The 7-year itch
Many of us are used to the quotation of this old film and its salubrious meaning.
However, the 7-year time span is a common one for us to consider.
It is too long a time frame for us to feel panicked by when setting a meaningful goal. It is a healthy time frame for us to get used to the daily or weekly gains we need to achieve to enable the goal to become achieved.
It is also long enough to get complacent over but as long as we keep it in focus, we develop a sense of building urgency that motivates us for the up and coming deadline, gradually enough to keep it feeling achievable and worthy.
When we set a goal for seven years ahead, we will lull ourselves into a great big meaningful goal, but we would also be confident of achieving it because seven years is almost a bit too long to envision.
Many cycles of events relate to the number 7 and it is one of the most trusted numbers for us. Walmart carried out extensive research on the number and discovered that customers would actually pay more for the same item priced a bit less, as long as its cost ended in 7 or 70.
Its is not fully explained to be definitively accurate, but we do have sway to the number, quite naturally.
With this in mind, please consider the following.
What would you want to have in place in 7 years from now, for you to be proud of your achievement and proud of yourself for? Start with a 7-year vision and be bold. The rest of your goals will naturally fit around these. Sometimes just three major goals will help you with enough goal setting that if broken down over the 7-year timeline, will inspire and motivate you in a way that excites you.
A 7-year goal becomes several smaller goals, which in turn maybe 100 little goals. It’s the track to run on that gives you clear momentum and drive.
What would inspire you over the next seven years, to be driven and engaged, like never before?
As a coach, I am often asked to define what it is I do.
And it inspired me to think about what most of us want.
Directions on the path.
If you can see where you want to go. See the path. See the benefits. If you can envision the impact and the long-term effect. If you can get excited about the direction you are hoping to travel in and can be enthused about the future, then often you will believe you do not need a coach.
A coach, however, can bring to the table, experience or tools or a more detailed map. This can shorten your journey or just make it more pleasurable, less stressful and ultimately by helping you implement – more beneficial.
A coach can be the sounding board of wisdom too. Perhaps your goal or vision is contrary to your beliefs or integrity in a way you don’t realise. Maybe the congruency of what you want is in conflict with other areas of your life.
Overall a clear vision with a defined why and a steer towards improving you, others and the world around you, will add traction and momentum. This style of thinking will make you unstoppable.
Along the journey, you will be often hit with the pugil stick of life. Sometimes you see it coming and sometimes you don’t. Feeling unstoppable will allow you to be resilient. A coach will vaccinate you from bad influences and virus’s that are new to you.
In addition to that, your vision can be clearer and in 3d focus with laser precision.
Make 2020 your clearest drive to what’s best for you and those your goals impact upon. Get your foresight checked through your coach and allow feedback to keep you on track.
You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
Your ideas and story
Your top ideas. Your client’s top ideas.
I’m curious about people’s top ideas, and when I meet new business people, I’m often curious enough to get them to spill their heart out about what they love and why they do what they do.
The stories are often surprising, and I get taken aback by the depth of the emotion, adversity and tenacity that businesspeople seem to be able to relay so easily.
What makes your clients tick is easy to uncover with just a few of the right questions and a willingness to listen, rather than comment, lecture or show off.
If you were asked, so what made you start your own business? You would find it a good experience and spout the best of stories.
So, ask your clients to unfold their ‘why’ their passionate stories, inspirations, frustrations or even their wants.
Everyone has them. We all are moulded by experience, both good and bad.
Ask your clients. Ask in a way that indulges them. Let them be selfish. Give them the stage to boast from. Give them room and time to rant. Be a cheerleader for them and their struggles overcome.
They will be so pleased you allowed them to open up. Stories sell, Facts Tell.
Once they have done so, ask them these questions.
I ‘m curious, what are your top three tips?
What do you want from me? Not what do you need, just, what do you want?
Would it be ok if we quoted your knowledge to others that are just like you?
Start with yourself, what is your story.
When we check Trip Advisor and think who would write such a glowing testimonial report, we know, it’s possibly the best friend of the director or owner of that business.
When we read a scathing one, we know it’s possibly the competitor’s version, of don’t go there, find us instead.
It’s the in-between reports that seem the most genuine and realistic. After reading enough 3’s and 4’s rather than just the 1’s and 5’s, we start to get a picture of what’s really going on.
So as an alternative, perhaps it’s better that when we ask our customers for feedback, and then we decide upon taking this one step further.
Imagine if you would, picking a 3 or 4 from your client feedbacks and reporting on and after the feedback event. Let me explain it this way.
One course we ran recently had a delegate say the following;
“I loved the course but felt it was too superficial. I would love to have some more detailed examples of how the process works. Especially ones that are true stories and an application of how it worked. Otherwise, the course was great, food was nice, venue ideal and the trainer was engaging” 4 out of 5.
So, when it comes to reporting a testimonial, it would be very tempting to just reprint the first and last sentences, missing out the suggestion and the critique.
This makes it slightly disingenuous.
A more powerful way would be to report the whole and then, address the critique and suggestion, and ask for second feedback.
We did just that.
The client was invited back, at our own cost, and we added the suggestion in as well as addressed a bespoke solution to a client issue he had at the time.
This is what he wrote after the second event.
“Attending the follow-up course, I was stunned to realise that my feedback had been taken so seriously. I had more than a renewed understanding of the training concept, I had a practical solution to one of my own difficult issues. I was blown away! The food was nice again. The venue was ideal, and the trainer was just as engaging. However, this time I had a fantastic experience and will be recommending this wholeheartedly. Thank you for listening but thank you more for taking action to improve my experience.” 5 out of 5.
The first and second testimonials, carry so much more weight and honesty.
Feedback is the food of champions. We know that. However, what we do with it is the key.
Are you brave enough to quote both the feedbacks and then give an explanation of why the difference or are you just going to highlight the positive bits and miss the real powerful testimonial?
It is one way to set yourself apart. It is more genuine and realistic. It also shows that you care enough about doing a good job that you will expose where you fell short and prove that you are willing to do something about it too.
That takes guts. You need to be brave to do that. You need to be openly honest enough to admit you are not perfect but are trying always to be better.
Go on. I dare you.
Key people in your company and life.
I remember a significant customer who gave me so much business every year, that I joked about if he were ever ill, I would send my own personal doctor by helicopter to get him well again.
We laughed about it at the time, yet we all know that some people in our businesses, customers, key salespeople, directors and office managers can be so integral and valuable, we would do anything to keep them in situ.
With regard to team members, while this is impossible to guarantee, it is possible to strengthen their position with you to make it unlikely they would leave. It is possible to have the right health plans in place for them. We can pay them more than the open market value too. However, this is not good enough. Yes, it will help, but when you are running a business, you need more than a plan A or A & B.
First, it is not wise to be so dependant on one person. This means having a robust enough back up to replace anyone.
Secondly, it means recognising that this is a vulnerable position to let yourself be in. A table with only one or two legs will fall when one goes.
Thirdly, it means having the right people feel appreciated.
This last one is the overlooked one.
Appreciation is often shown with money, rewards or even recognition. However, the secret to appreciation is based on being real about it.
A heartfelt thank you. A case of wine, A personal thank you note. Perhaps a gift of extra time off.
One of my personal favourites is just a surprise gift. Saw this and thought of you. I knew you liked these, so I got you one.
It can often be like courting. When you are trying to win someone over you, tend to be more attentive than at any other time. Yet if we want people to be loyal and happy and productive, we have an easy option of just paying them the respect they deserve. It is not about money only. It is more about a sense of self-worth or contribution. Making a difference in people’s lives is a strong motivator. Tap into it.
Ask yourself, how can I improve the lives of the key people in my business, or life. They won’t get it easily anywhere, yet if we know how to, we can build a business based on the valuable traits that make people happy.
People will come and go for a variety of reasons. It is important to shore up the valuable assets in our businesses and families and relationships. The most valuable is often the people. Pay respect to that fact and it will serve you well.
When is losing really winning?
No matter how well you get on with someone, it is practically impossible to agree on everything.
For many people who are less assertive by nature and do not like confrontation of any kind, they may pretend to agree on points but actually disagree. In this event, nobody wins
For most people, if they disagree and they are free to express an honest opinion, they will do so.
However, what starts as intellectual disagreement can often engage both peoples egos and thus drop into winning and losing when both parties believe they are right and just argue to win. In this event, both parties actually lose.
So how do you win every disagreement?
The answer is – you don’t see it as disagreement but a chance to learn something. Ideally every time someone disagrees with your point of view you should get really curious.
- Why are they disagreeing?
- What do they know that I don’t know?
- Why have they come to that conclusion?
Coming at any disagreement from the point of curiosity means you win every time.
Because no matter what happens, you learn something you didn’t know before. Either some facts you did not know or something about the person who is holding a different perspective.
Maybe you are better armed with more relevant facts than the other person, maybe your information is wrong, or maybe your world views are just different – either way, you learn something. Learning something means you win from the disagreement irrelevant of whether you end up agreeing or not.
In the end, in most cases, it’s not that important that someone agrees with you and there is no such thing as winning an argument.
So how do you get to the fundamentals of why you disagree?
It’s about exploring the other person’s beliefs. As Stephen Covey points out, this is one of the 7 habits of highly effective people “ Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
A great question which I am trying to embed in my life is “Why do you believe that to be true?”. This open question followed by more in-depth clarifying questions can really get to the bottom of a person’s belief system and will unearth the answers to the previous 3 questions.
It’s generally good practice to summarise what the other person believes and why to firstly get an agreement that you fully understand.
Once you understand a person’s beliefs and why they believe what they do, you have a solid base from which to proceed.
It is probably best not to jump straight in with your disagreement but to firstly establish common ground on which you agree – this helps build rapport.
If the other person’s beliefs rest upon what you believe to be incomplete or incorrect information, you are now in a position to put that correct ( which could be incorrect) information on the table. They are more likely to listen as you have shown you fully understand their perspective.
At this point, I personally have to be careful. I am a person that both loves to help and is also armed with a huge amount of information ( having read on average 40 books a year on personal development and business for the last 20 years). This very knowledge means I am potentially in a position to help, but sometimes the gap is too big. ( I need to work on my mindfulness to recognise these points more often)
What do I mean?
For instance, for me, (because I have done over 2000 hours of research into this area alone over 20 years,) it is very difficult to help someone on diet, health, longevity and losing weight if all they know are what they read in newspapers, magazines and the odd TV program.
Information and experience is generally what is used to form a person’s beliefs. A belief is like a table – the stronger the belief the more legs there are supporting that table. So to alter a belief where you discover a vast array of incomplete knowledge and a strong viewpoint, is very difficult. You basically have to knock out each supporting leg one at a time.
It’s hard to walk away when someone has incomplete facts and are doing the wrong thing, which may negatively impact their lives. However, sometimes to enhance the relationship, it’s just better to say – OK, we have a fundamentally different viewpoint. I arrived at mine by doing this, this and this which is a lot of ground to cover and today may not be the right time. So let’s just agree to smile and disagree. However, if you are interested in why I disagree please let me know, and I will send you what I believe to be the best sources of information and then you can decide for yourself.
In the end, all disagreements are a chance to enhance relationships and learn something if you engage curiosity rather than ego – I personally have a long way to go to practice what I preach in this particular post. But I learned something from writing it
Enjoy the journey.
Holidays vs Time out
You may have recently had a holiday which took significant planning, proactive action and timed schedules to make possible. I know I have and sometimes it can seem such hard work that it takes the first two days of holiday to catch your breath.
Then the calm starts; you are glad to be relaxing. You get sold the idea of an activity that will take all day and drain you. It’ll be fun, and it will be tiring. You’ll sleep well. You rejuvenate more, and the benefits kick in of why you came on holiday. A wonderful feeling.
All too soon, home time looms, and the busy head gets started again. You get back, and within two days you wonder if you had a holiday.
This cycle is common. However, a friend of mine added a few twists that I consider make the whole process even more rewarding and memorable.
My long-suffering PA now has all the details I need to gather to book the holiday. I tell her where I want to go, when and for how long. She prepares a file for me. One that gives me all the details boarding cards, contacts and the insurance and anything else that I may need. It’s then copied onto dropbox. I have a small paper file as back up that fits in my passport wallet with currency and spare credit cards.
I have a prepared list of things to take that I tweak each holiday and the bags I take include the toiletries already.
This makes the process slicker and takes the prep time and stress factors to a low enough level that by the time I go, I am already chilled out.
The next level is the work that I would normally do is fully delegated, and I only come back to the stuff no one else could decide on or handle.
All the photos I take on holiday are in a shared online file, and I select the ones I want converted to a book either on the journey home, or as I go through the holiday. This gets printed for me as soon as I get back.
This all sounds wonderful. Yet the reason we take holidays is to rejuvenate. So, the more we can do so, the fresher we are when we get back. The more efficient we are for the next period before we go again. Win-Win all round.
Holidays should be rejuvenating, and under the best conditions, we get the best new ideas. Even if all we do is take time out, it should be rejuvenating enough to be beneficial.
Taking this to the idea of how you run a project in your business is duplicatable. Most of what we do can be so organised as to be rejuvenating rather than draining. Your business is a series of projects and plans and goals. Treat your business like you are planning a holiday. Boss it to benefit all concerned and make each project a holiday to remember. Take pictures and reflect on how it all went. You will look back at that project and get more energy from it because you will reflect on it. Just like you do with that fabulous holiday you had that you always smile about when you remember it and look at the pictures.
Eight biggest mistakes of business owners
The following eight mistakes of business owners are not meant to be a comprehensive list because as all of who are business owners know the list is a lot longer than 8 points. However, I believe that if you address the following 8 points, those actions will have a massive impact on the profitability and success of your business.
These points are more about mindset changes as opposed to specific activities.
1. Being driven by money and not a passion for delivering value
Sure we have to make a good profit to remain in business. It’s no good having a wonderful business which you love if you do not make enough profit to live your desired lifestyle and help your teams of people do the same.
In the end, the money your business makes is a direct reflection of the value it offers and the number of people it delivers that value to
However, if your focus is ONLY on the profit, you will not build a strong growing business. A business is only as strong as the idea behind it and the value it delivers to its customers. Bear profit in mind but swing your mindset more to offering as much value as you can to your customers. The more you can grow and differentiate the value your business offers to your customers, the more “Raving Fans” you will build. Therefore, the word of mouth recommendations you get will significantly improve, and the more your business will grow.
Look at every one of your products and services. Focus ONLY on the ones that you believe you can offer extraordinary value to your customers and either ditch the rest or find a way of outsourcing that to someone else. This focus will make your systems and teams increasingly better, which will keep adding value and keep growing profits.
2. Not thinking long term sustainability
A business is not or at least should not be in the game of beating its competitors (unless it’s a sports team) It’s not about the competition – it’s about sustainability.
Business owners that focus on beating the competition simply do not understand the game they are playing. In sports, the game has a defined time limit, a defined set of rules and a referee. Your business has continually changing competition across the world; there is no time limit; there are no clearly defined rules and certainly no referee.
A business is in an infinite game where the game is really – To Stay in Business. You lose the game only if you go out of business.
If you want a long-term sustainable business, you have to start with the intention of growing a long term sustainable business not simply beating the competition.
Think long term. Build the best you can now and apply the Kaizen principle – Continuous and never-ending improvement.
- Keep your best people long term and keep helping them to improve.
- Build your systems for the long term and keep improving them
- Improve your products and services continually
- Build your financial reserves against a rainy day
- Protect your intellectual property – the way you do what you do
3. Not working on your personal development
Every business is a reflection of its leader or leaders. The way you think determines the culture and actions of your teams and ultimately what your business does and how it does it.
Working on your business is like adding extra apps to your phone. Very useful and certainly adds value if the apps are good.
Working on yourself as Leader is like changing the operating system from a mobile phone which simply makes calls to the supercomputer you probably have in your pocket right now.
Working hard and getting coached on your personal development will change how you think, your life and business strategies and how you interact with the world. Growing personally will inevitably change your life for the better.
4. Not working on your business culture
Your business has a culture irrelevant of what you do. Your culture is how you, your teams and your business behaves. The question is – How effective is your culture in winning your business game.
In the 1960s Douglas McGregor wrote a seminal business book called the “Human Side of Enterprise” about Theory X and Theory Y companies. – Google it to learn more
Basically, theory X companies work on command and control – They believe people need to be controlled, told what to do and how to do it.
Theory Y companies believe people are generally good, self-motivated and self-directed and want to produce a good job. They prefer the autonomy of being allowed to work to the best of their abilities.
Both methods can produce excellent results. It’s just one is much more fun to work in, less stress for the business owners and potentially is more sustainable in the long term.
Today in a fast moving and ever more complex world, the most talented people are increasingly mobile and well connected. They know their own worth and are only attracted to companies where they feel valued and can work with purpose-driven highly capable teams. It’s not just the money. In the first five years of Google, nearly everyone who worked for them took a salary CUT to join them because they were excited to work in a high performing autonomous culture.
You cannot hope to run a great business by yourself.
Building a great culture to attract extraordinary people who will help you grow your business with more fun and less stress is essential in today’s world.
5. Not measuring team members performance properly
You can make every effort to employ the right people and build a great culture, but still, some people will underperform. You or their team leader may feel that underperformance in their guts but its really hard and time-consuming to pin down. If you or a team leader gives a person a bad appraisal, that person can simply dismiss that appraisal as the “Boss is just a ********! – He /she doesn’t know what she is talking about. They then carry on regardless, doing the same as before or worse still simply paying lip service to the feedback.
So what’s the answer?
360 Degree anonymous reviews for every person in the company and especially team leaders and the boss from at least five other people who work closely with them. The results should produce average scores against a whole range of criteria.
It’s easy to dismiss parts of your appraisal because the boss is a ******** but practically impossible to do so if it’s all the people you work with giving you an average low score in a particular area of your performance. It does not matter what you think. Whether you think the score is fair or not is irrelevant – the fact is that other people who work closely with you believe this is a correct indication of your performance – so nearly everyone will take more notice of the results.
It’s essential that a 360 review system is put into place to help people develop because hopefully most of your people want to do a good job. Most of us are simply blind to our weaknesses. People should want to know how to improve otherwise, why are they working with you?
Following that 360 appraisals, a personal development plan should be agreed with every employee and regularly discussed and progress tracked by team leaders.
A team leaders MAIN job should be to get the best from his/her team
This regular feedback and tracking to help low performance in certain areas are essential for everyone. Across your company, this will produce extraordinary results. Across the board, low performers can be moved to other roles to give them a chance. Ultimately, low performers are likely to deselect themselves as it is very difficult to continue work in a team when you know everyone thinks you are underperforming. You will either strive to improve, or you will leave or the company.
Sometimes the company will have to “ask” some people to leave.
If you have to go through the correct disciplinary procedure with a few people who underperform you are protected. Its very difficult for them to claim unfair dismissal when a whole team of their peers are stating in their records that they are underperforming in key areas.
For your good people – they know they are doing a good job. As such they really want to know their lower scores (which they may well be blind to) and how they can up their game.
Measuring performance fairly across a range of key criteria and following it up properly will produce high performing and happier teams
What gets measured gets managed.
6. Not enough focus on attracting, identifying and engaging great people
Many companies boast about how great their training programs are. If you spend more time energy and resources on attracting, identifying and engaging great people you can spend a lot less on training. Great people are self-motivated. They will identify their weak areas and self-train without the need for much help from you. Smart, engaged people can learn how to do most things well provided there is someone to teach them.
In my opinion, there is NOTHING more important than doing everything you can to employ the best people.
Until you are certain you have a fantastic team of HR people with a highly systemised and proven record of employing great people do not leave it to them.
How can you be certain?
Develop scorecards and questions to determine the attributes you want for every prospective employee. Your performance management system should be checked back against the scorecards produced when that person was engaged. Were the scores in line with the actual performance the employee produces?
If not adjust the employment process and questions asked to improve your engagement process to only hire world-class people.
It’s currently x10 harder to get a job with Google than it is to get into Harvard business school. That’s not because they are a highly successful company now. They are a highly successful company because they work extremely hard to get the right people and build a culture for those people to perform well.
7. Not building systems for everything
Great people are essential, and they can even get around bad systems, but why should they have to?
Everything in the business should be part of a system with strong checklists.
You should have the attitude of: To err once is human to err twice on the same thing is stupidity.
If something goes wrong and you have a system – the first thing you should do is blame is the system – most bosses blame the person when in fact the error is probably the fault of the boss for not having a proper system. If the system is at fault talk to your people on how to improve the system, so the fault does not happen again.
Does this mean all your people become robots? Absolutely not – their role is to identify exceptions to the system, faults in the systems and have the authority to act accordingly without fear. They should also be architects of improving the systems and therefore will be engaged in making it work.
With great highly engaged people constantly looking to make 1% improvements to the company systems, the company continually improves to win its game.
8. Not having a coach
All of the above points take a lot of time, energy and resources.
All great performers have great coaches, and I believe it’s almost impossible to perform well without one.
A great coach will question your beliefs and thinking from which all your actions and results are driven. They will hold you accountable to drive forward when things get difficult, and you wonder if you will ever fix big problems. They will remind you that all big problems can be resolved with a good strategy and hard work even if it takes years.
A good coach keeps you in your business game and helps you win.
Enjoy the journey
WHAT IS BOTHERING YOU?
When you start to list the things that bother you and begin to wonder how best to resolve these issues, it can be very debilitating. Procrastination sets in, and the problem continues.
How do you break this circle?
First, you need to identify the problem. The first rule of dealing with any big issue is to admit it exists. Alcoholics are first asked to admit that they are an alcoholic because they can’t move on unless they do.
The same applies here.
A good friend of mine was always moaning about cask flow in his business, and I asked him to explain why he thought it was the case. He eventually admitted that he does a lot of work before being paid for it and relied on the good nature of his customers to always pay.
Once we analysed his outstanding invoices, he saw the patterns and the folly of awaiting payment. It was uncomfortable to decide to tell all his customers, money up front please, but once he bit that bullet, he solved the issue. Yes, he lost customers, but in his post-event analysis, he admitted, ‘ I lost the right ones to lose’.
Secondly, you are best to realise that you can’t solve all your own problems. You will need others to help you or even do it for you.
‘Who’ gets things done for you, is a better tactic to employ than ‘How’.
Most of the time there are quicker, more accurate and even enthusiastic people out there that will eat your problem and solve it, fast, better and to a conclusion. This is delegation and wisdom combined.
Stop holding on to the negative issues and get those that love this work to do it for you. You’ll be freer to do what you do best and less stressed too. You’ll have more energy and be more excited about the future knowing that when you hit a wall again, you’ll know what to do about it.
Surround yourself with those that love to do what you hate. Surround yourself with people smarter than you at the things that slow you down.
So, this all begins with asking yourself and being very honest about it
- What is bothering me,
- What is slowing me down
- What is taking my energy away?
Do you want a new computer?
I had got so used to my old one that it took someone else working on mine to make me realise that I had got stuck in a rut of habit and had no idea how inefficient I was managing my computer, and anything linked to it.
Therefore, you need a coach. You can not see how you are performing. It takes others with a trained eye to help you relook at the stuff you have habituated and got comfortable with.
Unless you have more than your own perspective, you can’t possibly compare enough or load up the
a new way of working.
Our skills as social animals help us in so many ways. When you are running your own business, it is easy to think you have everything working well enough to keep growing and be competitive.
If you let a skilful observer give you feedback, you can enhance what you are good at, and this helps you grow in ways you hadn’t thought of already or were blind to. Practice being sociable about how you manage you.
Take stock, analyse and request feedback.
Let those that you trust, give you constructive criticism. Be open to suggestions, new ideas and even allow others to do things for you for a while. You’ll be amazed at how much you can quicken your processing.
My new computer is so much faster. Slicker, smarter, and I now love it. The change suggested to me was difficult to allow because I had got used to how it all worked. I managed the time it took to do certain tasks and was pleased to consider myself as efficient. Looking back at it now, I was stuck in a poor cycle of doing things the way I knew how rather than the way I should do them.
Thankfully, I allowed my PA to bully me into changing. It now takes me much less time, be more accurate and suffer much less stress.
Let a coach into your life, your business, your gym, your relationships, your study methods, your home, your….. anything, and you get that shiny new computer feeling I had today.
It takes courage, it takes to change, and you must be open and trusting. Is it worth it? Oh yes!!!!!!
- The 7 year itch
- Directions on the path
- I am curious
- Your ideas and story
- Anti – testimonial
- Key people in your company and life.
- When is losing really winning?
- Holidays vs Time out
- Eight biggest mistakes of business owners
- What is bothering you?
- Do you want a new computer?
- Are you setting yourself up for failure?
- A Coach for all.
- What businesses are going to be the best in the future?
- Begin with the end in mind
- Letting go of the past
- Promise Keepers Rule Ok!
- The high road or the low road?
- Should I put a hammer through my TV? – The power of rituals
- Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts