Processes and Procrastination

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

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

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

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

The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.

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.

Sharing Freedom through Hope

Every day we do a thousand things that could either hurt or help ourselves and others.  We make tons of decisions about our lives and the lives of the other people we interact with.  Sometimes they’re really good decisions, sometimes they’re lucky decisions, sometimes they’re selfish decisions, sometimes they’re selfless decisions, sometimes they’re lazy decisions, sometimes they’re rushed decisions and sometimes they’re thoughtless decisions.  It’s always my goal to make one more thoughtful and selfless decision each day, but I’m not perfect and don’t expect that I’ll make all perfect decisions anytime in the near future (and sidenote: sometimes the best decision you can make is a selfish one).

So what if, instead of trying for the impossibility of perfect, we focused more on doing one more thing that could positively change the world?  What if instead of letting that insensitive thought fly out of our mouths, instead we looked for the words that would heal or free someone?  What if instead of playing the victim card you turned it around and became the victor?  What if instead of trying to get revenge on someone for the way they hurt you, instead you went on to encourage someone else?  What if instead of looking for ways that you can be king or queen, you looked for ways to make a difference instead?  What if instead of trying to always be center stage, you let someone else shine?  What if you took the spotlight off your life and you looked for ways that you could make one person’s day a little brighter?

Today I encourage you to choose the gifts of encouragement, hope, reassurance and shared strength.  Let people know that the whole world has not gone to pot and that there are still caring people here.  Let the world know that each person matters, as an individual and a human being.  Let people know that they are not forgotten.   Finally, let someone know that their life is not over and they can still find purpose and fulfillment and live their life however they choose.  Who will you encourage today?

“Is there somebody in your life whom by a word or an action you can help to unbind, help to set free? Give them hope. For that is God’s gift to each one of us. Give that gift to another today.”  Br. Geoffrey Tristram

A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?

A Flag for your Business

This coming week on Tuesday is Flag Day in the US. I will be sharing a few thoughts about this with my newsletter readers over the coming weekend but wanted to go a bit deeper into the topic today with you. Flags are really cool things because they do and say so much in one small package. They make a statement about a brand, country, organization, group of people, culture, and/or event for all the world to see. As business owners there’s a lot we can learn from the flag about our businesses and making a statement.

First, if you really want a flag to resonate it needs to be shared publicly in more than one place. If you think about days like Memorial Day and the 4th of July when thousands of flags are placed next to the graves of soldiers, it’s a big statement about who those people were and what they did, and we honor them for it. As a result most people can describe what the American flag looks like, but if you were asked what the flag of your state looks like could you draw it or tell someone about it with 90% or more of the details correct? I don’t think I could. While the American flag is not only prominently and frequently hung, we don’t do the same for the other flags we could fly. What about your business? Are you taking the time and making the effort to fly the flag about your business? Are you really active on social media? Is your website up to date? Are you participating in local events? Are you showing up in enough places that your potential and current clients not only recognize you but even identify with and look forward to seeing you?

We’ve touched on the second thing the flag does several times: it brings people together and helps them identify with something or connect with something. When people look at your business are they attracted, repelled, interested, comforted, encouraged, empowered, angered or something else? Maybe you don’t have a super recognizable icon like Apple or Disney does, but that’s not to say that you can’t be unique and you can’t make the branding of your company unified between all parts. Some differences are to be expected but overall everything should tie in together; just like you see red white and blue on special holidays, not just American flags being displayed.

Finally, are you proud of what you’ve created in your business and what it stands for? The American flag is a source of pride and hope for Americans, the same should be true in how you feel about your business and how your customers and potential customers feel about it. They should be proud to be part of what you’re doing and want to share it with their friends. You play a key part in developing their pride through how you talk about your business, how you present it, the places you choose to market it, the things you offer through it, the culture that it’s connected to and creating, and the mission and vision you have about and for the company.

Do you stand proud next to your business, or do you have a lot of work to do to bring it together so that it can help more people and do good in the world?

Being a Mom in 2016

Sunday is Mother’s Day.  I hope you’ve gone out and gotten your mom or the mom figure in your life something special or plan to take them out to eat or will at least call them and let them know you’re thankful for them.  Of all the life rolls we could have (mother/father, politician, teacher, business owner etc.) the role of mom has gone through the biggest transformation over the centuries and yet has still remained the same.  Since science has not yet progressed to be able to change this (for right or wrong) moms are still the way that we all enter the world.  Whether we use a surrogate, adopt or have kids ourselves, the only way that kids come into the world is through a mom.

But, being a mom today is finally catching up with what it has been to be a dad for centuries.  Now moms get jobs and take care of their kids, just like dads have always done, they don’t just have the role of having and raising kids.  I would say that for the most part moms are doing a fantastic job of finding the balance, probably because they learn so many applicable skills from being a mom that they can apply.  It should be said though that it’s not a bad thing to just stay home with your kids, the world needs women who are able to give their all to their kids.

If you’re a mom don’t be afraid to ask for help.  It used to be that we had a village around us, now we’re working more on being islands, but there’s no reason for that. The world is filled with more people than ever, people who have knowledge and skills that you can benefit from and pass on to your kids as well (not to mention dads who can help and learn too).  Choose to do what’s best for you and your kids this Mother’s Day, regardless of what society may tell you to do.

The Business of Freedom

This week we’re wrapping up our look at some of the key aspects of Black History Month and how we can apply them to successfully running our businesses. Today we’re looking at one of the overarching topics from all of African American history: that of freedom. I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons many people start a business, myself included, is because of a desire for freedom. Maybe it’s freedom from a restrictive boss, maybe it’s freedom to be with your kids, maybe it’s freedom to set your schedule, maybe it’s freedom to make as much money as you want, or maybe it’s a desire to set your customers free from what they struggle with through the product(s) and/or service(s) you offer.

So where does freedom start for you? Does it start with a desire to have freedom for yourself or to give others the freedoms they desire? One of my favorite sales insights is shared through a question/concept that I heard from Darren Hardy, although others probably could lay claim to the example as well. He asks why you would buy a drill. Most people don’t buy drills because they like how they look or sound or because they want a tool lying around the house. No, they buy the drill for what it can get them: a hole. Seems very simple doesn’t it?

But that’s the truth about being in business: what you do should be helping people achieve their goals. We all have goals and if we work together we’ll be better able to achieve them. With currency as a more universal system it’s enabled us to get what we want easier and we no longer have to barter or trade with a bunch of others until we get what we need in order to trade or barter with the person who has what we want. Now you can give people the resources, tools and support they want and they can give you the money you want.

So where is this leading? Don’t be ashamed of your needs, desires and goals as a leader. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s a bad thing to want freedom, to say no to get what you want, to sacrifice until you can have what you most desire and to pay well and ask to be paid well for a job well done. We all want to have freedom, isn’t it time to stop seeing other’s desired freedoms as obstacles and rather as opportunities to make your life, their lives and the world a better place?

Hope for 2016

Can you believe we’ve reached the last week of 2015? Can you believe that another year is almost over?  Are you excited about that?  Worried about the new year?  How are you feeling in this last week?  I hope that as challenging as 2015 may have been for you there have been some really good moments as well that when you look back over the year in your thinking about the new year and maybe new years resolutions you’ll be able to be proud of at least a few things and not just look back and see regrets.

As we finish off this year I wanted to share about a topic that I always come back to because I believe it’s so important for us: hope.  Let’s take a look briefly at 3 things that you can put into your new year to make 2016 a better year than 2015.

Preparation:  This is a step that so many people skip or miss.  They’re so focused on taking action and rushing forward that they don’t take the time to ask questions or make plans.  There’s a lot that you can avoid if you’re even just a little bit prepared.

Work Hard: making plans and being prepared can’t be effective unless action is taken on those plans and preparations.  If you’re willing to put a little extra effort into 2016 the results you will see a year from now will amaze you.

Believe in a little luck: I know this doesn’t sound like it is really something you can do and to a big extent it’s not.  Luck happens often randomly and without reason, that’s part of why it’s called luck.  But if you’re open to having good things magically and randomly appear in your life it leaves the door open for blessings the universe wants to send your way.

I’m grateful for 2015 but looking forward to 2016, what about you?

“Be prepared, work hard, and hope for a little luck. Recognize that the harder you work and the better prepared you are, the more luck you might have.”  Ed Bradley

The Freedom in Quiet

Today is the last day of this month, and the end of the second to last month of 2015. How are you feeling about it? Are you too busy thinking about the holidays to think about the fact that another year is just about over? It’s interesting that the year ends on such a busy note, I mean it’s one thing to end the year with a celebration of the year, it’s another thing to cram Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa into the last 6 weeks of the year. Sure it’s great for the business world to have all these sales but who’s to say that if the holidays weren’t spread throughout the year that sales would be more evenly distributed? Regardless, that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today our discussion is on this month’s topic, being quiet, and understanding the freedom that comes from being quiet.

Having quiet time gives you the opportunity to reflect on your past, consider where your life is heading, remember the good memories, make plans, listen, relax and de-stress, and help you get centered and refocused. Without all that quiet time your life is like a bullet train running without a conductor (and no self-driving technology either): eventually you will run off the tracks.

So if you are looking for more victories, more success, more freedom and more fulfillment, there are 3 things you need to do: start making time in your life on a regular basis for quiet reflection, take more intentional actions and establish relationships with people who can and will support you (and you can support) and won’t tear you down or discourage you from having goals and dreams. When you do those things your life and goals will be clearer, you’ll have more victories and you’ll enjoy life more, 3 things that we all want this holiday season and next year.

“If you can’t get quiet enough to hear yourself, your life is too loud.”  Terri Guillemets