Endings Aren’t The End

Just about everyone is done with this school year and moving on to whatever is next for them. This also means that some adults are moving on to other jobs after their contracts have ended, and others are moving on because the company has changed or they have changed. Endings are part of life even if we don’t want them to be, but it seems like these days more than ever we’re facing more endings because life changes and moves much quicker than it used to.

Sometimes an ending in and of itself is all you’re meant to do, for example when it comes to drugs (you don’t want to end your “relationship” with one drug just to move on to another one). Sometimes you may not feel like moving on quite yet (like if your heart is broken you may not feel like getting into a new romantic relationship).  But more often than not, an ending happens with the idea that something is coming next, like looking for a new job or starting a business after you lose your job.

It’s healthy to be able to move on in life. We shouldn’t be trapped by the past, stuck in our mistakes or limited by who we used to be. Life isn’t about endings, it’s about growing, learning, exploring, and thriving. And we can’t do those things without having some endings in our lives, even if those endings scare us a bit or bring us through a period of upheaval and frustration. So go ahead and celebrate the endings you are experiencing right now, and look excitedly to what the future could hold. The only way the future can be worse than the past is if you let it be or give up on life and living.

“Why would I retire? Sit at home and watch TV? No thanks. I’d rather be out playing.” Paul McCartney

Advertisements

Father’s Day Dreams

Father’s Day is Sunday in the US which has me thinking about dads and parenting.  It’s great for parents to be involved in their kid’s lives (it’s what they’re supposed to be doing); to expose them to what’s in the world, help them learn how to navigate interpersonal interactions, share your childhood stories and travels with them, and be active in their education. I wish more dads were active in their kid’s lives, having conversations with them and doing things with them and going to their school events and other activities. There’s also nothing wrong with substitute dads (uncles, friends etc.) being a male role model in a child’s life as well.

What came to mind as I was thinking about parenting and Father’s Day is the idea that parents have dreams for their kids. I think it’s great when parents have dreams and goals for their kids. Parents who have dreams and goals for their kids are consistently more active in their lives, inspire their kids to be more motivated, and inspire their kids to dream dreams too. The issue comes in if parents have dreams for their kids but they are so focused on the child attaining their (the parent’s) dream that there’s no other option or openness for their lives.

It may be that they decide they love the dreams you have for them and they feel inspired to see them through to fruition. But more often than not, the dreams you have for your child, as specific as they are (i.e. a football player, a runway model, a doctor etc.), only act as a foundational inspiration and starting point for them.  The good news is, the lessons they learn through the exposure you give them regarding your dream for their lives (i.e. practices and movies and events and books and lectures) helps shape them and give them tools and knowledge to use in their future, a future they dream up for themselves.  There’s nothing wrong with them having a dream that’s different from your dream for them, as long as everyone is working together to dream dreams that make each other’s lives and the world better.

So this Father’s Day I do encourage you to dream big dreams for your children, and to share those dreams with them. Then take the time to ask what their dreams are and how you can help them explore and/or fulfill those dreams.

A Reason for Retail

Today I’m again pondering the topic of retail as stores like Payless close and Apple struggles to get people in their store doors. Ultimately when it comes to retail stores, people have to have a reason to go to them. If we’re being honest that’s true for any business, virtual or with a physical presence. If you don’t give people a reason to shop with you or stop by your site or store, they won’t. Yes, that reason can be a simple as cute pet videos or to see the newest merchandise or check if something is in stock, but it’s still a reason.

You also can’t tell me that retail is totally irrelevant, one of the biggest companies in the world, Amazon, has not only started creating their own retail stores, they’ve also purchased Whole Foods, a grocery store chain. You don’t do that if you think there’s no hope for retail. Then you’ve got companies like Tractor Supply and Best Buy who are doing well, with both a retail and online presence, and doing well with both. One of the most notable changes with retail over the past few years has been the grocery stores who have invested in going online to offer shop-for-you and delivery services, so that you get the fresh food from the store without having to shop or even go to the store if you don’t want.

However, there’s another side of this, and that’s retail companies who are moving away from or have never offered online shopping. They have websites and social presences, but if you really want to shop with them or know what’s available, you have to go to the store. Personally I think that’s extremely risky and don’t think it’s the way to go. I’m not saying that mom-and-pop shops have to have a huge online store with all their products, but if you’re a chain or have more than one store, you’re really missing out on a big opportunity to make some extra sales that aren’t all that costly with as inexpensive as it is to run an online store in this day and age.

So what’s the answer to retail? It goes back to where we started this post: you have to give people a reason to stop in. Maybe that’s demos or repairs. Maybe it’s the opportunity to try things out or on. Or maybe it’s simply the thing retail has always been known for: being able to have whatever you need immediately and in exactly the condition that you’re looking for.

Retail is a great opportunity if your customers are looking for a specific experience, if they have a specific need that’s met well by having a physical destination for them to come to, if you can provide them something in a physical sense that can’t be replicated online, or especially if you and your customers enjoy being hands on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it all comes back to people. Every single sale may be represented by a dollar amount, but behind every dollar is a human, or many humans. It’s up to us businesses to care for those people, which means putting information, products, services, support and enjoyment in their hands, whether it’s through a retail store or online.

What’s your thought on the future of retail?

What’s In Your Future?

Abraham Lincoln, a very wise man and great leader, once said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Abraham Lincoln is one person who unknowingly can speak to how few years we can have, he was assassinated when he was only 56 years old.  Like many other people we’ve lost before they’re able to live out the full potential of their life we have to wonder what they would have done with those additional years and opportunities.

What is in your years? Are you spending all your time on things that won’t bring you to where you really want to go, living a life with no real future, spending time with people who depress you or drain you, working a job you hate and eating things you don’t like? All of these things make years really seem small and insignificant. I love filling my days with things that will help others, that will bring benefits and blessings to many people, and even things that will help me learn more about and improve myself!

Neither you nor I know what the future really holds. But I do know how I will get there- by living my life in a way that will bring me to an amazing future, not put me where I don’t want to be. By reading inspiring books, choosing my friends wisely, starting my own business and making good decisions about what I fill my body and time with, I know I’ll be a whole lot closer to a future I actually want to live in, than one that I can’t stand.

How about you? If you continue living your life as it is right now, what does your future look like? Is it a life with filled and blessed years? Or is it a life with many empty years? I encourage you to make decisions this week that will help you get to the future you want.

A New Plan for Parenting?

I’m always interested in how parents raise their children, how children grow up, how our past influences how we raise children and what the future might look like for our children and grandchildren. I recently read an article about Dutch families and what one parent found when she looked into studies that supposedly Dutch children were happier than any other in the world. The article doesn’t share anything surprising or odd, but it emphasizes some things we know are important but don’t always place a lot of priority on.

The Dutch have a serious focus on making sure babies get lots of regular sleep. They also spend a lot of time at home. They also spend a lot of time with both parents during the day, and breakfast is a priority for everyone to attend. As they get older, school is seen as important but not near the priority we place on it here in the US. Finally, all-weather biking is encouraged as both a means of transportation as well as an opportunity to develop resilience.

Grades don’t really mean a lot, no one asks me how many A’s I did or didn’t get in history or any other class. I can’t say that I feel my horizons were expanded by my education, but I did feel that the times with my extended family as well as the road trips we took were helpful to my upbringing. Another article helps bring home the point of exactly how smart the Dutch are with their parenting, because this article emphasizes the importance of community, teaching your kids to care, prioritizing service and purpose, all things this author-mother taught her 3 daughters who are heads of well-known businesses or highly successful.

Maybe it’s time we take a step back and rethink not only how much we’re trying to do with our children, but also ourselves. Is your day so crammed full that you don’t have a moment to care or help your community? When was the last time your whole family sat down together for a meal?  This week I encourage you to think before you book another something in your life or your kid’s lives, is it really necessary or just something you’re planning because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do?

Changing That Tune

So the big news this week in the business world is that Apple is changing (ending) iTunes. I’m not an Apple user, I don’t seem to think that way, but you have to respect them from a business sense with all that they’ve done and the very large and faithful following that they have. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on this change and how it could relate to your business.

I think the big change has mostly to do with the fact that iTunes is really getting unwieldy at this point with all that’s part of it.  As a name iTunes also is very narrow in focus to only music, and not the multimedia service that it has become.  Separating it into 3 separate components means that there’s more focus to each of them and Apple isn’t managing everything under one program. 3 separate apps has some benefits and some draw backs, people may not want to go to separate places to find their music, TV or podcasts.  But on the other side if you’re only into music you won’t see anything TV or podcast related (I assume).

There were some indications that Apple was moving in this direction considering their Apple Music subscription service, which was a good way to prepare their users for the change, without throwing everything at them at once. It also gave Apple a chance to test things out before changing everything.

Apple makes this decision knowing that they’ve got a loyal user base and they’re not going to lose people over this change. If it were a smaller company they may lose people who don’t want to deal with multiple apps, but Google (Play Store) and Amazon both have had multiple (separate) apps for years for their music and other media. So in some ways Apple is behind the trend on this. It’s also a smart decision because they’re seeing that sales aren’t coming from devices (they aren’t converting non-Apple users or people are keeping the devices longer perhaps), and that they need to boost the software/subscription side of their business.

So what about your business? Are you missing out on important shifts that need to be made so that you not only stay with the market, you keep your sales up? Are you missing out on easy sales? Are you planning changes that are a good fit for your business and customers or just changing things up without doing any real research? Change is good and healthy, but not without proper planning, preparation and communication.

Seeing Success

In one of the many inspiring emails I receive throughout the week I read this quote:

Danny Thomas said: “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”

I always love thinking about life purpose. It’s one of the best ways to be encouraged and motivated. Of course, if you don’t know what your purpose is, it can be one of the most frustrating things to think about. But lately what I’ve been thinking about more than life purpose, is what success really means. To some it means getting up in the morning. Others feel successful when they bring in millions of dollars for their clients. Still others find success in raising their family. Do you realize that success means a lot of different things?

In the quote Thomas is talking about true success, a win-win-win, when everyone wins or benefits from what’s going on. So not only is it important to know that true success includes everyone, it’s also important to know how you define success, and to be open to re-defining your definition of success. By not being open to redefining your success, you limit yourself to how successful you can become! So if you think that success is making a million dollars, but once you reach that you don’t rethink what success could be, you won’t ever make more than 1 million dollars. Likewise, if you think only you can be successful in life, and can’t help someone else be successful at the same time, your definition of success needs to be re-written.

So ask yourself today, what do I think success means? Do I need to redefine what success means in order for it to better fit who I am? (Am I thinking that I want my kids to be less difficult, but what I really want is 10 minutes to myself each day?)

You can have success, and you can have it today. It just depends on your perspective.

A Green Summer

Many of the special days and holidays this month have to do with the outdoors and/or nature. The first week of the month is national gardening week, it’s also fresh fruit and vegetable month, camping month, international mud month, and great outdoors month, not to mention we’ve got the official start of Summer. It’s really a great month to focus on the outdoors because it’s typically not super hot yet and yet it’s consistently nice enough that you can plan to be outdoors and only get bothered maybe by a fast summer thunderstorm.

I grew up with a nice backyard and two parents and a grandmother who had green thumbs, and other grandparents who lived by the beach, so I was raised to be outdoors and to love nature. I’m also a big fruit and vegetable lover, and always enjoy trying new recipes with them as well as going to outdoor farm stands. There’s something magical and exciting about being part of a thriving natural scene and eating food that you know where it was grown and that it was picked that day or that week.

The good news is that more places than ever are encouraging the creation of green space and protecting those that are there. Rooftop gardens aren’t a fad, they’re a thing that communities are embracing. I’ve always had plants indoors and while I may not have the greenest thumb I am able to keep a few alive and look forward to having a space in the future where I can grow more edibles like tomatoes, beans and more herbs.

Gardening outdoors and in helps teach kids some valuable lessons, from where food comes from to how things grow to what it means to care for something (or someone) to the impact of time and resources to patience. It’s also a fairly low investment option that can really show your kids some good progress and has rewards that they really appreciate (food). Gardening is also a great opportunity to spend time together as a family. Even if you can’t do it outdoors there are inexpensive smaller window boxes and pots at Dollar Stores and big box stores that are great to fill and put by sunny windows indoors. Gardening indoors means you can have the great greenery all year long no matter the weather and plants are good for helping to keep the air you breathe cleaner.

If you’re looking to do something as a family this summer, gardening or getting into the natural world are both great, and inexpensive, options. What will you do in the great outdoors or with nature this summer?

Building a Business Brand

This month I read the book The Brand Mindset by Duane E. Knapp.  Like the book I read last month, it was written almost 20 years ago, but many of the concepts in the book shed light on the brand discussion that we’re having today in ways that I don’t think we’re really embracing it.  It’s also of note that almost all of the brands that were profiled in the book are still in business today, and had already been in business for many years when the book was written.  Let’s take a look at few of the topics of the book and how they can help us with branding today.

Let’s start with what branding is.  Branding is important because it can help differentiate one company from another.  A brand reinforces that a business is more than their individual products or services.  It also can help us as business owners better understand and communicate with our ideal customers.

One of the interesting things that was brought up in the book is something that is typically more connected to the hospitality industry (hotels, theme parks etc.) than businesses as a whole, and that’s the idea of calling a customer a guest.  When you call them a guest you’re given the opportunity to treat them in a specific way, a way that you may not treat them if you just see them as a customer.  A guest means they’re welcomed and honored, and you’re there to make their experience a great one.

All of this is true.  Branding is very important as it reveals the business to your customers (guests), hopefully showing them a business they can identify with and can meet their needs, wants and desires.  However there’s another side of branding that’s a big opportunity, and that’s how you can create your brand to teach the people you connect with how to treat and work with you as a business.

Think about it this way: when you’re a guest at a hotel or even in someone else’s home you’re usually a little more respectful of their stuff, you are a little more polite, and you work harder to make sure that everyone is on the same page (asking about the potential of upgrades or extra towels or what hours there are snacks/beverages available etc.).  So if you want people to pay a fair price for your products and services, build a relationship with you to buy from you multiple times, not just rant online when something goes wrong, buy from you again even if/when something goes wrong, tell others about your products and treat you/your employees with respect, that’s something you could help establish and educate your potential customers about through the branding you develop.

What does your brand say about your business?

Together We Stand

Today being Memorial Day has me thinking about others. Yes, I’m thinking about the men and women of the military, but I’m also thinking about the bigger picture of everyone else that we share this world with. This got me thinking about what does military vs. everyone else in the US look like?

Well, a 2016 article states that less than 10% of the US population was a veteran (approximately 20 million people) and another article shared that approximately 1.3 million people were in active duty in 2016. Those numbers don’t sound very big, but what they don’t talk about are the men, women and children who are immediately related to someone in the military (by blood, adoption or marriage). Data from 2015 says that over 5 million people were considered immediate family to active service people, so doing very generous math, that means that possibly one third of the US is related to someone who was or is in the military. And if you go beyond the immediate family circle that number grows again.  And beyond that, even if you don’t have anyone in your family who is or was in the military, there’s a strong likelihood that you know someone who is or was in the military or someone related to someone in the military.

Since the draft ended in 1973, these men, women and their families have volunteered to stand up for each of us throughout the world.  Representing us, protecting us, and standing in for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Just like we make choices each day, they chose to join the military, not knowing how they’ll make an impact or if they’ll be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Today as you honor and remember the men and women who have sacrificed for our country I encourage you to think about how respectful you are of that sacrifice. Are you working to build relationships with others and a future we can all be proud of or are you helping create a world that will require more men, women and families to make sacrifices for the rest of us?