Discovering the Whole Story

Every story has two sides, or at least those that involve just 2 people do.  I’m a big believer in the truth, I don’t like being lied to and I don’t really see the point of beating around the bush most of the time.  Yes, sometimes a little lie or partial truth is the way to go rather than being in your face honest about some things, but that’s usually because we’re not really good with our words and haven’t learned how to put things diplomatically, or we haven’t learned how to take criticism and honesty, but most of the time it’s just better to go with the truth.

But all too often we assume that things are true for everyone because they’re true for us. However I may believe that the world is better because dogs are in it and you may prefer casts.  Just because my belief is my truth, doesn’t mean it has to be your truth. Which is why it’s so important when you’re in a relationship that you learn not to jump to unfounded conclusions, but rather to check in with your partner and make sure you’re on the same page.

All too often it’s a difference of just a page or two that can cause the most difficulties.  Divorce rates are so high not because people have become completely different than they used to be when they first entered the relationship but because of the little things: the continued failure to communicate the little things, the chores that go undone, the requests that fall on deaf ears, the apathy towards the needs and desires of their partner.  It’s not desires to move to Alaska or Africa or become a Buddhist monk or stripper that breaks up most couples, it’s little things that just get piled on top of each other time and again.

If we really want our relationships to succeed and we really want to be happy together we need to spend more time in making sure that we’re hearing what the other person is saying and in need of.  When you’re able to work together and have come to compromises and created action plans on how the most important things will get accomplished you’re able to not only stay together but be happy together.  But if you or your partner aren’t willing to change or to accept that there is always another side to the story it won’t work.  Will you be brave enough to get the truth from your partner this week?

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” Walter Cronkite

Daily Steps to Success

Kids have so much to learn all throughout school. We are having them learn things earlier and trying to cram even more things into their brains than ever these days. I’m glad we’re trying to prepare them, but they’re put under a lot of pressure. I often wonder if they have time to just be kids, and what that really means anymore anyway. They have to get up and go to school whether they feel like it or not, just like we do with work. But the truth is that you have a choice: what you will do with today?  Will you do your best to make it better than yesterday or will you let the fates roll the dice for you?

As I was thinking about our attitudes this week, I ran across this quote from Brian Tracy:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

We are really all very blessed in 2014. There’s more running and clean water around the world, health care has made such amazing strides, and that doesn’t even touch on the technology that has made it possible for us to connect with others around the world instantly. But there’s still lots of improvement to be had, just look at CNN or the nightly news and you’ll see lots of people still intent on screwing up the good that we have.

I think a big problem that we’re facing around the world is people who aren’t able to be grateful for what they have. I think this is where a lot of unhappiness and craziness starts: with not being able to be grateful for what you have. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to become more or have more, but I think an important step people are missing in this journey is accepting and even more being actually thankful for where they are and the progress they’ve made.

Each week I send out a newsletter called Personal Victories. I titled it this because I recognize how important it is to celebrate those amazing moments that in little daily steps bring us closer to our goals. Our big victories are ultimately made up of little ones that are like stepping stones from the place where we are to the place we want to go. We can’t climb the mountain in one step, we have to work our way up it. And the only way we get there is with little victories along the way.

Celebrating and being thankful for those victories is an important part of this because it means that we recognize how far we’ve come, but it also is about accepting that you’ve done good and can do good again. It’s not just about the destination, but about the climb as well as what it teaches you for you to use in your life going forward.  What will you choose to celebrate and be thankful for today?

Achieving Perfection

I was thinking about how fast most of our world moves.  We get into relationships, into bed, into marriage, into kids in record time these days.  The same is true for the business world.  We put up our websites, make our sales and become successful in record time, right?  For some of us that’s true, but for most of us we’re coming to the conclusion that record time isn’t working anymore.  Most of us don’t instantly become a success on Facebook or YouTube, we actually have to do some work to be successful.  Turns out, that might be the best thing for all of us.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to rush through life, I want to enjoy it.

Our desires to succeed war with our desires to be perfect, our desires to have a life we love and our desires to be accepted.  But the thing that is true for all of them is that it takes work to get there and most of us won’t get there on the first try.  Very rarely is perfection achieved, is a perfect romantic partner found, or does a child do their homework right on the first attempt.

We spend most of our lives learning and trying, yet we still think that there is some magical ability to bypass that essential aspect of our lives.  It’s only when we accept that learning, trying and failures are not only essential but acceptable is when we can really begin exploring and achieving our potential.

If we all accepted the first batch or first try as the way it was we’d be missing out on a lot of things.  We wouldn’t have lights, we wouldn’t have working airplanes, and we wouldn’t have buildings as we know them today, just to name a few things that we’ve known have failed in the past.  The choice we have is to accept that perfection takes more than just luck.  It takes hard work, failure and a willingness to not give up or give in.

Will you do what it takes to get closer to perfection or are you too busy running to the finish line?

“Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.” Annie Oakley

Reacting to Screwups

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about some of the challenges we face as business owners, and some of the really simple yet important things that should be done to improve for everyone’s sakes. Today I want to talk about a touchy topic, one that was a bit of a realization over the past month’s thinking and discussion of self-control and the challenges I faced in my life and business.

The topic for today is embarrassment.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been embarrassed by one thing or another that has really been a big oopsie and we’ve felt really guilty about it. Sometimes we feel so guilty that we get angry and lash out at people who didn’t even have a role in it. We yell at others because we didn’t read things well enough or rushed into making a decision that wasn’t life and death, when really there’s no need to blame anyone. But that embarrassment we feel, the frustration that wells up inside us, and the feelings of failure totally overrule any common sense we have, because it means we’ve lost control of the situation.

You’ve probably been on both sides of an embarrassing situation or reaction. You’ve probably been lashed at by that unwarranted anger. It hurt, right? You were probably confused by their over-the-top reaction as well. It usually has the unfortunate result of turning us hostile too. After all, it’s a natural reaction to someone coming at us in a rage. You’ve also felt like an idiot when you did something stupid, made the wrong call or really screwed things up.

So what’s my point in bringing up this topic today? First, to acknowledge that we’ve all been on both sides of embarrassment: we’ve all screwed up and we’ve all been treated unfairly. Unfortunately rather than learning from the situation it just makes some of us more bitter and more likely to lash out. But this won’t get us more clients or help us develop into the leaders that we could be.

Most people are happy to help you make things right or resolve an issue, unless you’ve come at them with guns blazing. You don’t have to fall all over yourself apologizing for something, but we all need to be a little more patient, be a little less in a rush, be willing to admit we were wrong, and most of all do our best not to overreact and hurt someone else.

The Truth about Unprofessionalism

So this weekend I was doing a write-up for a client and when I had completed it and delivered it to them they contacted me informing me that my report was largely inaccurate, and that I had to do it again.  Why?  Because there was a technical issue on their end that they felt nullified much of my report.  There was no word from them indicating that they were going through a transition when they ordered, there was no emails before the order saying that they would like to work with me but they were planning a transition and could we set things up for after the transition, nothing.  Just a request to redo the work I had done because I was wrong.

In the customer service industry, which all of us are in, we deal with things like this all the time.  There’s the customer who ordered the burger and forgot to tell you they were allergic to something in the sauce so they want a new one.  There’s the customer who pays for house cleaning services before the house purchase has been completed.  There’s the customer who orders something before they have the money for it.  If you’ve been in the business world for any length of time you’ve had at least one customer come back to you with excuses or issues like these.  So what lessons can we learn from this?

First, I don’t believe everything has to be perfect, but you can’t be pushing forward with things that are incomplete or will cause issues for those completing your order.  Yes, the world moves at a very fast pace today but that is absolutely no excuse for rushing things.

Second, communicate!!  If it seems like I share about this on a weekly basis, it’s because I DO!  It’s a big issue for a lot of people.  Some simple communications would fix tons of things, and avoid situations like the one I shared about, altogether.  It’s OK to not have all your ducks in a row, no one does, but no one wants to admit it.

Third, it’s not just that you’re being unprofessional, you’re being inconsiderate and rude.  Just like you don’t want someone sneezing on your pizza, you want the treadmill company to completely install all parts, and you don’t want to be hit by the pushy car behind you, it’s about more than just being in a professional relationship, it’s about the fact that as people we can be so unbelievably inconsiderate of the others in our lives.

As I said earlier, we’re all in the customer service industry, every single one of us, even those of us who don’t own our own businesses.  We deal with people on a daily basis, being just as rude or unprofessional as we want to be.  Why? Because we don’t care?  Because no one told us any better?  Because we think everyone else is less important than we are?  Any of these could be correct, but the simple fact is we have to do better.

The Patience of Success

Our theme this month is patience. It seems like every month I admit that I feel challenged by our topic, but for this one it seems like a real challenge in a world that has demanded quick responses as the norm.  In business we’re constantly faced with the fact that customers seem to want quick responses to their situations and challenges, but we know that if we’re answering the phone every time it rings or have our email up all day long we get nothing done.  And some of the answer is that it’s good to delegate that out if a truly rapid response is necessary.  But things are changing and more people are expecting actually helpful responses rather than immediate ones, although they would prefer an immediately helpful response, of course.

However, what hasn’t been taught over the years is that sometimes people’s initial responses hide the truth of the situation.  They may not have the issue they’re calling about, they may have an issue that is much deeper and more pervasive than what they’re telling us.  For example if you’re a health coach and someone calls to work with you on their weight struggles, they may have confidence issues or deeper health issues that have prohibited them from losing the weight in the past and unless you can resolve these problems the initial presenting problem will most likely remain.  The only way you can figure out what the deeper issues are is by being patient enough to listen to them and the many stories they will tell you about their life situation.

I once had an acquaintance ask me what percentage of the work I did was coaching.  My answer to her was that it is all coaching because I know that even if I’m building a website or working with a parent who struggles with organization and health, that person is much more than the thing I was hired to do.  Because we’re human we all have deeper emotions, memories and triggers that have made us who we are and continue to shape our future.  When we don’t see that we are more than our surface and initial presentation is when we do ourselves and our clients a disservice.

I encourage you to take the time as a responsible business owner to always try to give your clients the best.  No, not all will accept that they need more help or ask for it, but for those who do the rewards for all will be so much greater.

“Patience is a most necessary qualification for business; many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.”  Lord Chesterfield