Five counter-intuitive lessons I have learnt

By Howard Feldman

Buzzfeed is often credited for launching “The Twenty-Five things that All Successful People do Before Breakfast” lists. Number seven, incidentally, will shock you. Anyone born prior to advent of the internet, however, will know that quick reference guides have been around since Moses (and God) decided that Ten Commandments was more than we could handle. Turns out it took a number of attempts to even get us to accept the limited number that was on offer. And once we did, it became clear that a good percentage of us had no intention of reading past number six.

Besides, today we prefer to be “encouraged” rather that commanded.

Lists, however, are useful and in keeping with current (and ancient) trends, I have decided to note Five Counterintuitive Lessons that I have learned through my entrepreneurial journey.

  1. Don’t take yourself as seriously as you hope that others take you.

We all have a need to be considered important, and to be taken seriously. The problem with this is that pushing this agenda, whilst not having the ability to laugh at ourselves is most likely the very thing that will prevent us from reaching this goal. The ability to look from the outside in and to note our own quirks and idiosyncrasies indicates that we know who we are, that we recognise our own “stuff” and that others don’t need to feel responsible for verbalising it.

  1. Tell your secrets

The fear of being “found out” is enormously powerful. No matter how small or large that hidden factor might be, the moment that it is no longer a secret is that moment that it ceases to control. I spent many years holding up a banner and projecting an image that I had constructed over many years. Only when I chose to lower the banner was I freed from the fear. And only then did I realise that incredible effort that it had taken to keep that banner flying,

  1. Don’t worry about your reputation

Worry about doing the right thing. Worry about knowing that what you have done or that what you do is in line with your own value system. Truth and reputation will ultimately win. You just need the patience and the confidence to know that.

This is not to say that there is never a reason to clarify or to legally pursue someone who has defamed and is causing financial harm to you. But most cases exist beyond this realm and live around dinner tables and gossip centres.

Very simply, they are not worth worrying about.

  1. Don’t indulge your mood.

We are often told that its “ok” to be in a bad mood. And that it’s important to not deny our feelings. But they are not mutually exclusive. Recognising that we are in a bad mood and changing it are two different things.

As a morning-show host I get up at 4am and am on the air at 6am. Some mornings are tough. It might be cold I might have had a late night and getting going is not easy. But I am aware that by the time my show starts at 6am, I have the responsibility to be upbeat, energetic and most of all, pleasant. In order to do so, I award myself the biggest smile I own, I appreciate how blessed I am be doing something that I love, and then I engage with my listeners. By doing so, my mood lifts and the aside from my listener, I am the one who benefits most.

 

  1. Imagine the Worst.

I am often told that because I am a natural optimist, that I can’t relate the anxiety they feel over things that might or might not happen. And how paralysing that fear might be.  I have found that those who are natural worriers are seldom reassured by platitudes like “most of the things that worry about won’t happen.” Simply because there is no way of knowing that the current concern might be the rare event that transpires.

Rather than dismissing the fear, I believe in using a technique that Tim Ferris employs. He believes in listing everything that could go wrong. Once this is done then list a way to prevent it from happening. If even the prevention doesn’t stop the occurrence, then list what could be done to rectify the situation. It is rare that there will be no solution. I have found that visualising a negative outcome along with preventative options and possible solution disempowers the fear.

But one can’t stop there. Once the above has been listed the above, then the participants needs to imagine the “cost” of not doing anything. Inertia is not without its consequences and to be fair to the process one needs to look at the cost of inaction. Only then is the “worrier” ready to look at what the possible advantages are.

There is no list that works for everyone. As much as love easy reference points and quick fixes, anyone who has tried to engage in a path towards growth and change will acknowledge how challenging, painful and difficult it is. But very few who have walked the path towards self-awareness will tell you that they have not been liberated by the process and that they are not grateful for the journey.

I know I am.

ABOUT Howard Feldman

Howard Feldman is a businessman, philanthropist and social commentator. He is a commodity trader with a secret passion for writing and literature – something he tells no one about. He holds the position as Chairman of the Board of the SAJR, the only weekly Jewish focused newspaper in South Africa.

He is unashamedly Jewish, unashamedly South African, and unashamedly supportive of Israel. He is married to Heidi and has 5 children who he loves all the time but likes most of the time. He even has a daughter in law.

 

Aside from being an eternal businessman, he also enjoy being a weekly guest columnist on News24 and I host the daily afternoon Drive show on Chai FM, a local radio station. He has also been the non-Executive Chairman of the South African Jewish Report for the past 4 years and have seen the financial turnaround of the paper into a viable publication.

His real passion is people,  making connections and growing businesses into sustainable, healthy and exciting families.