Wanna Change the World?

Here’s an obvious statement – entrepreneurs want to build successful businesses. But there’s something more that drives many of us. In some cases this objective is just as important as building the business itself. It’s a notion that invokes strong emotions and can be a driving force. Yes, many entrepreneurs want to make a difference in the world. They want to help change lives in a positive way. This is especially true of the millennial generation but also strikes a multi-generational chord for many.

While making a difference sounds great, how do we go about creating a company that does good work? A strong set of core values and a vision that embraces changing the world are critical factors. But to truly move forward to effectively and sustainably implement this concept we must start . . . with ourselves. Making a difference must become a mindset and a lifestyle. Think about it this way. If we want to lose weight permanently we don’t go on a diet, we change our lifestyle. It works the same way when we want to make a difference – we must change our lifestyle.

There is a simple yet powerful method that will help us move in the direction we desire. It revolves around a daily journal that we keep in which we record each attempt we make to do something that positively impacts one or more people. Here’s something else to think about. Making a difference doesn’t have to involve massive sweeping changes in the world. It starts with a lot of little steps that eventually have a cumulative effect. One of the mistakes that lead to frustration for entrepreneurs is believing that they can be the catalyst for major transformations overnight. Sure, every once in a while this can happen. But shooting for the stars without enough fuel is certainly going to end up in a fizzling disappointment.

What sort of baby steps should we be taking to develop a difference-making lifestyle and mindset? Look at all of the opportunities we have to make a positive impact on the lives of others every single day. In the restaurant where we are having breakfast or lunch, we can compliment our waitperson on providing excellent service. We can hold the door open so that another person can enter or exit. Perhaps we even anonymously pay for someone else’s meal in that restaurant from time-to-time. Maybe we handwrite a thank-you note to someone who has done something nice for us. Or we call a person with best wishes for their birthday. Do we always remember to acknowledge others with a smile and a warm greeting when we see them? Are our “please” and “thank you” manners always on display?

The little every day habits we develop to brighten the day of another individual are foundational toward taking bigger steps. Suppose one of our team members is apparently in distress. We can lend a sympathetic ear. Volunteering is a terrific way to make a positive difference in the lives we touch and can run the gamut of activities. Helping at a homeless shelter, mentoring other entrepreneurs, reading to sick kids in a children’s hospital and providing assistance to scouting organizations are examples of such bigger steps.

To keep ourselves on track, we utilize the Daily Difference Journal to record what we have done each day toward our lifestyle change. While it may seem trite to make an entry like, “told Olivia that her smile brightened the day,” the act of keeping such a tally reinforces the intentionality of our desire to do good things for our world. Repeating this process day-in and day-out helps set the pattern that we desire. Initially it pushes us to remember to look for opportunities to say and do things that create a positive experience for others. Eventually it becomes second nature and we don’t have to remember anything. We simply live each day looking for ways to make others happy and live better lives.

Making a difference in the world is a terrific benefit of being an entrepreneur. A Daily Difference Journal puts us on the path to accomplishing this with gusto!

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 55 – F-.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Charm School

I’ve always believed that the more successful we are the more humble we should be. Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to be fabulously successful in many different ways. And sometimes we may be viewed in a negative light by others who envy our success. That’s why it’s important that we not project the least bit of arrogance or haughtiness. One of the best ways to combat this perception is to go out of our way to practice the little courtesies in life.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize what a positive difference such courtesies can make in the lives of others. It’s one thing to be interacting personally with someone else and say please and thank you. But how well do we use these words in our e-mail conversations? Here’s a suggestion. Look through the recent “Sent Items” in your e-mail account and intentionally look for instances where you could have said “please and thank you.” Did you? Courteously asking someone to provide information or assistance in some way feels better to others than being “commanded” to do so.

My dad taught me to always hold doors open for others. As a kid, I became quite a doorman. This has certainly carried over into my adult life and it feels good to be polite in this manner. This practice doesn’t need to be limited to building doors but also elevator doors. Rather than be the first person on or off the elevator, I prefer to hold the door to make sure others get on or off ahead of me. In this day and age does this really matter? Perhaps it doesn’t make a difference to most people, but for me it’s the right thing to do. My father always had a good sense about the things he taught me and I think his teachings are ageless.

Sometimes we can be so busy and single-minded that we may not even notice others around us and fail to offer them a friendly greeting. Trust me when I say that while we may not notice them, others certainly notice us when we don’t acknowledge them. In my office or wherever I go, I strive to look others in the eye and say hello. A firm handshake also provides a sense of connection and can help to put the recipient at ease.

In the old days there was a saying about Southern charm. And there is something charming about offering compliments to others. I have found that service providers in all walks of life are often overlooked in this regard. We tend to take their service for granted. I’ve made a concerted effort over the past several years of speaking to service providers and when warranted, complimenting them on their service. If a waitperson in a restaurant has served me well, I’ll say something like, “very nice work this evening.” This statement is made at the same time that I look them in the eye, smile and shake their hand. If the service was really great, I find their supervisor and reiterate the compliment to that person. Recently I was in a restaurant where the food was exquisite. I asked my server to send out the chef if he was not too busy. I then proceeded to tell him what a fabulous meal he had prepared – I thought he was going to cry!

Here are a few other little tidbits. Drop a short handwritten thank-you note to someone with whom you’ve met or with whom you’ve dined – especially if you did so in their home or they paid the bill in a restaurant. An e-mail conveying the same message only gets us halfway there. When invited to someone’s home for dinner, don’t forget to take flowers, a bottle of wine, fine hand soap, or some other token of appreciation. I wish every high school senior had to take a Miss Manners class. The world would certainly be a much more polite and courteous place to live.

The last thing in the world we want is to step on someone’s feelings and have them think we’re an arrogant “high and mighty” so-and-so. By putting the needs of others first and being gracious we will have nothing to fear in this regard.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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