One of my all time favorite holiday movies is A Christmas Carol. I love the version starring Alastair Sim , but the Muppet version with Michael Caine as Scrooge, and the George C. Scott tele-movie in third place.
Even if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic premise of the story:
Ebeneezer Scrooge is a wealthy business man known for his ruthless approach and penny pinching ways who doesn’t even enjoy his wealth himself.
Seven years after his partner Jacob Marley dies, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost.
Marley is forced to spend eternity walking among the living for eternity and witness the love and happiness he – and Scrooge – chose not to see or participate in. Marley must wear heavy chains that are wrapped around him. The chains symbolize the choices Marley made.
Marley realizes they focused on the wrong things in running their business and in running their lives.
Marley tells Scrooge that three ghosts will visit during the night in an effort to help Scrooge realize the error of his ways and reform. They visit and eventually Scrooge recognizes the mistakes he’s made and how blind he’s been. He makes a promise – to himself and to the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come – to “…honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
And of course, that’s the challenge we all face, isn’t it? To honor and live the spirit of our beliefs, not just talk about them.
As you throw out the wrappings and put away the decorations, I hope you’ll pause to reflect on what I believe are the 5 lessons Marley and the spirits shared with Scrooge and consider how you may “honour Christmas” and “keep it all the year.”
- Open your eyes to blind spots and let go of your emotional baggage. Scrooge became convinced that acquiring money would protect him from being hurt. He put all of his attention on what he was great at – making money – and “viewed everything by gain.” In trying to protect himself he only created more of the separation and loneliness he didn’t want. His gut reaction to wishes of “Merry Christmas” was a passionate “humbug!” because he focused on the outpouring of money and not the in-pouring of love. Think about how and which emotions are ruling your actions and thoughts. Is your message ego-focused or truly client-focused? Are you building your business consistent with your values or are you re-creating the same bureaucracy you left behind in your corporate life?
- Invest in your personal development. Scrooge missed so much love and so many opportunities simply because people were afraid of him. If we focus only on the development of our business and professional skills while ignoring our personal development we limit what our business could become and how far of an impact we can have. As the wonderful Leo Buscaglia said, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”
- Have a clear vision of what you want. Scrooge accumulated wealth but it seemed to serve no purpose other than its accumulation. It wasn’t like he surrounded himself with creature comforts — He lived in a ramshackle house that he didn’t even heat well. When you cast the vision of what you want your business to be, include your life in that vision. What will your business look like 20 years from now? What sort of life do you want to be living 20 years from now? Will you be selling the business? Will you pass it on to the next generation of your family?I’m not just talking about goals and achievements. I’m talking about what you want your world will look like.
Your brain can’t help you create what it doesn’t know you want.
Write out your vision for the future and make it so detailed a 10-year old could read and understand it. Studies show writing by hand – not typing – has more impact on the brain.
- Believe in abundance. Scrooge was described as a “miser”, which Dictionary.com defines as “a person who hoards money or possessions, often living miserably”. A woman called me to discuss working with my but one of the first things she said was “I probably can’t afford you” (which signaled to me that she believes in lack not abundance). And within a few minutes of talking she went on to tell me that if I worked with her I wouldn’t be able to work with anyone else in her industry segment (more fear and lack). But the topper was how she then went on to say she was afraid to try anything new because her competitors would copy what we did together. Yikes! A belief in abundance from a business standpoint means you belief there’s enough business for everyone and that by being completely unique and trusting in that uniqueness you’ll attract those you’re meant to serve. Saying you believe in abundance is easy. Actually living and operating as if you believe is the challenge.
- Give. You deserve to earn a handsome living for the high quality work you do. Share your wealth – which is more than just the dollars in your bank account. Share the gift of time with your team members, vendors, and referral partners. Speak to school groups, not just to networking groups you want to get business from. Help new entrepreneurs. Find that balance between giving free information and not being taken advantage of. Stop trying to get everything for free. Hire people and pay their full fee trusting them – and managing them – to give you full value for what they charge. Give of yourself and your time, talent, and treasure with no focus on the reward but being thankful you can do it. Decide you’ll set people up for success – staff members, vendors, clients, and referral partners – by giving them the information and tools to succeed.
Whether you celebrate the Christmas season or not, there’s no doubt the spirit of the holiday is bigger than its commercial trappings or battles over “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”
So as you head into the new year I pray you’ll lift a glass and make the same promise Scrooge made, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”