The Problem with Busy

Lately much of the world has been moving again after almost 18 months of changes, standing still and uncertainty. In many ways it feels good to be busy again and to be out and about, working with new clients, and being part of the community. After all, rarely is success achieved without effort, action and connections. After being stuck for so long it does feel good to be accomplishing tasks and reaching goals again. But as I was busy with activities the other day, I was thinking about the last time I had a moment to really think about things and evaluate progress and do more than just check off tasks.

Why is this a concern? Because you can only truly plan things out so far before any plans you make are just too questionable to really trust. You may say you have a 10 year plan, but let’s be honest, how likely are you to be accurate with the plans you wrote down for years 5-10? Maybe some of the things will work out as you anticipate, but things change too much to really plan that far out in this day and age.

So yes, busy is good and I’m glad that we’re being active in the world again, but I think we put it into high gear because of how the last 18 months have gone, and now some of us are waking up to the fact that while busy is good, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for reflection and evaluation. If I’m honest, I’ve got some more busy to do before I get to having time for reflection and evaluation, but I’m getting there. And it’s OK if you can’t immediately free yourself from commitments and plans, for one because it’s not really the goal. The goal is to be moving forward and taking action in partnership with reflection and evaluation.

It brings us back to the question and challenge of balance in our lives, and committing time to see to our health, our relationships, our passions, relaxation, exploration, our careers, personal growth, our finances, and reflection. You don’t have to do everything every day, but you need to make time throughout the weeks and months for everything that makes you who you are, keeps you grounded, inspires you and helps you succeed, and one of those things is reflection and evaluation. How will a little time spent on checking in with your plans and activities help you succeed smarter and better before the month is out?

The Best Summer Vacation Ever?

Summer is often the time many families take vacation because with kids off from school it means only the parents have to alter their schedule and not everyone (and because the weather is awesome!). I took many summer vacations with my family growing up and remember feeling that those vacations were just an awesome added bonus on top of not being in school for over 2 months. I was talking with a friend who took his kids on vacation to Hawaii and he was saying that he hopes his kids say to him that it was the best vacation ever. I reminded him that they may not use those words, but if in the years to come the memories they continually bring up are from this trip, and they compare future trips to this one, then they absolutely do consider this the best vacation ever, even if they don’t specifically state that.

I don’t know that I have a “favorite” vacation that we took when I was a kid, but I certainly do have great memories from many vacations. And while I may not have a favorite, I would love to revisit some of those destinations and adventures with my partner some day. Wanting to do something again or visit a place again is also another great compliment and speaks to the quality of memories that were made on those vacations many years ago.

But of course as any adult knows, vacations do come with costs and stress, both before, during and after the vacation. No one likes to be stressed, but the moments I witnessed taught me problem solving skills, the importance of sometimes going with the flow, the benefits of being flexible, the value in knowing yourself and your limits, and what planning ahead can help you create. I also learned how important it is to always packing food with you when you leave home, and that a change of scenery can share something with you that you’ll really enjoy or be wowed by if you take the chance. What summer vacation success secrets have you learned from vacationing?

Does Size Matter for Your Business?

I started my business book of the month this week and quickly discovered that the author enjoys writing short chapters, and that rather than a handful of chapters in the 200+ page book there are dozens. In some ways this is nice because I can read a chapter in a couple of minutes when I have a break (or need a break) and can come back to it later and read another, instead of knowing I have to commit 10-15+ minutes to read through a whole chapter. But it also means that I can’t just say I’ll read a chapter a day, or I won’t finish the book in 30 days’ time. The same is true for so many other parts of our lives and businesses, whether we’re talking cookies, TV shows, books, diffusers, crackers, chicken, blog posts/articles, flowers, therapy, houses, toilet paper, restaurants and cafes, or hair salons/barber shops: everything comes in different sizes.

This is something we talked about a bit in the last post and I’m revisiting the question today: does size matter? The first cop-out answer is that as long as you’ve provided quality work and met the needs of the customer/client, that’s what matters, not how long/big something is. The second cop-out answer is that small is fine but anything and everything can be enlarged, grown, multiplied, or expanded. One real answer is that yes, things absolutely can be too small or too little or not enough, for instance we can’t survive on one fry, one bite of burger and one sip of beverage for dinner; a single flowering plant looks rather pathetic in front of a large house, one sentence usually can’t give all the details necessary for a court case to be won, and the dimensions of a non-pull out couch are too small to be a bed for two adults.

Consider that most people don’t have the time to read through a 200+ page book in a day, most people don’t watch a movie each day, day-to-day most people don’t need the same amount of food that they do for a summer BBQ with friends and neighbors, most business owners don’t need to do a deep-dive on their business each week, and most people don’t have the resources for buying multiple houses or luxurious vacations every year. A larger quantity, a longer blog post/interview/video, and longer/more in-depth services absolutely have a place and most businesses can include them as part of their business. But when you lead with the smaller, shorter, and more immediate (although not “bite sized”), you usually get more buy-in, more connection, and more people willing to give you a minute or two of their time for something valuable in exchange.

Don’t forget that not everyone has the time or ability to invest as you do, and that if masterpieces are your only focus, know that you’ll have to work harder and get luckier to get people to invest their resources in your work. Go ahead and invest in a masterpiece, but also provide people with the opportunities to get to know you, build trust with you and build a relationship with you little by little, knowing that those small investments can pay big dividends in the future.

Success Through Small But Consistent Steps

Something I share about often with my clients and on my Life and Spirituality blog is the power of the little things. Little things aren’t big things, but how often in our lives, victory journeys and success journeys are we really at a point that we can make big leaps, take big actions, or go big places? Sure there are a few milestones that we hit throughout our lives and a particular journey we’re on, but those are usually few and far between. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because if we all lived for only the mountaintop moments, we’d be missing out on a lot of awesome stuff. Since success often has to do with money, let’s talk about a few examples of how even a few dollars at a time can really add up.

This week I’ve been getting a lot of emails from the author community sharing about one author who lost her husband at 45 from a sudden stroke. He was not only her best friend and significant other, he was a big supporter of her writing and helped with the marketing aspect. It’s been touching to read the stories from the authors who were able to meet him through conferences or other happenings, and a reminder that life is unknown and to treasure as many moments as you can. The reason I bring this up is because the authors are all encouraging their subscribers to pick up one of her books as a way of showing support (as one author lovingly joked, you can’t send casseroles through the mail so this is the next best option). Most ebooks are under $10, so that may not seem like a big help or make a real difference, but when you add up all those little purchases, quickly you get to hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Another great example is a nonprofit I support that funds a significant portion of their monthly income on $10 donations. Sure you can contribute multiples of $10, but when over 1500 people contribute just their $10 each month, again, you’re able to realistically meet your funding needs without trying to tap people for large amounts, or rely on them to consistently donate large amounts (not to mention that this way you’ve got more people who are excited about what you do and can share with others who can also contribute).

The same is also true for coffee shops. Depending on where you shop and if you decide to get a treat to go along with your beverage, you’re paying between $3 and $10 per visit. Again, it’s not much, but when you get several hundred customers in the door each day enjoying your coffee and treats, those dollars add up. And speaking of dollars, the dollar stores (where everything is less than $5, and often around $1) are one of the fastest growing types of stores in the US right now. And finally, if you were to contribute a dollar a day to a savings account or other investment plan for the future, over the years you’d build up a decent financial foundation for your future.

So this week I encourage you to take the big steps when appropriate and make sure you celebrate them, but don’t overlook the power of small contributions either. What in your life or success journey would benefit from you giving it small but consistent actions?

Ready for Summer Adventures

Schools around the US are finished or finishing up for the year and parents around the country are asking the question about what to do with the kids over the summer. One of the things I loved most about summer break was it meant I could read lots of books and almost none of them were going to be boring or “classic.” I could read all the mystery and adventure books I wanted and explore the world through the eyes and experiences of the characters, and it was great. As I was reminiscing about those awesome summers it got me thinking about the question of what to do over the summer and what every kid wants: a great adventure.

Where does an adventure start? It starts wherever you want it to. I was reading an author’s newsletter the other day and in it she shared about the process that she goes through when she starts a new book. She has a questionnaire that she fills out about the main characters with tons of questions. Apparently very little of what’s written out in this “interview,” if you will, ends up in the book but it helps her really get inside the character’s heads and get to know them and who they are, which is more important than the little details about their favorite food and color usually.

So your adventures this summer may start with something simple like bubbles or chalk or a cardboard box. It may start with a destination like the library, a park, a museum or play center. It may start with a person like a grandparent, best friend or historical figure. Or it may start with an activity like geocashing, creating a photo journal or baking. Or maybe you play a little game with it and fill a box with ideas from all of the above and pick out of it.

Not only are all of these great opportunities for your family to sit down and talk, everyone gets to contribute ideas, which makes it more interesting, and everyone’s more invested and willing to participate. Also, when you start with a little something, you can go in multiple directions with that idea. For example a cardboard box may be a space ship one day, a pirate ship the next, and a dollhouse the next. You don’t have to start with grand plans for the summer, just start with a commitment to creativity and adventure.

Clarity Equals Sales

Every business is dependent on being able to sell the products and services they offer and hopefully not only have their customers come back, but also spread the word to others recommending what they purchased.  Today I thought we’d talk about a couple of things that I ran into recently with some products and what we can learn from what others have done. 

This episode of product reflection began with my partner buying a new face product and asking how to use it.  From what we could see there were no instruction on the box and the bottle didn’t have any either.  So I looked again in the box to see if there was perhaps an instruction sheet, and while there wasn’t, I happened to see something on the inside of the box itself.  Yes, they decided to use the inside of the box for the instructions. I certainly applaud the wisdom of using more of the box than is usually done, but the one thing they should have done is write on the outside that there were instructions on the inside. 

Next I was working with a company on their website and had great difficulty figuring out what was actually being sold in the listings.  What sounded like one product initially, further down the page sounded like three or four.  While packages, sets, bundles and kits are great (and the next thing we’re talking about), often people like having the ability to purchase products separately because they use more of one product or don’t like/need the others that are often sold with them. For example, some people use almost twice as much conditioner than shampoo, so if they were only sold in sets of one conditioner and one shampoo, eventually they would have dozens of extra shampoo bottles and no use for them. 

Finally, bundles, sets, kits and packages are great for several reasons. First, they immediately give you a bump in revenue, even if you offer the package for less than the listed individual rates would be when they were added together.  Putting items together also helps customers who are uncertain about what to get or new to a product/product category, because a grouping puts everything they could need together. It also gives you an opportunity to educate your potential customers and build trust with them which makes it more likely that they will buy from you. Bundles etc. also can help customers further explore your offerings beyond the product they already know and love.  But don’t forget to including directions, a guide or instructions with the bundle etc. if you want people to get the most satisfaction and be the most satisfied with their purchase. 

And in the end it comes back to the importance of communicating with your potential buyers because a confused person doesn’t buy. What have you changed over the course of your business that has helped improve your sales and reduced the number of lost sales and abandoned carts?

The Choice of Resilience

The word I want to talk about today is resilience. It’s a word that everyone seems to like, and gives you a good feeling when you use it in a sentence, but no one really wants to have to use it. It’s a word that we’re becoming intimately familiar with after how the last year and a half has gone, and right now it’s used more in questions than in statements. In case you’re not familiar with it or curious, resilience is defined as “the ability of a person to adjust to or recover readily from illness, adversity, major life changes, etc.”

Resilience only exists because we have challenges and changes we face in our lives. If we didn’t experience challenges and changes in our lives there would be no need to discuss resilience because there would be no recovery or adjustment parts of our life journey. But the challenges and changes are part of our lives, sometimes in bigger ways than others, so we do have to decide if we are going to be resilient or if the challenges and changes are going to get the best of us. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and we have to call it a wash and move on to the next stage of our life journey. But more often than not with the right attitude and at least a little support, we’re able to choose a path that allows us to not only make it through the challenge or change successfully, but do it in a way that sets us up for an even better future.

Sometimes you are really challenged, which is how some of us feel after the last year and a half. Some of us were feeling beaten-down going into 2020 and then the pandemic came along and made everything worse. The hope is that we’re finally heading out of the challenges we’ve been working through, so we’re now at the point where we have to decide how we’re going to adjust and recover from this situation and any others we’ve faced in our lives. Sometimes change and challenges mean that that adjustment means accepting some losses and having to chart a new path forward. And that’s OK because it often gives us the space to make changes that we thought about or might have wanted to make if the opportunity had presented itself. So while we would have rather worked with positive momentum rather than recovery, recovery often does mean a fresher, cleaner slate to build (or rebuild) on.

What it comes down to is that like many other things, resilience is a choice. Do you choose to work into the future with a positive attitude and looking for ways that you can make things better than they were or prevent the changes you just experienced from happening again? Or do you just focus on surviving and don’t think about or look into ways that you could be thriving? I encourage you to choose resilience as we navigate the months ahead because you’ll feel more confident in yourself and your future and provide yourself with more opportunities for health, growth and success. Not to mention that your choice of resilience now may mean the difference between survival and thriving for generations in the future as they use how we lived as an example for their lives.

Taking Time to Celebrate Together

For many of us this month has been a lot of fun and new adventures as our world begins to change again and we’re back to exploring more than we have in over a year. May is a great month to talk about fun because we’ve got so much going on. Here in the US we’ve got graduations, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day (Canada’s got some great patriotic holidays as well) and it feels like we’re getting so close to summer. Those are all reasons to celebrate in my book.

What about you and your partner? What are you celebrating? Are you finding things to celebrate in your lives, even if you’re going through some challenges? I know it can be hard to think of and appreciate those things when you’re feeling so challenged, but no matter how difficult my day or my partner’s day has been we almost always find something to smile about, even if it’s just the fact that we’re back together again after a long day doing our jobs and attending to other commitments.

As important as it is to have someone you can trust and someone who will be there for you through the tough stuff, it’s equally important to have a partner who can find joy and hope in life. I don’t think there are any healthy relationships that are built on problems, but there are plenty of relationships that are built on the victories you’ve had together. If you and your partner have gotten stuck on a problem cycle, I encourage you to find time this weekend or the coming week to break through and have some fun together.

Leadership Love Lessons

This month I read “Love is Free, Guac is Extra” by Monty Moran. He was the co-CEO of Chipotle for many years and was responsible for many of the positive changes that happened, how they became so successful, and how they survived through several rounds of challenges. The thing the book really underlines is the impact good leadership can have on a business. I know, I know, everyone says how important leadership is, but Monty showed that those can be so much more than words and that when you do have the right people in the right places doing the work that they’re passionate about and good at, and you’re all committed to high standards, leadership definitely does make a difference.

I always love seeing how people define the word leadership. Monty defined it as “the act of empowering one or more people to achieve a purpose, which is both desired by the leader and which allows those being led to realize and enjoy their full potential.” He also differentiated between leadership and management (terms that are often used interchangeably) as management is about getting people to do stuff for you, whereas leadership is about getting people to do something for themselves.

Both of these tap into the power of motivation and perspective, meaning companies have two options: they can be just about the bottom line and not truly care about their people, or they can look to make win-win-win-win situations for everyone involved (which usually ends up turning out to be the better option for the company than if they were to just be focused on the bottom line). Monty shares that when people who are truly leaders are involved, they’re actually and frequently in touch with their people. They know them, they listen to them, they trust them, they challenge them, they believe in them, communicate with them, and show that they’re committed to helping their team be their best.

One of the key parts of making this type of leadership (and success through your team) possible, as you would expect has to do with the people you hire. Monty shared that he encouraged the Chipotle organization to hire not on experience as so many companies do, but based on character. This makes a ton of sense because you can always teach skills, but you can’t teach or create or hardly ever modify a person’s character.

Finally, true leaders really are responsible for everyone’s success. The team takes their cues from the leader, and if they see the leader slacking off or being absentee, they’ll follow suit. Monty said that whether you know it or not, the leader is always being watched. Good leaders let their team know that they’re essential to bringing the vision to reality (a vision which is relatable, realistic and impactful). Good leaders share what’s going on because team members feel that they’re an essential part of the team when they’re kept in the loop, and it shows that leaders are aware of what’s going on in the business (and care about what’s going on).

What insights about leadership have you learned lately?

Ready for Success

Time is a funny thing. By now you’ve probably heard the news about these cicadas who live underground as essentially a worm for 17 years, and then emerge only to live for a maximum of six weeks. Cicadas in general live a visible (and mostly audible) life for only those couple of weeks, and other cicada species do live underground for a period of years like the 17 year species does, but I find it fascinating both how something can live for so long and yet truly live in the way we see life for so short of a time.

But can you imagine waiting 17 years to be able to do your thing, knowing that you’ve only got a maximum of 6 weeks to get everything into place and make magic happen? Can you imagine waiting more than 99% of your life to really live? It sure puts a lot of pressure on you and means that absolutely nothing can go wrong or disrupt your couple of weeks or all 17 years are for nothing. But of course no one’s control over the world around us or the people and animals we share this world with is that good, so you’re really putting a lot into hope and prayers and luck to have as much of a chance with your limited timeframe as possible.

While I hope that most of us aren’t limited to only 6 weeks of success or life in our lifetime, it’s a reminder of how precious time can be and how important it is to take it seriously when we are given opportunities for success, personal growth, the relationships that are most important to us, and our health. Of course, if you knew you were only going to have a short time or couple of opportunities for success, you would do everything you could to be ready when those opportunities appeared. You’d be learning, practicing, studying and lining up resources so that if and when your opportunities knock, you’re ready to greet them and get to work. How ready are you for success?