Are You Satisfied?

Today I got to thinking about what it means to be satisfied. We live in a world where good seems to never be good enough, where many people are unsatisfied in their relationships and their jobs, not to mention financial situations. Before we can talk about taking action, we have to talk about what it means to be satisfied.

First, you can’t be satisfied in a bad situation. The word “satisfaction” means that you have to be ok with the situation, you can’t be unhappy or displeased. Satisfied doesn’t mean perfect though. If you have satisfaction in a situation or about a project, it means you know you’ve done your very best and that while more work could be done, it wouldn’t ultimately greatly improve the outcome or performance.

I believe that it’s best to be satisfied with a situation before you move onto a new one, or at the very least come to terms with it. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’re in a bad relationship or hate your job or your business is failing, don’t just give up and switch gears. This will only cause problems for you and others years from now.

Satisfaction requires an understanding of what has happened and why. I don’t suggest that you pick apart every failure or bad moment to find the turning points and things you should have done differently, I think that we all need to spend a little time in reflection of the past and present before we move onto the future.

But, just because I’m satisfied with the outcome of something, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and not make any new goals or dream bigger for the future and next part of my life journey. Yes I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am, but I still want more! This is healthy and nothing to be ashamed of.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your life. How are you feeling right now? Are you OK with where you are and what you’re doing? Now take a moment and make plans for the rest of this week, the rest of this month and the rest of this year. What are you going to do now, what do you need to be doing in the next few weeks and months to really be satisfied with your life in 2017 when January rolls around in a few months?

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Open and Honest

One of the greatest challenges to being in business is keeping your secrets while still managing to be open enough, as open as your people need you to be. I don’t share samples of documents that are included in some of my offers because it’s my template, my idea. Just about every restaurants and foodie has a secret sauce or secret spice blend. Technology companies keep lots hidden under the hood of proprietary software and hardware. And then there’s the other side of secrets where people and companies don’t like to share when they’ve failed or something has gone wrong.

But the fact is if you’re not willing to reveal anything about your business you really can’t be successful in traditional marketing methods, you’re extremely limited to how you can gain clients/customers and who will be willing to work with you. If I know you’re a Mexican restaurant and that’s it, I’m probably going to skip eating there, unless I’m absolutely desperate for Mexican, can’t go to the grocery store and cook my own and aren’t near any other restaurants I’m more familiar with that would be OK. If I know you’re in marketing but that’s it, I’m going to look for someone else. If I know you’re a life coach and that’s it I’m probably going to move on. If I know you’re a cleaner and that’s it I’m probably going to move on. There have to be enough details that people can understand who you are, what you offer, what your difference is from people who offer similar things, where you work if appropriate and how you can help them.

But going back to the other side of the story, the scary side. What about the side that most people ignore or bypass or hope they’ll never have to think about? I’m talking about things like ingredients, privacy policies, terms of service, contracts, orders, or even accidents? One of the things that we have to stop hiding are these things that can get people disqualified, kicked out, killed, hurt or even just frustrated. Don’t hide the fact that you’re going to require your customers to do work, don’t hide the fact that there are things that will get people disqualified based on what they do or don’t do, don’t hide the fact that you only give a very limited warranty, don’t be shy about letting your customers know that you use ingredients that some people may be allergic to, and don’t make it impossible for people to get in touch with you. Some of the biggest corporations in the world make these issues, of course so do some of the smallest.

So what can we do to keep our secrets but better communicate with our customers? As a restaurant post on the menu a simple statement that you use some ingredients that people may be allergic to, and they should ask their server if that ingredient is used, or to not include that ingredient in their order. If there are things the customer has to provide or have in place in order to move forward with something, make that very clear, and also make clear if/why their order could be cancelled. Go ahead and protect your company with terms and a contract, but create them in a form that will allow people to get a quick overview and read sections, if they so desire, in more details (use an outline then longhand). Let people know that you’re understanding about things that happen beyond their control (like a hurricane) and that you’ll work with them on new payment terms if need be, and that you’ll communicate with them about things that happen beyond your control (like data breaches) within a reasonable amount of time and with as much information as you can provide, along with solutions or next steps. None of these mean that you’re giving away your company secrets, but they are giving your customers a much clearer picture of things they might need to know about, or would have concerns with.

Yes, this can be a lot of information to provide to them, which is one of the reasons I always recommend that a business has a website. On that website you can have all of this information. It doesn’t have to be front and center, it just has to be find-able. What does your company (or you) do to be open with your customers, but without giving away the bank?

Failing in School

Today I’m thinking about the countless families around the US, and maybe even the world, who are preparing to enter another year or who have already begun. It will probably be a year that has challenging moments for you as a parent, and also for your kid or kids who are in school. Maybe the education aspect will be easy for you and your kids, maybe the only challenge will be the relationships between your kids and the other kids, or between your kid and their teacher(s). Maybe the only challenge you’ll face will be dreams and fears your kid has of being in school or things that could go wrong. But maybe the challenge you’ll face is with the education aspects and learning.

If you’re a good parent you’ll do your best to help and support your kids as they face the challenges of this new school year. Maybe that means hiring someone to help them or taking extra time personally to be with or work with them. Unfortunately, as good of a parent as you may be it’s highly likely that your kid will still face failures. They’ll screw up in ways that make their stomachs drop, they’ll feel guilty, they’ll not want to approach you with what’s going on and they may hide the truth. Sometimes there won’t be much you can do, and that will hurt you, and make you hurt for them.

While I do believe that life should be made of successes and victories, the fact is we all have to deal with failures. There are people in Texas who feel like a huge failure because they just lost all their belongings and didn’t have flood insurance. They feel like they’ve let down their families. But there’s no way you can prepare for or stop a hurricane, just like you can’t stop your kids from being who they are and learning the lessons they’ll learn. The best thing you can do is to be there to help them pick themselves up after they fall and help them get back on track with love and support.

The other thing you can do is make it a priority to celebrate at least one good thing that your kids did each week. That way when the failures and challenges happen, your kids know that you’ll support them through the good and the challenges. How do you help your kids when they fail?

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?

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.

An Unsinkable Business?

This weekend I was watching some TV shows about nautical history and two of the boats they talked about were the Titanic and Bismark, both of whom were called by titles like “unsinkable” and “impenetrable.”  It got me thinking about our businesses and what we believe about them.  Do we believe we’re infallible? Do we expect to be or feel required to be perfect? Do we think we’re untouchable?  If so I believe we’re setting ourselves up for a hard fall someday, giving people possibly unrealistic expectations about us, and setting us up for extra and unnecessary criticism if and when we do fail (no matter how large or small the fail was).  Instead of trying to live up to these demanding titles, I believe we should focus instead on being known for things like our customer attention, great products and/or services, humility and continual improvement.

Do I think the outcome of the Titanic would have been different if it wasn’t billed as unsinkable?  Not necessarily, the same decisions might have been made regardless and nature does what it pleases without any input from us.  The loss of life isn’t any less or more tragic because the ship was called unsinkable either.  It’s still an incredible tragedy and reminder of how important it is to treasure your life.

This is one of the reasons I don’t like the effort that people put into going “viral” with their businesses. It’s often not achievable, and even if it is achieved they can’t replicate the results later, the results only last for so long and they’re known as one-hit-wonders in the business world.  It’s great to get a lot of attention for a worthy cause or be able to get some very helpful or necessary products in front of lots of people.  But of all the things that have “gone viral” the only one I can name off the top of my head is the Ice Bucket Challenge.

So with the holidays and the end of the year coming up I encourage you to consider if going for “the big win” is really what you want to do and what’s best for your business and customers.  Think about your long and short term goals and make sure that the effort you may put into going for the big win is really worth it and if you really think you’ll be “that guy” and catch the eye of a billionaire who wants to buy you out or celebrity that wants to promote you to all their fans.  If not, maybe there’s a better way you can use the time, money and effort you were going to put into becoming the next big thing.

A Job Well Done?

Today I’m writing from a friend’s kitchen.  I’m seeing the inside of their house for the first time after they began a big renovation a year or so ago.  As I walked through the house I looked for places and spaces that would connect me with the old house, because they built up and around the old one.  Now, I don’t know all the details and do know that there were some issues that delayed the finish, but I was surprised how much of the house wasn’t done yet.  Painting, area rugs and furniture I could understand, but I can’t understand the missing back splash in the kitchen, a missing shower door and temporary fixtures in a bathroom.

As we talk about health this month one of the important areas of our lives to talk about is our work lives.  Whether you look at it from the perspective of owning a business or working for someone else, I would not feel good about leaving the house in the condition that it is in and calling the job complete.  Yes, I would be proud of what has been accomplished so far, but not as satisfied or proud of what it could be if the job had really been completed.  I’m not talking about perfection here, but about completing the entire task to the best of your ability, being able to look at what should be the finished product and be satisfied with the work I have done.

I believe it’s important to be proud of the work you do and to celebrate the work you do.   Too many people don’t seem to get any recognition for a job well done, even if they were doing just what they were asked to do.  But I believe all of it should be celebrated, not just the big stuff or the stuff done by the big bosses.  But you can’t celebrate what isn’t complete or what isn’t done well, it’s just not right.  We don’t celebrate when we get some of the cancer or beat 20% of the other teams in the league, we celebrate most when all of the cancer is gone or beat all the other teams, because we know we’ve done our best and accomplished what we set out to do. So I guess the question is are you satisfied with what you have done and what you’re doing in your life or are you dragging through the day because you don’t have any pride for what you’re doing?  If you aren’t satisfied what are you going to do or think different to change that?

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

Telling the Truth in Business

Do you know what can sink your business really fast? Lies. When you lie about how effective a product or service is or what you’re going to do or who you are, people not only won’t buy from you again but they tell their friends too. And as we know negative news spreads faster than the positive news. I know some people will tell you that too much truth is a bad thing or that some mystique is a good thing. I agree that a little mystery can be a good thing, but what you offer and who you are should not be one of those mysteries.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth:
I understand that you want to keep some secret sauce for your clients. I have no problem with that. Some people find success in sharing their secrets, others have learned what “enough” is that they can share and interest people with what they offer. One of the things I advise some of my clients on is using Facebook. The first thing usually asked or considered is “what do you think of my page?” My answer is usually “I can’t really tell what makes you special” (or tell what you really offer at all), and sometimes also includes “and all your posts are promotional” (which isn’t a good thing). Most people don’t give sufficient information about their business whether we’re talking promotional materials, social media or in client conversations.

Do it right the first time:
If at all possible it’s always desirable to get things right the first time. The reality is that we don’t always get things right the first time and do have to fix things and sometimes start from scratch. But you’ll be more satisfied with doing the job right the first time than you would be if you gave it a half effort. Not giving it your best effort means you’ll also never know if you could have been successful if you gave it a little more effort.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right:
This is another of my favorite sayings. Too often we throw something together quick without really thinking it through or doing the research. Sometimes, as I’ve said in the past, the research is as simple as reading what’s been written and already provided to you. I don’t believe in perfection so that’s not what I’m saying and I think questions are great, so I’m not judging that either. But if you’re really serious about helping people with your product or service you owe it to them (and will save yourself lots of time) if you disclose as much as possible.

Do everyone a favor and check your business for lies, misleading information and invisible information. What do your customers and potential customers think of your business?

 

Learning from Failures

I’m not perfect, I’ve made lots of mistakes. The fact that I learn something new everyday and there’s lots that I know I don’t know about means that I’ll be learning for the rest of my life and still not learn everything. The same is probably true for you. Life is one learning experience after another. Every day brings new opportunities, new chances and new people into our lives and it’s up to us to choose if we want to use them to the best advantage or if we are going to waste them.

What do you do with the mistakes you make, with the lessons you learn and the things you see other people do and fail? Do you mentally put them into a file to pull out in the future when you face a similar situation? Or do you just shudder and hope that never happens to you? The only way that we can make the world into a better place is if we make wiser choices in the future.

Change happens whether we want it to or not, the choice we have is how we go through that change. Do we try our best or do we let it run us ragged? Hopefully it only takes a couple times of being run ragged for us to learn our lesson and start being more proactive and attentive to what goes on around us and how it affects us. You don’t have to get it right the first time, everyone fails occasionally. But if you do want to get it right at some point in time you have to keep trying.  Don’t be discouraged by your failures unless you’re not using them to make fewer failures.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” Will Rogers