A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar

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Challenges, Conflicts and Relationships

All relationships include challenges and conflicts: any time you’ve got more than one person involved in something there’s an increased likelihood that there will be an issue of one kind or another. Challenges can make you stronger, both individually and as a couple, it’s good to work through them and to have a second perspective on things, otherwise the world would still be flat. But I know you’re thinking about all the times that challenges have hurt you or your relationship, and that’s very true, they can hurt you. Conflicts and challenges kill you and your relationship when that’s all there is, when both of you are trying to “be the boss,” or when the conflicts or challenges are intentionally stirred up or encouraged and not approached by both of you with the intention of resolving them.

Sometimes relationships can be very painful, even if they’re really good ones. However, you can do some serious damage, permanent damage, to a relationship, even a good one, if you let the problems and the pain stick around. In a healthy, happy relationship conflicts and challenges shouldn’t be used as tools to divide you, to get the kids on someone’s side, or to hurt the other person. But things don’t have to stay in conflict, it’s up to you, both of you, to choose to be done with the conflict and move on after you’ve discussed it and resolution or next steps.

Challenges and conflicts can cause some temporary hurt or discomfort, which will require conversation and healing time, and that’s part of the human and relational experience. And the longer you’re with someone the more likely that you’ll do something to hurt them, even if it’s accidental. If you’re in conflict all the time though I think you need to reevaluate your relationship. Some conflict is normal, conflict all the time is not healthy. I encourage you to talk with your partner this week about how you can do better with your conflict resolution and have a healthier and happier relationship.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” Wayne Dyer

The Challenge of Rebuilding

A topic that’s on many people’s minds today is rebuilding. It’s not usually something we do without a reason, most of us choose to grow or make the minimally necessary changes and updates that are required to keep ourselves, our homes and our businesses going. But sometimes things beyond our control force us into rebuilding, like hurricanes, other disasters or negative events, or even the age of something.

But often if we really think about it and force ourselves to admit the truth, we really wanted to make at least some of those changes in the first place, and just hadn’t had the means or made the time to make those changes. While no one ever wants to have parts of their house flood, lose their car or get a health scare, sometimes they’re the impetus that force us to make those changes and rebuild or start over. You know what I’m talking about, it’s the peeling paint you’ve been meaning to replace, the engine that you have to say a prayer to start every time or the better food and cooking choices your family has been trying to get you on for a while.

But there are people who actually love the rebuilding process. I’m fascinated by the many older structures that are around our world that people are repairing and bringing back to their former glory, and giving them a second (or fifteenth) life. Some of those buildings are such an integral part of the story that makes up who we are today, or help bring to life a culture and group of people who no longer exist as they used to. For the people invested in the rebuilding process, they’re motivated by the vision they have of the future and the impact they know their hard work will have on the immediate community and the world at large as well.

Rebuilding is difficult, it’s not easy to clear out the junk and start over. If you’re rebuilding it’s not your job to bring your life back to the former glory, but to build it the way that will best serve you going forward. Don’t be afraid to let the past be a memory and rebuild on the foundations of the happiness and experiences of those memories, going forward in a different direction.

What To Do With Negative Reviews

Do you have negative reviews? I would say that every business experiences at least one unhappy customer throughout their life cycle. Of course you should focus on sharing the positive reviews on your website, but I think it’s helpful to leave the negative reviews up on any of the social or review platforms, even if you don’t want people knowing about them. Negative reviews can be an excellent way of weeding out the people who would end up being a refund or dissatisfied customer who wasn’t really a proper match to be a customer. Yes, some negative reviews really do reveal weaknesses in your business, product or service, and ways you’ve screwed up, which can be good insights for you on things you can improve (especially if you’re getting multiple reviews commenting on the same exact thing). However, negative reviews aren’t always a reflection on your company or product/service, but rather a buyer lashing out for something that’s completely unrelated.

Some reviews are listed as negative because the buyer wanted something that isn’t offered. Some reviews that make no sense when you read them, like someone expressing dissatisfaction over a physical bookstore stocking only paperback and hardcover books and not selling any beverages or not selling eBooks. Some “negative” reviews actually give a big complement and help potential buyers who are interested in what you offer feel more confident about working with you, for example the people who post that the beef lasagna they didn’t order but were served was delicious but really wished the person had gotten their order right and served them the chicken lasagna. Some buyers are unhappy with things that are clearly stated in the terms of service or product/service description but they didn’t take the time to read. And some buyers are unhappy with things you have no control over like the view from the Statue of Liberty being terrible because it was a rainy day.

On platforms that you as a business can respond to the negative reviews it’s a great opportunity to first and foremost thank the person for their review and then politely point out that you don’t offer what they didn’t get as well as what you do offer, and/or share some insights to give them (and others) a better experience with your business. This isn’t an opportunity to be nasty to them and tell them how illiterate they must be because they didn’t read or how they’re stupid because you have no control over the weather. However, having a well-thought-out response shows that you’re interested in hearing from your customers and are willing to work with them. As well, if it’s appropriate you can encourage them (and others in the future) to contact you or talk with you before the issue becomes unfix-able (i.e. you eat the dinner that wasn’t cooked to your satisfaction or wasn’t what you ordered).

You don’t have to reply to all reviews, and some businesses choose not to reply to any. I believe that somewhere in the middle is necessary, that you reply to at least some of them, especially if you’ve resolved that particular issue. Even if you choose not to reply to your reviews you really should read them to be aware of what customers are posting, as well as to catch any trolls who are posting negative spam reviews. If you haven’t checked out your reviews lately I encourage you to make time to do that this week.

Drug Free School Zone

As we look ahead to the next few weeks many kids are going back to school, and some may already be there. Today I thought we’d talk just a bit about one of the two biggest challenges your kids may be facing as they return to school: drugs, and the other of course would be bullying. We all have some experience with or exposure to drugs and bullying, whether it’s what we’ve heard or seen on TV, something a family member or friend has dealt with or something we’ve personally struggled through. In too many cases there are people who die as a result of drugs or bullying. And yes, drugs and bullying can be something that adults struggle with too, it’s definitely not just an issue with kids. Another similarity is that we’re both often inclined to hide our issues and not talk about them or get the help we need. Sometimes we don’t get help because we don’t realize it’s that bad or tell ourselves we’re dealing with it, but other times we’re just scared of what others will say or that there might be attacks or punishments because of hiding it or being in the struggle in the first place. We’re going to talk about drugs today and address bullying in more detail next week.

Not all drugs are bad, when taken correctly drugs can help people of all ages live better, feel better, get better, and heal. There are also lots of natural alternatives like supplements that many people feel also help with dealing with certain health issues, and marijuana has proven to be helpful to some people as a medicinal aid as well. But the issue comes in when there is no medical reason for taking the drugs, supplements or even marijuana. The issue is when people use drugs to feel good or escape their issues or look cool or feel something. That feeling becomes addictive and quickly people get sucked into using more and more until they’ve got more health issues as a result of taking them, and many people each year die as a result of taking those drugs. What was a quick fix becomes a serious and deadly problem.

But the real issue, as presented especially by drugs but also in the bullying, is that we’re not able to enjoy life as it is, we’re not confident in who we are, we’re not willing to face the difficult stuff in life, and we feel the need to escape the reality of life. I get it: life can be very challenging and there are some seriously bad stuff being shared in the news. But the answer isn’t to hide or bury our heads in the sand, it’s to join the many people who are stepping up and standing up for a better world, for rights for everyone, for every voice/culture/group to be heard, and for everyone to be treated as a human being who is capable of making an incredible difference in this world.

So what can you do as a parent to help your kids avoid drugs or help them stop taking drugs? First, don’t do or abuse them yourself, set the example for them. Second, if you do have an issue get help for it, there are tons of resources around the US and in other countries that can help you beat your addiction. Third, talk with them about local resources that they or their friends could access if there’s an issue and what to do if someone overdoses and they’re with them. Fourth, help them find and encourage healthy and helpful activities that they can do that will bring them joy, help them feel good about themselves, help them be healthy and teach them responsibility.

Avoiding the issues of drugs and bullying can only hurt the next generation, it’s time we step up and be honest about this issue that is hurting so many families and killing so many people who could make a very positive difference in the world. I encourage you to talk with your kids and teens today.

Expectations of Something More

Do you get up every day with a list of expectations for yourself, the people in your life and the world around you? Lately I’ve been taking time to consider my expectations of the world and think about what they might be and what I really want out of my life.  Part of it has to do with the passing of a family friend, part of it has to do with the hate I’ve been seeing some people share, and part of it has to do with wanting more out of life because life’s really not worth wasting.

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of fun and I think fun has an important role to play in making sure we make the most of our lives.  It can be both a motivator of encouraging us to get the work done so we’ve got the resources to have fun as well as one to make the time to have that fun and take time off as well.  We do have an expectation of making sure we care for our families, and I think it’s an important one to uphold.  There are people around the world who don’t make decisions in light of how it will affect the people who matter the most to them.  But in the same conversation we do have a responsibility to be part of our loved ones lives, and not at work all the time trying to provide for them.

So what’s a person to do? If you’re at work working tons of hours because you’re not making enough per hour/day to support your family, it’s time to upgrade and update your skill set.  If you’re at work all day because you work on a fantastic cause, it’s time to get some new people involved.  If you’re at work all the time because you don’t want to be with your family, it’s time for a serious evaluation of and conversation about your life.  If you’re spending all your time on fun and avoiding the work there must be a reason why.  Maybe it’s because you really don’t enjoy your work, or maybe simply because reality hasn’t smacked you yet.   Whatever the case is I encourage you to take a look at your expectations for your life present and future and see if where you’re at and how your days currently go line up with that expectation.

Processes and Procrastination

As we head towards the end of another week you may be thinking about what you can toss onto the piles on your desk or mark so that you deal with it next week and not today or tomorrow.  I’m familiar with the process, everyone does it to some extent. And to some extent it’s necessary to do because there are only so many hours in a day and while you may have something sudden and time-sensitive come up today, you may not have that tomorrow and be able to deal with things from today tomorrow.  The danger comes in when you never get to “tomorrow” and you keep having to put out fires and deal with emergencies today and never get to that other stuff you keep putting off.

The good news is that a portion of what you keep putting off can be handled by someone else.  You can get someone else to file the papers or place/pack orders or refill supplies or input data to a spreadsheet or program or app.  The bad news is, as you probably guessed, they can only do so much as they are not you. All that help is great to a point, then you have to step back in and choose or approve purchases, reply to clients, or confirm the data.

But what it comes back to is that you need to stop and realize that there’s a problem and you’re tired of seeing the problem day after day and not being able to do what you want to with or about it.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the software, program or procedure that you do things with/through.  Maybe it’s creating a schedule and following it 95% of the time.  Maybe it’s just hiring someone to help out a few hours a week (on either the personal or the professional side).  But I believe that for many of the things that we’re putting off, there’s a simple solution that can make it much easier and much less painful to do the job and get it done quicker and with the results you’re looking for (or at the very least results which is something you didn’t have before).

If you’re struggling with the never ending search for tomorrow in your work or home, I encourage you to take an important first step before the end of the week.  Maybe it’s reaching out to an organizer or coach like myself who is local to you and getting the conversation going.  Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes to investigate other program/procedure options.   Maybe it’s sitting down with your team and talking about who’s doing what and who would rather do what and who can help you clear things off your plate (making things easier for everyone).   What will you do?

Focused on Fun?

One of the things that makes this world go ’round is the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re all similar.  I believe everyone can find something in common to talk about with someone else in the world, but at the same time we’re all so very different in so many ways, whether it be where we live, how old we are, what we eat or what we do with our lives.  I read a great quote recently that got me thinking.  It was from a conversation between James Altucher and Jon Morrow.  If you’re not familiar with Jon, he’s been paralyzed from the neck down since birth.   Just about anyone you ask would say that that makes him “disabled” (or some related term or phrase).  However, they made a good point during their conversation that “Everyone in the world can’t do something as well as someone else… So everyone in a sense is disabled.”

Recently on the Life and Spirituality blog I posted some thoughts about grief and loss, as a close family friend is entering the last part of their journey.  Hearing this interview between James and Jon got me thinking about this friend again and about how we live our lives.  I’ve seen enough of the TV and the news to know that all of us could live our lives saying ‘woe is me’ and be absolutely right.  We’ve all got problems, whether it was that your sandwich got eaten by the office munch or you don’t have clean water to drink.  Most of us could list a bunch of things that aren’t right in our lives at this time.  As important as it is to recognize the issues, the question is do we just see the issues or do we look for a way out or how to fix them?

Jon is one example of many who choose to look for a better tomorrow, just like my family friend always has.  I’m a huge dog lover and have always admired them for their ability to love and play, while often still knowing when it’s time to be serious.  Countless dogs around the world are working dogs, whether they sniff for drugs or help people who have mobility issues or other disabilities, or even just love on those who are sick.  But it’s those same dogs who work very hard who also teach their humans what it means to see more to life than just what’s right in front of them.

The question we’re really discussing this month as we talk about fun is whether we’re able to find balance between the work (and difficulties) and the play in our lives, or maybe if we’re really willing to.  Yes, there will be times when a push or extra hours at work is necessary, but there comes a point that you will burn out.  No matter how seriously you panic over or focus on the incoming burn out, it’s unlikely that you can avoid it or recover from it if all you’re focusing on is the burn out.

So today I challenge you to evaluate your focus on life.  What are you really focused on? Are you focused on the ways you’re failing and not succeeding (I know they exist, we’ve all got them), or are you making a point to improve in at least one way every day and have at least one period of fun and really live life every day?  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be looking back thinking what a miserable person I was and how much of life I missed out on.  What about you?

Perfection or Problems

No one is perfect, and no business is perfect.  There are businesses and people that look perfect on the outside but the inside doesn’t reflect that, and of course there are those that look like a mess outside and are a mess inside as well.  Sometimes people/businesses know they need help and are willing to ask for the help, but other times they’re seemingly clueless about anything possibly being wrong (which can be very frustrating to customers and potential customers).   I certainly experience both in the course of my work, those that think they know everything and can’t possibly have any room for improvement, and those who admit they need help.  There are people all along that spectrum as well, it’s not a black and white thing.

So let’s start at the beginning.  As I said there are no perfect businesses.   Every single business (and business owner) has at least one thing they could change or improve.  Some of those things are subjective to some customers or potential customers (like changing a spice blend in a recipe or using a specific social site), while others are broader and really impact the whole business and customer base or potential customer base (like not having a website or having rude employees). When it’s something that affects only a portion of your customers/employees you have to decide if it’s really worth it to make that change or if there’s perhaps another way you could incorporate their feedback.  For something that’s broad spectrum it’s something that usually is a whole lot less optional and really should be addressed if you want the best for your business and customers.

We’ve touched on a few of the things that tend to be wrong or frustrate customers (or employees), but here’s a more specific list: lack of detailed and specific information that is easily accessible, poor management/leadership, unexpected and unexplained wait time, poor packaging, poor product or service, lack of communication, poor pricing, inconsideration, unhelpful/uneducated employees/salespeople, and rudeness.  Most of these have very clear connections to two things: people and communication.  As much as we’re an instant society today that has high expectations for many things including businesses we buy from, there is also a willingness to wait for the good stuff or for what we really want as long as we’ve been told what the wait will be and have been dealt with in a polite and respectful manner.

Maybe you’re one of those businesses who has some more subjective things to check out, if so that’s great and they could be profitable opportunities for you.  But if you’re facing a very broad issue it’s time to take action and make changes to repair the issue.  The longer you let it hang the bigger the chance is that you’ll lose great customers and have more difficulty getting new ones.

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.