Why repetitive tasks are often important

It seems that nothing worthwhile is ever really finished. Repetitive tasks are a significant part of our work.

A young mother feeds her baby. In a short while, she will feed him again.

A gardener removes all the weeds from a flowerbed so that flowers have room to bloom. Next week, he will do it again.

Beauty requires repetitive tasks.

Maintaining a flowerbed requires repetitive, menial work. – Photo by DowianA

It’s likely that you, like most others around the world, just returned from a job where you worked hard, thought well, and produced something of value. Tomorrow, you’ll do it again.

The point of this repetition is to satisfy urgent human needs, create beauty, and contribute something of value that others can consume. The never-ending tasks share a common characteristic: they are other-directed. They are about making life more livable for others. They are not designed to create pleasure for ourselves.

In the process of repeating our endless work, we sometimes feel used, depleted, and discouraged. We forget that our tasks meet vital needs for others around us. Perhaps if remember that our work serves others, we can see our tasks as our greatest contribution. What we sometimes consider drudgery is the very thing that helps us connect authentically with the world around us. It is that hard work that lets us encourage, equip, and feed others physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Moms are building the next generation. Gardeners are creating beauty that feeds our souls. Employees are teammates, builders, and creators of value.

Whatever your role, do it with all your heart. Then, get up tomorrow and do it again.


Fishing for new customers? Enthusiasm hooks them.

We looked out over the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey’s southernmost shore. Cape May Point’s white sand beach was beautiful, and despite the cool breeze my two youngest children removed their shoes and socks to feel the sand between their toes. We looked around for a few minutes, picking up some shells and enjoying the sound of the surf.

New Jersey Shore

A view of the Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey’s southern shore – Photo by Jodelle Ramer

Nearby, a man dressed in hip waders and a sweatshirt was fishing from the shore. I wandered over to where he stood and asked a few questions about our surroundings. I soon discovered that Mike is a veteran charter boat co-captain and avid fisherman who loves to teach. He readily shares the knowledge he has gained during a 30 year career on the waters off of Cape May with anyone who is interested.

My family joined us and participated in the conversation as Mike pointed out schools of fish swimming offshore, a pod of dolphins, and the Delaware shoreline. He hooked and landed a skate, and he turned that event into a biology lesson before he released the unharmed shark-relative back into the ocean. He rooted under water in the sand, found a sand flea and placed it in my enthralled son’s hand. In the course of just a few minutes, Mike thoroughly acquainted us with the beauty and mystery of our surroundings.

Mate Mike Brocco - from the Cape Queen Web site

Mate Mike Brocco – from the Cape Queen Web site

Mike mentioned his fishing charter service in passing, explaining what he offers in broad terms, but quickly returned to orienting us to our Cape May Point surroundings. His enthusiasm was genuine, and his interest in us, his work, and the local ecosystem was nearly boundless. He enriched us with his knowledge and single-handedly made our visit to the shore a spectacular success. We were so engrossed by his presentation that we forgot to take pictures, much to our disappointment when we later realized this oversight.

Enthusiasm is contagious

As Mike illustrates, enthusiasm pushes us to share, to empathize with others, and to help them see the world as we do. It helps us close the distance that separates us. In business, it prevents us from slipping into ego-centrism and focusing solely on the “bottom line.” Wherever others see enthusiasm in us, it is magnetic. They wonder, “Why is this person so obviously alive?”  It is contagious. When we communicate it to others, they want to share it.

Because it is so uncommon, enthusiasm provides a platform to tell others why we are so passionate. In fact, enthusiasm demands explanation. In the case of our fisherman, he offered information and a nearly priceless experience of the Atlantic shore. As a result, I was curious about him, and this enabled him to explain a bit about what his business can do for those interested in an offshore fishing experience.

Mike’s enthusiasm is why I’m sharing this post with you, and it’s why I can offer an unsolicited endorsement of the fishing charter service he provides aboard the Cape Queen.

What are you enthused about? Are you sharing it?

Theft is no reason to close your small business

I recently spoke with a small business owner who was reeling from a discouraging interaction with a customer. This customer stole merchandise worth several hundred dollars and refused to pay for it or to acknowledge any wrong-doing. When something like this happens to a small business owner, it can be hard to open the doors the next day, emotionally and financially. With no budget for fraud expenses, many small business owners feel such losses in a deeply personal way.

Failure is an event, not a person. - Zig Ziglar

Read on for some good reasons to help you keep going amid discouragement and financial setbacks:

  1. Remember that this is an event, not the sum total of all of your experiences in business. Your business is not a failure. As Zig Ziglar is fond of saying, “Failure is an event, not a person.” Failure does not characterize your business either.
  2. You may be able to prevent this from happening again. If the problem was caused by fraud, what can be done to screen customers more thoroughly? What additional security measures can you implement?
  3. Your business is probably still healthy. Put this episode in perspective. Assuming that there is a monetary loss, divide that amount by your yearly or monthly sales to see how significant it is statistically. While it may feel disastrous and deeply hurtful, it may have no measurable impact on the health of your business.
  4. You are in business for some really good reasons. Remember your mission. Most business owners are not solely working for financial rewards. Good businesses are driven by a compelling mission. What is it that your business does that makes customers happy and keeps them coming back?
  5. Giving up may make you cynical. Keep trusting, and keep going. You may need new security measures, but business is all about people. It is personal. It is about building relationships and creating value. It leaves both the business and the customer enriched. That is worth a few losses along the way.

When you face such setbacks, how do you keep going? If you have advice for other small business owners, leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

You will never be perfect, but you are valuable.

No more waiting for perfect

I can accept failure but I can’t accept not trying. — Michael Jordan

We want life to be perfect. And easy.

If we can’t have perfect, then we’ll settle for the path of least resistance. This path seems most inviting when we are discouraged, weary, spent.

There is an alternative to “easy.” It requires perseverance. And imperfection.

Find something to do that makes you feel alive — something that provides value to others.

Do that life-giving thing.

Ignore the critics.

Never give up.

Background noise for creativity

If you do creative work that requires prolonged periods of concentration, it can help to have background noise that blocks out the distractions. Today, through some conversations with friends, I found three different services that you might find helpful:

  1. Coffitivity plays coffee shop background noise to help kickstart your creativity. Personally, I think it works best when accompanied by a steaming cup of fresh coffee. I’m not sure if it’s the coffee or the noise that helps.
  2. Rainy Mood helps you concentrate with the gentle sounds of rainfall and optional background music.
  3. Simply Noise offers a selection of background noise: white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. It also offers Simply Rain, a site that allows you to configure the intensity and variability of your own rainstorm.

If you need help focusing, these services just might do the trick. Try them and let me know what you think.

Do you use these or other services to block out background noise and help you focus? If so, leave a comment and share your favorite.


Singing loud for all to hear

Elf_movieThe zany 2003 movie Elf featured Will Ferrill as Buddy, a befuddled human-who-thinks-he’s-an-elf. Buddy’s friend Jovie is afraid to sing in front of others even though she has a beautiful voice. Buddy advises her, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

Regardless of the season, it seems to me that “singing loud for all to hear” may be a an effective way to spread ideas of all kinds. It combines the authenticity of your natural voice with vulnerability in a way that demands acknowledgement and respect. Continue reading

Give away your best ideas…

…and in return, get something much more valuable. Our world is continually more connected physically and electronically. Yet that isn’t all we need; we also crave an authentic human connection.

On Friday, I listened to a thought provoking Pat Flynn podcast about the Entrepreneurial Mindset, and I am reading Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception. The book and the podcast share a similar theme: that creating worthwhile work requires vulnerability, openness, and human connection.

Philadelphia streets

City streets connect us physically, but personal connection is scarce.

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How to get a cheap yet professional Web site

If you own a business but do not yet have a Web site, there has never been a better time to get a cheap yet professional Web site. Until recently, the only way to create a professional Web site was to hire a Web developer to create a custom design for your business. This was time consuming and expensive. Though custom Web sites and Web applications still have their place (and I still build them),  professional and affordable Web sites as a service are readily available.

There has never been a better time to get online - image credit

There has never been a better time to get online – image credit

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Forget manipulation. Try the truth.

The primary aim of your business is to transact with customers. The only way transact on the Web is to build trust. Trust is a delicate thing, and it does not survive misinformation or manipulation. Avoid trying to engineer results. Focus instead on providing value and meeting real needs.

Limited time offers often seem manipulative

Limited time offers often seem manipulative – Image source

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Call-and-response in marketing

In music, call-and-response is a dialog in which one musician initiates a musical phrase and others respond with their variation on that phrase. Similarly, in business, a call to action is the entry-point to a what marketers call a response mechanism. A call to action invites a potential customer to take action in response to an advertisement on TV or a landing page on the Web, or to reach out to you by email from your website.

Dueling Banjos by Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell

When thinking about your business on the Web it is easy to forget that there are multiple response mechanisms available to your calls to action. For example, offering your telephone number is often a very effective way to improve the offline response to your calls to action, especially if your customers are not particularly fond of technology. As unlikely as it sounds, there may even be occasions when you want to encourage your customers to contact you offline via a physical mailing address. Or, you may want to go higher tech and access the mobile channel with QR codes.

Your most effective calls to action will likely ask your customers to respond by sending you an email, submitting a form on your website, or completing an e-commerce checkout process. Whatever response mechanism you use, keep your call to action clear and easy to understand. The customer’s response should feel as natural and unforced as the best call-and-response musician’s melodic phrases.