dreams

When do we (should we) get serious about the pursuit of joy?

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.  —Annie Dillard

The point here is that we all go through phases and cycles that determine our path, trajectory, and destination. Amidst the chaotic stretches where you feel like we have no control there are other moments of clarity, joy and  opportunity. Windows of time that give us the chance to make a change, shift gears, pivot—hopefully focus more on what we really want.

Age 26, according to the unscientific longitudinal Kobara study involving thousands of unsuspecting subjects, starts an 8 year time frame (until 34) where the brain starts to shift to serious things.

It all started some time ago…….

High school is a blur that is dominated by embryonic ideas of self and a confusing cocktail of peer pressure, parental expectations, promises and perfection. Angst over picking a college. The future is filled with questions and excitement.

Who am I?

College can be an awakening unless it was just an extension of high school Average college students change their major 2.5 times. Angst over a major that will connect to a career that cannot be predicted. New questions emerge.

What do I want?

Passion and purpose can be submerged to the realities of student loans and dental benefits.

Caring what others think can distract us from discovering ourselves, our purpose and our joy.  Finding-joy-in-the-journey

"Psychologists and social scientists have found that there are two kinds of popularity: One type suggests people like us, they trust us, they want to spend time with us, they enjoy their time with us. That kind of popularity is really important — it gives us a benefit in life in so many domains, for decades, whether we experience it in childhood or as adults. The second type of popularity is the one we remember from high school, that refers to our status; it reflects our visibility, our influence, our power — our celebrity, in some ways. There’s research showing that type of popularity — status popularity — does not predict long term positive outcomes. In fact, it leads to despair, addiction, and relationship problems. But most people are still confusing the two types of popularity, and searching for the wrong one."  Mitch Prinstein, Popular: The Power of Likability In A Status-Obsessed World.

And we can get focused on, even worship things, things we believe will make us happy and or successful.

“....pretty much anything you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” David Foster Wallace

Am I where I am supposed to be? Am I having fun?

According to the annual Freshman Survey (20 years ago+), the three top goals of first year students in college, in order of preference, are authority in their field (don't even have a major :), raise a family and being very well off financially. The survey reflects the responses of 1.5 million college students from every state. These results have been relatively consistent for 50 years.

That's why I found it fascinating that they did a follow-up study 10 years later when these former 200,000+ freshman were now 28ish. They were asked the same questions. So what were their top three goals now that they have a degree and a healthy dose of the real world?

  1. Raise a family
  2. Develop a meaningful philosophy of life
  3. Become an expert in their field

Help others in difficulty was 4th and being very well off financially fell to 7th.

Develop a philosophy of life?!

Your heart has been giving you signals for a long time but you have muffled those messages by turning up the volume on your life distraction headsets.

You could have one of several "wake-up calls". The world around you starts to call out your name, you wonder how to become an agent of change.  You notice something entering or exiting your heart. A brush with death, yours or someone you love, a subtle or not so subtle connection with life's purpose. You get laid off, not promoted. Then the self-interrogator of life rises again with the blinding light of nerve wracking queries.

Is this all there is? What difference am I going to make? Where is my joy?

Graduate school? Graduate school again?

Marriage or kids or no kids? The initial formation of what I call "regret tumors" starts. Beginning with the abandonment of dreams or promises. Not malignant but ominous tumors.

Seeing the present for the first time instead of letting the next bulldoze the now

Most of you under-estimate yourself and doubt is your enemy.

A few of you over estimate yourself and arrogance is your enemy.

Both are necessary for success but you need more perspective, humility, grit and resilience.

Start re-booting your life--- a life that interweaves your passions and your goals. Start listening and trusting your heart. This is not easy, but it is rewarding.

What is meaningful to you? What gives you joy?

If you are over the age of 34, it is never too late. Your quest for greater fulfillment and your sense of contributing to something larger than you is growing within you. Time is fleeting.

Regrets age you. Regrets can kill you. Minimize regrets!

If your goal is to make meaning by trying to solve a big problem in innovative ways, you are more likely to make money than if you start with the goal of making money, in which case you will probably not make money or meaning.    Guy Kawasaki

The key is engaging others in your quest. In your journey. In your dreams. Getting help to pursue your ideas. Getting advice on what others have already learned and tried. Connect! Don't fall victim to the "do-it-yourself" trap. It never works! Listen to yourself! The you that jumps out of the passenger seat and takes over the steering wheel of your life! Start building a life that gives you joy!

So you are waiting for the right time. The confluence of great opportunity, financial security and a sign from the heavens.....

There is no right time, just right now!

Thanks for reading. John


Optimistic Fatalism and my conversation with Leonard

 "I really do not like what I do but I am 10 years from retirement......."

"Gotta go with the flow."

"I just want to see if I make partner. I should be a partner by now, they owe me......"

"It is what it is."

"My values and my employer's values are diverging, but I'll figure out what I want to do later in my career....."

"Lucky to have what I have."

According to my unscientific survey, surrendering to the status quo starts earlier and younger. Settling sooner for what you can get and shelving what you wanted. I had a millennial call herself an "optimistic fatalist". "I really hope I am wrong, but I am not going to do what I want."  It depresses me.

I am constantly and irritatingly asked:

When do you move on to the next thing? At what point do I give up on my dreams? 

After one of my workshops I was pursued by an executive who sat at my lunch table. I'll call him Leonard. After listening to the small talk he blurted out some thoughts that were clearly percolating for awhile.

"So John, I get your message--do what you want and even love. I get it. I wish I could do it, I wish it was possible. You know most people just can't do that. People take the jobs they can get and they put up with the toxic worlds they enter to make a living. Having a job you love is a fantasy."

You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. Jim Carrey

"Leonard. Thanks for speaking up and challenging my words. I do not want to make any of this sound easy or simple. It isn't. Taking control of your life takes courage. Just to be clear, I was not suggesting that finding a job you love will be THE answer. But finding work you love, you believe in, that fulfills you is not a fantasy. It is achievable and doable. Of course, if you need a job to eat and survive, then you need a job and your tolerance for inhospitable environments is much higher. But I am talking about me and you. We are sitting in this nice hotel chatting about our futures. We are over educated and have choices. There are amazing things that people will pay you to do that may be more fulfilling and fun. But I was also talking about building a life you love. A portfolio of things that represent your passions, interests and dreams. That procrastinating these decisions into some sort of sequence of steps and chapters is crazy. There is little chance that one job will provide you all of the fulfillment of your life. But you will spend way too much time working, so how do we make it the best job, a job you care about, as the hub and build out great spokes from there. No one like us has to put up with a toxic job. Does that make sense?

Yin yang
Yeah, but I really thought you were just talking about a dream job, Leonard replied.

No. A dream life. A lot of people struggle with so-called "work-life" balance. This is a myth and a harmful way of thinking. People seek balance because something in their lives is not as good as other parts. What if all parts were good? What if you designed your life to give you the fulfillment, flexibility, and the time to "balance" your life? Wouldn't that be a better life? 

Leonard nodded, "I know people(most people say they have a "friend";) who are really unhappy and they just can't leave their jobs."

I hear a lot of people who want to blame everyone but themselves about the predicament they are in. Again, these are first world people with advanced degrees and great resumes. They have convinced themselves they are stuck--stuck like sea squirts.

Sea squirts are odd slinky-like marine life that swim in schools to find a rock or piece of coral to make home. They permanently affix themselves to the rock. Then they do something really odd, they individually eat their own vertebrae and brains. Because when you are stuck on a rock you don't need a backbone or a mind! 

I meet a lot of really smart sea squirts! No backbone to stand up for themselves and their lives. Who get shackled to a narrative of high consumption and higher expectations that makes them fall behind in their credit and their careers.  Sea squirts Bluebell

Just like moving from pensions and defined contribution retirement plans to 401K's , we have to run our own financial AND life portfolios. 

There is a materialistic and financial delusion that we need so much stuff. And that stuff puts us in debt and that starts the vicious cycle of compromises and postponed plans. We get burrowed and cemented into a rut that imprisons us. We want more and accept less.

By the way, all setting a pattern of optimistic fatalism for our kids.

Yet I watch a growing number of people emerge from the fog and break out of their cells of expectations by following their hearts. Huge changes underway where people are making choices about priorities, downsized lifestyles, and upsized lives. Finding work they love. In the four pay cuts I took for jobs that gave me a more flexible life, I never regretted it. 

I recently met a chef, who now has four restaurants. He was defense contractor engineer who was very well paid. He went to these gourmet dinners with wine pairings made by a friend. He loved these meals and quit his job to become a chef at 45. He would have made more money and had a bigger retirement fund, but he chose his heart over his financial plan.

When you're doing something you love and are drawn to it, you want to do it all the time. - Ra Paulette 

Or the financial planner who volunteered for the Special Olympics and now is a neuropsychologist. Or the night club owner who decided to give his excess food to the homeless and now manages a social enterprise that does just that. 

People who have built happier and more meaningful lives around something that moved them.

What moves you? What is important to you that isn't getting your attention? Build it into your portfolio. Design a life that makes space for it.

 Be reckless when it comes to affairs of the heart.

What I really mean … is be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you. No one ever died saying, “I’m sure glad for the self-centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived.”

Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity. But understand that when you live that way you will soon learn how little you know and how easy it is to fail.

Clinging to what you already know and do well is the path to an unlived life. So, cultivate beginner’s mind, walk straight into your not-knowing, and take the risk of failing and falling again and again, then getting up again and again to learn — that’s the path to a life lived large, in service of love, truth, and justice. Parker Palmer

We have to wake up from the delusion that choice is a fantasy, clear the fog and take control!

Does this make sense Leonard? Now what? 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Cooking up the Supreme Career

How did we end up where we are, right now? What were the thousand of unmemorable decisions, influences, strokes of luck (bad and good), right place right time circumstances that conspired for you to be right here. Some of you are smiling and others are not. We all have stories, do we not?! While our resumes and bios give certainty of credit and trajectory, we all know better. In fact we have forgotten most of the things that really contributed to our successes. Bits of advice, mentoring moments, what friends said or did, a death, a birth, a movie you saw, a speech you heard......hundreds of things that shaped your point of view and pushed and pulled you to where you are.

Are you noticing what is influencing, could be influencing you now? Emerson

In the last 72 hours I was reminded of the subtlety and fragility of those moments and messages. When I was younger I was "too focused" too ambitious" to see so much. I was lucky to have gained anything--and I did. I feel like I see and hear so much more today. Yeah, the clock is ticking but I am paying attention with a heart and mind that knows how much I don't know. That I still have unexplored talents and potential hidden within me. 

One of my favorite books is Instructions to the Cook  describes the Zen Buddhist concept for the supreme meal. The supreme meal is when we live our life fully, wholeheartedly---a fully expressed life.

So the first principle of the Zen cook is that we already have everything we need. If we look closely at our lives, we will find that we have all the ingredients we need to prepare the supreme meal. At every moment, we simply take the ingredients at hand and make the best meal we can. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we have. The Zen cook just looks at what is available and starts with that.

  • I lead a workshop for 74 newbies in the field of philanthropy. We all paused to reflect on the unpredictable circumstances that pushed us into philanthropy--a field none of us "majored in" or can explain to our parents! So is this a way-station to something else or is this the most important opportunity of our lifetime so far ?(choose #2). How do we make the most out of what we have and where we are?
  • Visited the incredible Frank Gehry exhibition at LACMAThe genius of Frank's architecture could have easily been lost to his stronger interest in becoming a pilot. His ceramics class unexpectedly led him to architecture. He ignored his professor who told him that architecture was not his field. And later after he designed a typical shopping center in Santa Monica, a mentor asked him if he was happy designing for others. Frank quit his cushy job and took a giant leap--and the rest is history. How do we respond to self-criticism and the judgment and discouragement of others? How do we do what we love?
  • Saw He named me Malala  film where a 14 year old girl literally gets shot in the face with her destiny and becomes the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her unique parents, her name, her incredible personality, the influences of the needs around her and the Taliban forged her destiny. How do we uphold our values and the rights of others? How do we react to tragedy, pain and threats? 
  • And then to top it off I saw Lost Angels, a gritty documentary about the fates of regular people who end up on skid row. Poignant stories of choices, challenges, misfortune, and the ovarian lottery. How do we manage our balance, sanity, finances, addictions, and demons to stay on the straight and narrow?  How do we make the most out of what we have?
  •  

Stuff happens. Switches get flipped. New paths appear. People push, others pull. You get bored, inspired, discouraged and educated. Outside forces influence your little asteroid into a different orbit and trajectory--if you let them. What chances and changes do we prevent from happening? What do we suppress, fail to express, and under-value in our pursuit of the practical and prudent? What is right in front of you right now that you can't see because your lenses are zoomed in on what is more important to others than to you? 

All of the ingredients are in your cupboard to make the supreme meal. What do you have that you have forgotten about? What do you have that you have never tasted or used? How do you focus on where you are and what you are doing to make it supreme?

Every moment is fleeting, fragile and filled with opportunity. The emergence of your passions and purpose grow within you. Meaning and fulfillment are not foreign destinations you hope to visit some day, they surround you. You have what it takes. The possibilities within you are untapped. The opportunities around you are boundless.

I want to incorporate the flavors of the newbie beginner's mind, the outside perspective of Gehry,  Malala's courage, and the humility of the homeless into my cuisine. 

What do you want?

Put on your apron, open your cupboard, sharpen your knives---let's get cooking!!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Put this on the Top of Your Wish List

Wishing is one of the most powerful forms of articulating our needs. Seems like the holidays and the New Year bring out our wishes more than any other time.  We hear a wish and want it to happen. Think Make-A-Wish Foundation. The idea that something hard to get might be attainable is hopeful and inspiring. Everybody has wishes. What are yours? And what are the people around you, people you care deeply about , wishing for? Not what we want! Not gifts, stupid. Not the PS4, the iPhone6, or a Prada purse or other meaningless stuff. But a true wish for our lives and well being that comes from our hearts and souls. Wish dandelion_wish_2-t2

When we blow out a birthday candle or throw a penny into a wishing well, we all revert to a childlike state of hoping for a millisecond that something magical can come true. Just before our cynical, impulsive and over-bearing brains take over--we express a real secret thought that has real meaning. But that beautiful moment is trashed by horrific sounds and images of reality!

Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it. Jane Wagner

This is not about you! It rarely is. So dial back the WIIFM (What's In It For Me). Think about people around you, people you love. Do you know their wishes? Really? When is the last time you talked about such wishful thinking?

I have the chance to meet hundreds of people every year through my work, my volunteering, and my presentations. Almost always, I confront people with the Wish Obstacle-something I learned from Barbara Sher. "I always wanted to_______, but__________ ."I ask people to fill in the blanks and articulate their wish to a stranger in the audience--What their wish is and why they don't have it or even pursue it. It always triggers a robust discussion. The stranger can't help but offer assistance and advice and genuinely wants to help this random and accidental new friend. But the other thing that happens is people blurt out wishes that they have never said to anyone and reveal highly personal thoughts to an innocent bystander! I have learned that we all have these pent up wishes.

Ask a child you will see over the holidays (under 10 years old)--what they are wishing for. After they give you a long list of material things, tell them not a gift and then be quiet-let them think. More often than not the child, oh to have the authenticity of a child, he/she will say something that will blow your mind. Here is a sampling of what I have heard: "I wish mommy and daddy would stop fighting." "I am scared to go in the bathroom at school. I wish they would clean it up." "I wish people would stop hurting each other." Be prepared to talk about their wish and not dismiss their moment of truth. Kids say the darndest things and are we listening?!

If we knew what people were truly wishing for to make them whole, to give them more fulfillment, even meaning in their lives, then we could help them pursue it--and that would be the greatest gift.

So what are your friends and family wishing for?

Mom santa fe
My mom and sister in Santa Fe

So a number of years ago I called my Mom and asked her the Wish/Obstacle. She gave me the classic mom answer, "Oh you know I don't need anything." As we all know it is impossible to buy gifts for your mother! But I pushed and told her not a gift, something she wanted. And immediately she said, "I always wanted to go to Santa Fe, but don't think I will ever get there." I had never heard this before and asked why she didn't go to Santa Fe. She said, "Your dad doesn't travel anymore and I probably won't see Santa Fe." That sent me into motion on a mission. I called my brother and sisters and we put together a trip. My sister Tomi went with my mom and they did Santa Fe! A wish fulfilled. Do we know what people are wishing for?!

Now I am going to ratchet it up a notch or three. Now think about the person who you care about but with whom you have a broken relationship. The one that hurts you in your heart. We all have them. We have to repair this relationship for ourselves. We have to avoid the bigger regrets that just will grow over time. As I have said so many times, "Regrets become tumors!" Reach out to this person during the holidays. Why now? Because it is NOW and because the holidays open doors, windows and little cracks of light. So reach out and tell them your wish. "I wish we had a better relationship, but I need your help to make this happen." Don't apologize, don't bring up the past, don't waffle wiggle and wander. Just state your wish. The truth in this wish might re-kindle something, hopefully not more negativity. But you stepped up and out to meet your challenge. This is not a magical gimmick that repairs relationships. It is a starting point for you to take the next step. It is a way for you to say something good to somebody you care about. You need each other.

Wishing does not make anything happen. Helping people get their wishes is a mission. 

I wish for all of you to connect to the people you love. To connect to the people who you have lost touch with. To reduce your regrets by helping others and yourself. 

Making other people's wishes come true will restore your faith, your childlike faith, in the magic of possibility and the glory of the relationships which matter most.

Thanks for reading. John


Pursuit of Passion Formula or Folly

There are a number of authors and bloggers selling books and their points of view that "follow your passions" is the worst career and life advice. They argue that focusing on the development of your expertise, skills, and competencies is a much surer way to "success". Is this a great debate? Not to me. I believe it is folly to argue, either or, in matters of the heart and the mind.

Cal Newport (So Good They Can't Ignore You), Bassam Tarazi, Ramit Sethi, and most recently Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) have jumped on the anti-passion bandwagon.
Scott Adams:  "For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. Success caused passion more than passion caused success. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. But the ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed.”  Van Gogh

Scott, that's not passion. That's rationalization and self-justification. And that's how you deal with failure?! How about trying to cure cancer, solve poverty, bringing education to the inner city? Wow if we could all just dispose of things we were not good at. Imagine if we could all accept the "drain of passion" because things did not work out! Such a selfish and narrow view of passion.

Cal Newport:  "Passion is a side effect of mastery."

Really Cal? Passion only comes from what you are good at? So passion can't drive mastery? I guess Cal has not met the hundreds of non-profit leaders I have. Or spent time with artists. Or with immigrant entrepreneurs who don't have anything but the burning desire to survive and flourish. Nor with foster youth who have been abused and now in college repairing their lives. These types of passion do not exist in the ivory tower, they thrive in the community of need. These people use their passion like fuel. Yes, their passion propels their mastery. It is the expression of who they are.

Of course, telling people to  just Follow your passions! Blind to who they are. Deaf to what their heart says. Dumb to their education and expertise--Yes of course this is foolish advice to chase rainbows without a toolbox of skills and expertise.  Passion and success

As Daniel Pink asserts in his book Drive, true motivation comes from Autonomy, Mastery AND Purpose. These intertwined concepts engage people in fulfilling lives and work. 
Many people approach love and even mentoring in this way. "Love will conquer all." That if they find the love of their lives it will make everything in their lives better. Love does not pay the bills or complete your degree. People approach me in search of mentors as if the "right" mentor will magically guide them to the promised land. Are you prepared for a serious relationship and commitment? Are you mentorable? Are you ready for guidance and direction? Follow your passion(s) is relevant for those who, like all successful people, are working on their whole selves--on their mastery and their purpose. You have to be prepared to do what you love, be who you want to be, and follow your passions. And live passionately.

If I didn't know better, I would accuse these passion naysayers of wanting us to just suck it up and work for the man. To accept the tenets of the industrial/educational complex that all promotions and success are based on meeting and exceeding the job descriptions. We know that is absurd. To not bring our hearts to work, just our lunchpails. There is a conspiracy to tell you just to bear down and do your jobs and avoid the distractions of your inner calls for purpose and meaning from the quarterly goals of shareholders. I spent several careers making others wealthy. I know this philosophy of the owners and the holders of the equity---"Do your job and make it your life! And you will gain some valuable experiences!"
Living a passionless life and career is a waste and empty.

Even these writers who want to sell books and gain attention would agree that passion makes a difference in the success of individuals and organizations. But their perspective only helps the extremely naive and confuse the sophisticated.

Consider these thoughts:
Follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.  Bertrand Russell

Passion and expertise are siamese twins. They feed each other. Success is tied to both. 
Passion is what animates, energizes, and actualizes our skills, talents, abilities and expertise. 
Passion is the suffering we endure in trying to become the best we can, the way we interpret our purpose in life, and the focus on the needs of others. Passion drives our best work.
Yes we all need to hone our hard skills but we have to nurture our soft skills as well. For those of us who aspire to lead and make a difference, it will be the soft skills that will enhance careers. And at the core needs to be a fire of passion that stokes our desire to do something that matters to ourselves and others.

If you do not build a life, not just your job, around your passions, you will wither from the quicksand of settling for what comes to you and not pursuing what you care about. 

It is true that a "follow your passion(s)" advice to the uneducated/unskilled is unadvised and dangerous. But to condemn this advice for those of us searching for meaning and purpose is criminal.

 Thanks for reading. John


Do I look like my next job?

Was watching the Golf Hall of Fame Induction ceremony the other night. Fred Couples was inducted and introduced by sportscaster Jim Nantz. Jim re-told the great story about the dreams they had as classmates and team mates on the University of Houston golf team. In 1978 Fred Couples and Jim Nantz, a broadcast journalism student at the time, rehearsed many times the scenario where Fred won the Masters and Jim interviewed him holding a fake microphone. On April 12, 1992 this very dream ACTUALLY happened, just like they had planned. Freddie won the Masters and Jim interviewed him in Butler Cabin fourteen years later! 

Fred and jim
Fred Couples and Jim Nantz 1992

Part of looking like your next job means you prepare for it, you envision it, and you have rehearsed it. 

But the salient point here is they had a dream. They knew what they wanted. Their vision proceeded their ambitiousness.

It's never foolish to begin preparing for a transition no matter how many years away it is or where you are in your career. Muriel Wilkins

Amy Gallo advocates these principles in her blog:

Do:

  • Look for every opportunity to demonstrate your leadership potential, at work and outside t
  • Support your boss in reaching her goals
  • Find people in positions you aspire to and study what makes them successful

 Don't:

  • Let your ambitions distract you from doing your current job well
  • Exert authority where you don't have any — use influence to prove your leadership chops
  • Find the right time to openly discuss your ambitions

I was sitting at a career event dinner and a young woman across the table from me blurts out, "Hey, is there any truth that I should look like I want my boss's job?" I paused and asked whether she was talking about dressing for success or was it more than that. She said, "Yes, what I wear, but also what I do." Now before all of you roll your eyes and groan--how naive this young lady is--let me tell you few people, young and more mature, get this. One of the funny parts of this story is I learned later that her boss was sitting next to me!

She clearly had thought about this question and showed some guts to ask it. Here's a brief synopsis of our exchange:

First make sure you know what you want and want what you know. Yes, how you look, act, talk, perform, shapes your brand within the organization. Your brand is what people think about what you bring to work. Your brand is where people think you are going. Your brand is the potential others, including you boss, see for you. (Not what you see for yourself) So, how you look matters. But what you say and what you do matters more. 

I mentioned the PIE research to her. Where your Performance is a given and is the least influential in your promotability. It is your Image (your brand) and your Exposure (your visibility) that dwarf your performance  in terms of your promotability. This surprised her.

We discussed her "managing up" skills. Does she help her boss beyond her job by making observations, preparing thought pieces, giving feedback, and anticipating her boss's needs?

A successful middle manager gets promoted when she takes the right amount of initiative, defers the right amount of credit and orchestrates success. That success might happen despite (not because) of who her bosses are, and that's just fine, because she's leading up.   Seth Godin

And then I said, "You gotta look like your next job." Meaning--if you dress down to your level then people may not see you as a manager or an executive. We all know the clothes don't make the person, but your brand is your brand. If the culture at your place of employment is managers wear suits, then you need to adjust your look. If your culture is the executives get in early or stay late. Or if the culture is reading certain publications or attending certain events. Then you need to adapt to these cultural norms and values.

My favorite story on this topic is when a gang member named Leonard came to Father Greg Boyle to seek his advice on getting a job. Leonard told him that he gets interviews but never an offer. Leonard had tattooed on his forehead in 3 inch letters F#@K THE WORLD. I met Leonard after he had that tattoo removed from his head and now he has more opportunities. 

I know this is extreme but I have seen, worked with, and managed people who discuss their lofty career plans out of one side of their mouth and then they come to work looking like they don't care. Their dress communicates the same phrase as Leonard's old forehead!

Management, the executive team, see potential in the performance and then the brand of the person. 

When the student is ready the teacher appears.  Buddha

Use your network and your mentors to  check your forehead. :) To check your vision. To check what you want. To check your brand. That will help you see yourself and find out if you look like your next job. 

Thanks for reading.  John


Want greener pastures but hate the weeding

Many of us have visions of ourselves and our futures that give us hope or delusion. We think about these visions and often make no efforts to purse them. Potentially dangerous stuff because we get mesmerized by our dream and get lulled to sleep.

Like Lenny in Mice and Men. We dream and then can literally squeeze the life out of our dreams by not waking up and taking action.

"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is we put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our window." Dale Carnegie

Rose garden

I hear a lot about these rose gardens or  "greener pastures" that exist in our dreams and over the horizon. Specific ideas and details of what lies ahead--in our imaginations. These roses are inviting and aromatic. The grass is green and lush. Green pasture

The trouble is we don't  actually visit these garden and pasture like places. Maybe we don't want to ruin the image and perfection. Maybe we are afraid of failure. Maybe we are too busy--yikes! Maybe we are waiting for the "right" time--double yikes!

I get exhausted from hearing these visions with no action. 

People ask me everyday, "What is a good mentor?" A good mentor pushes the mentee to start a rose garden or weed the pasture of their dreams. A good mentor will not tolerate hearing about the dream more than a couple of times without seeing real steps in pursuing that dream. I am trying to be a good mentor right now.

Stop talking about your dream and test it. Bring some reality to the dream by taking field trips to that place.

I recently was introduced by a friend in Barcelona to a new friend from Germany: Balazs. He has been dreaming about moving his family and business to LA. He had a short stint here in a study abroad program and a family member recently moved here. He was convinced that the pasture was greener in LA. He decided to pursue his dream. He researched the business environment, used his network--that's where I was contacted--and flew to LA. He gave himself a month to explore the pastures of LA and the limits of his dream. He immersed himself in a new place. Balazs is very bright and talented, but he is a reserved and trusting guy. Yet he pushed himself to network and jump into new situations, and literally knock on doors to conduct his research. He was like an amazing advance man for a big campaign. Testing messages, needs, and interest all the while selling himself. Hard stuff. I connected him to my network and he ran with it. He met hundreds of people, visited dozens of companies and in the end, conducted a thorough investigation of his dream. What he didn't expect was how this tour of LA was a tour of his soul, of his assumptions about his business and about his life. Because Balazs was open to the feedback, he learned that LA could work if he changed his dream. His dream has been tempered by reality and he can now decide if it is greener.

Reminds me of the two shoe salesmen who visited Africa many years ago. The first wrote back and said,"No one wears shoes here, no opportunities." The second one wrote back, "No one wears shoes, huge opportunity." Going to see things changes how you view things.

I have heard these phrases recently. I call them ambitiousness without ambition. 

I want to get an MBA.  What's the GMAT?

I want to own my own business. What's ebitda?

I want to run a non-profit without fundraising.

Who doesn't want the success without the work? The dream without waking up.

We say silly things and then dream about them. 

We need to know what we are saying and dreaming about. Reality can bring those pastures into focus and purse them. Or allow you to delete that dream and build a new one. What a waste of a life to regret a dream you did not want. 

Not trying to deter you from dreaming just dream in HD. Dream accurately. Understand the path to the dream. Every beautiful rose garden has thorns, bugs, and you have to bury some manure. Every picturesque green pasture has weeds, vermin, and requires a lot of work. 

Use your network and your mentors to visit the pastures and meet the farmers. Learn about the soil and seed. Wear the shoes. Is it still green?.

Curiousity may have killed the cat but it may breathe life into your dreams. 

Balazs traveled 6000 miles to test his dream. Odds are your dreams are so much closer.

Wake up, stand up, and smell the roses and run through those pastures. 

Thanks for reading. John