Previous month:
April 2012
Next month:
June 2012

May 2012

Who You Are then What You Do

There is such an over-emphasis on defining success by what you do. Many people see their job title as the single most important defining quality of their lives. Any job, even important ones, will never fully define a person. Titles, positions, roles, employers, industries are just labels on the human beings. You define those labels. You are so much bigger than your day job. Who you are. What you stand for. Becoming the best you can be. Being good. Helping others. Your values. Your passions. Your ability to love. These things define you. Who_are_you

Big difference between a good career and a good life.

I meet so many people who tell me:

I am a totally different person at work than I am at home.

In my next chapter, I want to do something that is meaningful to me.

We all play roles in our lives and they are different. I get it. But you compromise yourself when you can't bring your whole self to work. Again, I am not talking about your job but to your work! If you are not getting meaning from your life, then it is by definition a meaningless life. 

Settling for a life that is disconnected from the soul is a tragedy.

David Brooks recently wrote about the warped way people think about their careers and lives:

 In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.

Working on who you are should define what you do--you are defined by your soul. Who are you and who are you becoming? 

Rene Descartes in trying to prove we exist said, "I think therefore I am." 
What are YOU thinking? You are what you are thinking. 
I do therefore I am--makes no sense. Cogito-ergo-sum

Becoming the accumulation of what you do is a resume not a life. It is certainly not your soul. Nurturing and aligning your soul around your beliefs and your life portfolio is our challenge and should be our joy.

People are so overbearingly concerned about what others, including their kids, should be. 
Kevin McCarthy says, "Stop shoulding on yourself and on others."
Let's take the time to find out who we are---not just what we do or should do. 

We will define ourselves by whether we pursued what we believed, thought, and desired. In the end, many will define themselves not by what they did, but rather by what they did not do and wanted to---their regrets.

When people are connected to their heart and their soul, their eyes light up, they are filled with life! We need those connections. We need the amazing greatness within every human being to shine. We need the light and the warmth. We need the solutions and the salvations.

The most efficient and effective strategy that will maximize our society's returns requires each of us to become and help others become, who they are. To develop that inner goodness. Helping people know themselves, pursue their gifts, and define their lives accordingly is the greatest mentoring and networking opportunity.

Who are you? Will your job title be your legacy or your epitaph? Now what are you going to do?

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Write Stuff and the Write Thinking

One of the reasons I decided to create this blog was to write down my ideas and share them with others. Writing has become an exercise in articulating my commitments to myself and to others. It has become a habit that enables me to discuss my thoughts and to commit them to written words. Ideas that swirl around in our heads can evaporate and are only meaningful if they are held in captivity and examined in writing. 

In our minds we are legends. :) We are very collected, poised, ready for anything. We can think we are pretty awesome. :) But the reality is we need to evaluate what we are doing, where we are going, and the big differences between what we intend and what we do. 

My son is off to Yosemite to hike for a week with members of his senior class. I have encouraged him to journal. I told him to try not to write about what he did and saw, but about what he is thinking about. Not necessarily profound thoughts but just his current thoughts. My daughter is studying abroad and her lengthy e-mails on her experiences are very insightful. She has become a very good writer because her words describe the emotional and intellectual content of her experiences. Writing will help them and anyone who does it. It is not a student exercise, it is a life habit.Escher

We all need to write more. More about who we are and who we intend to be. We need to write our career ideas, our relationship commitments, our bucket lists, and our goals. That's why I developed the SWIVEL_(new_2012)  to assist people in capturing in lists and brief written expressions what they want to strengthen in their lives. 

A few sample questions from the SWiVEL to prompt you to write.

  • What three things do I have to change in my life? Things I have to improve or work on?
  1. _________________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________________
  • What three issues, causes, or things am I passionate about? Things that are meaningful to me.
  1. _________________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________________
  • What am I curious about? I would really appreciate some help exploring/learning about these subjects.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Write to yourself so you see and hear who you are.

There are studies that show that writing goals improves goal achievement. Did we really need a study to prove this? The act and process of writing deepens our commitment, even more so if you share it.

Have you ever seen FutureMe.org? Where you can write your future self an e-mail. You can write anything. Describe how you will be different, what you have accomplished, or how you have changed.....The point is any time we write, we are writing to our future self about the past. Writing helps us understand the past in the future. 

Ink your commitments to yourself. Write it down. And feel free to change it and make it better as you get more perspective through your networking and mentoring experiences. Literally comparing notes with others can bring powerful results. Sharing your well thought out questions and ideas will always yield more insights. Relying solely on your your ability to talk---your adlibness, your glibness is safer and easier and a bit more dangerous. You probably have well developed verbal packages that both falsely defend your actions and protect your ego. These need to be tested in the laboratory of writing. Write and read what you are thinking and I guarantee your thinking will change. Written words demand precision and accuracy. They summon the editor in you to make the words convey what you are thinking. 

 So move your thinking to the write! Type it, scribble it, just write more. Your personal narrative will improve and be more believable and more authentic! Your questions will be more potent. Your connections with others will be more meaningful. Write!

Thanks for reading. John


Lessons from My Mom

We honor all the mothers for their love and for their nurturing of the children. Kinda silly to have one single day for Hallmark and FTD to make money, when we should be honoring our moms everyday.

Mothers are what power our society. They bring us into this world and they nurture our talent and our dreams. I have had the great fortune to work for a number of moms who have endured more work-life pressure, challenges, and sheer discrimination than any man has ever encountered.

Last week, I laughed when Norm Mineta, former Secy of Commerce and Secy of  Transportation, began his lifetime award acceptance speech like this:

I was very fortunate to have chosen my mother,  father and family so well.

There are an infinite series of events and factors that brought us into the world that you had nothing to do with. One thing is certain, you have a mother. And she made great sacrifices and taught us great lessons. Bottomline: we are here because of her and the only way to fully repay her is to make her proud of you and of the job she has done.

Like everyone's mom, my mother is very special. :) She has been my primary mentor and teacher about life and how to live. I have learned as much from observing the way she lives as from her words of wisdom. She was born in 1927 on a poor farm in the San Joaquin valley right before the Great Depression. She was the second to the youngest of 11 who grew up to "appreciate every grain of rice." With only one sister she had few female role models and had to develop her own sense of destiny in a world dominated by men. At the age of 15 she and her family where placed in the internment camps for almost 4 years. So she "graduated" from high school in the camps. She went to nursing school, met my Dad, raised a family and decided to become an artist at the age of 49. She has never complained about her hardships. She has always lived life with gusto and made everyone around her feel special and loved. Mom

Just wanted to share five of the many lessons she taught me:

  1. Always Look like You Know What You are Doing: Whatever role you take, job you accept, even sport you play--look the part. Study people who do these things well and try and do what they do. Look like they do. This was a very early version of the advice to dress for success. If you are serious about mastering a role, make the effort to look like it. Met so many young people who are ambitious with no ambition. They want to be given opportunities and even request to be mentored when they neither act or look as if they are mentorable. Youwill never be taken seriously unless you start looking like you know what you are doing.
  2. Always Treat People as They are Going To Be: If you pay attention you can see people's potential. You can see that they are working on who they are and where they are going. My mother was big on treating people you encounter as if they have become their potential. You meet, work with, and are connected to people who have many failings and shortcomings. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don't be quick to judge people by their initial actions, see them for what they are becoming. Clearly, this is great advice as a parent, or a teacher. All children are becoming, and treating them with respect and without prejudice is essential for their development. But my mom extends this to all adults too. Everyone has something to offer and you should never do anything to undermine the best intentions and potential of that relationship.
  3. Give First: Living is not staying current on your debts. Life is about being generous. Reciprocity is not the goal. Keeping score is not worth the effort. Always be generous with your time and resources. We never went to someone else's home without food or a gift. Be the best of who you are all of the time. And being the best is about giving first and giving often without expectation.
  4. Being a Host is an Art form: Learn how to be a host of events. How to take on a Host mindset. Being a host means you rarely think of yourself as a guest who must be served and entertained. You take on a host mentality to help people engage and not allow the other guests to disconnect even if it is not your party. You host many events at your home to become a hub for activities and connections. You want people to feel at home in your home. And when you host events, you make it special even if it is a routine gathering. You don't have to spend a lot of money to present the food and your home with style and elegance. It just takes a little effort and a bit of creativity.
  5. Draw Outside of the Lines: We were encouraged as children to color outside of the coloring book lined figures. My mother's right brain orientation told her that creativity comes from using and understanding the positive and negatives spaces. Outside of the lines is always a bigger and better place to create and learn--she would say. Never be confined by or make assumptions about, the boundaries that have been imposed upon you.

I love my mom for what she has taught me and teaches me. I work hard at trying to use these lessons and many others to realize my potential. Her lessons have shaped my views of mentoring and networking.

Every mom teaches us lessons we should appreciate. How do we take what we have learned and make her proud everyday?

Aren't we lucky we picked our mothers well? ;)

Thanks for reading. John


The Asian Crossover and Our Common Destiny

In May 0f 1992, Congress declared May as Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. It was an extension of their resolution to establish APA Heritage Week 14 years before. It is a special time to raise awareness about the APA communities' history and culture. It is also a time to re-ignite pride within the communities by celebrating the many achievements and galvanizing the APA community around issues, causes and challenges within our communities. While there are many good things about APA Heritage Month, I honestly have mixed feelings about a month set aside to focus on a specific ethnic group. For me every month is APA month! When you are an APA you confront the challenges of mis-information, ignorance and just sheer discrimination all of the time.

I am an Asian Crossover. No I am not talking about a new car that is part SUV and part sports coupe. Nor I am alluding to Jeremy Lin's sweet ankle breaking dribble move. I have been an APA who has worked in "mainstream" places and organizations for my whole career. I have been many times in my professional and personal career, the "first APA to lead/head" and organization, the "first APA" on a board or the "highest ranking APA" in very large organizations and industries. No brag here just fact---plus I am pretty old :) It actually is more a source of embarrassment to me that we have to use these labels even in 2012! Sadly we do, because we still have a long ways to go. My point is that I decided early on that I had an obligation, nee, a duty to help everyone, especially my "round eye" colleagues to be more sensitized to APA issues. I have also helped those organizations and industries engage more APA talent and customers. In general, you become the local Google search engine for APA questions and referrals. It is really tough representing millions of APAs and billions of Asians! :) Banana

But being an Asian Crossover has its price and costs. Some in the APA community consider you a "sell-out" or even a banana----yellow on the outside and white on the inside. (Asians are really good at copying others---clearly inspired by the Oreo designation in the African American community) I have been called a sell-out several times. But I knew who I was and who I was trying to become.

Being an Asian Crossover is a role that I do not shy away from. I decided I would bite my tongue and help as many others understand me and other APA communities no matter what was said or happened. I chose to become a bridge of understanding, with a specific focus on non-Asians. I always wanted to share what I have learned with the APA community--push APA talent to rise. But I learned there also needs to be a pulling force from the top of organizations, which is overwhelmingly non-Asian. Being a crossover means you have to do the pushing and the pulling.

This mindset enabled me enter new worlds with a purpose. To be very comfortable being the only person of color and usually the only Asian in the room. 25 years ago I was asked by KPCC, the NPR affiliate here in LA, to do an "Asian" show. KPCC was very interested in reaching the burgeoning Asian population in southern California, especially in the San Gabriel Valley. I told them that the only way they would reach these new Asians was by doing Asian language programming, starting with Mandarin. A couple years before I played a small part in launching the Jade Channel, a new cable tv channel with an array of Mandarin programming. I had a series of awkward conversations with the KPCC execs, about the challenges these new immigrants were having to assimilate and the high levels of discrimination they were already facing. Finally I told them I would do an "Asian" show focused on raising the awareness of non-Asians. I told them I would call it Asian Understanding. They were so pleased because they got their "Asian show". So for 10 years and 455 live shows I designed Asian Understanding as a crossover talk show, building bridges to the new and venerable APA communities through the arts, news, and personalities.

How do you take the bananas you are given and make a great banana milkshake? :)

Last Friday I was honored to be the keynote speaker at Southern California Edison's APA Heritage luncheon. All SCE's execs were in attendance, as well as SCE's APA partners, a smattering of SCE employees. It was a very formal and elegant luncheon filled with music, inspirational awards, and of course wonderful food. My speech themes followed my path as an Asian Crossover. To build bridges of understanding. To connect APAs with other communities. To strengthen our connection to our common destiny.

Here is an excerpt from my speech: Download SCE APA Heritage Final 5.4.12:

The greatest limitation to our advancement is our own imagination, our own concept of ourselves. We impose many constraints on ourselves. Yes there is discrimination, prejudice, racism and stereotyping. Sad to say these are omni present forces that can hold us back. But we must rise above these enemies of our growth and ambitions by becoming stronger. We have to grow to be more visible, more assertive, and better leaders. We cannot wait to be recognized, to be invited, we must seize our opportunities.

This is our time. Right now. To remember our ancestors to appreciate our opportunities. But what will we do to honor them?

It's not about me it is about we—our destinies are tied to one another

We have to live a life of passion and compassion.

We have lead by example and live our legacy.

We are many but are we much? We have much for which to be grateful. But what will we do to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. What will each of us do to make sure our kids understand the roots of their past and give them the wings to their future?

Each of us can crossover to other communities to build bridges between and amongst our communities of interest. And to discover new communities, new people, and new things along the way. This is the lifestyle of networking and mentoring. To connect to your own identities and to connect with others.

So I mark this 20th anniversary of APA Heritage Month, inspired by what has come before us and challenged by the road ahead. Any chance to remind myself of who I am and what I stand for is a great month. But next month and the month after are just as important times to use our uniqueness to connect our commonalities to strengthen our communities.

Thanks for reading. John