The Blessing of Surprises

This weekend I was thinking about the topic of surprise as I was working on my newsletters. Some of us are good with surprises but others of us hate them. I’m kind of in the middle, I like having and knowing plans and things, but at the same time it can be fun to get a surprise free gift with an order or be surprised by what a restaurant has for specials that day. If we really think about it just about every day has at least one surprise in it, there’s almost no way we can fully predict our day from start to finish. Sometimes those surprises are good, and other times they’re challenges to us or become obstacles in our days.

One of my favorite surprises to have in my life are kids and animals. Both can bring some pretty crazy antics to the table, and while they do have some predictability, you never really know what they’re going to say or how they’re going to play or the things they’ll get into. I think having these types of simple but active and life-affirming surprises in our lives are an important aspect of keeping us young, adventurous, curious and healthy.

Getting old is a fact of life, but just because our age says we’re older, it doesn’t mean that we have to feel and look older. There are some very active senior citizens in the world who experience more joy and freedom in their lives than adults do because they’ve got things going on in their lives that keep them active physically, but just as important, and maybe more importantly, keep them active mentally.

When was the last time you let a little surprise into your life? I know it can be challenging, especially for the control freaks out there to let go and let a surprise into their life, but there comes a time in all our lives that things are out of our control, no matter how hard we try or what we do. So I encourage you to open yourself up to a little down time each day to let things happen as they will. You may find that they’re the best and most rewarding moments of your day.

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Words of Freedom

Today I’m sharing a few quotes on our topic of the month, freedom.  Quite a few people have some great insight into this topic and I think it’s worth taking a look at their perspectives. 

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” Jim Morrison

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” Soledad O’Brien

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” Stephen Covey

“Instead of trying to make your life perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go ever upward.” Drew Houston

“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”  Jim Morrison

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” Barack Obama

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus

“True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right.” Brigham Young

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Soren Kierkegaard

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” Nelson Mandela

“We gain freedom when we have paid the full price.” Rabindranath Tagore

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.” Rosa Parks

What wisdom have you heard about freedom?

Freeing Your Business From Indecision

Today as we think more about freedom I want to talk about one of the things that challenges that freedom, indecision. As a business owner you’ve got a lot coming at you that you have to make decisions about on a daily basis, and as a result some business owners go into overwhelm and the business may fall apart. You’ve seen some of these businesses on TV shows like Tabitha’s Salon Takeover and Bar Rescue, they’re suffering and not successful, and often that’s a result of overwhelm or indecision and lack of direction from the owner(s) and/or manager(s). Of course, we can’t forget or ignore the indecision that customers struggle with either. So let’s take a look at 3 key players in our businesses and their relationship with indecision.

Owners: I get the importance of doing your research and taking the time to evaluate your options. As a side note I talk with too many people who don’t take the 5-10 minutes to do the research before they make a decision, with all the information on the internet and contactability through social media there’s no excuse. However, as the person in charge you have to make a decision at some point in time and put action behind it. Your indecision not only affects you, but it also impacts your employees and your customers. There are people out there waiting for the solutions you could be offering but because you’re waiting to decide on a web layout or waiting for the discount to do an ad or putting off the renovations to your store, those potential customers are not getting the best from you.

Employees: As a business owner you need to 1) empower your employees to be able to make decisions for your customers, 2) encourage your employees to make decisions, and 3) motivate your employees to make decisions that are best for both your business and your customers. Employees who are happy in their jobs and believe in what the business is selling and in the brand the business is growing, will typically make good decisions for your business, but they can’t if you haven’t educated them on the principles of working with customers as you want done in your business and you haven’t told them they’re allowed to make decisions that will bring customers back in the future even if they have an issue currently.

Customers: You won’t sell to every person that interacts with your business, that’s just the way it is. You should not want to sell to every person either, because not every person is a good fit for what you offer. However, I’ve never met a business that wasn’t missing out on converting some of the potential customers. Customers have indecision for several reasons including: they don’t know what you’re selling, they don’t know what people think of what you’re selling, they don’t know what the price is of what you’re selling, they have questions about what you’re selling, and they’re concerned about liking what you’re selling after buying. If these issues are present for them when they consider your offer, you’re giving your potential customers the excuse they were looking for to run instead of buying. Do your part in giving them fewer excuses to try someone else.

If you’ve been struggling with indecision on something, I encourage you to accept this reminder today and take action. Don’t make your business, your employees or your customers wait any longer, and do what you can to remove the dreaded gray area. What decisions will you make today?

What About Your Freedoms?

This month as we talk about freedom you’re probably aware that a big part of the conversation around freedom is about helping others have the freedoms we’re blessed with, or about being part of a movement to get freedoms. Part of the blessing of technology today is that even if you can’t physically go or monetarily contribute or do the research to find a cure, you can always sign a petition or share a link on social media. But there’s a part of freedom that’s important to consider as well, one that we often skip over because there are so many people in the world, and our own individual worlds, that need our help. It’s something that can be criticized and to be the most effective does need to be balanced in your life. What is it? It’s taking care of yourself and your freedoms first.

Why is it important to take care of yourself first? Because, as the old story goes, you can’t save anyone if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first. Taking care of yourself is important whether we’re talking about your physical or mental health, your career, your future or your freedom. If you’re not rested, fulfilled, inspired, cared for or loved, you won’t be as capable of giving to others. Can you still care for others or help them in getting to their goals? Of course, but there comes a time when you’re so drained that you don’t have any more to give. It’s better to take a step back and rejuvenate on a regular basis than give your all all of the time and never take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself and putting yourself first isn’t about being selfish or not caring for anyone else, it’s about making sure that you’re taking the time to care for yourself, not just everyone else.

So as you enjoy your freedoms with your family this summer and do take some time to do some pampering or take some time off, I encourage you to make it a regular part of your life all year long.

Freedom to be Different

This month one of the topics we’ll be taking a look at is the topic of freedom. Part of that freedom that everyone wants to embrace is the freedom to be who they are, to be themselves, and to not be ridiculed or rejected because they’re different. It’s not always easy to give others that freedom because we don’t understand them or their differences, or think that their differences make them wrong/bad. Part of that struggle is a conversation issue, but it might not be the one you’re thinking it is, because there are lots of people around the world having great conversations and lots of opportunities throughout social media and tons of other forums, which is good news.  But most of those conversations are happening between people that who share the same differences (for example between survivors of a particular trauma or people who have a medical condition or people with a passion for bratwurst).

I think a big part of the conversation issue is that some people aren’t willing to listen to others share about their differences, and part of that unwillingness has to do with fears. Fears about the other person’s story actually making a lot of sense, being able to identify with them, or even finding out that maybe the differences aren’t so different after all. If any of those things happen we have to readjust what we know and especially how we interact with them, and that can be really scary or intimidating. It also leads into the possibility that we were wrong about the type of person they are, or wrong about how wrong/bad/weird their difference is, and that’s not easy to swallow either.

I’m not suggesting that we should sit down with terrorists and try to understand or accept our differences, that’s a completely different conversation for another day. What I’m talking about here is two people (or a group of people) talking long before things would ever escalate to war/genocide/massacre level, or even to protest level. I’m talking about regular citizens having conversations with cops, people of different cultures talking, or the older generations talking with the younger ones.

I don’t believe that we’ll all love each other and everything will be perfect if we have these conversations, but I think that we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier if we were a little more open to each of us being different and that difference being OK. Yes, it will mean that we’ll have to suspend our judgment, be open to seeing the world in a new way and maybe even be wrong about what we knew before, not to mention become better communicators. But if we really want a better world for the next generation, I think it’s important that we take the conversations out of our individual groups and start talking among ourselves.  Will you join me in being open to being different, and maybe even someday to celebrating our differences?

First Families of the US

Today I’m thinking about the 4th of July, Independence Day here in the USA. Of course I’m thinking about the topic of freedom and all things red, white and blue, but what I want to talk about today is the men, women and children who were part of the creation and building of the country so many people call home. The people who first came over to the US were met with an almost blank slate, which was kind of the point of moving from Britain to the US. They wanted the chance to do things their way, to make the future for their children different than it was going to be if they stayed in Britain. I think in many ways the same is true for us today, I don’t want the children of our world today growing up and having children in a world that has so much violence and discrimination. I want them to live in a world that they can really prosper in and feel safe going out of their homes. But just like those early settlers, this will take some work.

One of the things that made a huge difference for those early families were the Native Americans that already inhabited the US. They knew the terrain, the plants, the animals and what worked best here, in a place that was different than the settlers were used to in Britain. Both parties had to learn to work together, and as you probably know from your history classes there were mixed results, with the settlers ending up with the better end of the deal for the most part. But the point is that as much as the settlers came to the US to do their own thing, they had to be willing to ask for help from those who already knew all about what they were starting.

One of the things that always amazes me about these early families is their courage. They didn’t know really what they were getting into, and I’m sure that each and every one of them experienced doubts at some point in time, but they persisted and didn’t give up. History also shares with us the failures of those early families, but they continued to endure and as a result we’re here today. One of the reasons they may have stuck around as well as succeeded is because they weren’t aiming for immediate perfection and achievement of their goals, they knew it would take some time to get close to what they wanted (colonies started in the 1500’s but the Declaration wasn’t signed until 1776).

What about your family? Have the challenges and experiences you’ve had as a family brought you together or pushed you apart? Yes, sometimes the separation is the best thing, but often we’re pushed apart because we’re too proud to admit we’re wrong, lazy to do the work to make the relationship healthy again or we’ve let our differences get in the way of our similarities.  I encourage you to take a good look at your family this week and decide if it’s time to mend the fences or take a more permanent step away.

Worth the Effort

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month we’re going to be talking in part about freedom, so I wanted to start the month off by talking about a topic that’s often an important aspect of both of them: effort. Yes, there are some relationships that seem effortless or don’t require a lot of effort for you to keep them going, and sometimes freedom is freely given without any real requirements or involvement on your part. But for most of us if we want our relationships to last and be fulfilling we have to put in some effort, and the amount of effort we put in often speaks to how successful those relationships will be. Also with freedom, more often than not if we’re looking to be free of something or be free to do something we have to actively pursue that goal.

I know some people get worried or overwhelmed when they hear that work is involved in something, but if you’re really serious about making that relationship work or finding that freedom there should be a fire or drive or passion in you about it. If there isn’t you’re not likely to give decent effort towards that goal, and it should be a big red flag for you about getting more involved in that relationship or freedom goal. Yes, sometimes if you give something some effort you’ll discover or rediscover the passion or interest you’ve lost or didn’t have, but usually there has to be some interest there to begin with, it isn’t created in the process.

The thing is, I think you, your life and your relationships are worth the effort. I believe each of us can and should have a life we’re proud of, one that includes relationships with people who support and love us, and freedoms to be who we are and do what we’re passionate about. You may not have accepted that you’re worth the effort and there are people around the world who believe that as well, but it’s the truth. Sure, some people will try to drag you down, but that’s often more about them and not about you.

This upcoming week I encourage you, even though it’s summer and you may be slowing things down in your life, to put a little effort into the things that matter most to you, or the things you want more of in your life. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but choosing to put a little more effort in can make a big difference, and give you a glimpse into what it would be like if you chose to put a lot more effort into it.  You may choose to communicate more often and more completely with your partner, you may choose to do more research before making a decision than you usually do, you may choose to finally ask for the help that you’ve been too ashamed to ask for, or you may choose to dedicate time every day to making your life healthier and happier.  What will a little effort do for you?

Processes and Procrastination

As we head towards the end of another week you may be thinking about what you can toss onto the piles on your desk or mark so that you deal with it next week and not today or tomorrow.  I’m familiar with the process, everyone does it to some extent. And to some extent it’s necessary to do because there are only so many hours in a day and while you may have something sudden and time-sensitive come up today, you may not have that tomorrow and be able to deal with things from today tomorrow.  The danger comes in when you never get to “tomorrow” and you keep having to put out fires and deal with emergencies today and never get to that other stuff you keep putting off.

The good news is that a portion of what you keep putting off can be handled by someone else.  You can get someone else to file the papers or place/pack orders or refill supplies or input data to a spreadsheet or program or app.  The bad news is, as you probably guessed, they can only do so much as they are not you. All that help is great to a point, then you have to step back in and choose or approve purchases, reply to clients, or confirm the data.

But what it comes back to is that you need to stop and realize that there’s a problem and you’re tired of seeing the problem day after day and not being able to do what you want to with or about it.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the software, program or procedure that you do things with/through.  Maybe it’s creating a schedule and following it 95% of the time.  Maybe it’s just hiring someone to help out a few hours a week (on either the personal or the professional side).  But I believe that for many of the things that we’re putting off, there’s a simple solution that can make it much easier and much less painful to do the job and get it done quicker and with the results you’re looking for (or at the very least results which is something you didn’t have before).

If you’re struggling with the never ending search for tomorrow in your work or home, I encourage you to take an important first step before the end of the week.  Maybe it’s reaching out to an organizer or coach like myself who is local to you and getting the conversation going.  Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes to investigate other program/procedure options.   Maybe it’s sitting down with your team and talking about who’s doing what and who would rather do what and who can help you clear things off your plate (making things easier for everyone).   What will you do?

Remembering Who You Were Born To Be

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

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

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

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

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

The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.