Relationships and Responsibilities

Sunday in the USA was Father’s Day and one of the things that always comes up when parenting is involved is the topic of responsibility. Some parents are great and very responsible towards the human or humans they brought into the world, but other people aren’t able or willing to care for them as they really should. I think we all have room to work on living up to our responsibilities, but when it comes to parenting it’s often easier to see the failures and we expect a lot more from people who have chosen to bring another life into the world. I don’t think people should have kids unless they’re really ready to be responsible for them, of course sometimes nature knows better than us though. As a parent you’ve got a responsibility to not only provide for the physical needs your kid(s) may have, but also the emotional and social ones as well.

But what I want to talk about today isn’t really about the responsibility of parenting (although it’s an important topic), what I wanted to talk about was the topic of responsibility in relationships of all kinds. Any time you choose to enter a relationship, whether a working relationship with a company or client, or personal relationship you have a responsibility towards that other person or any other people involved to be your best self as part of that relationship.

Whether you know it or not by choosing to enter a relationship with that other person or people (or company) you and they agreed on one or several things that you would bring to the table as part of that relationship. Maybe it’s as simple as agreeing to meet on a regular basis for drinks, maybe it’s choosing to be faithful to each other as long as you’re together, maybe it’s to provide a resource or type of support, maybe it’s to make sales, maybe it’s to help each other become the best you can both be, or maybe it’s to provide some type of care for them.

First of all, are you bringing your best self to all your relationships? Or are you letting the pressures of life distract you and slowly work at destroying that relationship? Second, are you living up to the responsibilities you have towards that other person or people? You went into that relationship with a purpose and maybe even a goal in mind, and some idea of the work that would be involved to make that relationship a success. Are you actively working on living up to that purpose, goal and/or work?

I believe the world is better for all the relationships we have, but we all have some work to do with regards to them and the responsibilities we each have. What will you do the rest of this week to work on better participating in your relationships and responsibilities?

A Great Dad

Today in the USA is Father’s Day. I can never understand what it means to be a father, but I’ve seen some not so great dads and some very great dads. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts about what it takes to be a great dad.

Great dads begin with interest. Great dads are willing to listen to their kids, whether it’s sitting at the dinner table or on the phone as they drive home from their second job. They’re interested in knowing what is going on in their kids’ lives, and not just from a school grades or secondhand telling, but rather from the kids themselves. Whether the kids want to share about their make believe adventure they had that day, the video game level they’re on, or about the cute girl/boy at school, most kids have lots to say and are always looking for a willing ear to chatter to. You may not understand all of what they’re talking about, but that’s OK. What matters most is that you are showing them that you care about what’s going on in their life.

Great dads are willing to invest. Great dads make time to be part of their kids’ lives. Maybe that means standing in the back at a school play, staying until or arriving at halftime, doing homework, cooking together, or adventuring outdoors, but there are countless ways that dads can participate in their kid’s lives. Just about every kid I know would rather their dad show up for a little of their special performance or game, or do a little homework with them or read one book at night rather than not be there at all. Even that little effort can make a difference.

Great dads are honest teachers. I have met some really great dads, but I have yet to find a perfect one (since no one is perfect). Everyone messes up from time to time, and sometimes the disappointments aren’t because of something you had a lot of control over, no matter how hard you try. Kids can be wise beyond their years and are usually willing to forgive you if you have a good reason for them and don’t screw up in the same way more than a couple of times. Take time to explain to them what happened or why you’ve let them down (or why you are going to let them down). You don’t have to get into great details, but taking the time to explain things to them can make a big difference. Talking with them about how you navigate life’s challenges can be some of the most helpful lessons of their lives.

None of these things require dads to put lots of money on the table or be some superhero, but they do require dads to show up. The best thing you can do as a dad today (and everyday) is to be present for your kids.  What have you learned from the dads (and kids) in your life?

Challenged by Technology

Recently I’ve been reflecting on some of the challenges of being in business and being a customer as well. There are things we should be taking into consideration for regarding our customers and what we’re selling as well as how we’re communicating with them, especially regarding changes. This week I accidentally left my phone at home for a period of time which got me thinking about changes and the technology that’s so central to our lives now.

The first thing I was reminded of was the fact that there are and always will be changes happening. Sometimes changes happen that someone thinks is a really good idea but many customers hate, or the biggest issue isn’t the change, it’s the lack of communication about the upcoming change. Changes are a necessary and almost inevitable part of life and business but you can’t seriously make changes without notifying your users of those changes, especially if it’s something that may so (negatively) impact their business that they have to find a replacement.

The second thing I thought about was how instant our world has become. Technology has enabled us to connect within seconds with many parts of the world, whether we’re using email, phones, social media or messaging. It’s amazing and has so many benefits to offer the world from emergency situations to providing support and love even from many miles away. I’m not one of those people who sits at my computer all day and waits for an email so I can reply to it instantly. I do believe that we can (and should) have lives and not be attached to our devices 24/7. So maybe it’s a good thing if we all leave our devices home once in a while.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about ease of use. Technology in general does make it much easier to do so many things. But sometimes there are changes made or features added that make it harder to use the technology. There are also times when an update or upgrade is desperately needed but it’s not made (or the change that isn’t needed is the one that’s made). I think sometimes in our desire to be #1 or the most trendy or the one with the most features we forget about the people and how easy or difficult it is to use.

This week in your dealings with technology I encourage you to try something new with technology. Maybe you’ll find that the change isn’t as difficult as you thought it would be.

Start off Good

I was recently reminded that things don’t usually start off with problems and issues, they usually start of good and with peace. Relationships don’t begin with the end in mind, you are busy enjoying each other’s company. You don’t join a job thinking about how soon you’ll quit or be fired, you’re trying to do your best or make the most money possible. You don’t get a pet thinking about when they’ll die or run away, you’re excited to have a new best friend. You don’t buy a phone thinking about the next one you’ll get, you are excited for this one. You don’t start a business thinking you’ll sell it for big bucks or it’ll fail, you start off excited about providing a needed product or service with passion. I think you get the idea: almost always things begin for us on a good foot.

So what happens that things don’t work out as planned, fail, hurt and become screwed up? I think part of the issue is that we get overwhelmed by everything that goes on in life. It’s not really possible to avoid all that goes on in life, there are pressures that we’ll face and changes that we have no control over but impact us all the same. A big part of the issue though is we lose sight of the good that we started with. Yes, we will change as we go through our lives so it’s not about keeping everything the same or constantly reliving “the good old days”, but learning how to evolve the good we started with. The sooner you work on bringing those elements of good into your life and various situations on a consistent basis, the better everything will go. You’ll also be developing some really great habits that will help make your life more fulfilling and rewarding.

If you’re able to develop the habit and life skill of intentionally developing the good, it doesn’t mean that you won’t fail, have bad days, divorce, or experience loss; these things are part of life. But if you’ve got that core your likelihood and frequency of failure, bad days, divorce and some types of losses can dramatically decrease, and your overall happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment of life can increase. How do you get started? For a relationship it could be as simple as sitting down with your significant other, talking about what you’ve enjoyed in the past and why you fell in love with each other and discuss how to bring those feelings and types of experiences to life on a more regular basis now, and actively working on incorporating those feelings, actions, words and experiences into your lives today. It’s not a magic pill but can certainly make some of those tough decisions and discussions a lot easier and smoother because you’re not worrying as much about the foundation and able to work on the actual, present, issues.

So let’s start the discussion: what did you really enjoy in your past that you don’t do or have or feel as much or at all anymore?

Relationship Give and Take

Healthy relationships should have give and take, you and your partner should both contribute in different ways to the relationship and your lives together, neither of you should be the only one putting in effort. If that’s the case then it’s definitely not a partnership and not really a relationship. Yes there will be times that you’re giving most of the effort at home while your partner does most of the working, and there will be times when the situation is reversed. It’s healthy for both of you to see both sides of the world, so that no one gets too comfortable and doesn’t appreciate what the other does.

As part of that give and take you and your partner need to be communicating. I know it’s something I bring up frequently, but that’s because it’s something most of us struggle with. You need to be sharing what goes on in your day, how you’re feeling, your emotions, your dreams, your fears, things you need your partner’s input/effort/time/support on, and your appreciation for your partner and what they do. No, you don’t have to have super deep conversations every day but you should have them at the very least once a month (probably closer to weekly).

As important as communication is, it goes hand in hand with another very important thing: responsibility. It’s up to you as an adult to take responsibility for the things in your life that need doing. Don’t wait for your partner to tell you to do something or seek out constant affirmation and appreciation on the job you did. As I said there are things you should be doing or at least discussing with your partner, but many things in our daily lives don’t need that discussion, it just needs to be done for the house, kids, your partner or yourself.

This week I encourage you to look into the communications and responsibilities of your relationship and commit to doing better.

Yes and No in Business

I’m a big supporter of doing joint venture opportunities and giving your customers and everyone the most help possible. It’s great when you can share a resource you trust with a friend or client, they know that they’re getting something that you’ve checked out and so they have a little more confidence in deciding to get to know them. But when was the last time you said “no” in your business? I recently had a joint venture opportunity but when I went to check out their site and see what I would be partnering with I didn’t like what I found so I passed on the opportunity. Yes business is about making money and helping people, but you have to be conscious of whether you’re making a connection just to make the connection or if it’s really a good opportunity for you (or is going to reflect well on you and your business or not).

Yes, I did feel kind of guilty passing up what could be a great opportunity, and I know that other people did take advantage of the opportunity to partner with him. But as a business owner you have to have standards when it comes to your business and your customers. It’s about more than just having a set of rules or company handbook that talks about the polished information you’re “supposed” to say. It’s about doing what feels right for you, working with suppliers and people who believe in providing the same kind of experience you do, and have more or less the same outlook towards doing business as you do.

No, no business will ever be exactly what your business is or line up perfectly with your standards, but there’s a big difference between some compromises to make things work for everyone and sacrificing things that are really important to you and your customers. This week ahead I encourage you to take a look at what’s going on in your business and if it’s time to say no to some things. When you say no to things that don’t work well for you, you’re opening yourself up to things that do work well for you.

Personal Remembering

Monday in the USA we celebrated Memorial Day. It’s one of the days each year that we take time to stop and reflect on the men and women who have fought for our country, who still fight for our country and who have lost their lives fighting for our country. It was a pretty cloudy weekend where I live so there was a bit less revelry than I remember from past years, however, I didn’t do any of whatever there might have been because I spent the weekend feeling not so great and doing lots of resting.

But as I was reflecting on Memorial Day and how I spent my weekend, I was reminded that as much as Memorial Day is about being together and honoring the men and women who fought, those memories can also be very personal. Sometimes you don’t want to be with others, even those you love, you need to be alone to take the time to personally reflect and remember. Maybe it’s because your loved ones don’t feel the same way you do about that person or they’re not the sentimental type or they don’t have the need at this point in their life to reflect that you do. It’s not wrong to not take a lot of time to reflect deeply about someone you’ve lost every year, but if you don’t take any time for personal reflection on those you’ve lost and those who have touched your life ever, I think you’re missing out.

I don’t believe we should try to live our lives alone, but I also don’t think every second of our lives needs to be spent with others. There are things that we should do on our own without feedback or intrusion or direction from others. Some things are done both personally and publicly (like mourning), but some of us are willing to write off the need to do the personal side of things because we’ve done the public. Often we make that decision because we don’t want to feel those deep, sometimes painful, emotions that would be brought up if we spent time on our own. But if you want to experience the most life has to offer you need to take the time to get up close and personal with those sometimes uncomfortable feelings and activities.

This week I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the people who matter and have mattered in your life as well as what you want from your life in the future. We’re almost half way through another year, what will you make of the next 7 months?

We Remember

Tomorrow in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s an important day to remember and thank the men and women who have fought for our country, and their families as well.  As I think about Memorial Day of course there’s a feeling of sadness for all those people we’ve lost over the many years of battle, as well as the family members who never got to know those people.  War isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy, otherwise we might have to deal with more of it which wouldn’t be good.

But with the topic of loss on my mind recently in addition to tomorrow’s talk of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, it has me thinking once again about the loss that the world is experiencing when it comes to the past.  As much as I tend to think (and write) about the future and not about the past, or at least not about the past in the sense of dwelling on it, the past is important.  Every day more and more older folk slip further into Alzheimers and other memory-destroying diseases, every day seniors die, every day people who have great stories but have put off telling them die.  When you die or your memory is gone, your stories die, unless you’ve told them to someone or made some kind of record of them beforehand.

Memorial Day is all about remembering the men and women who have fought for our country, and I hope you take time tomorrow to honor those men and women.  But I can’t help adding in encouragement to also talk with your elderly relatives and friends, and even with the people your own age, and share your stories and hear theirs. Take time to share a story with your kids this weekend from the past about one of your relatives or friends and help them connect with someone they may never know. If you don’t think anyone wants to hear your stories right now you could start a blog and write all of them down for someday in the future, or you could hire someone to come and record you sharing the stories (which would be extra special for the future generations who will never meet you).  Not sure your stories are really worth telling?  I wish I could sit down with my grandparents and hear their stories, but they’ve all been lost to the sands of time in one way or another (3 dead, one with memory loss).  Their stories are special, their lives are special.  The future is built on those stories, and the relationships and events that they share about.  You and I are here because of things that happened many memories ago.

History, and the past, is more than just a random grouping of dates and facts (if that’s all it was, it would be pretty boring).  In reality history is made up of people who lived lives, enjoyed each other’s company, cried and laughed together, learned from their mistakes and had dreams, just like we do today.  Yes, sometimes remembering those we’ve lost can be painful, but the pain is a little less when we remember the good times and the stories they shared with us and memories we made together.   Who will you remember today?

Business Communication Fails

One of the things that makes this world that we live in so amazing is that we can have instant and easy communication with just about anyone anywhere around the world. All it takes is a way for both of us to connect, like an email or social media site or phone or calling platform.  Which means there is no excuse for not communicating.  Each day I wade through multiple emails and other communications that clearly indicate that the person who wrote them didn’t read my earlier reply to them, didn’t check for previous communications between us, didn’t bother to read the information I provided (whether it be a website or document or other communication), or didn’t bother to do a quick 10 second internet search, not to mention the spelling and grammar issues I see often.  And then there are the people/companies who don’t bother to communicate with their buyers, investors or users, they just make changes and expect you to be cool with it.

I understand the need for privacy when you’re working on something new and unique and the right of a company to make whatever changes they see fit to make.  However, not only do I think it’s not right to make those changes without notifying people first (whether it’s a change in price or offering, or app/site downtime), it’s also lazy, rude and irresponsible.  I’m not suggesting that you have to tell people all about the new idea you’re working on or exactly what you’re going to be working on during site downtime for example, but giving people 24 hours advanced notice before a price increase hits your credit card or downtime is happening allows people to prepare and make the necessary decisions.

It takes less than 15 minutes to create and write a very simple email, social post or other notification, probably another 5 to get it reviewed by someone else if necessary and about 2 seconds to send it out.  That’s less than 30 minutes of work to avoid pissing people off, avoid losing (long time) customers and make everyone’s lives run smoother.  Two businesses I work with this week decided not to send out this simple contact and one is losing a good portion of my business as a result.

So the question is: are you avoiding letting people know? Are you scared to let them know what you’re doing? Are you too lazy to keep people informed? Do you not care about your customers that much?  What is holding you back from being a communicating business and are you ready for the potential results?

The Next Generation

Early this week the world was met with the news of an explosion outside a pop singer’s concert in the UK.  Over 80 people were killed or injured, including young adults and children.  No one went to the concert asking to be killed, injured or scared.  They went to have a little fun with family and friends and hear some music.  It’s a tragedy any time someone is killed in such a violent manner, but especially when kids and young adults are killed. They are the future of our world, if we stop having babies or kill all of the young kids, there won’t be a future generation for anyone.

I don’t think violence is the answer, certainly not deadly violence if you’re part of the general population.  If you’ve got a need to be violent or let some steam out or shoot stuff, more peaceful methods like boxing or hunting can be practiced, or consider joining the military (all kinds of good men and women are always in need).  There are better ways to work out your anger or frustration at your life, others or the world in general than blowing things (and people) up.  There are also lots of needs in the world that you can redirect your energy into making a positive difference.

But more than being about the tragedy of another group of people getting killed or how the world is continuing to be bad instead of working on their good, this post is a reminder to live your life, to love your kids, be good to yourself, and enjoy each and every day.  One way would be to support one charity each month that works with that next generation, one that will help them get the education, health, or support they need to grow up to be a great generation.  Another would be to encourage the kids in your life, whether church members, extended family members, neighbors or even your own kids to be who they were born to be, to live their childhood, to enjoy life and to be a person who makes them proud to be themselves.  It’s never too early to start making a difference in the world, what kids are you most proud of?