Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?

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?

Trend Talk for August

Today I want to talk about two trends I’ve been seeing and reading about in business this month.

Facebook’s update: the latest update dropped page organic reach to somewhere around 1%.  Yep, it really stinks.  While we won’t dive into the obvious discussion of what to do about it, the thing I do want to talk about is why I support the update in some ways (but of course not totally because it does not encourage business owners to remain involved).  The thing that I see so many businesses forget is that Facebook (and the others like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) is a social network.  That means that the goal of Facebook etc.  is to connect people and have them interact and be engaged.  Too many businesses are so busy being promotional and trying to create viral content that they forget the basic requirement of Facebook to be social.  If businesses showed that they actually cared about the Facebook community I think Facebook would reconsider this latest update.

Learning and Training: Do you train your employees? Do you expect them to stay up to date on relevant trainings?  Do you get training and educate yourself? When you’re looking to hire an employee how important is it for them to be up-to-date with their education (even in fields where it’s not required (training is required in the medical field))?  One of the current debates is over whether or not to invest in training your employees and potentially lose their skills to another company.  The other is why employees aren’t pursuing education that would help bring them up to par with more recent graduates and help them stand out in the job market.  Personally I think you should always be learning things, and it’s your responsibility to do so.  As to whether or not to train, in talking it over with someone the other day they reminded me that if a business is really a great place to work for their people have no desire to go elsewhere with their new skills.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s change and learning and training in business?

Teaching for Eternity

Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about a topic that is top of mind for many families: going back to school.  Today I want to talk about one of the most fundamental and key aspects to school: teachers.  My mom has been involved in schools in many different ways for as long as I can remember.  She’s taught, been an aide, been a substitute teacher and of course gone back to school.  I’ve taught classes and groups and helped in many types of classrooms too and know how much work in involved, as well as how challenging some students can be, and how rewarding it can be as well as a teacher.  As a student I’ve had a few good teachers, some average (and forgettable) ones, and a few bad ones.  While there’s a shortage of teachers I don’t believe that’s a good reason to let the bad teachers stay at schools and continue to damage the learning experience for kids (and adults).

First I want to encourage each of us to accept the role of teacher as part of our lives.  I don’t think it’s necessary or right to hand that off to those who are officially teachers and say that we don’t have to do any teaching as parents, neighbors or community members.  All of us have skills and knowledge that can benefit the youngest of us, as well as the adults around us too.  Parents and caretakers especially have a big responsibility to not only make sure their kids are having fun, but also that the learning continues outside the classroom.  It’s a great opportunity to educate them about topics that most interest them and in ways that they learn best.

Second, it’s important to support the teachers.  Teachers are always in need of books and supplies for the classrooms, as budgets are tight in most schools.  I’ve known countless teachers who reach into their own pockets to pay for supplies, and to help students who aren’t as well-off as others.  A great way to help would be to sponsor kids for field trips, support the music or arts programs or give gift cards to the teachers so they can pick up what they need most.  For the teachers who regularly interact with your kids, you can give them gift baskets with things they like, gift certificates to restaurants, and most important ask how you can support them and your kids in their classroom.

Learning is a life-long activity but our foundations are built in those early classroom years by the men and women who give hours, days, months and years to invest in the next generation of minds.  Their impact continues long after a child leaves their classroom and goes out into the world.  What are you teaching those around you?

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”  Henry Adams

Books for Business Success 2

A couple of years ago I shared this post about some books you could consult to learn about business.  I believe that one of the best ways to be successful in business is to do your homework.  Sometimes that means doing stuff, other times that means listening and learning.   Today I’m highlighting some books for you to check out in addition to those I shared in the other blog post (all Amazon non-affiliate links) and invite you to share the books that you’ve learned from in the comments.

Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling

Blockbusters by Anita Elberse

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy by Lewis Howes

Connect by Josh Turner

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall

Life After Debt by Rob Kosberg

Seven Laws of Teaching by Milton Gregory

Mastery by Robert Greene

Bold by Peter Diamondis and Steven Kotler

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

What books would you add?

Learning for Success

Do you know what one of the biggest secrets to success is? It’s really simple and it’s something we do from a very young age: learn. OK, maybe it’s not so simple, but it’s a very obvious answer to problems that plague many of us in reaching our goals and dreams and achieving victories in all aspects of our lives. Learning is one of the biggest keys to success, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to improve yourself and your life. Thanks to technology today you don’t have to spend thousands on degrees or go to a far-away college to learn something new (although for some things like medicine it’s recommended), but there are tons of opportunities online, in books, in courses and in audios to learn and teach yourself all kinds of skills that can improve, maybe even drastically improve, your life and your success potential.

People who are willing to learn (and actually can follow through on what they’ve learned) have a much greater potential for being hired as well as having success than those who are stuck in who they are and what they know. If you’re not willing to learn or try something new your future is very limited. Others might see more potential in you than you’re currently living up to but unless you’re willing to do things different or get the necessary education you won’t be able to live up to that potential. Showing that you’ve been taking courses and dedicate some of your free time to learning makes you look more appealing to potential employers because it shows them that you’re someone they can teach about their culture and how they do things and you’ll be receptive to learning from them and trying things their way.

So if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut go to your local library and check out a couple non-fiction books or find an online course you can take and learn something new. And while you could wait until the holidays are over I recommend starting now while you’re feeling that frustration, don’t put it off any longer.

“Today, when I hire, I look for people who want to be trained and molded.” Bobby Flay

Empowering the Next Generation

One of the biggest gifts you have as a parent or caretaker of a young one is the gift of empowering them. I know many people who grew up in homes and environments where they were told that they would not amount to much and that they were worthless and had better shape up. While some of those people did need to shape up, many of them were just at a disadvantage or just not understood by others. Often when we don’t understand something we have knee-jerk reactions that cause us to rush to judgment and block us from really discovering the truth.

Yes, parents and caretakers like teachers, principals, pastors and community leaders should care for the youth, providing food, shelter and support in education (whether school or in finding work), as well as guidance about what’s right and wrong, but it’s just as important to raise the youth to know how to figure things out on their own, be able to take care of themselves and let them be who they want to be rather than fill the box we think they fit in.

Schools teach many of the basics that are helpful in getting through life like math, reading, writing, history, science and physical health. But too few schools are providing the real tools that students need to get through life. We’re missing out on teaching leadership, finances, communication, relationships, critical thinking and community building just to name a few. We’re only giving the youth some of the tools they need to make the most of the lives and gifts they’ve been given. So instead of just talking about homework with your kids, ask them what they did that day to make a difference, ask them what bothered them, talk about problems of the world and solutions for them as well, expose them to unique opportunities and people so that they see the world through different perspectives, and encourage them to get involved in things that interest them, not just things that look good on resumes and college applications, but things that will help them be stronger, smarter and more equipped to take on the future.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

Financial Freedom

This month in our conversations about health, one of the areas we have to make time for is finances.  There are tons of great resources, programs, apps and people who can help you with your finances, and honesty, shame on you if you’re not taking advantage of it.  So today I’ve got just a couple of thoughts on finances, especially as they relate to living a healthier life.

1-know where you stand: I know it can be tempting to stick your head in the proverbial sand when you don’t want to think about how bad they are or that they’re not as you want them to be.  But avoiding them completely is not the way to a healthy bank account.

2-talk about it.  Especially if you’re in a relationship or you have kids it’s important to talk it over with your partner or a family member so that not only are you not bearing the whole responsibility of finances on your own, the important people in your life know where your accounts are and what needs to be paid each month in case of emergency.

3-save.  I know it can be hard to do this when you’re worried about bills, but if you don’t put even a small percentage of your money aside each month now you will struggle when it comes to emergencies and retirement, rather than having the peace of mind that you’re taken care of.  As little as 5-10% a month can make a big difference.

4-pay your bills.  This sounds obvious, but so many people put it off or avoid it that they get into trouble.  Pay your bills not only a few days early but when it comes to loans and credit cards always try to pay a little more than what’s required so you pay less in fees and get rid of the balance sooner.

5-spend wisely.  This is one of the hardest parts for many people.  It’s not about skipping the fun and treats, it’s about allocating a portion of your finances each month to that stuff and either spending it or saving all of it or a portion of it for something bigger like a trip.  The big key with spending wisely is planning and knowing how much you have to spend each month for all aspects of your life: food, home, transportation, kids, health, fun and emergencies.

6-ask for help.  I don’t know it all about money and there’s no way I would qualify as a financial planner so I know that one of the best things I can do for my finances is ask for help from those who are qualified.

7-invest.  We’ve talked about saving for the future, and part of saving is wisely investing some of your savings so that you’re prepared for retirement and end-of-life expenses.  While most people aren’t big gamblers and don’t go for high risks, some of those high risks can pay big dividends, so it’s usually a good idea to have some high, mid and low-risk investments depending on your risk threshold and life situations.  Again, talking with a financial adviser about the different investment options there are today is always a good idea.

8-take action. Don’t wait until you’re in deep debt or collections to try to make more money or fix your financial situation, start investing and paying down your credit cards and other loans and expenses now.  Contact that financial planner, invest in a course on finances, and ask for the help you need to make your financial future a strong one.

What are you going to do for your finances this weekend?

Ignorance and the Internet

One of the greatest challenges in parenting today is choosing how much to tell your kids.  The internet is a funny thing because it passes on all these words, videos and lessons that you really wish you didn’t have to discuss with your kids until they were older.  In this super-connected world that we live in it’s harder to know when something will come up and even harder to keep something quiet.  We can’t hide everything from our kids because we can’t control what other people expose their kids to, so what’s a parent to do?

I’m all for stories like Santa, the boogie man and the stork.  I think they play an interesting role in our lives and culture, and aren’t something we should stop for the sake of being real all the time.  Simply because there’s a lot in the world that can’t be explained.  But beyond that, sometimes the unvarnished whole truth is just too much for them.

It’s also our job to protect and nurture the next generation.  I don’t want future generations thinking their only options are to lie, cheat, steal and kill, I want them to be empowered to be themselves and know the power of love and knowledge and to know that it’s more than OK to live in a peaceful world.  I will always believe that love and kindness opens more doors than hate or violence.

So back to our question: what’s a parent to do in this super open and connected world?  I don’t think the answer is complete and utter seclusion, that’s bad for us and our kids.  I also don’t think denying things is the right answer.  If your kid has a question about things it’s my hope they would feel comfortable and secure enough in your relationship with them to come to you with questions, or that they have an adult you trust in their life to answer those questions, and not to laugh them off as silly or irrelevant or impossible.  The world isn’t planning on going backwards in communication and connectivity, so it’s time we learn how to work with what we do have.

“To keep a person ignorant is to place them in a cage.” Julian Assange

What Technology Teaches

I’m a big fan of technology. I love how it enables us to connect anywhere in the world with just a few clicks, no long plane or boat trips, no waiting for letters to be returned, no not being able to talk to people just because they weren’t within walking or driving distance. No, now we’re able to connect with anyone anywhere. It’s also made some really big strides for helping to educate the world. All you need is to have an internet connection and you can order a book or learn online.

It’s also great for distracting kids, making dinner and sick days. But kids don’t need any more of that not-involved parenting than they already get. Over the years we’ve gotten busier, some of us because we have to work multiple jobs to care for our kids or make ends meet, so we leave parenting to Dora, the schools and babysitters and hope for the best. As much as technology can do amazing things to teach kids the important things in life, there’s nothing that can replace a person’s involvement in that education.

Teachers can bring something to the table that is really important and something that I see missing in many businesses and families: human interaction. The fact is that no matter what you’re selling you’re selling to a person and no matter what you’re teaching you’re teaching to a person. It’s the way it is since we’re a world of people not faceless, emotionless machines. No, we’re real and need that human interaction to really be human. A book can’t celebrate your success in learning a concept, a computer program can’t teach you how to truly problem solve in the real world, a robot can’t give you the hug you need after skinning your knee. No, only people working with people can do these things.

Are you making time for people or just technology? Take time to get a real perspective on your passions, time and activities this week and think about if it’s taking you where you truly want to go.

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”
Bill Gates