Tag: growth

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Quick stage setting:

My aim with this post (it’s a bit long…stick with it) is to show just how many good things can happen to you, and maybe even others, when you dive into a project that you have a passion for and equally are very scared by the thought of taking on! You could replace ‘podcasting’ here with a million things and I bet some of the benefits below, and many more you never imagine, would follow.

If one person reads this and takes action in 2019 as a result, it’s been a very worthwhile post for me. By putting it together, I’ve learned a lot too. Enjoy! 

I actually started writing this piece back in September as I prepared for a presentation I was lucky enough to give for International Podcast Day, which falls on September 30th each year.

80’s classic

As I reflected back on the podcasting adventure so far, ideas on what to focus the presentation on started to emerge. It was clear the podcasting journey I’ve been on has given me a lot to be grateful for. The lessons and learnings taken from it have helped me develop in ways I never expected. So, I decided to talk about the value adds from my personal perspective.

I grew up in the 80’s and there was a TV show around that time called ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. I always remember the theme tune. It brings back memories of Sunday nights for some reason and that slight dread you might feel with school the next morning. As I was putting together this presentation and was uncovering all these unexpected benefits from podcasting, the title of this show kept coming up for me and so ‘Podcasting Tales of the Unexpected’ was born.

As I started to select the stand out moments and learnings over the last 2 years, it was very interesting to note that many of these benefits have been totally unexpected. The majority of the ones outlined below were not obvious to me from the start. And again, that’s another big takeaway. Taking a leap of faith and going after something you’re passionate about could bring so much more than you expected.

Ok…enough set up, let’s get into the list.

  1. Knowing myself better!

Emotional Intelligence has a few definitions but one is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions; and influence the emotions of others. It’s the one I’m starting with as it’s not only the most important, but one that is broad and connects many of the others to follow.

The field of Emotional Intelligence has been a fascination for me for a number of years. Human performance, improvement, and finding ways to get better are core themes for not only the podcast but also my own personal development as well as the work I do in coaching others.

Right from the very start of the project, up to and including writing this piece, I’ve been finding out more and more about myself. Learning more about my intrapersonal strengths and opportunities as well as interpersonal competencies.

Preparing for interviews, doing research, listening back to episodes, writing articles, creating video content, and many of the other activities and tasks involved to get the show out into the world pulls on so many of the competencies that you need to be more emotionally aware. I’ve put this one first as it’s an overarching benefit with many of the following touching on a part of the overall EQ spectrum.

As you can see from the list of competencies under EQ, these are very much soft skills. At a quick glance, in one way or another, the podcasting experiences I’ve had over the last 2 years have touched on all of the below. Some I’ll explain more further down.

Learning & Advice:

  • I believe developing and growing Emotional Intelligence makes you a more rounded, self-aware, and happy person
  • Taking on a new project or challenge that pushes you to develop some of the competencies below can be of huge benefit to you
  1. Keeping Project Management skills fresh

For most of my working/professional life, I’ve been a project manager in one form or another. This type of role is one that suits me in many ways as it’s one that requires a lot of planning, identifying what your requirements are, what the scope of any work is, what the expected results are and what value that could bring. I can safely say, if it wasn’t for the PM in me  would not have been able to get the Podcasting project off the ground, executed on time, have had the wherewithal to plan out what it would look like, how long it would take to get done, deal with all the issues and risks that cropped up, nor have a clear view of what success looked like at the start.

From talking with podcasters or those that want to create their own shows over the last couple of years via some coaching/mentoring work, the biggest blocker is the lack of planning or having a clear view of the type of show they want. I’m lucky that, having done this in my day job for IT/Business projects, I was able to use these skills to get me up and running.

So, having a background if project management was and is a life-saver for me when it comes to staying on track, getting content created and delivered and making progress. Managing Time falls into this category.

Learning & Advice:

  • Whatever your big goal is for the months or year ahead, plan it out!
  • If you’re not already a Project Manager, don’t let that stop you…just take time to think about what is needed to put together your own project and build out the key tasks
  • Ask for help from someone that is a Project Manager – I’m sure they’d be willing to assist as they like to put structure on chaos
  1. Listening better!

This is a key part of coaching. There are great parallels with coaching an individual and the experience you go through when interviewing a guest. After close to 200 hours of interviews, and probably multiply that by 3 when factoring in editing, I’ve been honing my listening skills a lot over the last couple of years.

I remember the first few interviews I did, I was very nervous. I overprepared and had a set question list. I was more intent on asking the questions and filling the time, than listening to the answers deeply and then deciding on what the best next question might be. That’s changed for sure over time.

I started the podcast project around the same time I was deep in my coaching diploma work and listening was a topic we studied in great detail. The different types of listening, how to listen better, and the benefits of it. All very rich material to bring into my interviews. As the episodes racked up, I became more comfortable with the silence. Giving the guest the space. To think. To reflect. Sometimes the pauses could seem like minutes. When you listen back, you learn that they’re never that long. Just in your own mind. Becoming a better listener is huge for interviews. In your professional life, for leadership and management effectiveness, it’s crucial too. And in personal life and relationships, having the ability to listen well is huge.

Now with almost 100 episodes done, one of the pieces of positive feedback I get from other coaches who listen to the show relates to creating space between me and the guest. Giving them more time to think and talk. Not jumping in to fill the silence. That’s where the magic happens.

As I further develop as a podcaster, a coach, and a leader, having improved as a listener can be a massive advantage in helping others improve.

Learnings & Advice:

  • Practice Listening – it’s a skill you can develop, and it can be a powerful tool to have.
  1. Better Self-belief

When I was putting this presentation together, I found a very early recording of a podcast introduction I did back in December 2016. I remember at the time of recording it, I was a nervous wreck. And this was only being heard by me!

If you’re like me, hearing the sound of your own voice is weird and having to hear it a lot when podcasting is a hurdle to overcome. It was for me.

But as I practiced, it became something more in the background. I got over it and myself. I felt more comfortable with it. I started to listen for the crutch words instead. I started to get better at it. Practice makes better.

As someone that likes (or dislikes but can’t help to) overthink things, my inner gremlin was very vocal in the first few months as I put the show together. He (it’s a he) was always there to add to my anxiety and tension as I got to closer to launch date.

The imposter syndrome is probably something most/all of you have heard of over the last couple of years. That feeling that you’re not good enough. In this case for me to put out a podcast? To share it with the world? I was wracked with self-doubt, fears, worries about how things would be received, how it would go down once out. All these silly negative feelings.

But I persisted. I kept focus on the ‘why’. It’s not about me, but about the message the guests had to share. I was simply the platform to put it out on. That was important for me to realize and keep in mind. As long as the content wasn’t rubbish and could be of value to others (which I always believed it is) then I felt confident it would have an impact.

So, when I did release the first shows, and it went down well, it gave me a huge boost. A sense of achievement and increased belief in the aim. And with every new release, this grew. To the point now, at the end of Season Two, there is only excitement when I hit the release button on a new episode. My main check point; is this something I would listen to myself? Could I get something positive from it? As long as that’s a ‘yes’, then it’s worth sharing.

Since the start of this journey, I’ve not only released podcasts, but I’m now putting out some blogs (like this one), videos clips (One Minute Monday) and even presented on International Podcast Day. With each piece I’ve decided to do, I’ve always had that split second of doubt enter my mind. Am I good enough? That split second is getting shorter all the time. I’m moving forward.

Learnings & Advice:

  • Without doubt, my confidence, self-belief and self-worth has risen and while that was something I might have hoped for, the amount has been unexpected
  • Get comfortable with the failure & make mistakes or you’ll be in analysis paralysis mode for too long!
  • Again, practice helps you improve, and the self-belief will grow
  1. Better Decisiveness – when it’s good enough, it’s good enough!

Leading somewhat directly on from more self-belief, I’ve realized over the last year I’ve become more decisive as a result of the podcasting adventure. And that’s not only relating to releasing shows, but in life in general.

How so?

I’ve read stories from other podcasters that they’ve delayed launches by days and weeks, even months. The ongoing struggle for perfection causing even more anxiety and ties back to the confidence piece. I was no different. That said, I did release my first show on the weekend I had planned to – however that’s the project manager in me coming out.

It was as big struggle though. To get your first few shows lined up and ready to go. That feeling of excitement, fear, worry, and other emotions in there when you hit release to put it out into the world. But as time has passed, and with each passing week, each new show, it became easier and easier. I’ve become more clinical on what to include, and what not. What to re-record, edit out, or leave in.

As you get into a rhythm, the process starts to improve, and you get more efficient. I became better at making the decisions to go. Even if they weren’t the right ones, I’d learn. The Win-Learn situation to the fore. It’s so true.

This decisiveness has spilled over into other content creation too. I started to publish more written material and put dates on when it should go out. Same for video. Get into the rhythm and release release release!

It’s even had an impact on my personal life too. I don’t dwell over decisions as much. Selecting that place to go on holiday, or even what restaurant to go with. Just go for it.

Essentially, I’ve become a big believer that when you have more options, in many ways you have more problems. Choice can create dilemmas. When you just go all-in on one option and see what happens, it makes things so much easier.

Connecting this to the coaching work, it would appear that I’m not the only one faced with these challenges. We’re all challenged in some way with making the right or best decision and this comes up a lot in sessions. Picking one of the doors is better, in most cases, than picking none of them. This journey has proven that to me. 

Learnings & Advice:

  • There is never a perfect time or perfect decision
  • Do it & keep doing it
  • Decisiveness is a practice too. You can build the decisive muscle.
  • Make it stronger and be disciplined
  1. Fear less, do more!

I’m an introvert. I’m comfortable with this now. During my twenties & early thirties, I didn’t embrace that. As a result, I struggled. Drank too much to feel comfortable in social settings, and generally wondered what was wrong! The last few years, and this year in particular, I’ve become much more relaxed with this.

Now, I’ve always suspected I was more on the Introvert side but never really had any proof. And like most introverts, being the center of attention, with lots of eyes (or in this case ears) on you isn’t where you’d most likely be happiest. The little yellow dot above, yes, that’s what that looks like for your typical Introvert.

While I really enjoy presenting on topics, like this, in front of people (in person or virtually), I’m only comfortable with it when I’m passionate about what I’m talking about. And when I believe I have something valuable to share. Putting myself out there without a plan or an interest, then my amygdala has probably already left the building.

Podcasting has made me push myself outside of what I would normally consider the safe zone. I find new ways to challenge myself with every episode. Interviewing in person, interviewing in front of an audience, interviewing people I look up to, doing solo shows where it’s just me, and doing live streaming video shows… the opportunity to push myself into the zone of discomfort is never ending really and it’s really given me that impetus to challenge myself on a daily and weekly basis.

Earlier this year, I was at a conference in Berlin. I was recording content for the PMI Ireland Chapter podcast that I put out. At such an event, I’d have probably connected with a few new attendees but, without happy hour helping me, I’d have kept myself to myself for the most part. I’m not a natural networker so would be more comfortable with a few 1-1 conversations.

However, this year, having the podcast content to capture, it allowed me to interact with approx. 50 others over the few days. It really gave me the excuse to connect. This had not only the benefit of pushing me outside the comfort zone but also meant I was getting great content for the podcast. A third value add for me was growing my own network with these good people. Without the podcast to push me, that would not have happened. Or at least, not near as many times.

Learning & Advice:

  • Be clear on your Why – this will help when pushing yourself to do something you’d not normally be comfortable with
  • Have a clear vision of helping others improve through the content from the podcasts makes the project bigger than just me. That helps me massively and motivates me to push outside the comfort zone

 

  1. Perseverance, Patience & Talk Like Nobody Is Listening

Even with improved decisiveness, there is without doubt a lot of patience required in the world of podcasting. And a very real commitment to staying the course.  And that’s just to get the first show or episodes out the door. The term ‘Labor of Love’ comes to mind for sure.

You can absolutely create content on the go and post it out there in quick or real time, and that’s totally fine. It’s an approach that works for many. As I developed my own ‘How’, I knew the show I wanted to do would take time and focus. I didn’t know exactly just how much! As a result, the patience muscle had to be flexed a lot over the last 2 years.

One of the great pleasures of the journey is when I get to chat with, or give some advice to, others who are working on their own podcasting projects. I’ve heard from a few who lost interest and focus after releasing just a few shows. Statistics show that this is very common. The advice and insight I share is always the same; if you’re doing this for millions of followers and similar numbers of downloads, you’re most likely in for a rude awakening. Be ready to do hard work. Most of all be sure of the reasons you’re doing it, be clear on the outcomes you want and expect that nobody might listen. If that is the case, will you still have learned something from it?

One of the very first interviews I recorded was Andrew Mangan. He’s actually one of the reasons I got into podcasting. I’m an Arsenal Football fan and Andrew is the man behind the hugely successful podcast called ArseCast (check out his show and website – Arseblog– if you’re a fan).  Andrew had agreed to be a guest on my show after an email I sent him a few months earlier. His saying ‘yes’ was one of the main motivations for me to get going with the podcast.Anyway, he invited me to his studio in Dublin to record. While I was absolutely nervous and anxious, the interview went well (here’s a link to it if you’re interested).

One of the most impactful pieces of advice I’ve taken on board so far in this journey, if not the most important, was from Andrew. He’s now getting well over 1million downloads a month for his show, has a huge global following, and continues to release great, interesting and funny content. But all that didn’t happen overnight. As he put it, “the show became an overnight success after about 8 years of hard work, perseverance and pushing hard.” He was following his passion more than anything. Getting to talk about Arsenal in his own very unique style. I remind myself of this on a regular basis.

Since then, similar advice has been forthcoming, not about podcasting but about sport, acting, coaching, and all the various fields the guests have been successful in. Hard work is at the core.

Learning & Advice:

  • Know your reasons for doing the podcast. What’s the purpose & the why?
  • If nobody listens, are you still getting something from it?
  • It will help you develop you discipline, patience – as long as you’re doing it for the reasons that align to your values
  • It’s ok to fail too…know when to stop, or pivot to another type of show that emerges as you learn what works

 

  1. Quid Pro Quo

 

I recall the first time I heard this saying/phrase a few years ago. It was used in a training class I was in by the lecturer. I can’t recall the exact context, but I seem to recall he used the ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ idiom to explain it. It’s stayed with me since.

Since my involvement in the podcasting community began, Quid Pro Quo has come up again and again. In a very positive way. In a recent interview I did with John Lee Dumasfor the 864 Podcast, he mentioned it. His belief is ‘if you’re a person of value to others, it will come back.’ How true!

A few months back, I interviewed another great podcaster & entrepreneur, John Eades of LearnLoft, who has a very popular podcast ‘Time to Lead’. We talked about a lot of topics but again Quid Pro Quo was one of the points that sticks out. John came onto my show as a favor to me. He knew he might get some new listeners out of it, sure. But I probably had more to gain given his following and reach. We were both giving each other something back.

Through social media groups and channels, Quid Pro Quo is very much alive and well too. Earlier this year, I made a rookie mistake when recording an interview. I use a tool called Audacity for capturing the audio and this works great. I wanted to step up my recording game, so I added an external mixer into my set up. Well, in the rush to start the interview, I didn’t check settings and I recorded my voice into, not into my microphone but into the iMac built-in mic instead. Needless to say, the sound was not great. Even my own view of ‘it’s good enough’ was not going to cut it. I was in need of help.  So, I reached out to one of the Facebook Podcast groups I’m a member of for some ideas/help with the sound clean up. What followed was an outpouring of offers to help. Literally within minutes. Such a willingness to help really stood out. I wasn’t expecting it at all.

The helpfulness I’ve encountered has been humbling and inspiring. Almost everyone I’ve connected with is in it for the right reasons and are willing to support each other.

Learning & Advice:

  • Whatever you’re considering getting involved it, podcasting or any other challenge, know that there is a community there willing and ready to help
  • Everyone in it were in your position before they started. I’d imagine that is not something you’d forget too quickly. It has been my experience with podcasting

 

  1. Focusing on the Task, not the Result

 

Starting out on the journey, I was very focused on releasing episodes frequently. I initially thought that I might get 2 per week done, maybe even 3. But quickly realized that the amount of time it takes to put together a 1 hour+ episode is a lot longer than just recording the interview.

Definitely in the early days, when I was still learning how to edit, developing a process and workflow, and pulling it all together, I could spend anywhere between 8-12 hours on one episode. That was including the promo part which is often an afterthought but probably the most crucial part of any podcast or project that is for the general public. If you’re not spending time marketing and advertising it, it’s probably not going to be heard beyond your own core network. So initially, my focus was very much on the end result. I expected that.

But during the course of Season One, as I found my feet, gained my confidence, became more decisive, developed and improved my process and workflow, started to find out new tools and got help from others, my focus on the next task became more important. Get that right, move to the next, and so on.

As I started to do this, and learned to enjoy the moment more, everything else fell into place. I wasn’t too concerned about the result, and definitely not overly  concerned by the chart position in iTunes. The more I let go of what the reaction might be, the more I enjoyed the work. And as a consequence, the output became better, and faster. Week after week, the speed came, as the process became more streamlined. As I learned what worked and what didn’t, I was able to get more shows produced and released.

You hear people saying all the time, focus on the journey, not the result. I’m sure you’ve heard it and felt the urge to go ‘what?’ or not fully agree with it but say nothing at all. I’ve been there too. But these sayings are around for a reason. There is a lot of truth in this one.

Looking back at the other benefits above, many of these are essential components that enable me to enjoy the journey more now. Getting better at listening, knowing myself better, using my PM skills, having more patience, asking for and giving help, and being more relaxed in the discomfort, all help me enjoy the process and the journey more.

It’s also been a common theme from my guests too. From those that have been highly successful in their chosen field, be it Ice Skating, Rugby, Running, Singing, Business, or whatever episode you want to listen to, having more of an appreciation on the task at hand, while having a big goal in mind, leads to greater enjoyment and progress. Belief in the process, everything else will take care of itself.

Tie that into mindfulness which is a foundational element of what I do every day, you’re off to a good start.

Learning & Advice:

  • Plot the course and work on the steps along the way
  • Be open to change/update/revise/tweak the process and even scratch it and start all over again – each time you do, you’ll get better
  • If you find yourself more focused on the result and notice, once you reach it, that it’s not what you had hoped for, take time to reflect and learn to be more focused on each step along the way!

 

  1. The struggle is real but we’re all in it together

Ok – this might not sound like a benefit or maybe even not unexpected. Let me explain.

The podcast theme of getting 1% Better can be applied to any situation or circumstance. And one particular area that I’ve focused on in a few episodes is around our own mental health and wellbeing.

In all the shows I’ve put out so far, the episodes that have been most listened to, are when the topic of mental health has been directly addressed. Even with my own One Minute Monday clips, when I talk about the voice inside my head, having a bad day, and how I have developed approaches to deal with these, the reaction from viewers has been massive.

One guest, Josh Quigleytalked about his suicide attempt and how he’s come out the other side a better person.  Another, Jim Breen, who set up a movement in Ireland called Cycle Against Suicide, is another that talked about his own battle with depression. A third, Madeleine Black, is another that shared her story of being violently sexually abused at a young age and carried around this pain that almost lead to her taking her life. But once she shared this openly, she healed.

These are just three guests from many that I could point to. By sharing out these stories, and hearing struggles and suffering that almost every guest faced at one point or another, it’s clear that we have walls to overcome on our journeys. That road is seldom straight, without fallen trees, flooding, dips, troughs, and many other obstacles in the way.

I’ve received some emails and messages from people I’ve never met to say thanks for sharing these stories. That they’ve had a positive impact. They realise that they’re not alone suffering in silence and that listening to these people’s stories had the effect of having them reach out and talk about it. That’s amazing.

These experiences have opened up my eyes a bit more too. Simply because I might have had my own bad days, dark times, struggles, and have come out the other side (or am still working on it), others might not have been as fortunate or have yet to share. That they need help and you have no idea what goes on behind the closed doors or on in someone head. Our mind can truly be the biggest enemy of all if not worked on.

The benefit of doing the podcasts, for me and others, is that we all need to share and ask for help. The hardest part is to just start. Hopefully, knowing others face that too and still get through it will be of benefit to you.

Learning & Advice

  • Work on your own self-talk and self-awareness
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Know that we’re all struggling in lots of ways
  • Ask for help if you even think you need it – don’t wait too long

 

Some that didn’t make the top ten!  

I honestly could go on. I didn’t include how I feel the experience so far has helped with my own presentation skills, my ability to ask better questions, how I’ve been able to better learn for mistakes and feedback, and how I’ve learned a ton about marketing and advertising. Seriously, it’s been like doing a few different types of Degrees & Diplomas in real-time, without getting the qualifications. It’s helped my ability to coach others no end too of course.

My own voice inside is always extra loud when putting together a post like this. It’s screaming at me not to post it for so many reasons and that it’s not good enough, it’s poorly written, that it will not get a positive response, etc. I could go on.

But I’ve got very used to that voice over the last few years and know that it’s only sometimes of benefit to me. In this instance, I’m sharing this in the hope that it might give one reader the impetus to take on a lofty goal or challenge that they’re pondering over. I’m sure if you are that person, you will learn so much more for the process of whatever that is than you could imagine. Especially if you’re thinking currently just about the result.

I definitely have gained far more that I imagined with this podcasting effort. So far. And I feel like I’m only getting started.

If you would like to chat about any of the above, or have any general questions in relation to podcasting, coaching, project management, or would like to get involved in some of the content creation work in 2019, I’d love to hear from you.

Feel free to get in touch on any of the social platforms or via email – [email protected]


Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of Project Management and Leadership Coaching at Dell in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. 

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The 11th April 2018 marked the 100th day of 2018! During that period, we’ve experienced (in Ireland at least) the #BeastfromtheEast 1, 2 & 3 (was there a 4th ?) and a winter that seems to have lasted for roughly 18 months. It’s not all been bad though. For me, it marked a milestone on my #Dry18 challenge. To go 365 Days without any beer, wine, or any other alcohol related tipple. I’ve had some positive new learnings and experiences too. So, I decided to mark the first 100 days of the journey with a retrospective on what I’ve learned since I had my last sip of beer (at around 8:32pm) on 31st December 2017. With #DryJanuary in 2017  being a relatively easy month, I decided to over 10X that and go for the full year. I felt I knew what to expect. I was still curious to see how though the first few months would turn out to be. In no particular order of significance, here are 7 stand-out observations and learnings.

  1. The forbidden fruit (in this case drink) must NOT be tasted!

First off, I’m still on track. Over 100 days done. I’ve learned I can do this. I was very staunchly no-beer from the outset. I even considered non-alcoholic beer off the table at the start of the year. But after consulting with  my #Dry18 partner, Richie McCaffrey, who felt non-alcoholic beer was ‘ok’, I allowed it. You’re probably thinking ‘it’s non-alcoholic’ but there is still a trace of a percentage in some of the ones out there. A barman reassured me that there was a similar amount of alcohol in mouthwash. These guys know what they’re talking about. So, while there have been a number of times that the temptation was there, at no point did I give in. I now know I can do this. Well, the first 100 days part at least.

  1. We talk about drinking A LOT!

When I wasn’t on a self-imposed alcohol ban, it never struck me how often alcohol or drinking comes up in conversation. It’s just not something I was that aware of when it wasn’t off the table. But, when you’re dry, you begin to hear how intertwined it is in conversation and how much it’s a key part of socializing. Maybe I’m stating the obvious. It’s certainly amplified when it’s off-limits. It’s somewhat analogous to the situation you might find yourself in when looking for a new car. You identify a model that takes your fancy. One weren’t aware existed before. Now you have this awareness of it and, ever since, it’s the only car you see on the road. They are, literally, everywhere. Ok, what is called the ‘frequency illusion‘ maybe a poor analogy here, but my learning is that drink is still very much engrained in our consciousness. It may have been even more focal 10 years ago. Before the coffee shop boom, the pubs, instead of Starbucks, were busy on a Tuesday evening. That’s progress I guess.

  1. Three Perspectives

So, I have to be clear. At the point of starting out on the #dry18 challenge, I considered myself very much in control of my alcoholic consumption. Much more so than I was 10 years ago. So, going into it, my reasons for doing it were more to squeeze more out of my days and weekends than to detox. However, so far, it’s been very interesting to see what others reaction to is has been. I’ve generally observed three responses.

The most common reactions was a raised eyebrow and a sense that the person I was talking with might have thought I had a problem upon hearing I was ‘off the drink’. At which point, I’d find myself having to give a detailed explanation as to why I’m doing it. I noticed I was having to be explicit and clarify that I didn’t have a drinking problem. That seemed to be the default place many folks were going to when hearing I was giving it up for the year.  The irony here is that I’d never been more in control of alcohol intake than I was leading up to the crafting of the bet.

The second most common response was it’s just a bad idea in general! To deprive yourself of a relaxing wine or beer over a meal or at the weekend doesn’t make sense to a good section of those I know. When you’re in control of it already, why deprive yourself? Fair point & one I’m probably in most alignment with now!

The third and final category turned out to be more frequent than I expected. Those that think it’s a great idea and have confided in me that it’s something that they’d love to do themselves. It’s probably the stage of life many are at. Around the 40 mark and keen to curtail or stop drinking altogether. That the downside or after effects outweigh the upside of a few drinks being the general view.

It’s been interesting to see these different perspectives. Even in this short time, I’ve become a lot more relaxed saying ‘no thanks, I’m on the dry’, without having to give the backstory. Progress for sure.

  1. Freedom through Commitment

For the last 22+ years, my self-imposed ban probably lasted 4-5 weeks max. Prior to Dry January in 2017, I hadn’t abstained much. So, going into the start of the year, I was interested to see how this experiment would play out. What I’ve learned about my own decision making over the last few years has played out again with this challenge. It can take me a long time to make a decision or commit to something. Especially when it’s a big one. But once I made a decision, and also opt to tell everyone I know about it (whether they care or not), it really ups my level of accountability to it.

This has been very true for #Dry18. Without question, I’ve had a few really shit days so far in 2018. Days that would have, in 2017, 100% lead to a bottle of red wine in the evening, just because I could. No real justification needed either. With that choice off the table, I just had to look for an alternative activity to focus on. Which I did. That has been a big learning. Maybe validation is a better word.

  1. St. Patricks Day Overthinking! 

Probably the most notorious day in the Irish drinking calendar is that of our patron Saint, Patrick. The 17th of March is typically the day where a large percentage of our population celebrate. It’s a day for the pubs and a lot of Guinness or whatever your favourite tipple might be. Some even manage to get drunk twice in the same day. So, it was to be expected that I’d see this as the first big challenge to my 2018 sobriety.

As it transpired, this St. Patrick’s Day was to be a 4-pronged attack. I had a Friend’s 40th Birthday to attend. If that wasn’t bad enough, the location was to be Galway. Anyone that has been to the city of the tribes knows that it’s not a quiet place. Finally, to really put the icing on the cake, the Irish Rugby team were playing their last game of their Grand Slam winning 6 Nations against the old enemy England. Kicking off. At 2:30pm. On St. Patricks day. The 4-leafed clover was complete. Arriving in Galway in time for the match kick-off meant I had a solid 10 hours in packed pubs ahead. I had this already played out in my head as a big struggle!

My anxiety levels were at their highest in the minutes after arriving into the packed pub before the game started. In truth, even when I was drinking, these initial moments would always have been somewhat uneasy. Being more on the introverted side, a crowed bar in the early afternoon would make me a little edgy. In the past, I’d have masked this with a couple of quick pints in the first hour to ‘settle in’ to the atmosphere. That was the norm. This time around, I had a couple of non-alcoholic beers, and started to chat one-to-one. I must say the placebo effect of just having what looked like a beer in my hand helped. As the day progressed, I was expecting a lot more push back on being the ‘non-drinker’ of the group. It wasn’t to be the case. It was proving to be easier than I’d expected. Come 6pm on St. Patrick’s day, you start to see the first wave of drunkenness emerge. Many out since noon start hitting the wall. It was a sight to behold and was nice to be on the other side of that for a change.

As the night came to an end, and after switching from zero percent Pauliner to Apple juice, I decided to make what’s known as an Irish-Goodbye! As I left the pub, the party was still in full-swing. I had survived the day. Survived might be too strong a word. I enjoyed a lot of it to be fair. And had made the effort to be there for my mate. We all are keen to do the right thing and keep everyone happy. But it’s key to make sure you’re happy first. Nobody else really can do that for you. I had built up this day in my mind for a few weeks as the first real big test! I am often guilty of overthinking things and this one of these occasions. Anyone could try to hide away for a year but then that wouldn’t really have tested out the experiment. Galway on St. Patricks day could be considered an extreme test. But it was one I learned a lot from.

  1. The Fear still exists.  Just way less.

As I’ve progressed in years, my resilience or ability to recover from a night out or an ‘all day session’ that many of us have been on, has taken many steps backward. You might remember the time when you could socialize two nights at the weekend and be fresh on the Monday. Well, for me at least, those days/nights are long gone! Over the last few years, one night out would take me a few days to recover, and it would need to be a Friday night, so I’d be able to fully function again by Monday. Physically, I’d be pretty ok. Emotionally and Mentally, I’d be fragile. What is known as the fear is just not fun at all. So, I was very much looking forward to not experiencing this phenomenon in 2018.

What I’ve learned here has been interesting. In the past number of years, I would have blamed a moody Monday or even a terrible Tuesday on an excessive night out over the previous weekend. I’d give myself an extra hard time over those days and resolve ‘never again’ and all that goes with that self-defeating attitude. Since the 1st of January, I can now say that sometimes the Mondays or Tuesdays (or even Wednesdays or Thursdays) can still be tough. Never full on fear but still be dotted with anxiety, stress and mild overwhelm. My default, in the past, was to blame it on partying at the weekend. This would/could spiral into self-defeating territory again. Now, with that variable out of the equation, I’ve concluded that it’s ok sometimes not to feel ok. That’s part of being human. Bad days will come. Just accept it and move on.

  1. Win the morning with the rule of 3!

Over the years, wasting mornings, days and time in general has become a big annoyance for me! The older I’ve become; the more appreciation I have for the time I have and how much I can get done with it! So, without doubt, one of the benefits I was expecting and looking forward to with zero days wasted during 2018 was that of increasing productivity and learning new things.

In the last few months, I’ve been able to stick to my morning routine without fail. This has been hugely satisfying. Not only have I been able to get up at 6am (5am for April as it’s the April Challenge), I’ve developed a habit of getting real/deep work done every morning before leaving the house for the day job. This really sets me on fire for the day ahead. I’ve developed a habit, which I’m calling the rule of 3, and it’s paying great dividends. 3 tasks before leaving the house. 2/3 are typically the same and one varies. Like writing this! This has been a big win. Consistently getting stuff done and winning the morning.

#Dry18 is my BHAG for the year (check out my post on goals for the years from December here) and, as I finalise this piece, I’m well into the century. Overall, I’ve been surprised at how smooth it’s been to cut it out. Not easy but totally worth it! In the vast majority of cases, I’ve received great support and words of encouragement. I wanted to challenge myself, first and foremost, to see what life, especially nights out and social events, would be like without any alcohol as the focal point. I wanted to learn or maybe re-learn how to actually have fun and enjoy myself when I’m out completely free of alcohol. It’s been an eye-opening experience so far. Almot 1/3 of the way through, and with the summer sunshine, beer gardens, cold cider, vacations, and many more temptations coming in the next 100 days, I’m sure new challenges and learnings are ahead! Maybe it’s a good thing after all that Ireland didn’t qualify for the World Cup in Russia!

One nice observation that has come in just in the last couple of days is that I seem happier. Much like meditation and it’s benefits, I think others close to you see changes before you do. Upon hearing it, and taking a moment to process it, I would have to agree. That would be number 8 and probably the most important if I could dare include it.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something from it too!


Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. 

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