continuous education

A Life of Internships

I think experiential learning is the most important and meaningful form of education. In my humble opinion learning by doing has no peer. The idea of internships may be at least 150 years old. Its origins really come from the medical profession where docs in training learn, under expert supervision, about the body and the various disciplines--to understand the whole of medicine and in part to select a specialty. I love this as an metaphor for life and careers--Continuous education about the "body" of your work and your life. A process to adapt, morph, and sharpen your understanding of what you want and the whole of who you are becoming. 

For students in school, internships may be more important than any elective. A student who graduates without experience: volunteer, internship, apprenticeship, or work is at a serious disadvantage. But more important, the student--now just an alum--has not learned about what they want. One's career development can not come from a book or even a blog for that matter. :)

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.  Confucious

For students of life ( that would be everyone!) the concept of internships has to be adopted as a part of your life. Shorter stints that stimulate your intellectual and spiritual self. Internships are "test drives", career dress rehearsals, due diligence with experiences.

So internships have been elevated to a new level. They enjoy a new popularity and status amongst people who left the ivy covered halls decades ago. Now there is even a movie coming out this summer about this! Why? Simply put, people are trying to adapt. Trying to figure out what they are going to do next. They lack the experience in a field that appeals to them. But this movie and the popularity of internships are too often thought of as an emergency oriented intervention. A drastic last resort step that requires sacrifice and risk to reboot a career. While that can and does work, internships are most effective as a mindset. An open mindset of learning, seeking experiences, and for mentorships. Testing new ideas, interests and embracing failure. 

One of my major gripes is the linear nature of people's approach to education, career development.... There are steps, there is myopia, there is a focus that ultimately ends the same way--too many eggs in the same narrow basket of experience. Wow, is that risky!

How do you become multi-talented, multi-facted? How do you invest in your career to make it more recession proof? More resilient to change, turbulence, and downturns? No financial portfolio that intends to grow and survive is invested in one thing. You need growth opportunities, and less risky investments that "hedge" the downside. You need international and domestic. You need large cap and small cap. The same applies to a career. Silly to rely on a single job to sustain your development.  

Every good job is an temporary assignment that is an adventure, a seminar and is fulfilling. Dick Bolles 

I think life is an internship, many internships. You enroll in internships to continue to grow, experiment, and learn. Your job is your core internship. Your hobby is an internship. Your start-up on the side is an internship. Your volunteer work is an internship. 

Your approach to all of your internships is the same. Who will mentor/teach me? What do I want to learn? What will make this experience meaningful to me? 

If we understand the truth that nothing is permanent. That our expertise is perishable. That our connection to our evolving personal, spiritual, financial, and professional needs needs to be dynamic. Then we realize that doing our job will predictably and inevitably lead to dissatisfaction and worse--the inability to transition to other worlds. This always makes the whole of life less rewarding. So how will you change this outcome? 

Fish out of water
Courtesy of Start-Up You

Throughout my career (of internships) I have worked with and met many people who have used internships well. A few examples:

  • 24 year old employee who asked to do "extra work" at a school mentoring project I was managing. This was an internship added onto her job.  She wanted experience with "education". Today she is a principal of a school.
  • 48 year old consultant with an MBA who interns to use his expertise to help non-profits become more sustainable. 
  • 30 year old lawyer who wanted to go into marketing and volunteered for the marketing committee of her favorite charity. Today she is the head of marketing at a telcom company.

They came to the realization that there current "portfolios" were inadequate. They needed to branch out. They had to diversify.

Here's the kicker, internships super charge your network. New colleagues are a new network. While you should invest in reinvigorating and deepening your network at your job, having a constellation of mentors and networks has gigantic advantages.

So I am advocating that you evaluate your current opportunities for internships. Follow your heart and find intentional experiential assignments both in your job and outside that will deepen your understanding of the body of your work and life.  

Thanks for reading. John


Find Mentoring not a Mentor

May be the number one question I am asked: "How do I find a mentor?"  Usually this question is shrouded in mythology, poor assumptions, and a desire for a quick fix. Of all things, mentoring is not a fast solution to your challenges. There is this idea that "the right person" will have the answers to your career and life questions. That this guru will provide a lighted path to your salvation and success.  

Great mentoring can give you insight into who you are and what you want. Great mentoring can clarify your choices and your strategies to build a more fulfilling and rewarding career and life. 

Learning, acquiring knowledge and gaining insight have changed.

Old School

New School

I learn most from those with more experience

 

I learn from everyone around me

 

Excellence is defined by what I know

 

Excellence is defined by my strengths and what I do

 

I learn from books and in classrooms

I learn continuously and experientially in small real time bites

Just as a single book, class, website will not answer all of your questions, neither can a single person. Most people who ask me this question have created this super person in their minds--a guru available 24/7 who knows it all and can answer your questions. Like the "perfect" boyfriend/girlfriend, the perfect job and unicorns -- they don't exist. I know you get this, but each of us holds out a little hope that such a person is out there. And in the end it prevents us from being mentored. GURU1

Mentoring is never just getting answers. We need multiple mentoring sources. They are not all going to be "older and wiser". They are not all going to be in your industry or field. They share your perspective, your interests and they tell you the truth. The people who you know or who you meet who are authentic and with whom YOU are authentic. It is where vulnerability and openness govern the exchange. Networking is a robust give and take. It is a dance of authenticity and vulnerability. 

Perfection is always the enemy of the good.

One of the most amusing things is when I spend high quality time with someone who seeks my advice. I may have even purchased them a meal, taken time from my family..... I answer their questions, I provide real feedback and try to mentor them. I do this not because I am generous, I do it because I benefit from these interactions. I have acquired knowledge I want to and like to share. I always learn something new and it reinforces and reveals things that I need to practice. At the end of these sessions, more than half of the people ask me one of two questions. 

  • When can we meet again?
  • Will you be my mentor?

I just tried to mentor this person! They seem more interested in checking off a box on their to-do list.  GOT MENTOR. They are more interested in a mentor than the mentoring! Some even ask for a regular monthly session! 

Look, I totally understand why people search for and want a mentor. But take the advice that  resonates with you and do something! Fail with it. Succeed with it. Discover new stuff along the way. Then, talk to the source of the "mentoring" and ask for help to answer new questions. That's how a potential mentoring relationship is formed. 

Mentoring relationships are serious relationships. They don't develop in an instant. Very few can say "She was my mentor at first sight." ;) Mentoring like all relationships that matter evolve over time, where trust is built upon genuine efforts and the truth.

A couple of years ago, I met a parent volunteer at a school I was touring. She impressed me and inspired me with her energy and passion for her daughter's education. I asked her what she did and she told me she looking for work. I suggestsed we meet and I tried to plug her into my network. I told her to read my blog to answer any questions. The other night, I saw her at an event and I asked how she was doing. She is gainfully employed after a tough 6 month search. She was clearly happier and more confident. She cited my posts on resumes and interviewing as very helpful. She told me she would stay in touch. And I know we will. We have a mentoring relationship, but we will never call it that.

Mentoring is all around you. It is ubiquitous. Some of it you need to just breathe it in and reflect upon it. Some you need to seek. And out of that process a "mentor" may emerge. My point is when you get mentored in a moment or in a meeting--Take action. Use the mentoring, then get more mentoring. At the very least, refine your questions through experience. 

Mentoring is an iterative process that requires the application of a theory. It is your theory of change. Your plan for progress. Your pursuit of happiness. If you don't have a theory, then finding mentoring or a mentor will be a frustrating experience. 

It is always about the content. We seek answers not a single source. 

Don't get stuck looking for the perfect mentor or even an official mentor. Find great mentoring, but don't be surprised if you do not use the M word. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Your Networking Business Model

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

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

Adapt or Die!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Networking Business Model

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

 


When is your next Graduation?

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

Graduate: To change gradually or by degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isolation is your problem not your lousy attitude. Barbara Sher

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

Nip the blossoming of your regrets in the bud. 

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

 


What We Can Learn From College Students

The allure of college still beckons. For almost everybody, going to college was the best of times. Every Fall we think of the good ole days of alma mater and some of us are yearning to returning to the learning. Our memories have smoothed over all of the anxiety, stress, financial and academic challenges and replaced them with nostalgia. :) But it is my experience that while many people think they have moved far from the days of the ivy covered halls, most still struggle with some of the same fundamental questions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Questions like: What is the meaning of life?; What is my "major"?; and What do I want to be when I grow up?Animal house

I have three recommendations that come from college students. Recommendations that will hopefully reinvigorate your free thinking collegiate ambitions and your youthful ideals when the possibilities seemed limitless.

1. Write Your College Essay Over Again--Helping my son and his friends finish their college apps and their essays. Writing these essays are harder than calculus. If you use it to grow and discover oneself, it can be a painful and seminal experience. The essays either tell nothing about the applicant or reveal something special. The "prompts"/questions remain relatively unchanged. Here are the ones my son is addressing:

a. Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

b. Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

1000 words for both. Try it. It is still very tough and if done well, very insightful. Nothing like writing down your thoughts, especially if you know someone will read it to decide your fate!What is your concise and compelling story? I meet "professionals" everday who don't have one! Your story matters and you need to craft it in writing to tell it!

2. One of the Worst Mistakes By New College Grad Job Seekers---A few months ago a survey of graduating seniors revealed what they regretted after confronting the challenges of this brutal job market. After all, they are just 21 or 22 years old, so of course they are under-prepared for the career/job search. There is a triad of culprits to blame. First, the parents are pushing their kids to pursue WHAT THEY THINK are "good careers" and have not let their kids develop their own paths. Second, undergrad colleges are woefully bad at career prep, it's embarrassing how new alumni are not "polished and finished" before they graduate. Lastly, the students themselves, take little initiative to get experiences, internships, develop a network, and start to define their own career trajectories while they are in school. So plenty of blame to go around.

Should have networked. The survey revealed this was one of the most regretted mistakes. "Students who spend their time trolling job boards should instead spend that time making solid connections with people who are respected and involved in the workforce, industry experts and alumni, and spend only 30% of their time looking at job listings." More than 70% of jobs are discovered through networking, so why don't students and all job seekers employ a networking strategy? Network as a life strategy, not just to find jobs.

3. Treat Every Job and Opportunity as a College Degree Program---Think about your career in four year chunks, just like your undergrad program (okay maybe 5 years;) The point is approach your work like college. Re-enroll every year. Think about what general ed and major requirements you have to complete. What professors will you take? What goals will you set? What weaknesses will you strengthen? What talents will you further? And maybe as important, what electives will you take?

Life goes fast and it blurs and runs together. College stands out as a distinct chapter in our lives. While we are grateful that we are not 21 today, we can use the regimen of college to focus our future chapters and to make them worthwhile and memorable. Otherwise jobs and time marches on and our present life continues to pale in comparison to our college days.

Re-live your college experience by renewing your urgency about the value of your time and the need to complete your next "degree". It is never too late to start.

College students today are smarter and more worldly than we were. They can teach us many things. Most important, how to be young and daring. How to reinvent ourselves. Yes there are many generational differences. But we are older and wiser, aren't we?

Thanks for reading. John


The Habit of Commencements and Graduations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Happy graduation!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Flash learning, Lightning talks, Fast pitches, and You

Our ability to communicate quickly and effectively is more valued than ever before. If you use twitter, you know the limit of 140 characters and that all texting and social media require brevity--Driven by our shorter attention spans and our multi-tasking lives. We can futilely bemoan this inexorable trend toward speed and all of dire consequences. But we all agree on one thing, we want people to make their point. What are you trying to say?, and spit it out! :) We want people to articulate their thought with a bit of substance and a little style, right?Blah

The issue here is not just attention spans, it is our choices. As I say all the time--we have more choices and less time. So if you do not say something interesting quickly, people will shift their precious bandwidth to something that is more engaging. Imagine the challenge facing older middle school teachers today who don't have a Facebook page and never played a video game since Pac Man--and their up hill attempts to sustain interest in the curricula from a group born and bred on social media--WHEW!

All learning is going through massive change, especially outside of the ivy covered walls. More content on college campuses is delivered online than face-to-face. In other words, students can take more of their classes from their dorm room than in a lecture hall! The real and interesting change is occurring in training workshops, presentations, conferences, and informal education. Generically called "flash learning". Delivering interesting and compelling content in very compressed and often structured chunks. There are many movements, organized systems and events that feature and celebrate this form of learning. Consider the following:

  1. Ignite--5 year old global event where you have 5 minutes to present your thought/idea/theory. 15 seconds for every powerpoint slide, auto advanced. You have a max of 20 slides and you have to be well rehearsed.
  2. TEDtalks--My primary addiction :) TED may have been the inspiration for much of these changes. Started in 1984, TEDtalks have become a worldwide phenomenon with over 11,000 events. In a Tedtalk you are roughly given 3 minutes, 8 minutes or 18 minutes to make your presentation with or without slides, no auto advance requirements.
  3. PechaKucha--Developed in Japan by architects and designers to share ideas. Literally translated as "chit chat". Like Ignite you have 20 slides and 20 seconds, auto advanced. So, thre are 6 mins and 40 seconds max to do your thang.
  4. Fast pitches--Los Angeles Social Venture Partners and others developed this program to coach and mentor non-profits on how to pitch their stories to raise money and support. The winners get cash prizes for their orgs. Non-profits are notoriously poor at concisely communicating their mission and their need.
  5. Lightning talks--Developed in 1997 for techies to share ideas, speakers were given 5 minutes max to convey their newest project or solution.
  6. Speed Challenges--Just learned about these and I love the idea. This is a timed brainstorming exercise to help individuals in a group. Person with idea, problem, goal gets no more than 2 minutes to say their piece. The group has a max of 2 minutes to clarify and understand the concept. Then the group goes for 5 minutes in generating help, resources, and further ideas. So in 10 minutes you get great feedback and support. Brainstorm 

We all understand that the brain can only endure and absorb so much. Brain scientists have shown that 5-7 minutes is our ideal attention span. Think about the length of a song or a poem.

We have heard of, maybe even participated in, speed dating and other networking events that try and accelerate opportunities. Ice breakers are one of these old school devices.

My work on live tv and radio taught me quickly how being clear and fast is essential. Because the opposite is deadly. It always is.

So what does this mean to you and to networking. Everything!!!!

We all have heard of the elevator pitch that originated with the venture capitalists to engage and secure investors in the span of an elevator ride. But today every organization and everybody needs a brief, well thought out message. No matter what you are selling, trying to get a job, pushing a cause, raising money or just trying to make a point.

As Mark Twain said:

"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Nothing replaces preparation, brevity and putting a little of yourself into your communication. It takes a great deal of work to say something that makes a difference.

What is your ignite, PechaKucha, fast pitch, or TEDtalk about yourself or your cause or your idea or your organization?

All of this has to start with knowing who you are and what you want?

I developed the BIT, (brief introductory talk) to focus us on how we even introduce ourselves.

I love flash learning opportunities. I have long believed that if we pay attention and assert ourselves there are moments, events, and people that will teach us and change us in an instant. Life is so fast and we have to see the choices and the chances we get everyday.

Yes, we should slow down. We should savor long walks on the beach, enjoy a good book, and smell the roses along our meandering journey of life, as long as we know what we want and how to articulate it. And did we meet someone on the beach, learn something from the book, or did the sight and scent of the flowers make us think about someone else? How will our experiences advance our learning and our goals to help one another.

Thanks for reading. John


A Sampling of New Year's Inspirations and Tools

For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit... start whenever you want... you can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that stop you. I hope you feel things that you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

  Benjamin Button's letter to his daughter.

Any time you set new goals, reflect on your path, or make new plans to reach your own potential is a good time. If you like new year's then make the most of it. I have included a few things that I review each year to get me focused on what I want for the next year and beyond (like this Benjamin Button quote). I have learned that most goals won't fit neatly into a 12 month time frame. I try not to focus on the transactional and push myself to consider the transformational. The typical and somewhat trivial new years resolutions can be pretty selfish--Lose weight, eat better, exercise more, get my finances in order, read more.....These are your goals if you want to live longer and be more successful. These "goals" are important but are so basic to life. Don't get me wrong, take care of yourself, stop smoking, get your fiscal and physical act together. But seriously, you know these things. Just do it.

If we spend a little less time contemplating our abs and more time planning our futures, we would all be better off. You won't be surprised when I tell you it will always be the relationships that define your life. Relationships you nurture, repair, develop, and engage will define your success and your happiness. Connect with people you care about. Be mentored and mentor others. Develop new relationships around your goals and passions. Tiny advances here are not enough. You need to make big strides, huge compromises, and extra efforts to strengthen your relationships into mutually beneficial ones. You have to take the lead if you want something to happen.

A good friend of mine was telling me about her 84 year-old dad who I guess is starting to lose his senses and whits everyday. He lives 3000 miles from here so she doesn't see him very often. In fact she told me it has been more than 6 months and she could not make the time over the holidays. I let her have it. "You gotta get out there and see him", I urged her. "You have to see him when he recognizes you and he can tell you his stories." She actually was a little offended by my tone. She told me she was going to get him Skype so they could see and talk more. Time and money seem like a small price to pay to see your dad in person. For me, I live by, "No Regrets!"

Here's my popular one-page goal setting sheet called the SWiVEL (Download SWIVEL_new_2009). Strengthen What I Value Enjoy and Love. Spend some quiet time to develop your answers. Feel free to change it. Writing your goals makes a big difference.

Here is my final device for focus--the UCLA System:

Urgency--A sense that time is valuable and fleeting gives you an inner drive to accomplish things. How do we create a continuous sense of urgency without the stress?

Community--Connecting to strengthen a sense of belonging and community around you. How will you connect or reconnect with people that you can help?

Learning--Education is cranial oxygen. You need to learn new things. What will I learn this year? What will you learn or even master this year? 

Action--Nothing matters unless you do something. Take steps to move your agenda. Crawl, walk then leap!

My ever present question always precedes any process: What do you want? 

That answer will guide your vision for the next year. While we all need to lose weight, tighten our abs, get our finances in order, and spend more time with family--we also need to envision what we want in our lives. Not sure where you thought you'd be in 2011 but the next year will go by quickly too. No time like the present to pursue your dreams in addition to renewing our promises to look and feel better.

So there you have it. Benjamin Button, Interview with God, SWiVEL, and the UCLA System. Hopefully something here gets you to quit your membership in the procrastination club and focus on advancing your goals and relationships. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and into a grand world of who you can be.

Here's to an extraordinary 2011! Thanks 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