On one hand, HURRAH! A holiday!
Holidays make many entrepreneurs and small business owners nervous.
Depending on your business, you may be looking at numerous merry-makers coming to your shop and celebrating by indulging in a bit of “retail therapy.” A different kind of business is looking at turning a “regular” weekend into a three-day weekend, and one where a LOT of people (their employees included…) take some time, gas up the motor vehicle of choice, and head out for a vacation of some length. Sometimes these two collide and the owner can have a staffing problem, but, hey, just put in a few more hours yourself and you’ve got it covered right? But what happens if, on this more dangerous holiday weekend, somebody gets hurt or something? In between all the travelers, the uncertainty of fireworks (as one of my colleagues said, “Normal people with a few drinks in them setting off explosive devices….what could go wrong?“…) and the randomness of other accidents…well, there’s plenty to get wound up about.
How do you arrive at the thing or things to focus on every day?
There are innumerable items that float through my brain every day, usually just at the time the alarm goes off (if I’m lucky and don’t wake up early…). Living in a particularly woodsy area of the Pacific Northwest, I liken them to looking out my window and seeing all of the trees and such swaying in the wind. I can’t count them all, but they all attract some bit of attention and, at the same time, join in a constantly moving vista that can leave me a bit awestruck and frozen first thing in the morning. They are pretty as trees, but when translated into the metaphor of all the items and actions vying for my attention and prioritization, it’s overwhelming.
Some things are easy. Morning routine (everything to the point where I’m ready to “go to work”, whatever that looks like today…), followed by checking my calendar AGAIN (I’ve already looked at it a couple of times to triple check when my first meeting is, if there is one…). Like you, some days have more than others. The days that have one or no meetings are more difficult, really. Relatively “open” days require me to inspect the pile of things to do and, minding my own best times for productivity and creative work, prioritize and dig in accordingly. Not always easy.
We all want things to be easy. And it’s not just business, American or Western Society that defaults to easy. While I still worked at Microsoft, one of my managers got our entire team “Easy Buttons.” You pressed the Big Red Button and a voice said, “That Was Easy!”
We have a few things working against us:
- The problems and challenges we face today (business, societal and personal) are complex with no simple answers. The kind of effort required to tackle them can’t be splintered into micro-moments of attention (better known as “multi-tasking”…). We need big blocks of time, and lots of them, to work through these things.
- Our culture prizes Fast, Immediate, Responsive, 24/7/365 over taking the time to gain the ability to learn hard things more quickly and produce at an elite level (so we move past “good enough” to “WOW!”).
- The difficulty of measuring the complex over the simple (an example – “audience engagement” versus a Facebook page “Like”).
- The tendency to answer a simpler question when confronted with a difficult one (more on that shortly…).
As business owners and entrepreneurs, what does this mean?
You are Very, Very Good at what you do!
That’s one of the reasons you started your business. You’re good at it and you love to do it. So, becoming your own boss seemed like the way to focus in on this passion and expertise, and deliver the benefits to others who are willing to pay you for it. Seems simple, right?
You read a few books, talked to some other friends and maybe even a few other business owners….even took a class or seminar. They shared their experiences and support for this move in your professional life and told you, “GO FOR IT!” You did some research and maybe even made your proof-of-concept available to some people, getting feedback and valuable input. None of this was easy, and you discovered a few things that set you back a bit and maybe even discouraged you, but you are determined….no turning back!
Mindfulness is a light of honesty within yourself that is fed by each moment that passes.
Mindfulness and “being in the moment” are ancient ideas found across cultures. This self-awareness is partly being truly aware of the moment, and partly acknowledging and letting go of the things and thoughts that cling to you or come flying back at you, only to be noticed and let go of again in that moment. It’s an enlightening and maddening place to be, for sure…
I read an article by Seth Godin recently about self-awareness and marketing that brought me to reconsider the role of marketing in my thought life and decision-making process, and in that of my customers and yours, too. To say that we are all relentlessly marketed to by just about everything and everyone is a statement of the obvious that we have become so numb to that we tend to ignore it. We are in danger of losing the awareness that can allow us a margin of critical thinking. Godin writes, “Mostly, marketing is what we call it when someone else is influenced by a marketer. When we’re influenced, though, it’s not marketing, it’s a smart choice.” In other words, it’s not “just marketing” when it influences me! I’m not as influenced by the marketing beast as “those other folks!”
“Come on!! FOCUS!!!”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that in my life in different contexts….in musical groups who have been rehearsing a tough section, in a classroom that was a bit too warm during a lecture (or lab) that seemed to go….on….for….ever…., or that internal voice when I’ve been staring at the screen for awhile working on research or a project and notice that my eyes have blurred and so has my mind.
You’ve probably heard it too…
As an entrepreneur, you put a ton of time, attention and energy into your business, both the business pieces AND the product or service delivery (then there’s the ongoing customer service and support bit, too…..). Staying of top of everything can burn you out, leave you sleep and life deprived, and make it much harder to do the A+ job you normally do. Even making a bit of space becomes a challenge since your brain doesn’t necessarily “walk away” from your business (even if you do), so you could be “taking a moment” but you’re churning away inside. If that’s going on, you’re not in the moment of rest and relaxation, you’re distracted and those around you can tell, aside from the fact that the restorative nature of a break is severely diminished.
If you don’t take care of yourself, your life, your relationships and your business suffer.
“Well, that happened.”
That’s still one of my favorite movies quotes. It’s uttered (actually more “admitted”) by Bob Berrenger (Alec Baldwin) upon crawling out of an upside down car accident in the movie State and Main. He seems a bit dazed, but not very concerned, despite suffering from a bad cut on his head and, subsequently, walking away from the scene of the accident. He’s not worried about his past actions and mistakes…..he just moves on. That comes back to get him, but I will let you check out the movie….it’s excellent.
Taking the context of that quote a different way, I’ve spent some time thinking about how this kind of detached view of my past and future can affect me and my business.
Dealing with Change is a Class-A Pain!
First, what does change mean to you, your life, and your business? Is it rapid, gradual, ignored, accepted or the object of ‘magical thinking‘?
Second, how do you manage? Can you really manage without engaging a fortune teller and hoping against hope you can see the future and get ahead of the unknown?
Lastly, how do you feel about it? What does this mean for your business? I’ll get to that…
Which Tribe do you belong to?
That seems to be an over-riding, occasionally unsaid, concern in our society. Conservative or Liberal? Religious or Agnostic? One percent or ninety-nine percent? Blue collar or white-collar? Introvert or extrovert? College Graduate? Technical? Gender? Race? We have innumerable ways of identifying, classifying and limiting the understanding of ourselves and those around us. Labels and categories carry assumptions and expectations, whether they’re true or not. And how much of this relies upon context? It’s something that has challenged our species for all time and it doesn’t seem to be getting better….
That’s a pretty broad brush with which to start a conversation.
This was a very tough week.
Having your own business and balancing family and holidays is a lot of work. Throw in a death in the family and an unforeseen trip to Iowa from Seattle (and all the turmoil that entails…), and trying to get back in the groove seems insurmountable.
Consider this when you are crafting messages, boosting posts, networking, writing blog posts, speaking with customers and colleagues, and going through your usual day. What is the likelihood that any one of these people has “other stuff happening” in their lives? How does this affect how you reach out to them? How do you create, curate, and communicate online (and connect off-line…) in such a way that, while remaining relevant to those who are all right at this time, also takes into account those who are struggling in some way? This core authenticity, how you remain effectively Human (the foundation of Human-to-Human or #H2H marketing) online is both a strength in building relationships with people, and can make you truly different and more easily discernible through the noise that is the Internet.