Be Careful What You Ask For

I distinctly remember when we were working our way out of 2019 and into 2020 how excited we were about moving into a new year and new decade, emphasis on the “new,” and leaving behind what had been a rough couple of years for some of us. Well, the funny thing about putting something out into the universe is that you have to be careful about what you put out there. I say this because we most certainly are working towards something new, by ways of a world-wide pandemic which is something that I don’t think anyone would have agreed to as part of the process to “new.”

I get asked questions by other business owners and people working to achieve success all the time and more times than not I have to ask for clarification on what they’re asking because the question they asked me was really vague or could be answered in a dozen different ways. Sometimes what you really need is someone helping you figure out how to ask a better question or to figure out what a better question is, but that’s not typically what people are thinking about or looking for. I love giving advice, but I could give hours of advice before I really get to the topic that would benefit someone unless they have a (more) specific question or topic.

The good news is that we are indeed presented with the opportunity to create something new, awesome, powerful and supportive for ourselves and the others that we share this world with. If we’re honest, how do we expect to get something new if we don’t make changes, right? Part of the challenge is that we probably weren’t very clear back in 2019 what “new” looked like anyway, we just knew that we didn’t want what we had been experiencing. Hopefully this pandemic development will be like ripping a band-aid off, and it just very expediently brought us to a bottom and we’ll have just enough time to consider and make plans for next steps by the time things start to turn around.

Take time to process the losses you’re experiencing and the dramatic change of your life, it’s totally normal to be experiencing some or all of the stages of grief as part of this journey. Then send thoughts of kindness, love and healing to the world, focusing on healing rather than the fear or uncertainties. I don’t have all the answers to what our new world will look like or when we’ll get there, but I do know that you’ve got options on how you move through this challenge. The future will eventually be here, we will eventually move through this crisis, and what “new” looks like will depend largely on what you do with this time. What do you want the new future to look like?

Creating Moments In Business

This month I read the book The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The book was about how to create moments in business that will stick with and thrill customers, which is certainly something that many businesses are talking about right now (the customer experience), so there were lots of ideas and examples to contemplate with regard to creating experiences. Early in the book the authors reminded that it’s not just about making experiences or moments, it’s about all of the wasted and missed opportunities to make people feel included, welcomed, supported and appreciated.

So what is a moment? It could be something as inexpensive as an ice pop or cup of coffee, it could be even cheaper and be just a thoughtful email sent out at the right time. It could also be something that takes a lot of time, resources and effort to create, like reaching the top of Everest. Moments like Everest or graduating college are somewhat predictable in that you are almost certain it’s going to happen and when it will happen. However other moments like ice pops or coffee or emails are a surprise to customers, but should be something that you as the business have planned and work into your marketing and customer appreciation strategies.

Something they talked about at the end of the book was the fact that if you really want to create moments in your business for your customers, you have to start with a great employee experience. Employees are the people who can turn a bad experience into a good one (in one study almost 25% of positive experiences were based on how well an employee resolved a service failure), so why do so many businesses put so little effort into caring for and supporting their employees and empowering them as team players for caring for customers? You can easily create more positive customer experiences by educating and empowering your employees on the broad range of ways they can turn issues and failures around, as well as give them a number of “freebies” each week of ways they can surprise and delight customers.

Finally, the book talks about the fact that you don’t have to try to make every aspect of your business a “moment.” Not every detail needs to wow as long as some moments are magical and picture-worthy or worthy of sharing with your social connections. Yes, you should be aware of and work on fixing both the really big issues and the smaller issues that will overshadow or ruin any moments you try to make. In conjunction with that and after that, once you’ve got an experience that is reliable and dependable and you have a competent team, then you can work on consistently making “moments.”

Are you making moments in your business? What do customers say surprises and thrills them about you and your team?

Failures and Regrets

Regrets: we all have them in life. Maybe they’re from something we did, or maybe they’re from something we didn’t do. Regret can be defined as “to feel sorrow or remorse for, to think of with a sense of loss, dissatisfaction, disappointment.” I do plenty of rethinking a situation or conversation and about what I could/should have done and mentally rework situations, so I tend towards the dissatisfaction aspect of regrets rather than the sorrow or loss aspects. But maybe you’re someone who thinks more along the lines of what could have been or feels frustration with what was. Maybe you’re not someone who deals in regret as much but rather gets stuck in failure.

Failure and regret are cousins in a sense, because both can create a sense of loss. Both also come with the lesson of the importance of what you do or choose next. If we’re so stuck in failure and/or regret we’ll miss out on the opportunity to do better or start to fix our mistakes in the next situation. No, you can’t turn the clock back to bring someone, including yourself, back to life, but you can choose going forward to be better about saying what you mean and meaning what you say and investing in the lives of the people who mean the most to you, or doing something differently so you don’t end up with the same result.

Lately I’ve been hearing quite a few people reference Thomas Edison and how he said “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work.” Stopping at failure means that you’re not going to try again, that you don’t have hope that you can do better or solve the problem. Occasionally this is a good choice, because you recognize that you’ve reached the end of your capabilities at this time and aren’t going to keep pushing senselessly. You recognize that it’s time to pass the responsibility or opportunity on to someone else.

You can’t pass regrets off on someone else, but others can learn from your regrets. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people comment about deathbed statements and how there’s some regret included there about what they didn’t do or who they were. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid the regret because a terminal illness has taken the choice away from them, but in many cases it’s people who lived their long life a certain way and now looking back are wishing they had done something different.

So if you’re dealing with a regret today I would encourage you to take time to consider it. Feel the emotions wrapped up in it and decide if the experience will change how you do things or who you are going forward. If you’re dealing with a failure, don’t spend too long looking at the failure as a failure, instead let it help guide you to making decisions about how or if you’re moving forward, or what you can learn from what didn’t work or go right.

A Journey of Self Discovery

Today I’m thinking about what it means to be yourself. I talk on occasion about the importance of caring for yourself and not making so many sacrifices you don’t take the time to care for yourself, and I often talk about the importance of each of us being our own person and unique. But I don’t take a lot of time to dive into the insecurities and the struggles that almost all of us face.

Some of us only take one journey of self discovery in our lives, and that’s because it takes that much time and life to work through just that one path. Others of us take one journey of self discovery and we discover early on who we are and the rest of our life is filled with learning, but being confident in who we are. Many of us however take many journeys throughout our lives, each path being a new experience or opportunity that may have little or no bearing on a previous one, our path is ultimately just to explore.

It can be frustrating, even scary, to get to a point in your life and realize that the journey has completely changed or the path you were on has abruptly ended. Which is why it’s so important to be willing to love yourself no matter what, to work on forgiving yourself in many situations, to be at least understanding that change happens (often), and have a support system you can tap into (even if it’s a virtual one or a therapist/counselor).

If you are going through a particularly challenging portion of your current self discovery journey, I would encourage you to make time on a daily basis for both action and reflection.  Keep yourself moving in the direction that the path is leading, and take time to consider the lessons you’re learning and make sure that you’re going in a direction that’s healthy for you and those in your life.

One final thought for today: try to trust yourself. You won’t always get your gut feelings right, you won’t always make the right decisions, you won’t always allow the right people into your life, but if you trust yourself, your abilities, your passion, your smarts and your heart you’ll get there more often than not.

Endings Aren’t The End

Just about everyone is done with this school year and moving on to whatever is next for them. This also means that some adults are moving on to other jobs after their contracts have ended, and others are moving on because the company has changed or they have changed. Endings are part of life even if we don’t want them to be, but it seems like these days more than ever we’re facing more endings because life changes and moves much quicker than it used to.

Sometimes an ending in and of itself is all you’re meant to do, for example when it comes to drugs (you don’t want to end your “relationship” with one drug just to move on to another one). Sometimes you may not feel like moving on quite yet (like if your heart is broken you may not feel like getting into a new romantic relationship).  But more often than not, an ending happens with the idea that something is coming next, like looking for a new job or starting a business after you lose your job.

It’s healthy to be able to move on in life. We shouldn’t be trapped by the past, stuck in our mistakes or limited by who we used to be. Life isn’t about endings, it’s about growing, learning, exploring, and thriving. And we can’t do those things without having some endings in our lives, even if those endings scare us a bit or bring us through a period of upheaval and frustration. So go ahead and celebrate the endings you are experiencing right now, and look excitedly to what the future could hold. The only way the future can be worse than the past is if you let it be or give up on life and living.

“Why would I retire? Sit at home and watch TV? No thanks. I’d rather be out playing.” Paul McCartney

Accessibility Awareness for Success

One of the things I love most about running a business in this day and age is the ease of getting information to people in a whole variety of ways. For example, it’s easy to translate text into another language with just a few clicks and have it be a fairly accurate translation. All of the technology has also helped create incredible strides in leveling the field between those who have disabilities and those who don’t. Since today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about some of the ways we can be more sensitive and more proactive about making sure our businesses and information are accessible to more people.

Video is an easy way to take people places they can’t go and also provide an experience with your words that isn’t possible through some of the software that will read the text for you. But for those who can’t hear, it’s disappointing and frustrating that so much of the world is going to video and away from text. The recent changes within browsers that are blocking auto play videos or blocking the sound from videos has actually done some really good things for accessibility, because companies are now including text within the videos, allowing more people to experience the video (and improving on what closed captions could do). Including a transcript with the video is also helpful for those who prefer or need the text.

I love writing, and I think that writing is one of the best ways to reach many people because it can be easily translated or read by software. But when text is within a graphic or there is no text, there’s no way to translate that text or read that text with a software. For photos on websites it’s helpful to include a sufficient title/name with the photo so software can read the photo. For photos on social media an example of what you could do is like what some of the Guide Dog social accounts do, wherein they include a sentence at the end of the written part of the post explaining what the image is for those who can’t see it.  Make sure that the text on your site isn’t within a graphic and can’t be translated or read, or that the text that is within graphics/images isn’t important.

One of the newer innovations are all of the audio devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. These devices talk to you, do searches for you, play music for you, play games with you, and find all kinds of information for you, with only your voice in control. Yes, these devices make things easier for everyone in terms of accessibility, but they also help unite people and provide a uniform experience in a way that hasn’t happened in the past for those with sight or physical disabilities.  For many businesses this is a new world, but there are companies getting involved in and using the devices for their businesses, and opportunities to learn about and grow into.

While Global Accessibility Awareness Day is really about technology, it’s a good reminder to businesses that there are people with various disabilities, things that they may not take into account when designing their store or creating their products/services. There are laws with regards to being required to provide accessibility, so today is a great opportunity to go ahead and check that your business is compliant, and even supportive of equal access for everyone.

Building a Bigger, Bolder Business

This month I took a look at Think Big, Act Bigger by Jeffrey Hayzlett. I’m not big on reality TV, so my first introduction to Jeffrey was through a telesummit several years ago. I don’t always connect with individuals or leaders who are big and bold and outspoken, but Jeffrey is so much more than that, it wasn’t as noticeable or unavoidable as it is with some other leaders, in other words it didn’t define him in a negative way. And that’s really how the entire book read for me. I really felt like it wasn’t about him sharing why he’s a great leader, it was him revealing in a very personable way why who he is and the decisions he makes work, and why they might/will work for others.

In the book Jeffrey talks about what may seem like a conflicting set of topics. On one side he makes it very clear that his business (any business) isn’t meant to appeal to or work with everyone. He shares an example of how they had a slogan on a website and the team removed that slogan during a website edit because the team said it offended some people. His answer was that it was that if someone can’t see past the slogan or is offended by it, the slogan has done its’ job in weeding out the not ideal clients.

But Jeffrey also talks about the importance of asking and finding out why someone didn’t buy a product or service. Maybe it is because they’re not a good fit (and that’s OK). Maybe it’s because they don’t understand (and that’s your fault and something you can fix). Maybe it’s because the product or service isn’t up to par with the competition (again, something that you can fix). Maybe it’s because your sales people were rude, ignorant, unknowledgeable or lazy (something you must do something about). Knowing why (and doing something about those answers you can and should do something about) can mean not only an increase in business and sales, but also you bringing a better business to the world.

One of the parts of the book I appreciated most was Jeffrey’s take on teams/employees and leaders. He is a believer in hiring people and giving them the tools and empowerment to make decisions based on systems they have set up in the business. The difference with some other businesses and leaders and their employees is that Jeffrey makes a point of doing everything and having knowledge and experience in everything, from cleaning bathrooms to marketing to finances, just for starters. This means he has the knowledge and experience to do it all so he can talk with his people about everything. He isn’t stepping away from or not leading or disconnected from the business, he simply has done it all and now focuses his time on the most important things, and lets other people do what they’re good at doing.

I alluded to it at the beginning of the post and you can guess it from the title of the book, but one of the big keys is the importance of having a positive attitude, thinking bigger, acting bigger, and being real. Yes, Jeffrey grows big businesses, but this isn’t just about the size of your business or your bank account, but about being a big leader that’s making a positive impact in the world through their business, regardless of how many customers they serve.

With that in mind, I wanted to end with a quote from the Introduction: “I can think bigger, act bigger, and do it my way-because I can.” How will you make a difference in your business, be a better leader for your business and make a difference with your business for your community, tribe, and the world?

A Time of Reflection

I was reading yet another email after reading another blog post about someone hitting burnout the other day, and the news has shared that tragically several people connected to mass shootings have committed suicide in recent days. As equipped as I think we may be for all that life throws at us each day, the reality is we sometimes don’t realize how much we’re taking on, don’t ask for the help we need, don’t take time to deal with the overwhelm we’re feeling, and/or don’t realize how serious things have gotten. And then we hit that breaking point, unfortunately sometimes of no return.

Most people have developed coping mechanisms that help them deal with typical daily stresses (a fight with a friend or significant other, deadlines at work, children’s tantrums etc.), but as we know especially from the men and women who have been in the military, there’s no coping with some things, some things we’re just not equipped to deal with normally and that’s when we can get into trouble.

Part of the reason I think we struggle with coping and hit burnout is because instead of taking a step back we pile on the activities, work, people and things. Maybe we think we do it because it means we won’t be able to think about how we really feel or what’s really going on, and that may work for the short term, but it rarely does anything about the actual situation or how you feel.

You may not know it, but we’re in the middle of the spiritual season called Lent which leads to the celebration of Easter. Lent is a time of reflection, for people to get right with themselves and with God. Anytime is a great time to get right with God, but today I’d encourage you to spend some time on self reflection, really considering where your life is at and what you need most. Asking for help and knowing when you need to take a break (and taking one) actually show how strong you are, not how weak.  A little reflection and taking a time-out today can positively shape your future if you let it.  I’d encourage you to make it a regular practice as well since life shows no plans of slowing down or becoming a cake walk anytime soon.

Reality Check Question

Every so often I come across a question that not only makes me think, it’s one that I think you would benefit from considering in your life. Today I’ve got a question that you can apply to many different aspects of your life, from business to personal to relationship to health to success to finance to parenting. Like many good questions it’s open-ended and challenges you to not only consider what is but what could be. Ready?

Is this my reality forever?

I know that I talk about changes, goals and victories all the time, and that’s because they’re a reality for everyone and usually on a very regular basis. But sometimes I think we forget to think beyond the moment, beyond the panic, beyond the frustration, beyond the change. I also think we sometimes get wrapped up in the issues and the downhill roll we may seem to be going through.

Doing a quick check on yourself, your direction and your attitude with this question can help you get perspective and find the motivation and hope to move through your current situation and into a reality you prefer if you’re not happy with your reality. It can also remind you to slow down and enjoy your reality as it is, if it’s something you will likely have only once or twice in your life.

So the next time you start getting wound up or frustrated by life or feel like it’s running past you, I encourage you to stop for a moment and ask “Is this my reality forever?”

Living Today

The new year has arrived and we’re almost a week in! I love that we have life divided into days, months, years and lifetimes. It helps us to process better and plan both short-term and long-term goals which give us small and large victories throughout our lives.  Each one is filled with a different set of opportunities for us to live and love and build relationships and be successful.

I don’t always go with a year theme, but lots of people do. I’ve seen lots of different words this year including spaciousness, time, intention, substance, experience, purpose, promise, change and clarity. This year I’ll be doing something different and not doing monthly themes for every month as I’ve done in the past, but instead going with a yearly theme. This year’s theme is going to be ‘today.’

Why ‘today’? Not because of how fast-paced our world is, but rather because I want us to take a step back and live in today, accomplish things today, appreciate today, learn from today and enjoy today. Yes, we’ll still talk about goals, planning, the future, and the bigger picture, but I want to focus on appreciating, enjoying and acting on each day.

As we’re constantly reminded of in the news each day is a gift. What you do in that day may make or break your future. It can overcome what you’ve done in the past. You can end the day satisfied with what you got done that day or feeling like it was all a waste. It may be one of your last days, will you look back and know you lived it well?

What will you do with today?