The Order of Success

Sometimes the order in which you do things really matters. Order is something you have to be conscious of when getting dressed each day (underwear goes on first), taxes can’t be filed until the year is up, you can’t get married before you’ve got a partner, you can’t admire a flower while it’s still a seed, you can’t get payment from a client before discussing or even doing the work. In these cases if you try to do things backwards you’ll often end up without success or with a big mess.

Sometimes you’ve got some flexibility in the order, for example when you’re working on cutting the vegetables for a pasta salad, but ultimately you do have to cook the pasta before you can add it to the salad, or it won’t be a truly edible salad. Sometimes you can get lucky and do things out of order (for example when you don’t read the full instructions) and it still works out. Sometimes you can do things out of order or not read the directions and be able to fix it in the end or redo it without too much issue or extra time spent (of course this is both very frustrating and very relieving at the same time).

Sometimes it’s good to push the boundaries of order though. Sometimes it’s good to test things out a different way from how you’ve always done it. Sometimes we do things in a certain order because “that’s how we’ve always done it” so that’s how we do it, but that may not be the most efficient way or the most practical way or the best way based on how things have changed or developed. Order doesn’t usually take into account personal preference either. For example, sure you can still send a letter through the post office, it’s a fun and practical way to send things, but you can also email or call someone and get a much faster response. Another example is how we still can travel by horse and cart, but it’s also much faster and probably also safer to travel by car or plane or train. Another example is regarding seasoning in recipes, you may prefer more seasoning and should double the seasoning in the recipe, or be allergic to or dislike one of the suggested seasonings and should not include it.

The good news is there are plenty of smart people out there (in addition to yourself) that you can ask why something is done the way it’s done and contemplate if there’s a better way of doing something if you’re struggling or just curious. What order will you contemplate this week?

Not My Problem?

On Monday the US Supreme Court decided a case regarding discrimination “because of” sex at work. The decision was in favor of LGBTQ rights and the LGBTQ community, saying that it’s illegal to discriminate or have job bias on people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s interesting timing for this case to be decided, because it’s Pride month, and for many it’s the first bit of good news they’ve gotten since the year started.

I was reading this article which summed things up, and read an interesting line that I wanted to talk about today. Unfortunately, the article has since been edited, but essentially the line from one of the dissenting judges was about how it wasn’t a Supreme Court issue. It got me thinking about how that could be said about a lot of life. The people who pick up garbage and recycling from our streets and dumpsters could argue that our garbage isn’t their issue. The people at the phone stores could argue it’s not their issue when we screw up our phones. Those who don’t have any damage after a natural disaster could argue that their neighbor’s damage isn’t their issue so they don’t have to help. Those who have never done any outright discrimination against any of the many segments of our world population could argue that the many issues people report in the world aren’t their problem.

As I was thinking about the comment in the article, I realized that while all of those things may be true, sometimes you have to step up and do the clean up even if it’s not your “fault” or directly your issue. There sometimes comes a time when you just have to choose to be the bigger person and make the tough decisions; decisions that people haven’t had the courage to make or aren’t able to come to a consensus with. Sometimes you have to think about what’s best for the community, for the people that you share the world with and let that be your guide. For example, countless businesses and people stepped out of their comfort zone over the past few months to create and share products to support their nation and the world in the fight against the virus. They didn’t have to, but they chose to do it any way because it was the right thing to do or they could do it.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, people struggling in many different ways, some for longer than you may have ever known if you even know. I’m not going to suggest that you try to fix everything or help everyone, it’s not realistic. Instead, I simply suggest that when you run into someone facing a challenge or dealing with an issue, while it may not be your issue, if you can do something about it or something to help them, consider doing so.  It may not be your problem, but it is someone’s problem, and everyone needs a little help from time to time.

Ready for a Fresh Start

We’ve finished 5 months of 2020, although they felt more like at least a year in and of themselves. Of course with finishing another month means we’ve entered into a new one. I love fresh starts and new months because we sometimes do get stuck in ruts and need a little help, psychological or physical or otherwise, to get out and moving again. It’s particularly interesting because we’re really beginning to emerge from months of being stuck at home to fight or avoid the virus, and now restrictions are being lifted and slowly we’re able to get back to a level of business as usual over the next few months.

Fresh starts don’t mean that the past can be erased or forgotten. On my other blog today I referenced the phrase “you can forgive someone but not forget their actions.” The past couple of months have been painful on many levels, pain that most of us alive today haven’t experienced before. With the events of George’s mistreatment and death, plus the unacceptable deaths of other African Americans over the past few weeks, months and years related to racism or inaccurate racial profiling, the pain has reached a new point as we enter this new month. We clearly haven’t won the war on racism yet, and regardless of how some people are acting today, we haven’t beaten the virus yet either (just take a look at the news and the many thousand new cases that have appeared in our country and other countries around the world today alone).

So where do we go from here with our brand shiny new month? I think we start by remembering that we don’t have to do life alone. That means that we support each other with our ears and hearts as we listen, with our bank accounts as we buy the products and services others sell, and physically supporting each other in whatever ways and whenever it’s safe to do so. There’s no rule that says we have to go big or go home with life right now, it’s going to be the small but steady steps we take in truly learning to work together as a community, hearing the issues we each have, truly caring about the issues we each have, and being willing to work a little harder so we all have win-win-win experiences whenever possible.

Life wasn’t perfect 4 months ago, and it won’t be perfect 4 months from now. But we can choose with each new day to make that day as good as or better than the day before. Choose to do one kind act for someone, choose to do one thing that will help the economy start moving again, choose to do one thing that will make your future better each and every day. We may have our own individual dreams and goals in life, but no one should ever think or feel that they’re alone, because they’re not.  We’re all part of this world together.

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?

Cancelling Criticism

The world is going through an unprecedented time of confusion, challenge and change. We have yet to see how our lives change after the dust settles, and if I’m honest, I don’t want it to go 100% back to the way it was, because that means that we didn’t learn anything from all the people whose lives were lost as a result of this virus. My hope is that we’ll all get out of this situation wiser and better prepared for whatever the future holds for us, hopefully wise enough not to see a repeat of things as they’ve gone or worse.

We’re facing a lot of challenges on many levels right now, and along with challenges is the need to find the reason for the challenge or figure out what got us to this point. I think it’s important, not so that we can point blame, but so that we can do our best to avoid creating a similar situation in the future. Of course the likelihood is that there isn’t just one reason we’re in the situation we’re in, but several factors and things that have lead to this point on the health level. But beyond the health crisis, is the question of the response of people and businesses in a situation like this in the future and learning to work together better, both protecting each other and protecting all our finances, jobs and futures.

There has been a lot of reaction to this virus, instead of being able to respond with a pre-considered plan and immediate action to best support each other and the businesses in our areas and keep life as normal and productive as possible. That means all businesses and non-profits need an online presence and plan that could be put into immediate action should something like this present again to continue supporting both customers and employees in smart and safe manners as fully as possible. It means individuals and families need to do the best they can to get ahead, not on top of, their bills and finances. And it means each and every one of us needs to be on top of our health and wellness and taking necessary steps more consistently and proactively to protect ourselves and the rest of the people we share this world with.

I encourage you to shut off the criticism and instead start working on supporting and making proactive decisions to make our world better and stronger.

Reality Reflection: Victories and Change

We talk a lot about the topic of change when it comes to life and victories, and yet we’ve never faced a change quite like this in our lives. This challenge has created a lot of stress in our lives and created lots of changes, but has also opened up a lot of opportunities for us. I’m talking about the things that we’ve thought about doing for months if not years, and never made the time or been handed the time to get that stuff done. I don’t like many of the changes and challenges we’re facing right now any more than you do, but we’ve got a choice what we’re going to do with what’s been handed to us.

Like other times in our lives, I think it is important to take time to grieve and attempt to comprehend our changed world. It’s absolutely likely that we’ll return to what we used to know as normal sometime in the near future, but something of this scale cannot be quickly forgotten, nor the scars erased so quickly. If we don’t take time to process and plan for something of this nature in the future, all of the people who experienced great loss during this time (and that’s many people around the world) will have made those sacrifices in vain. All or most of all of us are suffering or sacrificing in one way or another at this time, most of us are disrupted in some way or another, and there’s no shame in admitting that you need time to rant about it or time to process the way your heart is breaking. So go ahead and take time if and when you need it to process not only the tragedy happening, but also the possible ways our world will change in the future.

Then choose how you’re going to move forward with your life. Choose to make the best decisions you can about your health and nutrition. Choose to invest in the relationships that mean the most to you. Do the best you can to invest and plan ahead for something challenging like this in the future. And do something each and every day to feel a sense of accomplishment, whether that’s cleaning out a closet, doing your taxes, exercise, cleaning up your garden, painting a room, cooking a meal, playing with your pet(s), doing homework with your kids, spending quality time with your significant other or reading a book.

There are no hard and fast answers at this time, so it’s up to each of us to do our best with where we’re at. Take advantage of any time you’ve been given and put it to good use. Don’t let a day go by that you tell someone you love them or are thankful for them. Never forget that each and every day of health and life is a gift. Do something positive each day, and choose to live your life.

Compounded Mistakes and Successes

Something that often comes up when you watch cop shows on TV is the concept of compounding mistakes. You may be familiar with this from watching those types of shows too, or from talking with friends about things that have recently happened in their lives along the lines of “so this person did this, then they did this, and then they did this!” Sometimes it’s one of those really bad days that you just can’t seem to get a break, and it just keeps going further and further down hill. Other times maybe we figure we’re in enough trouble already, there couldn’t possibly be more coming our way or that doing anything else could make it much worse. But the reality is that we absolutely can make things worse on ourselves, and maybe we can’t fix what’s gone wrong thus far, but we can make the choice to stop things from spiraling any further downhill.

So if the answer is unequivocally that yes, things can get worse for you if you don’t take steps to stop the roll, then the opposite is true as well: that you can take steps to compound your success. There’s a weight loss commercial that comes to mind for one of the growing companies in the field, and in the commercial they’ve got people talking about how the program has helped them understand how their brain works and build healthier habits, and how it’s actually helped them not just lose weight but keep the weight off. Whether this company is doing anything truly different from other companies, I don’t know and it’s not really the point, but the reason the commercial really piqued my interest is because of the talk about building good habits, not just habits or making you change things that you don’t really want to change, but adding good things to your life, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to add some good stuff to their life?

You can’t permanently avoid the really bad days, they just come along once in a while. But, you can do something to help yourself have better days more often. Yes, it does start with paying attention so that you see when you’re in a downward spiral, and do something, whatever you can, to stop it. But it’s a lot easier to build on successes than it is to stop a runaway train. So when you do something well, first take a moment to celebrate that. When something goes well for you because you did it a certain way, take note of that for the future (a literal note if necessary). Build at least one guaranteed victory into your schedule each day. Work on adding habits to your life that help you build a healthier, happier, more fulfilling future. Add to things that are good, going well and positively gaining strength.  What successes will you build upon today?

Facts Vs. Feelings

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day here in the US. Valentine’s Day is a date on the calendar that causes stress for many people because they don’t have a date, their relationship is struggling, or they don’t have the funds to put towards what society tells us should be done on Valentine’s Day. Yes, it is based in and started because of commercialism, getting couples to spend money, try to remember how many years they’ve been together, and try to remember what they did last year so they don’t repeat it (unless it was really good). But Valentine’s Day is way more than a commercial holiday, it’s an opportunity to think about the things we feel for the people in our lives, specifically the love we have for our significant other.

Thinking about Valentine’s Day and the two sides of it, fact and feeling, reminded me of a TV show I was watching the other day and in it the character was speaking with a therapist and the therapist asked the person to describe something. The person started talking about the things they did and how the dream played out, and the therapist stopped them, and asked them to share instead about how they feel.

The facts are important, having a plan is important, committing time and effort to things and people, and having details worked out is important, but life is so much more than just information, facts, figures and dates. We wouldn’t work as hard as we do if we truly didn’t believe in what we did or believed in supporting our families and had some dreams for our lives.

As we finish out this week, whether you have Valentine plans or not, I encourage you to make time for both fact and feeling. Don’t hide from either of them, or pick one or the other, our lives, victories and relationships are stronger, healthier and more sustainable when we allow both fact and feeling play the role that they’re supposed to play.

Beyond First Successes

Yesterday was the official remembrance of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but many people started talking about him in the days before the holiday and will continue to do so for the rest of this week. As I thought about what to share in this post today about success, there were many thoughts that came to mind. Dr. King certainly is a great example of someone who was successful, but not in the financial regard that many people automatically assign to the word success. Instead, he was one of the few who not only was successful about getting his message out there, it’s a message many people not only remember but can repeat words from, some 50 years later. All of those are incredible feats in and of themselves, but as I was thinking about what to write today I thought about the topic of legacies and about the words that most of us know from his ‘dream’ speech and the other things that I was reminded of or learned over the past few days of reading and hearing about him and his work.

While the ‘dream’ speech is certainly a legacy to be proud of, there was a ton more to this man than just one speech. He was a husband, father, minister, black man, friend of many, resident of Georgia, student, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, courageous soul, and person who stood up and said something when injustice was reigning strong. What I’ve seen these past few days is a great reminder that like success, Dr. King was more than just one thing. Yes, most of us are exceptionally good at one thing or best known for that thing. But success in that one area or through that one avenue is only part of the story. We are much more than just that one thing. Dr. King is more than just his ‘dream’ speech.

I do hope that this year is one of great success for all of us, whether that success is with health, family, work or finances, or some/all of the above. Maybe it will be like dominoes, that when you knock one down, the rest fall so perfectly in line after and it all just works out as you hoped and planned. But don’t let your focus on one thing so distract you or hold you back from the rest of your life. Don’t rest on the joy and victory of one success, continue on pursuing greatness for the rest of your days as well.

Success and Peace

With yesterday being Veteran’s Day, after all of the celebration and honoring of the brave men and women who fight for our country, I got to thinking about the topic of peace. Peace is ultimately what veterans are working towards, right? Yes, sometimes they are out there protecting or trying to stop a force, or even helping after natural disasters, but even all of those are really about helping to restore or create peace. So today I thought we’d talk a little about the topic of peace and how we get there and the role it plays when it comes to success.

One of the biggest lessons we can learn from our men and women in the military is that peace does take work. Maybe that’s as simple and easy as brewing your favorite hot morning beverage and sipping it while watching the sun rise. But typically, it’s a whole lot more complicated and take years of effort and investment as well. One of the big questions that has to be considered is if you’re really invested enough in peace to do the work to get there.

We also learn that peace isn’t something that will remain without consistent attention. There are many countries around the world that struggle with peace because they haven’t maintained the peace they had at one point in time or another. Peace can absolutely be a limited time thing, for example during the Olympics and other similar events, countries typically ‘play nice’ and put to the side issues that would ordinarily cause great conflict between them. But most of us don’t want singular moments of peace, we want sustained peace, which means that it’s something we have to be willing to work on consistently.

Finally, I think peace is a goal so many work towards because of the feelings of euphoria, satisfaction, fulfillment and victory that you can experience. These same emotions we can experience when we achieve a success-oriented goal we’re working on. After the victory lap for an achievement there’s also almost a feeling of peace because you did what you set out to do. I don’t know about you, but I think those are moments worth working towards.

If you want more peace in your life, you can start small and pick one thing that can give you a moment of peace each day, even if it’s as simple as that beverage in the mornings. Or you can go big and make a plan to set up more consistent experiences of peace in your life by getting a better handle on your finances, building stronger relationships with those closest to you, choosing your friends more carefully, or investing more in that which means something to you rather than jumping at random opportunities, just to name a few. What will bring you or help you create more peace in your life?