Burn the Ships – or at least get focused

a burning shipOver the past few years there is often a reference in blogs and articles to “Burn the Ships” or “Burn the Boats.” This is in reference to Alexander the Great commanding his small (and vastly outnumbered army) to get rid of his ships once they landed in Persia. A lot of disagreement as to whether they just let the ships sink or if actual burning was involved. Regardless, they had to make do with what they had because there was no turning back at that point. It demonstrated full commitment to the purpose at hand.

Jim Collins (Good to Great) referenced this story in talking about CEO Darwin E. Smith of Kimberly-Clark (paper products company). Smith made the difficult decision to “Sell the Mills” –  the core of their business for years. He sold the mills and instead started investing more in brands like Huggies and Kleenex. It was shocking to many that he would make such a drastic move, but it paid off.

Last night as I was talking to a referral and I remembered this story when the person was asking me to clarify what was going on with my website. They couldn’t figure out my core business.

Shameful, aye?

But, I agreed.

My clarity has not yet hit my website and I’m in the process of narrowing down WAY too many interests. Luckily, my day job brings in the big bucks. Not Nudge Village.

Perhaps this is one reason why.  Yikes!

It took a bit of humility, but I deleted 5-6 key website pages that were confusing people when they visited my site. I have a few more changes in the works to simplify, refine and clarify. I’m one step more focused and clear on what I will and will not be.

Sometimes in the quest to find the right thing we can appear to be all over the place. But,  little nudges from others can help us get back on track if we are open to receive them.

We are forced to re-focus.

We are compelled to select a  few personal “burn the ships” items. Delete extraneous products or blogposts, refrain from partnering with an unrelated affiliate, discovering misguided priorities,  trying to be everything to everyone.

So, the angst of the last week is now turning into a way forward, at least for a few more steps.

Thanks to someone I don’t know, but said something that nudged me to start a bit of a “fire.”

Nudge Nudge – burn some personal ships, sell some mills, get focused!

Blah, Blah, Blah – that’s the feedback she gave me

thumbs downEverything was moving along just fine yesterday until I opened up my online course and saw that my feedback rating went down from 4.5 stars to 4.0.  Weird. What could have triggered this in my account?

I opened it up to see some freshly added feedback from one of the newer students in my online course.

She shared publicly and ….so will I.

negative feedback

It’s hard to read people like this, especially after I’ve had a few good reviews AND because I’m not sure that the person got the spirit of the course. I say this because I see people NOT understanding how to use Twitter all over the place – not engaging in online conversations, not promoting others, and not leveraging it in the way actual business people build partnerships.

But, these pieces of feedback do cause me to sit back and ask myself questions – is my course labeled incorrectly, did I share enough stories, what more needs to be added for different learning styles? Maybe I need to add a few more technical components that I figured were taught elsewhere?

On the flip side of the cognitive dilemma is the fact that I really want to create things for the right people to enjoy. Part of me wants to disregard this person. Part of me wants to use it as a chance to improve my course.

We all hear talk about the importance of continuing to move forward on our big ideas despite the naysayers, but it does make me blush whenever I come across a piece of feedback about me that is less than satisfactory.

So, what action will I take as a result of this virtual jab at my course?

Well, I plan on:

  • Adding a few more details (that I had intended to add anyway) to make it more robust.
  • Give a few technical tips on how to use it on a daily basis.
  • Share a few more examples of success in the course.
  • Tweet out a few more tweets for those that provided positive feedback.

Now, for another lesson learned from this experience – are we watching what type of feedback we put out there on the web? Do we think of how it will reflect on us? I obviously don’t have a high opinion of the commenter that I’ve highlighted here. Her form of communicating doesn’t invite any discussion or constructive input.

Sad, isn’t it?

There are others that offered really helpful feedback on how to improve the course and I respect them for their input and openness. I actually tweet about many of their products now.

When we give feedback (on or off the web), we may do well to remember that our reputation is at stake as well. How we respond often says more about us than the other person.

Our online reputations must be guarded daily nowadays. We never know what future opportunity that could be stifled by trivial or rude remarks made online. It is what it is.

I’ll move on and keep improving and will still keep blushing when I get less than great scores on online courses. I hope that those that write reviews like this one do too. Unfortunately, I cannot support them or give them any online promotion. It is too bad, because they probably desperately need it.

One last note – kind of a funny thing – I talked about building your online reputation in the course. Guess that was hidden in all of the blah-blah-blah somewhere. (-:

Email Announcements – Cancer Strikes

However appropriate or inappropriate, we have an email going around at work today about an employee that has one month to live. Cancer struck and is taking him quickly. I’ve worked with this person on different projects over the years. He is probably in his 50s and had no outward indication of any health issues.

Emails like this immediately wake me up. The urgency of dealing with minutia projects and tasks fall away and reality hits:

  • Good health is HUGELY important. Without it, we aren’t operating at our best capacity or may not exist.
  • Life is short – even if 60, 70, or 90 years seems short to you, guaranteed that anyone that age still feels like it went too fast.
  • Take time TODAY for those that matter – not next month or next year. Choices today become next week, next month and next year before we know it.
  • Treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness – you may never see them again and remember that each individual has secret battles to face.

Right now I’m working on a massive spreadsheet. It seemed really important a minute ago. Now I think I’ll take a break. I’ve got a serious note to write to a person that has one month to live. Plus, there are a few doctor’s appointments I’ve put off for a few months.

Take time today! It matters.

The Webinar of the Lone Participant – the failure isn’t what you think

one sports fan sitting in a stadiumA few years ago I was anxious about presenting at a conference after being out of practice for a few years. I wasn’t sure if what I had to share was noteworthy to anyone outside of our organization, let alone our team. I wasn’t even sure anyone would show up to my session. I openly expressed my fear to some co-workers. Everyone gave the usual “You’ll do fine” advice. But, Mark Oehlert (http://blogoehlert.typepad.com/) stressed the importance of always treating even one participant as if you were there for them. He had started his blog and said he wrote what he wanted to write and if even one person listened that would be fine by him. Mark is a successful thought leader and now has thousands of blog and Twitter followers because he’s great at spreading ideas and making people think.

His comment made me think and most importantly I remembered it. Everytime I write a blogpost, deliver a conference session or train in a webinar, I remember his comment.

Today I held an all day series of webinars. The attendance was low. There were a few technical difficulties along the way. I hadn’t gotten all of the marketing right. In fact, I was downright busy and so were the presenters. It could have been a let down.

But, it wasn’t and here’s why:

  • Preparation – each presenter came prepared. They had thought through a topic. They had to create a presentation. They had to figure out what idea they were trying to share. They were excellent and provided meaningful information.
  • Accountability – the products each presenter created didn’t exist earlier this week. The products existed because they had a goal to participate in this webinar. How amazing is it that if we just set a date and promise to be there for others, we actually produce? Accountability is a huge key to any success actually happening.
  • Awareness – honestly, I was not aware of the talent right under my own nose. The presenters are all in our online Nudge Village Accountability Group. They contribute all the time, but I had never seen any of them present. Wow. Nudge Village’s got talent!
  • Personal Change – there was something to learn from all the presenters. I may have been the only participant in some sessions, but their presentations made an impact on ME. What do you think I’m going to do now? I’m going to share and promote them.
  • Promotion – yep, I’m going to promote what each of these presenters offer because it made an impact on me. What if they had acted as if I didn’t matter? As if I didn’t count? Would I still be promoting them?

We’ve all heard the Power of One quote – often attributed to Nelson Mandella, but actually written by Marianne Williamson. The Power of One is real – whether it is the person presenting or the person being presented to. Ideas are exchanged, hope gained, and a possible partnership formed.

When it comes to webinars, sharing your blog, presenting at conferences and spreading your big idea…don’t forget the one. That “one” may be a person like me. I learn, I share, I promote, I mentor, and I give.

The failure of the webinar today isn’t that the numbers were low, though I hoped they’d be higher. The failure is thinking that the one that did show up wasn’t important enough to share our best with and that they wouldn’t spread Your idea when you shared it.

Over the course of time, if we do share our best with the one, the one will become two, the two will become four and the four will become 100, 1000, or perhaps 10,000.

The point is to just keep sharing – one person at a time.

 

The Power of a Nudge

finger pressing a screenThis week I created a guest blogpost for another blog and realized that I really needed to share it here. After all, it is about the power of a nudge!

So, here it goes!

Have you ever had a family member, a friend, a co-worker or even someone you barely know make a suggestion or comment that made a huge difference in your life? It may have been a simple remark, but it had a lasting impact on choices you made going forward?

We call these “nudges.” These little ideas, comments, and suggestions have the power to increase our self-confidence, encourage us to change direction in our lives, educate us on new possibilities, and  instigate a new business, adventure or idea. Unfortunately, some nudges can have a negative impact – lead us away from generally accepted moral and ethical behavior or cause us to lose confidence in our own capabilities and gifts.

How can small, seemingly unimportant interactions hold this much power in our lives?

Over 10 years ago I decided to quit my job and go back to school. Why? A friend suggested that I should get a masters degree. I had not thought about getting a masters degree, but I had made it a goal to take a few courses in web design. The power of the suggestion made me re-think my plan. I decided to enroll in an online MBA program through the University of Maryland. I was accepted and started my first course – accounting. It wasn’t my best subject and it wasn’t very motivating. A few months into it I received an email from a former co-worker who excitedly shared that she thought I should go to graduate school and that she had found a program just for me at George Mason University. Her email contained all the right words to peak my interest – training, education, HTML, and adult learning. So, I signed up. Seriously, I went to the website, found out the requirements for applying, took the proper steps and I walked into my first class on campus less than four months later.

Why would I start a graduate program based upon a suggestion from a friend? Why would I drop out of an MBA and start a new program based upon a simple email communication?

I still don’t know why, but I acted on their suggestions. Perhaps I trusted their opinions. Perhaps I trusted that they knew my desires, talents and skills. Perhaps I felt inspiration at the moment the suggestions were given. Though I’m still not sure why I accepted those “nudges” and took action, I can look back and see the amazing change they made in my life. I did well in the program and went on to progressively more interesting and higher paying jobs. I also gained a lot of confidence in myself.

The act of accepting a nudge is important. But, what may be even more important is taking the time to become “a nudger.” Sharing small tips that might help a friend, suggesting that someone ask for that raise, and expressing confidence that a person will be able to attempt and achieve a goal. Sometimes it is just to be helpful and sometimes we will truly be inspired to say something that will help someone completely change direction in their job, their friendships, and life goals.

We all have the power to nudge and be nudged. It gets easier with practice and as we become more aware of these interactions, we also start to notice when we might be unintentionally nudging people in the wrong direction or becoming a detriment to their growth. But, those moments will be rare.

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p class=”impact-text”>Try nudging someone today. You’ll see. It might change you too.

Olympic Swimmer? I will never know

swimmerYep, I could have been.

The problem is that I will never really know.

This year the pool opened over Memorial Day Weekend. It was a bit cold and rainy and so I wasn’t able to swim on my designated start date. But, by May 30th I was ready to take the annual walk of shame – from the locker room to the pool edge. It’s a shame because I actually accomplish about 80% of my resolutions each year, but never quite get to the physical state I desire.

So, as I’ve started my summer lap swimming, my mind remembers a time long ago when I missed my chance to succeed in doing something with my swimming skills.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can’t do the butterfly. I never had to learn it and so I didn’t. But, in 7th grade swim class I was the person who always had to demonstrate the stroke for the rest of the class. It was a bit traumatic for a shy girl, but did give me a sense of accomplishment.

In the 8th grade I had a friend try out for the swim team and make it. I delayed trying out until the last day. Apparently there was only one other person who had delayed as well – a boy named Scott. He wasn’t a particular “cool” guy and so I thought I would beat him. Realize, my 8th grade brain was at work, not taking in the obvious clue that he was over 6 feet tall in the 8th grade and …had feet that could self-propel him into infinity.

So, the coach told us to get into the water and she blew the start whistle. We were off and running, er swimming.

After a few laps I realized that Scott was ahead of me. How could this be? I am (was) a pretty fast swimmer. How could “un-cool” Scott be ahead of me?

At the end of the race, I couldn’t even hear my time and can’t even remember if I made the team. I was so deflated that I had lost to Scott of all people.

So, much to the dismay of my friend, and I’m sure the coach, I didn’t join the team.

Foolish?

Well, later that year I was surprised to find out that Scott won all kinds of STATE championships in swimming. Yes, not school championships, but state. The person I had been comparing myself to was the best of the best. What if I had known that when I was racing him? I might have been proud of my attempt to compete against him and perhaps would have continued to improve my game.

Or, would I?

It is easy to make comparing a way of life. There will always be those that are far worse and far better than us in any given area. We all know this, but how we use this knowledge creates drastically different results.

I can write this blogspost because I’ve chosen the right way to respond and ….the wrong approach.

Here are a few tips that may be helpful to keep in mind when you are tempted to compare yourself too much to the “Olympic champions” around us:

  • Change YOUR surroundings – It’s time to take a break from whatever is diverting you. Is it comparing yourself to neighbors? Take a little roadtrip to some small towns or just a different city. Noticing all the great accomplishments of people on Facebook? Log off the system for a few days.
  • Serve Others – Admit it, you get self-doubt and a tinge of depression when you spend too much time comparing your life, business, successes, and failures to others. Turn it around. Serve, serve, serve. Write a thank you note to a friend or customer. Offer to do and errand or task for someone. Volunteer. This gets you out there realizing you’ve got something to offer. Plus, it might give you that big idea you’ve been looking for and can’t seem to find since you are so busy comparing!
  • Personal Affirmations – No, this isn’t a joke. Sometimes you need to make a list of things that you do well or would like to do well. Perhaps repeat them during your morning exercise or while you are driving to work or business. Our brains take action on what we tell them. Our brain doesn’t know if what we are telling them is positive or negative. Why not express daily what we do well.
  • Turn to your inspirational sources – This may be scripture, coaches, favorite authors, etc. There’s always something embedded in these resources that help us press on, remind us that we are unique and just need to focus on improving ourselves.
  • Focus – Select just 1-2 areas to work on at a time. I’m BAD at this area. I love creating dozens of projects, goals, and ….expectations for myself. I need to stop it! When we do this, it is as if we are taking the best we see in dozens of people and trying to become the best at all those things even though they aren’t even all that! Better to select 1-2 areas to go focus on learning, growing and creating in than trying to scratch the surface of everything.

I just got back from my swim. I swam slower than usual, but it was a beautiful day and the next few days are going to be rainy. I just wanted to be out in the sunshine and fresh air.  I beat an older woman without trying (really?), but quickly reminded myself that it didn’t matter and ….I slowed down and worried about improving my stroke instead of how the pool crowd perceived my progress.

Perhaps my daily efforts will avail me a spot on some kind of mid-life Olympic wanna be swim team someday. So be it. I’m fine with it. I’m doing what I can with what I have right now at this point….and there is progress!

But, every once in a while I kick myself for not taking this step in the 8th grade. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, right?

Sigh…