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.

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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?

Challenged by Technology

Recently I’ve been reflecting on some of the challenges of being in business and being a customer as well. There are things we should be taking into consideration for regarding our customers and what we’re selling as well as how we’re communicating with them, especially regarding changes. This week I accidentally left my phone at home for a period of time which got me thinking about changes and the technology that’s so central to our lives now.

The first thing I was reminded of was the fact that there are and always will be changes happening. Sometimes changes happen that someone thinks is a really good idea but many customers hate, or the biggest issue isn’t the change, it’s the lack of communication about the upcoming change. Changes are a necessary and almost inevitable part of life and business but you can’t seriously make changes without notifying your users of those changes, especially if it’s something that may so (negatively) impact their business that they have to find a replacement.

The second thing I thought about was how instant our world has become. Technology has enabled us to connect within seconds with many parts of the world, whether we’re using email, phones, social media or messaging. It’s amazing and has so many benefits to offer the world from emergency situations to providing support and love even from many miles away. I’m not one of those people who sits at my computer all day and waits for an email so I can reply to it instantly. I do believe that we can (and should) have lives and not be attached to our devices 24/7. So maybe it’s a good thing if we all leave our devices home once in a while.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about ease of use. Technology in general does make it much easier to do so many things. But sometimes there are changes made or features added that make it harder to use the technology. There are also times when an update or upgrade is desperately needed but it’s not made (or the change that isn’t needed is the one that’s made). I think sometimes in our desire to be #1 or the most trendy or the one with the most features we forget about the people and how easy or difficult it is to use.

This week in your dealings with technology I encourage you to try something new with technology. Maybe you’ll find that the change isn’t as difficult as you thought it would be.

Changes, Choices and Closed Businesses

When you start a business you don’t always think about what comes next and when/how you want to finish with it.  Sure you may imagine creating a great product/company and selling it for tons of money to some big company, but that’s not the reality (or plan) for most business owners.   For most (especially small business owners), they’re more focused on what’s going on today and their current customers (or getting customers for that matter), maybe even what’s coming up in the next year or so, than what could happen however many years down the road.  But the reality is that that decision does need to be made at some point in time.

This week in the US we see the end of Ringling Brothers’ circus, and I saw an article saying that the number of businesses that were sold in the first quarter was higher than it’s been.  I’ve also seen a number of ‘store closing’ signs at what used to be popular retailers.  Times change, people change, needs change, technology (the broadest definition of the word) changes, you (the business owner) change.  Yes, it’s tough to acknowledge the change, and difficult to let go of something that’s been part of your life for however long.  It’s tough to part with the people who have invested time, ideas and sweat into the business and customers.  It can also be scary to look at what’s coming next when you no longer have the business to work on each day.

Sometimes it’s OK or necessary to come to an end in business, sometimes it’s just time for us to move on to something else.  There’s no shame in that.  There’s also nothing wrong with passing the business off (or selling it) to someone who can take it to a level that you can’t for whatever reason.  However, many of the businesses that close each month close for reasons that didn’t have to be reality.  These businesses are run by people who are greedy, or aren’t willing to look at the truth, or aren’t willing to make changes, or aren’t willing to try things, or don’t treat their people right, or aren’t willing to even try to keep up with their competitors and the larger marketplace.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your business and check if you’ve been holding things back or hurting your businesses potential. If that’s the case i encourage you to make the choice to make changes, and get started on at least one of those changes this week.

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.

Change And Stay the Same?

Over the past decade or so there have been many changes in the business world (‘business’ meaning both for- and non-profits).  Some businesses have embraced the changes, some have been reluctant but have eventually tried out some of them and other businesses have firmly resisted any change efforts. In some of those change-resistant businesses and business industries/niches there have been some innovators who have started new businesses that are taking advantage of the changes, which is causing some disruption in the industry/niche.  Last week there was an event and this past week I was talking with an individual about their new business that really got me thinking about the changes so today I want to talk a bit about both sides of this conversation.

The event is one that’s been around for 40+ years which says something pretty important given how few businesses, let alone events, last that long these days. The event is a live event and is in an industry that has overall been more resistant to or slow to do many of the changes, including tapping into the internet world.  Given that at the core of the event is the fact that it’s a live event, while you wouldn’t want to change that, there is a lot more the event can be doing year ’round to better market the event and keep people connected in between events.

The individual I was talking with is starting a new business in a different industry that has been resistant to change as well.  I rarely talk with people who are on his end of things, typically I hear from businesses who are behind the curve and trying to catch up, or talking with companies who are selling innovative products.  Starting a business brings its own challenges, but starting a business that intends to turn an industry on its head is an even bigger challenge, and I encouraged the individual to stay the course.

So where does that bring us?  It says that there are tons of businesses who have yet to really reach their customers in 2017 as they’re wanting to be reached.  But, I also believe that adopting some changes don’t mean that you have to totally change what you’re offering or who you are at the core.  To give an example: I saw a recent headline questioning if restaurants were the next industry to suffer and become a more virtual experience with all meals being delivered to your home and not going out to eat, and I had to laugh.  Yes, that has some appeal, but a large portion of the success of restaurants is people wanting to get out of their homes and have a meal experience with family or friends, they don’t want to be home, they want to go out.  Food delivery may increase but I don’t think restaurants will ever fully go out of business, especially those that offer a fantastic dine in experience.  However, just because your core offering (eating in a restaurant in this case) shouldn’t change, that doesn’t you can’t change a few of the items you offer on the menu or how you cook them to meet some of the more current desires or practices, expand how you market to your customers or offer more options to pay than just cash.

The world is changing and I don’t think it’s changing back any time soon.  Too many businesses that used to be and still should be essential businesses are being called “dated” or at least not contemporary because they’re afraid to spend the money on upgrades or updates or are stuck at “it’s how we’ve always done things,” yet complain when they can’t get the customers in the door (literal or figurative) or customers complain about what’s offered.  There’s a simple answer to this, but it’s not necessarily one they (or you) want to hear.  Is it a message you need to hear today?

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.