Seeing Things Differently

Recently I read an interesting article about Dr. Sanjay Gupta meditating with the Dalai Lama. It was interesting for many reasons, but one of them, and the one I want to talk about today, was the fact that sometimes His Holiness struggles with meditation too. Just so we’re clear, meditating is something that His Holiness (and other Buddhists as well as countless others of various faiths and practices) does on a regular basis. The interesting part wasn’t just that he struggles, but how he often overcomes that struggle. Rather than using meditation as a time to be without thought, he uses it to focus on something specific and work through it or work on understanding it from a myriad of perspectives. So yes, you’re being quiet still during meditation, but it doesn’t have to be about being blank or empty.

I wanted to share about this with you today because so often in our families and relationships we approach something in one way (meditation is for being blank and empty) when there’s countless other ways that it could be approached. The challenge is not only being open to those other approaches and being able to see them, but also working on not just reacting in the way you always have or just going with your default actions/opinions/beliefs.

Part of the challenge in applying other perspectives to your life, or to your kids, is that there’s a lot of the world that isn’t open to other perspectives, for example in traditional learning environments, aka schools. Yes, you can send your kids to schools that offer other things or teach differently, but often they cost a lot of money, money that not all families have. So in this case you could do supplemental education on the weekends or afterschool, and during the summer. You may also have to work on getting your partner to see the validity of your point or why you want to do things differently. This isn’t always a bad thing because it does mean you have to think things out and really have good reasons for doing things differently.

My challenge to you this week is to start looking for other perspectives, approaches or opportunities with the things that challenge you most or you struggle with most. Take the time to see if there are alternatives or options, like His Holiness presented to Dr. Gupta about meditation, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or get someone else’s perspective.

Start off Good

I was recently reminded that things don’t usually start off with problems and issues, they usually start of good and with peace. Relationships don’t begin with the end in mind, you are busy enjoying each other’s company. You don’t join a job thinking about how soon you’ll quit or be fired, you’re trying to do your best or make the most money possible. You don’t get a pet thinking about when they’ll die or run away, you’re excited to have a new best friend. You don’t buy a phone thinking about the next one you’ll get, you are excited for this one. You don’t start a business thinking you’ll sell it for big bucks or it’ll fail, you start off excited about providing a needed product or service with passion. I think you get the idea: almost always things begin for us on a good foot.

So what happens that things don’t work out as planned, fail, hurt and become screwed up? I think part of the issue is that we get overwhelmed by everything that goes on in life. It’s not really possible to avoid all that goes on in life, there are pressures that we’ll face and changes that we have no control over but impact us all the same. A big part of the issue though is we lose sight of the good that we started with. Yes, we will change as we go through our lives so it’s not about keeping everything the same or constantly reliving “the good old days”, but learning how to evolve the good we started with. The sooner you work on bringing those elements of good into your life and various situations on a consistent basis, the better everything will go. You’ll also be developing some really great habits that will help make your life more fulfilling and rewarding.

If you’re able to develop the habit and life skill of intentionally developing the good, it doesn’t mean that you won’t fail, have bad days, divorce, or experience loss; these things are part of life. But if you’ve got that core your likelihood and frequency of failure, bad days, divorce and some types of losses can dramatically decrease, and your overall happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment of life can increase. How do you get started? For a relationship it could be as simple as sitting down with your significant other, talking about what you’ve enjoyed in the past and why you fell in love with each other and discuss how to bring those feelings and types of experiences to life on a more regular basis now, and actively working on incorporating those feelings, actions, words and experiences into your lives today. It’s not a magic pill but can certainly make some of those tough decisions and discussions a lot easier and smoother because you’re not worrying as much about the foundation and able to work on the actual, present, issues.

So let’s start the discussion: what did you really enjoy in your past that you don’t do or have or feel as much or at all anymore?

A Case of Curiosity and Creativity

March is full of interesting people’s birthdays, including Einstein and Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel).  I know most people don’t grow up thinking about theories of relativity or trying to make rhymes into stories, or becoming a household name and yet these two men did exactly that.  Both are fairly normal paths of success, writing and science aren’t weird or wrong, they’re legitimate fields of interest.  Part of the reason that they stand out so much though is because they did exactly what those fields are about: they made discoveries and brought words to life.

So what can we take away from the lives of these two men? First and foremost that even if you’re “trapped” in something very conventional and normal, that doesn’t mean you can’t put your spin on it and make it your own.  Yes, sometimes you’re called to do bigger and different things than you’re involved in now, but often it just means that you need to get a little more creative with regards to what you’re involved in and see if you can’t work a little magic in your current situations before giving up.  Second, which directly ties in with that, invest in being creative and curious throughout your life.  Creativity and curiosity aren’t things you give up like most people give up their dolls and stuffed animals when they reach a certain age, they’re skills that can greatly benefit you throughout your life if you’re willing to tap into them.

As we finish up this week and head into the next one I encourage you to explore your life.  I know that sounds kind of funny, but so often we get caught up in the story we tell ourselves, the habits we have and the often narrow way we see our world and lives and we don’t see the reality of our life or what’s waiting for us just outside of our normal life boundaries and beliefs.  Take the time to get creative and be curious about what else your life holds and you could tap into or could help you get the breakthrough you’ve been missing.

Remembering Who You Were Born To Be

Parents have a lot of pressure on them, well, the good ones do.  Parents who don’t care about their kids don’t experience life the same way that true, caring parents do.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I love supporting parents and business owners and people in general who are passionate about life, who truly care about their lives, their families, their customers and the world.  I’m all for having fun and trying new things.  I’m not a fan of the people who think they’re too good for the rest of us, who don’t care about others, who aren’t willing to let others win and those who give only because it benefits them.  Yes, we can all have some selfish moments, and moments that we want the attention to be all on us, but for the most part that’s not how those of us who really care live our lives.  Yes, we think about ourselves, but we also think about others and the world around us, and genuinely care what happens to them.

That’s not to say that we don’t have our differences and disagreements, I believe it’s healthy for us to all enjoy different things and even healthy for us to see the world different ways and try to do things different ways.  The caveat to that is that the goal is usually technically the same: that we want a better world for our children and ourselves.  We may not think that it will be achieved in the same way and sometimes we can get so lost in what we think is right that we forget about the goal. But I digress.

As parents, mentors, leaders, and adults we’ve got a big responsibility of teaching the next generation.  We have to be honest about our mistakes.  We have to help them learn from the lessons we’ve had and failed in.  We have to teach them to do better than we’ve done. But at the same time we have to let them be who they are and do what they’re here to do.  I can’t do what you can do and I’m not here to do what you’re here to do.  You’re not here to do what your kids are here to do, nor are they here to do what you are here to do.  Yes, you can spend time together doing your passion or theirs, but that doesn’t mean they need to devote their life to fulfilling a lost dream of yours: they’re not here to be anyone but themselves.

As adults we may have forgotten the passion, curiosity, creativity and drive that we had as kids, but they still have those feelings.   It’s up to us to let them be kids, let them learn who they are and accept the teaching moments when they come our way.  Teach them how to be strong and then let them fly.  Maybe in the process you’ll even remember how awesome it is to fly as well.

“We want you to know you are exactly where you are meant to be. Where you are is perfect for the magnificent unfolding that is before you. Embrace it fully. You are here to be of great service in this world…” Theos

Vote for Yourself

As I write this people are voting and election results are coming in all around the USA.  I was talking with my devotional and newsletter subscribers about voting and shared about it on the Life and Faith blog over the weekend as well, and how important it is to vote.  One of the things that always frustrates me is how little information I can find or know about some of the candidates that I could vote for.  Politicians and those who want to be elected may have political ambitions and want to change the world, but they haven’t done the voters any favors with helping them know whether or not to elect them.  Only in the past few years have I been seeing more politicians develop websites and social profiles that actually have information about who they are, what they stand for and what they hope to contribute as a politician.

But still the majority of candidates don’t have any type of presence that allows us to really find out who they are, we’re just expected to guess.   So it’s not surprising when we choose to vote based on the person whose name we’ve heard the most, or the person our friends or family are voting for (or the opposite), or the person whose name our finger lands on first in the voting booth or on the mail-in ballot.  I know, it sounds really irresponsible to vote that way, but how else are you supposed to vote if you don’t know anything about them?

But my post isn’t really about voting today (although I do hope you voted today), but about being your own person.  Sure, you can go with the popular opinion, you can do what everyone else is doing, you can believe what everyone else is believing.  And sometimes it may be that your own opinion does line up with other the opinions of other people.  But I always encourage you to be your own person, think your own thoughts and make decisions that are really right for you.   Don’t be afraid to stand out, think for yourself, try something new or be a little different this week.

“If you want to find a deeper meaning in your life, you won’t find it in the opinions or the beliefs that have been handed to you. Rather than trying to be what everyone else expects you to be, live your life by your own rules to be happy and find inner peace.  Your imagination is your own fertile field for growing any seedlings that you choose to plant for a future harvest.” Wayne Dyer

Haunted House Success

With Halloween just a few days away I thought today we’d talk about haunted attractions and what we can learn from them as business owners. To be clear we’re talking about the places that get set up every October with decorations and inspired by spooky myths and legends that people visit. I’m not talking about places that are reported or known to be haunted like Eastern State Penitentiary or Winchester Mystery House. Haunted attractions are very successful despite or maybe because they are only open for a short time. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from them.

Haunted attractions have one goal: to scare people. I’ve met more than one business owner who really has no clue why they’re offering what they’re offering in their business. If you don’t have a purpose how can you know what you’re working towards, and why would people choose you over others offering similar things with a goal?

Haunted attractions have lots of moving parts behind the scenes. Any good business has support systems set up to make it successful. This includes the marketing, financial, customer/client management, and product/service creation/selling/management. The best haunted attractions are those that have great moving parts, and those moving parts work seamlessly with the attraction, they don’t detract from or remind you that you’re at a haunted attraction that’s all fake.

Haunted attractions have a great team. Just about every haunted attraction has people involved, whether just a ticket taker or actors and actresses throughout the attraction who interact with and scare guests. If the attraction is any good when the guests leave they have lots of positive things to say about the “people” they interacted with, which is how it should be for every business.

Haunted attractions take creativity. Business isn’t easy and isn’t straightforward. I don’t know too many businesses that don’t take a little creativity to run, whether in dealing with customer requests and coming up with what to offer, not to mention the marketing!

So as you visit haunted attractions with family and friends this year, see what you can learn and apply to your business from them, and share your ideas and insights in the comments below.

Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?

Creativity for the Future

Today as we finish out this month I wanted to share one last thought for Memorial Day and one last thought on creativity, too, as inspired by this quote from Robert Reich: “True patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.”

Life isn’t easy.  We keep asking for it to be and expecting that our requests will not only be heard but answered as well.  Yes, there are things we can do to make life easier for ourselves, but there will always be challenges and obstacles we’ll face. They’re good because they help us grow and learn new things and make new connections, but they also can put a lot of stress on our lives and relationships.  One of the ways to make those challenges easier is to work together.  On a day like Memorial Day we’re all reminded of what it is to be a team, be part of a country, and challenged to do better.

The only way the world will improve and we’ll enjoy our lives even more is if we make a point of doing things differently.  You’re familiar with the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), it’s one that we’ve talked about before and is well known, yet there are so many people who believe it’s not insanity and keep trying the same thing.

To what distances are you willing to go for your passions and for the country you call home?  Are you willing to make some small changes like trying to waste less energy and being more conscious of how you’re treating others?  Are you willing to work long hours and try things that others may call crazy to share your creativity with the world? Change starts with the few and grows to the many when others see what an awesome difference the changes you’ve made have had on your life.

Are you willing to do what it takes to be great?  Don’t give up because it hasn’t happened yet, keep trying things and telling others what you’re trying to do.  There are people out there who believe what you believe and can be that source of encouragement you need when things get tough, and you can be an encouragement for them as well.

Creativity and Teamwork

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity over the past few days.  Are you a creative person? I’ve been thinking about creative ways to get through some interesting situations and creative solutions I can come up with for challenges I’m facing.  What I’ve been coming up with is a cold though, which has meant sleep and not much creative thinking or creative action.  It’s interesting when life makes you take a few steps back, I know it’s good to take a break sometimes, but I can’t say I enjoyed having no energy and no passion, creative or otherwise other than for tissues and pillows.

What I’ve been reminded through the past few days is how important teamwork is, even and especially in creativity.  A big part of creativity is coming up with new ideas and seeing things in new ways, and more often than not the creative ideas you come up with will be inspired by something you saw that someone else did or said.  Are you open to hearing the ideas that other people come up with or are you limiting yourself to only what you can think up or do?

The truly creative are willing to take input from others, enjoy listening to reactions even if people come up with conclusions that are not related to the truth about how something was created or why, are willing to try new things, and don’t give up when they hear “no”.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to interact with the creative community, to see how other people see the world and hear their opinions.  Even if I don’t agree with all people’s opinions or appreciate their style of creativity, doesn’t mean I won’t respect their desire and ability to create.  What has inspired you lately and what are you creating?

Creative Mistakes

When was the last time you made a mistake?  Was it recent?  It probably was, I know I’ve made a bunch of mistakes today!  As adults we often see all mistakes as bad and really wrong, can you remember the last time you laughed at a mistake you made or it honestly didn’t bother you?  Kids are really good at letting things go.  They have very short memories about most things, or at the very least don’t let it bother them as long as we hold onto things.

Kids are good at making messes and mistakes, at least they’re mistakes as far as we view them, they may not view them that way though.  Often what we see as something not quite right that kids have done is their way of being creative, their way of trying new things and their way of learning about the world.  By letting them discover on their own we’re helping build their creative muscles and letting them learn how things work and about cause and effect.

The other great thing about kids is that they’re not worried about right or wrong to the same degree that we are or in the same context.  We’re so worried about things going right or being perfect in our eyes or the eyes of the world that we don’t open ourselves up to trying new things and doing things differently like our kids do.  So the next time you face a change instead of just doing what you’ve always done or doing things the same way, try a different approach and see what kind of results you can create.

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible; he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.”  Frank Goble