The Sokanu Blog

Helping you find your passion in life

Written by Spencer Thompson

In both our personal and professional lives, we are constantly striving to do better. Few people flat-line in life, happy with no growth at all. This is probably due to a combination of media and expectations. Is striving to do better a bad thing? No, of course not. But sometimes, the reason why we are striving to do better, is what can be a negative. And more often than not, it has to do with our influences.

Many people that we consider ‘unsuccessful’ are the ones that have had negative, or indifferent influences growing up. It is a psychological destroyer if a baby has no motherly contact or love from the time they are born. This lack of a connection leads to many problems growing up. But looking at successful individuals, (not rich necessarily, but people that have achieved a level of success in their field) we notice that many of them say that role models and mentors are a big reason behind their success. 

Mentors and role models can be a very positive thing, and sometimes they can be negative. The positives are obvious; you have someone that has ‘been there, done that’ and can help you avoid pitfalls, they have a network already and they can help you learn at a much faster pace. But we have to be careful who our mentors are. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, they can influence us in a way that is not conducive to our goals, but what they would have done if they were in our shoes. 

Of course, not all influences are ‘physical’ people we talk to, many role models come from books, music, TV and now, the Internet.

When you take a look at the number of people in your industry trying to succeed, ask yourself - what is their driving force? Is it to reach their personal goals? Or is it to impress others? Very often many of the decisions we make, whether we think so or not, are to impress the people around us, even if we don’t know who they are.

Realizing this can allow us to alter the way that we think about success. Success is not making other people see how much you have achieved. It is about making you happy with how much you have achieved. There is a profound difference. One scenario is done entirely for the wrong reasons. The other is what makes us intrinsically tick, which is the most important thing in life.

To put this in perspective, let’s take the example of an entrepreneur. We’ve all heard of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Richard Branson and Oprah. Their businesses are all totally different. Some are in technology, some are in natural resources, others media. But the common thread is that none of these people really ‘played by the rules’. Bill Gates started a company after dropping out of Harvard. Steve Jobs helped co-found Apple, and then left, and then came back. Not exactly the norm.  Richard Branson has admitted to poor financial business skills, yet has built eight separate one billion dollar companies. Again, not normal. The point I am trying to make, is that if most of these entrepreneurs had allowed themselves to be influenced by people that took them away from what their gut told them to do, or were building their companies to “impress others”, they would not have been as successful. 

When it comes to careers, many people will offer their opinions on what you should do with your life. But if you are only trying to make yourself happy, and achieve your own goals, what others say should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. Many times people will have your best interest at heart, but remember that they are not you. Whatever you choose to do in life, take the advice that resonates with you, use it, and discard the rest. Your life, simply based on genetics, can never be the same as someone else’s. Everyone’s path is different, and that is what makes humans so unique.

We have many choices. We can choose to live our lives the way that makes us the happiest. Or we can choose to live our lives trying to impress others, many of whom we don’t know, just because we think that is the right thing to do. It’s totally up to you, since as with everything, it’s your choice.

Written by Renee Masur

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”― May Sarton

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Be yourself. Since I was a kid, I’ve been told that who we are is exactly who we need to be. No one should be able to change us. And if they try, we shouldn’t give them the power. We are the ones who change us. It takes some navigating to figure out how to be yourself. We learn to be ourselves. It takes plenty of mistakes, which personally, provides me with some comfort.

I’ve learned a lot about my personality so far: what I look for in other people, in my work, how I react in good and terrible situations, what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I value, how I lead or follow, when I speak my mind, when I feel afraid, what gets me excited and what takes my energy. There are so many facets to who we are that we discover all the time. Being yourself is not trying to hide anything. When who you are by yourself is consistent with who you are around other people, you are the most authentic version of yourself.

When you are being yourself, you radiate a sense of realness that attracts people. They like you. They care enough to build a relationship with you. I read somewhere that people who embarrass easily are perceived as more trustworthy, as if their rosy complexion was a like a fire where people gather for warmth.

To be authentically you is creating your own fire because you radiate warmth from your own authentic fire. We can all tell when someone is putting on another voice, or personality, or speaking to us over their metaphorical wall. Walls are symbolic signs of protection and keep out-ness. When someone puts up their walls, the people who interact with them naturally back off. No one wants to show up to the party uninvited (unless you’re *that* person).

Authenticity puts the Be in Be Yourself. To be is to find contentment in yourself. To be. Or not to be. Someone once said that was a question. But I digress…

Being is not a question mark, it is a firm period punctuation. You are what you are. Find contentment in who you are by being happy with yourself. It’s not necessarily something that you need to strive for. Finding contentment with who you are can happen right now. One of the hardest times for me to find contentment is on a sunny summer day when I have no plans. It drives me crazy! I’m riddled with thoughts that I should be doing something awesome and usually think that time I spend idly that day is a waste. Basically, on a day when I should be enjoying the sunny day for its own sake I can’t, because I think that what I am doing (or not doing) isn’t good enough. Part of being is letting go of those things that make us anxious and enjoying the present. Why is that so hard?

Part of the reason is that I do not trust that I’m making the right decisions for myself. Finding contentment in your life is to trust yourself. Leo Babauta, author of ZenHabits, and The Little Book of Contentment compares trusting ourselves as the way we trust other people. “Your relationship with yourself is like your relationship with anyone else. If you have a friend who is constantly late and breaking his word, not showing up when he says he will, eventually you’ll stop trusting that friend. It’s like that with yourself too. It’s hard to like someone you don’t trust, and it’s hard to like yourself if you don’t trust yourself.” Pinpoint which promises you’ve been making to yourself that you’ve broken. Trusting yourself is believing that you will follow through with the promises you make. Where there is trust, there is contentment.

Authenticity puts the Your in Be Yourself. Who you are is made up of your experiences, your circumstances, nature, and the way you were nurtured. These are things that happen to you, but they also happen with you. You own all the experiences that come into your life. Human beings do not develop in a vacuum. We are part of a larger community of people, attitudes, traits, education, and the general stuff that comes in and out of our lives. We learn every minute. Owning up to who you are is accepting that these things that influence who you are do not make or break you, they just are. When you acknowledge these influences for what they are, you can do anything you want with them. You can choose to overcome all your obstacles, feel gratitude, learn lessons and put the past behind you. Your life is your prerogative. Own it, however that looks.

Authenticity puts the Self in Be Yourself. This is something that I’ve been trying to cultivate for years. Love yourself like you love other people in your life—-your closest friends, siblings, parents, and spouse. Relationships take time and maintenance. One of the most important, and I will even argue the most important, is the relationship you cultivate with yourself. To maintain a relationship with yourself you need to check in and see how you are really doing. Spend time alone, meditate, take yourself out, whatever you feel like doing. One of my favourite things to do is grocery shop and clean my home by myself. It’s very easy to get irritated by the other people in the crowded grocery store when I’m in a rush to do other things: crowded parking lots, screaming babies, those people that stop their carts in the middle of the aisles (you know the ones!). When I’m intentionally having me time, I’m filled with patience. I have nowhere to be and I can use all the time I want to take care of my own business. At the end of an afternoon, I have a full fridge, a clean house and a light glow of satisfaction.

Being authentic is trusting yourself to be who you naturally are. Who you are with yourself is how to be around other people. Besides, carrying around building supplies for that wall is so burdensome; just bring matches. Lighten the load, and you’ll be surprised how many opportunities will gather around your fire.

Written By Renee Masur

“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
  ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

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So you’re ready to take a step toward a career path. You don’t know what will be ahead but you’re ready to find out. Your purpose it waiting, you just have to make the first move. But something is holding you back. It’s frightening to try something you’ve never done before, quit a job or start over in a new industry. Whether you’re ending a chapter or starting one, shaking the foundation of what you know can be exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time.

Fear is a very powerful indicator of when you need to recognize that something external is happening to you. In many situations, fear is asking you to run away as fast as you can so that you can survive. The fear I’m speaking of has less to do with an ancestral run-away-from-lions instinct and more to do with fear that occurs when we consider stepping away from our comfort zone.

We all recognize that feeling of rocks plummeting to the bottom of our stomachs. It feels like your heart seizes and shrinks while your breath struggles to stay steady.

One potent example of this feeling is the moment before you speak in front of a crowd of people. This feeling used to be a warning that would have me running away. In order to make that feeling go away, I thought “I’ll remove myself from the situation. Only do things that are pleasant. If I am comfortable I am on the right track. Surely, feeling sick to my stomach is a sign that I should not do something.”

Something wasn’t working with that strategy though. I would run away from the things I was afraid of only to be presented with them later on, and the fear would come back even stronger. Not only was I still not sure how to deal with it, I was even more aware that I still hadn’t figured it out.

If I am in a group of people who are having a serious conversation and I feel that familiar gut-twist, it’s a sign to me that I need to speak up. I noticed that whenever I didn’t give my input in reaction to this feeling, someone else in the group would. Then I would feel disappointment that I didn’t trust my own mind to know what was important to talk about.

Let Fear be the Guide

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to have the opposite reaction to that fear. I listen to my body when it speaks to me. Nothing is as terrifying as the fear of failure.

What if what I say isn’t good enough?

They will laugh at me.

I’ll feel stupid.

I can’t do it.

These thoughts feed the fear; it morphs into a bubbling ball in your gut until your mind believes that whatever is it you’re trying to attempt is making you ill. It’s saying you shouldn’t even try. I didn’t like the idea that fear could have that much power over my mind, so I started using that fear as an alarm to do, and not avoid, what was holding me back. Scared to speak in front of people? Speak. Afraid to try something you’ve never done before? Go for it. Let your fear influence you in a different way. Allow it to show you what you should be doing, not what you should be avoiding.

How to Follow Your Fear

It’s never as easy as just doing it. Making your goal requires easing into it, but with persistence. And it starts with the first step.

1. Find the Fear. There are many people who will rarely experience this kind of anxiety because they have become experts at avoiding fear. They know every border of their comfort zone and they stay well within the walls. Come out. Be in the presence of what makes your heart beat faster. Get used to that feeling again.

2. Take Notice of the Anxiety. Once feeling rocks in your gut is something that regularly happens, begin ranking on a scale of 1 to 5 how stressed out you feel. What makes you feel slightly uncomfortable and what makes you feel sick to your stomach?

3. Push Yourself. As you become familiar with the different “zones” of discomfort, push yourself to do those things you’ve been avoiding. Start with levels 1-2 until your confidence begins to build. If pushing yourself to do a Level 5 challenge is too much, stick with the easier levels. Sing karaoke, try salsa dancing, use social media to meet a new group of people, go on a date.

Soon enough, trying new things will stop scaring you, and you’ll have more confidence to do the big stuff like writing that book, applying for that dream job, or travelling to a different part of the world.

Let fear work for you; not the other way around. Never be afraid of taking a step in the wrong direction, or you may stand still. You should be the last thing that holds you back.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Thomas Edison

How can art help us analyze? 

Fantastic TED talk animation about the using art analyzation to be a better first responder. 

Written by Spencer Thompson 

Most people like to say they work hard. In fact, it’s a badge of honour to say you are working hard, as often as you can. If you aren’t, you feel like you are “behind” in some way. Without getting into the “balance” argument, I’d like to dive into what working hard actually means and why I don’t think most people do it at all.

Athletics are a really good analogy for business. The idea of teamwork, pushing yourself to get better, setting goals, etc… all make the corollary strong. There is another similarity that people don’t ever seem to talk about—training. Athletes are known for their intense training schedules. The definition of working hard to an athlete is to train. How come? Why bother training? Well, by getting in better shape, becoming a master at your sport, and improving your mental state—your goal is to win. Whether at the Olympics, at the Super Bowl or Wimbledon, your goal is to win a championship. You need to outwork, outsmart and outperform each person you compete against in order to win. This is the beauty of sports.

In business, we don’t take this approach. The reason is simple, we don’t have a benchmark of “winning” in business. So we lack a fixed point to work towards, making it difficult to work backwards. Some people start a business to support their family, some to employ their friends and some to disrupt an industry. Each of their goals are different.

And yet, no matter what person in business you speak to, they all claim to be overwhelmed with work. They are busy, run-down and exhausted. Besides the fact that this is a stupid way to approach sounding important to your friends, it’s also not impressive. Working hard is an irrelevant term by itself when it comes to business.

Working hard actually has two separate components:

1. Domain Labour

2. Training 

Both are essential to survival, but only #2 is important for “winning”. I’ll explain that more in second. Firstly, let’s understand what domain labour is. In every business, there are things that make the business “tick”. These are things like accounting, legal, drafting sketches if you are an architect, arranging flowers if you are a florist, etc… The labour is specific to your domain, and without it, you have no business. Every single business will die without doing these things. Improving your domain expertise is actually fairly straightforward, and progresses throughout a career in linear fashion. The more you lay floors, the more you understand how to do it better, faster and more efficiently. And so the labour you supply to the market is more specific, and by nature, rare, allowing you to make more money as you gain experience.

I don’t think, however, domain labour contributes to training, if we use the athletic analogy. I don’t think it should count towards hard work. I think it is the essential unit you need to survive at what you do.

I believe hard work comes in when we speak about #2—training. Training as a person in a business is an obscure and strange term to use for most of us. I find this interesting for a number of reasons. I believe the simplest way to look at training is to look at what the end goal is—to win, or in this case, to be successful. I’m not going to set a fixed goal for you, but this is important to determine. You could want to build the biggest company in the world, the best salesperson in your company, or win a Pulitzer Prize. Either way, you need to determine what success looks like to you.

The only way to get to this point is to outwork your competition. The way to do this is well-defined, you need to gain, interpret and apply more knowledge than others in your space. Knowledge is the great differentiator in the developed world. Formal education is a part of this, but it’s shocking how believe that the second they are done “school”, they are at their peak in terms of knowledge. These people quickly get passed in life.

Your goal with training should be to gain as much knowledge as you can, as quickly as you can, and apply it back to your work. This is called hard work. People that work harder than others simply learn faster than others. Nearly every successful person will attribute their success to luck + hard work, not brilliance. And this is accurate. They just never define what the hard work is. The reality is, these people absorb knowledge at an enormous rate.

Knowledge can be acquired in a variety of ways. An obvious way is reading books relevant to your goals. Want to know how to win? Read books from people who have won before. Another way is to meet people in the real world. Each sales meeting, networking coffee and co-worker should be teaching you something about social psychology. Domain specific acquisition of knowledge is also important. Want to be a great CEO? Not only do you have to the domain labour specific activities like managing, payroll, hiring & firing, but you need to constantly improve your management, communication & leadership skills. This only comes through acquiring knowledge.

The beauty about knowledge is that the winners aren’t just a little bit smarter than the losers, they are exponentially smarter. Knowledge scales in unbelievable ways. The best analogy is like a snowball, it picks up steam by itself after a while and starts to become easier and easier to roll.

Start thinking of your working day of a training day that an athlete has. Instead of working on your body & sport, work on your brain & domain. (see, it rhymes) Spend your time on things that scale, and grow exponentially. Set a fixed point that you determine is “success” and out-knowledge your opponents to get there. And once you figure out how best to capture the knowledge to help you get there, then yes—work hard.

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