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

A Parent Was Once A Kid

Recently I heard about a survey given to a group of 10 year olds about “what’s wrong with grownups.”  Here were some of their answers:

1. Grownups make promises, then forget them, or say it wasn’t a promise, just a “maybe.”
2. Grownups don’t do the things they tell their children to do—like pick up their things or always tell the truth.
3. Grownups don’t listen. They decide ahead of time what they’re going to answer.
4. Grownups make mistakes, but won’t admit them. They pretend they weren’t mistakes at all—or that somebody else made them.
5. Grownups always talk about what they did and what they knew when they were ten-years-old, but they don’t try to think what it’s like to be ten-years-old right now.

There are a ton of things we could discuss from this incredibly insightful (and embarrassing) survey, but I just want to focus on a few key things we can do to set better examples for the kids in our lives.

First: perfection and aiming for the moon are great, but usually unrealistic.  Instead, promise what you know you can deliver, and if possible surprise them with something extra.

Second: words are powerful, so when we do or don’t follow through with what we’ve said kids think they don’t have to either (which leads to lots of fights and usually punishments).

Third: be open to all possibilities.  The more you close yourself off to what could be the less likely that you’ll get what you really want in life.  You’ll also end up alienating yourself from friends and family the less you’re willing to listen to and/or accept them for who they are and what they say.

Fourth: life has changed.  Kids today live a different life than even college students today did when they were their age.  So if that’s the case imagine how much has changed since when you were a kid!

Much has changed since you and I were kids, some things for the better and others not, and some things haven’t changed, like the value of love, honesty and family.  This weekend I encourage you to pay more attention to how you’re interacting with your kids, what you’re teaching them about responsibility, and which of your own advice you need to follow more.

Learning and Overcoming Fears

Welcome to a new month! Are you excited about what this month holds, or are you dreading what always seems to be the beginning of the downhill roller coaster rush to December 31? Last month we talked about lessons, this month we’re talking about a very relevant topic, one that you’ll probably discuss a couple of times with your kids: fears. Fears are these incredibly powerful thoughts that can really hurt us, hold us back and blow reality out of proportion. Sometimes fears are a good thing because they can keep us from doing really stupid things. But most of the time fears hold us back from living our lives and having big dreams. We’ll be talking about a lot of different aspects of fear this month, but I wanted to start off sharing a quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.”

Families are supposed to be there for each other through good and bad, we’ve seen how that sometimes fails, after all we’re all human. We all have room for improvement, especially when it comes to each other, and as we learned last month we’ve got lessons happening all the time in our lives that we could be learning from. This month’s topic will challenge us, no one really likes to think about their fears, let alone try to conquer them. Some fears we outgrow, like being worried about getting cooties from our desk mate, but other stay with us throughout our lives.

But this quote brings up an interesting point. If fears are something we’ve learned, does that mean we can un-learn them or learn something other than them? After all, I can’t un-learn that people used to think that the world was flat, but we can learn that that’s not the truth and the real truth is that the world is round. Having learned all about lessons last month, this month as we talk about fears don’t forget that even fears can teach us a lesson. One of the biggest lessons fears teach is the lesson of caution. But fears aren’t the end of the story, and nor are they the beginning of the story according to Marianne Williamson.

When you or your kids are facing a fear this week take time to put a little love into the situation. Fears don’t have to stay fears, they can be overcome or reduced with love and support in most situations. What fears need a little love in your life?

The Business of Emotions

As we close out this month’s discussions on lessons, I wanted to share one last lesson we can apply to our businesses, this one on topics related to sales. Why do people choose to work with or buy from you? There are tons of reasons why people choose you including (in no particular order):

-visibility through marketing or product placement
-testimonials on your site or the internet
-convincing sales page or website
-you have what they think they need
-features offered
-referral from a friend

And the list could go on. Businesses work really hard to make their products and services visible, to gather testimonials, to write content that is convincing, to come up with helpful products and services, to come up with new and inventive features and to encourage customers to share with their friends.  We keep tinkering with each of these to try to get it just right  so we can improve our conversion rate and have more satisfied customers.

Businesses spend more money and time than ever perusing metrics to see what’s converting, what isn’t converting, and testing different things, partly because we’re able to track more than ever. If you’re serious about having a successful, growing business metrics and conversions are something you have to consider. If you are doing something that’s not effective you won’t be successful, right? Instead of wondering what’s not working metrics allow us to see what is or isn’t working.

However, there’s one factor that can screw up our nice orderly world of numbers every time: emotions. As much as we can do to direct people’s emotions or encourage them to feel one thing or another there’s a lot we can’t control when it comes to emotions. You may have the most awesome product or service in the world, one that logically should be very successful, but if people aren’t “feeling it” it may be a big flop.

So what’s the answer? Don’t just make decisions on logic and numbers alone, take into account how people may feel about your product or service and make time to talk with your intended audience and get their feedback.  You should take into account numbers and logic but don’t forget that most of the memorable and successful ads, businesses and campaigns had to do with feelings, or an emotional reaction they encouraged.

“Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.” Samuel Adams

Lessons to Grow

How does success happen? It doesn’t happen because we’ve experienced loss or failure, or because someone told us we couldn’t do it, although those things can motivate us to become successful.  Success happens because we take action, action that will help us accomplish our goals or dreams. This month we’ve talked about lessons and what we can learn from the things that go on in our lives and in the lives of those around us. One of the most painful, but often the most empowering, lessons is that of loss, failure or judgment. When we face loss, failure or judgment we’re forced to make a decision: will we let it damage us, or will we let it teach and improve us?

I don’t know about you but I have friends who were told in high school that they would amount to very little. It’s not easy to overcome that negative and self-esteem-killer talk. It’s amazing how powerful simple little words can be! The old saying may be that “Sticks and stones will break my bones/But words will never harm me,” but it’s not really true: our words have incredible power, more so than ever with all of the technology that we have in 2015. We’ve seen the power in just 140 characters to ruin people and business’s lives, so it’s not that difficult to see how powerful (and damaging) our words can be. But when words are used to empower the result can be nothing short of world-transforming.

When we put actions behind our words, actions that are based on what we learned from our words and the words of others we face a choice: will we take actions that will hinder us or will we choose words that will allow us to grow and succeed? I don’t know about you but I’d much rather choose things that will make me grow, because it’s only when we grow that is there a possibility of things becoming better than they are. If you want things in your life to change, the answer is not to curl up into a little ball and cry. It’s to let go of what holds you back and grow. What steps will you take this week to grow your life?

“I don’t mind sacrifice. I don’t mind discipline. But a good coach allows people to blossom. I’ve seen that. I didn’t have it.” Dominique Moceanu

Leading Until the Bitter End

Leaders have a very important role in life, whether it be at home, in school, in the government, in the faith community, or in business.  There are tons of different kinds of leaders, and all are necessary in making the world go ’round.  Why?  Because one leader can’t do it all.  Yes, it can be helpful to have a top leader like a president or king or CEO, but all of those leaders have other leaders who work under them: they don’t have time to do everything, and if they did they’d be wasting their valuable leadership abilities.  And even more important is something that’s kind of seen as a dirty secret: they don’t know everything.  Gasp!

As a business consultant and life coach I get asked lots of questions.  And most days there’s at least one question asked of me that I don’t have the answer to.  Yes, I’m being totally honest: I don’t know everything.  In fact, I’m willing to admit that to everyone and anyone and often do.  Some people are mad that I don’t know everything and can’t be or do everything for them.  But you know what? I’m totally OK with not knowing, being, or doing everything.  That’s not my job.  My job is to be the best I can at what I do.  Sometimes that means learning things so I can be of service, other times that means passing them on to someone else who can do/know/be what I can’t.

So what’s the lesson here?  Don’t stand in your way or anyone else’s way because you feel the need to be everything for everyone.  Be confident in who you are and don’t try to be anything else.  When you try to do or be more than you are you not only could run into problems for yourself, you could hold your client/family member/friend/congregant/student/constituent back from becoming all they can be.  I encourage you this week to make choices as a wise leader that are empowering to everyone, not just look out for the few.

“Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.”  H. G. Wells

How To Treat Others: 5 Lessons

One of the greatest lessons you can pass on to your kids is how to treat someone else. When you know how to treat someone properly it’s like being given the keys to the kingdom. So what are the important lessons to teach?

1-Respect-it’s important to have respect for those who are older or wiser than you, which could be anyone, so it’s best to try to respect everyone. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them, it just means that you can’t try them for treason (or worse) because they like the color blue and you don’t.

2-Politeness-this is about knowing how to act around others and what’s not appropriate for the group that you’re with, but it’s also about some of the basic tenets that you should follow when you’re in the company of others, whether physically or virtually. Yes, it’s good to have fun and games, but a kind act or word goes a long way beyond one of hatred or rudeness.

3-Listening-we’re pretty good at talking but not so good at listening. We’re a world of people who talk at work, online and all day long. It’s how we express ourselves so it’s not something we can avoid. But we’re not so good at being patient and listening to others, which is just as important as talking.

4-About Ignorance-unless something has changed that I don’t know about, you don’t know everything and neither do I. To assume that you do could have serious repercussions depending on exactly how ignorant you are and what you do that shows that ignorance.

5-Forgiveness-this is one of the most important lessons because it’s about the future. It’s not really about the past or the present, but about how your future and the future of someone else will go. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that it wasn’t the right choice for everyone.

These are some of the lessons I learned growing up, what about you? What lessons did you learn and what ones are you trying to pass on to your kids?

“My parents would always say, ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy picking up the garbage or the President of the United States, treat everybody as you would want to be treated.” Dan Marino

What’s Your Motivation?

What is important to you in life?  Is it your friends? Your health? Your job? Your partner? Your family?  What are you willing to drop everything for, or maybe even die for?  Countless studies have been done over the past few decades of how we’re slowly killing ourselves with our bad habits and decisions.  While we’ve made lots of progress over the past few decades, we’ve also had some serious setbacks when it comes to the choices we’re making, especially in the health areas.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and working on is finding my motivation.  Why?  Because you can work a job, have a life, and do things all while looking and feeling like a robot. That’s not really living, that’s getting by.  And we’ve seen lots of examples this year of people who died while still very young, so it’s a big reminder that each and every day is valuable and any day could be your last.  So what’s the point in bringing up motivation, after all you kind of have to see to your responsibilities, whether you like them or not, right?

It’s about our emotional involvement and attachment to who we’re with and what we’re doing.  If we’re not motivated, invested or otherwise really interested and it’s just a cut-and-dry responsibility, often we don’t give it our best effort, and the effort we do give it is lackluster, lazy, or late.  So really, one of the things we’ve missed out on is choosing things that we’re properly motivated for and interested in.  Yes, sometimes you have to make a choice about a job or food because you’re desperate but even then more often than not you do have a choice (probably several) and you’ve chosen not to look for them or act on them.  But when you’re able to make a choice based on what you feel is truly best for you or what motivates you it will get done quicker, you’ll be less likely to complain about it, and even when you face challenges you’ll be in a better mind frame to deal with them because you’re really invested in what you’re doing or the person you’re helping.

If your life looks boring, distasteful or you have to drag yourself through your day, I’d say it’s a good time for a motivation check.  Are you really invested in things that are important to you, are you doing things because people have told you to or are you just doing what’s necessary to get by?

“You need to feel that the game is important to you. Lose that feeling and you lose your edge. There’s no faking that kind of emotion. You can’t invent the feeling. It’s got to be natural, real.”  Dan Marino

Start off Smart

When people consider starting a business they typically do one of two things: look at what other people are doing and copy them or come up with a “nifty” idea/concept/product they think will be super successful. Either can be a successful business, and your success isn’t just determined by how you start the business, but much of your success does depend on this second decision you’re making in your business venture (the first decision being to start a business, of course). Starting a business is a lesson in many things, including many things about yourself and the people in your life. Let’s take a look at a few of these lessons today.

First, believe in what you’re starting. If you don’t believe that the idea that you’ve based your business on really works you won’t be able to sell it or endure through the challenges that you will face as you develop and grow your business.

Second, do the research. Whether you do the research yourself or you hire it out, make sure to check that it’s a viable idea and people not only think they might buy it, but there’s actually a need for it and it’s something that buyers are open to buying right now (in the middle of and directly following a natural disaster people aren’t looking to buy vacation houses, they’re looking for basic supplies and repair services, so don’t try to sell vacation houses).

Third, learn from other businesses. You aren’t the first person to start a business, so don’t try to go it alone. If you don’t have a lot of money there are lots of free articles and videos online as well as lots of free or inexpensive courses you can take, not to mention the loads of free resources in your local community and at your local library (you can also join Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited for $10 per month). Other businesses have been through it before so take a look at what is working for them and what isn’t, which may lead to some things you can try differently than they’re doing and carve out your own corner of the market.

Finally, be yourself. I don’t recommend just copying someone else, their ideas, while amazing, may not be right for you, your business or your customers. You should be creating a unique business that speaks to your brand of customers. Working to steal customers from another business with the exact same products and business model won’t be easy or get you very far, especially if they’ve done a lot of work on creating brand loyalty.

What lessons do you have for people thinking of starting a new business?

“There will never be another Frank Sinatra. I never wanted to be another Frank Sinatra. I only wanted to be another Michael Buble.” Michael Buble