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January 2014

Our Barbellion Choices

Each of us must experience one of two pains - the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Which pain will you choose?  Robin Crow

Everything we do is a choice. Either we proactively act or the absence of our actions chooses for us. We want so many things. We act only on a few of them. We think we are lucky and we are. Mostly because we have choices. :) More often than not the luck of great fortune does not drive up to our door, ring the doorbell and present itself on a silver platter. We also want conflicting things. Things which counteract each other. Things that are polar opposites.

A few examples of things I hear every week:

WANT                                                  DON'T WANT

Fast track to the top                                        No overtime or weekend work

Learn more                                                      No more formal education

Entreprenuerial opportunities                        Security of employment

Not stuck behind a desk                                  Hate networking

Wants a mentor                                               No time to mentor others

New adventure                                                Stability

I have hundreds of these pairs. I try not to laugh or make a face when I hear them. I really think I could be at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Funny thing, the people saying these oxymorinic aspirations can't hear the grinding of the goals that are slowing them down if not derailing their progress. They do not realize that they maintain this career dissonance to forestall decisions. Young and old use these competing weights to wittingly or unwittingly hold themselves back.

My absolute favorite: Start-up with a retirement plan. :)

I call this the barbellion syndrome. Heavy weighted goals at either end of a spectrum that make progress overwhelming. They get stuck in their indecisiveness, ambivalence and lack of clarity. Barbell control

We have the capacity to make every decision complex. We play what if scenarios, imagine disasters that await, or accumulate excuses to immobilize ourselves. A pervasive form of self-sabotage. In the end we do nothing.

Until we embrace what we really want, who we really are--we reside in the comfort of "going with the flow." Life happens to us.

Every choice has risk. The more you embrace the risk associated with what you want the sooner you will act. Otherwise live with the regrets and for all of our sake, don't talk about it!

Look you can achieve many things  in your life. You can design and engineer a career that is customized around your needs. You can reach out to others who have done it before and they can show you the ropes and the paths. It is so much easier to lift the weights with others.

There is no gain without pain. The pain of discipline. And the pleasure of defining who you are. The pleasure of minimizing regrets. Because the pain of regret is so much greater. 

Then you will see why helping others lift their weights and avoid the barbellion syndrome of inaction, of worrying, and of letting life pass them by--will help you. 

Defining what you want will give purpose to the weight and pain of the path you choose. But you must choose.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Parallel Parenting and Our Tattoos

I would rather talk about people's politics or religion than their parenting. When I see, hear, and discuss people's theories about parenting, I have to take a large dose of chill pills. We all know that there any many roads to a destination and no one parenting method assures success. Believe me I am no expert. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Doing it well requires all of your abilities. But the differences in theory, practice, and outcomes are enormous. What manifests is the parents upbringing and values and often less about the uniqueness of their children. Because there is this little thing that needs to be accounted for----The DNA of the child! Once you recognize and understand these differences, you become focused on them, not your expectations. Sorry to digress into a much bigger topic but what I have learned that parenting, like most of life, is about others not me. When I remind myself that I am the student not the teacher--that is when I have grown as a parent, as a mentor, and as a human being.  Philanthropy

There are thousands of examples where the children mentor the parents, if the parents are open to learning. This has been dubbed by some parallel learning--where the students start teaching each other to deepen learning. And formal and informal programs which help parents and students learn together to strengthen each other. This is very prominent in new immigrant families where the kids, often very young kids, guide their parents through the maze of American life. The kids assimilate, learn the language and then teach and mentor their parents to assimilate as well. Parallel learning is part of life, if we embrace the opportunities. If we are open to being mentored from anyone anywhere, then your kids, all kids, will teach you. If only to reacquaint ourselves with joy and wonder! So the potential for parallel learning, mentoring and parenting exists all around us. As I have discussed here mentoring always benefits the mentor more than the mentee. Once you know that, your design and goals for any mentoring opportunity gets altered.

Our parents can show us a lot of things: they can show us how we are to be and what things we ought to strive for, or they can show us how not to be and what things we ought to stray from, then you may have the kind of parents that show you all the things about you that you want to get rid of and you realize those traits aren't yours at all but are merely your parents' marks that have rubbed off onto you. C. Joybell C.

What marks have influenced you and others? How about tattoos?

For the last several years I have been observing how selected tattoo removal programs are transforming the lives of former gang members. Forty years ago, my first work was as a volunteer counselor in the California Youth Authority and I have gravitated to this work with at-risk youth over my career.  Stay with me. 

I have been pushing for an increase in the capacity of tattoo removal resources as part of the pioneering work of the Gang Reduction Youth Development work in the City of LA. What I saw and learned is that the removal of tattoos which can take between 6-10 painful sessions, is part of a spirtual and emotional healing for these former gang members. Literally a removal of layers of their past that reinforces their commitment to change. These tattoo removal sessions are an external cleansing that clarifies the identity of the person inside and propels them forward. 

Tattoo removalI recently witnessed the removal of prison tattoos on the hands of a young man. I watched with protective eye wear as the nurse bearing down on the laser gun within a half of inch of one of his hands burned off the ink. He said he did not hurt, but I watched his feet curl up after each segment was completed. The nurse said we should be done in 6 more sessions. He asked, "For each hand?!!"  Yes. she calmly said. That translates to 12 sessions because they can only work on one hand at a time. So this 20 something year old told me he has got to "straighten out" his life. "I have to get a job and no one will hire me if I have these"--showing me his hands. I asked what brought about this desire to change. He smiled and said sincerely, "I have a 2 year old daughter now. And I have to do right by her."

Despite all of the stereotypical and tragic stories, here is a father who woke up and is changing himself to be a better parent. But who changed whom? His daughter started asking questions about his hands and then he started to ask questions. And questions about who we are and what are we doing can sometimes disturb the tectonic plates and the ground opens up and a new world emerges.

Not sure how this story will end, but it has a new beginning. One where the parent is more self aware of his looks and behavior. He will be a better father. She will gain his attention and time. Will he stick with it? He has 12 sessions left. I was convinced he will. Once you hear and see and experience hope, it empowers you--especially when you can see thate future in the eyes of your  2 year old.

Talking to the case workers, they told me me that taking the kids to school, the perceptions of other parents and the friends of their kids also weighed in. 

We all want the same things. To fit in. To raise good kids. To leave a legacy.

All of us have tattoos we need to remove, that hold us back. But few of us will go through the pain and inconvenience of going under life's laser.

Are we open to learn from our kids? To engage in parallel mentoring? Who do we influence and who COULD influence us? 

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Merry-Go-Round Resolutions

The root of “career” is the Latin “carrus,” meaning “wheeled vehicle” (which is also the source of  the word car).  One French derivative of “carrus” was “carriere,” meaning “racecourse,” and when the noun “career” first appeared in English it meant “racetrack,”  the course of life meaning was a later development.  And the verb career means to go at full speed, perhaps even reckless, not unlike the word careen.  Racetrack

The point is your career is a race around a track where you go round and round to see who wins. You go as fast as you can and then your race ends. Was it fun, worthwhile, did you win?

Makes me wince too--the truth hurts.

To me our race track careers can be more like a Merry-Go-Round. We sit passively on a ride that gives us the false impression of progress and speed. We think we are in control because we we are distracted by the motion, the music and the lights. We can end up going nowhere. Ending up where we began.

Most of us are out of control racers who come around the turn at new year's and make general promises to ourselves and possibly others, we call them resolutions.

I am not a huge fan of new year's resolutions only because people wait for this time of year to make changes in their lives. When we know that change and challenge never waits for the ball to drop in Times Square. Change has to be an organic, inexorable, process of adaptability. (I also feel the same way about birthdays, weekends and summer vacations. Everyday is a chance to change and improve.) However, I do like any excuse to evaluate and reflect upon a time that has passed to commit ourselves to overcoming the gaps in our plans.

How do we avoid making the same general, non-measurable resolutions every year like:

  • Lose weight and exercise more
  • Read more
  • Make more time for a hobby, or start-up business
  • Devote more time to see friends and family

We know these never work. These safe, general, non-committal statements allow us to procrastinate. They are dejavu all over again. Success is not defined. Accountability is avoided. They are nice ideas that will never get traction without goals or milestones.

I always wanted a better life but now I realize I should have been more specific. (I paraphrase Lily Tomlin)

How many pounds by when? How many times a week? What will your resting heartbeat be? What about your BMI? What books, what hobby? And how far will you take your extra-curricular activities. When will you spend time with whom? Who will you help? From whom will you seek help?

Santa-Monica-merry-go-round-720x506Merry-Go-Rounds can give the exhilaration of movement and the delusion of enjoyment, until you realize you have not gone anywhere. 

As Les Brown says, "...then you find out you are behind with your bills and your dreams!"

How do we plan our lives to advance and evolve. Envision and then change, right? Set goals and execute?  Attack weaknesses and man up? 

Is change always about improvement in the future?

Or is it also about avoiding regrets and misery?

Do you respond to a positive vision or to avoiding the negative consequences of inaction? 

Pain or pleasure? Choose.

Is change always adding or is it also subtracting?

Is less sometimes more?

Before you add why not subtract. Maybe getting rid of plans, possessions, and even people will make a difference.

What got you here probably won't get you there. So change is necessary.

Change starts with you and how you envision your future self.

Let's make resolutions that scare us a little bit. Challenge us. Or don't make them at all.

Specify your goals, your timelines, your metrics, your deadlines and hold your self accountable to get off the Merry-Go-Round. 

Devoting more time for others. (Probably only second most popular resolution to weight loss) Needs specificity. Here are a few basic recommendations:

  1. Put these "others" on the top of your to-do list. Make them priorities.
  2. Make a list of the people who you want to reconnect with. Like the list of wines you want to buy or movies to see.....
  3. Schedule your priorities vs. prioritizing your schedule. Set dates and times to meet with, call, e-mail these "others" you supposedly care about.
  4. Set aside time every week to reconnect with someone you know or want to know better. Initiate the contact even if it is "their turn."

You will be the one who benefits from these connections. Yes, you will lead with your help, but you will be the one to reap the rewards of deepening your relationships with others.  

So, stop reflect now and often. Make specific goals for yourself. Hold yourself accountable based on your preferences. Schedule your priorities. These are the rings you are trying to grab to make your ride purposeful and fulfilling. Then your career will get off of the Merry-Go-Round loop and move you down the path.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers

Thanks for reading. John