I didn’t know how to answer this. But shortly after the call, it came to me. The group is already helping, because they are keeping my accountable. I am actively doing all the exercises, otherwise I have to report back to them why I can’t. This is something that Live Your Legend says that I need, an accountability buddy. For the next 8 weeks, I have one.

What is this blog about?

Part of the “How to Connect with Anyone” course, that I’m currently doing, is a video interview between Scott Dinsmore (late founder of Live Your Legend) and Chris Guillebeau (general overachiever).

One of the things that Guillebeau said in this interview struck me, and is relevant to this blog. He says lots of people blog about their development, but few of them give an opinion, give the reader something on which they can take action.

Watch the video here. Relevant quote at around 12 minutes.

I suppose this is true about this blog. I have to ask myself exactly what it is for, and why would anyone else read it?

This is food for thought, and I haven’t come up with an answer. But I’ve decided to try (slightly) change it’s direction. One of the things I like is InfoVis and I have made many posts regarding this. But it was very haphazard, and it was just things that I found mildly interesting. With this is mind I have decided, in the future, to only post proper InfoVis that is interactive, interesting and innovative. Not just some random infographic.

I have also reorganised the archive pages containing my previous posts (top right menus, on the desktop version of the website). Separating out the infovis from the infographics.

Also, I now intend to blog about animation, as this is the direction where I am increasingly focussing my attention in my career. And there is now an animation archive as well.

While these changes hardly make this blog more compelling, I’m hoping that I’m steering it in a direction where (sooner or later) I will develop it into something worth reading.

Introvert

I am an introvert.

Unfortunately this is a much misunderstood word. Introvert does not equal shy. An introvert is someone who draws their strength from within. As opposed to an extrovert who draws their strength from others. An introvert prefers solitude, but that does not mean they avoid crowds or people. It just mean that being within a crowd of people can be draining and an introvert needs alone time to recharge. An introvert often does their best work by themselves. It does not mean that they don’t like people (although…). Human beings are naturally social creatures.

Many people do not believe that I am an introvert. I am gregarious. I am friendly. I can be outgoing. I appear confident. I hold my own in a noisy room. But I am more comfortable in one-to-one situations.

Last year I entered the Live Your Legend blog challenge. This blog that you are reading. And I won. At the time, I did not believe it. I thought this was just some marketing ruse, and that I had “won” just like everyone else had “won”. But no, after talking with others at the Live Your Legend Local London event, I find out that others who had entered had not “won”.

My prize for winning was entry to the “How to Connect with Anyone” course. This course starts next week, but this week there is a lot of preamble going on. One of the units that is available outside the main course is one called “Introverts 101”.

This unit has several videos regarding introversion, most of them good. Although I think one of them equates shyness to introversion while all the others tell us that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. A bit of a mixed message from a unit that is trying to help introverts.

The “shy” video says that shy people can misinterpret facial expressions, or at least interpret neutral expressions as “I don’t like you”. Whereas extroverts interpret neutral facial expressions as “I like you”. Although I personally think this is just the narcissism of extroverts where they think that everyone like them and they don’t take a hint.

This is what the other videos suggest, that introverts are actually better at reading body language. They will notice when someone doesn’t want to talk to them, or when they have been in a conversation for too long.

The thing is, I notice this all the time. Not a situation where I have bored someone to distraction, but more at networking events where I meet people and almost immediately they give off signals that they don’t want to be doing this. While I respect that, it does annoy me slightly, as I think “why are you at a networking event if you don’t want to talk to people?”. The TED talk is this series of videos says that a third to half of all people are introverts. Possibly these uncomfortable people at the networking events are introverts just like me, and I should be more understanding.

Likewise, the video about “shy” people says they are prone to interpreting situations in a negative light. When remembering a social situation they focus on the negative. An extrovert will focus on the positive. Again, I could argue, this is the narcissism of the extrovert, not noticing anything other than how great they think they are. However, I do recognise that the misinterpretation by “shy” people could be the case. There is no reason to focus on the negative.

At the most recent Live Your Legend Local London event we did various exercises, many of which I had done a variation of before while following the LYL website. There was one that was a little different and that was to think about my weaknesses. I’d been asked to think about my strengths on many occasions.

The weaknesses I wrote were connection with people, calmness, forgiveness.

The first I believe is a result of my introversion. It’s not that I can’t connect with people. It’s not that I don’t continue those connections. But I feel that I am particularly choosy about the continuing connections. Maintaining connections takes work, or at least I assume it does. Or assume it comes easier to extroverts. Whereas I will just let connections fade because I sometimes find it draining to maintain them. The positives of a connection have to far outweigh the negatives for me to be the one that pursues re-connecting.

The second two, calmness and forgiveness, I believe it is part of me not focussing on the positive. If a situation annoys me, and I no longer remain calm (usually within) it is because I focus too much on the negative. And then I’m unable to reinterpret this same situation at a later date (forgiveness) because of this continuing negativity.

Then again, maybe I’m just beating myself up because I don’t like some people, and I’m never going to get along with everyone. Maybe this is me misinterpreting a social situation. It was actually fine for everyone else, I just remember it in a negative light.

I would like to acknowledge that other people seem to not think this about me. As I said people think I’m gregarious, friendly, out-going, confident. And as I’m an introvert these situations can get draining. I just think that I could be better at these situation. I’m hoping this How to Connect with Anyone course will help.

Planning

As part of the Live Your Legend program I have started doing a Weekly Planner. This has been through various iterations. One was a Word document with questions on it that I had to answer. But then I ended up with a folder full of Word documents that I’m never going to look at again. Currently I use an Excel document, with similar questions, all in one column. Then each week I start a new column with my answers. And I can compare with previous weeks’ answers.

Along with the Weekly Planner, I have started keeping a diary. That is, a planner for the future (not a journal). Specifically the next week. LYL suggests that I can schedule my every minute. I have not done that. But I have a specific list of things that I want to do every day.

Initially I used an electronic diary. But I found this wasn’t flexible enough. Either I had to have a daily task or a scheduled task. And then moving things around wasn’t that easy. And the moving through the various views wasn’t easy either. I found it didn’t give me the ‘at a glance’ I was looking for.

So, I bought a paper diary. One day a page. And filled the entire next week out each Sunday. I have been using this for three months now. However each entry has been little more than a scribble. An aide de memoire, to remind me of what I should be doing.

At the moment, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I am reading a book about habits. I have just finished the chapter about changing habits. One of the methods was writing about what you were going to do, before you do it, and going into detail about this activity. Another was writing about experiences after they had happened, to debrief, and analyse what went right or wrong.

In a small way I am now going to take this advice on. I have not been sticking to my schedule as much as I would like. So I am now going to make fully worded entries into my diary. Not long, but a complete entry, that is proper written, not just scribbled. And have a specific column where I can write what has been done. Not just a tick column, but a space to write a complete entry.

We’ll see if this changes my habits.

Habits and happiness

I’m currently reading a book on the science of habits, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. One of the concepts it talk about is how habits form. It talks about the cycle: Cue – Routine – Reward. We do what we do because we are rewarded.

This extends to the workplace. If you do do work that you enjoy, it is because it gives you a sense of reward. Whether that been a feeling of satisfaction or the praise of your boss, client, whoever.

This made me think of the job that I left last year, and why I left it. I no longer enjoyed it. I had previously enjoyed it because I was learning new things, I got satisfaction from the projects that I created and I got praise from those around me. But in the last months of this job I was learning nothing, the completion of my work was interfered with, and if I did manage to successfully complete something, there was no praise, but that’s because it probably wasn’t that good due to the previous interference. It had become the opposite of enjoyable. So I left.

The most recent post on the Live Your Legend site dealt with how to stay a job, that you might not be enjoying, and find the positive to turn it around.

There were eight (or nine) points

1. Get interested in your colleagues.
Possibly I didn’t do this as much as I should have, but I have also realised since I left this job that the most creative people in the business were generally kept away from the creative decisions. And odd choice for a creative agency. I did become interested in the creative people (not in a creative position).

2. Become interesting and share what matters to you.
This is the flip side. But this also needs that people want to be interested, have the imagination to be interested. However I did share with those who were interested.

But generally I think I was mocked for sharing. Anything not mainstream and suburban didn’t really fit the vibe of a lot of people there. (See my previous post on scaffolding)

3. Find out your boss’s pain points.
I did this a lot, with both my immediate boss and the Managing Director, and I think I helped them solve a lot of the problems. The problem with this is that the other Partner, and at one point the then Client Services Director, did not see that these points needed to be fixed. They worked actively to keep things as they were. To berate me for wasting my time. To mock me if I achieved something (even though virtually everyone else at the company thanked me for it). And in the final months to actively stop me doing anything out of the ordinary.

I think what I’m trying to get across here is though the LYL post says there are ways of dealing with a bad job, my particular bad job had key members that fought as hard as they could to stop any change in the culture.

4. Discover the intersection between adding value & your interests
I actually did this. And manage to carve out a nice niche for myself. Until, again, I felt that this niche was got rid of (whether deliberately or not), thereby removing the thing I enjoyed most about the job.

5. Don’t get sucked into negativity
Again, very difficult. In the end I actually refused to go into meetings with a certain member of staff because I didn’t see the point. Nothing got achieved when he was in meetings. This was really near the end and I think this was the point when I thought “I have to leave”

6. Dress for success
In other words get noticed. And I got noticed. But that was a good and a bad thing. One partner loved my work. The other seemed to resent it.

7. Develop yourself outside of work
I definitely did this, and I continue to do so. In recent years I have gone to 6 TEDx events, travelled many countries, followed the LYL program, attended courses in Spanish, Javascript and Illustration, learnt new software, joined many MeetUps and started meditating.

8. Get outside your comfort zone
At this job I always took on tasks that I yet did not know how to do. I’m not sure this is ‘outside my comfort zone’, as I am comfortable doing this. I am comfortable learning new, unknown skills. I also was head of my department for about 50% of time I was at this job. Mainly because the various people in that position kept quitting (or was on holiday). This was definitely out of my comfort zone, and I think I managed it. But I doubt I could have done much more, as I think the culture of this company was to keep everyone within their defined box. They (or one of the partners) didn’t really like innovation.

Always leave a party when you’re still having fun…
I left way after I stopped enjoying this job. The problem was that I had enjoyed it, and I just felt there had been a shift in the politics at the top, where people were being made to pull their head in. Or more accurately, keep their heads below the parapet. It’s very hard to do many of the above points in a company like that.

Since leaving this job I have been freelancing, irregularly. I have more been concentrating on what I want to do next. Especially by following the LYL program and other activities that it suggests.

Getting out of that job was definitely the right thing to do. But making a firm decision on my next move is something that I feel has alluded me. I certainly have many options before me, and indeed have been encouraged to just choose one and run with it.

But I haven’t found that thing. That passion. Which I thought I might through all this exploration. (Although there are the naysayers who say “just do it, stop procrastination”)

Some days I feel I’ve moved in the opposite direction of where I want to go. I feel demotivated.

I recently found this list entitled “Everything is awful and I’m not okay: questions to ask before giving up”

I don’t feel that “everything is awful”, but I think some of the things on this list also help with demotivation. Especially as some days I stayed home all day, even if I am working.

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