Embracing the Dog Days of Summer

August is here and with it come what are known as the dog days of summer. I love summer so I am excited about all of the aspects of summer, with the exception of humidity and hurricanes/tropical storms. What do ‘dog days of summer’ mean anyway? It originated from the days that follow the rising of the star Sirius, which is a very bright star and is often followed by heat and crazy weather. And today I thought I’d share some of the ways that I’m embracing summer’s ‘dog days’, as a dog and summer lover.

Of course one of a dog’s favorite things is food, and it’s something I love as well. Summer is full of all kinds of great produce and I’ve really been embracing all the fresh farm grown veggies that are available this time of year. There’s a direct connection for me between summer and food, because if you think about the road trips and vacations you’ve taken in the past, there’s a good chance there was food involved (both snacks in the car and farm stands at the side of the road), and if you think about all the summer picnics and barbecues and potlucks and family gatherings, all of them featured food too.

Next, dogs love to play and summer is a great provider of tons of opportunities to play. From frolicking in the sprinkler, chasing fireflies, riding bikes, swimming, building sand castles, and late night walks under the stars to games of volleyball and Frisbee, there’s a fun activity for everyone to enjoy. Summer is long enough that we can enjoy our favorite activities more than once or spread out the fun over the whole summer.

Finally, dogs are really good at resting. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve chuckled over the position a dog sleeps in sometimes. When they’re not in the regular curled-up position, they can be hanging off furniture or off their dog bed or with all their feet in the air and be perfectly capable of deep sleep. They’re also good at being able to nod off anywhere and anytime. The lazy summer days are a great time to get in some rest and let your mind and body slow down a bit and recharge for the next fun activity.

The next time you see a dog, maybe thank them for reminding you what you can do with the dog days of summer, days that not everyone enjoys.

Doing Business Battle

It’s a common refrain by now and we’re only a little more than half way through the year: I’m so done with this year. It’s been one challenge after another for just about everyone in a year that we had big hopes for. In recent years parts of our world have experienced challenges, but this year it seems like every part of the world is experiencing not only some of the same challenges, but others on top of that as well. It’s been a good year for some businesses and a very difficult one for others. Many of us have had to learn new ways of communicating, running our businesses, working together, and working with our customers and clients. This week has added another challenge in some people’s lives with the hurricane/tropical storm that knocked out power and blocked resources, but thankfully it moved through quickly so cleanup could begin and progress return.

I’m getting to the point where I don’t think I should ever use the words “this week I’m planning to get ahead” any more, but the bigger thing I’ve been considering this week has been about how do we battle all of the challenges thrown at us as business owners? I think it starts with us individually with our own businesses, but we can’t ignore or block out the rest of the world and those who we do business with or are also doing business.

I don’t know that there are any truly new businesses out there, most businesses have competition even if it’s in another state or country, they’re not the only business selling what they’re selling. Most industries have tons of competition, the auto and health industries just to name two, and each business owner has to decide what to do with that competition. I don’t think it’s necessary to niche specifically, but every business should have something they specialize in or are known for, even if it’s just their fantastic customer service that always goes the extra mile. So the first question is what are you bringing to the table as a business owner and business?

Second, we’ll only win the battle if we work together. That means having employees and/or suppliers who you have good relationships with and are willing to go the extra mile with you because of the relationship that you have built, and you know that you can trust them to have your back because of that same relationship. It also means seeing other businesses less as ‘the enemy’ and more as people who are part of your network. These are people who experience many of the same mental and emotional struggles that you do, who are also working to make a decent living for themselves and their team, and also want to provide a good experience to their customers. I do believe that we can pay it forward and we can work and learn together and not only make our individual businesses stronger, but also make customer experiences better and help advance the business world as a whole.

So how do we win the battle? As with many things, it’s something you have to fight on both an individual and team level. We’ll never be able to right the business world if we’re only in it for ourselves, and we’ll never be able to succeed if we don’t put our best foot forward. Take time this month to not only shore up your business and make it the best it can be, but also make an effort to network with other business owners and talk about how you can support each other personally and professionally so we can get out of this year stronger than we were last year.

Adult Lessons for Success

Do you enjoy naps? They’re one of the things that I’ve added to my life as an adult (starting in college of course) and something that I wonder why we got rid of in the first place. I don’t feel shame when I take time for a nap because I know that I’m listening to my body and caring for it in the way it is asking. And this is definitely healthier than responding to all the sweet cravings that I may have, although I don’t completely ignore them either. As it turns out, not only are there some perks to being an adult (being able to eat dessert first, taking naps, drinking coffee and alcohol, choosing what is purchased at the grocery store etc.), there are some good success lessons there too.

Sometimes you can start with the good stuff. One way to motivate yourself is to start with the easy wins, things you can clear off your to-do list very easily and get to not only celebrate getting stuff done, but visually see stuff getting done. I find it much easier to work when I have done all the little things like working through my most active emails or having a clean kitchen. I don’t see that as procrastinating, I see that as having peace of mind that I’ve attended to things that will nag at me and distract me until I do take care of them.

Listening to yourself and being attentive enough to catch when you’re struggling is another important key. Sometimes it’s easier to get back on task than other times, so it’s important to know yourself and know when you’re truly needing to take a break (go for a walk, do something else etc.) or when it’s just time to take a quick coffee making break and get back to work. If you’re really getting stuck and taking a break didn’t work and neither did pushing through, then you should accept that it’s time to move onto something else and come back to what you’re working on now when you’re more focused.

Yes, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with being an adult, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. What other good things have you experienced because you’re an adult?

Excited about Health

What does it take to get kids excited about being healthy? As we enter the last month of summer and head towards school, I think it’s an important conversation to have, especially with the state of the world and the great potential that many schools will again be remote this year and not in person as they traditionally are. To be clear health is a multi-layered thing, consisting of relationships, nutrition, exercise, activities, sleep, cleaning, the mind, spirituality and more.

Of course one of the most important keys that can clue them in to not only how important health is but also help create excitement around it, are the adults in their lives. If they’re around adults who demonstrate a curiosity for the world, take pride in having a clean house, make an effort to eat well, spend time with people who are important to them, and have other health practices that they participate in, it’s the first step. These adults should also not complain about or experience a lot of dread and resistance around being healthy, it should be a normal and welcome part of their lives.

It’s also important to find a happy medium between what kids think are fun and healthy and what adults think are fun and healthy, which in and of itself is another great lesson to be teaching them. The world has come a long way in the past decades to where there are lots of creative ways to have fun and be healthy at the same time, which does make it a lot easier. And the lesson of balance between the healthy and the special treats is an important one to apply here because even the most disciplined adults who are well known for their healthy living practices still have fun and do some of the stuff that’s not so healthy.

What about getting kids excited? It’s hard to get them excited about stuff often because you’re not seeing things from their perspective, or not explaining your perspective in a way they can understand, or not leaning in when they do show interest in something healthy. In part this can be addressed by spending time together trying different things or just noticing what they’re sharing about and who they’re admiring. But winning the battle can be more valuable than winning the war, so if you’ve got a kid who’s passionate about nutrition and relationships but doesn’t really like really active physical activity (i.e. prefers walking and light swimming), work with them on it to get them doing the activities they do enjoy more consistently.

Ultimately it comes down to encouraging the fire and passion they have and not trying to put it out because it’s not in line with yours or you don’t understand it. Health is a life long journey with many parts, and each day we can learn something new or do a little better if we choose.

The Bottom Line and Relationships

This month I read Relationomics by Randy Ross, which as you may have guessed from the title talks about the intersection of relationships and success/failure in business. In fact one of the first things the book talks about is how when organizations prioritize people before profits, there’s a great payout both relationally and economically. Of course many of us know there’s a connection between how people are treated, if people are treated as humans, if people are respected etc. and the success/failure of a company and/or its leader and the reputation it has. It’s not a new issue that some companies aren’t really in it for their employees, they don’t have a great (or even average) culture to support their employees, and the company and employees clearly don’t have an interest in investing in their customers, especially their long term ones. We’ve talked about all of this in various posts in the past, including in last week’s post, but this is one of those topics that isn’t likely to go away in my lifetime or yours, and this book adds some good insights to help further the conversation.

One of the things I really liked about this book were a couple of the ways he defined or approached some terms that we hear and may not always want to work on or have concerns about. The book defined transparency as “the willingness to be known by others.” It also shared that one of the biggest purposes of delegation can be (should be) to help others grow. It also shared that the goal of communication should be to seek understanding, resolve issues and move forward together. It can be intimidating to add transparency to our companies and our work, especially if we’re struggling, but I think most of our issues around transparency have to do with fears and the negative way that transparency is being approached by many companies, or even back to school when we were told to “show our work” at math. But if we’re truly in a healthy organization, it’s good to be known to each other so that we can support each other and bring the best of what we can offer to the table, rather than being forced into a position we hate and really aren’t good at and aren’t making progress at learning.

Directly connected with all of that is the idea the book shared about how you’ve got the choice to own the relationship with each customer. If you think about it like having a dollar bill in your hand, you can choose to do a lot of things with it: you can put it in your pocket or wallet and keep it there, you can rub it around in the dirt, you can use it to buy a snack or beverage, you can invest it, you can shred it, and you can throw it out a window while you’re driving. Two of those most people would point out as being a bad idea, and truly wasting money. The same is true for customer relationships: you can choose how you interact with customers, how you treat customers who have been with you for a long time, and the types of interactions customers have with the business.

Which brings us to the last point I want to highlight for today, and that’s regarding the choice we have to make about how we lead as the owner of our business. Do we commit to deal with each other personally, do we respectfully interact with each other, do we give frequent feedback to employees/team members that helps them gain direction and perspective and details, do we intentionally invest and engage or intentionally ignore as much as possible, do we ignore reality, do we explore our creative options, do we have humility and willingness to learn and grow, are we committed working together with unified purpose and both shared and individual responsibility? None of this is raised with the goal to shame, but rather to give hope that there are businesses out there who are getting on board and investing in both leadership and people who are interested in working together so that everyone can be successful and feel as though they’re part of something important and special.

What about you? What are you creating through the relationships you have, and how are those relationships impacting your bottom line and the success, happiness, stability and contribution of your people?

Future and Present Cost Considerations

My partner’s car decided it was going to pull a fast one about two weeks ago and ever since we’ve been sharing my car. It’s been less challenging than it could be because he’s out of work right now and I work from home some days, but it’s definitely been a challenge on multiple levels. The past couple of days I’ve really been thinking about it and experiencing some stress over how much my car has been used and how many miles have been put on it over these past few weeks because my partner isn’t quite as light of a driver as I am (he isn’t as conscientious about trips and planning ahead etc.).

But tonight as I was thinking about it and thinking about what I have to do or would like to do in the coming days and weeks which would involve my car, I decided I had to make a decision. Do I continue to stress about miles and costs and the impact this has had on my life and my car, as well as the costs and challenges we’ve had with his car, or do we do our best and move on and accept the costs and sacrifices and chalk it up to the experience of 2020? Do I regret the losses or do I just accept them and move forward committed to earning more and making decisions that hopefully won’t put us in similar positions in the future?

I think these are questions we have to ask, especially when it comes to successes and failures. Will a small cost now more than repay itself in the future? Will I likely regret not making these decisions or buying these things in the future? Will I end up spending more (time, effort, dollars, health, stress) in the future if I don’t move now? Is it smarter to wait to spend time/money or smarter to act/buy now? Will it really help anyone or anything if I wait? Is waiting ultimately you trying to avoid the problem/question/situation and hope it goes away, or are you truly able to put off a decision until a different/better time? Will waiting/acting now positively or negatively impact important relationships to me.

Some things are no-brainer decisions, but you have to be willing to ask those questions and learn the facts, and not just shy away from them or let the question run circles around your brain and decide you’ve got too much going on up there already. Regarding the car, I ultimately decided to start by being thankful that I have a car that works great and we can use. That doesn’t change or address most of the questions I have been considering, but it does give me a peace of mind to be able to make those decisions and immediately lowers my stress. What questions and decisions do you need to tackle this week?

What Are We Teaching?

There are tons of questions about what the future holds right now, especially for educating the next generation (and even some of the adults interested in furthering their formal education), thanks to the virus. If you’ve been reading along for a while now you probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of the current system we have, or maybe I should say the specifics that they’re required to teach. I think the concept of having kids come together to learn for set amounts of time is a good one, for many reasons including because it does typically work with the need for many parents to be out of the house at work, but more importantly because it should teach them many of the essential interpersonal skills they need when they’re adults.

But with all the questions being raised about the safety of crowds and large gatherings like school classrooms and the number of parents who say that they absolutely aren’t capable of really helping their kids learn this stuff, even though they’ve all been through it, I think it’s beyond time that we really sat down and talked about what had to change in the education world (especially with schools charging the same fees for not doing all the work or providing the same experience as in person). I think parents are right to be questioning the value of what their kids are learning both from an at-home/in school basis and in subject matter and with regards to finances too (paying teachers a fair rate and how much school costs for what’s provided especially if the students are at home).

This week two things that relate to this topic have been happening, first that I’ve been listening to an online seminar about wealth, and second that I’ve been hearing from some people about how challenged they’ve been lately by people. It got me thinking about what we’re really teaching our kids and what we need to be teaching them (and as part of that what you can teach them or make sure they’re learning even if you can’t teach them math and history well). So what do kids need to learn? They need to learn things like honesty, openness, communication, literacy, finances, interpersonal relationships, nutrition, basic health practices, consideration for others, hard work, and curiosity. You don’t have to be good at all those things, you can learn together, and there are many ways including TV shows and teachers/experts that can help you help them establish a strong foundation to build on in whatever ways they do in the future.

You can’t force your kids to become lawyers or doctors because it’s the “best future” for them according to all the experts, nor should your dream for them necessarily be the dream they pursue. Not only will you be prouder of them, I know they’ll be better set for success and they’ll do more to make the world a better place, if you instead help ingrain in them these values. What are you working on teaching your kids or learning with them so far this summer?

Employees for the Future

In July we’re taking a look at some things that have changed and/or become more important throughout the challenges, changes and transformation brought on by the virus and related issues. Last week we talked about being helpful, the second week we talked about how businesses can do a better job of working with customers, the first week we talked about communication, and this week as we wrap up we’re going to talk about employees.

So much has changed in the world over the past few months, from people working from home who have never done so in the past to people who are going to work as they’ve always done, but now it’s a possible health risk to do so. There have also been major changes and disruptions in the supply chain which created many questions employees couldn’t answer for customers, even when they usually could have in the past. It’s been an exercise in patience and in working in the unknown that few have experienced before. So what does it mean going forward?

One of the things I think it taught everyone was that an office wasn’t strictly necessary for doing many jobs. Yes, some companies need their employees to be physically present, but I think it opened everyone’s eyes to the fact that as long as you trust your employees and they desire to work from home, working from home at least part time is something that can be done going forward and it will help with stress and environmental impact and reduce budgets too.

Which brings us to the second point, and that’s the importance of communicating and truly partnering with your employees. Companies may not have known when supplies were coming in, but they certainly could give their employees daily updates about what they did know, what was changing or developing and hear from them about what they’re experiencing with customers and their personal concerns, thoughts and ideas as well. For many companies this was a first because they never really communicated with their team about what was going on in the company, and now they were forced to really partner with their employees and see them as team players. I would say that a good percentage of employees have always been willing to be team players, but companies haven’t been very good about tapping into that or working with them and as a result businesses often have high turnover and employees feel unappreciated, unheard and not cared for.

So what is next? My hope is that more companies will ultimately do a better job of talking with their employees and being better about working with them. Maybe this means working at least some from home, maybe this means education in areas that interest them and exposure to different parts of the company, and maybe this means different hours that work better with their home needs. I definitely think companies can and hopefully will do better about keeping them in the loop about what’s going on, do better about empowering them, do better with listening to them and hearing their concerns, suggestions and feedback based on what they see and experience with customers, and do better at treating them as valuable parts of a team.

What changes has this virus inspired you to make with your team?

The Importance of Awareness

How aware are you? Do you notice when things change on your street or in your home or building? Do you notice when people get hair cuts or wear something new and different? Do you notice the birds singing in the mornings and the animals scampering around outside? Are you able to pick up on the underlying issues or tensions with customers? Do you notice when coworkers have a lot on their plate or when things are happening with the bosses? Do you notice when your partner or kids are struggling? Sure, some of us are able to hide our challenges to a degree but there’s a lot that goes on in our lives and in the world as a whole that can’t be hidden, and it’s this stuff that we’re talking about. Why? Because the amount of awareness that you have can impact how successful you can be.

If you’re an aware person naturally you consider the costs to others over the benefits to yourself when you make a decision, you consider the impact of your choices on others, you take time to think before responding in emotionally charged situations, you own up when something is your fault, you address and work on things that go wrong even when it’s challenging, you think about the words you use before you say them, and you consider long term and short term benefits and costs when making big decisions, just to name a few.

What can being aware do for you and the world we all share? We can be more conscious about our decisions, for example choosing to do all our errands at once rather than spread out over several days to reduce emissions, or choosing the most green method of delivery for our online purchases. While we don’t know exactly what the future holds, being aware we can try to make decisions that we think will be better for us both in the present and the future. Being aware means being considerate of others and looking out for your elderly neighbors, or staying home if you feel sick rather than infect your extended family or coworkers. Being aware also gives you the opportunity to see and experience some pretty cool things that others miss out on because they’re not looking.

Being aware, much like practicing common sense, love and compassion, isn’t really difficult, and with a little practice you can turn it into a habit that will empower you to notice things that others don’t and take smarter actions and make wiser decisions for both your future and the future of the world we all share. Do you consider yourself an aware person?

Raising Happy and Wise Kids

This past week I got to experience a small slice of what used to pass for normal summer life when the main street near where I live closed the road for the restaurants to use, and families were able to come out, some with small kids and dogs and walk around and be out and about and eat. There were a few very young kids who were running with no care in the world and it was a hopeful experience and reminder of what we’re working towards and why. Which also got me thinking about what it means to be an adult and how important it is to find a balance between letting kids be kids and preparing them for the challenges they’ll experience and have to work through as adults.

One of the most important things for us to teach them is about working with others. How to love, listen, work to understand, what teamwork is, how to ask for help when you need it, and how to build win-win-win relationships. This virus has been a big reminder of and exercise in working with others as we’ve worked within our communities to support each other and talked with other medical communities around the world both to learn from them and support them. We would not be getting through this virus (or countless other situations) without the help of others, even if it’s just an ear to listen.

By talking through situations at the dinner or breakfast table, by showing your kids different cultures and parts of the world, by having get-togethers with family and friends, by committing to work and family consistently you’re showing your kids how to be a responsible adult and be part of the world that we all share. And pairing those experiences with lots of play time, family time and time to learn and discover who they are, your kids will hopefully grow up into well-rounded and wise adults who can also make a great contribution to the world. What are you teaching your kids about how to work with others?