Put yourself out there

Figuring out what you want in life can sometimes be difficult but when you do figure out my advice to everyone is: Put yourself out there!

Recently I have been having some really interesting discussions about producing, creating, and sharing. The first discussion started during a meeting where a fellow colleague of mine (let’s call her Sharon) was discussing a friend of hers (let’s call the friend Amanda). This friend of hers, Amanda, had been pitching a television idea to a few executives only to find out that it would be turned down. However, only months later a very similar television show is now one of the most exported shows from Canadian broadcasting yet. Amanda was heartbroken. This lead Sharon to telling me all about how terrible the television industry can be. While I am usually all ears and ready to listen my response was something that I don’t think Sharon was ready to hear. While I sympathized with Amanda’s story I was not willing to bend on the fact that one singular television show idea should completely define Amanda and her work. My response was something like ‘well I hope she has continued to work on really amazing shows.’ What I heard back was sad. Sharon proceeded to tell me that Amanda was crushed and that after this heartbreak she was thinking of switching into a new industry. End of story 1.

Secondly, I remembered about a month ago reading a great piece from Rian about Going Out on a Limb so I had to go back and re-read her great piece on the topic. In particular I loved this line: I hope you have something like that, something that pushes you to get out into the world and be more “you.”

Thirdly, as a I continue to do some research and write a few notes on several books I am writing/dreaming I revisited Hugh MacLeod’s amazing book Ignore Everybody And 39 Others Keys to Creativity. I loved the simplicity of the read and the advice given the first time I read the book. Nothing changed the second or third time for me. Hugh’s idea around keep producing and working hard is just common sense and something that we don’t hear or put into action often enough. I mean if we love doing something why don’t we just do it?

Then the next thing that happened as this post was beginning to take shape I woke up yesterday only to find that my good friend, Susan Murphy, had written this piece: The number one thing holding you back from creating great content. Suze had written this piece so nicely and for me the message around FEAR being the number one thing holding people back really resonates. I work with people and organizations all the time that are afraid of putting themselves out there. They have these brilliant ideas or these amazing talents and they just never seem to be willing to believe in themselves and put themselves out there. Just like Suze said, it’s because people are afraid. Think about it, how many friends do you have that you encourage to bake more or sing more or dance more because they have amazing talents. We all know friends who amaze us with their hidden talents and we are very quick to point them out, we encourage them to share their talents with us, we sign them up for karaoke, we drag them to open mic nights, we post their poems up, we ask them to be in videos, we love them and we push them. But when the finger gets pointed back at us we tend to shy away from it, why is that? 

Then I saw this amazing demonstration of this young girl PUTTING HERSELF OUT THERE and I just had to write this post and share the story:

 

I mean really in truly what did this girl have to lose? She was either going to get a job offer, which I’m sure she never thought would actually happen, or Ellen would see it, think it was funny or not, would maybe show it on air and have a good laugh or not, or the WORST thing Ellen that could happen…Ellen would never see it and nothing would happen. I mean really are any of those things really that bad? She tried it, she put herself out there and it paid off. Yes I know this is an exceptional example but I could post at hundreds of more links that have articles written on the same topic and/or have similar stories to the young lady on the Ellen show. So I ask this again, what are you waiting on? What hidden talent do you have? What do you want to do in this world? Why the hell are you not doing it?

So what are you doing, why are you still reading this post? Get out there!

Small things matter

For a few days now no matter where I seem to be looking or what I seem to be reading (Airbnb: From Stars to Hearts) I am reminded, overwhelmingly I might add, that the small things matter. I always love this message. I mean it sounds obvious. But it is something that I think we often forget as our world moves faster and faster hurdling forward.

When businesses start ‘the small things matter’ seems to be a philosophy that we all understand and follow instinctively. You send thank you notes, you take those out that have supported you for drinks, you spend extra time with your staff, you certainly never released any products or services without testing them to death, you looked after all the small things. Somehow though as we begin to grow we forget the small things. Two of the best (worst?) industry examples of this is how telecommunications companies (Bell, Telus…)  along with the banking world (RBC, BMO…) all have special, ongoing promotions for NEW customers. It is nice to get a special discount or a welcome note. But to this I ask why not a loyalty discount that wants to make me stay (yes a $2 discount coupon is nice but you just gave my friend $500 for switching)? What about a thank you note for being such a loyal customer for over 10 years, perhaps even hand written if you truly care. Perhaps a free month after a year of service wouldn’t kill you? Perhaps even having technical support that seems to want to help me would be nice, is that too much to ask for? Where in all of our business dealings did we forget that we are human beings? Where did we forget about relationship building?

Funny how changing something as simple as the stars on Airbnb to hearts made such a big difference to their business. This is the kind of minute detail work that is needed if you wish to succeed in your business. Almost all of the clients that come to me are looking at the bigger picture and are looking for a re-brand or an overhaul and sometimes that just doesn’t have to be the case. If you take the time to get to know your audience and you understand what matters to them, at the moment (because boy o’ boy can it switch), then making small changes can mean a big difference for you.

Appreciate your customers, appreciate those who supported you early on, make them feel special (because they are), and never stop thinking about the little things (of course don’t sweat them either, but pay attention to them).

So what small things can you think of that might make a big difference?  What small things matter to your customers? To your audience? What small things matter to you?

Tales from the home office

Get your ass out of bed, stagger tiredly to the kitchen, grab a cup of ‘pick me up’, grab your internet machine, slouch down into your comfiest chair and now you’re ready to get to work! Sound inspiring? Oh and the episode doesn’t end there. Your house will never be cleaner, your dishes will never be washed so many times, clothes and closets will be organized and reorganized, pets will get a whole lot of attention (even if they are your neighbours pets) for anyone that ever finds themselves working from home this might be a more familiar story than you think. You are not alone, many people all across Canada and the globe are choosing (forced) to work from home, some more productive than others. Some of these home workers are graduate students doing research, entrepreneurs, or telecommuters.

For all those working at home who are suffering from ‘anythingotherthanworkitis’ I have some tips. Some tips that have helped me, and tips that have helped those I work with.

  1. Wake up and GET out of the house. Go for a walk, grab a newspaper, meet people. Yes, even in the winter if you live where it is cold, get the hell out of your house. I have found this to be the thing that wakes me up in the morning, gets my brain moving, and allows me to get out of my pajamas and into some clothes that may be more conducive to looking like you might do some work today.
  2. Trick time. One thing that I have found to be super helpful while learning how to work from home (or period) has been to break things down into the smallest amounts of time as possible. For instance instead of completing a WHOLE chapter in one day, challenge yourself to finish just 2 sentences. You will find that as you sit down to just finish 2 sentences you will get into the ‘groove’ and you will work longer. The hardest part to most tasks is getting them started.
  3. Write it down. Yes, simple but effective. If you can’t see it glaring at you in the face then it is just that much easier to avoid.
  4. Share it. Even better than writing it down share it with someone. This helps to make yourself accountable. I have done this with several of the athletes I work with. If  they have papers to write and they want to make the deadline a week earlier than when it is due they will arrange to send it to me. Otherwise, they will just not be able to trick themselves into completing the paper before the real deadline.
  5. Rewards! I use a Smarties/M&M/Skittles system. Incredibly sophisticated as it is this system allows me to reward myself in little jolts of excitement. Pretty much weekly there are 2 bowls on my desk, 1 bowl is filled with some form of sugar rewarding rush while the other is empty. Every time I deem something that I have done as productive I take one candy and place it in the other bowl. When the bowl that was empty is full I know I have done lots of productive things, I get to eat the candy, and I take a day off. So how will your reward system work? Will it be as sophisticated as mine?
  6. Rest. When you work from home it can be all encompassing. There is no such thing as taking work home-it’s all around you all the time. Just because it is readily available doesn’t mean you have to work ALL the time.
  7. Take notes. My home office is filled with books, has a wall that is painted in white board paint, and has hundreds of sticky notes in it. There are a million things you could be doing and should be doing. You will get phones calls and emails galore, people will decide that since you work at home they can connect with you at any time. For those people they get nothing more than a courteous ‘I will take a note of that and get back to you tomorrow’. Not only will other people barge in on your time but your frigging brain will always be bombarded by messages from everywhere. Now that you are at home you can turn on the TV, the radio, people are walking outside, you can freely surf the internet. All of these things can lead to hundreds of hours of time flying by. When I’m watching TV show X at 6pm I might have a brilliant world changing idea. Do I jump up and get working on it? I write a note ‘start working on world changing idea tomorrow.’
  8. Find your time to work. All of the above stated, you work at home so your hours don’t have to be 9 to 5 (most of the time). I love this about my work. I am an early riser and I love working in the hours when every one else is not. I get a whole lot of work done with almost no interruptions. I mean facebook statuses are rarely being updated at 5:30am at the feverish pace that they are at say 10am (less distraction). Find the hours you work well in and make those your core hours.

Now for all you folk who actually go to a place of work that is not your home do not think for a second that we home office workers are fooled by what your schedule can look like as well.

So what are some of your tips? How do you work from your home office? I would love to hear some ideas and suggestions.

Find your story and sell more

I don’t know how many clients that I have worked with have struggled with sales and getting noticed but the number keeps growing. Well my friends life isn’t easy anymore there are thousands if not tens of thousands of choices in the market, which market you ask? It doesn’t matter, any market, pick one and there are an infinite number of choices. There are very few if any single company markets anymore. The choice between Coke and Pepsi just doesn’t exist these days. There are so may different drink types and flavours I mean even water isn’t just water anymore then multiply all of those by 10 when you add diet drinks and extra caffeine lines. Go to buy a car, go stand in a drink aisle, or the cereal aisle, or any aisle for that matter and you will be faced with CHOICE.

So the question still remains how do you get noticed? How do you increase your sales. One of the easiest things I have to say about this is GET OUT THERE. Talk about yourself, talk about your product, but above all else tell a story. Tell a story that is captivating. Say why you do the thing you do and what you believe in. If other people believe in that too then they will join you. I certainly have a lot of respect for what Simon Sinek had to say about all this in his TEDx talk recently:

I don’t know how many businesses I have worked with now that still think that opening their doors is enough. It’s not! You are but a mere speck in the infinite world of consumer choice and consumption. So you better be interesting, you better engage, and while you are at it why not be a little bit fun (thank you DollarShaveClub)

If you are ready to do a bit more business and have some fun then that is the part I can help you with. I love brainstorming and I love helping businesses grow by having some fun. Send me a note and we can get started or if you already have some really fun projects you are working on please post them in the comments section. I love reading, seeing, and/or listening to anything fun and innovative.

Forget about the kids: I declare naps and recess for adults

So my last post was about how we manage our time and the relationship we have with time. I have often thought about this and is something that I think kids get right (ok so maybe we get it right for them, good old forced nap time). I mean when you’re younger, full of energy, and don’t even really have a concept about time (other than you want everything NOW) you get nap time and recess. To this end I have always asked what the HELL do they need nap time for? Oh right they might get cranky if they don’t get nap time. Well guess what folks adults get cranky too when they don’t get enough sleep and I say that any culture who has implemented the Siesta has got things right.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing cultural relationships with time that I have seen while traveling and observing work cultures all over the world has been the Flinstone (if you don’t know what this is then we can’t be friends) complete shut down. I once had the pleasure of working in an extremely small community where everyone and everything shut down when the clock struck noon. I mean it was absolutely amazing to watch as people poured out of the work place between 12pm and 1pm to join their families. They had lunch, they talked, they played games, the whole community was involved and for that 1 hour no one was thinking about work. This was essentially the community recess. People were let out to play, to be themselves, to not be consumed by the work they were doing. It was absolutely beautiful.

The community had a beautiful ebb and flow and really taught me a lot more about life. We as worker bees making this planet spin round and round need to really take time for ourselves. It is so easy for us to get wrapped up and to truly believe that we are so damn important and that this piece of paper or that contract or that whatever the hell it is so friggin’ pressing that it can’t wait for 2 minutes. Our world is speeding up faster and faster and I wonder when fast will become too fast for everyone. Can we increase production infinitely? can we speed up our lives any more?

What happens when you are in your car and you are driving faster and faster, the scenery around you becomes more blurry. Well living life is really not that much different. We say it all the time but we don’t do anything to make it happen, we need to slow ourselves down, we need to appreciate where we are and appreciate what is around us. Because if we don’t slow down there is always a higher chance that we might just crash!

So this is what I want to know, what slows you down?

Learning to live with NO

He learned, can you?

NO is one of those words that can be really hard to learn. It can be hard to hear and it can be hard to say. For many entrepreneurs (or anyone) whose main goal in life is to help others this word can shatter dreams and/or can burn us out.

Learning to hear NO:

When any entrepreneur or general do gooder starts off on their path, just like I did, we are so excited and so focused on all the amazing things that we are going to do for the world that we never once really think about someone not jumping on our bandwagon. I mean why wouldn’t someone want to help me save all the bees in the world? Why wouldn’t someone want to help support young kids learning life skills by re-building old cars? Isn’t there an infinite amount of time and money in this world that people are just willing to hand over? As I built my first company and started putting it out there I heard a lot of no’s and faced a lot of shut doors. This crushed my spirit. I was devastated that someone didn’t like what I was doing or that they couldn’t see it in themselves to help me out. But wow did I get over that quick. The more no’s I got the more I pushed forward and the more drive I had to get my products and services out there.

No is a hard word to digest but one of the things I learned really early on and often tell other entrepreneurs I’m working with is that you have to follow up. Ask clients and customers why they are saying no. If you really want their business then you have to know why so you can decide to fix what is you have to offer or if maybe it just isn’t the right fit for you and them. If they say they don’t have the budget for it then ask them if they did have the budget if they would take it. I have worked with lots of companies who originally said no to me because they just didn’t have the money but as we found money together then we began working together and that barrier no longer existed.

Sometimes however, a no is just a no. You can’t dwell on it you just have to accept it and be determined to show them why they want to do business with you by showing them how well you serve others.

You have to knock on a whole lot of doors usually as you enter a market and one of the key factors to getting noticed in any industry is by getting out there and talking to tons of people. Simply going to 3 or 4 businesses with an idea and hearing no is not reason enough to give up. If you really believe in your ideas and you really think you can help then you have got to learn to love the word NO. Embrace the word no by allowing it to drive your motivation to do better.

How about saying NO:

When you start out you will look for anything. Anything that will put food on the table, that will help pay the bills, anything that will pay period. Maybe you didn’t have the dream of picking up dog crap off people’s lawn as you agreed to be their horticulturist (completely understandable by the way). This might be a great time to practice the word no. You might have to make a shift in a policy saying that you will not do any landscaping unless the lawns you are working on are free and clear. Believe me some people will be pissed by this but others will respect you and want to hire you even more. They will respect that you have boundaries and that you are willing to stick by them.  

Dev Aujla, Founder of Dreamnow and co-author of Making Good said to me many years ago when we were talking about things entrepreneurs should know, “follow through on 100% of the commitments you make by making less commitments.” A simple yet effective statement. If you want to win clients over for life and have them refer you to others then you have to deliver to the expectations that they have for you. That might mean sometimes you have to say no.

Of course there is always a proper way to say NO and here are some great tips from Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.net/say-no/

2 Tips:

  1. Take hearing the word NO as a challenge to make them sorry they said no. Be better than what they ever thought you could be.
  2. Saying NO can be powerful, it can be defining, it can help you from burning out. One of the hardest parts for any entrepreneur is learning our limits. How far will you go? Learn these limits early on, find the triggers that are burning you out. You will be impressed in fact with how well people will respect your ability to say no and to not commit to something that you don’t believe you can deliver your best work on.

So what are your limits? What will you say no to today, next week, next month that you can feel good about?

When do I work an entrepreneur asks

A very interesting question this one is. For many entrepreneurs the idea of breaking free and having the ability to work when you want can be both extremely exciting but for many, when they have that freedom, is also incredibly daunting. Many of the clients I work with have a really hard time, even though they have all the freedom in the world, not working 9 to 5. In fact I would say almost 85% of my clients in the first 3 months of opening really stick to the 9 to 5 kind of attitude (you know the one they were so excited to break away from). Many of them say that they must work then because that is when the rest of the world is working, of course I always point out that actually only their own time zone works in those particular hours but that 9 to 5 can translate into a lot of different times in other time zones (I hope that was clear, you’re smart I know you will figure out what I meant).

I always try to encourage entrepreneurs to think about when their most productive times are instead of when they THINK they should be working? I mean in reality who the hell actually works 9 to 5 anyway? I mean yes you are usually in the office that long but to some degree below is what many schedules can look like:

So the question still stands, when do I work? My answer is simple (as it usually is)

  1. When your motivation is high you work your ass off, you type, you talk, you plan, you connect, you do as many things as possible on that to do list of yours.
  2. When your motivation is not quite at its peak you push yourself. You push yourself to find some motivation. Tell yourself you will just write 1 sentence, you will just make 1 quick fix on the website. You do what you can to maintain some kind of productivity. Usually in writing just 1 sentence you find a surge or inspiration and before you know it you have written and entire article.
  3. When your motivation is gone then you stop. You take a break. You read something you have been meaning to read, you go for a walk, you get a cup of tea, you listen to the radio. One of the most fun and productive solutions I have found to work for me and others is that when the drive to get MY work done is not high  I look for someone else to help, ie: a colleague or I go and volunteer somewhere for the day. 
This notion that we have to be working during certain hours is actually quite ridiculous as I have found in my time as an entrepreneur. Yes there are times when things have to get done during certain hours but there are always a million things to do and they can usually be done any time. For instance I would say 2 of the best times for me to work are:
  1. Early in the morning from about 6am-10am. I seem to get lots of reading and writing done in those hours.
  2. Then I’m usually productive again from about 7pm-11pm or even later when I’m on a roll. This is when lots of creativity for me seems to be flowing and when I get a whole bunch of planning done.
So are those regular hours? I would say no and many starting entrepreneurs are mystified by this. The solution is easy you work when you can get the work done. One of the hardest things about this entire process though, and it took me almost a year, is to figure out when those chunks of times arise for you on a fairly regular basis.
Of course I know that some of you are shouting at your computers “but I run a retail store or maybe a restaurant how can I possibly not be working during those hours?” Well this is one of the things you have to consider when you are running a restaurant or retail store, what are the hours? Look at the great model Cora’s has going. Cora’s is a great breakfast and lunch business that is open early in the morning and is closed by 2pm. Obviously, whoever was deciding those business hours realized in themselves that they liked having the afternoons off. In fact I don’t think it was by chance that the restaurant has a strong family value and that when Cora’s kids arrived home in the afternoon their mom was home.
Determine what it is you want to accomplish in life and figure out the times that you can get one step closer and that will make life easier. We have a lot of hours in a day and a lot of choice now because of our technological mobility as to when we get work done.
One last quick tip: I work on an M & M or Skittles time line (depends on the week). That means that when I do something productive I move one skittle from one jar to the other. When all the skittles have been moved from one to the other then I deserve a day off (sometimes I take 2).
When do you work? How often do you work? When are you most productive? What ass kicking method could be employed to make you think about work differently?