Why you need to be ok with venturing out, venturing alone

Striving for balance you can live with

One of the hardest things to figure out when you begin something new – whether it’s a project or a business – is whether it’s going to succeed or fail. Oftentimes, when success comes, it’s easy to look back and see the signs you had not noticed initially. We tend to come to the conclusions we want to make and find the supporting evidence or points where we choose to look.

And when failure hits us, perhaps it is easier to just move on. Who wants to dwell on  the negative?

Anything new…
Anything you have no experience in …
Anything that makes you worried or scared …
is fraught with anxiety.
We are unsure of outcomes, processes and perhaps, even the milestones that may  guide us.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So when a new venture beckons, you’re really striving for a perfect balance as you move ahead.

You don’t want to be over eager and launch before you’ve set your path and laid the foundations for success.
And yet, you also don’t want to think too much and over analyse every move or result in line with the vision you’ve set.

The amount of thinking done needs to be weighed against the amount of action taking place. You’ve got to know when to push it out there – to ship it – and when to hold back for another revision. When what you’re doing is brand new to you and brand new in the space/industry you’re in, then there is no one you can really go to, to get guidance or a helping hand. You’re in this alone and that is typically the case when you’re making your own dreams happen.

Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength –  Napoleon

And you’ve got to be comfortable with that. You’ve got to be internally driven, guided by your expectations and a vision only you truly understand.

It’s scary.
But it’s also helluva exciting.

When pushing through with something new, something different, you’re in it alone but it’s ok.
Others may not get the vision or dream but it’s ok.
You can see the vision but you can’t quite articulate it as well as you’d like to but it’s ok.

Remember that there needs to be as much action as there is thought.
You’re content in the knowledge that you may just need to fumble your way forward.
But it’s ok.

#vision #courage #failure #success

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. 
I run Vertical Distinct, a media and learning organisation supporting both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog here on the entrepreneurial journey. I write for Women of HR and am also Associate Editor at the HR Gazette. Feel free to connect to talk or let me know how I can support you.

You won’t know till you try

Granted, it does seem obvious, but it bears repetition.

Let me explain. For every one person who tells you to focus on building a platform, there will be another who tells you to focus on your writing. For every one person who tells you to build that product you’ve been dreaming and refining in your head and on scraps of paper, excited yet nervous about what could be, there will be another who says that you need to go out and figure out what the market wants and then go build it.

There are gurus everywhere.

I say the best person to decide is you.

There’s also no shortage of opinions. But like a restaurant review, you can either jump in and go explore what your gut tells you or you can listen to the reviewer(s) and make a call based on what they say.

I say the best person to decide is you.
You’ve got tons of experience under your belt, which at times, you might not be able to articulate or speak to. But when the time is right, this experience will be there to guide you. Let it.

You’ve got one shot at this thing called life.
Why give it up because of what someone else said? You don’t always know their frame of reference or motivation.
Why give it up because someone else thinks something of you or is trying to steer you in a particular direction? Go in the direction of your dreams.
Why let this go? Waiting for that time for things to gel and come together in perfect harmony and you’re almost invited to come to the table? That time will never come.

Seize the day.
Seize the moment.
Seize the opportunity.
Do what in your heart you know to be true, and be true to who you are.

There’s a long journey ahead. It will be filled with joy and anguish even when you take the road you want to be on. Don’t let your dream die by the wayside.

Seize the day.
Seize the moment.
Seize the opportunity.


Looking back on your entrepreneurial journey, what story had the most impact on you? Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I too want to learn from you.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog on the entrepreneurial journey. I also write for Women of HR and post on LinkedIn. Let’s connect, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

If You Could Focus on One Skill To Develop, What Would It Be and Why?

I know I said one but that was just to hook you in. The truth is I think there’s six. They vary in weight but there’s an interesting dynamic between of all them.


Some may call it foolhardy but it takes courage to walk down the road you’ve chosen, one you may not articulate to the ones you love. You may find it hard to justify your goals or actions or maybe, you just don’t see the point in doing so. Whatever it is, at some point, you walk your road alone. And the only thing you have going… is the belief that you’re doing the right thing by yourself and that this is what you’re meant to do.

Courage is not always in the bravado acts, the ones we see and identify with. It takes as much courage, if not more, to do the things we need to do, in the shadows, day in and day out.


They go hand in hand. You don’t need to persist when you are succeeding, do you? You persist when things go wrong, when you are flailing. And God help you because they don’t teach you this in school. You either learn this because your mama or papa took the time to drill this into you or you built this up yourself, one day at a time. One project, one experiment, one experience at a time.


If you don’t have the presence of mind to take a step back every now and again to evaluate what is going on, then you run the risk of blindly moving, racing through life till you come to the bitter end and see the mess you’ve created. Because there is no one to blame for the choices you’ve made, except yourself. Whether you’d care to admit or not. On the outside, you could blame a lot of things – your parents, your upbringing, your culture, your financial problems, insert your lack of whatever – the list is endless if you go down this road.

But while we cannot control all the circumstances we find ourselves in, our greatest joy and success comes from our ability to control how we respond, react and deal with the stuff we face. When we boil it all down, every one of us has a story to tell. A story of hope, a story of desperation. Of loneliness, regret, anger, disappointment and loss. Of ambition, passion and hope. Of losing out and breaking through.


You’ve got to live a live of hope or it simply does not work. If you click out, if you say that your life is mapped out for you, from the choices you’ve made so far, if you let your situation dictate your response, that is not a life of hope.

Hope will take you through your darkest days, it will hold you strong through your weakest moments. And to hold hope strong is to believe that anything is possible.


If you are curious about your world, the relationships you make, the wider goings-on, if you have an interest in how things happen and why, that curiosity will fuel you. It will give you ideas, it will open up new vistas, it will bring more into your life than you imagine.

Embrace failure

This is a big life lesson. I will consider my job as a parent more than half done if I can pass this on successfully to my kids. What you want to get to is the development of a mindset where you are not fazed by failure. The highest point would be almost an embrace of it – a kind of egging on. To get to a place where your ego and self worth are unaffected by the results you get, where you don’t question everything you are about and what you do. A place where you can quietly look past the failure and see what is beyond. Where you can look at your failure, right in the eye, to see how and when and why you failed.

I am slowly warming up to the idea that success may lie in still running the race. For success ends the minute you choose to check out.

You’re still here, there’s still the brightness of another shiny new day. You’ve got your head, your heart. You’ve got a dream.
What more do you need?

Can you work less and achieve more?

The truth is that some can. But there’s a process involved and a road to walk down before you get there.

It’s not about the number of hours after all, but the quality of work done and what you focus on. So, if we all get the same 24 hours, how is it that some achieve or gain more than others?

If you look at things in isolation, then it’s hard to get a true picture of where things are really at. Even if you were to compare two successful people in similar industries or backgrounds, you may look at the end results but it’s the process really that you should be reviewing. What you want to focus on is not so much your situation but your approach or system.

I believe that once you’ve achieved a level of success, that it is possible to work less and achieve more. You put things in place, you have a framework and an approach to how you handle things in your life and you prioritise.You have options. These are things that sometimes you don’t necessarily have in the early stages. Therefore, I believe, initially at least, you need to put the hard yards in and do the work. Carve out your space and build things, one step at a time.

The thing to remember though is that there is no silver bullet. You have to wing it. And the best approach for this is to open yourself up to new experiences and be brave.

Be willing to try new things.

Be willing to fail.

Be willing to do stuff even if you don’t have the skills, expertise or training for it.

Be willing to explore and find out what works for you, what excites you, what makes you passionate.

The more that you open yourself up to this, the more that you fail, the more that you chalk up these experiences, the closer you get to success. Don’t you think?

14 Tips for Negotiating Successfully – Tip#13 Do the Research

Whether you are purchasing a property, negotiating a salary raise, working your way through a protracted dispute or chasing a client on a bill they now don’t agree on, you need to do the research.

This simply means that, to negotiate well, you need to :-

  • be aware of the critical facts;
  • distinguish between fact and opinion;
  • understand who you are dealing with – their painpoints, their over-riding goal in this negotiation and the context in which they seek their position;
  • critical external factors that may come into play – market conditions, industry movements, assumptions that have been proven correct or false and/or pre-conditions for the deal.

Why can this go wrong?

Sometimes, when the negotiation is very protracted, or contains layers of complexity, it may be hard to distinguish fact from opinion. It may be hard to see what goes to the heart of the matter and what may be irrelevant to either party or to the discussion.

Positions may change over time for a variety of reasons. The less you know about these changes in position, the less likely you are prepared.

If you are new to the process of negotiation, there’s much to be learnt simply by doing. Some of these lessons may be costly but the lesson is most likely to stay with you.

There’s even a possibility that you may be over-prepared. You’ve considered all bases, you’ve got answers for every conceivable angle but in doing so, you’re burnt out. You’re not able to see the woods from the trees. Too much analysis

It is, ultimately, a fine balance of research and preparation, your gut feel, being proactive in action, taking a nimble approach, appearing and ultimately, being genuine, forthright and ethical. 

Final: Tip #14. Understand the impact of the emotional context.

14 Tips for Negotiating Successfully – Tip#7 What’s Your Wild Card?

Dictionary.com defines a ‘wild card’ as :

a determining or important person or thing whose qualities are unknown, indeterminate, or unpredictable.

Your wild card is typically some factor you consider as critical to the success or failure of the negotiation at hand. It could be something you know about the person you’re dealing with or some information you know about the deal that you believe, if known to the other party, could change things significantly.

The important thing is that it’s not part of the equation now but it could be your fallback position.

Ultimately, you don’t want to start any negotiation process laying all your cards out on the table. You want to put your play forward but you also want to see how the other party plays the game. You want to consider the emotion he brings to it, the kind of style he employs in negotiating, whether he is amicable, defensive, changes his mind too often or is rigid.

Sometimes, you may not have a wild card and that’s ok. But usually, there’s one – it’s how it’s being defined.

Just as you must consider what your wild card is, you must think about your last line of defence. You need to decide on how far you are willing to go, how hard a game you will play and what you are willing to endure/do to get what you want.

Next : Tip #8 Stand in his shoes

14 Tips for Negotiating Successfully – Tip#3 Ask for What You Want

Why do you think this might be a problem area? It’s not as easy as you might think.

Identifying what you want

There are situations when it can take a lot of time to ask for what you want simply because you have not spent the time to identify what this is. Don’t you find it easier to sometimes identify what you don’t want? Yet, you must know that ruling out all the things you don’t want doesn’t help that much in figuring out what you do want.

Yes, one can arrive at that through a process of elimination but it’s far better to arrive at that knowing that it’s simply what is driving you, what you are passionate about and what you truly, deeply desire.

Articulating what you want

Maybe you feel that the other party should already know what you want. Maybe you have said it before and therefore you don’t need to say it again. Maybe, the combination of so many factors and circumstances have already led you to the conclusion of what you want and you believe others should see the same picture you do.

Whatever the circumstance, if you want to be 100 percent sure that you get what you want, you have to articulate it to the other party. You simply cannot operate on the assumption that they will see things from your perspective, that it should be patently clear or that it just ought to be given to you.

Waiting, hoping or assuming are just not strong enough positions of action. You must go out there and demand it. Ask for it as clearly and as articulately as you can.

The devil is in the detail

When you know what it is that you want, lay it all out there. Be clear to yourself that it is what you want. And it definitely helps when you write it down. The more complicated the relationship, the thing that is being negotiated or the circumstances leading to the negotiation, the clearer you must be about the details of what you want.

The 5 W’s once again are a great help. Be clear about :-

  • who you are asking this from;
  • when – the timeframe – you are expecting this in;
  • what you are expecting;
  • how you are expecting it to be delivered;
  • where you are expecting it (if this fits);
  • why you are expecting this.

It may not be necessary for you to articulate all of the above to the other party but it will certainly be necessary to do this for yourself.

While you may ask for all of this, you know that you may not receive it all in the manner in which you ask or expect. And therein lies the art of negotiation. Here, you work out what the important things are to you :

  • Is when more important than how?
  • Is who more important than what?
  • Does the process matter more than the end result?
  • How long are you willing to wait?

A lot of the process of negotiation is about the internal preparation you need to make as you enter the negotiation.

It’s always better to start the process having prepared for it at length so that :-

  • you are composed in the moment;
  • very few things take you by surprise because you have worked out in advance possible hiccups along the way and figured out what’s important to you and what isn’t and how you will deal with it;
  • you know, in advance, how far you will go to get what you want.

You can ask for what you want and sometimes, just maybe, you may be surprised that you get it.

Next : Tip #4 Identify What You Want.

14 Tips for Negotiating Successfully – Tip#1 Make No Assumptions

Successful negotiation depends on so many factors, a great majority of which are outside your control.


Manage yourself

However, the best way you can manage your situation is to manage yourself and how you respond to what you see before you. Having spent a great many years perusing contracts, taking a lead position in negotiating proposals and partnerships, with people I had existing relationships with and those I did not, I have relied on these 14 tips to ensure that I am able to negotiate successfully.

Bear in mind that sometimes, the results achieved were not what I desired, in the first instance, but these results were established on firm and solid footing. Over the course of the next 13 posts, I will share these tips with you and welcome your feedback.

There is no particular order to the tips I will list but Tip #1 : Make No Assumptions should easily be one of the most important tips.


A deadly mistake

In the throes of an exciting discussion, when you are looking at all kinds of possibilities and most importantly, when you feel that you are about to get what you’ve been waiting for, it’s fairly easy to make the deadly mistake of assuming things.

You might assume :-

  • the other party knows where you are coming from;
  • the other party cares about your position – your desires and your expectations;
  • that everything is pretty clear and understood by all;
  • that common sense will prevail; and/or
  • that the other party will do XYZ because that’s the fair thing to do.


Opposing sides

The reality is that, in any negotiation, two parties are usually coming from opposing sides. If you were both on the same side, there would hardly be anything to negotiate about. With that in mind, the other party is therefore :

  • not too concerned about where you are coming from – they are completely absorbed in their position in the game;
  • not likely to care about your position other than how it might affect theirs;
  • pretty sure that you will understand their perspective and position;
  • convinced that common sense will prevail; and/or
  • of the belief that you will do XYZ because that’s the fair thing to do.


Danger, danger

The danger with assumptions is that once you start with one, you end with many more assumptions and there’s a domino effect at play. Secondly, clarifying positions and generally sounding formalistic and anal about what can be seemingly obvious is hard for most to do. They want to appear neither ritualistic, petty nor accusatory in their questions and clarifications.

So, the easiest way to do this is simply : to do it.

Don’t make it sound more than what it is. Use the opportunity as it presents itself to simply clarify. You take an existing statement and restate it in your own words to establish that you’ve got the right interpretation. While this sounds like it might take a while, it can be done quickly and effortlessly. And when you think of the possible consequences if you failed to do this one small step, you realise that it’s far easier to get it right from the beginning than to correct something that’s already midway through a process.

You can avoid assumptions  :-

  • by clarifying or asking questions about the topic;
  • by stating your position and checking their feedback on this;
  • by reframing their position so that you are sure you understood the other party well;
  • by asking the supposedly ‘stupid’ question. People are afraid to ask simply because they don’t want to plead ignorance or idiocy and because sometimes, its easier to just sweep it under the carpet. But one should consider this in the right light ie doing so is merely transferring the point at which a consequence comes into being. It’s far better to catch this earlier in the game to avoid heavy losses.

Next : Tip #2 Keep A Paper Trail.

You don’t need to wait.

It’s coming up to that point in the year when I am naturally more reflective than usual, taking stock of what’s happened and what things are to come.

Resolutions are cheesy and frankly, I don’t think they work. You don’t need to wait for a point in your year to make, what are typically life-changing decisions – you can do this any time. The point about choosing this time of the year to do it is that it’s artificial and not really need-fuelled. Something that is internally driven such as a goal that you’ve set is driven by your own internal motives, by what you believe is pushing you forward or holding you back. So, I feel that choosing this time of year to make huge decisions seems like you will be setting yourself up to fail.

Make a decision about your goal at whatever point you are thinking or planning around your goal and let it not be determined by the time of year.

Secondly, people tend to create such huge expectations around the goals or wishes they set for themselves at this time that it really sets up a high barrier to success. The best way to tackle any problem or challenge is to confront it consistently and with baby steps. But first, decide what it is that is wrong and then whether you want to do anything about it. Note that I don’t say ‘should’ do anything about it but ‘want’. Your own desire is what will push you forward, not some obligation or external moral notion of right or wrong.

As for me, I don’t pretend to give advice. Sometimes, I feel that this may come across as advice but really, I do want to say that it’s not meant to be. I feel most times, that this is more an internal log, and that I am really talking to myself. That when I look back I can see the journey I have been on and make note of what I need to learn.

I am just on a journey, like you. I make so many mistakes it’s simply not funny. I am constantly reminded of how weak, inconsistent and emotional I am. Yet, in other situations, I am also reminded of how I am strong, solid and fuelled by ambition, desire, love and intent. It’s not a straight path – it’s a long one and its crooked and sometimes, you have to take two steps back to move a step forward. But I am there, moving ahead, slowly.

I am just here to share because I hear your stories and I feel a connection. It makes me realise, time and time, how despite the layers of complexities that separate us all, there are many unifying elements in the human experience. And our stories help us, strengthen us, give us hope, drive us forward and fuel us.

So, continue to write your stories as I will mine.

Why it’s critical that you get organised

I understand that this will not resonate with some people. Some of us are organised and some aren’t. You can’t fight against who you are, right? I am a highly organised person but in recent years, I have found that I’ve dropped the ball a number of times. Strangely, with so many things on my plate – work priorities, personal commitment, social gatherings and then, the very things I want to get done/want to prioritise/yet fall to the bottom of the priority list  – it has become less of an issue when my system fails me. Actually, it’s not so much that it doesn’t bother me – it does. It is the fact that with so many things coming at me, I am at a loss as to what to do. And so I do nothing.

It’s something like spending money when you don’t have any. Ever notice that when you come upon a windfall, it’s hard to decide that you’ll spend it all – legitimately or on a whim. The sum is too big so the decision making gets stalled. But if you were looking at a paltry sum, the kind of sum that really is not worth considering on a day to day basis, you’d make far quicker snap judgements? It seems to go against the grain, but there you have it.

Which brings me back to my failed system. I have been relying on a paper based system for the longest time. I am checklist oriented and I need to see things and be able to refer to them constantly. Key to my feeling on top of my work is adjusting my priorities daily. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night.

The online thing doesnt work for me, despite having my computer on 24/7. Yet, my system was very basic, redundant and not very effective in the long run. I stuck to it because it worked (partially) and nothing better seemed to come my way.

Although I had seen a few different online systems, none seemed to speak to me. Some were too clunky, features screaming from every corner, begging to be used. Some too sparse and not giving me enough room to manuevre around. I am not saying they are no good – all of these systems are great. For example, Mission Control is perfect if you want to keep it short  and simple, yet collaborative. Zoho too is superb and completely extensible.

But it was not for me.

Today, I got into Trello and now, I am hooked. (Apparently, I had a Trello account but forgot about it). It’s visual, colourful, has clean lines, is very organised in its layout (surprise!), extensible, free and easy to use from the word go.

I’ve just started using it and already am feeling more in control of what I need to get accomplished. I have a better sense of where things are at, what I need to keep in view (yet not attack just yet) and things I want to accomplish right now. Leo Babauta did a great post on getting organised – The Key Habits of Organisation – which helped get me back on track with this. Leo too uses Trello but the main takeaway here is how : he used a system designed by Ryan Carson of Treehouse. You create a tasks board with lists such as Today, Waiting On, Later, Done. You create your lists of stuff to do and you can move them around between these categories as you progress. For example, something from your Waiting On list may get moved to Today and once completed, moved again to your Done pile.

So why get organised? If I had to come up with three great reasons why this is critical to a person who considers himself not organised, it would be this :

1. Clear some mental space.

There’s so much churning around in your head. Things to do, goals, appointments, work commitments, personal chores to attend to, subscriptions or memberships that may expire in a year from now. There’s no way we can retain all of this information without some form of system or external help. The organised person understands this and relies on external support – whether its having a diary, scheduling reminders, creating checklists etc.

The person who is not organised – let’s call him Joe – believes he will remember when the time comes, realises he does not when the meeting is blown and then continues on the same road, not changing anything in his process, hoping next time, that he will indeed remember. I have seen this played out so many times. Mentally, it’s exhausting for me to watch and just as exhausting for Joe. He knows what he needs to do, but its not in his nature and truthfully, he can’t be bothered to change. Joe believes the pain from the one failed attempt or burnt meeting will be enough to ensure that the next appointment is met. But the pain of one experience is not what ensures you meet your goals – it is in the system you build for yourself. If you do that, you’ve cleared a lot of mental white space for yourself which you can fill to good measure.

2. Achieve success.

If most of what you need to get done is not getting done, you are not successful. Not in the financial or outward sense but in the literal sense that you are not able to do what you set out to do. Because Joe does not set out to forget that sales appointment. He wants to close that deal. Yet, not having a system prevents him from doing so and not tackling the root cause ensures that it keeps happening.

3. Protect your reputation

Let’s face it – if you fail to meet targets, are a no-show at a scheduled appointment, keep forgetting where you leave your keys or folders, you’re not the only one watching. Over time, you will build a reputation and it won’t be the one you set out to create.

I am not saying it is easy to get organised. It’s hard and I believe building a habit is best done daily. Getting organised starts with identifying what the problem is and then working on it by establishing some habits. I am saying it is critical for your own sanity and to ensure you get done what you’d like to get done.

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