37 Principles For Living An Amazing Life

I am currently on holiday, reading some great books, spending time with my family and indulging in rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. This time of year when I am not on the road is important to me as it gives me time to focus on my own self-development, creates space to develop new ideas and programmes and gives me real quality time to spend with my wife and children.

Although I planned my business and my life to work like this, I still feel a huge sense of gratitude. A sense of gratitude that I can spend this amazing time with my family, a sense of gratitude that I can enrich my mind and a sense of gratitude that all of this will enable me to help others be more, do more and have more in their lives.

One of my favourite gigs of last year was an unpaid one at a local school. I spoke with the 6th form on how to have the mental toughness to walk their own path and connect with what is truly important to them. For the last year, barely a week has gone by when I have not been recognised and thanked for how much it helped them focus both before and during their exams. To be able to help in this way is humbling.

As you know, most of my clients are corporate clients who book me to focus on mental toughness and sales via my motivational talks and coaching. During these talks and sessions many things are shared depending upon the audience and, in this spirit of sharing, I thought I would share 37 principles for living an amazing life that I have learnt and taught over the years that have made a significant difference in mine and other peoples’ lives…

  1. Get up every day and be grateful for what you have. Focusing on what you don’t have is an energy sucker. Start from a place of gratitude and you will be more motivated and achieve more.
  2. Spend time getting in touch with what is truly important to you. Our values shape and drive us. Stop living someone else’s life and live your own.
  3. Success is defined by you. Only you know what will make you happy, make you content and satisfy you. Take time to define your success.
  4. Use visualisation. Proper use of visualisation techniques for goal setting, future pacing, practising and rehearsal is paramount for success.
  5. Talk positively to yourself. Stop beating yourself up verbally and be your own best success coach. Silence your inner critic and embrace the cheerleader within.
  6. See other peoples’ perspectives. People do things for a reason. Work out what it is. You will find it easier to connect with friends, family, colleagues, staff…
  7. Save money at the start of every month. Money is a poor motivator. Many people do things for money. That is not the path to happiness. Focus on creating a financial cushion so that you have more choices and are less focused on making a quick buck.
  8. Lose the technology. Give 100% attention to people. Turn of the darn tech and focus on really connecting with those around you.
  9. Listen.
  10. Seek to understand what people are really saying and stop translating it into your language and your model of the world. Take a trip to theirs.
  11. Do one thing at a time. Really. It’s liberating.
  12. Get fit. It’s important. Really important. Eat well, sleep well, exercise well. Move. Every day.
  13. Spend time with your kids. You can buy them the world but they just want your time and your love. They’d rather play hand made games with you than bank emptying games by themselves.
  14. Spend time with your parents. They have feelings for you no-one else ever will and they won’t be here for ever.
  15. Know that love is a verb. It’s not a noun. It’s a set of actions. It’s how you behave. You create it. It’s not something that happens to you. Spend quality time with your partners or significant others.
  16. Be authentic. Be yourself. Live your live. Remember Polonius.
  17. Focus on activities not results. Activities drive habits and habits drive results. Focus on what you need to do daily to be the person that you want to be.
  18. Be polite. Say thank you. Say please. Manners cost nothing. But they mean everything. Politeness sets you apart.
  19. Help someone. Help anyone. Do you know someone who could do with a hand? Family? Friend? Neighbour? Wider community? A more connected community starts with you. A better society starts with simple actions.
  20. Give money regularly. Give to charity. Give to the poor. Give to people less fortunate than you.
  21. Be positive. Focus on positivity. See possibility. Practise being positive until you just do it naturally. Being positive is a habit. One worth cultivating.
  22. Be in the moment. Be present. Savour life. Notice the small things as well as the big ones. Take in the dew on the grass, the wind in your hair, the beauty of a sunset… Don’t let life pass you by.
  23. Smile.
  24. Breathe. Spend time breathing. Get air in your lungs. Close your eyes. Focus. Even if only for 15 seconds.
  25. Take action. The best action is the one you do. Don’t wait for perfection and end up procrastinating and prevaricating. Get out in the world and take action. Do something. Do anything.
  26. Read every day. Read personal development books, biographies, subject matter books, fiction. Just read. Apart from helping you relax and focus, reading also keeps you on top of your game and might well help stave off many diseases.
  27. Don’t do technology in bed. Seriously. It’s bad for sleep, it’s bad for posture and it’s bad for your sex life.
  28. Protect your thinking. It’s the most important thing you have along with your health. Don’t let others infect you with negativity or destructive mental patterns and thoughts.
  29. Take responsibility. If you want love, money, success, happiness, joy… take responsibility for it. 100% responsibility. Stop blaming others. Your life has nothing to do with them, it’s down to you.
  30. Give compliments every day.
  31. Give 100% and when you’re done, stop. If something is worth doing, do it well. Then do something else.
  32. Do less. Do it better. Stop rushing. Work out what is really important. Do that.
  33. Spend time on personal development. Have a vision for your life, set goals, define daily actions, hold yourself accountable, keep a record, visualise, form a mastermind team.
  34. Spend time with inspirational people. You become most like the people you spend the most time with… you know that.
  35. Hug. Hold hands. Kiss. Embrace. Maybe not random strangers but definitely those that you love.
  36. Do one act of random kindness every day.
  37. Work hard. Be the best that you can be. Make your work your masterpiece, whatever it is. Be the best salesperson you can be, or the best managing director, or the best firefighter, or the best dish washer…

I never used to write lists. I was too worried about them being the perfect list. Too concerned about what I might have omitted. But it doesn’t matter. This is my list of 27 Principles For Living An Amazing Life today… and therefore it’s perfect. Hopefully you found it useful.

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Customer Service WOW! vs Customer Service Woe

On giving that customer service wow… When I am not away speaking somewhere, I like to break my days up with a coffee and a sandwich at a local cafe. I take my iPad. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I update my todo list. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I “do” social media. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I might read The Times. I often do the crossword.

I generally see it as a refresher and if my wife and kids are out it also means that I get to speak to someone other than myself. I am pretty sure that it harks back to reading Paddington Bear as a child. Paddington always took elevenses with Mr Gruber and I always thought, “What a splendid idea.”

The truth is that it allows me to separate my day, plan activities and do some work… and there are some activities, blog writing for example, that I just do better when there is some noise around me. Anyway, the point is that I go to this cafe regularly. They know me. And I am a good customer.

“The usual Gavin?”
“Yes please.”

Predictable money. In the till. Bosh!

Or not bosh. Because they take me for granted. Not in a bad way. Not in a rude way. No, they have banter with me and ask me about my family and are generally nice. But they don’t serve me the same as they serve, say, a new customer. They don’t serve me fast and they don’t upsell me. Not even though history would suggest I want it.

Let’s put it this way, if I am there for an hour, I am good for a filter coffee, a ciabatta and a cappuccino. If I get into a blog post (or the crossword), maybe even another cappo. But they rarely get more than one coffee out of me because they don’t get to me fast enough and they rarely ask me if I want anything else.

I can hear you getting irate. “But Gavin, I don’t care about coffee.” Yes, I know but this isn’t about coffee. This is about customer service, sales and business. This is about turnover. This is about pure unadulterated profits.

Look at it this way, if I go into that cafe three times a week, 40 weeks of the year, that is at least 120 coffees lost. Up here in the North that would be at least £20. Just joking, £250. A lot of cash to a small business owner if they do that with a few customers. And maybe with others they are losing more expensive items like cakes or glasses of wine.

And it’s not just cafes, is it? I change mobile providers virtually every time my contract comes up. Why? Because I always discover that I could have been on a better rate but no-one told me. I move money around bank accounts. Why? Because the banks can’t be bothered to let me know that they have better options for me and because I have spent the last period of time failing to speak to anyone who cares about me or my money.

Many companies spend a fortune on acquiring new customers. They pay for advertising and they employ salespeople. Social media agencies work tirelessly to make them social and PR companies promote the heck out of them. They make promises, tout promotions and promise the earth. And all to win new clients, whatever the cost.

Many companies give the best offers to their new friends, they give the best service to their new squeeze and they go the extra mile for their new pals. They throw everything at them including the kitchen sink… and spangly, new taps… and a complimentary plumber… all to ensure that they hit their quotas. All to ensure that they keep on landing new customers.

And so often at the expense of existing clients. So often seemingly funded by existing clients. So often at the risk of upsetting and even losing dissatisfied, existing clients.

Existing customers and clients are critical for your business. You’ve already paid to acquire them. You’ve already done the hard work. They deserve to be cherished. They deserve the extra mile. They deserve the best you have to offer… and then some.

Here are my top 6 top tips for WOWing existing clients with amazing customer service…

  1. Do what you say you’re going to do.
  2. Be nice.
  3. Do it when you say you’re going to do it.
  4. Be nice.
  5. Do more than you say you are going to do.
  6. Be nice.

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It’s Your Birthday, What Do You Want From Your Life?

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!

I am sitting in a cafe writing this on my iPad whilst supping a tasty cappuccino. I am looking forward to an enjoyable lunch with my Mum, sister, wife and kids and then an early dinner out with just my three. My 3 year old daughter is beyond excited. She really gets that today is Daddy’s special day. What better gift could one want than a 3 year old bursting with joy because it is your Birthday? Makes today better even than my best childhood Birthday (sorry Mum).

I was tempted to give writing a skip today but as I sat here I felt inspired to write something. Something a bit more touchy feely than perhaps I normally write but important none-the-less. I want to talk about what makes you happy. What you want.

Many people will have no doubt tried to tell you what you should want during the course of your life. Possibly starting with your parents trying to prod you into certain hobbies, academic subjects, university courses and careers. They were probably supported by your teachers with their (and I am not knocking them here as my parents were both teachers) limited world view. How can most teachers have anything else when they have never worked or lived outside of academic institutions?

And, when you’re older a whole crowd of others from friends to colleagues and from personal development consultants to business srtategists – all want to tell you how to live your life.

As a motivational speaker it is important that I am on top of what’s out there so I have read and listened to these people over the years. Some of them have inspired me. Some of them haven’t. Some of them have interesting things to say. And some don’t. But they all tend to have one thing in commmon… they want to tell you how much you can be, how much you can do and how much you can achieve. And they all look at things from their own perspectives.

“Gurus” usually talk about millionaire and billionaire business people, top sports stars and people who have changed the world. They talk about famous names and people who have dedicated their lives to great causes. I don’t debate that these things are amazing nor that they can be motivational and if you want this kind of legacy then good on you. Go for it. Do it. Achieve it. Make your billions. Change the world.

But I have always doubted the relevance of these kinds of stories for many people. I just don’t think they resonate with many. Not at the level at which they make real changes anyway. They may be inspiring but when people try and take on these kinds of journeys they often clash with other important parts of their lives.

I remember reading a book called “Build Your Own Guthrie” by Dan Penna. You’ve probably never heard of him. I wouldnt expect you to have. You’re probably unlikely to read his book either as it cost me £277 to get my hands on it. Was it worth it? Maybe. Probably. Possibly not. Who can say?

Dan Penna is a billionaire. He scoffs at millionaires. He scoffs at half-hearted attempts to make it. Dan Penna is all in. He is committed. For him, billions are the only figures worth measuring. In his book, he describes how he never attended any of his children’s Birthday parties, missed his wedding anniversaries, never went on holidays and rarely made Christmas lunch. His mission was to grow businesses and make billions. Money clearly the driving factor for him. But that’s a rare world view. Rare indeed.

And that’s certainly not the life that I want. And it’s not the legacy I want. That’s not my journey. I don’t want to leave cash and businesses and kids who barely saw me. I don’t want to leave a wife who could do anything she wanted and walk around dripping in diamonds as big as the Ritz but we don’t get to spend any time together.

Did Dan Penna’s book help me? Yes. Did I get £277 of value from it? Yes. For me, it reinforced what was really important to me and helped me get rid of the last vestiges of inherited dreams of a legacy that I did not and do not want.

I have mentioned my grandfather before but not in detail. Poppa, as we knew him, was my Mum’s father. He knew what he wanted. He and his wife lived in a nice tree-lined street in St Annes-Upon-Sea. They lived in a typical early 1900s corner-plot semi with three bedrooms and one bathroom. My Mum and her sister were brought up there, at one point with Grannie too.

Poppa worked in a bank in St Annes. He worked as a cashier. And he worked there for his whole career, war excepting. He never took promotion because that would have meant moving to another branch and being unable to walk home for lunch with my Nana. He was happy with his role, his limited money and his job meeting people. He had time and energy for the people and the hobbies that he loved. He did not want to do extraordinary things, he wanted to do normal things in an extraordinary manner.

Poppa loved his small garden. He loved growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. He loved driving up to Fleetwood and Morecambe to buy fresh seafood. He loved spending time with his wife. He loved spending time with his daughters. He loved a beer. He went to the pub to meet his friends and have a drink. He played jazz on the piano.

Watching my Nana and my Poppa holding hands on their 50th wedding anniversary, doddery and old but still clearly in love was one of the most moving things that I have ever seen in my life.

He was happy. And his legacy is two well-balanced, happy daughters and grand-children who all remember him fondly. And, despite the fact that I would bet my bottom dollar than no-one ever spoke to him about his legacy, I know that he would have been delighted with his.

The point is that you must not let others dictate your dreams and your direction in life to you. You must not let others tell you how to think or what you want. You must not let others steer your course. If you do, you will never find the true you.

When I was 17, I was smart and intelligent but not interested in academia. I was going through the motions en route to university because that is what you do. As part of this, I applied for a university sponsorship from a major UK bank. Can any of you see me working in a bank? Any of you? Didn’t think so.

Anyway, on paper I looked great so I got short-listed and ended up in the last round of interviews where someone asked me what I wanted out of life. I hadn’t prepared any answer to this, no-one had schooled me on bank speak but I knew I should say something about career or international business or leadership or similar but I had had enough and I decided to be open and honest…

“I just want to be happy,” I said.

The three interviewers shifted uncomfortably and one followed up, giving me a chance to redeem myself, “And what would make you happy?”

“Getting up every day and feeling good about life. You know, happy.”

I did not “pass” the interview and I was not offered the sponsorship. Needless to say however, in true Alan Partridge style, I did get the last laugh…

20 years later… picture the scene. A large, corporate training centre based in acres of fields somewhere in the South of England. The sun is shining and leaders from all around the world are in attendance to learn about emotional intelligence – to learn how better to connect with others by understanding themselves, to learn how to be happy. Happy and more connected with themselves, with others and with their lives. They file in waiting to hear what the secret component is, waiting to hear what they’ve missed, waiting to hear the “expert”…

Me.

You couldn’t make this s**t up.

Please don’t misinterpret me here. This is not a missive to small thinking. This is not an excuse for inaction of epic proportions. This is not a call for people to down tools and lie on beaches.

No.

This is a call to work out what is truly important to you. To work out what you really want your life to look like. To work out what you want your business to look like. And to take action to move towards that.

If you don’t, what’s the point?

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They Taught You How To Be… Check Out What Happens When You Ignore Them!

This article is about how to be authentic in business and in life.

You will have noticed that I have changed my approach over the last few months. You might know exactly what I have done and why. Or you might not. And that does not matter. The point is that things have changed.

You’ve probably noticed that I have shared with you stuff that I have never shared in a decade and a half of speaking and coaching. More personal stuff. Things about me, my family, my life, my background and my journey. I have also been much more open about sharing my opinions.

Some of you will have loved this. I will have connected with you better. We may even have had a conversation, either in person or over email. I have had many. My posts about giving money to people in the street, the myth of talent, and the folly of willpower have had more interactions than 95% of all of the other articles I have ever written.

And that’s good news.

Quite simply I made a decision to be more authentic. I made a decision to be more open. I made a decision to share more of myself, more of the time. I made a decision to let people know more about me and not just my strategies and principles for success.

In business and life today, many people are boring. They are unoriginal. They are walking, talking, carbon copies of who they think they ought to be. They get up in the morning, pull on their work clothes, adopt their work persona and check their true personality in as they leave their house and pick it up again when they come home at night…

Maybe this works for some. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it is enough for some. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s right for some people in some industries. Maybe it’s not.

In my opinion, it’s not.

If you try to toe the line and please all of the people all of the time, you will end up truly pleasing no-one.

You will end up in the middle of the pack. You won’t truly connect with your customers. You won’t create raving fans. You won’t be the talk of your industry. You won’t make jaw-dropping presentations. Your products won’t sizzle and you won’t achieve the success that you deserve.

When you compete for business, you will be apples vs apples when you want to be a passion fruit. When you interview for a role, you will be another candidate not THE stand-out superstar. When you work with your clients, you will be a supplier not a confidante, a friend and an adviser. You will never be the go-to authority.

In my experience, when you embrace true authenticity, maybe 20% of people will love you. They will adore you. They will follow you, work with you and buy from you. They will hire you, refer you and rave about you.

These people will make you more successful than you can imagine. These people will help you achieve your goals and your dreams. These people will support you, share with you and inspire you.

Another 60% of people will like what you do. They will buy from you. They will hire you. They will work with you. And that’s cool.

20% however will not like what you do. They will not like your message. They will not like your approach. They will not like your energy. They may not even like you.

Most people are not okay with this. They cannot stand the thought that they are being true to themselves and yet some people just do not like them. So they choose instead to play the safe game, the one where everyone thinks they are okay but no-one truly loves them or truly connects with them. They choose to walk the mediocre, more normal path.

Don’t do it.

Embrace the real you. Embrace possibility. Embrace everything you can be. Be the real you. Connect. Share. Live. Succeed.

And don’t think that this does not apply to you. Try this experiment…

Think of anyone in any walk of life who is amazingly successful. Anyone who has fans. Anyone who stands out. You will see that this equation applies.

It could be a singer, a comedian, a politician, a business magnate. For example, I like Alan Partridge. Love him. Think he is hilarious. I am not the only one…

“Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!” Oh, come on, that’s funny shit!

No?

No.

Some people hate him. They do not think he is funny at all. (“Smell my cheese.”) Over their heads. Not funny. We are not amused.

And some are indifferent. My wife can take him or leave him. Does not hate him. But doesn’t get it either.

Does Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge) care? I doubt it. His raving fans have built him an amazing career and life and he wouldn’t swap that for some less authentic version of his comedy that engaged everybody slightly but nobody fully.

I have recently undertaken my #100dayfithabit exercise programme where I am sharing my 100 day mission to lose weight, get fit, feel great and build healthy, positive, fitness habits. I am sharing what I am doing, how I am feeling, my wins and my learns. I am not sugar coating it or sanitising it for public consumption.

I am sharing it. Sharing me. Being authentic. That’s how to be authentic. Just be.

I am doing the same with my blogs, my talks and my coaching. It’s good news for you. It’s good news for me and it’s good news for my business. If I can reach people, connect with people and share my journey in a way that motivates and inspires, then I am happy. If people who read my blogs and book me to speak feel more motivated, take more action, make more sales and achieve more success then that’s awesome.

Take some time now to think about how you can be more authentic. How you can be more natural, more open and more sharing with your prospects, your clients, your friends and your family. When you do, you will experience some amazing connections and you will be someone that no-one else can emulate.

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Why Willpower Sucks And Habits Rule

This article is not really about fitness. It is not really about health. It is not really about any specific subject. It is about habits and the importance of building productive habits if you want to achieve success in any field.

So this article could be about fitness. It could be about health. It could be about being a great salesperson, a great leader, a great sportsperson or a great parent. It could be about fame. Or money. Or power. Or happiness.

Whatever is important to you. It is about that. And about whether you will ultimately achieve and maintain it or not. It is about life and whether life is going to be easy or hard. Successful or unsuccessful. Rewarding or unrewarding.

About 3 months ago, I was talking with a friend. We were chatting about age, being closer to 50 than 40 and about whether that meant that it was “all downhill” from here! We talked about health and fitness, strength, energy, speed and stamina and both agreed we were not what we once were. I said that we should do something about it. He agreed.

But he said it would be easier for me than for him. I asked why and he said, “Because you used to train every day when you were younger and you have incredible willpower.”

Now, as it happens, I do think I have good willpower when I want to have but this comment interested me so I said, “Go on.” He then proceeded to tell me that he did not know anyone else who went out in all weathers and did gym work and running every day like I used to. No matter what.

And he was right. Until I was about 30, I did. Every day. 7 days a week. Every day of the year. Apart from Christmas Day. And occasionally then too. Days off only for sickness and, even then, I often employed the mindset of, “Well, the exercise might do me good!”

But, and here’s the rub, behaving in this way required no willpower. It required no motivation. It required no strength of mind. It was not a major achievement.

It was just what I did. It was me. It was part of who I was. Like getting up in the morning. No more hardship than spreading jam on bread or unwrapping delicious chocolate bars.

It was firmly entrenched as habit.

It’s not like that any more. I am not like that any more. It took me the best part of 5 years to totally wipe out my good habits but since 35 I have been on a downward spiral as far as healthy habits go. I was right to change them at the time because they were not right for me at that age. They were unnecessary. Overkill. Problem was, I failed to replace them with any useful, new habits.

Nothing. Nil. Nada.

For sure, I know exercise is good. I know it is right. I know I ought to do it regularly. And I do some. I’m not terrible. But it is hard. Real hard. I fight the battles of feeling demotivated, struggling to find the time, not fancying the weather, chores to do, travel challenges, speaking commitments etc etc. I am sure many of you know these things well.

The issue is this…

Most of us know that we ought to do things. We know pretty much what to do. We often know how to do it. We know that getting into work a bit earlier might help. We know that we ought to be spending more time with our clients. We know that we should prospect more consistently. We know that we should spend more time learning and improving our skills and more time with our children, parents and spouses.

Shall I go on?

And we fight to do these things. We want to do these things. We strive to do these things. We try to do these things.

But stuff gets in the way.

And sometimes we do them. And sometimes we don’t. And that makes our results anything from bad to good… but not good enough. Not as good as we could. Not as good as we want to be. Not as good as we deserve.

The challenge is that most people fight to do the task. Every time. Time after time. It always requires effort. It always meets resistance. And it is usually a battle.

The key to success is to use that energy, use that motivation, use that drive… to create powerful habits. Because once you create habits you don’t have to try as hard. You don’t have to fight as much… because it is just what you do.

It is you.

When I work with CEOs, Directors, leaders and sales management teams this is what I help them do. Whether as a motivational speaker or mental toughness coach, I help them to build powerful, supportive and sustainable habits. The right habits. Productive habits.

Habits that get results.

I bet you already know what yours ought to be. What they’re meant to be. What they need to be. What habits could you do with installing? What habits would make a positive difference for you, for your business and for your life? Go on, think about it now. Then create a plan for doing them until they become habit.

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