Filling the Space

Filling the Space

© Robyn R. Smith, 2016

Years ago, my growing, homeschooling family of five moved from an 1,100 sq. ft. home to one that, including the basement, was three times that size. Despite the cramped conditions of our old house, we had LOTS of extra space in the new home, with nothing to occupy it.

We talked about furniture and uses for each room. Visions of pool tables and mini ball-pits flashed through our heads. We would even have one whole wing of the house dedicated to homeschooling, and a breakfast nook for crafts; no more cleaning up books and projects every time we wanted to eat!

As we considered the best uses for all that space, I shared our thoughts with another home-educating friend. She, too, had moved from a smaller home to a much larger one a few years earlier. She offered this advice:

“Don’t be in a hurry to fill the space.”

She suggested taking our time and observing how we naturally gravitate to different spaces for different tasks. Besides, the less “stuff” we owned, the less we were “owned” by our stuff.

I took her advice to heart.

Following my friend’s suggestion, we found our open, unfinished basement a great roller skating space in the middle of winter, and a cool play space in the heat of summer. Eventually, we added a carpet remnant, couch, beanbag chairs, and TV for our kids-become-teenagers’ “hang-out” space. I even ran a short-term gift basket business in one section.

We never did get the pool table, and we didn’t really mind.

The upstairs fluctuated between office space, guest room, and separate bedroom. The formal living room did indeed become a home-school classroom, and the back screened-in porch, left to its own evolution, eventually became my summertime sanctuary.

Ultimately the space did fill up and, as we were warned, we felt the strain of being “owned” by too much stuff – a lesson I’m still trying to learn. Nevertheless, it took time to do so, and our space was filled with many happy memories and activities.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with my wise friend. We discussed our grown and growing children and our future plans. Her youngest was about to graduate. She was mentally in transition already, considering what to do with all the time previously filled with homeschooling and child rearing. Lots of thoughts were going through her head: ministry ideas, classes she could take, organizations she could participate in, travelling she might do, even potential employment. As she talked, a smile began to escape my lips.

“My friend, years ago, a dear friend offered me a piece of wisdom that served me well for many years. I now offer it back to her.” I paused, looking her in the eye, with a twinkle in mine.

“Don’t be in a hurry to fill the space. Wait patiently and see what you naturally gravitate to. Eventually it will fill itself, but take your time.”

I hugged her and concluded with, “It was good advice then, and I believe it is just as valuable now.”

She couldn’t help but smile – and agree.

Filling the Space

Filling the Space

© Robyn R. Smith, 2016

Years ago, my growing, homeschooling family of five moved from an 1,100 sq. ft. home to one that, including the basement, was three times that size. Despite the cramped conditions of our old house, we had LOTS of extra space in the new home, with nothing to occupy it.

We talked about furniture and uses for each room. Visions of pool tables and mini ball-pits flashed through our heads. We would even have one whole wing of the house dedicated to homeschooling, and a breakfast nook for crafts; no more cleaning up books and projects every time we wanted to eat!

As we considered the best uses for all that space, I shared our thoughts with another home-educating friend. She, too, had moved from a smaller home to a much larger one a few years earlier. She offered this advice:

“Don’t be in a hurry to fill the space.”

She suggested taking our time and observing how we naturally gravitate to different spaces for different tasks. Besides, the less “stuff” we owned, the less we were “owned” by our stuff.

I took her advice to heart.

Following my friend’s suggestion, we found our open, unfinished basement a great roller skating space in the middle of winter and a cool play space in the heat of summer. Eventually, we added a carpet remnant, couch, bean bag chairs, and TV for our kids-become-teenagers’ “hangout” space. I even ran a short-term gift basket business in one section.

We never did get the pool table, and we didn’t really mind.

The upstairs fluctuated between office space, guest room, and separate bedroom. The formal living room did indeed became a homeschooling wing, and the back screened-in porch, left to its own evolution, eventually became my summertime sanctuary.

Ultimately the space did fill up and, as we were warned, we felt the strain of being “owned” by too much stuff – a lesson I’m still trying to learn. Nevertheless, it took time to do so, and our space was filled with many happy memories and activities.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with my wise friend. We discussed our grown and growing children and our future plans. Her youngest was about to graduate. She was mentally in transition already, considering what to do with all the time previously filled with homeschooling and child rearing. Lots of thoughts were going through her head: ministry ideas, classes she could take, organizations she could participate in, travelling she might do, even the thought of a job. As she talked, a smile began to escape my lips.

“My friend, years ago, a dear friend offered me a piece of wisdom that served me well for many years. I now offer it back to her.” I paused, looking her in the eye, with a twinkle in mine.

“Don’t be in a hurry to fill the space. Wait patiently and see what you naturally gravitate to. Eventually it will fill itself, but take your time.”

I hugged her and concluded with, “It was good advice then, and I believe it is just as valuable now.”

She couldn’t help but smile – and agree.

Don’t Quit!

(c) Robyn Smith, 2016

Have you ever started a project with great gusto, only to be knocked down before you even get off the ground?

How do you react?

It’s tempting to give up and simply “cut your losses” early. I know; I’ve been there.

Thankfully, I also know the benefits of perseverance – a key to many success stories.

The following (true) story is my encouragement for you to persevere…

So we’d published the first three of our quarterly newsletters. The company we wrote for was happy with us, but we knew a contract renewal would require more than “warm fuzzies”.

We set out to get real feedback.

Putting together a makeshift survey, I obtained a list of customers to call and ask opinions. I had a list of a dozen – about 10% – just to get a feel for popular opinion.

Feeling good about the product, I proceeded to dial the first number with optimism.

A lady answered.

I began enthusiastically:

“Hi, I’m Robyn Smith. I work in conjunction with JLH services and wondered if you might have 3 minutes to answer some questions about our newsletter.”

“Newsletter? What newsletter?”

This. Was. Not. the way I was hoping to start our survey.

“Popular opinion” and renewal of services between my company and JLA’s suddenly looked very gloomy.

I tried to recover courageously, and courteously promised to mail out another for review.

“So watch for it!” I said as cheerfully as possible.

I hung up, feeling anything but cheerful.

What had I done! The company knew I was making the phone calls and they were expecting to hear the results. Certainly the outcome would affect the course of our future relationship.

I felt devastated.

I would have been okay with, “Well, it’s okay, but the articles are a little long”, or “I don’t really have use for the calendar” (a point of differing opinion between me and my highly respected mentor).

But, “What newsletter?”?!

This was not good.

Still, I had agreed to call the others, so after some ice cream and a self-pep-talk, I took a deep breath, said a short prayer, and dialed.

“Hi I’m Robyn Smith working in conjunction with JLA services. Do you have a couple free minutes I could ask you some questions about our newsletter?” (Holding breath and wincing slightly for the punch.)

“Sure! What would you like to know?”

“Uh, well, you do receive the newsletter, right? From JLA services?” I ask incredulously.

“Yep, I just got the latest one the other day`” (So he even knows we’ve sent more than one!)

“Okay, well, my first question is: what’s your overall impression of the newsletter”, I began, cautiously optimistic.

“I like it. I usually read it cover to cover. It’s short enough I can do that pretty easily.” (SHORT enough – Score!)

“My wife really likes the calendar. She pins it to the bulletin board for when we’re looking for something to do.” (Writer-instinct-over-mentor-experience – SCORE!)

From there the questions continued, most with very favorable answers.

The next call was easier to make, though the sting of the first call prevented any puffed up pride. Humility can be a good thing though, so I allowed myself a mix of celebration and realism.

The third call went much like the second, and so did the fourth, fifth, and sixth calls.

Then came the eighth call. That one call I will never forget.

That’s the one where the respondent could tell me article for article what the newsletter was about, even quoting some key sentences pretty closely!

Thanks to the last eleven phone calls, I was convinced that we had evidence to support the “warm fuzzies” and assure JLA of our value.

Our final newsletter of that contract included a specific request to call and schedule an appointment for their seasonal inspection. In the first week after publication, they had 22 phone calls – surpassing all previous experiences.

We were making an impact!

At our next meeting, JLH renewed the contract, our relationship was enhanced, and our services were extended to include an additional product.

And that first call? I honestly couldn’t tell you if she ever noticed the newsletter after that or not.

I can tell you though, that it really doesn’t matter, because one rejection is really just that – one rejection.

So if you get knocked down, stand back up (even slowly, if you must), brush off the dust, and give it a running start. With a gust of perseverance, you’ll soon be soaring!

You probably know an “uplifting” story to share,too. Please encourage others in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Gift of T.T.T.

© Robyn R. Smith, 2016

January is a time for both reflecting on the past and preparing for the future. As you consider your accomplishments and goals, how much thought do you give to the people in your life? Can you identify someone who has positively impacted your life? If so, you’ve probably met a person practicing the secret gift of T.T.T. – Take The time!

This abbreviation is the signature of one of my influencers – my husband’s Uncle Rink. He’s a retired orthotics specialist who still helps family and longtime customers (some more than 50 years) relieve pain by altering their shoes – and their souls.

Visiting Uncle Rink is always a pleasure. It doesn’t matter how much you hurt going in, you always feel better coming out – even if he didn’t fix anything with your shoes. It’s because he lives his premise of T.T.T. He takes time to sit and talk, and even more importantly, to listen. What may start as a conversation about the weather may turn into a discussion of our longing for a vacation and the hard hours we’ve been putting in. He’ll empathize and encourage, acknowledging how hard it can be, but what a great job we’re doing to get through it. We leave feeling affirmed and even refreshed, without a single circumstance changing.

Uncle Rink’s gift is a rare and valuable treasure. In our rush-about society, few people have real time for anyone else anymore. It is the exception, not the rule, when someone stops what they’re doing to just listen and encourage someone else. Yet that bit of time can influence a life powerfully. You probably know some examples in your own life.

One of Uncle Rink’s longtime clients struggles with depression, yet when she visits him for her orthotics, she often cancels her appointment with her counselor. She doesn’t need it that week – she’s been heard, offered compassion, and encouraged.

Growing up, some of the most influential people in my life were my school’s janitors. They went about their work every day just like everyone else, but they always took the time to listen. It made me feel significant. As an adult, I still cherish the mentors in my life who willingly take the time to share with me, listen to me, and help me grow.

Maybe you’ve experienced someone with the secret gift of T.T.T. Some stereotypical listeners include barbers, hairstylists, and bartenders. In my life right now, my listeners include an author, a sales group, my nutritionist, and of course, my Uncle Rink. In your life, it could be a neighbor, a co-worker, even the crossing guard at the corner. T.T.T. is not limited by one’s age, profession, or position in life. The only limitation is whether or not one takes the time.

So how about you? On a scale of one to ten, where would you fall as a listener? I know I find myself challenged to become one of those listeners. I also know that when I take time for someone else, even a stranger, I always receive much more than I give. It’s a thrill to pass on to others the blessing someone else gave to me of taking the time.

As you reflect on the positive influences in your life, consider who you might bless with the gift of T.T.T. It can be anyone from a child to an elderly neighbor to a co-worker, or even a boss. (How often do people really listen to their bosses? think about it!) All it takes is a little T.T.T.

Thanks for Taking the Time to read this. Please take a little more to share your T.T.T. memories or goals in the comments.

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Achievable “One Thing” Goals

Happy New Year, everyone!

As 2016 gets underway, millions of people are setting goals for the new year. We’ve made them before, passionately penned with enthusiasm and hope. Yet life happens and we find ourselves overwhelmed, our lists abandoned.

What if, instead, we could make real and permanent progress? Even one small victory could boost our confidence and fuel the fire for more. That is the premise to the “One Thing” Goal.

What is a “One Thing” Goal, you ask? Let me explain:

A great salesman and friend once taught me how he kept so many clients. As his clients’ contracts were ending, he would approach them and ask, “If there was one thing I could do to serve you better, what would it be?” If they had an answer, he would see to it that it got done, then the contract renewal was easy. All it took was that one thing to boost their confidence in his service. And one thing was achievable by my friend.

As you look at your own life or job, what one thing could you accomplish that would have a real impact? It doesn’t have to be big, just worthwhile and achievable. Ideally, it would be something that would make other areas of life run more smoothly, but the real goal is simply victory.

For example, let’s say you’re a salesman. Maybe you struggle with being on time consistently, following through with new clients, and keeping in touch with prior clients to stay top-of-mind.

  • Your “One thing Goal” is to be consistently on time.
  • You make your goal measurable by deciding to be on time for the next six appointments in a row.
  • You make it achievable by determining that you’re going to arrive 20 minutes early to every appointment.
  • Then, with that extra 20 minutes, you’re going to contact one new prospect or old client.

By the end of the month, you’ve achieved not only the one goal you set out to do, but you’re already improving on the next goal of follow-through calls.

With the first achievement under your belt, you confidently create the next “One thing Goal” and focus on that success. By the end of the year, you’ll have a portfolio full of victories!

So what’s your One Thing Goal to start the year right? Share your inspiration in the comments. Thanks!

(C) Robyn Smith, 2016