Small Business Success Requires an Open Mind and the Ability to Think

Thinking seems to be a lost art. Today you can get an answer to virtually any question by typing bleak truthin our question into a search engine. Compare that to the age BEFORE Google where children had to use their imagination all through playtime and draw on both sides of their brains to solve problems. Playtime used to be “creative time” – with cardboard boxes, pots and pans, sticks, food cans or whatever else could be found and made into something that was fun. Nowadays children have organized playtime, limited to offerings of the electronic kind. I sat recently in the departure lounge looking at a family of 6 – (Mom and Dad included) all absorbed in mobile phones, laptops, and tablets…none talking to the other.

No one is allowed to think anymore.  All the thinking is done for you. And should you encounter a problem, one or more “helicopter parents” or “helicopter supervisors/managers” hovering nearby will drop in to solve the issue.

Robert Murray, author of “It’s Already Inside” illustrates the point: “I see it in my own kids” he says…“if they get something new that requires some set up, they will rip apart the packaging and start to blindly put it together. Inevitably, something will not fit. They will get frustrated and scream out for me to help. I will ask them if they read the instructions. Always the answer will be, “No.” I will ask them to read the instructions and attempt the assembly again. They will get irritated and scream out, “Why can’t you help me?” I assure them that I am trying to help them by teaching them to do it themselves.”

We need start with how we feel about ourselves because this will certainly inform how we think. Things won’t get better unless we THINK better. This is a simple truth and the key to all that we desire yet so few engage in really thinking…we recycle thoughts planted by others which we choose to believe without considering if it is something that takes us closer to where we wish to grow or further away.

Starting with ourselves, we can, as Don Miguel Ruiz suggests, change our story by changing what we believe about ourselves. “When I clean up the lies I believe about myself… I change myself (and) my whole story changes to adapt to the new main character.”

Next we need to be open to possibility. We need to be curious. We need to take action but we need to also be aware of the results that we are getting. We also need to pay attention to the insights and flashes of inspiration that we get. We need to develop the habit of writing things down.

Einstein developed intricate and profound theories regarding the Universe and its natural laws using the simplest form of technology ever invented – a pencil and paper. How? He wrote down questions and then searched for answers.

Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, advise that we can develop our own mental powers when we learn and develop the habit of asking ourselves questions and then noting the ideas and answers that surface. What will motivate you to continue if you are not charting your progress? How will you know if you are getting closer or further away from your desires?

We need to be reminded that thinking by itself is not enough. We need to apply whatever it is we discover during our thinking periods. Thinking is not creative unless it is followed through with action.

In his Monday Morning Memo, consultant, speaker and author Alan Weiss paints a picture of what’s happening today with small businesses. He shares “I’m astounded by the lack of common sense of many small business owners. It’s not “big box” stores or technology diminishing their profits. It’s small thinking and bad habits. You need someone answering phones who has not had their personality surgically removed. You need to get back to callers within a few hours (there’s this invention called a “cell phone”). You need to listen and diagnose, not ignore and prescribe. You need to trust customers, not treat them as potential environmental hazards. (I still love the stores with 14 reasons listed on the door as to why you can’t come in!) I talked to a guy who owns several bands because I need one for my birthday party next year. He went into a sales pitch, wouldn’t shut up, and kept cutting me off. When I pointed that out, he told me he didn’t think we were right for each other! He just didn’t know how to create business “music.” And his groups were less than half the price of the one I chose, showing just how much he’s out of touch.”

To discover your own solutions requires you to engage in a simple but reliable process.

When you are faced with a challenge, try the following:

  1. Step back from the challenge. Sometimes you may need to physically remove yourself. Sometimes you may need to leave it alone until the next day. If you’re stressed and tired you won’t make much progress.
  2. Avoid complaining or reacting. First ask questions to gain perspective instead of judging or assuming
  3. Ask for Divine Guidance – help in finding the best and right solutions for you
  4. Engage in thinking time. Have pen and paper ready to jot down ideas or insights that might surface. If it helps, write your challenge in the centre of a blank piece of paper – then wait. Make sure that you are not interrupted. Switch off alerts, mobile phones and avoid any other distractions.
  5. Don’t force the situation. Give yourself a time limit – say 30 minutes to an hour. If nothing comes, just be thankful that the solution will present itself and then continue in the events of the day. Stay open to possibility and receptive that your answer will surface at some point. You are ready to receive it when it does.

As a developer and trainer, I encourage you to rethink how you train yourself and your teams, whether in sales, service or leadership – especially with regard to concepts and theories. Unless the learner is challenged to apply the learning – you will end up with persons with knowledge but you won’t get results.

Robert states categorically, “Applied learning has never been more important, nay critical. If we are hosting a sales workshop, for example, most of the class needs to be filled with hands-on, real-life scenarios and not theory. Applied learning needs to become embedded into every aspect of education and training.”

Theory alone is no longer practical. My job, as well as yours, needs to become one of engaging in and facilitating creative thinking and problem-solving. It is the only way that we will realize true personal success.


I took it personally…

mocha momentsI have to learn not to.

I always want the best for people. What I share is based on stuff that I’ve read that resonated with me on a deep level, and which I feel others could benefit from. Could be a quote, a paragraph from an article, a book recommendation.

I would love if all my readers and subscribers stayed with me forever….that they wouldn’t unsubscribe. When they unsubscribe I take it personally. My ego is bruised. What did they not like? Am I not making sense anymore? Did I offend them in the last post?

My good friend Michael Katz says he used to cringe when people unsubscribed, but not so much anymore. Michael says that paying attention to unsubscribes is not productive.

One of his subscribers, Ira Bryck explains why

At a Constant Contact event she asked the speaker how to raise your open rate. The speaker replied “clean your list.”

The people who are not your natural customers are doing you no good, and by playing to them, you dilute your message.

She gave another example using her family’s 4th generation children’s clothing store. Her mother would say “if everyone goes out with something, you’re overstocked.” You can’t possibly be a match with everyone.

Many of us are familiar with the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – one of which is – don’t take anything personally.


This is easier said than done. Like my best friend Rox would tell you – “It’s about me – It’s PERSONAL!” 🙂

But I do get it. In taking the fact that someone unsubscribed from my list personally means that I am making an assumption as to the why. (Which incidentally is another agreement lol)

I reached out to one unsubscriber and learned a lot from what she said. She was turned off by my including someone else’s approach to finding out more about who you are and she felt that my wisdom and authenticity was enough.

She also said something that Michael and Ira were saying but in her own way:

I want you to keep giving your wisdom to those who need it most.

I don’t know who those folks are – those that need it most. But you know who you are.

What I do know is WHO I AM and what I am here to do and so I will continue doing that while working on the part of me that feels slighted when someone unsubscribes! I am after all…a work in progress. 🙂



Enjoyed this post? Get future posts plus ideas that I don’t share on this blog emailed to you

Image from

Did I Do MY BEST Today?

mocha momentsAfter reading a post today by Dan Waldschmidt called ‘The Only Question Worth Answering” it got me thinking of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of which states ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST.

Dan says that asking the question “Did I do my best?” at the end of each day is the only one worth asking.key chain

If I had to answer that question today it would be “No.”

I did a lot of stuff – some things connected to a bigger picture, some things to make me feel a little more settled but as far as MY BEST is concerned …”No.”

Doing ones best must be in relation to a point of some sort. What’s the point of all that you’re doing every day? Dan points out sometimes that isn’t always clear.  Sometimes in our busyness and fear what comes naturally is to go through the motions.

And so day after day, instead of moving towards where you want to be, you avoid any obstacle that makes it harder for you to “get through the day”.

If you’re willing to live your life with clarity – seeing what is TRULY IMPORTANT to you, and as Dr Maria Nemeth says “create a game worth playing and goals worth playing for” then you will know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing and you will put in your daily best effort to ensure that you do what you say you’re going to do.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do – Mark Twain

Did YOU do YOUR BEST today? What was the POINT of all that you did?

Image from



Are You REALLY Taking Care of Yourself?

“If you a fly gal get your nails done
Get a pedicure, get your hair did…”

Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliot was talking about one kind of self care. Many ladies get their ‘hair did’ at least once a week. Pedicures perhaps less frequently but finger nails have to be done because they’re on show all the time. We haven’t even begun to talk about massages and facials. But is that the full length and breadth of self care?

What about regular checkups – our eyes, teeth and body? And all the other things that are being recommended – mammograms, pap smears, tests for diabetes etc? Are we exercising as we should, eating the right foods and getting enough rest?

Are these the things that sprung to mind when I asked the question: are you REALLY taking care of yourself?

An interesting shift occurred for me recently regarding self care. There were so many things that I viewed as ‘taking away’ from my time and not that they would make my own eventual experience and existence BETTER! I was feeling like I shouldn’t have to be doing certain things because I had that ‘sense of entitlement’ chip on my shoulder.

Then I began to examine self care a little more deeply. I realized that I needed to take care of myself in order to take care of everything else. I’ve been great for instance, at nourishing my mind but have been neglecting my body both in both eating choices and regular exercise.

In my journal I jotted down a few other descriptions of self care that came immediately to me:

Self care means making the best choices that support my peace and make me feel better about myself long term

Self care means discipline – doing what I NEED to do WHEN I plan to do it

Self care means making the very best use of my time

Self care means giving myself a reasonable time to complete tasks

Self care means being prepared

Self care means embracing change and allowing myself to be flexible

And finally –

Self care means keeping all agreements I make with myself.

Think about that last sentence.

How many times have we said we’re going to start exercising come Monday morning/afternoon (it’s almost always on a Monday) and then find reasons not to?

How many times do we say “well from tomorrow I am no longer going to eat as many chocolates/doughnuts/pancakes/waffles/M&Ms/whatever” and then tomorrow comes and we can’t believe that the doughnut just stuck to our fingers and wouldn’t let go?

How many times do we decide to fold laundry, do the dishes, complete the assignment, make the call and then put it off? William James says “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” Yet we do it all the time to the detriment of our own self care.

What I realized is that broken agreements steal our peace. In his book “The Four Agreements” Don Miguel Ruiz gives us what could very well be our code for life:

agreement 1 Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

agreement 2 Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

agreement 3 Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

agreement 4  Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

These agreements are not easy to keep but just think what a big difference it would make in our own lives if we only said what we meant? That would clear up all the misunderstandings and all the ill feelings we feel when we tell half truths and outright lies including those we tell ourselves. I guess what we don’t realize is how much of our peace we steal by making and breaking promises to ourselves. So the next time you are about to make a promise – really think about what you are promising – think about what would happen to you if you break the promise – and opt for excellent self care – knowing that the choice you make serves your purpose and values well and preserves your ultimate peace!

Never Apologize (in this context)…

I’m reading Julia Child’s “My Life in France” with Alex Prud’homme.

At a recent business event, I got up to make a comment. With my sore throat, I first apologized because my voice was hoarse. On getting back to my table, this woman who I had only met that morning said to me – “What you apologized for? You made a great point. You should have just got right into it.”

Julia child said this about the meal of eggs Florentine that she made for a friend Winnie …”We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine.”

She went on to explain why…

“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self deprecations such as “Oh, I don’t know how to cook…,” or “Poor little me…,” or “This may taste awful…,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is nor not. Besides such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, “Yes, you’re right, this really IS an awful meal!”

I can certainly think of many more instances in my life when I apologized – part wanting to have the approval of the person I was apologizing to or to get my ego stroked and hear them tell me – “No you were really good.”

I have to agree with Julia – no apology required.

You need to be confident in your own abilities. Do your own assessment. Know whether something you’re doing could have been done better, different, etc.

In preparation for a recent public speaking event, I practiced several hours a day. Poor Anastasia, who heard my presentation no less than ten times and Roxanne who had to sit through it just the day before the actual delivery. And poor me because I was reciting it over and over going to sleep, and while driving (making sure I had headphones on so folks wouldn’t think I was mad – talking to myself [as if they cared] 🙂 )

On the actual day, following my presentation I was happy with myself. I had delivered as I had rehearsed and was exceedingly pleased with my performance. Because of the hours that went into preparation, I didn’t find myself this time asking opinions of others as to what they thought, or how did it go. People did come up and compliment me but it really didn’t matter.

For the first time I understood Don Miguel Ruiz’s agreement: Don’t take ANYTHING personally – including compliments.

You should never allow someones opinion to affect you as if EVERYTHING depended on that opinion. Don’t put people in positions where they feel they have to lie to make you feel better.

Julia says “Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is”…and I say, usually you’re much better at ‘whatever it is’ than you think you are.

“And if the food is truly vile,” she continues “as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile – and learn from her mistakes.”

And I agree with you wholeheartedly here as well Julia – All we can do is to learn, should we fail or falter.

Only Ask the Question if you REALLY are Ready for the Answer…

Just had an interesting exchange with a security guard in Port of Spain. I parked adjacent to this building, let into the lot by someone who was on their way out. Only after did I realize that people parking on this side would have remote controls for the gate. As I was leaving I walked over to the guard booth – and in my most apologetic voice explained to the guard that I didn’t realize that there was a general parking lot and that I had parked in the wrong place and if he could let me out. I smiled too because an old man in the office I visited had just asked me “yuh doh smile” so I decided that perhaps smiling might work in my favor.

Well the guard looked up at me from his food and sucked his teeth so loud that I physically moved back a pace or two. And then I meekly offered “Is this upsetting to you?” Not the best comment at this point in hindsight but the words were already out of my mouth when he said “Yes! Because I am eating!”

Now I have to confess that when I asked him whether my request was upsetting, I had already figured that his response might be of the polite variety saying something like “nah is small ting – doh worry about it.”

As I thanked him and drove off I thought about how often we ask questions and get back responses that we didn’t expect and then react to those responses based on what we assumed would be the response

Milton Jones who worked with me at WASA laboratory back in the day used to say “Is de change from de dollar does bring de row!”

I was taken aback at how truthful the guard was but then again why?

If we follow Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements we will learn never to make assumptions.

And I’ll add to that – only ask the question if you REALLY are ready for the answer.

Be more like teflon – not Velcro

In his post ‘Calm as a Monk: How Equanimity Can Save Your Sanity’ Leo Babauta talks about being like Teflon.

“Let things roll off you. Understand that there will always be people who are angry or rude or who are having a bad day. Their problems do not have to be yours. If they are mean, you don’t need to be mean also. Let their anger and comments and meanness roll off you like water on a duck’s back. Only by letting them engage you will you allow that anger to take seed in your body and grow. If you can let it roll off you, and ignore it, and smile, things will often get better.”

Then I read in another post – Even a Duck Can Drown that there are certain key elements that a duck needs to develop water resilience!

Which brings me to Velcro. If you find that you are holding onto things then you need to shed your “Velcro mentality”. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz talks about not taking anything personally. ANYTHING. Even if you are complimented. This means no attachment, one way or the other.

Equation: (Teflon + (Duck x water resilience) – “Velcro Mentality”) THOUGHTS = A better life journey.