What I Learnt About Fear From Throwing People Off A Building

I didn’t really throw them, they jumped. It’s 192 metres (630ft) to the ground from the jumping platform on Auckland’s Skytower where Skyjump operates. They were attached to a wire which allowed them to travel to the ground in a matter of seconds. During my time working there I was based at the top making sure they were properly hooked up before they jumped.

All of the people we dealt with were scared.
Some were only a little bit scared. Some were totally freaking out. Everyone experienced fear – mixed in with fun. Although for some the fun was more in telling the story afterwards!

Observing how people behave when they are afraid is a very interesting experience. I’ve watched a fit, healthy, confident grown man chicken out of jumping at the last minute. The next person after him was his 12 year old daughter who jumped off without a problem, and loved it.

From what I saw there are two kinds of fear:

The rational fear?
If a person is standing on a small platform 192 metres off the ground and their senses aren’t telling them to be careful – then that would be a serious oversight in the evolution of the human being. This isn’t really fear, it’s more like common sense. If I asked you if you would jump out of a plane without a parachute, you wouldn’t. Not because you are afraid – but because you’re not stupid.

The other kind of fear.
Real fear is more of an irrational thing. It overrides the ability for a person to make logical decisions. It distorts their thinking and fools them. People who come to jump understand, at an intellectual level, that the equipment is safe. They know that no one has died jumping off. They have confidence in the staff. Yet they cannot jump. Logically they can see that they should, but they cannot make themselves go through with it.

These people have allowed their fear to control them to such an extent that they are powerless against it.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

The average person experiences fear, but does it anyway.
They may hesitate and dither about a bit, but they get there eventually. They are able to choose whether to jump or whether to allow this fear to override their decision making. They chose to jump – and they love it.

It doesn’t actually matter if you can’t jump off a building.
The fear of jumping off a building is a very extreme one. It’s not an everyday occurrence. People don’t normally have to jump off buildings when they go to work. If you can’t do it – so what?! Most people will never have to jump off a building in their lives.

Fear can be subtle and insidious.
Most of the time fear isn’t so obvious though. It is the fear of asking someone out on a date. The fear of speaking up about something at work. The fear of asking a stupid question and looking silly. The fear of standing up for yourself. These fears are far more limiting than the fear of jumping off a building.

Why? Because these are part of everyday life and we have to face them all the time. Everyone has to deal with problems at work. Everyone who wants a relationship has to take the risk of rejection by asking someone out. If you can’t brave these risks in life then you aren’t going to get far. These fears are going to really limit your life. They are going to imprison you. They are going to dictate the quality of your life. It is these kinds of fears that you really need to watch out for. And they can be tricky to spot. Sometimes people don’t even realise they fear something. They make excuses and even kid themselves.

Fear can be overcome.
Some people really don’t think they will be able to jump. But with a bit of reassurance and a chance to get their head around it they do. I’ve seen people in tears they’re so scared who eventually manage to pull themselves together enough to jump off. And they’ve been extremely proud of themselves when they’ve done so. The joy of having looked their fears straight in the eye and faced up to them is a really empowering experience.

This last point is the thing I hope you take from this post. Fear can be overcome. It is not an invincible force that you are powerless against. It is something that is very much within your ability to control.

On a personal note I have never had any problem jumping off the Skytower. One thing I am scared of though is the idea of having a Tarantula spider crawl up my arm. I know that at some zoos you can actually go and experience this. As much as I don’t like the sound of it I do intend to give it a try just for the hell of it, so if you know anywhere in New Zealand where you can do this then let me know (I’m regretting having said this already!).

Image: Wikipedia

Excellence is a habit

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Put 100% into EVERYTHING you do – this is what the ancient yogis believed was the key to success. If you want to be good at football then you should not only apply yourself to your football training but also to ordinary day-to-day activities. By doing so you make excellence a habit.

Life these days in the western world can be really easy for a lot of people. Sure, we complain about the weather, traffic and our colleagues but compared to many people in the world we have it easy. We don’t have to work hard. I personally have never had to worry about starving to death, I’ve never been in a war and my house has never been blown away by a hurricane.

You can get by in life these days without putting 100% into it. You can probably cruise through at around 80% and be fine. But the quality of your life will reflect what you put into it. You put in less, you get less back.

Popular culture in the world today does not encourage us to strive for excellence. It doesn’t reward us if we make excellence a habit. In fact it probably encourages the opposite.

When I was in school the kids who worked hard at their homework got teased, and sometimes this attitude still prevails in the adult world. Think about your work colleagues, your friends and family: how many of them are putting 100% into everything they do? Sadly excellence is not a common thing. If you are someone who strives for excellence in all things then you are a rare breed.

Be the exception. Wash the dishes to the very best of your ability, clean the toilet to the very best of your ability. It might not seem like much but by doing this you begin to establish the habit of excellence in everything that you do. As it becomes more entrenched, this habit will spill over into your relationships, work, finances, health…

It’s rather like physical fitness. It takes effort, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. At first you have to train yourself and push yourself towards excellence even when you don’t feel like it. But start with the little things and you’ll soon see it spread across all aspects of your life. If you practice this approach even for a week you’ll see what I’m getting at. And if you persist then eventually you get to the stage where excellence is a habit.

Changing your habits is generally easier said than done but not in this case. If you simply do the next task you do to the very best of your ability then you’re already on your way.

Image: Jef Poskanzer

Save Money and Survive the Global Economic Meltdown

“Money will buy you a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of his tail.” – Henry Wheeler Shaw

The New Zealand $5 note showing Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mt Everest
The NZ $5 note shows Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mt Everest along with Serpa Tenzing Norgay.

With all the hype surrounding the state of the world economy at the moment it can be easy to get swept up in the frenzy of it all. But of course money isn’t everything. You can still go for a walk in the park with a loved one for free. You can hug somebody for free. Life is a wonderful thing regardless of the state of the economy.

But when you have financial worries hanging over you it can be very stressful and difficult to maintain a positive outlook on life. So here are some financial principles I stick to, followed by some practical ways to save money.

Get out of debt – Work out how much you owe and make a plan to pay it back. It doesn’t matter if its going to take you weeks or years. Make a plan and start working towards it right away.

Live within your means – Cut up your credit cards. Pay them off and tell you bank to close down your credit card accounts. Do the same with all store cards etc. If you don’t have the money to pay for an item, don’t buy it. The consumer culture around us really promotes the idea of credit. Banks and stores make it really easy to get credit and buy things we can’t afford. But don’t get sucked in! Marketers are very crafty. They’ll catch you at a weak moment, and the next thing you know you’ve got a new TV that you didn’t really need.

Play it safe – By this I mean don’t be tempted by get rich quick schemes. If it seems to good to be true, then it is. Keep your money in the bank. Think carefully about what you do with your money. Despite what experts may tell you, they simply do not know what is around the corner. Few would have thought it would get this bad, so no one really knows what the future holds. Take a conservative approach.

Here are some practical ways to save money:

  1. Only shop at the supermarket once a week – Plan what you’ll eat and make a list. When you go to the supermarket stick to the list. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry, have a snack before you go. Buy specials and give up your name brands for the generic ones, chances are they’re made in the same factory anyway.
  2. Take your lunch to work – I often buy my lunch at work and my boss, who brings his lunch from home, delights in asking me how much it costs. He says he does it “just so I know how much money I’m saving”.
  3. Reassess your mortgage if possible.
  4. Avoid bank fees – Look at how your bank fees work and see if you are using your bank in the most efficient way.
  5. Reassess your plans – Make sure you’re on the right plan for your phone, electricity, mobile, internet, insurance etc. These companies often come out with new plans and it may be that you can save a lot of money simply by switching to another plan. Especially if your circumstances have changed since you signed up for them.
  6. Save money on fuel – Make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure (and check this regularly), don’t speed, and accelerate smoothly rather than suddenly.
  7. Transport – Carpool, get the bus, ride a bike, walk.
  8. Save electricity – Spend less time in the shower, insulate your hot water cylinder, switch off stereos/TVs etc at the wall and lights when you aren’t using them (if a little red light is still showing it’s using power), dry your washing outside instead of using the dryer, make sure your hot water cylinder temperature is set at the right level, don’t use heated towel rails, use energy efficient light bulbs, close your curtains before dark to keep the heat in. These little things can save a surprising amount of money.
  9. Don’t impulse buy – Only buy things you actually need. If you find something you really want then go home and have a think about it first.
  10. Cancel credit cards and store cards – Having these is just asking for trouble!
  11. Pay your bills early to get a discount – My electricity bill is always cheaper if I pay it by a certain date. Over the course of a year the difference is around a month’s worth of power. Definitely worth doing.
  12. Plant a vegetable garden – Even if you haven’t got a green thumb, it’s pretty easy to grow the basics like potatoes in your backyard. GetRichSlowly.org has some tips on how to start your own vege garden.
  13. Get friends around to your house instead of eating/drinking out – It’s way cheaper and you get to choose the music.
  14. Record where your money goes – If you’re struggling it can help to write down what you spend your money on. Keep a record of what you spend for a week, including the afternoon snack or the magazine at the train station. The amount you waste may surprise you. Once you know where it goes you will be able to see where you need to make changes and you can then…
  15. Make a budget – It doesn’t have to be a complicated thing, just some basic guidelines about how you’ll spend your money. Here some ideas on how to make a budget.

For an perspective on financial matters check out George Clason’s brilliant little book The Richest Man in Babylon, first published in 1926. Despite it’s simplicity, it is the book that has had the most significant influence on how I manage my finances.

9 Tips To Create An Extra Hour In Your Day

“Dost thou love life? Then waste not time; for time is the stuff that life is made of.” – Benjamin Franklin

Image credit Neil Stewart

Wouldn’t it be great if you could magically create an extra hour in the day? I believe that everyone can do this, in fact most people can probably create way more than an hour.

It has been said that if you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know. This is because when you’re busy you have to become more efficient to get things done. I’ve found this to be true because my life is fuller than it has ever been and yet I am squeezing so much more into it than I ever used to. I think a big part of that is because I’ve learned to be a lot more efficient in the way I do things.

Randy Pausch is someone who learned to have great control over the way he managed his time after he contracted Pancreatic Cancer. It really put things into perspective for him. You can learn from his experiences in his talk on time management. It’s quite inspiring, especially considering what he was up against at the time. You may also like to watch his last lecture if you haven’t already, it’s great.

A dramatic event in your life like this can be the catalyst for you to improve the way you manage your time but you needn’t wait for this to happen. The ideas below won’t all work for everyone but most people should be able to find something here that they can use to free up some time in their day.

What you do with that extra time is a whole different story. You might like to learn something new, relax, take up a new hobby, volunteer somewhere, spend some more time with your kids, starting writing that novel or simply catch up…

1. Get up earlier – Especially on the weekends. How many people waste half the day sleeping in? The average adult needs 7 or 8 hours sleep a night. If you’re getting more than that you probably don’t need it.

2. Watch less TV – Most people, myself included, could easily save some time by watching less TV. It’s so easy to just vege out in front of the idiot box. But set yourself limits. Watch a programme you like then switch it off. TV bosses are crafty, they start each show straight after the previous one so before you know it you’re hooked and have to watch the next show. Don’t fall for it, use the off button. If you’re really organised you can record shows you want to watch so that you can watch them when it suits you. That way you get to skip the ads as well.

3. Rework your commuting time – Move closer to work, or get a job closer to home. For some commuters this alone could easily save an hour a day. Ask your boss if you can rearrange your time at work so you start and finish later. That way you avoid rush hour and spend less time stuck in traffic but are still able to spend the same amount of time at work. Do you need an hour for lunch? Ask for a half hour so you can leave half an hour earlier.

4. Do something as soon as you get home before you relax – Rather than heading straight for the couch as soon as you get in from work why not do a couple of chores straight away. It’ll make the couch feel even better when you get there.

5. Shop less – Don’t go to the supermarket 4 times a week, go once or twice and take a list so it takes less time when you’re there (you’ll save money doing this as well). And take your shopping list to work so you can pick up the groceries on the way home rather than having to make a separate trip.

6. Rethink your internet usage – How did you arrive at this article? Did you intend to read this, or did you arrive here by chance after reading another blog? Time can fly by when you’re online so observe how you use your time. If you’re trying to work then maybe you should close your email and messaging programs so you aren’t getting distracted. Or divide up your time so that you get your work done first. Then you can surf freely without feeling like you should be doing something else.

7. Spend less time in the shower – I love showers so I always struggle with this, especially in the winter. But if I’m really pushed then it is one way to free up a little time in the morning.

8. Re-evaluate your chores – Do you really need to iron everything? Why not buy clothes that don’t need ironing? (I’m allergic to ironing so I can get out of this one on medical grounds). Do one large load of washing instead of two smaller ones. Tidy up as you go so it doesn’t become a huge task. A tidy house means you won’t have to spend half your life looking for your keys.

9. Delegate – If you have kids then get them doing some of the chores. If you can afford it then get a cleaner or pay your next door neighbour’s kid to mow the lawns. Setup automatic payments for your bills. There are lots of ways to delegate tasks so you can free up your time.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to free up some time in your day then make a note of how you spend your time for a couple of days. You’ll be surprised how much free time you actually have if you want it. If you’re looking for more you can check out young entrepreneur Adam McFarland’s useful work-related time management tips.

12 Ways To Fight The Procrastination Monster

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” – William James

Procrastination monsterEver had a big essay due but somehow found yourself obsessively cleaning the house? Do you find yourself looking up people you used to know on Facebook when there is work to do?

Procrastination, annoyingly, is a part of human nature. It’s in our DNA and everyone has to battle with it sometimes. Unfortunately there is no lasting quick fix.

Overcoming procrastination is about managing yourself, not your time. You can’t change the amount of hours there are in the day but you can change how you use them.

I’ve found that a lot of the time I procrastinate about doing things, it’s because I think they are going to be a big hassle. But then when I finally get around to doing them they are far easier than I had expected. It’s a constant battle.

Here are some ideas to help you keep the procrastination monster in check…well at least some of the time :)

1. Work out how you’re spending your time now – If you aren’t sure how you’re spending your time then it can help to keep a record of it for a day or two. Just keep a note pad next to you as you go through the day and make a note of the things you do and how long you do them for. You might be surprised at how much time you spend surfing the web, or chatting to colleagues and so on.

If you do mostly computer based work then there is even software you can install on your computer to monitor this for you and so you can see at the end of the day exactly how much time you’ve spent on eBay, Facebook etc. It can be a real eyeopener!

2. Write a to do list and prioritise it – Then do the tasks in the order of priority. Try not to let yourself get caught up in low priority tasks just because they are easier or more enjoyable (this is where you have to be disciplined).

3. Do one thing at a time and don’t stop until it’s finished – Multitasking is a myth. Your brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If you’re multitasking then your brain is just switching back and forth between different things really fast. Why not just do one thing, then move on to the next and save your neurons all that extra travelling time?

4. Plan – Timetable your day/week/year so that you allot time to different tasks eg. 9-9.30 plan, 9.30-10 work on report, 10-10.30 check emails and so on.

5. Set goals – If you don’t know where you’re going then it’s hard to know what you should be doing to get there. Setting yourself goals can give you direction and focus. You can then figure out which tasks are helping you achieve those goals and which are not.

6. Eliminate distractions – Everyone has weaknesses for certain things. I find myself on reddit more often than I should be. Figure out what your distractions or weaknesses are and make a plan to eliminate them. One way of avoiding being distracted by something like Facebook is to schedule time to visit the site. That way you aren’t cutting off something you enjoy, but finding a way to enjoy it in a less distracting way.

Take the phone off the hook or put your mobile on silent. It can also help to change your email settings so that you aren’t alerted to every single email. You can then just check your email at predetermined times. Or even disconnect your computer from the internet completely for an hour or two so that you are completely free.

7. Do the thing you least want to do first – If there are things that you always procrastinate on then do them first. That way they aren’t hanging over your head for the rest of the day, week, month, year. And when you’re getting tired at the end of the day you have the really easy fun things to finish the day with.

8. Check your habits at the door – Hands up who checks their emails 20 times a day? Do you really need to? Would it be that different to just check them 10 times a day or even twice? Constantly checking emails is a real distraction and it is a firmly grained habit in many people.

Habits can be helpful or destructive so try to cultivate good habits that encourage productivity and eliminate those habits that contribute to your procrastination.

9. Enlist help – Get your colleagues, family, friends on board. Tell them you’re going to have something done by a certain day – and then deliver it. Having that public pressure to do something can make a big difference.

10. Play to your strengths – Are you a morning person? Then get your most difficult work out of the way in the morning when you’re fresh and clear headed. Don’t wait until after lunch when you’re feeling sleepy.

11. Break from routine – Sometimes it can help to do things a different way. Take your laptop out to the library, or move into a different room. Do things on paper that you’d normally doing on an Excel spreadsheet. Doing things differently can help you make a break from bad habits.

12. Review – Look at what you’ve achieved during the day. Have you accomplished what you set out to? If not, why not? What can you do tomorrow to make sure that those things do get done? Keep reviewing your actions on a regular basis to stop yourself from slipping back into the trap.

Images: SOCIALisBETTER

8 Tricks to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.
– Plato

I think the average length of time someone goes to the gym for is about 3 months. Three months! I guess that is enough time to see some results, lose some weight, get a bit toned, and then the enthusiasm wears off. I’ve been there myself but, perhaps because I have grown up with parents who exercise regularly, I have always returned to it.

I know someone who every now and then has a major surge of enthusiasm for exercise. He talks about how he has this great plan of exercise that he will be starting on Monday. The problem is that his enthusiasm gets the better of him and so on the Monday he is up for an hour long run at 5am. He does the same on Tuesday. But by Wednesday he is tired and sore and the whole regime has been written off as too hard and he is back to square one again. So that leads me to the first point:

1. Make it manageable – Do something realistic to begin with. Set yourself realistic goals and a schedule of exercise that you will be able to maintain for longer than a couple of weeks. Underestimate you’re ability to stick with it to begin with, you can always up the pace further down the track.

2. Make exercise a social activity – Exercise with friends or family, or join a club. For a lot of people sport is their social life. If you just go to the gym on your own it can get boring and become a chore. But if you join a team or club and train regularly with the same people then pretty soon you’ll have a whole new bunch of friends and another reason to keep exercising.

3. Enter and train for an event – Sign up for short fun run and get yourself in shape for it. I signed up for a marathon and told everyone I new about it. That certainly helped me commit to my training programme. You might like to join a fun run/walk or do a relay/triathlon with a few friends.

4. Make your exercise something that you enjoy – Stressed? – go to yoga classes. Lonely? – join a sports team. Looking for excitement & adrenaline? – try rockclimbing, iceskating, rollerblading… There are plenty of clubs out there, it’s just a matter of googling for them, or flicking through the phonebook, or looking at notices at the library/gym etc.

5. Make exercise a part of your normal life – A really easy way to do this is to walk or cycle to work. If you live too far away then get off the bus or park your car a block further away and walk the rest of the way. Or go for a walk at lunchtime. I used to go for walks in a cemetery when I lived in London as it was the only green area near my work.

6. Create a schedule – Stick it on your fridge so you can tick off each activity when you complete it. That way you can see your progress in a visual way. And you’ll be reminded each time you open the fridge.

7. Think about why you exercise – I exercise because I want to live a long and healthy life. But also because I feel better when I am fit. Why do you exercise? Do you want to see your grandchildren grow up? If you’re simply exercising to flatten your stomach then you may well lose enthusiasm once you’ve accomplished that, or you’ll lose heart if you don’t accomplish it right away. Think of exercise as an essential part of a balanced life, because that is what it is.

I’ve been asked why I go to the gym when I don’t need to lose weight (I’m a bit of a bean pole but I prefer to say I’m ‘lean’). I go to the gym because I want to be healthy, not just for the sake of my physical appearance (although of course that’s still a motivation for me too).

8. Don’t expect immediate results – You may well get some immediate results but don’t get disheartened if you don’t. After you’ve exercised for a time you’ll find that the results you’ve gained will level off and your exercise is more for maintenance. This is where people can stop as they get bored or disheartened because the improvements stop. The reality is that no matter how big you are you can’t keep losing weight forever.

And if you’re still unconvinced here are some more ideas. It’s a New Year so stop procrastinating, there’s no better time to start!

Image: Celso Flores

First Jobs of 51 Successful People

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Everybody started somewhere! In fact, almost everyone who has achieved fame and fortune often had very small beginnings (and many of them are actually famous failures!) Check out the first jobs of these famous names:

1. Sir Alex Ferguson – He spent the first six years of his working life as a toolmaker.
2. Vin Diesel – Bouncer.
3. Sir Richard Branson – When he left school to start a magazine called ‘Student’ his headmaster said “Branson you will either become a millionaire or go to jail” (he has done both).
4. Michael Jordan – His first job was in a hotel and it lasted a week.
5. Donald Trump – Collected rent from tenants for his father who owned various properties.
6. Madeline Albright – Worked in a department store selling bras.
7. Gene Simmons – Newspaper delivery boy.
8. Bono – Gas station attendant.
9. Al Pacino – He got fired from his first job as a cinema usher.
10. Mariah Carey – Hat checker (she got fired).
11. Anthony Hopkins – Clerk in a steel foundry.
12. Stephen King – Janitor.
13. Coolio – Firefighter.
14. Elvis Presley – Truck driver.
15. Jim Carrey – Janitor in a tire factory, security guard.
16. Robin Williams – Ice-cream scooper.
17. Jennifer Aniston – Telemarketer.
18. Warren Beaty – Rat catcher.
19. Harrison Ford – Carpenter.
20. Marlon Brando – Ditch digger.
21. Michael Caine – Dishwasher.
22. Tom Hanks – Popcorn and peanuts vendor.
23. Madonna – Worked at a Dunkin Donuts.
24. Clint Eastwood – Pool boy, gas station attendant.
25. Brad Pitt – Dressed as a giant chicken for a Mexican restaurant.
26. Ellen Degeneres – Cleaned cars.
27. Denzel Washington – Worked at a local barbershop when he was 11 years old.
28. Lucy Lawless – Grape picker.
29. Bill Gates – Congressional page in the Washington State Capitol.
30. Michael Dell – Dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant.
31. Rod Stewart – Grave digger.
32. Mick Jagger – Porter in a mental hospital.
33. Michael Douglas – Gas station attendant.
34. Bob Geldof – Slaughterman.
35. Russell Crowe – Waiter.
36. Helen Mirren – Worked at an amusement park.
37. Simon Cowell – A runner at a film studio, then got promoted to the post room.
38. Chris Tarrant – Teacher.
39. Jean-Claude Van Damme – Bouncer.
40. Nicolas Cage – Sold popcorn at a theatre.
41. Julia Roberts – Worked in an ice cream shop.
42. Sting – Teacher.
43. Johnny Depp – Phone salesman for branded pens.
44. Annie Lennox – Worked in a bookshop.
45. George Clooney – Sold men’s suits and shoes, worked in department store stockrooms, cut tobacco, worked construction and cleaned a theater.
46. Hugh Jackman – Clown.
47. Chris Rock – Busboy.
48. Mr T – Bouncer.
49. Quentin Tarantino – Video store clerk.
50. Danny DeVito – Hairdresser in his sister’s salon.
51. Keanu Reeves – Janitor.

Disclaimer: I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this, I just pieced it together by googling so take it with a grain of salt, but you get the idea.

Images: Wikipedia

20 Famous Failures

The famous failures below are now well known and their names are synonymous with success, but it wasn’t always this way. At one point the idea of these people reaching the heights they have reached would have seemed absurd – toally impossible – and yet they did it. Many of them didn’t just fail, they failed in spectacular fashion. So don’t give up on your own dreams – you may end up joining this list of famous failures one day!

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

Our list of famous failures

1. Abraham Lincoln – Former US president Abraham Lincoln first went into politics at the age of 23 when he campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He then opened a general store which failed after only a few months.

2. Robert M Pirsig – His well known book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ was rejected by 121 publishers. Since finally being published in 1974 it has gone on to sell millions of copies in 27 languages.

Michael Jordan shooting a goal - he is one of our famous failures
Image: Wikipedia

3. Michael Jordan – The most famous name in basketball was actually cut from his high school basketball team.

4. John Wayne – Before his successful acting career he was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.

5. Steven Spielberg – This household name dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average.

6. Beethoven – His music teacher once told him that he was a hopeless composer.

7. Harry S. Truman – This former US President was rejected by the US Military & Naval Academies due to his poor eyesight. At one point he was a clerk in a newspaper mailroom, and also an usher in a movie theater.

8. Babe Ruth – Should he be on this list of famous failures? Yes, this baseball legend struck out 1,330 times!

9. Henry Ford – The Ford Motor Co was Henry Ford’s third business, the first two didn’t work out.

10. Winston Churchill – This former British Prime Minister did poorly in school and had a speech impediment in his early years.

11. Marilyn Monroe – Marilyn Monroe spent much of her younger years in foster homes. One of her first jobs, during the second world war, was inspecting parachutes.

12. Walt Disney – He was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking in ideas.

13 Soichiro Honda – The founder of Honda was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota after World War Two.

14 & 15. Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita – These two were the founders of Sony, but one of their first products was an electric rice cooker. They only sold 100 or so of these cookers because they tended to burn rice rather than cook it.

16. Charles Darwin – His father told him he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to himself and his family.

17. Albert Einstein – He learned to speak at a late age and performed poorly in school.

18. Thomas Edison – As a boy he was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.

19. John Grisham – This best selling novelist’s first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.

20. Isaac Newton – He failed at running the family farm and did poorly in school.

There are a few more famous failures in the short video below:


Please share these famous failures with someone who needs reminding that they should never give up!

A Tetraplegic Farmer?

“I’ve learnt a lot of things about life that I wouldn’t have learnt if I hadn’t broken my neck.” – Grant Calder.

You’d think being a tetraplegic would stop you from being a farmer on a large sheep station in the rugged South Island of New Zealand wouldn’t you? Well not for this guy.

Despite an accident which left him with no feeling below the chest and only limited use of one hand he is still going strong on a 4,500 hectare farm which produces some of the best Merino wool in the world.

In the footage below he talks about the challenges he faces and how he has come to terms with his situation:

“…you’ve got to keep yourself busy, you’ve got to have something to think about, you’ve got to have something to aim for.”

Reminds me of that old proverb: I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet.

If you liked this you might like these other inspiring stories.

7 Simple Ways to Improve Relationships with Friends and Family

“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” – Abraham Lincoln

Relationships are a massive part of our lives, we can’t live without them. Of course sometimes it is very hard to live with them, but in the long run they are one of the most important things in life, and yet also one of the easiest things to neglect.

Dr George King described friendship as a flower that needs to be watered by two or more people in order to survive. I think this is a brilliant metaphor. Perhaps that flower could live for a little while being watered by only one person but in the long run it will just wither and die. Rather than waiting for the other person to start watering the flower before you do, why not take the initiative and start the watering first. You might just trigger them into watering it as well.

Relationships with friends and family always go through testing times and there will always be ups and downs. Some times they will let you down and sometimes you’ll let them down. But by practicing the points below you can help strengthen those bonds so that the glitches along the way can be smoothed over more quickly.

It might be best not to try to do all of these at once. Perhaps just start by picking one or two ideas and work on them with one person and see what happens.

Keep in touch – Call/txt/email/write/meet more often. These days technology makes it so easy to keep in touch and yet we still find ourselves drifting apart. Technology can help you keep in touch but it can never replace being together in person. When I travelled overseas I emailed home regularly to friends and I was surprised at how well this managed to maintain those friendships, even over an extended period of time. This is important with the people you live with as well. Sometimes you can live in the same house yet not end up spending much time together. But whilst technology helps in many ways it can also hinder. A txt is no substitute for a face to face conversation.

Quality time – If you haven’t had quality time with someone for a while then arrange to do so. There are some friendships where you might only catch up once a month, others a few times a week. Every relationship’s different so figure out who you’re neglecting and decide how you can correct this. It can help to pick a friend and think when the last time you had a decent conversation with them was.

Remember birthdays & other dates – This is important with friends and essential with family. Some people say they aren’t fussed whether about people remembering their birthday but actually everyone appreciates it. How you remember people’s birthdays varies. Depending on how close you are it might just be a text or a phone call, or a present. I’m not too hot at remembering dates so I programme them into my mobile phone. With the really important ones I programme a reminder in a week ahead of the birthday so I’ve got time to organise a gift. These days with Facebook, Bebo etc it’s easier than ever to keep track of birthdays.

Listen more – The absolute number one way to improve a relationship is to listen more. And really listen. If you think people aren’t listening to you then chances are you aren’t listening to them either. Set the wheel in motion and listen to them first. Really try to see things from their perspective. If you want people to listen to you then listen to them first.

Look for ways to help them or make their lives better – Do a chore they normally do, give them a lift somewhere, help them carry something.

Try not to take them for granted – It’s easy to get a bit too comfortable in some relationships. We get caught up in other areas of our life and forget about some friendships then wonder why they aren’t there for us anymore. Friendships need to be maintained or they will fade away.

Open up – Tell them how great they are and how much you love having them as a friend/partner etc. Be specific, tell them what it is that you love about them and why that is such a great thing.

For more ideas check out Leo’s post on Zen Habits called The Six Greatest Gifts You Can Give Your Loved Ones.