Reality Reflection: Total Transformation?

Right now my part of the world is going through a big transformation, several actually. We’re going from bare branches and gray winter ground and low 40 temperatures to snow covered ground with winds and below 20 degrees. It will transform the world around me in many ways, many that may make it challenging to get around or continue with our typical lifestyles, especially if it ices over and gets as cold as they talk about. Transformations such as this are rarely permanent or long lasting, which is a good thing, especially since I would hate to live in single-digit weather for very long.

People can have similar extreme transformations, for example if you have to get dressed up for a wedding or very special award ceremony you look very different, and if you get a drastically different hair cut or color change you’ll look different for a couple of weeks. But those changes don’t typically last forever (unless you do something very permanent like plastic surgery). But typically for a true transformation to take place, it takes months or years to complete and fully implement the transformation, especially the kinds of life transformations that people often consider at this time of year.

Sometimes it’s good to have one of these temporary transformations, we sometimes need to take a break from our typical life, and it’s always good to have fresh things in our lives. Often we don’t need major overhaul-type transformations that my world will undertake in the next 24 or so hours, we just need a refresh in our lives, or small changes that may not seem like a big deal but can really help us in the long run.

If you want your transformation to stick around, it has to be something that you can keep up with for long term. It means a serious commitment. If you’re not sure you can make that serious of a commitment, work on smaller changes to begin with and build up to the big changes if necessary.  Personally, I’m OK with the occasional big change, but prefer to make the small changes, especially when it comes to weather.

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Weathering the Storm of Success

Just a few days ago the Northeast experienced a snowstorm like I haven’t seen in some time. We had more snow than I’ve seen (and shoveled) in quite a few years (we had about 2.5 feet), and as beautiful as it was it made for some big issues. Yes, I grew up with some bigger storms and I know that some people deal with way more snow than what I did on Wednesday and Thursday morning on a regular basis, but whether you’re used to lots of snow or not, when mother nature takes control things in our human world often go wrong. So today based on some of the issues that I saw, I thought I’d share a few lessons that business owners could learn from for the next time they’re faced with a crisis or the unknown.

First, weather is tricky because even with all the technology we’ve got the end result is still really a guess. Add to that the variable of humans and their interpretations, and you’ve got some serious questions and unknowns. It’s frequently said that the weather industry is the one that you can make mistakes in and not lose your job over it. While it’s probably not OK for you to be frequently wrong and give your customers a less-than-perfect product or advice that’s not helpful or accurate, there has to be some margin of error considered and understood. The weather people have good enough technology that they can tell us when something is likely on the way, but they can’t totally provide how much or what everyone is going to get or exactly how a storm will play out.

How does this apply for other businesses and industries? It starts with something as simple as being honest with your customers and letting them know that you’ll always have them and their needs and their best interests at the forefront of what you do, and always strive to bring them the best experience and products/services possible.  But also that you’re not perfect and sometimes things are outside of your control, and when those things happen you’ll be up front with them and let them know what’s going on, and do your very best to rectify the issue as soon as possible. Which brings us to the second point.

The second thing to consider is with regards to communication. Sometimes I feel that things are very well communicated, and other times I wonder what people were thinking! The issue that business owners really need to consider is the fact that there are so many free resources (and other resources) they could tap into to provide the very necessary information to the general public and the specific people who need those updates, yet they weren’t being used. There were lots of electric road signs on the highways that could have shared updated information about the roads ahead yet all they did was warn of winter weather and to drive safe. There are free social media accounts, emails/newsletters, blogs and websites that could have been used to post updates about power failures, garbage/recycle pickup, blocked roads, detours and openings/closings, providing information in a timely manner and all in one place, but they weren’t. These updates don’t take a long time to do, and don’t have to be extremely detailed, but they can be invaluable to people.

For businesses, yes, you should post that you’re open or closed or if there are weather related issues, and you should be in communication with your team so that they know what’s going on. You should also communicate with your team when it comes to serious weather about the policies that you’ve got for whether you’re open or not and if there are people who are specifically willing to work in serious weather if need be. Weather challenges also provide a reason to have an online presence and to sell something online if possible. With countless people stuck inside instead of out doing their usual activities, they’ve got time to read emails, peruse websites or apps and shop.

While I don’t think you need to be perfect or communicate every little detail about your businesses (although sometimes that can be fun!), especially when things are challenging or dangerous for people it’s important to be on top of your communication and not only give specific instructions regarding what to do now and during the danger/challenge/storm, but also be in communication about what comes next. What have you learned for your business from weather challenges?

Christmas Carol Classics: Frosty the Snowman

“Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children know
How he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Frosty the snowman
Knew the sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”

Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.””

Frosty was first recorded by the famous Gene Autry (with the Cass County Boys) in 1950.   The year before Autry recorded Rudolph, which was also a big success.  As a result of the song’s success there were lots of TV shows and books and other materials made.  One of the things that made this song stand out and be so successful was the concept of it.  We’ve all made a snowman that we wished would come to life, or at the very least thought about how cool something like that would be.

While most versions never talk about Christmas, we typically think of it as a Christmas song, probably because of all the magic in it.  After all, how else would a snowman come to life? When it comes to this time of year it does seem like there’s a little extra sparkle in the world, a little extra something showing up in our days that just makes them a little better.  Maybe it’s all the cheer, maybe it’s the goodwill, or maybe it’s just the desire not to get caught doing bad things before Santa makes his famous run.

But the song ends with Frosty saying that he’ll be back again some day.  I love that the song ends this way because it’s a great reminder that as much as life is made up of individual days and moments, there’s a lot more to life than just the individual moments.  Each day is an opportunity to build on what the previous day accomplished or start over because you’ve realized a mistake you were making.  Of course there are special moments that come each year like Christmas and Thanksgiving that are important reminders to celebrate life and gather together.  So whether you’re anticipating the magic to return, leaving the magic behind for the time being or dancing and singing with that magic, find a way to add a little magic to your day.

Joy in Seasons

Can you believe another month is almost over?  Today is our last post really looking at our topic of the month: seasons.  What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the joy that can be found in each and every season.  I know, you’re mentally complaining about at least one season in your head right now, like how much snow there is in winter, how much rain there is in spring/the rainy season, how hot summer/the dry season is, how cold fall gets and miserable it is to watch the leaves fall off the trees etc.  You don’t have to like every season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some joy in each of them.  For example,  I don’t like snow but still find joy in watching kids go sledding, or sitting in a comfy chair watching the snow fall with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

Like so many things, the seasons are really what you make of them.  Last Wednesday I talked about what to do if your business is heading into a slow season for the summer.  Just because you may not be making many sales, it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can, could or should be doing during this time.  Just because it’s raining out today doesn’t mean that you have to do nothing because your outside plans were cancelled.   Just because you have a broken arm or leg doesn’t mean there’s no summer fun to be had.

I really believe that life is what you make of it a majority of the time. If you are feeling miserable, that’s the life situation you’ll create around you.  If you’re feeling like a winner, that’s the situation you’ll create around you.  If you want to enjoy your least favorite season, I believe you’ll be able to find reasons to do so!  But it only happens when we choose that path.    So what path will you choose this summer? Will you choose to find some reason for joy in each and every day?

The Season of Spring

This week I’ll be sharing a message of spring. That message is one of both hope and challenge, so while I will be sharing encouragement, I’ll also be calling you out on ways you may have been slacking or holding back and why you may not have what you want or be where you want to be. I want to start by sharing my understanding that hope and challenge are usually seen hand in hand rather than separately. We don’t usually talk about hope when things are awesome and amazing, we talk about hope when things are tough and you can’t see the end of the tunnel, or if you can it doesn’t look very good.

One reason that these two topics come up so often in our lives is because our lives are like the seasons: we have times of death and rest and times of growth and abundance. It’s a cycle we go through during our lives, it’s called the journey of life. It’s not something we can stop, nor is it something we should. Think about how it feels when your boss keeps piling work on your desk, you start to get frustrated because even as fast as you do things more things get added. You never get ahead, never catch up, never make progress, you’re just trying to keep your head above water. So we need those times of quiet and less activity so that we can have the strength to get through those more difficult times.

As we enter the season of spring it’s important to remember that even in this time of growth there’s still stuff to let go of: dead plants, the snow, and our winter jackets. We look forward to the growth but we can’t get there until we allow that growth to happen. It’s not as much of a letting go as fall to winter is, but with change there’s always a little that has to be let go to make room for the new, the bigger, the better.

So this week as we approach spring what will you be hoping for? Just more sun? More time to walk and be outdoors? Freedom from the restrictions of winter? Happier people? And what do you need to do to be ready for spring to enter your life?

“I believe in process. I believe in four seasons. I believe that winter’s tough, but spring’s coming. I believe that there’s a growing season. And I think that you realize that in life, you grow. You get better.”  Steve Southerland

Hannukkah Happiness

This week begins the 8 day celebration in which families light the Menorah and celebrate the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah.   While Hanukkah was not part of my religious or spiritual traditions growing up, light and miracles are two things we can all appreciate and every time I light a candle I take a moment to appreciate all that that little flame symbolizes.  If you’ve been without electricity for a period of time (with the natural disasters we’ve experienced over the past decade, and especially the past few years, who hasn’t?), you may forget how miraculous it is to flip that switch and have the room fill with light.  But it’s nothing short of a miracle that we have eyesight and light with which to see.  Yesterday’s celebration of Thanksgiving here in the USA always makes me extra thankful for all we have.  If you’re celebrating Hanukkah I’ve got a few ideas of food and fun to keep the kids busy while you shop.

Challah

Whole wheat challah

Challah french toast

Latkes 5 ways

Brisket

Roast vegetable tsimmes with apricots

Gold and chocolate cookies

Jelly doughnut holes

Foil Menorah

Star punched paper hurricanes

Egg carton dreidel

Etched glasses

Table runner

Charmed napkin rings

Greeting card

Birdhouse Menorah

23 more fun and decorative ideas!

Whether you’re Jewish or not you’ll be seeing lots of candles over the next month with the holidays.   I’ve talked about starting a thanksgiving practice in my newsletters and other places, one aspect of which is a reminder or trigger.  Candle flames are a simple reminder to think of one thing to be thankful for.  What are you celebrating today?

Business Holiday Style

Yes, Halloween is a few short weeks away which always begins that 2 month period of constant holiday talk.  Time to buy presents, catch up with old friends, attend bad work parties and write up wish lists.  It’s also the time that many businesses make a lot of money.  Which means lots of pressure from consumers to have the “must have” items and always popular items in the right sizes.  What does it mean for business owners?

1-take advantage of it.  Yes, I really just suggested you stick some holiday decorations up and get on the bandwagon.  Why?  Because people are in the festive spirit and want to surround themselves with others who are as well.  It’s a chance for you to breathe some fresh life into your business by adding some special holiday themed options as well.  Food places can think along the lines of gingerbread, pumpkin and candy canes as well as seasonal produce, service providers can offer holiday themed options (clean up for the in-laws, website updates for seasonal offerings etc.), and those who sell products can offer additional merchandise with holiday themes.

2-stay professional.  It goes a bit overboard to dress as Santa or Mrs. Clause on a regular basis for most businesses, as well as dressing every corner of your store or website with only holiday items.  People still need regular services and products during these times so the items and services you offer should remain the same high quality you’re committed to during the rest of the year, don’t lower your standards just to fit in.

3-give back.  Yes, put a little donation box at the counter, post a sign that you’re donating to a particular charity a percentage of your holiday sales, offer discounts to assist those who really need your services but can’t afford them and be extra focused on providing good customer service.  With the busyness, pressures and the commitments people have at these times of year it’s even easier for them to get frustrated and contact you for help.  Go to work each day with an extra measure of patience knowing that you’ll make someone’s holiday day brighter.

How will you participate in the holidays this year in your business?  Share your ideas in the comments.

Whole Living: Kwanzaa

In our final week of 2011, it is only appropriate to think about the celebration of Kwanzaa.  What? You never celebrate it??  I actually think you have celebrated Kwanzaa, maybe not officially, but I think you have celebrated the message behind Kwanzaa before.  You see Kwanzaa is the celebration of family, community and culture.  We’ve seen a growing focus on these 3 things over 2011, and I want to challenge you to make these 3 things a priority in your life in 2012.

Family: there’s no better time than the present to tell the people closet to you that you love them, build a relationship with them or forgive them than the present.  Personally I’ve always wanted to spend more time with my extended family, but we’re so spread out around the USA that it is challenging.  I know for many people family is a very challenging or frustrating topic, but you were given them for a reason.  Maybe 2012 will be your year to discover what that reason was.

Community: we’ve seen many communities pulling together this year.  The world has had many natural disasters and challenges that brought communities together with both grieving and recovering.  There were several in the USA, and who could forget the disasters that rocked Japan this year?  But we’ve also seen communities pulling together in a different way: activism.  We’ve seen the Occupy groups around the USA, many gatherings in Egypt and in other countries around the world.  This year I think we’ll all be challenged to answer the question: what can you do for your community?

Culture: culture is changing as we know it.  We’re on Facebook and other social sites, growing together as we grow apart. Our world has become a connected group of cultures and it’s even easier with technology to blur the lines between traditional cultures.  We’ve had many people step up and say that they’re living more sustainably and with a better attitude and more care towards taking care of the planet.  It’s easier than ever to spread knowledge and we’re placing a higher value on our beliefs and ideas.  Culture will continue to help change the world, it’s up to each of us to decide what role we’ll play in that transformation.

What are your thoughts and goals for the family, community and culture in your life in 2012?

A Disney Family

“A man should never neglect his family for business.”
Walt Disney

As I said on Monday, Disney’s birthday is coming up on this coming Monday, December 5th. Disney was a very wise and creative man, and he was also a family man.   As successful as Disney was, he made it a point to remember that life is all about family.  After all, Disney’s theme parks are all designed to be family friendly.

There are many things that compete for our attention, at the center of that right now is money.  Many families are struggling to have money to pay bills, let alone buy Christmas presents.  When the money fears take over, all members of the family can suffer.

But what we learn from Disney’s great parks, movies and ideas is that life is all about family.  And that there is nothing in the world that should make a family neglect, or ignore each other, especially in the holiday season.  So what can we do to share Disney’s love for life with our families this year (I’m talking about all kinds of family including adopted and families made of friends as well as traditional)?

1-spend time with those you love.  Notice I didn’t say spend money on those you love.  No matter what gift you think you want to give someone or think they want, they’ll always take love and time with you.

2-do free fun.  There are lots of free (or mostly free) options that you can do as a family this season.  You can drive around and look at lights, or participate in some town or church activities.

3-stay home together.  There are fun things to do right at home.  A few dollars will buy some craft material to make something fun, seasonal books are great to read together, and you can decorate a tree as a family.

This season, remember that at it’s very heart Christmas is all about family.  What ways will you spend time with yours?