Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Socks Made Me Think about Discrimination

Folding my laundry taught me a lesson about how we all discriminate.

Recently, I was doing my laundry, and I removed my clothes from my dryer.  I started folding things, and I usually put my socks in a pile until I fold everything else.

Once I get to my socks, now it’s time to pair them.

I noticed that most of my socks are black or dark blue.  However, a couple pairs of socks have different colors.

So pair together those first.  Why?  Because they are the EASIEST to see.

In other words, I discriminate in favor of the differences I notice most easily.

After I pair together those first “different” colors, I start looking at the patterns that are easiest to notice (which I did not start noticing UNTIL AFTER I removed those colors that were easy to notice).

I keep finding socks to pair by finding the next easiest colors or patterns to notice.

This is about socks!  What does this have to do with me (or you)?

Essentially, we all are the targets of discrimination.  We might be obvious targets--at first, but we eventually become that person who has the “next easiest trait” to identify.

For instance, years ago, I used to teach job searching classes to a group of people who the State was trying to transform from people receiving government assistance to survive to a group of people who would become employed and financially self-sufficient.  (Often, these programs are called Welfare-to-Work…or something like that.)

Often, I would be in a room where almost everyone was a woman, except me…and possibly one other person.

So to make my point to people in this group about discrimination, I would ask them which person is the “most different” in the room.  Usually, this would be a male…most notably “me.”

I would ask them, “Now that I am no longer part of the room, are all of your problems solved?  Are you the same as everyone else, or do you notice other differences?”

Of course, they would notice other differences.  Perhaps, the room might have more people of one race than another.  Eventually, we would “remove” those people from the room, and I would ask those key questions, again:

A) Are all of your problems solved?
B) Are you the same as everyone else, or do you notice other differences?

After this “filtering,” maybe there are more “bigger” people than “smaller” people.  Maybe, there might be more people that attend a particular church or whose kids attend a specific school.

Essentially, we begin to realize that no matter how many people we “remove” for being different than us, eventually, each of us represents that person who is “removed.”

In other words, we all are objects of discrimination, because we’re all different somehow…in some way.

I would make this point to them, and I now make this point to you.

Now that we know that people will discriminate against us, are all of us equally affected by being a victim of discrimination?


Some people find ways to embrace being different and benefit from it while others seem to embrace being a wronged victim of it.

Discrimination is almost never right, but it happens to everyone.  The difference lies in the way each of us responds to it.

Are you going to use it as an opportunity for people to know who you are (more easily), or are you going to use it as an excuse to keep yourself from succeeding?

The next time you pair together your socks, check yourself.  I bet you probably first focus on finding the socks that are easiest to find.  The difference is that socks continue to function perfectly well as socks, despite the discrimination.

How well will you function the next time someone discriminates (notices) you for being different?

Here’s hoping that you find a way to embrace that difference.  I’ve learned to welcome that discrimination, because it’s my chance to show people how much I provide them, because I know they’re noticing me…just because of those differences.

If you’re smart, you will find a way to have people discriminate (notice) you for being different…for the right reasons.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

2 Key Questions to Answer When Approaching Someone about a Partnership

Every once in a while, I get approached about someone starting a partnership with me.  Most of the time, I am not very excited.

That got me thinking.  What WOULD get me excited about a potential partnership?

Key Question #1: How will you make me more money?

Many people seem to approach me as "partners," but they simply are looking for ways to get me to give them work (in exchange for payment).  They are not truly looking to add any value to me or my company.  They simply want me to be a paying customer.

I might get someone who mentions something, like see how much better he/she from the the other company can make something much better than me (my company).  Honestly, in many cases, they are absolutely right.  They can make websites better than me, videos more engaging than me, or whatever else better than me.

However, in these cases, I have one (1) question for them.

By paying you to make the quality of what I offer better, how much more in sales (and profit) can I generate?

If I can pay you $100, and your enhancement allows me to charge $300 more to a market that is eager to pay it, then I will gladly pay you that $100.

Otherwise, I am not interested in paying you $100 to make my product too expensive to sell (because your "improvement" adds less than $100 in perceived value).  I don't care how much "better" you will make my product.  You aren't making my business any better or more competitive!

Key Question #2: How will you make my life easier?

Like anyone else, I can be lazy.  In fact, I PREFER to be lazy...IF I can be lazy WITHOUT it being at the expense of what my customers receive.

If I pay you to do something for me, will it free my time to do other things to make my company more valuable (or simply for myself)?

If the answer is, "Yes," I might be interested in your proposal.

However, I've noticed that often, I have to spend MORE time working with someone to do something I can complete myself...AND I have to pay that person to "do it" for me.

Either, you need to be better at me at doing something, or you need to REDUCE the time I need to spend to make sure the assignment or project is completed to the level my customers expect from "me."

Maybe I can get something for a little cheaper price somewhere else, but if you can "take care of it" for me without me having to spend any more time or effort on it, you probably have my business.

If the project is big enough, then I realize that I will (probably) have to spend time training you.  That's okay, if you work toward allowing me to spend less time with you and the work eventually.

If it's clear that (a) you're going to make my life easier, and (b) I can afford you, I will probably hire you or your company...or even allow you to partner with me.

I'm pretty sure that most business owners will agree with me about being able to answer BOTH of these questions.

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