Make Mandela Day Mindful

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It’s almost that time of the year when we don our selfless hats and look to making someone else’s day magical.

 

Mandela Day is on the 18th of July and everyone is thinking about what they can do for their 67 minutes.  If you’re stuck, we have a few awesome suggestions for you.

 

VOLUNTEER

There are so many organisations and NPO’s who would love for you and even your entire family or office to come out and help them.  They all will be focused on giving of their time, their money, their products and services, in order to engage and lighten someone’s life.  Simply google your local community and get out there.  It really can be that simple.

 

DONATE

This is a great time to go through your own things and see what is worthy of passing on.  What may not seem useful to you anymore could be a life saver to the next person.  Sort through your own clothes, that of your kids and ask neighbours too.  Have your kids outgrown their toys?  Do you have too many Tupperware bowls?  Has that couch seen its day?  Do you have a spare toaster or kettle?  Or maybe your office needs a new printer?  Think about it and start gathering.

 

PAY IT FORWARD

We very often receive a gift that we either just don’t like or we have no use for.  Keep them to one side and get them over to the nearest old age home or children’s home.

 

GIVE OF YOUR TIME

This can be interpreted in so many ways.  You don’t have to give money. You don’t have to give items.  You could just spend some time with someone that would appreciate it.  The aged are often left alone and don’t receive many visitors.  They often cannot read anymore and would love someone to read to them.  Maybe they wish to send a letter to a family member, go sit with them and write it out for them.  Or, just sit and listen.  You might just learn something new too.

 

DO YOU HAVE THEM SKILLS?

Why not use that special skill set you have to help?  If you’re good with wood, either get making something new or revamping something old.  Love painting?  Consider decorating a community hall or day care centre.  Financial advice? Creative writing? Sing?  Put on a play?  Knit?  Sew?  The options are endless.  Just think about what you can do and do it for someone.  A little really does go a long way.

 

FOOD FRENZY

There is nothing more satisfying that a home cooked meal.  Those that are in need often don’t even get one meal a day.  Cook up a batch of macaroni cheese, your best tomato soup, your granny’s recipe for curry or whatever you are able to muster up, and deliver it to needy neighbours, the local community, the nearest children’s home or school, or wherever they are short of meals.

 

KILL THEM WITH KINDESS

Nothing is too much.  And, 67 minutes is literally a fraction of your day.  Make the most of it and know that besides making you feel like a million dollars, you will make someone else feel like a billion.

 

 

Happy Mandela Day!

Save to Succeed

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July is National Savings Month and while we should always be putting some of our hard earned cash away each month, it is good to be reminded as to why we should be saving.

Saving money is a tough call for most of us.  We understand why we should do it.  We even know that it is a wise move.  But, when push comes to shove and the debt overshadows all reason, we end up not saving anything at all.

All signs point to the fact that should you get into the habit of saving on a regular basis, you will grow other areas of your life too.

Let’s explore that and touch on how saving can help you succeed.

 

  1. Focus in on a savings goal

If you are just putting money away for the sake of saving but with no other specific goal in mind, then you are more than likely going to stop the savings at some point.

Decide what you want to save for and keep reminding yourself of that goal every time you put away that money.

 

  1. Have a forced but flexible savings portal

People tend to put too much pressure on themselves by taking on a savings investment that supersedes their capacity to contribute.  Be realistic about what you can afford (10% of income is always a good marker) and find a vehicle that is flexible.

For example, there is a savings policy that is built for tax saving reasons whereby you don’t accrue tax on the interest accrued.

Speak to your Financial Adviser about the best options for you.

 

  1. Find the vehicle with the best interest rates

This will take some time and you may want to call on the help of an investment guru.  If you are going to put your money away, you may as well gain the best interest you can.

 

  1. Decide what risk factor you fit into

Dependent on your goal and timeframe, where you invest (as in the funds you choose) need to match your risk aversion. Are you an aggressive investor or a passive?  Again, your investment expert will guide you here. You don’t want to be stressing over falling rates if you are not an aggressive investor.

 

  1. Savings can free you from worry

Yes, that proverbial slush fund can be used for a rainy day.  And when it rains it normally pours, so it is wonderful and stress-relieving to know you have an avenue for those types of days and moments.

 

  1. Becoming financially independent is exhilarating

It may take a while but your goal with saving is to get to the point of being financially independent.  Being financially independent means different things to different people. So, decide what that looks like and keep the goal in mind always.

 

  1. Savings doesn’t only mean putting money away

You can save on everyday spending as well.  Think about shopping coupons.  Think about loyalty programs.  Think about online shopping.  It is a known fact that shopping online for food, clothing, shoes, house items, toiletries, etc, can save you up to 20%.  The reason is we tend to buy exactly what we need when online as opposed to the risk of window shopping temptations.

 

Saving, whilst a swear word for some, can lead to success on so many fronts.  Start small and work your way up to financial freedom.

 

 

 

 

Business Lessons taken from Fatherhood

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Being a father may seem to have absolutely nothing to do with running a business.  But we feel there is in fact, a direct commonality.

As a father you are essentially a leader and leaders learn hard lessons as they gather their troupes and forge forward into battle.  Okay, we are being a little bit dramatic, but taking one’s team into a sales call and marching your band of kids to a birthday party do teeter on the same precarious wall.

One needs to have your foot on the peddle at all times, in both situations.  Should anyone step out of line, you have to drag them back to reality, smoothing over the ruffled surface.  If a harsh word is uttered, you would have to step in and make nice, before one of the opposing team members should get upset.

So, let’s see exactly what other business lessons can be taken from fatherhood.

  1. Discipline

While your staff may not like to see it that way, you as the leader and boss have to discipline them when they step out of line.  Sure, you may not be whipping out your belt on an unsuspecting behind (oh, right, wait, we don’t do that sort of disciplining anymore) Okay, you may not be taking away their TV privileges, but you certainly will be taking away other niceties, like bonuses, days off and hours of tea breaks.  Both staff and kids need to know just who is in control, but that you are still a fair person in the end.

  1. Patience

Everyone develops and learns at their own pace, and when it comes to teaching others, whether they be adults or kids, one has to have patience.  Patience truly is a virtue, and you have to have patience with yourself as you learn to have patience.  There will be times when you will snap (generally not a pretty sight) and you will have to apologise for that outburst, but as time goes by, you will learn to rein it all in, take a deep breath or two, and wait it out.

  1. Humour

This may seem like an odd lesson to learn.  But, learning to have a sense of humour, especially in times of crisis, can come in handy.  It can calm you down, bring your heart rate to a normal level, and just help you look at a possibly traumatic, if not devastating situation, in a more rose-tinted manner.

  1. Empathy

Many confuse empathy with sympathy.  One needs to be very aware of the difference, in business and as a father.  Understanding someone else’s plight and misfortune is one thing, feeling for them as if you were in the same situation is quite another.  It is not to say that you cannot feel for someone’s issues, but in order to respond and advise on the matter accordingly, one has to have a degree of empathy.  On one side you don’t want to come across as uncaring, and on the other side, you don’t want to be seen as too involved.  Yes, with children, especially your own, it is hard not to get emotionally connected, but as it is with your staff, taking a step back from the mayhem and calmly assessing, is always a good standpoint to be.

 

As we celebrate fathers and the many men who have raised children in this world, we hope to learn the many lessons that come from leading the leaders of the future.

7 Skills you have learnt from your Mother

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In lieu of Mother’s Day, we thought we would honour the women that have raised us.  Whether they be your real blood mothers or a guardian, we are who we are because of them.

As an entrepreneur, what skills and lessons have you learnt that have stood by you through thick and thin?

We collated a few that we just know you will remember and can relate to.

  1. Be Humble

No one likes a boaster. No one likes a bully.  Our mothers reminded us of that often.  To approach a situation or a person with a certain level of humbleness would always go a long way.

  1. Focus on one thing at a time

We are prone to often dabble in too many things at once but there is merit in focusing in on just one at a time.  When you try to juggle many balls, you invariably end up dropping a few.  Focus!

  1. Give

Generosity is key to building relationships and when mother told you to be kind and nice, she wasn’t trying to spoil your fun.  Helping others and giving of yourself, no matter whether it be your time or your money, will always come back to bite you (in a nice way though).

  1. Try and Try again

Get up and try again!  Remember those words?  Never give up.  Always try everything once before you decide you don’t like it.  From those odd-looking veggies on your plate to that sports day race, mothers have for decades encouraged us to try and try again.

  1. Try to work it out

Tied in with no giving up, mothers always showed us that where there was a will, there was a way.  ‘n boer maak ‘n plan – yes, that has been said many a time.  Problem solvers are a huge hit in the business world, and always finding a way to get around an issue is a great skill to have.

  1. Negotiate

Some kids just learnt this on their own, and if the little critters nowadays are anything to go by, they are excellent negotiators.  If it was father that had to make a decision on that new bike you wanted, or whether you could sleep out or not, mother would give you a tip or two on how to negotiate with dad.  Being able to talk your way into and out of something without any foul play is a great tool as an entrepreneur.

  1. Independence

Many mothers lingered before they untied the apron strings, but at some point, the chicken has to let her little chicks go.  The parents that hold on too long end up with kids that struggle to transition into the adult world. By encouraging you to walk into school by yourself, pay for your sweets at the counter alone, and fall asleep without the light on, you would have learnt independence.

 

There are many more lessons and skills that mother would have taught you if you just think about it a bit.

Can you think of a few?  Let us know and share.

 

Why you need to focus on your Soft Skills

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You’re the best in your industry.  Your particular skill level is up there with the big guns. And, it shows in your pay check. Well done!

But something that doesn’t show is how terrible you are with other people.  You may be the Rockefeller of your specific niche but you’re also the Trump of relationships.

There is something to be said for those who are able to get on with others and still produce quality and professional work.  Surely that is what one is expected to do, right? But, we are sure you have come across that one person that, while you can see how good they are at what they do, is a total idiot when it comes to liaising with his fellow colleagues and clients.

This skill set, in dealing with people, falls under the Soft Skills banner.  But, soft skills are certainly not only limited to how you work with others.

What are Soft Skills exactly?

Soft skills are not as tangible as hard skills and they are super difficult to measure.  Soft skills cover a myriad of areas, for example, your leadership skills, the way you communicate with others via various media, and the way you are able to work out a problem, that analytical forward-thinking mode.

Enhancing your soft skills is paramount to taking that further step towards a career enhancement, a way to increase your client numbers and certainly will benefit you on a holistic plain too.

 

So, what are the Soft Skills you should be honing in on?

Some of us are born with great soft skills, others have to work at them. And, that’s fine.  Knowing where your weaknesses lie in terms of your soft skills, is the first step to improving them.

  1. Communication Skills

Hot on the top of the list sits communication.  We do it every day, connecting and engaging with others, but are we doing it well?  From expressing yourself clearly when talking to others, to sending emails out that really connect and encourage the reader to sit up and listen.  In addition, communication doesn’t only encompass talking and writing emails or messages, it is also about how well you listen to others, and further how well you take that information and use it effectively.

How can you improve?

Ask others, whom you trust, to give you tips on your communication skills.  Join networks where you are encouraged to speak often and according to a format.  BNI is, of course, the perfect platform for this.  In addition, the likes of Toastmasters, also an international organisation, is where you will learn how to speak on all levels.

 

  1. Problem Solving Skills

A problem will always come up.  Many often throw up their hands and declare that it’s impossible.  What the world wants are those who don’t look for the problems but rather the solutions. Thinking out of the box is a term often bantered about.  It requires someone to really look at a situation from all the angles and to believe that there is a solution.

How can you improve?

Many find this easy but generally it requires a few hours of intense forward-thinking behaviour.  Look back at similar examples, speak to colleagues and even clients.  Somewhere, someone had a solution for the type of problem you are facing.

 

  1. Leadership Skills

You may not think that you require leadership skills in your particular field or job.  But somewhere there will always come a time when you are required to show your expertise and that means you have to act like and literally be a leader.  Developing these skills is an ongoing exercise and you will find you will learn something new every day.

How can you improve?

Read – Read – Read!  There are so many books written on the subject. And, there are many courses you can take in order to develop this soft skill.

 

  1. Time Management Skills

Aaah, the nemesis for most.  Managing time is, for some, like getting that boiled egg just right.  It’s an elusive skill that we know is important but just slips through our fingers all the time.  Time Management covers your ability to be on time, work according to a schedule, plan projects, keep to a time limit, and generally manage your entire day and life.  Simple, right?  Not so much.

How can you improve?

Take baby steps here.  We are not all cut out to manage time efficiently.  From setting your alarm in the morning to planning your diary, it all requires taking a few steps at a time.  You can take up a time management course, you can read a few books, or better yet, you can ask for help and employ an assistant.  Whichever way you go for, you will greatly improve your ability to manage time better.

 

  1. Versatility

Back in college, there was an exercise whereby we had to pretend to be someone else in the room. They in turn, had to pretend to be the other person.  The exercise not only highlighted oddities in personality and even bodily movement but made us realise that some people were better impersonators than others.  In life, in work, in play, we need to be versatile and adapt to our surroundings and to the people we are surrounded by.  Dependent on the situation, you may need to come down a few levels or you may need to take a huge step up, in order to relate to the other person or the new environment.

How can you improve?

Constantly putting yourself into situations that are out of your comfort zone is a good habit to get into.  Listen to others, how they speak and what they say.  Work out why they said that and why they do what they do.  Empathy is a great trait to learn and it can be learnt.  Feeling for others without be sympathetic is a way to relate and in relating you will learn how to be versatile.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

No one expects you to be the perfect all-rounder.  You may look at others and think that they fit that bill pretty closely but more often than not, they have really worked hard to get there.

And, so can you.  Just take each soft skill and work on them little by little.  Growing your hard skills is good for you just as much as improving those soft skills are.

 

Life-long Learning: 5 Ways to Realise & Develop your Natural Abilities

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Life-long learning does not have to mean you are constantly studying, taking on courses, and writing exams for diplomas, degrees, and the likes.  Life-long learning can be approached in a holistic manner.  By allowing our minds to be open to new options, new ideas, and new ways of doing things, we can be learning all the time.

For some, learning new things is tough, and the best way to get into the mode of learning, is to follow and develop your natural abilities.

We are all born with unique strengths and weaknesses.  We all have something we are good at, although many don’t realise it till later in life, and most don’t tap into their natural abilities at all.

Finding what is your perfect match can be a life-long journey in itself, but what a thrilling and exciting process!

Have you ever decided that today was the day to sign up for a course?  Today would be the day you start a new learning practice.  You are inspired and you get stuck in.  By day 3 you are bored and eyeing out the pool, which looks like a much better activity.

It is a scenario many go through, and it is because they have chosen a learning curriculum that doesn’t suit their natural abilities.  They are beating against a brick wall, they are trying to fit their square into a round hole, and they are feeling uncomfortable about it.

Sound like you?

 

Well, then take our 5 steps to, firstly, realising what your natural abilities are, and then finally developing what you are uniquely good at.

What are your Natural Abilities?

First ask yourself these questions in order to ascertain what your skill set is:

  1. Where am I the most comfortable?

Think of scenarios and situations where you have felt quite at home.  Maybe it was sitting having a conversation with a fellow colleague or friend. (you may be a good listener). Perhaps you were thrashing it out with a group of people coming up with a great plan of action.  (you may be a good team player, and ideas person) Or, you may feel your most comfortable quietly sitting at your desk, working out a problem, making lists, and creating something. (you may be a true creative)

 

  1. What part of a project don’t you like?

Knowing what you don’t like, is also a good way to realising what you do like.

Most projects have a defined process, so look at the steps here and decide which part you wouldn’t want to be involved with-

  1. Idea Phase
  2. Planning Phase
  3. Collation Phase
  4. Work Phase
  5. Executing Phase
  6. Reporting Phase

 

How can you develop your Natural Abilities?

 

Now that you know or have a very good idea of what your natural abilities are, you can look to honing and developing said abilities.

  1. Practice makes perfect

There is no doubt that by repeating something, you will become good at it.  Again, if it isn’t part of your natural ability scope, it will take longer.  So, by repeating a skill set that you know you are good at, will, not only, be a pleasure, but also come easier to you.

When you are searching through courses to sign up for, make sure the course speaks to your natural ability and skill set.  This way, you will not waste your valuable time and money.

 

  1. Keep checking that you are engaged and you find purpose within

You may start off very excited to develop this skill you have, but if you find, at any time, that you are drifting off continuously, or lose interest quickly, then you either haven’t found your skill set, or the mode you are using to hone that skill, isn’t the correct one.

Depending on when you are practicing, you need to look at the environment in which you are, the mood you are in, and whether you are tired or not.  These aspects can affect your ability to focus on the task at hand, no matter whether it’s a natural ability or not.

Ensure that you find some purpose in the exercise.  There are many courses and studies out there that are not very good.  They shimmy around the actual point, and you end up feeling frustrated and exhausted.  Choosing a good education institute or even the right person to grow your ability, is vital to success.

 

  1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

This is life-long learning, so don’t rush into it.  Take small chunks and you will learn so much quicker and retain it better.  It should also be enjoyable.  You should get a feeling of accomplishment and achievement once you are done.  If you land up feeling depleted and brain-dead, then it was too much.

Consider, just signing up for one course at a time, and check that the course material suits you and your timetable.

 

Good luck and happy life-long learning!

 

Leadership – The Inclusive Leader is Born

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Leadership means different things to different people.  It does have a lot to do with what age you are and how you were raised.  But today leadership has evolved into a magnificent animal, which can be the main driving force behind a successful team.  It can also be the downfall.  While some say you have to choose the type of leader you want to be according to your personality and strengths, we say a leader should always have certain traits, no matter the type of person holding the role.

According to business studies, there are 6 main types of leaders:

Coercive
Authoritive
Affiliative
Democratic
Coaching
Pacesetting

We will not go into those types specifically, but rather pull the best parts of them to mould the perfect leader.

Let us add one other to the mix … the Inclusive Leader.

Inclusive leaders are on the up and up and they encompass all the positive strengths from all the types of leaders out there.

What can we learn from an Inclusive Leader?

As the name says, Inclusive Leaders believe that their team needs to be anchored with inclusion and diversity.  They take their personal values into account and they merge them with the team’s strategy as a whole.

Inclusive leaders are very much aware of their biases and strive to see passed them, should they not be for the greater good of the team.

The company culture is very important to an inclusive leader and therefore he needs to believe in it 100%.  He will take the time to help his team understand the culture, why the company does what it does and why they too should do what they do.

Seemingly small matters will be handled by an inclusive leader as if they were big.  From how they treat staff to how they treat clients, the inclusive leader is very much aware that even the smallest gripes, concerns and issues can blow up into something bigger.  They nip these in the bud quickly and deal with them like a true professional.  Everyone and everything is treated equally well.

Inclusive leaders know their strengths and weakness, and work at improving all the time.  Where they are not good at something, they delegate.  Where they are brilliant, they coach others to follow suit.  With all this, their aim is to benefit the team, always.

This leader knows that everyone is different and in knowing this, they see those differences as where the brilliance lies.  He or she will exploit people, but only for the good of the team and the company.

 

Are you an Inclusive Leader?

 

 

How to be human and then some …

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With Human Rights Day coming up this month (21 March), we thought we would throw out some ideas on how you can be a bit more human.

 

We are being a little tongue-in-cheek, we admit, but we do forget sometimes.  We forget not only that we are human, but that others are too.  We forget how to treat others.  So, a little reminding is always in order.

 

Human Rights Day came about in 1994 after Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as President.  We are reminded on this day, of the tragic massacre in Sharpeville, where a crowd gathered to protest against the Africans having to carry a pass book and produce said pass book on request.

 

Human Rights Day is all about allowing humans to be an individual, to not have to prove that they are what they are, to move around freely and to be able to live a life with dignity.

 

So, how can we assist in helping others live their lives without having to worry about what others say, think and do?

 

It is a tough call but if we keep it simple the world will surely be a better place to live in.

 

Wikihow.com goes into slightly too much weird detail on how to be human.  Have a read – it’s a real laugh.  We won’t be so obvious about it though.  We want to rather focus on the other person and not ourselves for this particular exercise.

 

Treat others as you would like to be treated

It is cliché, we know.  But, it is the one thing that makes absolute sense.  Unless you are into some odd ritualistic lifestyle where you enjoy being treated like rubbish, you do want to be handled in a kind and generous manner.

Before you speak, repeat whatever you are about to say to yourself in your head.  Does it sound kind?  Does it sound helpful?  Would you want to be spoken to in that way?

 

Be yourself

Unless you are not a nice person and don’t even realise it.  Then, we are a little stuck on helping you out here.  A study completed following the Loebner Prize competition in 2009 showed that in order to recognise whether certain text was either written by humans or by a computer, one had to see the personal quirkiness in it.  Being yourself you may think is an easy feat.  After all, who better to fulfil the role of being yourself, than yourself?  Well, yes and no.  The study showed that because of the age of machinery, the age of perfection and the age of instant gratification, we end up trying to be someone else.

 

Get Face to Face

Ditch the email.  Ditch the WhatsApp.  Ditch the voice message.  Get face to face with someone.  There is a time and place for technology, no doubt.  But, actually having a one to one with someone and hearing and watching the words leave their mouth, is priceless.

 

Build Relationships

There is something to be said for a quality and strong relationship.  With all the divorces, friend breakups, company splits and liquidations going on, we lose sight of the value of relationships.

We are not an island; therefore, we should not be going it alone.

 

When it comes to business, building firm and fast relationships will prove their weight in gold down the line.  Actually, getting to know someone without all the pomp and grace will mean something in the end.

 

“People will forget what you said

People will forget what you did

But, people will never forget how you made them feel”

 

Maya Angelou – American Author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, and a civil rights activist

Think of your Accomplishments Differently

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Most people view an accomplishment as either a degree or a great hike up a great mountain, but few realise that an accomplishment means something different to different people.

 

Learning to think about your accomplishments differently will help you gain confidence and influence your future more productively.

 

In the process of an interview, a question like, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” can set anyone stuttering and stumbling over their words.  Interviewers class this type of question as a ‘behavioural interview question’ and most times is asked to get a better insight into someone’s psyche.  It’s a hot-button question.  Do they like talking about themselves?  Are they confident in what they have achieved so far?  What do they view success as?

 

The first and very important thing to remember whenever you are asked that question or something similar, is that your confidence in yourself must shine through, no matter the answer.

 

Your levels of accomplishment are very different to someone else’s.  The only common denominator would be how you view and express those accomplishments.

 

If you sit there, shyly look away and mumble out what you have achieved, even if it was qualifying as a Certificate CA, the person listening will most likely feel like you haven’t achieved much.

 

Delivery is everything.

 

The type of delivery you give can also be seen through the words you write and not only those that you speak.

 

From your online profile to the 30 second elevator speech you give at the next network meeting, your delivery needs to speak volumes.

 

Here are a few tips on how you can start thinking about your accomplishments differently and start making people aware:

 

Make the List

No matter how small or big you consider the achievement to be, write it down.  It could be that you managed to conceive a child to passing your drivers.  It could be clocking the 100th referral receipt at your network to hitting the R1 million mark in your investment.  They are all accomplishments. They are tasks or projects you set for yourself where you managed to reach a certain accolade.  Write them all down – they all count.

 

Read them out loud

As a general rule, most of us humans are not great with bragging about our achievements.  We don’t particularly like it when someone else goes on about what they have done and what they have mastered.  But, starting with reading your accomplishments out loud to yourself is a good way to feel more confident.  It is also in how you say it.  Always keep your tone conversational, but not too much matter-of-fact either.  A quiet informative, yet engaging tone is great. Remember, most times someone has asked you the question around your accomplishments and so you must answer – they are expecting you to answer.

 

Feel proud – be proud

When you feel proud about what you have achieved it will shine through in your face and words.  And, there is no harm in that.  It may even sound good if you start off with,  “I feel very proud in myself for …”. Or “It has been a great feeling knowing that I managed to …”. People will respond better to that kind of intro to your accomplishments.  You are stating a fact, but also showing some humility.

 

Testimonial It

If you still really struggle with just stating the facts about what you have achieved, put it forward in the form of a testimonial.  Stating what someone else said about you is a softer approach and then takes the heat away from you.  You will need to of course, ask your clients, colleagues and anyone who was involved to write up a testimonial.  You don’t need to read it out – that would be a bit nerdish – unless you are presenting.  Just keep it in your head for that right moment.  You could start out by saying, “Well, if my closest client could be here, he would tell you that I …” or “My college professor always used to say this about me …”

 

 

Again, accomplishments mean something different to different people and you need to be proud of your accomplishments, no matter what they are.