How to Waste A Pandemic

Whew. Just in the nick of time, the world is beginning to open back up. Our imaginations have run wild wondering what could be coming next. But finally! A light at the end of a long dark tunnel, and thank God, it is not a train!

But there is something worse than a worldwide Pandemic.

The ‘something worse’ than a worldwide Pandemic is wasting a worldwide Pandemic. 

Sure, we have wasted stuff before. Most of us have at least one book on our shelves that we have read at some time in our history but now could not summarize the author’s main point if our life depended on it. Why did we read it? Or maybe we attended a day-long seminar, and were too busy to review our notes, so we never applied anything, and therefore pretty much everything was totally forgotten.  Why did we go?

But waste a Pandemic? Holy biological crisis! If we don’t stop and think about our takeaways, (at least one), all of this suffering will have been pointless. When the pressure of this past year fades away, we’ll have nothing to challenge our little behaviors, question our choices, or tighten up our time management. Never again will we have something that forces our values up close and personal, so we can take a good look at them. It is so easy to go through life by habit––to not think about what we are doing.

Quick! Before this crucible fades away into distant memory:  What is your takeaway?  If you were to compare yourself before COVID (BC), and after COVID (AC), would there be any noticeable difference? Do you have evidence of growth and change?

Many of my personal takeaways have taken the form of questions, as follows :

If COVID has done anything, it has burst any illusion of control. All plans, no matter how great, can be turned upside down in an instant. Moving forward, how can I build contingency into every plan?

The Pandemic turned our world upside down. But it wasn’t the CEO’s and billionaires who saved us. It was the nurses, the janitors, and those stocking the shelves. How can I consciously see and honor those who were once invisible to us to help make the world a more equitable place for all? 

We have bodies. We can’t ignore them. Despite how powerful we think we are, our lives are vulnerable and fragile. How can I honor this vulnerability? How can I become more physically resilient?

The crucible of COVID has had enormous ramifications for mental health. We don’t like to sit alone with our thoughts. How can I become more mentally resilient?

During the Pandemic, did I see tragedy or opportunity? I need to learn to suffer well–to accept suffering and not become hardened by it. How can I live life, not with closed arms or grasping fists, but with an open palm?

Tech is a tool. It is not who we are. Our purpose is not inside our phones or on our laptops. We are more than our technology. How can I incorporate more planned breaks from technology into my life?

COVID forced us to rethink work in a radically different way. Some of this is for the better and will never return to the old way of doing things. How can I challenge myself to find better ways of doing things before I am forced to do it?

Working from home became more complicated than going to work. How can I incorporate more radical simplicity into my life? 

Past Pandemics have supplied us with some of the greatest works of art, literature, and music the world has ever known. How can I transform the struggle into works of truth, goodness, and beauty?

We have experienced neither the first plague nor the last. For entrepreneurs, it is neither the first small business disaster, nor is it the last. Our very act of resilience now tempers us for future resilience. Through the Pandemic, we have had opportunity to learn things that could not be learned in any other way. There is an urgency to these things. The window will soon close, and our take away will fade away into the tyranny of the urgent.

What is your one big takeaway?

What one thing have you learned, that if you applied it to your life going forward,  would supply you with future flourishing and future resilience?

Share it with us on our Facebook Page. We’ll choose the best answer to receive a “Resilience Kit” on the last day of this month. A $50.00 value, and it contains Chocolate. Enough said.

You are going to rock this recovery. I just know it.

 

Visit our Facebook page HERE.

All You Need Is Love

 

The unexamined business is not worth doing. 

Hey, wait a minute. That sounds a lot like Socrates’ famous line, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Yes. It is very close, isn’t it? You are probably thinking, “Who does this lady think she is to paraphrase Socrates?” To which I respond, in all honesty, an experienced nobody. I’m a small-town entrepreneur, and my small business has risen and fallen over and over in the last 32 years. (We are now running version 37.56, soon to be beta version 38!) If your business happens to be on an earlier timeline, you may want to listen up. I might share some things that could spare you a few fallouts. (That’s my goal anyway.)  

Small Business is evolutionary by nature. It will make you and break you and remake you again, countless times, both as a person and as an entity. In itself, it is a process of creation and recreation. Small business brings out the very best in people, along with a tenacity you never knew you had. I love small business for this capacity alone. 

But the small business ride is too brutal to sustain without purpose. (Think the brutality of 2020). To paraphrase another famous philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a why behind their business, can bear almost any how.”

It is just as important for an entrepreneur to think about what goes into a worthwhile business as it is to think about what makes a life worth living. We spend so much time on the mechanics of business that we forget why we are running it. It’s like an artist who spends so much time getting the right gear, the right canvas, the right mediums, and the right location that she has no time left to make Art. She runs out of time to do what she came to do, and loses sight altogether of who he is doing it for. 

When the means become the ends, we end up on the hamster wheel of life.  

For example, a marketing plan is the essential part of your business plan. (Without it, you do not need an accountant!) But it is so easy for small businesses to get lost in the weeds––all the scaffolding, the tools, the platforms, and the content––that entrepreneurs forget why they are doing it in the first place. They then create a perception and forget about creating value. They follow trends and mechanics while remaining indifferent to the humans they serve, missing any possibility for real connection. (Case in point, who loves pop-ups? A show of hands, please?)

So, what is a worthwhile business? After 32 years, we have many thoughts about it. But it would be pure hubris for us to fill your head with our ideas. Instead, we would recommend that it is worth taking the time to examine the questions and answers for yourself. It’s also worth committing these answers to paper and scheduling a periodic review. 

I will venture to say that any small business worth doing delivers something that looks a whole lot like LOVE, and results in joy. When we lose ourselves inside a bigger purpose than ourselves, this joy happens for both the giver and the receiver. This joy can even become a form of resistance–even in the face of pandemics.

How is your business or organization delivering the love? How are you making and delivering Art? February is the month of love. Love requires Art and artistry. Take some time and think about the worthwhile business. It is well worth your time. 

It’s quite simple. All you need is love. 

All through the month of February, we will be discussing what makes small business worthwhile. What does a good business do? What are they like? What characteristics do they share? We would be so grateful if you would share your thoughts with us. Join us on our Facebook page, here.  Every person who participates will be entered into a drawing for a box of treats for your office on the last day of the month. (All you need is love but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!)

With Sufficient Force, Pigs Fly Just Fine

Dear Future Self,

(A sealed letter, written to myself, and to be read in November of 2021.)

Wow! Would you look at you! You have survived! Even your worst day to date. And no worse for wear! Congratulations. Remember all those things you thought would end up doing you in? They didn’t. Here you are reading this letter.

And look at all the things you have learned! See? Here is proof! No problem arrives without a gift in its hands.

Sure, you were stir-crazy while you were self-isolating, but you needed time to reassess what’s important in life. I must say you do love your distractions. As long as you have your chains of habit and your familiar routine, you’re fine. But you have to stop running between Point A and Point B long enough to figure out if Point B is worth going to in the first place. Did you stop? No. That’s why Mother Nature forced you to slow-down in the first place. You have to break out of your routine to see the routine.

Oh, you say your illusions about security have been shattered? Oh good. Now you can have healthy truth instead. And unnerving truth is far better than a comfortable delusion. But relax. Nothing is under control. And now you will remember to allow for monkey wrenches in your plans.

Did you take care of yourself this year? You are a human being, not a human doing. There is no health without mental health. You can reset, readjust, and refresh yourself as many times as you need to. No permission required.

Did you make time to be present in your relationships? Work is never-ending. But your life, your family, and your friends are not. Remember, at some point in time, you and your childhood friends went outside to play together for the last time, and you didn’t know it. Time is not guaranteed. Did you enjoy every moment with your loved ones this past year?

You say that you were only working hard because you were trying to figure out how to make ends meet? Maybe this next year, you could eliminate a few of those ends, so you have more time for the stuff that really matters. Count your wealth not by what you have, but what you can live without.

You decided to make some changes in your life last year in response to all of that thinking. Did you make progress? Did you think you might make it through this transformational year without transformation? Don’t let the space between where you are and where you want to be terrify you. Change is proof of life. How many mistakes did you make this year? Lots? Great. Here’s some humble pie. Take a slice. Humility is good for the soul. Don’t be surprised if all those prayers for deliverance from your circumstances changed you instead of your circumstances.

Wait. You found out that you have options? You discovered that even though you have always done things in a certain way, you don’t always have to do them that way? And you even found a new way? Wonderful! That’s creativity and innovation at its best. What else might you change up, eliminate, or revise?

You learned you could rearrange your schedule at a moment’s notice? Great! You never learn anything when things go as planned. Resilience and flexibility are some essential superpower skills.

You learned that the things you thought were important in life weren’t all that important at all? That some of the things that were canceled actually improved your life? And the truly essential things in life were not cancelled? And, you redefined essential? Super fantastic. The secret to joy and to having it all is knowing you already do.

This past year, you have bashed through walls, and kept right on going. Then, you went on to do things previously thought impossible! Look at you, Girl! Congratulations for living in the non-comfort zone.

Life pulled you back in 2020, but all the better to launch you into 2021. Next year will be even better. You have power to make it so.

The great take away from 2020? Life is impossible? Pshaw. 

With sufficient force, pigs fly just fine.

 

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season! When we count our blessing, we’ll be counting you. Happy Thanksgiving!  

In pressure you have enlarged me. Psalm 4:1

 

And if you have the song stuck in your head now, listen to Fats Waller sing it here. (It will lift your spirits, I guarantee!)

Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

On Celebrating the Everyday Kind of Heroes and Sheroes

Well, COVID has successfully upended our world. Four months ago, we did not know we would still be in this spot come August. Many small businesses are still battling waves and still feeling out to sea. To whom or what can we turn? Who is championing today’s solutions? To compound our issues, in our quest to find heroes, we have also sought to redefine them. Still, no one doubts their utility––we still need all the heroes and sheroes we can get. Especially now.

But if I have my eyes open, it doesn’t take much time to find local heroes. I’ve got them right under my nose, right in my hometown. Oh, they are not the cape-wearing kind of hero, but the everyday kind that you meet on the sidewalk, and you are totally unaware of all they do behind the scenes. People like Scott James. It was never his end goal to be a superhero. It is the way he does business every day.

What does a superhero entrepreneur do differently?  

They are full of gratitude. Scott recently completed a project with our company for the primary purpose of expressing this gratitude. (See attached!) He had so many people he wanted to thank and so many heroes in his own life that he teared up telling me about them. Then he was disappointed when we didn’t have room to mention them all. We would have to save some for later.

They give back. Scott has never forgotten the adage that once you have reached success, you have a responsibility to reach for someone a bit behind you and pull them along too.

They empower and enable the success of others. Scott supports our community in every conceivable way. He buys the kids’ 4H steers, supports the sports teams, serves on the Chamber, serves in Community organizations, on citizen action committees, and is a general all-around go-to community leader.

They never forget their roots. Scott also supports the local economy that supports him. He is not in business just for himself. He buys back into the community.

They don’t make customers. They make friends. Scott could make a friend out of a fence-post. This social finesse is the crowning virtue of any true entrepreneur.

They are reliable and dependable. These may seem like little things, but they are not. In small business, the little things are the big things. You might not think this one any big deal. But if Scott didn’t show up, people would notice––big time. (Would anyone notice if your business were not there?)

Scott is a great encouragement to me because he is proof that nice guys don’t always have to finish last. He brings the kind of character and values to small business to which we can all aspire. You really can run a business, play by the ‘rules,’ take care of your employees, and offer excellent products and service each day to people who rely upon you, and still make a profit.

It’s possible to chase the good and do the good for the greater good. Most heroes aren’t out there slaying dragons. Scott James doesn’t wear a cape, but he is my kind of hero. Quiet and unassuming, he is there when you need him. Indeed every dependable entrepreneur who embodies age-old values like honesty, courage, and integrity,  gives back, and works for the good of others, can be a Hero or a Shero too. Who is fighting for the common good in your neighborhood? Be sure to find them, buy them a cup of coffee, and express your thanks. You might just be entertaining angels unaware.

And hey, that might well be you. We applaud you!

Scott James is CEO and Chief Entrepreneur of James Oil in Carlisle, Iowa. James Oil has been supplying extraordinary fuel service to the Central Iowa area since 1947. Are you in this area and need a fuel supplier? Look no further. Visit www.jamesoil.com to learn more. 

To see the whole trailer, click here 

 

Know anyone who qualifies as a Super Hero? 

Do you work next to Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, or Wonder Woman? Nominate your incognito SuperHero Friend on our FaceBook page. Tell us why they are a super hero to you, and why you think they should win this prize in three sentences or less. On the last day of this month, at 5:00pm, we will draw one name from those nominated and send both you and your friend a Chair Cape so that the whole world will know and celebrate their SuperHero qualities with you! Click here to visit our FaceBook Page. 

 

Business as Unusual

Help! It’s the crucible of massive, evolutionary upheaval! While the axiom over small business has always been, “Things Change”,  we were not prepared for this one. The rug is pulled out from under us, and we are on our butts––frightened, paralyzed, and with a look of total discombobulation.

You know what total discombobulation looks like, don’t you? It could not look less professional. 

Is there anything we CAN do while we are down here on the floor? The pressure of this moment is the stuff that diamonds are made of. God forbid we should waste it binging on Netflix night after night.

Yes, there are things we still can do. Hang with me, and I’ll explain. 

The surprising thing about all of this is that we were all surprised. Pandemic has been predicted for years. We chose to ignore it. Since the dawn of time, we have known that the mortality rate for homo sapiens is 100%. We might not know precisely how long we get to hang out, but we understood it was not forever. Our level of fragility has not changed. It is our awareness of it. Our vulnerability has just smacked us upside the head. How fragile we are.

So now we know. We are not in charge. We are not our best-laid plans. We are not in control. We never have been. Welcome to reality. 

It’s not about life expectancy. It’s about what life is expecting from you.  This is a rude awakening for us all. But there has never been a better time to gain clarity for life and business.

I do not want to minimize anyone’s suffering. I do not want to be a Pollyanna. I’m not even feeling optimistic. But I do find a unique interval of possibility upon us. It is a pressure that is creating space for growth, unlike any other time we have ever seen before. It gives me reasons for hope. I want to share these reasons with you, with the hope that my hope will be contagious. 

 

We have been given:

Space for Creativity

Evolution of business is occurring right now, not over a span of time, but in a matter of minutes, hours, and days. It is a weirdly creative time. Creativity and innovation have never been born of abundance. Innovation and creativity are born of necessity, pressure, restriction, loss, and hardship. Necessity IS the mother of invention. If we have our eyes open, we may be enabled to see things in a new way, to make new connections, and new discoveries. Insanely successful companies were birthed from hardship.

Space for community

We might be in the ditch, but we are not alone. (Even so, skooch over. We must sit at least 6′ apart for the good of the masses.) The very thought that we are all suffering together should engender more empathy between neighbors. We are, for once, fighting the same enemy. Maybe we will finally realize that we are all fellow travelers on this big blue marble. What affects one of us affects us all. We are learning the value of community.

Space for conversation

How many of us, in the past few weeks, have had conversations with significant others, children, parents, bosses, and friends about really important things? How many of us have had conversations that would not have come up if it were not for the crisis? When was the last time you had this much time to invest in conversation with your children and your family? We are talking about what matters––and like never before.

Space for Gratitude

Why must humans lose things before we value them? Gratitude is the matrix of happiness. Before this crisis, we were less aware of the value of community, neighbors, co-workers, and simple words with friends. There is much we have taken for granted. Express your gratitude for those people, those things, and those privileges that add value to your life. You will discover you haven’t lost everything. When gratitude happens, joy will return.

Space for growth

Most of us are comfortable with our daily schedules just like they are, and are very resistant to upheavals of the status quo. In other words, most of us would rather sleepwalk through life. For some of us, it takes an earthquake for us to think about our lives in a different light. Something that does not change is DEAD. To grow, we must be alive, and we must change. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Space for learning

Under any other circumstance, if we had been given time to be at home to read, study, learn, we would have labeled it “luxury.” Under these circumstances, we are distracted not only by the crisis but from the opportunity of a lifetime. We have just been given space to think. We have just been given time to prepare for the future. We have just been given time to plan. We have just been given time to become. Because of technology, Mentors are available everywhere. A person can access more books online than you can read in a lifetime. You could read every book from your favorite mentor. You can read all the articles published by him or her online. You may even be able to connect with them via Zoom. When have we ever had time to read like this? When have you had the time to invest in your skillset, your health, your mind, and your soul?

Space for experimentation

One of the things we learned early on in small business: If you don’t have much, then you don’t have much to lose. Now is the time to prepare for what comes next, and to prepare for the months AFTER the crisis. No, it’s not a time for master planning, because no one knows what the next few months will hold. But it’s a great time to experiment with ‘what if’ scenarios. What do you have to lose?

This situation will not last forever, though we will be talking about it for years to come. What will you do with this time? Where some see crisis, others see opportunity. It is about far more than just surviving. There has never been a better time in history to work on becoming the best you you can possibly be. There has never been a better time in history to work on your business, instead of in it, to ask yourself what you want, to pursue your interests, and to position yourself and your business for new opportunities. What adds value to your customers lives? What can you do NOW to provide it? What needs to be done? How can you use this time to prepare your business for the recovery? How can you align your business with purpose? 

It has only been a few weeks, but already some of us are much older and wiser than we were a month ago. The world will never look the same. After this is over, many of us may not want to go back to business as usual. Some of us will decide that life is too short to keep doing things that don’t matter to us anymore. When our plans are upended, we learn what we are made of. Many of us may never want to return to the world as we once knew it.

Imagine this: if someone were to give a toast to you in 25 years for what you had accomplished in your life, what would it be? Now is the time to follow that. Those are your interests. Your interests can help you find your passion, and your passion can help you find your Purpose. Now is the time to hone in on your Purpose for being on earth in the first place.

You can endure anything when your heart is filled with Purpose. Use this time to prepare yourself and your business for what comes next. 

Despite the Covid19 crisis, the sky is still brilliant blue. Oh, it may be hiding behind the impermanence of the weather, the clouds, and the time. But it is still blue. Spring is not cancelled. Love is not cancelled. Hope is not cancelled.

Whatever we are going through now, we will not always be here. This too, shall pass. Press on, dear friend.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Ten Reasons We Love Small Business

It’s the month of love, and we will forever love Small Business! Let Me Count the Ways!

For the past 31 years, we have had the privilege of serving the small business community. According to the SBA, only 1 out of 10 startups ever reach their 10th Anniversary. This terrible statistic is the main reason we have made it our mission to help our customers overcome at least a few of the small business obstacles.

The struggle is real, but it is a good fight. Despite the daily battle scars, we remain dyed-in-the-wool capitalists.

We will forever love entrepreneurship. Here are ten reasons why:

1. I have rarely seen a better catalyst for personal growth than small business. It is a personal growth eureka! The better we entrepreneurs know ourselves, the better we can lead a small enterprise. But even though entrepreneurs are more or less self-aware, we seldom know ourselves as well as we think we do!  Until you run a small business, you may never know how genuinely courageous you are. You may think you are a risk-taker, and find out you are risk-averse after all. You may never know what you really can and cannot do until your small business throws you the ball. Oh, the revelations and the skill sets that lie dormant! Want to know your strengths and weaknesses like no other? Start a small business.

2. Small business is truly an equal opportunity employer.  Given the right chutzpah, any person, any age (be they 8 to 80), any gender of any race can start a small business. Capitalism could not care less if you are black, brown, white, or pink with purple polka-dots.

3. Small business teaches you many skills you could not learn any other way. Entrepreneurship will show you the finer points of money management, time management, people skills, and communication skills, to name a few.  You may think you already possess these skills. (Granted, it would be best if you had these skills before you start business, but in all reality, none of us is a genius at them all.) Small business will bring them to finesse.

4. Instant gratification. Nothing like it. In a large corporation, an employee might work in the third row of cubicles on a minute part of the overall workflow. They may never get to see the delight of the end-user. One of the most rewarding things about small business is instant feedback for a job well done. The entrepreneur may do some or all of the work. But then, they get to see the customers smile as a reward for work well done.

5. There is nothing more important than knowing the customer––what they want, what they like, and what they hate. If the most significant system of any business is marketing, the biggest blessing in small business is a direct line to your customers. The big data of big business is often misinterpreted and misunderstood, creating a correlation where no causation exists, and ends up garbled and mistranslated on the receiving end. No such disconnect occurs with small business. You don’t have to wait for the higher-ups in the big office to translate the data to tell you what the customer likes and doesn’t like. The customer is standing right in front of you. You can ask them. And no better place to ask them than the front line, because that is where relationships and trust are built.

6. You aren’t guaranteed a thing. I know you are thinking, “How can that be a good thing?”  To which I answer, “How many times has a cubicle inspired anything?” The consistent bi-weekly paycheck has killed more ideas than stupidity. The entrepreneur lies awake at night, thinking about how to continually improve, innovate, and make their product better than ever before. The unsecured and unpredictable paycheck of the Small Business Owner means we must bring our best selves to our work every day. We have to stay on our toes to stay viable. How many other jobs have you had where this was true?

7. Without small business, there would be no US Economy.I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know when I tell you that small business anywhere boosts the US Economy everywhere.  JP Morgan Chase says that 88% of US firms have less than 20 employees. Small business in your community is the anchor of your community. Supporting your local small business in your home town is a front line defense for a strong economy.

8. Small business is one of the best ways to help your fellow humankind. The new definition of a Corporation (as defined by The Business roundtable last year), has shifted from one of profit-seeking to “conscious capitalism”. Many small businesses realize that Profit means more than the bottom line, and work to expand their horizons. Many successful entrepreneurs understand their job is to make the world a better place for everyone ––not just for themselves. To serve the customer, care for your employees, to take care of the environment, and give back to the communities you serve ––hey, that sounds like a lot of love to me!

9. Yes, capitalism has always had its problems. But it also has great potential and spawns great innovation. Small business, done well, is one of the best ways to love your neighbor. This is especially true when the customers you serve ARE your neighbors, and essential to your success. Fortunately, loving your fellow humans, and making a profit are not opposites, but are inextricably bound together in a successful business.

10. If you want to know what you are really made of, want to know what you really can do? Do you want to test your real potential? I can think of nothing better than starting your own small business!

 

 

 

Imagining the Unimaginable

Buckle up! Because here we go, spinning at 24,000 mph, over the event horizon into a shiny, brand new decade! How do you feel? Like an adventurer? Or spinning out-of-control on an amusement park ride? If only we could predict what is ahead! And that is what humans have tried to do for hundreds of years, because we have both anticipation and trepidation.

We try our best to predict the future. As I type this, many entrepreneurs are creating folders on their desktops with names such as Plans, Projections, and Predictions For the Next Decade. But, if you have been an entrepreneur for any length of time, you know how incredibly hard it is to guess the future. Small Business projections are about as accurate as weather predictions. In other words, enter the Butterfly Effect, better known as Chaos Theory. So why should we even do it?

Despite the risks and hazards, planning in small business still comes highly recommended–even the dreaded financial projections. Despite the high margin of error, here are five reasons why you should do your best at predicting as far out as you can see:

Planning helps set your dreams, and dreams, at least sometimes, really do come true! William Blake said, “Everything that exists was first imagined.” Without imagination, innovation would cease to exist. In your wildest dreams, what can you imagine in your future? I feel a lot smarter when I peruse predictions made in the 1800s about the here and now. They got a lot of things wrong. Still, some predictions were amazingly accurate. In 1865, Jules Verne imagined a trip to the moon in a lunar module named Columbia. Piloted by three astronauts, his aluminum vessel was approximately the same weight as the real Mercury Capsule. His imaginary mission launched in Florida, with a splashdown in the ocean–all eerily close to the actual events that happened over 100 years later. Go figure! The 2001 Space Odyssey predicted the ‘flat screen news pad” in 1968. Beyond the novel, Nikola Tesla predicted wireless communication, and Marshall McCluhan predicted the internet. I could go on and on. How far can you see into your future? Go ahead and dream! How do you know that it will not, someday, come true?

Planning helps set the trajectory you want to take. Even if it is a general trajectory, at least you are headed toward the right galaxy. What is important to you? Where do you want to go? How will you get there? In the years that I have been helping small business owners with their advertising, I cannot tell you how many entrepreneurs took for granted their partner was on the same page. It was painfully evident that they were not. All business decisions become easier when a plan is in place.

Planning helps you avoid at least some of the pitfalls of small business. Small Business is a perilous venture, with many unknowns. Around every corner, you will encounter meteors in your flight path. Planning helps you to recognize trends, and trends help us to identify things that are outside the norm– things that may indicate a threat. If you have already prepared for the known pitfalls, you will be in a much better position to handle those pitfalls you cannot yet see.

Planning helps you connect the dots. Many opportunities will not appear until you have mapped out the path. We travel forward with the light we have, but only when you get to the end of your headlights will the next part of your journey be illuminated. Sure, a single prediction is highly unstable. Creating different if/then scenarios will help you to pivot to a new dot when necessary.

Planning holds you accountable. To get where you want to go, you must begin where you are. Creating measurable benchmarks and goal posts along the way helps you to know you are making progress. Even if no one else is holding your feet to the fire, the plan creates the gentle reminder to note the difference between what you said you would do, and where you are.

Entrepreneurs will forever seek to discover and predict the rest of the story. We must continue to dream! We need to plan to control whatever we can control because there is so much in our environment that we cannot. Evolution theory would concur with this. The survival of the fittest favors those with at least Some Fear.

That is, at least, how my T-shirt reads: Some Fear. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is moving forward, even in the face of fear. This is our wish for you. We wish you courage to move forward with your dreams, and #2020Vision for 2020!

Happy New Year! 

2020 in 2020

Becoming an Artpreneur

What would 2020 look like if everyone in your organization were able to look into the future and see possibilities? Do you think it would change the outcome of your year? I do.

Remember those Magic Eye books? Do you remember how willing we were to look completely ridiculous? We brought the book to our nose, and sloooooowly pulled it away, hoping to see itWe didn’t know what the it was we were looking for. We only knew the elusive it was promised to us if we followed the directions. Some of us repeated this procedure countless times without ever seeing anything. (Ok, true confessions, it was me). I saw nothing for days. Even weeks. Nothing.

 

I can fail to see something right before my eyes.

Curiosity drove me to keep trying. Everyone else was seeing itWhy couldn’t I? At last, the Aha Moment that changed everything. Gaw! I was working too hard all along. If I had just chilled and relaxed my eyes, I would have seen the 3D images pop a long time ago. I turned the page. I began to see them all, as if I never struggled in the first place.

The experience was proof, as John Lubbock says, “What we see depends on what we are looking for.” Sometimes we are trying too hard. Other times we are so obsessed with finding a specific something, that we miss the rather obvious. (I’m sure you have seen this selective attention test.)

The universe is hidden in plain sight. We are distracted, and our attention is elsewhere. We miss the unexpected.

But what if we EXPECTED the unexpected?

Just because light hits your retina doesn’t mean you are seeing. Seeing is perception. It goes well beyond looking. Looking is casual observance. Seeing is looking at something intentionally. The difference between the two is the difference between seeing dots and connecting the dots. Seeing attaches meaning to something, and this meaning moves the seer. To look is to search. To see is to find. Looking is observation. Seeing is a conclusion. I can see a thing formally. And I can see a thing contextually. Seeing is understanding.

It is not what we see. It is how we see.

Curiosity is key here. Nothing interesting begins with knowing–it begins with precisely the opposite–with not knowing. Sure, uncertainty is avoided if you stay in the safe place, but uncertainty is the only place creativity begins.

Each person has a unique window into the world that no one else is looking through. Your knowledge and your experiences and your background are different from everyone else’s. Therefore, you see and perceive things differently than every other person. This unique perception means everyone has the capacity for an epiphany, and for seeing the extraordinary. Isn’t that encouraging? Every single person has the capacity to see new possibilities.

The difference between looking and seeing is the fundamental difference between an Entrepreneur and an Artpreneur. If we could give you anything for 2020, we would give you a 2020 vision of the future. 2020 Vision is not seeing the world exactly as it is. It is seeing the world as it could be. It employs creativity, intuition, and imagination.

We don’t always know what we are looking for. That’s ok. May you have the courage to look absolutely ridiculous while you are searching for it.

May 2020 be the year that you see new possibilities! May 2020 be the year that you see everything in a different light. May 2020 be the year you expect the unexpected. May 2020 be the year that you, yourself, become an Artpreneur. May your 2020 be bright and filled with light.

We wish you 2020 in 2020!

Rethinking Attention to Detail

It’s back to school, and almost every teacher across the country will go to great lengths to develop keen observational superpowers in every student. Attention to detail can turn anyone into a superhero.

We can hardly imagine a scenario or a job description where attention to detail is not required. I’d like to believe that I possess a good deal of this coveted stuff as a designer.

But the ability to be observant alone is not enough.

Our ancient ancestors knew that their very survival depended on their ability to remain queued into their environment. But beyond keenly observant, they needed to be keenly observant about the right things. They developed an acute ability to filter out the things that were important from things that were not.

Today, we are not so inclined. We are so addicted to distraction that we are losing our ability to even discern the difference between important and unimportant. We rarely take the time to take a good hard look at anything, let alone differentiate between the two. Because of this, we miss the big picture.

#Squirrel!

I am not as observant as I want to be, but I am comforted by knowing I am not alone. It only takes something like this draw the bicycle test , or the selective attention test to show us that we could be more observant.

Or, take this exemplary description of a simple square by Mr. @John McWade for example:

 

“A square has four straight sides of equal length, four angles of 90 degrees, four angles of 270 degrees (the outsides), and four corners. Its center is equidistant from every corner, and from the center of every side. A square is bisected by vertical, horizontal, and crisscrossing 45-degree axes. Because your eye follows lines, the sides of a square move your eye side to side and up and down. Its corners–outward-pointing arrows–carry your eye away from its center equally in all directions. A square has straight sides, so it lines up with other straight objects, (like the page it’s on), and forms rectangles in the spaces between them. Its corners point at things. A square rotated 45 degrees is still a square, but no longer a square; it’s now a diamond, and relative to the horizon; it’s triangular.” John McWade

 

I have been looking at squares since my earliest days on the planet. But it takes a definition like this one to show me that I have yet to really see one.

Entrepreneurs are no different from a normal human being in ability to focus. But the more our economic environment shifts, and the more fractured our focus and attention become, the more critical it is to be observant about the right things. We must guard against any distraction that will pull us further away from our Ultimate Purpose.

And there you have it. Purpose. Purpose informs everything. Focus on anything else, and you are bound to miss your goal.

•  You can focus on stats. But the information cannot tell you if it is worth collecting in the first place.

•  Focus on the fancy tool, and you will choose the wrong one for the job every time.

•  Focus on trends, and you’ll connect the wrong dots to the future. (“Everyone else is doing it” is the worst reason to do anything.)

•  Focus on the numbers, and they will deliver correlation, but not causation.

•  Focus on industry standards, and you’ll fail to innovate.

•  Focus on the step by step instructions to success, and you’ll focus on your own goals rather than the goals of your customer. It’s about their success, not yours.

•  Focus on what you want to see, and you will fail to see the unexpected, or worse yet–fail to see what is really there.

•  Focus on the AI, and you will miss the relationship. It is impossible that something devoid of humanity will ever help us connect with humanity.

•  Focus only on the destination, and you’ll miss the joy in the journey.

Without Purpose, you will spend most of your time chasing rabbits down some rabbit hole.

Focus on your Purpose, and Purpose will help you find the way, make the way, and achieve your goals.

 

The Secret to Unstoppable Growth

I am always surprised by the number of small startups without a real marketing plan. For the new entrepreneur, all of this marketing mumbo jumbo seems like a lot of unnecessary work. “I have so many other things to do to get this business off and running! Surely I don’t need to do all that!”

Yes. You do.

Starting a business without a marketing plan is like planting a garden with no intention to water it. Good luck with that.

Ideas are very much like seeds, and marketing is very much like gardening. You can’t plant any old seed, any time you want, anywhere you want, and expect it to bloom. Seeds, by themselves, can do nothing. Just because you plant it, does not mean it will grow. Growth doesn’t happen without knowledge.

The power of a single seed continues to amaze me. I pour it out of the packet into my hand. The seed appears dead. Yet, it is a miracle in disguise. This tiny seed is preloaded with all the necessary information to transform into something wildly beyond itself. It is a sleeping power pack of potential. With vision. Big vision. It is just waiting.

Waiting for what?

The right environment, the right nurture, the right time, and the perfect spot. Given the right conditions, the growth will be unstoppable. That little seed can split a rock in two.

This right environment, my friend, is marketing.

Without the right environment, your business idea will die, literally, on the vine. This environment is why a marketing plan is so essential for growth. Marketing answers the questions: Where are you going to plant your idea? When will you do it? How will you do it? Who will be there to see the fruit? And who cares about the fruit? Any gardener knows it requires effort, patience, and knowledge to grow a prize-winning anything.

Just a few weeks ago, I was reading about a native wildflower I intend to plant in my yard. Much to my surprise, I learned the little seed would only grow in poor and barren soil. The delicate flower on the front of the packet prefers drought and neglect. Had I not done my homework, I would have planted these seeds in my garden boxes filled with fertile Iowa soil, and then watered the daylights out of them. And they would have died.

This kind of trouble is always the trouble with all things growing, because it matters a great deal how you plant things. It is the same with your business. Growth requires knowledge and nurture.

Every entrepreneur I have ever met has more ideas than could ever be used in a lifetime–as many ideas as gardeners have seed catalogs. This abundance of ideas is always a good thing because you never know when you might need a backup plan. But, the idea itself will forever be the easy part. If you don’t want your expectations to wilt, you have to figure out what the seed requires.

Sure, you may argue, some things do grow all by themselves, (a proven claim in Iowa). But there are a few problems with voluntary growth. For one, voluntary growth is usually accidental. Two, this kind of growth is not easy to replicate, because the environment, like the weather, is chance and ephemeral. And third, rapid growth most frequently occurs when what you have is weeds, and not what you wanted at all.

The middle of a crisis is never the time to discover all the reasons you should have a marketing plan. This is especially true if you have invested every penny you once had to start your business.

Ideas are a terrible thing to waste. If you are going to go to all the effort to start a small business, know that you will be wasting your effort without a marketing plan. If you are thinking of winging it without one, think again.

If you started business because you want to improve people’s lives, you need a marketing plan to do it.

If you started your business because you plan to change the world, every effort you make to write a marketing plan will align to assist your success.

Please, I beg you, don’t waste your efforts starting a new business without nurturing your fabulous idea with knowledge and serving your customers with love. Develop a marketing plan and a marketing strategy.

And then, you can prepare for unstoppable growth.


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