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Life Inside a Chaos Bubble

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Life Inside a Chaos BubbleRecently I used the term the “Chaos Bubble.” It happened during a conversation in which I was describing how some people whose time is in such high demand actually become immune to the whirlwind of chaos surrounding them. So to properly define this new concept, a Chaos Bubble occurs when the heavy demands of your work and hectic lifestyle create a protective layer to the outside world and insulate you from the chaos.

I’m of course basing this off of several people I have met who have the “luxury” of experiencing this Chaos Bubble phenomenon. These people are in such high demand that their email and voice mail are consistently filled to capacity. Not a single new message can be received. Their phone rings but almost always results in a missed call due to a dead phone battery or because they’re in and out of meetings all day. Their secretaries or personal assistants are the gatekeepers. If you need input or an approval, your best bet is to get the message to their #2 or risk it bouncing off this Chaos Bubble never to be seen, heard or so much as acknowledged.

To reach such a threshold where chaos becomes a protection and no longer a threat, first takes going through many uncomfortable, and at times unbearable, levels of chaos. It’s fairly comparable to being in the eye or a hurricane. Outside of this inner circle a fierce storm of mayhem is constantly brewing, but inside all you experience is an eerie silence and false sense of calm. To get inside this eye, you may spend years being whipped by the winds and swirled around to the point of not knowing which end is up, but once you make it to the inner circle, the chaos spins around you—not within you.

For the most part, chaos is an unwelcome and heavily avoided part of life. But when the dinging and ringing of emails, iPads, cell phones and calendar reminders reach a high enough volume, they have the ability to create a white noise that cancels out their sounds all together—leaving just you and your thoughts inside your own Chaos Bubble.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Life

 

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Independence Day

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

This month is particularly meaningful as I look back on the very first steps I took on my entrepreneurial journey (nearly 5 years ago!) and reflect upon where my personal “Independence Day” has led me since this day in 2011. 


Beautiful Young Woman with USA Flag

I declare today to be Independence Day—my Independence Day. I’m aware of the irony of celebrating my personal independence on a day that our entire nation also celebrates its independence. But what could be more appropriate?

There are two reasons that call for this special occasion. I am celebrating my last day  working a desk job AND my first day of being my own boss. Both are as exciting as they are scary. Since I like focusing on beginnings not endings, let’s place our focus on the latter reason.

Today is a date I first set two weeks ago with HR when I decided I was going to take the leap (hopefully not the plunge) to branch off and put my entire heart and soul into launching my own public relations firm, Bennis Inc. It was an arbitrary date at the time, but has since become my hope, my inspiration…and now, my Independence Day.

As per handbook policy, I had to give two weeks notice to leave the Department and remain within good-standing plus it was a payday so I knew I wouldn’t have to wait around for my final pay check. It made sense. For the past two weeks, day by day, it became the light at the end of the tunnel. Some days I felt like there was so much to get done before this day that it was like being sucked into a jet propeller. Other days I felt like time simply stopped moving altogether.

No matter what it felt like, it was 14 days, 336 hours, 20160 minutes of planning, preparing and waiting. In those moments, I grew by at least seven years. I did things that people decades older than me have never had to tackle, and maybe never will. I rolled over my minuscule retirement fund into a Roth IRA. I hired a tax attorney to incorporate my business and get me prepared for a whole new experience when it comes to taxes. And I started pounding the pavement, putting myself out there and finally telling people about this business I’ve been building from the ground up since college.

I realized I have never before officially declared my independence as an entrepreneur and business owner, though I have been one for almost three years now. I always felt like I had to hide it or refer to it as a “side business” so as not to appear like a conflict of interest with my day job or schooling.

Well, that all stops today.

Today, I am officially open—open for business and open to praise, criticism, success and defeat. But it feels great. I feel like I’ve finally woken up and am taking my first deep breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see where this Independence) Day will lead!

 

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So You’re Different…Just Like Everyone Else

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


So You’re Different…Just Like Everyone ElseAs I continue to define the scope of my Public Relations work – particularly the emerging trends and most effective strategies for my clients, I’ve been confronted with one reoccurring scenario. Every business wants to share the message of why they’re different from all the others. But so often the differences they provide me with read like every other brochure, billboard or tagline I’ve seen time and time again. “We care….We put our customers first…We provide you with the best quality of service.” If you’ve already tuned out while reading that last sentence, you’re not alone. In fact, your reaction is the same reaction such statements receive when they’re placed on any plethora of marketing materials. Either the message is forgotten as soon as something else catches our attention or it’s glazed over altogether, never standing the chance to be absorbed into our subconscious. Neither result is desirable for the businesses who are trying so hard to differentiate themselves.

What makes a business truly different?

Truthfully, at the end of the day…very little. For the most part, products and services can be replicated (even with the best copyright laws and patents in place). There are millions of family-owned businesses with “small town values” representing every size and industry. And words like loyalty, honesty and quality – while all very good things for a business to have – are often read as ambiguous marketing fluff by customers. In very rare cases, a compelling story of how you overcame mountains of adversity to start your business may draw a unique spotlight your way, but inevitably the light will fade and a story of such depth is hard to convey on a billboard or Facebook ad. By focusing your marketing and public relations on answering the question “What makes me different?” you’re missing the question that really matters which is “How can I get remembered?”

Recognize your lack of differences with honesty.

Simply put, people appreciate honesty. The initial and obvious reaction to this fact is to position a company’s honesty and integrity as a “unique value.” But I beg of you to take at least one step outside the box. Customers aren’t easily fooled into thinking that you’re the only honest business on the block. They likely do business with many other people who they would also classify as men or women of integrity. So instead, make yourself memorable by evoking an unexpected emotion or reaction from your audience. With the right communications strategy you can make them laugh, make them think or even make them blush. You may be bold enough to directly say “We’re actually not that different from the other businesses out there,” and catch your audience completely off guard. Being remembered is the end goal and by going against the grain just a little, you’ll have a much better shot at achieving this. So long as you remain honest and genuine with your customer base, the sky’s the limit for creativity!

Actions (and brands) speak louder than words.

Nike is far from the only company that makes and sells athletic apparel. This is a huge industry and really no advertisement or marketing that I’ve seen has fully convinced me that any certain running shoe or t-shirt is all that different from the rest. Even when a seemingly revolutionary product is launched, it’s only a matter of weeks or months until 10+ other companies release their own version of this product, claiming the same technology and benefits. So what does Nike focus on to position themselves as a leader in the industry? Their brand. It’s the swoosh, the “Just do it” tagline, the distinct style of commercials and the carefully chosen celebrity spokespeople who create this solid brand. Instead of contributing to the white noise of long-winded and confusing advertising jargon, Nike has instead chose to build a brand that is so powerful and well-defined that a big white smudge on an all-black billboard is enough for anyone to recognize that as the Nike brand. While they still strive to be “first” and “different” in many aspects of athletic apparel, they know this will only every last so long until the next big thing hits. So instead, they focus their communications efforts on building up what can’t as easily be knocked down – a timeless brand.

You may not be the only one, but you can still be the best one.

Finally, there is one area where you can truly stand out and that’s at the top. By being the best at something, you leave no room for a competitor to join you on this stage. However, in communications the term “the best” is overused, misconstrued and there’s really no form you need to fill out or ribbon you need to receive to make this claim. At all levels and in all industries, there are certain awards that can help back up your claim to fame and provide a great point of differentiation for your business. But regardless of whether you’re hoping to use this title as a future marketing campaign, you should strive to be the best for no greater reason than to serve your people and your business well. There may be many other businesses out there just like yours, but if your customers truly feel like you are the best based on the quality of your service or product, I promise you that they will be back for more!

Whether you’re trying to differentiate your business or yourself, remember that for no other reason than the sheer volume of competitors, being truly different is not always possible. Instead, focus your communications efforts of getting remembered. And with this thought, I’ll close with a final inspiration:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. “—Maya Angelou

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How Do You Really Define Success? (Guest Blog by Danielle Gouger)

This week’s blog is written by the newest member of Bennis Inc, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise related to PR and photography!


How Do You Really Define Success

I think it’s safe to say that one life goal we all share is to achieve “success.” I put this word in quotes, because success is a term that can have an extremely fluid definition from one person to another. The beauty is that there really is no right or wrong way to define your own success. It’s whatever brings happiness, fulfillment and meaning to your life.

So how do I define success? I would expect that it may differ from your own version of this word, but you never know; our individual interpretation may also align quite a bit. Here’s how I personally define success – and what I work to try and achieve each and every day.

Ending each day feeling satisfied, not stressed

Success to me is truly being happy and living each day to its fullest. My soul is the happiest when I am traveling and experiencing new things. However, real life responsibilities like raising a family and pursuing a career don’t always allow me to travel as much as I’d like. Rather, I find the potential in each day as it presents itself. My “adventure” may not be exploring a new country, but rather exploring a new walking trail near where I live. Little adventures exist all around us, every day, and I feel most satisfied and successful when I seize the opportunity to live in the moment.

Having a good balance between work and family time

Another way I define success in my life is by achieving a healthy balance between work and family time. In my early twenty’s, I defined my success by how much school and work I could jam into my schedule. It wasn’t until I became a mom at 25 that I started to view success in other ways. For example, motherhood is one of my greatest ongoing successes (and challenges). I strive to be the best mom I can be each day. I then began to realize the importance of being a good daughter and to value and cherish family time. Balancing work and family is something I’m still learning to do, but the better I get at it, the more successful I feel.

The opportunity to have my talents impact other people

As I mentioned previously, school and work used to define my success growing up. As I have matured, both in life and in my career, I’ve discover newfound confidence in my talents I have to share with the world. A successful career isn’t just about how much money you make or your job title, but rather how you are able to positively impact other people. Whether a picture I take is published and printed or simply cherished by a couple whose wedding I photographed, I feel successful to be able to contribute something that is meaningful to someone else.

Setting Goals and accomplishing them

Since grade school, I have always been a goal setter and a person who likes to write down my goals. I’m a visual person, so writing down my goals and being able to physically look at them makes them feel that much more real and attainable to me. I make it a point to write down yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals and to further break these down into specific tasks. I love the feeling of crossing something off my list! Getting things done and seeing how they are moving me toward achieving my larger, long-terms goals gives me a great feeling of success.

Overcoming your fears

The hard truth is that sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to achieving great success. We allow our fears to talk us out of even attempting something that might be well within our reach. Our insecurities, that voice in our heads saying “You can’t do it,” can paralyze us into a mediocre life. I have enjoyed some of my most fulfilling and successful moments after I silence this voice and take on a task that normally I would be too scared to try. What I have learned is the bigger the fear I overcome, the greater my feeling of success in the end!

Do you agree or have additional points to add about how I define true success? I’d love to hear your comments!

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Clearing Out the Mental Clutter

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Clearing Out the Mental ClutterSimply put, clutter is stuck energy. It’s a clog in our mental piping that prevents us from working, communicating and acting as effectively as we could. There are more than enough mental-clearing techniques to help us relax and refocus, but these don’t address the ways in which we rebuild the same cluttered mind every day. Here are just a few instances where mental clutter may be messing with your psyche and some easily implemented fixes to help you start moving forward.

Clean out your email inbox…every single day – Take a moment and click over to your email. What does your inbox look like right now? If this is the beginning or middle of the work day for you, chances are you’ve accumulated quite a few messages. That’s normal. But how many of these messages were rolled over from the last work day? Some of these messages may even be from several days or weeks ago. If so, you’ve unknowingly been creating your own landfill of emails which might be making for a pretty unpleasant work environment. The fix? Clear the inbox clutter by treating it like a to-do list. Any email that comes in should be read and prioritized before the day’s end. Some emails are a quick response and easily taken care of. Others will require some time or further action before it can be considered ready to archive. For these types of message – utilize folders! I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t take advantage of the folder organization Outlook and Gmail provides. Label them with titles most applicable for the messages you commonly deal with and the actions they require. With these messages organized, you’ll never risk them “disappearing” under the heap of emails that build up over a week’s or month’s time. Since starting this practice myself, I’ve been much more aware of the messages requiring my response at any given time, know where to find them when I need them and have all but eliminated the dreaded “I don’t think I ever saw that email” moment.

Remove mental clutter by removing physical clutter – I’m not sure when this began for me, but to this day if I’m in a messy environment, I can’t work as effectively. I need to have a clear space which translates to a clear mind. In the midst of a project or a busy day, it’s completely acceptable to have some small mountains of paper fill your desk, but by the day’s end be sure these mountains aren’t left for you to climb over the next morning. If you tackle your physical clutter every day, each new day will begin with a clear desk and a clear mind.

Capture your thoughts in writing – In a world surrounded by cutting-edge technology, you may be surprised to know that we’re still allowed to be human. By this I mean we aren’t expected to commit every task, appointment, phone conversation or change in plans to memory. The times in which I have a lot of mental notes to remember are among the times when my mind feels the most cluttered and least productive. So write it down! Whether this is a pen and paper to-do list, phone app, word document or calendar reminder, capture your thoughts however best fits your lifestyle. It’s simple…the more you put in writing, the less that’s on your mind.

Eliminate unnecessary noise – When I first began running Bennis Inc I would often keep a television set or music on for “background noise.” It’s not so much that I would become distracted by the show on TV or the artist singing the song, but I would become distracted (and irritated) simply by the noise. It was competing with my inner thoughts and making me work harder to concentrate on the task at hand. The silliest part is that I was self-inflicting this irritation and audio clutter. I now recognize that I prefer to work in as close to a silent environment as possible. Some days this can even be setting the phone to vibrate and turning off email alerts. I don’t doubt that some people may work better with a little bit of background noise, but I urge you to try at least one day “working silent” to be sure you’ve given this option a fair shot. It’s not boring when your thoughts really get on a roll!

Address what’s really fogging your mind – If you’ve made your best effort to eliminate all of the mental clutter by following the steps listed above, but you’re still feeling fuzzy and unfocused, there’s a good chance there’s something else in play. What’s really fogging your mind? Mental blocks can come from feelings we’re harboring about a relationship problem, financial stress, or recent negative experience. These aren’t just clutter; these are actual issues that should be dealt with fully. If a personal situation has you distracted in other areas of life, you can’t bury it deeper and hope it will go away. The best thing to do to resolve this completely is to talk it out, go for a run to clear your head or seek a solution if one is possible. Once this major mental plug is removed, you can return to addressing the rest of the minor clutter rolling around.

Whether your mind is cluttered or organized right now, share with us some of your struggles or secrets to achieving a clear mind!

 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Necessary Slow Burn of Business Growth

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


The Necessary Slow Burn of Business GrowthConsider this. Each spring it’s common practice to burn the tall grasses of the prairie. The reasons for this man made fire are those to benefit the prairie and it’s natural habitat – to remove old growth, put nutrients back into the soil and promote new growth and abundance. The prairie needs this fire to exist. As reckless and destructive as this once seemed to me as a child, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the prairie’s need for this slow, controlled burn. But now as an adult, reexamining this yearly ritual made me question another aspect of these prairie fires.

Why not just use gasoline, light a quick blaze and take care of the whole field at once? Why does it need to be a slow and smoldering fire – a process that seems to be so needlessly drawn out?

The answer to this question is actually quite strategic and far from needless. The slow, controlled burn of these tall prairie grasses is necessary for achieving all the ecological benefits that it does. Gasoline would absolutely ruin the soil and prevent these tall grasses from ever growing again. And a large wildfire would wreak havoc on other parts of the ecosystem (not to mention holds the potential to easily burn out of control). So why am I choosing to tell you so much about these prairie fires? It’s because I see an important lesson on life and business building within these flames – a lesson that speaks to both patience and strategy.

Letting it burn (slowly)

For anyone who has ever attempted to build a business, the process of growth is unpredictable and unstable at best. We want to believe, that like any model growth chart illustrates, our business will grow with dramatic spikes until we blast off the chart. But this is neither common nor sustainable for 99% of businesses out there. Instead, like a prairie fire, the healthiest and most lasting business growth is a steady smoldering that inches onward day by day. I define this as healthy growth because it’s growth that blazes a new trail while giving us enough time to stay right in tow. We control it; it does not control us. This is also the type of growth that strengthens a business as oppose to a wildfire which could burn it all down. Most importantly and much like the prairie fires, this slow, controlled burn weeds out the old while laying the rich foundation for future growth. It’s a change that moves at the pace of evolution, and it should be our goal to evolve patiently and strategically as such.

Avoiding the temptation to rush

With technology at our fingertips and our society of ever-connectedness, our accessibility to “gasoline” is endless. This causes a great temptation to rush the process of the slow burn just because we have the means to do so. But as ecologists have proven and stressed, this quick and fast method is not always beneficial, and sometimes harmful, depending upon what you’re trying to achieve. For the slow burn of business growth, you’re trying to achieve much more than a burnt and barren field. You want to preserve the ground and burn only what is necessary. Gasoline won’t allow you to do this. We have to avoid the temptation and let things progress on their own. Instead, we often want to ignite the fire with things like an overkill of paid advertising (this is often a waste of precious capital in the beginning) or gimmicky deals (this often pulls in the wrong client base). Such “shoot-from-the-hip” strategies may produce big flames for display, but at some point these flames will cause destruction or someone will get burned. As I’ve mentioned before, such growth is neither sustainable nor beneficial in the long run.

In life or in business, have you ever personally experienced the temptation to rush a critical process? Maybe this is a process of growth, a process of healing or a process of change. While it’s tempting to want to overcome these uncomfortable and even painful moments in life quickly, rushing the process can prevent us from receiving all of the benefits they’re meant to bring. Learn to appreciate the slow fires we have lit and know that they are with the purpose and intent to make us stronger and more abundant.

 

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