The Christmas Not So Jollies

christmas

‘Twas the eve(ish) before Christmas and I spied on my Facebook feed a post that said simply “I am feeling so down”.
I immediately thought to offer some words of encouragement and as I looked at the comments on the post, I noticed a particularly ill thought out response that read; “Don’t be, it’s Christmas!”

Let me first say that this time of year means little to me. It is at best a time to spend with those close to me and share a meal. Though I am Christian, I do not celebrate this particular holiday. I did as a child but as I have grown and delved deeper into my faith, the reasons and machinations of what Christmas is became less of a production and more of a farce. I am however not here to discuss that—or any person’s choice to celebrate the holiday but it means more to some than it does to others and offering that as a suggestion to fix what may in fact be causing the problem in the first place is largely callous.

There is what feels to me to be a deluge of forced joy and displays of ‘look at how fabulous I am’ that you can only wonder if any of it is genuine or if people are merely trying to keep up with (or out do) everyone else, which is not a little farcical, and don’t even get me started on the metaphor that is the gaudy bauble and tinsel draped trees that are hacked down, dressed and lit up and left to die a slow death as some sort of symbol.

This time of year is loaded with so much expectation by way of bombastic and for-the-sake-of-others’ show, social media plugging about what a wonderful time I’m having on my island holiday or on my destination ski trip, that it creates a very skewed yard stick against which we measure ourselves.

With so many high expectations and people running around behaving like pseudo jetsetters and hotel chain heirs, there are equal, if not greater, amounts of people who succumb to the pressure that this time of year is known to bring.

However, getting back to the “Don’t be, it’s Christmas” statement on my friend’s page, it struck me first as glib and then as a little insensitive. I’m certain that was not the intention but Oscar didn’t intend to kill Reeva, and well, she’s dead… but I digress.

I believe it is paramount that we feel free to acknowledge and express our feelings in order for us to deal with and move past them. Unless we do so, we have little hope of ever overcoming them and growing as individuals.
Furthermore, there still exists an inordinate amount of stigma where mental illness is concerned.
Speaking up is one of the scariest things a person can do because saying the words “I need help” can lead to feelings of incredible shame and failure.

So what am I trying to say with all of this? Well I guess it is that we need to encourage people to talk about the things that are bothering them without fear of recrimination and judgement. That we need to foster an attitude of acceptance regarding how we feel, especially when those feelings appear to be the opposite to what’s going on around us and/or despite what is going on around us.
It can be murder to constantly force a smile because we are expected to be happy and fulfilled.
It takes a super human effort to pretend that everything is okay when you feel like you are breaking to pieces inside. We can often feel a great sense of isolation and loneliness as a result.
The good news is, if we do not feel able to talk to a friend or relative, you can seek the help of a professional. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, everyone—including myself—has at some point had feelings of extreme sadness and/or depression and the important thing to realise is that there is always a way out!

My personal philosophy is “Throw the closet door wide open, monsters hate the light and the more you shine the light on them, the smaller and less scary they become.”
To some this will come relatively easily but for others this can be very intimidating and even frightening. If this is the case for you, reach out to someone, which you can do anonymously but make the effort to reach out.

If you need help or if you need someone to talk to, here is a list of places you can find help:

The South African Anxiety and Depression Group http://www.sadag.org
Depressed Anonymous http://www.depressedanon.com
Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/depression/

Alternatively, contact a support group in your area.

In closing, I hope that everyone reading this does find some joy this holiday season. Be safe and may the next year be a better year than this one.

Thank you for reading!

Tips To Navigate Entrepreneurial Pitfalls

follow-your-dreams

We see these memes online all the time. Not all bad, somewhat inspiring, not entirely realistic or practical, and they belie how very hard it is to make your entrepreneurial dreams come true. We look at people like Warren Buffett and Sara Blakely and think to ourselves “Hey! If they can do it, I can do it!” without giving much thought to how incredibly hard they worked and how many setbacks they encountered en route to where they are today.

Few people in this day and age have the courage of their convictions never mind the business savvy necessary to turn their dreams into reality. We all want gigantic success and we want it NOW. We want to ‘go viral’ or we want to win a reality television show to make our dreams come true.

Well, here is a dose of reality for you; making your dreams come true is damn hard work. Probably the hardest work you will ever undertake. It’s damn near impossible to cultivate the self-discipline and motivation required to yield good results on a consistent basis if you are not prepared for the disappointments and failures you will doubtless be faced with. Expect it to be one of the most difficult things you’ve done and prepare accordingly; keep in mind there will be just as many troughs as peaks and know you are going to have to steel yourself to weather the bad times, and there will be bad times. There may even be times when you sit down and wonder; “What on earth was I thinking?”

Well, the good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom. If you get the formula right the rewards are great! You start living to work and you stop working to live. You start creating your own wealth. You are no longer just working a job, you are crafting your own career. And there are few things as rewarding.

Here is a list of 8 things you must master if you intend on turning your dreams into a commercially viable commodity;

  1. Hone Your Skills

Assuming that you are starting a business because you have some base of knowledge and/or valuable skill set to offer in the marketplace, take the time to perfect said skills. Complacency is the cancer of any business and you need to keep up to date with trends and advancements in your chosen field if you intend on staying ahead of your competitors. You don’t exist in a bubble and there will always be someone out there looking to get the edge on his or her competition – that’s you – so ensure you stay educated and informed.

  1. Think Like A Sales Person

Not everyone has an affinity for sales but the good news is; selling is a skill that can be taught! There is a veritable plethora of information on how to better your selling techniques. Do some research and practice.
You cannot run a business if you are not generating revenue and that’s the bottom line. (Pun intended).

  1. Get Branded

Having a presence both on and off line is vital in this day and age. Good content is essential to your success but know that bad content can be equally as damaging. If you need help getting your brand out there and creating a formula for success, get some help from a professional. If you cannot afford that, there is, once again, an almost inexhaustible source online to help you craft a brand. Get social, link them all up, and learn what SEO is.

  1. Do Not Peddle Garbage

I cannot stress this enough. Do not attempt to hoodwink people with fancy sales talk and gimmicks. It will catch up with you! In a world full of lies, deceit and people trying to make a quick buck, set yourself apart by dealing in honesty. Let your good word and work become your currency. You will reap the results down the line. Furthermore, in this digital age you do not want to be exposed as a fraud. Even if you make reparation, it will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the market.

  1. Learn How To Communicate Properly

Take a business writing class; get help from a professional writer or copywriter. Learn how to talk to people both through the written word and in person. Develop your interpersonal skills. Nothing wipes out your credibility like bad communication skills. While we are on this topic, learn to listen. Listening is a skill very often overlooked yet one that is vital to your long-term success. If you are not listening to your clients, how are you going to be able to provide them with the very best service?

  1. Service Is King

A great product, competitive edge and good marketing are incredibly important but they will all mean nothing unless you provide great service. (This is where those interpersonal skills will play a key role.) Bad service turns loyal customers who advertise for you by word of mouth and give personal recommendations into one who spews “those utter incompetent fools who took my money and messed me around, don’t ever use them” to anyone who will listen.

  1. Learn From Your Mistakes

There are few things as frustrating as making the same mistake over and over again. If you are in business for yourself, you can scarcely afford to repeat mistakes. We all know that making mistakes is unavoidable so when it happens, acknowledge it, apologise for it and don’t let it happen again. Communicate with your client and do whatever it takes to keep them as one. People appreciate few things like they appreciate service providers who are candid, listen to them and who go the extra mile for them.

  1. Get Financially Savvy

I have deliberately left this one for last because finance is often the facet of a business that entrepreneurs and sales people deem secondary to their success and it can be a grave error in judgement. It is also the one that can cost you the most in time and money to rectify. If you see sales as the life-blood of a business and marketing perhaps as the brain, then finance is your musculoskeletal system because it affects all areas of your business, will lend support through unexpected lows and will regulate spending. Poor financial management alone can sink a business that is selling well.
If you are not at all financially minded, enlist the help of a professional. You cannot do a computerised bookkeeping course and deem yourself CFO of your business.
While we are on this subject; take SARS (or the Internal Revenue Service relevant to your country) seriously and fulfil your obligations to them. If you duck and dive I guarantee that they will find you and when they do, it could mean the end of your business when they slap you with outstanding returns which all carry with them compound interest and penalties. I have a background in auditing and I have seen it happen time after time.

In closing, the hardest part of following your dreams is not taking the first step but rather it is having the self belief to take the second and the hundredth and three thousandth but if you cultivate these skills and if you work as hard as you do smart, then despite the coming troughs and hardships and with a bit of luck, you will be able to look back one day and say that you did in fact, make your dreams come true.

Thank you for reading!