I Stress, Eustress, We All Stress

stress-cartoonSome time ago I came to realize an important fact about myself. I work better under pressure. I can have a list of tasks pages long, and perhaps weeks to do them, however, I will still be the most effective and productive at these tasks just before they need to be completed. The reason for this unfortunately is largely chemical. When we are under pressure or stress, our body releases a cascade of hormones that have the effect of heightening our awareness, getting glucose to the areas of the body that need it most and creating that ability to focus and excel at the task at hand.

When we operate at our best under this sort of pressure, we experience a different type of stress. One of a more positive nature. This is typically called Eustress. Eustress is the happier cousin of distress, however the factors that determine which one you experience as a result of a particular circumstance, is dependent entirely on your outlook of the experience you are going through. If you feel you have the resources to cope with the apparent issue, both internally and externally then the situation will result in this positive type of stress. Note that I used the word “feel”. The reason for this, is your reaction is not based on the reality of the situation, but more so on your belief in your ability to handle the task at hand. Yes, it is easier said than done, and the belief really has to be internalized in order for the situation to be viewed positively.

If you have been reading the above and saying “yes, this is me exactly!”, then allow me to provide a word of caution. Eustress can turn into distress at the flip of a switch. It is worthwhile examining what those situations are so you can monitor yourself and not be caught unaware.

Too much Eustress causes Distress

When you are used to eustress being your friend, the tendency is to take on more and more work as it always seems to work out. However, be warned that each of us has a critical point where the whole picture flips. It may be one additional task, it may be something unforeseen like an illness, however it usually is something small that makes the picture change. The result is Distress. So monitor your amount of tasks.  Do not allow too many items to build up as you may land up being ineffectual with the entire lot.

Don’t forget to De-stress

Each one of us has a stress capacity. Our daily actions and activities either decrease or increase our stress capacity. Activities like exercise, meditating, family time etc. build up our stress resistance and deposit stress capacity into the “bank account”. What usually happens though, is these activities provide us with the capacity to taken on more stress. As a consequence, we land up having less time to focus on these stress reducing activities. The result? We start running low on our stress resistance reserves. When we reach the bottom of the barrel, eustress can easily turn into distress.

As we start a new year, I hope you are feeling that your stress resistance tank is full. Be mindful and ensure that each day you do some activity that puts back what you have taken out. If you have to go a few days without refilling, don’t get into the bad habit of not maintaining some balance. Try to have an awareness for the perfect amount of work that will stimulate you and keep you “in the zone” without overloading you and tipping the scales. Lastly, remember that stress is relative, and sometimes you just need to view it from a different angle. After all, it’s something we all have to live with. Yes, I stress, eustress, hell, we all stress.

So go ahead, create your life.

Why You Want To Be An Entrepreneur

In my previous article entitled “Why you do not want to be an entrepreneur”, I focused on some of the aspects one might missIMG_0251 when making the move from a corporate environment to an entrepreneurial lifestyle of starting and owning your own business. As promised there is a very positive flip side to that conversation. In this article, the second in the series, I am going to focus on three positive aspects of being an entrepreneur.  I call these “The three C’s of entrepreneurialism”. These are Consuming, Creating and Crafting.

I feel that it is these three factors that draw people into becoming an entrepreneur. It’s not about not having a boss. We always have a boss of some kind, or someone to answer to, even if it’s the bank. It’s not about having your own time. When you are not working on the business in the early stages, it is not progressing. It’s not about the money. Most entrepreneurs struggle a great deal to get to the stage of being financially secure and making enough to retire. It is about the three C’s. Consuming, Creating and Crafting.

Consuming

Entrepreneurs are people of passion. They are typically drawn to a business idea like no other individual. The idea hatches in their mind like a small little bird. This little bird grows up very quickly until it consumes the individual so much, that they see no other route other than moving it from an idea to a business. Entrepreneurs will defend their business till the last, putting in all their resources to ensure it’s survival. They can spend hours on end telling you why their business is essential and the best thing since sliced cheese (sliced bread is so passé). The business idea consumes them. Not only their conversations, but also their time and their mind. The entrepreneur is constantly looking for ways to advance the business or areas to promote it.  There is no doubt that a true entrepreneur is consumed by the notion of growing their business.

Creating

The process of starting a business has been compared to giving birth to a child. In the beginning, it needs total attention. You cannot leave it alone for a moment. You need to feed it money. Ensure that it grows. Teach it things so that it matures and grows into a responsible adult that can fend for itself. It is this process of creating that can be so fulfilling for any entrepreneur. A tremendous feeling of satisfaction overcomes one when you look back and see what has grown from something that was once an idea is now a fully functioning business. If you have done things correctly, you are even proud of the systems and the processes in place. You have created something from nothing. You were the artist, and indeed the process is as satisfying as creating a work of art.

Crafting

Very few businesses end up looking exactly like the vision you had of them in the beginning. The crafting process is about making refinements along the way. Taking the advice from what the market is telling you and fine-tuning your offering into the awesome product or service that people are crying out for. We are the crafters in this process like a blacksmith beats a piece of iron into a sword, we mold the business into its evolving form. We also craft the business with our personality. In businesses with co-founders the business is crafted using the inputs and personalities of both of the individuals, in much the same way that a child hold genes from both parents. It’s the ultimate nature – nurture combination, where the idea or concept forms the nature and the individuals nurture it into the final product.

The Three C’s of entrepreneurship can be extremely fulfilling. It’s these concepts that draw people in and keep them consumed in their work, creating and crafting as the process continues. If you feel that these are concepts that you identify with, then being an entrepreneur may be the route for you. So be bold, take the leap, and define your future. Create your life.

Why You Do Not Want To Be An Entrepreneur.

There are so many articles out there telling you to be the master of your own destiny. To stand on your own entrepreneurship with you hand firmly on the rudder.  The media report article after article about successful entrepreneurs, making millions by doing their thing. Living the life. Cars, travel, mansions at the sea, ahhh the life.  In this, the first of a series of two articles, I provide a realistic view of what making the break from corporate creature to an entrepreneurial existence is about.

Viewing entrepreneurs from the outside, usually leaves many employees drooling at what seems like such an awesome existence. We wonder why we have not made the move.  We question our existence, which seems like it is somewhat less of an achievement compared to these daring and brave entrepreneurs who have taken the path less traveled and succeeded. What they don’t focus on are the “failures” or the difficulties on the path.

Well, having come from a nice “cozy” (it actually is quite tough) corporate background, and then moving into the entrepreneurial sphere, I wanted to take the opportunity to bring some reality into the equation. Having spent plenty time with other entrepreneurs I can also tell you that my experience is not unique.

So firstly lets look at the reality and the things you will miss if you make the move from that nice “cozy” job in a corporate environment to the entrepreneurial business owner world.

What you will miss:

Support

When you are in a large company, it’s great to be able to call on others for support. Doing a function? Bring in the marketing team. Spread the load and the responsibility. The entrepreneur has to go it alone in the beginning. You need big shoulders for the load and the responsibility.

Systems

You know all those systems that you moan about having to learn. Invoicing, stock control, HR, payroll…yep you have to have them so happy hunting for the best solution. Again, you are all on your own here.

Benefits

Lets see, pension fund, provident fund, medical aid, paid leave, yup I remember them as a pleasant distant memory. The startup entrepreneur needs to forgo all these pleasures till the business gets going.

A pay check

I remember the thrill of month end when ones bank account would suddenly be resuscitated back to life and all would be well in the world again. As an entrepreneur the business needs to be nurtud and looked after and ones pay check might need to go to the back of the line while the business grows.

Colleagues

There is comfort in knowing that there are others who are going through the same experience as you. It may be the joy of closing a big deal or just moaning about the boss, there is comfort in sharing. If you are a single entrepreneur in your business it can be a lonely place. Having a co-founder can be a great help and is highly recommended.

Some of the above may seem trivial, but you will be surprised at the small things that one takes for granted.

Now, don’t be despondent. There is gold in those mountains, if you are willing to climb them. In my next article, I will cover why you actually do want to be an entrepreneur and all the positives that go with it. There are pro’s and con’s and only you can decide. Create your life.

Job dissatisfaction? Here is one way to find out if its real.

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So you think you are in the wrong job. You awake each morning with a feeling of dread. You would rather stay in bed, and your get up and go has got up and went. The thought of going to the dentist fills you with more joy than heading off to the office.

Well, these might be good indicators that it is time for a change of job. However, it also might be indicating something else e.g. depression or simply a lack of meaning. So if you are pretty sure that you are not suffering from depression or some other life-altering situation, here is one way to find out if it is perhaps that job after all.

Our moods fluctuate on a daily basis. Some people even hourly or at different times of the day. So the first step in deciding if there is an issue with your current occupation or job is to get a baseline reading of your daily happiness index.

A happiness index is a score that you give to yourself on the level of happiness that you are feeling at that point in time. It is on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being not happy at all and 10 being extremely happy. A 5 would indicate a feeling of indifference.

So what you need to do is, twice a day at roughly the same time take a self assessment of your level of happiness. I would recommend that you do this at around 10am and 3pm so it is not influenced by just arriving at work or getting ready to leave. Do this for a period of two weeks and include the weekends for comparison. At the end of the two-week period graph the daily results using a program like Excel. Take an average score of the weekdays. To do this, add up all your morning scores and divide by 10, and do the same for the afternoon scores.

Your graph might look something like this:

happiness graph

The first bit of information you will be able to glean from this is: are you a morning or afternoon person? If your morning scores are lower give some thought to the following:

• Are your morning activities different from your afternoon activities?

• If there is a differential between the two scores that is greater than 3, why is this. Are you perhaps doing admin work in the morning, but in interactive meetings in the afternoon or visa versa. If this is the case you can identify the activities you dislike and move them to a more suitable time. i.e. Monday morning might not be the best time to do tasks you do not like (unless you have a strong desire to get them out of the way).

• If your scores differ between afternoon and morning it could also be an indication that it is more of a task issue than the actual job itself.

Now add your morning and afternoon averages together and divide by 2 to see what your average job happiness is. If your score is way below 5 (indifference), then it’s time to start doing some thinking. Here are 5 points to ponder if you have a below 5 score.

• What is it about your current job that you do not like?

• Can you associate the feeling with any particular event or person at work? • If you could change anything in your daily job, what would it be?

• If you made this change, would you role be more fulfilling and increase your level of happiness?

• When last did you take a holiday? Could you be suffering from burnout?

For interest compare your weekend scores with your weekday averages. If there is a large difference here, you are wasting a lot of your waking hours being in an unhappy position.

The aim of the happiness index is to get you thinking about what is making you happy or unhappy at work. The goal is to move you from a subconscious feeling of discontentment to a conscious awareness of when and why you are not satisfied or unhappy with your job. In doing so you will empower yourself with the ability to make a choice and change the elements that are causing unhappiness. Take back control of your situation. Create your life.

Meaning or Money?

If I offered you R2 500 a day to write articles for me, and when you handed them in I just deleted them without even reading them and said thanks, would you take the job? At first glance you might think, “sure, easy money, no stress, where do I sign”. Now, what if I tell you that that is all you are going to do for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. Does it change your answer? I’m prepared to bet that the majority of people when faced with this question willlifetree not even do the job for more than a month.

I would like to put in a proviso in the above statement that reflects on Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you are low down on this pyramid you will probably do anything to ensure that your basic needs are met, and would not give a damn if your work is used or not. So, bear in mind that I am talking about people who have jobs, homes, and their basic needs met.

Dan Ariely in his book “The upside of Irrationality”, poses the question of are we merely rats in a maze, wanting to get to the food with the least amount of effort, or is the meaning of the maze more important to us?

In the modern connected work environment, employees are wanting to understand the meaning in their work more and more. They share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. They tweet about their existence at every opportunity. The resultant effect is a mirror is being held up to their lives that shouts who they are. Self awareness stops being an after hours thought and meaning becomes more important. Hence we are seeing higher levels of dissatisfaction in the workplace than ever before.

The modern manager therefore has a responsibility. This responsibility is to ensure that every member of his/her team understands their position and the role they have to play. He/she needs to manage not only the work output component but also the work perception component. Work perception revolves around all the components about what people think and feel in their jobs. These include but are not limited to: Is my work valued? Am I a member of a winning team? Do people recognise me for who I am in the team? Am I seen as a dispensable component? Today’s manager needs to be able to take all these components into account in order to maximise the value of the team.

The old way of looking at employee productivity stated:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output(WO)

My suggestion is that we re look at this in a holistic view:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output (WO) + High Work Value Perception (WVP)

I would even suggest that a greater focus on Work Value Perception will lead to high work output and that managers should reconsider where they spend most of their time. Spend less time on sales forecasts and more on life forecasts.

Help your team. Create your life!

Satisfied with your job?


Love-my-job-smWould you like to be doing something else during your waking hours? Are you happy in your job? The unfortunate reality is, for the majority of us, we dwell on this question for a while but then go back to the daily grind, avoiding the thoughts that just momentarily entered our minds. Most people however, would want to be doing something different.

Yes, the sad truth of the matter, is that the majority of people are dissatisfied with their jobs (studies show a satisfaction rating ranging between 21% to 41%). Hence, the majority of people would rather be doing something different with their time. But if this statistic of dissatisfaction is so high, why do they not change jobs and even careers? Possibly, because the question itself is wrong. Perhaps, the question should rather be, “Do you believe you would be better off and happier, doing something else with your time?”.

As work takes up approximately 80% of our waking hours, is it possible that we have over 50% of the population disgruntled with their lives? I would like to stick my neck out here and say no. The reason I believe this (and its difficult for me to use this word believe, I prefer scientific fact :-)), is that we are hard wired to think there is always something better out there. We think there is something wrong with us if we are happy with the status-quo. In our caveman days, we were always looking for that bigger cave. A better piece of real estate closer to richer hunting grounds and perhaps a more plentiful source of crystal clear water. Well, the sad news is nothings changed much. The hunting ground has just been replaced by an office, and the source of water, a pay cheque that attempts to quench the thirsty bank overdraft at the end of each month.

It’s no wonder that when asked the question are you satisfied or happy with your job, the answer is no. It is normal to show dissatisfaction in your job. It is normal to strive for something better.

The solution to this problem can be taken up by both the individual and companies. For companies to increase the level of satisfaction of their employees with their current job, they need to show them a growth path within the company. Show them that the way to fertile soil and better hunting lies within the company. The prospect of progress leads to current satisfaction. Stagnation leads to mosquitoes of doubt and dissatisfaction breeding in the still waters of the mind.

If you are feeling these feelings of dissatisfaction in your job, take control of the situation. Spend some of your valuable time thinking about your ambitions for growth within the company. What’s your growth path? Where are you going? What exactly in your current job are you dissatisfied about? The answer to these questions might be enough for you to realise, actually it’s not so bad. Alternatively, it might turn those feelings into action, and that’s a good thing regardless of your decision to stay or leave.

The bottom line is, no one is responsible for your life other than you. Sure, companies can help by the conditions they create, but you are responsible for your reality. So make sure that negativity is not creeping into those waking hours, decide to choose your path. Create your life.

Your own business – Me Inc.

Do you know that each one of us owns our own business? Each of us is a CEO, Marketing Manager, Sales Manager, and Technical Manager and more.

The Business is called Me Inc, and the sooner you get to realise that it’s actually the only business you truly own, the easier and more productive your life becomes.

Many of us have been through the corporate world or worked in companies where we are one of many. It’s easy to lose sight of ones dreams and goals, and just live from day to day doing the necessary roles and functions in a job. Many just go on autopilot, sometimes lasting 10 years or more before we even realise that nothing has changed.Career_Opp_Art

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that one should not work for corporates, or that you should change your job. In fact, quite the opposite, I am saying you should be running your own business within the company you work for, and that business is Me Inc. In any job, you are your company, your product that you sell, and the manufacturer all in one. You are all you’ve got! If you move companies, there you are. If you go out on your own, there you are again. Me Inc. is with you to stay! So make Me Inc. count.

Running Me Inc. has a lot of responsibility. Like any business, you need to look after it. Looking after Me Inc. mean keeping the factory (body) in tip top shape. Feeding yourself energising foods, exercising and keeping your stress in check. You need make sure that your product is continuously reinvented so that there is always demand. To do this make sure that you are keeping your knowledge of your industry up to date. When last did you invest in your skills? Take an online course, or read a book to broaden your knowledge. Keep thinking, what is the market need that I can fulfill. What is my competitive edge?

Once you have looked after these two aspects, then the Marketing and Sales Manager in you can take over. Know your product, and don’t sell yourself short. Where is your market and what areas do you want to expand into? Have a plan and use it. Ensure that Me Inc. is on everyone’s list of must have items.

So next time you think “it’s just a job”, remember that Me Inc is in that job, and ensure that you are doing everything you can to make Me Inc. the best company around. Be the best you can be. It’s never just a job and it’s your company on the line.