Relationship Freedom

With the Fourth of July next week, and the celebration of Independence Day here in the US, today I thought we’d talk about having freedom in our relationships. I love relationships, I think they’re key parts of who we are, and essential to our growth and health. Few relationships will ever be perfect and most will challenge us, but the relationships that we invest the most in should be those that fulfill us the most. Let’s talk about our relationships and some freedoms that healthy relationships have.

Free to be yourself: This is true for both you and your partner, you should both be free to be who you are. That means being comfortable and accepting of each others’ quirks, that you’re able to go out and do things together because you have similar interests, that you only tease and make fun of each other with love and respect, and you’re free to be honest with each other when you’re scared, screw up or need support.

Free to be happy: This is something that is missing in too many relationships. Yes, it’s important to take your relationship seriously but you should also really enjoy being together, want to spend time together, and make each other laugh and be able to laugh at each other (and not in a malicious or aggressive way). Yes, there are some relationships that are in our lives to challenge us, but the person you call your significant other should be someone who makes you happy and you’re happy to be around.

Free to learn and grow: If you’re really serious about being in a relationship with your significant other for years let alone decades, there should be an expectation of growth for each of you and together as a couple. It shouldn’t be a hindrance or breaking point of your relationship that you’re both growing, and that life as it goes on around you is forcing you to grow, it should be an accepted part of your lives. No, it won’t always be easy, but if you go into the relationship knowing that who you are now isn’t completely the person you’re going to be in a few years, who they are now most likely won’t be the person they’ll be in a few years, and that you’re committed to learning and growing together, it will be easier to navigate those changes and growth spurts.

What about you? How does your relationship bring you a sense of freedom? If it doesn’t what’s something you want to work on with your partner?

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A New Direction for Success

I was talking with a client this week who is taking their business in a new direction and from the conversation I was reminded of something very important: every business starts somewhere. Maybe it’s with a passion, maybe it’s to fill an obvious need, maybe it’s because you’ve got special expertise in that area, or maybe it’s just that they want the freedom and flexibility to do things their way. But whether you’re starting a business or expanding a business based on a wealth of expertise and knowledge or if you’re doing it based on an interest and passion, everyone starts somewhere.

The start is important because it should be the foundation for your business as well as the guidance that will help you developing it in the future. It’s important to start with a need in the world or knowing that there’s a community of people out there who have serious interest in this topic.

There’s no shame in where you start. The important thing is that you start and that you start somewhere smart. You can certainly have a long range plan and development ideas, but you may not be able to get everything ready for when you start and sometimes the world isn’t ready for everything either, so it’s more than OK to let things grow and develop naturally over time and as time allows.

But the start is just a start. There has to be something that happens next, and that almost always includes growth, both personal and professional. If there’s no growth you won’t be able to navigate the changes that the world goes through, the adjustments that your buyers will begin to expect over time, and you’ll look outdated and unable to meet the buyers and their needs. As you take that step to the next level or product or feature there will be some growing pains, so the more prepared you can be, the more research you can do and the more steps you can take to protect and prepare, the better.

Is your business ready to take a next step? If you’re feeling stagnant and dull it certainly may be time.

Simple Successes

This month one of the topics we’ve talked about is strength. Sometimes our lives call for us to be very strong and courageous, to take big, bold steps forward. Sometimes we have to jump, and jump high, if we want to achieve the victories. And those victories are awesome, it’s really rewarding to know that the courageous leaps you took were successful and produced as you hoped they would.

But there’s another kind of strength, that of endurance. It’s that strength that helps us run marathons and do triathlons, have 50 year marriages, overcome addictions, and solve cold cases. It’s the strength that carries us to the gym every day or support group each week, the strength that helps us keep going even when we can see how long the road ahead will be, the strength that helps us keep going even in the face of great loss.

If you ask men who compete to become the strongest man in America, or any similar competitions for men or women, you can be sure that they won’t tell you that they were just born this strong. Strength takes time, effort, commitment and talent. You get strong by putting one foot in front of the other, by saying yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no, and by having and celebrating small victories along the way to the big victories.

This week I encourage you to do one thing each day that will help you achieve a victory, big or small. You may be surprised how quickly those little victories add up to big successes.

4 Questions for Success Today

One of the most powerful life and business tools is questions. Asking questions can help you get to answers about exactly what a prospective customer is looking for, determine if someone is the right fit for your team, discuss strategy, and resolve customer issues. Today I thought we’d take a look at 4 questions to begin and end your day with.

1-What can I offer to add better value today?
We’ve all asked the question about offering value, but do we ask if there’s something we can do to offer better value? Yes, the goal is to offer something of value to your customers, but what if you not only offered them something valuable, it was better than what others are offering? For example you can sell a hair cut (something some 90% of the population needs), but you can offer a better value by offering those hair cuts in a salon that you’re proud of, looks good, is clean and has barbers and hair dressers who consistently get training in new skills and products?

2-What’s one goal or task I can and will achieve today?
We’ve all got to-do lists, and many of them are pages long. This question forces you to take a step back from that list and pick out a priority or something that only you can do or something you’ve had to put off or something that you can definitly conquer and it will give you that needed satisfaction after a difficult week. Not only will you absolutely get something done today, it’s a great way to be consistent abotu getting things off your to-do list.

3-What did I learn today?
As a business owner it’s important to be learning and growing so that you can help your customers who are also learning and growing and changing. Reflecting on what you learn each day is a simple way to reinforce that education and to work on applying it to your business, marketing and customers in the future.

4-What can I do better tomorrow?
In a way this is an opportunity to define a to-do list before you close things down for the day, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go well that day. Maybe something has been not great for a while but you’ve finally reached a breaking point that day. Maybe you got a great idea that you want to run past your team. Maybe you just want to encourage your team more because they had a rough day today. Asking this question at the end of the day also helps you clean the slate if it wasn’t a great day, and have a better outlook on tomorrow before it even arrives.

These are 2 questions to begin your day with and 2 questions to help end your day. There are tons of other powerful questions that you can and should be actively using in your business on a regular basis including things like ‘Is my marketing clear?’ ‘Do I offer something people want?’ and ‘What’s the most important thing I can do today?’. What questions do you use on a regular basis in your business?

Summer Victories

This week begins my favorite season: summer.  Summer is a great opportunity for making victories in our lives, especially those that have to do with health.  So today I thought we’d talk about 3 of those healthy victories we can work on this summer.

Summer with the warmer weather and longer days makes for a great opportunity for us to get together with friends and family, giving us the time to work on those very important relationships. There’s something about these days and nights that makes us want to gather with friends, have a BBQ or just hang out by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows. The memories made during these events may be some of the best of your life, I certainly have some good ones from these types of events, and they’re great for building friendships and relationships that last.

It’s also a great time to take advantage of the weather and do more outdoor exercising and playtime, whether that’s walking, swimming or playing Frisbee.  There are lots of opportunities and activities that can get you more physically involved in the summer, from the very casual to the very physical, whether you want to do it alone or with friends. Many bike groups and swim groups meet seasonally, so it’s another opportunity to get connected in your community while getting healthy, too.

My final favorite source of victories in the summer comes from all of the fresh local fruit and produce that’s available.  Yes, we can get fresh fruit and vegetables all year long, but in the summer it’s much easier and cheaper to get local produce, and support local farmers.  I have a market I love going to all year ’round because they’ve got fresh, healthy foods at great prices, but in the summer I make the extra effort to stop at the roadside stands or pick up the produce in the stores that are labeled as coming from my local area. It’s even a little more fun to cook and eat because I know it’s local!

So with summer officially a few days away, what are your plans for victories this summer?

Wisdom from Dads

With Father’s Day on Sunday here in the US, I thought I’d share some wisdom from other dads to inspire the dads of the world.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“But now, being a parent, I go home and see my son and I forget about any mistake I ever made or the reason I’m upset. I get home and my son is smiling or he comes running to me. It has just made me grow as an individual and grow as a man.” LeBron James

“We already had an adopted daughter, 10-year-old Courtney, from my previous marriage. To me, there is no difference between ‘natural’ and ‘adopted.’ My own childhood showed me that when it comes to loving your kids, concepts like that don’t apply. I was the oldest of six, and three of my siblings were adopted. Mom and Dad even took in foster children. ‘There are no limits to how much you can love,’ Dad always said.” Al Roker

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” Billy Graham

“Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.” Naveen Jain

“Two toddlers can get hectic, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Every day they teach me different things. The love is there. When you have a two-year-old saying every other hour, ‘Papi, I love you,’ it can’t get better.” Ricky Martin

“Much of life, fatherhood included, is the story of knowledge acquired too late: if only I’d known then what I know now, how much smarter, abler, stronger, I would have been. But nothing really prepares you for kids, for the swells of emotion that roll through your chest like the rumble of boulders tumbling downhill, nor for the all-enveloping labor of it, the sheer mulish endurance you need for the six or seven hundred discrete tasks that have to be done each and every day. Such a small person! Not much bigger than a loaf of bread at first, yet it takes so much to keep the whole enterprise going. Logistics, skills, material; the only way we really learn is by figuring it out as we go along, and even then it changes on us every day, so we’re always improvising, which is a fancy way of saying that we’re doing things we technically don’t know how to do.” Ben Fountain

“When you’re a dad, there’s no one above you. If I don’t do something that has to be done, who is going to do it?” Jonathan Safran Foer

“Be a dad. Don’t be “Mom’s Assistant”…. Be a man…. Fathers have skills that they never use at home. You run a landscaping business and you can’t dress and feed a four-year-old? Take it on. Spend time with your kids…. It won’t take away your manhood, it will give it to you.” Louis C.K.

What wisdom do you have for the dads out there?

The News on Newsletters

One of my favorite marketing tools (and communication tools) is email. Before you groan let me explain. In 2018 a newsletter can include podcasts, videos, articles, and many other things, so don’t think it has to be all/mostly text (unless that’s what you and your customers want it to be). It’s an opt-in opportunity to know that you’re speaking with people who are actively interested in what you’re offering. It’s one of the lowest cost, most direct, most consistent opportunities to connect with your people. It’s a way to build trust and become top of mind with your people. Let’s talk about what you can do with a newsletter and getting people to sign up for yours.

Before you can send anything, you have to get them to sign up. While I understand that a newsletter is a free gift in and of itself, it’s usually easier to get people to subscribe if you offer some bait. Whether this is a discount, special report, opportunity to talk with you or helpful resource, offering something like this is a great way to encourage people to sign up (make sure to take into account GDPR and privacy policy changes when planning this).

The other thing to take into account when trying to get people to sign up is what you’re offering. Way too often I see a newsletter subscription box at the bottom of the site and nothing except the phrase “sign up for our newsletter.” Why?! Why would I want to sign up for another email? There’s nothing convincing about that phrase. Make a clear and concise statement about what you offer that makes people want what you’re offering.

As far as what you’re doing with a newsletter, it’s a great way to provide exclusive content and insights that people can’t get from your blog or offers you don’t want to share with the world on social media. It’s also a great opportunity to dive a bit deeper into stuff you’ve shared on social media.

What about you? Do you put out a newsletter? Which newsletters you subscribe to are your favorite?

Live Your Life Your Way

One of the questions that is asked from time to time is along the lines of “do we really need another blogger in the world?” Of course that same question could be easily asked about countless things from authors to web designers to chefs to baseball players. I get it, I mean there are tons of people who share similar things or seem to do the same thing.

But with the incredible loss of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade last week I got to thinking about this question again, especially in response to some of the things people posted about Anthony Bourdain following his death. We could watch any of a dozen or so news channels on TV, but each of us has our own preference about which we watch as well as which news site we typically visit on the internet. They often share the same exact news (a baseball score isn’t going to change depending on who you hear it from), yet we think they share the news better or we have some other affinity with them.

So I say go for it. Share your story, write your blog, investigate the world from your perspective, listen to others, get to know the world around you and you live in, and do your part to take care of it and all who share it. No one can ever tell your story like you can, no one can make the difference in the world that you can. We all have a role to play in this world, what statement will you make with the way you live your life?

Parenting Relationships

This month we’ll be taking a look at some dad related topics with the celebration of Father’s Day on the 17th here in the US. If you watch true crime stories or read the news you know that both moms and dads have left their children before and that both moms and dads can do the single parenting thing. But, as you know if you’ve been on the blog for a while, I believe in raising kids with a village, including having both male and female role models in the children’s lives, whenever possible that being the child’s parents or the 2 people who claim that child as theirs. Today I want to talk about one of the challenges and choices that has to be made when it comes to being a dad, and that’s the relationship that the dad has with the mother (yes, I’ve talked about heterosexual relationships specifically here but the insights here definitely apply to same-sex relationships with kids as well).

One of the greatest challenges to raising a child is both parents being committed to that child for the typical 18 years and working together throughout those 18 years to raise that child. 18 years is a very long time in this day and age to be committed to one thing, let alone more than one person being committed to that one thing. I’m not saying it’s not possible to have a relationship with someone for 18 years or more, just that it’s a challenge and a big commitment. If you think about it we typically have much longer relationships with our families (sometimes many decades), because it’s often harder for us to separate from those we’re connected with by blood (or adoption) than it is those that we’re tied to through a piece of paper and a ceremony of some kind.

One of the best things you can do for the future of your child is to have a healthy, open, growing, conversational relationship with your significant other. Our lives are all built on relationships, and what we learn about relationships as we grow up can have a serious impact on how we view and build relationships as adults. Some children learn that relationships don’t work, some learn that relationships only work for a short time, some learn that relationships are violent, some learn that relationships change over time, some learn that relationships can be rebuilt, and some learn that there can be new relationships formed after the death of a parent.

But the bottom line is, the healthier the relationship that dads and moms have, the better example their children will have to learn from. How healthy is your relationship with your significant other, and what are you teaching your child(ren) through that relationship?

The Message in Your Marketing

Over the past few years there have been a lot of issues raised in the marketing community, the most recent being GDPR. While I think it’s ultimately a good thing to help consumers be more aware of their options and have some control back, it has presented some challenges for businesses in implementation because many aren’t in line with GDPR type standards already. Other issues that have been raised in the past and continue to be an issue are spam, fake news and clickbait titles/articles. A recent experience has prompted me to write today about some of these topics as well as the bigger topic of marketing.

Let’s start with my recent experience. I’ve owned my car for quite a few years now and over the years I’ve gotten calls, emails and letters from the car company letting me know they would like me to sell the car back to them (so I can buy a new one). While slightly annoying it has been almost an expected thing, but not something that has really annoyed me or made me dislike the company. Recently I made an appointment for service and a couple days before the scheduled service I got a call from someone at the dealership/service facility and they said that they would like to ask me a few questions when I came in for service. That’s it. There wasn’t any clue whatsoever regarding what they had questions about or why they even had questions for me. Turns out it was a sales person at the dealership who wanted to talk with me about selling back my car. I made it clear to them that the part I appreciated least about their contact was the lack of specificity.

Here’s the thing. Marketing is a tool, a resource, a trust building exercise, an awareness raising opportunity and something we as business owners really need to be respectful of. I’m supportive of many of the changes that the industry has been making because I don’t feel that enough business owners are truly treating marketing with the respect, and reverence almost, that it deserves. There’s a definite line between raising awareness and bashing people over the head with your message. The obnoxious intrusions need to cease. There’s been plenty of recent research done that has indicated that people are interested in interacting with companies and receiving marketing from them, but not in a way that’s disrespectful, rude, invasive, pervasive or blind. There’s also a line between teasing your customers with what’s to come and being completely vague.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your marketing. Are you being specific, relevant and in line with what your customers want? If not, I’d be happy to talk with you about getting things back on the right track so you effectively connect with your customers. It’s time we start making marketing good for everyone.