Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Don't worry, be happy

What do you think would be the biggest regret of people over 65?  You might be surprised.   

Karl Pillemer, a professor at Cornell University launched the Legacy Project in 2004 and asked more than 1,500 Americans about the most important lessons they’d learned over the course of their lives. 

He was surprised at what he learned,  because over and over again he heard versions of “I would have spent less time worrying” and “I regret that I worried so much about everything.”

This started me thinking.  We have an expression in our family – “worry wart” or WW for short, which would be bandied about when one of us was fretting over something, usually something beyond our control.  What do you worry about?

As women the answer is likely everything and anything.   Case in point, my daughters and son-in-law went off on an exciting vacation, driving from Ontario out to Banff, BC and back.  While I envied them the trip, I worried the whole time – that they were safe; that they weren’t in an accident; that the truck wouldn’t break down, and even that they would still be speaking to each other when they got back.  They are.

What a waste of energy.  I was nervous the whole time they were gone, picturing in my mind’s eye something disastrous happening to my family.  Fortunately they kept us posted and it was clear from their photos on Facebook that they were having a great time, but I still had those niggling concerns while they were gone.

What else do you worry about?  When you are in business for yourself – often it’s getting enough customers so you can pay the bills, making ends meet and if you have staff – making payroll.  Being an entrepreneur is not a worry-free zone or calm work choice.  Being worried goes with the territory, right?  Or does it have to?  Certainly from a business perspective, there are concrete steps you can take to problem-solve and come up with a plan B, should business go awry.

But then there’s the personal stuff – definitely one more for the ladies.  Will they like me?  Do I look good in this outfit?  What if I don’t fit in?  Was that meal OK?  It’s endless what we worry about, and far better for our health if we just let these ones go.

Let’s face it, not everyone is going to like you.  (Hard to believe I know.)  As women we tend to be pleasers, always wanting to keep everyone happy.  Sometimes to the point that we forget what makes us happy, what we want to do. 

Maybe it is because I am a Pisces, a Blue, an ENFP, but I worry a lot about relationships, especially when they are not going well.  My tendency is to want to go in and fix them, make everything all right.  But then I hate confrontations.  So I am learning the hard way that sometimes that’s not possible.  It takes two to tango and sometimes the damage and hurt done needs to fade before the relationship can be fixed.

What I do know as a cancer survivor is that worrying is not good for your health. It doesn’t just eat away inside your head, it festers in your body.  Stress – and really that is what worrying ends up being – while sometimes good in moderation – can hurt you.

The seniors in the study offered some great advice:

·      Remember this too will pass.
·      Take it one day at a time.
·      Think short term instead of long term.
·      Instead of worrying, prepare.
·      Ask yourself, if I did that, then what?
·      Let it be. 
·      Let go and move on.

As Bobby McFerrin’s song goes  - in every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double. So don’t worry, be happy.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pause for thought

Stop the bus.  I want to get off.  It’s only the second week in September and already I am feeling overwhelmed.

My inbox has over 500 emails waiting to be answered. I am now receiving the second email from folks, because I haven’t replied yet to their first one.

We’ve got 15 events this month – what was I thinking???  It’s not that I have to attend them all, I don’t.  It’s all the marketing we have to do.  It 

seems to get more and more difficult to get people to register early.  We now live in a last-minute society, which for an event organizer is stressful to say the least.

In an attempt to get a life, I’ve also upped our social gatherings with friends, which is fun, but sometimes feels like one more thing to fit into the already packed schedule.

And true confessions here.  I have three weeks of clean (at least it’s clean) laundry sitting waiting to be put into its proper home.

My conclusion – I need a wife.  Don’t you?

Throw into this equation my volunteer work which is also deadline-driven, renovations at the farm and you can see why perhaps I am about to topple over.

Now before you start sending me emails – remember my inbox is full – telling me to delegate more – I am, but that takes time too.

But then I get word that my cousin’s son has died suddenly of a heart attack at 47, and I get a grip on myself.   I can’t even begin to imagine her pain and her news sure puts my day-to-day gripes into perspective.

Sometimes when we are lost in our own mess, we forget that there are people, like the refugees, who are facing horrendous struggles and I remind myself that I just need to get over myself, suck it up and get on with it.

Time to take a pause and reflect on how fortunate I am – to have these opportunities, to live where I live and while somewhat frazzled right now, to have my health.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The business of books

Writing a book is a complex project.  You start with an idea and a few key messages and then spend months writing and rewriting what you want to say. 

Sometimes you do some research to make sure what’s being written is valid and is providing practical, helpful information. 

Sometimes you have to take a break as the words are just not flowing and you are not in the “zone.”

But then there comes the time to stop, look at what you’ve written and determine if you have indeed got a book, that you have accomplished what you set out to do.

This summer I have been working on two books – One Red Lipstick - which is about how as women, no matter what is going on in our lives, we put on our lipstick and get on with it.  The book shares stories of women entrepreneurs who have, in some cases, overcome the odds to succeed.  

The Good Enough? book on the other hand is looking at how women so often don’t feel good enough, and how can we change that pattern for ourselves.  Amy Hunter and I have been working on this book for some time now and have connected with over 350 women to hear their stories and concerns. 

So two books which focus on women but from different angles.  We are turning the corner on both of them and are on the last lap.  At this time of reflection I am realizing that the rules that apply in business, also apply in book writing too.

It’s all about the customer/reader
For example,  all along the stories/chapters have been compiled in a certain order – logical from my perspective, each building on the next – but not, in hindsight, perhaps the most appealing to the reader.   

Too frequently we get caught up in our perspective instead of thinking about the reader. We focus on what we want to say, rather than what the reader may need to learn or find interesting.

In business I am always talking about listening to your customer and offering what they want rather than what you want to offer.  Clearly I need to listen to my own advice when it comes to writing books.

I am convinced that when you put the reader first and foremost, you are more likely to capture their attention and bottom line… sell more books.   

Understand your target audience
Just as knowing your target audience is important in running a successful business, so too is understanding who you want to reach with your book and what they will find inspiring, reassuring or whatever the goal is for your book.

You can’t share everything you know
Often we write a book to use as platform to position ourselves as an expert, and that is all good and fine, but in preparing your material, it all gets back to the reader – if you include too much information or use jargon, you will lose them.  As Sam Horn shared in her presentation with us – our attention span is limited.

Far better to stick to the crucial information rather than drown your readers in a sea of words.  Plus then you’ve got enough material for a sequel.

Thank goodness for computers as we move things around and get more into the flow of the books.  I’ve got three books already under my belt, but each time it’s like giving birth and there are times when you just want to go into premature labour.  But it’s always best to stick with it for the long haul and deliver your new bundle when it’s ready to be shared with the world.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Soup making for start-ups

I love making soup.  So much so that in October I plan to run classes on how to make soup, because so many people have asked me to do it. 

Who knew?  But I am quite excited at the opportunity.

But it struck me that making soup is a bit like starting your business. 

It takes several ingredients to be successful, and you need to get the right blend.  

Just as when you launch your business it takes more than just having a good idea for it to work. You have to get all the other pieces in place and have a real sense of the end result you want to achieve.

Often when you start making soup, you begin by melting butter or oil and adding onions and garlic.  This creates a wonderful aroma and anticipation of what is to follow.  Likewise when you start your business, you want to stir up interest in what you are doing.

Chopping up the vegetables is an integral part of the soup making process, and often you have to balance the flavours so that the soup has the right taste.  Celery, for example, is a strong-flavoured vegetable and could totally change the overall result.  So in your business, you want to make sure you have balance.  Balance in what you are offering and balance in your life too.  I know, tall demand, especially when you start out, but it is important that you pace yourself.

I love adding herbs to my soup.  They’re like the little extras that make the difference and in your business, you need to consider what you can do to go the extra mile to make the experience special for your customers.

Living in the country, I have learned to be flexible with my ingredients, as I can’t just drive around the corner to pick up a missing item.  Salsa, for example, makes a great substitute for tomatoes.  In working with “newbies” I have often found that the idea they started with is not what they end up doing.  Flexibility is therefore key, so you can move on an opportunity that arises, rather than being tied to your plan, or in my case, the recipe.

The finishing touch is blending the stock with the cooked, softened vegetables to create a creamy, tasty soup, with no lumps.  Just as with your launch, when you’ve planned it carefully, all goes smoothly.

But not everything always goes to plan, in the kitchen or in the business world, and so it is important to keep this one ingredient – your sense of humour.