All of us have long range goals such as building a business, finishing a degree, or getting a promotion. Sometimes long range plans come unexpectedly and are put upon us, like restoring health, getting through a crisis or a loss. The long range goal seems distant but according to the experts there is also need for smaller milestone goals so that the goal seems manageable.
What the experts don't tell you is that even with smaller milestones there will come a time, (just before the finish line) when setbacks happen, strength fails and we doubt the necessity to even finish. Sometimes we have tried to accomplish a goal 14 different ways and you don't have any idea what to try next. The thought of quitting is appalling but the thought of having to push ONE MORE TIME, to TRY ONE MORE TIME is even worse because there is no more strength, none.
The things that we envision, create, accomplish and build on our own with only slight resistance is great. We move along believing we are fully capable of accomplishing our goals and we have faith in the work of our own hands. Those little milestones that motivate us to keep going work. But as we get close to the mark, as we think we have it under control we realize the mountain might just be too high to climb.
I believe we are supposed to reach the end of ourselves. I believe that circumstances in our lives are orchestrated so that we have no more of our own strength left. Why? Because resistance builds muscle? Maybe, but I think that something more profound happens in these tests. We learn that we can't do it alone. We learn that todays strength will never be enough. We learn that todays skill and talent will only carry us so far and no farther. That the only way to truly learn is to understand that in the scheme of the universe, we know nothing. When we reach the end of our skill, our understanding and our wisdom, we are forced to look for other answers and the wisdom of the ancients. We are forced to develop new strength.
I started this project (which was supposed to be quick and part of the "building plan") but just as I was close to putting on the new stain, I injured my hand and wrist. At the same time a couple other challenges came up that I did not want to deal with and I felt blocked, tired and bewildered. So I took a break, read, meditated, pouted and soon I had the strength, the new vision and the ability to complete all the tasks. Even beyond that I was wiser, better connected to the universe and I had peace.
The new calendar year has begun, the hope of spring is breaking through the frozen places of winters heart and daydreams fill the mind with hope for new, change, growth. The earth is already changing, days grow longer minute by minute and the storms are covering the ground with the nourishment it will need to bring forth new crops.
The human being follows these sames cycles, times of immense growth, times of dying, shedding and darkness followed by seasons of renewal and restoration. That is the most comforting part of life cycles. In the times of decay and shedding there is the hope of the new growth that is around the corner.
The greatest challenges come in the transformation. Looking at ourselves we don't seem to be in too bad shape. We have a few nicks here and there, a few scrapes and our polish is not as lustrous as it once was but hey we have been through some stuff! Being "not so bad for what we have been through" only works for a time. It seems that the universe always has ways of pushing us, causing us to shed the old, get those nicks fixed, address the weakening foundation, remake ourselves and embark on a new adventure.
The transformation from "not so bad" to renewed is messy. We are stripped, scraped, sanded, our foundations come apart and are re-fit for new strength and we are laid bare. We look at ourselves as we brush our teeth and we don't even recognise the face we see. During this process ugly emotions rear their heads. Challenges come so that old grudges, anger and bitterness are released...or they will stop the transformation. Finally in a raw state, the new begins to emerge, stronger, better edges and lines, new color and a beautiful finish. Ready for all the challenges of the season of life that lays just beneath the surface.
Anyone who has worked diligently to change their physique has experienced this. You work hard, you sweat, you smell, you struggle to make sore muscles obey your commands and you do it again and again until your body begins to reform.
I do this everytime I transform cast off pieces I find in junk stores or old furniture found at auction. What appears "not so bad for what it has endured" has to be stripped and remade so that it can endure it's next purpose. It starts out not so bad, gets messy, gets ugly and then turns the corner where the new beauty emerges.
It happens in small unnoticeable ways everyday, it happens in years and decades and continues through our life. You can't stop it, you can't run or hide....you can only get better at the process and embrace it because there is new beauty coming.
One of the most interesting things I have observed in the younger members of our workforce is their lack of ability to problem solve. When given a task or set of instructions they follow them with their "point and click diligence" but when confronted with circumstances that deviate from the projected result, they stall out. This is our own fault. As parents, mentors and teachers, we have failed to let them fail. We have given them step by step tasks and duties and rewarded them for following directions exactly. We have rewarded our children and students for obedience, we have structured their play time, their school time and all activities, including computer games and television are reinforcing the directive to "follow the direction of others".
There are the exceptions of course. Those who have been encouraged to create, explore and "get dirty" so to speak. Then there are the other exceptions. The ones that have trouble following all the rules, following all the directions, who don't learn by reading a book and don't fit the tick boxes we have created to describe the perfect student. We need these people. We need them to analyze what we have created, what we are doing and find different, better, cheaper, faster ways. We need them to see the world from a different angle and create new ideas and pathways.
We are given challenges in our life to stretch us. We are given problems in our life so that we search for solutions. We are given tough and arduous tasks so that we increase our endurance and analytical skills. Unless we begin allowing these challenges in our children lives, the first problem, the first challenge, the first arduous task will overwhelm them and they will quit.
I think sometimes parents and teachers fail to stretch kids. My mother had a very good sense of how to stretch me just slightly outside my comfort zone.
Temple Grandin (adult with autism, professor, speaker and inventor)
With all that said.....I had a challenge. I wanted to put stone border tiles around my ceiling to give a finishing touch to the venetian plaster and faux stone walls that I had created. Like most people, we are on a budget in this house. The cost to do a stone border would be over 1000.00. Now, being practical minded, that 1000.00 could also go toward my wood floors. I began to look for solutions. I went to my local habitat for humanities stores and could never find enough tile to do a one hundred foot project. I kept my eyes open on craigslist, checked stone shops and was about to use wood trim and faux paint the wood, when I stumbled on another solution. I found plaster and cement molds! Now I was familiar with the molds used for garden tiles, bird baths and little figurines. I was not familiar with suppliers that created molds for architectural design and decor. Walla! Not only did I find the molding I wanted for the living room/dining room but for the bathroom and decorative tiles just for fun! Out of a challenge came a new adventure! Now that is living!
Here are pics of the process to create the look of stone molding. First I brushed on a stone spray paint, before it was dry I brushed on the paint color. After these dried I dobbed gold metallic acrylic paint and then sealed the molding pieces with glaze. I am also showing pictures of hand painted decorative tiles that were sealed with glaze. Kinda fun and so much cheaper! I do not recommend plaster for anything that will be exposed to water unless you have added glue or some other bonding agent. Plaster will fall apart in the water. For projects that you will use outside I recommend quick set cement and tints.
Do you sit on your lunch hour daydreaming of a day when you will start that new project, new adventure, new business? Do you envision the time when you will be doing something other than what you are doing right now? Why are you waiting?
Sometimes the place where we are and the place we desire to be appear to be separated by a gorge. The work and changes that need to happen seem arduous. However, the only way to cross the gorge is one diligent step at a time. Unfortunately we have become accustomed to making changes at high speed. Change your cell service, change your phone, change your hair color in a matter of minutes. The harder changes, the life changes, take time and effort.
One of the things I have learned to embrace in my work are the steps required for transformation. First you must have a vision for a project and analyse the piece for the process required to accomplish the vision. The next step usually requires dismantling the project into sections or pieces. Next you remove and repair all the old that doesn't work or has become worn. The next step begins the rebuilding, finding the beauty in the piece hidden under all the worn and useless stuff. Finally you get to finish it and assemble everything.
It matters not whether you are refinishing furniture or making life/career changes. The process is the same. Create the vision, evaluate your circumstance, remove all the old and broken parts that no longer work. Find the beautiful foundation to start creating something new. Put it all together and you find you are on the other side of the gorge. The real challenge? Take the first step. So what if you are scared. Fear is normal and actually gives you the butterflies in your tummy that give way to excitement and energy. The precursor to infinite possibility.
Now...after a month or so of waiting (drum roll please) here are pictures of the finished 1940's Dining Set. So happy!
My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.
When you're drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,' you just scream.
I'm not claiming divinity. I've never claimed purity of soul. I've never claimed to have the answers to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can... But I still believe in peace, love and understanding.
"Goodwill for a business is built by good goods, service and truthful advertising." E.R. Waite
Today I am going to talk about a topic that seems to be passe', customer loyalty. Companies used to establish their business standards around the principle of building a client base and maintaining it. Now it seems they are more apt to throw their money into advertising and sales promotions trying to lure clients away from their competitors. Companies are so focused on the procurement of a new customer that they ignore the customer that has already purchased from them.
The greatest case in point of this trend is the communication industry. There are many good deals for a new customer but if you have paid your bill for two years or more? No deals. The list continues with the hotel industry, banking industry, car industry and on and on. There seems to be no benefit for being a loyal customer.
Having worked for major companies most of my life (until deciding to launch out on my own), I know the statistics surrounding this business practice. It costs a company three times as much to obtain a new client than maintain a current customer. It is also true that one dissatisfied customer will tell ten people which translates to a loss of ten potential clients. These facts have not changed in decades and yet companies are further away from the practice of customer retention now than at any other time in history. Companies do not care if you are a current customer.
Let me give you an example. My father worked for a company until his retirement. Two brothers started this company, built it on the reputation of sound business practices which included fair pricing, customer service during the purchase process and strong customer service after the product was purchased. They were very successful and actually expanded the business to be the leader in their area. When the business owners decided to sell the business and retire, the purchaser of the company had the opposite standard of business practice and closed within a year.
The statistics of failed businesses in the country are staggering. The Small Business Administration states that 8 out of 10 new businesses will fail. That is a sad fact. The biggest reason for the failure rate? No one has an open conversation with their clients. Do our products meet customer needs? How can we improve our product? How can we improve our service? You purchased from me a year ago but you are no longer my client. Why? The current customer that purchases from you is your greatest asset. Not only because of their dollar but because you have the opportunity to establish a relationship with them and find ways to serve them better in the future. Here is a Forbes article that talks about why businesses fail.
I have written about this company model before but the amazing success and their customer loyalty/satisfaction rate is amazing. Zappos (on-line shoe sales) began on a hunch that MAYBE there was a market for on-line shoe sales. They took that hunch and built a tremendous business that has expanded and expanded again. I will relate my personal experience. A pair of shoes were ordered and delivered to my home in three days. Each pair of shoes came with a return shipping label. This particular pair was not the right size and did not fit well. I contacted Zappos, returned the shoes with THEIR label and TWO days later the correct size was on my door step. They are quick, accurate, courteous and have a quality product at a reasonable price.
As you work your business today, begin to take a good hard look at your business practices. Do you have a viable product that is unique, well priced? Do you have a strong business acumen concerning the financial aspects of running a company? Do you have the leadership skills to build a strong team of committed individuals to continue your companies success? Do you know your customer, the one who has already purchased your product or service? In a world that seems so impersonal, the truth of all success lies in relationship. Build a client base, maintain it and the customers will come to you.
We watched the movie "The Monuments Men" last night. It is inspiring to know that there were a group of men who would give their lives to preserve and protect some of the greatest works of art we know. For those of you who travel through the nations and stop to see all the famous art displayed around the world, know that you have these men to thank.
Great works in architecture, paintings and sculpture inspire us and cause us to stand in amazement, breathless at the creations. They give us the opportunity to gaze at beauty, imagination and dedication in a world that holds none of these things as profitable or worthy. Yet without these monuments to our age and culture we are nothing.
We do not realize how landmark buildings that have stood for centuries create the community we live in. We tend to forget that the Rembrandts, Michelangelo's, Picasso's and Monet's are etched in our minds, on our postcards and heralded as the greatest of our time. We take for granted the importance of creativity and art until we find ourselves in a sterile place devoid of inspiration, color, shading and light. In those places we find that our hearts and our very souls languish.
It amazes me that out of those very sterile places art emerges. Out of prisons, out of migrant camps, out of hospitals come creations that cause us to pause, breathless. Those artists paint with passion that comes from a soul held captive. They paint from a soul starving for color, light, shading and freedom. Their imaginations recreate for them a life they no longer have, a passion they can no longer realize and a peace they cannot grasp.
These artists remind us of the beauty, the suffering, the inspiring and the spiritual aspects of humanity. Without them we have cement, asphalt, steel and wires. A world we cannot survive in without the death of our soul.
Please consider adorning your home with original art. Support those whose passion is to create. We need them.
The work feature with this post is from JMatheny Originals. JMatheny honed his skill and learned to release his creativity inside of prison walls and behind razor wire.
One of the most challenging tasks when desiring to start your own business......IS TO START. There are many out there who need the extra income from a business, still others that no longer desire to work for anyone else and then finally those who just need an income of any kind! The ideas come, plans are laid out, research done, products and resources are located and then comes the real task...launching out.
Somewhere in the process fear rises up. Will the business succeed? Will anyone buy the products? Is this all just a pipe dream? Everyone deals with those little nagging doubts....EVERYONE. It is how we deal with those voices that will set the course for success or failure. While everyone is familiar with the fear of failure, not everyone has given much attention to the fear of success. You see if the business launches, is successful and grows then more responsibility, larger resources and more people become dependant upon your success.
The way to overcome this specific type of fear is to build slow and steady. Think of building a house. First the foundation is dug, the foundation walls put in place and all the ground utilities brought in or a way made to let them flow out. Everything done in the beginning stages of building a home sets the foundation for the building of the rest of the structure. Start by building a strong foundation. Make sure that you have strong, reliable suppliers, strong accounting practices and strong process for creating what you want to sell. When the time comes for growth, everything will be in place for expansion and building and will relieve some of the stress and pain of growth.
The other part of the success equation comes from you. If you believe you can you will. If you believe it is only possible to have limited success you will. If you believe that you might start off well but eventually fail, you will. You get to choose.
One of the fundamental tasks of any leader, from president to parent, is to give people a sense of confidence: in themselves, in the group of which they are a part, and in the mission itself. A leader must have faith in the people he or she leads, and inspire that faith in them. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School writes in her book Confidence, “Leadership is not about the leader, it is about how he or she builds the confidence of everyone else.”4 Confidence, by the way, is Latin for “having faith together.”
Harvard economic historian David Landes, in his The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, explores the question of why some countries fail to grow economically while others succeed spectacularly. After more than 500 pages of close analysis, he reaches this conclusion:
In this world, the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive. Even when wrong, they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement, and success. Educated, eyes-open optimism pays; pessimism can only offer the empty consolation of being right.5
I had an incredible 22 year career in the hotel industry. It was the perfect balance of energy, adrenaline, variety and creativity. I was privileged to create amazing events, destination weddings, high profile product launches and serve amazing clients but the day came when I was done. The time comes in most people's life when you need a change and you have to stretch yourself, take a plunge and try something new, maybe even something you have never done before. Those life changes are scary and exhilarating, motivating and paralyzing at the same time......but if you don't do it.....you begin to die inside. The most successful people agree that if you can't face doing the same thing anymore.....CHANGE IT! And you will feel alive again.