commencement

Your moment

As you may have noticed I have been slipping in my poetry into my posts. :) To be honest I am writing more poems than anything else. It is a cleansing, meditative process for me.  I know my work is personal. Yet I want to share it in the hopes it resonates with you. 

Choice is the enemy of commitment. (attributed to Jerry Brown)

Just know many folks who are going through decision trees right now---school, career, family, relationships......Some dark decision jungles and others delightful and glorious forests. Nevertheless--Choices! First, always be grateful that you have a choice. Second, try to enjoy the process no matter how complex. Third, never look back and embrace the decision!  Chinese-Bamboo-Forest

The challenge is in every moment and the time is always now. James Baldwin

Your moment
 
This may be a tough moment or a great moment,
 
It may lead everywhere and nowhere,
 
A moment that reveals the possibility
 
The possibility of change, of joy, of surprise
 
Not from a plan of specific steps
Not from a promise from the past
Not from the expectations of others
 
The possibility of what it can be
The possibility of what you can be
 
Seeing the now of it
 
Feeling the here of it
 
Breathing the you of it
 
Becoming the it of it
 
Make this moment, your moment
 
 
Thanks for reading. John

 


You Busy?

How we spend our days, is how we spend our lives.  Annie Dilliard

Isn't this the most asinine question? Busy?! No, I was just napping or sitting on my hands waiting for you to call, knock or interrupt the boring silence I call my life. 

We are all so busy. Not sure what we are doing and whether we are making a difference, but we are indeed very preoccupied with stuff. Important stuff. Well at least stuff that matters to hopefully someone. But one thing is certain we are busy!

Let's get real. According to time diaries kept for more than a decade, we have more leisure time than we ever have. The researcher John Robinson says, "Americans actually have more leisure time, are less rushed, less stressed, and sleep much more than we think we do." And we have been lying about how busy we are for 50 years. I can hear your predictable cries of protest. I know none of my readers are average, but tv viewing and use of internet media is up to all time highs. Anyway, Robinson estimates we all have about 40 hours of "free" time each week. 

I have tried to ban the B Word, from every environment I have had any control over. Ask my colleagues from my past lives. My point is to help people stop the habit of valuing how "busy" we are and instead reflect on their priorities and the bigger picture.

I’m a big proponent of “busy is a decision.” You decide what you want to do and the things that are important to you. And you don’t find the time to do things — you make the time to do things. And if you aren’t doing them because you’re “too busy,” it’s likely not as much of a priority as what you’re actually doing. Debbie Millman

My motivation is to continue my rehab as a recovering busy body, where I foolishly thought that activity equalled productivity or even importance. I never realized how much I stressed myself out and everyone around me. 

Don't get me wrong I am type A+, I fault my parents, my immigrant grandparents, my DNA, the internet, cell phones and anything and anyone and everything that has influenced me. :) The reality is I try to maximize my usefulness, my waking time, my chances, my fleeting moments to do as much as I can. Not as a contest, but just because I realize that there is no way to measure the fuel left in my tank. 

Been to too many funerals and memorials for people much younger than me--Who died "too young". I live life like many people as if I was part of a dutch auction where you start with the highest price, and as the price drops,  you bid on the way down. Versus building my empire and my "retirement funds" for some magical time in the future where all my deferred gratification will occur. Makes no sense to me. I want this time right now to be a full life of no regrets!  Busy

God, what surprises you most about humanity?

"That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.”

“That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.”

“That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither
the present nor the future.”

“That they live as if they will never die, and die as though they had never lived."  

Excerpt from Interview with God poem.

I meet people every month who literally say they are too busy for their friends and family.

I worked with an up and coming executive. He was single (still single), no kids, not even a pet. No real hobbies. He would talk about impressive things he would do, but not because he was passionate about them because he liked the way they sounded. But mostly he talks about how busy he is. I know you know one of these types, they are everywhere. Busy people whose greatest accomplishment is being busy. I have nothing against people who choose a single life. Or people who mostly work. What I resent is when people, who have no passion(s) and personal commitments, tell me how busy they are and have no empathy for their colleagues who have many other obligations.

If your life is full of love and commitment, then your busyness can be fulfilling

When you are aligned with your work and your life, time is not the question. How busy you are is never an issue. You gain energy from the work. It is a virtuous cycle. 

Being busy is like gravity to earthlings and water to fish. We do not need to discuss it, we do not question it. We focus on what we are doing not how long it takes or what we are not doing.

Being busy is good if it matters to you.

Stop using the B word. Being busy is no career or life strategy. And start thinking about how you will take control of your busyness. 

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it. Seneca (circa 50AD)

Get busy being you. 

Thanks for reading. John 


When is your next Graduation?

Tis the season of graduations and the festivities marking the completion of specific educational milestones. Been to a few more "commencements" over the last week. For the young people in our lives, graduation from a specific grade/level in school is important and momentous. We are proud of them and their achievements. We want to inspire them to continue on their path of education and career. So far, I have attended more than 50 graduations and have heard the best and worst of the speeches. Lots of trite and hackneyed phrases are used at these moments. Talk of dreams, potential, challenges, opportunities. "You can be whatever you want to be." Or multiple YOLO (You only live once) references. As  a speaker and an attendee, no one really listens to these well crafted words of inspiration at the end of a course of study. By the way, they don't listen at the beginning during convocations either!

Graduate: To change gradually or by degrees.

I would add "To change gradually and constantly". Degrees

As someone with multiple degrees, changing and adapting matter more than the diplomas. Never one to argue against completing formal education or graduate education. They add value, but frankly are of of no value if you stop learning and educating yourself.

"But John, I am always learning new things!"

Not talking about the latest youtube you saw or the insightful article you read.  Talking about diving into topics and subjects you dream about that are outside of your work, your "major". You have to keep up with your job, that's your job! I am talking about your education as a human being and a citizen of the world. The education that is going to complete the unique you.

Some of us think about graduation as a nostalgic concept of our youth. A nice memory when we turned a tassel marking our "commencement" into a new phase. Graduation is a good memory that resides in our past. It may trigger thoughts of what could have been and even some regrets. But I submit to you, we graduate every year of our lives. If we are 25 or 65, we continue to grow and advance. Our days are no longer marked by bells or class schedules, but by milestones and lessons. The university of life is so much tougher. The finals are really final! And everything is an elective! And for many it is is a DIY endeavor that can be lonely and challenging. To be successful we have to be our own post-college counselor. 

But the beauty of a graduation event is it makes you take stock of the effort, contemplate the future, appreciate the opportunity, and fear the challenges. After our formal "education" we rarely do that, except at funerals. :)

Maybe you will listen now at the mid point of your 2012 "curriculum". How are you doing on your plans and goals for 2012? We are half way through this calendar year. Course corrections? Recalibrate? Reset? How would you grade yourself? Passing? Failing?

Reminds me of the story of the guy who has swum half way across a lake and is too tired to finish so he swims back to the starting point? Huh?  Maybe you have not made enough progress with your goals or maybe you have not started them. Don't fall into the trap of waiting until next year to start again. Start again now. Keep swimming. You may have set a goal of 12 months to finish. Just finish. Keep going. Ignore all of the distractions and excuses to stop trying. By the way, the  forces of resistance will never give up. So you have to be stronger and remind yourself of the benefits of your goal. 

How do we renew our pursuit of knowledge and experience? How do we overcome the feelings of fatigue and even disillusionment about our choices? 

Isolation is your problem not your lousy attitude. Barbara Sher

To renew you have to reconnect. To renew you have to re-enroll. Your ideas need to be shared. Your passions need focus. Your challenges need feedback. Your goals need to be challenged. Your weaknesses need support.

Nip the blossoming of your regrets in the bud. 

We gain energy, inspiration, and clarity by engaging our network of family and friends. Ask for help and advice.

Ask someone to "coach" you by holding you accountable for your new mid-point goal(s). Tell a trusted colleague your goal--why it is important to you and exactly what you want to achieve. Then ask them to check in with you periodically and push you to make progress towards this goal. To support you in achieving this goal. We do not do this enough. We try to do it ourselves.

You never finish your education. You finish steps. You gain perspective. You gain confidence. But it does not stop. And you do not have to do it alone. 

Today starts a new semester of study. What classes are you taking? And who are your professors? What do you want to learn? Life is an endless series of degree programs and commencements. When is your next graduation? Re-enroll today!

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Habit of Commencements and Graduations

Tis the season where perfectly reasonable people put on gowns, funny hats with tassels and sit through processionals and listen to great attempts at inspiration. Yes, it's graduation season! You know that special time when we congratulate loved ones and friends for enduring blood, sweat, tears and financial debt to complete a degree. We witness the "commencement"-- the beginning of a new chapter where greater opportunity awaits. All of us know someone who is graduating from some school at some level. They may the first in their families to.......There are so many great stories of triumph, overcoming obstacles, and sheer determination that reinforce the value of education. Its a wonderful moment! The value of education, especially higher education or post secondary education comes to light. The research is conclusive that education can be the great equalizer and the ticket to the American Dream.Grad2

The ritual of graduations give meaning and importance to a specific milestone in our lives--the completion of a formal portion of our education. Celebration and congratulatory words and gifts are exchanged. The future seems brighter and yet daunting. Armed with a new sheepskin, some great courses, and experiences, the new grads have more confidence and a renewed sense of purpose. There is pomp, circumstance, and reason for celebration. (although I am not a fan of this "gap" year to "find oneself" or to "rest" after their educational "hardship" and tribulations. The whole idea of education is the opportunity to think--something few of us get to do in the "real world"!!)

It is just so weird how we stop our process of marking and celebrating our educational milestones once we have stopped our formal education. Some of you are still contemplating a run at graduate school. Well if you are in your 30s, chances are slim to none that you will. However, after we graduate from school and have our degrees, we abandon "graduations" and "commencements" for ourselves. Education becomes something we chase in the corridors of our busy lives--it's called keeping up! We might take an occasional class or read a book. We see a youtube or a Tedtalk and feel invigorated. If we are fortunate, these are moments of enlightenment and/or inspiration but usually not education.

Our thirst for learning is unquenchable. Yet, our forays to the pool of knowledge are intermittent and brief. We become complacent. We learn everyday how much we don't know and the obsolescence of our education becomes more apparent.

I may have been to 50 commencement ceremonies so far. Most of them I have been sitting on the stage in my silly mortar board listening to the speaker and watching the audience. A couple of times I have had the opportunity to address the graduates. Once I was asked to discuss "The relevance of a PhD" to 800 new doctoral grads, but that is a different story. A friend of mine is preparing a commencement address and asked my advice. I told her that the message is "You are not done". May sound trite, but education is a process that never ends.

I truly believe you have to treat every chapter of your life as a graduate degree. I often say as an MBA, because of the popularity of the degree. Every job, promotion, new opportunity is a chance to choose "courses", "professors", and "majors". Take 2,3,4 years to earn your next "degree". Use your time at work and while you are awake to focus your post-college educational journey. Its a mindset. Otherwise time marches on, and while we feel like we are learning everyday, we have nothing to show for it. We stay at a company for 6 years, the equivalent of 2-3 graduate degrees, and our resume looks hauntingly the same! The question is always, "What will you learn from whom and by when?"

I know I have stumped more than a few of you, so let me give you five ways to do this.

  1. Your employer as teacher--Fully utilize your employer's support for professional development, tuition reimbursement, conferences, and classes. Even if they do not have a policy, ask your boss about specific relevant opportunities and get her support.
  2. Volunteer work--Most of you give your time to important charities and causes. Be more focused on how to intertwine your educational goals with your generosity. If you want to learn more about say marketing, then volunteer to be on the marketing committee. People don't volunteer for the committees and if you show up twice you will be the vice-chair! Then you are vice chair learning about marketing for your favorite charity and your resume just evolved!
  3. Start-up something--One of the great advantages of being part of a start-up organization is you can do everything and anything. Job titles are irrelevant. There are enormous opportunities to take on functions and areas of responsibility. You have to learn and educate yourself because the team is limited and small. By the way, same goes for most non-profits as well.
  4. Josh Kaufman's Personal MBA--I really like what Josh is doing. His idea is you don't have to enroll in a formal program, take out huge loans, and make the sacrifice of trying to justify the cost benefit of interrupting your career to retool. Check out his blog and his bestselling book. There are many alternatives to a degree.
  5. Find mentors in specific subjects--You want to advance your understanding of an area of interest, a function or methodology. Find experts who will spend time in their "office hours" to coach you and answer your questions.

More than a couple of times in my career I realized I was stagnating. That I was shielded from learning new things by my routines and habits. That I could just go through the motions and be successful. These were the signs that I had to take action to alter and augment my experience. I usually ended up pursuing a new "degree".

Little will happen without purpose and intention. What do you want? Where are you going? What "degree" will you earn in the next 3-4 years? Set commencement and graduation dates.

Once you do, your network and mentors have to be evaluated for their ability to help you. You reconnect with people with a new perspective. You help people around you continue their educations, because the best way to learn is to teach!

 Happy graduation!

Thanks for reading. John