The Challenge and Opportunity of ‘Different’

With the Royal Wedding there’s been a lot of talk about changes and that a new era is beginning. I’m all for necessary changes, and I think of all the kingdoms/rulers/presidencies of the world, the Royal Family has managed to navigate the world and lead their country pretty well through the many different ages that they’ve been in charge in England. Parents too have lots of changes to navigate, babies have far different needs than teenagers, so parents are very familiar with the concept of change through the ages. As I was thinking about changes the thing that popped into my head was the phrase that adults say to kids (and other adults) from time to time: “yes, but that was different.”

It’s not an easy lesson for kids to learn (or parents to teach), that different rules apply to different situations, different times and different people, let alone that things could easily have changed between the last situation that was similar and the current one that’s being discussed with the child. It’s an important lesson to learn because it helps children learn to deal with change, to adapt, to plan ahead and to consider all the options and opinions, skills that will serve them well when they’re adults.

It’s really a two-fold lesson though, because it’s a reminder to not judge everyone or every situation the same, and that while you can lean back on past lessons, you have to be open to things being different, even if they look similar. Yes, the Royal Family could easily have said that they wouldn’t go in that direction and Prince Harry had to choose someone more in line with what was expected or tradition. And I can’t say that there isn’t another woman somewhere around the world that would also be a great match for him, but I think that the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex are well suited and can do more to help the world, and the Royal Family move, in a very healthy and prepared direction for the future.

The good news is that even if you’re an adult there’s still time to work on learning life’s lessons and adapting to changes. You don’t make one decision in life that says you’ll never ever learn lessons or never change, you can make a new decision each day on how you’re going to live your life and what you want your future to look like. Don’t let “different” hold you back or scare you, be willing to embrace all that life gifts you.

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Excited by Changes

If you’re subscribed to some of my newsletters you know that I’m working on making some changes. Why? Because I realized that I do a lot of writing, and wanted to give my newsletter subscribers something different than what I do on the blogs. Even if the newsletter writings tend to be shorter than the blogs, it’s still paragraph form writing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing and that’s not going to stop anytime soon, but I wanted to offer something different.

The interesting thing about this process of deciding what else I could share about, is that I realized I wanted to do something different too. That yes, the change is meant to benefit my subscribers most, but it’s good for my creative muscles to be doing some different things. It turns out I also look forward to doing the newsletters more, which means not only better insights, but also newsletters that take less time to put together in some cases because I’m more motivated and inspired.

So why am I sharing all this? Because sometimes changes can be good! It’s OK to admit you need a change as the business owner, to encourage your customers to choose the ways they want to work with you that work best for them, and to change the things you offer even if they’re not outdated (yet). It’s partly about being innovative, partly about staying ahead of the competition, and partly about keeping your customers engaged.

Sometimes change is necessary (Facebook data anyone?!) but other times change is just part of who we are and the growing process that each and every one of us go through personally and professionally. There’s nothing wrong with it and it can even be the motivation, inspiration and energizing. Is there change you’ve been debating in your business? If so I encourage you to take steps to make those changes before the end of the week.

Rethinking Change

As we enter this new month I’m thinking about our new topic of the month and about the whole month of fresh opportunities that lies in front of us. Lots of times we hear that we should be making changes or doing things differently, or we personally feel frustrated or stuck where we’re at and feel we should maybe be doing something different, or we see what’s going on in the world around us and think that we should be doing something different because everyone else is doing something different. It’s healthy to make changes when changes need to be made and it’s good to take some time to experiment and try new things too. But sometimes I think we make changes for the wrong reason or don’t make the right changes.

One important step to take when you’re considering changes is to consider what change options you’ve got, including which are truly feasible and which are either not a good fit for you or not possible at this point of your life. The other thing that I don’t think we take enough time to consider is why we’re considering the change and what we hope to get from the change(s). Asking these questions, especially the second, may show you that the changes you were considering won’t really get you to what you really want. And knowing how much most of us love making changes and going through the change process, why would we bother making changes that won’t get us what we want?

So instead of just saying that you feel like you need to make changes or focusing on the issue, ask yourself first what you’re really wanting, what’s missing or what would help you feel more fulfilled. Once you know what the end game is, you’ll be more prepared to consider what changes really could and should be made, and you’ll be more motivated to work through those changes and get to your goal.

Time for Changes

In thinking about Daylight Savings Time that the US adjusted to this past weekend I thought we might talk about the idea of it being time to make changes. I never can quite remember which way the clocks are supposed to go when they switch, I’m very thankful for technology that does it by and large for us now. Sometimes change is like that: we just feel the need to make changes but we’re not really sure which changes to make. So today I thought we’d take a look at some changes you can make if you’re not sure what changes you’re in need of, and until you’re certain of what changes need to be made in your life.

Clean and organize: many of us are blessed to have lots of stuff and lead busy lives, but with lots of stuff and busy lives it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to clean and get organized. Many of us just do the minimal to get by each week and end up one day with a big pile of stuff that needs to be gone through and more dust bunnies than real ones hopping around. Cleaning and organizing is one way to clear out some of the old and make room for the new, a symbolic welcoming of whatever changes your life is bringing.

What you eat: there’s never a bad time to make a decision to eat healthier, and today is no exception. But you don’t just have to change to healthier food, you can choose to change and try new foods and recipes too. There’s nothing wrong with having some go-to foods that you love, but it’s often fun to try new foods and recipes and mix things up a bit. Maybe it will give you the chance to learn a new cooking technique or try an ingredient you’ve always wondered about but never really knew how to put it in a dish, and this would be the chance to do either or both.

Consideration for others: one of the biggest areas of our lives that could use some changes for most of us are the relationships we have and ways that we interact with others. Maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of being on your phone at the dinner table, you think or say really nasty things about the other drivers on the road, you talk with your mouth full, you don’t give your significant other much of your attention, you ignore employees under you or belittle them, or you haven’t made time for making new friends and relationships or learning about other cultures. It’s not about being best friends with everyone but about respect, learning to listen, being open to others being different than you, and doing better at sharing the space we all live in.

What changes are you feeling inspired to make in your life?

Secrets to Success: Change

The path to success isn’t always an easy one, and sometimes there are things that conspire against people in becoming successful. One of those things for some people is gender. While women have made great strides over the years, many women still struggle to be successful and have difficulty growing into positions that have been traditionally held by men. With this Thursday being International Women’s Day I thought we’d talk about one of the steps that has been key to women having more success: change.

Off and on over the past two months we’ve taken a look at some important steps that can help anyone get to success, and in many cases if you want to be successful there has to be changes made. In many cases what got you to point “A” won’t get you to point “B” let alone point “M.” And the only way that women can lead more companies or be paid better or be more respected or not feel so much pressure based around their gender is change.

There are many reasons why we shy away from change including that it can be difficult, in many ways we like what we’ve got, we’re not sure the changes will really be worth it, and we’re not sure we have the capabilities to change. Change can also be challenging because even if someone wants to change, the changes they want to make will affect others and others don’t necessarily agree with those changes. A prime example is politics, one group wants certain changes to happen because they think they would be very helpful, while the other group definitely doesn’t want to see those changes put into action. What’s one to do?

In the case of personal change the first person to think about is you. As long as the changes you plan to make won’t hurt yourself, your kids or partner or immediate family and friends, then you should go ahead and work on those changes. If the changes you want to make will have an affect others beyond your immediate scope of influence then you have to think about if there will be more wins as a result of the changes or if the future won’t be a better place as a result. In the case of women being able to gain positions of power in companies or getting paid better or being more successful, I would say that in most situations it’s a good thing, especially with regard to the pay aspect because there are more single moms than there are single dads who are trying to care for a family on only one income.  As far as success goes, I think anyone should be able to reach whatever level of success they dream of and are capable of achieving. I don’t think we should limit someone’s success based on their culture or gender or if they have a family or not.

Are you so focused on seeing things in only one way that you can’t see the benefits of change, especially when it comes to success? If so I encourage you to open your mind and do some research about the people, both men and women, who are achieving success today throughout the world. You may even learn something that can help you be more successful.

Time for Transition?

This week I’ve been seeing some limos on the roads and talked with a friend who was looking into limos for her daughter’s prom and it got me thinking about the taxi/limo/Uber/Lyft etc. debate. I do support public transportaion, I think it’s great if we can travel in a way that looks out for the world that we all share. I do personally own a car and like driving. I have taken people to the airport or train station, but really appreciate when they find a ride back from there. I definitly think there are some benefits to having someone else do the driving, especially when you’re not familiar with the area. We’ve talked about the people side of this topic, let’s talk about the business side. Do all of these vehicle businesses provide a service? Yes. Historically is this a financially successful industry? Yes. Has there been competition ever since the wheel was developed and people started giving/getting rides to/from each other? Yes. OK, so we’ve established that this is not only a business category, but really an industry that has been around for quite some time.

Let’s talk about the debate. Yes, I can see the frustration from the side of the taxi/limo businesses because now the competition has greatly increased and they’ve lost a good portion of the control over the employees and the services that are provided. However, and here’s the reason that I don’t really side with the taxi/limo businesses in this discussion, there really hasn’t been anything different done in the industry. The premise is still exactly the same: people are contacting car/van drivers for rides to and from places. The two things that have really changed is that people can now order a ride through an app on their phone and there are a lot more drivers available.

If we look at it from an overall business perspective I would say that the industry as a whole is better off financially and there are more people than ever requesting rides. What the taxi/limo businesses really have to be mad about is the fact that they refused to advance like the world was asking them to and needed them to, and now they’re trying to catch up. I don’t know if they ever will but it’s a good warning to the rest of the industries (and businesses) that haven’t caught up with the advances of technology or the networking that’s available or the way people want more freedom and flexibility in their lives. If you’ve been avoiding some changes or next steps in your business, I encourage you to review those changes or steps over the last few days of this month and be ready to start March strong.

Little Steps to Success

There are a lot of things that you could do to make this year your best year yet. If you decided on some resolutions for this year you may have unfortunately already given up on them, too many people don’t make it out of January with their resolutions intact. There can be many issues with resolutions we set including that the goals that are too big or too vague or we’re just not ready for yet, and these issues can hurt our chances at really succeeding with our resolutions. So today I thought I’d share a little encouragement and another option for a resolution for the year. What if we were to just choose to be committed to living life?

What if we approached this new year with the intention to do our best in each and every moment, both big and small? What if you chose to put just 5% more effort into your daily activities? What if you chose to listen with a little more intention and talk with a little more care? What if you put a personal touch on each and every thing you do? What if you committed to being more true to who you are and what you believe? We’re not trying for perfection, just trying to do better, be better and relate better than we did previously.

Yes, the big life changes are great, but there’s a lot of power in making little tweaks and changes. Things like cleaning up your desk at the end of the day, cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day, putting the clothes away in the closets, making a to do list for tomorrow, taking an extra 30 seconds to re-read an email or important text before sending it, switching one processed/pre-packaged snack with a fresh fruit or vegetable choice, or telling your partner you love them every day, can add up to make a big difference over time if you do them consistently.

What little thing or things could you do in your life this week that would make a difference?

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda

Relationship Repairs

Last week I spent some time thinking about how many people do things that create huge divisions between themselves and others. Sometimes we’re not aware of it and there’s nothing we can do until after the fact. But usually we play a key role in that division being created, and are aware of it. Maybe we’re not willing to give a little, maybe we’re tired of giving, maybe we’re at a place with different goals, or maybe we just didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did.

When we reach these divisions in life we’ve got a choice to work through them or to let them permanently drive a wedge between us. We’re really good at creating the permanent wedge, and some people talk about working through it or give fixing it lip service but never truly make the effort.

The thing about saying hateful or hurtful things to another person is that hurting the other person will not in any way, shape or form, accomplish what you really want to have happen. All it will do is hurt both of you. So do what has to be done to be able to go your separate ways or fix the relationship, don’t just hurl insults, hurt or hate.

If you’re really going to try to make it work go the whole way. See a coach together, attend AA type meetings to work on your own stuff individually, if there are kids involved seek help to be better parents, plan out times that you will be together each week for date type activities, plan times for you each to be alone, write up who will do what and so on. All of this is about doing the work and starting the necessary communication and creating opportunities to repair the relationship.

But this isn’t just about repairing your romantic relationship (or partnership as I call them) but about the other relationships in your life as well. We can be pretty bad friends and employees on occasion. Sometimes those are the relationships that need extra attention to get them back on track or to see that the relationship has run its course.

This week I challenge you to choose one relationship that needs work and actually get to work on it. Sit down with your boss, friend or partner and have the tough conversation and establish together where you go from there. It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run.

The Success of Strategy

I’m a fan of freedom and being able to do whatever, whenever. Lots of people are. But there’s something to be said for strategy, order, schedules and procedure. If we didn’t use them your burger might never look like a burger. You could end up with the meat or “meat” on top of bread on top of bread on top of lettuce on top of mustard and other dressings! I can’t imagine trying to eat that. If we didn’t use strategy or procedures you might get dressed before getting in the shower, which means you’ll go through the day with wet clothes. Or you’d know how the story ends before you started reading the book. Not a really great idea, right?

So let’s be honest, even if we don’t really like the fact that schedules and order is necessary, sometimes it’s really helpful. So as much as you may not want to hear it, what you need isn’t (just) to set resolutions, but to set some schedules and strategies into action too. This is definitely the case if you’ve had the same resolutions for the past couple (or many) years and haven’t really been successful with them. Make 2018 the year that you have the plans and schedule to follow through with your resolutions.

The question is if you’re really committed to making your resolutions into reality this year or if it’s going to be another year that you make an attempt at your resolutions.  If you’re really committed I encourage you to take a look at what you’ve been doing, or not doing, to accomplish your resolutions, and make changes to your plans and procedures as appropriate. This could be as simple as choosing (planning) one thing you’ll do every day that will get you closer to your goal, hiring a coach to work with you on your resolutions, hiring an organizer or nutritionist to help you get rid of the bad and make room for the good, or making/joining an accountability group.  What will you do to make your resolutions a reality this year?

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?