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November 2010
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January 2011

December 2010

Act your age, whatever that is. And is it time to upgrade your network?

One of your year-end inventory items, is your age and the age of your network. Hold old are you? I know you "feel" younger than you are. I know you can't believe how time has flown by and you THINK you are younger. One of the great challenges of life is to age gracefully AND maintain your youth. Becoming more mature while remaining open to change.

As a society we are obsessed at LOOKING younger or preserving our appearance. So much time is wasted on creams, surgery, potions, and pills. We are more concerned with our graying heads than our aging gray matter. Barber

I used to have this wonderful barber. When I started to lose my hair, I asked him what should I be doing? "he said, "What do you mean?" "Do I need to take something or use anything?" I sheepishly queried? He looked into the mirror in front of us and grabbed my face with both hands. He said in a grave and serious tone while staring into my eyes through the mirror, "Is your hair the source of your dignity? You look great and a little less hair will not make you any less of the good person you are, right?!" I looked back at him, nodded and smiled because I knew he was right. My barber was wiser and more profound than I gave him credit. My hair was shorter but my wisdom was lengthened. And my barber got a larger tip. :)

The barber was right in his Popeye-esque philosophy, You are what you are.

The sooner you accept the changes to your appearance, the more time you have to focus on important matters.

So how old are you? If you want to know what your real age is check out  realage.com I like the way they ask you intrusive questions about your health and well-being to determine your real age. Questions that if answered truthfully yield a more accurate picture of yourself. Is the result true and accurate? You will know. Like in anything you can lie and get a more acceptable answer. Self-deception must be like smoking, you enjoy the immediate gratification even though you know you are killing yourself.

I  have been exercising my pre-frontal cortex with brain games for many years. My current brain age is 21! I know that is not true, but I also know it has kept my synaptic activity a little more lively.

We all know your age is a state of mind. It is how you live and what you think. Are you optimistic? Are you positive? Are you resistant to change and new ideas? How cynical are you? What kind of mental shape are you in? How are managing stress?

Your physical condition also matters. Your resting heart rate, your blood pressure, your diet, and exercise regimen make a difference in how old you feel.

These are all things you control. You do.

There are so many reasons to not take care yourself or think about these questions. After all we are so busy. We have so many things to do. We have many demands on our lives. We seem to be spinning our wheels in a quixotic quicksand in a timecapsule of futility. Really? Cue music for the smallest violins. 

So when were you going to address these issues and make some changes?

Our attitudes and our outlook on life need to be seriously tweaked. What used to work 5-10 years ago, won't work today!? Our young feeling needs to be  accompanied by a healthier lifestyle AND new and fresh sources of information and ideas.

Your network can be an important anti-aging process. Is your network tired and increasingly irrelevant to your future? Does your network have different perspectives and diverse view-points represented within it? Are there younger members? Are there people at work, at church, at your volunteer organization who can open up your mind and give you a dose of new thinking? How can I improve my network of advisors and supporters next year? Meet new people. Your age will be reflected in your network. Oldman to baby

My work on university campuses gave me a boost of youthful energy. Being around younger minds can innoculate you against the weight of rational and practical thinking. Being a parent is an opportunity to regain sanity by reflecting on your childhood and the future of your offspring. Young children are so free from all of the issues we older humans have. They act and speak without the baggage and parameters of adults. Their imagination is pure and unfiltered. That's why I continue to teach. Not so much to transmit knowledge as to seek the energy of fresh minds.

In my first job, my new boss told me he was hiring me into this new field of cable tv because I knew nothing about it. "Anyone who thinks they know cable tv will have to unlearn it, because the future of this business will be so different. "

Hard to unlearn things. Easier to learn new things. In many cases, different people and younger people can be your faculty. Learning will rejuvenate you.

Your age is also a function of your regrets. Stuff you have not done but wanted to. Your fading hopes and expectations for yourself. Things you wanted to experience and see, but are resigning yourself to never do. That pile of dreams that you are discarding--those would be regrets. The more you get the older you become. Have no regrets.

So take a look in the mirror and see the dignity that is you. Is the routinized slide down and over the hill of life acceptable? Then make a change. Take inventory of your literal and figurative vital signs. Think less about how you look and more about what you have left to give your family and your community. Start pushing back father time with new energy and ideas that come from not becoming complacent and settling for a growing pile of regrets. Plan to turn some of those almost regrets into memories and milestones.

What age will you be in 2011? It could be an extraordinary year. Will it be for you?

Thanks for reading. John


Reflecting on our glass barriers and the road beyond

Starting my own process of reflecting on the last year--what I accomplished and what did not get done. Always like to start BEFORE the year end, to get a running head start on the new year. I have been blessed to encounter many new people and ideas during the last 12 months. These experiences have revealed many things to me about myself and the world around me. Most prominent to me is the amount of talent that is wasted or untapped. Talent that is obvious to everyone except the person with the talent. It is easiest to observe in children. You see their genius manifested in little things they do or say. Moments of brilliance, of enlightenment and joy that speak volumes about their essence and their possibilities. Then, over time layers of experience and nurture can suffocate the nature. External limits, preferences and rules unwittingly strangle that potential. As people grow up, this pattern continues and many enter the Federal Witness Relocation Program of assumed identities, where they adopt a life path that others give them. They become who others want them to be and accept somebody else's dream for themselves.This road rarely leads to a life fulfilled. Why does this happen over and over again? One less travelled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--   
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

We have to break the cycle, the habits, and the routine of traveling a road that is too comfortable and too predictable.

But practicality and reality form glass walls between our current selves and parts of our true selves. We see them but can't get to them. We know these limitations are mostly self imposed. We have conditioned ourselves to keep these goals and visions of ourselves distant. Not big crazy dreams, but our own progress towards our health, education, family matters, financial fitness--things we can achieve, but don't. If you will, new year's resolutions unfulfilled.

There have been many experiments with fleas and pike fish that show that conditioning limits their abilities. Fleas trained in a glass container for flea circuses would only jump at 50% of their ability after the lid was removed. Fish separated from their prey by a glass wall would not pursue the prey even after the glass wall was removed. Conditioning and doubt are both self imposed "glass impediments" that limit us.

So the glass walls and barriers don't really exist, we imagine them.

And for myself, I have a much better fix on my potential. I see the talent that I have not nurtured and cultivated. Partly due to sloth, partly due to priorities, partly due to chances and choices. All glassy excuses of different names. I have gotten great snapshots of that potential through my community of support. They give me pieces of feedback and guidance that when assembled, reveal a work in progress puzzle picture of my potential. I am so grateful that I have people in my life that give me these perspectives and insights.

I can't settle for what is. I sincerely believe that we are never done developing ourselves. Never. That the road of self discovery and self improvement is infinite. When you understand this, it is neither frustrating or exasperating. However, you do realize how precious time is.

So how do we break this cycle? How do we develop our own talent and the talent of others? We must focus on our strengths. We surround ourselves with people who know us and stretch those strengths. We connect with people who can help us identify our hidden goals and visions. There is a tendency to surround our selves with clones, with similar people, with similar perspectives, abilities, means, and backgrounds. That is human nature. Likes do attract. But when you see, experience, and learn from more divers and talented people, you can see the potential you have more clearly. Am I bumping up against a glass ceiling or wall of advisors and/or colleagues who no longer force me to see what is possible and focus on the status quo? How will I change this? Broken glass

We articulate our goals, visions, and even dreams to others to help us achieve them. Secret goals never get accomplished.

Reconnect with your dreams for yourself, your family, your community, and beyond. Reinvigorate your understanding of your great talents and find ways to nurture them. Expand your network of peers and mentors to include people who will push you and pull you through the glass walls and ceilings to attain your dreams through your talents and strengths. And help others do the same.

The sounds of "breaking" glass ceilings and walls makes glorious music. Lot easier to break the glass with others than by trying to do it yourself.

As I continue to reflect, I have a lot of glass to break, roads to travel, people to help and dreams to fulfill. Next year is shaping up to be pretty interesting. :)

Thanks for reading. John

 


Giving with Presence

I am trying not to flog you with more seasonal advice about the virtues of giving. You know deep in your heart the powerful impact generosity and philanthropy have on YOU. The scientific evidence on this subject is overwhelming.While spending money can be generous, it's usually not the giving that returns true value to the giver. We have all heard, "It's the thought that counts." But really your thought and thoughfulness are the difference.Gift

In my business, we call it "check book philanthropy". Many acts of generosity can be chores fulfilled. Obligations that make us feel less guilty or just less miserable. In the end, they can be another "to-do" that isn't truly enjoyable or meaningful for anyone. "Who do I HAVE to give gifts to?"--a commonly heard query. It is a reality of this season we feel is imposed on us. Wow, doesn't that make us feel warm and fuzzy.

We have to move from the transactional to the transformational. That only happens when you start doing things that you care about. Acts of kindness that emerge from that place become small but powerful drops of meaning that ripple through your soul.

How does your giving of things, time, ideas, and help, include your presence? Your personal interest and attention? This is so hard. It takes great effort. It requires making choices amongst many commitments. It requires focus and intention. In the end, it will make a world of difference to you.

We can be easily deluded into thinking that the holidays is our biggest gift giving season. However, we are giving gifts all year long. Not just at birthdays, weddings, and other holidays. We are generous with our time and attention everyday--consciously or unconsciously. We know that one beautifully wrapped material gift can not replace the time, love, and support we give or did not give during the year.

In the great network of life, we can be a "Santa Claus" of goodwill and distribute gifts of good cheer, support and love to all we encounter. That is the lifestyle of mentoring and networking. If you are to reap the benefits of this season and the rest of the year, then put yourself into every package of time and effort. Wrap every gift of support with your full attention and care. In traditional Japanese culture, the furoshiki, an ornate cloth, is used to wrap gifts with a beautiful knot. Often the cloth outshines the contents. The furoshiki and the knot itself contain the care, respect, and dignity of the act of giving. Your thought and thoughfulness do count!Furoshiki

Woody Allen said, "80% of success is showing up." YOU have to show up. Presents without presence is no gift at all.

Make this merry season of generosity just the beginning of a new commitment to giving with presence.

Thanks for reading. John


A Season for Networking

I know this can be a busy and stressful time of year, for you negative Scrooges! :) Seriously, this is the greatest time of the year and the best time to network with your family and friends. The holidays are the greatest "excuse", if you were looking for one, to reach out and reconnect.

  • send a holiday card, that you sign and insert a note, unsigned, noteless, cards are offensive!
  • deliver a small thank you gift to someone you appreciate, like a mentor
  • host a small party, meal for friends from different parts of your life
  • attend events and parties with a partner and help each other meet new people
  • engage people in conversations, instead of just exchanging holiday robotic greetings
  • give to the less fortunate, time, money, and emotional supportChimney

Duing the year, I hear hundreds of fear-filled stories about the anxiety of talking to people, meeting people, and reconnecting with people. There is an insatiable desire for gimmicks, techniques, and advantages to strengthen one's network. I have devoted 20 years to trying to disabuse folks from these quick fix solutions that are usually powered by an overdose of self-interest and a fixation on "me". We have to constantly remind ourselves that our successes are due to the help and support of so many others. We have to remember that the next opportunity will come from an unexpected place, but only if we connect. Being so focused on ourselves will guarantee one thing, you WILL miss the rest of the world. Think about others first!

Keith Ferrazzi, the networking author and guru offers great advice about how to throw a holiday party that networks.

This week I heard three stories that happened to my friends or colleagues that just reinforce these lessons that these "busy" times can be the most opportune times.

  1. Out of desperation, a newly homeless person seeking shelter, randomly contacted my office and talked to a colleague. We referred this person to an affordable housing provider, knowing that all of the shelters were full. We were called right back and a spot had miraculously opened up at that moment and the family will have a roof over their heads.
  2. A close friend and I lunched this week to celebrate our belated birthdays and she informed me that she had applied for a job with a well known non-profit. The day before I met the CEO of this organization and sat across from him at a meeting. I volunteered to e-mail him on her behalf the next day. He quickly responded and assured me that my friend would get a close look.
  3. Another associate of mine was helping start a new non-profit to stop the trafficking of children in the US. They held a small fundraiser which happened to be organized by several devout Catholics. An assistant to a billionaire was one of these Catholic organizers, and convinced his boss to attend. Long story short, the fundraiser was a huge success, raising $95,000 and engaging new people in their cause. At the end of the event the billionaire stood up and announced a gift of $1.5 million!
  4. 

Serendipity is the product of connecting, of cajoling others, of making calls, of reaching out. It never happens when you sit back and wait for your lucky moment. It never occurs by hoping that something good is going to take place without any effort.

This is the best time to find a job, make new friends, and strengthen your network. Why?! Because the holidays are busy but connecting is natural and expected. Many people mistakenly think they should wait until after the holidays, so there is a distinct competitive advantage during this season.

We can easily succumb to being "busy and stressed out" and miss our chances.

The holidays are just the best time to follow your heart, to help others, and show your appreciation. By doing this, serendipity and opportunity will be sliding your chimney.

Make something happen!

Thanks for reading. John