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Three items for your ‘Save Your Sanity’ starter kit

Life can throw up countless challenges, but what can we do to help ourselves and others navigate these difficult times?

Here’s three items for your Save your Sanity starter kit:

1. Limit your exposure to news. 

Treat your consumption of daily news as a light snack, not a state banquet. You might even try a three day fast from it. If anything major happens, like the UK deciding to keep a Prime Minister for longer than three months, your friends will let you know.

2. Plan happy. 

Draw up a list of activities that put a smile on your face – preferably ones that are legal. Then write a list of names of people who always make you feel better about life when you’ve connected with them. 

Now look at both lists and ask yourself: How often do I do these activities and connect with these people? If you think you don’t have time remember this phrase from Ed, one of my SUMO team:

 ‘Self care isn’t an indulgence, it’s an investment.’ 

We need to have things to look forward to, no matter how small. So don’t hope for happy times, plan them.

3. Focus on what’s achievable. 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with issues that are out of our control – so be very intentional about focusing on what’s in your control.

For me, that means aiming to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. I’m also very deliberate about what I read and listen to. If you’re a fan of podcasts can I recommend these two in particular: The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox and Robin Ince, and The High Performance Podcast with Jake Humphrey and my friend Damian Hughes.

So what’s in your control that you can do every day to help yourself?

There are countless other tools and ideas that form our ‘Save your Sanity’ self help kit, but there are three for starters.

Which one is most important for you to focus on right now?

SUMO on Social Media

Don’t forget, you can get a healthy dose of inspiration from me on TikTok, Twitter, or Instagram @theSUMOguy. Or check out my longer videos on YouTube.

Until next time.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

There are a number of myths about change.

One is that people don’t like change.

Really?

I know plenty of people who change their jobs, move house, buy a different car, get a pet, try out new holiday destinations, switch energy suppliers… the list is endless.

Perhaps when we say we don’t like change we should add the caveat: when the change wasn’t our idea and we’re not in control of how or when the change will occur. 

That can be tricky, I admit.

But perhaps we don’t help ourselves when we face change with such lame mottos as ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

Well firstly, you’re not a dog. And secondly, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

So when it comes to embracing change, it’s more an issue of mindset than age.

As a result, I’ve decided to take my own advice and over the coming weeks will start posting videos on TikTok for the very first time.

I’ve been told it’s a young person’s platform. Good. I hope young people can pick up some ideas and inspiration that helps them in life. And maybe a few older people will too.

Could I have seen myself doing this a few months ago? Did I ever think I had the desire to expand my work on (what is for me) a new social media platform?

No.

But you can teach an old dog new tricks, and I’m excited by what this change holds.

So what about you?

Is there an area of your life where curiosity could be cultivated, and some changes made?

Let me know.

Until next time.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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How to help a friend… in only three words

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (both @theSUMOguy) you may have come across my recent post:

The key to thriving is co-operation, collaboration, and looking out for each other. 

Maybe it’s more ‘Survival of the friendliest’ than ‘Survival of the fittest.’

It got me thinking.

What’s one simple way you can be a friend and look out for someone?

Well, one way is to simply do this:

Listen without interrupting.

That’s right. No need to provide a solution or hijack the conversation and make it about you.

Just…

Listen

without

interrupting.

Is it hard to do?

Absolutely.

Would it be weird if you did it all the time?

Probably.

But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth being more intentional about allowing others to talk, rather than simply looking for your opportunity to speak.

Now of course we need to interact. Asking questions and sharing your perspective is all part of everyday conversation, and that does mean you’ll interrupt sometimes. 

But there are times when people just need a good listening to.

And when you do so – without interrupting – your silence could be music to their ears.

This week, why don’t you try to do a little less interrupting and a little more listening? Can you think of anyone you could try to do this more with?

Let me know how you get on.

Macmillan Cancer Support

You may remember that we decided as a business to donate £1 to Macmillan Cancer Support for every copy of my books sold during December 2021.

We had hoped to raise in the region of £700.

Well, it seems you bought quite a few of my books. The total raised was actually £1,934.

Thank you so much to all of you who bought one of my books – doing so made a real difference.

Until next time.

Remember and practice those three words. Listen without interrupting.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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Four Signs You’re Close to Burnout

At a time when some people feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overcommitted (and when our love of technology means we’re often overstimulated too) the chances of burnout significantly increase.

Before I mention some possible signs to be aware of, please let me stress the following:

It’s how often and how long you experience these symptoms that truly indicates if you’re close to burning out.

Four signs you’re close to burnout:

  1. You have lost a sense of satisfaction with your work and your relationships. We all have challenges at work and with people, but when was the last time you felt a sense of satisfaction from any aspect of your job and truly enjoyed the company of family and friends.
  2. Trivial things make you disproportionately angry. Not just on some days, but every day. On a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 equals death/the end of the world, most things seem in excess of an 8. When you’re constantly stressed and complaining over trivial things, it’s usually a sign of a deeper problem.
  3. You’re working long hours but you’re actually less productive and effective. Perhaps it’s not just the hours you’re putting in, but the quality of what you’re putting into those hours that’s the real issue.
  4. You’re becoming increasingly critical of people and life in general and find yourself continually complaining and questioning the motives of others.

Remember, we all have bad days and may occasionally experience some of the above. If that’s you, you’re human. But if those symptoms are something you can relate to and they show no sign of ending, please be courageous enough to ask for help.

Talk to someone. Go online and research what resources, books, podcasts etc you can access. It may be that you seek professional help.

Above all, be kind and compassionate with yourself. The last 18 months have been particularly challenging, but with the support of others we can get to a better place.

Hope is always on the horizon.

I wish you well. If you know of anyone who may also benefit from reading this, please link them to it.

Catch up soon.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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Are you using these free training videos to help you and your team?

You know that phrase ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’? Well I’d like to challenge that statement.

Over the last few years I’ve been developing my YouTube channel. Click here to check it out. It’s full of videos on all sorts of topics, including:

And you can access them all for FREE – although unfortunately lunch is not included.

You can share them with colleagues, friends and family – and the only thing it will cost is a short investment of time. 

You also have my permission to use them as part of your own internal training to support your team.

Of course, if you’re after some longer sessions, delivered in-person or virtually and tailored specifically to your needs, then drop an email to Contact@theSUMOguy.com.

Our most in-demand session is ‘Ramp Up Your Resilience and Boost Your Wellbeing,’ but I’m also delivering sessions on ‘Leading Through Uncertainty‘ and ‘How to Survive and Thrive in Challenging Times.’

Until next time.

Hope SUMO makes a difference.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

P.S. If you want to keep in touch via social media, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @thesumoguy.

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When you change the frame you change the game

I’m guessing most people have seen a painting by Leonardo da Vinci called the Mona Lisa. 

Can you picture it in your mind now?

Now imagine seeing the Mona Lisa in a pink frame with bright flashing lights.

It has an impact on how you view the picture, doesn’t it?

And yet interestingly, the picture didn’t change. Just the frame.

I’m challenged to reflect on this idea when I think of the impact of the pandemic, and particularly its effect on young people.

Some parts of the media frame the narrative of the experience for young people with phrases such as ‘the wasted year,’ ‘a lost generation,’ ‘missing out on opportunity,’ and ‘irreparable damage.’

It’s as if news editors have all morphed into Frazer, the Scottish character from Dad’s Army.

Remember his catchphrase?

‘We’re doomed!’

(If you’re of a certain age you may need to search for him on YouTube.)

The fact is what we and young people have experienced has been incredibly challenging – I don’t deny that.

But that’s not the whole story, and neither is the future we all face set in stone as a fait accompli.

Here’s the deal.

The future isn’t a place we get to, it’s a place we get to create.

And how we frame our present helps create a picture of our future.

Have the last twelve months been awful? Yes. But have they also provided examples of inspiration, compassion, innovation, adaptability, and opportunity?

Have they also given people a chance to reflect and reassess their priorities and what is truly important to them? Absolutely. 

If we frame the future as one of desperation and doom, we risk causing as much damage to our mental health and that of our young people as the pandemic itself.

I’m not preaching a gospel of naivety or blind optimism, but if we’re to take good from the bad, and hope from the hurt, we need the courage to change and the willingness to collaborate in a way we have never done before.

This generation can be shaped in a positive way through all we’ve gone through. But whether that happens or not depends on how we frame the experience.

Just remember:

When you change the frame, you change the game.

Until next time

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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Bite-size wisdom… Your 17 for ’21

Happy New Year! I recognise that for many of us the current challenges we face both personally and globally can seem incredibly disheartening, and I don’t intend to make light of all we’re facing.

As I see it, the reality is this.

There’s much we cannot control in our outer world – but there is some good news. 

We can positively influence our inner world.

To help us do so, I’ve come up with 17 bite-size pieces of wisdom that have helped me over the years. I hope they help you too.

1. Happiness is a by-product of living life well. It’s not a destination.

2. The serious stuff that screws up your life could ultimately be the best thing to have happened to you.

3. Focus on serving something greater than yourself.

4. Enjoyment doesn’t always have to be connected to achievement.

5. Be careful. You can have success without fulfillment.

6. Seeds of self doubt will inevitably spring up. But you don’t have to water them.

7. Back yourself more often. And remember: You can teach an old dog new tricks.

8. We’re flawed beauty. Despite messing up, we are still bloody amazing.

9. To be at your best, you need to rest. Rest isn’t work’s opposite – it’s work’s partner.

10. Be careful you don’t allow your brain to filter the positives into your spam folder.

11. Every day is a ‘choose-day’. Your daily decisions, however small and insignificant they seem, do make a difference over time.

12. Resilience isn’t simply your ability to recover from a fall – it’s understanding why you fell in the first place.

13. Elvis had a point – ‘a little less conversation and a little more action.’

14. Exercise energises you. Stand Up, Move Often. (See what I did there?)

15. Knock the pursuit of perfection off its pedestal.

16. Words create worlds. So be really careful what you say to yourself.

17. Treat yourself well and cherish others.

Do let me know which ones are especially helpful for you right now.

Wishing you well, and hoping SUMO continues to make a difference.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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Four Things I Learned In 2020

As this year draws to a close I thought I’d share four of the many lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months.

I wonder which ones you can relate to?

1. It pays to be flexible

If you were at a job interview in 2015 and were asked ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ I bet you got the answer wrong!

Perhaps we all need to adopt a more flexible and open-minded approach to the future.

2. There was a definite rise in ‘ultracrepidarianism’

 – the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters you know nothing about. I felt my CSE Grade 3 in Biology did not give me the necessary knowledge to communicate with confidence about COVID-19. However, it seems some people would rather trust their mate on Facebook than an expert who’s spent years researching the subject.

Sometimes it’s OK to say ‘Actually, I don’t know enough to give an opinion.’

3. We do better together

People can be a pain at times. We fall out. We disagree. But ultimately we don’t get through tough times alone. We need the support of others.

And who knows, perhaps when we choose to work with each other we won’t simply ‘get through’ but also ‘grow through’ the experiences of this year.

4. We’ve more potential than we give ourselves credit for

I’m sure like many of you I would not have believed how quickly I adapted to doing life in a virtual world. Over the last few months I’ve presented virtual events in Australia, the USA, Dubai, New Zealand, and extensively in the UK. I’ve ended up speaking to more people during a global pandemic than any other time in my 29 years of business. You really can teach an old dog new tricks.

As we move forward into the New Year I realise we’re far from out of the woods yet. But there is hope, and although we may encounter dark times, we can still light candles for each other.

I look forward to our paths possibly crossing in 2021 – whether face to face or virtually.

Either way, I wish you well.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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HOW TO COPE IN A CRISIS or HERE’S WHAT TO DO WHEN THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS

For over twenty years I’ve been writing and speaking about the subjects of change, resilience, leadership, and dealing with uncertainty. So, as we all learn to navigate unchartered waters in unprecedented times, I wanted to share four ways we can cope.

1. Understand how your brain works 

In his bestselling book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about two systems in our brain. Our Fast system is our primitive, emotional brain. I often represent this brain with a red baseball cap. It’s the oldest part of our brain and its primary purpose is to keep us alive. Its number one priority is our survival. It’s this part of our brain that triggers our fight, flight or freeze response.

However, because it’s super-fast in how it processes information it often reacts to situations without having the full facts. If it had a motto it would be ‘Act first, think later.’

There are times when this part of our brain is incredibly helpful. If a driver suddenly swerves into your lane, you brake immediately. (A string of expletives may normally follow!) You don’t think, or weigh up your choices, you just react. But your fast response could save your life.

In the current Coronavirus crisis, our Red Cap brain is on high alert. In fact it’s on overdrive. Our very survival, and that of our loved ones, is under potential threat and this is dominating how we engage with the world right now.

We are living in uncertain times, equivalent to walking through a maze blindfolded. No one is sure what the future holds exactly, and to compensate we crave information. Sadly some of that information is neither helpful or true. It’s fake, and it can make us lose our ability to think and respond calmly under pressure.

That’s where our Slow brain, which I represent with a blue baseball cap, comes in.

It’s the logical and rational part of our brain. It helps us to analyse data, to reflect and to plan. Unfortunately, it’s the slow part of our brain that we need to consciously and intentionally access. While Red Cap brain reacts impulsively and on auto pilot, accessing Blue Cap brain takes longer.

As a result, we need to acknowledge and recognise that at times we may all react to the Coronavirus crisis irrationally.

We can lose perspective and panic.

When we’re in survival mode our first thoughts, perhaps understandably, are about our needs and the needs of our close family. We don’t really need all those toilet rolls and paracetamol. By stocking up excessively we may create a degree of security for ourselves, but also potential pain for others.

So it’s important we recognise the impact of Red Cap brain: that it is operating instinctively, in a reactionary (and often illogical) way to the challenges we face. That’s why learning to slow down and taking a moment to pause and access Blue Cap brain is vital at this time.

2. Manage Your Mental Diet

The ocean is full of water, but it’s possible to be lost at sea and die of thirst. In fact, drinking salt water is not only detrimental to your health, it also makes you thirstier.

The same can happen with our consumption of information. We crave certainty but this can lead to us feeding our minds with more and more news that isn’t always true. Stories that can, on occasion, exaggerate the real picture and provide a distorted view of reality.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a member of the happy clappy brigade. What we are facing is incredibly serious and unprecedented. In no way do I want to downplay the huge impact this virus has had and will have on peoples’ lives. I know that from my own experience.

Speaking at events is how I predominantly generate my income. All my events for the next few months are cancelled. Some will be rearranged, but a number won’t. My two elderly parents are vulnerable and live alone, so I’m not writing from a place of cosy comfort. I’m writing from a place of reality. A few days ago I discovered that, given my current symptoms, it’s likely that I have the Coronavirus.

But if we are going to remain resilient and strong for ourselves and others, we need to manage our mental diet. We need to consume water that is pure, not salty.

We can’t control what is going on in the world right now, but we can influence what’s going on in our inner world.

A really great question to reflect on, and one that will engage your Blue Cap brain, is this:

‘Who’s in charge, the thinker or the thought?’

Here’s the deal. You’re in charge. Remember that.

But feasting on a diet of negativity and despair will only exacerbate your anxiety.

Now I’m not suggesting we play the denial card and pretend everything is fine when clearly it’s not. What I am asking is simply this: how balanced is your mental diet? We need to be prepared and we need to be informed, but we also need to avoid feeding our fears.

I know that’s easier said than done. But here’s one idea that will help. Having struggled with my own anxiety issues, even before this global crisis began, it’s something I practice every day. And it’s something I will continue to do, even when this current situation is under control.

Every day I ask myself the following three questions:

Question One – What Am I Thankful ‘Four’? 

That’s four specific things you’re thankful for that happened the previous day. They don’t have to be life-changing or amazing, just four simple things that could be easy to take for granted, but which you are grateful for. It could be a cuddle with your cat, an easier commute to work, a catch up with a friend, or managing to find a shop that had some toilet rolls!

Question Two – How Am I Showing Kindness to Others? 

This could be as simple as asking a harassed checkout operator how they are, smiling, and saying thank you. It could be checking in on a neighbour to see if they need anything. It could be donating to a charity that will be under particular pressure at the moment. Again, it’s not about life changing actions, just simple acts of kindness.

Question Three – How Am I Showing Kindness to Myself? 

Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s crucial to our success and sanity. So apart from looking out for others, don’t put yourself and your needs at the bottom of your priority list. Perhaps it’s going for a walk, having a nice long bath, or choosing to do something that either relaxes or revitalises you.

Either way, make sure you look after yourself if you want to be a support to others.

3. Connection Counts

Our current situation might limit the physical connection we have with others, but let’s get creative – there are still plenty of ways to connect. Perhaps some people might rediscover the lost art of talking on the phone, writing a letter or sending a card. Join a Facebook group, start a WhatsApp group – when it’s appropriate, spread humour. We live in serious times, but sometimes it’s really helpful not to take ourselves too seriously. I know I’m not finding having to self-isolate easy, but I’m connecting with lots of people and those funny memes and videos they share are definitely lifting my spirits.

4. Hippo Time is OK

What do Hippos do in mud? They wallow. And we all need to give ourselves permission to do the same. We need to allow ourselves the time to digest what could be the huge disappointment of cancellations and schedule changes, whether that’s a holiday, family birthday party, a graduation, or even a postponed wedding. It’s OK to be gutted, frustrated and seriously hacked off. In fact, it’s normal. The only crumb of comfort is knowing it’s not just you facing these setbacks.

However, the next point is crucial.

Hippo Time is Ok, but it’s temporary. If you look at China and see how the country is slowly (but cautiously) returning to normal, it’s an indication that what we’re facing now is not permanent.

So be careful of becoming too stuck in the mud.

One question I often ask myself is ‘How important will this be in six months’ time?’The aftershock of this crisis will, I’m sure, be felt for months and potentially years to come. But I’m also hopeful that the picture in six months’ time will be a better and more hopeful one than it is now.

I hope you find the above helpful as we all navigate uncharted territory. If you know anyone else who might benefit from it, please feel free to forward it to them.

Best regards,

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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Well this took me by surprise…

I was working in the US recently when I discovered something that both surprised and delighted me.

I learnt that my SUMO book had reached the Sunday Times top ten bestselling business books. (It actually reached number seven, even outselling the iconic book ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’)

So why did discovering this fact in late July 2018 surprise me?

Because my book was actually a bestseller in July 2015.

But no one told me.

So for the last three years I’ve been a Sunday Times bestselling author and not realised it.

But I do now.

And you know what? I actually do feel different.

Why? Well I have a confession.

For years I’ve suffered a mild form of ‘imposter syndrome.’ I’ve never truly believed what others have said about my work. Not deep down, anyway.

But strangely I do now. This external validation has impacted me internally.

Is that something you can relate to?

Maybe we’re all on a similar journey, despite the different routes we take. And it’s worth reminding ourselves that there’s something unique and amazing about all of us. We just need to wake up to the fact.

And hopefully you don’t need the Sunday Times to tell you.

 

Fancy some snack-size inspiration? Then check out my YouTube channel, and especially this playlist, for some short videos packed with practical tips and advice.

 

Until next time.

Paul

The SUMO Guy

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