Who’s The Boss

I am not sure why I continue to be amazed that life lessons come along when I need to hear them. My suspicion is that the lessons are always available; I just notice them when I am ready to learn. I have experienced one of those times this week! I received this message from an email list I subscribe to:

“Your goals should also be designed to create rewards that are most important to you, not to someone else“

In and of it’s self this is a nice quote without far reaching ramifications for me. However, for weeks Jenn and I have been enmeshed in discussions about life, business, and how we are proceeding with each. It’s no surprise to anyone that it is hard to balance running a business (in my case two of them), personal time, relationships, personal goals and entertainment. The lines get very blurred. For example, is an evening networking event personal time, entertainment or business?

Yesterday, our business received an email. It was an email that upset me greatly.

It’s not the kind of thing that usually bothers me, (because we have learned that almost everyone you meet believes they know your business better than you and their advice is priceless) but for some reason it really rankled me. The email was a chastising email from someone who was not pleased with a decision we made for our business – A decision that saved us time and saved us from unnecessary loss of product; a decision that resulted in no loss of money to the letter writer. A decision that was made with careful and thoughtful consideration brought on my circumstances (rain) beyond our control.

From the moment the email arrived, around 11am, I began to stew. Like any good stew, I steamed, I rattled on about it, I fumed and I wrote and rewrote responses (none that ever were sent). I just kept saying over and over, ‘HOW DARE SOMEONE CHASTISE ME FOR MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION FOR MY BUSINESS!” I was still stewing on this matter when I went to bed last night. This morning I awoke with this blog post in my head and a totally different outlook.

Too often in my life I have tempered my goal for the needs of others.

Last week I had dinner with a friend whose brother was just diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The brother is 49 years old (same as me) and his plight made me ponder my own mortality. In the days after this dinner I began to proclaim that I was officially


I implored my young friend who just began his freshman year in college to ‘do it all’ and to ‘learn it all’ and finish with no regret. (No doubt he left his lunch with me shaking his head and wondering about the ranting of an old woman). However, in reality I was ranting to a younger version of me. I was wishing I could go back and erase the regret.

I have concluded that we need to focus on the end game. We need to have a clear sight of what (or who) is important and we must make the right decision for us. Not your mother (or father). Not your spouse. Not your children. Not your best friend. For YOU! I am not saying we should doggedly pursue our goals to the detriment of others. But I am saying

We Should Doggedly Pursue Our Goals!

It is not too late (no matter how old you are) to choose to pursue your goals! As the picture says, be assured that saying yes to someone else does not mean you are saying no to you!

Are your decisions today the right decisions for you?  or are you losing yourself to pacify and placate someone else?

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The Most Effective Yes is NO

This morning I noticed that my blotter paper was beginning to look ragged. Over the years I have used many different types of blotters, some have calendars, some have cute pictures, and this one is plain paper. I use it to write myself notes. I use it to doodle. But the most important thing I do is write my words of encouragement.

Out with the old blotter paper

For 2012, I deviated from my usual three words to only choose one word – YES!

I have been pleased with the places YES has taken me in 2013 – ziplining, competitive dining, concerts, woodworking, parties, shooting range, and most recently marathon training <eeek>. The list is far too long to share here of all the things YES has made (allowed) me do! There is not one I regret giving up laying on the couch for (except maybe marathon training <grin>).

As I was replacing my blotter with a nice new clean sheet, and writing YES! In large letters on the new one, I began to think of the opposite side of yes – NO. I occurred to me that saying no is just as important to my successful yes campaign as saying yes.

Effectively saying no is difficult. Especially when you know you have the ability and possibly even the desire. You, nor I, can be all things to all people. Like a lot of people I struggle with being overextended. I see things that I want to do. I belong to organizations where I want to give more.

We must be ever mindful of the finite amount of time available to us.

That annoying law of nature that makes time a fixed amount each day will not allow us to do all the things we want to do. It is a constant struggle for me. When the civic organizations I belong to say they need something I know I can do well, it is hard for me to not say yes. When my church needs people to do things I know I would enjoy it is hard for me to not say yes. When I am asked to participate in an event, it is hard for me to not say yes.

So how do we cope with the ever-increasing demands on our time?

First, accept the fact that you can’t do it all. WOW, is that hard for me!

Second, know what you really want to do with your life and time.

And lastly, develop strategies for saying no.

Here is a excerpt from a great article I found ‘Five Ways to Say ‘No’ Effectively

It may surprise you to learn that the most frequently used and most ineffective way to say “no” is to declare, “I don’t have time to get involved.” Nobody cares if you don’t have time because they don’t have time either. So what happens? You allow yourself to be persuaded (out of guilt) to accept the assignment. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s more than one way to say “no” effectively. The next time Tom Jones, chair of the “Run for Healthy Hearts,” asks you to “just show up for a few short meetings,” take advantage of one of the following techniques to protect your time and still preserve the relationship.

The pleasant no

“Tom, the run sounds a lot more fun than what I’m going to be doing at that time, but I’m going to have to say ‘no.’ Thanks.” Said sincerely, this response upholds the value of the other person and the request. It is a kinder, gentler no — but still a no.

The conditional no

“Tom, I can’t be at the meetings, but I’ll be glad to help set things up the night before the run and be in charge of registration the day of the event.” Often overlooked, this is one of the most versatile and valuable ways of saying no. You’ve set conditions for saying “yes” without giving up your higher priorities.

If Tom counters that he needs you to stay for the complete event and help clean up at the end of the day, be sure to weigh your priorities before reacting. Remember you are still the one in control of your response.

The sleep-on-it no

“Tom, let me think about your request.” Often a quick “yes” is a reflex reaction to feelings of guilt, fear of hurting someone or the strong desire to serve or have fun. Giving yourself time to assess your priorities ensures a sincere response on your part. To assuage the person’s legitimate fear (based on past experience with others) that you might never get back with an answer, add these words: “… and I’ll let you know by noon tomorrow, Tom, if that’s not too late for you.” If, after thinking about it, you deliver a negative reply on schedule the next day, Tom will know at least that you’ve given his request serious consideration.

The alternative-solution no

“Tom, I can’t help out with the heart run, but I know Dr. Markus will be glad to assist you.” This tells the person with the request that you value him or her and the investment of time he or she is making. It also shows your willingness to help solve the problem. Obviously, any time you volunteer someone else, you should check with that individual first.

The secret-weapon no

“Tom, I’m not able to make the heart run a priority right now.” That’s all you say. Tom will probably expect you to explain and may even say, “Well, what are you doing instead?” No explanation is needed. It’s really not anybody’s place to ask you to defend your priorities. So, if you really know what your priorities are and you want to protect them at all costs, this no is for you.

I also really enjoyed the article ‘Seven Ways to Say ‘NO’ and Keep Good Relations‘ in Psychology Today. The most effective way I have found to say yes, to thing I want to do and be, is to learn to say no to the things that distract me or take time away from my goals. What about you? Are you saying yes to things that get you closer to YOUR goal? Or are you saying yes to things that distract you from reaching your goal?

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I love a plan! I enjoy the process of making a plan. There is just a special joy about deciding a course of action to deal with a specific problem. Left to my own devices, I usually stick with the plan. As a matter of fact, I often find myself in the position of wondering why something did not happen….and my response is ‘BUT, WE HAD A PLAN’.

The reality is that having a plan and implementing a plan live at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Make a Plan

So here are steps to help you accomplish what you are planning:

1 – Make your plan realistic. When making a plan it is tempting to want to see everything in a Pollyanna, pie in the sky way; DON’T DO IT! Have lofty goals and reach for the stars but make your plan for accomplishment rooted firmly in realistically what you can accomplish.

2 – Get the entire teams buy in. If you are a boss making the plan, you can demand compliance but if your team doesn’t understand the reasons and agree with the plan, the implementation will be less effective.

3 – Document the plan. It is easy to lie to ourselves. It is easy to ‘modify’ the plan in our minds as an excuse to not implement it. It is also easy for a team member to claim they didn’t understand the plan.  If the plan lives in a written format there is no chance for confusion and less chance of mental justifications.

4 – Create visual cues. I like to do this in my calendar (or in a task manager that offers a ‘pop up’ on my computer or a text message reminder). For example, I have a pop up that says, ‘Go to the gym’.

5 – Build a reward into the plan. Everyone loves to be rewarded for a job well done. So, feed your team, give a bonus, or relax your dress code for a day; whatever reward works for your team.

Meeting your goals is just a matter of knowing where you are going and how you are going to get there!

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It’s Life not a Math Problem (or is it)

A few weeks ago I sat in my office and listened to Jenn tutoring math. The subject was either calculus or algebra, to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention, I was doing my own work. However, I suddenly hear Jenn ask, what do these triangles have in common. Before I could stop myself I shouted, ‘they’re both triangles’ and everyone laughed.

Since that day I have considered how often I use math on a daily basis. As the kid who was once told by a teacher I was ‘too stupid’ to do math, I avoid the topic as much as possible. (Just for the record, thank to the encouragement of the next year’s teacher THIS ‘too stupid’ kid took and passed several advanced math classes, but that is another blog post). While I am no math whiz, I do enjoy the logical way math operates.

Math has set rules. If you follow those rules you will get the same answer, EVERY time.

Analytical reasoning is the primary tool used in solving problems of every kind, including math problems. When I was in school I, like many people hated the dreaded ‘word problem’. Why? Because not only did it require I do math (bleck) I first had to determine the problem before I could solve for an answer.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your view of math), life is not a math problem. Or is it? Solving problems is something that we all do everyday for as long as we live. It can be a very rewarding, especially when the situation requires some measure of creativity in finding a solution.

Here are some Math Strategies, you can apply to life

1. Do Something – You can’t solve a problem by being so overwhelmed that you fear action. When confronted by a life problem start doing something. There are always barriers, and people caught up on staring at the barrier never try to figure a way around. They’re not sure what to do, so they do nothing. Meanwhile, the successful people I know just start doing things. They take steps. Even if they aren’t always the right ones, they make progress. They adjust course as they go along, but they move forward. They do something!

2. Try Small Cases. Many problems in math revolve around X. X is an abstract. Sometimes it helps to solve the problem by substitution (example: Substitute 1 for X. then 2. And then 3, etc) and see how the problem behaves.

While very much like strategy 1(do something) this give a clearer path for what to do and something that’s relatively easy to try. Don’t just leap in with one big bet. Start with a few small tests, look for the pattern, tweak and test again. Once you’ve unlocked the pattern: only then do you go big. Your odds of success increase dramatically.

3. Show not Tell. Math teachers always make you show your work.  You can’t just throw out an answer without the proof to back it up. No doubt you have met people who talk a good game but once they have the job or gain your trust, you realize they don’t have the knowledge or work ethic to back it up. Well, in the real world it is time to put up or shut up.

But the difference between being a stuffed shirt and someone who truly makes a difference in the world is the substance behind the rhetoric. Be a person of substance.



4. Don’t lose sight of your goal. I have a tendency to get so excited when I figure out a hard problem that I stop to celebrate. Unfortunately, on a math test and in real life the timer doesn’t stop running because I figured something out!

You MUST keep going on to the next problem.

However, in life (unlike math), today you may follow a certain set of steps and get one answer and tomorrow you might get something completely different.  You see, in life there is always a variable; other people, different circumstances or timing. These variables make the outcome unpredictable and sometimes unnerving. But if you’re doing something, testing and adjusting, you have substance and you’re steadily moving toward your goal – you can conquer any of life’s problems (even math word problems).

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How Do You Run?

Yesterday morning started as most Sunday’s for me….leisurely. I drank my coffee, played on the computer, and read a book. I enjoyed the preparation and consumption of what we call ‘big breakfast’ (biscuits, gravy, eggs, bacon, etc). Then, unusually, I returned to my chair and my book. It was almost time for Church before I began to get ready for Church and needless to say we arrived late.

That is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind

My frame of mind upon arrival was harried and un-centered. But I did my best to settle. Then the scripture was read – 1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 26 which ends with ‘That is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind’.

How many things do we do without a clear goal in mind? Or we allow other events to distract us from our goal. My goal yesterday to arrive at Church on time; but because my actions did not reflect that goal I failed.

Perhaps you wish to run a marathon but your training is unfocused and sporadic. Possibly you want to change careers or earn a degree but you allow the mundane and dead-end job to occupy your energies. It is time to wake up and realize you need to run toward your goal and be singular of focus.

What are you focused on this week?

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Life in a Super Bowl Party

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday – A sacred day in our culture. In our house we love football. We devote most Sunday’s to cheering our teams. Several years ago Jenn and I started hosting a Soup(er) Bowl party, as the name implies we make soup and have a party. It is great fun and we enjoy the experience, except when our team(s) are actually playing. At those times the social interaction of the party eliminates seeing the game. (As a side note, we now only host a party when we have no dog in the fight).

Frequently in reaching for our goals we encounter the same type of problem. We know our goal but we get so caught up in the trappings around the goal we fail to accomplish the goal. It happens to me. I set a goal but become so enthralled with the gadgets or reading about other people who have the same goal that I forget to do the actual thing I set out to do.

Last week I realized I have trouble completing my to-do list. Why? Because I do the fun stuff; I do the part I want to do and when it comes to the difficult or unpleasant tasks I ‘get’ to claim I am ‘out of time’ or some equally clever lie I’ve convinced myself is acceptable.

Are you living your life in a Super Bowl Party? Are you so busy with the fun stuff around the event that you miss the event?

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