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15 ways to live a life of no regret

Midlife does a lot for a guy. While I don’t feel like someone who is at a midpoint to anything, “they” tell me 50 is the official halfway point in life (crazy to think I will live to be 100, but who am I to argue). I still feel like a kid, and ask anyone that knows me, they would tell you I still act like a kid. So when I turn the big five 0 next week, it gives me a reason to pause, examine what has been, what hasn’t been and what’s going to be. And while I don’t profess to be a wise man, I do know there are certain things I wish I had done differently, should be doing more of, or should be avoiding completely.

My hope for you is that you realize it is never too late to make these changes.

So, as I wax philosophical, I provide below an outline of some of the important ways in which you can live a life of no regret. While I have not yet perfected many of the actions that follow, I can assure you I am working at each and every item below. My hope for you is that you realize it is never too late, no matter your age, level of intelligence or station in life.

  1. You will never get to your deathbed wishing you spent another day at the office. During the summer of 1995, my dad went into hospice care, losing his battle to cancer just 4 months later. During a visit one day in the final stage of his life, he dropped those words on me. I had one toddler already and another child on the way and although I heard the words, I was too busy making a living to make a life. Work hard at working less, life is far more important than a balance sheet. Play is an important part of life.
  2. Say "I love you" more frequently, to those in your life. If you are not an emotional person and those words don't come easy to you, there are other ways to say I love you. A handwritten note, hand delivered is a great way to express yourself. No matter how you do it, do it frequently. You will be amazed at the positive changes in your relationships when you say those magic words.
  3. Believe in yourself. You are unique, special and better at being you than anyone else. Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is taken." If you understand the concept of your uniqueness you will know that you are the best you you have to offer the world. You must believe in yourself to live to your fullest potential.
  4. Forgive anyone that has wronged you. Holding onto negative feelings will only make you bitter. Release the grip, do not hold a grudge and move on with your life. "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Buddha
  5. Let your creativity be your guide to determine your passion. Everyone has a spark of creativity. Use that spark to ignite a fire within you. Once lit, keep it fueled daily. Life is so much more enjoyable when you can express your creative side.
  6. Do not stay at a job that has no room for growth. A job that provides no opportunity for advancement creates a dead end in your career and also in your happiness. It may be a challenge to move on but you must. Embrace change, swallow hard and move on, which brings me to the next way to live without regret.
  7. Step outside your comfort zone. You know you are in a good place when your next step is a bit shaky. Take your dreams and make them a reality. In order to have the life you dream of you will need to do new things. The actions required will sometimes feel uncomfortable. Don't let the fear stand in your way, take action.
  8. Stop letting life happen and make life happen. Set goals for your personal and professional life. If you are like me, this can be a difficult step. Break it into smaller bite size pieces. It's the small daily actions that will move you towards huge long term results.
  9. Celebrate the little victories. Reward yourself for each success you achieve. Danielle Couick, a highly successful and sought after event planner in D.C. (yes, I'm biased), doesn't reserve champagne for only her clients' events. She will pop a cork to celebrate a great phone call, a visit with a girlfriend or milestone events as well.
  10. You need relationships in your life. Work harder at the relationships you cherish most in your life. Turn the focus of the relationship onto what you can add to the relationship to make it better. Pick up the phone more often, send a note just because, and most importantly, take stock in having that person in your life. If you feel as though you need closer relationships, take it upon yourself to make that happen. Do not wait for someone else to make the first move. It's up to you.
  11. Take better care of yourself. You have one body, one brain and one life to live. The average American spends 34 hours a week watching television. Just the sound of that is depressing. I challenge you to cut the cable. I left TV in the dust 3 years ago and have not looked back. I go on more frequent walks, spend more time reading, building my brain. I have a chance to do more dream building than ever before. One final note, make better choices with what you put in your body as well. Processed foods, sugar and chemicals will reduce your life expectancy and increase your chance for disease. You've got plenty of life to live, so do it the healthy way.
  12. Learn to show more gratitude. About a year ago I wrote a blog on the importance of saying "thank you." A sincere, genuine, heartfelt appreciation for a job well done or a task completed. People gravitate towards others that appreciate them. The best way to build amazing relationships is by appreciating those in your life.
  13. Live in the present. Don't go through life always thinking what's next. You will miss everything going on in the here and now. Also, when you are with someone, give them 100% of your attention. We all know of someone that lives for the "beep." Every time their phone beeps they look at it no matter where they are. Put the phone away, turn the ringer on silent and focus your attention.
  14. Listen to those people smarter and wiser than you. Make it a daily habit, supply your brain with information that will help it expand. Listen to podcasts, YouTube videos, TED talks and examine successful people who are experts in their field. Early in my career, a mentor told me to find someone that has achieved goals that I wanted to achieve and study what they did in order to be successful. It was advice that has served me very well over the last 30 plus years.
  15. Finally, never stop learning, never stop growing and always be curious about life. Life is not a game that can be played standing still. You are either moving forward or you are moving backward. Successful people are constantly educating themselves, making moves in a positive direction and are thirsty for knowledge.
The average American spends 34 hours a week watching television. Just the sound of that is depressing.

To live a life without regret takes effort. Along with effort some changes will need to be made. Although I do not for a moment feel I have mastered this list, I know, with certainty, that I have learned a lot from my first 50 years on this earth. It's hard not to learn some valuable lessons over 438,000 hours even though I spent nearly 100,000 of those hours sleeping. Don't go one more day without taking action. Fix what you can and never stop trying to fix what you think is broken or bent. Whether you are 18 or 89, it's never too late.

How will you live your life without regret? I welcome your comments and invite you to share this post with others on your favorite social channel. Thanks for your support and encouragement.



4 Signs that your customer trusts you

Photo by teekid/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by teekid/iStock / Getty Images

It’s the gold standard by which all of your business relationships should be compared. You’ve struck pay dirt when you earn a customer's trust. Its value is huge and when your relationship with a customer gets to this level, congratulations are in order, because it can take years to build trust. One thing is certain, when you are trusted, you are a part of the inner circle and it is not a responsibility you should take lightly. You’ve worked hard to get here and you should be very proud of your accomplishment.

It’s the gold standard by which all of your relationships should be compared

Trust does not come without investment. Time. Energy. Resources. You may have worked late for this customer, run around town at all hours day and night picking up and delivering products. You probably made many phone calls, driven more miles, stayed late at the office, missed personal commitments and gone to bat a few times to resolve their problems. Over the course of the relationship you have laughed and cried with this customer and you probably know his wife’s name, the college his kid attends and his last vacation destination. Nice work, well done.

So how do you describe trust to either someone new in business or to someone just beginning to understand the importance of trust in the business world? Each customer is unique and has his own standards that would qualify as trustworthy and while you may not be able to describe exactly how to win over a customer’s trust in a step by step process, there are some telltale clues that help you recognize it. For the record, there is no better indicator of trust than a customer providing you with their loyalty as a part of the relationship.

Customers that trust you should also be able to be trusted in return.

Be cautious when you read this list of 4 indicators, since the reward (in this case trust) does not come without effort. A customer feigning trust, providing it too early in your relationship, to gain your trust, will create a one sided relationship, always favoring him. Be on the lookout, customers that trust you should also be able to be trusted in return. You have rights as well, as you should. Trust is not a faucet that can be turned hot and cold on demand, but instead an integral part of a relationship that must be earned by both parties equally. With each of the points below, the level of trust may also be relative to the importance of the decision being made by your customer. Ok, enough of the legal mumbo-jumbo and fine print, on with the list of four.

  1. “Can I ask your advice?” These are great words to hear from a customer. Your opinion matters and if your customer says these words, think carefully before you respond since your words will weigh when a decision is made.

  2. “If you were me what would you do?” Similar to the quote above, your customer is putting you in a position to be a consultant, the professional expert, asking you to swap places with him. If you don’t know all the facts, now is your chance to ask more questions. Investigate before advising.

  3. Your customer specifically wants you to handle his business and goes out of his way to make sure to give you the business. A customer that can do business with anyone but chooses to do business with you does so because you have proven yourself. This is a powerhouse position to be in, and one that only comes when earned.

  4. Human to human conversations on any level, personal or business, are a great sign that your customer is comfortable with you and trusts you. It’s a great thing if you can have a conversation with your customer, put aside the small talk and rapport building chatter and have a real exchange, one on one. When your customer isn’t pulling a power play, exerting influence or telling you what to do in a condescending way you are in the clear to have a good interaction, deliver clear facts, professional opinion and expert advice.

People do business with people they like and people they trust.

People do business with people they like and people they trust. Your goal should be to build a relationship with your customer that includes trust as a major component. If it’s not a part of your relationships now, re-examine your approach to business. Over the years, I have found that business relationships involving trust are more profitable, easier to maintain (problem clients are high maintenance) and last longer. And that’s good news, all the way around.

I am very interested in your comments and would also love your shares on any social media channel you use including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I am available to speak to your organization, association or non-profit on the steps to building lifetime relationships with our customers.



Getting out of your zone

We should take time to sample life. Live more outside of your comfort zone.

We should take time to sample life. Live more outside of your comfort zone.

We all have a comfort zone. It’s that warm, friendly place that welcomes you with open “arms.” It’s the small office, cubicle or glowing computer screen calling your name, pulling you into its grip. The zone could be something as simple as your routine between nine and five, including all the trappings of work. After work is complete, it most certainly includes your home life as well. Your comfort zone could be a bit more complex and include travel, conferences and other activities within your industry.

Your comfort zone is, well, comfortable. And while being in your comfort zone potentially creates small growth potential, most people do not venture far enough from their comfort zone to create opportunity. That’s a mistake.

Most dramatic growth is created when you step outside of your comfort zone. Taking small risks greatly enhances your ability to grow while not putting you into too much of a danger zone. As you get better at handling small risks, your tolerance for risk becomes greater. Practice makes perfect and as you excel at the challenges you encounter, your threshold for risk also increases. You begin to stretch more and your growth will increase exponentially.

The problem, however, most people encounter is a feeling that when they are outside their comfort zone, they are stepping into the terror zone. That shouldn’t be the case at all and although there will be some discomfort on the perimeter of your comfort zone, it is still a long way before reaching the terror zone. The benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone will far outweigh the drawbacks of a “life gone static” inside the zone.

Let’s look at the benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone:

  1. Enhances creativity - You need to think outside the box. Creativity grows rapidly when you step outside your comfort zone.
  2. Builds confidence - Being confident creates a feeling of self importance.
  3. Change will come easier to you - Taking small risks will allow you to adapt to change much more easily.
  4. Helps you deal with failure better - You won’t be perfect at everything you do outside of your comfort zone. Know that you will fail at a few things you try and that is quite ok.
  5. Provides a new perspective - Not everything that happens in this world happens in your bubble. It’s great to see life from another perspective every once in a while.
  6. Provides growth and independence - You are responsible for you. You should not be depending upon anyone other than you and stepping outside of your comfort zone will help you become more independent.
  7. Allows you to gain more control of your life - When you stay in our comfort zone too long, you allow your routine to control you instead of you controlling your routine. Step out and gain control.

With all these great benefits to stepping out of your comfort zone, what are some ways to actually make the first move to go beyond where you are now:

Go solo - A great way to step out is to step out alone. Try going to the movies on your own, having lunch alone or going away for the weekend on your own. These simple exercises will boost your independence and confidence and help you gain control of your life.

Do everyday things differently - Take a new route to work without using your GPS. Wear a color or garment that you would not normally wear. Ladies, wear an accessory that wouldn’t normally be “you.” Guys, wear a bowtie instead of your traditional neck tie. People will begin to remark about this new “you.” Changing it up a bit is so simple and the results are so great.

Get crazy (just a lil bit) - Have you ever bought lunch for the entire office? If you are short cash, bring in donuts and put them on a tray, drape a white cloth napkin over your arm and deliver them from office to office as your way to say “thanks for being an awesome coworker.” If you are flat broke, make paper flowers at home (YouTube has great videos for this) and hand deliver them to the people you work with -- I promise you it will be a day to remember and your coworkers will love you even more.

Present yourself - Offer a lunchtime presentation or prepare a speech about something you are passionate about. Want to save the whales or clean up a local stream or talk about the benefits of a vegetarian diet? I am confident others will want to hear about it too, even if it’s only a small group. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears of all. Overcome this fear and you will be well on your way to stepping outside your comfort zone.

Do something completely new and silly - The next time you are in a crowded elevator, turn to face the entire group and say these words, “I guess you are all wondering why I called this meeting.” You will have at least one or two that will laugh at your joke. If not, no big deal, get off at your floor and get on with your day. Learning to laugh at yourself is important. You are allowed to fail, and you are allowed to be foolish.

Volunteer - There are hundreds of worthy causes that need your help. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or shelter. The genuine gratitude shown by those you serve will help you understand just how important you really are in this life. Just as important, you will gain perspective on what really is essential in life -- a smile, a hug and a good deed.

The above ideas are just a starting place for you. As you get used to stepping outside of your comfort zone, your tolerance for new and different things will grow and you will begin to thirst for all of the amazing adventures you’ll find in this huge world we all live in.

Your comfort zone will forever be growing and you will be growing as well. As you stretch your zone your are stretching your limits. Look back to that first push from your comfort zone and you will finally see why being stuck there is not beneficial to you. You are capable of greatness and there is no one greater at being you than you.

I especially can’t wait to be on the elevator when you turn and say, “I guess you are wondering why I called this meeting.” Tell me about the ways you step outside your comfort zone. Add a comment to the section below.



26 things you need to know to exceed customer expectations

Exceeding your customer's expectations requires thinking and acting properly with every contact.

Exceeding your customer's expectations requires thinking and acting properly with every contact.

Providing exemplary customer service comes down to taking ownership and responsibility for your relationship with your customer while exceeding customer expectations. Each and every contact is an opportunity for you to impress your customer and deliver service that exceeds their expectations.

If you approach each contact with a “can do” mentality and an attitude of “the buck stops here,” you are in the right frame of mind. In addition to having a positive mindset, you must take action. Without a positive attitude AND action, your level of service will only be satisfactory at best.

As I think back to some amazing experiences that I have had as a customer, in addition to feedback I have gotten over the years from my own customers, I have compiled a list of thoughts and actions that are essential to providing exemplary customer service.

You know you excel at customer service when you realize:

  1. Making a customer is more important than making a sale.
  2. Customers are not in your way, but instead, are your way.
  3. Listening to your customer is more important than telling your customer.
  4. It’s you AND the customer, not you AGAINST the customer.
  5. Leaving your customer with a question or doubt is not good business.
  6. Exemplary service is not the exception, but rather, the rule.
  7. Building business is about building relationships.
  8. All roads lead back to the customer. Without customers, your business will fail.
  9. A loyal customer will go out of their way to get you business. You want loyal customers.
  10. Not all people are potentially customers.
  11. Your job is to make the buying experience as easy as possible for your customer.
  12. Your customer is an insider, not an outsider.
  13. Your customers' needs come before your needs.
  14. Each contact that you have with your customer should leave your customer happier.
  15. You need to exceed expectations each and every time you deliver.
  16. Perception is reality when it comes to your customer.
  17. No matter what your position within your company, you are in customer service.
  18. Your daily goal is making your customers happy.
  19. An unhappy customer creates a lesson for you learn from, not run from.
  20. Long after the money is spent, you create a lasting memory for your customer.
  21. Thinking like your customer is far better than thinking for your customer.
  22. High touch trumps high tech.
  23. Getting lazy gives your customer permission to move to your competition.
  24. Being a people pleaser is not an option, it is essential in keeping a customer long term.
  25. Making a mistake is inevitable. It’s what comes next that’s so important.
  26. The customer is always right. And when he isn’t, figure out how to make him right.

Align your thoughts and actions with the list above and you are well on your way to providing world class customer service. Are there other “rules” that you follow? Which is your favorite from the list? Your least favorite. Add your comments below.

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6 Time Management Techniques for Extremely Busy People

The clock is always ticking, faster than ever for extremely busy people.

The clock is always ticking, faster than ever for extremely busy people.

Successful people are busy people. With career and personal goals stacked up high, and an agenda a mile long, fitting in one more responsibility can be a huge task. People on the fast track to excellence will often get crunched seven days a week. Common place are calls from clients, co-workers and associates to put out fires. Additionally, communication from a spouse, kids, friends or other family members must become a priority even when dealing with a filled work schedule. Being self employed, I am constantly talking to my friends and family about the benefits of self employment. You see, I get to pick which 18 hours a day I work. Yes, I am busy too.

So, with so many responsibilities coming from so many different directions, time management is essential. While time management is challenging in general, time management for extremely busy people comes with its own set of challenges.

Here are 6 time management techniques for extremely busy people:

  1. Say "NO"- While sometimes an easy thing to say, often times saying the word "No!" can be troublesome. A friend, coworker, or especially a family member is hard to turn away. But in order to stay on your path, learn to embrace the word. Although it has only two letters, getting the word out of your mouth is difficult if you feel like you are hurting someone's feelings or are trying to be nice. Try this sentence. "I appreciate you coming to me with this project (issue, problem, situation, etc) and I would really like to help, but now is not a great time for my schedule. If I get a chance to revisit it, I will.

  2. Prioritize Your To-Do List - Before you go to sleep or first thing when your head is clear in the morning, go through your schedule (I know you keep a schedule) and prioritize the list. Don't get into your day without a clear roadmap of what you will need to get done. It's little victories like crossing off a to-do from the list that will drive you harder towards the finish line on your list.

  3. Delegate - The most successful time managers are those that learn how to delegate properly. A great leadership trait is understanding when to hold on to a responsibility and when to delegate it. You will never be able to do it all on your own. The sooner you realize this, the closer you will get to effectively managing your time.

  4. Don't Micromanage - Extremely busy people are generally very successful people. You will need to resist the urge to manage all of the project details you have going on in your life. Once a project task is given to someone else, do not circle back and micromanage the project. Certainly, follow up to verify the project is moving forward, but do not live by the motto, "If it's going to be done right, I've got to do it."

  5. The Small Stuff - Extremely busy people are their own worst critics. Stop beating yourself up over the small stuff. Sure, it's important that the task gets completed properly and professionally, but don't get caught up in the minute details and never second guess yourself about the small stuff. Chances are great that you completed the task with excellence. Make a mental note, and next time this type of task is to be tackled, you will know what you need to do.

  6. Refresh - Seriously, it's 1AM, do you think you are quite as sharp as you were at 11AM? Take a break. There is nothing more challenging than trying to accomplish a task while burning the late, late, late night oil. Your brain needs to refresh and your body could use a break as well. Did I mention the importance of eating your meals at a table and not from behind a steering wheel? You know I am talking to you. Every once in a while, I accept that you are too busy to slow down and eat at a table, but not everyday.

There will come a time in your schedule when you will not be as busy. Try your best to savor those moments when they happen. Just because you are not moving at a million miles an hour does not mean you are lazy. There is more to life than just arriving at your destination; enjoy the journey.

We all know busy people too, please feel free to share this blog with them as well. Thanks for helping me make the world a bit nicer and more manageable, one blog at a time.