A Burst of Spring

The first day of spring is officially hours away. There’s a lot about spring to enjoy, one of my favorite things is how everything is so very clearly coming alive. There’s something magical about having everything burst into clear life from being seemingly dead and definitely drab over the winter. It’s one of the things I enjoy about living in this part of the US, that we do have clear seasonal changes throughout the year, and while I could do with less of the snow, it does make spring all the more appealing.

Sometimes what success needs from us is letting go of something big. Another thing some people are journeying through right now is the spiritual time of Lent which is leading up to Easter, and many people give something up for Lent. Other people give stuff up because they’re allergic to it or find they’re intolerant of it. But especially in that case it’s worth it to give it up, even if we miss what we had. Sacrifice and change are part of life, and I think we’re getting better at accepting that it happens and working through it.

But sometimes what success needs is not a sacrifice, but a big burst of effort, a big (positive) change. This big burst can reinvigorate what we’re doing, help renew our spirits, give us hope that it’s possible to achieve the victory and give us the energy to take a better look around and see the possibilities around us.

Spring hasn’t quite sprung here yet, but others have said that they’re seeing the signs slowly appearing, so I have hope that it will be here soon. If you’re struggling or feeling depressed or feeling stuck, maybe it’s time to let spring invigorate your life and success. Look for new life this week, new opportunities, new leaps of faith that you can take that will help you get closer to your goals.

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Dealing with Failures and Outages

The big business news this week so far is about Facebook’s outage on Wednesday and into Thursday for some. Facebook is used by people and businesses alike around the world, so when something like this happens it’s not something they can really brush under the rug. This issue hits on many topics that we’ve talked about recently as well as we talk about frequently like doing business together, communication, customer service and quality, and it also holds a great warning for all of us, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on it today.

Let’s start with the dark side of this whole thing. It can happen to anyone. It can get you bad publicity. It can make you lose customers. It’s something every business should talk about: what to do if there’s a catastrophic failure, what to do if data is lost, what to do if the product fails, what to do if leadership gets caught doing something bad. Being aware of that it could go wrong and having a plan for if it does go wrong is half the battle, the other half has to do with your reaction, communication and actions after the event. You may be able to take the right actions quickly, but if you poorly communicate about the whole thing you may lose any traction you could have made with the speedy repair.

Let’s talk about what Facebook did, that we know at this point. Yes, they obviously got to work on fixing it as soon as possible so more people weren’t affected and those that were would be able to get back on as soon as possible. Then they had a decision to make: how do we communicate this and do we communicate this. They made a really interesting decision, one that I doubt many people would have guessed, and that’s posted on Twitter to let people know what was up. It’s not necessarily the wrong decision (they could have used email), but it is kind of funny and is a good reminder that as much as you want to build a strong business, stronger than your competition, it’s always good to have an open line of communication for situations like these.

The situation will continue to unfold over the next days and weeks, and it will be interesting to see how they follow up on this. What would I like to see? At the very least I’d like to see messages on their Facebook and Instagram accounts sharing about what happened and letting people know it’s fully resolved and if any actions/precautions are being taken in brief with a link to a blog post on their blog with more depth and details. If there were any accounts hacked or breached, those people should be notified by internal message on the network and by email. I’d also like to see them to contact businesses that were actively running paid ads at the time and affected by the outage and fill them in on how the downed network will affect that ad run.

Of course, they may just choose to sweep this under the rug, and for many they’ll just continue on with Facebook as usual. But for the smart business owners, I would hope this serves as a warning that if your only means of supporting your business is through Facebook you should be looking into additional and supplemental ways to market and grow your business. It’s as is often said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What are your thoughts on the situation?

Practicing Success

The other day I was talking with one of the daughters of one of the families I work with about practicing piano. She was telling me that she only has one song she’s working on and that she was done practicing. I had heard her practice that one song, but while playing one song twice is practice, it’s not really a quality or quantity practice. So I suggested she grab one of her old books and just play through it to have more practice time, because it’s not just about knowing the current song you’re working on, but about building the muscle memory in your fingers and getting the song exposure and practice.

This conversation got me thinking about success, specifically expertise and knowledge as it relates to success. Some people are just successful, it doesn’t seem fair to other people that they’re able to be successful without all of the work that most of us have to do to be even a little successful. This necessary effort can be a deterrent to people, it’s why some people are successful and why others give up or aren’t as successful as they could be.

For those of us who success doesn’t come easy to, we’re doing the work to make the success happen.  Sometimes that mean that we have something specific that we’re working on that directly connects to our current goal (like practicing that one specific song on the piano).  Other times it means doing activities that can help us in the long run and in non-specific ways (like practicing other songs just to get the experience).

So what would help your success today? Committing to write several blog posts or pages of your book daily, daily upping the number of reps of an activity you do during your workout, reading one or more chapters in non-fiction books each day, daily reading blog posts and/or watch/listen to educational audios/videos, daily spending a half hour with your partner, daily reaching out to potential partners/contacts/clients through email or social media, daily developing ideas that could turn into products or designs, or more regularly and consistently taking care of bills/emails/paperwork? What is something you can do more consistently, more regularly, or increasingly more of to help you become more successful?

Assumptions and Honesty

I watch a lot of cop shows. I enjoy some nature and educational programming as well, but my go-to are things like CSI and Cops. More often than not they’re background noise, and I’m not actually watching them, but even with just listening to them as I go in and out of a room or read emails or do paperwork, you learn a lot about the people that we share this world with. I certainly have a greater understanding for the work those who protect and investigate do, and today I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned that we can all apply to our lives and our success.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone run from the cops or commit a crime or lie because they made a false assumption. Sometimes it’s that they think they have a warrant or don’t think they’re that drunk or think someone took a couple of dollars from them, but regardless of what they’re assuming, often they’re wrong. And if they’re not wrong, it’s often something so insignificant their actions end up turning an ant hill into a mountain.

It’s dangerous to let assumptions play too large of a role in your life. They can be helpful in giving you a baseline to work with, but if you choose to operate by assumptions you’ll often end up in trouble or consistently apologizing for being wrong or blowing things out of proportion.

One of the other things that you see occasionally on the shows and you hear about in the news are cops being aggressive. Especially in more recent programing you hear them explain to people why they were so aggressive, and it’s because they want to go home at night. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that violence is the answer or that some in law enforcement aren’t too aggressive, simply that they have a little more leeway than others do when it comes to how they respond towards others.

All of these shows are about people who have lives, want to have lives or want to live. It turns out that that’s what we’re all about too. I assume that I’ll be able to see tomorrow, enjoy food tomorrow, see my partner tomorrow and make a difference in the world tomorrow. It’s an assumption that I’m fairly confident in being able to make, but I just don’t know for 100%. Life truly is a gift, one that can change or be taken from us at any time. If we were to respect each other a little more, listen a little better, be a little more honest, we’d all live a little longer, happier and better.

Reality Check Question

Every so often I come across a question that not only makes me think, it’s one that I think you would benefit from considering in your life. Today I’ve got a question that you can apply to many different aspects of your life, from business to personal to relationship to health to success to finance to parenting. Like many good questions it’s open-ended and challenges you to not only consider what is but what could be. Ready?

Is this my reality forever?

I know that I talk about changes, goals and victories all the time, and that’s because they’re a reality for everyone and usually on a very regular basis. But sometimes I think we forget to think beyond the moment, beyond the panic, beyond the frustration, beyond the change. I also think we sometimes get wrapped up in the issues and the downhill roll we may seem to be going through.

Doing a quick check on yourself, your direction and your attitude with this question can help you get perspective and find the motivation and hope to move through your current situation and into a reality you prefer if you’re not happy with your reality. It can also remind you to slow down and enjoy your reality as it is, if it’s something you will likely have only once or twice in your life.

So the next time you start getting wound up or frustrated by life or feel like it’s running past you, I encourage you to stop for a moment and ask “Is this my reality forever?”

Advice from Edison

This month is the birthday of Thomas Edison. He was an incredible inventor and businessman, and was involved in power generation, communication, sound and motion pictures. He’s famous for his work with the lightbulb and in the US alone he holds over 1,000 patents. He also kept some pretty important company in the business world of the time: Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Today I thought we’d take a look at a few things Edison said and how they apply to our businesses and leadership today.

Reinvention, reworking, tweaking and trial and error are key throughout the life of your business:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Consistently work with a good head on your shoulders:
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”

Perspective and community/teamwork may be the answer:
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Don’t just accept things as they are, keep growing:
“There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

Most people are more capable of doing great things than they (or others) may believe they are (are you restricting yourself or your team?):
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Imagination and creativity are useful for many aspects of business, not just product development:
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Business does have a serious side, but laughter and fun are important too, no one is serious all the time:
“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”

It’s unlikely that AI or anything else will truly make people obsolete:
“There is far more opportunity than there is ability.”

There’s nothing wrong with taking an idea and developing it beyond where it currently is or giving something your own twist:
“I start where the last man left off.”

There’s getting stuff done and then there’s productivity:
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

Consistent action and follow through are key:
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

Giving up means you’ve failed, trying something different means you can win:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I encourage you to do a little creative inventing in your business this week, don’t just accept things as they have always been.  You never know what value a little brainstorming can reveal.

Learning From a $115 Billion Company

I like numbers as much as the next person and know their value in business, but I’m not really big on those top 10 lists or top 500 lists, I certainly don’t spend my time reading them on a regular basis.  So when I happened upon an article sometime at the end of last year I read it because of the fact that it was talking about how a big company was planning to get bigger, not because I wanted to read the top 10 list that it turns out it included as part of the article.  I don’t think we should always compare ourselves and our businesses to others out there, but I do know that we can learn from their success and this article reminded me of some truths that I think we sometimes ignore or forget when it comes to business.

The article, which you can read here (and I suggest you do), is talking about Cargill, “the $115 billion-in-sales agricultural giant that has topped Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies for 28 of the past 30 years.”  Some interesting things for you to consider: first and foremost it’s a food business.  Second, they’ve been in business since 1865.  Third, in the past 5 years they’ve consistently earned between 107 and 134 billion in sales and revenues.

So next we have to talk about the top 10 list.  What does it say? 3 of the others in the top 10 list are grocery stores and a 4th and 5th are also in the food business to one degree or another.  6 of the top 10 companies on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies are in the food business, the industry known for seriously small margins.

So what does all of this tell us?  First, that it’s possible to be very successful for a very long time in just about any industry.  It also tells us that what everyone says isn’t always correct, and sometimes you can beat the odds.  Finally, if you do want to succeed you have to keep learning, trying new things and growing.  Even if it’s not your goal to end up on one of these lists, I still think that the insights about Cargill can be encouraging and insightful.  Who have you learned from lately?

Small Steps to Success

One thing I’m going to do this year is a blog post each month on a business or success book I read, a book you can benefit from whether you read it or listen to it, and share some insights I gathered from it. This month’s book is Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s a really easy read for being a non-fiction book, it reminded me almost of the ease of reading a fiction book because of the writing style. The central concepts of the book were the benefits of small improvements and the power (positive and negative) of habits.

So many businesses are looking for the magic bullet that will catapult them to major success. Even if their plan is good and includes hard work, their expectations are often not in line with reality. I wish that more businesses would take a step back and take things a little slower, exactly like this book talks about. To not be in such a rush to get to success, but instead to build on their success a little at a time day in and day out, so they are helping more people that day than they did the day before.

One of the big keys behind the success of the small improvements and habits in the book is that of systems. Systems are crucial to a well-oiled business, one that can run almost seamlessly all the time regardless of the little quirks that pop up each day. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal, but systems help you get a lot closer to getting it right more often than not. Systems are the key that help you get from point A to point B well on a regular basis, helping you establish success patterns and habits that will empower you and your customers. Of course the opposite is true as well, if you don’t have the right system you won’t be as successful or success will be a lot harder to come by.

The final point I want to bring up from the book is that of clues and paying attention. One of the most helpful things you can do for your business is pay attention. Each day, each purchase, each interaction with a customer adds new information to what you already know and if you’re paying attention you can see warning signs before issues become full-blown problems. I’m not suggesting you become hypersensitive to everything that’s going on that you freak and make drastic changes at the smallest thing or first sign of a potential issue, but rather be aware of how everything is running, how people are responding, what’s going on and how you’re feeling about everything so that easily fixed small issues don’t turn into big ones and you can capitalize on the good ideas when you have them, not many months down the road after they become missed opportunities.

If you’ve got suggestions for other books I should read this year, let me know in the comments.

Living Today

The new year has arrived and we’re almost a week in! I love that we have life divided into days, months, years and lifetimes. It helps us to process better and plan both short-term and long-term goals which give us small and large victories throughout our lives.  Each one is filled with a different set of opportunities for us to live and love and build relationships and be successful.

I don’t always go with a year theme, but lots of people do. I’ve seen lots of different words this year including spaciousness, time, intention, substance, experience, purpose, promise, change and clarity. This year I’ll be doing something different and not doing monthly themes for every month as I’ve done in the past, but instead going with a yearly theme. This year’s theme is going to be ‘today.’

Why ‘today’? Not because of how fast-paced our world is, but rather because I want us to take a step back and live in today, accomplish things today, appreciate today, learn from today and enjoy today. Yes, we’ll still talk about goals, planning, the future, and the bigger picture, but I want to focus on appreciating, enjoying and acting on each day.

As we’re constantly reminded of in the news each day is a gift. What you do in that day may make or break your future. It can overcome what you’ve done in the past. You can end the day satisfied with what you got done that day or feeling like it was all a waste. It may be one of your last days, will you look back and know you lived it well?

What will you do with today?

Thoughts for Business in 2019

We’re in a new year, and you’ve probably seen a couple of those posts about trends for 2019 and what 2019 may hold for companies. Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts about where I hope or see or hear business may be going in 2019. Don’t forget though, the year is just beginning and almost anything is possible if you’re willing and able to put the time and effort in.

Websites: I think that we’re going to realize how important websites are if you want to stay relevant in 2019 and finally prioritize keeping it updated and helpful to visitors. If you don’t have a website, now’s the time to get one, even if it’s one that you design yourself or a more basic one that doesn’t cost thousands. Make sure that you’re able to update it on a moment’s notice or you’ve got the access to a tech team and they’re able to do it.

Market Specifics: I don’t really think it’s possible anymore to claim you sell to “everyone.” Even if you look at the big guys (big box stores/sites), they’ve got some pretty clear haters who would never shop with them, even if they sell the exact same product as everyone else (i.e. a name-brand paper towel roll available at a grocery store in every town or most comparable websites). Whether you call it your niche, tribe, community or something else, it’s time to really dial in on who you sell to the large majority of the time (if not all the time).

Context: whether we’re talking marketing in general or specifically with emails or social media or other types of publications in line with the previous point it’s time to be more specific and helpful with what you’re sending out. Make sure it’s clear why people would be interested in it (what’s in it for them) and don’t be afraid to ask them to join specific groups or newsletter subscriptions to narrow down the focus of what they’re receiving from you, especially if you do speak to more than one specific audience.

Love: your audience and potential customers should love what you can bring to the table. This means working on your brand, having a clear brand, and showing that brand consistently in all you do. It’s also about having mutual respect and appreciation for all people at the table from suppliers to customers to employees to the management team.

What else will be big this year? Some of the more obvious ones are improved and increased focus on metrics and data, collaboration, innovation, tech and AI allowing us to focus more on what only humans can do, and more planning and strategy (and implementation).  What do you think will be big or lead the transformation in business this year?