A Responsible Next Generation

The events of the past few months have revealed a lot, taught us a lot and scared us a lot. As adults we deal with a lot that our kids don’t, and rightly so. We should give them time to be kids, but at the same time I don’t think it’s right or helpful to totally shelter them from the realities of the world that they will one day be a voting, spending, living, contributing part of. We don’t have to put the full weight of the world that is on our shoulders, minds and hearts, onto our kids, but I do think it’s important to teach them about responsibility.

We have to teach them the responsibility of caring for this world, managing our resources, preparing for our future, caring for the less fortunate, being a leader, caring for our bodies and minds, earning an income to support us, listening, communicating, being respectful (until/unless someone proves unworthy), protecting our rights and the rights of others, fighting for justice (real justice, not avoidance of justice bought by people with more money than sense, or false justice by people who are racist or don’t actually care to find the truth), and choosing love and peace.

But the thing is, as the adult you don’t have to know everything or have the answers to everything or even try to fix everything.  Your main responsibility as an adult who raises or works with kids is to educate them so they have a masters degree in love and understanding that they have a responsibility to themselves, our world and the other people in our world.  Other than that, it’s your responsibility to expose them to everything else, to give them the opportunity to listen and be curious and learn to care and know that there’s a whole big world out there with lots of people, and to then let them choose how they’re going to support and help and live and grow the world.

Everyone has a responsibility, are you working on yours?

Time for Tough Questions

One of the things that is exciting for some of us about this virus that has completely upended our lives, is how it has forced us to ask questions. I’m a big believer in asking questions, among other things, and I appreciate that we’ve all been stopped in our tracks to really consider some of the finer points about how we’re living and working. Asking questions is interesting because they can lead you to other questions, to consider things you’ve never thought about, and sometimes they help you realize that you had it right all along.

As much as we stop at the beginning/end of a year or on our birthdays to consider how the past year has gone and what we want from the year ahead, I don’t think that most of us really take the time to invest in it to the depth that we have with this virus either personally or professionally. No, asking questions and taking time to consider doesn’t mean that you have to do a full stop on life or work. Just like you would never stop eating for an extended period of time until you’ve reconsidered and decided on a new diet, or you wouldn’t stop sleeping (or trying to sleep) just because you can’t find a pillow that really works for you, asking questions doesn’t mean everything has to stop.

So here we are, with many of us at a full stop, and others of us knowing that at some point in time when the craziness settles down it will be necessary to ask some tough questions. Questions about why we’ve always done things a certain way, or why we didn’t think of that in the past, or why we weren’t prepared, or what we could have done better; tough questions that don’t necessarily have easy or immediate answers. These are also questions that can help us all lead a better life going forward, a life that is more considerate of each other and our impact on each other.

It’s time to get out the hard questions like what do we really want out of life, are we really investing in the people that mean the most to us, are we living and working in ways that make the most sense for us and the planet, what is the best use of our time and resources, how can we support each other better, how can we better protect each other, and do I have enough fun in my life? Maybe they’re not new questions to you, but I hope that you’re thinking on them a little more seriously than you might usually. What questions has this virus prompted you to ask?

A Time for Responsibility

As the world faces one of our biggest tests to date, one that hasn’t left a country untouched or unconcerned, I’ve been thinking about the success related topic that we’d talk about today, and the topic that I came up with for today is responsibility. The responsibility each of us has is multi-fold, if we’re honest we’ve all always had these responsibilities, we’ve just not acknowledged them or really put forward effort to attend to them. In the face of much of our normal lives coming to a stand still, this situation has forced us all to really think about how we live, the choices we make, and how we treat the world and the people we interact with.

This virus has shown us how we don’t give enough attention to health practices as simple as washing our hands, sneezing and coughing into elbows, and making sure our hands are clean before touching our faces. We also don’t all eat in ways that give us a healthier immune system, and aren’t as considerate as we should be of others who have compromised immune systems or are at greater risk for infections of any kind. Most of these are very simple practices, things that are more about awareness and being considerate of others than anything else.

On the blog last week I shared some initial thoughts about how businesses have been communicating in response to this outbreak, and unfortunately I’ve been disappointed by many of the responses I’ve been seeing from many businesses and business owners since then. I’ve seen very few businesses or leaders really stepping up in creative ways to support their community and employees. Too few businesses are stepping up to do what they can to keep the economics moving and alive while much of the world deals with financial uncertainty. In part this is because some businesses (and non profits including many faith-based organizations) have resisted creating an online presence or having one that can be as strong and supportive as people need it to be right now. Yes, many businesses have said their employees are working from home, but there are far more businesses who have employees who can’t work from home due to the nature of the business and therefore are out of work. It would be these businesses that are the issue, because there are some very obvious and helpful ways that would get the employees working at least a little, keep the economy moving, keep businesses alive, and be helpful to the community at large. With as much economic concern as there is, why aren’t they stepping up?

We are in the early days of seeing how all this progresses, and the one area where I’ve really seen some good is with regard to how friendly and considerate many people are being. They’re reaching out to neighbors and making sure they’ve got supplies, they’re posting healthy/positive distractions online, they’re touching base more frequently with family and friends, and using all this technology we have at our fingertips to their advantage to stay connected and be a true community. It’s my hope that we stay tuned in to this sense of community and as we move forward into whatever the future holds for us, we remember how important it is to be conscious of and following through on our responsibilities.

Knowing When to Quit

I saw in the news that the Emperor of Japan has decided to step down.  He’s 85 and has had some health issues in recent years, and has decided that it’s in the best interest of the country to pass on the leadership to his son.  Here in the US we elect someone new every 4-8 years typically so we don’t experience anything like this type of life-long leadership, but Great Britain does, at least as of now, and the Catholic Church has historically had life-long leadership but the current pope has indicated he doesn’t want to be pope for the rest of his days.  All of this has gotten me thinking about quitting.

The word ‘quit’ is an interesting one.  It can be defined as “stop, cease, discontinue, depart, leave, give up, or relinquish.”  I think these definitions are interesting because we always see quitting as a really bad thing.  But these words don’t necessarily indicate any type of failure, like we typically think of when we talk about quitting.  Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make.

Quitting isn’t necessarily about accepting defeat or failing at something, although sometimes that is the case, other times it’s about getting out while the getting is good, or thinking about win-win-wins for everyone, or knowing that you’ve done the very best job that you could do and now you need to pass it of to someone else or do something different going forward.

Sometimes it’s easy to say that you quit, but often it does take courage and some serious consideration to make sure that you’re really making the best decision for yourself and those that matter most to you.  Those in positions of power have extra responsibility to make sure they’re doing what’s best for everyone, but the fact is we all do as well.  The way you live affects others in various ways from the very obvious and significant to the negligible, but the fact remains that we each do have responsibility for how we live, and therefore knowing when to quit.

Change isn’t the enemy, in fact more often than not it’s not changing that’s the enemy.  This week I encourage you to consider if it’s time for a change, time to quit something so you can move onto something bigger and better.

Let’s Go Places

I’ve read quite a few children’s books, both as a child and in my years of caring for children and working with families, and most of them are either fun to read, share about an experience, relate history, or teach a lesson. Some are just annoying and you never want to read again, but many are those you want to read again and again, even as an adult. One of my favorite authors who delves into lessons for adults and kids is Dr. Seuss. While I sometimes have trouble reading all the tongue-twisting words he used in his books, I still enjoy them and believe they will remain in our literary circles for generations to come.

In one of his famous books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, Dr. Seuss wrote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

As leaders of and examples to children, one of the greatest gifts we can give them is the encouragement to use their brains. This includes knowing how to make decisions, being confident in making decisions, putting actions to decisions, and making decisions for yourself (not strictly based on what others say or do). Both thinking and acting are important to learn, especially knowing how to think, work through and act on complex situations.

What I love about this Dr. Seuss quote is that it makes thinking and acting sound fun! Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by situations and it certainly doesn’t look or feel fun to think or act, and that’s what the kids in our lives see. I’m not saying it’s wrong to show the overwhelm, just that we also have to show how to work through the overwhelm and not get defeated by it.

We all could use a little more fun in our lives, especially as adults. It shouldn’t feel like we’re escaping life or skipping out on our responsibilities or being un-adult. Fun is something we enjoy regularly as a kid, as an adult we just have to learn to balance the fun with the responsibilities. It’s important to show the next generation that there’s room in our lives for both fun and responsibility. Teaching them this can help them embrace their responsibilities sooner, as well as encourage them to never give up on fun.

So how do you balance responsibility and fun in your life?

In the Business of Data and Privacy

On many of the lists that came out in the beginning of this year regarding the direction that business will take this year was the topic of privacy. Last year saw a number of data issues, and an increase in people being more aware of the digital decisions they’re making. More emails, more social posts, more audio, more content of all kinds is being created every day, and on an increasing pace. Today I thought we’d talk about data, privacy, and how all of it ties into ads and marketing.

Whether we’re talking personal or professional, no one really wants their information stolen. So it goes without saying that people and businesses need to be more conscious of the information they’re putting out into the world, that protections are improving and kept updated, and that people’s information is respected and not taken advantage of when information is shared.

From a marketing and business perspective I think it’s great that we’ve got so much data to tap into, it gives us the ability to spend our marketing dollars smarter because we’re able to tap into the people we want to target and not those who would never buy from us. The other side of it is that we have to be more respectful than ever of the information we’re given or able to tap into, because it’s easier for trust to be broken and for us to lose a potential life-long customer because we spammed them or were disrespectful of their trust.

From a customer perspective, they’re still willing to provide their information, as long as there’s a clear reward and their information and privacy is respected. It’s one reason why it’s so important to have not only an unsubscribe button in all emails but also a link that will allow them to update or remove information including email address and physical address. If you’re requiring information more than name and email up front, make it clear why you’re requiring that information, and consider if it’s really necessary at that moment or if you’re just trying to squeeze information from them.

So what are your thoughts as a business and a consumer when it comes to data and information? What is your company doing to help protect your customers and take advantage of the information that’s available?

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

Choose Your Responsibility

As we finish out this month over the weekend I wanted to share one more thought on the topic of responsibilities, this time with an eye to kids. Part of our job as adults is to teach our kids about responsibility so that when they’re adults they can handle the pressures that life (work, family, relationship, health etc.) puts on them as they grow up and become adults.

There are a variety of ways we can teach responsibilities, like talking about ours and helping kids understand why we do things. Traditionally chores have also been used to help teach responsibilities, and they’re a great way of having your kids participate in caring for the house and themselves, and can also help teach financial responsibility and management if you attach a monetary reward to completed chores.

Part of teaching them responsibilities is teaching them how to use the power that comes along with them, and giving them the opportunity to make choices for themselves.  One of the ways you can do this is by giving them options (that really aren’t options) to give them some control and power over their choices.  For example when they have to pick a snack after school you can give them a selection (at least 3 options) of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options to choose from.  If they have homework to do and need to shower before bed you can give them the choice of which they do first or if they do some of the work and then shower and then finish the work.

Yes, some of these choices/options means that you have to be prepared to have a little more variety in your life, for instance buying more options at the food store, but it gives them the ability to make some decisions and you to de-escalate a situation that could be much more difficult to resolve or handle if you just made the decisions for them.

What are your tips for teaching kids responsibilities?

Relationship Responsibilities

This month one of the things we’ve talked about is the topic of responsibility. Unless you or your partner is an abuser, serial killer or some other type of evil individual, and as long as you’re both in agreement with being in the relationship, you both have a responsibility to each other and your relationship.

You’ve got a responsibility to communicate with each other, to treat each other with sensitivity and compassion, to be respectful of each other, to consider each other’s opinions, to be open to each other’s needs, to support each other, to encourage each other, to be confident in each other, to grow the relationship, and to take care of each other through thick and thin. You also both have the responsibility to speak up if something, including the relationship, isn’t working for you.

All that may sound overwhelming, and something else to add to the responsibility plate of your life, but if your relationship with your significant other is truly one of the most important and valuable things in your life, shouldn’t it command appropriate responsibility as well? If it’s feeling too overwhelming, either your relationship needs to be evaluated or you and your partner need to have a serious conversation about responsibilities and reworking the relationship. Yes, there should be some sense of weight because it’s an important relationship in your life, but it shouldn’t be so much that you feel you can’t handle it or don’t want to.

This week I encourage you and your partner to have a conversation about the responsibilities in your life, and to each other.  Don’t be discouraged if the conversation brings up a lot of stuff, instead be encouraged that you can now make a plan for improving the health of your relationship.

Making Life Safer and More Peaceful for the Next Generation

The words “back to school” are echoing around the country. For some school is a welcome time, for others there’s a lot of apprehension. Both parents and kids can struggle with back to school time, and one of the challenges that has been increasingly becoming a greater point of concern is the safety issue. Whether from outside sources or inside sources violence and bullying has been increasingly on people’s radars. But it’s not exclusive to schools, as you may know, violence and threats can happen anywhere and at any time, whether an orchestrated attack or driving incident that happen between two parties that have zero connection, or a natural disaster that is more serious than anticipated.

Safe is a term that we throw around but aren’t always able to follow through on. Why? Because there are too many variables to be able to fully anticipate all potential dangers. The best way to be safe though is with planning and honesty. The first thing I think as adults we need to do is be willing to admit that there are dangers around, and not to be oblivious to them. This is a first step that not everyone takes, because who really wants to think about this stuff?

The next step is to be honest about some of the potential things that could go wrong and outline some kind of plan for them. While you don’t have to have precise steps that should be taken in the event of certain things happening, it’s a good idea to at least have things outlined as to financials and last wishes and even online account information so that in the event of something bad happening your wishes and information are made known. You should also have an emergency fund (and specify what that fund can be used for) that can cover expenses for 6 months or more. You should also have at least one discussion with the family about these things so that everyone is at least aware of where the information is, what plans are if something happens and who the contact people are outside of the family should something happen.

Of course the third step is to be smart about how you live. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take some risks or don’t have any fun, but it means that you don’t drive recklessly, you don’t do drugs, you get help from a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with anger or hurt or depression or something else, and generally think before acting in life.  Your better habits will teach your kids to have better habits as well.

No family ever likes to think about the dark side of life, but it’s a reality. If you want your family to be safer, do what you can to make it more likely that you’re all protected. But even though safe isn’t a guarantee, a greater sense of peace can be a reality if you take the time and effort to do a little planning. What are you doing to make the world a little more peaceful, and hopefully safer, for the next generation?