Thankful for Love

We’re at the end of another month and as I look forward I can’t help but look back. No worries, there are no repercussions from looking back in this case. I’m looking back because this month we took a look at the topic of love. This month has had challenges and stresses I’ve imagined but never experienced before, some that will bring good things and others that are just another bump in this road called life. As we wrap up this month I realized I didn’t take time to reflect on love on a Monday yet. So here we go.

I am and have always been thankful for love. I’ve seen the ability of love to keep people together for decades. I’ve seen the power of love bless people in the few months they have together before sickness leads to death. I’ve seen love bring people who are very different together in unity and happiness. And I’ve seen healing love conquer and overcome all. Love as I’ve experienced it brings joy, hope, encouragement, courage and connection. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and get the work done so I can support those I love. It gives me hope for a better tomorrow for the whole world.

Love is as important, influential and as invaluable as we let it be. We can live without it, but all I’ve seen and experienced shows me that life is better with love than without it. So as we move out of this month I encourage you to stop making excuses and stop limiting yourself and start finding things to be thankful for about love. Start appreciating the love you have and the love you see around you.

What Do You Really Love?

There are only 3 more days in this month, can you believe it?  I’ve got a lot of changes happening in my life right now, maybe you do too.  In many ways the past few years have been leading up to this point, but you never really expect things to all happen at once when you consider the future.  As I look towards the months ahead and the changes that will happen, it got me thinking about how I want to get through those changes.  I could do it in a panic, I could do it in a rush, or I could do it with the lessons we’ve worked on this month as the foundation.

We’ve talked a lot this month about how love is a choice, just like so many other things in our lives.  We can choose to be bitter about the love we’ve lost or don’t have.  I think that many people who choose to live tainted by the love that has hurt them are wasting their lives, hurting themselves, and setting themselves up for continued pain and loss.  Love doesn’t make you perfect and no romantic partnership is perfect.  If you’ve set up the expectation that because love is involved so should be perfection, you’ll continue to be frustrated when you’re not seeing that perfect storybook love happen.

Real love is selfish at the same time as giving.  Love is about standing up for what you believe and what you need while doing your very best to support the person, people and things you love and love you back.  When you try to push through with fake love or love that is no longer what it used to be or what you want and need it to be not only can you lose faith in love but you can miss out on what love really can be.

As we dive into the weekend, the week ahead and the new month I encourage you to stand up for all that you love and not give in to the temptation to let your life remain at status quo when there is so much more to be had.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” Rumi

The Business of Freedom

This week we’re wrapping up our look at some of the key aspects of Black History Month and how we can apply them to successfully running our businesses. Today we’re looking at one of the overarching topics from all of African American history: that of freedom. I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons many people start a business, myself included, is because of a desire for freedom. Maybe it’s freedom from a restrictive boss, maybe it’s freedom to be with your kids, maybe it’s freedom to set your schedule, maybe it’s freedom to make as much money as you want, or maybe it’s a desire to set your customers free from what they struggle with through the product(s) and/or service(s) you offer.

So where does freedom start for you? Does it start with a desire to have freedom for yourself or to give others the freedoms they desire? One of my favorite sales insights is shared through a question/concept that I heard from Darren Hardy, although others probably could lay claim to the example as well. He asks why you would buy a drill. Most people don’t buy drills because they like how they look or sound or because they want a tool lying around the house. No, they buy the drill for what it can get them: a hole. Seems very simple doesn’t it?

But that’s the truth about being in business: what you do should be helping people achieve their goals. We all have goals and if we work together we’ll be better able to achieve them. With currency as a more universal system it’s enabled us to get what we want easier and we no longer have to barter or trade with a bunch of others until we get what we need in order to trade or barter with the person who has what we want. Now you can give people the resources, tools and support they want and they can give you the money you want.

So where is this leading? Don’t be ashamed of your needs, desires and goals as a leader. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s a bad thing to want freedom, to say no to get what you want, to sacrifice until you can have what you most desire and to pay well and ask to be paid well for a job well done. We all want to have freedom, isn’t it time to stop seeing other’s desired freedoms as obstacles and rather as opportunities to make your life, their lives and the world a better place?

Thankful for Teamwork

This month one of the topics we’ve been reflecting on is love. It’s a topic that is usually challenging for us, but often presents such great opportunities that the challenges are worth it. This past weekend I reflected on the teamwork in our world. You can say our world is all about technology and being independent but such a large portion is really about teamwork. Without teamwork we wouldn’t have cell phones, or the internet to connect to or the ability to call another country, or sites that allow us to buy from other people in other countries easily, or have cars to drive or buses to ride. Just about everywhere you look there’s some form of teamwork happening. We just take it for granted most of the time or don’t see it for the teamwork it really is.

Teamwork can be a one-time thing, but often it is something that is so seamless and continuous that we forget it’s teamwork, especially if it’s not a team we’re involved in. Sometimes teamwork works and other times it fails.  Two of the keys to successful teamwork are communication and transparency. The teamwork won’t be teamwork and won’t be successful if all parties don’t know their part to play. Often as well the teamwork will be less than successful if there isn’t transparency and people don’t understand how their small part fits in with the whole or the overall goal. Knowing this can be the difference between a truly successful teamwork venture and one that is mildly or partially successful.

What team are you most thankful for in your life? The one that cares for and educates your kids? The ones that you or your partner work for that helps put food on the table? The one that keeps you connected with family scattered around the globe? Take time today to appreciate the teamwork that is in your life and work on realigning the teamwork that has broken down.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  Henry Ford

More Than Love

Almost a week has passed since Valentine’s Day and the stores are almost done clearance selling their leftover pink and red goods.  It got me thinking about the fact that Valentine’s Day isn’t every day.  What do I mean? Well, Valentine’s Day is held out to be this amazing, unique, special experience and day where relationships are given lot of attention and love is supposed to be everywhere.  It’s a day with a lot of buildup and press, and life just doesn’t get lived like that.  So when the day is over and life resumes it can be a let down.

I believe that love is super important for our relationships and in our families.  It’s something that should be shared and built on a regular basis.  It shouldn’t be ignored or bypassed because life gets in the way.  Love doesn’t fix everything but it can help hold things together when things go wrong and challenges come up.

Because love isn’t everything and isn’t the cure-all some people would like it to be (myself included), there’s a reason that Valentine’s Day is only once a year even though love is something that should be supported and part of your life year-round.  Life exists beyond and around love.  Love goes a long way but love won’t call for table reservations, love won’t stay up late working on that science project, love won’t go to a job you don’t love so that food gets on the table, you have to do that, and life continues even if the love isn’t there at the moment.

So while you should pursue love in all areas of your life, don’t worry if every moment doesn’t feel like a Valentine’s Day or that you’re in between loves right now.  Appreciate all of life for all it’s amazing gifts and opportunities.

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.”   Author unknown, attributed to an 8-year-old named Greg

The Business of ‘No’

This month we’re taking a look at some lessons and leaders who are part of Black History Month and applying them to our businesses.  Today we’re talking about one of the more iconic moments of the Civil Rights movement in 1955, Rosa Parks and her famous bus ride.  She chose to stand up for what she believed was her right: a seat on the bus.  She not only stood up for what she believed, she also said no.  Those two things together can give us great power and control in our businesses.

Being a good business owner is about knowing where the lines should be laid and if and when they should be crossed.  The lines aren’t pointless or stupid, they are there for our protection, the protection of the business and the protection of our employees and customers. Risks are an important aspect of growing your business, but they shouldn’t be taken without due consideration.  As the leader it’s up to you to know when the lines have been pushed too far, and which lines should never be crossed.

How do we learn this? Some of it can be learned by watching what other businesses and leaders have done, but often it’s up to us to do trial and error.  Depending on the enormity of the risk you’re considering taking would depend how much research you should do and how far over the line you’re willing to go.  If it’s as serious a thing as Rosa Park’s seat on the bus was and the rest of the Civil Rights movement, you should be willing to go pretty far.

But sometimes the only thing you should say is ‘no.’ For example: when you’re asked to do something you’re not comfortable with; when you don’t have the resources and can’t find, develop or make them; when a new direction is suggested that, although it would be profitable, isn’t a good fit for your business; when you’ve had an employee for a year who has yet to fully do the job they claimed they could do when they were hired and hasn’t shown initiative; when a client has yet to follow the advice you’ve given; or when you’re tired of getting walked on and failing.  Learning to say ‘no’ could be exactly what you need to further your business and get more customers you’re actually excited to help.

What do you need to say “no” to in your business?

Thankful for Presidents

Today in the USA was President’s Day. It’s the day we take each year to recognize the men who have been elected to lead the country.  Part of the blessing of being in the US is that we get to have a say in who is elected.  That same blessing can bring up a lot of controversy though, especially from those who aren’t thrilled that someone is elected or don’t feel that that person is living up to expectations or promises.  However, as a business owner I see it a little differently.  While I’m not always thrilled with the choices the presidents have made in the past or all the people who were elected, I’m able to grasp how challenging their job is and how challenging it is to be a leader.

So while I’m not always happy or in agreement with their choices or stances I am thankful for their willingness to give the role of president the best effort they can.  It’s not easy to run my small business always, I have decisions to make on a daily basis, clients to try to keep happy, complications to deal with, not to mention the unexpected like weather and health issues.  So if I have as many challenges as I do in my life, I can only imagine how many challenges the president faces.

Being a leader is both an opportunity and a challenge.  We’re all called to do the best we can with our lives, whether we’re running the country or just trying to finish our schooling.  We each deal with challenges in different ways and there isn’t always a right and wrong with regards to how to deal with them.  So while you may approach a relationship challenge one way, I may approach it differently and neither of us would be necessarily wrong or make a huge mistake with our decision.  We’re just doing things differently.

So while I do encourage you to get involved and share your opinion in the political arena through petitions, donations and other means of support, I also strongly encourage you to let your elected officials know that you do appreciate their efforts and hope they’ll continue to look out for the country in the best way that they can.

What is Love to You?

You probably know but Valentine’s Day is just a few days away.  This weekend and especially this Sunday people around the US will be celebrating their love, spending lots of cards, flowers and gifts and (according to statistics) making babies.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing and trying to show your partner you love them based on what the world says, but the numbers of divorces and unhappy marriages around the world speak to what a poor idea this really is.

Your partner and you only work when and because you do what’s right for you.  This means you have to try things out.  No, don’t do anything you don’t both agree with or would be abusive mentally or physically.  But it means that you can’t just accept what the world tells you is right or best and try to fit yourself into that mold.  The same is true for you and your kids, don’t just show them love in the average ways, love them in ways that mean something to them.

What does this look like? Maybe it means you give your partner a massage, maybe it means having dinner on the table for them, maybe it means supporting them at their athletic events, maybe it means celebrating holidays not on the official day, maybe it means watching their TV shows instead of yours, or maybe it means visiting a pet shelter so they can get their puppy fix without bringing one home.

This Valentine’s Day don’t just cop to a card, flowers and chocolate. Get your loved ones gifts that will show them you know them and love them for who they are.   If you’re struggling with your relationship take time to ask them what would make them happy, and share with them what would make you happy and feel loved too.  Let this Valentine’s Day be the start of a new and beautiful chapter to your relationships.  What does love look like for you?

“The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.” Mignon McLaughlin

Repeat or Start Over?

Last week we took our first look at a Black History related topic as it relates to successfully running a business, that of fighting for the business you want. Many people say that there are no new ideas, we’re just repeating stuff or seeing it in a new light. To an extent many things are repeats. We do see lots of copies and similar things. But to look at the technology, if you will, that the Romans had, it’s much different than the technology we have today.

So it’s no surprise that we see the combination of old and new when looking at Black History throughout the years and the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60s. We see lots of people who did important firsts for Black people as well as firsts for all people. Madame C J Walker, Dr. George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, and Dr. King Jr are just a few examples.

In business we have several choices and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. We can do what others have done in the past and be successful advancing or to an extent replicating what they have done or we can go down a road that no one or very few have done before. In following the path of others there’s some in-built confidence that we have a greater chance to succeed because there’s proof it’s worked before and people are interested, and in choosing to write our own story and go in a new(er) direction we’re able to give the world something it may not have and not just be a copycat or try to sell the same thing as everyone else. Of course the downsides are that we’re doing what everyone else is doing which is boring or could mean the market is over-saturated, or we might not succeed because there isn’t a need or desire for what we come up with in our new path.

The Civil Rights movement wasn’t anything new, African American people have been working for freedom and recognition of rights for centuries. But that movement was new to that generation of people and touched the US and world in a way that had never been seen before. So go ahead, make your move, step out and stand for what you believe in, create the products you think the world needs, sell the services you think people want and don’t be afraid to fail a little because you’re going first.

Thankful for Second Chances

Last night the US watched the last football game of the 2015-2016 season. A new top team has been given the trophy and signature rings. Do you know what else you could have watched yesterday? That’s right, the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. I’m an animal lover and a big dog lover so whenever I hear about things like the Puppy Bowl I watch them or at the very least check them out online. As I was reviewing the puppy lineup last week before the big game I was struck not by how many cute dogs there were (which is what you would expect) but by the number of puppies that looked like scrappy, albeit victorious, little fighters.

I know that the Puppy Bowl is a great opportunity to adopt out some dogs (and the cats that run the half time show) from shelters around the US but usually at least half the team gives you the warm fuzzies. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be very happy to take any of those dogs home, but I wouldn’t be bringing these dogs home due to their overwhelming cuteness, which is what many people pick out their pets based on. Instead I’d bring one (or more) of these dogs home because of another factor: they remind me that we can overcome.

Each time I would look at one of these scrappy dogs I would be reminded of their start to life and how they were able to overcome whatever obstacles they faced. It wouldn’t be a bad reminder or one that would make me unhappy each time I saw the dog. No, it would be a grateful reminder. If something so little can survive and learn to thrive and love I can overcome whatever I face too.

What positive reminders do you have in your life?