What Do All Living Things Have in Common?

3-minute read:

 

All my life, I wanted to have a garden. That was probably because my grandfather had a big garden, plus my great grandfather happened to be a farmer. In fact, I come from a long line of farmers in the Midwest. So needless to say, the desire to grow a garden of my own was in my blood!

 

But there was a problem with my gardening plan: I lived in a big city, where the neighbors’ houses blocked most of the sunlight. And let’s face it; my yard didn’t exactly have the space to grow much of anything. Honestly, I think I was lucky to grow a few house plants, so gardening was a pipe dream for me. Then I bought the house of my dreams, with plenty of land for gardening, and everything changed! Well, eventually.

 

Excited to get to work on my garden, I immediately started reading about what to grow in each season, and dutifully scoured the local stores for soil, plants, and gardening tools I’d need to successfully grow something. The plants I put into the soil started looking good…for the first week or two. Then something changed, and all of the sudden my poor plants went downhill and started dying. I was so disappointed. I’d watered the plants and took care of them like the books instructed me to, but they all died. I was at a loss as to what I did wrong, but not about to give up.

 

Fortunately, my daughter’s boyfriend knew a lot about gardening since his mom owned a big nursery. Right away, he asked me if I had checked the soil. Well, no, I didn’t know that’s something you’re supposed to do, nor did I know what to check for! Taking pity on me, he tested the soil and let me know it didn’t have enough nitrogen. Okay, that seemed like a simple enough fix! He added nitrogen to the soil, and lo and behold, as soon as I started gardening again, everything flourished.

 

It turned out that one seemingly tiny change made a huge difference. In fact, the area that had once held dying plants suddenly held an amazing bounty. I had so many cucumbers, I had to give them away, not to mention the tomatoes, fresh herbs, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc. It was the garden of my dreams, and I was so excited!

 

So, why am I telling you this? Well, my experience with gardening got me thinking about how important it is to have a healthy environment when you want to nurture a plant. And it’s not just plants that benefit from a nurturing environment. I’ve found that animals do, too.

 

For example, we have two border collies. We got one from a breeder and the other from a rescue. The one from a rescue was from a puppy mill that got shut down, and he’s just not the same as our other dog. He’s more fearful, less confident, and jumps at every noise. They’re the same breed, but one just didn’t have as nurturing an environment from birth, and you can tell.

 

Of course, humans are way more complex organisms, and their needs are much greater than a border collie or a cucumber. But at a fundamental level just like all living organisms, they still need a healthy environment to grow. So, if you want to get the best out of your employees and let them feel good about what they’re doing at work, they need a nurturing environment. Without it, you won’t see the best performance from them.

 

This means employees need plenty of encouragement, proper training, and a workplace where they feel safe, valued, and important. They need to feel like you respect them as humans and care about their family and entire being. Otherwise, they won’t flourish. Employees can sniff out unauthentic gratuitous behavior, so you must genuinely care.

 

Some of you hard-core capitalists might think this is a nansy pansy soft skill. And sure, maybe you only want to focus on the bottom line! But even if that’s the case, you’ll still want the best performance from your employees so they’re as productive and profitable as possible, and this will require a nurturing environment. If you don’t provide it, your profits will suffer.

 

In short, one commonality among all living things is that they need a nurturing environment to grow and thrive, and this applies to the workplace for sure. If you’re expecting peak performance from your employees, you have to make sure they have the best, most supportive environment possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just bring some nitrogen to work and sprinkle it around? But it isn’t that easy! Humans are complicated, and as a CEO, it is your job to figure out what your team needs to thrive.

 

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What is the meaning of life?

3-minute read:

 

Humans are curious creatures by nature. We have lots of big questions, like wait, where did I put my phone? What’s that guy’s name again? And the ever important do I want fries with that? Oh yeah, and occasionally what is the meaning of life? Well, I can’t answer the first three questions for you, but I can try to tackle the last one. 

 

So, what is the meaning of life? From what I’ve seen, there are a couple of schools of thought on the answer to this question. One comes from the Dalai Lama, whose words about what makes us human have always resonated with me. I even went to hear him speak when I was 16! According to him, the meaning of life is happiness. Of course, that leaves us pondering another question: what is happiness?

 

He can’t answer that for us, as it’s definitely up to each person to decide what brings them happiness. And then there’s the fact that you can’t be happy all the time. It’s a fleeting feeling that comes and goes. So, is happiness really the whole meaning of life?

 

The other school of thought on the meaning of life comes from Viktor Frankl, who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning—so I feel like he has some good insight on this subject! He said the meaning of life is purpose, and I think there’s some truth to that. Honestly, I believe the answer here is somewhere in between happiness and purpose. In fact, I think having a purpose can bring you happiness. And as long as you have purpose in your life, then it has some meaning. If you don’t, that can lead to general dissatisfaction with life.

 

In 2016, I took a class at Rice University that was called Finding Your North. It spoke to me at the time because my father had just passed away. You see, up until that point, the whole reason I got involved with 3 Men Movers is because my father had a stroke and needed my help with the company. Once I got involved and even bought the business, my purpose in being there went from helping my father to proving to him that I could successfully handle it. Maybe it sounds silly—or maybe you totally get it—but one of my big drivers as a 40-something year old woman was to please my father and show him I could do the job well.

 

So, when he passed away, I went through a bit of an existential crisis. I kept wondering why am I doing this? What is my purpose now? Basically, why was I pursuing this so hard when my father was no longer here to show his approval? But looking back, I get it. I think losing a parent does make people feel a little unhinged. That constant that’s been there your whole life, since the moment you were born, is suddenly no longer there. It can feel very unsettling, maybe even causing you to lose your purpose and question the meaning of life. 

 

And it doesn’t just happen after the death of a parent. It could be any major life change. For example, in the class I took, I found that about 80% of the people “looking for their north” were women who had just seen their last child go off to school, so they were empty nesters. It was interesting. Most of their focus had been raising children, and once they were gone, they were faced with living the rest of life without that purpose. They had to find a new one, just like I did.

 

Now, what’s my purpose? Well, it took some journaling—okay, a lot!—but after spending hours writing down what brings me purpose, I realized it all comes down to helping people. At that time, I was fortunate enough to have been able to save money for several years, so I had enough to retire if I wanted to. That meant I had to look at work in a different way. I wasn’t working mainly for the money or to make my dad happy anymore. 

 

So why was I putting in such long hours and striving to make this company successful? It was because I felt an obligation to my employees to ensure they got the work they needed to support their families. I still feel that way. That’s my purpose, and it brings me happiness. Now you have to figure out what your purpose is if you don’t already know. It may take some journaling, but once you get there, you’ll know the answer to the age-old question what is the meaning of life?

 

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The River of Cash

2-minute read:

When I was an early business owner, I often had trouble focusing. I was supposed to be giving 100% of my attention to running the moving company. But inevitably, other interesting things would grab my attention and I’d get inspired to start chasing those—like a dog who just saw a squirrel run by! 

 

Fortunately, I had a great business mentor named Bill Perry who gave me valuable insight along my journey as a business owner. He told me to focus on the “river of cash.” As I started picturing a literal river of dollar bills, he quickly explained that the river of cash is a figurative way to describe the thing that’s bringing in money—for me, it was the moving company. 

 

His advice to focus on the river of cash really helped me pull in the reins on all the other ideas that were starting to distract me. I had been tempted to do what a lot of entrepreneurs try at some point: branching out into different things the minute the company is doing well enough to need less attention. There’s that tendency to think “What else can I do?” as soon as you have some time to consider other things that strike your interest. But these distractions have the potential to mess up the flow of the river of cash as your attention is elsewhere. 

 

I think this concept is hard for entrepreneurs because they like diversity, change, and just trying new things. But I read somewhere that your mind is like a light. You can shine that light over a whole room and brighten it with a nice, soft glow…or you can laser focus that light until it’s so intense that it can actually cut through steel. 

 

Which one sounds more effective? Probably the one that cuts through steel, right? So when it comes to running your business, try to keep that laser focus on what brings you money, and make sure other things don’t take you away from the river of cash. Otherwise, the river will dry up!

 

Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you can’t ever make changes to your business. Some companies find that switching focus—like changing up the products or services they offer—is for the best. For example, do you remember when Kimberly-Clark shut down its paper mills to turn its focus from just paper to consumer goods like diapers and tissues? The company made some changes, but always kept the focus on its river of cash, and that’s why it’s still around and doing well. 

 

You may be able to do the same, as long as you make sure you’ve thought it through and it’s a concept that will bring in more money, not just an idea you’re pushing through on a whim. As long as you focus on the river of cash today, you may eventually be in a position to fund other ideas you want to do in the future. But for now, focus on keeping that river of cash flowing! [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

 

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Are You Too Smart To Be an Entrepreneur? 

3-minute read:

If you’re struggling to start your own business, you’ve probably had moments where you felt inadequate or even downright dumb. I know I have. But the problem might actually be that you’re too smart to be an entrepreneur, and that’s why you haven’t been able to leave your job and finally open that business you’ve been dreaming about for years. Wait, too smart? It sounds odd, but hear me out here!

 

Starting a business is hard. If we’re being realistic, you know you’re going to have months—or maybe even years—with little to no income. And you’re certainly not going to have health insurance, a 401k, or a fridge stocked with free drinks like so many established companies offer their employees. You’ll have to pay for all that out of pocket, and let’s face it—it might be a while before you can afford any of that, if ever! 

 

Basically, you would practically have to be an idiot to leave a well-paying job with benefits to start a company when the failure rates of new companies are so high. So smart people tend to stick with their steady 9-5 jobs, where they know they’ll be getting a paycheck every two weeks and maybe some perks on top of that—like paid time off, which you sure don’t get when you’re starting a business. When you look at the pros and cons, it’s really a wonder how anyone starts a business, especially when they’re intelligent and competent!

 

Maybe that explains why so many smart people I’ve known never started their own business, and I’ve been around a lot of them. After all, I went to Rice University for my MBA, and I felt like many of the people I went to school with were absolutely on another level of intelligence. Personally, I never considered myself a super intelligent person, and after going to Rice with these colleagues, I was even more sure of that.

 

I started doubting myself, thinking these men and women were incredibly smart and would surely make great, successful business owners once they decided to become entrepreneurs. But eventually, I noticed that most never did. Sure, they talked about starting their own business a lot, but in the end, most stuck with the stable 9-5 jobs they had. 

 

That’s when I realized they were too smart to start. They’d rather stay with their well-paying jobs because that made the most logical sense to them. They suffered from analysis paralysis as many smart people do, and that stopped them from starting their own business. 

 

And it makes sense, because if you really thought about all the reasons you shouldn’t start a business, you would never start one! The bad often outweighs the good, especially in the beginning, and only a small percentage of people actually succeed. 

 

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Entrepreneurs Are a Special Kind of Crazy

3-minute read

Just about everyone has an idea for a business they’d like to start. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Shark Tank, you know what I’m talking about. And even if you haven’t seen the show, you’ve heard your own friends and family excitedly toss out ideas about the business they’d open if they suddenly had time and money to spare. It’s always something they claim would revolutionize everything, an idea no one has ever brought to market….and sadly, probably never will!

 

That’s right; no matter how incredible your creative friend’s business idea is, odds are it will never see the light of day. That’s because a study done in 2019 found that out of 100,000 Americans, a mere 0.31% of people started a business. And of them, only about 30% would succeed after 10 years. As these stats suggest, when it comes down to it, very few people have the guts to see through their ideas. 

 

But obviously, a select few people do have the guts, as new businesses open every day. So, who are these crazy people who turn their ideas into businesses? Well, to start, we know they’re at least minimally competent despite the crazy streak—because you can’t run a business without some sort of competency. 

 

And yet, they’re just wild enough to turn away from a good paying, secure job and risk everything on the belief that they can create something of value. If you’ve ever read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, this is the person he was writing about. 

 

Entrepreneurs like this have to put in 10,000+ hours and be almost obsessive when it comes to confidence, as they’re going against everything that is safe, secure, and normal to go out on their own. They’ve probably been called all kinds of not-so-flattering names by normal people who are befuddled by their need to constantly go against the grain…but we’ll just call them outliers.

 

Does that description remind you of anyone? Maybe yourself? Well, it reminds me of my dad! He was one of those people, a serial entrepreneur. Except he wasn’t like the ones you read about where they start a business, sell it, make millions, and use that profit to buy other businesses. My dad would start a business, it would fail, and then he’d try to figure out what went wrong so he could start another one that would hopefully succeed. He certainly never gave up like a “normal” person would; he was that special kind of crazy! 

 

And you really have to have that craziness to survive those first few years of being in business for yourself. After all, I think the first $3 million you make is definitely the hardest. But after that, things start changing. Once you get your idea off the ground and you’ve got a business model that’s working, you should swing from embracing that craziness to getting serious about setting the process in place so the business can grow.

 

So, the million-dollar (or $3 million?) question is: Am I that special kind of crazy that most entrepreneurs are? Actually, no! Surely this comes as a shock to my friends and family—who would never call me normal—but I don’t think I could have ever done what a lot of these fearless entrepreneurs do. I couldn’t have made that first $3 million. 

And yet, when my dad got sick and needed me to take over, I was able to use my own set of skills to take us from $3 million to over $40 million. In doing so, I realized:

  • He was clearly skilled at taking risks, while I was skilled at avoiding them. 
  • He was extremely competitive, but I was collaborative. 
  • He’d go after these creative ideas, while I focused on consistency and processes. 
  • He successfully started the company and enabled it to start making money…but would get distracted by his next idea, while I followed the river of cash to keep it running and even growing.

 

So, what’s the takeaway here? It takes a special kind of crazy to start a business…but it takes a different set of skills to keep it running long term. Whether you’re like my father or me, you can run a successful business using your own set of skills. 

 

Just make sure you know yourself and what talents you bring to the table. You may be a crazy risk-taking entrepreneur who lacks focus for the mundane details of day-to-day operations…or you could be the type to analyze and avoid risk so you can focus on growing the company into a large business. 

 

Either way, there are paths to take to allow both types to succeed in business, and my book can guide you along the way. Reserve your copy today to ensure you’re the first to read inspiring quotes, cautionary tales, and everything in between that I’ve learned over the last two decades as a business owner!

 

Need help with growing your small business? Download my FREE guide to setting the right employee expectations if you want to see nonlinear growth! Download The Guide