A Moment of Silence

Yesterday in the US was Memorial Day, the day that we stop and remember the men and women who have died for our country. In cemeteries around the country, in churches, and in countless other locations a moment of silence was shared as people stopped to remember those who are no longer with us. It’s not easy to be silent for many of us, for some of us it’s as hard to be silent as it is to think about the person or people we’ve lost. Part of that I think is because we’ve forgotten how amazing silence can be, and also because we may be scared to tap into what’s possible in the silence.

If you’ve ever spent time with a newborn baby you’ll know the magic of silence. There’s absolutely nothing like watching a new baby sleep. There’s a level of peace present that the majority of us can’t attain even when we sleep as adults. If you’re someone who regularly meditates, you too know the power of silence, there’s a level of consciousness, of being that you can only tap into when you’re able to be still and silent.

And yet we resist. We resist letting that moment of silence stretch out in our lives. We resume conversation as soon as possible. We turn on the TV or radio for background noise. We go to cafes to work. We keep scanning through posts on social media even when we’ve got other important things to do. The noise isn’t ruining our lives, but I believe our lives could be richer if we’d just take some time for quiet.

So today I encourage you to work on a quiet practice. Take just a few minutes each day to be quiet, whether it’s in the car, with your morning beverage, while you watch the sunset, during your daily walk, while you do yoga or start a more traditional meditation practice. Starting with just a little quiet time each day will give you the ability to have longer quiet times when you need them, as well as give you the time and space for your brain and heart to work through things, for you to get to know yourself on a deeper level, and to just experience peace in your life.

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Remembering our Relationships

One of the missionary couples that I support has been going through some extra challenges over the past year, with the wife developing and beating cancer and it having recently returned. These two have been through a lot together, they have children and grandchildren in addition to the lives they live as missionaries (which is a lot more work than just going to some place and sharing their faith because they have to raise the funds and sometimes deal with countries and legal stuff).

We’re in the middle of Memorial Day weekend, the time when we stop and remember the men and women who sacrificed so much to protect us and our country. Whether you agree with the politics or not (and no one does all of the time), there are some 300 million people living in the US who rely on those men and women to keep us safe, and do some other good in the world, too. It’s sad that we can’t just stay in our own corners of the world and everything would be great, but that’s just not how the world works, in part because we are all dependent on the whole world being intact if we want to keep living here, and life wouldn’t be as rich if we stayed separate.

While no couple ever gets together with the wish that one of them will face cancer or one will be killed while in the military, that’s part of life for some couples. But just about every one of those couples will say that the years they had together are years that they will always cherish and be grateful for (even if they wish they could have more). While no two couples are exactly alike and every couple faces challenges, with as many couples as there are that experience one partner being in the military or one partner having a terminal illness who are able to make their relationship work and last, it would seem logical that with a little effort the rest of our relationships could last too.

This Memorial Day, make sure you thank a soldier or their family, but also take time to be with your significant other and enjoy the time that you have together, as long as it is.

Don’t Lose Faith in Your Business

In thinking about all of the challenges and changes that the business world has been going through, from physical businesses needing to innovate or close to the big changes with GDPR being active this week, there are days when business owners think about just throwing in the towel.  I get it, it’s not fun to come up with this cool idea, do lots of development and have positive feedback from people only to find it’s not selling or the sales aren’t enough to cover the debts.  So today I thought I would share a bit of encouragement and an opportunity for reflection with you.

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” Steve Jobs

When I read this quote I thought it could be about a good thing and/or a bad thing.   It can be good if all of a sudden you realize the little or big thing that you’ve been missing, the tweak that could make a big difference or you finally get that break you’ve been looking for.  Or it could be one of those no good, very horrible, terrible, bad days (or weeks) where everything seems to go wrong or be wrong or seemingly conspire against you.

Sometimes life does go wrong, sometimes the business goes through a rough patch.  Steve Jobs didn’t have a perfect life and the business wasn’t all sunshine and roses (it still isn’t).  There are lots of people who really don’t like Apple or their products, even if they can respect Steve and the business he (and many others) built.

The question is what you’re going to do after, what comes next.  Steve encourages you to not give up faith and not stop trying.  In many cases a few tweaks and some support can help you get back on track, and even to the point of thriving.  If you’ve been struggling lately I encourage you to look for an open door or ask for help, and don’t give up faith in a better tomorrow for you or your business.

Keys to Communication

We talk about good and bad communication a lot, but what does that mean? So today I thought we’d take a look at 5 keys to becoming a good (or better communicator), as inspired by Jenni Catron.

1-communication starts with listening. Are you better at listening or talking? If you aren’t listening more than half the time, you’re probably not a good communicator. Speaking certainly has a place, but without listening and even just taking time to pause and take a breath, you’re not going to be as effective a communicator as possible.

2-know yourself. Are you naturally, normally or by default defensive? How do you react when people tell you something you aren’t expecting or don’t want to hear? Do you typically wait until things have reached a boiling point to say something? Do you leave out key details when speaking? These are important things to know about yourself as a communicator, and in general the better you know yourself, the more successful you can be.

3-sensitivity isn’t a bad thing. What kind of delivery usually goes along with your words? Do you just spit things out there or do you think about how you are going to deliver your words in a way that the other person will understand and even appreciate what you’re telling them? Do you think about when you’re sharing with others (is it 4:59pm and you’re telling someone about an issue or concern? Is it the day before the big test when you share that it’s happening?)?

4-don’t be afraid to speak your mind. This isn’t about being harsh or saying things to hurt others, but about being honest and up front about things that are concerning you or important to you. Don’t always assume that other people will shoot you down. And while the first couple of communications may be difficult or a little intimidating, the more often you speak about what’s going on, the easier it will be and more confident you’ll be doing it.

5-ask questions. Clarity and context are both very important to effective communication, and without taking the time to ask questions to make sure you get the full story, or to confirm that you’re understanding what’s being shared, you’ll miss out on not only some crucial details, but you’ll also miss out on opportunities to turn ideas into bigger and/or better ideas.

But you only become a better communicator if you’re willing to work on it and do work on it. It’s not something you’ll become great at overnight, and most of us work on being good communicators throughout our whole lives. Let today be your starting point to becoming a better communicator.

The Challenge and Opportunity of ‘Different’

With the Royal Wedding there’s been a lot of talk about changes and that a new era is beginning. I’m all for necessary changes, and I think of all the kingdoms/rulers/presidencies of the world, the Royal Family has managed to navigate the world and lead their country pretty well through the many different ages that they’ve been in charge in England. Parents too have lots of changes to navigate, babies have far different needs than teenagers, so parents are very familiar with the concept of change through the ages. As I was thinking about changes the thing that popped into my head was the phrase that adults say to kids (and other adults) from time to time: “yes, but that was different.”

It’s not an easy lesson for kids to learn (or parents to teach), that different rules apply to different situations, different times and different people, let alone that things could easily have changed between the last situation that was similar and the current one that’s being discussed with the child. It’s an important lesson to learn because it helps children learn to deal with change, to adapt, to plan ahead and to consider all the options and opinions, skills that will serve them well when they’re adults.

It’s really a two-fold lesson though, because it’s a reminder to not judge everyone or every situation the same, and that while you can lean back on past lessons, you have to be open to things being different, even if they look similar. Yes, the Royal Family could easily have said that they wouldn’t go in that direction and Prince Harry had to choose someone more in line with what was expected or tradition. And I can’t say that there isn’t another woman somewhere around the world that would also be a great match for him, but I think that the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex are well suited and can do more to help the world, and the Royal Family move, in a very healthy and prepared direction for the future.

The good news is that even if you’re an adult there’s still time to work on learning life’s lessons and adapting to changes. You don’t make one decision in life that says you’ll never ever learn lessons or never change, you can make a new decision each day on how you’re going to live your life and what you want your future to look like. Don’t let “different” hold you back or scare you, be willing to embrace all that life gifts you.

The Gift of a Customer

So let’s be honest, there are some people out there that we wish we never worked with/for. Some customers drive us to drink, and even maybe consider throwing in the towel and getting a job. Sometimes you just can’t help but have these bad customer experiences, especially if you’re a really big brand like a chain restaurant or well known box of cereal that can be found in just about every food store around the US. But for most of us we can put up some guards at the door to check with potential customers before they become customers, or at the very least clearly communicate on our website, social media and newsletter who we’re a good fit for, and who should look elsewhere. Personally, I have no problem or guilt in sending someone that I’m not capable of helping to someone else. For example if a guy I was considering coaching or consulting for consistently flirted with me in an obnoxious and unavoidable way, I’d tell him that we wouldn’t be a good fit and he should look for other help. It’s certainly possible that I could have helped him, but I’m not interested in that stress. Or if a Japanese company comes to me and asks for help but all their marketing materials are in Japanese, I’m just not the right person to dive deep with them on expanding their marketing within Japan (unless it’s to English speaking people).

But on the flip side there are some business that we’re sorry we’ve purchased from as customers, whether we’re talking as an individual/family or b2b. Maybe we’re sorry because we didn’t realize what we were getting up front (the sales pitch was just that good that we were tempted into signing up without asking lots of questions), and then we end up wasting time and most likely some money too. Or we ask for one thing and end up getting several, most not related to what we’re interested in. Or the company just plain out spams you and sends you tons of sales pitches and promotions. All of these are great ways to not only lose customers, but to make people mad; people who go tell other people about their bad experience.

Money is one of the most important things in business, the value you bring to the table is another, and the trust you build with your customers is a third. Without the value you can’t build the trust with your potential customers, and without potential customers (let alone actual customers) you have no chance of bringing in money, which means you’ve got a hobby and not a profitable, sustainable business.  Do you see your customer as a gift or an annoyance?

So this week I encourage you to take a look at your practices and actions when it comes to your customers and potential customers. Are you living up to the trust they’ve placed in you? Just about everyone has room to grow, but if you don’t start from a good place, you’ll never be given the chance to grow.

Choose Your People Wisely

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to honor and remember the moms in our lives. As I was thinking about Mothers Day, it got me thinking about the other holidays throughout the year, and I realized that many of them help us do something important: recognize the people in our lives. Valentine’s Day is about you and your significant other, Mother’s Day is about mom, Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died while fighting for our country, Father’s Day is about Dad, the Fourth of July is about remembering the people who founded our country, Labor Day is about honoring the people who work hard around the country to keep us going, Veteran’s Day is about honoring our veterans, and Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people in our lives.

I’ve shared many times about the importance of communication to our lives and our successes, but as I was thinking about Mother’s Day this weekend I was reminded that it’s not just about the communication, it’s about the people we’re communicating with as well. I received an email from someone the other day asking for advice about increasing the sales in their business and I gave them some advice, but either they didn’t like the advice or something because they replied back “yes, but how can I make more sales?” What did I tell them? I told them to fix the spelling and grammar mistakes in their listings (and there were many). It’s one thing to say you want help, but another when you don’t do something with that help when it shows up.

Typically, the only way for someone to change or transform their life is if they want to, they won’t usually do it if you tell them to change and they’re not interested in changing (something couples and families struggle with). And think about the last time you were with someone who you just can’t stand, what did you do after you were with them? Probably complained about them to someone else, just like you do every time you interact with them. With over 7 billion people in the world, there’s really very little reason to spend time with people who treat you disrespectfully, you don’t like or doesn’t like you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t work on fixing relationships or making a relationship last, because you absolutely should for those relationships that matter the most like with your kid’s other parent or your family. Just that life’s too short to spend much time on or spend it with people who aren’t on the same page as you. Choose your clients, coworkers, bosses, and friends wisely, every day is a gift, and it’s up to you how you spend that gift.

Next Generation Business Success Support

Mother’s Day is just a few days away in the US and today I’m thinking about one of the important jobs that moms (and dads) have, and that’s raising up the next generation. As business owners it’s important to not only help your employees and team members grow personally and professionally, and to offer something of value to the world through your products and services, but I believe we’ve got a very important duty to help the next generation of business owners get started, whether they’re 18 or 80, and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes we made in starting our businesses. So let’s take a look at a few ways we can all work together to ensure that the next group of business owners is just as or more successful than we are.

One way to help the next generation is talking with them. I answer probably a hundred emails and messages a week from people asking for business advice. Many leaders are willing to have you buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for picking their brain for a bit. I think this is a great way to give a little bit of your insight to help others get started. If you’re in this position of wanting to ask someone for some business knowledge, make sure that you’ve got your questions ready and you’ve read up on this person before approaching/talking with them (show them you’re not going to waste their time).

Another way to support new and considering business owners is donations to organizations that help people do more than work simple jobs, like teaching farm or computer skills, or providing the actual seeds and computers (or a donation for that purpose). I was reminded in an email this week that what seems like a very small amount of money to some of us can be a huge amount of money in other parts of the world. $75 to you or I may be a bottle of wine, a nice dinner or part of a month’s cell phone bill, but to someone in another country it means knowledge and seeds to set up a lucrative farming venture that not only feeds their family but brings in a decent income. If you’re got old computers, nice dress clothes that don’t fit, office furniture, or other resources (including money), there are tons of great charities and organizations that will take them and help them get into the hands of those who need a bit of a helping hand to get started in business.

Third, a mentorship program is a great way to help those interested in starting a business like yours, or in the same industry. It can be a way for those interested in starting a business like yours to make some money and learn the ropes from a seasoned leader. They earn at least minimum wage working for you in your business, learning all the different jobs, you teach them and answer questions as you go along, and you get a motivated and focused employee for 6 months to a year. It’s not something everyone can offer, but it’s another way to help the next generation learn how to run a business from the inside.

So how do you contribute to the next generation of business leaders? What do you think is most important for the next generation to know?

Teaching Forgiveness

With Mother’s Day just around the corner for those of us in the US, I’m thinking about an interesting topic that moms are pretty familiar with: forgiveness. It’s one of the many life lessons parents are supposed to teach us or help us learn, but not always an easy one to teach or to live. One of my earlier memories is one of needing forgiveness for having done something wrong, it really didn’t feel good to need forgiveness or to be caught doing something wrong.

It can be hard to teach forgiveness because it’s not always fun to forgive, nor is it always easy, especially if we’ve been hurt before or it just doesn’t seem to add up for us in our heads on why we should be forgiving them. It’s even hard to forgive when we know the other person doesn’t know what they did or didn’t do wrong intentionally, because we’re still hurt. It can take a lot of courage to take the time to really understand all of the situation, not just how hurt we are, and choose to forgive.

Teaching forgiveness, grace and understanding are all things that parents should to teach kids, and are lessons that we should use throughout our lives. We have to decide to forgive our coworker for standing us up at the big meeting, our neighbor for the damage caused to our property during a party, our kids for the car accident, the town for a lack of notice when they decided to tear up the street and turn off the water, or our significant other for forgetting our anniversary, and countless other little things that happen during our lives that hurt us.

What about you? Do you need forgiveness in your life or do you need to forgive someone? Life’s too short to let the hurts build up and cripple us. I encourage you to take steps this week towards forgiving someone, even if it’s just that first step of understanding what and why they did what they did.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Today in the US we’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, so I thought I’d share a few fun ideas that you can craft, create and play with your kids!

Fringed party favor bags

Punched tin napkin rings

Ribbon lanterns

Straw flowers

Crepe and tissue paper flowers

Cupcake liner flower crown

Neatly folded napkins with maracas

Cactus balloons

Foam stamp cacti artwork

Stenciled southwestern welcome mat

Piñata napkin rings

Cinco de Mayo place cards

Fan drink stirrers

Sombrero headbands

Fiesta pattern bowls

Cactus pillow

Cactus mini cupcake stands

Tissue paper lantern

Colorful flatware

Piñatas:

Miniature Mexican star piñata 

Chili pepper piñata 

Mini piñata garland

Donkey piñata

Sugar skull piñata 

Emoji piñata 

Pizza piñata 

Owl piñata 

Watermelon piñata 

Alligator piñata 

Mini cactus piñata 

Unicorn piñata 

Taco piñata 

How are you planning to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?