The Wealth of Knowledge

One of the things that I love most about the day and age that we live in is the ease of education.  Now you can pull out your phone, turn on the computer, visit a library or Skype with someone and get answers to just about every question you have.  Technology also empowers the people around the world who are trying to answer the questions we don’t have answers to like cancer and Alzheimers.  When you have an education or when you can learn something you’re much better off than if you just are given something.  Your knowledge is far more valuable in most cases than anything anyone else can give you.

As a parent one of the biggest gifts you can give your kids is an education, and I’m not just talking about sending them to school each week.  Learning happens inside and outside the school, and many of the things I learned weren’t taught in a traditional classroom setting or about English, math or science.  What you teach your kids about relationships, communication, driving, money, how you handle problems, and how to see the world are usually more important than what they’ll learn in school.

When kids have an education or know how to solve their own problems and answer their own questions you’ve given them a more valuable legacy than just handing over a large fortune to them.  What will you teach your kids today?

Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” Epictetus

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Building a Bigger, Bolder Business

This month I took a look at Think Big, Act Bigger by Jeffrey Hayzlett. I’m not big on reality TV, so my first introduction to Jeffrey was through a telesummit several years ago. I don’t always connect with individuals or leaders who are big and bold and outspoken, but Jeffrey is so much more than that, it wasn’t as noticeable or unavoidable as it is with some other leaders, in other words it didn’t define him in a negative way. And that’s really how the entire book read for me. I really felt like it wasn’t about him sharing why he’s a great leader, it was him revealing in a very personable way why who he is and the decisions he makes work, and why they might/will work for others.

In the book Jeffrey talks about what may seem like a conflicting set of topics. On one side he makes it very clear that his business (any business) isn’t meant to appeal to or work with everyone. He shares an example of how they had a slogan on a website and the team removed that slogan during a website edit because the team said it offended some people. His answer was that it was that if someone can’t see past the slogan or is offended by it, the slogan has done its’ job in weeding out the not ideal clients.

But Jeffrey also talks about the importance of asking and finding out why someone didn’t buy a product or service. Maybe it is because they’re not a good fit (and that’s OK). Maybe it’s because they don’t understand (and that’s your fault and something you can fix). Maybe it’s because the product or service isn’t up to par with the competition (again, something that you can fix). Maybe it’s because your sales people were rude, ignorant, unknowledgeable or lazy (something you must do something about). Knowing why (and doing something about those answers you can and should do something about) can mean not only an increase in business and sales, but also you bringing a better business to the world.

One of the parts of the book I appreciated most was Jeffrey’s take on teams/employees and leaders. He is a believer in hiring people and giving them the tools and empowerment to make decisions based on systems they have set up in the business. The difference with some other businesses and leaders and their employees is that Jeffrey makes a point of doing everything and having knowledge and experience in everything, from cleaning bathrooms to marketing to finances, just for starters. This means he has the knowledge and experience to do it all so he can talk with his people about everything. He isn’t stepping away from or not leading or disconnected from the business, he simply has done it all and now focuses his time on the most important things, and lets other people do what they’re good at doing.

I alluded to it at the beginning of the post and you can guess it from the title of the book, but one of the big keys is the importance of having a positive attitude, thinking bigger, acting bigger, and being real. Yes, Jeffrey grows big businesses, but this isn’t just about the size of your business or your bank account, but about being a big leader that’s making a positive impact in the world through their business, regardless of how many customers they serve.

With that in mind, I wanted to end with a quote from the Introduction: “I can think bigger, act bigger, and do it my way-because I can.” How will you make a difference in your business, be a better leader for your business and make a difference with your business for your community, tribe, and the world?

A Time of Reflection

I was reading yet another email after reading another blog post about someone hitting burnout the other day, and the news has shared that tragically several people connected to mass shootings have committed suicide in recent days. As equipped as I think we may be for all that life throws at us each day, the reality is we sometimes don’t realize how much we’re taking on, don’t ask for the help we need, don’t take time to deal with the overwhelm we’re feeling, and/or don’t realize how serious things have gotten. And then we hit that breaking point, unfortunately sometimes of no return.

Most people have developed coping mechanisms that help them deal with typical daily stresses (a fight with a friend or significant other, deadlines at work, children’s tantrums etc.), but as we know especially from the men and women who have been in the military, there’s no coping with some things, some things we’re just not equipped to deal with normally and that’s when we can get into trouble.

Part of the reason I think we struggle with coping and hit burnout is because instead of taking a step back we pile on the activities, work, people and things. Maybe we think we do it because it means we won’t be able to think about how we really feel or what’s really going on, and that may work for the short term, but it rarely does anything about the actual situation or how you feel.

You may not know it, but we’re in the middle of the spiritual season called Lent which leads to the celebration of Easter. Lent is a time of reflection, for people to get right with themselves and with God. Anytime is a great time to get right with God, but today I’d encourage you to spend some time on self reflection, really considering where your life is at and what you need most. Asking for help and knowing when you need to take a break (and taking one) actually show how strong you are, not how weak.  A little reflection and taking a time-out today can positively shape your future if you let it.  I’d encourage you to make it a regular practice as well since life shows no plans of slowing down or becoming a cake walk anytime soon.

Spring Alive Together

There is nothing that says “alive” more than spring. The whole world bursts into life and color in the matter of a few short weeks. I don’t know about you, but I fully believe life is better when we live it with others. There’s so much we can learn from others, and I can’t imagine trying to do all that everyone else does around me while doing all of my stuff (like fixing cars, picking up trash, policing the area, and running hospitals). The good news is that there is plenty of life to go around.

The thing about spring that’s very evident in much of the new life is that it’s about multiplication and family. All of the new animal lives and seed growth are small representations of what should be happening in our lives too. Yet over and over we shy away from contact with other people, or at least the deep and full contact that is seen in the new life of spring.

I wonder what it will take for people to start building the relationships that it will take to make a difference in the lives of the next generation? How long it will take us to learn that together we are more than we ever could be apart? To learn that hatred and violence do not make the world go ‘round?

The more I see, read, learn and discover, the more I realize that we’re all connected whether we want to be or not. We’re connected to the earth by what we eat and use. We’re connected to each other through the thousands of invisible threads of the internet. We’re connected to the past and the future by the choices they have made and we will make. Even fully isolated from human contact we’re still connected to the earth by how we live and eat.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting the connection and start working on how we can coexist together. Let’s work on making this spring a time of growth and health for all of us.

The Leadership-Success Connection

I’ve been noticing quite a few empty storefronts in my area, some of which is natural turnover and some is because businesses aren’t getting enough foot traffic to stay open.  And while that may change as we get into better weather and people are out and about which often inspires people to take a go at running a physical store, retail definitely has challenges to overcome. It hasn’t adapted to the change of how people are shopping and all too often retail store owners see it as an us vs. them thing when it comes to retail and online shopping. One of the ways that retail can take back some of the ground it has lost, or even be more successful than it was in the past is by taking advantage of the online world. And while that’s a post for another day, I wanted to talk today about one of the other things that could be the key to whether a store stays open or closes down, and that’s leadership.

I was talking with a couple of employees at a company the other day and they were very honest about the fact that they’re staying where they are only because of the paycheck and if something better came along the would be very happy to leave. I think there’s room in the business world for all of us business owners, but I don’t believe that every business owner deserves a business. Some people aren’t equipped to lead or don’t have the right attitude to lead.

What does the dictionary say about leaders anyway? A leaders is “a person who guides or directs a group; an act or instance of leading; a guiding or directing head; a person who inspires others.” I believe true leadership takes skill, experience, passion, action and attitude. Sometimes you can get away with not having one aspect or another, but to really be able to claim the leadership title I think you need to be well rounded in all these areas.

So if you’ve got employees who are willing to stick around as long as the checks don’t bounce, maybe it’s time to take another look at your leadership. Are you showing up? Are you getting the work that only you can do done? Are you inspiring them to be a better person and make a contribution to the company? Are you recognizing their hard work? Do you take their concerns seriously? How do you talk to and treat them? If you’re not feeling so confident on some of these questions, your employees may not feel so confident in you, and that can easily trickle down to the customers as well.

What is one thing you’re going to do in the coming week to be a better leader?

A Burst of Spring

The first day of spring is officially hours away. There’s a lot about spring to enjoy, one of my favorite things is how everything is so very clearly coming alive. There’s something magical about having everything burst into clear life from being seemingly dead and definitely drab over the winter. It’s one of the things I enjoy about living in this part of the US, that we do have clear seasonal changes throughout the year, and while I could do with less of the snow, it does make spring all the more appealing.

Sometimes what success needs from us is letting go of something big. Another thing some people are journeying through right now is the spiritual time of Lent which is leading up to Easter, and many people give something up for Lent. Other people give stuff up because they’re allergic to it or find they’re intolerant of it. But especially in that case it’s worth it to give it up, even if we miss what we had. Sacrifice and change are part of life, and I think we’re getting better at accepting that it happens and working through it.

But sometimes what success needs is not a sacrifice, but a big burst of effort, a big (positive) change. This big burst can reinvigorate what we’re doing, help renew our spirits, give us hope that it’s possible to achieve the victory and give us the energy to take a better look around and see the possibilities around us.

Spring hasn’t quite sprung here yet, but others have said that they’re seeing the signs slowly appearing, so I have hope that it will be here soon. If you’re struggling or feeling depressed or feeling stuck, maybe it’s time to let spring invigorate your life and success. Look for new life this week, new opportunities, new leaps of faith that you can take that will help you get closer to your goals.

Time for Explanations

Explanations are tough. There are many funny stories and explanations that people have come up with for kids with regards to the typically titled ‘birds and the bees’ discussion, but that’s only one of the many things that parents have to explain to their kids throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes those discussions are hard when they have to talk about things like Alzheimer’s or violent/racial incidents. Others are just part of the course of life like sex and Santa. There’s definitely a wrong way to have discussions, one of the worst things can be refusing to have any discussion at all.

One of the hardest things is not having a good explanation, there are some things that you just can’t explain, and some things that the truth is very hard to accept or believe. A really simple example would be some of those cop/investigation shows where they get to the end of the investigation and it seems like 3 random things happened and as a result someone’s dead. It sounds kind of logical, but at the same time really doesn’t seem like it, and it’s even harder to accept that that’s actually something that happened in real life.

But explanations are important to us, regardless of the age we are. We like knowing how things work, how they’re connected or what leads/led to what. Explanations are great because so often we’re able to get one, with as much investigating as we’ve done over the years and as connected as we are in this day and age thanks to technology. But as I said, sometimes the explanation doesn’t make sense. Sometimes you can investigate further and find out how it does make sense, but other times you’re left at a loss and unable to make heads or tails of it.

In the case of the extreme flooding parts of the world have seen over the past year, several serious shooting incidents including the one in Christchurch a day or so ago, there really isn’t a good answer to give your children, or yourself. Sometimes bad things just happen. So in response you can teach your kids to be smarter, more caring, more considerate and to always do the research. You can’t protect those you love from harm, but you can give them the tools to make the world a better place, and give them the best chance possible to have a life filled with less hurt and loss.

Dealing with Failures and Outages

The big business news this week so far is about Facebook’s outage on Wednesday and into Thursday for some. Facebook is used by people and businesses alike around the world, so when something like this happens it’s not something they can really brush under the rug. This issue hits on many topics that we’ve talked about recently as well as we talk about frequently like doing business together, communication, customer service and quality, and it also holds a great warning for all of us, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on it today.

Let’s start with the dark side of this whole thing. It can happen to anyone. It can get you bad publicity. It can make you lose customers. It’s something every business should talk about: what to do if there’s a catastrophic failure, what to do if data is lost, what to do if the product fails, what to do if leadership gets caught doing something bad. Being aware of that it could go wrong and having a plan for if it does go wrong is half the battle, the other half has to do with your reaction, communication and actions after the event. You may be able to take the right actions quickly, but if you poorly communicate about the whole thing you may lose any traction you could have made with the speedy repair.

Let’s talk about what Facebook did, that we know at this point. Yes, they obviously got to work on fixing it as soon as possible so more people weren’t affected and those that were would be able to get back on as soon as possible. Then they had a decision to make: how do we communicate this and do we communicate this. They made a really interesting decision, one that I doubt many people would have guessed, and that’s posted on Twitter to let people know what was up. It’s not necessarily the wrong decision (they could have used email), but it is kind of funny and is a good reminder that as much as you want to build a strong business, stronger than your competition, it’s always good to have an open line of communication for situations like these.

The situation will continue to unfold over the next days and weeks, and it will be interesting to see how they follow up on this. What would I like to see? At the very least I’d like to see messages on their Facebook and Instagram accounts sharing about what happened and letting people know it’s fully resolved and if any actions/precautions are being taken in brief with a link to a blog post on their blog with more depth and details. If there were any accounts hacked or breached, those people should be notified by internal message on the network and by email. I’d also like to see them to contact businesses that were actively running paid ads at the time and affected by the outage and fill them in on how the downed network will affect that ad run.

Of course, they may just choose to sweep this under the rug, and for many they’ll just continue on with Facebook as usual. But for the smart business owners, I would hope this serves as a warning that if your only means of supporting your business is through Facebook you should be looking into additional and supplemental ways to market and grow your business. It’s as is often said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What are your thoughts on the situation?

Practicing Success

The other day I was talking with one of the daughters of one of the families I work with about practicing piano. She was telling me that she only has one song she’s working on and that she was done practicing. I had heard her practice that one song, but while playing one song twice is practice, it’s not really a quality or quantity practice. So I suggested she grab one of her old books and just play through it to have more practice time, because it’s not just about knowing the current song you’re working on, but about building the muscle memory in your fingers and getting the song exposure and practice.

This conversation got me thinking about success, specifically expertise and knowledge as it relates to success. Some people are just successful, it doesn’t seem fair to other people that they’re able to be successful without all of the work that most of us have to do to be even a little successful. This necessary effort can be a deterrent to people, it’s why some people are successful and why others give up or aren’t as successful as they could be.

For those of us who success doesn’t come easy to, we’re doing the work to make the success happen.  Sometimes that mean that we have something specific that we’re working on that directly connects to our current goal (like practicing that one specific song on the piano).  Other times it means doing activities that can help us in the long run and in non-specific ways (like practicing other songs just to get the experience).

So what would help your success today? Committing to write several blog posts or pages of your book daily, daily upping the number of reps of an activity you do during your workout, reading one or more chapters in non-fiction books each day, daily reading blog posts and/or watch/listen to educational audios/videos, daily spending a half hour with your partner, daily reaching out to potential partners/contacts/clients through email or social media, daily developing ideas that could turn into products or designs, or more regularly and consistently taking care of bills/emails/paperwork? What is something you can do more consistently, more regularly, or increasingly more of to help you become more successful?

Women of the Future

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on raising a women in 2019 and beyond, and what that might look like, and how we can support the future generation of women in being the best they can be.

Encourage them to explore their passions, but not be completely ignorant. So if your girls want to play with dolls, they should. If they want to build with Legos, they should. If they want to cook, they should. So while you should let them choose their passion, that doesn’t mean you should skip teaching them the skills of cleaning, planning, organizing, finances, healing, using tools, cooking and anything else that will help them with the things they need to be adults. I grew up at a time when Home EC wasn’t really a thing, that we were leaving some of those shop-type classes that taught people skills that everyone should really have some awareness of that helps us become more rounded individuals culturally. It’s about helping them be as educated and well-rounded as they can be.

Encourage them to have friends, teachers and role models of both genders. I think it’s important that we’re all able to have healthy relationships with all types of people, that we’re able to start up and have polite conversation with just about anyone we meet, for girls to see what healthy romantic relationships look like, how to be successful in all areas of life, and how to protect themselves whether we’re talking a violent guy/girl on the street or a cutthroat boardroom executive. Girls/women can’t learn that from just women alone, it has to be a team effort.

Finally, I would encourage you to teach them to love. Men are capable of love, but there’s something that’s inherently female about love. We’re able to add that softness and vulnerability that men often have trouble reaching and sharing. Women have been taught through experiences and from others that maybe love isn’t a great thing, but I’d argue that it’s one of the most important things in the world. So along with all the skills, experiences, abilities and opportunities, I would encourage you to expose your girl to love and the amazing impact and benefit that love can have on an individual and on the world we share.

Women can and should be celebrated every day, we play a big part in contributing to the future of the world, and with happier, healthier, more courageous, more educated women, the future will be a better place for all of us. What are you celebrating about women today?