Category Archives: motivation

Possible, Or Not?

Every day, we all have conversations with ourselves about what is possible and what isn’t.  There are lots of things that are impossible.  We can’t live without something to breathe.  We can’t fly without some sort of assistance outside ourselves.  Those are just a couple of impossibleexamples of the impossible.  Yet as we continue to think about this the waters get murkier.

So here’s a question:  “When everyone thought the world was flat, was it?”  Seems pretty simple to say “no”, the world is round, and was round.  I think a better answer is “It might has well have been flat, based on how people treated things.”  Circumnavigating the world seemed impossible.  Most people believed that it was.  Seems pretty silly to us now since we can see earth from space, and people circumnavigate it every day.  We orbit it because it’s is a ball, and not a circle.

Before the 1950’s it was impossible to run a mile in 4 minutes or less.  Currently Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj holds the record of 3:43.13, which has stood since 1999.  Now it seems like anything lower than 3:40 isn’t possible.  Of course, until it is.

What do you think is impossible in your life?  Is it impossible for you to do better with your money?  To make more? Save more? Be different?  Surely all of those things are more possible than running a fast mile, discovering penicillin, or breaking the sound barrier (October 14, 1947).

I’m going to contend that a bunch of what keeps our personal lives from changing is our belief that something just isn’t possible.  We habituate ourselves to the idea, and as pattern making humans, find ways to reinforce and perpetuate those beliefs.

Several years ago I had an experience that really made me look at what was possible, and what wasn’t.  It changed my thinking.

I was participating in a drug trial to lower the age for the “shingles” vaccine.  Seemed like a good thing to do.  One of my grandmother’s had shingles and it was awful.  I thought it would be a good thing to do to participate in the study, and it was (I got the good stuff, not the placebo J).

Here’s the fascinating impossible yet actual thing that happened:  I needed to have blood drawn before receiving the vaccine and several weeks after.  Both times I had the same phlebotomist.  She was one-armed.  She did have an elbow joint and a “stub” on that joint that she could move.

I don’t know what the story was.  Whether it happened after she was already a phlebotomist or before.  It wasn’t any of my business.  I was frankly pleased that I was able to squelch my urge to offer to help her.  She was efficient and effective without my help, which, on my tiny slippery veins is most often not the case.

What I do know is that for her, being a one-armed phlebotomist was more than possible.  And that’s the point.  Whether she was one-armed and decided to become a phlebotomist, or she was a phlebotomist and became one-armed, she made the decision that the two situations together were attainable and she was going to do it.

Most of us would not consider that a possibility.  It would be too hard to learn, too hard to get someone to hire us, just plain too hard.  And yet she did it. She probably had other choices, as we all do, but something stirred her to do the impossible.

Somehow, if we lose something like a hand we sit up and take notice.  And yet not being in a good place with our money may be just as challenging in the long run.  Was this courage on her part, or necessity or both?  My phlebotomist did not let the word “impossible” stand in her way. So what would stir you to courage or necessity or both?

Cooking Competition

I must admit, I’m a sucker for cooking shows, probably because I love food!  I started way back when, with Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr.  Now we have entire channels dedicated to cooking, and, as they played with what to do to create 24/7 cooking content, someone cleverly came up with the idea of competition.  My guess is that it was a man…but I digress.

The competitions have included many names for the Crème de la crème in cooking.  Top Chef, MasterChef, The Taste, Iron Chef, etc.  Some shows focus on fastest chef like “Chopped”, or most ruthless chef like “Cut Throat Kitchen”.  All very entertaining.

And then we got to Kid Chef land a la MasterChef Junior, and something very interesting happened.

Here’s the deal.  MasterChef had been rolling along since 2010 and even has a huge international presence.  Apparently people all over the world like food as much as I do. Wow!  For a giggle, take a look at the giant list on Wikipedia under MasterChef; there are way more countries in on this than I would have guessed, and even more intriguing is the ones that aren’t on the list…and that is yet another digression.  Ooops.

The point is that with MasterChef having been around since 2010, we all knew the general drill when MasterChef Junior came on the scene in 2013.  But there were some unexpected differences.

cookingOh, we all hoped that Gordon wouldn’t go Hell’s Kitchen on them, Joe wouldn’t be as snarky, and Graham would be even nicer to them than the regular contestants.  And all that happened.  And it was a remarkable and fascinating thing how good their cooking was.

This was no let’s have the kids make Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches competition, this was real cooking!  Some of their things I know very well I’d struggle with, and I’m a pretty fine cook.

The thing that was truly important and remarkable for these kids, aged 8 to 13, was their interaction with each other.  It’s a thing called ‘sportsmanship’.  Webster’s definition is: fair play, respect for opponents, and polite behavior by someone who is competing in a sport or other competition.

They not only practiced it, they lived it.  If one of their competition had forgotten to get something from the kitchen, they shared.  When they had an advantage to play a certain way they took it, but in an open clean way.  They were supportive and encouraging.  It didn’t mean they weren’t worried about other competitors, they just tried to do better rather than take down the foe.

There was plenty of emotion, including frustration.  Kids got sometimes paired with other kids that really irked them, and yet they kept playing.  They didn’t pout or storm off. They genuinely cheered each other on, and were sad when others went home…while still wanting to win.

So when did that change?  When did we go from being supportive of each other, while doing our best and working to win, to a place of trying to trip up or psych out the competition?

There kids were human.  Some of them didn’t like each other.  Some of them weren’t likeable.  Some were full of themselves and some were painfully shy.  It does seem like none of them were bullies.

I like this, it warms my heart.  I’ve always like collaboration, and the idea that we can and should ALL do our best, and that tripping up our completion isn’t really our best.

What do you think?  Are these kids just naïve?  Are they headed for disaster?  Or might we learn from them?  Might we all do our best and cheer each other on?  Or at least try that first?

It seems to me that this is less about “turning the other cheek” and somehow getting hurt by someone, and more about keeping the standards of our own behavior.

For me, I’ll hang out in the kid’s kitchen any day…how about you?

Ka-ching

Shell

Doing Demon

Here we are, all starting a New Year.  After the holidays, some time off, and some planning,  you are poised at the starting line, ready to run the race, right?  You are rested, you’ve got a plan.  This is it.  Ready.  Set.  Zoom.

demonOh, but wait a minute.  Let’s rewind a bit.  What was the value to your business and goals of that time off ?  Isn’t it odd how not directly thinking about your business actually seemed to help you come up with new ideas?  There is more to time off than getting your body rested.  It actually gives your brain some space to process all those complex plans and ideas you working on.

Our brains can only process so much at a time (6 – 8 things), and yet many, many things have more variables than that.  Things like your ‘plan’ for your business.

One of the ways I look at this is in making a distinction between the idea and the action.  If our ideas and actions don’t align, we get really wonky results.  If we just sit around and think, nothing happens.  And if we zoom around doing without clarity of purpose, weird things happen.  Things that are unexpected and probably not wanted.

You may feel like you’ve done all the contemplating and planning you need, and now all you have to do is zoom into action.  Unfortunately, it’s not a onetime thing.  We need to keep both the action and the ideas flowing.  We need to let them ‘inform’ each other.

You know, that silly balance thing!

One of the ironic things about the ideas part is that it needs more than sitting down and analyzing.  It needs processing time.  Part of processing time for your brain is sort of like taking it off line.  Letting it rest.  In actuality, it’s not resting when you are taking a walk, meditating, doing art, gardening, or even sleeping.  During those activities your brain is doing the deeper work on the complex stuff.

So, as you start the new year, decide what kind of race you want to run.  Or even if you want it to be a “race” at all.

My best suggestion is to actually plan and honor ‘down time’ in amongst all the doing.  Give yourself the time and space to catch up, slow down and restore.

Recognize that being a Doing Demon that never stops doing is just as detrimental as being a slothful couch potato that never starts doing.

Most aspects of business work better with consistency rather than huge swings.  Do your bookkeeping regularly instead of annually when you can’t remember what happened, and can’t find things.  Do you marketing consistently, not just when you don’t have clients.  Do your filing periodically, instead of in a big pile.  Do your work in balance with your rest and play.

Just maybe instead of Ready, Set, Zoom you might consider Plan, Take Action, Rest and Restore….repeat on a more periodic basis, say monthly instead of annually?

Ka-ching

Shell

Respite

A respite is an interval of relief, a time between, a quiet spot.  For me, this little pocket of time before the New Year really gets going is often a respite.  A time for reflection, for going a bit deeper.  It’s not yet about planning, doing and pursuing.  It’s just about slowingrespite down and being still.

I wanted to share a bit of that with you this time.

In order to honor these spots, I turn to all sorts of resources.  Some whimsical, some profound.

So I offer this poem by John Des Camp for you.  My friend John is a Portland poet and management consultant.  He has a delightful book of musings: “Further Along” available directly from him at jdescamp2@comcast.net  ($17.95 shipping included)

Fear of the Dark

Good or evil?                                                                                                                                              It’s a false dichotomy;                                                                                                                              no light without darkness.                                                                                                                      Deny the darkness?                                                                                                                                It will surprise and overwhelm you.

We can only guard against what we know.                                                                                      So we get to know our shadows                                                                                                          not to conquer them,                                                                                                                              but to protect those we love.

Me? I favor getting acquainted.                                                                                                          Invite them in for tea, or a stiff martini.                                                                                            Have a conversation, spend some time.                                                                                            Give them a name.

Name the shadow, and                                                                                                                          we reduce it to something                                                                                                                    that can have a name,                                                                                                                            no longer a formless malignity.

As with any new friend, ask about its                                                                                               fears; its feelings, hopes, and boundaries.                                                                                        The less strange, the less frightening.                                                                                                  Like your dimly remembered                                                                                                              Grandfather.

Ka-ching

Shell

Distractions

It’s both amazing and amusing what things can distract us.  By being distracted we lose sight of our goals and dreams and somehow get caught in weird stuff.  I recently was reminded of an intriguing example of distraction and what it can take to overcome it.

You may recall that last week’s blog was about a Christmas my family spent in Vancouver, Canada while my dad was producing the Littlest Hobo TV show in the early 60’s.  One of my readers wrote and said that she had loved that show.  In responding to her, I was reminded of one the odd, behind the scenes things about the show.

The Littlest Hobo was about a German Shepard who traveled from town to town helping humans.  The only character that stayed the same each week was the dog. Each week new actors flew up from Hollywood to be in the show.  There was a five day shooting schedule to produce each 30 minute show.  With those constraints there was little room for doing things over and over again.  Each evening my dad and the director would watch the “rushes”, which means the scenes that were shot that day.  I sometimes was able to watch them too.  I also got to read all the scripts, hang out on the set, and even was an extra on one show.  Pretty cool for a pre-teen!

distractionThe dogs all belonged to and were trained by a man named Chuck Eisenman.  There were three dogs that played the one part, London, Toro, and Thor.  My recollection is that London was the sire of the others.  Each dog had specific talents and was used for different tasks.  One was really good at close-ups, facial expressions, tilts of the head, etc.  Another did more ‘tricks’ like picking up things, and another was a really good runner.  Two of the dogs are in the photo attached here, and the handsome dude is my dad.

Mr. Eisenman was certainly a remarkable trainer, and these were remarkable dogs.  They knew colors.  Dogs aren’t actually color blind.  They have receptors for blue and green shades, but not for red shades. So they see like humans.  Eisenman would tell London to go shake the hand of the lady in the green dress and he would.  He would tell the dog to “improve the illumination” in the room and the dog would go find and turn on the light switch.  It was very remarkable.  And of course, all this training and talent meant that the dog really could carry a TV show, and even out-Lassie Lassie.

There was just this one little distracting problem.  It didn’t actually affect the dogs or the trainer.  It was a problem for the actors.  It was actually a VERY distracting problem for the actors.  The dogs were all trained exclusively to verbal commands.

On top of that, Mr.  Eisenman was an aggressive, somewhat impatient man, with what one might call ‘colorful’ language skills.  This made for a great deal of distraction for the actors, and really amusing rushes for my dad and I.

Imagine the scene if you will.  London has saved Marsha from a horrible fate, in some remarkable and athletic canine way.  John is so happy to have her back!   John and Marsha embrace.  The sound track is:

“Marsha, I love you, I’m so happy you are okay”

“John, I love you too, I’m just glad to be alive”

“LONDON, DAMN IT…LOOK AT THE PEOPLE, NOW!”

That’s what was heard in the rushes, in every scene, under the dialogue of the actors.  All that had to be cut out in production.  It was really funny to watch and hear, sort of like some wacky Saturday Night Live script.

The thing I never even thought about until the other day was how incredibly distracting it must have been to the actors.  As an actor you are trying to “stay in character”, express certain emotions, and ignore what isn’t supposed to be in the scene.  Challenging under normal circumstances but with this loud guy yelling and swearing at his dogs, it would seem to be even more distracting.

And yet, they did it.  The “show went on”.  Some of these actors were old pro veterans, others were new kids in age and or experience.  They all found a way to ignore the less than subtle background noise and do their part in the scene.

It says something about those constant nagging naysayers in our head, doesn’t it?  If actors can do it, so can we.  We can choose to just “go on with the show” and ignore their judgments and criticisms.  We can be effective in spite of the distractions.

That would be a pretty hard act to follow, wouldn’t it?

Ka-ching

Shell

I Am Woman, Hear Me Cajole

Remember when this is what we looked like at work?  Pearls, bracelets, skirts, pumps, even suits.  Times have changed, thank goodness.  Yet I wonder….

I notice that there are some throw backs to those days.  Some behaviors that linger long cajolepast when the skirts were replaced by slacks.  In those days we had to be careful in our language and how direct we were.  Many of us learned to make the boss think something was his idea, instead of ours.  We assuaged and cajoled.  Some of that still lingers.

And here’s the deal.  If we, as women, don’t notice and change this perspective no one else will.  I’ve caught myself many times ‘suggesting’ instead of ‘requesting’.  Hinting instead of asking.

         “Gee, the trash looks really full, maybe it should go out?”

                                       Vs.

          “Would you please take the trash out?”

Hmmm.  We know there is a stigma of women who are direct or assertive being ‘bitchy’.  My point is, if we ask for what we want is that ‘bitchy’?  I don’t think so, I think it’s clearer.  Maybe the other person doesn’t get our suggestion or hint.  Maybe they just think it’s information.  It certainly sounds more like information than a request.

And here’s the deal.  If we, as women, don’t notice and change this perspective no one else will.  It’s all about continuums.  One end of the spectrum is so effusive no one knows what is going on; the opposite end is a staccato demand.

Let’s find a middle.  Let’s make requests, let’s ask.  Let’s give the other person a better chance of meeting our needs, and most of all, let’s equalize the playing field in more ways than our attire.

Ka-ching

Shell

Insanity and the Ant

I witnessed this really fascinating example of the Definition of Insanity last weekend.  You know, the Albert Einstein definition: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

pyrexIt involved a one cup glass Pyrex measure, and a tiny black ant.  I’ve been plagued with those little buggers lately.  Sometimes just a few, once a gang in the sugar bowl (which now has packets of sugar) and once ganged up under the table on a scrap of something.  Based on their assault on mostly my kitchen I am less than tolerant of them.

So there I was.  My measuring cup sitting empty on the cutting board, and here comes Adam Ant sauntering along.  So I set the cup on top of him.

Now’s where things got interesting.  Although it appeared that the cup was flat there was a little concave space at the bottom of the Pyrex.  Just big enough for him to wander around in, but solid so there was no way out.

He started out by boomeranging around the circle.  From my point of view, I couldn’t see the edge he was running into, I don’t know if he could.  He kept trying.  Here, then there, then over there.  It was pretty random.  He didn’t try going all the way around to see if there was a hole or gap.  He just kept trying to bounce out.  And then he seemed to freak out a bit.  Ran in a little tiny circle of his own.  That seemed to stun him so he just stopped for a bit.  It seemed like he was almost calm.

A moment later he started the whole routine again, only this time the wacko part came sooner and the calm part lasted a bit longer.

I wondered if he would give up in some way.  Would he just rest until he either ran out of air or was rescued?  Or would he keep doing what hadn’t been working?

The truth was neither.  He actually offed himself.  He just couldn’t believe it, I guess.  He ran into the edge and squished himself in the tiny curve like he could push his way through.  It didn’t work and he squished himself to death.

I know it’s a gruesome tale.  And yet it’s a parable.

How often do we do this, over and over and over again?  Run around with no real plan, just bouncing off the invisible walls?  Freaking out?  Resting a bit? And then doing it over again in the exact same way again?

Let’s all decide to be smarter than the tiny black ant…how’s that for an idea?

Ka-ching

Shell

What Is Your Work?

How narrow is your definition of work?  As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to check out the answer to that question.  We all wear many hats, and yet there is a way in which we think hatsthat only a few are actual work.  Make a list of ALL the things you do in your business.  Note which ones you currently consider the “work”.  How many are left over?

Long ago, in the 80’s, when I was a Controller/CFO I was faced with this question.  I initially felt that my job was to process paper.  To get things done, complete, finis.  To move the paper from the inbox to the out box.  To be productive.

And then I learned what my job really was.

Certainly, there was a time when processing paper was my job.  When I was the Accountant, my job was to crunch the numbers.  When I became a CFO I had a staff to manage, other departments to interface with, and many more broader roles than moving paper from one side of the desk to the other.  I had to discover (albeit the hard way) that my work was more about people and relationships than about crunching numbers.  It was more about making sure that all the tasks assigned to my department, not just the ones that were mine alone,  got done.

How do you define the work you do?  Think about it.  Recently, a client noticed that she had an idea about what was her work, and what wasn’t, that was really causing stress. She has several employees that need direction and support.  She has to both acquire and maintain her customers.  She has to do billing, and watch the money.  Oh, and she has to do the “work”.   Can you see the problem here?  She thinks that the “work” is the product she makes, and all the rest are just fiddly bits.  She feels like at the end of that day, if she hasn’t finished anything product-wise, that she hasn’t actually done any “work”.

Based on that idea, she’s always feeling behind, like she’s not doing what she “should” be doing.  The pile of unfinished “work” looms as she does all these extraneous tasks.  Or all the other tasks get put on the back burner as she does the “work”.

Here’s the rub…they are ALL the work.  It’s part of being an entrepreneur. You either wear all the hats, or you wear some and are responsible for all the hats being worn by someone else.  Even if you have someone else doing some task, it is ultimately your “work” to guide, watch and foster.  As your business grows, your “work” shifts from actually producing the product to making sure the product gets produced by others; from doing it to overseeing it being done.

This shift in your thinking, this understanding of what your work really is, will help you see the big picture.  It will help you see ways out of any overwhelm you might feel.  It will bring clarity…and that is always a good thing.

Managing Client Expectations

A great friend of mine, Ken Witcher, once made the distinction that good customer service was about “managing client expectations”.  Notice I said “managing”, not “meeting”.

Managing expectations for clients, and holding to them, helps everyone know where the boundaries are.  If you don’t set expectations the way you want them, then you will make yourself crazy.  That’s because if you don’t set the expectation, you are stuck trying to meet your client’s expectations, and you often won’t even know what they are.

Think about it.  We get irritated with companies when our expectations aren’t met….unless they have set the expectation.  The easiest example of this is when we are stuck on hold listening to that crappy music while we wait for a customer service person.  If we are just there listening to the music and the “ads” being poured into our ear, we get increasingly impatient and irritated, don’t we?  However, if they tell us we are the 3rd caller, or that we can expect a 6 minute wait time, then we feel better, don’t we?  That’s because they managed our expectation.

What do you do to help manage your client’s expectations?  Here are some good places to make sure you tell them what to expect (both verbally and in writing):

· What the fees are

· Details of payment

o  When is it due

o  What forms of payment do you expect

· How long it will take to do the work

o  What is their part

§   For example: if they don’t give you everything you need to start, do they go to the back of the line?

o  How are changes handled

§   Timing

§   Charges

· What you will do, and what you won’t

Are you getting the idea?  Most of our hassles with clients can be at least calmed down, if not eliminated altogether, if we just manage their expectations. 

           

Litmus Test

If you make business decisions purely based on money, you’ll get yourself into trouble just like you do with your personal money.  It’s that Money Trap I call “Money in the First Position” all over again.  You’ll take on clients and projects you hate, just to make a buck.  You’ll buy something that doesn’t really work, just to save money.

Here’s the problem.  Money alone is not a good basis for a decision.  I learned this one the hard way.  A partner and I were starting a software business.  We took on a project that we hated, just to give us the money to do what we wanted.  It was awful, hard, painful and tedious.  Yuck.

After that experience we took some time to create a list based on criteria other than money.   A Litmus Test for why we would take on a project or a client.   Or, conversely, why we would not.  Here’s how that worked.  We moved money down from being the only criteria, to being an important reason in amongst other ones.  We crafted a list of other criteria that we called the Why Of It!.  This list included Fun, Ease, Creativity, Innovation, Builds Relationships, Increases my Credibility, Creates a New Opportunity, Teaches me a New Skill that I Want.  Each of these things was something we wanted to foster.  I’ve kept this list, and I still use it to make business decisions.

I make sure that any business ventures hit a big yes on most of the items on my list.  If something hits 7 of the 9 items, it’s good.  If it hits only

or 4 it’s not worth doing, no matter how much money it makes.

Spend some time making your own list of things that move you, things that you want for your business, things that you dream of – and let that list drive your money decisions.