mindfulness

Finding Ourselves in Loss

What do we say when there is a tragedy, a death, something really bad happens to people we care about? 

Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles and we are preoccupied with our own problems. We sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly. But Ian MacLaren noted wisely, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”

When I was younger I would try to draw on my capacity for empathy, but I had a fairly dry aquifer of emotional intelligence. Life, death, disease, and unexpected mishaps were frankly just part of the hand you were dealt. Our feline life expectancy dropped a year or two each chapter of our experience until we accept we have one life to live and it is very short.

As we mature and age we are exposed to more suffering, more tragedy, more death. It is a jolting reminder of our mortality and the mortality of the ones around us. We feel more compelled to express our sympathies and condolences. To offer support to the survivors. We struggle with doing the right thing at the right time. We write notes, emails, sign cards, and say things to comfort family and friends. Sometimes we rely on Hallmark for the words, say or write the same thing we always say, or we do nothing. At least for me,  it is an awkward process.

What can I say? What should I say? What can I do? What should I do?

I have learned so much being the recipient of these communications. Nothing like learning about yourself by how you are treated.

The golden rule always applies. Say/do unto others as you would have them say/do unto you. What would comfort me?

A rude awakening for me is how selfish I have been and others can be in trying to comfort each other. It is not about me. It never really is. But we can lead with "Me too", or "I know how you feel". 

The oddity of our clumsy and sometimes hurtful attempts to help is this: we have clear ideas from what has helped us in our suffering, but we do not adopt it when seeking to love others. We do not always speak to others in the way we would like to be spoken to.  Edward T. Welch

I remember a comedy routine, where a distant friend goes up to the grieving mother of a murdered child at the vigil to pay his respects. He gets nervous, then tongued tied, and blurts out, "I apologize."  Not the same as "I am sorry." :)

What I learned and others have taught me--Less is more. Stop before you start into your robotic motor mouth routine. Put your well-intentioned pie hole on silent. Silence is better than words. A hug says more than any profound phrases. Everyone deals with grief and suffering in their own ways. But there is a universal understanding that your very presence is more powerful than anything you say.  Bearhug

"I'm sorry." Is enough. 

Again, stop and look both ways before you stick your foot in your "me too" mouth. 

I really try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I hope people have done the same for me! A dear friend, expressed her condolences and tried to comfort me. Then she took the safety off of her verbal trigger and away she went. "Yeah, not a day goes by where I don't cry about my husband." I knew what she was trying to do, but it was our first conversation and the second thing she said.

"How are you doing, today?" The today part is sensitive to what is happening. "How are you?" is auto-pilot and invokes the silent "How do you think I am?!!"

Do not say: “If you need anything, please call me, anytime.” Another well intended thought but.........

– If ‘comforters’ knew anything about real hardship, they would know that sufferers usually don’t know what they want or need.

– If comforters knew anything about the sufferer, they would know what the sufferer wants or needs. 

– If comforters really knew the sufferer, they would know that he or she would never make the call. Never.  Tara Barthel

In his book, "The Reality Slap," Russ Harris presents two lists — the first, a few responses that genuinely make you feel supported and understood; and the second, a number of responses that, although meant to be helpful, aren't really all that compassionate. Let's start with the less compassionate responses (many of which I myself am guilty of, and if we're being honest, most of us have said at times):

  • Telling you to "think positively"
  • Giving advice: "What you should do is this, "Have you thought about doing such and such?"
  • Discounting your feelings: "No use crying over spilled milk," "It's not that bad," "Cheer up!"
  • Trumping your pain: "Oh yes, I've been through this many times myself. Here's what worked for me."
  • Telling you to get over it: "Move on," "Let it go," "Isn't it time you got over this?"

Here are some compassionate responses highlighted in Harris' book:

  • Asking how you feel
  • Giving you a hug, embrace, placing an arm around you or holding your hand
  • Validating your pain: "This must be so hard for you" or "I can't begin to imagine what you're going through."
  • Sharing their own reactions: "I'm so sorry, "I'm so angry," "I feel so helpless; I wish there was something I could do," or even "I don't know what to say."
  • Creating space for your pain: "Do you want to talk about it?" It's OK to cry," or, "We don't have to talk; I'm happy to just sit here with you."
  • Offering support: "Is there anything I can do to help?"

I took a thanatology class in college---Death and Dying. I learned about the 5 stages of dying that was asserted by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Most of us have heard this. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. It made so much sense to me. It clearly applied to romantic break-ups :) But death? And the grieving? 

Pauline Boss' research disputes the application of these 5 stages to grief. That Kubler-Ross never intended to have them applied to grieving. We all want steps and stages. We want a linear routine to replace the organic reality. Boss' basic thought is closure for grief is a myth. While time heals, you will never be finished with your grief--and closure is only good in real estate. You don't want to forget or get over it. I know there are nuances here but really important ones. 

This myth of closure has helped me be more sensitive, more compassionate. Time heals but never erases. I know this to be true.

A colleague who did not know my Dad, said "Sorry to hear about your Dad. Tell me about him." I smiled, because I got to tell a Dad story and share my love and gratitude. For me, that was one of the nicest and most comforting things anyone said to me.

Part of building and maintaining a vibrant, authentic and altruistic network is our ability to connect to support one another. No time is more crucial than in times of loss and suffering. 

Remind yourself what would comfort you. Stop, pause, and be present. Say less. Suppress your needs and surrender to the needs of the other. Good advice for all of us almost all of the time. Be kind: For we are all fighting great battles and carrying great burdens that are not known to one another. (my interpretation of Philo)

Thanks for reading. John


Peek a Boo! I See Me

Infants don't understand the concept of permanence. It is an essential stage of cognitive and sensory motor skill development. We have all done this with little kids. We hide our faces with our hands and then reveal our faces and say Peek a Boo! And the kids are astonished and amazed. Like a magic trick. They laugh uncontrollably because of the surprise.

And when toddlers cover their faces, they think they are invisible.

When we grow up we are still confused about what is real. We think we are invisible. As adults we hide our own faces and our feelings We become quite clever in masking our true selves. And the mask can become the face. Peekaboo

I meet many people at many points in their lives. Junctions, detours, shifts, inflection points, crossroads--all names for the same thing---Life! Every moment considering choices is about change. Anyway, I try to use these moments to see if I get clues about what they really want. Poker players call it the "tell". A sign given off by facial expression, body tics, and or inflection that gives away a truth.

I recently met with a younger man and he was babbling on about who he was and his impressive background ( I remember when I use to show up and throw up) He said, "I want to help people." (When I hear this it takes every ounce of my control not to say, "Yeah "people" that narrows your career choices!") Instead I said "Which people?" And after a series of these back and forths. He spoke eloquently about "helping people overcome what he had overcome." I stopped him and asked him to tell me how he felt. I told him how I felt. It was pretty emotional. His eyes, inflection and body language did all of the talking. And we built a small rhetorical campfire and sat down to explore this personal story. He thought I read his mind, but he opened his book and read from his heart. I was moved.

That honesty about what matters gives me a view of what I think is the soul. The true self who hides in the costume and mask department of our minds. It is a bit of a game of hide and seek I play with others and myself. To get the souls to come out and play and share.

It reminds me to be vulnerable and empathetic in the way I listen and think. It helps me immensely. And I know it has an impact on others and the dimensions of conversation that ensue.

I am convinced that we unconsciously let others and ourselves suppress so much of our potential and our soulfulness. The heavy blanket of expectations, political correctness, not looking stupid, not making other people uncomfortable, not being good enough etc etc.

Sheryl Turkle and her fascinating book, Reclaiming Conversation:

My research shows that we are too busy connecting to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet these are the kinds of conversations in which intimacy and empathy develop, collaboration grows, and creativity thrives. We move from conversation to mere connection. And I worry that sometimes we forget the difference. Or forget that this is a difference that matters.

In our daily conversations, it starts with so called small talk, exchanges where we move our lips and sounds tumble out of our pie holes. Classic example is "How are you?" and you reply reflexively, "Fine. You?" and a thousand unthinking variations. But our robotic chatter is not limited to these informal seemingly meaningless verbal transactions. They now consume most of our time. Like bad texting exchanges that say nothing. We partake in a lot of live face to face superficial texting through our mouths. 

We say words and others say words we neither listen to or fully comprehend what pablum spews back and forth. It is not that we are uncaring souls, but we have rehearsed our routines like inadequate amateur versions of Robin Williams' improv group of personalities. We pull something from our inner hard drive and it plays without much thought.

How do we disrupt this pattern if we want to have more interesting and meaningful conversations? How do we show our empathy and compassion for one another? Who starts the real conversation?

Do we have the time and patience? Do we?

And yet we want help. We crave and cry out for mentoring for guidance for support--on our terms, just in time, convenient, fast and simple to assemble. We want life and career advice that comes out of an IKEA box, or fits into a 3 minute YouTube. Not a revealing conversation.

Love Akuyoe Graham's advice to me about enjoying the taste of the words. Meaning that you take the time and thought to savor what you say. You sense the words you speak, their weight, their intention and you convey those thoughts with your face and your body.

Am I there, present, vulnerable, open, attentive, listening, more interested than interesting? That matters. And can make way to real conversations.

Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation How talk can change our lives:

Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they just don't exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. It's a spark that two minds create.

How many conversations do we have like that? Wouldn't that be good?

In my analysis this real conversation is a meeting of the minds and a meeting of the souls. 

It takes both sides to make this happen.

Peek a boo (excerpt from my poem)

I see you

Then you’re gone

I see what you want to be, what you try to be

I see what you want me to see

I saw something

The glint of the sun through the clouds

I felt you

A warm breeze on a summer eve

Something real and fleeting

Like a poltergeist

The warmth and chill of presence

I feel you

Peek a boo

But just like that you disappear

From right in front to out of sight

Are you gone or just hiding?

What are you afraid of?

When will I see you again?

Maybe it’s me

Am I scaring you?

Peek a boo

I see me

Like a mirror image

That glimpse of you was a glimpse of me

I want what you want

And your words are the words I want

I hear me through you

Peek a boo

You are changing me

Am I changing you?

An open heart opens the mind

We are changed

We try to be invulnerable and see no flaw

We become vulnerable and see the light

Peek a boo

I learn from you

When I was teaching you

Peek a boo

You mentor me

When I was trying to mentor you

You helped me 

Did I help you?

Peek a boo

I saw you

And you see me

I need you

And you need me

Come out to play and let’s be                                                          John E. Kobara

 

We must help others and ourselves explore and share our truths, our souls. 

If we see it, acknowledge it, welcome it. And embrace it. 

Build a campfire and listen to each other's stories. We have so much to learn from one another. 

Thanks for reading. 


What is your story? Understanding your narrative and where it is taking you

I have found that people do not appreciate their own stories. There is such a premium placed on amazing, dramatic, tear-jerkers that average stories, just stories about who we are and what we want are relegated to the "boring" file. So these stories are neglected and unformed. Yet I have found that every personal story told is fascinating. 

Our stories are helpful to others so they can help us. But our stories can reinforce our own behaviors and actions and become self fulfilling prophecies. Greatest-story1

Not talking about your interview technique or even how to sound clever at a cocktail party.

I am talking about what you say to yourself and how that reveals itself to others. 

The classics: "I am not good at math." "I have a terrible voice." "I can't even draw a circle." "I can't even boil water." "I am such a terrible public speaker."

Whether you like it or not these are part of your story and become part of your reputation. 

What are you good at? What are you most confident about? Are you risk averse? Are you afraid of failure or looking stupid?

You can become what you say you are and not become what you don't say. 

What are you telling yourself about you?

I made a woman and a young man cry recently. I didn't mean to.

It was my interpretation of their stories that got them choked up.

The gentleman was testing his pitch for a new venture he was thinking of starting and I told him that people want to invest in you who are you. I gave him my version of the hardships he had overcome.

The lady was looking to make a very serious career change and I asked her to tell me why? She struggled with her answer. I summarized her rationale, qualifications and the value she would add. 

I loved their stories. Basically I told them their own stories. I gleaned from them what they were saying and I crafted the stories--positive stories. I have no special skill or technique. I listened to them and read their resumes. These were uplifting meetings for all of us. To see people's potential and share it with them was inspirational for me! When your story is set free and it resonates with the protagonist it creates vulnerability--like a secret was told out loud. It is liberating. It can be cathartic. It is empowering.

And your story evolves, if you allow it. If you keep an eye on the possibility ahead you can edit your story.

One of the many benefits of mentoring and networking is to work on your internal narrative. What story is guiding how you live and what you do. The greatest gift is to ask someone you trust: "What do you see in me?" 'Where do you see me going?" 

Steve Jobs advice from his famous commencement address still rings true. "Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly already want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Hearing your inner voice out loud gives it life and freedom far from the tyranny of others expectations.

Is your story fraught with limitations, excuses and pessimism? Or is it nestled in optimism, opportunities, and lessons? 

"I have few options." "I don't have the right (education, job, mentor, financial condition....)" 

Or

"There are so many things I can do and learn." "This problem is going to teach me new things." 

It is a choice. The story you tell. 

Stories we tell ourselves and others define our well-being. Depressed individuals often have deeply ingrained internal stories such as ‘I’m never good enough,’ or ‘My father told me I should have been a doctor.’  Versus athletes who visualize success and use mantras like "You have been here before. You know what to do."

From Phillipa Perry's book How to Stay Sane "The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved. If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up. We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves, at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck."

Take control of your story. Own it. Interrupt the negative audio loops. Open it up. Tell your truths. Talk about it. Listen to other people's assessments of it. Edit and enhance your story. See the possibilities over the problems. Your story is amazing. Sometimes you just have to get out of its way. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Who got you here?

Yes, yes, yes--we all need to be more grateful, more thankful for what we have. Feel fortunate and blessed for the opportunities and people in our lives. Yes, and the research shows that if we do this we will be happier and healthier--and live longer. We all agree with this and most of us think we do do these things. 

But how did you get here, to this point in your life? To right now? 

There are still a few people out there that still believe that they have controlled their own destinies. That they pull the levers of their lives with no help from others and they alone are responsible for their successes. I know this is crazy, but we all know people like this. They live in a mythical  "I" world.

Linkedin JEK
My Linkedin Map

From the research of Robert Emmons, an expert on gratitude:

People who are ungrateful tend to be characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity, and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval. Narcissists reject the ties that bind people into relationships of reciprocity. They expect special favors and feel no need to pay back or pay forward. 

Entitlement is at the core of narcissism. This attitude says, “Life owes me something” or “People owe me something” or “I deserve this.” In all its manifestations, a preoccupation with the self can cause us to forget our benefits and our benefactors or to feel that we are owed things from others and therefore have no reason to feel thankful. Entitlement and self-absorption are massive impediments to gratitude. You will certainly not feel grateful when you do receive what you think you have coming, because after all, you have it coming. Counting blessings will be ineffective because grievances will always outnumber gifts.

Were narcissistic entitlement a condition that afflicted only a small percentage of humankind, then there would be little cause for concern. 

In addition, to your mother who brought you into this world, nothing any of us have done has been done alone. We get help, support, mentorship, inspiration, and energy from others. I am not even talking about our ancestors who suffered and toiled to get us here. My focus here are the people that got you to this NOW.

I think about this everyday. Not because I am such a grateful person although I try. But because I wonder who introduced me to this person I am with?, who helped me get on this board?, who advised me?,  who invited me? who hired me? who referred me?....I can't stop thinking about it. It builds this giant ladder, scaffolding, this network  around me. The incredible accumulation of help, support, mentoring and ass-kicking I have been lucky to receive. 

Yes "I" have been ready for some of this help and support. "I" prepared myself for some opportunities. But if I am honest with myself, I realize that my Net enables me to Work. My Network is behind me, beside me, and below me to push. catch and pull me. Yes, I have to have goals and ideas and passion, but without the network I am not empowered to succeed.

We careen through life and our orbits, trajectories, and perspectives are changed by every encounter with people and experiences. But certain people have influenced you and helped you more than others.  

 I am because we are. I am what I am because of who we all are. Ubuntu

I am constantly humbled by these thoughts. (And some would tell you, that makes my healthy self concept more tolerable! :) So I try to let the people who got me here know how I am doing and to thank them for their help. When I do this, it always makes both of us feel good. Like a little life loop was closed. And I try to help anyone who asks for help, not because I expect something in return but because that's what people did for me. Pay it forward. Pay it back. But give thanks to the help we get and the help we give. 

This is what propels us. This is the fuel for our lives. 

But once you start believing your own bio, your own press releases, you can start to hallucinate that you have designed your own life.

Who got you here? The list is long. Take a moment to appreciate your Network. Then drop a few of them a note, a text, an e-mail, a call to thank them for helping you get here. Not just this week, but anytime you think of it. This not a holiday thing, this is a gratitude thing. This is a network thing.

There is no "I" in network. (sorry could not resist)

Yes let's be grateful and filled with gratitude--then let's acknowledge and thank the people that got us here--everyday!

Thank you for helping me get to this point in my life by allowing me to express myself and to connect with you. Thanks for reading. John


Networking with Humility

Some of you that know me are wondering how I could write such a post. Humility has not always been my most evident trait. (That would be an understatement John!) But as they say, those who can't do, teach! :)

But my ego and self obsession have been down-sized over the years. I have been humbled by the world around me. Not sure it is seen by others, not sure I truly care. But I have made a concious effort to keep my hunger for self adulation in check. 

I am humbled every day by the needs of others, by the potential of the human spirit, by the unknown and the unknowable. I am in awe of everyone I meet for their uniquenness. For I used to under-estimate others and over-estimate myself. If I am aware I am filled with humility. Humility

As I started to become more self-aware, more authentic with myself, and more open to the world around me--I could not help but see how insignificant I am. That my relevance is tied to others. And to my pursuit of larger purposes and questions than myself. That the truth about education is the more you learn the more you discover what you don't know.

Always cracks me up, that some people think that getting another degree will clarify things for them--that they will obtain more certainty about their lives (not just their jobs/careers) If done well, education confuses the student more, in a good way. Education enables you to ask better questions. But I digress....

Don't be so humble you are not that great. Golda Meier

True humility is not an act. It is the real sense of your self importance in the bigger scheme of things--however you define it. It is toning down our arrogance and our sense of certainty. It is a realization that you are not the center of the universe.

I remember when I was 19 years old and I was completing a medical intake form for the first time by myself. It asked for my religion. I thought that was irrelevant, so I wrote "Protagonism". To my surprise the doctor inquired about my stated faith. I said. "I believe I am the main character of my story." Another failed attempt at Kobara humor:)

But we can be so deluded by our own individual perspective.

David Foster Wallace mused about this in his famous commencement address:

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

One strange manifestation of this  self-centeredness, is our unwillingness to reveal what we need to work on in our lives. Our inability to embrace what we need to know, learn and understand-- the way we are taught to address our weaknesses.

Popular career guidance sources preach "turn your weaknesses into strengths". When you network or interview you are supposed to provide these types of answers or assert these types of thoughts, when asked, "What areas are you trying to improve upon?" 

"I am a perfectionist. I want work to hard and too long to get things just right."

"I love to work too much. I am a work-aholic."

"I let others take the credit for the work I do. I don't assert myself enough."

For whatever reason, this is now SOP for many folks. They robotically say these things that have been commoditized and therefore regress to the mean instead of differentiating themselves.

I have found that more than 50% of students, networkers, job seekers--in my unscientific networking study--say they are stumped by a direct question about their "weaknesses". They literally say, "I don't know what to say." "I'll have to think about it." "Wow, that is a good question."

To have no weaknesses is not a sign of strength, but a sign of ignorance and even arrogance.

To me, this shows a hollowness, an emptiness, an immaturity and an abject lack of self awareness that repels potential opportunities.

A truthful, insightful answer that reveals the person's desire to improve is an endangered species.

Showing our vulnerability to others is seen as a weakness, but we know the opposite is true.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brene Brown 

How do I balance my strengths and show my upside as well? 

How do I express my qualifications and my competencies as well as my desire to learn and improve?

That they need me as much I need them.

How can opportunities be mutually beneficial arrangements where all parties have clear objectives to help each other?

This is the way the best networking and mentoring work. The reciprocity. The trust that exposes the needs and resources of both sides.

Humility is grounded in the understanding that the tip of the iceberg of your knowledge is dwarfed by what lies around and beneath you.  

When people know what you need and want, they can help you. 

It takes courage to know your needs. It takes real courage to ask for help.

More David Foster Wallace: Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

Listen more than you talk. Be prepared to give without expectations before you self promote. Put the needs of others before your own.

Then you will see that you are not the center of the universe but at the center of opportunity. 

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

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

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

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

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

A lot.

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

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

My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:

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

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

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

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

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

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

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

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

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

So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


Do You See You? The Meta-Mindful-Mentoring Method

Do we see and hear ourselves? Do we know how we come off? Other people do. But how do we gather, curate, and ultimately utilize these insights and observations to improve?

Heidi Grant Halvorson, author HBR blogger recently wrote:

“If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?

If we are going to ever improve, we need solid evidence about where we went wrong. Unfortunately, that's the kind of evidence that usually doesn't make it to our consciousness, making self-diagnosis practically impossible. And your own ratings of your personality traits are NOT well correlated with the impressions of other people (who know you well).”

We need help getting the right answers. This is not a DIY exercise. Self awareness

That's why I have 360 degree evaluations everywhere I have led teams. That's why I am such a big advocate of mentoring. You need to actively seek, receive and digest, honest and constructive feedback on a regular basis.  To get an accurate picture of you and the you, you want to be. You have to learn how to see and hear yourself.

It is almost impossible to see yourself, hear yourself, and understand yourself-by yourself. 

The challenge is we get into a mode of talking and behaving  where we are say and do comfortable things or phrases that don’t connect us to the real world at that moment. We are not present and self-aware. Our concentration and focus drifts so easily.

  • I just saw a new and very young magician at the Magic Castle. Her sleight of hand was fantastic, but her verbal routine was stilted, memorized and robotic. She was not feeling the audience she was going through her lines. For example, there was an audience member who was verbally reacting to almost everything the magician said. But the magician ignored him, instead of using him as a foil or engaging him. Technically her magic was terrific. But how does she get feedback? Who tells her how she did? With a little more experience, maybe a few video tapings, and some feedback will free her to see herself and be herself.
  • I interviewed this guy and he was well spoken. Told his story well. Answered my questions confidently but without any emotion or personality. What do I mean? Without revealing himself. There were a number of micro clues about his family, his volunteer work, and his passions, that I was collecting during the conversation. So near the end of the interview, I asked, “What don’t I know about you?” He stared me down for a mini eternity in silence and said, “I think we are good.” Whoa! Now here is someone not able to adlib, veer from the script, improvise, and get real. Here is someone who is not comfortable in his own skin and not very self-aware. His script was excellent but his engagement was horrible. I knew things about him he was not going to share with me! I always look for self-awareness and self-reflection in people I meet.
  • I have an employee who complained how unfair it is to provide the 360 degree reviews for staff outside his dept. "I really don't know what she does. I mean I work with her from time to time but I am in no position to evaluate her." I said to him, "Do you ever review restaurants, and their service on Yelp? Do you recognize good service at a store? I know you are observant and you can make quick accurate judgments and you are telling me you can't review and evaluate one of your colleagues that you worked with for a year? Hmmmmmm" 

Each of us comes to very fast conclusions from the things we observe, experience and encounter. We assign values, preferences, and judgments to OTHERS. We rarely turn this amazing power on ourselves.

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and  experiencing that moment. You hear yourself talk. You see yourself act. You  think about the way you think. Mindful

Emotional Intelligence EQ is simply put: “.. the ability to monitor one's and others feelings/emotions and understand them to guide your behavior and actions.” Daniel Goleman 

 According to Goleman there are 5 emotional competencies:

  1. Self-awareness (Knowledge of one’s preferences and intuitions)
  2. Self-regulation (Management of one’s states and impulses)
  3. Motivation (Awareness of your emotional tendencies that guide goal attainment)
  4. Empathy (Awareness of others feelings and needs)
  5. Social Skills (Skill in inducing desirable behavior in others)

I am really focusing on #1, #4 and #5. How does the way you come off genuinely represent you, the needs of others and results in something desirable?

Many sources out there to develop your EQ, your mindfulness. Meditation helps many. I like this post on Overcoming the Obstacles to Mindfulness.  

Once self-aware you develop empathy for others and your ability to lead your life and persuade others increases.

I See You. Do You See You? If we are more mindful and share these thoughts we can start to see ourselves. When we see ourselves we engage others in authentic ways that reflect the time, the moment, the feelings of the others. Your EQ is high. That’s when you make a connection. Not just a transaction for goods and services, but you connect. That’s when networking and mentoring pay off. When you reveal yourself and reveal the needs of others. Then we help each other see our truths, our true selves.

Thanks for reading. John