Standing Together

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I watch many of those TV murder/crime investigation shows. In them the cops always have to deliver bad news to someone. Many will tell you it’s always the hardest and worst part of their job. I can believe this because as horrible as it is to see what we humans do to each other, a murder victim is dead and you can usually put some separation between them and you. But when you deal with humans who are alive, the situation and the tragedy is just that much more real. Many times on the TV shows you’ll hear a cop say that they don’t know what a family is going through, but they recognize their suffering and are sorry the family is going through this.

One of the stories in the news is that Duchess Meghan visited the location where a female college student was murdered during the Royal’s tour in Africa. I find it fascinating that with all that she has on her plate, the news of one young lady’s murder captured her attention enough to feel the need to pay her respects to this young lady’s life. This young lady is one of many who are murdered each month, and with each individual who is killed are dozens or hundreds still living who are affected by their untimely death. Thankfully I can’t say I’ve personally experienced the pain those families and friends are going through, and I don’t know that Duchess Meghan can either. But her visit wasn’t about saying to the world I know their pain, but rather about respect and standing with them through this difficult time.

What it all comes back to is the importance of and value in just being there for someone and standing with them through their difficult time. It’s just like when you go to the funeral of someone who passed recently not because you knew them but because you want to support someone who you have a strong connection with who loved them. If someone from a royal family can make time out of their very busy schedule to not only know about a tragedy but to show up in honor, I’d say we all could do a better job of showing up for each other. You don’t have to have personal experiences that you can relate to if you’re going to stand up with someone, you just have to show up and be there for them in whatever ways they need support.

Who will you stand up and support today?

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9/11 Reflections, 18 Years Later

This week we’re switching things around and the regular business post will be published on Friday this week, to give me the opportunity to share some more family and relationship focused reflections today. Today is 9/11. 18 years ago 4 planes were used in a terror attack that devastated the lives of all Americans and countless others around the world were also affected by the actions of people who had a hatred towards what the US represents or has done.

If I’m honest it’s not something I can really understand. I don’t have a hatred so deep of something or someone that I can understand the willingness to make a plan to kill thousands of people, let alone little children.  I can’t imagine putting into action a plan that will definitely cause destruction, especially unknown destruction.  I understand the concepts of controlled burns when it comes to fire prevention, or about sacrificing one structure to make sure the others around them, and the people in them, are safe.  But I can’t understand the reasoning behind taking over planes and flying them into buildings where people live and work intentionally.

Each year we see footage and hear stories of the men and women who were there, of the fear they experienced, of their willingness to head into the zone even though they didn’t really know what they were heading into or what really happened.  I can remember all those years ago seeing it on TV for the first time and not really believing it.  But with report after report of loss of life and the many pictures and videos that were shown, I quickly knew that this was a reality and that not only had lives been lost but more men and women were putting their lives on the line for those who might be trapped.  It hurts to know that even today not all of the families have gotten to give their lost loved ones a proper burial, that some never really got to say goodbye.  It still hurts to know that people wanted to hurt people in this way.

But what I’ve been struck by today as I’ve watched some of the footage and read some of the stories of men and women who were killed or willingly put their lives on the line is about life.  We don’t often stop to think about the over 20,000 people who were saved because the first responders did their job.  We don’t think about their relief as they returned to their firehouses and found their brothers and sisters of the heart who had returned as well.  We don’t think about the gift of life that was given to people because people fought to bring the plane down over Pennsylvania instead of letting it get to the intended target.  We don’t think about the boys and girls who are alive and now looking at their 18th birthday without a parent that they never knew.

But the fact is they’re alive and so are we.  Yes, we should pause and grieve for the lives lost.  They are people who will never live to grow old or spend time with their families or have (more) kids or make an impact on the world in the way they thought they would.  But they would not want their legacy to be one of hatred, anger or grief.  Many gave their lives so we could be free and live our lives.  Choose to support those who put their lives on the line then and still today.  Choose to have hope for tomorrow.  Choose to make the world we share a better place, a place that tragedies like 9/11 will be fewer and farther between.  Choose to live today.

When A Business Steps Up

Sometimes smart business means stepping up where others aren’t. It’s getting harder to differentiate yourself, especially with the internet really leveling the playing field, because anyone can create a social account, website, blog or email address and start connecting with others. That said it’s more important than ever to do your best to differentiate yourself, clearly state what that difference is, and provide not just awesome customer service, but have a really great culture that supports your team as well. Today I want to share two examples of how a business or organization communicated or stepped up in a way that others don’t or haven’t.

There’s been a ton of talk recently regarding Hurricane Dorian, and already there has been significant damage report in at least one location impacted by the storm. This past week there was an early statement from an airport in Florida that they were planning to close the airport at a certain time giving consideration to the thousands of workers at the airport and their needs to see to their families and homes. As the unpredictable storm has changed they’ve made changes to their plan, but that initial statement stuck with me because you don’t always hear a company phrase it that way. Typically businesses talk about the danger and leave it at that or maybe comment about it being dangerous to travelers, but rarely do you hear a company talk about the importance of closing so that their team (large or small) can do what they need to do.

The other big news story is the CNN hosted town hall with 10 of the 2020 presidential candidates, and MSNBC will be hosting one later this month too. Thousands of people around the US had petitioned and requested that a climate question be added to the next debate or that a separate debate be held, and all requests were denied or ignored. So CNN and MSNBC took it upon themselves to invite these 10 candidates to share their thoughts on climate and what politically/governmentally needs to be done or how the government can step up.  If they both hadn’t stepped up and done the research to find a loophole in the rules that others had missed or ignored, they miss out on a great opportunity for publicity and public good will.

A good business leader is aware of potential issues that impact not just their ability to have sales but to care for the people who make those sales possible and so successful.  Good business leaders also don’t ignore the requests and feedback of thousands of people, all very publicly stated.  Focus on how you can increase your positive publicity, how you can do better for the people you connect with, and how you can step up when there is a need.

Fighting Hate with Good

Every so often people surprise me in a good way. We’ve been having a bit of a difficult time over the past few weeks with shootings and violent attacks, it’s raised the typical questions of what can we do to prevent this in the future i.e. better control over who can have a gun, which is a good conversation to have. The most recent attacks have raised questions not of mental illness but of hate, which is frustrating because it seems like nothing is changing regardless of how many violent attacks have happened in the years since Columbine and Waco.

It’s hard to explain the concept of hate on this level to the next generation, especially if you don’t understand it yourself. It’s hard to give them reassurance that they won’t have this happen at the next event they attend or school they go to, because you can’t tell what will trigger someone to choose that place for their attack. It’s heartbreaking that we still aren’t understanding the pain that is caused as a result and making the changes so that fewer families have to suffer through losing one or more of their loved ones.

And yet an 11 year old boy is doing something. He’s behind a recent going-viral movement called the #ElPasoChallenge in which he challenged his community to do 22 good deeds for others in response to the recent attack on August 3. In response people are doing simple things like handing out 22 bottles of water to the homeless, 22 packs of gum with an invitation to smile, popcorn and movie coupons and more. The response from kids who are participating is to request to be able to do this more often.

If we raise the next generation on doing acts of kindness and giving back, maybe they’ll never be able to understand the hate that some have and won’t increase the number of deadly shootings that happen in the US. Maybe instead they’ll keep their focus on doing the right thing, on building a better world and making the world a better place for others.  What are you doing to help good win in this fight?

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?

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.