The art of appreciating others

Appreciation of another is a concept discussed at length but too often forgotten in relationships. Appreciation is defined as the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone and the showing of gratitude to such someone.

There are many quotes and sayings on this topic. Two that come to mind are “you never know how much someone means to you until they are gone” or the opposite side of the spectrum being “treat them mean, keep them keen”.

Many people in relationships seem to fall within one of the two categories described above – one that makes an effort and another that takes full advantage of it without much gratitude, appreciation or other types of affection. One party not being able to express appreciation is one of the main reasons for divorce and relationship breakup.

When appreciation is shown, it reinforces the positive behaviour and creates a greater bond between the couple. However, as we know, men and women are very different species, which means that each of them can express appreciation in different ways.

Some men would only resort to showing their ‘appreciation’ when things go sour and their partner is close to calling it quits by way of lavish gifts & expensive gestures. Not that there’s anything wrong with gifts and grand gestures. However, it is the daily behaviour that makes or breaks a couple.

There are also women, who act like they are doing the world a big favour by just getting out of bed in the morning. Women, who do not treat their partners nicely. Women who do not see just how fortunate they are and that their partner adores them. And then there are other women, who do everything in all aspects for their partner and get nothing or close to nothing in return.

Being through it personally and seeing many relationships  break up and seeing those couples who still make it work after many years, I have seen some common patterns of the ‘right’ things to do for both men and women.

Some suggestions may be to give your partner a kiss and a cuddle just because it feels good and to tell them you love them more often. For a guy – buy her some flowers for no reason (they cost as little as $4 and most girls love it!) and do something in the house that would make her smile. Other general suggestions for both men and women include planning a nice day out, watching sunsets together or doing something that both of you enjoy. The main thing is to show each other your love and adoration.  Remember, once your partner starts feeling they have been taken for granted, your relationship may be in great jeopardy. So if you are with someone amazing – get out of your comfort zone and start showing your gratitude. You may just save your own happiness from walking out the door.

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Are you too proud to right the wrong?

Going through life, many occurrences teach us lessons. We make mistakes and hurt others with or without intending to. We do things we are not proud of. We upset people close to us. This is because we are human. Our perceptions are subjective and often selfish.  This is how we are wired.

Many people I have come across find it very difficult to apologise for hurting someone else’s feelings. This is normal. It takes guts and courage to say ‘sorry’ to another person. We teach our children to respect other people’s feelings yet often fail at it ourselves. It is as if we feel that apologising to another lowers our personal standing in other people’s eyes.

There is also a group of people who, in their mind, are always right regardless of the scenario. This is the pinnacle of human selfishness. These people never apologise or see another point of view.  Unfortunately for them, a day will come when they have burnt all their bridges and they have found themselves totally isolated from family and friends.

My personal belief is that if you are human, then you cannot possibly be always right. You, like billions of others, have wronged someone at some point and therefore an apology is an order.

Many believe that a key to a happier life is acknowledging our wrongs, attempting to make them right and learning from our mistakes.  Often it may be too late for an apology and it is something you may have to live with. But without such acknowledgement, you cannot grow as a person, move forward with your life and give closure to the other person who feels betrayed / wronged / taken advantage of etc. Even if anything you bring forward is rejected, it is definitely worth your while.

Circumstances often make it impossible to apologise to someone in a timely fashion. However, with time, opportunities will present themselves when you can find a way to reach out and relay how you feel. Even if all you get back consists of nasty and unpleasant comments, it is definitely worth the hassle.

Like every other human, I have done things I am not proud of and upset people who cared for me. Would I have done those things if I had to relive my life – definitely not. But I live with no regrets and the mistakes of the past have molded me into the person that I am today.  As for apologising, usually I am the first to admit when I am wrong.  However, in some situations it is not an easy task.

I take this opportunity to sincerely apologise to those who I have hurt in any way and have not had a chance to express my deep regret in person.  You know who you are.

So think about anyone who you may have wronged in the past. Today may be the day when you swallow your pride and apologise.  Do it not because you are dying or as part of some rehabilitation program. Do it because it is the right thing to do.

 

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The journey of Klout and the world of social media

Sometimes last year I was catching up with a friend and discussing a number of projects that I was looking at launching.  In our conversation, the word “klout” was mentioned, which, at that point, was a foreign and totally unknown concept to me.  As my friend was heavily involved in the social media circles, he proceeded to enlighten me about the world of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Klout and others.

I was informed that Klout looked at all your on-line activity and gave you a score out of 100 ranking your on-line influence.  Right, I thought, let’s see what this is all about.  At that stage, I was only really using a personal Facebook account, had an almost dormant Twitter account, as I thought I had nothing of value to say, and a not so active LinkedIn profile. Around the same time and with great encouragement from the my friend, I started this blog, writing about all things that mattered in my life and personal experiences.  I wanted others to read it. However, I had no on-line presence to spread my message.

After spending a few hours looking at Klout, various people’s scores and their posts in different social media platforms, I decided that raising my Klout score, which was just above 30 at the time, and increasing my on-line presence may give me the launching platform to make a difference.  I researched what people were saying about Klout and learned that under the old Klout system (Klout has since changed its algorithms and how it calculates its scores), a score of 50 and above was:

(a) almost impossible to attain; and

(b) a great score to aim for.

So, being somewhat competitive by nature, I sat down and strategised about increasing my Klout score and connecting with people. Twitter was my first learning curve.  I started following those who seemed to carry out a worthwhile message. Parallel, I gave out +Ks (Klout’s internal endorsements) to all those people with a score of 50 and above and started following a lot of them of Twitter.  I also found them on Facebook, and those that carried out a message which I liked or supported, I befriended.  Then, I have started to use my Facebook account to post ideas, quotes and sayings that appealed to me and carried a positive message.

I must say that I was blown away by the kindness of others and their willingness to part their knowledge.  Some of my newly found connections encouraged me to go on and provided me with tips and strategies of how to keep raising my Klout score.  In saying that, increasing my score also meant a greater audience to read what I have to say and more people in my circle to learn from.  I was blessed to be embraced by and included in some of the influential circles in the social media arena, who I now count as my friends.

With all that increased activity, I reached a score of 67 in less than 3 months and it was going up on daily basis. I have also become somewhat of an addict to technology.  Yes, my dear friends, I admit I have an addiction and you would all be laughing when reading this part.  However, I have reached a point when the Klout score was no longer important.  What was important is that the people in my social media circle liked what I was about and were ready to share my thoughts with the world.  I am forever grateful to them for it.

These days I am no longer active on Klout and my score, which went up as high as 76 at some point, is now a steady 65.  However, raising my Klout score aided me in connecting and interacting with amazing minds around the world.  It proved that if you want to achieve a goal, stop talking about it and start doing something.  As for my message to others, it is simple.  If you want to achieve something, get up and get going with it.  Stop blaming life or circumstances. Engage, ask questions, seek other’s help and be kind and humble in the process.  If you do not ask, the answer will always be ‘no’, so ask and reach out.  There will come a day when others will be reaching out to you and you can return the favour. 

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The Galactic Adventures of Alex Mackenzie – the next bestseller?

I have read hundreds of books in my time, seen and critiqued their screen versions and even commenced writing one of my own.  However, recently I have come about reading a book written by someone very dear to my heart and discovering the absolute genius of the writer.

I am of course talking about the series of books about the galactic adventures of Alex Mackenzie written by my very talented partner Larry Rosenzweig.  The books are gripping yet funny, packed with many twists and turns. Incredible imagination and unique writing style is what makes these books magnificent.  Although the target audience is between 9 and about 14, I am thoroughly enjoying them.

I am yet to finish reading the whole series, as finding spare time to read has been an issue. However, the more I read, the more I am immersed in the creative world and the double life of the main character and all the wonderful creatures he meets in his travels.  Although the books are self-published, I believe they are destined for greatness and success.  The next bestseller? I definitely hope so, as these books deserve to be read by all children to invigorate their imagination.

Copies of the books are now available on Amazon as ebooks, so if you are interested – buy yourself a copy of the first book (here is the link – http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Galactic-Adventures-McKenzie-ebook/dp/B00CMX5ABM/ref=pd_rhf_cr_p_img_1). I promise you will be asking for more.  The other books in the series are also available as ebooks on Amazon. However, if you are like me and love to hold the real book when you are reading it, a copy can be found on http://larryrosenzweig.com.au/.

It is always hard to find a great book to read, especially a great book that would interest children.  C.S.Lewis once said that “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I recommend you read “The Galactic Adventures of Alex Mackenzie” series of books.  One day they will be more famous than the Harry Potter series and you could say that you were ahead of the pack.

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Crossroads – a familiar landscape

Many times in our lifetime we come to unexpected crossroads.  Choices present themselves to us out of the blue and we are forced to make life-changing decisions.  Each person deals with such decision-making process differently.  Some take their time to think things over and others take a leap of faith almost immediately.

I used to belong to the ponderers, trying to think 5 steps in advance, as if I was playing a chess game.  These days, I can proudly call myself a risk taker.  It is calculated risk of course but still a far cry from my previous conservative approach.

“Has it been beneficial?” you may ask.  The answer is definitely “yes”.  Whether or not the desired outcome was achieved along the way, I have definitely learnt a lot.  I have also come to live out the old Russian saying: “those who do not take risks, never get to drink champagne”.

So, as I am mentally sipping that glass of Moet whilst preparing a document for one of my clients, I am thankful for my personal evolution and also for all the people who have helped me with my life decisions along the way and provided their support.  I am once again surrounded by a familiar landscape of crossroads, but I will not be stuck on this intersection for too long.

How do you handle major decisions? Have you taken a leap of faith before? If not, I strongly recommend you try it.

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Do you know how to be a good friend?

The older you become, the more hurdles you go through, the better is your understanding of who your true friends are. There’s a good Russian saying “better to have 100 good friends than 100 dollars”.  Most of us would be lucky to have a handful of people that we can definitely say are our true friends and for me the most important aspect is the quality of friendship rather than the quantity.  The cycle of life and many events and occurrences along the way make us reassess the people we actually want to be surrounded by and communicate with.

Many of my closest friends I do not get to see or even speak to often.  I wish there was more than 24 hours in a day, but that’s a fantasy of many and a reality of none. However, I know that if the push came to shove and I needed their help, a shoulder to cry on or a friendly ear, they would be there for me in a heartbeat.  Children, partners, parents, work and other personal commitments as well as the distance between us make it almost impossible for frequent interactions. Nevertheless, a true friend would most definitely understand that we are all busy and life does unfortunately get in the way of catch ups and meaningful conversations. 

What is the solution to keeping friendships alive? I have found that the following worked for me:

1. Always consider the other person’s circumstances and be understanding. Do they have kids and shared arrangements? Do they care for other people? Do you know what is happening at their work or with their health? Not everyone likes to share their issues and most people tend to bear their own cross in life without complaints not to burden their friends with negativity.  If you are a good friend, you should know when to stand on the sideline and just ‘be there’. 

2. Try to make time for those you want to remain friends with but understand that they may not necessarily have time for you right at this moment.  Their lack of time for you may be a result of personal dilemmas, commitments or other unfortunate events you do not have any knowledge of.  Furthermore, partners, kids’ weekend schedules and other responsibilities may make it almost impossible to find a mutually convenient time when you want it. You should keep in touch but not push if you feel that your friend cannot spare any time at this point.

3. Do not be selfish or needy. If you friend has not expressed much desire to catch up, it may not have anything to do with your friendship but with their own life.  Always try to look at the friendship from above as an unbiased bystander. The fact that you are free on weekends does not mean that your friends should drop everything to see you and rearrange their life to accommodate you.   

4. Do not be jealous if your friends catch up with others more frequently. You do not own your friends’ time or their exclusive friendship.  Parents with kids may find it easier to schedule a catch up with their friends who either have kids or who understand kids’ schedules and needs or who have been in their children’s lives from birth. Couples may have family commitments and singles may not want to be surrounded by couples or children for too long. 

5. Be patient and have some self-respect. If you feel that someone you considered a friend does not return your calls or makes vague statements about a future catch up – bow out gracefully.  Stop calling and messaging and see if they contact you.  Either way, you will know where you stand but taking it up with them in an accusatory manner may well mean the end of your friendship.

Over time you will know for sure who your true friends are and how to keep those friendships.  In the meantime, have a hard look at yourself, as the issues you are having may be streaming directly from within you or from the way you interact with others.  Self-assessment would also allow you to deal with many other internal issues and permit you to move forward in life with your head held high.

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Can you play chess?

As a young child I loved playing chess and competing with others in the game, whilst moving up the ranks for a period of about 5 years.  The game was ever so consuming and each victory gave me a thrill.  However, with other priorities coming to the surface and the need to move countries as a teenager, I quit playing chess.  So much so, that I have only played a proper game for the first time the other day.  My opponent was no other than my 6-year-old, who seems to share the passion for the game I once possessed.  I won (just!) and it made me think of my childhood and how great the game of chess actually is.

I know that regardless of circumstances I should have never given up on it.  Chess, although not the most ‘cool’ game to play, has many benefits. It:

  1. exercises both sides of the brain;
  2. develops and greatly improves memory;
  3. improves other necessary skills such as reading, problem solving and concentration;
  4. teaches planning and foresight as well as looking at the whole picture;
  5. promotes imagination and creativity;
  6. teaches independence, as the players have to make decisions of their next moves; and
  7. is not age dependent.

It has been proven in many studies over the years that the earlier in life the person starts playing chess on a consistent basis, the better will be the benefits and improvements listed above.  Kids learn a lot of life skills and life lessons from chess.  Chess teaches us that there is likely to be more than one solution to a given problem and that success is usually a reward for hard work, as the more you practice, the better you become.

Benjamin Franklin summarised the benefits of chess well. “Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead; vigilance, by having to keep watch over the whole chess board; caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves; and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life – that even when everything seems to be going badly for us we should not lose heart, but always hoping for a change for the better, steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems.”

Can you play chess? I can and I will ensure that my kids can too. My job is to share the knowledge and the fun this game brings.  It will be up to them how far to take it in the future.  One thing I know for sure, no one had ever suffered any negative consequences from being able to understand and play a game of chess.  Today may just be the perfect day for you to give it a try.

 

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