Learning our Lesson

You’re probably familiar with the concept of “rubbing it in.” This is when we poke, prod, remind and joke over something someone else did and we either witnessed it or were told about it.  If you think back to the last time someone rubbed your mistake, miscalculation, failure, poor guess or their success in your face you’ll probably remember that it didn’t feel so great.   And when it happens again and again, it feels even worse.

It’s important to celebrate our success with each other. It’s also important to gently (or not so gently if the situation calls for it) correct someone.  We learn from our successes and our failures.  But we don’t learn anything except that we don’t like certain people when they start rubbing things in our face, especially repeatedly.

When someone screws up or makes a funny yes, it’s great to laugh along and see the humor in the situation.  It’s not OK to bring it up 3, 6, 9, 12 months later and be like “remember that time you really screwed up?!” even if they’ve come a long way since then.

It’s good to have a little humor at life’s mistakes.  Have a laugh, learn your lesson and move on to applying it.  Don’t drag anyone through the mud, they’re probably already kicking themselves anyway.

“…it is nice to let someone who admits an error feel better after doing so…not feel worse.” Neale Donald Walsch

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The Business of Christmas in July

We’re almost at the end of the month of July, and if you’ve been paying attention and love the holidays, you know that today is a special day. It’s officially 5 months to Christmas! You may have seen the movies on TV, the special offers in stores or people sharing about their Christmas in July plans. Yes, this is actually a thing, and something that those of us who enjoy Christmas and don’t think the official season lasts long enough look forward to.

I was just reminded that this theme originally started as a way for stores to clear out their merchandise that didn’t sell well in preparation for what’s coming in and new for the upcoming holiday season (which is certainly something you can do). But some companies are realizing that there’s a lot of potential to be had by participating in Christmas in July, that has nothing to do with getting rid of last year’s leftovers. Let’s talk about what your business can do with the last few days of July to bring a little holiday spirit to the summer.

First, it’s a great opportunity for winter-seasonal businesses who don’t have lots of sales (or any sales) in the summer. It’s a great opportunity to give a sneak preview of some of the things coming up, to sell some items at a lower sale price, and to offer some exclusive items that are only available now.

Second, it’s a great way to bring a bit of that cool refreshment to the warm summer. Bringing out some of the holiday flavors with a lighter summer flare, bringing back some winter treats for a limited release, and maybe even bring a bit of snow to beat the summer heat. For everyone who’s complaining about the heat you can remind them that winter isn’t as far off as it may seem.

Finally, it’s a great opportunity to do a little play on the holiday themes of Santa, reindeer, lights, and trees, and give them a distinctive summer flare. Bring Santa to the beach, have a tree decorating contest with summer themes, hang traditional holiday lights for a summer game night, and use winter Christmas cookie cutters to shape your summer flavored cookies.

Christmas is one of the most popular celebrations all year long, why not celebrate it more often? What has your business done for Christmas in July?

A Patchwork Quilt of Moments

As I sit here thinking about what I want to write about today I’m glancing out the window to see if it’s started to rain again yet. The next few days are supposed to bring thunderstorms and rain not only to where I live but other parts of the country as well. There’s something awe-inspiring about summer thunderstorms, with the wind, the big crashes, the incredible lightning and the smell that only is around during these summer storms.

It reminds me that everyone sees things differently, everyone picks out different things, everyone is spoken to by nature in different ways, everyone sees beauty in different ways. Yes, often there is a group of people who are amazed by a certain thing, but it’s rarely a universal thing. For example countless people are awestruck by the Grand Canyon, yet it’s one of my least favorite National Parks and I don’t find it to be very interesting (that’s not to say I don’t find myself awed by other canyons). However there’s usually an exception to the rule, and I’m no different because I was speechless over the photos of the cloud inversion in the Grand Canyon that’s happened just a few times.

It may not storm again today and I may not get to watch the clouds race over the sky, the lightning fork to the ground and watch the trees whip around any more than they are today already, and that’s OK. We don’t have only one awe-some experience in our lives. There may be something that always catches our attention, like rainbows or the first spring flowers or the first snowflakes of the season, but more often than not our lives are a patchwork quilt of special experiences, experiences that we have to be open to and looking for.

What special moments have you been amazed by recently?

We Have To Talk

The other day my partner said the phrase that most people don’t enjoy hearing: “we have to talk.”  I cringed initially, but then I remembered something I read recently that was about this exact phrase.  Let’s face it, often when people say that it’s not a good thing.  Countless relationships have ended with that phrase and lives have been changed because of it.  It’s a very easy way to dive into what can be a challenging conversation.  It’s a statement that’s gotten twisted up in our minds as always being a harbinger of bad things.

But what if it wasn’t a challenging conversation and they just wanted to make sure you made time to catch up with them later?  What if they had something exciting they wanted to share with you?  What if they just wanted your feedback or thoughts on something they’re trying to decide?  What if instead of fearing changes and challenges you had confidence in your ability, your partner’s ability, and your ability together to conquer whatever comes your way?

What if the simple truth is that you’re showing how little trust you’ve got in your partner and your relationship with them when you react negatively over that phrase?

As we finish out another week and head into the new week I encourage you to not think the worst about your relationship, but instead look forward to growing and strengthening your relationship together.  Do be cognizant of the words and phrases and attitude you choose when you talk with your partner, but don’t ever lose sight of the trust you’ve built, experiences you’ve had and time you’ve spent together.

A Question of Leadership

This month I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership. We’ve seen the continuing drama with the US president and with business, sports and other leaders, and we’ve seen play out on a very global scale the search and rescue of a soccer team of 13 people from a cave. Naturally leaders get put on a pedestal and are called to a higher standard of living. We don’t give them all the allowance that may be necessary as humans, but in some ways that’s acceptable because they (and we) are supposed to be more responsible.

Much of the discussion about the soccer team was regarding how they with their coach ended up where they did in the first place. Supposedly they were aware of how dangerous the caves could be and that the location was one that seasonally floods, and yet they entered anyway. I’m sure if they haven’t happened already, in the coming weeks there will be discussions with the coach about how things went down as they did and why he allowed the kids to go into the caves.

But from what we’ve already heard and know there are two things to take note of: first and foremost he kept the boys alive and in good spirits for more than 2 weeks. I can’t imagine how challenging that was, for himself as an individual and then to have 12 young lives to care for on top of that. And yet he did.

The second thing we know is that he’s taken responsibility for what happened. It’s been reported that the boys wanted to go exploring, together they went into the caves and when he realized that it was flooding and there was no escape he did what he had to to protect them and keep them alive.

We can’t change the past as leaders, we can only choose to accept our failures and shortcomings and move forward. I think a large part of them regrets being trapped, but in some ways their situation was a gift because so many people were able to come and work together, people from around the world and different continents. It’s a great reminder that for even as few as 13 people in a world of over 7 billion we can put aside our differences (even if they’re as small as speaking different languages) and work together for good.

This week I encourage you to take time to evaluate your leadership. Are you being the best leader you can? Are you showing your customers and employees the respect they deserve? Are you taking responsibility when things are your fault and doing your very best to resolve them? What kind of leader are you?

Getting to Inbox Zero

Over the past few weeks something has happened that hasn’t happened in a long time: I’ve reached “Inbox Zero” on 3 of my email accounts. For someone who loves emails it’s a bit mind altering to sign into my email and see only that day’s emails and one or two others and that’s it, let alone get through that day’s email and see “you’re all caught up!” when there aren’t any emails left. It was also really rewarding too, finally getting these things taken care of as I’ve been meaning to.  I know this is something that is talked about as being a big success step, and as someone who enjoys organization and knowing where things are I thought we’d talk about how this can be possible for you and …?

There are a couple of very simple things you need to do if you want inbox zero to be something you see on a regular basis:
1-unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to receive anymore or manage your subscriptions so you’re getting fewer emails from those organizations.
2-go folder crazy. I have no problem with keeping emails, but keeping everything in the inbox isn’t helpful. Make sure everything has a place to go.
3-commit to reading emails consistently. It’s much easier to read through your emails if you’ve only got that days emails to go through.

Let’s unpack each of these a bit. First, let’s talk about folders. Folders are a way of sorting your mail so that it’s easier to find and keep, without necessarily typing in a search request. In some cases a general folder for a category is sufficient, but in many cases you’ll need a general folder and several specific sub folders. For example you may create a general family folder, with sub folders for your significant other, your kids (either individually or as one folder), one for each or all of your siblings, and folders for your parents or other family members as appropriate.

The one cheat I have with folders and inbox zero is that I’ve got a ‘to do’ folder in just about every category. It’s a folder with something I know I’ll want to review or will keep regardless of whether I read it now or in the future. I keep this folder as empty as possible, but find it’s helpful for getting stuff out of my inbox and keeping track of what I still need to read but didn’t have the current interest or time.

The second thing is that while unsubscribing from emails you don’t want is great, you shouldn’t feel shame deleting emails if you’re not in the mood to read them or the headline doesn’t speak to you, but you don’t want to unsubscribe completely. If you know that you want to get emails from the company only over the summer or only regarding to Black Friday, that’s fine, and you can stay subscribed for those times.

Finally, I think the thing to remember is that email is supposed to be a tool and support to you, rather than something that drags you down. But like many other relationships in our lives, it needs some time, attention and TLC too.  Yes, getting to inbox zero this time will take some work and time, but in the end I think it’s worth it.

Mastering Permission Marketing

Marketing is one of the biggest challenges to being a business. Things are constantly changing, growing and evolving as to what’s most effective, what’s got the lowest cost, how to reach the most people, and ways you can reach people, so while even many of the tried-and-true practices have stuck around, there are many others that are new and great opportunities for marketing. But perhaps the biggest issue is that it typically has to be done consistently and with quality to be most effective, which takes time and effort.

One of the types of marketing you can do is called permission based marketing. As you can imagine, this means that the person has given their permission to you to market to them. They’ve given you that permission where they’ve given you that permission for one of two reasons: one reason is that it’s the only way they can sign up for marketing from you (for example you only have a Facebook page, you’re not on any other social sites and don’t have a newsletter or blog). The other reason they gave you that permission where they gave it to you is because that’s how they prefer to be marketed to.

As someone who does and consults on marketing I’m very intentional about what I choose as far as marketing. One of my favorite ways to be marketed to is email because it’s one I have the most control over. This week I received two emails from people I signed up to receive emails from, emails with two very different messages. One told me that they were going to send maybe an email a month and the rest of the updates I could get on Facebook in groups. The other explained that they wanted to make some additions to what they send but wanted to give us (the subscribers) the ability to choose what we each do/don’t receive. I found one email to be incredibly frustrating and the other exciting.

As a side note I should mention there’s a difference between changing what you send (i.e. just product/service updates to tips) and how you send it (Facebook to Twitter). Yes, surveying your customers is a good idea if you’re going to change the content, but it’s not typically as big of an issue as changing how you do the marketing.

As mentioned earlier, the thing to remember about permission marketing in situations where you give your customers or visitors the opportunity to choose from a variety of marketing opportunities (newsletter, blog, podcast, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.), is that the person who gave their permission specifically indicated how they wanted to be marketed to. If you’re venturing into new marketing options and want to see if they would rather receive updates that way, let them know! Give them the ability to subscribe to their preferred opportunity, and unsubscribe from what they don’t enjoy too.

There’s a cost to all marketing so I understand that a business may choose to go in a direction where they get more bang for their buck, but the best part about permission marketing is that a business has the ability to ask their existing subscribers how they want to be marketed to, and to invite people to unsubscribe/subscribe where they prefer. This gives your customers the ability to cut your marketing costs and tell you exactly what their preferences are.

Making the decision to stop one type of marketing or start another is a big decision, one that is not only about you but also about your customers. I encourage you to not make the decisions for them, unless you’re left with no other option (for example the site is closing down).

Are you practicing permission marketing, and if so what have you found works for you and your customers?

Learning from the Quiet

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about a topic we’ve talked about in the past, but isn’t one that anyone really talks about a lot, unless you’re a parent with really noisy kids. Yes, that topic is being quiet. It’s one we have trouble with in general because we don’t live in a quiet world. Whether you’re talking about the noise of our modern conveniences like refrigerators and air conditioners, or you’re talking about the noise nature makes even in the dead of night, we’re surrounded by a noisy world. Which means it can be really hard to find quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love communication and I love hearing all the sounds of life all around us. But sometimes the noise becomes too much of a distraction and we can lose the gift that is the quiet. So this week I’ve been working on increasing the amounts of quiet in my life, turning off the radio or TV, working in a quiet space instead of busy locations, and generally turning down the volume on life around me.

I’ll be honest that it’s hard when it’s quiet, more quiet than usual, or almost completely quiet it’s almost distracting too, especially if you’re not used to it. And it forces you to think and be alone with your thoughts, which can be very distracting or disturbing. But it also gives you the chance to be very focused on one or only a couple of things, and admittedly sometimes that can lead to some really clear thinking and productive happenings.

I think the thing that the quiet has taught me the most over the last week has to do with paying attention to life. The times of quiet force you to pay attention, to focus, to be present, and that’s something that all the noise around us doesn’t always allow. What have you missed out on the last weeks, months, or years since you had a regular quiet practice, if you ever had one? Try spending just 10 minutes each day being quiet while doing normal activities, or try something like yoga or meditation if you really want to work on your focus and experience the quiet.

What will the quiet teach you?

Thankful to be Alive

Second chances are a powerful thing. This week we learned that the boys and their soccer coach who went missing while visiting a cave in Thailand were still alive. They were in the cave for 9 days before they were found, and in the days since then people from around the world have been providing the expertise they have in caves and engineering to try to help and get the kids out before they run out of oxygen or the cave floods. Of course many of us are reminded of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a cave for 69 days in 2010. It took a serious effort to get them all out, and while the situation is different, it’s no less overwhelming or scary for the family members of the children and the soccer coach.

I believe that blame does have a place, but not here and now. It can come after we know how the story ends, hopefully with tales of rescue. This week for the kids and parents has been an opportunity to reconnect and share messages that may never have gotten out if they weren’t found. It’s an opportunity for them to talk again and see each other again.

Every day we deal with tragedies, and the loss of people who are killed accidentally or intentionally. There are very few cases of people who have absolutely no one who will miss them, there’s almost always someone left behind who will have to deal with the loss. In so many of those cases there wasn’t the opportunity for last messages, for apologies, for anything except to deal with the loss. But these families have had the chance this week to reconnect, even if it’s with a lot of earth between them.

We’re not guaranteed anything but today. You can’t predict or control what others do, you only have control over yourself. Don’t make light of second chances. Live and love today not because it might be your last day, but because you’re alive today.

Beyond Boring Businesses

One of the things that you hear from business owners is that they want to go viral, or be super popular, but let’s face it, there are some businesses that just aren’t naturally built to be celebrated as some are. Even a business that has difficult and boring days like a vet who has to put pets to sleep or give them shots will see at least one cute animal they can share with their community each day and week to include in their marketing. But what about the businesses that don’t really have the greatest built-in marketing opportunities?

The first thing I would say is that the business is as boring as you make it out to be. Second, even if you do have one of the most boring businesses in the world, it doesn’t mean that you should treat your customers poorly, not be passionate about your offerings, or be lazy and inconsiderate about the experience you offer. Regardless whether your business is the most exciting or the most boring in the world, you are offering something that is of value, something that people need, and you should be proud of that.

One example of a boring industry is the home/car insurance industry. It’s really not that interesting, few of us deal with them other than to pay a bill. And for those of us that deal with them it’s not really interesting or exciting to talk about your house being robbed or being in a serious car accident. Those are moments we would rather forget. But as we’ve seen through the many Farmers Insurance commercials, there are some crazy stories that go along with insurance claims, and they’re true! While the crazy is, I’m sure, a very small percentage of the claims they deal with, they’ve brought those stories to the forefront to illustrate that if they can deal with the crazy they can surely handle the boring.

No, it’s not always the right choice to find the crazy to highlight, but there is always an emotion that you can speak to with your customers, and there are almost always stories you can share to show the community that you support ranging from the heart-wrenching to the sweet. Don’t worry about going viral or being the most interesting business in the world, focus on helping your customers feel recognized, that you understand the different situations they’re dealing with and showing them that you can help make their day even just a little better.

What are your tips for navigating the boring parts of business?