April 9th Newsletter- I’m Going To Miss This

I’m going to miss this. 


Maybe I’m the only one that felt this today. I’m not talking about the economy being shut down. I’m not talking about the thousands of people sick and dying of this awful disease. I’m not talking about the job losses, the stress, the anxiety, or the parents who don’t know how to deal with one more day inside with their children wanting to watch Peppa Pig. 


What I am talking about is the feeling that I got this afternoon while walking with my son around our neighborhood. We’ve lived in the south hills of Pittsburgh for a tad over ten years. I watched in stunned silence as one family- who I had never seen venture outside of their property in anything other than a car- walked together past our home while going for a walk together. 


My son and I followed shortly thereafter. During that forty-five minute stroll on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon, I was transported back to a scene that I haven’t experienced since my childhood. Before I explain, I want to share that going for walks in our neighborhood is essentially a daily routine for our family, either individually or together. 


In that time, Elizabeth and I have made countless jokes that we began to wonder if people actually live in these houses. The signs of life would come from the occasional car pulling out of a driveway, a school bus whizzing by, and the same three or four people that we’ve seen walk the neighborhood with us over the past decade. 


But today was different. 


It took me by surprise when a little girl ran out of the front door yelling hello to us with a big smile. We both waved and said hello as she ran towards the backyard. We live on the street over, and I’ve never seen this girl before. Across from her was a family on their porch, grilling burgers and casually chatting. Up ahead, we watched multiple families walking the neighborhood, pushing strollers, or tossing a ball around. 


Why did this look so odd, but familiar? It was odd because I’d never seen it since we’ve lived here. Truth be told, I haven’t seen it for decades. I remember the realization way back in 2001 when I was a newspaper photographer in Indiana, driving around looking for something happening to photograph. Families playing ball, kids horsing around in the street- whatever. But I kept finding nothing. 


Nobody went outside anymore. 


The parents worked or stayed in the house. The kids were at school, doing homework, playing video games or at organized activities. But nobody went outside.


After we returned from our walk, Elizabeth went on one as well. A while later, she called to see how we were doing.


“What is that noise?” I asked. 


“Oh,” she said, “those are the kids playing.”


I didn’t recognize the sound. We talk often when she walks, and I hadn’t heard that in the background before. After she returned home, Elizabeth verbally mentioned what I had been thinking. Before I told my story, she mentioned that she saw a dad was helping his kid trim a tree. Another was playing ball with his daughter. Others were working on the garden and mowing lawns. 


“I saw more of this today than in all of those years combined,” she said.


You couldn’t tell that the world had shut down. Then again, maybe this is what it looks like when we slow down. What happens when the after school activities are cancelled? What happens when parents work from home, or one even stops working? What happens when the busy, the grind, the over scheduling comes to a stop? 


What happens? 


It looked a lot like what life used to look like. 


Soon enough, we’ll go back to normal. Adults will start commuting to work again. School buses will rumble through the streets. After school activities will ramp up, the busy-ness will return, and we’ll be back to normal. When that happens, I’ll go for a neighborhood stroll and, once again, I’ll see the three or four people I normally see. The neighborhood will become quiet again. 


And I’m going to miss this. 




April 2nd Newsletter- How Can I Charge For My Services When So Many Are Struggling?

I haven’t done this before in my weekly newsletter, but I received an interesting question and I thought it might be best to answer it for you here. 

“I need to run my business during the coronavirus outbreak. But I’m struggling offering my services and seeming like I am trying to make a profit when so many people are struggling right now. I feel completely stuck and unsure of what to do. Can you help?”- Mark A.

Mark- first off, I get it. You didn’t mention what your business was, so I can’t get too specific with my answer. But the truth is, even before the coronavirus took hold of the world, many entrepreneurs and freelancers struggled to offer their services because of a fear of selling- or maybe more accurate- the fear of looking like they were being sales-ey. So if you were already feeling that way, this whole situation probably makes it more difficult for you. What this did was just expose in greater light how you already felt. 

In your minds eye, you might see the news and believe that everyone is struggling and in a panic. It dominates our news, our social media and our general conversations. 

Would it surprise you if I told you that there are a lot of businesses thriving right now? That might sound crazy because it might seem as thought the world is coming to an end. And yes, many businesses have been hit, and hit hard. Restaurants, live events, public speakers, photographers, event planners and others have all been greatly affected by this pandemic. 

But not only are many doing well, it’s quite amazing to see the resilience in how many of the ones hit hard are bouncing back. On the Total Life Freedom Podcast this week, I am doing a full week of reinvention stories from people I know who are reinventing what they do on the fly.

Last night, for example, The Bonefish Grill created an amazing offer for carryout that we jumped on. They appeared as busy as ever, and we left a nice tip for the staff. Speakers are reinventing their offerings online. Live events have shifted virtual, and new income streams are being created.

One thing I want to point out, is that none of these companies had “a fear of selling.” Bonefish wasn’t giving their food away for free as to not appear greedy. They know that they could help a lot of people stuck inside, tired, and looking for an amazing meal. (And it was- the salmon and whipped potatoes were fantastic!) And they knew that the cost was one that so many people were excited to pay for. 

Understand this- not everyone is struggling. Not just that- there are people who were ready to spend money on tons of things- travel, eating out, ballgames, activities- where they can’t spend it now. So there actually is a lot more money in some pockets than before. The question for you is- can you make your offer appealing enough and helpful enough- that your potential clients are excited to part with their cash because it helps them?

As a consumer, there are things we want and need. Services and products that I am thrilled to give up my cash for. I need that thing way more than I need the cash! Think about it- if you drove around with a truckload of toilet paper right now for sale, you would have people chasing you down the street (six feet apart from each other, of course) with wads of cash in their hand excited to give it to you. 

So start thinking about what you can offer that they might need now. Meaning, for many of your customers, the world is going to look much different to them from now on. What service or offer can you add that you haven’t before? For us, we have had so many questions about the world of homeschooling. They want to learn how to do it, they would love a community of homeschoolers to connect to, and they want to learn that with us. So that is a new offer that we are rolling out soon. Two months ago, it wasn’t on our- or their- minds. 

Don’t let the fear of selling stop you from providing the value that so many need. There are many things more valuable than money. 

Like toilet paper, mango salsa salmon and whipped potatoes, among many others.