Learn the norm and then push the boundaries

Some time ago I mentioned if we all were the same, the world would be a boring place. This remains a favorite saying of mine. In relation to work, there always are “in” jobs and professions, or the new better way to do your job. In reality, there are many ways to do the same job. Certain tasks may have specific steps, but otherwise, creativity and differences reign.

No matter your business or where you work, it is your individuality that makes you stand out to others. It also is your creativity and the ability to think outside of the box. Do you do that, or is the same old same old? It’s hard to come up with or do something new or different. Ideas that seem so obvious weren’t to most of us. If you are an entrepreneur, whether in a startup or any other type of business, what makes you and your business stand out?

Colleges should teach creativity along with entrepreneurship, business, etc. Tapping into other parts of the brain is important and can be life altering. It is good to think outside of the box and differently than others in your space. Of course, in all businesses and professions, you need to learn the ropes and rules before trying to push any boundaries.

Doing what others have done is safe and where learning begins. We need people to do many jobs that are decidedly not hip or “in”. In fact, being safe or working as others have or in an unhip job may make you a success. Once you have learned the basics, being creative, unique and different has the possibility to make you a trailblazer or visionary in your field.

It’s up to you to determine whether you are okay with the status quo or not. It sure seems more interesting to blaze your own trail within whatever path you choose.

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Be kind, be cool, be courageous

Do people see you as you see yourself? If so, is that a positive? Are you kind to those you deal with throughout your day? The point of these questions is kindness is a choice . If you practice it, your path likely will be smoother and people will see you in a good light.

They may think you are cool or courageous, or simply nice. Any or all of these support a good reputation. I think kindness is cool and can be courageous. The situation dictates how something like kindness is interpreted by others. I sure would rather be thought of as kind than unkind.

Some people view kindness as a weakness and would rather be thought of as tough or hard. There is a difference between being kind and being a pushover. Kindness is a strength. It doesn’t mean letting people take advantage of you. It helps if you are good at sniffing out those who aren’t honest or have bad intentions.

Try being kind and see what happens. People will look at and think of you much differently if you don’t treat people well or are okay rolling over others on your path to success. At the end of the day you get to decide how you deal with people.

Don’t you want to do your best to leave a positive legacy? Of course, others write legacies, but you are the one who provides the underlying substance they use to write it. Choose kindness.

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Destroy apathy

I heard someone being interviewed and they mentioned a goal to destroy apathy. Given that apathy is the lack of motivation, this makes sense. It can seem pervasive at times with your children, younger employees and others. You know you have felt it too. I heard this statement and thought “that’s right, we need to destroy apathy” and show people the steps to success.

Many people look at success and see an image in their mind. Some see the hard work and motivation it takes to become successful, but some don’t. A lot of people see how it’s portrayed on television or otherwise think there’s an easy road to the top. There’s not.

It’s important to teach people, from a young age, about the work and motivation it takes to reach goals and achieve success. You can start with small or short term goals, which are a stepping stool to larger and longer term goals, which may be potentially more meaningful. It’s possible to inspire motivation and beat apathy. Being honest about the process and what it takes is a good place to start.

Help other by providing them with strategies.  It may be more practical to break big tasks into smaller parts. It depends what small hill or large mountain the person is trying to climb. You can help them understand what it takes. Doing so will give them a better chance to succeed and, when they do, you both will experience the satisfaction.

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Comfort is a killer of creativity and improvement. When you’re comfortable, there is a feeling you can coast, doing the same old, same old, and it causes many people to stagnate personally or professionally. That doesn’t mean they won’t be happy or maintain their position and role, but they will be stuck under a false glass ceiling they created.

When you come up with ideas and try new things you are trying to break through the artificial ceiling you have allowed to stop your growth. It’s part of growth and improvement for you and your business. Some ideas will work and others won’t. But you don’t know unless you stay creative, which includes you stepping out of your comfort zone and inspiring others to follow you out onto the ledge.

Not all great ideas will be outside (or far outside) of your comfort zone. Some may improve your days, your health, a role or process at your company. Those types of ideas are important too. Any continued growth allows you and your business to stay competitive and successful.

The ideas outside of your comfort zone are different. These types of ideas allow you to have the chance to make significant personal changes or be thought of as an innovator and person of vision. Big risk, big reward.

Which type of person are you striving to be or are you? Are you staying in place stagnating or being worried about losing success, or are you out on the ledge trying to dance? Nothing is wrong with being either type of person, but it’s important to have the self awareness to know who you are. Either way, if you try to go past the end of your comfort zone, not only is that where life and adventure begin, the inspiration and exhilaration you feel are intoxicating and hopefully will keep you creating throughout your life and career.

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The I forgot to post earlier this week blog post and the lesson I learned (or remembered)

It’s Friday. I like to post new blog posts in the middle of the week when you likely are ready for a short break from the work in front of you. We all are too focused and busy on Mondays, and by Friday we are trying to get things done before people shut down for the weekend.

I missed that window this week. I could list the reasons this happened, but, if I’m honest with myself, I could have found time to write and make a post prior to today. I was really busy this week, but I could have done it. I didn’t.

I know how I work and why it didn’t happen. I just needed to block out some time on my calendar. I failed to block out time or put writing and posting a blog post on my to do list. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, didn’t.

Then I had a choice. I could just take a mulligan, move on, and post next week, or do what I did. I decided maybe what resulted in my lack of a blog post earlier this week has happened to you. We all have arrived at Friday morning (or afternoon) and remembered something we meant to do, but didn’t. Upon such a realization, you have the option to push other obligations to the side and get on it, or move it to the next week.

I had that choice this morning. Of course, if you’re reading this you know my choice. This is my way of reminding myself, and you, to make sure to focus on however you organize yourself, such as to do lists and calendaring. The takeaway for you is to figure out how you work and follow it as best you can.

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Unity in diversity

This is an old saying, which is true in many contexts. In the workplace diversity makes for a better and stronger workforce. It means more than tolerance of differences. Instead, it’s the recognition and understanding differences provide ideas, create connections and enrich the human connection.

Be clear diversity is broad, and includes more differences than most people think of. Of course it includes ethnicity, religion and sex, but there are many more types of diversity that can benefit your workforce. These include age, experience, disability, and culture.

Focusing on diversity has tangible and intangible benefits for your business. These include different perspectives, more innovation and creativity, and expansion of the pool of possible employees or co-workers. It also can present challenges including bias and resistance to change.

It helps to keep people engaged and provide opportunities for connection. If you have or plan to have a diverse workforce, you need to integrate diverse individuals at all levels. This means having diversity in your teams, committees and management. Instituting education and activities can bring people in a diverse workforce together and create opportunities for connection and growth.

You also will need to hold people accountable. This is difficult because many people aren’t comfortable with change. As your business changes and you make accountability matter, certain longer term employees may self-select out if they are uncomfortable with the changes being made. Others will grow and rise to the occasion. This is because making a change to your workforce to add diversity will alter your company’s culture.

You don’t just decide to try to have your company change its culture to become more diverse and it happens. You need to have a plan in place. Among other things, you need to consider what types of backgrounds may add diversity you believe will benefit your business, how to go about moving forward with your plan, and what you want your company’s culture to be.

This will not happen overnight. It’s a long-term strategy. If you are able to build diverse teams in your business, the road will have bumps, but it will yield positive results in the future. It will build a stronger community that will attract good and talented people.

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The grey line between work and home

If you’re working remotely as the pandemic continues, you know the line between work and home has become more blurred and, in some cases, no longer exists. When you’re home is your office, you’re always at work, and more so than just checking email on your phone before going to bed (you know you do this!).

So what can you do to try and have some separation? The answer depends on you, but there are options. Every option requires discipline, similar to knowing you need to step away from the chips and salsa about twenty chips before you do.

You need to find strategies to help you draw a line. For me, I am calendaring time for exercise and trying to stop looking at my phone by 9:00 p.m. Both of these are works in progress. Earlier this week I went hiking in the late afternoon, but spoke with a client the entire time. With the phone, I am trying to stop using it to fill in lulls in time, especially at night. Baby steps. I still am hopeful I will improve on these goals as time goes by.

In addition to those goals, I do have dinner with my family every night and spend time with them each evening too. It certainly helps me wind down from busy days and sleep better.

All of these things are to try and take back a few hours otherwise lost to work. I enjoy what I do for a living, but am aware no one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time working. Try to achieve some separation and see how it feels.

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Ideas

One spark can become a blazing fire. Think about that. It means every idea starts the same way: it comes into your head and you choose to act on it or not. This is why many people keep a pen and paper near their bedside in case an important spark of an idea comes to them in the middle of the night. Others may allow sparks to turn into an ember that will go out before the light of day.

One thought can start a revolution. What the revolution is depends on the thought. Someone had to first think people needed to leave England to exercise their freedom of religion, which others agreed with, and which lead to for formation of the United States. Of course the bumpy road included sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to a new land and then the revolutionary war against England, but it started with a thought.

Another revolution was the idea of the Internet. Or the personal computer. Or even the in ground swimming pool. Someone had to come up with the idea for it to become a reality. If you think of any successful product or business, it started in the same way.

When inspiration strikes you hopefully you will be able to capture the idea and not let it disappear like dust in the wind. To avoid this, take the time to record the idea in some manner. I was hiking and listening to a podcast when the person being interviewed said one spark can become a blazing fire, which struck me. Upon hearing it, I stopped and typed it into a note on my cell phone knowing I most likely would forget it by the time I made it home.

Be open to ideas whenever they come to you. To not do so is to your own detriment because many great thoughts come to you when you least expect it.

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Make your New Year’s resolution into a SMART goal

We are just a few days away from a new year. Many of you have or will make New Year’s resolutions. It could be one of the standards such as losing a certain amount of weight, starting an exercise program, drinking less soda, eating less candy, etc. Maybe it is something different and more personal to you. Or maybe it is work related such as meeting new professional contacts, listening better to others, or having more balance in your life.

The problem is resolutions are hard to keep. How many times have you had a resolution and it lasted for a week? Or maybe it lasted a month? Odds are you were not keeping the resolution by the end of that year (assuming it was something that would take a year to accomplish or was a permanent change you were trying to make to a behavior or habit).

If you are making New Year’s resolutions, I propose you try something new. Have an action plan on how to stay on task to meet your resolution. To do so, make your resolution a SMART goal. I know many of you have heard this acronym before, and maybe even have set SMART goals in the past.

For those that haven’t, it stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

Resolutions generally fail because trying to do something or stop doing something by sheer force of will is a recipe to fail. If your resolution doesn’t fit within the SMART goal parameters, revise it so that it does – you will have a much better chance of success.

Another idea is to find someone to be an accountability partner. If you are reporting regularly to another person on the status of your work towards a goal there is a much better chance to achieve it. Make sure whoever you pick will hold you accountable and regularly check in on how you are doing on your path to reaching your goal.

Know that your SMART goal/resolution may be achievable in less than year – remember one element is the time you think it will take to reach your goal. If you meet your resolution, come up with a new SMART goal. It doesn’t matter if it is January 1 or May 22. You should constantly look to improve yourself, your business, your life – well, you get the idea. Try it and see what happens.

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Be the change you wish to see in the world

The title is a quote attributed to Ghandi, but he didn’t actually say it. I have no doubt he would have if he had thought of it. Even so, it’s a quote that has and continues to inspire people around the world. I read it to say don’t just talk, take action.

The quote comes from a longer statement from Ghandi including “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world also change.” He also implores the listener to change now and not wait to see what others do. Again, it’s a call to action.

Whatever you try may succeed, or maybe it will fail. Either way you need to take the first step to create change. This could be in your work, to better yourself, or to try and improve your community. Once you start, others may join in, thereby providing a better opportunity for the change being implemented to succeed. Even if you fail, you will learn, which will improve your chances for success in the future.

The point is to think of the change you want to see in the world and take the action necessary to bring it about. What the change is depends on you. Don’t let the challenge to change hold you back from starting because there’s no time like the present to take the first step.

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