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April 2009

Attention Deficit NETWORKING Disorder (ADND)

Thank you for your off-line comments and encouragement. But I really want to know what you want me to blog about. I put up the poll to get your input, but not very many vote --so I will blog about what I am thinking about until the vote count grows or a better alternative is suggested. So, please post your comments on how I can engage your ideas! Thanks. JK

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Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them. — Alan Watts.

BLOG Roll Call!  I am going to call out your name to see if you are here with me. Ready? Are you with me? Present? Our hyper-busy, multi-tasking lifestyle is creating a bunch of bad habits that detract from our ability to connect with others. On one hand we have never been as connected to one another, but our tendencies is to have quick exchanges IM, SMS, text, twitter, facebook, etc are now the dominant forms of communication. Love the innovation, the serendipity, the new possibilities that are emerging. One of the unintended victims is our attention. Our ability to be present in a moment that has many distractions. Like many things we begin to get into micro-routines of behavior and we can miss the context, the environment, the unexpected, cues of communication, and opportunities. While we get focused the world is evolving, our worlds. Watch this video to see if you are paying attention. Three points I want to make:
  1. The Power of NOW: We avoid the present by thinking about what could have been and what could be. The past gives us identity and the future opportunity. But if that's what we focus on we get stuck in the past or the future--and miss the now. The Eckart Tolle tells us there was never a time that was not NOW.  "To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift."Eckhart Tolle  
  2.  Multi-tasking Myopia: Our lives are a series of transactions coming one after the other. Like an assembly line worker, we focus on the incoming work, tasks, and connections. But life is going on around us. You may miss an extraordinary sunset, your kid's moment of need, or an opportunity to connect. We miss the bigger picture and/or do not hear and see what is really being said because we are distracted. Check out Derren Brown's experiments in attention in London. We hardly notice people we talk to! 
  3. Put the Device Down!: Robotically we have acquired this new tic, this nervous gesture of looking at our devices often for no reason. Like someone who looks at their watch every 15 seconds, as if they forgot the time from 15 seconds ago. Others of us not only look at our device, but start responding when we are with others, in a movie theatre, or in mid-sentence when we are talking to someone else. The impression is something else or someone else is way more important than the present. The only way to achieve the above goals is an increasing awareness of the cyber leash. 
Text love


  "I am so into you.....type type type..........."
 
 
 
 
 
Believe me, I am as distracted or pre-occupied with the past and the future as any of us. I struggle with staying present--by being in that moment and giving the things and people the attention they deserve. It has been my growing awareness that has saved me and gives me a chance to be present. Most times
 
I know when I am not present and I can re-focus. When I was a time when I had no ideaI remember when I was a young young corporate VP feeling and acting "very important". I stopped by the receptionist of one of our operations to announce my arrival. The receptionist, who I had seen dozens of times looked up at me and said, "Do you even know who I am? You seem so busy that I guess I am irrelevant." Wiser than her years, I was shocked into focus and I saw her for the first time. I apologized to her and confessed my lack of attention. Since then, I try not to be like that--that rude and insensitive.
 
I have a young mentee who asked me the other day, "To what do you attribute the opportunities you have been presented?" I said, "I was lucky I was paying attention. I have learned that there are opportunities all around us. And people who crave and need our attention. But do we see them?"
 
Let's holster our devices--at least a few times during the day, refocus, feel and see the NOW, and your world will expand before your eyes.
 
Thanks for paying attention and for reading. John

Stop Whining I am trying to Network!

No whining I am going crazy this week. I can't get the whining out of my head! I have one of those jobs and lives where I see the haves and the have-nots in the same hour. I experience the comfort of choice and stability and then the unsettling and unimaginable world of insecurity and fear. Part of this is by choice and part is the rushing river of life of inspiration I navigate everyday. 

I spent Wednesday evening with low-income immigrant mothers in South LA, who were being trained on how to advocate on behalf of their kids at school. Women who are literally and figuratively hungry for a better life for their children. Thursday I toured an amazing art collection created by disadvantaged but clearly talented elementary school children. I talked to three people who were laid off and who are struggling with their job searches. I counseled a former colleague of mine who had to do her first layoff, she was a wreck. I paid my taxes! :) It was a week of reality and humanity. 

And for every pain, moment of anguish, and touch of inspiration there was an offsetting and upsetting sound of unwarranted whining. The kind of gratuitous whining that is expressed with no regard to how offensive it sounds. That whining of entitlement and arrogance that shows off the worst side of this country. Let me regale you with the whines of my week (imagine each one as the sound of fingernails on a blackboard building on one another)

  • Father complains to me that his son did not get into his PhD of choice and had to settle for his second choice where he will get a full ride! And he was serious.
  • Woman tells me in one moment how hard it was to get a job, but after 60 days it clearly is the wrong job for her and she planned to quit.  She asked for my help.
  • A young man tells me he has a fantastic job but feels that ageism has prevented his promotion in his first year.
  • I read that  myflife, a stream of commiserating anecdotes and reactions about the bad luck and misfortunes of teens is growing in popularity.
  • An acquaintance turns down a job interview to run a non-profit because the $250,000 salary was way too low.   

I keep hearing the Michael Franks' lyric I don't know why I am so happy I am sadI am nauseous from bloated and unrealistic expectations of the world--how much it owes us. I am exhausted by the lack of recognition of the value of what we have and our inability to optimize the experiences. I am angered by the greed and selfishness that seems to drive us. Here's some comic relief from my negativity, watch this video: 

So maybe this rant could be considered whining, but I really reached my limit. Okay I feel better now. I guess what is bothering me is the lack of recognition of the environment we are in. These instances of Woe is Me in light of the real pain and suffering around us is rude and ignorant. The goal today is to survive to thrive. It is to make the most out what we are given and build a reputation on patience and ingenuity out of it. It is not instant gratification time or where Super-sizing makes sense any more. And if you have what you need, not what you want, then you should be expanding your network to help others get what they need.

NY Times featured Daniel Miller, a Wharton Business student who was contemplating rabbinical school, had suspended his job search, intent on savoring his last few weeks before graduation. I like his perspective.

“I have the next 60 years of my life to worry about work,” he said. “I’m fortunate I don’t have any college debt and have a very supportive family. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone less fortunate than me.”

We have to be grateful for what we have and develop a sense of humility about our good fortune and our minor inconveniences. Like Daniel, I have to remind myself of my relative advantages, my blessings, and how little my problems are. Check out these videos for some doses of inspiration of how three people have flourished with their "less fortunate" circumstances . 

Bill Shannon the Crutchmaster

I think Louis CK is right on. Everything is amazing! And we have to minimize the whining by valuing our realities and not our fantasies. 

Thanks for reading and aiding my catharsis! John


Multiple Networking Personality Syndrome

Consider for the moment that more Americans are enrolled in outplacement services than in MBA, Law, and Medical graduate programs combined! For most participants this is a brutal wake-up call and hopefully they find a new and prosperous path. But the biggest obstacle to their awakening is their resistance to learning who they are and what they want. In the end they have to adopt the networking and mentoring lifestyle--the best inoculation against the plague of an unexpected job interruption and not working is networking!

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All of us have Sybil like qualities of having multiple personalities, many faces, and many dimensions. That does not make us candidates for elecro-shock therapy! :) It is normal and makes us interesting. However, where did these personalities come from? Why do we have these facets and what makes them shine? Hopefully, I have not lost you already. I am referring to how we each act in our multiple roles. As a parent, a wife, a subordinate, a child, as a guest, or a host. You know, the way we switch instantaneously to a new persona based on expectations, history, or what we think is right. This is a giant topic, so I will discuss how you recognize the way you are presenting yourself in the world of networking and mentoring.

I meet so many people across the demographic and economic spectrum who are unwitting members of the Federal Witness Relocation Program! They have assumed new career identities. Often, these identities have been foisted upon us like second-hand Halloween costumes. In most cases this costume has been sewn together by the advice and guidance of well meaning people who have told us what we should do, what we are good at, and what we should not be. The classic, "You can't make money as a (fill in the blank art career)." And needing an identity, we slip on the costume and it is better than nothing. And over time we think the costume fits and like many things we adopt it as our own. Mary Jacobsen's book Hand Me Down Dreams discusses this topic in depth on how others shape the dreams we have. Our parents have aided and abetted the crime of identity theft. Parental expectations can govern everything. Pleasing our parents is an innate desire. What they said to us about our dreams and what our choices should be can be lifelong incentives or burdens. Asian parents are notorious, as are many different types of parents (I just happen to encounter many Asians in my worlds) in setting specific and non-negotiable goals. Like the old and stereotypical story about the Jewish kid who pursued law because he could not stand the sight of blood! Asian parents push academic achievement, brand name colleges, and the specific professions of medicine, law or engineering. In addressing Asian American young people, I usually start by giving them permission to think outside of the Asian parent box. Tell the parent you are going to be a doctor--maybe that turns out to be a PhD in literature! 

You blend this costume wardrobe with the requirements of social etiquette, brown-nosing at work, first date party manners, familiarity, respect, political correctness and the costumes keep on coming!

Context changes how we act. Sometimes that is nice and sometimes it is stupid. Here's one example that befuddles me. When bright competitive and hard-nosed executives, entrepreneurs, and successful people join non-profit boards, they become imbeciles. They don their nice and gentle costumes and bite their tongues because they assume new identities and not themselves. They think that a non-profit is a sanctuary from their cut throat worlds. While the mission and bottomline of a non-profit is doing good, non-profits need the tough acumen and decisiveness of the business world--but more often than not they don't get it.

Being authentic, being you--the real you, has to be your goal. Hiding who you are or suppressing your interests and needs will only hurt you in the long run, because you will eventually land in the land of regret--the most painful land of all. And while being yourself requires the discomfort of removing some of those now form fitting costumes, we all know being real does not require you to remember anything. Pursuing what you want and not what you think others will like, or what your parents desire, will always be more fulfilling. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public. Epictetus

I am not saying just blurt out your inner thoughts or to be so honest that you offend every person in your path! Mutual respect and being aware of your surroundings remain essential. That being said, you need to find ways to pursue your authentic self. Martin Seligman's authentic happiness site has a variety of free self assessments

Authentic Networking:

  1. Setting your real goals, not the ones that sound good to others
  2. Practice articulating what you want and who you are, not the words you have been saying as a placeholder.  Love when people introduce themselves as "Director of sales and an artist."
  3. Asserting yourself by asking the questions on your mind. Pursuing your true curiosity by asking the questions and getting the answers.
  4. Enhance your network with people that are real and model this behavior. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and like the real you.  

  Authentic Mentoring:

  1. Find a mentor who you can really talk to--Let loose and take intellectual risks with.
  2. Define and refine this real plan for you with a mentor co-architect. 
  3. Openly discuss your weaknesses and seek feedback from your mentor and others.  
  4. Conduct your own self assessment and get your mentor to evaluate it.  

Not saying that we can shed all of the costumes, but living exclusively in the Federal Witness Relocation Program will never work out. Like everything, your self-awareness about who you are, what you say, and where you are going are the best guides up the mountain of authenticity. That will determine who's in your network and who your mentors are. Then you can return many of the costumes to the goodwill shop. 

Sometimes we define ourselves by a job title or a role-- I am VP of the company or a homemaker. That is not you, that is only a part of you. Don't be defined by a role, you are an incredibly unique and talented person who is much more interesting and complex than any day job. And in the end, the only personality that counts is you.  

Thanks for reading. John  


What is your story? Developing an authentic and compelling story to advance your career

Your story is the truth, wrapped with your hard work and passion, guided by your dreams, that helps people understand who you are where you are going.

 

Your story is so much better than you think. The crazy way our lives evolve, the experiences we have encountered, the things we have learned, our achievements, our failings, our dreams--are unique, intriguing and much more interesting than we acknowledge. In fact we tend to conclude that our stories, our lives, are pretty much the same as other people's--translation--AVERAGE and BORING.  I constantly hear this from young and old, new graduates and PhDs, sr execs and mid-level managers. The result is we don't tell our own stories at all or well. This is more than tooting your horn without blowing it. Really this is about pride in who you are, how you got to this wonderful or challenging chapter in your life. As a friend of mine says, "It is what it is." Necessity is a virtue!Tell your story and tell it well.

It ain't brag if you done it. Walt Whitman

As the interviewer, I usually say, "tell me the (your name) story." It is my version of tell me something about yourself. This is where most people do something really dumb they begin reciting their resume or look like the question is about astro physics. They think this is an innocuous question, but it is the easiest sounding hardest question of all. 
 
Putting together your story takes a lot of work and practice. However, the benefits to you and to your career are enormous. Your stories:
  • Give you confidence through self knowledge and awareness
  • Bring humanity to your resume  
  • Make you memorable 
  • Set you apart  
By understanding your story you will be able to talk about the themes, values, and goals that weave together your life so far. When you reflect and remember, the reasons why your life and your career have evolved are clearly understood. Your answer to the question, "Tell me about yourself." Is not a spur of the moment or robotic response--it is your personal and compelling story. 
 
Here are the basic steps you should take to write and tell your story:
  1. Take a comprehensive inventory of the chapters of your life---Chronological may be easiest. Major events, memories, and turning points that began in your childhood. Times you recall that shaped who you are. Make notes about your feelings, expectations, your frustrations. Each of these chapters may contain multiple stories. Of course, list your jobs/positions, your volunteer gigs and what you learned, accomplished, and experienced. These stories need to have vivid dimensions so people will experience that moment with you. A young lady I work with, described the lessons she learned doing insect research standing in cranberry bogs.  When I heard her say this my mind immediately formed a picture and that significantly enhanced our conversation. It may have been a moment with your mom on the porch, or a trip you took to a far away place, or what a boss or mentor told you. Aha moments that reveal you and that revealed clues to your journey/path. They do not have to be dramatic, just meaningful to you. I use a simple excel spreadsheet and start listing things under a time period or a job. Not complete sentences, but attributes and lessons that trigger that story.
  2. What are the themes that emerge from the inventory?---Are you an educator/teacher, a leader, an entrepreneur, a risk taker? Has technology, metrics, research, and/or presentations been your competency? What emerges as your passion(s)-- mentoring your subordinates, pro-bono work, helping a specific type of client, advancing knowledge in your field? What gives you joy?
  3. What defines your career path?--- How did you choose the opportunities and who helped you? What motivated you then and now? Have your motivations been consistent or evolving? Are you someone who likes new projects? Or executes the details of someone else's vision? The SAR method of discussing a situation, action, and response is a great structure to tell your stories. 
  4. Practice Practice Practice---What begins to emerge is your story and an inventory of other stories. Now you have to begin using your story---saying it out loud, ideally to others. You can recite it into a tape recorder or tell it to a confidante for feedback. The ultimate test will be the next time someone says, "Tell me about yourself." 
Storytelling for a job interview
Specifically applying your story to a specific employer or job is the next step. Interviews, if you are lucky to get one, get right to the point now. They are competency and behavioral in the questions. Yes, they are also looking for fit with the team and the culture of the employer. But does the candidate have what we need in skills, knowledge and abilities and can he/she apply them is the focus.  
 
Joe Turner in his article about interview stories recommends you use these questions to shape your story inventory: 
  • Examples of when you either made money or saved money for your current or previous employer.
  • A crisis in your life or job and how you responded or recovered from it.
  • A time where you functioned as part of a team and what your contribution was.
  • A time in your career or job where you had to overcome stress.
  • A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.
  • A failure that occurred in your job and how you overcame it.
  • Any seminal events that happened during your career to cause you to change direction and how that worked out for you.
You now have a work in progress story about you and a growing list of other supporting stories. Lining up the stories that apply to the employer and the specific position is critical. You know about the job duties and required qualifications, you have networked to learn more about the culture and environment, you have networked further to get an internal recommendation to insure you get a look and hopefully an interview. Put yourself in the interviewers shoes and pose the questions you would ask the candidate and align your stories. Which ones are relevant to this opportunity? Especially revealing to employers are personal stories about how you handled change, made choices under pressure and lessons learned from mistakes and failures.
 
For the more confident and sophisticated, you will have stories about different aspects of management that reveal your skillset. For example having a stories about strategic plans, financial models, HR, marketing, change management, dispute resolution etc will be extremely helpful for follow-up questions and when you have committee interviews. To be able to relate how you worked with the various types of departments represented in the room of interviewers can be very persuasive. 
 
There are a lot of resources out there for you. Here is a comprehensive online resource that will give you much more help and guidance on how storytelling propels careers. Get over your feelings of story inadequacy or thinking that a job well done speaks for itself. Hah! Learning and appreciating your story is a pre-requisite to to any interview process. You can not always rely on your improv skills or "thinking on your feet". You can anticipate the questions and you can have the stories at the ready. In the end, this is about making a great and memorable impression that demonstrates competency and ability. As you become more comfortable in how to tell your story, you will see that your life has not just been a string of randomness and serendipity. Your story has a past and it has a future and the road ahead becomes more clear when you understand where you have been. 
 
We need your story. Tell it!
 
Thanks for reading. John