Archive for August, 2011

On Parenting: Do You See Roots or Fruits?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The last few days we had some painters in our home, painting a lot of stuff.  What I thought would take me a few days of after-work hours turned into more than 50 man-hours for these professionals.

Since they were in our home for so long they got to know our family a bit.  We shared meals with them and talked quite a bit. It was fun.

Last night was the last night they were in our house.  Before they left, the owner of the company expressed his thoughts about our kids, our family and our home.  He was very impressed with our family, and our kids.  More impressed, perhaps, than we were.  It’s so easy for us, as parents, to lose sight of any success we have as parents, and then an angel comes along and subtly (or not-so-subtly) reminds us that we are indeed doing a good job.

As I went to bed I thought of an analogy… this is the first draft, which will probably go nowhere, but if I make time, one day I could see storyboarding it to become a kids book (or a parents book, written like a kids book). Enjoy:

There was a certain peach tree people would walk by and admire. The peaches were beautiful, they were ripe. The travelers took the peaches and ate them, and remarked how amazing they were.

Everyone who walked past the tree could see the beauty and taste of the flavor, and all were greatly impressed.

The tree, however, didn’t recognize the depth of the beauty, and couldn’t appreciate the height of the flavor.

The tree was busy focusing on pulling nutrition from the ground through its roots. It focused on the underground, unseen, dirty and usually unappreciated work of finding nutrition. There is nothing glamorous about this work. No one walks by a tree and says

“wow, those roots underground must be amazing, and healthy, and doing the right thing. I think these must be the best roots around.”

Above ground, the tree was busy focusing on simply staying alive – getting nutrition up the trunk to each branch. The tree worked to have leaves which could pull nutrition from the sun. In early spring it showed blossoms, but those mostly needed nutrition and didn’t provide anything (except beauty) to the tree. The tree worked hard to keep the blossoms healthy.

As time passed, the blossoms became more demanding, even weighing down the branches, as they developed into peaches.

The peaches demanded more and more nutrition, and became heavier, and the tree continued to provide nourishment. It was too busy doing what it was meant to do that it didn’t recognize the beauty of the changes – from nothing to blossom to fruitling, on its path to a nourishing fruit. From green to the beautiful red and orange colors of the peach.

The tree continued on, as it always had. Get nutrition from leaves. Get nutrition from the ground. Ignore pesky bugs, which the tree couldn’t do anything about. Do the job at hand.

While this was happening, travelers saw a tree, with brown branches and bark, rich green leaves, and commented how beautiful the peaches were. They could see the beauty. They appreciated the beauty. They knew that in a short time, the peaches would be ripe and delicious.

When the day came, people picked the peaches, and enjoyed them, and shared them. They loved them, and were happy with the tree, and were grateful that the tree would produce for years to come.

Isn’t this the way it is with us, many times, as parents?

How many of us have gotten comments about our children – how cute they are, how well-behaved they are, how fun they are, how special they are, etc. We all get slightly different comments. Sometimes we think “yeah, but you don’t see them fight at bath time,” or “yeah, but you should try getting them down to bed,” or “yeah, but _______.”

We act like the tree… focusing on the dirt and the labor. We need to – that is our role as parents. Hopefully we can also see and appreciate what others see so quickly – the beauty that comes from the labor.

These, our children, are the fruits of our labor. The fruits show that the labor was good and the system was healthy. Even though we see dirt, and where we work is sometimes dark, and we are busy giving of our time and energy, and we feel tired, and sometimes we don’t see the changes, we must recognize the beauty. We must realize we had an important part to play in it.

Rough draft, but cool concept. Thoughts? I had a bunch of follow-up thoughts (where the analogy could go), which I’ll try to capture in the comments below.

Eight Lunches Feedback from a real Accountant

Monday, August 15th, 2011

When I started getting into finances and accounting in Eight Lunches, I got nervous.

I honestly don’t like this type of attention to detail.

I have a professional bookkeeper/accountant who I outsource it to.

I like to ignore the detail part of finances, but entrepreneurs really can’t.

I was anxious to hear what some real accountants had to say.  Luckily, I have someone in my network who is an accomplished accountant and bookkeeper, and someone I count as a good friend.

Valerie Gonyea is someone I was blessed to meet in person, and then share some meals and several conversations with over the years.

Here is part of her feedback on Eight Lunches:

OK, yes, I know I am right up against your requested deadline, but I wanted to be sure that I read – and absorbed – the whole thing.

I’ll just start out with my **only** negative comment, which is that this is not my favorite type of book format, the “ongoing conversation”. But because it was YOU talking, it was much easier for me to appreciate. If I didn’t know and respect you the way I do, I probably wouldn’t be drawn to this “conversation”. That’s just me, though.

That said, I am thrilled you did this project. Although very little of the content seemed new to me, I believe that is because I read your blog so there are many common themes, obviously. They are all very good themes and very, very relevant. I can only guess that many people try to pick your brain in this way and so this book will be a great way to short-circuit those precious time-suck conversations.

… I get the homework each chapter, is there more to them? I know you follow up with some email correspondence for clarifications, but it seems like you could add some more self-reflective questions at the end of each chapter, whether you relate them to your convo or not.

This stuff is NOT natural for most people to think about when they are just getting started so maybe add some additional questions at the end of each chapter that really forces the reader to think beyond their comfort zone…or worse what they THINK they know! This is particularly relevant to lunch 3: Packages.

I, of course, really appreciate the chapter about finances. One thing that Paul says is that he’s missed entering some expenses and you make a comment about this being more of a chore part of a business rather than a key focus.

I don’t want this to sound self-serving but a good bookkeeper for 3 hours/week at $40-$70 per hour could really help with this. Paul could get some referrals and as long as he is able to give CLEAR direction as to how expenses should be categorized (and a GOOD BK can help him get clear on this) then he can get more focused on his main goals, sales and marketing. I mean I have one client who has very thin margins and he is very particular about how the expenses get categorized…we work well together because I am equally careful and I ask questions when I am unsure. I HELP him stay focused on the business and my cost is a true business benefit. Just my .02 on that.

I also think that you could clarify that this is really a 2 step process, the first step is the uncomfortable number crunching but the payoff is to get to the second step which is the conclusion drawing, as you call it.

random thought: somewhere in the passive revenue/packages convo maybe relate to ordering at a fast food restaurant….look I HATE that stuff and I really resist doing it if there is ever a better option, but in a pinch, I know I can drive up to a window and order a #3 and get a burger, fries and a drink, addressing all of my needs so I can focus on what I am actually trying to get done that day. Again, just a random thought.

Isn’t she amazing?  Thank you for taking the time to read and absorb it… !

Valerie had some other excellent suggestions, which I’m incorporating into the book.

It pays to know awesome people!

Visual Artist Tools (for logos, etc.)

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I’m toying around with changing some visual elements of one web page (not a website), and I found some AMAZING tools:

Color Scheme Designer: This helps you see what colors go good with one another… very cool tool.

Flaming Text – Free Logo Designs: Put in the word, change some settings, and it gives you text with different visual characteristics.  Super cool.

Choosing Color Combinations: blog post that is excellent, from Veerle’s blog.

Want to write a book? Kill your darlings :)

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I just saw a link to a Harvard Business Review article by Jerry Weissman titled In Presentations, Kill Your Darlings.

I’ve talked a lot about being “concise,” but I’m not sure people know what that means.

So, here’s another way of saying it: GIVE THE SAME MESSAGE, BUT MAKE IT SHORTER.

In the spirit of keeping short, I’ll end with this: go read the post.  This applies to anyone who communicates (written, oral, body language, etc. :p).