Happiness at work: Money vs. passion

“Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants.” – Benjamin Franklin, author, polymath and printer (1706-1790)

Do you live to work or work to live? More importantly, what are you working for?

Take a minute to observe your current work situation. Does your job pay you well that it allows you to afford all the things that you want? If you are working for money, where does your happiness factor into the equation?

In the book “The Happiness Hypothesis,” author Jonathan Haidt explained that humans have the capability to adapt to any situation, regardless of whether they are faced with good fortune or adversity. For example, if you get a new car, you will be elated, at least for the first few months before the excitement wears off and this new level of comfort becomes the new “baseline of happiness.” At the same time, humans will never get tired of being around positive people, pursuing knowledge and having a purpose in life, but they will not be able to adapt to conditions where people are abusive or live in an environment that does not fully engage them.

Unfortunately, some people are stuck in dead-end jobs under the pretext that they have no choice because they have to pay the bills. These people see work as a “job.”1 Those who see a future with their current work and have goals to advance within their fields view work as a “career,” while the rest who find their work rewarding in and of itself see their work as a “calling.”2

It is also possible to shift the status of your work from a “job” into a “calling.” You can do this by first identifying your strengths and aligning your strengths with your work to make the work more meaningful.

One of the ways to identify your strengths is by reflecting on the things that you once loved to do when you were younger and find a way to incorporate your passion into your current job. Someone I know sold stones to his friends when he was in primary school for an art project. He single-handedly picked these stones because he knew that smooth-surfaced stones, which were hard to find would work better for the project than stones with a jagged surface. He found the market to sell his product and developed entrepreneurial skills early on in life that it is no surprise that today he is an accomplished entrepreneur.

While we acknowledge that not many people can change jobs with their financial situations, here are some ways you can turn a job into a calling. If you are currently working for someone, try to explore opportunities at your current workplace where you can contribute your skills. If you love to write, volunteer to write for your company’s blog or newsletter. When you find joy in using your strengths for the work that you do, you will become more optimistic in your role and attain fulfillment, knowing that you are devoting your time and effort into something bigger than yourself.3

So, what do you want to work for?

Credits

1,2,3. Jonathan Haidt, “The Happiness Hypothesis”

3 things to do before you quit your job to be a full-time entrepreneur

Spanx founder, Sara Blakely kept her day job selling fax machines for two years while working on her hosiery company, which has now become a multi-million dollar business. During those two years, Sara used the time she had when she was not working to do research for her company. Her big break came when Oprah chose Spanx as her favourite product of the year and that was when Sara became confident enough to quit her 9-to-5 job, knowing that she will still be able to fully support herself through her entrepreneurial venture.

For some people, they wait for the right moment to quit their current jobs to pursue entrepreneurship, while others just jump right in and start working on their business full-time.

So, how do you decide when it is the right time to give up a steady paycheck to be a full-time entrepreneur? Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not you are ready to make the switch.

  1. Do your research

Do you have a business idea that is different from what is being offered out there? Is it a practical idea that solves a problem? It is important to do your research to see whether there is a market for your products or services and to determine the value of your business. You can start by using search engines to get more information on your business idea as well as find out the kind of skills that you would need to acquire to help you run a business. In addition, do not be afraid to ask people you know – friends, family members and former colleagues for their opinions on areas of business that you may not be familiar with. Perhaps, a walk around the neighborhood can do you good and help you find some sort of inspiration for your business.

  1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

If you are unsure whether your business will work out, try pursuing it part-time at first. This also allows you to test the waters to see whether you are passionate enough to run the business full-time. Someone I know left his comfortable job in digital marketing to focus on his gadget business, only to find out that he did not understand how certain things work when it comes to running a business. He failed to recognize that distribution is an important part of the business and did not factor in the thin profit margin, which resulted in a serious overbuy. Eventually, he had to give up on his business venture and found another full-time position in digital marketing. Some people get too consumed by their “passion” that they get oblivious to other more important things that matter.

  1. Sort out your finances

When you start a business, there is a possibility that you will need to use your own money to fund your business, especially in the first few years. It may also take a while before you can pay yourself back.

It is also important for married men to know that as breadwinners of the family, they need to take extra measures to ensure that they can fully support their families, or else the financial stress may get the best of them. If this happens, it will be very difficult for them to keep a positive mindset needed to focus on their business.

The transition from working at a stable full-time job to become an entrepreneur with an uncertain future is not easy. There are many factors that have to be taken into consideration such as your emotional well-being and physical capability, mainly because it takes a lot of commitment, long hours and hard work to be a successful entrepreneur. A positive attitude comes a long way when you are hustling and trying to grow your business. Once you know that you can handle these aspects of life, then maybe it is time for you to take a leap of faith and work on your business full-time!

Check out this video where successful entrepreneur, Mark Cuban talks about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Dining etiquette: 5 tips to dining confidence

In the movie Miss Congeniality starring Sandra Bullock and Michael Caine, there was a scene where Sandra Bullock’s character was chomping down steak at a fine restaurant, at which Michael Caine’s character was appalled and remarked, “I’m sorry, what was the question? I was distracted by the half-masticated cow rolling around in your wide-open trap.”

Such etiquette gaffes are not constrained to Hollywood movies. At a formal dinner in Kuala Lumpur recently, a second generation business owner not only erroneously claimed the bread on her right as her own, she chided the guest on her right who had touched the bread roll, “The bread is MINE!”. For those of us who sometimes will have problems remember which bread is yours and which drink is yours, the simple left “b” and right “d” hand [see picture] are fool proof discrete reminders in times of social emergency such as these.

Bread and Drink

 

These two scenes nonetheless reminds us that dining etiquette plays an important role in your personal and professional lives. However if you do not have access to a Henry Higgins or a Harry Hart, you are not doomed to be an uncouth Eliza Doolittle or Eggsy Unwin forever.

Here’s five easy tips to dining confidence:

  1. Think you have impeccable manners already but want to have a check? Eat alone in front of a mirror. If there are any half-masticated cows rolling around in your mouth, you will see it.
  2. When in doubt, watch the others on the table. Not sure which knife or fork to use? Watch what the majority on the table does and follow.
  3. Be sensitive to cultural norms – a quick google search will help if you are going to be in an international dining environment: for example, Westerners rarely share food off their plates unless its family style dining, Muslims eat only with their right hand, Chinese frown upon chopsticks stuck upright, Japanese do not use soup spoons, to name a few.
  4. Eating is not a race neither is it a solo journey: Do not start eating until everyone else’s food has been served, unless you are urged on; and try not to be the first or the last to finish on your table as it will hold the rest of the table back.
  5. Last, if the food is hard to eat; you will have to make a mental trade-off in your mind of whether you are going to make a mess or leave the food. Foods potentially to avoid during a business setting are french onion soup (imagine how you are going to break the gruyere cheese crouton with your soup spoon), steamed artichokes, crabs, fried chicken or even sloppy burgers.

And with that you’re equipped for your dining “Ascot”.

Bon appétit!

[Metamorphic Training offers bespoke presence and confidence executive coaching for C-level suite and candidates by senior ex-C Suite officers with international Fortune 50 experience. For more information, please email enquiry@metatrainings.com]

5 Tips for Giving and Receiving Feedback Effectively

“If you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Growing up, we have probably heard that line being repeated over and over again by our parents. In Asia, people tend to avoid giving feedback, fearing that it might hurt the other party’s feelings. Yet effective feedback is a critical part in any organization’s ability to drive and improve performance.

This is why it is important to give feedback effectively. Below are some tips to help you provide feedback at the workplace:

1. Don’t beat around the bush

Confront the colleague associated with the incident once it has been witnessed. Speak in private, but be fact-based and avoid generalities. For example, “Our agreed timeline was 12 noon, but your email was at 130pm,” as opposed to “You are always late!”

2. State how the incident made you feel

Tell the other party how the incident has made you feel as a result of his or her actions. The receiving party is not in a position to deny the fact of how you feel. For example, if your colleague was late for work, inform your colleague that he or she made you feel anxious and concerned about the impact to the company and its client.

3. State future actions

Discuss with the colleague on the things that he or she can do to prevent the incident from happening again. In the example above, you can ask your colleague to give you a call to inform the team that he or she will be in the office a little later that day.

In addition to giving feedback, it is essential to receive feedback to help you see where you stand in terms of work performance. Some of the things that you should do when receiving feedback include:

1. Keep an open mind

Avoid getting defensive and wait until it is time for you speak to explain your situation to ensure that both of you are on the same page.

2. Establish future goals and action plan that can help improve your performance

Discuss with your supervisor to help you identify the things that you need to do to improve work performance and advance your career. These goals can be as simple as clocking in early for work and completing projects on time.

On a lighter note, these tips has also been proven to be effective in communication amongst spouses and significant others. 😉

To quit or not to quit: The truth about goal-setting

When I first started college, I declared mathematics as my major because I thought that was the right decision at that time – I didn’t know what I wanted to do and math was one of my strongest skills. After pursuing the course for almost four semesters, I soon found out that I did not enjoy math after all, and that was reflected on my grades.

By the time I realized that I was in the wrong major, I had already done two years’ worth of schooling. That was when I thought to myself – should I continue pursuing mathematics since I was already half way through my major? Or should I switch my major and use my time doing something I truly enjoy?

What about those two years, where countless hours were already spent studying and completing math courses? If I change my major, there was a chance that I might graduate later than my peers.

I was torn between the two years that I had spent in school (sunk cost) and the things that I could be doing should I decide to change majors (opportunity costs).

It was a tough decision to make, but I ended up changing majors and graduated within two years.

The main reason that I was able to graduate within two years even after changing my major was because I had set my mind to achieve that goal. Goals are important because they give you a sense of direction in life. Setting a goal is the easy part.

Following up with that goal, however, is another thing altogether.

For example, if you are working on a fitness goal, it is easy to give excuses to skip your workout session. Below is a 3-step routine that I have found helpful in following through goals:

Step 1: Prepare your workout gear the night before. On the day of your workout, break down the steps of your morning routine by getting out of bed, washing your face and putting on your exercise clothes.

Step 2: Monitor your performance. For instance, you can observe your fitness level by looking out for improvements such as running at a longer distance within a short space of time. As you get closer to your goal, employ different tactics to mix up your workout routine so that it does not become mundane.

Step 3: Celebrate your achievement with rewards that are aligned with your goals. For example, instead of cheating on your next meal, you can buy new clothes that you can now fit into as a form of reward.

This principle of goal-setting also applies to business and management. A classic example is providing training in sales to café employees:

  1. Start with smaller and more attainable goals such as teaching employees on the right way to greet customers.
  2. Acknowledge employees’ success and set the next round of goals by introducing new tactics of selling to keep employees interested in the training.
  3. Celebrate employees’ success with congruent rewards such as “free drinks” for employees who perform well.

When you feel like slipping after setting a goal for yourself, remind yourself of why you set the goal in the first place. If you really want to give up, then the goal that you have set for yourself may not be a good fit for you or may not be worthwhile after all. In life, we need to know when it is time to quit. In my case, the emotional cost of pursuing something that I love offsets the sunk cost of spending those two years in the wrong major.

Quitting does not mean failure. It may be a sign for you to revisit your goals so you do not regret your action 10 years later knowing how far you have come.

Motivation

If you love your job, you have every reason to be excited when you wake up everyday. Your passion is what motivates you to move forward in your career. There are, however, times or days when you feel demotivated to go to work, especially when work becomes mundane and you keep on procrastinating on your tasks. So what do you do when you find yourself stuck in this situation?

 This article by Edmond Lau clearly explains that your level of motivation depends on the type of goal (either mastery or performance) that you attach to it.

5 things to remember when attending a fair for the first time

As a self-proclaimed certified barista (I took a short barista course last year!), I was more than excited when I was asked to attend the Café Malaysia fair, the first international café equipment, supplies and technology exhibition. Truth be told, it was my first time attending a fair and my visit has taught me a few things to keep in mind when attending fairs. Below are five things to remember when attending a fair for the first time:

  1. Get as much information as possible on the fair that you will be attending. Find out the vendors that will be in attendance, the fair’s target audience and some of the highlights that will be held during the fair such as activities, contests, etc. You will get a better idea on what the fair has to offer, which will then help you prepare for the event.
  1. Expect a crowd on the day of the fair. I did not think there would be so many people at the fair, so I decided to come an hour later. As soon as I entered the building, however, there was a long queue – attendees waiting for their turn to register for the event. Keep in mind that some fairs are only open to the public on certain days, and for other days, they are by-invitation only. Be sure to check which days you are allowed to attend.
  1. Know your business well. In order for you to get more information from the vendors (eg. quotes), you need to have full knowledge of your business such as the type of business you are running, the capacity of your business, etc. This will give the vendors a good idea on the status of your business.
  1. Remember to bring your business cards on the day of the event. If you do not have your business cards ready, you can always print your contact information on a piece of paper. Most vendors at the event will have a contact form that you can fill in so that they can get in touch with you.
  1. Take notes. This is very, very important, especially because there will be too much information given to you that it can be a bit overwhelming. Most vendors also provide brochures and leaflets for their businesses, along with their contact information to make it more convenient for you to get in touch with them in the future. A word of advice: Summarize your findings as soon as you get home while your memory is still fresh. This will help you identify the vendors that might be suitable for your business.

Building habits

Blog photo

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Like Rome, habits cannot be cultivated overnight. Likewise, bad habits are just as hard to eliminate. Fortunately, with sheer willpower and consistent practice, it is possible to build new habits and get rid of old ones.

For most of us, we create New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each year, some of which include going to the gym more often, eat less and so on and so forth. As for me, my goal was to wake up earlier every morning to do yoga. Last year, I gave myself excuses for not waking up earlier than I should and as a result, I can barely touch my toes. This year, however, I started to form a habit of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do yoga and for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to not only touch my toes, but also do a backbend.

Growing up, I’ve been told that it takes anywhere from 21 days to a month to form a new habit. In my opinion, this idea holds true for people looking to form simple habits such as eating a fruit a day or greeting one person that you meet each day. Other habits, such as sticking to a diet or going to the gym at least three times a week, are more difficult to maintain and take longer time to form because there are many distractions as well as other priorities that can get in the way. More often than not, these habits may require you to make changes to your schedule and lifestyle.

It takes a lot of discipline and patience to build and maintain a habit. Below are some ways that can help you form a new habit, both in your personal and professional lives:

  1. Identify your goal and write it down

It is better to pick a habit that you want to build and work towards it one step at a time so that you will be more focused in achieving what you have set out to do. It can be overwhelming if you want to build too many habits at the same time and you may be discouraged when times are tough. Write down that goal and put it at a place where you can see it everyday to remind you of it.

  1. Start now

Don’t wait until tomorrow, next week or next month to start forming the habit, even if it’s something as small as running for ten minutes today. It will make you feel a whole lot better knowing that you are one step closer to fully developing your new habit.

  1. Break your goal (building a new habit) into smaller goals

When you break down your goal into smaller, achievable goals, it is easier to keep track of your progress. Write down your progress to see how far you’ve come and how much further you need to go to achieve your goal. If you want to wake up an hour earlier in the morning, start with setting your alarm five minutes early. In time, you will be able to train yourself to wake up 10 minutes, 15 minutes earlier and so on. If you are not making progress even with the smaller goals after some time, reevaluate what you are doing and make changes accordingly, even if you have to start over or find another way to form the new habit.

  1. Recognize your challenges and find solutions to each problem

You will definitely encounter some challenges in building new habits such as skipping your workout because you’re too busy or too tired to wake up earlier. You start giving excuses and if prolonged, you will become demotivated to build that habit that you wanted. In this situation, you have to be aware and acknowledge the challenges that you are facing and the reason that you are giving excuses. Once you’ve identified the challenges, try to find solutions to each problem. For example, if you are too tired to wake up early, ask yourself why are you too tired. If it is because you are overworked at the office, consult your supervisor to see whether anything can be done about your workload.

  1. Have someone hold you accountable

A good support system is essential in helping you to form a new habit. For example, if you want to make running around the park as part of your daily routine, it will be much easier for you to execute that plan if you have a partner or a group of friends who are willing to run with you. You will not only start cultivating the habit of running, but you’ll build a great relationship with the people around you.

  1. Reward yourself

Give yourself credit at the end of the day, week or when you have achieved one of your smaller goals by taking yourself out for dinner or buying an item that you really like. If things don’t go the way you expect them to be, cut yourself some slack because you are not doing this for anyone else – you are doing it for yourself. So enjoy the journey and never, ever give up!

Getting awareness to change

I recently watched the movie Freaky Friday, a story about the strained relationship between a mother and her daughter and how they resolved their issues. My favourite part of the show was when the two characters switched souls and woke up in each other’s body. It was not until the switching happened that both realized the other person’s life is not as perfect and easy as they initially thought. Once they were aware and understand the challenges faced by each other, only then their souls were switched back and their issues resolved. After the souls were switched back, their attitude towards each other changed for the better and the mother-daughter relationship was restored.

The story above shows how important it is to have awareness in our daily lives. Awareness is the ability to be conscious of your current situation and realize whether or not change is needed to improve that situation. In the movie, both mother and daughter became aware of the challenges faced by each other only when they start living in each other’s shoes. Believe it or not, people get awareness to change when bad things happen (in the case above, when both protagonists switched bodies and had to live each other’s lives). This is because when the situation is at its worst, people will do almost anything to get out of it, knowing that they have nothing to lose since by that time, they have probably lost everything. A classic example is the predicament faced by major corporations during financial crisis, where some will survive, while others collapse. The companies that last survived because they were aware of their situation and decided to make changes such as developing new procedures and revisiting company values.

Awareness involves changing your current belief of what you think is the right way to do things. In order to develop awareness, you have to get to know yourself and reevaluate your values. You have to be able to view things from a different perspective and most importantly, keep an open mind in this process.

As a result of awareness, you will either decide to make a change, or choose to stay in your current situation. The choice is yours. If you decide to make a change, be prepared to go through ambiguous circumstances, where at times things may be difficult, but you will grow from your experience. You can also choose to stay in your comfort zone, but there is little opportunity for growth. It is when you go through tough times that you will actually make progress.

Here’s a short exercise for you. Ask yourself the following questions to analyze and be aware of your current business situation:

  • In the last year, have your business objectives and targets been met? If yes, congratulations! You are on the right path.
  • If not, have you and/or your team been doing the same activities? I.e.,
    1. Have you and/or your team reviewed your business processes and sought improvement opportunities? Do you have discussions about this and craft plans to be implemented?
    2. Have you performed a market / competitive analysis?
    3. Has anyone attended training or development? And if yes, have they applied the knowledge back in their day-to-day work? How is this tracked?

If you had answered “No” to any of these 3 questions; while you are not meeting your business objectives; you should probably be aware by now that there is a case for trying out new things that may lead to change.

The 3 prerequisites for change

In our previous blog post, we discussed about taking the first step toward change and why it is important to take this step. In this post, we will focus on how managers can take this step.

There are three prerequisites for change:

  • Awareness: Awareness for the need to change that comes from within.
  • Desire to change: Once you are consciously aware that you need to make a change, you have to decide whether or not to actually go ahead with the change.
  • Capacity/skills: When the decision to make the change is supported by the desire to change, you can then put together an action plan to make it happen.

Exhibit A: Wendy passed away due to diabetes. She was overweight and although family members urged her to lose weight, she would not listen to the advice and insisted that her flab was flesh or muscle. As a result, she did not lose a single pound until the day she passed.

It is human nature to resist change, especially if they are comfortable with what they are used to. Change is scary, and more often than not, painful. In order to gain awareness for change, observe your current situation and ask yourself questions such as what are the advantages and risks that are involved in this change? What will the company gain and what will it lose?

Exhibit B: John was diagnosed with gout. Although he is aware of the excess weight that contributed to his medical condition, he is still adamant of not wanting to change his diet. Maybe he will get to a point where he finds the desire to change, maybe he won’t, but awareness on its own is insufficient unless there is desire to change.

Once you have realized that change is necessary for your company, you have to make an informed decision to make the shift toward something better. This is what we call the desire to change. It is a decision that only the individual can make when he or she understands that the gain from change outweighs the fear of stepping out from his or her comfort zone.

Exhibit C: Susan is trying to lose a fair amount of weight. She is restricting calories; but still consumes white bread for lunch, thinking it is a good diet food. Those who have successfully shed pounds know that white bread is a definite no-no when trying to lose weight because it represents refined sugar that causes insulin spikes and subsequent hunger pangs. This illustrates that awareness and desire need to be coupled with the right knowledge or skill (depending on the circumstance) before change happens.

In order to make the change, the individual has to be equipped with the capacity to physically take action for a better outcome. From fixing prices to hiring the right people, you need to do everything in your power to make the change.

Change may not be comfortable at first, but there are many resources that managers can use to alleviate the pain of making the change. Metamorphic Management is an example of a free resource site that houses a collection of proven management practices and tools that enable companies to take the next growth step.