Assumptions and Honesty

I watch a lot of cop shows. I enjoy some nature and educational programming as well, but my go-to are things like CSI and Cops. More often than not they’re background noise, and I’m not actually watching them, but even with just listening to them as I go in and out of a room or read emails or do paperwork, you learn a lot about the people that we share this world with. I certainly have a greater understanding for the work those who protect and investigate do, and today I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned that we can all apply to our lives and our success.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone run from the cops or commit a crime or lie because they made a false assumption. Sometimes it’s that they think they have a warrant or don’t think they’re that drunk or think someone took a couple of dollars from them, but regardless of what they’re assuming, often they’re wrong. And if they’re not wrong, it’s often something so insignificant their actions end up turning an ant hill into a mountain.

It’s dangerous to let assumptions play too large of a role in your life. They can be helpful in giving you a baseline to work with, but if you choose to operate by assumptions you’ll often end up in trouble or consistently apologizing for being wrong or blowing things out of proportion.

One of the other things that you see occasionally on the shows and you hear about in the news are cops being aggressive. Especially in more recent programing you hear them explain to people why they were so aggressive, and it’s because they want to go home at night. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that violence is the answer or that some in law enforcement aren’t too aggressive, simply that they have a little more leeway than others do when it comes to how they respond towards others.

All of these shows are about people who have lives, want to have lives or want to live. It turns out that that’s what we’re all about too. I assume that I’ll be able to see tomorrow, enjoy food tomorrow, see my partner tomorrow and make a difference in the world tomorrow. It’s an assumption that I’m fairly confident in being able to make, but I just don’t know for 100%. Life truly is a gift, one that can change or be taken from us at any time. If we were to respect each other a little more, listen a little better, be a little more honest, we’d all live a little longer, happier and better.

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Wisdom from Washington

Today is President’s Day in the US, it’s also George Washington’s birthday, so today as both the first president and his birthday, I thought we’d take a look at some insights and wisdom from Washington’s life.

One of the first things that people think of when they think of Washington is that he was the first president of the US. Whether he was the best ever or the most innovative doesn’t really matter, it matters that he was brave enough to step up and take on that responsibility and opportunity.  Firsts aren’t always the best, but someone has to be willing to step up and take on that chance if we ever want to get to something great.

One of the other things people think about with regard to Washington is the story of the cherry tree. In the story Washington is asked if he cut down a cherry tree and it’s said that he says that he can’t tell a lie and subsequently he admits that he did chop down the cherry tree. While no one ever tells the truth all of the time, and whether or not that story is true, it is a theme for Washington, because he said “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”

In line with being truthful, I want to end by talking about the topic of the day which is ultimately leadership. Washington said: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” President or not each of us have a choice with how we lead our lives, and the character with which we live and interact with others. If Washington is as upstanding of a man as most believe him to be, what statement would he make about your character?

Which president or leader are you considering on this President’s Day?

The Blame Game

Do you know one of the most “popular” topics for couples, and families too? Blame. From saying that the dog ate the homework, to the kids spilled cereal (and milk) on the contract, to the relationship failing because your partner never took out the trash, we’re pretty quick to point fingers and try to get to the bottom of who is to blame.

First, let me say that it is important that responsibility is taken/given for things that happen or don’t happen. It’s important to be honest about what you’re seeing and what happens. However, it’s almost never the case that the blame rests solely on one person (or dog). It’s almost always the case that there are multiple factors, and multiple people to blame. Which means that as much as you can (and should) point fingers, you’ve really got to take stock of who else could be responsible in the matter as well, including yourself.

The key to the blame game (and its resolution), isn’t anything really revolutionary, it’s something that I’ve said repeatedly and is one of the biggest keys to a successful relationship: communication. Yes, pointing fingers will happen even in the best families and relationships, but the conversation needs to be more than you yelling at them for doing something or not doing something and vice versa. The conversation needs to discuss the issues you’ve got, why things weren’t done or were done, and what is going to happen or change moving forward to help avoid this in the future. These types of civil discussions don’t happen often enough in relationships and families, and as a result big divides are created between people.

Of course the blame and the conversations only go so far: without a willingness to change on all parties’ part and action taken as decided in the conversation, there’s not much point to having the conversation or even having the blame (and subsequent fight) in the first place. If the partner who is most to blame isn’t willing to do things differently in the future or doesn’t see their error, you’ve got a choice to leave, to make changes in your life, or you have to decide it’s not as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be. When it comes to family blame situations, you either have to take control as the parent, or get another party involved who can help straighten things out and be the leader your kids need.

There’s no shame in admitting that you need help, that you and your partner need help or that your family needs help. The only shame you should feel is if you choose to not get someone the help they need.

Thankful for Relationships

I’m super excited to be looking ahead to Thanksgiving and wanted to take time today to talk about being thankful in our relationships. Relationships are full of challenges, sometimes heartbreaks, and often opportunities for joy.  They’re not for the faint of heart and take work if you really want them to be successful.  But there are also plenty of reasons to give thanks for them.  Relationships mean that we’re not alone in the world, they mean that we’ve got someone there to support us, they challenge us and help us grow, they give us a helping hand in raising kids and in fulfilling our dreams.

One of the things my partner says to me is “thank you for loving me.”  It sounds like a very simple phrase but it’s got so much power and says many things.  First, it’s an affirmation of our connection, he recognizes that I love him and am invested in our relationship.  Second it’s him admitting that he’s not perfect and may be difficult to love sometimes.  Now, if you’ve been reading along for a while you know that I don’t see a point in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, so even on his most challenging day he’s still someone I want to be with.  So the value in him admitting that he’s not perfect is in part him wanting reassurance that I do love him regardless or in spite of his faults, and a promise to do better because he’s as committed to us as I am.

It kills me when I see so many hurting, hurtful and broken relationships because some of them could be healthy relationships if some steps were taken sooner, while others I’m amazed that they’re still hanging in there for some unknown reason when they could very possibly be happy with someone else.  Being that this is the holiday season now I’m going to say that the glass is half full today and encourage you to take time this holiday season to rip off a few band-aids and really talk with your partner about how you can make your relationship healthier and more fulfilling.  Stop looking elsewhere, stop with the threats, stop faking it, stop lying to yourself and start talking about the problems and how you can resolve them.  Take time for just the two of you this season and build on the good that you have or rebuild the good you once had.

Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?

Reality of Reviews

This week I’ve been thinking about a topic that is an issue for all business owners at some point in time or another: negative reviews.   Most of us have more than one customer throughout the lifetime of our business, so we have to be aware of how our business is seen by others.  The internet does good and bad things for us as just about every person goes online to check out businesses they may want to work with and products they’re considering before buying or striking up a conversation.  Whether company websites, review and group sites or social media, there are lots of ways that potential customers can find us and find out about us. So what happens when a customer has an interaction with us that for whatever reason doesn’t go the way they want it to?  They find a way to make their dissatisfaction known of course.

So what can we do about negative reviews?  The answer to this is not to eliminate the ability of customers to leave reviews, because unless you’re a bad business the reviews will largely be good and we need the good reviews to encourage potential customers to buy.  The answer is also not to bribe those who write negative reviews to remove them.  And, the answer is not to leave a scathing reply to their negative review because that just adds fuel to the fire.

First I think we need to understand the customer a bit and release some of the pressure from us.  Not all negative reviews are your/your business’s fault.  Sometimes people are having a bad day and find things to complain about, and you just get lucky that they picked you.  Second, some people who should have never purchased from you leave a negative review because they were unhappy with something they never would have been happy with.  And you have no control over the weather so as long as you do all things within your power when you have interaction with weather as part of your business, there’s nothing else you can do.

Second, know that negative reviews can be good because most of them point out an area of your business that you could improve.  But, they’re only helpful if you actually do something about it (and positive reviews after those negative reviews should indicate improvements).  Negative reviews do compile and do stick around so you want to make sure to address things you should address quickly, which means you need to keep an eye on your reviews.

Third, don’t take negative reviews too personally.  Yes, they hurt.  It’s not fun to have our businesses bashed, and sometimes the negative words are actually accurate.  But if you take all negative reviews super personally you’ll never have the attitude or strength to keep your business growing and thriving.

Finally, let’s talk about how you can respond to negative reviews.  First and foremost you should do everything in your power to resolve situations before anything gets posted online.  Some people prefer to just shout their displeasure to the world regardless of all efforts you make to communicate with them beforehand, and you can’t do anything about that.  Second, depending on the situation the right thing may be to reach out to the unhappy customer and try to resolve things.  This doesn’t work in every case and isn’t always recommended.  Third, do your best to get lots of good publicity so that it’s clear that the negative reviews aren’t representative of the majority of your customers.  This means having active social accounts, doing local newspaper interviews, contributing to local events and being an active part of relevant online groups and communities.

What are your thoughts about negative reviews?

Social Health

Social is a word that’s used regularly in our culture thanks to the daily use of social media for most of us. Social media, starting way back when with MySpace and now with dozens of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, has made our world seem a whole lot smaller than it used to be. It’s made it possible for us to have much healthier long distance relationships, stay connected with family members no matter where they are in the world, and network around the world rather than just as far as we are willing to drive to.

Personally I’m both for and against the concept of social media. I love how it has connected us, I love how we’re able to share easily with friends, family and fans, I love that it encourages us to be social, I love how it encourages us to be open and honest about our lives and our businesses, and I love the power it’s given us to sharing about important causes and needs. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We can go overboard with sharing, including details that people don’t really need to know because they’re too personal or they’re not really important. Many of us have yet to find the balance between the gift of social media and the curse or addiction.

What is social media really about though? It’s a reminder that we’re not alone in the world, we don’t have to bear our burdens alone and that life is better when we’re together. Generally social people are healthier and happier, it’s when it becomes a competition or insatiable impulse that things begin to spiral down.

So what’s the verdict on social media and living in a social culture? It’s an essential part of our lives if we want to be healthy and thrive, but even the most social of us need to make time to be alone too. I encourage you to make time for both this week!

Ignorance and the Internet

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake Mentors

In life we all make mistakes, I discovered a few of mine in the past few days and have been working to rectify them, so today I thought I’d share some inspiration about not being perfect, about working with what went wrong and about accepting yourself for who you are, mistakes and all.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” Marilyn Monroe

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”  Judy Garland

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire—then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer.” Sigmund Wollman

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” Elbert Hubbard

“It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.” Ornette Coleman

“That’s not serious, it’s just human.” Jerry Kopke

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” John Powell

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”  Harriet Braiker

“It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit to forgive them for having witnessed your own.” Jessamyn West

“Make bold choices and make mistakes. It’s all those things that add up to the person you become.” Angelina Jolie

What are your wise words on making mistakes?

Loving Honesty

On Monday I talked about priorities. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about, and one of the things that I’m prioritizing even more this year is the relationship I have with my partner. We’ve been together for a bunch of years, and have had some of the best times of our lives. We’ve also gone through many challenges, all relationships do. But when the chips are down we always choose loving each other over hurting each other or going our separate ways.

One of the reasons I love him is because there’s very little judgment in our relationship, we can say the crazy stuff, talk about intimidating topics, admit needs and ask for help without fear of being laughed at or turned down or rejected straight out. I’ve always had a belief that honesty is the best policy, but not everyone is willing to hear the raw truth, sometimes because it hurts, sometimes because of fears or beliefs we have, and sometimes because if someone else admits it we’ll be forced to face it and do something about it.

Having an open relationship, one built on love and trust like my partner and I have, is something that everyone needs. We all need someone that we can be fully honest with, someone who cares enough about us to hear the crazy thoughts we have, is willing to dream dreams with us and will really listen when we talk. Take time this weekend to thank that person in your life, and if you don’t have that special someone there’s no time like today to start being more honest and open with yourself and others.

“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.” Thomas Moore