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”

Motivational Monday #103 There is Time to Start Today


Motivational Monday #103 There Is Time to Start Today

“The starting point of all achievement is desire”

Napoleon Hill

For my money Napoleon Hill was perhaps the greatest of all the motivational writers that came out of the last century. Every time I read his work I come away with some though provoking point. This time I was reading through his classic work “Think and Grow Rich”.

I’ve read it a few times but I have the suspicion that it could take a lifetime to master and apply all of his advice! And maybe that’s the point; maybe it’s about that continual effort and work rather than a one -time burst of activity.

That quote was in a section dealing with the power of persistence. Something I remember my dad telling me, years ago, was the key to success. Hill goes on to outline the four stages to developing the ‘persistence habit’:

  1. A definite purpose backed by a burning desire for its fulfilment
  2. A definitive plan, expressed in continuous action
  3. A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences
  4. A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage you to follow through with both plan and purpose

I have to say that sounds like a plan for success to me!

I also think that sounds like a bit of work and something that will take time and effort – however the really positive thing about it is that today can be the day that we all start on the path.

The first step is within the power of all of us … consider the first three words of advice  – “a definite purpose” – that’s the start, and interestingly, the end of the process. What exactly do you want?

I suspect that if you ponder that question right now you will be able to answer in the general sense. Just imagine the clarity and power you will have if you knew definitively what it was you wanted.

Personally I’d start by narrowing the question down – consider your career – what do you definitively want? Go past what seems immediately possible and consider what you want without restrictions. You can always come up with a plan to get it later but you can’t plan for something you haven’t imagined!

No matter how busy you are today there is very likely going to be some time when you are on your own and able to consider the question – it might be that your boring commute becomes transformed into a planning session for your future career …

And if your career isn’t the key thing for you right now then consider the question in one of these areas instead:

  1. Health
  2. Relationships
  3. Finances

You probably don’t have the time today to change your whole life but I do think you have time enough today to start the journey – good luck!

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist,

Motivational Monday #102 Enlightened Self Interest


Motivational Monday #102 Enlightened Self Interest

“The more I help out, the more successful I become.”

Adam Grant

I like coincidences and if push comes to a shove I’ll admit that the whole concept of synchronicity is quite fascinating. Synchronicity, if you haven’t come across it before, is a concept of ‘meaningful coincidences’ where the fact that something happens by coincidence actual gives the event greater meaning; almost as if it had been ‘ordained’ to have occurred.

What’s interesting, writing this on the morning of June 1st 2015 is that last night I was reading a book entitled “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success”. Written by Adam Grant it puts forward the notion that there is a real power in being a ‘giver’ in business.

Based on significant, and recent, studies and surveys of business professionals, students and sports people Adam strongly presents arguments for the idea that ‘givers gain’.

But what, you might ask, does this have to do with coincidence? Well this morning whilst deciding what to write about for this article I picked up Dale Carnegies “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” I and opened it randomly to see what would pop up.

On Pages 166 and 167 which the book had opened to I found that Dale was talking about giving! Specifically he is talking about giving time and attention to other people and doing good for others as a way of being happy yourself and of spreading happiness!

He quotes Aristole who called this

“enlightened selfishness”

and Zoroaster who said

“Doing good to others is not a duty. It is a joy, for it increases your own health and happiness.”

He then goes on to recount this story:

“One time in England, I met a shepherd, and expressed my sincere admiration for his big, intelligent sheep dog. I asked him to tell me how he had trained it. As I walked away, I glanced back over my shoulder and saw the dog standing with his paws on the shepherd’s shoulders and the shepherd petting him. By taking a little interest in the shepherd and his dog, I made the shepherd happy. I made the dog happy and I made myself happy.”

And I guess that’s my thought for this Motivational Monday – think about the good deeds you could do for the people that you meet today. Even if it is a case of ‘enlightened selfishness’ you are still going to be spreading good cheer and positivity and I am fairly confident that some of that will flow back to you and brighten your day.

As to the final coincidence Dale mentions Carl Jung in his discussion on giving and it was Carl who coined the phrase ‘synchronicity’!

So maybe today is the day to be open to those meaningful coincidences along with looking for those opportunities to give something to those around you!

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist,

LinkedIn Profile Pictures – Colour or Black and White?

Louise Axon both

LinkedIn Profile Pictures – Colour or Black and White?

I was working with a recruiter last month who was interested in having a new photograph for their LinkedIn profile. I was happy to oblige, it’s something I’ve done for other clients, so I took some pictures for the consultant to choose from.

Now the company policy is that all photographs on LinkedIn need to be in black and white so the consultant, Louise Axon, picked the above right image as her new LinkedIn profile picture.

(Louise is a head-hunter who operates within the furniture and medical devices sectors)

We were all quite happy with the outcome and none of us thought anything of it. Until about a week later when I was at another client’s office who said that they knew that black and white pictures got you more views on LinkedIn.

Now I am aware, because LinkedIn have told me, that having a photograph increases your numbers of hits by up to 40% but I am not aware of any statistics which show black and white being superior to colour in this respect.

So I thought I’d do some market research … and I posted both images as a status update and invited my network to cast a vote and share their thoughts. The response was amazing!

There ended up being over 400 comments on the update and some very interesting observations made which I thought I’d share below:

Crop tighter

“You should consider a tighter crop as with profile images it’s all about the eyes and facial engagement”

Olivia Brabbs, Photographer

Several people echoed Olivia with the suggestion that the pictures, either one, could do with a sharper crop. Something that on reflection I would agree with. I think this shows the value of having an editor or at least sharing your image with someone else before you upload it.

Black and white is so last century

“There is a reason we all got rid of our old B&W TV’s. Think about that.”

Wade Rohloff, Safety Consultant and Illustrator

“Black and white makes her look like the photo was taking in 1930 or there about”

Chileshe Mulenga, Executive assistant

I’m a big fan of classic black and white movies – no one ever looked cooler than Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca but, and I concede the point, such movies are from a while back. (Although I would argue there is a difference between ‘old fashioned’ and ‘classic’!)

It has been mentioned to me, by several people, that they feel that black and white pictures can become ‘samey’ and the very rigid ‘corporate authorised’ images that some companies, particularly recruiters it seems, go for can make everyone look the same. 

Playing devil’s advocate however perhaps the modern world is so used to vibrant colours and marketing that black and white is just a little ‘old school’ now? Clearly from the comments that we have had some people would argue that.

Personally I feel that the black and white images can look good, sharp and even modern but black and white images have to be done in the right way and with a little thought – more of that below.

People will judge what you wear

“Neither, the young lady’s top might be considered too revealing for a professional LinkedIn profile photo.”

Steve Elliott, VP, Chief Financial Officer

Steve was the most outspoken about things but both Louise and I got private messages from a couple of people who felt her picture was, to various degrees, inappropriate.

Now with the best will in the world I think that’s ridiculous. We are not living in the 1950’s anymore and in my opinion Louise is professionally attired and perfectly presentable. That said I asked for opinions so being more neutral I think it’s worth noting that not everyone will have the same level of acceptability as you so consider your market and what is acceptable in your professional industry.

I certainly see plenty of images on LinkedIn that I feel are not appropriate for a professional business image! I wrote about that here – Five LinkedIn Profile Picture Mistakes to Avoid

As a counter other people had, in my opinion, a more modern and realistic mindset;

“After some of the pictures I have seen on LinkedIn, this is one of the most professional”

Reg Russam, Recruiter

Reg also went on to say:

“Funnily enough, I was looking at a possible human resources candidate yesterday and her LinkedIn picture was her in a bikini, I’ll be honest, it sort of put me off contacting her – especially with employers scowering the internet for backgrounds etc.”

The point is this – people will judge so you have to be happy that you are appearing professional and appropriate for yourself and your market.

Get it done professionally

“If a portrait isn’t created correctly for B&W then it should be color. But I could show you portraits I’ve created just for B&W that would never look as good in color. The photo seen here should be in color.”

Russell Hansen, Master Photographer

Now many moons ago I went to art college and I was taught to use a camera – that doesn’t make me a photographer it makes me someone who has a very little knowledge of how to take a good picture … ultimately if you want a really good photograph then, like most things in life, go to a professional.

And if you can’t do that then go to someone like me who has something of an idea of what he is doing. Photography is one of those areas where a little knowledge goes a long way and an enthusiastic amateur can be a perfectly acceptable option.

People see the details

“The eyes of the lady, being dark, seem more intense in the color version.”

Martin Fernandez, Graphic Designer

So people are looking at the fine details! Additionally several people commented that the button on the sleeve was distracting and others commented on the lipstick being noticeable with some people liking that and some not.

So details get noticed – I had manipulated the colour image to boost the reds so the lipstick was a design choice but I had missed the button. Another prompt to have an editor or at least someone who checks over your image before you upload it.

It’s all about the PR and your personal brand

Your LinkedIn image represents your personal professional brand so consider your image with care. Several people commented that black and white gave a more professional but colder feel to the image whilst the colour one was warmer.

It was suggested that some markets would welcome colour or black and white more depending on their cultures. The emotional impact of your picture definitely needs to be considered and how that fits into the bigger personal brand that you are striving to create needs to be considered.

A couple of people, including Liesbeth Leysen, Director of Public Relations and Media congratulated me on creating PR and marketing for Louise (and myself) through this exercise – a charge I can neither deny nor confirm!  

I would like to highlight that Louise did not share this update on her network as she didn’t want to be mistaken as an attention seeker. She is much more interested in establishing herself as the competent recruiter that she is!

And this was a decent picture

Consider the amount of discussion, debate and criticism that was provoked by this image and further consider that at the end of the day this is a fairly decent photograph of Louise. It doesn’t commit any of the usual profile picture sins e.g. no one else is in the picture, it’s a clear image, it’s been taken specifically for LinkedIn not just copied over from Facebook etc.

So it might be worth looking at your image and considering how well it measures up and how open it is to criticism!

And the verdict

I laboriously counted the votes and I can announce that the winner is as shown below!

 Louise picture results


 So 39% more people preferred colour to black and white. Now that might just be a reflection on this particular image so I wonder if it reflects a wider preference these days?

What do you think – not just with regards to this image but with LinkedIn profile pictures in general – which do you prefer, black and white or colour?

Feel free to share your thoughts below .

Finally thank you to everyone who commented on Louise’s image and to Louise for acting as a research specimen! As a result of the exercise and the feedback this final image was produced for Louise to use:

Louise Axon final

To be clear to the hecklers that we have had message us during this exercise – this was not a vanity exercise. This was an attempt to research how people respond to different image types – it’s science … sort of!

Until next time; be successful!
Stephen Hart
Development Specialist,


Motivational Monday #101 Give Away Everything


Motivational Monday #101 Give Away Everything

“Give away everything you know and more will come back to you.”

I have a collection of notebooks that I record research notes in. These range from one line ideas to detailed, multipart development notes that stretch over many pages. I’ve been keeping these manual research notes for almost a decade now and in the back of one of the earliest there are the following notes:

“Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know and more will come back to you.

The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your resources. Eventually you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.

The more you hoard the more you reduce your capabilities.”

Now it’s one of my older notebooks, when I was less consistent in my note taking, and I can’t find a source or author (let me know if anyone recognises it) so I can’t give the appropriate credit.

What I can do is tell you how I feel about that advice a decade after first reading it. Back when I first read it I was very uncomfortable. I’m a person who makes a living, in part, through what he knows. If I gave away everything I knew then my concern was that I’d give away my livelihood. Or at least I would make it harder for me to earn a crust!

Despite my concerns I have tried over the years to apply the advice and give freely of the information that I have – hence the 350 odd articles on my website and my contributions to discussions on LinkedIn and answers on Quora.

What I have experienced is exactly what the unknown author said – there becomes a need to become aware and replenish what you know. When you give away what you know you are forced to learn new things – unless you want to become that really boring person at parties who only has the one story to tell!

Whatever you are good at – sales, management, cooking, DIY or whatever – the more you share of your knowledge the more people will probably turn to you for advice. As you realise that people are going to come back to you for advice you will be prompted to keep learning because you need to ensure that you have an answer for the next time someone asks you something!

I’ve also found that it is dissatisfying to give out the same advice all the time and that has driven me to look for new answers, sometimes directly challenging my long held views to see if there is something new out there – a point that will be highlighted tomorrow when I write about some LinkedIn research I did recently.

The other thing that happens is that as you give away and share your knowledge you will learn more. Many people will just accept what you say but others will question why you say what you say or how it is that you know what you know. Those discussions will sharpen up your thinking and force you to look inwards.

When you realise through discussing a point how fragile your knowledge is that moment of realisation can act as a really useful prompt to learn more!

We all have our own skill sets and whatever yours might be I can promise you are safe to share it. Yes it will prompt you to learn more about your area of knowledge but I think that’s a great thing! I can also vouch for the fact that as you give away what you know you will have positive, funny, sometimes intimate and sometimes challenging conversations that will enrich your life. Surely that can be only a good thing!

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist,

Motivational Monday #100 The Truth Is Out There


Motivational Monday #100 The Truth Is Out There

“I want to believe.”

Fox Mulder

When I started thinking about the fact that the 100th article was coming up I tried to think of what my biggest and best suggestion or idea might be.  Unfortunately that didn’t work and I couldn’t settle on what to write! So in fact I think that’s the first point that I’d like to share in this centenary article.

There isn’t one big idea that is bigger than everything else. There isn’t a single answer to the challenges that confront us in life.

Life rolls on, days come and day go and some are good, some are average and some are downright rubbish – oh and of course because life is a real rollercoaster some days are all three!

What will help one day isn’t going to necessarily help the next day. Also, and I think this is something I was guilty of searching for when I was younger, but there isn’t a single magic bullet of advice that will permanently slay all evil.

That might work in the fairy tales but in real life the reality is a little more complicated. Sage advice, a positive motivational quote and words of wisdoms can help and can make a difference but I am reminded of what the late, great Zig Ziglar said when he wrote

“Motivation is like bathing. You have to keep doing it for it to make a difference.”

It isn’t realistic to expect to find one piece of advice that will fix everything but you can expect to find pieces of advice that will help a little and often.

So try to find time in your day to stop and think some positive thoughts, to play your favourite music or talk with a friend.

Life if you let it can sweep you away with a flood of obligations, must do’s and have-to-do’s. That becomes a heavy burden and without something to lighten the load it can ultimate wear down even the strongest person.

Personally I have found the most profound ideas, the best motivational thoughts and frankly the cleverest solutions to the challenges of life have come from other people. Over the last 100 articles I have tried to capture and relay some of the ideas that have come my way. Many of the best of those were inspired by conversations with some of the wonderful people that I know or have met in passing over these last few years.

And that is something I have really learnt for myself from writing these articles – that the best way to gain new ideas, to grow as a person or to find motivation is through other people. Talk to them, ask them questions and listen with an open mind and an open heart.

Not every view is correct, not every opinion will match with yours but those other views and opinions will give you something to think about and every so often the most unexpected person will say something that will change your life just a little bit.

Wisdom and motivation respect no title, no rank and no privileges. They are the domain of us all so if you want to have more of them in your life then look, both at the people all around you, and also the people who pass through your life fleetingly.

And have faith that the life that you have had up to this point has also given you knowledge and wisdom that you can share with others. As the famous quote from Marianne Williamson goes

“Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

So not in a sense of egotism but in a sense of wonder at the power of mankind’s inherent goodness I suggest that maybe we should all shine a little brighter, share a little more of what we know and share more of what makes us positive.

After all if everyone one of us strove to make the world a little more understanding, positive and bright wouldn’t that truly change the world? 

Like Fox Mulder I want to believe that and in fact after these 100 articles I do believe it.

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist,

The Power of Being a Niche Recruiter


The Power of Being a Niche Recruiter

When, at the beginning of the year, I surveyed Yorkshire based Managing Directors of recruitment companies one of the big things that came back was an overwhelming belief in the power of recruiters working within a niche (full details here).

At the end of February I was down in London attending a ukrecruiter and RIBA event where one of the panel debates was on being a niche recruiter.

The three panel members were Alan McBride, David Smith and Alana Carroll.

A couple of interesting comments were put forward by the panel – all of whom run niche recruitment companies and the comments closely echoed what had come back on the Yorkshire focused survey that I had conducted:

Alan McBride of Camino Partners Ltd said

“Being a niche recruiter is a strength because you have the option to say ‘no’ to clients; then when you say ‘yes’ the no adds strength to the yes.”

It’s a great point and was made in reaction to a question of whether a niche recruiter should go outside of their speciality should a client ask it. The point was made that it was sometimes heart-breaking to have to turn work away however the purity of the desk was felt to be more important and more profitable in the long run than grabbing a quick fee outside of the niche.

David Smith of Interactive Selection said

“Live and breathe the industry. Embed yourself in it.”

David expanded on this and explained that it was important that a recruiter looking to go down the niche route really needed to have some level of interest in the sector. That would then make learning about the industry and going to exhibitions and events much more pleasant and positive.

On that point going out to events and exhibitions was highly recommended by all panellists and having a background in the sector was recommended strongly by Alana and Alan. To be clear they didn’t feel it was an absolute prerequisite but certainly beneficial.

Alana Carroll of Gravitas Recruitment (SW) LTD said

“Build your business based on reputation. Treat candidates and clients with equal respect because you never know who will be important in the future.”

All experienced recruiters reading this will be nodding with agreement – candidates become clients – is the old adage within recruitment but the panel member, and I agree with them, felt that things have moved on from there. Given the current skill shortage in most sectors the value in candidates, especially passive ones is who they in turn know.

In other words there is no need to wait for candidates become clients – they are, right now, capable of making you introductions to unique, off the grid, placeable individuals who can make you a fee!

In summary the event in London was thought provoking and well attended by recruitment directors from across the country. On a personal level it provided an opportunity for me to meet a number of contacts who I have only known online up to now and rather pleasingly several of the people who I met are regular readers of this blog!

These director level events are held quarterly and I think they are well worth considering attending if you go with an open mind, as you should with all networking events! You can view future events via the ukrecruiter website.

Stephen Hart

Development Specialist,