I have found an amazing flow and it feels like I’m being led towards the next key chapter in life. I’m meeting amazing people who help me on my journey, I gain unique experiences daily that broaden my views to life, I’m able to help others by being myself and using my core competences, and I now smile every day. I’m on the road to building something great.
6 months ago I was cynical to the point that I wasn’t sure what the point in life was. What changed?
When I was 3 years old, I arrived to kindergarten an hour late one morning. The teacher asked me playfully whether we’d taken a wrong turn on the way or had I perhaps overslept. I replied with a straight face,
I am a leader, so it is quite alright for me to be a bit late if I have more important matters to attend to.
Needless to say the conversation ended there and little Mikael wobbled off to play with his friends oblivious to the fact that the teacher might have found something weird in what he said.
Small children are genuine – they haven’t been affected by external influences of the world and no one has yet tried to put you into one of the pre-determined boxes of society. Your creativity has no limits and you’re not afraid to act according to your instincts. In effect, children are able to live every moment to the fullest – laugh, cry, explore, fail, fall, get up, try again and succeed. What I never understood are elders who dwarf kids’ future ambitions by saying things like,
Enjoy it now while you can. When you get older things will get more difficult, you’ll have less time, you’ll learn what the real world is like.
Be it consciously or not, that elder (or you) is projecting your own worldview that seemingly has been affected by your own shortcomings to the child who sees nothing but opportunity in front of him.
I’ve always been a highly motivated individual, ready to work hard towards my goals in life. The largest of my goals is to do something of my own that will directly contribute to the well-being of others and enable an environment that makes people act with a motive to better the society around them instead of striving for pure individual gain. Having been the impatient perfectionist, I’ve struggled to understand why I went through different chapters in life and must admit I lost myself somewhere along the way. So I quit my job to reinvent myself.
What some people might call a sabbatical, I devoted fully into two things:
- Become the best possible gentleman and contributor to society I can be.
- Concentrate on doing things I have a personal passion for, educating and deepening my knowledge in these areas as much as possible.
Why so? I believe these two steps are key to becoming a leader that people respect and want to follow and having innovative ideas to base a new venture upon. While many of you possibly are already very involved in doing things you have a passion for, I want to share 7 simple disciplines of gentlemanship to set you up for confident flow that speeds up your journey between the status quo and the goals that lie ahead.
Live by the Golden Rule
Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You.
Here’s a biblical verse and something that easily rolls off peoples’ tongues but is hard to commit to every day through actions. I remember being the guy who curses bad drivers in traffic but ends up cutting someone off later in the day rushing to my next customer meeting. You get the same energy that you shine from within.
Look at the world with the perspective of ”is there something I can help with?” Helping others whenever you can without a personal agenda not only gives you an euphoric feeling of purpose, but it can also take you places you’d never imagine. In the last couple of weeks alone, lending a hand to others has resulted in jamming on-stage with my favorite DJs at a sold-out club concert in Los Angeles, an adventure into the San Francisco startup scene with a free stay at an influential tech-SVPs place, and having a Chicago-local giving me a deep dive into rich architecture and culture of the windy city – priceless for a Michael Jordan and Bulls fan since 1st grade.
Believe me. Giving is receiving. Help your neighbor, join a charity, start a non-profit. It all starts within you.
Dress Like You Want To Be Addressed
You can make a first impression only once. You cannot dictate the moment when you’ll run into your future significant other or the most important business contact of your life, but you surely can affect the impression you give. There isn’t one style that fits all, but an easy rule of thumb is to dress like you want to be addressed. I am passionate about gentlemen’s style. Men in the past took pride in being well-groomed both in physique and attire. Wearing a 3-piece suit everywhere you go might be a bit over the top, but looking neat is nowadays easy, affordable and fun with many new clothing chains focusing fully on gentlemen’s fashion.
Put thought into what you wear, as a well-thought ensemble relies on the right combination of details, colors and materials. Less is often more, an subtle details subconsciously affect people more positively than in-your-face craziness – unless the craziness goes together with your profession.
For me, dressing up according to how I want to be treated has been key to succeeding in professional environments where I’ve been ”the young kid” and the ”up-and-comer”. Looking presentable doesn’t guarantee success per se, but it affects the people around you to be more receptive to hear what you have to offer, thus enabling more routes to success.
Act Like A Gentleman
Looking like a gentleman isn’t enough. In Japanese business culture it’s common to spend a night out with your potential future business partner before closing a deal – and for good reason, too. I’ve seen even the well-dressed, respected businessmen make chauvinistic asses of themselves when the night goes into the AM.
If you look the part, act it as well.
Put full focus in whatever you do at a given time and treat people equally. Give your full attention to the party you’re conversing with – Facebook status updates and selfies can wait. Old-fashioned or not, open doors, pour drinks and wait for others to be seated before you.
Smile and make eye contact to others on the street, it might brighten up someone’s day!
And stay consistent even on days when you feel nothing works out. That’s what separates true gentlemen, and funny enough gives you energy and positivity to keep going!
4. Expand Your World Perception
”I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel sake. The great affair is to move,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson.
Whenever I’m not sure what to do next in life, I travel. Sometimes you need to go far to see near, and immersing yourself into new cultures, languages and scenery will work wonders to gain a new perspective on life in general. Traveling forces you to come out of your comfort zone, think differently and learn the local customs. This helps you not only to handle yourself better in multicultural environments (which most working environments are today), but also come up with new ideas. You might find an innovation that hasn’t been done back home, or something that you could in turn introduce into a new market.
In Northern Europe where I’m from originally, Kebab is a traditional comfort food for serious hang-overs. Two acquaintances of mine noticed to their horror that this wasn’t the case in China. Well, this lead to setting up shop to change things, which quickly picked up with plans to open their third restaurant within the first year of operations.
My most cherished moments in life are from travels, and having an international background gives me an edge in every situation imaginable. Take the best practices from every culture you come across and incorporate them in your everyday life.
Just like businesses, the most successful people know their personal SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat) analysis by heart. We can’t be the best at everything, but surely each of us has areas where we are naturally more gifted than others. If you put into the equation the opportunities and threats that are presented in your environment, you can pretty quickly define what you need to do to improve your odds to succeed.
But succeed in what? That’s another question. Learn about what makes you come alive, what you’re passionate about. It might be something you’ve never even done before – it might be the thing you’ve thought to yourself would be cool to try once in life – well try it and see for yourself!
Learn to love yourself and be happy with what you have to work with. But also know when your ego takes the wheel because that is what deters your judgement and throws important values out the window.
Finally, with so many distractions in our everyday lives today, it’s sometimes hard to hear what your intuition is telling you. Going by your intuition is a skill that can be honed. Listen to it, for it is driven by our primitive traits and more often than not is right.
Be open to opportunities
Smile, and the world smiles with you. It’s a conscious choice to observe your surroundings and be open to them. Similarly it is a choice to go on with your day in your thoughts oblivious of what’s happening around you. If you pay attention and make yourself available, the world will act.
I embarked on this journey of improvement to become a leader-worthy cosmopolitan gentleman. My current source of inspiration is the US West Coast until December, after which it’s time for Europe to pitch in with its rich cultures. I’ve decided to build my legacy on good.