The Rules of Love

This month I hope we’ve tackled some of the things that challenge or discourage you about love.  It’s not an easy topic and has lots of sticking points that frustrate us to no end.  To finish out the month I want to talk about one last topic, one last challenge, that’s really a freedom about love.

Love isn’t about being a success or failure, it’s not about being right.  It’s about learning, growing, caring, and supporting. It’s about 2 or more people making the world a better place together.  But as many people have learned, you have to have the love to get to that better place, and when we put rules, restrictions and rock stars in line with those we could potential love, we ruin our chances for finding true love.

Love doesn’t have any predesignated rules.  It doesn’t say you can’t love a single dad and his kids, it doesn’t say you can’t love someone you just met.  When we start to put rules onto who we can and can’t love we hinder our own ability to find love.  When we say that we can’t find love is it because we aren’t trying or because we have too many rules set up about who we can and can’t be with?  It’s not a bad thing to have a few ideas about what you do and don’t want in a relationship (abuse should never be tolerated), but most of those rules should have lots of wiggle room to adjust for the imperfections and differences we all have.

When you truly open up to the possibilities of what love could be for you, love can become real.  When you accept that you don’t know everything you stand a chance of learning how powerful and amazing love can truly be, and you gain the opportunity to some day meet the person who makes your whole world light up.  What rules have you set up that are holding you back?

The Simple Answer

If you’ve been in the business game for any time you probably have talked about niching and what categories your products/services belong in and targeted marketing.  These are all important aspects of having a successful business, but sometimes there are things that have to be taken care of before you can get to the strategies and tactics.  Being a business consultant I’ve worked with a lot of business owners, and one thing that I’ve mentioned before and will mention again always gets me: people refuse to follow the simplest instructions and advice no matter how accurate or easy to do it is.  I’ve heard over and over “Yea, yea I know.  But please advise something that will really work for my business to engage my customers.”

You see what these people don’t realize is quite simple: you can’t get to the bigger and better until you fix what’s broken first.

Need a really simple example?  It would be like going into your client’s cafe or store, telling them they need to clean the trash off the floor and having them say “yea I know, but how do I get customers in the door?!”  The obvious answer is that you won’t get any customers in the door until you take care of the trash on the floor, but some people refuse to accept that it’s just that simple.

It’s not possible to please each and every customer you ever have.  It’s not possible to please every person on the planet, which is really a good thing because it spreads the work and wealth around. But what if it were just that simple to please more customers?  What if all it took was a daily Facebook post, taking out the trash more often, refreshing the menu, changing the staff’s outfits, or getting a simpler website?  If people keep telling you the same thing over and over you will get tired of hearing it, I understand that.  But what’s wrong with the answer being honestly simple?

This week I encourage you to take a good look at your business and stop putting off those simple things and just get them done.  You’ll be surprised what good things simple changes can bring about.

Work Hard, Play Hard

“Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.”  Colin Powell

Life has moments of work and moments of play.  It’s always a blessing when the two can come together, but for most of us work and play are separate.  It isn’t right to always play or always work, life needs some semblance of balance.  True success can never occur if it’s a one avenue success, like work success.  I’ve learned that our work successes and life successes are greatly enhanced by the lessons we learn in other areas of our lives.  When we choose to open ourselves to the lessons of life, we’re able to not only increase the likelihood of our success, but also improve our whole-life satisfaction.

The big challenge with this, of course, is the danger of bringing our work home with us and letting things corrupt other areas of our lives.  It’s one thing to talk over a situation at work with your partner, it’s another thing to ruin your marriage because you hate your job.  You can be passionate about your job without it taking over your life, and you can be passionate about your fun times without letting it ruin your finances.

There are two factors to making sure that your playing and working are fulfilling but not overwhelming.  The first is your self-control and ability to stop when you need to.  The second is the other people in your life.  You need a strong partner and good friends to make this work.  It may seem obvious, but the lessons you learn from truly beneficial friends and partners are far better than those you could learn from a relationship you don’t care about and friends who only like to mess around.

If you want to be the kind of leader that Colin Powell has become, you need to surround yourself with the best people who can not only support you but you can support them.  Life and work are two way streets: both require you to put in effort.

You’re a Dreamer

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

I haven’t met many kids who don’t have a dream of some kind.  They may be too young to recognize it as a dream as we know it, like those who get up in the morning and put on superhero capes and don’t take them off all day, but they’re dreams nonetheless.  As we grew up we too had dreams, but along the way many of us have realized that our dreams weren’t realistic or didn’t fit who we truly were (I always wanted to be a nurse or doctor, but I’ve got no true talent or gifting in those areas).  The beauty of that is we can always dream new dreams.

Like many of those my age, I’ve had to change my dreams many times.  The job I should have gotten when I graduated college that would stay with me to my retirement days was never going to happen; the world had become a different place.  I still don’t have all the answers, but I’m realizing that it’s not only time, it’s necessary to dream again.

You see, what kids know and we often forget, is that it’s those dreams and fantasies that bring that special sparkle to our eyes, the little bit of a skip in our step, the glow that makes people look at us twice.  Don’t deny it: you’ve seen a kid in the past week or two that’s been so in love with life that you just had to smile, right?  As Harriet Tubman, one of the bravest women in history, pointed out, you can have that at any time you want.  It’s just up to you to draw it up from deep within you.

I know that life is full of experiences: some are good and some are bad.  However, we can all learn something from them, and we all do.  But what we don’t all do is learn the lessons and move on as a stronger, better, smarter person.  Instead, many of us let those bad experiences damage us.  To be sure you can’t get through a tough experience without a few scars, but how you see those scars and the world around you as a result of those scars is the differentiating factor.

Today I encourage you to take hold of the courage and wisdom of Harriet Tubman and choose to change your world.

Learning Leadership

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  John F. Kennedy

Any of the legendary leaders including John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, John Kotter, Anthony Robbins, and Lance Secretan, will tell you that leadership is a life-long pursuit.  It is something you begin and never truly finish.  Why?  Because you never truly ever finish learning.  There’s the old saying that ‘you learn something new everyday’ and it’s very true.  If you’re willing you’ll learn at least one new thing every day.  Those who aren’t willing to keep learning and growing won’t ever gain the status, abilities or capabilities of a leader who has studied long and hard and keeps learning.  Of course, anyone who does lots of learning will tell you that it’s essential to apply what you’ve learned as well; that learning alone is just a tool, but when you add doing to it, it becomes truly powerful.

A good leader learns not only from books, courses and classes, but also from anyone around them.  A leader doesn’t discriminate age, gender, race, or anything else.  Instead they open themselves up to the lessons people of all ages, shapes and kinds can tell them.  Children are a great example of some of the best teachers I’ve ever met.  I’ve learned more in their presence about human nature, success and about myself, than all the years of traditional schooling have taught me.

If you want to be a true leader in your field you can’t give up the time each day to learn.  It’s absolutely essential not only to your general and life success, but your success of your clients and your respect and status within your industry.  You can’t ignore things or people by saying they can’t teach you anything.  Rather you have to be willing to let the universe know what messages and lessons you need to receive that day.  I love solid facts, working with numbers and making strategic plans.  But I’ll never ignore that gut feeling that something is wrong or I’m missing something.  It’s been right too many times for me to ignore.

This week I encourage you to become a better leader by being willing to learn, and I invite you to share some of the lessons you’ve learned lately in the comments.

Lessons from Lincoln

Today in the USA we’re celebrating President’s Day.  It’s a chance to honor and remember the men who have served the US since its birth.  In honor of this I thought I would share some wisdom from one of the most famous presidents, President Abraham Lincoln.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”

“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”

“When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.”

What lessons have you learned from the presidents?

Why Not Me?

As I was contemplating this ever festive (and annoying for some) holiday (Valentine’s Day), the question that popped up over and over again was one you may have asked in the past or may ask in the future: why not me?  You may be asked this by your tearful teenage daughter who just got dumped, you may be asked by your soon-to-be-ex partner who can’t believe that life as they knew it was about to change, or even by the little child who didn’t get picked or got picked last for something.  It’s a simple fact of life: you are not the answer to everything, you are not the supreme savior everyone has been waiting for.

Before you grab your torches to burn me alive (or click the unsubscribe button), let me state very clearly that I think you’re *amazing*.  You do have qualities that make this world an infinitely better place.  You’ve got abilities that I can’t begin to match.  You have untold values you can add to the world.  And you’re exactly right for at least one other person in the world.  The delusion begins when we believe we are everything to everyone, or that we have to be.

If you want to be wildly successful in life, work and your relationships first accept that you are amazing and have value.  This is a big issue for many people; they simply can’t understand that they have value.  Unfortunately all too often we’re told how seemingly little value we have by teachers, peers or bosses.  It hurts.  But more important: it’s not true.  You have a very important role to play in this world, you just have to discover it.

Secondly, accept that you aren’t responsible for everything and everyone.  This is a tough one for us self professed helpers.  We like to help, but it’s not up to us to help everyone.  It’s OK to not be picked first, or picked every time.  Trust me that there are  plenty of opportunities for all of us to have a turn.

Finally, we have to jump in there when we can help.  Don’t be afraid of getting burned again, step up when your particular talents and skills are needed.  When you can encourage others in their roles too, everyone needs an encouraging word or pat on the back occasionally.

Today, spend time loving yourself, and then go out there and show love to someone else too.

A Leader of Dreams

I’m a big believer in the power of leadership.  You’re probably familiar with the corruption that leaders can create (Hitler), you’re probably also familiar with the power of a leader to do amazing things (Mother Teresa).  There are many definitions of leadership, and Bill Hybels has simply said that “Leadership is being able to move people from here to there.”  The “how” of fulfilling that statement is where some leaders go astray, I believe.  Hitler did a great job of moving people from point “a” to point “b”, but his motives, dreams and goals have been called into question ever since the world heard his name.  However John Quincy Adams presents a missing aspect of Hybel’s statement when he said:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

This is what a truly great leader does: they inspire people to become the best version of themselves.  By inspiring people to become their best not only will people jump on your bandwagon and work to help you realize the goals that you’ve shared with them as you’ve encouraged and inspired them, they’ll make the world at large a better place to live in too.  I don’t know about you, but I love seeing the world cared for in ways that not only make our lives better but also take care of it for future generations.

When you paint the way with passionate stories and dreams, you inspire people to take their dreams out of the closet and dust them off.  Your belief in your dreams inspires them to have hope in their dreams.  And when people feel supported for who they are and are given the tools to make their dreams a reality you end up with life-long fans and supporters.

But it’s more than just dreams, there has to be, as Adams pointed out, learning, doing and being too.  This week take actions and dream dreams that will make a difference in the world and to those around you.

Playing with the Team

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” Babe Ruth

This month in talking about love I want to also bring up the concept of team.  You see, the most successful relationships are successful simply because it’s not an individual effort.  No one person can keep the relationship going by themselves.  It’s simply not possible.  If you look at the recent Superbowl, Seattle simply proved to be a better team. There’s no way you can say it was all on the coach or quarterback or kicker, each and every person had a role to play and if they didn’t come together playing their roles and supporting each other, they would not have won.

When it comes to relationships, families, teams, businesses and work, the only way any one of us can be successful is by working with, and trusting, others.  One person does not a relationship or team make.

I’m sure that you and your partner, or you and your employees, are amazing people.  Sure, we’ve all got our faults, but far more important than that, we’ve all got our strengths. We each have things that make us worthy people to be in relationship with.  However, we as a culture spend so much time focusing on what’s wrong that we don’t take the time to focus on what’s right.  I could go on endlessly about things I would change in my life, but, as the saying goes, there’s no point in crying about spilt milk.

The greatest failure in a relationship of any kind is not spending time to discover why you work so well together, and how you can make each of your individual talents much more powerful by working together.  When you take this very important step you open up a world of amazing possibilities.  You’ll enjoy the relationship better and so will your teammate(s).

Let’s Build Strong Children

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

I love this quote because it’s so true and so important for all of us to realize.  Life begins when we are children.  The lessons we learn then are lessons that will stick with us throughout the rest of our lives and shape each and every decision we make thereafter.  Not to mention any influence our genes have in our lives.  But as you may have learned it’s easier to do things right the first time than fix them again and again and again.

The unfortunate thing is that we’re not doing the best job we could be in preparing our children to face the world and conquer it.  We’re dis-empowering them and letting them harbor pie-in-the-sky dreams that will never come true, not because the dreams are too big but because we’re not encouraging them and teaching them how to make their dreams a reality.   And as a result we’re seeing problems in our society, problems that weren’t there many years ago.

Sure you could blame technology or our modern times, but it’s not that simple.  Inanimate things can’t create the types of problems and failures that have occurred in the past few decades, only people can do that.  While we won’t get into the guns debate, it’s a common saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Computers don’t hack, people write the programs to hack.  Food doesn’t create rapid weight gain, lazy overeating people do.

So each day we have to ask ourselves: is this something that will help me and my family or hurt us?  Are the choices we’re making choices that help us or hurt us?  What can we do to better raise up this generation of children to not have the fears and challenges that face many of us today?  I’d say it starts with education on many levels.  What are your thoughts?