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June 2011

Reflection, Roses, and Regrets

While I think the quality of the questions we ask each other and ourselves matters, I think the answers and thoughts pulsating in our minds may matter more. Where am I going? What matters most to me? What is my purpose? How will I advance my life/career? Will I ever reach my goals? These are vexing questions that hopefully give us pause. But the enormity and abstractness of these queries can just as easily generate nothingness and we dismiss them like other mysteries of the universe, such as infinity? or how life began?Infinity

Without trying to answer these questions you lose windows of opportunity to position yourself to gain self-satisfaction and minimize regrets. The danger is we just wish for a future time, a "better" time to confront these questions. Wating is usually the wrong tack

Using written decalrative statements can help you tame these mega questions.

I will be happier when_________________-.

The most important thing I need to improve in my life is__________________

The one person I need to improve my relationship with is __________________

My next career development activity is __________________________

Being more involved with (cause/issue) will make my life more meaningful.

If I make this decision/choice to ______________, I will have fewer regrets.

Add timeframes and you have a set of goals. Like my SWiVEL form, write down what  is important to you--what you want. Make a commitment to yourself.

I was asked at one of my recent talks: "In our busy lives of work and life, how do we stop to reflect, "smell the roses" and make sure we are headed in the right direction?"Roses

When you see roses smell them.

Schedule reflection time.

Define your destination(s).

Not trying to oversimplify, but if it is important, do it! What is on the top of your life "to-do" list right now?

If we do not put the important things on the top of this list then life's inexorable tasks, chores, trivia, and transactions will consume and devour your time and attention.

Kobara's law of priorities-- :)

The unimportant will always attempt to sabotage the important.

In every choice or avoidance of an opportunity we must measure the potential for regret.

How much will you regret not pursuing the opportunity in front of you?

Don't let your regrets from lack of courage and effort become tumors. They will follow you. They will haunt you.

Opportunities are like fishes, never let the big ones get away! You think you will have another chance. You think amazing moments go in cycles? That fish will never be at the place at that place again. Those roses will only smell that way that one time. That door will never open that way again.

That being said, if you knocked on a door and it closes, then look for the next door. If went for it and took the risk and came away empty-handed--You have no regrets because you tried. Hit reset. And try again. Regrets come from the lack of effort, the lack of assertion, the absence of courage, and the false belief that opportunities are infinite and never lost.

Opportunities and time are finite. (I apologize if I am the first to tell you this!)

Your nephew will never be this age again. Your career will never be at this point again. Today, this day, this year, this moment is already gone.

I am not trying to depress you or start the ignition of your regret engine. I am telling you to live now, get into the present, and put your life ahead of your list of tasks. 

WARNING: Literal translation of this advice can lead to hedonism and extreme selfishness.

As Les Brown said, "...then you will be behind in your dreams and your bills."

In the end, it will be your relationships that will matter. Regrets from relationships are the most venomous of all regrets.

Make a lot of money? Change the world? Pursue your inner artiste? You can not do any of things by yourself AND enjoy it! Your relationships will propel you to new heights and destinations. Your relationships will teach you about the world and yourself.

Commit to a lifestyle of dealing with life's questions with answers and actions--and never do it alone. You won't regret it.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Meetings that network

Like all of you, I attend a lot of meetings! Meeting are a necessary evil in our lives. We have to get together to discuss, brainstorm, report, decide, and to share. But do they have to be "evil"? No one starts, leads or participates in a meeting with the intent of wasting time, but more often than not it happens.

A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. -Captain James T Kirk

I have been in, led, and endured thousands of meetings. I am guilty as anyone on not doing my part to make that experience more meaningful. I can not go into all the ways that an effective meeting should be run or organized. Most often the number one benefit of a successful meeting is the networking. I want to focus on this networking and relationship opportunity we can miss when we meet.Nice meet you

Just in the last week I attended face to face (F2F) meetings, an online/teleconference meeting, and a purely telephonic meeting. Not referring to regular check-in meetings that by their nature must be highly transactional, but periodic gatherings to get ideas and push an agenda.

I traveled 14 hours roundtrip and stayed overnight for 7.5 hours of meeting. So basically 3 hours of travel to 1 hour of meeting. So you would expect the payoff to be great. Let me be clear, the value of F2F is immeasurable in establishing and nurturing trust. Online and virtual relationships and work are definitely enhanced when anchored to good F2F time. I also attended a kick-off meeting for an event and both a quarterly and a semi-annual board meeting. As I said I attend a lot of meetings. In all three of these meetings people traveled great distances and took out time from their busy lives as volunteers. It's a very different story if one is being paid for their time.

The single biggest benefit of bringing people together is strengthening the network. Strengthening the sense of commonality, community and camaraderie. We all know once these virtues are emboldened then cooperation and productivity go up. We all know that we need to do "the work" but we want to gain perspective and learn a few things too. We constantly yearn for new intellectual connections that help us think about what we do and why.

In my humble opinion, I think meetings that network need to have these basic components:

  1. Introductions--More than the business card and name rank and serial number. A little something that gives insight and background that would help the members connect. Ice breakers for even the long serving of groups can reveal new connections. Amazing who you know who you don't know.
  2. Connections--Time for people to informally talk without the gavel and the chair. Over meals, or in an activity--time for the most powerful networking.
  3. Perspectives--Brief report outs from every member on the the best and worst things about their professional and personal worlds. This is a timed and well moderated session.
  4. Reflection--A very brief wrap-up session (30-60 seconds each)that allows for quick observations from every member about the quality of the meeting and insights gained.

So let me rate 2 of the meetings I attended based upon the quality of the networking.

Meeting A was a full day of discussions and actions. It was a day filled with great conversation and decisions. An "effective" meeting that did little for networking.

  • No ice breaker or intro exercise
  • No sharing of perspectives
  • Good informal networking time with a small group break out activity
  • No reflection at all

1 networking point---Weak networking meeting

While people appreciate the efficiency and effectiveness of this meeting, they wanted a bit more humanity and connection without wasting time. A tall order, but one that has to be at least sought.

Meeting B was another full day that may have been even more successful and effective than Meeting A. I would say that this was due to the investment into and integration of the networking.

  • Ice breaker that revealed surprising commonalities and differences
  • No sharing of perspectives
  • Good informal networking over meals that were not programmed
  • Reflection time which provided ideas and momentum for the future

 3 networking points---Strong networking meeting

If we meet then lets network.

In designing, chairing and participating in meetings think about the value of networking. Making connections advances "the work", gives us valuable insights, and justifies our extraordinary investment of time.

Thanks for reading. John


What is your vocation, your calling? And are you listening?

Like a lot of words, vocation, has been misunderstood and misused.

vo·ca·tion  (v-kshn)

n. 1. A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.

2. An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, such as a religious career; a calling.

As author Po Bronson asked in his quintessential career book, "What should I do with my life?" The question is what have you always wanted to or were you meant to do? For some this is an obvious and easy question and for most it presents great trepidation and challenges. This has been part of the quandary of our species since the dawn of time. We have always asked, "Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?"

Those of you who have raised kids or watched them grow up know that each child has a unique set of DNA and inclinations, traits, and talents. And if given encouragement and guidance to pursue those unique qualities, special things will happen. Too often the DNA is stunted, pruned back, conformed by the norms and wishes of a society that on one hand preaches a love of individuality but on the other often forces people into predictability. The greatest challenge and responsibility of parenthood is helping our kids find their calling.

Young people experiment with career ideas that start in their guts or in their wide open minds. Astronaut or President............Over time they start to appreciate their own interests, desires, and dreams that either get supported or don't. Other people's sense of "practicality" can interrupt the dreams and callings of younger people.Listening 

One's calling emerges from a blend of your DNA, your upbringing, and your world view. Your experiences trigger what you like and what you have confidence doing. You think of things that you SHOULD do, or things that you WANT to do. You see others doing something you would love to try. Some of these things are real candidates for your career and other things are put on a shelf of bucket list like items--Things I WILL do later.

There is a great misperception that the discovery of one's calling will be accompanied by a dramatic musical string arrangement and drums, skies that part revealing planets and stars, a bright light and a clear deep voice that provides life's instructions. Sorry to burst your bubble, that does not happen to us mortals.

Your calling is more like a whisper than a thunderous clap.

Most often, your calling unfolds through a great scavenger hunt of life. You get clues and advice along the path from your experiences and from people who guide you. You have intellectual and emotional reactions to these encounters with your calling. Either you are paying attention, listening, and taking note or you aren't. Many things interest you, but only a few really generate excitement and passion. And if you are fortunate, you pay attention and a theme or several themes emerge.

It may be art, kids, or pets. It may be solving puzzles, helping people, or writing. Subjects and skills you just enjoy doing and talking about. If you are drawing a blank right now, then you need more experiences. You need to pursue your curiosities. You need to meet people who are engaged in these issues and passions. Eventually, your calling will be like a constant emergency broadcasting tone that you heed and try not to ignore. That tone is a complex set of frequencies that is composed of may sounds and ideas from your past, your present and from your soul.

Listen for your calling and take notes.

Met Tom Tierney this week. Tom co-founded Bridgespan and authored a relatively new book called Give Smart. It is a wonderful guide to life and philanthropy. One of the many ideas he conveyed was our pursuit of "our calling." Connecting with what we are passionate in our lives, careers, and in our giving. He discussed this potential shift in trajectory that occurs when one evaluates "success" and wonders if this is it. That internal conversation that moves from "success to significance"--will my success be significant? Will it matter to more than me? We return to the age-old questions--What am I SUPPOSED to do? WHY am I here?

So the idea of a calling does not just arrive on a white horse and announce its presence. It must be stalked and pursued. Most of us mortals have to track down this elusive fugitive of a calling and take it into custody. Otherwise life goes by and you might achieve some success but little significance. And you may have missed what you were supposed to do!

Only you can hear your calling. Listen for your vocation and follow it.

We need people becoming who they were meant to be be. We need more passion. We definitely need more significance--your significance!

Thanks for reading. John


What is your Change Reaction?

If we all lived in an idyllic Pleasantville where things were predictably good, then we would not want change. We would not have expectations. We would never be dissatisfied with ourselves. We would never worry about the future. But even in the film the desire for change and difference was too great to sustain the utopian world.

Change requires a change reaction. We envision macro changes in the world. Changes that right a wrong or to relieve pain and suffering. We align ourselves with organizations to address these changes. We volunteer, give money, work for orgs that want and work toward change. And as individuals we want change in our own lives. Changes in our diets, in our kids' study habits.....Changes in our workplaces. These micro changes can align or distract us from these worldly changes. So change is dependent on other changes and so on and so on. The chain reaction of change, if you will.  Some people can separate change at these different levels and pursue them all simultaneously. Others are more linear and will not think about others until they change their immediate worlds. I need to love myself before I love others. Or I need to work on myself, while I change the world? Or By changing the world I will be changed? Any of these sound familiar or resonate?

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi

Bottomline is the diet of the status quo is inadequate on almost all levels. We are hungry for change. Our appetites are great. So change is a regular dish on the menu. But what are we cooking up to feed our need for change?Change

It requires transformation by the change agents--that's us. We have to change.

This goal for change is less attainable because of the reverse change reaction. Individuals and organizations that can't adapt quickly enough to employ methods, processes and solutions to address the evolving context. Their bad habits and stubbornness tethers them to assumptions and premises that are no longer true and real change becomes academic.

Often, we are the problem that prevents the change.

The speed of our change reaction is essential. How fast is our feedback loop to digest the realities of the world we want to change, develop a strategy, and implement the fix?

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. John Lennon

People who resist change are either in the wrong place or need to change.

If there is not a feeling of constant change, then you have no chance at improvement, because improvement requires change. Otherwise you live in Pleasantville!

If you don't adopt a philosophy of trying new things your obsolescence is assured.

If it works it's obsolete. Marshall McLuhan

Thinking about change is very much like imagination. We can imagine things, but we have to do things.

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. Maya Angelou

Almost all of of my conversations are about change. How to improve, eliminate, alter, move themselves/something/someone else or a cause. Never had a conversation with anyone that starts, "How do I keep everything the way it is?" Never.

Here are three quotes I heard from people this week:

1. I know this career change makes no sense financially but it will give me more flexibility.

2. How do I leave my job, change careers and preserve my current lifestyle?

3. Aren't we going through too much change?

I think one of the benefits of talking to someone else is to hear yourself! You can not change by yourself. You need to connect to the real needs of others and the world. The more you do that, the more you will be inspired, and the more you will change.

How do you start change or a movement? You act. You take a risk and become one of the first. You express yourself even if it looks "silly". In short, you lead. Lead yourself, lead your team, your neighborhood, or your community.

Expectations drive our change and could drive us crazy.

So if you don't want change then you don't have any expectations

As you read this blog you are changing imperceptibly, you are aging, your brain is adjusting to thoughts, and inputs, your weight is shifting to your movement etc etc

Change is life. Life is change.

Change is inexorable. The problems we face will change and not be solved but we will address them and make progress. But the work and the change never ends.

An issue I hear expressed is I am not in charge or in control of the change. If I was in control of the change, I would do it differently. That position in life, of complaining about lack of control, is an excuse and basically a lifetime license to whine. Until you become the supreme ruler of the universe, you will be subjected to change. Your choice is adapt or quit. Challenge the change or surrender. Lean into the change or run.

I suggest altering your change reaction.

Thanks for reading. John