The car mirror approach to life

You know how your car has a sticker on the side mirror that says "objects are closer than they appear"? This is actually a good reminder for life in general. Things are rarely what they seem.

I just returned home from an advanced screening of the film, "People Like Us" with Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much from it. However, I was pleasantly surprised and I loved the ending. I don't want to give away the good stuff, but there was one scene where Chris Pine lamented that his dad always sat in the car when he took him to the park as a kid. This story was meant to illustrate the distance in their relationship; how his dad wasn't close to him. Enter the metaphoric car mirror. Objects are closer than they appear. In fact, there was more to the story than Chris' character realized and the situation was much more complicated than he knew. (I really want to tell you more about the park, but I don't want to ruin it for you if you see the film!)

In any case, after I left the movie theater I started to ponder how quickly we all jump to conclusions about people. Stan is cranky in the mornings at work, so he's a jerk. Sarah always declines your lunch invitation, so she must be stuck up. But, is there, perhaps, more to the story? 

What if Stan is cranky in the morning because he's up every night taking care of his invalid wife, whom he loves deeply? What is Sarah turns down your lunch invitations because all her spare money goes to pay for therapy for her troubled son? Hmm. Stan's not such a bad guy and Sarah's not a snob anymore, are they?

Whether it be in the workplace or in our personal lives, we all form opinions based on very few facts. That's something I would love to see change. They say you don't know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes. And, that is so true. We all have our baggage, challenges, and obstacles. Some openly share the drama of their everyday lives and others live lives of quiet desperation.

The next time you're quick to gossip at the water cooler in the break room or to form an uncomplimentary opinion about someone, stop and think. Do you really know the whole story? And, is the whole story even your business? Things are frequently not what they seem--and objects may be closer than they appear. 

Give 'em what they want

As a business owner, entrepreneur, consultant, or employee, we all have our own agendas. Sometimes we set those priorities ourselves and, other times, they come from above. But, they're always there. We need to move that inventory, push this service, promote that product, and get people to do what we want them to. But, what ever happened to listening to what our customers and clients actually want?

On Mother's Day, I wanted to take my mom to a fancy brunch and then out for a spa day. Sounds delightful, right? A swanky day for the two of us. How could she not be thrilled? When I presented her with my plans for the day, her response was less than enthusiastic. Her counter proposal? Come over with a pizza and then have me assemble this big audio cabinet that's been sitting in her den in a box for the last two years. Of course, since it was Mother's Day, I obliged.

Four hours and nearly 200 parts later, I had my mom's cabinet assembled. Was it how I anticipated spending Mother's Day? No. Was it what my mother really, really wanted? Yes. Within two minutes of me finishing the project, she had a big smile on her face as she scampered about the house grabbing things to put in her new cabinet.

On Mother's Day, my mom was my customer. She wanted; I listened. And, she was happy. So, why don't more of us listen when it comes to our businesses?

Sure, we all have a bottom line to meet and some things we enjoy more than others. But, if we're not in business to make our customers happy, it's all a waste of time.

Look at your business closely. And, most importantly, put on your listening ears. What are people telling you? What would make their lives easier, happier, and more fulfilling? They're showing you what they want each and every day with the actions they take, or don't take. Listen to them. And, then be a hero and give 'em what they want.

Authenticity is the secret sauce

It's a new world out there. We're all online and everything we do in the social networking space cements our professional reputations and our personal brands. What we say, how we say it, and the actions we take define us--and all the world is watching. But, how real is what you're putting out there?

This week, 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord made headlines when she tweeted a photo of herself without a stitch of makeup. She made a surprising move and shared her authentic self with the masses. Blemishes and all. Do you share just as openly?

Left: AnnaLynne McCord with makeup and hairstyling. Right: AnnaLynne au natural. 

When we blog, tweet, podcast, or do other things online, we're trying to brand ourselves by creating an image. That public image, however, is sometimes very different than our authentic selves. Behind the metaphoric makeup, we all have imperfections.

Your professional goals may be to become the next Darren Rowse or Mari Smith, but it's not gonna happen. Know why? Only Darren is Darren and only Mari is Mari. To try to be them is nothing other than a goal to be a cheap knock-off. Instead of being them, shouldn't you be the best version of you? And that doesn't mean more mascara or a flashier website.

So, here's the reality. We all work hard to perfect that public image; to ensure we're portrayed in the best light possible. But, instead of worrying about the spin, how about being real? The truth is being authentic is powerful. It's something that makes people relate to you, cheer for you, support you, and remember you.

Regardless of what you put out there to maintain your image, there's no hiding from who you really are. You know yourself better than anyone. Why not share that person--the real you--with the world? Flaws and all. You may be surprised by how liberating and empowering a little authenticity can be. 
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