One Response to Newtown

I’ve been more introspective than usual this holiday season.  I think it started when I heard about the shootings in Newtown.  How does one respond to such a thing?

Over the days that followed, I listened as other people responded.  Some called for gun control, while others advocated for armed security in every American school.  Some struggled with depression, asked for permission to greive or questioned what to tell their own children.

I don’t know anyone, personally, who died that day.  I don’t have children of my own.  I’m not stuggling to make spiritual sense of the nonsensical.  But, it does seem that some response, some change, in my own life is appropriate.

I think the reason the violent, senseless death of children hits us so hard is because we see the incredible potential a child has – the life yet unlived, the choices unmade.

The children who died in Newtown that day may have had the potiential to be great musicians, world leaders, gifted doctors.  We’ll never know.

If fact, they were ordinary children.  And the reality is that, though they had incredible potential, they were no more likely to meet that potential than any one of us.

What we actually bring to the world is built on the foundation of our potential, but is liberated or limited by the the beliefs we hold and the actions we take.  Sadly, most of us meet only a fraction of that potential, contributing far less than we are capable of simply because we allow fear to limit what we do.

So, my response to this tragedy is to recommit myself to live up to my potential, to take the difficult actions, even when fear may try to get in my way.  My response is to take advantage of the opportunities I have, not only for myself, but out of respect for those, child and adult alike, who no longer have that choice.

That’s how I choose to respond to the events in Newtown.

What about you?

Reasons to be grateful

The news is filled with reasons to be concerned, angry, scared.

Here are a few reasons to be grateful…

 

Simplify

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  Love it.  It’s my absolute favorite holiday.   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas, New Years, Mardi Gras…

I really think it’s cool how people express their thanks to each other.  How they really think about what they’re grateful for and consider their blessings.

And I love the food.

Thanksgiving is the only holiday in our home where the menu has been refined to the point that we hate to deviate from it.  Each element requires careful preparation and is a mini celebration in itself.  Some people might think we’re obsessive, but we mostly really enjoy cooking together.

Just to give you an idea – For the pumpkin pie (We eat Pumpkin and Pecan – no Apple pie for Thanksgiving in this house) Pastry is made from scratch.  Sugar Pumpkins are sourced early at the farmers market, then is roasted and caramelized.  Add farm fresh eggs, organic cream (Thanksgiving is no time to think thin) and extra spices (double everything except the cinnamon, which we triple).  Every thing is put together at the last minute.  The pie bakes during dinner so it will still be warm a couple hours later when we have room for it…

You get the idea.

As you can imagine, this whole process requires careful planning in the week before the celebration.

It is still subject, however, to forces of nature.  Like the stomach bug that incapacitated me on Friday and kept me near the facilities over the weekend.  There was just no way I could even THINK about my favorite holiday without feeling a little (or a lot) green.

As we’ve relaid our plans, we’ve chosen to simplify, include the essentials and remember everything besides the food we have to be thankful for.

Getting great

A friend of mine, Matthew Perosi, just crossed a huge milestone.  He’s posted to his blog for 600 days in a row.

In that time, he’s built a loyal following of people in his industry who respect him and trust him.  He has an invaluable advantage over anyone in his space.  It’s not because he’s the smartest or the best looking.

It’s because he was willing to be committed and to perform consistently.

Being great isn’t a hit or miss sort of operation.  And it isn’t about momentary brilliance.

It’s about being good – consistently – for long enough, to get great.

 

But, I don’t want to sell

Here’s the big lie (Are you ready?) –

“You can just outsource it.  If you’re not good at sales, just hire someone who is.”

Here’s the truth-

We are born salespeople.  Crying at full volume when you’re hungry or upset is a high pressure sales tactic.

We sell ideas.  We sell our vision.  And we sell stuff.  When we do it well – authentically, with integrity and passion, we enrich the world and no one feels “SOLD.”

Think of the people you most respect and admire.  What do they have in common?

Surprise!

 

Listen to smart people

I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s Blog for a long time.  Today, I’ve been thinking a lot about his post Free coffee, next exit.  Seth has a great way of taking an example from one place where it’s completely obvious and reframing it so it clarifies something else.

Seth is one of the smart people I listen to.  He’s often insightful and he helps me have thoughts that I haven’t had before.  Thoughts that enrich my life while they keep my business moving forward.

There are a lot of dumb people I could be listening to.  I don’t have to list them here.  You can fill in the blanks.

Life is too short…

What have you swiped lately?

You might think I’m suggesting you’ve done something wrong.  I’m not.

As a blogger, I have a swipe file.  It’s a practice that I swiped from copywriters.  Copywriters commonly keep files of advertising copy (good and bad) that they’ve seen, often outside their industry or market, that will help write effectively, either by emulating it or by avoiding it’s mistakes.  It gives them a place to bounce from when it’s time to create original copy.

I’ve found that I don’t just use the idea on my blog.  I use it in my business generally, too.  If I have a good experience with another business, I ask myself “How could I give my clients a similar experience?”

This helps me have new, not completely swiped, thoughts.  Thoughts that no one in my industry is having yet, because they’re not part of the common conversation.

It’s great fun.  If you haven’t swiped anything lately, it’s not too late to get started.  What could you swipe today?

Service in the age of add

Most business owners who approach me tell me essentially the same thing – that they want (or need) more customers.  Sometimes, this is true – they’re new and need to build a customer base.  But often what they actually want is more revenue.

Of course, a business can create more revenue in 3 ways (1) sell to more customers, (2) sell to the same customers more often and/or (3) sell higher value items to the same customers.  For established businesses, the second and third options are often more profitable because the cost of acquiring a new customer is much higher than selling to someone we’re already serving.  It’s a lot easier, too.  Also, because you have already earned their trust, it’s much easier for an established customer to feel comfortable making a larger investment with you.

Still, believe it or not, some of my clients initially push back – They see their business as providing the thing they’ve always provided and only want to do that.

Now, here’s where the whole issue of ADD comes in.  (I know that attention deficit disorder is a clinical diagnosis, but here I’m using it as shorthand to describe the information overload and indecision that many of us experience.)

Your customer has already invested their most precious asset in you.  They have given you their attention – a limited and valuable thing.  The attention they gave to you didn’t go into other relationships that are valuable to them (their kids, their spouse, their boss).   If you limit how much value you’re willing to offer them, they don’t get to manufacture more attention to figure out how to get other wants and needs met by someone else.  Their attention is already spoken for.  Those wants and needs, instead, go unmet – maybe forever.

So, fine, don’t expand your offerings to make your business more profitable and less vulnerable to economic uncertainty.  Do it to better serve the people who have invested their attention in you.

Tequila and the attention problem

I often talk about the attention problem… You need your prospect’s attention in order to start a relationship with them, but they don’t want to give it to you because they intuitively know it’s valuable and scarce and they already have too many other people demanding it. But, beyond that, if you don’t have someone’s attention, they can’t hear you. It’s as if you don’t exist.

My dog, Tequila, reminded me of this the other afternoon. We adopted her from the shelter a few weeks ago. She’s almost a year old, so it’s a little late to start training, but we’re persisting…We were out in the yard playing and lightly working on “come”, when her attention was captured by something at the edge of the lawn.

I kept calling her name, slapping my thighs, making noise. No response. She was completely involved in her own world twenty feet from mine. I did not exist. I started laughing because I recognized my drive to persist with my actions despite the fact that she had no idea I was even there.
Content may be king, but attention is queen.

Under water

My friend, Eric, works in a building on (ironically) Water Street in Manhattan.  He’s not in the office today.  The mechanicals in the basement are under 8 feet of water.

You thought you had troubles…