Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

How to beat stress – nurture your relationship

In an evening class at Stanford University the last lecture was on the
mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The
speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one
of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a
woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her
health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first
everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support
systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life
experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps is to create
more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can
create a general feeling of well-being. Women share feelings
whereas men often form relationships around activities. We share from our
souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very GOOD for our
health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to
our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are
doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with
friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively
engaged­not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain
quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our
physical health as smoking!

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Follow your bliss to career nirvana

inspiration used to carve new opportunitypassion used to carve out a new opportunity


I received this email from a young man frustrated with his work and determined to make a fresh start in 2013: “”My new plan for the year is to make life happen rather than let life happen to me”

I don’t want to read my obituary saying here is a guy who just seemed unhappy with the choices he made and the work he was doing. He was just too afraid to do something else. I want it to say here lies a guy who led life to the full and enjoyed it even if it scared the hell out of him and he proactively changed things when he didn’t enjoy himself.”

Tellingly he said that when he looked at his CV the  best part of it was his summary of interests at the end. Without realising it he had just hit a vein of gold.

I replied to him: “Poignant that your interests section is where your heart lies – this is where you must put your energy this year. A must!”

When thinking about the work you want to do, there is no better place to start than tapping into your deepest interests, obsessions and the things that inspire you. It may seem obvious but the sad reality is that less than 10% of people are visibly pursuing their passions. As one person in her 20s said to me, “Don’t you do what you love when you retire?”

It’s true that when you do what you love you’ll never work again. By identifying areas of interest or occupations that inspire you, you can create an awareness of a wider variety of possible career paths, opportunities and organisations that you would like to work for.

Many people don’t know what they are interested in. This is particularly the case if they are feeling depressed by their current work situation. In addition, even when they do know what interests them they may not have considered the important role of interests and areas of passion when it comes to making career choices that will stand the test of time.

Deeply embedded life interests do not determine what people are good at – they drive what kinds of activities and environments make them happy. It makes sense, though, that the more you enjoy something the more likely you will succeed at it. As the painter John Ruskin said, “Where talent, interest and motivation intersect expect a masterpiece.”

You may find the suggestions below helpful reminders of the things that interest you. Circle anything in this list that captures your interest and imagination. Narrow your areas of interest where you can. For example, if you have circled ‘a cause,’ identify some possible causes. Feel free to add any interests that may be missing.

A cause A belief
A rock star/band A movie star
Acting An idea
Analysing things Astrology
Books Cars
Cats Children
Clothes Colour
Computers Cooking
Dancing Design
Dogs Entertaining others
Family Films
Fishing Gardening
Graphic design Health and well-being
Helping others Hobby
Horses Hunting
Job The environment
Collecting things Becoming something
Creating something Changing
Science Equality
Justice Human rights
Human behaviour Rugby
Food Writing
Reading Making furniture
Simplicity Singing
Truth World peace
Fabric and textiles Problem-solving
Technology Organising things
Painting Languages
Sport The past
The future Visual communication
Travel War tactics
The media Make-up
Making money Music
Other cultures People
Physical fitness Researching things
Nutrition Shoes
Spiders Astronomy
Innovation Public speaking
Personal development Science

From Mechanic to Artist

Sometimes finding a job you love can come from the most unexpected things and places. A Wellington man has turned his passion into the rock that he has built a career on. When Carl Gifford left school he became a motor mechanic mainly because his father wanted him to get a job and told him he had to choose before he was ten what he was going to do for a living. Being a motor mechanic did not really give him much satisfaction, so he switched to car wrecking, because it was a bit more lucrative. However, after trying that for a while he decided that wasn’t really him either.

Then one day what turned out to be his true calling leapt out at him. “One day, I was driving around and I was inspired by some stone work I saw. I thought ‘that’s what I want to do.’ Before you know it, I was off to a quarry. I started putting rocks together and thought ‘Hey! I’m good at this.’ Before you knew it I had someone ringing me up, saying ‘come and do this.’ Carl’s first stone sculpture can be seen at the Massey University campus in Wellington, New Zealand. It symbolises the struggle at Parihaka. “It was quite a buzz for me that my very first sculpture was a very important sculpture.

A stone mason by trade no one sees the potential in rocks like he does. “You stare at them all day and you start seeing faces in rocks and you say ‘Ooh I can’t sell that one – that’s a Rottweiler. Oh that’s the Virgin Mary.’ I see faces in rocks everywhere… all the time, even in the simplest of rocks… noses, faces… how weird is that?

But as Placido Domingo once said, “When it becomes clear that no one else shares your level of passion, you are where you belong.” And Carl certainly has carved out a special place for himself – inspiring and exciting all those who come across his works. His stone walls are in high demand and many are built for the rich and famous. He has performed numerous jobs for the Wellington City Council, beautifying the coastline, designed the baboon and tiger enclosures at Wellington Zoo, worked at Vogel House and is currently working on a big project for Peter Jackson.

However, what really seems to drive Carl is the passion and zest he has to make a world of pleasure for others. The drive down Happy Valley Road, between Owhiro Bay and Brooklyn, was anything but happy till his works of art started to appear along the roadside. Several years ago he bought 25 hectares near the rubbish tip and started putting sculptures on it. “I’ve got big dreams for this place, but nobody believes them,” he says. Not yet anyway. With his passion and determination, it will not be long till he realises his dream of expanding his empire, which he calls Carlucci Land, into a fun park for adults and children, where everyone regardless of age, can recapture the joy of child-like play. Not surprisingly, his main office is inspired by the Flintstones and called Bedrock.

Too often people are afraid to stand out from the crowd. Often the innovative path is the path less followed but, as actress Drew Barrymore says, “Originality is believing in your individuality, believing in yourself, and being willing to take risks, even though people might think you’re weird for doing it.

Not only has Carl found a way to earn a living from his passion and create work that allows him to be true to himself, he has recaptured his youth in the process.

Identifying Career Options

Stretch your creative skills and increase your awareness of all the varied ways people have turned their deepest interests into profitable and meaningful careers. Using the list that you have generated:

1)   Using your top five interests, list or brainstorm as many possible career options or ways to make money from these interests.

2)   Highlight the career options you are most interested in.

3)   Using the list of career options that you have generated, identify ways you could find out more information about them.

Remember, the aim is to build an exhaustive list of possible ways people make a living from things that interest you. I am not asking you to commit to anything, just to be open to possible choices and ideas. Don’t discount anything or dismiss ideas prematurely. Encourage friends and family members to contribute suggestions so that you leave no idea unturned.


Tapping into Interests

Charles was interested in books and movies. He brainstormed all the ways people could and do make a living while working in these areas. His list included: movie director, stage designer, script-writer, make-up artist; book critic, photographer, illustrator, marketing, public relations etc. His friends added several other ideas, including editor, sound person and costume designer. Charles highlighted writer of children’s books, illustrator, and photographer as possible career options he would like to look into further. He found that a good place to start was www.careers.govt.nz which has in-depth profiles of most roles. However, nothing beat informational interviewing – talking to people doing the job he wanted.

“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” ~ Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, French palaeontologist, biologist and philosopher


Some people believe that you go to work, grit your teeth and bear it. Others say that it is unrealistic to expect job satisfaction. But these views couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are just a few examples of people who have turned their interests into fulfilling careers.

Joy spent years as a legal conveyancer – but wanted to do something more creative. One day she was driving to work, stuck in traffic, thinking, “What am I doing? This just isn’t me.” She was passionate about interiors and fabrics, and all her life she had dreamed of owning her own store. She left the security of her steady wage to start up ‘Maypole @ Biggie Best,’ a successful interior design store.

Love is not only something you feel. It’s something you do.” ~ David Wilkerson, founding pastor of Times Square Church, New York City

Maree was unemployed, but felt passionate about weaving. Her passion gave her the energy and courage to start selling her creations and now they are in demand all over the world and she employs more than 15 people.

Louise hated her job as a lawyer until she discovered how she could link her passion for animal welfare with her skills as a lawyer. She now works for an international animal rights organisation and wakes up every day looking forward to going to work, knowing she is making a difference in an area she feels passionate about.

Jasmine survived redundancy by purchasing an irrigation business – in this way she was able to combine her love of the outdoors and gardening.

Nora complained that even though she was good at what she did nobody ever asked her if she enjoyed it. The trouble was she had lost sight of her own interests and enthusiasms too. Coaching helped her to tap into her life-long fascination with books. She is now pursuing a career as a literary agent – combining her legal skills and passion for literature.

Start an inspiration file and gather examples of other people following their bliss.

“To be inspired is to be in spirit – a place that comes from your soul.” ~ Cassandra Gaisford, Author

 Synchronistic Support

The more passion and zest you feel, the more alive and brightly lit you are. When you follow your bliss you can’t help but tune into and attract opportunities that allow you to express and act upon the things that most interest you.

For years I have been collecting articles about passionate people. I am passionate about passion! It wasn’t a rational decision. I didn’t plan to be passionate about it. Only when I sat down and consciously thought about how I could make a living from the things that interested me did the penny fall. Then almost by magic people came into my life who provided further support to my dreams. I began to write down in my journal some of my ideas, even though I had no idea how I was ever going to make my dreams a reality. But step-by-step little coincidences began to build, and before I knew it I was on my way to building a business where helping people follow their passions was a core theme. The truth is when passions collide expect to be hired!

“Until you know that life is interesting – and find it so – you haven’t found your soul.” ~ Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher

From Student to Gallery Assistant

Jane came to see me for career coaching. She was a woman in her 40s and the single parent of a seven year old. The year previously she had started studying toward a Bachelor in Interior Design. While the area interested her, she wasn’t enjoying all the computer work involved in the course and was feeling increasingly isolated. She also feared that after four years of study she may not find a job. As we talked, it became clear that interior design was not her true passion.

Initially she asked me to help her find a job. She had been applying for lots of jobs but with limited success, and was beginning to feel despondent about the chances of finding a job that would allow her to be home for her son when he finished school, and that would offer the flexibility she needed.

We worked through a dream job exercise to help her focus her efforts more successfully and she suddenly became really animated and excited. “Ever since I’ve been in the seventh form I’ve always wanted to be an art dealer. I’ve always believed my purpose is to promote art and help creative people make a living from their creativity. It’s crazy – I had completely forgotten.”

Together we worked on several strategies to help bring her dream into a reality including market research and informational interviewing. Collecting images of her dream gallery and presenting these on a ‘story board’ helped make her dreams more real. “I’m so excited – I can really feel my passion growing. This is what I really want to do!”

As a result of her market research, Jane resurrected a partially completed arts degree and is now studying marketing and art history at university. Several weeks later she ran into a woman who owned a gallery and was offered a part time job helping them market their exhibitions. “I can’t believe it. This is my dream job. The gallery is exactly how I imagined it on my story board – it’s even got an architecture studio attached, so it combines all my passions. I feel so lucky. I’m so excited.”

The truth is when you are clear about who you are, what you have to offer and where your passions collide expect to be hired!

This was an excerpt from “Happy at Work: job hunting for mid-lifers – A practical and inspirational guide for job-hunters and career-changers”

Aim Higher. Reach Farther. Dream Bigger.
A better career is out there. Happy at Work: job hunting for mid-lifers – your first step to becoming everything you want to be.