Celebrating Success

One of the most challenging things about success is success itself. We can talk all we want about how great it is, but it’s also really challenging. When you’re successful you’re given a whole new set of responsibilities to deal with. Success changes and challenges you and exposes you to people you’ve never thought you’d meet, some who will be stepping stones to your future, and others who will try to drag you down with them. As we finish up this second month of graduations let’s talk a bit about how we can all approach success better.

First, we can’t fear success anymore. Yes, you read that right, some people fear success. Usually there’s something or someone in their past that has tainted success for them and made them associate success with only bad things. However, success is one of the things that keeps the world going and improving and solving problems.  So while nothing is perfect, not attempting success because you’re scared is a waste of your many and valuable talents and abilities.

Second, we need to be more accepting of and celebratory of success, everyone’s success. We’re not all successful every day of our lives, we all have failures and we all have successes, so don’t worry that your day won’t come, instead celebrate their victory today and know your day will come soon. Be honestly happy that something good happened to someone else, we all need to be proud of what we’ve accomplished, even if it’s just getting out of bed that day, because to some that’s a big victory.

Finally, yes, you may be a little jealous about their victory because you wanted a similar one, but rather than spending time being envious, get out there and start or keep working towards your victory so we can celebrate it with you. Let your jealousy empower rather than destroy or distract you, and don’t let it diminish the success of the other person.

So, what are you celebrating today?

“Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.” Marilyn Monroe

A Strong and Supportive Relationship

It’s not easy to make a relationship work.  Any time you have more than one person involved there’s bound to be some disagreement, fighting, miscommunication and disappointment.  One thing I think makes a big difference is having multiple points of connection.  In other words, if all you have keeping you and your partner together is the fact that you made a kid together, you’ll have a lot more challenges than those who have similar interests, enjoy spending time together, like similar foods, enjoy similar movies, have kids and both like to travel.  There will always be differences because you’re two different people, but if you have a strong and large foundation to work with you’ll have a better shot at success.

I’m always amazed by the stories of people who say they met and knew the other person was ‘the one’ instantly.  I mean if this was a perfect world where no one had ex’s, trouble at work, health issues or financial worries it would be more believable, but in this day and age it seems almost like a fairy tale rather than reality. But with as many people are as in the world it seems more likely than ever that we would be able to find our ‘one,’ which is good news. However, sometimes we’re not ready for something that permanent.  And sometimes we discover that the person we thought we were with isn’t who they really are, even after knowing them for years.

So what’s a person to do?  I say start with friendships.  Have friends, meet new people, get out and live life, don’t jump in too quickly but don’t be afraid to make a decision, try to work things out when they get difficult but don’t stay with someone who is abusive, don’t assume that there’s someone better out there just because you’re afraid of doing the work it takes to make a relationship work, and don’t avoid relationships because you’re worried it won’t work out.

“Experts on romance say for a happy marriage there has to be more than a passionate love. For a lasting union, they insist, there must be a genuine liking for each other. Which, in my book, is a good definition for friendship.”
Marilyn Monroe

Marketing Mistakes: Websites

Last week I shared some thoughts on customers, today I thought I’d share some thoughts about one of the first places people typically connect with your business: your website.  Personally I love websites.  I love their ability to give a snapshot of the company and/or be the company’s heart and soul and sell products or services directly.  But I’ve seen tons of really bad websites, and you probably have too.  So here are 5 things that you should check about your site to make sure you’re creating a good first impression.

Hidden information: if you’re not a name brand known around the world and your site doesn’t immediately tell visitors in written words, not a video, who you are and what you sell you’re risking them leaving.  In 90% of cases people won’t take the time to figure out what you offer if it’s not obvious, so you need to tell them.

Bad information: at least half of the sites I visit have out-of-date information. If you can’t do your own website edits shell out the extra money to make sure you’ve got a good company who can and will make very timely updates for you.

Can’t contact you: you need contact forms all over your site, links to your social sites where they can ask questions and/or a clear and informative ‘contact us’ page with multiple ways to contact you.  If you don’t make it easy to contact you with questions about what you offer, again, they typically won’t search and work to figure it out.

Presentation is poor: if your site looks like it was designed 20 years ago, is jam packed with an overwhelming amount of disorderly content, and doesn’t represent your company, your brand and you as the leader you increase the chances of losing people when they connect with you in real-time after visiting your site or go from a real-time connection to your website because things are so much different.

Technical fails: this includes those bad links, icons and images that aren’t linked, ‘oops’ pages, your site isn’t mobile friendly, or the site takes forever to load.  These are little things that make a really big difference in whether or not people will stay on your site.  They’re also mostly little things that are simple to check and fix which leaves little room for excuses.

So what about your website?  Does it create a good first impression for your company, or is it the last impression someone will have of your company?

Communication Choices

The words we use are powerful.  The old saying is “Sticks and stones will break my bones, But words will never harm me,” but this is the farthest thing from the truth for most of us.  It’s not easy to separate ourselves from the words someone has said about us. Those words feel and can become personal.  Sometimes the words are said based on someone’s false assumptions, other times they’re just lashing out for no reason at all, sometimes their words do have validity, and other times their words make our day.

One thing I’ve always done and always tried to think about is being more positive and looking for possibilities.  The world has plenty of negative people and words in it, so I always look for a way I can help, to see things in a different perspective, or to use words that empower me and the people I work with.  These are phrases like: I can, I will, I know, I will make the time, I’m grateful, I’m confident, I believe, and it’s possible.

But over the past year I’ve made some changes with my vocabulary.  I’ve stopped apologizing for things as much; I’m not going to apologize for something I don’t want to do or don’t like.  I’ve become more decisive, saying yes and no rather than maybe or possibly. I’ve asked more questions, getting to the heart of the matter so I don’t make commitments I can’t keep or fulfill. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I’ve never really been one for filling the time with incessant and random chatter, I’d much rather get to the point so we can get to work.

It wasn’t easy to make those changes, they took time and effort.  I had to break the habits that I’ve lived with for so long, and as you probably know, most habits aren’t easy to break.  But I know that the changes I’ve made have made me into a better person, a better leader, a better business owner, and a better communicator, so they’re changes worth making.

What about you?  What words do you use on a regular basis?  How would your life change and improve if you were to use different words?

A Day for Dad

Sunday in the USA is Father’s Day.  On the life and spirituality blog today I shared some thoughts about what to do if you’re struggling as parent or with your parents, so here I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what you can do to make sure Dad’s day is great!

-let him be a guy.  If he wants to plan a guy night the night before, let him do it.  If he wants to relax that morning instead of mowing the lawn, let him!  And let him wear his favorite t-shirt when the family comes over too.

-plan games outside with the kids.  What guy doesn’t like being outside running around and getting dirty with his kids?  And it’s great for the kids too.

-don’t nitpick or complain.  This is probably the biggest gift you can give him.

-give him great gifts.  You can get him his favorite beer or coffee, and you should also have the kids give him something personal like a picture frame with a picture of all of you in it.

-have the kids do his chores for that day while he sleeps in or watches sports.

-let him know you appreciate him.  It’s easy to find things to complain and fight about, we’re all super busy and not perfect.  So make sure that you let dad know why you value having him in your life and what you like best about him.

What gifts are you giving the men in your life?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Capturing Your Customers

Businesses can do many things and have many jobs.  The big aspects of a business usually revolve around a product or service and money.  But the other big aspect that I talk about a lot is the people aspect.  I’m an introvert by nature but know how much value there is in other people.  Which is why that as important as a product, service or money is to a business, the really big and important aspect is the people part.  Because without people you won’t do anything with your product, won’t make a difference with your service, and won’t make any money either.  You’ll also miss out on a chance to give people jobs, support other businesses, and support your community.

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is knowing how to make sales.  The secret lies in knowing your audience.  It starts with figuring out if anyone at all is interested in what you’re buying or selling.  If no one is, either there’s no issue you’re really going to solve, or you’re on the cutting edge of new things and will have to not only do the promotion that all the other companies do, but spend a lot of time educating your audience about what you’re offering and why they would benefit from it.

The second step is identifying your audience.  If you don’t know who they are, what they like, what their other interests and needs are as well as what keeps them up at night, the marketing you do won’t be as effective.  People use the old “spray and pray” method you’ve probably heard about when they don’t take the time to identify their audience.  Once you know your audience you can design your campaigns and present your business in a way that they identify with, not that tries to reach the whole world.

The third step is something I just alluded to, and the one that not everyone remembers: it’s truly identifying with your audience.  This means that not only do you know who they are and what makes them tick, you’re willing and able to show that you totally and personally understand where they’re coming from.  This is more than just saying “I know your problem” it’s about sharing the passion, soul, fire and inspiration that’s gotten you to this place with your business.

Don’t be afraid to let your passion for your business shine through in your marketing and conversations with potential clients.  When they see that not only do understand where they’re coming from but you have been in their shoes or personally understand what they’re facing, it reassures them that in choosing you not only will they be satisfied with the product or service, they’ll have a great experience too.

“I try to bring the audience’s own drama – tears and laughter they know about – to them.” Judy Garland

Free to Win

This month the topic I’m spending extra time considering personally and here with you is letting go. Letting go can be scary because it creates more opportunities for unknown variables entering into our carefully calculated lives. Most of us go through our days planning things so carefully because we’re overbooked or scared to fail or need the illusion of control because we feel so out of control in the rest of our lives. Letting go also creates the necessary opportunity for great things to enter our lives, blessings that we would not have otherwise encountered.

You’ve heard the saying about feeling the fear and doing something anyway, right? Just like military leaders when they went out to fight wars, just like a sports team takes the field, just like a business owner enters into a negotiation you need to take the brave step into the unknown in your life. You won’t get it right all the time, and sometimes letting go isn’t what you should have done. But what the military leaders, sports teams and business owners have learned is that you don’t have to win 100% of the time to still achieve your end goal.

I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is come at a problem or situation from a different angle. Yes, seeing things from a different perspective allows you to get a better handle on the situation, but it also may reveal an even better way to accomplish your goal, or just a different one that you didn’t consider that will work just as well.

Don’t assume that because your first choice isn’t an option you’re out of luck. Let go of the need to be right all the time, on the first try and in all situations in your life, and work towards the big goals that get buried under the little details.

“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” Donald Trump

Family Failures

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about family because it was our theme. It’s an important and challenging theme for our lives, one that many of us struggle with throughout our lives, whether we’re close literally or physically or not. They’ve seen us on our best and worst days, and always bring up these really fantastic memories. Today I wanted to bring up a painful topic: failure and what happens when your kid isn’t all you expected them to be.

It’s not easy as a parent to see them sick or see them fail, so our job is to do the best we can to help them be strong enough to survive when we can’t be with them. We need to teach them manners, what qualifies as good food, how to react to celebrities, how to survive in a professional environment, what it means to be street savvy, how to read people, a love for learning and an overall passion and respect for life.

When they fail, and yes they will fail at some time in some way, you will yell at them and get frustrated. It’s OK, it’s necessary and they expect it, so just get it out of the way. But then move on to helping them heal and make better choices the next time. Don’t keep berating them or guilting them for failing you or making you look bad. While that may have been their intention, that’s not what you should focus on. Instead focus on them and helping them do and be better.

Finally, make it OK to celebrate when they do better the next time. I’m not just talking about physical/tangible rewards, but praise and words that let them feel your pride in who they are becoming. I don’t believe there is any value in bringing up the bad unless they aren’t doing a better job or becoming a better person. Moving forward will make them better people, and you too.

“…not everything has to turn out exactly the way you planned in order for you to call it a success.” Neale Donald Walsch

Symbols for Success

This Sunday in the USA we celebrate Flag Day. It’s a day to honor the symbol that has stood for so much for our country for so many years. So today I wanted to share a few thoughts about it with you, thoughts that speak to how you can build a business that endures for at least 200 years.

The flag has changed over the years:
The flag has been changed 26 times since 1777. That’s not really a lot of changes for that many years, but to stay as iconic as it has, means that not only have the changes been made in a way that is representative of the country, but not so much that people can’t still identify with it. You will face changes in your business, and you will lose some followers along the way. The challenge is to make changes in such a way that your people can still identify with you, even more people identify with you, and you’re doing more to make the world a better place.

The flag is a symbol:
As John Thune said: “I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.” It’s like seeing the “Golden Arches” or the pyramids of Egypt or the Apple icon. The symbol is something that communicates the same message across cultures and people and languages, and still shares the same message no matter where it is shared or who sees it.

The flag is more than a symbol:
As a business you’re so much more than just what you sell or the symbol you represent. I was talking with a client this week and when I asked her what she did she said “I’m a photographer” and that’s all she could really come up with to tell me about what she does, and has been doing for quite a few years. If you don’t have something passionate, something solid, something real, and something and/or someone identifiable behind the symbol all your work at creating a symbol is pointless. I can take photographs but I don’t have the skill or passion for it that she does, yet by not communicating what’s behind the symbol (in this case a job title) I have no reason to identify with or choose her over the other photographers I could work with.

The flag stands for people:
I talk with people who believe that numbers and dollar signs are the bottom line, like military maneuvers, votes or doing whatever it takes to have a perfect image. I believe that people are always the bottom line. Are you doing more to help your people, and even those who don’t completely identify with you, each day? Or are you so focused on the numbers that you forget that the numbers always represent people?

This Flag Day I encourage you to stand strong as a business owner, know you play a valuable role in making the world a better place, and do your part to help more people.

Mistake Mentors

In life we all make mistakes, I discovered a few of mine in the past few days and have been working to rectify them, so today I thought I’d share some inspiration about not being perfect, about working with what went wrong and about accepting yourself for who you are, mistakes and all.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” Marilyn Monroe

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”  Judy Garland

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire—then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer.” Sigmund Wollman

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” Elbert Hubbard

“It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.” Ornette Coleman

“That’s not serious, it’s just human.” Jerry Kopke

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” John Powell

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”  Harriet Braiker

“It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit to forgive them for having witnessed your own.” Jessamyn West

“Make bold choices and make mistakes. It’s all those things that add up to the person you become.” Angelina Jolie

What are your wise words on making mistakes?