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7 Harsh Truths of Living Your Dream

7 Harsh Truths of Living Your Dream

I pretty much live my dream – I really do. Despite how much I bitch and complain, I get to live in the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city on earth and make my living in the music industry. What more could a long-haired kid obsessed with Black Sabbath want? That being said – there is a reason I sometimes feel like I have to complain, and it’s not just because I’m a depressed maniac – there is a lot more to living your dream than just the thin veneer of late nights at extravagant parties and working from home.If you’re building towards living a dream you have to be able to accept certain grim realities that are a key part of what makes this such a challenge.

1.  It’s not always fun

One thing that really gets my goat is people who say “Wow – you must be living the perfect life!”  And I mean yeah… to some degree I see where they are coming from – from the outside looking in a lot of peoples lives seem ideal. Part of our daily struggle is keeping up a brave face. To live your dream you have to face a lot of day to day challenges that make this life worth living. The fact that it isn’t fun is part of the point of life – if things came east what would be the point?

Life is hard – and it’s not meant to be fun all the time. The idea that it should be is both a crazy pipe dream and a weird millennial lie. While we definitely are right in working for a better tomorrow (and I never will stop doing just that) I don’t necessarily believe that we are doomed to misery – I also think we need to accept that living your dream can involve some meaningless tasks. For every company you run, there will always be tons of background work that needs to be handled.

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2. You Have To Keep Pushing

There is a saying “When one door closes another opens” and in many ways this has become one of those weird rallying cries of my life. Eventually you learn it’s hard to screw up so hard that you end up having no recourse. If you have what it takes to live your dream, then you have to have what it takes to push forth no matter the consequences, and be bold in your trials and tribulations.

Part of what makes people want to hire you and work with you, especially in what one might think of as ‘dream jobs’ is when you prove your dedication. If you can show that time and time again you kept on doing what you loved in order to help build towards the future you want then people will respect you. When they see your dedication they will immediately become more open to working with you. In this way – the challenge of living your dream is part of what makes living your dream possible. It shows you have what it takes and keeps you driving forward.

3. There will always be struggles

The basic truth is that in this life there will always be ups and downs – that’s just how it goes. Having that hunger is a part of what makes us successful in the first place. But you need to remember that there will always be setbacks. Regular readers know that I dropped out of college to pursue this, and while I’m pretty happy with the decision, let me assure you, nothing is more depressing than receiving a harsh financial blow and then getting an email with the subject line “It’s never too late to go back to college!”

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But this isn’t about my distinctly sad life. It’s about something greater – that is to say, the knowledge that we live in a world where we are going to face challenges in the day-to-day. Living your dream usually implies quite a bit of risk, and most us embrace that. But of course, because there is risk, sometimes important or cool opportunities will fall through and we are left wondering if we really made the right choice. And that’s fine!

4. Sometimes You Have To Settle

Part of the struggle is knowing when you have to compromise. Knowing when to settle and be willing to accept that as part of living your dream is hard, but it’s part of what it takes if you really want to go forward. No one wants to have to give up on any one aspect of their goals – but unfortunately not everything comes free or easy in this world. Maybe you can afford to launch your startup but you can’t hire all your friends right away? That’s fine – You still have a start-up!

Here’s the thing – settling becomes a lot easier to come to terms with when you count your blessings and realize exactly what you have done thus far. It gives you a chance to go “Wow – I actually have come pretty far!” And from that you are a lot more able to realize that a sacrifice or two here and there isn’t really that big a deal? Why? Because you’re building towards something greater – and if the greater reality you’re building towards remains more or less complete albeit with a few compromises then you’re still doing a great job!

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5. It Can Take Over Your Life Without You Realizing It

This is one that I certainly have struggled with and one that I’ve had to come to terms with in recent weeks. Sometimes – you have to distance yourself a little bit from your dream. People like me have a tendency to get obsessive, at this point I would say 12-13 of my 16 or so waking hours are spent working on music related things. I think it’s pretty obvious to see that this doesn’t allow for a lot of ‘free time’ where I can do things that aren’t music. You have to have hobbies outside of your dream in order to make it feasible. For me these things have been reading, running and cooking, they give me a much needed break from the day-to-day insanity.

You need to be careful when you start going all out for your dream – it’s a scary thing to do and messing up could be risky if not for your life then for your soul. Remaining interested in things outside of your passion is crucial if you want to continue to be able to grow as an individual.

6. You Start To Wonder If This Is What You Wanted The Whole Time

There is no shortage of people who decided to give up and turn their back on he dream because they realized it wasn’t really what they wanted. I’ve always wondered if I was doomed to be one of those people. After all – I’m fighting with all my strength for a very hard to achieve goal that seems doomed to leave me wanting more. Am I really able to keep driving this forward?

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Then you remember – there is a reason you wanted this. You wanted this because it provided a way out from a world you don’t think you want to be a part of. While yes, there are comfortable lives to be had – you have to think, how do you want to be remembered? In my mind at least, it is far better to be dashed upon the rocks than to sit on the shore staring at the surf. If you poured a lot of time and energy into this, then it suggests that there was something you wanted from it, something worth building towards, and thus something you would have really wanted. If you change your opinion that’s okay, but remember, in the end it pays off.

7. Once You Reach The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing

There is no upper limit to what you are capable of – I sincerely believe that. While it’s nice to rest on your laurels, that’s exactly what breeds complacence and makes it harder to drive forth for a better tomorrow. Climbing the mountain is what we all have to do if we want to live our dream – and it’s never going to be easy. As you get higher there is rarefied air and more dangers at every turn, but that just makes being at the top even better.

But never be satisfied – I sincerely hope that the curse of those who truly live their dreams has. No matter what, it is never enough. There is always a new level – a new goal, a new achievement. This life is not meant for those who want to be happy with little. No matter what – the minute you decide you are satisfied is the minute your dreams start to slow down. Look for new dreams and realize that though this is hard – it is always worth it.

Featured photo credit: Nicolas Raymond via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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