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Election Day in a Hurting America

7 Nov

It is election day and people throughout the country are lining up to cast their vote for local elections and for who will be the next President of the United States.  This important day will shape the future of our country for the next four years and beyond.  It is impossible to look at one President as only having an impact during their term.  Economic conditions, foreign policies, social programs and more are often carried on generation to generation so things that happen during four years have an impact that is felt far into the future.  

This election has been fierce.  Both sides – candidates, campaigns, and the public – have been fighting a battle that from where I sit has been filled with anger and frustration.  Watching the debates it was clear that America is choosing between two guys that really don’t like each other.  Fake smiles aside – they are not on the same page.  

The problem with an angry election is that the American people loose.  I have been watching a variety of news shows for months that discuss what each candidate is doing and what they have to say.  Some even talk about stupid Tweets sent by people on the campaign – as if that actually matters.  It is mind blowing to me because all of this talk about candidates does nothing for the citizens that have to elect them in the end.  A tweet sent by a campaign staffer does not help someone in Ohio get a job or put food on the table.  An insulting commercial does not help a student make their loan payment or the Johnsons keep their home.

We have real problems in America today.  Our problems run deep and cannot be fixed in a matter of months or even years. Our economic challenges are not just a problem to be discussed on the pages of the Wall Street Journal or on CNN.  These problems impact whether or not the kid riding the bus with yours has food for dinner.  They impact whether or not your parents can afford to retire or will be living in your spare room.  They impact whether or not your family can have two people working and pay your bills or if you have to downsize into an apartment.  The news media and politicians don’t seem to understand the gravity of the problems we are facing.  In my family and friends alone there has been massive unemployment, foreclosures, loss of health insurance and more – from people of all ages, walk of life, and education levels. This is not an isolated issue but something we are all dealing with.

I met a women in Montana a few weeks ago.  She was checking me in at a hotel as I passed through town and I asked her thoughts on the election.  She told me she would vote if she could find time to research in between working and caring for her three kids.  The only thing she did know is that she wouldn’t vote for Obama because she blames him for her husband being out of work.  He was in the military and planned on staying for his career.  Right before his ten year anniversary they let him go – all so they wouldn’t have to give him retirement.  Her family of five was left with no income and they lost their health insurance.  She got a job as a hotel clerk but her income couldn’t pay the bills so they lost their house and now live in a small apartment – barely getting by.  They have a problem with their car and can’t fix it so now the family drives in their truck anywhere the go.  The problem is the truck only fits three so they have to go in batches anytime the family goes somewhere.  She has applied for assistance three times and gotten denied every single time.  They are broke.  They need help and they blame Obama’s policies for their struggles.  Is it really his fault?  Maybe.  Hard to say.  The only thing I do know is that people in America are hurting and someone needs to stand up and lead our country back into greatness.  We can do it but someone has to step up.  My hope is the next four years bring an actual recovery – rather than one contrived by the media.  Obama, Romney – whichever one of you wins – do something.  The American people need it.

“Change” Americans It Is Time To Step It Up

11 Sep

“Change” Americans It Is Time To Step It Up.

We can place the blame for our economy and social conditions on a million different people, corporations or political parties.  The reality is we live in a free country and each one of us has the ability to influence our surroundings and create the change we seek.  Enough unified voices can make a difference.  First step: turn off the TV, get off the couch and do something.

Experiment … Live a Little … Live A Lot

13 Jun

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It seems like safety and security have taken a more important place in peoples lives, especially with the economy suffering the past several years.  I get it.  Having a comfortable place to live, a steady paycheck and money in the bank is important to most people and makes us generally feel better.   Whether your definition of “secure” involves food on the table and gas in the car or multiple homes and vacations in France we build up lives and have expectations about what stability looks like.  When we do not have it life becomes more stressful.

The challenge is not to sacrifice life for stability.  Yes they are two completely different things.  Life, living vibrantly, requires experimenting and trying new things.  Doing the same thing day in and day out without experiencing new challenges is like a slow death.  I see it in so many people that I know.  Feeling stuck in a job, town, relationship or lifestyle they give up on trying to achieve their goals and loose the spark that comes from keeping your dreams alive.  They have settled for a stable life vs. the one they always dreamed of.  For years I did it too.  My life was good.  It was stable and secure.  However it was not what I dreamed of.  I was not challenged.  I was not vibrant or creative.  I was stuck and I was bored.  I sensed myself loosing more of my spark every year until I was someone that was boring and a strange version of me.  In conversations I stopped discussing my visions and ideas because those around me looked at me like I was from a different universe.  “You mean you don’t want to do the same thing every day for the rest of your life and live in this cozy neighborhood?”  Thinking outside the box of social norms was not promoted so eventually I stopped talking about things that actually mattered to me and slowly lost brain power in the process.

Deciding to risk things and change my situation I started thinking of ideas.  I looked around and started paying attention to things I could do better, services I could provide, demands I could meet and started brainstorming.  Standing at the whiteboard, pen in hand I felt liberated because I was allowing myself to think outside of the box and dream again.  The freedom that I felt by simply letting my mind work creatively was fantastic.  I was hooked and could not stop.  I allowed myself to stop worrying about what if things did not work and start thinking about what if they do. I spent months doing that before taking the steps to launch a company.  I went through countless ideas narrowing it down to what I wanted to start with first.  I conducted market research and I jumped.

I had no safety net to fall back to so the only solution was to make it work.  Having a lack of financial stability caused stress that I did not enjoy but instead of focusing on that I focused on my dream and put my effort into making it work.  I have had to revise my vision multiple times.  Along the way I have tried things that have been failures.  It is disappointing but I have not let myself dwell on them for a moment longer than needed to learn.   I have tried others with various levels of success.  When I start out I can not guarantee success or failure.  The only way to find out is to try.  This means that I will fall down many times but each time I get up I will be wiser and stronger and when I do hit home runs they are that much sweeter because I can appreciate each success.

Great scientist and inventors will tell you that they try multiple versions of things in order to get it precisely right.  Many dedicate their entire lives to finding solutions to our problems.  They keep experimenting, keep learning and adjust course as needed.  The same is true for business.  No matter how many wins or losses I have in my life I will never stop experimenting.  I will never again settle for stability because I would rather live a life that is vibrant, full of color, risk and reward then a life that is safe yet slowly destroying the spark within me.  I encourage you to try something new today even if simply letting your mind be open to dream.

Freedom

29 May

It’s Memorial Day in the US. Most people celebrate by having a barbecue with family and friends, enjoying the sunny weather and playing games outside. It’s a fun time, a day off and something people look forward to. What is often missed is why we do it at all. Memorial Day should really be spent reflecting on and being thankful for the men and women that have and do serve our country. These people and their families risk their lives, put their lives on hold and set aside the comforts of home to serve. It’s a sacrifice I have often taken for granted but today I want to say thank you. Thank you for sacrificing so that I can live in a free country and be able to follow my dreams.

I think in today’s modern society it is easy to take freedom for granted. It is something that we are so used to: freedom to chose, freedom to go where we want when we want , freedom of information, freedom to worship, freedom to speak our mind, and even the freedom to write this blog. The concept of freedom through democracy started and has impacted the world because immigrants and farmers were willing to risk their lives on the battlefield and often sacrifice their homes and fortunes. We feel far removed from it today but the reality is sacrifice was required for me to live the life I have today. When we take that for granted we put our very freedom at risk. All over the world we must value our freedoms, value our independence and guard it passionately so that generations of people after us can enjoy them and also be thankful. Assuming that we will always have it without working to preserve it only sets us up to loose it.

Character in Hard Times

17 May

Talents are best nurtured in solitude.

Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

It is no secret that the economy has been suffering for several years now.  As this lag continues I have noticed more and more people desperate for success, or the appearance thereof, check their character at the door to the office.  Whether trying to get ahead or make ends meet they make pro misses they do not intend to fulfill, present themselves as what they are not, and can be deceptive in order to get a contract or make a deal.  In my personal experience it has gotten so bad that when meeting new service providers I often ask myself “Are they another scammer or is what they say truthful?”  Am I being cynical?  Perhaps but I have spoken with many business owners that feel the same way.

What I would like to point out is that as the quote mentions above, storms are an opportunity to build character not eliminate it.  It is when times are tough that we learn what we are made of.  We are forced to be more creative, to use our skills in new ways, to grow as individuals and learn new ways of doing things.  These are valuable lessons that will benefit professionals and business owners when the economy does improve.  How people behave now will influence their reputation going forward so unless you are planning on retiring in the next year keep your character.  It is not worth the loss!

For cynics like me… I am apt to believe the best and look forward to the day where the negative experiences of today are but a memory rather than an ongoing occurrence.

It’s All About Attitude

2 May

I just read an article on Success Magazine about Suze Orman.  It was a funny title and caught my eye… something about dressing for success, a topic I dont normally read about.  Something in the article was interesting and encouraging to me.  I never realized that as a waitress she was given investment funds by regular customers and lost all of it.  As a woman that is known as a financial guru that was not a part of her story I expected.

The lesson here is simple and profound all at the same time.  Everyone makes mistakes along the way but it is your attitude that determines your future. She was a waitress at the time and easily could have given up, determined that is all she was meant to be.  Instead she used that experience to enhance her future, deciding that she could and would do better.  Attitude is the difference between the two paths and final outcomes.  Attitude determines whether or not you are a failure or a success.  Attitude determines how far you will go in life because the only limits we have are the ones we set for ourselves.

Suze Orman: How Not to Dress for Success | 2012-04-10 | SUCCESS Magazine | Your Personal Development Resource http://www.success.com/articles/1774-suze-orman–how-not-to-dress-for-success

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Have Fun!

27 Apr

Yes that is a tip!  We forget to stop and enjoy ourselves way too easily.  I am an entrepreneur and the reason why is because I love it.  I thoroughly enjoy creating things.  I could spend hours at a white board with a pen, beer and good music while brainstorming ideas with my partner.  Many of my friends think that is crazy but I genuinely enjoy it.  Business is my hobby.  I have the most fun during the creative process.  I do not stop to analyze the market or create a logistics plan.  I simply let the ideas and thoughts flow freely, enjoying every minute of it.  As business owners it is so easy to get caught up in the daily activities of running an organization without stopping to do what we enjoy the most. Taking that time is so vital to us personally and to the success of our organization.  When we feel alive and excited we infuse that energy into those around us.  When we aren’t having fun and start dragging we drag others down.  While counterintuitive to a driver, get it done mentality we must remember that if productivity and results are our aim having fun should be incorporated into our business on a regular basis.  This is a reminder to me and you to stop, relax, smile and take the time to enjoy yourself.

The Enticing “New Idea”

3 Apr

Someone recently described me as enthusiastic.  It’s true -I am.  I approach everything with gusto and determination.  As a visionary I constantly have new ideas and cannot help but consider how to do things better.  For example when going through a local coffee drive through I ordered my standard latte, they got my order wrong – three times, and were completely flustered.  After several experiences like this I determined that this major corporation had clearly lost site of its hiring and training objectives and its employees were no longer embracing the company vision, if they even understood it.  I, of course, could solve that problem by combining top HR and management consultants to overhaul their hiring practices, retool their training curriculum and teach management how to engage their employees.  I could and I would because I, yes I, am Superwoman!

The problem is could and should are not the same thing.  While three bad latte experiences put my mind into overdrive, creating business plans and ideas, the reality is my current companies needed 100% of my attention and redirecting my focus, all or in part, simply was not smart so the coffee situation will for now remain unchanged unless another superhero decides to save the day.

While enthusiasm is key for an entrepreneur it is also key to learn when to say yes to new opportunities, when our plate is empty enough to successfully take on new challenges, and when to wait.  Timing is important and to know when to leap we must first analyze our current situation and commitments.

Ask yourself:

1) If I scaled back in my current business is there someone in the organization that can step into my place?

If the answer is no you need to wait.  Identify what tasks you are currently doing that can be taught to someone else.  Focus on training people within your organization to do some of the more basic tasks.  As they become proficient in these things your time should begin to free up slightly.  If you stepping away in part is not possible you may need to look for an entire replacement.  If that person is not found within your organization speak with the rest of your leadership team and consider hiring an recruiter to assist.

2) Is this a project that I would tackle on my own or do I need a team?

If you need to build a team consider your immediate circle.  Do you already have the talent around you to move forward?  If not take the time to make those connections before getting started.  Business acquaintances are good at making introductions as our social sites like Linkedin.

3) Is this a viable project?

To find that out you will need to take the time to create a business plan and outline the financials.  If you dont have the time to do this put on the brakes immediately.  Starting and running a business takes a lot more time that completing a detailed business plan, budgeting and determining the financial viability.  Not having or taking the time for this crucial step means this is simply not the right time to take on this project.

4) Do I need this project/ business to pay me?

If the answer is yes then your financial obligations, personally or professionally, need to be accounted for first.  Starting a business takes time, energy and money.  If you are looking for the business to pay you a salary right away then you need to secure the finances, via loan or investment, prior to proceeding.  Even the best ideas take time to mature and 30 days quickly turn into 90 so be prepared.

5) Does the market support my new idea?

Analyze the competition and business climate to determine if your idea will be well recieved.

Entrepreneurs, such as myself, thrive on new ideas and creating things.  This drive is crucial to success but before running ahead, full steam to save the day ask yourself the questions above and determine if this is the right time to start upon your new adventure.  If it is then seize the day.  If not then wait, plan and proceed when ready to ensure that your new venture is a success and you enjoy life along the way.

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