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November 2013

The Habit of Gratitude

As we gather with friends and family to give thanks for what we have and for those we are not with, I wanted to express my gratitude to you.

Sharing my thoughts here has made me a better person. I see things, read things, and most important--do things differently.

Thank you for energizing me, for inspiring me, for pushing me to be who I want to be. For helping me appreciate what I have and what I can do with what I have.

Let's all re-commit ourselves to feel and express our gratitude everyday--make it a habit.

And then filled with that gratitude we can help others who need us and have so much less than us.

Thank you for giving me the courage to pursue the habit of gratitude. 

Happy Giving of Thanks and for reading. John

I participated in a worldwide 21 day Gratitude Challenge and this video was produced by several of the volunteer participants. Enjoy!

Written and produced by Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod.

Video from KarmaTube


My Musings on Mentoring

A couple young friends of mine Joaquin Beltran and Chris Schlaufman, started this new web community called Mentorvine--an online community where "aspiring individuals connect with experienced professionals" to advance careers. For those of you having trouble following along I have been cast as the "experienced professional".  :)

My stream of consciousness on mentoring:

Thanks for reading. John


Your Future--Nothing or Everything

When I was younger and even more sarcastic (How could that be John?), I was in an interview and was asked my least favorite question: "What is your 10 year plan?" Even back in the pre-hisoric times of my youth, this was a stupid question. I know what the interviewer wanted. "Where are you going and how does this job fit into your plans?" But most interviewers ask clever robotic questions that are part of a list and do not think about the question's intent but more about disrupting the poise of the interviewee----but I digress. Crystal-ball

So, as I am prone to do, I turned the tables on my interviewer. "Great question. I think it is impossible to predict the future. If you tell me what the next 10 years will be like then I will tell you what my plan is?" As you can imagine, this did not go well. I did not get an answer nor the job! But, as we know better today than ever before, the world is evolving and shifting faster than we can plan for it. Favorite quote: "If it works it is obsolete."

Like a skeet shooter or a NASA engineer who is planning the landing of Curiosity--you got to think about the trajectory, and aim where there is nothing now. So if you can not predict the next 10 years, how do you plan? How does it feel when you aim at nothing? It is far better to aim at nothingness with an idea than to accept the nothingness that is on its way to you. Of course, experience is a great teacher. It gives you a sense of where you are going. But where are you going?

I am in a constant process with people who seek my time to predict the future and their futures. This is a process that is fraught with great dangers. I listen and tell them what I hear and sometimes my willing and volunteer victims see the future--their futures. The futures that have hidden within themselves. 

How are you trending? In other words, where is your trajectory and momentum? Are you getting better, in what, how? And what is your next milestone? And where are you slipping? When you plot these coordinates you will be able to see your trajectory--not your aspirations--but where you are heading. Still confused?

Your ascendancy has to be tangible it can't be just a dream. You can't rely on luck or some divine intervention. You have to push ahead driven by your heart and your curiosity. Yes your next career might find you but you have to recognize it. 

Many people tell me they will run a non-profit in their future, but are taking no steps to scaffold that possibility. Many people will have better lives in the future. Many people tell me they will give back later, volunteer more later, get involved down the road. Why not engage now in what you care about? Busy? Too busy? To think about your future or aim at the nothingness where you want to be. Listen carefully and you can hear a the magma of a volcanic regret heating up. A regret that will pour lava all over your your beautiful green grass dreams.

Your future is coming up the path and it passes you everyday. Then a new offramp appears and disappears. It never stops.

The next 10 years are going to be your best ones, if you think about your trajectory. If you fill in the nothingness of your story with the steps you are taking to explore your future.

The future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed.  William Gibson

I just talked to a 25 year veteran of a dying industry and he knows he waited too long to shift but he is ready now. I talked to a 26 year old who is having a "pre-mid-life" crises. I talked to new divorcee who sees this change as her opportunity. I am coaching multiple college aspirants about their educational plans. And talked to a dear friend who is recovering from a terminal illness that "surprised" him. 

All of them are focused on their futures differently. You don't want tragedy to get you focused. But we use what we have. You want to take control of your future and begin to trot out your future narrative--your story. Where is the protagonist going? And test it with mentors and your network.

How are you trending? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where are you going? What do you want?

One thing is certain, absolutely certain--don't wait. Don't procrastinate! Don't every say you will deal with the future later. Because the future will have come and gone.

You have everything or nothing ahead of you--which will it be?

Thanks for reading. John

 


Pursuit of Passion Formula or Folly

There are a number of authors and bloggers selling books and their points of view that "follow your passions" is the worst career and life advice. They argue that focusing on the development of your expertise, skills, and competencies is a much surer way to "success". Is this a great debate? Not to me. I believe it is folly to argue, either or, in matters of the heart and the mind.

Cal Newport (So Good They Can't Ignore You), Bassam Tarazi, Ramit Sethi, and most recently Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) have jumped on the anti-passion bandwagon.
Scott Adams:  "For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. Success caused passion more than passion caused success. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. But the ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed.”  Van Gogh

Scott, that's not passion. That's rationalization and self-justification. And that's how you deal with failure?! How about trying to cure cancer, solve poverty, bringing education to the inner city? Wow if we could all just dispose of things we were not good at. Imagine if we could all accept the "drain of passion" because things did not work out! Such a selfish and narrow view of passion.

Cal Newport:  "Passion is a side effect of mastery."

Really Cal? Passion only comes from what you are good at? So passion can't drive mastery? I guess Cal has not met the hundreds of non-profit leaders I have. Or spent time with artists. Or with immigrant entrepreneurs who don't have anything but the burning desire to survive and flourish. Nor with foster youth who have been abused and now in college repairing their lives. These types of passion do not exist in the ivory tower, they thrive in the community of need. These people use their passion like fuel. Yes, their passion propels their mastery. It is the expression of who they are.

Of course, telling people to  just Follow your passions! Blind to who they are. Deaf to what their heart says. Dumb to their education and expertise--Yes of course this is foolish advice to chase rainbows without a toolbox of skills and expertise.  Passion and success

As Daniel Pink asserts in his book Drive, true motivation comes from Autonomy, Mastery AND Purpose. These intertwined concepts engage people in fulfilling lives and work. 
Many people approach love and even mentoring in this way. "Love will conquer all." That if they find the love of their lives it will make everything in their lives better. Love does not pay the bills or complete your degree. People approach me in search of mentors as if the "right" mentor will magically guide them to the promised land. Are you prepared for a serious relationship and commitment? Are you mentorable? Are you ready for guidance and direction? Follow your passion(s) is relevant for those who, like all successful people, are working on their whole selves--on their mastery and their purpose. You have to be prepared to do what you love, be who you want to be, and follow your passions. And live passionately.

If I didn't know better, I would accuse these passion naysayers of wanting us to just suck it up and work for the man. To accept the tenets of the industrial/educational complex that all promotions and success are based on meeting and exceeding the job descriptions. We know that is absurd. To not bring our hearts to work, just our lunchpails. There is a conspiracy to tell you just to bear down and do your jobs and avoid the distractions of your inner calls for purpose and meaning from the quarterly goals of shareholders. I spent several careers making others wealthy. I know this philosophy of the owners and the holders of the equity---"Do your job and make it your life! And you will gain some valuable experiences!"
Living a passionless life and career is a waste and empty.

Even these writers who want to sell books and gain attention would agree that passion makes a difference in the success of individuals and organizations. But their perspective only helps the extremely naive and confuse the sophisticated.

Consider these thoughts:
Follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.  Bertrand Russell

Passion and expertise are siamese twins. They feed each other. Success is tied to both. 
Passion is what animates, energizes, and actualizes our skills, talents, abilities and expertise. 
Passion is the suffering we endure in trying to become the best we can, the way we interpret our purpose in life, and the focus on the needs of others. Passion drives our best work.
Yes we all need to hone our hard skills but we have to nurture our soft skills as well. For those of us who aspire to lead and make a difference, it will be the soft skills that will enhance careers. And at the core needs to be a fire of passion that stokes our desire to do something that matters to ourselves and others.

If you do not build a life, not just your job, around your passions, you will wither from the quicksand of settling for what comes to you and not pursuing what you care about. 

It is true that a "follow your passion(s)" advice to the uneducated/unskilled is unadvised and dangerous. But to condemn this advice for those of us searching for meaning and purpose is criminal.

 Thanks for reading. John