Zen and the Art of Providing a Service

In a post coming to you soon, I will cover writing about what you offer, or crafting your Services page. This one is a prequel before you perfect your selling propositions, descriptions and calls to action. Let’s talk about providing a service in the first place.

Because you’re an entrepreneur and/or you’re marketing a small business, I want to assume you have already nailed down the value of your offerings pretty darn well. Right? Knowing what products or services you’d be delivering to customers was surely one of the very first things you figured out when you started your journey.

Or maybe not exactly. Maybe you thought you had it figured out, but things have changed. Maybe you were doing one thing and now you want to add more. Or you want to do the same thing for someone else, or do it for a new price, in a new place… Or, maybe you were wrong.

It’s okay. You’re not supposed to be right all the time. If you were, then all the rest of us trying to help you on the internet would be out of luck. But when this happens to people and they realize it, this is a time they often cross paths with me. Because it seems like maybe they should tighten up their writing, or get more traction from their sales page.

It’s at this point that I might ask, “What is your intention for your communications here?” And that might throw them if they have any doubts about the services they are offering. I worked for a long time on describing what I offer, and it’s changed more than a few times over the years. I’m still thinking new stuff up, too. It’s tricky helping others with this, because self-worth can be wrapped up pretty tightly with decisions about, and descriptions of, what we do and what we’re asking–or expecting–in return.

The Zen Part

I’m writing this prequel to the Services page post because so many people come to me at a point where they face uncertainties about one or more aspects of this equation: what do you do, and what are you asking (or expecting) in return?  Maybe that’s you.

If you feel confused, disappointed, miffed, or bad about this in anyway, surely it’s a waste trying to communicate effectively to others about it. So let’s work on how you feel.

One thing to do before tackling any writing about the products or services you offer, is to realize that your worth has nothing to do with how much money you make and how fast you make it. Ooh, I hate to sound cliche, but I swear that’s true.

provide a service pen to ZenEven more, I hate to put on my “old mom” hat, but I do find a lot of my younger entrepreneurial peers, and also those who are doing well otherwise as they try to build something on the side or as a second act, often don’t have the benefit of being a little more poor and a little less educated, like me.

I never maximized my intellectual potential when I was younger, nor my earning power, nor my creative gifts. Yes, I’ve worried I wasted some time and figured I’ll never catch up.

But now, after losing my mom earlier this year, I realize no–not so. I lived a lot of life and saw a lot of things and loved a lot of people during the times I falsely assumed I wasted. (When someone you love dies too soon, if there’s a gift to be had in that, it’s that you can see how stellar their life really was, and how that directly reflects on your own.)

In fact, I accomplished the most important aspects, as it would turn out, of my whole purpose here on this planet, in what I thought were my lousiest days. Nothing was a waste–except the worry. Because looking back, those were… the best of times and the worse of times LOL. It’s true! Both fiery and flat, my heart to those times.

Honestly, more people should have those times, for longer, for real, in 3-D–when they don’t know better, do the work, still suck, make do, get scrappy, figure stuff out, blow it big time, make new choices, GROW into something better. That’s evolution, right?

Bottom line, it causes extra suffering when we expect to get certain rewards in certain time frames as devised by our minds. And I must say, our media. If you’re listening to a lot of success stories and reading very popular blogs, it’s easy to fall into misperceptions about how common all that is. Stupendous Success and Risk-taking Rewarded stories are #everywhere and the theme is often, “If them, then you–here’s how.”

How indeed. Now I’m working with a lot of wonderful bloggers who don’t throw their hundred bucks around lightly when they ask me to consult on a web page. I do offer a special service, just for them. Am I worth more? Can I get more? Should I expect more?

Wasn’t I supposed to be a rock star?

The Art Part

Not that we need to float on clouds and be grateful for every crumb on the ground, but trying to set goals based more on how you feel and less on what you’re getting is a great exercise. Providing a Service pen to Zen

Do this first. Write it down. What are your goals based on how you’ll feel (not what you’ll get)?

Another valuable exercise (or mindset, really) is refusing to define success and instead looking for it in your every day. Here is a story I will love forever and am so glad it happened to me. I tell it you you readers now, because I’m certain it’s supposed to matter to many people:

Once upon a time I thought I’d be a dancer. When my knees were blown by age 19, I thought I’d be a choreographer and teacher–a reknowned one then a dance therapist with a school in the mountains (I lived in Chicago). I made a brochure for myself to get jobs teaching dance exercise classes I invented in the early 80s, but soon after I got pregnant.

Then I quickly married, had the baby, and started teaching cheesy little jazz and ballet classes around the suburbs part-time. Shortly after, a lady who owned a small communications agency, who had my husband’s employer as a client, saw my “Every Body Needs Love” brochure on his desk. turned out she was into dance, asked about it, and ended up hiring me as a receptionist to also help her with copy and PR. I moved my way up for a year, left when I moved farther away, but kept the agency as a client, and got a few others.

Then I had another kid, freelanced and bartended to make ends meet, and started a safety baseball business with my husband that went bankrupt. And I got pregnant with kid #3 while we both were unemployed. Plus the Gulf War, then the country was in the shitter for a while.

Then after kid #3, Motorola started rolling out a lot of cell phones which helped with my freelancing, and I went back and ran a couple dance programs locally. One for community ed at the Community College, and another at a Jewish Community Center. Both places had big followings of loving families and big shows at the end of the year. Exhausting work, but naturally I put my heart and creative juices in there as I was keeping a part-time income stream to shore up the freelance writing dollars and holding childcare to a minimum.

Then we went out to dinner with my husband’s business associate whom we hadn’t seen in years. He was around back when I got that first job in marketing, nice guy, asking all about me. I kept telling him about my writing, Caremark and Motorola, trying to build that up… and he kept coming back to the dance stuff. Then he says he heard I just did a show at the Hemmens. He saw the program (on my husband’s desk) and he loved all the music, the name, etc.

“You produced all that too, right?” I was kind of stumped, like, he’s into this? Then he said,

“I remember talking about this at [some long ago outing].  That was your original plan, right? Didn’t you want to be a choreographer and teacher?”

“Yes, I did,” I sighed. “But, life happens. I never really found my success with those goals.”

Then he (so odd) paused, long. Literally, he looked surprised. He shrugged and said,

“Oh. Huh. I was thinking this was like ‘it!’ — I mean, isn’t it? Wow, what more did you plan? You have tons of students who love you, you create and put on a big show, it’s a huge success. That’s not what you wanted?”

Yeah, I blushed. I didn’t try to explain anything else, except,

“You know, John, I never looked at it that way. I guess you’re right. Thank you.”

The Service Part

So, what does that guy know about my loftier plans, right? He’s thinking I’m badass for setting out to reach my dreams, against all odds with the challenges I faced, and he’s not at all interested in the thing that pays the more money, or the thing with the more prestige, or the thing I really imagined in my head as “making it.”

In his reality, I’m a rock star.

And more importantly, he shows me myself through the eyes of a dad, a business professional, an old friend, a really thoughtful person, and…

provide services pen to Zen… through my service to the world.

You know, I gave a lot to what I was doing, because I could. I enjoyed it. Sure, it was exhausting work and yes if you asked me at the time I’d have told you I’d rather not have worked outside the home at all. Unless I could have owned a dance company or written the next great American novel or something.

The work never goes away, ’tis true. Ask any of the stay-at-home parents I was envying back then and they’ll tell you the same. Ask the novelist and the dance company owner, too. Or just take it from me (who sold oil paintings once, and luggage door to door). Unless you’re some sort of a real lazy bum, you’re going to need to support yourself or find a way to be productive/relevant/meaningful in this world.

Hopefully, you’ve figured out what that is and that’s what we can use as a base for your Services language (to be covered in the next post on this topic). If not, there’s still an out.

The real lesson in my story for anyone trying to wrap their arms around what they do is this: if we hadn’t gone to dinner with John, I would have missed out on knowing what I was getting back in return from something I thought I settled on as, like, Plan F. For Flub.

I’d have carried around an assumption of lack, that I wasn’t successful. That I didn’t do my thing, or do it well. Because I was judging myself on an arbitrary scale of results based on speed of revenues or widespread recognition in my field instead of a scale that really matters.

In marketing. In business. In life.

The scale is this:

On one end, you decide what you put in.
On the other, you decide what you take out.

We choose to be inspired. You can offer whatever you want at any price but the balance always depends on you, providing a service to the world. Take from it what you will.

So how’d you like my story? (All true and that’s just the clean parts, hah!) Do you have one to share? Do it below!

4 Responses to Zen and the Art of Providing a Service

  1. Julia June 11, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    I love this Faith! It’s so easy to judge ourselves based on simplified things like money and status. It’s so much harder to take the time to be introspective and choose what’s really important to measure against. Thank you for writing this all down, it’s good to take a step back. Oh, and I did NOT know you were a bartender – awesome! :D

    • Faith Watson June 11, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      Julia, thank you for stopping in and commenting, and thank you for “getting it.” Our measuring sticks for ourselves are fleeting in the end. We can’t take anything with us so it’s important we remember what we’re enjoying in our moments and leaving behind. P.S. I still pour all the drinks at family parties, too… unless my middle daughter is around, I passed the wine opener and martini shaker on to her. ;-)

  2. Dave Bruns June 11, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Nice post, Faith. I love the idea of anchoring writing with intention. And your scale. And, naturally, I also like that you got the word “miffed” in there :)

    • Faith Watson June 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

      Naturally, Dave. Every once in a while I find it necessary to release my inner Leave it to Beaver. :-)

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