The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Christmas

We’ve all been there, the Christmas that we’ve all spent alternating time in the bathroom or unable to get out of bed. It’s not the way we want to spend the holidays, but between the sometimes dramatic weather changes, the foods we’re eating that we’re not used to eating and all the people we’re exposed to, it’s almost surprising that we’re not sick over the holiday season more often. I can remember a couple of Christmases that I spent sick or someone else in the family was sick, you probably can too. It’s annoying that the average ones don’t really come to memory, but the really good ones and the bad ones do.

In some ways this is a reminder of our humanity, that as much as we try to make things perfect or be perfect, it’s just not possible all the time. Of course there are things you can do like making sure you’ve planned things in advance, you’re getting plenty of sleep, and eating well whenever possible. It’s also a reminder that as much as we want this time of year to be special, life is still moving on and part of life are the challenges.

Maybe this holiday season you’re feeling like it’s just not going your way. Maybe you’re without a job and can’t get gifts like you usually do. Maybe a family member is very ill or going to die soon, or a friend or family member died recently. Maybe you’ve gone through some major life changes like a divorce or big move to a new country. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that this isn’t going to be your favorite holiday season and that you’d rather stay low-key than go all out. Maybe you’re even going to keep the food in the freezer for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  Sometimes the best ways to celebrate are the quiet ones.  Maybe this won’t be one of the best Christmases, but it’s still early enough for you to decide how it’s going to end up, or at the very least the attitude you’re going to have about how it goes.  What are your most memorable Christmases?

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The Feelings of Business

Can you believe we’re rapidly coming to an end of the 2017 holiday season? I know we’ve got 9+ shopping days left before Christmas (depending on when you’re meeting friends and family), and we’re a couple of days into Hanukkah, so there’s still time to connect with your customers and help them have a great season of celebration with their family and friends. As I was thinking about the holiday season and all that goes on, I came back to one of the central themes: emotion. The holidays are filled with laughter and joy, with sharing and caring, with catching up and reminiscing, and sometimes with some tears. I can’t say that I’ve ever been through a Christmas that didn’t evoke strong emotions in me.

So what emotions do your customers feel when they look at your website? What do they feel when they see your name in their email inbox? What do they feel when they see a post from you on social media? What do they feel when they get a package from you? What do they feel when they have an issue or question?

Are they excited to peruse your website? Do they eagerly anticipate your next email? Do they rip open your packages because they can’t wait to get to your products? Do they take the time to leave positive reviews everywhere? Do they feel confident that if they have an issue you’ll help them take care of it? Are they willing to wait for service or a table because they know the wait is always worth it?

Or is it the other way around? That they dread dealing with you when there’s an issue? They delete your emails more often than not because they’re not interesting or informative? Do they leave your website after a few minutes there because they’re annoyed or confused or frustrated? Do they tend to choose your services only as a last resort? Do they unfollow you on social media because they’re tired of you only posting sales content?

In this season where we spend so much time talking about our feelings and experiencing life with each other I’d encourage you to take a minute to talk with some customers and some employees, and check out what’s being said about your business online and find out what kind of emotions your customers (or past customers who haven’t been back to you in a while) are feeling about your business. Are they the feelings you want them to have?  If not you’ve still got a couple of days to make changes for this holiday season, not to mention a new year coming up.

Forgiveness for the Holidays

We’re a little under two weeks away from the celebration of Christmas and we’re a few days from Hanukkah.  This month is so full of celebrations and gifting, something I’m so thankful for because it’s a good reminder that we’re not alone in this world and how important it is show our appreciation and love to those in our lives.  If you’ve been thinking about whether or not to fight the crowds and get one last gift for someone or to skip it, I’d encourage you to go for it.  Don’t let Scrooge win this year.

Let’s talk about one of the best gifts you can give yourself or anyone this year, or at any time: the gift of forgiveness.  Forgiveness isn’t something trivial that we throw around like we do the word love, in fact we’re pretty stingy with it, mostly because we’ve been hurt so many times, often by the same person, and it feels like it might be a waste of time to forgive them or anyone.  So don’t feel bad if you’ve struggled to forgive before.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that it never pays to hold a grudge.  Often it just becomes a distraction or sticking point that you can’t get over.  You think about it over and over again, stopping you from moving forward and onward with your life.  They may be moving forward in their life, whether you’ve forgiven them or not (and may not care if you have or haven’t forgiven them), while you’re still in the past withholding forgiveness.

Which means that usually the first person that needs forgiving is you.  We’re harder on ourselves than on anyone else and we’re our biggest critic too.  If you really want to be free to be all you can be this coming year, it starts with learning to forgive yourself, because without the forgiveness moving on to bigger and better things won’t be easy, if it’s even possible.

So go ahead and work on forgiving yourself or someone else this holiday season; it won’t be an easy gift but it will be the best one you’ve ever given.

Christmas Around the World

One of the things I love about Christmas is that it’s a very universal holiday, there are more people around the world that celebrate it than any other holiday, and we do it all on the same day.  To celebrate that unity today I thought we’d take a look at some Christmas traditions and how to say Merry Christmas in 25 languages! It’s a great opportunity to get in a little education and try some new things with the kids, too.

Traditions:

Germany: Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas eve, the first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift.  They also leave a shoe outside the house on December 5th, which is filled with sweets over night if they’ve been good or a tree branch if they’re not.

Columbia: Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. In honor of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and front yards.

Argentina: Their celebrations typically include the boots of Father Christmas, red and white flowers (the poinsettia), and putting cotton on Christmas trees to simulate snow. But most family gatherings take place on Christmas Eve, with huge feasts, gifts exchanged at midnight, and children going to sleep to the sound of fireworks.

Iceland: Christmas is often celebrated by exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate.

Egypt: fruitcake is believed to have originated here, as a necessary item for the afterlife (some say that it may last that long as well.

Greece: the tradition of mistletoe is said to have started here, as an unspoken promise to marry the one you’ve committed to.

Brazil: children receive gifts from the Magi on Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, as well as from Papai Noel on Christmas Eve. However, rather than a chimney, Papai Noel enters through the front door and travels by helicopter.

England: the tradition of sending cards was made popular by John Calcott Horsley in the late 1830’s, which quickly traveled to the US.  Caroling also was popularized in England, started by wandering musicians who visited the rich, hoping for a little Christmas gift.

France: one of the big traditions in France is the burning of the Yule Log, which occurs from Christmas to New Year’s Day, following what ancient farmers did in hopes of having a prosperous next year.

Merry Christmas:

Armenian – Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand

Basque – Zorionak eta Urte Berri On

Croatian – Sretan Bozic

Choctaw – Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito

Dutch – Vrolijk Kerstfeest

Feline – Mew Mew Meow

Filipino – Maligayang Pasko

Finnish – Hyvaa joulua

French – Joyeux Noël

German – Fröhliche Weihnachten

Greek – Kala Christouyenna

Haitian – (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri’cho o Rish D’Shato Brichto

Hawaiian – Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou

Icelandic – Gledileg Jol

Irish – Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Indonesian – Selamat Hari Natal

Italian – Buon Natale

Japanese – Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto

Latin – Natale hilare et Annum Faustum

Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Russian – Pozdravlyenie s Rozjdyestvom i s Novym Godom

Swedish – God Jul

Spanish – Feliz Navidad

Thai – Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas

Yoruba – E ku odun, e ku iye’dun

Welsh – Nadolig Llawen

You can see a video with many of them here.

What are your Christmas traditions?

The Potential Problem with Taking a Holiday Break

One of the things I work on businesses with is helping them stand out. It’s easy in this day and age to set up an online store and sell some stuff, and it’s even pretty easy to set up a physical business and sell stuff (especially with all the open store fronts). Almost anyone with decent computer experience can sell online. Which is why it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re unique, you’re likeable and you give people a reason to shop with you.

I love to read and I subscribe to over 100 daily, weekly or bi-weekly newsletters on business topics, not to mention the newsletters I get, as many people do, from my favorite stores and other interests. I know that over the past month the number of emails we’ve gotten has been increased, from the election to Black Friday to now the Christmas and other December celebrations. I know how busy people are and how many things we squeeze into this month.

But over the past week I’ve been getting some newsletters that have stated something along the lines of: ‘this is the last time you’ll hear from us until the new year’ or ‘this will be an extra short newsletter.’ Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important that we respect our customers and what they’re focused on, and we as business owners need to take time to be with our families and friends too. But if you’re doing things right you’ve got people who are anticipating, maybe even eagerly anticipating hearing from you, even though it’s the holidays.  Hearing messages like these make me feel disappointed and sad that I’m not getting what I’m used to getting from the people and businesses I care about.

I would encourage you to really take time to consider what the right balance is between taking a break for the holidays and continuing to give your fans, readers, tribe and customers the quality and quantity that they’re expecting from you. You’ve worked really hard to get to this point in the year, don’t give up on loving and caring for your customers at this point.

Ready for a Revelation?

As we head into the last month of 2017 and think about 2018, this month the topic we’ll be spending some time on is the topic of revelation. I think this is an important topic for us to consider for all aspects of our lives, past, present and future. Let’s start with what revelation means, and then we’ll talk about why we’re discussing it this month.

The dictionary says ‘revelation’ means: “the act of revealing or disclosing; disclosure. Something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized. Exposure.” Sometimes when there’s a revelation it’s not really a good thing, or the revelation reveals something negative that’s been hidden, while other times when there’s a revelation it’s like the sun has finally come out after weeks of rain.

Over the past few years we’ve seen more examples of honesty and openness between people and in business. We’re doing more fact checking, asking more questions, working through the traumas and challenges of our pasts, building relationships and friendships with people who are supportive and not draining, looking for the truth, and getting really good at knowing when there’s BS around. We’re less patient with lies and partial truths and want more authentic, organic, conscious and future-sensitive choices. There’s a clear movement towards being a more “revealed” world.

What about us though? Do we want revelation? Some of us are very eager for revelation, we want to work through what’s frustrating us or holding us back, and we don’t like being where we are, or we just want to be somewhere better. Some of us aren’t in need of personal or professional revelations, but we are on board with the trend towards revelation in the world at large. And others are fighting the revelations as hard as they can, they prefer to be in the shadow world, out for only themselves and not caring about others. But I believe if we really want to leave the world a better place for the next generation, we have to be open to, and seeking out, revelations, and be open to the changes that might have to happen as a result.

What about you? Are you in need of a revelation today?

Memories of Holiday Stories

The holidays are officially here! One of the things I’m thinking about this month is making memories. So today I thought I would share about one of my favorite memories from my childhood: holiday books. If you’re looking for a new story to read with your kids, here are some of my childhood favorites as well as some new holiday favorites (all the links are Amazon links for convenience, none are affiliate links).

The Mitten, Jan Brett

Annie and the Wild Animals, Jan Brett

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Jan Brett

The Legend of the Poinsettia, Tommy dePaola

The Night of Las Posadas, Tommy dePaola

The Friendly Beasts, Tommy dePaola

Night Tree, Eve Bunting

Christmas Tapestry, Patricia Polacco

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

Ox Cart Man, Donald Hall

Brave Irene, William Steig

Winter Story, Jill Barklem

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, Alice Schertle

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving Paperback, Jan and‎ Mike Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree, Jan and‎ Mike Berenstain 

The Christmas Wish, Lori Evert

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, Mercer Meyer

Tacky’s Christmas, Helen Lester

Biscuit’s Christmas Storybook Collection, Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Cranberry Christmas, Wende Devlin

Bear Stays Up for Christmas, Karma Wilson

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas, Madeline L’Engle

One Wintry Night, Ruth Bell Graham

Clifford’s Christmas, Norman Bridwell

Fisher-Price Little People Christmastime is Here

Llama Llama Holiday Drama, Anna Dewdney

Best Christmas Book Ever, Richard Scarry

Christmas Mice, Richard Scarry

What are your favorite holiday stories?

The Question of Customer Loyalty

As we head into what is the busiest shopping season of the year for many businesses, I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about customers and customer loyalty. As a business you have to have customers, otherwise you won’t be in business very long. The next thing to consider is whether most of your customers are repeat customers, or if you offer things that people buy once or extremely rarely. If you offer something, say heart surgery or roofing, you probably will ever work with someone once. But if you offer something like ice cream or hair cuts, and you’re not having repeat customers, something probably has to change. Here’s what one very successful entrepreneur had to say:

“Customers aren’t loyal. And it’s a waste of time trying to convince them to be….Life changes. Priorities change. Competition changes. In reality, almost no one is 100% loyal….Fact: 87% of a brand’s customers don’t stick to just that brand. They’re promiscuous at best. And if they’re offered something better, they’re gone.” Ramit Sethi

Those are some pretty serious percentages. So the question becomes: do we even try to gain customer loyalty? The first answer that comes to mind is that if you don’t give any effort to making your customers come back, few probably will. The second thing to consider is that it’s consistently proven to be cheaper in all ways to keep customers coming back than to gain new customers. The third thing to consider is that even if you have a service or product that’s purchased maybe once in a lifetime you can still gain loyal customers, it’s just not the same type of loyalty. Fourth, if you ask employees who really love your company about their favorite customers, they’ll often tell you that they enjoy connecting with the “regulars.” Fifth, loyal customers are those who share about your great products or services with their friends, and/or leave you nice testimonials you can use to get more customers.

One thing to remember is that everyone is human and everyone goes through changes in their life. So it’s really unrealistic to expect that every customer would stay with your business and your products and/or services for the full duration of their life (or their need for that product/service). But my answer is that we should work on making customers loyal, or at the very least, increasing the amount of times they purchase from us. Whether you use email newsletters, social media, events, physical mailings, a blog, a loyalty card or even just new products or services that are in line with those you already offer, there are tons of ways that you can build loyalty and encourage repeat customers. What are your favorite ways to connect with your customers and build relationships with those who are loyal to you and love you?

How Do You See Success?

Today I want to talk about an avenue to success that not everyone considers: doing the right thing. I know sometimes it seems like going the easy way, buying your way in or cutting corners is the way to go, and it will work for some people, but not in the long run and not always well. In fact, you can make more enemies and have more issues doing it that way than going about it the right way. I’m not saying that the right way has to be the hard way, but rather that doing the right thing, respecting other people, knowing when to stop and working towards wins for everyone will get you a bigger and better win every time.

There have been many stories in the news over the past 6 months, and even for many years past, of not-so-stellar examples of society both in individual people and in companies. I doubt that’s going to change any time soon, there will always be people who think that it’s fine to cheat, lie or steal. But lately the tide has been turning and the people who have been hurt are speaking up, and it’s great to see them coming forward. The one thing that’s not in the news as much as it should be are the people and companies who are going above and beyond, or just even doing the right thing, probably because it’s not really “interesting.”

So while doing the right thing and treating others with respect and dignity, giving them the opportunity to say yes or no, partnering with them, listening and talking, and working towards solutions together may not be glamorous or particularly news worthy, you’ll be able to create success that you feel good about, with the side benefit being that often they’ll be successful too. So how do you look at the steps to success? Do you see the sales you make in your business or at your job as an opportunity to work together with a customer? Do you see the challenges and issues that come up with your family and in your relationship as an opportunity to work together with your family to a solution that works for both or all of you? Do you see the choices you have to make as opportunities to become better and stronger, learning even if you fail? How do you see success?

Thankful for Things

The official holiday of Thanksgiving is over and people around the US and the world are diving into Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, many in the US starting off the season of buying and giving with some purchases yesterday on Black Friday. So today I wanted to talk about something that we adults don’t always talk about, but the kids tend to bring up when asked about what they’re thankful for: stuff. It may be more mature to talk about the other things in life we’re happy for like our partners, family, jobs and having a roof over our heads, but most of us have a lot of stuff to be thankful for as well. I’m talking about the books, the clothes, the food the dishes, the technology, the education, the size and quality of our homes and more.

I think we’ve wrongfully put some shame around being thankful for the things we have. Sometimes when we talk about things it becomes bragging, but that’s not what I’m talking about. And while it may not be healthy to be focused on having things and getting things, the fact is we have things. Are we thankful for them? Because I think we should be.

Thanksgiving may be over but we’re heading into a season that does focus on things, so today I would encourage you and your kids to spend time thinking about the material blessings in your life and really finding gratitude in them. Be proud that you’ve earned the money to buy them, appreciate all that you see around you and make sure you express a prayer of thanks or thankful meditation around all that you’ve been blessed with.