What is Success?

Definition

‘The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

1.1 The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.

1.2 A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.’

Oxford Dictionaries:https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/success

Why is it important to know what success is?

Many of us have wanted fame, wealth, or social status at some point in life, for whatever reason, and if not those things then we have certainly wanted to accomplish one or more aims or purposes.

Success is important, if only to know what it means to us out of the definition. The easiest thing to do is to assume other people’s success either is or should be our own just because it makes other people happy or they want it. You may have seen models of success in mainstream media, successful people, or your own friends; but unless this success means anything to your life and what you may want out of it then it’s irrelevant.

What does success mean to me?

Knowing what success is can be a process of re-thinking. For me discovering success is a journey of experience and it’s about what makes me happy or elicits feelings of joy. There are things I associate with success and there are things I don’t. I gravitate towards the former and stay away from the latter. Sometimes I put myself into a situation where I try to understand why I don’t associate something with success, perhaps because it’s something other people think is success. Success can often be what I’m doing, who I know or who I’m with, or where I’m comfortable.

Do I want more success?

Maybe you don’t want more success or you feel you’re achieving the maximum success you want at this moment in time and would not like to pursue new areas of success and that is absolutely fine because you’re getting what you want out of the moment, at the maximum level you can.

Nobody should be pressured into being successful, to adopt another’s model of success, and it’s at this time it may be wise to look at how comfortable you feel and whether you’re doing enough to achieve what you can. If you’re comfortable then don’t pressure yourself into doing something that will not fit your model of success, in any way that you can see. If you think you can do more or you see no harm in experimenting then take small steps to explore or expand your definition of success.

How do I become more successful?

Some helpful tips:

  1. Look at the definition of success and decide which parts are relevant to you and which are not. This will help you keep a focused understanding of your success while at the same time removing assumptions that do not relate to you.
  2. You must have an understanding of what success means to you. Write a list of activities you associate with success.
  3. Discuss the topic with close friends, in person or online, and ask the same questions posed in this blog post. See what answers you come up with.

Can you plan success or should success come naturally?

1) There are people in life who succeed by having plans and organising, or automating, their tasks and their goals in life, perhaps in a structured way.
2) There are also people who succeed without worrying about complex plans and instead find the most appropriate or enjoyable path to success.

There are times when you may wonder which of these people you are, or which can offer you the greatest success if you can do both.

The first approach requires a critical effort at becoming a better, or more organised and efficient self, for the purpose of improvement. It involves an element of personal change.

The second approach maintains the essence of self and builds on it in order to take advantage of the natural strengths of the individual.

Both approaches can work, but the question is which approach works for you. If you can make time to build on both then you can measure the success of each and see which one you enjoy and/or which one offers you the greatest results, in the hope you’ll find one that offers both. If you’re struggling to decide which approach to tackle then effective time management, and therefore planning (ironically for the second approach), will help you decide which to prioritise and how much time you spend on each.

Can you have too much success?

Yes, if you’re moving forward too fast, putting too much pressure on yourself to perform, becoming overwhelmed with tasks, and forgetting to give yourself proper time for breaks. Too much success can become too much ‘work’ and that’s when the creative spark that drives you can start to desert you or hamper your efficiency. As you can read on some sites, it’s what you do that moves you forward, not necessarily how long you do it. For example, repeating a repetitive strategy involving hard work that produces no results will not likely bring you more results if you work longer and harder at it.

Some people love the buzz that comes with long hours, stress-oriented work, and success for the sake of success; perhaps accompanied by a feeling of exhilaration. All of us may have felt this at some point but the nature of our individual lives can mean some of us don’t favour this lifestyle and we wish for another route to success.

Success is what it means to you!

Kaizen – Continuously Improve

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is the Japanese word for ‘improvement’ or ‘good change’, but it has come to mean ‘continuous improvement’. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions such as eliminating waste, promoting innovation, and encouraging worker purpose and accountability. The idea is to put quality control directly into the hands of the workers in order to deliver small improvements. You could say that these are the aims of Kaizen.

Kaizen differs from business improvement programs used in the twentieth century, as it has no large scale planning and lengthy implementation. Instead small experiments are used that can be rapidly adapted. It puts the power of quality into the hands of those carrying out the work, in this sense.

The history of Kaizen

In World War Two there was neither time nor resources to radically improve the production of war equipment on a large scale, and the USA’s Training Within Industry program came up with a new approach: to improve the use of existing workforces and technologies.

To improve management skills in Japan, training films and programs were prepared. Titled ‘Improvement in Four Steps’ (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai) it was introduced to Japan. The most well-known example of Kaizen in practice is Toyota, in the prevention of defects, as a direct response to American management. W. Edwards Deming argued that quality control should be put in the hands of the line workers.

Kaizen was brought to the West in 1986 by Masaaki Imai via his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.

Implementation

Some of the core purposes behind Kaizen, mentioned above, inform its implementation. In order to promote innovation the status quo must be ignored, and a system or cycle of continuous improvement is formulated. This system is meant to repeat through the same steps to create an ongoing system of improvement, which involves making a list of problems, testing solutions, analysing if they work. If they do work they are standardised throughout the company, if they don’t the process is repeated. The same process is repeated regardless to tackle other problems or test solutions.

The Five Whys asked questions about why a failure has occurred, basing the next question on the answer to the previous to attempt to get to the root cause. This system can be used as a tool for self-improvement. In practice it can be turned into a diagram, and used as a system of continuous improvement.

Other systems include the Kaizen 5S framework aims to create an ideal physical workplace in order to improve efficiency: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, and Sustain. There is the PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act – also called the Deming Cycle or the Shewhart Cycle.

How does Kaizen relate to anything else?

What Kaizen means to a large business may not always relate to individuals and those who have yet to learn about and adopt the approach, but it can be a model used for many purposes such as in effecting personal and business development. Its advantages can include rapid improvement, thinking outside of the box, and gaining a new understanding of how things work without the restraints of culture, status quo, or traditional assumptions.

As a freelance copy editor and proofreader who enjoys to work independently, I particularly like the idea of putting more responsibility for improvement into the hands of workers because I think it can be liberating and it can allow for organisational change in a system at the level where work is done. If you’re self-employed you’re also a worker and must make continuous improvements if you are to succeed: see what works, ask why, and develop models that may improve your method.

Kaizen for personal improvement

When I started reading about Kaizen, one thing I was struck by was how much I had always been invested in my own self-improvement, since being a young adult, without actually being aware of it or reading self-help books. For example, improvement in health and creativity has always been important to me, and I often fostered a hope of branching out in these areas for the sake of improvement, knowledge, happiness, and well-being. As I got older, I applied this same need for improvement to success as a copy editor/proofreader, and author.

There are likely many people with the same challenges towards improving their lives in their unique way, who are struck by some common pitfalls that have been identified by Kaizen. Kaizen for self-improvement aims to change the mindset that leads to those pitfalls, based on the same philosophy of small continuous change rather than tackling and achieving life goals immediately. Here are some of the main points:

  • Success is not a destination; it’s an ongoing process towards continuous improvement. You’re never done. It can be tempting for many to work really hard in the expectation of reaching a time where success leads to a relaxed state of life, where no achieving goals or working is necessary. I suppose the reason for this expectation could be the mind’s attempt to balance out a work-oriented life with a future hope of relaxation.
  • Don’t aim to tackle big life-changing goals in a short period of time because they won’t be achievable. Instead, focus on tasks in the present you can do that can help you on your path to achieving your goals. Aim for a gradual ‘1% improvement’ every day in whatever you want to do. In practice it doesn’t have to measure as a single percent, I don’t think. The point is to improve at a gradual and comfortable pace. This can be spending a small amount of time doing a task, ten minutes each day, and then adding an extra two minutes when you’re ready. It could also involve adding related tasks to that task, fitting it into a routine that works for you.

The point is that Kaizen’s philosophy of continuous improvement can be used on a day-to-day basis for improving your life or freelance business just as much as it can help a large business by focusing on what can be done in the present to improve how things are done instead of improbable large-scale business changes or life-changing achievements.

To me this means letting go of restraints, such as cultural beliefs or the status quo in how work or improvement is to be carried out, creating an organised workspace, and encouraging innovation in life. It’s not about sticking to a single system as the template for success, but improving on that system as time goes by. I think the point of ‘success is not a destination’ could mean that there should be balance in your approach in implementing success, improvement, or Kaizen, otherwise routine towards those things may lead to stagnation or a new status quo. Kaizen can help to remind you not to expect too much in present action when concocting new goals and not to be too disappointed if they fail to deliver immediate results.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen

https://searcherp.techtarget.com/definition/kaizen-or-continuous-improvement

https://medium.com/the-mission/get-1-better-every-day-the-kaizen-approach-to-self-improvement-b79c9e045678

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/get-1-better-every-day-the-kaizen-way-to-self-improvement/

How Personal Matters Affect Business Success

Introduction

In this blog post I’ll be talking about personal weaknesses and how they can impact on the running of a business if you’re self-employed or work from home. Weaknesses can include poor skills, emotional or social problems, and health conditions; basically, anything that can affect the mind and body. The same principle applies even if your problems are slightly different. Sometimes it only takes one rupture in the system, and the whole ship goes down!

Personal matters can affect short-term and long-term success

The link between personal matters and business success hit me with force in early September 2018 when I realised they were holding me back, in the present to some extent and certainly in the long-term. In the present it can be like being burdened with a perpetual problem, causing you to brood, or it can be like a glitch that shows your personal weakness before it is ignored and life continues. Often there is a link to unhappiness or past problems that you know exist and you haven’t resolved. Why would you resolve them when you’re trying to run a business?

In the long-term personal matters are intrinsically related to your happiness as a human being, your performance, and your business skills. Any serious rupture that repeatedly causes problems should not be dismissed because they will crop up when you least expect it and perhaps sabotage a situation you could have used to your advantage.

Is it possible to ignore personal matters when building a business?

The short answer is yes, it is possible and likely you will be able to ignore personal matters when building your business. You see the activity of business much like a manuscript or any activity you put sufficient effort into, as something external that relates only to you in so far as it enables you to achieve your goals in life.

How personal matters affected my business success

As somebody with Asperger Syndrome many of my weaknesses were interpersonal. This wasn’t helped by the fact that in early life I struggled to forge many friendships, and I was often perplexed by the behaviour of other people and I suffered social anxiety; none of these were conducive to interpersonal growth. I’ve lived most of my life since without needing to build relationships or ‘contacts’, being occupied with routines and hobbies in my own comfortable bubble. I then became a freelance professional copy editor and proofreader and many people in this vocation struggle with getting out, meeting people, and taking time away from their work.

I became comfortable in my bubble because it was familiar. It defined my strengths and weaknesses, who I was even, or so I thought. To me the realm of people was one of potential misunderstanding and failed interaction. Losing people and being rejected by them was a fear but it was also expected by me. I suppose, in hindsight, I didn’t emotionally care for myself much and never had, so why would others care? Everybody was a potential stranger and categorised mentally as ‘unfamiliar’.

I would lose some friends and contacts, but more often than not the problem was with finding new friends and contacts. When it keeps happening the problem inflates and paralyses some of the relevant mental faculties, allowing anxiety to take its place. As you can see, this mindset is not conducive to making new contacts and building a business. People skills should not be overlooked in any area of life, but certainly not in building a business, where you have to be one of the main reasons potential clients will purchase your services, and becoming a familiar, friendly, and well-known person is essential.

What I did – one step back solution

It’s frustrating when you’ve spent so much time on business-related tasks and then you realise you’ve ignored how your personal life is tied to it. You need to analyse this new problem from step one, going back a few steps, and this can take time. In my case, I began to realise my approach to other aspects of life wasn’t doing me any favours personally, never mind in connecting with people for business purposes. I took a few good days thinking hard about why it was I thought the way I did, and what I was doing wrong. Sometimes help from an outside perspective can be beneficial too in allowing you to see that you cannot continue on the path you are on, and this can be in the form of friends, mentors, and support organisations.

I tend to think building a freelance business is not always about a simple linear path to constructing your success, or even about a massive expansion of clients. It can be as simple as building, seeing what went wrong, and then building again. Each time you’re widening your base and creating a model with more success that is more in line with your goals and can withstand the test of time. This model should have factored in personal matters too and how they describe you as a person, where they are letting you down and where they are giving you an advantage. Eventually, it is hoped your client list will expand and you’ll have greater choice over type of clients, and greater income.

Conclusion – how to tackle these types of problems?

You’ve got to take care of yourself, and that means not existing in a vacuum, and it means reaching out to friends, family, and support networks. It isn’t enough to know you have weaknesses; they should be addressed at the earliest possible time and with the right support. Escaping from personal matters won’t help you in the long-term. The longer you leave it, the more difficult and upsetting it can be when it is finally confronted.

Building a business is about you, foremost, and your health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to your ideas, performance, and long-term success. It can be easy to lose sight of this when you’re too engaged in present tasks or pressured into doing work that isn’t necessarily helping the ‘bigger you’ that cannot be defined by a limited model of business.

Freelance Milestones

Our reliance on online marketing

When you’re working on a freelance business, it can take time to set up and become established, and sometimes this process can be daunting, confusing, and frustrating. There are marketing experts everywhere offering contradictory advice or propagating the use of technologies, platforms, systems, and media as the cool tricks of the trade that you need to wrap your head around to get ahead in business. I’ve found that to someone versed in the jargon of business, business advice must seem exciting and obvious, but to those who are not experts in business or marketing it can come across as a confusing nightmare.

If you remember the 1990s, or life before technology became prevalent in our lives, you’ll know that it hasn’t always been pervasive, and books written by the older generation will tell you as much. A lot of us, young or old, have gone through an adjustment period in life to increasing reliance on social media and online as a means of succeeding in life, and with this change came new best practice. It happened so fast, and though some are quick to learn the ropes and take advantage of the change, there are plenty who will always be a bit stymied.

Which strategies didn’t work?

1. Passing advice with no interest in the individual

When I was in my early twenties and learning how to develop my freelance businesses, it was with misguided excitement that I would find a new means to boosting forward based on advice from social media experts, usually. People emphasise different things: the importance of social media, website, SEO, in these times; or they would stress the same things and offer little tips on how you could get more out of a system with a tweak here and there. It started with misguided excitement, bordering on delusion, and then it would burn out into a hopeless realisation that this new-age trick wasn’t going to work either.

I didn’t realise at the time that I was thinking too much about gadgets and systems, and not what I wanted as a person or why these gadgets and systems were going to help ‘me’ achieve my goals in life. The experts weren’t interested in my personal development, and there was little encouraging my interest in marketing when people only threw advice at you and then left you.

2. Doing everything yourself – ‘going it alone’

The following was, to some extent, a mistake of mine. You may think you’re intelligent and independent and that these characteristics will allow you to surge forward ahead of your peers in a matter of time, but if you do think this you may be forgetting something crucial and that is that successful self-employment, as with any type of business I assume, does depend on an ability to form business relationships with others. It may not be easy to get work in your chosen field without the help of others, especially if you depend on others for your salary.

3. No marketing

If you’re fed up of marketing because you don’t like it and you think you can do better focusing on ‘your job’, you’ve basically given up searching for work, and you’re waiting for something to happen that won’t happen. The intent to succeed has to be there, in a form acceptable to you, or you may end up in an abyss of escapism. You won’t be doing yourself any favours by resorting to this escapism; the self-satisfied pleasure may be temporary.

4. The definition of marketing

Okay, so you’ve come to detest the word ‘marketing’ and anything that attests to it but this is likely because you’ve been confused into thinking marketing means cool online platforms, apps, gadgets; or on the other hand is all about serious marketing plans, complex calculations, and business plans. Obsess with either of these too much when you’re not knowledgeable about either, and you’ve been misled into how you’re going to use the best methods.

Some of the things that helped me

1. I sought advice from support networks

I don’t think anybody should be too proud to seek support. If you don’t use any networks that are considered to be support or labelled as support then just have a good think about all the people who have helped you on your way as a freelance: friends, colleagues, and more.

2. I took a social skills course

It helped my confidence, got me out there talking and connecting with likeminded people. This same course offered self-employment advice from somebody who thought in a similar way to me and had experienced self-employment. This one action alone showed me the benefits of getting out of the house, and I felt like instead of struggling alone in self-defeatism I was actually doing something to move my career forward – not something ‘I thought’ might work but something that proved I was more serious about succeeding.

3. I was persistent

I was persistent with my support networks. Without this persistence, I would not have finished my business plan and been given a mentor. On so many occasions I nearly gave up. Thankfully, my dad was there to help me see that I had to fight for what was in my best interests, and he was right. I had never been an assertive person, and talking to people sometimes made me anxious, so this was difficult for me.

4. The right people and the right professionals

The right people are crucial in your development as a human being, never mind a business. The right people have complementary skills that you can connect with to learn and grow. These people don’t always know what you need to know and it’s sometimes in unlikely places where you’ll find these people, but it’s always worth giving anything new a chance before dismissing it.

5. Try new things

Doing the same things, over and over, will bore you or drive you mad, even if you’re good at those things. To grow as people, we need something new every so often, to do different things every day and try something completely different every few months. Sometimes this includes tasks others have given you, and not just your own ideas. You can get bored of your own ideas, but other ideas are fresh.

Compulsive Worker

If you consider yourself to be working too much, it’s likely you have already convinced yourself of the benefits of work – greater focus, progress, enjoyment – but there could be an underlying reason why you feel the need to work compulsively that may be indicative of a problem. It can affect your fulfilment in life, as it did mine. In this blog post I’m going to focus on the drawbacks of the working-too-much mindset.

Oxford dictionary’s definition of a workaholic is ‘A person who compulsively works excessively hard and long hours’. I’m not necessarily talking about being a workaholic, but it can be a useful comparison to make to measure extremity and to test how much you enjoy working. I’m mainly discussing the problems a work-first/working-too-much mindset can cause when you’re self-employed or spend a lot of time indoors. It is in some part tied to the priorities you set in life and where you prefer to put your focus. For me, it was a pattern of thought that kept me reassured and comforted that everything was as it should be and that I was on the road to organisation and progress. As somebody on the autism spectrum who likes repetitive routines and organisation, it could be said I was vulnerable to intense work.

It’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly when working to the extreme is a problem, or to identify when you are working to an extreme, as opposed to doing what you should be doing. In my case, I realised it was a problem when I became aware there were a few things preventing me from moving forward in life, and I was helped around this time by a few individuals who pointed out my tunnel-vision approach to life. The main problem was stagnation and an inability to move forward, but it was accompanied by boredom and a miserable or cynical reaction to anything new or outside my chosen field of work. Where feelings were concerned, I suppose I felt emotional pain that all I had was my work, without having a clue how I could change it. I was less receptive to other people’s ideas, I would block out taking an interest in new things, and I would automate my life by the hour to increase productivity. Where the latter is concerned I seemed to think it was okay to be super organised, like a computer, because I was on the autism spectrum; I didn’t acknowledge that I had a human/non-computer side of me akin to a personality.

To generalise, many who have intense routines discover they can be a trap from which there is no return, short of a breakdown anyway. The ‘compulsive’ element takes over and when faced with situations outside of your routine you’re left with frustration, confusion, stagnation, boredom, and misery. It’s like you’re in a hole twenty-foot deep, and without the tools to get out of it all you can do is vent your emotions when things don’t go according to plan. You’ve left your life behind as you transport yourself into new arenas of work or projects you’re interested in, and you forget what defines you as a person.

When you focus too much on work you leave behind something crucial: that fire inside of you that inspires and guides you to become who you are meant to be. That fire is suppressed by an unnatural will to repeat your routine, focus intensely, and block out any ‘distractions’. The ironic thing is that it’s that fire you need to move forward, like a wheel, towards your future. You can’t always create that fire by trying. Sometimes you just need to take the pressure off, to allow distractions to do their work in giving you a break, and to try something new. For some who ‘become their work’, you forget who you are as a person, which interests drive you, and about the people who matter to you. You’re left with an empty husk, dedicated to self-imposed duty of work and without a guiding light. Nobody should allow themselves to get into this state. It isn’t living …

If you don’t feel well at any point over a period of a few days or a week, then this isn’t a good sign. Over-organising life is a skill minds are quite capable of, with great success in some cases, but it isn’t a template for living. In fact it can be obsessive. When you run a business you and your enjoyment in life are integral to your success. You must come before your business.

What is your experience of working compulsively?