Creativity for the Future

Today as we finish out this month I wanted to share one last thought for Memorial Day and one last thought on creativity, too, as inspired by this quote from Robert Reich: “True patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.”

Life isn’t easy.  We keep asking for it to be and expecting that our requests will not only be heard but answered as well.  Yes, there are things we can do to make life easier for ourselves, but there will always be challenges and obstacles we’ll face. They’re good because they help us grow and learn new things and make new connections, but they also can put a lot of stress on our lives and relationships.  One of the ways to make those challenges easier is to work together.  On a day like Memorial Day we’re all reminded of what it is to be a team, be part of a country, and challenged to do better.

The only way the world will improve and we’ll enjoy our lives even more is if we make a point of doing things differently.  You’re familiar with the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), it’s one that we’ve talked about before and is well known, yet there are so many people who believe it’s not insanity and keep trying the same thing.

To what distances are you willing to go for your passions and for the country you call home?  Are you willing to make some small changes like trying to waste less energy and being more conscious of how you’re treating others?  Are you willing to work long hours and try things that others may call crazy to share your creativity with the world? Change starts with the few and grows to the many when others see what an awesome difference the changes you’ve made have had on your life.

Are you willing to do what it takes to be great?  Don’t give up because it hasn’t happened yet, keep trying things and telling others what you’re trying to do.  There are people out there who believe what you believe and can be that source of encouragement you need when things get tough, and you can be an encouragement for them as well.

Supporting Our Troops

On Wednesday I shared about the value of hiring veterans in your business. As we continue to think about Memorial Day coming up on Monday I wanted to talk a bit about what the rest of us can do if we don’t have businesses, and how we can support veterans in general. A big part of supporting veterans is recognizing their value to each and every one of us. Whether you agree with the decision to send out troops or the current political whatevers, or not, I believe that it’s important show unwavering support for the troops and veterans. They’re willing to go out into possible or certain danger and lend a helping hand or fight against threats, hatred and corruption or in time of need.

The world isn’t ready to fully embrace peace yet. We’re still a long way from all being able to respect all human life and learn to appreciate and accept the differences we all have (as long as those differences aren’t harmful or racially/culturally dishonoring). Just because the world isn’t fully ready for peace, it doesn’t mean that we should give up on it or that it’s wrong to try to put peace and teamwork first.

If we want a strong America we need to learn how to work together and one of the best places to start is with our troops. For quite some time we’ve been hearing about issues at the VA and veteran’s hospitals. Part of the reason that it’s gotten so bad is because we don’t support our troops as much as we should. We’ve let it be an “out of sight, out of mind” thing maybe because we’re not happy to be sending them out or because we don’t like how politics are at the moment or because we don’t think we have a personally vested interest or because our parents didn’t teach us the importance of the troops, or because we just don’t know how to help.

I think we could make a big, positive, change in the direction that America is going if we started supporting each other more, including our veterans. This Memorial Day make time with your family to do something for the troops. Maybe you’ll donate to a care package, maybe you’ll share your change at the food store with the veterans standing outside, maybe you’ll write your government officials asking them to do more for veterans, maybe you’ll take a meal to a military family in your community, or maybe you’ll just talk with your kids about how awesome and courageous the men and women are who go around the world for each of us. Together we can make America even greater.

Victories for Veterans

With Memorial Day on Monday here in the USA I’ve been thinking about what it is and the people that are a central part of it: the men and women of the military and their families.  We talk about a lot of different topics as part of our conversations about business, and I wanted to make sure that we talk about this topic that’s really important to me and to so many people I know.  If you don’t have someone in your family in the military now you probably have in the past or are close with someone who does.  I know it’s not for everyone and isn’t an easy decision for those who join the service or their families.  But whether they serve for a year or for several decades, when they leave active duty and rejoin the rest of us the question of “what next” comes up.  As we think about Memorial Day on Monday and the Fourth of July just a few weeks away I want to encourage you as a business owner to strongly consider how you can support the veteran community and if hiring veterans is the right thing for your business.

Let’s start with the unquestionable pros.  Veterans come from the rigorous training of the military, they have had lots of experience with leadership, know what it is to be a leader, have learned how to work in high pressure situations, have lots of cultural experience that could help them relate with your customers, are thorough, are willing to go the distance and know the value of just showing up.  They’re also good at setting a good example for others and team building.

The most obvious concern about hiring a veteran is that they may have PTSD or physical challenges as a result of their service.  I don’t believe that should be a reason not to hire them.  Instead it’s an opportunity for us to be a little flexible with them and work with them rather than against them.  Maybe it means that you have to let them bring their therapy dog with them.  Maybe they can only work a few hours a day or come in an hour or two later. Maybe they need extra training or visible reminders of how to do things.  What you see as obstacles don’t have to be, it just means that we all have to be a little more supportive and ask them how we can help them do their best work for us.  And going the distance for your veteran employees may do wonders for your other employees too.

Whether or not you’re able to hire a veteran, there are lots of other ways you can support them through your business like offering discounts to veterans, donating to charity events that support veterans like 5k’s and food drives, and donating a portion of your profits to veteran organizations.  How will you support veterans this Memorial Day?

Creativity and Teamwork

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity over the past few days.  Are you a creative person? I’ve been thinking about creative ways to get through some interesting situations and creative solutions I can come up with for challenges I’m facing.  What I’ve been coming up with is a cold though, which has meant sleep and not much creative thinking or creative action.  It’s interesting when life makes you take a few steps back, I know it’s good to take a break sometimes, but I can’t say I enjoyed having no energy and no passion, creative or otherwise other than for tissues and pillows.

What I’ve been reminded through the past few days is how important teamwork is, even and especially in creativity.  A big part of creativity is coming up with new ideas and seeing things in new ways, and more often than not the creative ideas you come up with will be inspired by something you saw that someone else did or said.  Are you open to hearing the ideas that other people come up with or are you limiting yourself to only what you can think up or do?

The truly creative are willing to take input from others, enjoy listening to reactions even if people come up with conclusions that are not related to the truth about how something was created or why, are willing to try new things, and don’t give up when they hear “no”.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to interact with the creative community, to see how other people see the world and hear their opinions.  Even if I don’t agree with all people’s opinions or appreciate their style of creativity, doesn’t mean I won’t respect their desire and ability to create.  What has inspired you lately and what are you creating?

Making Time for Quiet Time

Life has been a little crazy these past few weeks and my work schedule has definitly taken some hits.  How do you deal with it when life gets crazy?  You know, when your kids get sick the morning of a big presentation, or they have this big project you knew nothing about that’s due at the end of the week, or when your partner suddenly has a trip to take for work and leaves you with things you were going to do together.  Basically: life.  And heaven forbid if you have something going on in your life too on top of what goes on with your family like being sick or extended family stuff, right?!

I was reading an article the other day about how a family vacation almost never is a real “vacation” where people relax and rejuvenate, it’s only when couples go alone or people go alone that it is a real vacation.  I think family vacations are very important and some of my best memories of growing up are of family vacations.  But I also remember the times when we were dropped off at my grandparents for a week and my parents had some alone time, even if they were just at home without us.  We all enjoyed those times too.

A big part of life is learning to navigate the lumps and bumps, the relationships, the interpersonal differences, the questions of kids and all the unpredictables and unknowns we can’t anticipate.  If you can’t learn how to deal with it or manage it, it will manage you and sooner or later you’ll look around and wonder where your life has gotten to without you.  With school winding down and summer coming up soon you’re probably thinking about time off, whether you have kids or not.  Take time to be alone this summer.  Set up time each day that you have a few minutes alone, and if possible get your kids to do the same.  Maybe they’re too old for naps but that doesn’t mean that can’t read for 30 minutes or an hour or do a puzzle or color or another quiet activity, and give you some time alone.  Don’t feel bad or like a failure for needing alone time and making time to be alone, it’s healthy to be with people as well as to have time for yourself.

The Business of Big Ideas

Today I’m thinking about the big, bold ideas that we always wish we could pull off.  Most of us are really good at coming up with great ideas that are cool or interesting or could help others or make us lots of money, but not always ideas that are big or bold or have the potential to make a huge impact on the world.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the world needs the little ideas and little things as well. We wouldn’t live as we do without the “simple” doctors offices, secretaries, farmers, police/military and cleaning people.  Simple doesn’t mean not important, and you know that without some of those people we’d die a lot quicker.  So don’t give up on the simple ideas, the ideas that make things easier for you, make you simply a little happier, or make things work in harmony better.  Those are really important ideas and we need more of them.

So what’s so great about big ideas anyway?  For one they’re impressive.  We are attracted to things that are big and bold and catch our attention. But what about from a business perspective?  Big ideas are great at catching people’s attention and getting them talking about us too.  But they’re also great for sharing and bringing to life visions and missions that we have in our businesses.  Big ideas are great, but when they’re big ideas that are in support of or part of visions and missions that are core to our businesses they become much more powerful.

But big ideas and missions and visions are only as powerful as the follow through.  On paper or discussions they’re great, but without coming up with a plan on how to bring them to life they’re just ideas or nice words. And we know that ideas and nice words aren’t just what customers want to hear.  They want to see or feel or experience results too.

So what if you don’t have big ideas?  Just because you have smaller and less grand ideas doesn’t mean you can’t support them with visions and missions or that you can’t you can’t present them with care, and attention to details.  As I said before small can matter, it’s just about whether you appreciate and present the value or not.   But, if you only have small ideas and want to think bigger, bringing a visionary (someone who does think in big ideas) in to join your team for a season is always an option.

This weekend I encourage you to think.  Take time to come up with big and small ideas that can support your business and customers and see if you can make them feasibly work for you and them.  Then pick the ones you like the most and seem the most feasible and get to work!

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”  Goethe

Sacrifice and Love

Today I’m again thankful for love.  We recently celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a little over a month away.  There’s nothing like a parent’s love! For a mom to carry their child for 9 months even if they choose to give it up to adoption is a huge sacrifice because it’s not easy to be pregnant.  So regardless of the reasons that they choose to give up or keep the child or children in one way or another they must love them if they chose to go through with the pregnancy.

We can learn a lot from moms and dads who really love their children.  One of the biggest things we can learn from them is that a big part of love is about sacrifice.  Maybe it’s just the sacrifice of 9 months.  Maybe it’s the sacrifice of taking a few years off from work to raise your kids through their earliest years.  Maybe it’s the sacrifice of putting money aside for their college fund.   Maybe it’s the sacrifice of attending really bad school concerts or sports events in the cold.  Each parent who truly loves their kid sacrifices for them.

What are you making sacrifices for in your life in the name of love?  Are you sacrificing extra hours or money to work a job you really love?  Are you spending your free time at the gym to work on your preferred race sport?  Are you sacrificing your money for your love of traveling the world?  What are you most passionate about and how much are you sacrificing for it?  Love is worth sacrificing for, but make sure that what you’re sacrificing is worth sacrificing for on the level that you are.

Creative Mistakes

When was the last time you made a mistake?  Was it recent?  It probably was, I know I’ve made a bunch of mistakes today!  As adults we often see all mistakes as bad and really wrong, can you remember the last time you laughed at a mistake you made or it honestly didn’t bother you?  Kids are really good at letting things go.  They have very short memories about most things, or at the very least don’t let it bother them as long as we hold onto things.

Kids are good at making messes and mistakes, at least they’re mistakes as far as we view them, they may not view them that way though.  Often what we see as something not quite right that kids have done is their way of being creative, their way of trying new things and their way of learning about the world.  By letting them discover on their own we’re helping build their creative muscles and letting them learn how things work and about cause and effect.

The other great thing about kids is that they’re not worried about right or wrong to the same degree that we are or in the same context.  We’re so worried about things going right or being perfect in our eyes or the eyes of the world that we don’t open ourselves up to trying new things and doing things differently like our kids do.  So the next time you face a change instead of just doing what you’ve always done or doing things the same way, try a different approach and see what kind of results you can create.

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible; he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.”  Frank Goble

Telling the Truth in Business

Do you know what can sink your business really fast? Lies. When you lie about how effective a product or service is or what you’re going to do or who you are, people not only won’t buy from you again but they tell their friends too. And as we know negative news spreads faster than the positive news. I know some people will tell you that too much truth is a bad thing or that some mystique is a good thing. I agree that a little mystery can be a good thing, but what you offer and who you are should not be one of those mysteries.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth:
I understand that you want to keep some secret sauce for your clients. I have no problem with that. Some people find success in sharing their secrets, others have learned what “enough” is that they can share and interest people with what they offer. One of the things I advise some of my clients on is using Facebook. The first thing usually asked or considered is “what do you think of my page?” My answer is usually “I can’t really tell what makes you special” (or tell what you really offer at all), and sometimes also includes “and all your posts are promotional” (which isn’t a good thing). Most people don’t give sufficient information about their business whether we’re talking promotional materials, social media or in client conversations.

Do it right the first time:
If at all possible it’s always desirable to get things right the first time. The reality is that we don’t always get things right the first time and do have to fix things and sometimes start from scratch. But you’ll be more satisfied with doing the job right the first time than you would be if you gave it a half effort. Not giving it your best effort means you’ll also never know if you could have been successful if you gave it a little more effort.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right:
This is another of my favorite sayings. Too often we throw something together quick without really thinking it through or doing the research. Sometimes, as I’ve said in the past, the research is as simple as reading what’s been written and already provided to you. I don’t believe in perfection so that’s not what I’m saying and I think questions are great, so I’m not judging that either. But if you’re really serious about helping people with your product or service you owe it to them (and will save yourself lots of time) if you disclose as much as possible.

Do everyone a favor and check your business for lies, misleading information and invisible information. What do your customers and potential customers think of your business?


Photographing the World

Did you know that May is National Photography Month? Since the early 1800’s people have been trying to capture the world on film.  From the iconic photos of Louis Daguerre, Lewis Carroll, and Ansel Adams and others we were introduced to what the rest of the world looked like.  Photography has evolved from a time-consuming process, to the daguerreotype, to the fun Polaroid to today’s digital cameras and photographs that we can edit.

I’m not a photo pro by any means but I love taking pictures of the little things in life that surprise me or make me happy, like nature and architecture. Photography for many people is a way of remembering things. I often take photos of things I need to remember like recipes from a recipe book before going food shopping, a topic I want to research, or a paper with dates posted at a public building.

For the most part though photography is used to forever remember things that happened and people who lived. I love looking at old photos and watching shows on TV about historic buildings because it makes history real to me. Even though today things can be doctored and edited, I still find photography to be an invaluable gift to the world.

Photography is also a way of keeping the past around and reminding us of what we want to do different in the future or the big victories in our lives. There are several photos of the American flag you may be familiar with, the 1945 photo of US troops raising the flag at Iwo Jima during WW2, and the photo of the 3 firefighters in NYC after 9/11/01 at Ground Zero have become iconic for many people, not just those who were personally impacted by the events of that day (unlike your photo of your family picnic last summer). But those personal photos are important too, because they keep our ancestors alive after they have passed on.

What are you most thankful for about photography?