Key To Success

Isn’t it funny – what sticks with you from childhood and adolescence? Well this saying is almost embedded into my mind and is impossible to shift:

Work hard, play hard, be neat, be civil be cooperative. 

When I was in secondary school Mr Gulliford would repeat this every single assembly, small gathering or event – any Dubai College kid from the 90’s and 00’s will remember this! It almost became iconic and an assembly never seemed finished unless he had stood up at the podium and recited this motto.

I’m sure teachers must wonder what sticks with their students once they leave school. Do they remember what we taught them? Do they remember our quirks and sayings? Will they even remember us at all?

It’s strange; maybe it’s just the geek in me, but I remember everything about Dubai College as though it was only yesterday – I remember all the teachers, I remember taking my exams (even my entrance exam when I was 10!), I remember the kids who were mean to me, who ignored me and who we just so kind to me – but weirdly enough I remember that motto the most.

Since I’ve left school I’ve heard people say ‘work hard, play hard’ and then I instinctively have to follow it up with ‘be neat, be civil, be cooperative’. I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was bonkers as no one else in my university had a Mr Gulliford that issued them their own motto throughout their childhood. I don’t know where it originated from but it’s a pretty awesome motto if you ask me.

So why am I sharing this with you?

Since the beginning of January, I’ve been working my little butt off – my drive in business, my relationships and home life sky rocketed and all I knew was I need to work, create and share. I set myself huge targets that I have to achieve every week and it’s taken me a few weeks to find a balance that fits both my mind and body. A couple of weeks back I exhausted myself and rather than taking a step back and analysing why, I was annoyed with myself. In fact, I was angry with myself – I mean, how could I burn out after just a couple of weeks?! It didn’t make sense. I knew I was working hard but as soon as I said those words to myself ‘play hard, be neat, be civil, be cooperative’ came to mind. 

People have always told me to ‘chill out’, to ‘relax’ or to ‘take time out’ – yes my mind is always in constant overdrive and when it comes to work I know exactly what I need to do to get where I want to be but in that moment I forgot the other 4 essential ingredients to success.

That’s when I realised something – A teacher’s aim is to provide you with lessons that guide you through life. Well, what if this motto wasn’t just a few words stringed together to form a sentence to be recited every assembly? What if he was giving us a magic recipe for success – not just success in career, but success in life as a whole? 

So, I got stuck into exploring all 5 areas, to expand on them and share with you why this saying has stayed with me for almost 9 years since leaving school.

Work hard

Obvious, isn’t it? Work hard. We know that we have to work hard if we want to achieve, right? Well, working hard isn’t just for those business savvy, career minded people – it also means working hard at life. If you want anything in life you have to take actions to get you there. Actions are the work you put into creating the life you want! Without putting in the work to create actions, you’re not going to move forward, grow and learn; ultimately designing the life you have always dreamed of. These actions should challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone in order to create something new in your life. This can be said for any aspect of your life, they all need work – relationships, career, finances, cooking, exercise, social life, hobbies. Unless you’re working hard at them, you’ll never improve. If you don’t improve then you won’t be living the life you dream of.

Working hard = Actions towards your goals.

Play hard

Simple – we need to have FUN! We only live once, and as much as we need to work to achieve what we desire, we also need our down time to reenergise, relax and refuel. Working and playing are opposites that need to be balanced in order to feel fulfilled – like yin and yang, water and fire, sun and moon.  It’s these opposites that work together in harmony to create the basis of this success. The more we play, the more our minds will be open to new ideas. The harder we work, the more we need that down time to be present and calm. As adults especially, we forget how important it is to play! Break time at school meant switching off from the world, letting our minds wonder and spend an hour laughing with our friends. As adults, break time means quickly scoffing down a sandwich, while going to the toilet, getting a coffee and checking our social media pages all at the same time! Can you see where we are going wrong?

Play hard = Take a break!

Be neat

Have you ever heard the saying – messy house, messy mind? Well that applies to anywhere you’re going to be working. If you want to be productive then the clutter, mess and dirt have to go. It’s as simple as that. Have you ever noticed how you’re more productive when your desk is organised? The kitchen is cleaned? Or even when the laundry is done? Being productive is a huge part of being successful in any area of life – productivity is the key to action and achievement. So if you want to be more productive then get cleaning!

Being neat isn’t just about the mess surrounding you, it’s also about organising every area of your life. The more organised you are, the less stressed you will ultimately feel. Your mind will be clearer, more focussed and alert to what you need to do. So organise every area of your life. Think about what feels unsteady and take the time to balance it out – again it might be finances, your to do list, you shopping list, organising your bills, sorting out your birthday calendar – just declutter both your mind and the space around you.

Be neat = productivity.

Be civil

This one is probably the one we all need to really take on board:

Be kind.

There is so much upheaval in the world. We know that the world isn’t all rainbows and butterflies yet we are so quick to judge, criticise and offend. Honestly, we don’t need to contribute to that. We need to ditch all the negativity we throw at people and replace it for being kind. At the end of the day who are you really harming by saying judgemental comments (whether they’re directed at yourself or others)? The only person you’re negatively affecting is yourself. The more open and accepting you are, the more you will achieve in the long run. You don’t know what others are going through so be present and be there for those who need you.

Being kind isn’t just about being loving and open to others, it’s also about being kind to yourself. If you’re civil to others then why can’t you be to yourself? I see so many people ‘self-bully’ by saying nasty things that pull them down. It’s all this negative self-talk that is really holding you back in life. So, let that go and just be civil.

Be civil = being kind to others and yourself.

Be cooperative

This is my favourite – work with others! Being cooperative isn’t just for the workplace. Again, you can apply it to every part of your life – intimate relationships, friendships, family relationships, acquaintances, networking. You name it, when it comes to interacting with others it all comes down to being cooperative. It’s the ability to show empathy, to look at things from another’s point of view and learn what they have to say. It’s about being open, avoiding confrontation and staying humble. You never know what you could learn from someone else. It might not always seem like the right opinion at the time but the more you cooperate with others the more chance of success you have. After all, humans are incredibly social creatures and although most of the time it seems like the world revolves around us or that we are on this journey alone, we actually have billions of other people to share with, to learn with and to help us when we get stuck. 

Be cooperative = work with others.

If you can get these 5 elements in balance then trust me, you are already on your way to leading a fulfilled and successful life. Let me leave you with something that really made me chuckle. This is how much this motto has embedded itself within me: 

Jan 31st 2018

I cleaned the whole house (because I can never work properly if I know cleaning has to be done) – NEAT

When I got to the supermarket I helped a lady pick up the contents of her bag after she dropped it – CIVIL

On my way home I stopped off at the local café to meet with an Acupuncturist and Osteopath. I love meeting people and it was a great networking opportunity – COOPERATIVE

My afternoon was spent working, working, working – WORK HARD

As soon as Ben came home, my office door closed, laptop shut and it was time to cook together, play with the dogs and enjoy our last few episode of Game Of Thrones – PLAY HARD


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