costumes

Peek a Boo! I See Me

Infants don't understand the concept of permanence. It is an essential stage of cognitive and sensory motor skill development. We have all done this with little kids. We hide our faces with our hands and then reveal our faces and say Peek a Boo! And the kids are astonished and amazed. Like a magic trick. They laugh uncontrollably because of the surprise.

And when toddlers cover their faces, they think they are invisible.

When we grow up we are still confused about what is real. We think we are invisible. As adults we hide our own faces and our feelings We become quite clever in masking our true selves. And the mask can become the face. Peekaboo

I meet many people at many points in their lives. Junctions, detours, shifts, inflection points, crossroads--all names for the same thing---Life! Every moment considering choices is about change. Anyway, I try to use these moments to see if I get clues about what they really want. Poker players call it the "tell". A sign given off by facial expression, body tics, and or inflection that gives away a truth.

I recently met with a younger man and he was babbling on about who he was and his impressive background ( I remember when I use to show up and throw up) He said, "I want to help people." (When I hear this it takes every ounce of my control not to say, "Yeah "people" that narrows your career choices!") Instead I said "Which people?" And after a series of these back and forths. He spoke eloquently about "helping people overcome what he had overcome." I stopped him and asked him to tell me how he felt. I told him how I felt. It was pretty emotional. His eyes, inflection and body language did all of the talking. And we built a small rhetorical campfire and sat down to explore this personal story. He thought I read his mind, but he opened his book and read from his heart. I was moved.

That honesty about what matters gives me a view of what I think is the soul. The true self who hides in the costume and mask department of our minds. It is a bit of a game of hide and seek I play with others and myself. To get the souls to come out and play and share.

It reminds me to be vulnerable and empathetic in the way I listen and think. It helps me immensely. And I know it has an impact on others and the dimensions of conversation that ensue.

I am convinced that we unconsciously let others and ourselves suppress so much of our potential and our soulfulness. The heavy blanket of expectations, political correctness, not looking stupid, not making other people uncomfortable, not being good enough etc etc.

Sheryl Turkle and her fascinating book, Reclaiming Conversation:

My research shows that we are too busy connecting to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet these are the kinds of conversations in which intimacy and empathy develop, collaboration grows, and creativity thrives. We move from conversation to mere connection. And I worry that sometimes we forget the difference. Or forget that this is a difference that matters.

In our daily conversations, it starts with so called small talk, exchanges where we move our lips and sounds tumble out of our pie holes. Classic example is "How are you?" and you reply reflexively, "Fine. You?" and a thousand unthinking variations. But our robotic chatter is not limited to these informal seemingly meaningless verbal transactions. They now consume most of our time. Like bad texting exchanges that say nothing. We partake in a lot of live face to face superficial texting through our mouths. 

We say words and others say words we neither listen to or fully comprehend what pablum spews back and forth. It is not that we are uncaring souls, but we have rehearsed our routines like inadequate amateur versions of Robin Williams' improv group of personalities. We pull something from our inner hard drive and it plays without much thought.

How do we disrupt this pattern if we want to have more interesting and meaningful conversations? How do we show our empathy and compassion for one another? Who starts the real conversation?

Do we have the time and patience? Do we?

And yet we want help. We crave and cry out for mentoring for guidance for support--on our terms, just in time, convenient, fast and simple to assemble. We want life and career advice that comes out of an IKEA box, or fits into a 3 minute YouTube. Not a revealing conversation.

Love Akuyoe Graham's advice to me about enjoying the taste of the words. Meaning that you take the time and thought to savor what you say. You sense the words you speak, their weight, their intention and you convey those thoughts with your face and your body.

Am I there, present, vulnerable, open, attentive, listening, more interested than interesting? That matters. And can make way to real conversations.

Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation How talk can change our lives:

Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they just don't exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. It's a spark that two minds create.

How many conversations do we have like that? Wouldn't that be good?

In my analysis this real conversation is a meeting of the minds and a meeting of the souls. 

It takes both sides to make this happen.

Peek a boo (excerpt from my poem)

I see you

Then you’re gone

I see what you want to be, what you try to be

I see what you want me to see

I saw something

The glint of the sun through the clouds

I felt you

A warm breeze on a summer eve

Something real and fleeting

Like a poltergeist

The warmth and chill of presence

I feel you

Peek a boo

But just like that you disappear

From right in front to out of sight

Are you gone or just hiding?

What are you afraid of?

When will I see you again?

Maybe it’s me

Am I scaring you?

Peek a boo

I see me

Like a mirror image

That glimpse of you was a glimpse of me

I want what you want

And your words are the words I want

I hear me through you

Peek a boo

You are changing me

Am I changing you?

An open heart opens the mind

We are changed

We try to be invulnerable and see no flaw

We become vulnerable and see the light

Peek a boo

I learn from you

When I was teaching you

Peek a boo

You mentor me

When I was trying to mentor you

You helped me 

Did I help you?

Peek a boo

I saw you

And you see me

I need you

And you need me

Come out to play and let’s be                                                          John E. Kobara

 

We must help others and ourselves explore and share our truths, our souls. 

If we see it, acknowledge it, welcome it. And embrace it. 

Build a campfire and listen to each other's stories. We have so much to learn from one another. 

Thanks for reading. 


Psych Yourself Up! The 5Ps of Networking

It takes a lot of energy to meet people, engage in conversations, listen carefully, give your attention and to be "on".  Some people are naturally comfortable at it. Most people struggle to do it. Like all things that you do and want to do well, you have to psych yourself up for the task. You have to get yourself prepared and in a positive frame of mind. Nothing good happens when you are unprepared AND have a negative or uncaring attitude. Very rare when great things happen when you "wing it". When you do nothing to prepare yourself for something you find difficult. In fact, it is more likely you not only disappoint yourself and leave some lost opportunities along the way. 

When I was younger I used to think Robin Williams was great at ad libbing. He could do magic in a moment. I also used to think that some people were born with the ability to speak extemporaneously. I also used to believe the myth that some people had the DNA to network and meet people. I have learned these are all fallacies. Of course, some people have more confidence, presence, and the gift of gab--but ANYONE can learn these things. Robin Williams is a very bright performer, after all he went to Julliard! But his routines are well rehearsed and planned. His gift is revealing them as if they weren't. 

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.    John Wooden

Networking is no different. Rocky

Here are some quick proven steps to boost your confidence, readiness, and ultimately your performance (this is beginning to sound like some of the spam we all get:) Stay with me! 

1. Plan and Prepare: You are going to yet another event, reception, cocktail party, company function, conference, seminar and you want to network well. 

  •  Visualize what you think networking success would be. Begin with the end in mind. What are my goals? Do I want to just take some small steps to increase my confidence? Is there information I am seeking? Expertise I need? People from particular orgs or companies I want to compare notes with?
  • Google people you want to meet to find commonalities and interesting facts. This will arm you with a way of breaking the ice. 
  • Think about people who can introduce you to them. Being introduced is the most credible, simplest and stress free way of meeting people. 

Being well prepared, even partially prepared will give you focus and more confidence.

2. Psych Yourself Up!: Before the event, start to get yourself in the right frame of ;mind to be your best self. Other people don't care about the bad day you have had. Get ready to make a good first impression. You need to be on--only you knows what that;feels like.You attract to your life whatever you give time, attention, and focus—positive or negative. I would add, and physically manifest. 

  • Look your best. If you look good you will be more confident and more comfortable.
  • Energize yourself. This is why getting into better physical shape makes a difference, but for now you need to use your nerves or anxiety to be channeled into your focus and personal excitement for the challenge.

3.  Power Pose!: Immediately before the event, take some advice from Harvard        researcher, Amy Cuddy. She has shown that your hormones shift with your physical        presence. Your anxiety and your confidence levels change with your body language. Your internal chemistry mirrors your posture. In other words, when your body is open  and tall, so is your energy and presence. When you fold yourself--arms and legs-- and become smaller, more fetal like, you come off weaker and less impressively. Here are two poses that you can do to boost your energy! Just 2 minutes will positively change your hormonal chemistry. Do these exercises privately :) --they help me before I give a big speech. Lynda_carter_as_wonder_woman

  • Raise your hands above your head in a victory pose. Even blind people who have never seen this pose use it to express their joy and success. 
  • Hands on hips like superman or wonder woman. 
4. Perform: Not telling you to be someone you are not. But we all have "party manners" when we are on our best  behavior. When we       are concious of making a       good impression. 
  • Relax and slow down. Nothing worse than feeling rushed or in a hurry. Try to enjoy the event and the conversations you have. Don't let your goals get in the way of your experience and the attention you give to others.
  • Smile. I know it is obvious, but look like you are happy to meet people. Just the act of smiling will make you feel better and warm others. 
  • Body language is positive. Don't fold up and unintentionally look unapproachable.
  • Be interested and then become interesting. Listen. Let the other person lead. Ask them questions. Engage them then tell your story or make your pitch.
  • Remember names and ask to continue conversations where appropriate.

5. Post-mortem: Critique your process, progress, and performance. Appreciate what you accomplished and make notes on how to improve. Follow-up on the people you met, ideas you gathered and commitments you made.

  • Make notes to yourself. People you met that require follow-up or for future reference. Use the back of the business cards or enter into contact database.
  • Send e-mails. For those you want to continue the conversation, send them an e-mail.
  • Send out information you promised. Every good networker provides as much info and help as they get. Mail or e-mail what you promised or suggested. 

Develop your networking confidence by practice and preparation. Like everything you want to improve upon, invest your time and energy--and psych yourself up! 

Thanks for reading. John


Psych Yourself Up to Network! The 5Ps of Networking

It takes a lot of energy to meet people, engage in conversations, listen carefully, give your attention and to be "on".  Some people are naturally comfortable at it. Most people struggle to do it. Like all things that you do and want to do well, you have to psych yourself up for the task. You have to get yourself prepared and in a positive frame of mind. Nothing good happens when you are unprepared AND have a negative or uncaring attitude. Very rare when great things happen when you "wing it". When you do nothing to prepare yourself for something you find difficult. In fact, it is more likely you not only disappoint yourself and leave some lost opportunities along the way. 

When I was younger I used to think Robin Williams was great at ad libbing. He could do magic in a moment. I also used to think that some people were born with the ability to speak extemporaneously. I also used to believe the myth that some people had the DNA to network and meet people. I have learned these are all fallacies. Of course, some people have more confidence, presence, and the gift of gab--but ANYONE can learn these things. Robin Williams is a very bright performer, after all he went to Julliard! But his routines are well rehearsed and planned. His gift is revealing them as if they weren't. 

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.    John Wooden

Networking is no different. Rocky

Here are some quick proven steps to boost your confidence, readiness, and ultimately your performance (this is beginning to sound like some of the spam we all get:) Stay with me! 

1. Plan and Prepare: You are going to yet another event, reception, cocktail party, company function, conference, seminar and you want to network well. 

  •  Visualize what you think networking success would be. Begin with the end in mind. What are my goals? Do I want to just take some small steps to increase my confidence? Is there information I am seeking? Expertise I need? People from particular orgs or companies I want to compare notes with?
  • Google people you want to meet to find commonalities and interesting facts. This will arm you with a way of breaking the ice. 
  • Think about people who can introduce you to them. Being introduced is the most credible, simplest and stress free way of meeting people. 

Being well prepared, even partially prepared will give you focus and more confidence.

2. Psych Yourself Up!: Before the event, start to get yourself in the right frame of ;mind to be your best self. Other people don't care about the bad day you have had. Get ready to make a good first impression. You need to be on--only you knows what that;feels like.You attract to your life whatever you give time, attention, and focus—positive or negative. I would add, and physically manifest. 

  • Look your best. If you look good you will be more confident and more comfortable.
  • Energize yourself. This is why getting into better physical shape makes a difference, but for now you need to use your nerves or anxiety to be channeled into your focus and personal excitement for the challenge.

3.  Power Pose!: Immediately before the event, take some advice from Harvard        researcher, Amy Cuddy. She has shown that your hormones shift with your physical        presence. Your anxiety and your confidence levels change with your body language. Your internal chemistry mirrors your posture. In other words, when your body is open  and tall, so is your energy and presence. When you fold yourself--arms and legs-- and become smaller, more fetal like, you come off weaker and less impressively. Here are two poses that you can do to boost your energy! Just 2 minutes will positively change your hormonal chemistry. Do these exercises privately :) --they help me before I give a big speech. Lynda_carter_as_wonder_woman

  • Raise your hands above your head in a victory pose. Even blind people who have never seen this pose use it to express their joy and success. 
  • Hands on hips like superman or wonder woman. 
4. Perform: Not telling you to be someone you are not. But we all have "party manners" when we are on our best  behavior. When we       are concious of making a       good impression. 
  • Relax and slow down. Nothing worse than feeling rushed or in a hurry. Try to enjoy the event and the conversations you have. Don't let your goals get in the way of your experience and the attention you give to others.
  • Smile. I know it is obvious, but look like you are happy to meet people. Just the act of smiling will make you feel better and warm others. 
  • Body language is positive. Don't fold up and unintentionally look unapproachable.
  • Be interested and then become interesting. Listen. Let the other person lead. Ask them questions. Engage them then tell your story or make your pitch.
  • Remember names and ask to continue conversations where appropriate.

5. Post-mortem: Critique your process, progress, and performance. Appreciate what you accomplished and make notes on how to improve. Follow-up on the people you met, ideas you gathered and commitments you made.

  • Make notes to yourself. People you met that require follow-up or for future reference. Use the back of the business cards or enter into contact database.
  • Send e-mails. For those you want to continue the conversation, send them an e-mail.
  • Send out information you promised. Every good networker provides as much info and help as they get. Mail or e-mail what you promised or suggested. 

Develop your networking confidence by practice and preparation. Like everything you want to improve upon, invest your time and energy--and psych yourself up! 

Thanks for reading. John


Stop Lying! To Get a Job and To Yourself

We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us.  But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.  ~Tad Williams

Lying is so complicated. You have to remember who you told and who knows. It is an endless process to avoid the truth.Telling the truth is much different than not telling a lie. It starts with little lies we tell ourselves and others. And it can lead to self deception. In the end, we have to ask ourselves, are we who we say we are? Are who we think we are?

Don't make up stuff about yourself, especially about your education. If you did not complete a degree or don't plan to, don't say otherwise. Pretty shocking how many people I have met who lie about their academic records. They just brazenly make false statements about their education. Everyone knows that academic records are checked, so what is the point. It is a deal breaker in job offers and brutalizes your brand. Offered a job to an extraordinary candidate. He was a VERY qualified candidate. His routine background check showed that he had not earned a BA. When we informed him he said he would clear it up and we never heard back from him again. Not sure if it was embarrassment or fear. If he would have told us that he was working on his degree, we would have figured out something. He lied and ran. Don't say you are going to get a graduate degree unless you are planning to. In an informational interview I met this bright young lady who was highly recommended to me. She told me she was "going to get her MBA." I quickly asked her when she was applying and how did she do on the GMAT. She was surprised by the questions and became quite flustered. She looked at me and sheepishly said, "Do you have to take the GMAT?" YIKES!

Don't misrepresent why you left a job.Was it a layoff? A restructuring? A poor fit? Was it amicable? Tell the story. Leave out all of the gory details, but explain what happened in a credible way. This is my favorite--"I just left because I outgrew the position." Yeah, you just quit in the middle of the recession without another job because you were not challenged. Huh? Jon Lovitz, as the pathological liar on SNL used to say, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Don't name drop. Don't exaggerate who you know and how well you know them. The world is small and getting smaller and lies will be unceremoniously unmasked. In my strange and wonderful career I have shaken the hands and "met" many important people. I would never say I "know" them or drop their names in conversations. People tell me they were referred to me by people I know. Then I find out they don't know the person who referred them. Not good form. I was just introduced to someone and before we shake hands, she says "You know so and so don't you." The name shocked me because I did know this person but they were fired for excessive drinking at work! Needless to say this meeting did not go well and my impression of her, and her judgment, were damaged.  

Don't lie about your compensation requirements hoping you will work it out in the negotiations. I always ask what is "your minimum salary requirement." I require an answer. If someone says, "Its does not matter" or "I am totally negotiable." Then we expect they really want the job and money is secondary. Just had a candidate tell us this and then when the offer was made, he told us his minimum salary, which was 20% higher than we  were offering. Don't ever hire liars, they will never stop lying.Stop-lying-to-yourself

Here's the biggest one. Stop lying to yourself. Stop telling yourself and others things that are not true. Things about your plans and your future. Start talking about what you REALLY want. And start taking steps to understand these things better. Know thyself! And then make it happen.

It is not enough to tell the truth. You have to reveal yourself. You have to express what is unique about you. Why knowing you, hiring you, helping you is worth it. What makes you tick. What makes you happy. What you want and where you are going. I see thousands of resumes, then I meet the person. I do not want to hear the recitation of their resume. I know literacy is an issue but provide me with the amazing stuff that is NOT on your resume. So I say "tell me your story." Or I ask about the "other side of the resume", "what you do when you aren't working". Repeatedly, I get these very bland answers like, "I read a lot." or the ubiquitous "I like to travel." I know they are interesting and have compelling stories and personalities, but I rarely hear them. But when I do, it separates them from the pack. It makes them memorable and real. The world is filled with competent people like you, just not enough interesting ones.

The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.  ~Ambrose Bierce

Networking and mentoring like all relatiuonships require truth and transparency to work well. They require trust that is only built upon the strong bond of understanding each other. You are so much more than a resume and a series of jobs. You are a light that is shining on a future---your future. There is no one else like you. So why lie. The truth about you is pretty compelling stuff, more than you think. ean it. You just have to express it and articulate it. You have so many talents and unfulfilled dreams. People love other people's dreams and destinies. You have to talk about the real you and stop lying about a you, you may be pretending to be.

White lies, little lies, and lying to not offend people are things we all do. Dumb lies, that enhance our standing with others need to be curbed. But deceiving ourselves, now that is a crime that has to stop.

Like all of my posts, we have to help those we mentor to adopt these principles. So, if you are a fountain of truth and transparency, teach others how to know and transmit their truths.

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Scariest Costume of All -- The Pretender

First a shout out to my workshop attendees from Pepsi. I spent a half day with some of Pepsi’s hand picked rising Asian American star employees. They are members of PAN (Pepsi Asian Network) one of Pepsi’s many multicultural employee groups. Some large corporations form “affinity” or “resource” groups to assist employees with their integration and assimilation. However most companies still labor under the erroneous and archaic assumption that there will be a "natural" diversity that will emerge in a truly merit based and competitive environment. Logo_pepsico But Pepsi is different. They recognize that creating and growing a multi-cultural team requires leadership and investments of time and resources. Pepsi nominates talented team members and invests in their development. This kind of investment generates loyalty and retains the very top performers. The PAN leaders were primarily first generation Asian immigrants from Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, Korea, Taiwan who are ambitious and passionate. What a joy to facilitate a workshop for them on networking and mentoring. Being around competent, curious, and energetic people is always inspiring to me! It is no wonder that Pepsi is such a world leader that continues to be a model for others.

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Saw some pretty impressive costumes this week. One of the most popular costumes of the season is--being somebody else—being somebody that other people want you to be. These people assume the identity, the career interests, and the dreams that other people want for them. I jokingly call this the outfit of the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Taking on a new identity can be easier and safer. This happens when other people tell you what you SHOULD do, what is BEST for you, what you are GOOD at, and who you are NOT. And not having an answer, you are gradually fitted with somebody else’s life, a frighteningly phony costume!  

Like Jeff Bridges in the 1984 film Starman, where as a space alien he becomes human and normal by copying what other people do and say. Or like Jeff Dunham's lifeless ventriloquist’s dolls that come to life with someone else’s words and actions. 

Where do these costumes come from? How does this occur? Sometimes this happens because of over bearing parents who do not nurture inherent and innate talents. Instead they impose their own dreams on their kids. Others of us fall into jobs and positions that are placeholders until we decide what we want to be when we grow up. Then one day we wake up and we start feeling the pangs of regret. Still others of us feel guilty pursuing our secret passions and interests when being rational and practical is the expectation. In any case we defer our needs and dreams. We assume comfortable identities, costumes, and lives that are not truly our own.

Everyone has hidden talents, submerged career urges, inner callings, unrealized natural genius skills and abilities. We all do. We really do. And when these pent up passions and curiosities get mummified by layers and layers of identities that are projected on us and assumed by us, a life that is true to itself can be lost. And worse, we as a society lose that genius. We as a community lose real passion and inspiration. We as a family or a team lose a role model. Being who we were meant to be is selfish and generous.

For those of you, who are just befuddled by this, count yourselves amongst the fortunate.  Be grateful somebody helped you find yourself or let you become who you are. Your job is to free the others from their suffocating costumes.

For those of you who know that you are wearing a nice looking but totally poor fitting costume, it’s time to look in the mirror and inside. If you do, you will be greeted by a sense of freedom and fear. Free to do what you want and fear of failure. Either way it will be exciting. You can either strip off the costume in one act of courage if you know what you want. Or visit the career wardrobe shop and try on as many new yous as you want. You can rent or borrow new career and life costumes to see if they fit. You are in control. It never has to be all or nothing. But doing nothing is never an option.

Bottomline: Really hard to be mentored or to network when you are an impostor!

Stop pretending. Abandon those scary inauthentic costumes. Escape the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Don’t allow others to design your dreams. And let that amazing you reveal itself. We all need you to be who you were meant to be.

Thanks for reading. John