A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?


Presidential Leadership

In thinking about President’s Day on Monday here in the US, I got to thinking about what it takes to be a great president, and if we business owners can learn anything from them. But then I turned the question around and asked myself what advice the presidents would give us as leaders.

“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” George Washington

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Andrew Jackson

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” Teddy Roosevelt

“Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.” William Taft

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb … Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

Franklin D. Roosevelt “…knew what people wanted from the highest office in the land: action, words and optimism.”

Truman’s motto was “A leader needed a true heart, a strong mind, and a great deal of courage.”

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” Bill Clinton

All presidents left a legacy of one kind or another. All presidents had successes and failures. All presidents had good days and bad days. All presidents left office after they were done and continued on with their lives. The choice we all have is to do the best we can with what we’re given for as long as we’re there, and when life hands us a new direction to then do the best we can on that path. What are you learning from your business and being a leader right now?

Impact Big and Small

As I was thinking about the big football game happening in a few hours I was reminded of the topic of impact. In hearing the different plans that people have depending on the results of the game and about the history of the teams for winning seasons, it got me thinking about how many people’s futures are going to be impacted by the events of a few hours. No, it’s not life and death like cancer and it’s not as impactful as something like an election, but it’s still a really big deal to many people, and people are willing to put their health on the line for the victory today.

For some the events of today in the world of football mean very little or nothing to them. They don’t watch, they don’t care, they may not even know which teams are playing. And that’s OK, because what we’re talking about today isn’t really about football. It’s about the impact that each of us have on each other. Yes, today’s game will have a big impact because it impacts many people. What you choose for dinner tonight may not have a big impact on many people, but it will have an impact on you, and maybe a few of the people who live with you. How you talk to your kids will have an impact on them, how you show your partner you do/don’t love them will impact them, the way you treat yourself will have an impact on your self esteem, your self image and your confidence.

The thing is it’s these little things that add up to make a big impact. If you put one quarter in a jar every day for the next year you’ll have $36.53 which might be enough to take your significant other out for dinner. Divorces rarely are the result of one event or thing but days, months and even years of issues and buildup. People are rarely born bad, they turn that way after years of negative influences and anger directed their way. I doubt that any of the parents who have kids playing in the football game today knew the day they were born that they would end up playing today.

You can’t predict the future, but you can do your best to make choices that will give you the best big and little impacts possible. What impact will you choose to have?

Learning from Lee Iacocca

As a business owner it can be easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in your business. We all have challenges, things that frustrate us and almost always run out of time at the end of the day. But one of the best things we can do if we’re interested in growing our business is to seek the wisdom of others, whether working with a coach, or learning from great business leaders like Lee Iacocca. Lee Iacocca celebrates his birthday on the 15th of this month, so today I thought we’d take a look at a little of his wisdom.   A couple of the quotes may not seem like they are relevant or really share any knowledge that can help you in your business, but if you take a minute to think about what they’re really saying, I think you’ll learn something valuable.

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

“To succeed today, you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.”

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.”

“What is wrong with changing your mind because the facts changed? But you have to be able to say why you changed your mind and how the facts changed.”

“I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”

“There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men.”

“The ability to concentrate and to use time well is everything.”

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

“A guy named Charlie Beacham was my first mentor at Ford. He taught me the importance of the dealers, and he rubbed my nose in the retail business.”

“I guess I invented extended warranties, because that’s all we had to sell at Chrysler in those days.”

“Over the years, many executives have said to me with pride: ‘Boy, I worked so hard last year that I didn’t take any vacation.’ I always feel like responding, “You dummy. You mean to tell me you can take responsibility for an eighty-million-dollar project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to have some fun?”

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

“To solve big problems you have to be willing to do unpopular things.”

“There’s no great mystery to satisfying your customers. Build them a quality product and treat them with respect. It’s that simple.”


Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

We Remember

Tomorrow in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s an important day to remember and thank the men and women who have fought for our country, and their families as well.  As I think about Memorial Day of course there’s a feeling of sadness for all those people we’ve lost over the many years of battle, as well as the family members who never got to know those people.  War isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy, otherwise we might have to deal with more of it which wouldn’t be good.

But with the topic of loss on my mind recently in addition to tomorrow’s talk of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, it has me thinking once again about the loss that the world is experiencing when it comes to the past.  As much as I tend to think (and write) about the future and not about the past, or at least not about the past in the sense of dwelling on it, the past is important.  Every day more and more older folk slip further into Alzheimers and other memory-destroying diseases, every day seniors die, every day people who have great stories but have put off telling them die.  When you die or your memory is gone, your stories die, unless you’ve told them to someone or made some kind of record of them beforehand.

Memorial Day is all about remembering the men and women who have fought for our country, and I hope you take time tomorrow to honor those men and women.  But I can’t help adding in encouragement to also talk with your elderly relatives and friends, and even with the people your own age, and share your stories and hear theirs. Take time to share a story with your kids this weekend from the past about one of your relatives or friends and help them connect with someone they may never know. If you don’t think anyone wants to hear your stories right now you could start a blog and write all of them down for someday in the future, or you could hire someone to come and record you sharing the stories (which would be extra special for the future generations who will never meet you).  Not sure your stories are really worth telling?  I wish I could sit down with my grandparents and hear their stories, but they’ve all been lost to the sands of time in one way or another (3 dead, one with memory loss).  Their stories are special, their lives are special.  The future is built on those stories, and the relationships and events that they share about.  You and I are here because of things that happened many memories ago.

History, and the past, is more than just a random grouping of dates and facts (if that’s all it was, it would be pretty boring).  In reality history is made up of people who lived lives, enjoyed each other’s company, cried and laughed together, learned from their mistakes and had dreams, just like we do today.  Yes, sometimes remembering those we’ve lost can be painful, but the pain is a little less when we remember the good times and the stories they shared with us and memories we made together.   Who will you remember today?

Earth Day Plans

This week as we approach Earth Day I’m thinking about going green!  Today I’ve got a few ways you can go green and take care of our earth and celebrate this special day.  After all, I want the earth to stick around for at least a few more years, don’t you?

1-take action in your community.  There are lots of ways you can do this, from cleaning up litter and removing dead plants and trees to planting trees and flowers to putting up bird houses and even bee hives to encourage the natural population of your area

2-if you’re not able to go out and physically help in your community, there are tons of petitions online you can sign to support environmental initiatives online.  From organics to GMOs to smog and endangered species, there are tons of great causes you can support.

3-in line with the previous idea there are tons of earth-friendly organizations who would really appreciate a donation.  Even organizations like PETA and Charity: Water have an earth-focused mission that would benefit, you don’t just have to look to the more political organizations.

4-I love my hot showers so I’m not really willing to give them up, so if you’re like me that’s not one way you want to help save the earth.  But you can however wash your clothes in cold water.  They won’t complain and it will save your energy bill too!

5-if you’re looking for a spring refresh for your house there are tons of garage and yard sales that have begun with the favorable change in weather.  Not only are you saving a few dollars, you’re also saving the landfills from some items that would be in them for many years to come.  (And if you’re having a yard sale and everything doesn’t sell there are lots of local organizations who can benefit from the left over items too).

What are you planning this week to celebrate Earth Day and honor this place we all live?

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?

Selfless Giving

I hope you had a good Day of Thanks, and that you were able to celebrate with some of your favorite people, people who make you smile and laugh and dream big dreams.  We’ve got a little more than a month left in the year and I really want to make it a good one.  Today I want to talk a bit about Thanksgiving yesterday and the first Thanksgiving all those years ago.  We remember the first Thanksgiving as a time of joining between the Native Americans and Pilgrims who had recently arrived in America.  For the Pilgrims this day was a celebration of life and new friends.  For the Native Americans they also celebrated new friendships. It’s unfortunate that in the generations following things got really screwed up between the settlers and the large people group they would become.  Not only were settlers famous for “gifting” diseases that native populations had no defenses for, they ended up taking land and resources from them.  This wasn’t just a problem in America but in all countries that were settled by people from Europe.

It’s sad that what was such a happy event turned into something so challenging and tragic, and it’s sad that we didn’t learn our lesson from it, but people all over the world are still hurting each other without thinking about it or taking the time to consider what might happen if they made such a huge change (no political talk today, promise).  We’ve got a long way to go before that’s the default practice, but I have hope that someday we may get there or at least get closer to being more considerate more of the time.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was the amazing gift that the Native Americans gave and what we can learn from their generosity.  These people didn’t have to help the Pilgrims as they did.  They didn’t have to build the relationships with them that they did.  But I think their heritage and culture taught them that it’s the right thing to do and the best way of living, especially if you’re aware of Mother Earth/Mother Nature’s role in your life as many of them were and are still today. These people were willing to give to the Pilgrims without necessarily expecting a lot back, regardless of what the Pilgrims were really able to bring to the table like weapons or knowledge of the world at large.

Today there are still men and women who are giving selflessly of themselves, or giving because they see a need.  You’ve probably heard of CNN Heroes and shows like Extreme Home Makeover, not to mention countless service men and women and other men and women, boys and girls who are making a difference around the world without a national stage or recognition.  These people are willing to give without knowing if their gift and/or generosity will ever really be appreciated.  They’re willing to give because they saw a need and were able to fill it.  This weekend as you’re out shopping I encourage you to look for opportunities to give.  Maybe it’s a little money in the Salvation Army buckets, maybe it’s a little extra spent on someone special or picking up an extra to donate to a shelter or food/clothing/toy drive.  What will you give?

A Call for Change

As we look back at this past week some of us are feeling really challenged and surprised by how things have turned out. Throughout the US people are reeling over the dramatic wake-up call that was the Election on Tuesday night. Some of us are surprised that our candidate actually won and others of us are surprised that our candidate didn’t win and people picked the other person. There were several “upsets” throughout the different races around the US, the presidency being just one of them (but the one that affected everyone). I’ve been reading lots of different responses over the past week, some I’m surprised by because I never thought the person who wrote them would feel that way, some I cringe over because of how much hate is being thrown around, and others impress me with their willingness to really dive into things that are painful and challenging with sensitivity and wisdom.

I’m a big Christmas person. I love the cheer, the celebration, the happiness, the love, the gifting, the giving and the togetherness. I have to be honest and say that I’m OK with Christmas decorations being up in stores and showing up around the towns I go to and even on some houses as early as Halloween. While I don’t know if I could live in a “Christmas village” where it’s Christmas all year long, there are things about the concept that are appealing. However, as awesome as it might be to be in a Christmas mood all year long I don’t think it would change who we are as people and the mistakes we make, failures we have and challenges we have that we should work through but often put aside during the holidays.

But what the holidays each year do remind us is that together things are better. The next few months and year will probably be filled with lots of adjustments, and some of them will be more painful and difficult than others. The election has shown us exactly how divided we are as a nation with about half of the people who voted voting for each candidate. We’ve been hearing over the past months and years how isolated minorities have been and felt, we’ve seen the ways that people generalize and make assumptions (and bad actions/reactions) based on qualities of age, race and belief systems. Change has been called for over and over with varying degrees of success. But as the definition of insanity states (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), if we really want change, we actually have to change. The victory of a non-political candidate for the biggest leadership role in the nation is a big indication to me that people really do want change (even if the elected individual seems to not be the right one for the job because of some things they’ve said) and are willing to work with the challenges that will be present to make that change happen.

Together doesn’t mean that we ignore things that are wrong, together means to me that we choose to work together to be better. Together means to me that we’re stronger when we’re together. Together means to me that we’ve got more minds to come up with more ideas. Together means to me that we have to be open to forgive each other because we will do and say stupid things sometimes. Together means to me that we’re not alone when we’re grieving or upset or hurt. Together doesn’t mean to me that we all have the same ideas or beliefs, we’re all different and that is to be respected and appreciated.

I don’t have all the answers, I never claim to. But I do believe that we will be a better nation and world if we work together. It won’t be easy for us to truly come together given how divided we are, but if we really are upset with how some people are treated, and how the future looks for some of our children and grandchildren and for some of the nations of the world, I think we have to put aside some of our differences and find the common ground that we can work with and build from.