From The Publisher
Choices and Change
Recently, I read an article on the psychology of human behavior. Its author challenged readers to write down all the choices made in any given day — from breakfast to bedtime.
She said, “To change one’s life, one must be mindful of the choices one makes.”
It made sense to me, so I was happy to do it. In fact, I thought it might even be fun.
I chose to track my choices on a Monday, to rise early and hit the ground running. That morning, I jumped out of bed and into the shower. Without thinking, I put on some “publisher” threads and a trendy, new pair of high-heeled shoes.
There was no time to get to the gym. Or, was there? Suddenly, I realized: I had gotten dressed without even considering my need for routine exercise. Another choice made —out of habit — so I made note of it.
For breakfast, I ate a nutritious meal: two eggs, a sausage patty, a little bit of oatmeal and blueberries. The choices were in keeping with the “diet” I’ve been on for some time now. The one, by the way, that has helped me shed many unwanted pounds and inches! Proud of these choices, I wrote them all down. Then, expressing my delight, I added a Smiley Face.
By the time I reached my office – at 9 a.m. – a dozen or more choices were already penned to paper. I decided not to comment on any of these choices, knowing at day’s end there would be plenty of time to review and reflect. Another choice made.
At 10:30 a.m., the phone rang. It was Sally, a long-time friend, calling to see if I could meet her for lunch. She had taken time off from her job, so it was a good day for her. I wanted to see her, but I also wanted to make best use of Monday. Another choice to make, and I was being mindful of it! Thus, I passed on Sally’s invitation; I suggested another day and time to get together, and plans were made. I made note.
During the rest of the day, the opportunities to make choices continued. Many had to do with choosing to be distracted or not.
Example: Should I check and respond to emails as quickly and often as I like or commit to dealing with them only two times per day?
Another example: Should I continue to answer my own phone (as is my habit) or allow my assistant to do that for me?
Another example: Should I address the short-term needs of our business right now or carve out time to focus on its mission and long-term goals?
Many times, I found myself thinking, “Which choices are best? Which ones do I make with intent? Which ones do I make out of habit? Which ones result in positive outcomes? Which ones have negative implications? Which choices call for change?”
Alas, being mindful of all the choices I had to make that day — and writing them all down — was just too much! It was far too distracting! By 3 p.m., I gave up on the exercise and continued my day – as usual. Head down, doing what must be done!
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about that day and my attempt to track my choices. I’ve reviewed and reflected and read between the lines. And, yes, I’ve come to a conclusion.
By focusing on big choices – like eating nutritiously or eliminating unnecessary distractions – the small choices become easy and habitual.
And, only out of habit, can one create change and a whole new normal!
From the Publisher
Do Overs and Second Chances
Not too long ago, I had the rare opportunity to spend a wonderful three-day weekend at home. I had no deadlines to meet or commitments to keep. After a long period of work, work, work, there was (finally) some quality time available — for me!
All started out well. On Thursday night, I went to bed early with plans to catch up on my beauty sleep.
But, at 6 a.m. on Friday, my internal clock went off. Before I knew it, I was out of bed and in the shower. It wasn’t until the initial sprays of water struck my face did I stop to think, “Drats! I meant to stay in bed until noon!”
After that eye-opener, I headed downstairs. I put on a pot of coffee and turned on the television. I listened alertly — like a soldier awaiting orders — for the local weather report and late-breaking news.
As is my habit, I also turned on my Powerbook and checked my email. I found 200 new messages in my inbox. I opened none of them. Instead, I reminded myself I was “taking a break” and put them all in the follow-up file. So far so good.
But, before I put the laptop away, I decided to log into Facebook— just to send a few birthday greetings and change my status. Happily, I posted, “Off-duty!”
But, then, the endless stream of cute and clever postings and alerts from Words With Friends distracted me. I was well into my third cup of coffee before I realized I wasn’t sitting outside on my pretty balcony, communing with nature (as I had planned).
So, I picked up my Mac and moved toward the sunshine. The wireless connection appeared to be extra strong out there, so I stayed online. Seconds later, I had already logged into Twitter to see what was trending.
“Wow!” I thought, “So many cool things to think and tweet about!”
So, I posted my thoughts on several of the topics of the day. Then, I re-tweeted some favorite posts of those I follow and replied to ones that demanded response. It took awhile.
I was about to shut down my laptop and get on with the long-awaited relaxation, when I remembered something.
Social media experts had been telling me for months I needed to update my profile on LinkedIn. Only because the connection was so very strong right then, I thought, “I might as well do it now!”
For nearly an hour, I tried. But, updating a profile on LinkedIn is not easy. Finding just the right words to tell my story and better reach those I want to do business with demands strategic action. Not exactly what I wanted to do on my day off. So, I decided to work on the update later. (I opened my Google Calendar and noted it as a task for two weeks out!)
While looking at that calendar, I spotted a few “Must-Do Tasks” that had not been accomplished. Of course, all were work-related and truly needed to be completed immediately. Drats!
So, I did what any “self-respecting” entrepreneur would do; I dealt with the tasks.
Before I knew it, I had been online for hours, missed breakfast and lunch and totally wasted more than half of my first day off. Drats, again!
Clearly, distractions had gotten the best of me! But, no worries! I’ve been self-employed for a long time, and I know all about do-overs and second chances. That night, I went to bed early and slept well. Knowing I can always try again tomorrow — or the day after — helped!
From The Publisher
Some time ago, I placed a large red bowl on the coffee table in my office. In it are thank-you cards and letters from readers and friends and new acquaintances I’ve met while doing my work.
I like holding on to the personal messages and having them displayed nearby. Seeing them often reminds me of the interactions with their authors and how much I appreciate them for re-connecting with me in such a nice and generous way. They remind me of a favorite quote, “Small courtesies sweeten life.” And, truly, they do.
Every time I pick up the day’s mail and find a hand-written note among the bills and press releases, it puts a smile on my face. I open its envelope first. I am eager, of course, to read words written exclusively for me! On a good day, they are the icing on the cake. On a bad one, they affirm the delicious flavors of friendship and lift my spirits.
Often, we hear, “common courtesy is dead.” Gracious correspondences provide evidence; the reports of its demise are premature.
Sadly, though, small courtesies have become less common, in fact, uncommon — especially in business. And, that’s really too bad. The absence of courtesy – treating others the way you would like to be treated — hurts relationships more than many know.
Admittedly, I favor those who show their respect and consideration for others – whether it be by act or expression. Likewise, I find it difficult to work with those who believe it is no longer important — and demonstrate this belief routinely. Sorry, I’m human!
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with a lot of artists, writers, photographers and printers. I worked with many of them for years, others not so long. Alas, the presence or lack of common courtesy has been the determiner.
For example, I worked with a local printing company for a long time. The quality of the work was good, and the price was fair. All the while, other printing companies kept approaching me, wanting to print this magazine. But, out of loyalty, I kept turning them away, telling them I wasn’t looking to make a change. Finally, one day, I was asked, “Why are you so loyal to your printer?”
The inquiry forced me to stop and think. In fact, re-think that business relationship.
My printer (now my former printer) had never requested a meeting to discuss our printing and how we might be able to improve our product or reduce costs. That printer had never offered me a cup of coffee or a glass of water when I showed up for a press check. That printer had never really thanked me for doing business with him. In fact, that printer had never even sent me a holiday greeting or sympathy card when one should have been forthcoming! Common courtesies all!
Why hadn’t I picked up on all of this long before?
Well, I had, but I let it go. I had become accustomed to the lack of common courtesy in business. It was easier to do nothing, leave things well enough alone. Finally, I said, “No more!”
Re-thinking the status quo is a good thing. Most often, it brings a change for the better — in our relationships and in us!
Thursday, March 21 is National Common Courtesy Day. I do hope you will join me on this day and show your gratitude for all who do business with you. Call them and say “thanks” or send them a card. This uncommon courtesy will be highly appreciated and long remembered. No doubt about it!
From The Publisher
I am not exactly sure how old I was when I first heard the word “philanthropy” or understood exactly what it meant. Most likely, I was older than I should have been.
But, that’s OK. My mother, God bless her soul, knew a whole lot about it. By example, she showed my sisters and me what doing for others is all about and how even small gestures can positively impact an entire community.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my mother was never able to write checks large enough to fund the construction of a new hospital or purchase an expensive table at a gala; however, it seemed she was always giving generously to others. She did this — day in and day out — in small, but meaningful, ways.
My mother was one of 10 children, raised on a farm in Arkansas. She grew up during the depression, and though food was never scarce, cash was. She knew what it was like not to be able to buy things. Fortunately, her parents were “philanthropists” too and taught her the value of “sharing what you do have.” My mother learned this lesson well and passed it on.
Often my mother would say, “We can always do something to help!”
My mother attended the same church for more than 50 years. She believed in tithing, and so she gave at least 10 percent of every dollar she ever earned to her church. At the same time, she engaged wholeheartedly with the other members of the congregation and supported the many activities of the church.
If there was a potluck social, my mother was one of the women in the church you could count on to bring a dish (or two or three). If a church member was ill, she was among the few who would re-arrange her plans to go visit her in the hospital. Considering my mother worked outside the home, and had my dad and us girls to deal with, that was not always easy. Still, she did it with delight.
Each year, when it was time for the Mothers March, it was always my mother who stepped forward to help the March of Dimes and its efforts to eradicate polio. She gave generously of her money – and her time and energy. She walked our neighborhood and encouraged others to give too!
Often my mother would say, “We are so blessed with good health. We must help others less fortunate.”
My mother retired from the workplace at the age of 62 and took up quilting (among other things). Always a gifted seamstress, my mother caught on quickly and before long became a talented quilter. Thus, she decided to make quilts for each of her three daughters. Being the oldest, I got the first one!
My mother kept a busy schedule in her retirement, but parts of each day were devoted to working on new quilts. By the time she passed, at the age or 81, she had created beautiful quilts for us girls, her six grandchildren and her first grandchild. Other quilts were also made – for dear friends and distant relatives who “begged” her to make quilts for them!
Today, those quilts are being used in homes all across the country, keeping people warm, reminding them of the enormous generosity of my mother — my all-time favorite and most beloved philanthropist.