Do you know a David Brent?

David Brent is a cultural icon of how not to do leadership. Deluded. Irritating. Arrogant. Sexist. Foolish and above all utterly ignorant to the fact that he was totally incompetent. Ring any bells?

Even though he is a caricature of many business leaders, it is still astounding to me that in many well known and successful companies we still find ‘Brentitus’ sweeping the board rooms and plush offices up and down the country.

It’s about time as business leaders we stop, look around and take stock because the world continues to change at a rate of knots, and we will soon be left in the dark ages of the 1980s leader if we don’t act. With this in mind I want to introduce the 5 core leadership qualities that I believe are critical to bringing us back to a level of ability that truly means business in the modern age.

Humility – the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

Humility is something that is almost impossible to learn but is one of the major factors in influence and inspiration. We all want to be led by someone who knows that we are the most important element within the whole process of succeeding and they will inspires us to find our best selves. Gone are the days of shouting and screaming orders – thank goodness. Bullying in the workplace has surely had its day. Today is more about empowering others to achieve and grow plus understanding that employee engagement is more important than ever.

Visionary – thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom.

New age leadership needs people to know where the organisation is going today, this month, this year and beyond. They need to be able to bring this vision to life in the form of a mission or purpose plus a simple set of strategic actions that everyone can relate to and feel compelled to deliver in each and every moment. Put aside tasks and lists. We need to be outcome focused and action orientated. Lets make company culture at the forefront of our thinking.

Engaging – charming and attractive

“An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” — Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

Employees need to believe in something and someone. They don’t come to work simply to do a job. They enjoy being connected to something that has a purpose. They like friendships that are formed and the colleagues they share their purpose with. And they demand a level of flexibility in their working practices. Smart leaders create movements – not jobs. They encourage cultures of learning – not outdated training course where in the first week we are crammed together in a over heated box and disengaged within the first 20 mins.

The world now allows us to work from anywhere so the 9 – 5 desk job is dead. Remote working is here so embrace it! Modern leadership is knowing how to leverage trust and be trustworthy. It’s about knowing how to be mindful. Its also knowing how to lead in these new virtual worlds. Leave your fear of change at the door.

Agile – able to move quickly and easily.

Allow freedom in your business. Micro managing simply does nothing but irritate and frustrate the very people you are supposed to be inspiring. Empower people by aligning the new culture to their personal role and showing them how vital they are to the big picture. Give them autonomy and allow space for failure. Yes – that’s correct – I did say failure. Success cannot happen without falling a little. Being flexible enough to know that to learn something we need the confidence to try first and then use creativity and grit to pull through.

New age leadership is also about knowing that we can no longer just force people to focus and work-hard, especially when there are so many distraction around us. If you stop people using YouTube and Facebook you are removing major opportunities for staff to learn and grow. Become more time constructive – not time destructive. Take stuff away and people will still find a way plus they’ll be less inclined to tell you.

The modern workplace should be designed to allow people to find new ideas and solve problems. Give them space and yes – a sense of freedom.

Collaborative – produced by or involving two or more parties working together.

People want to work with you – not for you.

Lets bring our team members and departments together. Communication is now more fracutured than ever as we rely on emails, texting and whatsapp. These shortcuts mean we are failure ourselves and above all the relationships we need to build, be it with our people or our customers. We rush around thinking that time is the problem when actually it’s our communication and strategy. If we could actually sit down and plan where our time should go, then we could find the discipline to make each day count. We need to invest in more agile learning and coaching so that our skills and awareness can improve. We need to review our approach to meetings and not see packing each day with 5 or 6 group disucssions as productive. Don’t just talk at bewildered individuals who are looking at every opportunity ot leave the room so they can go and do some ‘real work’.

Create tribes of winners. Individuals who like to talk the talk and walk the walk. People who understand consequences and how these can impact on their colleagues.

The good news is that there is so much opportunity out there. To find new talent. To gain access to new ideas and to learn anything. To meet interesting people and to expand your social circle. To create more awareness and build your cognitive muscles. The world is now almost limitless so lets change it for the better.

As you read this article and feel you want to know more about how to adopt some of these qualities into your leadership programme for next year and beyond, then feel free to join my Facebook groups Oliver Thompson Training and mindsethacks for entrepreneurs and business owners or simply get in touch.

Pursuing the Impossible

Roger Bannister is a true legend of sport and specifically someone who utilised failure as a powerful force towards greater things. At the 1952 Olympics he was a hot favourite – but failed miserably. And he was gutted – so much so that he spent the next two months deciding whether or not to quit running.

In the end, he decided to prove to himself, and to everyone else, that he could do better. He decided to use his pain and humiliation to drive himself forward and push his limits.

Read his compelling story here

It’s not working out! Keep trying

The inventors and aviation pioneers ORVILLE & WILBUR WRIGHT battled depression and family illness before starting the bicycle shop that would lead them to experimenting with flight. After numerous attempts at creating fling machines, several years of hard work and countless failed prototypes, the brothers finally created a plane that could get airborne and stay there.

Business Brains know that our mental landscape and what we believe can limit our effectiveness, whether as communicators, leaders or, equally, as parents, coaches or teachers. These limiting ‘maps’, if you like, may have been created from experiences we’ve had.

Some maps don’t quite work out how you would hope they will. They were painful or embarrassing so they shape how you anticipate things will be from now on. Success doesn’t often happen immediately. In fact most Business Brains know that everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks.

But you have a choice. You can…

a) think like an resourceful adult – give up and decide that you are now incapable or

b) think like a baby learning to walk – be free from negative mapped experiences and persist until you succeed. Babies treat each effort as a learning experience. To achieve their success winners also explore their results, they try to understand what they have learnt and apply it to every new attempt. These experiences are simply feedback and therefore if treated as such have immense benefits.

Questions: What have you failed at but persisted with so you eventually achieved what you set out to do?

Name three things you did specifically to make this happen?




Want to learn more about resilience and grit? Then simply visit our website and book on our programme click here

Upping Your Business Game

Upping Your Business Game: Bringing Leadership into 2017

Core Growth Topic 1: Increased attention on curiosity.

Curiosity has topically been a leadership trend throughout 2016 and will continue into 2017. The beauty about curiosity is that it fosters creativity and innovation; it incites opportunity and sparks growth potential. To stay competitive, companies must be willing and able to move out of the complacency of success that defined them today and continually question the status quo so they can create a better tomorrow. Organisational curiosity does just that—it feeds people’s innate desire to know more, and when you know more, you can be more by doing more.

The Difference between leadership and management explained

The top 4 causes of stress and how to overcome their effects

I don’t believe I’ve met anyone who at one point in their life has not experienced stress. It can show up and be experienced in different ways and if you’re aware enough you may be able to feel it in a certain part of your body.

Here’s the interesting science stuff

When faced with a stressful situation, the human body responds with the fight-or-flight response. The sympathetic nervous system reacts, resulting in symptoms such as a racing heart beat and increased sweating. After the stress goes away, the parasympathetic nervous system activates, returning the body to normal. Certain events cause high levels of stress in people, such as major life changes.

There are four common places stress comes up for most people that you need to be aware of.

Work: A person’s job can be a source of stress, especially because of the amount of time spent there each week. Evidence states that an overwhelming workload or a difficult boss can increase the level of stress. If a person does not like her job, has a long commute or has altercations with her co-workers, she can experience even more stress. Apparently getting fired from a job is the eighth most stressful life event.

Relationships: Strained relationships can add stress to a person’s life. Divorce is the second most stressful life event on the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, followed by marriage separation. Abusive relationships can add even more stress. However, positive relationships can result in stress as well. Marriage is the seventh most stressful life event on the Holmes-Rahe list, and marriage recollection is the ninth.

Life Changes: Certain major changes in a patient’s life can cause large amount of stress. Note that both positive life changes, such as a pregnancy, and negative life changes, such as the death of a loved one, can result in stress. The death of a spouse is the most stressful life event on the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, and the death of a close relative is the fifth. While a positive event for many people, retirement is considered the tenth most stressful event.

Some environmental factors can cause or add to a person’s life of stress. Two environmental factors, noise and excessive light, can induce stress. These environmental stressors can be worse if they are not controllable.

Self-Generated: Stress also can be caused by a person’s inner thinking. For example, unrealistic expectations and perfectionism can make events in which a person did not realize his ideals even more stressful. Pessimism and negative self-talk also can cause stress

So, with all this stress around – what can you do to keep calm and positive when everything is working against you? Try mindfulness practice

Mindfulness is a very effective tool for creating inner peace and balance. Mindfulness calls us to live in the present moment, which is the only moment we have. It is a form of non-judgmental, relaxed awareness.

When we are mindful, we are purposely paying attention to the current moment, from our emotions to our environment. Through mindfulness, we learn to allow things to simply be, rather than trying to control, resist, or fix everything around us.

Here are few key elements to cultivating mindfulness in your life.

1) Learn to observe rather than judge.

Most of us operate from a place of worry, anxiety, and judgment of ourselves and others. This state of mind is preventing us from accepting, receiving and enjoying life. Observing or witnessing teaches us to relax, accept, and drop judgment. As a result, our state of being sifts to a more peaceful one.

2) Notice your “reptilian brain.”

Our reptilian brain is part of our defensive self. It is relentlessly commenting on everything we come in contact with. It pushes us to file things in drawers according to categories. We have the “good” drawers and “bad” drawers in our minds. There, we collect our likes and dislikes.

As we go through life, we are constantly bouncing between rejection and attachment, jumping from the future to the past and back again. This reactive way of being does not allow for observation, awareness and peace.

It is most important to begin to observe this kind of obsessive and compulsive thinking. If you are a meditator, you know how hard it is to relax the reptilian brain element. It takes practice. But the first step is to notice it and identify the action and impact of it. As your mindfulness practice grow, you can learn to slow and relax your mind.

3) Learn a healthy detachment from the inner drama.

The twin of the reptilian brain is emotional drama. Emotional drama is the inner turmoil of contradicting, conflicting, and painful emotions that swirl around and torment us. This can happen in relation to a past or present event. Most of the time, emotional drama touches on pool of unresolved emotional experiences of the past.

What about you?

How do you deal with pressure, stress and anxiety? Why not learn how to activate tools you already have to make yourself more resourceful and happier.

Join other like-minded professionals, coaches, business owners committed to activating their business brain and ready to start the journey to personal greatness.

New to leadership? Here are the common communication challenges you’ll face and how to deal with them brilliantly

Here’s the truth. Leadership is hard but a necessary and worthy skill and quality to pursue. It’s so so fundamental that in a study of 14,000 businesses by the European commission among four other traits leadership was ranked in the top three traits that determines the longevity, profitability and health of those organisations that make it into the top 3% of companies in their industry.

What’s most challenging about leading organisations today?

1. Developing Managerial Effectiveness is the challenge of developing the relevant skills — such as time-management, prioritisation, strategic thinking, decision-making, and getting up to speed with the job — to be more effective at work.

2. Inspiring Others is the challenge of inspiring or motivating others to ensure they are satisfied with their jobs and working smarter.

3. Developing Employees is the challenge of developing others, including mentoring and coaching.

4. Leading a Team is the challenge of team-building, team development, and team management. Specific challenges include how to instill pride in a team or support the team, how to lead a big team, and what to do when taking over a new team.

5. Guiding Change is the challenge of managing, mobilising, understanding and leading change. Guiding change includes knowing how to mitigate consequences, overcome resistance to change, and deal with employees’ reaction to change.

6. Managing Internal Stakeholders and Politics is the challenge of managing relationships, politics, and image. This challenge includes gaining managerial support and managing up and getting buy-in from other departments, groups or individuals

Knowing that these challenges are common experiences for middle and senior managers is helpful to both the leaders and those charged with their development.

Here are 5 concrete things leaders can do to address these common challenges:

  • Learn and Grow. It’s critical that you are always looking to self-develop, improve and be on the edge of new ideas, tech and business culture.
  • Set Goals. Be proactive in setting goals, and with setting timelines and deadlines required to meet them.
  • Delegate more. Delegating can make you more productive. The act of delegation can also empower your colleagues to take more ownership.
  • Work on tasks that maximise your unique value. Among all the organisational priorities, there will always be important tasks that only you can do. These are the tasks you should focus on. As a result, you’ll maximise your specific value to the organisation. Everything else, try to delegate.
  • Gain some role clarity. Understand what your work does and doesn’t entail. With that, you may have to practice and be comfortable saying “no.”

What about you?

What would you add to this list?

Who do you need to become to accomplish your goals in the next 12 months?

How to overcome the fear of failure

The fear of failure is a crippling vice that keeps many from starting and achieving their personal goals. Our past, the perception of others, the wrong advice giving by those who mean us well but don’t have our ambition and much more.

All of these in one word form a belief. A belief that either enables and dis-ables our willingness and commitment to act. I won’t pretend that for everyone what I’m about to step will be easy or if applied could change your reality and experience from this moment. That’s a choice only you can make.

I want to share a litte on the power of self talk.

In order to be successful you have to also believe that you are capable.To tell yourself that what you want is possible. To create purpose within your own thinking.

Let’s imagine now. Who is it today that you most want to be in order to do the things you need to do and achieve the results you want? Hold that picture, words or image as you read the rest of this article.

We all know that self-talk can be disempowering especially if your own commentary includes phrases like…

I wish I could….

I don’t know how…

I can’t believe that this….

Why doesn’t it….

But I……

Everyone who has achieved a level of success has faced adversity and obstacles: no support, lack of funding, poor resources, mental or physical pain, poor working conditions, strong opponents to your ideals, mental fatigue. The only way you can succeed in the face of these difficulties is to have powerful self-belief, drive, passion, focus and self-worth. Positive self-talk is one tool that is vital to making things happen.

Changing your self-talk

There are three steps you can add to your mental tool kit to changing your self-talk so it works for you rather than against you:

1.    Identify. Self-talk is often so habitual that people are unaware that they are doing it at all. If you are going to change your self-talk, you need to be aware of these thoughts as they happen. Take some time to notice the things you say to yourself during your day.

2.    Assess. Is it negative or positive? If it is negative, ask yourself these questions:

  • What evidence is there to support this thought?
  • What evidence is there against it?
  • Is this the way I would talk to a friend who was in my position?
  • What are the positive ways of viewing this situation?
  • Am I really keeping things in perspective?

Even if there is some validity to this thought, how useful is it spending your energy thinking about it?

3.    Change. If you decide that your self-talk is unhelpful or wrong, replace the negative thoughts with a more positive alternative.

Changing self-talk requires some time and practice, since our ways of thinking tend to be quite ingrained. You will probably need to keep working on the three step process above for some time before it becomes second nature.

What about you?

What thoughts have you changed that have enabled you to do great things?

What image of person did you create earlier?


Mirrors and windows. An insight into how we see ourselves and the world around us

Mirrors and windows : Is EQ for YOU?

The key to successful interactions with people – relationships, if you like – can be simply described with the following metaphor.

You can choose to look at that moment using a mirror or a window. If you always use a mirror you will see everything relating back to you.

You will be using your own filters: your needs, your values, your beliefs, your emotions. If you like what you see, you will probably have constructive responses. But if you don’t, then your responses may well be destructive, based on the event not making sense to the ego within you – your reflected self.

If, on the other hand, you look at the situation through a window, you will be exploring an external view. You will be examining what’s actually going on outside in the world around you and viewing experiences as others may see them. You will see others and their environment. You will learn because it’s not always as you thought or want. People often only respond in line with their past experiences and quite often need us to help them see the same thing in a number of different, resourceful ways. However, if this is the only way you view things, then you may be placing others people’s needs before your own and therefore not allowing yourself to focus on the drivers that your inner self requires.

Mirrors are great if you need to re-evaluate your own performance and to find inner focus and strength in tough times. Think about using mirrors to maximise your time – to help you see what you need to do in the time allocated and stick to it by saying ‘No’ to time thieves and distractions.

Windows are often successfully used in leadership positions. They help you to see how others need motivating and share successes. Windows are equally strong when networking because they help you to listen, engage and share ideas and future actions.

When it comes to relationships, try removing the mirror and opening a window. It may just help you see things more clearly.

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticise me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.”

–         William Arthur Ward

What about you?

Do you find yourself using more of a window or mirror in your life?

Self awareness and discovery of who you are is an essential step to activating your greatness. In London on the 8th of July join other like-minded professionals, coaches, business owners committed to activating their business brain. Get ready to start the journey to personal greatness.

GRIT – The biggest asset to being successful

Most of the time things just don’t go the way you would like when starting a company. It would be nice if it was easy, but it usually is not. Frankly, startups are hard as hell. There are a lot of character qualities that can help you succeed. For me, persistence, perseverance and tenacity, by far, have been the most important. I know they may seem similar, but in my experience, they have proven to be different and each is useful for different situations.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Take persistence. To me, persistence is a bit like pestering. Even though you have told me “no” a few times, as my offering gets better, I will keep coming back to try to convince you to do what I would like you to do. You have to be careful though. Pestering can get you into trouble. You need to have a good sense when you are pushing it too far, and you have to be offering something of real value. Being persistent does not have to be annoying. I always try to get permission to come back. I ask, “if I can fix what you don’t like, can we talk again?” Whether it is trying to get people to invest or buy your product, no matter how good the offering, often it still takes a lot of persistence.

You need perseverance when things get severe. There will always be times when you just want to give up. Truth be told, there are times when the right thing to do is give up. You finally realise your great idea is just not going to make it. But, when you know your new venture solves a real problem for a lot of people, you just have to persevere.

Tenacity is related to what you do when you get new information. You are constantly faced with new data that may challenge what you are doing and how you are doing it. Tenacity gives you the ability to adjust to changing information and conditions. The economy goes into a recession. A new competitor crops up. You make a terrible decision. You lose an important customer. Tenacity helps you adjust to new information.

Three’s a charm

Start-ups have made me recognise the importance of all three of these qualities. My mother used to say I was “obnoxious”, because when I got interested in something, I was like a dog with a bone. I would not stop asking questions while I was learning everything I could about my new obsession. It drove her crazy, but I was developing persistence, perseverance and tenacity. They have served me well my entire life.

Every start up is different, like kids! Each has their own unique problems that you have to solve. Keep at it and remain focused but agile enough to shift your thinking when needed.

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Learn more about how GRIT can make a difference to your success by booking in your FREE 121 personal coaching session.


How to know what drives you and what your values really are

If you have ever worked in selling you will likely know about hot buttons. They are the values or emotions which drive our behaviours. Although some people like to think of themselves as rational human beings the reality is that all of us are emotionally driven – by our values. Knowing your values, and their relative importance, is a key to a happy and a healthy life.

What is a ‘Value’?

A value is a ‘hot button’ that drives behaviour. Whatever you do is done in order to fulfil a value – even though you are unlikely to be consciously aware of that value. You swim to fulfil the value of improving your health, benefiting from the relaxed state it later produces, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the sea, etc. You drink alcohol to fulfil the value of feeling less inhibited, to enjoy the social scene involved, to enjoy the taste of the drink, etc.

You buy fashionable new clothes to fulfil the value of looking good, looking right for work, or not looking dowdy, etc. Your clients, colleagues and staff will all be running values unconsciously and these will be shaping their relationships, behaviours, decision making and outcomes. As a person of influence coaching and communicating around these values will allow both parties to gain new insights and stimulate winning results.1

We can have moving towards values which, when satisfied, bring us pleasure and moving away from values which attempt to keep us from feeling pain. Here are some examples of AWAY and TOWARDS value

AWAY FROM: Not failing TOWARDS: Being successful

AWAY FROM: Ill health TOWARDS: Good health

AWAY FROM: Too much change TOWARDS: Certainty & Security

AWAY FROM:Not feeling trapped TOWARDS: Freedom of choice

When we are operating out of our highest values we experience congruence and a sense of satisfaction. We like people who share our values and often have strong reactions to people who don’t.

When we experience conflicting values it creates a dilemma and incongruence. Values can conflict at the same time (ie. simultaneously “should I do this or should I do that”) or over time (ie. sequentially “I know I really shouldn’t have done it but …”). Arguments and disagreements are almost always associated with people having conflicting values.

While our values are usually out of our awareness we constantly express them through our language and indicating which are the most important through our behaviour. The simplest way to discover someone’s values is to ask:

What is important to you about [topic]?

What do you want in/out of [topic]?

What would having [topic] do for you?

Takeaway Workout: Values Elicitation

Time: Approx. 30 mins.


The following exercise will allow you to explore your values or ‘drivers’ and help you to then link these to how and why you run your actions and behaviour as you do. It is also an excellent exercise to use with other team members or colleagues as it will generate understanding and collaboration.


I’ve created a list of 300 values that may help you determine your top five values. Underline the values that stand out to you and then reduce the list through a process of prioritisation till you are left with five core values.

Next – simply explore how you behave in order to fulfil these values. Look at both potential constructive and destructive actions.

Now, how have these values supported your growth and if they have perhaps held you back? Perhaps it is time to revisit how you either a) view the value itself or b) select a more supportive set of values without compromising who you are.

You can download the list for free from my Slideshare HERE

What about you?

Who do you need to become to accomplish your goals in the next 12 months?

Join other like-minded professionals, coaches, business owners committed to activating their business brain and ready to start the journey to personal greatness. Birkbeck University 8th July 2017 

The greatest minds and how they treated failure

Not everyone who’s on top today got there with success after success. More often than not, those who history best remembers were faced with numerous obstacles that forced them to work harder and show more determination than others. Next time you’re feeling down about your failures in business and leadership keep these fifty famous people in mind and remind yourself that sometimes failure is just the first step towards success.

I’ve got a list of 23 of the 50 famous examples to inspire and encourage you to greatness. If you want to pick up the full PDF check it out HERE.

Take the next 10 min and be inspired by these 23 real stories then write your own.

Business Gurus

These businessmen and the companies they founded are today known around the world, but as these stories show, their beginnings weren’t always smooth.

1.   R. H. Macy: Most people are familiar with this large department store chain, but Macy didn’t always have it easy. Macy started seven failed business before finally hitting big with his store in New York City.

2.   Akio MoritaYou may not have heard of Morita but you’ve undoubtedly heard of his company, Sony. Sony’s first product was a rice cooker that unfortunately didn’t cook rice so much as burnt it, selling less than 100 units. This first setback didn’t stop Morita and his partners as they pushed forward to create a multi-billion dollar company.

3.   Harland David Sanders: Perhaps better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

Scientists and Thinkers

These people are often regarded as some of the greatest minds of our century, but they often had to face great obstacles, the ridicule of their peers and the animosity of society.

4.   Albert EinsteinMost of us take Einstein’s name as synonymous with genius, but he didn’t always show such promise. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. It might have taken him a bit longer, but most people would agree that he caught on pretty well in the end, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern physics.

5.   Robert Goddard: Goddard today is hailed for his research and experimentation with liquid-fuelled rockets, but during his lifetime his ideas were often rejected and mocked by his scientific peers who thought they were outrageous and impossible. Today rockets and space travel don’t seem far-fetched at all, due largely in part to the work of this scientist who worked against the feelings of the time.

6.   Robert Sternberg: This big name in psychology received a C in his first college introductory psychology class with his teacher telling him that, “there was already a famous Sternberg in psychology and it was obvious there would not be another.” Sternberg showed him, however, graduating from Stanford with exceptional distinction in psychology, summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa and eventually becoming the President of the American Psychological Association


These inventors changed the face of the modern world, but not without a few failed prototypes along the way.

7.   Thomas Edison: In his early years, teachers told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.

8.   Orville and Wilbur Wright: These brothers’ battled depression and family illness before starting the bicycle shop that would lead them to experimenting with flight. After numerous attempts at creating flying machines, several years of hard work, and tons of failed prototypes, the brothers finally created a plane that could get airborne and stay there.

Public Figures

From politicians to talk show hosts, these figures had a few failures before they came out on top.

9.      Winston Churchill: This Nobel Prize-winning, twice-elected Prime Minster of the United Kingdom wasn’t always as well regarded as he is today. Churchill struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. After school he faced many years of political failures, as he was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 62.

10.  Abraham Lincoln: While today he is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of our nation, Lincoln’s life wasn’t so easy. In his youth he went to war a captain and returned a private (if you’re not familiar with military ranks, just know that private is as low as it goes.) Lincoln didn’t stop failing there, however. He started numerous failed businesses and was defeated in numerous runs he made for public office.

11.  Oprah Winfrey: Most people know Oprah as one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for tv.”

Hollywood Types

These faces ought to be familiar from the big screen, but these actors, actresses and directors saw their fair share of rejection and failure before they made it big.

12. Sidney Poitier: After his first audition, Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier vowed to show him that he could make it, going on to win an Oscar and become one of the most well-regarded actors in the business.

13. Charlie Chaplin: It’s hard to imagine film without the iconic Charlie Chaplin, but his act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt it was a little too nonsensical to ever sell.

14. Lucille Ball: During her career, Ball had thirteen Emmy nominations and four wins, also earning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Centre Honours. Before starring in I Love Lucy, Ball was widely regarded as a failed actress and a B movie star. Even her drama instructors didn’t feel she could make it, telling her to try another profession. She, of course, proved them all wrong.

Writers and Artists

We’ve all heard about starving artists and struggling writers, but these stories show that sometimes all that work really does pay off with success in the long run.

15. Emily DickinsonRecluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.

16. Theodor Seuss GieselToday nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

17. Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.


While their music is some of the bestselling, best loved and most popular around the world today, these musicians show that it takes a whole lot of determination to achieve success.

18. Wolfgang Amadeus MozartMozart began composing at the age of five, writing over 600 pieces of music that today are lauded as some of the best ever created. Yet during his lifetime, Mozart didn’t have such an easy time, and was often restless, leading to his dismissal from a position as a court musician in Salzberg. He struggled to keep the support of the aristocracy and died with little to his name.

19. The BeatlesFew people can deny the lasting power of this super group, still popular with listeners around the world today. Yet when they were just starting out, a recording company told them no. They were told “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more.

20. Ludwig van Beethoven: In his formative years, young Beethoven was incredibly awkward on the violin and was often so busy working on his own compositions that he neglected to practice. Despite his love of composing, his teachers felt he was hopeless at it and would never succeed with the violin or in composing. Beethoven kept plugging along, however, and composed some of the best-loved symphonies of all time–five of them while he was completely deaf.


While some athletes rocket to fame, others endure a path fraught with a little more adversity, like those listed here.

21. Michael JordanMost people wouldn’t believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, Jordan didn’t let this setback stop him from playing the game and he has stated, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

22. Stan SmithThis tennis player was rejected from even being a lowly ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because event organizers felt he was too clumsy and uncoordinated. Smith went on to prove them wrong, showcasing his not-so-clumsy skills by winning Wimbledon, U. S. Open and eight Davis Cups.

23. Babe RuthYou probably know Babe Ruth because of his home run record (714 during his career), but along with all those home runs came a pretty hefty amount of strikeouts as well (1,330 in all). In fact, for decades he held the record for strikeouts. When asked about this he simply said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

What about you?

Who do you need to become to accomplish your goals in the next 12 months?

Join other like-minded professionals, coaches, entrepreneurs, business owners committed to activating their business brain and ready to start the journey to personal greatness. 

Managing peoples ‘maps of the world’

Our conscious awareness has a limited number of ‘chunks of attention’. In order to make sense of the huge amount of information that our senses take in each moment from the world around us, we unconsciously filter it.

We have to do this filtering. If we didn’t, our brains would be overloaded and the world would appear as a booming, buzzing riot of smells, feelings and colours, just as it must appear to a new-born baby.

These are some of the filtering processes that our brain uses to protect us:

Deletion. We just don’t notice certain things, especially if we are not interested in them. So in every situation, there is more going on than you realise. Most of the information we delete may be irrelevant, but sometimes we overlook things that would help us if we noticed them.

Psychologists have identified various ‘cognitive biases’ that distort our view of the world:

  1. Confirmation Bias – we pay more attention to evidence that supports our beliefs and downplay or ignore evidence that doesn’t.
  2. The Bandwagon Effect – we are more likely to do or believe something when we see many other people doing or believing it.
  3. The illusion of Control – we believe we can control or influence outcomes, even when we can’t.
  4. The Halo Effect – if we like one quality or trait of a person or thing, we tend to view their other qualities or traits more favourably.

Generalisation. We look for commonality and predictability. What we expect to happen is influenced by our perceptions of previous events. For example, gamblers and stock market investors tend to see a ‘winning streak’ after three good results, even though ‘streaks’ are a natural feature of any random sequence.

Usually, these ‘cognitive shortcuts’ work in our favour. Thinking is time-consuming, and expensive in energy terms. If we had to think every single thing we did through from first principles, we would be unable to act at all.

But sometimes, these shortcuts work against us – we miss relevant information, jump to conclusions, or view people through a lens of prejudice.

Some implications….
What you experience is not reality.
By the time you become aware of experiencing something, it’s already been filtered. So your ‘reality’, as you are experiencing it right now, is subject to the deletions, distortions and generalisations of your filters.

A good map is one that is useful.
Since all maps leave out information, the real issue is not “Is this map true?” but “Is this map useful?” A map is useful to the extent that it helps you find your way to where you want to get to.
Yours is not the only truth.
Each person has a different viewpoint. They will notice things that you have missed and vice versa. Their view of ‘reality’ is as valid to them as yours is to you. People who believe that everyone sees the world in the same way that they do are setting themselves up for constant bewilderment; people who believe that others should see the world as they do are setting themselves up for constant disappointment.

People’s actions make sense from their map,
Which we can never fully know or understand. Often their actions would seem crazy or wrong when judged in the context of our map – so when coaching or communicating with them, suspend judgement.
Some ways to make this principle work for you

  1. See other people’s point of view
    When you have a disagreement with someone or you just don’t understand why they have done something, put yourself in their shoes and look at the world, and yourself, from their point of view. Aim to adopt their map rather than just thinking ‘What would I do in that situation?’ You will get better-quality information if you match their ‘physiology’ – stand as they stand, breathe as they breathe and so on.
    To avoid the cognitive error of ‘mind-reading’, remember that the intuitions you get from this exercise are just a guess about what the other person is thinking and feeling. Always check out your intuitions against what the person actually does.
  2. To influence someone, start from their map of the world
    Don’t expect them to jump to your map. Why would anyone want to do that? Instead, start from a position which makes sense to them and is compatible with their values and beliefs, and build bridges to where you want the person to get to.
  3. Explore the boundaries of your map
    Where are the limits of your map? What do you feel you can’t do, or that you don’t deserve? The areas in your life that are not going as well as you would like may indicate that your map could do with some tweaks. So:
    a) Where you have a belief that is not serving you, actively look for examples where that belief is not true
    b) Where you tend to make generalisations, actively look for counter-examples
    c) When you think you can’t do something that you would like to do, ask yourself “What would happen if I did?”
  4. Every behaviour has a positive intent

Believe it or not this applies to both positive and negative behaviour. Take procrastination. It may support a person’s avoidance value of failure because actually attempting something and failing would be worse than not trying at all! Look at potentially limiting behaviours and find more empowering alternatives that will serve you well such as drive, intent, focus and curiosity and analyse the results. Risk taking, for example, may be perceived by many people as a negative behaviour due to potential consequences but if it gets you positive results towards your outcome then great!

Example: If you are responsible for help the performance of other people always consider this assumption. Deal with their behaviour and remove judgement on their identity because there may be underlying motivators that are unconsciously driving their actions. Even though they seem totally ridiculous

Not making cold calls – wants to avoid stress because they find themselves in a values conflict. They personally wouldn’t want to be disturbed with someone selling them something outside of work hours so by doing so their value of integrity is not being met. Even though they accepted the job their need for income was placed them in this position at a conscious level however they didn’t consider their unconscious values in the decision-making process.

In order to fix the problem begin understanding their set of values and how together you could make them fit with the activity. Perhaps they need more belief in the product of service? Perhaps you could provide them with case studies of customers who have found their experience as a positive one.