Earth Day Plans

This week as we approach Earth Day I’m thinking about going green!  Today I’ve got a few ways you can go green and take care of our earth and celebrate this special day.  After all, I want the earth to stick around for at least a few more years, don’t you?

1-take action in your community.  There are lots of ways you can do this, from cleaning up litter and removing dead plants and trees to planting trees and flowers to putting up bird houses and even bee hives to encourage the natural population of your area

2-if you’re not able to go out and physically help in your community, there are tons of petitions online you can sign to support environmental initiatives online.  From organics to GMOs to smog and endangered species, there are tons of great causes you can support.

3-in line with the previous idea there are tons of earth-friendly organizations who would really appreciate a donation.  Even organizations like PETA and Charity: Water have an earth-focused mission that would benefit, you don’t just have to look to the more political organizations.

4-I love my hot showers so I’m not really willing to give them up, so if you’re like me that’s not one way you want to help save the earth.  But you can however wash your clothes in cold water.  They won’t complain and it will save your energy bill too!

5-if you’re looking for a spring refresh for your house there are tons of garage and yard sales that have begun with the favorable change in weather.  Not only are you saving a few dollars, you’re also saving the landfills from some items that would be in them for many years to come.  (And if you’re having a yard sale and everything doesn’t sell there are lots of local organizations who can benefit from the left over items too).

What are you planning this week to celebrate Earth Day and honor this place we all live?

A Heart for Greatness

One of the things we’re talking about this month is having heart.  I believe that having heart is something that applies to all our lives, whether we’re the CEO or homeless on the streets, whether we have lots of people we call “family” or we’re on our own, or whether we’ve got a degree from Harvard or from Life.  Heart isn’t something you can really put in a box or write on a card, it’s something you weave into your life and becomes part of you, the choices you make, the friends/associates you keep, the people you’re in relationship with and how you interact with the world.

Sometimes we do need to make decisions that are based primarily or even solely on fact.  Maybe we make those decisions because of how personally invested or emotionally attached we are or because we have no gut feeling.  It’s not wrong to make decisions based on fact, but I don’t think most decisions can really be made just with the facts, I believe that we have to take into account the human element.  People can’t always be put into neat and simple boxes, we’re complicated and complex, and that’s describing those of us that are considered “normal,” not those that would fit into a pathological diagnosis.  And then when you add in things like drugs and alcohol the complications increase.

If you really want to become the best person you can be do take time to learn the facts, explore the world, see other perspectives and try new things.  But never forget that a little compassion, a little caring, a little kindness, a little heart may go farther than the facts could.  If you really want to be the best leader, boss, employee, mother, father, parent, sister, brother, partner, neighbor, or friend you could be, take a step back and let your heart out of its box for a moment and let it guide you.

“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness.” James E. Faust

We Are All

In case you missed it there was a really big football game this past weekend.  It was a huge upset and a huge shock to many people.  However, there are people who experienced some serious stress during the game but remained fully confident in their team, and were able to experience a huge victory.  Who are these people? Patriot fans.

While I can’t say that the Patriots are “my team”, I have to respect their team, their coaches and their quarterback(s) who have come together time and again to create some incredible results.  I know from talking with Patriot fans how dedicated their team is, how hard they work and how much passion and energy they put into this organization that they are committed to.  They’ve fought against some serious challenges the past few years and bad press from those who don’t like their success or because they may have tried to bend the rules.  I’m not here to place or suggest guilt or innocence.  That’s a whole different conversation that we’re not having today.

Today what we’re talking about is a slogan that I saw after the game: “We Are All Patriots.”  I don’t know of any true Patriot’s fan who doubted them or gave them up as a result of the challenges of the past few years.  They’ve remained loyal to them, and this year their loyalty was rewarded in a big way.

But this really speaks to a bigger conversation, how we all identify with each other.  Do you see that we’re all one people?  We can all break our bones, work a job, love someone, or enjoy a laugh.  Whether we’re black or white, police or civilian, PhD or high school graduate, dog lover or cat lover, parent or not, or TV buff or not, we are all human.  You can’t change that unless you change your body and DNA and that’s not a direction science has been working in that I know of.  We all have differences, yes.  But when it comes down to it there’s a very high probability that you want the same thing I do: to get through tomorrow alive, to be loved, to enjoy life more and to have more time with the people we love.

So congratulations to the Patriots, and I encourage you to think about the community, the state, the country that you belong to and how you’re helping make it a better place to live in for everyone.

A Family United or Divided?

You’ve probably heard the saying “a house divided against itself will fall.”  I believe this statement is very true and is one of the reasons that individuals, those in partnerships (aka relationships) and families struggle.  We personally go through our lives experiencing different things, thinking about public impressions, things we “should” do and our own dreams and desires.  All of these things pull and tug us in different directions.  In relationships you’re dealing with 2 people who have their own preferences, desires, loves, dreams, hopes, challenges and fears. Yes, you would hope in a loving partnership that some of those things would line up because the two people have similar desires, loves, dreams etc. But everyone is different, so it won’t always be the case.  As families we have tons of different people involved in the shuffle, with different opinions, schedules, needs and plans.  It’s not easy to find a happy medium that allows the parents to be parents, the kids to be kids, the family to come together and everyone get along fantastic.

I believe that some things and some people are meant to come together for a period of time and then go their separate ways or be done. I believe there are things and people that should never have come together. I believe that some things and some people are meant to last forever.  I believe that some people and things stick around only through sheer grit and a can-do spirit.  Life isn’t always going to be cupcakes and chicken soup.  Sometimes you’ve got to get down and dirty and really work to make things continue.  And sometimes we keep working on things long after they’re broken beyond repair (the nasty and graphic phrase “beat a dead horse” applies here).

I fully believe that we should each be our own person.  We should have our own interests, personalities, dreams, talents and perspectives.  I don’t see a need for carbon copy people.  But with that individuality comes the responsibility of respecting the individuality of others, which is something I think we sometimes forget.  But the simple wisdom applies that if you want to be treated well, you should do the same to others.  If you treat others like crap do you really expect they’ll treat you like your the Next Big Thing?  Some of us need to work more on being our own person, but quite a few of us need to work on working together better.  Working together doesn’t mean that you ignore who you are or turn yourself off, it’s about learning how to bring what you can contribute to the table and working it in with what everyone else can contribute.  What will you contribute this week?

Speak or Suffer

Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He’s best known for his leadership in the Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s, and his “I have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington.  He was a great man, a brave man, a wise man, a family man and a community man.  He believed in something that wasn’t a reality then and he may not have really believed it would come true in his lifetime.  I do wonder what/if things would have been different if he had lived and had not been assassinated.

One of the reasons Dr. King was so well loved and respected then and now is because of who he was and what he believed.  He didn’t sit down and accept that because he was a black dude he should be treated as less than any other man.  It’s great he was part of the movement at all, and there are certainly other ways he could have been involved.  But Dr. King knew as a leader that it was his responsibility to be in front.  Yes, others could have stepped up but he knew that part of his purpose was to be a leader in this movement.

The same is true for our lives, we all have purposes to fulfill and steps to take in our lives.  I believe we should all do better in stepping up for ourselves and each other.  We need to do more to stand up for what we believe and not let others trample on our rights as a human.  I also think we should take note of the non-violent way that Dr. King made an impact.  He had a huge impact that is still talked about today without ever raising a fist or using a weapon like a gun or knife.

I believe our world is greatly improved by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other men and women who chose to stand up for what they believed in.  What will you choose to stand up for today?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christmas Carol Classics: Deck The Halls

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.”

Today’s carol is “Deck The Halls” and you can listen to it here.  This song was sung in the original Welsh in the 16th century and in English in 1862.  This is one of those songs that was meant to be sung as a competition between two groups of singers. It was also not originally sung around Christmas, but instead the New Year.

I share this song for many of the reasons that people sing carols to begin with: to spread good cheer.  This song is all about the cheer and celebration of the holidays. It encourages us to decorate the world and gather together and be merry.  Some of us decorate because it’s tradition, others do it because it’s for their kids, but it’s really an opportunity for all of us to celebrate life, being alive, making it to and through another year, and the ways that we’ve changed and grown over the past year.  What will you celebrate this year?

Common Ground

I love the holidays.  No matter what holiday it is I enjoy seeing all the different ways people celebrate, even if they’re holidays that I don’t personally celebrate.  I still think it’s interesting to see what matters to other people and how they celebrate, honor and remember life, history and their culture.  I was reading an article recently about football and two guys who came from different colleges (rivals) but are now on the same team and read a really interesting quote.  It reads “We stopped talking about the things that separated us and found things that united us…”

There are a couple of things that just about everyone knows about businesses. One: they sell stuff.  Two: they want you to buy stuff. Three: not every business makes it.  Four: one of the reasons that not every business makes it because of the competition they face and that they’re not able to stand up or stand on their own.  It’s really easy to look at other businesses and think about how successful they are and bemoan the fact that you’re maybe not as successful, or think that they must be doing something sneaky if they’re that successful on social media or think that their successes are the reason you’re not as successful as you could be or even that because you’re competitors in one way or another that there’s no way you can work together.

I disagree, I think that even the biggest competitors can stand together for a good cause or good reason.  I think that they can also find common ground in the fact that they sell similar or the same stuff.  I think that in just about every industry there’s room for more than one business of the same kind and that there are ways that we can work together and support each others success, and be more successful together.  Some of the big companies out there are more open than ever to partnering with little companies and I think that little companies can work together as well.

So this holiday season I encourage you to not shy away from the other businesses in your area, but instead to see if there’s a way that you can support each other and build both your customer bases.  What  common ground will you try and find?

Gifting and Giving

It has arrived!  No, I’m not talking about any of the items I ordered on Black Friday, I’m talking about Giving Tuesday!  You may have rolled your eyes, but I’m serious.  I’m glad that someone realized that non-profits and charities need a day like Black Friday as much as for-profit businesses do. They’re as concerned about their bottom line as all other businesses out there.  Just because they’re not looking to put money in their pockets the way that for-profit businesses do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to increase their funds so they can better work towards fulfilling their mission.

I know that some people donate around the year end for one reason or another, I personally donate all year long (I love recurring payments on a credit card, it makes it so easy!), but during this season it does seem like non-profits and charities get the remainders of whatever is left after the holiday gifts have been purchased and the transportation for holiday celebrations and holiday food is paid for too.  If you think about even one of the best known holiday non-profits, the Salvation Army often gets shortchanged (no pun intended).  They stand outside shopping centers with their red buckets ringing for the change left over from shopper’s purchases.  Non-profits and charities certainly won’t say no to any size donation, but it’s sad that we tend to give them our leftovers rather than being part of our shopping lists.

Of course non-profits and charities would love if you donated all year long because it would mean that they would be in the black before year-end, but I know it doesn’t always work that way for any business.  This year I did hear about several businesses who chose to donate their Thanksgiving profits to non-profits and charities, which I thought was a great idea.  Another great thing I’ve seen this year more than any other year is the number of for-profit businesses suggesting a non-profit or charity that they support or recommend that their customers could support, or choosing to donate in partnership with you on Giving Tuesday (or just the holiday season), through a matched gift or some other arrangement.

Today is a great opportunity to donate to causes and organizations that you personally feel passionate about.  In my work I run across hundreds of people trying to make a difference, right a wrong or give people an opportunity that they would not have otherwise.  I encourage you to support at least one business today, or spread the gift around to a few non-profits and charities.  What is your chosen non-profit or charity?

Social for Success

Today I’m thinking about a word that challenges some people and excites others: social.  It’s something that comes up especially in the holiday season, but it’s also something we hear about a lot in marketing and even just life these days. What does it mean to be a social business? What does it mean to use social media?  Why is social important? These are just a few of the things we’re going to discuss today.

Social to most people means enjoying gatherings with friends and family, going to events, or being with other people.  Some people add in that you are outgoing or comfortable with strangers or able to strike up a conversation with anyone. Those aren’t typically things I add in, but they are part of being social as a larger definition.  The social we’re talking about today is interacting with others, whether they’re strangers, new acquaintances, friends, family, employees, partners, suppliers, existing customers or prospective customers.

When people hear the word “social” these days they tend to think of social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  One of the questions I get asked way too often given how focused we are on social media is “what does it mean to be social?”  I take being social back to one of the classic lines “do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  In other words, if you want people to interact with you, you have to interact with them; comment on their posts with a relevant (non-promotional) comment, like their posts, share them, and recommend them to others.

What does it mean to be a social business?  One definition (Wikipedia) says: A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.  I believe that social businesses are those who interact with their customers, employees, suppliers, local community and world in a considerate, open, conversational way that creates opportunities to learn together and support each other.  A social business can’t be just about sales and the bottom line, they consider more factors than just those two into how they do what they do and what they consider to be success.

The most important question you may have today is why.  Why do we even care about being social? Why do we try to be social?  Why has ‘social’ media taken off with such success and totally transformed our world?  I think there’s a really simple answer: because deep down even if we won’t admit it we like to be around others and don’t like to be alone.  We’re not created to be alone, we’re not at our best when we’re doing everything all by ourselves, rather we’re created to support each other, to ask questions of each other, to learn together, to cry together, to challenge each other to be better, to make each other’s lives easier or better, and to find joy and freedom because there are others around the world doing what they do best to help everything move forward.

This week and upcoming season are great opportunities for you to be more social in your business.  Where will you start?

A Call for Change

As we look back at this past week some of us are feeling really challenged and surprised by how things have turned out. Throughout the US people are reeling over the dramatic wake-up call that was the Election on Tuesday night. Some of us are surprised that our candidate actually won and others of us are surprised that our candidate didn’t win and people picked the other person. There were several “upsets” throughout the different races around the US, the presidency being just one of them (but the one that affected everyone). I’ve been reading lots of different responses over the past week, some I’m surprised by because I never thought the person who wrote them would feel that way, some I cringe over because of how much hate is being thrown around, and others impress me with their willingness to really dive into things that are painful and challenging with sensitivity and wisdom.

I’m a big Christmas person. I love the cheer, the celebration, the happiness, the love, the gifting, the giving and the togetherness. I have to be honest and say that I’m OK with Christmas decorations being up in stores and showing up around the towns I go to and even on some houses as early as Halloween. While I don’t know if I could live in a “Christmas village” where it’s Christmas all year long, there are things about the concept that are appealing. However, as awesome as it might be to be in a Christmas mood all year long I don’t think it would change who we are as people and the mistakes we make, failures we have and challenges we have that we should work through but often put aside during the holidays.

But what the holidays each year do remind us is that together things are better. The next few months and year will probably be filled with lots of adjustments, and some of them will be more painful and difficult than others. The election has shown us exactly how divided we are as a nation with about half of the people who voted voting for each candidate. We’ve been hearing over the past months and years how isolated minorities have been and felt, we’ve seen the ways that people generalize and make assumptions (and bad actions/reactions) based on qualities of age, race and belief systems. Change has been called for over and over with varying degrees of success. But as the definition of insanity states (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), if we really want change, we actually have to change. The victory of a non-political candidate for the biggest leadership role in the nation is a big indication to me that people really do want change (even if the elected individual seems to not be the right one for the job because of some things they’ve said) and are willing to work with the challenges that will be present to make that change happen.

Together doesn’t mean that we ignore things that are wrong, together means to me that we choose to work together to be better. Together means to me that we’re stronger when we’re together. Together means to me that we’ve got more minds to come up with more ideas. Together means to me that we have to be open to forgive each other because we will do and say stupid things sometimes. Together means to me that we’re not alone when we’re grieving or upset or hurt. Together doesn’t mean to me that we all have the same ideas or beliefs, we’re all different and that is to be respected and appreciated.

I don’t have all the answers, I never claim to. But I do believe that we will be a better nation and world if we work together. It won’t be easy for us to truly come together given how divided we are, but if we really are upset with how some people are treated, and how the future looks for some of our children and grandchildren and for some of the nations of the world, I think we have to put aside some of our differences and find the common ground that we can work with and build from.