passion diagnostic

DIY open heart surgery

When I was 12 I was obsessed with the heart. Heart transplants. Artificial hearts. Michael DeBakey and Christiaan Barnard were my heroes. I was going to be a cardiologist. I surrounded myself with heart models and books. The idea of replacing someone's heart was so futuristic and mind boggling. But my less than stellar grades in science and math forced me onto a different career path. Yet my interest in the heart grew--the role of the heart both physically and metaphysically. I have always been drawn to people who are wholehearted in their lives. On the other hand, always wondered why some seem to ignore their hearts entirely. I developed a keen ability to hear people's hearts in their words, see people's hearts in their eyes, and sense people's hearts in their actions. 

I was paired up with a woman on the golf course and we got to chatting, that's why I love golf--you meet and get to know people. She started talking about her kids and how she and her husband wanted to help her children find happiness in the material world. "Find themselves amidst the clatter and clutter of societal expectations and the system of consumption." How to help them resist the peer pressures and even parental pressures to become people to enjoy life with less--with less than they have now? A very self-aware woman! And a pretty heavy conversation by hole #7! I rarely talk about the volatile topic of parenting and never with someone I just met. Most parents are talking about what their kids lack or are doing wrong. A focus on more. More education. More discipline. More serious. More like them! This mom wants to help her kids develop their hearts!

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart.- Helen Keller

Later that week, I was invited to meet with a group of scholarship recipients. These were college students, grad students and even alumni. One of the most poignant moments was when a young man asked, "I got my MBA. I work for a prestigious bank. I have a promising career in finance. But increasingly, I feel disconnected with the purpose of our work. It lacks personal meaning for me. When and how do I re-think my career, when I have a very good well-paying job?" His heart was getting through the noise and appearance of "success" and he was listening!

Heart-driven conversations questioning the status quo. Their hearts are spilling out through their lips to a random stranger! Trying to resist the gravitational pull of conventional wisdom. 

These conversations are like verbal defibrillators for me! It gets me pumped up to talk to others about their truths. It helps me re-ignite my "plan", my assumptions and jolts my heart and the truths within. Hrart and brain

"Recent work in the relatively new field of neurocardiology has firmly established that the heart is a sensory organ and an information encoding and processing center, with an extensive intrinsic nervous system that’s sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a heart brain. Its circuitry enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the cranial brain. To everyone’s surprise, the findings have demonstrated that the heart’s intrinsic nervous system is a complex, self-organized system.Dr. Dominique Surel

Most of us could benefit from a little open-heart "surgery". Breaking our hearts open to guide our lives. Transplant our fear and doubt with courage. Call it a passion bypass!

As a youngster I wondered how many beats each heart had. Each heart has a finite number of beats. When it will stop no one knows. Expecting to live a specific amount of time, defies the reality around us. Today is the only time we can rely on. As parents, employers, mentors, partners, all we can do is create the conditions where this self-awareness can thrive. Where the heart builds an express lane to where courage resides in the brain.

And "courage" is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."

A close friend was just offered a new job--a "better job". More prestige, more money, more authority. Logical for her to go for it. No brainer, right? But the brain cannot make all the decisions or we are doomed. She came to me for advice. I listened, trying hard not to judge her and not to "fix" her. I heard her inner conflict. Similar to the teacher who is asked to be an administrator. Or the the salesman to be the VP. I heard her talk about losing her connection to the clients, as an advocate of their needs. It was obvious this was a poor fit. But that's not my call. She texted me and wrote: "They are going to offer me the job, what should I do?" I wrote, "At this point, only your gut and heart know the answer. You have all of the facts. Trust yourself."

Your heart talks to you everyday. Are you listening? 

It is so easy to ignore the heart as an irrational and emotional voice of distraction. I have. I did. I still fight the tyranny of expectations. The overlord of optics. They are brutal and relentless bullies.

Takes courage to listen to your own goodness, and act on it. Pablo Casals

Practice open heart "surgery" on yourself :) Let your courage speak through your heart. Listen. Then follow the instructions. Failing to do this risks heart failure.

Thanks for reading. John


Numb and Number

Probably my age and stage in life but I am getting more sensitive (that's very funny John). No seriously I cry at TV ads and even the mention of tear jerking stories. I am sure I am going through some type of hormonal change (no jokes please). But I know I am much more aware of the preciousness and speed of life and my awareness about the world around me has been heightened. I see, hear, feel, and understand more--at least I think so. 

Vulnerability is a word I encounter and use more often. It applies to so much of what I do and what I am thinking about. 

vul·ner·a·ble         ˈvəln(ə)rəb(ə)l/
adjective
susceptible to physical or emotional harm.

synonyms: helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent, weak, susceptible

person(s) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect. Broken heart

We are all vulnerable. There are the truly vulnerable--those who have little or no support systems or safety nets. People who have extraordinary suffering daily. And there is the condition of connecting with the real feelings we have with the suffering around us.There are the vulnerable who need our help. And yet we all need to become more vulnerable--to be more susceptible to our feelings empathy and compassion. Vulnerable are people who are endangered and need help to advance their lives. Vulnerable is also a state of mind and heart that enable us to help the vulnerable.

Still with me? 

A lot of guilty people, including me, start sentences with "It breaks my heart that......." We need to break our hearts---break them open to the truth and realities of what we want, who we are, and what we are doing about it.

Our capacity for wholehearted living can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted.  Brene Brown

From Parker Palmer's book the Healing the Heart of Democracy:

“Heart” comes from the Latin cor and points not merely to our emotions but to the core of the self, that center place where all of our ways of knowing converge—intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others. The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human. Cor is also the Latin root from which we get the word courage. When all that we understand of self and world comes together in the center place called the heart, we are more likely to find the courage to act humanely on what we know."
 
We are all numb and number. We suffer from an overdose of need. So we shut down our feelings to protect ourselves--or so we think. We use our devices, vices, and bad habits to distract us from reality. We objectify people in need and compartmentalize our feelings to keep moving on. As vulnerability grows around us, our ability to be vulnerable shrinks. We build thicker castle walls and deeper moats to protect us from these emotions. There is an internal war of trying to feel and trying not to feel too much. Numbness is winning.

My favorite quote:

Comfort the afflicted (the vulnerable) and afflict the comfortable (to make us vulnerable). --HL Mencken  I added the parenthetical comments to show this dichotomy of vulnerability.

You still with me? 

How do we help those in  need  and our own need to help? 

We all hesitate to say and do what we think--the things we know are right. We try to suppress our feelings, or hope that the moment will pass. We pretend that the moment and feelings do not matter. We regret those lost moments.

Brene Brown has done groundbreaking research on this latter vulnerability. Her Ted talk is one of the most viewed ever. She found that vulnerability is the source of great insights and development and ultimately a chance to be courageous and say and do things we want to do. 

Excerpt from Brene Brown: I cannot find a single example of courage, moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relational courage, I cannot find a single example of courage in my research that was not born completely of vulnerability. And so I think we buy into some mythology about vulnerability being weakness and being gullibility and being frailty because it gives us permission not to do it.

Please listen to this interview of Brene Brown conducted by the inimitable Krista Tippett. If you are slightly open to becoming more vulnerable this will open your mind and your heart.

We share everything but not what we really think and feel. We conform to the crowd not because we agree with them.

My boss calls it phony nice. But it is more than being honest with one another. It is being honest with oneself.

The present offers so many moments to engage our compassion, empathy, and energy for life. But we squander them.  I am trying to change before it is too late. 

Awareness is step one.

Force yourself to follow your heart to learn the realities of the vulnerable and become vulnerable. Push yourself into the worlds of suffering you care about. Surrender to the feelings and let them inform you and what you do. 

Not talking about serving soup at the midnight mission--although that would not hurt. I am talking about diving into the needs of your network and listen-- before you try to fix things!

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle--a battle you know little about. attributed to Philo

What are other people's battles? Seek them out to understand and help.

What are your battles? What are you numb about? What is your heart saying? Help yourself.

Until we understand our battles we can not connect or mentor. We can not help one another. 

Compassion literally means to suffer with others. We cannot have compassion.

Becoming more vulnerable enables us to help the vulnerable. Every person has a battle. Every person has dreams. Every person wants to have an open heart and the courage to act on their true goodness.

In my greyness I am coming to realize that Brene Brown and Parker Palmer are right. Pursue vulnerability by becoming more vulnerable. Struggle over real things and real feelings is a battle, a battle worth fighting, battles we must try to win over numbness.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Snorkeling through Life and Drive By Passions

Skimming the surface of the depths of life can be fast, exhilirating and fun. You value variety, changing scenery and the the sense of progress you get from constant movement. But snorkeling is a spectator sport. You see things, beautiful things, scary things, mysterious things which reside far below you--out of reach and out of harm's way. 

Distance always makes us brave and prone to an often artifical sense of courage. We can convince ourselves that proximity is experiential. Some of us even think that watching Youtube is interchangeable with real life. We assume things. We fill in gaps with what we think not what we have experienced. 

We scan, we surf, we get bits and pieces. And if we are not careful we make snap judgments, form strong opinions, develop personal narratives and even make life choices based on these fuzzy unexplored ideas.

Snorkeling-2

I had the chance to hear Eric Schmidt and his colleague Jonathon Rosenberg discuss their new book, How Google Works. I have always been interested in how Google builds and maintains its culture of innovation. They discussed their hiring process. They determined that 5 interviews yielded the best results in getting to know the candidate. They rigorously evaluate the interviewers for the quality of their hirings by comparing scores to hires and performance. But what was most interesting to me is that passion was the determining factor in their interviews. Here's what they do. They probe what the candidate is passionate about and then deep dive on that topic. Anything the candidate declares as his/her passion is fair game--Could be directly related to the job or an avocational pursuit. They look for depth of understanding, true emotional connection to the subject matter (afterall this is THEIR passion!) and evidence of their capacity for curiosity and learning. Not surprisingly, some candidates have no depth to their passions --"no depth means no passion". Saying so does not make it so. A strong candidate who displays depth of engagement, intellectual capacity, and personal committment to a passion has the potential to make it at Google. Either you got it or you don't. But Google ferrets out the snokelers from the deep divers!

I have been doing something similar for decades. I can not tell you how many times I have asked a candidate about THEIR passion and I am given this general drive by passion response: "Oh I am passionate about (subject) but I don't have the time now to pursue it." Like a secret admirer in middle school. "I love her but she does not know who I am." :)

Please do not use the "p" word like this. And don't let friends say such things. 

Things discovered during the snorkeling of life are potential passions. They are interesting things, curiosities, and maybe interests. They become passions through your relentless interest in them. You are quasi obsessive compulsiveness about them. You own these topics, you stalk them, you can't get enough to quench your thirst and hunger. What are your potential passions?

Deloitte has been studying the role of passion in increasing performance of companies. They concluded, "To address perpetually mounting competitive pressures, organizations need workers who bring passion to their jobs to navigate challenges and accelerate performance improvement. Yet only 11 percent of U.S. workers surveyed by Deloitte possess the attributes that lead to accelerated learning and performance improvement."

For those of us who have traversed start-ups, big companies, and non-profits, you know this. People with passion for life and their work make a huge difference. They perform at a higher level. This is what Google does at the front end--to find those with the capacity for passion. And Deloitte finds that deeper divers accelerate organizational performance. So passion is in demand!

Can passion be learned or acquired? Yes! You can have a small constellation of passions. Professional and personal. Things that you have made a committment to pursue and advance. Expertise, a cause, an issue, a hobby.  

I love Warren Buffett's advice to pick the top 25 things that you want to embrace in your life-potential passions. Then reduce it to the five most important. 

Once you have chosen the top 5, Warren then asked “but what about these other 20 things on your list that you didn’t circle? What is your plan for completing those?” Most people say “Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top 5. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort.” Warren responded sternly, “No. You’ve got it wrong.Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

Passion and life is about focus. The more divided your attention, talent, and time is--the less passion you have. 

Your passions define you, they differentiate you, they give you an edge. More important, they make your life meaningful to you!

So continue to skim, scan, and snorkle, but pick out a handful of things to explore and embrace. Dive and lose yourself to find yourself. And don't dive alone. Engage your network, seek and create new networks, to guide and accelerate your pursuit of passions. 

No time like the present to Dive! Dive! Dive!

Thanks for reading. John


I Am Generic to Keep My Options Open

I am seeing a rise in generic humans. I am meeting them at events, they are connecting with me on Linkedin, they read my blog --they are everywhere. I used to spot this species mostly at undergraduate institutions where undeclared majors evolved into generics. But today I meet them in all stages of life. Apparently the current brutal  job search world squeezes out any differentiating attributes, any passion from their personalities. They are like walking dead who are indiscrimnate about their employment. And they are multiplying! 

Sorry let me back up and describe this human who is proliferating among us. 

Generic humans are brandless, non-commital, dispassionate, and directionless bags of protoplasm that are doing everything possible to be open to any and all jobs opportunities. It is FOMO for jobs. So they have become Spock like creatures devoid of their emotions, dreams, and passions. They are the cowardly lion on the yellow brick road of life. They are mercenaries who will work for any army. Free agents who just want dental benefits. Generic

Last week a thirty-something year-old guy, well dressed, well spoken was referred to me by a former colleague. He wanted an informational interview to understand my world. I always say yes to my former colleagues requests! Anyway, this guy has a good resume and is looking for a job. Unclear where he is going on his resume, but that doesn't bother me (especially if you look at my resume!) I learn a lot about him and his quirks in the first 90 seconds.

He started off like this: "So glad I am meeting with you because I really want to work for a non-profit. I want to help other people and when I have volunteered I have been the most fulfilled, so I decided that choosing non-profit work would center my life around what matters to me. But everyone keeps telling me that I have to have a cause or a specific issue to focus on. But I tell them that doesn't matter. I have decided to work for a non-profit--a good non-profit that is making a difference. With good leadership and management. A stable non-profit, not too big not too small. I have a lot to offer in terms of skills and experiences. The right non-profit would be lucky to get me. So am I wrong? Am I doing something wrong? Do you think I need a cause or an issue? What do you think?" Whew!

He is Generic with diarrhea of the mouth! It is like putting "non-profit job" in the Google search bar to find employment. So you have narrowed your search to 1.6 million non-profits in the US! 40,000 in LA!

I said, are you single? He said, "Yes, what of it?" Is this how you date?, I said. No preferences, no dimensions of compatibility, no emotions? 

He said "No way!" Okay, then why don't you look for a job the same way?! You have to express what you want and you have to have causes or issues that matter to you more than others!

If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything. 

ColaA 28 year old woman recently told me that the industry, the product, the service of her future employer was irrelevant. She winked and told me, "Well I wouldn't work for a firearms manufacturer." We laughed and laughed, as I screamed inside. 

These Generics think they are being smart and clever. Everyone except them knows that their pitch, elevator speech, or BIT leads nowhere. "If you do not know where you are going, every path will lead you there." And mostly in vicious circles where you end up at the beginning again. And no one can help a Generic because their search is undefined. 

Generics would not buy clothes, pick a restaurant, or buy a car this way. They would research what they WANT, what they PREFER, and what they DESIRE. They would shop and compare before they buy. They would have lists of prospective employers without regard to openings. In short, their search would be informed by their values, needs and wants. 

Generics say, "I just want to keep my options open." Like the open sea or deep space. Open becomes infinite. Yeah yeah we want options. But it makes you sound indifferent to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! We have to link to things we care about. We always have preferred industries, preferred jobs, and preferred employers in mind. Then others can help you!

Today's job market actually requires the opposite. People who care about the product, service and or purpose are a better fit than generics. Competence and adaptability, and energy are a dime a gross. With fewer open positions , the new filters from the employer side is FIT. And FIT is directly linked with an emotional and intellectual connection with the organization's purpose. Someone who loves the work will be more engaged, more loyal, stay longer, and work harder. Non-profits, for-profits, public sector, private sector--doesn't matter.

As a Generic, you should be fired as your own brand manager!

Stop keeping your options open. Stop saying that. Start expressing what you want, what you care about, who you are and what you need. Stop being generic! And friends don't let their friends become generic.

If you were hiring wouldn't you always prefer an employee who cares about the work and the mission? Be that candidate!

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Pursuit of Passion Formula or Folly

There are a number of authors and bloggers selling books and their points of view that "follow your passions" is the worst career and life advice. They argue that focusing on the development of your expertise, skills, and competencies is a much surer way to "success". Is this a great debate? Not to me. I believe it is folly to argue, either or, in matters of the heart and the mind.

Cal Newport (So Good They Can't Ignore You), Bassam Tarazi, Ramit Sethi, and most recently Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) have jumped on the anti-passion bandwagon.
Scott Adams:  "For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. Success caused passion more than passion caused success. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. But the ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed.”  Van Gogh

Scott, that's not passion. That's rationalization and self-justification. And that's how you deal with failure?! How about trying to cure cancer, solve poverty, bringing education to the inner city? Wow if we could all just dispose of things we were not good at. Imagine if we could all accept the "drain of passion" because things did not work out! Such a selfish and narrow view of passion.

Cal Newport:  "Passion is a side effect of mastery."

Really Cal? Passion only comes from what you are good at? So passion can't drive mastery? I guess Cal has not met the hundreds of non-profit leaders I have. Or spent time with artists. Or with immigrant entrepreneurs who don't have anything but the burning desire to survive and flourish. Nor with foster youth who have been abused and now in college repairing their lives. These types of passion do not exist in the ivory tower, they thrive in the community of need. These people use their passion like fuel. Yes, their passion propels their mastery. It is the expression of who they are.

Of course, telling people to  just Follow your passions! Blind to who they are. Deaf to what their heart says. Dumb to their education and expertise--Yes of course this is foolish advice to chase rainbows without a toolbox of skills and expertise.  Passion and success

As Daniel Pink asserts in his book Drive, true motivation comes from Autonomy, Mastery AND Purpose. These intertwined concepts engage people in fulfilling lives and work. 
Many people approach love and even mentoring in this way. "Love will conquer all." That if they find the love of their lives it will make everything in their lives better. Love does not pay the bills or complete your degree. People approach me in search of mentors as if the "right" mentor will magically guide them to the promised land. Are you prepared for a serious relationship and commitment? Are you mentorable? Are you ready for guidance and direction? Follow your passion(s) is relevant for those who, like all successful people, are working on their whole selves--on their mastery and their purpose. You have to be prepared to do what you love, be who you want to be, and follow your passions. And live passionately.

If I didn't know better, I would accuse these passion naysayers of wanting us to just suck it up and work for the man. To accept the tenets of the industrial/educational complex that all promotions and success are based on meeting and exceeding the job descriptions. We know that is absurd. To not bring our hearts to work, just our lunchpails. There is a conspiracy to tell you just to bear down and do your jobs and avoid the distractions of your inner calls for purpose and meaning from the quarterly goals of shareholders. I spent several careers making others wealthy. I know this philosophy of the owners and the holders of the equity---"Do your job and make it your life! And you will gain some valuable experiences!"
Living a passionless life and career is a waste and empty.

Even these writers who want to sell books and gain attention would agree that passion makes a difference in the success of individuals and organizations. But their perspective only helps the extremely naive and confuse the sophisticated.

Consider these thoughts:
Follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.  Bertrand Russell

Passion and expertise are siamese twins. They feed each other. Success is tied to both. 
Passion is what animates, energizes, and actualizes our skills, talents, abilities and expertise. 
Passion is the suffering we endure in trying to become the best we can, the way we interpret our purpose in life, and the focus on the needs of others. Passion drives our best work.
Yes we all need to hone our hard skills but we have to nurture our soft skills as well. For those of us who aspire to lead and make a difference, it will be the soft skills that will enhance careers. And at the core needs to be a fire of passion that stokes our desire to do something that matters to ourselves and others.

If you do not build a life, not just your job, around your passions, you will wither from the quicksand of settling for what comes to you and not pursuing what you care about. 

It is true that a "follow your passion(s)" advice to the uneducated/unskilled is unadvised and dangerous. But to condemn this advice for those of us searching for meaning and purpose is criminal.

 Thanks for reading. John


Applying Your Passion to College and to Life

I was with a donor at a Hollywood eaterie. We both ordered ice teas. The waitress asked if we wanted regular or passion. I said regular and my guest ordered passion. The teas came and neither of the teas were passion. We called over our beautiful wannabe actress to correct her inadvertent mistake. The donor said, "Hey I ordered the passion ice tea and got regular." She leaned in close to him without missing a beat and said, "Didn't I serve it with passion?!" He reflexively said, "You did!" Glasses-of-iced-tea

Is our tea of life supposed to have passion it? Do we have to order it or make it ourselves? Or do we merely have to serve it with passion? 

I am pretty obsessed with living life with passion and helping others find their passions. To be perfectly honest, I help myself by helping others. Other people's passions get me psyched to be more diligent about my own. I use other people's passions to add to my passion river. Kind of a passion junkie. I must confess, I am trying to inspire and motivate yours truly. I have  learned that successful networking, mentoring, and careers are based on this principle of engaging  others' passions and defining my own.

This was a big week for the topic of passion: 

  • I gave a short speech on passion for my colleagues at a national conference of community foundations to add a little kindling to their belly fires. 
  • I led a  session for a giving circle to re-energize their collective passion around community needs and their personal definitions of meaningful giving. 
  • Lastly, I appeared on a friend's local radio show to discuss how the true passions of the students applying for college admission make a difference.

You don't need to be applying for college to articulate your passions. We all have a constellation of passions within us that we nurture and ignore. That we pursue and neglect. True passion involves others and the needs of others. It starts with the pain of our lack of personal fulfillment, the suffering of others we care about, and the the unmet needs of people we may never know. It can come as easily from disappointment or from total engagement. It is the basis of your emotional connection to what you do and WHY you do it. 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain 

You can discover it and have an aha moment. Or it can sneak up on you and scare you into understanding yourself.

Always taken by my mother's story of the moment she knew painting would define her life. She was 49 with 4 kids under the age of 10 she decided to take a sumi-e Japanese brush stroke painting lesson. She lifted the brush with fresh black ink on it and struck the canvas and she was transformed in that moment. She remembers it like it was yesterday, "I said to myself, "Where have you been?" She found herself and has been painting ever since. Her ability to express herself through oil paints changed her and everything around her. It centered her. Gave her energy and vitality. She had a purpose like no other. 

Sumi eWhen you share or when others share their passions it shines out of the eyes, the body language and the voice. We exude an extra energy when we connect with passion. It is when we present our best selves. You have to help others recognize this when they do it!

It is when work and play blur. When Mondays and Fridays are exactly the same.

I try to find and associate with very competent people who are also passionate about their lives. You have to have both! Because competence in the absence of passion is not only boring but is limited to mediocrity. And passion without competence is shrill and a waste of time. I look for both in every hire I make, every board I join, every job I take, and every one of my relationships.

A job is never just a job. A life is never just a life. We can't be waiting for something better. Or to do it all when we retire. How will we leave our imprint?

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  Jack London

Help your son or daughter see their inner strengths and talents before you tell them what their career will be. Explore with your friends why they aren't doing more of the things they say are important to them. Assist people who are nearing retirement age to explore their passions now. Make the pursuit of passions

This is the hardest work we can do--to help others and ourselves find passion. For there is no other work. We need people's passions to engage our total selves in our work and our lives. We need passion to innovate, to solve problems, and to wring out the potential in our world. 

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela

Move passion up on your to-do list. Serve and live with passion!

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Wisdom of 10 Year Olds

Pretty much all of the honest truth telling in the world is done by children. Oliver Wendell Holmes

If you have been around young people, especially those 10 and under, you know that profound things emerge from their brains and their mouths. If you let them. If you listen. Their minds have few if any filters. They speak what they think. Political correctness be damned. They know no such rules. Their thoughts are pure and real.

I always love talking to young people, because I try and remember what it would be like to be that free and open. 

Here are two random and indeed, profound thoughts I have encountered from two 10 year olds I know:

My daughter Malia just graduated from college, with honors I might add. (fortunately for her, intelligence skips generations!) But when she was 10 she wrote this poem for her gymnastics coach Zak. While I was a bit jealous of Zak, I love this timeless expression of her youthful life that may resonate with you. Wisdom beyond her years. Not because she was bright but because she was free.

Road of Life

By   Malia Kobara   Dedicated to Zak

 

Life is like a road

It just goes on and on

The loose pebbles

They are your mistakes

They make the journey rough

The hills …

The hills are your pleasures

You must work up to them

Before taking the joyous ride down

And the turns

Those mysterious turns

They are tomorrow and you

Yes, you decide what happens that next day

And after all these years on this road of life

I hope you know…

Your path can lead you anywhere

 

The second 10 year old is Caine of Caines Arcade fame. What I love about Caine is he is still a kid! Please watch this incredible video about the impact he has made as a rising 5th grader!

Coming back from his speaking engagement in Cannes France, he wrote these rules of life on a barf bag. Rules I suggest apply to all of us.

  1. Be nice to customers.
  2. Do a business that is fun.
  3. Do not give up. (Caine circled and underlined this one three times)
  4. Start with what you have.
  5. Use recycled stuff.

Caines Barf BagInside of each us is a free 10 year old who can express his/her emotions and ideas without fearing judgment. How do we re-kindle that creative, energetic spirit, that sense of freedom?

We have to!

We have to help others unlock their possibilities.

That is why we network and mentor. To help others write their poetry, their ideas, and to help them pursue their dreams. 

The key to unlocking this potential is by listening to our hearts and the hearts of others. When we speak and hear others speak passionately and freely we have to encourage it. Not apply our expectations or the expectations of others, but to find an outlet for that expression. We have to let others become who they are.

We see this pure expression in our kids. Maybe we all should learn from the wisdom of 10 year olds. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Your Networking Business Model

The new realities of this chaotic world have forced every business and every organization to examine the basic assumptions of their business models. Smart ones are furiously re-structuring to figure out how to survive and grow. Clear that business as usual is obviously dead and is killing many stubborn industries, companies and organizations. A mindset of--"Can't wait until we get back to normal"-is destroying the careers and prospects of individuals as well. People who have stopped evolving and waiting for the world to accommodate them are making fatal judgments.

Whether you are a new college grad or someone re-tooling for the next chapter, you need a new model. You need to question and reset your goals, metrics, and assumptions. Please do not interpret this as a scaling back of your aspirations or a lowering of your sights. But we have to eliminate any shred of the yearning for the days gone by. There is no normal that will return. It is gone and it was replaced with change and more change.

Adapt or Die!

This is not just about the fittest and the fastest--although it's good to be both. It is about adopting and embracing the need to constantly and continuously change. Not just improve, but change.

With this in mind, you have to re-engineer your career business model, your networking business model. What you want is to have the tools and temperament to not only endure but excel through transitions.  Good to Great Hedgehog

I have always loved Jim Collins'  Hedgehog model from Good to Great. As an organization: You have to have Passion. A desire to be the Best. An Economic Engine/model that sustains and grows you. And in the nexus of all parts you have to have a BHAG---Big Hairy Audacious Goal. 

These powerful concepts are very relevant to one's career as well. But in the spirit of getting you from good to great, I have interpreted and adapted this model by adding dimensions more applicable to you, the individual and to the world today.

I always see my networking model as a constellation of factors and elements that influence the gravitational pull of my career. All of them orbit around my network. Since my network is not static these orbits and dimensions have and will change. These factors or values comprise my business model:

  • My Network:This is the platform for everything. Your family, friends, connections, and contacts influence everything. The more robust and diverse this platform of human interconnections is, the more robust your opportunities will be.
  • My Passion(s):What you love and truly care about has to drive your world. Nurturing and feeding the issues, causes, pleasures, and joys that give you energy and emotional sustenance has to be a big part of your life. (The pink circles are your curiosities or interests that could become passions)
  • Mentor(s):Identifying and maintaining relationships with the people who will give you the truth about  you. Not cheerleaders but honest purveyors of tough love. 
  • Money:We all need financial resources to live and to enjoy our lives. How much and how big this planet is in your constellation should probably change with time and priorities. Understanding the difference between money and how we get paid in our lives is gigantic. More money for the sake of more money does not make sense. So having very specific goals around how much money you need make this model work the best. 
  • My SKA (Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities): This is your toolbox. It deserves constant and continuous attention. Knowing yourself and your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses is critical. Sharpening what is there and adding new tools. Then becoming the best you can be.

Networking Business Model

Purpose: From all of these elements and your dedication to pursue them with courage and conviction, purpose and meaning emerge. Leading an authentic life of understanding yourself by understanding others. Pursuing your passions with passion. Defining your work and your worth selflessly. And then everything defines your pupose--the meaning of your life. It is not your job or even your career. It is is the way you live, how you live, who you help, and the difference you make. 

The key here is building your model on a growing and dynamic platform--your network. A network that enhances these elements. Connecting and reconnecting with people that help you focus and advance your goals and your constellation of opportunities. A network that you help without expectation or obligation. A network that makes you better by holding you accountable and inspiring you to do more.

Isn't it time to evaluate your model? How does your model look? And how do you want to change it? What elements are lacking and need to be stronger? What elements are more solid and reliable? You are in control of this model and your challenge is always, in every moment, actively managing and adapting it to who you are becoming and the need of the world around you. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Ready for your Big Shift?

Can you feel the shifts going on in the world? Can you predict the shifts that will happen in your life? As a Southwest flight attendant said, "Be careful when opening the overhead bins, because.... shift happens. "One thing is certain,  change is underway and will continue. Some will surprise us. Some are predictable.

But are we preparing for the next shift in our lives?Shift

Interviewed Marc Freedman last week for LiveTalksLA. Marc is the founder of Civic Ventures and the Purpose Prize. He has been working tirelessly to engage "older" Americans in meaningful work and to help us as a society see that value in those contributions.

His book the Big Shift is about the demographic and economic change of how Boomers will become an enormous untapped resource when they retire. That's right the 78 million American Boomers are beginning to turn 65. And most developed countries will see their populations turn grey by mid century. Hallmark sold 85,000 birthday cards for 100 year olds last year in the US!

We all are witnessing our parents living longer, many of whom are unprepared for the time they have on their hands. People planning their retirements in their sixties, not realizing that they will be retired longer than they have worked. Still others going through massive disruption in their lives through the recession forcing them to consider radically new career paths.

Marc's book is a treatise on the size and scope of this change and the great need to understand it and harness it. It is a great read. Filled with anecdotes, research and humor. It is not a how-to shift. It is what we need to do as a country to utilize the great talent, wisdom, and creativity of this growing population. But after you read it you think about how unprepared we are for all of the shifts that are occuring to us.

He discusses our obsession with youth which us gives us disdain for age and the elderly. He says we have to understand that fifty is NOT the new thirty but the NEW fifty!

The questions he raises are thought provoking and should give every reader pause, no matter how old he/she is. In fact, I believe that shift prep is applicable to everyone. We all have to think about "retirement", but we also all have to think about the next unpredictable chapter.

The future is already here-- it just isn't evenly distributed.  --William Gibson

We can delude ourselves into preparing for retirement by thinking almost solely about the financial aspects. After all, if we have money the rest will follow. Wrong! Like most things we don't think it through. Most of us have envisioned  a Norman Rockwell retirement, where we live in leisure and pursue our hobbies.

Back at the beginning of the 20th century when we were lucky to live to 50 and that was an attractive goal. But Freedman argues we can not afford to waste the talent and expertise of the Boomers to shuffleboard and Leisure World.

While many Americans who "retire", continue to work and engage in civic life, many do not. They search for meaning again like they were new undergrads who can't declare a major.

As in any change or new chapter, good questions will guide our choices? Here is a sampling of the questions we must ask ourselves to find fulfilling and impactful opportunities in our lives today and as we prepare to "retire".

  1. How do we live a legacy in addition to leaving one?
  2. How do I take risks at this stage in my life?
  3. How can I live a life with greater significance?
  4. How can I continue to make a difference?

Regardless of the age and stage you are in, there are numerous opportunities to work, volunteer, and contribute to the causes, issues and organizations you care about. If you are a few years from retirement or decades from it, you have to find things that are much bigger than hobbies. You need activities that allow you to invest yourself to improve the world, community or neighborhood. Retirement is another life chapter, like all chapters will depend on your preparation and how you listen to your heart.

If you don't stand for something, then you will fall for anything. ---anonymous

Shift happens and is happening. The more your life is defined by ideas and issues, the more durable your life will be to shifts. The more you procrastinate the pursuit of your passions the harder shifts are. And the most foolish mindset is ---"I'll wait until then."

Thanks for shifting. 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


A Sampling of New Year's Inspirations and Tools

For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit... start whenever you want... you can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that stop you. I hope you feel things that you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

  Benjamin Button's letter to his daughter.

Any time you set new goals, reflect on your path, or make new plans to reach your own potential is a good time. If you like new year's then make the most of it. I have included a few things that I review each year to get me focused on what I want for the next year and beyond (like this Benjamin Button quote). I have learned that most goals won't fit neatly into a 12 month time frame. I try not to focus on the transactional and push myself to consider the transformational. The typical and somewhat trivial new years resolutions can be pretty selfish--Lose weight, eat better, exercise more, get my finances in order, read more.....These are your goals if you want to live longer and be more successful. These "goals" are important but are so basic to life. Don't get me wrong, take care of yourself, stop smoking, get your fiscal and physical act together. But seriously, you know these things. Just do it.

If we spend a little less time contemplating our abs and more time planning our futures, we would all be better off. You won't be surprised when I tell you it will always be the relationships that define your life. Relationships you nurture, repair, develop, and engage will define your success and your happiness. Connect with people you care about. Be mentored and mentor others. Develop new relationships around your goals and passions. Tiny advances here are not enough. You need to make big strides, huge compromises, and extra efforts to strengthen your relationships into mutually beneficial ones. You have to take the lead if you want something to happen.

A good friend of mine was telling me about her 84 year-old dad who I guess is starting to lose his senses and whits everyday. He lives 3000 miles from here so she doesn't see him very often. In fact she told me it has been more than 6 months and she could not make the time over the holidays. I let her have it. "You gotta get out there and see him", I urged her. "You have to see him when he recognizes you and he can tell you his stories." She actually was a little offended by my tone. She told me she was going to get him Skype so they could see and talk more. Time and money seem like a small price to pay to see your dad in person. For me, I live by, "No Regrets!"

Here's my popular one-page goal setting sheet called the SWiVEL (Download SWIVEL_new_2009). Strengthen What I Value Enjoy and Love. Spend some quiet time to develop your answers. Feel free to change it. Writing your goals makes a big difference.

Here is my final device for focus--the UCLA System:

Urgency--A sense that time is valuable and fleeting gives you an inner drive to accomplish things. How do we create a continuous sense of urgency without the stress?

Community--Connecting to strengthen a sense of belonging and community around you. How will you connect or reconnect with people that you can help?

Learning--Education is cranial oxygen. You need to learn new things. What will I learn this year? What will you learn or even master this year? 

Action--Nothing matters unless you do something. Take steps to move your agenda. Crawl, walk then leap!

My ever present question always precedes any process: What do you want? 

That answer will guide your vision for the next year. While we all need to lose weight, tighten our abs, get our finances in order, and spend more time with family--we also need to envision what we want in our lives. Not sure where you thought you'd be in 2011 but the next year will go by quickly too. No time like the present to pursue your dreams in addition to renewing our promises to look and feel better.

So there you have it. Benjamin Button, Interview with God, SWiVEL, and the UCLA System. Hopefully something here gets you to quit your membership in the procrastination club and focus on advancing your goals and relationships. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and into a grand world of who you can be.

Here's to an extraordinary 2011! Thanks for reading. John

 


Passion Diagnostic: Three A's and the Pursuit of Happiness

Passion Diagnostic: I came up with this phrase a year and a half ago to describe a process for people to find their passions. To understand what gives their lives meaning and to invest in those things. To make those things a greater part of their limited time and attention. As the phrase suggests it is an agnostic process--neutral to what you should do, or others want you to do. It is what you want to do and best, if it is what you were meant to do. The phrase gives the impression this is a science or that there is a formula to uncover your passions. Nope. And while there are wonderful web based filters, tests, and processes that may reveal your dating compatibility, your shopping habits, and predict your movie preferences, this requires you to think and know thyself.

In the world of philanthropy and given the world today, most serious donors are now questioning their "passions" and searching for more rewarding forms of giving. I started seeing sites which try and help donors choose charities, such as Donation Dashboard, very rough attempts to help a truly passionless person find potential recipients of philanthropy. Passions are a much deeper more personal set of items. I even hesitate to use the P word because it intimidates so. J0438796Your passions are within you and there are ways to reveal them.

To find out what you are passionate about will never be discovered by looking at lists of random charities, surfing the internet, or worse, copying what someone else does--even your mentor. It is an introspective process of self-discovery. It is understanding things that trigger great joy, emotion and intellectual curiosity. Passions get your heart beating, you love talking about them, and they make you smile or emotional. Every week someone says to me , "I don't know or don't have any passions." Yikes! These people have just not taken the time and effort to explore and to reflect. 

I hate giving people tools and techniques because some believe these are the answers. I use tools and techniques to provide models and examples to help the "user" figure out their own way and to hopefully invent a process that works for them. For example, I developed the Download 2010 SWIVEL document for the same reason to help people define their career paths. So I give the following to you in this spirit.

What you do says more about you than what you think you do or what you want to do. Now some or many of your personal passions may be secrets because you don't talk about them for fear of judgment, because that are mal-formed or new, or because the contradict who you say you are.

So this process is to awaken the real you and to make you be real with yourself.

Great success, great citizenship, great leadership, great parenting, great partnering, certainly great mentoring and networking have three fundamental strategies that ultimately reveal your passions. Let me explain.

Ambassadorship--Representing yourself but more importantly others, people, issues, organizations, well is an invaluable skill. We are all ambassadors whether we like it or not. Like in a foreign country the ambassador is a diplomat, a mediator, and a leader. The power and effectiveness of an ambassador is to be ego-less, self-less, and to put your cause, country, or community ahead of you. You are positive about this affiliation but you can be passive and more reactive. For whom are you an ambassador? For whom would you like to be an ambassador? It could be a personality, an organization, a product, a sport or hobby, a restaurant. This reveals much about you. Sometimes hidden here are submerged feelings or roles that you want to expand. Write down these thoughts.

Advocacy--This takes ambassadorship to a different level. These are things, people, causes where you pro-actively push your views. You have strong feelings about these things. These things create strong emotions in you. They need to be addressed and or remedied, and can not be ignored. Your tolerance on these matters is much lower. In other words, your emotional reaction , both positive or negative, can be quite powerful. This takes a thousand forms, "isms" (racism, sexism), cancer, the education system, civil rights, politics, religion, abortion, a homeland....These are personal issues/causes/ideas that you have a very personal connection to. Write down these thoughts and feelings!

Altruism--This may be the most revealing indicator in the passion diagnostic. Where do you give your time and charity now? And if you had more time and money, you would give more to this cause, organization or issue. Not destinations of loyalty giving, because "you have to" or "feel obligated to", may not be your alma mater, but could be. Often this is closely aligned to your advocacy. And should be. And sometimes connected to your ambassadorship. Definitely write these thoughts down too.

J0405208 So, what these three A's have in common is you and something bigger than you. Professor Jonathon Haidt, University of Virginia notes that one thing that can make a lasting difference to your contentment is your work with others on a cause larger than yourself.

Some people embark on passion tourism, visiting many new places and things to try them on for size. Maybe that works for some, but I think "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." Emerson

Read these rough notes and refine them, erase them, re-think them. There. These are the results of your passion diagnostic! There are no bad or wrong answers. It is where you are and who you are. See the trends, threads or obvious patterns. These are you passions or your potential passions. Use these as a guide to test and develop your plans and commitments. Then compare them to your life and the amount of time you spend on these three A's. How do we make these things a bigger part of our lives. Living your values is the pursuit of happiness. Having wonderful ideals and beliefs without action is the opposite.

These three A's say a lot about you and your future. Follow their lead. The strongest network always starts with a powerful link with oneself. Live passionately and without regrets!

Thanks for reading. John