looking up

Next Level Networking

Never give a party if you will be the most interesting person there. -- Mickey Friedman

Assess your current network and your mentors. Is it/are they good enough? Adding to and enhancing these resources is imperative. Never settle or get too settled with them. Is your network smarter than you?

No need to dump anyone. Upgrade by adding with a view to the next level.Next level

Surround yourself with smarter and more successful people. Always play with better golfers and tennis players. Always hire people who have more potential or even experience than you do.

Hang around people who know different things and people.

Connect with the next level. The next level you envision for yourself. People who are "ahead" of you in skill, knowledge, confidence and/or career. What are their secrets? How did they get there? And what is it like to be there? Do you even want to be at that level?

When you stretch you will appreciate what you have to offer and that you are better than you think. But left to the devices of self loathing and doubt you will never know.

I have learned this a thousand times. To hang with people who are further along the path than me. It pulls me and pushes me. More often than not I learn I already have what it takes to be at the next level. And other times I see my gaps in their gory details. Either way it is an education on the path I desire.

Don't get me wrong I do not categorize and measure levels. I just know what I don't know. I know when I am reaching my level of incompetence. I know people who are smarter than me. Being around them gets me to ask better questions, hear about sources of knowledge, and talk about things that matter. There is always a next level.

To be mature is to seek assistance.

So every time I have parachuted into a new field, I ask as many people who I think know --"who are the top 5 leaders in this work I should meet? And who are the 5 I should avoid?" And everyone has a list. Everyone gives me names. Then I call up these first 5 and say "everyone" has recommended I meet you. And the person says like who? And then I tell them, they are impressed and often a little embarrassed. And I connect to the next level with confidence.

To understand where you are going, talk to people who are going that way.

Who are the top 5 teachers, salespeople, executive directors, managers, fundraisers, CFOs in your field or in the field you covet?

Who are people that are more advanced in your other interests, better golfers, better chefs, more expert wine enthusiasts, better parents, better travelers.....

I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. Groucho Marx

Join organizations, boards and clubs that have members who are next level.

So find people you think are further along your path. People who can teach you and stretch you. Not intimidating people who have rank and title, but people who will unwittingly or willingly show you the next level.

 Thanks for reading. John


If you are down, you have to look UP!

After seeing a screening of Waiting for Superman, (which is a must see when it comes out in September) I started to think about looking up into the sky for help, super or not. We all have looked to the heavens for an explanation of a baffling situation or for some divine guidance. We also may look to our parents, our bosses or others above us in the food chain for answers or wisdom. Superman

The point is we have to see where we are going and seek assistance. Stop what we are doing to pause, reflect and think it through. Talking to somebody who understands and maybe has faced the same circumstances always helps.

Finding a true role model can make a difference. This person seems to have been able to balance the things that are important to you. Parent and career, community leader and accomplished professional. We meet, read about, and sometimes know these people. Call them mentors, call them role models, call them inspirations. You can admire them, but you need to study and ideally understand them. Understand the costs, the requirements, the support systems, the sense of fulfillment. You have to get beyond the gloss and the press images of success.

I have found that some people are born into success, others were inspired, and most worked hard to get there. None of the models I have followed have had it easy.

Keeping your eyes up and your mind on what lies ahead is more more important than ever. The writing on the wall, the signs of change, the risks and choices, and the opportunities. Imagine how dangerous it would be to drive by only looking at your dashboard. Looking up will tell you so much more.

I talk to people who loosely fall into three large groups these days. Group 1 is hanging on to what they have. Group 2 is making a move to the next chapter. Group 3 is hedging their bets, uncertain and or paralyzed. They are the worst off. At least Group 1 is loyal and committed. Group 2 is committed to change. Group three, like all groups who wallow in indecision, their careers have reached the ceiling and they only have a down button on their elevators.  

Looking up is not getting lost in the stars and distant dreams that seem improbable. It is not comparing your current circumstance to another greener pasture you have not visited or studied. It is keeping an eye on the horizon to see your options and next steps. It is looking up to those that can show you what you need to do. Looking up is making sure you are a couple steps ahead on the chess board of life. Role models, mentors and other confidantes can keep your thinking fresh.

In BreakingThrough, the Harvard Business Press examination of minority hard driving execs, found that a notable percentage who reached the top of their professions, did NOT want it. It was not as attractive as it looked from afar. They set a goal and spent years focused on the steps and strategies to get to that destination, without regard to what it takes to do that job--the sacrifices, the "costs", the travel, the politics, the distance from the customer. These ambitious people rarely looked up to question their goals. They became blindly committed to a path and their daily lives revolved around making progress to that end.

Again, we are all guilty of self deception. We make up stories about our paths that lead up to our goals. They sound good, but we have not mapped out these paths to the ends. 

Looking up Looking up is the recognition that our lives are moving toward a destination, intended or unintended. And it is never too late to make changes and course corrections.  Some people think this is the time to stay focused. I agree. Being focused is not tunnel vision. Staying focused means not giving up on your goals and the steps necessary to achieve them.

Things are looking up. Keeping your head down insures that inspiration, help, and your future will be out of sight. Looking up from our busy lives, looking up to people who can help you, looking up the path to where you are going and where you want to be--that is a strategy that will not require the services of a caped crusader.  

Thanks for reading. John