Category: entrepreneurship

Diversify Your Life

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But I Like My Life The Way It Is

Some people love change. They’re always creating, running around; they make the rest of us look boring. They need change in order to feel alive. Think of people you know who love to travel and meet new people. For them, the excitement of not knowing what the day will hold is great. Most of us, however, don’t like change all that much. We like our routine. I eat the same thing for breakfast everyday so I don’t have to think about it. I don’t get bored with it, I love it.

Diversification is a Super Power

To be alive is to always be on the verge of change.  We don’t have a choice. Sh*t happens. But we do have a choice of how we deal with it. We are told to diversify our money, but we are not told to diversify our lives. James Altucher, an interesting guy, created a chart called, how to diversify your life. He says, “The only way to survive, to get off the floor, to build, to have ideas, to create businesses, to have flourishing relationships is with diversification.”

Pick a Place to Start

Here are a few places to start:

  1. Diversify Ideas –  write down 10 ideas a day to exercise your “idea muscles.”
  2. Diversify the People You Meet (and Where You Meet Them) – Schedule meeting new people on your calendar, make a conscious effort to find people that are “different.” If this seems like too much, diversify where you meet them. Go to meetups, take classes, travel.
  3. Diversify What You Read – Do you get your news from the same sources every day? Try new ones. Ones you don’t agree with. Practice keeping an open mind about why they hold a different view. Get books out of the library. Ask people what they are reading. “Just 20 pages a day equals 36 books a year.”

None of this is easy, but I guarantee you will see unimaginable benefits from the effort. If you have children, think of the power of what you are modeling for them. The way to be happy and whole and able to adapt to change.

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The Case for “Abby Normal”

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Who is Abby Normal?

In one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein, the lab assistant (Igor), has to steal a brain from another lab (for Frankenstein’s monster). Igor makes a mistake and takes a jar marked.. ‘abnormal’ brain. When confronted, Igor says that the name on the jar was, Abby Normal. Watch the clip

Normal is Overrated

I have a split personality. Part of me wants to be abby normal. I have always said I am, “too weird for the normal people and to normal for the weird people.” I meant this as partly reality, partly to justify why I am happy and proud to not care what people think. The other part of me is desperate to be normal. Growing up with limited parenting, I often had to guess at what was ‘normal’. The truth is, I still have to guess, more often that I would like to admit.

The amount of energy I have spent to appear ‘normal’ is well, crazy. Had a listened to Maya Angelou (quote above), I would have stopped trying to be what other people think is “normal”. I would have embraced my inner weirdo and been proud. Instead, I spent years looking to ‘fit in’ or be someone that people think is okay. Why? Right now, I’m not sure I know. There is human/biological need to belong. Could that be part of it? But really, reflecting on this, I don’t understand … why did I feel this was necessary?

Breaking the “Normal” Mold

It’s good to be normal, AND there’s nothing wrong with being weird. If you’re like me and feel a little too weird for the normal people, then I ask you to love yourself. We are big tribe!

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Destination = A New Way of Seeing

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

Where Am I Going?

Many people see life as a series of destinations. Go to school, get married, have kids… like items on a checklist, we move on to the next destination without thinking much about the alternatives. In fact, you might be thinking, there are alternatives? What are they?

  • Don’t Go To “School” – I’m not recommending that people NOT go to school. What I’m suggesting is that we think about choices. If someone decides not to get a ‘formal’ education… do we think ‘less’ of them? Do we wonder about their intelligence? their ambition? Probably, because we are programmed to check off the items on the list. I have the good fortune to have relatives and friends who have formal educations and others that, for all kinds of reasons, chose not to. Both of these ‘categories’ of people in my life are the same. They love me, they teach me, they see me, they inspire me. Level of education doesn’t factor into it.
  • Don’t Get Married – This idea, fortunately, has changed since I was young. In my early years, an unmarried 40 year old woman (not a man) was see as an ‘old maid’, unlovable, broken, unattractive. Our culture is geared towards couples. If you are single woman… after a certain age, you are considered strange. In 1900, if you were 22 and unmarried you were lost forever, a spinster. (note that there is no male equivalent for this word.) In 2017, being a single woman is more acceptable, but we are still viewed less favorably than women in relationships.

Life as a Series of Lens Changes

Another way to look at life, is to think of it as a series of ‘lens’ changes – the way we see the world. The goal then becomes, seeing myself, other people, poverty, politics, my home town, my job, my friends… everything… in a new way. Imagine if you set the goal to re-evaluate your world view and all it’s component parts every 5 years. Not, did I hit the societal norm milestone, but did I grow? Did I change? Do I understand my responsibility to the world in a new way? Have I worked to make the world a better place in my own way?

Some of us have this way of looking at the world pushed on us by circumstances. Some of us; the artists, the change makers, the thinkers, the poets, the philosophers… accept that this is how we’ll live. Some of us are afraid to not be ‘normal.’ Afraid that we will be alone and lost.

Not everyone can be an artist. But everyone can shift their perception just a bit. Practice it. Make it a priority. Look for role models. Let me know how it goes.

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Small Things, Great Things

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All Things, Great and Small

When we are young, we are told that the decisions we make on things like, getting good grades or which college we go to, are the biggest decisions of our lives. The pressure to make the “right decision” is tremendous. Certainly in light of the cost of college and the associated debt, there is merit to this. But the truth is, the really important decisions are, small and occur daily.

Did I eat healthy food and rest enough? Did I talk to someone I love today? Did I get a hug? Did I remember to be grateful for my senses? My ability to walk and talk? For the beauty of the world around me? These may seem like ‘small’ things. But fortunately for many of us – they are huge, free and easily accessible. Yet, we take them for granted. We don’t see that these ‘small’ things are, in fact, ‘big’ and ‘great’.

Do I Hold On to Pain?

Some sadness and difficulty is part of every person’s life. How we take that burden and then grow (wallow) or shrink from it, is what separates those living fully, from those who are stuck. Modern living encourages quick solutions, instant information and self-gratification. If we can figure out how to harness the power of discomfort and/or learn to let go gracefully, then we can learn how the small things; a tweak to my attitude, a short conversation with someone I love, admitting I’m wrong, reaching out to someone else instead of thinking of myself, are the most important decisions we will make today.

Be Bold And Great Forces Will Come to Your Aid

I wrote a post in 2012 with this title. I remember the first time I heard it. It blew me away. Being bold seems like something someone else does… they take chances, they seem to get over failure easier than I do. They seem to be able to fight the ‘good fight’ and be a role model. I am here to tell you that you can too. You just need to find your way. Don’t do it because someone else is… do it because you believe it’s right.  Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s counterproductive. Be happy in failure, humble in success, joyful in our shared humanity.

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The Whys Have It

Strobist: Shoot-through umbrella 430ex at 1/4 power up and to my left about 2 to 3 feet from subjects. The cousins get together for a photo shoot at Grandma's house. There was very little cooperation. Note to self: Bribery works better than ...

But Why?

I am visiting my 2 year old (soon to be 3) granddaughter. If you have kids, you know what happens around their third birthday… everything becomes, why? And not just single, why is that? but a continuing stream of whys. Once I answer the first why, it is often followed by 4,5, or even 6 why questions in a row.

The Power of Why

If I become even slightly impatient with the steady stream of questions, I remember that asking why is one important way to learn. It’s unfortunate that we, as adults, stop asking why. We assume that we know the answer… so we don’t ask why. Or we’re afraid to look silly or worse, not all knowing. Somehow, by virtue of our age, we’re suddenly supposed to know ‘everything.’

Growing – Personally and Professionally

On a personal level, we can ask why of people we love to better understand their thoughts and feelings. This requires us to listen to the answer. If we just ask why and don’t work to understand the answer, we are missing an opportunity to connect to those we care most about.

Professionally, have you ever heard of root cause analysis (also known as the 5 whys) ? In this problem solving exercise, a series of why questions are asked in order to get at the ‘root’ of the problem. When there is an issue, we can keep asking why (of the people who best know the answer, i.e. maybe not the manager, but the worker) until we get some at the root.

Ask Humbly

When we ask why, we have to defer to the other person’s knowledge. This is not easy for those of us who think we’re smart and know a lot. I have to practice humility, daily. I have to remind myself that things change, often. Remind myself that other people know a lot, that they see things differently from me. And that is good. Every day, I look with gratitude at the people in my life, at the work I have the privilege to be engaged in, at the beauty of the world around me.

I don’t have to ask why nature is beautiful and powerful, I just know it is. It’s there everyday, unchanged in it’s power. There are other things that don’t require a why, but not that many. ‘Why’, fills in the blanks, updates the database in our heads, changes the way we interact with people in the world.

 

Photo Credit: The Three Hams  Make Less Noise

Never Try to Up Sell an Unhappy Customer

But I’m Not Wrong!

So, you’ve had a problem with someone. Your spouse, your customer, your kids… anyone. And now you need something from them. But you don’t want to apologize because:

  1. You didn’t do anything wrong
  2. You don’t like to apologize
  3. You’re sick and tired of taking other people’s crap
  4. The other person was wrong
  5. On and on and on…

There are 1001 and reasons why you shouldn’t have to say you’re sorry. All of them perfectly justified in your mind. So I’ll ask you this one question.

Do you want to be RIGHT? Or do you want to be HAPPY?

Some people will say, well, if I’m right, then I’m happy because I know I’m right. Oookaaay. If that’s how you feel, then you are all set. Or maybe you have a great example of how being ‘right’ is more important than being happy. I’m sure there are some. My point is that when we have conflict with someone, it may be because … we want to be right.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Of course the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is ‘righter’ than we are, because we need them. They are the lifeline to our business. They have the power to influence others, positively and negatively. The same goes for our friends, loved ones, co-workers. Every day we have a choice to be ‘right’. Every day we have a choice to graciously acknowledge that other people have a right to their positions.

Trying to convince them that their point of view is wrong… is, well, wrong. Even worse, trying to convince them that we are right (the up sell), is even worse. The best we can do is to listen and see if we can find a way to bridge the gap. We can maintain our dignity (no doormats allowed), and show that we are open to hearing something different.

I wish it were easier. I wish this was a skill we were taught in school, but like many important skills, we are on our own.

Image Credit: Steve  Steve Snodgrass

If I’m Talking, I’m Not Learning

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“But there ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening…” Rod Stewart

Listening as Learning

I need to remind myself that learning to listen to others is one of the keys to a happy life. It’s a skill I have never ‘mastered’ and never will. The act of making the effort to learn to improve my ability to listen openly, is worthwhile.

The power of listening to the people we love is boundless. If we are able to listen without judging or thinking about what we’re going to say… we give a priceless and rare gift. It takes intention, practice and self-discipline. If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right, it is.

When we stop talking, stop telling our side of the story, reminding people of how smart we are, then we actually can learn; about other people, about their world, their problems and their joys.

But I Don’t Like What They’re Saying!

Part of the reason we don’t listen is that we don’t want to hear others because we don’t agree with their opinion or point of view. If I disagree with someone, why would I want listen to them? They’re wrong! This is a natural reaction, an emotional reaction, a dangerous reaction.

Modern living and the short news cycle, reinforce that those who “talk”, especially on television or on social media… have influence. We listen only to those people who reinforce our current thinking or point of view. When this happens, it strengthens the negative ‘we’ vs. ‘them’ thinking. We are called sheep by politicians and we don’t prove them wrong, because no matter what, we follow along. We avoid listening and thinking for ourselves because it’s easier.

Getting Started

First, I have to admit that I’m not right. My point of view isn’t correct.  Whether the person is someone in my house or my neighborhood or where I work, each person has a right to the way they feel. I don’t have to agree with them, but if I can honestly listen to them, I might learn what they are afraid of, what motivates them; not what separates us but what binds us together.

If you are sincere in your desire to learn to listen better, here are some resources:

TED Talk –  5 Ways to Listen Better

Listening Skills- The 10 Principles of Listening

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The Case for Doing Nothing

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Plans for the Weekend?

When someone asks me what my plans are for the weekend, I often answer.. nothing. In fact, my goal is to have nothing to do. My other answer is… “my goal is to do less, and then do less than that.”

The Cult of Productivity

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I understand. We live in a world where doing is more important that being.

“Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” Brain Pickings Newsletter

The Case for Stillness

Are you a human being or a human “doing?” Learning to just be took practice for me.

We each have so many gifts; a unique way of looking at the world. We need that. We need you to be you. If all we do is, well… do…then we don’t take the time to know ourselves. To hear our own voice. To cultivate our own thoughts, to pay attention to our feelings, to remember what is important.

For today, can you stop doing so much? Can you sit in a chair and look out the window? Can you take a 5 minute walk? Can you step outside and look at the trees and the birds? Try it and let me know how it goes.

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The Return on Investment of Reading

My summer reading pile. From top to bottom: "Rhode Island Notebook" - Gabe Gudding "Freakonomics" - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner "How to be Alone" - Jonathan Frazen "A Handbook of ...

Why Should I Read Books?

In the age of Twitter (and I love Twitter), the time and energy for reading books is shrinking. Especially the kind of books that help us grow our businesses. Isn’t it easier to read ‘articles’, blog posts (yeah, like this one!) or your favorite business news source?

Here’s what goes on in my head…. Reading a book… ugh. It’ll take a long time. Not only do I not have a couple of hours to read a book, I don’t have the mental energy it takes to concentrate on a business book. My days are just too busy.

But often, the smartest person in the room, the one with a good perspective and ideas,  is the one who reads books. If you ask them what is the most recent business book they read, they’ll have a ready answer. We read books in school, but once we get out, we think it’s either not necessary or a luxury we can’t afford.

Skill Building

“In medical school, an ongoing lesson is that there will be ongoing lessons. You’re never done. Surgeons and internists are expected to keep studying for their entire career—in fact, it’s required to keep a license valid.” He continues, “knowledge workers, though, the people who” manage, market, and do accounting— “often act as if they’re fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction. The average knowledge worker reads fewer than one business book a year.”  Seth Godin

When I read a book, one that requires me to actually think, as opposed to my favorite mysteries, I have to focus 100% on the page. It’s one of the few times during the day (or evening) that I do only one thing at a time. I get to concentrate on just one thing and I build skills, knowledge, and perspective.

Finding The “Right” Investment

One of the hardest things for me is to figure out is ‘what’ to read. There are so many books! A quick search indicates there are some 11,000 business books published every year. How in the world can I sift through all that noise to find something that will actually give me some return for my precious time?

Here’s how I try to figure out what to read. I think about:

  1. An author, is this someone who has written something that I learned from before?
  2. A general business book that brings a big picture into focus (as opposed to ‘marketing’ or ‘finance’ or some other sub topic.)
  3. Bigger ideas or technology trends… not just specific companies or individual technologies.
  4. Books where the author has done research. The research means that the author had a hypothesis and then tested it.

Some of My  Favorites

  1. Anything by Chris Anderson, Amy Cuddy, Brene Brown, Daniel Gilbert, Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li, Seth Godin.
  2. Traditional favorites like: Warren Bennis on Leadership, Michael Gerber on Entrepreneurship and my all time favorite – Peter Drucker on anything he ever wrote about.

I’d love to hear how you select what books you will read and who your favorite authors are. Thanks!

Photo Credit: Summer reading list

 

Change Sucks

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“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

Change Sucks

Ok, so I’m going along in my life… things are okay, not terrible. Then all of a sudden (well it’s seems sudden), things fall apart. What the heck happened. I didn’t change! They did! I didn’t do anything wrong, they did! Why did they have to________? (fill in the blank) Why is __________happening to me? How come they always __________? If they would just listen to me about __________, none of this would have happened! I don’t want to change!

The Best Way to Cope With Change…

The best way to cope with change is to create it. This sucks too because it requires a lot of work. Ugh. It means I have to look at myself and figure out what my part is in creating this new reality. Then I have to figure out why I’m resisting it and THEN actually make the transition. It’s so much easier to just leave things as they are.

The problem is that life (your life, my life, everyone’s life) is in the middle of change, all the time. It’s just the way it is. We are creatures of habit. It takes energy and strength to create something new.

Looking for Role Models

As I look around for people who go with the “storm” rather than resist it, guess who does it best? Young people. Teens. Not only are the excited by change, they embrace it, they long for it, they see it as a positive force. Yes, there is a lot of emotion that spill out of them, but change is messy and hard. It’s normal for a lot of feelings to emerge from the chaos. Granted, many have not yet developed the sophisticated (cough, cough) coping mechanism that we ‘adults’ have.

Watch them. See how they love the new music, new technology, new places? Look at the world through their eyes. It’s real gift.