Motivational Monday #109 Failing Intelligently


Motivational Monday #109 Failing Intelligently

We need to teach the highly educated person that it is not a disgrace to fail and that they must analyze every failure to find its cause. They must learn how to fail intelligently, for failing is one of the greatest arts in the world.

Charles F. Kettering


I guess when you come down to it life is very straight forward and full of simple choices – do I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’; do I go talk to that person or not, do I exercise or not? And interestingly I think a lot of the time the range of choices we have to select from is fairly small. Very often two – to do something or not to do something.

Why when do we have so many difficulties making choices and especially choices that take us into new areas? I think the answer is simple, a friend of mine put it plainly the other day:

“Fear only stops you doing things”

Consider that for a second. When you have reluctance or apprehension (both lesser forms of fear), have those feelings ever encouraged you to try something new? I suspect not. Fear of the unknown seems to be something that is hardwired into our DNA. I suppose hundreds of thousands of years ago when our ancestors were finding their feet, wandering off into unknown dark new places wasn’t the smartest of plans.

It’s time to rise about that inherent reluctance. It’s time to be more open to choices that take us to new places and to experience new things.  

So let’s consider this point in more detail, what is it that we are afraid or anxious about? Very often it’s that vaguest, and yet perhaps the most pervasive fear, fear of failure. It comes up all the time. It’s lurking in the shadows behind so many of the ‘no’ decisions we make because we are too afraid to say ‘yes’ and then ‘fail’.

So what can we do to shake this one off?  Well there is a way forward highlighted by Charles Kettering in his quote – “learn how to fail intelligently” –to do this the first thing you have to do is fail at something. So actually in itself that quote is urging you on. Try new things, fail at them… and then consider what happened?what you can learn from that experience to take you forward? Because that’s what failing intelligently is all about.

It’s about moving forward, developing yourself and your life through the experience of failing at things. Allowing the opportunity to fail better and more intelligently, repeatedly until you reach a level of competence that is then considered success!

If failure is an art, as Kettering puts it, then like any art it will take time to master and each one of us, if we put the effort in, will be able to master the art in our own unique way.

Your style and method of failure will be unique to you and so will your successes when you learn to fail intelligently!

So maybe today is the day to say yes to some of those new things; a day to go out and intelligently fail!

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart


Motivational Monday #108 We Are All Cowards

 Runners stock

Motivational Monday #108 We Are All Cowards


“I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line we are all cowards”

Alberto Salazar

Last week I talked about taking that first step and how all accomplishments start with a decision to make a change. This week I want to explore a little why that first step can seem so difficult.

The Over Ambitious First Step

I have a friend who decided on an ambitious exercise and work regime which mirrored one that they had almost two years ago. It involved getting up at 5.30am and then working out prior to sorting out breakfast for their child and getting ready for work.

It was a great sounding plan and their work schedule was pretty much spot on. The challenge, as it seemed to me, was their morning structure. 5.30am is pretty early and I was concerned that if they failed to achieve it then it would become something they ‘failed at’ and thus would be motivationally counter-productive.

Unfortunately my concerns turned out to be right and my friend did indeed fail to get up at 5.30am for the first couple of days and their routine has, as yet, not materialised.

Sadly this is a good example of setting the first goal simply too high. It’s good to have ambitious goals but I feel that the first steps should be simple, easy and achievable. The tie to be ambitious is later on, not at the start.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

This ties into the quote at the beginning of the article. Alberto Salazar is a multiple marathon winner who now coaches Olympic running athletes. I personally find it very positive that the fear that we experience at the start of all personal development journeys is shared by supreme athletes.

What I take from his quote is not to shirk the fear or ignore it but rather accept it. A week ago I entered my first 10k run and despite having trained and run multiple 9k practice runs in the weeks prior to it I was anxious on the morning and downright nervous at the start of the race.

Images of everyone running off over the horizon and leaving me in the dust plagued me as did the crazy notion that I’d be so slow that they’d close the finish before I got there!

As it was I made it in 57 minutes time which, given I started running 3 months ago I’m perfectly happy with it. Also frankly I finished it and that was my primary goal!

But I digress … I felt fear that morning and yet knowing that it was normal to feel so kept me going. I think often we let that fear dissuade us from both starting and continuing. What’s important to remember is that fear only stops you if you let it. Accepting it and then moving on regardless reduces the fear to nothing more resistant than billowing smoke.

Needing the Right Circumstances

I know another person who is interested in getting into shape. Unfortunately they continually delay and procrastinate based on ‘things not being quite right’. Their bike isn’t in great repair, their weights aren’t the right kind, the exercise class they want doesn’t open at times that work for them.

There is a great quote from Zig Ziglar which went

“You can’t wait until all the lights are on green before you head off into town.”

I think that where you are is where you need to start. No matter what you lack you, most likely, have something that you could do. No gym membership or equipment? Then go for a walk. No books on the topic you want to learn about? Then go order some or visit the library.

And what if you can’t afford the books you want or the library doesn’t stock quite the right book? Then start with a second choice book – but start!

Circumstances aren’t often perfect but you will most likely have some time, some resources and some options right now, that you could use if you chose to.

So make your first steps small, immediate and use what you have. Things can get perfected later when you are on the journey but for now just start!

Good luck!

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart


Motivational Monday #107 The Decision to Try


Motivational Monday #107 The Decision To Try

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try”


Have you ever done that thing where you have sat around with friends or family and chatted about what you’d like to do in life? Or just chewed the fat and come up with a whole range of business ideas or personal goals?

I think some of my favourite conversations have been of those types, whether early in the morning by candle light, walking along a forest path or sitting outside under the stars with bats wheeling overhead.

Despite how great those conversations are nothing comes from them unless they boil down to a firm decision to try. That’s the secret to accomplishment … to take a definitive act which is aimed at changing something.

Now I think this stage often get overlooked. Possibly because it’s too small or frankly a little dull. It’s easy to get caught up in exciting day dreams; to be fixated on the whole new you, the new possessions or the incredible thing you will have built at the end of the journey.

The issue with that type of thinking is that it doesn’t help anything get achieved. By focusing at the beginning of the process you are in a much stronger place to actually achieve because frankly without that first step you won’t achieve; after all a thoroughbred racehorse can’t win the race if it doesn’t leave the stable!

So how do you unlock that stable door and start down the path of a new you? Well first:

  1. Identify what it is you want to change
  2. Consider what achievement would qualify as a suitable marker of progress towards that change
  3. Track that back to what the very first step would be

Now consider –

  • Do you really want to take that first step?
  • Is it congruent with who you are and who you want to be?

If the answer to those two questions is ‘yes’ then it is the time to make that intention a firm decision. State it in the first person:

“I am going to do x”

That firm decision is in itself the first step.

Next set up a system to help prompt you – whether that is an alarm clock to wake you for that early morning run, by asking someone to prompt you at a certain moment or buying the equipment you need to take that first step.

Interestingly as you are going through those later steps you will in fact already be taking action and turning your decision into something real. These are the small steps that are so important and they are steps that are within the power of all of us to do.

So today, what accomplishment are you going to decide to go after?

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart


Motivational Monday #106 Open The Screen

 Moon background LI

Motivational Monday #106 Open The Screen

“Behind the technique, know that there is the spirit

It is dawning now

Open the screen.

And lo, the moonlight is shining in!”

Yagyu Tajima no kami Munenor

I’ve been in the development field for over a decade and over that time I have spent a lot of time researching and trying to learn various techniques to achieve success in different areas of business and personal development to then share with my clients.

I have a range of moleskine notebooks filled with different techniques and tips. A lot of those have made themselves into the training and coaching that I deliver and indeed some have featured in this motivational blog series.

My research has led me into widely different areas – child psychology, martial arts, fashion, design, the military, sports, sales, management and many others. In all these areas of human endeavour there are really talented individuals who have reached a certain point of learning and maturity and who are willing to share their knowledge.

I find it all very interesting and I love how advice in one area can translate into another area with relatively simple ease. We live in an age unparalleled by our access to this knowledge and I think spending a little personal time reading what the top people in other areas of life recommend doing to be successful can be the best investment a person can make during a lunchtime!

But all that said I think there might be something more important than the techniques, or at least the equal to it, and that is our inner spirit.

Yagyu Tajima, who wrote the above poem, was a samurai sword master and a Zen master. I read about him in a book that was just recommended to me by Pasquale Scopelliti a brilliantly original business contact of mine in Washington, DC. The book is Zen and Japanese Culture (out of print but still available from various online sources) and it outlines in as clear as possible the thinking behind the concept of Zen.

It’s far too complex to outline in this blog and to be honest I am still trying to get my head around all of it but one thing that really stood out, particularly in the chapter entitled Zen and Swordsmanship is the idea of releasing the inner spirit through having a ‘no mind’ state.

In other words not being preoccupied with techniques and strategies but rather staying absolutely neutral and thus flexible to what might occur. When we focus on a technique we get ‘stuck’ in that mental area and that techniques mind-set and it can in fact make us slower to react.

If we are less focused on process and ‘what will happen’ and more open to the fact that ‘something will happen’ we are able to respond faster to the ‘something’.

It can also allow for our true self to shine through. Now legend has it that the above poem was left by Yagyu Tajima for his sons as his final effort to express all he knew about swordsmanship and the art of Zen more generally.

I think it’s a beautiful way of illustrating the point – our techniques can become shutters that hide our true light. Maybe what’s needed is to throw open those shutters and let ourselves be ourselves.

Maybe being genuine, being yourself, unfiltered by techniques and ‘how to tips’ is a more natural way forward and more powerful. After all isn’t it fair to say that our inner self is powering the techniques anyway?

So those emotions you are experiencing and those instincts you are feeling about the things in your life – maybe the best thing to do is open yourself to them and act naturally. In that unique way that only you will act.

And the best thing about all of this is that the genuine, open path is available to all of us if we simply chose to be brave and open the shutters to our inner spirit!

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart


Four questions to help you decide if you should drop a LinkedIn Connection

LinkedIn Network Face - Red

Four questions to help you decide if you should drop a LinkedIn Connection

Sometimes you need to consider specific people and decide whether they should stay in your LinkedIn network.

Now why you might want to do this is up to you. I’ve talked recently about my changing opinion on being an open networker – read it here (The reason why I have decided to shrink my LinkedIn network) and additionally I wrote about making broad decisions about potentially getting rid of groups of connections (How to Create a More Focused and Profitable LinkedIn Network). But what about making a judgement on specific individual connections?

I think it is as important to keep your LinkedIn network up to date with your current business practices. If you change sectors, win a client, lose a client or generally have an experience that makes you think

‘hmmm, maybe they are no longer relevant, or in line with, my best business interests’

you might then consider dropping the person from your network.

And not just them – depending on the reason you are dropping them you might want to remove everyone in their company. Remember that your status updates go to all your first tier connections as a minimum so if even one person in a company is connected with you then they might see your update which they can then share with their network or simply tell the other person about.

At the end of the day do remember that if you post something on the internet people will see it and honestly you can’t fully control who will see it. All you can do is make it a little more unlikely that someone will see it!

So here are four questions you might want to consider when considering if you should stay connected to someone on LinkedIn:

  1. Are they relevant to your business interests?
  2. Do you want to be associated with them?
  3. Do you want them seeing your status updates?
  4. Do you want them to be able to view your connections?

If they aren’t relevant to your business interests but they seem like nice people then maybe follow them on twitter, invite them on Facebook or some other social media. I’d recommend keeping your LinkedIn network business focused.

Say you decide that, having done business or spoken to the person, that they are a real jerk do you really want to show the business world that you associate with that sort of person? Guilt by association is a reality.

This needs to be considered especially if you shift your business focus and become rivals or competitors in some fashion. You don’t want them easily seeing all your clever marketing!

Yes you can hide your connections but it’s an all or nothing option. If you hide your connections from one person it hides them from everyone. That goes against the spirit of LinkedIn for me and if I don’t want someone easily being able to see who I am connected to then I’ll drop them.

It’s a choice you have to make but why should everyone suffer because of one person? Equally why should you network be cluttered by people who are no longer business relevant or individuals you want to associate with?

Take action and prune as necessary!

Until next time, be successful;

Stephen Hart
Development Specialist,


Motivational Monday #105 Three Questions

It is necessary

Motivational Monday #105 Three Questions

“It is necessary for a person to go away by themselves and to ask,

Who am I,

Where have I been

Where am I going?””

I am sitting in a hotel in Newcastle as I write this as tomorrow I have a meeting with a client in the city centre. I then have a trip to Huddersfield, in West Yorkshire, on Tuesday followed by a flight out to Helsinki on Wednesday afternoon where I will be delivering a motivational workshop at a company’s sales conference.

Being on the road like this does take me away from my family but it also gives me some quiet space to think and to contemplate. Two things that I think modern life can often make quite challenging to do.

John Maxwell, author of The 360 Degree Leader wrote

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.”

In our lives of modern communications we seldom get a natural break and pause however before we blame the phones, tablets or laptops let’s remember that we are the ones choosing to create this culture of noise and endless work!

For example last week an associate of mine was happily telling me of their upcoming holiday to Croatia and in the next breath reassured me that he would still be checking his emails and could be reached on his phone if necessary.

Now forgive me but I’m pretty sure a holiday is supposed to be a break from work – indeed the dictionary defines it as;

Leisure time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure

Funnily enough I don’t see any mention of reading emails or being available for a work call in that definition.

Now I get that people want to be available for their clients. Lord knows I’ve taken enough calls in the evening or first thing in the morning but there are definitive times when I am not available.  And that’s important I think.

A person needs to recharge, to relax, to sit in quiet contemplation and consider some of the bigger questions of life. If you don’t do that then you run the risk of working really hard at the wrong thing and ending up in the wrong location.

Life shapes us; each experience we have, each habit we adopt, slowly makes us the people that we become. It’s good to take time out to consider who you are, what you like about yourself and what you might like to change.

Whilst preparing for the talk that I’m giving in Helsinki it struck me how seldom we get time to contemplate these bigger ideas. It’s something that is rarely prompted by the normal events of our working or personal lives. I think what is necessary is to take the time out for it. To actively create the space that will enable you to relax, open your mind to the reality of your life and spend some time thinking.

Some pure, uninterrupted time where you can evaluate, ponder and plan for the future that you truly want. Which you might find is quite different to the future that you are currently heading towards!

So if you haven’t done it recently I strong recommend taking some time out to ask yourself the questions above. And if you are struggling to create the space that you need then may I suggest a walk or a jog as a great way to get yourself some alone time so you can contemplate the deeper things.

The good news is that it is within the power of all of us to do it – we simply need to make the choice and take some definitive action to create the space required.

Good luck!

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart


Motivational Monday #104 Better Now Than Later


Motivational Monday #104 Better Now Than Later

“Better a paragraph now than a novel at the end of the month”

Dylan Thomas

I was rewatching the incredible Christopher Nolan film “Interstellar” at the weekend in Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” is quoted.

A moving poem and worth looking up. It also reminded me of one of the things that I read many years ago in a collection of letters by Dylan Thomas. He was deeply in love with a woman and had been trading love letters with her for many months. There had been a delay from her writing back on one occasion because she had so much to say she was holding off until she had time put everything down in the letter.

His reply to her was

“Better a paragraph now than a novel at the end of the month.”

I think that’s very wise advice. I’m heading up to a birthday which makes me either very close to middle aged or just this side of it … depending on how you measure middle age! So I’m old enough to have seen the world move from pen and paper letters to emails and now instant messages and Whatsapp and it’s ilk. Whilst still being young enough to embrace and appreciate the new options!

I still think Dylan’s advice holds true. Better to reach out and let the person know that you are thinking of them than have them doubt and wonder just because you were going to send them something longer later.

Also those ‘longer, later’ messages are the ones that so often get forgotten about or we miss out half the detail because time has passed and it doesn’t seem as relevant anymore.

So this morning how about spending 5 minutes and reaching out to some folks. Send them a modern paragraph – i.e. a text or instant message and let them know that you are thinking of them.

“Hi, good morning, how are you?”

is six words long and yet has the power to put a smile on someones face!

Or for those people who you are more intimate with four words might work wonders …

“Thinking about you x”

You get the idea … it doesn’t take much but it could change someone’s day!

So who will you message today?

Until next time, be successful!

Stephen Hart

PS And when you have nearly three hours to spend I most highly recommend the movie “Interstellar”