open source

My Musings on Mentoring

A couple young friends of mine Joaquin Beltran and Chris Schlaufman, started this new web community called Mentorvine--an online community where "aspiring individuals connect with experienced professionals" to advance careers. For those of you having trouble following along I have been cast as the "experienced professional".  :)

My stream of consciousness on mentoring:

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


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


The amazing networks of strangers

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
Margaret Mead 

First a shout out to my friends and colleagues of APEX, the premiere Asian American professional networking group here in SoCal. APEX celebrated its sweet 16 birthday last night. For the last two years, APEX has been under the fantastic leadership of Hogan Lee who has taken founder Stephen Liu's vision to new heights. There are many things I like about APEX. I have watched it grow and mature. Today it enables thousands of youngish Asian Americans (I am too old :) and new immigrant Asians to develop their confidence through mentoring, networking, leadership and service. 

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 Apex has grown well beyond the typical networking and mingling orgs that connect young people for business and pleasure and evolved into a formidable community resource for new leaders. I have always advised joining organizations that have purpose and meaning to network v.s. joining a networking org that has no other purpose.  Some people are still critical of ethnic oriented groups because they segregate. What those critics don't understand is groups, especially immigrant and under-represented groups, need to build bridges of commonality to integrate the tremendous ambitions and talents of the very diverse Asian American community into the greater society. To be honest we need more APEX-like orgs. Congrats to Hogan and his leadership team for their accomplishments. 

This last week I was reminded of the power of strangers networking. Previously unconnected people coming together for a common purpose, driven by self interest resulting in collective benefit. Howard Rheingold said in his book , "Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation."  

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James Surowieki in his book the Wisdom of Crowds asserted how valuable the informed perspectives of the many are to see the whole and to derive more effective solutions. 

Open source organizations have led the way using smart mobs and wise crowds for many years. Open source, some say open architecture, allows for contributions and improvements to come from diverse peer-based sources v.s. a closed controlled and hierarchical system. You have undoubtedly heard of or used many open source products/services. WikipediaFirefox, and Moodle come to mind. Linux pioneered open source development where volunteers and peers update and improve the software or service driven by their own professional development AND contributing to the common good. Most often these products and services are free to use as well. 

Beyond open source, there are numerous examples where smart crowds are gathering. I just joined Groupon. (a commercial enterprise) Have you seen this? Bulk buying with strangers. A deal is offered in your home city (24 now) and a minimum number of purchasers to get the deal is announced. The deal is not good until that number is reached within a set time. Sort of an eBay bid for a Buy it Now with a minimum number of buyers. Brilliant. 

One of the hottest trends in philanthropy are giving circles.  Giving circles are groups of like minded people who gather offline and online to use the wisdom of the group to find worthy recipients of their collective charity. Smaller groups are more enjoyable and more effective.Today giving circles account for $100mm of gifts annually.

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I have been a huge fan of Donorschoose.org. They have led the way in making small project donations delightful and easy. Donorchoose enables tens of thousands of teachers (250,000 so far) to post their requests for supplies, special class projects, and field trips. A donor can contribute as little as $1. Here's the great part: Donorchoose receives the donations, delivers the purchases, including the field trips to the teachers AND thanks the donors. If you give $100 or more your get a report on how the donation was used and the impact it had. What has been a pleasant surprise is that donors are not just geographically focused, but also funding ideas and subjects across the nation. For example, donors who love Shakespeare, search and fund those projects locally and across the country. Donorschoose calls it Citizen Philanthropy and they have set a standard that all fundraising orgs should follow.

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Patientslikeme
 is another incredible site where you can connect with other people and their networks who have similar medical challenges. And get the benefit of wise and smart crowds.

I have learned how to rely on strangers on the net, I am trying to translate that to my face-to-face life! How much wiser would we be? How much smarter would our decisions be?-- if we would work and think together in an open source way. 

Thanks for reading. John