Failure…. It’s an interesting word, mostly with very negative connotations to the point that when we hear someone use the word, it makes us strangely uncomfortable.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a mate of mine who referred to his business venture as a failure.

While I have had my own business for ten years, I’m not what you would call a success when evaluated against the accumulation of financial wealth. I haven’t made millions of dollars, but that’s not my goal in business or how I measure success anyway.

I think what matters is how you look at failure. Like most things in life, perspective is everything. 

Yes, business and companies need to make more money than they spend to survive, that’s a fact. Therefore, if it’s not going to survive it’s probably better to call it early. Business is a gamble and like sitting at the casino’s roulette wheel, you should never bet your life savings on one.

But while business and companies can fail, it doesn’t make us as the business owner a failure, in fact quite the opposite.

In every perceived failure we must consider the learnings and experience we amass along the way and how these will shape our future self.  The passion, courage and tenacity to get in the arena and give something a go are traits far removed from failure and much more closely aligned with a success mindset.

“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Hemingway

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The Skills We Don’t Know We Have

Discharging from 16 years in the regular army I didn’t have to worry about getting a new job on “civi street”. I took the skills acquired in the Special Forces and returned to Afghanistan to work at the Australian Embassy as a security contractor. It was an easy transition from Defence, some would say, hardly a transition at all. While there were a few major differences in my work before and after the ADF, there were a lot of similarities. Regardless, I enjoyed the challenge of private security contracting and spent the next six years after discharging from the army doing my best to keep people safe in complex and dangerous environments. 

The uncertainty and real transition for me came in 2016, when I finished working in Afghanistan.  

After 14 years of working on and off in the war troubled country, I returned to Australia with the goal of starting an adventure travel business in Tasmania. It was then I learned the real difficulties of being a small player in an industry where you have to compete for every client.

As a veteran, I was running a few hikes for former military and first responders, showcasing how beneficial the adventure and tranquility of the wilderness can be for mindset. Around this time, I was asked to speak to a group of military veterans about my experience post army. I remember answering a question about useful skills the military teach by saying; “Most of the skills the military teach us are not useful once you get out of Defence”, referring to skills like sniping, proficiency with guns and explosives and techniques for destroying an enemy.  

A few years on, I now believe I answered the question poorly. At the time, I wasn’t too different to a lot of other veterans (and society for that matter); I thought that getting out of Defence I needed to be totally retrained in order to fit back into normal society.  

How wrong I was.  

“What skills can we take from our military service that will help us in life on civi street. What skills do the military give us that make us better people. What skills should we never stop using. What skills make us more competitive in the job market and able to live a life full of passion, purpose and meaning. A life where we constantly improve and evolve?”  

If asked the question again today, my answer would be very different. 
The huge list of soft skills of course – the important skills in life.  

There are two main types of skills in life; Hard Skills and Soft Skills. The military teaches both.  

The strip and assemble of a belt feed general purpose machine gun or the best place to position your fire support in order to effectively suppress an enemy while you overwhelm them, are hard skills. The more hard skills a soldier has, the more useful he is. Hard skills are the abilities and proficiencies that can be taught and trained. They are easy to recognise and test for competency. 

The real gold dust however, lies in the soft skills we develop in the military. The behaviours, traits and non-technical abilities that relate to how we view and do things. 

For most people, having the marksmanship skills to hit an enemy in the chest at 800m loses its usefulness after military service. However, work ethic, flexibility, mental toughness, tenacity, patience and problem solving are key attributes that will see you succeed at whatever you choose to pursue post service. 

The Australian Special Air Service Regiment’s (SAS) selection course I completed in 1997, was at the time, the only course in the ADF not designed to teach you anything. It’s goal is purely to determine if soldiers are suitable for training, to identify those with the soft skills and attributes to become Special Forces operators. An open applicant field across all services and ranks of the ADF is evidence to the order of priority this high performing team of professional soldiers place on these skills. Senior instructors know they can teach you to shoot later but it is a lot harder to teach you a thirst to learn, to remain positive when situations look grim and display mental fortitude in times of adversity.  

Likewise, in the civilian world today; it is why any human resource manager or selection panel worth their weight values these same skills when it comes to hiring new team members. They know it’s precisely these skills that will make you most successful in the workplace.  

So what are the personal traits and attributes that make up those desirable soft skills? 
The list is long, and examples include: 

  • Mental and physical toughness,  
  • Endurance, 
  • Teamwork as well as the ability to work and achieve results alone, unsupervised, (having both, despite popular belief, is not common) 
  • Risk management and the ability to accept risk, (something modern society is becoming less and less able to tolerate) 
  • Conflict resolution and tolerance for other ideas, 
  • Identification and management of your emotions, 
  • Clear and concise communication, as well as listening skills, 
  • Punctuality and time management, 
  • Motivation and purpose, 
  • Positivity and work ethic, 
  • Prioritisation and problem solving, 
  • The ability to self-evaluate yourself and your performance, 
  • Adaptability and dependability; and 
  • Interpersonal or people skills and empathy. 

The million-dollar question is how do we improve our soft skills? 

While it is easy to listen to a talk on leadership, it won’t instantly make you a good leader. Unlike hard skills that can be taught in a 40-minute lesson and cemented with practice over time; experience is the critical factor in soft skills. It is why there are thousands of highly educated yet poor leaders but also thousands of great leaders, communicators and problem solvers that have never taken a single class in it. Maybe their parents were good communicators or maybe they had a childhood sporting coach that was a great mentor. Most likely they have just learned through experience what works and what doesn’t, how to express their ideas and get the best out of people, perfecting these skills over time since they were young.  

Self-awareness is key with soft skills. Identify those you already possess to a high standard so they can go down on your resumé and help you win that next promotion. Equally as important, is recognising any areas that could do with improvement.  Identify the soft skill you are lacking and want to improve. Be conscious of when they are required. Research these skills and possible actions to improve them. Be aware and practice the skill then evaluate and collect feedback. 

Soft skills are transferable not just throughout your career but to everything you do. Improvement should be a steady and continuous cycle, one that never ends, as these vital skills assist us to live a life full of passion, meaning and unforgettable experiences.

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‘Getting Away With It’ – What it means to me.

I yesterday read the article by Mark Willacy and Josh Robertson titled “Inside the drinking culture of the SAS”.

Since the beginning of time when nomadic families came together to form tribes for their survival and prosperity, cultures have emerged, those behaviors, values and beliefs that a group accepts, generally without thinking about them.

Waxing lyrical as to ‘the broken, arrogant culture of the SAS, a culture of elitism where the rules did not apply’, the story depicts images of wild parties artfully pieced to song lyrics of James’s ‘Getting away with it’.

To suggest that a song sung in an army boozer was an anthem condoning murder is not only presumptuous but insulting to those who risked their lives on a daily basis.

Combat is a chaotic and complex environment, one that can easily take your life if you’re not on your game. When you work, live and lead in an environment outside your control it creates stress.

A beer and a song has more to do with relieving stress and surviving in the lethal chaos of war than breaking any rules.

Every time we flew into Afghanistan we didn’t know if we would be coming home again. Every time we went out the gate to face the enemy, we didn’t know if we would be back; if we would see our wives, children or families again. We were accepting that we might die for our country. The thing we were trying to ‘get away with’ was our lives.

An SAS culture did exist, a culture of excellence and it was necessary. So that we could face our enemy suppressing our fear. To do our job and survive, because in a combat zone, defeat can mean you or one of your mates is dead.

To me, these lyrics signify mateship, courage and sacrifice. It represents the mates I fought with and surviving in the messed up world where we lived.
And if you watch Afghanistan on the news today you will see it’s still messed up.

Were errors in judgment made, yes. However as humans, not one of us is without flaws and one of life’s greatest lessons is learning from your experience. And I will proudly play that song on ANZAC day and toast my mates who didn’t ‘get away with it’ for the rest of my life.

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Don’t Take the Bus…

I believe every person should have at least one life changing adventure/in filling life with adventures not stuff. Travel is so much more than bus tours, shopping malls and sun lounges by the 5 star pool. Travel is experience and adventure. It is learning and growth. It is opening your mind and exploring the unknown. When you book a package holiday you sign on to other people’s agenda. You travel when, where and how someone else decides. You invest your money, take time off work, organise someone to look after your pets, all just to give up the very thing you are seeking….freedom! If you can’t stop to take a photo when you see something amazing, you’re on the wrong trip.

Being outside your comfort zone is where you truly meet adventure. The true depth, vibrance and culture of a destination rarely presents itself on the well-worn tourist path. It is when you go where the locals go and do what the locals do you discover the true heart of your destination. Experiencing a meal with a family in a village, visiting a local industry, travelling to a remote area untouched by tourists…these are the moments you remember long after you finished your last cocktail at the resort bar. They are the things that change you, that challenge your perceptions and beliefs about life and just generally give you the reminder that life is so much more than the narrow constructs within which we live day to day. So next time you travel, take control of your adventure and make it authentic. Experience the things that interest you not those that someone else deems worthy. When it comes to travel, a little risk offers the greatest reward. When all is said and done life is nothing more than a series of moments and if you miss the moments you miss life.

What moments would you love to experience? From the mountains of Tasmania to the jungles of Cambodia and the deserts of Mongolia, at Point Assist we specialise in unique adventure travel and tailoring your trip just for you! Whatever you can dream, you can do. Contact us to find out how!

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International Travel 101

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

In the lead up to your overseas travel its easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and focus only on all the awesome things you are planning on seeing and doing. But a few well spent minutes of preparation can save hours of headaches and expense during or after your trip.

So before your next overseas adventure, follow our preparation checklist for hassle free travel:

  1. Register – register your travel and contact details online at smart.traveller.gov.au This is a free government service run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make it easier to contact you in the event of an emergency. You can also subscribe to receive free email notifications regarding any country updates for your destination.
  2. Cover – protect yourself by taking out a travel insurance policy that covers you for not only where you want to go but what you are planning on doing. The more adventurous the travel, the higher the risk of a potential incident so ensure you are covered not just for the standard medical expenses, theft, damage and interruption to flight plans but for all activities, pre-existing conditions and medical evacuations. Without insurance, you will be personally liable for any medical and associated costs incurred in the event of an emergency so this is not an area to overlook to save a few dollars. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you cant afford to travel.
  3. Research – know your destination. The entry and exit requirements, current events, health issues, customs, traditions and local laws…just because something is legal in one country doesn’t mean it is legal in another. Smart.traveller.gov.au and reputable guide books and travel websites are the best sources.
  4. Medical – check with your doctor or travel clinic to find out if any vaccinations or health checks are required for your destination. Remember to allow ample time before departure (4-6 weeks) as some vaccines require more than one dose or a longer period to take effect than others. If you are travelling with any medications you can find a full list of requirements at humanservices.gov.au
  5. Money – find out the local currency and the availability of ATM’s and Eftpos machines. If using credit or debit cards, check with your bank they will work in country and make sure to register your travel to avoid any potential card blocks. If accepted in country, travel cards can be a good option for avoiding international banking fees and charges.
  6. Communications – if you plan on using your phone and internet while overseas, contact your service provider to discuss global roaming options. Most will have flat fee top up plans to avoid hefty per use charges. If you plan on doing substantial in country communications a local SIM may be a better option.  Online apps such as Messenger and Viber are also great options to communicate with loved ones if you have internet access and want to avoid additional telecommunication costs.
  7. Safety – Always pack and secure your own bags and protect yourself against loss or theft by carrying minimal pieces of luggage. With multiple bags you become easy prey for bag snatchers and pickpockets. Carry or store your money, cards and passport in separate locations so if one is lost or stolen you maintain a secondary source of money and identification.

It’s easy to consider the planning phase overkill and cut corners but getting caught out unexpectedly is a situation no one wants to find themselves in. The better prepared you are the safer and more enjoyable your travel will be…. the best trips are the ones where all your preparation seemed unnecessary.

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Techniques to cultivate a positive success-oriented mindset

What does the term “success” mean to me? It’s about freedom, the continual accumulation of experience, and a constant improvement of my understanding of the real world. Success, to me, is not the mere accumulation of financial wealth or possessions, nor is it about power, popularity, or influence. In the end, I firmly believe that pursuing power and material possessions leads only to regret, while the quest for meaning, experience, wisdom, and connection leads to happiness and contentment. Life is just that simple.

Now that we’ve considered what success means to us, how do we live in pursuit of it to foster growth? One thing I know for sure is that to truly grow through real, authentic experiences, you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It may sound cliché, but it’s in those challenging spaces where we learn, develop core skills, and improve. As Bruce said in a famous quote, “Don’t pray for an easy life,” because an easy life won’t lead to a well-lived life.

Moreover, the New Year period can be a potential flashpoint for difficulties and obstacles that might make your goals seem unattainable. While you can’t always control when and where your resilience might be tested, you can have your mindset and core skills ready to assist you in overcoming the resistance you may face on your journey toward your objectives.

Knowing that preparing your mindset for success is a crucial step in achieving your goals and overcoming challenges, here are nine techniques to help you cultivate a positive and success-oriented mindset for the next time you feel that mission success is compromised:

  • Manageable, realistic goals. Clearly define your short-term and long-term goals. Knowing what you want to achieve gives your mind a specific target to focus on. Breaking the end state down into manageable, realistic tasks is the way to go. You may not be able to see your finish point from where you stand but you do need to be able to see your next checkpoint. So, break down your final goal into smaller, achievable measures.
  • Reconnect with why. Why is your goal important to you? There is nothing harder than negotiating an obstacle when you don’t really care for the destination. Your goals need to resonate with you. Focus on where you are going and why it is you want to be there. This is the driving force behind every step you take towards your goals and what will sustain you when the going gets tough.
  • Understand that life is better with continuous Learning. The importance of curiosity can’t be overstated. Adopt a mindset of continuous learning. With curiosity, the continued gathering of lived experience and reflection; will eventually come wisdom and real understanding. Remember that cultivating a success-oriented mindset is an ongoing process. Consistently practicing these techniques can help shape your thinking and set the stage for achieving your goals.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.  In a world that loves complexity, always be moving towards simplicity. As the book by Richard Carlson suggests, don’t sweat the small stuff. Slow down and consider what is important. If you face an issue today you will not remember next week, it’s not an issue. Prioritise problems, solve them one by one and keep moving forward.
  • Face time with good people. When things get hard, sometimes all you might need is a small amount of assistance or positive encouragement to keep you on the right axis. So choose your company wisely and surround yourself with supportive and positive people who inspire and motivate you. Building good networks and encouraging relationships is imperative. Know and get comfortable in asking for assistance in the face of adversity. Lastly, think of your network as your team. You can overthrow governments with a high-level team.
  • Concentrate on you and don’t compare yourself to others. Like you, your life and goals are unique. They are a complex outcome of experiences and influences. In a world where most people have an online profile portraying a life they want you to believe, it’s easy to feel like you don’t fit in or you are lacking. Everyone has challenges & setbacks. Stop comparing yourself to online profiles, celebrity personalities and photo shopped pictures. Repeat positive affirmations or self-talk to reinforce positive beliefs and counter negative thoughts. Keep it real. Focus on you, your unique strengths, talents, abilities and how you can utilise these to thrive and evolve for the better. Don’t let self-doubt deviate you from your path.
  • Not everything has to be perfect all the time. If my operational experience in high threat environments has taught me anything, it is this. It is simply not realistic to wait for everything to be 100% perfect every time. The pursuit of constant perfection often leads to procrastination, doubt and failure to execute. When you are trying to set the conditions in a situation for success, you need to remain flexible. As they say, “roll with the punches” and remain comfortable in chaos. Adaptability is important. Break tasks down into manageable pieces, test & adjust as you go. Don’t let fear of failure or your need to be perfect all the time stop you from achieving the end state.
  • Be grateful for hardship and setbacks. Cultivate gratitude by regularly reflecting on and appreciating the things you are grateful for. Even in bad situations there are positives. Embracing challenges as opportunities for experience and learning will set you up for success. Instead of fearing challenges, view them as opportunities for growth. Rather than dwelling on failures, view them as valuable learning experiences. Analyze what went wrong, make necessary adjustments, and use these lessons to improve your future actions. A positive mindset sees setbacks as temporary obstacles and believes in the power of perseverance.
  • Take care of yourself. Your physical and mental health is important. Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep. Physical and mental well-being play a crucial role in maintaining a positive mindset.

And remember when things go bad, as they absolutely will sometimes, start with breathing. Breathing is important for our mind. It gives us time to think and allows us to self-reflect and identify negative thought patterns, leading to the replacing them with positive ones.

Developing a positive mindset is a continuous process that requires consistent self-awareness. Be patient with yourself and remain committed to cultivating positivity in your thoughts and actions. You will achieve more and lead a happier more epic life.

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