Business

We are Creative, so be Creative

An old friend of mine who is a high school English teacher was recently telling me a story of a group of young kids visiting her high school classroom.

The scenario is typical of what you’re picturing. The preschool takes a field trip to the high school, meet some older kids, get read to by the older students and the ones they hope to one day grow up to be like. We’ve all be there!

At one point in this story, one of the students went up to my friend and asked, “Where are your games and colors?” Interesting question, no?

What if back in preschool you knew that the fun and games would soon be ending and you’d be spending the rest of your school days reading thick text books and being tested on the words in them, instead of what they are inspiring you to do. You would have quit on the spot! I know I would have. What is a world without creativity? Or imagination? Or that simple thing we all take for granted: colors!

We are creative, innovative, imaginative creatures and we must use these brain functions to survive and color our own world around us. So, grab your crayons, markers, colored pencils or paint brushes, and join me!

(Flickr photo by mel810)

Dream Big Dreams, Take Small Steps

This is a guest post by @SamDavidson of CoolPeopleCare.

Someone said (either Victor Hugo or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, depending upon where you look online) that small dreams aren’t worth dreaming because they have no ability to stir the hearts of others.

I agree.

Dreams (the kind you have when you’re awake) are fun. You (usually) have no limits. Like a golf cart with the governor removed, why not see how fast you can take it out for a spin? Imagine – with no restrictions, rules, possibilities or barriers, what could you do?

In daydreams, cats can talk, gravity disappears and our critics are silenced. In daydreams, we’re a lot taller, our bank account is a lot bigger, and we seem to know all of the right people. And why shouldn’t we? It’s our dream, for crying out loud. We’re the author of this fairy tale, free to write and then edit as we choose.

In fact, if you have a daydream where you fail, flounder or give up, I encourage you to seek professional help.

Henry David Thoreau reminded us that we build our castles in the air, and rightly so. He then challenged us to go and build a foundation under them.

And perhaps that’s what is so tricky and daunting about dreaming big dreams. At one point, we have to back up, wake up to our present reality and go to work. We have to get our hands dirty, our feet wet and our muscles tired in order to do the hard work of turning our dream into a reality.

Dreaming is fun and encouraging because it’s so easy. Working and toiling to make that dream come true is not as fun. Sometimes, it’s downright awful. It sucks, it’s boring and very quickly, we can give up the big dream for a small one – one that seems more manageable and keeps us sane.

That’s why so many dreams stay small and why big dreams don’t come true and stop getting dreamt. It’s not because big dreams don’t come true; it’s because real action never follows.

So then, the first step towards real change is perhaps the easiest. As Robert Greenleaf so eloquently said, “Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality; but the dream must be there first.”

And so the dream is dreamt. Step one is complete.

But what about step two? Or three? Or four hundred? How does that happen? How can those of us – regardless of the size of our dream – help those dreamers of great dreams see their great dreams actualized? Is there any role or part that we can play in the great, wild dreams of others?

Absolutely. Because dreams come true, one step at a time.

While our dreams start big, their actualization comes in very small steps. This is why I set out to create Cool People Care three short years ago. Providing one idea each weekday, we use the power of 99 words (exactly) to inspire, compel and motivate you to take the small steps towards your big dreams.

We really can save the world. Sure, it’s a big dream. That only means we need to get work, five minutes at a time.

Join our One Stream team at Kiva to change the world!

3 Cups of Tea, We Are Family

I’ve been wanting to read, Three Cups of Tea since I picked it up last Christmas and I finally was able to work it into my schedule and I’m glad I did.

Tea is written by Greg Mortenson (the guy who the book is about) and David Oliver Relin, and the story begins when Mortenson was a child and how his family lived around the world and it is these travels and these experiences that set Mortenson up for his future adventure that is changing the world.

The challenge of any man, of all people, is to leave the world a better place than they found it. In a twist of fate, after failing in his climb up K2, Mortenson ended up in a tiny village clinging to life. The people there in Korphe saved his life. Upon his departure, he made a promise that would save both of theirs.

Mortenson made a promise upon his departure that he would come back and build a much needed school in Korphe. Korphe is in the northern portion of Pakistan, the part that bread the birth of Al-Qaeda. He journey is long and painful and with brief moments of sheer terror for the life of Mortenson.

Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything–even die.
-Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoral Mountains, Pakistan

The is a read you won’t want to put down and will surely inspire you to want to pick up a hammer and build a school yourself.

Learn more about Three Cups of Tea.

Fix Your Relationship

I was in a large group business meeting a few months back and as I was taking notes, the guy speaking said the following: “Before you make new relationships, fix the broken ones.”

I wrote it down because he was right. Especially in business, you have to focus your energies on fixing the relationships you have in your pocket before you add more to your plate. Because think about it…

If you have problems in your current relationships, aren’t you bound to make the same mistakes with the next batch of relationships?

I’ve seen people who have bad business relationships just “cut their losses” and create a new relationship with someone else. All that is left of the past relationship is the bad taste in both sides’ mouths.

But what if, instead of cutting your losses, you schedule a meeting to discuss where the relationship is falling short. It’s no different than what you’d do in real life.

“Hey, I’m feeling like you’re not doing this, that, or the other thing.” It’s that kind of a moment. But what it shows is that you’re:

A) Interested in fixing the relationship,

B) Interested in seeing if there are areas to grow and expand the relationship,

And most importantly,

C) You’re honest.

What’s going to happen when you’re honest and try to fix the bad relationship is it’s going to help both parties put their skin back in the game. When that happens, only good things come out of it.

(Flickr photo via nickwhelleroz)

Friendly Business

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a terrible first business meeting. Continuing with that theme today, let’s focus on you! What is your first business meeting like?

I think we all can agree how important the first five seconds and five minutes are to the sustainability of not only friendships, but business relationships. If I don’t at least sell you on my personality in the first five minutes, chances are you’re not going to be interested. Sometimes we make mistakes and think we like someone and find out two years later we were mistaken. We’re not talking about that.

We’re talking about that initial meeting where relationships are built and business is lost.

Think about your most recent “first” meeting and ask yourself these questions.

a) What was the mood?

b) Did I focus on them and not myself?

c) Did it feel like a conversation?

If your answers to those questions are: positive, absolutely and yes, then you are on the right track.

The key to building a positive business relationship is to make it feel like you’re not in business. Why do you think there are so many meetings over coffee, golf and beer? That’s what you do with friends and when you do business with someone, you might as well be friends too.

(Flickr photo via MyDigitalSLRCamera)

Having Faults Promotes Growth

You’re nailing the interview. You can tell. The interviewer is smiling and they’ve stopped taking notes and are enjoying what appears to be a wonderful conversation between friends. Then it happens. They ask the question. The question we all know is coming.

“So tell me what some of your weaknesses are.” Your palms start to get sweaty. You’re thinking you don’t have any. You got fired from your last job because the boss had a personality disorder and thought you were expendable. Or maybe it was your inability to arrive on time every day for a year.But who’s counting?
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(I admit that is a little exaggerated, but for literary effect of course.)

In that situation, someone is looking for a job and the person looking to hire is looking for something very specific in the ensuing answer. They want to see that the person they may hire knows they are not as strong in some areas and are seeking ways to improve and limit that weakness.

To me, I’ve never had a problem admitting I’m weak in some areas-I do believe it makes me a stronger person. It makes me stronger because with the knowledge and vocal pronouncement that I’m weak in the area of “xzy” it not only informs others that I may need some added assistance, but it also puts a name, puts a topic on my radar to be looking for ways to improve myself.

For example, lets say your weakness is letting your inbox get so full you don’t respond for days and you’ve let things slip through the cracks in the past. Okay, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery! But there are some quick and simple solutions you could try. First, Google the problem and see what comes up. I’m willing to bet there are tons of advice columns out there on how to combat this problem. (I know because I sometimes have that issue and need a refresher course.)

The importance of admitting weaknesses is that is allows you to also save face. If you’re sitting around a table of friends and someone brings up an current events issue, you can simply respond, “Yeah I heard about that but haven’t had time to read more.” Then you make the mental note to read more when you get home. Weakness is only a flaw if you don’t do something to limit it’s effect on your life.

“So tell me what some of your weaknesses are.”

What will you say now? How about: ‘There are a lot of things I’m not fluent in and most recently I started making a planned effort to be more efficient with my inbox so my clients could count on prompt responses.’ See… the weakness is a positive thing. Try it.

(flickr image via Marco P. Sanchez)

Haven’t We Met?

About a month ago I had a meeting with someone who wanted my business. I always try to fit these meetings in about once a month. Sometimes it’s just one company who has contacted me, other times is multiple seemingly all at once. When that happens, I ask them to send me information and I’ll contact them when I have the time.

Well, I took this meeting because this salesman was working a a new company and I am always in the market to save money.

Here is where the wheels started to come off on this companies chances at getting my business.

First, not only did the salesman come, but his boss did as well. For me and my needs, that was a big no-no.

Second, the immediately opened up a big black booklet and started in one their presentation. They showed me a photo of their two buildings, a floor-plan of the facility, a photo of a team meeting and then work samples. Presentation over, then they asked me a little bit about my needs.

If you’re following my logic here, they’d pretty much already lost my interest. I personally don’t care about your floor-plan or your team meetings. I don’t. If it comes down to that, I’ll ask about it and I may even do a site visit. But do not sell me that.

Business deals are made in the first five minutes I believe. It’s just a friendship… you work on the relationship. You don’t go up to someone you don’t know but may want to be friends with and start in on how awesome your personal workouts are and the greatness of your house. If you did, you’d end up alone at the bar.

It’s about the relationship–period. These two guys didn’t seem to understand that. The meeting over, I put them in a list of people I’d add to our RFP list in the future. I always give second chances.

What happened next will go into the “Are you kidding me?” pile for the rest of my life. About two weeks after that initial meeting, I received an email from the salesperson of that meeting. It was a sales e-mail telling me how their process works once we select them and how their customer service is the best. Okay… great. But then he said he wanted to stop by my office for no more than five minutes just to put a face with a name. Wait… didn’t we just do that? Dude – we’d already met!

Needless to say, I didn’t reply and I took him off my RFP list.

As a businessperson, always be focusing on the relationship with your customers/clients. Remember the small things. And if you are trying to sell something, tell your story last, listen and ask about theirs first. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and that works for friendships too!

(flickr photo via modofly)