mix it up

Will this be the Year? For You?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

Is this the year for your new life? The year you push yourself out and over the edge of your comfort zone.

Why can't this be the time? 

The challenge is in every moment and the time is always now. James Baldwin

This can be the time to make your dent in the universe. To go into our garages and build the new mousetrap. To build the new you. 
 
One that expresses who YOU are. Don't confuse this with your FB, Instagram postings, or even your resume, where you look more like wanna-bes than the real YOU. 

The recipe is pretty straight forward. You take you with all of the expectations of others removed, add a big heaping tablespoon of courage, add extra chutzpah and then a pinch of regrets to taste and voila you get the real you.

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.  Seneca 49 AD

I have shared the following with thousands of people to remind them in a few minutes how precious life is.

What surprises you most about human kind?

“That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.”
“That they lose their health to make money… and then lose their money to restore their health.”
"That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither the present nor the future.”
“That they live as if they will never die… and die as though they had never lived.”

What are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?
“To learn they cannot make anyone love them. All they can do is let themselves be loved.”
“To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds, and it can take many years to heal them.”
“To learn that a rich person is not who has the most, but is one who needs the least.”
“To learn that there are people who love them dearly, but simply do not yet know how to express or show their feelings.”
“To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see it differently.”
“To learn that it is not enough that they forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves.”

(Excerpted from Interview with God.net)

How much time we waste. How our priorities are often upside down. How the most precious things we want get pushed into the attic and buried in our "hope chests". Hope Chest

We have to do the best with what we got and then do more!
  
I live completely in the present, released from the prison of the past with its haunting memories and vain regrets, released from the prison of the future with its tantalizing hopes and tormenting fears. All the enormous capacities formerly trapped in past and future flow to me here and now. Eknath Easwaran
 
Schedule little windows of time when you will develop your plans and yourself. Time to be focused and unfocused. Nothing will happen if you do not do this! What you need is inspiration. Which can come in a moment, any time, taking a shower, doing the dishes, taking a walk, meditating, reading. Fill your life with more stimulation, different voices, sources, points of view. Change it up. Shake it up. Find things that resonate with you that quicken your heart beat and put a lump in your throat. Then take notes and follow them.
 
You can work with the usual suspects, but find the new and different, that's connected to what we want, like or dream about. Meet with different people every week or month. Get disciplined about stretching your network. Use the existing connections to bridge to new tribes. Worlds that understand your unanswered questions, your "crazy" dreams and your insecurities and doubts. Tribes that will mentor you.
 
Still perplexed? Do you believe that every human is an infinite set of possibilities? Are you human?
My life experiences have shown me how people stop digging when they hit a few rocks. They stop peeling the onion when the tears start. They move away from the edge of the cliff when they see the rocks far below.
 
Get a jackhammer. Put on some goggles. Learn to para-glide.

Listen to what Alec Baldwin says:

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee "Alec Baldwin" 

I frequently worry that being productive is the surest way to lull ourselves into a trance of passivity and busyness the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from our selves, mistaking the doing for the being. Maria Popova

What I want for you is the delight that comes from doing what you want. Becoming you. Not merely the achievement of the financial or employment goals or even familial expectations. Yes do them. But make small, medium and large spaces for you. For when your passion bucket overflows everyone around you will get some. Whether you like it or not you infect others with your smile of delight, your glow of goodness, and your engaging enthusiasm for life. 

And when you are not yourself, when you are not smiling, and your passion bucket is empty--you also impact others, just very differently. 

Ripples flow from your life force either way.

So is 2016 the year of becoming you? Let's go!

To be and not to be, that is the answer. D. E. Harding

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading. 

 


Mind the Change and Change the Mind

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw

Some people discuss "change" like it is a monster. A source of stress and distress. "Change" is a darkening cloud that will bring great tragedy and pain.

Or a savior for necessary evolution. And the light on the path of purpose.

Those who embrace the change are empowered by the change. Yeah, it has to do with risk and self-esteem. If you are defined by your job or your title or your retirement plan then the bogeyman of change is Godzilla.

But if you exist to serve, adapt and pursue your passions, then change becomes your sidekick.

None of us wants the status quo. Right? The status quo sucks. For people suffering. For our careers. For our families. For our communities. Putting our worlds on freeze-frame would imprison everyone to now. Now John, you are misinterpreting me! So tell me oh misinterpreted one, What do you want? Tell me! You want change on your terms, on your schedule, Zeus?!! You want convenient change in the economy size to fit into your carry-on luggage?

Change is the air we breathe and the ground we traverse. Change is life. Life is change. We never step in the same river twice, we never have the same conversation or see the same film the same way. We evolve and the world around us evolves and we both try and catch up. Once you understand change is the water from David Foster Wallace's epic commencement address.

Change is just happening, it is relentless. Not even talking about the shifting sands of the world around us that we are partially or totally ignorant of. The butterfly wings that are shaping El Nino or the currency wars that are impacting our retirement plans........

Yes earthshaking change gets our attention at least for a few moments. You get laid off. Someone becomes terminally ill. You become a grandfather. You have a break-up. You get a new boss. The famous study of recent paraplegics and lottery winners showed that a  year after their life defining events, both groups had the same levels of happiness! We get over the big changes.  And we miss the subtle and important ones. Mind the change

Change is how we react to it--if we react at all. 

One of our favorite past times is participating in the unnecessary stress inducing game of hating change.

The future is already here it s just not evenly distributed. William Gibson

You hoped things would "stabilize" or "stay the same" for a little while so you could catch your breath? Hah!

Change is neither an enemy or a friend. It is.

Change is subtle and like the glaciers or the coral reefs, big changes occur over long horizons. But if we don't notice them its too late.

Our brains are changing and capable of change. Not just memory loss! If we literally put our minds to it. :)

The Luddite who will not upgrade their flip phone. The smoker who thinks they are the exception. The parent who raises their kids like they were. The manager who does not listen to his staff. The perfectionist who never makes a mistake.......

Time stands still---in their minds. And the world evolves without them.

The crazy thing is YOU are changing and evolving. And could change even more if you let yourself. 

Like the lizard or snake that molts and sheds their entire skin we are evolving more invisibly. (the average human sheds about 1mm skin cells a day!)

Here is the big deal. Everything you do, people you encounter, visuals you ingest, thoughts that you entertain, are making micro and macro changes to you--if you let them.

Are you aware of these changes? Good question!

Are we allowing the changes to change you? Better question!

Do we appreciate the changes that are changing you? Right question!

Is your disagreement with my words changing you a little? :)

This is not a solo exercise. It is the process of engagement with others. Change is accelerated in a social network, a trusting group of diverse truth tellers who provide and receive honest feedback and different perspectives.

Networking and mentoring done with altruism, an open heart and mind, fuel change possibilities. Help your colleagues and friends and relatives see and embrace their change.

The tyranny of certainty is the real enemy. We develop "truths" about what we don't know. This can range from naivete to ignorance to racism. Certainty prevents us from learning.

You are a whirling dervish of velcro picking up little pieces of change along the way. But if you whirl on the same beaten known paths then change is relative for you. If you whirl off the known roads of life and explore the world then you change and challenge your certainties.  

We must break down the gates of certainty to get to the gardens of change.

All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change
Changes You.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

Octavia Butler

Change is neither friend or foe. It is a frame of mind. Mind the change and change your mind.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.  I humbly offer a version of this timeless quote from Gandhi.

Let us be changed by the world we see.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Your Lotus Flower

Sometimes you have to travel far away to understand oneself. We need the perspective, the less cluttered and noisy view of ourselves to see ourselves. Part of it is the true value of comparative evaluation. You know, sizing up what you have or want against others. There is one thing to see someone confined to a wheelchair, which is so different than imagining you are in that chair! Making that little switch triggers a different level of empathy and insight. In the end, how we view what we have, what has been given to us, the so-called hand we are dealt, and make the most out of it? Even the bad stuff. (Say more John I don't know what you mean) Trying to avoid the hackneyed lemonade bromide. Ooops there it is :)  Myanmar Schwe Dagon

I had the great fortune to visit the emerging third world democracy of Myanmar recently. (second most isolated country behind N Korea just a few years ago) One of the most beautiful and brutal places I have ever seen. Immersed in these stark contrasts from my life in Los Angeles, I was pulled into a different mindset. I think the overwhelming vistas of sacred edifices, wrapped in punishing poverty and surrounded by the grace of a welcoming people opened my mind. I know all of these elements exist everywhere, if I saw them, but parachuting into a new environment flips a perspective switch. At first I resisted these forces of self examination to stay on task with my trip. But I quickly surrendered to these flowing thoughts and tried to allow them to take me on a parallel journey.

I know that my first world guilt and privilege were drivers here. But I also know that the mind craves the space for thought and reflection. The incredible fusion of this mindset with the inputs from our trek through the Burmese landscape made this trip memorable and meaningful.

Way too much to say here but want to share several images and ideas that continue to energize me.

Myanmar smilesThe Myanmar smile: Everyone in Myanmar. I mean every single person we encountered was friendly, warm, and open to us. There was a avalanche of authenticity. People saying "minglabar" (hello/welcome in Burmese) with true sincerity. I know this sounds naive, and I know that perhaps some of the people were disingenuous. But I felt I was in their presence. It was hard work to try and reciprocate. Part of my detox from the world of being on guard, of the hard bubble of personal space and the root of distrusting others until proven innocent. In my mind, I try to be open to others, but my struggles to receive and return the emotional and spiritual generosity from Myanmar revealed my true potential. 

In a meditation session I attended in Myanmar, our leader asked us to sense everything about our bodies--but he cautioned "don't react to anything you sense, observe yourself from the outside--let the monkeys play!" Let the monkeys play. Let things happen and see them without judgment. Quiet the mind and let the monkeys play..... 

How can I be more trusting, more welcoming, more open to others? How can I initiate this trust this warmth and this openness? 

LotusThe Lotus Flower: I have always been drawn to the lotus flower. The beautiful bloom atop a glassy body of water. But like most things I knew nothing more about the lotus.

We spent many days on waterways, rivers and lakes and I was re-introduced to the lotus flower. Our guide Czarina made a comment that changed my view of this plant. She said, "The lotus  draws its strength from the dirtiest water, transforming it into a beautiful flower." (these waters were some of the most polluted I have ever seen) What an amazing metaphor for life. How do we convert the pools of negativity that surround our lives into beautiful blossoms by tapping into our inner reservoir of spirit and talent? We all sit in our own pools of impurities--self-made, God-given, environmental--and how do we we convert our circumstances into a thing of beauty? How do we truly embrace "our dirt" own it but also appreciate it to move us forward? For without our dirt we would not understand what we want. Without the dirt we would not have to struggle and suffer. And without suffering we can not live a meaningful life. 

I googled the lotus flower and learned that the lotus flower is associated with purity and beauty in Buddhism and Hinduism. The ancient Egyptians scholars observed that in the night-time the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water, and was reborn the next day. In actual fact the lotus slowly emerges from a pond and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon. And the lotus does thrive in murky/dirty waters.

The lotus emerges from the pollution to be faithful to its beauty and purpose. To open to the sun gracing the world,  like a humble brag,  "Here's what I do!"

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

A smile, your smile. A lotus flower, your lotus flower. How do we take our great capacity to love one another and share it? How can we be more open to being changed? How do we let the monkeys play? How do we fully embrace our dirt to display our beauty? 

Minglabar!

Thanks for reading. John


Our Philanthropic Journey

Most of us do not relate to the word philanthropy. It is Bill Gatesian, John Rockefelleresque, foreign word that is reserved for the Bentley crowd. Even wealthy donors do not use the "P" word. Yet the literal meaning of philanthropy is beautiful. From its Greek origins it translates to Love of Humanity. In other words giving is a way of expressing our love for one another. 

Regrettably only a few of us can be on the Forbes 400, but all of us give. We give as much as we can. Most of us could give more---time and money--but we all have a generous spirit.  Philanthropist

Yet giving away money is a mysterious business. To the uninformed, giving away a lot of money would be easy and fun. Like most things it is not what you think it is. I was with a nameless billionaire the other day (you are so important John!!) and he complained about the "burden" of his giving--that "there is no way I can give away all of my money before I die." I know some of you just want a name and and contact info :) But in all serious pursuits, in all careers--when you fully engage yourself in the art and science of something--challenges are revealed. You begin to realize how much you do not know. It can paralyze you or it can liberate you. To most it causes a brain freeze bigger than chugging a giant milkshake.

Funny thing, people with wealth or any extra money will tell you they love their philanthropy. They will tell you how fulfilling it is. Similar to any of us when asked about our computer skills--no one is not "proficient"! People who give away money who generally have been successful in life find it hard to admit that their philanthropy is transactional, random, and a "burden".

As I have said in this space for years, the key principle in life is to give without an expectation. Be ready to give first. Lead with your giving. Not just money, but with your attention, time, and expertise. When you are truly philanthropic with your life and have turned off WIIFM (what's in it for me), you benefit in ways that far exceed your giving. 

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Picasso

All of our journeys are philanthropic. We do not have to be billionaires to make a difference. We forget how much we have when we focus on what we want. We love humanity but do not know where to begin. 

As you know I help people give their money away. But I have learned that if the giving is not tied to the donor's heart, passions, their authentic interests, their core values, then their philanthropy is limited and unfulfilling. Giving becomes a task even a source of stress (like with my new billionaire buddy:). That's how many people feel about networking and mentoring. We can view time as our greatest asset and we become time hoarders--or so we think. We view it as precious and hold it back from others on one hand and then just waste it like we have all of the time in the world.

I literally get sick when people say things like, "Can't wait until this day/month/year is over!" You never get the time back. You can get your money back! Time is irretrievable. 

Reminded of Seneca's incredible 2000 year old book On the Shortness of Life

It is not that we have a short time to live, but we make it short by wasting a lot of it. We are frugal in guarding our personal property, but as it comes to squandering time, we are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

Do I have to regale you with the physical, spiritual, intellectual benefits of giving? The increase in endorphins, oxytocin or just plain old satisfaction. Studies abound that show that generous people are happier, live longer and are healthier. In the newish book, The Paradox of Generosity, philanthropic families "had broader social circles, less self absorbed, and a greater sense of purpose." I had the great pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Kristof about his new book A Path Appears, perhaps the best book on philanthropy I have read. This is like 8 great books in one. And Nicholas and his partner Sheryl have done a wonderful job of making the case to give more and how to do it. 

It is also well known and verified through research that you give like your network. If you live in a gated community you give 40% less than the average American! Because wealthy people who live in wealthy communities are trying to keep up with the Joneses. If you hang out with people who are less generous, chances are you are too. And "live more cynical and narrow lives" according to the research. Giving broadens your network to new worlds. Worlds outside of our bubbles, "gated communities" of homogeneous people who reinforce each other's perspective disconnected from reality. Susan Fiske's research at Princeton is the most disheartening. The wealthier we are the more we view poor people as objects instead of people. In other words, when we reside in a biosphere protected from the harsh realities of the real world, poor people are things not human.

So reach out and connect. break your bubbles and break out of your biospheres. Seek people and charities you love and help them. Get the benefits of giving and giving more. 

So as we meander down our philanthropic paths, consider how much you have and start giving it away. Lead with your giving and it will take you to places that you want to go. Places that show you purpose, meaning, and why you are here.

I developed a special edition of my SWiVEL doc  Download SWIVEL Philanthropy_2014 for people to help one another with their philanthropy. Share it.

I get so much out of writing these posts--way more than you! Thank you for the gift of your readership. John

 


What Would the Wolf Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world without wolves?

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

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

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

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

What if:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you need a different crowd. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all starts with giving without an expectation. 

The future is helping children you will never know. 

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

WWWD? The world needs your ripples. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Merry-Go-Round Resolutions

The root of “career” is the Latin “carrus,” meaning “wheeled vehicle” (which is also the source of  the word car).  One French derivative of “carrus” was “carriere,” meaning “racecourse,” and when the noun “career” first appeared in English it meant “racetrack,”  the course of life meaning was a later development.  And the verb career means to go at full speed, perhaps even reckless, not unlike the word careen.  Racetrack

The point is your career is a race around a track where you go round and round to see who wins. You go as fast as you can and then your race ends. Was it fun, worthwhile, did you win?

Makes me wince too--the truth hurts.

To me our race track careers can be more like a Merry-Go-Round. We sit passively on a ride that gives us the false impression of progress and speed. We think we are in control because we we are distracted by the motion, the music and the lights. We can end up going nowhere. Ending up where we began.

Most of us are out of control racers who come around the turn at new year's and make general promises to ourselves and possibly others, we call them resolutions.

I am not a huge fan of new year's resolutions only because people wait for this time of year to make changes in their lives. When we know that change and challenge never waits for the ball to drop in Times Square. Change has to be an organic, inexorable, process of adaptability. (I also feel the same way about birthdays, weekends and summer vacations. Everyday is a chance to change and improve.) However, I do like any excuse to evaluate and reflect upon a time that has passed to commit ourselves to overcoming the gaps in our plans.

How do we avoid making the same general, non-measurable resolutions every year like:

  • Lose weight and exercise more
  • Read more
  • Make more time for a hobby, or start-up business
  • Devote more time to see friends and family

We know these never work. These safe, general, non-committal statements allow us to procrastinate. They are dejavu all over again. Success is not defined. Accountability is avoided. They are nice ideas that will never get traction without goals or milestones.

I always wanted a better life but now I realize I should have been more specific. (I paraphrase Lily Tomlin)

How many pounds by when? How many times a week? What will your resting heartbeat be? What about your BMI? What books, what hobby? And how far will you take your extra-curricular activities. When will you spend time with whom? Who will you help? From whom will you seek help?

Santa-Monica-merry-go-round-720x506Merry-Go-Rounds can give the exhilaration of movement and the delusion of enjoyment, until you realize you have not gone anywhere. 

As Les Brown says, "...then you find out you are behind with your bills and your dreams!"

How do we plan our lives to advance and evolve. Envision and then change, right? Set goals and execute?  Attack weaknesses and man up? 

Is change always about improvement in the future?

Or is it also about avoiding regrets and misery?

Do you respond to a positive vision or to avoiding the negative consequences of inaction? 

Pain or pleasure? Choose.

Is change always adding or is it also subtracting?

Is less sometimes more?

Before you add why not subtract. Maybe getting rid of plans, possessions, and even people will make a difference.

What got you here probably won't get you there. So change is necessary.

Change starts with you and how you envision your future self.

Let's make resolutions that scare us a little bit. Challenge us. Or don't make them at all.

Specify your goals, your timelines, your metrics, your deadlines and hold your self accountable to get off the Merry-Go-Round. 

Devoting more time for others. (Probably only second most popular resolution to weight loss) Needs specificity. Here are a few basic recommendations:

  1. Put these "others" on the top of your to-do list. Make them priorities.
  2. Make a list of the people who you want to reconnect with. Like the list of wines you want to buy or movies to see.....
  3. Schedule your priorities vs. prioritizing your schedule. Set dates and times to meet with, call, e-mail these "others" you supposedly care about.
  4. Set aside time every week to reconnect with someone you know or want to know better. Initiate the contact even if it is "their turn."

You will be the one who benefits from these connections. Yes, you will lead with your help, but you will be the one to reap the rewards of deepening your relationships with others.  

So, stop reflect now and often. Make specific goals for yourself. Hold yourself accountable based on your preferences. Schedule your priorities. These are the rings you are trying to grab to make your ride purposeful and fulfilling. Then your career will get off of the Merry-Go-Round loop and move you down the path.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers

Thanks for reading. John


We Need Your Art. We Need Your Cowbells!

Whether you are staring at a painting, watching a modern dance, glancing at graffitti, listening to an opera, or sharing a Youtube video---you appreciate what is creative, artistic, and therefore relevant. But do you understand it? Behind all of the art is an artist. Knowing more about the person who made the art can make all the difference in the world in how you perceive, understand, and ultimately enjoy that art.

I got the chance to learn from and about Jake Shimabukuro, the "Elvis Presley of the Ukelele", in a live interview I attended a few days ago. Like all great interviews you gain insight into the person and what makes them tick. His life is a great profile in passion, persistence, and the assistance of others. I gained some extraordinary life lessons from him that I'd like to share with you. Jakeshimabukuro-com-uploads-album_art-161-430x0

Here's a guy who loves the ukelele (oooh-k00-lay-lay). Born and raised in Hawaii where the uke is a respected instrument and cultural icon. Not something shared by us mainlanders. We think of it as a toy or perhaps a tropical party prop. The ukelele is taught in Hawaiian schools, much like the recorder is in the lower 48. So he learned the ukelele as a young kid and fell in love with it. He literally could not put it down when he was young. He said, "My parents had to pry the ukelele out of my hands, so  I could do other things, like eat." The ukelele has only four strings and so its range is more limited than a guitar, but Jake never thought way. "Once I learned 4 chords I could play 3000 Hawaiian songs." Maybe he exaggerated, but most ukelele players accepted these limits. Not Jake. He experimented, he mastered, he re-invented this tiny instrument over many years. All the while he tried to make a living playing in bands playing covers. After many years, his music won awards in Hawaii. And after a decade or so he recorded a few songs that included George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". He played this song in 2004 on a local Hawaiian tv show. A couple years later, one of the first videos uploaded onto Youtube in 2006 was this tv show starring Jake. Jake still does not know who uploaded it or how they got the video.  People were astounded by what he could do with a ukelele. Long story short it went viral, perhaps one of the first multi-million view Youtubes! It" launched" his career at the age of 29.

I first heard about Jake from the 2010 Ted conference. Watch!


TED Talk: Jake Shimabukuro plays "Bohemian... by TED  

Despite his growing fame and success he is a humble guy who knows his roots. He still loves the ukelele and he has become its greatest evangelist and ambassador. In fact, there is evidence that more people are selling, buying and playing the ukelele because of him! He continues to learn about how he can express himself through it. It is clear he is still an artist driven by his art. Refreshing to see and hear this.

Since he writes all of his own music, he uses a process to get into the emotion and state of mind of the inspiration of the music--like method acting he assumes the role before he plays for each song.

And for all these reasons I appreciate his art, his expressions--his music even more.

Here are the life lessons I got from his interview:

  1. Find your passion and pursue it with all of your heart. He said he feels each strum, each note inside his body before he expresses it. His talent is wrapped in his emotions--that's passsion!
  2. Relish the role of the under dog---the challenger. Don't be daunted by the negativity and the voices of doubt that intend to derail your dreams. Can you imagine how many people told him the ukelele would not be a good career choice?!
  3. Not only become proficient but improvise, free-style and make your passion express the uniqueness of you. One of his heroes is Bruce Lee. He admires how Lee mixed methods, styles, and disciplines to blend a new form of martial art. 
  4. Persistence, practice and never giving up pays off. First you are true to yourself and others will follow. Find people who support you and push you. Success is being you!
  5. When the door of opportunity opens, walk through it. When the kindness of strangers and "lady luck" shines on you--take advantage of it. An unknown person who loved how Jake played uploaded that video and transformed Jake's life.
  6. Use your emotions and passions to guide your best work. To bring the best out of you. Engage your feelings into your work and your "art"--express yourself authentically!

One of his new songs is More Ukelele. Jake wants the world to know and love the ukelele. He said this song was inspired by the following SNL skit More Cowbell!

Never will listen to Jake's music the same way. The same goes for you, the artist in you. When people understand who you are, why you do what you do---they see you, understand you and your causes more clearly. They appreciate you. 

Bang your cowbell---we need more cowbell!

Thanks for reading. John


Networking Choices that Change You

What you choose changes you. 

We are confronted with many choices everyday. We select when to get up, what we wear, eat, and what we do. We decide what our priorities are, what needs to be done and who are our friends will be. While we can sometimes feel that life happens to us, we choose many of the details. Possibly the most important thing we do is decide where our attention is placed. What we listen to, look at, and understand. These choices have consequences.

For example, it is popular urban legend that men go deaf when they have a tv remote in their hands. They block their wives pleas, questions, and requests. It is indisputable that men tune out women voluntarily when watching sports. The inevitable and predictable ire that comes from our impatient partners was a matter of choice. :)

Anyway, let's look at what appears to be an innocuous decision--where to sit in the office lunchroom. Shall I sit with my three buddies or at a larger table where I don't know many or any of the people? C'mon John, why would this matter--it's just lunch!!  Lunchroom

Again, we make thousands of decisions based on gut feelings, reflexive thought, and sheer habit. The truth is we don't think, we choose without thinking. As the neuro-scientists say, we use the neural pathways not the brain. 

Back on my question: Sit with a few friends or join the larger less familiar table?

The research shows that even this choice has truly unexpected consequences.

"We found that the people who sat at the larger tables had substantially higher performance," observes social scientist Ben Waber. This is because they had created a much bigger network to tap into. Over the course of the week, they saw the same people again and again. Consequently, they often knew what these colleagues were working on and could go to them if they had a problem. The employees at the smaller tables, on the other hand, had smaller networks and less opportunity to interact.

In fact  he and his colleagues found that people who consistently chose the larger tables had up to a 25% increase in happiness and productivity!

One of the tallest soap boxes I stand on is to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone. To question your habits by paying attention to your choices. To choose the new. Choose the different. Choose the adventure over the same ole same ole. Networking is a lifestyle of choices. You choose to build and strengthen your community of connections to help each other--to pursue your common goals. 

Many longitudinal studies show that you will live longer if you have a more diverse--meaning diverse perspectives--network. 

The diversity within your network also matters, the research team discovered. Waber found that people tend to spend time with those who are similar to them. "Whether it's gender, race or the school you went to, there are many different ways we break ourselves into groups."

Branch out and talk to people in groups you wouldn't normally talk to, suggests Waber. It doesn't have to be through a formal mechanism. "It can be through bumping into people by the coffee machine. Just standing there and chatting gives you new perspective. Our research shows that chance encounters make people more effective."

It's kinda obvious. When you connect with people at work beyond your circle and your department, you develop a larger network of resources at work. You learn what is going on and how to get things done. When you are more connected you know more and you care more. In short, you are on a path of increasing your confidence and broadening your influence. And by the way, your connections are not only changing you, they change the lives of the people with whom you are connecting. The combination of your greater performance and visibility will speak volumes about you. And how do you think this will help your career?

Next time you enter the lunchroom, the Boardroom, a reception, a cocktail party or a family event--choose to mix it up. Choose to connect with people you don't know and people different than you. And don't forget the people you know but don't know! Pay attention, get uncomfortable and engage the people around you.

Your conscious choices have consequences. Need some incentives? You will live longer and do better at work!

Your choices will change you. 

Thanks for reading. John


The Asian Crossover and Our Common Destiny

In May 0f 1992, Congress declared May as Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. It was an extension of their resolution to establish APA Heritage Week 14 years before. It is a special time to raise awareness about the APA communities' history and culture. It is also a time to re-ignite pride within the communities by celebrating the many achievements and galvanizing the APA community around issues, causes and challenges within our communities. While there are many good things about APA Heritage Month, I honestly have mixed feelings about a month set aside to focus on a specific ethnic group. For me every month is APA month! When you are an APA you confront the challenges of mis-information, ignorance and just sheer discrimination all of the time.

I am an Asian Crossover. No I am not talking about a new car that is part SUV and part sports coupe. Nor I am alluding to Jeremy Lin's sweet ankle breaking dribble move. I have been an APA who has worked in "mainstream" places and organizations for my whole career. I have been many times in my professional and personal career, the "first APA to lead/head" and organization, the "first APA" on a board or the "highest ranking APA" in very large organizations and industries. No brag here just fact---plus I am pretty old :) It actually is more a source of embarrassment to me that we have to use these labels even in 2012! Sadly we do, because we still have a long ways to go. My point is that I decided early on that I had an obligation, nee, a duty to help everyone, especially my "round eye" colleagues to be more sensitized to APA issues. I have also helped those organizations and industries engage more APA talent and customers. In general, you become the local Google search engine for APA questions and referrals. It is really tough representing millions of APAs and billions of Asians! :) Banana

But being an Asian Crossover has its price and costs. Some in the APA community consider you a "sell-out" or even a banana----yellow on the outside and white on the inside. (Asians are really good at copying others---clearly inspired by the Oreo designation in the African American community) I have been called a sell-out several times. But I knew who I was and who I was trying to become.

Being an Asian Crossover is a role that I do not shy away from. I decided I would bite my tongue and help as many others understand me and other APA communities no matter what was said or happened. I chose to become a bridge of understanding, with a specific focus on non-Asians. I always wanted to share what I have learned with the APA community--push APA talent to rise. But I learned there also needs to be a pulling force from the top of organizations, which is overwhelmingly non-Asian. Being a crossover means you have to do the pushing and the pulling.

This mindset enabled me enter new worlds with a purpose. To be very comfortable being the only person of color and usually the only Asian in the room. 25 years ago I was asked by KPCC, the NPR affiliate here in LA, to do an "Asian" show. KPCC was very interested in reaching the burgeoning Asian population in southern California, especially in the San Gabriel Valley. I told them that the only way they would reach these new Asians was by doing Asian language programming, starting with Mandarin. A couple years before I played a small part in launching the Jade Channel, a new cable tv channel with an array of Mandarin programming. I had a series of awkward conversations with the KPCC execs, about the challenges these new immigrants were having to assimilate and the high levels of discrimination they were already facing. Finally I told them I would do an "Asian" show focused on raising the awareness of non-Asians. I told them I would call it Asian Understanding. They were so pleased because they got their "Asian show". So for 10 years and 455 live shows I designed Asian Understanding as a crossover talk show, building bridges to the new and venerable APA communities through the arts, news, and personalities.

How do you take the bananas you are given and make a great banana milkshake? :)

Last Friday I was honored to be the keynote speaker at Southern California Edison's APA Heritage luncheon. All SCE's execs were in attendance, as well as SCE's APA partners, a smattering of SCE employees. It was a very formal and elegant luncheon filled with music, inspirational awards, and of course wonderful food. My speech themes followed my path as an Asian Crossover. To build bridges of understanding. To connect APAs with other communities. To strengthen our connection to our common destiny.

Here is an excerpt from my speech: Download SCE APA Heritage Final 5.4.12:

The greatest limitation to our advancement is our own imagination, our own concept of ourselves. We impose many constraints on ourselves. Yes there is discrimination, prejudice, racism and stereotyping. Sad to say these are omni present forces that can hold us back. But we must rise above these enemies of our growth and ambitions by becoming stronger. We have to grow to be more visible, more assertive, and better leaders. We cannot wait to be recognized, to be invited, we must seize our opportunities.

This is our time. Right now. To remember our ancestors to appreciate our opportunities. But what will we do to honor them?

It's not about me it is about we—our destinies are tied to one another

We have to live a life of passion and compassion.

We have lead by example and live our legacy.

We are many but are we much? We have much for which to be grateful. But what will we do to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. What will each of us do to make sure our kids understand the roots of their past and give them the wings to their future?

Each of us can crossover to other communities to build bridges between and amongst our communities of interest. And to discover new communities, new people, and new things along the way. This is the lifestyle of networking and mentoring. To connect to your own identities and to connect with others.

So I mark this 20th anniversary of APA Heritage Month, inspired by what has come before us and challenged by the road ahead. Any chance to remind myself of who I am and what I stand for is a great month. But next month and the month after are just as important times to use our uniqueness to connect our commonalities to strengthen our communities.

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


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

 


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 

 


Connecting the Dots

Steve Jobs lived a life of great trials and tribulations, great victories and achievements.

He pursued his passions and his curiosities, not because it was part of a plan. Because it fascinated him. He found work he loved which he never considered work. He met people, had ideas, and pursued thoughts, not in an effort to reach a goal. He connected dots that made sense only in hindsight.Dots

Here's what he said: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

  

Even if you have watched this before, watch it again! It is so inspirational particularly that we have lost him.

Steve Jobs has been likened to Thomas Edison, but I have always thought of him as a combination of Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg. He was no angel, few geniuses are. But a true visionary. Never had the opportunity to meet him but like most of us I admired his insatiable creativity and pursuit of excellence.

Think for a second that his seemingly innocuous logo symbol –Apple with a bite missing—is the forbidden fruit. He always pushed himself beyond the garden of eden. After all one of his daughters was named Eve!

His story is an American fairy tale of the emergence of greatness from humble and “average” beginnings. Those of us who have been around lots of kids, if you look carefully, you can see the genius in each one of them. The genius of uniqueness and of their unfettered spirit of the possibilities. The DNA cocktail is powerful and if it is allowed to take root and grow, amazing happens. But all too often we try to conform and guide our kids to follow a formula, often the parents vicarious recipe, for success. We want the kids to fit in. Yet we simultaneously hold a contradictory thought---we believe each individual is unique and special. Why then do we try and smooth out all of the wrinkles, remove all of the weird, and push and pull our young ones into a regimented line?

I contend we lose a Steve Jobs like kid everyday to our well intentioned desire to make all of the unique birds fly in formation.

I am an addict for vision. For the people who can lift their sights from their footsteps, up to the horizon and beyond. It is not that I do not value the past or the present, but I have long understood that being satisfied with the status quo is foolhardy. That life is an endless journey about improving our lot and the lots of those that follow. In that vein, people who are restless and unsettled about the current world, yearn for the next iterations. Steve Jobs was relentless and never satisfied—that’s the way visionaries are.

We each have visions for our future, for our families future and for our sociiety. We need those visions.

One of his greatest lessons is his view of life as connecting dots. Life is the pursuit of things and people that fascinate you, that capture your imagination, that drive your curiosity and passion--with no guarantees. These are the dots that you should connect. But instead of myopically accumulating dots with a plan. Like a bad scavenger hunt, you collect interesting dots that connect you to new ideas about yourself and the possibilities.

If you can not make sense of the people and experiences you encounter except through hindsight, then how do you know if you are doing it “right”? A better question is, how can you reject the opportunity to meet someone or to experience something if you won’t know the value until later?

Actually that is what this little blog is about. Trusting yourself to take chances and to make leaps of faith. A lifestyle of connections not driven by selfish needs but a lifestyle of making connections to help people and to discover the world. A world that will teach us about ourselves by trusting our guts and our hearts to become the best of who we were meant to be.

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


Break out of your comfortable prison cell

The prison of comfort keeps our dreams locked up.

This prison of comfort has many amenities. Soft cushy habits that we know well. The warm feeling of certainty about what is right and wrong in our lives. And a furry blanket of our friends and family who agree with our view of the world.Prison

This prison has a huge impact on how we view our networking and mentoring opportunities and possibilities.

By the way, I am painfully aware of the size and dimensions of my own cell and I try to advance my escape plan everyday! It is hard work. What I have discovered is making a serious adjustment to the lens I employ makes a difference. How am I limiting my perspective of the world? Trying to switch from a telephoto to a wide angle lens makes a big difference for me. Yes, seeing the forest of life, rather than gazing at our own little tree.

My painful experiences as a counselor working with incarcerated youth for the California Youth Authority taught me about prisons. One of the impediments for juveniles to get out of the system was the certainty and comfort provided  by the system. --Their growing dependency on the structure of stability was way more powerful than any dream of a different tomorrow. Human nature makes us loyal to comfort.Our perception of certainty imprisons us to avoid change and stress.

This week I had several glimpses of the prisons we build:

  • Invited a colleague to hear Michelle Rhee speak about the state of education--She told me in declining my invite, "I don't agree with anything she says." (Btw, never heard her speak in person)
  • Referred an acquaintance to a job opportunity--"Not what I am looking for", I was told.
  • A psychotherapist told me (not mine:), "My clients are incapable of pursuing the desirable path of greater resistance."
  • Headline in the Pacific Citizen: "Asians do not make great leaders"

Reminded me of the exchanges in that extraordinary film My Dinner with Andre, like this one:

Andre: But, Wally, don't you see that comfort can be dangerous? I mean, you like to be comfortable and I like to be comfortable too, but comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility.

Andre: They've built their own prison, so they exist in a state of schizophrenia. They're both guards and prisoners and as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they've made, or to even see it as a prison.

"No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal.”

Marilyn FergusonPrison door

I have had many hard yet gratifying lessons by "pre-judging" opportunities. The mistake of dis-associating myself from entire groups of people because of my experience with one or two. By limiting my experiences and therefore my understanding by defaulting to my comfortable certainty. These lessons have helped me traverse sectors and make career changes. It has shown me that I am the guard who has the keys to my own prison cell.

Here is one of the simplest keys to get you out of prison--Consider the possibility that you are wrong about your assumptions. Wrong about your assumptions about people, paths, possibilities, and opportunities. The very possibility that you could be wrong opens doors and maybe your mind.

Don't misinterpret me. This is not a command to turn your life upside down and abandon all of your comfortable people and things. But at the very least you need to take brief leaves from your prison cell to exercise your ideas about your present and future. See things before you dismiss them. Experience them before you avoid them. Don't limit your network or your mentors to your prison mates. And most of all listen to your heart, your calling. What is calling you? And why aren't you unlocking your prison door and going down the desirable path of greater resistance? The world outside of our prisons is vast and amazing.

Thanks for reading. John


Are you SWiVELicious----Can you SWiVEL?

SWiV·EL   (swvl): to link, pivot and move freely

Yes there is a new look and banner for my blog.  After more than 150 postings and about 30,0000 page views I decided my blog needed a makeover. SWiVELtime is a bit more succinct, plus the url SWiVELtime was available :). SWiVEL is a one page guide I developed many years ago to help people focus on their career paths and directions. Strengthen What I Value, Enjoy, and Love. Networking and mentoring are like everything else in life they are driven by goals--what we want. So to network and mentor well you have to SWiVEL. I try to SWiVEL everyday. (by the way, the "i" is lower case in SWiVEL because "I" should always be smaller than the things I want to achieve and the people and ideas I want to support)

Let me know what you think of the new look and give me feedback on my blog. I relish your requests and suggestions. Please click the feedback tab above and help me improve my blog. Thanks!

I have distributed thousands of these SWiVELs in my workshops, workplaces, and downloaded from my blog. It has evolved over the years. The SWiVEL is one page because I was told that "no one has time for anything longer." But as Coach Wooden said, "Anything that can be put into a nutshell belongs in one." So the SWiVEL is jammed with questions and thoughts that are not simple or easy to blurt out. To be done well the SWiVEL needs time and thought.Bad_boy_ent 

A combination of people asking me for resources and a meeting with Jon Cropper triggered the birth of the SWiVEL. Jon, who was the brains behind Nissan's cool ads and Shift campaigns 10 years ago, and I had several energetic and pyrotechnic conversations. Jon liked to use a dialectic process of basically starting an argument by asking a pointed question. He liked to induce verbal collisions and to see the new products, ideas, and thoughts which were generated. He was a creative guy who lived off of the creative process. I liked his energy and his non-stop thought process. I wanted to hang with him to see if I could learn something by enduring his sado-masochistic intellectual process. At one of our first one-on-one meetings, he asked in an antagonistic tone, "WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR KOBARA?!! WHO ARE YOU?!" I was momentarily stunned and then proceeded to recite some drivel about what my title was and my duties at work. He interrupted me, I AM CROPPER! The C stands for Creative, the R for Responsibility, the O for Original, the P Passion.....(I actually forget the rest:) WHAT DOES KOBARA STAND FOR?!! I feebly tried to make my Japanese surname into a compelling acronym as Jon stared me down across the restaurant table. The pressure was on! "K is for knowledge and O for opportunity and B is for.... " I threw up my hands and said, "I am not going to do this!" I started to discuss what was important to me and my life. We had a pretty deep conversation, especially between two people who did not know one another well. The conversation was provocative but not very satisfying.

Jon's question haunted me and I did not sleep well for a couple of days. WHO WAS I and WHAT DID I STAND FOR? Important questions that can not be answered by what I was doing or by tasks or projects. It lead me to write down my thoughts and questions. Out of this process the SWiVEL was created.

A month later, I saw Jon again. We met over lunch and before he literally sat down, I confronted him. "HEY CROPPER, WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR TODAY?! CAN YOU SWiVEL? CAN YOU?!! He meekly says "Swivel?" YEAH SWiVEL?, I retort. I pull my one page SWiVEL out of my back pocket and slam it down on the table like I had won a card game. Jon picks up the SWiVEL and starts to read. He looks up over the page with an evil smile---"I made you do this didn't I?"  He certainly inspired me.Caves

Like so many times when I have entered a scary cave of ideas led by new spelunkers I met through  networking, and emerged unharmed and more courageous. I like being mentored and confronted with reality. I gained from the process of not accepting the meaningless words we tend to use to describe ourselves, our lives, and our futures.

Jon Cropper moved to NY to pursue his career in marketing with his disruptive take no prisoners approach. There was little doubt he would be more successful. I lost touch with him and recently learned that he is CMO for Bad Boy entertainment, Sean Diddy Combs' multi-faceted entertainment firm. Perfect.

Try to SWiVEL. Complete the online version by clicking the SWiVEL tab above or Download SWIVEL_new_2011 for your writing pleasure.

The SWiVEL attempts to focus you on what's important to you right now and how those thoughts propel you ahead to greater success and helping others.

Nevertheless, it is always SWiVELtime!

Thanks for swiveling and reading. John


5 Lessons on Connecting, Conversations and Courage

I try to push myself, stumble into, and/or be introduced to new ideas and people everyday. I have great weeks and less successful weeks. This was an especially good one. Things came together and I had many moments of inspiration and education. Over the years I have learned to say YES to invitations, to suggestions, and to introductions, especially if it will expand my thinking. It takes up time and energy, but I always get more than I invest. Let me share five lessons from the last 5 work days.

1. On Monday I watched this video by Brene Brown about connecting, vulnerability, and courage. The word courage comes from the Latin word for heart and is roughly translated into "the ability to tell your story with your whole heart." That is hard to do. To take a risk by revealing yourself and accepting who you are with all of your imperfections. "Being willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are." And she asserts that these traits are essential to connection and to be able to connect. By being "vulnerable" you will be more capable of meaningful relationships and a meaningful life. Powerful research, revelations and messages.  

2. I attended a webcast and panel discussion for the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, where 400 diverse people compelled by the injustices of the Jim Crow laws uprooted themselves and went south to join the fight to end segregation in public transportation. Whites, Asians, Jews, and others left their studies and their lives up north to help "strangers". These freedom riders felt deeply connected to these southern blacks and they took action to help them. Hard to believe this happened during my lifetime and I was so grateful to be reminded of this history and these acts of courage and sacrifice to connect and help others change history. Rosa_parks-1

3. Wednesday, I got the chance to hear Daniel Pink speak about his relatively new book about motivation--DRIVE. The main takeaway from his very engaging presentation was that financial incentives are not effective unless the work does not require a brain. In other words, incentives (including financial) rarely work for things where you have to think. That the most effective incentives come from within, There are three main motivators: 1) Autonomy--freedom to make decisions and the latitude to act independently. 2) Mastery--the ability to pursue personal and professional growth through improving one's skills and abilities, 3) Purpose--Work that is connected to something meaningful, something bigger and more important than yourself, engaged and sustained the employees more.

4. Thursday, I interviewed a candidate who surprised me. He dug down deep to tell us about himself. We asked what his former bosses would agree was the one thing that he had to improve. He had always been told that he was not living up to his potential (a curse indeed!). I asked him to tell us one part of his potential that HE wanted to improve. He paused and thought for a brief moment and said, "I need to believe in myself. I need to push myself beyond what I think my limits are. I need to assert myself to see what my capacity is."

5. Friday, I had dinner with my dear friend Nat Irvin. He is a business professor at the University of Louisville who studies and teaches about the future. He thinks about THE future all of the time. When you are with Nat you are immediately transported into his world of ideas and trends that boggle your mind. We discussed the origins of lightning, the state of technology, and geography of ideas. There is nothing calm or casual about our conversations. I love it when I feel my grey matter stretching in new ways. I reach out to him every few weeks to get an Irvin dosage of the future. During the last couple of days, I introduced him to several of my colleagues and friends to give him a flavor of LA people who think about and create the future. These interviews seemed to help Nat get new perspectives on the city of angels and what lies ahead. Nat knows that people like to talk about their futures and THE future and they open up to him. I received a bunch of follow-up e-mail and voicemail, thanking ME for the opportunity to meet Nat. Here is an excerpt from just one:

John, our conversation evoked so many emotions and insights about myself that I was completely blown away. I felt so comfortable being interviewed by him, the words that came out of my mouth literally flowed like a raging river.....ahh its hard to explain..I've never spoken to a close family member or friend, let alone a complete stranger about things so interpersonally deep. I am an open book with people around me, but usually I am the person trying to open other persons pages. LiveWholeHeartedly-wholeHearted

When you truly connect with people and you open your mind and your heart, you become vulnerable and courageous--you speak with your "whole heart". You learn about yourself and appreciate yourself. And yet you feel more connected to others. As Dr. Brene Brown says, we must let go of what we should be and become who we are. We all have the human need to connect, but we have to make the connection and then share and learn from each other. We see our imperfect potential and embrace it. When we do, our view of ourselves becomes clearer, the world becomes smaller, and the needs of others grows in importance. This is the most fertile soil to cultivate the seeds of meaning, purpose, passion and how we will impact the future. We realize that we have more control over our futures than we thought and our obligation to tap into our potential becomes more urgent.

I wonder what next week will bring and whether I will be open to the possibilities and opportunities.

Thanks for reading. John


A network of friction: The human particle accelerator

Traction is gained when points of friction – even small ones – push off against one another and enable movement. Until there are two opposable surfaces, there will be no traction. Our goal in developing an action plan is to place strategic points of friction in our life so that we are gaining traction on a regular basis.  Todd Henry (Accidental Creative)

Traction comes from friction. And friction comes from differences. People talk about oil/water or black/white or positives/negatives. We all know you need to mix these ingredients in reality to produce necessary and important nuances, shades, and indeed solutions in our lives. This is the crucible of art and science. Of invention and true creativity. The collision of opposites in the super collider/particle accelerator of life generates new paradigms and ideas that advance our thinking and our perspectives. Without these collisions and encounters ideas become isolated and insulated. Cooking would be utterly boring. Art would be bland. We would all be clones. Life would be predictable and dull.Particle accelerator

Over the last 40 years, scientists have been accelerating atoms and atomic components at super high speeds to reveal new components, understand space and time dynamics, develop new sources of light and energy.

A particle accelerator[1] is a device that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams.

We all want to accelerate our goals into more well-defined beams, don't we?

I know some of you want predictability, at least you think you do. Others say they also want stability. You really don't, but you say you do. Besides being distracting and self deceptive, it delays reality--the reality of what you REALLY want. What you really want is an inner feeling of engagement of your talent and your potential. Challenges, chances and opportunities. A sense of purpose and meaning. These require changes and dare I say, instability and unpredictability.

Traction requires friction-- not controversy, anger, and animus, but tactile and intellectual differences to push up against one another. That creative tension between perspectives that yields a different thought or point of view to  advance. To move forward whatever that means to you. A feeling of uneasiness that makes you uncomfortable because it rings true. The truth about your deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. 

But what are the sources of productive and creative friction, besides our inner gnawing desire to reach our potential?

Isolation is your problem, not your lousy attitude.  Barbara Sher

It's time to question your network, your sources of support and inspiration. Often your current kitchen cabinet, also accepts you as you are. Apparently, many of them think the status quo is fine. Or maybe you are fortunate and you have a friction network that pushes and pulls you to be your best. Not dissatisfaction with who you are but who you could be--and want to be.

For me and my experiences, you have to seek differences, new ideas, and different points of view through the people you meet, confide in, and learn from. You build your own human particle accelerator/collider of friction that literally forces you to confront yourself in a collision of expectations and perceptions. Re-investing in your network, by assessing your current network, by going to people you know (but don't know), and by seeking new vantage points, will ultimately pay off in opportunity dividends. It will be people you know and meet who will help transform you and give you traction. You can not do it alone. If the status quo is satisfying, then enjoy it. If it isn't, then make a concerted effort to diversify and expand your portfolio of advisers.

Just learned from my cousin that this speech I gave was posted online. It describes part of my particle accelerator/collider network that created friction in my life that continues to propel me forward. The human source of the traction, chances and opportunities I have been fortunate to encounter and take.

 

John Kobara Honored by Coro from Edward Headington on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading. John


New deadly STD: OMBYism

In my recent encounter with Father Greg Boyle, the famed gang interventionist and founder of Homeboy Industries, he quoted Mother Teresa. "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." He said the measure of our ability to care about one another will be realized "when we love more than who loves us." He has spent most of his life loving gang members and helping them put their lives back together.

In contrast, many people overwhelmed by the world around them have decided that taking care of themselves and their own immediate families is all they can do. And they have convinced themselves that if everyone else just did the same then the world would be a better place. This way of thinking has led us to a number of socially transmitted diseases. (STDs)

NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) is one of the long standing STDs.These infected people want everything just not in their neighborhood. Freeway off ramps, trash disposal, mass transit, homeless shelters, commercial development, schools, elder care etc. I remember well the families that appeared at a local City Council meeting to protest a Montessori pre-school operated out of a Victorian home for more than 100 years (Julia Child went there). The school served 76 kids! "The sound of children" was just too much for these sensitive and angry neighbors. Ultimately, the school had to build higher walls around it to better contain the laughter and pitter patter of little feet. These NIMBYists wanted better schools in the neighborhood but not next door, even when that school was there decades before their homes were built. I know it makes no sense, but that is how toxic the seemingly incurable NIMBYism disease can be. Backyard

I have discovered a vicious new strain of NIMBYism and the fastest growing STD--OMBYism--Only My Back Yard--this deadly disease triggers several brutal symptoms causing the sufferer to experience extreme self-centeredness, myopia, and ethnocentrism. These are followed by an uncontrollable penchant to live in gated communities, a significant decline in empathy for others, and an obsessive desire to maintain the status quo. OMBYists are devoted to only taking care of their back yard and their family. They have very stunted and homogenized networks. Their credo is: Love only who loves you, especially if they are like you.

The infuriating flaw with this selfish approach to life fails to recognize that a pampered family will have to live in a real  world that looks nothing like that back yard. The OMBYists superiority complex and self righteous attitude are artificial prophylactics against reality. And that the children of these infected parents breed unnecessary prejudice between their kind and the rest of the world.

Only loving who loves you is the breathing standard of living a meaningful life. Of course we love our families! Yes we love people back. But our lives will be defined by how we pro-actively broaden that circle. How we embrace others outside of our families and our clone communities. Father Greg Boyle talks about how learning to love gang members has deepened his perspective to see the other side of the tracks literally. There is no purely good and purely bad when it comes to humans and the human struggle. The world is becoming more complex. The easy way out is to define the limits of our spheres of influence as our family, immediate circle of friends and the edge of our fence lines. To over simplify the world into the good and the evil by deluding ourselves that somehow we are better than the others.

I recently met a man who wanted to make a shift from working at an elitist and highly privileged institution to a community based organization. He said his life goal is to help the "under-served" and the "less fortunate" people in our society. It sounded a bit insincere, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. So I said, "That's a wonderful life mission. So how do you help the "under-served and less fortunate" now?" He looked at me like I called him a dirty name. He was flustered and said, "That's my goal, not what I do now!" He went on to explain how busy he is, how demanding his job is, that he has a couple of teenagers, and he likes playing golf occasionally........His words faded as I saw the letters O--M--B--Y appear on his forehead. In other words, he has no time for others outside of his backyard. No time to do anything except take care of thyself and thy heirs. He only thinks about the "under-served and the less fortunate",when he is trying to impress others and feel less guilty. Kid

Adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle is an antidote to the onset of NIMBYism and OMBYism. While we should take care of and enjoy our verdant back yards, the world outside of those walls is so much more beautiful and filled with real people who are under-served and less fortunate. We have to break down those fences and walls. We have to create connections and relationships that add value and build  broader communities that can confront and overcome the challenges we face, by loving many more than love us.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Multi-generational Networking and Mentoring

If we are honest with ourselves we all harbor prejudices about others who are different from ourselves.Stereotypes persist because they contain a grain of truth. However, we learn that stereotypes confine a group to a convenient little box. Stereotypes ultimately hold back a group, especially if they are not in control.Once we discover for ourselves the truth by meeting and getting to know people, we find out how limiting and pernicious stereotypes can be.

One of the most misunderstood prejudices is between the generations. Always been the case, but today it is amplified by life expectancy the profound differences in the accelerated changes, experiences, and historical events that have shaped each group's point of view. Like all discussions of differences, there is a fine line between education/awareness and reinforcing stereotypes. That being said, thinking about and understanding these differences is a part of appreciating commonalities. Generational

Take this Generation IQ test to see how you fare. And then check out the chart below to remind you about  the basic differences among the generations.

Boomers and the Millennials may have the biggest generation gap. Not just in years, but in world views. One irony is the former formed the latter's mindset. This is highlighted in the workplace. Boomer bosses can't understand the work ethic or what they perceive the lack of one. And Millennials are peeved by the attempts to make them fit into the old set of rules that have not proven to make the world any better. Like all divergent points of view, both are correct. Nothing gets done unless there are bridges of mutual benefit and understanding are built.

This is where networking and mentoring come to the rescue. Everybody wants to be listened to and to be understood. Spending the time to get to know one another will enable you to find out that you want the same basic things. Some of the issues are pretty insignificant. Some flex in the rules and hours. Making the impact of the work more palpable, more meaningful, and more understood. And giving the youth guidance on the path to their goals. I have found these steps help. Bottom line: listen and find the common grounds before making any statments or pronouncements. 

Traditionalists

Civics

born 1920-1944

Baby Boomers

born 1945-1964

Generation X

born 1965-1976

Millennials

Gen Y

Born 1977-1994

Context

Great Depression, WWII

“Sixties”,Vietnam Advent of TV, Civil Rights

Iran Hostages, Divorce, Latch-keys, Microwave Ovens

Computers, Internet, Helicopter parents, 9/11

Population

30 million

36 million

50 million

77 million

Work Style

By the book - "how" is as important as "what" gets done

Get it done - whatever it takes - nights and weekends

Find the fastest route to results; protocol secondary

Work to deadlines - not necessarily to schedules

Authority/
Leadership

Command/control; rarely question authority

Respect for power and accomplishment

Rules are flexible; collaboration is important

Value autonomy; less inclined to pursue formal leadership positions

Communication

Formal and through proper channels

Somewhat formal and through structured network

Casual and direct; sometimes skeptical

Casual and direct; eager to please

Recognition/
Reward

Personal acknowledgement and compensation for work well done

Public acknowledgement and career advancement

A balance of fair compensation and ample time off as reward

Individual and public praise (exposure); opportunity for broadening skills

Work/Family

Work and family should be kept separate

Work comes first

Value work/life balance

Value blending personal life into work

Loyalty

To the organization

To the importance and meaning of work

To individual career goals

To the people involved with the project

Technology

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Necessary for progress

Practical tools for getting things done

What else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, mentoring offers the most powerful tool to span the ravine between the boomers and the millennials. Millennials want to learn and grow and they want to define success. Boomers need new ideas, technology and energy. On the surface this is a marriage made in heaven.

"Mentoring young employees is a tested way to transfer knowledge, and there are mutual benefits. "There's a lot to be said for reverse mentoring," says Piktialis. "Younger workers can learn about the organization and social networking from older employees, but experienced workers can also gain so much in terms of new technology and proficiency." Use your younger employees for sharing and training on the latest software and hardware; they will feel valued for their skills, and your older employees will benefit by staying current. says Diane Piktialis, research working group leader of the Conference Board.

I learned this the hard way when I led my first start-up. I realized my limitations in the new tech world and I swallowed my pride and engaged younger mentors to help me understand and lead with the best information. In exchange, I showed them all of my bag of tricks and gave them more opportunities. Later I turned this into a more intentional process to make sure we captured this two-way mentoring process to benefit the organization's mission. In the end mutual goals were achieved and both the mentee and the mentor were better off.

Consider a skill based mentoring program where mentor and mentee are matched on interests, not seniority or position in the organization. Here's an excerpt from a program touted by the University of Texas:

Consider creating a mentoring program based on your workers’ skills and not based on their function or seniority in the organization. This new and different approach gives any employee from any generation a way to transfer or receive a new skill. For example, an employee might want to learn how to “tweet,” another employee may want to learn how to coach. Whoever possesses that skill within the organization, on any level, can share that information with their co-workers. This model allows all generations to learn together in a way that doesn’t threaten anyone’s position, because it centers on learning different skills from a variety of co-workers.

While technology is the easiest focus for some boomers, look deeper for other connecting points. And for the millennials, leadership and management may be the obvious topic. If you take a complete interest inventory, you will discover other opportunities to enhance the skill and knowledge needs in your organization.

Being a leader today requires you to engage tools and processes to optimize the talents and potential in the people you manage or work with. It requires you to create new partnerships, alliances, and mentorships to be successful.

No one wants to be accused of discrimination or prejudice--although it exists. Understanding these generational differences makes us better employees, managers, marketers, parents, and customer servers. Advancing mutually beneficial ideas that connect parties of different generations may be a productive first step across the generational canyon. Connecting and listening always help. Skill based mentoring may be a tangible way to make more progress between the cubicles and offices and beyond.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Opening Cliques, Circles, and Closed-mindedness

Some habits are ingrained in us at such an early stage of our lives. We try to change some of these things we do but change is tough. When we look back at our childhoods we can laugh at our immaturity and our uninformed ways. But if we are honest and take a comprehensive look at our upbringing and our early experiences, we can see how some persistent habits in our lives formed long ago are still with us. What am I talking about? How we relate to others and others different than ourselves. The formation of our circles of friends. The creation of our networks. The ultimate membership in our communities. All can be heavily influenced by our childhood experiences. Who we are, who we like, who we are comfortable with, who we trust.....

Remember when we were in junior high (middle school) and then high school? We had to start choosing the groups of friends that would define us and sometimes categorize us. Jock, preppy, brainiac, emo, stoner...the ethnic clusters and any other attributes that could determine where you sat at lunch or who you were seen with. Circle of ceramic friends And once you self-selected or where peers pushed you, it was hard to be a part of multiple cliques that crossed groups. It was especially tough on those who were un-affiliated--the loners. We now know that most of these choices had little impact on our success or future paths. Or did they?

A number of school districts, including Hawthorne California, are attempting to disrupt the formation of these cliques they see as reinforcing stereotypes and even bigotry. Before we discard this as another liberal initiative to have political correctness in our schools, read on. Well established that cliques or friendship circles are essential to the normal development of a kid. You play soccer, therefore you hang with the futbolers. You are academically oriented so you cavort with scholars. You think looks determine success so your crew is "beautiful". etc etc. No program is going to change these natural gravitational and centripetal forces. But taken to the extreme, say in prison, your "clique" is an ethnic gang and you have to maim or kill a rival prisoner as part of your initiation. I am still personally distraught over a white kid I was counseling 30 years ago who had to join an Aryan prison gang that guaranteed his life imprisonment. And today, the sophistication and the segregation by gangs and ethnicity is out of control. Regrettably some of these prison behaviors start to manifest themselves on our school campuses. In diverse communities in LA and other parts of the country, young students may have to bond with their ethnicity over their interests. So segregation around race, income etc starts to show up. Yes, yes, this starts with parents, but our schools are where peer pressure plays out.  

Don't get me wrong, cliques can create structure and reinforce the good and the moral. But they can also do the opposite. 

So back at Hawthorne public schools. These schools are trying gentle and innovative ways to get students to mingle and to connect to different students. I guess early childhood education now includes early networking education--love it! They sponsor "Mix-it-Up Days", a national project sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Program Mix it upthat encourages social boundary crossing. But also helps many students form new social connections. The disconnected are as worrisome as the exclusively connected. So starting in elementary school, Hawthorne has provided the Mix it Up sessions with good success as reported by LA Times reporter Carla Rivera this week. One student, Paige(11)said she was not able to join groups with the wealthy kids. Shayna, another student, "Before I might have chosen to sit alone rather than with new people because it felt safer." So at an early stage young people recognize and start to internalize where they belong or not.

I hear the exact same things In the workshops I do for adults that have been out of high school for 20 years+!!  Making connections outside of our comfort zones that expand our networks is an elusive goal because of our learned and comfortable habits. Introducing ourselves to people we interact with on a daily basis--like our neighbors or work colleagues, remains a challenge for mysterious reasons. I have written and spoken about the proven health benefits derived from forming diverse relationships that test your thinking and challenge your assumptions. Yet, our habits, our socialization and our own fear keeps our orbit close to the planets we know and further from new discoveries. So, if we don't make an effort to connect to new and different people, our personal and community healths are at stake.

My parents helped me understand how important it was to learn new things and to meet new people. It has never been easy, but the benefits of expanding my horizons, disabusing myself of stereotypes and old falsehoods has kept me going back for more. Never too late to learn a lot from kids and our children. Mixing it up has to be the never ending goals of avoiding the complacency of settling for the status quo of our existing clique or circle of friends, strengthening our sense of connectedness by meeting new people AND rejecting our limited world views as the truth. It all starts by sticking out your hand out and introducing yourself

Thanks for reading. John