How To Stay Happy When Everything Else Is Shit

After watching BBC’s Years and Years recently, I’ve been finding it a bit of struggle not to let the current state of our world impact my mental health. In case you haven’t seen it, Years and Years is a drama series that begins in 2019 and propels the characters 15 years forward into an unstable world. The parallels are unmissable. From a new leader finding power in populism to a refugee crisis, it’s stark reminder of what can happen when we become complacent and feel we don’t hold any responsibility for the actions of those in power.

Ultimately, the series ends in hope with the main characters finding a way that they can change the course of history and expose the horrific actions of their government. I’d certainly like to think that this will be the case for the human race too.. and there is a part of me that does believe that good will triumph over bad but I’m also very aware that we do not live in a movie. Real life just isn’t always that fair, or just.

From the austerity cuts in Britain to the concentration type camps for those trying to cross the American border, it is becoming harder and harder to see the good in the world. It’s overwhelming. And as a single human being, I feel pretty helpless and also guilty for my lack of action.

Good things still do happen. The standard of living, on average and as a whole, has increased and is better than ever. In Hong Kong, a billionaire has paid for the tuition of an entire class of students. Breakthroughs in medicine are happening all over the world, increasing the chance of survival for things that were once seen as death sentences and there is heightened awareness around taking care of our planet. 

But even so… avoiding the reality that there are still so many suffering while cuts are being made to the most vital of services is almost impossible.

So how do you keep positive amongst so much frightening change?

I’ve done my best to put together a practical guide to staying happy in our modern world. It’s so important that we continue to feel there is hope – otherwise, we fall prey to inaction and competency.

This must not happen.

1. Do What You Can
It might not be much and it probably wont feel like a lot but I can promise that it will help subside the guilt that we can feel when we aren’t sure how to help. It’s also worth remembering that small actions in large numbers can and do make a big impact. It’s also not always about impacting the big issue but changing something big for one person. Get out to protests, volunteer for organisations trying to fill the gaps where cuts have been made or just donate. If we all take a small step like this, the outcome will start to move in the right direction.

2. Study History
“The more things change, the more they stay the same” It’s bit cliche but it’s also true. There have been so many points in history where the world seemed to have lost it’s mind. For one reason or another though, we always seem to have a tipping point. It takes time (much longer than most of us want) but pressure does mount up and slowly humanity takes notice and demands change, even from those that we believe will never want to face the facts. If you think back to the LGBTQ movement… there was a point where the pressure became so much that you could no longer ignore it or look away. It become to personal. It was somebody’s daughter, father, best friend or cousin. At that point, it became too hard to say they didn’t deserve the same equality and over time, it changed for the better.

3. Try to have frank, open and constructive conversations with those that hold opposing views – And remember they are human too
A sure fire way to shut down a line of communication is to walk into a room ready to fight and prove that you are right. It’s tough not to get a bit fired up when talking about such mammoth issues but it’s also not productive. We have all grown up with certain biases, learned or not and we’ve all had events in our lives shape our outlook of the world. This is what need to better understand. Do not focus on the fact they are wrong or different. Focus on what shaped them to come to that conclusion. It is only then that we have any hope in starting to influence or re-educate their opinion.

5. Practice Gratitude
Remembering what we have and becoming consciously grateful for that does wonders for changing your perspective. The world has come a long way. It’s not perfect and never will be but try to shine light on the progress we have made and also the awareness that is growing around the those issues that make us feel without hope. There are entire organisations, groups and people that works so hard each and everyday to change lives for the better. It won’t happen fast and it most likely wont go out with a bang but have faith and be grateful that others are joining the fight.

I hope these help. If you have any you’d like to share, I would love to hear them! Get in touch through social media or email me at lizzy@myndr.co.uk

I’m Lizzy Hodcroft and I’m an addict

Ideas come and go. Every successful entrepreneur has seen ideas fail. That’s all part of it. The thing that all (successful) entrepreneurs have in common is their commitment to being entrepreneurs.

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It’s an identity thing: To be an entrepreneur is to declare that your mission is to create extraordinary value in the world. It’s extraordinary because to do so you must create vehicles (businesses) for that value creation much larger than yourself.

To aspire to be an entrepreneur is to be on the path of learning how to do all of that.

To give up on entrepreneurship itself, is to give up on that path of maximized value creation. There’s no reason at all to do so, ever.

Hi there. My name is Lizzy Hodcroft and I’m addict.

I’m completely addicted to start up.

When you look up the definition of addiction, you’ll find a lot of meanings that throw in the words “compulsive disorder”. What I found most interesting was this, “The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing and intrinsically rewarding.”

 

Kinda sounds exactly like entrepreneurship right?

 

And there is nothing wrong with that. One of the best parts of starting your own business is the excitement, possibilities and emotional reward when things go right.

But this can also go wrong – very very wrong. And in so many different ways.

Whether it’s too many coffees, staying up all night, drinking to relax or even eating bad food on the go, we all have made choices during our entrepreneurial journey that means we compromise ourselves to chase the success we all crave for our business.

And when we do this repeatedly, over and over again, it can become a real problem. Chasing highs to combat earlier lows or failure can be just as detrimental to your health as chasing the high of a good batch of cocaine.

Maybe part of the conflict is that for the first time in our lives, we are now focusing on things “we want to do” rather than the usual job structure of what “we need to do”

I’ve never been great at patience, especially if I’m stuck in an uncomfortable part of my life.

It’s something personally, I have always found extremely trying and hard. As soon as I feel uncomfortable, I feel I must change something, fix something, just do something I just can’t handle sitting through the storm and letting it blow over. But being so reactive had also led to quite a few bad outcomes. I make impulse decisions with quite often, bad judgement.

Everything in my business quickly becomes priority number one and this reflects in the way I work with others too. Subconsciously, I’m setting myself short and strict timelines to get things done. Ping me an email while I’m working on something else? I’ll answer straight away. And then I’ll start something new, and then I’ll remember that one thing that I wanted to do awhile go and start that. Perhaps the phone will ring – I’m on it! Look at me! So many tasks! So productive!

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Is it wrong to do that? I don’t know. It has certainly helped me to be successful in my professional life. At the same time, it comes at a price, and I have to stop and ask myself at what point is it okay to slow down a little?

Impulse for me, and I believe most of us, seems to lead to a more negative meaning – reckless, hasty, and foolhardy. Making decisions and not thinking things through. But it’s important to remember that impulsiveness can also imply spontaneity and inciting bigger ideas into action.

When you have pushed yourself as an entrepreneur for years and years, it becomes an absolute habit and part of your very makeup. Nothing is more energizing than that – it’s the best adrenaline rush there is.

And I’m addicted to it

And so I am working each day to be careful to control this addiction. Like all addictions, I have been amazed at how hard it can be to control. But they say the first step is to admit there is a problem, which I now do very openly. I am still working on figuring out the second step, but I will definitely let you know when I get there. I just hope that by being open about this struggle in my own life, others out there will gain insights that will help them, so at least some good can come out of me going crazy.

Finding balance through my own self-discovery and awareness is a much my mission as the success of my business- for if I am not thriving, I am not at my best to execute any decision – impulsive or not.

Separating yourself from your work is difficult, especially for founding entrepreneurs, but we must learn to remain humble during the good times, and steadfast during the bad. Only with distance can we find the balance that we crave.

The bottom line is that there are only 24 hours in a day and that is an unchangeable fact. (The sick part is I totally would change that if I could to allow for more time to get even more done. I really do have a problem don’t I?).

I’m Lizzy Hodcroft, and I’m an addict.

I’m Lizzy Hodcrcoft and I’m a Founder, entrepreneur, pet owner, trusting friend and work in progress.

 

The intricate job of separating your work from who are you

There are two pretty common ways of approaching how people view their job and their identity.

There are those that just see their job as a means to an end. It might not light their passion but they are okay with that. What’s important to them is what they can do with the money gained from their work in order to fund a lifestyle.

Than there are those that need to connect with what they do. Regardless of the reward or salary, they do what they do because the love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

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Entrepreneurs lie in a funny little area of both. We know we must live and breathe what we do and create in order to find success, investment and growth. We also have an eye for the future but even more confusing is the fact our lives do become defined by our business. It’s an all immersive experience, one that you cannot achieve by half-hearted commitment.

Very quickly, the lines become blurred between what we are building and who we are. It’s the same reason I’ve found entrepreneurship the most interesting and beneficial self-discovery journey; the catalyst to the insight I have.

Being on Dragon’s Den gave me the opportunity to dig into this further. In just an hour, the dragons were able to separate myself from my business; something I am still trying to figure out. I pitched a business but they fell in love with me. Although not impressed by the company I came to the den with, all the investors took note of my drive, intellect and talent. That’s the funny thing about personality traits, they follow you no matter what you are doing.

Tomorrow I could wake up and decide to work in some pub pulling pints or even washing dishes but those traits would still help to define who I am. Next month, I might win the lottery (please please please!), buy an island and make it into a sanctuary for dogs. Still Lizzy though. Still the same flaws, insecurities, passion and weird habit of eating crackers in bed with my eyes closed as I fall asleep.

This is pretty easy to internalise. See yourself in your mind and then just change the background. Plop yourself into cities around the world, even outer space. Change has not been internal but rather situational. Another thing to realise is that we are pretty programmed beings. Chances are, unless you are a small child or teenager, you have very specific traits that will not change easily.

Where this gets tricky is when things like shame, pride, success and failure come in. You do a thing and that thing is perceived as either good or bad. For the sake of argument, let’s say everyone though that your thing was good, brilliant even. You are proud of your thing. You feel good.

In contrast, if everyone told you that your thing was terrible, you would feel bad most likely. You might even feel ashamed of the thing you made or that  you failed in making a decent thing. These feelings (especially the negative ones) get internalised pretty goddamn fast. Confidence can quickly erode because of negative feedback towards what you made. We think it wasn’t the “thing” or idea that failed, it was you.

The reason we continue to attach our ego to our work, I believe, stems from what we are taught growing up. Before we have the time to discover who we are and therefore the standards which we measure ourselves by, we are taught to live by standards set by others; our parents, nursery and social norms. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, we need to learn how to become integrated within society. What I am saying is that we aren’t really ever taught how to break free from that as we develop and grow. We either pass or fail. We either win or lose. We either succeed or we fall short. We’re never taught the power of reflection, learning to understand where we went wrong and how to empower that experience into strength.

Type “Entrepreneurs, who you are is not your business” into Google and you don’t really get much back. It’s as though I didn’t type in the “not” for that search. All the articles thrown back at me are about the traits you must have to become an entrepreneur, furthering this idea that you are either born to build or you are just not cut out for it. Ingraining a sense that you are your business and you will become it.

So is it even possible to have focus, commitment and passion while also still honouring that you are a separate, eating, breathing, emotional being with basic needs?

It’s almost as though you are shamed into thinking you cannot be a successful start-up or entrepreneur if you are able to also find some kind of work/life balance or distance that enables you to take on different perspectives. Which would go a long way to explain why this doesn’t seem to  be something that is often discussed within this space.

Even as I write this, the idea of an investor reading this and taking it as some kind of sign that I lack the grit and intent of throwing every aspect of my life into building a business worries me. And if it worries me then it must be part of the reason we aren’t willing to strike some kind of deal between the work we produce and who we see ourselves to be as a person.

I have come to realise that for me, external validation of some kind is important. This probably comes from the fact that I am a bit of people pleaser. Making others happy in turn makes me happy but this can also have some pretty drastic side effects. If even by mistake, I disappoint or anger others, I can feel pretty terrible. It’s almost as though I have a small identity crisis; like all of a sudden I’m not the person I thought I was.

I’m a passionate and intense person by nature. Attaching emotions to things that do not call for emotion is what I do. I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption (PS4 game) lately in a few spare hours over the weekend and probably take more time than the average player to feed and brush my horse. I haven’t changed horses since the beginning because I am now attached to a horse in a game.

I worry about what my dogs thinks of me, trying desperately to find the deeper meaning in why he wont come to bed with me on some idle weekday night.

Especially in tech and early stage start-ups, we quickly begin to understand that the first investment we will receive will most likely not because of our business idea but because an investor sees real potential in you, the ability to work with you and the leader you will become with guidance and time. It makes a lot of sense… if you don’t have any turnover but need cash to build the thing that will give you turnover, getting someone to buy into your idea, into you, is really important.

This can lead to a lot of pressure in how you present yourself. And whether we want to admit it or not, this bleeds into our identity and how we view ourselves. How we view ourselves often quickly  becomes intertwined with how others view us. And since how the consumer, investor or employee views the business is pretty darn important to achieving success, well… it’s a bit of an identity crisis waiting to happen.

So let’s talk about it.

As entrepreneurs, we already surround ourselves with those of similar mind set. We already have functions and networking events and slack channels that we use to support and inspire each other. We talk about it in whispers, only able to feel relief after we discover that someone else feels it too but still too conscious of the eyes that might be watching to own our weakness.

Humility is a trait of strong leaders. The type of leader’s employees want to work for and investors want to fund. Being humble and acknowledging the error of your ways is also a great way to build trust and credibility. Humility needs to be balanced with a sense of confidence. If not balanced, you can undermine the team’s belief in you and in the business. Humility must be genuine as when leaders genuinely acknowledge mistakes or deficits in an area, it inspires others to discover their own confidence to act, take risks and evaluate their own challenges.

This leads to genuine improvement and self-development that will have ripples within the business. Remember, it always starts with you.

 

Our Someday Fallacy

Someday…

Have you ever watched a documentary about addiction where the addict is telling the camera crew that someday he will quit? Someday he’ll settle down, he’ll get a job and then he will happy. Someday, if he can just get a break he can break his addiction. If he just had some money, he could change his life. And all the while he’s telling us that in the future things will different, his eyes are starting to close and his head starts to nod as he plunges the syringe into his vein.

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Obviously, we can all see that drugs are part of the problem and I am certainly not implying that they aren’t contributing to his situation. However, we all do this and that’s the real kicker. We’ve all thought that if we could just get that car we would never be sad again. We tell ourselves that if we can be more like our friend Karen that we will be happy; we expect that if we get to that point, we will be happy.

But happiness is not something we can find. Happiness is the result of overcoming suffering to achieve something that you can be proud of. Happiness is the light that comes out of darkness, the hero that comes from war, the child that comes from the incredibly painful process of childbirth.

Take volcanos. Volcanos are one of the most destructive forces on this planet, taking out entire cities and forests, burning all that it touches and charring the ground beneath it. But once everything cools, something amazing happens. Volcanic soil is extremely rich in nutrients. The area that was once blackened with ash becomes a literal living laboratory for evolution. Lava flows become lush gardens and rich habitats.

As they say, “from the ashes rises the phoenix”. And to rise implies action, not something that just “happens”.

We have become increasingly talented at avoiding reality. We fill our minds with Netflix or perhaps hide from our panic with sleep. We solve the short term, soothing ourselves for the now without ever really considering that our problems will only meet us again in the future. The worst part is that we are totally aware that we do it but trade in our future for one moment of bliss. We know we have problems that we have left unsolved yet we choose to find reasons as to why we cannot solve them.

We seek success like we are trying to find God. Success becomes something that is obtainable in the future like some kind of carrot on a stick. We’re programmed to think that. Society has managed to wire our environment for wish lists and must haves. Success no longer resembles a long process of trials and tribulations, a goal to set and achieve but something that just happens and something we all deserve, no matter if we are willing to put in the action and effort. We are left dreaming of great results without ever thinking to confront what process we need to take to there and the pitfalls we will encounter along the way.

What is happiness?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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“Sick and tired of being sick and tired makes me tired and sick from worrying about being sick and tired”

It’s fulfilling prophecy. We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling bad. We realise we are letting ourselves be the victim and then feel angry about being so self-absorbed.

So allow yourself to feel bad. Don’t pile on more weight by hating yourself for the way you feel. Learn to let that go and focus on what you can change.

Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential. We don’t know where we fit and we feel we have no purpose. Having no purpose makes it hard to know what you really care about and when you don’t understand what you care about, what you really really care about, then you inevitably loose focus and feel lost.

In our desperation, we attach ourselves to anything and anyone that will have us and discover the other million ways that we have not fit the mould or made the measure. All we want is to be happy!

But what is happiness? And why do we think we so justly deserve it when it’s so blatantly obvious that part of life is pain. Finding happiness can quickly become an addiction; one that we chase over and over again and becoming increasingly aware that we don’t have it which ultimately makes our pursuit of happiness into a negative, vicious experience that we feel we have failed at.

The more you want to be recognised.. the more you want to be normal… the more that you want to feel worthy, the more you feel small, abnormal and worthless as this becomes your only focus.

Eating disorders often stem from a girls need or want to  be prettier, thinner, sexier. The more this girl zones into what she imagines herself to lack, the more ugly she comes to see herself.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never (truly) live if you are looking for the meaning of life”

Failures in life are what make you an interesting person. Failures in business are what lead to a better understanding of what is needed to be successful in the next venture. Allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable paradoxically makes you more confident and liked by others. The misery your depression, anxiety or fear bring you, also provides the greatest insight and growth you will achieve in your life.

Sometimes in life, you just have to hold on and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Trying to avoid this matter-of-fact is what ultimately destroys us. The more we hide away from life and the world and escape the hardship we face, the more we are delaying the inevitable and suddenly we find ourselves waking up one morning full of dread and anxiety about the day ahead of us. The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.

“The denial of failure is a failure. “ Feeling ashamed about being ashamed is shameful.

Stepping out of this cycle is to accept the challenges that lay ahead and take action.

Many of us have probably heard someone, a teacher or motivational speaker reference your energy and time as money in the bank. It’s a finite resource which we must learn to spend carefully. If you have £100 in the bank and you spend it on one nice meal only to find you starve the rest of the week.. well, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

As you can probably conclude, this is not a new concept. However, the way it has been presented and explained in the past means that all too often it falls on deaf ears. Whomever is dishing out the advice does it under the assumption that we know what we value, that we understand our purpose and now we just need to focus. From my own experience, most of us fail at the start because we just don’t know who we are yet. If we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what direction we need to be heading so we drive around a circles and wonder why we haven’t gotten anywhere.

Learning about yourself is incredibly hard. We were never taught this growing up and we certainly weren’t encouraged to do so as we grew older. It’s the kind of lesson that transcends beyond your business, further than your day to day and forces you to come to terms with something many of us never do. Learning to accept yourself. Ideally, mastering the art of loving who you are.

Celebrating the success we do achieve, reflecting on the failures in order to learn from them and having an intrinsic knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses is one of the most powerful tools you can access.

When you are able to fully comprehend what you find important and the values and passion that support it, the struggle you battle through to defend those values suddenly is completely worthwhile.

You cannot always avoid the pain, hurt, depression, panic and loneliness but you can find a purpose, a passion to follow, that makes the shit time more endurable. If we cannot discover meaning in our life then we will attach our ego to the most trivial of things and find our bank of energy and time is out of credit.

Learn to attach your ego to only the things that deserve it.

When we put our hard work, ideas and plans out into the world and regardless of how amazing our product, service or personality is – it’s a really scary process and we will not always receive the kind of response we might be expecting.

But instead of looking at how we can push that fear aside or hide it way – I want to try and empower us to embrace the worries, insecurities and doubt and learn how to use that energy for positive results.