Surviving the classroom warzone

Photo courtesy of KT King

Photo courtesy of KT King via Flickr

Under the eastern windows are the cool kids: not very clever, but cool. Under the western windows are the clever kids: not very cool, but clever. Like every day, the cool kids are bombarding the good kids with everything they’ve got and the good kids are fighting back with everything they’ve got. Ammunition of every kind is flying back and forth in the classroom and out.

I’m 9 and stuck in the trenches in the middle, with a tiny white flag, taking hits from both sides and desperately (but not very effectively) trying to survive this new school: number 10 of the 13 I would attend in 3 different continents by the time I turned 12.

Then someone gives me an olive branch. Another boy who, like me, is holding a white flag and is stuck in the middle of a bloody battle between the eastern block and the western front.

We talk, become friends and form our own coalition of two against the world; a very weak alliance in the current warzone of the classroom, but one that gives me hope – the single thing that keeps me going (and one I would lose as soon as I changed schools again).

Fast track a few years and I am now 17, sitting in the 2nd violin section of a summer camp orchestra making a flautist smile – not very helpful when one is trying to control one’s breath. During the break we talk and laugh together, along with the group of other friends I have. Not only do I now have several friends, but I no longer care about being labeled “weird”, “strange” or “different”.

So how did I go from being alone against the world to being part of a group of friends, able to smile at girls I didn’t know? Confidence. That big word that means so much and yet so little. But understanding what confidence is, how much it means and how easy it is to develop, allowed me to survive those years in the warzone of the classroom and break out of my shell of solitude and shyness.

There are many ways to develop confidence, but here I would like to describe what I call the Teddy BEAR process. It goes like this: our Thoughts influence our Beliefs, which influence our Emotions, which influence our Actions, which influence our Results. So to change the results, we need to change our thoughts and beliefs. Here is a quick example in action: I think, “I don’t answer quickly enough.” That leads to the belief, “I am stupid because I don’t answer quickly”. That leads to an emotion of fear at being asked questions, starting a conversation, or speaking to a girl. That leads to the action of avoiding any situation in which I might be asked something: interviews, approaching people etc. That leads to the result of me being a shy, reserved person who doesn’t step outside my comfort zone.

So what can you do about this? How can you break out?

Here is my RID method to doing so:

1) Recognise that there is a problem. The first sentence people say when they join AA is, “Hi, my name is… And I am an alcoholic.” Why is that? Because the first to overcoming a problem is recognising there is a problem. Most shy people know they are shy, so this step is usually not so hard.

2) Identify what the faulty thinking is. What are the thoughts and beliefs that are causing the shyness? Eg: Is it a belief that they are stupid? This is probably the hardest step and often needs to be done with a trusted someone who is willing to ask the necessary questions to delve deeper. It will also require the person to accept to do some soul searching to find the answers.

3) Deal with the problem. Once the faulty thinking has been identified, change it. Change the thoughts; change the beliefs to more useful ones. It is difficult to give examples, as there are many ways to deal with the large number of beliefs that lead to people becoming shy.

Now practice the new thoughts; road-test them. Put yourself into situations where you would normally have been shy and, with those new glasses; investigate whether things are still like they were. Just remember that this is a new You, one who has nothing to do with the You before you went through the process. So be prepared for something to be different.
With enough practice, this method can become second nature and you can beat shyness.

For further resources that didn’t fit into this article, go to


The criticism that kills

This morning, I woke up feeling really low because last night I got negative feedback. “You’re trying too hard” was what they said. “You’re taking more than your share”. If I was a salesman, that would be more than my share of the clients. If I was a on a team, that might be more than my share of the boss’ attention.

On any other day, I would have been fine. I would shrug it off, ensure I give more of my time and keep going about my day, balancing how much I take with how much I give. But today, I have a build up of negative self talk; a build up of problems that individually would be easy to overcome, but together bring me to my knees. The speech I am supposed to be writing for my gig in a mere month’s time, the lawn that is getting too long while the mower gets fixed, the daughter that wants a daddy to play with her, the bills that want me to get paid so I can pay them – the build up of things that need my attention and my utter lack of ability to deal with them all has accumulated to the point where I just can’t cope any more. Then comes the criticism. Like twisting your ankle while you try and crawl home, battered, bruised and sore, after losing a fight, it appears much bigger than it actually is.

The thing is, as a speaker you are selling yourself. So when someone tells you they don’t like the speech you gave, or that your website could be improved, or that you are taking more than your share, the step to thinking they are criticising you, not your product, is very small and very easy to make.

It would appear that I am not alone in this situation. Apparently there are other people out there somewhere who also sometimes feel low. People who also get negative feedback and let their positivity be overridden by that feedback. My good friend Tom O’Neil tells me that having times when you are feeling low, rejected, as though the world doesn’t like you is normal, to be expected, happens all the time to everyone he knows. Even though he is an international speaker, top selling international author and regular contributor to the NZ Herald (among other publications), he insits he has been through phases like that in the past. (Surely not! I think. Someone as successful and proactive as Tom can surely never have doubted himself!).

The big question is what do you do when that feeling hits? Do you let it get you down to the point you fall out of being proactive to just being reactive, hoping to therefore stay under the radar of those people (the ones with your best interest at heart, of course) who say you take more than your share? Is the answer really to listen to them and stop taking? How do you react when you are in the ditch and feel like every passing car is throwing rubbish out their window, using you as target practice? (Just a passing thought: Is it that you take too much? Or is it that they are actually afraid to ask and resent you for having the confidence to simply go out and get what you really want?)

Here is the advice Tom gave me; advice that got me back into the driver’s seat of my car. Advice that I would like to put out there for those of you who have experienced feeling like I did this morning and would like to avoid doing so again:

Experiencing fear, being criticised, having problems, feeling low and depressed is like driving really fast over a small hill on a country road. There comes that moment where the car lifts slightly, your stomach lurches up into your throat and you feel like you are weightless. It is both a thrilling and scary feeling. In that moment, there are two ways you could go:

  • You could listen to the fear, let go of the steering wheel to hudle into a corner, lose control of the car, miss the corner just behind the jump, go off the road and have a nasty accident
  • Or you can choose to grip the steering wheel even tighter, remember why you are driving on this road (i.e. what your ultimate goal is), concentrate and correct your direction as necessary, so you make the corner, stay in control and continue driving towards your destination, with increased experience and a story to tell.

Tom reminded me that fear and experiencing problems is not the problem. Letting those problems rule your life and take over your rational thinking is the problem. Not getting back on the horse and continuing to ride like the devil is the problem. Allowing others to dictate how you feel is the problem.

Why are you in the position you are in? What is your goal? Where do you want to be in 1, 3, 5 years time? By concentrating on the goal, you realise that in 5 years time, the problems you experience today won’t really have any importance. If anything, they will only have made you stronger, given you things to talk about, enable you to tell the new recruits that they are not alone in feeling this way. You realise that a positive person would say that these problems are actually just glitches – really useful glitches – they are actually the things that make the journey worth taking. They make the stories.

And think about it: how many of you would have read this post if the content of this post was, “Today was a completely normal day. Things went exactly as planned. No surprises.”

These ‘problems’ are the spice of life. Enjoy them, embrace them and learn from them. Just make sure you have your seatbelt on. My seatbelt is called Tom O’Neil. Thank you Tom.*

Who is your seatbelt?

*Please check out his website:


Self- (confidence, awareness, respect, preservation…)

“Last year, selfie was named International Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries, so how about self- as Word of the Age? That’s not self on its own, but self- the prefix, as in self-portrait, self-parody, self-referential and maybe a little self-obsessed. It expresses the zeitgeist. It runs like a red thread through the words that are written, spoken and read everywhere, by everyone from self-made pop culture icons and self-appointed bloggers to the self-satisfied guardians of high culture.

Trends from Havas

“Creating a positive self-image is now recognized as a vital task for everyone, boosted by good measures of self-confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline, self-respect and self-regard. Getting those right sets off a self-reinforcing process, especially for energetic self-starters. On the other hand, people who are prone to self-doubt or self-pity might want to try a little self-compassion and self-acceptance as part of a self-directed self-improvement program. Self-conscious or self-critical people might find this all a little too self-absorbed, whereas others could find it positively self-aware.”

In continual disagreement with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and in continual agreement with the quote above (from the Havas Worldwide white paper on the top 10 trends of 2015), I see self-confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline, self-respect and self-regard as vital qualities in today’s world. OK, maybe I am biased, but I still think that the Law of Attraction has got it sorted and that whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

So what are YOU doing to self-improve? How are YOU growing your confidence? Here’s 3 ways for people with little confidence in a particular area:

1) Decide, for no better reason than you have decided, that you will be more confident today.
Just deciding to be confident gives you confidence. Confident people don’t look for reasons to be confident, they just decide they are confident. The reason why you choose to wear that particular T-shirt, pair of trousers, skirt or hat is just as valid as the reason you choose to feel confident. It is all in the mind.

2) Reduce the tension.
Fear creates tension and tension is not helpful in overcoming lack of confidence. So with that new-found confidence (from deciding to be confident today), let go of the nervousness. Take a deep breath and let the tension go. Do it several times, until the tension has gone. Now you are ready to:

3) Take a (calculated) risk.
Confidence is the memory of past successes. If you want to build your past successes, you have to take risks. When you realise that those risks paid off (that you didn’t die), you can count it as a success and add it to the bank of past successes on which to build your confidence.

So now you can go out and conquer the world. Failing that, at least conquer your fear of talking to a stranger. Or that girl/boy you have the hots for. Or your lack of self-confidence!


Why Fear is Like Sickness

I have been sick these last two days. Low energy, lying around, watching YouTube, not eating much… And of course, not getting any work done.

Fear is a sickness

That got me thinking, that these are the symptoms of when I procrastinate. When I feel fear. If Fear is in control, it takes my energy away and forces me to lie around, not doing any work. The difference, is that if I am sick, I notice it, because I am not always sick. I also do something about it: go and see the doctor, take medicine, get some rest, eat healthy food (if I eat at all)… Whereas with fear, if I notice it, I usually try and rationalise it away: “I really should be preparing that presentation. Why am I walking towards the fridge? Oh well, since I’m here, I might as well get myself a piece of cheese and a gherkin….” I don’t think to myself “This is not normal. I am not usually this afraid of preparing a presentation, I should contact The Confidence Doctor (read Guy) and see if he can tell me what is going on and what I can do to reduce the cause of this lack of activity and general inaction…”

So where to from here?

Well, I’m back on my feet (hence this article, which I could not have written yesterday) and therefore back to work. Does fear still control me? Sure it does! Who can say that they control fear in every aspect of their lives? I would love to meet that person!

Just remember to treat fear as a sickness – find out why you have it, get some help with identifying it (it likes to hide and fight for its survival, like a monster), then treat it, take the medicine and get yourself healthy again!


Don’t worry, be happy!

How many times have we heard that message? yet I still come across clients who are focusing on the bad, the uncertain, the fact they should not be worrying….

Looking at the world in the right way

How often do you focus on the negative, rather than the positive? How often do you remind yourself that you are actually lucky? If you are reading this, you are lucky you can read. You are lucky you can see. You are lucky to have a device on which to read it. You are lucky to have the time to be able to read it. You are lucky to be able to think about what it means and whether you are focusing on the positive. You are lucky to consider yourself lucky. Ok, now we’re getting silly. But you get the idea.

Focus on what you have and you will increase it. Focus on what you do not have and you will increase that. Your choice.


Bullying boxing and giving back

A girl gets bullied. As she is walking home, she notices women walking into a boxing gym and follows them in. She gets invited in and given boxing gloves to start training. Back on the street, she gets bullied again, but this time stands up to the bully. The bully walks away. Already a great message and one I mention often: a person’s reaction is vital in determining whether or not they are bullied. But this video takes it a step further and shows the -now grown- girl inviting another little girl in to learn how to fight. Yes, this could be a normal day on the street in any town. However it is the video to the song “Dynamite” by Karise Eden. Karise has an amazing voice and by adding the idea of giving back to this video has taken the message to a whole new level. Watch it here: