I look a certain way therefore I am a certain way

ilookthereforeiamThis is something I have been thinking about and playing with for a long long time – and I know MANY others have been as well. Today I need to rant just a little bit about self-esteem as it relates to outer beauty. This is a post that will be long and it is something that I know may not come off in the way that I necessarily want it to. I know many will be opposed to many of the arguments I am putting up there and that is alright we are all allowed to have our opinions and struggles with thoughts. It is a post that I have struggled with writing for a really long time but a few things have compelled me to write about it. If anything please just skip to the bottom few paragraphs and humour me with what the end message is.

Not so long ago I was sitting at a business breakfast series and the main speaker was talking about looking professional. This is not a new topic and it is one I have taken in on many other occasions be it in person or via watching a video or a live broadcast, I’m always up for listening and learning both about the topic and sometimes even more so how the speaker is presenting. This particular speaker was very well dressed, however I would say that with all the make-up caked on to match the spray tan I’m not so sure I noticed all of the details and intricacies of her immaculate clothes.

Ok, so you can likely see where this is going. For anyone who has known me for any period of time at all you will know that I’m a strong advocate for being who you are, dressing how you feel comfortable, but even MORE so, and the reason for why I dress in shorts and sandals for as long as I can here in Canada I am an advocate for not ever judging a book by its cover but rather by stopping, taking a wee bit of our precious time, and discovering the inner contents. I love being able to challenge the norm and to push the limits, yes even when it comes to outer appearances. Now I’m certainly not advocating that anyone ever go out looking like a complete slob (although I assume that has a varying degree in many others perspectives) but rather I am here to challenge how we act and treat each other based on outer appearances.

When I was listening to the speaker talk about being professionally dressed she brought up some really great points – points that I definitely believe are true. The speaker mentioned that it only takes a few short seconds before someone makes a judgement about us and our status so if you’re in business that is important to know. The speaker also brought up the point that for many clients they respect and often TRUST (big word, I will come back to this one for sure) the person they are about to work with if they are dressed on par or even better 1 level higher than they are (hmmm…I suppose there are levels of dress…I wonder when you earn enough levels and points if you get to fight King Koopa or if you get to enter some Bonus Worlds – yes, I think that is probably true).

The speaker also had many other good points about being dressed professionally however there were 2 main points that got me thinking about this and then something else happened today that made me want to write this piece.

So first the 2 main points that the speaker said that made me write down the notes and start to formulate this rant in my head (it’s been going on for almost a decade now).

1. “Whether it is fair or not it does not matter.” – this was a statement made in relation to how we are judged based on our outer appearance.

2. “Most people base other peoples values on how they look”

So allow me to tackle #1. She is right, it is not fair, it is absolutely not fair. But instead of saying that as if it is fact should we not at some point challenge it? I mean sometimes status quo has to be challenged. I think this is one of those times (keep reading and you will find out why this is such a BIG deal to me.)

Now what about #2. Well once again the speaker was 100% correct with that statement I think alot of people do judge others values based on how they look but what if we didn’t? What if we allowed ourselves to pause for a minute and really get to know the person, the building, the animal, the thing we are looking at or interacting with. Well shit that is a crazy notion because we don’t have enough TIME to ever get to know someone. We need to make quick decisions in life that save us time. We need to count people in or out of our circle so as to not waste our precious commodity, TIME. Ok, ok I get it time is a valuable resource and obviously peoples appearance must tell us the whole story about what they value, who they are, where they come from, and whether or not we should interact with them.

Finally before I make another leap into the 1 thing that set me off today, along with a few other good reads and videos I wanted to return to the big word that I wrote a little while ago TRUST. Yes we do tend to TRUST those who are dressed in some of the nicest and usually most expensive clothes. We see it as a sign of respect and a sign of ummm….power I think that’s what most people think anyway. Immediately I think about the famous Milgram Study from 1961 which has since been replicated and can be viewed here (there are 3 parts feel free to watch it all if you wish-you could also take a peak at the Stanford prison experiment conducted by Dr. Zimbardo as it relates to uniforms and power):

So we TRUST and respect people because they dress a certain way. That does sound reasonable and helpful in many situations I believe and it certainly can be sometimes. I would argue though that we mustn’t just always make this a rule. We need only look to Wall Street and many other business/government scandals to realize that just because people dress a certain way doesn’t mean they behave in certain ways that we would expect them to. I mean just look at how respectful and adult like these men in suits can be: 

Ok one last small story before I jump. About a year ago I was asked to judge a business classes presentation, myself and 2 other very successful business people. I was rather honoured to be asked to sit with such highly successful people. I had always admired the work they had done (hmmm…merit based on work there’s a new concept in all of this.) Anyhow we got sitting down and one of the students stepped up to present in a pair of jeans (while many of his peers were dressed in suits). The judge to my immediate right, before hearing a word come out of the young man’s mouth took his pen and stroked the sheet from one side to the other – that was it, from this judge the student was getting a big fat ZERO. The student was presenting to us a brand new company based on skate boarding, skate board paraphernalia, and skate board wear, this judge would never hear it though. After the presentations were done this gentleman and I got speaking – he was outraged at how this presenter could get up there and present a business case in jeans – “how disrespectful” he mentioned. I then just happened to mention that the pair of jeans he had on were a $300 pair of jeans, I wanted to see my colleagues reaction. Well wouldn’t you know it now all of a sudden it was a different ball game. He didn’t know that they made jeans that expensive and they did fit rather well, I mean after all he was presenting on skate boarding and skate boarding culture so I suppose he looked the part – my fellow judge’s entire mindset, a rather intelligent and savvy business man himself had just had a turn of heart when he happened to hear a little bit about the turn in wallet that young presenters jeans would make in his pocket.

Look I know this is not a popular stance and I do agree people should look professional some of the time (I also really do believe that if you look good you may even just feel better about yourself-bah flip flop some more why don’t you Shawn) but I think what really has set me off as of late are things like this DOVE video around Selfies and about how we see ourselves through Sketches.

We are hurting each other and we are hurting ourselves. For years and years now we have held a standard that is just SO unrealistic. We look at magazines and we envy to look a certain way so that we can feel a certain way. Then things like this get produced and they go VIRAL but still nothing really changes.

People cry, people worry, people have anxiety attacks, people starve themselves, people DIE. We need to change, we need to be better, we need to help each other, and we need to encourage each other. We need to be our best selves and yes I do think that means both on the inside and on the outside I think that in order for that to happen we need to be supportive of one another.

Isn’t it just a little bit crazy that we still live in a world where we can make each other feel so bad just by judging each other about the clothes we decide to put on our back, then we get so very upset when kids have image and body issues. We tell kids it will be alright and that inner beauty means more than outer beauty but we as adults are not setting the best example, are we?

Ok let’s summarize all of these muddled thoughts. I think I owe you that since you have made it to the end of the post (holy shit you’re brave, or silly like me, or by now probably fuming at what a moron I am either way you made it so good for you!)

  • Be comfortable and confident with who you are – way harder than anyone can ever know.
  • Let’s do something really quite unique and unusual in our time – give each other TIME. Get to know people, talk with them, listen to them and what they have to say BEFORE we judge who they are.

Hmmm…was that it – shit I used a lot of words to say these 2 simple messages but I guess that’s what happens when these thoughts have been struggled with for over a decade now. (I wonder if in the next decade they will get clearer?)

I’m really looking forward to having more discussions and hearing people’s opinions on this one.

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You never know – always be open

When you look there are a lot of doors that can be opened

When you look there are a lot of doors that can be opened

I’m in the midst of a bit of travelling at the moment, currently in BC, where the weather is just beaming down goodness upon us.

This post started the minute I got on the airplane. I was headed to seat 11A only to find out that in fact it was already being sat in. So what does a red-headed adventurer do? Well since I’m usually the last one on the airplane anyway, I just went and sat in another seat – 11D, which dammit, turned out to be someone else’s seat. This lady came after me, I mean come on I’m always the last one on the plane. Well there was another option – 11E was free. I scooted my butt over to the middle seat, jesus how I hated the middle seat, what a shitty seat (stupid friggin’ first world problem – right? I mean soon I would be soaring through the clouds like a goddamn bird.)

Fast forward a little and now I’m chatting with the 2 ladies on either side of me. To my left is Candace and to my right is Janice. Janice was on her way home to Vancouver and Candace was on her way to visit her son. We all chatted for quite some time about all kinds of things that just didn’t matter to anyone, oh the joys of small talk. Then of course the conversation, as always, inevitably turned to what do you do for a living? Funny how that comes up a lot.

The best part though was that as we chatted more and more Candace shared with us this really great story about the digital divide and about missing chances to talk to human beings. Candace began telling us about a book that she was reading about digital distractions. The entire story was pretty funny because at the end of the story the punchline was that in fact she had got on this very plane without that book because she was interrupted from reading it by the ring of her cell phone, Candace put down the book to look at her phone and then was in a rush to load onto the plane, thus leaving her book about how we are being distracted by digital media in the airport lounge. Ironic much?

A small story but a rather funny story and one that happens pretty much all the time in one way or another.

I’m happy she left her book in the lounge and I’m happy you have to turn your cell phones off while you’re on an airplane. It gave me a chance to really chat with 2 other human beings that I otherwise probably would have never met.

I got to learn their stories and one of them, Candace, and I found out that we are both very much creatives and in fact Candace’s entire family is creative – movie director, writers, painters, etc….

By the end of the plane ride I had found out that one of her sons was a stand up comedian so I asked her if her son would be performing while I was in Vancouver. He was, but I couldn’t make it unfortunately. We did want to chat more though, so I ended up meeting her and her son a few days later over a really great brunch.

You just never know when you will run into someone that might be extremely interesting, that could be good for business, or might just turn out to be a friend. In this case, I think I hit the jackpot. Who was this woman? Who was this family? We really could have spent all day talking about the creative industry and our work.

I was open to having a discussion, open to listening, open to learning, and in the end Candace and her family have hired Creativision to help them examine ways to garner attention as well as to strategically grow their various creative pursuits.

Next time you get on a plane, on a bus, are sitting alone at the bar, don’t be afraid to be open – human beings, for the most part are pretty awesome people. (I didn’t even tell you about the amazing chat I had with a really wonderful law student I had on my first flight).

***ok so I was about to post this and then I found this crazy little video about a few things but underlying it was the ability to be open and to start small talk and since I thought it was amusing of course you will too, right?

Don’t be a customer service jerk!

jerkAlright my friends so perhaps a small rant will ensue.

Today I experienced 2, what some may say minor, but I saw horrendous bouts of crappy customer service. I’m here to write the stories so others don’t fall into these holes.

The first one came via an email from a Customer and Community Rep (Known from now on as rep.). This rep. (hmmm…careful who you choose to put in those positions) started their email by incorrectly spelling my name wrong in the reply email. I’m always flabbergasted at this as the email I just sent you had my name written all over it and you still couldn’t find a way to spell it right? Maybe this is just me being a baby after growing up never having anything with my name spelled correctly on it. Maybe I should be blaming my parents? Bah! (or my older brother since my parents didn’t even care to name me, wow so many scars) Anyhow the email didn’t get any better from there. It was a grand total of 1 line. It was perhaps one of the coldest emails I have ever gotten and it basically told me that this person had no time to meet, fair enough. However then this rep. proceeded to ask why I was emailing and what it was I wanted from them (spend some time just read a little bit it was in the original email). I take it this person is very busy and I can get that but what I really want from a GREAT community and customer rep. is someone who pretends to be a human. My email, as they all are was rather jovial and was looking to illicit some kind of fun loving response. The basics of the project which I outlined was that we wanted to have some fun with their company and support a really great cause. What I can never understand and no one will ever convince me is that they are too busy for a phone call. I don’t give a shit how big you’re company is or how grand your position is. Never stop being a damn human being. When someone reaches out to have a bit of fun why not take a few minutes to listen? Like I said this is a bit of a rant and I know some of you will say that maybe this rep. is just too busy and that this rep. shouldn’t waste their time. I fully disagree you’re a community rep. for goodness sakes and my connection came through a mutual friend and a mutual partner. Trust in others and make the time. Learn to laugh and learn to love and be open and you might just get the rewards you deserve. I say all of this because this rep. just lost their business a few thousand dollars ($$$$). Just because this rep. couldn’t pretend to be a human engaging another human for a few seconds.

Ok round two happened a later. I really love a good game of hide and go seek but this was fucking ridiculous. Every time I came around the corner and saw a customer service rep unless I went sprinting down the aisle they vanished. All this hunting and chasing in a store that delivers commissions. Hmm…but I didn’t look like I had money to buy anything, “what a time waster” is what I’m sure most of the customer rep folk thought to themselves. Then when I finally caught one in a corner I was pretty much pushed on to one of their unsuspecting associates as this little nerd was “going on break”. This push and shove continued between associates as more important looking people entered the store. So I left that store with the few hundred dollars I had in my pocket. Again the main lesson here is just pretend to be a human. You never really know who you might meet or what they might be able to do for you.

Bottom line don’t be a customer service jerk!

Just follow these 2 steps and you should be great at pretending to be a human.

1. Smile at everyone and look them in the eyes

2. Listen – and I mean take some time, clear your head and really listen to what that person has to say. You know kinda like you care or something.

Going the wrong way can be fun

wrong-wayI have been living on a one way street for over 2 years now and I have to say it has never really been dull. I absolutely love watching people dart up the wrong way only to realize they are on a one way street and then watching what they do. Interesting how people’s minds work. There are 2 very different reactions I have noticed when it comes to dealing with the one-way.

 

 

1. Cautious and go back:

The first is always the slightly embarrassed driver who notices they are going the wrong way, looks around to make sure no one has seen them and then finds a spot to turn around quietly and pretend it never happened.

2. Damn it, to hell with it:

These folks quickly realize they are on a wrong way and then say to hell with it and speed down before anyone else comes in or ever realize they were there.

It is so very interesting that those who fit into part 2 always seem to have a bit of a smirk on their face as they realize they are going the wrong way but for some reason it is fun to them and at the end it seems like an adrenaline rush. They are so proud that they just went for it and it worked.

Most recently I watched as a nearly 90 year old grandmother was venturing down the street when she suddenly realized she was headed in the wrong direction and I thought for sure she would fit into category 1, wrong! She sped up in her 1988 Volvo and made it all the way to the end turned right.

Now I’m certainly not condoning jumping in your car and heading down a one-way street headed in the wrong direction but holy can it ever be exhilarating. Rather, I use this though more as a metaphor for how people deal with unexpected outcomes/barriers/challenges/opportunities in their lives. I mean sure you could back up slowly and turn around when it is safe and pretend like nothing ever really happened but just once maybe wouldn’t it be fun to just go for it. Just hit the accelerator do something a little out of the ordinary? You know kind of like Mr. Bean.

So this I ask of all you folk out there waiting for a good kick in the pants? What are you waiting for? Are you nervous? Worried? GOOD! Enjoy that feeling and learn to embrace that feeling. Believe me you will love it.

ps. If you have a great story about a one-way I would love to hear it.

A short take on strategic planning

doingthingsFor a couple of days now I have been doing presentations in various universities and adult learning seminars about entrepreneurship and business development. In addition to those seminars I have of course been attending all the end of year Christmas business functions and events. So I have had the pleasure of roaming around and chatting with all kinds of other entrepreneurs and business folk.

In one of the classes I was in, a student raised his hand and asked me about strategic planning and business plans. He asked how important they were and before I could get a word in his professor (who has never ran a business in his life but does have a PhD in something) jumped up and said “most important thing a business can do. It is the back bone.” I’m not saying he is wrong. I think strategic plans and business plans have a certain place in business but my response was much simpler. My response was that business plans can only take place AFTER you have been in business for a period of time. Yes that is right, before you build a plan you must first test and do. I don’t think anyone can build a successful plan until  they truly understand the markets, themselves, their business, their customers, the ebbs and flows of business, and no matter how much you read or how much you write you will not understand any of this until you DO.

While at a Christmas function I told this story to a fellow serial entrepreneur (without telling him the answer I gave) and he jumped right in and said this, “yes of course they are important, if you need a bank loan, but who the hell does that any more.” This colleague of mine then proceeded to ask, “did you tell the students to get out there and just DO? Test the waters, be adventurous, don’t be shackled down by writing plans.” He then went even further by telling me a story about a partner of his that once wanted to start a business, that was 3 years ago. What is this fellow doing now? Just putting the final touches on a really great business plan.

My lesson is this: yes indeed plan, but don’t become so overwhelmed by the plan but rather become overwhelmed by doing things and analysing things. Put your efforts into trying to understand rather than planning to understand something that is always changing. Yes there are trends and some stick but sometimes there is a lot to be said for debunking the trends and beating your own path.

Of course this needn’t be said but this advice goes for both business and life. Get out  there and DO. Then when you have done, LEARN and do again.

13 tips to growing business relationships

Today I had 3 clients give me a call about growing their business and they were looking for the BIG secret (dammit I hate the way society has interpreted that book) about how to make successful partnerships. Here is my advice:

  1. Be human.
  2. Love people (even if you have to pretend a little. *caution you are only allowed to do this for a little bit. See below for more on this topic).
  3. Look up people (businesses) you think are cool.
  4. Reach out with an email, a phone call, or my favourite a letter (you know with stamps and everything). Don’t be afraid if they say no, what do you have to lose? You don’t know them now anyway? Just makes room in your schedule to meet with other way cooler people.
  5. Stop being so damn stiff.
  6. Read as much about their stories before you meet them as you can. It is time well spent learning fun facts. It is also usually seen as someone really doing their homework.
  7. Have a meeting at an ice cream parlour, a bar, over some wine, at an art gallery, take them on a hike (aka be different. Show them part of your world or get to know their world a bit). My favourite meetings have been on the canal with some hot chocolate and beaver tails. And no this not some crazy younger generation thing. Last year I met with someone who I did work with on the canal and he was 56 years old and willing to try anything. Remember life and work can be fun if we choose to make it so. I mean all you have to do is ask (what’s the fear, they say no). Throw out the invite or ask them for an invite to a fun spot they love. Most of the clients I know are thrilled to get their butts out of the office.
  8. Listen to their stories.
  9. Ask questions.
  10. Tell a little bit of your story.
  11. Decide whether or not you want to spend more time working on something, anything with them or if you want to jump ship. Then proceed to go or no.
  12. Go away and brainstorm some cool projects and then throw them their way, see if they are interested.
  13. If they seem like good people then nurture that relationship and you just might find yourself beginning to love people, your work, and yourself a bit more.

My strategy all along in life (and it only keeps getting more and more engrained) is that I work with people who I love, who make me laugh, who I have a good time with. You know the saying ‘life is too damn short….well just don’t hang out with people you don’t get along with.

Of course sometimes this can be easier said than done because to be able to know the people you get along with you normally have to know yourself a little bit. If you follow along on here you will have probably figured out I don’t think too many people really do know themselves all that well. In fact I think part of us gets lost everyday when we aren’t doing the things we love. So maybe that is step 1. figure out who the hell you are and what you like first. Really think about it. What are some of your hobbies? When are the happiest, like really really happy? What are you doing? Who are you with? Inside or outside? Crowded or small group? What is something you could talk about all day long without ever knowing the time?

Back to my point, find the people that make you smile and harness all their energy. I have found so much power in reaching out and listening to their stories every day. Good or bad listen to what they have to say and you will learn lots, about them and about yourself. Who knows you follow this sage (hardy-hard) advice and you might just find some new friends along the way to building an amazing business.

ps. The biggest fear I hear all the time about reaching out is “well what if they don’t like me?” Well that is fine. Isn’t it? I mean if they don’t like you then you get to move on. Remember be yourself. I mean if you try to be funny, outgoing, and edgy but really you like being reserved and pretty calm then what is the point of putting on the fake personality? If they don’t like who you genuinely are then working together would probably only be a huge pain anyway.

Now get outta here and go reach out to someone you think is cool (this isn’t high school anymore, even though sometimes it might feel like it, you can talk to anyone. The playground is HUGE).