Doing what it takes….and keeping going!

I had an insight into life in The Apprentice yesterday…it made fascinating listening and gave me lots of food for thought.    I was at a conference in Gloucester, “Enterprising Women Make a Difference” where 160 women came today to share stories, inspire and support each other.

Claire Young, finalist on The Apprentice in 2008, gave the keynote speech with vigour. She was given the nicknames “motor mouth” and “the Rottweiler” during the series, not that I saw the scary side of the Rottwieler, but I certainly saw the determined, tenacious and persevering side.    She gave us a real insight into life behind the scenes on The Apprentice – any vague thoughts I had before to apply and now well and trully dead.  Did you know that the whole 12 weeks is shot in 5 weeks?  The first guy to be fired, didn’t even get to sleep in the posh house!

We heard Claire’s personal story, from school to success and I always find these journey stories completely inspiring.  Many people had overcome pretty challenging early lives, faced difficult choices and had to dig pretty deep to keep going.  Claire now works to support enterprising young people and has set up “School Speakers” and “Girls Out Loud” and seems extremely happy with the work she is doing.

We also had several other speakers – all women – all telling their success stories, but I began to feel a bit low, flattened and my energy dropped. Not helped by the cold I currently have, but this was more my soul saying “I can’t do this” “They are so much better than me” “I ‘m a failure” “I am too old, I should have started earlier”. I doubt very much that this was the result intended by the conference organises…a demotivated, depressed attendee.  But comparison to others can be a real killer and reminding myself of this helped. I also reminded myself that I know that there are people who also look at me, thinking I have made such a success.

But today, with some sleep and remembering where I kept my secret “umph” supply, things are clearer.

The consistent message from all these speakers, the same one I often give in my speaking, training, coaching and to my children is about courage and resilience….the key ingredients to doing what it takes and keeping it going.  Some people seem to be born with bags of courage and resilience, others, like me, have had to  learn these particular skills and nurture the seemingly delicate seedlings that I have.

What keeps me going?  Well life is very short. I mean it  really flies by especially when you have kids.  I recently listened to Steve Jobs famous Stanford address in 2005. It is all captivating but the bit that sticks with me  is this quote “remember you’ll be dead soon…it helps us to make the best choices”. Six short years after that address, not much longer than it takes to finish a degree or renovate a house, he died.

Being precariously near to 40, I have, if lucky, another 25-30 working years ( I don’t intend to retire at all, but imagine I will at some point!)  Do I really want to give up on my plans? my ideas? my visions?  If I do give up, I will have to start from scratch with something else anyway, so the same process will need to start again. There is very little point in giving up actually.

Giving up also runs the risk that someone else will manage to bring ideas similar to mine, to fruition. This has happened a few times already and thinking “if only I had stuck it out, it would have been me doing that” is really sobering.

The words “if only” are very powerful! I don’t want to reach 80 and have too many “if only’s” coming out of my mouth!

Taking note of all the small successes is really important. At the conference yesterday, I could only see the big end results for these women. Hidden, are all the sleepless nights, small victories, tears, failures. I have started to make a habit of going through all the little successes of the day, just before I sleep.  Every few months, I take stock a bit more and see how my projects are really moving on.

Courage and audacity cannot be underestimated.  Without it, we never move beyond the safety of our current position. “Safe” is a killer, so is “competent”.  Taking small steps every day is crucial, but sometimes, making brave choices and taking chances is needed.  I don’t think any entrepreneurs, artists or social innovators, achieved what they did without a goodly dose of courage and some audacious acts!

Ask yourself “whats the worse thing that could happen here?” and “if so, can I deal with that?”. If you are passionate about your project enough, the answer will always be “yes I could deal with that, but its unlikely to happen”

So today with my courage and resilience boosted, I keep going and will do what it takes….will you?

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