Personal VS Public

Recently I’ve been thinking about how blurry the lines are between many public and private things. We expect to hear about what’s going on in the lives of celebrities, we expect to hear about how things are developing in natural disasters in great detail, we expect to know everything about the officials we elect, and we expect that what we see or hear is what we get. But for most of us, we’re not supposed to be living our full lives in the public eye. It’s uncomfortable to do so. It’s healthy to live some of your life in the public eye, and for that reason all of the advances in technology are great, but there’s something important about having a personal life too.

Our personal life is where we work through our personal challenges, enjoy being alone with ourselves, enjoy being with family and friends, try new things, and work on our inner self mentally and spiritually. It’s our time to be quiet, to laugh, to love, to be the person that only those who we trust most can see. It’s our time to grieve and work through the growing pains. It’s our time to come to terms with changes in our lives and in the world around us. It’s not a time for us to hurt others or ourselves, that’s not something we should do in personal or private.

Sometimes we bring what’s in our personal lives to the public eye, especially when it something we want support on, want to raise awareness for, or want to share our story with others so they’re comfortable sharing their story and/or getting the help they need in a similar situation. But we should never judge people for not sharing their personal lives with the greater public, especially if it’s a painful situation and they were getting the help and support they needed.

So my encouragement to you today would be that before you jump to judge someone over something they didn’t share or did share, that you take a moment to remember that it’s their story and their life and they have to do what they think is right when they think it’s right. Your job is to support them and love them, especially when they’re being brave enough to share their story with you.

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Thankful to be Alive

Second chances are a powerful thing. This week we learned that the boys and their soccer coach who went missing while visiting a cave in Thailand were still alive. They were in the cave for 9 days before they were found, and in the days since then people from around the world have been providing the expertise they have in caves and engineering to try to help and get the kids out before they run out of oxygen or the cave floods. Of course many of us are reminded of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a cave for 69 days in 2010. It took a serious effort to get them all out, and while the situation is different, it’s no less overwhelming or scary for the family members of the children and the soccer coach.

I believe that blame does have a place, but not here and now. It can come after we know how the story ends, hopefully with tales of rescue. This week for the kids and parents has been an opportunity to reconnect and share messages that may never have gotten out if they weren’t found. It’s an opportunity for them to talk again and see each other again.

Every day we deal with tragedies, and the loss of people who are killed accidentally or intentionally. There are very few cases of people who have absolutely no one who will miss them, there’s almost always someone left behind who will have to deal with the loss. In so many of those cases there wasn’t the opportunity for last messages, for apologies, for anything except to deal with the loss. But these families have had the chance this week to reconnect, even if it’s with a lot of earth between them.

We’re not guaranteed anything but today. You can’t predict or control what others do, you only have control over yourself. Don’t make light of second chances. Live and love today not because it might be your last day, but because you’re alive today.

The Business of Respect

We’re getting into another holiday season, with Good Friday today, Passover starting tonight and Easter on Sunday. With some of the recent events and these holidays coming up I thought it would be a good idea to talk about something we as business owners can struggle with: the human side of things. I get it, we all want sales, we all want to grow our businesses, but I don’t think that has to happen at the expense of others, or without regard of others. Let’s talk about a few specific examples.

Easter/Passover: there’s a large percentage of the population who will celebrate one of these holidays, and anytime there’s a holiday it means increased stress levels, even if you don’t celebrate the holiday personally because many other people around you will be stressing out. A little more patience and a little consideration can go a long way to diffusing potential tensions and reducing the general stress level.

Social media: I was talking recently with several people who have used social media for their business but really didn’t get it or know how to use it for their business. Yes, businesses do get sales from social media, but it can’t be ignored that it’s social media, not sales media, and that the social aspect is often the missing link between the engagement numbers they have and those they want.

Facebook’s data issue: in some ways it may not seem like a big issue, because “they’re just numbers” but behind that data is a lot more than just numbers on a page, they’re little bits of many people’s lives. At this point the mistakes have happened so changes should be made as a result of the issue and the companies involved need to take responsibility, and then apologies should be issued, with sensitivity to the fears, frustrations, and concerns that people are experiencing.

Feelings and relationships: I was reading an email from one of the business coaches I’ve connected with and she was sharing about her birthday last year and last few months with her father before he died. It was a sweet email and reminded me about the stories and relationships that each of us have, and how as businesses if we’re able to build even a fraction of that kind of relationship with our customers we’re lucky.

No, not every moment in business is a touchy-feely one, there’s a lot of business that is very cut and dried. But behind each and every sale there’s a person, someone who will use the product you’ve created, someone who will share that product with someone they love, someone who will apply your wisdom to their life, someone who will use your service to help someone else, which means it’s not just something you’re creating for and selling to one person, it’s something that can affect many. So how can you make this weekend special for the people you help in your business?

Love is Considerate

This month as we’ve talked and thought about love I was reflecting on what is really one of the central aspects to love and relationships, both romantic and other types: other people. I know it sounds really obvious and yes, it’s important to love yourself, but for a relationship, romantic or otherwise, to really be successful you have to love the other person. Maybe that love is the passionate-fairy-tale-love kind, maybe that love is more of a respectful love, maybe it’s more of a compassionate love, or maybe it’s a mutual love of a sports team or hobby that makes you love another person. There’s a lot more to love than just saying “I love you” or wanting someone else in your life so you’re not alone.

Relationships are about more than just us and what we want or get out of them, there’s a whole ‘nother person to consider, and without that other person there would be no relationship. So where do you stand on your relationships including your relationship with your significant other, your family members, your work colleagues and your friends? Do you really take time to consider them and their needs, capabilities and needs as part of your relationship with them?

I think one of the biggest secrets to showing love to others is just being considerate. There’s nothing fancy or complicated really about it, it’s just you taking the time to open your eyes, mind, and heart to the other person. Sometimes that consideration means being extra patient with them, sometimes it’s about showing them in dramatic form how much you care, sometimes it’s just a touch on the shoulder or text message to let them know you’re there and you support them, and sometimes it’s connecting them to a great opportunity or resource that you hear about.

Have you taken the time to dive into love this month and explore the relationships that are important in your life? Which relationships have you realized need work and which are you most committed to exploring and strengthening?

Mother Teresa on Life, Love, Loneliness and Hurt

Over 100 years ago this month Mother Teresa was born. She was a woman who had incredible wisdom, dedicated her life to a very selfless mission, and taught the world a lot about love. As I was considering her life, I happened upon a few quotes that speak to some insights on how we may be able to help the world heal from the tragic events that have unfolded around the US and world in the past few weeks, not to mention those that are ongoing situations. These situations can’t be resolved with a simple shaking of hands or trading of objects, these are issues that have remained and repeated in one way or another for decades, if not centuries. Resolution will take time, effort on everyone’s part and ultimately a decision that the world is a better place if things were different. Mother Teresa said:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

No war is won or lost by the actions of one person. No one person could have won WW2 or the Civil War or the Trojan War by themselves. But without each of the individuals who participated in those wars on the winning side, the history may have happened much differently, likely creating a much different today. If the world is to become a healthy, fulfilling, thriving place, we have to start doing something different and treating each other different, starting with ending the violence. Yes, there will always be violence, but in the majority of the time, a simple, quiet word can do more than an abrasive, violent tantrum.  I encourage you to take a deep breath the next time your first reaction is to be nasty or overreact, and see if you can’t communicate with a little more patience, peace, respect and love first.

Epic Fails

It’s hard to miss all the discussion around United Airlines the past few weeks over what happened when a flight got overbooked and they needed to address the issue: big failure.  The publicity around the event has been crazy, and rightfully so.  There are tons of ways this could have been handled and wasn’t.  In business I think most of us try to do our best when it comes to working with our customers, so maybe you got a chuckle over what happened, after you got over your disbelief.  After all, who would handle this situation like that?  Let’s take a look at a few thoughts on the whole event.

First, let’s talk about the situation and actions taken.  Would the violence and severity of the actions taken have been the right course of action if it were a life and death issue, yes.  As many reports have revealed there were at least a handful of other options that could have been pursued before this degree of action was taken.

Second, as you may know, I’m a big believer in not trying to be everything for everyone.  I don’t think we business owners need to try to please everyone or offer our product/service to everyone.  What we offer isn’t for everyone.  So when we run across the stubborn individual who decides they absolutely have to work with/buy from even though it’s not a good match and then ends up leaving a nasty review because (as we knew) we weren’t what they were really looking for, it’s frustrating.  However, while we may not have to offer something to everyone, that doesn’t give us the right or reason to treat our non-ideal customers or interested parties in a rude, aggressive, or disrespectful manner.  Just because there’s an issue with them it doesn’t mean that we can ignore that they’re human too.  And as long as they’re not being aggressive or threatening, there’s no reason or right to treat them in that manner, nor are the issues something you need to air in the public space.

Finally, the ever challenging concept of handling problems.  We won’t get it right 100% of the time, but we can do more to get it right more often.  As I said there were some options left to United before they escalated to the level that they did, yet they chose not to take those options.  Often there’s a simple way to resolve the issue and usually it involves money in the form of a refund or credit.  Some companies have chosen to offer free returns as a way to alleviate any initial fears buyers may have about purchases.  Another simple solution is to give people the answer they’re looking for, sometimes all that is necessary to make the customer happy is a little troubleshooting and being available to listen to their feedback.  They may not respond and they may not change their negative review (some people prefer to be unhappy and leave a nasty (and often irrelevant) review), but you’ll have at least extended the olive branch.

Procedures and policies are in place for a reason and when they’re not followed we end up with unnecessary issues like United, and often those issues revolve around how we treat others.  I encourage you to take time to evaluate your policies this week and make sure you’re really prepared for situations that could occur, and that you’re first and foremost handling them with communication and compassion.

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

The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.

Sharing Freedom through Hope

Every day we do a thousand things that could either hurt or help ourselves and others.  We make tons of decisions about our lives and the lives of the other people we interact with.  Sometimes they’re really good decisions, sometimes they’re lucky decisions, sometimes they’re selfish decisions, sometimes they’re selfless decisions, sometimes they’re lazy decisions, sometimes they’re rushed decisions and sometimes they’re thoughtless decisions.  It’s always my goal to make one more thoughtful and selfless decision each day, but I’m not perfect and don’t expect that I’ll make all perfect decisions anytime in the near future (and sidenote: sometimes the best decision you can make is a selfish one).

So what if, instead of trying for the impossibility of perfect, we focused more on doing one more thing that could positively change the world?  What if instead of letting that insensitive thought fly out of our mouths, instead we looked for the words that would heal or free someone?  What if instead of playing the victim card you turned it around and became the victor?  What if instead of trying to get revenge on someone for the way they hurt you, instead you went on to encourage someone else?  What if instead of looking for ways that you can be king or queen, you looked for ways to make a difference instead?  What if instead of trying to always be center stage, you let someone else shine?  What if you took the spotlight off your life and you looked for ways that you could make one person’s day a little brighter?

Today I encourage you to choose the gifts of encouragement, hope, reassurance and shared strength.  Let people know that the whole world has not gone to pot and that there are still caring people here.  Let the world know that each person matters, as an individual and a human being.  Let people know that they are not forgotten.   Finally, let someone know that their life is not over and they can still find purpose and fulfillment and live their life however they choose.  Who will you encourage today?

“Is there somebody in your life whom by a word or an action you can help to unbind, help to set free? Give them hope. For that is God’s gift to each one of us. Give that gift to another today.”  Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Your Expectations

Today I’m thinking about expectations.  We have expectations about ourselves, we have expectations about our family members, we have expectations about the place we work or the kind of work we do, and we have expectations about our world.  The dictionary defines expectations as: to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of; to look for with reason or justification.  Sometimes our expectations aren’t justified and we don’t have a whole lot of facts we can put behind them to support them, but if we really take the time to think about it, most expectations we can come up with a reason for expecting the result that we do.

The thing is though, not all of those reasons are good ones.  We may expect someone to let us down because we have had it happen in the past, we may expect that things will typically become less expensive over time because the products to complete them are cheaper, and we may expect something to happen because it seems logical to us or because it’s the only conclusion we can come up with.  However if you present the same exact situations and things to other people they may come up with completely different conclusions than you or I did because each of us has our own set of expectations.

The reason I bring up expectations today is because the expectations you do and don’t have could greatly affect, and even hurt, someone else.  For example if you expect someone to fail or not do their best work, while you may be right you’re discouraging them from giving it their best effort if/when they know you don’t believe they can do great things.  A prime example is when your kids hear that they’re “good for nothing” over and over.  When they hear that, and know that’s what you believe about them and expect them to produce (nothing), and most will be beaten down until they do produce nothing.  Of course, the reverse can be true too; if you have high expectations of someone you can help launch them to reaching bigger goals than they thought they could reach.

This week I encourage you to check your expectations.  Do you expect the best of people? Are your expectations so set in stone that you can’t see beyond them to the other possibilities that are out there?  Do you live up to the expectations other people have of you (and are they fair expectations)? Are you expecting the best possible result from this week?