Let’s Talk Time

Time is one of the topics that comes up often with kids. They want to know why things take so long or why things can’t happen right away, don’t understand how time works and sometimes even why things have to be done at a time. And that’s just the kids. As my partner and I were talking about the other day, some adults don’t have any concept of time, or don’t respect the time of others or aren’t considerate of others’ time. It can be really hard to educate kids about the importance of time when time just seems like the enemy so often.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there’s value in using a clock, scheduling appointments, showing up on time for things, and even setting a timer to limit an activity or direct focus for a time. Time and clocks give us an important uniform structure that we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s really a more concrete and specific way of communicating how the sun moves through the sky. Using the sun might have worked when many people were farming or in before dark regardless of the time of year, but that’s not how it goes today.

The challenge with time is that sometimes you just run out of time. It’s when you have to decide what’s a priority, what has to be done first and what is just going to have to be late or not done and that be OK. The sad thing about life and time is that you don’t have time for absolutely everything that life has to offer, which is something you just have to accept.

So when you end up moving around the concept of time on your kids, make sure you explain why you’re switching things up or stopping the fun or doing things differently than you typically do. The explanation is important because it helps teach them about priorities and decision making and can also help reduce friction between you and them when things are being affected by time. What are your tips, frustrations and works-in-progress when it comes to time?

The Business of Going Green

For years there’s been a trend on going green, on reusable materials and on being environmentally friendly.   It has been a challenge for some businesses because the old ways of doing things are easy, especially if you’re not concerned about the environmental cost in the long or short term.  Some businesses give it a try or make some effort to do things right, but don’t lead with a green focus.  Other businesses have thrived in providing products and services that not only take into consideration the environment, but are products and services that are well made as well and do the job they’re being purchased to do.  Not only do businesses get brownie points for doing what’s good for the environment, but customers actively seek those businesses out because they are conscious about the impact their life and buying habits are having on the world we all share.

Customers are more willing to buy a “green” product or service that might not be quite as good in quality if they know they’re doing good for the earth. Some companies are also able to persuade customers into believing that a product is effective even if it’s not the greatest, and get away with it by talking about how green it is. But with both of those examples customers are still clearly attracted by how the product is made or service delivered as well as that it’s what they need or want.

Recently I read a headline about how a company is creating shirts out of…wait for it…unused milk.  No, that’s not a typo or misspelling or inaccurate word choice.  I didn’t read the article or choose to find anything about the company after reading the headline because I was quite frankly disgusted (and I’m not including a link here for the same reason).  I’m all for creating products that are smarter about how they use our resources, but the green movement hasn’t fully caught up with quality or demand in at least a couple of aspects.

Don’t get me wrong, this company would get a gold star for being creative, but business is about being more than just creative or saving the earth, it has to make good financial sense as well, and for good financial sense to be achieved it has to be making sales.  I don’t know about you, but I would not want to tell the world how proud I am to be wearing a shirt made from unused milk. I’m also not going to spread the word and tell my friends about this company that sells shirts made from milk.

When your customers aren’t proud of or excited by what you’re making and aren’t willing to share about their purchases with their friends, you quickly lose a great potential source of traffic and recommendations, and word of mouth is one of the reasons that many companies, especially small start-ups are successful today.  This story is a great reminder to make sure that your business is supplying something that there’s a need or demand for in the world. Have you recently confirmed that you’re still offering something people want and need?

A Simple Autumn

When this autumn season really got going I expressed my concerns that the leaves weren’t looking their usual brilliant self. It turns out that the leaves never really did their usual brilliant show. Yes, there were a few very nice trees, and it was very clear that autumn arrived and proceeded with a leaf change as usual, but not with the usual colors that autumns shines with as one last hurrah from Mother Nature before winter rolls through.

As I was driving around today I got to thinking about this lackluster autumn and what it can say about our lives and success. I think it’s a good reminder that we don’t have to live “wow” lives. That every moment doesn’t have to be worthy of sharing on social media, every thing we do doesn’t have to be this huge success, we don’t have to have storybook relationships and marriages, it’s OK if we’re not huge celebrities, don’t constantly go viral, get out some frozen pizzas instead of doing a fancy home cooked meal occasionally, or give a good effort and move on rather than working on perfection.

Maybe the story of the leaves this year is the reminder you need that while there are moments in life that really stand out, much of life is just putting one foot in front of the other, doing what we have to do to keep up with our responsibilities and relationships.  Or maybe it’s an indication that you’re trying too hard in your life and you need to take a step back and let life shine again.  Maybe this is the year that you truly do make the holiday season one of peace, relaxation and love with family and friends.   What does this subtle autumn season teach you?

Relationship Pride

This week I had an interesting conversation with my significant other which got me thinking about how we see our significant others and how they see us, and raised a question of pride. We often talk about pride with regard to what our children and grandchildren do or who they are, or sexual orientation or even pets, and sometimes it comes up with regards to how successful or helpful our company or organization is. But I don’t really think about pride in terms of myself or my partner and our relationship. I think about being thankful or happy or feeling accomplished or loved/loving or teamwork, and you probably do too. So ask yourself what I asked myself this week, are you proud of your partner and your relationship?

There’s really two questions there, the first with regards to being proud of your partner. Having someone be proud of you is empowering, it helps boost your confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. When someone else knows you’re proud of them, it gives them that power, and in some ways it’s more powerful when someone is proud of you than just when you’re proud about yourself because you know that someone else believes in you and celebrates you too.

The other question is with regards to being proud of your relationship. This might be one of the missing keys that helps keep relationships healthy, alive and thriving. When you have a sense of pride about something you care for it a little better, give it priority attention and invest in it. If you’re proud of your relationship you also want to show it off and be with your partner in private and public, developing bonds and spending time with other couples and families and generally doing things together.

If you’re in a healthy relationship, one that you really do value and want to stay in, even if lately it may have been going through a rough patch, you should find several things in and about your relationship and your partner that you can be proud of. What are you celebrating today?

Combining the Practical with Passion

This month I read The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. It wasn’t a business book in the traditional sense, but had some good insights that can guide us both as business owners as well as leaders as we interact with our teams and clients/customers. The book was a look at not only the author’s journey to all countries in the world, but also about the journeys/quests/dreams of other people, and I liked that he talked about both the practical side of things as well as the emotional side of things. Let’s take a look at a few of the lessons in the book.

The idea of belief was discussed throughout the book, first and foremost that the person going through the quest (or the person/people running the business) has to believe in what they’re starting or doing. Second, there will always be people who don’t believe in what you believe in. Finally, everyone needs support. For business owners that’s both people who will buy from them and buy into their mission, and second people who will support them as a person like a family or friends.  Neither a quest nor a business can be done completely alone.

Also throughout the book was discussion on who a mission was for/about, what the point was of going on the journey, and what meaning and fulfillment is being created as a result. All good businesses have to have a purpose of some kind. Maybe it’s to create fun or give people the opportunity to buy things they want that definitely aren’t essentials but are things they want or think are cool or are status items.  It doesn’t have to be a serious or life-based purpose like a doctor or grocery store owner to have a valid purpose or mission.  In fact, your business should have meaning for both you and the people that you sell to and work with.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the book also talked about the importance of embracing the practical. You can’t just waltz into countries, you have to get your passport stamped first and get past customs. The same is true for businesses: you have to have plans and strategies and take action, take time to regularly look into your finances and metrics and data, and most of all have a market that not only wants to buy from you but actually does. As important as the passion and mission are, you have to be able to take a step back from that and focus on the practical details that make the business run if you want to be successful.

Finally, there’s a lesson to be learned from the title of the book, and it’s something that Chris shared about throughout the book, and that’s that some people really find value and life in the pursuit of something. It’s in moving forward, one step, large or small, at a time that we know we’re alive, that we are invigorating to keep moving forward, that we’re able to build new connections and grow current ones. That journey isn’t always a straight line and will change as you and the world change, and the journey should be worth taking. It’s when you’re no longer passionate about that journey or the end destination that you need to revisit things.

What have you been learning lately from your business or trying not to hear or see?

The Success of Halloween

Halloween is this week, it’s a holiday all about the darkest corners of the world and darkest things our imaginations can think up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my life full of dark and scary things, it’s hard enough to see the news each day with all that goes on in the world, so it got me thinking about why it’s so successful and able to bring in so much money and continue year after year.

First, let’s talk about the authentic side of Halloween, and that’s the fact that it’s been shown and believed for many years that there’s something beyond the life we live now. Whether you believe in Heaven and hell or not, or believe that there’s something in between here and the future, or you’ve had an experience with a ghost or other spiritual being, a large majority of people will say there’s more to the world than we see living on this plane with us. But while ghosts are something we talk about at Halloween, there’s so much more to the holiday and to all things spooky than just ghosts.

One of the reasons Halloween is successful is because they’ve managed to connect it with one of the legal forms of an addictive substance, and that’s candy. So many of us around the world have a sweet tooth that it makes it very easy to get us excited about anything that involves candy. You then add in pumpkin (spice) flavor to some of that candy and you’ve got a second winner. It’s also very easy to come up with alcoholic beverages/mixed drinks that are of the orange or black or neon or spooky color, not to mention all the ways you can craft food to resemble all sorts of haunted things. So Halloween is an easy win when it comes to our taste buds and stomachs, which is often all that something needs to be successful.

Then you’ve got the fun of dressing up and being someone else. This is traditionally something the kids do, but college kids and adults often will dress up and attend parties as well. There’s something magical and refreshing about being able to pick out a different costume each year and be someone else, be someone that you aren’t or can’t be in real or daily life. Dressing up is a chance to escape the responsibilities of our daily lives and try on someone else’s life for a little while, as well as hang out with friends and have fun (something else not everyone makes time for either).

It’s also successful because those who commercialized it knew to tap into the adrenaline that people experience when they’re surprised by or dealing with something scary. That rush is also an addictive feeling, which is why year after year we are willing to visit countless attractions and even sign health waivers to be allowed in and face something that might scare us.

Ultimately though, Halloween is so broadly successful because it taps into those who like the more extreme side of the holiday and getting scared out of their minds as well as those that like to make and enjoy cute little spider cookie or cupcake treats. It’s something that both children and adults and even seniors can get involved in and enjoy (some seniors find handing out Halloween candy to be one of the highlights of their year). Sometimes success is as simple as creating something that a large number of people will find fun, adding variations to make that audience even broader and making sure that there’s a reason to keep coming back year after year.

Are you into Halloween? What makes it a holiday you celebrate each year?

Planning and Preparing

One of the many things that people talk about in October is fire prevention and safety.  It’s an important topic to talk about in schools with kids, and many schools make it fun by bringing in one of the town’s fire trucks or at the very least a real firefighter for the kids to meet.  It’s an important topic to talk about in schools because people of all ages including kids need the information about what to do if a fire happens, so that they’re less likely to freeze and more likely to be able to escape.

But preparation is an important topic for everyone, and not just with regards to fires or natural disasters.  Preparation on even a very basic level gives you the support to have some control on the basics of your life even when other things are going out of control.  Being prepared means you don’t have to panic when company comes in from out of town or your boss asks you to stay late or the kids have a project due tomorrow they “forgot” about or your partner needs you to go out to dinner with them and their boss or you’re not surprised by or unable to afford an annual bill because you’ve been saving up all year.

Preparation doesn’t necessarily mean having every single duck in a row, just that you’ve got a solid handle on what usually goes on, you’re aware of what’s going on around you and what’s definitely or potentially coming up, and have resources available for things that might go wrong or come up.  Preparation often goes hand in hand with planning ahead.  By planning ahead whenever possible, and teaching your kids to do the same with regards to their clothing needs, homework/studying/projects and extracurricular activities, all of you will be better equipped to handle whatever curve balls life throws at you.

Preparation is not typically a labor or time intensive activity, but even still it can pay off big in the long run.   It can be as simple as having a spare of favorite home and kitchen items before you run out, taking time to sit down and look at the week ahead and anticipate what will happen and what could happen, and talking with the people in your life about scary but important topics like what everyone’s steps should be in a fire or other disaster.  What will you do to prepare for the days and months ahead?

Lessons in Leverage

There’s always been a group of people who look for the shortest or fastest route through, around or to something or someone. I have no problem with letting go of things that are unnecessary or taking out unnecessary steps, but fastest/shortest isn’t always best. For example, for a time there was a large interest in buying likes and other social points to unnaturally inflate business accounts so they would look more popular or active than they were. It’s something that the social networks have cracked down on fortunately but still something a few people are still doing. I understand the desire to present large numbers to people, especially when some celebrities have so many social interactions and connections, but when you have fake likes etc. it completely screws up your metrics and any data you want to analyze and it means you’re not being honest with your customers.

So what can we do as businesses to grow faster or quicker? One option we have is to get really good at leveraging. What does this mean? It means that we build a business smarter, taking advantage of the tools and resources we have access to. Sometimes it means a little extra effort or resources expended, but in the long run you’ll connect better with your team and your customers, and be more successful for longer.

Let’s take a look at some examples. For social media there are many things you can do with a social account, but the question I often raise with clients is how fully they’re taking advantage of all that a social network offers. Are you posting, doing ads, being social and promoting the account through your emails, website etc. or just doing one/some of the above? If you’re not leveraging all that the social account has to offer, it’s likely you’re missing out on some great opportunities for growth.

Another example has to do with your employees, team, and customers. Do you have people of all ages on your team and are you talking with all of them to get different generational perspectives? Are you tapping into the different skill sets and interests that each of them have or trying to force them into your preferred box? What about your customers? Are you getting their feedback on what you’re offering and finding out what they need? These are simple conversations to initiate, and can pay off big in the long term if you’re implementing what you’re learning.

A final example is one that I share about regularly, and that’s holidays. If everyone around you is talking about the upcoming holiday, how can you leverage that holiday positively for your business? Rather than complain about the holiday or how it steals customers from you, turn it into a money making opportunity. Offer relevant seasonal offerings, surprise your customers with seasonal gifts, and be flexible with your team and their schedules so they can be with their families too (a happy team is a productive team). Make the holiday work for your business.

What about you? What are you leveraging in your business to help it grow?

Life Lessons from Dogs

I’m a dog person. I love all creatures, and make a point of supporting and help share about organizations that work for and with any type of animal, especially the endangered kind, but without question dogs top my list. I don’t know if you watch much TV but there are quite a few companies that use animals in their commercials, including quite a few that use dogs. Subaru is at the top of that list as well as Chewy and Petco. I also read an article this week sharing about a pro football team that has adopted a dog for emotional support. You may wonder why pro football players need an emotional support dog, but what it says to me is that everyone and anyone can benefit from having a dog, for emotional support or otherwise.

Yes, there are benefits to having other animals too like cows that provide milk or chickens that lay eggs, and other animals like bunnies and cats can be used as emotional support animals, as well as make good pets. But dogs are most like humans even though they’re fully animal, which helps us identify and connect with them easier than we do other animals, and there are quite a few dog breeds that are larger in size which makes them great as mobility support dogs and seeing eye dogs, enabling them to do things for us that cats, chickens, cows and bunnies just can’t do.

The idea or concept that I want to share about today though goes back to the belief that anyone can benefit from a dog and everyone should have a dog (except those who are deathly allergic of course). But a dog is about more than having an amazing bundle of snuggles in your life that looks like a dog, it’s about what else the dog brings to the table. Dogs are loyal, loving, protective, caring, sensitive, non-judgmental, forgiving and attentive. I don’t know many humans who fit that whole list, and most only fit one or two of those qualities. We talk about the (human) role models we have, whether they’re emergency service workers, made up superheros, or family members, and those are great people to learn from. But there’s obviously a lot we can learn from man’s best friend that despite having a relationship with them for hundreds if not thousands of years.

In many ways I’m humbled by the fact that a creature that has less intelligence than humans are said to, is often better able to navigate the world and relationships than we “wise” humans do. In talking with a friend this past week who lost their father in law, they commented how the best support they got was from their dog. So this week I encourage you to take a lesson from our canine friends and try a little harder to listen, love and care about the people that we share this world with.

What Do You See?

This morning I was doing a little more cleaning than I usually do on a weekly basis. As I tried to clean up some of the nooks and crannies that create lots of character and detail on older buildings like the one I live in, I was reminded how easy it is for some things to become “out of sight and out of mind” as the saying goes. It’s easy to pretend that the dirt couldn’t get under the stove or beneath the drawers in the refrigerator or that the tops of doorways collect dust because while you may see all of those things each day, you’re not seeing them from the perspective of where the dirt may be hiding. I’ve also said before how even a tiny bit of tidying or cleaning can make a huge difference, like just wiping down the cabinets with a wet cloth makes them look brighter, not to mention cleaner.

It got me thinking about what else is “out of sight and out of mind” or out of our line of sight or not how we see things. For example right now we’re seeing the leaves on many trees change color and drop off. We can easily forget what the trees look like without leaves of any color, and how little there really is to trees when they don’t have leaves on them.

Another example has to do with people. It’s really easy to see someone as a mother or father or accountant or teacher or baseball player or painter, and forget that they’re made up of many more layers, not to mention dreams, desires, passions and interests beside the thing they’re best known for or as. They’re also not the sum total of their failures, imperfections or inabilities. Just because your kid can’t do math doesn’t mean they won’t grow up to have great discoveries about an ancient civilization or lead a town. Just because you’re not the greatest cleaner doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, triathlete or gardener.

Don’t let yourself be so blinded that you can’t see the truth or the need or what’s really going on in your life, in the lives of those you love and the world around you.