Studying Social Media

Lately I’ve been reflecting on social media, and the number of people who are calling it “evil.” I don’t deny that there are some bad people on there, that some people aren’t really considerate of what they’re posting or that there aren’t vulnerabilities or weaknesses on the social platforms, because all of those things are true. But if we were to get rid of social media for those reasons it would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to use an old expression.

One of the things I love about social media is your ability to control what you see and who you connect with. Don’t like those constantly negative posts someone you’ve connected with posts? Unfriend/Unfollow them. Don’t like seeing only spam from a company you ordered from once? Block them or unlike the account.  Just want to see puppies, updates from your favorite restaurant and updates from your family? Just connect with them. You don’t have total control on what you see on most sites, but all the same you do have a lot of say in who you could be hearing from.

Social media has incredible potential for people and businesses, but it relies on us all being respectful and considerate of each other and the resource. Of course everyone has bad days and needs to vent, that’s part of life, but no one wants to read that on a regular basis. We want to see the family updates, the calls for prayer or support, the news and updates from our communities, pictures of fun adventures, and reasons to celebrate. Thanks to social media we can connect with and build a community that can relate with us and will support and encourage us, even if few in our physical vicinity do. Social media can give us a glimpse behind the curtain of our favorite brands.

There are certainly things that are wrong with social media, but instead of focusing on them, why don’t we work harder to promote and spread the good? Why not consider what we’re posting before throwing it out there for the world to see?  Why not respect the opinions of others and engage in constructive rather than destructive conversations?  If the bad is only a very small percentage of what’s on social media isn’t it time we start talking about the good?

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The Choice of Violence

I opened one of the many Lent devotional subscriptions I have this year to find just a few short words that really got me thinking (no, this isn’t a post about faith/spirituality). The words in the email were:

Violence doesn’t create anything.

As the world reels from the fire at Notre Dame, as the news sites share about murders and accidental deaths, as we work our way out of what was a brutal winter for some and head towards what may be a difficult summer for others, as we think about the people who have died tragically early that we personally know or know through TV and the internet, again I’m strongly considering the question of what makes people think violence and hurt/hate are the answers to anything?

I’m a creative person as you can probably tell, I enjoy writing, reading, painting, cooking, sewing and even occasionally gardening.  The only thing I really enjoy destroying is dirt.  Of course I feel some level of satisfaction when a person who has done great violence or committed great acts of hatred is caught and put in jail, because they caused destruction and hurt for the hearts and lives of many.  But I don’t spend my time thinking about the people who hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally, I prefer to spend my time thinking about ways to make the world a better, freer, fuller, happier place for all of us to share.

Today I would encourage you to think about what you’re creating with the choices you make.  Are you making choices that have zero or negative impact on the world and lives around you?  Or are you making the decision to make a positive impact on the world, even if it requires a little more effort and commitment on your part?  Even if you have little or nothing that you can contribute to help Notre Dame, the communities that lost churches in recent arson fires, the people who have been forced out of their country due to civil wars or genocide, or those who have lost their homes in recent months to natural disasters rebuild, you can still make a difference in the lives of those you meet on a regular basis through a kind word or deed, and especially by not letting violence be the answer.

Welcoming In The Customers

I love music and when I’m driving I love listening to a variety of music from oldies to pop to country to rock. The other day as I was driving around a classic, Piano Man by Billy Joel came on and as I was listening to it the words really spoke to me about what a business could be. You can check out all the lyrics here, or go on YouTube and listen to the song if you’re not familiar with it. Let’s take a look at what in the song spoke to be about local business success.

One of the first lines is about the “regular crowd.” A successful (local) business should have a regular crowd, whether that’s a group of people that show up at the same time and day each week (more along the lines of a ‘crowd’), or just regular individuals or couples that show up the same time and/or day or place really consistent orders.

The chorus talks about how everyone is “in the mood for a melody”, reinforcing the unity that they all have being their together, the camaraderie that all going to this bar together helps create, along with the pianist and his piano music. It doesn’t mean they’re all looking to hear the same song, just that they all agree they want to hear some great music.

Finally, the song goes through several of the patrons as well as the manager of the bar and shares a little about their stories. It’s a reminder that as much as they’re a crowd and there to be together, they’re still individuals and have their own needs, preferences, and especially stories and things going on in their lives that aren’t going on in the lives of the other people they’re sharing the bar with.

The song really speaks to the atmosphere and experience that a business can create. It didn’t talk about the drinks they each were picking or that it was the classiest or cheapest bar or anything like that. Yes, those things can be important, and can be the reason that people purchase from or visit a business. But the song talked about the people, the togetherness and the unique experience the piano man helped create for the people and the bar. It hearkens back to that small-town feel (in a good way) that some businesses can create, where everyone feels welcome, their story is known and accepted, and they choose to spend their evenings there.

What about your business? Is your business like the bar in the Piano Man song, or is it more like one of those songs that talks about how everything is terrible or a waste of time or pointless? I believe we can all create the experience of a Piano Man bar with a little care and attention. How are you welcoming in your customers?

Spring Alive Together

There is nothing that says “alive” more than spring. The whole world bursts into life and color in the matter of a few short weeks. I don’t know about you, but I fully believe life is better when we live it with others. There’s so much we can learn from others, and I can’t imagine trying to do all that everyone else does around me while doing all of my stuff (like fixing cars, picking up trash, policing the area, and running hospitals). The good news is that there is plenty of life to go around.

The thing about spring that’s very evident in much of the new life is that it’s about multiplication and family. All of the new animal lives and seed growth are small representations of what should be happening in our lives too. Yet over and over we shy away from contact with other people, or at least the deep and full contact that is seen in the new life of spring.

I wonder what it will take for people to start building the relationships that it will take to make a difference in the lives of the next generation? How long it will take us to learn that together we are more than we ever could be apart? To learn that hatred and violence do not make the world go ‘round?

The more I see, read, learn and discover, the more I realize that we’re all connected whether we want to be or not. We’re connected to the earth by what we eat and use. We’re connected to each other through the thousands of invisible threads of the internet. We’re connected to the past and the future by the choices they have made and we will make. Even fully isolated from human contact we’re still connected to the earth by how we live and eat.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting the connection and start working on how we can coexist together. Let’s work on making this spring a time of growth and health for all of us.

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.

Assumptions and Honesty

I watch a lot of cop shows. I enjoy some nature and educational programming as well, but my go-to are things like CSI and Cops. More often than not they’re background noise, and I’m not actually watching them, but even with just listening to them as I go in and out of a room or read emails or do paperwork, you learn a lot about the people that we share this world with. I certainly have a greater understanding for the work those who protect and investigate do, and today I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned that we can all apply to our lives and our success.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone run from the cops or commit a crime or lie because they made a false assumption. Sometimes it’s that they think they have a warrant or don’t think they’re that drunk or think someone took a couple of dollars from them, but regardless of what they’re assuming, often they’re wrong. And if they’re not wrong, it’s often something so insignificant their actions end up turning an ant hill into a mountain.

It’s dangerous to let assumptions play too large of a role in your life. They can be helpful in giving you a baseline to work with, but if you choose to operate by assumptions you’ll often end up in trouble or consistently apologizing for being wrong or blowing things out of proportion.

One of the other things that you see occasionally on the shows and you hear about in the news are cops being aggressive. Especially in more recent programing you hear them explain to people why they were so aggressive, and it’s because they want to go home at night. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that violence is the answer or that some in law enforcement aren’t too aggressive, simply that they have a little more leeway than others do when it comes to how they respond towards others.

All of these shows are about people who have lives, want to have lives or want to live. It turns out that that’s what we’re all about too. I assume that I’ll be able to see tomorrow, enjoy food tomorrow, see my partner tomorrow and make a difference in the world tomorrow. It’s an assumption that I’m fairly confident in being able to make, but I just don’t know for 100%. Life truly is a gift, one that can change or be taken from us at any time. If we were to respect each other a little more, listen a little better, be a little more honest, we’d all live a little longer, happier and better.

I’m Not Tired of Love

As we close this month of love this coming week I wanted to share one more thought about love as it has to do with families, communities and relationships. Love comes with challenges and there’s always the potential to be hurt by love. But I believe that it’s worth the risk. Love should teach us many things, it should make our lives richer and more fulfilling, it should give us support and encouragement through life’s challenges, and should create rewarding opportunities and relationships.

The one thing love should not do is make us bitter, unhappy, or tired. Yes, sometimes we’ll feel that way because of other aspects of our lives, but love itself should not make us feel that way. If you really feel bitter or unhappy about a relationship that you thought was love, it probably wasn’t love, or isn’t love anymore. Love, like many other things in our lives often changes and grows and goes through seasons, some of which will be more challenging or less invigorating, but generally it should be one of the more consistently positive aspects of your life.

Overall you should be sustained through the more difficult times both regarding your love life as well as the rest of your life. Love should make us want to share the good with the world, to help others have what we have, to turn the tide from the negative to the positive. Love should inspire us to live full lives, lives that make a positive impact on each of us and the world around us.

If you’re not feeling inspired, maybe it’s time for a talk with your significant other and family. Maybe you need to get serious about what’s going on with you personally and relationally.  Maybe it’s time for some changes.  Life shouldn’t consistently drag us down, and when it does we should have the support in our lives to get back on our feet.

On the other side of that, if you’re doing well or even thriving, it’s your turn to be a support for someone else and give them a helping hand.  Everyone needs a little helping hand from time to time, and a reminder that there’s still love in the world.

Customer Service for the Ages

Today I want to talk about customer service, specifically regarding people contacting you or reaching out to you with questions or issues.  Customer service is one of the make-or-break aspects of a company.  They make people love or hate your company.  Depending on how it goes a person may be less likely to buy from you in the future, or at the very least not recommend you to others.

There are one or two companies I absolutely dread reaching out to because it has become consistently increasingly difficult to understand the people I speak with, either on the phone or virtually, and therefore to get my issue solved (I recently had one of them tell me the issue with my account was that I was shipping to 3 locations that are nowhere near any locations I’ve ever shipped to, which I told them was absolute bunk (to be polite), and hung up).

Recently I shared an article about the 55+ demographic and their careers with my newsletter subscribers which got me thinking about how they’re living longer and wanting/needing to stay in the workforce for longer.  Can they be part of the solution to poor customer service?

They have a better grasp of language than most people do, light years better than those who are taught a second or third language for (cheap) customer service purposes.  Many are also very friendly and can add a great level of personal touch to what can be challenging moments.  Many of them have great minds and can be taught to use the computer and knowledge that’s on it to perform the simple tasks that customer service typically deals with.  They can work from any location thanks to today’s technology, and it may even add some extra benefits like increasing socialization and helping with consistent income to help with end-of-life expenses and more.  I would say those are some pretty convincing reasons why you could add some older adults to your customer services.

If you currently outsource your customer service to someone in some other country, I encourage you to consider if you’re really doing your company a service by doing this or if you’re hurting it.  There are ways that you can spread the love through your business and the people you interact with, what are you doing to spread love?

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?

Raising Kids to Do The Right Thing

This week there was an incredible story in the news about a girl who wrote a note to someone whose car was damaged by a bus that fled the scene. It was incredible because accidents happen every day, and all too often there’s not any way to get compensation for the damage because you don’t know who was involved. But thanks to this girl and her note, the driver is able to get his car repaired by the bus company.

I was really impressed by this story because it said something important to me about how at least some of this next generation is being raised. The fact that this girl wanted to write a note and return to the scene with it says that someone taught her that sometimes something as simple as telling the truth can make all the difference in the world. She didn’t have to write the note, she didn’t have to get involved, and she wasn’t involved in causing the accident and wasn’t even on the bus. She just happened to be passing by, was familiar with the bus and knew that someone would be upset when they got back to their car.

Her good deed also speaks to the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you, and the skill of giving attention to detail that seems to be a dying art. Knowing the small detail like the bus number, something not everyone would know, meant she could not only give the car owner the story, but also the details that would help him get the situation resolved.

There are lots of things that parents try to teach their kids today, especially about navigating this rapidly changing and technologically advanced world and all the people we share it with.  But this girl and the story shows that it’s not always about the new and advanced, something as simple as a hand written note, the truth, and a willingness to speak up are all that this girl needed to save the day.   This girl’s story gives me hope that parents and teachers are imparting to at least some of the kids how to help others.

Are you teaching your kids to do the right thing?  This holiday season is a great time to remember and support the community you live in and the people you share it with.  So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, donating toys, or just saying “thank you” even the kids can help make someone’s holiday season special.