A Little Relationship Advice

When you’re asking for advice about a relationship topic, just about everyone else has something to say. Everyone’s been through at least one relationship and everyone’s had at least one good one and one bad one, whether we’re talking about family relationships or romantic relationships. If you’ve had the unfortunate experience to not have great relationships, getting advice from others is a good idea. If you’ve had a bunch of great relationships it’s still not a bad idea to get advice from others or talk with them about how they work through the issues in their relationships. Why? Because everyone is different and they handle problems differently, so even if you’ve dealt with a specific problem before dealing with it with someone else will go differently. As well, situations change and life sometimes works differently and there are different other factors in play, so the way you’ve handled a situation in the past may not be able to be handled in the same way in the future, even if we’re talking about the same 2 people dealing with it.

Of course, just because you ask for or receive advice it doesn’t mean you have to apply it to your life, or apply all of it. And the lesson you learn from it may be a different lesson than they learned, or you may be able to apply it in a different way. I think a big part of the advice concept is the sharing of experiences and lessons. It’s not (just) about sharing how smart you are but about going through this journey called life together. Maybe they need to share the lesson more than you need to learn the lesson.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and someone will randomly share an experience with you, but other times you have to admit that you’re feeling lost and ask for help. It can be hard to ask for help, but that’s a big part of what relationships are here for. Relationships really exist to improve our lives, to challenge us at times, yes, but ultimately we should be better for the relationships we’ve had. Yes, there are always a few bad eggs, but that’s life, and it’s up to us to get out of those relationships before too much damage occurs.

So the next time someone offers some advice I encourage you to listen to it, and this week I encourage you to reach out to someone else and ask them for advice. You can ease into it with something small, but choose to get out there and build those relationships and learn from the people in your life.

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Learning to Love Yourself

This month we’re talking about a topic related to one we talked about a couple of months ago, the topic of love.  I know, it may seem strange to talk about love in a month that’s not February (we talked about the topic of heart in February), but love is something we should talk and think about all year long.  It’s not just a topic for couples or those interested in being a couple, but for everyone.  Love isn’t just about being romantic, love is about all kinds of relationships we find ourselves in, whether work, earth/nature, family, neighbor or romantic.

Today though I want to start off the week with talking about the topic of self love or loving yourself.  It’s a double edged sword topic because when we focus too much on self love we’re accused of being selfish, and usually rightly so.  But at the same time if we’re so selfless that we only think about others, our own needs can be ignored and others can forget that we too have needs.  We’re not talking about missionaries who intentionally are selfless, but about the rest of the people in the world who, faith background or not, tend to live a more “normal” life of people, work, and daily/weekly/seasonal activities.

Why choose to love yourself? It’s about more than just making sure you’ll be around for the needs the other people in your life have.  We should all have a reason we want to keep living, to stay alive, to wake up another day.  We all have gifts that we bring to the world, for some of us it’s a question of figuring out how or where we best fit in, and sometimes there’s not an easy answer to that.  But loving yourself is about more than just making sure you’re alive and breathing, it’s about contributing to who you are as a person and becoming better because you’re worth it.

We may not all agree with the same faith beliefs or agree with how the world and we were created, but I can’t see us being disposable, lemmings or robots.  I believe that each and every one of us has value to add to the world, and for most of us that has to start with us believing in and accepting who we are.  I challenge you this month to open yourself to learning what you love, adding that love to your life on a regular basis and learning how you can best help love grow and multiply in the world.

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.

Having Healthy (Tough) Conversations

I got an email talking about a topic that’s challenging: talking about the tough stuff.  You’ve probably seen some of the commercials on TV with two people walking or at a diner talking about how they recently discovered a family member participating in illegal or bad activities. The commercial ends with silence because the listener doesn’t know how to respond to what their friend just told them.  Generally most of us prefer to avoid the tough conversations about money, things they’re struggling with personally, things they’re struggling with professionally or about things that aren’t going well with the family or in a relationship.  We avoid them because we often don’t know what to say, how to express our struggles, that they won’t understand what we’re going through, that they won’t be willing to listen, or that they’ll just judge us instead of being supportive.

But in our talks about being healthy this month, it’s important to talk about the stuff that’s not so easy to talk about too.  Healthy isn’t just about the good habits, it’s about overcoming the not so good in your life.  Often you have to address the not so good before you can move on to the good.  Some of the hardest parts of the bad is talking about it with others and admitting your struggle, or talking about what’s bothering you, or how the other person hurt you (intentional or not).

The better you become at communicating the hard stuff the healthier your life can be, and the better overall your communication can be.  Because once you’ve learned how to communicate through the tough stuff, it’s much easier to talk about anything including the joys in life and your healthy habits and preferences.  Starting the conversation though can be challenging.  You may want to start the conversation with an impartial person like a pastor, coach, counselor or other advisor.  Talking through it with them can give you a chance to do any venting and get feedback on how to communicate your struggle to those who matter most to you (or those who matter in that situation), as well as important next steps to try to work through the struggle.  If that’s not possible and you’re really concerned about how the conversation might go, as a friend or more impartial family member to sit in on the conversation.

Ignoring it won’t make it go away typically, it usually makes things worse or allows them to compile.  There’s no reason for things to come to the point of blowing up in your face or becoming so overwhelmed that the rest of your life suffers.  Choosing honesty even when it is challenging or makes you not look so great is important to having healthy relationships and a healthy future.  The sooner you start communicating about the tough stuff, and agreeing with all involved parties to communicate when the challenges come up, the easier it will be to work through them and get back to or on to living a great life.  Make it a point today to have a tough conversation with someone, don’t put it off again until tomorrow.

Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?

A Limitless Summer

Summer is officially here and it’s time to look ahead to what you’re going to do with your life this summer and what you want from the rest of the year as well.  One of the most important decisions we make throughout our lives is what we’re going to do with each and every day.  We have to make decisions about working, spending money, the people we’re going to allow into our lives, how we treat others, how late we’re going to stay up, how early we’re going to get up, our values, what we eat, resting and rejuvenating, where we want to live, where we shop and countless other things.

We not only have the challenge of making the decision, but of making the best decision and turning our decisions into results too.  We don’t always make the best decisions nor do we always follow through on the decision we make.  If you want to see your life improve, it’s time to start making better decisions and get better at following through on those decisions.

How do you make the best decisions for your life?  First by not blaming anyone else for things that go wrong that you are really to blame for.  You can’t always anticipate what others will do or predict the crazy things that go on around the world, but you certainly can do something about the choices you make in your life.  Second, don’t use the “I don’t know” excuse.  There are so many answers available online that you can access with just a couple of clicks most likely, so to say you’re uneducated or not smart enough isn’t an excuse anymore.  Finally, become a doer.  Watching and learning is important, but it’s what you do with what you know that ultimately matters.

This summer I encourage you to take time to watch and learn.  Don’t let the excuse that you don’t know something fly anymore, choose to learn and improve your life.

“Your inability to see other possibilities and your lack of vocabulary are your brain’s limits, not the universe’s.” Scott Adams

Books for Business Success 2

A couple of years ago I shared this post about some books you could consult to learn about business.  I believe that one of the best ways to be successful in business is to do your homework.  Sometimes that means doing stuff, other times that means listening and learning.   Today I’m highlighting some books for you to check out in addition to those I shared in the other blog post (all Amazon non-affiliate links) and invite you to share the books that you’ve learned from in the comments.

Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling

Blockbusters by Anita Elberse

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy by Lewis Howes

Connect by Josh Turner

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall

Life After Debt by Rob Kosberg

Seven Laws of Teaching by Milton Gregory

Mastery by Robert Greene

Bold by Peter Diamondis and Steven Kotler

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

What books would you add?

Learning for Success

Do you know what one of the biggest secrets to success is? It’s really simple and it’s something we do from a very young age: learn. OK, maybe it’s not so simple, but it’s a very obvious answer to problems that plague many of us in reaching our goals and dreams and achieving victories in all aspects of our lives. Learning is one of the biggest keys to success, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to improve yourself and your life. Thanks to technology today you don’t have to spend thousands on degrees or go to a far-away college to learn something new (although for some things like medicine it’s recommended), but there are tons of opportunities online, in books, in courses and in audios to learn and teach yourself all kinds of skills that can improve, maybe even drastically improve, your life and your success potential.

People who are willing to learn (and actually can follow through on what they’ve learned) have a much greater potential for being hired as well as having success than those who are stuck in who they are and what they know. If you’re not willing to learn or try something new your future is very limited. Others might see more potential in you than you’re currently living up to but unless you’re willing to do things different or get the necessary education you won’t be able to live up to that potential. Showing that you’ve been taking courses and dedicate some of your free time to learning makes you look more appealing to potential employers because it shows them that you’re someone they can teach about their culture and how they do things and you’ll be receptive to learning from them and trying things their way.

So if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut go to your local library and check out a couple non-fiction books or find an online course you can take and learn something new. And while you could wait until the holidays are over I recommend starting now while you’re feeling that frustration, don’t put it off any longer.

“Today, when I hire, I look for people who want to be trained and molded.” Bobby Flay

Empowering the Next Generation

One of the biggest gifts you have as a parent or caretaker of a young one is the gift of empowering them. I know many people who grew up in homes and environments where they were told that they would not amount to much and that they were worthless and had better shape up. While some of those people did need to shape up, many of them were just at a disadvantage or just not understood by others. Often when we don’t understand something we have knee-jerk reactions that cause us to rush to judgment and block us from really discovering the truth.

Yes, parents and caretakers like teachers, principals, pastors and community leaders should care for the youth, providing food, shelter and support in education (whether school or in finding work), as well as guidance about what’s right and wrong, but it’s just as important to raise the youth to know how to figure things out on their own, be able to take care of themselves and let them be who they want to be rather than fill the box we think they fit in.

Schools teach many of the basics that are helpful in getting through life like math, reading, writing, history, science and physical health. But too few schools are providing the real tools that students need to get through life. We’re missing out on teaching leadership, finances, communication, relationships, critical thinking and community building just to name a few. We’re only giving the youth some of the tools they need to make the most of the lives and gifts they’ve been given. So instead of just talking about homework with your kids, ask them what they did that day to make a difference, ask them what bothered them, talk about problems of the world and solutions for them as well, expose them to unique opportunities and people so that they see the world through different perspectives, and encourage them to get involved in things that interest them, not just things that look good on resumes and college applications, but things that will help them be stronger, smarter and more equipped to take on the future.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

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