Category: entrepreneurship

“The Comfort of Opinion…”

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“Without the Discomfort of Thought”

If you are unfamiliar with the man in this drawing, it is John F. Kennedy, our 35th President. This quote struck me as important in the current political/media/social climate. It tells me that having an opinion also requires me to think about what I believe. To examine my beliefs. To make sure, they are based in reality, and in fact; that they are not just rooted in what is familiar. Here’s the entire quote from a commencement speech:

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

The Internet Changes Everything

OK, you’re saying… but how do I know if my opinions are grounded in a universal truth or just in “my truth?” This is especially challenging when each of us has… the Internet. We have access to so much of the world’s knowledge and data, at our finger tips. Just 30 years ago, our main source of information was libraries, books, radio, television and newspapers. For those of us over 30… we have a context for understanding ‘all the accumulated knowledge known to man.’ We have the advantage of history, of experience and, if we’re lucky…an education that opened our minds.

For people under 30, who have always known a world with the internet, it’s challenging to absorb, sift, integrate and potentially challenge everything they read. How in the world can they be expected to do that? I find their ability to spot a phony, uncanny. They value authenticity above all AND they can ferret out our inconsistencies with surprising ease.

Now What

Here are a few suggestions for opening your mind. I’m interested in your ideas.

  • Get your information from multiple sources. Read/follow news sources you think you don’t agree with. Keep an open mind. Work to understand the other point of view.
  • Work to meet people who are different than you. Race, economics, religion, anything that will give you a new way to look at the world. This is a gift you give yourself.
  • Help someone. If you’re feeling lonely or lost… find a way to do something for someone else. It’s really easy to find someone if you look around. You don’t have to do any ‘regular’ volunteering… just find someone who needs to be listened to or just plain seen.

My hope is that we learn to listen to and have more respect for the young people of our planet. They have so much to teach us.

Image credit: Foundationforconsciousliving.com

Self Confidence – Hard to Come By?

I’m Afraid, That’s Why I Won’t Do…

It only makes sense that if we’re afraid, we’re probably NOT going to do something. Unless we are one of those adventure-hungry people, we’re likely to avoid things we consider too risky. Now deciding what is ‘too risky’ is personal. There’s a leap of faith in entering a room of strangers for the first time, directly facing the fear of being rejected. We can, however, push forward and understand that our attitude towards risk is in our control. We all have situations where we feel afraid. How we deal with the fear, defines us.

Tension vs. Fear

In this terrific blog post, Seth Godin highlights why tension (not fear) is essential to learning, especially for adults.

“Tension is the hallmark of a great educational experience. The tension of not quite knowing where we are in the process…not having a guarantee. The tension we face any time we’re about to cross a threshold. The tension of this might work vs. this might not work. The tension of if I learn this, will I like who I become?

It’s an ironic reality of human-hood that we learn so much as a child, then our educational system (which I wholeheartedly support) sometimes works harder to drive “compliance” (rote) than learning (how to learn). So by the time we’re teenagers, it takes an act of courage to be ourselves. We learn to fear the tension associated with learning.

“Just Do It”

The reason this Nike catchphrase continues to resonate today, is that the second part of the phrase is implied. Just do it (even though you are afraid & you have doubts). It is through the very act of being ourselves, that we actually learn the most, especially if we are willing to face the good, the bad and the ugly about ourselves (we all have some of each). Understanding ourselves is the point of living. Want to build your self-confidence? It seems counter-intuitive to take MORE risk, but that’s exactly what is required. Let me know how it’s going.

For a quick assessment of your risk tolerance, check out Are You a Risk-Taker?

Image credit: Lifehack

Short Skirts and Bra Straps

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Acceptable Dress

I was waiting in line at the grocery store the other day and the 2 women in front of me were wearing shirts with bra straps showing. I was thinking, at what point in the last few years did it become “acceptable” to show your bra straps? I’m old so I remember the days when showing a bra strap was beyond tacky… it was a signal that you were not a “lady”.

But now… these 2 middle-aged women were not only showing their straps… they were at the grocery store where everyone could see them! It made me stop and think about how ideas (as well as fashion) change and become ‘socially acceptable.’

Preconceived Notions vs. Independent Thinking

The idea of whether bra straps show or not is, of course, relatively meaningless. But I hope you see that the same social norm that said, in the 1970’s, that short skirts were ‘unacceptable’ and rebellious, now accepts both short skirts and showing bra straps.

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If we take this idea of what is socially acceptable to broader ideas… it can be useful to monitor our own thinking. What is one idea that you have, that is outdated? or unhelpful? or that everyone around you thinks is okay but you feel is wrong? or that makes you uncomfortable? Are there ideas or norms that you rub you the wrong way? Sometimes we don’t even realize it until we stop and really think about it. The other complicating factor is, how do we acknowledge our own position (that’s different from many others around us), without being judgemental of others?

Here’s My Broader Idea: We’re In This Together

I believe that I have an obligation to give back to the world in tangible ways. That I have a responsibility to:

  • find people to help in a way that fits with what I have to give
  • focus on being grateful for all the gifts I have
  • be aware of the needs of those around me
  • take steps every day to be present for everyone I meet

What’s that got to do with bra straps? I don’t know. Somewhere in my strange brain they’re connected. I have always been someone who doesn’t care much for what other people think. And finding my own way in the world is hard because it’s always easier to follow the crowd. But I’m not good at that. I hope this gives you a chance to stop for a minute and think about… your broader idea. I hope you have the courage and strength to follow through. I believe in you.

Photo credit: bra straps showing    70’s short skirts

 

A Walk Before Breakfast

We had a rare rain the other day in So. Cal. Yoshi and I were walking through the park and he went into this puddle. I snapped the pic quickly.

Comfort

Everyday, I test to see how comfortable I am. Seems kind of odd right? I’m human, of course I am looking for comfort. But being fully human means going beyond your own comfort, to do things we may not want to do… for all kinds of reasons. Some of us wait until we are pushed into the discomfort zone, for example, we get an illness that requires us change our diet or medications. We don’t like it, but we do it because we have to.

Discomfort

What if we decided that, everyday, we are going to do something we are not comfortable with, just for practice. I don’t mean at work. That doesn’t count. Each of us are expected to be outside our comfort zone at work.  (It’s often the reason we get paid.) I mean doing the exact thing you hate. Like taking a walk before breakfast. Listen, I love breakfast, it’s my favorite meal and I look forward to it everyday. So the idea of going for a walk, before I do what I want? Sounds stupid. Yet, I do it every day. Here’s why. I knew that I needed to build exercise into my life. Not the, oh I’m going to the gym for 4 months, then I stop, exercise. The kind that I would do day in and day out. So I got a dog that needs to walk, every. day. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of my mood. There are many days when I don’t feel like going out. Too bad. We gotta go. And the last thing I want to do is go for a walk, before my favorite meal of the day. Right?

Change

Getting a dog is a pretty drastic way to get “uncomfortable.”  So what can you do to be, a little less comfortable, every day.

  1. Read something challenging – either to your beliefs or your intellect. This will take work because most of us have a set of sources we read. Certain news sources, authors, etc. We talk to people who agree with us. Find one source of discomfort and spend 5 minutes a day.
  2. Don’t complain – Complaining seems to be a regular way of life. There’s a difference between relaying information and complaining. You know the difference, especially when you are on the receiving end of listening to someone else. One is stating the facts, the other is laced with “poor me” and how could this happen to me? Catch yourself before you complain. Just. don’t. do. it.
  3. Do something for someone else that they don’t expect – This will also take work. It will require you to think about someone else long enough to imagine what they would like. I don’t mean making your kid’s lunch or your spouse’s dinner. I mean something unexpected. Something that actually takes effort on your part.

Like all habits, they take energy and focus to cultivate. But when I’ve managed to make it part of my mindset, it’s like… walking before breakfast.

Photo Credit: Reflection of Wee Westie

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.

Image credit: SEO ppl

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!

Image credit: Zero Dean

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.

Photo credit: Never a Place

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.

Image credit: Life Hacks

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