A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

19 November 2008

Truth? Or Consequences?

No coach, change agent or motivational speaker worth her salt will let you get away with complaining about your business situation.  Sure, they may listen to your whining for a few minutes, but soon the inevitable confrontation will come: "And this attitude of yours.  How's that workin' for ya?"  And indeed, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, "many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

But what about the "truth"?  The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, also known as the "bank bailout," is an objective reality.  The statistics about unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies, layoffs and so forth are real numbers, and not all of them are collected on any particular political agenda.  No advanced degree in mathematics is required to understand the rapidly dwindling bank balance at General Motors.  Even the relentless optimists among us are challenged to find the silver lining of these particular clouds.

Even so, one thing is certain: the more time we spend describing what we see, the more risk we run of seeing what we describe.

I suggest an experiment.  Starting now and for at least the next 24 hours, commit yourself to that old platitude your mom used to use - "if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  Seek out the things in your life that please you.  What things do you have that you love?  A favorite sweater, a great picture you keep on your desk, your pet, a masterpiece created by your kid?  How would you describe those things?  Strive to catch other people being good.  Keep your eyes open for a kind gesture, smile, or a burst of productivity from a coworker or employee, and acknowledge it.  Praise your spouse or child for some small thing they do today.  Call your best friend.  Send your mom a "thank you" note for no reason.  Make a list of at least five things for which you are truly and deeply grateful.

I'm not saying you should pretend that other stuff isn't there - just that the other stuff should be on the periphery while you focus on the sources of joy in your life.  After all, which impacts your life more right now - the federal interest rate index, or the love of your family and friends?  Which one really matters, even on the day the mortgage is due?

Doesn't it seem a little strange to spend so much energy worrying over things we can't control, when there are so many things we absolutely can?

The "truth" is an entire world of events -- far more of them good than bad or ugly.  The media tends to edit the truth down to the half-dozen most spectacularly bloody headlines, but let's face it -- if that stuff were normal everyday occurrences, it wouldn't be news, would it?   You don't have to edit that way.  There's plenty of truth out there that is positive, fulfilling, meaningful, joyous, and blessed.  Edit for the good stuff for a day and let me know how you feel at the end.

10 November 2008

The Old-Fashioned Future

For reasons not entirely clear to me, I grew up and lived most of my early adult life with a bias toward "Big Box" businesses.  Given the option, I would almost always choose the big chain store, the big chain restaurant, the well-known national brand.  And by extension, I tended to dismiss the little guy as an amateur, or worse yet, a roach motel to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people think this way.  They assume the big chain will have better quality, better selection, lower prices, longer hours -- and they may or may not bother to check those assumptions against the reality of their particular business community.

I am happy to say I have learned better, and as the owner of my own small business, I have a whole different appreciation now for the unique challenge of competing against the guys in the Big Boxes.  What people who bypass their local businesses miss, is the local business owner's commitment to his community, his flexibility and ingenuity, and his willingness to accommodate your needs.  The owner of a local business, because she is local, can, and will, learn the names of your kids, your shoe size, your food allergies, or whatever else she may need to know about you in order to serve you better than a big chain ever could.

Although it's not always the case, it often seems that the local business will have a tough time competing on price.    So if you're a local business owner, here's today's news flash: Don't try to compete on price!  Most of the people I know would gladly pay a little extra to be confident of the quality of the product, of its freshness or its solid construction or its state-of-the-art design.  Most would gladly pay extra for a meaningful guarantee of quality and helpful service that didn't require the "extended warranty" surcharge.  And most would go back to a place where customer service meant more than a fast check-out and a cursory "have a nice day."

Most would love to interact with "associates" who feel some genuine association with the company that issues their paychecks, much the way it was before the turn of the last century, when small local businesses comprised the overwhelming majority of commercial enterprises.

Who are your competitors?  What share, of whose wallet, are you seeking?  And how do you establish yourself as the vendor of choice for the benefits your products and services confer?  Is there anything you might need to do differently, if you want people to get out of the box (the Big Box, that is) and do business with you instead?

04 November 2008

Fired up?

Please set aside for a moment your personal political views and whatever attitudes or opinions you may have about Senator Barack Obama.  This post is not about him, nor about his campaign, nor intended to find for or against him in any way.

After you have set those views aside, please take a look at this video.

I find this to be a great example of a springboard story.  It is short, simple, easy to grasp, immensely personal and immensely powerful.  It galvanizes huge numbers of people to take action, because it helps them deeply believe the action they take will make a positive difference.

What about your life - professional or personal - needs changing?  What kind of event or experience would inspire you to believe you could make that change, and spur you to take the necessary actions?  What would the springboard story be?  To whom would you tell it, and what action would they take as a result?

What's the immediate next action YOU need to take to make that happen?

03 November 2008

If a blog falls in the woods...

While I've had plenty of enthusiasm for writing over the last several months, I've evidently lacked the discipline to publish Magic Words in predictable scheduled newsletter format.  This is the next step in my ongoing professional evolution - we'll see how it works out.

Tomorrow is Election Day, and no blog would be complete without mention of it.  As it happens, the race of most immediate concern to me is my own: learn more about that at my campaign website, quick, before it's too late.  The key to democracy is not to vote for some particular candidate or issue; they key to democracy is simply to vote.  If 30% of eligible voters go to the polls, we only know what the majority of that 30% want.  Do you really want 15% -plus-one of all eligible voters making the choices that impact our nation's results for the next four years and beyond?

And that's really the heart and soul of everything, isn't it?  Each choice you make, including the choice not to choose, will impact your results from that moment on.  It's worth taking the time to research your options, search your heart, and make the best choice you can.  In politics, and in life.  Make your choice based on the results you want, for yourself and for your world -- and whenever you don't like the results you're getting, re-examine your choices.