Object Permanence

My twin sister and I looked at each other in panic. The moment we had feared was coming had finally occurred. Our mother is gone, has left us forever, and now we are left to fend for ourselves in this scary world. It happened so suddenly! How could we have been caught so off guard?

Little tragedies like this have been happening for days, but our mother was always around to save the day. You see, Mother can perform miracles, Father too. It started on Tuesday, when I dropped my Lion rattle. It was my absolute favorite, and when I realized I had stupidly let go of it and let it fall into the abyss, a lump rose to my throat. Poor, poor Lion! I should have appreciated him more. I should have kept a tighter grip on him. What was to become of him there? I missed him desperately and cried in a way that echoed my inner agony. That’s when the first miracle happened. Mother’s magic hand disappeared, plunging deep into the abyss, and then, before my very eyes, reappeared holding my precious Lion! Her magic hand dropped it into my lap with a soothing word from her beautiful face, and I was overjoyed to the point that a giggle burst from my mouth.

I suppose that’s what made it all the more tragic that Mother was gone. Now there was no one who could reach the abyss and worse yet, she was there now too.

“Maybe she’s still here?” Addy suggested hopefully.

“That’s impossible. We’ve run all the tests, Addy. We can’t hear her. We can’t feel her holding us. I can’t really smell her any more. We’ve looked all around the room, and she isn’t here. All our evidence indicates that we will never see her again.” Addy could be very intuitive about some things, but her idealism got tiring.

Come to think of it, we hadn’t seen Father in a while either. We had been so distracted eating and having our diapers changed that I hadn’t noticed exactly when he fell into the abyss. This was getting worse all the time.

Addy and I looked at each other from our cribs, willing the other not to disappear like everyone else had. I clutched Lion with all my strength and banged him against the side of my bed to reassure myself he was still there.

Addy’s eyes grew wide. “Maybe she can come back from the abyss like her hands do!”

“You’re just fooling yourself now. I wish I could believe it too, but it’s simply wishful thinking. She’s gone as gone can be, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Seconds ticked by. Maybe even whole minutes. Mother had said something about “nap time” and that she was going to “take a shower,” but we didn’t really know what any of that meant. I began to get tired and started crying. It was too much to bear. How could we be expected to carry on in these circumstances? 

I looked over at Addy as she stared at her mobile. She always did that when she was working something out in her head.

She smiled as a realization dawned over her. She whispered, afraid that the epiphany would escape her, “What if this has happened BEFORE, but we were sleeping the whole time and didn’t know it?”

I couldn’t help but snort through my tears.

“Yeah, right. I suppose next you’re going to say someday we will be able to walk on our legs? Or reach into the abyss like Mother and Father did, too?”

Such a dreamer.

 

Practical Help You Can Give Grieving Parents

I got to thinking, after hearing about another family who lost a child suddenly, about what their friends can do to really help them. Obviously, the experience is incredibly individual, but hopefully these are fairly universal:

1) Meal trains are an obvious one. These are great for folks who don’t know the family intimately, but who want to help- coworkers, church members, acquaintances, etc. Honestly, the family probably won’t care too much what it is, or even have much of an appetite for a while, but it is one less thing to think about.

2) Hold off on the books. I know when I was crying all day everyday, no matter how insightful a book is, the last thing I wanted to do was read more about grief. This is one of those very individual things, maybe some people take comfort in poring over the grieving process early on. I’d say, maybe wait a few months when they can think a bit more clearly.

3) Set up standing weekly childcare, if they have older children. To me, the “standing” part is crucial. The grieving parents won’t always know what they will need when, but having a standing time will take that pressure off of them to ask. They might even feel guilty spending time away from their other children, so again, not having to ask is key. Sometimes knowing you have that break from being strong for the other children on Wednesday afternoon is such a blessing. Also, it gives them time to schedule grief counseling or their own medical appointments. If you and your friends can swing it, it would be ideal to have a few weekday hours, and a standing Friday night for the parents to spend time together. 

 

4) Make a list of resources you think will be helpful to them (grief counselors, financial advice, support groups, activities for their kids, etc.) and just keep them filed away until they need them. If you try to give them this information in the first few months they will forget about it or lose it.

 

5) On a more emotional level, don’t be afraid to talk about their lost loved one, if it comes up organically. Nothing hurts more than feeling like people are dancing around the topic in a conversation. If you’re not sure what to say, just tell them, “I am not sure what to say, but I love you and I’m here for you.” Also, the thing that has meant the most to me are the people (two in particular, who weren’t even especially close friends before) who send me e-mails or cards (even six months later) every week just to say that they are thinking of me and hoping I have a good day. It never ceases to surprise me how a few of my closest friends dropped off the map after the first month, yet other more casual friends have been unceasing in their support. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

 

I hope this helps even just one person. I will probably be writing more philosophically soon, but maybe these practical tips are helpful to someone now.

Control, Chaos, and Chilling Out

Today I’m contemplating the liberation and fear inspired by realizing what total lack of control we have over certain events in our lives. I think that as Americans, we have developed an elaborate web of specific behaviors that we believe guarantee specific results. These span from cradle to grave and provide immense and perhaps equal amounts of pressure and comfort. Natural childbirth, breastfeeding, optimum vaccination schedule, all organic and healthy foods, early reading, team sports, group projects, speed math, good colleges, pre-marital counseling, sound retirement planning, good cholesterol, regular physical and mental exercise, etc. If you can just hit all these requirements, you and your children will be the picture of good physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual health, guaranteed a long life of success. Right?

What we are nearly incapable of processing is the 40 year-old man in excellent health who has a heart attack during a bike ride and dies. The woman who, despite a lifetime of healthy living, develops aggressive cancer at 30 and dies sends us into hand-wringing fits of “Why?” In my case, the vibrant and fiercely loved breastfed/vaccinated/organically-nourished/physically active little girl who catches a common virus and dies literally at the end of the day unhinged most of what I had based my daily life on.

It caused me to question the point of everything I’ve done as a parent. After the hours spent wearing bike helmets, and looking both ways before crossing the street, and discussing the dangers of retention ponds, my daughter ended up succumbing to something at four years old that is essentially untreatable and practically unpreventable. I want to scream at the parents smugly posting on Facebook that they only use unbleached cotton in their cloth diapers, “Do you think that really protects you from anything? Do you think you’re ‘safe’ now?”

Don’t get me wrong, all these things are worth doing. Of course. I would never suggest that good nutrition, exercise, and mental health aren’t tremendous investments in our quality of life expectation. I guess the part I see differently now, is that these things ARE NOT A GUARANTEE. You cannot will life to be exactly the way you want it to be. Let me just reiterate that: You cannot will life to be exactly the way you want it to be. In a way, that is absolutely terrifying. Lack of control over your or your children’s health has got to be one of the most humbling realizations in our existence. Things are going to happen that you can’t do a damn thing about. Your prayers, the best doctors in the world, the strongest will or love can’t stop bad things from happening sometimes.

I think that once you have stared this vulnerability in the eye, the only thing you can do is try to embrace it. There’s the usual “enjoy every moment” platitudes, but it is more than that. You’re off the hook a bit. If you’re not in complete control, you’re not completely responsible. I have a younger child, and I plan to feed her as healthfully as I can, cultivate her intellect, foster her self-confidence, encourage a rewarding social and career life, and so on. But you know what? Not everything is under my control and if she struggles with reading, or her weight, or shyness, or her health, maybe, just maybe, that isn’t all my fault, either.

Another big revelation that is blooming for me after facing the void of chaos, is that I am really trying to judge others less. After all, what could possibly be the measuring stick? I did everything “right” and still lost my daughter, so who am I to assess another parent? We all have these moments in our lives, even without tragedy.  Have you ever painstakingly prepared the perfect presentation at work and still not gotten the reaction you rightfully predicted? Have you ever known someone who worked hard all their life, and responsibly invested their savings for retirement (in Enron)? You could judge either of these people as foolish and ill-prepared, but the truth is that we can’t control every outcome and you never know what someone has been through when you find them in a less than impressive situation.

While you’re at it, go ahead and stop judging yourself. If you skip those organics one meal, read two books instead of three at bedtime, take a nap instead of working out one day, or have that extra French fry, it won’t be the end of the world. Or maybe it will be. But you can’t do anything about it either way, so you may as well take a deep breath and let it go. I promise, you’ll survive the chaos a bit better if you do.

You’re not on board with a client’s plan. Now what?

As blog writers and online marketers, we face a variety of difficult professional issues. Organizing workflow, setting up future business leads, and honing skills are the usual concerns, but sometimes all of those are shelved when we aren’t 100% on board with what the client wants to do.

We walk a fine line of maintaining our expertise, and wanting to be cooperative with the client’s wishes. It can be a very subtle feeling, but generally when a client asks you to do something you don’t feel good about, it falls into one of these categories:

  1. They aren’t willing to invest the time and money necessary to make a strategy succeed.
  2. They are committed to a strategy you don’t think will accomplish the goal.
  3. Ethically, you don’t feel good about their goals.

These are very distinct issues, but they touch on the same conundrum: When do you go with the flow and hope for the best, and when do you stand your ground?

In the case of the first point of conflict, it can be useful to point out similar campaigns by other companies that were successful, and examine the investment that was necessary to make it work. If you can’t achieve a greater buy-in from your client, it’s time to do your best, and hope that if it doesn’t accomplish all the goals you hoped, that they will remember your earlier cautions and devote more resources next time.

If your client chooses a course of action that you just don’t think will work for what they want to do, it can be a hard decision to go along with it. Each day, you feel a stronger uneasiness as you plod along on a course you don’t believe will work. If you’ve tried to educate your client about why you don’t feel their plan is ideal, perhaps you can try to take a detached view and think of the process as an educational experience. Take notes along the way about where the plan falls short, what you would have done differently, and maybe you can write a white paper about the endeavor later.

The last situation can be the most uncomfortable. If your client is trying to use your services in order to pull off a less-than-scrupulous business goal, or even just something that goes against your personal beliefs, it can be almost impossible to smile and nod, let alone perform at your highest level. Depending on your financial and professional situation, this is the time when you might need to cut and run. However, if you need to maintain a civil business relationship, this can require a little finesse. But then, you’ve over-committed with other work. You don’t feel you can give them the attention they deserve. You’re not the best fit for the job. It can’t be helped. (wink, wink)

Only you can decide if you’re able to work through the conflict when a client’s work is at odds with your ideas and personality. Have you ever been in this position, and what did you end up doing?

Social Media 101: 3 Lazy Ways to Be Your Own Client

Finding time to do your own online marketing is difficult.

In Arabic countries, there’s a saying, “The carpenter’s house has a loose door.” Here, we say “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Basically, professionals all around the world, for hundreds of years, have been neglecting their own promotion.

We all have this problem. Once we have enough projects to keep us busy, the choice of disappointing a paying client and working on our own promotion is a no-brainer. Of course, there’s that nagging worry in the back of our minds, “What if this or that client drops off and I haven’t been building new leads in the meantime?” It is the thought that keeps us up at night, but never seems to get any of our time during the day.

Like most challenges in life, the answer lies in summoning some extra discipline. Still, there are ways to build promotion of your own business into your day without feeling like you are sacrificing time for your paying projects.

  1. Three days a week, get up half an hour early and work only on your own promotion. Whether it is the weekend when you don’t have the usual morning commitments, or a few weekdays when you want to get a jump on the day, use that uncluttered time for your own business. Write a blog post. Find three articles and automate their postings for the week. Research speaking engagements or networking events you want to attend. 
  2. Maximize guest appearances. Chances are, you have clients, colleagues, industry leaders, and others who would be willing to exchange promotional time with you. Once a month, we invite a guest to participate in our “Junk Trunk Challenge” and contribute a blog post. We also love Roundpeg’s “More Than a Few Words” feature, in which they interview someone of interest in their marketing world. This one isn’t a huge time-saver, since you will most likely want to reciprocate the contribution, but the amplification of addressing your audience and the audience of your collaborator will make it worth the effort.
  3. Build reminders into your routine to spend time on your business’ image.Sometimes, it isn’t so much that we don’t have time to promote our business, we simply don’t realize how much time has passed by. You know that show your significant other loves to watch that you hate? While you’re sitting there on the couch, use that weekly reminder to set up ten tweets for the week. Every time you log into Klout, use it as a prompt to scan the “People You Might Know” section of other social networks. Just put your kid in time-out? Use that three minutes to set up a lunch date with someone you’d like to network with.

It’s never easy to set aside your paying business to focus on your own PR. It is an ongoing battle that will never be easy, but we’ve all got to find a way to use whatever tricks we can to get those shoes made for the kids. Good luck!

Master Series - I’m a medical professional, why do I need social media?

It can be confusing to know how social media would specifically benefit your business. It’s a lot of work, why go to all that trouble if it isn’t worth it? You have a vague feeling you “should” be doing blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so on, but you don’t know exactly why.


For physicians, dentists, optometrists, and any other medical specialty, social media primarily does four things:

  1. Improves your rank in a Google search for your services. Every time you are able to link your name, your website, and the keywords that relate to your business, Google sees you as a better match when someone does a search for your area of practice. There are specialists who can help you improve what is called “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO), but as long as you incorporate your city and words that someone might use to search for your services, you are on the right track.
  2. Keeps you in the front of potential clients’ or referring doctors’ minds. There is a long-established theory of marketing that aims simply to be the first name that comes to a person’s mind when they need your service. Every time someone shares a photo that you have posted, or retweets an article you tweeted, your name is reinforced in the consciousness of others.
  3. Establishes you as an authority on your subject matter. There are few better ways to gain the trust of a potential patient than to have a strong online presence. Studies show that people perceive businesses with up-to-date social media and websites are also more cutting-edge in their professional realm. Outside of front-of-mind marketing, you are creating concrete examples of knowledge in your field when you provide information your patients are seeking, in an accessible medium.
  4. Humanizes you in your community. Those photos you post of your staff doing a benefit walk/run, the reaction to a Indianapolis Colts game, the interactions with a referral business, all serve to show that you and your employees are “real people” who are vested in the community.

The most important thing is to be consistent and patient with whatever social networks you choose. With regular attention and enough time, you will see your practice grow from your efforts in social media.

A blog about Likewise Social

If you want to read a blog post about the absolute latest and greatest tool to track your social media metrics as a function of your click-through-rate versus your viral reach, this isn’t going to be the source for that. My goal for this blog is to tell you about Likewise Social, discuss interesting trends I see in marketing and business, and help you understand what social media will or won’t do for you.

My interest is in the people who own businesses. Why did they start the business? How did they get where they are? Where do they want to be in a year? My husband teases me because I often ask these questions of complete strangers. I can’t help it. I truly want to know the story behind a face. Now, I am fortunate enough to have a business that allows me to ask these questions and not just sound nosy. Better yet, I get to actually help people get to their next step and keep going.

No software in the world can show you that kind of personal investment.