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Professional Development Hints and Tips


When it comes to professional development, it probably won’t take you much exploring until you come across this ‘stuff called NLP’. When learned and applied well, it becomes second nature as to how to think about problems, and how best to communicate with whomever you meet in just about any environment. The thing is though, for me, it began as personal development at first and within a couple of years it had transformed into something even more far reaching.

This article will give you some of the most important ‘tips’ (as I know people love tips) I learned along the way, and how one relationship in particular transformed my thinking – yep, this is all about learning from a mentor. 


The back story:

Back in the late 1990’s when I first threw myself into the dot com world with a project called 3courselunch.com (online, bite sized learning in your lunch hour) I had the good fortune to connect with an incredible man name Tim Healey.

For the next three years, almost every day – and I mean 5+ times a week – I would either have long mentoring sessions with Tim, or take a visit to him and his wife, Pat, at their home.

They are a couple of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and I hope they know my gratitude for their support during this time, and long afterwards, until this very day.

I moved from that venture into the next phase of my life, largely focused on being a writer, and deep down, I have that identity still. For a long while, I was a writer who didn’t really write, which reminds me of Hank in Californication, but I have returned once more – and even have started writing comedy again, which is a passion.

Along the way I’ve embraced Social Media as a way to shape myself, which I never quite expected either. It has not been about ‘arriving and selling my wares’ as much as landing on Social and allowing the network to form what role I could take up in the community.


RSA ANIMATE: The Power of Networks

There are many experiences that have led to an understanding of how to build and develop within a professional capacity too, and it is this that I want to share.

As such, let’s run through, some of the things I learned from Tim in relations to communication, relationships, and generally how we can make our own lives and those around us, a little better.


The tips:

If you are seeking some ways of developing yourself within a professional context, then this has to be a good place to start.

1. Where you will be in 5 years time is down to the books that you read and the people you spend your time with.

And as our lives have moved online this is really down to the information to which you have access as well as how well you

a) interpret it,
b) assimilate it into your worldview, and
c) how you apply it.

With online communities available across dozens of platforms, you have access to people and ideas like you never had before. The question is, where will you place your time and attention? Who will you allow to influence your thinking? And, of course, will this community of people serve you in a way that allows you to become your best self? (in return you will be serving them too)

2. Everyone needs a vehicle.

Unless you have a point of application for what you learn, you will only have conceptual understanding at best. If you want to truly grow and develop, you need a vehicle in which to go on the journey. For me this vehicle has consistently been writing within the context of developing oneself. For you, it may be music, or professional sports, of community liaisons, or a specific technological space. Whichever works for you, the assumption is that your developed self is the one at the wheel.

And if you are within an organisation, it is likely your vehicle is a job and your career is your path – let’s face it, developing your skills in this environment is somewhat of a must.

Here is a lovely interview for those of you who are ‘Social Executives’:


The Social Executive, with Dionne Kasian-Lew

3. “What is the nature of relationship you are seeking to have?”

This is a question that allows you to jump to meta in a situation very quickly.

It was Paul Watzlawick who delivered it to me, via Tim (my mentor) and ever since it has served me and thousands of people who I have taught very well. It means you don’t have to continue to ‘buy into’ a supposed dynamic within a relationship, it means you are feel to choose, and then act accordingly.

Imagine for a second you are in the workplace and you are interacting with tens or even hundreds of people every week – being able to understand the context for the relationships you have will create clarity of thinking as to how best to proceed.

When it comes to interactions online this is going to be a useful codification to make. What happens when people ‘add you as a friend’ on Facebook, or seek to connect online?

Answering the original question will determine the actions you take and the nature of opportunities you may well get too.

4. “What’s wrong here?” George Soros

This is something that maybe has become easier to see as I’ve reached my 40s. I am an optimist, and sometimes I have to force myself to see through the fluff and find the facts. Asking this can help you ‘not kid yourself’ as well as seeking any patterns that would indicate that the construct of reality presenting itself to you is ‘false’ in some way.

For you too, it is often very useful to see what others won’t admit, and yet sits firmly in front of them if they opened their eyes too.

Whether on or offline (the divide to which is largely now conceptual) you want to keep a fine sense of what is ‘real’ and what is spin.

5. Avoid having a ‘little black heart’.

It is so easy to say ‘that snarky comment’ to people but it will ruin a relationship that is not ‘safe’. And when it comes to online interactions, you will find it is exceptionally easy to make throw away comments that are seen by hundreds of people, and who end up with you ‘getting put into the corner’. Btw, humour helps if you really feel you need to say something, but most of the time, leave the keyboard and give yourself some space.

The same goes for email (I hate email as a primary mode of communication) – write it, save it as a draft, delete it.

As my best mate once said just before I was given a speech at his wedding…once you’ve said it, you can’t take it back.

6. You will only rise as high as your pathologies.

Yep, you will not get where you want to go professionally if you f*ck it up. And you will f*ck it up if you don’t know how you generally do this. Sure, some people are fortunate enough to have ‘everything in check’ but for the rest of us, we will hit our personal limits and burn relationships and opportunities to boot.

In this series of articles I will dig deeper into this again, but for now look at what hasn’t worked out in the past and consider your own role in how the results happened.

7. Don’t say ‘dealing with difficult people’.

Sure, I know this is commonly used language but the fact is you are making ‘them wrong’ before you even start. If you want to re-code this as people with behaviours you find challenging to deal with, you have a way to develop yourself in order to handle your responses better.

People will do what they do, and you can choose how you respond. That is all.

8. People become arrogant when they are not successful enough.

I’ve been there with this one myself, and it is a form of defence. You feel you should be somewhere that you are not, or that you are ‘not anymore’. If you understand that there will always be people better off and people worse off than you based upon the criteria you set, you are freer to act where you are. And from that point you can be present to what is present to you, instead of trying to make it into something else as you feel you deserve it.

People may have more money, you may have better health, or more hair on your head, or a better looking spouse – but whatever you have is exactly what it is, and reality has a tendency of stripping away the things that we don’t appreciate in the first place.

9. Write in your books.

This may sound simple, but it is something you’ve been taught is ‘bad’ since you were a kid.

They are your books, and writing in them makes it much easier to go back to and use as references. Make notes about people, and times of life that a section relate to, and generally look to treat a book as something that is not given but something you make through reading and note taking.

10. Have a back-up plan.

If you can enter a situation with the knowledge you have an alternative, you are much less desperate for the outcome. You may still want e.g. to get a pay rise, or win a deal, but you don’t need it to survive. This is a much healthier position to be in.

Also, online there are limitless opportunities, and you are best to ease yourself into the networked thinking and find your place than try to force a quick win. It is a long game.

11. Don’t quote yourself.

“There is nothing more conceited than quoting yourself.” – Martin Shervington

12. ‘Free willy’. (um, yes)

Now, this is a fun one.

Your personal and professional lives are entwined and if you spend your time chasing relationships, especially using social networks to do so, you will find that your attention is very much taken up with that pursuit.

You can, of course, do what you want – but I’ve seen many people spend days, weeks, and years trying to woo people and then end up broken hearted without even having met in real life.

And if you are in a relationship already, know that every person you let into your world and pay attention to is getting the ‘mind time’ that your partner may well otherwise be getting.

13. “You may not enjoy doing the garden, but you like the way it looks.”

Regularly there are jobs that need to be done to get to where you want to get to, and sometimes you are going to have to ‘suck it up’ and do the work. And think that is every person who ‘hits the wall’ and falls away, except for you, you have done something exceptional.

14. Not having an axe to grind.

You need to know and declare if you have ‘an interest’ in something well ahead of the time someone feels the need to ‘call you out’ about it.

In fact, if you pre-empt any such issue you win – transparency and openness are a new way to view the world, but it doesn’t mean everyone else does.

For professional development, if you are taking advice from people in particular, you want to make sure that person doesn’t have an ulterior motive either. Enlightened self interest works well though.

15. “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

Remember that being a smart ass won’t win you too many hearts and minds.

16. ‘That which goes beyond’.

Taking a leap to ‘meta’ in a situation allows you to disembed from the usual construct and see that almost everything is created by people and if that is the case you can both de-construct a situation to know how it works and then reform/reshape/re-construct it yourself.

Steve Jobs’ Vision of the World

17. People don’t like being ‘got’.

If you are working in sales and marketing and talk about ‘getting sales’ all the time, then remember…people don’t like being ‘got’.

Think in terms of relationships, nurture and support.

18. We all have the same amount of time, it is all about our priorities.

This is both about what you do yourself – do you binge watch the latest TV show, read a book, do a class etc – and about other people and how they respond to you.

We are all busy living, so being too busy means we simply have other priorities that are more important than the thing that has presented itself.

If you want to develop yourself professionally, you need to know the value of your own priorities.

19. Not holding back on giving content/answers when someone asks a question, even if you are not certain they will understand it.

Tim Healey, my mentor from all those years ago, gave me so many of these ‘tips’ through my own journey – this is one about never feeling you have to pay to get to the next level.

Sure you don’t get to see the whole sequel to a series of movies unless you pay an entry fee, but you should always be allowed to know the plot.
As such, you want to seek out people who give freely of their ideas.

20. When is enough, enough?  (and when to kill a project)

The final tip for today is this – sometimes you need to pull the plug, to stop trying too hard in one direction. This way you are able to shift attention to something that is more fruitful.



Your own professional development is likely to be built around subject matters, but I wanted to throw you a load of factors that will underpin them – no matter what they may be.

This is about ‘you’ within the context of technology making connections and information available for the first time. But it is going to be the community in which you base yourself i.e. the people who you spend your time with that really determine ‘where you will be in 5 years time’. And the time has come to broaden your mind, just a little more…


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