What makes you better at something?

Your thoughts become your words.

Your words become your actions.

Your actions become your habits.

And your habits make you who you are.

Those habits are what make you better.

The everyday practices.

I’ve got into some bad habits lately like waking up late.

Not wanting to leave my bed in the morning.

Wanting to crawl up into a ball in the afternoon and have an afternoon kip.

Not giving myself time to edit and check work.

It means I feel like I’m fighting fires rather than being in control of things.

But that’s changing. I have downloaded an app – habitstreak.

Every day it asks you if you’ve done things. Like did you get up by X o clock? Or did you email 2 people today to develop new business?

It reminds you and keeps you going.

And getting into better habits means it’s natural to get yourself new opportunities.

You get work done well and get better at it.

Advertisements

You’re here thanks to millions of people

How many people did it take for you to be able read this?

You’re on your computer, smartphone or tablet.

Think how advanced that is.

You’re reading this because of the work of thousands, if not millions of people.

You are able to thanks to the Chinese factory worker who put it together.

That boss who oversaw the operation.

That salesperson who won that order.

I think we should be grateful for everyone involved. Every different chip and part has a similar story.

We should thank the sailors on the boat it travelled in.

Thank the oil rig worker who got that ship’s fuel out the ground.

Thank the engineer who envisaged what your device would look like. And made it happen.

Thank the guy who invented WordPress.

Thank the people who popularised blogging.

There is such a complex invisible pipework which led to you being able to read this.

You are so fortunate.

Millions of people have worked to make this moment possible now.

And it’s all for you.

Don’t you think that’s incredible?

I went into my old school today…

qe-school

I went into my old school today.

It was a class of Year 11s. They’re all 15-16 and they’ve been getting career advice.

Uni, college, school. Blah, blah, blah.

To spruce things up a bit, my former teacher invited me in.

I talked about the past year.

How it was really tough to start with.

And I was worrying about what on earth I was going to do.

How I persuaded someone to give me my first job.

How I got an incredible education from my old boss, Liam who was awesome.

How I started working for myself, setting up my own business helping software companies grow.

They were a bit wowed when I said I’d been offered 3 jobs in the past two months in Barcelona, London and Kuala Lumpur.

We then talked in a group of 10.

“So what do you guys want to do?” I asked.

One wanted to be a psychiatrist – “yeah you need to go to uni for that I said.”

One wanted to be a sports physiotherapist – “after you’ve done your training that’s all about marketing yourself. You could begin by offering services for free if you can’t find a job.”

One, Ruby, said “TV chef” almost embarrassedly.

Like she wanted to do it, but felt like it was a stupid thing to have said.

What's to stop Ruby becoming the next Nigella?

What’s to stop Ruby becoming the next Nigella?

“Why not?” I said. “You could start by cooking in your kitchen. Get your friend to film you and then upload it to Youtube.”

“Look at other Youtube chefs. Comment on their videos. Get in touch with them. Try and pair up and create videos together so you attract part of their audience.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish to start with. You’ll create things. You’ll learn and improve on it.”

You could see her eyes light up.

You spark off something there.

You show that its possible.

Loads said they didn’t really know, even after some cajoling – but that was fine.

Another kid later on said he wanted to be an architect. So I put him in touch with a friend I know who’s in his fourth year of architecture.

He was delighted.

The school want me to come in for one day a week now. And talk to kids.

There’s funding for careers advice.

I love seeing that spark in someone’s eye.

Helping them see what they could do.

Opening doors for them.

Because that’s amazing.

The problem of being bright, mature and young (and how you could solve it)

bright-young-and-mature-beyond-your-years

If you’re bright, young – and a bit more mature for your years – you want freedom, money and independence. You want control over your life.  You don’t want to rely on parents. And you want to be doing interesting things.

It’s a problem I encountered.

School and university don’t lead you towards that. You’re stuck doing work that doesn’t matter, learning theories you’ll never use. And after spending lots of time and money on the experience, you’re no more prepared for the big wide world.

The solution

The solution to this is offering a better education. That doesn’t mean pouring more money into schools, paying teachers more or creating “employability” workshops. Nor does it mean “more rigorous tests” – as the government says.

I think the answer is in teaching practical, marketable skills. Skills in demand in the big wide world. It’s about shortening the gap between you being in the bubble of education and doing work that matters to you.

This is the big problem I want to solve. I want to help bright, savvy, hard-working young people get opportunities.

Rather than relying on parents and the government, clever bright guys and girls should get out in the world where they can create value. I want to help them be proactive. Creating their own opportunities. Creating businesses. Or finding work which gives them freedom and excitement. Bunnyhopping the linear career path.

What that means in practice

In practicality, I’m thinking of creating some kind of academy for online marketing.

Digital marketing keeps growing and growing. The number of PR and marketing job opportunities in the UK has grown by 13.39% over the past year, according to latest figures from the Reed Job Index.

Yet the skills that people learn in official marketing courses at university aren’t practical. No university course teaches SEO, copywriting or content marketing. Why? Because university education moves at a glacial pace, while the world changes at breakneck speed.

Furthermore, these skills can be taught quickly.

The market for it

The market for private, practical education is enormous. Makers Academy, a company that teaches an intensive coding courses to self-motivated people is thriving. Says Rob Johnson, the co-founder.

“Many university graduates lack practical experience. They have a lot of theoretical knowledge, but computer science degrees aren’t preparing people for real work. There’s this gap of a few weeks, sometimes a couple of months, when the employer takes that graduate and tries to turn the stuff they have learned into practice,”

They’ve had a 100% placement rate for their graduates looking for jobs afterwards because the course is so good, and the demand for programmers in London is so high.

Digital marketing is a similar situation to programming, in the sense that there is more demand for the work than there are capable people. So if you can teach those skills, you can get people to create a lot of value, and they’ll earn themselves a healthy salary.

How I’m validating it

Now, that’s all very pie in the sky. So to test it – to see if I’d enjoy it, and if I can teach people it – I’m going to test it. On Tuesday, I’m going into my old school to talk to students about what I’ve done over the past year.

And I’m also going to hire one of them as a part-time assistant who I’d be looking to train up and learn from the experience, to see if I can scale it.

What’s next…

I don’t know if this will work out. But if this means I can solve the frustrations of bright young people (the frustrations that I had)… I feel like I’ll have done something amazing.

Negative feedback is the most necessary painful thing

how-to-grow

I hate getting negative feedback or criticism of my work.

We all do, don’t we?

It’s painful.

We get attached and emotionally invested it.

But feedback is how we grow and improve.

Gardeners prune plants to make them resilient.

The plant panics, and uses up all it’s energy reserves to grow faster.

Growing is great. But we also want to be happy and avoid pain.

We want to hear nice things about ourselves, and our work is a natural extension of us.

So you have to deal with that balance.

Emotionally distance ourselves from our work.

And seek negative feedback so we can improve things.

We should be more like cavemen

caveman-eat-what-you-kill

Once upon a time there were lots of cavemen. They’d take their spears and go and kill a mammoth. Or a rabbit. Or whatever they could find.

Then they’d bring their feast home for dinner. Ultimately you could only eat what you killed.

If you don’t develop yourself, you go hungry. If you don’t have those hunting instincts, you go hungry too.

Freelancers, entrepreneurs, self-employed people, commission-only salespeople… We’re all cavemen.

We eat what we kill.

We’re responsible for what we bring home.

But shouldn’t that be something schools teach?

It’s something that most young people and students don’t know how to do.

That ability to take risks.

That ability to be responsible for what happens to you.

The ability to be independent.

The ability to thrive on the plains full of unknown people.

Because when we eat what we kill, we’re in control.

And I think having that control over our lives makes us happier.