All About the Details

Have you ever gone shopping on an online site and wondered why some of the prices were so very different from what others sell them at? Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a case of someone not knowing that periods exist and where they belong, because I’m not talking about a $10-$15 difference, I’m talking about $2990 vs $29.99 or $115 vs $15. I don’t bother clicking the listing, but I often wonder if they’ve dipped the item in gold or if a famous person signed it that they think they can get that much for it compared to what the rest of the market is selling it for. On a similar note, many of us have experienced similar things with communications we’ve had with others or seen others have. For example people who only use exclamation points or question marks in their writings so that everything was a question or everything was exclamatory. Another classic example of questionable communication are those people who write in all caps lock even when they aren’t shouting at someone.

But it really got me thinking about the importance of paying attention to details, and how important it is to teach our kids to pay attention to details. It matters if you put in a teaspoon or tablespoon of salt in a recipe, it matters if you call someone when they asked for an email, it matters if you use a period or a comma when money is involved, it matters if you say you’re going to be somewhere at a certain time and are an hour late, it matters how much of a medicine is put in a syringe, it matters if you don’t respect someone’s medical conditions or food allergies you knew about, it matters if you drink the last cup of coffee in the middle of the day at work and don’t make a new pot, and the list goes on. For kids being detail oriented can look like building a structurally sound house out of blocks, getting into fewer fights and upsets because rules were established before the game began, the one who shows up at birthday parties with the best gift because they pay attention to their friends, and even the one with the best stories because they pay attention to the world around them.

Details matter because in extreme cases if you don’t pay attention to them, they can get you killed. But in much less extreme cases being detail oriented can make you the one that gets picked for the position over someone else, the person who gets the best deal, the person everyone turns to for advice, and the one who always manages to come out mostly or definitely on top of a situation because you were paying attention and got out at the right time or had a ‘plan b’ ready to go. It also means that you have to redo things less often because you were paying attention to and for details in the first place. Being detail oriented doesn’t mean that you are perfect, but it does mean that you always check the things that matter like punctuation, spelling, allergies, number of attendees, rules about where you’re going, and ask other people what matters to them. Yes, it means some extra work up front usually, but it ends up saving you so much time and stress on the other end. What areas do you find you are better with details?

Lessons in Leadership: Martha Stewart

Guess who turned 80 this year and is still having a positive impact on the business world? Yes, Martha Stewart. I heard someone say her age recently and I was shocked because she has an enthusiasm for life and presence when you see her on TV or the internet that makes you think she’s either still young or ageless! I give her a ton of credit because many people I know who are 80 aren’t doing anything along the lines of what she is doing let alone managed the comeback that she did. Let’s take a look at her story and some of the reasons why I think she’s worth our respect as a leader.

One of the things that I think has played a huge role in making her an attractive leader is her presence. She isn’t someone you can ignore, but she’s also not brash. She has always had a more calming and soothing nature, which has worked well with the gardening and recipe work she’s well known for. She also always has a smile on her face and makes you feel welcome into her home, kitchen or TV set, and she knows how to have fun too! Do people want to spend time with you, want to get to know you and feel like you’re their friend even if they haven’t spent actual time with you? While it’s not something everyone can pull off, it’s a good reminder that being warm and welcoming goes a long way in business and success (and life too!).

Through all the various changes to her business empire she has managed to remain a warm person, and it’s one of the things that has helped her be an enduring icon even through a very public scandal and ethical failure. Almost 2o years ago she was convicted of a couple things including fraud related to stock trading. While few of us would consider 60 old, she certainly had thus far had a very successful life and career and probably could have lived a “regular” life once she finished her sentence, but she decided to step back into the public eye and has since brought her brand and name to new heights. I really appreciate her willingness to take the punishment she received and not shy away from the fact that she made a mistake, but at the same time to not let that mistake ruin the future she wanted.

Finally, while many would have just returned to the basics of a simple home and garden show and/or cookbooks, Martha chose to do more. She’s got partnerships to create paper-based crafts, homes, cookware and other home goods, wines, foods and more. She’s (as you’ve probably seen) done commercials and TV shows with Snoop Dogg, she’s been on other TV shows and has been on QVC and so much more. It’s a big reminder that yes, if you fall you can get back up, and you can even go bigger and better if that’s your dream. You also should never stick with just what “you’ve always done” if you have dreams or the opportunity to go bigger or in a new and exciting direction.

What are you going to be doing with your business at 80? Even if you don’t have a dream to be managing or running your business that long as the leader, you should take every advantage now to build a quality brand that will stand the test of time like Walt Disney’s has, and like I believe Martha Stewart’s will. What helps you work through and overcome mistakes you make and failures you have?

Patience with Time for Success

Success is one of those things that isn’t always predictable and can’t always be performed or accomplished in the way or ways that you’ve done in the past. Sometimes we accomplish more when we do things in batches, chunks or bursts, other times we get more done when we do a little every single day. For example, some days you may be motivated to clean the dishes as they are made (or put them in the dishwasher), but other days you may let the whole day pass before taking care of the dishes and do them all at once. Another example is email, as some of us tend to check our emails once or twice a day and read it all at that point, while others of us check in several times throughout the day.

So why does how we do success change? Some days we don’t have the attention span to get things done in large segments, so it’s better to get them done as you can and when you can. Other days you’re feeling really focused and motivated and therefore can get a lot more done on a project at a time. Some days you’ve got blocks of time you can dedicate to specific projects, while other days you only have small segments of time throughout the day. And of course a favorite of everyone, some days the interruptions don’t end and you can’t spend a lot of time on a specific project.

Lately I’ve been feeling really frustrated with the amount of time I spend on things when I try to spend a chunk of time on a project, which has been hard because I’ve been feeling motivated to work on those projects. But as I see the time slipping away, I’m thinking about all the other things I’m not doing and how long this work seems to be taking which means even if I’m making progress, it’s not as rewarding as it should be. So I’m working on shifting to working in pieces for the time being and, maybe most important, being patient with myself and being more willing to celebrate the little wins and acknowledge the progress that is happening even if it’s not quite the way I wanted things done.

Whether you change pace, motivation, timing or focus during a success journey or between success journeys, the most important thing is to keep going and not get frustrated with another aspect of change that you’re having to work through as part of the journey. Learning to go with the flow and notice the signs your mind and body give you will only help you be more successful in the long run.

Words of Wisdom for Life

As adults are graduating from college this month and next month young adults and kids are graduating from 8th and 12th grade, I thought it would be a good time to share some words of wisdom. Yes, they’re important lessons for the next generation to be learning, but they’re also things we can apply to our lives as well.¬† What words of wisdom would you pass on to someone else today?

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

“You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.” Maya Angelou

“If you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” Tyrion Lannister

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” Oprah Winfrey

“What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create.” Buddha

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.” Jane Goodall

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa

“There is no excuse for not trying.” Barak Obama

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So sail away from the safe harbor. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.” Charlie Chaplin

“To be successful you must be unique, you must be so different that if people want what you have, they have to come to you to get it.” Walt Disney

“The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.” Paulo Coelho

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” Helen Keller

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” Reba McEntire

“At the end, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” Denzel Washington

What’s the Point of Your Marketing?

As I was driving the other day I had a scary thought: are we marketers doing the world a disservice through the marketing we’re doing? I started thinking about this as I drove past billboard after billboard that was the name of the company or person and a phone number, website or in a few cases a keyword (like lawyer or insurance). How can we expect people to care about us if we can’t be bothered to do anything except try to shove our name and website/phone number in their faces? Yes, if people see dozens of billboards or ads practically everywhere they go for a single company, some may get curious and check them out, or they may be able to recognize our company as being in business and offering something in a specific category, but is that what we really want to be know for (or not as the case may be)?

Marketing used to be an opportunity to surprise our audience, to get creative with celebrating the holidays, to show our customers how well our products or services mesh with their lives, and how we enrich the world with our company. I’m not suggesting that we come up with anything new necessarily because I fully recognize how many years of more modern marketing we’ve been doing since the world really turned global after the 1990’s, and some of the new stuff companies have come up with has been extremely niche and off-putting to many. So as long as we don’t plagiarize or exactly copy what other companies have done, there are plenty of quality campaigns and ideas that we can tap into.

Which leaves us where? I think we can work within a few basic rules and give the marketing industry a better name and brighter outlook for the future. First: Don’t do boring. If all you can come up with is a graphic that shows your company name and website/email/phone, don’t waste your resources or people’s eyeballs. Second: focus on life. After the past two years we can all use a little more hope, and focus on living instead of standing still. So make sure that your ad has life to it, that it’s personable and it shows that your company is made of humans not letters and numbers. Third: make sure you like it. Time and again I say to people who have “liked” their own posts on social that you shouldn’t like your own posts because one would hope that you like it if you post it. So if you don’t like the ad, if your team doesn’t like the ad, don’t go with it. (Side note: you can’t like it if it’s got spelling and grammar issues)

Would you add any other rules to improve marketing?

Paying Attention To Success

The other week I was in the bread aisle of a grocery store and scared the bejesus¬†out of a woman who wasn’t wearing headphones or talking on the phone when I accidentally dropped something. Not only did she physically jump but she seemed to have quite the emotional upset too. We all have those moments when we’re so very wrapped up in something or so distracted by a situation in our lives that we tune everything else out. I’m not usually in the bread aisle when I’m really focused on something, usually I’m at my desk or outside in nature or even in the shower (there’s something conductive or connective about water that it helps many people think more clearly).

Yes, the ability to really focus is something that is sometimes missing when it comes to the success journeys we try to undertake, and certainly when we struggle to focus it can slow us down from being as efficient as we could be. And yes, sometimes being focused is necessary for paying attention, but more often than not, “paying attention” is about loosely keeping track of what’s going on around you with your 5 senses. For example, if you’re paying attention when you drive, you don’t have 100% of your focus on the road in front of you, you’re giving 15% more or less (depending on the situation) to what all the other cars are doing around you and keeping an eye or ear out for things that might impact you like an ambulance coming up behind you or cars that might not be paying attention to their red light and might hit you.

But the ability to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings can also be just as important, if not more than your ability to focus, because if you are able to notice the nuances or take that additional information into account you can have a fuller and richer experience and more thorough plan or strategy. You never know when something you were made aware of will be helpful or relevant which is why it’s good to regularly pay attention. If you don’t have a great memory for certain things, know that taking copious notes is almost just as good as being able to remember things, because while you may not remember the exact details, when you go back to your notes you’ll be able to easily work the details in where they’re relevant. No, not all the details will matter, nor will you always gain something by paying attention, but it certainly will give you more benefits in your life than less by doing it.

One of the things I appreciate most about having a habit of paying attention and being aware is that you’ll be less likely to be surprised or stressed out by things whether it’s a low bank account, trouble at work, relationship issue or someone dropping something next to you, because you’ll see them coming rather than being blindsided by them, and hopefully be able to do something about it before it’s a total disaster. Stress is something we’re all affected by, and when we’re stressed we often struggle more with being successful. So when we’re less stressed not only are we better able to focus, we’re also more positive about the outcome of whatever we’re working on. And you never know, if you aren’t paying attention you may miss out on exactly how close you are to the successful end of a project rather than adding unnecessary extra steps or effort. So how well do you pay attention to what goes on in your life or could you be missing out on a lot that goes on around you?

A Mother’s Heart

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s both one of the best days each year and also one of the hardest for people. For women who are unable to get pregnant or have had children die, it’s a very hard day. It’s also a tough day for children whose moms were terrible or not part of their lives. It’s tough for those whose moms have died, even though they’ve got years of memories to cherish. It can even be a hard day for families who are separated by distance, because as great as technology is to help connect us, it’s not the same as being there in person able to share a meal or hug.

Unfortunately as some kids can tell you, there’s so much more to a mom than the ability to give birth. It’s sad when there are women who would love to be a mother and would make a great mother and it’s not happening for them, while others don’t seem to care about the kids they’re bringing into the world seemingly every time they turn around. But life and mother nature aren’t always fair and don’t often go along with our timetable or desires. It goes back again to why I so encourage raising kids with a community, because not only do the greatest moms need a break once in a while, for the areas where moms are lacking the community can help pick up the slack and give kids the support they need to help turn them into humans who will raise great kids if they so choose in the future.

So as I was thinking about kids and what to really focus on today, I was reminded that the best moms all have some of the same things in common, things that all of us could practice in our lives to honor the moms we’ve lost, the moms we love, the mom we wish we could be and/or the mom we are. Because I’ve yet to meet a child who couldn’t use a little more love, compassion, care, patience, or love, a bit more hope in their life and encouragement to dream, someone to talk with and hear their stories, or someone to help them be smart about picking right from wrong and know that they can pick themselves back up when they make a mistake. And it turns out that sometimes we adults need a little bit of all of that too from time to time, because while a lot changes as we grow, our hearts are still often just as passionate, giving, caring, creative and open as adults as they were as children.

So this Mother’s Day what characteristic(s) of the best mom(s) you know will you commit to bringing to life in our world?

Small Businesses for the Win

This week is National Small Business Week. I appreciate that it’s been scheduled with almost 6 months in between it and Small Business Saturday to remind people how important small businesses are twice each year and not just during the holiday season. Both large and small businesses have a role in the US economy, as well as the economy of the world, and many families around the US and the world depend on the income from their small businesses to survive. That said, a small business often brings something to the table that a large business just can’t replicate and that’s passion, not to mention that a small, local business usually knows their (local) market far better than a large one ever could.

Which brings us to something that’s really been on my mind and that’s the topic of responsibility which is two sided: the community has a responsibility to get out and “Shop Small,” and small businesses have a responsibility to make it worth their while. No, of course not every small business will be a 5 star establishment, but if we really want to be successful as small businesses we have to give people something worth talking about and most importantly be someone worth doing business with. So yes, use this week as an opportunity to share about your business in your community, but also let it be a reminder that while you may not be a big business doing billions of dollars in sales, you should be very serious about the responsibility you’ve taken on and give your best to each customer and employee.

Finally, we small businesses need to consistently celebrate each other. From sharing each others social posts, to encouraging each other to join local community gatherings, to participating in summer farmers markets, to sponsoring kids sports teams, to sharing resources and recommending people who can help with various business tasks like cleaning or accounting or marketing, time and again we’ve been reminded that when we work together and are part of a community we’re more likely to be successful for longer.

So be proud of yourself this Small Business Week for all that you’ve done in starting and growing your business, and recommit to being the best you can be for your community and your customers all year long.

Create Success through Space

We all have the same amount of one thing in a day: time. Time is a key part of our success journey because if we aren’t able to use or manage it we won’t be able to be successful to the degree that we want to be in the time we want to be successful. One of the things that really became evident when we got over the initial shock of the pandemic was exactly how overscheduled many of us were. We learned that there was something to be said for not cramming as many opportunities and experiences into our lives and the lives of our kids as we could. Some of us have remembered those lessons as we work into the next chapter, but others of us seem to be a little too excited to be getting back into more activities and seem to have forgotten what it felt like to not be going every minute of the day. So today I thought we’d reflect a little on why it’s important to be more conscious of time when it comes to success.

As I mentioned, yes, part of the relationship between success and time does include not overscheduling yourself. Why? Because when you’re more careful about vetting and more selective about choosing the opportunities you pursue, not only can you avoid some of the dead ends that have frustrated you in the past, you’ll also have more room for the stuff that really matters to you or can really help bring you to the next level of success. I know that it’s hard to ignore opportunities that come along, because more opportunities seem to mean more chances for success, but it can often be the opposite.

The other part of this scheduling topic that I want to focus on today is the importance of having buffer time in your schedule. Yes, sometimes there isn’t really a way around booking your schedule, and sometimes you even intentionally do it to maximize resources (for example if you’re visiting a certain city for work you’ll connect with as many of your contacts as you can while you’re there). But when you are intentional about not overfilling your schedule you leave space to be creative, to think, to touch base with your emotions and heart, and to know that if it takes a couple extra minutes or even an extra hour to work through a particular part of your success journey it’s OK because you’ve built that time in.

How often do you build buffer time into your schedule and how has the pandemic changed or affected your perspective on scheduling?

A Little Quiet Time

I know this may seem like an odd topic to talk about as we head into what for many is the busiest season as schools finish up and weather turns fantastic for the US and people go on vacations, but this week I’ve been thinking about and working on quiet time. There are many things I love about the world we live in and the technology we have, but it’s really done the next generations a disservice as far as being able to really teach them about the benefits and necessity of quiet time, not to mention making us adults feel guilty when we’re not all technologically connected and cramming as much as we can into our schedules.

Why does quiet time matter? After all, if we can just follow along with our schedules and expect friends and social media to introduce us to new things and people, why do we have to schedule in quiet time too? This week I was listening to a Christian radio station and a woman was talking about how hard it is for some people to pray these days because of all the notifications on their phones or expectations of full schedules or just not being able to quiet their minds (people who struggle to meditate could be challenged for the same reasons). But it’s not just about faith, quiet time is necessary for creativity and for brain development and independent thinking. If you don’t have any space in your mind to think for yourself, maybe you won’t notice every day, but there will be days when you’re trying to figure something out or trying to get something done and the only thing that comes to mind is “I wish I could think!” But because you haven’t regularly taken time to be quiet, and become comfortable with limiting your distractions and commitments you can’t think (or maybe even feel guilty when you try).

But as the early days of the pandemic taught many of us, it’s not so terrible to not have our schedules completely packed, and to be able to get outside without being all connected and listening to something or talking to someone, or to take 10 minutes to be alone and quiet on the porch or deck or steps with a beverage. Kids should be able to play quietly with toys or read or color and not have to be doing something related to technology or with other people all the time. We should be able to be comfortable in our own skin and within our own minds, and without all the constant inputs of the world.

The best news is that being able to be quiet and separate yourself from the world means that you’ll find it easier to be very productive when you need to be, or think more creatively, you’ll notice more of the world around you, you’ll be more relaxed, you’ll be more patient with others and comfortable to wait silently as they think before they talk, and you’ll have a better grasp on your feelings and overall wellness. If you don’t have a regular quiet time habit, this week I would encourage you and your family to start by spending even just 10 minutes a day with technology turned off or away from you and distractions as limited as you can make them and just be quiet or do quiet things and see how it improves your lives.