The greatest myth pervading current intelligent thought is that women in Britain are now doing well; that they could not have it better. After all, they are getting more qualifications, more training, even more access to employment and, above all, getting the breaks in management. In fact, some say, political correctness has never had it so good, with women being the main beneficiaries. Aren't more men losing out now and complaining much more? Well, that's what those in power and the commercial gatekeepers would like us to believe, but the reality is quite another matter.
Women are doing dismally, and I am sure it is not just confined to the UK, any inroads made being extremely relative. They will continue to do badly until they have the two keys to change their lives: money and power. Women are very much still being fed with the crumbs of wishful thinking, being constantly flattered with the jewels of sharing those golden opportunities and being dangled with the eternal carrot of better things to come, with little chance of them ever materialising as men consolidate their position in other subtle ways.
That is why, many years down the line, there are still only 9.5% female directors on the FTSE 100 companies boards. In fact, 45% of boards have only 1 female member and 22% of companies still have no women board executives at all! Taken together, 72% of FTSE 100 companies in the UK have just one, or no, female directors on boards averaging 12 members each (down 1% from last year).
Undoubtedly, women are continually being discriminated against in the workplace. Though they are utilised in vast numbers at the lowest levels in organisations, they are not making the break into the decision-making areas which are still dominated by their male colleagues. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, UK, women managers are actually down to 11% from 12.5% in the last decade. That does not show women doing very well at all. In fact, it shows a significant decline in their fortunes after the initial flurry of activity. Again, 82% of all part-time workers in the UK are women (who earn 60% of the average male hourly full-time rate!), a personal preference that will guarantee their pay lags behind that of men for decades to come. And, as if that weren't bad enough, women in full-time work now earn an average of 85.4% of men's pay. For manual work, this average drops dramatically to 65%.
Sadly, and strangely, the most vociferous of people who think women still have to 'merit' their positions are actually top women who have managed to find openings for themselves. From the pinnacle of their success they arrogantly survey the masses of women beneath them and amazingly conclude that their unfortunate sisters are actually doing very well, indeed, and should shut up about the non-existent equal opportunities. For them, too many women being 'allowed' in presents both a threat to their position and a 'dilution' of the standards of the role.
Q. Hello Elaine, having lost my job recently, I would like to write full time but the first book I wrote has been out for a while and I have yet to be recognized for it. I see that you are a very good writer and motivator and I would just like to know how it would be for me, an almost nobody, to become somebody as a writer.
A. I cannot tell you how you can carve your own success in writing because each of us has a different writing style and content which readers either take to, or they don’t. However, the most important thing I can tell you is that, no matter how good you might be as a writer, you have already sealed your fate with the words ‘almost nobody’ to describe yourself. If you do not believe you are somebody of worth, no one can believe it either. I certainly wouldn’t read anything by someone who thinks he is ‘almost nobody’. What value would that be to me when we are all striving to be great in our own way?
Every single one of us is someone significant in our own right. We don’t need anyone else to validate us or to make us into ‘somebody’. The mere fact that we were born and survived the early years (when 25% of babies on average do not make it) suggests how special we are. Thus we do not need anyone else’s approval to be worthy. Being somebody begins from the mind. If you believe you are ‘almost nobody’, you send that negative vibe out and that’s what others pick up and treat you accordingly because you will ACT it too. No one can treat you like somebody when in your head you are not. We make our own value and then our actions align with that value, not the other way round.
So, you have to decide what you want to be first, start focusing on it and then your actions will cement it. You will start to live like it. If you want to be writer, start acting like a darn good writer. Not second best. After all, one cannot think like a criminal and be law abiding. Not possible. Quite simply, we become what we think. My current motto is “Fit, Fab, Over-50 and Ready to Fly”. I am giving a very powerful message about me with those words. And you know what, everyone I meet echoes them too in how they treat me. I also tell myself every day how gorgeous I am, how useful and wonderful my writing is and, surprise, surprise, the people I meet echo that too. So we clearly set the standard for the behaviour of others towards us.
Change of mindset
The email you wrote me shows you already have the writing skills, you just need to get on with it without fear. You seem full of fear just now, but fear merely paralyses, it does not develop anything. You have to lose that fear to succeed because the only thing we are sure of is this present moment. Nothing else is guaranteed. It’s all unknown.
Finally, don’t aim to be ‘somebody’ on any writers’ forum. Just aim to be uniquely you; to enjoy everything you do; to give your own perspective with relish, to improve your writing style and develop excellence over time through regular practice, while putting the focus on others instead of yourself; identify a subject and make it your own. I can promise you that, especially when you are not looking, success will simply wrap itself around you.
You might find my other website useful (Confidence Guide - especially the article: How do I love myself when I feel like crap!). If you have no website yet, I suggest that, as a start to boosting your audience, you get a simple one and promote the book you already have so that others know where to find it.
I trust these few words are of value. I wish you the very best in your writing career and hope you can find the courage to get on to the new life path that is now awaiting you. Only you can make it happen.
I have lost count of the number of people I meet or who write to tell me that they would love to write a book, but they can't seem to do it, somehow. How do I do it, they ask, because it seems to easy? I am often told how I obviously have the 'talent' for writing to be so prolific with it. In their eyes they either lack the talent, the time, the confidence, the knowledge, or whatever. You name it, they haven't got it, which keeps their book stuck firmly inside their heads never to see the light of day!
In fact, many people believe that having the 'talent' for a particular endeavour is all one needs to be successful. That is why if they do not achieve what they desire they are tempted to believe that is it because they are not as 'gifted' as the next person. Everyone else seems seems so much better.
But writing in the 19th century, 1859 to be precise, Samuel Smiles noted in his book, Self-Help, that, "It is not eminent talent that is required to ensure success in any pursuit, so much as purpose - not merely the power to achieve but the will to labour energetically and perseveringly." He goes on to cite examples that if Michelangelo had not been prepared to lay on his back on hard boards for many months painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome we would not have had such beauty to behold. Or if Johann Sebastian Bach weren't 'industrious', we would not be enjoying his works now. For Smiles, the self-made man, eldest of 11 children and arguably the first ever self-help writer, five essential elements go together if we wish to achieve: talent, purpose, willpower and LOTS of work and patience to bring our desires into being.
When one thinks about that suggestion carefully it can't be wrong. For example, I might have a natural gift as a writer, but that is only 20% of my success. I have been writing for years now and the more I write the more proficient I become, the more my skills improve and the more confident I am in saying what I want in precisely the way I want it. Having a definite aim and purpose for my writing, having the willpower to do at least one article each day and then having the determination to work at my craft as much as I can, with the patience to see it through, have turned my hard graft into a kind of 'genius'. It then appears as if all I have to do is to wave a magic wand and my 'natural talent' will show itself! In fact, one could say that patience and hard work are the two core requirements for any successful outcome because, combined, they are guaranteed to give some kind of result, even if it is not the one that was expected!
What prevents many people from writing their own books is the fear of getting started in the first place, the search for perfection in their actions, the lack of belief in themselves, the unwillingness to devote the hard work required and the patience to see it come to life. They get disheartened easily if things don't go as they imagine it, or they give up too quickly, which often prevents real success from materialising. I have been writing for over 25 years now. Looking back on my earlier articles I can see that I was definitely a good writer, but it is equally clear that I have improved vastly over that time. Having a definite purpose of being an excellent writer who appeals to the general public, and the willpower to see it through with lots of hard work, sometimes working all through the night when I have a creative idea, have borne much fruit since then.
If success is eluding you, which of those elements is missing in your life now? If you still haven't started that book, what is preventing you from doing so and if you have put off something your instinct has been telling you to do for ages, what is the main obstacle? Fear and achievement do not go together. Only talent, purpose, willpower, hard work and patience will deliver the success you seek in any sphere of your life. If you never ever test the water you will never know how nice it could be!
Our surnames or family names are often as individual as any birthmark or DNA imprint. Surnames, unlike other names, are essential hand-me-downs of the male lineage, in each case to deliberately identify, delineate and label (as distinct from everyone else), as well as to perpetuate and celebrate a particular tradition, tribe or clan. Family names spell security, consistency, a sense of ownership, level of importance and a strong sense of history. Now it seems that some also spell automatic success.
By themselves surnames do a very good job of sorting people in an unbiased way. But that was until the alphabet took over. The alphabetical use of family names is supposed to offer the ultimate in equal treatment; the fairest and most indifferent form of grouping people into manageable structured units. The twenty-six letters available offer ample room to manoeuvre. However, the alphabet has covertly assumed so much power it has become the final arbiter in our future, allowing no appeal, while it creates an elite which is subconsciously rising to the fore, resulting in the most unequal method of selection in all spheres of our lives.
Ken Adey, noted that one teacher (a Mrs Warner) felt she was being discriminated because of her gender whenever she applied for a head of department's post. But after careful research in the UK in 1986, he concluded that her lack of success owed more to her surname, the first letter of it, in fact. He had observed 89 candidates for 26 teaching posts and, though all the posts were filled, only 5 candidates were appointed from the bottom half of the alphabet!
Controlled by the Alphabet
We deal with the alphabet so much, it has become an automatic process, buried deep within our subconscious. With each new selection for a person or thing, we mentally stop at A and anything after that assumes less and less importance. Thus, in any interview situation, one of the most important occasions in our lives, it seems we are often not selected on what we have to offer, but on whether we can better the first one or two rivals ahead of us, placed there purely by an arbitrary alphabetical system.
It can be of no surprise then that people with surnames in the top third of the alphabet (A-H) have got it made. First in the queue for everything, they remain right at the forefront forever. This conscious awareness of automatically being first, propels them forward subconsciously, to maintain this position at all costs, especially in their occupations.
The evidence is all around us. The most successful people in government (Bush, Blair, Brown, Carter, Clinton, Cameron?), education, business, the arts, training and the media are from a privileged elite who claim first access to everything by virtue of that magical letter which begins their surname. In fact, 8 of the top 10 richest people in the world, in 2011, have names in the top half of the alphabet! Despite the overall popularity of the letters R, S and T, they seem to pale into insignificance behind A, B or C. Yet the only noticeable difference is the gap of 18-20 letters which separate them; a gap which precipitates a mental readjustment that appears to create 18-20 more negative aspects for those unfortunates lower down the order.
There are three key elements in any form of SUCCESS: recognition of your talent and contribution, respect for it and finally the reward to go with it. Reward matters greatly because we need something to reflect our presence, to indicate where we are on the cycle of personal development and to reinforce our worth. Hence the need for public acclaim through print, radio or television and the proliferation of so many blogs. Everyone wants to be heard. The competitive nature of society confirms and promotes this need to be somebody, especially in entertainment, business and sports.
To be rewarded for something we have done is the icing on the cake. Reward does not have to be in financial terms. In fact, praise from a parent or friend, any promotion, a 'thank you' letter from a patient showing signs of recovery, from a student completing an exam satisfactorily or the act of being recommended to someone else, are all forms of reward. This illustrates why unemployed people, especially those made redundant, are temporarily disorientated and demoralised.
Being unsure about their position in life in relation to others, and without a work 'handle', they readily believe their skills are worthless. They also lose out on vital recognition, even though the respect for past achievements may still be there, but there is often little reward forthcoming from any source. At such times, many people fail to remember that a temporary loss of status through unemployment does not mean a permanent loss of talent or competence. Instead, it should be a time of review, retraining and redirection in order to claim a sufficient share of the essential elements of success.
Being famous or wealthy are extremes of success as not everyone can be well known or filthy rich. Yet many people mistakenly define success purely in terms of money. If you are still unhappy after making your millions, you are not really successful. Despite the fact that some people earn a salary and drive an expensive company car (rewards), some are still unhappy in their jobs. Such unfulfilled people lack the other essential elements (continuous recognition and genuine respect) for the part they play in the overall success, reputation and smooth running of the organisation.
Teachers tend to be particularly bad in this area. They have few rewards (either through salary or promotion) unless they are very senior; they get little recognition (unless the school has a good 'reputation') and the fruits of their actions are not immediately apparent until the results of exams are known. With the continuing debate on underachievement and indiscipline with certain sectors of society, teachers are always in the spotlight, ready scapegoats for failed education policies and deviant student behaviour.
You're young, keen and 21. You may have just left training college or university. You feel you could rule the world and you have the answers to all the unasked questions. On top of that, you have an interview coming up soon, a permanent job on the horizon offering good pay, good perks and pretty good prospects. All that money and security, what more could anyone want as a starter?
It is 15, maybe 20 years later and, yes, you did get that wonderful job which you had to accept, along with everything else that you found went with it: the perks, the pitfalls and the pension. You may be one of the lucky few who made it to the top and are reviewing your achievement and options from a great height, and with few regrets. Fantastic. More likely, you are staring at a blank wall in front of you, doodling vacantly on an equally blank page, bored stiff with the type of work you're doing which has long passed its done-by date, ruefully reminiscing on where it all went wrong.
What have you achieved, during that time, you wonder? Nothing much, is the plaintive cry. Wistfully, you dream of missed opportunities long since gone; of things you might have done with your life, could have done and definitely won't get done before you retire. At least you still have your dreams and your pension.
If only you had done this, or that, life would be so much better. But words are cheap and easy; just about the only things that are, these days, while actions are much harder. And time is flying by, much too fast for you to notice. As you already know, it's a very costly job you've got, not least for your ambitions and sense of achievement. However, there is one crumb of comfort left: you are not unique.
A job for life may offer security, good conditions, a pension and career development, to some extent, but you could pay a hefty price for it in the form of a loss of personal creativity and development, freedom of thought, individual choice and personal initiative. Any job which lasts longer than 7 years without diverging or changing is bad for both employer and worker. That is why some of the unhappiest workers are in permanents jobs, especially in the public services. Fear of unemployment and not being able to pay the relentless bills keep them stuck in a groove of demotivation which robs them of their sense of worth and their confidence. It can even make them physically ill - as shown by the high absentee rate for many organisations. This is not so surprising when one considers the deleterious effects of a lack of change and challenge.
Human beings need to be creative and to constantly strive for excellence if they are to attain personal fulfilment. That's how we grow and extend ourselves. Yet true creativity and job satisfaction are inversely related to any permanent post. The longer we are in situ, the less creative we are, the more we hang on to the traditional 'tried and tested' ways of doing things and the more dissatisfied and inward looking we become. The opportunities for personal growth gradually decrease as we learn the job and stay put, no longer intellectually or creatively challenged, but deathly afraid to do anything else in case we are found wanting. In fact the longer we are in any post the less worthy we believe we are of getting another job, which is rather strange considering our increased knowledge and experience.
New Initiatives and Enthusiasm
Old unchanging habits also lead to entrenched stereotypes, an unhealthy emphasis on tradition for its own sake (in place of what is right and just), narrow self-reflection, reaction instead of proaction and a reluctance to allow for other points of view. Invariably, it is always difficult for an employee to give of his/her best if there is no regular incentive. Everything attached to a permanent job, apart from bonuses, is already decided. Only an intrinsic sense of pride in the work brings its own rewards. For many people, that soon proves inadequate, though none of this happens overnight. It is a stealthy process which creeps up on us long before we are even aware of it.
All four sites have their own advantages and disadvantages, but let's look at each of them in turn.
Associated Content is a very good site, it seems to attract a lot of people and the actual visual impact is appealing. However, I dislike it at present because it operates an unequal policy with its writers. All articles from American writers are bought for a decent rate each. However, all international writers are exploited by simply getting paid per thousand views because of some spurious and unexplained reason as to why their articles can't be bought. It means this dual, exploitative policy might benefit and reward the efforts of American writers but it does little to truly recognise and respect the efforts of international ones. That is not a good message to be giving your writers. If Helium and Newsvine can pay all writers equally, AC can do the same. So though I have a few articles on there, I have stopped adding any more to them until they change the policy.
Triond is better in that it pays a decent rate per number of viewers and is very professional. But I think it's unrealistic demand for original articles only, when it is not paying exclusive rates, is robbing it of articles it might get from writers. That is a pity because I like it very much, but would not be particularly keen to give it my articles first when there are better payments for original articles elsewhere.
Newsvine is my BEST site because it is the only one with a real feel of community to it. Perhaps because there are comments attached to each article, one gets to know the people visiting one's column to develop a rapport. It puts emphasis on voting articles upwards though that can be open to abuse. One's groups can easily vote up an article whether it deserves it or not. I also believe that not enough variety is exposed on Newsvine so one tends to get more of the same articles daily and politics seem to guarantee front page coverage. For me the comments actually make the site, and as comments show interest and generate traffic they should be given greater weight. The worst aspect is the money. One has to work so hard for very little each month, so it is not for anyone trying to make a quick buck! However, the interaction with others make up for that aspect greatly. One of the best sites on the Internet in a class of its own.
Helium looks, on the face of it, like a very good website for writers. I joined it in 2007 when it was just coming into being and struggling to make its name. I remember earning 2 cents in all of February and thought: Right, if I cannot get payment until I reach $25 dollars, 2010 here I come for my first payment! I was rather cynical about progress. But by March it was $1.87 and May saw it reach $10 for the month. It seems that the potential for a serious writer is very good, especially when one can sell one's articles to countless ezines and enter weekly contests to boost one's earnings. A good writer can earn thousands of dollars in a year.
The site has improved dramatically since its inception and its star system for boosting good writing is certainly a great idea which adds to the motivation. I am not sure about its rating system, as that can be open to bias and, with not enough people rating pieces, an article can hang around at the same position for ages. More important, if you are a prolific writer, BEWARE. You will find that you cannot remove your articles from Helium once you write them on there. This means simply that, if you fall out with the administrators and are blocked for any reason, they continue to earn from your articles in perpetuity without you getting a cent! That is a pretty exploitative and dishonest way to treat writers.
My favourite writers' website is Newsvine fr a variety of reasons. But with hundreds of thousands of writers on it, one has to be very good to get any exposure. payment is also low but steady. Nevertheless, all four writers' websites have certainly improved the presence of writers on the Internet. They have spread my name and reputation far wider than I could have imagined, and have raised the enjoyment and motivation levels rather high. That's the least one expect from a good writing site.
My friend sent me this little story by email and I thought I had to share it with you, because it really shows, perfectly, why many people who should be extremely successful only achieve part of their dreams or none at all.....
A learned scientist, after a lot of practice and effort, developed a formula of reproducing himself. He did it so perfectly that it was impossible to tell the reproduction from the original.
One day while doing his research, he realized that Death was searching for him. In order to remain immortal he reproduced a dozen copies of himself. The reproduction was so meticulous that no one could tell the difference between him and them. When Death came down, he was at a loss to know which of the thirteen people before him was the original scientist, and, confused, he left them all alone and returned to his domain.
But, not for long though. Being an expert in human nature, Death came up with a clever idea. Addressing all thirteen scientists, he said, "Sir, you must be a genius to have succeeded in making such perfect reproductions of yourself. However, I have discovered a flaw in your work, just one tiny little flaw."
The scientist immediately jumped out and shouted, "Impossible! There can be no flaw. Where is the flaw?"
"Right here," said Death, as he picked up the scientist from among the reproductions and carried him off.
The scientist lost his experiments and his life because he could not control his ego and his pride.
We tend to allow ourselves to be ruled by our ego and puffed up pride in the bid to make everything perfect. The moral of this little tale is to let that EGO go. Don't hang on to it to the detriment of the more important things in your life. Stop the search for perfection today. Be satisfied with gradual excellence, rather than trying to erase every perceived flaw in a futile way. It is not possible. It merely robs you of resources, time, and greater achievements.
Worst still, it leaves you always feeling inadequate.