habits

Mind the Change and Change the Mind

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw

Some people discuss "change" like it is a monster. A source of stress and distress. "Change" is a darkening cloud that will bring great tragedy and pain.

Or a savior for necessary evolution. And the light on the path of purpose.

Those who embrace the change are empowered by the change. Yeah, it has to do with risk and self-esteem. If you are defined by your job or your title or your retirement plan then the bogeyman of change is Godzilla.

But if you exist to serve, adapt and pursue your passions, then change becomes your sidekick.

None of us wants the status quo. Right? The status quo sucks. For people suffering. For our careers. For our families. For our communities. Putting our worlds on freeze-frame would imprison everyone to now. Now John, you are misinterpreting me! So tell me oh misinterpreted one, What do you want? Tell me! You want change on your terms, on your schedule, Zeus?!! You want convenient change in the economy size to fit into your carry-on luggage?

Change is the air we breathe and the ground we traverse. Change is life. Life is change. We never step in the same river twice, we never have the same conversation or see the same film the same way. We evolve and the world around us evolves and we both try and catch up. Once you understand change is the water from David Foster Wallace's epic commencement address.

Change is just happening, it is relentless. Not even talking about the shifting sands of the world around us that we are partially or totally ignorant of. The butterfly wings that are shaping El Nino or the currency wars that are impacting our retirement plans........

Yes earthshaking change gets our attention at least for a few moments. You get laid off. Someone becomes terminally ill. You become a grandfather. You have a break-up. You get a new boss. The famous study of recent paraplegics and lottery winners showed that a  year after their life defining events, both groups had the same levels of happiness! We get over the big changes.  And we miss the subtle and important ones. Mind the change

Change is how we react to it--if we react at all. 

One of our favorite past times is participating in the unnecessary stress inducing game of hating change.

The future is already here it s just not evenly distributed. William Gibson

You hoped things would "stabilize" or "stay the same" for a little while so you could catch your breath? Hah!

Change is neither an enemy or a friend. It is.

Change is subtle and like the glaciers or the coral reefs, big changes occur over long horizons. But if we don't notice them its too late.

Our brains are changing and capable of change. Not just memory loss! If we literally put our minds to it. :)

The Luddite who will not upgrade their flip phone. The smoker who thinks they are the exception. The parent who raises their kids like they were. The manager who does not listen to his staff. The perfectionist who never makes a mistake.......

Time stands still---in their minds. And the world evolves without them.

The crazy thing is YOU are changing and evolving. And could change even more if you let yourself. 

Like the lizard or snake that molts and sheds their entire skin we are evolving more invisibly. (the average human sheds about 1mm skin cells a day!)

Here is the big deal. Everything you do, people you encounter, visuals you ingest, thoughts that you entertain, are making micro and macro changes to you--if you let them.

Are you aware of these changes? Good question!

Are we allowing the changes to change you? Better question!

Do we appreciate the changes that are changing you? Right question!

Is your disagreement with my words changing you a little? :)

This is not a solo exercise. It is the process of engagement with others. Change is accelerated in a social network, a trusting group of diverse truth tellers who provide and receive honest feedback and different perspectives.

Networking and mentoring done with altruism, an open heart and mind, fuel change possibilities. Help your colleagues and friends and relatives see and embrace their change.

The tyranny of certainty is the real enemy. We develop "truths" about what we don't know. This can range from naivete to ignorance to racism. Certainty prevents us from learning.

You are a whirling dervish of velcro picking up little pieces of change along the way. But if you whirl on the same beaten known paths then change is relative for you. If you whirl off the known roads of life and explore the world then you change and challenge your certainties.  

We must break down the gates of certainty to get to the gardens of change.

All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change
Changes You.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

Octavia Butler

Change is neither friend or foe. It is a frame of mind. Mind the change and change your mind.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.  I humbly offer a version of this timeless quote from Gandhi.

Let us be changed by the world we see.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Making the Jump

Every day, every fork in the road, every choice we confront, there is a leap of faith we must make or avoid. Little decisions can lead to bigger decisions. If life is a journey then we must take steps to keep moving and jumping can accelerate our quest. Hard to just move faster. We feel we are going at warp speed now, right? Our natural resistance to any change can trigger our lizard brain to move us back from the cliff.  (Pre-historic preference: when confronted, fight, flight, or stand perfectly still and hope it passes) Too often we jump to conclusions instead of to our destinies. We fear change so much and of course, failing, that we are paralyzed. We analyze, we consider, we weigh, and we examine the fine particles stored in our umbilical area :) But we don't act on what we know is right or best for us. I see it everyday. We become prisoners to this analysis and the warm feeling of the status quo. There is no parole hearing to get out of this jail. You have to escape these confines because you want to.  

Skydive jump
Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

I know some of you are already saying soothing things to yourself because you believe you are in control of your life. Hope that is true. Others of you have begun reinforcing the height and width of the walls that incarcerate you. Stop!

Here's the deal. Not asking you to blindly leap to the newish thing without your brain. I am not telling you to use your heart as your only compass (although I think that organ is under utilized) I am saying decide and do! (Avoiding the Nike ad) I am saying Jump!

Jumping from one place to the next is frowned upon by some. And yet the jump to the next level is always admired. Is the next level always up? Really? It isn't. So making the jump from bad habit to good. From a meaningless job to one that fulfills. From a better self to your best self. Jump over the fear of failure and make it happen!

Skydive feet
Me over the north shore of Oahu

I meet so many neurotic professionals who can not surrender to the jump. 

29 year old man who is so smart so gifted so confused. He wants a career. But he is so concerned about appearances, what others think (he would deny this) that he has no room to consider HIS fate. His parents and his "friends" are the shackles that prevent him from jumping. He wants to get married and have children -those things will also wait for his leap. Graduate school? (That omnipresent demon of delay) Career change? Internship? He came to see me and I simply told him to silence all of the voices except his own. Forget what others think. What do YOU think? Make it happen! And  jump!

I have been obsessed with the physical act of jumping since I was a kid. I still like it, even with my bad knees and back. I was in track and field for many years and was a jumper. High, triple and long. I know, I am pretty short but I had decent hops. That's how I met one of my best friends Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the TJ. He's in this video. Love this classic song: JUMP! Makes you want to.......

My career and my life has been a series of jumps. Being ready to jump at opportunities and through fleeting windows of opportunity. That's how I got my present job and how I met my wife.

I have been also plowing through my bucket list and jumping was on it--Parachuting, paragliding, and skydiving--did them all. And then my kids wanted to skydive so I went again last weekend.

After that jump, here's what I wrote to my kids:

We jumped out of a plane! We ignored the possibility of failure to enjoy a thrill, a sense of surrender, a wonder, and a great memory. Life is a series of jumps from different heights and perspectives. We have had many jumps together. Fear is always the enemy. Overcoming it is our single greatest learning and teaching moment. We have had our share of bumpy landings, but here you are. Thanks for letting me experience this moment with all of you. You got a chance to see your grandparents and our parents. They are taking a different jump, with a different set of fears at this point in their lives. They live through you and your jumps. Instead of bracing for impact, how about embracing every moment we have together. How do we brace for enlightenment and love? Here's to many more jumps together! (Not just out of a plane!) Love Dad

Skydive family
Me and my kids

We all went tandem skydiving with an instructor. Because big jumps should not be done alone. Without my partner Sarah, I could not have made any jumps in my life. In fact she did not join us on the skydive, because someone has to be grounded! The point is you need help, support and expertise to make most leaps. So ask for help to build your strength and courage to jump. 

Time is our enemy, to explore what we want and where we are going. We have to help others jump, especially the younger folks around us. To jump to new worlds, new experiences, and new opportunities--to activate a different part of the brain to subordinate our lizard head. Once you jump and learn and grow you get hooked on jumping. 

Every day an opportunity to connect, to mentor, to advance our lives emerges and evaporates. We have to jump on these moments as well. No need to just think about the monster jumps, because the little jumps will lead you there. Get into the habit of jumping on the chances and challenges right in front of you.

Where are you jumping next? And who will you help make their big jump?

Thanks for reading. John


What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.

How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others.  But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness. 

I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.

But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?

A lot.

Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives. 

So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"

My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:

  • Nothing
  • Not much
  • Keeping my head above water
  • Busy. Very busy
  • Same ole same ole
  • Nothing to complain about
  • Nada mucho, how about you?

You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.

Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?

We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.

"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that--"Nothing" is simply not true.

So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?  You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to---Negative or positive. 

So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing. 

So now change the setting to an interview.  Are your answers different? Of course.

How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?

How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?

How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client? 

The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do. 

The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.

Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment! 

Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!

Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.

Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading--anything and everything is available to mention.

I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?

You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help--besides yourself?!

Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing? 

I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers--anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs--How do you answer the question: "What's new?"

This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.

Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.

What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.

Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.

Thanks for reading. John


Add Some Grit to Your Diet

No I did not say "grits". And this is NOT another rant about Paula Dean. :)

I said grit--"The perseverance and passion for long term goals." Or the "abrasive particles or granules that facilitate grinding."

I think both are needed. A persistent attitude that pushes you to practice and to improve. And friction of reality along the way to keep you focused.

So grit plus grit equals success. Grit squared. GRIT

The path to success is a grinding process of honing, of shaping, of refining your skills knowledge and abilities. Without the friction of reality and the dogged persistence.

Grit 1

Deliberate practice, operationally defined as studying and memorizing words while alone, better predicted performance in the National Spelling Bee than being quizzed by others or reading for pleasure. Rated as the most effortful and least enjoyable type of preparation activity, deliberate practice was increasingly favored over being quizzed as spellers accumulated competition experience. 

Deliberate Practice Spells Success:
Why Grittier Competitors Triumph at the
National Spelling Bee Anglea Lee Duckworth et al

 

This grit comes from your heart your commitment to pushing the rock up the hill and understanding the purpose. It is the alignment of your heart and your work. You know when you are out of alignment. You know when you start packing your bag at 4:50pm everyday. You also know when you are energized and exhausted at the same time. This grit can not be purchased. It is acquired and reinforced through your wholehearted engagement. This grit emerges from the work to extract the beauty and meaning from your efforts. 

Does not necessarily or exclusively come from your day job. But you have to exercise and grow your grit muscles. You can get your grit on in your volunteer life, at your church, at your kid's school. Where is your grit and how can you make a bigger part of your life?

Grit 2

One of the most influential ways to re-activate your grit is to dive into the need. When you see how your product and service is used. When you talk to the people who need your solution. When you feel the emotional connection people make to your work, it reconnects you with purpose. "Ahhh, that's why I do this."

Make time to visit your "customers", hear their stories, see their faces, and re-immerse yourself in mission. 

This is grit that wakes you up from the monotony of your routine and your habits. This is the grit with friction that afflicts the comfortable.

It is a virtuous cycle of grit begets grit. To get grit you give grit. 

Got Grit? 

Thanks for reading. John

 


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!


The One Percent/Degree Solution

Most of us work so hard. We are engaged with our lives and our work. We show up and put in the time.  And we are at our limits. We have little if anything else to give. Time, energy, brain cells--we are at capacity.  Seems inconceivable to do any more than we do. Right?

When will we pursue those "other" goals in our lives? Those things that we long to do, have to do? 

Was with a good friend this week and he was discussing his three new side businesses he is launching and pursuing. Three! He has a full time job, two kids and a labrador! He has little money, but puts in the sweat equity and engages his network. He is trying to build his future, keep his mind fresh, and make some money. How does he do it? He manages his time through his priorities. Is he stressed out? Nope. He is fully engaged in his life. Funny thing, he has other irons in the fire. And he thinks he is just an "average" guy!

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

If you are human, then you waste so much time. C'mon admit it. There are times when you are just distracting yourself, biding your time, all the while your ideas/causes/dreams just wait and get older. Be honest!

It is trite and maybe irritating to hear, but you have to take small steps. Give one percent more--one more degree of effort. One percent! Everyone has one percent to give. One percent more in time, money, effort, and energy. Yes you do!

If you give that one per cent to something you have always wanted to do. Something you care about. Like your talent, your art, your dreams. You will feel good about yourself.

Don't fall behind on your bills and your dreams.  Les Brown

And, when someone says, "Hey what's new?" You can say something interesting! And those conversations will lead to new connections!

Now networking and mentoring have a purpose. To meet people who are doing what you are interested in. Getting advice about these special things. These pursuits will be treats in your life. Sweet and delicious moments for your personal gratification of understanding your larger role and purpose. These times that are not chores but times you will look forward to. And guess what happens, the one percent expands because it is so important to you.

Look if you have the perfect balance in your life of challenge, growth, and fulfillment, then please stop reading. 

For the rest of us, we are so close to what we want you can see it. But our inertia, doubts, resistance, and plain ole laziness prevent us from what we want.

Watch this video. 

One more degree of effort. We give up too easily in the pursuit of what is important to us. One percent more time and attention.

One percent of your time is  like 30 mins a week. What if you scheduled 30 mins during every week to reconnect with someone you have lost touch with. Put it on your calendar. Do it every week. Be discipined about it. Use the time to e-mail, telephone, Google people.

This is even more productive and fulfilling if you are reaching out to people about your idea, cause, or dream. To compare notes, pick brains, to learn, and to be inspired. To be inspired every week! Wow. 

Persistence, consistency, and building the habit of making time for what you want. It is simply amazing when you do something consistently.

You will regret not using this time--now. Over time you will get busier! And these special thoughts get shelved and predictably--absence will make the heart grow fonder. Neglect makes these lost opportunities more precious and more bitter regrets later.

Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.  St Francis de Assisi

I guarantee if you don't exert the one percent or the one degree of extra effort, nothing will happen. 

Little efforts lead to bigger ones. Small steps lead to bigger strides. Commit yourself to connecting your ideas with others and unexpected things will happen.

 Thanks for reading. John


5 Micro Habits to Renew Your Networking

We all know how important small things are. Chaos theory asserts how tiny movements create tsunamis. Just think about an atomic bomb. Or consider our DNA. Or the March of Dimes. Think about the advancements in nano-technology. Or micro lending. Little things matter. We ignore these small things at our peril. The details of life. We know how our daily lives are made up of thousands of assumptions, perceptions, and habits that keep us going or hold us back.

Recently, I went through a series of video golf lessons that revealed micro habits and physical aspects of my swing that I did not know were there. Things I felt were the exact opposite of what the video showed. Once I reconciled that my perceptions and feelings were wrong, I could alter my swing. 

We can't see what we are doing or not doing.

There are zillions of examples how micro things can lead to changes or challenges if unattended or ignored. Making a change, getting better at something requires a series of changes in habits, assumptions, and muscle and neural memory. Change it up

In other words, new habits require the breaking of old ones. And at the micro level, you have to be aware of what you do or don't do.

In our minds we have figured things out. We think we are doing things well or the best we can. We are in control of what we do and who we are. If we stop and think about it, we know we are deluding ourselves. Our lives are made up of of thousands of routines that are reflexive and non-thinking moments of reaction. We are constantly disconnected from our consciousness while reality is ignored. Again, like the way I thought my golf swing was dramatically different from my real golf swing.

Sorry I left the planet of concreteness there for a second. I am getting to a point. :) In order to advance your life and your career you need to confront and understand your habits, your micro habits.

HR consultants say they can tell a good resume from a bad one in 8 seconds. Executive recruiters say they can size up a candidate in the first 30 seconds. Scientists tell us that we form an opinion about another person in 100 milliseconds by just seeing their face.

Your face is worth a thousand words. But what does it say? 

So let's consider how you make the initial connection with people. What do you do? What do you say? What does your face say? What is your body language communicate? Sorry to make you self-conscious but taking an inventory by answering these questions is important. 

I am asserting here that you need to adopt several new micro habits to shift your self awareness and your networking---and ultimately your life.

Here are 5 micro networking habits that will change your life, get you to enjoy and appreciate networking and your ability to do it.

  1. Say Hello--You get on the elevator. You meet eyes with someone at the grocery store. You sit next to somebody on a plane. Whereever you are acknowledge the other with a "hello" or a "Good morning." It connects the world for that moment. And often a brief conversation ensues. Force yourself to greet and acknowledge strangers.
  2. Smile more--Really this is a huge change. You think your face always looks pleasant and even happy? Wrong. Not a request to plaster a fake clown face on your mug. My favorite is people who say they are "glad to meet me" with a frown and a scowl. :)When you greet people, when you meet people, smile! Watch the other person's face when you smile, it's contagious. You have a great smile use it! It makes others feel comfortable and it opens up the world. 
  3. Introduce yourself differently-- Don't just mumble robotic words that no longer mean anything to you. Think about a way that engages people and invites conversation. I call this your BIT--Brief Inroductory Talk. Most people provide no energy, no information and no invitation to talk. Don't just utter name, rank and serial number. Reveal something about why you are here. Recently I met a guy that had "Dr." on his nametag. I said, "Nice to meet you Dr. so and so." He said, "I am a medical doctor but now I run a business training immigrants." He anticipated my question about his mdeical profession and gave me a huge opening. I met a woman the other day who said, " Hi I am a lawyer and a soccer Mom." 
  4. Reconnect with someone you care about--This is so easy. Call or send an e-mail to someone you know and like, but with whom you have disconnected. Schedule it. You are not too busy!! I guarantee that your reconnection will be fulfilling and worthwhile.
  5. Say Yes--The next time someone asks you to go somewhere, to meet someone, to experience something new--say Yes! Get out of your routine and  experience new things and meet new people. Don't make excuses to preserve your convenience or your routines. Everyone says they are spontaneous, but they aren't. They prefer plans and limited risk. 

The point here is taking little steps of progress can lead to huge changes. I know this seems simple and intuitive.  Break some little habits and start some new ones. Just try it. New intentional habits lead to new experiences and opportunities. Little changes can push yourself further and further down these paths to connect and reconnect. 

Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible. St Francis of Assisi 

Thanks for reading. John