Food and Drink

Curate Your Network

I like cooking. It is like therapy for me. It is a chance to be creative and then you get to literally enjoy your work! :) I follow two basic approaches. I either start with a recipe that I have cut out of a publication that intrigued me. Or I look in the frig and see what is there. The first method requires me to plan, buy stuff, and take time to read and learn. The second is a challenge but is the lazier alternative. I enjoy both forms of cooking.

Life is like my cooking analogy. (stay with me). You can always rely on what you have, what you know, and who you know. Or you can add new learnings, new connections, and new ideas to your process. I know this is not an either or proposition. We all have our tendencies, our habits, and our default modes of living and cooking. Frig

I have seen that people network this way too. They have a few people they rely on for their career nourishment, their advice, and their direction. Not talking about your mentors now. I am referring to your network that is beyond your friends and family. These are people that may occupy your extended reference list, including former bosses, colleagues--people who you from time to time rely upon for advice and connections. How fresh or stale is this network?

This is the network that is in your frig. 

Now think about where you are going with your life and career. Your ambitions, goals, and career aspirations--(your recipes, if I have not overstretched this analogy already). How does your network relate to these thoughts? In other words, does your current go-to network have the experiences, background, passion, connections to help you get to where you are going?

If you have read any of my posts you know that you can never under-estimate your existing relationships--that you often don't know who you know. 

But I also want you to take an inventory of your current network. To see whether you need to add to your network or uncover your needs in your existing network.

The point is to design your network. Curate a network that has the dimensions and facets that reflect your interests, career objectives, and passions. 

I meet so many people who want to work in a non-profit. That is what they say. "I want to work for a non-profit." They might as well have said they want to live in Asia. The lack of specificity will engage no one in your quest. After I pummel them with questions about the specifics, I always ask them, "Who do you know that works in a non-profit (especially one they want to work for)?" Most tell me they do but HAVE NOT HAD THE TIME TO CONNECT WITH THEM? Hmmmmmm. 

Our networks have to reflect where we are going and certainly match up with what we tell others are important to us. 

Look in your frig. See what you need to acquire, learn about, read about---specifically who you want to meet. Is everyone in your network more or less like you? Then you need to add some variety to your cooking! Talking to yourself will only get you so far! You need new ideas, inspirations, and energy. Once you have a good idea about your goals then seek people with names you want to meet. People with certain titles. People in specific orgs. Which orgs are the leaders in this field/industry? Who are the thought leaders?

Are you following the people, organizations and publications that reflect your goals? 

Curate your own network. Not just by adding friends on FB or linking on Linked-in. Do it with intention and purpose. Not just to get jobs, but to deepen your understanding and your commitment to your goals--the ones you say to yourself and to others. Once you connect with others those words and thoughts will change but your path will become more clear.

Thanks for reading. John 


Philanthropy for the 99%

We make ourselves so crazy during the holidays that we forget important things. We get easily caught up in the giving season and forget to give of ourselves--we  forget why we give. Don't get me started on the commercialization of this time of year and how we have been trained to buy our way into and out of the holidays. We all know in our hearts that material things can never repair or advance our relationships. We know that a single time of year of superficial contact will not sustain our network. Yet we fall into this trap, into this mental deception, on a pavlovian annual basis.

Presents will never replace our presence.

Let's be more philanthropic. 

This fancy P word can seem foreign and inappropriate for us who occupy the lower 99%. But let me assert that if you understand its true meaning we all need to adopt it as part of our lifestyle and habits all year long. 

φιλάνθρωπος philanthropos, combined two words: φίλος philos, "loving" in the sense of benefitting, caring for, nourishing; and ἄνθρωπος anthropos, "human being" in the sense of "humanity", or "human-ness". 

When we care about each other, about our fellow human beings--when we love each other--this is philanthropy. 

Giving is not a chore it is a habit. It is not a list of things to buy. It is your readiness and willingness to help others unconditionally. 

It is not a task to unburden our guilt. It is the joy of loving another. Of responding to needs with openness and kindness. 

Here are four quick tips to become more philanthropic:

1.Write a note: One of my greatest peeves is the un-signed holiday card. The mass mailed card that contains nothing human--not even the label is hand written! Yes the photo cards are nicer than a card with a pre-printed name, but wow have we lost our humanity. Writing a note that is personal and thoughtful is a beautiful thing and a lost art.

The thought does count, but you have to act on your thoughts.

2. Give the gift of time: Where you spend your attention and time defines what is important to you. Make a commitment to spend more time with those you care about and love. Don't just say it to yourself, but make a commitment to them. You need this as much as those you care about. Don't regret time lost with others. It will be you who loses. 

3. Give to your passions: Align your financial and volunteer giving with your passions--with the issues that are most important to you. Don't get stuck with giving because you "always" give to them. Or because someone else asked you to. Make your giving reflect who you are and who you care about. You will give more and get more. Your giving will have meaning to you and others.

4. Give more: As a nation we give about 4% of our income to charity. Actually, the middle class is the most generous and gives almost twice the percentage of their incomes as the super rich. However, we all need to give a little more.  We can afford it. There is a growing population at the bottom of our economy that is really hurting and suffering. Pick an issue or cause that resonates with you and give! You can make a difference with any amount of money. Give what you can.

These are the most important investments into your network. Networking your passions and care for others multiplies your impact and your opportunity to make a difference.

Jk and yunusA few weeks ago I had the great honor of meeting Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Laureate, the creator of micro-lending and the founder of the incredibly successful Grameen Bank. He was asked what corporations could do to be more philanthropic--how could their corporate social responsibility be more successful? He said, "If every corporation adopted 50 or 500 families in poverty and helped them, we would end poverty. We need to help each other."

We can easily get caught up in complex campaigns, strategies, and efforts that yield little change. Helping each other, helping people in need--will always make a difference.

Who do we know that needs our help? Who needs our help that we need to know?

We change the world one person at a time. We do.

You have so much more to share and to give to others.

Let's be more philanthropic, in the true sense of the word-- during the holidays and through the next year and the next.

Thank you for all you do for others and what you will do in the future!

Thanks for reading. John 

PS: Interviewed for LA Magazine's website on trends in philanthropy in Los Angeles


Even our Networks are Obese

As we slurp up the last bit of the gravy and pumpkin pies, I want to talk about our weight---Thanks John!

A colleague of mine manages a large annual betting pool to see who will lose the most weight between Thanksgiving and New Years. A foolish incentive to eat a lot of turkey to establish the base weight and then the diet begins. We do over-indulge. And we do over-promise ourselves to get into better shape. The result is extra weight, from a little unwanted ponch to larger quantities of former food residing within us. As a country, we are weight watchers. We wait and watch our weight grow. We are bigger, slower, and unhealthier. Just saw this report that showed that new immigrants to the US are in better shape than the average American until they start eating like us. And then their BMI and health vitals begin to "normalize" and they become unhealthy too. Obesity

Its interesting that all of the medical studies show if we hang out with overweight people we have a strong tendency to eat too much and gain weight too. But if we congregate with slimmer folks we are only slightly more likely to lose weight and eat more healthful foods. The dark side is strong! Negative habits have a greater attraction than the positive ones.

Our networks also reflect our habits, our qualities, our pasts, and determine our futures. Our networks have also become obese. Generally, they are too big and have too "fatty". We add FB friends like junk food. Our time with others is increasingly superficial and transactional. We want a diet of deeper and meaningful relationships but we more often opt for the fast food drive thru lane of life. 

It is time to evaluate our networks. Take inventory of how it reflects who we are and who we want to become. Discover the gaps in our networks. The gaps that relate to our goals. For example, you say you want to go back to grad school, start a business, write a book--connect with people doing these things to give credence to your words. 

Why do we waste time with people who neither support or stretch us? Because we are lazy. Because bad habits are hard to break. 

We need to exercise our networking muscles and get them into shape. Reconnect with people we know and have met. Here's the fix: Make a list of people who interest us, inspire us, and who we care about. Make that your new networking to-do list. Call them, meet with them, text them. 

Get off of the junk food and unhealthful habits of hanging with the crowd that limits your ability to pursue your life. Go look in the mirror and meet the person holding you back. Make a deal with that person that your network needs a makeover! Obese network

When you pursue people that advance your goals and your life, then you have less time for those who hold you back. It is not so much about losing the carbs in your network, it is about adding the protein in your network. And then get off the couch and connect!

Don't fall into the most common excuse--"I don't know any people that are good for my new networking diet." You do. You have met these people. You know them, but don't know them. People you want to meet. People you want to get know better. People you have lost touch with. 

An obese network is neither attractive or effective. 

It takes a village--is yours overweight? Take control of your network, trim it down and add some tone so that you can get moving on with your life. 

Thanks for reading. John

PS: Here is an interview I did recently for a national job network. It is one of the most succint interviews on networking I have ever given. Enjoy!


Life Lessons from NOLA

Had the great pleasure of spending the last week in New Orleans. It is a special place that continues to struggle post-Katrina and from the more recent damage from Isaac. Yet her spirit is strong. The people of New Orleans are resilient, even though many of the physical structures around them are vacant and abandoned. I was both disturbed and inspired by what I saw and experienced. Here are 4 of the lessons I got from this recovering grand dame:

1.Love Thy Neighbor: Especially during elections, we become more cynical about politics and politicians. The value of public service has steadily dropped and few people pursue it. But we know that we need strong, smart, and reality based leadership. We need people who lead with words and actions. I was fortunate to hear the mayor of NOLA, Matt Landrieu, speak about his city. He talked frankly about his top issues: crime. But specifically the homicide rate of young black men, which is 10x their % of the population. He told graphic stories of the unintended consequences of these deaths on the families, neighborhood, economy and community. His big message was, "Until we have as much empathy for the perpetrators of the crime as we do the victims, we will make no progress." Not exactly a political statement! He challenged the audience to think about how we as a society failed the criminal youth. How the family failed to nurture, the schools failed to teach, the churches failed to morally guide. How we all have to assume responsibility for that "criminal". In a world of "personal responsibility" gone mad, where we should  just be responsible for ourselves and our family. But we know in our hearts, that will never be enough. We have to pursue our humanistic instincts to help one another, to take responsibility for one another--only then can we advance our ideals for our community. We know our destinies are tied to one another. 

Preservation
Photo I took of Preservation Hall

 We must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides.  Thich Nhat Hanh

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another. Mother Teresa 

2. Music is the greatest soul food: A friend took me to the Preservation Hall to experience the birthplace of jazz. One of my top life experiences of all time! Crowded in this tiny storefront shop that serves as their theatre, we were treated to the gritty and beautiful sounds of Amazing Grace, What a Wonderful World, When the Saints Go Marching In, and other classics. The building just like the faces of the musicians expressed great history and great humility. Their music and their voices tattooed my soul with their passion. 

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. Plato

3.  Taxicab to Friendship:  Cab drivers are always a source of great knowledge and insight. Few people see as much as they do. I always talk to cab drivers. And if I listen carefully I learn things about them, the world and myself. My experience in NOLA may have been the most interesting to date. I took a couple of colleagues to go see Candy Chang's Before I Die exhibit. Candy installed a giant blackboard on an abandoned building to allow people to fill in the blank after "Before I Die______. These exhibits are now displayed around the world. Anyway, I wanted to see where it all started. Long story short we got lost (my fault) and then discovered that the abandoned building was refurbished and Candy's work was gone. Through this adventure we got to know Haten, a Tunisian cab driver/entrepreneur who has lived in NOLA for 16 years. We learned much about the city and about his story of struggle and joy. We learned about his family, his education and his career. Haten is an optimist and humanist. As an immigrant he is still pursuing the American dream despite many setbacks and his stint as a cab driver will be "temporary". In all of the commotion of our adventure , I left my iPad in the seat pocket of his taxi. Haten returned it to me! As I thanked him, he smiled and asked, "When do you leave for the airport? May I take you?" Always the entrepreneur! Haten picked me up at the hotel and noticed a couple of women waiting for a taxi and asked me if they could go with us. They jumped in his cab and off we went. Haten and I picked up our conversation where we left off. And when he dropped me off, he said, "Please call me next time you are in New Orleans and call me and let me know how you are doing." The two women, turned to me and said almost in unison, "How do you know that guy?!" I said, "Oh, we are friends."

Good things happen when you meet strangers. Yo Yo Ma

4. Mentors are everywhere: I got the chance to meet Leah Chase who has run the Dooky Chase restaurant for 66 years! Leah, the Queen of Creole, has fed every US President since the 60's, Martin Luther King and a host of other dignitaries. While she is a world reknown chef she is a philosopher, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and a truth teller too. She told us that "if you pay attention, everyone becomes your mentor." And in those precious moments with her, we paid attention and we were served up a delicious platter full of Chase mentoring! 

I look forward to my return to NOLA.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking Choices that Change You

What you choose changes you. 

We are confronted with many choices everyday. We select when to get up, what we wear, eat, and what we do. We decide what our priorities are, what needs to be done and who are our friends will be. While we can sometimes feel that life happens to us, we choose many of the details. Possibly the most important thing we do is decide where our attention is placed. What we listen to, look at, and understand. These choices have consequences.

For example, it is popular urban legend that men go deaf when they have a tv remote in their hands. They block their wives pleas, questions, and requests. It is indisputable that men tune out women voluntarily when watching sports. The inevitable and predictable ire that comes from our impatient partners was a matter of choice. :)

Anyway, let's look at what appears to be an innocuous decision--where to sit in the office lunchroom. Shall I sit with my three buddies or at a larger table where I don't know many or any of the people? C'mon John, why would this matter--it's just lunch!!  Lunchroom

Again, we make thousands of decisions based on gut feelings, reflexive thought, and sheer habit. The truth is we don't think, we choose without thinking. As the neuro-scientists say, we use the neural pathways not the brain. 

Back on my question: Sit with a few friends or join the larger less familiar table?

The research shows that even this choice has truly unexpected consequences.

"We found that the people who sat at the larger tables had substantially higher performance," observes social scientist Ben Waber. This is because they had created a much bigger network to tap into. Over the course of the week, they saw the same people again and again. Consequently, they often knew what these colleagues were working on and could go to them if they had a problem. The employees at the smaller tables, on the other hand, had smaller networks and less opportunity to interact.

In fact  he and his colleagues found that people who consistently chose the larger tables had up to a 25% increase in happiness and productivity!

One of the tallest soap boxes I stand on is to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone. To question your habits by paying attention to your choices. To choose the new. Choose the different. Choose the adventure over the same ole same ole. Networking is a lifestyle of choices. You choose to build and strengthen your community of connections to help each other--to pursue your common goals. 

Many longitudinal studies show that you will live longer if you have a more diverse--meaning diverse perspectives--network. 

The diversity within your network also matters, the research team discovered. Waber found that people tend to spend time with those who are similar to them. "Whether it's gender, race or the school you went to, there are many different ways we break ourselves into groups."

Branch out and talk to people in groups you wouldn't normally talk to, suggests Waber. It doesn't have to be through a formal mechanism. "It can be through bumping into people by the coffee machine. Just standing there and chatting gives you new perspective. Our research shows that chance encounters make people more effective."

It's kinda obvious. When you connect with people at work beyond your circle and your department, you develop a larger network of resources at work. You learn what is going on and how to get things done. When you are more connected you know more and you care more. In short, you are on a path of increasing your confidence and broadening your influence. And by the way, your connections are not only changing you, they change the lives of the people with whom you are connecting. The combination of your greater performance and visibility will speak volumes about you. And how do you think this will help your career?

Next time you enter the lunchroom, the Boardroom, a reception, a cocktail party or a family event--choose to mix it up. Choose to connect with people you don't know and people different than you. And don't forget the people you know but don't know! Pay attention, get uncomfortable and engage the people around you.

Your conscious choices have consequences. Need some incentives? You will live longer and do better at work!

Your choices will change you. 

Thanks for reading. John


Don't take a holiday during the holidays

Taking a break from networking during the holidays is so dumb. I understand that people get overwhelmed with events, gatherings, obligations and shopping! But the best time to look for a job, make connections, reconnect, and strengthen EXISTING relationships is during the holidays. Why? Because, you will see, be with, and be around lots of people. People who you care about and who care about you.

 

Isn't that awkward? To mix business and pleasure?

 

You gotta be kidding. Still think the world works in distinctly separate worlds of personal and professional? Wake up and smell the egg nog!

 

The collision between the personal and professional is where new opportunities and ideas are generated. Make the most out of it.

 

After WHAT you know it is WHO you know. And WHO you help.

 

Networking is the process of connecting and conversing. It is not just getting the stuff or the job. It is the wonderful process of discovering things through others. It is the rewarding process of helping others. It is not just the tunnel vision stalking for a specific goal. Yes, you have very specific goals or needs, and networking helps you pursue them, but it also leads to the unintended and unanticipated. Getting desired results by accident---that's serendipity!

 

Yes I know you are busy and this is a busy season.

 

If you want something done ask a busy person. The more things you do, the more things you can do.  Lucille Ball

  

Busy times are the best times for things to happen. But don't get so busy with the chores that you miss the chances --the chances to connect. Don't rush past the reasons you are so busy.

 

For example, holiday cards are a nice way to reconnect--assuming you write something in them! I find it almost laughable that people send a card with their pre-printed name and nothing else. No photo, not letter, nothing personal. Like an unsmiling face that says in a monotone voice, "Nice to meet you." In my opinion that informationless card tells me I am just part of the masses--another undifferentiated recipient of a bulk mailing. I think some catalogues can be warmer and fuzzier. :)

 

Chicago_-_sholiday cardI have oft quoted the BYU marketing study where nearly 600 people were sent Xmas cards at random from the Chicago telephone book--the next year more than 20% sent cards back to a person they never met! That's how personal holiday cards can be! That's how robotic we are!

 

So if we choose to build our network with cardboard using impersonal holiday cards, not getting out to visit people, avoiding personal conversations and contact, then your network will be flimsy and weak.

 

Some people think of their network as an attic full of memories and previously useful things. They rustle through the "boxes" of these forgotten contacts when they need something.  Your network is not just a Rolodex of names, a lengthy list of friends on FB or even a collection of business cards. It is an organism, a living thing that needs nurturing and care.

 

This holiday season, make a special point to connect, engage and listen. Reconnect with people you like and care about. Even if it has been a long time. Make a personal effort to communicate and lend a hand.

  • Write a personal note and suggest you get together
  • Deliver a gift or card in person
  • Go to that extra holiday event to reconnect with old friends and meet new people
  • Host an event or two and invite some close and or new friends over.
  • Enjoy the holidays with others

So instead of resting I am saying do a little more. Get a little uncomfortable and push yourself to have more holiday presence. --Not more stressed but more connected.

The holidays are an extraordinary time to advance your goals and the goals of others. Don't take time off and don't say you are too busy.

 

The holidays are not a time to isolate yourself, but rather an excuse to deepen our sense of community and connection.

 

Thanks for reading. John


Food Networking or Cuisine Convening

Our lives are dominated by so many myths. For example, the whole idea that the holidays are the worst time to network and look for a job. First of all, most people fall for this myth so the competition is seriously lessened. Secondly, employers continue to have needs that are not interrupted by the holidays. Lastly, often there is more time for interviews during the holidays so response times can pick up. The point is that it is utterly dumb to stop your search or your process to advance your career due to the holidays. It may be the most convenient excuse to procrastinate.

One great thing about the holidays is the food. There is the over-eating thing, but that's a different challenge! I am talking about the great magnetic pull of the holiday meals that bring families and friends together. The traditions of food are so important to us and they create so many ways to connect and reconnect. Not just the big meals like this Thursday, but throughout the year.J0422843  

Here is one of my greatest pet peeves. The non-sensical conversation that takes place when people are trying to decide where to eat. This is especially irksome when the point of the mealtime conversation is to network! What you eat impacts how you feel. How you feel determines how you come across. That all translates to the quality of that exchange and the impression you leave. So the responses, "I don't care or It doesn't matter" give away your power and your influence. 

You don't have to be a full on foodie or a gourmet. But you have preferences and interests that you can share and lead with. Why not pick a restaurant that no one has been to?Why not share a favorite place or dish you like?

Breaking bread with others is a powerful form of networking--There are many origins and meanings of this phrase. It is based on the idea that eating together is very valuable time. It also refers to the pulling apart of the bread to share it with others in need and with close friends and family. Breaking bread is a metaphor for living. C'mon how many of your greatest conversations have been with food and a great meal? Remember the award winning film, My Dinner with Andre?

So use these times together as opportunities to catch up and learn. Use these times to listen to the conversations around you and connect. Use these times to savor the flavors and nuances of the conversations and the food and drinks. You can nourish your hunger for a more fulfilling life if you do more than eat. Bon Appetite!

Thanks for reading and not over doing it. Cheers. John