When I was 13 years old, American Football became the passion of my group of friends at school in Dublin.  We would play our version of touch American Football up on a tarmac area behind school.

I remember catching the football and running for the end zone.  A member of the other team caught my heel.  I felt myself begin to fall.

In that instant, something wise took over.

I did not resist the fall.  I knew it was coming.  I knew the hardness of a tarmac surface.  I knew I was running at my most full speed.

Somehow, I did not reach a hand out to break my fall.  I did not resist.

In the last instant I found that I had tucked my head under and did a forward roll.  It was a moment where I felt like I separated from myself and something else was in control.  Slow motion.

I found myself completely unharmed.

Everybody on the field came over and asked “How did you do that?  I thought you were going to hospital.  How on earth did you survive that fall?”

If you are falling, dive.

Often most damage is done while resisting the inevitable.

A few years back, I had a business that fell apart.  More damage was done to my health, to the shareholder’s finances, to my life in the process of resisting the fall.

Next time I fall, I hope I accept and commit to the dive.

Fighting the universe is doomed to fail.  Going with the universe, accepting where it is taking me is a little wiser.

I find it so hard to close chapters.  To end a phase and move on.  To declare that a relationship has finished, a business is done, a project is complete is so difficult that I accumulate.

The phoenix rises from the ashes, not from the fire.  New life grows on the death of life.  When a hunter eats his prey, that death allows life.

As I read a book, chapter 1 finishes to allow for chapter 2 to begin.

If you are falling, dive.

Close the chapter.  Let the fire burn, the phoenix arises from the ashes.

How do you close chapters in your life?  How do you move on and let go of the past?  What works for you?  What doesn’t work for you?

This is a resource page for the session at Wayra Week Barcelona on 20th February 2012.

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Talent you have naturally.

Skill you develop through hours and hours and hours of deliberate practice.

No matter how talented you are it does not matter if you do not develop skill.  It takes work.

80/20 rule:  The top 20% skill in each domain takes 80% of the value.  The mediocre 80% share the crumbs.

I didn’t figure this out when I was at school, nor university.  I got through on basic talent and a lucky ability to perform at my very best under exam conditions.

It took a big blow in my life to shake me out of reliance on talent and luck.

This is a guest post from Emily Matthews.  Emily is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.

Elvis and Self-Confidence

Elvis Presley is a man who radiated sexuality and confidence.

Early interviews show a nervous, timid person

However, early interviews with Elvis Presley show a young man who spends a lot of time staring down at his feet and who seems to have a hard time expressing himself without freezing up with nervousness. It doesn’t take a masters degree to know that something significant had to change. Somewhere between his first record and his comeback tour, Elvis came into his own and developed the swagger and self-confidence that became his trademark.

One possible explanation for this was that Elvis decided to adopt a public persona — one that exuded confidence and kept the real Elvis hidden.  Elvis memorized entire passages from James Dean movies, as well as films starring Marlon Brando. Both of those actors portrayed characters that seemed supremely self-confident and it seems quite possible that Elvis decided to emulate those characters when he appeared in public.

Fake it til you make it

The famous saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” rings true.  In Conor’s post on confidence, the first step is to pretend.  When Elvis appeared on stage, it seems as if parts of Dean and Brando had materialized into the way he presented himself.  This kind of persona-adoption would have translated from Elvis the performer into Elvis the person.

How can this help out today’s entrepreneurs and businesspeople?

Simple — anyone can take on aspects of a different persona. Naturally, it does not happen overnight, but it definitely can be done. The first step in doing this is understanding what kind of persona the individual is going to adopt. After all, while James Dean might seem to be the epitome of old-fashioned cool, he might not do well in today’s business environment. Look at people around you, and determine what characteristics of theirs you’d like to emulate. Don’t abandon your own personality, but augment it – what makes these people confident, and how can you adopt that?

Be yourself, but amplify the positive

For most people, using a persona that is similar to themselves but has some subtle differences is probably the best way to go. So, if an entrepreneur is shy about approaching strangers, he might imagine himself with confidence and style. Then, before approaching a new client, he might consider going through various “role-playing” scenarios with friends and associates, followed by using real-world experience.

Of course, part of Elvis’ later self-confidence came from focusing on his own natural talent. It is easy to find a form of self-confidence when everyone around a person is singing praises. For an entrepreneur, focus more on what it is that makes a product or service being sold unique. Tap into the passion that originally inspired you, and before you know it, your nervousness will dissipate.

Keep this journey of personal growth going

As more and more people appreciated Elvis, his shyness faded and his fame grew. In the same manner, as entrepreneurs and people in business stick to their vision of achieving success, each step towards reaching that success will help to eliminate some of the shyness — especially shyness caused by not having faith in one’s products or services.

Self-confidence is one of those intangible character traits that sometimes seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere, but the fact is the more a person focuses on what it is that makes what he or she has to offer unique and important, the less time a person will spend on being self-conscious and uncertain. Follow the example of The King, and learn how to swagger with the best of them.

What do you think?  Who has positive traits that you might benefit from emulating?

Another way to improve your confidence is regular practice.  I have been developing an online module of my Persuasive Communications seminar.  It is available here: Improve My Speaking. Feel free to share this resource with friends (and people who need it).

photo: Markop

Freedom is dangerous without self discipline.

Few people will get anything important done in life without a boss, a parent, a teacher.  It is the removal of freedom that allows creation. Completion requires constraints: deadlines, scope, format…

We chaff at the chains, but they serve us.

My boss is an idiot, but without her insistance I wouldn’t have finished the document.

My teacher knows nothing about the real world, but without his deadline I wouldn’t have written the essay.

My landlord is cruel, but without his insistence on payment of rent I would not have gotten out of the bed, out of the house, into the world, served a paying customer, grown, learnt.

Constraints serve.

Freedom is dangerous without self discipline.

We would achieve much more if we got out of our own way.  The difference between the top athletes and the rest is not better physical ability, but an ability to avoid talking themselves into failure at the key moments.

Performance = Potential – Self-Sabotage

I remember Peter Allis commenting on golf years ago.  A South African golfer was on the tee.  Peter whispers into the microphone “This is the perfect specimen of a golfer…  (pause)…  big hands…  and dumb”.

Thinking too much is not good for performance in the big moments.  It might help you learn faster from practice, but you have to find a way to switch it off once the real deal begins.

What do you think?  Are we our own worst enemies?

Seth Godin’s blog post today is Easy and Certain.

The lottery is easy.  It is not certain, but it is easy.

Many choose an MBA because it feels certain.  It is not easy, but it feels certain.  Once you’ve got the diploma on the wall…  success is inevitable…

There is a spanish word “chollo”.  “Un chollo” is a something valuable that you achieve for little cost.  

The danger of searching for the Chollo

There is a story about Toyota.  Back in the 1980s they implemented an employee suggestion scheme.  It was left to each country to decide how to motivate employees to provide improvement ideas.

Toyota USA rewarded outcomes

In the US, the senior management debated and discussed.  They decided they would offer employees 2% of the total value of the suggestion once implemented.  Wow.  This could be big bucks!  2% of a suggestion that cuts $1M in cost from the production line?  Take home $20,000.  Nice.

The employees liked this idea and spent hours thinking about big changes, big suggestions.  On average Toyota USA received 2 suggestions per employee, and about 10% were implemented.  I don’t know what the total value of these changes were.

Toyota Japan rewarded process

In Japan, the senior management debated and discussed.  They decided they would offer employees a straight up-front payment of $50 for every suggestion.

Employees liked this concept.  They didn’t spend too much time thinking, but identified lots of little, incremental, simple changes that steadily improved performance in the factories.  On average Toyota Japan received 50 suggestions per employee, and about 60% were implemented.

18 months later the performance at Japanese factories had increased so dramatically that they took all the changes and began to implement them around the world, and in the USA.

What happened?  The Japanese employees were looking for simple little suggestions that made life 1% easier.  The Americans were looking for the chollos: the big value suggestions.

Incremental improvement always wins in the long run.

Excellent Pottery design

A story from Derek Siver goes that a ceramics teacher told half the class that they would be graded on the total weight of pottery they created during the term; the other half of the class was told they would be graded on one piece of pottery.  The weight students produced pot after pot after pot; experiments, prototypes, random ideas, and some magnificent pieces.  The quality students spend a lot of time talking about concepts, thinking through ideas, developing a plan…  and waited til near the end to actually get their hands on some clay.  All of the best pots came from the weight-graded half of the class.

Incremental improvement always wins in the long run.

Could you set up an online business that earns you €50 per month?  Could you import a product and find stores to stock it that gave you €50 a month?  Could you write an eBook on “how to develop a career in your industry” and sell 10 a month at €5 per download?

In your life are you looking to add 1% per month or are you looking for the chollo?  Warning: chollos almost never come…  even to win the lottery you have to do some work: buy the ticket, check the ticket, file your claim…