Brain hemispheres

What is your story? Understanding your narrative and where it is taking you

I have found that people do not appreciate their own stories. There is such a premium placed on amazing, dramatic, tear-jerkers that average stories, just stories about who we are and what we want are relegated to the "boring" file. So these stories are neglected and unformed. Yet I have found that every personal story told is fascinating. 

Our stories are helpful to others so they can help us. But our stories can reinforce our own behaviors and actions and become self fulfilling prophecies. Greatest-story1

Not talking about your interview technique or even how to sound clever at a cocktail party.

I am talking about what you say to yourself and how that reveals itself to others. 

The classics: "I am not good at math." "I have a terrible voice." "I can't even draw a circle." "I can't even boil water." "I am such a terrible public speaker."

Whether you like it or not these are part of your story and become part of your reputation. 

What are you good at? What are you most confident about? Are you risk averse? Are you afraid of failure or looking stupid?

You can become what you say you are and not become what you don't say. 

What are you telling yourself about you?

I made a woman and a young man cry recently. I didn't mean to.

It was my interpretation of their stories that got them choked up.

The gentleman was testing his pitch for a new venture he was thinking of starting and I told him that people want to invest in you who are you. I gave him my version of the hardships he had overcome.

The lady was looking to make a very serious career change and I asked her to tell me why? She struggled with her answer. I summarized her rationale, qualifications and the value she would add. 

I loved their stories. Basically I told them their own stories. I gleaned from them what they were saying and I crafted the stories--positive stories. I have no special skill or technique. I listened to them and read their resumes. These were uplifting meetings for all of us. To see people's potential and share it with them was inspirational for me! When your story is set free and it resonates with the protagonist it creates vulnerability--like a secret was told out loud. It is liberating. It can be cathartic. It is empowering.

And your story evolves, if you allow it. If you keep an eye on the possibility ahead you can edit your story.

One of the many benefits of mentoring and networking is to work on your internal narrative. What story is guiding how you live and what you do. The greatest gift is to ask someone you trust: "What do you see in me?" 'Where do you see me going?" 

Steve Jobs advice from his famous commencement address still rings true. "Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly already want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Hearing your inner voice out loud gives it life and freedom far from the tyranny of others expectations.

Is your story fraught with limitations, excuses and pessimism? Or is it nestled in optimism, opportunities, and lessons? 

"I have few options." "I don't have the right (education, job, mentor, financial condition....)" 

Or

"There are so many things I can do and learn." "This problem is going to teach me new things." 

It is a choice. The story you tell. 

Stories we tell ourselves and others define our well-being. Depressed individuals often have deeply ingrained internal stories such as ‘I’m never good enough,’ or ‘My father told me I should have been a doctor.’  Versus athletes who visualize success and use mantras like "You have been here before. You know what to do."

From Phillipa Perry's book How to Stay Sane "The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved. If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up. We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves, at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck."

Take control of your story. Own it. Interrupt the negative audio loops. Open it up. Tell your truths. Talk about it. Listen to other people's assessments of it. Edit and enhance your story. See the possibilities over the problems. Your story is amazing. Sometimes you just have to get out of its way. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Observations about my Globalism

Each of us prides ourselves on our worldliness. We have traveled a bit and met and know people from around the globe. But few of us are truly global in our thinking and our understanding. I certainly am not. The truth is we cling to our nationalistic perspectives. It is human nature to see others through the lens of our home cultures. 

Network intelligence 2
Courtesy of Start-Up You

 

I get sensitized to this collision of perspectives when I travel. I see the "ugly Americans" who loudly and indifferently run roughshod over their hosts. I also cringe when I see the giant influx of Asian tourists who seem oblivious to the world around them. 

For I can be mistaken for either of these groups! Not good.

You have undoubtedly heard about the promulgations from the Chinese government to encourage their citizens who travel to be more polite and respectful. Can you imagine if the US government did this? The videos would become a reality show instead of a teaching moment. But I digress....

Chinese tourism alone accounted for 83 million trips abroad and spending of a dizzying $102 billion up 10000% in 12 years! So before we criticize the Chinese, they are our customers.

So the opportunities and challenges from the increased globalization is seen on both sides. The hosts and the visitors have so much to learn about each other. Both sides have to be more sensitive to their in-sensitivities.

As a funny aside--we visited Scotland, my wife Sarah and I were buying gifts for family and friends. We decided on Scottish wool scarves. Sarah asked the saleswoman where the scarves were made. She said, "If it just says "Made in Scotland" then it is made in China. (Huh?) But if it has a brand label it is probably made in Scotland." She showed us the pricier scarves and whispered, "These are made in Scotland, but they are exactly the same as the Chinese made."

My trip abroad was centered around a couple of speeches I delivered at an international conference of universities held in the UK where representatives from 28 countries and 6 continents attended (no attendees from Antarctica:)! Making sure that my presentation was scrubbed for Americanisms, US references, nationalism was so so much harder than I thought. But it was a mind expanding exercise to question words, examples, jokes, images that would literally translate to a global audience. 

I had mind altering conversations about philanthropy and education with people from South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Greece and Australia. 

For example, I asked one of the attendees about the "diversity" of the conference. She asked me what I meant. I noticed how ethnically un-diverse the audience looked to me. She pushed back hard. "That is such a US perspective!" We don't think about that type of diversity. We never think about that. We think about nationalities but not ethnicities."  Whoa

Everyone I met was so knowledgeable about the US, our politics, culture, and issues. They were all multi-lingual multi-cultural and multi-talented people who seemed to traverse these differences with ease. While I struggled with one language and the ability to remember the location of some of the countries.  Talk about a competitiveness complex.

It is always humbling to realize how much I don't know. Without this exposure my view of the world, my globalism, remains myopic and limited. 

Yet the whole world faces change and the challenges of addressing that change with agility. That is what we have in common. The issues of career pathing, networking, mentoring, and fulfilling dreams are a very similar human condition around the rock. 

I was grateful to have my mind and my network expanded. It taught me how much more I need to stalk global experiences at home and abroad. To strengthen my globalism muscles I need to engage and confront my limited perspective more often. 

I learn over and over again. That our networks define us. That the people and ideas that you encounter change you. And by talking to people with the same perspective will always limit you. That there is a global networked brain that we all have access to, but few of us are connected to. The world is literally passing us by. We are only using a small part of our brain.  That I have to read more, listen and understand context, and worldview more, to communicate and operate globally. I need to continue to expand my global networked intelligence. How about you?

Thanks for reading. John

 


Smile Networking

When playing poker or just observing people you notice a host of "tells": the signs a person makes when they are nervous or bluffing. Body, eye movements, smiles, tics, gestures, and inflection. All give you clues, hints, and ways to understand what is being said and unsaid. I have to work on these things everyday. Before I did work that was videotaped, I was unaware of my tells. When I listened I looked critical, I still do this from time to time. I have to think about eye contact because I can look down when I talk. And I have to remind myself to stay positive. For me, it takes mindfulness and being present. 

I will never understand all of the good a simple smile can accomplish.  Mother Teresa Smile2

I watch people's eyes and their smiles. It is so easy to see when people like what they are talking about. I ask people to "tell me more" about that subject, because I know they want to. 

According to English and Jewish proverbs--Eyes are the window to the soul.  

I believe this. And if the eyes are a window then the smile is the sliding glass door to the soul. It is the face of your heart.

No other form of body language can transform you and your networking, than your smile. 

Your face triggers the face and the feelings of those looking at your face. Your eyes are the window to your truth. 

I had an assistant named Pam who never smiled. It became a game with me. Every morning, I would greet her with a huge smile and a theatrical, "GOOD MORNING! How are you?" She always responded the same no matter what I did. She said, "Fine," without smiling. Actually it was more of a frown. So one day I could not stand it any more. She stood there and said "fine" looking like her cat died. I said, "Then Tell Your Face!" After that Pam faked smiled at me every morning and we laughed.  

Long time ago, I supervised telemarketers and we used mirrors to show the trainees their faces when they were on the phone. Your voice is so much different when you smile! Smiling telemarketers always performed better. 

I love the work of the Smile Foundation--restoring the smiles of children with facial deformities. 

Like most things you do for others it helps you more. Smiling almost always makes others smile. And smiling makes us feel good and makes others feel good. But recently researchers have shown that smiling, genuine smiles, not only feel good but actually make us healthier. Huh? Yes, recent studies show that smiling reduces anxiety, heart rate, and increased recovery from stress and even depression. There is a physiological and psychological reaction in your body when you use your smile muscles. Even if you just see another smiling it fires off neurons that simulate the feeling of your own smile. Serious studies show greater life expectancy and life satisfaction if you smile. Long distance runners who smiled reported they were less tired and stressed. It all makes sense. When you smile others smile. You give off positivity and get it back. So it is probably a combination of internal and external factors that feed off one another.We all know how quickly a look can turn us negative. We walk a very fine line between happy and unhappy. Satisfied and dissatisfied. Positive and negative. Glass half full, half empty.....A smile can push us and others around us over to the positive side of the street.   Smiles

The genuine smile--the real smile--is called by researchers the Duchenne smile. Named by the 19th century French neurologist. This smile uses the major muscles around the eyes and mouth areas. This is contrasted with the Pan Am smile, named for the socially polite smile of an airline flight attendant. This smile just lifts the muscles around the mouth. 

Funny ironic thing is that people with botox injections were also studied. Because their smile muscles were "impaired" they were less happy and had a harder time sensing the feelings of others! You want to look and feel good--artificially?! Shame on you. ;)

This research is dwarfed by the certainty that an upside down smile makes you and others feel worse. You have a great smile--use it! Smile! 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Lessons from My Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John