Inspired Success

Success has changed in many ways over the years and it has also remained the same. We’ve always been successful when we cross something off our to-do list, that’s been the case since the beginning of time and people had to be as smart as possible about taking advantage of the daylight they had since working by fire light was not conducive for all the things they needed to do. Not to mention that creating to-do lists doesn’t exactly take a lot of skill or inspiration, you basically just write down everything that needs to be done and get it done.

But while it doesn’t matter how you accomplish some things, often you’ve got a choice about how to accomplish the items on your to-do list. A great example of this are the homes that we all live in. What do you want your home to look like? How tall will it be, what will it have on the inside, what will it look like on the outside, how many windows will you have, what will be done with the exterior spaces that could be gardens or have other uses? Many of those things don’t matter technically if the only goal is to have a secure, covered structure with the necessary rooms (bedrooms, kitchen, bath etc.), but let’s face it, no one really wants to live in a bland box.

Success gets lots of awesome layers to it when we’re inspired while we’re working on our goals. But inspiration isn’t always easy to come by. I’ve certainly heard from a bunch of people who have said that the last year and a half have seriously screwed with their ability to be inspired or for that inspiration to blossom in the ways that it needs to to translate to success. Sometimes we can break through inspiration blocks by doing some of the things on our to-do list that don’t require inspiration like washing dishes or tidying up the yard. Other times we have to be honest and take a break and/or do things that we know have helped our inspiration get flowing in the past like reading, arts and crafts, or outdoor activities.

What I’ve learned is that if your success activities in the past that require inspiration are truly things you’re meant to be doing, they’re part of the gift you bring to the world, that inspiration will flow back eventually. Be patient with yourself, keep dreaming about your goals, be open to new sources of inspiration and take advantage of the times when you’re not inspired to get other things done. What are you inspired to work on right now?

Excited for Autumn Explorations

Autumn is a few days away and while its not my favorite season, I know lots of people are excited every time this season rolls in. I can understand it because there are tons of things to love about the autumn. I love how much richer and deeper things seem. I love how things slow down in autumn, but in a honey or maple syrup way, not in ways that frustrate or hinder you. I love how autumn brings people out to look at the trees changing colors and to take their last trips before the winter arrives. I love how people stop and chat with strangers they meet in places that they all love. I love revisiting those special stores and shops that bring to mind childhood memories and reconnecting with shopkeepers you’ve gotten to know over the years.

I know there are so many important jobs we have as adults in the world, as those responsible in big and small ways for the next generation, as well as for our relationships with our significant others. In many ways exploring the world in the Autumn and creating those memories may not seem like they’re as important as getting a good grade on a math test, talking through a relationship challenge or staying physically healthy. But those things don’t take into consideration our souls (both spiritual and earthly) and our need to be fed emotionally and spiritually. Life is so much richer when we take time to smell the sunflowers, see the toads hop at night and watch the stars come out with a warm autumn-inspired beverage.

But rather than seeing this as another responsibility in the long list of responsibilities we all have on our plates, consider it an opportunity to explore, to be refreshed and rejuvenated, to try something new, to expand your understanding of the world, and to make memories that will last a lifetime and warm your heart when things get tough. So go ahead and plan those weekend hikes, those apple picking trips, the pumpkin carving challenges, time spent in newly-raked leaf piles, and explore communities outside of the one that you live in with your partner and your family as much as you can this autumn.

Stores and Gatherings Aren’t Going Away

Over the past 19 months an incredible number of people have shopped online as a result of the pandemic. I love that it has strongly encouraged (aka forced) business owners to finally step up their digital game and get websites, update their websites, and offer products and services through the internet. I love that it has encouraged nonprofits and faith-based organizations to get online and learn how to build relationships with people who they used to only see in person at fundraising events or weekly gatherings. The internet helps people be more informed, and it’s so much easier to spread the word to friends through the internet than it is to get them somewhere in person (even before the pandemic).

But retail stores and physical gatherings aren’t going away. There are a couple of reasons this is the reality, but especially two big ones. First, there’s nothing like a physical connection, like a hug or to hold things in your hand before you buy. Second, along with a change in shopping habits came the change in the reliability of shipping timeframes, and now it’s not as predictable when you’ll be able to get something delivered to you, so being able to go pick something up in a store matters more than ever sometimes.

So what does this mean for businesses? You still have to have a product that catches people’s eye when they’re shopping in store and that they are happy with the quality of when they get it delivered to them. Your physical spaces need to be tidier and cleaner than the standard used to be so that people feel comfortable shopping or gathering with you because they do notice the dirt and disorganization now more than ever before. Businesses and organizations should be consistently marketing both online and offline in their communities and in the communities where their people live. And more than ever you have to invest in your people and making sure they’re good communicators, are extremely knowledgeable about the products as well as where they’re located in the store, and are trained in how to handle all variety of situations whether they’re virtual support or in-person.

What changes have you made in your physical and digital spaces and with your products over the last 18 months or are you planning to make?

The Power of Personal Connection

Recently I experienced two different transitions in companies I have services with. Change is part of doing business and living our lives. We see transitions in supervisors and employees, transitions or changes with brands we use, changes or transitions with the jobs we do, changes and transitions as we age, and transitions and changes with how we do business and how we communicate, just to name a few. But as we’ve all experienced, sometimes those changes and transitions go well, and other times we feel completely out of the loop and completely blindsided by the change or blind while trying to navigate the transition.

What was most notably different about the two transitions was, probably unsurprisingly given my focus on it, the communication that they each did. One company’s leadership personally reached out with an email sharing about the upcoming change and indicating that there was no plan to change any of the ways the company did business and how much they appreciate the business of all their customers and how they were excited about what the future holds. The other company is a much smaller company and sent a physical letter (mailed on the day the transition took place but certainly not received then) communicating the change and providing minimal basic details and information.

I know that change and transitions can be intimidating, but I think there’s one thing that can make change and transition better and easier for everyone: a personal connection. When the leadership chooses to step up and let people know what’s going on, the timeline for change, the reasons for change, where to get support during the transition and when applicable updates on progress, everyone feels more comfortable with and open to the changes and transitions. Think about it this way: you hear that a local restaurant you’ve been to has undergone a change in management so you decide to go check it out and find there have been some changes/updates with the decor and the food. Would you feel more accepting of and open to the changes if the new management stops by your table or welcomes you at the door and you see them around the restaurant throughout your meal supporting the wait staff, or if you walk into those changes and staff that seems flustered?

It’s certainly a lot easier to work through changes and transitions when people are not only up front about those changes, but also make an effort to be present during or provide support throughout. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or detailed, even letting people know that the changes are still happening and making progress at a slow but consistent rate is helpful for keeping rumors and fear at a minimum. When you make a point to communicate with people and reach out to them on a personal level and in a timely fashion it shows that you’re really committed to doing the best through this transition or change and that you’re all on the same team. What helps you with transitions and changes?

Why We Still Share about 9/11

Today if you’ve looked at the news or social media at all you’ve probably seen all of the coverage of the attacks on 9/11 20 years ago. For those of us who lived in and around NYC at that time or had a strong connection with the city, or those who worked in the Pentagon or were close to that field in Pennsylvania, while we may have much stronger memories or a deeper emotional scar from these experiences, they were something that touched not only our country but people around the world through family members who were on the planes or where they crashed.

One thing I’ve been seeing in more than one headline is about kids who are alive now that have no personal memories about this event. We don’t really want to share the feelings of terror and fear and uncertainty that were part of our lives for the days and weeks and even months surrounding these events. We don’t really want to tell them what it was like to know people who died or people we know/knew personally who lost a family member in such a horrific way.

And yet I think it’s important that we do tell them, that they do hear some of the stories and see some of the footage, because it changed the life of just about every American who was alive then in some way. Just like we still talk about the Civil War and Revolutionary War and the Wright brothers and the First Thanksgiving, some stories need to be told because they’re turning points or crucial points in our story, moments or breakthroughs that forever changed our lives and the course of our country and even our world.

But maybe the most important reason to share with those who have no personal memories of 9/11 is because of all of the men and women who were strong and courageous in the days and weeks that followed. From the men and women of fire stations who came from across the country to these three locations to the baseball teams and political leaders and strangers who stepped up to offer whatever helping hand they could, sharing these stories, their stories, with the next generation is about remembering them and honoring all that they gave.

It wasn’t a good time, it was scary and almost 3000 people lost their lives. But just because it was difficult, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it or honor the lives of those who were lost. We honor them both by living our lives today as well as sharing their stories and the stories about the ways that we came together and supported each other as a country. Who do you share about on this day?

Three Sales Qualifying Questions

In reading my business book of the month I’ve been thinking about what people really need to know from a business before they choose to buy from them, whether it’s a product or a service they’re considering. So when a buyer appears in the market they have usually decided that they need help with solving a problem or addressing a need, for example they want Italian for dinner or need headphones/earbuds that work with their phone and computer or they’re moving to a new house. Some businesses make quick work of qualifying people by limiting what they offer, for example only working within a specific geographical location, or their product only is compatible with certain other products or locations, or they only work with women, or they only offer certain colors or sizes. But even with those filters applied, there are still tons of options that are usually still available and the buyer has to sort through. So today I thought we’d talk about a couple of the questions that potential buyers are asking when they come into contact with your business, and encourage you to make sure that your marketing addresses them.

Does it work/will it solve my problem/issue/concern/need? This question is where many people start because it’s the most important to determining if they should even bother to do further research. If they find that you’ve got a bunch of 1 star reviews with people saying that your product broke within a day or didn’t work as marketed or wasn’t the best fit or, as mentioned above, only works in certain situations, people will move on. It’s one of the reasons why you want to take the time to outline the features of what you’re selling and as part of that bio, pamphlet, sales page or listing. The more thorough you can be here, the easier it is for people to want to read reviews, set up consults, put your offering on a shortlist, or buy immediately.

What does it cost? Once people know that what you’re offering is a good fit for their problem/issue/concern/need/plans the next thing they want to know is cost. We’ve had this discussion before, and we’ll have it many times in the future I’m sure. I’m of the belief that the more information you give people, the easier it is to qualify them as being a great customer for you, or someone who should walk away, and price is part of that information. If people can put a number on a house for sale (i.e. 167,000 or 875,000 or 2 million dollars), why can’t any business list their prices, or at least share where pricing starts and the factors that can increase the price and give examples of what a couple of popular choices would price out to be? Not sharing the price means you’ve got another hurdle to get through before you can really consider someone qualified, a step you could have already taken care of without ever having to have a conversation with someone if you had just listed the prices from the start.

Why your product/service and business? This question gets asked more frequently these days because of the numbers or similar products and services available to people. So as helpful as features and facts are about your products and services, it’s often helpful to go another step further and do your best to create an emotional connection with people through your brand story and the story of your product/service. Most things have a reason for why you do them a certain way or why you use certain products in your service or why you started your company or why you created that specific design, not to mention why people love you and what you offer, so including the story as part of your marketing and presentation is a great way to show people why you’re (hopefully) the right choice for them.

Of course the most important thing to remember is why we go through all this work, and that’s so we have happy customers who love our stuff and tell other people about us, rather than dealing with refunds and hate mail and having to do damage control on our reputation all the time. It’s much easier to invite a satisfied customer back to buy from us than convincing someone who has never heard of us to give us a try in the first place. Are you giving your potential customers the information they need to make buying from you an easy decision?

Choose to Work

The past 18 months have been extra challenging on top of the challenges we’re used to facing. So yesterday on Labor Day we had a lot to celebrate with the people who have worked extra hard to overcome the many challenges we’ve faced and do their very best to keep our country and our world running as well as they could. Work has changed a lot in that time period, and those changes aren’t done yet as we’re not quite to a point in this pandemic that we’re able to really call life “normal” again (unless normal is going to look like life looks now, which I hope is not the case).

Some people and businesses have been very successful during this time, but others of us have really struggled to keep everything together, let alone moving forward. So for some of us Labor Day was a bit more somber and sober than in past years because we haven’t had tons of victories and successes from the past year to celebrate. But one of the biggest lessons about work that most of us have learned over the past 18 months is that there’s always some work to do, however large or small or not-quite-on-target it may be. For example many of us found success in our outdoor spaces with gardening, or cleaned up our closets that we’ve been stuffing stuff in for years, or finally cleaned up our email accounts and deleted or filed all those emails, or finally sat down and wrote that book we’ve been thinking about.

I know how distracting the past 18 months have been, and even when life isn’t quite as volatile as it has been, we still sometimes have to wait for someone or something to take the next step in our success journey, or we struggle with stress or mental blocks. So the wisdom that was shared with me yesterday and I’m sharing with you today is the encouragement to choose to succeed, even if it’s not on what you wanted to work on. No, I’m not encouraging or advocating for avoiding important tasks that you should be doing or need to be done. Obviously if something needs to be done and you’ve got the capability to get it done and it’s the highest priority, you should do it. And I’m also an advocate of taking rests and breaks when you need them. But that aside, most of us have to-do lists that will never be finished, so there is always something you can do to achieve a victory, create a success and keep life moving. What will you work on this week?

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Stephen Hawking

The Choice of Working Hard

This extended weekend in the US we celebrate Labor Day. Work is much easier now for many people, yes, but just because it’s easier most of the time doesn’t make it less important or not worth doing. I grew up experiencing the value of hard work and working hard, whether that was gardening, cleaning, doing a thorough job on my homework, cooking and baking, doing charity work, or exercise. While the world has changed much in the past few decades, there’s still plenty of work to go around, plenty of things that really only happen when people get their hands dirty.

I think the message to share with kids this Labor Day is that it’s OK to work hard. You should feel proud when you step up to the plate to put in some effort whether that means volunteering to carry buckets of water to help drain a basement after all the rain, helping move/reclaim sand on your local beach after a big storm, picking up after dogs at your local rescue or dog training center, preparing and cooking a meal all with your own hands, building a bookcase, tidying your room, or helping clean up/shovel snow around a neighbor’s house who is homebound and unable to do yardwork. Working hard can also look like you helping someone understand how a technology device works, building a simple but complete website for a family business, writing a letter to the editor of a local paper about something good or concerning in your town, or helping organize a parade for your school/town/organization.

I think in the last few decades we’ve realized exactly how much work there is in the world, and that there’s plenty for each of us to do what we do best and what we enjoy most. We don’t all have to work hard saving lives as police officers and surgeons. We don’t all have to be teachers or grocery store owners. We don’t all have to be biological parents (we all do have a responsibility to the next generation though). Something that hasn’t changed over the decades though is that we both have some responsibilities we should work hard on, and some others that are presented to us as opportunities and things we can do to better ourselves and our communities (such as volunteer work or just choosing to do a good deed without being asked). What ways have you seen your kids step up and work hard over the last 18 months?

Communicate with Respect

For today’s post I want to talk about something I’ve seen recently with increasing and alarming frequency. It’s the tendency for some people to communicate in words and short phrases rather than full sentences and conversations. Now, I do understand how busy people are and how many responsibilities people have, especially business owners, even in this season when we’re not at what used to be our normal pace or doing what used to be all of our normal activities. And I also appreciate brevity, as not everything needs to be a book. But when you’re conversing with someone through only a few words or brief phrases it comes off as rude and disrespectful and doesn’t make someone want to work with you. It also usually means that twice the amount of conversation has to happen because you have to go back and forth with them a lot more to drag all the pertinent information out of them.

Let’s start with talking about simplicity. I love simplicity, I don’t think we need 100 tools to do our work or communicate with each other, I think we can not only get by but do quite well with keeping it simple and not requiring people to download an app for every store and situation. I love reading books that are several hundred pages long, but I also find value in reading Seth Godin’s blog which usually consists of short posts (shorter than mine!) and news headlines rather than full articles. I don’t think every response or message or conversation needs to be several paragraphs or hours long, but unless you are responding with a yes/no or asking a question, it’s likely that the most appropriate response would be at least a full sentence or more.

Simplicity aside, let’s get to the heart of the issue, and that’s respect. If you’re reaching out to someone asking for help or advice or support, if you really want them to respond to you, take the couple of minutes to craft a thoughtful and complete message, giving them the information they’ll need to ask the right questions or set up an appointment or help you with your issue. Between business owners, the disrespect is magnified, because it makes it seem like one person thinks they’re more important or busier than the other person is and doesn’t show any consideration for anyone except themselves. And the excuse that “my fingers are too fat to use the phone keyboard and it takes forever for me to use a computer keyboard” are completely irrelevant because of the talk-to-text apps and tools that exist and can do all of the work for you, you just have to say the words you want to communicate.

I know it’s not the time to talk about resolutions (we’re still four months away from that) but it is the right time to talk about establishing good habits and setting a good example as students go back to school for another school year. Brevity has a place, but should never be placed above respect and courtesy. What does how you communicate say about you?

Creating Big and Bold Success

I absolutely believe that anyone can make a positive difference or be a success in the world. We’ve got too many resources and tools available to us that just about anyone can live a good life in this day and age if they’re willing to put in the work. But sometimes how successful something or someone is does depend on having a big platform.

58 years ago on August 28 one man stood tall, spoke proud and inspired millions, if not billions, of people. That man was Martin Luther King Jr., and the words he spoke were that of the I Have A Dream Speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. We’ve all heard the most famous parts of the speech, some of us spent time studying it during school, and others of us have studied it as we’ve worked in recent years to learn more about culture, civil rights and race in America.

Yes, it was an incredibly inspiring speech, but one of the reasons people know it so well is because it was shared on such a large platform. He shared many other inspiring speeches during the years that he was a minister and the years that he worked on civil rights, but none of them were shared in front of 250,000 people or in such a well-known place. Martin Luther King Jr. made an impact on the world before 1963 and this famous speech, but this speech cemented him in the history books.

Not everyone wants to deal with lots of publicity, but if that publicity can be used to help raise awareness about a worthy cause, inspire people to make positive changes in their lives or the world around them, or raise awareness about a serious injustice or problem going on, even the most publicity-avoidant people should be courageous and step up. Mother Teresa, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and others may not have wanted to be a household name, but that’s what happened and they stepped up and have improved lives, motivated women and girls, and raised awareness.

Not every success is about making money, although publicity often does help with increasing sales or gaining more funds to support the organization. Sometimes the biggest success is about the number of people who know the truth of a situation, or are helping to share someone’s story and the amazing work they’re doing, or raising lots of resources to help with a situation.

I don’t know that anyone is really ready for the publicity they get, many people experience this publicity at the hardest moments of their life. While you can’t guarantee how you’ll react when presented with an opportunity to share with a larger stage, I would encourage you to be willing to be open if you know that sharing your story, experience or passion would be helpful to others.