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10 Pieces Of Advice I Would Give To An 18 Year Old Me (October 2014)

In response to similar articles around, I decided to write about 10 Pieces of Advice I would give an 18 year old me.

1 - Take Notes

Nowadays, I take notes religiously. Before I go to bed every night, I make a full list of everything I have to do the next day. Down to the most trivial of items, everything goes on the list.

During my twenties, I very much relied on my memory and I had many a sleepless night when I would be constantly remembering things I had to do the next day. It’s amazing the difference making a list makes. I don’t have many sleepless nights these days and I get a lot of satisfaction from crossing off the tasks as they are completed.

Also, I don’t keep a journal, but I do make notes on what has happened during the day. Telephone calls of note, chance meetings, new contacts, and anything else that I might need to remember. A lot of things seem trivial when they happen, but I find myself constantly referring back to my notes for information.

2 - Don’t Worry About The Minor Issues

When I first started out in retail, I would worry about everything. I was 24 when I had my first Management job and I would worry about my performance and about what people thought about me. If I had a customer issue that couldn’t be resolved, my heart would be in my mouth every time the telephone rang or a customer walked in.

Then one day, I was speaking to a friend of mine, he said to me, “just remember, in three months time, you won’t even remember this.”

And he was right, I was worrying about things that either were very small, or that I had absolutely no control over.

Suddenly, telephone calls became easy. That difficult conversation I was worried about having with the customer was now a lot easier. Not because the issue was any different, but in my mind, I was dealing with it differently.

3 - Network

During my career, I have been very fortunate to have worked all over the UK and I have worked with some of the best that retail has to offer.

What I didn’t do enough of, was network. I would always shy away from the work social occasions as I saw it as extra work when I just wanted to chill out.

I now try to attend as many social functions as I can, as I now realise that a lot of business can come from a simple cup of coffee.

Even now, I get a lot of work from people I have known for a number of years, and a friendly face beats a cold call every time.

But networking isn’t just about finding new business. I have learned a great deal from people who I will never do business with, but they have given me a few snippets of wisdom during a brief five minute chat.

4 - Read Between The Lines

When I think back to situations and conversations from my past, I now realise that somebody was offering me an opportunity, or testing the water with me about a particular subject, and I totally missed the point.

Whether it’s a client checking your suitability about a particular role, or a girl trying to let you know she likes you, not everybody will say things in the most straight forward manner. We all say that we listen to people, and to an extent we do, but how many times do we actually get the message somebody is trying to put across.

When you are in any conversation, try and pick up the message you are being given.

Sometimes it will be a straight forward conversation, but other times there will be something in there that may be of use to you in the future.

I often hear the phrase, “think quickly, talk slowly.” That has never been more relevant than to picking up information from conversations.

5 - Ask, Because You Never Know

There might be a job that you think you are not qualified enough for, there could be a sale that you think is way over the clients budget, or there could be a girl you like that you think is way out of your league. ASK, because you never know.

Most of my successful results in life are from times when I never thought a positive result was possible. The biggest sales and the best jobs in life often come when you think that perhaps you are out of the running.

The trick is not to get disheartened with rejection. With this sort of approach, you will get a lot of people saying no to you, it’s how you deal with this that matters.

Ignore the no’s and wait for the yes.

6 - Set Goals, But Not In Stone

You need to have direction. Direction creates focus and focus creates drive.

If you are trying to earn as much money as you can, what are you going to do with it?

What do you want to be doing in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and 50 years?

It’s not about setting definite targets that are inflexible. Things will always change and the targets will be very fluid, but without any sort of direction then focus will drop very quickly.

List the things that you want out of life. Write a list of the things you want to achieve or you want to own. Keep pictures in your diary, stay focussed on your goals.

Things will change, but success comes in many forms.

7 - Find Good Mentors

Throughout my career, I have probably had four or five excellent mentors.

Not these aren’t the guys who I thought did 100% absolutely correct, and a lot of times we would clash on many issues, but I found working for them invaluable. The times we clashed was probably because I needed my feet planting back on the floor, and I didn’t agree with 90% of what they did.

There was, however, 10% of genius that I really learned from. I think that is the important thing about working for good managers, it’s not about moulding yourself into their shape, it’s about picking the best bits from them and adding them to your style to create your own brand.

It’s important as you go through your career to have a handful of people you could call on at any time to know you are going to get honest, sensible advice from a totally neutral source. There aren’t many big decisions I make these days without ringing somebody I trust for a second opinion.

8 - Be Patient

One of my biggest failings in life has been that I want everything done immediately.

From ordering print work, to starting a new job, to opening my Christmas presents, I have hated the wait in between. I want everything the same day, and even if it means losing out, I am happier when I don’t have to wait.

There have been many opportunities in my life where I would have benefitted from a bit of patience. In the past, if I had an offer on the table and another one pending, I would have took the first offer. Even if it meant I was losing out on a better deal, I knew if I accepted the first offer I wouldn’t have had to wait.

These days I have learned to be a lot more patient and it is bearing fruit. I never commit to anything now without giving myself a cooling off period. Reflection time is a time where I can sit, look at the options and see what other options might be available.

9 - Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

When I first started out, I believed everything I was told. Whether it was something I was told by a staff member, a manager, supplier, a customer or whoever, I thought it was true.

As a somewhat sceptical 40 year old, I now find myself questioning everything I am told. Now I am not saying I am trying to catch somebody out lying to me, but I do question why they are telling me what they are telling me, what are they hoping for and what will be the results.

Questions are important to me now and whenever I am given information, I ask a lot of questions. I know it can be annoying, but I find a lot of information through questions, and if somebody isn’t telling me the full story, my questions will highlight that.

10 - Enjoy The Down Time

I don’t have many regrets from my 20’s and 30’s, but one of them would definitely be that I didn’t enjoy the down time enough. Working weekends in retail, I missed out a lot on football and cricket, but even so, when I did get a day off, I could have done more.

My golf handicap still hangs around the 20 mark and I haven’t been on enough holidays by far. I really want to visit the USA, and I have plenty of times over the years when I could have done, but have always thought work was more important.

Some people have struck the perfect work life balance, I never seem to have got that right.

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