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The only way to stay ahead is to learn how to learn

My wife sent this quote to me today. I think I’ll save it here as a reminder of the importance of learning as THE key skill that we all need to posses these days.

Idea of the Day: “In an uncertain and changing world, there is still a competitive advantage to being human,” writes Kellogg School of Management CIO Betsy Ziegler. One key way to stay ahead? Learn how to learn.

“Often students believe that once they cross the graduation stage, they are done – they have reached the finish line. In today’s world this is an impossible end point – they can not stand still, they must have the confidence and persistence to assess their skills, understand their gaps and seek help in closing them.”

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Reflections on what you need to be successful

I would highly recommend anyone watch this video.

This is Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com giving a lecture to students at his old University, London School of Economics.

This is of course useful for people starting out on their career journeys but I think it’s also worth a watch for those people already well into their career. Why? Because it’s worth reflecting on what (career) success is and what is required to achieve it.

Lewis suggests that there are 4 things you need to be successful:

  1. Talent
  2. Hard work
  3. Focus
  4. Luck

I think that intuitively we all know this but sometimes we don’t give luck the attention it deserves. Whether I think of myself as being successful in my career or not, if I examine it, I can certainly attribute a certain amount of luck to all of the professional roles I’ve ever had. In fact, more often than not it was luck and not talent that got me in the door.

Of course once inside, there was never any getting around the fact that hard work and focus really are the key attributes of success. We all know talented people who’ve never quite lived up to their potential. And we also know people who have exceeded all of the expectations of those around them. Why? Because they were willing to work hard.


On the subject of working 90 hours a week I think it’s important to point out that the speaker in this video is referring to a business that he was growing. He very much had a personal interest in the business and I suspect was engergised when he could see the correlation between his effort and the success of his business.

I’m less convinced about long hours for those treading well work career paths – lawyers, bankers, doctors etc. Why? Because unless this path is a vocation, I question how effective you can be when working over a certain number of hours.

There may very well be times when you just need to put your shoulder to the wheel in the short term but this kind of lifestyle isn’t sustainable long term. It also doesn’t afford you with time to recuperate, recharge and stay effective in the long term. Steven Covey called this ‘sharpening the saw’, the idea of balancing your resources, energy and health to create a sustainable lifestyle. Such an approach will leave room for reading, reflection and creative thinking which can be useful in accelerating ones’ career rather than getting busy being busy.

In fact, in an era of exponential technological change, our ability to think creatively, that most human of abilities may be the only thing that empowers us to maintain a sustainable career. To think creatively requires time and space.

By the way, there is research that suggets that productivity – output per working hour – improves with shorter working hours. Across the world’s richest countries, higher productivity correlates with lower working hours (see also OECD data).

Some of this is of course subjective and can depend on the individual. I for one can vouch that the amount of time it takes me to complete a task correlates directly with the amount of time I have available. In other words, even for minor projects, if I have lots of time available, the project will expand to fill the time rather leaving me with spare time to sip pina coladas. But that’s just me.

Final note, Ford’s original workers were found less productive working more than 40 hours a week, a situation likely to be even more the case for people who work with knowledge rather manually – who ever had their best ideas when they were exhausted?

Enjoy the video.

Summary of a great book called Drive by Dan Pink

Some highlights of my time at Dublin City University

Next month I will move to London and therein end (or postpone) a relationship I’ve had with Dublin City University for the last 5 and a half years. Considering I also completed my undergraduate studies at DCU, I’ve now spent eight and a half years of my adult life at DCU, nine and a half if I include Erasmus.

What does that mean for me? Well, if truth be told I feel integrated into DCU life and that’s something that I will find hard to turn my back on. I was part of DCU, a university with big ambition and some very dynamic people. As well as doing meaningful work, I’ve made some good friends at DCU. Unlike corporate environments where at times, people can put on a professional front, in a University people can be, and are expected to be themselves. As I look ahead, I find it difficult to align myself with a single profession. In DCU I’ve been lucky to wear a lot of hats! I have managed over 150 funded projects with industry from SMEs through to multinational companies. I coordinated the online delivery of a Masters in Management (Social Enterprise). I’ve taught students from undergrad through to postgrad level and I’ve supported mature students returning to education after a long time. That might not sound like much but consider what we take for granted as everyday tools such as Moodle, webinar technology, Google Apps and online library databases, returning to education can be a huge challenge. This becomes an even bigger challenge when ones thinks of part time exec students who are used to being the boss in their organisation and now find themselves working on teams with their student colleagues.

Life before DCU
After a short but reasonably successful (in terms of promotions etc.) career in financial services, my girlfriend, now fiancé and I packed our bags in 2008 and set off on a yearlong round the world trip. I left a well-paid corporate banking position at Ulster Bank that I liked, a lot. I had been growing in confidence in my position and abilities and I had spent the previous year and a half making a huge effort to integrate myself into the organisation and get to know colleagues across lots of different departments. This is something that not everybody did. Banks, like civil service organisations can be, or at least were quite segmented organisations. Upon reflection, I realise that building these internal relationships has been one of my strengths as it has often allowed me to bypass bureaucracy and get things done more quickly than other colleagues. Anyway, I was in the career stream and had a manager who believed in my abilities and took every opportunity to highlight my achievements to senior management. In 2008 when I handed in my notice, Ireland was very much on the precipice of a new reality that we now simply call “the Recession”. Back then though, nobody wanted to talk about recession and instead used words like “soft landing” and in the banking world where I worked – “the credit crunch”. The day that I handed in my notice and told my boss that I was going to leave this great job to go backpacking, he told me that I had just been promoted but it hadn’t been made official yet. He asked me if I was sure about what I was doing. After all he said, the Ireland that I would return to in 12 months might look very different to the Ireland that we were in then. For years during the boom, young people had been leaving good jobs to go and hang out in Sydney for a year only to walk straight back into their old jobs when they returned. My boss and I knew that those days were over. Sure enough, when I arrived back in Ireland a year later I met that boss and another Director of the bank for lunch and they told me of the organisation wide recruitment freeze. In an odd twist, I learned of a colleague who had started at the same time as me was offered a redundancy and was going to stick the payment in his back pocket and …… go travelling for a year. Good for him I thought!

Returning to education
I wasn’t heartbroken though. As much as I had loved working in corporate banking, I never dreamt of working there as a child (who does?) and so I went back to education to do a Masters in eCommerce at Dublin City University. As depressing as those days were in 2009 from an economic point of view, I felt quite positive and looked forward to learning new things and creating new opportunities. The course was tough. There is something about Business School education that seems to demand so much from course participants. It’s not just about good time management. The workload was huge, partly due to a brand new 20 credit module which was being piloted that year and also the amount of team work involved. Once team work is introduced to the mix, you are no longer in control of your own schedule. When working on multiple teams on multiple projects, it can be incredibly difficult to coordinate times to meet and work together. Sounds like no big deal? Throw personal commitments such as relationships and working to pay the bills into the mix. Personal relationships are most certainly challenged! I experienced that but I have seen it time and time again since I have worked in DCU. But that’s for another post. Still, one of the great things about completing the programme that year more so than any other year of that programme before then or since is that there was a diverse range of people participating. I was not the only one returning to education and trying to define a new path for myself! There was a good balance of genders and the age range went from 22 – 50.

University life or back to corporate?
At the end of the year, the Course Chair who I had gotten to know asked me if I would like to come and work with him as his Research Assistant. The job would not be well paid but I would have opportunities to work on some very interesting projects and with some interesting clients, continue learning, work with smart people and do some travelling. At the very same time, my old boss from Ulster Bank got in touch to let me know that a position comparable to the one that I had left two years previously had become available and would I like to return. That was a tough decision to call. The Ulster Bank position was far more lucrative and offered a clearly defined career path. DCU on the other hand wasn’t well paid and had no clear career path. It did however offer me the chance to continue learning and work in education. It was a tough decision to call. At the time there was a lot of negative press about the banks. This certainly had an effect on me. I recall meeting up with a former colleague to ask their advice on what I should do and I remember they implored me NOT to come back. The bad press, the pressure to manage toxic relationships and loan facilities of clients who were no longer able to meet their commitments and new regulatory requirements meant that the working atmosphere in the bank wasn’t what I had remembered. In the end I made a decision based on values. I valued learning and further, I realised that there are few careers more satisfying and valuable than education. I wanted to create value by supporting SMEs and teaching. I found it difficult to see value in calling in bad debts. And so in the spirit of Robert Frosts “The Road Not Taken”, I chose the less trodden and less clearly defined path of DCU.

So what’s the goal of this meandering post? Well, for anyone that takes the time to read it, I just wanted to rationalise why, in 2010 I made the career choice to work in DCU rather than in banking. Also, I’ve already highlighted some of the types of work that I did while in DCU but I would also like to record some highlights of my time at DCU in terms of fun and interesting experiences. This is as much for my own benefit as anyone reading! For potential employers, hopefully this post will convince you that I haven’t spent the last four and a half years sitting in an office reading books!

  • 2010 Attended World Expo in Shanghai, China
  • 2010 Returned to Shanghai to deliver a series of Social Media Marketing Bootcamps at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade
  • 2011 Attended the BETT Show, the world’s leading technology in education trade show
  • 2011 Research trip to the United States. Drove from Boston to New York and then New York to San Francisco. Flew from San Francisco to LA. Along the way we visited:
    • University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
    • Centre for Talented Youth, John Hopkins University, Baltimore
    • Velocidi, New York
    • Enterprise Ireland, New York
    • Slingshot SEO, Indianapolis, Indiana
    • University of Illinois, Chicago
    • PayPal, Omaha, Nebraska
    • Intellectual Ventures, MountainView, California
    • Klout, San Francisco
    • ClickStream Technologies, San Francisco
    • Happeo, San Francisco
    • School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
  • 2011 Coordinated and led a research trip to Bangalore India for Masters Students. The trip included visiting companies such as:
    • Accenture
    • PerceptKnorigin
    • Microsoft Research Labs
    • Professional Access
    • Project Management Group
    • Attended a 2 day Search Engine Marketing conference
    • Ninestars
    • Google Labs
    • IBM Innovation Centre
    • We also attended a two day Search Engine Marketing Summit where we got to learn about the state of search marketing in India.
  • 2011: Coordinated and led a research trip to Shanghai and Beijing, China for Masters Students. Some highlights included:
    • Visiting the Irish community in Shanghai
    • Visiting Tourism Ireland to learn about how they are packaging Irelands value proposition as a leisure destination for Chinese travellers
    • Visiting Ireland House to learn about the local activities of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA
    • Meeting the Head of Marketing (an Irish lady) at PepsiCo for the APAC region and learning about marketing in a very different cultural environment than what we are used to in Ireland
    • Walking the Great Wall of China
    • Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing
  • 2012: Attended the Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • 2012: Delivered a two day Digital Marketing Bootcamp for UK Business School Deans at Cass Business School, City University London
  • 2012: Coordinated and launched an online Masters in Business Management (Innovation in Social Enterprise) to be delivered to social entrepreneurs in Ireland and Wales
  • 2013: Delivered a 2 day digital marketing bootcamp to social entrepreneurs at University of Bangor, Wales
  • 2013: Tokyo Japan. Business meetings and delivered a social media workshop to business students at Musashino University.
  • 2014: Coordinated Irish researchers to go to Japan in a drive to increase collaboration with Japanese companies, research institutions and universities. The four-day visit, organised by ISCA Japan (Science Foundation Ireland’s new Ireland-Japan science collaboration programme), in close cooperation with IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Embassy of Ireland in Japan focused on information and communications technology research with a particular emphasis on big data analytics and cloud computing. The visit commenced on September 30th and included meetings with leading Japanese and multinational corporations, research institutions and universities to present Irish ICT research and identify opportunities for collaboration. It culminated in a one-day conference on Friday, October 3rd at the Delegation of the European Union in Japan, entitled “EU-Japan R&D Cooperation, Horizon 2020 and the Irish ICT Research Opportunity.” With over 100 attendees, the conference was addressed by representatives of the European Union, the Japanese and Irish Governments, Fujitsu Laboratories, and the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
  • 2015: Coordinated and led a research trip to Bangalore India for Digital Marketing Masters students. We stayed in the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. As well as attending a number of sessions for educating expats on doing business in India, the trip included visiting companies such as IBM Innovation Centre, Edelman India and IPG Media Brands India. We also built in a number of cultural visits including a visit to Mysore, one of South India’s most famous tourist destinations ,known for its magnificent monuments and buildings including its World Heritage listed palace.
  • On top of all of this, I have organised a number of conferences covering topics such as Social Media, Start Ups, Mobile Technology and Cloud Computing.

I could write blog posts about each of these highlights. Perhaps I will reflect on that another day. In the meantime, I look forward to the challenge ahead in London with mixed emotions

Another inspirational advert from Nike

World number one Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods star in this inspirational new Nike advertisement. It shows McIlroy progressing as a player from his childhoor right through to emulating his hero Tiger Woods ahead of the 2015 Masters Golf Tournament.

Great video: Dr. Randy Pausch, the Last Lecture, Achieving your Childhood Dreams

I’ve watched this video before and can highly recommend the book, but if you have time over the next few days, this video is incredibly moving and inspirational. There is a lot of wisdom here, particularly at this time of the year as we reflect on how are life is proceeding and make plans and resolutions for the New Year ahead. Happy New Year 🙂


 

Gaelforce Training Update

#Gaelforce training update: Last week I was was away on holiers. Luckily Michelle Conaghan didn’t mind me getting in some training while we were away so I did three Spinning sessions, 3 * 10km runs, a session of circuit training and some gym work. In July I ran or cycled about 250km on top of some other bits and pieces of gym training etc. On Monday coming I’m looking forward to testing myself in the RockNRoll Half Marathon (21.09km) in Dublin. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever ran that distance so will be a good test. GaelForce is still two weeks away so still some training to do – getting a bit worried about it now. Anyway, I’ve been doing this for BUMBLEance, a children’s transport ambulance service. Why is Bumbleance a good idea? Well, it makes transporting very sick children a much less frightening experience for them. Bumbleance is part of a charity called the Saoirse Foundation. If you don’t know it, if you get a chance I’d recommend looking it up. The story of the organisation and the people behind it is both terribly sad but also inspiring. Anyway, if you’d like to sponsor me I’ve created a fundraising page on iDonate.ie here: http://ow.ly/zJWkF.

Emotive advertisement that will make you think about paying it forward!

Need motivation? – Watch this video – Rise and Shine

Okay so I know that this is an advertisement for Nike but it’s still a great video. It’s definitely one for anybody who feels demotivated to go training either first thing in the morning or after work when you’ve had a hard day and just want to collect a curry on the way home!

“Rise and shine. It’s 6am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you that it’s too early, too dark, and too cold to get out of a bed
Aching muscles lie still in rebellion, pretending not to hear your brain commanding them to move
A legion of voices are shouting their unanimous permission for you to hit the snooze button and go back to dreamland, but you didn’t ask their opinion
The voice you’ve chosen to listen to is one of defiance
A voice that’s says there was a reason you set that alarm in the first place. So sit up, put your feet on the floor, and don’t look back because we’ve got work to do
Welcome to The Grind!
For what is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way,
10,000 streams fan out like a river delta before you, Each one promising the path of least resistance.
Thing is, you’re headed upstream
And when you make that choice, when you decide to turn your back on what’s comfortable and what’s safe and what some would call “common sense”, well that’s day 1
From there it only gets tougher
So just make sure this is something you want.
Because the easy way out will always be there, ready to wash you away, all you have to do is pick up your feet.
But you aren’t going to are you?
With each step comes the decision to take another
You’re on your way now
But this is no time to dwell on how far you’ve come.
You’re in a fight against an opponent you can’t see
Oh but you can feel him on your heels can’t you?
Feel him breathing down your neck
You know what that is?
That’s you…
Your fears, your doubts and insecurities all lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out of the sky
But don’t lose heart
While they aren’t easily defeated, they are far from invincible
Remember this is The Grind
The Battle Royale between you and your mind, your body and the devil on your shoulder who’s telling you that this is just a game, this is just a waste of time, your opponents are stronger than you.
Drown out the voice of uncertainty with the sound of your own heartbeat
Burn away your self doubt with the fire that’s beneath you
Remember what you’re fighting for
And never forget that momentum is a cruel mistress
She can turn on a dime with the smallest mistake.
She is ever searching for that weak place in your armor
That one tiny thing you forgot to prepare for
So as long as the devil is hiding the details, the question remains,”is that all you got?”, “are you sure?”
And when the answer is “yes”. That you’ve done all you can to prepare yourself for battle THEN it’s time to go forth and boldly face your enemy, the enemy within
Only now you must take that fight into the open, into hostile territory
You’re a lion in a field of lions
All hunting the same elusive prey with a desperate starvation that says VICTORY is the only thing that can keep you alive
So believe that voice that says “you CAN run a little faster” and that “you CAN throw a little harder” and that “you CAN dive a little deeper” and that, for you, the laws of physics are merely a suggestion.
So rise and shine.
Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident.
Sweat on the other hand is for those who know it’s a choice.
So decide now because destiny waits for no man.
And when your time comes and a thousand different voices are trying to tell you
that you’re not ready for it,
listen instead to that lone voice of descent,
that one voice that says:
“you are ready”
“you are prepared”.
It’s all up to you now………………….so rise and shine!”

Focus on the positive stuff!

I love this scene from Kellys Heroes. I take a look at it now and again when I need a laugh or need some positive energy!

Oddball (Donald Sutherland) “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves. Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here. Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change”.

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