When It Takes Too Long

I know the past month for me has been challenging, there have been cancellations, changed plans, friends appearing and disappearing, and lots of other strange happenings, not to mention all the stuff going on in the world.  And it’s all exhausting!  Each day just feels like trying to walk through mud.

So what do you do when life just takes too long to get to where you’re heading?

My first choice is to relax.  We’re a busy society and don’t take enough time to smell the roses, literally and figuratively.  When was the last time you were outside?  When was the last time you took a walk, albeit bundled up given that we haven’t quite shaken winter yet?  When was the last time you sat on the couch with your partner or a friend and just talked?  When was the last time you had a cup of tea or coffee without the paper or some work?

Second, do what you feel like you can do.  If your body is telling you to take a nap, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep to function in high-challenge times like these.  If your body is complaining about something, maybe it’s a good time to try that diet your friends have been telling you about. Make short to-do lists and don’t plan to conquer the world right now.

Third, make time for family.  You don’t have to have your a-game to have a great time with your family.  Your kids will love if you sit and read stories with them, your parents will love if you call them, your siblings will wonder if you’re going crazy but it will be a chance to spend time with the people you probably don’t spend enough time with.

If your life, goals and victories have been a little elusive of late, fear not, keep pressing forward, especially now that we’ve entered a new month.  We’ll all get there.  Listen to what your body and heart are telling you and do the best you can.  No one will fault you for trying and doing the best you can.

Simple and Easy for Families

On Wednesday one of the things I talked about was the danger of making assumptions, as inspired by a statement by Seth Godin: “The lack of instructions doesn’t make something simple.”  As I was thinking about this insight, I read another, this time by Adam Lyons: “It’s simple, but not easy.”  So today I thought we’d talk about the concepts of simple and easy since they’re concepts that families deal with on a regular basis.  As adults some things seem so easy for us, for example we don’t have trouble lifting the full laundry basket but our kids can’t do it.  We also think it’s easy to read or make something to eat, but our kids struggle with the same things, and may even cause some serious problems if they tried to do what we do in the kitchen.  But kids seem to have a much better handle on the simple stuff like getting along, forgiveness, love, living in the moment, play and naps.

How can we bridge the gap between what we know is easy and what kids think is simple?  It’s our job as adults to teach kids the essential things they need to know in life.  Sometimes that means taking over and showing them, sometimes it means putting your hands on theirs to help them do it, sometimes it means letting them try and fail.  Regardless it usually means lots and lots of practice and repetitive explanations.  The transition from what kids don’t know is easy to what they do know is easy is very evident in families with multiple children.  As the younger siblings are learning the basics the older siblings say “that’s so easy!  I know how to do that!”  And so they learn and are on to new things that aren’t so easy.

But what about the simple things in life?  Not only do the simple things in life seem to come easy to kids, it’s not so easy when we try to put the simple things into practice. Why? Because for years we’ve learned, believed, taught ourselves, ignored, or chosen to see things and live in one way or another.  It’s a lot easier to talk about concepts than it is to put them into practice like kids do.   We need to do what kids do when it comes to the stuff that’s easy for us: learn and practice.  So this weekend and next week if you find yourself thinking that things are simple take time to appreciate what you can do, and if things are too hard, consider whether it’s something you can or should learn and get to work practicing, especially when it comes to concepts like getting along, forgiveness, and living in the moment.

The Business of Big Ideas

Today I’m thinking about the big, bold ideas that we always wish we could pull off.  Most of us are really good at coming up with great ideas that are cool or interesting or could help others or make us lots of money, but not always ideas that are big or bold or have the potential to make a huge impact on the world.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the world needs the little ideas and little things as well. We wouldn’t live as we do without the “simple” doctors offices, secretaries, farmers, police/military and cleaning people.  Simple doesn’t mean not important, and you know that without some of those people we’d die a lot quicker.  So don’t give up on the simple ideas, the ideas that make things easier for you, make you simply a little happier, or make things work in harmony better.  Those are really important ideas and we need more of them.

So what’s so great about big ideas anyway?  For one they’re impressive.  We are attracted to things that are big and bold and catch our attention. But what about from a business perspective?  Big ideas are great at catching people’s attention and getting them talking about us too.  But they’re also great for sharing and bringing to life visions and missions that we have in our businesses.  Big ideas are great, but when they’re big ideas that are in support of or part of visions and missions that are core to our businesses they become much more powerful.

But big ideas and missions and visions are only as powerful as the follow through.  On paper or discussions they’re great, but without coming up with a plan on how to bring them to life they’re just ideas or nice words. And we know that ideas and nice words aren’t just what customers want to hear.  They want to see or feel or experience results too.

So what if you don’t have big ideas?  Just because you have smaller and less grand ideas doesn’t mean you can’t support them with visions and missions or that you can’t you can’t present them with care, and attention to details.  As I said before small can matter, it’s just about whether you appreciate and present the value or not.   But, if you only have small ideas and want to think bigger, bringing a visionary (someone who does think in big ideas) in to join your team for a season is always an option.

This weekend I encourage you to think.  Take time to come up with big and small ideas that can support your business and customers and see if you can make them feasibly work for you and them.  Then pick the ones you like the most and seem the most feasible and get to work!

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”  Goethe

Telling the Truth in Business

Do you know what can sink your business really fast? Lies. When you lie about how effective a product or service is or what you’re going to do or who you are, people not only won’t buy from you again but they tell their friends too. And as we know negative news spreads faster than the positive news. I know some people will tell you that too much truth is a bad thing or that some mystique is a good thing. I agree that a little mystery can be a good thing, but what you offer and who you are should not be one of those mysteries.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth:
I understand that you want to keep some secret sauce for your clients. I have no problem with that. Some people find success in sharing their secrets, others have learned what “enough” is that they can share and interest people with what they offer. One of the things I advise some of my clients on is using Facebook. The first thing usually asked or considered is “what do you think of my page?” My answer is usually “I can’t really tell what makes you special” (or tell what you really offer at all), and sometimes also includes “and all your posts are promotional” (which isn’t a good thing). Most people don’t give sufficient information about their business whether we’re talking promotional materials, social media or in client conversations.

Do it right the first time:
If at all possible it’s always desirable to get things right the first time. The reality is that we don’t always get things right the first time and do have to fix things and sometimes start from scratch. But you’ll be more satisfied with doing the job right the first time than you would be if you gave it a half effort. Not giving it your best effort means you’ll also never know if you could have been successful if you gave it a little more effort.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right:
This is another of my favorite sayings. Too often we throw something together quick without really thinking it through or doing the research. Sometimes, as I’ve said in the past, the research is as simple as reading what’s been written and already provided to you. I don’t believe in perfection so that’s not what I’m saying and I think questions are great, so I’m not judging that either. But if you’re really serious about helping people with your product or service you owe it to them (and will save yourself lots of time) if you disclose as much as possible.

Do everyone a favor and check your business for lies, misleading information and invisible information. What do your customers and potential customers think of your business?

 

Just Joy

One of the things I’ve probably mentioned in the past that completely amazes me is how often people turn down or ignore the simple stuff.  Like a free gift because they feel guilty getting it or the kind word because they don’t feel worthy or the simple advice that could be a big breakthrough.  Of course I’ve toyed with different ideas over the years on how to help people accept the simple stuff.  I’ve seen over the past few years a few more people offering a very brief daily thought, inspiration or action step on a blog or through a newsletter which is one way to encourage simple changes, but somehow too many people are still missing out on the huge potential power of this concept.

Let me explain the concept to you before we go further.  It’s really quite simple.  Your future is built on each and every moment from your past.  Your future is what your past has created.  The different prejudices, preferences, issues, fears, challenges, choices and people you meet, plus the outside influences that you have no control over are what makes up your future.  Which means that each and ever minute of your life is building to your future.  So if every moment is used in the set-up for your future, it would follow that it matters what you do in each moment of your life.  No pressure or anything.

But seriously, if we know that we can’t possibly make the most of each and every moment because that’s too much, but we do know and do our best to live life to its fullest as often as possible, the next thing to consider is that it’s those little things that make such a big difference in our lives.  What are the little things adding up to in your life?  Can you see them leading to an amazing future or are you frustrated with the future you see?  If you’re feeling frustrated, the first place I would start is with what makes you happy.  It’s when you find happiness that you find the key to freedom.

“It is strange what a contempt men have for the joys that are offered them freely.”  Georges Duhamel

The Problem with Perfection

As business owners we face lots of challenges. If you want me to make you a list I can certainly write you up one that will be longer than any kid’s Christmas list to Santa.  One of the most noticeable aspects of business and life is our presentation.  From how food looks on a plate, to how clean your house looks, to the packaging choices on your physical product or the design you chose for your website, for most people how something looks is one of the first things people notice.  Today I wanted to share a few thoughts about presentation and a little holiday cheer reminder.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first: when things don’t look good or they don’t meet the expectation we have it’s pretty noticeable usually.  We see the spelling mistakes, the unkempt floors, overflowing garbage, or dishes in the sink that create a perception of someone or their business that can impact all decisions you make about buying from them going forward.  As a consultant the presentation is one of the things that I work on most with clients, and one of the things they’re most resistant to change.  I’d be rich if I got money every time someone said to me “yea, yea, I know that, but I need more traffic/hits/sales/likes” etc.  Yes, I know you need more sales and traffic, just about every business owner does. But the chances of getting the sales from the traffic are much smaller if you don’t take care of the stuff you supposedly know about.  If it’s that simple and it could make that big of a difference in your business, how many more sales do you want to lose for refusing to do it?

This is where the holiday cheer comes in.  I was out the other night and saw lights on a tree outside that were clearly done by the homeowner (they didn’t hire a professional company to come in and wrap their tree).  At first I was distracted by the imperfectly hung lights, but then I realized that that’s what the holidays, and business, are not about.  No, holidays and business are not about having the perfect product, the perfect gift, the perfect life and perfect 2.5 kids.  It’s about making the world a better place, being happy with our choices and spreading some happiness wherever we go.

Simply put there are no perfect products, businesses or people.  There will always be a failure or flaw someone will be happy to point out.  Yes, we should all do our best to not have the easily fixable mistakes and issues like spelling and dirt, but when it comes down to it there’s more to life and success, and some things work just fine with an error or two.  In this holiday season and as we wrap up another year in business I encourage you to worry less about the little things and more about those that matter.

I Dream of Christmas

One of the best things about kids is their intact imagination. As adults we tend to forget what it means to dream as we get wrapped up in the realities of our lives. Sure we can take a page from another person’s book and relive their (more interesting) life, but what if we were to take a page from our children’s lives and create a path all our own? I can remember as a child thinking of all the creative gifts I could give family and friends, now it’s all about what gift card, electronic item or equally simple something we can come up with. Where has all the creativity gone?

I get it, we’re all tired by the busy lives we lead, by the barrage of ads and lures of the internet, we have more going on in our lives and around us than ever before. It used to be fairly simple, just worrying about whether our crops would grow or when our children would get married or if we would get sick. Now we’ve got thousands of things demanding our time and attention, which makes it very hard to focus on anything but the simplest of solutions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about simple solutions; I can’t understand the people who think that things have to be complicated or done in as many steps as possible all the time. Why complicate what can be (and should be) very simple?

The holiday season is here, it’s a chance for us to be with friends and family, for us to dream about happy memories, of stories and tales on Santa and magical happenings, and to have a little more hope than usual that things will work out and work out well. I believe that if we unleashed our imaginations more than just in these 9 weeks between Halloween and the New Year that we’d be happier, healthier and freer people. We’d live lives of excitement, fulfillment and passion, if only we would be willing to dream a little dream again.

I encourage you to open up your mind and heart this weekend to the dream of what your life could be, imagine what the world could be just waiting to send your way in showers of blessings!

“I used my imagination to make the grass whatever color I wanted it to be.” Whoopi Goldberg

Simple Solutions

I love a good mystery, who doesn’t, right?  We watch shows on TV that have twists and turns that most of us don’t predict, we love trying to figure out what’s wrong with something and we are all naturally curious about what goes on in other people’s lives.  We love the challenge of figuring something out and are excited by the possibility of what could be through the next doorway or around the bend.  Yet every day we face challenges that make us say “I wish there was just a simple answer!”  The good news is that for most things there is a simple answer.  The bad news is that sometimes we’re so wrapped up in it being a challenge that we can’t see or accept the simple answer.  Some of my clients initially think that some of my advice is simply too simple.  You’ve probably read some of my blog posts and thought the same thing.

Your fear, concern or disbelief that something is too simple to work is something that needs to be considered and addressed because some things are better with layers and age, but many things are good and work well, or even better, without any added complications.  We’ve gotten so caught up in the complexities of society today that we can’t accept that the simple things do work.

What do you really have to lose by cleaning up your store, trying a new game with your kids, going on a date with your partner, or getting a fresh perspective from a coach or consultant?  Are you so stuck in your current life that you can’t see life outside where you are currently, or so happy that you don’t feel the need to? If you’re happy with your life that’s one thing, but if you’re not, refusing to accept other perspectives means you’re bordering on hopeless. No one can force you to do anything or apply any advice, but the only way to get something better is to do something different.

So, what do you really have to lose by cleaning up your store?  Maybe you’ll gain a few new customers.  What do you have to lose by trying a new game with your kids?  Maybe you’ll gain the gift of their joy, love and smiles.  What do you have to lose by going on a date with your partner?  Maybe you’ll be reminded of how happy you can be together. What do you have to lose by getting a fresh perspective from a coach or consultant? Maybe you’ll find the freedom, fulfillment and future you’ve always wanted.  In what area of your life do you need a fresh perspective?

You Can Make A Difference

Even as young kids we were aware that there were rich people and people who were not as rich, items that were really big and awesome and others that weren’t so great, and foods that were special treats and others we could have anytime even if we didn’t really like them.  You may not have really fancy tastes, or you may have all the money in the world to buy any treats you want.   You may be happy with the most luxurious hotel suite, or you may be happier with a simple cabin in the woods.  We each have different tastes and preferences, which is why we’re each so special.  So today I want to talk about this struggle we have with our differences.

1-the lie of good and bad.  In most cases it’s not a case of good versus bad, just a case of different.  My cup of coffee may be a lot less expensive than yours, but that doesn’t make it either good or bad.  I may have a preference for long walks in the park and you may enjoy a night at the bowling alley, neither are good or bad. You may like dogs and I may like cats, but neither are good or bad. Just because we like different things, even two similar things that are different because of location or price, doesn’t make them good or bad.

2-the challenge of price.  Just because it’s more expensive some people will automatically determine that something is better than another, or because it’s cheaper it’s not as good.  We do use money as a determining factor in making choices, often because it’s easier, and in many cases we have learned that expensive things can be better made or larger or look a certain way.

3-just because we’re rich or poor doesn’t mean we can’t improve.  Money does bring a lot of opportunities with it to the table, there’s no denying that it makes many things easier.  But just because we’re poor doesn’t mean that we can’t become rich, and just because we’re rich doesn’t mean we have or know everything.  Money or size should not be our determining factor as to what’s real or important or valuable in the world.  You’re not more important or better because you do or don’t have lots of money.

So where does that leave us?  It leaves us with the choice to be willing to work at our lives where we are.  We’ve each been given a position, one that we can always improve, but one that we can make great differences in without moving up the financial or social ladder.  Our willingness to see our lives as insignificant or too important and ignore what goes on around us is a mistake.  When we choose to make a difference where we are and as who we are we’re able to actually do good things, instead of waiting for a better time.

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

The Simple Answer

If you’ve been in the business game for any time you probably have talked about niching and what categories your products/services belong in and targeted marketing.  These are all important aspects of having a successful business, but sometimes there are things that have to be taken care of before you can get to the strategies and tactics.  Being a business consultant I’ve worked with a lot of business owners, and one thing that I’ve mentioned before and will mention again always gets me: people refuse to follow the simplest instructions and advice no matter how accurate or easy to do it is.  I’ve heard over and over “Yea, yea I know.  But please advise something that will really work for my business to engage my customers.”

You see what these people don’t realize is quite simple: you can’t get to the bigger and better until you fix what’s broken first.

Need a really simple example?  It would be like going into your client’s cafe or store, telling them they need to clean the trash off the floor and having them say “yea I know, but how do I get customers in the door?!”  The obvious answer is that you won’t get any customers in the door until you take care of the trash on the floor, but some people refuse to accept that it’s just that simple.

It’s not possible to please each and every customer you ever have.  It’s not possible to please every person on the planet, which is really a good thing because it spreads the work and wealth around. But what if it were just that simple to please more customers?  What if all it took was a daily Facebook post, taking out the trash more often, refreshing the menu, changing the staff’s outfits, or getting a simpler website?  If people keep telling you the same thing over and over you will get tired of hearing it, I understand that.  But what’s wrong with the answer being honestly simple?

This week I encourage you to take a good look at your business and stop putting off those simple things and just get them done.  You’ll be surprised what good things simple changes can bring about.