Seeing Things Differently

Recently I read an interesting article about Dr. Sanjay Gupta meditating with the Dalai Lama. It was interesting for many reasons, but one of them, and the one I want to talk about today, was the fact that sometimes His Holiness struggles with meditation too. Just so we’re clear, meditating is something that His Holiness (and other Buddhists as well as countless others of various faiths and practices) does on a regular basis. The interesting part wasn’t just that he struggles, but how he often overcomes that struggle. Rather than using meditation as a time to be without thought, he uses it to focus on something specific and work through it or work on understanding it from a myriad of perspectives. So yes, you’re being quiet still during meditation, but it doesn’t have to be about being blank or empty.

I wanted to share about this with you today because so often in our families and relationships we approach something in one way (meditation is for being blank and empty) when there’s countless other ways that it could be approached. The challenge is not only being open to those other approaches and being able to see them, but also working on not just reacting in the way you always have or just going with your default actions/opinions/beliefs.

Part of the challenge in applying other perspectives to your life, or to your kids, is that there’s a lot of the world that isn’t open to other perspectives, for example in traditional learning environments, aka schools. Yes, you can send your kids to schools that offer other things or teach differently, but often they cost a lot of money, money that not all families have. So in this case you could do supplemental education on the weekends or afterschool, and during the summer. You may also have to work on getting your partner to see the validity of your point or why you want to do things differently. This isn’t always a bad thing because it does mean you have to think things out and really have good reasons for doing things differently.

My challenge to you this week is to start looking for other perspectives, approaches or opportunities with the things that challenge you most or you struggle with most. Take the time to see if there are alternatives or options, like His Holiness presented to Dr. Gupta about meditation, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or get someone else’s perspective.

Worth the Effort

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month we’re going to be talking in part about freedom, so I wanted to start the month off by talking about a topic that’s often an important aspect of both of them: effort. Yes, there are some relationships that seem effortless or don’t require a lot of effort for you to keep them going, and sometimes freedom is freely given without any real requirements or involvement on your part. But for most of us if we want our relationships to last and be fulfilling we have to put in some effort, and the amount of effort we put in often speaks to how successful those relationships will be. Also with freedom, more often than not if we’re looking to be free of something or be free to do something we have to actively pursue that goal.

I know some people get worried or overwhelmed when they hear that work is involved in something, but if you’re really serious about making that relationship work or finding that freedom there should be a fire or drive or passion in you about it. If there isn’t you’re not likely to give decent effort towards that goal, and it should be a big red flag for you about getting more involved in that relationship or freedom goal. Yes, sometimes if you give something some effort you’ll discover or rediscover the passion or interest you’ve lost or didn’t have, but usually there has to be some interest there to begin with, it isn’t created in the process.

The thing is, I think you, your life and your relationships are worth the effort. I believe each of us can and should have a life we’re proud of, one that includes relationships with people who support and love us, and freedoms to be who we are and do what we’re passionate about. You may not have accepted that you’re worth the effort and there are people around the world who believe that as well, but it’s the truth. Sure, some people will try to drag you down, but that’s often more about them and not about you.

This upcoming week I encourage you, even though it’s summer and you may be slowing things down in your life, to put a little effort into the things that matter most to you, or the things you want more of in your life. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but choosing to put a little more effort in can make a big difference, and give you a glimpse into what it would be like if you chose to put a lot more effort into it.  You may choose to communicate more often and more completely with your partner, you may choose to do more research before making a decision than you usually do, you may choose to finally ask for the help that you’ve been too ashamed to ask for, or you may choose to dedicate time every day to making your life healthier and happier.  What will a little effort do for you?

Start off Good

I was recently reminded that things don’t usually start off with problems and issues, they usually start of good and with peace. Relationships don’t begin with the end in mind, you are busy enjoying each other’s company. You don’t join a job thinking about how soon you’ll quit or be fired, you’re trying to do your best or make the most money possible. You don’t get a pet thinking about when they’ll die or run away, you’re excited to have a new best friend. You don’t buy a phone thinking about the next one you’ll get, you are excited for this one. You don’t start a business thinking you’ll sell it for big bucks or it’ll fail, you start off excited about providing a needed product or service with passion. I think you get the idea: almost always things begin for us on a good foot.

So what happens that things don’t work out as planned, fail, hurt and become screwed up? I think part of the issue is that we get overwhelmed by everything that goes on in life. It’s not really possible to avoid all that goes on in life, there are pressures that we’ll face and changes that we have no control over but impact us all the same. A big part of the issue though is we lose sight of the good that we started with. Yes, we will change as we go through our lives so it’s not about keeping everything the same or constantly reliving “the good old days”, but learning how to evolve the good we started with. The sooner you work on bringing those elements of good into your life and various situations on a consistent basis, the better everything will go. You’ll also be developing some really great habits that will help make your life more fulfilling and rewarding.

If you’re able to develop the habit and life skill of intentionally developing the good, it doesn’t mean that you won’t fail, have bad days, divorce, or experience loss; these things are part of life. But if you’ve got that core your likelihood and frequency of failure, bad days, divorce and some types of losses can dramatically decrease, and your overall happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment of life can increase. How do you get started? For a relationship it could be as simple as sitting down with your significant other, talking about what you’ve enjoyed in the past and why you fell in love with each other and discuss how to bring those feelings and types of experiences to life on a more regular basis now, and actively working on incorporating those feelings, actions, words and experiences into your lives today. It’s not a magic pill but can certainly make some of those tough decisions and discussions a lot easier and smoother because you’re not worrying as much about the foundation and able to work on the actual, present, issues.

So let’s start the discussion: what did you really enjoy in your past that you don’t do or have or feel as much or at all anymore?

Learning to Love Yourself

This month we’re talking about a topic related to one we talked about a couple of months ago, the topic of love.  I know, it may seem strange to talk about love in a month that’s not February (we talked about the topic of heart in February), but love is something we should talk and think about all year long.  It’s not just a topic for couples or those interested in being a couple, but for everyone.  Love isn’t just about being romantic, love is about all kinds of relationships we find ourselves in, whether work, earth/nature, family, neighbor or romantic.

Today though I want to start off the week with talking about the topic of self love or loving yourself.  It’s a double edged sword topic because when we focus too much on self love we’re accused of being selfish, and usually rightly so.  But at the same time if we’re so selfless that we only think about others, our own needs can be ignored and others can forget that we too have needs.  We’re not talking about missionaries who intentionally are selfless, but about the rest of the people in the world who, faith background or not, tend to live a more “normal” life of people, work, and daily/weekly/seasonal activities.

Why choose to love yourself? It’s about more than just making sure you’ll be around for the needs the other people in your life have.  We should all have a reason we want to keep living, to stay alive, to wake up another day.  We all have gifts that we bring to the world, for some of us it’s a question of figuring out how or where we best fit in, and sometimes there’s not an easy answer to that.  But loving yourself is about more than just making sure you’re alive and breathing, it’s about contributing to who you are as a person and becoming better because you’re worth it.

We may not all agree with the same faith beliefs or agree with how the world and we were created, but I can’t see us being disposable, lemmings or robots.  I believe that each and every one of us has value to add to the world, and for most of us that has to start with us believing in and accepting who we are.  I challenge you this month to open yourself to learning what you love, adding that love to your life on a regular basis and learning how you can best help love grow and multiply in the world.

Remembering Who You Were Born To Be

Parents have a lot of pressure on them, well, the good ones do.  Parents who don’t care about their kids don’t experience life the same way that true, caring parents do.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I love supporting parents and business owners and people in general who are passionate about life, who truly care about their lives, their families, their customers and the world.  I’m all for having fun and trying new things.  I’m not a fan of the people who think they’re too good for the rest of us, who don’t care about others, who aren’t willing to let others win and those who give only because it benefits them.  Yes, we can all have some selfish moments, and moments that we want the attention to be all on us, but for the most part that’s not how those of us who really care live our lives.  Yes, we think about ourselves, but we also think about others and the world around us, and genuinely care what happens to them.

That’s not to say that we don’t have our differences and disagreements, I believe it’s healthy for us to all enjoy different things and even healthy for us to see the world different ways and try to do things different ways.  The caveat to that is that the goal is usually technically the same: that we want a better world for our children and ourselves.  We may not think that it will be achieved in the same way and sometimes we can get so lost in what we think is right that we forget about the goal. But I digress.

As parents, mentors, leaders, and adults we’ve got a big responsibility of teaching the next generation.  We have to be honest about our mistakes.  We have to help them learn from the lessons we’ve had and failed in.  We have to teach them to do better than we’ve done. But at the same time we have to let them be who they are and do what they’re here to do.  I can’t do what you can do and I’m not here to do what you’re here to do.  You’re not here to do what your kids are here to do, nor are they here to do what you are here to do.  Yes, you can spend time together doing your passion or theirs, but that doesn’t mean they need to devote their life to fulfilling a lost dream of yours: they’re not here to be anyone but themselves.

As adults we may have forgotten the passion, curiosity, creativity and drive that we had as kids, but they still have those feelings.   It’s up to us to let them be kids, let them learn who they are and accept the teaching moments when they come our way.  Teach them how to be strong and then let them fly.  Maybe in the process you’ll even remember how awesome it is to fly as well.

“We want you to know you are exactly where you are meant to be. Where you are is perfect for the magnificent unfolding that is before you. Embrace it fully. You are here to be of great service in this world…” Theos

Reflection Time

I’m still doing some reflecting and considering as we work into this new year.   2016 felt like being in a cement mixer at times for some of us, it certainly didn’t seem like a smooth ride personally or in the world.  As I’ve been reading a number of posts at the end of the year and the beginning of this one, I identified with what a number of people were saying about the year that just ended and how they felt about it, what they ended up doing in that year and of course where they’re headed in this new year.

For many 2016 ended up being a year of personal growth, not so much professional, although plenty of people and companies did have a very successful year.  For some 2016 was so bumpy that it was hard to even identify or understand that until new year reflections happened.  So if your year was anything like mine, I’m going to encourage you to work through these questions over this week before you give up on your resolutions and/or before you make final decisions about where you want this coming year to go:

What was your best memory?
What was your worst memory?
What was your biggest accomplishment?
What was your most satisfying victory?

What goals do you have for 2017?
What relationships are you going to create or work on in 2017?
What do you want to stop doing in 2017?
What needs to most change in 2017?

Just how good can life get?
Will this be a courageous year for me?
What will make you happy?
What will you love?

As I do my own reflecting and consider where I’m taking things this year, I’d love to hear from you what you would like from me in this blog and/or in what I offer in my business? How can I best help you make more victories in your life and what are you struggling with?

Gifting and Giving

It has arrived!  No, I’m not talking about any of the items I ordered on Black Friday, I’m talking about Giving Tuesday!  You may have rolled your eyes, but I’m serious.  I’m glad that someone realized that non-profits and charities need a day like Black Friday as much as for-profit businesses do. They’re as concerned about their bottom line as all other businesses out there.  Just because they’re not looking to put money in their pockets the way that for-profit businesses do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to increase their funds so they can better work towards fulfilling their mission.

I know that some people donate around the year end for one reason or another, I personally donate all year long (I love recurring payments on a credit card, it makes it so easy!), but during this season it does seem like non-profits and charities get the remainders of whatever is left after the holiday gifts have been purchased and the transportation for holiday celebrations and holiday food is paid for too.  If you think about even one of the best known holiday non-profits, the Salvation Army often gets shortchanged (no pun intended).  They stand outside shopping centers with their red buckets ringing for the change left over from shopper’s purchases.  Non-profits and charities certainly won’t say no to any size donation, but it’s sad that we tend to give them our leftovers rather than being part of our shopping lists.

Of course non-profits and charities would love if you donated all year long because it would mean that they would be in the black before year-end, but I know it doesn’t always work that way for any business.  This year I did hear about several businesses who chose to donate their Thanksgiving profits to non-profits and charities, which I thought was a great idea.  Another great thing I’ve seen this year more than any other year is the number of for-profit businesses suggesting a non-profit or charity that they support or recommend that their customers could support, or choosing to donate in partnership with you on Giving Tuesday (or just the holiday season), through a matched gift or some other arrangement.

Today is a great opportunity to donate to causes and organizations that you personally feel passionate about.  In my work I run across hundreds of people trying to make a difference, right a wrong or give people an opportunity that they would not have otherwise.  I encourage you to support at least one business today, or spread the gift around to a few non-profits and charities.  What is your chosen non-profit or charity?

Vote for Yourself

As I write this people are voting and election results are coming in all around the USA.  I was talking with my devotional and newsletter subscribers about voting and shared about it on the Life and Faith blog over the weekend as well, and how important it is to vote.  One of the things that always frustrates me is how little information I can find or know about some of the candidates that I could vote for.  Politicians and those who want to be elected may have political ambitions and want to change the world, but they haven’t done the voters any favors with helping them know whether or not to elect them.  Only in the past few years have I been seeing more politicians develop websites and social profiles that actually have information about who they are, what they stand for and what they hope to contribute as a politician.

But still the majority of candidates don’t have any type of presence that allows us to really find out who they are, we’re just expected to guess.   So it’s not surprising when we choose to vote based on the person whose name we’ve heard the most, or the person our friends or family are voting for (or the opposite), or the person whose name our finger lands on first in the voting booth or on the mail-in ballot.  I know, it sounds really irresponsible to vote that way, but how else are you supposed to vote if you don’t know anything about them?

But my post isn’t really about voting today (although I do hope you voted today), but about being your own person.  Sure, you can go with the popular opinion, you can do what everyone else is doing, you can believe what everyone else is believing.  And sometimes it may be that your own opinion does line up with other the opinions of other people.  But I always encourage you to be your own person, think your own thoughts and make decisions that are really right for you.   Don’t be afraid to stand out, think for yourself, try something new or be a little different this week.

“If you want to find a deeper meaning in your life, you won’t find it in the opinions or the beliefs that have been handed to you. Rather than trying to be what everyone else expects you to be, live your life by your own rules to be happy and find inner peace.  Your imagination is your own fertile field for growing any seedlings that you choose to plant for a future harvest.” Wayne Dyer

Veterans for Success

Coming up next Friday is Veteran’s Day here in the US, it’s a day to remember and honor the men and women who put it all on the line for us and country.  Today I want to talk a bit about how you can better support the veterans you may have in your employ, how to better employ and support veterans and open the conversation up to include those who have all kinds of disabilities as well, not just those who have some type of disability as a result of their time in the service.

First and foremost, I believe that it’s important for veterans to feel welcome back into the workforce, even if they don’t feel like they completely fit after seeing what they saw and doing the work they’ve done.  I believe that veterans and those with disabilities have valuable skills that can benefit our businesses greatly.  But this is one of the areas that we’re shortsighted in and aren’t willing to see that a few changes and accommodations now can lead to great things for all of us.

It’s not easy to accept that people change in general, and war is one of the most forceful methods of change.  So expecting someone to come back and fit in exactly where they used to isn’t reality for most people.   One of the challenges that businesses have to consider with regards to veterans or those with disabilities is whether or not they’re willing to make the accommodations necessary to serve them, whether as customers or employees.  While organizations like the ADA have helped bring things leaps and bounds forwards in recent years we still have a long way to go.  Yes, for some it’s a huge expense to consider making the changes necessary to really work with veterans or those with disabilities, but I believe that most businesses can and should at least make an effort to do so.  (Accommodation in general is a whole ‘nother conversation, and important for businesses to consider as well.)

One of the simplest things that businesses can do is be considerate of physical challenges and what would make them easier to deal with.  Those who are dealing with cancer, MS, Parkinsons or lost limbs benefit from simple access details, like not putting their desk all the way at the end of the hall on the top floor of the building farthest from the elevator or stairs, not making them walk all the way to the back of the store to talk with customer service, or more flexibility in either hours to work and/or the ability to work from home. No, not every job can allow you to work from home, but just about every business can benefit from an employee whose schedule is a little more flexible and able to cover as needed or provide extra support (as a full time or part time employee).

I was reading an article recently that reminded me of one of the simplest things we can do as business owners for our employees and customers: ask them how you can best support them.  Maybe this means sitting down with a group of potential customers who are veterans or those with disabilities and asking them what changes would make it easier for them to shop there.  Maybe they want the option to have bigger font on the website, later hours one night a week so they could avoid crowds, or bigger aisles to walk/ride down.  While not all accommodations can be made reasonably (an elevator for example), there are tons of little things that can be done to help them.

For employees or those who need jobs, one of the best things you can do is give them the opportunity to gain skills and tools to become a more employable person and maybe even apply some of the skills they’ve learned while in the service.  Maybe that means covering part of the cost for classes or hiring them part time to give them the opportunity to learn skills that will help them get a full time job.  Maybe that means offering a discount or special payment program for veterans only (even if you don’t offer any other discounts).

Most of us can’t do everything and anything for veterans or those with disabilities, but if we all did a little more I believe our country would be stronger economically, more confident personally and it would be a small way for us to give back to the veterans who have given so much for their country.

Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?