Memories of Summer

Over the past week and a half we’ve talked a lot about memories, and this month we’ve talked about family a lot too. When I think about family there are two things that most often come to mind: holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween, and summer, because that’s when we spend the most time with our families. As we’re approaching another summer and wrapping up this month’s discussion on family I thought we should talk about the value of those memories.

First though let’s address the obvious: not all memories are good. I’ve got some memories of some Christmases with illnesses (it’s no fun spending holidays alone with a bucket), and not all family is awesome. Every family has issues, some more than others, since no one is perfect and everyone has their moments of failure and issues. So if that’s the norm rather than the occasional, you’ve got lots of catching up to do to the rest of us who do have good memories. As we’ve said before, if that’s you make your own family; a family of the heart not the blood.

Memories really are gifts though, with my grandmother sinking into worse Alzheimers and not able to be part of our lives in the way we would like, all that is left are the memories. It helps to remember the special times we had as a family years ago and the special place she had in my life when the days are not so good with her health.

But as much as memories are of the past, they’re also a big part of the future. Those memories have encouraged me to spend more time with family and friends, to talk about the past and to add traditions like baking cookies, hanging stockings, visiting the beach and being there for grandchildren if I ever have any. Memories are what you make of them, what do you make of your memories?

“My first outdoor cooking memories are full of erratic British summers, Dad swearing at a barbecue that he couldn’t put together, and eventually eating charred sausages, feeling brilliant.” Jamie Oliver

The Why of Success

What does your future hold? I’ve been debating this topic for a few months now as I know there are changes on my horizon in the next year or so. One thing I talk about often with business clients is their ‘why;’ the reason that they’re in business. Sometimes people start businesses or choose jobs simply because they have the skills. Other people choose based on love, passion and skills. Personally I believe that only those that are done with love and passion can be truly fulfilling in the ways that we need from a career. If it’s not something we have a personal investment in, passion behind or reason for getting involved it can become very tedious to do day in and out.

If you want to be the best, if you want potential customers to choose you over other businesses, if you want to get the recognition from customers you interact with at work, or if you want to make your mark on the world with a career I believe you need a ‘why’, and that why has to be shared prominently on your website, at your desk, or in your profile.

Why? Because having a ‘why’, loving and being passionate about your career/business, shows people that you’re human like them and honestly might care about their experience as a customer. Which means that you’re providing more than just a disposable product or passing service, you offer something that might just be for people like them. Last week we talked about social media and business being personal. As much as this is a continuation of that conversation, it’s really so much more. It’s about seeing the bigger picture of yourself, your [fellow] employees, your customers, and the world we all live in.

It’s great to offer a quality product or service to the world or be part of a business and team that does, but when the day is over money won’t technically keep you warm, only the satisfaction of knowing that you helped someone or made their day will, and that can only happen when you remember that we’re all humans going about our lives, not robots who don’t care or have feelings and needs.

“Vision gets the dreams started. Dreaming employs your God-given imagination to reinforce the vision. Both are part of something I believe is absolutely necessary to building the life of a champion, a winner, a person of high character who is consistently at the top of whatever game he or she is in.” Emmitt Smith

Remembering Our Freedom

Today in the USA is Memorial Day. I shared some thoughts about it on Friday, today I want to talk about what it is really about. Memorial Day is really about freedom and the opportunity we each have to stand up for ourselves and our futures. That’s what the men and women around the world fighting for our country are dying for: freedom.

Freedom is such a gift and privilege that I’m taking an entire year to talk about it. In the USA we’re blessed with a huge number of freedoms, and other countries and people around the world are joining in on that battle: the freedom of religion, of sexuality, of health, of food, and of life. They’ve realized that people want more than to be ruled and live by rules, but to have their needs met and then some, to be who they are without judgment and to be able to make choices about their future without fear of death or restrictions and limitations.

Our personal freedom however, should not come at the cost of another’s freedom though. Yes, we will have to compromise or negotiate and give and take to get to freedom typically, but that should not mean that one loses all of their freedoms and ability to choose so that another can have what they want.

Don’t let your personal status, location, age, health or family limit you any longer. Choose to be free, choose to do your part to make the world a place where more people can be free and make sure to thank the veterans and families of soldiers who have died for freedom.

“Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world.”  Bono

Remembering our Service People

Here in the USA on Monday and throughout this weekend we’re celebrating Memorial Day. It’s the day we take each year to remember those who died in military service to our country. It’s one of several patriotic holidays that we celebrate as a nation, just like other nations around the world take time each year to honor their armed service people. Whether you support the decisions we’ve made in the past or will make in the future to go into war, is not relevant to your ability to honor those who fought. To clarify, shame on you for not recognizing and thanking service men and women just because you don’t agree with going to war. Yes, I really believe that even if we don’t agree with the reason they’re out serving or the location they’re serving in it isn’t a reason to ignore them, the work they’ve done and portion of their life and the lives of their family they’ve given to serving the country. It’s about more than showing up for a parade or waving a flag. It’s about giving service people jobs, providing them with resources, supporting their return and re-integration into society and support of their family too.

Each day each of us make sacrifices. Sometimes it’s as insignificant as giving up your coffee so your kid can have a drink or letting someone else use the copier at work first. You won’t be recognized for those sacrifices, or for sacrifices like giving up gas-guzzling cars or wasteful and anti-nature spending habits, because those are things that we can and all should do as humans living and interacting together, even though sometimes you really feel like cheering for particularly tough sacrifices like being nice to mean coworkers and putting your partner first when you never go first. Those aren’t life-endangering sacrifices, you won’t die if you don’t have a cup of coffee (at least I haven’t heard of it yet), but too many soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice.

So this Memorial Day I encourage you to do something to support the veterans, and the families of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here are a few of my favorite veteran support organizations (Wounded Warriors Project, Hope for the Warriors, Puppies Behind Bars, Homes for Our Troops, Fisher House Foundation, Patriot Paws, Hero Dogs, and Travis Mills), make a donation, get involved locally with one of them, or even share a Facebook/Twitter post of theirs to spread the word about what they’re doing, and don’t forget to thank a veteran when you see them out this weekend.

The Success of Social Media

Business has changed a lot in many ways over the past decade, and very little in other ways. One of those ways is social media. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn have revolutionized many aspects of business including marketing and customer service. It’s something I use every day for business so I’m always at least mildly surprised when someone contacts me and says they’ve got absolutely no social experience whatsoever, not even a personal presence on Facebook. So today I want to share a couple of the perks of social media and a couple of problems/warnings as well.

Social media gives you instant access to (potential) customers. Go just about anywhere and you’ll see someone on their phone, typically checking their social pages or taking a selfie. Social media is a real-time platform for you to share updates and help with your customers and begin building a relationship with people who might buy from you in the future. No need to worry if they’re reading a specific news paper or watching TV at a specific time or driving past a specific billboard, your social updates can be seen anytime and anywhere in the world, even days, months and years later.

Social media allows for real-time customer service.  If you’ve ever bought something and had an issue or needed to reach customer service, which just about everyone has, social media, especially Twitter, has taken on the role of the 1-800 call center in many ways. It’s an instant way to connect with a representative and share your feedback or ask for help, and an important way of getting feedback about your business and offerings.

Social media helps you target your marketing.  Most social sites, Facebook especially, has really invested a lot in creating a super-precise ad platform that enables you to specifically target your ideal customers with your message. Digital Marketer and Unbounce are two sites that share lots of great insights and updates about using Facebook’s ad system, and while Google+, YouTube and Twitter aren’t as widely discussed as Facebook’s they’re also great tools for getting your message to your market in a direct and relatively inexpensive manner, without the worry that lots of your not-target audience will hear it. The downside of having super-targeted advertisements means that if you target wrong you will waste that effort, just like you would doing the old spray-and-pray approach.

Social media is not sales media. This is the biggest challenge and one of the things I love most about social media. Simply put, it makes business human again. Now it’s not just about ‘I’m a business, buy my stuff’ but about creating and supporting a community of people who are passionate about what you love and helping them get the most out of what you offer.  But miss or skip this step and you’ll see very little success with social media.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media, so I invite you to post your questions and challenges in the comments.

“Technology has allowed me to reach my fans directly. Social media: it has been a complete revolution of how to interact, promote and share things.” Tony Hawk

There’s Life After Graduation

Another year of college has wrapped up for many students, and another year of graduates joins the workforce full time. I’ve read lots of great advice for these new graduates already this year and I’m thankful that so many people are embracing and encouraging them rather than ignoring them and discrediting their ability to make a great contribution to the world. So if you’re a new graduate or you feel like you’re graduating the place you’ve reached in life, my advice for you is simple: don’t forget to enjoy life.

First and most obvious what comes to mind for people is partying and being with friends when you hear that advice, and that’s definitely part of it. It’s important to give yourself a break from the stress and responsibility of work and life and just have fun and hang out. These relationships that you develop and nurture every time you hang out are important for creating a support system you can depend on when life presents you with changes and challenges, which it will.

The second thing to remember is that you don’t know when your life will end, so enjoying life is about making the most of your life too. Whether you get a disease or get killed in a freak car accident death could come at any time. That’s not a reason to live irresponsibly and only party, but to make sure that you’re in a job and hanging out with people you care about and would put your life on the line for more often than not.

Finally, yes, enjoy achieving success. Maybe success for you is being a stay-at-home-dad, maybe it’s running an internet company, maybe it’s running a restaurant, and maybe that’s just what makes you happy right now. The economy has changed so that most of us will not stay with the same career for our entire lives, unlike just a few decades ago. Now, most of us will change jobs several times. Take advantage of that and move when you’re miserable and the passion disappears after being with a company for a few years, or if you like your company approach them with ways that will make you enjoy your job again (and I’m not just talking money).

Life is too short to be spent being miserable, choose to be happy.

“If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.” Billy Joel

Loving Our Labels

Something I have to emphasize to so many people and companies is that the world is full of people, not robots. People who have kids and families and lives outside of their jobs and how they spend the money they make there. These people should be passionate and thriving members of society but all to often we’re just exhausted at the end of the day and unable to get things moving in a way that shows that we are more than robots. So I say it’s time that we stand up!  Let’s stand up and say that we’re more than the career we have, the mistakes we and/or our kids or partner have made, and have great value to contribute to the world.

It’s time we stop creating permanent and limiting labels on people and start understanding that what we see and what is presented to society is only a small portion of who they really are.  Cindy Crawford is more than a model. Tom Brady is more than a football player. Angelina Jolie is more than an actress. Melanie Sprouse is more than Cole and Dillon’s mom.  Kat Von D is more than a tattoo artist.  The lady down the street is more than a school teacher. The teen in the next town over is more than a gamer.

So while I know that it will take a long time to change the stereotypes that have stuck on people, the best place to start being more understanding is with yourself. Don’t be afraid to fill up a wall or several with different labels about yourself; labels that only some people see because they’re close with you or have a history with you, labels that describe your passions and heart for different causes, and labels that remind you you’re more than the label society has tagged you with. Then go ahead and look at someone else. Find out what makes them tick beyond what you know to be true about them. Don’t let their outward appearance fool you into thinking they don’t have multiple layers or aren’t a good person, they’re just as complicated as you are.

So let’s talk about this: what labels have you been stuck with, and what labels would you give yourself?

“The pro skaters I know are responsible members of society. Many of them are fathers, homeowners, world travelers and successful entrepreneurs. Their hairdos and tattoos are simply part of our culture, even when they raise eyebrows during PTA meetings.”  Tony Hawk

The Foundation of Success

There’s an old story that I often reflect on when working with businesses. It’s a parable about a house built on the sand and one built on the rocks. When the storm comes the one on the sand gets washed away, and the one on the rocks stands the test of time. This principle applies to so many areas of life and our businesses too, which is what we’re going to talk about today. The principle is the concept of foundation. What is foundation? Foundation is the essence of what you’re working with, it’s the base that you come back to time and again, and it’s what determines if you have the potential to succeed or fail. Let’s talk about a couple different aspects of foundation and how they apply to your business and success.

All businesses begin with a concept. That concept becomes a product or service depending on how you want to develop it and present it to the world. Sometimes the concept is great, other times it needs fleshing out, and sometimes it’s just a scam or waste of resources to develop. When the concept is great you’ve got a great foundation to build your business and success on. When the concept needs fleshing out it’s best to do that before trying to bring it to market because you’ll end up confusing rather than satisfying potential customers. And when the concept is a scam, not helpful or not relevant there’s no amount of marketing that will fix the fact that your concept is a waste of people’s time.

Social media is something that most of us spend time on each week, and an area of marketing that is a hotly debated topic. We’re trying to market our businesses and beat the algorithms. I get questions all the time about doing all these tricky things or doing ads to be done on a page of unprofessional and irrelevant content and a bunch clearly of spamy practices. Social media first and foremost is about being social. That means that you need to post relevant content and interact with the content others are posting. If you’re not doing this you won’t have a foundation to build ads and sales from. People don’t like being directed to a page with no content and no reason to “like” the page or a sole focus on making money.

So where does that bring us? It brings us to two important parts. First, know that your foundation is essential. If you don’t have a good foundation you’re starting with, the rest of your work will be mostly wasted time. Second, what you do with your foundation matters too. If you have a website with lots of spelling and grammar mistakes on it people won’t buy. If you spam them on social media they’ll ignore you. If you do all these scamy promotion techniques people will report you. So no matter that your foundation was great, how you present the foundation matters a lot.

Take a look this week at both your foundation and how you’re selling it and see if/what changes need to be made to make you into a stronger and more successful business.

“It’s possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I can’t make a good movie from a bad script.”
George Clooney

Choosing the Adventure of Life

Yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the USA. It’s a day we spend thinking about and honoring our mothers and mothers everywhere. For some of us it’s a tough day because we didn’t have a good mother figure in our lives, we’ve struggled to become a mother ourselves, or we’ve recently lost our mother. So as awesome as it is to have a day to reflect on moms it can be painful too. But all that talk of moms last week and yesterday got me thinking about living in general and the choices we make in our lives.

Essentially you’re either alive or dead. It’s really that simple. Either you are alive and able to participate in the world or you aren’t. I read a really interesting article by Tim Ferriss last week about his journey and struggle with suicide (I recommend reading it whether you’ve struggled with suicide or not). I don’t know that anyone has lived that hasn’t had even a distant or passing thought about just being done with life and ending it all at some point in time during their life. Maybe it wasn’t seriously entertained, but that’s not to say that the thought wasn’t there.

I also heard a song this week by Frankie Ballard with lyrics that are as follows: “I wanna sit out on the porch/Telling stories ’bout my glory days when I’m pushing eighty./How am I ever gonna get to be old and wise/If I ain’t ever young and crazy?”  Yes, it can be scary to get older, it can be worrisome to watch your kids go away and live their own lives, it can be intimidating to see the company you built change and develop into something else. But life isn’t about worrying or regretting or reliving the past. Life is about living the adventure the whole way through, and being able to look back and be proud of what you did do or who you were.

“I’m kind of comfortable with getting older because it’s better than the other option, which is being dead. So I’ll take getting older.” George Clooney

The Choice of Children

I believe that choosing to have a child is one of the biggest and most important choices we have to make in our lives. Most of us are born with the ability to create the next generation, and modern medicine has increased those odds dramatically. Some fall into it accidentally, some try for years, some are forced into it (by society or evil people), and some seem to get pregnant anytime they want. But there’s a small number of people who are never able to physically have children, or choose to not have children.

Some people can’t understand choosing to not have children, but I believe that those people deserve a round of applause. Why? Because they understand that while they may be fully capable of having children, they know it’s not right for them. It’s a tough decision in this world of celebrity babies and kids practically everywhere you go, not to mention criticism from family and friends who think everyone should have at least one child. If this is you I want you to be encouraged today and know that I am proud of you for standing up not only for yourself but the child you choose not to have.

Why do I think this is so important? Because I know there are countless children and adults around the world, who are having or had miserable childhoods because their parent(s) thought they “had” to have children. When you choose to have a child it’s not just a decision you make for yourself, you make it for the child you have as well.

Having a child is a gift, and if you can’t see it for the blessing that it is, despite any and all challenges that will happen, then I hope you’ll reconsider the pain and unhappiness that you’ll cause any child you would have.

“Being a housewife and a mother is the biggest job in the world, but if it doesn’t interest you, don’t do it – I would have made a terrible mother.”  Katharine Hepburn