Secrets to Success: Write It Down

For the next few weeks I thought we’d take a look at some not-so-secret secrets to success. These may not be secrets that no one knows about, but not everyone uses them or uses them well. They’re also known for sometimes getting out of hand or being less-than-useful, but that has more to do with the individual than the tool/technique. For the right person a “secret” could be the key to success they’ve been missing. Today we’re starting off with writing stuff down and using lists.

I wanted to start with this secret because of how busy we are and how many responsibilities we all have and how much we’re all trying to keep straight. Want to know the number one reason why I write just about everything down? So I don’t have to remember it! Writing things down allows me and my brain to keep thinking, keep creating and keep going, rather than continually trying to keep track of everything in my head. Lists are great because they remind you of what you have to do, things you are thinking about trying, people you have to contact, and great ideas you have. You also have the pleasure of crossing things off your list or deleting them from your list and seeing how much you’ve accomplished.

Writing things down can also help you with goal setting, delegation, and accountability. When you’ve got the to-do list posted where others can see, you’re more likely to accomplish your responsibilities, and it’s also impossible for others to say they didn’t know their responsibilities or what else had to be taken care of.  However, if you really enjoy having your excuses for why things aren’t done, you probably don’t want to apply this success secret to your life and work.

I prefer paper when it comes to writing stuff down and keeping lists, but I’ve also been known to use some virtual ones when the need arises. Many people use virtual lists to keep track of grocery needs and other things that need to be purchased, and things that multiple people are involved in because they can be easily shared and accessed on the go. My preference is to use paper when I’m sitting at my desk or working because I think through things better than using a computer document or app, and I also get the satisfaction of scribbling it out when I’m done. For family and work purposes white boards are also great tools if you prefer leaving a physical message or reminder over a digital one.

What are your favorite tools for keeping track of what’s going on in your life? Do you prefer paper or technology?

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Open To Love

This month we’ve been talking about the topic of possibilities. Today I want to ask you a question that may challenge you: are you open to love? What about being loved or loving others? Before you give a knee-jerk answer, think about your life, your attitude, and your relationships. Do they reflect someone who is loving or has love, or does your life show an absence of love?

In many ways love is a choice, we choose to accept love in our lives or to give it. Sometimes love can sneak up on us like with a pet or an adorable kid, but that’s more often affection than love, at least in the beginning, until we choose to let it become love or not. Sometimes when we choose to love our choice won’t be returned or we love someone who doesn’t love us or loves us in a dangerous way (not true love). But with the exception of loving someone who’s dangerous or hurtful, it doesn’t do us any harm to love someone else, especially if we choose to love others regardless of how they react or respond to our love.

Why choose to love and be open to love? Because let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to love other people, they can be stubborn, bad communicators and not considerate of our needs and feelings. The person who’s our “one true love” is almost as difficult to find as it is to decide on something to eat at a diner with a 20 page menu. And around half of all marriages end up in divorce. So why bother with love?

I think more of us would be happier if we chose to live with love and let love into our lives. Yes, it’s a bit of a risk to be open to love knowing that others could hurt us, but I know we’d have better relationships with our partners (and our kids) if we truly loved them and showed it on a daily basis, especially in our communications with them.  Being closed to love means you don’t have the opportunity to experience that once-in-a-lifetime relationship and love that you could, not to mention all the little moments where loves surprises you, or moments you could share love and surprise someone else.

Over the next month we’ll be diving into the topic of love. We’ll talk about how to be a better significant other, be a more loving person, deal with the failures and hurts of love and more. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like me to write on next month too, you can share them in the comments. But before we can get to having love in our lives we have to choose love. Why do you choose love?

Discount Dilemma

One of the questions that just about every business owner is asked is “do you offer discounts?” It’s a question that makes us groan sometimes because we work hard to serve our customers and create our products, and the fact is that we have to make money! Yes, most of us have a buffer or cushion between what it actually costs to create a product and what we charge, and there are people who offer similar services for less than we do. Yes, some of us do compete based on price, that’s one of the reasons people buy what we offer instead of a similar product/service. And yes, most of us do create special offers at some point in time, or offer regular discounts for certain people, like veterans for example. Not to mention that there’s a whole “bargaining” industry where asking for a different price than what’s listed is not only acceptable but expected.

That said, I don’t necessarily have anything against offering discounts. I believe it can be a way to recognize your faithful customers and offer them discounts for continued purchases. There’s certainly an opportunity in offering “introductory offers” at lower-than-normal prices, or coupons if you’re in need of an influx in customers. There’s also an opportunity to connect with people through clearance or close-out offers.  But there’s a reason that things are priced as they are, and it’s what people have determined is reasonable based on what results are possible or what’s being offered.

So how do we deal with the discount question? Personally I address it on my website. I make it clear that if there’s a discount to be had it will be announced on social media and/or in my newsletters and that it’s not something I do often. I also clearly state that I offer regular special pricing for pastors for one of my offerings and for veterans on all of my services (and how to prove you qualify). I also offer levels of service so that I can help people whether they can afford $20 or $2000, and some payment plans.

So what if someone doesn’t clearly state they do/don’t offer discounts but you really, truly can’t afford their prices, and you really want to work with or buy from them? As with so many other things in the industry these days, the best thing you can do is contact them and be specific about why you want and deserve a discount or special pricing. Saying things like “I’ve got tons of people I can refer you to” or “I’ll absolutely buy again in the future” aren’t valid reasons in my book. You have to give a good enough reason why you should be given a discount when [almost] everyone else pays full price, preferably a reason that can be backed up or easily verified. If they can’t offer a discount, maybe they’re willing to work out a payment plan, offer reduced hours/access, have something similar they can offer at the price you can afford, or can recommend someone/something that does fit your price range.

What are your thoughts on discounts and how do you handle it when (potential) customers ask you for them?

New Year, Simply Better Relationships

It’s the weekend! The weekend is a great time to spend together as a family and do something fun or important, or just to relax and catch up after the week. I was talking with my partner about a meeting they had the other day at one of the places he works and he was saying how poorly run the meeting was and what could have made it a much more constructive meeting. His thoughts got me thinking about two simple things we can do in our families and with our partners to have better relationships.

Ask more, tell less: we’ve gotten pretty good at telling others what to do, but how often do we really take the time to ask them or discuss it with them? If you tell them to do something you’re more likely to get resistance, but if you ask them about something you don’t truly know what the answer will be until you ask someone. Maybe they’re in a generous mood, maybe you’ll explain your issue differently this time, maybe they’ll be tired of listening to the complaints, or maybe they’ve realized that it’s time to step up. Yes, the answer may be the same as it’s been the other times you’ve asked, and maybe that’s an indication to you that you need to do or say something different.

Spend time together: maybe it’s going out for groceries, maybe it’s digging in the garden, maybe it’s reading a book, maybe it’s watching a movie, maybe it’s practicing sports or playing a video game, maybe it’s going out to eat, maybe it’s taking the dog for a walk, or maybe it’s taking a class, educational activity or seminar together, there are countless ways that you can spend time together. Some are things you can do with any free time you have, but others are things that have to get done that could be done better with another person, like food shopping, or are more fun with others like going out to eat. The important thing is making the effort to be together.

I know, these sound like really simple things, but making these two small tweaks in your life and theirs can make a big difference. What small but powerful effort can you give in your relationship and family this weekend?

Are You A Responsive Business?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve got in business is the on-demand nature of so much of our world.  We can get instant responses by searching for something online, get fairly decent and healthy food in 10 minutes or less, talk with anyone anywhere in a matter of seconds, and share something with just a click with 1,000 or so of our closest friends.

As business owners if we really want to succeed and have happy customers we have to be excellent communicators.  When communication is an issue so many people can be impacted or frustrated and time can be wasted.  But I do understand how busy business owners are and how much is on our plates, so I support establishing a happy medium.

I think the on-demand nature of our world has its benefits, but at the same time there have to be boundaries because in many cases when boundaries aren’t established or committed to, other things suffer.  In some cases you absolutely have to be there the second the call comes in (hospitals, police etc.), but in many cases it’s not necessary, which means that as long as you’re regularly responsive and have clearly communicated your general response time, there’s no reason to interrupt your client or business work to answer a call or message.

If it’s not absolutely necessary and you don’t have the resources to set up a live chatbot that can answer basic questions for you or hire someone to be available 24/7 to answer questions, then you have to commit to being responsive.  My guarantee is that I respond to all messages within 24 hours, but usually sooner.  Sure, I could sit around and wait for messages to come in, but with the exception of a few clients who pay for that privilege, most clients (and people) that I work/talk with don’t have emergencies that demand that type of attention.

That said, as I alluded to earlier, it’s necessary to respond to all communications you receive (unless it’s clearly spam or nasty (reviews are another story, which is a discussion for another time)).  If your business is not responding to messages within 24 hours (or within 48 if you absolutely have to on the weekends), it indicates to me that you’ve most likely got a larger problem at hand. If you’re not reasonably responsive with your communications it makes me question how serious you are about your business. Do you really want new customers? Do you really want to help the customers you do have?  Do you really want to grow and improve your business?  What does your communication and responsiveness reveal about your business?

I encourage you to commit to being more responsive to your calls, messages and other communications this year.

Little Steps to Success

There are a lot of things that you could do to make this year your best year yet. If you decided on some resolutions for this year you may have unfortunately already given up on them, too many people don’t make it out of January with their resolutions intact. There can be many issues with resolutions we set including that the goals that are too big or too vague or we’re just not ready for yet, and these issues can hurt our chances at really succeeding with our resolutions. So today I thought I’d share a little encouragement and another option for a resolution for the year. What if we were to just choose to be committed to living life?

What if we approached this new year with the intention to do our best in each and every moment, both big and small? What if you chose to put just 5% more effort into your daily activities? What if you chose to listen with a little more intention and talk with a little more care? What if you put a personal touch on each and every thing you do? What if you committed to being more true to who you are and what you believe? We’re not trying for perfection, just trying to do better, be better and relate better than we did previously.

Yes, the big life changes are great, but there’s a lot of power in making little tweaks and changes. Things like cleaning up your desk at the end of the day, cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day, putting the clothes away in the closets, making a to do list for tomorrow, taking an extra 30 seconds to re-read an email or important text before sending it, switching one processed/pre-packaged snack with a fresh fruit or vegetable choice, or telling your partner you love them every day, can add up to make a big difference over time if you do them consistently.

What little thing or things could you do in your life this week that would make a difference?

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda

Relationship Repairs

Last week I spent some time thinking about how many people do things that create huge divisions between themselves and others. Sometimes we’re not aware of it and there’s nothing we can do until after the fact. But usually we play a key role in that division being created, and are aware of it. Maybe we’re not willing to give a little, maybe we’re tired of giving, maybe we’re at a place with different goals, or maybe we just didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did.

When we reach these divisions in life we’ve got a choice to work through them or to let them permanently drive a wedge between us. We’re really good at creating the permanent wedge, and some people talk about working through it or give fixing it lip service but never truly make the effort.

The thing about saying hateful or hurtful things to another person is that hurting the other person will not in any way, shape or form, accomplish what you really want to have happen. All it will do is hurt both of you. So do what has to be done to be able to go your separate ways or fix the relationship, don’t just hurl insults, hurt or hate.

If you’re really going to try to make it work go the whole way. See a coach together, attend AA type meetings to work on your own stuff individually, if there are kids involved seek help to be better parents, plan out times that you will be together each week for date type activities, plan times for you each to be alone, write up who will do what and so on. All of this is about doing the work and starting the necessary communication and creating opportunities to repair the relationship.

But this isn’t just about repairing your romantic relationship (or partnership as I call them) but about the other relationships in your life as well. We can be pretty bad friends and employees on occasion. Sometimes those are the relationships that need extra attention to get them back on track or to see that the relationship has run its course.

This week I challenge you to choose one relationship that needs work and actually get to work on it. Sit down with your boss, friend or partner and have the tough conversation and establish together where you go from there. It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run.

Leadership Lessons from Dr Martin Luther King Jr

This coming Monday in the US we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born in January of 1929 and killed in 1968 while leading the Civil Rights Movements. Dr. King is someone that we look up to from a personal perspective, but I think we can learn a lot about him from a business perspective as well, which is what we’re going to talk about today.

Start somewhere: Dr. King didn’t start his campaign in front of the Lincoln Memorial, no, he began as a baptist pastor. There are many pastors and spiritual leaders who have done great things for their community, as well as for the world, and anyone, anywhere can be a leader. There’s no rule that says you have to have front page coverage or thousands (or millions) of followers to make a difference, you do however have to start with what you’ve got, be faithful with it and work to grow from there.

Communication: A core part of what Dr. King did and was all about was communication, as you probably know, he’s most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech! There’s no way that the Civil Rights Movement could have achieved the reach it did or made as big of a difference for racial equality as it did without the communication that was central to the movement, both on stage and between all the people and groups involved. The Civil Rights Movement is also noteworthy because of the non-violent focus, instead choosing to use words and peaceful actions to make a statement.

Perfection is not required: I’ll be the first to tell you that I greatly admire Dr. King and am proud that he was an American. But if you take a look at his history, as well as all the details of the Civil Rights Movement, he’s not perfect, and as with any situation that brings lots of people in contact and conflict with each other you’ll find evidence of things that could have been done better or at least done with a bit more care given to how it was played out. The thing is these issues, mistakes and failures didn’t ruin or stop Dr. King or the Civil Rights Movement, they’re accepted as an unfortunate part of the path to victory.

Work hard: With this new year you’ve got the opportunity to build on what you’ve been building, make changes, learn to communicate better, and move on from previous mistakes or failures. The question you have to answer is if you’re ready and willing to do the work that’s required to make a difference. Dr. King was, he was in the trenches marching, speaking, and going to jail for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, he didn’t leave it to “other people,” but he did understand the value of having people on his team, and those people sharing in the work.

Have a Dream: While the “I Have a Dream” speech was meant to motivate people with regards to issues of race and equality, it’s an important reminder that behind what we’re doing there really has to be vision, passion and purpose. People identify with, understand, connect to and relate to stories, and vision, passion and/or purpose gives people something to feel, experience and envision.  Dr. King’s dream speech brought to life for people what could be possible if the Civil Rights Movement was really a success.

I’m thankful Dr. King was the man he was, and I’m thankful for the way he has inspired so many people, including other leaders. Are you following in the leadership shoes of Dr. King, and if so what have you learned from his life and leadership?

The Success of Strategy

I’m a fan of freedom and being able to do whatever, whenever. Lots of people are. But there’s something to be said for strategy, order, schedules and procedure. If we didn’t use them your burger might never look like a burger. You could end up with the meat or “meat” on top of bread on top of bread on top of lettuce on top of mustard and other dressings! I can’t imagine trying to eat that. If we didn’t use strategy or procedures you might get dressed before getting in the shower, which means you’ll go through the day with wet clothes. Or you’d know how the story ends before you started reading the book. Not a really great idea, right?

So let’s be honest, even if we don’t really like the fact that schedules and order is necessary, sometimes it’s really helpful. So as much as you may not want to hear it, what you need isn’t (just) to set resolutions, but to set some schedules and strategies into action too. This is definitely the case if you’ve had the same resolutions for the past couple (or many) years and haven’t really been successful with them. Make 2018 the year that you have the plans and schedule to follow through with your resolutions.

The question is if you’re really committed to making your resolutions into reality this year or if it’s going to be another year that you make an attempt at your resolutions.  If you’re really committed I encourage you to take a look at what you’ve been doing, or not doing, to accomplish your resolutions, and make changes to your plans and procedures as appropriate. This could be as simple as choosing (planning) one thing you’ll do every day that will get you closer to your goal, hiring a coach to work with you on your resolutions, hiring an organizer or nutritionist to help you get rid of the bad and make room for the good, or making/joining an accountability group.  What will you do to make your resolutions a reality this year?

Relationship Possibilities

This month one of the things we’ll be talking about is the topic of possibilities. I’m a huge fan of this topic because I’m a dreamer, creative person and fiction lover. I love looking for opportunities rather than rehashing issues. I’m also a huge lover of relationships. I think it’s really important for each of us to have relationships and people we can trust and who support us in our lives. I don’t believe that we’re here to go through life and our struggles alone. However, I also know that we can be really good at getting ourselves stuck and sometimes life sets up roadblocks that we can’t always see around.

One of those areas we get stuck on is our romantic relationships. A romantic relationship can be one of the best things that ever happened to you, or it can be one of the most challenging. Sometimes those challenges exist because we are too stubborn to talk things out, or unwilling to change or find compromise, or because we’re with the wrong person. But if you and your partner enter into the relationship committed to being with each other and working out your differences, working through the challenges that arise and growing together, and actively practice all of those things, you’ve got a shot at the ultimate relationship.

Yes, you will both change and grow, and that’s part of the commitment you’re make when you commit to your relationship. Committing to really make the relationship work means that you understand that sometimes you’ll be working together towards a goal, sometimes you’ll be working on parallel goals, and sometimes you’ll each be doing your own thing. And with change being a constant in the world, you and your partner will both change over the years. The question is how you’ll approach and work through those changes, and whether they’ll make you stronger as a couple or not.

If you and your partner really embrace the attitude of possibility, it will typically overflow into other areas of your life, impacting them in a great way as well, which is a huge perk. When you see what’s possible in your life and for your family, you’ll be able to make better decisions about what to say yes to and what to say no to and avoid both personally and with your partner. Will you choose to make 2018 a year of possibilities with me?