passion

When do we (should we) get serious about the pursuit of joy?

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.  —Annie Dillard

The point here is that we all go through phases and cycles that determine our path, trajectory, and destination. Amidst the chaotic stretches where you feel like we have no control there are other moments of clarity, joy and  opportunity. Windows of time that give us the chance to make a change, shift gears, pivot—hopefully focus more on what we really want.

Age 26, according to the unscientific longitudinal Kobara study involving thousands of unsuspecting subjects, starts an 8 year time frame (until 34) where the brain starts to shift to serious things.

It all started some time ago…….

High school is a blur that is dominated by embryonic ideas of self and a confusing cocktail of peer pressure, parental expectations, promises and perfection. Angst over picking a college. The future is filled with questions and excitement.

Who am I?

College can be an awakening unless it was just an extension of high school Average college students change their major 2.5 times. Angst over a major that will connect to a career that cannot be predicted. New questions emerge.

What do I want?

Passion and purpose can be submerged to the realities of student loans and dental benefits.

Caring what others think can distract us from discovering ourselves, our purpose and our joy.  Finding-joy-in-the-journey

"Psychologists and social scientists have found that there are two kinds of popularity: One type suggests people like us, they trust us, they want to spend time with us, they enjoy their time with us. That kind of popularity is really important — it gives us a benefit in life in so many domains, for decades, whether we experience it in childhood or as adults. The second type of popularity is the one we remember from high school, that refers to our status; it reflects our visibility, our influence, our power — our celebrity, in some ways. There’s research showing that type of popularity — status popularity — does not predict long term positive outcomes. In fact, it leads to despair, addiction, and relationship problems. But most people are still confusing the two types of popularity, and searching for the wrong one."  Mitch Prinstein, Popular: The Power of Likability In A Status-Obsessed World.

And we can get focused on, even worship things, things we believe will make us happy and or successful.

“....pretty much anything you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” David Foster Wallace

Am I where I am supposed to be? Am I having fun?

According to the annual Freshman Survey (20 years ago+), the three top goals of first year students in college, in order of preference, are authority in their field (don't even have a major :), raise a family and being very well off financially. The survey reflects the responses of 1.5 million college students from every state. These results have been relatively consistent for 50 years.

That's why I found it fascinating that they did a follow-up study 10 years later when these former 200,000+ freshman were now 28ish. They were asked the same questions. So what were their top three goals now that they have a degree and a healthy dose of the real world?

  1. Raise a family
  2. Develop a meaningful philosophy of life
  3. Become an expert in their field

Help others in difficulty was 4th and being very well off financially fell to 7th.

Develop a philosophy of life?!

Your heart has been giving you signals for a long time but you have muffled those messages by turning up the volume on your life distraction headsets.

You could have one of several "wake-up calls". The world around you starts to call out your name, you wonder how to become an agent of change.  You notice something entering or exiting your heart. A brush with death, yours or someone you love, a subtle or not so subtle connection with life's purpose. You get laid off, not promoted. Then the self-interrogator of life rises again with the blinding light of nerve wracking queries.

Is this all there is? What difference am I going to make? Where is my joy?

Graduate school? Graduate school again?

Marriage or kids or no kids? The initial formation of what I call "regret tumors" starts. Beginning with the abandonment of dreams or promises. Not malignant but ominous tumors.

Seeing the present for the first time instead of letting the next bulldoze the now

Most of you under-estimate yourself and doubt is your enemy.

A few of you over estimate yourself and arrogance is your enemy.

Both are necessary for success but you need more perspective, humility, grit and resilience.

Start re-booting your life--- a life that interweaves your passions and your goals. Start listening and trusting your heart. This is not easy, but it is rewarding.

What is meaningful to you? What gives you joy?

If you are over the age of 34, it is never too late. Your quest for greater fulfillment and your sense of contributing to something larger than you is growing within you. Time is fleeting.

Regrets age you. Regrets can kill you. Minimize regrets!

If your goal is to make meaning by trying to solve a big problem in innovative ways, you are more likely to make money than if you start with the goal of making money, in which case you will probably not make money or meaning.    Guy Kawasaki

The key is engaging others in your quest. In your journey. In your dreams. Getting help to pursue your ideas. Getting advice on what others have already learned and tried. Connect! Don't fall victim to the "do-it-yourself" trap. It never works! Listen to yourself! The you that jumps out of the passenger seat and takes over the steering wheel of your life! Start building a life that gives you joy!

So you are waiting for the right time. The confluence of great opportunity, financial security and a sign from the heavens.....

There is no right time, just right now!

Thanks for reading. John


Driving and Serving Your Passions

My speech from last month: Serve with Passion.

This last week I had three encounters that gave me pause about how we define our lives and our passions. How we define the path we want to be on. People say things to me that influence my own trajectory and I share them here.

ME-Banker

I talked to two young people within two hours of each other about their college applications. Every year I agree to help someone’s offspring with this joyful process. Inevitably, the conversation addresses the proverbial life question: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” These young people have been well coached and they have well-rehearsed and semi-believable answers. These two college aspirants answered the question identically—“I want to be an Investment Banker, an I-Banker.” To which, I replied, “Really, why?” (Noticing this as a new trend among the youth—focus on making money) And they serve up a frothy blend of rationales that they have been fed by their well-meaning parents. A superficial Frappuccino of entrepreneurship, financial upside, and intellectual curiosity. Then I say, “I think you want to be a ME-Banker.” Sounding like a horrible stereotyped native American in some B western. “Doesn’t seem like you want to help others or solve problems, sounds like it is more about you and making money.” (check out the chart I lifted from a serious site promoting the profession of I-Banking) They look puzzled and I say, “Never mind, let’s talk about YOUR education and why YOU want to go to college.”  Whyibanking

Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Is

A quote from Steven Pressfield in his interview with Oprah. Love it! Pressfield is the author of one of my fav books, The War of Art. When will we act on what we say we care about? How do we overcome our obstacles to place a higher priority on our relationships, our health, our communities, and our careers? When do we actually invest ourselves in the process of making a difference vs. wishing we could? When was the last time you planned to change the world, your own world?

Takes courage to listen to our goodness and act on it.  Pablo Casals

I Am No Longer a Passenger, I Am Driving My Life.

Had lunch with a former colleague. She was giving me the usual update on her family and her job. It was like the predictable script that all of us have endured. Like a polite sparring match, no real blows are exchanged. It is nothing like boxing. It is a make believe conversation where no one has fun or gets hurt. We will have our luncheon update until the next exchange of pleasantries. I could not take it. So I blurted out, “Aren’t you due for a career change?” She is my age and has been at the same job for more than 5 years—close to her average tenure. She looked aghast. “I wasn’t going to talk about this…...” She then shifted into a fully engaged, wholehearted discussion of her plan to get more flexibility in her schedule, to move from LA and to plot out her retirement. Recently, she woke up to her mortality and decided that she needed to get behind the steering wheel of her life. She wanted more time for what was important to her. Time was more valuable than the money. Moving would make this possible. “I am no longer a passenger, I am driving my life!”, she exclaimed. Her office was starting the plans for a new 5 year project she would lead. She calculated the ages of her kids and estimated her own enjoyable lifespan and she has been driving ever since.

It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.  Steven Pressfield 

Pur your priorities passions on the top of your to-do list. Your heart and your time would be chief among them. If we taught this to our kids they would be happier and more fulfilled. We gotta move from I-Banker to I-Driver. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Best of SWiVELTime: 2012 Remix

These are excerpts from my fifty 2012 posts. My unbiased selection of my better thoughts and and attempts to push you further towards your goals. Enjoy! Best of 2012

To understand where you are going, talk to people who are going that way.

Stability is a mirage. In fact, you don't even want stability. Do you really want world peace, global warming to end, animals to be protected, cancer to be cured, a promotion at work, your kids to have better lives, your company's stock to rise, your home value to increase etc etc? Then you are very dissatisfied with the present. You want lots of change at the macro and the micro levels. On personal, professional and even global levels.

Miss Stability is a fleeting femme fatale that has no intention of marrying you.

I wanted to help people get back on the old networking horse and see it from a different perspective. That networking is not a selfish skill but a community building skill. That networking is not a technique but a lifestyle of engaging others and learning about oneself. 

Passion is an itch that needs to be scratched and never goes away. It feels good when scratched but just persists. It is not just the source of joy but the source of great discomfort. That is what surprises people. They are looking for happiness and they find passion and passion is not pure joy, it is the essence of your life. It usually is triggered by the needs of others. And all needs are painful. Passion is discovering who you are and what is your purpose.

What time is it? Time to move! Time to get off the road of self deception, procrastination and ambiguity. Time to help others make and take the time to get where they need to go. 

 I do therefore I am--makes no sense.

Becoming the accumulation of what you do is a resume not a life. Your storyline past, present and future needs to incorporate who you are not what you have done!

Nurturing and aligning your soul around your beliefs and your life portfolio is our challenge and should be our joy.

We will all be a "freshman" many times during our lives.

Today starts a new semester of study. What classes are you taking? And who are your professors? What do you want to learn? Life is an endless series of degree programs and commencements. When is your next graduation? Re-enroll today!

Everyone is busy and we are busy all of the time. We breathe air, gravity keeps us put, the earth circles the sun, and we are busy? Anyone not busy?!! The question: What are we busy doing? 

The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.

It would be much easier to live a life that "happens". You take what comes to you. Settle for what others want for you. The authentic life is the opposite, you chase it. You hunt it down. You stalk your passion and purpose. 
So think first to mentor, then to be mentored.
Mentoring gives the mentor  the courage to tell the truth and to open up and discuss how they are overcoming their weaknesses and foibles. And the mentee musters the courage to hear the truth, confront their own weaknesses and discover themselves.

I believe unlearning is as critical a survival and success skill as learning. Unlearning is literally and figuratively deleting "files", forgetting the past, abandoning assumptions, then learning again, by starting over. Unlearning is breaking off your rear view mirror and focusing on the new landscape in front of you and seeing it for the first time.

No matter what age you are. No matter what stage of your life. The advice is aways the same: Stay curious and pursue your passions.

Our networks also reflect our habits, our qualities, our pasts, and determine our futures. Our networks have also become obese. Generally, they are too big and have too "fatty". We add FB friends like junk food. Our time with others is increasingly superficial and transactional. We want a diet of deeper and meaningful relationships but we more often opt for the fast food drive thru lane of life. 

Get off of the junk food and unhealthful habits of hanging with the crowd that limits your ability to pursue your life. Go look in the mirror and meet the person holding you back. Make a deal with that person that your network needs a makeover!

Who do we know that needs our help? Who needs our help that we need to know?

Thanks for reading and for your support. Happy New Year!  John


7 Phrases That Should Be Banned

Obviously not talking about George Carlin's seven curse words. And if you have never heard of George Carlin, may he rest in peace--get with it!  George-carlin

I am talking about 7 career phrases that set me off. Seven word configurations that people blurt out with casual regularity that I find profane. These phrases push my buttons and require great restraint from me to not say something more offensive! :) They are toxic to networking and mentoring. They mask real issues that hold back careers and potential. 

These are robotic reflexive automaton utterances that mean nothing but say volumes about the speaker. They are symptoms of issues which are being denied or ignored.

Banned-stamp-clipartHere they are the seven career/life phrases that should be banned:

  1. I'm very busy- We hear this everyday, many times a day.You say:"How are you?" and we hear: "Very busy." Everyone is busy and we are busy all of the time. We breathe air, gravity keeps us put, the earth circles the sun, and we are busy? Anyone not busy?!! The question: What are we busy doing? My truly favorite is when a subordinate comes into my office and says, "Are you busy?" "Not sorry to interrupt." or "Do you have a moment?" I usually, say "So funny I was just napping. Doing nothing. What do you want?" We know in our hearts that busy-ness can not be the focus of our business. Stop saying this!
  2. I need more balance in my life--You don't. I know what you mean, you want more. You want more time for family, hobbies, and life outside of work. But you also want more from work--more money, more growth, and more fulfillment. Balance is a mythical pie chart of equal pieces. Never happens. You want a bigger pie! You need to prioritize and to invest more time to expand your life.
  3. My life is going according to my plan--Yikes! So you have a plan for yourself and the rest of the universe? Please share it. Because if your plan predicts the economy, world events, your bosses mood, and your employer's next re-org--then you have to buy lotto tickets! Your plan needs to be to become the best you can be and to adapt rapidly. To nurture who you are and to engage your talents with the world. A linear chronological plan that provides a lock-step map to your future is an insurance plan for self deception. Quit planning and start doing. 
  4. I am going to wait and see what happens--Confused by change and chaos? We wait for a calmer moment to make our move. "When the economy improves..." "After this new VP gets settled.." "When the company completes this restructuring.." Let me tell you a secret. If you want to be competitive, speed is the deciding factor. Unless you are Benjamin Button, you are not getting any younger. Waiting is for wimps and frankly waiting is a giant pile of procrastination. Not saying be impulsive and stupid, I am encouraging you to move and act on your instincts. Wait and you will miss the window of opportunity.  It's only your dreams that await you.
  5. I want more stability--See #2 above. I meet a lot of people that say they want stability. They say they don’t want change. They want to keep what they have. These people are lying to themselves. No one who is ambitious and wants a better life wants stability. No parent who loves their kids wants things to stay the same. Nobody who is alive, who is conscious of the needs in our community, of the inequities in our society wants things to stay the same. You want change.
  6. What's so tough about non-profit work?--I am so sick and tired of big shot execs de-valuing what non-profits do. I think the word non-profit hurts our work and our reputation. The non-profit sector is an essential economic engine in this country. Last year it was $1.4 trillion in size. Sorry for that rant, but I wish I could implant these facts into the minds of some of the arrogant people that I encounter. Having worked multiple times in both for-profit and non-profit. It is not a contest. Non-profit work is so much more difficult to be successful. You have a business model that can not scale based on demand. There is a nonsensical lack of appreciation for overhead for non-profits when a corporation can have 85% "overhead" in their product. If you want to transfer your skills to non-profits--humble yourself ---become a student. Lose your assumptions, learn the differences,  apply your talents and success will follow. Then I am all ears. 
  7. I am really not passionate about anything--You can't believe how many times I hear this. Young and mature. Exec and student. Men and women. All ethnicities. People who have devoted themselves to a "plan"--go back to #3 above--and thought passion would be delivered to them. The skies or their hearts would magically open up and they would get a healthy dose of the passion thing. So distracted by what they thought the formula for "success" is, they missed themselves and the world around them. No passion. New grads without a clue and retirees with nothing to do. You have to get lost to find yourself. Passion comes from your pursuit of happiness and the happiness of others. It comes from connecting who you are and the world around you. Never too late, but your time here requires you to find this.

Wow, do I feel better. I have vented and maybe you have understood. Now there is a possibility that you will not say these things and disabuse others from saying these phrases too. Thanks George for inspiring me. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Networking Tips from Beggars

My boss has a little ceramic plaque in her office that she bought at the 99cent store.  Raisins
Life is about raisins:

Raisin children!

Raisin money!

Raisin hell!

The wisdom you can find for under a buck! Those of us who have had to raise money/fundraise for causes for a living and a lifetime, consider ourselves beggars. While we may not use a tin cup and squat on a street corner, the process of getting people to part with THEIR money to fund your organization and cause is one of the most humbling and challenging tasks in life.

I was invited to be part of a prestigious panel of "begging" experts last week to help provide non-profit fundraisers and leaders gain a few insights into the current world of fundraising that is dripping with economic uncertainty and a receding donor pool. Stewart Kwoh, the founder and head of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the leading civil rights organization for Asian Americans in the US and winner of a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 1998. Stewart is a big time beggar. Kafi Blumenfield who leads the very progressive and effective Liberty Hill Foundation, is a consummate beggar. And Gayle Yamada, who leads the fundraising for the Little Tokyo Service Center, one the region's most innovative local cultural preservation and development non-profits. She is a professional beggar. I know what you are thinking, what was I doing with them?!!

They shared some insights, how-tos, and ideas that seemed to be very helpful to the audience. I think these lessons will help fundraisers but also apply to anyone interested in deeper and more fulfilling networking and relationships.

  1. Not about you: Never forget that you are representing a cause and an organization that are bigger than you. Many people will reject your proposals and your requests, but you can not take it personally. Learning from each rejection is critical to get better at pitching and begging, but don't waste time with how bad you feel. Yes, people give to people. But you are not representing yourself but the greater mission of your organization.
  2. Listen! What do they want?: Find out what makes people tick, who they are and why they are interested in your organization. What triggered their first gift? Eventually, you might get to a story that is very personal that tells you more about them and their motivations. Don't just show up and throw up your latest and greatest propaganda, find out what they think.
  3. Not just when you need something: Cardinal sin of all networking but especially fundraising. Reach out only when you need money or help. Bad form. Contact "important" prospects and supporters to check in, for advice, to share an article on something they care about (not your newsletter), to congratulate them on an achievement and then listen!
  4. Treat everyone like they are important: Many of the largest donors start off very small. They often don't look wealthy and may not even think they are wealthy. People are also connected, related to, know other donors, foundations, corporations--ones you are cultivating now. The moment you decide to treat a person with less importance, is the moment you find out her uncle is a billionaire! A story was told where a quaint elderly gentleman was a volunteer janitor at this struggling homeless shelter. He overheard the Ex Dir worrying about meeting next week's payroll. To the shock of the staff, the old man wrote a check for $20,000 to help them bridge the gap. When he died a few years later, he left them an endowment of $10 million! You never know who can help you.
  5. Passion to passion: Have to assume that you are passionate about your organization, not just interested or supportive. When a passionate fundraiser meets a passionate donor and they can find their common ground, great things happen. Connecting passions is the soul of relationships and of fundraising.
  6. Your existing donors are your best donors: No better donors than your existing ones. Don't ignore them for the newbies. More than likely you don't know them and your some of your donors would love to give more. Start with who you know before you just leap to people you don't.
  7. Short term needs with a long term focus: Our jobs as beggars is to help our organizations have a better future. Yes, that means meeting payroll and keeping the doors open. But some relationships need to be nurtured for the longer term. Your job is to meet you goals but to also seed the path for your successors who follow you.
  8. Make the ASK!: Number one complaint of donors, "Nobody ever asked". I am serious. Most supporters of organizations have not been courted or asked to give more. No an e-mail or a direct mail solicitation does not count. There is no substitute for meeting your donors face-to-face and asking them for more help. The ASK is a conversation about support and matching the donor's interests with yours. It is a logical consequence of the relationship. Blurting out an ASK when you don't know them can freak out everybody. But once you make the ASK, be quiet and listen!
  9. Say Thank You: I know this is really basic stuff but make calls and write notes. Make it as personal as you can. Thanking people is a lost art.
  10. Keep track of your relationships: Even if you only have 100 donors you have to have a shared system to document the relationships. A database that allows everyone to input info, facts, that help the organization understand the status, experiences, and opportunities of each donor. People in your organization have different interactions with donors/prospects and you want the current and future organizational team to be understand what the latest info is. Great networkers also have a "database" of notes to remember things and events.

Life is about raisins! Great begging and networking have the same assumptions at their core. It's the relationship, stupid! The opportunity to get to know people, really understanding them, and what they care about, is a priceless opportunity. It will reveal things that will help advance your organization and help you.

Thanks for reading. John


What is your vocation, your calling? And are you listening?

Like a lot of words, vocation, has been misunderstood and misused.

vo·ca·tion  (v-kshn)

n. 1. A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.

2. An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, such as a religious career; a calling.

As author Po Bronson asked in his quintessential career book, "What should I do with my life?" The question is what have you always wanted to or were you meant to do? For some this is an obvious and easy question and for most it presents great trepidation and challenges. This has been part of the quandary of our species since the dawn of time. We have always asked, "Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?"

Those of you who have raised kids or watched them grow up know that each child has a unique set of DNA and inclinations, traits, and talents. And if given encouragement and guidance to pursue those unique qualities, special things will happen. Too often the DNA is stunted, pruned back, conformed by the norms and wishes of a society that on one hand preaches a love of individuality but on the other often forces people into predictability. The greatest challenge and responsibility of parenthood is helping our kids find their calling.

Young people experiment with career ideas that start in their guts or in their wide open minds. Astronaut or President............Over time they start to appreciate their own interests, desires, and dreams that either get supported or don't. Other people's sense of "practicality" can interrupt the dreams and callings of younger people.Listening 

One's calling emerges from a blend of your DNA, your upbringing, and your world view. Your experiences trigger what you like and what you have confidence doing. You think of things that you SHOULD do, or things that you WANT to do. You see others doing something you would love to try. Some of these things are real candidates for your career and other things are put on a shelf of bucket list like items--Things I WILL do later.

There is a great misperception that the discovery of one's calling will be accompanied by a dramatic musical string arrangement and drums, skies that part revealing planets and stars, a bright light and a clear deep voice that provides life's instructions. Sorry to burst your bubble, that does not happen to us mortals.

Your calling is more like a whisper than a thunderous clap.

Most often, your calling unfolds through a great scavenger hunt of life. You get clues and advice along the path from your experiences and from people who guide you. You have intellectual and emotional reactions to these encounters with your calling. Either you are paying attention, listening, and taking note or you aren't. Many things interest you, but only a few really generate excitement and passion. And if you are fortunate, you pay attention and a theme or several themes emerge.

It may be art, kids, or pets. It may be solving puzzles, helping people, or writing. Subjects and skills you just enjoy doing and talking about. If you are drawing a blank right now, then you need more experiences. You need to pursue your curiosities. You need to meet people who are engaged in these issues and passions. Eventually, your calling will be like a constant emergency broadcasting tone that you heed and try not to ignore. That tone is a complex set of frequencies that is composed of may sounds and ideas from your past, your present and from your soul.

Listen for your calling and take notes.

Met Tom Tierney this week. Tom co-founded Bridgespan and authored a relatively new book called Give Smart. It is a wonderful guide to life and philanthropy. One of the many ideas he conveyed was our pursuit of "our calling." Connecting with what we are passionate in our lives, careers, and in our giving. He discussed this potential shift in trajectory that occurs when one evaluates "success" and wonders if this is it. That internal conversation that moves from "success to significance"--will my success be significant? Will it matter to more than me? We return to the age-old questions--What am I SUPPOSED to do? WHY am I here?

So the idea of a calling does not just arrive on a white horse and announce its presence. It must be stalked and pursued. Most of us mortals have to track down this elusive fugitive of a calling and take it into custody. Otherwise life goes by and you might achieve some success but little significance. And you may have missed what you were supposed to do!

Only you can hear your calling. Listen for your vocation and follow it.

We need people becoming who they were meant to be be. We need more passion. We definitely need more significance--your significance!

Thanks for reading. John


What is your Change Reaction?

If we all lived in an idyllic Pleasantville where things were predictably good, then we would not want change. We would not have expectations. We would never be dissatisfied with ourselves. We would never worry about the future. But even in the film the desire for change and difference was too great to sustain the utopian world.

Change requires a change reaction. We envision macro changes in the world. Changes that right a wrong or to relieve pain and suffering. We align ourselves with organizations to address these changes. We volunteer, give money, work for orgs that want and work toward change. And as individuals we want change in our own lives. Changes in our diets, in our kids' study habits.....Changes in our workplaces. These micro changes can align or distract us from these worldly changes. So change is dependent on other changes and so on and so on. The chain reaction of change, if you will.  Some people can separate change at these different levels and pursue them all simultaneously. Others are more linear and will not think about others until they change their immediate worlds. I need to love myself before I love others. Or I need to work on myself, while I change the world? Or By changing the world I will be changed? Any of these sound familiar or resonate?

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi

Bottomline is the diet of the status quo is inadequate on almost all levels. We are hungry for change. Our appetites are great. So change is a regular dish on the menu. But what are we cooking up to feed our need for change?Change

It requires transformation by the change agents--that's us. We have to change.

This goal for change is less attainable because of the reverse change reaction. Individuals and organizations that can't adapt quickly enough to employ methods, processes and solutions to address the evolving context. Their bad habits and stubbornness tethers them to assumptions and premises that are no longer true and real change becomes academic.

Often, we are the problem that prevents the change.

The speed of our change reaction is essential. How fast is our feedback loop to digest the realities of the world we want to change, develop a strategy, and implement the fix?

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. John Lennon

People who resist change are either in the wrong place or need to change.

If there is not a feeling of constant change, then you have no chance at improvement, because improvement requires change. Otherwise you live in Pleasantville!

If you don't adopt a philosophy of trying new things your obsolescence is assured.

If it works it's obsolete. Marshall McLuhan

Thinking about change is very much like imagination. We can imagine things, but we have to do things.

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. Maya Angelou

Almost all of of my conversations are about change. How to improve, eliminate, alter, move themselves/something/someone else or a cause. Never had a conversation with anyone that starts, "How do I keep everything the way it is?" Never.

Here are three quotes I heard from people this week:

1. I know this career change makes no sense financially but it will give me more flexibility.

2. How do I leave my job, change careers and preserve my current lifestyle?

3. Aren't we going through too much change?

I think one of the benefits of talking to someone else is to hear yourself! You can not change by yourself. You need to connect to the real needs of others and the world. The more you do that, the more you will be inspired, and the more you will change.

How do you start change or a movement? You act. You take a risk and become one of the first. You express yourself even if it looks "silly". In short, you lead. Lead yourself, lead your team, your neighborhood, or your community.

Expectations drive our change and could drive us crazy.

So if you don't want change then you don't have any expectations

As you read this blog you are changing imperceptibly, you are aging, your brain is adjusting to thoughts, and inputs, your weight is shifting to your movement etc etc

Change is life. Life is change.

Change is inexorable. The problems we face will change and not be solved but we will address them and make progress. But the work and the change never ends.

An issue I hear expressed is I am not in charge or in control of the change. If I was in control of the change, I would do it differently. That position in life, of complaining about lack of control, is an excuse and basically a lifetime license to whine. Until you become the supreme ruler of the universe, you will be subjected to change. Your choice is adapt or quit. Challenge the change or surrender. Lean into the change or run.

I suggest altering your change reaction.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Are you hungry? Is your belly full of fire?

If you are like me, when I am awake I am hungry! Food is very important to me. I love to eat and cook. But I am not talking about those pangs of hunger. I am talking about your hunger to succeed. Your internal desire to grow and to make a difference. Your ambition to become the best you can be. I have blogged about being ambitious without ambition. I see that way too often. Great plans and no action. What do they say in Texas, "Big hat no cattle." People who talk about what they are going to do and don't.

Hunger drives action. How hungry are you?

I remember when I was graduating from UCLA and Arnold Schwarznegger's movie Stay Hungry came out. One of my advisors referred to the film and said to me always "stay hungry." Like many wise words, I did not understand this until much later. The value of constantly and consciously avoiding complacency and reminding yourself of what motivates you. The process of never becoming satisfied with the status quo, because every achievement is a step towards goals that are always larger than self. Goals that will never be accomplished by you alone. Hunger is that raw and burning feeling that keeps you real, focused, and actively engaged.Heart fire

Some call it Fire in the belly.

William Safire wrote: "an unquenchable thirst for power or glory; the burning drive to win a race or achieve a goal. As a political phrase, the expression is usually used to indicate a Presidential candidates' desire to win, particularly the willingness to endure the long contest. It first appeared in print in 1882, in an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson, in which he compared historians Thomas Carlyle and Thomas Babington Macaulay.The source of the expression is not known. Perhaps this metaphor for ambition comes from stoking a potbellied stove or from the fiery sensation of heartfelt heartburn."

The hunger to which I refer, the fire in the belly, goes well beyond hard work and commitment. Those are valuable and valued traits. But hunger is a sustained drive that pushes you to do your best in every situation. As Safire wrote it is an "unquenchable thirst." Passion can fuel your hunger, your fire, as long as one of your passions is tending to the fire. Passion can have cycles. It can rush in and subside. We need passion. But I am talking about the internal awareness and energy that moves and motivates. This hunger never gets sated. You may be reading this and not know what I am talking about. Sorry about that. You probably don't have it. It can be acquired by a combination of life experiences, connections with others, epiphanies of self destiny and of course great effort. What stokes the fire? What kindling and embers turn into a wildfire that propels you to make a meaningful difference to you and for others?

Some may confuse people who are super competitive, super ambitious, workaholics, Type As, or even the competent with the truly hungry. Many times this hunger and desire can be taken to extremes. The hunger and fire are most effective when they are continuous and constant sources of energy. Like the sun burning hot everyday, giving us more light than heat.

If this is something you want, then surround yourself with people who have it. Our teams, our networks, our mentors, our organizations, and our families need people that have this inner drive. Help others build their fires.Eye fire

When you meet people who have it, it is obvious. The fire is in their eyes and in their energy for their words. Sometimes harder to tell the people that don't. Because they say things that give you the impression that they do. And they believe they do because they have said it so many times it has become their truth. But actions will always trump words. Later you find that they have unwittingly deceived themselves and others. They say they are hungry but the fire has never been lit.

Some may be born and/or raised to be hungry. Their life circumstances. Their DNA. But most learn to acquire the fire. They accumulate an understanding of what they want, how they want to define their lives, and that wasting these opportunities are foolish.

Your understanding of your strengths and what is meaningful to you can ignite and sustain your belly fire.

Strengths: The more you learn and nurture what you are good at, what you love doing, the more you see your potential. Your potential, based on your strengths, can be the biggest log in our fires. Always need to work on our weaknesses, but advancing what we do well will give us pleasure, great satisfaction, and the desire to continue.

Meaning: Your daily time and effort have to be connected to meaning in your life. Making money to get your kids through college because you did not. Leading a non-profit Board to make a difference in the community. Mentoring your staff to make them better employees, citizens, and human beings. What you do has to be meaningful to you. And that meaning has to be tied to a cause, a goal, and/or a reason that is more than you.

Avoid being someone with big logs, no fire. Seek out and connect with people who are hungry. Pursue your inner gifts and talents. Hook your great locomotive to a train full of meaning and your fire will keep you on a track that goes higher and higher.

I am still hungry. I need to eat! :)

Thanks for reading. John


Lexicon of Life---Be defined by what you want not by the words you use

The word swastika is Sanskrit not German and is more than 3000 years old. The version on the right was high-jacked 70 years ago. Nevertheless swastika still means good fortune and well-being to much of the world.

I recently heard the remarkable Howard Bloom speak about the brain and our views of the world. He exhorted the audience, "To see everything as you never seen it before!" Why? Because we do not see things as they really are. We scan and assume. We pre-judge, we are governed by our habits and our moods. We gravitate to the easy answers that we often know are under-informed and possibly wrong. We rely on our instincts and intuition way too much. Ultimately, we see things, have thoughts and feelings, convert them to words and vice versa. Words generate thoughts/feelings and our perception is framed. Sometimes we let words drive our thoughts. And a bunch of swastika like words can get embedded in our mouths and our minds. We get off track because we don't question what we say and see. How we see our selves and our opportunities matters. So the words we use to describe our futures make a difference. Right?Dictionary

Last week I met with a group of grad students. I ask them, as I always do, what career/job/position do you want when you graduate? This is not a trick question, nor hopefully, a surprise query? :) But it always seems to startle these post-graduate recipients. Often I get a litany of buzzwords, jargon, and phrases intended to impress. Words such as CAREER, PROFESSION, JOB, and OCCUPATION are bandied about. Loose words and even looser thinking. Yet these immature thoughts are guiding behavior and establishing unintended goals. Sound familiar? Easy to make fun of grad students, but the lesson here is examine our words to keep us focused on what we want.

Words are so important. What they mean and how we use them. Most words we rely upon like the oxygen we breathe, we don't think about them or question their origins. Do we say what we mean or mean what we say?

Here is the John Kobara lexicon watch list of words to keep you on your toes:

CareerFrom the French word Carriere, which means two-wheeled vehicle like a chariot, a racecourse, similar origins as careen, so out of control. Supposedly became a "course of life". But it began as a vehicle going in circles very rapidly nearly out of control! Lily Tomlin said, "Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat!" A career can seem cyclical and circular, speedily heading to a finish line that looks very much like the starting point.

Profession: Originally the "professing" of one's vows to religious faith. An occupation requiring specialized knowledge and training.

Job: A regular activity in exchange for payment.

Occupation: Process of filling up time and space. To be busy. To have a job.

Vocation: From vocare or vocatio, meaning summons or calling. Originally, a divine calling to the religious life. This is what your heart whispers to you or you have heard in the back of your mind, the work or activity that you prefer and like doing--even love doing, including your so-called passions. Are you heeding the calls? I have had many vocations and that's all I want!

Amateur: From the Latin word amator, meaning lover or someone in avid pursuit of a goal. A person who does an activity for the love of it.

We all want more than a job or an occupation. Do you want to be an amateur or a professional? To have a career or a vocation? Like the swastika, the words can limit what we see.  And our perceptions can deceive us. 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it!     Yogi Berra

Our questions have to be guided by what we want. Do we really want a new or different career or job? Or are you deeply and seriously interested in linking who you are to your like, your work, and your achievements?

A report by the British think tank Demos describes the rise of what is called the ProAm Revolution. There has been an increase in the number of amateurs who excel, rival and even exceed the standards and achievements of the professionals. People with day jobs who are accomplished in other areas. People who have dual careers, one paid and one un-paid. They are lawyers who paint. Doctors who volunteer. Teachers who write textbooks. Accountants who play the french horn. My blog and speaking have become my amateur work. This career duality helps them feel fulfilled and challenged. Finding one job that will totally encompass the needs of a person is far fetched. Therefore it has been my experience that this strategy is not the exception but the essential one. 

Our jobs can be what we do to pay the bills, hopefully it is work we care about and that makes a difference in the world. Most of us will need to be an amateurin something else to give our life well-lopsidedness. We have to have multiple interests and work to meet our different needs. Ideally these worlds can help each other. Being a tri-athlete, sing operas, coach at-risk youth.... 

Seeing your life as big enough to include your ProAm strategy is the start. And begins with the words and thoughts that describe your vision for yourself. How about a Vocational Amateur? :)

 Thanks for reading. John

  


The Sources of Inspiration--The Network of TED

We obtain our ideas, inspirations, and aspirations through our experiences and our interactions with other people . We find these people through our quests for meaning or through the serendipity of life. People with purpose, people with needs, people who overcome their challenges, people like us and very different from us, who are making a difference in the world. Pretty obvious, but without making connections to others we will miss many sources of inspiration. The result can be a life less fulfilled. Regrettably, I meet these people all of the time. People who are competent, educated, and confident, and who lack passion. Who see life as an accumulating list of obligations and tasks. Time is a burden. They either think that there will be a pot at the end of the rainbow or worse, have settled for the "hand they were dealt". We have to see the opportunity ahead. Inspiration can shake us from our slumber and awaken our potential. Inspiration does not make an appointment or wait in line. Inspiration has to be pursued.  Inspiration_quotes_graphics_c2

I have been a semi-obsessed fan of TED and TedTalks. If TED was a person, I would have been subjected to a restraining order many years ago. TED was started by Richard Wurman 25 years ago. He hosted a private almost secret salon of thinkers and doers in Monterey California. I read about it in Wired Magazine in the dot com era. In 2002, Mr. Wurman ceded control to Chris Anderson and then TedTalks was born and distributed for free. TedTalks are a weekly routine for me. I use these talks to inform me, to open up my world to new things, to inspire me, and to push me. While I am not rich enough or famous enough to be invited and pay to attend the annual TED conference, I get a great view from my iPhone and iPad! Probably watched 125 talks so far. 

I elbowed my way into the first TEDx conference in 2009, a local version of TED organized by community members under the umbrella of TED. Thousands of TEDx events have been hosted around the world. Like American Idol and all of the other reality talent shows, there is so much talent and so many inspiring stories out there. TED shows us there is so much good being pursued by good people all over the globe--you would never know if you watch the nitely news! Watch a TedTalk and/or attend a TEDx event and be inspired. 

Last week I spoke at TEDx Santa Monica. I was asked to talk about "education". Education is the great transformer. However, I decided to not address the important trends and solutions I see in the educational institutions around us. Instead, I focused on what I see as the greatest tragedy, the waste of human potential. When people never find meaning and a connection to what they care about and what they were meant to do. In my opinion, the top educational priority is understanding ourselves so we can apply our uniqueness to the ideas, issues and causes we care about. To live with passion!

Here's my talk entitled Find Yourself by Losing Yourself.  The video production value is lacking but the good news is the dark setting makes me look better!

 

Please explore TedTalks even if you did not like my speech. :) Hopefully it becomes a source of education and inspiration to discover and apply your greatness. We need you to be the best you can be.

Thanks for reading. John


Wait and See---The Worst Strategy

What will it take for you to make a move? Take the chance? Do what you have wanted to do? Have the network and mentor you always wanted?

The worst thing is to just wait for the"right" time. The time when all of the conditions are ideal.

It is the most common thing I hear. "I think I am going to wait and see." Wait until.....things calm down, I am not as busy, until the kids are out of/get back to school, until-----WHAT???!! Stop the madness. Stop the irrational indefensible excuses.

It's May 2010. Let's reflect on the promises you made to yourself just 4 months ago. Remember? Waiting clock

We are always in a marathon. It is a long race that requires great effort that is sustained. But like all races you have hills and you have slopes. You have weather and you have wind. You have competition and you have your body's responses. Stuff happens. My point is, what is the best time to start making your move? Nowis the only time you have. It is always now. As Eckhart Tolle says, yesterday is a former now and tomorrow is a future now.

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

Yes, the economy is showing signs of recovery. And the stock market is returning to its previous form. Yet, the jobs and the opportunities have not mirrored theses economic measures---they never do. There is always a lag effect. Jobs will follow. So you wait. For what? Certainty?

There are many flaws with the waiting strategy. When times are good, whatever that means, most people (present company excluded :)) tend to get comfortable with their lives and feel less motivated to make a change. Second, waiting til its warm and safe to dive into the pool of opportunities is when everyone wants to go swimming and the waters are crowded and unwelcoming. Lastly, how long you willing to wait? Years? Because it will be years.

What do you think the sheep-like masses are doing? Your competition? Yes, they are waiting too.

Waiting is just a euphemism for procrastination. Procrastination is another word for laziness. Laziness is the most dangerous mode because it robs the individual and everyone around her from the benefits of talent and passion fulfilled.

So stop waiting. What are you waiting for? A sign? This is your sign. :)Waiting

If you know what you want, go for it! If you aren't sure then start exploring!

If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for us. We need everyone to push themselves to contribute more to our society and to our world. Hard to imagine a world with more needs and challenges than we have today. The only thing worse will be if people decide to be bystanders, unwilling to give their all.

Waiting is a waste of time and talent. Push forward and make it happen.

Thanks for reading. John


If I don't, I will regret it!: Avoiding the Regret Matrix

 
No Regrets!
Make service to others, relationships, passions, your priorities, and success will follow.
j.e.kobara
 
No regret I have finished my last 100 presentations, workshops and speeches with this quote. I have believed for a very long time that the number of regrets--what we wish we did, chances we did not take, things we should have done--are a much better measurement of our age than the clock. You know the "shoulda, couldas." Not talking about the micro regrets of daily transactions like buyer's remorse over the cell phone you purchased. Or the tiny faux pas or thought about how you could have done something better. I am really not talking about anything you have done. I am talking about the heftier regrets of not acting, of not doing something that we regard as important or now see as an opportunity lost. I once asked Guy Kawasaki what his greatest regret was. He told me about a company that was formed by some nerdy Stanford students in Mountain View, who wanted Guy to be their CEO. Guy turned the job because the commute was too long and the name of the company was silly. It was Yahoo. Fortunately this is one of many stories that Guy does not regret! But if we accumulate many regrets, then we become old because we are not as fulfilled or satisfied with our lives. We are also not happy, especially when you look in the rear view mirror and keep asking, what if? Once you have a box filled of these regrets, you have the tendency to give up on your goals and dreams. You start to settle. You doubt yourself. You accept your fate and the rest of your story is predictable. And we lose the best you have to offer. And that's why this is the slipperiest of life's slopes. A slope that not only treats your personal and professional expectations as mirages but accelerates your life satisfaction on a downward aging spiral.
 
Met with a former colleague last week who has made great contributions to society and to our community. I like meeting with her because she is a source of strength and inspiration. She is going to complete her 14th year in the same line of work and I began to probe what was ahead. She started telling me how old she is (I already knew this) and how her options have narrowed. Saying meaningless things like, "I am not as young as I used to be." What?!!! She sounded tired and resigned to her choices. She is 60. While controlled, I was furious with her. Not because she is lacking great ambition at this stage of her life. Not because she is thinking realistically about her last few chapters of her life. But because she is starting to give up. In a last ditch effort, I said, "What do you have to do in the next 5 years, or you will regret it?" She began to regale me with her plans with her kids and family, travel that was important, and the specific goals for her organization. Her eyes became the windows to her soul again and were filled with the verve and intensity upon which I have become dependent. How can our ambitions evolve with our lives but continue to energize us? How do we continue to minimize our regrets?
 
Like exasperated fans who leave well before the game ends, their concerns start to turn to the traffic rather than on what they think is an unlikely chance to succeed. After all, giving up is the definition of death, isn't it?Regret
 
What is not understood is if you try things and they do not work out or even if you fall down on your face, these items do not turn into these aging burdensome regrets. Those were opportunities that we did not pass on and we stuck our little necks out of our hard turtle shells and took a chance. As the baseballers say, hard to get a hit if you don't swing the bat. So to be clear, regrets, the ones that grow into tumors and weigh a life down like a bad set of samsonite are the regrets that resonate from chances not taken.
 
There is a great body of mathematical and probability research on decision making based on payoff or regret matrices. On the consequences and antecedents of decisions we regret. Most have to do with consumer behavior. One study published in the journal for the American Psychological Association (2002) concluded, "As a consequence, decisions not to act that are followed by a negative outcome result in more regret than do decisions to act that lead to outcomes." But while regret may be informed by the numbers it is ultimately a matter of the heart.
 
As a parent and a manager of people and someone who tries to lead others for a living, I have experimented with the proverbial carrot and have also deployed the stick. Can you get more from sugar than vinegar? Is a pat on the back as effective as one a little lower? Do bonuses work better than fines? Is pleasure a greater incentive than the pain of the consequences? Shouldn't a dream be more powerful than regretting not pursuing the dream? These debates about human nature have raged on for centuries. Like most complex processes, it depends. But one thing is certain, most people have thoughts about their futures. They can say they want to be happy and have meaning in their lives. They always say this. Inaction, by not doing something, is the source of regret. And considering in advance that regret may be the greatest motivator. Otherwise, life happens and those notions of the future get supplanted by the traffic jam of life rather than what they see down the road. 
 
Many chroniclers of life have documented what people say at the end of their lives. Just finishing John Izzo's Five Secrets You Have to Know Before You Die. Like Po Bronson's book, What Should I Do With My life? or Habits of the Heart, by Robert Bellah. People tell us what they wanted in their lives and where they came up short. Regrets play a big part. Those that are the least happy have an unchecked bucket list. The top of the list is filled with relationships that were never consummated, reconciled, or handled well. Then there are a few other regrets. These are passports or experiential tickets that were not stamped. They failed to visit places and try things. They are often described as chances, as opportunities, as things that were vital to them but were never done. Now just a collection of "youthful" impulses that are no longer practical and gather layers of regret dust. Feel the gray hair and wrinkles growing uncontrollably?
 
How do we minimize or avoid this fate? Or how do we stop the slide down this depressing mountain? Pretty easy. Start acting on your ideas, aspirations, experiential wish lists, AND your relationships now! You have heard the ole questions: What will you say to those you love when you are on your deathbed? And why are you waiting until then?
 
Having no regrets, is regrettably a negative way of acting. But I think it works and it is powerful. It is the best way to make decisions of consequence that require your instincts and intuition. Which decision would we regret more? This can be very telling. Graduate schools, jobs, travel destinations. The one, if you did not have it, you would regret the most, is always your first choice.
 
Start listening to your heart and as I like to say, take great notes. Understand what you will regret and act to avoid it. A life without regrets is more meaningful and happier. And you know what you are like when you feel that way and the impact that has on everyone around you. And when we have more people taking chances and pursuing opportunities, we have a more vibrant and dynamic society. So minimize regrets in your life for yourself and for the rest of us too. It is a fool proof way to make you younger and happier and that is something you will never regret.
 
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


Reality check from Haiti and the power of networks

Do you remember the 1985 story about the $5000 of relief aid that was sent between Mexico and Ethiopia, which was enduring great suffering. Drought and war had ravaged the Ethiopian way of life. I remember thinking that the $5000 was such a pittance given the urgent and widespread needs. However, I realized I had mis-read the article. the financial aid went from Ethiopia TO Mexico to help with the huge earthquake in Mexico City. Then I learned that in 1935, a half a century before, Mexico had sent aid when Italy invaded Ethiopia and they never forgot. Ethiopians who remembered reciprocated, they fulfilled their sense of mutual obligation to their brothers and sisters in Mexico.

We help Haiti now and in the future because we are connected to them. Because we have an obligation  as humankind to help one another. I just hope that our focus on Haiti and the needs there will not fade too soon. 2 weeks into the devastation and our attention spans are already strained.

I was formally introduced to the International Medical Corps(IMC) last week. It was sort of embarrassing because IMC is based here in LA and I really did not know them. They provided a small corporate briefing to raise money and awareness. IMC is a very impressive organization that provides medical aid as their name implies. They were on the ground in Haiti 22 hours after the earthquake was reported. In fact they are most often first in where medical assistance is required.  By the way they are the ones who helped save Monley the 5 year old who was pulled from the rubble and is now doing fine. In brief here's what separates IMC from others:

  1. IMC engages the local population to train and sustain their efforts. 96% of their team members are from the local country.
  2. IMC stays with the hard work of getting through the crisis and then moves into the necessary transition to public health and rebuilding. IMC is among the few humanitarian agencies still in Darfur and Iraq for example.
  3. IMC spends 92% of its gifts on their programs! Amazingly efficient.

But IMC leverages their donations by serving as a hub of a powerful and experienced network of resources. They use the power of multiplication to amplify their impact. They match every dollar with a minimum of 20x in aid and support. In fact I was told that it is now closer to 59 to 1! But it is their philosophy to not be a foreign aid team that parachutes in and leaves that impresses me most. They train locals to grow their reach from thousands to millions and leave a legacy of a self-reliant infrastructure.

The power of networks are known to all of us. And if they endure because they are self sustaining then the ripple effect really happens. Networks that are not dependent on one member or one resource are powerful and replicable. IMC responds by engaging its growing worldwide network that now spans 50 countries.

Nancy Aossey has headed IMC for the last 25 years. Like all great leaders she is brimming with energy and passion for her work. She is charismatic but not flashy. She is very much like IMC -- substantial. More about effectiveness than ego. Probably why their brand is not a household name. Nevertheless they continue to do their magic where they are needed.

After learning about them my family decided to give them most of our 2010 charitable contributions. Please consider helping them too. 

Our lives are truly changed by the people we meet. If we spend a little time understanding who they are, why they do what they do, our own trajectories and paths are altered. We glean little bits of sanity and rationality, and comfort from these encounters. And sometimes these conversations open our brains to new ideas and thoughts.  It shows us the power of the human spirit. It redefines us. We get mentored in these moments of enlightenment and reconsider who we are and where we are going. Learning about IMC had that impact on me.

Yeah I am a bit of a pushover, my heart and maybe my own guilt lead me too often. But I think these moments are after shock reality checks. They are the speed bumps that get us to decelerate a bit and consider what we are doing to make a difference. We could all quit our jobs and join IMC. Not suggesting that. But we need to learn from IMC's wonderful model.Reality checks

We all volunteer, donate, and empathize--that is the baseline of humanity. We do that because we are upright and we have hearts. But how do we leverage the good we do? How do we use our talents and networks to multiply that good? As I am fond of saying, even the lone ranger did not ride alone.  Never be discouraged by "I am just one person". The power of networks, of working with others is empowering and powerful. Re-committing ourselves to our own passions and engaging our networks in that work has to be a priority. And one person can make more of a difference.

So give money and or time to Haiti. It will make a difference and make you feel good. But use this time to consider the IMC model of leveraging goodwill through your network. Think about how we make a bigger impact or change. And like Mexico and Ethiopia, we will also build stronger bonds to help one another now and in the future.

Thanks for reading. John


The Scariest Costume of All -- The Pretender

First a shout out to my workshop attendees from Pepsi. I spent a half day with some of Pepsi’s hand picked rising Asian American star employees. They are members of PAN (Pepsi Asian Network) one of Pepsi’s many multicultural employee groups. Some large corporations form “affinity” or “resource” groups to assist employees with their integration and assimilation. However most companies still labor under the erroneous and archaic assumption that there will be a "natural" diversity that will emerge in a truly merit based and competitive environment. Logo_pepsico But Pepsi is different. They recognize that creating and growing a multi-cultural team requires leadership and investments of time and resources. Pepsi nominates talented team members and invests in their development. This kind of investment generates loyalty and retains the very top performers. The PAN leaders were primarily first generation Asian immigrants from Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, Korea, Taiwan who are ambitious and passionate. What a joy to facilitate a workshop for them on networking and mentoring. Being around competent, curious, and energetic people is always inspiring to me! It is no wonder that Pepsi is such a world leader that continues to be a model for others.

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Saw some pretty impressive costumes this week. One of the most popular costumes of the season is--being somebody else—being somebody that other people want you to be. These people assume the identity, the career interests, and the dreams that other people want for them. I jokingly call this the outfit of the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Taking on a new identity can be easier and safer. This happens when other people tell you what you SHOULD do, what is BEST for you, what you are GOOD at, and who you are NOT. And not having an answer, you are gradually fitted with somebody else’s life, a frighteningly phony costume!  

Like Jeff Bridges in the 1984 film Starman, where as a space alien he becomes human and normal by copying what other people do and say. Or like Jeff Dunham's lifeless ventriloquist’s dolls that come to life with someone else’s words and actions. 

Where do these costumes come from? How does this occur? Sometimes this happens because of over bearing parents who do not nurture inherent and innate talents. Instead they impose their own dreams on their kids. Others of us fall into jobs and positions that are placeholders until we decide what we want to be when we grow up. Then one day we wake up and we start feeling the pangs of regret. Still others of us feel guilty pursuing our secret passions and interests when being rational and practical is the expectation. In any case we defer our needs and dreams. We assume comfortable identities, costumes, and lives that are not truly our own.

Everyone has hidden talents, submerged career urges, inner callings, unrealized natural genius skills and abilities. We all do. We really do. And when these pent up passions and curiosities get mummified by layers and layers of identities that are projected on us and assumed by us, a life that is true to itself can be lost. And worse, we as a society lose that genius. We as a community lose real passion and inspiration. We as a family or a team lose a role model. Being who we were meant to be is selfish and generous.

For those of you, who are just befuddled by this, count yourselves amongst the fortunate.  Be grateful somebody helped you find yourself or let you become who you are. Your job is to free the others from their suffocating costumes.

For those of you who know that you are wearing a nice looking but totally poor fitting costume, it’s time to look in the mirror and inside. If you do, you will be greeted by a sense of freedom and fear. Free to do what you want and fear of failure. Either way it will be exciting. You can either strip off the costume in one act of courage if you know what you want. Or visit the career wardrobe shop and try on as many new yous as you want. You can rent or borrow new career and life costumes to see if they fit. You are in control. It never has to be all or nothing. But doing nothing is never an option.

Bottomline: Really hard to be mentored or to network when you are an impostor!

Stop pretending. Abandon those scary inauthentic costumes. Escape the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Don’t allow others to design your dreams. And let that amazing you reveal itself. We all need you to be who you were meant to be.

Thanks for reading. John

 

 

 


Patient and Passionate Persistence

Be quick, don't hurry. Coach John Wooden

I have learned over many years that the achievement of important personal and professional goals take much longer than I think or want. Part of being young or stubborn is impatience--being in too big a rush to see the outcome. J0314296 Golfers know that you can not peek to see where your ball is going until well after you have struck the ball. By peeking, you reduce your concentration on making the most of your time, attention and energy to do what has to be done to get the outcome you want. 

Please do not confuse patience with complacency or a lack of urgency. Effective patience is where you have clear goals--the vision of your destination-- an inner sense of passion drive you to that vision, an openness to experiment and have fast failures to learn how to achieve the vision, adopt the best practices of others, and take pride and enjoyment in the progress and process. All of this takes time and patience. 

More than a few times I have gravitated to early stage ideas and visions that captured my imagination. There was always the visionary who so clearly and passionately painted a picture of the ultimate goal. We know that only a few ideas take off instantly. And even those seemingly over night viral successes have long struggles that preceded their debuts and meteoric rises. The Twitters, Facebooks, iPhones have to be contrasted with the landfills of ideas that never made it or had 15 seconds of fame. Anyway, I have taken some pleasure out of watching how ideas that have hordes of early critics eventually find their place in the sun. Either by the shifting needs and circumstances or by sheer persistence and incremental progress over many years. 2 examples:

  • Online education: I was fortunate to have been recruited by visionary founder Alan Arkatov to lead an online education company called OnlineLearning.net, now part of Walden University, one of the largest online universities in the world. Anyway, back in 1996, online education was decried as "diploma mills" as a cheap imitation of an education institution. As an early pioneering company, we took the slings and arrows of these higher ed hecklers. Fast forward, 3 years ago online courses for students ON college campuses surpassed face to face classes. Look at this report in the NY Times and the Dept of Education's comprehensive study:
    • Students who took all or part of their class online performed better....
    •  Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction...
  • Virtual/digital textbooks: In late 2006 I was recruited by Neeru Khosla, one of the most passionate and visionary people I have ever met, to join a team at CK12.org. CK12 is a non-profit org that endeavors to create virtual/digital standards based no-cost customizable textbooks for the K12 classroom. The ways books are published and selected is so archaic, not to mention costly. Pluto is downgraded as a planet and it would take up to 7 years to update the textbook given the system in place! And the naysayers about virtual books, even at no-cost, were there to block the doors. Now that the budget crisis is forcing schools to defer expenses and make impossible choices, the allure of virtual books is dramatically increasing. This will be good for the school coffers but even better for the students and teachers. So no-cost books are becoming quite popular! Check out this article NY Times that describes the promise and need for this service. 
My roles in these organizations were at the margins, but I got a view of the power of patient and passionate persistence. Early on, It would be easy to give up or give in. 
J0424372 Just like running a race, the early aches and pains can be a deterrent to keep on, but every long distant runner knows the strength that comes from fighting through it all. I have drafted off of the energy and vision of these marathon runners. I admire the Alan and Neerus of the world, for they and many others have inspired me with a model of passion and patience that drives and energizes me. 

In our lives we must remain persistent, passionate and patient. But, we are not getting younger! Engaging your talent, time, and soul in things you care about and things you see as important is crucial. This is where your urgency has to kick in. Finding your place. Finding a vision for yourself and for the world around you that will sustain and nurture you. I meet hundreds of people who think another university degree, taking a workshop, or finding a great mentor will unlock the doors. They might, they might not. Most of these people think they are being patient, but often they are procrastinating their confrontation with what they want. And if too much time goes by, it will be too late. The regret matrix is a deep and dark pool of quicksand that does not let go. And the greatest tragedy is we lose your ideas, genius, and contribution.

Coach Wooden's quote at the top of this blog guides me everyday. I am moving quickly and urgently, but patiently. And that has shown me that visions for new products, services and for oneself can be realized. 

Thanks for reading. John


Multiple Networking Personality Syndrome

Consider for the moment that more Americans are enrolled in outplacement services than in MBA, Law, and Medical graduate programs combined! For most participants this is a brutal wake-up call and hopefully they find a new and prosperous path. But the biggest obstacle to their awakening is their resistance to learning who they are and what they want. In the end they have to adopt the networking and mentoring lifestyle--the best inoculation against the plague of an unexpected job interruption and not working is networking!

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All of us have Sybil like qualities of having multiple personalities, many faces, and many dimensions. That does not make us candidates for elecro-shock therapy! :) It is normal and makes us interesting. However, where did these personalities come from? Why do we have these facets and what makes them shine? Hopefully, I have not lost you already. I am referring to how we each act in our multiple roles. As a parent, a wife, a subordinate, a child, as a guest, or a host. You know, the way we switch instantaneously to a new persona based on expectations, history, or what we think is right. This is a giant topic, so I will discuss how you recognize the way you are presenting yourself in the world of networking and mentoring.

I meet so many people across the demographic and economic spectrum who are unwitting members of the Federal Witness Relocation Program! They have assumed new career identities. Often, these identities have been foisted upon us like second-hand Halloween costumes. In most cases this costume has been sewn together by the advice and guidance of well meaning people who have told us what we should do, what we are good at, and what we should not be. The classic, "You can't make money as a (fill in the blank art career)." And needing an identity, we slip on the costume and it is better than nothing. And over time we think the costume fits and like many things we adopt it as our own. Mary Jacobsen's book Hand Me Down Dreams discusses this topic in depth on how others shape the dreams we have. Our parents have aided and abetted the crime of identity theft. Parental expectations can govern everything. Pleasing our parents is an innate desire. What they said to us about our dreams and what our choices should be can be lifelong incentives or burdens. Asian parents are notorious, as are many different types of parents (I just happen to encounter many Asians in my worlds) in setting specific and non-negotiable goals. Like the old and stereotypical story about the Jewish kid who pursued law because he could not stand the sight of blood! Asian parents push academic achievement, brand name colleges, and the specific professions of medicine, law or engineering. In addressing Asian American young people, I usually start by giving them permission to think outside of the Asian parent box. Tell the parent you are going to be a doctor--maybe that turns out to be a PhD in literature! 

You blend this costume wardrobe with the requirements of social etiquette, brown-nosing at work, first date party manners, familiarity, respect, political correctness and the costumes keep on coming!

Context changes how we act. Sometimes that is nice and sometimes it is stupid. Here's one example that befuddles me. When bright competitive and hard-nosed executives, entrepreneurs, and successful people join non-profit boards, they become imbeciles. They don their nice and gentle costumes and bite their tongues because they assume new identities and not themselves. They think that a non-profit is a sanctuary from their cut throat worlds. While the mission and bottomline of a non-profit is doing good, non-profits need the tough acumen and decisiveness of the business world--but more often than not they don't get it.

Being authentic, being you--the real you, has to be your goal. Hiding who you are or suppressing your interests and needs will only hurt you in the long run, because you will eventually land in the land of regret--the most painful land of all. And while being yourself requires the discomfort of removing some of those now form fitting costumes, we all know being real does not require you to remember anything. Pursuing what you want and not what you think others will like, or what your parents desire, will always be more fulfilling. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public. Epictetus

I am not saying just blurt out your inner thoughts or to be so honest that you offend every person in your path! Mutual respect and being aware of your surroundings remain essential. That being said, you need to find ways to pursue your authentic self. Martin Seligman's authentic happiness site has a variety of free self assessments

Authentic Networking:

  1. Setting your real goals, not the ones that sound good to others
  2. Practice articulating what you want and who you are, not the words you have been saying as a placeholder.  Love when people introduce themselves as "Director of sales and an artist."
  3. Asserting yourself by asking the questions on your mind. Pursuing your true curiosity by asking the questions and getting the answers.
  4. Enhance your network with people that are real and model this behavior. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and like the real you.  

  Authentic Mentoring:

  1. Find a mentor who you can really talk to--Let loose and take intellectual risks with.
  2. Define and refine this real plan for you with a mentor co-architect. 
  3. Openly discuss your weaknesses and seek feedback from your mentor and others.  
  4. Conduct your own self assessment and get your mentor to evaluate it.  

Not saying that we can shed all of the costumes, but living exclusively in the Federal Witness Relocation Program will never work out. Like everything, your self-awareness about who you are, what you say, and where you are going are the best guides up the mountain of authenticity. That will determine who's in your network and who your mentors are. Then you can return many of the costumes to the goodwill shop. 

Sometimes we define ourselves by a job title or a role-- I am VP of the company or a homemaker. That is not you, that is only a part of you. Don't be defined by a role, you are an incredibly unique and talented person who is much more interesting and complex than any day job. And in the end, the only personality that counts is you.  

Thanks for reading. John  


Non-profit network--optimism, obstacles, and opportunities

Don't recede during a recession

Spent the week meeting with about 350 non-profit leaders, representing more than 120 non-profit organizations (Nopes), about surviving the current economic crises. It was an exhausting and invigorating experience. It was an attempt to give these executives and fundraisers a reality check. As a serial non-profiteer I know that adapting and changing is not a core competence for this sector. But the world has changed and hunkering down to endure this period is essential. Chronicle of Philanthropy estimates that a 100,000 non-profits may close early next year. One thing is certain, this crises has hammered all organizations across all sectors. 

Consider these impacts on philanthropy and fundraising:
  • 66% of all charitable giving comes from individuals 
  • Every 100 point drop in the S and P 500 equates to a $1.5 billion drop in individual philanthropy. That translates to a $12 billion loss this year!
  • Very wealthy will continue to give but "middle class" donors will significantly reduce or stop giving. 
  • Planned giving will increase as a % of overall giving. During the depression planned giving was 40% of all charitable gifts.
  • Government grants, corporate, and foundation giving will drop precipitously. $10 trillion in market value and equity lost this year.   
  • Competition for gifts and attention will increase.  
In short the pie has shrunk and is shrinking from every side.
 
For the non-profit organizations I met, individual giving represented less than 15% of their income.

The conversations were an interesting blend of resilience and denial. These leaders are passionate about their work and that keeps them going. But their emotional connection to their work often blinds them to the changes that should have been and now need to be implemented. This is especially true when the demand for their services is increasing exponentially. They compartmentalize their focus on surviving and their drive to serve. In times like these, a recipe for disaster. 

Our discussions ran the gamut from commiseration over apathetic Boards, to a how-to on lay-offs, to new models of coopetition, to random expressions of fear, and searches for sources of optimism...

One thing that seems to be giving false hope, at least in the short term, is the Obama factor, which has two facets. First, the belief that Obama's leadership will improve the economy, bolster government, and non-profits financial prospects will rise. While Obama's leadership will make a difference, there will be no financial influx to non-profits in early 2009 when many NPOs will face grim realities. Second, the idea that the Obama online fundraising machine is a model that every non-profit can adopt to raise new money. As I explained, NPOs are missing one key ingredient, the ingredient that made Obama online fundraising  work----OBAMA! Not to be so cynical but NPOs gravitate to mirage like solutions all the time. We'd rather add than subtract.

The recommendations flowed from these sessions and here are some of the top ones:
  1. Prepare for less and create budgetary scenarios that should start with a 10% to 25% cut as the starting point.
  2. Return to the mission of the organization, to the reason the NPO exists. Consider paring back or lopping off efforts that have been the products of mission creep and mission drift.  
  3. Increase communication to your Board to your donors. Tell them the truth and engage them in the effort to preserve what is important.
  4. Develop a new elevator pitch that reflects the new reality, that shows that the NPO is responding to community need vs the NPO's organizational need. No one cares that the NPO has to cut back, everyone is cutting back. What is the NPO doing to re-focus and respond? 
  5. Develop an investment/investor approach to current and new donors. Donors increasingly want to know that their gifts have a return on investment (ROI) not just keeping the lights on and the staff paid. What does a gift do for the community, for the constituents? 
In short, the world has changed for NPOs as well and they have to adapt to survive. They have to act quickly and urgently NOW to evolve to fight another day. Consolidation, partnerships and new forms of collaborating have to be explored. It is the greatest time to do what needs to be done. As the incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said when he was appointed, "Let's not waste this crises." Make this crises the moment of change, the time to start the new chapter, and the chance to make our organizations better. 

NPO networking
If you are looking for an opportunity to meet new people, help the community, fulfill your personal sense of responsibility, and advance your career---jump into a non-profit volunteer post. They need help more than ever. Just make sure you align the opportunity with your values and your passions. Given the above context, can you imagine how grateful a NPO will be when you call to  volunteer? A few tips on how to make this work for you:
  1. Pick a NPO and a mission you really care about
  2. Conduct due diligence on the NPO to insure compatibility
  3. Ideally align the position with your career interests and the NPO's greatest need 
  4. Make sure you understand the expectations  of the volunteer position to meet and exceed them
Volunteer opportunities in California, Secretary of Service and Volunteering Karen Baker and I met last week and her office has put together a fantastic resource for residents of California to find opportunities. Outside of CA there are similar resources. It helps to know what causes, issues, constituencies you care about most. 

There is no more powerful form of networking that connecting with people who have an unconditional commitment to a common goal and NPO. 

We all have to do our part. We all have to engage with the causes and issues we care about. We can not retreat during a recession. We need to connect and strengthen our sense of community. The power of WE is an unyielding force. Reach out and help the NPOs that mean the most to you and the returns will come back to you and all of us in many ways.  

Thanks for reading. John

pursuit of passion.....

When is the last time you thought about AND acted on your personal theory of change? I mean we all want to evolve and get to that mythical "next level". But when have you taken inventory of pursuing your curiosities, of defining your next adventure--and then taken action?“The challenge is in every moment and the time is always now.” James Baldwin

Just completed my middle daughter's college tour. The search for the right campus but also the search within. Where do I see myself and what do I want to do? Questions we must ask ourselves over and over again. Visited Stanford University and other top schools. When we got to Stanford, my daughter said, "why are we here? I am not going to get into Stanford." I told her, "You have to see the best schools to appreciate what is out there." But what does her old Dad know anyway. Long story short, my daughter whispered to me about halfway into our tour, "I want to go here!" Maybe the old man knows something after all:) Went into the info session. And the group started to naturally divide and separate into sub-groups as they sat down. Large humans, tall, big students and their large parents sat to the left. The geeky gear head kids and their somewhat nerdy guardians sat to the right. The back row was filled with Asian immigrant families with their kids close at hand. The middle section was a diverse group of regular folks. Being smaller framed people and not knowing where we should sit we ended up toward the back on the right side. The info session commenced and we were treated to the usual impressive data about the university. Then a review of admission requirements. This is when the fun began. "You need good grades and scores to get into Stanford", the admission officer revealed. Duh! He was going to skip ahead, when one of the Asian moms in the back waved her hand. "My son has a 4.5 gpa, will he get into Stanford?" The admission rep attempted to be impressed and said, "That's very good, but grades are just one factor at Stanford and no gpa guarantees your admission." She looked perplexed and her son looked to her for an explanation. But the rep continued, and then the Asian mom shot her hand back up and exclaimed with a strong hint of her native tongue, "He also has perfect SAT scores--perfect! Does that get him into Stanford?" The son has now bowed his head and was counting his shoelaces. "Nope," the rep stated politely, "scores and grades are just part of the qualifications for Stanford." He continued uninterrupted now and launched into a speech about passion. How Stanford wants to recruit students who have pursued interests deeply--for four years or more. How the "well balanced" students, students with a couple years of student government, band, community service, athletics were rejected because they were the products of their Svengali like parents. This "well-balanced" student was now a commodity and Stanford many elite schools receive thousands of these pre-fabricated apps. The big people were nodding their heads, knowing athletics was their passion. And the nerds nodded too because their focused erudition would qualify them. A young hip-hop kid in front of me, his hat off to the side of his head, raised his hand at this point. He mumbled his query, "So, what if your passion was say...., video games? Could that be your passion?" A quick glance at the Asian mom saw her shaking her head... The rep said, "Yes, yes! It depends what you did with video games. Are you a game designer, a world champion?--depends on what you did and how you pursued it, but video games could be your passion and that could help you get into Stanford." The Asian mom threw up her hands and her son was more confused than ever.

Moral of the story: Stanford admissions has valued passion for a long time-- "well-lopsidedness" over grades and scores and any appearance of contrived well roundedness. Stanford and many smart people know that after you are qualified, passion is the big differentiator and the greatest predictor of success. What's your passion?