luck

Making the Jump

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

Skydive jump
Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

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

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

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

Skydive feet
Me over the north shore of Oahu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skydive family
Me and my kids

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


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  ;)

 


Winning without being first

Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.--Napoleon Hill

Talked to a friend who saw his dream job in a passive Linked In message. He was surprised that a job like this existed and wasn't even looking. (amazing what happens when you are not looking) He applied and got to the finals and could taste it. But was told he did not have a little extra the #1 candidate had. He was deeply disappointed. Over the next few months. he licked his wounds and chalked it up as a lesson of life and was deeply grateful that he found an example of what his next adventure would be. But then time and a positive perspective yield benefits. Low and behold, he gets a call from the recruiter and the "better" candidate quit and my friend was being back if he was still interested! No other candidates will be interviewed so it appears he will get his dream job.Tortoise and hare

In my travels, I have heard this story over and over again. People who suffer the initial disappointing defeat of a door slammed in their face only to find a new window swings open through persistence and grace.

I truly believe things happen for a reason and if you don't give up on who you are and what you want, new opportunities are revealed. New paths appear. I have learned that there are many paths that can take you where you want to go and to wonderful places you did not know existed.

It's not what happens to us, but the response to what happens to us that hurts us. ---Stephen Covey

My career path is a road filled with potholes, detours and surprising off ramps. Not to mention the paths I chose NOT to take. While I'd like to take credit for my trajectory, the truth is I was rarely the top pick for anything. I have learned over time that my persistence and presence kept me in the process and sometimes, through a series of quirks and situations I was hired. I know that my mentors and network played a much bigger role than I ever did.

My hiring at the UCLA Alumni Association only happened after a series of candidates turned the job down. I was the "least qualified" of all of the candidates considered, according to the executive search firm in charge of the placement. My lack of university and alumni relations experience was considered a major deficiency. Once I became interested in this job, I waged a "campaign" to get it. During this time, unbeknownst to me, all of the top candidates fell away. I asked all of my references to advocate for my candidacy. As a result, I was politely asked, "please stop the lobbying". In the end, I believe expressing my serious interest in the position was the difference that got me the job.

Once you get it, what placed you finished in the original race is irrelevant.

Numerous times my hiring, appointment to a board, and selection as a keynote speaker came after the top candidates were considered. I don't have a complex about this! :) I have learned that the tortoise can win the race. That being available, qualified, well-connected, and truly interested in the opportunity has always mattered.

I love the story about how Dick Clark got his big break on the Bandstand television show, when the original host was arrested for drunk driving. While I am sure Clark wanted the job, he was never expecting that his radio career would become a tv career in an unexpected moment. Clearly he was ready!Paul macarelli

My fav story involves Paul Marcarelli, the "Can you hear me now?" guy from Verizon. Paul was filming one of his famous commercials at our house and talking to a group of my kids and neighbors. One of the kids blurted out, "How much do you make?" And after an uncomfortable silence, Paul told these mesmerized kids that he was living his dream and makes "millions", but that he was not Verizon's first choice.  As Paul tells the story, he was an understudy, who's primary occupation was a waiter. When the first commercial was to be filmed, the lead actor came onto the set heavily made up to conceal his new black eye. Apparently he had a rough nite which ended in a bar fight. The Director fired the actor and summoned Paul in front of the cameras--for the next 9 years. And the rest is history!

What does all this mean?

  • Always be ready. Always look like you are ready.
  • Every interview is important to build your brand, no matter where you end up.
  • Be open and ready for a new and unexpected opportunity.
  • Stay in touch with your "dream" employer. Stuff happens.
  • Continue building your skills and delivering the goods.
  • Keep your netwok engaged with your searches and your dreams
  • Never give up on your dreams or yourself.

It is not whether you win, it is whether you get the opportunity. And you get the opportunity if you are consistently ready, willing and able.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Networking through the right side of your brain

We all know that the brain is divided into hemispheres that govern our functions and abilities. While research has proven that both sides are involved in almost every human activity, each of us has a "dominant" side--a hemisphere we rely on a bit more than the other. Simply put, the left side is the more logical, rational, sequential, and numerical. The right side is more holistic, emotional, organic, and visual.

One of the many advantages I had growing up was I was raised between these hemispheres. My artist mother is a right brainer who taught us how to draw outside of the lines. My accountant father has a big left brain and taught us to analyze the data. As kids, it was confusing at times, but we learned the benefits of both points of view. It was funny to watch my mom paint and my dad price the paintings!

Brain Dominance Test  Are you a right or left brainer? Take this test.

What happens is you have a hemisphere that is stronger and you start to favor it. It becomes part of your identity and then others reinforce it by what they say and how they encourage you. And often this defines life choices you make, your educational path, your network, your job and career choices.Mc escher

Many years ago my mother encouraged me to read Betty Edwards, Drawing on the right side of the brain.  Can you draw what you see vs what you are thinking? I learned that through awareness you could engage the other hemisphere. You can change your preferences and abilities---and this alters the way you label and identify yourself. My drawing ability is still limited but I can see a lot more.

It is well known that regardless what hemisphere of your brain is dominant, you can be creative. Creativity is not determined by the hemispheres. It will be more determined by your network and your appetite to not accept the labels you give yourself or are assigned to you.  

A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. Steve Jobs

Jonah Lehrer's new book, which comes out later this month, Imagine:How Creativity Works outlines the forces and sources of creativity. Of course, there are many factors both environmental and personal that influence and generate creative thoughts. One of the most important of these factors revealed by this book is your network. Most of the most innovative companies encourage their employees to form "diverse networks" where they explore other disciplines and fields. Another of many compelling studies cited by Lehrer, is Martin Ruef's research on more than 750 Stanford MBA grads. All of them started their own companies. Those with "diverse networks" were 3X more creative. 3 Times! "Diverse networks" always mean networks that represent people who are different than you--ethnic, religious, political, geographic, occupational, age, economic and educational diversity.

Diverse always means different than you. It means different perspectives that you have to learn to understand. It means letting go of your assumptions.

I have learned not to pre-judge a source or to under-estimate a person. Everyone has talent, power, and ideas. Approaching every meeting, encounter and experience with expectations can destroy the opportunity to see and hear something new.

Who you know and talk to determines what you know and what ideas you will have.

 How diverse is your network? Probably not enough. How will you reach out to new people with new and different perspectives?

  • What you read matters
  • Who you interact with at the organizations you belong to
  • Your propensity to attend events outside of your affiliations
  • The frequency in which you engage in discussions with people with different perspectives
  • Doing things because it it is interesting not obligated

A diverse network is never really complete. Because you evolve and your needs evolve. What sparks insight and innovation changes.  What is diverse  to you changes. So to remain creative and fresh you have to have a network that constantly enhances your world view.

 

When we reach out to new experiences and connections, it sparks creativity. Your potential to  offer solutions increases and your appreciation for other points of view rises. The world becomes more interconnected and interdependent. And your opportunities to contribute expands.

 

We can not let our dominant hemisphere dominate our identities and our choices. Creativity is within everyone. You need to open up your mind to new sources of ideas and inspiration by breaking out of a network that looks and sounds like you.  

 

Thanks for reading. John

 


When will my luck change?

Had the great opportunity to hear Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame speak about his new book Delivering Happiness. He is a very inspirational and passionate speaker about how to achieve increased meaning and fulfillment in life. Topics that I constantly try to advance in my work and words.

Tony talked about the role of luck in his life and the lives of others. It is something people have said to me too. "Wish I was as lucky as you!" I am offended by this on one level and deeply understand it at another. How much does luck play into our chances and choices? Where does this luck come from?  

 Fortune cookieTony cited the well known research about how "lucky" people perceive things so differently than "unlucky" people. One of the questions they ask all Zappos candidates is, "Are you lucky or unlucky?" And then they listen. People start to describe their good or bad luck. Some say, "Not sure why so many bad things happen to me." "Or I just seem to be at the right place at the right time." Zappos never hires the former. He said, "We just don't want that bad luck to come to Zappos." :) He went on to say that "lucky" people see opportunities in challenges and change. And the "unlucky" see the problems and the negative. And we all know that what you focus on, give attention to, attracts more of the same. Complainers attract more complainers and hang out together. While the "lucky" people just seem to get luckier.

My mom taught me this point of view by the way she lives and the way she sees the world. Her glass is not only full, but the glass is crystal and the water sparkles. It is not enough to be positive. No one will admit to being negative! You have to see the upside and the path to extend your sense of challenge and meaning. The "unlucky" get caught up in the whirlpool of obstacles and see a conspiracy of bad fortune. But the lucky just move beyond the stuff that holds them back, they regard it as inconveniences rather than the focus of life. 

Professor Richard Wiseman executed a ten-year study of the dimensions of luck, and published his findings in a book called The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind.

In his famous test, 400 participants of all ages were asked to count the number of photographs in a newspaper, and subjects who described themselves as "lucky" were much more likely to notice a message on page two, disguised as a half-page advertisement with large block letters: STOP COUNTING–THERE ARE 43 PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS NEWSPAPER.

This experiment and many others have led Wiseman to conclude that a significant portion of one's good fortune is not random, but rather due to one's perspective.

He concludes that luck is not because of cosmic accidents, but because one achieves a particular mindset which amplifies "lucky" events. Here are my interpretations of his conclusions:

Lucky People

Unlucky People

Encounter opportunities, people who help them

Rarely have these experiences, attract negative people

Listen to their intuition and their hearts

Make decisions without these influences

Expect luck and have self-fulfilling prophecies

Do the opposite

Turn ill fortune into good, do not get overwhelmed

Get overwhelmed and things get worse

I have said over and over again, that depending on "luck" is the most foolish of career strategies. Luck visits those with their eyes open for opportunity, those who are not focused on their next step but the next horizon and those who take chances and push themselves outside of their comfort zones. If luck happens at all it will occur when you fully explore, experiment, and engage the world around you. 

The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity and the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.  Winston Churchill

Want some more luck? Look up instead of down. Collaborate instead of comiserate. Push yourself out of your current world and meet and reconnect with people and you will be surprised how lucky you are. 
 
Thanks for reading. John