Taking Control of Your Success

Success is something that I think just about everyone wants to have. Everyone’s definition of success may be different, but I think we can all identify with the desire to have success and to feel successful. Today I thought we’d talk about a couple of things that may work to help you be more successful.

Success requires focus. Very few people will find success in life if they don’t have a definition for success and aren’t focused on taking steps to accomplish that success. Maybe you’re at the stage that those steps include researching or asking for help to accomplish that success, or maybe you’re deep into implementing what you believe will help you achieve that success. But if you’re off chasing butterflies or out gallivanting all day and not putting in the necessary time or focus, it will be very difficult to achieve that success quickly or maybe at all.

Success requires discipline. Part of the success journey is being able to take control of your life and the factors that are part of that success you desire. If you can’t be disciplined to structure your life in such a way that you’re devoting time on a consistent basis to working on your success and making room for that which will support your success journey, it probably won’t happen.

So how do we incorporate focus and discipline into our lives without feeling completely depressed that we don’t have all the freedoms that we used to in the past? First, remember what you’re doing this for. Keeping your success goals at the forefront will help keep you motivated. Second, choose to be a responsible adult. This one is a bit difficult because everyone likes feeling and acting like a kid sometimes. But the fact is if you really want success you have to be responsible about taking those steps in your life. On the other side of it if you’re really a responsible adult you’ll choose success goals that will help yourself, your family and your world, not hurt it.

Third, don’t be afraid to set up some boundaries and ask for help. I love how instant communication can be with all our technology, but it gets in the way of getting things done. If you are involved with a lot of high priority communications on a regular basis, set up 2-3 times throughout the day that you check those communications and reply, and then the rest of the day unless there’s a real emergency, you should not be replying to communications. If it’s necessary to do some communicating as part of your success work in between those 2-3 times you can do that, but the goal should be to limit your email/phone/social media time so that you can actually get things done. If you have so many communications throughout the day that you are spending the majority of your time on them and not getting anything else done, it’s time to hire a communication team member and have them deal with the majority of the communications, passing on to you only those that actually need your personal touch. As well, learning how to say no can be difficult for you, I know I like to help people, but the fact remains that there’s only so much time in the day and you have to protect the time you need as well as not take on things that aren’t going to help you accomplish your success.

As we enter a new month tomorrow I encourage you to really think about how you want these last 4 months of the year to go. What will you do differently?

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Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

What To Do With Negative Reviews

Do you have negative reviews? I would say that every business experiences at least one unhappy customer throughout their life cycle. Of course you should focus on sharing the positive reviews on your website, but I think it’s helpful to leave the negative reviews up on any of the social or review platforms, even if you don’t want people knowing about them. Negative reviews can be an excellent way of weeding out the people who would end up being a refund or dissatisfied customer who wasn’t really a proper match to be a customer. Yes, some negative reviews really do reveal weaknesses in your business, product or service, and ways you’ve screwed up, which can be good insights for you on things you can improve (especially if you’re getting multiple reviews commenting on the same exact thing). However, negative reviews aren’t always a reflection on your company or product/service, but rather a buyer lashing out for something that’s completely unrelated.

Some reviews are listed as negative because the buyer wanted something that isn’t offered. Some reviews that make no sense when you read them, like someone expressing dissatisfaction over a physical bookstore stocking only paperback and hardcover books and not selling any beverages or not selling eBooks. Some “negative” reviews actually give a big complement and help potential buyers who are interested in what you offer feel more confident about working with you, for example the people who post that the beef lasagna they didn’t order but were served was delicious but really wished the person had gotten their order right and served them the chicken lasagna. Some buyers are unhappy with things that are clearly stated in the terms of service or product/service description but they didn’t take the time to read. And some buyers are unhappy with things you have no control over like the view from the Statue of Liberty being terrible because it was a rainy day.

On platforms that you as a business can respond to the negative reviews it’s a great opportunity to first and foremost thank the person for their review and then politely point out that you don’t offer what they didn’t get as well as what you do offer, and/or share some insights to give them (and others) a better experience with your business. This isn’t an opportunity to be nasty to them and tell them how illiterate they must be because they didn’t read or how they’re stupid because you have no control over the weather. However, having a well-thought-out response shows that you’re interested in hearing from your customers and are willing to work with them. As well, if it’s appropriate you can encourage them (and others in the future) to contact you or talk with you before the issue becomes unfix-able (i.e. you eat the dinner that wasn’t cooked to your satisfaction or wasn’t what you ordered).

You don’t have to reply to all reviews, and some businesses choose not to reply to any. I believe that somewhere in the middle is necessary, that you reply to at least some of them, especially if you’ve resolved that particular issue. Even if you choose not to reply to your reviews you really should read them to be aware of what customers are posting, as well as to catch any trolls who are posting negative spam reviews. If you haven’t checked out your reviews lately I encourage you to make time to do that this week.

Mother Teresa on Life, Love, Loneliness and Hurt

Over 100 years ago this month Mother Teresa was born. She was a woman who had incredible wisdom, dedicated her life to a very selfless mission, and taught the world a lot about love. As I was considering her life, I happened upon a few quotes that speak to some insights on how we may be able to help the world heal from the tragic events that have unfolded around the US and world in the past few weeks, not to mention those that are ongoing situations. These situations can’t be resolved with a simple shaking of hands or trading of objects, these are issues that have remained and repeated in one way or another for decades, if not centuries. Resolution will take time, effort on everyone’s part and ultimately a decision that the world is a better place if things were different. Mother Teresa said:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

No war is won or lost by the actions of one person. No one person could have won WW2 or the Civil War or the Trojan War by themselves. But without each of the individuals who participated in those wars on the winning side, the history may have happened much differently, likely creating a much different today. If the world is to become a healthy, fulfilling, thriving place, we have to start doing something different and treating each other different, starting with ending the violence. Yes, there will always be violence, but in the majority of the time, a simple, quiet word can do more than an abrasive, violent tantrum.  I encourage you to take a deep breath the next time your first reaction is to be nasty or overreact, and see if you can’t communicate with a little more patience, peace, respect and love first.

Bully Free School Zone

Last week we started a conversation about two of the challenges that kids going back to school face, and we started by looking at drugs. Today we’re going to talk about a topic that is definitely more talked about with relationship to kids and teens, but can affect adults as well: bullying. According to the dictionary a bully is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. A man hired to do violence.” In some ways the second definition would make it easier if that was the majority of the way that bullying happened, but more often than not there’s no money involved, it’s someone who picks on others.

Let’s start by being completely honest. Almost all of us have at one point in time or another throughout our lives picked on someone else. Maybe we did it as part of a crowd, maybe we were there when others did it, and maybe it was done in jest, but most of us have experienced what it’s like to bully or pick on someone. When you’re bullying others or picking on them there’s definitely a rush that you experience, a feeling of power and domination, and it can be seductive. I get that, really I do. But there are so many better ways to experience a rush and be in power than to beat down on someone else.  If you’re someone who tends to bully or pick on other people I strongly encourage you to work on your interpersonal skills and channel that energy into more productive activities like skydiving or catching alligators.

The other feeling that most of us experience (because we’re not true bullies) is the feeling of guilt. That’s the feeling we need to keep at the forefront of our minds when we think about getting involved with a bully or bully someone ourselves. The other feeling we need to keep in mind when considering bullying is of course what the person being bullied feels, which again is something that most of us can understand. Maybe you’ve never been a true target that faced incessant, debilitating or viral bullying, but just about every one of us has been picked on at some point in time or another. It does not feel good to be the target of one or many individuals picking on you, how you look, what you say, how you say it, what you did, who your family is or where you live, or any other number of things that you may have been picked on regarding.

If you’re facing bullying or your kids are, or if you’re just wanting to prepare them for if and when it happens, start with talking about how bullying feels and why it’s wrong with them, and let them know that you’re there for them should they be bullied, as are their teachers and the other adults in their lives. Second, it’s important to instill self-confidence and teach them to value themselves for whomever they are, whatever they like, however they look and wherever they go. They don’t have to be the same as anyone else, they can and should be their own person with their own interests and appearance. Third, don’t let them dismiss it more than once from a person. Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore the person or people and they’ll stop. But if it happens again they (and you) have to learn to stand up for themselves and ask for help if they need it. Maybe the help isn’t someone charging in and demanding the person stop (maybe it is), maybe it’s just giving and/or teaching the person the resources they need to fight this particular bullying situation and individual or group.

With the number of bullying related suicides each year becoming more publicly known more schools and businesses are taking a stand against those who would be bullies or try to demean people. While we still have a long way to go, it’s good that we’re having discussions about it and taking steps to stop it before there are even more bullying-related suicides each year. So the question is, what are you going to do to stop bullying?

Creating a Customer Connection

Today I thought we’d talk about 3 of what could be the scariest and most intimidating words you’ve ever heard relating to business (and maybe life too), and why they’re super important if you want to succeed in 2017. The words? Personal emotional connection.

That’s one of the secrets to being successful today in 2017, to make your customers have a personal emotional connection with what you’re selling. Yes, details are very important as are facts and information and honesty. Also important is providing consistency across your marketing, customer service, and products/services, so that whether you’ve got someone who buys from you on a weekly basis or someone who only buys every 6 months, they can expect the same experience now and in 6 months.

So what’s the big deal about a personal emotional connection? First, it’s personal. That means that the buyer feels that you’re personally interested in them and understand their personal needs and desires, and that your product or service will align with them. Second, it’s emotional. You’ve probably seen the commercials where little kids in war-torn countries look starved and you’ve probably seen the commercials with starved animals as well. Both of those commercials play on your emotions, knowing that there are plenty of people out there who will have their emotions tapped by those commercials and want to donate. Third, it’s a connection. People like knowing that they’re heard, understood, appreciated, and that they have something in common with others. You want someone to come to your brand saying “finally! Someone gets me and my needs!”

One of the biggest challenges is that although sometimes a personal emotional connection can be made instantly, more often than not it takes time. And time is not something that everyone is willing or things they’re able to wait for. But the research shows that more often than not you can get more from a customer who has a personal emotional connection with your company, than you can with someone who just buys for the price or availability. So go ahead and come up with some services and products that people would buy for price or availability and then have in place a plan to create a personal emotional connection with them, and have other products and/or services available for if and when that connection happens.

Have you made an effort to make a personal emotional connection with your customers? If so, what have you learned?

Trust in Listening

I’ve shared on several occasions this month about the connection between listening and success. As I think about some of the people I’ve interacted with or worked with, I’m struck by the challenge that listening can present, even becoming a barrier for success at times. I don’t believe that you can reach your full success potential without listening to others and getting feedback on your actions and direction. In fact not only can you hinder your success because you’re not listening, you can isolate yourself from others and hurt your relationships with them.

Ignoring what people tell you, ignoring what people ask you, ignoring their opinions, second guessing everything that anyone tells you, and asking for second and third opinions all the time on everything are just a few of the indications that you’re not using your listening skills well and an indication that you may have some trust issues with people. I’m not suggesting that everyone is to be trusted or all answers believed as fact, but first to give the benefit of the doubt rather than just judging someone based on a first impression or opinion. And second if you’ve known or worked with someone for many years and you still don’t trust them to give you an educated, researched or complete answer it may be time to part ways or have a serious discussion.

I can tell you from being on the other side of the conversation, that it’s really difficult to constantly have your answers questioned or questions ignored. I can remember times when multiple people in the same office were asked to research the exact same item, and not because it was difficult, obscure or an extensive topic. I can also remember many times when I’ve repeated the same question over and over in an email correspondence to have the question ignored or not directly answered. It’s incredibly frustrating to be an adult and be treated as a small, irresponsible child for no particular reason.

I get that sometimes you can have a difficult day, but these situations we’re talking about aren’t one-off situations, but rather things that go on day in and day out. If you’re in the situation of being questioned constantly I encourage you to take time to really consider if the situation is that beneficial for you or if it’s time to move on to where you’re more respected and valued. I’d also suggest if you’re constantly being questioned that you sit down with a trusted friend to talk about whether your communication skills (or lack thereof) or communication style could be a factor in the issues you’re facing. If you’re someone who struggles with listening, I’d suggest taking a serious look at your life and relationships and evaluate if you’re feeling fulfilled, frustrated, challenged and/or valued. If your life is not all you want it to be it’s time to evaluate the people in it and the habits and practices you have.

While it can be challenging, communication is one of the most valuable skills we have as humans in 2017. If we all worked a little harder at communicating with each other with respect and clarity and taking the time to really talk things out, we’d solve many of the world’s issues quite quickly, or at least put a plan in place for resolving them with less anger, confusion and bloodshed.

Drug Free School Zone

As we look ahead to the next few weeks many kids are going back to school, and some may already be there. Today I thought we’d talk just a bit about one of the two biggest challenges your kids may be facing as they return to school: drugs, and the other of course would be bullying. We all have some experience with or exposure to drugs and bullying, whether it’s what we’ve heard or seen on TV, something a family member or friend has dealt with or something we’ve personally struggled through. In too many cases there are people who die as a result of drugs or bullying. And yes, drugs and bullying can be something that adults struggle with too, it’s definitely not just an issue with kids. Another similarity is that we’re both often inclined to hide our issues and not talk about them or get the help we need. Sometimes we don’t get help because we don’t realize it’s that bad or tell ourselves we’re dealing with it, but other times we’re just scared of what others will say or that there might be attacks or punishments because of hiding it or being in the struggle in the first place. We’re going to talk about drugs today and address bullying in more detail next week.

Not all drugs are bad, when taken correctly drugs can help people of all ages live better, feel better, get better, and heal. There are also lots of natural alternatives like supplements that many people feel also help with dealing with certain health issues, and marijuana has proven to be helpful to some people as a medicinal aid as well. But the issue comes in when there is no medical reason for taking the drugs, supplements or even marijuana. The issue is when people use drugs to feel good or escape their issues or look cool or feel something. That feeling becomes addictive and quickly people get sucked into using more and more until they’ve got more health issues as a result of taking them, and many people each year die as a result of taking those drugs. What was a quick fix becomes a serious and deadly problem.

But the real issue, as presented especially by drugs but also in the bullying, is that we’re not able to enjoy life as it is, we’re not confident in who we are, we’re not willing to face the difficult stuff in life, and we feel the need to escape the reality of life. I get it: life can be very challenging and there are some seriously bad stuff being shared in the news. But the answer isn’t to hide or bury our heads in the sand, it’s to join the many people who are stepping up and standing up for a better world, for rights for everyone, for every voice/culture/group to be heard, and for everyone to be treated as a human being who is capable of making an incredible difference in this world.

So what can you do as a parent to help your kids avoid drugs or help them stop taking drugs? First, don’t do or abuse them yourself, set the example for them. Second, if you do have an issue get help for it, there are tons of resources around the US and in other countries that can help you beat your addiction. Third, talk with them about local resources that they or their friends could access if there’s an issue and what to do if someone overdoses and they’re with them. Fourth, help them find and encourage healthy and helpful activities that they can do that will bring them joy, help them feel good about themselves, help them be healthy and teach them responsibility.

Avoiding the issues of drugs and bullying can only hurt the next generation, it’s time we step up and be honest about this issue that is hurting so many families and killing so many people who could make a very positive difference in the world. I encourage you to talk with your kids and teens today.

Listening in Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is listening. It’s so important if you want to be successful in business to be listening. Let’s take a minute today to talk about the important things you should be listening to if you want to be successful.

Your customers: what are they saying? They will let you know about their dissatisfaction and the things they love. The internet is a great place to find reviews about your products and services, and you should invite your customers to give you feedback directly as well. You can also listen to their silence and their lack of return to your business and products/services as a clue as to how much they don’t like you.

Your suppliers: are your suppliers constantly raising prices? Are they hesitating on delivery? Do they tell you it’s difficult to get what you ask for? If so it may be a clue that there’s something broken or not working right in your supply chain.

Your employees: your employees are often your first line of interaction between your customers and your products/services, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say about what you offer, what customers are saying to them, things they’re feeling challenged by and what they would like to see changed. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t respected and don’t think your product or service is worth what you’re charging then you’ll have some difficulty getting them to work at their best for your company.

Your marketing: I know it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the metrics and know exactly what things mean, but it’s important to be in touch with your marketing team to see how people are responding to your marketing. If they’re not responding and you’ve done the proper a/b testing, and tried different marketing opportunities for a consistent period of time, maybe the marketing isn’t the issue.

The market/business world: are you in tune with what’s going on in other businesses? With how they’re marketing their products? With what’s going on with your competitors? With how others are marketing? With government or industry changes that might affect you? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on outside of your company, not just inside your company.

How good of a listener are you as a business leader? Take time today to really listen to what’s going on in and around your business.

People Focused Success

Something that we often talk about when we talk about business is how important it is to remember that behind every credit card payment or sale is that there is a human making that purchase. As I was thinking about the topic of success in general today I realised that that same truth applies: if you really want to get ahead in life, be successful in a relationship, have a great relationship with your kids, or make a difference, it starts with being considerate of others.

I know it can be hard to miss the fact that you’re surrounded by other people. They drive their cars in your lane, they make noise in the cubicle/room/apartment/house next door, they talk, they do crazy things, they hurt people, they pollute the environment, they cook your food, they refill shelves at the stores, they deliver your boxes and countless other ways they worm their way into your life that you both appreciate and find frustrating. I know most of us occasionally have had the thought about how grateful we are that someone invented something (like the toilet) or did their job (like flew our plane safely), but often we take it for granted or even try to ignore it because we’ve got so much going on in our own lives that we can’t possibly keep up with what the rest of the world is doing as well. But the fact is that without many other people our lives would not be what they are today.

This month we’re talking about the topic of listening which really is one of the first steps to success in relation to others. If we’re able to listen with our ears, our eyes and our bodies to what’s going on around us, we’re able to figure out what other people want, what their issues are, what their dreams are, what hurts them and what’s challenging them. We can even find out how they want to resolve things or move forward in their life. Can you remember the last time you were trying to tell someone something important and it took forever for them to register your issue or even you? When they finally did your relief was overwhelming, right?!

If you’re looking to be more successful in life, and most of us are, yes, you should think about what you see success as and how you want to get to that success, but then you should take into account the other people who could help you achieve this vision, who is already doing something similar you might be able to work with or support, who will be affected by or benefit from your success, and how it will affect the people closest to you. What role are others playing in your success journey?