Making Health Happen

Health is something that’s so important and you definitely notice when it’s lacking. It’s hard to have health issues as a parent because not only do you feel bad, you’ve got kids to take care of in addition to trying to manage your health challenge. It’s also hard to watch your kids go through health issues, because you want to do something for them but there’s little you can do to help. As we head into back to school time and the season change, there’s opportunity for health challenges as well as getting healthier. Even if you can’t avoid health issues, you certainly can do some things to make it easier for you and your family.

Start by making it a practice to live a healthy lifestyle. This means getting out with your family to exercise. Exercise can include hiking, swimming, playing sports, and generally being physically active, encouraging that physical activity certainly in balance with relaxation and the technology that we all love.

It also means encouraging healthy eating practices. Introducing your kids to a wide variety of foods and balancing the sweet treats along with the healthy foods that help our bodies run well and keep us healthy is important but often challenging. There are lots of companies coming up with more appealing versions of healthy foods, but at home you can simply try a variety of recipes until you hit on something that makes a challenging food not only palatable but tasty. Cooking classes may even be something to look into that would be fun for everyone and help with encouraging healthy eating practices.

When the health issues do pop up, encourage rest, relaxation and doing what it takes to get well. It’s rare that any of us can truly stop our lives for long enough to get well, kids or adults, but we can do better about giving our bodies what they need to heal. As an adult if you truly can’t take days off, take half days off or work from home. Kids always get work sent home when they’re sick, so balancing time sleeping, resting, and watching TV and movies with doing homework, cards, puzzles and other thinking activities can help them get well and not be too bored or get too far behind.

As we move into the fall I encourage you to prioritize your health and that of your loved ones. Don’t let it fall by the wayside or wait for something to happen, actively choose to live healthy, mind, body and spirit.

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Open and Honest Business

Years ago my eye doctor suggested I change the contact brand I was using because it was sure to be discontinued soon. I didn’t follow her advice (I don’t see her anymore either) and today, some 10+ years later, I’m still using the same brand as I was back then. So why would she tell me that? Was it sales motivated? Was it motivated by her belief that mine are of lesser quality? I don’t know, but I often think about that conversation when I get out a new pair and happily put them in.

This week I was checking out the social profile for a charity I follow and they posted that they’d earned a GuideStar Gold Seal of Transparency. What this means is that they share goals and strategies about their work, information about their capabilities and vision and provide meaningful data to help potential investors be reassured that the organization is a great one to invest in. Charity Navigator, another popular non-profit review organization, also has a similar rating system. I understand why non-profits really need organizations like these, so that they can’t steal money that should go to good causes, but I have to wonder why there isn’t a similar system for for-profit businesses? What difference would be made if they had to provide transparent information so they couldn’t provide sub-par services and products?

And then there’s the talk that’s been going on for the past while about removing likes from Instagram. Just so everyone is on the same page, as I learned this week that doesn’t mean the like button is going away, it just means that non-account owners can’t see how many people have liked a post (and yes, the account owner can see numbers like shares and like counts). I understand the idea here, and in some ways I do support it. But the other side of the coin is that this is social media so will this encourage us to be more or less social and interact more or less frequently with each other? If it just ends up being more organic and authentic interactions I’m great with that, but if it ends up destroying engagement as a whole, it’s not very authentic to the vision and purpose of the business (which is connecting people, not making money).

There’s also the marketing email I got this week asking if I had made a purchase and if I was still interested or not. It’s a fine email, except I had made a purchase 2 days earlier. So clearly there’s a breakdown in communication between departments, that the sales department didn’t communicate with the sales development department (or whatever departments they actually are), and as a result I’m probably not the only one getting confusing emails, emails that make me question if my business was really appreciated or not.

So today our question is one of transparency and honesty. Are you clearly and efficiently communicating with your people? Are you making a serious effort to give accurate and helpful advice and insights or just trying to make a sale? People don’t like to have the wool pulled over their eyes, to find out that the deadline they were given wasn’t really that firm or didn’t even exist after all, to find that the sale price is more than the regular price. Honesty and transparency are rewarded, where does your business and your leadership stand?

Facing Fears

Ah fear. It’s frequently a topic that gets brought up in late September and October with Halloween, but it’s rare that we only deal with fear in our lives for only one and a half months out of the year, let alone schedule it like that. Fears are something that all of us deal with at one point in time or another, sometimes on a daily basis. Some of us are better at conquering fears than others, whether because we’re naturally ballsy and adventurous, or because we’re stubborn and refuse to let anything get the best of us.

But most of us struggle more than we would like to admit or have to deal with when it comes to fear. Maybe it’s fear around change, the unknown, failure, or loss, maybe it’s fear because of a previous experience that was terrible, or maybe it’s just a fear that has no real foundation in personal experience yet cripples us or holds us back (i.e. fear of drowning).  Part of the key of beating fear is knowing what you’re afraid of and deciding if the possible results are really as scary as they seem.  For example, yes, drowning really is that scary, but maybe it’s not so scary to try a new dish at dinner or meet a new potential client or buy a new house, and maybe there’s only a really small percentage possibility that you would drown in the given situation you’re questioning.

Fear is interesting because there are 2 different sides to being successful when it comes to fear.  There’s success in choosing to acknowledge the fear and heed its warning (tying in to the drowning example we’ve been using).  Then there’s success in being able to do something even though you’re afraid, and break through that fear to something potentially really awesome.  There’s also a line between these two types of success and that’s when someone like a herpetologist who has a healthy respect for something fear-inducing (snakes or spiders) but handle or care for them anyway.

As we head into the autumn I would encourage you to work through at least one of the fears that’s holding you back but isn’t likely to be nearly as scary as you think it might be.  You’ll certainly learn from the experience and hopefully build some stronger relationships and personal respect and confidence as you go along.

Rest And Rejuvenation

Lately it’s seemed like the older I get the smarter I have to be and more conscious of how I treat my body (or it lets me know what it thinks). Sometimes I forget that there are working, connected parts and they can be affected and respond in ways that I’ve never experienced. It’s a reminder that they are not stationary and neither should we be in our lives, and that we have to respect and care for them if we want them to last us for our whole lives and not break down more than any genetics or medical conditions (cancer etc.) may cause them to.

In this age of going (and how active and busy/committed both we and our kids can be) it can be hard to stop and rest, but rest is an important part of healing and being healthy, and not taking the time for rest means that we won’t heal as quickly, won’t feel as rejuvenated, and won’t be able to process all that goes on in our lives. Vacations are great for many reasons, but they can be very stressful. Making sure to have several buffer days on either side of the vacation can be helpful in not only preparing for the vacation and returning everything back to rights, but also in giving you the mental and physical time and space you need to rest and rejuvenate.

As we look at going back to school not only is it good to schedule in rest times to the fall schedule, but also to make sure you and the kids take a break before things get crazy again. Even if it’s been a pretty restful summer it’s good to have the time and space to mentally process the changes that are coming up in your life because with every new season there are changes that happen. So whether that’s making (more) time each day for something like meditation, taking longer walks, relaxing on the deck/beach/backyard, doing puzzles or coloring or some other mostly quiet activity, take time to physically rest as well as mentally process all of the things that have gone on in your life and the directions you’re going. How do you rest?

The Slippery Slogan Slope

Whether you use audio or text, communication is one of the most important aspects of your business and directly impacts your success. I can’t tell you how many times I personally have clicked away from a page and potential purchase because it just didn’t have the information I needed to establish if it was the right purchase for me. If it’s a serious or big or necessary purchase that can’t be put off I’ll do the research and visit a couple other websites to find the answers I need to decide if I’m going to make the purchase or not. Often it’s a case of lacking information, but all too frequently the information that’s provided is confusing, contradictory or just plain strange.

I read an article recently by Brooke B. Sellas about 3 marketing slogans she’d change (Apartments.Com, Time Warner, Victoria’s Secret) and I agree with her thoughts on some of the issues that the current slogans have. Slogans change all the time, especially when they’re not central to the brand. But even logos and names which are typically more permanent have been known to change as the business grows and develops.  Reading the article by Sellas got me thinking about some other marketing communications that aren’t helpful to the brand either.

One headline that I recently asked “what does that even mean?” about is a credit card offer that reads “Another credit card that’s not just another card.” Another card that’s not another card? Why not lead with a line about specifically why it’s better/different than some other cards like about the best mileage deal they offer, best cashback program they have, lowest fees they have or something else that sets them apart, instead of trying word soup. Another of my favorite confusing lines are the drug commercials that say “if you’re allergic to x drug, don’t take it.” How do you know you’re allergic to it? Do you have to take it first? Why not just say that you’ll be tested to confirm you’re not allergic?

I have no issue with having a headline or slogan to help you stand out, but I think you get the point that it’s a really easy way to screw up your brand and create a disconnect with your clients and customers. If you know that slogan or those first lines are your opportunity to really catch the attention of your potential buyer, why aren’t we more attentive to what they communicate (and what they say about us as a business)? Don’t choose a headline or slogan just because you think you need one, invest instead in doing your very best to communicate specifics to potential customers.

A Little Compassion

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be beginning the week with a reflection on going back to school. Many of these insights can be applied to how we adults live our lives and how we interact with others, not just insights to help our kids navigate a new school year. Today I want to reflect on the words of the Dalai Lama:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

It can be scary and intimidating to begin a new school year, even if you’ve been at that school before much has changed with the new year. There’s new people, new schedules, new homework, new topics to study to navigate, not to mention everything that goes on outside of the classroom. Stress tends to make people frustrated, raises tempers and increases fights and disagreements, and if we’re not careful we can easily pass that stress and those feelings on to others.

If instead we as adults chose to practice compassion, consideration and patience, we’d be able to ease some of the stress that kids go through. We wouldn’t over schedule them after school so that they didn’t have time to do their homework. We’d give reasonable amounts of homework. We’d better communicate with them about anticipated questions and issues, letting them know how we can work with them when issues arise. We’d work with them when issues, mistakes and failures happen, focusing less on guilt and more on doing better next time.

If compassion is a road that leads to happiness, it would serve everyone well to work on choosing compassion over other emotions when we’re faced with challenges and changes.

Fighting Hate with Good

Every so often people surprise me in a good way. We’ve been having a bit of a difficult time over the past few weeks with shootings and violent attacks, it’s raised the typical questions of what can we do to prevent this in the future i.e. better control over who can have a gun, which is a good conversation to have. The most recent attacks have raised questions not of mental illness but of hate, which is frustrating because it seems like nothing is changing regardless of how many violent attacks have happened in the years since Columbine and Waco.

It’s hard to explain the concept of hate on this level to the next generation, especially if you don’t understand it yourself. It’s hard to give them reassurance that they won’t have this happen at the next event they attend or school they go to, because you can’t tell what will trigger someone to choose that place for their attack. It’s heartbreaking that we still aren’t understanding the pain that is caused as a result and making the changes so that fewer families have to suffer through losing one or more of their loved ones.

And yet an 11 year old boy is doing something. He’s behind a recent going-viral movement called the #ElPasoChallenge in which he challenged his community to do 22 good deeds for others in response to the recent attack on August 3. In response people are doing simple things like handing out 22 bottles of water to the homeless, 22 packs of gum with an invitation to smile, popcorn and movie coupons and more. The response from kids who are participating is to request to be able to do this more often.

If we raise the next generation on doing acts of kindness and giving back, maybe they’ll never be able to understand the hate that some have and won’t increase the number of deadly shootings that happen in the US. Maybe instead they’ll keep their focus on doing the right thing, on building a better world and making the world a better place for others.  What are you doing to help good win in this fight?

Taught by Toni Morrison

This week the world lost a great thinker and writer, Toni Morrison. She won a Nobel Prize for her literary work and has received other awards and recognition as well, she’s been an editor and a professor, and was a mother. Her words and spirit have spoken to many generations and groups of people, so today I thought we’d take a look at what made her so well liked and successful (even if that may not have been her goal) and what we can learn from her life and success.

It all starts with words. Toni is known for her culturally relevant and forward thinking, and her words were always accurate but sensitive. She did it all when it came to writing, including editing the works of others, and many of the tributes that have been shared have echoed how her words have stuck with them, and that her words made them realize how important, valuable and powerful words can be. As a business owner one of the most powerful tools you have are words, and too many businesses today aren’t providing sufficient words, both written and audio. They aren’t speaking to their people, let alone speaking in a passionate, persuasive and informative manner.

She told a story. One of the things that we’re really been talking about in business over the past few years is the value of telling a story, and how our customers can relate better to us when we tell a story. As powerful as her stories were, the words she chose were words of truth, words that spoke to the situations, experiences and emotions of the African American culture she so often wrote about. Go ahead and tell stories in your business and to your customers, but don’t waste your time or theirs with false stories or tales that go nowhere. Keep it relevant and accurate to who you are, who your customers are and what you’re all about.

Finally, she knew what it was to nurture and love. In one interview she talked about some famous authors who had one breakout hit but ended their working years doing menial labor jobs. She questioned what happened that they weren’t able to continue to bring greatness to the literary world, and that’s something that we have to question in business as well. Why do some companies start out so well and peter out? One of the reasons is because they don’t take the time to nurture and care for their customers and provide an experience that customers want to come back to and want to tell others about.  No one has had a bad thing to say about Toni Morrison(although not everyone has loved her work), would people be equally positive about you?

Toni Morrison lived 88 wonderful, engaged and filled years, years in which she chose to make an impact one word and one relationship at a time.  Are the words and actions you’re taking in your business building a similar legacy that will last as long as she did and beyond or are you working on a one-hit-wonder?

Finishing the Thought

My partner and I have been having a bit of a water issue lately so I’m really keeping on top of the weather and paying attention to when they’re calling for rain. So the other morning I was telling him that I had gone online and checked the weather for the next few days and there was rain predicted on whichever days it was predicted. And he interrupted me at what he thought was the end of my sentence and thought and said something about the likelihood of the rain and then when he was done I finished what I had been trying to tell him.

There was no argument and no issues and certainly wasn’t a big deal, but it got me thinking because I had all the information and data to tell him yet I wasn’t able to finish the thought before he jumped in with his questions and thoughts. This is fine when a couple or a group are trying to brainstorm or in a situation where many voices is a good thing. But in this case it wasn’t a good thing because I was going to address exactly what he brought up before he interrupted me. This is one reason why I like technology like texting, messaging and emails which allow you to get out a full thought. There’s no possible interruptions, you can put out your full thought (hopefully a well thought-out thought) and they then have the opportunity to send back an equally well considered thought, hopefully not one stuck on reaction.

That said, something is often lost when you’re talking virtually and not in person.  Some conversations deserve the respect of being done in person and I know how hard it is to keep your mouth closed when someone is talking about something and you have an idea or a question or think they’re missing something or are wrong about something. It’s one reason why I keep paper and pen next to me at all times at my desk, use a pad when talking with clients, and even suggest to clients to use it as a tool when they’re having (tough) conversations with a team member at work or even with their partner at home. That way the thought or idea gets written down and can be brought up when there’s a true space in conversation and not as an interruption which can escalate the conversation. It also gives you a chance to reflect before just saying something, which means you can hopefully avoid saying something cruel or hurtful.

I love when someone has excitement for life, or a story they want to tell, an idea they want to share, or has great information to share. But it can be easy to get caught up in that excitement and be tripping over each other to get the words out.  That excitement can also cause some serious damage if we’re not careful and don’t take the time to think and truly converse with each other by both speaking and listening.  Will you join me in being a better listener and communicator this week?

Friendship for the Next Generation

Today, August 4th is Friendship Day in the US. Friendship is about having fun together, having people you can turn to at any time, people you love to go places with, people who you can just hang out with and do absolutely nothing and it be a great time. Social media and technology like mobile phones have empowered us to build friendships with people around the world, not just those we went to school with or who live in our physical area. People with good friendships tend to be happier, healthier and more at peace with the world.

Friends are important because they’re relationships we choose to make. For some people they’re closer than family, either because someone doesn’t have family or they don’t feel comfortable with their family or their family aren’t people they want to be around. But like romantic relationships, we don’t always navigate them well when situations of change pop up in our lives. It’s one area that we haven’t done a great job with teaching the next generation, one that is easy in some ways to do better with, but in other ways it’s not so easy.

One of the best ways to teach the next generation is by showing them healthy friendships, which means having nights out with friends, getting together with other families and doing things with them, and making new friends so kids see the process. It’s also not so easy because it means you have to get out there and work on those relationships with friends and potential friends. We don’t always find we have time for everything, and to think about adding another thing to that list might be a bit overwhelming.

The “easier” way is by encouraging them to read books with friendships and watch movies and shows with friendships, to have play dates and hangouts with friends, to have birthday parties and attend them, and of course to talk about the friendships (and challenge with friendships) at school. Best of course would be to do both, teaching by example and encouraging their friendships.

Even when our friendships don’t last, they’re some of the most rewarding and positive memories and experiences, which makes them worth the effort we have to put into them. What have friendships that you’ve had and have seen taught you?