Archive for February, 2011

The Woodpecker Might Have to Go!Today is a Snow Day. 

One of those days you loved as a kid but tend to dread as an adult.  With our increasingly busy days it can be just one more unexpected complication.  One that can frustrate us quite a bit. 

In the midst of rescheduling phone calls, juggling work schedules, and rearranging my day, it crossed my mind that maybe this is one of those Life Lessons that I should be paying attention to. 

I could view today with a Half Full (or Quarter Full) view, focusing on the challenges and frustrations it brings.  Or, I could look at as an unexpected opportunity.

We get so busy that it often seems like there isn’t enough time in the week to spend good, quality time my kids.  Couldn’t I think about this as an expected opportunity to spend time with them?

So I decided to view today’s Snow Day as a Speed Bump on the Road of Life.  Speed bumps are reminders not to go to fast, to slow down.  I decided that I could change the way I viewed today and think of Snow Days as Play Days with the kids instead.  I might not be able to play all day (darn it), but I can engage with them for at least part of the day.  

My mental metaphor of a speed bump was going along pretty well and then I got an unexpected second dose of life’s imperfections.

It appears that for the past two weeks, any voice message left on my work phone went into “limbo land.”  This is not the only technical glitch I’ve seen this month.  I know that emails I been sending to at least one individual had not arrived.  Whether they were lost in the outbound stream from me or lost in his inbound stream we don’t know.  I only know that I’m glad I chose to follow up a third time just to be sure we had closed the loop. 

I could have gotten angry about the missed VM, but really, what’s the point.  It won’t change history.  It’s an uncontrollable situation like the Snow Day.  What I can (and did) do is follow up where necessary and explain.  No, it’s not the same as the “my dog ate my homework,” excuse.  It’s simply a fact of our technology dependent communications.  Technology breaks down.  It doesn’t always work.

This was a good reminder for me that just because I hit send or left a message that does not mean it was received.  Too often of late, I’ve observed individuals getting frustrated with one another when there is incomplete knowledge of a situation.  It’s all back to expectations.  Are we expecting perfection and perfect knowledge or do we recognize and adjust to life’s challenges and the speed bumps along the way?

When things go wrong with technology, I find myself using the metaphor of Gremlins visiting.  I don’t know what happened, it simply is.  It was outside of my control. 

What I can control is my response.  Am I going to let those speed bumps annoy and frustrate me?  Or might I ask myself to consider whether those speed bumps might serve some greater purpose?

My epiphany for today was that Life is not about Perfection, it’s about Imperfection. 

We talk about taking the time to dance, finding the joy in the moment, the beauty in a sunrise.  We often tell, share, or repeat a myriad of these little life lessons.  But do we value and live by these lessons all the time or only when we have time for them?  Might that be why life sends us speed bumps?  A reminders to “stop and smell the roses”?

A piece of humor a friend sent yesterday ended with  “Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile.”

While I “received” the message yesterday and did enjoy, I think that today I truly “got it.”  I need to do these activities even more than I already do.  More importantly, I need to do them when presented with days full of speed bumps, not just on days with smooth sailing. 

Life is about Imperfection not Perfection. 

I need to share the joy of imperfections, laughing along the road of life.  Living in the moment, as best as I can.  After all,  no one is perfect.  Every minute I spend in anger is a minute I did not spend in joy.   

Here’s to the imperfection in all of us.  To finding ways to enjoy them, rather than being frustrated by them.  May you live, love, and laugh often.  Preferably all the time, rather than just when it’s convenient.

Oh, by the way, the dog has actually eaten the homework in our house.  Along with toys, glasses, a wallet etc.  As I sit here and type, I am reminded that I am looking through dog scratches on my lenses.  I can either choose to focus on them, which is quite distracting, or I can choose to try and ignore them.  I’ve found that if ignore them for a few minutes, I can typically read “past” them.  The eyes and brain make adjustments.  The glasses aren’t perfect, but they are good enough.   That, I decided was another of life’s lessons. 

You can choose to look past the imperfections and still see with clarity.

A few weeks back I wrote Are You an Entrepreneur? … or Maybe Not?  In that article I mentioned a book soon coming to market by Carol Roth, The Entrepreneur Equation.  I’m thrilled to announce that the book has arrived.  Not only has it arrived, it arrived in true Carol Roth style.

I met Carol last year at the World Business Forum.  She is a savvy female executive, who not only plays in the big leagues, she does it on her own terms and with her own style.  If you doubt that, check out those pink shoes!  Carol has never shied away from hard facts and uncomfortable realities, especially when it comes to the business world.

Carol’s book can help you answer more than just “Could I be an entrepreneur?” but rather “Should I be an entrepreneur?”  We all probably can be if we wanted it bad enough.  If we threw enough time, energy, and money at it.  However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  You can jump off the roof of a house, but should you.  It’s your choice.

The Entrepreneur Equation outlines a framework for both new entrepreneurs evaluating whether to start a business as well as current entrepreneurs who are overwhelmed and overworked or even evaluating the future of their business model.  It’s unlike other books out there that promise “seven steps to success”.  To quote Carol, “those seven step are B.S. – entrepreneurship isn’t one size fits all.”   

Success as a business owner is dependent upon your own circumstances, goals and objectives at any given time.  What’s a good risk/reward tradeoff for you is entirely different from what’s a good tradeoff for anyone else.  Carol’s book gives you a framework to maximize your own personal success, based on your goals and objectives, not someone else’s.

During this week, you can take part in Carol’s Power of Three.  So what is The Power of Three (other than a Charmed episode)?  Well, for every copy of The Entrepreneur Equation you pre-order through http://theentrepreneurequation.com/special-offers/ by February 18, 2011, you:

1 – Help yourself (or perhaps a client, colleague, friend or family member) stack the odds of success in your or their favor;

2 – Help a small business succeed, as Carol will match your purchase by donating a copy to her non-profit partner SCORE (www.SCORE.org) to give their volunteers another tool to help them grow successful small businesses; and

3 – Help both Carol and myself to achieve our personal goals of spreading this important message and seeing this book succeed.

In addition, if you buy even just one book through the site, you will also receive a free 3-part audio series: Strategies for Getting Your Company, Your Product or Yourself on TV & Other Free Press with Emmy award winners, TV anchors and PR veterans, as well as Carol’s own insights on how she landed her tv pilot deal and other press.

Check out Carol’s other offers, which includes an amazing contest where other entrepreneurs have offered generous prizes, such as Michael Port (private mentoring session at his house worth $1999), Les McKeown (a seat in his Predictable Success workshop worth $3500), a strategy session with the amazing Liz Strauss, a mega-star membership to Online Videopolis (worth $2364), and many, many more.  Visit http://theentrepreneurequation.com/special-offers/ for details and to purchase.

Want to know more?  Here’s a few of the examples of those “right questions” in the book :

  • Are you going to create a “salable” business, rather than a “jobbie or a “Job-Business  
    • There’s a great chart in the book that breaks this down.
  • How are you with your personal finances? 
    • If you can’t manage your own finances, then “you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur trying to manage a business (and implicitly, the business’s finances)“. 
  • Are you willing to put in a LOT of hard work and practice? 
    • The “Secret” of success is not just a great idea, a positive attitude, and venture funding. 
  • Are you a “Santa or an Elf”? 
    • Are you better at giving direction, or taking direction?  If you are the latter, it will be very, very hard to run a business on your own.
  • Are you “too smart for your own good”? 
    • Do you have problems giving up control over anything because “nobody can do it better than you”?  Carol has quite an interesting take on this one. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely thinking about starting their own business – it’s a great reality check that covers all the bases.  It’s caused me to stop and assess where my own business as well as what my personal goals and objectives really are.

Here’s to Doing Your Own Math (not someone elses) and finding your own answer to The Entrepreneur Equation.  Whatever your answer is, it’s the right one for you, rather than for someone else.

Back to that unique Carol Roth style, here’s a link to a story about her Carol Roth doll.  It’s fabulous.   Here’s a link to win one of the Carol Roth dolls for those who are interested.  And yes, I did enter the contest myself.

Nigel Marsh at TEDxSydney

Work/life balance is a topic that has gotten a fair amount of press in the last decade or so.  My observation is that it has been an increasingly difficult thing to achieve with the advent of “social media” and the ease of communication via email.  There are so many channels and ways to connect…but are we making the right connections, the important ones?

I found a wonderful 10 minute video by on this topic from TEDxSydney.  You can pack a lot in 10 minutes, let me tell you.  Nigel Marsh is the author of “Fat, Forty and Fired” and “Overworked and Underlaid.”

As this is a Ponderings & Insights article, I’ve got some questions for you to ponder:

  • Do you find it difficult to balance work and life?
    • How do you define the balance?
    • What do you do to set boundaries?
    • What timeframe are you measuring with?  A single day, a week, a month or something else?
  • Do  you have a clear idea of where life ends and work starts?
    • How do you define work?
    • How do you define life, what do you include?  (e.g. is working out really “life”, for me it isn’t)
  • What would your ideal day look like?

Here’s an interesting quote from Nigel’s video (click here to see the video):

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

So here are some of the thoughts and insights I took away:

  • Some jobs choices and careers are fundamentally in opposition to balance. 
    • Many of mine have been. 
    • Time to do a bit of reassessment…at a deeper level that I already had been.
  • There are multiple dimensions that need to be cared for – the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of each of us.
    • While I do know this, I’m asking myself if I am focusing enough on balancing all of them.
    • Should I “schedule in” meditation time or is perhaps even needing to schedule it in a sign of a potential issue?
  • Small things matter.  That there is great value with focused time.  Especially with your kids. 

I know I’ve reached a critical point with the last one.  One of my daughters has twice said this week that I am on the computer too much and has directly asked me to get off.  She went on to talk with Dad about computers – that she thinks people use them too much.  Not just our family, but everywhere.  This wisdom…from a 9 year old. 

We tell our children that winning isn’t everything but are we demonstrating that.  I wonder?  How often are we letting our Ego drive decision making and run the show?  It needs to be heads and hearts together – feeding the mind, emotions, and soul in equal proportion.

It’s time for us to have a family meeting and talk about balance.  How we want to interact.  How we as a family want to define balance.  Our definition of success, not the Ego’s definition.  It’s time to really “put the money where the mouth is” as the saying goes.  Or perhaps, better stated as choose the option with less money, but more family time.

I don’t know what you thought, but for myself, Nigel’s ideal day doesn’t sound so bad to me.  I wonder how many of us wish we had days like that?  How life might truly be different if we did?  Could we do this?  Something to ponder.  That, and how am I really going to spend my day today.  What boundaries will I set?  What activities will I participate in?

Here’s hoping that you find ways to have more special moments, more connected time, and more…

The Energy Elephant. Do You Bring Positive or Negative Energy?

This morning one of my favorite bloggers, Jonathan Fields, had an interesting story about a creative marking approach.  Jonathan’s article made me smile (as it often does) but at the same time left me feeling a bit hollow.  The marketing example he shared was funny and seriously creative.  

The pitch was to shop while you are bored at work.  It even included a  “Boss Button”.  You press the button if your boss walks buy when you are shopping.  Your shopping screen is covered with a page showing “corporate jargon” and a fake pie-chart.  I agree, it was funny.  I applaud the creativity.  

What bothered me was the root of the humor.  The humor wouldn’t have held true if it wasn’t directed at a fundamental underlying problem or experience.

  • How people feel at work, their emotional state. 
  • What they bring to work (i.e. attitude)
  • How they are using their time, or rather not using their time (i.e. manifestations of boredom/procrastination).

Here’s a link to Jonathan’s article if you are interested. 

Here’s the comment (ok, rant) I left on his site. 

At the same time I was laughing, I was also quite sad and feeling a bit depressed.  Why, at what the “work world” seems to have come to.  The attitude people tend to bring with them to work, and how many spend their day…not working.

Often times it’s not just “the company” at fault when the environment is poor.  It’s also what the employees bring or don’t bring to the metaphorical table.  Positive energy breeds positive energy, negative breeds negative.

There is a great difference between procrastination and boredom.  Much of what appears to be boredom is actually procrastination.  It’s not that they don’t have things to do, they don’t want to do them.

Just imagine if everyone kicked in gear, left the attitude at home and wanted to make a difference not matter where they were or what they were doing.  That they recognized that they may not be at their optimal job doing what they love best but that a) they were employed, b) were lucky to be employed, and c) could have a positive impact wherever they are.

What they are doing doesn’t have to be forever, but rather than making the worst of it couldn’t they make the most of it for both themselves and their employer.  After all, they took part of creating the situation.  They accepted the job offer…otherwise they wouldn’t even be there.

Own up and own your experience. Ok, rant over.

My questions for you to ponder today are:

  • What attitude do you bring with you to work?
    • Are you bringing your A game?
    • Do you look for ways to make positive changes or do you wait for others to “fix” problems for you?
  • Do you ever reflect on the fact that you are privileged to be employed, yes privileged? 
    • If you don’t feel priviledged, go read about the state of the world.  Don’t just rely on what you see around you.
    • If you are employed, you likely have a roof over your head and food on the table.  Many people do not.
  • What might you accomplish today if you “turned off” the unnecessary social media?  I hear complaints (and complain sometimes myself) about the overload of information. 
    • How much of that is within your control? 
    • What are you doing to yourself?

If you are unhappy with where you are, I encourage you to remind yourself that it doesn’t need to be forever.  Things rarely are, even when we want them to be.  In the interim, bring your A game.  Make a difference where you are at this moment in time.  Just think about how things around you could change if you did.  As I said in my rant above, positivity breeds positivity and negativity breeds negativity. 

Are you adding positive or negative energy when you are on the job?  What can you do to change things for the better?  Bring the Attitude of Gratitude on-line and into your life.  It makes a difference.  Really, it does.

Hum, time to take my own advice and buck up little doggie.  I’m thankful for:

  • The roof over my head – even if I dislike my too large mortgage that comes with it.
  • My mostly healthy family – which is better than seriously unhealthy or passed on.
  • The ability to read and to write – many cannot – and I couldn’t write this article without those basic skills.  (ok, who snickered out there…thinking maybe it would be better if I didn’t have them)
  • The fact that I have those extra lbs. on the hips.  After all, they indicate that I have food available to me, unlike many in the world. 

I’m also thankful that you found it in your heart to read this entire article.  Really, thank you.  May we all find ways to move ourselves and others from the negative to the positive side of the equation. 

P.S.  Tomorrow I’ll work on writing my list without the qualifiers attached.  One step at a time, one day at a time.  All forward progress, not matter how small, is good.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes