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.

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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.

Let’s Talk About Shopping Small

We’ve just had Thanksgiving, Black Friday was today and it’s just a few hours to Small Business Saturday! It’s a chance to recognize, thank, support and celebrate the men and women who are making a difference in communities around the US through their businesses. With the internet and technology today many of those small businesses are able to expand outside of their physical community, but it all started with celebrating the small shops that dot towns across the nation.

The US used to be built on all these little businesses, that’s how your town or city would run. Now we’ve got products and services that we can tap into outside of our little circles, and often without interacting directly with any people, but I still think there’s an incredible value to be found by shopping small. One of the best reasons to shop small are the relationships you can build with people, people who can give you a more personalized service and an experience that typically can’t be created online with the internet separating the buyer from the seller.

Are small businesses perfect? No, of course not. Just like many businesses they most likely have room for improvement too, and some don’t measure up to the quality or value that they could. But unless people get out there and try out those businesses, they’ll never know what kind of treasure is just around the corner from them. And unless small businesses spread the word about their existence the people won’t be able to experience them.

This weekend I would encourage you to visit at least one small business in your community, whether a restaurant, seasonal shop, coffee shop, or seasonal activity, and an online small business. When you check out or pay if you’ve got the opportunity let them know how thankful you are that they’re part of your community, part of the small business community, and that they’re sharing their passions, skills, experience, and knowledge with their community through their business.

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

A Community for Veterans

November 11 is Veteran’s Day here in the US, a day when we honor and remember the men and women who protect our country. Sometimes that means going to fight in a war, sometimes that means dragging a boat through flood waters to rescue people, sometimes that means helping a nation rebuild, sometimes that means protecting dignitaries, sometimes it means sitting behind a computer, sometimes that means speaking to high school and college students.

But being in the military is a high risk career, one that carries physical and mental risks for the soldiers as well as relational ones. Whether you know any veterans or not, you hear stories and see commercials on TV about how people lost limbs and marriages due to their military career. They don’t really tell you what it’s like to have a TBI or try to return to civilian life after you’re done when you sign up.

But a veteran is a lot more than just someone who goes out for the country and does stuff. They’re people who are part of a family, they’re people who live in our communities, and they and their families need our support. Veteran’s Day is an opportunity for us as a community to stand up and do more than just thank them for their service, although that’s a good start. It’s an opportunity for us to help them build businesses, help raise service dogs for them, donate to organizations that help them navigate returning to civilian life, help build adaptive houses for them, and give them flexible but reliable job opportunities.

So today I encourage you to not only thank a veteran and their family, but also step up for them in some way in your community or in the veteran community as a whole.

Halloween Lessons

Halloween is Wednesday so today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on lessons you can share with your kids for Halloween, and you might find they apply to you too.

Tricks: sometimes life sends you tricks. Yes, sometimes you can choose if you want the trick or the treat, but often you don’t get a choice, life chooses for you.  It’s really a question of how well you’re going to deal with the trick you’ve received, the attitude you’ll work through it with and what you’ll do after you’ve survived.

And Treats: Halloween is a bit of a catch for those who watch their sugar, because it’s really a celebration of treats and sweets. It’s a reminder that sometimes life is short and treats should be eaten and enjoyed, especially in moderation.

Costumes: the other big thing about Halloween is everyone dresses up. Yes, sometimes its good to try new things and see if they could be the right direction for us, after all, if we don’t try new things we can’t know if they would be right for us. Sometimes it’s just fun to be someone else for a little while, even though we’re satisfied with our lives.

Community: the whole concept is based around going from house to house around your neighborhood, and expecting those homes to open up and share candy or other treats. It’s not something we do with any other holiday, only Halloween.

What has Halloween taught you?