A Journey of Self Discovery

Today I’m thinking about what it means to be yourself. I talk on occasion about the importance of caring for yourself and not making so many sacrifices you don’t take the time to care for yourself, and I often talk about the importance of each of us being our own person and unique. But I don’t take a lot of time to dive into the insecurities and the struggles that almost all of us face.

Some of us only take one journey of self discovery in our lives, and that’s because it takes that much time and life to work through just that one path. Others of us take one journey of self discovery and we discover early on who we are and the rest of our life is filled with learning, but being confident in who we are. Many of us however take many journeys throughout our lives, each path being a new experience or opportunity that may have little or no bearing on a previous one, our path is ultimately just to explore.

It can be frustrating, even scary, to get to a point in your life and realize that the journey has completely changed or the path you were on has abruptly ended. Which is why it’s so important to be willing to love yourself no matter what, to work on forgiving yourself in many situations, to be at least understanding that change happens (often), and have a support system you can tap into (even if it’s a virtual one or a therapist/counselor).

If you are going through a particularly challenging portion of your current self discovery journey, I would encourage you to make time on a daily basis for both action and reflection.  Keep yourself moving in the direction that the path is leading, and take time to consider the lessons you’re learning and make sure that you’re going in a direction that’s healthy for you and those in your life.

One final thought for today: try to trust yourself. You won’t always get your gut feelings right, you won’t always make the right decisions, you won’t always allow the right people into your life, but if you trust yourself, your abilities, your passion, your smarts and your heart you’ll get there more often than not.

Endings Aren’t The End

Just about everyone is done with this school year and moving on to whatever is next for them. This also means that some adults are moving on to other jobs after their contracts have ended, and others are moving on because the company has changed or they have changed. Endings are part of life even if we don’t want them to be, but it seems like these days more than ever we’re facing more endings because life changes and moves much quicker than it used to.

Sometimes an ending in and of itself is all you’re meant to do, for example when it comes to drugs (you don’t want to end your “relationship” with one drug just to move on to another one). Sometimes you may not feel like moving on quite yet (like if your heart is broken you may not feel like getting into a new romantic relationship).  But more often than not, an ending happens with the idea that something is coming next, like looking for a new job or starting a business after you lose your job.

It’s healthy to be able to move on in life. We shouldn’t be trapped by the past, stuck in our mistakes or limited by who we used to be. Life isn’t about endings, it’s about growing, learning, exploring, and thriving. And we can’t do those things without having some endings in our lives, even if those endings scare us a bit or bring us through a period of upheaval and frustration. So go ahead and celebrate the endings you are experiencing right now, and look excitedly to what the future could hold. The only way the future can be worse than the past is if you let it be or give up on life and living.

“Why would I retire? Sit at home and watch TV? No thanks. I’d rather be out playing.” Paul McCartney

Spring Alive Together

There is nothing that says “alive” more than spring. The whole world bursts into life and color in the matter of a few short weeks. I don’t know about you, but I fully believe life is better when we live it with others. There’s so much we can learn from others, and I can’t imagine trying to do all that everyone else does around me while doing all of my stuff (like fixing cars, picking up trash, policing the area, and running hospitals). The good news is that there is plenty of life to go around.

The thing about spring that’s very evident in much of the new life is that it’s about multiplication and family. All of the new animal lives and seed growth are small representations of what should be happening in our lives too. Yet over and over we shy away from contact with other people, or at least the deep and full contact that is seen in the new life of spring.

I wonder what it will take for people to start building the relationships that it will take to make a difference in the lives of the next generation? How long it will take us to learn that together we are more than we ever could be apart? To learn that hatred and violence do not make the world go ‘round?

The more I see, read, learn and discover, the more I realize that we’re all connected whether we want to be or not. We’re connected to the earth by what we eat and use. We’re connected to each other through the thousands of invisible threads of the internet. We’re connected to the past and the future by the choices they have made and we will make. Even fully isolated from human contact we’re still connected to the earth by how we live and eat.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting the connection and start working on how we can coexist together. Let’s work on making this spring a time of growth and health for all of us.

Comfortable Changes

How do you handle those conversations with your partner when they want to talk about things they want or feel are lacking in your relationship? I had a conversation with someone about this during the past week and it got me thinking about how we can overcome the challenges we personally may face if we’re asked by our partner to make a change or do something different.

While the first emotion you may feel is gratitude that your partner is finally sharing their concerns, fears or desires, the emotions that may closely follow are guilt, fear, and panic. It’s never easy to realize that you’ve been failing in some way on something or not being everything your partner needs. But that’s not necessarily what the conversation means, because it may not be about you failing to do something, but about something new your partner wants or needs or wants to try. If you’re in a healthy relationship, it should be an opening conversation, a beginning of a discussion, not a requirement or hard line.

Change and growth are natural parts of a healthy relationship. So what it you do feel overwhelmed by the request or the conversation? Instead of trying to conquer the mountain in one jump, pick something that’s easier for you to work up the courage or confidence to get to that point, or at least try to get to that point. Showing that you’re trying will mean a lot to them and may give them the immediate positive reinforcement they need to regain their confidence in your relationship and encourage you and work with you on trying to incorporate their requests or feedback into your relationship. It will also give you the courage and strength to keep going and working on their requests or feedback.

For example let’s say they are bored with what you all typically have for food options in the house and everyone needs to eat healthier, but you don’t really like fruits or vegetables. So don’t dive into trying the ones you know you don’t like, start with incorporating more of the ones you do like into your diets and pantry. Let’s say they want to do more and get in shape. Instead of trying to be ironman or woman, start with walking or swimming or whatever fitness activity you are OK with.

That first step may be a little intimidating, but it’s way less challenging than trying to go all the way from day 1. What tips do you have for working through conversations with your partner?

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.

Cost-Sensitive Sales

If you’re struggling to make sales, or aren’t making the sales you want, chances are good that you’ve thought of all kinds of things you can do to have more sales including adding more products to your inventory, doing paid ads, moving to a trendier location, adding more sales people to your sales team, or redoing something (like your store, your products, your packaging, your website etc.) Some of these things can get to be expensive, and you may not have a lot to spend right now. Unfortunately, you may have to spend at least a little to get in some more sales, but there are somethings you can do to bring in more sales without raising the overhead too much. Today’s post is a little longer than usual but there are lots of ideas in it to help you increase sales and be more profitable.

First and foremost is addressing something that too many companies aren’t addressing in their marketing, including on their website and social accounts: who are you, why you do what you do, and what makes you different. Maybe you really aren’t much different as far as the products or services you offer, but because you’re running the business, your business is different than any other one out there. How you approach business, the people you hire, the things you offer are all a little different because you’re behind the business, but people don’t know that unless you say so.

Another thing you could try is reusing existing supplies or technology in new ways. For example maybe you buy decorative boxes that you sell as the packaging for your gift box sets (spa day, wine inspired, new baby etc.), but some people may be interested in buying just the boxes for their own purposes, so you could offer them as a separate purchase. For technology, maybe you do embroidery on shirts that companies buy to resell from you, but you could use the same technology to embroider logos on shirts for companies, or embroider initials on towels for hotels or for newlyweds.

You can also look for products that you can resell, including digital products and items that you never touch. For example if you create dog leashes you could find some products on Amazon to sell (aka drop shipping), or a digital video course on training your dog you can sell as an affiliate.

Another way to increase sales with a physical location is to give your location a fresh coat of paint and do the deep cleaning you may have been putting off. Everyone prefers to shop in a neat and tidy space. Even when the atmosphere suggests that it’s a dark and mysterious type location that doesn’t mean that you need to have dirty floors, peeling paint or a kitchen (or back office) that hasn’t been cleaned since you moved in.

As for the people-cost concern, something I’ve always suggested are working with interns from high schools and colleges. Adding them to your team even for 1-6 months gives you the extra hands or bodies you need and gives them real world experience that they can apply to their future job, gives them the opportunity to try something out, or fulfills that school credit they have to get in the community. Especially when it comes to technology students are great to work with because they know the technology far better than many because they’ve been exposed to it for longer and understand it in ways that it may take some of us years to ever get, if we ever get it at all.

There are lots of free and low-cost marketing opportunities as well, from social media to guest blog posts, to media interviews. The only catch there may be that you have to do the work of finding blog post and media opportunities and letting them know why they should share you with their audience.

Now, the question you’ve got is cost. Yes, depending on how you’ve had your website done or you’ve done your website there may be some cost there (if you don’t have a website set one up now using any number of free services or contact an agency or tech expert for help). You may also have to buy more of something you already buy, but there could be a good chance for a (higher) discount then and you could take advantage of that and spread the cost around. And yes, you may have to pay a minimum wage for the interns (many programs require it), but it’s usually far cheaper than what a regular employee would cost you (and you may decide to hire them later which would save you future training costs). Most of these suggestions though require more of your time than your finances, but all of them require that you really commit to doing better and helping more people. These are just a few of the ways you could grow your business and reinvigorate sales, what will you do today to move your company forward?

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.

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?

Opinions for Business Growth

Last week we talked a little about the benefit and challenge of options in business. I’ve been thinking about this from a bit of a different perspective this week, that of opinions.  Every day I meet business owners and (regular individuals) looking to improve something (or many somethings) in their business (or life).  Maybe they don’t understand using social media, maybe they’re struggling to get sales, maybe they’re struggling with a disconnect between their business and potential customers, maybe they’re struggling to lead their business, maybe they’re struggling with their marketing, or maybe they’re so stuck they have no idea anymore what needs to be improved, only that it’s not going as they would like it to.

We’re not going to answer the many questions therein directly today, instead what we’re going to talk about is the improvement aspect. I believe that everyone, every business and every person, has room for improvement.  Depending on where we are in our life’s journey some of us have more need for improvement than others.  Often it’s necessary to get an outside perspective on what isn’t working and/or how to improve.  Sometimes once some of us know what’s not working we’re able to tap into our resources and fix or change things.  But other times we need the support of others to make the needed improvements.  It’s not wrong or bad to need help from others, it’s part of what makes the world go ’round.

I believe that everyone should get opinions from others throughout the life of their business.  Not all of your customers will leave feedback or tell you what they think isn’t great, sometimes they’ll just silently play a role in your business, and other times the opinion they give you is more about them than your business, so it’s necessary to reach out and get opinions.  I fully support getting help and asking for opinions, but there are a few things to consider when asking for an opinion.  First, it’s my opinion no matter how much research I’ve done in a field or years of knowledge and experience I have.  It may not be the opinion of someone else.  It also may not be that of your ideal customer.  Finally, my opinion isn’t the only one out there.

So while I have lots of ideas about how you can improve your business or what you could do differently, it’s always a good idea to check it against your mission and vision as a business and that of you as a business owner (an essential reason to have a mission and vision).  Because while my ideas may help you reach customers, it may not be the ideas you need to hear right now.

I share all this not to discourage you from seeking the opinions and feedback of others, in fact it makes me want to get even more feedback as a result.  It’s a reminder to stay humble, to consider others and to take all of life with a grain of salt.  I encourage you to worry less about perfection this week and more about helping others.

Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?