Being: Salt

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” – Matthew 5: 13 (NRSV)

For quite some time now I have been fascinated with incorporating “being” in my life and awareness. This hasn’t been easy, nor is it ever “done.” (I know I’m using quotation marks a lot here, but bear with me…)

A term and concept that has gained a lot of attention is mindfulness. This is an aspect of being that I include in my dialogues, but my growing understanding and experience of being (I’m dropping the quotation marks for that word at this point…) is only part of it.

Mindfulness, to me, is being fully aware of the moment in which I reside, at any given moment. It implies a certain kind of attention that is neither cast backward nor forward. One way of looking at how I apprehend being at this time is kind of mindfulness without the attention. Let me explain further….

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Listening: Attention or Intention?

Attention Listening

Listening

“PAY ATTENTION!!!!!”

In your life, how many times have you heard that phrase, either from someone else or your internal voice? Shutting out distractions like noise, devices or the torrent of thoughts and imagination that the Buddhist tradition has termed the “monkey mind” seems nearly impossible. We slap ourselves internally in some fashion, and try to refocus on the speaker. This can be just as jarring as the distractions themselves!

Mindful Listening is really not about attention. It’s about intention. Let me explain how I understand and experience the difference.

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Mindfulness and Taking Stock

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

This past week was a good and difficult one.
One of the hard bits was working to get five + days of work done in three, as I had scheduled Thursday and Friday off to celebrate my anniversary and birthday. I work to do this every year and have been pretty successful to date, although banishing work from my mind is always a challenge as an entrepreneur. Still, it was good to get away from the screens and focus on each day and the moments each held, along with the commemoration activities.
I focus on this set of events for a couple of reasons.
First, I wish to celebrate life and relationships, and this is another way to mark them as memorable and life-giving.
Second, this particular birthday gives me pause. I am now the age my father was when he was consumed by cancer and died. That, along with the near approaching anniversary of the death of my younger brother in two weeks, I am particularly aware of being present in each moment and how this manifests itself in my “normal activities”…..”normal activities” being the usual, rather mundane things of every day.
You may be thinking (if you’ve read this far..), “Why is he writing about this on a business blog?” A fair question…

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Innovation and Dialogue

dialogue innovation

Dialogue

How much of innovation is an Isaac Newton-like moment (mythically alone and the apple drops on your head….”AH-HA!”) and how much is something else entirely?

And what IS that something else?

I wrote another article asking if innovation was dead. Looking at the world around us, it seems a mixed set of answers. Some things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cars and certain kinds of other technology seem to beg the question that innovation is alive and well. But we still have stubborn problems as a culture and a world that seem to defy innovative answers. Some of these problems are so monumentally complex that just trying to confront or define them is hard enough (think eradication of hard poverty, cures for things like cancer or diabetes, nuclear proliferation, economic inequality, how to have a positive outcome with whatever the heck is happening to global environment, etc….).

Getting to a more manageable level, like your business, how do you:
  • keep from being a follower when it comes to coming up with new and different ways to attract customers
  • improve and create new products and services
  • grow your business in scalable ways
  • stand out from the crowd of competitors
and the like?

Going it alone can seem attractive. It can feel like, unless you come up it, it’s not really your innovation or idea. This is a real danger for solopreneurs, as innovation is not the same as churn, and this churn is where many of us live and work. Surrounded by shifting tasks, fluid schedules, never-ending revisions of services and offerings….it can SEEM like Innovation at times, even if it’s just a new way to get through the day in one piece!

It’s not.

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Your Job and Your ONE THING

Job

The Job

“It’s not just a Job….It’s an Adventure!”

That was a marketing tag line for the U.S. Navy a number of years ago. A frequent comment among my fellow sailors at the time was “Is this the job part or the adventure part?”

The whole of these two concepts came up to me recently in a conversation I had with a mentor of mine. We were going over his long career, and he mentioned that he felt he never really had a JOB. I asked him what he meant, and he shared that his idea of a job was something that you pretty much had to drag yourself to, every day, like it or not. There was not much life in it, and any correlation between it and the conviction that he was doing something good, right, and worthwhile was nonexistent, or, at best, extremely minimal. He felt that all that he had done never went to the level of being a JOB for him.

After about four hours of dialogue and catching up (I hadn’t seen him for over 4 years…), I drove away mulling over this idea.

Did I ever have a JOB, by this definition?

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What Are You Really All About?

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blind men and elephant

The blind men and the elephant

Remember the old fable about the blind men and the elephant? Each one of them touched a different part of the animal and conjured up a description of it that was wildly different from the others’, based on their personal experience.

Stay with me….

I have had an experience like this with my business recently. Instead of being blind, though, it’s more like I was up-close-and-personal with my section of the elephant. All I could see clearly was the bit right in front of me. In my desire to really get a good look at where I am and where I’m going, I tried stepping back a bit, but really only got a wider view of the broadside of the elephant, though. I needed to back WAAAAAAAY up to really see it as an elephant….er, as my business.

I am fortunate. I just got back from almost two weeks’ worth of vacation on a lovely tropical island. Lots of beach time, lots of “spare room” for my mind to unwind, and little to no “screen time” to distract me (THAT was nice!). It took most of the vacation for my mind, at all levels, to unwind and back-off enough to not only see the elephant, but discern if this was the elephant I wanted and have been working for / toward for years.

This is humbling, and an eye-opener…

One consideration I confronted was “What do I consider success?” This is a tougher-than-you’d-think question. It is beyond revenue, recognition, client-lists, board and committee memberships, or mission statements. It is “What am I about?” and “Why do I do this…..really?

This requires me to go deeper into my reason for being. If I truly believe the importance of mindfulness and the present moment, this must be reflected by my business. As a consultant (which holds for any small business owner…), I really AM my business. So, again, what am I about?

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FOCUS: How Do You Compare Awareness vs. A Noisy Internet?

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Awareness

Awareness

Moving from Awareness (I sometimes call it Discoverability…) to Reputation, and then to some kind of Economic Engagement (Sales, Donations, etc…) is a well-known path for many businesses.

The first stop on this journey is gaining Awareness of your business. Sadly, there are still a number of businesses who feel and act as though the best way to get attention is to YELL A LOT ONLINE! This number is shrinking, but they are still there. What the rest scatter into are versions of:
  • Semi-random posts based partly on the business and partly on when whomever is managing the online activity has time or interest to post something. Hence pages that will have four posts in one day, and then go 3 months before the next one.
  • A steady stream of “We’re Great! Everyone Says So!” and “Buy Our Stuff!“. These folks generally post a lot, and descend into “Internet Noise” pretty quickly…
  • The “Cats Rule the Internet” strategy, where a large number of posts are entertaining GIFs and Videos of Pets, People and Fun things, but without any balancing of content that’s valuable to the customer, except for those who find filling their day with looking at this kind of stuff valuable. May drive a l lot of traffic, but no business.
  • Patterns that ALMOST come together into a coherent plan, but lack the real strategy to make progress in their marketing and business goals. Sometimes the owner is a regular use of some channel like Facebook, and so knows kind of what others do, but hasn’t worked through how that looks for her business.
  • Some solid execution plans that are moving the needle for the business and producing value. These companies are intelligently investing in and leveraging digital/social media to MAKE MONEY.

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How Important is Unsurpassed Genuine Tenacious Persistence?

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Tenacious Persistence

Tenacious Persistence!

I am reminded of the role of tenacity this week.

Many kinds of dogged persistence crossed my path. In my business, I worked with several clients working through tough business problems. Despite the distraction of the holiday season, each is determined to make headway on each particular challenge. There have been some “stall points” along the way, thanks to old processes colliding with newer, better informed efforts. Nonetheless, each is steadfast in their desire to get the older processes and mindsets either altered to the newer ones, or discard them. This is not easy (particularly when older process are personified and actuated by existing team members who have “always done it that way, and it works kinda OK…”), but the little successes along the way are proving the value of the work, and provide the fuel for the tenacious spirit they display.

How Do You Focus To Listen?

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Listen-To-Understand

Listen-To-Understand

There is a budding resurgence taking place concerning the importance of Conversation in life and business. Not that a lot of the words aren’t just hanging out there, dissipating in the wind. A lot of businesses grab the “shiny thing” when it comes to the latest discussions and thinking around whatever can keep us growing, or at least “safe.” I still experience an enormous amount of Telling and Broadcasting instead of Conversation and Engagement, both online and off-line. Even conversation has numerous forks in the concept, the largest two seem to be “listening-to-reply” and “listening-to-understand.”
A few years ago I wrote an article about the abundance of LIKING-type behavior online in comparison to the actual conversation taking place. Businesses were still trying to figure out this new paradigm where the customers actually controlled the brand perceptions, and NOT the BRAND controlling them. Along with the immature capabilities for measuring real engagement and the misunderstanding surrounding the actual meaning and value of a LIKE or a FOLLOW or a “+1” meant that the definitions of success were too fuzzy, and likely incorrect.
Things are different now.

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Still Waiting For That Expert “Top Ten” List?

Top Ten

Top 10!

It’s not all that hard to be different, because you are.

I made an observation recently in a meeting about the tension we have in each of us to both fit in and be utterly unique. This applies to individuals (this is America, after all…individuals are a huge, almost obsessive focus of our attention…) and to our businesses and relationships. As a professional, I explain this to colleagues and clients this way: When, for instance, there is someone out there looking for a real estate agent, you don’t want them to think, “I’m going to call XYZ Mondo Real Estate!” You want them to think, “I’m going to call Janine at XYZ Mondo Real Estate!” You really want to have that kind of relationship with your VACC (Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community). Even though you may be part of a much larger organization or collective, YOU want to stand out.

I have an identical challenge. I have inhabited the digital and social media environment for some time. I know from observation and experience that certain kinds of articles and posts get more “juice” than others, and humans like to categorize and organize information quickly. In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman describes the two systems with which our mind works. First, sensory inputs are fed into System 1. System 1 takes the inputs and makes initial sense out of them. System 1′ s analysis is then fed to System 2. System 2 is the primary component of what we consider consciousness. The processing by System 2 completes the analysis of information within your mind. System 1 works on the economy of effort, and System 2 is the sense-making system. System 1 is much more likely to be intuitive, make quick, easy judgment and classification, and use short-cuts. System 2 digs in, uses much more “fuel” and gets tired as a result (hence the brain’s desire to use System 1 as much as possible.). The book is a TERRIFIC read, by the way, and my explanation here is paltry when compared to the richness to be found there when considering how our minds work….

Getting back to my thread of purpose here, the untold numbers of articles, “listicles” and posts that may be found across the Internet may or may not help you in your profession, but our minds crave that kind of quick-and-easy, how-to, tips-and-tricks writing. I have published a few articles in that vein when I felt that it was the best way to present the information and that it would be most helpful in that way. The bulk of my writing, as you have probably noticed, does not follow that format. I prefer to cover topics referring to the cognitive work in which we, as entrepreneurs, professionals, business owners and intelligent citizens, need to engage in order to be intentional and successful in our endeavors. Once a month I do a post featuring a collection of the five best articles I read that month, but I try to ensure that works within my particular context and message….a large part of which is “Think, Consider and be Authentic” (there’s a reason I call my blog “Authentic Voice“….).

This is not necessarily the most popular way to approach a Business Blog. My focus is more about our humanity, our strengths and limitations, what is important in our lives and business, and taking to account that our work is to support our lives, and not the other way around.  Being human, and treating others as human, not only exposes you as authentic but allows the building of the kinds of relationships with those around you, and your VACC, that will result in the kind of success worth gaining.

I know that this kind of writing may not be to the taste of many people….like I said, our minds are wired to consider information in the most economical way possible, so using our System 2 is harder, and almost no one likes “harder.” My hope is that you find great value in what I write and that you derive good from it. If you find a single item from any of my articles that lifts your business, improves your relationships with your VACC, and allows you to work through a business or individual challenge, then I have succeeded.

There are likely other topics you would like to see more about. If so, leave a comment here or visit my Social Sapiens web site and tell me via the contact form…or even give me a call. We are truly reaching for the same kinds of things together.