The Success of Giving

We’re at the tail end of the official start to the holiday season, we’ve done Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Today has been Giving Tuesday.  I’ve gotten over 300 emails requesting donations today, and I’m sure you’ve had quite a few as well.  I donate every month to a number of organizations, so it’s not the reminder to donate for me that it is for so many.  I think Giving Tuesday is a great way to finish off this official start to the holiday season, and get us back into thinking about what it’s really all about, and that’s giving to others.

In business and the study of the economy we talk about numbers a lot, and each year the spending on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday has increased, which makes many business owners happy.  But we don’t really talk about the numbers as far as what’s given each year to non-profits, so here’s one for you: already over $45 million has been raised on this Giving Tuesday.  That’s $45 million more veterans, children, and women being helped.  More people with disabilities given the support they need.  More faith-based organizations spreading their message around the world.  I would say that’s a successful day of giving.

As I was thinking about Giving Tuesday and the whole concept of giving in the holiday season, I was reminded that we really give all year long.  We choose how much we give of ourselves to our careers, our families, our communities, our planet and even ourselves every day.  Some days we give more than others because the numbers line up.  Sometimes we’re more passionate about something or someone so we give them more of ourselves.  And of course on other days and to other people and projects we give very little because we don’t approve or just don’t have anything left to give.

Ultimately, if we don’t give there won’t be success.  Our jobs won’t get done, our partners won’t be loved, the earth will fall apart, our children won’t be taught, our bodies will suffer, our communities will decline and there won’t be much hope for the next generation.  So I would encourage you to check in with yourself today and this week and see what kind of giving you’re doing on a regular basis.  Are you giving to the people and things that matter most to you, things that you would be sad to see gone if they weren’t successful?  How can you be a better giver today?

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Giving Thanks for Success

Thanksgiving is tomorrow here in the USA.  It’s one of my favorite holidays all year because it’s not a religious holiday that only some celebrate depending on their religion, or political/military holiday which, while universal, some may choose not to recognize because they don’t support the war/military actions (even though I think we should support those in the military even if we don’t agree with all military actions and campaigns).  Thanksgiving is a holiday that we all celebrate.

It’s a time for family and friends to gather over something we can all get behind and don’t get disappointed by: food.  While there are some traditions around the food that’s typically served, it’s less about the exact food that’s served, and more about the importance of gathering around the table together and taking time to celebrate all the things you’re thankful for, including those people around you.

The original Thanksgiving was a celebration of life, of staying alive for another year, even having hope that the next year would be better than the last and that the pilgrims might even be able to thrive in Plymouth.  Thanksgiving is a reminder that sometimes your successes come with challenges, that it’s not always easy to make success happen.  There were pilgrims who didn’t survive to see the First Thanksgiving or beyond, and some of the other early settlements were completely wiped out without any real success to show for their hard work.

That you’ve made it this far in 2018 is reason to celebrate and be thankful.  Maybe your year hasn’t gone the way you hoped it would or wanted it to, but I have a feeling that you’ve had at least a few victories that you can celebrate this Thursday.  I encourage you to share about and celebrate the successes that you’ve had this year on Thanksgiving with friends and/or family, you never know what doors could open because you share about what you’re thankful for.

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

Thankful for Things

The official holiday of Thanksgiving is over and people around the US and the world are diving into Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, many in the US starting off the season of buying and giving with some purchases yesterday on Black Friday. So today I wanted to talk about something that we adults don’t always talk about, but the kids tend to bring up when asked about what they’re thankful for: stuff. It may be more mature to talk about the other things in life we’re happy for like our partners, family, jobs and having a roof over our heads, but most of us have a lot of stuff to be thankful for as well. I’m talking about the books, the clothes, the food the dishes, the technology, the education, the size and quality of our homes and more.

I think we’ve wrongfully put some shame around being thankful for the things we have. Sometimes when we talk about things it becomes bragging, but that’s not what I’m talking about. And while it may not be healthy to be focused on having things and getting things, the fact is we have things. Are we thankful for them? Because I think we should be.

Thanksgiving may be over but we’re heading into a season that does focus on things, so today I would encourage you and your kids to spend time thinking about the material blessings in your life and really finding gratitude in them. Be proud that you’ve earned the money to buy them, appreciate all that you see around you and make sure you express a prayer of thanks or thankful meditation around all that you’ve been blessed with.

Who is Thankful for You?

As I was thinking about Thanksgiving and our topic of the month, success, I came across this bit of wisdom from Amaka Imani Nkosazana:

“Stop seeking attention from people who don’t give you the time of day. Value your time, comfort your spirit, have peace of mind. There are people who love you and care about you. Give your smiles to them.”

Each of us face the challenge of wanting attention from those who won’t give it, like people at our offices or family members. And yet we sometimes are guilty of not giving attention to those we do care about and want our attention, like our kids and our partner. Why do we work so hard to get attention from people who don’t care about us or want to give us that attention? Sometimes I think it’s because we simply are so focused on getting the attention we want, that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. Sometimes maybe we don’t think that the attention from that person or those people who do want to give it to us would be enough for us and we’ll still not feel like we’re wanted enough.

When it comes to the topic of success we need to make sure that our attention is focused on the right people and the right things. One thing to consider when making a decision about where to focus our attention is the long term affects of making a decision to put so much effort and attention into someone or something. Yes, sometimes we let important relationships that matter to us go a little because of the other commitments in our lives, but if we don’t make up that time in the future or if we don’t recommit to them in the future they’ll distance themselves from us. You may never be able to please the one person in the world that you want to please. That doesn’t mean you should give up on pleasing them, but that it shoudln’t be your focus.

As we head into Thanksgiving here in the US in less than one day I encourage you to focus on the people you are thankful for, and those who are thankful for you. Spend time with the people who mean the most to you, and let the rest of the world do their own thing, if for only one day.

What are You Thankful For?

I hope you’re ready to celebrate this week with family and friends. Thanksgiving is one of those unique holidays for us in America that doesn’t relate to a religion and therefore includes everyone in the celebration. And while many people may celebrate July 4th, I think more people in the US take time to gather together with friends and family in November to take time to remember what they’re all thankful for.

Sometimes the simple things of life are the best. This week I’m sure you’re thinking about the lists you’ve got for Thanksgiving dinner and maybe Christmas even, so I thought I would keep things simple today with a reminder from Tecumseh:

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

What if being thankful wasn’t as complicated as we make it out to be? What if we didn’t have to have terrible events in our lives to be thankful for our life? What might our lives look like if we expressed our thanks more often? I know we’d be more positive and I bet we would be better able to take the tough stuff in stride. Our stress levels would be down and we’d have better relationships. Instead of looking for what was going wrong we’d focus on what was going right. This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take a step back from the whirlwind that is your life and take time each day for the rest of 2017 to write down 10 things you’re thankful for. They could be people, events, nature, or things, basically anything that has made you smile that day, went well or you appreciate. Here’s my list for today:

1 the sound of soothing rain drops outside my window
2 the opportunity to do good for the world and recycle
3 my cup of tea
4 being able to see the world around me
5 funny text messages from my partner
6 being able to work from home
7 helping lots of great individuals, families and businesses grow
8 clean, dry laundry
9 being able to support some great charities and organizations this year
10 you!

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on why Thanksgiving is special for you.

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?

Thankful for Relationships

I’m super excited to be looking ahead to Thanksgiving and wanted to take time today to talk about being thankful in our relationships. Relationships are full of challenges, sometimes heartbreaks, and often opportunities for joy.  They’re not for the faint of heart and take work if you really want them to be successful.  But there are also plenty of reasons to give thanks for them.  Relationships mean that we’re not alone in the world, they mean that we’ve got someone there to support us, they challenge us and help us grow, they give us a helping hand in raising kids and in fulfilling our dreams.

One of the things my partner says to me is “thank you for loving me.”  It sounds like a very simple phrase but it’s got so much power and says many things.  First, it’s an affirmation of our connection, he recognizes that I love him and am invested in our relationship.  Second it’s him admitting that he’s not perfect and may be difficult to love sometimes.  Now, if you’ve been reading along for a while you know that I don’t see a point in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, so even on his most challenging day he’s still someone I want to be with.  So the value in him admitting that he’s not perfect is in part him wanting reassurance that I do love him regardless or in spite of his faults, and a promise to do better because he’s as committed to us as I am.

It kills me when I see so many hurting, hurtful and broken relationships because some of them could be healthy relationships if some steps were taken sooner, while others I’m amazed that they’re still hanging in there for some unknown reason when they could very possibly be happy with someone else.  Being that this is the holiday season now I’m going to say that the glass is half full today and encourage you to take time this holiday season to rip off a few band-aids and really talk with your partner about how you can make your relationship healthier and more fulfilling.  Stop looking elsewhere, stop with the threats, stop faking it, stop lying to yourself and start talking about the problems and how you can resolve them.  Take time for just the two of you this season and build on the good that you have or rebuild the good you once had.

Taking Time to be Grateful

This month we’ll be taking time to once again talk about being thankful.  With all the stresses we face in life it’s not surprising that we forget to be thankful.  Expressing thanks isn’t a magic pill, but I believe it can do a lot of good, especially if we do it more often.  To start the month I want to share some inspiration from a wise person, Brendon Burchard:

“Gratitude is appreciation that has finally struck the heart.

You begin with mindfulness to something beautiful or kind or fortunate.

It’s a child’s smile. The patience of your lover. A lucky opportunity. Some mercy you’ve been granted. A warm sun on your neck. How the Fall waves its wand turning the trees yellow and red.

You simply notice these things and reflect on them, and soon attention becomes appreciation. You are thankful.

You sense you are blessed. Or if that feels too self-concerned, that those things out there—your luck, your child, your lover, divine nature—those things are blessings one and all.

And they are. And you are.

But this is where most stop.

They notice a blessing, and they intellectually appreciate it.

But they go no deeper into the well of wonder.

They are too busy. The world is too full of tasks and obligations and distraction. So many other things to pay attention to, so many interests to scan next.

They notice much, feel little.

Yet the masters of this life slow time and brave greater feeling.

They let appreciation percolate.

They think about their blessings, wonder about them, talk about them, journal about them, demonstrate thanks and joy for them through prayer, tender conversations, acts of service.

They feel indebted to give as much as they are given and more.

Emotion springs forth. Tears flow. A desire to give thanks enlivens the troubled soul.

Spirit enters the room and suddenly appreciation flowers into the only emotion that makes life worthwhile: Gratitude.

And so let us ask,

“If I slowed down
and noticed the blessings all around,
would I be willing to allow
such divine gifts into my heart now?””

Will you join me this month in remembering to be thankful? In choosing to be more thankful?  In looking for moments to be thankful about? I hope you will!

Haunted House Success

With Halloween just a few days away I thought today we’d talk about haunted attractions and what we can learn from them as business owners. To be clear we’re talking about the places that get set up every October with decorations and inspired by spooky myths and legends that people visit. I’m not talking about places that are reported or known to be haunted like Eastern State Penitentiary or Winchester Mystery House. Haunted attractions are very successful despite or maybe because they are only open for a short time. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from them.

Haunted attractions have one goal: to scare people. I’ve met more than one business owner who really has no clue why they’re offering what they’re offering in their business. If you don’t have a purpose how can you know what you’re working towards, and why would people choose you over others offering similar things with a goal?

Haunted attractions have lots of moving parts behind the scenes. Any good business has support systems set up to make it successful. This includes the marketing, financial, customer/client management, and product/service creation/selling/management. The best haunted attractions are those that have great moving parts, and those moving parts work seamlessly with the attraction, they don’t detract from or remind you that you’re at a haunted attraction that’s all fake.

Haunted attractions have a great team. Just about every haunted attraction has people involved, whether just a ticket taker or actors and actresses throughout the attraction who interact with and scare guests. If the attraction is any good when the guests leave they have lots of positive things to say about the “people” they interacted with, which is how it should be for every business.

Haunted attractions take creativity. Business isn’t easy and isn’t straightforward. I don’t know too many businesses that don’t take a little creativity to run, whether in dealing with customer requests and coming up with what to offer, not to mention the marketing!

So as you visit haunted attractions with family and friends this year, see what you can learn and apply to your business from them, and share your ideas and insights in the comments below.