Chris Croft's Personal Blog

November 5, 2016

The top ten pet hates of a management trainer

Filed under: Careers, Lists, Uncategorized — chriscroft @ 2:12 pm

If you’re going on a course, try not to do any of these!  and – enjoy!



  1. When the first thing someone asks you is “When do we finish?”.  They may have a good reason but it gives the impression that they are already wishing it was over, that they want to get the day over with using the minimum effort.  If you had an audience with The Dalai Llama or Einstein or Martin Luther King or John Lennon, would you start by asking “When can we finish?” or “Can we finish a bit early, because I’m a bit worried about the traffic south of Birmingham?”
  2. Sometimes I get someone coming up before the start looking really sheepish – I already know what they are going to say – and they say “I’m really sorry, I’ve got to go early, is that OK?”  Again, they probably have a good reason, picking up children from school for example, but I still find this annoying because it puts that little bit of pressure on me to do everything important before they have to go, in fact it implies that some of my course isn’t as important, and also makes me think about pulling it out of shape just for them – ideally you’d have something great at the finish, but now they are making me think I should more that part forward. And there’s this other implication that I will be upset that they aren’t going to learn quite as much as they would have.  Perhaps I should be?  But really, it makes no difference to me if they choose to miss part of my course – I’m doing it, the best way I can, for everyone that will listen.  Why apologise to me?  If you really DO think it’s bad to miss some then make more of an effort to stay till the end!  If and it it’s really only a mock apology, given out of politeness rather than really feeling bad, then don’t bother to lie to me.
  3. But much more of a pet hate than the first two is the person who just doesn’t want to be on the course.  Sent by their boss, they sit there with their arms folded, looking sideways or out of the window, putting a downer on the whole proceedings for everyone.  I always hope I can win them over, and occasionally I do, but mostly they sit through the day with their mind closed, and afterwards I regret not just chucking them out at the start.
  4. Introverted groups are another pet hate – you might think it’s unlikely that you’ll get 12 people who are ALL introverts, but it’s more common than you’d expect, for two reasons.  One is that it’s a company culture thing – often a whole company will be introverts, for example Engineers are often that way.  And the second is that you only need two or three extroverts to make a day lively and fun, the quiet people are then padding who have no effect, and on many courses this is what you get.  So all you need is those two or three people to not happen to be on that particular course and you have the morgue from hell.  If I was not interactive, if I just read out stuff from powerpoint, then the audience wouldn’t make any difference, but I like to chat with the audience, have a debate, have a laugh, and if you’re doing a training day every day, with travel in between each one, you need a bit of help from the audience.  So the introverted groups are much harder work. And it’s rude of them not to respond – they sit there with their arms folded thinking “someone else can answer that one, I can’t be bothered”.  Of course they might just be shy, but to an extrovert like me this is hard to understand, so I interpret it as laziness and rudeness.  Which I do think in some situations it is.  Although I am often pleasantly surprised by the feedback from introvert groups, who write that they learned loads and enjoyed the day – so maybe the fact that it was REALLY hard work for me wasn’t entirely wasted.
  5. The opposite of the last one is the super-keen Chipper-in Agreer.  This is the person who says “Oh yes, I get that situation a lot, what I always do is…..” and “Oh yes, we have that in our department and I always do what you are saying”.  If they amplify every point it’s nice to start with, but then it doubles the time it takes for me to make each point, so I can only cover half the material on my day – or risk finishing late which is a big crime.  In a group of 10 people it’s rude to take up more than 10% of the commenting time, so don’t!  The others in the group often roll their eyes – they know this person only too well.  If the person is saying they do it the same as me then they are merely repeating what I’m saying and it’s a waste of time, and if they are saying they do it differently then excuse me, who is running this course?  So I have to cut them off mid comment each time, which they don’t like, and they write something bad about me on the feedback form, but such is life!
  6. A common one but also one that really irritates me is the person who doesn’t write anything down …in fact often they haven’t even brought a pen.  As if there isn’t going to be ANYTHING worth making a note of, in a whole DAY of training!  This may not be their fault, because maybe nobody has ever explained that you learn more if you take notes, or maybe they are not good at making notes on the fly, maybe they can’t even write.  Or maybe they were expecting handouts for everything.  But still to me it gives the impression that they aren’t picking up anything good from my efforts.  A subset is the doodler, and they used to annoy me too, especially the ones who just colour in all the e’s and o’s, but I have learned over the years that often doodlers are taking it all in and they can often be the best students of all.
  7. Then there’s the person with the tickly cough, who usually sits at the front end arm of the u-shape, on my right, for maximum volume, suddenly coughing straight into my ear, all day. Variations of this are the person with the running spluttering cold who also sits right at the front and gives it to me; and the person who clicks their biro all day, again right at the front.  These aren’t bad people – they don’t know they’re annoying – but it’s hard to tell them!
  8. The next pet hate is one that I should really be pleased with, but I’m not!  This is the person who comes up at the end and says “That was better than I expected” with a slightly surprised and also patronising tone.  “You’re not a bad little trainer, you actually managed to come up with just one or two things I didn’t know already”.  They thought I wasn’t going to be any good – do I look bad, or did they have preconceptions?  Maybe it’s not about me, maybe the last trainer they had wasn’t any good, so I’m being a little harsh here?  I guess if they were massively enthusiastic: “That was BRILLIANT, SO much better than the last course I went on” – that would be fine.  It’s the begrudging admittance that it was just “OK”, the fact that they are judging me, and then saying to me that I was “OK”.  And if everyone else thought it was great, is it me that’s OK or them that’s hard to please?
  9. Next is the person who comes up at the end – when I am busy packing up and want to get on the motorway for my three hour drive home – and offers their advice on how the course could have been better.  Thanks mate!  I’ve been doing this for 20 years and you’ve wandered in to one course and you are now qualified to tell me how to do it better, from just your point of view, even though the rest of the course participants might not agree. “This section could have been faster / slower / shorter / longer” – for YOU maybe but what about the others?  Do you think I haven’t already thought about that, tried it on previous courses, and worked out the best way?  And if, let’s say if, one part of the day didn’t quite work for some reason, do you think I haven’t already noticed that and thought about how to improve it?  It’s what I DO, and NOT what YOU do for a living.   And I think sometimes the suggestion on how to improve is a bit of a game, it’s not really meant to be helpful, it’s “I’m cleverer than you” – or am I too sensitive, too vain, too arrogant?  Maybe!     A variation is the person who hangs around at the end asking me extra questions about the subject, about their own situation “I’ve got this person who I work with some sometimes does this and that…..  what’s your advice?”   – it’s good that they are keen, but do they not realise I have a home to go to?  Do they not realise that coaching is £100/hour?  Do they not realise that I may find my personal life more attractive than continuing to work after a long exhausting day, with 3 hours of travel still to go, on their problems?
  10. Finally there is being asked “Can I have a certificate of attendance?”  The certificate is worthless – can’t they see that?  It’s not accredited by anyone, it’s just MADE UP and printed out by me!  And they could have slept through the day but still get the certificate of attendance, so all it means is that they were physically on a course, in body but maybe not in mind.   But the main objection is that it shows they only want to tick a box and collect another certificate, rather than actually learn anything.


Ooof, I feel better now.  I hope you found that useful for when you are next on a course – we trainers do have our feelings you know!


June 23, 2014

Positive Attitude – why it’s so important

Filed under: Assertiveness, Careers, Happiness, Selling and Influencing — Tags: , , — chriscroft @ 2:56 pm

1 – Effect on you

a – What happens to you – if you expect bad things they tend to happen, and if you expect good things they tend to happen.  We attract what we envisage.  I don’t know why this is, but it’s definitely true.  People who are unlucky then expect to be unlucky again, and their expectations come true, and so they get into a loop.  Be in a good loop rather than a bad one!
b – How you interpret what happens – some people focus more on the bad things, and if you spend more time focussing on bad things (especially things you can’t do anything about, because they are already in the past, or are unavoidably coming up in the future) then you start to believe that your life is worse than it actually is.
Some people get really knocked sideways by the random bad cards that we all get dealt, and they allow those to ruin everything else.  “I can’t enjoy the party, I’m still fuming about that scratch on my iPhone / about what Fred said to me / about the parking at the party”.
Also – do you take the opportunities when they come up?  It is easy to fail to pick up on the good opportunities: “I could have gone to Australia but at the time I was too busy” etc.

2- Effect on others – and therefore you in the end

  • You’ll attract more positive people, because they tend to avoid negative people and gravitate towards similarly positive ones.
  • They’ll want to work with you – when people are choosing teams, or interviewing for jobs, they prefer positive people.
  • You’ll affect their attitude – whether in a positive or negative way – so you’ll get back what you give out.

3 – Is it annoying to be TOO positive?

Not if you don’t talk too much.  Quietly positive is the key.  Whether you are thinking positively or negatively it’s best to be a good listener and ask others about themselves.

4 – Can you change yourself?

Yes!  And surprisingly quickly!
I mentioned earlier that negative loops are self-perpetuating: thoughts lead to actions which lead to experiences which lead to beliefs which lead back to thoughts.
So the key is to break this loop by controlling your thoughts.  Start a game to never think or say anything negative.  Push those negative thoughts out with positive ones. Say to yourself “The party WILL be fun”.  “The Presentation WILL go really well.”
This feels rather odd at first but becomes a habit very quickly, and then it’s natural and requires no further effort – you have moved up to the positive level!
You might also want to think about the influences of others on you.  Negative people, negative reading (papers, magazines), negative TV programmes, these all drag you down, so it’s better to avoid these and select positive people and experiences so that you feel good from every interaction.
Onwards and upwards!

February 3, 2014

CV writing – my top tips

Filed under: Careers, Lists — Tags: , , , — chriscroft @ 9:25 pm

…and these are the same for on-line or paper CVs…

  1. No typos – use spell check and get a friend to check it
  2. Make it look clean and clear – all paragraphs lined up, with decent margins, easy on the eye, not jumbled, or you’ll look like a jumbled disorganised thinker.
  3. Don’t fold it – post it in an A4 envelope, on white paper, ideally 90gsm
  4. No quirks – the employer’s first step is to filter the CVs, so anything odd gets you binned, e.g. dates missing, odd spare time activities, pictures, attempts at humour, etc.  Have nothing that might get you filtered out.
  5. Don’t look high maintenance – no flowery language, criticism of previous employers, or anything too pushy
  6. Maximum 2 pages, ideally just one – otherwise they won’t read it and you’ll like someone who takes too long to get to the point
  7. Tailor it to the job – mention related experience and skills to whatever they have said they are looking for.  Mention something about the company to show that you have researched them and tailored it to them.  But…
  8. The upper middle of page 1 is the place the reader looks at most
  9. When listing experience and achievements put real facts (problems you solved, improvements you made) ideally with real numbers (increased sales by 17% in 2 years), rather than waffle.  “Committed’, “Hard working” “Team player” mean nothing without evidence.
  10. Don’t lie!  You will get found out at the interview, or when you’ve got the job – and both of these are disasters
  11. Put your age – if you omit it they’ll only imagine it’s worse than it is, and anyway they can work it out from your history – or if they’re ageist they’ll reject you when they meet you anyway.
  12. Interests and hobbies – don’t put reading or socialising.  But social, team and outdoor activities, just very briefly.
  • Send a tailored covering letter with the CV – and getting that right is a whole other subject…
  • Keep your CV up to date and ready at all times.  You never know what opportunities or disasters are just around the corner…

August 26, 2013

Possible life plans

Filed under: Careers, Happiness — Tags: , , , , — chriscroft @ 3:33 pm

Hi everyone

I’ve been thinking about whether I would advise my kids to have a career like I had, or to go self employed like I am now, or something else. And looking at what my various friends have done with their lives, there seem to be certain patterns or shapes to people’s lives, as follows: (can you see yourself there?)

Blue chip career ~ upwards towards management. Staying in one company or passing through many

Use your skill for life. e.g. Engineer. Expert in your niche. Gives you some security.

Self employed – lifestyle business where you don’t employ anyone else, you just earn decent money doing your thing.

Build own company for sale – and then retire, or do another one!

Drop out from system, focus on a hobby eg music. Maybe do some basic work, that you don’t care about, just to keep solvent.

Combining work and hobby eg professional musician

Continuous study ~ search for a (mythical?) meal ticket, or for status from qualifications, or to avoid a job and the pressure of a career, or just because you love learning

Focus on family and house – work is something boring that is not important

Crazy changes throughout your life as you search restlessly for the perfect thing – which may or may not be out there

Burn out in some high pressure job, but save enough money to retire early

Second life: ~ semi retire early and do the thing you’ve always wanted to do


So – what did I miss?

May 12, 2013

Top 15 Tips for Success

Filed under: Careers, Happiness, Lists — Tags: , , — chriscroft @ 12:51 pm

1) Be yourself. This may require courage & honesty. Believe in yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to. Strengthen this belief by saying to yourself “I can do it”. Instead of thinking “Why me?” – try the more empowering version “Why not me?”
2) You reap what you sow – make an effort to give everyone really excellent service in everything you do. Take every opportunity to go the extra mile.
3) Help others – as well as meaning that they will help you, it’ll make you happy.
4) Make it your ambition to be liked by everyone. A good way to do this is to be interested in them: ask questions, and be a great listener. Don’t talk about yourself more than 10% of the time.
5) Keep in touch with everyone you meet whom you like. Now may not be the time, but the time will come.
6) All success needs an efficient foundation. Get your time management sorted out – don’t waste time on things that bring you neither achievement nor enjoyment. Have lists of what you want to do, and do them.
7) Be reliable – always keep all your promises. Be easy to get hold of and easy to deal with. Be on time and have all work done on time.
8) Know where you’re going. Have goals for work & home which are clear, and excitingly big. Enjoy paying the price to achieve these goals. The journey is as important as the arrival. If you don’t enjoy paying the price, are you sure that the goals are the right ones for you?
9) Live in the future and in the present, not in the past.
10) Volunteer for challenges. Take every opportunity to try new things and come out of your comfort zone. Who knows where it will lead? At the very least you’ll learn something!
11) Set up a “mastermind group”. This is a group of positive people who help each other to think big.
12) Choose the people you associate with for their value. If you don’t get either enjoyment or learning or achievement from the relationship, end it.
13) Look after your health, especially exercise & sleep. A day (or a life!) is wasted if you are going through the motions because you are unfit or tired.
14) Read lots of books. All the knowledge in the world is in books. Self-development is vital since in the end all your success is going to be produced by you.
15) Be the best “You” that you possibly can – that’s what we are all best at, but practice still makes perfect!

April 16, 2013

Managing Upwards

I would divide this into two parts: general good practice when dealing with bosses, and dealing with problem bosses.

First there’s communication style
– Ideally you would tailor your communication style so that they find you easy to deal with, perhaps even like you! Are they in a hurry and wanting a quick summary or are they a thoughtful, detail person?
– Make sure you don’t become high maintenance. Don’t take up too much of their time, don’t check everything with them before you do it (unless they want that!), don’t send them big long reports or emails to read, don’t phone them at times when they are busy or tired or thinking about something else.
– Don’t always come with bad news and problems

Then there’s influencing
a) what’s in it for them, what do they want or need? They have weaknesses too, if you think about it – they need to you help them and do things that aren’t totally in your job description, maybe do longer hours every now and then, they need you to stay motivated in order for you to be creative and work hard, they need to look good to their peers and superiors, they don’t know all the answers so they need your help, etc), and…
b) what style of influencing is best for them? This depends on the type of person they are – are they influenced by facts and logic or by emotions and excitement? Are they risk-averse or are they impulsive and brave?

As bosses become more difficult then the main principles of assertiveness also apply to bosses as well as anyone else – use the 4 step process which is to

1) Understand their situation and say that you do,
2) Say how you feel (worried about letting the side down, feeling demotivated because you don’t have enough effect on performance of the job, etc, so not whingeing or negative but still concerned and not completely happy – this is a powerful second step since they can’t ignore it), then
3) what you want to happen – this makes it easier for them since you are giving them a solution, and makes you look positive, and
4) asking them if they agree, can they see your point of view, is the request reasonable – this commits them to a solution, and enables you to find out if there is any resistance in order to be able to handle it if necessary.

But if your boss is really bad, (as in psychotic / psychopathic / damaged / sadistic / useless, etc, and there are lots of these about), then there are only three options:

train your boss to behave better, using the four step process described above (may take repetition and persistence!)
leave (there’s always another job out there, you have to believe you’re worth of it, and there’s no harm in looking. The times I’ve been pushed I’ve looked back and thought I should have jumped ages earlier! If I had just had the courage!
cease to care … and they should be done in that order – doing a job you don’t care about is the worst outcome! If this happens they’ve won and you’ve lost.

January 16, 2013

Upgrading a Diploma to an MBA

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Careers — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 5:45 pm

I often get asked “Can I upgrade my level 7 Diploma to an MBA at some future point? “

MBAs are level 8.
(By the way, there is no level 6!)

Only Universities can award MBAs.
A part time MBA usually consists of three years, the first year being effectively a CMS, and the first two years being a DMS.
Some Universities will let a person with a DMS miss out the first two years of the MBA and join for the final year. Add one year to your DMS and you get an MBA. This is sensible since the DMS is exactly the same syllabus as the first two years of an MBA.

But many universities won’t accept anybody else’s year 1 or 2, saying you have to start again because their syllabus is different. Some also claim that all three of their MBA years are at level 8. But if you look at the subjects covered you will see that it looks very similar to your DMS!

But that is their loss, since we have enough friendly Universities to be able to provide you with a route to gaining an MBA without repeating everything.

Final bits of confusion…
The CMI (Chartered Management Institute) are sometimes confused with CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing), and the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and the ILM can be confused with IPM (Institute of Personnel Management) – these are professional HR organisations, HR being one of the areas you will study on your DMS.

CATS points: this stands for Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme, and the idea is that qualifications give you points which count towards exemptions when you start another qualification. We had hoped that these would allow our students to join any MBA programme half way through, but the reality is that many MBA courses don’t recognise CATS points, FE College courses don’t count towards CATS, the points have to be at the same level (and MBAs may or may not be at level 8, see above) and all applications are subject to interviews anyway – basically the whole thing is a mess and CATS points are virtually irrelevant.

The only thing that matters is “Can we get you onto the final year of an MBA?” and the answer is yes we can.


The following is what we have done so far, but it’s always changing, and if anyone knows of new MBA routes then please let me know, or if any of the ones listed have now closed I’d like to keep this blog up to date. Thanks for any help!

Ideally you can use your DMS to exempt yourself from the first 2 years of a part time MBA, and just do the final year.

This would involve a year of part time study, mostly at distance, and probably a cost of about £5,000 (depends on the university) which you will probably have to pay yourself.

But an MBA is a good thing to have on your CV, and all the evidence is that the investment pays back.

An MBA would benefit both you and the organisation you work for, since it will give you a more strategic view.

Longer term I would like to get accredited to be able to teach an MBA year, but at the moment we have to live with transferring people to a university near them – still not bad.

Of course, universities won’t guarantee you a place on their course, you’ll still have to apply with an application form, and maybe be interviewed. But of course they are quite interested in your 5k, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a place…

Back in 2006 we finally got Sunderland, a proper UK university, to agree that our DMS counts as the first two years of an MBA, so you jsut have to do the final year of their MBA to get the ultimate management qualification. You can do it in your spare time while doing a normal job, it takes a year, it’s distance learning so it doesn’t matter where you live, and it costed £3,500. Probably gone up since, but still great value.

More info on the Sunderland Uni top up MBA

We also have our first person enrolled at London Met (well done Roni!!)
The course admin is Nicholas Scott and leader, his boss Kate Cooper. or
The fees are about £4500 and with DMS you get straight onto stage two, so can be completed in one year.

Northampton Uni also has a top up MBA which costs about £3500
also this;jsessionid=62303d59d832$AD$F8$D?keyword=mba&type=Course&action=showdetails&offset=10&2waynocompress=1&id=46273

We have also had one of our Diploma students doing an MBA top up at London South Bank University.

There’s a list of participating Universities here on the Edexcel (BTEC) site

And the most recent addition is this:

Big thanks to Peter Rose who just got in touch with me about his MBA
He did the level 7 Diploma with me and then upgraded to an MBA with one year at the University of Wales / UWIC / Cardiff Metropolitan
Distance Learning do you can it from wherever you live
No exams
£2500 – the cheapest MBA you’ll ever yet, I reckon!

I had a quick google and found this
The price is a little higher, I’m not sure if it’s the distance learning option, it looks like “on campus”, and it’s for the whole course rather than just the dissertation part
but importantly it shows (item 6) that the BTEC level 7 DMS does indeed give you entry to the last bit of the course

It says:
“If you have a suitable Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management which has been approved by the school, you can apply for direct entry to the dissertation phase of the MBA either on-campus or via our distance learning programme”.   Sounds good!


That’s everything I know – I hope it helps anyone out there who wants to advance themselves.



October 22, 2012

Why I don’t like the Lottery

Filed under: Careers, Happiness, Lists, News and Politics, Time Management — Tags: , , , , , , , — chriscroft @ 6:29 pm

It’s a free country, but still, things like the Lottery are bad for the people and this is why:

  1. It builds false hopes which lead to frustration – “Why isn’t my life better?”
  2. It’s based on a lie – that you might win. You won’t! It relies on the fact that we exchange £1 for maybe getting £6 million, which sounds good, because we are human and can’t comprehend numbers over 100, it seems like 100:1. If we really could comprehend 6million (e.g. betting on a horse race with a slug in the outside lane) we wouldn’t bother.
  3. It replaces real plans and real actions – “I won’t bother to do anything except buy a lottery ticket, and hopefully my number will come up|” as opposed to “It’s my life, I’m responsible for it, and if I want to change it then I’ll have to face up to doing some real work”
  4. Once a week you’re told you’re a loser
  5. It’s a tax on the poor and the gullible – over time they gradually lose half the money they put into it, and it has been shown that it’s the less well off end of society that spends more on the lottery and scratch cards
  6. The government appears to be spending less on charity, sports and the arts because the lottery is paying for those things instead, so I don’t think it’s proved that the Lottery has increased the money available for these three good causes
  7. The addictive stress of having to bet each week in case your numbers come up on a week when you didn’t bet.
  8. Winning own’t even make you happy! – it’ll ruin your social life and within a year or two you’ll have blown all the money. Yes, that’s what happens.

Conclusion – get real, you aren’t going to win the lottery, and make a plan for whatever you want, and do the work yourself to get there.

August 13, 2012

The Olympics – POD or POA?

Were you inspired by the Olympics?

They certainly were brilliant – the organisation, the crowds, the stunning opening ceremony, and of course the performance of the athletes – what amazing people they are, yet also strangely ordinary people – just people like us, who are somehow doing amazing things.

So many thoughts swirling in my mind about it…
Do I want to be like those athletes? If not a track cyclist, then at least a gold-medal-standard trainer! Do I want to be the best in the world? Do I need to be? Do I have the talent, the ability? Or the motivation? Would it make me happy?

I think the question is: What should a normal person do having seen the Olympics and been inspired by them?

Let’s take it apart a little:

Reasons for Post-Olympic-Depression

• It’s been really easy and fun just putting the TV on and wallowing in the spectacle
• Our normal lives and all their problems have been suspended for two weeks
• Now it’s back to reality
• We hope that the Olympics and their after-effects will somehow improve the country and our lives, but of course they won’t. Reality is still there.
• “I’ll never have a body like Tom Daley or Chris Hoy or Usain Bolt, and I’ll never get a medal in anything or be cheered on by an 80,000 crowd. I’m a failure compared to them”.

Reasons for Post-Olympic-Achievement

• “I can see that ordinary people can achieve their dreams if they are prepared to do the work”
• All it needs is a small step to get onto the Spiral of Achievement: motivation leads to effort which leads to results which leads to more motivation which leads to more effort which leads to more results which…… and the Olympic Effect just might be enough to get people to take this first step.

Are the Olympians ordinary, just like you and me, or not?

Well, with the possible exception of the godlike Usain Bolt, my belief is that they are ordinary people who had the luck to get onto the Spiral of Achievement, and then, perhaps with the help of others or through their own strength of will, had the strength to persist and keep doing the work to get there. And to reach the very top that work is very considerable. Did you see the video of Chris Hoy training, to the point where he collapsed off his bike and lay on the ground in lactic acid agony, groaning in the foetal position, while they just put a blanket over him and left him to recover. THAT’s doing the work! If you tell any successful person they are lucky they have every right to be annoyed – they have done the work!

It’s possible that to be the best in the whole world you need great talent as well as doing the work, but seeing interviews with the boxer from Hull, the canoe medallist, the Taekwondo and judo winners, and the rowers, I got the distinct feeling that they were ordinary people who had just really really focussed and then done the work. And certainly, if you wanted to be very good at something, as opposed to the best in the world, then it’s really not about talent, it’s about work. Anyone, including you (yes you reading this) really can do anything you want if you’re prepared to do the work.

I used to think that the challenge was to find the thing that you have a talent for. But maybe the
challenge isn’t to find the thing that you’ve got a talent for, but to find the thing that you enjoy enough to then be motivated to do the work required. If you have a talent but you don’t enjoy it then you’ll never do the work and so you won’t succeed.

So maybe the legacy of the Olympics will be that lots of people will take that first step onto the Achievement Spiral and find that they can get results. All that undiscovered talent! Maybe there is a future Usain Bolt living in Hull! However I suspect that

1 -the greatest evil of all, laziness, will again triumph and most people will plan to do something and then not bother, (like all those people who join the gymn in January and then stop going by February) and also that

2 – most people won’t make the leap from Sport to Everything Else. Why not decide to be really good at computers or music or languages or selling or…..? They are all the same, they just require you to do the work. But will people realise this?

I do hope that all over the UK people decide to be better at all sorts of things, and they get onto the Achievement Spiral as a result of the Olympics.

But then I think about Victoria Pendleton (or Queen Victoria as some commentators amusingly called her) – who is retiring from cycling, saying that she doesn’t enjoy it any more. She’s the best in the world, how can she not?? And I think the answer is that she is paying such a massive price to be the best in the world that it outweighs the happiness. Quite right Victoria, you’ve achieved enough, and you deserve to have some fun! We all remember Steve Redgrave saying after Sydney “If anyone sees me getting into a boat again would they please shoot me” and then within 2 weeks he declared himself in for Athens. It’s great to see him enjoying himself now, he’s more than earned it!

So, bearing in mind that you can achieve anything if you do the work, but you want to avoid the Pendleton Factor, here is my overall conclusion from the Olympics:

1. Set yourself at least one goal, based on something you enjoy doing – don’t worry about talent. It doesn’t have to be in sport, it can be anything you like.

2. Make your goal large enough to be exciting, but not so large that in order to achieve it you’ll have to give up the rest of the things that make you happy. So Olympic gold is probably out! (e.g. to be able to run 5k in 45 minutes, or to play in a band in your local pub, or to speak good enough Italian to joke with locals, or to be good enough at tennis to hit the ball hard and it still goes in).

3. Focus reasonably strongly on achieving your goals – this means giving up some things and fighting against the demon laziness. Focus strongly but not obsessively. Obsessive focus will reduce your overall happiness.

Onwards and Upwards like a lightning bolt (imagine me assuming the position in front of my flip chart)


June 2, 2012

How to overcome nerves before and at a job interview

Filed under: Assertiveness, Careers — Tags: , , , , , , , — chriscroft @ 4:15 pm

Everyone gets nervous, and if you weren’t then you might perform less well, and the interviewers might think you didn’t care   But clearly excessive nerves would be a problem, especially if the interview is for a job requiring confidence!

I hope the following ideas help!

1 – self talk: say to yourself every day (as many times a day as possible) I deserve this job, I am well capable of getting it, in fact they would be fools not to give me it.  Saying it out loud, with exactly the same wording, is ideal.  This is like self hypnosis – though I wouldn’t discount hypnotherapy as well, it really does work, and is quite quick and not expensive

2 – also every day imagine what the interview will look and feel like – they will be smiling and nice, the questions will all be easy, it will go well

3 – just before you go in, imagine it going well

4 – prepare answers to all the key questions and possible difficult questions, like career achievements,why you want the job, why their company in particular, what  your strengths and weaknesses are, etc (there is a great book called Great answers to tough interview questions that helps with this if you need it)

5 – chat to the interviewer(s) before the interview starts, if you can.  Try to break down the formal atmosphere.  Also chat to the receptionist – this gets you warmed up and gives you a feel for the culture

6 – don’t accept biscuits, wobbly coffee cups etc just before the interview, just a glass of water.  And don’t have an alcoholic drink beforehand!  Probably not coffee either – it’ll give you the same physical feeling as being nervous.

7 – Prepare some questions to ask them.  And also, during the interview, ask them questions back so that it’s not all you talking all the time.  This gives you a break, and allows you to gauge what sort of people they are and adapt your style.  It also makes you look interested in them and their job.

8 – research the company so you know all about them; their problems, plans, the things they want and value, etc

9 – focus on their possible / probable weaknesses rather than yours. They need someone for this job, they can’t find anyone else good except for you.

10 – If there is any kind of person spec available then match up your abilities and experience with it – so have a couple of bits of real evidence that you have each quality.  This will be useful in the interview as well as helping you convince yourself that you are the best person for the job.

11 – have a run through with a friend asking you all the most horrible questions.  Do it again till you are slick.  (Not sick!)

12 – have other irons in the fire so you can be more relaxed about this one (though always tell them you really really want the job, and don’t mention any of the other jobs –  not that you’re desperate, but it’s a chance to use all your skills and really make a difference etc)  the best way to do this is to sign on with at least one good employment agency.  Much better than applying to job ads in the paper which is a real numbers game.

Good luck – not that it’s about luck!

ps Great article on this subject here:

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