Trust is a non-renewable currency

There’s a pretty famous quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that I’m sure everyone on the freaking planet has heard:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Yeah, I thought you might be familiar with it.

Today, we’re getting a bit serious as we talk about a much more entrepreneur/business-based stress: trust.

In the age where trust is just as much of a digital currency as money (or bit coins), if you want to maintain an audience, you have to dance the fine line between offending people who don’t align with your message and just flat out offending everyone. This can be pretty tricky. You provide value through writing or services or something, and trust in you/your brand grows.

As you develop your brand, you’ll lose some that have been with you from the beginning, and gain newly-intrigued followers. People grow and change; like an old tee on a 5-year Crossfiter, your message may not fit anymore.

But the bigger elephant in the online business room (to me) is this:

What if, through your own interactions (or worse, inaction), you end up actively alienating someone who has proven their trust in your brand?
Sad Panda
CC Image courtesy of Jose Tovar on Flickr

This customer, who has given you their money and time in exchange for the awesome you’ve put out in the world, no longer trusts you based on YOUR interactions with them. What do you do? It’s really hard/impossible to then restore anyone’s faith in you when you’ve made them feel small and unimportant.

(I don’t know about you, but this scares the me right down to my paint-splattered Doc Martens.)

So how do you recover from such a faux pas? Is it a faux pas? Obviously, they’re your customer, not your friend. I have yet to find a “Dear Abby” column that answers my question.

To me, this is one of those situations where an “I’m sorry” does not fully cut it. It may be extra work, but to me you have to actually follow-up that apology with accountable action. Prove that your word should still have value to them.

Or maybe you know you’ve “made it” when you no longer stress about those single losses?

I don’t know if I ever want to be that successful.

Mind you: this is not a scenario I have the answer to right now. I’m not sure if a one-size-fits-all answer exists (I suspect not). But, in pondering what success looks like, it’s definitely a dark side consideration. And not the good kind of dark side with cookies and Sith Lords.

So tell me: what do you do when one of your customers no longer trusts you?

Why Iniquity Makes You Want to Sh*t Your Pants

**Hello my lovely little darlings, have you missed me? Cuz I missed YOUUUU. I got smacked with a nice round of the flu, but I’m back and better than ever!**

I think most of us would agree we were raised to be ‘good’ children. Brush your teeth, eat your peas, do your homework, get good grades… the whole nine yards. This carries into adulthood. We receive performance evaluations where we’re regarded, rated, ranked, and required to agree with our manager’s assessment, sign on the dotted line please and of course there’s nothing to worry about because if you were doing poorly we would be working on it already.

I don’t know about you, but hitting the life repeat button year after year like it’s a semi-amusing YouTube video gets boring to me. Sometimes, I want a treat. Sometimes, I want a little spice.

I want to be so close to the game winning shot that my opponent can smell my breakfast piña colada as he tries to stop me. I want Wednesday water balloon fights. I want to sneak  crayons to work for lunchtime color breaks (or meetings, notes in purple and green are SO in). I want to rock my New Year’s finery any day of the week I choose.

There’s just one tiny problem.

Breaking the mold? Is effing TERRIFYING.

Remember that good child behavior that Mom or Dad (or Grandma or Aunt Sue or Cousin Johnny) so deeply ingrained in our brains? That behavior habit (voiced by your own inner  doomsayer) convinces you SOMETHING HORRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN IF WE TOE OVER THE LINE HOLY CRAAAAAAP.

And that feeling? Can keep you from doing all the crazywonderfulamazing things your life can offer. It’ll try to convince you that the risk isn’t worth it. That your life could be utterly ruined by making this change, taking the step, trying so very very hard to find your freedom.

But there’s no magic wand, no wish, NOTHING outside of YOU that is going to break you out of the cycle of boring, painful complacency. On the one hand, it’s all on you kiddo. On the other hand, it’s all IN you. No one’s gonna do it for you; they’re all too busy freeing themselves.

What is more spicy, more wicked, more cheeky than flipping the bird to your “normal” loop? (Tweet Me!)

It’s not about being a douche. It’s about breaking the mold. Taking your hipster boho chic outfit and adding a goddamn clown nose so you laugh every time you look in the mirror. Didn’t you know bozo geek is TOTALLY in this season? It’s about taking the expectations box, and not just thinking outside of it. Light that thing on FIRE.

Bye-bye, expectations of others. Hello, wickedly sassy you.

So tell me: what is one thing you’ll do this weekend to spice it up?

Free Coffee! Hold the martyr

This is a tale of addiction and anxiety, loss and learning.

I was recently at McDonald’s during the breakfast wars with Taco Bell to avail myself of the free coffee.

(Btw, if you’re judging me for this, you are so reading the wrong blog.)

While in Costa Rica, I re-acquired my morning coffee habit, and boy, she is a harsh mistress. I was jonesing for my morning fix so bad I probably would’ve been on a street corner if I hadn’t known the car would be faster.

But I was on my way to probably nowhere an important appointment, and I really didn’t want to be late, so I scorned my usual dealer in favor of the quicker McDonald’s drive-though. And seriously, who am I to scorn free coffee?

Mistake #1: Hitting a McDonad’s in a college town late Saturday morning.

There is a LINE of epic proportions in the drive-through. This is the point where common sense needed to kick in and calmly guide the wheel so that I drove past that den of sin and breakfast sandwiches, reminding me that I had a bottle of water right by my elbow.

Apparently, my common sense was still asleep in my nice comfy bed that morning. Lucky bitch.

I finally get up to that glowing box of promised relief and orally submit my request through the most heinous static since my first car blew a speaker. But, the glow is somehow… different. Lessened, in a way, by the presence of a price next to my beloved java.

But it’s a fairly new promotion, so maybe it’s something that has to happen outside ordering system

Mistake #2: Not inquiring about the pricing mistake when it happened.

I make it to the window, now vaguely concerned about my ability to navigate the final mile in the required amount of time, and the giver-of-dreams/taker-of-cash gives me the total, along with a litle white bag.

The total that still includes the price of my beloved coffee.

Tremulously, over the backdrop of my caffeine monkey screaming so loud I was certain a cat was getting tortured, I inquired about the fee behind my java.

And I am met with the blankest stare since Bela Lugosi rose from a coffin.

At this point, I am now subjected to a combination of complete panic and righteous frustration (you know the customer is ALWAYS right, right? Right). I have the dang flyer next to me in the car, which I show Window-Dracula. I’ve ordered this same combination twice during the week, so I know the total well enough that I have the exact amount with me.

The response? “Ok, give me…” tapered off into NOTHINGNESS. I think the person behind me could hear the ellipses in the response.

But now I’ve caused delays. I can practically feel the stares of the multiple cars behind me, preparing a bonfire for the ritual sacrifice of my body on the Altar of Hungover Undergrads. I break out in a cold sweat. I lock my doors. I…

…say thanks, pay my exact amount, and pull away.

Without my coffee.

Mistake #3: Caving to the imagined/perceived expectations of my fellow addicts.

Yeah, not my proudest moment.

I made my appointment on time. Sans caffeine, but on time. I paid the ultimate price — scorning my sweet, sweet buzz due to peer pressure. Maybe a little more fortitude on my part would have yielded my desired results; then again, maybe not. I’ll never know, now.

But man, that monkey was PISSED.

What’s one thing you can do this weekend to ease your expectations monkey?

P.S. — I’m looking at spinning up some kind of bi-weekly water balloon straight from my fingers to smack you right in the inbox. If you’re interested, pop your name and email in (really basic) form below:

Thanks!

Instant is 21st Century Crack, Part 2

Didn’t get to read my first round of addiction elucidation? Hie thee hence to part 1!

Holy crap I had some awesome people reading last week. Thank you for your eyeball-and-brain time and your comments! Not your actual eyeballs, though. Please don’t send those. I don’t want my life to become an episode of CSI. Ew. Gross.

Because I am apparently obsessed with my drug analogy, we’re going to continue with smoking crack  how we’re cracked out! But this week, I’m looking at something much more sneaky. Something that looks like a stunning resource, but is actually making us stupider.

My loves, I’m talking about instantly available information.

Chill before you start hunting for your torches and pitchforks. I love the Internet. One, it’s letting me babble at you amazing people (I can say people now! I feel like a kindergarten graduate). Two, it makes my job (as an IT Admin) a LOT easier. The ability to search for something via Google/Bing/Yahoo/(your search engine of choice here) has greatly improved the life of an administrator. We no longer have to flip through weighty vendor tomes for an esoteric process we use only on Leap Years where the groundhog has seen his shadow.

And the learning! My stars, the learning! Through the miracles of CodeAcademy and W3Schools, I can learn the basics of at least 10-15 different languages — HTML and CSS, JavaScript and jQuery, PHP and Ajax, SQL and ASP.NET… All at my fingertips, mwuahahaha!

(Yes I realize that’s only 8, get over it.)

But we are not limited to IT learning alone, love-a-doves. Tools like Duolingo aid you in acquiring a foreign language from the web or your smartphone. Integrate Italian in your intermissions, fumble through French during football, and slip some Spanish in before your siesta!

There’s just one tiny problem.

We rely on these resources now.

You see, the immediate availability of information has turned into not having to learn a process, or remember a name, which means retention as an overall skill drops.

Think about it — when was the last time you successfully dialed a friend’s phone number without first having to look it up in your contacts? Or remembered that weird crinkly leafy ingredient in your favorite salad without checking your Evernote recipe store? (It is arugula, by the way).

When was the last time you listed five movies your favorite actor is in, WITHOUT checking IMDB?

Bruce Willis — The Whole Nine Yards, Fifth Element, Red, Die Hard, and Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Don’t get me wrong. I loves me some online resources. WordHippo is the awesomest of sauces. But if a kid looks at me weird because I can still recite my times tables up to 12×12 without thinking, I can’t help but wonder if learning is a dying art.

And this makes me sad.

Our brains are probably one of the most priceless resources on the planet, unless you’re checking the black market for noms, you wannabe Hannibal you. I’ve heard the human brain referred to as a one of the strongest processing units on the planet. (Expecting a citation? Wrong site.) I’ve also heard the “we only use 10% of our brains” statistic.

So many people dream of unlocking more of that potential. How many people are acknowledging that we may be going backwards?

But here’s something totally wild guys:

YOU CAN WORK OUT YOUR BRAIN.

(So important I put it all in caps, y’all. Learning makes me shouty.)

Maybe we take a break to rely less on the immediate, the quick-and-easily-available. Maybe we look something up once and come up with our OWN system to learn, remember, and retain. It could be something as basic as a notepad that you know you jot particular notes in, or a sophisticated iPhone-to-Drafts-to-Evernote workflow that you’ve hacked together. I don’t care. So long as it works.

OR

If you want to make it fun, play brain games! Which frankly, I think is way better than participating in the Hunger Games. Much less death.

Some of my favorites:

  • Sudoku I am so addicted to Sudoku, especially for plane takeoffs. You won’t even notice you’re in the air yet.
  • Scrabble WordsWithFriends MIGHT count, but try to dust off your board too ya slacker.
  • Read Grab a trashy novel!! Or, a not trashy one, really good novels work too. I recommend this one for mythology nerds, or this one for mystery geeks, or this one for spooky siblings.
    (No aff links, although Ellie is a rockin’ Facebook friend.)
  • Crossword puzzles BONUS – feeling *REALLY* ready to dive into this? Grab the New York Times Sunday edition, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re on hour 5 and you want to hunt me down.
  • Write a letter Please note, I said write a letter, not an email. While emailing does engage your brain in a similar manner (as do journaling, and blogging), letter writing just seems much more personal, sweet, and meaningful because it has fallen to the wayside. Don’t have stamp money? Write a letter to your future self and tuck it in your favorite book. You know, the one you read every year, without fail?

Unlike working your muscles in the gym, putting in the effort won’t have results you can easily check, which is going to make this kind of frustrating. But over time, that effort will show. It could start out as just knowing step 1 (you always have to preheat the oven, right?), then maybe you remember step 1 and your ingredients next time. In a few months, you may be able to recite your Nana’s lasagna recipe off the top of your head (but you won’t, cause she will find you).

YOUR MISSION: pick one thing from the list (or something else!) and do it THIS WEEKEND. Tell me how it goes in the comments!

P.S.I’m looking at spinning up some kind of bi-weekly water balloon straight from my fingers to smack you right in the inbox. If you’re interested, pop your name and email in (really basic) form below:

Thanks!

P.P.S.Don’t ever use the proofread writing button in WordPress. I haven’t seen that many red lines since high school. Ouch.

Instant is 21st Century Crack, Part 1

Take a seat. This is gonna hurt, so buckle up buttercups. I’ve got some bad news…

We are addicted to instant.

And no, we’re not just talking coffee.

We are captivated, enamored, devoted, under the influence. We’re strung out, even dependent.

We are OBSESSED with getting things NOW.

We, as in you and I.

We, as in society. 

You see, the expectation for immediacy has been set and we’re addicted. But, as with all addictions, we go up and then we come doooown. And when we come down, we hit with a *BANG*.

(And not the good kind. Perv. The hurty ouchy kind.)

No, really. Think about how frustrated you feel when your packages are late arriving around the holidays. Or how utterly b*tchy people get with delayed flights. Or when your 3G isn’t quite perfect and you can’t see your cousin’s Facebook update with picture #98376421 of their LITTLE ANGEL who is puking (and said little angel is, in fact, some kind of dog smaller than a subway rat in NYC).

Instant is insanely popular on the market right now because we’re so hooked. You *know* you get excited when you see things like:

“instantly delivered to your (insert smartphone name here)”

or

“stream instantly to any device, even your left eyeball digital implant!”

(Gross.)

We practically vibrate when we can’t get what we want NOW (cue our best Veruca Salt impressions). Let’s face it. Instant gratification has turned us into

spoiled little pre-tweens.

(If a tween is a pre-teen, what’s a pre-tween? It sounds like a wash cycle — “run this dress through on pre-tween for optimal stain removal results!”)

Moving on…

In spoiling us, it is causing us more stress than almost any other substance on the planet. Something doesn’t go quite right, and everything just bloody spirals from there. Plans have to change, people are gonna get disappointed… it’s just a big ol’ mess.

OR

We could try taking delays with grace.

Remember how grace works? No, I’m not talking about the nickname I have for my skillful ability to fall while walking on an even, flat surface (ask me about how I busted my ankle the first time). I mean that nice, calm feeling of peace and acceptance in a stressful situation where something is getting between you and your WANT-IT-NOW.

Not sure what grace would look like? Let’s check it out.

What about…


…that guy cutting you off in the middle of rush hour going a bajillion miles an hour?

Clearly, he is sorely overdue for his extremely necessary bladder infection mediation, and he’s probably suffering a considerable amount of pain. Instead of providing an extensive overview of your most vulgar vernacular at ear-shattering volumes, avoid participating in a major traffic accident and send them some kind thoughts.

OR

…the should-still-be-in-diapers kid in front of you in the far left lane of the highway , going 20 mph in the middle of rush hour, when you need to desperately get home for your very necessary bladder infection medication?

Poor lil’ is just learning how to drive, and that instructor is NOT making it easy with the ranting and the raving and the Stetson large enough to swallow New Jersey. Pass them safely and hope that they know enough to pull over to the shoulder before they have a panic attack.


…the bespectacled tech nerd darting back and forth between your precious (and utterly cooked) laptop and the store terminal without really giving you any information?

You are their last customer of the day after what’s been an already frustrating 10 hours of work in a naturally hectic environment. Sadly, they don’t have all the answers, but they also didn’t dump a sippy cup full of Juicy Juice on your keyboard (thank your toddler). If you’re really lucky, they may be able to rescue everything essential, but it’s gonna take some time. Take a seat and catch up on some reading, cause Divergent just came out and that novel won’t finish itself.

OR

…that last support customer who just unloaded HER most vulgar vernacular on you while you are trying to bring their very dead laptop back to life? 

Yeah, the computer looks like it will actually take an Act of Congress and some serious overtime to resurrect, but this poor soul is actually a VERY overtaxed grad student with an assistantship and a tutoring gig that bartends at night. Bless her poor little heart, the only surviving copy of her research paper is on this now-crispy piece of hardware, as her three-year-old flushed her backup thumb drive down the toilet earlier today. She’s already going to be living on ramen for a week just to cover this fix. So take a deep breath, pull out the Emergency Boot CD, and revel in the extra dough from the work rather than bemoaning your lost Portal 2 Co-op time. The Mountain Dew tastes just as good during a late night data recovery spree.


So, a shift to a slightly more patient, though slightly slower moving, mentality probably won’t kill you (but stop forgetting your bladder pills dude, seriously). However, addictions can kill. It may not be the immediacy of a drug overdose, but the behaviors encouraged by our need for the NOW result in some very risky habits. And truthfully, it’s so not good for your blood pressure.

Give yourself a present: one to three minutes, TOTALLY YOURS, to breathe. To chill. To not be obsessed with the GIMME NOW. Hide in the bathroom if you need to. Don’t worry about completely reworking your schedule. But do it. Clock’s ticking, and we’re only getting more stressed.

YOUR MISSION: what can you do, THIS WEEKEND, to slow your roll a little?