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5 Life Lessons We Can All Salvage From Trump’s Presidential Election

A man with zero military or political experience has just been elected as US president for the first time ever. The ultimate example of winging it all the way to the top. Despite multiple hurdles and blows to his campaign he went from rank outsider to winner. What does this say about hard work, ambition, luck and success?

1. Authenticity comes through candour.

Donald Trump has said truly unacceptable things. His speeches have rambled and gone wildly off-script. He’s a raw, unedited maverick. But when he repeatedly says he’s going to build a wall, people believe him.

Ever been to buy a car and the salesperson has candidly told you about something minor that’s wrong with it? A wonky mirror that’s easy to fix. You’re highly likely to believe everything else they tell you after that. It’s a classic sales tactic.

In business or politics many people have polished their speech and presentation skills until there’s no authenticity left. That’s great for people like Trump. He got to play the ‘real’ guy, with nothing to hide and who really means what he says.

But… you don’t have to be a dick about it. Be candid. Be open. Be vulnerable. Be unedited. People will like, trust and care about you.

2. Accept that not everyone will like what you do. Some will hate it.

Ask someone to name the most hated bands on the planet and people will say “U2, “Coldplay”, “Nickelback”. The list goes on, and funnily enough it closely mirrors the list of most successful bands.

Chris Martin of Coldplay has to wake up every day knowing that people literally loathe his music. It clearly doesn’t stop him making more of his music because lots more people love it, and making it is what he feels born to do.

Trump faced an unprecedented amount of hate in the media. Yet he ploughed on regardless. He seemed to thrive on it at times. You need to do this on your level too. Perhaps your own work should make more people angry, at least make them feel something.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

3. Having qualifications is never enough. Connect.

Hilary Clinton is widely thought to be the most qualified candidate for US president ever. Yet the loudmouth barged in and won the job. Is this because Hilary’s a woman? Quite probably. But it’s also because the most qualified person rarely gets the job.

When you go for a job or opportunity, the people assessing you just want to know you can do it. It doesn’t necessarily help if you also have a masters degree and have authored books on the topic. Sadly, that probably makes you unlikeable.

Beyond basic capability it’s about personality. About connecting with people. Trump convinced disenfranchised America that he listened and he cared. That he was on their wavelength and not that of the political elite. This mattered far more than any experience or qualifications.

4. Say something new.

A useful brainstorming technique in advertising is to try and list all the things that client’s sector would never do. The big stinking no-nos. A beer brand talking about getting blind drunk, or a car maker talking about speeding.

They create fun jumping off points that lead to some of the best and most surprising ideas. But ultimately it’s a way to craft a message that you’ll be the first to say.

Trump’s policies sound like the kind of thing they find in a mass shooter’s notepad when they posthumously search their bedroom. Or at least they used to. Now they’re his actual presidential mandate.

His unorthodox policy promises were hard to believe at first. But they provided a breath of fresh air to people who had tuned out from politics. They said “yeah, we gonna fuck some shit up” and people responded to that.

5. Listen. Listen. Listen.

If I had to praise The Donald for one thing, it would be his harnessing of disenfranchised America, through listening to them and playing their concerns back to them. He’s an accomplished salesman and this is how sales works. A politician doesn’t think like this and that’s why he won.

This wasn’t about poor vs rich, black vs white, men vs women. It was about voters sticking a massive finger to the political elite in Washington, who don’t really listen to ‘hard working people’ — a phrase they constantly chant but never truly understand.

Just like other right wing political elements in the UK and Europe, Trump identified a huge gap between politicians and citizens. And with nothing more than populist, polarising words he stepped up to podiums and closed that gap.

Bonus tip: My money is on Michelle Obama being elected US president in 2020 😉


Are Productivity Tools Helping Us To Procrastinate?

In today’s world of relentless distractions including email, social media and app notifications, we’ve also become obsessed with organising that chaos through tools and processes which promise to bring order to our messy lives. But do these to-do apps, project management tools and the like really help, or are they giving us yet another reason to indulge in useless busy-ness?

Over the years I’ve tried everything, and I’ve come to the conclusion that our answers lie not in the tools, but a few simple principles.

Just Do It

The best thing you can do right now is just get on with it. If you look at successful people down the ages, they didn’t need any planning or productivity tools. Just the guitar, paintbrush or golf club required to do their thing. Their burning desire to create and complete something drove them on without having to overthink it. The most creative people I know all work like this, they simply do what they need to with minimal planning.

Realise the Preciousness of Time

For some it requires a major life event like losing a loved one or having a near-fatal accident to bring home the immense preciousness of life. For others, and I suspect this is a common trait in successful people, it runs through their head every single day.

So if you’re not thinking about your mortality and the fragility of life every day, try it. This sense of urgency you will feel is something you need to reconnect with on a daily basis.

This doesn’t just mean you should think about death every day. Just think about how precious today is, and at the end of it be grateful you got to have today, whatever happened. All the dead people you know would have done anything for today.

Know Your Calling

If you’re lacking that burning desire that naturally gives you the energy to get on with it, you’re likely doing the wrong thing in life. What is the thing that would truly excite you, and what’s stopping you doing it? Most likely the answer to the latter part of that question is fear. Fear to tell your family that you’re going to take a big risk and do something different from that which you studied or trained for. Fear of failure. Fear of losing your house. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of being told it’s not viable or a daft idea. Maybe even a fear of wasting your precious time (that’s a valid one!).

Answer that question and then…

A Simple To Do List

There’s clearly a lot of comfort in to-do list and time management apps. But having used a lot of them I feel that the filling in of tasks, checklists and deadlines is in itself useless busy-ness. We naturally love useless busy-ness. It makes us feel productive. It’s so seductive because it’s very easy to start (unlike the valuable things we should be doing).

Other things that fall into this category of activity are checking email, reading social media and wandering the internet. But useless busy-ness creates almost zero value for you or anyone, and is a killer drain on our two most precious resources — time and brainpower. Those resources, particularly brainpower — cognitive energy, attention or however you want to term it — need to be spent on what you’re really good at.

Keep a simple to-do list that requires as little management as possible. I have a Notes (on Mac and iPhone — your system has an equivalent) note containing a few small lists categorised by the life goal to which they contribute. Each task on there must drive towards that goal. There should also be a personal list for stuff at home like repairs, things to buy and looking after family. Each task should be the immediate thing you’re going to do. So instead of ‘publish a book’, just start with ‘write pitch for book about birds’. You don’t need a project plan for stuff like that because you know what comes next. Just get started.

So mine is a somewhat spartan approach to task management. But after all these years of trying so many different processes I’ve realised that being protective of my time and attention, because I appreciate its value, and then just getting on with it with a minimal to-do list is what works for me.

This post originally appeared on my Medium blog


Want To Get Ahead? Say “No” More Often

Rusty Old Weighing Scales

To achieve great things, we need to create great opportunities. But we also need to know when to turn them down. The decision to say “no” to someone is hard to make, and saying it is harder still. So how we do we arrive at that decision?

I believe that one great project is worth more than ten mediocre ones. At Harkable, the creative digital agency I run, we want to be the best agency in the world, not the biggest.

But we’re brought up to be ‘yes’ people. Saying “yes” feels better than saying “no”, regardless of its actual impact. For anyone self-employed, acquiring opportunities as prolifically and quickly as possible is the main goal. It is against everything in our bones to then turn down work that comes in. It feels like finding money on the street and throwing it back down the drain. But taking the wrong work can have all sorts of negative impacts on you and your business. You can become unprofitable and stressed very quickly.

The Three Fs Test

Our innate tendency to say “yes” is further compounded by our emotions. You might get on well with the person offering you the opportunity. You may love the brand’s products you’re asked to promote. But is it really worth doing? This is where the well-used Three Fs Test comes in.

This test works for everyone from actors to personal trainers. Designers to global ad agencies. It’s so when you receive an offer of work, you can divine whether your response should be a “yes” or a “no”.

Each ‘F’ represents the essence of why we do what we do. How many of these boxes you must tick is up to you but make a rule and stick to it. I would suggest you demand that any project ticks two of these at least.

  • Fame — means work that gets you noticed, garners respect and is likely to get talked about. It’s important because recognition attracts opportunities. People will want to work for you and with you. It also brings the satisfaction of your work being appreciated by others, which is highly motivational.
  • Fun — do you remember why you got into your industry and not into something ‘boring’? You need to stay connected to that, and get excited about doing the work this next project entails. Imagine what each phase of the project is and ask yourself if you’d do all that, even if there was no money in it. That’s how you know it’s truly fun.
  • Fortune — will this project bring money which does more than just sustain you? Will it bring extra profit you could spend on growth or improvement? In other words, look at where that money gets you, beyond covering your bills. If nowhere, it’s not a fortune project. Yet if it would bring extra funds for new equipment or a personal treat such as a holiday, it’s a fortune project.

So go forth, win the best clients you can to make you happy, wealthy and respected. You’ll be able to look back on a career of quality work and challenges conquered. Great people you met and worked with who appreciated your efforts. And most important of all, a proud sense of having made a valuable contribution to the world in your unique way.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Photo by Sudarshan V on Flickr