In the organisation I work at, I am asked to spend two days a year volunteering to help the community. I will be honest and say that most people I work with just choose something easy or use it as an excuse to do a team-building day. This year I decided to be bold and do the exact opposite.
I was scrolling through the list of approved activities and most of them just seemed like they weren’t really helping anyone. I then came across one that caught my eye, which was “helping the homeless.” Right now I am focused on getting out of my comfort zone and growing in any way that I can.
This activity seemed like the perfect way to do that, so I signed up. When the day came around, I rolled up to the homeless shelter and was not sure what to expect. I have never been homeless myself, nor have I ever seen what it’s like to have nowhere to live.
While I think I have some of the answers to their problems, I am conscious that everyone has the right to make their own choices, and it’s not up to me to judge them or think that I am somehow superior to them.
Below are ten reasons why helping the homeless allowed me to learn so many life changing lessons:
1. It’s all in the beliefs and mindset
The number one lesson I learnt at the homeless shelter was that the one thing every person there was lacking was the belief systems they needed to be successful. When I asked some of the people there why they were homeless, they told me a whole range of excuses and believed that even having a meal was a major challenge.
If each of them were to spend a small amount of time each day changing their mindset, then I am positive they could turn their life around. What I learnt though was that it’s easy for me to do that because I want to, but it’s not so easy for them.
Many of the people I met were happy with their current circumstances or had accepted where they were at so there was no need for them to make any changes. It all starts with a will to change and then the strategy can come later.
2. Giving back feels amazing (trust me)
A selfish lesson I learnt that applies to my own life, which I knew but not to this extent, was that giving back to the community and helping other people feels amazing. My natural behaviour came through my work on the day, and I was nicknamed “The Salesman.”
Even when I am not in a business environment, my true personality shines through, which kind of surprised me. In case you’re wondering, I was nicknamed the salesman because apparently I was overselling the meal options that were available on the day – I can’t help it, it’s my job!
The whole time I was there I had a big smile on my face while I handed out meals, explained how delicious the food was going to be and topped up people’s cups with coffee. I felt privileged to be able to do something for someone else without expecting anything in return.
3. Change your story
One gentleman I met told me how he used to run the train system here in Melbourne before he was made redundant. For the last ten years, he has been homeless. The man was warm, kind, humorous and very charismatic.
Unfortunately, he had lost his identity and had a recurring story in his mind that he couldn’t have that type of responsibility again. He then asked me if he could have a job working for me. I told him how hard he would have to work and at the end of the conversation, he chose to ignore my offer, which was genuine – I don’t think he was ready for change, and it’s not up to me to force him.
What it came down to was that he hadn’t got over the failure of losing his previous job, and he didn’t have the will to change his situation. The story he told himself was now so strong in his mind that it had become his identity.
I got the feeling that he though being homeless was cool in some weird way because it shocked people and got him the attention that he once had when he was the master of the train system.
Sometimes you have to realise that you can’t help everybody even if you want to because not everyone wants to be helped. None the less, if your story is an empowering one, then you will become a leader and attract more followers than you could possibly imagine. Change your story!
4. The environment can bring you down
The people at the homeless shelter mostly came there each day, not so much for the food, but to meet other people in the same situation. This creates a downward spiral for many of them because when they are trying to improve their situation, they are surrounded by people telling them to do the exact opposite.
This is why all successful people know that who you spend time with, and your daily environment, is the difference in you achieving your goals or living on the streets. If you’re someone who is going through a tough time, or you are not sure why you are miserable, then change your environment.
If you spend time with someone who is inspirational for long enough, then the effect will rub off on you. Just like the homeless people experience, the same goes in the opposite direction too. Imagine if we could get a homeless person away from their environment for a few days – do you think it would help them to change their situation?
5. Sugar is used to numb the pain
The thing that scared me at the homeless shelter, which I was not prepared for, was just the sheer volume of sugar that each person consumed. When I asked the chef what the number one item was on the food list each week he told me it was sugar.
I am not joking when I say that some of the people were filling half their coffee cup with sugar. I began to see that sugar for homeless people was a drug-free way of numbing the pain, and it was relatively low cost for them to have access to.
Health and sugar intake are directly linked to people’s socioeconomic status. Most millionaires I have met know that eating healthy is essential to their success, whereas the lower classes in society don’t have the same beliefs.
Be careful of your sugar intake, as it will suck all of your positive energy!
6. One kind act can transform someone’s day
While I was serving breakfast, I noticed a lady that came in crying, and she was very upset. Rather than go over and talk to her (she was in no state) I decided to not judge her and just bring her food. The moment I put a plate of food down and asked her if she wanted coffee, her day was transformed.
Sometimes it’s not what you say but what you do that can change people. One act that shows you care can change the way you are perceived and have a positive impact on other people. It even made me feel good because she stopped crying and enjoyed her food.
7. Clothing and hygiene are essential
The appearance of a homeless person is most noticeable by their clothing. Even if they were to go for a job interview tomorrow, they would probably not be successful because they don’t appear in a good state due to the way they dress.
At the shelter, there is a shower section where homeless people can clean themselves up. As I was coming out of the bathroom, I noticed a man who had just had a shower and was having a shave. He had brand new runners on, but the rest of his clothes were quite old.
By looking at his face, you could tell that he felt better about himself and was going to be able to attack the day with some confidence. This all comes from the way he was dressed and the fact he was clean after his shower. Compared to everyone else, he was the closest person to reaching success that I met.
This lesson applies to everyone. Make sure you try and dress well at all times, brush your teeth, have a shower once a day, keep your facial hair under control and take pride in your appearance. If you don’t, you could be turning away relationships before people even have a chance to get to know you.
8. Reading can be the difference
I noticed in the crowd of homeless people that the ones that appeared to be the least affected by their situation were the ones who were reading books. Many people donate books to the shelter so the homeless people can pick one up and read it.
Some of them used their tough situation to pick up a book and try and learn something that might help them think differently and get beyond where they are in their life. This lesson can apply to us all and I strongly encourage you to read a book or blog post to get some skills and grow your knowledge.
9. All skills are transferable
Even though I have never run a homeless shelter, the skills I have learnt in business are 100% transferrable. Within a few hours I was following the system, assessing stock levels, using my organising skills (keep everything simple) and going to the food bank warehouse to negotiate some more food supplies.
My personality and ability to sell can work in any environment no matter what, and so can yours. It doesn’t matter how little experience you have at something, if you understand the basics of success then you can apply it in any field.
10. The way to solve problems is not through money
Upon entering the homeless shelter, I thought that the ay to solve everybody’s problems there was to go down to the local supermarket and buy everyone’s food (I was naively contemplating doing this). What I learnt by the end of the day is that money is not the issue.
The people that suffer from homelessness suffer from mostly psychological issues that have come from the way they live their life and the values they stand for. Even if I gave each of them ten thousand dollars, they would probably be back to the same scenario in a few weeks.
If we invest money in changing the way homeless people think, and counselling them, then they will have the beliefs they need to create their own success, rather than rely on society. This is because money is just an exchange of value, and you have to have a positive mindset in order to give more than is expected to other people, which in turn creates value (aka money).
Why You Should Prefer Emails to Phone Calls if You Want to Be More Productive
“Email” and “productivity” rarely go together in a sentence. Emails have been declared as one of our largest time wasters. A McKinsey report stated that people spend around 2.6 hours each day responding to emails. That’s 13 hours a week, 52 hours a month and over 60 days a year! Imagine what you could’ve achieved in 60 days!
Emails also negatively affect our cognitive resources. When we think of responding to them while doing other important tasks, it takes up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds after being disrupted to return to full attention to a current task. Imagine how much our cognition and productivity gets fractured when we get distracted over and over again.
Constant emailing also drains us mentally. And at the end of a day, we realize that we’ve achieved nothing worth mentioning. With a phone call, you can sort issues and solve problems quickly, right? In theory, you’re right. But we live in a practical world where many variables come into play.
Below are three variables that make phone calls adversely affect our productivity, and why emails are a better alternative:
1. Wasting Time
Most “five-minute conversations” can quickly turn into 35-minute calls because people ramble about irrelevant aspects. This derailment, several times a day, severely limits the limited time and energy you have for important tasks.
Emails, on the other hand, force writers to streamline their thoughts and stick to the point. Emails can save you plenty of time and energy because you avoid lengthy phone calls. The constant strife to keep your own emails short and crisp also makes you a clearer thinker, which rewards you in other aspects of your life.
“It’s better to waste money, than it is to waste time. You can always get more money.” – Hal Sparks
2. Inaccurate Responses
An unexpected phone call can catch me caught off guard on a topic. I might respond emotionally or give an answer that doesn’t do justice to what I want to share. In a world dominated by panic buttons and fire-fighting, these don’t just stress me out but the caller as well.
Emails give me flexibility to prepare a coherent response and share it when I’m satisfied. If I feel a surge of emotion, I can sleep over the thought and share a better (more rational) response the next day. Many page-long email responses to emails that upset me have turned into a simple “thank you for your email” the next day.
3. Constant Back-and-Forth
Phone calls often are ineffective to solve business problems. Accounting for multiple people, their views, their timelines… One phone call can quickly turn into three.
Emails are quicker and more effective than even conference calls. They let you communicate with multiple people at the same time. You can share information, assign tasks and give status updates while being as specific as possible.
You must be wondering, “What about back-and-forth emails then? Why do we waste precious time on them?” Yes, email has earned a bad rap. But it’s not because of the medium; it’s because we handle it ineffectively.
A Better Approach to Emailing
For most people, constantly refreshing the inbox is part of the daily to-do list. It keeps them busy and gives them a kick of dopamine – the feel-good chemical.
Ironically, this quest to remain busy makes people compromise on taking action that can move them forward. Using emails prudently, rewards you with plenty of energy and mind space to focus on tasks that truly matter.
Here are three steps that benefited me without succumbing to the side effects of email:
1. Checking Them Less
I check emails just 3 times a day – at 9:30 AM, 12:00 PM, and 4:30 PM. If you don’t have the luxury to do the same, you can start by checking your emails for ten minutes at the end of each hour. Most senders expect a response in a little over an hour. So they won’t mind a slightly delayed response. This gives you 45 undisturbed minutes each hour to work on your core tasks.
2. Responding Quickly
People delay responding to emails at least 37% of the time, which turns finding emails and responding to them into additional tasks that cost time and lead to attention residue. Most emails take under two minutes to respond. When you can respond to an email, do so instead of putting it off. This won’t just put your mind at peace, it’ll also reduce the number of “did-you-see-this” follow-up emails in your inbox.
“I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk
3. The If-Then Technique
The If-Then technique helps you address multiple scenarios at once. For instance, an email that says, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM?” becomes, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM? If not, please advise three other times that work for you.”
This technique is also effective when you want to suggest ideas or provide instructions on alternative steps. For example, “Here’s Plan A. If it doesn’t work, connect with [name] and ask for [specific information]. If you don’t get what you need, inform me.”
I’ll admit. This sounds like more work in the current moment, but it drastically cuts down the number of trail mails, confused correspondences, and fire-fighting instances that occur due to miscommunication.
The If-Then formula is the single most effective technique I’ve learned from The 4-Hour Workweek. All of this doesn’t mean that you abandon phone calls, In fact, it’s better to use the phone for sensitive topics or if an email conversation gets dragged. But remain mindful to not let phone calls waste your time.
If you want to pursue a meaningful life, place a premium on your time. Do things that create time for you to pursue meaningful actions and avoid doing what pulls you away from them. In the knowledge economy, this is the key to success.
Do you prefer email or talking on the phone? Share your thoughts below!
4 Questions You Need to Answer Before You Reach the Level of Success You So Desperately Crave
It’s normal that every person in the world wants to reach success and happiness. Yet, everyone defines both of these things differently. For some, success is making a whole bunch of money while for others this can be to become a good parent. Happiness is defined differently as well. Some people need to own a jet, boat and 3 cars to be truly happy, while others are happy just to be able to wake up in the morning.
It doesn’t matter how you define success and happiness, the truth is, you want to achieve them both. But, to be able to reach success and happiness, you need to answer 4 questions for yourself.
Here are the 4 questions you need to answer before you can achieve success and happiness:
1. Where Are You?
No, not geographically. It doesn’t matter where you live. What matters is where are you in life. Where are you in your way to success and happiness. Let’s say you are lost in the woods. You know exactly where you want to go, but you don’t know where you are. Even a map doesn’t help you with that.
The same is true in life. You may have a goal, but until you truly define where you are in the moment, you can’t move toward this goal. So, step 1 on your way to success and happiness is to define where you are right now.
“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn
2. Where Do You Want to Go?
When you define where you are in life, then you can think of where you want to be.
There’s this saying: When you don´t know your final destination, you´ll end up somewhere you didn’t want to be. Until you don’t know clearly where you want to be in life and who you want to become, your life doesn’t have a true purpose.
Without purpose, there´s no motivation. Without motivation, there´s no energy. And without energy, you´re not living, you´re just existing. I am sure you know someone who looks like a walking corpse everytime you see them. Do you think this person lives a successful and happy life? Most likely not.
So, step 2 on your way to success and happiness is to clearly define your goal. What do you want to accomplish and who do you want to become?
3. Why Do You Want It?
Okay, you know the basics. You know where you are and where you want to be. But, as Rocky Balboa said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.” And as you already know, life usually doesn’t go according to your plan. There will be hard times and to overcome those and not give up, you need to know WHY you do what you do.
You need to know WHY you want to accomplish your goals. When you answer this for yourself, you don’t struggle so much to motivate yourself. You will be motivated every minute of every day.
So, as a step 3, sit down and think of WHY you want to accomplish your goals. What’s the big purpose?
“We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish.” – Tony Robbins
4. How Are You Going to Get There?
And finally, how are you going to get there? What’s your plan? You may know where you are, where you want to be and why you want to do it, but until you truly understand how you are going to get there, there won’t be much success and happiness in your life.
For example, you want to become a bodybuilder. You want to do it because you want to have big muscles and you want to look fit. But, you have no idea how to work out, how to build muscle and how to lose fat. Do you think, you´re going to be happy? No. As Tony Robbins says, “true happiness comes from progress.”
To make progress, you need to have a specific plan; how to get from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to be). So, as a step 4, sit down and make a specific plan for how you’re going to get what you want in life.
In order to reach success and happiness, there are 4 questions you need to answer for yourself. Without answering them, you´re not going to get ahead in life, you´re just bouncing around. Success and happiness never come from just bouncing around in life.
Good news is, that these questions are really simple. It won’t take much time to answer them. Just be aware of where you are and where you want to be. Don´t forget to understand why you are pursuing your dream and finally, how are you going to get what you want.
Answer these 4 simple questions today and you won’t struggle with finding success and happiness in life anymore.
Which one of the above 4 questions resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts and ideas below!
The Empathetic Heart: How The CHO of VaynerMedia Is Changing The Way We Work
A month after I had joined LinkedIn back in July of 2018, I sent Claude Silver a connection request and began following her content. One day she made a post saying “Ask and you shall receive, what can I do to help you today?”. I commented on that post asking for a 5 minute interview and to my surprise she agreed by asking me to send her a message (I was given a full hour). This was the first example of pure kindness I witnessed from Claude.
The first message you see on Claude’s website is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something. That message spoke to me on an emotional level, and I believe it will speak to you too. I wanted to know how she created such an amazing culture, what being a “culture carrier” meant, and how the employees at VaynerMedia have been changed by her work there.
A culture carrier in Claude’s own words is “someone who is aligned with our values, I can’t teach someone to be kind they have to already be kind. The process of developing a culture carrier takes about 6 months. It’s about bringing people together and having strong core values of kindness and empathy.”
Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia, is often referred to as a combination of hustle and heart. With the hiring of Claude and the work she has accomplished within the company, it speaks to the level of empathy that can be felt throughout the entire operation.
Although business can be a challenging, tough, and often cut-throat terrain, by putting employees first and providing honest feedback the company has grown to include offices in New York, Chattanooga, Los Angeles and London, and continues to dominate the market.
Below we’ll see 3 different ways the CHO of VaynerMedia is changing the way people work:
1. By being unafraid to share her own story
Claude has been an influential part of breaking the stigma surrounding vulnerability in the business arena. Not only does she openly share her own story, but she sits down with employees to better understand their vulnerabilities and how to use characteristics that previously would have been considered weaknesses as strengths.
When asked what her biggest adventure to date was she replied “Having Shalom (her daughter). I have had an amazing life, I moved, worked hard, landed an amazing job and fell in love but it didn’t come without its challenges.”
Claude is openly gay and is living proof your sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but your character, your track record, and if you leave people a little better off than before you met them. From Claude, business leaders, employees and entrepreneurs can learn to be more open both on social media and in person, allowing them to build more meaningful relationships and connect on a deeper level. A deeper connection can mean more leverage but it also means a more lasting impact on the world.
“Everyone has something they can share. I’m not famous. I don’t have anything that would be newsworthy, but I have stories.” – Tafta Johnson Watson
2. Committing to a strong value system
VaynerMedia has some serious values for such a large company and those values are expected to be upheld by every employee and visitor. Values like kindness, empathy, honesty, hustle and the art of not complaining.
With Claude holding the title of Chief Heart Officer, she is the guiding light for others. When recruiting, she says she “takes the time to evaluate an individual’s talents but most importantly their own heart”.
Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying:”To me, there’s no debate that kindness is a strength. And it breaks my heart to know that so many people believe it’s a weakness. So many people are afraid that other people will take advantage of their kindness or make them feel “used.” But the truth is, those who take advantage of your kindness are weak on the inside. Feel bad for them, don’t let them make you feel bad about yourself“.
Both Claude and Gary teach aspiring entrepreneurs that it is okay to live with an open heart and that having the strength to commit to and live with a strong value system, will be a powerful tool during the hustle journey. It also allows you to go to bed at night actually liking the person that you are, nothing will kill a business faster than going to bed at night and hating yourself.
3. Listening with action
As mentioned above Claude’s slogan is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something. As a woman who wears many hats, she is also an Outward Bound Instructor, taking individuals on amazing adventures in the outdoors.
Taking action on any given day can mean a number of different things but it speaks to her own character and driving force that she is able to not only guide people through the world of office politics but also through the serene and sometimes challenging wilderness.
Claude cultivates an environment of trust by first offering individuals her own trust. It is a huge and vulnerable action that leads to a relationship of love – heart – and productivity. Listening as an action is something that has the power to change an entire organization from an unproductive, toxic environment to one that promotes creativity, passion, inclusion and positivity.
“Relationships are leverage. If you give value to someone else first, you have leverage.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
To get the truest sense of how Claude was changing the way people work, I asked her co-workers to tell me what working alongside Claude has done for them. Here is one of the answers I received:
“During my time working alongside Claude, I’ve really come to appreciate her example of being a good listener. As a society, we tend to praise the power of speaking. But Claude demonstrates on a daily basis that the most important thing everybody wants is to be heard.” – Steve Babcock, Chief Creative Officer VaynerMedia.
I tried looking for images of Claude on her website and I think it speaks to how focused she is on holding space for others, because I couldn’t find a single full sized image of her to use. I googled. Writing this piece has opened me up to evaluate my own values and the way I connect with people in my daily life.
From this article, it is my own hope that entrepreneurs come to the understanding that although tenacity and true grit are really important, the whole of what Claude represents is something to strive towards. The “soft” skills you develop are humongous strengths and to truly impact an entire organization.
What’s the last random act of kindness you did for someone? Share with us below!
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