The Freedom in Quiet

Today is the last day of this month, and the end of the second to last month of 2015. How are you feeling about it? Are you too busy thinking about the holidays to think about the fact that another year is just about over? It’s interesting that the year ends on such a busy note, I mean it’s one thing to end the year with a celebration of the year, it’s another thing to cram Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa into the last 6 weeks of the year. Sure it’s great for the business world to have all these sales but who’s to say that if the holidays weren’t spread throughout the year that sales would be more evenly distributed? Regardless, that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today our discussion is on this month’s topic, being quiet, and understanding the freedom that comes from being quiet.

Having quiet time gives you the opportunity to reflect on your past, consider where your life is heading, remember the good memories, make plans, listen, relax and de-stress, and help you get centered and refocused. Without all that quiet time your life is like a bullet train running without a conductor (and no self-driving technology either): eventually you will run off the tracks.

So if you are looking for more victories, more success, more freedom and more fulfillment, there are 3 things you need to do: start making time in your life on a regular basis for quiet reflection, take more intentional actions and establish relationships with people who can and will support you (and you can support) and won’t tear you down or discourage you from having goals and dreams. When you do those things your life and goals will be clearer, you’ll have more victories and you’ll enjoy life more, 3 things that we all want this holiday season and next year.

“If you can’t get quiet enough to hear yourself, your life is too loud.”  Terri Guillemets

Supporting Small Businesses

Today is an important day for the business world, known as Black Friday. Tomorrow is an important day for small business owners, the day recently established called Small Business Saturday. It’s a day that reminds people that there are amazing treasures to be found in their local area. Yes, it’s an opportunity to make some extra money as a small business but it’s more than that.

Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for you to show the community exactly what you offer. Offering Small Business Saturday deals is a great way to get people to try you out and lower the risk of choosing you. One of the biggest challenges isn’t telling people you exist, after all tons of people probably drive past your location every day. The biggest challenge is in proving that you are worth whatever extra effort or cost is involved in choosing you over big box stores or cheap online services. Even if your services or products are just as good as theirs it may not be enough. Having a strong and attractive brand, helpful and upbeat employees, a clean store, product/service support or helpline, and creating an experience that is uniquely your business are all things you can do to help potential customers make the transition smoothly and be convinced and even excited about doing business with you.

But Small Business Saturday is about more than just being a small business on this one day. Small Business Saturday is about being part of a community. If you really want to be recognized as a valuable and appreciated part of your community you have to be part of that community. Donate to local fundraising events, honor local heroes, give back through time and/or money when natural disasters happen, and above all be part of the efforts to make your community a better place that more people want to be part of. If you aren’t a visible and present part of your community the other 364 days of the year what makes you think people want to support you on this one day?

This Saturday take time to have fun with your community and make good on your commitment to being a small business in your local community.

Words of Thanks

Today we’re switching things around and sharing some thoughts on Thanksgiving today and business on Friday (right before Small Business Saturday!). Thanksgiving is about two things: being thankful and about being together. The first Thanksgiving was two groups of people gathering together to celebrate another year of life; something much more significant than most of us spend our day celebrating. Some of us don’t even take the time to be thankful, we just dive into the food and football.

Even from the start this holiday recognized something very important: it’s only together that we can really succeed. This month we’ve seen lots of division and fighting around the world, and we’ve seen people come together from all around the world to support those suffering and in need. The holiday season as a whole is about getting, but it’s also about giving back to others and those in need around the world. And no day is better set up than Thanksgiving to give back in the very smallest way to others: telling them how valuable they are.

You know that the words you say are powerful: you can totally demolish someone’s self-esteem and confidence with just a few words. Likewise just a few words can make all the difference in the world for them and give them the courage to use their gifts and talents to make a difference in the world (not to mention how good it makes us feel when we see how excited they are that we noticed the good work they’re doing or how they’re making a difference).

The bottom line is just like the Pilgrims didn’t get through their early years alone, we don’t make it through a day without someone doing something to help us, even if they have no clue they did. I encourage you this Thanksgiving to let the people (and businesses) in your life know that they’ve made an impact on your life and you appreciate all they’ve done and are doing.

“None of us got to where we are alone. Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance of saying thank you.”  Harvey Mackay

Are Your First Impressions Right?

This month we’ve been talking about the choice of quiet. I’m a fan of taking time for quiet because it gives me an escape from being overwhelmed all the time by the thoughts I think and the (noisy) things going on around me. I’m not made to be surrounded by sound and thoughts all the time, I need a break every so often, we all do.

One of the reasons being quiet is beneficial is because it gives us a chance to think beyond our initial reaction or impression. Everywhere you go and in everything you do you’re making snap judgments based on previously established knowledge, observation or experience within the first few seconds of interacting with that thing, person, or place. Many times you’re right about at least a good portion of the judgment. However usually there is a lot more to the story than you can get in the first few seconds. For example, if you were to walk into the dining room during Thanksgiving dinner you would think that the house is noisy, but walk just a little farther onto another floor or even into another room and your perception of the house being noisy is revealed as not totally accurate; it’s really just the dining room that is noisy.

Snap judgments are important because they can keep us safe and protected from dangers we might run into or bad choices we might make. But they don’t ever tell the whole story. The only way to get the whole story is to take the time to be quiet and think things through, ask questions and take time to learn more before making a final judgment. I’m not suggesting to ignore your first impressions, just to not assume that it’s the only and full truth, because that will almost never be the case. There’s always more to the story than you think.

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

The Gift of Acceptance

It may be hard for you to hear, but you’re not perfect. Therein is one of the biggest challenges we face in our lives: accepting ourselves and each other regardless of imperfections, quirks, habits and interests. We all have things that we can (and should) work on and improve, but there are many things that will never change about who we are, nor will we ever be perfect as things stand now. Do you meet people and immediately look for things you would change or improve or don’t like, or do you look for ways that you’re similar or can relate to each other?

As parents or even just as adults we’ve got the gift of teaching kids that it’s OK to be yourself and have your own interests, and you don’t have to be the same as anyone or everyone else, nor do you have to be perfect to have a great life or be an amazing person. We’ve also got the challenge of accepting them for who they are, what they like and what they want to be (even if that changes dozens of times), along with all we do to shape our kids to be people who can contribute to the world in their own special ways and treat others with the same respect that they want to be treated with.

The biggest gift you may be able to give this holiday season could be to just accept someone else. It’s not your place to judge them (unless they ask for the critique), but it is your opportunity to give them the acceptance that they’ve maybe never had in their life before. If there has been someone in your past who has accepted you for who you are even when others didn’t make sure to send a ‘thank you’ their way before Thanksgiving. Let them know how much it meant or means to you to be accepted for who you are, faults, treasures and all.

“Thank you for accepting me as I am, with my virtues and defects.” Jenni Rivera

Tragedy and Triumph

The last week has brought much of the world to tears compounding on the tragedies that seem to have come one after another in the past few months and years. Today’s post is a business post so we won’t be talking about the situations per se, but rather about a few things that caught my attention over the last week in the business world that encouraged me that maybe there is hope for our world yet.

Last Wednesday brought two updates to my email inbox from Seth Godin and Mark Silver.  While I encourage you to go ahead and read their two short posts Seth Godin’s is all about people he has worked with or connected with who are making a difference in the world through their work, and Mark Silver’s is about the value of having a “Dropped Ball Policy” and understanding that sometimes things just don’t work out the way you hoped or thought they would.

So why would I shared these two posts with you?  Let’s start with Mark Silver’s post.  Mark’s post (and policy) acknowledges that no one is perfect and things don’t always get done and it’s OK.  But the other important aspect of the policy is that it assumes that what happened wasn’t because someone was lazy or didn’t care, but other factors were involved.  He believes that deep down we all care about what happens in our lives and what happens as a result of our actions (and want things to go well).

Seth Godin’s post is all about honoring those who do good work.  We all try to make our mark on the world and sometimes it happens that someone sees what we’ve done or what we’re trying to do and recognizes our efforts.  We’re not under obligation to celebrate what other people have done or are doing, but I believe that when we support each other, encourage each other and highlight the good work being done in the world we can all benefit.  Seth was under no requirement to share about those people and it doesn’t look like he gets any benefit (financial or otherwise) from sharing about them. He just wanted to celebrate what good people were doing.

So what about you?  How will you choose to go forward with your business?  Will you choose to isolate yourself to try to protect yourself from what could harm you or will you choose to go forward boldly knowing that mistakes will happen and some efforts will fail and try to create a legacy that lasts anyway?

Strategies for Success: Organizing

Today I want to talk about a success topic that is very important but many people don’t like to think about or actually do: getting organized. Being organized means you save a ton of time trying to find something or get something from an employee or partner, and means you don’t have to sort through a bunch of stuff before you find what you’re looking for. The two principles we’ll go over today can be applied to lots of different types of organizing but I’ll include some examples that will be specific to things that often need organizing.

How do I know when to get rid of stuff?
This is one of the biggest questions most people have and because they can’t come up with a good answer they don’t get rid of anything. Paperwork, especially tax and legal related should always be checked with a legal professional before you get rid of anything. Some things you’ll want to keep forever, like house/property sale paperwork, other things can be gotten rid of within a year’s time or even sooner, especially if you have a digital copy. Clothing and other home goods items should be kept if you like them and if you use them. Don’t hold onto them if you don’t foresee yourself wearing/using them in the future or haven’t worn/used them in several years’ time and don’t see that changing in the near future, or if it would be cheaper to just buy new ones when you finally decide you want them. Oh yeah-as far as food goes, if it looks moldy or tastes stale get rid of it.

How do I know what to get rid of?
Duplicates are one good way of making that decision. There are a few things you need duplicates of but for the most part duplicates aren’t necessary, whether we’re talking papers, clothes or other items. Many people have duplicates of papers because they can’t find the first 6 copies, hence the need to get organized in the first place. Unless it’s a clothing item you wear a lot there’s no need to have duplicates of it, variety is good for you! The other thing to consider is something we talked about with the first point: how long has it been since you used/wore it? If it’s been years there’s no reason to hold onto it, it’s just taking up valuable space.

No, I’m not encouraging everyone to get into the “tiny house” movement (I couldn’t do it), but I know that when I’m organized, the clutter is gone and everything has it’s place, the world feels a little lighter, a little brighter and I feel a little freer to accomplish things and set goals because there are less things distracting me or calling for my attention.

Empowering the Next Generation

One of the biggest gifts you have as a parent or caretaker of a young one is the gift of empowering them. I know many people who grew up in homes and environments where they were told that they would not amount to much and that they were worthless and had better shape up. While some of those people did need to shape up, many of them were just at a disadvantage or just not understood by others. Often when we don’t understand something we have knee-jerk reactions that cause us to rush to judgment and block us from really discovering the truth.

Yes, parents and caretakers like teachers, principals, pastors and community leaders should care for the youth, providing food, shelter and support in education (whether school or in finding work), as well as guidance about what’s right and wrong, but it’s just as important to raise the youth to know how to figure things out on their own, be able to take care of themselves and let them be who they want to be rather than fill the box we think they fit in.

Schools teach many of the basics that are helpful in getting through life like math, reading, writing, history, science and physical health. But too few schools are providing the real tools that students need to get through life. We’re missing out on teaching leadership, finances, communication, relationships, critical thinking and community building just to name a few. We’re only giving the youth some of the tools they need to make the most of the lives and gifts they’ve been given. So instead of just talking about homework with your kids, ask them what they did that day to make a difference, ask them what bothered them, talk about problems of the world and solutions for them as well, expose them to unique opportunities and people so that they see the world through different perspectives, and encourage them to get involved in things that interest them, not just things that look good on resumes and college applications, but things that will help them be stronger, smarter and more equipped to take on the future.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

A Business Hero

Today in the USA it’s Veteran’s Day. It’s the day for us to recognize the men and women who have given their lives and service to America. So today I thought we’d talk about what it means to be a hero in your business.

We’ve said before that while a business has to make money or else it’s not a business, there has to be a bigger purpose with it. It’s not your job to take money from people, but rather to provide people with the products and/or services that make their live better, easier, healthier, happier, fuller and even just more livable. Your goal should be to thrill as many people as possible with what you offer. But as it turns out, thrilled people tell their friends how great your offerings are, which gets you even more customers.

When we think about heroes we return to the people who have meant something to us or are larger than life. It’s unfortunate how many people (bosses and others in leadership positions) are definitely not people we’d be proud to call our heroes. They’ve done a bad job being upstanding humans let alone good bosses and we’ve come to be ambivalent towards them, if not hate them. If we hate them there’s no way they can be our heroes (unless we’re into that kind of anti-hero or villain if you will).

Being a hero doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, it does mean you have to be willing to admit when you’re wrong and always do your very best even when others aren’t. You have to set the standard for behavior, inspire your people to join the company culture and be the leader in getting things done and supporting customers.

This Veteran’s Day I encourage you to step up as a leader. Take advantage of the bad press you get and make improvement in those areas. If you’re brave enough you can even ask your employees and customers what they would like you to do differently or how you could improve, or even go on one of those business makeover shows and get feedback from an outside source. Most importantly choose to make a positive difference in the lives of your employees and customers every day. I want people to look at my business and see me as a hero, not as the thing that’s dragging the business down, even ruining it, what about you?

Learning from Failures

I’m not perfect, I’ve made lots of mistakes. The fact that I learn something new everyday and there’s lots that I know I don’t know about means that I’ll be learning for the rest of my life and still not learn everything. The same is probably true for you. Life is one learning experience after another. Every day brings new opportunities, new chances and new people into our lives and it’s up to us to choose if we want to use them to the best advantage or if we are going to waste them.

What do you do with the mistakes you make, with the lessons you learn and the things you see other people do and fail? Do you mentally put them into a file to pull out in the future when you face a similar situation? Or do you just shudder and hope that never happens to you? The only way that we can make the world into a better place is if we make wiser choices in the future.

Change happens whether we want it to or not, the choice we have is how we go through that change. Do we try our best or do we let it run us ragged? Hopefully it only takes a couple times of being run ragged for us to learn our lesson and start being more proactive and attentive to what goes on around us and how it affects us. You don’t have to get it right the first time, everyone fails occasionally. But if you do want to get it right at some point in time you have to keep trying.  Don’t be discouraged by your failures unless you’re not using them to make fewer failures.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” Will Rogers