green pastures

Like what you got to get what you like

People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives. J. Michael Straczynski

How do we take full responsibility for where we are? Embrace what we are doing to get where we need to go. See our current opportunity as the best step to advance our lives and the lives of others.

Put the victim, excuses, entitlement and blame game behind us and power ahead by embracing the present.

Not talking about "hanging in there" or "toughing it out" or certainly not "waiting for something good to come along."

You underestimate what you have and how it can help you advance.

How do we love what we do to do what we love?

What you say to yourself and others becomes who you are. Your story is what connects you to your future and to others.

You attract whatever negative and or positive vibes you give off.

"I hate my job." "I can't wait to get out of here." "I don't believe in what I am doing any more."

It's odd but very frequent when people tell me that they are basically unhappy with their jobs and their lives. By the way, 70% of Americans say they are disengaged from their jobs--70%! (Gallup State of the American Workplace)

People say the darndest things. :) They appear to have little pride in themselves. 

As the Mad Hatter advised Alice at the tea party:

Then you should say what you mean. 

I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.

Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter.

You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!

So say what you mean but mean what you say! And like what you got to get what you like!

You got to embrace your circumstances, your current work, your employer and your life---because it's what you got. And you have to describe what you have by appreciating the positive and making lemonade.

I am not saying to stay at a toxic job. I am not saying to sugar coat your thoughts about your work and to lie about it. I am not talking about blind loyalty. I am speaking of a loyalty and commitment to yourself. This is your job. This is your life. And to the extent you allow your job to define you, you have to own it. 

And your narrative, your storyline, can't be just negative. What you say about your work reflects on you and impacts your buzz and your trajectory.

So many people sound like fugitives to me. They are fleeing something to find something better. They have a foot out the door and are seeking the next thing. They are not in the present but stuck in the past and scheming about the future. They are not in the now. Just finished the New New Thing by Michael Lewis. Your life can't always be about the new new thing but about the now now thing. 

Opportunities seek those that adapt and succeed and make the most out of what they have. 

First of all the pursuit of life driven by passion and meaning can only be partially satisfied by one's professional career. For some fortunate people, work life can generate the bulk of one's life satisfaction. But for many of us we have to adopt a portfolio approach to life. Like your investments you need an allocation strategy to create returns from multiple sources which can "hedge" the others. We need a constellation of interests to feed our great hunger and curiosity for stimulation and meaning. If we place all of our eggs in one basket, place all of our chips on one bet, invest all of our energy into our job, the result is predictably an insufficient life.

Life choicesPeople who are engaged in their lives. Who exude energy, confidence and positivity. These are people who by and large manage a broad and diverse portfolio of interests and activities. Their day job is but one source of their life force.

These are people who are busy, really busy. They make the most of what they have and they always seem in demand.

Get your story straight. What are you doing now that is interesting and engaging? Own where you are regardless of the challenges. Love it. Build on what you have to get to the next step in your plan.

What are you optimizing for?, asks Brian David Johnson, Intel's futurist.  How are you using the present to plan your evolving future? How are you spending your work time and non-work time to provide more stimulation and growth? What is energizing your progress and your momentum now? What skills, knowledge and abilities are you honing?

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus

One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses. Henry Miller

Don't dismiss your life as "Not what I want to do" or "It's just a job" Talk about what's emerging for you. Talk about what you are optimizing for. That will help you and others see your path.

You are going somewhere, right? And this place where you are is the best place to get there--because that's where you are!

Be what you say and say what you are. Appreciate what you have and who you are. And do it with pride and energy. 

Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Thanks for reading. John


What The Puck?

Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been. Advice from Wayne Gretzky's Dad

Do we know where our own momentum is carrying us? Where are we pointed? Where are we going? 

We know what got you here won't get you there. 

Puck

The point here is focus on the skating to get to the goal. 

I am not talking about your retirement date. We all will retire. I am talking about your life's direction. Not talking about what you want to be when you grow up. I am speaking of the focus on what you are doing and thinking now that propels you forward.

I am definitely not talking about a plan with specific deadlines. 

Envisioning a future is not necessarily about a specific date or time. Time to that future is less relevant than what you are doing now that relates to that future. The key time is the Now. Linking the Now to the Future.

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is. Eckhart Tolle

Now is the most important thing for the next step. If you don't take care of the Now then I can guarantee you what's next is going to disappoint. Where in the puck are you going?

Is this confusing? Stay with me.  

I meet so many young people who naturally are obsessed with their futures. Looking, down the road often unrealistically, for certainty and for guarantees of "success". Ahhhh to be young, restless, and ambitious! But they focus on these end goals to the detriment of their current experience building work. They are in a hurry to succeed and are less interested in the effort required to chase their puck. They are more interested in the next game! And their resumes reflect it. 

I meet more experienced people (read older!) who are impatient with the rate of change and more fearful. They have less time and more to lose. These folks also want to translate and transfer what they know--even if what they know is not directly relevant. Some can be arrogant about their backgrounds and never make the commitment to recalibrate their skills. They think it is unfair for them to pay their dues again. They like their puck and where its been and wish more people appreciated it. Former change agents unwilling to change!

The point of Gretzky's Dad's advice is to look up from the grindstone and envision your general trajectory. When your current work is put in the context of that direction that's when you gain confidence, fulfillment and a sense of meaning. You are moving to where your goals are.

Then you can engage your network, expand your network to help you.

So the present is key to the next step. What you are doing right now is critical to where you are going? 

Love what you are doing to do what you love.

Too many don't make this connection. They think their job is their problem. It lacks "mobility", "mentoring", and "fulfillment". They forget that every job is a temporary opportunity. They fail to see the opportunity in what they are doing now, even if it seems off course. What pains me, is the speed to surrender. How easily we give up and give in to these "obstacles" in our path. What creative things can we do to optimize opportunities where we are? What are we doing outside of work to augment our portfolio of experiences to offset the gaps at our jobs? 

A few years ago I interviewed a man who told me how important "social justice" was to him. I asked what is he doing about "social justice" in his life. "Oh nothing right now, but it is very important!" Or my all time favorite story. A young woman told me that her next step was an MBA. I asked her how her GMAT prep was going. She said, What's the GMAT?" Yikes. 

On the other hand, I hired an ambitious young man who took a salary cut to work with me. I was counseled not to hire him because he would leave (don't we all leave?:) He exceeded everyone's standards and set new ones. He gained insight into his path and painstakingly honed his craft by taking on more than his share. His work always helped others look good. A few years later he now qualified for a perfect job and he left us better off. He skated hard to catch up with his puck.

How much do our current deeds and activities relate to the path we say/think we are on? 

Stop being so generic, so non-commital in describing where you are going to be safe and leave your options open. A directionless puck never scores.

What can we do NOW to align our skating with the direction of our puck? Or set a new direction that may require new skating skills. 

Let's all focus on what it takes to skate where our puck is going.  

Thanks for reading. John


In Giving and Living--Later is Probably Never

Most people I meet think that the life down the road will always be better.  We subscribe to this strange belief that we have infinite time. That the future is when we will focus on what is important, personal, and enjoyable. I guess we think life is like a great multi-course meal. We start off with drinks and some finger food and then you dig into the real food and end up with something really sweet at the end. We know this is not true. All phases of life should be guided by what we want and who you are. Fully contributing our talent and abilities to improving the campsite for the next campers. Whatever that means to you!

At HuffPost we've made theThird Metric -- redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give -- a key editorial focus. But while it's not hard to live a Third Metric life, it's very easy not to. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It's easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It's easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we're living them. Until we're no longer living them. Arianna Huffington 

Life is short. And when you account for life's curve balls, your kids, parenting your parents, and your own health--it is a lot shorter than you think. We all have close friends who died young--who had "untimely" deaths. Do we really know how much time we have?

Just read a tweet from Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square fame:

Jack Dorsey ‏@jack   4:49 PM - 3 Dec 13

I probably have 18,000 more sunsets in my life. One of them is happening now. 

 
I think the spirit of this tweet is wonderful. Time is fleeting and we have limited time and sunsets. I used to count the Sundays left before my kids went to college. Jack assume he will live to 85 in calculating the 18000. He also assumes he will watch all of them. Let's say he only sees one a week  that reduces it to 2471. And once a month would leave only 600. This all assumes he sees and lives for 48 more years. I hope he does. But let's switch sunsets to hugs with your kids? Or one on one time with your mom. Or golf with your Dad. I did not realize that last February was going to be the last time I played golf with my father. I seriously thought I had dozens left. No more.  Golfers
 
"Next time, let's do that." There is no next time. Even if you do cross those coordinates again you will be different, the place will be different, the experience will be different. 

Carpe Diem. 

But the real point is, when we say "later" we mean "never". Because stuff happens.

One of my greatest pet peeves (I have a few:) is when people tell me that they have no time to "give", "volunteer", or "do what I want" because they are so busy. Busy being busy? They have amazing plans for later. --When they are less busy, retired or win the lottery :)

Doing later, being later and/or giving later makes no sense if you believe that our time is limited. 

Steve Davis of PATH: First, avoid the ‘I’m-going-to-give-back-later [to society]‘ trap. I find it offensive. I hope people haven’t spent the first part of their lives just taking. So the first advice is: Think about this as an integrated model. Don’t wait to get involved in your community and to get involved in the world--because you are working.

Second point, if you are in a place where you’re ready to make a really deeper transition to actually moving toward this work in mid-career, the first thing you should do is make sure that you spend some time volunteering, engaging, figuring out where your passion is. Because, at the end of the day, this is work, a lot of work — hard, complex work — and you don’t get rewarded as much; you get different kinds of rewards. It is important to tie to a passion or a skill because that’s what’s going to drive you forward.

The third, to the younger folks in their 20s, I would say remember that we are in a world where cross-sectoral work is vital. We need people who not only have good intentions about the government or public or nonprofit or private sector, we also need people who’ve actually experienced working in more than one sector because you have to come in to bust some myths about the way people behave. You have to come in understanding incentives and intentions. This could actually create great careers.

Let's stop saying what we will do later. Let's make plans to do and be things now and tomorrow. As I say to anyone who will listen, Live your legacy! 

Will your regret be "Needed to spend more time at the office"? "Wish I would have had more stuff?" Really? How many sunsets or hugs do you have left?

Later probably means never. 

Today is a great day to start doing what you know needs to be done--to help yourself and to help others. To strengthen your network and to mentor others. 

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