Why not add a Little Adventure to your holidays?

Christmas Drivers - by Dustin Gaffke

So how are those holiday preparations coming?

Are you one of those who had everything bought and wrapped back in July? Or perhaps you’re more like me, one who can’t shop for a Christmas gift until I hear Christmas music – after Thanksgiving.

The holiday season is a loaded time of year for so many of us.

For some, it really is a time of happy chaos and joyful anticipation. For others, it means insane workloads and tremendous pressure. (Talk to a mail carrier or a church choir leader lately?)

As for those of you who follow other traditions, I don’t know what kind of preparation pressures you’re under, but I’m sure you’ve got ‘em too!

And then there are many for whom the holiday season is just something to get through, a really hard time of year for all kinds of reasons.

So it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ about now.

We should BE this. We should DO that. We should FEEL this. We should WANT that. If we’re not careful, we can talk ourselves into a tizzy about all the things we ‘should’ do at Christmas.

Sometimes, though, I think it helps to shake things up a bit. Who says we have to do everything the exact same way year after year? Who says we have to do everything the exact same way our parents did? Or the way our neighbors do?

If it’s okay to try new recipes in the kitchen, isn’t it okay to try a new twist on other traditions as well?

Sure it is.

So I thought I’d share with you some unique holiday ideas I’ve heard over the years that struck my fancy. Call it the Adventure of the Unexpected – the adventure that comes when we add something a little unexpected to some time honored traditions.

Who knows? Maybe one of these will strike your fancy.

Ready? Here you go: 6 ways to add some unexpected to YOUR holiday.

  1. Decorate a (really) different kind of tree.

    A friend of mine once decided to see if she could decorate a tree with nothing but things she found in her yard. There were plenty of woods close by, so she scavenged for bits of dried grasses, vines and colorful berries, interesting leaves, twigs, cones and a feather or two. She gathered and sorted, tied and glued. She did add a few white lights, but tucked them down in the interior of the branches (near the trunk), so that it glowed from the inside out. To this day, that was one of the prettiest trees I’ve ever seen.

    What unusual material could you use to decorate?

  2. Go all out.

    One dad I know loves Christmas so much that he puts a small tree in every single room of the house, each with it’s own ‘theme’. One will be a Looney Toons tree, decorated totally in cartoon characters. One will be an angel tree, decorated totally in angel figures. One is the “family history” tree, decorated with nothing more than the homemade treats the kids made when they were small. Each room is a collection of one kind or another – Santas, angels, teddy bears, superheroes; a veritable mini-museum of what they love best.

    What unusual or best loved themes might you create?

  3. Go somewhere unexpected.

    I knew one family who went camping every year from Christmas to New Year’s at Cades Cove, a beautiful place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Because they camped, they had to hold gift-giving to a reasonable level. Too hard to pack all that stuff with a tent. :)

    And being away from home and outdoors at special time of year seemed to help them stay connected to what mattered most – each other.

    I’ve known others who threw tradition to the wind and took a cruise at Christmas, or booked a trip to their favorite ski lodge.

    Hey, the clean up on Christmas morning would be a breeze! :)

  4. Invite a new world to dinner.

    I have a another friend who’s father was the president of a small liberal arts college for many years. Because there were always a handful of international students stranded on campus over the holidays, her parents began inviting some of them to their home for Christmas dinner. Over the years, having an international guest, or three, became as much a part of their tradition as the tree.

    Imagine what you could do with this. You could host friends of different cultures, different geographies, different traditions. Have a time of sharing and exploring those differences. Host a meal with dishes, readings or gifts from each culture.

    Experiment with new ways to celebrate the complexity –and connection– that adds depth and meaning to our lives.

  5. Turn gift-giving upside down.

    I’ve seen some pretty creative – and impressive – examples over the years of those who found ways to put the ‘giving’ back in gifts.

    Make it. One family set a goal one year that no one could give any store-bought gifts. Everything had to be something they made or created on their own. For some, that might have meant a batch of home made cookies. For others, it might have meant a heartfelt letter or poem, or perhaps a beautiful handmade wooden box.

    When was the last time you made/built/drew/created something from scratch?

    Serve it. Another family skipped gift giving altogether and chose to spend their holiday in service, volunteering together at a local shelter. Giving the gift of service can add tremendously to our community – but there’s no reason why this wouldn’t work among family as well.

    Anyone need a car wash?

    Live it. On a recent trip, one of my Courageous Women said that she’d decided to start buying experiences rather than “stuff”. And I loved that. Imagine how that could work as part of your gift giving this season. The entire family could pool their resources and go after one big ‘experience’ (diving lessons, an overnight horseback ride, a trip to London.)

    The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

  6. Have some fun with your Inner Child.

    I once knew someone whose family tradition including making sure that everyone got a set of new pajamas for Christmas. Apparently, the idea was that you’d be in them all day on Christmas Day anyway, so why not make that a treat as well?

    And then recently, a young woman told me about her grandfather, someone she loved dearly who has long since passed on. She said one of the things she always loved about him was his playful childlike nature. So, in honor of his memory, we came up with the idea of giving everyone on her list a toy this year. That’s right – a toy, even for the grown ups.

    How long has it been since you played a game of jacks?

Remember – Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t have to be something dramatic or daring. It can be something as simple as a new set of jammies and a hand of Go Fish, played at the base of your all-natural tree.

Or not. :)

So, how about you?

How do you add a little adventure to the holidays?

Photo Credits: Dustin Gaffke on Flickr

How to Keep Your Head Above Water: Hire Some Help

Help, by Banspy on Flickr

 

It’s almost Friday.
And you’re drowning in your To-Do list.

Your newsletter’s due tomorrow, a new client needs paperwork this afternoon, and you have a networking event at lunch today.

You’re behind on the report you promised, you haven’t touched your social media outlets in two weeks, and your website has an outdated page that really needs to come down.

Somehow, you need to plan the launch for the new class that starts next month.

Oh – and both kids have Christmas programs this week. No way are you missing those, but someone’s got to cook dinner. And get to the grocery store.

What’s an entrepreneur to do?

You hire help – but not because you can’t keep up.

You can.

The truth is we wouldn’t have gotten this far if we couldn’t keep all those plates in the air. I don’t know any women who aren’t managing ten things at once from sunrise to moonrise every day. Do you?

You build a team to build your business – and protect your profitability.

We won’t even talk about saving your sanity. :))

Here’s how.

1. Start with you.

Why would someone want to work with you?

What do you bring to the table? Are you easy-going and fun to work with? Or highly structured and pretty demanding? (Either can be a benefit in different situations.)

How will this person grow with you? Learn from you? How will they benefit from a relationship with you in ways other than a paycheck?

2. Do a detailed Service Audit.

Financial advisers often ask clients to keep a money diary for a week. When you list every penny you spend, even that extra 75 cents for a coke, you’ll see patterns you haven’t seen before. The same thing applies here.

Leave a notepad on your desk, and jot down every thing you do for a full week, as you do it, by type of activity.

For example, if you answer an inquiry (a potential new client), note that. If you return a call to a client wanting to change an appointment, note that.

If you run to the post office for stamps, note that. If you print out your notes for the talk you’re giving to the Rotary, note that.

Don’t stop to think about whether this is something you’d delegate or not.

Just capture it. All of it.

3. Study your list.

What patterns and processes do you repeat over and over?

What little things take up your time that almost anyone could do? What are the big things that an expert could do in half the time?

What are the irritating activities that drain your energy? What are the fantastic activities that give you energy?

What activities are actually building your income? (Hint – it probably isn’t running errands, returning routine calls, or posting on Facebook.)

4. Sort your list into groups.

“Chunk it up” into key tasks by process or type.

You may add all calls into one group. Or, you may put all calls AND actions that involve greeting, enrolling, and working with a new client into one group.

When I did this last, I was planning an experiential event (a Secret Adventure). I had an entire list of steps to take before the event, the day of the event, during the event, and the day after the event.

Where is there a natural flow in your business? And where do you get stuck?

That’s what you want to hire someone else to do.

5. List the qualities and skills you want.

What matters most in the people you hire? Is it more about experience and hard skills? Or more about personality and a willingness to learn? Do you want someone who needs and enjoys a lot of guidance? Or would you prefer someone who works largely on their own?

Do you want someone on site? Or are you looking for virtual assistance?

For example, if I’m hiring a VA (virtual assistant) to help with social media marketing, I expect her (or him) to have an up-to-date website herself, with current content on her own social media sites (Facebook, LInked In, etc.). If I’m hiring someone in-house, I expect them to be present a certain number of hours per week.

Use your list as you evaluate applicants.

6. Create your job description.

There are countless options for hiring help. You can hire everything from a personal assistant (to help run those errands and get dinner started) to full time administrative help.

What you do depends on your needs, and your budget.

VA’s are an excellent way to get professional collaborative help while only paying for the time you actually need. I’ve had VA’s and in-house assistants, at different times, and all of them have been a tremendous help.

What set up do you want? What’s your budget? And what are you asking them to do? (Use your list from Step 4.)

7. Begin your search.

One of the most popular places to look for a VA is through AssistU, a premier VA training program in the US. A quick Google search will show many others as well.

You can find folks on Craig’s List, or you could post an ad on an online job search website like Indeed.com.

As applicants come in, evaluate them based on your list from step 5.

8. Conduct an interview series.

After you’ve narrowed your list, set up a quick, 15-20 minute call with any finalists first, just to see if you have a connection.

If that goes well, do a follow up in-depth interview, by phone or in person, where you discuss the job in more detail.

9. Decide, then try.

Once you decide to hire, form an agreement to work together for a period of time, usually 1-3 months, on a trial basis.

At the end of that time, have a conversation.  What’s working well? What adjustments need to be made? Do you both want to continue?

Remember, they’re trying you out too. :)

10. Monitor and move forward.

If you’ve taken your time and worked through this process, you are much more likely to hire someone who’s a great fit for your growing business.

Keep the communication open, address issues as they arise, and you’ll do fine.

And suddenly that To Do list isn’t so awful after all. :)

What about you?

What do you look for when hiring help?

 Photo Credit: Banspy on Flickr

C2C Apps: Lessons Learned While Flyin’ on 4 Wheels

4 Wheel 1“Well, there is one thing I’d really like to do, but there’s no way we could be doing that …. It’d be way too hard.”

That’s how one woman answered a few weeks ago, when I asked the group what they hoped we might be doing as we headed out for our last Secret Adventure for Courageous Women.

Turned out she had a dream of her own, a special delicious something that she’d always wanted to do… and a part of her hoped that – just maybe – that was in the works that day.

But she couldn’t let herself hope too much.

The best thing about a surprise is the sheer joy of anticipation, of wondering what’s in the box. Of hoping against hope that what’s inside is something you’ll like – maybe even something you’ll love.

But how often do we stop our dreams in their tracks? How often do we play little games in our heads to prepare ourselves for disappointment? How often do we tell ourselves that what WE want, could never happen?

All. The. Dang. Time.

So when she told us that she had a secret wish, we couldn’t wait to hear what it was.

Turns out – 4 Wheel 2

it was four wheeling. :)

There are many things I’ve learned as a trip leader and group facilitator over the past 3 years while planning these experiences.

One is that there is almost ALWAYS a way to make something happen, to create a certain kind of experience, once you’re clear on what is is that you want to do.

The other is that in every group there’s someone there that particular day who needs to have that particular experience. I’ve never been able to predict it – but it’s happened every time.

On one trip, a Courageous Woman realized that there were still plenty of ways she could have fun, and contribute to the world – in spite of a chronic and difficult illness that sometimes slowed her down.

On at least two different trips, specific participants faced big fears around heights – and discovered that they had more Courage than they’d ever realized.

On several trips the lesson has been about asking for help, admitting vulnerability, learning to give AND receive support.

And on one of my favorites, this time to the back roads off the Cherohala Skyway, we discovered the remains of a historic wood framed hotel that one woman’s family owned when she was a child.

She couldn’t remember where it was – but we not only found it, we talked to the man who drove the fire truck the night it burned down. What a powerful day that was.

Life is full of wonderful surprises.
All you have to do is let yourself open the box.

So on our last Adventure, we went to Bluff Mountain Adventures in Sevier County, Tennessee – where a sweet young fellow fresh from the Marines taught us how to handle a 4 wheeler, then led us out for a two hour trail ride.

We plowed through the woods, up some pretty steep hills, and to some spectacular places, often at remarkable speeds.

4 Wheel 6

Mind you – this was not a peaceful ride.
But it was, pure and simple, a lot of fun.

And a hot chili supper around a campfire afterwards was the perfect wrap up to a perfect day.

Here’s a little of what we brought home.

1. Be a seeker.4 Wheel 3 Someone, somewhere, is willing to teach you whatever it is that you want to learn, the minute you’re ready – really ready – to learn it. If you’ve always wanted to be a sushi chef, someone out there will show you how. If you’ve always wanted to run your own business, someone out there will show you how.

And if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at riding a four-wheeler, someone out there will show you that, too. :)

2. Be willing. Sometimes the best experiences happen if you’re willing to go when everyone else stays. The day we4 Wheel 7 did this, temps were in the 30’s and it was really, really cold outside. We went anyway. And everyone who was there will tell you they are glad they did.

I’ve had similar experiences over and over throughout my life. Too cold? Go anyway. Too rainy? Go anyway. Too far? Go anyway. Too big? Go anyway. Adventures, and a full and happy life, are waiting for those who go anyway.

3. Be prepared.  The key to having a great time no matter the circumstances is to be prepared4 Wheel 9 with the right gear, the right mindset, and the right help. Extra layers. Helmets and gloves. A nice hot fire afterwards. Good food. Great teachers. A willingness to ask for help and a sense of humor. All of that makes a difference under even the most challenging of days.

4. Be up front. I learned this over the years through a number of different experiences. If you think you’re going to have trouble keeping up with a group in any kind of Adventure, put yourself up front, and stay as close to the leader as possible. There are lots of reasons why this works, but at least one of them is that you won’t have to worry about falling behind.

The same thing applies if you’re learning a new skill, working your way through some personal growth, or taking on a new project. Stay as close to the leader as you can. Things will go better while you learn your way.

5. Be fast.  As we followed each other through the woods, we all quickly realized that dawdling was not a good idea. That forced each of us to challenge ourselves and hit that throttle a little harder than we might have otherwise.

There are times, of course, when we need to go slow, to feel our way, to ease into something. But sometimes that hesitation becomes a hindrance, and we miss out on opportunities that require quick action.  And sometimes, if we’ll just let ourselves TRY it, go a little faster, see what we can do – we’ll discover that we can do more than we thought we could.

Better than we thought we could, too.

4 Wheel 8So what about you? What have you always wished you could do?
And what’s your first step towards making that dream come true?

Share with us in the comments below, so we can hold a space for you and your dreams.

Photo Credit: Wendy Pitts Reeves, Wendy Wilson

29 Ways to Be a (Healthy, Happy, Successful) Business Owner

SONY DSCSo what happens when Good Girls grow up?

They realize eventually that being a Good Girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And sooner or later, they learn to let all that go.

In my experience, most women have to hit at least their mid-to-late 30’s before that shift begins. Slowly but surely a kind of restlessness sets in, as they realize that doing things the way they were always told to do them just flat doesn’t work.

No matter how hard they’ve tried, the day often comes when they wake up burned out. Worn out. Fed up.

They’re not happy. They want something more. They know they deserve it. And they’re (finally!)  ready to go after it.

And there’s nothing like starting your own business to speed that process up.

My own coach always says that the powerful thing about learning to run a business isn’t about running the business itself, it’s about who we become along the way as we learn.

And she’s right.

So even though you may start out trying to be a Very Good Girl, as a business owner, you will have to shift into being a Very Strong (and Happy) Woman instead.

If you don’t, you won’t last, and neither will your business.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d re-write my list from last week. See what you think.

Here’s 29 ways to be a (healthy, happy, successful) business owner.

That is, a Very Strong (and happy) Woman. :))

1. Do the work that feeds your soul. Then learn how to use that to feed your family.

2. Get really clear. Create a vision of what you (really) want your life and business to look like and feel like. Give yourself loving, unconditional permission to manifest that vision into reality.

3. Be the best at what you do. Invest in the ongoing education and training you need to keep your skills at the highest level.

4. Learn from those who are where you want to be. Study successful people that you admire. What do they do that works? What do you like? What might you do differently?

5. Set up systems that support you, and keep the operations of your business running smoothly. If you’re a creative, freedom loving person, realize that systems and structure won’t stifle that – they’ll support it.

6. Gather your resources. Do the research, then invest in the tools and supplies you need to run your business well. Upgrade those tools as your business grows, including team members when it’s time.

7. Get comfortable with money. And with profit. If this is hard for you (and for many of us, we’d rather do anything but!), get the help you need to make peace with money.

8. Stand for something as a company. Pay exceptional attention to quality in everything you do, and know what it is that you bring to the world.

9. But remember that perfection is an ideal, and that lovely imperfection is powerfully human. Your customers will love you even more for that.

10. Learn from misfires. Instead of beating yourself up when something doesn’t work, study it. What went wrong? What could you do differently next time?

11. Take really good care of your customers. Deliver what you say you will, when you say you will. If you can’t, be ready to explain why, and to make it right for them.

12. Set up clear, strong boundaries. You serve your clients better when you have clear expectations around what you will and won’t do, when you are and aren’t available. Learn how to say ‘no’, for their sake AND yours.

13. Help them figure out what they really need, and what their choices are for meeting those needs.

14. Understand that selling is service. If you have a product or service that would genuinely make a positive difference in their lives, share that with them. It would be unethical not to do so.

15. Be willing to refer. If you think they would be better served by going elsewhere (and that they’re not the best fit for you), share that with them as well. Then help guide them in the right direction.

16. Charge what you’re worth. Your clients will actually thank you (and value you even more) for doing so. And I guarantee that you’re worth more than you think you are.

17. Listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You don’t have to explain it. You’re the boss. Do things the way you want them done.

18. Take good care of yourself, body and soul. Owning a business is 24/7 work, but we are not 24/7 machines. Get the rest you need. Play. Hug your kids. Take a day off.

19. Honor your feelings. Find healthy, appropriate, effortless ways to allow them, express them, appreciate them, release them.

20. Get good help. Invest in the support you need to get through the tough days. Having the right coaches, therapists, or mastermind groups can make all the difference on the days when you feel like giving up. (And yes, you will have those days. We all do.)

21. Practice resilience. Journal. Meditate. Cry. Pray. Rest. Then get back up and get back at it. Breakdowns come before the greatest breakthroughs. Remember this.

22. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Recognize this as a sure sign that you are growing, and embrace it. Learn to allow others to do the same.

23. Take credit for what you do well. As a friend of mine always says, “it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” And if you don’t believe in who you are and what you do, why should your clients?

24. Be decisive. You’re the CEO, and it’s up to you to call the shots. Call them.

25. Learn to love the tweak. If it doesn’t work, you can make a different decision next time.

26. Pay yourself first. And celebrate it! (This isn’t volunteer work. See #27.)

27. Then find ways to give back. There are countless ways to do this as a business owner that are good for your community AND good for you.

28. Own your authority. It’s your name on the letterhead, your company on the door. If it doesn’t fit with who you are, or how you want to show up in the world, change it.

29. And always, always follow #21. Being a business owner is one of the most exciting adventures you’ll ever have – but it’s not for the faint of heart. :))

Which one of these speaks to you the most?
Let me know, and tell me why, in the comments below. I’d really like to know!

Photo by Clemens v. Vogelsang on Flickr