change reaction

How Do I Know If I Am In Love?

Like when you are in the Maserati dealership, if you have to ask you are in the wrong place!
 
Had the great fortune of hearing this question from numerous younger people. Am I in love? How do you know? Love
 
I recently talked to a young man who asked me these questions. He then blurted out that he spent the last five years with this woman and he was going to marry her because he doesn't think he has another five years in him to meet someone else. Yikes
 
And I hear this same sentiment pertaining to career choices. 
 
Years ago, I was asked to address 500 PhDs at a career conference who no longer want to work in their fields of research.
 
I conducted a workshop called "Running from the Law" for 350 lawyers.
 
I think the analogies between love and life, dating and working are closely related. We seek companionship, trust, belonging, meaning, and mutuality in our lives. In everything. Not just for a soul mate or life partner but in our careers.We want our work to feed our insatiable desire for connection, emotional connection connection that matters and give us a deep sense of pride, security, confidence and meaning. We are lying to ourselves if we deny this.
 
Virtually none of us remember being in the sandbox as a toddler telling our friends and parents that we would be doing what we are doing now. Because life is a crazy journey of twists and turns, some say fate, others know its more about choices and chances. But I digress. 
 
Our jobs and internships, are our forays into our work /love life. We are "courting careers", we are scouring the match.coms of jobs, we are asking friends to set us up, we are constantly comparing our unrealistic list of needs/wants and even demands to our "dates". Is this what I want? Is this where I am supposed to be? Is this all there is? Is this how I am supposed to feel? 
 
We want to be in love and to be loved. 
 
In the hundreds of conversations I have had, it is the lover not the object of love who is the most challenged. We don't know what we want and therefore  our search is always one more of questioning than satisfying. We fall into things. We settle. We rationalize. Most of all we defer and wait.  Not sure for what.
 
Last week I talked to a newish non-profit leader who is questioning his career "date". Are you passionate about your work?, I queried. "No but I am working hard.", she said. Wonderful answer avoidance! Read: Not in a serious relationship yet.
 
Dating is not serious if there is not the possibility of marriage.
 
Met an executive in business and I asked him to tell me about his work. He looks at his shoes and says, "Just run a PR firm." Whoa, pride alert! Then he added, "I am not able to do good things like you." Major guilt exposed! Why not? Why does he think he is stuck in this bad relationship? Why does he accept not being in love?
 

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

We need strength and courage in our professional lives. We get it from our engagement intellectually and emotionally from what we do--paid and unpaid. 

But John, do you know how hard it is to find what you are talking about? Yeah I do. So when did you give up on things that were hard or even impossible? When did you push the auto-pilot button to give the controls of your life to "whatever"?

Some wake up and make changes. They are no longer in love and they get a divorce from their jobs. Some get dumped. because they waited too long. Still others stay in toxic, abusive relationships. 
  
Do we seek practical love? Or convenient love? Or do we pursue head over heels in love? Do we want love we rationalize or love we can brag about?

Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love. - Rumi

Time is not slowing down. Time is ticking. Like the maternal biological clock--When will you give birth to your dreams?
 
I am not saying to quit, divorce or bail, I am saying investing in the opportunity to make it work. A great and enduring relationship takes work. It doesn't just glide on the energy of puppy love. 
 
Are you in love with what you are doing, who you are becoming? Are you in love with the potential, the chance to grow?
 
Yes? Then, you understand. Keep working at it. If No, then you need to take control of the helm and get your little boat pointed in the right direction. Your compass is your heart.
 
Only you have formed the rules and boundaries of the current world. Only you can change it up and make it what you want.
 
Use your network of mentors and advisors to help you evaluate your choices. 
 
Last week I met a woman about her career. She said, " I am so overwhelmed. I am almost drowning. But it has been a long time since I felt this challenged, so connected to my work, forcing me to use my brain and everything I have. I am so grateful to be here!
 
It's a beautiful thing when people are in love.
 
You know if you are love. Only you do.
 
Thanks for reading. John 

What Would the Wolf Do?

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  John Muir 

This video beautifully and inspiringly tells the story of trophic cascades, basically where the top of the food chain is disrupted and the changes that follow. In this case, the re-introduction of the wolves into Yellowstone National Park dramatically shifted the course of the entire eco-system from the migration pattern of the elk to the height of the forest to the direction of the river. A great and visual lesson on the unknown consequences of changing things in our environment, in our worlds. We know everything is connected to everything else. We intellectually understand that at the atomic level we are in an infinite sea of life. We are part of this connectedness. What we do matters. There are immediate and unseen impacts from our actions and our in-actions that reverberate out and into the future. 

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. - Mother Teresa 

We also know that we have to do what we were meant to do. We can not hold back. Yes to be fulfilled and to feel purposeful. But we need to do it because of the ripple effect. The waves it sends out to others. We want to help others. We do. That's why I have advocated a lifestyle of networking and mentoring to help others. If we make it part our lives, part of the way we think and act, then it is not special, it is routine. And the ripples reverberate your righteousness. 

When we are wolves seeking our habitat and doing what wolves need to do. We change the world.

When we are not wolves we suppress nature, and the world changes anyway, often without us. 

Intuitively we think we know what happens when we do something. The cause and effect. We naively imagine a linear relationship of our actions and the intended consequences. But what really happens and what happens if we do nothing?

The world without wolves?

But too often we wait. Wait for a sign, for the "right time". We contemplate our navels and consider our options. We take chances or we balk at choices. We embrace the fear or we regret it later. We show up or don't. We say what's on our minds or we shrink from the truth.

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.  James Baldwin

Consider, if we do not act or speak or assist someone. Consider what happens if we do not build relationships, connect, network and mentor each other. Consider the cascade of events that would happen if you do or do not.

We have many excuses. We tend to think about obsess about what will go wrong. How I will be embarrassed. The inconvenience of the time. 

What if:

If I did not talk to this woman on a plane I would not be married and have three kids!

If I did not take a pay cut for a job I loved I would not be in this career.

If my mother had not encouraged me to be a YMCA counselor I may not have become a Big Brother.

If I did not become a Big Brother I would not be writing this blog.

I am sure you have  a longer and better list, if you think about it. We can think of these as special even magical moments. They are. And they aren't. The more you do the more that these moments occur. And best of all it triggers consequences well beyond you. 

We know your very presence makes a difference. But we forget. 

You avoid talking about politics, religion, or anything controversial or revealing about you, for fear of judgment or being politically incorrect. And your voice is silenced. People that look to you for guidance hear nothing and they adopt silence and neutrality as a mode of living. And your silence begets silence.

It is the slipperiest of slopes. You do less and less to protect what you have.

What our peers do matters. We crowd source. We pride ourselves on individualism but we can default to the lemmings. We follow and fall for what others around us do.

Maybe you need a different crowd. 

We have to be ourselves. Our best selves. Our most generous, compassionate and empathetic selves.

You agree to mentor someone even though "you are busy" and there is a cascade.

What happens to everything around and after you, if you are not you?

Nature abhors a vacuum. So when you fail to act, to show up, to do what you want to do the world changes anyway. The cascade of events that follow your absence is different. 

All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.  Octavia Butler 

But will you be the change that starts a beautiful cascade of events that you can not predict and only your presence generates? 

It all starts with giving without an expectation. 

The future is helping children you will never know. 

Give up on your dream and your instincts and you mess with the cosmos. 

WWWD? The world needs your ripples. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Like what you got to get what you like

People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives. J. Michael Straczynski

How do we take full responsibility for where we are? Embrace what we are doing to get where we need to go. See our current opportunity as the best step to advance our lives and the lives of others.

Put the victim, excuses, entitlement and blame game behind us and power ahead by embracing the present.

Not talking about "hanging in there" or "toughing it out" or certainly not "waiting for something good to come along."

You underestimate what you have and how it can help you advance.

How do we love what we do to do what we love?

What you say to yourself and others becomes who you are. Your story is what connects you to your future and to others.

You attract whatever negative and or positive vibes you give off.

"I hate my job." "I can't wait to get out of here." "I don't believe in what I am doing any more."

It's odd but very frequent when people tell me that they are basically unhappy with their jobs and their lives. By the way, 70% of Americans say they are disengaged from their jobs--70%! (Gallup State of the American Workplace)

People say the darndest things. :) They appear to have little pride in themselves. 

As the Mad Hatter advised Alice at the tea party:

Then you should say what you mean. 

I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.

Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter.

You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!

So say what you mean but mean what you say! And like what you got to get what you like!

You got to embrace your circumstances, your current work, your employer and your life---because it's what you got. And you have to describe what you have by appreciating the positive and making lemonade.

I am not saying to stay at a toxic job. I am not saying to sugar coat your thoughts about your work and to lie about it. I am not talking about blind loyalty. I am speaking of a loyalty and commitment to yourself. This is your job. This is your life. And to the extent you allow your job to define you, you have to own it. 

And your narrative, your storyline, can't be just negative. What you say about your work reflects on you and impacts your buzz and your trajectory.

So many people sound like fugitives to me. They are fleeing something to find something better. They have a foot out the door and are seeking the next thing. They are not in the present but stuck in the past and scheming about the future. They are not in the now. Just finished the New New Thing by Michael Lewis. Your life can't always be about the new new thing but about the now now thing. 

Opportunities seek those that adapt and succeed and make the most out of what they have. 

First of all the pursuit of life driven by passion and meaning can only be partially satisfied by one's professional career. For some fortunate people, work life can generate the bulk of one's life satisfaction. But for many of us we have to adopt a portfolio approach to life. Like your investments you need an allocation strategy to create returns from multiple sources which can "hedge" the others. We need a constellation of interests to feed our great hunger and curiosity for stimulation and meaning. If we place all of our eggs in one basket, place all of our chips on one bet, invest all of our energy into our job, the result is predictably an insufficient life.

Life choicesPeople who are engaged in their lives. Who exude energy, confidence and positivity. These are people who by and large manage a broad and diverse portfolio of interests and activities. Their day job is but one source of their life force.

These are people who are busy, really busy. They make the most of what they have and they always seem in demand.

Get your story straight. What are you doing now that is interesting and engaging? Own where you are regardless of the challenges. Love it. Build on what you have to get to the next step in your plan.

What are you optimizing for?, asks Brian David Johnson, Intel's futurist.  How are you using the present to plan your evolving future? How are you spending your work time and non-work time to provide more stimulation and growth? What is energizing your progress and your momentum now? What skills, knowledge and abilities are you honing?

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus

One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses. Henry Miller

Don't dismiss your life as "Not what I want to do" or "It's just a job" Talk about what's emerging for you. Talk about what you are optimizing for. That will help you and others see your path.

You are going somewhere, right? And this place where you are is the best place to get there--because that's where you are!

Be what you say and say what you are. Appreciate what you have and who you are. And do it with pride and energy. 

Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Thanks for reading. John


Our Barbellion Choices

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

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

A few examples of things I hear every week:

WANT                                                  DON'T WANT

Fast track to the top                                        No overtime or weekend work

Learn more                                                      No more formal education

Entreprenuerial opportunities                        Security of employment

Not stuck behind a desk                                  Hate networking

Wants a mentor                                               No time to mentor others

New adventure                                                Stability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

 


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


Don't Let Your Resume Dictate Your Career Path

Wouldn't it be nice if our next career adventure would magically present itself just when the challenge and growth runs out of our current gig? And how will you be spending your lottery ticket winnings? ;)

But most I meet wait until a crises hits and act surprised when a different adventure ensues. An adventure for which they are ill prepared.

But when is the right time to leave, change, or quit? Time 2

Some measure it by time. "Gosh it's been 5 years, I guess I need to move on." Maybe. Maybe not. Jobs don't have an expiration date. Resumes do not require advancement in set increments. If you are so linear and myopic you might employ this approach.

The other one I hear al lot is, "I don't like my job, but I better stick it out for 2 years so my resume doesn't look weird." 

Really? It is your story. You are the writer and the main character. But what is the plot and where are you going?

I always think about jobs like relationships. Few are forever. Almost all take hard work and you can't give up on a whim. And toxic ones need to be abandoned.

Don't let your resume dictate your career path.

As I have said ad nauseum, "To be ambitiousness you need an ambition." Meaning--just wanting more without a concept of success is purposeless and direction-less. 

Just talked to a young rising star executive who was working for a big movie studio. He had a cushy job, nice work-life balance, and was well compensated. He and his wife recently had a baby and he woke up to his new responsibilities. Yet he also started to confront his age and stage in life. Most people reach this moment and they recoil from change and hunker down to retain the staus quo. But this young man realized that he was settling. That he was not growing or even contributing to the end product. He had been with this employer for awhile and could easily stretch it out a few more. Nevertheless, he decided to make a career change. He left for a start-up. 

Not because he was fired but because he was fired up. Not because he hit a ceiling but because he saw the door to his own future. Not because he had a bad boss, but because he realized he is in charge of his own destiny. 

This is the key to a life of satisfaction. Make your own path. Determine your own trajectory.

Some would say he was crazy. He should have waited until the baby was older. (They are planning to have several kids) Others understand that you have an internal clock. What other people think is irrelevant. It is your clock and your sense of timing that matters. Not what looks right but what feels right.

Timing is everything and the time is always now. This is the time to think, plan and execute on your plans.  

Know when it is time. Listen to your mentors and those who care. But then listen to your heart. Like this young exec, you realize you want something different, then you start to define what you want, and then you seek it. 

Being restless is not a career plan. "It just seems like a time to change." Is a bizarre feeling to risk your career. Great yiddish word: shpilkes. "ants in the pants" state of impatience and/or agitation. 

Shpilkes is not sufficient to re-write your resume.

I remember I was sittiing in my office--an office I designed. I was so comfortable. I was large and in charge. I had a team of assistants and many "yes" people. I suddenly woke up from my self admiration and I realized I was becoming a bit of a fraud. (I found later that almost 75% of execs feel this way) I was further and further removed from the purpose of our work. I was no longer challenged. The depth of my knowledge and expertise was becoming a Wizard of Oz show. Admittedly, I had a good show, but only the showman knows what's backstage.

Anyway, I realized I was getting soft. That my creative muscles were not being exercised. That my competence was relying on others and my expertise was fading. I learned I had to re-engage with the details. Craft the words, understand the code, feel and see the purpose of our work. It is why I gravitate to start-up environments, so I can stay fresh and challenged and avoid getting too comfortable.

But you are different. You have to design your own path. You gotta know what you want. Do you? 

If the "perfect opportunity" walked up and tapped you on the shoulder would you recognize it? Would you be ready to leap?

Very likely that you will leave your current position. Will you be the one making the decision about the timing of your transition? 

A few destination check questions:

  • What would make your next job/position more fulfilling?
  • Have you made a list of the things you want to sharpen and add to your toolbox?
  • Have you fully explored options to take on new duties, challenges, growth opportunities at your current position? (This assumes you know what you want)
  • Have you fully explored acquiring these skills and experiences outside of your day job?
  • Is your next best job up the ladder, down the ladder or somewhere else?
  • Have you talked to your mentors about these answers?

A few things are certain. Change will continue to grind away. Your expertise will become obsolete. You can let others decide your fate or take control of the steering wheel of your career and guide it to the path that reflects your goals and your needs. The path with your heart.

The real question is when will you do that? Your resume does not get a vote.

Thanks for reading. John


Gluten-Free Alumni Network

I recently attended an informal and delightful gathering of my former colleagues from my previous life as an alumni director at UCLA. It had been about 15 years since we had all seen each other. I learned early in each of my careers: seek out the influencers, the leaders, and the potential mentors in the industry. Connect with the people who will facilitate your education in that field. Alumni work was no different. I found a group of remarkable mentors. These gentlemen continue to be industry thought leaders and helped me define my life beyond my stint in alumni work.

Eustace Theodore at Yale: He taught the importance of understanding your institution's history. He characterized alumni work as continuing a great conversation.

Steve Grafton at Michigan: He taught me that nice guys do finish first. And how to honor traditions and evolve beyond them.

Bill Stone at Stanford: Bill mentored me in many ways, but the value of the words we use to articulate mission may be the most lesson. He also told me, “never have people who make less than you on your compensation committee.” :)

Doug Dibbert at North Carolina: Generously shared his wisdom with me. He humbled me to enjoy the journey more than my career aspirations. Sage advice.

Photo
Doug, me, Steve, Bill and Eustace

 

We ended up meeting up at Roy’s Restaurant in San Francisco where Bill’s wife Debbie Duncan joined us. I opened the menu and saw that they had a gluten free menu. We have recently come to expect this offering as we have become hyper aware of food allergies and celiac in particular. This menu triggered a conversation about Debbie’s gluten allergies, and the precision or the lack thereof, with these “gluten-free” offerings. She warned us that relying on the special menu needs to be accompanied with instructions to the kitchen to insure a more gluten free meal. For those with an intolerance for wheat, gluten can be dangerous.

This reminded us of a story about Bill and Debbie’s daughter Molly. Molly has endured gluten allergies her entire life.

Gluten freeMore than 20 years ago, when celiac and gluten were not in our vocabulary, Bill was commiserating with me about the fate of his daughter Molly. Molly was very sick, not able to eat and was dangerously losing weight. He was a bit emotional, and I could tell that he feared the worse. He asked for my help.

The week before I was at a picnic with some UCLA alumni and a couple of parents were talking about their daughter and how she was not able to eat and lost a lot of weight. They found out that she had “a wheat intolerance”. Once they removed wheat products from her diet she gained weight and was back to normal. I saw her little daughter running around the park as proof of what seemed like a minor miracle to these parents. Never heard of anything like it before.

Back to my distressing conversation with Bill about his “emaciated” daughter Molly. I said, “Bill, I heard about this ailment of “wheat intolerance” over the weekend. I am just repeating what I heard but it sounds strangely like what Molly has.” Bill was desperate to give the stumped Stanford Medical Center team any new leads. “I am going to tell them to check it out.”

Long story short, it was “wheat intolerance”. Today, Molly is a “perfectly healthy” 23 year old.

Debbie turned to me during our dinner, “You saved her life.”

Soon after Molly’s diagnosis, Debbie wrote a MY TURN column in Newsweek entitled, “What’s wrong with my baby?” This was one of the beginnings of the awareness of celiac and the seriousness of gluten allergies. She later wrote a best selling book to help siblings cope with an ailing brother or sister--When Molly was in the Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children.

I did what any friend would do. Tried to help with anything I had—even a bit of well-timed hearsay.

The lesson for me is to speak up and share what I know. Lead by helping people. Connect prople to other experts. Don’t pre-judge what you know or what others know. As Debbie pointedly described in her column, it was hard to believe that the battery of tests conducted at Stanford did not uncover the allergy.

My little water drop of seemingly innocuous advice was one of the many influences to push Debbie to write and help thousands of others---perhaps thousands of Mollys. Ocean drop

I am constantly reminded how much people help me with insights and “obvious” advice. How I try to help others with the same. Very little is universally understood and most people are unaware of where they need help.

I am constantly amazed when people write me or mention words I said that made a difference to them.

When your network asks for help you respond. You give and give generously without expectation.

Say what you are thinking, don’t hesitate. Yes, try to package it in a way that is digestible and palatable. But share what you know and what you see. This is how we help each other.

It could save or change a life. One thing is certain, it will change yours.

Thanks for reading. John


Your Unlearning Curve

The flow and pace of change around us is mind boggling and some would say turbulent. It's like sipping out of the firehose--one of my favorite metaphors. We can only drink so much and so fast, otherwise we drown.  Sipping from a firehose

Here's how I have decided to deal with the relentless spray of information and new stuff. First I accepted that "change" and chaos were the natural state of things. And my greater awareness of "change" makes it easier for me to adapt. If you can't beat em join em!

Chaos is a friend of mine.  Bob Dylan

Any resistance to change is like fighting gravity. Useless, painful, frustrating, and ultimately distracting from the work we want to do and where our lives could go.

Surrendering to change provides you with so much more information, options, and ideas. I am telling you we are sipping from a firehose and yet what is flying by our senses is amazing, scary, and fantastic.

The curious thing is that with these exponential changes, so much of what we currently know is just wrong. So many of our assumptions are wrong. As we move forward, not only is it going to be a question of learning it is also going to be a question of unlearning.  John Seely Brown

Almost everywhere I go, every meeting I am in, this subject of change is discussed. Change that is forcing people to learn new ways of thinking and doing things. Part of adapting to change is the ability to "unlearn" things. I believe unlearning is as critical a survival and success skill as learning. Unlearning is literally and figuratively deleting "files", forgetting the past, abandoning assumptions, then learning again, by starting over.

I first heard this verb more than three decades ago when Marc Nathanson, one of the pioneers of the modern cable tv business, said he wanted to hire me because I had less to unlearn. He told me he was worried about that experienced cable tv professionals, people who knew cable tv, would bring their frames of reference--in other words a load of Samsonite that was not relevant. He said, "We don't have time for people to unlearn things." He predicted nearly all of the changes in that industry and knew that the future was not going to be like the past. So knowing nothing about cable tv made me eminently qualified! :) 

In a forest of change we add bits of knowledge, like decorating a Christmas tree. You collect and show off bright and shiny ornaments. Each year you add more and you feel better about your tree. Unlearning is understanding that the tree is obsolete and the ornaments are irrelvant. 

Unlearning is breaking off your rear view mirror and focusing on the new landscape in front of you and seeing it for the first time.

When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.  Henry David Thoreau

There have been some jokes about an etch-a-sketch brain. But this is where it is useful!  Etch a sketch

Unlearning changed my perspective on my own prospects in life. There is so much I do not have to unlearn! :) Seriously, this view of change gives me the energy, permission and confidence to cross sectors, platforms and worlds more fluidly. If I spent less time and energy trying to fight the flow of the firehose and more time riding it, then life is so much more productive and fun!

Past used to be prologue.

Strategic planning has to become zero based processes. Meaning starting from scratch--with a blank slate. Can't take the last 5 years results and tweak them. The market, the consumer, the competition, the global context, the needs and wants have evolved and are evolving.  Again more than you know. Engaging new sources of knowledge, information, and feedback that shape a clearer view of reality. It is crazy what we don't know that others know. 

This Tedtalk is a head rush. Obeng contends that "all of the rules" were changed without our knowledge and that's why nothing works any more. He makes a compelling case.

His brief discussion about laminar vs turbulent flow is fantastic. 

Laminar is when the water moves in parallel sheets through the tube, but once it reaches a certain speed the water goes crazy and the flow is chaotic, swirling, and unpredictable. Obeng asserts that we have not noticed the change from laminar to turbulent flow. How could we? We are in denial. We are stuck in our ways of trying to make the world conform to our needs and tolerances. We like certainty. It is a warm and fuzzy place, but boy is it naive. Laminar vs turbulent

The people I meet who are succeeding in all fields have adopted unlearning as a way of life. How will you make money in the financial markets? How will diseases be cured? How will we transform education? How will we level the playing fields of poverty? There is no way it will resemble the past or even be a distant cousin.

Lean into the change. Saddle the turbulence. Embrace the chaos.  Continue to sip, but enjoy the flow. Unlearn to learn.

Thanks for reading. John


The One Percent/Degree Solution

Most of us work so hard. We are engaged with our lives and our work. We show up and put in the time.  And we are at our limits. We have little if anything else to give. Time, energy, brain cells--we are at capacity.  Seems inconceivable to do any more than we do. Right?

When will we pursue those "other" goals in our lives? Those things that we long to do, have to do? 

Was with a good friend this week and he was discussing his three new side businesses he is launching and pursuing. Three! He has a full time job, two kids and a labrador! He has little money, but puts in the sweat equity and engages his network. He is trying to build his future, keep his mind fresh, and make some money. How does he do it? He manages his time through his priorities. Is he stressed out? Nope. He is fully engaged in his life. Funny thing, he has other irons in the fire. And he thinks he is just an "average" guy!

If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more you do the more you can do. Lucille Ball. 

If you are human, then you waste so much time. C'mon admit it. There are times when you are just distracting yourself, biding your time, all the while your ideas/causes/dreams just wait and get older. Be honest!

It is trite and maybe irritating to hear, but you have to take small steps. Give one percent more--one more degree of effort. One percent! Everyone has one percent to give. One percent more in time, money, effort, and energy. Yes you do!

If you give that one per cent to something you have always wanted to do. Something you care about. Like your talent, your art, your dreams. You will feel good about yourself.

Don't fall behind on your bills and your dreams.  Les Brown

And, when someone says, "Hey what's new?" You can say something interesting! And those conversations will lead to new connections!

Now networking and mentoring have a purpose. To meet people who are doing what you are interested in. Getting advice about these special things. These pursuits will be treats in your life. Sweet and delicious moments for your personal gratification of understanding your larger role and purpose. These times that are not chores but times you will look forward to. And guess what happens, the one percent expands because it is so important to you.

Look if you have the perfect balance in your life of challenge, growth, and fulfillment, then please stop reading. 

For the rest of us, we are so close to what we want you can see it. But our inertia, doubts, resistance, and plain ole laziness prevent us from what we want.

Watch this video. 

One more degree of effort. We give up too easily in the pursuit of what is important to us. One percent more time and attention.

One percent of your time is  like 30 mins a week. What if you scheduled 30 mins during every week to reconnect with someone you have lost touch with. Put it on your calendar. Do it every week. Be discipined about it. Use the time to e-mail, telephone, Google people.

This is even more productive and fulfilling if you are reaching out to people about your idea, cause, or dream. To compare notes, pick brains, to learn, and to be inspired. To be inspired every week! Wow. 

Persistence, consistency, and building the habit of making time for what you want. It is simply amazing when you do something consistently.

You will regret not using this time--now. Over time you will get busier! And these special thoughts get shelved and predictably--absence will make the heart grow fonder. Neglect makes these lost opportunities more precious and more bitter regrets later.

Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.  St Francis de Assisi

I guarantee if you don't exert the one percent or the one degree of extra effort, nothing will happen. 

Little efforts lead to bigger ones. Small steps lead to bigger strides. Commit yourself to connecting your ideas with others and unexpected things will happen.

 Thanks for reading. John


Curious Connection to the Chumash

My life path has been altered by the many chance connections I have had. I married a woman I met on a plane ride. I signed an agreement to publish a calendar with a dinner table seat mate I just met . I was referred to a new job by someone I met at Starbucks. And on and on.......have learned that if I keep an open mind, an open heart, and open to connections, things happen. Things that will expand my world and my world view.

Mati and Luhui Waiti are Chumash (shoo-maush) spiritual leaders and environmental advocates for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. They run a non-profit called Wishtoyo, dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the Chumash culture. How did these people become friends and how does my family become supporters of Wishtoyo?Wishtoyo3

The wife of one of my closest friends, Brenda Berman, was part Choctaw Indian. When she was diagnosed with a deadly and unstoppable form of breast cancer called "triple negative", she sought spiritual support. Brenda's close friend Jennifer thought a re-connection to her Indian roots might help. She knew Wishtoyo and introduced Brenda and her husband Mitch to Mati and Luhui. The Chumash traditions brought great peace to Brenda. They helped her through her pain and struggle during her last days. They connected Brenda with her inner spirit in palpable ways. It is impossible to explain here, but it was extraordinary.

Brenda's husband Mitch, who previously had little spirituality, was transformed by the message and meaning of the Chumash, but especially by the spiritual embrace of Mati and Luhui. He is a different person today.

To be honest, while I was happy for Brenda and her family in finding their peace, I was wary about what this meant to me. I was not seeking any spiritual guidance or facing any personal tragedies.

Over the last 6 months, my family and I learned more about Wishtoyo, largely through several memorials for Brenda. Today, we have become deeply involved with Wishtoyo. We have been moved by the words and actions of Mati and Luhui. We have acquired an understanding of what Brenda experienced and we are better for it. When I think about it, it is a surprising turn of events.

So literally, a friend of a friend introduced us to a world we did not know---to people who seemed foreign  and not terribly relevant. How did a series of exotic experiences became existentially essential? How did this happen? Luck? Destiny?

More than anything it is open-mindedness. Acceptance of new and different things. The more my life is changed by these encounters, the more I  seek them and share them. I have come to learn how my view of the world, my routines, habits and preferences filter out so much. I am constantly humbled how much I don't know and understand.

We erroneously think that new experiences are out there in a special place we should visit some day. Reality is you encounter them everyday and they are right in front of you disguised as people, opportunities, and ideas you ignore. Connections are not chance they are a choice.

Wishtoyo means rainbow bridge in Chumash. We all need to be open to new bridges that connect us with one another and to our inner spirits.

Thanks for reading. John


Expecting Less to Get More----The Ruination of Expectations

Many of you know the role my parents have played in my life. They continue to inspire and mentor me. As we all age, I try to seek their perspective and counsel. They have both seen and learned so much more than me. There is no substitute for experience, for the maturity which comes from living, and the awareness of self that only comes with time. You can't presume what it is like to live 80 years. Like a giant oak tree or a aged cabernet, time passed is the only thing that generates the uniqueness of the shape of the branches or the taste of the finish. So when they tell me things I have learned to listen regardless of my first impression.Oak tree

"Expectations are the ruination of the individual," my mom asserted last week. This triggered several conversations to explore what she meant. Here's what I learned:

Think for a second about your expectations of people and life. What you expect at the restaurant. What you expect from your kids and other people's kids. What you think others should be doing or becoming. We are all guilty of maintaining a closet full of expectations which contains the uniforms or costumes we think others should be donning. I call this "the script" of life. You know, the script of what you expect people to say and do. Like a veteran film director, we can go through life seeing things and comparing them to what they should be, according to the script. What a frustrating experience it that would be if we only monitored the script in everything we do.

As we mature, we learn that the world will always surprise you if you let it. These unexpected occurences are what makes life interesting and enjoyable. Imagine if everything was predictably pleasant. Remember Gary Ross' Pleasantville, where happiness prevailed, no basketball player missed a free throw and the weather and everyone's disposition was always sunny. Would total predictability be insanity, monotony, or idyllic?

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly moden intellect.  Oscar Wilde

I did not realize it but I have been in expectation rehab for a long time. After so many years of the highest expectations of everything, I have begun to understand what my mom is saying. If you evaluate everything that happens and are preoccupied with a set of expectations, you lose so much of what happens when it happens.Expectations1

You also become negative. We all know people who start off every conversation with the shortcomings and weaknesses of people and experiences. People with these unmet expectations have come to expect a world that is inadequate. Their negativity and complaints become expected. They are never satisfied with restaurants, movies, or jobs. Unmet expectations becomes their expectation. And it can be a spiral down. I am booting these people out of my network.

The law of attraction tells us that we attract to our lives whatever we give time, attention, and focus to--negative or positive.

I have discussed the power of serendipity on these pages. Surrender to the experience without expectations. Daniel Pink's book the Adventures of Johnny Bunko provides insightful career/life planning lessons. Lesson #1 is "There is no plan." That your pursuit of fulfillment and meaningful work should be driven by who you are. That the process of understanding who you are will take you on a boundless journey that will only be limited by expectations and a plan with a bunch of steps.

I have learned the hard way how nature is so much more powerful than nurture. That the DNA of people makes us truly different, in addition to the demographic and psychographic attributes. That expectations need to be intertwined with the person's needs and interests to work. The most dangerous expectations are those we have of others. Helping people become the best they can be versus who we want them to be is enormously different.

My first rule/principle to adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle: Give first without expectations.

Aren't we supposed to have SMART goals? After all the first letter is Specific, right?!! Yes Yes. You must have goals--milestones that define a path to what you believe leads to success. It's just that we can not get so caught up in such a focused pursuit of these goals that they become expectations. And when we don't get what we expect--what happens? We get disappointed and lose confidence. The best goals are flexible and adaptable not only to the changing context (which changes the second you ink the plans/goals) but more importantly, your goals need to adapt to the changing you.

Employers can tell you what they expect, but a mentor will awaken your expectations of yourself.

Often we can lock in on our expectations, even if they are obsolete or irrelevant. That is human nature to get comfortable with things that are familiar. Where do those expectations lead us?

As always my mom and dad keep me thinking about what I don't know and what I need to learn about myself. I am beginning to understand the ruination of my expectations.

As I expect less I am experiencing more.  Thanks for reading. John


What is your Change Reaction?

If we all lived in an idyllic Pleasantville where things were predictably good, then we would not want change. We would not have expectations. We would never be dissatisfied with ourselves. We would never worry about the future. But even in the film the desire for change and difference was too great to sustain the utopian world.

Change requires a change reaction. We envision macro changes in the world. Changes that right a wrong or to relieve pain and suffering. We align ourselves with organizations to address these changes. We volunteer, give money, work for orgs that want and work toward change. And as individuals we want change in our own lives. Changes in our diets, in our kids' study habits.....Changes in our workplaces. These micro changes can align or distract us from these worldly changes. So change is dependent on other changes and so on and so on. The chain reaction of change, if you will.  Some people can separate change at these different levels and pursue them all simultaneously. Others are more linear and will not think about others until they change their immediate worlds. I need to love myself before I love others. Or I need to work on myself, while I change the world? Or By changing the world I will be changed? Any of these sound familiar or resonate?

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi

Bottomline is the diet of the status quo is inadequate on almost all levels. We are hungry for change. Our appetites are great. So change is a regular dish on the menu. But what are we cooking up to feed our need for change?Change

It requires transformation by the change agents--that's us. We have to change.

This goal for change is less attainable because of the reverse change reaction. Individuals and organizations that can't adapt quickly enough to employ methods, processes and solutions to address the evolving context. Their bad habits and stubbornness tethers them to assumptions and premises that are no longer true and real change becomes academic.

Often, we are the problem that prevents the change.

The speed of our change reaction is essential. How fast is our feedback loop to digest the realities of the world we want to change, develop a strategy, and implement the fix?

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. John Lennon

People who resist change are either in the wrong place or need to change.

If there is not a feeling of constant change, then you have no chance at improvement, because improvement requires change. Otherwise you live in Pleasantville!

If you don't adopt a philosophy of trying new things your obsolescence is assured.

If it works it's obsolete. Marshall McLuhan

Thinking about change is very much like imagination. We can imagine things, but we have to do things.

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. Maya Angelou

Almost all of of my conversations are about change. How to improve, eliminate, alter, move themselves/something/someone else or a cause. Never had a conversation with anyone that starts, "How do I keep everything the way it is?" Never.

Here are three quotes I heard from people this week:

1. I know this career change makes no sense financially but it will give me more flexibility.

2. How do I leave my job, change careers and preserve my current lifestyle?

3. Aren't we going through too much change?

I think one of the benefits of talking to someone else is to hear yourself! You can not change by yourself. You need to connect to the real needs of others and the world. The more you do that, the more you will be inspired, and the more you will change.

How do you start change or a movement? You act. You take a risk and become one of the first. You express yourself even if it looks "silly". In short, you lead. Lead yourself, lead your team, your neighborhood, or your community.

Expectations drive our change and could drive us crazy.

So if you don't want change then you don't have any expectations

As you read this blog you are changing imperceptibly, you are aging, your brain is adjusting to thoughts, and inputs, your weight is shifting to your movement etc etc

Change is life. Life is change.

Change is inexorable. The problems we face will change and not be solved but we will address them and make progress. But the work and the change never ends.

An issue I hear expressed is I am not in charge or in control of the change. If I was in control of the change, I would do it differently. That position in life, of complaining about lack of control, is an excuse and basically a lifetime license to whine. Until you become the supreme ruler of the universe, you will be subjected to change. Your choice is adapt or quit. Challenge the change or surrender. Lean into the change or run.

I suggest altering your change reaction.

Thanks for reading. John