parachutes

Making the Jump

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

Skydive jump
Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

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

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

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

Skydive feet
Me over the north shore of Oahu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skydive family
Me and my kids

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


A Life of Internships

I think experiential learning is the most important and meaningful form of education. In my humble opinion learning by doing has no peer. The idea of internships may be at least 150 years old. Its origins really come from the medical profession where docs in training learn, under expert supervision, about the body and the various disciplines--to understand the whole of medicine and in part to select a specialty. I love this as an metaphor for life and careers--Continuous education about the "body" of your work and your life. A process to adapt, morph, and sharpen your understanding of what you want and the whole of who you are becoming. 

For students in school, internships may be more important than any elective. A student who graduates without experience: volunteer, internship, apprenticeship, or work is at a serious disadvantage. But more important, the student--now just an alum--has not learned about what they want. One's career development can not come from a book or even a blog for that matter. :)

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.  Confucious

For students of life ( that would be everyone!) the concept of internships has to be adopted as a part of your life. Shorter stints that stimulate your intellectual and spiritual self. Internships are "test drives", career dress rehearsals, due diligence with experiences.

So internships have been elevated to a new level. They enjoy a new popularity and status amongst people who left the ivy covered halls decades ago. Now there is even a movie coming out this summer about this! Why? Simply put, people are trying to adapt. Trying to figure out what they are going to do next. They lack the experience in a field that appeals to them. But this movie and the popularity of internships are too often thought of as an emergency oriented intervention. A drastic last resort step that requires sacrifice and risk to reboot a career. While that can and does work, internships are most effective as a mindset. An open mindset of learning, seeking experiences, and for mentorships. Testing new ideas, interests and embracing failure. 

One of my major gripes is the linear nature of people's approach to education, career development.... There are steps, there is myopia, there is a focus that ultimately ends the same way--too many eggs in the same narrow basket of experience. Wow, is that risky!

How do you become multi-talented, multi-facted? How do you invest in your career to make it more recession proof? More resilient to change, turbulence, and downturns? No financial portfolio that intends to grow and survive is invested in one thing. You need growth opportunities, and less risky investments that "hedge" the downside. You need international and domestic. You need large cap and small cap. The same applies to a career. Silly to rely on a single job to sustain your development.  

Every good job is an temporary assignment that is an adventure, a seminar and is fulfilling. Dick Bolles 

I think life is an internship, many internships. You enroll in internships to continue to grow, experiment, and learn. Your job is your core internship. Your hobby is an internship. Your start-up on the side is an internship. Your volunteer work is an internship. 

Your approach to all of your internships is the same. Who will mentor/teach me? What do I want to learn? What will make this experience meaningful to me? 

If we understand the truth that nothing is permanent. That our expertise is perishable. That our connection to our evolving personal, spiritual, financial, and professional needs needs to be dynamic. Then we realize that doing our job will predictably and inevitably lead to dissatisfaction and worse--the inability to transition to other worlds. This always makes the whole of life less rewarding. So how will you change this outcome? 

Fish out of water
Courtesy of Start-Up You

Throughout my career (of internships) I have worked with and met many people who have used internships well. A few examples:

  • 24 year old employee who asked to do "extra work" at a school mentoring project I was managing. This was an internship added onto her job.  She wanted experience with "education". Today she is a principal of a school.
  • 48 year old consultant with an MBA who interns to use his expertise to help non-profits become more sustainable. 
  • 30 year old lawyer who wanted to go into marketing and volunteered for the marketing committee of her favorite charity. Today she is the head of marketing at a telcom company.

They came to the realization that there current "portfolios" were inadequate. They needed to branch out. They had to diversify.

Here's the kicker, internships super charge your network. New colleagues are a new network. While you should invest in reinvigorating and deepening your network at your job, having a constellation of mentors and networks has gigantic advantages.

So I am advocating that you evaluate your current opportunities for internships. Follow your heart and find intentional experiential assignments both in your job and outside that will deepen your understanding of the body of your work and life.  

Thanks for reading. John


What color is your network?

Years ago, I was on a career panel with Dick Bolles who wrote arguably the greatest and most important career manual ever, What Color is Your Parachute? This bible of career advice will soon turn 40! And while the title started out as an off the cuff remark to his students, the words "color" and "parachute" took on deeper meanings to his millions of readers.Parachute2

 When I met Mr. Bolles he was in his mid 60's. He talked about career change in ways that have shaped my thinking and my career. He said:

Everything you do should be:

Temporary--Nothing is permanent.

An Adventure--Engages your curiosity and sense of challenge

A Seminar--Learning new things, continuous education with goals

Fulfilling--Helps define your quest for meaning and purpose

I translated this into "A temporary adventure, which continually educates you about your quest for meaning." Love it and live by it!

The whole unintended "parachute" metaphor spawned all kinds of discussions, ideas and important questions:

  • When will you be jumping?
  • Where will you be landing?
  • Are you prepared?
  • Who packed your parachute?

As some of you know, I have "parachuted" a few times in my career. Landings are not always soft. You fall from great heights with at least the perception of danger. I like the idea of landing in new territories and discovering them.The only thing I don't like about the word parachuting is the notion that you are bailing out. I think parachuting may be an escape but it has to be done with intention. 

As an aside, finally completed my bucket list of parasailing, paragliding, gliding, parachuting, and skydiving. Parachuting takes on new meaning!

The best way to be ready to parachute or transition is to have a great network. So I ask, What color is your network?

What does your network look like? Does it look inspirational? Does it meet your  needs? Will it adapt to your changing needs and future interests? Here's what my network literally looks like in Linked in mapsLinked in Map 

 

 

 

 

Linkedin chooses the colors, but the colors denote your networking worlds, past lives, current interests, and even new pursuits. It provides a visual snapshot of who you are connected to and how. Each dot is a person that you can see and click on. Very cool.

 

Visualizing your network helps you evaluate it. Your mind's eye and your ability to only remember 9 people at a time really limits your understanding of your network. Is is it good, good enough, or inadequate? And why?

 

Your network has to be diverse. Not just ethnically, but in terms of point of view, sectors, disciplines, and geography. Without evaluation, your network is what it is. What you think it is and what it actually is are two entirely different things.

 

Think of your network like a team of advisers or a kitchen cabinet. You don't want group think or a bunch of yes people. You want smart, honest, creative perspectives, skill sets and ideas. Seek difference in your network. So you have to do a gap analysis? And you can't wait for an emergency job search to do it! Parachuting requires great preparation.

 

So just accumulating contacts or FB friends is fine, but what are you building? Some networks are like a collection of pennies. All of them are the same and just added to the top of the same jar. We know that makes no sense. I am totally for randomness but you also have to step back to see how your network matches up with your ambitions.

 

Hard to traverse the tightrope without a net---work. :)

 

This does not require you to make a new set of friends or start stalking people :) Enhance your inner circle with people you already know but need to strengthen your connection with, based on your goals, curiosities, and ambitions. People that you respect and know have a valuable point of view--get more of it. 

 

Your network should not help you land but propel you and push you. It should be more of a rocket pack than a parachute. Jetpack

 

You know that you have a parachute on right now. The question is when not if. That decision to jump is so much easier if you have the network to support, research, prepare you for the leap. By the way, these are your parachute packers. They make your risk taking smarter and more aligned with what you really want.

 

So what color is your network?

 

Thanks for reading. John