The Power of a Path

Having a path, a way forward is important. If the path is clear and you stay on the path, life is easier. It’s when you veer off the path that distractions, rough patches, and roadblocks can become problematic. Getting back on the path is often difficult – more difficult than if you had never left it. The re-entry can be bumpy as well – as many small business owners can attest to post-pandemic.

On an early morning bike ride this morning, I came off the greenway trail on my bike. I didn’t notice that it was steeper where I attempted to get back on the path. Down I went. To make matters worse, the guy riding closely behind me ran over my neck. So here I sit icing my neck, looking like Apollo Creed from Rocky had some boxing practice with me, wiggling a loose tooth with my tongue, and sporting a post-fall full-on headache!

If only I had stayed on the path. Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you:

– veered off the planned path you mapped out for your career

– postponed your education because of finances, a lack of focus, or motivation

– made an unplanned detour due to a tragedy in your life

– delayed the opening of your business because of COVID-19

– ended a relationship with a co-worker or friend because of a disagreement or conflict

– lapsed in your promise to stay sober or enter rehab

– failed in honoring a promise you made to your spouse or children

– made a poor decision early in your life that resulted in an unpleasant or unplanned path

Whether you are a biker, business owner, or manager of a team or family, I would urge you to:

1) Have or learn about the proper tools. Without my helmet, I’d be in the hospital or maybe worse. Wearing biking gloves would have prevented bloody hands and knuckles.

2) Plan for the unexpected. Travel with a first aid kit and a few bike tools. If you ride long enough, you will have some accidents.

3) Never ride alone. Your biking buddy or friends can not only push you when you are dragging but they can also pick you up when you fall.


4) Recover quickly. As soon as you know you are okay, get back on the bike. The harder your fall, the more likely you won’t want to return. Do it anyway. You’ll be glad you did.

5) Own your fall. I could blame my fall on the darkness, the guy riding next to me, the city for having a high edge on the pavement, the skinny tires on my bike, etc. Own your mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

6) Take a pause. I likely won’t be on my bike for a week or two. Sometimes it is good to take a pause to rest or reset.

Just because you chose or were forced to take an unpleasant or unplanned path doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Your past mistakes don’t have to dictate your future performance.

You CAN get back on the positive path – whatever that might be for you.

Thank God it’s Friday (afternoon)

It’s Friday and you have worked hard all week. By noon everyone is “done” so you might as well be, right? Recently I had a friend contact me to meet early on a Friday afternoon. He told me that “none of his customers worked on Fridays” so he didn’t either. He was surprised to hear that I worked on Friday afternoons. If NOBODY is working why should you? Because you can end your week on a high note by experiencing successes that the “knock off early” crowd won’t!

If you are in sales or own a small business, Friday afternoons could be the best time to have a conversation with a customer or prospective client. Because “nobody is working” they have time to talk. Even executives, HR professionals, association executive directors, and other professionals can make calls to check in on people in their network, schedule conference calls to discuss pressing challenges, meet for lunch to brainstorm with colleagues, prepare an agenda for an upcoming meeting, or tackle a pending project. Swim upstream. Resist the temptation to have a knock-off early mentality. I can promise you that your biggest competitors aren’t knocking off early. Why should you?

Bad Business is not Nice Business

Recently, the association management company who managed the meeting of a past client was rude to my marketing director – first on the phone, then in an email. I observed his ugliness when I worked with my client a few years ago. He was arrogant, unkind, and seemingly an unhappy person, who is likely paid handsomely to manage the association for which I was hired to give a keynote speech. Fortunately, in my profession, most people are really kind and encouraging. It is incredible rare to run across the rude behavior we both experienced. So when it happens, it’s like jumping into an ice-cold lake. It takes your breath away.

It’s pretty easy to be nice and doing so has advantages.

So if you aren’t being “nice”, how do you know? I think you aren’t nice if your regularly do any of the following:

1) Asking your company receptionist to lie for you (telling callers you are in a meeting when you aren’t). Even screening calls is not nice.

2) Failing to return calls. If someone leaves you a message, call them back – even if you have to do so before or after hours because you don’t have time to talk.

3) Lying or even “bending” the truth. If you don’t see a need for the products or services being offered, KINDLY tell the person selling. “Bob, thank you for your call. I know your time is precious and I really don’t want to waste it by telling you to call me back later. I don’t see a fit with your company/your products, etc. Thank you for thinking of me and I do wish you well.” (it took me less than 30 seconds to compose that!)

4) Playing the “I’m busy” game. Even though I am sure people are busy, their busy doesn’t trump anyone else’s busy.

5) Being rude. It’s a poor reflection on you and your business when you are rude to anyone for any reason. It should never be tolerated.

It’s usually true that what comes around goes around. Eventually, my client will find out about the rudeness displayed by the “professional” they hired to manage their association. While I don’t wish him misfortune, I do wish that the rudeness he displayed would not be tolerated. There are plenty of people who know business nice. Hire nice. Train nice. Reward nice. Only tolerate nice.

Smelling roses can lead to innovation

Are you taking time to smell the roses? Recently I had the opportunity to work in a stunningly beautiful location. Because I have worked with this client several times, I was taking the scenery for granted. I took the above picture of my stunning view and sent it to my company’s marketing director with the tagline – “My office this afternoon“. My INTENT was to work on some creative projects in a place that would likely help inspire me. However, I never even got my toes in the sand. I got caught up in other time-intensive tasks. While they were important and arguably necessary, I certainly could have made some time to ponder, think, and reflect. It’s almost impossible to develop new ideas or innovations if our scenery never changes.  Because I have worked with this client several times, I have been taking scenes like this for granted.

Take time this week, no matter how small of window you have, to find a place that inspires you to have reflective time to think deeply. Be still, and let your creativity simmer. In addition, consider taking one or more of the following actions:

– Block out an entire day (or even a half day if that is all you can find) to think about a solution to a problem or to ponder a new idea

– Read a new book that challenges an assumption you have or one that causes your mind to be stretched

– Book a day outing or weekend trip that involves something you have never before experienced

– Instead of making a quick decision on a complex problem, take a walk in a beautiful environment and let your subconscious brain go to work on a solution 

The wise philosopher I. M. Anonymous once said, “If you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you have always gotten”.  Step out of your comfort zone and make time, space, and silence for a new discovery or to solve a problem you have been pondering.

Show up and Stand Out!

We’ve all been there. We hire a highly recommended service provider, vendor, or company. They sound good on the phone. They say all the right things. They have the right experience. They say they will show up on Tuesday at 2:00 but the appointment time comes and they don’t show up or if they show up, they are unprepared. Then there are delays and the job isn’t done when promised nor to our satisfaction. My guess Ace Painting heard this from some of their customers and decided that they were going to differentiate by putting their promise in a website- I show up! Sometimes that is all it takes to be selected for the project, promotion, or, in my case, the presentation. While showing up can be a differentiator, you need to do more – you need to stand out. Below are a few ways to do that:

1) Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Keep impeccable records of conversations with your customers and use calendaring tools and reminders to keep on track and on time.

2) Be easy to do business with. If you aren’t sure if your business is easy, there is a very simple way to find out. Ask your customers. Then listen to what they tell you. Hire someone to conduct a focus group, use a mystery shopper, or utilize a simple survey.

3) Solve problems for your customers and help them with strategies to make their business better. Find out about their industry – their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Learn about their competitors and even other innovative or transformational organizations worth benchmarking.

4) Give them something extra that they weren’t anticipating. Give them an extra service, thank them with a gift that is customized specifically for them and communicate your gratitude with a personalized handwritten note.

In today’s business climate, showing up is more important than ever but in a sea filled with people and businesses who fail to deliver the basics, you and your organization can also be noticed by regularly standing out.