Versus: Winning in Communities

Winning vs Losing

When we play a game, we understand there’s a chance we will lose. We want to win, because winning gives us opportunities to become the champion, to become more popular, to have more power.

There is a lot to be said about winning.

Look for quotes about winning and you’ll find one for every situation:

“Winner takes all.”

“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

When it comes to communities, though, winning takes on a different meaning.

In order for a community to win, there must be a different approach to winning.

One in which the idea of winning doesn’t measure success by how many losers they’ve left in their path to the top.

Too many losers in the community brings everyone down, which leads to an unhealthy, or even toxic environment in which no one thrives, limiting the chances the community will win.

A community — big or small — is responsible for creating an environment that measures success differently.

Sentiment, quality of life, reputation, culture, accessibility, just to name a few.

In order to improve these areas, communities need leaders who recognize that you can’t use the same metrics for quality of life for everyone. Each member of the community has different needs.

If the community leaders focus too much in one direction, focusing on the tangible, easy to see measurements of success, they will easily forget that there are the less visible, non-obvious aspects of their community that will begin to decline.

It’s easy to rattle off the wins. To show the great strides being made in unemployment, or real estate development.

But the hard work starts when we want to improve things that are harder to measure. Sentiment, quality of life (for everyone?) reputation, culture, accessibility.

It’s a place most winners don’t want to go. Because they are unsure how they will be able to win, in a game that has no clear grid for measuring success.

It’s easier to focus on what we’re good at, than it is to find a way to become better at the things we are not. But this is a fallacy —  this is how we become (and stay) mediocre.

In the end, if we want our community to win, we have to look beyond the easy to see, easy to measure, and start to find ways to improve the things that will impact our community in more subtle, less obvious ways.

And, this might mean losing for awhile. But if the end game is a better community, the results of the effort will be more winning.

The legacy of our community, then, will be one that serves the future generations — with strength, resilience — valuing the hard work it takes to do the best thing for the community they will soon serve as leaders.

If we’re playing to win, we have to remember – We are all on the same team.

Empathy for the Bridge Troll

We all remember the story of the Troll who lived under the bridge and refused to allow the Three Billy Goats to pass, when they arrived at the bridge. They wanted cross in order to enjoy the green grass on the other side of the bridge.But instead of letting them pass, he threatened to eat them. The first two Billy Goats convinced the troll to let them pass, promising him that their big brother was bigger, and would be a much more satisfying meal. Of course, when the third goat arrives, he was big enough and fast enough to take the troll out.

And that’s the sad end of the story for the troll.

There’s little concern or consideration for the troll in the story.

But what if we did consider the troll?

Why is he so mean? Who taught him to be so mean? Why does he just sit under the bridge? Doesn’t he have a home? What does he stand to gain? Is it just because he’s hungry? Or does he get satisfaction from the fact that he can scare the smaller goats? Isn’t there some kindness in the fact that he did let the first two go? Why is he tricked by the first two goats to allow himself to be met with the largest of them all only to be obliterated because the third goat was able to knock him off the bridge?

Of course, it’s silly to go through this exercise with the troll in the folktale, but what about the trolls in every day life?

I recently had the opportunity to meet someone in real life that I had previously regarded as a social media troll, because of his comments on Facebook about a particular topic, on which we were opposed.

The circumstances of why we were meeting were not the best, but we both recognized that there was a human being on the other side of the screen. And we met, discussed the issue, and discovered we had quite a bit in common. At the end, a friendship seemed possible, and empathy prevailed.

I’m so grateful for that experience — but I realize it’s not always possible to come face to face with the person who seems to have no other desires than to pick fights online. Much like the Troll on the bridge.

But what if we ask ourselves the questions I posed about the Troll? Why is this person so mean? What is behind their behavior? Were they given all of the love, attention and guidance that I was as a child? Are they struggling financially? Is their relationship on the rocks? Are they dealing with a dying parent, or mourning the loss of a loved one? Are they covering a fear by acting this way?

The Internet, in the hands of people without empathy, dehumanizes us. It allows us to forget that there is a person on the other side of those words. And, it’s so much easier (and satisfying) to go head to head with them and try to knock them off the bridge.

After all, who do they think they are? What gives them the right to be so outrageous? Our sense of right vs wrong and our desire to seek justice, and defend our good name takes over and we allow the trolls to have the power — even though what they probably are seeking is validation, love, attention. Not power.

What if they don’t even realize the impact their words or actions are having on you? What if, it’s not even personal?

Could you, would you be willing to let them have a pass. To let it go, to not take it personally, and just see them as someone who might be hurting?

Sure, there’s always an argument against this option. Bullies should be dealt with. I don’t condone the actions of the would-be trolls who create drama and toxicity to our social streams.

But, what if you invited them to coffee — instead of engaging in an online war that, most likely, no one will win, and will definitely force you to waste precious time.

Don’t worry if the troll has the last word. At some point, the biggest billy goat is going to come along, and that will be the end of the story.

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Small Business Saturday?? No thank you…Let’s look at this differently; Small Small Everyday

Take a moment to imagine Lakeland without any of our small, local businesses. Take away the Small Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, and those breaking out of the standard mold of a typical job. Think about our Downtown without our beloved coffee shops, salons, spas, boutique clothing stores, antique & consignment shops, restaurants, bars, the Farmer’s Market, our precious retail gift shops. Imagine them not being a part of the fabric of Lakeland. If there were not a strong presence of Lakeland Business Leaders supporting each other their as they are on their entrepreneurial journey. We would not be the city we are today.

Munn Park would be a different experience altogether. What would be left? What would our streets look like? Desolate, depressing, certainly not an integral part of the Lakeland economy, First Friday would not be a strategic part of many small business and non-profits marketing and advertising plan. 

Just how much of a presence and impact do small businesses have on our communities, our nation? The survival rate for new Small businesses is astounding,

According to the SBA:  79.9% of establishments started in 2014 survived until 2015, the highest share since 2005. From 2004 to 2014, an average of 78.5% of new establishments survived one year.

  • About half of all establishments survive five years or longer. In the past decade, this ranged from a low of 45.4% for establishments started in 2006, and a high of 51.4% for those started in 2011.
  • About one-third of establishments survive 10 years or longer.

So, as we all know once a year there is a strategic and specific focus on supporting Small Businesses, well known to most as Small Business Saturday, a nationally recognized holiday held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. American Express will send you free swag to promote your location and the day of shopping. It is a tremendous resource for the businesses participating! For many Small Businesses, it has now become a tradition, encouraging holiday shoppers to support local brick-and-mortar businesses rather than larger brands or online-only stores. The thought process, since the nation is poised ready to shop, let the Small Businesses get in on the action. While I like this idea, I think we need a majorshift to an ongoing initiative and allow Small Business Saturday be the culminating event! If our small communities are going to survive, we need to link arms and intentionally shop locally as much as we can.

Originally conceived and promoted by American Express back in 2010, Small Business Saturday last year alone attracted more than 88 million people to “shop small.”  But what exactly are the benefits of shopping small, and why should we as a Lakeland community and nation do it NOT just on Small Business Saturday but every day?

Small businesses support and give back to our community, that whole For Us By Us thought process applies here. 

When you support a local business, you’re also supporting us, our town, our city, our neighborhoods. Business pay sales taxes to the city and county the business is located in. When we shop in the larger business, that money isn’t benefiting our community at all. Plus, our local tax money is used to support public schools, parks, roads, and sidewalks, as well as fund public service workers.

Small businesses provide a different level of customer service, their local owners strive to survive and one of the biggest advantages they have over larger retailers is the ability to provide more personable, hands-on, and memorable customer service. I love walking in Downtown and being able to find Lakeland themed items, that adds such charm to the shopping experience! 

 

Small businesses create, sustain and add to our sense of community, we #lovelakeland!  When we get to know a small business owner in Lakeland, we create community and a bond that encourages us to shop “small” so that we can support our friend. It is a wonderful experience and provides the highest and utmost customer service when you walk into a shop where you are known personally or even a restaurant where the staff knows your preferences for your specific order. You’re going to feel amazing being treated very well by your local community that it will, in turn, bring you back to do more business.

This is a shift in our mindset, Shop Small/local first, and then if you can’t find what you need in those Small Businesses, go to the larger businesses.

Shop small often and with intentionality! Not just on Small Business Saturday, but every day that you can.

Share, Share, Share- Get social, be vocal!!! Go live and share your experience, take pictures and tag yourself at the location sharing your love for where you are! Post pictures, tweets, and status updates of yourself shopping at one, and be sure to use the hashtag #ShopSmall. Also, write positive reviews for the small businesses you love and support. Liking their page, a positive Yelp review, and a personal investment on your social media means a lot to Small Businesses. People do business with people they trust, and so that is why the referral system is so powerful. Give your support before it is solicited, add value back the retailer or restaurant you frequent so that they continue to thrive and are able to provide the services you love. 

All of this would lead to a fantastic culminating event we know as Shop Small Saturday! It not only could be culminating but the start of a new year with new clients. As the current clients/shoppers bring in family and friends, as we have holiday shoppers visiting from out of town, or those that are not yet ensconced in the Shop Small Culture. As we move forward there needs to be an intrinsic push into education, training, and valuable insight shared by experts, so that as our Small Business Communities needs grow and change, we as a community are not only supporting them monetarily, but with business insight, and resources to not only sustain these small businesses but have tremendous growth!

 

 

Are you Connectable?

I write a lot about the power of connection. It’s the foundation of many leaders’ stories of success. And, as they say, success leaves clues. So, as a detective, on the hunt for the best pathway for my own success, I have spent a lot of time studying. The most common theme among the most successful people that I admire (note, my definition of success is based upon the message that Zig Ziglar was so famous for:

“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” 

The part that has recently been more relevant to me, is not as much about how connected one is, but how connectable

Before I get into this, there are a lot of precautions we all must take to ensure we’re taking care of ourselves. I do not condone helping others at your own expense, or letting others take advantage of your kindness, however, I do believe that the gateway to happiness toward a successful life is in the giving back to those who find themselves seeking answers to questions and puzzles you’ve already solved. To me, it’s much more efficient that way!

So, what do I mean by being connectable? Here are two short stories:

1. When I sent an email earlier this year, to my favorite author, Seth Godin, I was sending it for myself – not knowing whether he would receive the email, but knowing that I needed to share my gratitude for the way his work and his example has molded and shaped me and given me hope to make a difference. To put it simply, I wanted to connect to him. And, it could have been that I just sent the email, and went on with my life, knowing how busy, popular, important he was. But that’s not what happened. Within 15 minutes, I had a reply. This is what being connectable, what being a leader worth following, what realizing the value of the people around you (the connections you make, simply by being alive), is all about.

2. Several years ago, I was still figuring out my place in my community. I looked out, as many people do, looking for answers. I don’t struggle to find people I can learn from – there’s a book that can help me learn anything I want. But I admit, I found it difficult to find a mentor locally, as I was designing a life I felt was worth living. I discovered something that was disappointing to me at the time – there was little accessibility to connect with the leaders of the community. Quite honestly, I saw a very closed environment. I sent a couple of emails, and tried to connect with some leaders via Facebook and LinkedIn, but my requests went unanswered – I eventually canceled the requests, because I felt embarrassed that I would even have asked for their time.

But there was one person who was accessible, and it’s quite possible he is one of the busiest people I now can say that I know, because he was connectable. I had not met this person yet, but we were connected on Facebook. I could see in his interactions a person who was accessible – connectable, and who would help me get some clarity on my path. So, I sent a Facebook message (I didn’t have his email), and I hoped for the best. Sure enough, I had a response from him later that day. His name is Bill Mutz, and he was just elected Mayor of Lakeland last month. And, to be quite honest, it is probably because he’s been willing to take the time to listen, to be connectable to a lot of people over the years.

I get the feeling that this is something new, trending, and challenging to the status quo leaders who have, for years, made deals in the back room, with their known contacts, getting it done their way.

I argue that today, the connections you have are only the beginning, and that being connectable is the way to succeed in a world seeking connection, and transparency.

So, be connected if you must, but the real work starts when you’re ready to be connectable. 

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The Adventure Chooses You

I used to think life was like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but today, I believe the adventure chooses you. It’s just up to you to decide if you’re willing to accept the challenge.

Who the HECK do you think you are?!

There are days, actually, last Saturday was one of those days, when the Resistance comes in with such a force that I am paralyzed. I question everything. I won’t waste your time with the dialogue, but if you’d like to compare the voice of your Resistance with mine, I am sure it will be an easy victory for this guy over here.

It has been about 10 years since my adventure began, and I still can’t believe it. But, well, here we are. And, I am writing this post, and you are reading it, so there’s no pretending that it’s all made up.

The adventure began when I started asking, What if? I asked it when Craig, my boyfriend, business partner and best friend had sent me packing, tired of the ups and downs that were my reality back then. I was pathetic, and I knew it, but I didn’t want to be that way anymore. So, I asked, What if I can win Craig back? I set a goal, and a deadline, and began to work hard at being reliable, dependable, positive, courageous, likable and successful — something I should have already been, but sadly — was not. As if like clockwork, within 11 months (the deadline was 12 months), he had opened his heart and his arms to me again.

At about that same time — because part of the deal with winning Craig back was figuring out how to be an entrepreneur — I also asked, What if I can actually do this business owner thing? I still have the copy of the first check I earned, to remind me what happens when I stop listening to the resistance and start believing anything is possible.

Starting a business isn’t for everyone. Starting something different, new, challenging, scary, and meaningful, however — is.

And, that is when the adventure chose me.

It was as if the adventure was waiting for me to get to this point, I could try to explain it, but in her book Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert, says it perfectly:

“Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.

Therefore, ideas spend an eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners.(I’m talking about all the ideas here — artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.) When an idea thinks it has found somebody — say, you — who might be able to bring it to the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention. Mostly, you will not notice. This is likely because you’re so consumed by your own dramas, anxieties, distractions, insecurities, and duties that you aren’t receptive to inspiration. You might miss the signal… [but] the idea will try to wave you down (Perhaps for a few moments, perhaps for a few months; perhaps even for a few years), but when it finally realizes you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else.
But sometimes — rarely, but magnificently — there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something…. The idea will wake you up in the middle of the night, and distract you from your everyday routine. The idea will not leave you alone until it has your fullest attention.

And then, in a quiet moment, it will ask, “Do you want to work with me?”

Are you Ready to Say Yes?

When I opened my mind to the possibilities that came into my heart when I started saying “yes” to myself (and the adventure that awaited), and what I was capable of, and began refusing to allow the word “can’t” into my mind. It wasn’t just saying “can’t,” but actually stopping myself at the point that the thought creeped into my head.

The next “What if” came when I asked,

What if I could use my passion to connect the local community of Lakeland, around the idea that entrepreneurs, business owners, merchants, retailers and the community at large could have a place to share ideas, pass referrals, and support the local economy?

And, then I set about trying to see what would happen. And, that’s when Lakeland Business Leaders was born. That idea chose me.

Along the way, I have discovered a new kind of personal fulfillment and joy that comes from connecting. Since 2011, we’ve connected over 6,000 members of the local community around that one question. “What if” — and the journey with that adventure is only just beginning, thanks to the amazing people who have embraced the idea and leaned in to be part of the LBL community.

Most recently, this question, has been swirling around me:

What if I could share my story, and begin to inspire others along the way, to begin their own adventures — writing a blog, or starting a reading group, teaching a class, planting a garden, raising money for people in need…. It doesn’t really matter what the adventure is, I just want to inspire people to begin believing in what they can do.

I am powered by this purpose. Because I believe, when I allowed the adventure to choose me, everything else lined up to make it possible for these things to occur.

If you don’t believe in magic, if this is all too ooey gooey for you, don’t worry, I get it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask yourself that most powerful 2-word question, and then, see what happens when you say yes: to setting aside the doubts and the worries – and begin to make manifest that greatness that is within you.

If I didn’t have my story tell, I wouldn’t believe it either. What adventure is going to be your story? When will you be ready to tell it?