Dream A New Dream

Yes, we’re at the end of a year and beginning of a new year.  I think it’s one of the best decisions that was made many, many years ago to have a yearly calendar because it gives people a fresh start.  It helps us to organize and straighten out our lives and choose to make positive changes in our lives.  It’s also a reminder to each of us to reflect on what the past year of our lives has brought and what we’ve learned and helps us focus on what we need to improve.  If we lived our lives as one day after another we might live more in the present moment but we would miss out on the benefits of having a yearly schedule if you will to follow.

It’s funny because we really do well when we have a semi structured life.  We can’t live lives that are scheduled every minute of every day but with some structure in our lives we’re able to work jobs, spend time with our families and learn how to make each moment count.

But with this new year, and every new year, I’m reminded anew of the blessing that it brings us to be able to make changes in our lives and to dream a new dream.  It’s never too late to start fresh or make changes in your life.  Until, of course the day comes that you’ve run out of time and you’ve used up all your moments.  With this new year I want to encourage you to use your moments to the fullest.  It’s not too late for you to make your dreams come true, or to have new dreams that actually excite you.

I know that dreams get tired, I know that people get tired. Which is why it’s important to evaluate each year where you’ve been and where you’re going.  The awesome thing is you only have to set the goals you want to set.  Set goals for each day, set goals for each month, set goals for this year.  Make it manageable so that your dreams can become a reality.  This year, I challenge you to make this your year.  In addition to whatever words or themes you’re choosing for this year, choose to make this year the year that you become and show yourself to the world.  Take the wheel and make this new year your year.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C. S. Lewis

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Failure, Defeat and Success Plans

Once again today I’m thinking about what happens when things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes it doesn’t work as expected because you didn’t factor in some important detail. Sometimes it doesn’t work because something outside your control got screwed up. Sometimes the plan that someone else is working on runs yours off the road or makes it not feasible to continue for the time being. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because you don’t give it enough effort or get the right people involved. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’ve been trying too hard or are too tired. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’re so busy looking to get revenge that you aren’t looking at success. Sometimes it’s a communication issue. And sometimes it’s a bad idea from the start and never would have worked.

The plan, your success and failures are all things that we need to be aware of and considering as business owners. Sometimes I’m thankful when the plan fails. Maybe it gives me a little flexibility I really needed. Maybe it gives me the encouragement to pursue an opportunity I’ve been putting off. Maybe it gives me the chance to spend time with my partner. Maybe it gives me time to catch up on paperwork (or the digital version of it). Or maybe it forces me to think up a better idea and come up with a better or different plan. Most of the time when our plans don’t work out we’re more frustrated than thankful, and it can be especially frustrating when you run out of time like we are as we rapidly approach the end of another year.

So what do you do when things aren’t going according to plan? Sometimes pushing through is the right answer. Sometimes it’s taking a nap or giving up for the day/night. Sometimes it’s working on something else for a short period of time. Sometimes it’s unloading the whole story on a friend, business associate or your partner. Sometimes it’s trying a different marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s trying something different. Sometimes it’s calling the year a wrap and making better plans for the next year.

I find that plans work best when you do a few things: first, think things through. This involves thinking with your brain, doing some online research and talking with your target market or other relevant people. When you do that you’re always better set up for success. Second, take care of the most important aspects first whenever possible. Yes, take time to work on the fun stuff that excites you about your plans, but also make sure that you’re giving equal or more attention to the biggest priorities that need to happen for your plan to be in motion. Third, have the right support. The people and resources around you who support you are some of the biggest keys to whether or not you’ll be successful.

If you’re dealing with a plan failure (or even a business failure) this week, I encourage you not to give up, but instead to take a step back and try some of the things you should have done in the first place or things you thought about but put to the side. You never know what the answer will be that you’ve been looking for or where you’ll find it.

Light for the New Year

As we head towards the end of another year and the start of a new one, I wanted to talk about a very holiday topic: light. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah light is central to the celebrations on trees, hung on houses, candles that are lit and the star in the sky. Even with the New Year celebrations there’s lots of light, from the dropping ball to the fireworks. As people most of us depend on the light outside (the sun), and all of us depend on the light that we create, whether it’s in a bulb or a fire.

We’ve always been dependent on light, but as we’ve grown over the centuries we’ve developed technology that allows us to have light whenever or wherever we need it. I think in some ways we’ve forgotten how crucial the light we have is. We take it for granted that it will be there when we need it. The place I’m currently living in is an old building and has only 2 light switches. I never took a simple light switch for granted before, but now I’m so thankful every time I do have a light switch to use because it means no fumbling around in the dark to find a cord. I’ve got light but I have to work a little harder to use it.

Light has always been treasured because it chases away the darkness. Sometimes what we need is to let some light shine into our lives, illuminating things we can’t see or would try to hide or just plain can’t see. If you feel like you’re leaving 2017 with a lot unaccomplished or feeling frustrated with what did or didn’t happen, maybe you should choose to make 2018 a year of light. You can’t do anything about how the first 11 months went of 2017, they’re over. You’ve got just a few days left in the last month of 2017 if you want to do anything different for this year.

Yes, you can still do something great with this year, there’s no reason to give up, you should cross the line feeling as though you’ve done all you can. But you should also be taking a look at the year ahead and looking to any changes you need to make and any darkness you need to conquer. Let’s finish off this year with a victory, and plan for more victories in the new year, too.

“Personal peace does come to all who follow the light of truth, and thus come out of the darkness of deception.” Hal Runkel

Christmas Wisdom

As I was looking for some Christmas insights to share instead of my regular content on social media I found that many quotes weren’t just fun or festive, but that they carried some really good insights for our holiday preparations and celebrations.  So I encourage you to take a minute here with me and reflect on these words about this special holiday.

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.” Thomas S. Monson

“Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us – a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.” David Cameron

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” Dale Evans

“For it is in giving that we receive.” Francis of Assisi

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” Charles M. Schulz

“God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.” Pope Francis

“Don’t let the past steal your present. This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone.” Taylor Caldwell

“It’s true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.” Caroline Kennedy

“At Christmas, I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child.” Queen Elizabeth II

“The thing about Christmas is that it almost doesn’t matter what mood you’re in or what kind of a year you’ve had – it’s a fresh start.” Kelly Clarkson

“When you give up yourself, that’s when you will feel the true spirit of Christmas. And that’s giving that’s serving others and that’s when you feel fulfilled.” Joel Osteen

“Christmas is, of course, the time to be home – in heart as well as body.” Garry Moore

Customer Consideration

While there are some things I don’t always agree with when it comes to the “rules” in business, I do agree that if you don’t have customers you can’t stay in business. The other thing I know about business is that almost every business owner (some 95%) that I talk with says “I need more customers!!” And I can talk with them for a few minutes and take a look at their business and almost always come up with a couple of suggestions on what they can do immediately to get more customers.

We’ve talked over the past several weeks about the months of November and December and how essential they are to some businesses for making it ‘in the black’ for the year. Most businesses would tell you that they would be happy to get some more customers, even if they do decent during the rest of the year. Many businesses also would say that they do some different things to take advantage of the people who have their wallets out in these 6 or so weeks. So imagine my surprise when I went to go to a store yesterday and was met by the employee closing the store and they told me it was closed. With less than a week before Christmas this store chose to close at normal business hours. They didn’t extend their hours to welcome the guests that are out after work shopping, they didn’t say ‘we’re sorry we’re closing, but you can visit us online for a great selection of products,’ they didn’t say ‘we’re sorry we’re closing, but we open at 9am tomorrow morning.’ No, all they said was that they were closed.

Last week we talked about how customers feel about your business, being treated that way made me feel less than important as a potential customer and could impact whether I go back and shop there in the future. I’m not here to badmouth a specific store or brand, I’m just questioning whether this company is really interested in having more sales and more customers (their shelves looked full to me), or not.

You can get all the advice in the world, you can even give it a little attempt with some token changes or additions, but if you really want to get more customers, it won’t happen without really taking action to make your business the best it can be. I’m not suggesting you do something outside of your range of specialty, like serve Greek food at an Italian restaurant or grow Christmas trees when you grow medicinal herbs. All I’m suggesting is to be a little more open to what your customer may need, like extended hours for holiday dinners or recipes to make using your herbs. Of course, if you want to move in a direction like serving Greek food at an Italian restaurant, or opening a sister restaurant a town over, that’s something you could consider as well.

So before you say “I need more customers” or the next time you catch yourself saying it, think about what you’re doing to support your customers and if you’re really serving them the best you could be.  What have you done this holiday season to support your customers and potential customers?

Christmas Questions

You know what I realized the other day? In this festive season we spend a lot of time asking questions! I know, it surprised me too. After all, we’ve typically got a love-hate relationship with questions, they challenge us but also can open up incredible opportunities and insights to us. So what are some of those Christmas questions?

Do you hear what I hear?
Is he/she here yet? Are they here yet?
What did you get me?
Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?
Are we there yet?
Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
What did you bring me?
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
Can we build this now?
Where are you Christmas?
How much longer until we can open gifts?
What Child is this?
Do they know it’s Christmas?
How long is the line?
What do you want for Christmas?
Have you been good this year?

Are you asking questions this holiday season? Maybe your questions are more along the lines of ‘how will we ever afford this Christmas?’ or ‘how long until a new year is here?’ I know for many people it’s been a challenging year. In some ways that’s a good thing because now we’re asking more questions and taking a more serious look at what we can do to avoid or limit this year’s experiences from happening in the future. It’s hard to make changes in life without asking questions and taking action based on the answers to those questions.

But as we see from some of the questions above, not all questions are scary! Some are so filled with joy, anticipation and excitement that you can practically picture a kid jumping up and down asking them. Others are more reflective questions, encouraging us to think more about the meaning behind the season.  Some questions may also remind you of the ways you challenged your parents as a kid, and your kids today may challenge you.

As we head towards the end of another year I would encourage you to open your mind to asking some questions. Some will be tough questions, but others should be questions of possibility and hope. You can’t find the answer if you don’t ask the question, go on the adventure or try things out. What questions are you asking today?

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Christmas

We’ve all been there, the Christmas that we’ve all spent alternating time in the bathroom or unable to get out of bed. It’s not the way we want to spend the holidays, but between the sometimes dramatic weather changes, the foods we’re eating that we’re not used to eating and all the people we’re exposed to, it’s almost surprising that we’re not sick over the holiday season more often. I can remember a couple of Christmases that I spent sick or someone else in the family was sick, you probably can too. It’s annoying that the average ones don’t really come to memory, but the really good ones and the bad ones do.

In some ways this is a reminder of our humanity, that as much as we try to make things perfect or be perfect, it’s just not possible all the time. Of course there are things you can do like making sure you’ve planned things in advance, you’re getting plenty of sleep, and eating well whenever possible. It’s also a reminder that as much as we want this time of year to be special, life is still moving on and part of life are the challenges.

Maybe this holiday season you’re feeling like it’s just not going your way. Maybe you’re without a job and can’t get gifts like you usually do. Maybe a family member is very ill or going to die soon, or a friend or family member died recently. Maybe you’ve gone through some major life changes like a divorce or big move to a new country. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that this isn’t going to be your favorite holiday season and that you’d rather stay low-key than go all out. Maybe you’re even going to keep the food in the freezer for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  Sometimes the best ways to celebrate are the quiet ones.  Maybe this won’t be one of the best Christmases, but it’s still early enough for you to decide how it’s going to end up, or at the very least the attitude you’re going to have about how it goes.  What are your most memorable Christmases?

The Feelings of Business

Can you believe we’re rapidly coming to an end of the 2017 holiday season? I know we’ve got 9+ shopping days left before Christmas (depending on when you’re meeting friends and family), and we’re a couple of days into Hanukkah, so there’s still time to connect with your customers and help them have a great season of celebration with their family and friends. As I was thinking about the holiday season and all that goes on, I came back to one of the central themes: emotion. The holidays are filled with laughter and joy, with sharing and caring, with catching up and reminiscing, and sometimes with some tears. I can’t say that I’ve ever been through a Christmas that didn’t evoke strong emotions in me.

So what emotions do your customers feel when they look at your website? What do they feel when they see your name in their email inbox? What do they feel when they see a post from you on social media? What do they feel when they get a package from you? What do they feel when they have an issue or question?

Are they excited to peruse your website? Do they eagerly anticipate your next email? Do they rip open your packages because they can’t wait to get to your products? Do they take the time to leave positive reviews everywhere? Do they feel confident that if they have an issue you’ll help them take care of it? Are they willing to wait for service or a table because they know the wait is always worth it?

Or is it the other way around? That they dread dealing with you when there’s an issue? They delete your emails more often than not because they’re not interesting or informative? Do they leave your website after a few minutes there because they’re annoyed or confused or frustrated? Do they tend to choose your services only as a last resort? Do they unfollow you on social media because they’re tired of you only posting sales content?

In this season where we spend so much time talking about our feelings and experiencing life with each other I’d encourage you to take a minute to talk with some customers and some employees, and check out what’s being said about your business online and find out what kind of emotions your customers (or past customers who haven’t been back to you in a while) are feeling about your business. Are they the feelings you want them to have?  If not you’ve still got a couple of days to make changes for this holiday season, not to mention a new year coming up.

Forgiveness for the Holidays

We’re a little under two weeks away from the celebration of Christmas and we’re a few days from Hanukkah.  This month is so full of celebrations and gifting, something I’m so thankful for because it’s a good reminder that we’re not alone in this world and how important it is show our appreciation and love to those in our lives.  If you’ve been thinking about whether or not to fight the crowds and get one last gift for someone or to skip it, I’d encourage you to go for it.  Don’t let Scrooge win this year.

Let’s talk about one of the best gifts you can give yourself or anyone this year, or at any time: the gift of forgiveness.  Forgiveness isn’t something trivial that we throw around like we do the word love, in fact we’re pretty stingy with it, mostly because we’ve been hurt so many times, often by the same person, and it feels like it might be a waste of time to forgive them or anyone.  So don’t feel bad if you’ve struggled to forgive before.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that it never pays to hold a grudge.  Often it just becomes a distraction or sticking point that you can’t get over.  You think about it over and over again, stopping you from moving forward and onward with your life.  They may be moving forward in their life, whether you’ve forgiven them or not (and may not care if you have or haven’t forgiven them), while you’re still in the past withholding forgiveness.

Which means that usually the first person that needs forgiving is you.  We’re harder on ourselves than on anyone else and we’re our biggest critic too.  If you really want to be free to be all you can be this coming year, it starts with learning to forgive yourself, because without the forgiveness moving on to bigger and better things won’t be easy, if it’s even possible.

So go ahead and work on forgiving yourself or someone else this holiday season; it won’t be an easy gift but it will be the best one you’ve ever given.

Christmas Around the World

One of the things I love about Christmas is that it’s a very universal holiday, there are more people around the world that celebrate it than any other holiday, and we do it all on the same day.  To celebrate that unity today I thought we’d take a look at some Christmas traditions and how to say Merry Christmas in 25 languages! It’s a great opportunity to get in a little education and try some new things with the kids, too.

Traditions:

Germany: Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas eve, the first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift.  They also leave a shoe outside the house on December 5th, which is filled with sweets over night if they’ve been good or a tree branch if they’re not.

Columbia: Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. In honor of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and front yards.

Argentina: Their celebrations typically include the boots of Father Christmas, red and white flowers (the poinsettia), and putting cotton on Christmas trees to simulate snow. But most family gatherings take place on Christmas Eve, with huge feasts, gifts exchanged at midnight, and children going to sleep to the sound of fireworks.

Iceland: Christmas is often celebrated by exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate.

Egypt: fruitcake is believed to have originated here, as a necessary item for the afterlife (some say that it may last that long as well.

Greece: the tradition of mistletoe is said to have started here, as an unspoken promise to marry the one you’ve committed to.

Brazil: children receive gifts from the Magi on Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, as well as from Papai Noel on Christmas Eve. However, rather than a chimney, Papai Noel enters through the front door and travels by helicopter.

England: the tradition of sending cards was made popular by John Calcott Horsley in the late 1830’s, which quickly traveled to the US.  Caroling also was popularized in England, started by wandering musicians who visited the rich, hoping for a little Christmas gift.

France: one of the big traditions in France is the burning of the Yule Log, which occurs from Christmas to New Year’s Day, following what ancient farmers did in hopes of having a prosperous next year.

Merry Christmas:

Armenian – Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand

Basque – Zorionak eta Urte Berri On

Croatian – Sretan Bozic

Choctaw – Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito

Dutch – Vrolijk Kerstfeest

Feline – Mew Mew Meow

Filipino – Maligayang Pasko

Finnish – Hyvaa joulua

French – Joyeux Noël

German – Fröhliche Weihnachten

Greek – Kala Christouyenna

Haitian – (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri’cho o Rish D’Shato Brichto

Hawaiian – Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou

Icelandic – Gledileg Jol

Irish – Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Indonesian – Selamat Hari Natal

Italian – Buon Natale

Japanese – Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto

Latin – Natale hilare et Annum Faustum

Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Russian – Pozdravlyenie s Rozjdyestvom i s Novym Godom

Swedish – God Jul

Spanish – Feliz Navidad

Thai – Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas

Yoruba – E ku odun, e ku iye’dun

Welsh – Nadolig Llawen

You can see a video with many of them here.

What are your Christmas traditions?