Dare to Think

We’ve all heard the phrase: think big. Big goals are achieved far more often than small goals. Not because they are easier (they aren’t), but because they matter. In business, we set big goals to get things done.

Small goals are more attainable, comfortable, and achievable. Our ToDo list is created from small goals: return calls, clean out the inbox, write checks, meet with managers and teams. All safe, all attainable, and all within our comfort zone. 

When it comes to goal setting, big goals stretch us and push us past our comfort zone and enable us to do something that we may have thought impossible. 

Set a big goal and you are actually thinking “big commitment, big action.” If that big goal feels uncomfortable and scary, you’re likely to work harder to attain it. A Big Goal achieved makes us work harder, think smarter, and make things happen. 

The ’60s controversial psychologist Timothy Leary (or was it Socrates, 400 BC?) coined the phrase “question authority” as a reminder for us to develop a healthy skepticism of the status quo. In business, it’s a reminder to follow your own path — never blindly follow what someone else says, especially if it’s at odds with your own instincts. Just because someone says something is true doesn’t actually make it true. Learn to discern the difference.

Never make excuses. If everyone used their common sense to make everyday business decisions, the world might be better off. Instead, we often let our fear of failure get in the way. We make excuses why something can’t happen even before it’s had a chance to happen. 

Companies rarely fail for lack of talent or strategic vision. They fail for lack of execution. Instead of daring to think, we make excuses. Some may play the victim card. Others may rationalize why something won’t work and never even hear themselves making excuses. 

As small business owners, we have to decide: no excuses (because a good excuse is still just an excuse).

It takes courage to take responsibility for what happens, to own it, and stay in complete control of our choices. But success, prosperity, doing good for others…it’s all worth it.

There are no mistakes, only lessons. But we can talk more about that another day.

Working From Home

When the COVID-19 lockdowns reached their peak, at-home workers across America turned to Zoom meetings to get things done. The efficiency increases within these companies and the response of their home-bound employees have not gone unnoticed. Many companies are seriously considering (or firmly planning) “Zoom forever” even after the pandemic has passed. And surprisingly, the majority of workers are okay with this!

Working from home has its advantages: money saved on restaurants, parking, Uber rides, gasoline, clothing and daycare. Just roll out of bed, look good from the waist up for Zoom, work in socks, play with your kids, and graze from the fridge at will. Then there’s taking a mid-day bike ride, and “not available” days just for yourself or with friends because keeping in touch with the office is a text message or cellphone call away.

But for too many, there’s loneliness. When humans spend too much time alone we can begin to question or doubt our adequacy for accomplishment or the quality of our relationships. It’s human to desire an emotional attachment or connection with others. When we lack that emotional support, we can feel empty and lonely.

Feelings of loneliness can affect our physical and mental well-being. It can cause us to hang back from conversation or even withdraw during social events. Loneliness gives rise to depression and a feeling that we are misunderstood or disliked. This gives rise to insecurity, self-doubt, negative thoughts, and increasing isolation.

According to a Gallup poll in January 2021, 56% of U.S. workers always or sometimes worked from home, and by April it was 70%. Today, it’s more like 33% “always” working from home, but the poll says that 44% prefer to work from home and 39% want to work at the office. It seems that convenience trumps the commute.

How will this last year change the landscape of small business? What long term effects could it have on our employees’ mental health? No one is sure, but awareness is a good place to start. Bottom line is that federal law entitles all employees to a safe workplace, making the coming months very interesting to watch.

Become a Better Listener

Malcolm Forbes was an American sailor, balloonist, motorcyclist, and entrepreneur-by-inheritance. This outspoken owner of Forbes Magazine once said, 

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” 

We all listen, but do we really listen well? It’s been said that good listening is much more than staying silent when the other person talks. It’s being present in the moment, in the here and now. It is not thinking about what we will say in response. 

Have you ever been to a business event where a moderator passes the microphone around the room for introductions? If so, did you attentively listen to each introduction, or were you silently preparing for you own?

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Will Rogers

The human tendency is to move toward people who listen to us, and away from those who talk only about themselves. So if you want to be remembered, become a good listener! Practice staying in the moment and maintaining eye-to-eye contact. Turn toward your speaker and actively listen. 

Listening, really listening, requires a decision on our part to care what someone else has to say and accept their words with an open mind and without premature judgement. It’s so easy to think to ourselves, “I would have done that differently” or “I see that differently” — but in those moments we are no longer listening; we are unable to empathize or attempt to understand another point of view.

A good listener is more likely to be successful. Bernard Baruch, American financier and statesman, offered this advice:

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

We can challenge ourselves to embrace listening as a key part of how we operate, and we can practice-to-perfection active listening until it runs deep into who we are, what we do, and how we do it.