Something Stinks…

I am an avid gardener.  I love to grow all types of plants.  I have often described myself as a farmer trapped in a builder’s body.  There is something truly fundamental in nurturing a plant from a small seed to maturity.  One of the important components to a healthy garden is fertilizer.  Without fertilizer and proper nutrition, plants will grow but they will struggle and grow very slowly.  So, add a bit of fertilizer and poof, they will explode with growth!  Amazing really.  I have also found that too much fertilizer is no good.  If you over fertilize you can actually kill the plant or cause severe damage.  The other interesting part of fertilizer is how they make it.  A common ingredient is urea which is actually found in urine.  You will surmise this if you put your nose in a bag of fertilizer.  How can something so nasty be a catalyst for growth?

Rape Fields

There is a parallel to this in another element of growing your project or business.  This element is self- promotion.  Chris Brogan, a renowned blogger, recently wrote in a newsletter that self-promotion is “very tricky”.  I completely agree.  Yet, without self-promotion, you are similar to the plant without fertilizer.  You will likely limp along and the growth of your idea will be painfully slow.  If you over promote, you will probably turn people off.  They will actually run from you.  And it will be stinky.  Kind of like the fertilizer.  So where is the sweet spot?  Where is the proper dose of fertilizer for your idea?

The best promoters have a sense for this stuff.  You must develop skills in order to build interest and curiosity.  I think that the most effective promoters accomplish this through the power that comes from a sincere belief in themselves and their project.  You have to truly believe in what you are doing.  They push out the self-doubt and take a firm hold on to the dream.  A skilled promoter is able control the negative feelings and transmit genuine excitement and dedication without overdoing it.  Staying just this side of the stinky line.

If you are fearful of promoting yourself, you are like the plant without proper nutrition.  You must promote and sell yourself.  The trick is to do it in good measure.  So be careful.  Don’t overdue it or your message will have the opposite effect.  It will be a powerful repellant- like stinky fertilizer!

So, what is your take?  Have you personally experienced this from either side?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!

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Warm Bread: Irresistable!

Back in the early 90s,  Kathy and I particularily enjoyed a restaurant that had an appetizer specialty called teacup bread.  The bread would arrive warm and still nested inside of a teacup.  This was a really special treat.  The bread was light and soft and had a sweet flavor.  You really could eat this bread for dessert.  We loved the food at this place, but really, the bread always brought us back.  We would get several servings.  Warm, sweet bread.  I really want some right now!

Slices of French Bread

Warm bread is a great way to invite guests into your restaurant.  The smell, the taste- every sense gets bathed with great bread offered as an appetizer.  I remember several restaurant experiences where the most memorable part of the meal was the bread.  Warm and inviting.  Something really special that leaves a lasting memory.

I have also had the pleasure to meet people that I would say have the characteristics of warm bread.  Upon meeting them you are immediately enveloped in warmth.  You can feel the love ooze from them.  Like the bread, they leave a lasting memory.  You can’t help but think about them.  They are like the teacup bread- you want to go back for more.

What makes a person that you meet like warm bread?  What makes them irresistible?  Here are a few observations:

Focus:  They are completely focusing on you.  They look you straight in the eye as you begin to talk to them.  You are the only person in their world.  They have the skill to shut off everything else.

Smile:  They start with a smile and have a way to continue to smile throughout the conversation.  The smile is a powerful tool.  A smile disarms.  A smile invites you in.  A smile tells you that they are enjoying your company.

Genuine:  They are genuine in every way.  They want to know about you.  They are humble and authentic.  There is no agenda.  The focus is personal.

Listen:  They are skilled listeners.  The questions are based on getting to know you.  They do not lead you in a particular direction for their benefit.  They allow you to tell your story and let you enjoy doing it.

Connect:  They are skilled at connecting the wires between you and them.  They will seek out common characteristics and interests.  You will share ideas, struggles and experiences.  You will feel like you have known them for years.

Easy:  They have a way to navigate through a conversation that makes it fun and enjoyable.  No awkward quiet moments.  No challenges.  You will have the opportunity to share a little or a lot- your choice.  Time flies by as you talk and connect.

Have you been there before?  Can you think of someone you have met who is unusually warm and engaging?

OK- confession time.  I am not that person.  I would characterize myself as crusty rye bread- not tea cup bread!  I struggle with focus.  I tend to be serious, so I typically have to remember to smile.  I tend to talk only when I need something.  I am content to sit in silence.  This is my nature, however, I am aware of it now.  I have to make an effort to be the warm bread.  It doesn’t come natural to me, but I am learning and I recognize the power that warm bread has.  My typical nature is selfish and I know it.  However, I am getting better- much better!

We often overlook the effect that we have on others.  A smile goes a long way and it is such a simple gesture.  Are you a warm bread person? Do you focus on others instead of trying to get out your story?  Are there areas that you can work on as you interact with others to make yourself inviting?  Like the tea cup bread, once you master the skills of warm bread you will bring them back over and over again- a warm and sweet relationship!

Do you know someone with these skills?  Share your story by clicking on comment below!

Simply Beautiful

 I am an avid gardener.  I love to grow just about anything.  I tell folks that I am really a farmer trapped in a carpenter’s body!  I particularly love growing two flowers– roses and dahlias.  Now these flowers are a real challenge in North Florida.  Roses are susceptible to disease from the excessive moisture.  It’s a constant battle with black spot and fungal diseases.  Dahlias don’t grow well in Florida.  Sun is too strong; soil is not rich enough, spider mites, etc.  Both of my favorites are ridiculously difficult to grow.  A crazy passion that few understand.  My family often thinks I am crazy to put forth the lopsided effort necessary to grow a few good flowers.  But I love it.  I get so much satisfaction from an outstanding flower.  I’ll admit- it is a bit of an obsession!

My Second Dahlia- 2012

I have often wondered what makes a flower beautiful.  So what makes something beautiful?  A sunset, a mountain range, a song, a building, a boat (for you Ed), a dress, a meal, a face.  There are so many things that we measure with beauty.  Why is blue better than black?  Why is green better than brown?  Why are we drawn to beauty?  What is beauty?

I believe it must be written on our hearts by the Creator.  A picture of what is to become.  What is truly good.  Something that we cannot explain, but points us forward.  To something better. Something beautiful.

So what is a beautiful life?  Can we measure our lives the same way we judge a painting?  Do you know someone who lives a beautiful life?  I’m sure you know someone that lives an amazing life.  Maybe they are very successful, or influential, or wealthy, or charitable, or a spiritual powerhouse…  Yet- is their life really beautiful?

I believe that your life can be like a flower- truly beautiful.  So how can you live a beautiful life?  Here are some characteristics of the beautiful life:

  • Balance- This is really important.  If something is out of balance it just doesn’t look right.  For instance, you can have the most beautiful flower, but if it’s missing petals on one side it’s just no good.  Balance in life is super important.  A beautiful life must include all of the elements- family, faith, friends, love, work, learning, fun, giving, and health- in balance.  The most insidious components are the areas that are essentially good that can become damaging and all consuming.  Pastors can fall into this.  They will pour themselves into their flocks- essentially a good thing- and neglect their wives, families, health, etc.  I think even Mother Theresa could be another example.  Jesus promised life to the full.  That means all components of life!
  • Color- Beauty is often defined by color.  A brilliant sunset of orange, pink and purple would be much less impressive in a black and white photograph.  So it goes in life.  If you are truly alive, then your life should be vibrant and colorful.  Colorful people are attractive.  They may or may not have raw beauty, but they are different, not afraid to be noticed.  If you hide in the shadows and remain dull you are not living, you are just surviving.  What can you do to add color to your life?  Do something different.  Take up a new hobby.  Learn to play an instrument.  Go back to school.  Volunteer.  Be outgoing.  Be funny.  Be different –don’t follow the crowd.  It’s OK.  Different is good and you will enjoy it! 
  • Scale- The majesty of a mountain range is defined by the grand scale of the image.  Yet the beauty of the tiniest flower can also be truly amazing.  Scale needs to stay in proper proportion in order to be beautiful.  How are you doing on the large and the small?  You may be enjoying a season of great success as examined by others, yet there may be smaller items that can derail your journey.  One of these may be your health.  A serious health problem can destroy your future.  Do you have some bad habits or addictive behaviors that need to be addressed?  Don’t underestimate the power of the small things.  They can take you down in an instant!
  • Groups– A single flower in a field will not have the same impact as a field full of flowers.  You may be living a beautiful life, yet you will do so much better in community with others.  We are designed to be in community.  Isolation is lonely and it can be a very dangerous place.  Realize that our society celebrates individualism and this is not always healthy.  You must fight the urge to withdraw.  Join a group of folks that are like-minded to do something fun.  Get involved- do not stay on the sidelines or hide in the shadows.  Living in community will help to strengthen your relationship skills and enrich your life.  Do it today!
  • Soothing– Music has a way of bringing relaxation.  I love to put on music to unwind and relax.  Beautiful music has a way of soothing the soul.  Would you say that you are soothing to others?  If you tend to be loud, abrupt or have a need to be heard, maybe you should work on a quieter approach?  Along with music, I get great relaxation from conversations with particular friends.  Do you focus on kind words and words of encouragement coming from your mouth?  The soothing counsel of a great friend can be a huge comfort.  Turn down the volume a bit and relax!

Appreciating beauty is really the result of the connection.  When you see the majesty of a mountain range, you are connecting to it through the image.  You can see the snowy mountain caps, the colors of the rocks and the slopes to the valleys.  As you observe, you become wired into it.  The beautiful life is also about the connection.  By truly living a beautiful life and connecting with the amazing gifts that are part of the journey, you will be experience those moments of wonder and grandeur in everyday life.  No need to go to the mountaintop.  It’s right in front of you.  Are you ready to experience it?

What makes a beautiful life?  Am I missing something?  Please click on Comments and tell me what you think!