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Have you ever noticed that many people are walking head-down, going through the motions, looking down on their smart phones, mindlessly going about their day? So many of these people are sleeping, even when they’re moving. They’re living mediocre lives.
Creating an environment of thinking small, being insignificant and choosing a world of mediocrity has become acceptable. Even more than that, it has become the norm. People play a safe game. When did mediocrity become okay?
What happened to people smiling, leaders driving change, being creative, and generating happiness? Not the fake smile happiness. I am talking about the inner revolution. Where possibilities are the norms, culture thrives and people shine. Where culture is permission to be you.
Collaborative mindsets are infectious. Positivity ubiquitous. Imagine every team member sharing the responsibility to spread company culture. What about adopting responsibility for self-management rather than titles, seniority and hierarchy?
Tony Hseih wrote a book called Delivering Happiness that’s about the human side of work. A world where employee satisfaction is the key to business success. Zappos invests lavishly in morale. Each month, employees can reward a co-worker with a $50 company bonus for going above and beyond.
Perhaps you have lost sight of what is truly important and too often focus on what you can’t control. What happens when you unleash happiness, unlock your potential and break free from the herd to create business success? Here’s the thing: You don’t need to be superhuman. Let’s look at how to break free from the cult of mediocrity.
Lead from purpose
Having a purpose means being able to see the bigger picture. Each leader can find purpose and bring it fully to their workplace and lives. Purpose creates a deeper sense of meaning which acts as an intrinsic motivator. It becomes a well that energizes us to keep going in the face of adversity. Purpose provides the foundation for striving something bigger than ourselves. Simon Sinek shares the biology of how great leaders inspire action through a contagious sense of purpose.
Surrender to mediocrity, deserve the shitty life
Conventional thinking perpetuates misery. Days pass blended into the next, sleeping, eating, working and moments of escapism as you check Facebook or watch a new TV show on Netflix. Limiting beliefs hold your thinking ransom: It’s too late to start over. You messed it up before. Who do you think you are, to deserve success?
In the end, your thinking determines how you live. A life of choice, traded for a life of ease. You might find yourself pushed deeper and deeper into the abyss of the mundane, where people spend money for possessions to impress those around them. To fit in, they sacrifice their lives like sheep bound for the slaughterhouse.
Lead like a warrior
Cultivating your inner warrior, the sacred mixture of masculine and feminine energy, forms a deep sense of wholeness, confidence and inner joy. Speaking your truth creates alignment with how you live your life. Setting boundaries while pursuing what you love ignites your will. Focus on what you have control over – your effort and attitude. Zap negative thoughts out of your head and look for opportunity in every obstacle. Be relentless, ignore the naysayers and the dream stealers. Choose to move forward with total confidence and create your own destiny.
Break free from herd mentality
Despite a world of daily distractions, human beings have choices they can make to carve out a meaningful life. Distractions eat up valuable time that you could invest in self-development. To help you steer clear of the herd, be clear about where you’re heading. Be self-aware and don’t stare in the rear-view mirror. Knowledge is power. Educate yourself, invest in expanding your unfamiliar zones and find yourself a mentor.
Eradicate the fixed mindset
Dr Carol Dweck, a psychologist, spent decades researching the concept of a growth mindset. Dr Dweck defined two types of mindsets – fixed and growth mindsets. Leaders in a fixed mindset believe they either are or aren’t good at something, based on their inherent nature. People in a growth mindset believe they can improve through hard work and practice, as everything is an opportunity to grow your intelligence. The growth mindset reflects that your abilities are entirely due to your actions. Eliminate the excuses, blaming, lack of responsibility and reject a way of life that is soul-destroying. Take on new challenges with optimism.
To be different requires tenacity
Inaction will eat your mind alive. It will give you a death sentence for life. Consider this: In 2015 Netflix subscribers globally watched 42.5 billion hours of content. That’s so many hours of wasted time, immersed in doing nothing, disconnected from others and from life. While relaxing is never a bad thing, is that all you do? Don’t wait for someone else to build your idea. Sometimes you must make the big bet, say it out loud and then throw yourself right in so there’s no going back.
Purge toxic people from your life
Most advice given is provided by people who have not attained results in their own life. Instead they preach about what “we” should be doing. Seek advice from someone who has the results you want and eliminate the “Debbie Downers”. There is enough negativity in the world without it penetrating your inner circle and permeating within.
There is never the right moment
You cannot wait for the perfect set of circumstances. They do not not exist. Whether it be for the right person to come along and hold your hand or the someone to fly in to save the day. Don’t fall victim to simply existing, or be destined for the default path of being dominated by life. Make the decision to lead your life.
Build a culture of grit
Big ideas aren’t brought to fruition single-handedly. Culture amplifies when we collectively share the platform of where we are heading. Focus and grit are celebrated, kool-aid is tipped down the sink and the spirit of risk taking is honored. As your team grows, individually and collectively, those who practice company core values are rewarded.
Being mediocre is easy. Anybody can do it. And most people do. Following your passion, being crazy enough to try to change the world and standing for something important is hard. That’s bold.
Angela Kambouris is a highly-valued leadership coach and business leader having spent over 20 years in the field of vulnerability and trauma. She is super-passionate about unlocking human potential to deliver extraordinary results and has spoken on stages and worked with thousands of people in the areas of self-development, leadership, mindset, human behavior and business. She has master-minded with leaders and expert authorities in personal development and business all over the world.
Director of Practice and Quality, Linda Justin talks about the career path that led her to Uniting, and why she is so passionate about what she does.
I haven’t spent a moment of my working life outside of the health sector, even during my time as a consultant; it was within the health and ageing industry. Originally from Ireland, I started out in pediatrics. Early on in my career I realised I wanted to do make a difference at a strategic level. A young boy in my care did well in intensive care and went home to have a normal life. But sadly two weeks later he passed away due to complications that were likely a result of failings in the health system.
After this, I realised that as a society we can do more to care for people and we can make a difference. The cycle of disadvantage can be broken, and we can provide support to the people most in need. We mustn’t conform, but instead transform – a daily mantra I choose to live by.
Relocating to Australia gave me the opportunity to be part of clinical system improvement, and three years ago I joined the team at Uniting as Director of Practice and Quality. I joined with a deep sense of wanting to make a positive impact in people’s lives, daily.
An imperative part of aged care is helping older people understand that they still have a good life to live. As part of the community, they have value to add, bonds to form and joy to experience.
When you begin a career in aged care, you believe you’re giving back. In reality it’s so much more. On a daily basis, I’m touched by the stories I hear from our clients. When they share their time with me, I’m able to be part of their lives. My life has been breathtakingly enriched by this exchange.
Over the years I’ve experienced incredibly traumatic yet equally beautiful instances. I’ve been engulfed with overwhelming sadness and complete elation.
Within our dementia care, we use a method called Doll Therapy, enabling people to be reminded of their lives as a mother, father or carer, to rekindle fond memories of parenthood. I remember there was one lady who would sit with the dolls, cuddling them for hours. You could see the immense joy and relief that this time brought; she cherished it. We spoke with her family to understand her story only to realise that she had never been able to have children of her own, but she had cared deeply for her nieces and nephews. Time with the dolls brought back memories of this time of love and nurturing for her. In this moment, she was a carer again, for children she adored – some of the happiest times of her life.
It’s a privilege to hear and experience such heart-warming stories. Knowing that you’ve honored someone’s dignity at such a vulnerable time is a humbling and rewarding experience.
Working in aged care is also about changing community attitudes. One of my biggest challenges is helping society to overcome the idea that people in aged care have already lived their lives. Through my role I am determined to showcase the indisputable strength in enabling joy, facilitating hope and crafting meaning in the life of another.
Not so long ago I was sitting with a 90-year-old mother and her 70-year-old daughter, who had been separated for more than 30 years. The mother, who came to Australia as a refugee, was moving into our services. Her daughter was there to help her settle. Sitting on the lounge, the mother and daughter spoke about their lives. They spoke of fond memories and the challenges they had endured in their individual lives. It was an emotional experience watching them reconnect after years of hardship. After 30 years apart, here they were sitting on a lounge, a cup of tea in hand, beginning a fresh relationship.
Within six months, the mother had passed. I still find comfort knowing that she left with a heart rich in her daughters love. Death is difficult. It never gets easier. Knowing that you’ve given someone happiness in their time of need, however, is infinitely rewarding.
As a society, we’re able to ignite change. We can bust stereotypes to transform our world into an inclusive place. I’m enriched by the stories of our clients each and every day – if you spent a day in their shoes, you would be too.
Ever since she was seven, Andrea Boyd has been in love with the planets, stars and the vast unknown that is space. And ever since she was seven, Andrea has wanted to be an engineer, to work with the organisations that are sending humanity to the moon and beyond.
She is now working at her dream career as a Flight Operations Engineer for the International Space Station (ISS), but it’s been a long journey to get there. Leaders in Heels had the opportunity to sit down with Andrea and talk about how she made her passion into her career.
Thanks for your time, Andrea! It’s incredible that you’ve known your passion since you were seven.
I fell in love with space when I was young, and deciding on your career from childhood really makes a difference. I loved collecting old parts and using them to put things together again. On the other hand, I also loved playing with Barbies and building houses—you can like both!
Why an engineer?
The majority of people who work in space-related fields are all engineers. They have the mindset of problem-solving. Most situations don’t have a clear answer, and you need to find a solution based on the information that you have on hand.
You worked in the mining sector initially. How do you go from that to becoming a Flight Operations Engineer with the ISS?
While I was a professional engineer in mining, I also worked on space-related items on the side and developed different skills beyond my career. It’s incredibly important to have a wide skill-set, because you never know what you’ll need. Volunteer experience in the industry counts for a lot. For example, I participated in many international teamwork space projects, and networked and travelled a lot.
Even when I was in school, I did a lot of extra-curricular activities related to space, such as SpaceCamp [run by the South Australian Space School]. There are a lot of activities in all Australian cities for students who are interested!
In addition, mining also has a lot of complex control systems, like Mission Control. So there was an overlap of skills, which helped.
How did this particular job come about?
I researched a lot of jobs in the space industry, and found this one online on a site similar to Seek. It’s all about networking so you hear about the job or know where to go to find the kind of jobs you want. Look out for opportunities, and apply! You’ll never get a job you don’t apply for.
What was the hardest part about applying to work with the ISS?
The agency is based in Europe, so I took a huge chance by buying a one-way ticket with no guarantee I would be hired. I quit my job, flew over there, and put everything into applying. It was a huge risk!
Was there a lot of additional training afterwards?
To work in Mission Control, you have to undergo a year of training. There are theory lessons, tests, and practicals. We also had to manage a lot of simulated situations. The training gave me a lot of confidence when I started working in actual Mission Control. Confidence isn’t a natural thing, and I think women and girls, especially, struggle with it.
If confidence isn’t natural, how have you developed it?
It’s about being more comfortable with failing. I’ve learned to try anyway. I’ll train as best I can, give it a go, and if I fail then I’ll train harder and try it again.
Do you have any experiences you don’t mind talking about?
I’ve applied for many projects and scholarships over the years. There have been big ones I went for and failed. But each time, I picked myself up and kept working on my skills, and kept applying for others.
There was one big application that I worked on for eighteen months. I really wanted it… but I failed. I didn’t get in. I was absolutely devastated. I didn’t give up on in, and two years later, I finally got it!
There are so many paths to achieve your dream. Don’t let rejection get you down.
That’s great advice! Before we finish the interview, is there any other advice you’d like to give others who are pursuing their passion?
Have the big dream, and go towards it. As you work at it, you’ll get better at it. Iterate! Dream it, train for it, then do it! Training and networking will also help.
Andrea Boyd was interviewed as part of a promotion for the latest Barbie film by Mattel – Barbie: Starlight Adventure. The movie empowers young girls and boys to know that yes, they too can go into space.
The day you decide to step out, take a risk and seriously pursue your passion is both an exciting and a scary one. It doesn’t matter if you’ve given up your job (what’s financial security?) or are working toward your dreams on the side (what’s free time or a social life?).
Either way, it is a wonderfully liberating experience that will bring you great joy. But there are also a number of myths you’ll encounter during your journey. These myths can bring you to a screeching, demoralising halt. Below, I’ll debunk those myths and bring you the truth about this journey you’ve begun, or will begin!
Let’s start with the easiest one.
Myth: You will be good at your passion from the outset
Yes, there are some geniuses who get everything right the first time. Their first business plan is perfect. Their first fashion line is a runaway success. Their first artwork is picked up by a prestigious gallery. These people are the rarities.
What does it mean if you’re not one of them? The key phrase in this myth is “from the outset”. Your family and friends may have told you that your plans or your work are absolutely brilliant. But that means nothing in an increasingly connected world, where the marketplace is formed from an international community.
You may start at a slightly higher level but like any craft, you will need to work hard and continually improve. The difference is, because you’re passionate about what you do, you will have the motivation to work harder and sacrifice more than the others who are doing the same thing for the fame or the money.
Myth: You will wake up every day feeling excited and energised
Or if you’re pursuing your passion on the side, on the days that you’ve set aside to work on it.
Because you’re working on something you’re passionate about, you’ll be ready and raring to go every day, right? You already get such joy from doing it as a hobby, why wouldn’t you be excited to wake up to it every day?
Not quite. It’s true there are many days when you can’t wait to jump out of bed and get started. But the truth is, there will also be days—even entire periods of time—where you hit a block and lose inspiration or motivation. There are only blank plans, blank sheets, blank canvases before you no matter how much you push yourself. There will be times when you simply don’t feel like doing anything and think, This sucks!
the truth is, there will also be days—even entire periods of time—where you hit a block and lose inspiration or motivation
This is especially true for projects that can go over months, and sometimes even years.
You should not feel guilty. It’s perfectly normal to have ups and downs along the way. It doesn’t mean that you’re not passionate enough or that you’ve made a mistake. It’s okay to take a short break, relax, and let yourself be unmotivated for a while.
There are also times when you need to keep working despite how you feel. You may not be excited at all, but you need to plod on. Stick to your plan even though you don’t want to do a thing. Take one more step, then another, and another, until you reach the point where you find your spring again.
Because you have that innate passion and believe in you’re doing, because you have your goal and know why you are doing it—that is what will keep you going.
Myth: You don’t need to worry about the business side of things because others will do that for you
This myth applies to those whose passions aren’t rooted in the business world. Perhaps you love cooking, or creating, or inspiring others. You’d like to make some money from what you do, but you also want to focus on what you love and not be concerned over the pesky business side of things. There are people who can manage all that for you, aren’t there?
Let me be clear. It’s not a bad thing to have someone else managing the commercial aspects of what you do. But it’s a bad thing to blindly entrust everything to them without understanding the ins and outs of the business yourself.
You don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details or be an expert… [but] you must know enough to be able to question their plans and decisions
Understand the job this person will be doing and the choices they will have to make (eg. standard marketing techniques for the industry, the average rates or prices, the average commission for the person you want to hire). Look into common scams and understand the risks of any approaches you might take to commercialise what you do.
You don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details or be an expert. That’s what you’re hiring someone else to do. But you must know enough to be able to question your expert’s plans and decisions, and what they want to charge you. And you must be able to understand their responses and weigh them up against your other options. It’s not all that exciting or all that fun, but understanding the business is a crucial aspect of pursuing your passion long-term.
Myth: It’s not really work
This is a phrase that I find incredibly frustrating. Other people use it to imply that because you’re doing what you love, it’s not worthy of being classified as actual work. Especially if you’re doing it part-time around a paying job. You’re expected to work at your passion then come out fully refreshed and ready for ‘real’ work because it’s something you know you were meant to do. It’s the same as relaxing over a good book or a nice glass of wine, isn’t it?
What others don’t realise is that pursuing your passion means long days and longer nights. It means constantly challenging yourself, reworking or reinventing your previous work because it doesn’t meet your standards, and sacrificing other aspects of your life to accommodate.
But you choose to, so it must be enjoyable to do so! It’s a choice, that much is true. That doesn’t mean it’s not work, and it doesn’t tire you out the way the daily 9-to-5 grind does. If anything, it’s even more tiring because your love of what you do pushes you further. You choose to pursue your passion because it’s meaningful to you, and worthwhile.
Myth: You’re not allowed to complain
You are doing something you truly love and believe in. Therefore you wake up excited and loving life every day. What you’re doing isn’t work, it’s just you having fun. So if you complain, you are a horrible, ungrateful person.
If you’ve read the rest of the debunked myths, you know exactly why this is completely untrue.
It is okay to have bad days. It is okay be upset and/or angry those bad days. Pursuing your passion does not mean your life becomes all sunshine and rainbows. You will struggle and you will fall sometimes, but others need to know about this so they can support you and help you get on your feet again.
It is okay to complain about what you are doing.
But even in the worst of it, don’t forget to remember why this is your passion. Don’t forget why you fell in love with it in the first place, and why you want to pursue it.
And don’t forget to be grateful that there is something in your life you love so much.
Leanne Yong is the Managing Editor of Leaders in Heels, an author, and pursuing her passion has now led her to the job of Games Master at Next Level Escape. She loves watching women find and grow their passions, and helping them to dream and define a life they love through Leaders in Heels.