Hope and Brilliance

So I’m a bit concerned today and maybe you share my concern. What am I concerned about? The leaves that are changing colors for autumn seem to be missing their brilliance. I see some colors out there, but there’s almost a brown tinge to everything. The yellow leaves are more like weak chicken noodle soup and less like a yellow jacket. The red leaves are like reddish-brown clay rather than a hot red pepper. And the orange leaves just look brown.

I’m not exactly up on the science of how leaves transform and what gives them their brilliant color, but it almost feels like someone took the thrill out of autumn. It’s just not the same to have the warm beverage and be out picking apples and taking a drive in the countryside if the leaves aren’t brilliant colors. It doesn’t seem like the usual last hurrah for the year that nature has before it transitions to the sleep of winter.

Admittedly it is quite early in the season and there are still tons of green trees out there, so anything is possible and I haven’t given up hope. But I’m not in love with autumn to begin with and not having the usual leaf display makes it that much harder to face. As I’ve been feeling a bit depressed by the leaves over the past few days, it’s got me thinking about our lives and our world. We’ve come so far and yet it seems like sometimes we’re not making any progress. Yes, there’s always something that we could be working on, but it’s more than that: it sometimes seems like we’re falling behind or taking steps backwards instead of moving forward. I don’t know about you but not only is that frustrating to me, it’s discouraging too.

I can’t do anything about the leaves, but I can do something about my life and try to do something about the world I live in, in fact we all can. Individually we can commit to a schedule, get organized, hire help, reduce our distractions, reduce our commitments, donate stuff, and make choices that feel good and are good for the world we share. As a community we can share a good word on social media, support local businesses, sign petitions, support charities, vote and be considerate of those we share this planet with. It won’t happen instantly, but if we’re committed to making positive steps forward every day and to having more victories than losses, together we can keep our lives and the world moving forward and not let it slide back. Will you shine a little more brilliantly today?

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Inviting in Change

Autumn began again yesterday. I always have a hard time accepting the beginning of autumn because it means winter soon follows. But that’s not a line of thinking that really benefits me, because there are tons of things I greatly enjoy about autumn like the beginning of gatherings of loved ones, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, hot apple cider (and all hot beverages), and autumn decorations. So I’m going to do my best this autumn to live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes with whatever autumn related changes happen, and not think about what comes down the road weather wise.

But even if I am able to really enjoy each autumn day for what it is, there’s something you can’t miss or ignore about autumn, in fact autumn practically personifies it, and that would be change. You can’t talk about autumn and the changes of leaves, or the changes of temperature, or the changes of schedule, without change. Ironically the other morning as I was seeing leaves of bright colors outside my bathroom window and thinking about how my plans for the day weren’t going as anticipated, I thought of the old saying ‘plans change.’

Change is really one of the secrets of life and success. If you want to be successful there’s very little that you can be successful doing that doesn’t change in some way, shape, or form. For example, people still use candles just like they did thousands of years ago, but for many years many made them while now most buy them, and many buy them online, something that couldn’t have been done even just 30 years ago. Candles are still part of our lives, but there is much that has changed about the experience since those early days.

Autumn comes whether you invite it in or not, but you do have to invite in many aspects of change, especially if you want them to help you thrive in life. The harder you fight them, the more you ignore them, the further you push them down on your to-do list, not only will you be more miserable, you’ll also struggle more and find yourself further from the successes you may desire. It may not be easy to invite change in, but I suggest you don’t wait until you hit an emergency or a breaking point before making changes. Working with change also gives you the opportunity to have a say in what your future holds. Autumn has arrived, will you invite change into your life with it?

Celebrating the Tastes of Autumn

One of the things I love most about the change of seasons are the different foods that come into season.  Yes, we’re lucky enough in our world that we can have an ingredient at any point in time, not just when it’s technically in season, but most fruits and vegetables are better when they’re officially in season.  So today I thought I’d share a list of in season vegetables and some recipes that are kid (and picky adult) friendly.

Beets:

Beet and carrot latkes

Beet and chocolate muffins

Beet hummus

Beet, banana and raspberry smoothie

Beet chips

Crunchy beet and carrot slaw

Brussels Sprouts:

Lemon honey shredded Brussels sprouts

Caramelized Brussels sprouts with maple orange glaze

Brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins

Crispy Brussels sprouts chips

Squash:

Butternut squash mac and cheese

Butternut squash bread

Butternut squash fries

Bacon and Parmesan fritters with spaghetti squash 

Spaghetti squash fritters

Sweet Potato:

Sweet potato, black bean and kale enchiladas

Sweet potato cottage pie

Sweet potato tots

Sweet potato corn cakes

Bacon and sweet potato slice

Cauliflower:

Twice baked cauliflower

Creamy cauliflower capellini

Broccoli and cauliflower bites

Cauliflower pizza crust

Cauliflower buffalo wings

Parsnip:

Parsnip muffins

Parsnip fries

Sweet potato and parsnip mash

Parsnip chips

What are your favorite recipes to make with fall vegetables?

The Autumn of Success

As I was out taking a walk the other day I was once again taken in by the wide variety of leaves that are part of the world where I live. Each autumn those leaves fall out of the trees and brilliant colors that cover the ground fade within days to dull browns. As you know leaves fall off the trees somewhere between September and December depending on the year and then reappear in or after March.

It reminded me that sometimes we have to give things up in order to get the things we want, or that sometimes we have to let go of the old to make room for the new. If you’re trying to lose weight but keep riding the roller coaster, sometimes the best thing you can do is to give up those old clothes. Don’t even give yourself the opportunity to get back into them. If you’ve been struggling with your employees but really want your company to succeed, you either need to fix the situation with the employees you’ve got or hire new employees. As I talked about last Wednesday though, don’t fall into the trap of fixing the wrong issue, in other words the issue may not be the employees but rather you or how the company is run.

But as with the leaves, they don’t just reappear on the trees immediately, there’s a rest period. If you know anything about farming you know that farmers rest portions of their fields each year because the soil needs to be rejuvenated. The nutrients of the soil aren’t just there, and if the soil isn’t given the necessary rest it won’t perform to the best standards. The same is true for our lives, sometimes you have to take time to rejuvenate for the next step in your success journey to really be successful.

This week I do encourage you to make strong steps forward on your success journey, but don’t do it at the expense of a complete flame out or if you’re not really convinced with what you’re doing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an escape hatch or backup plan, just that you should be working forward, not waiting for the floor to fall out from under you.

Empowering Through Sales

It’s September so of course I’m thinking about lots of education topics and about the next generation.  Last week we talked about something that kids are known for: asking questions, but we talked about it with regards to building a better business.  Something that we may talk about in other contexts later this month or next month is the topic of bullying because it’s a serious topic that affects people of all ages, not just kids, but it’s most discussed with regards to kids.  What I want to talk about today is something that relates to bullying, is actually in some ways the opposite: empowerment.

The way I see it businesses are in the business of empowering their customers in one way or another.  Whether they offer a product or service they empower their customers through the solutions they offer to problems in their lives (darkness, coldness/heat, hunger, transportation, infertility, crazy kids, divorce, loneliness, sickness etc.).  The dictionary defines empower as “to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means, to enable or permit.”  By putting whatever you sell in their lives you’re giving them the power to overcome the challenges in their lives, to make living life a little easier or better, and you’re giving them the opportunity to make the right choices for their life.

So the question we ask often is how can we make our customers and employees happier?  Logic, systems, leadership, training, testing, communication, marketing, good people and customer service are all ways that we as business owners can give our customers and employees can make their experience with us better, longer, and more satisfying.  Make sure that what you offer and what you tell people make sense.  Make sure that you’ve got good systems, leadership, training, hiring practices and communication in place to support and guide your employees. Make sure that people can find you, know what you offer and are able to understand what you offer and how to use/apply it.  And make sure that the experience they have with you and what you offer makes them want to come back for more, even if their initial purchase with you isn’t the greatest.

By choosing to go the extra mile with preparing your products and services for customers, giving your employees the tools they need to be successful and support your customers and giving your customers an experience that reinforces the great product or service you’ve sold them, not only are you more likely to be more successful as a business, you’re empowering your clients and customers to solve their problems and enjoy their lives.

How do you empower your customers and/or employees?

Joy in Seasons

Can you believe another month is almost over?  Today is our last post really looking at our topic of the month: seasons.  What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the joy that can be found in each and every season.  I know, you’re mentally complaining about at least one season in your head right now, like how much snow there is in winter, how much rain there is in spring/the rainy season, how hot summer/the dry season is, how cold fall gets and miserable it is to watch the leaves fall off the trees etc.  You don’t have to like every season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some joy in each of them.  For example,  I don’t like snow but still find joy in watching kids go sledding, or sitting in a comfy chair watching the snow fall with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

Like so many things, the seasons are really what you make of them.  Last Wednesday I talked about what to do if your business is heading into a slow season for the summer.  Just because you may not be making many sales, it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can, could or should be doing during this time.  Just because it’s raining out today doesn’t mean that you have to do nothing because your outside plans were cancelled.   Just because you have a broken arm or leg doesn’t mean there’s no summer fun to be had.

I really believe that life is what you make of it a majority of the time. If you are feeling miserable, that’s the life situation you’ll create around you.  If you’re feeling like a winner, that’s the situation you’ll create around you.  If you want to enjoy your least favorite season, I believe you’ll be able to find reasons to do so!  But it only happens when we choose that path.    So what path will you choose this summer? Will you choose to find some reason for joy in each and every day?

Life Beyond Fears

This month we’ve been talking about fears. The thing about fears is that they hold us back more often than they help us.  Yes, they’re there to protect us, but many times they’re more over-the-top than helpful.  Today I wanted to share about one of the drawbacks of fear: what you miss out on.  When you’re busy looking over your shoulder you’re too busy to look in front of you and see life’s potential.  You’re missing out on the cool things, the weird things, the things that make you laugh and smile, the things that cheer you up, the things that challenge you and the things you fall in love with.  Fear means that you’re too busy looking back to appreciate all that you have or could have.

So while I can’t magically poof your fears and issues away, I want you to take just 5 minutes to really see the world around you this weekend.  Stop and check out the leaves changing colors, stop and smell the crisp scent of fall in the air, stop and see what the people in your world are doing, stop and see the changes going on all around you as stores prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and see what has become of your life.  Take time to see the world around you and be grateful for all you have and all those who are part of your life.

This week on the Spirituality and Life blog I shared about overcoming your fears (part 1, part 2), and sometimes the thing to do is to face them and work on overcoming them.  But sometimes what your fears, your life, and the people in your life need is more thanksgiving, love and joy.  When we learn to focus on those things, and not the fears and challenges that seem to be taking over our lives, we’re able to see life from a whole new perspective, and often be freed from our fears without having to do anything.

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”  Henri J M Nouwen

Holiday Helpings

October is really the start of the holiday season in my mind.  These 3 months are when some businesses make the majority of their sales, often led by the “Black Friday”/”Cyber Monday” sales days.  If you’re a summer business it may not affect you (unless you can get on board with “Giving Tuesday” somehow or offer deals for next summer), but for the rest of us there’s a lot of potential in these last 3 months that so many businesses waste.  So today I wanted to address the holiday season and help you kick it into gear if you haven’t already.

To start we need to answer the really big question: why bother?  I believe that most businesses, especially those who change or tweak what they offer on a regular basis, have a great opportunity to participate in the seasons and holidays and offer some really fun and creative options that aren’t available all year long.  Starbucks is really great with this, offering seasonal drinks and treats depending on the flavors and foods that are grown or celebrated at that time.  Also, while they always bring back some customer favorites there are always at least a couple of completely new options they try.  Restaurants, artists, musicians, family care services, cleaning services, event locations, grocery stores, beverage companies, bakeries, business consultants, marketers, travel companies and TV/radio stations are just a few of the businesses that can tap into the seasons and holidays and add a little something special to surprise their customers and interest new ones too.

So, assuming that you’re going to jump on the opportunity this holiday season presents, no later than the 2nd week of October should you have your plan for the rest of the year nailed down and be able to start celebrating the holidays.  This starts with planning the products and services you’ll be offering for the next 2.5 months and, if necessary, getting the designs shipped off so testing and creating can begin.  It also includes sketching out your website and marketing designs and ads for the rest of the year and planning who will make those changes and when, interviewing extra staff, considering special events you’re going to offer or participate in, if you’ll be doing a charity drive of some sort, and any other little things that you and your team can do to make the holiday season a little more unique and special.  Completing this planning stage by the second week of October means that you’ll just have to deal for the most part with serving your holiday specials to your customers for the rest of the year.

Offering seasonal/holiday options are a great way to stand out from similar businesses and let customers and potential customers know that you’re not just about the bottom line, but that you recognize changing needs and desires customers have, and that you know how to have some fun too.  I would love to help you plan the next 2.5 months of your business with special holiday offers, stop by my website and let’s talk!  If you already have holiday plans I invite you to share your ideas in the comments.

Giving Thanks

Just a few days remain between us and the celebration of Thanksgiving. I’m already working on my list of things I’m thankful for, and I am so thankful that the list is so long! I know that there are many people around the world who cannot claim that, so that makes me extra grateful. In thinking about Thanksgiving this week and the topic of being thankful over the past month I’ve shared that thanksgiving is about receiving and giving thanks. What I’ve found is that those who are most grateful aren’t those who have things like being alive (without relationship to serious illnesses), having a job (which they hate), or having people in their lives (who they can’t stand) on their thankful lists. No, those who are truly able to experience the fullness of Thanksgiving are those who have worked hard to achieve the victories they’re celebrating this Thanksgiving.

It’s true that most good things take work to achieve or attain. The shallow victories and accomplishments that some chalk up as great can’t deliver the feelings of pride and satisfaction that those who worked very hard to make happen experience. Knowing that you worked with your bare hands to create that amazing project or contribute to someone’s life in that way is rewarding in and of itself.

But as I said before, Thanksgiving, much like Christmas, is an action-oriented celebration. Thanksgiving is about giving (expressing) thanks for all you’ve been blessed with and about blessing (giving) others with even just a little of what you’ve received, often through an invitation to join you for Thanksgiving dinner, a Box of Love or donation to a charity.

This Thanksgiving I would encourage you to not wait for the good stuff to find you, but to go out there and bless others and give them a reason to be thankful.

Plans with Popcorn

Today I’m sharing lots of popcorn recipes to get you ready for the World Series, scary Halloween movies, or just a yummy afternoon snack.

Chili Lime

Cheesy garlic

Mexican chocolate

Sage

Chocolate almond

Sweet and spicy crunch

Macadamia butter crunch

Kettle corn

Sweet and nutty

Sesame ginger

Aztec chocolate and caramel

Cranberry orange caramel

Herbs de Provence and asiago cheese

Carmel apple monster munch

Slacker jacks

Grandma Paul’s caramel corn

Theater style butter

More Treat Ideas

Chewy caramel popcorn and pretzel bars

Golden popcorn squares

Toffee almond popcorn balls

Gooey Halloween popcorn balls

Candy corn popcorn balls

What toppings have you tried and enjoyed with popcorn?