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Black Friday

Black Friday seems to be a term that both delights and incites people. It has been true even before the term was associated with the shopping craze we all think of now. The term was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department in the 1960’s. They used it to describe the chaos that ensued the day after Thanksgiving due to shoppers taking advantage of the first holiday sales. That weekend all officers were to be on duty and they hoped the term would deter shoppers. The term has also been associated with the fact that so many workers used to call in sick the day after Thanksgiving, prompting many businesses to make it a company holiday. By the 1980’s it was used to describe the start of when retailers go from being in the red to into the black.

Still today it has both positive and negative connotations, especially in recent years when retailers are choosing to open on Thanksgiving to get a jump on those sales. Social media is jammed with petitions and posts pleading with shoppers to boycott such activities. Despite the cry about the social injustice of it all, the trend continues. Retailers have been successful in overcoming the backlash that has been ever present across every form of media. Shoppers are still flocking to the stores earlier and earlier in search of promised deals.

Whether you agree or not with the tactics or trends, Black Friday or now Thursday isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Not with so much at stake for retailers. Some retailers can make twenty percent of their profits for the year during Black Friday.

So the question is even with so much negativity how are retailers still thriving in this environment. It’s simple … they’re giving the consumer what they want. And in the end, for any business, that’s the key. Give your customers what they want. Of course that’s easier said than done, but if you want to be successful, that’s the price that must be paid. It’s the only thing that will ensure your bottom line is always black instead of red.

And just so you know, on Black Friday, you will find me at home slumbering peacefully with perhaps visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

An Artist Cannot Fail

“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” ―Albert Einstein

This is my new favorite quote. And it must be true if Einstein said it. As I recall, he was a pretty smart guy. But more importantly, I know from personal experience that it’s true. I also believe we are all artists, but the key is finding what type of artist you are. How does your art take form? Once you figure that out, you’ve unlocked the key to success.

When my husband and I were first married, and just starting out in the world, my uncle told us to find careers where we loved what we were doing. He said if we did that, we would be successful. And you know what? He was right.

Sometimes, it can take a long time to figure out what our art is. For some of us, it doesn’t come naturally, per se. For some of us our art isn’t obvious like singing, or dancing or even designing software. It may take years to discover our hidden talent or art, but it is worth the wait. Just make sure to make the most of it once it emerges.

And remember that success and monetary rewards don’t always go hand in hand. You can find success in your art without ever making a dime. And who can really put a price on happiness?

And remember…”An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” – Charles Horton Cooley

The Time Will Pass Anyway

How many of us have a five year plan? How many of us even think it’s necessary? How many of us have strayed off our five year plan or even revisited the five year plan since we wrote it ten years ago? So maybe it’s time to dust it off and take another serious look at it. It may be a fruitless exercise, but did you know that you’re 33% more likely to achieve your goals if they are written down. And honestly, when you think about it, five years isn’t really that long. At least it isn’t the older you get.

                One of my new favorite quotes is by Earl Nightingale – “Don’t give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” It is simple, but profound. Easier said than done. But look back at your last five years. Did you accomplish what you set out to? If you didn’t, what held you back? Is your dream worth it? Do you even have a dream? If the answer is no, I challenge you to get one, and quick. The great things about dreams are they are yours whether they are outlandish or realistic, but they make life worth living.

                To begin (after you figure out what your dream is), take a look at your life as a whole. Is it leading you toward that dream or is it propelling you in another direction? What changes can you make to shift your life toward your dream or goal?

Or maybe ask yourself if it is still a worthy dream or goal, maybe there’s a reason you’re being propelled in another direction. I’m not saying to give up on dreams, but sometimes I think it’s good, healthy even, to change dreams or adjust them based on what we’ve learned since setting them.

                I know in my personal and professional life, I’ve been surprised by the twists and turns and what dreams were turned into. Many of the times it has been completely different than I imagined, but nonetheless satisfying. But in the end, if you know it’s a worthy dream or goal, keep going for it. Remember, “The time will pass anyway. “

Go Big or Go Home

If you look back through history, there are plenty of momentous occasions of greatness that were achieved in the month of August.  Just to name a few: in 1908 the first massed produced car (the Ford Model T) went on sale, in 1919 daily flights between London and Paris began commencing the first international air service, and in 1960 the first communications satellite (Echo 1) was launched from Cape Canaveral.  Of course there have been greater achievements than these throughout history and even recently, but nevertheless these are pretty big deals. And I’m sure there were many at the times these achievements occurred that never believed such things were possible.  I mean, humans had gone thousands of years of just using the ground and water as their means of transportation and without any hint of motors or the complex machinery that now gets us from point A to point B. And what about communication? In 1960 could people even imagine the means and ease of communication we have just in the palm of our hands?

My point to all of this is, it’s ok to dream big and, even more importantly, to act on those dreams.

Go big or go home, right?

Sure, there may be, and there probably will be, naysayers along the way, but don’t let that stop you, even if, so far, you’ve been the naysayer.

Thomas A Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Could you imagine how different our lives would be if people like Edison and Ford or the Wright brothers would have given up? We all know their inventions failed more times than they succeeded, but unlike so many of us, they didn’t give up.

Sure, not many of us will ever achieve the kind of publicly lauded greatness of those mentioned above, but we can all achieve greatness. We can all try one more time and when that doesn’t work, we can try again and again.

So what are some of your dreams that you are willing to try one more time to accomplish?

Let’s Talk About Baseball

With baseball season in full swing, I thought it would be fitting to reiterate some advice from one of the legends of the sport; and there was no one better, in my opinion, for the task than the “Great Bambino” or maybe you like the “Sultan of Swat”. Either way, Babe Ruth was a pretty smart guy or, at the very least, inspirational.

Let’s start with, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Hopefully the person you are competing with most frequently, or always, is yourself. And hopefully you aren’t beating yourself up, but just trying to be a little better every day. But not giving up is the first step. One of the greatest attributes of the most successful was not the lack of obstacles, but their tenacity to overcome them.

Next in the lineup is, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” This, of course, just goes right along with the first quote. If you want to hit a home run, you’ve got to keep on showing up to the plate. It’s important to realize that even the greatest players strike out and maybe they even strike out more because they listened to the first quote of never giving up or maybe the third one.

Which brings us to my favorite, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Fear is a vital response. It can keep us safe from real threats, but most of the time it keeps us from what we perceive to be threats or possible unpleasant situations. But let’s be honest with ourselves, fear can also keep us from a lot of terrific things. Sure, we may have to strike out a few, or several, times before we even make it on base or cross home plate, but it’s better than just sitting in the dugout and watching everyone else play the game. Again, it’s not that successful people aren’t afraid. They, like everyone else, shake in their boots once in a while, but they know the best way to get past fear is to confront it.

So step up to the plate.

And, by the way, go Rockies!

Winning

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” -Vince Lombardi

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” -Lyndon B. Johnson 

“No matter if you win or lose, the most important thing in life is to enjoy what you have.” -Dong Dong

“Win or lose, do it fairly.” -Knute Rockne

The above quotes seemed fitting as we are in the middle of World Cup frenzy and let’s not forget Wimbledon and of course our own rat races. The real question is, though, does winning really matter? For me, I think it’s situational and for so much of life, there’s no clear win or lose scenario.

Take your job for instance. What are you winning? Hopefully a paycheck, but beyond that, what else? A promotion, perhaps? Or do you just consider yourself a winner when you bite your tongue or grin and bear it? Or maybe you consider yourself a winner because of the experience and skills you are gaining.

What about your personal life? What does winning mean there? Is it finding your soul mate? Or perhaps losing weight? Or maybe that you just were able to put one foot in front of the other and breathe?

I’m sure at different times in your life, what it means to win changes significantly based on situation and circumstance. Perhaps it would be best to take a step back and look at the current state of our lives, whether personal or business or both, and look at the whole situation before we judge whether we are winning or losing.

And if all else fails- “Win or lose, we go shopping after the election.” -Imelda Marcos

Triple Crown

It’s that time of year again. I’m not talking about summer, even though that is fabulous news, especially considering the brutal winter most of us experienced. No, I’m talking about horse racing. Yep, a week from this Saturday will be the final leg of the Triple Crown Series, The Belmont Stakes. What makes it even more exciting this year is that California Chrome has won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and is favored to win The Belmont Stakes, and thus the Triple Crown. It has been thirty six years since Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner, took that honor. There have been eleven other horses since then that have won the first two races but failed at Belmont.

I find it interesting that in all the articles I’ve read about the race, they don’t mention any of the previous eleven contenders by name. And if California Chrome loses, he will just become the twelfth, no name, just a number. I get that it would be probably a waste of time and space to name each of the previous contenders, but it’s kind of sad that though they won two great races, they are unworthy of mention by name because they failed in that third and final race.

As people, that’s how we think though. We are only as good as our last race or perhaps our last accomplishment. That would be really depressing if that were true. Just like in horse racing, there are many factors at play other than our skills and abilities. Many horse racing experts are saying if California Chrome doesn’t win, it will be because he was unlucky. He currently outshines his competition and if he runs like he has the ability to, he will win. But if he loses, he will rarely be mentioned as a double stakes winner, he will be known as the twelfth loser that has come up short since 1978.

Believe me, I’m all for being a winner whenever possible, but sometimes there are factors out of our control and it doesn’t mean we’re losers just because we can’t win every race. Case in point, my daughter who was a straight A student in high school just finished her freshman year at one of the most difficult and prestigious universities in the nation. She felt like a failure for the straight B’s she brought home, where her dad and I couldn’t have been prouder of her. She did her best and she gained not only knowledge, but experience that will be valuable to her as she continues her education and as she makes her way through life.

So, best wishes to California Chrome and congratulations on your Double Stakes win. And just for fun, here is a list of those eleven previous Double Stakes winners since 1978.

  • Spectacular Bid
  • Pleasant Colony
  • Alysheba
  • Sunday Silence
  • Silver Charm
  • Real Quiet
  • Charismatic
  • War Emblem
  • Funny Cide
  • Smarty Jones
  • Big Brown

Touch All the Lines

Since we’re talking about March Madness this month, I decided to use a little basketball phrase for my blog this month: Touch All the Lines.

For anyone who has played basketball or taken your child to endless basketball practices, this is probably a familiar term and one you might dread. It may conjure up memories of boredom or exhaustion or even bored exhaustion. For those not familiar with basketball, it may seem like an innocuous phrase.

So what does it mean to ‘Touch All the Lines’? In basketball they run practice drills, often called ladders, where a player starts at the baseline (the out of bounds line behind the basket) and then runs out to the free throw line, then runs back to the baseline, then turns around and runs to the half court line and back to the baseline, then to the other side’s free throw line and back to the baseline, and then all the way to the other baseline and back again. Each line (baseline, free throw line, half court line) must be touched with the player’s hand when she reaches it. It may seem like a pointless drill and one that’s easy to cheat on a little, but like most things in life, those seemingly pointless drills have a way of shaping us or preparing us.

Basically, touching all the lines means hard work. To basketball players, those drills prepare and condition them to be able to run full court at full steam for the entire game if needs be. Yes, it’s hard and for some there is a temptation to skimp a little on each line. Do you think the players that consistently skimp on the lines go unnoticed by the coaches? I guarantee they don’t. 

You may not have a coach per se watching to make sure you go to the line every time, but believe me people are watching, whether it’s your boss, coworkers, customers, employees, etc…  People that touch lines generally get more playing time, if you get my drift. Yep, it’s hard and it may seem pointless, but in the end, it will pay-off. If nothing else, you’ll at least have self-respect, which is just as important, if not more so.

And like my Mother always said, “Hard work never killed anyone.”

Oops

I think it can be said that the measure of a person or even a company can be seen in how they react to mistakes. I think we can all say that there was quite a big oops during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics when that pesky fifth ring didn’t light properly. Yes, it was a mistake and it was embarrassing, but there was no going back and fixing it. So what to do?

It would have been easy to lash out at the critics and comedians that got quite a bit of airtime in dishing about the failure. But instead the director of the games turned the tables and made fun of himself and in turn took a negative and turned it into a positive.

During the closing ceremonies several ice dancers took the stage and lit it up to reenact that oops, it was brilliant. You can see the picture here – http://www.olympic.org/photos/sochi-2014-closing-ceremony-41. Immediately I thought, I would love to meet that guy or work with him.

We all make mistakes, personally and professionally. If you don’t, then I want to meet you too and know your secret. Sometimes those mistakes are monumental and they take a lot of smoothing over, but regardless, the best thing we can do is acknowledge them and refrain from becoming defensive and, if appropriate, try to find some humor in it. Hopefully, you can help the recipient of your mistake find some humor in it too (again if appropriate).  And remember mistakes are unintentional. If you’re intentionally messing up, then this blog probably isn’t for you.

If you’ve made a mistake with a customer, apologize immediately and try to remedy the situation as soon as possible. I think you will find most people will be understanding when you take this course of action.  Of course, there are always those few that will take you through the ringer, but just remember it was a mistake and not to beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and move on.

And just remember to be thankful that our mistakes aren’t televised and publicized for the whole world to see.

Doesn’t that make you feel better?

20 Years

I recently came across an old proverb that really struck a chord with me- “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” I thought it was very fitting for the New Year. I think I also liked it since I will be married for 20 years this year and as I look back, I can see the fruit of the trees that were planted 20 years ago, but as always I wished I would have planted more trees in my orchard of life or maybe pruned and cared for some of those trees a little better.

But the proverb is hopeful. Just because we didn’t plant a tree 20 years ago, we still can. And there is no better time than the present. 20 years may seem like a long time. I know I thought that 20 years ago as a young bride, but looking back it seems like 20 years has flown by.

So, if you could look into the future 20 years from now, what would you like to see both professionally and personally? And what do you need to do now to make sure you realize those dreams or goals. Maybe you want to become an industry leader or innovator. Maybe you want to retire or get a better paying job. Maybe you just want to be a better person or less negative. All of these items start with planting a seed or seedling.

A first step would be to write it down and then map out a plan and then keep that out where you can see, even better tell someone else about it too. Someone you can be accountable to.  I have a friend who, when she sets a goal, she always tells a few of us and she expects us to ask her about it.  It has worked well for her. Then don’t look back unless it’s to see how far you have come. Remember it takes a long time to grow a tree, especially if you’re starting from a seed.

So what seeds are you going to plant this year?