authenticity

Positively Positive

We can donate money, or send aid, or volunteer at a shelter, but the first thing we must do is take responsibility and stock of our own path of consciousness. If we come into harmony with ourselves and vibrate from that out into the world, we are the de facto change. Panache Desai

Seeing the world for what it is and not what it could be is so hard. 

Everyday I have a wrestling match with the forces of  negativity- the criticisms-what should be. I strive to see the best in others, in things, in experiences. But I have been cursed with seeing myself and others on the scale of potential. Potential is a brutal measure, because it can never be fully satisfied.

How do I address the dissatisfaction I have with myself and the world in a positive manner?

Dont be neg
From beinggrownups.com

 

We all have so many excuses to be negative. But we have to change our perspective to change things. You know about the study of recent lottery winners and recently inflicted parapalegics. One year after their life defining events, both groups had the same levels of happiness! It's perspective. 

How will the next opportunity or challenge define our lives? Perspective is everything!

Perhaps the biggest challenge I face is being positive, seeing the positive, and surrendering to the positive. I do not mean be happy, or perky, or a purveyor of phony smiles. Nothing is more irritating than people who say rehearsed positive things. We all work with and know people who try to be Patty Positive. 

Not only talking about gratitude, optimism or guilt either. Although these are powerful forces of life. No, I am speaking of perspective, a positive lens. We rarely see the whole picture. And rarely see the good before us. We zoom in on our targets. We tend to skip over the strengths and focus on the weaknesses. 

We see inadequacy before we see virtue. We see the weeds in the rose garden.

We all like good gossip. To hear about the foibles of others. Schadenfreude. We like House of Cards, Scandal, and Orange is the New Black. Negative settings entertain us. We are all critics. Foodies, and Filmies. We have developed more sophisticated tastes where there are winners and losers. American Idol, AGT, and the Voice have taught us how to hit the buzzer. 

So we are all looking for the rare talent and the OMG. And when disappointed we engage our razor ribbon tongues to slice and dice with the best of them. 

We know that acknowledging the positive is good. It makes us feel good, it makes others feel good. Not pollyannish disingenuous sycophantic babble, but authentic recognition of the good and the positive. 

My mother taught me that there is good in everything. That there is bad in everything. How do you appreciate the good?

Yes, let's make lemonade but also appreciate the lemons.

Yin yang

I truly appreciate what people do for me, how they support me. I do appreciate the care they take and the details of what they do. But I do not always acknowledge it. 

It is well accepted that negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill. Stress — the belief that we are at risk — triggers physiological pathways such as the “fight-or-flight” response, mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. These have evolved to protect us from danger, but if switched on long-term they increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes and dementia. People who see themselves in a more positive light than others see them — have lower cardiovascular responses to stress and recover faster, as well as lower baseline cortisol levels.  Jo Marchant

10 steps I am trying to take to become more positive:

  1. Quiet the mind to see and feel. Become more mindful.
  2. Don't react until I have a deeper understanding. 
  3. Listen like it matters.
  4. Catch people doing good!
  5. Start all sentences with the good I see and feel.
  6. If you have something nice to say, SAY IT! Don't wait for a better time. 
  7. Always connect to something bigger than me. Purpose makes me positive. 
  8. Always give without expectation.
  9. See the possibility as well as the problem.
  10. Shed people who are negative. Strengthen my positive network.

I love the concept of Positive Psychology: Understanding what makes us happy versus studying what screws us up. 

In the book Far from the Tree , Andrew Solomon opens our eyes to see ability and uniqueness where we have labeled disability.

Let's acknowledge the wow before the woe. 

I feel my growing awareness will help me. Like all bad habits it is a step process. Small steps and bigger strides. Lead with the positive.

I am positive I am going to be more positive.

It’s about your worth. Your self-worth… You — and only you — can ultimately put the price tag on that. Your tag reveals not only how you value yourself, but how imaginative and original you are about valuing others. In my experience, happier people are people who have not only a high price tag on themselves, but a high price tag on the people around them — and the tags don’t necessarily have to do with market value. They have to do with all the sense that adds up to human value. Anna Deveare Smith

Being positive resonates, vibrates, and influences the world around us. 

What will you do to strengthen your positivity and your positive network? 

Thanks for your positivity. John

 


Ambition to Walk the Talk

How do we become who we say we are? Is aspirational language how we grow into our lives? We often describe ourselves in generous terms. Are we who we say we are?. 

I call myself a social entrepreneur. I say I am one so it is so, right. Not so fast. We are not what we say we are!

We are certainly not what our bios say! :) Footprints-in-The-Sand-

I attended the spectacular Skoll World Forum a couple of weeks ago to meet with like minded people from around the world--so I thought.  

For me it was the Skull Forum, because I felt my cranium get filled up!

In my skull sized kingdom, ala David Foster Wallace, I am pretty good at what I do. A legend in my own mind! I know this is not true but I deceive myself by saying things and going to places where I look good. I joke I have always been in the top 10% of the bottom half of my class. :) Never fully convinced I belong or deserve to be there.

So at the Skoll conference I pushed myself to meet real social entrepreneurs. People who put their careers on the line for their ideas, to help others and solve a problem. It was so refreshing and humbling.

There were some sages on the stage--from Richard Branson to Malala who made me think. But the real impact of the conference was in the aisles and in the conference rooms where I sat with people from all over the planet who are dreaming and doing amazing things. (Did meet some wannabes like me too :)

Martin Burt: Changing the definition and solutions for poverty in Paraguay.

Dina Sherif: Growing the social entrepreneur community to energize the evolution of Cairo, Egypt.

Oren Yakobovich: Exposing human rights violations through innovative surveillance.

Monica Yunus: An extraordinary opera singer, daughter of Muhammad Yunus, who is changing the world through the arts.

They reminded me what social entrepreneurs look like, what they sound like, and what they do. Without role models we have nothing. Great inspiration for what I have to do--where I have to walk. Not to be like them, but to become who I am. Make sense?

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the way is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road–
Only wakes upon the sea.

antonio machado

Walking the talk is ultimately about authenticity. Who am I and where am I going? What do I stand for? How do I learn? How do I make a difference? The truths.

Once we get real and stop believing our press releases we have a chance at becoming something. 

Ambition, if it feeds at all,does so on the ambitions of others.  Susan Sontag

If you allow it your ambition is altered by others. Your best ambition is open source and needs inputs and energy. It can not be static. And developing your ambition takes effort. When we are younger we just want more, more opportunities, more growth, more responsibility, more titles, more influence, and more money. As we mature, we realize that more is undefined and this type of amorphous ambitiousness is aimless and meaningless. That we must have purposes that energize us. Our paths will be defined by what we do versus what we want. And when we are fully engaged, wholeheartedly entwined, then we see the benefits of connecting to and learning from others. That our mission is not a solo flight but a community fight. Iterating requires the ideas and inspirations of others, not to get there first but to make progress towards the goals together. 

Walking the talk requires walking. Walking down the path of others, with others. Walking in their shoes. Walking to make progress and to push forward. Talking is never walking. Let your walking do the the talking. 

When you walk you meet people, especially if you are not following a single route, but a meandering path to your ambition. That way you can't just walk with your friends or family. You must walk with new sources of ideas and perspectives. 

When you learn new things you change your path, you alter your gait, you become less certain about your original destination and your ambition grows.

To some this sounds wish-washy and unfocused. But to me and others, it is the path to clarity.

When you go through the turnstile to enter the library of ideas-- to check out every aisle and every book--not to peruse the aisles and books you know, then you will confront new sources of truth and reality. 

Ambition is connecting and ambitiousness is isolating. 

Everyone says they want to change the world. But we all know that saying things and doing things are two entirely different universes. Walking your talk does matter. That's your ambition. Change your talk by walking. 

Think about what you say to yourself and to others. -How you define yourself and your future. Then start walking. 

Thanks for reading. John


Networking with Humility

Some of you that know me are wondering how I could write such a post. Humility has not always been my most evident trait. (That would be an understatement John!) But as they say, those who can't do, teach! :)

But my ego and self obsession have been down-sized over the years. I have been humbled by the world around me. Not sure it is seen by others, not sure I truly care. But I have made a concious effort to keep my hunger for self adulation in check. 

I am humbled every day by the needs of others, by the potential of the human spirit, by the unknown and the unknowable. I am in awe of everyone I meet for their uniquenness. For I used to under-estimate others and over-estimate myself. If I am aware I am filled with humility. Humility

As I started to become more self-aware, more authentic with myself, and more open to the world around me--I could not help but see how insignificant I am. That my relevance is tied to others. And to my pursuit of larger purposes and questions than myself. That the truth about education is the more you learn the more you discover what you don't know.

Always cracks me up, that some people think that getting another degree will clarify things for them--that they will obtain more certainty about their lives (not just their jobs/careers) If done well, education confuses the student more, in a good way. Education enables you to ask better questions. But I digress....

Don't be so humble you are not that great. Golda Meier

True humility is not an act. It is the real sense of your self importance in the bigger scheme of things--however you define it. It is toning down our arrogance and our sense of certainty. It is a realization that you are not the center of the universe.

I remember when I was 19 years old and I was completing a medical intake form for the first time by myself. It asked for my religion. I thought that was irrelevant, so I wrote "Protagonism". To my surprise the doctor inquired about my stated faith. I said. "I believe I am the main character of my story." Another failed attempt at Kobara humor:)

But we can be so deluded by our own individual perspective.

David Foster Wallace mused about this in his famous commencement address:

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

One strange manifestation of this  self-centeredness, is our unwillingness to reveal what we need to work on in our lives. Our inability to embrace what we need to know, learn and understand-- the way we are taught to address our weaknesses.

Popular career guidance sources preach "turn your weaknesses into strengths". When you network or interview you are supposed to provide these types of answers or assert these types of thoughts, when asked, "What areas are you trying to improve upon?" 

"I am a perfectionist. I want work to hard and too long to get things just right."

"I love to work too much. I am a work-aholic."

"I let others take the credit for the work I do. I don't assert myself enough."

For whatever reason, this is now SOP for many folks. They robotically say these things that have been commoditized and therefore regress to the mean instead of differentiating themselves.

I have found that more than 50% of students, networkers, job seekers--in my unscientific networking study--say they are stumped by a direct question about their "weaknesses". They literally say, "I don't know what to say." "I'll have to think about it." "Wow, that is a good question."

To have no weaknesses is not a sign of strength, but a sign of ignorance and even arrogance.

To me, this shows a hollowness, an emptiness, an immaturity and an abject lack of self awareness that repels potential opportunities.

A truthful, insightful answer that reveals the person's desire to improve is an endangered species.

Showing our vulnerability to others is seen as a weakness, but we know the opposite is true.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brene Brown 

How do I balance my strengths and show my upside as well? 

How do I express my qualifications and my competencies as well as my desire to learn and improve?

That they need me as much I need them.

How can opportunities be mutually beneficial arrangements where all parties have clear objectives to help each other?

This is the way the best networking and mentoring work. The reciprocity. The trust that exposes the needs and resources of both sides.

Humility is grounded in the understanding that the tip of the iceberg of your knowledge is dwarfed by what lies around and beneath you.  

When people know what you need and want, they can help you. 

It takes courage to know your needs. It takes real courage to ask for help.

More David Foster Wallace: Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

Listen more than you talk. Be prepared to give without expectations before you self promote. Put the needs of others before your own.

Then you will see that you are not the center of the universe but at the center of opportunity. 

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


Thermodynamic Networking

Energy exists in many different forms, such as light, heat, chemical, and electrical. Energy is the fuel and ability to do work. Thermodynamics is the study and understanding of energy.

The first law of thermodynamics: Energy can not be created or destroyed. But it can be changed from one form to another. The total amount of energy and matter in the universe remains constant, changing from one form to another. 

The second law of thermodynamics states that in the process of energy transfer, some energy will dissipate. This is also commonly referred to as entropy. Entropy is a measure of this dissipation and degradation that leads to disorder and uncertainty. The flow of energy maintains order and life. Entropy wins when organisms cease to take in energy and die.

There is human energy. We convert energy into new forms that fuel us and others. Energy propels us to do our work. We feed off others and they feed off us. Without energy we wither.

We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.  ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Whether we intend it or not we transfer energy. We give and we take. We deposit positive and negative energy knowingly and unwittingly. Energy is our human currency. Some people have great wealth others are incredibly poor. Some enter a room with much and others look vanquished. Some seem to have the gift of increasing the energy around them and others make it disappear like David Copperfield. Positive_energy

I have been increasingly conscious of my own energy and the energy around me. How do I add or take from the environment? Yet, I have found it tough to adjust my own attitude or openness to get beyond just reacting versus surrendering to the energy. What I mean is, I can easily spend most of my energy on my negative thoughts about myself or judging the world around me instead of investing my energy positively into others and the world around me.

What I have found, although not able to replicate it every time, that I can be a positive source of energy and surf off the energy around me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can be a source of energy for me. By being engaged you can focus the positive energy.  Most days, I fill my tank off others with some to spare. If I do it well I leave my own energy trail. But if I do it in that order, that is, to seek the energy of others before I try and give off my energy, then the energy  is authentic. It's simple, the energy around us is so much more potent and unexplored then the energy within us. The combination, the fusion, the blend of energies is what life is. Not the preservation of our own. Protecting our energy by foolishly doling it out to only those deserving of it is where we get ito a real energy shortage. We need others energy to grow and advance. Energy was meant to share and be transferred. That is Thermodynamic Networking!

I used to think that I should inspire others (give them energy). But when I look to be inspired by those present, that inspires me! 

This is real energy!

I have witnessed many imposters and posers who try to add counterfeit energy. Inauthentic energy. I know this one young man who thinks being "up", smiley face, and positive is ALWAYS good. He is never aware of the context.  He is "happy" no matter what. He puts on a show. It is not only irritating but detrimental. Like a commercial you have seen too many times you know how it ends and you are tired of the message.  I know others who are very energetic--about themselves. So it is positive but ego-centric, which may be the worst of all.

A person functioning exclusively in the Cartesian mode typically lead ego-centered, competitive, goal-oriented lives. Overpreoccupied with their past and their future, they tend to have a limited awareness of the present and thus a limited ability to derive satisfaction from ordinary activities in everyday life. They concentrate on manipulating the external world and measure their living standard by the quantity of material possessions, while they become ever more alienated from their inner world and unable to appreciate the process of life. For people whose existence is dominated by this mode of experience no level of wealth, power, or fame will bring genuine satisfaction.  Fritjof Capra, Tao of Physics

But I have also seen the masters, who listen intently, allowing others to lead the conversations and who are better interviewers than 60 Minutes. They tease out the energy in others. They make you feel important even though they are the important one. They have a genuine interest in people and topics. They fill the gaps with attentiveness and eye contact. They are present when most people drift and think of themselves. They are in the moment and care about what is being said before they speak. 

Entropy occurs with selfishness and isolation. It comes when people think their success is their own making. Entropy comes from self deception and denying the energy of others.

So how do we gain and give energy? How do we enhance versus detract from the energy wave around us? How do we submerge our selfish thoughts to learn, explore and connect in meaningful ways? How do we adopt thermodynamic networking to positively invest our energy? How do we see the beauty in others before we think of ourselves?

In the end we neither create or destroy energy. We transfer it either intentionally or unintentionally. If we make an effort to be the source of authentic positive energy, then we can energize our life's purpose and the trajectories of others. 

Thanks for reading. John

  


Identity Theft and the Unicorn of Security

We need to believe in magic, myth, and miracles. We need to fantasize and dream to distract us from the drudgery of our day to day lives. To make sense of the meaning of our Groundhog Day existence.

STOP!

This is where I go insane. People confess these things to me and I lose it. Drudgery?! Groundhog Day? That is unacceptable. You don't need distractions you need a new life. Why do we settle? Why do we endure the pain and suffering? Because we are martyrs? Because "this is the best it can be"?

Never fault anyone who wants a job that will last until they die. They just don't exist. :) I just met two young managers who basically told me they want an annuity as a career. You know, where you can literally produce an excel spreadsheet and a linear graph of the "guarantee" of the compensation, benefits and retirement. The unicorn of security.

This late 20ish man and woman were like characters from a Mad Men era of career certainty. Get on the escalator and it will take you to the top. 

Escalator
Courtesy of Start-Up You

I know that global instability, the insecurity of families, the nightmarish experience of serial layoffs and unemployment breed this extreme, illogical, and actually quite dangerous perspective.

Tried to guide these two people, with only little effect. The young woman has been laid off several times consecutively. Three promising jobs were attained since she earned her graduate degree in business. Three name brand firms with sterling reputations (2 of which no longer exist). Three bosses who assured her of a career path. Her confidence was shattered. Her risk averse muscles grew on steroids. She now wants certainty. Yikes! I get it. I really do. Being jilted at the alter three times would make anyone anti-marriage. But would it make you anti-love? Anti-dreams? She has accepted a position as a bureaucrat that offers "security of employment" and a "great pension". "If I just keep my head down and do my job, I'm set for life." But is that a life you want?

Our conversation shifted to her life outside of her job. I strongly advised her to build out this part of her life to "balance" her job with her passions and other skills. This woman has so much to offer and it would be a waste and a shame if she does not invest this part of herself. She and the community would be poorer. My secret unspoken idea was to make sure she built her network and confidence outside of her day job as a hedge against the unthinkable but possible 4th layoff!

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.  Mandela

The young man with a young family has also endured a triumvirate of bad choices. Four jobs that were not "good fits". Four consecutive times where there was a serious disconnect between both bosses and missions. Four "layoffs". Now all he wants is "security and stability". It was obvious to me that this gentleman was using somebody's else's compass to find his career. When he looked in the mirror he did not see his own image. He did not know himself. The "fit" would never happen until he knew his own size and his preferences. As I preach here ad nauseum, the first networking connection is thyself! I tried to steer the conversation away from his "bad luck" and "poor timing" to the delicate subject at hand. Lucky for me, he arrived at his own doorstep to begin a process and now contemplates a path that reflects his interests and his life. I know this sounds obvious, but I encounter many people who are under the assumed identities of what they think they "should" do, "should" be--everyone has told them what they are good at and what makes sense. They adopt this identity and the consequences in the long run are devastating. They allow others to steal their identities.

So while we all want more security, stability, and certainty in our lives, it will not come from a job with a pension. It will not come from identity theft. 

These great and elusive concepts undermine your confidence in your path. That life is not about security of employment but the security of knowing oneself. Your confidence to build a life outside of your job that is potentially more fulfilling. Your confidence that you will never be defined by your job. Your confidence that you embrace change and are ready for it. It will come from your energy to thrive.

Over time you realize that the source of one comes from its opposite. Security comes from your comfort with insecurity. Stability comes from your understanding of instability. And the only thing you are certain of is uncertainty.

These two people will find their way. It just will not be what they planned.

I am reminded of the power of mentoring: when I give advice it helps the me/the mentor more than the mentees. I am grateful for the chance to help others and to think about my own disjointed path and whether I am being true to myself. I will continue to push myself and others towards their own identities and away from the false gods of stability and security. 

Thanks for reading. John


Suffering Indifference

Total humility comes from when you have nothing. When you are without your status, your stuff, and your pretentions, you are reduced to the real you. Not just being devoid of your material things. But when you have lost your self-confidence, your self-esteem, your hope for the future.  I know I protect myself with many trappings, devices, and artificial comforts. Some of you have been there and know the truth about this basic suffering. I can only imagine this scenario—which means I know really nothing about it. Most of us are fortunate to live far from this level of humility. Far from the bottom or middle of Maslow’s. We take for granted what we have need and want. As a result,  our ability to be compassionate---literally--with suffering—disappears. We are numb to what separates us from the real and genuine feelings of others—especially those in need.

Like me, I am sure you appreciate the opportunities you have been given and the good fortune that has smiled on us. We all know that a few fine twists in our storyline and things would be much different.

It is a brutal world filled with heartbreaking images and ideas. We have to cloak ourselves in emotional Teflon so that we can function, right?

Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. - J.K. Rowling

So we become very adept at faking our emotions. We are skilled at pretending to care. Our compassion banks only can dispense so much otherwise we will be bankrupt. We have to use our emotional outlays sparingly—reserve it for the people close to us. Isn’t that right?

Some people say, "I know what you are going through?" “I can only imagine how you are feeling?" “I know what you mean.”

Not sure most people do. We mean well but we are not well meaning. We say these things in the transaction oriented speed of life. We do not have time to care. Few of us have the capacity to engage ourselves emotionally in every tragedy, every hardship, so we get very adroit at feigning sympathy, empathy, and compassion.

Zen Buddhist monks in training have a ritual called takahatsu. These young monks must beg for food on the street to learn their role, to understand who they are, and to learn humility.

So we build our defenses and protect ourselves. We even get uncomfortable when we and/or others show their emotions. We find it hard to look at people who are suffering. We avert our eyes when we see nameless homeless people. As if our eye contact will hurt us. We know in our hearts, that indifference will hurt us more. Blessings

I was struck by this blog by Optimus Outcast, an anonymous film exec who sat on a freeway onramp for a day—his takahatsu. Here is an excerpt from his observations:

Why is it so hard to make eye contact with someone in less fortunate circumstances? Why is it so scary just to look? We lock ourselves away in our fortresses with the openings sealed tight. A you-can-sleep-peacefully-at-night guarantee that the outer edges will be kept safely at bay. We will never be required to be uncomfortable. Our cars, our houses, our offices all offer these qualities. But, then if you think about, so does a coffin.

Maybe the scary part isn’t just to look. The scary part is to look and then look away.  A reminder that, in all of our professed capabilities, sometimes we are still helpless to change things. If we look away, is this our own cardboard sign that reads, “I have given up.”?

I am a born sucker. I take some pride that I have not lost all, but I have lost a lot, of my trust in strangers.  I give time and money to almost anyone. I have incredible and disastrous stories of my unsuccessful attempts to help others. I was regaling some colleagues about how I have been duped by panhandlers.  This resulted in a spirited discussion with a colleague who said, "There is no doubt what happens when you give a panhandler money. No doubt." She won't give panhandlers money because she is convinced that ALL panhandlers are addicts of some type. The money goes straight to drugs or alcohol.

I understand this logic. And I know that it is mostly true. But this logic becomes part of the thickness of our Teflon coating. We begin to make generalizations about “those people”. But don’t we need as much pathos as we do logos? I also believe that we cannot dismiss an entire group because of a theory, even a “factual theory”.  Because we are wrong too many times. I have seen and continue to seek out the people who have beat the odds. They renew my faith in the great potential of all people. The hundreds of death row inmates who have been exonerated through the Innocence Project. The countless kids from the ghetto who have succeeded in school and life. The online teacher I met who typed with her toes because she has no hands.

But how much effort should we expend to save the few? Remember the old story about saving the starfish? It does make a difference to the one.  StarfishBoy

Sometimes it is easier for us to give up on each other than a product. How many times has a product or service not lived up to the hype or advertising? I know. Yet we still buy. Maybe a bit more warily and carefully. But we buy.

How much of our humanity dies when we come to these conclusions that ALL of somebody is not good or able to be helped or have ulterior motives? 

We lose a little of ourselves every time we think and act this way.

We must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides.  Thich Nhat Hanh

In my professional world of philanthropy, we talk about those who need our help. We rarely talk to those we want to help. It's crazy. Our ideas become so sterilized from reality. So intellectual. So safe from the truth. 

How do we renew our sense of reality by visiting the suffering we are trying to address or lessen? How do we truly get into the shoes of our colleagues, neighbors, brothers and sisters? How do we help our network by allowing ourselves to suffer with them---to have compassion? To listen, to learn and to love. To have the vulnerability and humility to know.

I write this not to preach but to confess. I write this not to inflict guilt but to remind. I write this to help me suffer with you.

Thanks for reading. John


Do You See You? The Meta-Mindful-Mentoring Method

Do we see and hear ourselves? Do we know how we come off? Other people do. But how do we gather, curate, and ultimately utilize these insights and observations to improve?

Heidi Grant Halvorson, author HBR blogger recently wrote:

“If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?

If we are going to ever improve, we need solid evidence about where we went wrong. Unfortunately, that's the kind of evidence that usually doesn't make it to our consciousness, making self-diagnosis practically impossible. And your own ratings of your personality traits are NOT well correlated with the impressions of other people (who know you well).”

We need help getting the right answers. This is not a DIY exercise. Self awareness

That's why I have 360 degree evaluations everywhere I have led teams. That's why I am such a big advocate of mentoring. You need to actively seek, receive and digest, honest and constructive feedback on a regular basis.  To get an accurate picture of you and the you, you want to be. You have to learn how to see and hear yourself.

It is almost impossible to see yourself, hear yourself, and understand yourself-by yourself. 

The challenge is we get into a mode of talking and behaving  where we are say and do comfortable things or phrases that don’t connect us to the real world at that moment. We are not present and self-aware. Our concentration and focus drifts so easily.

  • I just saw a new and very young magician at the Magic Castle. Her sleight of hand was fantastic, but her verbal routine was stilted, memorized and robotic. She was not feeling the audience she was going through her lines. For example, there was an audience member who was verbally reacting to almost everything the magician said. But the magician ignored him, instead of using him as a foil or engaging him. Technically her magic was terrific. But how does she get feedback? Who tells her how she did? With a little more experience, maybe a few video tapings, and some feedback will free her to see herself and be herself.
  • I interviewed this guy and he was well spoken. Told his story well. Answered my questions confidently but without any emotion or personality. What do I mean? Without revealing himself. There were a number of micro clues about his family, his volunteer work, and his passions, that I was collecting during the conversation. So near the end of the interview, I asked, “What don’t I know about you?” He stared me down for a mini eternity in silence and said, “I think we are good.” Whoa! Now here is someone not able to adlib, veer from the script, improvise, and get real. Here is someone who is not comfortable in his own skin and not very self-aware. His script was excellent but his engagement was horrible. I knew things about him he was not going to share with me! I always look for self-awareness and self-reflection in people I meet.
  • I have an employee who complained how unfair it is to provide the 360 degree reviews for staff outside his dept. "I really don't know what she does. I mean I work with her from time to time but I am in no position to evaluate her." I said to him, "Do you ever review restaurants, and their service on Yelp? Do you recognize good service at a store? I know you are observant and you can make quick accurate judgments and you are telling me you can't review and evaluate one of your colleagues that you worked with for a year? Hmmmmmm" 

Each of us comes to very fast conclusions from the things we observe, experience and encounter. We assign values, preferences, and judgments to OTHERS. We rarely turn this amazing power on ourselves.

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and  experiencing that moment. You hear yourself talk. You see yourself act. You  think about the way you think. Mindful

Emotional Intelligence EQ is simply put: “.. the ability to monitor one's and others feelings/emotions and understand them to guide your behavior and actions.” Daniel Goleman 

 According to Goleman there are 5 emotional competencies:

  1. Self-awareness (Knowledge of one’s preferences and intuitions)
  2. Self-regulation (Management of one’s states and impulses)
  3. Motivation (Awareness of your emotional tendencies that guide goal attainment)
  4. Empathy (Awareness of others feelings and needs)
  5. Social Skills (Skill in inducing desirable behavior in others)

I am really focusing on #1, #4 and #5. How does the way you come off genuinely represent you, the needs of others and results in something desirable?

Many sources out there to develop your EQ, your mindfulness. Meditation helps many. I like this post on Overcoming the Obstacles to Mindfulness.  

Once self-aware you develop empathy for others and your ability to lead your life and persuade others increases.

I See You. Do You See You? If we are more mindful and share these thoughts we can start to see ourselves. When we see ourselves we engage others in authentic ways that reflect the time, the moment, the feelings of the others. Your EQ is high. That’s when you make a connection. Not just a transaction for goods and services, but you connect. That’s when networking and mentoring pay off. When you reveal yourself and reveal the needs of others. Then we help each other see our truths, our true selves.

Thanks for reading. John

 


We Need Your Art. We Need Your Cowbells!

Whether you are staring at a painting, watching a modern dance, glancing at graffitti, listening to an opera, or sharing a Youtube video---you appreciate what is creative, artistic, and therefore relevant. But do you understand it? Behind all of the art is an artist. Knowing more about the person who made the art can make all the difference in the world in how you perceive, understand, and ultimately enjoy that art.

I got the chance to learn from and about Jake Shimabukuro, the "Elvis Presley of the Ukelele", in a live interview I attended a few days ago. Like all great interviews you gain insight into the person and what makes them tick. His life is a great profile in passion, persistence, and the assistance of others. I gained some extraordinary life lessons from him that I'd like to share with you. Jakeshimabukuro-com-uploads-album_art-161-430x0

Here's a guy who loves the ukelele (oooh-k00-lay-lay). Born and raised in Hawaii where the uke is a respected instrument and cultural icon. Not something shared by us mainlanders. We think of it as a toy or perhaps a tropical party prop. The ukelele is taught in Hawaiian schools, much like the recorder is in the lower 48. So he learned the ukelele as a young kid and fell in love with it. He literally could not put it down when he was young. He said, "My parents had to pry the ukelele out of my hands, so  I could do other things, like eat." The ukelele has only four strings and so its range is more limited than a guitar, but Jake never thought way. "Once I learned 4 chords I could play 3000 Hawaiian songs." Maybe he exaggerated, but most ukelele players accepted these limits. Not Jake. He experimented, he mastered, he re-invented this tiny instrument over many years. All the while he tried to make a living playing in bands playing covers. After many years, his music won awards in Hawaii. And after a decade or so he recorded a few songs that included George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". He played this song in 2004 on a local Hawaiian tv show. A couple years later, one of the first videos uploaded onto Youtube in 2006 was this tv show starring Jake. Jake still does not know who uploaded it or how they got the video.  People were astounded by what he could do with a ukelele. Long story short it went viral, perhaps one of the first multi-million view Youtubes! It" launched" his career at the age of 29.

I first heard about Jake from the 2010 Ted conference. Watch!


TED Talk: Jake Shimabukuro plays "Bohemian... by TED  

Despite his growing fame and success he is a humble guy who knows his roots. He still loves the ukelele and he has become its greatest evangelist and ambassador. In fact, there is evidence that more people are selling, buying and playing the ukelele because of him! He continues to learn about how he can express himself through it. It is clear he is still an artist driven by his art. Refreshing to see and hear this.

Since he writes all of his own music, he uses a process to get into the emotion and state of mind of the inspiration of the music--like method acting he assumes the role before he plays for each song.

And for all these reasons I appreciate his art, his expressions--his music even more.

Here are the life lessons I got from his interview:

  1. Find your passion and pursue it with all of your heart. He said he feels each strum, each note inside his body before he expresses it. His talent is wrapped in his emotions--that's passsion!
  2. Relish the role of the under dog---the challenger. Don't be daunted by the negativity and the voices of doubt that intend to derail your dreams. Can you imagine how many people told him the ukelele would not be a good career choice?!
  3. Not only become proficient but improvise, free-style and make your passion express the uniqueness of you. One of his heroes is Bruce Lee. He admires how Lee mixed methods, styles, and disciplines to blend a new form of martial art. 
  4. Persistence, practice and never giving up pays off. First you are true to yourself and others will follow. Find people who support you and push you. Success is being you!
  5. When the door of opportunity opens, walk through it. When the kindness of strangers and "lady luck" shines on you--take advantage of it. An unknown person who loved how Jake played uploaded that video and transformed Jake's life.
  6. Use your emotions and passions to guide your best work. To bring the best out of you. Engage your feelings into your work and your "art"--express yourself authentically!

One of his new songs is More Ukelele. Jake wants the world to know and love the ukelele. He said this song was inspired by the following SNL skit More Cowbell!

Never will listen to Jake's music the same way. The same goes for you, the artist in you. When people understand who you are, why you do what you do---they see you, understand you and your causes more clearly. They appreciate you. 

Bang your cowbell---we need more cowbell!

Thanks for reading. John


Sabotaging Yourself in Interviews

I think it was Dennis Miller who said he has a rare case of ADD/OCD. He says he is afflicted with constantly changing what he is obsessed about. :) 

Hmmmm maybe all of us suffer from this......

Every week I get to hear how people intend to improve their live, pursue new careers, and search for their next resume filler. I can now predict what what most people say. Not sure where this downloaded verbiage comes from, but the vast majority utter a pablum of memorized (read non-authentic words) about their future. These words inevitably and inexorably sabotage their chances to achieve their goals. Let me explain.   Self-Sabotage-300x300 (1)

I was recently interviewed by a executive coaching site to provide some advice to their subscribers. One of the questions was:

What three interview questions are the most effective? 

  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. Why are you leaving or left your last job?
  3. How will this job advance your longer term career goal?

I try to get to the candidate's story--the story of goals, passion, and self reflection. The true story, not the half truths of a resume--but the inner thoughts and persona of the candidate.

Intuitively we know that the job of a candidate is to differentiate oneself. It is the ultimate marketing challenge of telling the interviewer/employer what sets you apart from the sea of "qualified" humans who seek the same spot. Right? 

Here are the typical and predictable and yes, you guessed it, worst answers to my questions:

  1. Why do you want this job?  I love what (employer name) does. Seems like a place I could make a difference. Really looking for a place to grow. 
  2. Why are you leaving or left your last job? My current position/place of employment limits my mobility. I  am looking for new opportunities where I will have more mobility and opportunity. 
  3. How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Eventually I want to head my own/division/company/non-profit and I see this position as helping me achieve this. 

Why do we spend so much time and energy demonstrating why we are like everyone else? Why is our pitch-- our story, our marketing materials--resume and cover letter, and our approach to interviews like every other candidate?!!

Laziness, apathy, perhaps ADD/OCD and our rush to act, play leading roles in this regression to the mean. We want quick solutions--so we plug in generic phrases and ideas to to keep the engine of progress going--even if the result is mediocrity.

Not sure how these oft repeated answers get embedded in our brains and process but I have seen this pattern over and over again. Reading these answers you get a distinct idea that "this job" is not the focus of this conversation. You learn little about the person. Everything in these answers speaks to the future--what the candidate will need to advance. No attention is paid to learning and contributing to "this job". No expression of awareness of what the candidate needs to advance in their career--in other words what they hope to achieve/gain to lighten their intended path. 

  1. Why do you want this job? How does this job align with your purpose? Everyone wants to "make a difference and a place to grow". What are your personal reasons to work here?
  2. Why are you leaving or left your last job? This is a delicate and important question that needs to be addressed. Layoff is an answer that requires details. Dissatisfaction with the job, the growth, the purpose need attention and inform the question above. Lack of prep on this question demonstrates lack of readiness to move on. 
  3. How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Another softball question that tees up your chance to solidify your answers above. This is the space you use to talk about how you expect to grow, what opportunities that you found lacking in your previous job you hope to uncover here, and what areas you hope to hone, refine and master to become more confident. In other words, "How will this job challenge you?" Is this merely a stepping stone. This is not the place to say, "I want to be the head of (employer)." Or some other ambiguous ambitious sounding words about becoming the head of something. Often "this job" will probably not lead to this goal (even if you believed your own answer) raising serious doubts about your understanding of "this job" and your attention span for "this job."

Cover letters, interviewing, networking, mentoring, answering questions, and telling your story are more about vulnerability and authenticity than regurgitating your quals and resume. 

Otherwise your auto-pilot average answers to the questions unwittingly sabotage your candidacy.

Get compulsive and obsessive about your story--your real story. Invest time into it and develop the words that convey your ideas and your candidacy. Let your greatness, goodness and needs shine!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Your Networking Business Model

The new realities of this chaotic world have forced every business and every organization to examine the basic assumptions of their business models. Smart ones are furiously re-structuring to figure out how to survive and grow. Clear that business as usual is obviously dead and is killing many stubborn industries, companies and organizations. A mindset of--"Can't wait until we get back to normal"-is destroying the careers and prospects of individuals as well. People who have stopped evolving and waiting for the world to accommodate them are making fatal judgments.

Whether you are a new college grad or someone re-tooling for the next chapter, you need a new model. You need to question and reset your goals, metrics, and assumptions. Please do not interpret this as a scaling back of your aspirations or a lowering of your sights. But we have to eliminate any shred of the yearning for the days gone by. There is no normal that will return. It is gone and it was replaced with change and more change.

Adapt or Die!

This is not just about the fittest and the fastest--although it's good to be both. It is about adopting and embracing the need to constantly and continuously change. Not just improve, but change.

With this in mind, you have to re-engineer your career business model, your networking business model. What you want is to have the tools and temperament to not only endure but excel through transitions.  Good to Great Hedgehog

I have always loved Jim Collins'  Hedgehog model from Good to Great. As an organization: You have to have Passion. A desire to be the Best. An Economic Engine/model that sustains and grows you. And in the nexus of all parts you have to have a BHAG---Big Hairy Audacious Goal. 

These powerful concepts are very relevant to one's career as well. But in the spirit of getting you from good to great, I have interpreted and adapted this model by adding dimensions more applicable to you, the individual and to the world today.

I always see my networking model as a constellation of factors and elements that influence the gravitational pull of my career. All of them orbit around my network. Since my network is not static these orbits and dimensions have and will change. These factors or values comprise my business model:

  • My Network:This is the platform for everything. Your family, friends, connections, and contacts influence everything. The more robust and diverse this platform of human interconnections is, the more robust your opportunities will be.
  • My Passion(s):What you love and truly care about has to drive your world. Nurturing and feeding the issues, causes, pleasures, and joys that give you energy and emotional sustenance has to be a big part of your life. (The pink circles are your curiosities or interests that could become passions)
  • Mentor(s):Identifying and maintaining relationships with the people who will give you the truth about  you. Not cheerleaders but honest purveyors of tough love. 
  • Money:We all need financial resources to live and to enjoy our lives. How much and how big this planet is in your constellation should probably change with time and priorities. Understanding the difference between money and how we get paid in our lives is gigantic. More money for the sake of more money does not make sense. So having very specific goals around how much money you need make this model work the best. 
  • My SKA (Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities): This is your toolbox. It deserves constant and continuous attention. Knowing yourself and your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses is critical. Sharpening what is there and adding new tools. Then becoming the best you can be.

Networking Business Model

Purpose: From all of these elements and your dedication to pursue them with courage and conviction, purpose and meaning emerge. Leading an authentic life of understanding yourself by understanding others. Pursuing your passions with passion. Defining your work and your worth selflessly. And then everything defines your pupose--the meaning of your life. It is not your job or even your career. It is is the way you live, how you live, who you help, and the difference you make. 

The key here is building your model on a growing and dynamic platform--your network. A network that enhances these elements. Connecting and reconnecting with people that help you focus and advance your goals and your constellation of opportunities. A network that you help without expectation or obligation. A network that makes you better by holding you accountable and inspiring you to do more.

Isn't it time to evaluate your model? How does your model look? And how do you want to change it? What elements are lacking and need to be stronger? What elements are more solid and reliable? You are in control of this model and your challenge is always, in every moment, actively managing and adapting it to who you are becoming and the need of the world around you. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Wonder, Wander and Speak to your Dream

Had the opportunity to hear Eric Saperston speak the other day. He was a breath of fresh and inspiring air. He is a free spirit who went on a quest to discover the secret of success. All of this was the focus of a documentary film call The Journey. Eric is such a cool and down to earth guy who walks the talk.

 

He literally followed this Chinese proverb:

To know the road ahead ask those coming back.

Here's the essence I gleaned from his talk.

  1. Live a Life of Wonder---Seek experiences, people that test your limits that make you think, that define your dreams. Live in awe by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Find and then pursue the "what" you want to do.
  2. Live an Open Life---Do you have the courage and confidence to ask for help? To know when you don't know and seek assistance. Eric says too many people think they can "fake it til the make it." He met John Portman, a famous architect, on his journey. Mr Portman said, "An open life is yours if you have the courage to ask for help."
  3. Speak your Possibility---Clearly articulate the "what". Your dream, your goals, your aspirations. Talk about what you want and engage others in your quest. Ask for help, advice, for role models. Tell your story and where it is going.

Succinct and relevant words to live by. Can't be successful doing just one or two of these. You need all three.

Eric learned and confirmed that total strangers would share with you great truths. The fact is many people will share their truths with you--if you ask. I remember when I shared the stage with Jack Canter of Chicken Soup fame. He discussed the lessons he learned from pro-athletes, movie stars, and famous leaders. Yes, well-known persons have very compelling points of view. But I argued that day that the "average" people I knew had equally if not more powerful words of wisdom. That the people you interact with on a daily basis are the real stars and will give you more value and mentorship than a far away icon. As a society, we place too much value on celebrity, but I digress...

The people you know or have access to have amazing insights and secrets they would love to share with you if they had the opportunity. They can help you understand how to get you on a path that has more fulfillment, reward and meaning. Find them.

Once you realize what you don't know, you seek help. And if you ask for help, you will learn, progress, and get closer to your goals. But you gotta ask.

Most people say they are team players and that they collaborate well. But most do not know how to engage others to learn. Knowing who to ask, I have found is the biggest key to success and effective leadership. The old Jersey joke, "I know a guy who knows a guy....." Find people who know what you don't know.

Driven by wonder, you wander. You look for advice and answers and encounter the awe. And because you live an open life, your journey to seek help gets shifts and changes. And you can arrive at destinations you never planned.

We adopt a lifestyle of mentoring and networking and "speak our possibility," and seek the possibilities of others. We encounter others on our journey that we help and they help us. This is a life that defines the dream.

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


Do you really want to know what I think?

Maybe it is the aging process or a deluded sense of maturity but being diplomatic seems less and less relevant. Certainly, there is a great value in packaging messages in digestible and palatable chunks. So how can we embrace an air of sensitivity for other people's feelings and on the other hand not let them get away with stuff? How do we answer questions with the greatest candor and frankness without hurting people?

"I want the truth. You can't handle the truth." Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in a few Good Men

If you have read my posts, you know I define mentoring as "a reality check". The obligation that we hold the mirror of truth so our friends can see themselves. And lastly, that mentoring can never be just encouragement and support. That effective mentoring is an exchange of truths based upon mutual benefit.

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.  -Attributed to James A. Garfield

The classic question from a wife to a husband, that tests his manhood and his ability to stay married, "Do I look fat in this dress?" How can such a simple question conjure up fear, a furious internal debate about right and wrong and the origins of the universe? :)

But outside of these moments of marital imbalance, we need to be able to give and take the truth. How long should we go on with our little lives with a totally inaccurate picture of ourselves? You can't cut your own hair and you can't see yourself by yourself. The layers of denial, rationalization, self-defense, and sheer ego are thicker than the walls at Fort Knox.

The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.  ~William James

Let's be honest :), we each have skills, expertise, and personal attributes that are under-appreciated and should be honed and sharpened on a regular basis. But the only way we will grow is to confront our deficiencies, our bad habits, and our unfulfilled aspirations. You have to be surrounded by and gravitate towards truth tellers and shun and avoid the sycophants, the butt kissers, and any mirrors that reinforce self-deception.Reality-check

Working at a foundation you have to be extra vigilant. It is amazing how much younger, smarter and funnier I have become since I started working at CCF! In fact, a mentor of mine, advised me when I took this job, "You will feel like the buxom tall blonde when you go to parties." How about that for the truth! Drink that kool-aid and you will go on a hollow binge of self-importance.

Over an over again in my life adventure I have sought and received advice that pushed and pulled me. My mentors have shown me the inconsistencies of my words and actions. Helped me avoid career choices, preserve relationships, and build confidence in ways I can never could have done by myself.

People who avoid going to the doctors, financial planners, academic advisors, or career counselors to get an annual check-up on their lives are the people who like living in the ignorant space outside of the truth. "What I don't know will not hurt me." Yikes!

Take an inventory of the truthful mentors and mirrors you have in your life. Who can you depend upon to give you a reality check? Who makes you uncomfortable or even intimidates you? Who is a bit more like you want to be? (Not who you admire, but someone that you want to be like--there is a difference) Become a mentoring seeking missile. Stalk mentoring opportunities. Finding the right mentor(s) is a process of wanting to be mentored, being mentorable and knowing yourself.

While there is an intuitive focus on improving, we must also appreciate the good in ourselves and others. Being generous with the truth includes telling people in our lives how much they mean to us, that we love them, and expressing our gratitude for the gifts we receive from them.

"You know, that other dress shows off your sexy figure better", might be a better answer for the confounded husband. But we are confronted with these choices everyday as a parent, manager, colleague, and friend. Seeking more "mirrors" that won't lie to us has to be our goal. Being more and more truthful with yourself and with others has to be our goals.

Let's mentor each other with greater and greater dosages of the truth so that we reach our goals with a clearer picture of who we are.

Thanks for reading. John


3 Perspectives on Our Opportunities

1. Tsunami of emotions and the power of WE

As we watch the ongoing tragedy in Japan, we are conflicted. Our hearts are pained by the images and stories that we are engulf us through the news. We feel helpless. We do not know what we can do. We can send money, but is that enough? Doing nothing seems wrong. Our desire to help expands and our ability to help is constrained. As in all traumatic events, we think of ourselves. How lucky WE are. I was in a conversation this week where we were urged to launch a campaign here in LA to get people to prepare for the BIG ONE in Los Angeles. We want to help, but it did not harm us. The horrible thing about this conflict is that it freezes us, it prevents us from doing what is human--to help each other. It is what I have called the Brentwood Triangle. So proud of my kids because they made donations to help the Japanese recover. We have to give. There are many wonderful organizations you can support with the confidence that the money will get to where it is needed now. Here's what my foundation recommends.

I must tell you these articles, columns and blogs that are telling people NOT to give to Japan, because they are "wealthy" or "they don't want our help" or "they have not asked for our help" are painful to read. Inhumane. The more we think about "us" vs "them" the more we divide ourselves. The world is not only flat it is inextricably interconnected. We are them. Our destinies are tied to one another. We give to help ourselves. There are no victims or perpetrators or enemies--there is only us.

If we have no peace, it is because we forget we belong to one another.  Mother Teresa

2. Be a Seller then a Buyer

Looking for a job, applying to grad school, promoting a cause...

Too often we resign ourselves to just the role of the seller. Hat in hand we humbly or not so humbly push our ideas, our "wares", and our personal agendas. We feel lucky if people are interested and are recoiled by declination and rejection. Often the seller is in a position of weakness. I used to joke about this when I was dating. Guys have to sell by asking for a date and the Gals are the ultimate decision makers as the buyers. The buyers have great power (unless there is a monopoly)if they exert it. They can always walk and go somewhere else. The seller has to sell and promote.Buyer seller

My point is that once you have options, you have to become a buyer. My daughter Jenna got into a bunch of grad schools and they offered her financial packages. We talked and determined which of the schools were her favorites. Mind you she has choices for which she is almost indifferent about. But the differences are not insignificant. A school back east a school close to home. Travel and living expenses and of course, the weather! We strategized and I told her to call her two top schools and see what else they could offer her to persuade her to go there. At first she hesitated and then she agreed. Her first instinct was this was wrong or not appropriate. I assured her this was perfectly up front and normal. I told her, "You are a great student that is in demand. You are now the buyer. You have what the schools want. Now it s time to turn the tables and use your power." The schools both increased their packages, one by 80%!

The lesson here is when you know what you want and have just a little leverage, you have to sell less and become a discriminating buyer.

Unless you are destitute or in grave financial straits, your buyer mindset should be dominant. Feeling empowered and confident in what you are offering. Being in control of your destiny and your journey. Seeing down the road and the consequences of your decision. Avoiding the expedient and embracing the excellent. Doing everything you can do avoid settling. Looking to see if an employer, a boss, a donor, a partner is the right fit is vital. Selling AND conducting due diligence on what will be best for you and your needs have to be intertwined. Just selling will never get you what you want and what you need. Just as in dating, after the party manners and things start clicking, the buying begins.

3. What is your story?

I literally start every interview and many new encounters with this question. An open ended, soft ball question that begs the respondent to talk. After a brief moment of humility, many people launch into their story. In interviews, it is an attempt to allow the candidate to fill in the blanks and between the lines of the carefully constructed truths of their well written resume. Those that flunk the one question IQ test, merely recite everything on their resume and just what's on their resume. Crazy. Kinda of a name rank and serial number response. These same people also define themselves by their job title, when  asked "Tell me about yourself." The fact that they are a father of twins, a trombone player, little league coach and on a prominent non-profit board are left standing on the alter of betrayed opportunities.

I interviewed this young man last week. I started with THE QUESTION. And he preceded to tell me about his education, job experiences, and accomplishments in chron order. He was poised and well spoken. Only thing is he did not know his story. And in his lack of preparation he made up things. He was not lying, but winging it. His new story begged questions and raised doubts. It was unclear where he had lived and where he worked, what he did and where he was going. Unfortunately his story ended with our interview.Stories

Your story, a brief but reflective articulation of:

  1. Who you are. What makes you different. (stuff you care about)
  2. Where you have been
  3. Why you went there and why you left
  4. What you are doing now. (And if a candidate, why this position fits into your game plan)

If well prepared, not memorized, then the story makes sense out of a resume (hopefully does not conflict with it :) and gives dimensions to a person that you are trying to get to know or help others get to know you. The story has to be authentic, it need not be clever.

As Peter Guber, big shot Hollywood producer and author of Tell to Win, differentiates story telling from telling a story with your heart and with purpose. Anyone can tell a joke or a story, but how do we engage people in conversation, captivate their imagination for a moment, and move them to action? To think, to vote, to buy, to care, to hire....Guber evangelizes about being in the "emotional transportation business." He's right we are, if we are successful.

Here's several of the key takeaways from his book:

  • Capture your audience's attention first, fast and foremost
  • Motivate your listeners by demonstrating authenticity
  • Build your tell around "what's in it for them"
  • Change passive listeners into active participants
  • Use "state-of-the-heart" technology online and offline to make sure audience commitment remains strong

Love the state of the heart technology! Bottomline, prepare and speak from the heart and your stories will transport you and your audience to new levels.

Thanks for reading. John

 


My Top 10 posts

Here is my holiday weekend special, my top ten posts. These are the "best" of the 160+ posts I have made based upon an arbitrary, random and indefensible combination of my preferences, other people's comments and what continues to be the set of questions I receive. They are listed in chronological order. Enjoy!

  1. You Don't Know Who You are Sitting Next to. Contains a couple of my favorite stories about meeting people by getting to know the people around you.
  2. Weathering the Storm and Defining the Moment. How to convert serious challenges into opportunities to define your life and your next chapter.
  3. Networking with Top Management and Other Intimidating Species.Connecting and conversing with your boss' boss and other senior executives can be tough, but it's much easier than you think.
  4. Finding the Right Mentor. You need a mentor but want to find someone who can help you adapt and improve. How do I find that person?
  5. Telling My Story. All of our lives take twists and turns, but if we can not make sense out of our past and what it means to our future, no one else will. What is your story?
  6. Resumes that Get Interviews. A lot of conflicting and confusing info on this topic. How does your resume have the best chance to stand out from the pile?
  7. Starting the Conversation. You want to meet people, but just initiating the conversation can be hard. How can I make that process more natural, comfortable, and effective?
  8. The Art of Shaking Hands. In addition to what you say, the way you greet people says the most about you. No second chance to make a first impression.
  9. Ambitious without Ambition. We all want more in our lives and in our careers, but what do we want? Focusing your ambitiousness has to a goal.
  10. Amazing Who You Know But Don't Know. All of think "new "people will be key to our next opportunity. We all know so many people, but we don't KNOW them. Starting with your existing network is easier and more productive.

I continue to try and address what's on your mind and what's preventing you from moving ahead in your career and life. Let me know what other topics you want me to address.

All of these posts and much of what I discuss involves the following principles. The more you connect with others, learn about them and their needs, the more you learn about yourself. If you mentor others then you will be mentored. Making your network diverse in its points of view will give you new perspectives. Push yourself to reconnect with people you care about, people you work with and people that you see everyday but never talk to. The world becomes smaller and much more manageable!

 Thannks for reading. John 


5 Lessons on Connecting, Conversations and Courage

I try to push myself, stumble into, and/or be introduced to new ideas and people everyday. I have great weeks and less successful weeks. This was an especially good one. Things came together and I had many moments of inspiration and education. Over the years I have learned to say YES to invitations, to suggestions, and to introductions, especially if it will expand my thinking. It takes up time and energy, but I always get more than I invest. Let me share five lessons from the last 5 work days.

1. On Monday I watched this video by Brene Brown about connecting, vulnerability, and courage. The word courage comes from the Latin word for heart and is roughly translated into "the ability to tell your story with your whole heart." That is hard to do. To take a risk by revealing yourself and accepting who you are with all of your imperfections. "Being willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are." And she asserts that these traits are essential to connection and to be able to connect. By being "vulnerable" you will be more capable of meaningful relationships and a meaningful life. Powerful research, revelations and messages.  

2. I attended a webcast and panel discussion for the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, where 400 diverse people compelled by the injustices of the Jim Crow laws uprooted themselves and went south to join the fight to end segregation in public transportation. Whites, Asians, Jews, and others left their studies and their lives up north to help "strangers". These freedom riders felt deeply connected to these southern blacks and they took action to help them. Hard to believe this happened during my lifetime and I was so grateful to be reminded of this history and these acts of courage and sacrifice to connect and help others change history. Rosa_parks-1

3. Wednesday, I got the chance to hear Daniel Pink speak about his relatively new book about motivation--DRIVE. The main takeaway from his very engaging presentation was that financial incentives are not effective unless the work does not require a brain. In other words, incentives (including financial) rarely work for things where you have to think. That the most effective incentives come from within, There are three main motivators: 1) Autonomy--freedom to make decisions and the latitude to act independently. 2) Mastery--the ability to pursue personal and professional growth through improving one's skills and abilities, 3) Purpose--Work that is connected to something meaningful, something bigger and more important than yourself, engaged and sustained the employees more.

4. Thursday, I interviewed a candidate who surprised me. He dug down deep to tell us about himself. We asked what his former bosses would agree was the one thing that he had to improve. He had always been told that he was not living up to his potential (a curse indeed!). I asked him to tell us one part of his potential that HE wanted to improve. He paused and thought for a brief moment and said, "I need to believe in myself. I need to push myself beyond what I think my limits are. I need to assert myself to see what my capacity is."

5. Friday, I had dinner with my dear friend Nat Irvin. He is a business professor at the University of Louisville who studies and teaches about the future. He thinks about THE future all of the time. When you are with Nat you are immediately transported into his world of ideas and trends that boggle your mind. We discussed the origins of lightning, the state of technology, and geography of ideas. There is nothing calm or casual about our conversations. I love it when I feel my grey matter stretching in new ways. I reach out to him every few weeks to get an Irvin dosage of the future. During the last couple of days, I introduced him to several of my colleagues and friends to give him a flavor of LA people who think about and create the future. These interviews seemed to help Nat get new perspectives on the city of angels and what lies ahead. Nat knows that people like to talk about their futures and THE future and they open up to him. I received a bunch of follow-up e-mail and voicemail, thanking ME for the opportunity to meet Nat. Here is an excerpt from just one:

John, our conversation evoked so many emotions and insights about myself that I was completely blown away. I felt so comfortable being interviewed by him, the words that came out of my mouth literally flowed like a raging river.....ahh its hard to explain..I've never spoken to a close family member or friend, let alone a complete stranger about things so interpersonally deep. I am an open book with people around me, but usually I am the person trying to open other persons pages. LiveWholeHeartedly-wholeHearted

When you truly connect with people and you open your mind and your heart, you become vulnerable and courageous--you speak with your "whole heart". You learn about yourself and appreciate yourself. And yet you feel more connected to others. As Dr. Brene Brown says, we must let go of what we should be and become who we are. We all have the human need to connect, but we have to make the connection and then share and learn from each other. We see our imperfect potential and embrace it. When we do, our view of ourselves becomes clearer, the world becomes smaller, and the needs of others grows in importance. This is the most fertile soil to cultivate the seeds of meaning, purpose, passion and how we will impact the future. We realize that we have more control over our futures than we thought and our obligation to tap into our potential becomes more urgent.

I wonder what next week will bring and whether I will be open to the possibilities and opportunities.

Thanks for reading. John


Stop Lying! To Get a Job and To Yourself

We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us.  But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.  ~Tad Williams

Lying is so complicated. You have to remember who you told and who knows. It is an endless process to avoid the truth.Telling the truth is much different than not telling a lie. It starts with little lies we tell ourselves and others. And it can lead to self deception. In the end, we have to ask ourselves, are we who we say we are? Are who we think we are?

Don't make up stuff about yourself, especially about your education. If you did not complete a degree or don't plan to, don't say otherwise. Pretty shocking how many people I have met who lie about their academic records. They just brazenly make false statements about their education. Everyone knows that academic records are checked, so what is the point. It is a deal breaker in job offers and brutalizes your brand. Offered a job to an extraordinary candidate. He was a VERY qualified candidate. His routine background check showed that he had not earned a BA. When we informed him he said he would clear it up and we never heard back from him again. Not sure if it was embarrassment or fear. If he would have told us that he was working on his degree, we would have figured out something. He lied and ran. Don't say you are going to get a graduate degree unless you are planning to. In an informational interview I met this bright young lady who was highly recommended to me. She told me she was "going to get her MBA." I quickly asked her when she was applying and how did she do on the GMAT. She was surprised by the questions and became quite flustered. She looked at me and sheepishly said, "Do you have to take the GMAT?" YIKES!

Don't misrepresent why you left a job.Was it a layoff? A restructuring? A poor fit? Was it amicable? Tell the story. Leave out all of the gory details, but explain what happened in a credible way. This is my favorite--"I just left because I outgrew the position." Yeah, you just quit in the middle of the recession without another job because you were not challenged. Huh? Jon Lovitz, as the pathological liar on SNL used to say, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Don't name drop. Don't exaggerate who you know and how well you know them. The world is small and getting smaller and lies will be unceremoniously unmasked. In my strange and wonderful career I have shaken the hands and "met" many important people. I would never say I "know" them or drop their names in conversations. People tell me they were referred to me by people I know. Then I find out they don't know the person who referred them. Not good form. I was just introduced to someone and before we shake hands, she says "You know so and so don't you." The name shocked me because I did know this person but they were fired for excessive drinking at work! Needless to say this meeting did not go well and my impression of her, and her judgment, were damaged.  

Don't lie about your compensation requirements hoping you will work it out in the negotiations. I always ask what is "your minimum salary requirement." I require an answer. If someone says, "Its does not matter" or "I am totally negotiable." Then we expect they really want the job and money is secondary. Just had a candidate tell us this and then when the offer was made, he told us his minimum salary, which was 20% higher than we  were offering. Don't ever hire liars, they will never stop lying.Stop-lying-to-yourself

Here's the biggest one. Stop lying to yourself. Stop telling yourself and others things that are not true. Things about your plans and your future. Start talking about what you REALLY want. And start taking steps to understand these things better. Know thyself! And then make it happen.

It is not enough to tell the truth. You have to reveal yourself. You have to express what is unique about you. Why knowing you, hiring you, helping you is worth it. What makes you tick. What makes you happy. What you want and where you are going. I see thousands of resumes, then I meet the person. I do not want to hear the recitation of their resume. I know literacy is an issue but provide me with the amazing stuff that is NOT on your resume. So I say "tell me your story." Or I ask about the "other side of the resume", "what you do when you aren't working". Repeatedly, I get these very bland answers like, "I read a lot." or the ubiquitous "I like to travel." I know they are interesting and have compelling stories and personalities, but I rarely hear them. But when I do, it separates them from the pack. It makes them memorable and real. The world is filled with competent people like you, just not enough interesting ones.

The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.  ~Ambrose Bierce

Networking and mentoring like all relatiuonships require truth and transparency to work well. They require trust that is only built upon the strong bond of understanding each other. You are so much more than a resume and a series of jobs. You are a light that is shining on a future---your future. There is no one else like you. So why lie. The truth about you is pretty compelling stuff, more than you think. ean it. You just have to express it and articulate it. You have so many talents and unfulfilled dreams. People love other people's dreams and destinies. You have to talk about the real you and stop lying about a you, you may be pretending to be.

White lies, little lies, and lying to not offend people are things we all do. Dumb lies, that enhance our standing with others need to be curbed. But deceiving ourselves, now that is a crime that has to stop.

Like all of my posts, we have to help those we mentor to adopt these principles. So, if you are a fountain of truth and transparency, teach others how to know and transmit their truths.

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


Self Awareness Networking and Mentoring

Met with a grad student who needed to conduct an interview on leadership for a class. As I preach, I make time for these interactions because I know I will always learn something new and invariably, something about myself. This interview was a bit different because the focus was on "self-awareness". He started off the interview with unexpected questions: "What is the role/importance of self awareness in effective leadership?" "How are you aware of your own development and your own issues?" "How do you become more self aware?" The student was well prepared and I became aware of how poorly prepared I was.

Self awareness is so intuitive and simple, isn't it? Just be aware of what you are doing and how it appears to others. How can you see yourself? And how does this vision/understanding reconcile with your authentic self and what you intend?

When you are a floating observer of self, you see and hear things differently. You can more easily judge yourself, praise yourself, and advance yourself. However, like most self improvement, from cutting your own hair to self diagnosis, this is very hard to do alone. Getting outside assistance is not only advisable but most often more effective.

It was a challenging interview for me. While it is a subject I think about, I rarely discuss it. I was making statements about self awareness as I was becoming hyper aware of what I was saying and how I was saying it. Listening to yourself CAREFULLY takes enormous effort. My conversation with the grad student progressed on the importance, relevance, and benefits of self awareness. I wish I had a video tape of my interview. I must have been a sight to be seen. Talking about self awareness and trying hard to be self aware! Not a pretty picture.

Cat self-awareness

I started to think about the media training we conducted for some of our executives at work. These are people with great confidence but who have not been placed under the microscope of the media. Intellectually it is never difficult--answering questions about a subject one knows well. Not even talking about the 60 Minutes antagonistic approach. Listening to your answers and watching your facial expressions on a video tape is a whole new world. The revelations for our colleagues were abundant! What we say and how we say it vs. what we think we say and think we look like can be two alien planets. Going through this training many times and watching others endure the ugly and beautiful mirror is a lesson in self awareness. Videotape is the most amazing teacher. Seeing what others see is an eye opener!

"Self awareness', I rambled on with my attentive grad student, "can be a bit masochistic. It is the reconciliation of intention and reality."

I tried to impart the following lessons of self awareness to my interviewer (now with the benefit of hindsight a bit more eloquent:)

  1. Know thyself---Who you are and what you stand for is critical. What is your vision for yourself?
  2. See thyself---Finding "mirrors" to see your true self is a life long process. The best "mirrors" are mentors and confidantes that never shade the truth. They help you become your best. They reflect your flaws and your talents. They guide your trajectory and your development.
  3. Reflect---Taking time to contemplate the events of the day. Re-running the videotapes from the previous events, conversations, moments--to appreciate what you have done, what you have left to do, and what could have been done better.
  4. Connect with others---Establishing meaningful and substantive connections with diverse people will always expand your sense of self. Finding examples and moments that teach us who we are and who we are not is the true power of networking.
  5. Seek the mirror---Pursue and ask for feedback. Seek opportunities to learn about yourself. Not just an open door but an open mind.
  6. Become a mirror----Helping others you care about see themselves in the best and worst of times. Constructive praise. Supportive advice that helps your inner network improve and advance.

Self awareness must be stalked and hunted. It does not arrive in a box with a bow on your doorstep.

I am fascinated by the Buddhist thinking of Naikan. It is a process of introspection and was an early form of a "time out". Using deprivation as a way to have people, including young criminals, reflect on the wrongs they have committed. It evolved into a series of three questions about our relationships and focusing on one person at a time:

  • What have I received from (person's name)?
  • What have I given to (this person)?
  • What troubles and difficulties have I caused (this person)?

The fourth question that naturally follows in this series. "What troubles and difficulties have I caused (this person)? Is NOT part of the reflection because we are so adept at thinking about this question! And this focus on our own misery and not the misery of others is part of our problem.

We are all works in progress. Disconnects between who we are and who we think we are are deadly. Like reading our own autobiography and being impressed! So easy to delude ourselves by settling for what we have become and expecting others to deal with it. Much harder to face the videotape of life and learn from the truth.

 In the end, I hope my interviewer got what he needed to complete his assignment. I got what I wanted. I learned many things. I became more self aware and had the great luxury of sharing some thoughts with him and with myself.

Thanks for reading. John


What's your BIT?---How you introduce yourself matters

I conducted workshops for employees of PepsiCo and Gavina Coffee on multicultural networking and mentoring last week. How to connect with different people, from different backgrounds. How to inform your path by actively seeking new perspectives from other cultures and demography. There is always a fascination with my exercises to develop your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk.  Something I have written about several times. The process of obtaining those perspectives, of reconnecting with people you know but don't know, and meeting new and interesting folks, starts with a conversation. All relationships, new and ongoing are about the conversation. Continuing the conversation is the key to all great and fulfilling relationships.Could be e-mail, facebook postings, telephonic, or face-to-face. These exchanges of words and ideas build and deepen relationships. They all start or re-start at the beginning when you introduce yourself or re-introduce yourself.First-impression  
The the most fascinating of these routines is the self introduction. What you say in the first 10-15 seconds. Nothing can alter a conversation more than this. I call this your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk. It is so surprising what people say in their robotic way. They are not thinking before and when they talk. Their introduction is not customized to the situation or context. They often use company or industry jargon outside of work. I was in my son's classroom during his school's open house. I was proudly watching my son interacting with his classmates. I noticed another dad. He was dressed in the full designer blue suit, decked out with the gold Rolex, those little initials on his cuffs, and the $600 shoes--you know the type. I decided to introduce myself to him. With an outstretched hand I said, "I'm John, Bobby's dad." I pointed at Bobby. Mr. super executive wheeled around with his auto-smile flashing and boomed, "Hi, Steve Williams Sr. VP of Sales and Business Development for XYZ Corporation." "Nice to meet you", I replied and added, "Is one of these your kid?" He was still in the fog of work. He suddenly snapped out of it and said, "Oh yeah, Eddie's my son, that's him right there." "Oh good, for a minute there you scared me Steve, you know it is a misdemeanor to loiter on a school campus?", I quipped. Mr. Sr VP chuckled but I am not sure he was very amused. At least Steve accompanied his BIT with a smile and a firm handshake. It is bizarre how many adult professionals do not smile, and apparently lie to me and say, "Nice to meet you" with no direct eye contact and a face that reflects indifference and what appears to be disgust. And how many cadaver handshakes I have endured, the cold dead lifeless excuse for a greeting. Nothing better than to meet someone with these off-putting impressions. :)
 
Most people need to improve their BITs. This is not only what you say to introduce yourself, but how you respond to an initial inquiry. You know, "What brings you here?" or "What do you do?" etc etc  Here's a few basic questions to freshen your tired and auto-pilot BIT:
  1. Is your BIT an invitation or a roadblock?
  2. Is your BIT jargony or industry or company specific?
  3. Is your BIT customized for the situation and the audience?
  4. Is it delivered with some enthusiasm and a smile?  

Listen to yourself. Do you know what you are saying and to whom you are saying it? Be focused and remember where you are and who you are at the moment. Like Mr. Williams in my story above, he is a father first and foremost when he is at the school. No one cares about his classification at work when he is visiting his son's school. We all take on multiple roles and identities in our lives and each one deserves a BIT.

My new favorite BIT, depending on who I am talking to, is "I help wealthy people give away their money?" Always starts a conversation!

Students of all ages are the worst. They erroneously think being a student is a weakness. Everyone wants to help a student. So declaring your quest for knowledge and experience is endearing and engaging. "I am just a student," says you lack confidence and self respect. Versus "I am a 2nd year student at (school) and I am thinking about becoming a teacher." That invites questions and interest.

Weave in your hobby, avocation, current professional development pursuit. "I work for Gavina Coffee and a new mother of twins."  or ...."sit on the board of (your charity)"..........

Stop, think and listen to what you say about yourself. It may surprise you. Your BIT is the start of a great conversation or not. It is a key part of your first or newest impression. If you are not listening to what you are saying and how you are saying it, then odds are your recipient is less interested too.

What's your BIT?

Thanks for reading. John


Non-verbal networking

We all know how important the non-verbal cues are to effective communication, relationship development, and networking. Our body language, inflection of our voice, our eye contact, facial expressions dominate the words we say. Those that study this stuff have said that words are only about 7-30% of the communication we intend. As I said, we know this in our heads, but we are not conscious of it.Body language 2

Tell your face---You see this one everyday, if you are paying attention. We have these robotic exchanges that have become meaningless transactions. You enter the elevator, or the office in the morning and you say something to greet anyone and everyone. It is neither sincere or intentional. We say things like "Good Morning", or "How are you?"--even if the morning sucks and you are not interested in or care about anyone's well-being. In fact, if the target of our pre-recorded pablum speaks, we are awakened  from our slumber and struggle to respond. My assistant for years, Patsy, would greet me every morning with a confusing happy voice and an enthusiastic Good morning! and a severe frown. At first I thought she had been part of a botox experiment gone awry. :( The first time she did this, I said, "if it is a good morning, tell your face!"

Do you remember the Michael Dukakis passionless response to the question about whether the death penalty should be applied to the murderer and rapist of his wife Kitty?

Without putting energy into your daily deliveries of words and messages, you will communicate poorly. Your posture, handshake, intonation, and your facial attention can undermine your persuasiveness.

A few basic tips to remember to keep focused:

  1. Engage the other person by looking into their eyes, listen and observe their body language.
  2. Keep your hands in front of you, instead of folding them, on your hips or in the "fig leaf" position.
  3. Smile. It will always brings energy into your voice and your eyes.

Lead with your passions--When people talk about what they care about, they stand up straighter, their eyes light up, and their voice is overflowing with expression. So funny, because many people have asked me if I have ESP. I listen to and watch people, and when they really smile and start becoming more animated, I tell them how obvious that this is an important subject to them. "How could you tell?", they query. Find out what others are passionate about, then your encounters and conversations will feed off one another.

How can you understand, see and hear any incongruences or distracting body language you create?

You practice in front of a mirror. You videotape your presentation skills. You get candid feedback from colleagues and confidantes. When I started the process to refine my speaking and presentations, I immediately improved. Seeing and hearing is believing. You become a student of yourself. How do others see you? How big is the gap between what you think you are doing and what others see? This is a critical skill, your accurate awareness of you. I became painfully aware of my strange an previously unknown habits and body language expressions through a thorough and relentless examination of my schtick. Still working on it and never again took it for granted.

Always suprised how under prepared people are for making impressions. They wing it. They hope that the right words and body language magiacally appear when called upon. Some people think they are Robin Williams! Most of us know that Robin doesn't ad lib, but draws on a library of practiced and rehearsed routines. I am not saying that you need to script yourself, but preparation with a keen eye on what it really looks and sounds like is essential.

As Allen Iverson said, "Are we talking about practice?" Yes we are!

Connect your mind to your body through your conciousness. Don't let your folded arms, furrowed brow, repeated "ums", shifty eyes, or inaudible voice, steal your opportunities and your compelling ideas.

Carry yourself, express yourself, with the spirit and energy that it matters--because it does.

Your ability to network is directly tied to your trustworthiness, believability, and likability. How you present yourself deserves at least as much prep and attention as your clever words and phrases.

I dedicate this post to my brother in-law Andrew Kim Weaver, who was tragically taken from us this week. Andrew was fiercely candid and famous for his non-verbal communication.

Thanks for reading. John


Think Out Loud and Connect!

I do this exercise with new college graduates or graduate students. They are the most confused, especially these days. I hold up my fist and point at it. And then I tell them, "I have your ideal job in my hand. It will engage your heart and your brain. It will pay you comfortably. Good dental benefits. Commute time is reasonable. It will help you grow and develop as a professional. Just tell me what it is and I will give it to you." 99% of the time they don't know what it is. That's not the point. The surprise is they don't even know what to say. They start mumbling things but almost always end with a joke. Because that's what what we all do when we don't know what to say. We try, I say try, to be funny. One of those slapstick defensive reflexes we verbalize to deflect the attention from our brain freeze. Similar to when we jokingly say, "No I meant to that," when we trip on ourselves or spill a drink. Brainmouth

It's really funny how our brain and our mouth are not connected. Accessing the grey hard drive, get the binary codes to come out of the speaker system and make sense is not always easy.

We harbor many ideas and thoughts in our minds about what we want and who we are. They rattle around between the neurons and the synapses. In the brain they seem comfortable and clever. In fact sometimes in our minds we are geniuses. However, when we utter some of these ideas with words and phrases they get garbled. We rely on our mouths to translate our elegant brainstorms into eloquence. Often it does not work and can be quite embarrassing. We forget the lips and the frontal lobes are not always directly linked.

I remember when I was talking to a very ambitious employee about her hobbies. It was a fun and light hearted, easy going conversation. I started thinking about an opportunity for her. It occurred to me that I did know what her ambitions were. So I asked somewhat abruptly, "By the way what do you want to do next?" She was horrified, froze and became inarticulate. She told me this was not fair and that questions like that could only be asked in a formal review session! I was not expecting THE answer. But to start a robust conversation about the options, pros and cons. To hear her thoughts, but I never did.

Pat head rub tummy Thinking and talking on our feet can be the equivalence of patting our heads and rubbing our stomachs simultaneously. Not easy. With practice it is always easier. With preparation it looks like it is second nature. Robin Williams' "ad libs" have been tested in private, honed in comedy clubs, and tweaked by his writers. It is the delivery that matters. But I am not suggesting you memorize anything, the best speaking is extemporaneous. Your preparation allows you to share thoughts that have been considered and certainly are not alien. 

The ability to think out loud is a lost art. When you don't know the answer, especially if it is personal, you have to demonstrate your thought process, display that you have considered the subject matter--such as your life's direction!--and honestly share a little of yourself. That would be refreshing. An authentic discussion of the challenges and issues the question or the dilemma conjures.

This is where mentoring comes in to save the day. When can you trot our your intimate thoughts? Where can you conduct your dress rehearsals and get feedback? And not be instantly criticized and judged. Mentors are the greatest sounding boards. They expect to talk to you about these raw and mal-formed concepts. Share your thoughts, questions, quandaries, and curiosities with your mentor. Expressing these thoughts as wishes, things you want for yourself is also very effective. Think out loud with your mentor, often and then listen for the feedback. Just the practice of converting your neural sparks into words will do wonders.

Doing this in isolation, by yourself, never works as well.

When people ask you things all of the time? When you know people will ask you the same questions over and over. Or questions that you ask yourself repeatedly. There is no excuse for not having answers or well-formed thoughts about your quest for answers.

In my intermittent posts on questions, I urge the readers to work on their answers. Literally verbalize them to get them to sound like YOU. To convey what you are thinking. Like an artist who dreams up new images, getting it exactly right the first time is rare. It takes a series of trials and errors to have the canvas look the way you imagined.

Last week, I asked a grad student what type of job and career he really wanted after graduation. After an awkward pause he replied, "Nothing but happiness." He looked at the ceiling and then at his shoes and then smiled impishly. He knew he was being funny, wasn't he? Just wanted him to think out loud with me and maybe we could work together on refining those thoughts and actually discover a path to his happiness.

Thanks for reading. John 


Reflections of 2009--Your career and your network

So as 2009 winds down, we naturally and inevitably reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. Our evaluation of the past can focus us on what was not accomplished. I suggest you take the remaining days and hours to make a list and appreciate what you did. Yes, this was a tough year, aren't they all in their own ways?!! Think about the progress you made especially in your mentoring and networking. No matter how small the steps, you advanced your career, your family life, your relationships, your network, your commitment to your passions, and your pursuit of becoming a better you. I can sense that many of you are dwelling on the negatives or the missed opportunities. What could have been. Take a break for a moment! Let's reflect on the best of 2009 and give yourselves credit for the range of creative and even courageous things you did. Think back over the year and search for the highlights. By the way, this is a great exercise for your resume too! Stay positive and see and appreciate the progress you made in 2009. You did a lot more than you think!J0443096

For you so anxious to move into the critique of 2009. Okay have at it! Consider where you fell short in the promises you made just 53 weeks ago. What had you envisioned for this year that did not happen because of disruptions, shifts, and/or procrastination? Make a list if you must. Think about the reasons for these gaps in how you defined success for this year. Look in the mirror, not literally--you will get distracted on your vanity :), and take responsibility for what you failed to do. And think about your network and how you could have done more to support them. One of the greatest challenges is our tendency to make relative comparisons to evaluate success. "2009 was good given what it could have been." Or "I am better off than others." These are poor substitutes for a true assessment of how we did vis a vis our expectations. Relative success is the safe and comfortable way to measure. Don't settle for that. Don't make excuses. Be honest, if you are going to evaluate your shortcomings. Compare you to the you you want to be. 

The point here is take inventory of this year now, because in 2010 you can hit the mythical reset button and start with a cleanish slate. A new chance to make new promises and resolutions. You will have much time for that. Focus on went well this year and how you can build on it for the new year. Understand what you did not achieve and move on. When you are honest with yourself, you did some amazing things, you know some incredible people, and you have a great opportunity to roll out the new and improved model of you for 2010!

Thanks for reading. See you next year. Cheers. John


Holiday Presence

Going crazy yet? The combination of year-end business and the holidays is enough to make you bonkers. If you are are one of those highly prepared, got it under control, and cool under pressure kind of people. Can I tell you something? I hate you! :)

Stress has an awful way of creeping into impatience and making you into a major league Scrooge. You are familiar with the confusing greeting "Happy Holidays" with a frown. How can we make this whole process a bit more enjoyable and successful?!!

Like so many things we get caught up in the transaction over the opportunity. The task over the goal. We fret over the color of the ribbon over our box of gratitude or appreciation. J0440332

Yes, the holidays are an irritating combination of commercialization, irrational obligations, and an odd array of myths. But it is a time of giving, sharing, and family time. We can succumb to the rat race of the holidays--what did Lily Tomlin say?, "Even if you win the rat race you are still a rat!" Or we can take advantage of this time to connect and make the most of these annual exchanges. I know this is easier to say than do. But intention and awareness are 90% of the opportunity. Being in the moments and having the intention of not making it a robotic, auto-response connection makes a huge difference to you and everone else. 

But think about it, you see and hear from more people than any other time of the year. You have opportunities to thank and share time with friends and families. It is a potent time for networking.

Intentionally slow down when you are on your approach to the people. You can remain at hyper-space speed when you are doing your tasks, shopping, baking, and decorating. Shift into a lower gear and pay attention. Be present. J0442385 Focus in on the conversations, on the answers to your questions. On the body language and inflection of the voices of your friends. And listen! Listen for the nuances, the subtleties, the unspoken thoughts. If you want to be the generous person you are, then listen for ways you can help people in your network. After all, if you are exchanging gifts and attending their parties, I assume you care about these people. So listen for the telltale answers to the seemingly innocuous queries, "How 's it going?" or the worst question, "Everything good?" Answers like, "Been a tough year." "It's okay." "Trying to survive." And a million other variations. It is human nature to try and mask one's true feelings and not burden others. Sometimes it is a smokescreen, but often there is fire there, deserving a probe or follow-up.

Being a true networker is being a hub of help. Is proactively inquiring how you can assist? This is YOUR network! I am not suggesting helping any random stranger--at least in this posting. :)

And what about my needs? Be ready to articulate what you need and want. But leading with helping others. Leading with giving first, sounds vaguely familiar to some holiday value. When you give you will receive! It all starts with a focus, an intention, and an awareness of what your friends and family are really saying and needing.

Holiday presence may be the most generous gift of the season.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays. John


The Scariest Costume of All -- The Pretender

First a shout out to my workshop attendees from Pepsi. I spent a half day with some of Pepsi’s hand picked rising Asian American star employees. They are members of PAN (Pepsi Asian Network) one of Pepsi’s many multicultural employee groups. Some large corporations form “affinity” or “resource” groups to assist employees with their integration and assimilation. However most companies still labor under the erroneous and archaic assumption that there will be a "natural" diversity that will emerge in a truly merit based and competitive environment. Logo_pepsico But Pepsi is different. They recognize that creating and growing a multi-cultural team requires leadership and investments of time and resources. Pepsi nominates talented team members and invests in their development. This kind of investment generates loyalty and retains the very top performers. The PAN leaders were primarily first generation Asian immigrants from Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, Korea, Taiwan who are ambitious and passionate. What a joy to facilitate a workshop for them on networking and mentoring. Being around competent, curious, and energetic people is always inspiring to me! It is no wonder that Pepsi is such a world leader that continues to be a model for others.

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J0444666

Saw some pretty impressive costumes this week. One of the most popular costumes of the season is--being somebody else—being somebody that other people want you to be. These people assume the identity, the career interests, and the dreams that other people want for them. I jokingly call this the outfit of the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Taking on a new identity can be easier and safer. This happens when other people tell you what you SHOULD do, what is BEST for you, what you are GOOD at, and who you are NOT. And not having an answer, you are gradually fitted with somebody else’s life, a frighteningly phony costume!  

Like Jeff Bridges in the 1984 film Starman, where as a space alien he becomes human and normal by copying what other people do and say. Or like Jeff Dunham's lifeless ventriloquist’s dolls that come to life with someone else’s words and actions. 

Where do these costumes come from? How does this occur? Sometimes this happens because of over bearing parents who do not nurture inherent and innate talents. Instead they impose their own dreams on their kids. Others of us fall into jobs and positions that are placeholders until we decide what we want to be when we grow up. Then one day we wake up and we start feeling the pangs of regret. Still others of us feel guilty pursuing our secret passions and interests when being rational and practical is the expectation. In any case we defer our needs and dreams. We assume comfortable identities, costumes, and lives that are not truly our own.

Everyone has hidden talents, submerged career urges, inner callings, unrealized natural genius skills and abilities. We all do. We really do. And when these pent up passions and curiosities get mummified by layers and layers of identities that are projected on us and assumed by us, a life that is true to itself can be lost. And worse, we as a society lose that genius. We as a community lose real passion and inspiration. We as a family or a team lose a role model. Being who we were meant to be is selfish and generous.

For those of you, who are just befuddled by this, count yourselves amongst the fortunate.  Be grateful somebody helped you find yourself or let you become who you are. Your job is to free the others from their suffocating costumes.

For those of you who know that you are wearing a nice looking but totally poor fitting costume, it’s time to look in the mirror and inside. If you do, you will be greeted by a sense of freedom and fear. Free to do what you want and fear of failure. Either way it will be exciting. You can either strip off the costume in one act of courage if you know what you want. Or visit the career wardrobe shop and try on as many new yous as you want. You can rent or borrow new career and life costumes to see if they fit. You are in control. It never has to be all or nothing. But doing nothing is never an option.

Bottomline: Really hard to be mentored or to network when you are an impostor!

Stop pretending. Abandon those scary inauthentic costumes. Escape the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Don’t allow others to design your dreams. And let that amazing you reveal itself. We all need you to be who you were meant to be.

Thanks for reading. John

 

 

 


Attention Deficit NETWORKING Disorder (ADND)

Thank you for your off-line comments and encouragement. But I really want to know what you want me to blog about. I put up the poll to get your input, but not very many vote --so I will blog about what I am thinking about until the vote count grows or a better alternative is suggested. So, please post your comments on how I can engage your ideas! Thanks. JK

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Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them. — Alan Watts.

BLOG Roll Call!  I am going to call out your name to see if you are here with me. Ready? Are you with me? Present? Our hyper-busy, multi-tasking lifestyle is creating a bunch of bad habits that detract from our ability to connect with others. On one hand we have never been as connected to one another, but our tendencies is to have quick exchanges IM, SMS, text, twitter, facebook, etc are now the dominant forms of communication. Love the innovation, the serendipity, the new possibilities that are emerging. One of the unintended victims is our attention. Our ability to be present in a moment that has many distractions. Like many things we begin to get into micro-routines of behavior and we can miss the context, the environment, the unexpected, cues of communication, and opportunities. While we get focused the world is evolving, our worlds. Watch this video to see if you are paying attention. Three points I want to make:
  1. The Power of NOW: We avoid the present by thinking about what could have been and what could be. The past gives us identity and the future opportunity. But if that's what we focus on we get stuck in the past or the future--and miss the now. The Eckart Tolle tells us there was never a time that was not NOW.  "To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift."Eckhart Tolle  
  2.  Multi-tasking Myopia: Our lives are a series of transactions coming one after the other. Like an assembly line worker, we focus on the incoming work, tasks, and connections. But life is going on around us. You may miss an extraordinary sunset, your kid's moment of need, or an opportunity to connect. We miss the bigger picture and/or do not hear and see what is really being said because we are distracted. Check out Derren Brown's experiments in attention in London. We hardly notice people we talk to! 
  3. Put the Device Down!: Robotically we have acquired this new tic, this nervous gesture of looking at our devices often for no reason. Like someone who looks at their watch every 15 seconds, as if they forgot the time from 15 seconds ago. Others of us not only look at our device, but start responding when we are with others, in a movie theatre, or in mid-sentence when we are talking to someone else. The impression is something else or someone else is way more important than the present. The only way to achieve the above goals is an increasing awareness of the cyber leash. 
Text love


  "I am so into you.....type type type..........."
 
 
 
 
 
Believe me, I am as distracted or pre-occupied with the past and the future as any of us. I struggle with staying present--by being in that moment and giving the things and people the attention they deserve. It has been my growing awareness that has saved me and gives me a chance to be present. Most times
 
I know when I am not present and I can re-focus. When I was a time when I had no ideaI remember when I was a young young corporate VP feeling and acting "very important". I stopped by the receptionist of one of our operations to announce my arrival. The receptionist, who I had seen dozens of times looked up at me and said, "Do you even know who I am? You seem so busy that I guess I am irrelevant." Wiser than her years, I was shocked into focus and I saw her for the first time. I apologized to her and confessed my lack of attention. Since then, I try not to be like that--that rude and insensitive.
 
I have a young mentee who asked me the other day, "To what do you attribute the opportunities you have been presented?" I said, "I was lucky I was paying attention. I have learned that there are opportunities all around us. And people who crave and need our attention. But do we see them?"
 
Let's holster our devices--at least a few times during the day, refocus, feel and see the NOW, and your world will expand before your eyes.
 
Thanks for paying attention and for reading. John

Multiple Networking Personality Syndrome

Consider for the moment that more Americans are enrolled in outplacement services than in MBA, Law, and Medical graduate programs combined! For most participants this is a brutal wake-up call and hopefully they find a new and prosperous path. But the biggest obstacle to their awakening is their resistance to learning who they are and what they want. In the end they have to adopt the networking and mentoring lifestyle--the best inoculation against the plague of an unexpected job interruption and not working is networking!

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All of us have Sybil like qualities of having multiple personalities, many faces, and many dimensions. That does not make us candidates for elecro-shock therapy! :) It is normal and makes us interesting. However, where did these personalities come from? Why do we have these facets and what makes them shine? Hopefully, I have not lost you already. I am referring to how we each act in our multiple roles. As a parent, a wife, a subordinate, a child, as a guest, or a host. You know, the way we switch instantaneously to a new persona based on expectations, history, or what we think is right. This is a giant topic, so I will discuss how you recognize the way you are presenting yourself in the world of networking and mentoring.

I meet so many people across the demographic and economic spectrum who are unwitting members of the Federal Witness Relocation Program! They have assumed new career identities. Often, these identities have been foisted upon us like second-hand Halloween costumes. In most cases this costume has been sewn together by the advice and guidance of well meaning people who have told us what we should do, what we are good at, and what we should not be. The classic, "You can't make money as a (fill in the blank art career)." And needing an identity, we slip on the costume and it is better than nothing. And over time we think the costume fits and like many things we adopt it as our own. Mary Jacobsen's book Hand Me Down Dreams discusses this topic in depth on how others shape the dreams we have. Our parents have aided and abetted the crime of identity theft. Parental expectations can govern everything. Pleasing our parents is an innate desire. What they said to us about our dreams and what our choices should be can be lifelong incentives or burdens. Asian parents are notorious, as are many different types of parents (I just happen to encounter many Asians in my worlds) in setting specific and non-negotiable goals. Like the old and stereotypical story about the Jewish kid who pursued law because he could not stand the sight of blood! Asian parents push academic achievement, brand name colleges, and the specific professions of medicine, law or engineering. In addressing Asian American young people, I usually start by giving them permission to think outside of the Asian parent box. Tell the parent you are going to be a doctor--maybe that turns out to be a PhD in literature! 

You blend this costume wardrobe with the requirements of social etiquette, brown-nosing at work, first date party manners, familiarity, respect, political correctness and the costumes keep on coming!

Context changes how we act. Sometimes that is nice and sometimes it is stupid. Here's one example that befuddles me. When bright competitive and hard-nosed executives, entrepreneurs, and successful people join non-profit boards, they become imbeciles. They don their nice and gentle costumes and bite their tongues because they assume new identities and not themselves. They think that a non-profit is a sanctuary from their cut throat worlds. While the mission and bottomline of a non-profit is doing good, non-profits need the tough acumen and decisiveness of the business world--but more often than not they don't get it.

Being authentic, being you--the real you, has to be your goal. Hiding who you are or suppressing your interests and needs will only hurt you in the long run, because you will eventually land in the land of regret--the most painful land of all. And while being yourself requires the discomfort of removing some of those now form fitting costumes, we all know being real does not require you to remember anything. Pursuing what you want and not what you think others will like, or what your parents desire, will always be more fulfilling. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public. Epictetus

I am not saying just blurt out your inner thoughts or to be so honest that you offend every person in your path! Mutual respect and being aware of your surroundings remain essential. That being said, you need to find ways to pursue your authentic self. Martin Seligman's authentic happiness site has a variety of free self assessments

Authentic Networking:

  1. Setting your real goals, not the ones that sound good to others
  2. Practice articulating what you want and who you are, not the words you have been saying as a placeholder.  Love when people introduce themselves as "Director of sales and an artist."
  3. Asserting yourself by asking the questions on your mind. Pursuing your true curiosity by asking the questions and getting the answers.
  4. Enhance your network with people that are real and model this behavior. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and like the real you.  

  Authentic Mentoring:

  1. Find a mentor who you can really talk to--Let loose and take intellectual risks with.
  2. Define and refine this real plan for you with a mentor co-architect. 
  3. Openly discuss your weaknesses and seek feedback from your mentor and others.  
  4. Conduct your own self assessment and get your mentor to evaluate it.  

Not saying that we can shed all of the costumes, but living exclusively in the Federal Witness Relocation Program will never work out. Like everything, your self-awareness about who you are, what you say, and where you are going are the best guides up the mountain of authenticity. That will determine who's in your network and who your mentors are. Then you can return many of the costumes to the goodwill shop. 

Sometimes we define ourselves by a job title or a role-- I am VP of the company or a homemaker. That is not you, that is only a part of you. Don't be defined by a role, you are an incredibly unique and talented person who is much more interesting and complex than any day job. And in the end, the only personality that counts is you.  

Thanks for reading. John  


Context, Lies, and Audiotape............

Say what you mean and mean what you say.  March Hare, Alice in Wonderland


What you say, how you start the conversation, how you introduce yourself--really matters. Most people have a bunch of auto-pilot, semi-Pavlovian responses and routines. They say things that may or may not be relevant to the situation or worse, may not be something they even believe! 

What's Your BIT?
The the most fascinating of these routines is the self introduction. What you say in the first 10-15 seconds. Nothing can alter a conversation more than this. I call this your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk. It is so surprising what people say in their robotic way. They are not thinking before and when they talk. Their introduction is not customized to the situation or context. They often use company or industry jargon outside of work. I was in my son's classroom during his school's open house. I was proudly watching my son interacting with his classmates. I noticed another dad. He was dressed in the full designer blue suit, decked out with the gold Rolex, those little initials on his cuffs, and the $600 shoes--you know the type. I decided to introduce myself to him. With an outstretched hand I said, "I'm John, Bobby's dad." I pointed at Bobby. Mr. super executive wheeled around with his auto-smile flashing and boomed, "Hi, Steve Williams Sr. VP of Sales and Business Development for XYZ Corporation." "Nice to meet you", I replied and added, "Is one of these your kid?" He was still in the fog of work. He suddenly snapped out of it and said, "Oh yeah, Eddie's my son, that's him right there." "Oh good, for a minute there you scared me Steve, you know it is a misdemeanor to loiter on a school campus?", I quipped. Mr. Sr VP chuckled but I am not sure he was very amused. At least Steve accompanied his BIT with a smile and a firm handshake. It is bizarre how many adult professionals do not smile, and apparently lie to me and say, "Nice to meet you" with no direct eye contact and a face that reflects indifference and what appears to be disgust. And how many cadaver handshakes I have endured, the cold dead lifeless excuse for a greeting. Nothing better than to meet someone with these off-putting impressions. :)

Ups and Downs of Elevators
The LA Social Venture Partnership held a contest for the best "elevator pitch" from a non-profit. Non-profits were trained in the business art of delivering a compelling investment message about their work in 180 seconds. The winners received $20000 and all of the participating orgs received invaluable insight into how to articulate what they do and why it deserves support.

While non-profits are learning their pitches. We all have something to learn about making a concise and compelling pitch about our business idea or why someone should hire us. Intuitive as this is, it is no simple task. 

David Rose, the serial entrepreneur, gives in 10 things to know before you pitch a VC for money He discusses how you convey Integrity, Passion, Experience/Knowledge/Skill, Leadership, Commitment and Vision. These are essential qualities for any investment including the hiring decision. What is your elevator pitch for yourself? How do you convey these qualities in the answers to the interview questions? In other words, how are you expressing your qualifications, differentiating yourself from others AND conveying a great sense of comfort that you will fit in. Like a VC pitch, this take work, practice, and feedback. Being brief and concise is much harder to do. It is far easier to babble, ramble and make it up on the fly. :) Mark Twain said, "Sorry I have written such a long letter, I did not have time to write a short one." 

The personal elevator pitch is used when you are asked the hardest and easiest question in the world, "Tell me about yourself." This is where you can shine. You can't rely on your ability to improvise or ad lib. You are ready for this question with your prepared story that is relevant to this context, this job, this pitch. You get to communicate what led you to this moment and opportunity. You are given the chance to highlight your progression and what you learned. A career without failings and therefore learnings is one that is surreal and pretentious. All brag and no fact. So be prepared to talk about your mistakes as well as your successes. One of my most memorable interviews was with the legendary Vinod Kholsa, he asked my to "review my greatest failures in reverse chron order and do not tell me the lesson learned." Never had that one before, he was trying to see if I could reflect on mistakes and whether my mistakes were big enough. In the end, your story gives some clues as to who you are and what makes you tick. Your story can be 2-3 minutes long and it will lead to follow-up questions and your interview will turn into a conversation. This wiki-how page has a good summary Personal Elevator Pitch As recommended, write it down, practice in front of a mirror, make an audio recording of your pitch, work on it to make it feel and sound natural. You can only do that with real preparation and practice. And get feedback from your mentors. They will tell you if your story is believable and engaging.  You can only do that with real preparation and practice. 

Everyone can use a little or a lot of work on their story and their pitch. The buildings where these elevators reside are much shorter today. So stop the audiotape answers, smile, be conscious of the context and tell your story! 

Thanks for reading. John