Help Me

I host a huge Thanksgiving dinner at my house every year. In my normal routine cooking doesn’t often make the priority list. So I get it all in at once. For three days straight my sisters and I cook. We are more of an “ish” crew so the meal begins when everyone arrives and throughout the day people show up, they snack, they drink and they help.

I heard a story once about a robber who went to an elderly woman’s home to rob her. She was excited at the sight of an able bodied man at her door and rushed him in to help her move a large piece of furniture. She had several tasks that needed doing and she was gratefully walked him through them as he hung pictures and moved bureaus. The afternoon ended with some tea and cookies and two new friends.

Of course in a world where the Internet allows Abraham Lincoln to warn us of the dangers of Facebook, this story could be completely false. The point however, remains valid.

So many of us are afraid to ask for help, not wanting to impose, not wanting to look weak, not wanting to feel indebted. We look at it as a sign of weakness. In reality people feel better when they are helping. It allows them to connect. It allows them to have a place in the world.

I have a neighbor and we’ve known each other for years, we’ve always wanted to connect more but there seemed to be some barrier – time, the awkward childhood rejection trauma that makes us hesitate in creating friendships, who knows why the barrier was there. She removed that barrier in one very simple text, “I hate to bother you but I really need someone to hang out with my very needy toddler for 15 minutes so I can get this project done, could you possibly come by for a few minutes.” There it was – the connection created and not reversible. I was needed, I was a part of something, I was invited into her life and the barrier permanently crumbled away.

You want the people on your team to feel more connected to the work, your kids to feel more connected to the family, your friends to feel more connected to you. Invite them in. Ask them for some help, even just for 15 minutes, let them know they bring worth and value and that you need them. Doing it all yourself doesn’t make you a superhero, it makes you an island surrounded by people who feel unneeded.

Beyond Money

Money Pile 00 dollar bills
Money Pile 00 dollar bills

What would you do with a million dollars?

My daughter came home from school the other day excitedly recounting her English class. The discussion was what would they each do if they had a million dollars. One girl said she would give it to her mom to help with the bills, one said she would buy donuts and my daughter said she would use it to house homeless people and animals.

It’s easy to look back on the idealism of our youth with a smile of pleasant disregard and it seems that only in our youth are we able to envision a life motivated by a purpose beyond money.

The goal of your life, the goal of your company’s life cannot be to make money. While devotion to shareholder value is certainly valid and essential, that cannot be the reason you do what you do.

That is the outcome.

If your only intention was to make money you would simply select a business with the greatest return and do that. There’s a reason you chose to do what you’re doing beyond the money.

Let’s assume for a minute that you don’t have to worry about making money. What would you do then? What would your business do? What would motivate you to get up every day and go work hard everyday if money wasn’t a factor?

Write that down.

Now figure out a way to make money doing that.

A Rose by any other Name

jonnycash1Was Juliet correct in the meaninglessness of word assignment? The glaring irony of the person these words were uttered to, his own name now inseparably synonymous with love and romance, warrants some thought.

Words, like all symbols, can cause implicit reactions. Just as we have emotional responses to smells that carry us back to sitting in grandma’s kitchen, words can also create automatism.

We spend months or years or a moment deciding on the name that our offspring will be saddled with for the rest of their eternity. When I meet people who already have an association with my name it’s almost always positive. My name is generally a throw back to a generation of great aunts who apparently were always wonderful people. When we meet someone who already has an association with our name it takes time for them to allow you some place in the name.

When naming a company or a product or a person or a pet we go through a lot of turmoil, the thing is it’s usually the wrong debate. Do you like this name is the wrong question. The real question is, what are people’s emotional responses to those words, and are you going to be strong enough to create a new reaction in them?

Sue spent a lifetime fighting to change the inherent reaction people had to his name, if only he’d thought to hire Johnny Cash to market it for him he may have made it to his death with his ear intact.

Don’t ask other people what they like, ask yourself how hard you’re willing to work to make people’s association be what you want it to be.

Over and Over and Over and…

Denny'sdinerDo you ever feel like Bill Murray destined to spend eternity re-living the same events until your dense skull figures out how to do it differently? Try as you might, you seem to wind up in the same relationship, the same bad hire, the same reaction to your struggling employee, the same diet choices, the same response to your kid’s meltdown.

Einstein (or whoever actually said it) may have been right in his definition of insanity as being doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results but that doesn’t help us to get out of the habitual patterns of our lives.

You want to improve your golf swing or your public speaking or your writing, we’ve all heard the answer since we were knee high to a duck – “practice makes perfect.”

So why on earth can’t we get of our own way and stop living in these repeated patterns, why can’t we improve?

Practice isn’t doing the same thing over and over. Practice is observing how to improve from the last time and trying it differently, over and over.

In my 20’s I spent a lot of time driving around the country. I ate at Denny’s, a lot. I don’t particularly like Denny’s but I would plan my driving distances for the day around Denny’s. You see, I know Denny’s, I know their hours, I know what they serve, I know what it’s going to be like there. It’s not particularly good, it’s not necessarily what I want but I know it and I know the result will at least be familiar.

If you’re running into the same wall, even though this time it’s got stripes and polka dots, you have to be willing to journey into the unknown. What would happen if I ate at Minny’s Diner instead?

Did you just crash into the wall again? Stop. While your head is still smarting, stop. What could you have done differently? Don’t just repeat the same golf swing that didn’t land the ball in the hole last time. All your doing is guaranteeing that it won’t go in again. Try taking a deep breath and just observing. Observe yourself. Try something different. The change may make the ball land further from the hole but it’s the only way you’ll break out of the pattern that is failing you.

I Pledge Allegiance to…

pf-marchinghammersgrey1I pledge allegiance…a childhood ritual, whether your mouth blindly muttered the words in cadence with the rest of class while your mind wandered to count the number of friendship pins on Mary’s backpack, or you sat in political protest, or proudly boomed the pledge with exuberance. As children we were told what we are loyal to, as adults we can usually choose.

I went to the Fifth Avenue Apple Store this weekend. The Apple Watch lined case after case in all their vibrant colors. I got lost in the number of choices to customize, which face, what color, what size should your icons be. The watch pleaded with me to make it my own, to choose who I am and what I want the things in my life to look like.

Loyalty used to be demanded. Happiness and respect seemed to not be a factor in our loyalty. Allegiance was commanded through shaming, guilt, social pressure and lack of choice. People stayed in their jobs for a lifetime, children blindly obeyed authority and we watched the one or two channels we had.

In the ever-changing world of choice, loyalty is now earned not dictated. You are asking your customers, your employees, your partners, your family to pledge their allegiance to you. That is an enormous request. If you expect that kind of faith you need to wake up every morning and earn it. Be the kind of person and business who deserves that level of respect and dedication. Look at yourself and your business in the mirror and be the person that your children, your customers, your dishwasher, your vice president should put their faith in. And please respect and appreciate them for you giving you the chance to earn that place in their lives.