Knowing When to Quit

I saw in the news that the Emperor of Japan has decided to step down.  He’s 85 and has had some health issues in recent years, and has decided that it’s in the best interest of the country to pass on the leadership to his son.  Here in the US we elect someone new every 4-8 years typically so we don’t experience anything like this type of life-long leadership, but Great Britain does, at least as of now, and the Catholic Church has historically had life-long leadership but the current pope has indicated he doesn’t want to be pope for the rest of his days.  All of this has gotten me thinking about quitting.

The word ‘quit’ is an interesting one.  It can be defined as “stop, cease, discontinue, depart, leave, give up, or relinquish.”  I think these definitions are interesting because we always see quitting as a really bad thing.  But these words don’t necessarily indicate any type of failure, like we typically think of when we talk about quitting.  Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make.

Quitting isn’t necessarily about accepting defeat or failing at something, although sometimes that is the case, other times it’s about getting out while the getting is good, or thinking about win-win-wins for everyone, or knowing that you’ve done the very best job that you could do and now you need to pass it of to someone else or do something different going forward.

Sometimes it’s easy to say that you quit, but often it does take courage and some serious consideration to make sure that you’re really making the best decision for yourself and those that matter most to you.  Those in positions of power have extra responsibility to make sure they’re doing what’s best for everyone, but the fact is we all do as well.  The way you live affects others in various ways from the very obvious and significant to the negligible, but the fact remains that we each do have responsibility for how we live, and therefore knowing when to quit.

Change isn’t the enemy, in fact more often than not it’s not changing that’s the enemy.  This week I encourage you to consider if it’s time for a change, time to quit something so you can move onto something bigger and better.

Where Have All The Date Nights Gone?

I think that the advances in communication have done some great things for our relationships. We’re able to send a short text or email anywhere at any time to our significant other and let them know we’re thinking of them or tell them what we love about them. We can also keep in touch with them and have great, long conversations while we’re on the road to and from work or if we have to travel for work. In some ways the improved communications make up for the changes in our lives that separate us as we weren’t before, since most people worked where they lived and didn’t do a lot of traveling.

However I’ve noticed a decrease in people taking time for date nights, or dates of any kind day or night. In some ways I can understand because my partner and I both work nights and often holidays as well (which means our dates are day dates). I also understand that many people are tired at the end of the day since just about all adults work now (there are fewer stay at home parents), and by the end of the day you just want a quiet evening with the kids (or by yourself with your pillow).

But just like we’ve lost much of the imagination and sense of adventure we had when we were children, in some ways I think the busyness and responsibilities we’ve taken on as adults have pushed aside our dedication to our significant others. It’s not that we take them for granted necessarily, just that we don’t invest in our relationships the same way that we used to. With all the other priorities we have (including financial and family) our relationship seems to be the one priority that we let go or put towards the bottom of the list, a fact that’s supported by all the divorces in our society.

So what if we make one small change, that we commit time alone and in person with our significant other each week, or at the very least each month. If you’re really serious about this person that you’ve committed your life to, and may have kids with and therefore would see for the rest of your life, it would serve both of you to dedicate even just a couple of hours a week to your relationship whether having a meal, taking a walk, going to a museum or doing some other activity that enables you to have quality time together.  What fun out-of-the-house time will you plan with your significant other this week?

In the Business of Love

This month I read Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders. It was written in 2002, almost 20 years ago, but so many leadership books contain what is called “evergreen content,” advice that’s good for maybe ever, things that can inspire and encourage leaders and business owners, so I decided to read it anyway.

The first lesson I got from reading the book was an encouragement. Much of what Tim Sanders suggests are things that more businesses and leaders are doing, are doing publicly and are doing as part of large corporations and well-known leaders. It’s definitely not universal, but it’s not odd, or something done by the “special” businesses, or something that people say “oh, that’s nice” about. More businesses than ever are focused more on creating relationships than just trying to get the financial transaction to happen. More businesses are working to create experiences for their customers. And more businesses are working to make both employees and customers happy. We’re not there yet, but more businesses are thinking about people and not just profits.

The second lesson was the focus on intangibles. Throughout the book Sanders focused on a couple of ways to make an impact, and they weren’t marketing or discounts. Instead, he suggested focusing on knowledge, networking, compassion, love, caring, and charity. We’re seeing that there’s only so many products and services that can be created that are different, and what ends up being the difference maker are these intangibles that help separate products and services from others that would otherwise appear to be identical.

The third lesson is right in line with that and well explained by a quote in the book “choice spells doom for villains.” I don’t love the competing aspect of competition, but I do love that there are many choices for people to choose from in just about every area of product and service today. This means that with a little research we’re able to find exactly what we want, or get very close to finding exactly what we want. It means we don’t have to buy from the company that has terrible customer service, the company with the rude employees, or the company that doesn’t have the freshest products. It means we can shop around and very easily pick and choose where our products and services come from and we don’t have to get everything from one company and just deal with something average. But with as much “competition” as there is, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself, your company and your products/services from the others on the market.

Are you using intangibles to build your business and support your people? If not it’s a great time to start.

Taking Action for Earth Day

Today has been Earth Day.  It’s the day that people around the world take time to remember the planet that we all live on and share, and to do something to help make sure that planet is here for many years to come.  Given that our success, and our lives even, depend on the health and continued life of the earth I thought today we’d talk about some things we can do to help the Earth be around for many more years to come.

Today plenty of companies sent out emails and posted on social media asking for donations.  I saw many more emails today with double and triple matches (meaning a gift you give is doubled or tripled) than I did for Giving Tuesday back in November, so the simplest way you can give to the future of our world is to donate to companies who are going to plant trees, protect the (endangered) animals, and fight for the health of our planet.

Another way you can give back is to recycle and pick up, even if it’s not your garbage.  Sometimes the wind gets the best of the garbage/recycling days or the animals get into the cans and as a result trash and recyclables go everywhere. While it’s not something I recommend doing unless you’re able to glove up or protect yourself in some other way, taking action to pick up that stuff goes a long way to making sure that those things don’t end up in our waterways and stay away from animals who could be killed by them.

A third way to help the earth is eating less meat.  Protein is important to our diets, but meat is also one of the bigger contributors of what’s hurting our earth. That doesn’t mean we eliminate meat from our diets, but rather make smarter choices about how much we’re consuming.  Try to eat meat fewer days per week, substituting with other proteins like eggs, quinoa and almond/peanut butter whether at dinner or during other meals of the day.

Fourth, if you’re able to get out there and plant trees or other plants to help our animals and the bees who are crucial to the health of our food system, that’s a great way to give back to the earth.  I saw an article recently that suggested the way to fix climate change was to plant tons of trees.  With a little bit of effort and adjustment I think we can come to an agreement between us and mother nature and learn how to share the space we all live on together.

Finally, another very easy way to give back is signing petitions.  Many of the suggestions I’ve given are things that you can do all year long and not just on Earth Day, and this is no exception.  Every day I get at least a dozen emails about petitions I could sign on all kinds of topics, including those that have to do with animals and nature.  It’s a very small way to contribute, but seeing how many people have already signed the petitions goes to show that I may be just one person, but my individual voice along with the voices of thousands of others really ads up.

What will you do to care for the world you live on?

The Choice of Hope

Tomorrow is Easter, primarily celebrated in the religious world, but also a time for families with kids to play with eggs, tell stories about the Easter bunny and eat candy. What I want to talk about today is central to both sides of the Easter story, and that’s the topic of hope. Just like Valentine’s Day is important because it gets us talking about love and the importance of it in our lives, Easter is a time for us to talk about new life and hope.

As leaders, as people the next generation looks to, it’s important to set a good example for them, and one of the most important aspects is in the area of hope. There will always be challenges to face in life, however we do have a choice how we deal with them. Even if we don’t have the skills needed or knowledge needed to conquer the situation, having hope can help us get through it with courage and keep moving forward. It’s almost as important to teach the next generation about things like hope and courage, as it is to teach them about math and reading.

Hope isn’t only about having a positive outlook on the future even if the future doesn’t look so positive, it’s about taking actions to breathe new life into your situations, into your life, into your relationships, bringing that positive outlook closer to reality. It’s about choosing to be stronger than your circumstances, not letting fear overly influence your decision making, helping others with a kind word or deed, choosing life over suffering, moving forward even when it feels like you’re moving backwards, and looking for the good in each person and day.

Tomorrow is a chance to start fresh with yourself, your family, or your life if you need to. We can choose hope, we can choose to teach hope, but hope can’t be forced on us. Will you choose hope?

Questions to Empower Your Business Today and Tomorrow

Today I thought I’d share a few questions that you can apply to your business and your team every day.  These are simple questions that are kind of like the last minute check you do on your email/social media before calling it a day, or that 5 minute wrap-up you take to clean off your desk and empty your coffee cup.  Some questions can help you start the day well, others will help you prepare for the next day.

Start the day:

1-what’s one small thing I can do today that will set me/us up for a better tomorrow?

2-which team member can I encourage or recognize the value of today?

3-who can I connect/network with today?

4-what can I do today that I would enjoy or love doing?

These questions help you think big picture on the day ahead.  You may have a packed schedule of things other people need you to do or you’ve scheduled for yourself to do, but taking the time to think about these questions will give you the ability to plan beyond the day.  The first question helps keep you and the company moving forward.  The second and third questions are about people, about appreciating your people and about getting connected with other people who can support you and you can support.  The final question is the one that excites me a lot because sometimes it seems like we’ve just got this list of stuff to do, stuff that seems tedious or may not be why we really wanted to run a business, and this question gives us the opportunity to keep that spark alive every day.

Prepare for tomorrow:

1-what happened today that has to be addressed or fixed tomorrow?

2-is there anything I’m concerned about regarding tomorrow?

3-who do I need to reach out to tomorrow?

4-what victory did I/we achieve today?

I think taking time to work through these brief questions at the end of the day is helpful because for the first three it means you recognize that you don’t have the time or mental space to do your best work, but know that these things need addressing tomorrow.  It also helps you take a minute to think ahead on what tomorrow might bring.  The fourth question is an opportunity to end on a positive note and finish the day well.  It does force you to think back through the day (and possibly some not good things) but it also means you’ll leave celebrating a win.

What questions do you use to help empower your days?

The Choice of Violence

I opened one of the many Lent devotional subscriptions I have this year to find just a few short words that really got me thinking (no, this isn’t a post about faith/spirituality). The words in the email were:

Violence doesn’t create anything.

As the world reels from the fire at Notre Dame, as the news sites share about murders and accidental deaths, as we work our way out of what was a brutal winter for some and head towards what may be a difficult summer for others, as we think about the people who have died tragically early that we personally know or know through TV and the internet, again I’m strongly considering the question of what makes people think violence and hurt/hate are the answers to anything?

I’m a creative person as you can probably tell, I enjoy writing, reading, painting, cooking, sewing and even occasionally gardening.  The only thing I really enjoy destroying is dirt.  Of course I feel some level of satisfaction when a person who has done great violence or committed great acts of hatred is caught and put in jail, because they caused destruction and hurt for the hearts and lives of many.  But I don’t spend my time thinking about the people who hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally, I prefer to spend my time thinking about ways to make the world a better, freer, fuller, happier place for all of us to share.

Today I would encourage you to think about what you’re creating with the choices you make.  Are you making choices that have zero or negative impact on the world and lives around you?  Or are you making the decision to make a positive impact on the world, even if it requires a little more effort and commitment on your part?  Even if you have little or nothing that you can contribute to help Notre Dame, the communities that lost churches in recent arson fires, the people who have been forced out of their country due to civil wars or genocide, or those who have lost their homes in recent months to natural disasters rebuild, you can still make a difference in the lives of those you meet on a regular basis through a kind word or deed, and especially by not letting violence be the answer.

Let’s Do it Together

There are some things only you can do, and we all have our own responsibilities.  However, I don’t believe that we’re here to conquer life alone, and there’s no reason to try to do it alone when we’ve got lots of other people who could be supporting us if only we would ask.  I believe one of the biggest reasons that some relationships succeed and others don’t and some families are so healthy and others aren’t is because they choose to do life together.

It’s the choice of a true partnership, a commitment to work together, to confide in each other, to trust each other to do what each of us do best, to help each other when we’re down, to cry together, to laugh together, to try together, to be there through thick and thin, to recognize that there will be changes and we will grow, and to commit to learning to love each other through every step of the journey.

Of course, for this to be a true partnership, a true commitment from both/all parties, it means that everyone is committed to doing good for each other, being there for each other, and not tearing each other down.  Yes, there will be some fights and disagreements, that’s normal, but no violence or hate.

Can it be a forever thing? Yes, I believe we can make a commitment to each other and have it be forever, that you’ll commit to working through anything and everything together until death do you part.  For others it can be a rock solid commitment for whatever time you choose to spend together, and when the time comes that it’s best for both of you to separate, you’ll do that knowing that you both fulfilled your commitment to each other.

Commitment is a choice, but if you choose to commit you really need to follow through on that commitment.  I encourage you to sit down with your partner and/or family and consider the commitment that you’ve made to each other, if there is one, and how you want things to be going forward.  Are you in this together?

Confident Leadership

All business owners need help with the tactics and how things work. We’re not all technologically intuitive, we’ve got lots on our plates, and things change all the time. We’re not machines, and even machines can’t get everything done without working with other machines and multiple softwares. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that every business owner could use the support of a marketing/sales expert at some or most parts of their business journey.

I certainly work with plenty of business owners on the tactic/tangible type stuff all the time. But this week I was reminded that a business, and a business owner, is so much more than just the tactics. Behind some of the best and most successful businesses are a confident, awesome, world-helping human. They’re people who the word ‘leader’ was meant to describe.

These people recognize that they’re working with and selling to people. They regularly apply compassion and empathy as well as have excellent listening skills. They’re quick to see situations that need their attention and do something about it. They step up for their employees, their business, their brand, their community and their customers. And most of all they believe in themselves and what they’re building.

No, not every day is a good day for business, but the wins should far outweigh the struggles. The sacrifices should be worth it at the victory line. You should see the positive impact of your business on your life, the lives of your employees, the lives of your customers and on your community. You should at the very least feel confident, if not comfortable, telling the world about your business because it helps add value to the world we all share, to our lives and to our communities.  Are you a confident leader?

A Little Creative Risk

What is creativity anyway?  We hear that term thrown around at work, in the kitchen and used as a polite way of giving an opinion on something we think isn’t so great.  As I was pondering this question I came across this quote from Mary Lou Cook: “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

For too many people (adults) creativity is a lost art. Our brains simply don’t work in ways that are necessary to be truly creative.  The good news is that with a little practice we can get those brain cells fired up again.  You can try Legos, cooking, gardening, painting or even the fun adult-approved coloring books that have made a resurgence of late.

Even with all the fun and relaxation that can be had, creativity isn’t for the faint of heart though.  Creativity is all about breaking out of the neat boxes many of us try to stuff ourselves into.  It’s not a comfortable feeling if it’s not something you do on a regular basis.  Even for those of us who do practice some form of creativity on a regular basis we still can have moments when we’re feeling a bit stretched and out of our comfort zones.

If you’re not used to being creative, try to do just one thing a little different each day, such as making something different for dinner featuring ingredients you (and your family) like, going home a different way from work, watching something different on TV, playing a game that you don’t usually play, or any of the more traditional creative activities like painting, coloring, wood work or sculpting.

Will you join me this week in taking a (creative) risk?