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An Open Letter To the 5 Year Old Me

An Open Letter To the 5 Year Old Me

What would you tell your 5-year-old self if you had the chance to write a letter to your past self? Here’s my letter.

Dear 5-year-old me,

You’re 5 and all you care about right now is football. You love it. You just discovered it and it’s like a drug. No. Wait. I don’t want talk about drugs. Football is… REALLY FUN. Yeah. That’s better.

Sometimes you think about becoming a professional footballer and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Why do you play football? Because you love it. No other reason Let yourself just love it.

Remember that you are good enough

When you get a little older you let kids boss you around. There’s one kid in particular. He barks orders at you and you follow them. Most of the time you’re easy going. You don’t mind.

Is it ok of this kid to boss you around? Is it ok for you to let people boss you around? Are you telling yourself that you’re not worth as much as they are? If you ever tell yourself that, don’t believe it. It’s not true and it never will be. You’re worthy. You’re enough. Forever.

Sometimes what seems wrong at the time, will turn out to be the best that will ever happen to you

When you’re 9 Mum and Dad decide they want to move. When you’re 10, we do. You cry. You beg and plead. You hate that you’re moving away from your friends. You feel like mum and dad ruin your life.

This is one of the best decisions mum and dad ever make. I promise you. I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you the reasons why. When you get upset, read this letter. Trust mum and dad. Trust me. Trust yourself.

Going after what you really want will change you

When you’re 11 you win the Maynard Cup. Well, the team does. You probably don’t even know what that is right now. You will soon. Wanting to win it becomes a dream for you. It’s the first dream you ever have. You’re desperate to win. You have to win.

It consumes you. It’s all you can think about. You even do things you’ve never done before like imploring your teammates to NOT dive into tackles with a certain player. He’s brilliant so you NEED to be sure they know what they’re doing. You won’t risk the alternative. You won’t risk losing.

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When you start behaving differently, and for the better, you know you really want something. You hop on your dragon and fly around the Milky Way and pluck stars from their constellations. That’s how it feels to achieve a dream.

Write about what you love

You’ll never enjoy “creative writing.” Whatever that means. You just never know what to write about. You feel stuck. You’re nervous about your exams. You don’t fail at anything and you don’t want to fail at this. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to fail?

“Write about football.” That’s what mum and dad say. You can’t believe you’d never thought of it. It was so simple. They really mean “write about what you love.” Because of your essay in your exam you win the creative writing award. You’re shocked. You want to win the sports award. You don’t. The creative writing award is the award to win. Trust me. If you write, write what’s in your heart.

If you get lost, always try to find a way back to who you really are

When you’re in the classroom on your first day at secondary school you don’t want to talk to anyone. But secretly you want to talk to someone. You can’t, though. You won’t. A kid named Steven comes up to you and says “hello!” in his squeaky and obviously-not-broken voice. The sun rises from the horizon and bathes you in its warm glow. A friend.

From then on you always made an effort with the new kid. Always. You were the one that said hello. You were the one that made him feel welcome. You were the one who made him feel like he wasn’t all alone. I’m proud of us for that.

Steven helps you. He helps you get into trouble. The teachers tell you off for talking. You get detentions. You suffer academically. When you think of mum and dad, shame crawls over you.

Mr. Cross was your favourite teacher. And you were his favourite student (it’s ok, Sir, you can admit it). That’s why he notices you getting into trouble. That’s why he cares. He sees things in you that you don’t see in yourself. Not yet.

Do you know who you really are?

You and Steven queue up for class in the computer room. A computer room was actually a novelty back then. If only you could see the world now! As you walk in Mr. Cross pulls you aside. He towers over you like a dictator. But also like a father. He bends forwards. He looks you in the eye. He says: “I’m getting really sick of you.” He walks away.

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You’re stunned. You’re stunned that he talked to you like that. You’re stunned that he cares that much. And you’re stunned that you agree. You’re sick of yourself. You’d been letting Steven pull you towards the abyss. You’re pretending you don’t care about all the stuff you do care about. Respecting people. Getting A’s. Being you.

None of the stuff you did with Steven felt right. Trust your gut. You know who you are and you know who you’re not. Act on it.

Look up to your mother’s strength

Mum gets cancer. You cry when they tell you. It’s ok. Let it out. But they’re going to need you to be strong. I know you’re young but you can do it. You visit her in the hospital after her operation. She’s just lying there. There are so many wires. You feel sick. Again, it’s ok. She’s ok.

Chemotherapy is a bitch. Not that you and I know. But mum knows. It drains you. So how she came with us and dad to watch the Harlem Globetrotters I’ll never know. That’s one of my favourite memories ever and it never would’ve happened if our mum wasn’t our mum. She’s strong. Stubborn, even. That’s probably an advantage when it comes to dealing with cancer. There was no way she was going to let this beat her.

Deal with problems how mum deals with cancer.

Sometimes you won’t get what you want and that’s ok

You make the east of England basketball squad. Woo! Check you out. Even though you went to trials in a full kit and sweatbands. Nobody picks the kid who does that. You’re not really sure you deserve to be picked. Everyone else is tall or has muscles or a beard. You’re just a kid. That’s how you define yourself.

In the penultimate practice game, before those who went onto England trials were picked, you play brilliantly. You don’t miss a shot. You’re in the zone. You’re the Grand Master and the other players are pawns. You’re happy.

In the final practice game the coach tells you to focus on defense. Just defense. So you do. You do exactly that. Your man barely touches the ball. He doesn’t score. For a small white kid lacking in athleticism you do ok. The game ends. I can’t even remember who wins. The only thing left to happen is for the coach to name the players going to England trials.

The locker room is a prison of anxiety. Only 2 people don’t get picked. You’re one of them. You’re not good enough. How do you feel? Like a hot poker has been driven between your ribs? Like your gut has been sliced open?

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One of the player’s dads, who was friends with the coach, came to every single practice. The coach already knew some of the players. You weren’t tall. Or athletic.

Those are excuses. Not reasons. Sometimes you sweat and you hurt and you give everything but you still get brushed aside. You didn’t make the team because you weren’t good enough.

And that’s ok. You don’t deserve to have what you want just because you tried hard. I’m not saying that to depress you. I’m saying it because then you’ll do things you love and not worry about the results.

Even then you still won’t be chosen. But that’s not the point. You’ll choose yourself. (shout out to James Altucher.)

Don’t expect that others will treat you like you would treat them

You go to college to do a Sports Science BTEC rather than stay at school and do A Levels against the advice of everyone. No one listens to advice anyway and no one should. Going to college is what’s in your heart.

The older kids at college don’t seem to like you. They’re clique-y. You still want to be wanted at this point without ever thinking if you like who you want to be wanted by.

You’re the only first year to be picked for the first team. Even though you’re still small and can’t jump.

The first team train on a Tuesday night and every time you wake up in your bed on Tuesday morning you dread what’s to come. You play against some of the best players in the country but your spirit is wrestled to the ground and left to cower. You don’t understand why they don’t like you. You’re desperate to fit in and you’re unhappy you can’t. The worst thing is that you look up to them. As basketball players. They’re the best players you’ve played with. And they treat you like you treat yourself when you make even the smallest mistake.

You want one of them to take you under their wing. To ask you if you’re ok. To stand up for you. To care about you. How many times have you truly cared about yourself? You would have mad friends with the new guy because you know what it’s like to be on the outside. To have your heart screaming but have your brain shutting it up. You would’ve wanted to save them.

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Some people would do exactly the same as you because you’ve both known the same pain. How else could you love a stranger? The older kids don’t do what you would do. They don’t do the right thing because the right thing is your right thing. They did their right thing. And that’s ok.

I’m going to have to go all Good Will Hunting on you and say this: It’s not your fault. Forgive them.

Stop holding yourself back

On your first day of work you arrive early. An hour early. You sit in the car with a blank face and a wire crossed mind. What have you done? You’ve never had a proper job before. “What’s an office like? What are the people like? What will I even be doing? What will my boss be like? How much is lunch? How many times am I going to mess up?” Those are 6 of the 453,962 thoughts that go through your head in the car. How many of them are positive? How many of your thoughts are ever positive?

Later in the day you’re sitting at “your” desk and you get that all too familiar feeling. You need the toilet.

What on earth are you supposed to do? Do you have to ask? What will your boss say? What will your team say? Will they ask you where you’re going? Will everyone in the office simultaneously stand up and accuse you of slacking off? Will the CEO ride in on a white horse, put his joust to your neck and fire you?

Breathe. You’re not that important. You’re paralysed. You look around for help. Help with what? Justifying your decision? TO GO TO THE TOILET?! You don’t want to ask because you don’t want to look stupid. You don’t want to stand up and go because you don’t want to look stupid.

What would happen if you stopped overthinking? Eventually, SOMEhow, SOMEway… you go. You make a run for it. You do your thing. You walk back. You sit down. And SOMEhow, SOMEway… the world is still spinning. People are still doing their jobs. The CEO is nowhere to be seen.

Stop holding back. Stop stopping yourself. Stop wearing a mask. What would happen if you were the Real You?

In the end you have to learn your lessons nevertheless

I don’t even know what this letter is trying to say. Maybe it’s just therapy for the 24 year old me. Maybe I’m trying to say all the clichés you’ll learn: You’re ok. You’re enough. Be kind to yourself. You learn the most when you’re wading through shit. If you let yourself. Be not a victim but a Man. The “you” that you pretend to be is no match for the Real You.

Don’t believe any of this. Seriously. Find out for yourself. Live for yourself. Stay curious. Stay playful. We learn through play and you probably play more because you’re 5 and I’m 24.

Love, your future-you

Featured photo credit: PhotoPin via photopin.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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