When you think you are there, here comes the new challenge.

Making Diamonds

When coaching people, I usually notice that they reach a given level of expertise that allows them to perform well on a given subject. Well, only to fall onto another challenge that originates from the fact that they have mastered the previous level. And this goes on and on until they reach the maximum possible level that their organization challenges allow for. Which may take a bunch of years indeed. For example, I was coaching a system analyst on how to write specifications and handle features. He turned out to be very proficient at that and the project at hand was a complex one. Obviously, reaching that level made visible a set of other issues that do exist in the organization, namely the fact that once specifications were put on paper, people realized that what they explained in the first place was wrong or was pretty incomplete, leading to change cases. This led to demotivating the analyst. He put a lot of effort in doing his best only to see his "child" being criticized. Well, he shouldn't be ashamed of what he has produced since it is key to helping people surface their concerns and agree on scope and difficult issues, or unresolved conflicting terminology. Hadn't he done that, the organization would have started working on producing a completely worthless solution missing the boat. As I tend to say, you'd better stop the train before it runs full speed ahead into the wall. Which happens to be made of top-notch concrete. So, all that to say that frustration is going to be part of reaching the next level since new challenges will have to be faced and dealt with. There is no way out of that. But it is the path to growth and self accomplishment. One has to learn to feel good about having got results and appreciate the assets he brings to the table. And also one has to learn to dissociate his own worthiness from his work products. The work products is just representing evidence that one went trough a given thought process and took care of a given number of concerns. Nobody can think of everything, especially on paper. The point is to take care of the key risks and make sure the we aren't going into the wall. Obviously, management has to be aware of this kind of dynamic and behave accordingly, providing support. Otherwise, why would people grow if their own enlightened self interest tells them that engaging in growth means being crushed down when things go harder? Even if self evident, the crushing behavior happens more often than not. Too bad for everybody. Lots of pain and suffering, and ultimately lost money, lost opportunity down the line. Now, what about you? What is the next level you are wanting to reach or busy going to? Are you aware of the new challenges that you can possibly face? You may not yet be able to tackle them, but at least you can see them in the distance and prepare to get help on dealing with them when the time comes. Knowing when, how, and to who to ask for help is the sign of a confident person. Know it alls aren't going to survive here, since this is a path of never ending learning. So, be proud of reaching new heights and be excited that the journey is going to continue. And you aren't there to please everybody, but to do good work and reduce the risk profile. This is not a job for the faint of heart since it requires a great deal of courage to confront ideas, produce a conceptually coherent picture and reconcile diverging interests in a solution. Making it a success has been more of the exception than the rule in complex endeavors, so ease it a bit on yourself.

Belgium: now citizens have had enough!

I like that the guys on "the other side" share the same feelings! On the street then! What about a flashmob or two? If you are not familiar with the tongue of Vondel, check the french subtitled vid:

Self-Esteem: How to feel good about yourself?

Today, I was meeting with one of my friends. He's good. He's even very good at what he does. He should be self confident and proud of what he delivers. Point is that he isn't. He feels like a low life. He feels like crap. In fact he came to me for advice and help. A typical case of low self esteem. Luckily, curable.

Focus on your strengths

One key to enhanced self-esteem is to focus on your strenghts. Those strenghts that make you achieve results. You see, we discussed his successes and he felt alive again. If you focus on your limitations, what do you think will happen? It will depress you: guaranteed!
Know your weaknesses and limitations. Cherish them. They help you avoiding going the wrong way. And get help to deal with them. I hate accounting, so I hire a good accountant. I hate configuring servers, so I use a great hosting company. Outsource most of what is related to your limitations. Cleaning, ironing, drinks, accounting, graphical design, you name it. I still need to outsource all of th eprogramming tasks I still do because, ableit interesting, they do not pay well compared to applying some other skills I do have. I am a darn good coder but not a stellar one. I have no interest in becoming a stellar coder. I can recognize and hire one who will be happy to work for me (since I'll at least be able to understand and appreciate what he does). So I have still to learn to let go of that to make room for my core strenghts even more than I do today. I should move coding to my hobby time. I'd better be mentoring teams on how to work well together, helping formulate and implement working strategies, or helping people craft great systems. And the net result will be a known one: a breath of fresh air, a boost to my self esteem, new interesting challenges, and better compensation for making my customers utterly better off.

Get help when you need it

If you suffer from low self esteem, you may not seek help as often as you should. Someone with good self-esteem is not afraid to call for help. Calling for help is a sign that you can deal with your shortcomings and are not afraid of what people may think.
I called upon Alan Weiss for mentoring me some years ago and it transformed my life. As I write this article, I am looking at those boarding passes and reservations for next week. I am attending Alan's workshops in Berlin: Change Management and Thrive! It all happens at the Ritz Carlton. Not a low end place for sure. People who will be there are mostly over achievers. Why do they go to such events then if they are so good already? Mmmh, it's because they aren't afraid to ask for help when reaching for the next level! As you can see, walking the talk is also a good thing. And I'll never be afraid to ask for help anymore.

Act instead of brewing in your own juices

Anxiety is a sign of self-esteem problems. Take notice that you can't be involved in the action and anxious at the same time. Taking action is a good remedy against anxiety. And it will contribute to produce results while applying your skills. So, stop those dark toughts and act upon something. Anything. Even sorting out that drawer of yours, getting the trash out, writing a paper, talking to your significant other.

Stop listening to confidence vampires

You may know them. They are the ones who push your red buttons and move you into that state where you feel bad, guilty, worthless. Get them out of your lives, confront them on their bad manners. Ignore them. Do what it takes to keep them at bay: you deserve better than that. They do provide feedback for their own benefit, clearly not for yours. Stop listening to them. Just stop it!

Let's summarize

  1. Focus on your strengths and outsource the limitations related duties
  2. Get help when you need it
  3. Stop listening to confidence vampires
  4. Act instead of brewing in your own juices
This will go a long way in enhancing your life. I have walked that path and am much better now. My self-esteem is rooted in my true skills and strenghts. I take action to make things happen. I wish that you make the same come true.

What matters is the attitude

The economy goes up and down. It is a cyclic movement. So does our moods and lives. In such a changing environment, how to make it such as we aren't feeling insecure, at the mercy of events? It's all in the attitude. We haven't control over what happens to us. But we do have control over how we react to the events. If we believe that we will learn something from the experience, good or bad, and will be better off from that, we develop our self esteem and act accordingly: in a resourceful way. In this age of professional victims, this will put one ahead of the crowd for sure!

Trends of 2011 – Great Video

Check out the trends of 2011. I do like: wearable tech, toddlers games. And yes, we'll see deviance becoming somewhat fashionable. This will just end you in jail if you follow the suggestions. And after a while (say 5 years), we'll see the reverse trend coming since the no limit paradigm will only make people more insecure and crazy in their heads. That's why law was invented. To keep the people somewhat safe and guarantee private property. Two things that deviance can be labeled as being against.

How to keep the value of your earned assets in 2011?

There are several trends that will have a huge impact on markets in 2011. Most of them will have a damaging effect on cash when such cash is EUR or USD.

Why is it so?

First of all, the US is printing money and buying back debt with it, basically printing out its way out of debt. Through QE and QE2, the US devalued the purchasing power of the dollar. The USD is still the reserve currency of the world, but trusting the US is really not a good idea in my view. So, moving away from the dollar is a winning strategy for 2011.
Next, looking at the Eurozone side of the equation, the approach of no default preferred by it is not helping the Eurozone debt at all. What happens is that perfectly good economies are hurt by periphery countries that succumbed to bubbles. Instead of letting investors take a haircut on such economies, bailouts were the choice taken. And now, the EURO pluges vs the dollar.
All in all, this means that the EUR and the USD are spiraling down towards the ground and run a huge risk of losing a hell of a lot of their purchasing power. Governments have no issue with that since it will reduce the burden of their debt, but at the expense of the standard of living of their populations.
Investors also do not see this very positively since the returns they expected become meaningless since the monetary basis is massively expanded, lowering the true value of their positions.
And a quick look at commodities show us that oil, gold, silver, palm oil, and so on are on a bullish trend in a lot of currencies. When commodities are up in a lot of currencies, this is an important sign: the sign that fiat currencies are worth less than they used to be.

What to do then?

For the beginning of 2011, commodities will be a great hedge against inflation. Even if interest rates are going up to "fight inflation", the mere fact of printing more money at central banks (Fed or ECB) defies the intent.
Also, taking positions in the forex by being long on the AUS$ will pay off. At least in the first months.
There is also a significant move out of Gold ETFs towards physical bullion. That's a trend that indicates that there is trouble coming. So, getting some gold or silver bullion is definitely looking like a good idea.

What's the horizon looking like?

In a word, it will look like very unstable. The financial crisis is not over at all. It just morphed into a sovereign debt problem. The issue is that sovereign debt is never paid off. Corporations that do not pay their debts are going under. Not so with sovereign countries. Their citizens end up broke, but the country stays there. So, investing in assets that do not depend on governments is the best bet in my view.