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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?

 

So I moustache you a question?

Now that Movember is coming to an end, I thought I would do a poll in our office as I happen to be the only female that works here. You see, none of the men in my office grew moustaches in November and I wondered if they even knew about Movember? (Or perhaps their wives nixed their participation.)

Questions:

  1. Have you ever heard of Movember?
  2. Do you know how or why Movember began?

Results:

  1. Only 50% had ever heard of Movember. It may be good to note that it was the younger half that had heard of it. Those that frequently use social media.
  2. Of those that had heard of Movember only half of them knew that it began as a way to bring awareness to men’s health issues like prostate cancer. And this was the even younger half.

This was obviously not a scientific poll, but I believe there are a couple of noteworthy things to learn from this. First of all, the effects of social media – we know this is how the younger generations communicate and receive information. I wouldn’t consider myself a younger generation, but social media plays a role in my life especially since I have teenagers and lots of cousins that are younger than me and this is their preferred method of communication. I had quite a few male cousins, all younger than me participate in Movember and I have thoroughly enjoyed the postings of their moustaches through the month.

I should also note that the older men in my office were not aware of Movember at all and do not use social media frequently, if at all . While I agree social and digital media are the best and most economical ways to reach audiences, we shouldn’t discount traditional types of advertising all together. In the end, it’s all about who your target audience is.

Of course these younger generations are only getting older and the generations coming up will only be more entrenched in social and digital media, so there is no time like the present to jump on that bandwagon if you haven’t already.

And just for fun, here are the rules for Movember:

  1. Once registered at Movember.com each Bro must begin the 1st of November with a clean-shaven face.
  2. For the entire month of November each Mo Bro must grow and groom a moustache.
  3. There is to be no joining of the Mo to your side burns. (That’s considered a beard.)
  4. There is to be no joining of the handlebars to your chin. (That’s considered a goatee.)
  5. Each Bro must conduct himself like a true country gentleman.

So I moustache you a question:

Did you, or anyone you know personally, participate in Movember?

Are You Afraid of Your Customers?

I think as humans one of our greatest fears is the unknown.  Unknown means not within the range of one’s knowledge, experience, or understanding; strange; unfamiliar. It’s no wonder we fear the unknown. Isn’t amazing how, as we gain familiarity with something that may frighten us or we gain more insight, our fears dissipate. That’s not to say we completely overcome our fear, but when we have knowledge, we’re better able to cope and deal with things that may be unpleasant to us.

During this Halloween season there is one thing we needn’t be afraid of anymore…our customers. Sure there will always be a scary few we want to avoid like the plague, but for the most part, the more you learn about your customers, the happier you both will be.

Why? First of all, your customer will be less annoyed by the pesky mass market emails you send out, especially the ones they receive about products they already have and may have just purchased at a higher price than you’re advertising now. No need to rub that in. Think how giddy they’ll be when they log in to your website and see only digital display ads for products they actually qualify for and want.

Secondly, when you get to know your customers and they actually become people to you, it will change how you serve them, and you’ll end up liking them even more. It’s a great paradox, but one that actually works. I dare you to try it!

So, quit hiding behind your desk and your excuses this season and boldly go where few are willing to. Dive into the deep pools of data and take a few laps around. You’ll find the exercise quite invigorating and probably even healthy for your bottom line.

Happy Halloween, Y’all!

Making Distinct Periods In History

Previously I wrote about what a milestone year this would be for our family. We had a child leave for college, one received her driver license, this is our youngest’s last year in elementary school, etc. I also had a pretty big birthday. Needless to say, I have thought a lot about ages and aging this past year. Age doesn’t just mean a number or getting older. The word age also means a distinct period of history. I’m sure in the future when I look back at this age, I will consider it a significant time period in my life. This is true, not only because of the above mentioned items, but because I pushed myself personally this year, having a milestone birthday kind of does that to a person. I felt like I needed to prove that I was still young and capable and that I could try new things.

So, is this a distinct period of history for you, whether it be personally or professionally?  Will you be able to look back and think this was a great age? If the answer is no, then what can you do to change that? How can you challenge yourself?

Here is a list of ideas you can use, personally or professionally, to make this the best age:

  • Learn a new skill.
  • Do something that scares you.
  • Mentor somebody.
  • Write- whether it is a blog, a journal, a letter etc.
  • Form new relationships and network.
  • Own your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Try new technologies.
  • Step out of your comfort zone.

Now go make some history!

 

Give it the Old College Try

Have you ever heard the saying, “Give it the old college try”?  It has been around for almost a century and it is typically used in sporting situations. It means to give a zealous all-out effort.

So the real question is- are you giving it the old college try? Some synonyms for the word zealous are – fervent, ardent, enthusiastic, passionate, keen, dedicated, committed and energetic.

Do any of those words describe you and your behavior? If they don’t, you should probably ask yourself why and what you can do about it. Life is too short not to be those things. I know it is easier said than done, but hey what have you got to lose? It’s better to give it the old college try than to sit on the sidelines and watch the game of life pass you by.

Maybe you don’t have the perfect job right now, but there is always something you can do to make it better, even if it is only to change your attitude. Don’t wait for something to happen. Make something happen!

Could you imagine what a different environment all of our places of business would be if we were all giving it the old college try? Think of all the great things that could be accomplished. Think about the morale it would create.

Here’s a little cheer to give you some inspiration, it was the first cheer heard from the sidelines at a Princeton University football game in the 1880’s.

Hip, hip!
Rah, rah, rah!
Tiger, tiger, tiger!
Siss, siss, siss!
Boom, boom, boom! Ah!

Feel free to insert your name after the cheer.

Good luck!

Get the Facts Before You Act

This may seem like obvious advice, but sometimes I think we really forget to adhere to it. As humans we are all too often impulsive and we sometimes act before we think. What is this advice? Make sure to get all the facts (or at least what you can) before you act. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes those automatic emotional reactions are correct, but a lot of times they get us in trouble.

Like I said before, this seems like obvious advice, so why so often do we not follow it? Here are a few reasons that I see:

  1. We trust our own judgment and we all like to be right. This isn’t necessarily the wrong thing, but it is amazing what getting all the facts can do to change our initial judgment sometimes.
  2. We are lazy. We like things to be done and over with. Yes, gathering facts can be tedious and time consuming, but think of the regret it may save you in the end. I read a quote yesterday that said, if you don’t have the time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to fix it? Those are wise words.
  3. We are afraid. Sometimes getting all the facts can be scary. We may not want to deal with what we find. As scary as it may be, it’s always better to know what you’re dealing with when you can. Remember, though, that sometimes we find out it wasn’t so bad after all or we were afraid for no reason.
  4. We are emotional creatures so obviously we like to respond with emotion rather than logic. Now I’m not proposing we should all be like Vulcans, but honestly it wouldn’t hurt to use a little more logic when making decisions or responding to a problem.

So remember, get the facts before you act!

Joy In Team Work

In January of this year I mentioned in a blog post that there would be a week in May when several life changing events would occur. Well, that week has just recently come and gone. I watched my oldest daughter receive her high school diploma, with honors, my youngest daughter turned 16 and I turned 40. I also, along with all my children, completed that 5k that I had signed up for back in January. It has definitely been a month of joy, gratitude and reflection. I have been reminded many times that all of these events took team work; not only as a family, but those within our community, school, church and circle of friends.

I know you are waiting for me to mention running, so here it goes…. The morning of our race just happened to be one of the coldest, wettest days in May that Alabama has ever had on record. I actually tried to convince my children that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to run that day. We were not prepared to run in that kind of weather, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They had trained (some more than others) and were ready to run and they wanted their mom to join them too. So, against my better judgment, I agreed and we set out. I’m not sure I have ever been so wet and cold in my life, but on the flipside I was truly happy. Why, you ask? I can’t tell you what a neat experience it was for all of us to cross that finish line (all within a few minutes of one another) and know that we accomplished it together. We were soaked and shivering, but it was well worth it!

Isn’t that what being part of a team is about? I was hesitant, but my kiddos encouraged me to face the challenge. Some of us were slower than others, but that was ok, because the faster ones waited at the finish line and cheered on those behind them.

Is there anyone on your team that could use a little encouragement and maybe even a little cheering on? It is so much sweeter to share a victory with others, whether it be at work or at home.

Remember there is no I in Team.

Consistency, Dedication, and Patience.

I know several of my posts this year have focused on running and surprise… this one will be no different! I mentioned earlier how I signed up for my first 5k but I didn’t mention that my husband signed up for the 10k that will take place before the 5k. The last 10k he ran was in 1987 in the Bolder Boulder, he was 15 at the time.

Watching him train has honestly been inspirational. He has not really done a lot of running since he was a teenager, so to see him start in January not being able to run 1 mile straight, to now being able to run over 6 miles straight is amazing! To manage such a feat it takes consistency, dedication, and a lot of patience. Since it was winter when he started to train he used the track at our local YMCA. The track is small and you have to run around it 17 times to complete one mile. I know from experience that it can become a little boring and tedious at times. I can’t even imagine running around it over 105 times in a row, but that is what my husband has done now several times. Of course it took many hours and days to work up to it, but it has all been worth it.

Consistency, dedication, and patience are great attributes and I would say most successful people have these skills. The good thing is we don’t have to necessarily be born with them. They are skills we can acquire, but funnily enough it requires, consistency, dedication, and patience. Just like in running there will be good days and bad days, but even on the bad days you tried, so it is still a victory and you were consistent in your effort.

My last piece of advice to obtain your goals would be to use help where you can get it. There is no shame in using the tools available to you. In my husband’s case he used a running app and he went through lots of books on audio. The first helped guide him and the second staved off the boredom that was bound to happen after several weeks.

So remember…. Consistency, Dedication, and Patience.

I know you can do it!