federal witness relocation program

Identity Theft and the Unicorn of Security

We need to believe in magic, myth, and miracles. We need to fantasize and dream to distract us from the drudgery of our day to day lives. To make sense of the meaning of our Groundhog Day existence.


This is where I go insane. People confess these things to me and I lose it. Drudgery?! Groundhog Day? That is unacceptable. You don't need distractions you need a new life. Why do we settle? Why do we endure the pain and suffering? Because we are martyrs? Because "this is the best it can be"?

Never fault anyone who wants a job that will last until they die. They just don't exist. :) I just met two young managers who basically told me they want an annuity as a career. You know, where you can literally produce an excel spreadsheet and a linear graph of the "guarantee" of the compensation, benefits and retirement. The unicorn of security.

This late 20ish man and woman were like characters from a Mad Men era of career certainty. Get on the escalator and it will take you to the top. 

Courtesy of Start-Up You

I know that global instability, the insecurity of families, the nightmarish experience of serial layoffs and unemployment breed this extreme, illogical, and actually quite dangerous perspective.

Tried to guide these two people, with only little effect. The young woman has been laid off several times consecutively. Three promising jobs were attained since she earned her graduate degree in business. Three name brand firms with sterling reputations (2 of which no longer exist). Three bosses who assured her of a career path. Her confidence was shattered. Her risk averse muscles grew on steroids. She now wants certainty. Yikes! I get it. I really do. Being jilted at the alter three times would make anyone anti-marriage. But would it make you anti-love? Anti-dreams? She has accepted a position as a bureaucrat that offers "security of employment" and a "great pension". "If I just keep my head down and do my job, I'm set for life." But is that a life you want?

Our conversation shifted to her life outside of her job. I strongly advised her to build out this part of her life to "balance" her job with her passions and other skills. This woman has so much to offer and it would be a waste and a shame if she does not invest this part of herself. She and the community would be poorer. My secret unspoken idea was to make sure she built her network and confidence outside of her day job as a hedge against the unthinkable but possible 4th layoff!

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.  Mandela

The young man with a young family has also endured a triumvirate of bad choices. Four jobs that were not "good fits". Four consecutive times where there was a serious disconnect between both bosses and missions. Four "layoffs". Now all he wants is "security and stability". It was obvious to me that this gentleman was using somebody's else's compass to find his career. When he looked in the mirror he did not see his own image. He did not know himself. The "fit" would never happen until he knew his own size and his preferences. As I preach here ad nauseum, the first networking connection is thyself! I tried to steer the conversation away from his "bad luck" and "poor timing" to the delicate subject at hand. Lucky for me, he arrived at his own doorstep to begin a process and now contemplates a path that reflects his interests and his life. I know this sounds obvious, but I encounter many people who are under the assumed identities of what they think they "should" do, "should" be--everyone has told them what they are good at and what makes sense. They adopt this identity and the consequences in the long run are devastating. They allow others to steal their identities.

So while we all want more security, stability, and certainty in our lives, it will not come from a job with a pension. It will not come from identity theft. 

These great and elusive concepts undermine your confidence in your path. That life is not about security of employment but the security of knowing oneself. Your confidence to build a life outside of your job that is potentially more fulfilling. Your confidence that you will never be defined by your job. Your confidence that you embrace change and are ready for it. It will come from your energy to thrive.

Over time you realize that the source of one comes from its opposite. Security comes from your comfort with insecurity. Stability comes from your understanding of instability. And the only thing you are certain of is uncertainty.

These two people will find their way. It just will not be what they planned.

I am reminded of the power of mentoring: when I give advice it helps the me/the mentor more than the mentees. I am grateful for the chance to help others and to think about my own disjointed path and whether I am being true to myself. I will continue to push myself and others towards their own identities and away from the false gods of stability and security. 

Thanks for reading. John

The Commodity of Crowds

We are a product of our environment, right? No doubt that everything we do and everyone we encounter changes us a little or a lot. But how do we take advantage of the crowds arounds us? How do we avoid being dragged down by the crowd? And regressing to the mean? Everyday we can be pushed to realize our potential or pulled to be like everybody else. 

The nail that sticks out gets hammered.  Japanese proverb

It is human nature to to fall in line. the Asch conformity experiments demonstrate that we will lie about what we see to conform. 

I meet thousands of people who are in the federal witness relocation program. No not real former witnesses hiding out. But people under assumed identities--identities that they assumed from the advice of others. People told them what they should be, what they should study, what jobs made financial sense. They ignored their own interests to make the crowds around them happy.

Don't accept hand-me-down dreams. 

If we were a product how would we market ourselves? How would we promote our brand? What would differentiate us from the other products? Your resume? Your job? You?

Fear, the change around us, doubt about our chances, make us conservative and practical. We pull back our dreams, our aspirations, and our talents. We accept less of ourselves. Less of who we are and what we want. Not talking about our personal budgets. Financial prudence should always govern. I am talking about carving out a life and career that truly reflects you.  Fish

If you always do what you have always done then you always get what you always got.  Stuart Crab

Finding what makes you different requires hard work, experimentation, fast failures, iteration, and certainly not settling. To live an authentic life you have to pursue who you truly are. So the journey is a self discovery of what you love doing, what defines you, what your talents and strengths are. Your network and your mentors can help guide you through this journey if you open your mind and heart.
A true life starts with talking straight about who you are and who want to become. Taking chances to become your best authentic self. Stop using false statements---the use of other people's words that mean nothing to you but satisfactorily answer the question of "Where are you going?" Or "What are you doing with your life?" Glib but disingenuous answers that are meant to stop the conversation. A great mentor would never let you get away with such answers. 
It would be much easier to live a life that "happens". You take what comes to you. Settle for what others want for you. The authentic life is the opposite, you chase it. You hunt it down. You stalk your passion and purpose. 

Why be a commodity of a crowd?  Are you different? Are you average? 76% of Americans say they are above average. So I guess above average is the commodity. :) We can't accept that. 

I leave you with a wonderful Carlos Casteneda quote: 
All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. ... Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

There is wisdom in crowds but don't get lost in them.

Thanks for reading. John

Jungle Gymnastics

If you always do what you have always done then you always get what you always got.  -Stuart Crabb, Director of Learning at Facebook

Had the chance to spend time with Stuart at an intimate conference last week. Facebook has invested  alot of time and effort to craft a learning culture at FB, from which we can learn a few things. Stuart went through the following myths that FB helps its employees overcome. Myths that can stifle career growth, mentoring, personal and professional development.

  1. I can learn most from those with more experience than me. --I learn from everyone around me. Age and tenure are not the only determinants of wisdom and relevance.
  2. Excellence is defined by what I know and what I can do well.-- excellence is defined by my strengths and what I ship-- not my efforts but what I deliver. Hone your uniqueness, your talents, and your strengths to set yourself apart.
  3. Effective learning is in books and classrooms.--Being more open to continuous education, than just formal education will make you smarter. Small bites of real time learning on the job are most powerful. 
  4. My performance review helps me stay on track and grow.--Annual reviews are archaic and too late. To grow and adapt you seek real time feedback and frequent feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Progression in my company and industry is vertical and logical.--Career development  is more like a jungle gym than a ladder. You have to take risks and follow your heart. You have to gain lateral experiences to move up.

Jungle gym 4

The greatest skills are adaptability, flexibility, and resilience. Key skills for the jungle gym and the jungle of your career choices and experiences. No way to predict the future. No way to have certainty about your life. You will make mistakes. You will ascend and descend. You will fall. You will get back up. The questions are: How much do you learn through change? Do you lose or gain momentum at each of these junctures? 

I use to say that career development was more like Super Mario Bros, which shows you how dated, but yet relevant this analogy still is. The idea of jumping on and off of platforms. The courage to take chances on your passions. The concept of risk/reward. To have the resources, skills and "weapons" to overcome the obstacles, challenges and changes that are thrown in front of you.  

I like Crabb's jungle gym as a much better metaphor for life and career. It is more playful and accessible. It gives you a complete visual for the options you have. That there are many ways to successfully climb and enjoy your journey.

There is always someone who tries to go straight to the top. Some go up and down the slide. Others who look for creative and challenging routes and experiences. All of these paths are real and legitimate, as long as you do not believe that a linear path is your only route, it never is. Like the MD who is required to do "internships" on all aspects of medicine and the body before specializing. Having breadth and depth of knowledge and experience will always help you transfer those skills. And taking a less direct to the top enables you to discover your strengths and passions. We all know people who rise too quickly and fall just as fast. 

I meet people all of the time who want to run for-profit and non-profit organizations with little or no expertise except confidence and ambition. Real confidence comes from learning and understanding how things work. 

Jump on the jungle gym and explore it and see where it takes you. Have fun and discover who you are. Literally and figuratively learn the ropes and steps led by your passions. Then you will define the jungle gym instead of it defining you. 

Thanks for reading. John

Your two-sided career mouth

It is hard to understand what people mean--when they say conflicting things.

I want to go to grad school, or travel, but we don't get off the couch.

I want to win the lottery but never buy tickets

I want more but I don't want to do more

I want to meet my soul mate but don't want to meet anyone

I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.  Robert McCloskeyTwo mes

I meet a lot of people who confess things to me about their careers. And in that moment of honesty they say confusing things. Things that come from different sides of their mouths. I get to know in that instant the doubter and the doer, the courageous and the cowardly, the fearless and the fearful.

What I want to be and what I really want to be

What I hope to be and what I have to be

What I tell my parents and what I tell myself

Love people but not personnel

Enjoy selling but not sales

Value diversity, but no amongst my friends

Like change (read variety) but not change management

Love risk but want a guaranteed salary and retirement

Want new experiences but only the ones I choose

March Hare: …Then you should say what you mean.
Alice: I do; at least - at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know.
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit!

Pick your storyline and stick to it. Your story is all you got. Who you are and where you are going. Impossible to get help from anyone or make connections when your storyline is untold, inconsistent, or worse, conflicting.

Why do we take jobs we don't want, to impress people we don't like, to buy things we don't want? Deepak Chopra

Because we get distracted and settle for what looks good, or what others tell us or what just happens. Because we are NOT pursuing what WE want.

Time is meaningless to those who say things they don't mean. And in the meantime, time marches on and as Les Brown says, ..You fall behind in your bills and your dreams.....

We look to find our lives by exploring the new. We look for inspiration from other people's lives. Yet our inspiration is within us.

This is where mentoring and self reflection can be transformational. Making sure you know your story by telling it to yourself and to others you trust. To get feedback and direction.

We are creatures of habit who have thoughts and goals that often don't align with our actions. Either we have to wake up to these conflicts or we have to get help in understanding them.

Speak your possibilities.  Eric Saperston 

And if you do speak with your heart you will make connections to yourself and the world around you. The sooner you close one side of your mouth, the sooner you will have a clear idea of what you have to do to become who you are.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”  Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You Will Go......

Thanks for reading. John

Do you really want to know what I think?

Maybe it is the aging process or a deluded sense of maturity but being diplomatic seems less and less relevant. Certainly, there is a great value in packaging messages in digestible and palatable chunks. So how can we embrace an air of sensitivity for other people's feelings and on the other hand not let them get away with stuff? How do we answer questions with the greatest candor and frankness without hurting people?

"I want the truth. You can't handle the truth." Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in a few Good Men

If you have read my posts, you know I define mentoring as "a reality check". The obligation that we hold the mirror of truth so our friends can see themselves. And lastly, that mentoring can never be just encouragement and support. That effective mentoring is an exchange of truths based upon mutual benefit.

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.  -Attributed to James A. Garfield

The classic question from a wife to a husband, that tests his manhood and his ability to stay married, "Do I look fat in this dress?" How can such a simple question conjure up fear, a furious internal debate about right and wrong and the origins of the universe? :)

But outside of these moments of marital imbalance, we need to be able to give and take the truth. How long should we go on with our little lives with a totally inaccurate picture of ourselves? You can't cut your own hair and you can't see yourself by yourself. The layers of denial, rationalization, self-defense, and sheer ego are thicker than the walls at Fort Knox.

The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.  ~William James

Let's be honest :), we each have skills, expertise, and personal attributes that are under-appreciated and should be honed and sharpened on a regular basis. But the only way we will grow is to confront our deficiencies, our bad habits, and our unfulfilled aspirations. You have to be surrounded by and gravitate towards truth tellers and shun and avoid the sycophants, the butt kissers, and any mirrors that reinforce self-deception.Reality-check

Working at a foundation you have to be extra vigilant. It is amazing how much younger, smarter and funnier I have become since I started working at CCF! In fact, a mentor of mine, advised me when I took this job, "You will feel like the buxom tall blonde when you go to parties." How about that for the truth! Drink that kool-aid and you will go on a hollow binge of self-importance.

Over an over again in my life adventure I have sought and received advice that pushed and pulled me. My mentors have shown me the inconsistencies of my words and actions. Helped me avoid career choices, preserve relationships, and build confidence in ways I can never could have done by myself.

People who avoid going to the doctors, financial planners, academic advisors, or career counselors to get an annual check-up on their lives are the people who like living in the ignorant space outside of the truth. "What I don't know will not hurt me." Yikes!

Take an inventory of the truthful mentors and mirrors you have in your life. Who can you depend upon to give you a reality check? Who makes you uncomfortable or even intimidates you? Who is a bit more like you want to be? (Not who you admire, but someone that you want to be like--there is a difference) Become a mentoring seeking missile. Stalk mentoring opportunities. Finding the right mentor(s) is a process of wanting to be mentored, being mentorable and knowing yourself.

While there is an intuitive focus on improving, we must also appreciate the good in ourselves and others. Being generous with the truth includes telling people in our lives how much they mean to us, that we love them, and expressing our gratitude for the gifts we receive from them.

"You know, that other dress shows off your sexy figure better", might be a better answer for the confounded husband. But we are confronted with these choices everyday as a parent, manager, colleague, and friend. Seeking more "mirrors" that won't lie to us has to be our goal. Being more and more truthful with yourself and with others has to be our goals.

Let's mentor each other with greater and greater dosages of the truth so that we reach our goals with a clearer picture of who we are.

Thanks for reading. John

The Failure Option--Succeeding through mistakes

Think it was Winston Churchill who said, "Success is going from one failure to the next, with enthusiasm." And wasn't it venerable and victorious Vince Lombardi who said, "Either get fired with enthusiasm or get fired with enthusiasm!

Fear of failure or the perfection complex is one of the greatest obstacles to career and life development. Taking risks that lead to mistakes that lead to innovation, that lead to new opportunities, that lead to new relationships that lead to greater fulfillment and impact. Sorry do not know the stories of success that are not peppered with blunders, embarrassment, and yes, failure. DefiningMoments

Excerpts from Joey Green's the Road to Success is Paved with Failure:

  • Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team.'
  • John F. Kenendy lost his bid to be president of his freshman class at Harvard.
  • Thomas Edison was expelled from school and invented the light bulb after 2000 attempts.
  • Marilyn Monroe was fired from her first film contract for being unattractive.
  • Abraham Lincoln lost 9 elections
  • Coca Cola sold 400 bottles its first year.
  • Douglas MacArthur was denied admission to Westpoint, twice.
  • Elvis got a C in high school music and was told he could not sing.

Failure is the challenge to keep on keeping on.

I have endured some pretty crazy interviews for jobs. But my favorite of all time was the one conducted by the iconic Vinod Khosla. The interview which consisted of two questions and 90 minutes of conversation. He started the interview with, "John, how do you define meaning in your life?"  This was like a verbal brick wall for my twin turbine engine interview prep to slam into. Had to down-shift into a gear to answer that question thoughtfully. That prompted an amazing give and take on regrets, family, relationships, what really matters, and what we hope to to accomplish before we die. Whoa! Then he asked his second and final question: "Take me through your resume in reverse chronological order and tell me the biggest failure at each of your jobs. Don't tell me what you learned, just the failure." I literally laughed out loud. Never heard that question put that way. We all know that a resume hides more than it reveals so when someone rips back the curtain like that it either evokes a primal scream or pure joy. It's amazing how big the mistakes I made were. Some haunt me, some give a prurient source of pride, and still others remind me of how I did grow. I regaled Mr. Khosla with horrid decisions, immature ideas, and blind-sightedness. It was obvious he wanted to see my risk tachometer and how far beyond the red-line I would and had gone. Not reckless, ethically edgy stuff, but what was the appetite for change and challenge? This interview reminded me of my fallibility but also how far I had come. Guess my failures impressed him enough to get the job.

Don't confuse this type of interview with the trite and predictable attempts by interviewees to convert their "weaknesses" into strengths. Very few people reveal any self awareness of their own failings in the interviews today. As if they have read the same stupid script from Interviews for Dummies (I hope this book does not exist). The robotic answers to the question, "What are your weaknesses or areas you need to improve upon?"

  1. Theatrical pause, with no specific answer.----Never hire!
  2. "I guess I work too hard and just can't stop working." ---- Really? Popular but meaningless response.
  3. "I am a perfectionist."----So how's that working? :) Stupid!

When the eyes and answers provide no windows to the soul, then I yank the reject cord! The ability to articulate what you are working on and trying to improve as a professional, as a family person, as a human being is relevant. Pretending that none exist by using party manners and memorized answers is a recipe for failure.

Being laid off is a failure. And while all too commonplace and often not the full responsibility of the employee, it represents a mistake. Was it a real surprise? Why did you wait to be laid off? So you did not have a Plan B or C, why not? You knew it was not going to be your last job, so how long did you think it would last? And what was your plan after that? And what has this failure taught you about your next move?Yes, there are victims of black fridays with no notice (that's how I was laid off), but most "lay-offs" are foreseen or suspected.

Failure to prepare is preparing for failure. Coach Wooden.

Last week I met Cheryl Dorsey, president of the Echoing Green Foundation. She was the commencement speaker at Walden University's graduation. Her speech was a riveting auto-biographical sketch of her failures and the need for the next generation to "embrace failure". I was surprised to later learn it was her first commencement speech, but it was perfect. One of her many "failures' was her choice to become an MD. Her parents encouraged her and she graduated with honors from Harvard Medical School and became a successful pediatrician. Her parents beamed with pride over the family's first doctor. But Cheryl soon realized she made a huge mistake. She found out that becoming a doctor was her mom and dad's plan, not hers. Sound familiar? So recognizing her long standing failure, she followed her heart and became a social entrepreneur. Despite the monstrous investment of time and money, it was not too late to push the reset button. And her failure showed her the way. Bunko

We all fail and therefore we all learn. Failure is the greatest teacher. Failure triggers course corrections that lead to change and new perspective. Failure forces you to change your network, maybe even your mentor. Failure can redefine you. In Daniel Pink's wonderful The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, the last career guide you ever need, lesson 5 is Make Excellent Mistakes. Most of us say we take risks, or we venture out of our "comfort zones" but we really don't. Fear erects strong boundaries that can imprison our dreams and our successes.

Here's to your next fantastic failure.

Thanks for reading. John

Multi-generational Networking and Mentoring

If we are honest with ourselves we all harbor prejudices about others who are different from ourselves.Stereotypes persist because they contain a grain of truth. However, we learn that stereotypes confine a group to a convenient little box. Stereotypes ultimately hold back a group, especially if they are not in control.Once we discover for ourselves the truth by meeting and getting to know people, we find out how limiting and pernicious stereotypes can be.

One of the most misunderstood prejudices is between the generations. Always been the case, but today it is amplified by life expectancy the profound differences in the accelerated changes, experiences, and historical events that have shaped each group's point of view. Like all discussions of differences, there is a fine line between education/awareness and reinforcing stereotypes. That being said, thinking about and understanding these differences is a part of appreciating commonalities. Generational

Take this Generation IQ test to see how you fare. And then check out the chart below to remind you about  the basic differences among the generations.

Boomers and the Millennials may have the biggest generation gap. Not just in years, but in world views. One irony is the former formed the latter's mindset. This is highlighted in the workplace. Boomer bosses can't understand the work ethic or what they perceive the lack of one. And Millennials are peeved by the attempts to make them fit into the old set of rules that have not proven to make the world any better. Like all divergent points of view, both are correct. Nothing gets done unless there are bridges of mutual benefit and understanding are built.

This is where networking and mentoring come to the rescue. Everybody wants to be listened to and to be understood. Spending the time to get to know one another will enable you to find out that you want the same basic things. Some of the issues are pretty insignificant. Some flex in the rules and hours. Making the impact of the work more palpable, more meaningful, and more understood. And giving the youth guidance on the path to their goals. I have found these steps help. Bottom line: listen and find the common grounds before making any statments or pronouncements. 



born 1920-1944

Baby Boomers

born 1945-1964

Generation X

born 1965-1976


Gen Y

Born 1977-1994


Great Depression, WWII

“Sixties”,Vietnam Advent of TV, Civil Rights

Iran Hostages, Divorce, Latch-keys, Microwave Ovens

Computers, Internet, Helicopter parents, 9/11


30 million

36 million

50 million

77 million

Work Style

By the book - "how" is as important as "what" gets done

Get it done - whatever it takes - nights and weekends

Find the fastest route to results; protocol secondary

Work to deadlines - not necessarily to schedules


Command/control; rarely question authority

Respect for power and accomplishment

Rules are flexible; collaboration is important

Value autonomy; less inclined to pursue formal leadership positions


Formal and through proper channels

Somewhat formal and through structured network

Casual and direct; sometimes skeptical

Casual and direct; eager to please


Personal acknowledgement and compensation for work well done

Public acknowledgement and career advancement

A balance of fair compensation and ample time off as reward

Individual and public praise (exposure); opportunity for broadening skills


Work and family should be kept separate

Work comes first

Value work/life balance

Value blending personal life into work


To the organization

To the importance and meaning of work

To individual career goals

To the people involved with the project


"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Necessary for progress

Practical tools for getting things done

What else


























However, mentoring offers the most powerful tool to span the ravine between the boomers and the millennials. Millennials want to learn and grow and they want to define success. Boomers need new ideas, technology and energy. On the surface this is a marriage made in heaven.

"Mentoring young employees is a tested way to transfer knowledge, and there are mutual benefits. "There's a lot to be said for reverse mentoring," says Piktialis. "Younger workers can learn about the organization and social networking from older employees, but experienced workers can also gain so much in terms of new technology and proficiency." Use your younger employees for sharing and training on the latest software and hardware; they will feel valued for their skills, and your older employees will benefit by staying current. says Diane Piktialis, research working group leader of the Conference Board.

I learned this the hard way when I led my first start-up. I realized my limitations in the new tech world and I swallowed my pride and engaged younger mentors to help me understand and lead with the best information. In exchange, I showed them all of my bag of tricks and gave them more opportunities. Later I turned this into a more intentional process to make sure we captured this two-way mentoring process to benefit the organization's mission. In the end mutual goals were achieved and both the mentee and the mentor were better off.

Consider a skill based mentoring program where mentor and mentee are matched on interests, not seniority or position in the organization. Here's an excerpt from a program touted by the University of Texas:

Consider creating a mentoring program based on your workers’ skills and not based on their function or seniority in the organization. This new and different approach gives any employee from any generation a way to transfer or receive a new skill. For example, an employee might want to learn how to “tweet,” another employee may want to learn how to coach. Whoever possesses that skill within the organization, on any level, can share that information with their co-workers. This model allows all generations to learn together in a way that doesn’t threaten anyone’s position, because it centers on learning different skills from a variety of co-workers.

While technology is the easiest focus for some boomers, look deeper for other connecting points. And for the millennials, leadership and management may be the obvious topic. If you take a complete interest inventory, you will discover other opportunities to enhance the skill and knowledge needs in your organization.

Being a leader today requires you to engage tools and processes to optimize the talents and potential in the people you manage or work with. It requires you to create new partnerships, alliances, and mentorships to be successful.

No one wants to be accused of discrimination or prejudice--although it exists. Understanding these generational differences makes us better employees, managers, marketers, parents, and customer servers. Advancing mutually beneficial ideas that connect parties of different generations may be a productive first step across the generational canyon. Connecting and listening always help. Skill based mentoring may be a tangible way to make more progress between the cubicles and offices and beyond.

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.



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