It’s All about Attitude

attitudesmileySo much of what we experience in life cannot be controlled.  We have so many things that happen to us, and often circumstances that are completely outside of our ability to predict or persuade.  Life comes down to one simple “game changer” – attitude.

I went to lunch the other day, just to get out of the office, out from underneath the fluorescent lights, and to take a break from my work routines.  I hopped on my Electra Glide, cranked up the CCR, and I ended up at one of my favorite eating spots, a nearby Chipotle restaurant.  Their food is generally fresh, always with a consistent flavor and inexpensive, and their service (it’s pretty casual) is quick and reliable.  Then there was this one employee.

This guy was great– I observed him, a Chipotle employee, as he hustled between tables, picking up after others, wiping down surfaces and throwing away trash.  He was careful to work around those at lunch, making sure none of us were impacted by his movements.  He was polite- asking each of us there how our day was going, how we liked the food, and whether or not there was anything else we needed.  I was impressed by his attitude and his sincerity.

Here was a guy, I’m guessing in his early 20’s, working hard, working smart and working with a positive attitude.  He wasn’t complaining about his job, or his pay, or his hours.  He wasn’t necessarily giddy, but he was upbeat, personable and friendly- all great qualities, and qualities that are often no where near an hourly employee at a fast food establishment-it’s a tough, thankless job (a couple of my kids have had similar jobs, as did I during my college days-making sandwiches at the local Hickory Farms in Lynchburg, VA.).  As I departed, the guy saw me leaving (he was wiping down tables outside) and told me to have a great day- and thanked me for stopping in.  What? A thank you for eating there at Chipotle?  I couldn’t believe it!

The whole lunch experience was valuable to me- yes, I was hungry too, and Chipotle took care of that for me, but more than just the food- the insight I received from watching this guy was tremendous and really, for me, a good swift kick in my backside…  So much of life is all about our attitude.

Listen, there’s no way for you to change what you cannot control- that’s a universal truism we can all relate to.  The only thing we can do is continually dial up our attitude-when times get tough, crank up the positivity and focus on solutions.  When customers complain, address their need, and dialog with them (and listen, really listen), and win them over.  Something needs to get fixed “now” at work- roll up your sleeves, build a solution and get it done.  Stay positive, be thankful, look forward and not behind-make a difference with all that you do, and by all means, help others around you to do the same, and you’ll experience amazing results.  Thanks Chipotle guy- for sharing your attitude!

Face (to Face) Time

Jetson imageI’ve had the benefit of living through some glorious times, in terms of technology.  And I freely admit that I am a bit of of a techie nerd (it’s a good thing) when it comes to trying new things–I’ve never shied away from exploration of the “latest and greatest” in the world of technology.

I remember back to my childhood, and the first microwave oven my parents brought home.  It was huge, had large dials on the front, and had a definite humming noise when in operation.  Unlike most of my family members, I relished the chance to use it and cook the “heck” out of anything that need to be heated.  I can also recall the first time my family had cable television, our first VHS tape player, and hours spent playing Pong (the original upright video arcade game, as well as the cool, black and silver home unit with the built-in large dials, which my parents still have tucked away for me in their attic–what is it about dials?)…later, during one of my brief stints working for my father’s printing company, I remember convincing (arguing?) him into purchasing his first ever fax (“facsimile”- love that word) machine for his business, and why it was important to have one–true story.

I’ve always enjoyed getting to know technology and how to use it.  Of course, in more recent history, we’ve become accustomed to much better (maybe?) technology, right in our hands, with our smart phones and tablets.  One of the apps, Apple’s “FaceTime”, with its ability to allow the user to have video enabled calls between each other, is such an example.

Recently, I found myself, along with a colleague, on a quick trip to El Paso, Texas, to visit with one of our key partners that assists our company with the management and distribution of our products.  It’s a relatively new relationship, borne out of necessity at the start of this calendar year, and we wanted to tour the facility and meet with our account person and his company president.  We had an opportunity to view our inventory, look briefly at their processes, and discuss future business requirements.  More importantly, though, in my mind, was the need for real, in-person “face time”.

Having a discussion, or meeting, directly with those involved in any particular aspect of your business is key to successful communication.  Video calls, emails, text, even telephone calls, cannot substitute what I refer to as “the intangible nature of being present“.  The value of such activity cannot be measured.

If you simply don’t agree with me on this point, so be it. But before you dismiss my statement entirely, consider these aspects of direct communication and it’s impact:

  1.  Direct, personal communication conveys an element of importance to the parties involved.  Our time is limited in this incredibly fast paced world today, and anyone that carves out a piece of their schedule to do this activity effectively states “this is important stuff”.
  2. Some elements of communication cannot be conveyed by emoticons.  Hopefully I’m not offending my millennium generation coworkers with that statement, but it’s true.  Body language, tone inflection, visible facial expressions, etc.- all small things that together can assist in good, clear communication.  You can’t do that through a text message or email. It’s just not the same thing.
  3. There’s a human aspect to real, face-to-face time.  You get to know the people better, and at the end of the proverbial day, with all our discussion about process, system integration, big data analytics, blah, blah, blah- it’s still about people.  Don’t lose sight of that, please.  Technology can and should provide us with lots of great and insightful tools to improve our lives and our businesses, but it’s the people behind those tools that really move us forward.
  4. You learn new ideas and information by meeting in person with someone.  There’s a three dimensional aspect to this type of communication and sharing of information that doesn’t always happen when using the two dimensional tech as a replacement.  I’m not sure how to fully describe this other than to say that being in communication with another individual or team, “in person” opens up a larger, more creative flow of information–new ideas come about, people key on each others thoughts in the moment, there’s a synergy (sorry, but I had to use that word) that truly occurs.

Before you run off to a business trip, consider your goals, consider your timing, consider your budget and consider the impact to your schedule (or that of your team), but by all means, please consider making full use of in-person communication when possible and practical to do so.  Putting effort into our level of communication, our investment in those around us, will help to yield tremendous results for us both personally and professionally.



Mental Exercise

crossfitI’m not in great shape.  I’m not completely out of shape either.  I’m somewhere in the middle, you know the spot, between athlete and armchair quarterback.  I was active through most of my early life, and played sports through college.  Even after getting married and having a family, I managed to stay active in local basketball leagues for quite some time, usually playing against younger challengers and doing reasonably well.

I have what many would consider a “desk job” for the most part, but because I like to stay busy, I tend to only be in front of my computer screen during the day about 30% of the time.  The rest of the time I try to move around, working with my co-workers in the warehouse operations, or with our customer service reps, or another member of the management team.  On the weekends, I stay active, working on my own landscaping, or washing one of the cars, or organizing the garage, fixing an appliance, whatever is on the “to do” list for the weekend.

My wife recently signed me up for a free class at a local “crossfit” gym.  She really wanted me to try it out, and reluctantly I agreed to go.  Wow….I’m still feeling it today even as I write this post.  Crossfit training is a fairly recent trend in exercise that combines some traditional equipment (balance bars and medicine balls) with everyday types of exercise (squats, push ups, running, sit ups, etc.), paced in such a way to work up your cardio and get you moving and sweating.

It was painful….in many ways.  Sure, it was painful on a purely physical level, and I was challenged to really move my body in ways it hadn’t been challenged in quite some time.  But even more importantly, I was challenged mentally and emotionally, in a way I hadn’t expected.  As I moved into the routine for the evening, I could sense my body fighting to get through the exercises and keep up with the rest of the group (who, by the way, were all closer to my kids ages than my own).  But mentally, in my head there was an all out war being waged.  It was as you’d expect, thoughts of “you can’t do this” battling with “keep going, you can do this”…back and forth.  Equally at odds were thoughts of “this isn’t so tough” and “you’re almost there” versus “your knee is going to give out” and “why are you killing yourself with this stuff”.

I came away with thoughts at the end of the night that stayed with me the next morning.  I realized that the mental challenge was way more difficult to get through than the physical challenge.  Sure, I need to exercise, and the benefits of such a program seemed pretty obvious–improved flexibility, weight control, improved overall strength and conditioning–but what was really interesting to me was the mental aspect of pushing myself through the physical activity.

Mental toughness is a key ingredient found in nearly every successful venture. It’s a necessary component of anything worth doing right, whether in life, business, relationships, all of the above.  Physical challenges will vary from person to person, and to be sure, I was probably more challenged than most in my class that evening.  But more importantly, we all shared a common ground–the battle within, the mental game.

As you face your day, be aware that overcoming the mental blocks, the mental “what if’s”, the fears of failure, the self-doubting at times, these are worth focusing on and finding strength to overcome.  If you can get past the mental challenge to the work you face, the obstacles blocking your success will be much easier to overcome.  Remind yourself whatever the challenge you face that you aren’t alone, that others have gone through your particular challenge, or are facing a similar task, and know that “it” can be done, whatever the “it” is.  Pushing through the negative thoughts is half the battle.  Getting the job done is other half, but really, when you consider it all, actually doing the job is the downhill portion of the trip.  If you can set your mind on your challenge with the view that you can and will accomplish the task, you’re likely to be that much more successful in whatever the challenge you face.