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November 2009
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January 2010

December 2009

Reflections of 2009--Your career and your network

So as 2009 winds down, we naturally and inevitably reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. Our evaluation of the past can focus us on what was not accomplished. I suggest you take the remaining days and hours to make a list and appreciate what you did. Yes, this was a tough year, aren't they all in their own ways?!! Think about the progress you made especially in your mentoring and networking. No matter how small the steps, you advanced your career, your family life, your relationships, your network, your commitment to your passions, and your pursuit of becoming a better you. I can sense that many of you are dwelling on the negatives or the missed opportunities. What could have been. Take a break for a moment! Let's reflect on the best of 2009 and give yourselves credit for the range of creative and even courageous things you did. Think back over the year and search for the highlights. By the way, this is a great exercise for your resume too! Stay positive and see and appreciate the progress you made in 2009. You did a lot more than you think!J0443096

For you so anxious to move into the critique of 2009. Okay have at it! Consider where you fell short in the promises you made just 53 weeks ago. What had you envisioned for this year that did not happen because of disruptions, shifts, and/or procrastination? Make a list if you must. Think about the reasons for these gaps in how you defined success for this year. Look in the mirror, not literally--you will get distracted on your vanity :), and take responsibility for what you failed to do. And think about your network and how you could have done more to support them. One of the greatest challenges is our tendency to make relative comparisons to evaluate success. "2009 was good given what it could have been." Or "I am better off than others." These are poor substitutes for a true assessment of how we did vis a vis our expectations. Relative success is the safe and comfortable way to measure. Don't settle for that. Don't make excuses. Be honest, if you are going to evaluate your shortcomings. Compare you to the you you want to be. 

The point here is take inventory of this year now, because in 2010 you can hit the mythical reset button and start with a cleanish slate. A new chance to make new promises and resolutions. You will have much time for that. Focus on went well this year and how you can build on it for the new year. Understand what you did not achieve and move on. When you are honest with yourself, you did some amazing things, you know some incredible people, and you have a great opportunity to roll out the new and improved model of you for 2010!

Thanks for reading. See you next year. Cheers. John


The sound of opportunity and avoiding a White Noise Christmas

Why do we have twice as many ears as mouths? Listening to the thoughts, ideas, and words that are articulated around you is an undervalued and under practiced skill. No way to hear things when your pie hole is wide open! :) Will smith 

I breakfasted with one of my mentors this week and she said some profound things to me:

  1. Practice constructive over-hearing. Open your ears and pay attention and you will be informed in new ways.
  2. Needs are noisy! The needs in the community, the needs of your customers, the needs of your network are making noises, but can you hear them?

To summarize: Change what you are doing by listening! Change your trajectory by using your ears!

Everyone says they are good listeners. Actually we over-estimate almost all of our skills, except public speaking and math :) I was attending a training on listening, someone asked, "How do I know I am listening better?" The instructor said something I will never forget and that has changed the way I listen. She said, " Listen as if you have to report what you've heard to someone else." You know what she meant. Say you have to attend a meeting for your boss and she says, "Write up the notes." Believe me you will listen differently and remember! Why do we listen better for someone else?

Noise waves We want to minimize the noise in our lives that we sometimes tune out more than the offending sounds, we also cancel the important messages too. Right now, stop and listen to the sounds around you..........

My wife Sarah loves to talk to me during the telecast of a critical athletic contest (aren't they all "critical"?) Anyway, I attempt to listen over the play by play announcer, but my attention is divided and I am not sure what she said. Sarah always knows. She says, "WHAT DID I SAY?" I look up as if I heard. You know how this predictable and sad story goes........

It is not just paying attention and being present. It is also about knowing what you are listening for. Thinking about the needs of others in your network and listening for opportunities for them. A close friend of mine says you should always practice the three foot networking rule--network and listen to anyone within three feet!

I promise if you practice these things you will see how noisy needs are. Including the noises that rumble within your mind and your soul!! By the way, when your heart speaks, take really good notes! Noise1

If you practice constructive over-hearing, you will connect with people you know and don't know around common interests and needs--it might surprise you. If you want the world to seem smaller and more accessible, then open up those orifices on the sides of your pretty head.

Thanks for reading and listening. John


Holiday Presence

Going crazy yet? The combination of year-end business and the holidays is enough to make you bonkers. If you are are one of those highly prepared, got it under control, and cool under pressure kind of people. Can I tell you something? I hate you! :)

Stress has an awful way of creeping into impatience and making you into a major league Scrooge. You are familiar with the confusing greeting "Happy Holidays" with a frown. How can we make this whole process a bit more enjoyable and successful?!!

Like so many things we get caught up in the transaction over the opportunity. The task over the goal. We fret over the color of the ribbon over our box of gratitude or appreciation. J0440332

Yes, the holidays are an irritating combination of commercialization, irrational obligations, and an odd array of myths. But it is a time of giving, sharing, and family time. We can succumb to the rat race of the holidays--what did Lily Tomlin say?, "Even if you win the rat race you are still a rat!" Or we can take advantage of this time to connect and make the most of these annual exchanges. I know this is easier to say than do. But intention and awareness are 90% of the opportunity. Being in the moments and having the intention of not making it a robotic, auto-response connection makes a huge difference to you and everone else. 

But think about it, you see and hear from more people than any other time of the year. You have opportunities to thank and share time with friends and families. It is a potent time for networking.

Intentionally slow down when you are on your approach to the people. You can remain at hyper-space speed when you are doing your tasks, shopping, baking, and decorating. Shift into a lower gear and pay attention. Be present. J0442385 Focus in on the conversations, on the answers to your questions. On the body language and inflection of the voices of your friends. And listen! Listen for the nuances, the subtleties, the unspoken thoughts. If you want to be the generous person you are, then listen for ways you can help people in your network. After all, if you are exchanging gifts and attending their parties, I assume you care about these people. So listen for the telltale answers to the seemingly innocuous queries, "How 's it going?" or the worst question, "Everything good?" Answers like, "Been a tough year." "It's okay." "Trying to survive." And a million other variations. It is human nature to try and mask one's true feelings and not burden others. Sometimes it is a smokescreen, but often there is fire there, deserving a probe or follow-up.

Being a true networker is being a hub of help. Is proactively inquiring how you can assist? This is YOUR network! I am not suggesting helping any random stranger--at least in this posting. :)

And what about my needs? Be ready to articulate what you need and want. But leading with helping others. Leading with giving first, sounds vaguely familiar to some holiday value. When you give you will receive! It all starts with a focus, an intention, and an awareness of what your friends and family are really saying and needing.

Holiday presence may be the most generous gift of the season.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays. John


Holiday Cards or House of Cards

Tis the season when we get filled with both the joy and burdened with the habits of the holidays. You know what I mean. The fun and chore of giving and getting. One of the most interesting parts of the season, at least for me, is the exchange of holiday cards. And here we often go into pure robotic mode. J0401611

Some anal maniacs have been sending out cards already. I got one before Thanksgiving! The card was unsigned, no note. They planned early but did not have time to personalize it. Why send it? I guess to check it off the long list of holiday tasks.

Many people have heard of the BYU professor who sent randomly chosen people from the phone book holiday cards. The next year close to half sent him cards! Robert Cialdini, the former Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University used to tell this story. I followed up with him on several occasions and had the pleasure of hearing him speak many times. He later sent me a Xmas card! He taught me many things, but mostly the power and importance of reciprocity. That's what the BYU professor proved, that the trigger of mutual obligation can provoke a pavlovian response to a stranger who sends us a card! Yikes.

We decide to take on the hassle and expense of sending a card to friends and love ones. (that is if we really review the list to see if they are in fact still our friends) We may even use this opportunity to send a photo or two with a little newsletter on the happenings of the family unit because we have not had time to update them during our busy busy year.

Here are some basic principles and opportunities created by the holiday card exchange:

  1. If you are going to send a card, please sign it! If we are merely sending out an impersonal mass mailing, then why do it. Email it. It's not the thought that counts, it's being thoughtful.
  2. Make sure you update and cull your list. Only send to people that matter to you. Exchanging a piece of paper and a stamp with people you do not care about will never matter. If you do not remember the person on your list, you may be better off opening up your local telephone directory! :)
  3. If you send a newsletter, please make it readable and brief. For a long time I wrote the anti-holiday family newsletter in protest. Instead of the typical brag sheet of happy faces and perfect family stories, I revealed the truth accompanied by an embarrassing photo of the family--like this one. SunflowerSadly, to me, this newsletter and photos were banned by an angry mob with whom I co-habitate.
  4. Add card recipients on the fly to connect with new people you have met or reconnected with.
  5. Keep track of your list. As you add recipients, figure out a system that works for you. Fyi--no list, no network!

Thinking and acting green is also urged. But there is still something about a personal note, card, photo and maybe newsletter that is lost in the cyber-world we live in. Consider the pleasure you get when someone actually puts pen to paper and says something real! That's my point if you are not going to personalize it and put your John Hancock on it--walk away from the cards!

In any event, the holidays, despite the craziness are a wonderful time to reconnect with people. People you know well, people you just met. It is a time to express our appreciation for one another personally. Thankfully, everyone, well most everyone, understands that the gift giving thing is less this year. So your time, your personal effort to actually talk is valued and valuable.

Please do not say that you understand this, "but the holidays are too busy--I will make those connections next year." If so, keep that promise! Otherwise, it usually goes on the Himalayan size pile of intentions and to-dos that we tend to ignore.

Like passing out business cards you have to be thoughtful and intentional. Like all networking, how do we make the connection meaningful for me and thee? Otherwise we are building a cardboard network and a house of cards.

Cheers! Thanks for reading. John