innocent bystander

The Apples in our Eyes

No matter our circumstance we have challenging lives. Each one of us is trying to improve our life trajectory and the world around us. We all want to make a dent in the universe and see our way to find peace, joy and fulfillment.

But our ability to see clearly is impaired by the VUCA world surrounding us. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. That contributes to our visual impairment. We scan many things but we see very little. Scientists say there are about 11 million inputs to our senses at any one time and we are lucky to decipher and sense 40 of them. What we see is what we get and shapes what we do.

My mother is an accomplished artist and I asked her for an "art lesson". I told her I wanted to learn how to paint. She was amused by my request. "Oh John you are so busy, you have such important things to do, (read with just the right touch of elegant sarcasm that cuts your heart out:) you don't have time for painting." She continued, "Many people think you need special DNA or inborn talent to paint, but it is not true. You simply need the ability to see. And John you don't have time to see." (Ouch!)

She finally relented and agreed to give me a lesson. She set up three apples in her studio. I had picked up a paint brush and found a small canvas. "What are you doing?!", she queried. "I am getting ready to paint". "Before we paint we have to see", she said with a wry smile. 

Apples
Morgan Russell's Three Apples inspired by Cezanne

Mom began to interrogate me about what I saw. (At least it felt like that) And while she talked I could hear my judgmental mind take over. "Why apples? I want to paint a seascape. These aren't even very nice looking apples....." I tried to re-focus. "Do you see the purple octogonal between the red and green apples? Can you see this shadow and the negative space here? Can you appreciate the geometry of what is here and not what you think is here?" This went on for a couple of hours. It was exhausting and frustrating. As the Buddhists say, "If you are bored you have not done it long enough."

Then the apples started to come into view. I started to really see them. 

A time is coming when apples freshly observed will trigger a revolution.  Apologies to Cezanne

My mother will never know the revolution she triggered in me!

Hard to do anything if you can't see.

We are in such a rush. We put a premium on speed. But speed kills, our ability to see. We all have ADD.

Call it a lack of attention, mindfulness, or patience. We jump to conclusions. We judge and pre-judge. We want to cut to the chase because we lose interest in the plot. And we miss so much.

Not just in the world of things. But what we hear people say. What we notice about body language or facial expressions. How our food tastes. What feelings we are experiencing. And the people around us.

We are increasingly desensitized and numb and we see and feel less and less.

And through this blur our brains change and evolve. Our judgmentalism puts us on neural pathways that skip any real thought or feeling. 

We all operate this way and it under-girds our implicit biases (unconscious attitudes that impact what we see and do). These biases are not detectable through self awareness or introspection. They are embedded in our brains and may and often do, conflict with who we think we are. 

Neuroscience is showing us that we tend to convert uncomfortable matters, especially those involving humans, into abstract thoughts. In Simon Sinek's wonderful book Leaders Eat Last, he asserts: "The more distance there is between us amplifies the abstraction and the harder it becomes to see each other as human." He goes on to describe that our "abundance" both in distraction and in need overwhelm our senses and "dehumanizes" our world.

In fact when people see photos of homeless people while in fMRI, our brains don't light up where it would for people we know or like. It fires up portions of our brains where inanimate objects reside--closer to furniture. Why? Because we can't invest the time, empathy, energy, in thinking about the needy so we create a mental short cut. Nameless and faceless people can be tidily put aside as things in our cranial hard drive. 

And our sense of humanity diminishes.

Tragedy of life is what dies within us while we live—the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of others. Norman Cousins 

So much easier to talk about homelessness than about the people living in tents down the street. When we avert our eyes, hearts and minds from those in need, we lose a little of ourselves.

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

How do we keep our hyper space minds from building more neural pathways and our bulging implicit bias muscles? And restore our humanity.

Check our vision. Quiet our judgmental reflexes. Slow down a bit. 

Put down the paint brushes and see what is in front of us. See each other. And connect to our altruistic selves.

We are all connected and our destinies are tied to one another. Can we see that?

For me those unappealing apples triggered a revolution within me. What's your revolution?

Thanks for reading. John

 (Excerpt from a speech I gave at Minnesota Council of Foundations on October 29, 2015)


What Would the Wolf Do?

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  John Muir 

This video beautifully and inspiringly tells the story of trophic cascades, basically where the top of the food chain is disrupted and the changes that follow. In this case, the re-introduction of the wolves into Yellowstone National Park dramatically shifted the course of the entire eco-system from the migration pattern of the elk to the height of the forest to the direction of the river. A great and visual lesson on the unknown consequences of changing things in our environment, in our worlds. We know everything is connected to everything else. We intellectually understand that at the atomic level we are in an infinite sea of life. We are part of this connectedness. What we do matters. There are immediate and unseen impacts from our actions and our in-actions that reverberate out and into the future. 

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. - Mother Teresa 

We also know that we have to do what we were meant to do. We can not hold back. Yes to be fulfilled and to feel purposeful. But we need to do it because of the ripple effect. The waves it sends out to others. We want to help others. We do. That's why I have advocated a lifestyle of networking and mentoring to help others. If we make it part our lives, part of the way we think and act, then it is not special, it is routine. And the ripples reverberate your righteousness. 

When we are wolves seeking our habitat and doing what wolves need to do. We change the world.

When we are not wolves we suppress nature, and the world changes anyway, often without us. 

Intuitively we think we know what happens when we do something. The cause and effect. We naively imagine a linear relationship of our actions and the intended consequences. But what really happens and what happens if we do nothing?

The world without wolves?

But too often we wait. Wait for a sign, for the "right time". We contemplate our navels and consider our options. We take chances or we balk at choices. We embrace the fear or we regret it later. We show up or don't. We say what's on our minds or we shrink from the truth.

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.  James Baldwin

Consider, if we do not act or speak or assist someone. Consider what happens if we do not build relationships, connect, network and mentor each other. Consider the cascade of events that would happen if you do or do not.

We have many excuses. We tend to think about obsess about what will go wrong. How I will be embarrassed. The inconvenience of the time. 

What if:

If I did not talk to this woman on a plane I would not be married and have three kids!

If I did not take a pay cut for a job I loved I would not be in this career.

If my mother had not encouraged me to be a YMCA counselor I may not have become a Big Brother.

If I did not become a Big Brother I would not be writing this blog.

I am sure you have  a longer and better list, if you think about it. We can think of these as special even magical moments. They are. And they aren't. The more you do the more that these moments occur. And best of all it triggers consequences well beyond you. 

We know your very presence makes a difference. But we forget. 

You avoid talking about politics, religion, or anything controversial or revealing about you, for fear of judgment or being politically incorrect. And your voice is silenced. People that look to you for guidance hear nothing and they adopt silence and neutrality as a mode of living. And your silence begets silence.

It is the slipperiest of slopes. You do less and less to protect what you have.

What our peers do matters. We crowd source. We pride ourselves on individualism but we can default to the lemmings. We follow and fall for what others around us do.

Maybe you need a different crowd. 

We have to be ourselves. Our best selves. Our most generous, compassionate and empathetic selves.

You agree to mentor someone even though "you are busy" and there is a cascade.

What happens to everything around and after you, if you are not you?

Nature abhors a vacuum. So when you fail to act, to show up, to do what you want to do the world changes anyway. The cascade of events that follow your absence is different. 

All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.  Octavia Butler 

But will you be the change that starts a beautiful cascade of events that you can not predict and only your presence generates? 

It all starts with giving without an expectation. 

The future is helping children you will never know. 

Give up on your dream and your instincts and you mess with the cosmos. 

WWWD? The world needs your ripples. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Habit of Gratitude

As we gather with friends and family to give thanks for what we have and for those we are not with, I wanted to express my gratitude to you.

Sharing my thoughts here has made me a better person. I see things, read things, and most important--do things differently.

Thank you for energizing me, for inspiring me, for pushing me to be who I want to be. For helping me appreciate what I have and what I can do with what I have.

Let's all re-commit ourselves to feel and express our gratitude everyday--make it a habit.

And then filled with that gratitude we can help others who need us and have so much less than us.

Thank you for giving me the courage to pursue the habit of gratitude. 

Happy Giving of Thanks and for reading. John

I participated in a worldwide 21 day Gratitude Challenge and this video was produced by several of the volunteer participants. Enjoy!

Written and produced by Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod.

Video from KarmaTube


Suffering Indifference

Total humility comes from when you have nothing. When you are without your status, your stuff, and your pretentions, you are reduced to the real you. Not just being devoid of your material things. But when you have lost your self-confidence, your self-esteem, your hope for the future.  I know I protect myself with many trappings, devices, and artificial comforts. Some of you have been there and know the truth about this basic suffering. I can only imagine this scenario—which means I know really nothing about it. Most of us are fortunate to live far from this level of humility. Far from the bottom or middle of Maslow’s. We take for granted what we have need and want. As a result,  our ability to be compassionate---literally--with suffering—disappears. We are numb to what separates us from the real and genuine feelings of others—especially those in need.

Like me, I am sure you appreciate the opportunities you have been given and the good fortune that has smiled on us. We all know that a few fine twists in our storyline and things would be much different.

It is a brutal world filled with heartbreaking images and ideas. We have to cloak ourselves in emotional Teflon so that we can function, right?

Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. - J.K. Rowling

So we become very adept at faking our emotions. We are skilled at pretending to care. Our compassion banks only can dispense so much otherwise we will be bankrupt. We have to use our emotional outlays sparingly—reserve it for the people close to us. Isn’t that right?

Some people say, "I know what you are going through?" “I can only imagine how you are feeling?" “I know what you mean.”

Not sure most people do. We mean well but we are not well meaning. We say these things in the transaction oriented speed of life. We do not have time to care. Few of us have the capacity to engage ourselves emotionally in every tragedy, every hardship, so we get very adroit at feigning sympathy, empathy, and compassion.

Zen Buddhist monks in training have a ritual called takahatsu. These young monks must beg for food on the street to learn their role, to understand who they are, and to learn humility.

So we build our defenses and protect ourselves. We even get uncomfortable when we and/or others show their emotions. We find it hard to look at people who are suffering. We avert our eyes when we see nameless homeless people. As if our eye contact will hurt us. We know in our hearts, that indifference will hurt us more. Blessings

I was struck by this blog by Optimus Outcast, an anonymous film exec who sat on a freeway onramp for a day—his takahatsu. Here is an excerpt from his observations:

Why is it so hard to make eye contact with someone in less fortunate circumstances? Why is it so scary just to look? We lock ourselves away in our fortresses with the openings sealed tight. A you-can-sleep-peacefully-at-night guarantee that the outer edges will be kept safely at bay. We will never be required to be uncomfortable. Our cars, our houses, our offices all offer these qualities. But, then if you think about, so does a coffin.

Maybe the scary part isn’t just to look. The scary part is to look and then look away.  A reminder that, in all of our professed capabilities, sometimes we are still helpless to change things. If we look away, is this our own cardboard sign that reads, “I have given up.”?

I am a born sucker. I take some pride that I have not lost all, but I have lost a lot, of my trust in strangers.  I give time and money to almost anyone. I have incredible and disastrous stories of my unsuccessful attempts to help others. I was regaling some colleagues about how I have been duped by panhandlers.  This resulted in a spirited discussion with a colleague who said, "There is no doubt what happens when you give a panhandler money. No doubt." She won't give panhandlers money because she is convinced that ALL panhandlers are addicts of some type. The money goes straight to drugs or alcohol.

I understand this logic. And I know that it is mostly true. But this logic becomes part of the thickness of our Teflon coating. We begin to make generalizations about “those people”. But don’t we need as much pathos as we do logos? I also believe that we cannot dismiss an entire group because of a theory, even a “factual theory”.  Because we are wrong too many times. I have seen and continue to seek out the people who have beat the odds. They renew my faith in the great potential of all people. The hundreds of death row inmates who have been exonerated through the Innocence Project. The countless kids from the ghetto who have succeeded in school and life. The online teacher I met who typed with her toes because she has no hands.

But how much effort should we expend to save the few? Remember the old story about saving the starfish? It does make a difference to the one.  StarfishBoy

Sometimes it is easier for us to give up on each other than a product. How many times has a product or service not lived up to the hype or advertising? I know. Yet we still buy. Maybe a bit more warily and carefully. But we buy.

How much of our humanity dies when we come to these conclusions that ALL of somebody is not good or able to be helped or have ulterior motives? 

We lose a little of ourselves every time we think and act this way.

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

In my professional world of philanthropy, we talk about those who need our help. We rarely talk to those we want to help. It's crazy. Our ideas become so sterilized from reality. So intellectual. So safe from the truth. 

How do we renew our sense of reality by visiting the suffering we are trying to address or lessen? How do we truly get into the shoes of our colleagues, neighbors, brothers and sisters? How do we help our network by allowing ourselves to suffer with them---to have compassion? To listen, to learn and to love. To have the vulnerability and humility to know.

I write this not to preach but to confess. I write this not to inflict guilt but to remind. I write this to help me suffer with you.

Thanks for reading. John


The Strongest Weak Tie: Cousins

Just got back from a reunion of our extended family. I do mean extended! It was extraordinary to dive into the gene pool forawhile and explore my roots and my wings. Energized by my younger cousins who represent the Yonseis--4th generation Japanese-Americans a rainbow coalition of beautiful multi-racial and multi-ethnic backgrounds. This weekend I met a national surfing champion, a violinist who played at Carnegie Hall, an actress--and these were among my cousins under 19! Amazing who you are related to and don't know.

We all have cousins. From real cousins to people you are somehow related to (e.g. people married to your cousins, all the way to strangers you refer to as "cousins". In fact we are all cousins in one way or another. Read that Prince William and Kate are 12th cousins (once removed) and Brad Pitt and President Obama are 9th cousins. The further we go back our family lines converge and we are all related. But I digress. 

When we think of our networks, we usually think about the inner circle of our close friends, relatives and confidantes. Mark Granovetter referred to these as our  Strong Ties. In general, we take care of our strong ties. The challenge with strong ties is they usually are not that diverse. We tend to hang around and seek the time and attention of people like us, religiously, politically, and financially.  Therefore a network composed just of your strong ties is limiting. You need people in your network that will transport you out of the box of your limitations to introduce you to new networks. You need a diverse network of opinions, viewpoints and connections. Granvetter called these your Weak Ties

Weak ties multiple groups
Sample Network

Granovetter defined ties: a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.

He concluded that some of the the most important ties are the ones which "bridge" you to new connections, new networks, and new opportunities. His research showed that "no strong tie is a bridge." That weak ties are much better bridges.

One of my mantras is: It is amazing who you know who you don't know.

Great and beneficial networking focuses on your existing network before new connections. The key is reconnecting and deepening your relationship with people you know, especially weak ties--like your cousins--to expand your network.

You want your network to grow, but organically and warmly. Your existing network is a catalogue of warm calls, much different than the icy world of strangers that you don't know. 

Second mantra: Being introduced is the most powerful form of networking.

The most potent network development comes from your existing contact list. Meeting new people through others. 

Get over the "embarrassment" of the time lapse between contacts. Stop letting your benevolent disregard for them stop you from reaching out and re-kindling a good conversation. This is why some gravitate to the casino of meeting new people, rather than than apologizing to an old friend and starting anew. Can you hear the crazy that screams out of this convoluted logic?

Yeah, but we are all guilty of this. It took a reunion for me to reconnect with my cousins.

Focus on making your weak ties stronger and then seek the diversity of other people's networks. 

It is one thing to say you are open to new things and new opportunities. That you believe in serendipity. Everyone does. But it is a giant leap to actively cultivate weak ties, like your cousins, to truly encounter the serendipitous. 

Sometimes you meet  people that appear in your life. I know you are lucky but not that lucky---you are not the magnetic center of the universe. You must make your magnets, your luck, and the effort to make new connections.

Call or e-mail a cousin today. Listen to them. Tell your story. Help each other. The world will become smaller, warmer and bit more interesting. It has for me.

Thanks for reading.  Your cousin John  ;)

 


The darkside of reciprocity

When I first got into the networking game and tried to define what I was doing and why--I was drawn to the research on reciprocity. That reciprocity and mutual obligation are the most powerful sources of influence in the world. I was very influenced by Robert Cialdini's body of work, his lectures and my conversations with him.

The idea that networking and later mentoring revolved around creating mutual obligation. In fact I used to tell a long and very popular story about how we do favors for others--favors we don't want to do, but we don't know how to say "no".  When you are thanked for a favor you did not want to do, I counseled people to say, "I know you would do the same for me." And like you did the favor against your better instincts, the person who received your generosity will unwittingly say how they "owe" you. This gimmick "proved" our inner desire to help one another. That's what I thought and that's what I taught.

Expectations are the ruination of the individual.  Tomi D. Kobara

Iou

What I have learned since is that auto-reciprocity syndrome (I made this up), the robotic, sub-conscious process of responding to one another and owing one another is not a reflection of our true selves. 

The idea of expecting a return for our generosity is the darkside of reciprocity. That giving that is conditional, is really not giving. Once you plant the seed of obligation, the main growth comes through your selfishness. 

This conclusion generates all sorts of questions:

  • Giving for the tax deduction?
  • Giving for recognition?
  • Giving for personal gain?
  • Giving to create obligation?

Not saying that these forms of gifts are not good or needed. I think we would all admit that unconditional giving is different. Is any giving unconditional?

Yes! I have seen it. People who give freely and quickly. You have witnessed it too. Now do these people give to feel good and to feel good about themselves--isn't that a selfish need?

I am not counting this as reciprocity.

I love Steven Levine's distinctions about three types of giving. 

  • Beggarly Giving:  When we give with only one hand, still holding onto what we give.  In this kind of giving we give the least of what we have and afterward wonder whether we should have given at all.
  • Friendly Giving:  When we give openhandedly.  We take what we have and share it, because it seems appropriate.  It's a clear giving.
  • Kingly Giving: That's when we give the best of what we have, even if none remains for ourself.  We give the best we have instinctively with graciousness.  We think of ourselves only as temporary caretakers of whatever has been provided, as owning nothing.  

Are you a beggarly, friendly or kingly networker?

I mentally and intellectually made this shift from reciprocity in my giving awhile ago. I truly try to give unconditionally especially in my networking and mentoring. I have found it is so much less complicated when you don't keep score. Give first, give often, give without expectation. That is my goal.

Like everything in life the more often you do it the easier it becomes. 

Some people say give first and then get. I am going much further here. Just Give. Give because it reflects who we are and what we want to be. Give because it makes us feel good. Give anonymously. Give because we care. 

So in networking and mentoring, you give time, connections, and knowledge unconditionally. Generosity

I know I am not the only one who is thinking this way. I know that each of you is giving a lot of yourselves. And I truly appreciate how generous you are with your time and your resources. I am writing this as a confession about what I have learned about networking and mentoring over these decades. I am writing to remind me and anyone else that the greatest ROI is to the preservation of your authentic self. Becoming a "kingly" giver and networker is our goal.

People who view life as a zero sum game, they believe that every gift must be replaced. That every commitment generates a commitment. This is pure reciprocity.

Generosity is unlimited. You always have something to give. You have more to give.

I have had the great pleasure to hear Muhammad Yunus speak and he reminds me of this goal. He speaks in absolutes and I think purely about what we need to do as fellow human beings. His mission in life is "When poverty is in the museum". I love the vision of visiting a museum in the future with a comprehensive display on poverty! But he also talks about social business. Business that has no profit and gives its returns to the community and the customers. He was asked why a business that limits its profits would not qualify as a social business. He said, "When you get 1% in profits, it is human nature to try and make it 2%. Not having profits you focus 100% on the business of helping people." 

Likewise, when you think about what you get first or what you are owed, you put yourself before the gift. It compromises your generosity, your networking and your mentoring. 

How can we all give more freely because we are merely temporary custodians of possessions, connections and knowledge?

Life is not about trades and transactions. Not about IOUs. I have traded reciprocity for generosity.

Life is about being the best you can be and helping others be the same.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Avoid Career Alzheimers--Reconnect to Your Purpose

Through luck, fate and my own assertiveness, I meet incredible leaders and people who have achieved success. In these encounters they have said things that have altered my life. They have mentored me. Things I adopted as models for my own trajectory and just as often, things that frightened me. I have learned as much from those I want to emulate as from those I want to not be like. Just as in art you gravitate to the positive spaces because of the negative spaces. People's lives have become my yin and yang of life. Yin yang

Here are several of my favorite true encounters (some details were altered to protect the innocent):

  • After losing the vote to become Prime Minister of his country, he was stripped of his executive privileges, "How in the @&!# did I think I could run this country, I didn't even know what it costs to park in my building." 
  • 6 months before he was fired, this prominent Div 1 coach said to me, "I don't have time to go to practices as much as I should." 
  • After declaring bankruptcy, this owner of a chain of restaurants told me, "It had been a long time since I had eaten at one of my restaurants." 
  • A colleague of mine worked for a hyper wealthy family and was seeking permission to spend $100,000. She was told, "Why are we wasting time on this? I made this much money in the time we have been talking."

"Success" can breed an over confidence that can ironically lead to an utter disconnection from the very work and people that generated the success. That form of arrogance almost always leads to disaster.

Every week I meet executives and managers who have early onset of what I call Career Alzheimers. These are people who are getting tired (not necessarily old!) of their work. Yes, we all want less hassle, fewer people issues, and more theoretical work. Here's the rub. Once you lose connection with the customer (not the data), the staff (not the metrics), the community (not the view from your office), you have lost your way. You have Career Alzheimers!

Here's my mythical wikipedia post for Career Alzheimers:

Career Alzheimers (CA) is a common form of professional dementia. It worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to career termination. Although Career Alzheimers develops differently for every individual, there are many common symptoms. Early symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be 'age-related'. In the early stages, the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering what they love about their job. When CA is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with telltale statements that rely too heavily on abstract concepts, theories, and metrics demonstrating a growing disconnection from real things and people. Some show confusion, irritability, mood swings, trouble with language, especially concerning their passion for their work. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw further and further from the day to day work, from colleagues and from the society. Gradually, these conditions worsen often leading to end of career. Since the disease is different for each individual, predicting how it will affect the person is difficult. CA develops for an unknown and variable amount of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. The cause and progression of CA are not well understood. My unscientific research indicates that the disease is associated with the increasing depersonalization of the success metrics of work. Fortunately, CA is curable. Self awareness is the first step and then to seek mentoring help to confirm the disorder and treatment. Treatment is simple—take steps to humanize your work. Get out of your office. Get tactile, visceral, palpable stories about the solutions you are providing, unmet need, nuances and challenges of the execution of the work your department/team/company does. Regular doses of the humanity of your work will immediately combat CA and can keep it from reoccurring. 

I love that Warren Buffett drives his own car and talks to his shareholders and people in general. He may be elderly but he is still grounded to the basics of what makes him a success. He will never have CA!

Carve out more time to meet with the beneficiaries of your work. Make scheduled and unscheduled visits to partners, customers, offices, and even competitors. It will shift your perspective every single time. It will energize you! It will trigger a small and sometimes large reminder of the purpose of your work that too often gets boiled down to a "bottomline" that has sucked all of the humanity out of our existence. Yes, we need to measure things, but we also have to remember the measure of our purpose. 

Self diagnose. Ask people you trust. Early signs? Late stages? Re-engage or retire--and find something new to reinvigorate you. Never too late. You hold the cure. 

Thanks for reading. John 


Help Other People Get What They Want

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.  Zig Ziglar

(If you don't know who Zig is, research him, read him, listen to him. We lost him late last year. He was one of the greatest motivational speakers ever.) Zig

People who don't understand this quote do not understand the true power of their lives--they do not understand the power of a networking lifestyle. I have met thousands of people who think networking is a process of take and give. For these people they loathe networking because it feels so disingenuous. But Zig has captured it perfectly in his quote. You help other people get what they want first and you get everything. Skeptical?

Networking is always about giving without an expectation.

It's not about you, it is about WE. 

It is turning off the most popular radio station in the world WII-FM. What's In It For Me. When that station dominates the thinking process you will never get what you want or you will settle for short term gains that are neither sustainable or rewarding.

We want the same things. We want a sense of purpose. We want health and well-being. We want happiness and fulfilment. We want meaningful relationships. And we want to be financially comfortable. 

When we see our selves as helping others, we achieve all of these things. We see our connection to one another. We see that our destinies are tied together. That our purpose, our health, well-being, our relationships and ultimately our financial success is linked. Sure if you just want money this is the worst strategy. Focusing on money first inevitably means that some or all of the other things you want will suffer. 

Yes, you should be compassionate to others who have less and you should give generously of your time and resources to others in need. But I am talking about your network. So besides responding to requests for help affirmatively, what do you do to help others--people in your network.

Here are fundamental ways you can help others in your network. Four proactive ways that strengthen your connections. These are habits that the best networkers practice.

  1. Refer: Send information about potential clients, partners, vendors to your network. Refer people directly to them. Connecting people that can help one another. Everyone is grateful for a warm reference for a service provider. Be the Yelp for your friend network.
  2. Share: Send your network articles, research, and books that you think will advance their thinking for their businesses, careers, and avocations. Amazon loves me. I send out a couple books a week. Few things can link people like a book that can be shared. 
  3. Compliment/Congratulate: Send notes, posts, and tributes to people for no specific reason except that you were thinking about them. This is more random than birthdays, Xmas and new jobs. Send them a note about good things you have heard or how you refer to them to others. I make dozens of donations every year "in honor of the leadership and commitment of ______"--I send it to the favorite charity of people in my network. People are hungry for compliments, especially from a friend or someone they respect. I was asked in an icebreaker once "who my hero was". I did not hesitate I said the principal at my kids' school. She was a force for good. I later told her what I said. This was twenty years ago. I recently saw her by chance and the first thing she said to me was how much that story meant to her.
  4. Introduce: One of the most powerful things you can do is introduce people to one another. Not a romantic matchmaker but a connector of human spirits that could help one another. Different than referrals, this is the active process of linking people in your network to one another. One of our roles as networkers is to make the world smaller. So introduce people at receptions, at meetings, and online. Be a connector. 

If you go out looking for friends, you're going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere. Zig Ziglar

Like everything, your perspective matters most. If you see making friends as a hassle and time consuming and distracting from your real goals, then you will not have complete success. If you see the world as a bunch of potential friends and connections, then you will meet many people and your life will be richer. And when you help those people proactively, then your life will reward you in all the ways you want. 

Choose the lifestyle of networking and helping others and you will get everything you want.

Thanks for reading. John


Innocence of the Bystander

Witnesses to tragedies, crimes, and unethical behavior are never innocent. They are changed by what they see even if they avert their eyes, minds, and consciences. Seeing and hearing bad things alters you, especially if you don't do something to stop, mitigate or report the event or behavior. Each time we "allow" something to pass as acceptable when we are offended, makes us a little more tolerant of such things. Over time a little callous can start to build up on our heart and our moral compass and we let more things pass without intervention. Initially we ask ourselves, "Should I have done something?"  or "What else could I have done?" Later, we can rationalize, "Maybe its me." "I don't want to be the only one who complains." Innocent bystander


Psychologists have tried to explain this phenomena:

1. The diffusion of responsibility: a bystander assumes that someone else has or will take action.
2. Pluralistic Ignorance: an individual looks around the group and because no one is doing anything to help, they assume that no one else perceives there to be an issue

In other words, "someone ELSE will or should do something."

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."  Mother Teresa

The Penn State allegations remind us all about our duties as a bystander. No one has been found guilty but heads are rolling. People allegedly saw horrific things and nothing was done. Children may have been seriously harmed. (the average pedophile molests 100-200 children, so the 8 victims may be the tip of the iceberg) An entire community will suffer and a university will be tarnished for years because of the inaction of a few. All in the name of football. Schoolroom teachers and medical personnel are obligated to report abuse if the suspect it. Military academies and other educational institutions uphold a code of ethics where if you witness cheating, you are a cheater--unless you come forward. We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. And not coming forward can be grounds for dismissal. But coaches, executives, priests, and others can view themselves as above the law.

Selfishness and self preservation prevent us from taking chances, from making changes, and from ruffling feathers/rocking the boat. When we place ourselves above the welfare of others, that's when the conflict occurs. It is a survival instinct. However, when that instinct interferes with the rationalization of crimes, especially crimes that physically harm others--children--all innocence is lost!

What would it take for you to step in and get involved? What level of harm, potential harm, suspected harm will make you act?

Tattle tales, snitches, stool pigeons have always been vilified. Upholding the honor amongst thieves seems to be a powerful moral prophylactic. But this is not about just whistle blowing, this about how we act upon our human instinct to assist an other.

As Americans we think that we are the most generous people on earth. We are quick to judge other cultures, China most recently, who appear less sensitive or even do things we find violating our sense of decency. Regrettably, we Americans do not have a corner on the market of "Thy Neighbor's Keeper." While we invented Neighborhood Watch, the Welcome Wagon and even foundation philanthropy, Penn State is an example that we are not always responsive or respectful of the needs of others.

I love these Liberty Mutual ads. The idea that we should help strangers. That helping others is contagious and sets off a chain reaction of good deeds. One thing is certain, when you see good being done it creates a model of behavior. Everyone wants to help others. Seeing is believing. That is the power of role modeling and mentoring.

After the children who may have been injured, the assasination of the moral example and leadership of Penn State coaches and executives may be the second biggest victim on the Happy Valley campus. When leaders and mentors fall from grace, who or what fills that void? Communities of all sizes and shapes thrive when they have mentors and role models. In Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, he discusses the studies that have shown that a community stabilizes when it has 5% of its population as role models. Just 5%. The point is, you don't need nor will you ever have everyone as role models. But without them the community de-stabilizes and deteriorates. What happens when some of our top role models fall from grace? Will this void increase or decrease people's desire to help one another and get involved to right wrongs?  

Everyday we are bystanders to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our innocence will be determined by what we do and how we role model the treatment of others by standing up for what is right and just.

Thanks for reading. John