Simon Young: Making connections

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Simon Young is one of those people who is an early adopter and who has been doing the social media thing way before it was cool or current. His main online hang-outs these days are on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook where he is connected with 3500, 650 and 630 people respectively.

The thing is - he never sets out for the numbers - but tends to draw people to him through his natural curiosity. He describes himself as a story listener and a story teller. He focuses himself on the two-way dialogue.

Now that this is all becoming mainstream, he's been able to turn his interest into a business with his partner Marie. He spends his working day listening and talking with people, teaching and learning about all things related to social media.

Simon has always had faith that things will go well, and is smart enough to engineer a positive turn around when they don't.

Hometown

West Auckland

My Businesses

* Co-founder of iJump
* Co-conspirator at Looksy.org
* Founder of Simonyoungwriters

Hobbies

Watching movies, walking, music

My Favourite Time of the day is

Sometimes it's really, really early morning - if I'm healthy, well and alert. I like it because it's so quiet, and I feel I have the advantage of the day.

I really enjoy...

Learning. Whether it's in a conversation, or through a movie, or even a song, I like to learn new stuff. It's kind of addictive.

Recent accomplishments that you are proud of:

* I celebrated 11 years of marriage to my wonderful wife Marie.

* I successfully reduced my involvement in several other businesses to give my core business the attention it deserves.

Did you celebrate them? How?

We celebrated our 11th in a very unusual way: we moved house! As such, we didn't have opportunity for much formal celebration. However our ideal big night out is Burgerfuel for dinner and either a movie or some time chilling out at Borders. We're easily pleased, and thankfully we both like the same things!

As far as getting more focused on core business, every day feels like a celebration. Honestly.

I am busy at the moment doing:

101 things! The most important of which is building the structure of our business - taking what I do intuitively and turning it into training material (with Marie's help), and working with some fantastic coaches to develop our long-term business strategy and brand.

My big hairy audacious goal this year is to:

* Help our clients achieve outstanding short-term results by using social media, and earn their buy-in for more long-term initiatives.
* Sub-goals include finally writing a book, and getting a public speaking booking overseas.

I knew I was onto something when:

I kept seeing people in the media and at conferences discussing what I'd been talking and writing about for years - only they didn't quite get it (and I did!).

People see social media as just being about technology, or as a fad. It's neither. Social media is a symptom of a revolution that's taking place, and our job at is to prepare organisations to not only survive this revolution, but to adapt and thrive. The technology is a part of that, but the people skills are also very important. Our company lives in that intersection between technology and people.

My secret for getting things done is to:

Be present. Whatever you're doing, do it! Don't try and do too many things at once. Know your limitations. In fact, celebrate your limitations! They make you more creative.

My darkest hour was when:

My wife was incapacitated after surgery. I had to help her, which took my time out of the business (as well as her time). Meanwhile our income - and my will to generate new business - had dried up. I remember a radio news report saying a "wave of prosperity" was breaking over NZ. I didn't experience that wave.

So later that year, when Marie had recovered to a great degree, I decided to apply for a "real job". It turned out being a long term contract for the business, one of the most lucrative we've ever had! So sometimes very good things come from very bad things.

I came through it by:

There's my faith in God, which has always been there.

There was also the past. I went through a stage of intense interest in family history. The present was so hard, I guess it pressed me into the past. I was scanning a whole bunch of family photos into the computer, and as I did that I realised that good times and bad times come and go. Nothing lasts forever. Things will turn around. It was quite a turning point.

Ironically, it was the story of my grandfather starting his own business (stepping into the unknown) that encouraged me to apply for a "real job". I'd only had two jobs before, and the freedom of running a business had turned into a comfort zone. But I figured, if my grandpa could launch his own accountancy practice at age 44, surely I could face a job interview or two.

What would do if you were not ...

If I wasn't a social media consultant I would probably be a filmmaker, actor or something to do with the arts. I love the performing arts and try to incorporate them into the work we do because we don't just bring our brains to work, we bring our whole selves.

What do you do to cope with stress?

* I try to keep control over my time. Stress becomes especially bad when your timetable is controlled by others.
* I also try and inject a healthy amount of laughter and exercise in my life.

What do you do when things aren't going your way?

I look at the alternatives. Yes I get mad, especially when I'm tired, but most of all I look at "what can I do now?" Positive action is a great antidote for frustration.

What is the hardest lesson you've had to learn in life?

* Probably the hardest lesson is the one we're supposed to learn when we're kids - that we are not the only important person in the world!
* Another lesson is that always seeking the safest route is the most dangerous way to go.

What separates successful people from unsuccessful people?

Creativity. Unsuccessful people get pulled under by anger (often legitimate) which blocks their ability to see a way ahead.

Do you have any daily rituals that help you keep focused and in the right mental state to succeed?

* I pray every morning with Marie, which sometimes is just a ritual but at its best it is a vital, centring thing to do, reconnecting us with our sense of purpose and relationship.
* Getting some exercise every weekday is pretty important, too.

Do you have any school/study qualifications?

I sort of forgot to go to University, but I'm glad, because I wouldn't have known what to study at the time.

My last year of school showed the classic signs of an impractical thinker: history, art history, English, classical studies and music. I had to play a lot of catch-up on accounting-type subjects when I started in business. But once I'd got those basic principles, I realised the arts-heavy education was actually pretty helpful in terms of seeing trends, thinking creatively and learning from the past.

What are the three most important personal qualities you've had to develop to a successful business owner?

1. Level-headedness
2. Perseverance
3. Faith/Capacity for vision - which means, even if you're not entirely sure of the destination, you pursue the direction you know is right.

Do you have a formal goal setting process?

Until recently, I didn't. But it's interesting how the formal goal setting process often confirms the vague directions I'd set off in years ago, when I had far less information.
Now we're working with a coach, and he's helping me see how important goals are if you don't want to be dragged around by life. Having said that, synchronicity is very important to me too. I believe there's room for both.

Have you ever been scared to.........? What did you do about it?

I've found that my fears have also helped me get more creative. I naturally avoid conflict, so in creating a business I didn't really want competitors - so I aim for a "blue ocean strategy" approach. That's actually an advantage!

The Parting Shot:

This is not an original quote from me, but I keep coming back to it again and again: "Life is relationships; the rest is details."

* Dwayne Alexander is founder of LiveMyGoals. Follow him on Twitter

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