Stop calling yourself an idiot.

“Be you, love you. All ways, always.”
Alexandra Elle

You’ve probably heard it a lot; in the workplace, at home, from yourself. The dreaded phrase “oh sorry, I’m just being an idiot.” It doesn’t always have to be “idiot”, it can be “moron”, “I’m being stupid”… the list goes on and on.

I’m going to say something you may or may not like, whether you do or not is irrelevant as it does not diminish it’s truth.

You are not an idiot. Nor have you ever been one.

Many people use this phrase to excuse mistakes they make or to emphasize that they know better but had followed a gut instinct to do something forgetting the best or ‘correct’ way of doing it, but that is neither stupidity nor idiocy. It is being human.

I work with so many intensely clever people, not just when it comes to knowing about DevOps, or knowing about SQL Server, but about things in general. Regardless of what the thing you know is, you know something and in many cases more about it than many people around you and you should take pride in that. I’m not by any means insisting that you should be arrogant or full of yourself, but you should be confident about the things you know and the experiences you have had that got you to that point.

Thinking less of yourself for simple mistakes (and that’s all they are, small, easily rectified things) is damaging not only to other people’s perceptions of you but it’s how you are reinforcing your negative perception of yourself. The more you repeat this to yourself like a mantra you undermine the self belief and self love you have for yourself, you are making a very simple but very effective statement to the world that you are not worthy.

Do you really believe that? If so, then it is time for introspection and a more fundamental soul searching exercise to lead yourself to acceptance and contentment. My feeling is though that 99% of people reading this will know that they are worthy, both of the love of other people as well as the love of themselves.

It is deeply rooted in the language we use and is an observed behavior that we grow up with and adopt into our own personal idiosyncrasies, so it is time to change up the language we use about ourselves. Take each mistake or negative feeling you have about your own knowledge, observations and/or performance and simply change the way you describe it to yourself, which can have a huge impact on how you remember and feel about that event. Challenge the use of negative terminology and use updated and positive self-affirming phrasing – you can find some great examples of this here: https://www.healthline.com/health/positive-self-talk#examples-of-positive-self–talk

I’ll give you a key example as I am very guilty of doing this myself, in the hope’s that giving a personal context will allow you to more easily identify where you can give yourself some more love. Yesterday I had a meeting with the wonderful Kendra Little (who I have already spoken about a number of times on here, but yet again she comes to the rescue) where we were discussing an upcoming webinar that we’ll be conducting together. I asked Kendra for some additional time for us to sync up later in the week so we could best discuss the format for the webinar, do a run through and (ad verbatim):

“I need to know roughly when each of us should be talking, because whilst I would naturally be more quiet and let the super-expert speak, but I don’t want to come across as the creepy guy who joins a webinar and sits there in silence not contributing anything for an hour.”

Can you see what was wrong with that? The language I used to immediate diminish my own value, without even being conscious of it at the time?

Quite rightly, I was met with silence on Kendra’s part which was immediately followed up with: “Chris. You just managed to describe all of the key benefits of this model over the more traditional single models in detail, in a way that people will understand. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

That stuck with me all evening and on reflection on how I spoke about myself I realize how right Kendra is. I am here for a reason, I was invited to participate in the webinar for a reason, and people care what I have to say.

So take some time for you, take a good hard look at how you speak about yourself, your accomplishments and your mistakes and realize, you are anything but an idiot. You are wonderful.

Accountability, not blame

“When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself.”
Deepak Chopra

Last week, I didn’t blog.

Why? Well there is no real excuse, I had opportunities to and I prioritized other things around and over it which led to a simple and inescapable fact: for the first time this year, I didn’t blog.

Every day I speak to people about development processes and adopting more agile methodologies; utilizing source control effectively and deploying better code more frequently. One of the biggest wins in this process is the level of accountability managers and teams are able to adopt. You can see exactly who has been doing what, when and why and this allows you to communicate more effectively, share ideas and ultimately deliver more value to the people consuming your end product.

One thing that always gets me though is when people, and there are many, talk about the ability to catch bad code, and holding developers accountable for their actions. Some people see this for what it really is, a feedback loop. Feedback is the single greatest thing one can receive on any of life’s paths; whether this be feedback on an essay you wrote, or on your personal tone and manners in social situations. The goal of feedback is for you to learn, to adapt, to grow.

But some people see it as a ‘blame game’, holding people bang-to-rights and using feedback to attack, rather than nurture. Trying to adapt what is primarily a process for growth and turning it into an opportunity to escape accountability for your own actions and to make another feel inferior as a by-product is a clear indicator of someone who is, as Deepak says, avoiding a deep and potentially unsettling truth about themselves.

This style of blame is akin to bullying, emotional abuse either within or outside the workplace and is catagorically not the style of accountability (if you can call it that) you or anyone should be adopting and crucially…

If you see or hear anyone giving ‘feedback’ like this, take the opportunity to speak to that person (when possible) and explain why what they are doing is so destructive.

The best way to tackle destructive negative feedback is with constructive feedback and understanding.

So no, I didn’t blog. Do i feel bad about this? Well, perhaps in some way – but crucially, the reason i didn’t blog is that I consciously prioritized other things in my life that required my attention, and I’m glad I did. The other things that I’m working on, both personally and professionally, are making me happy and fulfilled. Blogging will come with time and there will be weeks where I am not able to, but I will catch up as priorities shift themselves back to normal, stable, day-to-day levels.

I have learned from this week that there are better ways to organize my time, and this is important feedback to give myself to ensure in the future I am able to get through everything I would like to and to still have time for me, so it has been a very important learning curve.

This week, my wife and I are on holiday and I have made the decision to turn on my out-of-office and turn off work-email notifications and I will be using this time instead to focus on the one person in the world who makes me feel like nothing can stop me, who’s always there with a thoughtful, beautiful smile – and that is the very least she deserves.

I am accountable to myself to ensure I am doing the things I must, and behaving as I should – but I refuse to blame myself for taking time out for my mental health, for taking opportunities to grow… and for not prioritizing blogging.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and that your 2020 is off to the most wonderful start as we leave a cold and dark January behind us and I’ll see you back here for more of what you’ve seen so far and more!

P.S. £10 for the missed week takes the total for the ‘2020 blogging challenge’ donation to MIND up to £130 in December, a happy product of holding myself accountable.

Not letting stress take over, give yourself a moment

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
Sydney J. Harris

I work in a bustling, high-pressure environment. As a Sales engineer I could be called on to do, well, pretty much anything at the last minute – and particularly at the end of quarters when there are big pushes to try and hit various targets you never know quite what you’ll be doing day to day. Will I be on site with a customer this week? Will I be doing 6 product demonstrations in a single day or one long 3-hour remote troubleshooting session?

It could be anything.

It makes my job exciting and I love the prospect of having to be on my metaphorical toes, but for me and those around me it can be exhausting. Yes it’s exciting, but never getting what I like to call “work down time” i.e. time you can use to learn something knew, tinker with a problem you’ve been thinking about for a while, can become detrimental to your mental state as the pressure starts to build.

This problem isn’t restricted to a sales environment – it can occur anywhere there is a high pressure workload, deadlines or unpredictability.

Stress is a hormonal response from the body. Adrenaline and cortisol (and others) force your body into this “ready” state where you’re constantly ready to fight or flee and it is a state that should be reserved for occasions we require it. To be in a high pressure, high stress job where you constantly feel worn out, over worked and anxious for what the day holds in store can be not only problematic for your workload as you try in vain to keep up with everything (and potentially let standards slip) but it can also have big ramifications for your health, including (but not limited to):

  • Less and/or worse quality sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Skin irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches / Migraines

It’s obvious when you’re giving in to stress because you start making excuses. When we’re most stressed that’s when we find ourselves identifying ways to put off tackling the thing that is causing us the issue(s) or normalizing and rationalizing the problem. We’ve all been students at one point, putting off working for deadlines “well, I can pretty much get it done next week I’m sure” and even now as adults we start figuring out how much time we can sacrifice around it “well if I come in at 5am and just crack on with it, because no one else will be in the office…“. This is just another way for stressful activities to play on your mind and eat into our personal time and even our sleep. But that stuff is muy importante and actually, you don’t have to put yourself through that; many people consider stress to be a normal part of the job they lead like prison guards, astronauts and doctors. The key is to use stress to your advantage, be focused on the job at hand, but don’t let it overwhelm you, whatever it is you do.

Stress has always been something I’ve had difficulties overcoming and it wasn’t until 2019 when my wife and I ran an Action For Happiness “Exploring What Matters” course (check here for any courses running near you – they’re super cool!) that I realized I didn’t have to be a slave to stress.

There are so many coping techniques for stress but I wanted to just share 1 with you today (and maybe others in the future), but this is a technique I discovered in that Exploring What Matters course that you can put into action right now.

It has long been proven that meditation can have incredible health benefits for those who practice it, but the common feedback I hear on it is “but I don’t have time to meditate in the middle of the day! I have a job to do!” – whilst this may be true, meditation doesn’t just have to be sitting in a quiet room, cross-legged saying “hummmmmm” whilst sniffing incense for an hour until you find inner peace.

The video below will walk you through taking just a moment in the middle of your day to re-focus, to help you deal with stress. Sometimes we carry stress with us from call to call or meeting to meeting and all it can take is for us to deal with that build up to prevent it from affecting us and our work. I loved the course because it made me look at stress for what it was – not a big ball of mess that I had to carry everywhere with me and could do nothing about – rather, something I could choose not to feel if i didn’t want to.

I hope this video helps you as much as it’s helped me.

One thing I will say in closing though, and that is if you find stress is a big part of your daily life and it makes you agitated, anxious and weary, meditation might not be enough to help you get through. Stress can be like a big heavy ball you constantly feel is hanging from your neck, pulling you down and restricting your airways. However, things can change and you can change them. Speak to your boss, your friends and family, even a therapist about what is stressing you out; they may hold the key to help you unlock the root of the stress and therein lies the way to releasing it.

You are not alone, ever.