Tag Archives: experience

Lessons learnt from hardship

We are exposed to challenges at every stage of our lives. As newly born babies we come into this world totally oblivious. We are then taught by our parents to speak, walk and become independent of our parents so we can move about freely without their assistance. At school we, are exposed to our first real interactions with people. We have disagreements with other children but through the experience and guidance of our parents we learn what is right and wrong.  Then as we embark on our student lives, we are thrust into a different environment that requires a greater level of independence. We have to meet deadlines, be punctual in our attendance at lectures and seminars and learn how to manage our workload, and balancing our studies with our social lives. Here too we learn to develop the qualities that make us into the people we are going to be in our working lives. Then we enter into relationships, we get married and set up home with our partners. Here too we learn about life’s challenges and it is our very wisdom and ability to deal with change that will determine how successful we are.

Now as you are reading this you are probably wondering all this is fine well, what is the point here. The point is that this is what life’s model looks like if thing go smoothly. However, the trouble is life doesn’t always go smoothly. Unforeseen events occur that upset this model. This is where the hardship comes in. People are totally unprepared for this. People experience these unforeseen events in different forms. They could be involved in an accident and face life changing injuries, they could become ill and have to endure painful treatment and operations, loved ones could pass away, they could face bankruptcy, be made homeless.  There are people who survive this hardship then there are those people who fall at the first hurdle and fall victim to the hardship. However, the difference between facing up to the hardship and giving into it is to keep your mind intact. The human mind is a really powerful tool.  If you can keep it together you can keep everything else together. This is the starting point.

The other thing you have to remember about life is that it will not always be comfortable. There will be bumps and scrapes along the way, and you may even fall down and have to get back up. There will always be something that won’t be right. The getting up part is the hardest. In general, I believe that people who experience hardship earlier on in their lives are more prepared and mentally stronger for the challenges that hardship throws up. The mistake people make in their lives is that they don’t take it seriously until something bad has happened to them. Yes it will be scary, you will want to cry and you may just want to hide from your problems. The important thing to remember is to stand tall when disaster strikes, and be prepared for it. Mental conditioning is very important.

Sadly, it is a great concern that Generation Y in society is growing up to expect that things will be done for them automatically, that they will graduate from college and university and walk straight into a high paying job. That is simply not the case for the majority of people out there. Life’s dynamics are changing partly due to changes brought about by the global recession. Only the fittest and bravest survive and if you can become resilient in facing up to hardships you can prevail in overcoming problems.  From a personal point of view here are the things I have learnt from hardship:

  • Self –sufficiency – Being a self starter, not having to rely on anybody else but myself in my personal life. I learnt that one can complete a task quicker without having to wait for others.
  • Certainty – Having the courage and the conviction to make the call on a difficult issue when others around me didn’t.
  • Patience – When things were not going my way, allowing them to run their course and abstain from making unnecessary interventions that would otherwise jeopardize the outcome.
  • Physical endurance – I used to play rugby at school and was also part of the school’s Athletics team during which time I really developed myself physically. When I was at University, I was diagnosed with an illness which required intensive medication and corrective surgery. I had two major surgeries 7 months apart. When the surgeon operated on me and I made a remarkable recovery, he said that if it wasn’t for my physical fitness I would not have made a good recovery. So it definitely pays to be in good physical shape.
  • Mental endurance – The combination of participating in competitive sports at school and dealing with an illness really brought about the best in me mentally. I became more ambitious as a person and also resilient, motivated, calm and collected. I learned how to cope with problems and having the mental capacity to put up with stressful situations.
  • Self-motivation – While others at university and work struggled to keep themselves motivated my attitude always exceeded expectations. Nobody had to tell me to do something. For me it was a part of my everyday routine. I even tackled the most boring of tasks and viewed them as challenges that had to be met.
  • Obedience – This has a lot to do my conformity to cultural norms and values that in turn have shaped my principles when times were rough. Obedience has earned me the respect of others, and I am now seen by others in a positive light when I communicate with them.
  • Posture – A person’s posture is very important. Thanks to exercise, I was able to improve my posture because I wasn’t very tall. To improve my posture, I embarked on a series of simple yoga techniques. I did these regularly for a year and noticed a remarkable transformation. I didn’t slouch anymore and instead walked very upright, shoulders back and chin forwards. This added a whole new edge to me as a person, especially in terms on my height as it gave me a physical presence I previously didn’t have.
  • Principles – One of the most important things I have learnt in life is what I am comfortable and uncomfortable with. Some of these principles have been instilled in me by my parents, others I have developed throughout life. I essentially see my principles as my own codes of conduct that guide me through life’s many challenges.

The process of life is an evolution in itself. It would be very strange if one person spent their lives not adapting to the challenges it posed. Does a perfect life exist? I don’t think so but we do strive for it. There is always something that isn’t right about our lives. Just ask the extremely wealthy celebrities who end up in rehabilitation therapy. Learn how to anticipate the unexpected and learn as much as you can from each challenge in life whether it is minor or major. Build a solid foundation within yourself because when the storms of life hit you, you will stand resolute and emerge strong.


Why having a wider skills set is better!

I was at home in my bed at the weekend nursing a twisted knee which was mind – numbingly painful. As I lay there moaning and groaning in pain. A random thought arose in my mind. That thought was that a person needs absolutely no experience to set up their own business but when they wanted to say apply for a business development position or other, they probably wouldn’t get the job because they had no specific experience. How odd I thought to myself. People who run their own businesses are just as capable as the people who do the regular 9 to 5 jobs of their counterparts. To run your own business, one needs to be pretty decisive and not shy away from doing the dirty work. In many respects you need to be a jack of all trades, and in many cases that is where the lessons one has learnt in life come in handy. You have a pretty big in-tray of work daily as you juggle marketing, sales management, administration, order processing etc. You don’t have specific targets as such but one big moving target all the time which is the product and/or service you are selling.

The global recession has resulted in many business failures because finance has dried up leaving a lot of entrepreneurs to pick up the pieces. So my question is shouldn’t these people be top of the interview pile when they to apply for vacant positions because they have so much to offer?  Does one really need to have specific experience in a specific field to be good at the job, or is experience gained over a certain length of time in a general field more worthwhile? I believe that in a depressed economy, it may be more economical to employ someone who has a wide range of skills rather than one skill. I think time has come when it should be perfectly possible and indeed permissible to have one person performing two functions. People who have a wide ranging skills set are more likely to have the appetite and capacity for learning new skills and taking on additional responsibility.

How to develop interest in something

Imagine a scenario where you have successfully obtained a job after a grueling interview and selection process. You have had two interviews. One with the HR Manager and the other with the Director and have also completed a practical exercise. You answered all the questions with great accuracy and intelligence and aced the practical exercise. The job you have been recruited to do requires knowledge of several industry sectors that you aren’t really familiar with but the employer has decided to put you on their payroll on merit.  It is your first day on the job and your first task is to find out about an industry you know nothing about and have zero interest in.

So what do you do, where do you start? The first thing to do is not to panic. Interest can be developed. You just need to ignite a little spark in you. It is said that it takes around 10,000 hours (416 days) to become an expert in something, and there may even be set backs along the way in your quest to achieve this. Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb failed 10,000 times before he got it right so don’t let your head drop if you fail a few times. So what does the master plan of developing interest in a subject involve? Interest is basically a by-product of experience. Generally, the more experiences we have in life, the more exposure we get to certain things and this in turn helps fuel the appetite for developing our interest in something. Exposure therefore is a pre-cursor to developing interest. What must follow is a pursuit to actively and purposefully develop the interest. Here are a few tips to do just that:

  • Gather information about the subject
  • Immerse yourself in the subject matter
  • Learn some basic knowledge about the subject by devoting 15 minute each day
  • Gradually ramp up the time you spend learning about the subject
  • Enroll on a course if possible – structured learning aids the process of developing interest in a subject because the information is presented in a way that is easily digested by the reader
  • Talk to other people – have discussions about the subject
  • Renew your interest and knowledge in the subject by staying in touch with the literature – sign up to blogs, subscribe to newsletters and RSS feeds, bookmark favorite websites.

In summary, the above points represent simple tips that can be adopted to help us generate interest in a subject and in the long run develop a better understanding of it. All that is needed is a little adjustment on your part and a can-do attitude. If you can do that then you are already half way there.