Future and Present Cost Considerations

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

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

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

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

Be Careful What You Ask For

I distinctly remember when we were working our way out of 2019 and into 2020 how excited we were about moving into a new year and new decade, emphasis on the “new,” and leaving behind what had been a rough couple of years for some of us. Well, the funny thing about putting something out into the universe is that you have to be careful about what you put out there. I say this because we most certainly are working towards something new, by ways of a world-wide pandemic which is something that I don’t think anyone would have agreed to as part of the process to “new.”

I get asked questions by other business owners and people working to achieve success all the time and more times than not I have to ask for clarification on what they’re asking because the question they asked me was really vague or could be answered in a dozen different ways. Sometimes what you really need is someone helping you figure out how to ask a better question or to figure out what a better question is, but that’s not typically what people are thinking about or looking for. I love giving advice, but I could give hours of advice before I really get to the topic that would benefit someone unless they have a (more) specific question or topic.

The good news is that we are indeed presented with the opportunity to create something new, awesome, powerful and supportive for ourselves and the others that we share this world with. If we’re honest, how do we expect to get something new if we don’t make changes, right? Part of the challenge is that we probably weren’t very clear back in 2019 what “new” looked like anyway, we just knew that we didn’t want what we had been experiencing. Hopefully this pandemic development will be like ripping a band-aid off, and it just very expediently brought us to a bottom and we’ll have just enough time to consider and make plans for next steps by the time things start to turn around.

Take time to process the losses you’re experiencing and the dramatic change of your life, it’s totally normal to be experiencing some or all of the stages of grief as part of this journey. Then send thoughts of kindness, love and healing to the world, focusing on healing rather than the fear or uncertainties. I don’t have all the answers to what our new world will look like or when we’ll get there, but I do know that you’ve got options on how you move through this challenge. The future will eventually be here, we will eventually move through this crisis, and what “new” looks like will depend largely on what you do with this time. What do you want the new future to look like?

Teaching Kids About Changes and Choice

We’re all making different choices than we’ve made before thanks to this virus, aren’t we? It used to be we had to decide things that we’ve had to decide for likely many years past, and now we’re making decisions about who gets what location to do their work or homework, what ideas we can come up with to keep those in our family who aren’t thrilled with the change of pace and changed/limited activities to keep from getting bored, and how to keep everyone fed and a roof over our heads while all this goes on.  It’s also not easy to explain all of this to them, especially since we don’t have many answers ourselves.

It’s healthy to both miss the past and anticipate the future. No, we don’t know what the future holds, nor could we have really anticipated our present. But that’s the way life works, and it’s up to us to navigate it to the best of our abilities. It’s also up to each of us to raise up the next generation to learn from the experiences we had and hope that we’ve equipped them to be able to tackle whatever comes their way.

I encourage you to use this time of change and transition and being in close quarters with family to not just take a break, but pass on the essential skills they’ll need whether they face something like this virus again or not.  Give your kids the experience and knowledge they need in the kitchen, either with your personal knowledge (or your partner’s) or through an online video course, to be able to cook healthy and nourishing foods as well as fun ones too.  Teach them how to research online (and in the library when it reopens) so they can build their knowledge from a variety of sources at any time so they have fewer limitations in their future.  Give them opportunities to practice making quick, educated and gut decisions, so that they’re prepared to make their own wise decisions in the future.  Encourage them to make good health practices and look after others.

We didn’t ask for this time of challenge and transition, but we’ve been given the choice on how we deal with it.  I hope you’re not panicking, but instead are using this time productively with your family.  What are you helping your kids learn and what are they teaching you?

Time for Explanations

Explanations are tough. There are many funny stories and explanations that people have come up with for kids with regards to the typically titled ‘birds and the bees’ discussion, but that’s only one of the many things that parents have to explain to their kids throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes those discussions are hard when they have to talk about things like Alzheimer’s or violent/racial incidents. Others are just part of the course of life like sex and Santa. There’s definitely a wrong way to have discussions, one of the worst things can be refusing to have any discussion at all.

One of the hardest things is not having a good explanation, there are some things that you just can’t explain, and some things that the truth is very hard to accept or believe. A really simple example would be some of those cop/investigation shows where they get to the end of the investigation and it seems like 3 random things happened and as a result someone’s dead. It sounds kind of logical, but at the same time really doesn’t seem like it, and it’s even harder to accept that that’s actually something that happened in real life.

But explanations are important to us, regardless of the age we are. We like knowing how things work, how they’re connected or what leads/led to what. Explanations are great because so often we’re able to get one, with as much investigating as we’ve done over the years and as connected as we are in this day and age thanks to technology. But as I said, sometimes the explanation doesn’t make sense. Sometimes you can investigate further and find out how it does make sense, but other times you’re left at a loss and unable to make heads or tails of it.

In the case of the extreme flooding parts of the world have seen over the past year, several serious shooting incidents including the one in Christchurch a day or so ago, there really isn’t a good answer to give your children, or yourself. Sometimes bad things just happen. So in response you can teach your kids to be smarter, more caring, more considerate and to always do the research. You can’t protect those you love from harm, but you can give them the tools to make the world a better place, and give them the best chance possible to have a life filled with less hurt and loss.

Celebrating Second Chances

You know, it’s a lot easier if we get things right the first time. But the fact is few of us are close enough to perfect to not have to go back and proofread our work or do a second interview or ask follow up questions or try another marketing campaign or have to practice before we become good at something. And sometimes we never truly get it right and just get it a little more right with each attempt, and that’s as good as it gets, like with parenting and many of the other ever-changing aspects of our lives.

I get it, we’re in such a rush and there’s so much on our plates that it would be easier if everything worked out the first time, but it often doesn’t. Today I was reminded that sometimes second chances are awesome. Sometimes that redo is something much more productive and successful than the first try could have ever been. Sometimes you learn and grow more from the second (or third) chance or try than you do from the first. Sometimes you meet someone or make a connection that would have never been made if you didn’t have to do a redo. Maybe the redo isn’t so bad after all.

What if the second chance, the opportunity to redo something, the second round was actually a good thing? What if instead of giving firsts all the power we instead started to value the seconds? What if instead of hating the time it took to go through additional rounds, instead we cherished the relationships it helped build, the opportunity to make things better, and the things it taught us? What if instead of trying to be perfect on the first try, we just let our brilliance loose for the first round and then took care of the details in following rounds? How would your life be better and different if you stopped trying for perfection on the first try?

Living Today

The new year has arrived and we’re almost a week in! I love that we have life divided into days, months, years and lifetimes. It helps us to process better and plan both short-term and long-term goals which give us small and large victories throughout our lives.  Each one is filled with a different set of opportunities for us to live and love and build relationships and be successful.

I don’t always go with a year theme, but lots of people do. I’ve seen lots of different words this year including spaciousness, time, intention, substance, experience, purpose, promise, change and clarity. This year I’ll be doing something different and not doing monthly themes for every month as I’ve done in the past, but instead going with a yearly theme. This year’s theme is going to be ‘today.’

Why ‘today’? Not because of how fast-paced our world is, but rather because I want us to take a step back and live in today, accomplish things today, appreciate today, learn from today and enjoy today. Yes, we’ll still talk about goals, planning, the future, and the bigger picture, but I want to focus on appreciating, enjoying and acting on each day.

As we’re constantly reminded of in the news each day is a gift. What you do in that day may make or break your future. It can overcome what you’ve done in the past. You can end the day satisfied with what you got done that day or feeling like it was all a waste. It may be one of your last days, will you look back and know you lived it well?

What will you do with today?

The Success of Giving

We’re at the tail end of the official start to the holiday season, we’ve done Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Today has been Giving Tuesday.  I’ve gotten over 300 emails requesting donations today, and I’m sure you’ve had quite a few as well.  I donate every month to a number of organizations, so it’s not the reminder to donate for me that it is for so many.  I think Giving Tuesday is a great way to finish off this official start to the holiday season, and get us back into thinking about what it’s really all about, and that’s giving to others.

In business and the study of the economy we talk about numbers a lot, and each year the spending on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday has increased, which makes many business owners happy.  But we don’t really talk about the numbers as far as what’s given each year to non-profits, so here’s one for you: already over $45 million has been raised on this Giving Tuesday.  That’s $45 million more veterans, children, and women being helped.  More people with disabilities given the support they need.  More faith-based organizations spreading their message around the world.  I would say that’s a successful day of giving.

As I was thinking about Giving Tuesday and the whole concept of giving in the holiday season, I was reminded that we really give all year long.  We choose how much we give of ourselves to our careers, our families, our communities, our planet and even ourselves every day.  Some days we give more than others because the numbers line up.  Sometimes we’re more passionate about something or someone so we give them more of ourselves.  And of course on other days and to other people and projects we give very little because we don’t approve or just don’t have anything left to give.

Ultimately, if we don’t give there won’t be success.  Our jobs won’t get done, our partners won’t be loved, the earth will fall apart, our children won’t be taught, our bodies will suffer, our communities will decline and there won’t be much hope for the next generation.  So I would encourage you to check in with yourself today and this week and see what kind of giving you’re doing on a regular basis.  Are you giving to the people and things that matter most to you, things that you would be sad to see gone if they weren’t successful?  How can you be a better giver today?

The Choice of Your Steps

Each week, each day, we make thousands of choices in our lives. Our life is like one of those “choose your own adventure” books in which the choice you make determines what happens next. One thing may not ruin the ending, or bring us closer to success, but each choice we make does have an impact on our lives. If you make a really wrong choice you’ll end up on countless evening news stations as the talk of the day (or those crazy afternoon shows if you really mess up). But if you make a really good choice you’ll find doors opening for you and relationship possibilities you never thought could happen.

Victories in the truest sense are only accomplished when all parties win. This means we have to learn how to work together rather than fight, and do our best not to hurt others , and work hard to not hurt others to the point that they would seek justice. It only ends up setting all of our victories back further.

Why? Because as Mahatma Gandhi said: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” If you’re so focused on getting justice for how you perceive you were wronged you’ll only bring to pass what Gandhi predicts: the whole world will end up in turmoil trying to get their wrongs played out on those that hurt them. This isn’t how we accomplish victories though. A punishment will never truly right a wrong, but it’s what we think is our best option for serving justice, and has been for centuries.

With every choice, action, or lack thereof making an impact on your future you would think more of us would do the right thing more often. It can get frustrating that we don’t see the progress, but one day we’ll realize exactly how far we’ve come and how many pages we’ve turned and we’ll either be thrilled or mad. If you were to turn the page and find that tomorrow morning your story ended, how would you feel? Choose to make this a week that gets you even a little closer to your goals.

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?

Choosing Love

Love is a powerful emotion.  Emotion might even be too weak a word to use to describe what love is, because love is more than feeling happy, or sad; love lasts, endures and exists through those times of highs and lows.  Love makes our happiness conditional on the other person’s happiness.  Simply, love means we want those we love happy, and if they’re not happy we’re not either.  This is one area where all of the technological advancements of the past few decades have really made a big impact: it’s even easier to spread the love around even when we can’t be that physical shoulder to cry on.  You can send love through a Facebook or email message, a quick tweet or text, or send it over as a big photograph.

One of the greatest abilities love has is the ability to tear down barriers of loneliness and separation.  The only reason distance relationships work ever is because the love in that relationship is powerful and well developed.  Love doesn’t consider our differences, it just sees people and hearts.  Love isn’t concerned with politics or culture, it just wants to break down walls.  When we let love in it can do powerful things in our lives and in the lives of those connected with us.

However, it’s not just about being loved, it’s about loving too.  It’s one reason people who suffer from depression are told to get pets or do community service or spend time with kids: you feel better when you’re spreading love and helping others.  But just like many other things in our lives, love is a choice.  It’s a choice we have to make on a daily (or hourly) basis.  It’s a choice no one can make for us, and one we can’t make for them.  If you don’t want to feel alone, do something about it!  Choose to accept the love that is all around you and make it part of your life.

“It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.”  John Bulwer