Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lesson: 18 Everything is meaningless; except what you believe.

One of my favorite TV shows is Star Trek Voyager. I have most of the seasons on disk, and used to watch them daily after work as a way to unwind. After years of a hiatus from watching Voyager, I started watching them again from the first season.

The other day a came across a marvelous episode (“Sacred Ground”) that I had completely forgotten about, in this episode the crew has been invited to take respite on a planet enjoy their culture and sacred caves.
In the beginning of the show you see B'Elanna, Harry, Neelix, and Kes getting a tour of one of the sacred caves by the leader of the Nechani people (planet’s inhabitants). Kes the youngest of the crew is very inquisitive and goes off by herself away from the tour. She notices what looks like a doorway of super brilliant beautiful light. She goes up to it and the light field sends out a shock that knocks her out and sends her into a coma.

Voyager’s ship doctor and all their advance technology are unable to help Kes out of the coma. Captain Janeway looking any solution that might lead to help and restore Kes back to health, discovers a myth of the people of this planet where a King from long ago petitioned the monks of the caves to allow himself to go through a ritual to be purified so that he may ask the ancestral sprits to save his son. His son who touched the energy field and also ended up in a deep sleep, the myth states the King was successful and his son was saved.  Captain Janeway takes this story to the monks and makes her plea asking, if like the King, if she could go through the ritual to be purified, so she may also implore the sprits to save Kes.

The captain being a scientist and a woman of reason, really does not believe there are ancestral sprits that will save Kes, however she believes if she goes through the ritual she will gain enough scientific information that will allow them to help Kes. Captain Janeway, as a way to prepare reads all she can about the subject of religious rituals from all cultures.

When Captain Janeway shows up at sacred caves to meet her spiritual guide, she is surprised to meet a woman that seems to be anything than what you’d expect of a spiritual guide. Janeway advises that she is ready to do whatever is necessary and is willing to accept whatever challenges they give her.
The guide upon hearing this, states:”Oh it is challenges you are expecting”, they then begin. After some three days and endless challenges of endurance, strength, and spirit, Janeway is given the message from the ancestral sprits that everything is meaningless and she has all that she needs to save Kes herself.
In fact throughout all of the ritual, the guide states this point over and over, “Everything is meaningless”.
After Janeway is informed that she herself has all the answers she needs to help Kes, she goes back to her ship. Janeway is confident, with all the data her ship has been gathering while she was going through the ritual that they have an answer to save Kes. Oh, I should mention that while Janeway was going through all the ritual challenges, they ship was taking scientific data on all her bio status, based on a chip they implanted in her.
After all this though, Voyager’s ship doctor was still unable to help Kes. He announced after trying everything that it seems everything she went through was:”Meaningless”.

Janeway is stunned and goes back to the surface of the planet to speak to her spiritual guide. She implores her and says to her from the get go you have said everything is meaningless; however you lead me to believe that if I went through your ritual I could help Kes. Her spiritual guide informs her, that she led her nowhere; she went where Janeway desired. In other words it was Janeway who decided what the ritual would be and how it would be conducted. It was then that Janeway said the magic words: “I do not know”. The guide then said she was now ready to begin.

Well, it is suffice to say that in the end Janeway was able to help Kes, however it was only when she had the courage to say: I do not know the answers, and then she surrendered. However what ultimately allowed her to save Kes was also her faith, when everything in front of her; all reason deified belief, she took a leap of faith.
I’ve now watched this episode three times in the past couple days. It has really hit home with me in my path right now. In the past several months, I quite my 9-5 job and started my own company. The day after I quit, I started head on, doing a million and one tasks, to get the word out there on my firm and what we had to offer. It’s really been a challenge and I’ve worked my butt off. In February we hit a bump and our computers failed for two weeks straight. Then this month I was hit with the flu that had me out of commission for almost two weeks. A week or so ago I like Janeway was thinking to myself that I’ve taken every challenge to make this business work, why does these mishaps keep coming up. Well, it occurred to me as this episode clearly showed, “Everything is irrelevant” and only has the meaning I give it. All that matters is what I believe. 

During the past several challenging  months my confidences has gone up and down; at times I feel quite confident all will work out well, and at other times I feeling not the least bit confident. When my confidence would wan, I’d increased my efforts and worked harder doing more stuff. I figured the harder I worked, the better results I’d have, this has not been the case however. Taking a step back this week, I realized nothing I’ve been doing matters, what matters is what I believe; do I have the faith to believe that all will work out? Wow, in the past couple weeks a bunch of amazing opportunities have come about, and all I did was change my mind.
I now not only believe all will work out, I know it will even when all evidence may appear otherwise. I’ve taken a leap of faith, and I know God has my back. Thank you GOD!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lesson 17: Blessings Show Up When You Least Expect Them

A couple months back I seemed to hit a rough patch. I had just recently started my own businesses, and within the first couple of weeks I had created a website, found some wonderful clients, and wrote my first training course. I was really feeling pretty good about myself and my new business.

Then the 2nd week of November hit and after running my first course for several weeks, I had received numerous positive reviews about how much the information had helped people, and how much they enjoyed the course. At this time I was already working on my second course (in a string of training courses I have planned to write and give in the future), when I received a call from someone who had reviewed my first course.

He started the conversation with some stern criticism, which hit me rather hard, as he not only attacked my writing, but the content itself. I found myself going into defense mode, and started to defend against some of his unjust (I felt) critiques. Upon hearing myself, I stopped short and advised him if he was not happy with what he saw; he did not have to buy this course. This gave him the out he wanted, and he became much nicer after that. We ended the call on a positive note.   Of course I knew he’d never call back but that was okay by me.  By no means do I ever wish to force someone into buying my products or working with me.  I want clients who want to work with me and whom I can help.

For the rest of the week (the call from the unhappy prospect came in on Monday afternoon), I was feeling a little discouraged. Then Friday came, and I could not wait for the weekend to hit to go flying with my friends.

Then some unexpected blessings showed up when I least expected them, I received three client’s from 2pm to 5pm that Friday afternoon. Yay, just when I had started to doubt myself and think “Did I make a mistake starting my own business”?

I realized something after these events though; things are not always going to be easy with my business or my life, however the difficulty will not last forever. Nothing is permanent, and there are always new blessings on the horizon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lesson 16: Listen to your gut, and follow your first Instincts

Over the years I’ve worked with several companies and I’ve always made it a point to advise my clients how important it is to have clear credit and collection policies, in which all concerned are educated on these policies. In some cases these companies had little or no credit policy on hand. Their sales department would simply go out and get new clients, and book them under contract. Then once the services were booked, provided, and the client sent an invoice, 31 days later their collection department would contact the patron for payment.

Often, the problem was the customers did not pay timely, or could not pay at all. Their customers were never advised on the company’s payment terms or the consequence of nonpayment, nor were credit applications taken and run on these clients credit worthiness. The result with some of these companies was 25% or more in past-due accounts per month. 

Once I started working with these companies, we sat down to work out a clear credit and collection policy which began with a credit application and or contract the sales representative would request the client fill out during the sales negotiations.  Some in sales were in opposition to these changes at first, believing it would hurt their chances of getting viable clientele. Once we had everyone in credit, collections, and sales on the same page regarding these new policies, they understood getting their prospective clients to fill out the credit application protected the company later from potential clients who either could not pay due to bad credit or who had bad payment histories. 

Recently, I was surprised after I broke my own personal policy, when I accepted to work for a client without checking their credit-background, and without having them committed to a signed contract. We discussed all terms on the phone, and on Friday I immediately sent over our contract for them to sign. On Monday, I contacted their offices again, asking if they had a chance to look over our paperwork, and asked when we could expect to receive the signed documents. I advised we’d like to get everything completed before we started work with them the following week.
Oddly, a couple days went by and we received no call back. I was beginning to think they had decided to go with another contractor, when their Human Resource person contacted us back asking if we were still set to start work with them the following week. I advised that we surly were, however we still needed their signed contract and credit application back (in order to have all information completed by the time we started work with them). The HR person advised that their officers were reviewing our documents with their legal department, and they should be available when we arrive on site for our consulting assignment.

Okay, at this point a red light went off, telling me something “fishy” was going on here.  Being this was a rather big client for us, and I did not want to jeopardize our chance to work with them, I ignored my instincts.  A week later we arrived as scheduled to start our assignment. Upon sitting down with the client, I reminded them, we were still awaiting the signed contract and credit application. They apologized and said, “The responsible parties were out on holiday the week prior and they would have our signed documents sent to us shortly”.

Against all better judgment, I asked my staff to begin work. By now, you are probably aware all did not work well in this matter.  Four days into our work with this client, they advised they did not need our services, and did not feel what we had done thus far, justified payment.  With no signed contract (or any signed documents besides a phone conversation) on the table, going legal would most likely be a waste of money and time.
I learned a very valuable lesson, always listen to your gut, and follow your first instincts. Moreover, make sure you always get a signed contract and or credit application (in which you fully research the client’s credit history, in order to validate their credit worthiness) before you start work for them.