Little Steps to Success

There are a lot of things that you could do to make this year your best year yet. If you decided on some resolutions for this year you may have unfortunately already given up on them, too many people don’t make it out of January with their resolutions intact. There can be many issues with resolutions we set including that the goals that are too big or too vague or we’re just not ready for yet, and these issues can hurt our chances at really succeeding with our resolutions. So today I thought I’d share a little encouragement and another option for a resolution for the year. What if we were to just choose to be committed to living life?

What if we approached this new year with the intention to do our best in each and every moment, both big and small? What if you chose to put just 5% more effort into your daily activities? What if you chose to listen with a little more intention and talk with a little more care? What if you put a personal touch on each and every thing you do? What if you committed to being more true to who you are and what you believe? We’re not trying for perfection, just trying to do better, be better and relate better than we did previously.

Yes, the big life changes are great, but there’s a lot of power in making little tweaks and changes. Things like cleaning up your desk at the end of the day, cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day, putting the clothes away in the closets, making a to do list for tomorrow, taking an extra 30 seconds to re-read an email or important text before sending it, switching one processed/pre-packaged snack with a fresh fruit or vegetable choice, or telling your partner you love them every day, can add up to make a big difference over time if you do them consistently.

What little thing or things could you do in your life this week that would make a difference?

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda

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Relationship Repairs

Last week I spent some time thinking about how many people do things that create huge divisions between themselves and others. Sometimes we’re not aware of it and there’s nothing we can do until after the fact. But usually we play a key role in that division being created, and are aware of it. Maybe we’re not willing to give a little, maybe we’re tired of giving, maybe we’re at a place with different goals, or maybe we just didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did.

When we reach these divisions in life we’ve got a choice to work through them or to let them permanently drive a wedge between us. We’re really good at creating the permanent wedge, and some people talk about working through it or give fixing it lip service but never truly make the effort.

The thing about saying hateful or hurtful things to another person is that hurting the other person will not in any way, shape or form, accomplish what you really want to have happen. All it will do is hurt both of you. So do what has to be done to be able to go your separate ways or fix the relationship, don’t just hurl insults, hurt or hate.

If you’re really going to try to make it work go the whole way. See a coach together, attend AA type meetings to work on your own stuff individually, if there are kids involved seek help to be better parents, plan out times that you will be together each week for date type activities, plan times for you each to be alone, write up who will do what and so on. All of this is about doing the work and starting the necessary communication and creating opportunities to repair the relationship.

But this isn’t just about repairing your romantic relationship (or partnership as I call them) but about the other relationships in your life as well. We can be pretty bad friends and employees on occasion. Sometimes those are the relationships that need extra attention to get them back on track or to see that the relationship has run its course.

This week I challenge you to choose one relationship that needs work and actually get to work on it. Sit down with your boss, friend or partner and have the tough conversation and establish together where you go from there. It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run.

The Success of Strategy

I’m a fan of freedom and being able to do whatever, whenever. Lots of people are. But there’s something to be said for strategy, order, schedules and procedure. If we didn’t use them your burger might never look like a burger. You could end up with the meat or “meat” on top of bread on top of bread on top of lettuce on top of mustard and other dressings! I can’t imagine trying to eat that. If we didn’t use strategy or procedures you might get dressed before getting in the shower, which means you’ll go through the day with wet clothes. Or you’d know how the story ends before you started reading the book. Not a really great idea, right?

So let’s be honest, even if we don’t really like the fact that schedules and order is necessary, sometimes it’s really helpful. So as much as you may not want to hear it, what you need isn’t (just) to set resolutions, but to set some schedules and strategies into action too. This is definitely the case if you’ve had the same resolutions for the past couple (or many) years and haven’t really been successful with them. Make 2018 the year that you have the plans and schedule to follow through with your resolutions.

The question is if you’re really committed to making your resolutions into reality this year or if it’s going to be another year that you make an attempt at your resolutions.  If you’re really committed I encourage you to take a look at what you’ve been doing, or not doing, to accomplish your resolutions, and make changes to your plans and procedures as appropriate. This could be as simple as choosing (planning) one thing you’ll do every day that will get you closer to your goal, hiring a coach to work with you on your resolutions, hiring an organizer or nutritionist to help you get rid of the bad and make room for the good, or making/joining an accountability group.  What will you do to make your resolutions a reality this year?

The Question of Customer Loyalty

As we head into what is the busiest shopping season of the year for many businesses, I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about customers and customer loyalty. As a business you have to have customers, otherwise you won’t be in business very long. The next thing to consider is whether most of your customers are repeat customers, or if you offer things that people buy once or extremely rarely. If you offer something, say heart surgery or roofing, you probably will ever work with someone once. But if you offer something like ice cream or hair cuts, and you’re not having repeat customers, something probably has to change. Here’s what one very successful entrepreneur had to say:

“Customers aren’t loyal. And it’s a waste of time trying to convince them to be….Life changes. Priorities change. Competition changes. In reality, almost no one is 100% loyal….Fact: 87% of a brand’s customers don’t stick to just that brand. They’re promiscuous at best. And if they’re offered something better, they’re gone.” Ramit Sethi

Those are some pretty serious percentages. So the question becomes: do we even try to gain customer loyalty? The first answer that comes to mind is that if you don’t give any effort to making your customers come back, few probably will. The second thing to consider is that it’s consistently proven to be cheaper in all ways to keep customers coming back than to gain new customers. The third thing to consider is that even if you have a service or product that’s purchased maybe once in a lifetime you can still gain loyal customers, it’s just not the same type of loyalty. Fourth, if you ask employees who really love your company about their favorite customers, they’ll often tell you that they enjoy connecting with the “regulars.” Fifth, loyal customers are those who share about your great products or services with their friends, and/or leave you nice testimonials you can use to get more customers.

One thing to remember is that everyone is human and everyone goes through changes in their life. So it’s really unrealistic to expect that every customer would stay with your business and your products and/or services for the full duration of their life (or their need for that product/service). But my answer is that we should work on making customers loyal, or at the very least, increasing the amount of times they purchase from us. Whether you use email newsletters, social media, events, physical mailings, a blog, a loyalty card or even just new products or services that are in line with those you already offer, there are tons of ways that you can build loyalty and encourage repeat customers. What are your favorite ways to connect with your customers and build relationships with those who are loyal to you and love you?

Change: Good, OK or Bad?

Lately there’s been changes happening in the world of business, with some prime examples being 3 of the big social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Facebook has rolled out an “explore” feed where it tested moving all organic page posts to, which means if you have a page people have to do extra work to get to see your posts (no organic page posts would appear in people’s regular timelines, but ads still would). Twitter rolled out extra characters, which some have complained about and others are celebrating. And Pinterest has added a ‘sections’ feature which is a much needed organizational asset helping users better sort their pins.

Personally I’m working on some changes in my business as well, so the question becomes should you work on changes in your business? I believe every business needs to change throughout their life cycle, both big changes and little ones. I believe we should be making some little changes throughout the year in response to trends, seasons and customer requests, and we should make big changes as our business grows and evolves.

But the bigger question is are you considering or making a good change? In the case of Pinterest I think it’s a great change. In the case of Twitter I think it’s an OK change. In the case of Facebook I think it’s not a good change in general, but could have some positive implications because it will mean that only your most interested fans would be involved with your page, those most likely to make a purchase.

By no means should you be discouraged from making changes because some people won’t like them, but if a large majority of your people aren’t happy with the change you’ve made you need to either reconsider the change completely, reconsider how you’re going about the change, or be prepared to get a whole new customer base (one of the changes I’m making is with regard to Facebook).

What changes are you considering or making this month or in the coming year? I invite you to share your changes in the comments below.

Life with Loss

The month of October makes people think about things like death and fears. They’re not easy topics to talk about or think about, but all of us are affected by them. Some people have fears that become debilitating, while others of us are mildly bothered by things that we call our fears. What I’m thinking about today though is in the family of the death topic, that of loss.

All of us experience losses over the course of our lives. We’ve heard stories of people and pets who pass away after they lose the person they loved. We’ve seen how drastically the loss of a person in our life because of divorce or separation or distance can negatively impact a person, maybe leading to destructive habits or depression. It’s funny because we’re so insistent upon doing things for ourselves and being able to stand on our own to feet, and yet we are so affected by the ties that bind us.

Unfortunately, with the way that life is right now we are faced with losses. We do get separated from our pets or loved ones or people who we may not really love any more but played a significant role in our lives for a period of time, that’s the reality of life. The question is what will you do after that loss? Will you choose to stop living because they do or because they’ve left you? Or will you choose to see that you’re more than that person, that you can learn from your time together, even appreciate it, and still be able to move on and keep living? Because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have something they could contribute to the world. Everyone, regardless of age, health, location or any other factor, has the ability to make a difference in someone’s life. Yes, death and loss are painful, and we should take time to process that large change in our lives. But I can’t think of one situation that the other person would want you, or anyone, to give up on life. Loss is part of life’s journey, where your journey takes you is up to you.

Getting Past Anger and Conflicts

Every relationship has challenges, whether we’re talking romantic relationships (aka partnerships) or that of a relationship between parent and child or even the types of relationships between friends or between boss and coworker.  One of the greatest obstacles that a person has to overcome in a relationship is the challenge of conflict and choice to respond in anger, or to just give up because you’re afraid of conflict. Today’s Dr. Wayne Dyer inspiration is a simple but powerful one:

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.”

It can be so tempting to just let things get worse and worse.  It’s almost too easy to hang onto our anger and the feelings of frustration, rage and irritation that fill us when we’re angry.  Most of us don’t have the gift of holding onto laughter.  We get looked at as not taking life seriously if we’re laughing all the time. Sometimes we laugh so we don’t feel the pain or to avoid our responsibilities, but all too often we don’t laugh enough, or at the very least we’re not happy.

Many of the kids TV shows and movies, both past and present, do a good job of showing both the happy and the challenging.  There’s usually an obstacle or two to overcome, but there’s a lot of fun to be had too.  Somehow that’s one of the things we seem to forget as we get older: that life can be fun and isn’t just about the responsibilities (but the responsibilities can’t be forgotten either).

But back to anger: I believe too many of us let anger rule our lives.  We let it get in there and it sticks.  So this weekend and coming week I challenge you to take notice when your anger starts to rev up and take a step or two back instead of letting it take over.  Ask for a moment, take a physical step away, or finally take action on what you’ve let stew for a long time so that you can get to truly living and enjoying life.

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.

Summer of Change

Summer is a great time to work on change with your kids and family. Why? Because most of us have lighter schedules that allow for taking a little time off to do those big projects, weather that allows both indoor and outdoor activities and plans to be done, less things on the schedule and more opportunities to put in a little time each day to work on those changes, and an abundance of people home from college who can watch the kids if you and your partner need to work independently of the kids on something. It’s not always easy to work on change, but having the abundant resources that the summer provides to work on changes does make it a little easier and remove many of the excuses you’ve been using to hold yourself back.

Why work on changes? Because whether it’s the mile-long to-do list that you’ve been adding to for too long, or the stuff that’s just sticking around bothering you or holding you back, neither is good for your family or you personally. If you’re familiar with the concepts of Feng Shui, the law of attraction and the laws of abundance, they also speak to the importance of having a space that allows you to think, grow, love, create and prosper, which aren’t things you can do if you’re feeling pressured by that to-do list or all the stuff just hanging around.

Also, if it’s on your to-do list it must be there for a reason. Sometimes we do put things on there that we think we’re supposed to put there, but most often it’s stuff that really does need to be there, even if we end up doing the lower priority stuff first because it’s less intimidating, or less of a commitment, or less of a change.

So what are the big changes you might work on this summer? Organizing clothes, organizing the kitchen, organizing the garage/shed, cleaning up the outdoor areas, organizing the office, changing diets/eating habits, increasing exercise consistency, setting aside consistent time for personal development, making more consistent time for your partner and/or kids, reducing your bad habits (including overspending, too much TV, too much junk food, not enough sleep etc.) or even job searching (or starting a business), just to name a few.

What will you (finally) work on this summer?