Sunday, December 21, 2014

Splendid Sundays Volume 161

A handful of splendid finds from around the worldwide web:

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Scotland. "Scotland’s same-sex marriage legislation is widely considered to be one of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world." [Equality Network]

Rent the Runway raised $60 million in venture capital. The company "shipped more volume in 2014 than in the previous four years combined." [The New York Times]

Kimpton Hotels is being acquired by InterContinental Hotel Groupcreating "over 200 open and pipeline hotels across 19 countries." [IHG]

Normcore: how a spoof marketing term grew into a fashion phenomenon. "The other thing this all taught me is that the media is incredibly thirsty. For anything." [The Guardian]

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Shortcuts and Being An Overnight Success

If you want to be an overnight success, you do the work day in and day out. You do the work that everyone else gives up on. You do the work that everyone else has mistakenly labeled a waste of time. You do the work even when you're convinced that everyone on Twitter and Instagram has figured out some foolproof system that they haven't clued you in on. You do the work even when it is boring. You do the work even when you don't feel like it and would rather curl up under a blanket on the couch with a cup of tea and Netflix.

Then one day, out of nowhere, you will be labeled an overnight success. A door will open to a new hallway with new doors bearing new opportunities. You will still have to do the work to open these doors, but they will swing a little more freely.

Everyone will want to know how exactly you got so lucky. How you found the shortcut to that hallway with those doors. And you will smile because you know the answer isn't one they want to hear.

The shortcut is doing the work.

Originally published January 2013

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Brand Confusion and Competition

When speaking with entrepreneurs, I almost always ask who they consider to be their competitors. After hearing their list, which is usually off base, I'll ask, "What about Company X?"

"No, no, no," comes the reply. "We do not compete at all. We were first/we have a different service or product/we are better."

Sorry, but you don't get to decide whether or not you compete with Company X. The marketplace does. And the market often does not take into consideration the differences you are citing. This is especially true in the wedding industry where repeat clients are low and the typical client only pays attention to bridal marketing for about 9-18 months. If potential clients think you offer the same thing that another company does, that is all that matters.

If you want the world to see that you offer something head and shoulders above the rest, then you need to be honest about when and where brand confusion is happening. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending it's not is a losing game.

This is harder than it seems: too often, when companies realize they are being lumped together with someone else, they tend to get louder, flashier and more gimmicky. Focus on being unique, not on being different. Being somewhat similar is not the sin of competition. Not being true to your core is.

Originally published November 2011

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On the Bigger Picture

photo

While the late Fall and Winter holiday season is focused on gratitude, joy and generosity, it's also typically the most stressful time of year for many people. They're also known for being mentally and emotionally tough for many as well.

I took the above photo with my phone on a flight into Chicago in 2010. While the sky above the clouds was blue and vast, the people in the Windy City below were experiencing a gloomy, grey, stormy morning. I love that the photo is a reminder that grey skies aren't the whole picture.

Originally published November 2010

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

13 Ways To Prevent Burnout

In 2008 I wrote a series called "Lessons in Burnout" with insights gleaned from a previous experience of not just burning out, but burning to an unrecognizable crisp. Working in a high-touch, highly personalized industry like weddings  — where purchase decisions are driven more by emotion than in any other field — makes a person more susceptible to burnout. Burnout is a slippery slope and one we often don't see coming until it's too late.

Working to make the world a better place through change or celebration is admirable, but a savior complex is not. You can’t do everything and you aren’t meant to (that cheesy line, "We're meant to be human beings, not human doings" is true). Neglecting your own family to help other families isn't admirable and means you’re halfway down the slippery slope to burnout if not engulfed in the flames already.

I certainly don't have everything figured out, but here are some things I've learned as someone who has personally been through burnout before and who has worked hard to avoid it ever since. None of these insights are earth shattering, but there may be one or two you're currently avoiding that can help make 2015 better:

Take care of your brain. Your brain is in your body. Take care of your body.

Eat breakfast. Drink water. Take vitamins.

Eat well. I tend to follow Michael Pollan’s three rules: eat real food (aka pronounceable ingredients), mostly plants, not too much. At the same time, there is no "organic Oreo" that tastes as good as the real thing in all its processed chemical glory. For some people, "all or nothing" works well. For others, being stringent and then having a cheat day works. For me, a loose 80/20 rule of moderation is what works best.

Exercise. I typically do a mix of pilates, spin, hiking and yoga at home, but prefer the Ballet Beautiful workouts when traveling because they can be accessed from any device and done in a hotel room.

Live beyond the end of your driveway. Give to charities that are tackling issues you’re passionate about, not necessarily the ones that will bring you the best PR. Create a Kiva account for each of your kids and let them choose who should receive the investment and reinvestments each time. Get involved in something bigger than yourself and your family. (This may seem like it contradicts what I said about neglecting your own family to help other families, but it doesn’t. Becoming completely self-focused and insular doesn’t help you either.)

Plan your days, but hold those plans loosely. Productivity is great, turning productivity into an idol is not. There’s a quote by Alain de Botton that I love because it is true, true, true: “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” Set goals and make plans, for sure, but don’t delude yourself into thinking your fancy planner or high-tech app will control all the curveballs life throws your way.

Create financial margin. As much as possible, stay debt-free or work to get there. Put money in savings. This may not be easy, but it’s not impossible. Married or single, parent or childless, everyone has expenses you don’t know about. Comparing yourself to others in this area will poison your mindset and prevent you from accomplishing your goals.

Start liking Mondays. Mondays represent a clean slate and fresh start. We all have days we dislike our jobs, but for many people what we do is a dream job. If you dread going to work each week, consider what needs to happen in order to transition to something else and start working toward that.

If you're considering hiring a life coach, spend the money on a licensed therapist instead. (A side note: we all have issues — some we don't even know exist — and there is no shame in a commitment to living as a whole person. If this is a concept you're still wrapping your head around, start out with BrenĂ© Brown's books, The Gifts of Imperfection or Daring Greatly, which are both based on scientific research and not sketchy pop psychology.)

Keep a gratitude journal. Paper or phone app, doesn’t matter. If you’re glad for something, write it down, no matter how small or dumb it seems. I literally have “glitter” as an entry in mine because glitter is fun and cheerful and abundant this time of year so, yes, I am thankful for it.

Listen as if you’re wrong. This doesn’t mean compromising your values. It means leaning into the mystery of life and operating from a core belief that you may not have everything 100% figured out.

Use social media to expand your point of view, not to keep up with the Joneses (my friend Marcy calls this "compare and despair"). Twitter has exploded over the past twelve months with people who use it to share thought leadership rather than for self-promotion, so there's plenty to choose from in whatever subject you're interested in. Your brain processes social media as an in-person interaction, so if it's constantly draining you, change who you follow.

Take a real vacation. Easier said than done and probably the one I struggle with the most. Destination weddings and business fam trips or conferences are not vacations, even if they’re fun (work is supposed to be fun). A self-described workaholic friend of mine in his fifties once told me that he and his wife never regretted taking a vacation but there were several over the years that they regretted not taking.