BLOG#7 Can You See the Invisible Influences?

Saturday afternoon, lazing about the house enjoying having nothing to do, the Food Network channel mumbled in the background as Tori and I chatted about what to have for dinner that night.

(please don’t hang up this does have a point)

We found ourselves getting dragged into Man vs. Food, a show where the host visits the best diners and in a city (lots of grilled-cheese sandwiches, fried chicken, bbq cow cuts, ice-cream mountains…) which culminates in him taking on a ridiculous food challenge.

This week it was Atlanta and a 30 inch (yes thirty!) pizza weighing 11lbs called the Carnivore Challenge, taken on by Adam the host and a team member. Food won.

Our discussion turned to pizza options for dinner.

Before we’d made our decision, the show ended and one on Asian cooking began, Ching the host sampling some delicious-looking treats from street food to tantalising pancake combinations. By now our mouths were watering.

We ordered Chinese.

A week or so later, Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals was the background for the evening meal choice (I’m painting a greedy yet quite accurate picture of my home life). I don’t even remember the dish but what I do remember is Jamie’s focus on fresh healthy ingredients and you couldn’t ignore the simplicity of preparing a delicious meal at home.

We didn’t discuss one takeaway for dinner.

Instead I headed to the supermarket and did the big shop for the week. I made a hot and spicy potato and pea curry for tea and it was spot on (not to mention super healthy!) if I may say so.

Why do I bore you with my TV shows and dinner choices?

Because these two episodes are a perfect illustration of the invisible influences over our decisions each day.

The effect is known as Priming and the principle is that many of our decisions, in particular the fast ones that we don’t consider to be major life choices, are made by a system in our brain that uses our short term memory for reference.

That means if I watch 2 TV shows about junk food, my (non-life-critical) decision about what to eat for dinner will more than likely be some form of junk food, because my short term memory doesn’t have much else in there to choose from.

If I look in the mirror after reading a Mens Health magazine or watching athletics, I’ll more likely to have a negative view of my appearance and will be much more likely to decide to get in shape.

If a young girl regularly watches US / Australian soaps and reads celebrity magazines, she will be more likely to be unhappy with / become depressed about her appearance.

If you see on the news a terror attack in Paris blamed on the ISIS group, you will be more likely to treat Asian-looking men (regardless of their nationality and religion) with suspicion. That isn’t to say you are racist, your short term memory just don’t have any other recent reference to form an opinion around.

Priming effect has been used by marketers (long before the effect was proven by the academic and scientific community) to influence the likelihood that you will buy their products.

But the reason behind this article is not to warn you of deceptive marketing.

I’ve written this to make you aware that everything around you, all day long, is influencing your view of the world, the decisions you make and ultimately your day to day happiness.

So what’s the answer?

I have 2 suggestions.

Suggestion 1: choose what you (and more importantly your kids) spend your time watching, listening to and reading.

But a WARNING goes with this – It will require effort on your part!

The lowest-effort approach to life is to accept what the world’s media chooses to paint your picture of how the world really is.

The trouble with that is the media choose to paint a picture of the world’s extremes, because media is business and businesses survive by capturing your attention more than their competitors.

Popular media paints an unrealistic and much more negative (attention-grabbing) view of the world than you are likely to experience, which means it will prime you to look for the negative in others and in yourself when in reality you (and the majority of people) have a lot of things to love, be proud of and be grateful for.

Suggestion 2: there is a second system that your brain uses to make your decisions. This is the “real you” and it’s the way you make important decisions, weighing your options more carefully and taking your time over so you’re ultimately as comfortable as possible with choices that are important to you. Like buying a house for example.

There’s no magic at work when the real you, the one that’s influenced more by your values than your surroundings, is in charge. All you need to activate it is pause for a second and ask yourself “is this something I’ve really decided for myself?”.

It’s not as easy as you would think.


BLOG#6 For a Better Day Eat the Frog First

My work days have gone a lot better since I started eating the Frog first.

The Frog is that important thing you really don’t want to do, the thing you’ve been avoiding because it’s going to be uncomfortable.

The Frogs in your life are what has made you an awesome procrastinator.

But eating the Frog first thing in the day has 2 beneficial effects:

Firstly, as Mark Twain once said:

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long”

Secondly, in my experience, the Frog never tastes that bad. What makes it a Frog isn’t the uncomfortableness (that’s definitely a word spell check!) of dealing with a task or situation. How can it be when it hasn’t happened yet?

What really makes it a Frog is the story you’ve been telling yourself about it in your head and the longer you put it off, the more detailed and real the story of discomfort becomes.

I’ll admit I still put some things off for days that I should just deal with.

But on the days when I eat the Frog first thing, they’ve never tasted as bad as I imagined (some surprisingly positive things have come from them) and the satisfaction of getting it over with has made the rest of that day a breeze.


BLOG#5 My Stress Experiment

I once heard someone say that stress is caused by the world not being the way you think it should be.

As a new parent with a 5 month old, I’ve got lots of opportunity to test what makes me stressed and how to avoid it.

Around 3 months ago, it was my turn to feed our son Jake in the middle of the night. It can take anything from 40 minutes to… forever from him waking up to getting him back to sleep.

That night, I knew I needed it to be a fast turnaround. I had a big day of work ahead with an early start and I hadn’t had much sleep recently, so I needed as much sleep as possible to get through the day ahead.

Before long he’d guzzled all the milk Tori had expressed and I was gently rocking him to sleep. But I had a feeling the monster in him was stirring, he was still wide-eyed and without any more milk I didn’t have the ammo to put him to sleep. Panic started to set in.

Two hours later it was 4am and I’d tried every trick. I’d been in the bathroom with the dehumidifier blaring, I’d been in the kitchen in front of the extractor fan (both surprisingly effective most of the time) and I’d been in the living room in complete darkness and quiet. But with every extra wriggle he woke himself up more and was now screaming louder and louder. Right next to my ear hole.

I found myself getting more and more frustrated.

I eventually snapped and went into the bedroom waking up Tori furiously and telling her (convinced by that point that it was entirely her fault) that she’d not given me enough milk and she’d have to get her arse out of bed to get him back to sleep.

What a dick!

I was stressed, she wasn’t happy (much!) and Jake was screaming. I was too wound up to sleep and it was a tough day.

I spent a lot of that day thinking about how wound up I’d managed to get in the middle of the night and considered that the reason was all to do with my expectations, or the way I thought the world should be:

“…it needed to be a fast turnaround. I had a big day of work ahead with an early start and I hadn’t had much sleep recently so I needed as much sleep as possible to get through the day ahead”

That was the story I told myself from waking up to feed him right through to snapping.

To test my theory I decided to do an experiment. From then onwards, every other day before I did the night feed, I would fully accept that he might not get back to sleep at all. I may have to stay up all night with him to comfort him and if I didn’t get any more sleep I’d make it through the day one way or the other.

Its only 1 day of being a bit tired you loser!

It’s now close to 3 months later and, since adopting this attitude, I’ve never got frustrated during any one of over 40 night feeds. In fact, I don’t remember any feeds since that haven’t gone very smoothly and, instead of focusing on making the task as short as possible, I’ve just enjoyed the time alone with Jake with no disturbances and nothing else to think about.

I don’t know if my more relaxed attitude towards the feed has made me more able to get him back to sleep, but I do know that changing my expectations has altered how I approach the feed and that has made every one of them easy with zero stress. Honestly.

I think that setting expectations the right way can make life so much more enjoyable.

I’m a goal setter and I like to be ambitious with my goals (you would laugh at loud at some of them!). But my problem is that, although I’m good at planning, I’ve never been as good at sticking to my plan so I’ve consistently fallen short of my goals or given up before reaching them.

What’s changed this year (for the better) is that I’ve still set some very ambitious and exciting goals, but I’ve accepted it might take me months or years, instead of weeks or months, to achieve them. I’ve also accepted that I may have to work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life to achieve them, but it will be worth it (they are exciting goals!).

That acceptance has resulted in me staying up a little later and getting up a bit earlier, which has given me 2-3 hours a day of time that I’ve never had before.

What I’ve found is that this willingness to work harder and for a few hours longer each day has actually got me to my goals even quicker than I expected.

I didn’t plan to write my first blog article until mid-April, but you’re reading #5 before the end of March.

So as a result of that horrible night, I now set my expectations for how much and how long it will take to achieve things that are important to me and this year (so far) has been by far the most productive and satisfying I’ve ever had.

Having just become a dad which demands so much of my time, I am calling my experiment a success.


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BLOG#4 Why is Nobody Using the Giant Human Cloning Machine?

What would you do if you could clone yourself?

Never work again? Spend your life drinking Piña coladas (my personal holiday cocktail of choice) enjoying the very best experiences the world has to offer?

You might be surprised to know that humans have been able to clone themselves for over 20 years now. The giant human cloning machine is practically free to use for everyone and there is no limit to how many clones you can create.

What’s strange though is that very few people seem to use it, which makes me think that the majority of humans may see the cloning machine but don’t understand what it can do.

Imagine everyone in the world having a TV but never realising you could switch it on. They just thought the black rectangle made their rooms look stylish and were happy enough with that.

(They would never get to see Breaking Bad!)

The giant human cloning machine, right in front of your eyes, is the internet.

For people interacting with other people, I do think the internet is used exactly as it should be; it allows you to have multiple conversations and interactions as if you were face to face with all the people you know, all over the world, in the blink of an eye.

That’s exactly what makes the internet such a massive advance for our species – its a man-made tool that amplifies our abilities far beyond our physical bodies, making our minds the only limitation we have.

Or in other words: it allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of.


The way the majority of businesses and organisations use the internet is the equivalent of staring at the TV without ever switching it on.

It’s primitive – which is the most complimentary way I can put it – used predominantly like a giant Yellow Pages (have you seen how thin those things are these days?)

Because every business is absolutely unique, there is no step by step guide to using the cloning machine. All I can give you in these couple of minutes of your valuable time, is an example of how the best use it, followed by a way to think about what your website should be:

The Example

What do you think happens when you type a search into Google?

In the blink of an eye, it checks 4.6 billion website pages and presents you with the 10 that it believes are closest to what you want. (Well that’s not precisely what it does, but its close enough for this example)

And it does this 2 million times every second.

The reason Google is king (with around 2/3 of all online searches) isn’t because of its ability to do a lot of work at once. All of their competition have that ability, as do you and me.

The reason they are king is because those 10 results you get are just the same as if Larry and Sergey themselves (we’re on first name terms) had instantaneously read every page on the internet and then sent you a personal email with 10 links (with a short summary for each) to the ones they thought you would like the best.

They have made their online business as close as possible to dealing with them face-to-face in person and the internet clones them to deal with as many searches as they are asked to do.

That is what impresses me most about Google. Its not the volume of work and speed they do it in, its their ability to look at just a few words, know what you want and give it to you.

Its just like dealing with a human.

Actually no – it’s somehow even easier.

Every business and organisation has the ability to do what Google does, which is give every person who comes into contact with it online the experience they would get if standing in front of them having a real conversation.

And you don’t need any technical knowledge to do it.

The Way to Think About Your Website

For a business, the idea is that your website should be a clone of your very best sales person – YOU. If you don’t think you’re a good sales person, BLOG#2 explains how you can be using one simple question.

Now consider all of the different types of potential customers who might walk into your showroom or office or workshop. (A potential customer is someone looking for something you can give them)

Then ask yourself, how would each of those conversations go? What might each person want from you, what might they ask, what are all the things that could matter most to them and what would you tell them?

If someone was looking for just one of your product or services (which is all most potential customers are), would you force that person to listen to everything about all your products and services, along with your business history? Or would you just have a conversation about the thing they came to you for?

Now look at your website and ask yourself “does this website say and do the things I would say and do in real life to each of those potential customers?”

Does the website very quickly get potential customers to just the information they care about? Does it talk about what the customer will get, or does it just tell them what you do? (They only care about what they will get by the way)

Spend a couple of minutes thinking about the conversations you have that turn into sales, then compare those to what your clones (your website) is saying to every person that comes into contact with your business.

Most websites convert less that 1% of visitors into customers (3% is seen as good performance!)

If any business only got 3 out of every 100 potential customers to buy in person, the business wouldn’t last long. So why do we accept such abysmal performance online?

I think its because people don’t understand that the internet is just a giant human cloning machine.

And without realising it, they are cloning some pretty terrible humans (not to mention sales people) to represent their businesses.

Remember: Face to face, people have to listen to what you say out of politeness. Online, they will be gone in a click to your competitor’s website unless you’re telling them something they care about very quickly.

Just as you would.


BLOG#3 How I’m Using My EU Vote to Be Happier

I firmly believe that my day to day happiness and satisfaction (or stress and dissatisfaction) with life is controlled entirely by me.

It has ZERO to do with anyone or anything else and that includes whether the UK is part of the EU.

My belief is that the feelings and emotions we experience are simply the result of the thoughts we think.

And our thoughts are the one thing in life we have absolute control over (although controlling them can sometimes be more difficult than others).

BUT, last weekend I heard genuine worry in someone’s voice as they weighed what might happen to them as a result of the referendum this coming June.

I thought it was mad that someone could be stressed over which way to vote!

Yet, the following day I was out pushing my baby boy Jake’s pram in the early Spring sunshine and I found myself thinking deeply about how I would vote.

Very quickly I decided that the outcome of the referendum won’t have any effect on my day to day happiness or stress.

However, my personal choice of how I vote (in or out) is definitely an opportunity to have a positive effect on how I feel. Maybe just short-term, but possibly (in a very small way) forever.

So this is what I decided:

Firstly, making a choice is much easier if you have an ultimate goal.

And, being as the result of the referendum won’t affect me personally, I thought about Jake and his future family and how the generations yet to come.

Would the result make their lives better or worse? Or in other words – if there is no real short-term difference for us either way, what will the long term affect of voting in or out on the people I care about?

That is easy to answer.

If you consider everything that makes your life good – the freedoms, the comforts, the luxuries, the opportunities, the entertainment, the knowledge – all of these things had a starting point in someone’s mind.

And in my opinion, everything that makes life good, exists because someone had an idea of how they could help someone else, or how they could improve the lives of a group of people.

Every positive step forward in history that has brought you the things you enjoy most in life, has come from people who didn’t think “will this make me better off”.

Those people are the ones who held us back.

I believe that the human race has been advanced only by people who thought “will this make others better off?”

So if you want to adopt the mindset of the people who drive the human race forward, making the world a more civilised, advanced and enjoyable place to be for you kids and theirs, when deciding which way to vote just ask yourself:

“Will the people of Europe be better off with us in or out?”

or more importantly:

“Will I help (or hold back) the advancement of the human race with a mindset of collaboration or isolation?”

I will be voting to stay in and that thought is one that has already me happier.


BLOG#2 Become an Expert Salesperson with The Magic Question

If you’re good at providing a product or service, the chances are you aren’t as good at selling that product or service.

That’s absolutely normal and makes perfect sense – they are completely different skills.

And, if you spend all your time providing your product or service, you don’t have time to spend learning the completely different skill (that you’re probably not that interested in) of making people want to buy it from you.

There’s a big ugly BUT here…

If you run your own business and haven’t learned how to sell what you do, I’d bet you’re working harder than you ever imagined just trying to stay afloat.

I’ve been there. Not quite living the dream is it.

The ugly BUT has a hot sister called HOWEVER…

Believe it or not, being good at providing your product or service means you already have everything you need to be amazing (and I don’t use that word lightly) at selling what you do.

Well, almost everything.

You just need to know the magic question to ask any potential customer, which will turn your sales fortunes around forever. The question is this:

“What is most important to you about the (product or service) you’re looking for?”

It might feel a bit weird asking someone that question, but get a grip of yourself (they are just words!) because I guarantee you will be blown away with the results. Let me explain:

The best sales people aren’t pushy and don’t use tricks to get the sale.

Instead, the very best sales people (the highest paid professionals in the world) simply take the time to understand what their potential customer values most. This is their most desirable outcome from the purchase or in simple terms: the one thing that will make them reach for their wallets fastest and grab the biggest wad of notes.

Armed with this golden nugget of information, the best salesperson will then use their expertise (about the product or service) to educate the buyer with everything they need to know about their options to get what they want.

So you see, as the provider of the product or service, you are the very best person to provide potential customers with this information. You’re simply talking about what you know and, in the process, you’re demonstrating your knowledge, giving the customer a feeling of certainty (peace of mind) about their decision and gaining their trust.

All without being pushy.

I guarantee when you ask that question, the answer won’t be that they want your “friendly customer service”, your “years of experience” or your “comprehensive range of services” – everything your competitors are offering.

It will be some specific pain they’re feeling, a worry or stress they want to get rid of or a desire that has motivated their quest.

Ask every potential customer that question for one week and see what happens.

Or don’t. I’m easy.


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BLOG#1 3 Words to Start Liking Your Work

Last Wednesday afternoon, as I stood in the eye of the commuter storm in the centre of London’s Paddington train station, I thought for the first time:

“How many people do I know who really like their work?”

I’d say someone who likes their work (not all the time, but more often than not) looks forward to working, they like week days just as much as weekends, they will happily spend their free time thinking about and learning how they can be better at their work, their eyes light up when they tell you about their work with genuine enthusiasm… you get the picture.

I couldn’t think of one person, although in the week since I’ve managed to get to a couple of maybe’s (out of everyone I know).

Don’t you think that’s mental? (no offence intended if you are actually… mental, at least you have a genuine excuse)

With our most valuable resource, the only thing we can’t get any more of – TIME – the majority of people settle for a life that gives them 2 out of 7 (or 29%) satisfaction.

What makes it even more insane is that we wouldn’t dream of settling for that level of satisfaction in anything else in life, even the most mundane and meaningless things we do.

We won’t watch a movie with anything less than a 3 stars, we only buy from Amazon sellers with a 90%+ rating, a single unsatisfactory experience in a restaurant (or pretty much any business for that matter) will lose you as a customer and there’s no way you’re getting to a 3rd or 4th date in a new relationship if more than one hasn’t gone well.

So my case is made: the majority of people settle for miserable satisfaction with their most valuable resource (time), but scream and kick and cry when much less important things aren’t close to perfect.

Never pointing out a problem without offering a solution – If you are one of this majority but would like to start tilting the “life satisfaction” scales a little more in your favour, then I have an idea for you to try:

I think a big part of enjoying your work – or anything for that matter – comes from the feelings of 1. being good at it (the feeling of achievement) and 2. getting better at it (the feeling of making progress or improving).

Feeling like you’re achieving and progressing with your work is entirely within your control and to start on this path the first thing you need to do is think about your job from a new perspective. A bit like giving your attitude a swift 1-inch punch to the nuts.

Your attitude, or perspective, is simply how you describe something to yourself internally.

So instead of thinking about your work in terms of “what I do…” or “what I have to do…”, think about your work starting with:

“I get to…”

Describing what you do like this will tell you exactly what your value is to your company and the people you deal with in your work.

Understanding what’s valuable about what you do allows you to do 2 things:

Firstly, you will immediately know if you’re doing a good job or not and, if you’re not, it will be very clear what you need to do to get that feeling of achievement.

Secondly, true innovation is finding new and better ways to become more valuable (as a person or as a company). So the internal mindset of “I get to…” will tell you what value you provide and switch on your mind to find ways of becoming even more valuable (i.e. improving or making progress).

At the risk of over-simplifying: An example to get you on the right track could be someone working as an office receptionist. If you asked them what they did, they might say “I answer the phone, make / manage appointments and deal with customer complaints”

Sounds pretty miserable no?

Well if that receptionist thought about it hard (and without being cynical), I bet they could come up with some I get to’s like:

  • “I get to… make the first impression that our business gives to potential clients”
  • “I get to… control how much income (from appointment scheduling) our company makes each day”
  • “I get to… generate repeat business by turning bad customer experiences into positive ones”

Now, I’m not telling you to get a permanent smile tattooed across your face and dance around the town singing about your job. This is simply a way to start thinking about your work so that you can begin to enjoy what you do more and more.

From the 3 phrases above, its clear what makes a good receptionist:

One that makes a positive first impression. One that fills appointment schedules every day. One that makes unhappy customers happy.

It’s also clear that there are an unlimited number of ways to innovate (improve / make progress) in all of these areas, new skills that could be learned and an endless series of ideas to test every day.

So if you want to start enjoying your 5 days as well as your 2 at the weekend, an “I get to…” mindset could be a good starting point.

Just a thought.


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