inpiration

Applying Your Passion to College and to Life

I was with a donor at a Hollywood eaterie. We both ordered ice teas. The waitress asked if we wanted regular or passion. I said regular and my guest ordered passion. The teas came and neither of the teas were passion. We called over our beautiful wannabe actress to correct her inadvertent mistake. The donor said, "Hey I ordered the passion ice tea and got regular." She leaned in close to him without missing a beat and said, "Didn't I serve it with passion?!" He reflexively said, "You did!" Glasses-of-iced-tea

Is our tea of life supposed to have passion it? Do we have to order it or make it ourselves? Or do we merely have to serve it with passion? 

I am pretty obsessed with living life with passion and helping others find their passions. To be perfectly honest, I help myself by helping others. Other people's passions get me psyched to be more diligent about my own. I use other people's passions to add to my passion river. Kind of a passion junkie. I must confess, I am trying to inspire and motivate yours truly. I have  learned that successful networking, mentoring, and careers are based on this principle of engaging  others' passions and defining my own.

This was a big week for the topic of passion: 

  • I gave a short speech on passion for my colleagues at a national conference of community foundations to add a little kindling to their belly fires. 
  • I led a  session for a giving circle to re-energize their collective passion around community needs and their personal definitions of meaningful giving. 
  • Lastly, I appeared on a friend's local radio show to discuss how the true passions of the students applying for college admission make a difference.

You don't need to be applying for college to articulate your passions. We all have a constellation of passions within us that we nurture and ignore. That we pursue and neglect. True passion involves others and the needs of others. It starts with the pain of our lack of personal fulfillment, the suffering of others we care about, and the the unmet needs of people we may never know. It can come as easily from disappointment or from total engagement. It is the basis of your emotional connection to what you do and WHY you do it. 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain 

You can discover it and have an aha moment. Or it can sneak up on you and scare you into understanding yourself.

Always taken by my mother's story of the moment she knew painting would define her life. She was 49 with 4 kids under the age of 10 she decided to take a sumi-e Japanese brush stroke painting lesson. She lifted the brush with fresh black ink on it and struck the canvas and she was transformed in that moment. She remembers it like it was yesterday, "I said to myself, "Where have you been?" She found herself and has been painting ever since. Her ability to express herself through oil paints changed her and everything around her. It centered her. Gave her energy and vitality. She had a purpose like no other. 

Sumi eWhen you share or when others share their passions it shines out of the eyes, the body language and the voice. We exude an extra energy when we connect with passion. It is when we present our best selves. You have to help others recognize this when they do it!

It is when work and play blur. When Mondays and Fridays are exactly the same.

I try to find and associate with very competent people who are also passionate about their lives. You have to have both! Because competence in the absence of passion is not only boring but is limited to mediocrity. And passion without competence is shrill and a waste of time. I look for both in every hire I make, every board I join, every job I take, and every one of my relationships.

A job is never just a job. A life is never just a life. We can't be waiting for something better. Or to do it all when we retire. How will we leave our imprint?

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  Jack London

Help your son or daughter see their inner strengths and talents before you tell them what their career will be. Explore with your friends why they aren't doing more of the things they say are important to them. Assist people who are nearing retirement age to explore their passions now. Make the pursuit of passions

This is the hardest work we can do--to help others and ourselves find passion. For there is no other work. We need people's passions to engage our total selves in our work and our lives. We need passion to innovate, to solve problems, and to wring out the potential in our world. 

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela

Move passion up on your to-do list. Serve and live with passion!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Finding inspiration by jumping into it

Every day, every week, I seek inspiration to understand my role and why I do what I do. I have learned I need personal experiences to lift my eyes and my mind to the greater purpose of my work. When you look for something, you usually find it! Waiting to be inspired is the couch potato approach to life. The "maybe something interesting will happen today", is the lottery ticket approach to life.

The pursuit of inspiration is a relentless and inexorable process. My own journeys toward the inspirational light have taught me that the most powerful inspiration does not come from famous speeches or philosophical books. It comes from a closer examination of self and the lives of people you encounter. My search for inspiration is not on the internet or by endless referrals. I find it occurs when I open my eyes and see what is right in front of me, the people, their stories, the challenge, the cause and of course the unmet need. The fuel of this process  is accepting and pursuing the natural invitations in life. I do agree to meet with and go to, almost anybody and anywhere. WaimeaBayBeachI truly believe the Ubuntu philosophy that we become what we experience and who we meet.

Here are the top excuses to avoid experiences or meeting people:

I am too busy. (I have a complete life)

I am tired and need time to myself. (I am lazy)

This is not a good time for change. (I am never ready)

I am uncomfortable meeting new people and doing new things. (I am afraid)

I have nothing to offer others. (I have a lack of self confidence)

I hear these excuses almost everyday. It makes me want to scream. Because these are the same people that tell me that they want more! They want to grow! They want to advance their lives and the lives of others! This conflict of words, thoughts, and ultimately actions leads to horrible consequences. Mostly regrets and a sense of falling behind your dreams and goals.Cliff-Diving-Oahu-Hawaii05 We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And we can't let "good enough" be our goal. And we can't let all of the warning signs disrupt our journey.

As I say all of the time, the "Wait and See" strategy is the most personally damaging tact one can take. You the know the endless hesitation to jump into the moving waters of life. One of our favorite places is the north shore of Oahu--Shark's Cove, Haleiwa, and Waimea Bay. Beautiful waters and beaches. In Waimea Bay there is a giant rock just off shore. Dozens of signs warn visitors of the prohibition and dangers of jumping from the rock. Yet every day you go there hundreds of people of all ages and shapes are climbing and jumping from this rock. Some do high dives called "suicides" and others jump in feet first. But inevitably there are a few people young and not so young who freeze on the edge of the jumping off place. People on the rock encourage them and people in the water tell them it is okay. But they stand there for what seems like an interminable time. One young person stood there for 5 minutes! Then, they jumped in from various perches over and over again. It is that first leap that can be the hardest. Once you realize how exhilarating it is, how warm the water can be, and how it strengthens self confidence--you need and want more.

Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building the wings on the way down. --Ray Bradbury

Waimea rock jumpingThe process of taking little jumps leads to bigger jumps. Jumps in your relationships, your career, and your overall satisfaction with your life.

Look around you and pursue what interests you, what is different from you. Reach out and get to know people you encounter. Find out what they do. Go and see it. All such experiences open our eyes to something new. And each one of these moments informs you of what you value, care about, and want to pursue. Every answer creates more questions. If you think you know it all, then you know nothing. Learning what we don't know is the greatest leap of all.

Otherwise, when you open your eyes you may only see your couch and your cubicle! Yes, being comfortable is important. But complacent?! But regretful?! And unfulfilled?!

If you don't jump into inspiration that is right in front of you. How will you get inspired?

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

Thanks for jumping and reading. John


Losing our minds by getting stuck

As we get older we tell jokes about "still being upright", or "nice to be seen" or "still breathng".

We know the moment we can't move is when we are dead. We all know about that many sharks have to swim to breathe and live. Humans stop moving and their spirit can die.  Our ability to see ourselves evolve, adapt, learn, and engage is essential to living and to life.

I meet zombies all of the time. Lifelike forms who go through the motions. They are usually good people who do no harm but lack purpose and deeper fulfillment. Many of them have given up on the future. Life is what happens and they make the best of that. Getting by and getting through the day, week, month.....is the objective. All of the obstacles, shortcomings, and challenges have beaten them into a corner of settling for "what it is". It is sad when you see this in a boomer but depressing when you see it in a 27 year old!

I am obsessed by understanding how people untangle themselves from their own web of self-imposed constraints. We all lose so much energy, talent, and ultimate creativity in our society because of this malady.

Daniel Pink studies what motivates us in his terrific book, Drive. He said that we all need Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose to keep us motivated and moving.

Po Bronson who chronicled his interviews with almost 1000 successful people in his book, What should I do with my life? He found that all obstacles in people's lives were surmountable. That with very exceptions they were excuses.

Sharks teach us much about the life giving forces of "movement". The need to keep active,  open,  and curious about what lies ahead. Moving to connect to people and ideas. The need to renew one's spirit and goals by forging ahead.

Sea squirts, of all creatures, teach us something fascinating about human behavior. Sea quirts are these simple opaque tube-like tunicates or urochordates that have been swimming in the oceans since the Jurassic era. They swim in schools and like sharks filter water through their bodies to live and survive. But sea squirts do something bizarre, oh so it would seem. They find a place to attach themselves as a group. They then proceed to digest their own brain and nervous system because they will no longer need them! Now attached to a rock or coral, they can survive by merely filtering water without thinking (not that the sea squirts were solving algebra equations or having deep thoughts!)Sea squirts Bluebell

Does this sound familiar? It does to me. Once attached to a comfortable place, way of thinking, surrounded by others who are almost identical, the need for a brain and new thoughts are rendered obsolete. I know and have met permanent and temporary sea squirt humans! People who settle. People who give up. Non-profit board members who eat their brains once the meeting commences. People who are so stuck in their ways, their assumptions, habits, and their networks----part of them dies. Their spirit and energy about change and the future goes into a deep sleep. Their minds are not engaged or necessary!

For the sea squirt, eating your brain et al is an irreversible act. Hope you like the rock selected because that will be your final resting place! But for us humanoids, we still have brains and can choose to keep moving our lives forward. Whether you are 40 or 60 you have a lot more to give and live for. Certainly if you are 27 or 37, you can not be stuck yet. 

Are you a sea squirt? Have you lost your mind because you are stuck? Have you settled into your piece of coral and decided that this is all that life can be?!

One thing I have seen is that the network, the school you swim with, can hold you back. Maybe its time you evaluated the people around you. Maybe you are holding yourself back. Maybe you need a different perspective. Maybe you need different priorities. Maybe more connection to your values and loved ones.

You are not done yet. You still have a bunch of ideas about the future, your future, your family's future, your community's future. We need you to move. Don't eat your brain. :)

As you can see a sea squirt can be quite beautiful. But as we all know, true beauty lies within and we can not allow that beauty and potential to wither because we are anchored to an immobile rock.

Thanks for reading. John


Get Energized!

The other day, someone described me as the "Energizer Bunny". They meant it as a compliment. :)I like the word energy. It defines something I value and depend upon everyday. Like all of nature, without it, nothing is possible.  I don't think of energy as just "the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity." I like the physical science definitions, such as "the ability to exert pulls or pushes against the basic forces of nature."Energizer
As we all know, energy exists in everything and everywhere, but it needs to be focused and contained to be useful. Energy is like intention. We always have it, but do we fully engage it to make a difference?

"No steam or gas drives anything until it is confined. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined." Harry Fosdick

It may be the number one question I get asked. "Where does YOUR energy come from?" I think they ask this because they see my energy as a positive or my energy bugs them. Never sure when I get the question which it is. :) The short answer that I give yields a wry smile, "I get it from my mom and dad!" While true, not a satisfying answer. But I know that the DNA plays a role.

My energy is within me and it drives what I do and who I am. I don't think of energy as a feeling. Do I feel energetic? No, I consider energy a deeper force that defines me, but more importantly, what I do. Never used "5 hour energy", Red Bull, or taken recreational drugs to increase my energy. I do have couple cups o java every morning though. I think energy is all natural.

While we are each unique, each of us has the same potential energy within us.

Renewing, preserving, caring for and investing in your energy sources is as important as it is for our planet's natural energy. It can not be taken for granted. It is so precious.

Energy has to be renewed everyday. Energy does not last. Like eating and exercise, you need to make re-energizing a daily routine.

There are a couple of pre-reqs

  • Physical and Fiscal Fitness: Yes, you need to be managing your physical and fiscal fitness and your level of stress. All are factors in your body and mind's ability to do things and to "show up" completely in your life of work and play. So you have to tend to these vital matters because they drain and undermine your energy. They keep you from your focus on what makes you unique and your overall ability to engage and deliver your talents.
  • Passion Alignment: Your work and your life have to have good doses of the things you care about. At work, as a volunteer, at church, in your spare time--you have to be engaging your passions.

5 Daily Steps to More Energy:

  1. Get Inspired: Seek out ideas and stories that give you a reality check on what's important to you. The needs of others is always a good place to start. No shortage of those stories today. Needs remind us of what we have and we have to help others get.

"Any time a thought, sentence, or a paragraph inspires you or opens up your thinking, you need to capture it, like a butterfly in a net, and later release it into your own field of consciousness." Steve Chandler

2. Get Connected: Engage people who can shift your perspective, push you out of your comfy box, and who help you think differently. Look for every opportunity to meet new and reconnect with existing network members. Other people's energy is highly contagious!

"Isolation is our problem, not our lousy attitudes."  Barbara Sher

3. Get Others What They Need: The satisfaction of helping others around you is so energizing. It gives you fulfillment, meaning, and energy! Do more than you do now. Volunteer! Go out of your way to assist and you will get a power surge!

4. Get Fun: Life is too short not to enjoy what we do. Get out of the toxic relationships and worlds around you. Get off the negative bandwagon and reinforce the positive.

"Laughter is an instant vacation." Milton Berle

5. Get Going!: Stop procrastinating. Start pursuing what you really want. Talk to your network about how to start or advance what you should be doing.

"Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass...it's learning how to dance in the rain." unknown

When you are just going through life without connecting with who you are, what you want to be, and where you want to go, then your energy can be easily sapped. Energy comes from your engagement with your life. The more engaged, enthused, and enriched by your work and your experiences, the less you think about time and regrets. You psych up for things you care about and it energizes you.

If you believe in energy as I have defined it, then the "pushes" and "pulls" of engaging your passions with others is a powerful source of energy. You get bits and bytes of energy by connecting with what's important, with the new, by rediscovering the "old" and by helping others.

Thanks for reading. John 

 


Expecting Less to Get More----The Ruination of Expectations

Many of you know the role my parents have played in my life. They continue to inspire and mentor me. As we all age, I try to seek their perspective and counsel. They have both seen and learned so much more than me. There is no substitute for experience, for the maturity which comes from living, and the awareness of self that only comes with time. You can't presume what it is like to live 80 years. Like a giant oak tree or a aged cabernet, time passed is the only thing that generates the uniqueness of the shape of the branches or the taste of the finish. So when they tell me things I have learned to listen regardless of my first impression.Oak tree

"Expectations are the ruination of the individual," my mom asserted last week. This triggered several conversations to explore what she meant. Here's what I learned:

Think for a second about your expectations of people and life. What you expect at the restaurant. What you expect from your kids and other people's kids. What you think others should be doing or becoming. We are all guilty of maintaining a closet full of expectations which contains the uniforms or costumes we think others should be donning. I call this "the script" of life. You know, the script of what you expect people to say and do. Like a veteran film director, we can go through life seeing things and comparing them to what they should be, according to the script. What a frustrating experience it that would be if we only monitored the script in everything we do.

As we mature, we learn that the world will always surprise you if you let it. These unexpected occurences are what makes life interesting and enjoyable. Imagine if everything was predictably pleasant. Remember Gary Ross' Pleasantville, where happiness prevailed, no basketball player missed a free throw and the weather and everyone's disposition was always sunny. Would total predictability be insanity, monotony, or idyllic?

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly moden intellect.  Oscar Wilde

I did not realize it but I have been in expectation rehab for a long time. After so many years of the highest expectations of everything, I have begun to understand what my mom is saying. If you evaluate everything that happens and are preoccupied with a set of expectations, you lose so much of what happens when it happens.Expectations1

You also become negative. We all know people who start off every conversation with the shortcomings and weaknesses of people and experiences. People with these unmet expectations have come to expect a world that is inadequate. Their negativity and complaints become expected. They are never satisfied with restaurants, movies, or jobs. Unmet expectations becomes their expectation. And it can be a spiral down. I am booting these people out of my network.

The law of attraction tells us that we attract to our lives whatever we give time, attention, and focus to--negative or positive.

I have discussed the power of serendipity on these pages. Surrender to the experience without expectations. Daniel Pink's book the Adventures of Johnny Bunko provides insightful career/life planning lessons. Lesson #1 is "There is no plan." That your pursuit of fulfillment and meaningful work should be driven by who you are. That the process of understanding who you are will take you on a boundless journey that will only be limited by expectations and a plan with a bunch of steps.

I have learned the hard way how nature is so much more powerful than nurture. That the DNA of people makes us truly different, in addition to the demographic and psychographic attributes. That expectations need to be intertwined with the person's needs and interests to work. The most dangerous expectations are those we have of others. Helping people become the best they can be versus who we want them to be is enormously different.

My first rule/principle to adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle: Give first without expectations.

Aren't we supposed to have SMART goals? After all the first letter is Specific, right?!! Yes Yes. You must have goals--milestones that define a path to what you believe leads to success. It's just that we can not get so caught up in such a focused pursuit of these goals that they become expectations. And when we don't get what we expect--what happens? We get disappointed and lose confidence. The best goals are flexible and adaptable not only to the changing context (which changes the second you ink the plans/goals) but more importantly, your goals need to adapt to the changing you.

Employers can tell you what they expect, but a mentor will awaken your expectations of yourself.

Often we can lock in on our expectations, even if they are obsolete or irrelevant. That is human nature to get comfortable with things that are familiar. Where do those expectations lead us?

As always my mom and dad keep me thinking about what I don't know and what I need to learn about myself. I am beginning to understand the ruination of my expectations.

As I expect less I am experiencing more.  Thanks for reading. John


What is your Change Reaction?

If we all lived in an idyllic Pleasantville where things were predictably good, then we would not want change. We would not have expectations. We would never be dissatisfied with ourselves. We would never worry about the future. But even in the film the desire for change and difference was too great to sustain the utopian world.

Change requires a change reaction. We envision macro changes in the world. Changes that right a wrong or to relieve pain and suffering. We align ourselves with organizations to address these changes. We volunteer, give money, work for orgs that want and work toward change. And as individuals we want change in our own lives. Changes in our diets, in our kids' study habits.....Changes in our workplaces. These micro changes can align or distract us from these worldly changes. So change is dependent on other changes and so on and so on. The chain reaction of change, if you will.  Some people can separate change at these different levels and pursue them all simultaneously. Others are more linear and will not think about others until they change their immediate worlds. I need to love myself before I love others. Or I need to work on myself, while I change the world? Or By changing the world I will be changed? Any of these sound familiar or resonate?

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi

Bottomline is the diet of the status quo is inadequate on almost all levels. We are hungry for change. Our appetites are great. So change is a regular dish on the menu. But what are we cooking up to feed our need for change?Change

It requires transformation by the change agents--that's us. We have to change.

This goal for change is less attainable because of the reverse change reaction. Individuals and organizations that can't adapt quickly enough to employ methods, processes and solutions to address the evolving context. Their bad habits and stubbornness tethers them to assumptions and premises that are no longer true and real change becomes academic.

Often, we are the problem that prevents the change.

The speed of our change reaction is essential. How fast is our feedback loop to digest the realities of the world we want to change, develop a strategy, and implement the fix?

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. John Lennon

People who resist change are either in the wrong place or need to change.

If there is not a feeling of constant change, then you have no chance at improvement, because improvement requires change. Otherwise you live in Pleasantville!

If you don't adopt a philosophy of trying new things your obsolescence is assured.

If it works it's obsolete. Marshall McLuhan

Thinking about change is very much like imagination. We can imagine things, but we have to do things.

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. Maya Angelou

Almost all of of my conversations are about change. How to improve, eliminate, alter, move themselves/something/someone else or a cause. Never had a conversation with anyone that starts, "How do I keep everything the way it is?" Never.

Here are three quotes I heard from people this week:

1. I know this career change makes no sense financially but it will give me more flexibility.

2. How do I leave my job, change careers and preserve my current lifestyle?

3. Aren't we going through too much change?

I think one of the benefits of talking to someone else is to hear yourself! You can not change by yourself. You need to connect to the real needs of others and the world. The more you do that, the more you will be inspired, and the more you will change.

How do you start change or a movement? You act. You take a risk and become one of the first. You express yourself even if it looks "silly". In short, you lead. Lead yourself, lead your team, your neighborhood, or your community.

Expectations drive our change and could drive us crazy.

So if you don't want change then you don't have any expectations

As you read this blog you are changing imperceptibly, you are aging, your brain is adjusting to thoughts, and inputs, your weight is shifting to your movement etc etc

Change is life. Life is change.

Change is inexorable. The problems we face will change and not be solved but we will address them and make progress. But the work and the change never ends.

An issue I hear expressed is I am not in charge or in control of the change. If I was in control of the change, I would do it differently. That position in life, of complaining about lack of control, is an excuse and basically a lifetime license to whine. Until you become the supreme ruler of the universe, you will be subjected to change. Your choice is adapt or quit. Challenge the change or surrender. Lean into the change or run.

I suggest altering your change reaction.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Flash learning, Lightning talks, Fast pitches, and You

Our ability to communicate quickly and effectively is more valued than ever before. If you use twitter, you know the limit of 140 characters and that all texting and social media require brevity--Driven by our shorter attention spans and our multi-tasking lives. We can futilely bemoan this inexorable trend toward speed and all of dire consequences. But we all agree on one thing, we want people to make their point. What are you trying to say?, and spit it out! :) We want people to articulate their thought with a bit of substance and a little style, right?Blah

The issue here is not just attention spans, it is our choices. As I say all the time--we have more choices and less time. So if you do not say something interesting quickly, people will shift their precious bandwidth to something that is more engaging. Imagine the challenge facing older middle school teachers today who don't have a Facebook page and never played a video game since Pac Man--and their up hill attempts to sustain interest in the curricula from a group born and bred on social media--WHEW!

All learning is going through massive change, especially outside of the ivy covered walls. More content on college campuses is delivered online than face-to-face. In other words, students can take more of their classes from their dorm room than in a lecture hall! The real and interesting change is occurring in training workshops, presentations, conferences, and informal education. Generically called "flash learning". Delivering interesting and compelling content in very compressed and often structured chunks. There are many movements, organized systems and events that feature and celebrate this form of learning. Consider the following:

  1. Ignite--5 year old global event where you have 5 minutes to present your thought/idea/theory. 15 seconds for every powerpoint slide, auto advanced. You have a max of 20 slides and you have to be well rehearsed.
  2. TEDtalks--My primary addiction :) TED may have been the inspiration for much of these changes. Started in 1984, TEDtalks have become a worldwide phenomenon with over 11,000 events. In a Tedtalk you are roughly given 3 minutes, 8 minutes or 18 minutes to make your presentation with or without slides, no auto advance requirements.
  3. PechaKucha--Developed in Japan by architects and designers to share ideas. Literally translated as "chit chat". Like Ignite you have 20 slides and 20 seconds, auto advanced. So, thre are 6 mins and 40 seconds max to do your thang.
  4. Fast pitches--Los Angeles Social Venture Partners and others developed this program to coach and mentor non-profits on how to pitch their stories to raise money and support. The winners get cash prizes for their orgs. Non-profits are notoriously poor at concisely communicating their mission and their need.
  5. Lightning talks--Developed in 1997 for techies to share ideas, speakers were given 5 minutes max to convey their newest project or solution.
  6. Speed Challenges--Just learned about these and I love the idea. This is a timed brainstorming exercise to help individuals in a group. Person with idea, problem, goal gets no more than 2 minutes to say their piece. The group has a max of 2 minutes to clarify and understand the concept. Then the group goes for 5 minutes in generating help, resources, and further ideas. So in 10 minutes you get great feedback and support. Brainstorm 

We all understand that the brain can only endure and absorb so much. Brain scientists have shown that 5-7 minutes is our ideal attention span. Think about the length of a song or a poem.

We have heard of, maybe even participated in, speed dating and other networking events that try and accelerate opportunities. Ice breakers are one of these old school devices.

My work on live tv and radio taught me quickly how being clear and fast is essential. Because the opposite is deadly. It always is.

So what does this mean to you and to networking. Everything!!!!

We all have heard of the elevator pitch that originated with the venture capitalists to engage and secure investors in the span of an elevator ride. But today every organization and everybody needs a brief, well thought out message. No matter what you are selling, trying to get a job, pushing a cause, raising money or just trying to make a point.

As Mark Twain said:

"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Nothing replaces preparation, brevity and putting a little of yourself into your communication. It takes a great deal of work to say something that makes a difference.

What is your ignite, PechaKucha, fast pitch, or TEDtalk about yourself or your cause or your idea or your organization?

All of this has to start with knowing who you are and what you want?

I developed the BIT, (brief introductory talk) to focus us on how we even introduce ourselves.

I love flash learning opportunities. I have long believed that if we pay attention and assert ourselves there are moments, events, and people that will teach us and change us in an instant. Life is so fast and we have to see the choices and the chances we get everyday.

Yes, we should slow down. We should savor long walks on the beach, enjoy a good book, and smell the roses along our meandering journey of life, as long as we know what we want and how to articulate it. And did we meet someone on the beach, learn something from the book, or did the sight and scent of the flowers make us think about someone else? How will our experiences advance our learning and our goals to help one another.

Thanks for reading. John


What triggers change?--My week long journey to the center of meaning

Last Sunday, I got the chance to catch up with Glenn, my best friend from high school. We met out in Palm Springs to golf and to, as they say in Hawaii, talk story. Our friendship has spanned 45 years and endured many challenges and been punctuated by many adventures. Anyway, as we age, Glenn I end up talking about serious things. The meaning of our lives. Our kids futures. The future of the world. As we looked out onto the Palm Desert landscape, Glenn asserted that the "next generation is not as motivated" to put in the effort and sweat equity to obtain the lifestyles and more important the type of country we all want. This is partly the classic and inevitable discussion of all older generations complaining about the next generations. But it was also a conversation about what will it take for young people and all of us to return to the basics, set aside our cushy expectations and entitlements, and actually invest time and energy in work. Glenn and I believe that you learn about yourself, you establish values, you appreciate what you have, by working and literally and figuratively making a living. I can hear the, Typical Boomers! chant. It is true, we are creatures of our upbringing and OUR parents lives.

We came to many conclusions on how the world could be a better place--of course if Glenn and I ran it! :) However, one of them was really disturbing to me. Only hardship, tragedy, and the threat of either will get people to change. Change, meaning people engaging in the fundamental process of taking responsibility for their own destinies. For people to work at their lives instead of hoping something good will happen. For people to commit to new goals, values, habits, new skills, strengthen relationships and to become who they were meant to be. To take responsibility for their own lives and fully understand that they can drive their own destines.Carrot

So the stick is more powerful than the carrot?!! Really. We can not be motivated to take action with inspiration alone? It takes an "enemy" and fear for us to change? It is well known that money will never sustain our motivation or ever truly inspire us. The research on that is conclusive. Daniel Pink's new book Drive reviews 5 decades of research on this subject if you have doubts. But I was unsettled by the fact that I could not refute this conclusion: That fear may be the greatest and most effective motivator.

"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."  Samuel Johnson

Losing our job, getting cancer, death of a loved one, and bankruptcy force us to take inventory of our lives and potentially change. Learning about somebody else's misfortune is not the same. It gives us pause, but we always think WE are different. So we only redefine our lives when tragedy befalls us?

I attended a community meeting where the subject was the future of at risk youth. It was a robust and emotional discussion of the causes and consequences of "the system" vs the individuals. One mother asserted that her kids had no chance with the "institutional discrimination" and "economic racism" that is embedded in our society. A man stood up and said, "My track coach taught me to focus on the finish line. And if there are hurdles in the way, just get over them. The more we feel like victims, the higher the hurdles will appear." We know there is truth in both perspectives. The challenges for the poor and vulnerable are daunting. And without a mindset of self determination and self-reliance no one can succeed. The finish line can provide focus, but the hurdles can add motivation or they can deter.Hurdles  

On Wednesday I led a workshop in Plano Texas for a group of FritoLay managers and leaders who were tracked for accelerated paths. My job was to help them think about their opportunities and what they wanted. I used the carrot of the chance their employer was providing them. We discussed career and life strategies. We reflected on where they were going and why. One of the participants came up to me after our 4 hours together and said, "How will I know who I am? And what I want? I want to change, but there are so many expectations of me." I marveled at his candor and his moment of wonder about himself. I simply said, "Keep listening to yourself. Keep listening to your heart."

My week ended up at a celebration of the life of a dear friend who is dying. While we all are dying, few of us really live. A group of us did not want to wait until her memorial to express our gratitude and appreciation. For me, it is too late. I hate learning things about people at their funerals. We spent a wonderful afternoon learning and celebrating her diverse life. It was inspirational. It was uplifting. It gave all 120 of us a view of what is possible if we live to our fullest. It reminded us of how precious life is and how brief our time together can be. So were people inspired to change their lives by a great role model or by the fear of their own deaths?

I know it is both. And it really does not matter. Whatever helps us re-define our lives to push us to improve is great. We need examples of what life can be and we need the whack in the head from fear. We need to let people hit some hurdles so they can get back up and re-focus on the finish line. I am so optimistic about the future and the next generation. However we must guide, not coddle, our young people to let them find themselves so their dynamic DNA can flourish. We need to actively seek ways we can motivate ourselves and each other through the amazing blend of fear and inspiration that life gives us everyday.

Thanks for reading. John


Chances are not your enemies, they are your change.

As I try to preach and practice: Make every effort to meet people. Go to events and gatherings with an open mind and most times you will encounter fascinating people. People who will reveal  something new to you about yourself. And more often than not, these ideas and people create opportunities in your mind and in your life. The opposite is even more true. When you limit yourself by not meeting people, hearing different perspectives, and ultimately not developing options and opportunities, your life can be so much less interesting and fulfilling.

I am invited to so many events or gatherings that my immediate instinct is to try and bail and to just go home and veg. The gravitational pull of a quiet night on the couch is powerful. But I try to remind myself of the incredible things I have seen, learned, and been inspired by, if I just elude the nearly overwhelming feelings of resistance. And every time I do, something happens. Chance-change

Last Thursday night was no different. I was out of town and flew home after a full day of meetings and travel. Somehow I agreed to a dinner on the other side of town that evening. As I was making my way from the parking lot to the restaurant, I was kicking myself for not saying "no". All the way into the restaurant I kept thinking, "How can I leave early?" "How can I get out of this?" Negative thoughts were darkening my mind and my outlook.

I break out of my foggy darkness to see my host Ted Habte-Gabr, who by the way I reconnected with a couple of months ago. Ted and I met in the good ole dot com days when he was running an extraordinary venture called Fathom and I was trying to advance the field of online education. We met in NY in what later was a failed strategic alliance. Lost touch with Ted for 10 years until he showed up on my radar screen and FB the end of last year. I remembered I was going to meet his girlfriend Lisa Napoli and learn more about newish book Radio Shangrila, her personal journey of self discovery in Bhutan. I smiled because I realized that my negativity was to be once again reversed!

I ask Ted where Lisa is. He looks at my quizzically and says she's back east promoting her book. And before I can digest this bit of off-putting news, Ted pulls me into a group and introduces me to Phil Bredeson, the former Governor of Tennessee (completed his second term 4 weeks ago). I am handed the Governor's new book Fresh Medicine. The black birds of regret return to my cranial roost and I begin to think about my exit again. How did I get into this situation? 225px-Governor_Bredesen

7 of us dined with the Governor and I quickly realized what a privilege it is to talk to somebody who was running a state , even one as distant from my world as the Volunteer State.

Over some very good food I heard another great American story of a boy who grew up in a small rural town in upstate NY and developed a healthcare company. He sold this company at the age of 46 and could have retired, but looked for new challenges. He followed his new wife and crossed the Mason Dixon line and moved to Tennessee. He decided he could run for office and apply his considerable business skills to politics. He becomes the mayor of Nashville on his second attempt and is easily re-elected. He runs for Governor in 1994 and loses. He runs again in 2002 and wins by a narrow margin. In 2006 he wins with almost 70% of the vote in a landslide. What is remarkable about this story, there are many things, but the fact that a "northerner" can move into a state, become mayor of one of its most prominent cities in less than 5 years after moving there! And then Governor!

Governor Bredeson is a humble guy. He has no aires or pretensions. In many ways, the anti-politician. What you see is what you get. He explained that his rural upbringing helped him relate to people at the  "Waffle Houses". He spoke plainly to them and he connected. He discussed how he did not let his mindset get in the way of his chances. For example, he successfully recruited the Titan NFL franchise to Tennessee by building a new stadium. Previously, he had never attended a professional football game!

What I loved most was his advice, "Chances are not your enemies." By keeping an open mind, listening to your heart and to others, you will discover new things and opportunities.

He also discussed his meetings that day with students at Claremont College. The Governor explained that he enjoyed these interchanges because he gets to hear the fresh ideas of the young and they get to see that a leader, governor, or someone who has enjoyed success is pretty normal. That up close and personal "leaders" are just people who have pursued their opportunities and chances. Governor Bredeson hoped that such exposure would give the students more confidence that they could do it too. He said that's what happened to him. When he was much younger he met leaders and big shots and learned how achievable those positions were. I had the same experiences many times when I meet and got to know prominent executives. The lesson repeats itself: meet people, especially people who are doing what you dream to do. When a long shot is brought up close, it becomes real and tangible.

I  was very grateful that I agreed to have dinner at an inconvenient time and place, with someone other than the person I wanted to meet. :) My mind was clear and refreshed again. I learned many things that evening from a regular guy who achieved extraordinary things. We were fortunate to have leaders like Governor Bredeson. If you have the drive and focus you can do impossible things. That being humble will always win out. And overcoming resistance to take a few chances usually pays off in ways you never expected. Chances are never enemies.  I recommit myself to befriend new chances that I encounter on my journey.

 Thanks for reading. John


The Power of MOW

Vision without execution is hallucination. Thomas Edison

What do we see for ourselves down the road? What path and milestones do we expect? Not what we hope and wish for? Do we have a vision that we are working towards? Or just the vision?

If you don't know where you are going any path leads you there. Alice in Wonderland

Life is making your way down a dim path where unexpected detours and off ramps appear. Your choices are revealed by what you are doing, what matters to you, what you are thinking about.

In learning about my brother-in-law Andrew, I found out that the department he worked for at BNSF Railway was the MOW. I saw it on shirts and signs and I asked what it stood for. Maintenance of Way. Maybe it is just me but that is a very philosophical corporate department name! In fact, here is a website dedicated to it. Maintenance of Way IMG_0009_NEW_0002

You have to understand the MOW crew is a tough bunch of very physical and intimidating guys. So to hear that they work for the Maintenance of Way department, let's just say it surprised me!

The concept of keeping the tracks ahead clear and well maintained so it is safe to travel inspired me. We take these things for granted. MOW are the nameless faceless workers who make our lives easier, who quietly make our world safer, who without recognition, cleanup our messes and make sure our ability to do our work and advance our goals happens. We are so fortunate for the MOW crews!

But MOW is a powerful life guiding value, that we are all pathfinders. We take the beaten paths that others forged and maintained for us. We take new paths that we pursue because we follow our hearts and our calling.

We owe so many people from our past for making our lives and visions possible. People who sacrificed for the chances and choices we enjoy today. Our ancestors and our parents. We owe so many people from our present who guide us, mentor us, and show us the way.

Each of us has a great responsibility for the MOW. To see our opportunities and to choose our paths, so that others can pass here safely.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

We never take these roads for our sole selfish gain. We always have others in mind. Our families, our friends, our communities.

It is how we teach and mentor. It is the method of creating our legacies. We lead by example. That is MOW.

Looking ahead to envision our destinations or at least the track we are on is vital to momentum and progress. We must have the drive but we must also arrive. Otherwise our journey is an hallucination.

Maintenance of Way is about leading so that those that follow have a clear and known path. So that they do not repeat the mistakes and suffer the consequences. So we can advance.

We all have to maintain the way. As a parent, as an Asian Pacific American, as a manager, I have responsibilities to MOW.

Thanks Andrew for your MOW. For showing us how to live life to the fullest while being generous. For being yourself and being proud of it. For loving people around you unconditionally. Thanks for maintaining our way.

Thanks for reading. John


The Sources of Inspiration--The Network of TED

We obtain our ideas, inspirations, and aspirations through our experiences and our interactions with other people . We find these people through our quests for meaning or through the serendipity of life. People with purpose, people with needs, people who overcome their challenges, people like us and very different from us, who are making a difference in the world. Pretty obvious, but without making connections to others we will miss many sources of inspiration. The result can be a life less fulfilled. Regrettably, I meet these people all of the time. People who are competent, educated, and confident, and who lack passion. Who see life as an accumulating list of obligations and tasks. Time is a burden. They either think that there will be a pot at the end of the rainbow or worse, have settled for the "hand they were dealt". We have to see the opportunity ahead. Inspiration can shake us from our slumber and awaken our potential. Inspiration does not make an appointment or wait in line. Inspiration has to be pursued.  Inspiration_quotes_graphics_c2

I have been a semi-obsessed fan of TED and TedTalks. If TED was a person, I would have been subjected to a restraining order many years ago. TED was started by Richard Wurman 25 years ago. He hosted a private almost secret salon of thinkers and doers in Monterey California. I read about it in Wired Magazine in the dot com era. In 2002, Mr. Wurman ceded control to Chris Anderson and then TedTalks was born and distributed for free. TedTalks are a weekly routine for me. I use these talks to inform me, to open up my world to new things, to inspire me, and to push me. While I am not rich enough or famous enough to be invited and pay to attend the annual TED conference, I get a great view from my iPhone and iPad! Probably watched 125 talks so far. 

I elbowed my way into the first TEDx conference in 2009, a local version of TED organized by community members under the umbrella of TED. Thousands of TEDx events have been hosted around the world. Like American Idol and all of the other reality talent shows, there is so much talent and so many inspiring stories out there. TED shows us there is so much good being pursued by good people all over the globe--you would never know if you watch the nitely news! Watch a TedTalk and/or attend a TEDx event and be inspired. 

Last week I spoke at TEDx Santa Monica. I was asked to talk about "education". Education is the great transformer. However, I decided to not address the important trends and solutions I see in the educational institutions around us. Instead, I focused on what I see as the greatest tragedy, the waste of human potential. When people never find meaning and a connection to what they care about and what they were meant to do. In my opinion, the top educational priority is understanding ourselves so we can apply our uniqueness to the ideas, issues and causes we care about. To live with passion!

Here's my talk entitled Find Yourself by Losing Yourself.  The video production value is lacking but the good news is the dark setting makes me look better!

 

Please explore TedTalks even if you did not like my speech. :) Hopefully it becomes a source of education and inspiration to discover and apply your greatness. We need you to be the best you can be.

Thanks for reading. John