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7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

At 19 I dropped out of college to go live in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, arguably the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city in the world in order to work on my dreams of being a music journalist and promoter. Here I am sitting on my couch, maybe everything isn’t perfect – but I still get to talk to high powered music executives all day and party with rock stars all night and I don’t need a “Real job” to support it all. One question I get asked all the time is “How did you manage to do this at such a young age?” Here are seven keys I used to unlock this kickass lifestyle!

1. You Don’t Need A Plan From The Start

When I started blogging at 14 I didn’t really have a grand vision. I knew I liked hard rock and heavy metal and was all about 80s pop. I wasn’t sure what I could ever do with that. All I knew was that it was fun to write about it on weekends. As it grew I realized that one of the best strategies in life is to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. This is a lesson I still use today, I regularly attend concerts or industry events with no real goal in mind beyond “meet X individual” or just “hang out with Y band and see what happens” and on a surprisingly regular basis, things turn out well.

The thing is – people like people who are, (in the words of that Bud Light commercial:) “Up for whatever happens”. If someone invites you to an after party at 2 in the morning you have to go – not just because you’ll probably have a good time and get to do cocaine with a bunch of hookers, but also because of the connections you’ll have a chance to make. If you’re willing to just go out and play it by ear mighty forces will come to your aid unexpectedly – and it will be glorious.

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2. Be Ready To Improvise

Building on that previous point is the notion that you have to know how to improvise. This goes far beyond being “up for whatever;” it means that you also have to know when to use caution when deciding a new course of action. Being able to improvise has gotten me through many a sticky situation – it helps you find your way into exciting new situations that can advance your career and give you a great story for your grandkids.

The point being – improvisation is an incredibly valuable tool and not one that is easily learned. But when you learn to apply it and use it on a regular basis then you can rest easy with the confidence that no matter what you should be able to handle the struggles of day to day life in whatever dream you want to live. No one said this would be easy, and a key aspect that many of my mentors have emphasized to me is that you need to be flexible and ready to take life as it comes if you want to get anywhere.

3. Habits Lead To Results

Now this next point is obviously far removed from improvisation but is just as important. I’ve mentioned in other articles on here that you need to place discipline over motivation, but perhaps even greater than that – you need to form habits. This is key for several reasons. First of all – it allows you to do something every day that you know that will help build towards your dream. For example, if you want to be a guitarist this might mean practicing two hours a day no matter what, if you want to be a runner then it means you go running five times a week. What I’m trying to say is I know from experience that if you do anything long enough and with enough dedication eventually you will become good at it!

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Furthermore – when other people see your habits they will be impressed with your work ethic and want to work with you. People are drawn to individuals who they see can regularly produce results – and if you prove that you can produce results (or better yet, multiple results!) every day then the more potential partners you will find. No one wants to work with someone who hasn’t proved themselves to be reliable – it is those individuals who have proved their dedication that end up getting the most offers and taking their work to brave new worlds.

4. Prove You Want It Most

Building on the idea of habits leading to results is the notion that you have to prove that you want it most. In all honesty – most people don’t know how to build habits like this and being able to makes it easier to prove you want something the most. Kanye West once spent an entire summer locked up in his apartment making beats because he wanted to succeed so badly. Hunter S Thompson would type up entire novels from his favorite authors to become a better writer. Obama would wake up at 4 in the morning to learn English. It may not seem like it at the time, but these things pay off.

The fact of the matter is that with concrete proof that you want something more than anyone else things will start to fall into place for you. There’s a difference between saying “I really want to live the rock and roll lifestyle” and “Here’s 4,000 posts I’ve made about rock and roll”. My entire vetting process for potential employees basically relies on them coming out and showing me not credentials, but rather concrete evidence of the work they’ve done. This is perhaps the hardest of these keys to pull off but it is also one of the most valuable.

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5. Remember To Be Nice To EVERYONE

I don’t think that anyone wants to be thought of as an asshole by the masses. There’s an easy way to remedy this – be kind and respectful to everyone. This doesn’t mean being weak – you should be able to set limits – but it does mean that you should always be willing to help people and guide them forward. It means that you shouldn’t call people out on social media and it means that you should be very cautious before putting out any sort of controversial opinion into the public sphere.

Am I saying you have to be politically correct? No. I literally talked about doing cocaine with hookers earlier in this article – clearly that’s not a priority. What I’m saying is that resorting to ad hominems and poorly thought out opinions is the place of the Republican party (You saw the last debate – I’m not being partisan) it’s not for someone who is trying to live their dream. So be encouraging – give advice to people getting started and try to find mentors who also ascribe to this philosophy.

6. Enjoy The Ride

This is one of the most important parts and something I used to forget. At times you may feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re not going to get any bigger. But always remember to take a look around and realize “Huh, I’ve been able to do a lot to achieve my dreams” There are plateaus in everything you do, that’s how life works. The trick is to embrace those plateaus as quiet times in between the madness that so often defines day to day life. If you’re not enjoying the ride why bother? As Lemmy Kilmister of the legendary band Motorhead once said “The chase is better than the catch!”

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And I know as well as anyone that desire to succeed can be crippling. You reach those moments where you feel like everyone is against you and won’t let you reach the next level and you start to suffer. But here’s the thing – if you keep going people will respect you. If they see that even in a tight spot you kept your cool and decided to plow forward and not give up and did so with a smile on your face then they will know that you’re the real deal. In a world where you’ve to to fake it until you make it  you might as well enjoy the madness.

7. When You Get To The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing

One of the most important books in my life is Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp. One of the books key ideas is: “When you get to the top of the mountain – keep climbing.” I’m not being facetious when I say this is perhaps the greatest of all these keys. In my rise to living my dream every time that I thought I had reached the peak I decided to keep going, and things ended up even better than I possibly could have imagined. As far as I can tell, short of marrying Pat Benatar, there is no actual upper limit to what can be done in this world and you need to take full advantage of that as you push your way forward.

To tie into this, Jack Kerouac, in his book The Dharma Bums writes, “You can’t fall off a mountain” And this is the final message I want to leave you guys with. No matter what you do – as long as you maintain your honor and integrity it’s pretty hard to screw up badly enough that you get sent back to square one. Always keep pushing and know that with these keys you might just be able to do something great!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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