Great Expectations

“If you expect nothing from somebody, you are never disappointed” Sylvia Path

 

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Alexander Pope

 

“I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than fatally disappointed.” Julia Glass

 

“I’m not angry… I’m just disappointed.” Mum

 

Okay, ignore the last one. It’s interesting that all those quotes (and many similar ones referencing disappointment) were sourced by searching for the word ‘expectations’. We immediately create a link between what we think and/or hope will happen and how disappointed we might feel after. No wonder! It is absolutely ourselves that create that reaction. For example, if a professional boxer is in the ring during a fight and gets punched they should probably realise that was always a possibility and not allow it to upset them. However, should they get punched whilst walking around the supermarket then they have every right to get angry. Similarly, if you’re stupid enough to punch a professional boxer in Tesco…

Part of my issue is this thread of avoiding any high expectations to avoid the lows of disappointment. I think that’s called Epicurean or something like that. It’s okay to have expectations but we need to manage them appropriately. Epicurus lived his life believing that one should limit his or her desires. This was based on the belief that living with the finer things in life means the absence will create upset or hurt. With his whole philosophy based on the absence of pain and suffering, he lived a very basic life. There is a lot that can be said for that and I would certainly argue against materialism but why can’t we afford ourselves some positive, reasonable expectations?

If you saw your friend working in a clothes shop and thought ‘brilliant, I may be able to get a discount’, that’s certainly not unreasonable. However, if you thought ‘brilliant, free clothes’ then you’re setting yourself up for fall. It’s not the positive expectation that has let you down, it’s overdoing the expectation.

I believe that it is the management (or lack of) of these expectations that can lead to a lot of our stress. If someone cuts you up in traffic, a lot of people would get angry; lights flashed and horns tooted. We start to get territorial with the belief that not only do we own our car but the 4 feet of space all around it as well. In truth, based on laws, rules, and codes the other driver is most definitely in the wrong. They should not have done what they did. However, anyone who has been driving for any length of time will have realised that it happens. And THIS is where we need to manage our expectations.

If we can manage these thoughts based on past experiences as well as our own values we can start to become more resilient. What else do we do to ultimately and inevitably disappoint ourselves? Sick of not getting a new job? Even though you’ve not sent out any applications. Not getting fitter? Even though you don’t go to the gym. If you set your own expectations purely on thoughts and wishes, then they will become disappointments. Action is required.

Take control. Give yourself a chance to meet your own expectations. And never, ever make your mum angry or disappointed. Trust me.

 

 

 

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The Power of Travelling

“The world is a book, and those who do no travel read only one page.”

Living in the 21st century the opportunity to see the world has never been greater. A quick search now tells me that the furthest city from my home town of Edinburgh is Dunedin, New Zealand. For less than £1000 I could go. Not that I have a spare grand lying around, but it’s very much saveable. For that price I would be able to see the full influence of travel in the world with Dunedin taking its name by the old name for Edinburgh and actually being modelled on Scotland’s capital. The perfect opportunity to see the real influence of human adventure over the years. Around 60’000 years ago humans first ventured out of Africa to all corners of the globe. With this brought visible changes to the world and the start of how we can change our planet; for good and for bad. Since then we have seen the rise and fall of many, many empires and changes in power and religion but this is all done by the natural human impulse to travel and explore.

Working for Tree of Knowledge allows me the opportunity to see parts of my country I would have never seen before. Couple with my personal travels, I am now lucky enough to have visited places like Laurencekirk and Los Angeles, Dunblane and Durban, Shettleston and the Shetlands or even Bradford and Bangkok. The incredible thing about this is that no matter where I venture, these places go back to how they were after the briefest of moments in each other’s company.

Or do they? I’ve always been a believer that places and travelling changes who we are but we also change the places we go. Seeing the extreme poverties in a South African township allowed me to experience a level of empathy previously unknown. The affluent Orange County in California afforded me a heightened, and slightly materialistic, ambition usually out of character for me. These places have undoubtedly changed me but they’re just places. Some of them have long lasting cultures, all weird and wonderful in their own way but you just have to look at Dubai over the last 20 years to see the massive impact humans continue to have on the world. So instead of this idea of going through life to try and ‘find yourself’, why not go through life and build who you are? Allow yourself to take small parts of the places you go to learn and grow. Leave your mark and take from it what you can.

Beyond this, remember that you shape the places you visit too, so think about how you do this and the effect this has on the next visitor. Above all, don’t litter.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (tree_of)

Anti-Fragility

My favourite villain is probably The Joker from Batman. Specifically, Heath Ledger’s famous performance in The Dark Knight. There is just something captivating about his obsession with chaos, disorder, and anarchy.

That positive impression of disorder is very much limited to the movie. Outside of that, most of us will agree that we prefer a more straightforward, ‘normal’ life.

This is mainly because when some sort of shock happens to an object or a person there are various paths it can take. If someone manages to come through an impactful event as strong as they were before, this is called resilient. And it is praised.

But we can also grow weaker due to a shock and this is what we would label fragility. However, there was (until recently) no terminology for something that benefits from shocks; to thrive from volatility.

Whilst there is a lot to be taken from resilience, there is no doubt that growing stronger is better than staying the same. So, we needed a word for it.

Various things happened on November 27th 2012. Micky Baker, the American guitarist, passed away. I turned 24 (and definitely felt fragile the next day). And Nassim Nicholas Taleb released a book titled ‘Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder.’

 

“…a property of systems that increase in capability, resilience of robustness as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks of failures.”

 

The official definition above represents Taleb’s background in the financial trading industry. A lot of his previous work tore up many of the automatically accepted beliefs of the world of money and stocks. He was the Little Red Riding Hood to the big, bad wolves of Wall Street.

This work was a continuation of his previous books, but this time with an excellent crossover with life outside of the financial world. It represented a philosophy we could apply to everyday life. Although he does not see himself as a philosopher or as a poet he describes economics as a tragedy.

There are many examples of anti-fragility throughout history. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Thomas Edison claimed he didn’t invent the light bulb straight away. Instead he found ‘10’000 ways that don’t work.’ After 30 rejections, Stephen King threw the manuscript of his first novel in the bin. It was his wife’s retrieval that gave us Carrie.

If you want more feel free to search for stories about Elvis Presley, Vincent van Gogh, Oprah Wimphrey, Fred Astaire, Albert Einstein… The list goes on.

It’s an old cliché to talk about bouncing back from failure and demonstrating resilience. However, staying the same isn’t enough for a lot of us who really want to achieve something in life. Even after a big event in life, we want to move forward.

Bad exam results, not getting into university, failing to get a promotion, or ending a relationship can all seem upsetting at the time. With enough determination and the proper attitude, we can genuinely turn these things on their head. It’s a step beyond resilience. Resilience 2.0 if you like.

As manager of the English football club Crystal Palace, Iain Dowie was once ridiculed for using the word ‘bouncebackability’ to praise his players’ staging a dramatic comeback. There was a campaign launched to get the word added to the dictionary resulting in a lot of laughs from football fans. Little did Dowie realise that the concept he was eluding to was one of great significance.

Life can be difficult, throwing up various obstacles along the way. There’s no reason we can’t run faster after jumping a hurdle.

And yes, yes, I’m well aware Little Red Riding Hood didn’t actually beat the wolf. It was the woodsman. However, having read the story for the first time since childhood recently, it’s really quite gruesome. Fortunately for me, despite the impact of the story, I was able to get over it and come out stronger afterwards.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)

When andy murray won Wimbledon…

The moment Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013, I raised both hands in the air in a fist and closed my eyes to absorb the moment. It was an event I felt I’d never see. The main event was, of course, a Brit winning Wimbledon but even more so, it was a Scot! (We experience success less than most).

If that was my reaction, then imagine those of genuine British tennis fans. I find the sport very entertaining but I mean those with a real interest. Imagine the reactions of players who had tried and failed on behalf of Great Britain. The reaction of all coaches who had worked with Murray throughout the decades of tennis before this victory. The reaction of his current team of coaches, physios, dieticians, fitness staff etc. The reaction of his friends and family. The reaction of the man himself, Mr. Andy Murray.

Not only was this victory the culmination of 77 years of angst since Fred Perry’s triumph, but it was the product of Murray’s progress throughout his career. This had seen an improvement in Murray from his emergence as a teenager with high hopes year on year. His rise in prominence from potential to ability; from heroic to iconic. As an aside, it will be interesting to see if 15 year olds will be wearing buttoned-up Andy Murray polo shirts as they hang around swing parks drinking in 77 years’ time.

The hope of Murray winning Wimbledon had two possible paths. One could have seen the unfancied Murray claiming an against-the-odds upset to snatch the trophy (see golf’s Lawrie, Paul 1999). This would have provided great jubilation for the briefest of spells in history. However, the second path involved Murray rising in prominence year on year, step by step. We saw Murray claim the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2004; remarkably reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2005 as a wild card (fatigue costing him a two set lead against David Nalbandian); reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2006; became one of only 2 players to beat Roger Federer in 2006… The list goes on.

Eventually all these awards and achievements saw Murray enter Wimbledon 2012 with the usual hope backed up with some realistic expectation. A great tournament with some great matches (Tsonga semi-final in particular) was ended in glorious failure with a 4 set defeat to the impressive Federer in the final. For a man derided for his lack of personality and character, Murray gave us a tear-jerking speech post-defeat that endeared him to the entire nation. We were comforted with an Olympic gold medal, but not satisfied. It fuelled the hunger for the Wimbledon trophy.

The summer of 2013 and the question of whether Murray could go one step further. Retention of his Brisbane International prize and a runners up spot at the Australian Open (losing to Djokovic in the final) was an encouraging start to the year. Losing the first two sets in the quarter final to Fernando Verdasco seemed to suggest a bitterly disappointing run this year. However, true to the dramatic form of his tournament he turned it around to move to the semi-final and ultimately the final.

This set up a third straight open final against Novak Djokovic. The Serb was playing at the top of his game, at times resembling playing tennis versus a brick wall. Completely unbefitting with British performance in other sports, when the pressure was on, Murray dominated and destroyed Djokovic in straight sets.

I have always been one to immerse myself in the crowd reaction regardless of whether I’m there or not. For me, the noise and joy which follow the most incredible moments in sport make sport what it is. The roar of joy, relief, pride and glory is one that will see me through the next 77 years of despair comfortably.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)

Benefit Mindset: A collective thinking movement

Most people working in education will have already been introduced to the Growth Mindset (the belief in potential/we can grow). Along with that they will have been introduced to the Fixed Mindset (our abilities are pre-determined and cannot change). This work from Carol Dweck has caused a massive amount of change and discussion in education all over the world, and as with any piece of work it has opened the possibility of new concepts, new ideas and new theories. Here at Tree of Knowledge we find some of these ideas good, some bad and some that blow our mind. Falling very much into the latter category, this blog is to introduce to you the Benefit Mindset.

 

While the Growth and Fixed Mindset seem very much in contrast with each other, the Benefit Mindset introduces a completely different angle; allowing us to use this approach alongside the oft-desired Growth Mindset. And the way to introduce it really is as simple as this:

 

The Fixed Mindset focuses on what we know and what we don’t know.

The Growth Mindset looks at how we learn.

The Benefit Mindset looks at why we do what we do.

 

Study of the original mindsets offer us so much in terms of ourselves and our achievements, but this new concept asks us to focus on the bigger picture and the role we play in it. It’s not just about making the world a better place, it’s very much how we can make the world a better place. The aspiration is ‘not to be the best in the world but to be the best for the world.’ Building on Dweck’s work, personal wellbeing can play a part in a collective wellbeing.

 

Looking specifically at education, there is an undoubted advantage to handing facts down from generation to generation as this creates advancements in healthcare, science, engineering, architecture etc. However, the need to develop a world that is more aware of their strengths and how that can help us and everyone around us is becoming increasingly recognised. Add this to the possibility of a more caring and compassionate world of love, peace and tolerance and we see just why the Benefit Mindset is so special.

 

“The purpose of life is to discover your gifts; the meaning of life is to give your gifts away”

David Viscott

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value”

Albert Einstein

 

 

Put simply, the Benefit mindset is concerned with the wellbeing of the self and our role in collective wellbeing. It is a more emotion focused view on success and happiness in life. Given that happiness is an emotion, it is incredible to think that this wasn’t the first mindset discussed. However, as is a common theme with mental health, we took our time recognising its significance.

 

Whilst the quotes above and concepts such as ‘start with why’ (Simon Sinek) have existed for a long time and are very well credited, this provides another easily-accessible way to look at holistic development in children and adults all over the world. Although Benefit Mindset might sound like a scaremongering headline in the Daily Mail, the impact it can have in and out of education should not be underestimated. It doesn’t just give us a new way to achieve success as many self-help articles out there aim to do; this gives us a whole new definition of success and what that means in life.

 

We live in a world where each and every generation has the ability to build upon an existing platform of knowledge. Once we learn what there is to know about sciences, maths, engineering, medicine, and everything else, we have the opportunity to add to that before passing it on. Yet we still live in a world lacking in confidence, compassion, and happiness; yes of course they exist but we need more! The Benefit Mindset can help encourage people to become smarter, wiser, and most importantly happier. This new mindset can fix the Fixed Mindset, Grow the Growth mindset and Benefit all of us.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)