The End of a Decade

During the holiday season we often slow down and live a little differently with more gatherings and celebrations and time off, which is in many ways one of the best ways to end a year because it gives us time to focus on what should be most important in our lives but we don’t always have (or make) time for during the rest of the year. As we transition to not only a new year but also a new decade this week I was reminded that our slow times are busier and fuller than the lives of people 100 years ago, and that they could never last a day in our shoes. I know it can be frustrating to reach the end of another year and not be where you wanted to be, but maybe reflecting on this can give you some peace about what you have and haven’t accomplished over the past year and decade.

For obvious reasons, this year change seems bigger and more important, as if the change to a new decade is somehow different from the usual calendar turn, which it really isn’t. But at the same time it does seem fresher and more of a clean slate than we usually get. The interesting thing about clean slates is that it infers that there’s something to clean off the slate, and that’s certainly true for the decade we’re finishing. It used to be that we could come up with a list of things that happened and that list would be fairly brief, but now there isn’t one list for everything or everyone because, as we talked about before, there’s so much more going on in our lives now than there used to be. I can’t remember everything from the last decade of my life, let alone everything and everyone that happened in the world. And I think that’s OK. It just puts more pressure on us in our already crazy lives to try to remember it all.

So given that, how do we review the past decade of our world and our lives? I think we just review what and who we do remember because that’s what has stuck with us. In taking time to think about the ways we’ve grown, the people who are and aren’t part of our lives, the mistakes we’ve made, lessons we’ve learned, ways we’ve helped, the fears we’ve faced and conquered, and the milestones we’ve reached, we give ourselves the opportunity to choose to build on those experiences and people, or fully let them go with the decade as it ends. And if you can’t remember anything, well, maybe your goal this coming decade is to live a more memorable life.

What are your thoughts on the decade that is ending?

Change for a New Year

We’ve got a new year waiting for us, and a new decade too, just a couple of days away. As I was thinking about this calendar change I got to thinking about our kids and schooling and how school starts in September or August and how the new calendar year starts in January. Add to that how companies can start/be “born” any time of year, or how we can start a job any time of year and you add additional layers of change and schedules onto the pile.

As strange or challenging as it may be, I do think that the different school and calendar start times have some good lessons to learn in them though, primarily in regularly introducing kids to the idea of change. The new year introduces some changes, but they’re mostly good changes, certainly not changes that come with a lot of baggage or concern like some school years start with. So having the calendar change at a different time from the school year change keeps kids in practice with change happening, but also exposes them to the idea that change isn’t bad or scary, at least not all the time, and it does happen regularly.

As adults we certainly embrace the new year a little stronger than we do other types of change, typically because we’re ready to move on to what the next year holds. It’s a great way for us to be released from what the past year was, or to be lifted into the next greatest part of our journey. With this change being a typically positive one, it helps us do better with teaching change to our kids as well.

Yes, we do often use a new year to talk about making changes in our lives, like eating healthier or exercising more, but even if we don’t embrace or practice using this time of year to make changes in our lives, just the practice of accepting and even celebrating this change of calendar year can be good for everyone.

So as we head into the new year next week, I encourage you to take time to reflect on what may be changing or what has changed over the past year, and do the same with your kids. You may be surprised at what you remember from this year that is ending.

Inviting in Change

Autumn began again yesterday. I always have a hard time accepting the beginning of autumn because it means winter soon follows. But that’s not a line of thinking that really benefits me, because there are tons of things I greatly enjoy about autumn like the beginning of gatherings of loved ones, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, hot apple cider (and all hot beverages), and autumn decorations. So I’m going to do my best this autumn to live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes with whatever autumn related changes happen, and not think about what comes down the road weather wise.

But even if I am able to really enjoy each autumn day for what it is, there’s something you can’t miss or ignore about autumn, in fact autumn practically personifies it, and that would be change. You can’t talk about autumn and the changes of leaves, or the changes of temperature, or the changes of schedule, without change. Ironically the other morning as I was seeing leaves of bright colors outside my bathroom window and thinking about how my plans for the day weren’t going as anticipated, I thought of the old saying ‘plans change.’

Change is really one of the secrets of life and success. If you want to be successful there’s very little that you can be successful doing that doesn’t change in some way, shape, or form. For example, people still use candles just like they did thousands of years ago, but for many years many made them while now most buy them, and many buy them online, something that couldn’t have been done even just 30 years ago. Candles are still part of our lives, but there is much that has changed about the experience since those early days.

Autumn comes whether you invite it in or not, but you do have to invite in many aspects of change, especially if you want them to help you thrive in life. The harder you fight them, the more you ignore them, the further you push them down on your to-do list, not only will you be more miserable, you’ll also struggle more and find yourself further from the successes you may desire. It may not be easy to invite change in, but I suggest you don’t wait until you hit an emergency or a breaking point before making changes. Working with change also gives you the opportunity to have a say in what your future holds. Autumn has arrived, will you invite change into your life with it?

Changing That Tune

So the big news this week in the business world is that Apple is changing (ending) iTunes. I’m not an Apple user, I don’t seem to think that way, but you have to respect them from a business sense with all that they’ve done and the very large and faithful following that they have. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on this change and how it could relate to your business.

I think the big change has mostly to do with the fact that iTunes is really getting unwieldy at this point with all that’s part of it.  As a name iTunes also is very narrow in focus to only music, and not the multimedia service that it has become.  Separating it into 3 separate components means that there’s more focus to each of them and Apple isn’t managing everything under one program. 3 separate apps has some benefits and some draw backs, people may not want to go to separate places to find their music, TV or podcasts.  But on the other side if you’re only into music you won’t see anything TV or podcast related (I assume).

There were some indications that Apple was moving in this direction considering their Apple Music subscription service, which was a good way to prepare their users for the change, without throwing everything at them at once. It also gave Apple a chance to test things out before changing everything.

Apple makes this decision knowing that they’ve got a loyal user base and they’re not going to lose people over this change. If it were a smaller company they may lose people who don’t want to deal with multiple apps, but Google (Play Store) and Amazon both have had multiple (separate) apps for years for their music and other media. So in some ways Apple is behind the trend on this. It’s also a smart decision because they’re seeing that sales aren’t coming from devices (they aren’t converting non-Apple users or people are keeping the devices longer perhaps), and that they need to boost the software/subscription side of their business.

So what about your business? Are you missing out on important shifts that need to be made so that you not only stay with the market, you keep your sales up? Are you missing out on easy sales? Are you planning changes that are a good fit for your business and customers or just changing things up without doing any real research? Change is good and healthy, but not without proper planning, preparation and communication.

A Little Creative Risk

What is creativity anyway?  We hear that term thrown around at work, in the kitchen and used as a polite way of giving an opinion on something we think isn’t so great.  As I was pondering this question I came across this quote from Mary Lou Cook: “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

For too many people (adults) creativity is a lost art. Our brains simply don’t work in ways that are necessary to be truly creative.  The good news is that with a little practice we can get those brain cells fired up again.  You can try Legos, cooking, gardening, painting or even the fun adult-approved coloring books that have made a resurgence of late.

Even with all the fun and relaxation that can be had, creativity isn’t for the faint of heart though.  Creativity is all about breaking out of the neat boxes many of us try to stuff ourselves into.  It’s not a comfortable feeling if it’s not something you do on a regular basis.  Even for those of us who do practice some form of creativity on a regular basis we still can have moments when we’re feeling a bit stretched and out of our comfort zones.

If you’re not used to being creative, try to do just one thing a little different each day, such as making something different for dinner featuring ingredients you (and your family) like, going home a different way from work, watching something different on TV, playing a game that you don’t usually play, or any of the more traditional creative activities like painting, coloring, wood work or sculpting.

Will you join me this week in taking a (creative) risk?

Changes At Heart

In less than a week we’ll be in February, and we’ll be talking a lot about love. But if you know me, you know that I am a big fan of love, and anytime is a good time to love, not just February.  I recognize that sometimes love can get a little tricky. The biggest challenge is that everyone, yes everyone, changes! We don’t always like change and sometimes we want change so much but it just doesn’t happen. I’ve met so many people who say “I just want my partner to…” and then they share the biggest frustration that they have with their partner or with their relationship. Often it’s not just our partner who needs to make a change, sometimes we do too. And since change is one of the very few guarantees in life (besides death and taxes), what do we do about it?

Well, the best, but not always easiest, thing is to work with the changes that happen. You may decide that a few of the changes aren’t really necessary for you, your relationship or your family, but many of them are. So how do we approach change? Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman have some wisdom on that subject:

“When you really want change, reinforcement will come from your heart.”

When you’re really open to change your heart will encourage you to go for it. You may also have little (or big) signs in your life that it’s time and that your life is moving in that direction. The key to remember is that you’re never going through the change alone, no one is. There’s always the guidance of your heart, which doesn’t lie, and thanks to the internet, a whole world of people willing to support you (including me!).

The biggest challenge is learning how to hear your heart. As I said it won’t lie, but you may not understand what it’s trying to say to you unless you listen to it, and live by it, on a regular basis, even when you’re not going through changes.

This week I encourage you to listen to your heart on the little things and get to know how it works and talks to you. It’s a fun exercise and can really pay off in the future.

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.

Hope for Navigating A New Year of Changes

It’s kind of ironic how little most people enjoy change yet how eagerly they anticipate the new year and the new beginnings it often holds. But if you think about it most of us do enjoy new things, such as new food in our fridges (rather than moldy or nonexistent), new clothes (rather than those with holes or worn out or completely outdated), new haircuts (so our hair isn’t dragging on the floor), new articles to read and TV to watch (rather than rewatching/rereading all the time), new gifts each birthday and Christmas, and new children for the next generations.

So why have we accepted that some things need to be new or replenished, but we don’t have that same acceptance or openness in other areas of our lives? What can we do to see beginnings and new things as healthy and welcome parts of our lives?

I think one way to help ease the challenge of changes is to exert some control and keep consistent some areas of your life in some ways. Maybe it’s making time to read a book every day. Maybe it’s always having a box or bag in the closet or frozen meal in the freezer of go-to foods for comfort or stressful days. Maybe it’s getting up at a point in time every morning so that you’re able to prepare before the rest of the world is up and going. Maybe it’s shopping at the same stores each week/month. Maybe it’s coffee or drinks with friends and your partner each week/month without fail.

Another thing that can help is to have a schedule. No, it won’t be perfect and sometimes things will get moved around because of changes or new things, but being able to follow it most of the time means that you’ll have some peace knowing what’s coming. It also can give you an opportunity to schedule in “change time”, and be able to work through some of the changes that come your way without feeling all the pressures of the rest of your life.

You know you can’t control everything and that there will be changes in life, and if there are too many changes it can feel like you’re out of control or floundering through life. But with a more open attitude, some go-to’s that remain consistent in your life and a schedule to help you manage your life and the changes that happen, maybe the changes and new things won’t seem as intimidating. How do you manage and navigate your changes and new beginnings?

Preparing for Changes in Business

This week one of the big conversations in the business world has been the revelation that Google+ had “a security hole highlighted the challenge of keeping its small number of users safe” which was discovered back in March. As a result of the security issue, and possibly also as well the fact that it wasn’t ever as popular as other social networks, Google plans to close the network. For some it isn’t a big surprise, and some probably don’t really remember anything about Google+, let alone used it.

But today I don’t want to discuss social networks that aren’t used or the fact that many aren’t surprised it’s closing, I want to talk about something else that we’ve talked about already this year and will talk about more over the next few years and that’s dealing with big changes that affect your business. For some Google+ was just another marketing opportunity, but some had invested quite a bit in it and are really upset that it’s closing. Other businesses are seriously being affected by disruptive businesses who are coming in and upending an industry, one of the most discussed examples being the ride-share companies (i.e. Uber, Lyft etc.) totally changing how the industry (taxis) has historically run. What do you do when things end or change?

This is why you have to be consistently updating your own business, aware of and considering ways you can innovate or transform what you offer, and not rely on one product or service or marketing tool. I don’t recommend trying every option or implementing every innovation or trying to market through every resource, but I strongly advise against only being locked into one option. Yes, there are companies who will survive through the end or change, for instance there are still some companies that sell records and record players (1880’s-1980’s were their prime years), but those companies are few and far between because there’s just not enough demand to sustain many companies.

What can you do to prepare your company for the eventual transformation of your industry and how you do business?

Rediscovering the Spice of Life

Recently a client I’ve worked with for a long time has rehired an ex employee. While that’s not really a common place activity, it does happen from time to time, and I certainly understand why the client would rehire that individual based on the current employees they have and what that employee used to do for them. As I was chatting briefly with this employee this past week, they brought up some of the things that we had talked about in the past, things that most of the current employees don’t know about. It took me a minute to adjust to talking about those things with them and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the conversation. Maybe this is something that you can identify with from experiences you’ve had when you’ve reconnected with someone you haven’t seen in several years.

As I was doing some work today my mind meandered through that conversation and those feelings again. I got to thinking about the conversation and thinking back to those conversations years ago and thinking back to the person I was then and the person I am now. They were right, I have grown and changed in the passing years, but it really hadn’t hit me how much until we were having that conversation.

As I sit here writing I’m realizing of how many of the things I do have now that I was hoping for then, even if they don’t look quite like I was thinking they would. This is one of the big reasons why it’s important to stop and reflect sometimes. If this conversation hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be taking this trip down memory lane. I’ve talked about the importance of perspective before, and here I’m reminded of it again. Taking time for looking at life with a different perspective, to review what’s gone on in the past, to really take a hard look at the present, all of these are things that not only can help us get clarity on what the future may hold or where we want our lives to go, it can also give us a big sense of accomplishment and even relief that we’re actually making progress with our lives.

As we start this new month I encourage you to sit down and take a trip back in time and do a little reflecting. Consider how far you’ve actually come. Unbury the dreams that you used to have. Discover how far you’ve come. Make adjustments to head in the direction you want to go. Celebrate your life, your path and the people you’ve got traveling this journey with you. Stop for a moment and let the fog clear from around you so that you can see past, present and future clearly. And then make a decision about how you’re going to move into the next stage of this journey called life.