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The Illusion of More

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little. Epicurus

 

A brand new college grad with his mortar board on says to me: Gotta get into grad school!

Comment to me after my 94 year old uncle passed: So sorry he did not make it to 95

Parents remark at their daughter's wedding: Now for my grandkids!

First question in an interview with me: How long do I have to do this job before I might get promoted?

Never enough. Never good enough. 

One of the greatest distractions in life is this uneasy and ultimately sleep depriving feeling. It can motivate and haunt you. It can dominate our thinking and our actions. We see it in our social media, we see it in our credit card statements, we see it at work and talk about it with almost everyone. It is a silent and powerful under current that defines our lives. Wanting MORE. More please

Some believe this constant desire and pursuit for more is rooted in our biology — that it helped us to survive. Some believe that this pursuit is fundamental to a capitalistic society that requires consumerism, propelled by the media, culture and of course, all of us aid and abet the crime of MORE

It is true that our survival instincts and competitive nature have brought us great progress and material luxuries. But when we lose ourselves to the MORE, that requires an intervention.

According to Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, income does predict happiness—but only up to $75,000 per year.

The infinite and never satiable goal of a bigger, better, and more expensive version. We do live in a Big Gulp, Super Size, Monster truck, Power Ball,  iPhone 10, All you can eat, Botox filled world that is relentless and unyielding. It is an epidemic.

The yearning for life and wealth shows no signs of aging even as a man grows old. It does not weaken with age. It is a lifelong disease. The man who gives it up finds happiness.  Dharmasutras

I have come to appreciate Marie Kondo's popular and simple advice about Tidying. I have read her book and saw her speak recently. For me the essence is--Look at your things, things you did not remember you have, so many things--Look at each one of them and ask, "Does this spark joy in me?" If it does not, then get rid of it. Give it away to someone who needs or wants it. We should be surrounded by things and people that spark joy in us, right?

A desire arises in the mind. It is satisfied; immediately another comes. In the interval which separates two desires a perfect calm reigns in the mind. It is at this moment freed from all thought, love or hate. Complete peace equally reigns between two mental waves.– SWAMI SIVANANDA

Regardless of what we believe to be at the root of this constant wanting, it takes a conscious and deliberate effort to experience contentment or satisfaction in our lives — to fully appreciate life, people, and the activities we engage in. To stop and smell the roses, as my Dad used to say. To interrupt the impulses and the continuous thoughts that undermine our sense of self and the present.

Yes meditation helps a lot. Anything to disrupt the pattern and bring the world back into focus.

One of my favorite books is Instructions to the Cook describes the Zen Buddhist concept for the supreme meal. The supreme meal is when we live our life fully, wholeheartedly---a fully expressed life.

So the first principle of the Zen cook is that we already have everything we need. If we look closely at our lives, we will find that we have all the ingredients we need to prepare the supreme meal. At every moment, we simply take the ingredients at hand and make the best meal we can. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we have. The Zen cook just looks at what is available and starts with that.

And we become what we say. We evolve into our narratives. So when we say MORE, to ourselves and to others, that's what we believe and that's what we become. 

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have. Buddha

This is most evident in interviews and conversations. How people always tell me they are looking to make a change because they want more. The most over-used term is "growth" followed by "opportunity". I have learned these are code words for more money. Some souls are looking for meaning and fulfillment, but most want the "opportunity to grow".  Grow to do what or be what?!! We may never know. 

Here's what kills me. Many people have read the same blog posts :), received the same coaching and have the same routines, answers and presentations. And when the vast majority of the walking dead say, "I am looking for a place where I can (continue to) grow." I always ask, "What are your top priorities for personal and professional growth?" This is a stumper. The vast majority of people I meet say that the cause, the issue, even the industry "doesn't matter"!!! I wish I was kidding. They can't articulate what "more" they want. Money is embedded and hiding in these abstract thoughts of more. But what is most often avoided is any self awareness, authenticity, and or introspectiveness to identify what more they want to become.

More is superficial when disconnected from the "P" words of passion and purpose.

How much is enough?

 

The Illusion of More        

Don't need a thing
To do our thing
We have what we need
To pursue what we heed
Everything before us
Nothing between us
The more of our world
Is the distraction
The less of ourselves
Is the attraction
When we forget me
We build on the we

The more takes from the now
It carries us to the next
Without gratitude or grace
It abruptly changes our place
For here is this moment
So full and complete
It's a shame we might waste it
So we can compete
For the more of tomorrow
And miss this special time
Are we deaf to the music
And what's left of this rhyme

No things is our aim
In the end
We are all the same                                           jek

 

There are a few MOREs that deserve our attention:

More peace and social justice

More time with people we love

More solitude, silence, and soul nourishment

More effort to be kind and non-judgmental

More altruism where we give and help without any expectation

More joy, awe, and wonder.

Let's enjoy what we have . Let's find and nurture the spark of joy around us. Let's interrupt the nonsensical wanting impulses. No more. 

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


Your moment

As you may have noticed I have been slipping in my poetry into my posts. :) To be honest I am writing more poems than anything else. It is a cleansing, meditative process for me.  I know my work is personal. Yet I want to share it in the hopes it resonates with you. 

Choice is the enemy of commitment. (attributed to Jerry Brown)

Just know many folks who are going through decision trees right now---school, career, family, relationships......Some dark decision jungles and others delightful and glorious forests. Nevertheless--Choices! First, always be grateful that you have a choice. Second, try to enjoy the process no matter how complex. Third, never look back and embrace the decision!  Chinese-Bamboo-Forest

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

Your moment
 
This may be a tough moment or a great moment,
 
It may lead everywhere and nowhere,
 
A moment that reveals the possibility
 
The possibility of change, of joy, of surprise
 
Not from a plan of specific steps
Not from a promise from the past
Not from the expectations of others
 
The possibility of what it can be
The possibility of what you can be
 
Seeing the now of it
 
Feeling the here of it
 
Breathing the you of it
 
Becoming the it of it
 
Make this moment, your moment
 
 
Thanks for reading. John

 


Uncomfortable Comfort

Words mean a lot to me. Perhaps more as I age. I value the meaning of the words we choose and use. People who know me well understand that certain words set me off. My bans on "busy", "when I retire...", "stability" are well documented. 

I push myself, and others who will listen, to "play out of bounds" and to not compromise our dreams. Why are we not pursuing what is most important to us? What obstacles prevent us to live the life we want? Am I where I am supposed to be? Are our networks diverse or a bunch of people who are clones --eating, voting, entertaining, agreeing, liking, the same stuff? 

My goal is to disrupt the mindlessness of our lives. Where we accept and tolerate what we have and don't want. 

I was conducting a session with graduate students about career transitions and got this question: "How long should I be uncomfortable?" It was a great question. Because it was honest. It was a vulnerable question. It was a question about the searching and certainty. After all when you are grad school procrastinating your future :), you think a lot about the land of career clarity. If we are contemplating change in our lives, if we are paying attention to the world around us, we all are trying to get to this mystical land of clarity.

When we are open to what we don't know, when we are open to opportunities that we had not considered, when we become vulnerable to questions and conversations that change us----we get uncomfortable.

Get-comfortable-being-uncomfortable-7

Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable. F. Peter Dunne

Perhaps my theme song! And definitely my favorite quote.

In other words, I am not where I want to be. I am not sure where I am going. I feel stuck or I crave more certainty about my path. I want more meaning, fulfillment and a greater sense of purpose. I need an answer to give me comfort.

So here's my answer:

You should never be comfortable. Never.

In terms of life and career development.

Yes, we should smell the roses, appreciate our milestones and yes let's have gratitude.

But before we get too caught up in our greatness, drunk with our achievements, and light headed with thankfulness--let's consider the infinite challenge of serving others. Let's pause and consider our ambitions for our families and ourselves. Let's truly understand that we are not satisfied with our inner or outer lives. So stability is a joke. Certainty is a unicorn.

How do you continuously pursue your own growth and that means your ability to help others?

You can join the growing NIMBY family or what I call the OIMBY tribe (Only In My Backyard)--where you take care of your immediate family and everyone else is on their own.

We have to be uncomfortable with our comfort.

We now face the danger, which in the past has been the most destructive to the humans: Success, plenty, comfort and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers. 

John Steinbeck 

The status quo sucks! Am I right? The world is not quite right. We are still filling out the breadth of our potential. Our families are a work in progress. Our communities are in great need. The world is at the brink of challenge and change.

When we stop and think about what we can do, what we have to advance our lives and the lives of others, and consider the obscene abundance in which we reside----We can get uncomfortable. :)

Once you accept that our work is infinite. That our role is to advance the work and give the next gen a chance to continue the work. That can give you a modicum of comfort. But then you realize, as I do everyday, life is short. We don't know when our ticket will be punched. So what will I do today?

Don't misunderstand me. Lack of comfort is not lack of peace. Inner peace comes with understanding one's role and opportunity. Inner peace comes with serving others. True peace is the product of an altruistic life of compassion. And compassion literally means to suffer with others. So we come full circle to an uncomfortable peace. 

Our truth stands in the doorways in front of us, doorways that excite, invite, and frighten us.

Have I afflicted you?

Here's to your uncomfortable peace. Thanks for reading. John

 

A poem I wrote inspired by these thoughts:

Comfortable Conversation
Comfortable?
Very
Too comfortable?
Perhaps
Why do you ask?
Comfort is nice
When
When is the right time to talk?
To talk
About what I want
Now
Is this the right time?
Time
Time is the enemy
Got plenty of that
What
What does this mean?
Life is defined
By indecision
I know
I know what I want
But
Do I want what I know?
How
How do I get there?
Where
Where I am going?
This never ends
With a decision
Do nothing
Why
Why am I here?
Need time to talk about this
Need
That's what I am doing
Again

The Key Connection to a More Unrealistic You

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.  St Augustine

Maybe it is the new year, maybe it is my stage in life, maybe it is the truth that is emerging around me. While I have been saying this for many years, ...."the most important connection, the first connection you must make is to yourself," this idea has  Key-in-door-1024x685more meaning and power than ever before. Let me explain. 

I have always been drawn to thinkers and writers who have expounded on passion, meaning, and purpose. I strongly believe that without these elements driving one's life you will be lost in a series of transactional moments that may not add up to what you wanted. Life is not your resume. It is not a list of achievements sans failures and challenges. It is not a string of happy moments, interrupted by sad moments. Your life is a precious and amazing opportunity, everyday to do good as you define it. To do what you love to do. To make a difference. Intuitively I know you get this. But doing it is rough. 

So I am constantly looking for the clues, the inspirations, the insights of others who can show me the way. The way to more persistently becoming myself. Becoming and understanding myself so I can overcome so many self erected barriers to my own path.

Lot of popular notions out there that I am sure you have noted. The Ms are very popular:

  • Mindfulness
  • Meaning
  • Meditation

The Ps are also competing for your interests:

  • Presence
  • Purpose
  • Passion

So the M's and the P's are powerful words that are all on the endangered species list of words that become diluted through popular usage.

I have been recently  influenced by words and ideas from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, Sherwin Nuland's The Way We Live (and Die), E. O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence, Brene Brown on Vulnerability, anything from the Dalai Lama, Krista Tippett's show On Being, Bernard Glassman's Instruction to the Cook....

This is not a book list for you to buy. I am resisting giving you snippets and quotes here. You should subscribe to Brain Pickings for extraordinary summaries of important literature, including some of these sources I have listed. There are so many great sources of smart people thinking about these questions out there. Find things that speak to You. 

Engage and enhance your network to talk about these issues. 

Like you, I continue to find my place. Someone said to me the other day, "I wish I was like you. You have a purpose and a plan." Wow did I fool him :)

Tis one thing to speak and write about it, tis another thing to do it.

There is lots of research on life satisfaction. The work of Hannes Schwandt is particularly fascinating. Builds on research that spans 50 countries and many socio-economic groups. This is what I have interpreted. The peak of peak of happiness is 85. 85! There is this U shape to our life satisfaction. Starts high and goes steadily down until 45ish and then builds back up and reaches a high point in the mid 80's. Why?, Because when we are young we have "overly -optimistic" read unrealistic expectations about our lives. We want a lot. We have dreams and ambitions untethered to terra firma. This creates disappointment. College majors and aspirations turn out differently and life happens. In the late 40's and through the 50's we have another moment of reality. Expectations (different from aspirations) are super high. Was this what I was meant to do? Is this all there is? Financial realities take their toll. Each stage you shed more and more of what is unrealistic and our optimism takes a seat at the back of the bus. By the time you are in your 80's you simply do not care any more. This is the brutal phrase from the research, "...unmet expectations are abandoned and less regret is experienced..." Regrets evaporate. Time is very short so let's not waste any more. You are old and very happy. Is this maturity or the ultimate death of our dreams?

I am not saying this is going to happen to you, but it is happening. Apparently it happens like clockwork according to the researchers. I know you are not "average", after all you are reading my blog. :) And we can take the safeties off our blamethrowers and aim them many places. For me, shedding all of the expectations of others and society is a great starting point. If you are honest with yourself you have to sort through what is YOU from what is not. This is the ultimate preventive measure against the gravitational pull of the U curve. Turn this U into YOU.  As I said at the beginning, it starts with you, the key connection you have to make.

I know it can feel like a runaway train that does not respond to herculean tugs on the emergency cord. But you got to stop the train and take a walk with yourself. To listen to YOU. To hear your heartbeat and the voice within. There is a small penitentiary within you of trapped ideas, emotions, and yes dreams that yearn for your company, attention and the light of day.

I wish I could hand you the next three steps to You. I would if I had them. But you are unique. You are also on a human trajectory that has predictable elements and phases. Maybe true happiness is when we get to an age and stage where we have abandoned all unrealistic things, we regret nothing because we don't care any more, and we appreciate life because it is ending. Some research says so. I am not going to allow it to happen for me.

I want to eliminate regrets before they accumulate and take up precious shelf space and then I will have fewer "unmet expectations".

The Chumash native americans have a saying in one of their blessings that always jolts me:

"When you are born you begin to die."

Time is a luxury. Do not take it for granted. You never get it back.

I still believe in change. For me and for the world. I have research that says that it is possible. :)

I believe that you can change. I see it everyday. But no one can make the change but You. And there it goes again, we return to You and to see ourselves anew.

I am wishing You the greatest year of your life. Make it a bit optimistic and unrealistic. :)

 Thanks for reading. John


What is Your Realm?

A close colleague of mine was discussing the future of an unemployed at-risk youth we had just met, "We can not just dress up these young men and teach them how to get jobs at fast food restaurants. We must help them understand their place in the realm of their world. Their role in society. Then and only then will they help themselves and their communities."

Realm: Noun. Meaning: domain, activity, sphere, knowledge, interest

Aren't we all "at-risk" of not knowing our role, our realm? 

Each of us has a "realm".  A place which inspires us. An environment that brings out the best in us. Work that is meaningful to us. Our realm nurtures our sense of duty and commitment to what we do.

What is your realm? Your realm of possibility and responsibility?

I am often in debates and discussions about being a king or a kingmaker. But why aren't we talking about the kingdom and its needs. The kingdom is the community--your realm. 

If our realm is only about ourselves, tis a small and selfish realm indeed. 

Big hat no cattle.  Big Hat

Becoming a better person, a more educated person, a more mature person, a more successful person--always starts with the realm---How that person contributes to things beyond themselves. So a realm is unique and specific idea, cause, skillset, space that you embrace, protect, invest in and stand for.

We now face the danger, which in the past has been the most destructive to the humans: Success, plenty, comfort and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers. John Steinbeck  1962

Our own comfort and happiness can limit our realm. Jim Collins, business guru, called it the "undisciplined pursuit of more". More for what? Most of us need little, we want a lot! Yet we know others who need what we have.

It is human nature to start with oneself but where is the humanity in this?

What should I be? vs How can I be useful?

Who I am vs What I do?

I am good vs Good I do

People tell me everday they want to be entreprenuers, or start non-profits, they rarely say what they want to do for the world and how they will change it. I never hear "I want to cure cancer", or "Mentor at risk youth" or "Increase the quality of STEM education" or "Alleviate the suffering of the homeless"

I hear selfish, often innocuous and mostly meaningless general thoughts about their futures.

  • "I want to make a difference." Huh?
  • "I want to do something I believe in." What?
  • "I want to make money." Become a counterfeiter!
  • "I am going to retire soon to rest." Another act of procrastination.
  • "I don't want to make other people rich." Yikes!
  • "I want to help people."  OMG!
  • "I want to grow." Who doesn't?!

Remember the emperor with no clothes? That's what we sound and look like when we say these things. When we care more about what others think and have no realm. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything! Or wear anything! Or say or do anything or nothing at all.

Without a realm it is near impossible to network and be mentored. 

But John I have no realm, but want one. What do I do?

  1. Self awareness is the first step and now your eyes are open
  2. Listen to your heart and take notes. 
  3. Explore what seriously interests you and drives you. Use your network.
  4. Your realm is not just your job. You can have multiple realms. Start small and grow.
  5. Do not wait. This is the best time to start.

#1 myth in Greg McKeown's terrific 12 myths that lead to a busy and unfulfilling life:

"I'm too busy living to think about life." This is a huge blamethrower. It's not my fault everyone else expects so much of me. 

I always wanted to be somebody, but I realized I should have been more specific. Lily Tomlin

Been mentoring a young man for years. Tried to get him to focus on life instead of his ambition. His goal was a title not a mission. He talked of promotions not deeds. Tried to engage him in the work vs his own welfare. He is just emerging from that super selfish time that I have blogged about between 24-30 years old. Finally he has emerged from the fog of self absorption and saw his realm. I had to wait this one out. Not entirely his fault he was a Me Myself and I kinda guy. Recently the fog cleared and he can see past his own shoes and the path has emerged from the darkness. He thinks I made the fog disappear. He doesn't realize that when you are looking at yourself you can't see anything or anyone else. And he is now pursuing his usefulness in his realm.

Refine your sense of how you will do something about what you care about, what angers you, what vision you have for your communty what gives you joy and how you can help others. Before you refine your resume and interview skills! 

A focus on just building yourself without context is a form of naricissim that can lead to a life of disappointment and unfulfilled potential. This is the leading cause of a life of regret. 

Call it maturity. Call it fate. Call it career development. Self awareness leads to enlightenment if you let it. 

Your realm is waiting. You are the king or queen but how is your kingdom doing? We are at risk of being too busy to think about life. So find your realm.

GOT realm? For the good of your realm!

Thanks for reading. John  


Networking with Humility

Some of you that know me are wondering how I could write such a post. Humility has not always been my most evident trait. (That would be an understatement John!) But as they say, those who can't do, teach! :)

But my ego and self obsession have been down-sized over the years. I have been humbled by the world around me. Not sure it is seen by others, not sure I truly care. But I have made a concious effort to keep my hunger for self adulation in check. 

I am humbled every day by the needs of others, by the potential of the human spirit, by the unknown and the unknowable. I am in awe of everyone I meet for their uniquenness. For I used to under-estimate others and over-estimate myself. If I am aware I am filled with humility. Humility

As I started to become more self-aware, more authentic with myself, and more open to the world around me--I could not help but see how insignificant I am. That my relevance is tied to others. And to my pursuit of larger purposes and questions than myself. That the truth about education is the more you learn the more you discover what you don't know.

Always cracks me up, that some people think that getting another degree will clarify things for them--that they will obtain more certainty about their lives (not just their jobs/careers) If done well, education confuses the student more, in a good way. Education enables you to ask better questions. But I digress....

Don't be so humble you are not that great. Golda Meier

True humility is not an act. It is the real sense of your self importance in the bigger scheme of things--however you define it. It is toning down our arrogance and our sense of certainty. It is a realization that you are not the center of the universe.

I remember when I was 19 years old and I was completing a medical intake form for the first time by myself. It asked for my religion. I thought that was irrelevant, so I wrote "Protagonism". To my surprise the doctor inquired about my stated faith. I said. "I believe I am the main character of my story." Another failed attempt at Kobara humor:)

But we can be so deluded by our own individual perspective.

David Foster Wallace mused about this in his famous commencement address:

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

One strange manifestation of this  self-centeredness, is our unwillingness to reveal what we need to work on in our lives. Our inability to embrace what we need to know, learn and understand-- the way we are taught to address our weaknesses.

Popular career guidance sources preach "turn your weaknesses into strengths". When you network or interview you are supposed to provide these types of answers or assert these types of thoughts, when asked, "What areas are you trying to improve upon?" 

"I am a perfectionist. I want work to hard and too long to get things just right."

"I love to work too much. I am a work-aholic."

"I let others take the credit for the work I do. I don't assert myself enough."

For whatever reason, this is now SOP for many folks. They robotically say these things that have been commoditized and therefore regress to the mean instead of differentiating themselves.

I have found that more than 50% of students, networkers, job seekers--in my unscientific networking study--say they are stumped by a direct question about their "weaknesses". They literally say, "I don't know what to say." "I'll have to think about it." "Wow, that is a good question."

To have no weaknesses is not a sign of strength, but a sign of ignorance and even arrogance.

To me, this shows a hollowness, an emptiness, an immaturity and an abject lack of self awareness that repels potential opportunities.

A truthful, insightful answer that reveals the person's desire to improve is an endangered species.

Showing our vulnerability to others is seen as a weakness, but we know the opposite is true.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brene Brown 

How do I balance my strengths and show my upside as well? 

How do I express my qualifications and my competencies as well as my desire to learn and improve?

That they need me as much I need them.

How can opportunities be mutually beneficial arrangements where all parties have clear objectives to help each other?

This is the way the best networking and mentoring work. The reciprocity. The trust that exposes the needs and resources of both sides.

Humility is grounded in the understanding that the tip of the iceberg of your knowledge is dwarfed by what lies around and beneath you.  

When people know what you need and want, they can help you. 

It takes courage to know your needs. It takes real courage to ask for help.

More David Foster Wallace: Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

Listen more than you talk. Be prepared to give without expectations before you self promote. Put the needs of others before your own.

Then you will see that you are not the center of the universe but at the center of opportunity. 

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


Thermodynamic Networking

Energy exists in many different forms, such as light, heat, chemical, and electrical. Energy is the fuel and ability to do work. Thermodynamics is the study and understanding of energy.

The first law of thermodynamics: Energy can not be created or destroyed. But it can be changed from one form to another. The total amount of energy and matter in the universe remains constant, changing from one form to another. 

The second law of thermodynamics states that in the process of energy transfer, some energy will dissipate. This is also commonly referred to as entropy. Entropy is a measure of this dissipation and degradation that leads to disorder and uncertainty. The flow of energy maintains order and life. Entropy wins when organisms cease to take in energy and die.

There is human energy. We convert energy into new forms that fuel us and others. Energy propels us to do our work. We feed off others and they feed off us. Without energy we wither.

We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.  ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Whether we intend it or not we transfer energy. We give and we take. We deposit positive and negative energy knowingly and unwittingly. Energy is our human currency. Some people have great wealth others are incredibly poor. Some enter a room with much and others look vanquished. Some seem to have the gift of increasing the energy around them and others make it disappear like David Copperfield. Positive_energy

I have been increasingly conscious of my own energy and the energy around me. How do I add or take from the environment? Yet, I have found it tough to adjust my own attitude or openness to get beyond just reacting versus surrendering to the energy. What I mean is, I can easily spend most of my energy on my negative thoughts about myself or judging the world around me instead of investing my energy positively into others and the world around me.

What I have found, although not able to replicate it every time, that I can be a positive source of energy and surf off the energy around me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can be a source of energy for me. By being engaged you can focus the positive energy.  Most days, I fill my tank off others with some to spare. If I do it well I leave my own energy trail. But if I do it in that order, that is, to seek the energy of others before I try and give off my energy, then the energy  is authentic. It's simple, the energy around us is so much more potent and unexplored then the energy within us. The combination, the fusion, the blend of energies is what life is. Not the preservation of our own. Protecting our energy by foolishly doling it out to only those deserving of it is where we get ito a real energy shortage. We need others energy to grow and advance. Energy was meant to share and be transferred. That is Thermodynamic Networking!

I used to think that I should inspire others (give them energy). But when I look to be inspired by those present, that inspires me! 

This is real energy!

I have witnessed many imposters and posers who try to add counterfeit energy. Inauthentic energy. I know this one young man who thinks being "up", smiley face, and positive is ALWAYS good. He is never aware of the context.  He is "happy" no matter what. He puts on a show. It is not only irritating but detrimental. Like a commercial you have seen too many times you know how it ends and you are tired of the message.  I know others who are very energetic--about themselves. So it is positive but ego-centric, which may be the worst of all.

A person functioning exclusively in the Cartesian mode typically lead ego-centered, competitive, goal-oriented lives. Overpreoccupied with their past and their future, they tend to have a limited awareness of the present and thus a limited ability to derive satisfaction from ordinary activities in everyday life. They concentrate on manipulating the external world and measure their living standard by the quantity of material possessions, while they become ever more alienated from their inner world and unable to appreciate the process of life. For people whose existence is dominated by this mode of experience no level of wealth, power, or fame will bring genuine satisfaction.  Fritjof Capra, Tao of Physics

But I have also seen the masters, who listen intently, allowing others to lead the conversations and who are better interviewers than 60 Minutes. They tease out the energy in others. They make you feel important even though they are the important one. They have a genuine interest in people and topics. They fill the gaps with attentiveness and eye contact. They are present when most people drift and think of themselves. They are in the moment and care about what is being said before they speak. 

Entropy occurs with selfishness and isolation. It comes when people think their success is their own making. Entropy comes from self deception and denying the energy of others.

So how do we gain and give energy? How do we enhance versus detract from the energy wave around us? How do we submerge our selfish thoughts to learn, explore and connect in meaningful ways? How do we adopt thermodynamic networking to positively invest our energy? How do we see the beauty in others before we think of ourselves?

In the end we neither create or destroy energy. We transfer it either intentionally or unintentionally. If we make an effort to be the source of authentic positive energy, then we can energize our life's purpose and the trajectories of others. 

Thanks for reading. John

  


What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.

How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others.  But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness. 

I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.

But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?

A lot.

Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives. 

So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"

My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:

  • Nothing
  • Not much
  • Keeping my head above water
  • Busy. Very busy
  • Same ole same ole
  • Nothing to complain about
  • Nada mucho, how about you?

You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.

Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?

We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.

"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that--"Nothing" is simply not true.

So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?  You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to---Negative or positive. 

So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing. 

So now change the setting to an interview.  Are your answers different? Of course.

How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?

How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?

How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client? 

The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do. 

The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.

Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment! 

Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!

Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.

Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading--anything and everything is available to mention.

I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?

You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help--besides yourself?!

Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing? 

I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers--anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs--How do you answer the question: "What's new?"

This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.

Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.

What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.

Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.

Thanks for reading. John


Mentor First: Pay it Forward

The most popular radio station in the world is WII-FM. WII-FM is shrill and repetitive. WII-FM is What's In It For Me. We have to  turn down the volume and listen to the real music of our lives--Your heart, your mind, and the people around you. Yes you have needs, but you still have much more to offer. We all want and need things but the best way to receive is to give. That's correct, your mom was right again! Same goes for mentoring.  Pay_it_forward_
Almost everyone I talk to wants to find a mentor, the "right" mentor, a "better" mentor. They crave advice and counsel to help them advance their lives. Most people expect this new improved and very special mentor to point them in the right direction and provide them with the answers. Those of us who mentor others know that's not what usually happens . Mentoring is a two-way conversation that helps one another discover the truth--the truth that lies within. So that's why everyone should be mentoring others as much as they seek mentoring. Once you put others before yourself. Once you practice what you preach. Once you teach, you understand the role of the student.  The world comes into focus as you are not waiting for a mentor but helping someone else. You take control again. You drive instead of waiting to be picked up. That's why I advocate a lifestyle of mentoring. It is not passive or dependent. It is pro-active and direct.
Choosing to mentor is to choose to help others, to engage others, thereby helping oneself.
 
So think first to mentor, then to be mentored.
 
Always give without an expectation. That is the cardinal rule of this lifestyle of mentoring and networking. And the returns to you will be plentiful.
  • A cousin seeks your advice
  • A friend's daughter wants to discuss college options
  • A long time colleague at work needs your help, but has never asked for it
  • One of your best friends is stuck in life
  • A former employee has a friend that wants to discuss careers

All of these are warm sources of need. Make the time to help, mentor and share your wisdom. 

No matter what stage you are in your life, there is another you can mentor. Someone you care about who could use your perspective. Someone you are going to help be accountable to themselves. Accountable to their own goals and dreams. A mentor is not the source of all knowledge, they have experience, perspective and the will to be candid.  Not just kind and encouraging. Not just helpful and sensitive. Not the type that winces and cringes on the  inside and smiles on the outside when we hear others say crazy things. Not phony nice. We need to be a bit more intolerant of the BS and the loose language that comes from people we care about. We need to help others rein in their weak plans and weaker efforts. Most of all we need to be truthmeisters.

My best mentors reflect me, my words, my goals like an HD mirror. They show me the good, the bad and the ugly that I emit. I get to see and hear myself like never before with much better clarity.
 
The mentor always gets the most. Because to mentor is to tell the truth and to tell the truth is to learn the truth. Mentoring is the hard work of listening and reflecting. It is not about answers. It is about understanding. And that's why it is the most rewarding.
 
Articulating advice and doling out the truth is not credible or relevant if you don't live by it. That's why the mentor always gains, because the act of advising another reinforces your values, your behaviors and your goodness. Mentoring is about vulnerability. Mentoring is not the coach who says "do what I say and not what I do." 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.

Still doubt the mentor is rewarded more?
Recent research now shows that those that mentor achieves far greater benefits. Mentors make substantially more money, are more successful and the mentees are more likely to help others--mentoring creates more mentoring.
Mentors pay it forward.
 
A quick review of the benefits of mentoring: 
  1. You always get more--including pay and promotion!
  2. The mentee benefits
  3. The mentee helps others
  4. The world benefits from people more connected that help one another

Any questions? :)

Mentoring is not a service YOU provide--it is the human act of helping one another that advances YOUR life. 

Mentor first, then seek mentoring. Pay it forward and it will always come back to you.

Thanks for reading. John


"Informational Interviews" that help YOU

I only accept informational interview requests from warm referrals--people I know and trust. As you might imagine, I meet lots of people. People who want things from me. People who seek my "advice" but are looking for a job. People who read some article or blog (hah!) that told them to meet more people and expand their networks. And I have seen the good, bad and ugly versions of informational interviews.

I think "Informational Interviews" are just a fancy way of saying networking, right? Great value in meeting people in fields, companies, industries that interest you. You prepare for the "interview" like a real interview. Meaning you look like, sound like you are a serious candidate for employment. But isn't this life? I mean aren't we supposed to be constantly ready for opportunities? Don't we believe that opportunity knocks when we least expect it? "Interviewing" is what you do when you are alive! :) People are judging you from near and afar everyday. You have conversations and meet "potential" employers all of the time.  No "interview" is always scheduled, scripted, and orderly. While an informational interview is often scheduled it requires preparation but agility and flexibility as well.  Interview

Yes, informational interviews are an underutilized way of finding leads and more important, finding yourself--more on that in a few. But just as in cooking with confidence, you start to vary the recipe to meet your own tastes. Otherwise every cookie from the cookie cutter tastes and looks the same. The greatest thing about you is you are different and unique. The moment you start following a formula step by step like a poorly trained monkey, you lose all of your differentiation--your YOU-ness. Comprende?

Yet every "informational interview" seems to start in the same way. Somebody told everybody to start by asking the same question: "So, tell me how you got your job (or chose this career) and about your career journey." There are several bad variations on this theme. Don't get me wrong, the essence of this query is important. Understanding WHY and how people got where they are is interesting and instructive. And yes, people, especially me :), like to talk about themselves. The theory is to warm up the conversation. The problem is when it feels robotic, like a line--a parroted phrase from a script. There is a cheesy insincerity that puts the interview into a tailspin if you read from a script.

Informational interviews are networking conversations with a focus. They are a chance for you to get insight into a different world and into yourself through someone who has generously agreed to spend some time with you. But it is a conversation. You should always have questions, but you always allow the exchange to take its course. It is a dance between your specific needs (assuming you can articulate them) and the information that they yield.

The biggest difference in the way I view informational interviews is the information seeker is the interviewer. Let me repeat this: The person who wants information leads the interview.

So the information seeker has to seek information:) They must interview me! They have to have great questions. They have researched and Googled me and my work? They are not there to wing it? (Is there ever a time when we wing it?) We have to prepared 24/7. The interviewer prepares a unique interview. I know this takes extra work, sorry about that. But each "interview" is different. Just like when you send in resumes and cover letters, but I digress.

So here are a few tips to guide your "informational interviewing":

  1. What do YOU want? Always the question that should keep you up at night, but the focus of any interview and career conversation. Whya re you here? Be clear on what you are seeking--not just a job--but the path you are pursuing or considering. Because understanding what your next job means to your trajectory is pretty damn important. Ultimately learning about who you are and what you want are the objectives.
  2. Google/Research/Prepare for the "interview". Seems so obvious, but do your homework! And then prepare questions that are driven by YOUR curiosity and your needs. Write them down in priority order and use them as your guide.
  3. Act as the interviewer. It is your inteview. Start off with why you are there and what you want. Be respectful. Listen. Let the conversation go where it naturally goes. Be curious!(all of the basic and essential rules of any conversation!) But get through as many as your questions without wearing out your welcome. Remember that if this conversation goes well you can ask more questions and get more feedback later.
  4. Seek advice and feedback. In the end you want to get counsel on your thoughts, your strategies, your resume, your goals. You want to get advice. I am reminded of the wisdom I was given about fundraising that applies here. If you want advice ask for money. If you want money ask for advice. The greatest outcome in an informational inteview is to get feedback on YOU. 
  5. Enjoy the conversation. Meeting people, different people and learning new things is fun. Yes, a bit nerve racking, but no mind expanding experience isn't accompanied by a little fear.  Even if the interview is disappointing to you, you will gsin something--an insight, an idea, and another chance to practice your interviewing. So appreciate that and appreciate the time and effort you were provided to reflect on YOU.
  6. Follow-up. Again, common courtesy that is infrequently practiced. You land a job and forget the people who helped you, even a little bit. Of course thank people for the interview, but remember to let them know when you succeed.

Interviewing, networking and mentoring is a lifestyle--it is what you do when you are breathing. 

Lastly, let me just encourage any of you who get requests from warm sources to meet with you about your business and your job--to conduct an informational interview--to do it! YOU will always be the beneficiary of the session. Talking about yourself, why you do what you do, and what advice you have for others, always makes YOU better. That is the transformative and reciprocal power of networking!

Thanks for reading. 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

 


Breaking the addiction to Zoloft for our souls

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. H L Mencken attributed.

Used in the 1960 Oscar nominated film, Inherit the Wind, where a newspaper editor says, "It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

I think this is everyone's job. This is why we exist. To care for those suffering and to make those not suffering to care.

Harvard released a study that shows that the protesters for the Occupy movement represent the top 1% of the world's population in wealth! We are all too comfortable!

More than ever we medicate our soul to avoid feeling for others. In order to focus on our needs we turn a blind eye to those in need.  

Nature abhors a vacuum. None exist.

Our  souls despise emptiness. Yet many seem to be.

We fool ourselves into to thinking we are caring and empathetic. We wear colored ribbons, and stand when the military is present, we buy products that support our causes, and we talk/complain about the needs of the poor and down trodden. These are all commendable gestures but we know they are insufficient. We know in our hearts that we should do more. We know that our actions are passive and not confronting the real problems. We make excuses that the issues are complex, overwhelming, and beyond our expertise. So we do nothing. It is zoloft for the soul. Each time we fool ourselves by doing or thinking something "good" we take a swig of anti-depressants to numb us from the reality. Numb is dumb. And we know it.Zoloft

We know that all problems are addressed one person, one family, one, neighborhood, and one community at a time. Taht one person can make a difference. But we can easily hide in the shadows of the enormity of the issue or problem. "My kid's school is bad, but it is the system that fails our children, so my involvement with the PTA will do nothing." "Homelessness is primarily caused by mental illness, so what can I do?" "I really do want to volunteer, but I am very busy right now." I remember asking a man on my board at Big Brothers Big Sisters, why he was involved. He said. "I am here for the kids." I told him none of the kids will ever be at a board meeting you have to come to our events, to the schools, or to our offices during the work day to see the kids. He told me he was too busy for that. Our soul cries out for a more fulfillment and more humanity in our lives and yet we pretend, procrastinate and hesitate.

The map is not the territory.  Alfred Korcybski

We have to deep dive into these issues we care about to understand them. We have to pursue them with passion and compassion. We have to see and experience the issue first hand. What is the truth about my kid's school? Or about the homeless in my area? Which organizations are devoted to this issues? How can I help? What are others doing? Does my charitable giving follow my heart? We have to answer and pursue these questions with our network and our mentors. We have to advance our thoughts to test our convictions and our commitments.

We talk more about the next product we are going to buy, the video we saw,  complain about our dental benefits, or feed the rumor mill with our gossip. All of these diversions are part of the way we medicate ourselves.

Many people I meet talk about "helping others" or "changing the world" like it is a European vacation they will take upon retirement. They envision themselves having more time and flexibility in this utopian time ahead. That's when they will take the off ramp from the medicated freeway and put what they care about in the center of their lives. We know it is a lie. I get so depressed when I hear these false promises to become more altruistic and caring in a future time. It makes me want to take Zoloft, but  don't. :)

What people don't understand is we don't have much time. If you are 25 or 65, your time to define your life by your deeds and not just your thoughts is limited. You have to care AND act on those feelings now. Maybe you feel guilty. Maybe you are "doing enough". The truth is each of us can and should do more. We have to detox our souls from the comforting meds of avoidance and emptiness and replace them with heavy doses of the the realities of the opportunities to reduce the suffering that surrounds us.

The irony is once we do this, we fill our soul and we become more engaged in our lives. We meet people who share this lifestyle. We become more successful because our lives are more aligned with who we are, they become more reality based and less numb. We do it not just to comfort the afflicted but to afflict our souls with the comfort of truly being human.

 Thanks for reading. John


Networking by the Boards

When I was much younger, I got the good advice to get on a few boards--non-profit and for profit--advisory and fiduciary. I naively thought it was difficult to get on boards and further that it was some type of honor. Of course there are a select number of boards that are highly coveted, but the vast majority are accessible to the qualified and the connected.

I also made the mistake of thinking that well known people were recruited on to many boards to help the organization. I learned that many of those well known people are also intentionally building even more robust networks.

Networks snow balls. The more you do the bigger and better they become.

I ask most people I meet. "What boards are you on?" It is a wonderful conversation starter and anyone who has ambitions and a vision for their community is on a board or three. I am not saying that only board members are the ones changing the world or doing work of substance. But it is very telling about what they are doing with their lives, where their priorities may lie, and to whom they are connected. My point here is board members get connected and those connections multiply. And when warm close knit connections increase, then opportunities get amplified. It is very basic networking.Board meeting

People who are working together closely, who see themselves as peers, will help one another.

I estimate that 50% of the opportunities I have been given have come through my current and past board memberships. That makes it possible for me to stay on my 8 week interview diet!

Board members recruit their colleagues for other boards. This is even more true on for-profit boards. People want people with experience that they trust.

If you think a board is the way to increase your sales prospects, you are sadly mistaken. I have been on and staffed board members who are solely mercenary --only interested in their commissions. These are the worst board members.

The work of the cause, org, or company must come first. You have to show up (literally and figuratively) and become fully engaged. Your brand on the board is about your work on the board. Your great reputation and resume got you to the table, but they are meaningless potential until you deliver for the org. Yes then and only then, will opportunities for business and career follow. And your board work will enhance your resume and the cycle continues.

Find organizations you admire, deeply care about and support. That is your starting point. Among these groups you need to shop for the boards that are the most compatible with you and your life and goals. You may have to work your way up through committees or volunteering. Not always a bad thing to experience the organization from a different perspective. Test the organization before you are in charge of running it! You probably will need to be nominated--you can rarely just apply directly. There is usually a formal nominating process that will take months and in some instances years. Like all things in life you must be patient. There is no instant gratification here.

  • What do you have to offer a board? Do you have the time? Are you willing to raise money and give money? Do you have other skills, talents, and experience you will offer?
  • What orgs do you want to help define/direct and make more successful? Make a list of your highest priorities.
  • Who do you know on those Boards or people that know those people? Get introduced to have informational interviews to explore what the organization's status and culture. What skills, background, and perspectives does the org need?

Be prepared for the democracy of a board. The balance between staff and board for control and direction. A majority of the members not pulling their weight. And the dilution of your ideas and suggestions.

But in the end, being on a board will deepen your understanding of the realities of running an org, especially a non-profit. What it takes to solve complex and intractable problems. You will be shoulder to shoulder with a new network of fascinating people who will broaden your network and your view of the world. And opportunities will follow.

If you say, "I am too busy to be on a Board." We all know the best people to ask to serve are the busy ones. Who wants to recruit someone who is idle? ;) Maybe you are not busy enough!!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Purpose Driven Networking--Search Me

As the new year unfolds, I always get a flurry of requests for help. People get focused on their needs and wants and reach out. I try to help. Yet people think that I have THE ANSWER. Regrettably, it  is never that simple. Looking for a job, considering a return to school, contemplating a career shift, or finding a soul mate--all have one thing in common. What do you want? What would be meaningful to you? And therefore Who are you? What is your purpose?

I sometimes get treated like a Google search box. Put in your Boolean search phrase and get millions of options in 1 second. It don't work that way! The Kobara search box asks you the questions! By the way this is called mentoring. Some people call it a Jewish conversation--you know when a question is answered with a question :)

But poorly thought out questions always deserve a question. Quality questions get quality answers.

The questions I pose in paragraph one above are often met with disappointment. The look, body language, and inflection I get in return tells me they just wanted me to give them the answer. And I know the answer is within them.

You have greatness within you.   Les BrownWe_Have_Greatness_Within_Us_by_rvpdesignz

Here are a few inquiries I have had in the first week of this new year.

Like to volunteer for a non-profit in LA.  What organizations would you recommend? --Cold voice mail received from a friend of a friend

Huh? I'd like to go fishing in the ocean, what bait should I use? Yikes. Of course this simple, and I mean in all ways, question triggers a thousand questions. There are more than 30,000 non-profit orgs in LA, after you eliminate the churches, hospitals and schools.! We can not get away with using Rose Parade Themes to define our journeys! Our questions have to be driven by our hearts and our passions, read PURPOSE.

I always wanted to be somebody, but I realized I should have been more specific. --LilyTomlin

More queries:

I am applying to grad school, do you think having more volunteer experience will help?

 I want to meet new people to date, the online thing is not working for me. What should I do?

Here's the deal. When you pursue things you care about, good things happen for your career, your educational options and your love life. Not only do you gain more experience, and your social network grows in substantive ways, but you become more attractive. What do I mean? How interesting are people who have jobs they don't like or don't care about? We are drawn to people who are doing things they love. There is an infectious energy. They become a magnet for more opportunities.

The opposite never works. Do things to impress others or that look good to say a grad school or a potential mate.

Where is the purpose in your life? What is your greatness? Pursue it!

Don't be confused. I am not saying that you have to be passionate about your day job. Be nice but not a requirement. I am saying connect with an issue, cause, through a non-profit organization.  Not a popular or a trendy one. One that speaks to your possibilities as Eric Saperston says. One that makes your heart beat faster and makes you feel good. Something that resonates with your soul.

It has to be personal. Your pursuit of your goodness will attract good things.

The answers to these questions lie within you. It is not so much what you will do next, but why.

I am always looking for the why in these questions I get. How is their pursuit of happiness driven by who they are---their purpose. Lead and network with purpose, instead of ambiguity and generality. Very different to test, connect to, explore your purpose than to go though motions in the hope of finding one.

Of course, while the answers are deeply personal, you can not do it alone. That's why connecting with others to get feedback and direction on the purposes and passions that swirl within you is so important. Yes and the hard and fulfilling work is to let them guide you.

Google yourself. Search within. Nurture your purpose. Engage and test that purpose through volunteering. Then your mentoring and networking will introduce you to a spectacular world of answers and opportunities.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Ready for your Big Shift?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for shifting. John 


Losing our minds by getting stuck

As we get older we tell jokes about "still being upright", or "nice to be seen" or "still breathng".

We know the moment we can't move is when we are dead. We all know about that many sharks have to swim to breathe and live. Humans stop moving and their spirit can die.  Our ability to see ourselves evolve, adapt, learn, and engage is essential to living and to life.

I meet zombies all of the time. Lifelike forms who go through the motions. They are usually good people who do no harm but lack purpose and deeper fulfillment. Many of them have given up on the future. Life is what happens and they make the best of that. Getting by and getting through the day, week, month.....is the objective. All of the obstacles, shortcomings, and challenges have beaten them into a corner of settling for "what it is". It is sad when you see this in a boomer but depressing when you see it in a 27 year old!

I am obsessed by understanding how people untangle themselves from their own web of self-imposed constraints. We all lose so much energy, talent, and ultimate creativity in our society because of this malady.

Daniel Pink studies what motivates us in his terrific book, Drive. He said that we all need Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose to keep us motivated and moving.

Po Bronson who chronicled his interviews with almost 1000 successful people in his book, What should I do with my life? He found that all obstacles in people's lives were surmountable. That with very exceptions they were excuses.

Sharks teach us much about the life giving forces of "movement". The need to keep active,  open,  and curious about what lies ahead. Moving to connect to people and ideas. The need to renew one's spirit and goals by forging ahead.

Sea squirts, of all creatures, teach us something fascinating about human behavior. Sea quirts are these simple opaque tube-like tunicates or urochordates that have been swimming in the oceans since the Jurassic era. They swim in schools and like sharks filter water through their bodies to live and survive. But sea squirts do something bizarre, oh so it would seem. They find a place to attach themselves as a group. They then proceed to digest their own brain and nervous system because they will no longer need them! Now attached to a rock or coral, they can survive by merely filtering water without thinking (not that the sea squirts were solving algebra equations or having deep thoughts!)Sea squirts Bluebell

Does this sound familiar? It does to me. Once attached to a comfortable place, way of thinking, surrounded by others who are almost identical, the need for a brain and new thoughts are rendered obsolete. I know and have met permanent and temporary sea squirt humans! People who settle. People who give up. Non-profit board members who eat their brains once the meeting commences. People who are so stuck in their ways, their assumptions, habits, and their networks----part of them dies. Their spirit and energy about change and the future goes into a deep sleep. Their minds are not engaged or necessary!

For the sea squirt, eating your brain et al is an irreversible act. Hope you like the rock selected because that will be your final resting place! But for us humanoids, we still have brains and can choose to keep moving our lives forward. Whether you are 40 or 60 you have a lot more to give and live for. Certainly if you are 27 or 37, you can not be stuck yet. 

Are you a sea squirt? Have you lost your mind because you are stuck? Have you settled into your piece of coral and decided that this is all that life can be?!

One thing I have seen is that the network, the school you swim with, can hold you back. Maybe its time you evaluated the people around you. Maybe you are holding yourself back. Maybe you need a different perspective. Maybe you need different priorities. Maybe more connection to your values and loved ones.

You are not done yet. You still have a bunch of ideas about the future, your future, your family's future, your community's future. We need you to move. Don't eat your brain. :)

As you can see a sea squirt can be quite beautiful. But as we all know, true beauty lies within and we can not allow that beauty and potential to wither because we are anchored to an immobile rock.

Thanks for reading. John


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


A Fresh Perspective: Swastikas, Uncle Tom and a Nerd

This last week has been a series of situations and experiences that have given me pause. I pride myself in helping people get a new perspective on their challenges and opportunities. The idea is to jolt people out of their semi conscious existence of accepting the status quo and the great inclination of playing not to lose rather than going for it. In these attempts at guidance and direction, I often am the recipient of the jolts, the slap upside the head that wakes ME up. This occurs when I listen to myself :) or mostly when the reactions are poignant or unexpected. A few examples:

  1. Swastika Attack----I regularly show the Sanskrit swastika and describe its 3000 year old origin. I describe how an evil man in Germany bastardized this beautiful symbol for his horrific purposes 90 years ago. We let him change this ancient sign of providence and good fortune into his concocted meaning. I do this to disrupt the audience's thinking and assumptions. After my talk, a very nice man told me how much he enjoyed my talk but he was very offended by my "lighthearted use of the swastika". He became quite emotional and would not let me speak. He told me to stop using this in my presentations. As he left me he said, "it would be as if you used an image of little black sambo!" I apologized for upsetting him and said that I did not understand the last reference as he disappeared from earshot. Whoa, did I shift his perspective or did he shift mine? Clearly I never intended to offend. But I always want people to question their perspectives in order to advance their opportunities. Should the swastika be banned from the land of appropriateness because it was usurped by a psychotic maniac? Maybe more to the point, should one complaint make me change my speech and my public ideas? 
  2. Uncle Tom's Lesson---I attended my nearly 94 year old uncle's memorial and celebration of life. It was a moving and special set of remembrances that were both inspirational and insightful. His story was the quintessential American immigrant story of great obstacles and great triumphs. With humble beginnings my Uncle Tom built a farm business with his brothers from scratch. He served his country in the army as part of the famous 442 infantry unit. He endured discrimination and intolerance for most of his professional life. Yet he not only succeeded but he thrived. His success was so much more than the financial and reputational. He lived a full life. He made his extended family a priority. He enjoyed his passions. He had no regrets when he left us. My cousin, his daughter, was very pleased about the day and the event. She was disappointed that some told her that they wish her father was still here. She asked them why? How much longer should his life have been to be the right length? My mother spoke about her brother and said something that got everyone's attention, "Death truly awakens life."  While I think this is true I wonder why lifeUncle Tom can't awaken life? My sister commented that no matter how much we know someone we never Know them. I agree emphatically. And we never will. The perspective of a sister, a spouse, an employee, a friend are all different. They are all incomplete stories of the story. That's what makes us each unique and different. The questions is, "Did we know what we should have known?" Did we have the deeper conversations to understand one another in our respective roles? This is the stuff of regrets and the source of life's questions. At the end of this wonderful day, we learned that Uncle Tom Saburo Obata tended to his relationships with the same relish and rigor he did with his crops. He woke up everyday to nurture and grow the people around him. Now that's a life to hold up and admire. 
  3. Nerd Network---I attended a community foundation conference last week and went down to the exhibit area to see if there were any vendors I wanted to meet. I spotted a software system called the Common Grant Application. I liked the booth and the ideas it conveyed. I introduced myself to a techie, long haired guy in his 50s who looked and spoke full NERD. I know this because he referenced Farside and Star Trek in the first 3 minutes! He connected with my inner nerd. Jeff was a knowledgeable guy and I quickly sensed his expertise but also his wisdom--he gets it! As he was deftly demo-ing his product, it was clear he knew his customer--both the grantor and the grantee of funds. I started to ask questions about his background and his experiences. He would say superficial things like "I am just a coder" or "I worked in the tech field". I have learned that humbleness is often a disguise or a diversion. So I pressed on. I learned in our 60 minute conversation sales pitch, that he has had his own foundation for years. That his development of this product grew out of his frustrations with the grant application process foisted on grantees by well meaning foundations. He finally revealed to me that he was essentially the former CTO of Intel! Just a coder?!! He retired years ago formed his foundation and and evolved into a philanthropist with a deep understanding of the grantees. We meet people everyday and never know who they are. We work with, live next door to, and talk to people we never know. Every person you meet is a fortune cookie with a set  of connections, wisdom, life's lessons and history that could change our own fortune. 
Another eventful week of reminding me of how precious life is. That we can not measure our life in years but in the relationships that are meaningful to both. That we barely know the people we are with. And even when someone tries to stop you, you listen and learn and then press on with your mission. Life is a journey of connections, reflections, and a constantly informed perspective that makes us want to be better. 
 
Thanks for reading. John

Endurance Networking: 10 Tips for the Longer Term Job Search

Labor Day is the time to consider and help those without jobs. Regrettably that is a huge percentage of people around us. People we know and people we don't know. More and more frequently I am encountering people from my former lives and people who are in my extended network who have endured an interminable and for some, brutal process of looking for a job. The time and effort to get a job from a layoff, termination, or job transition can be a marathon of frustration and exasperation. The toll this process takes on ones psyche, confidence, and self dignity can not be exaggerated.This is where doing the same thing over and over is insanity. Let's be honest, most people have never been taught or know how to conduct a job search in good times. So looking for work when competition is furious requires a much different mindset and approach.Distance 

Many approach this like a video game. They are under the hypnotic trance that the internet will find them a job. They are seat belted to their home computer and go through the maze of job sites over and over and over, and impulsively lob resumes at them. It has become a game of numbers where quantity matters and you want instant gratification. These same people send out FB and Linked in requests without personalizing the invites. Because amassing more impersonal connections will help you win the game but not a job.

I remember a friend who had developed a condominium project for a specific price point and target market. It was not working, people were not buying. As we know, people look at certain price bands that they can afford and avoid other bands as "too low" and "too high". We sat around and discussed discounting strategies, promotional tactics and other ways to essentially lower the price point and move into a lower band. Then someone suggested that the product was positioned poorly and would have less competition if we RAISED the price and re-positioned. We decided before we discounted we would try to retain the value proposition and move into a different band of buying. The condos sold out quickly and the lesson is one of human myopia on both the buy side and the sell side. We operate in narrow bands of behavior based on what everyone else is doing. And in doing so we have forgotten the most important principle of marketing oneself--differentiation. How do we stand out of the pack, the pile of resumes, and separate ourselves from the sea of candidates?

I see this in the job market today where for some reason we gravitate to the common denominator strategies where the great majority of the candidates are operating and competing. See the same thing in college applications. People follow a formula that others told them, they read on the web, or they got a tip at a workshop--and then become the unattractive average. Surveys always tells us that more than 75% of us are above average! So why would we adopt a job search process that your competitors employ? This behavior is proof of the gravitational pull of conformity and the centripetal force of mediocrity that leads to an insurance policy that your job search may never end.

If it works, it is obsolete. (attributed to Marshall McLuhan)

If we agree this market is different then you have to be, think and act differently.

Economic disruptions like this cause irrational behavior. Job seekers who start to second guess the market where they adjust their resumes and their job search process may or may not work. They can lose their way going down the rabbit hole of confusing self-talk and behavior that can distract them from their strengths. Simply put, straying from who you are and what your competences are is risky. Not saying you should not traverse sectors or make major job shifts.  But if you are a finance, marketing, or human resources professional with years of experience, you have to play those cards. Otherwise you are reduced to a new grad with a liberal arts education---you can do anything! And how does that differentiate you in the pile of resumes?

The following assumes your resume, your basic understanding of your story (including gaps, challenges and transitions), and your goals are fairly well established. So here are 10 tips to keep you on a pace to to survive the long distance job search:

  1. Stay positive. Put any semblance of embarrassment, shame, self consciousness and self doubt in a box and lock it in the attic. These demons keep you in a mode that is less willing to ask for help, less able to show your vulnerability, and less of the authentic you.
  2. Every day is a work day. Your search has to consume the equivalent of a full time position. This is not just playing the job boards, it is the process of getting leads and networking. Energize yourself to go at it every morning.
  3. Think about your "band of behavior". What types of jobs/opportunities are you willing to take? Remain open and pursue opportunities that make sense but you have never considered. How big of a pay cut are you willing to take? Will you relocate? If you are making a sector transition, are you willing to essentially start over? Expand your band with specificity.  In other words, describe all of the attributes of your minimums (we know you want more!) What are your true minimums? 
  4. Stay active. Pursue or maintain volunteer, consulting, pro-bono and/or part time gigs to keep your juices going and to keep a warm place on your resume. Substantive charitable or non-profit volunteer work can be part of your story that fills the time and the gap in your work history.
  5. Continuous education. Take a class to sharpen your skills and find another networking platform.
  6. Apply early and often. Apply for everything that interests you AND where you have a real chance to add value. You need the practice interviewing. When in doubt apply. Focused on your goals, you do need leads and options. Even if you are "over-qualified" give the resume reader pause by considering someone who can do the job easily.
  7. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. How will you make your resume, your candidacy stand out? The key is who you know. Who you know and who they know.
  8. Go Face to face. Devote more than half of your search time to meetings or telephone conversations. Get out of your house and talk to people. You have to be able to push yourself and those around you to get out from behind their computers and literally and figuratively "pound the pavement" and "knock on doors". Hopefully you have gone beyond the basic networking and have a good inner circle of supporters. People who know you and you have a trusting relationship with. Have you met with all of them? No you haven't?! Connect and reconnect with your existing network--your relatives, your friends, your former colleagues, and your former bosses.
  9. Get on the insider track  As you expand your connections, you will begin to become aware of positions that are open and not posted. This happens when your focus is also on employers not openings. The biggest mistake is ONLY talking about positions that are posted. Most jobs are like houses in the most coveted neighborhoods, they are not listed, they all start out with private processes that are not made public unless they did not work. The word about a good job is put out to the employer's inner network to talk to the "best" candidates. The only way your name comes up in these searches is if someone you know is aware of it.
  10. Be introduced and referred This is the most powerful networking and the biggest differentiator. Having influential people you know or meet introduce you to prospective employers is enormously helpful. Instant credibility, good brand management, access to information, and an expansion of your network. Clearly, the ability to drop a name on the cover note of your resume when applying/inquiring for a job may be the biggest differentiator. The bigger the name the hotter your resume becomes. That resume has to be separated from the pile, people have to track it and you get a better chance to get to the next level of consideration. Please don't misunderstand me, you don't need referrals from the C Suite, you need to be referred by an insider. That implied endorsement is big, regardless of the level.

Jobs are opening up everyday behind the curtain and posted on Monster. So persistence and vigilance are essential partners for the longer term job search.

Networking is ALWAYS a long term if not a life time process. A process of staying in touch and exploring opportunities. It is a marathon lifestyle where the tortoise beats the hare every time. Meeting people to appreciate who you know and who you are will energize you. To learn of new opportunities and ways to approach old ones. To keep the mind sharp, the blood pumping and keep the finish line in sight.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Sideways view of life expectancy

Had the great fortune of interviewing Tom Tierney last week. We discussed his book, Give Smart for the Drucker Business Forum and for the local NPR affiliate, KPCC. His book is really aimed at high net worth donors and would be philanthropists--how to effectively give away your money. As we prepped for the interview I told him this is a basically a career guide for the wealthy people who want to enter the world of philanthropy. He agreed.

Tom's book is a set of questions that apply to anyone who wants to start a "new career". Giving away money just seems easy to most people with wealth. What's there to think about?!! You pick needy organizations that are doing good and you give them money. How can that be hard? Any self respecting "successful" person who has built or grown a business, started a company, invested in start-ups or managed a for-profit enterprise can give away money! Wrong!

There is a prevailing by erroneous point of view that you just apply the most fundamental business practices to non-profit or even government work and you could solve problems so simply. What's wrong with this country is we have not take a business approach to the problems we face. Poverty, cancer, educating our children, and immigration would be solved. Really? C'mon anyone who feels that way, especially business executives, have no idea what they are talking about. I remember when David Gardner, former President of the University of California was discussing the issues of diversity in admissions and said, "Anyone who says they understand the issue does not understand the issue." Classic example of the more we learn the more we understand what we don't know. Tom's questions help people learn about what they don't know about themselves and the opportunity of philanthropy.

One of the most insightful moments for me came at the reception before the interview. We were discussing our concepts of time and what we expect from life in a small group. He took his pen and he looked down the shaft like it was a telescope. He said that we mostly look at our futures this way. He said that we see an infinite line of possibilities, of opportunities, and own deferred thoughts about success. This view gives us the false perception that we have a lot of time. But he said that it is more important to understand the finiteness of life and look at it sideways. He took the pen and looked at it in his hand. The pen's limits now come into view. How long life will be is a guess, but it will be brief. Thinking about the present and finiteness should give us a sense of urgency. Achieving things now instead of waiting for a future time when the "stars will align" or "luck will prevail" or the absolute most fallacious wish, "when I am not as busy". Pen

People think anxiously about the future and forget the present, such that they live  neither in the present or the future.

Two young people heard Tom's message as he was holding the pen sideways and immediately pointed out what they were doing to focus themselves on the present. It was clear they did not fully understand--they hopefully will. Planning their futures is still their career strategy.

While we plan for long lives, we also do many things in anticipation of a shortened one. We buy life insurance. We assign the guardianship of our kids. Nevertheless. we all expect to live at least the average life expectancy. After all, we are all better than the average, so we DESERVE, at least an average length of life, right? 80 years minimum.

But stuff happens. Plans change. Almost all of life does not happen exactly as we wish and thank goodness for that! Can you imagine if life was predictable? No surprises. Just a linear existence. If it were predictable then you would know your date of death and could plan accordingly. Sorry, not in this world.

We should be ready for the end anytime. We should be ready to lose things and loved ones anytime. Because that's when it happens. Did we do what we wanted to do? Did we nurture our relationships? Did we have a full life? Or are we deferring most of our living and loving to a future time when things will be better?

People live as if they will never die and die as if they have never lived.

Once we see the pen sideways and appreciate its finiteness, we can see that everyday, that every moment, that every conversation is important. That the future we envision may not come for you or others.

Life and death are irrational. When your time is up will not be up to you. Yes, eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself are advised, but no guarantee.

Looking down the road of life or up the staircase of our careers and we can get intoxicated by the what appears to be the infinite dimension of time and opportunity.Stairs

Once you see and understand the finiteness of it all, you will think about giving now. You realize that the one thing you have is your ability to help others. To love. To support. To ease the suffering of others. Deferring those human instincts to a future time that will be more convenient is only reserved for children.

Look at the continuum of life sideways, embrace its boundaries and surrender to the urge to give and live.

Life expectancy: Live every day.

Here's to a long and prosperous life of living and giving, fulfilled in every moment.

Thanks for reading. John


Reflection, Roses, and Regrets

While I think the quality of the questions we ask each other and ourselves matters, I think the answers and thoughts pulsating in our minds may matter more. Where am I going? What matters most to me? What is my purpose? How will I advance my life/career? Will I ever reach my goals? These are vexing questions that hopefully give us pause. But the enormity and abstractness of these queries can just as easily generate nothingness and we dismiss them like other mysteries of the universe, such as infinity? or how life began?Infinity

Without trying to answer these questions you lose windows of opportunity to position yourself to gain self-satisfaction and minimize regrets. The danger is we just wish for a future time, a "better" time to confront these questions. Wating is usually the wrong tack

Using written decalrative statements can help you tame these mega questions.

I will be happier when_________________-.

The most important thing I need to improve in my life is__________________

The one person I need to improve my relationship with is __________________

My next career development activity is __________________________

Being more involved with (cause/issue) will make my life more meaningful.

If I make this decision/choice to ______________, I will have fewer regrets.

Add timeframes and you have a set of goals. Like my SWiVEL form, write down what  is important to you--what you want. Make a commitment to yourself.

I was asked at one of my recent talks: "In our busy lives of work and life, how do we stop to reflect, "smell the roses" and make sure we are headed in the right direction?"Roses

When you see roses smell them.

Schedule reflection time.

Define your destination(s).

Not trying to oversimplify, but if it is important, do it! What is on the top of your life "to-do" list right now?

If we do not put the important things on the top of this list then life's inexorable tasks, chores, trivia, and transactions will consume and devour your time and attention.

Kobara's law of priorities-- :)

The unimportant will always attempt to sabotage the important.

In every choice or avoidance of an opportunity we must measure the potential for regret.

How much will you regret not pursuing the opportunity in front of you?

Don't let your regrets from lack of courage and effort become tumors. They will follow you. They will haunt you.

Opportunities are like fishes, never let the big ones get away! You think you will have another chance. You think amazing moments go in cycles? That fish will never be at the place at that place again. Those roses will only smell that way that one time. That door will never open that way again.

That being said, if you knocked on a door and it closes, then look for the next door. If went for it and took the risk and came away empty-handed--You have no regrets because you tried. Hit reset. And try again. Regrets come from the lack of effort, the lack of assertion, the absence of courage, and the false belief that opportunities are infinite and never lost.

Opportunities and time are finite. (I apologize if I am the first to tell you this!)

Your nephew will never be this age again. Your career will never be at this point again. Today, this day, this year, this moment is already gone.

I am not trying to depress you or start the ignition of your regret engine. I am telling you to live now, get into the present, and put your life ahead of your list of tasks. 

WARNING: Literal translation of this advice can lead to hedonism and extreme selfishness.

As Les Brown said, "...then you will be behind in your dreams and your bills."

In the end, it will be your relationships that will matter. Regrets from relationships are the most venomous of all regrets.

Make a lot of money? Change the world? Pursue your inner artiste? You can not do any of things by yourself AND enjoy it! Your relationships will propel you to new heights and destinations. Your relationships will teach you about the world and yourself.

Commit to a lifestyle of dealing with life's questions with answers and actions--and never do it alone. You won't regret it.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Are you SWiVELicious----Can you SWiVEL?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, it is always SWiVELtime!

Thanks for swiveling and reading. John


5 Lessons on Connecting, Conversations and Courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


Stop Lying! To Get a Job and To Yourself

We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us.  But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.  ~Tad Williams

Lying is so complicated. You have to remember who you told and who knows. It is an endless process to avoid the truth.Telling the truth is much different than not telling a lie. It starts with little lies we tell ourselves and others. And it can lead to self deception. In the end, we have to ask ourselves, are we who we say we are? Are who we think we are?

Don't make up stuff about yourself, especially about your education. If you did not complete a degree or don't plan to, don't say otherwise. Pretty shocking how many people I have met who lie about their academic records. They just brazenly make false statements about their education. Everyone knows that academic records are checked, so what is the point. It is a deal breaker in job offers and brutalizes your brand. Offered a job to an extraordinary candidate. He was a VERY qualified candidate. His routine background check showed that he had not earned a BA. When we informed him he said he would clear it up and we never heard back from him again. Not sure if it was embarrassment or fear. If he would have told us that he was working on his degree, we would have figured out something. He lied and ran. Don't say you are going to get a graduate degree unless you are planning to. In an informational interview I met this bright young lady who was highly recommended to me. She told me she was "going to get her MBA." I quickly asked her when she was applying and how did she do on the GMAT. She was surprised by the questions and became quite flustered. She looked at me and sheepishly said, "Do you have to take the GMAT?" YIKES!

Don't misrepresent why you left a job.Was it a layoff? A restructuring? A poor fit? Was it amicable? Tell the story. Leave out all of the gory details, but explain what happened in a credible way. This is my favorite--"I just left because I outgrew the position." Yeah, you just quit in the middle of the recession without another job because you were not challenged. Huh? Jon Lovitz, as the pathological liar on SNL used to say, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Don't name drop. Don't exaggerate who you know and how well you know them. The world is small and getting smaller and lies will be unceremoniously unmasked. In my strange and wonderful career I have shaken the hands and "met" many important people. I would never say I "know" them or drop their names in conversations. People tell me they were referred to me by people I know. Then I find out they don't know the person who referred them. Not good form. I was just introduced to someone and before we shake hands, she says "You know so and so don't you." The name shocked me because I did know this person but they were fired for excessive drinking at work! Needless to say this meeting did not go well and my impression of her, and her judgment, were damaged.  

Don't lie about your compensation requirements hoping you will work it out in the negotiations. I always ask what is "your minimum salary requirement." I require an answer. If someone says, "Its does not matter" or "I am totally negotiable." Then we expect they really want the job and money is secondary. Just had a candidate tell us this and then when the offer was made, he told us his minimum salary, which was 20% higher than we  were offering. Don't ever hire liars, they will never stop lying.Stop-lying-to-yourself

Here's the biggest one. Stop lying to yourself. Stop telling yourself and others things that are not true. Things about your plans and your future. Start talking about what you REALLY want. And start taking steps to understand these things better. Know thyself! And then make it happen.

It is not enough to tell the truth. You have to reveal yourself. You have to express what is unique about you. Why knowing you, hiring you, helping you is worth it. What makes you tick. What makes you happy. What you want and where you are going. I see thousands of resumes, then I meet the person. I do not want to hear the recitation of their resume. I know literacy is an issue but provide me with the amazing stuff that is NOT on your resume. So I say "tell me your story." Or I ask about the "other side of the resume", "what you do when you aren't working". Repeatedly, I get these very bland answers like, "I read a lot." or the ubiquitous "I like to travel." I know they are interesting and have compelling stories and personalities, but I rarely hear them. But when I do, it separates them from the pack. It makes them memorable and real. The world is filled with competent people like you, just not enough interesting ones.

The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.  ~Ambrose Bierce

Networking and mentoring like all relatiuonships require truth and transparency to work well. They require trust that is only built upon the strong bond of understanding each other. You are so much more than a resume and a series of jobs. You are a light that is shining on a future---your future. There is no one else like you. So why lie. The truth about you is pretty compelling stuff, more than you think. ean it. You just have to express it and articulate it. You have so many talents and unfulfilled dreams. People love other people's dreams and destinies. You have to talk about the real you and stop lying about a you, you may be pretending to be.

White lies, little lies, and lying to not offend people are things we all do. Dumb lies, that enhance our standing with others need to be curbed. But deceiving ourselves, now that is a crime that has to stop.

Like all of my posts, we have to help those we mentor to adopt these principles. So, if you are a fountain of truth and transparency, teach others how to know and transmit their truths.

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 Art of the Intro---Do you have a Hype Man?

If you believe that your success is tied to others, then you have to connect. Connect with people that help advance your thoughts and ideas. Connect with people who show you the paths to greater fulfillment. Connect with people who give you validation and an important sense of community and belonging. You have to understand that doing it alone is impossible. That isolation and insulation are your enemies. Once you accept this, then you have to engage others in your quest to become the best you can be. The best way to meet people is to be introduced to them.  Properly-introduce-yourself-572x297

As I have said many times, networking is a contact sport but it is also a team sport. In that vein, working with a partner or a team makes it so much easier to meet people. Meeting people at a social gathering, corporate reception, or other general networking opportunity is so much more fun and productive, if you are being introduced to others. No one is truly comfortable with the solitary process of "cold calling" and walking up to people we do not know and introducing ourself. The process of having someone else pave the way by making the connection is always more elegant and effective. If you want to meet new people or a specific person, form a pact with a person or people you know going to the event, to introduce one another to people they meet/know to each other.  This can turn these often anxiety ridden moments into a pleasure.

After I gave a presentation on networking and the power of the introduction recently, a young, very hip African American man approached me. He thanked me for the idea of "being introduced" to others. He was very excited and animated and told me that it was like having a "hype man". "You know, a hype man, the guy who promotes the rapper", he said (he crouched down starts shaking his dreadlocked head and pointing at an imaginary rapper and rapping) "He's the greatest rapper!" Yes, we all need a team of hype men or women. Advocates to give us third party endorsements. Someone else to talk about us, instead of ourselves. My best friend Willie used to call me his "Press Asian" when we were students. :) I was trying to help him get more visibility on campus. I was unwittingly a very early version of a hype man! We need others to refer us, promotes us, and introduce us to "audiences" and opportunities.

The old maxim holds true, " Could not have said it better myself."

But the art of the introduction goes beyond the sometimes superficial event scene and can be more targeted than general hype and promotion of your brand. You also need people on your hype team who know you well to partake in a much more strategic form of introduction. An introduction to others who you don't know that the team thinks you should meet. Others you have identified and want to meet. In either case, a warm introduction that gives you more credibility and enhances your value can make all the difference. 

The answers to these questions will help determine your strategy to meet people through introduction to advance your network and your career. 

  1. What are your goals, your priorities, your needs? What are you looking for? In other words, you have some direction that guides your networking. Otherwise, you foolishly think opportunity will come up and throw you a surprise party. 
  2. Who do you want to meet? Who do you want to talk to? Have you identified specific individuals, experts, executives, potential mentors/sponsors that you want to meet? There should always be people that you have respect, have a valuable perspective, or could help you-- people you would like to talk to.
  3. Which organizations, companies, non-profits do you admire? At some point you want to know these entities better, understand them, and perhaps be affiliated with them? Like individuals, you should be tracking organizations that you think are leaders, innovative or just plain intriguing. 

With these goals and targets in mind, you need to unleash your hype team. Talk to your inner network and pick their brains on who knows the people and organizations on your list. Start recruiting your hype team members. Make sure they are up to date on your resume and your skills, knowledge, and abilities. And then push them to find connections and introduce you.

These referrals are not a list of names and contact info given to you---that is bad form. There must be a warm hand-off, which requires a personal and professional introduction. In some cases you may want to draft an intro, just as you would do for a letter of reference. What do you want the intro to say and sound like? Why leave it to chance?

Of course, this only works because you are the hype man for your network too. You have to be willing to refer and introduce your network to others. 

Lastly, if you are ever going to be introduced as a speaker, or recognized at an event, make sure you provide some guidance. Often, people will ask you to draft the public intro. Don't just give your resume and cross your fingers--provide the intro and shape your brand!

Use the team concept of networking to meet people and uncover opportunities through introductions. Get a hype team and join a hype team or three. Make every introduction count. You will see that networking can be more enjoyable and successful when you work together. 

Thanks for reading. John


A network of friction: The human particle accelerator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

John Kobara Honored by Coro from Edward Headington on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading. John


Think Out Loud and Connect!

I do this exercise with new college graduates or graduate students. They are the most confused, especially these days. I hold up my fist and point at it. And then I tell them, "I have your ideal job in my hand. It will engage your heart and your brain. It will pay you comfortably. Good dental benefits. Commute time is reasonable. It will help you grow and develop as a professional. Just tell me what it is and I will give it to you." 99% of the time they don't know what it is. That's not the point. The surprise is they don't even know what to say. They start mumbling things but almost always end with a joke. Because that's what what we all do when we don't know what to say. We try, I say try, to be funny. One of those slapstick defensive reflexes we verbalize to deflect the attention from our brain freeze. Similar to when we jokingly say, "No I meant to that," when we trip on ourselves or spill a drink. Brainmouth

It's really funny how our brain and our mouth are not connected. Accessing the grey hard drive, get the binary codes to come out of the speaker system and make sense is not always easy.

We harbor many ideas and thoughts in our minds about what we want and who we are. They rattle around between the neurons and the synapses. In the brain they seem comfortable and clever. In fact sometimes in our minds we are geniuses. However, when we utter some of these ideas with words and phrases they get garbled. We rely on our mouths to translate our elegant brainstorms into eloquence. Often it does not work and can be quite embarrassing. We forget the lips and the frontal lobes are not always directly linked.

I remember when I was talking to a very ambitious employee about her hobbies. It was a fun and light hearted, easy going conversation. I started thinking about an opportunity for her. It occurred to me that I did know what her ambitions were. So I asked somewhat abruptly, "By the way what do you want to do next?" She was horrified, froze and became inarticulate. She told me this was not fair and that questions like that could only be asked in a formal review session! I was not expecting THE answer. But to start a robust conversation about the options, pros and cons. To hear her thoughts, but I never did.

Pat head rub tummy Thinking and talking on our feet can be the equivalence of patting our heads and rubbing our stomachs simultaneously. Not easy. With practice it is always easier. With preparation it looks like it is second nature. Robin Williams' "ad libs" have been tested in private, honed in comedy clubs, and tweaked by his writers. It is the delivery that matters. But I am not suggesting you memorize anything, the best speaking is extemporaneous. Your preparation allows you to share thoughts that have been considered and certainly are not alien. 

The ability to think out loud is a lost art. When you don't know the answer, especially if it is personal, you have to demonstrate your thought process, display that you have considered the subject matter--such as your life's direction!--and honestly share a little of yourself. That would be refreshing. An authentic discussion of the challenges and issues the question or the dilemma conjures.

This is where mentoring comes in to save the day. When can you trot our your intimate thoughts? Where can you conduct your dress rehearsals and get feedback? And not be instantly criticized and judged. Mentors are the greatest sounding boards. They expect to talk to you about these raw and mal-formed concepts. Share your thoughts, questions, quandaries, and curiosities with your mentor. Expressing these thoughts as wishes, things you want for yourself is also very effective. Think out loud with your mentor, often and then listen for the feedback. Just the practice of converting your neural sparks into words will do wonders.

Doing this in isolation, by yourself, never works as well.

When people ask you things all of the time? When you know people will ask you the same questions over and over. Or questions that you ask yourself repeatedly. There is no excuse for not having answers or well-formed thoughts about your quest for answers.

In my intermittent posts on questions, I urge the readers to work on their answers. Literally verbalize them to get them to sound like YOU. To convey what you are thinking. Like an artist who dreams up new images, getting it exactly right the first time is rare. It takes a series of trials and errors to have the canvas look the way you imagined.

Last week, I asked a grad student what type of job and career he really wanted after graduation. After an awkward pause he replied, "Nothing but happiness." He looked at the ceiling and then at his shoes and then smiled impishly. He knew he was being funny, wasn't he? Just wanted him to think out loud with me and maybe we could work together on refining those thoughts and actually discover a path to his happiness.

Thanks for reading. John 


Your path to the future is paved with questions

One of the most powerful resources in your career and networking toolbox is curiosity. Yeah, the insatiable desire to try to understand how things work or don't work, what is success or failure and how is it measured?; what are the best practices?; who is considered the best or the leader?; what are the trends and therefore the scenarios of the future?

Questions shape our understanding and define our thoughts, opinions, and our preferences. Good questions lead to better conversations. And great conversations generate important relationships. Questions matter. Questions

Question authority. Did he pop the question?

Yet, there seems to be a dearth of well formed questions. You would think that learning would motivate our questions, wouldn't you?

We all evaluate dozens of organizations and individuals every week. Vendors, partners, colleagues, friends, restaurants, product providers, etc. We accept and tolerate many issues and challenges in our daily experiences. Often they trigger questions about how to improve something, somebody. Questions about the goals or expectations of a service, a project, or an organization.

There are the profound questions we have to ask ourselves everyday, every month, every year:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • Am I on track?
  • What is meaningful to me?
  • What do I want?

Questions are the lifeblood of the conversations that make mentoring and networking relationships work and thrive. What you want to know, what perplexes and stymies you, where you think there are gaps or weaknesses--this is the fuel that powers the engines of personal and professional change. But they can not be questions just about you and what you want.

We seem to be more interested in using our questions to purchase a car or a new computer than to choose our next job or career? We invest more time and energy into the quality of our material possessions than the due diligence of the work we do and how it will help us grow and advance.

Not having answers should motivate us instead of depress us.

I meet a lot of people. People who want to find jobs, people who want something, people who are searching, people who are lost, and people who want to partner. And overall, the quality or in some cases the absence of questions is surprising.

I look at resumes the same way I review business plans, or grant application. Where have you been, where are you going, why did you make changes, where have you succeeded, where have you failed, what makes you unique, why should I affiliate with you?

I could not make up the stuff I hear and see in interviews. Sometimes it is a reality show of outtakes from American Idol or America's Got Talent. Once in awhile it is invigorating and inspiring but that is the exception.

Here are my top five favorite meaningless questions that I have been asked by job candidates in the first interview?

  1. How many days off will I get?
  2. How much do you love working here?
  3. Are the dental benefits any good?
  4. How soon would I be promoted?
  5. Do you have a strategic plan?

It's like, "Did you just say that out loud?" There is zero interest in how the employer is doing or what is going on? Are you so self absorbed and ill-prepared that you have no genuine interest in the business, the challenges, and the results?

The most irritating sound outside of the vuvezelas at the World Cup is the worst radio station in the world, WII-FM. What's In It For Me. When this radio station plays so loudly that it drowns out even the semblance of what others want, then failure and rejection will be your listening mates. WII-FM makes one's questions seem self-absorbed and selfish.

We all know that asking questions has to be accompanied by thoughts on the answers. You can't just verbalize queries without ideas. Otherwise you are just another whiny solution-less member of the chorus of complainers. And there is little room in our crowded lives for this irritating irrelevant noise.

All of us have an exaggerated level of confidence in our ability to ad-lib, address impromptu situations, think on our feet. In general, when we rely on this non-existent skill, we look stupid. The only way to avoid this embarrassment is to prepare questions. Writing down questions. Thinking about what questions you would ask yourself if you were hiring you.

Our quest is looking for special people, special opportunities, special moments, and ulimately a greater sense of fulfillment--the diamonds in the rough, the needles in the haystack. We find these things by following our hearts, our intuition and our questions. We discover these things by being insatiably curious.

What are your questions?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading. John


Holiday Presence

Going crazy yet? The combination of year-end business and the holidays is enough to make you bonkers. If you are are one of those highly prepared, got it under control, and cool under pressure kind of people. Can I tell you something? I hate you! :)

Stress has an awful way of creeping into impatience and making you into a major league Scrooge. You are familiar with the confusing greeting "Happy Holidays" with a frown. How can we make this whole process a bit more enjoyable and successful?!!

Like so many things we get caught up in the transaction over the opportunity. The task over the goal. We fret over the color of the ribbon over our box of gratitude or appreciation. J0440332

Yes, the holidays are an irritating combination of commercialization, irrational obligations, and an odd array of myths. But it is a time of giving, sharing, and family time. We can succumb to the rat race of the holidays--what did Lily Tomlin say?, "Even if you win the rat race you are still a rat!" Or we can take advantage of this time to connect and make the most of these annual exchanges. I know this is easier to say than do. But intention and awareness are 90% of the opportunity. Being in the moments and having the intention of not making it a robotic, auto-response connection makes a huge difference to you and everone else. 

But think about it, you see and hear from more people than any other time of the year. You have opportunities to thank and share time with friends and families. It is a potent time for networking.

Intentionally slow down when you are on your approach to the people. You can remain at hyper-space speed when you are doing your tasks, shopping, baking, and decorating. Shift into a lower gear and pay attention. Be present. J0442385 Focus in on the conversations, on the answers to your questions. On the body language and inflection of the voices of your friends. And listen! Listen for the nuances, the subtleties, the unspoken thoughts. If you want to be the generous person you are, then listen for ways you can help people in your network. After all, if you are exchanging gifts and attending their parties, I assume you care about these people. So listen for the telltale answers to the seemingly innocuous queries, "How 's it going?" or the worst question, "Everything good?" Answers like, "Been a tough year." "It's okay." "Trying to survive." And a million other variations. It is human nature to try and mask one's true feelings and not burden others. Sometimes it is a smokescreen, but often there is fire there, deserving a probe or follow-up.

Being a true networker is being a hub of help. Is proactively inquiring how you can assist? This is YOUR network! I am not suggesting helping any random stranger--at least in this posting. :)

And what about my needs? Be ready to articulate what you need and want. But leading with helping others. Leading with giving first, sounds vaguely familiar to some holiday value. When you give you will receive! It all starts with a focus, an intention, and an awareness of what your friends and family are really saying and needing.

Holiday presence may be the most generous gift of the season.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays. John


What I did on my summer vacation to enhance my career?

J0432982 One of the funniest things I hear from young people, especially those who just graduated is: "I am just exhausted from college and I have to take some time off this summer to rest and re-energize before I go to work or graduate school." What?!!! As Shaw said, "Youth is wasted on the young." When we were in school we can remember the lazy days of summer interrupted by summer school, camp, chores and maybe a summer job. Those were the days. I watch my kids and can remember the angst over the question, "'what are we going to do today?"

Now that we are all growed up, summer can be busy but a time when we typically put off things until to the Fall. Many excuses are generated, other people's vacations, the warm weather, or the gravitational pull of our childhoods. But summer is an ideal time to tune up your careers. It is a time to to think and reflect. It is a time to plan. You were thinking you were going to be planful in the Fall? Yeah, you will have so much time then! Wrong. 

Po Bronson has said in his What Should I do With My Life series that we tend to procrastinate by using dates, seasons, and milestones. This time is not good because: its summer, my kids are busy, the holidays, my birthday, things are up in the air etc etc. He concludes that the "right time" should not be the objective. That the people that have found their passions and success were never hindered by the time or the season.
 
This is the greatest time to make a change or to venture outside of our little cocoons. Change is afoot. Everything is changing. Literally everything. All assumptions about the future are being questioned. And there are so many opportunities. Do you really think that the strategy and path you have chosen can be followed without any adjustments? The first space shuttle made approximately 1500 course corrections to stay on its seemingly linear path. And you want to wait until the summer is over? Really? 96px-STS-31_Hubble_launch_roll_and_pitch

Why do we live like the mythical lemmings and just follow each other over the cliff? Why don't we break the habits that cause us to be stuck? How can we differentiate ourselves if we robotically follow the seasons like a career Almanac? Lemming

I am just saying, take the summer to step back and think and prepare. Ask yourself a few questions:
  1. What do I want to change about my life and career? 
  2. How will my life and career be different next summer? 
  3. With whom do I need to spend more time? With whom will I reconnect?  What am I waiting for?
  4. What can I do to strengthen what I value, enjoy, and love? Download SWIVEL new 2009
One concrete step you can take is to volunteer for a cause or charity that you deeply care about. An hour a week will make a dramatic impact on your life. When you align yourself with your values, you will feel better about yourself. A weird thing happens when you give, you receive. I will give you the John Kobara guarantee :-), that if you engage as a volunteer for a cause that has personal meaning to you, you will be transformed. You will be transformed by being with like minded people. You will be transformed by your own fulfillment. And you will help transform that cause and that organization and the beneficiaries of that work. 

J0441048 Don't waste your summer. When summer is over, and people ask, "What did you do on your summer vacation?" You can tell tell them how you took your career and life to new places.

Thanks for reading. John