Just be yourself

I was honoured to be asked to speak at a summer school graduation ceremony last year. It was a summer school for high school students who perhaps weren’t achieving the grades that they were capable of. For a week or two they had the opportunity to experience what life is like at university. The point of the summer school is to inspire the students to push their studies a little further so they can have the opportunity attend university full time.

I assumed that I’d be speaking to a room of school students. Not that it should matter really, but when you’ve imagined the what room will look like in your mind, and it’s not like that when you get there, it can throw you off slightly.

When I arrived at the University of St Andrews there were not only students in the room, but their siblings, mothers, fathers and gr andparents. A lot more people than I expected, and a completely different audience.

Just Be Yourself

Text from my Mum

My Mum said she was going to come along to support me, but it turns out she couldn’t make it.

I was sitting in the front row waiting for the ceremony to begin, and as I watched all the people coming in to the room I sent a text to my Mum to tell her that there were a lot more people here than I expected, and that I was little nervous.

Do you get nervous when you are preparing to speak in pubic? I certainly do.

Anyone that says they don’t are probably telling a fib, or they aren’t trying hard enough to deliver a good talk or presentation.

However, this isn’t just about getting nervous about speaking in public, but rather about being anxious about anything that’s taking place in your life.

The three words that my Mum said next really put me at ease.

She said “Just be yourself”

I was still nervous but I felt much more in control in how I was feeling.

Thinking back it seems ridiculous that I had gotten so anxious that I forgot who I was.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde

Maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t, but who cares, right? It’s the sentiment that matters.

It’s true that we spend our days and our limited time on Earth trying to be like other people.

It’s tiring, boring, stressful and unfulfilling.

I think that we are all guilty of forgetting who we are. We’re too busy trying to be the person that other people want us to be, or trying to meet the expectations of other people.

We forget to just be ourselves and end up trying to imitate other people. Perhaps people that we look up to and respect.

We use other people’s words and stories as our own, we behave in ways the other people would expect us to behave.

We are far too influenced by other people’s attitudes and philosophies – both good and bad.

What other people think of you is none of your business

The anxiety and nervousness I was experiencing prior to speaking came from living in the future – thinking about what could go wrong, or what other people might think of me.

When my Mum said “just be yourself” it relaxed me and I knew that I couldn’t do anything wrong by being myself.

In truth, what other people think of me is none of my business.

We all need to remember to be true to ourselves, and this is not a selfish statement.

By being true to yourself you will be happier, more focussed, have more clarity and be less stressed and anxious. In turn, you will be a better person to your spouse, your brother or sister, a better son and a better person all round.

The best thing you can do for you and for everyone else is to just be yourself.

Don’t forget to be awesome!


Did you know that the most prominent emotion that people feel when they are browsing through their Facebook news feed is jealousy?

I’m sure you’ve felt it before, I certainly have.

It comes as a result of comparing yourself to others, which we all do.

However, we need to stop it because it’s damaging our mind set and our psyche.

What’s REALLY happening on Facebook?

Everyone seems to be having a great time don’t they?

When you are scrolling through Facebook you get the impression that everyone is having this great life that you seem to be missing out on.

New car, new TV, new kids, new clothes, new experiences, new tan, new home.

How come hardly anyone posts the mundane everyday boring stuff? Because it’s not that exciting. It’s not ‘news worthy’.

Most people post stuff on Facebook to express themselves, and what this new ’thing’ says about their lifestyle and choices.

It’s about them, not you. Please remember this simple and very important point.

You’ve got two solutions

You can take what I think is the best approach and celebrate this new experience with your Facebook friends and make them feel good about it. Comment on their updates and tell them that their new car looks amazing and that you can’t wait to get a spin. Tell them their new games console is the best and you can’t wait have a shot. Tell them their new nails look amazing and ask where they got them done.

Be a positive influence.

Or you can do the exact opposite, especially if the feelings you get are overwhelmingly negative and depressive. Delete the posts from your newsfeed, unfollow people and perhaps consider getting away from Facebook for a while…maybe forever. Close your laptop, switch off your devices and get out of the house for a while.

Don’t let yourself creep into the jealous and depressive nature of Facebook. I have witnessed first h and verbal negative comments as a result of a simple Facebook update, and it’s not healthy.

Facebook can be a wonderful place but it’s all about how you react to what goes on around you.

Your turn

  1. Have you ever felt jealous of others when scrolling through Facebook?
  2. How do you overcome Facebook jealousy?
  3. What’s the best way to share what’s going on in your life without coming across as if you are trying to show off?

Let me know by joining the conversation in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to be awesome!


I just completed reading Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. It’s a book that has been sitting in my library for a while and I was prompted to read it because it’s on my University reading list this year!

Enchantment transforms situations and relationships, turns cynics into believers and changes hearts and minds.

As soon as I started to read it I quickly realised the similarities between Enchantment and How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. You could say that this is the 21st Century version of the same book, although I have to say that I took a lot more from How To Win Friends.

The book is written in a way that makes it easy to dip in and out of, and it’s only a few hundred pages short. Not everything you read in the book will apply directly to your life, although I would suggest reading the book and using it to pick up the things that you think will work for you….there is always something to learn!


Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

My Top Three Lessons

There are some great lessons in the book and I’ve reproduced my top three lessons.

Lesson 1 – Improve your decision making (p. 181)

I’m a really big fan of checklists and this list really appeals to me! I’m going to print this off and put it up in my office and every time I need to make a decision I’ll refer to it.

  • If I waited a week, I’d still make the same decision
  • A year from now, this decision would still be a good one
  • I’ve done my home work by reading independent reports and reviews of the product/service/organisation/idea
  • I am fully aware of the total cost of this decision, including installation, support, maintenance, subscriptions, and upgrades
  • This decision will not harm people
  • This decision will not unduly harm the environment
  • This decision isn’t unethical, immoral, or illegal
  • This decisions will not set a bad example for my children
  • If no one could see that I was doing this, I would still do it
  • If everyone could see that I was doing this, I would still do it

Lesson 2 – Become the kind of person others want to follow (p. 29)

These pointers may seem quite obvious, but there are probably one or two things you could do here to invoke more trustworthiness. I think this is a great list of key qualities for anyone who wants to make friends.

  • Always act with honesty
  • Treat people who have wronged you with civility
  • Fulfill your unkept promises from the past
  • Help someone who can be of absolutely no use to you
  • Suspend the blame when something goes wrong and ask, “What can we learn”
  • Hire people who are as smart or smarter than you and give them opportunities for growth
  • Don’t interrupt people; don’t dismiss their concerns offh and; don’t rush to give advice; don’t change the subject. Allow people their moment.
  • Do no harm in anything you undertake
  • Don’t be too quick to shoot down others’ ideas
  • Share your knowledge, expertise, and best practices with others
  • Focus on good will – focus on positive actions that make the world a better place
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt

Lesson 3 – Use Japanese wisdom to help you increase the effectiveness of your use of technology (p.148-9)

This list is a little different, and one of the reasons that I quite like it. Guy has reproduced this list from Garr Reynold’s book, Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations.

Kanso – Eliminating clutter and expressing things in plain and simple ways. Application: Reduce the crap in your presentation, on your website and blog, and in your emails, tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn updates.

Fukinsie – Using asymmetry or irregularity to achieve balance. Application: Use asymmetrical photos on your website and in your presentations. Google the ‘ rule of thirds‘ to learn more about the power of asymmetry in photography

Shibui – Underst anding and not elaborating upon things. Application: Reduce the hard sell approach in every form of communication

Shizen – Depicting naturalness with the absence of pre tense and artificiality. Application: Simplify the user interface of your web properties and remove the flashy intro video on your website.

Yugen – Using subtle and symbolic suggestion rather than obviousness. Application: Create a presentation that moves people’s souls rather than beats them into submission and, more likely, boredom

Datsuzoku – Transcending habit, formula, and conventionality. Application: Break away from the tired text- and-bullet-points method of telling your story by using evocative pictures and cool diagrams. Or, don’t use Powerpoint and Keynote at all.

Seijaku – Achieving a state of tranquility and energised calm. Application: Removing the jarring and intrusive elements from your blog and website

Wa – Embodying harmony and balance and avoiding self-assertion. Application: Meld the needs of your customers, employees, and shareholders into a win-win, pie-baking approach.

Ma – Providing an emptiness, spatial void, or silence to provide a focal point. Application: Remove the glitz from your slides and increase white space in your presentation, website and blog.

Yohaku-no-bi – Appreciating the beauty of what is implied, unstated, and unexpressed. Application: Don’t sell past the close in your enchantment efforts.

Buy Enchantment

Comments & Feedback

When I was 25 my brother Colin (23) was killed tragically. I know this seems a little morbid with regards to all my previous entries, however stick with me…there is a lesson here, as you have probably guessed!

Two distinct events happened this past week that have inspired this blog: –

  • I received an email from Nigel Botterill that got me thinking a little differently about the impact that the death of Colin has had on me.
  • I was at lunch with a really good friend, who has far more life experience than me. She was telling me a story about her youngest niece (in her early 20’s), about how she apparently hates her Dad so much that she wishes he was dead! I feel sorry for my friends niece and I think she may regret saying that in the future. But I’m not here to judge other people, I just want to reflect on this situation and how it applies to life learning.

Having a sense of mortality from a young age isn’t something that you’d ever be glad or happy to have, although I think it can at times give you an edge on life.

I was reminded of my own circumstances and how precious time is, especially time with your family and closest loved ones. On reflection, experiencing death at a young age gives you a different perspective on life compared to other people.

Having a sense of mortality has impacted me significantly in two ways: –

  • I have to do as much as possible with the time I’ve got…”no fannying about”, as I like to say! You can’t get your time back once it’s gone, so spend it wisely.
  • I have managed to develop an amazing resilience to all the BS that takes place around me. I just don’t let things get in my way (more on resilience in another blog).

Losing my brother at such a young age has made me appreciate life and how precious it is. It has made me determined and focussed to get what I want and not let anything get in the way. I also really appreciate the time I have with all my family and friends, because one day the inevitable will take place.

My Step-Dad says “[Of death/growing old]: It’s the one thing we’ve all got in common” and it is so true. Interestingly, he lost an older brother at a young age and his determination and focus is a distinct element of his personality, do you think that’s a coincidence?

I would do anything to have my brother back here beside me. The reality is that I could negatively dwell on this all the time and do nothing with my life, or learn from it and get the most I possibly can out of life whilst I’m here.

Has anything significant happened in your life that has made you more focussed and determined? Do you let circumstances get in the way of getting what you want?


Comments & Feedback

The more I read books that are written by super successful people, the more I am able to synthesise key points and key learnings. This is one of the major points that comes up time and again – who you hang around with matters!

What I am about to discuss is mentioned specifically by Jeffrey Gitomer, Darren Hardy, Jim Rohn & Nigel Botterill (my mentors). To add context to this I have reproduced a small section from The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude.

“We become the combined average of the 5 people we hang around the most” – Jim Rohn

We are normally completely unaware of the influence these 5 people have on our lives. The information below provides a platform for us to think about our associations and our environments, how they influence us and what we can do to change them if we need/want to.

Your Environments and Your Associations

(Excerpt directly from The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude p124-125)

Think about where you work, where you live, and where you hang out. Those are your environments.

Think about the people in your life: Your family, your spouse, your significant other, your kids, your friends, your co-workers, your boss, your customers, and your professional connections. Those are your associations.

Environments and associations do more to shape your daily attitude and your long term success than any other elements of your life.

My questions and challenges to you:
  • Where are you living?
  • Where are you working?
  • Who are you associating with that is helping your attitude and your success?
And if they are not the best environments or the best associations:
  • How can you change them?
  • How can you invert them?
  • How can you restructure them?
  • How can you influence them?

If you just understood that by adjusting some of your existing environments and associations your life would take a quantum leap forward, you’d do it in a second. The reason that you don’t [take the] step is that you are comfortable where you are st anding – however crappy that might be.

Step back now and look at the big picture of your life. If you want to grow it and make it permanently positive, you will need to assess your surroundings – living, working, and the people you come into contact with.

Rate the positive impact of your people and places. If the ratings are low, it’s time to graduate. Go gracefully, go ethically, go with class – but go.

Further Reading and Development

In The Compound Effect Darren Hardy mentions that your ‘reference group’ (those you hang around with the most) determine 95% of your successes and failures in life.

Darren Hardy has a few great exercises that you can download, print and work through. The Association Evaluator exercise is great for thinking about who you associate yourself with and it gives you the opportunity to see what relationships you might want to change and for what reasons.

The Input Influencer exercise helps you think about what you are feeding into your mind…which is another very important factor that affects your attitude and your potential success.


I really enjoy repeatedly doing this exercise and I bet you will too! You will discover who you want to hang around more and perhaps discover associations that you need to limit.

Remember that your thoughts and workings are private, so please be honest with yourself and take the time to reflect on your associations without feeling guilty or selfish.

Buy The Book

Stay Consistent!

If you want to make changes in your life, read the The Compound Effect: Multiplying Your Success One Simple Step at a Time by Darren Hardy  and implement the concepts in the book.

This is the basic concept:

You make small smart choices, you apply consistency (i.e. you stick with these changes for a long period of time – creating a habit) and over a long period of time you will eventually notice radical results.

It makes complete sense to me and I am already making changes, which I know in time will have a positive impact upon my life.

What changes do you think you could make in your life to make it better, happier or more fulfilling?

I know that small businesses owners in the Fife area get frustrated when they don’t see significant changes taking place over short periods of time. My advice is to stick with the above formula, keep doing what you are doing. Continue to improve and don’t get frustrated and upset when success and money don’t appear after the first few months/years.

Have a great day!


An ‘Ah-Ha’ Moment

Over the past 5 or 6 years I have invested a lot of my time into reading personal development books.

Lately a fire has been lit under my bum, which in turn has led me to read A LOT more than what I used to. It safe to say that in the past year I have learned a lot and also changed personally.

I like to think that I am a positive person, and this was true up until the point I read Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a Yes! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success by Jeffrey Gitomer…I had a few changes to make… and I still do.

Here is a story about something that happened in my life recently. The great thing about this is that I quickly realised what I did wrong, and if I wasn’t proactively changing my attitude there is a good chance I would not have ‘consciously thought’ about what just happened. My objective is to get into a conscious thought process 100% of the time and not be at the mercy of my own conditioned reactions.

At The Book Store

I bought a book for around £55, which is quite pricey, but it was required for my studies. I quickly realised that the book was available online and therefore the book was no longer required and I attempted to return it. Unfortunately, I was past the 10 day return threshold and I had also ‘opened’ the book and therefore I could not get a full refund. The gentleman (manager?) at the service desk was quite rude and had no intention of attempting to solve my dilemma. At this point I felt myself beginning to get frustrated; poor customer service really gets my palms sweaty!

Long story short…I had to ask about the second had trade in rates and was told it would be 40% of the book RRP, which is around £22. I thanked him for his help (sarcastically) and then I walked out.

Here is the learning process for me…

Although the Manager clearly needed customer service training, this is not my problem, this is his problem. Also, £22 is more than £0… and also, someone else gets to benefit from a discounted book price at some point.

I haven’t been back to return my book for £22, but I will. And I have accepted that the Manager’s issues are nothing to do with me.

Upon reflection I failed to ‘consciously think’ and was at the mercy of my own conditioned reactions. Lesson learned… and in future I have to think more clearly and consciously.


Take 5 minutes to reflect upon a time when you acted or behaved in a certain way that you would like to change in the future. Please share your story as a comment below.

I have another story to share with you, which I will leave for next week.

Have a great day!