The rise of populism survival of the fittest

The rise of populism survival of the fittest

Many are still staggered by the fact that Britons chose to leave the EU. And why was Donald Trump elected as the 45th president of the United States? The endorsements of the elite, and celebrities like Richard Branson, appear to have had no significant effect on the crowd.

As the author of the upcoming book First-Class Leadership, I looked to leadership psychology to understand the reasons behind this. If you influence others to do what you want, you are a leader. John Maxwell also said, “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” The populist leaders such as Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen know how to exert influence. In this article, I focus on several leadership aspects which populist leaders exploit effectively.

Effective communication

Effective communication may be the most important qualification criterion an effective leader should meet. Populists communicate more simply using tangible topics, which address the daily needs and issues ordinary people struggle with. They maximise the use of social media and IT giants, such as Facebook and Google, to connect with their audience. And when you are connected, you exert more influence. Populists tell their target population exactly what they want to hear.

Focusing on what is not working

Populists exploit subjects which are important to their target population, such as jobs, effects of globalisation, and national security. Current leaders, however, seem to be unable to provide understandable answers to counter the populists’ claims. For example, the UK Remain Campaign failed miserably when it came to selling the reasons why Britain should remain in the EU.

Light legacy

As a political leader with history, you make both friends and enemies. Media exposure during the elections is one of the easiest ways to ruin the life of a political leader. All you need to do is publish a damaging rumour which is at least partially true. Follow this with another rumour, which again has an element of truth. The negative publicity generated leads the crowd to start believing there is something wrong with this leader. Take Hillary Clinton and the news about her emails as an example. Unlike well-known leaders with their accompanying history, populists are not burdened by a significant legacy. They do not have as many enemies either. This gives populists the advantage of being able to focus on their own agenda, while the leaders with legacy also need to defend and restore their image.

Focusing on now

Populists cleverly address the most obvious pains the crowd suffers. They focus on the lower tiers of the human needs’ hierarchy as Abraham Maslow addressed in 1943-1954 (physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, self-actualisation and self-transcendence). Focusing on the basic needs (i.e. food, safety, and jobs) pays off when memories of an economic crisis are still fresh. Focusing on the upper tiers of human needs – the focus point of the political elite – works best when most of the target population is unconcerned with basic needs.

Strategically chosen target population

When designing their election campaign, populists home in on the biggest and easiest to manipulate portion of the population. Most Western countries, particularly in Europe, are aging. A percentage of the aging generation is not as skilled as the younger one. They have worked for 30 plus years doing almost the same thing and have limited options. This – eligible to vote – group is worried about their jobs, pensions and (health)insurance. They feel neither heard nor understood by the political elite. Therefore, they tend to be attracted to the populists who say what the aging population wants to hear about job security, halting immigration, and increasing national security.  In June 2016, a majority of Britons aged over 45 voted to leave the EU, rising to 60% of those aged 65 or over. The political elite appear to be disconnected from the aging generation.

Overestimate: a huge mistake for a leader to make

In February 2016, David Cameron, former prime minster of the UK, called for a referendum (which took place on 23 June 2016) about whether Britain should remain in the EU. Brexit was the result. Matteo Renzi, who recently stepped down as Italian prime minister, personalised the constitutional referendum (which took place on 4 December 2016) in Italy by threating to resign if the public voted ‘No’. The majority voted ‘No’. Most recently President Obama personalised his support for Hillary Clinton. He lost too. While the elite overestimate their position in society, populists underestimate themselves; the risks of which are often less than overestimation.

Influence by fear

Leading by fear is what populists do well. By focusing on matters such as immigration and globalisation they instil fear: of becoming jobless and feeling unsafe in your own home. Surprisingly, populists often have no sound plans about how they would fix issues. Astonishingly, nor do the crowd ask for these. They just like what they hear. It was clear right after the referendum that Brexiteers had no idea how to proceed. Donald Trump created a lot of fear. Moreover, he did not offer any concrete plans for how he would actualise his ideas. The elite has failed to manage the fear created by populists both in the UK and the US.

Speaking like the crowd

Unlike the political elite who tend to dress, behave and talk intelligently, populist leaders behave and talk like ordinary people. The psychological impact of this is evident as shown by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Your prospects are more likely to comply with your request if you speak their language. Instead of relying on intelligence and political correctness, populists choose to talk in simple, bold, unfiltered and easy to understand terms, which is language that speaks to the majority.


The populists are warming up to win the battlefield in the Netherlands, France and Germany in 2017. If the elite leaders remain disconnected from the aging crowd, we will surely see a continued rise in populism, an undesirable chapter in modern democracy. It is the survival of the fittest.

About the author

Hamid Safaei is the author of the upcoming book First Class leadership. He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

What your children need

What your children need is not what you think

Some parents, particularly men, try to compensate for their shortcomings by trying to offer the best life they think their children can have. This category of leaders devotes their life to creating wealth for their children. They choose to travel for business, leaving their vulnerable children and partners behind at home. They think being a good provider means creating as much wealth as possible for “later”, which may never come.

The missing point

The point many of them miss is that their young children do not want a luxury vacation, car, or house. What they most need at a young age is love and a caring parent who plays with them. They don’t care where the toys come from. They care about who keeps them company, plays with them, and makes them laugh. They want to see their mom/dad among those waiting at the school pick up.

Don’t think, check instead

Some leaders assume their absence is acceptable as they believe they are doing the right thing for their children. This is something they may never have checked. Don’t think on behalf of anyone, check instead. When children are grown, they often prefer to live on their own, make something of their lives, and acquire their place in society.

You leave your children when they need you most, to come back when they don’t need you.

In fact, your interference at a later age may even interrupt their resourcefulness, creativity, and their own inner purpose.

Learn from the rule of nature

It doesn’t have to be black or white. Creative leaders can pursue an amazing career fueled by a lovely family sphere. Based on the unquestionable rule of nature, all superior species like lions, jaguars, and eagles return to their nest or basecamp after every adventure. They instinctively know any unnecessary delay can be fatal. They are excellent executers of first things first and so they create their nest first. This gives them the peace of mind and mindfulness they need to set their breakthrough strategies. It’s called family first! When you have to choose, reconnect with your biggest why, your inner purpose. If you do so, the rest will fall into place easily.

In my upcoming book First-Class Leadership (to be released in September 2017), I reveal breakthrough strategies to create better balance in your life.


What would you say to that? Please share your thoughts.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the author of Your Journey to Fulfillment and the upcoming book First Class leadership. He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Stress? Try These Tips

“How are you doing today?” you may ask a friend or colleague. “I’m good thanks for asking, yourself?” say, some.  “Very busy nowadays” say, many others. “Busy” may be one of the most heard words in the corporate world. Do you agree? And why is that? If you feel you are a busy person, have you ever asked yourself, why? Have you ever asked yourself how to manage your time and work pressure? I have been in the same shoes. And I am blast I have helped myself and many individuals with solving and dealing with work pressure. Read the following hints.

First of all, take care of yourself 

If you don’t nobody else may take care of you. Learn from the metaphoric security instructions prior to flights. The hosts say, if there is oxygen problem put your own mask first and then that of your baby. I believe this is a very well thought philosophy. If you cannot breathe well yourself, you simply cannot help anybody else with breathing. So, take care of yourself. Start with eating healthy and proper rest.

Be proactive to avoid work pressure

Being proactive is one of most appreciated behavioral codes in the corporate world. When being proactive you initiate often your desired projects. You schedule the meetings yourself or you give instruction to your PA to do so. Believe it or not when you take initiative, you plan as it best suits you. For example, you take into account when you have plans for holidays or when you have a busier schedule. And so you can manage your work pressure.  Therefore, be the first who offers options for a meeting. In this case you offer options that work the best for you. If you receive several options from others, the unwritten rule is, accept one unless you really can’t. There is a difference between what we can do and what we want to. Do you agree?

Get clarity

Clarity is one of the most important factors impacting performance, research has proven. Make sure it is clear for you what you are expected to do. Don’t you understand an assignment, then go to the right person and ask for clarity. How often has the following happened to you? You have done your very best but the results are not as expected. Why is that? In many cases because a clear common understanding of the assignment and the deliverable has been missing when accepting the assignment.

Have a plan

When you need to manage an initiative or finalize an assignment, make sure you have a well thought plan. How to start, where to start, what you need, how you can get what you need, and so on. When you have a plan, you set the plan as it best suits according to your professional judgement. When you don’t have a plan you will become a part of other man’s plan. Having no plans makes you often busier than you really want to be. You will be scheduled according to other ones’ plans which sometimes goes hand in hand with work pressure.

Learn to say No when No is the best

How often has it happened to you? An important stakeholder gives you a ring asking “would you please do this for me by the end of the week?” You reply, “yeah, sure”? Short after you realize having your schedule in mind it is mission impossible to get the assignment done as requested. You feel embarrassed getting back to the requester. As a result, you feel a kind of pressure which you have created yourself. When you can’t meet the expectation just simply say you can’t explaining the reason. Be creative and come with an alternative. For example, “yeah, I’d love to, but not earlier than late next week. Is that OK”?

Schedule to be unscheduled to avoid work pressure

Make sure you have some time every day which is your time and yours only. It is also called scheduling to be unscheduled. I call it breathing time. Leave some 10-15 minutes between your meetings to act mindfully. Even robots need to be unscheduled from time to time. Block some time in your agenda to work as you want to, without pressure and at your speed. You can devote these blocks to matters which need your focus, your brainstorm. Use a part of your unscheduled time to clear up your head, to take a walk, to focus and to practice mindfulness.

Go to the bathroom often, without your smartphone

Go a few times to the bathroom every day and leave your smartphone behind if it is save to do so. If you take your smartphone with you do not start reading your emails and sending text messages while being in bathroom. Bathroom time can also be used as a moment to give your mind a break.

Don’t do the work someone else is hired for

Should I be doing this? is a healthy question. Of course we all have been helped by others someday. So we are supposed to help others when we can. When others (colleagues or reporters) need your help frequently, have them learn how to fish, instead of giving them the fish every time. Help the colleagues learn to do the work instead of doing the work for them. Hire a coach to help them how to use their potential. Do not be a control freak, focus on results and let your reporters work as they want to as long as the delivery is according to the plan and the company codes. Use the coaching and selling styles instead of commanding.

Skip unnecessary meetings to reduce work pressure

How many meetings have you joined which are actually not meant for you? Why am I actually here, what is my role, you may ask yourself. Skip the meetings which are not meant for you. I know a partner from McKinsey. When receiving invitations by which any bell rings, he always asks kindly “Hi there, happy to meet, would you please let me know what we would be talking about? I’d like to get prepared” When not sure just ask: what is the purpose of the meeting?

Read and answer your mails in one go

I spoke with one of my executive clients who received around 500 business emails per day, excluding text messages. He said he considered two slots per day in his agenda to read and answer his emails. He quickly scans his emails on several criteria i.e. subject, urgency, VIP sender and relevance. He forwards the emails to his team members based on subject matter, with the request “would you please pick this up” or “I guess this is for you”. Personally, I put my CCs in a separate box and read them 3x times a week. If I am the person to act, then I take action accordingly. Make sure you do not open several emails simultaneously unless they are interconnected. Sometimes you get involved in an escalation or exiting discussion. Then you close your mailbox and forget to read and answer the read mails again. As result you will receive embarrassing reminders and so work pressure and stress.

When you are free stay free

Manage your work during your work time so that you don’t have to work during your free time. Read another post of mine, 10 tips to enjoy your vacation. When you work during your free time, you cannot rest properly, you cannot spend enough quality time with your beloved ones. As a matter of fact, you may mix up your work and private life. The issues on either side impact the other. After a short while you feel a kind of huge pressure and stressful time. When you are stressful and under pressure, you cannot perform as you want to, or supposed to. So, work pressure and stress  become more and more and so will the private part. As a result, the work pressure and stress may lead to a burnout.

Find out critical success factors

Not everything matters and you cannot be doing things out of which nothing matters. When you have many things on your plate, create a common understanding with your sponsors and stakeholders what is important and what isn’t. Get clarity on the key success factors. Focus on the 20% of the activities or initiatives which represent 80% of your performance or success.  Plan the other 20% during your spare time. Find out when the assignment is succeeded. Remember, there is a very tiny distance between success and failure. If the critical things are well taken care of, you will be successful. If the same things are not well taken care of, you will fail. For example, as a doctor, your operations are only successful when your patient survives. The survival of the patient is the most critical factor in the whole operation process.

Don’t think, but check

Do not keep doing things assuming all goes ok. Do not act all the time based on what you think. Check instead. Have several checkpoints to evaluate if you are on the right path. If there are important factors in your project, or assignment make sure you have absolute clarity on the important factors. You can only be sure of something when you test or check it.

Work smart, play smart

Instead of working hard and playing hard, work and play SMART. Make sure what you do is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time related. So you can’t spend endless time on endless initiatives without a clear road map and predefined deliverable. To me, playing smart means doing things we enjoy the most within the devoted resources (i.e. time and money). For example, you are going to visit Disney Land together with your partner and two kids. When you are watching a movie together with your 6 years old son, please turn off your cell-phone. Be there for your son and watch and enjoy watching so that your son enjoys your company. I spend 3 hours every day with my son (almost 3). Every evening we watch 3x cartoons together (one hour in total), and my son loves this quality time. When you have a conversation of an hour with your partner, don’t reply to the annoying messages coming from all kinds of apps. Be there with all your attention so that you have a fruitful conversation with your partner.

Develop and use your soft skills

Remember, research has proven almost 85% of what we have achieved, is thanks to our soft skills. I believe we have failed in many cases due to our shortcomings in soft skills. So refresh your soft skills such as communication, relationship management, listening and sensitivity. Just ask your stakeholders, your manager, your fellows what they appreciate the most and what  you may avoid when engaged with them. Having proper soft skills reduces work pressure.

Let me learn from you

I am blast that I have many connections from whom I learn every day. Please let me learn from your comments and thoughts too.

Did you like the post? If yes, feel free to follow me by going to my LinkedIn page, click on Follow, the 3rd choice in the row.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and high potentials unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500.

follow ImOcean Academy on LinkedIn

Leadership lessons to keep your head high

Former UEFA president, Michel Platini’s spectacular fall from grace brought to mind a few leadership lessons I’d like to share. We can learn a lot from those giants who believe their sun will never set. Following these tips would have helped them save their good name and keep their pride intact.

1. Treat others as you want to be treated

Be generous and merciful when you are in charge. Do not think it will remain as it is forever. Youngsters, smarter ones and those on the rise will replace you someday. Then you may find yourself being treated the way you treated others. If you were merciful to others, they will most likely be merciful to you. If you let others down, you might be let down by others.

 As you ride someday, you may carry some other day. Be generous now. Tomorrow may be a different story, and not one in your favor.

2. Be a rebel from time to time

When you follow your boss blindly, you run the risk of making the same mistakes as the one you have followed. So it never hurts to question and rebel a little in order to shake things up and remain true to yourself. When considering offers I follow a very basic principle. I would not accept a great looking offer if it had the potential to make me unhappy. Over the past 20 years, I have disappointed several high ranked executives by saying no to their amazing offers. It may seem ill-advised or even rebellious. However, I have my own definition of happiness in which power and wealth are not high on the list of components.

Do yourself a favor and don’t follow others blindly.

3. Know when to step down

We’ve all experienced times in our lives during which we perform at our best. After a certain number of years, we will be done; having no more power, energy and up-to-date knowledge to lead our teams or organizations successfully. New challenges require new skills and new solutions. When we’re done we need to offer our place to the next generation voluntarily. If we don’t, it will be taken from us, harming our name and pride in the process. I admire people who voluntarily step down while at the top. When you do so you will be remembered as the hero, the powerful leader or the great world cup winning footballer.

When you continue until you make a terrible mistake (sometimes unconsciously) not only is your pride damaged, but you may also find yourself broken and psychologically bankrupt.

4. Top secrets may not be secure forever

We live in a time in which teenagers can hack highly secure systems and gain access to top secret information. In the course of time many secrets become public – planned and unplanned. Take for example the FIFA Scandals and the Panama Papers. There should be a good balance between risk and reward. Is the reward worth the risk? If you take the risk, bear in mind that it may become public someday. How bad would it be if your secret became public? If it became public, how great would the pain, shame and potential damage be? It’s worth thinking more than twice when taking risks. Remember, technology does not always work in our favor: instead of traditional trusted hard copies, almost everything is digital nowadays.

  When something is digital, we can never be sure it is 100% secure.

5. Our children may suffer because of our actions

When I was 15 studying at high school, a schoolmate of mine lost his father in a bloody war between drugs dealers. In addition to this painful loss, the poor boy endured several miserable years as his schoolmates regularly brought up his family’s past. Remember, there is at least one guarantee in this life. We’ll all pass away when our time comes. No matter who we are, or how much power we have. In some cases, innocent children pay the price of unacceptable actions taken by their parents. If we are well-known and leave a bad name behind, it may create difficulties for our children.

6. A new kid on the block will always appear

Time is the one obvious limiting factor. We may have glorious days, weeks, months, or even years. But it’s a fact that the glorious time will not last forever. The better days or years are always counted. Great leaders create more years of glory for themselves, their people and their country. I am sure many of you remember Nokia and Blackberry; the kings of mobile phones some 10 years ago. The leaders of these companies really believed there wouldn’t be any competition. Nokia and Blackberry didn’t see it coming. They were enjoying their huge market share when Apple came along with the serial revolution of iPod, iPhone and iPad.

7. Watch for arrogance

Arrogance has long been the enemy of success. When people are on top, they see one success after the other. After a while, they get used to success and take it as a given. That’s when hubris creeps in. Their conceit may be so great they believe nothing can happen to them. They start to operate in a vacuum as if they are immune to everything. The moment a leader starts to believe nothing can happen to him, is the moment when it all begins to break down.

  The biggest battle a leader should win should be the one with his own arrogance.

8. If it doesn’t feel OK, it is probably not OK

We’ve all been there. Things come along which don’t seem to be quite right. When we listen to our intuition it says don’t do that. In many cases if it doesn’t feel right it is indeed not right. Decisions that are ethically wrong, are being taken by some leaders every day. It will not remain sunny all the time. One day it may get cold. It may snow or rain heavily. You better be prepared. If you get an offer which seems too good to be true, find out what’s on the other side of the coin. If you accept an offer which may bring your integrity into question, do so with the knowledge that it may become public someday. If you believe you can live with the consequences, then accept the offer. But if you believe your reputation would be ruined if it becomes public, just don’t do it.

9. Never feel too big to ask for support

We’re human. Sometimes we’re mentally and physically at our best and sometimes we’re not making the best decisions. When you don’t feel comfortable about something, reach out for support; consult a trusted adviser or book a couple of sessions with a qualified coach. By enlisting the support of an adviser or coach, you’ll gain precious insights that will help you make better decisions.


What do you think?

Do you agree with the above? Do you have anything you’d like to add? Please share your thoughts. Always appreciated.

Did you like this post? If so, follow me for more insights. You can follow me by going to my LinkedIn page, and clicking on Follow, the 3rd choice in the row.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Follow ImOcean Academy on LinkedIn

“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’ ~ Eckhart Tolle

So, there is a project deadline, or an exam, or your first interview, any of these situations can cause stress. Isn’t it? In general, stress has become a part of our lives. But that part, which never do any good to your health.

Different people respond to stress differently. However, this never means you cannot reduce, or eliminate it. Though there’s no “one size fits all” solution for stress handling, yet if you feel like your life is going out of control, it’s high time, you need to take some actions.

Stress management – is something you need to learn about. While it will teach you some healthier ways to cope with the situation, it will also aid in minimizing the harmful effects of stress in future. Below are listed some astounding methods to keep stress at bay;

Morning Ritual:

Start the process of ‘de-stressing’ as soon as the day begins. This means your morning routine needs to be changed. It will comprise of all set of actions which you take, i.e. from the time you wake up to the time you get ready to start your day. Wake up early. Yes, it might be difficult for some days, but gradually you’ll get into this habit. Welcome the ‘Sun’ and step out of your dwelling. Besides all the necessary activities you do, make sure you keep a special time for meditation. If possible, you can join some centers for this.

And most important- don’t underestimate the value of these morning rituals. Yes, it gives you a perfect start for your day, which is further helpful in creating a powerful momentum in your life.

Exercise Regularly:

This could be a part of the above mentioned point, but it holds a significant place in your stress management plan, and hence, it is added separately. Regular exercises have been a part of all highly successful people across the globe. And before you start running, it is better to clear that it is about all the physical activities which keep your body mentally and physically strong.

Now, if you ask about the ‘right’ exercise, then there’s no such ‘right’ one. You can initially choose any among those hundreds of exercises including weight lifting, cycling, a team sport or just simply a brisk walk. The main aim is to get regular with whatever you choose. You seriously need to find a timeslot for it in your busy schedule, and ensure that you follow it.

As far as the benefits are considered, it cannot be described in words. From great health to maintaining youthfulness, and from enhanced productivity to assured success, it shows significant effects in your life.

Taking Breaks:

To do something great, you need to ‘NOT DO’ anything. Don’t get confused!

For example, you are working on a project constantly, but not getting the desired results. What you do? You keep on trying harder, and harder, isn’t it? That’s good, but not great. This time, try out something different.

Believe it- Taking Breaks and disconnecting from work allows your mind and body rest, and then when you reconnect, it works better. Moreover, it offers a great sense of control over your energy throughout the day.

Planning Ahead:

Is your day planned? No? This might be a reason of greater stress. Setting up a time-based structure and scheduling your days in advance can simplify living.

Planning makes you more productive. The reason is quite known; it helps you getting the most of your day. Being confined by 24 hours each day, it is you and only you, who can work on your structural productivity. Optimizing your day proffers a real progress tracking system for your time and restores the sense of control.

Evening Routine:

Don’t let your evening ruin your day. The routine needs to wind-down process as you move closer to the end of the day, stepping forward to a fantastic night of sleep. You need to incorporate the ability to forget about worries and stresses. Meditation can always be a part of your evening. And the rest includes general advises like- leaving work at work, turning off your electronics, healthy diet, and a sound sleep.

No matter how powerless you are feeling right now, these amazing ways will help you gain control over your emotions, lifestyle, thoughts, and the way you deal with problems. Basically, it is not about changing the stressful situation; it is about changing your reaction towards it!

Be the best version of yourself

How can you be the best version of yourself?

How often have you found yourself asking the following questions? “I can do better, why am I still doing this job?” “I deserve better.” “God, when will this end?” The better questions to ask might be: “Do I know what I want to achieve?” Have I done anything to attain this?” “What am I capable of doing on my own?” “How can I be the best version of myself?” “Who can help me accelerate?

I’d like to share some thoughts which I believe will help you unlock your full potential.

Change is inevitable

If we want to obtain different results then we need to change something e.g. our approach, job, car, dress, meal, and so on. To achieve a different result, the first step to take is to prepare for change. We can’t keep doing the same and expect a different result. The fundamental question to ask is: “What exactly needs to be changed?

Find out what you’re good at

To find out what needs changing, it is necessary to find out what we are born to do. It is easier to optimize from good to great as opposed to moving from poor to great. “Everybody is a genius.”, said Albert Einstein, one of the brightest brains history has known. I truly believe we have all been born with potential. Unfortunately, we are not always aware of what we are capable of reaching. There are many models via which we can find out what talents we have. One of them is the Wheel of Life. It is important to find out what we like to do as opposed to what we have to do. When we love what we do, we do it with passion. Remember, willingness and passion bring perseverance, and perseverance brings success.

Set your target

We can’t hit the target we don’t see. Do you agree? I believe we need to have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve. We can’t say, for example, we want to grow. It is not specific enough. What does grow mean? What percentage of market share, and within what period of time? There are many models we can use to set our targets. GROW is a simple, yet very powerful, model many coaches use to help their clients with target setting. Read the short article What’ve you put on the menu for 2016 for a simple set of guidelines about how to set and realize your targets.

Find a role model

Saadi (the wise Persian Poet 1210-1291) said: “To do everything excellently we need to have two lives, one for trial and experience, and the other for accelerating our performance. Having two lives is impossible, the best alternative is copying best experiences of the best performers.” So, what would you like to become? A footballer? Then copy what Messi, Maradona, Cruijff, Pelé and Bekenbauer have done. Would you like to become the best investor? Then copy what Warren Buffet has done. Would you like to become a successful entrepreneur? Then copy what people like Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have done. It is possible to become the same as your role model under one condition: doing whatever they have done. Use the Wheel of Life and GROW models to discover your potential and locate possible bottlenecks. A good coach can help you with this step.

Associate with successful people in your chosen field

Steve Siebold says: “We become like the people we associate with, and that’s why winners are attracted to winners.” If you believe you are an eagle, then do not behave like a turkey.  When you believe you have found your favorite field then create a list of who the most admired and successful people are from whom you can learn to move faster and smarter. Find out how you can get invited to their gatherings. Follow their strategies. Listen to their stories: how they made a billion; how they became professors; how they set up their business empire. When you have made your way to the group of the best people from whom you can learn, listen twice more than you talk. Remember, we have two ears and one mouth. Life is giving and taking so find out how you can help these successful people. When you do so, it will be easier to ask for something in return.

Overcome your limiting beliefs

They come to our mind uninvited: “…but you can’t do this in this situation.” “How can you change your job while your wife is pregnant?” “I can’t ask my boss. I need his support. What if he disagrees?” And there are many more examples of limiting beliefs.

I believe the first, and the most important, battle we need to win is the one with our own beliefs.

When we give room to our limiting beliefs, it becomes harder to get back on track. The right coach can help you with overcoming your limiting beliefs. However, by asking yourself a few questions you may reach a certain level on your own. For example: “Why can’t I change my job because my wife is pregnant?” “What would stop me taking care of my pregnant wife?” “What would change exactly?” “Am I going to have more or less free time by changing my job?

Make supporting positive friends

There is a Persian saying: “If you can’t be of any help, don’t create any trouble either.” When you have a grand ambition, some people may laugh at you. Don’t worry, that says more about them than you. “So many people I talked to at that time about Alipay, they said, ‘This is the stupidest idea you’ve ever had.’”, said Jack Ma to Bloomberg. When you decide to chase an ambitious target, you need two types of friends: 1. Positive supporting people who say, for example, “Wow, sounds fantastic.”, or “What an amazing idea.”; and 2. People who can offer you constructive criticism. This second group may be of even more support than the first one. They have the ability to make you think about your challenges, which helps you prepare for and avoid potential disappointments. They might also see deeper layers of your ambition which you might not have discovered on your own.

Many successes have been achieved after many more failures

It’s been said that Thomas Edison tried 1000 ways to invent the first lamp. If he had given up after the first few attempts, he would not have invented his first lamp. Next to the fact he was a genius, he is also a shining example of what you can achieve with perseverance. Failures are a part of the deal. Two top teams meet in the final, one will fail to take home the trophy.

There are no better lessons than the ones we learn from our own failures. The bitterness of failure teaches us how not do it.

Take the amazing story of Jack Ma (Founder of Alibaba), who in November 2014 was the richest man in China (Hong Kong not included), and the 18th richest person in the world. In his interview with Bloomberg he says: “There’s an examination for young people to go to university. I failed it three times. I failed a lot. So I applied to 30 different jobs and got rejected. I went for a job with the police: they said, ‘You’re no good.’ I even went to KFC when it came to my city. Twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three were accepted. I was the only guy.…”   So, success often comes after failure. Be persistent, consistent and believe in your success.

What would you be prepared to sacrifice?

We’ve all been there. Sometimes we need to make painful choices in our lives to move on. We love our partners, but we have come to the conclusion love alone is not enough.

To achieve something greater we may have to sacrifice some great things.

To hire a brilliant CEO, we need to fire a good one. The lighter our baggage the higher we can climb. Do you agree? Here is the deal. What are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve your dream? Imagine, you’re 19, you’re at the train station, you’re hungry and it’s midnight. You only have €3.75 cash, and the cheapest sandwich costs €3.00. You love ice-cream and you are about to hit the button on the only food machine around to buy yourself your favorite ice-cream costing €2.50. Suddenly a thought whispers in your head: “Hang on buddy, if you buy an ice-cream you will not have enough money left for a sandwich. Are you sure you still want the ice-cream?” Sometimes even the easiest choices may be difficult to make, but we need to make them to achieve our targets.

Find a mentor or coach

Many successful leaders – presidents, top performers and entrepreneurs – have had mentors and coaches. Bill Clinton, Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, Richard Branson and Hilary Clinton, are all examples of successful people who have made it far with the help of their coaches. Richard Branson says: “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.” No matter how bright you are, how successful you already are, how mindful you are, hire the right coach from time-to-time and see the difference in your performance. If it helps, do it often.

Please share your thoughts

I am pleased that I have many connections from whom I learn every day. Please let me learn from your comments too.

Did you like this post? If so, follow me for more insights. You can follow me by going to my LinkedIn page, and clicking on Follow, the 3rd choice in the row.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Follow ImOcean Academy on LinkedIn

Do not let your dream die before it is born

In this post, I am happy to share my top tips to help you give birth to that one, life-changing dream. Enjoy reading and please share your thoughts.

  1. We all have dreams, what’s yours?

What is your dream? Don’t make the universe wait any longer. What have you always wanted to achieve? What has held you back? Why haven’t you realized that one life-changing dream yet? If you don’t take action now, when will you? Remember, tomorrow is not a given. Today is yours, and you are capable of taking actions which move you towards your dream. Take action right now. As Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

  1. Start your journey by writing down your dream

The first step to giving birth to your dream is writing it down and putting it in a place where you can see it every day. When you write your dream on a piece of paper you connect with your spiritual level. You also make a commitment to yourself. And you gradually grow into your dream. If you haven’t done this before, just give it a try.

You may have doubts about taking this first step, but remember it will take you less than a minute. Write your dream on a piece of paper every day and always keep it with you. The power of your dream pulls you towards it.


  1. No dreams? Who are you kidding?

Of course you have dreams. Psychologists claim that more than 60,000 thoughts cross our minds every day. Some of those thoughts carry your dream. They truly do.

Try it right now. Close your eyes and imagine you are in your favorite vacation place. You have a drink in your hand and you are sitting on a chair relaxing. The only noise which prevents you from sleeping immediately is the beautiful sound of the ocean. Now imagine you don’t have any problems. You are in perfect health and you have plenty of time. What would give you a fulfilled feeling? What else would you like to achieve before departing to your final destiny? What would make you feel really happy?

A lottery win? Plenty of money? A much higher salary? That may be. But I believe you need to dig a bit deeper. Your dream may be something you can achieve with money. So money is a device only. Like an airplane, which can take you to your vacation place. Make a note of what you think your dream is. Ask yourself: why must I realize this dream? How would it feel if this dream came true? The more you focus on your answer to the “why”, the more layers you unpack to discover your underlying dream.   Start dreaming NOW! And if you have one already, give birth to it. Let the world know what you want to achieve. And see what happens! I promise you, magic will happen. The universe appreciates the steps you take towards your dream. All kinds of help will come your way. You only taste this amazing experience if you take the first step.


  1. From dream to success, this is what you do

Share your dream with people you like

Some people are naturally supportive. It can be motivating and it strengthens your commitment to your dream. When your motivation and commitment are at a solid level, then share your dream with people you know who will be constructively critical. You will receive consulting free of charge from these people. They can help you polish your dream and identify your challenges. They may even give you some great advice.

Be careful with toxic people

They always have a problem for every solution, and only see challenges and impossibilities during your journey to your destination. They may even belittle you because they cannot see beyond a certain point. Bigger does not exist for them. Remember, you don’t have to listen to everything you hear and you don’t have to believe whatever you listen to, particularly when it comes to toxic people.

Don’t think too much, take small actions instead

Many people want to think things completely through before making a decision. And that’s why the majority get stuck thinking about why they should and or shouldn’t do something. A Persian expression says, “A half action is worth more than hundreds of words.”

When you leave a motivating event, you’ve usually picked up some ideas about how to move to the next level. You bring your ideas home and discuss it with your partner and friends. Sometimes they support you with phrases like, “Wow, what a great idea, you should do it, you can do it.” However, many people often jump into the middle of your dream and create chaos for you, leaving you feeling confused. As they don’t fully understand the context, and are not aware of all the ins and outs, they add more questions to those you already have. The result? You postpone your decision. And what happens when you postpone? You run the risk that it may never happen! The bottom-line: you miss another chance.

When you want to make an important decision ask yourself one question: is this the right decision to make right now? If the answer is yes, and you really want to achieve this, make it first SMART. Then make your decision using your emotions before applying your logic to make it work. Instead of getting stuck in a closed thinking circle, take small actions. Record all the possible ways that can help you realize your dream. When this is done, select the easiest options. For example, write down all your skills which can help you achieve what you really want. Then write a list of skills you need, but you don’t possess at the moment. Next write down how you can acquire those skills.

How? Break it down into mini-goals

You may ask yourself, “how”? What’s next? When you have identified your dream, book an hour with yourself. For you and you only. Be as creative as possible. Think about a reasonable timeline. When do you want to realize your dream? When you do so, then your dream becomes a goal. Let’s imagine you aim to achieve your dream in 10 years. What part of your dream do you want to achieve in the first two years? What will you achieve in five years, seven years…? To make it tangible and achievable, you need to think of journey goals and baby steps. What are you going to achieve in six months, three months, one month and even in two weeks? It may be too much of a stretch to have the overview now of all you need to do in the coming 10 years. What you can do is define milestones with realistic planning. This can keep you on track. Make a close connection with your dream by committing to two-week goals and taking action to achieve those mini-goals.

Example: You want to climb Everest

Imagine your dream is to climb Everest. You turn your dream into a goal by putting a target date on it. “In two years’ time (6 Oct 2018), I will have climbed Mount Everest.”  The next step is to set your mini-goals. What do you need to possess to achieve your ultimate goal? The first thing you need to be sure of is, for example, your physical health and condition. Another thing may be making sure you can devote the necessary time. If you have a job which currently does not allow you be away longer than a week, what can you do to make time to climb Everest? What can you do to make sure you have the necessary physical condition? Yes, you are right. You need to set an appointment with your doctor to check your health status. Now you need to answer this question, leading you to a baby step: When will you schedule the appointment with your doctor?

Set mini-goals

You understand it is extremely helpful to set mini-goals. One mini goal might be: You want to be in perfect physical condition in 6 months. The goal needs to be defined by time. So, it should be, for example: By 31 March 2017, I will be in perfect physical condition. The first step towards this sub-goal is identifying your current physical condition. The immediate step for achieving this goal is meeting with a professional to help you identify your current condition. The second action is setting an action plan to achieve the physical condition you need to be able to climb Everest. For example, starting tomorrow, I will train every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 06.00- 07.00.

Reality check

Frequently conduct a reality check. If you are a smoker, you may need to quit smoking if you really want to climb Everest. The mini-goal is, for example: By 31 October 2016, I will be a non-smoker. Again you need an action plan to become a non-smoker. What are you going to do to achieve this mini-goal of becoming a non-smoker?

Dream big, but take baby steps every day

The idea is to keep your big dream in mind while breaking it down into tangible and manageable pieces. Then you can take action to realize those smaller goals. It is hard to foresee all the details that will be required over the coming 10 years. But you are definitely capable of foreseeing the coming two weeks, aren’t you?



  1. Turn I can’t into how can I

Instead of beating yourself up and constantly whispering to yourself, “I can’t”, “Why can’t I?”, “I’m not good enough”, I always fail” etc., move yourself to a resourceful state. Instead of saying “I can’t”, ask yourself “How can I? Can you recall the day you decided to take driving lessons? You knew you could not pass the driving test before taking driving lessons. So instead of sitting down and beating yourself up, you unconsciously asked yourself “How can I pass the driving exam?” Then it came to you, “aha I need to take some driving lessons before applying to take the driving exam.” Sound familiar? You may need some support with this transformational thinking. ImOcean can help you move from frustration to a resourceful state.

First class leader, Martin Luther King said, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”


  1. Keep calm and ask for support

Please promise yourself deep in your heart that you will not let your dream die before it’s even born. Giving birth to that one dream will change your life. It is crucial that you start unpacking and realizing your dream. You won’t grow any plant on your own if you don’t put the seed in the ground first. And then you need to nurture your seed. Yes, start but stay committed.

If you don’t know how to give birth to your dream, the best way to realize your dream is to hire a qualified coach. The coach can help you not only in the phase of unpacking your dream, but also throughout your whole journey. A coach will not only help you to create and benefit from opportunities, but will also help you to find shortcuts and overcome challenges.

Please reach out to ImOcean Academy and come to us hungry to succeed. That way we can feed you with food to nourish your soul and mind. Then you are only steps away from realizing your dream. We help you accelerate and take the elevator to your destination. Our proof? Take a look at our testimonials.


What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree? What would you add to the above? Please feel welcome to share your ideas. They are always appreciated.

Did you like this post? If so, follow me – on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook – for more insights.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the author of the upcoming book First Class leadership: He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

7 Leadership qualities to help women break through

7 Leadership qualities to help women break through

Leadership is about mastering the art of human know-how. First-class leaders surround themselves with people who are better than themselves. In an interview, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, said: “If you want to win in the 21stcentury, empower others, making sure the other people are better than you are. Then you will be successful. I find that women think about others more than they think about themselves.” Is this  a good foundation to become a great leader? What if women focused on themselves a bit more than they focused on others?

As Dan Goleman also said: “Emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skills.” Emotional intelligence tests indicate women tend to score better than men on these skills. During the last decade, we have witnessed multinationals fighting to attract top-performing women to their executive positions. Many women have proved the tests are partially right. Shining examples are Angela Merkel, Sheikh Hasina, Oprah Winfrey, Indra Nooyi, and Meg Whitman, to name a few. However, it is not that black and white. There are elements of emotional intelligence in which men perform better than women. While women tend to score better in emotional empathy men are inclined to score higher in managing emotions.

If leadership is about mastering the art of people knowledge, why do we still not have enough women at the top? In my upcoming book, First-Class Leadership, I demonstrate the premium qualities which have helped first-class leaders achieve breakthrough results. In this article, I share 7 qualities which can help women boost their leadership results.

  1. Vision, the why

First-class leaders start their journey with their why. Or as Stephen Covey said in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, with the end in mind. What gives meaning to the vision of great leaders is their belief in their vision and why they pursue it. They are clear about where they are heading and what they want to achieve. Due to their broad range of interests, it is challenging for many women to focus on one life-changing destination. A qualified coach can help them polish their main why.

  1. Passion

What great leaders have in common is their desire to take action towards realizing their dreams. Great leaders succeed not because they are more talented or wealthy, but because they love what they do. They use all their inner power to break through barriers, frustrations, and failures. They are fueled by deep passion to achieve what for many seems to be unachievable. While many give up when the going gets tough, first-class leaders determinedly step up their drive until the universe responds and magic happens. For passionate women, often the challenge is identifying the one life-changing vision on which to focus.

  1. Decisiveness

“Confident walking is more successful than confused running.” – Rumi

Great leaders know: “If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a No”. The quick thinking of first-class leaders amazes many. It is neither complex math nor a miracle. Great leaders follow sound algorithms for decision making. They simply follow a system they created based on their values, standards, and principles connecting their strategic decisions to their biggest why, their vision. They quickly analyze if and how – in the long run – a certain choice contributes to attaining their primary objective, the why. Influenced by their powerful empathy, many women may hesitate. First-class leadership, however, requires making quick, and sometimes, unpopular decisions in tough circumstances.

  1. Focus

Billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were once asked to write down one thing they felt attributed most to their success. They both wrote the same word: focus. We can put our attention only on one thing at a time if we want to draw the most from it. When we have too much to handle, we lose focus. There is a Persian expression: “You cannot hold two watermelons with one hand.” If you have ever seen 20-kilogram watermelons, you will follow the logic. Here this expression means you cannot handle two issues simultaneously. Many women claim they can multitask but in reality this is distracting and causes loss of focus.

  1. Communication

In his book, Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins said: “The way we communicate with others and the way we communicate with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” In the end, effective teams make organizations great. To inspire teams successfully, leaders need to inspire through communication. All first-class leaders are communication masters. Instead of using jargon and complex terms, great leaders use simplified language to connect with their followers. Using emotions, authenticity and body language, they create fire in the bellies of their followers. Consequently, people around them wish to move forward. This can attract millions of followers. Women can generally harness the power of their emotions and body language when they communicate. If they overcome their limiting beliefs and gain self-confidence, they can attract millions to share their vision.

  1. Confidence

Confidence is a pre-requisite for all leaders wanting to succeed. When almost everybody has lost hope and is about to give up, first-class leaders stand firm and their confidence and strength is something others lean on. If women can overcome any limiting beliefs and manage their emotions in tough circumstances, they can become the greatest leaders we have ever seen. Angela Merkel and Oprah Winfrey are notable examples.

  1. Highly effective teams

Great leaders train their team members to think in team terms by demonstrating how important it is to enjoy, cooperate, and play together. First-class leaders create well-respected roles and responsibilities for each team member. Everyone counts and is proud to be part of the team. Great leaders encourage diversity and recruit team members with complementary skills and expertise. They inspire their teams, make difficult decisions, and set high performance standards, which they continuously adjust and upgrade to reach higher heights. That is why they build great companies that delight customers with amazing products and services. Developing highly effective teams can be a challenge for many women as their strong empathy may be a barrier to building their dream teams.

Bringing it all together

All these leadership qualities are learnable. There is enough evidence indicating women have the potential to claim the highest leadership positions if they master the abovementioned qualities. Overcoming limiting beliefs, building self-confidence, and strategically employing their powerful emotions are perhaps the first steps towards self-actualization. And a qualified coach will help motivated women break through.


Originally published in Global Woman Magazine


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the author of Your Journey to Fulfillment and the upcoming book First Class leadership. He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.