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Success tips

A long career teaches you things that eventually become obvious to you. However they are not always obvious to other people. The tips are listed newest first.

Force yourself to keep learning
A colleague decided at 40 to stop learning. Her career then died, illustrating the importance of continuous learning. I personally also dislike change, but have taught myself to embrace it. That habit considerably enhanced my career as well as my capability outside work. I believe that when people avoid learning new skills, it is because they don't think they can, or don't accept that it will raise their value in the job market.
Integration advice for individual French (and British) Muslims
Governments are responsible for making their countries fairer, and for countering discrimination. However, regardless of the performance of governments, individuals need to make the best of their lives. My six decades of experience of living in the UK have taught me much about what it takes to succeed without compromising one's personal integrity. This page is aimed at both French and British readers.
Making your New Year resolutions stick
To make a resolution work, it must really matter to you, and you must take action. Action that you can sustain permanently.
Understand that success is a matter of degree; it is not binary
Some people believe that success is binary: you are either "a success" or "a failure." Others, including me, regard success as a matter of degree. I explain why understanding that success is a matter of degree will make you happier, and will also make you more successful.
Attend the best university you can get into
While apparently obvious, many students attend lesser quality universities by choice, rather than due to financial compulsion. It is a serious mistake.
Learn to say "Yes" - it leads to many new opportunities
Sensible time management requires you to often say "No." However whenever possible, say "Yes", especially when asked to do something you have never done before. It will develop you professionally and personally.
Accept that life requires you to make choices
Many of the things we want are incompatible. Achieving personal or professional success requires you to choose which you want. Even when goals are not incompatible, you need to decide where to focus your energies.
Engaging with different people develops you, as well as making society more cohesive
Engaging with people who differ from you can be uncomfortable at first. While sticking with people like you is much easier, mixing with people who are different is a much more developing experience for you personally. It also makes society more cohesive.
Avoiding apathy requires realism
Many people today are apathetic. Some people are apathetic because they wrongly believe the world cannot be changed. Others wrongly believe the world can be changed easily and quickly, and give up when success is not immediate. Both wrong perceptions lead to apathy. The antidote to apathy is belief in the possibility of change combined with realism about how long it will take and how hard it will be.
Marriage tips for Muslim women (and men)
Having a successful marriage requires taking it seriously, and making the right decisions, both before and after the wedding. While my wife and I have been happily married for many years, I have also observed many other people in unhappy marriages. Hence I have written 10 specific pieces of advice aimed at Muslim women. 8 of those are also relevant to Muslim men.
Making a career in accountancy
My talk for Speakers for Schools at Salford City College. It recounts my own career and guides students on how to get into the profession. My accountancy career was absorbing and well paid. I mainly served large companies, but also family businesses. Entry is very competitive, and aspirants need to acquire the broad range of skills needed.
Decide which charities to support
All of us have to choose between charities because our resources are finite, while charitable needs are endless. Your giving will be more effective if you think strategically about which charities to support. I explain my own thought process and why my largest giving has been for education.
Live within your means and give to charity
Being short of money causes stress and unhappiness. Accordingly financial discipline is a habit to develop early, and it will make you happier. Giving to charity will also make you happier. Charitable giving is easiest if you build it into your personal budgeting.
Use telephones effectively
Almost everyone uses telephones, but few people receive guidance on how to use them. Accordingly many people make basic mistakes when initiating calls, receiving calls and using voicemail. However developing good telephone habits will make you more effective. You will also benefit from learning to use the more advanced features of modern telephone technology.
Ten short professional success tips
A long career teaches you what professional success requires. I was asked to speak to an audience of consisting mainly of Muslim doctors from Pakistan and India about the subject. I gave them 10 tips in 10 minutes. The prescriptive style helped to keep the talk short.
The paradox behind a happy marriage
Your choice of marriage partner should be made for entirely selfish reasons. However once you are married, you will only be happy if you behave very unselfishly. That paradox underlies having a happy marriage.
Helping others rewards you
The purpose of helping others is the unselfish one of helping them. However as well as spiritual benefits, there are usually tangible benefits for yourself. You will often learn something, or even just get some useful exercise. It can also be enjoyable.
Do the job you were hired to do, as well as possible
Achieving promotion normally requires doing your present job exceptionally well. This may seem obvious, but many people fail to follow this advice. The danger of trying to do something other than your assigned role is greatest when the job appears too mundane. One example is filing and another is serving as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) of a political meeting. However your performance in every role can be improved. A recent video allows me to illustrate this for an MC.
Control your weight
Being overweight has health risks and also makes career success harder. After receiving unwelcome news in my annual medical, over the last year I reduced my weight simply by counting calories. It was much easier than I expected. You can read how to do it, or watch my 28 minute PowerPoint presentation with audio.
Make yourself who you want to be
"Give me a child until seven and I will give you the man" say the Jesuits. It is partially true. However neither our genetic endowment nor past have to determine our future. We can change ourselves by deciding who we want to be and then taking action.
Control your life's direction
Success in life requires a balance between inner direction and responding to outside events. Taking up opportunities is normally a good thing to do. However you need periodically stop and take stock, to ensure that what you are doing supports your own strategic priorities.
Reduce the effect of "Confirmation bias"
Humans are good at finding evidence to confirm their existing views. We all suffer from it, and psychologists call it "Confirmation bias." However there are ways of reducing its impact so that we can think better and see the world more objectively.
Learn to cope with internet trolls
Trolls seek to provoke you with inflammatory communications. That can lead you to waste your time. Bad responses may weaken your cause, or even be defamatory. Achieving your objectives requires being selective about who you respond to, and being calm, courteous and precise when responding.
Take care of yourself
It is easy to forget that you can achieve little without your health or if you are not around. That means it is essential to take care of your health and personal safety. Furthermore your life matters not just to you, but also matters to everyone you can help.
Avoid false modesty - it can lead you astray
To succeed, you need to accurately assess how good you are. False modesty is dangerous because you can end up believing it. That will lead you to under estimate your strengths.
Accept responsibility for your decisions
Our decisions lead to outcomes which are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Successful people accept that when they get bad outcomes, they made bad decisions, and they try to make better decisions in the future. However unsuccessful people tend to put the blame for bad outcomes elsewhere. Consequently they never learn to make better decisions.
Be true to yourself: it pays to be honest for many reasons
Many people adopt a false personality for interviews and other purposes. However being authentic and true to yourself is less effort than trying to adopt a fake persona. That reduces your stress levels with health benefits and extra ability to concentrate on work. Also being found to be deceitful seriously reduces your chances to succeed in life.
Learn to say "No"
People like to hear the word "Yes." It means that turning down requests is often difficult. Success in life requires learning how to say "No" politely but clearly, instead of saying "Yes" and making yourself unhappy.
Read "The New York Review of Books"
Well rounded individuals who are knowledgeable about many things are more successful. Reading this magazine is an excellent way to broaden one's mind. The content is wide-ranging, informative and absorbing to read.
Living by principles and rules makes you happier
Unhappiness is sometimes due to personal tragedy, ill health or extreme poverty. However many people who should be happy are not. Often this comes from inability to decide what they really want. Strong personal principles and rules for living stop you making bad decisions and lead to you being happier. It does not matter whether these principles come from a religion or from elsewhere.
Use an email signature
Almost every email program allows you to create a standard "signature". A well designed signature contains useful information making it easier for the email's recipient to contact you in future. It also shows that you are professional and well organised. Getting it right will contribute year after year (in a small way) towards your success.
Attend work-related social events
Success at work requires strong collaborative relationships with colleagues and clients. Much of the relationship building happens outside the office. Those who refuse to attend work-related social events are damaging their career.
Think about your CV
Most people see only their own CV. I have seen many, most of them written in ways that would get them rejected by a recruiter. I have illustrated the failings with a real life "before" and "after" example.
Read "The Economist"
To rise to a senior position, it is not enough to be good at your technical specialism. You also need to understand current political and commercial affairs.
Use business cards effectively
There are some good habits which become second nature when you develop them. However I am always surprised by the number of people who fail to make the best use of their own and other people's business cards.
Speak proper English
You are more likely to succeed in life if your spoken English is outstandingly good. I give some simple advice on how you can improve it.
Use a good quality photograph
Many people have profiles on networking sites without a photograph. It looks unprofessional and is counter-productive.

 

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