commonalities

NetworkSharing

Lot of discussion about how to meet people and the way you say hello. Yes all of the technique driven first impression stuff matters but where are you networking? All of us need practice at just getting out there more and introducing ourselves, talking less and listening more. Having more concise answers and pithy questions at the ready. But what if your ladder is leaning on the wrong wall, you are fishing in unlucky waters, or you are mingling where there are no movers or shakers. 

Weak ties

Here's the deal: Get out of your bubblicious world of contacts that are connected to what you already know. You have to get out of the strong tie interchange of comfortable social and professional networks and branch out to the weak tie world of new opportunities.  Note: See Granovetter research and my related post

Sure you can look at the job postings or respond to different parts of your Facebook feed, but you will be caught in your own gravitational orbit of familiarity.

We are all sitting on enormous networks we will never use or ever fully appreciate. Like all abundant resources we need to explore them and share them! It is crazy how much influence and power we are connected to. What if we opened up these contacts to others? Help others connect and then get connected. First rule of networking is always give first--to share.

Want a new job, meet new people? Get connected to the people you know and the people they know. On Linkedin it would be your 2nd and 3rd tier connections. Based on interests you get introduced to these connected worlds to learn about work, associations, hobbies, causes... You have a cup of coffee, join an online forum, attend an event through a weak tie connection. For example, you have a family member who is battling a disease, you want to learn about opera, you'd like to more involved with your identity (ethnic, gender, LBGT etc), you want to learn about self-driving cars. Personal stuff, random stuff that you are interested in. Ideally something you have promised yourself that you would pursue someday. Because fulfilling a little promise to yourself feels good! Or helping someone else connect feels great!

You start asking around who is connected with the Alzheimers Association, the Asian American Lawyers, Uber/Google/Tesla. You look deeper into your Linkedin account for such connections. You ask someone you know to share their contact or connection and be introduced and whamo you are off to the races. You have just traversed the weak tie superhighway to something new that you are interested in. The shared network handshake!

And your real handshake and your eye contact also need to be coordinated. Yes, your resume should be updated too. 

But more important you need your list of interests!! What's on your list? Note: When is the last time you SWiVELed? Download SWIVEL_new_2017

So the key to networking is who you are networking with--it's the network, stupid! 

Perhaps you will really learn about your interest and pursue more ways to get engaged with this interest and meet others who share this interest. But it is equally as likely that you may will be introduced to a new world of opportunities you never knew existed. Every new person will reveal something new, if you allow it. I did not say something amazing that rocks your world I said "new".  We need new perspectives on career, happiness, balance, meaning, and fulfillment. We need all the help we can get. This is where the listening and open mind parts are so vital. 

Meeting new people on the common ground of interest is interesting. It is not the bobbing and weaving to gain attention or be clever in the semi-dishonest dance of a cocktail reception. It is the sharing of curiosity and knowledge, and maybe even passion. 

And you know when you are asked to talk about something that you care about--you like it. Not a burden or a favor. It is always nice and even fun to meet people with common interests and share. 

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. Zig Ziglar

This type of networking opens your eyes and if you let it, your heart--to new people and ideas. 

I have a personal goal to do this once a week! Not unusual for me to do it twice a week. To have the joy of meeting new people with shared interests through referrals or to agree to make the connections for others. It has become a lifestyle of sharing connections. It is also how I rode the Goodyear Blimp, traveled to Cuba, played golf at St Andrews, got job offers, and moved into our current house--but those are stories for another time. 

Evaluate your network start  linking to the other worlds you don't know and sharing with new people you will get to know!

Thanks for reading. John


The Strongest Weak Tie: Cousins

Just got back from a reunion of our extended family. I do mean extended! It was extraordinary to dive into the gene pool forawhile and explore my roots and my wings. Energized by my younger cousins who represent the Yonseis--4th generation Japanese-Americans a rainbow coalition of beautiful multi-racial and multi-ethnic backgrounds. This weekend I met a national surfing champion, a violinist who played at Carnegie Hall, an actress--and these were among my cousins under 19! Amazing who you are related to and don't know.

We all have cousins. From real cousins to people you are somehow related to (e.g. people married to your cousins, all the way to strangers you refer to as "cousins". In fact we are all cousins in one way or another. Read that Prince William and Kate are 12th cousins (once removed) and Brad Pitt and President Obama are 9th cousins. The further we go back our family lines converge and we are all related. But I digress. 

When we think of our networks, we usually think about the inner circle of our close friends, relatives and confidantes. Mark Granovetter referred to these as our  Strong Ties. In general, we take care of our strong ties. The challenge with strong ties is they usually are not that diverse. We tend to hang around and seek the time and attention of people like us, religiously, politically, and financially.  Therefore a network composed just of your strong ties is limiting. You need people in your network that will transport you out of the box of your limitations to introduce you to new networks. You need a diverse network of opinions, viewpoints and connections. Granvetter called these your Weak Ties

Weak ties multiple groups
Sample Network

Granovetter defined ties: a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.

He concluded that some of the the most important ties are the ones which "bridge" you to new connections, new networks, and new opportunities. His research showed that "no strong tie is a bridge." That weak ties are much better bridges.

One of my mantras is: It is amazing who you know who you don't know.

Great and beneficial networking focuses on your existing network before new connections. The key is reconnecting and deepening your relationship with people you know, especially weak ties--like your cousins--to expand your network.

You want your network to grow, but organically and warmly. Your existing network is a catalogue of warm calls, much different than the icy world of strangers that you don't know. 

Second mantra: Being introduced is the most powerful form of networking.

The most potent network development comes from your existing contact list. Meeting new people through others. 

Get over the "embarrassment" of the time lapse between contacts. Stop letting your benevolent disregard for them stop you from reaching out and re-kindling a good conversation. This is why some gravitate to the casino of meeting new people, rather than than apologizing to an old friend and starting anew. Can you hear the crazy that screams out of this convoluted logic?

Yeah, but we are all guilty of this. It took a reunion for me to reconnect with my cousins.

Focus on making your weak ties stronger and then seek the diversity of other people's networks. 

It is one thing to say you are open to new things and new opportunities. That you believe in serendipity. Everyone does. But it is a giant leap to actively cultivate weak ties, like your cousins, to truly encounter the serendipitous. 

Sometimes you meet  people that appear in your life. I know you are lucky but not that lucky---you are not the magnetic center of the universe. You must make your magnets, your luck, and the effort to make new connections.

Call or e-mail a cousin today. Listen to them. Tell your story. Help each other. The world will become smaller, warmer and bit more interesting. It has for me.

Thanks for reading.  Your cousin John  ;)

 


Help Other People Get What They Want

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.  Zig Ziglar

(If you don't know who Zig is, research him, read him, listen to him. We lost him late last year. He was one of the greatest motivational speakers ever.) Zig

People who don't understand this quote do not understand the true power of their lives--they do not understand the power of a networking lifestyle. I have met thousands of people who think networking is a process of take and give. For these people they loathe networking because it feels so disingenuous. But Zig has captured it perfectly in his quote. You help other people get what they want first and you get everything. Skeptical?

Networking is always about giving without an expectation.

It's not about you, it is about WE. 

It is turning off the most popular radio station in the world WII-FM. What's In It For Me. When that station dominates the thinking process you will never get what you want or you will settle for short term gains that are neither sustainable or rewarding.

We want the same things. We want a sense of purpose. We want health and well-being. We want happiness and fulfilment. We want meaningful relationships. And we want to be financially comfortable. 

When we see our selves as helping others, we achieve all of these things. We see our connection to one another. We see that our destinies are tied together. That our purpose, our health, well-being, our relationships and ultimately our financial success is linked. Sure if you just want money this is the worst strategy. Focusing on money first inevitably means that some or all of the other things you want will suffer. 

Yes, you should be compassionate to others who have less and you should give generously of your time and resources to others in need. But I am talking about your network. So besides responding to requests for help affirmatively, what do you do to help others--people in your network.

Here are fundamental ways you can help others in your network. Four proactive ways that strengthen your connections. These are habits that the best networkers practice.

  1. Refer: Send information about potential clients, partners, vendors to your network. Refer people directly to them. Connecting people that can help one another. Everyone is grateful for a warm reference for a service provider. Be the Yelp for your friend network.
  2. Share: Send your network articles, research, and books that you think will advance their thinking for their businesses, careers, and avocations. Amazon loves me. I send out a couple books a week. Few things can link people like a book that can be shared. 
  3. Compliment/Congratulate: Send notes, posts, and tributes to people for no specific reason except that you were thinking about them. This is more random than birthdays, Xmas and new jobs. Send them a note about good things you have heard or how you refer to them to others. I make dozens of donations every year "in honor of the leadership and commitment of ______"--I send it to the favorite charity of people in my network. People are hungry for compliments, especially from a friend or someone they respect. I was asked in an icebreaker once "who my hero was". I did not hesitate I said the principal at my kids' school. She was a force for good. I later told her what I said. This was twenty years ago. I recently saw her by chance and the first thing she said to me was how much that story meant to her.
  4. Introduce: One of the most powerful things you can do is introduce people to one another. Not a romantic matchmaker but a connector of human spirits that could help one another. Different than referrals, this is the active process of linking people in your network to one another. One of our roles as networkers is to make the world smaller. So introduce people at receptions, at meetings, and online. Be a connector. 

If you go out looking for friends, you're going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere. Zig Ziglar

Like everything, your perspective matters most. If you see making friends as a hassle and time consuming and distracting from your real goals, then you will not have complete success. If you see the world as a bunch of potential friends and connections, then you will meet many people and your life will be richer. And when you help those people proactively, then your life will reward you in all the ways you want. 

Choose the lifestyle of networking and helping others and you will get everything you want.

Thanks for reading. John


The Asian Crossover and Our Common Destiny

In May 0f 1992, Congress declared May as Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. It was an extension of their resolution to establish APA Heritage Week 14 years before. It is a special time to raise awareness about the APA communities' history and culture. It is also a time to re-ignite pride within the communities by celebrating the many achievements and galvanizing the APA community around issues, causes and challenges within our communities. While there are many good things about APA Heritage Month, I honestly have mixed feelings about a month set aside to focus on a specific ethnic group. For me every month is APA month! When you are an APA you confront the challenges of mis-information, ignorance and just sheer discrimination all of the time.

I am an Asian Crossover. No I am not talking about a new car that is part SUV and part sports coupe. Nor I am alluding to Jeremy Lin's sweet ankle breaking dribble move. I have been an APA who has worked in "mainstream" places and organizations for my whole career. I have been many times in my professional and personal career, the "first APA to lead/head" and organization, the "first APA" on a board or the "highest ranking APA" in very large organizations and industries. No brag here just fact---plus I am pretty old :) It actually is more a source of embarrassment to me that we have to use these labels even in 2012! Sadly we do, because we still have a long ways to go. My point is that I decided early on that I had an obligation, nee, a duty to help everyone, especially my "round eye" colleagues to be more sensitized to APA issues. I have also helped those organizations and industries engage more APA talent and customers. In general, you become the local Google search engine for APA questions and referrals. It is really tough representing millions of APAs and billions of Asians! :) Banana

But being an Asian Crossover has its price and costs. Some in the APA community consider you a "sell-out" or even a banana----yellow on the outside and white on the inside. (Asians are really good at copying others---clearly inspired by the Oreo designation in the African American community) I have been called a sell-out several times. But I knew who I was and who I was trying to become.

Being an Asian Crossover is a role that I do not shy away from. I decided I would bite my tongue and help as many others understand me and other APA communities no matter what was said or happened. I chose to become a bridge of understanding, with a specific focus on non-Asians. I always wanted to share what I have learned with the APA community--push APA talent to rise. But I learned there also needs to be a pulling force from the top of organizations, which is overwhelmingly non-Asian. Being a crossover means you have to do the pushing and the pulling.

This mindset enabled me enter new worlds with a purpose. To be very comfortable being the only person of color and usually the only Asian in the room. 25 years ago I was asked by KPCC, the NPR affiliate here in LA, to do an "Asian" show. KPCC was very interested in reaching the burgeoning Asian population in southern California, especially in the San Gabriel Valley. I told them that the only way they would reach these new Asians was by doing Asian language programming, starting with Mandarin. A couple years before I played a small part in launching the Jade Channel, a new cable tv channel with an array of Mandarin programming. I had a series of awkward conversations with the KPCC execs, about the challenges these new immigrants were having to assimilate and the high levels of discrimination they were already facing. Finally I told them I would do an "Asian" show focused on raising the awareness of non-Asians. I told them I would call it Asian Understanding. They were so pleased because they got their "Asian show". So for 10 years and 455 live shows I designed Asian Understanding as a crossover talk show, building bridges to the new and venerable APA communities through the arts, news, and personalities.

How do you take the bananas you are given and make a great banana milkshake? :)

Last Friday I was honored to be the keynote speaker at Southern California Edison's APA Heritage luncheon. All SCE's execs were in attendance, as well as SCE's APA partners, a smattering of SCE employees. It was a very formal and elegant luncheon filled with music, inspirational awards, and of course wonderful food. My speech themes followed my path as an Asian Crossover. To build bridges of understanding. To connect APAs with other communities. To strengthen our connection to our common destiny.

Here is an excerpt from my speech: Download SCE APA Heritage Final 5.4.12:

The greatest limitation to our advancement is our own imagination, our own concept of ourselves. We impose many constraints on ourselves. Yes there is discrimination, prejudice, racism and stereotyping. Sad to say these are omni present forces that can hold us back. But we must rise above these enemies of our growth and ambitions by becoming stronger. We have to grow to be more visible, more assertive, and better leaders. We cannot wait to be recognized, to be invited, we must seize our opportunities.

This is our time. Right now. To remember our ancestors to appreciate our opportunities. But what will we do to honor them?

It's not about me it is about we—our destinies are tied to one another

We have to live a life of passion and compassion.

We have lead by example and live our legacy.

We are many but are we much? We have much for which to be grateful. But what will we do to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. What will each of us do to make sure our kids understand the roots of their past and give them the wings to their future?

Each of us can crossover to other communities to build bridges between and amongst our communities of interest. And to discover new communities, new people, and new things along the way. This is the lifestyle of networking and mentoring. To connect to your own identities and to connect with others.

So I mark this 20th anniversary of APA Heritage Month, inspired by what has come before us and challenged by the road ahead. Any chance to remind myself of who I am and what I stand for is a great month. But next month and the month after are just as important times to use our uniqueness to connect our commonalities to strengthen our communities.

Thanks for reading. John


Innocence of the Bystander

Witnesses to tragedies, crimes, and unethical behavior are never innocent. They are changed by what they see even if they avert their eyes, minds, and consciences. Seeing and hearing bad things alters you, especially if you don't do something to stop, mitigate or report the event or behavior. Each time we "allow" something to pass as acceptable when we are offended, makes us a little more tolerant of such things. Over time a little callous can start to build up on our heart and our moral compass and we let more things pass without intervention. Initially we ask ourselves, "Should I have done something?"  or "What else could I have done?" Later, we can rationalize, "Maybe its me." "I don't want to be the only one who complains." Innocent bystander


Psychologists have tried to explain this phenomena:

1. The diffusion of responsibility: a bystander assumes that someone else has or will take action.
2. Pluralistic Ignorance: an individual looks around the group and because no one is doing anything to help, they assume that no one else perceives there to be an issue

In other words, "someone ELSE will or should do something."

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."  Mother Teresa

The Penn State allegations remind us all about our duties as a bystander. No one has been found guilty but heads are rolling. People allegedly saw horrific things and nothing was done. Children may have been seriously harmed. (the average pedophile molests 100-200 children, so the 8 victims may be the tip of the iceberg) An entire community will suffer and a university will be tarnished for years because of the inaction of a few. All in the name of football. Schoolroom teachers and medical personnel are obligated to report abuse if the suspect it. Military academies and other educational institutions uphold a code of ethics where if you witness cheating, you are a cheater--unless you come forward. We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. And not coming forward can be grounds for dismissal. But coaches, executives, priests, and others can view themselves as above the law.

Selfishness and self preservation prevent us from taking chances, from making changes, and from ruffling feathers/rocking the boat. When we place ourselves above the welfare of others, that's when the conflict occurs. It is a survival instinct. However, when that instinct interferes with the rationalization of crimes, especially crimes that physically harm others--children--all innocence is lost!

What would it take for you to step in and get involved? What level of harm, potential harm, suspected harm will make you act?

Tattle tales, snitches, stool pigeons have always been vilified. Upholding the honor amongst thieves seems to be a powerful moral prophylactic. But this is not about just whistle blowing, this about how we act upon our human instinct to assist an other.

As Americans we think that we are the most generous people on earth. We are quick to judge other cultures, China most recently, who appear less sensitive or even do things we find violating our sense of decency. Regrettably, we Americans do not have a corner on the market of "Thy Neighbor's Keeper." While we invented Neighborhood Watch, the Welcome Wagon and even foundation philanthropy, Penn State is an example that we are not always responsive or respectful of the needs of others.

I love these Liberty Mutual ads. The idea that we should help strangers. That helping others is contagious and sets off a chain reaction of good deeds. One thing is certain, when you see good being done it creates a model of behavior. Everyone wants to help others. Seeing is believing. That is the power of role modeling and mentoring.

After the children who may have been injured, the assasination of the moral example and leadership of Penn State coaches and executives may be the second biggest victim on the Happy Valley campus. When leaders and mentors fall from grace, who or what fills that void? Communities of all sizes and shapes thrive when they have mentors and role models. In Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, he discusses the studies that have shown that a community stabilizes when it has 5% of its population as role models. Just 5%. The point is, you don't need nor will you ever have everyone as role models. But without them the community de-stabilizes and deteriorates. What happens when some of our top role models fall from grace? Will this void increase or decrease people's desire to help one another and get involved to right wrongs?  

Everyday we are bystanders to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our innocence will be determined by what we do and how we role model the treatment of others by standing up for what is right and just.

Thanks for reading. John


The Small World of Trash Talking

Thanks for sharing your small world stories. All of us are witnessing how we are interconnected to one another. Basically, if we make the effort then we will discover  connections that we share with people we just met or people we get to know better.

If you play basketball or any competitive sport, then you are familiar with "trash talking." It is the banter that happens during the competition to unnerve your opponent. It runs the gamut from irritating to plain rude to profane. The classic is uttered right when you are going to shoot the ball, your defender yells and taunts you, "WHAT YOU GOT?! "YOU GOT NOTHING!" I have played basketball off and on for 40 years. I have stories of great shots, broken noses, and memorable verbal exchanges--some of them just too obscene to print here!Kobe_kg_trash_talk-150x150

One early morning I was going to my regular pick up game at UCLA's venerable Men's Gym upstairs courts upstairs. Bunch of has beens, athletic department weekend warriors, a few coaches, and an occasional former player would join us. Ususally we would start with the first 8-10 guys who showed up, pick teams and start playing. It was a civil game that could get physical with plenty of verbal exchanges. One morning seven of us we were warming up shooting and stretching waiting for the next player to start our game. There was this young Latino kid shooting across the way, struggling to dribble and shoot. He was using a rubber ball that had Union 76 emblazoned on it. He was not a serious player nor familiar to us so we ignored him. A few minutes passed and we were still looking for the eighth fman so we could go full court instead of 3 on 3 half court. One of my court colleagues, a feisty and chatty African American Muslim named Mandala, pokes me on the shoulder and sticks his face into mine and mockingly says, "Hey why don't you ask your Cuz'n to play!" as he points to the rubber ball boy across the gym. "Then we will have 8! Yeah ask your Cuz'n!" Several others laughed and looked at me for a response. "That's not my cousin, I don't know him", I meekly replied. A bunch of them pointed at the young Latino brother in the other corner who had missed several layups in a row. So I called over to him and asked if he wanted to join us. He nodded and clumsily bounced his promotional excuse for a basketball toward us but we had enough for a game. Basketball%2076%20ball%20large  

I introduced myself to the newcomer, his name was David, but he pronounced it Daveed with what appeared to be a Mexican accent. We started playing and Mandala on more than one occasion said,"How's your Cuz'n?!!" David started to get his game together and was a bit better than any of us expected. 10 minutes into the game David tripped and twisted his ankle and had to sit out. I asked if he was okay but he said he was done for the day and would watch. A few were waiting for the next game by now and we continued on. David watched on the sidelines until the very end. I walked by David to pick up my towel and sweatshirt. David stood up and limped over to me and said, "You don't remember me, do you?" I hate that question because it puts me in a defensive position. "Do I know you?" David nodded and said we met at our family reunion 8 years earlier! Then my mind was awash with memories of the 80 family members and their children who had gathered for the first time in Santa Cruz. I did remember a David Baldonado and his little brother and sisters. One of my cousins through marriage married a Latino man and I noticed these beautiful mixed Japanese Mexican youths--one of whom was apprarently David when he was 13.

I shook David's hand, we embraced and we promised to get together.

I went into the lockerroom and my head was swirling with this odd moment of reconnecting with a distant relative like this.

Then I spotted Mandala and I said, "Hey, he is my cousin!" Mandala yelled back, "I told you! I WAS TRYING TO TELL YOU HE WAS YOUR CUZ"N!" We laughed. Mandala knew all along David was my real cousin.

You just never know when you might run into a cousin. Or when trash talk really is a serious conversation. :) The world is tiny and getting smaller. No matter if you believe we started in the Garden of Eden or evolved from a place in Africa. We are all related. We are all "cousins". (geneticists believe we are least 50th cousins) Even my trash talking friend Mandala and I are cousins. :) If you add that we are 3-6 degrees apart, the world is not only small it is US. What would the world be like if we all started as "cousins" and learned about our commonalities and our connections? That is the power of WE.

Thanks for reading. John

 


The world shrinks if you don't

How many meetings do you attend and later think about the question you did not ask? Do you attend events or social outings where you avoided meeting people who you share a warm and common connection? When is the last time you reached out to "friends",  acquaintances, or your boss's boss without a request or an agenda?

We are all so busy. Sometimes inattentive to the people and opportunities around us. Each of us experiences these small world moments. Moments when we discover a connection between people we meet that surprises us. These moments arise when we pay attention, when we listen, and when we get to know each other beyond our superficial and often selfish interests.

 So are these moments luck or fate?Small world

Neither. We are connected to each other in ways that we will never know without making an effort to have a conversation that wanders, explores and learns about one another.

You probably have heard of Moore's Law--which essentially states that computing power/speed doubles every 2 years. This has been true for more than 46 years since Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, made this prediction in 1965.

I believe that our interconnectedness, our degrees of separation, or the smallness of the world, if you will, is also increasing at exponential rates. Much has been studied and written about our connections. In the late 60's Stanley Milgram conducted legendary experiments that remain the foundation of the theory of six degrees of separation--the idea that every person on the planet is no more than 6 people apart. Other research from the 70's, showed that Americans were 3 degrees apart. This was all before the internet, email, cell phones and of course social networks. We are so much more connected. I think in the last 5 years, we have doubled our interconnectedness. So what does that make people in the US--1.5 degrees of separation?!! So the world IS getting smaller.

One of the things I like about Linked-in is the way that you see how you are connected to people, the levels of the connections and the proximity of the relationship. It facilitates ways to check up on people and to request introductions. You can quickly see the people who are well connected and those who are not. Of course sheer numbers do not tell the complete story, as much as the quality of the people in it.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his seminal book, The Tipping Point about the Law of the Few. That a small group of people are better Connectors who have a much stronger ability to develop and maintain relationships. The Connectors are network hubs and can accelerate connections.

How many Connectors do you know?

Every time I make the extra effort, it always pays off. One of the most amusing moments happened a couple of weeks ago. I was at a large meeting of my national foundation colleagues and I took note of several I wanted to meet to compare notes. I saw an open seat next to one of them at dinner and introduced myself. His name was Sean from Chicago and about 25 years my junior. So there were no apparent connections. I resisted talking too much or grilling him like an aspiring 60 Minutes reporter. Instead I asked, "What are you working on now?" He launched into an energetic and engaging description of his work on a new strategic plan. That's when we had our "small world" moment. He mentioned one of my closest friends Nat Irvin, who lives in Louisville Kentucky, as a great source of "out-of-the box" ideas. My eyes opened up wide and I realized that Nat's assistant emailed the day before to introduce me to Sean. I agreed to be connected to Sean. Early this morning I received an e-mail from my dinner mate to schedule a long distant conference call. Clearly, he had not put 2 and 2 together either! I looked at him with a smile, "You e-mailed me this morning!" He looked at me with real surprise and he blurted out, "Who are you?!!" It was so funny. Nat referred him to me to also assist with his strategic planning. That morning we were planning an inconvenient telephone call, and now we were having a robust face to face meeting. Now thats a small world.

As I have said, you don't know who you are sitting next to.

We all have these stories. I am telling you they are not luck or coincidence. The world is small and shrinking. The world will remain a daunting, vast and mysterious place, unless we look for, listen for, and reveal the amazing connections we share.

Thanks for reading. John


Meetings that network

Like all of you, I attend a lot of meetings! Meeting are a necessary evil in our lives. We have to get together to discuss, brainstorm, report, decide, and to share. But do they have to be "evil"? No one starts, leads or participates in a meeting with the intent of wasting time, but more often than not it happens.

A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. -Captain James T Kirk

I have been in, led, and endured thousands of meetings. I am guilty as anyone on not doing my part to make that experience more meaningful. I can not go into all the ways that an effective meeting should be run or organized. Most often the number one benefit of a successful meeting is the networking. I want to focus on this networking and relationship opportunity we can miss when we meet.Nice meet you

Just in the last week I attended face to face (F2F) meetings, an online/teleconference meeting, and a purely telephonic meeting. Not referring to regular check-in meetings that by their nature must be highly transactional, but periodic gatherings to get ideas and push an agenda.

I traveled 14 hours roundtrip and stayed overnight for 7.5 hours of meeting. So basically 3 hours of travel to 1 hour of meeting. So you would expect the payoff to be great. Let me be clear, the value of F2F is immeasurable in establishing and nurturing trust. Online and virtual relationships and work are definitely enhanced when anchored to good F2F time. I also attended a kick-off meeting for an event and both a quarterly and a semi-annual board meeting. As I said I attend a lot of meetings. In all three of these meetings people traveled great distances and took out time from their busy lives as volunteers. It's a very different story if one is being paid for their time.

The single biggest benefit of bringing people together is strengthening the network. Strengthening the sense of commonality, community and camaraderie. We all know once these virtues are emboldened then cooperation and productivity go up. We all know that we need to do "the work" but we want to gain perspective and learn a few things too. We constantly yearn for new intellectual connections that help us think about what we do and why.

In my humble opinion, I think meetings that network need to have these basic components:

  1. Introductions--More than the business card and name rank and serial number. A little something that gives insight and background that would help the members connect. Ice breakers for even the long serving of groups can reveal new connections. Amazing who you know who you don't know.
  2. Connections--Time for people to informally talk without the gavel and the chair. Over meals, or in an activity--time for the most powerful networking.
  3. Perspectives--Brief report outs from every member on the the best and worst things about their professional and personal worlds. This is a timed and well moderated session.
  4. Reflection--A very brief wrap-up session (30-60 seconds each)that allows for quick observations from every member about the quality of the meeting and insights gained.

So let me rate 2 of the meetings I attended based upon the quality of the networking.

Meeting A was a full day of discussions and actions. It was a day filled with great conversation and decisions. An "effective" meeting that did little for networking.

  • No ice breaker or intro exercise
  • No sharing of perspectives
  • Good informal networking time with a small group break out activity
  • No reflection at all

1 networking point---Weak networking meeting

While people appreciate the efficiency and effectiveness of this meeting, they wanted a bit more humanity and connection without wasting time. A tall order, but one that has to be at least sought.

Meeting B was another full day that may have been even more successful and effective than Meeting A. I would say that this was due to the investment into and integration of the networking.

  • Ice breaker that revealed surprising commonalities and differences
  • No sharing of perspectives
  • Good informal networking over meals that were not programmed
  • Reflection time which provided ideas and momentum for the future

 3 networking points---Strong networking meeting

If we meet then lets network.

In designing, chairing and participating in meetings think about the value of networking. Making connections advances "the work", gives us valuable insights, and justifies our extraordinary investment of time.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking is an Existing Contact Sport and not a Game

While this title may lead some to think otherwise, networking is NOT a game. It is not a technique that should be revved up out of sheer need and change. It is a lifestyle of connecting, helping others, and yourself that never ends. As defined in this blog, networking is a process of building trusting relationships that are mutually beneficial. It is a intentional system that fosters a sense of community and sharing between and amongst colleagues, family members, neighbors and friends. Therefore, by definition, it can not be done alone. Networks are composed of people you know and care about. And focuses on your existing network--the amazing people you know but really don't know. While being in charge of your career and life can be a lonely job, your network should be your source of support, guidance, inspiration, and connections that help you advance your life and career. It is not about just meeting new people and adding names to your FB friend list. Networking is about relationships that help one another and should start with giving without an expectation.Contact sports

---I am reiterating this definition because I realized some of my newer readers have not heard me speak or read my earlier posts.---

People confess that the hardest part of networking is the meeting people part. However, what I am emphasizing here is for people to reach out to people they know, to reconnect with people that may not currently be part their active network. This is so much easier than approaching strangers at a cocktail party and frankly less risky. But why should I reconnect with people I know? What value does that have for me? I need new people and energy.

By reconnecting with people you like and trust, you start from a common basis for sharing and caring. You will be able to talk about things that matter in frank terms and consider ways of helping one another faster. I guarantee you that these people have influence and connections you never considered or under-estimated. And by the way they have networks!

We all know, worked with, went to school with: people who we have not been able to keep in touch with. These are great people we liked and even admired, but the busyness of life have pulled you apart. You may even have a twinge of guilt about not staying connected with them. :) These include relatives!

In addition, there are people you know now and like, who you have not made time for. You'd love to know them and their families better. You say to yourself, "I wish I could spend more time with this person/people."

Again, questions emerge in your brain. But why John will these connections help me with my immediate goal/challenge/need? I don't have time to reconnect or connect with these people I know. (Are you listening to yourself?) The greatest regret, bar none, is the regret that comes from these lost moments of connection and relationships abandoned.

Here's an excerpt from a young man who heard me speak a few weeks ago:

".... you talked about not underestimating our peers in terms of networking and building relationships. Ironically, the previous week I ran into an old acquaintance I had not seen since 2006. We caught each others eye at the elevators and instead of passing him by, like I normally would have, we stopped to chat. It's not that I don't enjoy being social, but I have 3 part-time jobs, and am generally too exhausted to hang around any longer than necessary. But I stopped this time. We chatted and set up a lunch date for the day that you came to speak. I was planning on canceling the lunch. Why did I need to talk to him anyway? He's just an old friend who isn't in my field. It's not like he's going to give me a job. Well, needless to say, your message hit me hard and I had lunch with him after all. We had a great time and reconnecting with him will be socially and professionally beneficial to both of us, even if the dividends don't pay off immediately. Thanks for urging me to follow through with that." At the elevator

Go back to the first paragraph and remember,

" Networks are composed of people you know and care about. And focuses on your exisiting network--the amazing people you know but don't know. While being in charge of your career and life can be a lonely job, your network should be your source of support, guidance, inspiration, and connections that help you advance your life and career."

The only way your network grows and evolves is by reconnecting and connecting. Yes, it is possible that you magically sit next to someone, or meet someone randomly, who possesses the answers to your dreams and prayers. Why couldn't that special person be someone you know but don't know? YOUR network only gets stronger through your investments in it. And the strength of your existing network reveals itself in surprising ways. And winning a lottery ticket is still a possibility :)

Think about it, when you reconnect with someone you care about, you lessen guilt, you reduce regret and most important, you make the world a bit smaller and more hospitable. Never underestimate the people to whom people you are connected. I am surprised everyday, by re-connections I make that add unintended and substantial dimensions to my life.

Said another way, meeting people to just meet people for their influence and connections is a superficial game. It is the classic, disposable, me-oriented process that has given networking a bad and nausea producing name .

The point here is there are few quick fixes in life. Miracle 6 week exercise programs or diets don't generate lasting results or increase your health metrics. When we desire fast results for little effort, we know that our gullible persona has take over the steering wheel. Networking takes persistent time and effort and the benefits will be returned to you manifold.

Of course, what you say or do when you make these connections is crucial and the subject of many posts here. But I wanted to reiterate that networking is a lifestyle that is a very accessible process. So much easier than people think, because it all starts by contacting people you already know!

What are you waiting for?

Thanks for reading. John


My Top 10 posts

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

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

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

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

 Thannks for reading. John 


Back to School: Enroll in your Continuous Education

I get to meet so many interesting people. How?---because I talk to them! :) Picked up by a taxi driver named Ed at the airport this week. (the most interesting source on what is going on, are the drivers of yellow cabs) I ask him about his family and we launch into a 30 minute discussion about education. He tells me all 5 of his children are back in school. His youngest is 25! He went on a fascinating and long winded description of all of his children's efforts to re-certify, re-position, re-invigorate, and re-fresh their careers. All face or have faced turmoil, change, layoffs, and obsolescence in the last few years. His middle son wanted to be a butcher, but abandoned that line of work because there is a 5 year apprenticeship requirement. His older son works for Amgen and applied to med school, but is now going to enroll in an MBA program. His third son is getting certified as a physical therapist. His daughter is taking online accounting courses to complete a business degree. His youngest son is enrolled in his third community college after finding out yet again, that the lack of a degree has hurt his job prospects. Not an atypical story but illustrative that the path to the next level nearly always requires ascending the educational steps to more knowledge and new expertise.

 Back to school  
To keep up and get ahead, you have to adopt a lifestyle of continuous education. Education that comes from many formal and informal sources. Training that addresses weaknesses, shortcomings as well as areas of new competency. It is not your passive openness to new ideas or change, it is the active and never-ending acquisition of new skills. You have to enroll yourself into continuous education!

Education is the great transformer. I used to have this quote pinned to the bulletin board in my office,

If it works, it is obsolete.

Some of you want to go back to school to get or finish a degree. No time like the present. Waiting makes no sense. Just talked to a young couple who both enrolled in different grad programs this Fall. They considered the typical polite approach of taking turns. They concluded, if they both enrolled they could study together and would not have to defer their plans for a family. They enrolled and jumped into their education with both feet!

I was helping my kids with their class schedules. Remember that chore of picking dates, times and subjects? Thinking about the general ed and major requirements? Considering the quality or reputation of the professors/teachers? I used to see this as a hassle. I try to help my kids see the enjoyment of choosing what you are going to learn and from whom. It was a stretch for them. Youth is wasted on the young!

This ritual of picking classes and professors is a wonderful model for continuous education that should never get old. Think about the next three years of work and life as your new masters degree in (fill it in). When you do that, you have to think about what "courses" you will be taking and who you want to teach you. Like my kids you have freedom of choice. Who at work can help you learn? Who at your volunteer workplace can teach you something new and needed? Who at your church can share their knowledge and expertise? You are surrounded by potential professors!

And how can you enhance your day job with outside activities to continuously learn? Love to write, then write. Have a favorite charity, volunteer. Have a business idea, develop it. Use these goals to guide your class schedule and professor selection. Build your continuous education with real-life experiences. Experiences that are driven by your passion and curiosity. That way enrolling in your continuous education curriculum will be easy and natural.

The alternative of resting on your past achievements and waiting for weekends to rest even more, is the best way to watch your career circle the drain accompanied by all of your regrets.

Here's another benefit. Once you enroll in your course work, you meet others with similar interests. You start connecting with people you know in different ways. And encounter new people along the way as well. Continuous education is a wonderful way to strengthen your network and your relationship with your mentors.

I was in the classroom as a student for many years, 22 to be exact. Partly pursuing my calling and mostly procrastinating my future. Studying with others, led by an expert, did help me think about my life and what I wanted. Having multiple degrees has never hurt my job prospects. However, what I learned is the classroom education was dwarfed by my experiences, training and continuous process of updating my skills. The moment you rest on your sheepskins is the moment you lose your mind. Stephen Covey preaches that sharpening your saw is a critical habit of effective people. Honing the edges of your brain and keeping your skills sharp takes ongoing effort and attention. As soon as you leave the ivy covered halls, close your last blue book, and turn your tassel on your mortar board, you have to re-enroll in your continuous education. The two online courses I am currently taking are so eye-opening! The world just keeps changing and an unattended toolbox gets antiquated.

My driver Ed's "kids" are all enrolled in their next classes, what are you doing? 

Thanks for reading. John


New deadly STD: OMBYism

In my recent encounter with Father Greg Boyle, the famed gang interventionist and founder of Homeboy Industries, he quoted Mother Teresa. "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." He said the measure of our ability to care about one another will be realized "when we love more than who loves us." He has spent most of his life loving gang members and helping them put their lives back together.

In contrast, many people overwhelmed by the world around them have decided that taking care of themselves and their own immediate families is all they can do. And they have convinced themselves that if everyone else just did the same then the world would be a better place. This way of thinking has led us to a number of socially transmitted diseases. (STDs)

NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) is one of the long standing STDs.These infected people want everything just not in their neighborhood. Freeway off ramps, trash disposal, mass transit, homeless shelters, commercial development, schools, elder care etc. I remember well the families that appeared at a local City Council meeting to protest a Montessori pre-school operated out of a Victorian home for more than 100 years (Julia Child went there). The school served 76 kids! "The sound of children" was just too much for these sensitive and angry neighbors. Ultimately, the school had to build higher walls around it to better contain the laughter and pitter patter of little feet. These NIMBYists wanted better schools in the neighborhood but not next door, even when that school was there decades before their homes were built. I know it makes no sense, but that is how toxic the seemingly incurable NIMBYism disease can be. Backyard

I have discovered a vicious new strain of NIMBYism and the fastest growing STD--OMBYism--Only My Back Yard--this deadly disease triggers several brutal symptoms causing the sufferer to experience extreme self-centeredness, myopia, and ethnocentrism. These are followed by an uncontrollable penchant to live in gated communities, a significant decline in empathy for others, and an obsessive desire to maintain the status quo. OMBYists are devoted to only taking care of their back yard and their family. They have very stunted and homogenized networks. Their credo is: Love only who loves you, especially if they are like you.

The infuriating flaw with this selfish approach to life fails to recognize that a pampered family will have to live in a real  world that looks nothing like that back yard. The OMBYists superiority complex and self righteous attitude are artificial prophylactics against reality. And that the children of these infected parents breed unnecessary prejudice between their kind and the rest of the world.

Only loving who loves you is the breathing standard of living a meaningful life. Of course we love our families! Yes we love people back. But our lives will be defined by how we pro-actively broaden that circle. How we embrace others outside of our families and our clone communities. Father Greg Boyle talks about how learning to love gang members has deepened his perspective to see the other side of the tracks literally. There is no purely good and purely bad when it comes to humans and the human struggle. The world is becoming more complex. The easy way out is to define the limits of our spheres of influence as our family, immediate circle of friends and the edge of our fence lines. To over simplify the world into the good and the evil by deluding ourselves that somehow we are better than the others.

I recently met a man who wanted to make a shift from working at an elitist and highly privileged institution to a community based organization. He said his life goal is to help the "under-served" and the "less fortunate" people in our society. It sounded a bit insincere, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. So I said, "That's a wonderful life mission. So how do you help the "under-served and less fortunate" now?" He looked at me like I called him a dirty name. He was flustered and said, "That's my goal, not what I do now!" He went on to explain how busy he is, how demanding his job is, that he has a couple of teenagers, and he likes playing golf occasionally........His words faded as I saw the letters O--M--B--Y appear on his forehead. In other words, he has no time for others outside of his backyard. No time to do anything except take care of thyself and thy heirs. He only thinks about the "under-served and the less fortunate",when he is trying to impress others and feel less guilty. Kid

Adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle is an antidote to the onset of NIMBYism and OMBYism. While we should take care of and enjoy our verdant back yards, the world outside of those walls is so much more beautiful and filled with real people who are under-served and less fortunate. We have to break down those fences and walls. We have to create connections and relationships that add value and build  broader communities that can confront and overcome the challenges we face, by loving many more than love us.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Amazing who you know, but you don't know

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching that the primary step in networking is:

First strengthen existing relationships and then expand your circles of friends

Brushstroke circle There is an obsession with meeting new people. That new people will unlock our potential, teach us new things, and create new opportunities. And that the people we know, have met, are surrounded by, are inadequate. Even as I write this again, it sounds stupid, doesn't it?

What comes into focus is how poorly we know and explore what we have. There is an irresistible allure of the new. It's why products offer new versions. Why car makers roll out their new line-ups. It also causes many divorces. We like shiny things and our consumerism world reinforces it. But often the new is irrational and riskier. And often it is more expensive.

I am not telling you not to meet new people. You gotta get out of your comfort zones and diversify your human portfolios. You have to inject new into everything you do. But it is not your first step. It is not a step to overlook. Meeting the new, will always be more challenging, more time consuming, and less comfortable.

Why ignore the network you have and the people you know?

People I meet always underestimate their own networks. According to them, their "rolodex" is always weak and does not contain the expertise they need. After I ask a series of questions, they "discover" that someone they know well could be a great connection. It never fails. Had lunch will a former colleague this week, and he is exploring a career change. He wanted me to connect him with new people. During our meal, he admitted knowing a senior executive at a very attractive employer. I added real value to the session by saying, "Please contact him." :)Rolodex

You may be able to recall or remember things about people from your glorious present or past. And making an effort to make these recollections is a start. However, it is more likely you don't even know these people in your network. You don't know their resumes and their backgrounds. And therefore you have no idea what their networking potential is. But this is just the beginning of what you don't know about your network and how you undervalue it.

The big deal here is that your current network knows you and in most cases you have established a level of trust through common experiences. Your current network cares about you. And that creates opportunities to get authentic feedback and ideas beyond their contacts. People who know you can move quickly to the questions you want to discuss. Chemistry and comfort exist. It provides a warm platform to now get to know them better. I guarantee this process will reveal a new constellation of connections and contacts for you to explore. The other super added value here is your network can refer you to these connections, because they know you!

Now here is an ugly truth. If you have been negligent about maintaining your relationships. Reconnecting with "old friends" or former colleagues can be awkward. And the sirens of the new network beckon. But c'mon, most people want to connect and reconnect. I get asked this question all the time, "How do I reconnect with former colleagues and friends?" My answer is always the same, "Call them, e-mail them." Just make the connection and if necessary, apologize for being out of touch.They will understand. Plus you will enjoy it!

A new world of connections and opportunities awaits and many of them reside in the past. Don't leap over your exisiting network just to meet new people. It is amazing who you know but don't know. Reach out and connect!

Thanks for reading. John 


To What Do You Give Your Intention and Attention?

Had the great fortune of attending a terrific workshop on the principles of grant making, the art and science of giving away money from foundations. I know it sounds like an easy and enviable job, but much harder than you think. Anyway, had the pleasure of being trained by Bob Long, former VP of the Kellogg Foundation and Ken Gladish, former national president of the YMCA and president of the Austin Community Foundation. Both are faculty at the Grantmaking School. (Yes there is a graduate level school dedicated to this work!)

Over time I have learned that all "best practices" for effective work,  regardless of sector or industry share the same basic principles. And that these principles are often wonderful guides for your life, your career development, and your relationships.

Bob introduced us to the concepts of Intention and Attention.

  • Intention--What are/were you intending to do? i.e. Goal

  • Attention--What are you paying attention to given that intention? i.e. Measures of progress

Remember, he was talking about grants from foundations. And the point was to articulate your grant making goal and identify measures of progress. Then constantly remind yourself of that intention and those measures. Why? Because we digress, we drift, we lose focus. Like right now when your mind is wandering, finish reading my blog! :) In non-profit work we often refer to this as "mission drift". Straying from your goal AND from what you are good at. You can see the broader applicability of these ideas already.

Coach John Wooden's used the word Intentness. It was a word he made up, always apologized for this by the way, and it resides in his Pyramid of Success. The Coach taught us all that paying attention to your intentions leads us to the actions that determine success in everything we undertake.

Take these very simple and important questions and apply them to your life, your job, and your career. Apply them to your faith, your volunteer work, and your hobbies.

What is your intention? And what are you paying attention to to see that you are making progress toward your intention?

Please do not say, "I am just trying to enjoy what I do and see what happens." Because you think you are either lucky or lazy? You may be niether. As I have opined, a Wait and See strategy is the certain path to disaster.

Don't be confused. What's nice about the word intention is it is what you want and hope for. It is as macro or as micro as you desire. It is personalized and customized to you. It is as ambitious and achievable as you want. To be ambitious you need ambition.

Here's the kicker. When you have clear or clearer intentions, to which you are paying attention, you will attract opportunities and people. The gravitational pull of commonalities is powerful. Not always positive though. Negative intentions are just as sticky as the positive ones. You saw the studies of obese people and the likelihood they are connected to other obese people. Smokers too. Aimless, goal less, ambitionless people also connect and friend each other. Why hang out with people that are the same as you if you are lost or unhappy? Your network spirals up or down depending on your intentions and actions.

I am constantly monitoring my kids' friends. I love the diversity of interests and backgrounds they represent. But I watch for too much group think/peer pressure about school or courses. I want my kids to always be exposed to smarter, more ambitious, harder working people. Not everyone they know, that would be irresponsible and ineffective. But enough exposure to see different intentions and paths through their own experiences and contacts, not because their sage father says so.

And such is life, your intentions and attentions determine your networks and ultimately your mentors. The Buddhist saying applies, When the student is ready, the teacher appears. No way your teacher/mentor will appear with out clear intentions.

Your conversations, engagements, and encounters are greatly influenced by what you focused on. Without these concepts mentoring and networking are non-substantive and frustrating exercises.

What is your intention today? Tomorrow? And are you paying attention to your progress?

Thanks for reading. John



Alumni Networks----Familiar and Influential Resources

Part of my procrastination of life's goals was to go through a bunch of academic programs--4 universities, 3 degrees and a fellowship. One of the unintended consequences of my scholarly digressions was to get connected to different groups of former students called alumni. Btw, alumni, Latin for "pupils nourished" is a distinctly American concept. International universities rarely kept track of their former students and certainly did not solicit them for financial support until recently. For example, Oxford, founded in about 1200, formalized its alumni society in 2006. Harvard established its Alumn Club in 1840. The word alumni is plural. Singular is alumnus, (unisex or male) or alumna (female, the unpopular plural alumnae), we say slangishly alums, or some say grads. Just do not use alumni when referring to yourself--"I am an alumni of XXX college."--unless you are schizo. :)  In Texas, they are always different aren't they, they say "ex-students". The definition of an alum is wide and varied. Mere attendance gives the individual, certainly the alumni association and that institution the ability to take credit for their achievements. Like all great ideas have many parents, all famous, successful, and certainly wealthy former students are claimed as "alumni". Alumni

I have been blessed to have a number of alumni networks that engage and fulfill me. Without them, I am not sure I would be as successful today.

In one of my former careers, I ran the alumni association at UCLA and served on national and international alumni governing organizations. With more than 2500 colleges and universities in the US, there are a lot of alumni! But I am notrecommending you attend more uncomfortable reunions!

This concept of alumni is not just restricted to post-secondary education.  You have been recruited into and have shared life experiences with many groups. Nearly 300 larger corporations have formed alumni associations for their former employees to stay connected.   Search corporate alumni groups Deloitte has a particularly strong one for example. Why you ask? Branding, recruitment, business referral, all through a trusted network. Does your former employer have an alumni group? Does your future employer have one, and do you know people in it?

PastLives Most of us stay in touch with a select crew from a former world of work or other experiences. These are informal and very effective alumni networks. You belong but may not be connected to, many alumni groups. Again, because of my career changes, I have 7 former employee such groups. The advantage of career changes! Like always, the questions is: Why aren't you connected to them? I know you are busy, I know you have less time and more choices and obligations. But these are people you know and share a common experience. Be careful.Trying to reconnect with these alumni groups only when you are desperate is tantamount to reconnecting with former dates from a previous era when you are lonely. Bad form, always smells of self-serving motives, and in the end not a long term solution.

If you have been following along, the strongest network opportunities are always among people you know or knew. Common experiences are powerful platforms for connecting and sharing.

Make a list of your alumni groups:

  1. Colleges and universities
  2. Employers
  3. Fraternities, sororities, honor societies
  4. Kids' play groups, PTAs, club athletic teams
  5. Internships, fellowships
  6. Volunteer and community service groups
  7. Faith based affiliations

Join as a member or reach out and reconnect. Do these groups have Facebook pages, Linked-in groups? Who do you know or remember? E-mail them, call them and connect.

Try not to be so focused on your current need and let the serendipity of connecting with a trusted group take you new places and opportunities.

The great thing is you have a base from which you can start a conversation. You immediately have questions or experiences that you can share to drive the connection.

Alumni networks can be powerful and meaningful sources of identity and community. Yes, and also provide some new leads on jobs or sales prospects, but that is always secondary.

Want to broaden and deepen your network and your opportunities? Think alumni.

It is amazing who you know, who you have lost touch with.

Reconnect with your past and advance your future.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking to our Future through our Past

Re-acquainting ourselves with ourselves can be the most powerful experience. Clearly the elements of your uniqueness, your passions, and but it may be your story and your genealogy that paves the most revealing paths to expand and diversify your network. We are all multi-faceted, multi-talented multi-racial----we are all immigrants, we are all diverse---probably more than most of us understand or know. Just the discovery process of asking your parents, grand parents or any relatives will give you insights into who you are--and I promise will set you on a new networking journey.

Went to the opening of Kip Fulbeck's new exhibit called Mixed Race. Check out the book. Multi-racial Americans are the fastest growing demographic/ethnic group--that will be again confirmed by the 2010 Census.

My mother's family traced her family back 1100 years! And in Japanese families, these family trees always lead to a famous Samurai! And of course so does ours. That inspired my own roots search. I went to Japan with my best friend Willie Banks, who happens to be African American and is more Japanese than me. I wanted to find Kunta Kobara.:) Believe it or not Willie was my interpreter, like a sitcom, quite the site! Just imagine Japanese people talking to me, my mouth is not moving, and a perfectly accented response is coming from Willie's lips towering above me. We traversed my grandparents homeland and met some of of my Samurai relatives. I confronted my past and my friendship with Willie deepened. My view of myself was altered.Samurai

In Hawaii, most everyone is "hapa" meaning part Asian and other races. On the islands, there is a pride in the number of ethnicities one claims. Some used to say they are chop suey like the made up Americanized Chinese dish that combines many ingredients.

One of my parenting goals is instilling pride in our children about their heritage. My kids are hapa. Half Japanese, a quarter Korean and a quarter Irish, Welsh and German. Kind of a sukiyaki, kim chee, irish rarebit stew with a splash of sauerkraut.

We want them to appreciate their lineage, but if you have kids, their identities are their own.  They care less about race and ethnicity than us adults. They are smarter! No matter what you do, birth order matters. Our oldest daughter Jenna enjoyed a comprehensive education about her histories. And my youngest Bobby, also got a good dosage to help him form his self-concept. This story tells the tale of our middle child, Malia. For and knife

I took my three heirs to a local Mexican restaurant. We are munching away quietly and Malia, about 8 or 9 years old, says, "Dad this food is really good, what is it?" "Malia, it's Mexican food! We have it many times", I retort. ","Oh yeah," she says, "because we are Mexican." My brain freezes and instantly turns to panic. I have done such a bad job as a parent! I quickly recover and assert, "No no no, we're not Mexican. Nothing wrong being Mexican but we're not." I pull my plate to the center of the table in front of Malia and Jenna knows what I am going to do. Jenna takes over as the big sister. She takes her knife and lays it down the middle of the plate and says, "Malia this is you", pointing at the plate. Malia looks on with curiosity. Jenna points to left half of the plate, "this half is Japanese, you are half Japanese", picking up her fork. She lays the fork across the knife to form a cross on the the plate. Malia points to the other side, "What's over here?" "This is you too", pointing at the top right quadrant, "You are also a quarter Korean." Jenna's forefinger glides down to the bottom right corner and finishes, "Oh this is you too, you are also a quarter Irish, Welsh and German." Malia was carefully following Jenna's place setting lecture and a look of understanding washed over her face and she exclaimed, "So we are not Mexican!"

Parents can only do so much and frankly are only one source of information! The process of discovering who we are forces us to network beyond our parents. To network with our families. Network with people we truly care about or relatives we don't know. Those discoveries will trigger conversations, questions and inevitably interests that will expand our universe dramatically.

And those discoveries lead to new interests and other networks you previously were unaware of.

Right now your concept of yourself is limited. It always is and always will be. Because the process of understanding who we are is never ending. I meet people who settle on their identities, on their possibilities, on their destinies and it makes me crazy. They don't even see the incredible potential others do. Part of that process is the comprehension of where our chromosomes have been. Not to understand our differences but to fully appreciate our commonalities. Do you really know who you are? Make this discovery part of your life's quest to understand your history and your network will expand in ways that will open your eyes to the future.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking for Asians? Lessons from East and West

This is a topic that I am asked to address more often than any other. Let me go off on a brief Dennis Miller like rant before I share some thoughts.

Being Asian Pacific American (APA) has many challenges. Statistically we are still considered the "other" race. Despite the fact that there more APAs in LA County and now in California than African Americans, the research, the polls, the evidence of public information rarely includes APAs. Add the persistent and pernicious model minority myth (mmm), that promotes all APAs as college bound/college educated, financially well off and without problems, giving the general public a warped and/or uninformed view of our community. The diversity of the pan-Asian community in the US defies any generalization. This mmm undermines the response to the growing needs and suffering that new immigrant and low-income APAs face. Apa

Why is this relevant here and to me? Because it has impacted my ability to mentor and network. It has altered how I have been received and what influence I have been able to exercise. Mind you, I am not complaining. I have no reason to. However, I know that experiences that happen to me everyday remind me how other APAs are impacted in their quest to advance their lives and careers. Believe it or not, I still get the, "where are you from?" or "you speak without an accent" comments. Or worse, the look of indifference, until they find out my title.

Many compliments I have received about my leadership, speaking ability, and career accomplishments have been relative to other APAs. "John is one of the most articulate Asians I have met." "John is one of the leading Asians in his field." Hard to be recognized for one's achievements outside of our appearance. Really is. Whether Latino or female, we can see success in narrow demographic worlds. And there will be those that say, that ever since we started using hyphenated American terms, instead of just Americans, we established this separateness. A little truth to this, but the root causes of hurtful discrimination and prejudice would be present regardless.

For the last few years, APAs constitute the largest non-white population of college graduates from 4 year institutions. More APAs than African Americans and Latinos, a little discussed fact (that may contribute to the mmm), but a game changing reality. What does this mean? You will continue to see disproportionately more APAs in the workplace, in leadership positions,  eventually in the corner offices, on corporate boards, in public offices and maybe even on TV. APAs will be a force to reckon with. Everyone will need to mentor, network with, and serve more APAs over time. Networking with APAs is becoming a skill de riguer.

Tensions have been emerging over the last decade at Fortune 500 employers who put a premium on college grads from good schools and therefore have been hiring more APAs. Friction between the APA employees and their managers is caused by not promoting the "most qualified" because of stereotyping and ethnocentrism. Managers are conflicted and APAs are frustrated. Managers do not understand the cultural nuances and APA employees have not fully adapted to their work environments.The most enlightened companies have openly addressed these trends. IBM, Pepsi, Price Waterhouse, Kraft.... have invested in processes to train both sides of the equation. Better prepare APAs and simultaneously educate the managers. They know their companies win in the end.

I have been asked by some of these companies and others, through LEAP, to address this topic, usually focused on "Networking for Asians". The premise is Asians need to network more like Americans. Clearly a faulty objective. I have found all employees and managers need help mentoring and networking without regard to their ethnicity and backgrounds.

A number of times I have done this workshop, Networking for Asians, I have had a majority of non-Asians attend! They thought the workshop was focused on how to network WITH Asians. There is a pent up demand by non-Asians to make their professional relationships with APAs more productive and effective.Got rice

I was recently presented with a copy of this book by Yang Liu, a young Chinese girl who lives in Germany. She developed this powerpoint show a few years ago on the differences between the perspectives of east and west. Liu observed first hand these differences in her bi-cultural immersion in Berlin? These slides definitely relate to networking and relationships that you may find amusing and educational:

The tools of mentoring and networking are universal and cross-cultural. Sure there are some cultural differences and there needs to be much greater sensitivity on both sides. This is life. This is adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle. Always seeking commonalities. Being open to meeting and helping others. Even if they are different, even if they are APAs. Chances are they will be.

Thanks for reading. John


True Selflessness and Humankindness

For me meeting and reconnecting with people nearly always presents opportunities to see the world and myself differently. I am constantly inspired by networks driven by the desire to help each other and others. This week was no different. I had the chance to spend a few hours with a group of non-profit execs and leaders from around the country. Incredible leaders who selflessly devote themselves to causes and issues that will transform lives. J0439384

Some were just starting their roles, others were veterans, and still others were private sector refugees.  But they all decided to work in arenas that they care about and where their work has impact. First of all the non-profit sector is blessed to have so many talented selfless people working tirelessly and out of the lime light providing the safety net for the less fortunate.  But the world of non-profits is so much worse off than the general economy.  Consider a “business” where the demand for service far exceeds the supply—sounds  like a winner, right? No way. The challenge is how to pay for increasing the services, when your clientele is defined by need.The non-profit  business model  requires donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. Those sources are depleted. And donations to non-profits has never followed the economy on the way up and always lead the way down. So there is a serious, and probably invisible to you, disintegration of the infrastructure for the poor.

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When you listen to the economic prognosticators you hear that the stock market has rebounded 60% since March, housing prices are up ticking, consumer confidence is leveling off, and corporate profit forecasts are improving. Contrast that with the beneath the radar hidden basement of the poor and uninsured. This is where the trifecta of cancerous challenges lurks: unemployed, uninsured, and poor. This population now represents tens of millions of families! It grows like a hidden tumor delivering great  pain and suffering-now and will continue well into the future. And so the cavernous abyss between the haves and have nots also grows despite the economic improvements. The burden and cost of our poor will continue to undermine any long term sustainable growth.

One critical fact is being submerged in the uncivil war of words over health care, non-profits are the backbone for health services for the individuals and families that need them most. It is a special and vital network that is being washed away by the after effects of the financial tsunami. But all hope has not been extinguished.

Recently I had the chance to visit UMMA, the University Muslim Medical Association in south LA. UMMA was founded in 1996 by a bunch of Muslim students at UCLA, who wanted to carry their university experience into the community and pursue their faith by serving others. The followed their hearts and their minds and their religious teachings to build a clinic in one of the toughest and most under-served parts of Los Angeles. In what appears to be a small storefront office that looks more like a used car lot than a medical facility from the outside,  but a state of the art clinic that will serve more than 16000 people this year on the inside. The staff is majority Muslim, almost all of the doctors are Muslim, who volunteer their time and expertise, but the clients are whomever in the neighborhood needs medical treatment - few if any are Muslim. They have quietly and consistently grown their clinic into a model for the country and today there are 26 similar Muslim clinics across the nation. So hundreds of thousands of non-Muslim Americans receive free or low-cost health care because of these clinics.

Umma docs

As the health care debate rages on and there is so much dis-information and misunderstanding. But standing in the waiting room of UMMA, you see the overwhelming need, you see diverse faces of people who have no other choices. Who probably do not know or care that UMMA is run by Muslims. They are grateful that there is now a facility in their environs which is devoid of hospitals and other medical facilities. Here is a side of the Muslim community that gets no visibility. Stereotypes and sensational newscasts hurt this community and its ability to become equal participants in our country. But like all pernicious stereotypes, the truth is massacred. The real people have to live amongst these vicious half truths everyday. It hurts their self esteem, it hurts their identity as Americans, it hurts their connection to us all. Yet at UMMA, Muslim Americans tirelessly work to carry on their deeply held religious belief in service of others. They seek no publicity or accolades, although they deserve our appreciation and support.

What we learn over and over again is that ignorance and prejudice ominously stand in the way of our ability to work together and find solutions to common problems. Regrettably, we think we get along with everyone else. We wrongly think we do not stereotype others. We are all colorblind. Racists are other people. Prejudice lives in other places. Once we face our own inner ignorance and ethnocentricities we can begin to embrace our human bond and the majesty of our interconnectedness. And recognize that differences are necessary to survive.Then we can truly leverage and reap the benefits from our humankindness.

We rely on an invisible network of non-profits, often  managed by and funded by people we do not know and in some cases we do not respect. Should we care? Absolutely.

Thanks for reading (and enduring my sermons) John

 


Roommates and Racism -- Guess who's coming to live with you?

I just got back from attending my daughter's college orientation. She was going to stay over night in the dorms and started to fret about the possibility of getting a "freak" roommate. She, of course, was matched with a lovely young lady, with whom she will stay in touch. I was reminded of my trepidation about my first college roomie. Remember the form you fill out to ascertain your preferences for a roommate. You know, smoking, sleep and social habits, music and noise tolerance, play an instrument, hygiene etc etc. Have you seen the questions they ask today? Anyway, I asked for a non-smoker, non-music, serious, and clean freak. 180px-Pig-pen_peanuts My roommate, I'll call him Alvin, was a rock and roller bass player with electric amp, pot head,  who worshiped dust and debris--sort of the Pig Pen meets Led Zeppelin type. In short, the opposite of what I expected. But as I have come to learn, we can acquire great insight, self understanding, and experience from those that are different from ourselves. And Alvin was an interesting person with deep thoughts, a different perspective and played a mean version of Deep Purple's music. While living with him presented a range of health, safety, and reputational concerns, I did maintain a friendship with him after I found more suitable accommodations. 

My point is we meet people randomly all of the time. And when we do, we are often confronted with our own views, stereotypes, prejudices, and cultural biases. One of the great and sometimes forgotten opportunities of a college education is the chance to interact with different people. People from different perspectives, geographies, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, etc etc. Colleges that seek student diversity as part of their excellence are providing superior educations and the graduates are better prepared for the real world. Schools with homogeneous populations will never compete with these institutions. The Ivy league schools and the top educational institutions in the world have known this for a long time. That's why none of them admit students based solely upon scores and GPAs. They know that intelligence is not measured that way AND that the true goal of a liberal education requires a truly diverse class:

Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. Association of  American Colleges and Universities

Diverse apple The only way to do this is to recruit and maintain diversity in the academy.

Back on roommates. So as my daughter and I have discovered, the roommate assignment process is random. You get what you get. The NY Times ran a story this week Interracial Roommates Can Reduce Prejudice. This study found that African Americans with high SAT scores who roomed with White students had consistently higher grade pt averages, regardless of the SAT score or GPA of the roommate. One conclusion drawn was these black students became better acclimated to a predominantly white school. To be honest, when less than 15% of the students at Indiana University are non-white, not sure how significant this study is. For example, UCSB, an average California school in terms of diversity, has a majority minority in the entering freshmen class and 43% will be the first in their families to graduate from college. Now that's diversity! I think the study by faculty at Princeton and UCLA, The effect of university roommate contact on ethnic attitudes and behavior, is much more relevant.  A four year study of the impact of rooming with a student from a different ethnic background. Did this random, highly personal, 9 month relationship change the views and attitudes of the roommates?

Here were the key measures: 
  1. Random roommate selection
  2. Social dominance--Is equality a goal? Should some groups be at the top and the bottom? 
  3. Friendship heterogeneity--Do you have close friends from different backgrounds? 
  4. Inter-ethnic dating--Have you dated someone from a different group?   
  5. Inter-group unease and competence--Does any group make you feel uneasy and incompetent in dealing with that group? 
So what did they find? This was a complex study with many variables and there were differences between the racial and ethnic groups, especially for Asians ( I will cover this in future posts). But the bottomline was: 
Greater heterogeneity of the roommates caused more positive views of all other ethnic groups. Almost all of the measures improved for almost all groups.J0439454

In other words, having ideas and thoughts about other people will change when you get to know them. Like many prejudices, they are exaggerations and generalizations that do not apply to individuals. We find that our differences are more interesting than dangerous and then discover how much we have in common. When we are open to learning about each other in random and not so random circumstances, our eyes, minds, and hearts are also opened, our view of the world expands, as well as the possibilities. 

Here's to my old roommate Alvin, my daughter's future roommate, and to your next encounter with someone different. 

Thanks for reading. John

Finding commonalities and common ground--Fast!

Thanks for the great response to my last couple of posts. Appreciate the tweets, links to other sites, and the curious level of interest from Australia! G'Day mates!

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All of us have stories about discovering amazing things we have in common with people we just met or have known for a long time. You find out that you both went to the same high school, share a hobby, your parents know each other, you have a close friend in common.... A moment that reinforces how increasingly small the world is. What if we could figure out those connections sooner? Knowing how our worlds overlap and intersect will only expedite the relationship and ultimately the trust between the parties. 

Do you believe in the theory of 6 degrees of separation ?The idea that you and I are separated by no more than 6 people or 6 connections? As an aside there have been and continue to be experiments that go back many years to prove and attempt to quantify this interconnectedness. Stanley Milgram's experiment and many others have shown that we are all separated by 5 to 6 connections and that's where the number 6 came from. 250px-Six_degrees_of_separation Much of this work has been criticized and disputed. Nevertheless, Milgram's experiment was well before e-mail, the web, and social networking. So I would argue that we are measurably closer and more interconnected. My experience has shown me over and over that the theory of 6 degrees or less is true. I have learned that we are all connected and that we have so much in common. I don't mean only in the Buddhist, atomic material, we are the world ways. Regardless what we look like are our backgrounds, we have so many common bonds and connections that are often undiscovered. Sometimes, they seem to appear magically and serendipitously and we marvel at their existence. I am going to advocate here that if we are more intentional about discovering our commonalities, we will appreciate their existence and certainty of finding them. 

While this is a process you can use in meeting new people, it is also very valuable in interacting with people you think you know well. As I have said over and over, "It is amazing who you know who you don't know." 

A conscious goal you should have in every conversation (not the sole goal nor the dominant one) is finding commonalities, including common human connections. In other words, the 6 degrees concept applies to people but also to interests and experiences.

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A few tips on discovering commonalities

  1. Preparation and research: Google every person you know you are going to meet or think you might meet, especially senior executives. Learn what might be common areas of interest in advance.
  2. Listen and pay attention: If you listen and look for common grounds, they will seem omnipresent. When you hear someone, even a perfect stranger, talking about your alma mater, your favorite restaurant, your hobby, your employer--you have the chance to explore than common ground. If you see someone who has the book you are reading, a product you want or just bought, a luggage tag of your favorite sports team--then you have a means to discuss commonalities.  
  3. Lead with your interests and passions: How you introduce yourself and talk about yourself matters. If you integrate facts and interests into your spiel about yourself your BIT , then you create opportunities to connect. After the "What do you do?" or "Tell me about yourself." query, you tell your story. I might say, "I was raised up north and then came down here to go to UCLA. I work for the California Community Foundation and have three kids." Four points of interest and potential commonalities.
  4. The context is a common ground: Where you are meeting, your surroundings, the purpose of your connection are all reference points. Your curiosity drives you. Why did you attend this conference? How did you get into this business? There is a reason why both of you find yourself at this unique place and time. 
  5. Commonality questions: As part of a larger conversation, you can ask, "Do you have kids?" (because you do). "Where did you go to school?" (alma maters, college sports, majors)"Where do you live?" (local restaurants, neighbors) "What were you doing before this?" (colleagues at employers, current events)"What do you do when you are not working?" (hobbies, kids activities) Typical questions that are now slightly influenced by your commonalities. The answers trigger additional questions and potential connections.

Kevin bacon

With the intention of finding how we are connected and what we share, you will discover commonalities much faster. While using this strategy, please do not turn into Dan Rather and pummel your conversation partner with a series of set questions. Let the conversation happen, but keep an eye on the hints of commonalities. Once you do, you too will be convinced that the world and your anxiety over networking are shrinking. Kevin Bacon and your confidence in connecting faster are not very far away. 


Thanks for reading. John