Adult Lessons for Success

Do you enjoy naps? They’re one of the things that I’ve added to my life as an adult (starting in college of course) and something that I wonder why we got rid of in the first place. I don’t feel shame when I take time for a nap because I know that I’m listening to my body and caring for it in the way it is asking. And this is definitely healthier than responding to all the sweet cravings that I may have, although I don’t completely ignore them either. As it turns out, not only are there some perks to being an adult (being able to eat dessert first, taking naps, drinking coffee and alcohol, choosing what is purchased at the grocery store etc.), there are some good success lessons there too.

Sometimes you can start with the good stuff. One way to motivate yourself is to start with the easy wins, things you can clear off your to-do list very easily and get to not only celebrate getting stuff done, but visually see stuff getting done. I find it much easier to work when I have done all the little things like working through my most active emails or having a clean kitchen. I don’t see that as procrastinating, I see that as having peace of mind that I’ve attended to things that will nag at me and distract me until I do take care of them.

Listening to yourself and being attentive enough to catch when you’re struggling is another important key. Sometimes it’s easier to get back on task than other times, so it’s important to know yourself and know when you’re truly needing to take a break (go for a walk, do something else etc.) or when it’s just time to take a quick coffee making break and get back to work. If you’re really getting stuck and taking a break didn’t work and neither did pushing through, then you should accept that it’s time to move onto something else and come back to what you’re working on now when you’re more focused.

Yes, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with being an adult, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. What other good things have you experienced because you’re an adult?

Future and Present Cost Considerations

My partner’s car decided it was going to pull a fast one about two weeks ago and ever since we’ve been sharing my car. It’s been less challenging than it could be because he’s out of work right now and I work from home some days, but it’s definitely been a challenge on multiple levels. The past couple of days I’ve really been thinking about it and experiencing some stress over how much my car has been used and how many miles have been put on it over these past few weeks because my partner isn’t quite as light of a driver as I am (he isn’t as conscientious about trips and planning ahead etc.).

But tonight as I was thinking about it and thinking about what I have to do or would like to do in the coming days and weeks which would involve my car, I decided I had to make a decision. Do I continue to stress about miles and costs and the impact this has had on my life and my car, as well as the costs and challenges we’ve had with his car, or do we do our best and move on and accept the costs and sacrifices and chalk it up to the experience of 2020? Do I regret the losses or do I just accept them and move forward committed to earning more and making decisions that hopefully won’t put us in similar positions in the future?

I think these are questions we have to ask, especially when it comes to successes and failures. Will a small cost now more than repay itself in the future? Will I likely regret not making these decisions or buying these things in the future? Will I end up spending more (time, effort, dollars, health, stress) in the future if I don’t move now? Is it smarter to wait to spend time/money or smarter to act/buy now? Will it really help anyone or anything if I wait? Is waiting ultimately you trying to avoid the problem/question/situation and hope it goes away, or are you truly able to put off a decision until a different/better time? Will waiting/acting now positively or negatively impact important relationships to me.

Some things are no-brainer decisions, but you have to be willing to ask those questions and learn the facts, and not just shy away from them or let the question run circles around your brain and decide you’ve got too much going on up there already. Regarding the car, I ultimately decided to start by being thankful that I have a car that works great and we can use. That doesn’t change or address most of the questions I have been considering, but it does give me a peace of mind to be able to make those decisions and immediately lowers my stress. What questions and decisions do you need to tackle this week?

What Are We Teaching?

There are tons of questions about what the future holds right now, especially for educating the next generation (and even some of the adults interested in furthering their formal education), thanks to the virus. If you’ve been reading along for a while now you probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of the current system we have, or maybe I should say the specifics that they’re required to teach. I think the concept of having kids come together to learn for set amounts of time is a good one, for many reasons including because it does typically work with the need for many parents to be out of the house at work, but more importantly because it should teach them many of the essential interpersonal skills they need when they’re adults.

But with all the questions being raised about the safety of crowds and large gatherings like school classrooms and the number of parents who say that they absolutely aren’t capable of really helping their kids learn this stuff, even though they’ve all been through it, I think it’s beyond time that we really sat down and talked about what had to change in the education world (especially with schools charging the same fees for not doing all the work or providing the same experience as in person). I think parents are right to be questioning the value of what their kids are learning both from an at-home/in school basis and in subject matter and with regards to finances too (paying teachers a fair rate and how much school costs for what’s provided especially if the students are at home).

This week two things that relate to this topic have been happening, first that I’ve been listening to an online seminar about wealth, and second that I’ve been hearing from some people about how challenged they’ve been lately by people. It got me thinking about what we’re really teaching our kids and what we need to be teaching them (and as part of that what you can teach them or make sure they’re learning even if you can’t teach them math and history well). So what do kids need to learn? They need to learn things like honesty, openness, communication, literacy, finances, interpersonal relationships, nutrition, basic health practices, consideration for others, hard work, and curiosity. You don’t have to be good at all those things, you can learn together, and there are many ways including TV shows and teachers/experts that can help you help them establish a strong foundation to build on in whatever ways they do in the future.

You can’t force your kids to become lawyers or doctors because it’s the “best future” for them according to all the experts, nor should your dream for them necessarily be the dream they pursue. Not only will you be prouder of them, I know they’ll be better set for success and they’ll do more to make the world a better place, if you instead help ingrain in them these values. What are you working on teaching your kids or learning with them so far this summer?

The Importance of Awareness

How aware are you? Do you notice when things change on your street or in your home or building? Do you notice when people get hair cuts or wear something new and different? Do you notice the birds singing in the mornings and the animals scampering around outside? Are you able to pick up on the underlying issues or tensions with customers? Do you notice when coworkers have a lot on their plate or when things are happening with the bosses? Do you notice when your partner or kids are struggling? Sure, some of us are able to hide our challenges to a degree but there’s a lot that goes on in our lives and in the world as a whole that can’t be hidden, and it’s this stuff that we’re talking about. Why? Because the amount of awareness that you have can impact how successful you can be.

If you’re an aware person naturally you consider the costs to others over the benefits to yourself when you make a decision, you consider the impact of your choices on others, you take time to think before responding in emotionally charged situations, you own up when something is your fault, you address and work on things that go wrong even when it’s challenging, you think about the words you use before you say them, and you consider long term and short term benefits and costs when making big decisions, just to name a few.

What can being aware do for you and the world we all share? We can be more conscious about our decisions, for example choosing to do all our errands at once rather than spread out over several days to reduce emissions, or choosing the most green method of delivery for our online purchases. While we don’t know exactly what the future holds, being aware we can try to make decisions that we think will be better for us both in the present and the future. Being aware means being considerate of others and looking out for your elderly neighbors, or staying home if you feel sick rather than infect your extended family or coworkers. Being aware also gives you the opportunity to see and experience some pretty cool things that others miss out on because they’re not looking.

Being aware, much like practicing common sense, love and compassion, isn’t really difficult, and with a little practice you can turn it into a habit that will empower you to notice things that others don’t and take smarter actions and make wiser decisions for both your future and the future of the world we all share. Do you consider yourself an aware person?

Helping Your Customers

In July we’re taking a look at some things that have changed and/or become more important throughout the challenges, changes and transformation brought on by the virus and related issues. Last week we talked about how businesses can do a better job of working with customers, the first week we talked about communication, and this week we’re going to talk about being helpful.

I know, that may sound a little silly, but the reality is that not every business or business owner is truly in business to help others. Yes, as a business you should have an eye and ear to profit, but one of the best ways to guarantee that happening is when you are truly helping your customers. Why? Because if you’re helping them they’ll want to come back and get more help or share about you with others who need the same help. Of course, we’re not talking about just help in the sense of medical help or help fixing something, but about getting assistance answering questions they may have, resolving a problem, or meeting a need or desire. So being helpful may mean selling someone a 1000 piece puzzle, caring for (aka tiring out) their kids for an afternoon, providing a definition to a medical term, or selling someone a box of pasta and a jar of sauce.

You can absolutely have a business, even a successful one, and not make any real effort to care about being helpful. But, you probably won’t have lots of positive reviews, enthusiastic repeat customers, or anyone you could call a superfan or die-hard-enthusiast. These are the average or even the hated companies that people put up with primarily because they don’t have a choice or the penalty is too much to consider switching/moving/changing. Personally, I don’t think that’s the way to run a company, I believe businesses should train their people to be helpful, and always have the focus on their services and products helping customers and potential customers.

Being helpful doesn’t mean sacrificing our bottom line or our ethics, but it does mean being more helpful to your people, even if it means changing what you’re offering or how you’re offering it. There’s been a lot of pivoting we’ve seen over the past few months, and maybe what your people need most is for you to continue in that area. Maybe this means offering new products and services that are in line with the health crisis, maybe that means offering a smaller menu that will make it easier on your chefs and keep costs down, maybe that means letting your people work from home, maybe that means having more virtual or low/no-contact services and products that can be ordered online and picked up, or maybe that just means sending out a newsletter each week with some cheer and helpful insights.

This week I encourage you to consider how helpful you’re currently being to your customers and how you can continue to be just as helpful as they’ve always loved you to be, or become more helpful. I know that the rewards are there for companies and leaders who do take the time and make the effort to be helpful, because they have happier staffs and employees who stay with the company longer, fewer returns and refunds to deal with, customers who return and praise the company, and don’t have to spend as much on marketing and advertising because they’ve got great word of mouth and community advertising. How do you help your customers?

Patience and Progress

One of the things that’s been interesting as we’ve watched this virus challenge evolve and move through the first half of 2020 is how agonizingly slow it seems the learning process is. I don’t know that we often have the opportunity to really watch the learning process from day one. If we think about things that we’ve been working on for years like finding answers to cancer, or discussing the education system, or the different culture and race conflicts and genocides over the centuries, or even world hunger and the need for clean water, in many of the situations we’ve been able to make some progress and have a starting point at which to turn or can look at what people have done before us that has worked on one level or another.

And yes, in some ways we can turn to old standards to get some answers like doing autopsies, talking with medical professionals who have been part of crisis zones, and running known medical diagnostics on samples. But even now, some six months into this fight, we’re still learning new things every day and there’s still so much doctors don’t know yet and may not know for months if not years. You may have heard the saying that you can learn something new (and be good at it) by investing somewhere between 20 and 10,000 hours. I know, that’s a huge difference, but it depends on what you’re learning and how much of an expert you want to become at it. But as I’ve said before, learning really should be part of our whole lives, and we should be continually learning.

I think we forget how long some things do take, because we have so much at the tips of our fingers through the internet, or a few messages away through the internet with an expert who does know. These past six or so months have given those of us who are part of the general population, a really good idea of the roller coaster ride that doctors and scientists have gone on for many years with the cancer, Alzheimer/dementia and HIV studies just to name a few. I’m not saying that I think we need a shortcut or to have all the answers (although some more answers would be reassuring for everyone on all of these counts), but that the learning process, like success, sometimes takes a long time, certainly longer than we would like. Of course, there are often some things we can do to keep progress moving and continue learning and being successful, and sometimes that progress involves figuring out what doesn’t work.

How can you show patience while making progress on your success journey this week?

The Order of Success

Sometimes the order in which you do things really matters. Order is something you have to be conscious of when getting dressed each day (underwear goes on first), taxes can’t be filed until the year is up, you can’t get married before you’ve got a partner, you can’t admire a flower while it’s still a seed, you can’t get payment from a client before discussing or even doing the work. In these cases if you try to do things backwards you’ll often end up without success or with a big mess.

Sometimes you’ve got some flexibility in the order, for example when you’re working on cutting the vegetables for a pasta salad, but ultimately you do have to cook the pasta before you can add it to the salad, or it won’t be a truly edible salad. Sometimes you can get lucky and do things out of order (for example when you don’t read the full instructions) and it still works out. Sometimes you can do things out of order or not read the directions and be able to fix it in the end or redo it without too much issue or extra time spent (of course this is both very frustrating and very relieving at the same time).

Sometimes it’s good to push the boundaries of order though. Sometimes it’s good to test things out a different way from how you’ve always done it. Sometimes we do things in a certain order because “that’s how we’ve always done it” so that’s how we do it, but that may not be the most efficient way or the most practical way or the best way based on how things have changed or developed. Order doesn’t usually take into account personal preference either. For example, sure you can still send a letter through the post office, it’s a fun and practical way to send things, but you can also email or call someone and get a much faster response. Another example is how we still can travel by horse and cart, but it’s also much faster and probably also safer to travel by car or plane or train. Another example is regarding seasoning in recipes, you may prefer more seasoning and should double the seasoning in the recipe, or be allergic to or dislike one of the suggested seasonings and should not include it.

The good news is there are plenty of smart people out there (in addition to yourself) that you can ask why something is done the way it’s done and contemplate if there’s a better way of doing something if you’re struggling or just curious. What order will you contemplate this week?

Independence Inspired Success

This coming weekend here in the US we’re celebrating the Fourth of July, or Independence Day, the day that congress declared independence from Great Britain. With all the talk that’s already been happening around the holiday I thought today I’d share some success insights based on this holiday.

It started with courage. It wasn’t easy at the time to choose to leave the safety of Britain, it wasn’t easy to start over in a completely foreign place without any of the resources that you’re used to having access to, it wasn’t easy to figure out a completely new place and the nature-based challenges that came along with it. So it took great courage for not only the first couple groups of people to head over to the US, but also for all people through Independence Day and the American Revolutionary War to choose this new and developing nation.

It continued with teamwork. The only reason the signers of the Declaration of Independence were able to do so, is because they had the foundation from the people who originally colonized the US, as well as the support of all who were alive and part of the revolution in the 1770’s. Each of the men who put pen to paper, each of the men and women who fought in one way or another to make that independence a reality, to the children who were given the opportunity to live in “the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” are all part of this team and the motivation behind these people coming together to take a stand.

It is still a work in progress. Any good victory starts with one step of success. Independence Day was one of the steps in the long journey of the US, a journey we’re still on today. No, we’re not still working on our independence, but we sure have a ton of kinks we’re still working on as we develop our nation, just like other nations around the world who have been around for much longer than the US.

So as we continue to navigate 2020 it’s more important than ever to look back at 1776 and the first Independence Day, and remember what it was that helped it succeed, because those same things can help us succeed in bringing this country to the next peak on its journey.

Productivity, Procrastination and Fear

So the other day as I was wondering where all the hours had gone to, I got to thinking again about productivity, but this time about procrastination and why sometimes we struggle to get things done even if we’re not doing any of the things that might be seen as traditional procrastination activities. And the word that popped up is one that we’ve talked about a lot as a world over the past few months, and that’s fear.

Do we delay or struggle to get things done because we fear having nothing to do when it’s done? Do we fear running out of work? Do we fear missing details (even if they may not be as important as we think they are)? Are we stuck on the concept of working a specific set of hours and are fearful of what someone will say if we don’t work those full hours? Are we doing things in ways that take longer because we’re afraid of doing them in a different way that someone might not agree with or approve of?

I think on one level or another one or several of those fears do resonate whether we want to admit it or not. Some fears are healthy because they help us be prepared or warn us when something bad or dangerous is in our path, so it should not be our goal to get rid of all our fears. But if you’re feeling rather rational and logical at the moment, you can come up with “well, then…” answers in response to each of those fears, like listing all the other things we could get done (including resting) the sooner we give our full attention to our activities. Depending on the situation we may be able to then conquer those fears and get back up to speed on our productivity right then and there, or at least begin the process of making changes and catching ourselves when we fall back into old, unproductive patterns in the coming days and weeks.

Of course it all comes down to whether or not we feel a desire to conquer those fears and/or be more productive. After the last few months many of us have learned that there’s a lot to be said for both getting stuff done and having time off, so now might be exactly the right time to break through old habits and practices that hurt your productivity or hold you back. What have you been learning or experiencing about your productivity levels lately?

Success Stuck in the Past?

This month we’ll be talking a lot about next steps and change, and today I wanted to start with talking about one of the challenges to success. That challenge is spending too much time in the past. The past has lots of important and helpful qualities to us, but I don’t believe it can or should be the only influence on our present or future lives and success. I love reading stories that were written years ago (some of my favorites are from 10+ years ago), talking about and celebrating holidays that were started years ago, and getting to know people who were born in different generations than I. I think it’s important to have a basic grasp of different events throughout history so that we know some of how we got where we are, some of the things that people experienced during their lives, and ways that the world and our cultures have changed over time. It’s also important to know a little about the stuff that happened and the people who existed that weren’t good so that we don’t repeat the wrongs that happened. The past can also guide you on the right actions to take, for example if something has worked for you in the past it’s possible and sometimes likely that it will work again going forward.

Yes, looking at the past also tells you when you need to apologize or make changes or try to fix things, because with the new knowledge you’ve got now that you’re in the future, you realize a mistake happened or things worked out exactly opposite of what was expected or planned. Apologies and changes in the present/future don’t change the past, but they can give us the relatively clean slate to make better decisions going forward and work better together in the future.

But if we only live with eyes in the rear view mirror, we’ll miss a whole lot that’s coming up, as well as opportunities to innovate and make things better. We couldn’t have gotten to here with cell phones if years ago people hadn’t decided that they didn’t like relying on the pony express to communicate or even further back of waiting for news of other places to arrive by boat or other long distance travelers (if ever). If you’re only looking in the past you’ll also not be able to fix mistakes going forward (you won’t have motivation to do anything different if you’re stuck panicking over what is in the past). Also, if you’re only willing to deal in what you’ve done, you’re going to face one definition of insanity sooner or later which is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen and experienced enough of insanity over the past few months and I don’t want to go through that again. What are your tips for mixing past and present to help with the future?