How to be Impressive

I was at a social event recently that was filled with what I would consider to be highly intelligent people, and I was amazed to see a slightly disturbing pattern emerge. What I saw was that many of these well educated people were so hung up on impressing others that they had forgotten how to just be social and have a good time. It was as if life had become one big competition to these people and that in the brief two hour window in which they met it was a "measuring contest" as to who had been more successful and impressive in their lives so far. Pretty sad huh? But the real sadness was that none of them were really all that impressive. Sure they were all university educated and well employed in successful and respected companies, but they were not actually impressive. Why? Because it was obvious that they were too caught up in making their lives sound impressive rather than just actually being impressive.

And so it struck me - people who spend their time worrying about impressing others end up living the least impressive lives.

Impress Yourself, Not Others

If you are trying to impress others then you're doing it wrong.

What other people think of you does not matter at the best times, and particularly so when thinking about how impressive your life is. In order to be a person who impresses others you actually need to stop caring about impressing others.

People that expend their mental energy trying to impress others are projecting thoughts, ideas, and examples from their life that they think are impressive. The biggest flaw with this thinking is that everyone does not think the same. What is impressive for one person may be dull and boring for another.

If a 20 year old man told you how he was excited because he had walked to shops earlier that day you might not be too impressed. In fact you might think that he was a little lazy (or crazy). But what if that man had been in a wheelchair for the majority of his life? What if he had been told that he would never walk again? Would you be impressed now?

Of course you would! And that is a perfect example of why the measurement of your life has nothing to do with others. To that fictional man the act of walking is impressive and that is all that matters. The fact that most other people can do that easily is not the point. His actions are only judged from the perspective of his own reality.

And the same rules apply in your life. Your opinions of your life are what matter most. No one else in this world has the exact same knowledge and experience as you. That means that no one else is positioned as well as you to make a judgment on your life. Only you can determine if your life is impressive.

Stop trying to impress others and start trying to impress yourself.

How to be Impressive

Taking everything I've said into consideration it should be obvious that you do not become impressive simply by trying to be so. You become impressive by living a happy and purposeful life.

And here is how to do just that...

Follow your passion

If there is one thing that is universally impressive it is when someone breaks away from the traditional pursuits of our society to chase their dream. Stories of people quitting their mundane jobs to do what excites and motivates them are naturally inspiring. We love to hear these stories because they remind us that it is actually possible to live our dreams.

Compare the difference in the following scenario. Imagine meeting some new people at a party and the conversation takes the standard "what do you do?" path. The first person is a hard-working office drone in some well known accounting/law/consulting firm, earning a decent living. The second person is barely getting by but is running their own business, writing a novel, and training to become a WWF wrestler. It's pretty obvious which person is more interesting and which person's story would be more inspiring isn't it?

So don't base your life around what you believe others will think is impressive. That "successful" office job is actually not that impressive when compared to the endless possibilities that are available if you only decided to follow your dreams instead. :)

Be humble and never brag

Nobody likes a bragger. If you go into a conversation with aim of bragging and trying to sound impressive then the chances are that you'll just annoy everyone.

What people respond to better is someone who is quietly confident and does not need to talk about themselves or be validated by others. This personality trait is very impressive.

Consider me as an example. I believe what I have achieved in life so far is impressive, at least from my perspective. I'm respected and highly sought after in my career, I am the founder of a software development company, I write articles that touch over 4,000 unique visitors a month, and I actively participate and advise in multiple private equity projects.

But I don't start off telling that to anyone when I first meet them. I generally tell them a very small subset, just glossing over the details, and only if they show enough interest do I go into detail. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for self-promotion but that time is rarely in purely social situations.

If you do impressive things in your life then you should give others the chance to discover this for themselves. They will respect you much more if you are humble about your achievements.

Be positive

It is amazing how contagious and inspiring a positive attitude can be. If you exhibit a happy and positive attitude towards everything in life then people will find it very hard not to be impressed. Even the most negatively minded person will feel the impact of a positive attitude. Just make sure you're not doing the in-your-face-happy-clappy-my-attitude-is-better-than-yours positive attitude. Nobody likes that.

But seriously, your attitude defines everything in your life, and if you are projecting a strong and positive attitude then you will attract like-minded people.

Imagine the situation where two people are doing the same job and one describes it as "just a boring job that pays the bills" and another describes it as "an amazing job working with great people and getting to learn lots of new skills and processes". Which person would gain your attention?

If you have a positive attitude, even if the face of negativity, then you will always come across as an impressive individual.

Do not worry about what others think

This is the final ingredient to being impressive - stop worrying about what others think.

If you are following all the above steps AND you simply do not care about what others think of you then I guarantee that people will be impressed by you.

When you operate in this mode you give off an aura of passion, motivation, productivity, happiness, and success, which are all highly impressive traits.

That's it. That's how to be impressive. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start being impressive today!

Practice Selflessness

Having been involved in planning a wedding for the better part of the last year I have seen many emotional, and sometimes dramatic, scenes involving the interaction of different people. Most of these have provided great food for thought and have given me an insight into the psychology of people and how they interact with others. One thing I noticed throughout this time is that most people don't know how to be selfless. People like to think they are (or at least that they can be) selfless but in reality this is far from true. I am not being overly critical here but just realising that being selfless, and putting others ahead of yourself is actually a very hard thing to do.

We are all individual beings and deep down we all are trying to do what is best for ourselves. In an evolutionary/survival frame of mind this makes a lot of sense but in our modern society where we exist as part of a large community group, and do not have direct competition for resources to survive, we need to be able to think about others. We need to practice selflessness.

I say practice because the skill of selflessness does not come naturally. Most people find selfishness much easier than selflessness. It's natural. But that doesn't mean it's always the best choice.


Most dictionaries will define selflessness something along the lines of:

The act of sacrificing personal interest for the good of others

Which basically means that you put other people's interest ahead of your own. That's a pretty neat idea in theory but not so easy to apply contextually. Being selfless is a very easy thing to say you do, but a very hard thing to actually do because it requires that you master yourself first.

Selflessness is About Mastering Yourself

Proper selflessness involves a great deal of self awareness, self control, and self confidence:

  • If you are not aware of your internal drivers and why you act the way you do then you will not achieve selflessness
  • If you are not in control of your own thoughts, actions, and words then you will not achieve selflessness
  • If you are not confident and happy with the person you are then you will not achieve selflessness.

To achieve selflessness you need to master yourself first. Sometimes the immediate happiness of someone else is more important than your own needs, sometimes you are not the most important person in the room, and sometimes people don't care about you or your opinion. Because some moments in life just require you to be there and be happy for others. Life isn't always just about you.

Why You Should Practice Selflessness

There are many good reasons for why you should practice selflessness in your daily life. The most obvious is what some people like to call karma, which is just another way of saying that like attracts like.

Selflessness is a good deed and good deeds are always returned in kind. When you sacrifice yourself others will notice. They will see your actions as loving, caring, and considerate and they will strive to return the favour. When you are having a bad day or struggling through a difficult moment in life these people will be there to help you because they know you would do the same for them. In fact they've already seen you do it and they will make sure you are never left to fight on your own.

But getting this good "return on your investment" is not the best thing about being selfless. The best possible outcome of selflessness is the one you feel inside yourself. There have been countless scientific studies and papers that focus on the internal effects of helping others. Every time this research concludes with the same result - we feel happier, more excited, and enjoy life more when we help others.

If that isn't enough to convince you then maybe this quote from Tony Robbins will be the icing on the cake:

Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfillment.

It's time to start being selfless. Today!

An Opinion is Never Wrong

I just had a wonderful long talk with my mum about all sorts of things (new businesses, innovation, paleo dieting, health, and relationships just to name a few) and towards the end she said something quite profound which resonated deeply with me: "An opinion is never wrong."

I could not have said it better myself.

What is an Opinion?

An opinion is just a belief, idea, or judgment a person has for a particular topic. They may have formed this through extensive experimentation, life experiences, research, or just because one day they woke up and decided to have an opinion.

I have many opinions on a wide range of topics, some of which I honestly do not know much about. But I still have those opinions. Why? The answer once again lies in the flawed workings of the brain.

Your brain develops an answer for every question you can pose and it does so by referring to it's massive bank of data it has stored away in the dark little recesses of your mind. So when you want to form an opinion on something your brain quickly analyses everything in your memory that relates to it (experiences, news articles, opinions of people you value) and like magic you now have an opinion. Wonderful.

There is No Wrong Opinion

If we consider every opinion from the frame of reference (showing my nerdy side here) in which it was created then there is no possible way for an opinion to be wrong. For example, I might have the opinion that blue is the best colour ever, which I based on a random internet survey I conducted where 5 out of 6 people agreed that blue was awesome. Therefore, I believe we should paint the whole world blue.

Ok ok, this is a silly example but it shows my point. The opinion was formed because I believed that I had the proof that supported it. Therefore in my frame of reference (i.e. my own mind) the opinion is correct. Of course everyone else has their own opinion on which colour is the best, all of which are equally true.

When dealing with the opinions of other people you need to consider what their frame of reference is and what experiences or "evidence" they have as support.

Dealing With Others' Opinions

There is a saying people like to use which goes: "You are entitled to your opinion." This is strange on two levels. First, it's normally followed up with a big fat "BUT..." and then the person tries to force their opinion on to you. Secondly, we do not need someone to give us permission for our opinions. The very nature of opinions means that we are ALWAYS "entitled" to them.

The best way to deal with the opinions of others is to listen and ask questions. Find out what evidence, real or perceived, they have that led them to their opinion and you will gain wonderful insight into their thought process. Then question the basis for your own opinions. If you honestly believe you have some evidence that could help the other person then explain it to them. But do not expect them to always be receptive. Try once and move on, unless you find something soothing about hitting your head against a brick wall.

Of course the best thing you can do is simply respect the opinions of others and try to understand their point of view. You never know, it might lead you to change your own opinion.

Changing Your Opinions

It is OK to change your opinion. In fact the ability to change your opinions shows great strength of character. It means that you are aware of your own thoughts and opinions but are open to receiving information contrary to what you currently believe. When something of value is presented you can process it and analyse your own opinions to determine if they are still valid. If this sounds like you then you deserve a big pat on the back because this is not an easy task. Well done.

I encourage everyone to remain open, at all times, to receiving new information but also remember to question the "why" behind it. Not everything you hear is true and some people have ulterior motives for trying to change your opinion. Listen to all information presented, assess the validity of it, and make adjustments to your opinions as necessary. But only if you want to. After all, they are your opinions.

But of course all this is just my opinion. It is right for me and it may or may not sit right for you. That's the beauty of opinions.

Learning to Say Sorry Properly

For most people saying sorry has just become a trick we learn to perform whenever the appropriate social cues present themselves. Girlfriend crying? Say sorry. Got caught in a lie? Say sorry. Forgot your anniversary? You'd better say sorry unless you want to sleep on the couch forever. The problem is that for too many people the words of an apology are empty and nothing more than lip service. But learning when and how to say sorry is a major part of self improvement and ultimately becoming happy.

The Story of a Compulsive Apologiser

A few years back I was a "people pleaser". I had very low self confidence and I desperately wanted to be liked. By everyone. No matter if it was some random I had just met I was always seeking approval from others. It was terrible. I was so focused on getting other people to like me that I generally did whatever I could to make other people happy, often at my own expense. The biggest example was my habit of saying sorry for everything.

If we ran out of toilet paper I would apologise for not getting some more. Even if my housemates had just been at the shops. If got into one of those awkward moments when a stranger and I tried to pass each other but kept moving in the same direction I would apologise. It was crazy. This went on for years until I woke up to myself and began my self development journey.

First stop on my journey was to develop some self confidence and I did this with good success. Deep down I did love and value myself for who I was but I just had to remind myself. But in this process I developed the attitude of never saying sorry because I thought it showed weakness. No apologies. Ever. Even if I was a complete jackass.

This attitude was just as silly as the original one. I had gone from one extreme to the other and it wasn't pretty. I offended people, I hurt people, and I caused some major hiccups in my personal relationships.

Early on in our dating days I occasionally said or did something to hurt Sophie emotionally. Nothing major, but at times I could be a little rude and Sophie would take offensive. But I would not say sorry because I was too much of a man to do that. It would sacrifice all the power in the relationship to her and I would be forever apologising. Luckily for me, I learned that this attitude was wrong and I managed to turn it around before I ruined the relationship.

In the process I have discovered how powerful saying sorry is for encouraging personal growth. When you say sorry and actually mean it then you have shown the ability to observe and assess your own actions, recognise how they impact the world around you, and take ownership of your mistakes. This is how you learn about yourself and develop as a human being. It is the basis for all personal growth.

Act with Good Intentions

I now focus on acting with good intentions and saying sorry only when its truly needed.  As long as I am always aiming to help others, but not to the detriment of myself, then my actions will be respected. As long as I maintain positivity and never receive a benefit at the expense of others, I will not need to apologise.

But even following this new motto I still have times where I need to apologise. I am not perfect and I will make mistakes but as long as I keep saying sorry when and how I should then I will always be improving myself and nurturing healthy positive relationships.

When to Say Sorry

The best time to apologise is anytime. It does not have to be right after the moment. It can be days, weeks, months, or even years down the track but I can promise you that any sincere apology is worth it, not matter how long it has been.

The key is that it must be sincere. When you actually feel real sorrow for the pain you have caused in another then you are ready to think about how to actually say sorry.

How to Say Sorry

Sorry is not a magic word. You cannot just say it and expect the world to right itself again. The magic of an apology comes from the feeling and sincerity behind it.

The apology must come from the heart and must not be for any personal reason or gain. It must not be just because you are feeling guilty, or because you want everyone to like you. You should only say sorry when you truly regret your actions that caused a negative outcome in someone's life.

The tricky area is to define what a negative outcome is. Often people will react negatively to actions in their life which are actually positive. They either cannot see the positivity, do not want to see it, or have trained themselves to be negative-focused.

For example, providing constructive criticism to a friend is positive because it highlights how their actions affect you and encourages them to grow. Initially the friend may reject the criticism and display negative emotions but this does not mean you should apologise for it. If you were acting with good intentions, not purposefully trying to hurt your friend, then in the long run it will be a positive action.

What to Say Sorry For

Following on my that example and my life motto of acting with good intentions, an important skill to learn is what to say sorry for. If you keep these two scenarios in your mind and apologise appropriately when they arise then you will begin to experience a happier and more positive life:

  • When you act with bad intentions - this includes taking advantage of a situation at the expense of others, ignoring the effects your decisions have on others, or purposefully hurting others for any reason. This is simply not on in any situation and and apology is required.
  • When your actions are neither good nor bad intentioned but cause hurt in someone - these are likely to be accidents and you should be willing to apologise if they cause pain for other people. But watch out for people who will try to make them bigger than they really are. It was an accident so apologise once and move on.

Getting Your Apologies Valued

One thing I noticed is that after refusing to apologise for so long, when I started saying sorry again people respected it more. It became obvious to myself and others that I am truly sorry whenever I apologise which gives it much more weight.

I encourage you to look at your own usage of "sorry" and question whether it has lost its meaning for you too. Hopefully you experience a similarly positive journey like I did.

Release Your Immortal Elephant

It happened late one Friday night. I had a beer in my hand and I was tired. Very tired. The words just popped out: "Release your immortal elephant."

I had been playing with my dog and was watching him wrestle and kill his little elephant toy, over and over. Every time it was moved, he would attack it with gusto and drag it back to his bed, only for the cycle to start again several minutes later. I saw strange parallels to human behaviour.

My mind picked up a gear and I was raving about life, negativity, and how everyone is weighing themselves down by dragging around an immortal elephant. For a second I wondered if I had (finally) gone crazy but I knew I was on to something when Sophie actually started nodding in agreement.

The Immortal Elephant

The Immortal Elephant is a metaphor for the negativity that holds you back in life. It weighs you down, it controls your actions, it invades your life, it restricts your focus, and no matter how hard you want to kill it it just will not die. The immortal elephant sucks.

The Immortal Elephant can be any form of negativity in your life, but generally it's the big stuff. For me, my elephant is/was self-doubt. Several years ago my life was riddled with negativity, especially about myself. Everything I did I thought I could have (and should have) done better, and I was constantly beating myself up about almost everything; my looks, my job, my lack of "success" and so on. It was not a happy time.

Late one night I stumbled upon some self improvement material online and I began changing my life. I learned to love and respect myself, I developed self confidence, I realised my thoughts were valid and that I did not have to agree with others, and I acknowledged that I did not have to be perfect as long as I always had good intentions and welcomed improvement. Finally, I had grown into the man I was supposed to be and it felt amazing. No, it felt better than amazing.

My big fat negative elephant was no longer haunting my life, bringing me down and preventing me from achieving. Had I done what everyone wishes they could do? Had I killed my immortal elephant?

No, it's immortal silly. But I had released it, which is even better.

Releasing the Immortal Elephant

The elephant is immortal because there is always negativity in our lives, and having become so used to fueling our lives with negative energy (stress, anger, resentment, laziness) it is all too easy fall back into those habits and forget all the positive work you have done. The elephant feeds on this negative energy and becomes stronger.

Releasing the immortal elephant is about letting go of the negativity in your life instead of fighting it. Just let it be. If someone in your life is angry towards you then just accept them as negative and move yourself in more positive direction. If you have negative thoughts about yourself do not get worked up about them, but acknowledge they are valid representations of your current mindset. If you have friends that use you, or cause distress in your life, then move on. Just like the schoolyard bully, the elephant goes away when ignored.

Once you start releasing your negativity, instead of holding on to and fighting it, you will notice a big shift in your life. You will naturally become happier, you will accept others as who they are, you will identify yourself and grow as a person, and you will learn to cultivate only those situations in life that bring prosperity, happiness, and positivity. Which leads me to the best part of this crazy metaphor.

Get the Elephant on Your Side

Not only does releasing the elephant have a dramatic effect on your life but it also affects the elephant too. I mentioned above that your immortal elephant feeds on your negative energy but this is only part of the story. Your immortal elephant feeds on ANY energy; positive or negative, and these energies have polar opposite effects.

Feeding your elephant with negativity will create an angry, stressful, and chaotic elephant running amok in your life. This elephant is your enemy.

Feeding your elephant with positivity creates a strong, happy, and supportive elephant that nurtures and protects you. This elephant is your best friend.

A positive elephant is the best kind of immortal elephant. It follows you around, supporting and encouraging you, and it is always ready to squash out any negativity that pops up in your life. Feed your elephant with positivity and get it on your side, working with you not against you.

What the Hell am I Talking About?

For those wondering what substance I am taking right now, the answer is none. I am naturally this bizarre. I see the world quite differently to most people and often it is very hard to explain. If this entire metaphor was too much for you perhaps this (non-elephant) summary will help:

  • Negativity is infectious and debilitating.
  • Release negativity from your life instead of holding on to it.
  • Surround yourself with positive actions and relationships.
  • I like elephants.

So, what negativity in your life are you holding on to?

Update 5/5/11: If you find it hard to rid yourself of negativity try reading my article on How To Harness Your Negative Emotions To Make Positive Changes

The Gentle Art of Not Wasting Time

Time is one of the most valuable resources we have, as individuals, for making the most of our lives. Yet everyone seems content to just watch time pass by with no control, frivolously spending their resource on trivial unimportant activities; time-wasters. Time is not something to waste, in fact of all the “wasteable” resources we have at our disposal time is absolutely the worst one to be wasting. Yet people continue to do so, all the while crying “I just don’t have enough time!” I am here to tell you that you always have enough time in your life; you probably just waste most of it.

I refer to time as a generic term to describe the parts of your life that are (or should be) fully dedicated to activities that actively make you happy. This is what most people call “free time” but I don’t like that phrase as it implies that the rest of your time is not for having fun and thus it has been locked away and is forever inaccessible. This is simply not true.

Time as a Measurement is Imprecise

Before some smart person defined the concept of a second did the earth still rotate on its axis, and around the sun, at roughly the same speed? Of course. Our definition of time is just an approximate measurement, based on simple observations. It is close enough for general usage but you just need to consider the leap year concept to realise how imprecise time is.

Every four years we magically accrue an extra day filled with 86400 seconds. Where did these seconds come from? Imprecise science is where.

The argument for the leap year is that seasonal and astronomical events do not occur in a sequence of whole days and thus if we did not have the leap year our seasons would slowly shift. I agree, *if* we continue to use our current model of what time is.

Let’s go a step further; the non-leap-year-leap-years. That’s right, not only was our first definition of a second incorrect, the attempted fix (i.e. the leap year) was also not quite right. We take a leap year every 4th year to cater for the original error, except for every 100th year, unless that year is every 400th year.

Confused? Hell yes! The final nail in the coffin is that even this 2nd attempt to fix our wondrous time definition is still not correct and after about 8000 years the calendar will still be wrong by at least a day. So in 1967 some smart scientists got together and changed the definition of a second to ignore our rotation around the sun but instead use the periods of radiation of some specific atom. 9,192,631,770 periods of radiation to be precise. Well it sounds precise, but we still have leap years. Go figure.

Time is a strangely imprecise beast, created by humans with the hope that by measuring something it would become more meaningful. It didn’t, but that is not what general society will have you believe.

Time in General Society

Why do most jobs require an 8 hour day when clearly not all jobs are the same? Why does a lover-level employee work the same time as a high-level manager? The answer is because measuring things in time is easy and people like to take the easy option. But being easy does not make it right.

I once worked in a public service job where I could complete all my daily work with less than an hour of dedicated effort. However, when I proposed doing as much (and working from home) I was immediately shot down and my managers went looking for more work to give me. That’s right, they actively sought other work to give me, work that was not part of my job at all, just to keep me busy for the full day.

The reasons are obvious – I had threatened the status quo and provided evidence that their notion of time, effort, and work were wrong. Of course, I was the only one doing so and if the rest of society was working 8 hours a day then I should be too.

Ignorance is bred when people do not form their own ideas, but simply accept something to be correct because everyone else does. I never stood a chance. In the end I learned to waste time like the best of them by doing tasks just for the sake of it.

Doing Things for the Sake of it

This is a big fat time-waster. Most people only apply the time-waster tag to things like video games and TV watching, but this is not necessarily true. Time-wasting is any activity you spend your time on without a specific reason to do so. With that definition in mind start thinking about how you spend your time.

Doing things because you are bored is a no-no. Life is such a wonderful thing and we have so many options available to us that I believe there is no way we can truly be bored any more. People who claim to be bored are either procrastinating from another (generally bigger and more annoying) task, or are uncomfortable and unsure of who they are and what their goal in life is. Perhaps they are even afraid of discovering the latter.

That is not to say your time has to be solely about you. If your partner is an avid theater buff and is acting in their first production you may decide to attend the opening night. You might not understand or like the play but your time is being used positively to build your relationship and support your partner. That is definitely not a time-waster.

Do Not Waste Others’ Time

Wasting the time of another person is just as bad as wasting your own. When you abuse other peoples’ time you destroy your chances of forming positive and healthy relationships, not to mention being brandished with the reputation as a time-burglar.

Respecting and valuing the time of others is a great way to establish long-lasting and positive relationships. When you demonstrate yourself as the person who knows the importance of others’ time you immediately gain their respect.

As an added benefit these people will begin to protect your time in the same manner. They will schedule their interruptions to suit you and will also defend your time-centric attitude to others, resulting in stronger relationships and more productive time. Win-win.


Not wasting your time does not mean you have to be working on projects, fixing the house, or reading a fabulous personal development site for every moment of your time. Relaxing in purely entertainment methods is valid use of your time, as long as you are really are enjoying it and being in the moment.

Contrary to popular belief, relaxing is not about “switching off” or forgetting about everything. In fact during this leisure time I suggest that you should be even more focused and alert than you are at work. If you cannot focus yourself and devote your time 100% to enjoying the entertainment then the time is wasted.

During any such entertainment time if you find your mind drifting to past problems or future worries then stop right there. If the problem is an actual emergency (chances are that it isn’t) then you need to deal with that problem right away. Otherwise you need to remind yourself that this is your time and it is simply too important to waste. Your only concern should be your enjoyment and happiness at that given moment.

Learning to delineate your time is a difficult but critical skill needed to master the art of not wasting your time. Spending work time on work activities is fine. Spending personal time on work is not. Think about it from the reverse perspective. If you spent all day at work thinking about personal stuff, shopping, chatting to friends, and watching TV do you think your boss would allow it? Of course not, so don’t allow the opposite – your personal time is for you, not work. Don’t waste it.

What Can I Do Right Now to Increase My Happiness

So what are you doing here? Did you come here because you were bored or because you were seeking some form of personal growth? No matter your reasons I hope you can take something away about how to value your own time more. Start questioning your actions and whether they really make you happy. Focus yourself on every moment of the day and ask "What can I do right now that will increase my happiness?"