Relationships are Scary

As we finish up Halloween I’m thinking about some of the scary things in relationships.  Relationships can be great opportunities to move into an amazing future with someone you care about.  They’re also challenging regardless of how perfect you are for each other.  I’ve always talked about communication as being one key to surviving and thriving in your relationship, trust, forgiveness and love are 3 other very important keys.  Let’s first talk about some of the scary things in relationships that can hurt them.

Our own fears and pasts:  Everyone brings stuff into a relationship, primarily what happened to you before you met that person and the beliefs you have.  You also bring the present into your relationship but for most of us it’s our past that has greater potential for damaging than our present does, mostly because we’re able to do something with our present and can’t do anything about the past.  Our past does make us who we are and does shape our decisions in the present and future. So for example if you were hurt or cheated on in the past, unless you have overwhelming trust and love in your current relationship it will be something that hovers in your consciousness whenever you have to make a decision regarding your relationship or partner.  Fears, however irrational can also affect your relationship. It can limit the experiences you can have together, and hold you back from communicating with your partner.

But what I find most scary about relationships is that some people don’t try them.  Life has painful experiences in it. That’s just how it goes.  You will fail, you will struggle, you will be hurt by others in life.  But I believe that hiding away because you’ve been hurt in the past or are scared you will be again in the future can only do more damage than giving relationships a try could.  Relationships aren’t always easy but every relationship I’ve had has added value or taught me a valuable lesson that has made me a better partner for my significant other.  I may hope that this relationship is the one that lasts, but I know that life has twists and turns you can’t predict that I won’t have to start over again with someone else, whether it’s 50 years from now or just 2.  But rather than fear the future or past, or let my fears hurt my relationship, I’m choosing to step forward and trust that my partner will support me through my concerns and challenges and I can support him through his.

Haunted House Success

With Halloween just a few days away I thought today we’d talk about haunted attractions and what we can learn from them as business owners. To be clear we’re talking about the places that get set up every October with decorations and inspired by spooky myths and legends that people visit. I’m not talking about places that are reported or known to be haunted like Eastern State Penitentiary or Winchester Mystery House. Haunted attractions are very successful despite or maybe because they are only open for a short time. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from them.

Haunted attractions have one goal: to scare people. I’ve met more than one business owner who really has no clue why they’re offering what they’re offering in their business. If you don’t have a purpose how can you know what you’re working towards, and why would people choose you over others offering similar things with a goal?

Haunted attractions have lots of moving parts behind the scenes. Any good business has support systems set up to make it successful. This includes the marketing, financial, customer/client management, and product/service creation/selling/management. The best haunted attractions are those that have great moving parts, and those moving parts work seamlessly with the attraction, they don’t detract from or remind you that you’re at a haunted attraction that’s all fake.

Haunted attractions have a great team. Just about every haunted attraction has people involved, whether just a ticket taker or actors and actresses throughout the attraction who interact with and scare guests. If the attraction is any good when the guests leave they have lots of positive things to say about the “people” they interacted with, which is how it should be for every business.

Haunted attractions take creativity. Business isn’t easy and isn’t straightforward. I don’t know too many businesses that don’t take a little creativity to run, whether in dealing with customer requests and coming up with what to offer, not to mention the marketing!

So as you visit haunted attractions with family and friends this year, see what you can learn and apply to your business from them, and share your ideas and insights in the comments below.

Missing Important Steps

There are things in life that require steps to be followed to get the best results.  One of the most obvious being cooking and baking. When you skip steps the food can turn out really bad causing not only frustration but wasted money and time. It’s why we rely on written recipes when making a new foods, so that it turns out like it’s supposed to. After we’ve made it we can try and and different things or change things, but usually you make the food as directed in the recipe the first time. So what happens if the recipe itself is missing some steps?  Because this has happened to me in the past, now when I make a new recipe I always check out a few similar ones to make sure that’s not the case, especially if the recipe I originally found seems light on details.

So what does this have to do with life? Simply that sometimes there are steps that we miss, sometimes even because we didn’t know we were supposed to take them. If you’re selling a product to someone it should come with instructions for immediate use like wash first or soak in water before planting or check for updates before using. But sometimes we get stuff with companies (or coworkers) expecting us to know what we should do, or expecting based on their research what typical behavior is (like washing clothes before wearing them). But not everyone follows that behavior, which is why it’s important to do the research because unfortunately we aren’t always told the whole story.

Leaving out pertinent details can cause serious issues, whether we’re talking about cooking, buying things, using things or relationships and communication. Sometimes we leave out details because we’re ashamed, think we’re protecting someone or don’t know the answer, other times we may leave out the details because we think it’s so obvious they can’t possibly miss it. So every so often it’s good to take a second and think about things and make sure that they really make sense in your head before proceeding. Think about what the logical thing to do would be, ask yourself if there should be other steps, and do a little research to make sure that you do have all the facts.

The Path of Most Resistance

This week I’ve been following a story that has definitively captured my attention, that of 2 young boys who were surgically separated.  This isn’t a new practice, we’ve been doing it for many years, but the thing that was different about their situation is that they were attached at the head.  The surgery was successful, and now it’s time for healing for the boys as well as the family.  I can’t imagine going through that as a parent or family member, I’ve been through challenges with my grandparents as well as personal and immediate family health challenges or surgeries, but to contemplate the incredible challenges that were present before and different ones that are present now is heartrending.

It got me thinking about what happens when we ask God/The universe (or whatever higher power you believe in) for something.  Sometimes we get exactly what we ask for, other times we are told to wait and then receive, but other times what we’re given is what we ask for but with a serious twist. This family wanted to grow a little and what they were given wasn’t just two new lives, but two new lives that presented incredible challenges physically, mentally and emotionally for them and the family.  It’s not what their parents would have ever asked for, but now that they’ve gone through the steps this far (and considering worse case scenarios that are still possible), you have to wonder if they would do it all over again exactly the same.

Maybe you’ve been in this place before. Maybe you’ve been on a very challenging journey thanks to God/The Universe delivering an answer to you, or maybe you’re in that journey now.  You’ve heard the saying “no pain, no gain”, but is that really what you would choose when all is said and done?  For many people the deep-down answer is yes.  They would choose to take the same hard road. There might be a few things they would do different (like not resist as much) but essentially their answer would be yes.  What would yours be?

This week I encourage you to be open to all that the world could hold for you.  Who knows, maybe these two boys now that they’re separated will become the presidents of the US.  Maybe they’ll find a cure for diabetes or Alzheimers.  Or maybe they’ll not do anything world shattering with their lives, but they will make a positive difference and make the earth richer because they’re alive and survived these early challenging years.  What will you find at the end of your current path in life?

Due Diligence

As a business owner I get asked lots of questions about what I offer. I make a point of doing my very best to answer all questions before people even think of talking with me because it’s always easier and cheaper to not have to talk with people, but to just make the sale. I always try to make sure my marketing and sales descriptions are as clear as possible and make it as easy for people to understand as possible so there’s no confusion, because there’s at least a 50% chance that if someone is confused they’ll leave and not make a purchase no matter how perfect that product or service would be for them rather than ask.

Every so often though I get someone who says something like ‘this is what I want, you will deliver that, right?’ after making the purchase, or someone who says “I’m not sure what you sell but here’s the money” or worst “I thought you were going to do/provide X” after the sale has been completed and the service/product delivered. Fortunately these people aren’t the majority, but they always make an impression when they pop up.

What amazes me about these people is that they’re willing to put down money assuming that the business will deliver what they want because they want it, or they put down money without even knowing what they’re ordering. There are two things I want to highlight today: your responsibility and theirs.

Your job, as I’ve already mentioned, is to be as helpful in your communications as possible.  If there aren’t any words on the page, if there isn’t an explainer video, how can they possibly know what you sell?  And just saying “I sell life insurance” or “I do construction” or “I sell jewelry” or “I create websites” or “I deliver food” isn’t very helpful.  It gives people a very basic idea, yes, but to know if they want to choose you to provide that service or product for them there has to be more detail provided, and that’s your job.  In just about every situation there is plenty of room for you to provide the necessary info and answer typical questions.

Their responsibility is to read or listen what’s there.  If you don’t take the time to read what you’re buying, shame on you!  It’s completely unnecessary in this day and age (and irresponsible) to make a purchase without knowing what you’re getting. People go to great lengths to put up details because they want their customers to be happy.  I can’t understand why you wouldn’t listen to or read the details provided before making a purchase, especially if you expect to be pleased with your purchase.

So this week I do encourage you to check out your descriptions and make sure they’re helpful, and when you go to make a purchase make sure that you know what you’re buying before putting down any money.

“Due diligence is the practice of confirming that what you are getting is what you think you are getting.” Dr Henry Cloud

Just a Little Thanks

Over the past couple of years especially people have been talking about how influential one small thing can be in our lives and in the lives of others.  That small thing is being thankful.  It may not seem like it could really do much, but over and over people are seeing the effect of just the simple act of saying thank you or having a focus on being thankful.

Why is this so powerful? One of the reasons is because it stops us from focusing on the bad stuff in our lives, it gets us off the merry-go-round of negative thoughts about ourselves, and reminds us that the world does have potential, our lives aren’t all bad and there is hope yet for our world.  It’s not always easy to break into our thought trains, which is why it’s so important to practice being thankful on a regular basis before trying to beat those negative thoughts with thanks.

But being thankful isn’t just powerful for you personally, it is powerful with regards to others too.  When we choose to bring an attitude of gratitude into our relationships and interactions people tend to be more receptive, polite, courteous, respectful and less confrontational.  By being thankful when interacting with others you may even get the cool surprise reaction out of them when they realize that they’re not the only considerate being out there.

This week I encourage you to consider how you act towards and react with others.  Are you talking and acting in such a way that you surprise them in a good way? I believe that life is built or hurt by the relationships we have, and by choosing a life of thanksgiving, we’ll all enjoy life more.

“Take a step back, evaluate what is important, and enjoy life.” Teri Garr

Candy Craving

Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a little candy history. There are tons of great facts around the web so you can do your own research on your favorite candy, but here are some fun facts to get you started.

65% of candy bars were introduced more than 50 years ago including candy corn (1880’s), Reese’s peanut butter cups (1922), Milky Way (1923), Heath Bar (1928), Snickers (1930), M&M’s (1941), Mounds (1947), Dum Dums (1924), Life Savers (1912) and more!

Tootsie rolls:
-created in 1896
-named after the creator’s daughter’s nickname: “tootsie”
-Tootsie pops were created in 1931
-it might take 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop
-Solders in WW2 had lots of Tootsie rolls in their packs because of their ability to survive lots of challenging weather

-kisses came around in 1906-7
-kisses were given colorful wrappers in 1962
-chocolate bar started in 1900
-almonds added in 1908 to the candy bar
-miniature bars added in 1939
-the theme park comes around in 1973 and decides to offer nutritional information on the wrappers

Even more candy fun:
-Life Savers started as just peppermint savers
-President Nixon used to eat a Milky Way for breakfast
-Heath Bars were originally offered only by delivery, sold by dairy delivery men
-Snickers were named after the Mars family’s beloved horse
-M&M’s went into space in 1981
-in 1949 Smarties were created, and nicknamed “candy pills”
-the first Valentine’s Day was in 1868, started by Cadbury (not by greeting card companies!)
-yellow Peeps are most popular
-it used to take 27 hours to make a Peep, now it takes 6 minutes
-75% of Americans eat the ears before anything else on their chocolate Easter bunnies
-Christmas, Easter and Halloween are the big candy days, with Christmas being the biggest
-both Sourpatch kids and skittles started outside of the USA and came to the US in the 1980’s.
-the word Pez is actually from the German word for peppermint (Pfefferminz)

What is your favorite candy?

Opinions for Business Growth

Last week we talked a little about the benefit and challenge of options in business. I’ve been thinking about this from a bit of a different perspective this week, that of opinions.  Every day I meet business owners and (regular individuals) looking to improve something (or many somethings) in their business (or life).  Maybe they don’t understand using social media, maybe they’re struggling to get sales, maybe they’re struggling with a disconnect between their business and potential customers, maybe they’re struggling to lead their business, maybe they’re struggling with their marketing, or maybe they’re so stuck they have no idea anymore what needs to be improved, only that it’s not going as they would like it to.

We’re not going to answer the many questions therein directly today, instead what we’re going to talk about is the improvement aspect. I believe that everyone, every business and every person, has room for improvement.  Depending on where we are in our life’s journey some of us have more need for improvement than others.  Often it’s necessary to get an outside perspective on what isn’t working and/or how to improve.  Sometimes once some of us know what’s not working we’re able to tap into our resources and fix or change things.  But other times we need the support of others to make the needed improvements.  It’s not wrong or bad to need help from others, it’s part of what makes the world go ’round.

I believe that everyone should get opinions from others throughout the life of their business.  Not all of your customers will leave feedback or tell you what they think isn’t great, sometimes they’ll just silently play a role in your business, and other times the opinion they give you is more about them than your business, so it’s necessary to reach out and get opinions.  I fully support getting help and asking for opinions, but there are a few things to consider when asking for an opinion.  First, it’s my opinion no matter how much research I’ve done in a field or years of knowledge and experience I have.  It may not be the opinion of someone else.  It also may not be that of your ideal customer.  Finally, my opinion isn’t the only one out there.

So while I have lots of ideas about how you can improve your business or what you could do differently, it’s always a good idea to check it against your mission and vision as a business and that of you as a business owner (an essential reason to have a mission and vision).  Because while my ideas may help you reach customers, it may not be the ideas you need to hear right now.

I share all this not to discourage you from seeking the opinions and feedback of others, in fact it makes me want to get even more feedback as a result.  It’s a reminder to stay humble, to consider others and to take all of life with a grain of salt.  I encourage you to worry less about perfection this week and more about helping others.

Judge and Jury

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of how elections are run these days, right?  I wish we would hear more about how the world could improve if a certain candidate is picked instead of all of the bashing and hatred that goes on. I can’t stand that people are more interested in using the dirt in someone’s past against them instead of making themselves look good by doing the right things and being a contributory person.  Yes, everyone has flaws and mistakes in their past, and everyone has opinions that someone else might not agree with.  In this election for Trump there have been some recordings released that people are up in arms over, and for Clinton there has been a lot of talk around her email practices.

When it comes to looking at another person or company, if we’re considering getting to know them better, considering hiring them for something, checking them out for someone else, or just hear something interesting about them and want to know more, typically we’ll look for three things: what they’re doing presently (current/the past 12 months), what they’ve done in the recent past (up to 5 years ago), and what they’ve done in the distant past (more than 5 years ago).  We typically weigh the present stuff as the most important, but sometimes there are things in the distant past that we place large importance on.

For some people or businesses I believe this does them a huge disservice.  It’s wrong to assume that someone (person or business) hasn’t changed since that/those negative event(s) in the distant past.  To assume that what someone said, believed, did or practiced 10+ years ago is still how they 100% feel and live their lives/run their businesses is a gross oversight.  Yes, there are some people who don’t change a whole lot, but each and every one of us changes!  Whether it’s just appearance as we age, or if we did things as a young one that we weren’t so proud of, things have changed.  To assume that a business that was known for a serious failure in the 80’s is still equally screwed up today, or a person that committed murder 30 years ago doesn’t regret that decision does them a disservice.

Before stringing someone (individual or business) up for something they did in the distant past, take a look at what they’re doing in the present. Have they shown that they’ve changed?  Do they say that they’re doing things different?  Have they just become older and wiser?  Don’t write the last chapter of a book before the rest of the chapters have been written.  Some people and businesses may not change, but don’t lump everyone into that category before considering all things.  You wouldn’t want to be treated as such, so do everyone else the courtesy of not treating them that way either.

Love and Fears

Today I want to talk about a very Halloween topic: fear.  In all areas of our lives at one point in time or another we’ll probably experience fear. We experience fear when we let our kids go out into the world with new activities (trick-or-treating with other families and not ours), we experience fear when they’re better at things than us (catching Pokemon), we experience fear when our mind gets the best of us (how long our partner is spending at work), and we experience fear when it comes to who we are (am I good enough?).  Maybe you don’t have to deal with a lot of fear in your life because you’re super confident or conquer (smash) your fears really quickly.  Or maybe you’re one of those people who are paralyzed by fear and struggle with it for a long time before being able to even contemplate moving on or next steps.  Some wisdom I read recently has a great insight that not only will help us with our fears but also strengthening our families in general.

“The more we love, the less we fear; the less we fear, the more we love. Sometimes we can address our fears head on and simply dismiss them—or at least manage them. Sometimes love can overwhelm our fear. Sometimes doing some completely gratuitous act of loving-kindness will break through the sclerotic accretions of fear and the fountain begins to flow again.”  Br. Mark Brown

That’s right: love.  I can’t say I’ll be trying love on any of those movie monsters in the near future, but I do know that applying more love to life will help me reduce any fears I have and conquer them quicker and in better form.  There isn’t anything that can make your life, family or relationship perfect.  But there are things that you can do to make them better and healthier, and one of them is love.  If you’ve established a foundation of love within your family and between your partner and you it’s much easier to begin the tough conversations, realize that some of your are baseless, and find the courage and strength to get over the fears that do have foundation.

I believe we can all use more love in our lives, how will you love more this week?