re-invent yourself

Stop. Look Sideways.

What if you looked at your life sideways? Just saw it differently for a moment. How about your relationships? How about your career?

Not abandoning what you have but getting a new perspective so you can appreciate what is there. We all live in great abundance of things and opportunities that we neglect in our haste to the next. We often misinterpret busyness for pursuit of what we want--progress towards happiness or fulfillment. When we pause and reflect, we can realize the error of our ways. It is hard to do this by yourself. 

Here is a poem I wrote for the "waterskeeters" who recklessly glide across the surface but never see themselves. 

Wholely Water Water skeeters
Am I a water bug dancing on the surface tension?
What's in the dark waters below?
An iceberg for your thoughts
Can I summon the courage to dive?
To explore the murky waters of choice and challenge
To test my imagined strength and talent
Why can't I be a lotus plant?
Thriving in and into the water
Turning muck into radiant blooms
Am I just a superficial insect?
That bugs me
How's the water?
Never touch the stuff
I am a water skipper with a free spirit
No time to see my reflection in the glassy mirror
Gliding enviably across the pond so fast
Not even scratching the surface
How can I be so dry and all wet?
The exhilaration seems more than enough
Why learn to swim when I can walk on water?
 

When we slow down and take stock of where we are going and why--it can be transformative. We have to be open to truthful feedback and a sideways perspective (a new point of view), we can learn something. Great mentoring happens when you suspend your defensiveness, your desire to say the "right" thing, and your ever present judgmentalism. Your eyes and mind, dare I say, your heart can be opened to new truths.

Anyone who knows me, knows my mother has the uncanny ability to give me sideways views of myself. Over and over she has helped me see myself as opposed to the facades I was constructing.

But then it happened to mom! She got a sideways lesson. Her perspective was altered.  My mom has been painting for decades and she continues to evolve. A few years ago she lost the cartilage in her right arm and paints on the floor so she doesn't have to lift her arm. This changes the shape and size of her canvases. She also decided to do more "abstract" work. So she started taking classes in her late 80s and got a mentor! Never too late to change and adapt. IMG_2501 (2)

So my mom painted this mythical waterfall near rocks and a tree to the left.

Her teacher/mentor came to the house and wanted to see her newest things. My mom has been experimenting with more vertical forms. Anyway, my mother pulled out three paintings and leaned them against a wall, including this one. Her teacher quickly turned two of the paintings on the side, converting my mom's vertical paintings into horizontals. (see below) My mother was astonished. "That IS the way it was supposed to be!, my mother exclaimed. And that is now the way it will be hung and sold. Of course the owner of the painting can do whatever they want, but what was the original intent of the artist? IMG_2501 (4)

It is obvious to you, right? Everyone who sees this says that. Now before you doubt my story or my mother's intelligence (How dare you :)). Listen to me. My mother has painted more than 1400 originals. When she paints them she turns them around and views them from all sides. She has an eye like no one else. But like all of us she got stuck in her perspective, she needed help and was open to it.

We all try to will the Ouija board of life. We intend things, we plan things, we set firm expectations. And when things end up differently we are disappointed and worse, we can defend the status quo. The way it is supposed to be, the tradition, the habit, and the comfortable way. No!

We have to be open to a sideways view of ourselves. We need help to see ourselves. We have to invest in seeing ourselves accurately. 

The definition of insanity is --doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!

We need help to change and adapt. Mentors, teachers, coaches, therapists, all are capable of showing us things they see that we can't. Caring for others can help us see ourselves and the world around us. Our biases, our distractions, and our egos limit what we see.

Stop for a moment to see your reflection and explore what is below the tension of the surface. Mentor the waterskeeters in our lives to see what they are missing. Look at your world sideways and you might see new horizontals in your verticals.

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


Mind the Change and Change the Mind

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw

Some people discuss "change" like it is a monster. A source of stress and distress. "Change" is a darkening cloud that will bring great tragedy and pain.

Or a savior for necessary evolution. And the light on the path of purpose.

Those who embrace the change are empowered by the change. Yeah, it has to do with risk and self-esteem. If you are defined by your job or your title or your retirement plan then the bogeyman of change is Godzilla.

But if you exist to serve, adapt and pursue your passions, then change becomes your sidekick.

None of us wants the status quo. Right? The status quo sucks. For people suffering. For our careers. For our families. For our communities. Putting our worlds on freeze-frame would imprison everyone to now. Now John, you are misinterpreting me! So tell me oh misinterpreted one, What do you want? Tell me! You want change on your terms, on your schedule, Zeus?!! You want convenient change in the economy size to fit into your carry-on luggage?

Change is the air we breathe and the ground we traverse. Change is life. Life is change. We never step in the same river twice, we never have the same conversation or see the same film the same way. We evolve and the world around us evolves and we both try and catch up. Once you understand change is the water from David Foster Wallace's epic commencement address.

Change is just happening, it is relentless. Not even talking about the shifting sands of the world around us that we are partially or totally ignorant of. The butterfly wings that are shaping El Nino or the currency wars that are impacting our retirement plans........

Yes earthshaking change gets our attention at least for a few moments. You get laid off. Someone becomes terminally ill. You become a grandfather. You have a break-up. You get a new boss. The famous study of recent paraplegics and lottery winners showed that a  year after their life defining events, both groups had the same levels of happiness! We get over the big changes.  And we miss the subtle and important ones. Mind the change

Change is how we react to it--if we react at all. 

One of our favorite past times is participating in the unnecessary stress inducing game of hating change.

The future is already here it s just not evenly distributed. William Gibson

You hoped things would "stabilize" or "stay the same" for a little while so you could catch your breath? Hah!

Change is neither an enemy or a friend. It is.

Change is subtle and like the glaciers or the coral reefs, big changes occur over long horizons. But if we don't notice them its too late.

Our brains are changing and capable of change. Not just memory loss! If we literally put our minds to it. :)

The Luddite who will not upgrade their flip phone. The smoker who thinks they are the exception. The parent who raises their kids like they were. The manager who does not listen to his staff. The perfectionist who never makes a mistake.......

Time stands still---in their minds. And the world evolves without them.

The crazy thing is YOU are changing and evolving. And could change even more if you let yourself. 

Like the lizard or snake that molts and sheds their entire skin we are evolving more invisibly. (the average human sheds about 1mm skin cells a day!)

Here is the big deal. Everything you do, people you encounter, visuals you ingest, thoughts that you entertain, are making micro and macro changes to you--if you let them.

Are you aware of these changes? Good question!

Are we allowing the changes to change you? Better question!

Do we appreciate the changes that are changing you? Right question!

Is your disagreement with my words changing you a little? :)

This is not a solo exercise. It is the process of engagement with others. Change is accelerated in a social network, a trusting group of diverse truth tellers who provide and receive honest feedback and different perspectives.

Networking and mentoring done with altruism, an open heart and mind, fuel change possibilities. Help your colleagues and friends and relatives see and embrace their change.

The tyranny of certainty is the real enemy. We develop "truths" about what we don't know. This can range from naivete to ignorance to racism. Certainty prevents us from learning.

You are a whirling dervish of velcro picking up little pieces of change along the way. But if you whirl on the same beaten known paths then change is relative for you. If you whirl off the known roads of life and explore the world then you change and challenge your certainties.  

We must break down the gates of certainty to get to the gardens of change.

All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change
Changes You.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

Octavia Butler

Change is neither friend or foe. It is a frame of mind. Mind the change and change your mind.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.  I humbly offer a version of this timeless quote from Gandhi.

Let us be changed by the world we see.

Thanks for reading. John

 


What The Puck?

Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been. Advice from Wayne Gretzky's Dad

Do we know where our own momentum is carrying us? Where are we pointed? Where are we going? 

We know what got you here won't get you there. 

Puck

The point here is focus on the skating to get to the goal. 

I am not talking about your retirement date. We all will retire. I am talking about your life's direction. Not talking about what you want to be when you grow up. I am speaking of the focus on what you are doing and thinking now that propels you forward.

I am definitely not talking about a plan with specific deadlines. 

Envisioning a future is not necessarily about a specific date or time. Time to that future is less relevant than what you are doing now that relates to that future. The key time is the Now. Linking the Now to the Future.

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is. Eckhart Tolle

Now is the most important thing for the next step. If you don't take care of the Now then I can guarantee you what's next is going to disappoint. Where in the puck are you going?

Is this confusing? Stay with me.  

I meet so many young people who naturally are obsessed with their futures. Looking, down the road often unrealistically, for certainty and for guarantees of "success". Ahhhh to be young, restless, and ambitious! But they focus on these end goals to the detriment of their current experience building work. They are in a hurry to succeed and are less interested in the effort required to chase their puck. They are more interested in the next game! And their resumes reflect it. 

I meet more experienced people (read older!) who are impatient with the rate of change and more fearful. They have less time and more to lose. These folks also want to translate and transfer what they know--even if what they know is not directly relevant. Some can be arrogant about their backgrounds and never make the commitment to recalibrate their skills. They think it is unfair for them to pay their dues again. They like their puck and where its been and wish more people appreciated it. Former change agents unwilling to change!

The point of Gretzky's Dad's advice is to look up from the grindstone and envision your general trajectory. When your current work is put in the context of that direction that's when you gain confidence, fulfillment and a sense of meaning. You are moving to where your goals are.

Then you can engage your network, expand your network to help you.

So the present is key to the next step. What you are doing right now is critical to where you are going? 

Love what you are doing to do what you love.

Too many don't make this connection. They think their job is their problem. It lacks "mobility", "mentoring", and "fulfillment". They forget that every job is a temporary opportunity. They fail to see the opportunity in what they are doing now, even if it seems off course. What pains me, is the speed to surrender. How easily we give up and give in to these "obstacles" in our path. What creative things can we do to optimize opportunities where we are? What are we doing outside of work to augment our portfolio of experiences to offset the gaps at our jobs? 

A few years ago I interviewed a man who told me how important "social justice" was to him. I asked what is he doing about "social justice" in his life. "Oh nothing right now, but it is very important!" Or my all time favorite story. A young woman told me that her next step was an MBA. I asked her how her GMAT prep was going. She said, What's the GMAT?" Yikes. 

On the other hand, I hired an ambitious young man who took a salary cut to work with me. I was counseled not to hire him because he would leave (don't we all leave?:) He exceeded everyone's standards and set new ones. He gained insight into his path and painstakingly honed his craft by taking on more than his share. His work always helped others look good. A few years later he now qualified for a perfect job and he left us better off. He skated hard to catch up with his puck.

How much do our current deeds and activities relate to the path we say/think we are on? 

Stop being so generic, so non-commital in describing where you are going to be safe and leave your options open. A directionless puck never scores.

What can we do NOW to align our skating with the direction of our puck? Or set a new direction that may require new skating skills. 

Let's all focus on what it takes to skate where our puck is going.  

Thanks for reading. John


Your Future--Nothing or Everything

When I was younger and even more sarcastic (How could that be John?), I was in an interview and was asked my least favorite question: "What is your 10 year plan?" Even back in the pre-hisoric times of my youth, this was a stupid question. I know what the interviewer wanted. "Where are you going and how does this job fit into your plans?" But most interviewers ask clever robotic questions that are part of a list and do not think about the question's intent but more about disrupting the poise of the interviewee----but I digress. Crystal-ball

So, as I am prone to do, I turned the tables on my interviewer. "Great question. I think it is impossible to predict the future. If you tell me what the next 10 years will be like then I will tell you what my plan is?" As you can imagine, this did not go well. I did not get an answer nor the job! But, as we know better today than ever before, the world is evolving and shifting faster than we can plan for it. Favorite quote: "If it works it is obsolete."

Like a skeet shooter or a NASA engineer who is planning the landing of Curiosity--you got to think about the trajectory, and aim where there is nothing now. So if you can not predict the next 10 years, how do you plan? How does it feel when you aim at nothing? It is far better to aim at nothingness with an idea than to accept the nothingness that is on its way to you. Of course, experience is a great teacher. It gives you a sense of where you are going. But where are you going?

I am in a constant process with people who seek my time to predict the future and their futures. This is a process that is fraught with great dangers. I listen and tell them what I hear and sometimes my willing and volunteer victims see the future--their futures. The futures that have hidden within themselves. 

How are you trending? In other words, where is your trajectory and momentum? Are you getting better, in what, how? And what is your next milestone? And where are you slipping? When you plot these coordinates you will be able to see your trajectory--not your aspirations--but where you are heading. Still confused?

Your ascendancy has to be tangible it can't be just a dream. You can't rely on luck or some divine intervention. You have to push ahead driven by your heart and your curiosity. Yes your next career might find you but you have to recognize it. 

Many people tell me they will run a non-profit in their future, but are taking no steps to scaffold that possibility. Many people will have better lives in the future. Many people tell me they will give back later, volunteer more later, get involved down the road. Why not engage now in what you care about? Busy? Too busy? To think about your future or aim at the nothingness where you want to be. Listen carefully and you can hear a the magma of a volcanic regret heating up. A regret that will pour lava all over your your beautiful green grass dreams.

Your future is coming up the path and it passes you everyday. Then a new offramp appears and disappears. It never stops.

The next 10 years are going to be your best ones, if you think about your trajectory. If you fill in the nothingness of your story with the steps you are taking to explore your future.

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

I just talked to a 25 year veteran of a dying industry and he knows he waited too long to shift but he is ready now. I talked to a 26 year old who is having a "pre-mid-life" crises. I talked to new divorcee who sees this change as her opportunity. I am coaching multiple college aspirants about their educational plans. And talked to a dear friend who is recovering from a terminal illness that "surprised" him. 

All of them are focused on their futures differently. You don't want tragedy to get you focused. But we use what we have. You want to take control of your future and begin to trot out your future narrative--your story. Where is the protagonist going? And test it with mentors and your network.

How are you trending? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where are you going? What do you want?

One thing is certain, absolutely certain--don't wait. Don't procrastinate! Don't every say you will deal with the future later. Because the future will have come and gone.

You have everything or nothing ahead of you--which will it be?

Thanks for reading. John

 


Your Unlearning Curve

The flow and pace of change around us is mind boggling and some would say turbulent. It's like sipping out of the firehose--one of my favorite metaphors. We can only drink so much and so fast, otherwise we drown.  Sipping from a firehose

Here's how I have decided to deal with the relentless spray of information and new stuff. First I accepted that "change" and chaos were the natural state of things. And my greater awareness of "change" makes it easier for me to adapt. If you can't beat em join em!

Chaos is a friend of mine.  Bob Dylan

Any resistance to change is like fighting gravity. Useless, painful, frustrating, and ultimately distracting from the work we want to do and where our lives could go.

Surrendering to change provides you with so much more information, options, and ideas. I am telling you we are sipping from a firehose and yet what is flying by our senses is amazing, scary, and fantastic.

The curious thing is that with these exponential changes, so much of what we currently know is just wrong. So many of our assumptions are wrong. As we move forward, not only is it going to be a question of learning it is also going to be a question of unlearning.  John Seely Brown

Almost everywhere I go, every meeting I am in, this subject of change is discussed. Change that is forcing people to learn new ways of thinking and doing things. Part of adapting to change is the ability to "unlearn" things. I believe unlearning is as critical a survival and success skill as learning. Unlearning is literally and figuratively deleting "files", forgetting the past, abandoning assumptions, then learning again, by starting over.

I first heard this verb more than three decades ago when Marc Nathanson, one of the pioneers of the modern cable tv business, said he wanted to hire me because I had less to unlearn. He told me he was worried about that experienced cable tv professionals, people who knew cable tv, would bring their frames of reference--in other words a load of Samsonite that was not relevant. He said, "We don't have time for people to unlearn things." He predicted nearly all of the changes in that industry and knew that the future was not going to be like the past. So knowing nothing about cable tv made me eminently qualified! :) 

In a forest of change we add bits of knowledge, like decorating a Christmas tree. You collect and show off bright and shiny ornaments. Each year you add more and you feel better about your tree. Unlearning is understanding that the tree is obsolete and the ornaments are irrelvant. 

Unlearning is breaking off your rear view mirror and focusing on the new landscape in front of you and seeing it for the first time.

When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.  Henry David Thoreau

There have been some jokes about an etch-a-sketch brain. But this is where it is useful!  Etch a sketch

Unlearning changed my perspective on my own prospects in life. There is so much I do not have to unlearn! :) Seriously, this view of change gives me the energy, permission and confidence to cross sectors, platforms and worlds more fluidly. If I spent less time and energy trying to fight the flow of the firehose and more time riding it, then life is so much more productive and fun!

Past used to be prologue.

Strategic planning has to become zero based processes. Meaning starting from scratch--with a blank slate. Can't take the last 5 years results and tweak them. The market, the consumer, the competition, the global context, the needs and wants have evolved and are evolving.  Again more than you know. Engaging new sources of knowledge, information, and feedback that shape a clearer view of reality. It is crazy what we don't know that others know. 

This Tedtalk is a head rush. Obeng contends that "all of the rules" were changed without our knowledge and that's why nothing works any more. He makes a compelling case.

His brief discussion about laminar vs turbulent flow is fantastic. 

Laminar is when the water moves in parallel sheets through the tube, but once it reaches a certain speed the water goes crazy and the flow is chaotic, swirling, and unpredictable. Obeng asserts that we have not noticed the change from laminar to turbulent flow. How could we? We are in denial. We are stuck in our ways of trying to make the world conform to our needs and tolerances. We like certainty. It is a warm and fuzzy place, but boy is it naive. Laminar vs turbulent

The people I meet who are succeeding in all fields have adopted unlearning as a way of life. How will you make money in the financial markets? How will diseases be cured? How will we transform education? How will we level the playing fields of poverty? There is no way it will resemble the past or even be a distant cousin.

Lean into the change. Saddle the turbulence. Embrace the chaos.  Continue to sip, but enjoy the flow. Unlearn to learn.

Thanks for reading. John


Your Networking Business Model

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

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

Adapt or Die!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Networking Business Model

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

 


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


Your slice of life depends on your PIE

The PIE system to advance your career is something I have taken for granted. I have seen the truth of the PIE reveal itself to me through all of my experiences and through many other people. And in the last few weeks I have found myself talking about this PIE concept with colleagues, friends, and mentees. For most people, it can unlock the doors of opportunity and change assumptions and habits to get you on a better trajectory. Harvey Coleman first discussed the PIE in his 1996 book Empowering Yourself.

Performance: Your achievements and competencies at workApple pie

Image: Your "brand", how you are perceived--rising star? reliable but invisible? good performer with no ambition?

Exposure: Your visibility through collaboration, your network, your relationships with higher ups, your mentor/sponsorships, and your engagement outside your job and department.

I meet so many people that are frustrated with their careers, their jobs, and to a real and substantial degree, with their lives. Every story is complex and there is no one-size fits all approach. But as I have discussed in these pages ad nauseum, the pursuit of passion and the integration of passion into your lives is THE key ingredient for a fulfilling existence. That your compass is always pointing where your heart is beating fastest. So, I will assume you get this as the entree before your PIE.

Here are several types of employed people I meet who struggle with their careers and where the PIE can help:

  • Younger, ambitious types who want to know the quickest path to the top
  • People "stuck" in a role or a job and want to break out and make a change
  • Mid managers in big orgs who want to traverse to a different division
  • People of color and women who experience glass ceilings and walls.

Been in many sessions with young people (first job types), executives, managers and women of color to discuss these slices of the PIE. They are asked to estimate the percentage--the weight each component carries to propel people up the food chain. No one gets it right. In fact the estimates are almost always exactly the opposite of the reality.PIE To the right is what Mr Coleman and I have found to be true.

P      Performance     ? %

I      Image                ? %

E    Exposure            ? %

Performance: This is fundamental assumption. If you aren't performing at the highest level by exceeding expectations and goals, then you can't think about mobility. Mr. Coleman called this "your ticket into the stadium" of competition. People who are stuck in their careers always get this one wrong.

Image: Personal brand management is critical. How people perceive your work, your presence and your contributions makes a difference. Most people scoff at this. This is the trap door that many people fall through which derails their ambitions. The way you dress, what you are paying attention to, your, written and verbal abilities, what you read, your leadership skills--do you look and act like a future leader/executive? People say they want to be VP, then act, dress and comport themselves is ways that are anti-VP. These people wonder why they are passed over for promotions, really?!! Not talking about the "game" of appearance. I am talking about your persona, intellect, actions--whether the person looks and smells like someone who is interested in the greater good of the organization, who gains influence through their ideas and thoughts and challenges the system with innovation and efficiency.

Exposure: After the first two steps are secured then exposure, your visibility, as a leader, as a person of action, as a connector is the difference maker. This is where adopting the lifestyle of mentoring and networking pays off! In your cubicle, your team and even in your department--there is a limited amount of impact you can have to advance goals, strategies, and RESULTS! Future managers, leaders, and executives have to bring together resources, ideas, and solutions outside of their domains. Exposure shows off your ability to succeed with others. It is easy to meet your personal goals by yourself. But engaging others shows you can manage and perhaps lead. Do you have a network of advisors, mentors, and sponsors within the organization and outside of work to guide you and provide truthful feedback? Exposure is not publicity or public relations--that is superficial stuff. It is not brown nosing or sucking up. It is the hard word of earning and gaining the confidence of others through relationships and results. It is not the ability to meet and greet a lot of people. It is not someone who becomes friends with the boss. It is the day in and day out proof that you are growing your influence and competence outside of the limits and confines of your job.

A few suggestions to advance your PIE:

  1. Self assessment--Rank yourself on these attributes. Be honest and write down strengths, gaps and opportunities.
  2. External assessment--Seek mentors or other confidantes (could be your boss) on your promotability. What does she/he see as your SWOT.
  3. Find a role model(not necessarily a mentor)--Someone who you see as doing it right. Someone who is achieving success or has reached your goal and to whom you can relate. Research this person(s), reach out to them and meet with them. Think outside of your environment and employer.
  4. Make changes--Based on the above, start a persistent process to do a make-over. Strengthen each slice of your PIE.

We all want a bigger slice of the pie of life to give us purpose and meaning. Many of us want more responsibility, growth opportunities, promotions, pay increases, and higher level jobs. Some of this is blind ambition, hopefully it is driven something more personal than "more is better." That is a recipe for unending dissatisfaction if there is no passion. So PIE is a good tool to confront your strategy to advance your career and your life and to get a much more fulfilling slice of it.

Thanks for reading.  John


Lessons and reminders from reality

Congresswoman Judy Chu's office called me and asked me to offer my workshop to her Job Hunter's Job Boot Camp last week. I commend Judy and her team for their leadership in helping people get their careers and lives on track.

I got there early, as I always do presentations to get the lay of the land. I attended a "Hot Jobs" workshop that was sparsely attended. There were three panelists who gave a wide range of advice on jobs from IT to construction. One thing that struck me is that there ARE jobs. Unfilled positions with futures. They all require more certification and training just to apply and get to the entry level. I am talking about answering the phone and laying cement certifications! But between the three presenters they had hundreds of openings. Looking around the room there was limited interest in these new fields. You can see the questions in people's faces---Should I re-tool for a new career? Shall I invest in a change at this stage of my life? Only a few seemed encouraged.Unemployment  

Even though the focus of this session was entry level, the lessons and advice apply to all. Just a few of the words of wisdom I heard:

  • "No longer are we "break and fix" guys. Help desk staff have to have deeper knowledge, be great communicators, and work collaboratively."
  • "Don't burn any bridges so you have good references--we check them all."
  • "If you are not arriving to work early, then you are late. If you arrive at work one minute late, we send you home. It shows you are not serious."
  • "We fire people who say "that's not in my job classification!"

My session was filled with a very diverse array of human beings from 20 to 60 years old. I introduced some fundamental career change and networking essentials. I pushed them through a few exercises to get them to understand. It was one of the most energized groups I have encountered in years. One thought seemed to perplex  people the most. The contradictory notion of openness to opportunity and the specificity of a job search.

I always introduce the seemingly conflicting concepts of defining your goals with specificity and being open to discovery and serendipity. I make fun of people who are open to anything to not eliminate any possibilities They usually have such general job/career goals that no one can help them. What I call the Rose Parade Theme goal. Here are few of my favorites from the last week: "I want to work with people." "I can't be stuck behind a desk." "I want to do something I believe in."  Huh?

Here's the rub. What you want has to be honed down to reflect your personal needs and interests. If you can't articulate what you want no one can help you find it. Networking is impossible and mentoring is frustrating. When you say you can do anything, most people hear nothing and they do the same.

Once you focus on what you want and say things people can understand, they can provide assistance and support. And, here's the kicker when you get focused and are pursuing and doing what you want--it shows in your energy, effort and passion. This is when others offer you new opportunities. People see you in another sector or field. People see your talent transferring into something else.

New offers and opportunities don't arise when the people around you have no idea what you want.

So specificity breeds success and success enables new opportunity. Get it?

I am constantly inspired by the people that are trying to make changes to get a job and find a new career to be fulfilled. My goal is to just try and give people a little different perspective to get them to accelerate the changes they know they have to make. In the end I get re-charged by their desire to advance their lives.

Every encounter and experience provides lessons, so......

Be specific. Get to work early. Adapt faster. See your job as bigger than the job description. And don't burn your bridges. Some real lessons from real people looking for and offering work.

Thanks for reading. John


Break out of your comfortable prison cell

The prison of comfort keeps our dreams locked up.

This prison of comfort has many amenities. Soft cushy habits that we know well. The warm feeling of certainty about what is right and wrong in our lives. And a furry blanket of our friends and family who agree with our view of the world.Prison

This prison has a huge impact on how we view our networking and mentoring opportunities and possibilities.

By the way, I am painfully aware of the size and dimensions of my own cell and I try to advance my escape plan everyday! It is hard work. What I have discovered is making a serious adjustment to the lens I employ makes a difference. How am I limiting my perspective of the world? Trying to switch from a telephoto to a wide angle lens makes a big difference for me. Yes, seeing the forest of life, rather than gazing at our own little tree.

My painful experiences as a counselor working with incarcerated youth for the California Youth Authority taught me about prisons. One of the impediments for juveniles to get out of the system was the certainty and comfort provided  by the system. --Their growing dependency on the structure of stability was way more powerful than any dream of a different tomorrow. Human nature makes us loyal to comfort.Our perception of certainty imprisons us to avoid change and stress.

This week I had several glimpses of the prisons we build:

  • Invited a colleague to hear Michelle Rhee speak about the state of education--She told me in declining my invite, "I don't agree with anything she says." (Btw, never heard her speak in person)
  • Referred an acquaintance to a job opportunity--"Not what I am looking for", I was told.
  • A psychotherapist told me (not mine:), "My clients are incapable of pursuing the desirable path of greater resistance."
  • Headline in the Pacific Citizen: "Asians do not make great leaders"

Reminded me of the exchanges in that extraordinary film My Dinner with Andre, like this one:

Andre: But, Wally, don't you see that comfort can be dangerous? I mean, you like to be comfortable and I like to be comfortable too, but comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility.

Andre: They've built their own prison, so they exist in a state of schizophrenia. They're both guards and prisoners and as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they've made, or to even see it as a prison.

"No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal.”

Marilyn FergusonPrison door

I have had many hard yet gratifying lessons by "pre-judging" opportunities. The mistake of dis-associating myself from entire groups of people because of my experience with one or two. By limiting my experiences and therefore my understanding by defaulting to my comfortable certainty. These lessons have helped me traverse sectors and make career changes. It has shown me that I am the guard who has the keys to my own prison cell.

Here is one of the simplest keys to get you out of prison--Consider the possibility that you are wrong about your assumptions. Wrong about your assumptions about people, paths, possibilities, and opportunities. The very possibility that you could be wrong opens doors and maybe your mind.

Don't misinterpret me. This is not a command to turn your life upside down and abandon all of your comfortable people and things. But at the very least you need to take brief leaves from your prison cell to exercise your ideas about your present and future. See things before you dismiss them. Experience them before you avoid them. Don't limit your network or your mentors to your prison mates. And most of all listen to your heart, your calling. What is calling you? And why aren't you unlocking your prison door and going down the desirable path of greater resistance? The world outside of our prisons is vast and amazing.

Thanks for reading. John


What triggers change?--My week long journey to the center of meaning

Last Sunday, I got the chance to catch up with Glenn, my best friend from high school. We met out in Palm Springs to golf and to, as they say in Hawaii, talk story. Our friendship has spanned 45 years and endured many challenges and been punctuated by many adventures. Anyway, as we age, Glenn I end up talking about serious things. The meaning of our lives. Our kids futures. The future of the world. As we looked out onto the Palm Desert landscape, Glenn asserted that the "next generation is not as motivated" to put in the effort and sweat equity to obtain the lifestyles and more important the type of country we all want. This is partly the classic and inevitable discussion of all older generations complaining about the next generations. But it was also a conversation about what will it take for young people and all of us to return to the basics, set aside our cushy expectations and entitlements, and actually invest time and energy in work. Glenn and I believe that you learn about yourself, you establish values, you appreciate what you have, by working and literally and figuratively making a living. I can hear the, Typical Boomers! chant. It is true, we are creatures of our upbringing and OUR parents lives.

We came to many conclusions on how the world could be a better place--of course if Glenn and I ran it! :) However, one of them was really disturbing to me. Only hardship, tragedy, and the threat of either will get people to change. Change, meaning people engaging in the fundamental process of taking responsibility for their own destinies. For people to work at their lives instead of hoping something good will happen. For people to commit to new goals, values, habits, new skills, strengthen relationships and to become who they were meant to be. To take responsibility for their own lives and fully understand that they can drive their own destines.Carrot

So the stick is more powerful than the carrot?!! Really. We can not be motivated to take action with inspiration alone? It takes an "enemy" and fear for us to change? It is well known that money will never sustain our motivation or ever truly inspire us. The research on that is conclusive. Daniel Pink's new book Drive reviews 5 decades of research on this subject if you have doubts. But I was unsettled by the fact that I could not refute this conclusion: That fear may be the greatest and most effective motivator.

"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."  Samuel Johnson

Losing our job, getting cancer, death of a loved one, and bankruptcy force us to take inventory of our lives and potentially change. Learning about somebody else's misfortune is not the same. It gives us pause, but we always think WE are different. So we only redefine our lives when tragedy befalls us?

I attended a community meeting where the subject was the future of at risk youth. It was a robust and emotional discussion of the causes and consequences of "the system" vs the individuals. One mother asserted that her kids had no chance with the "institutional discrimination" and "economic racism" that is embedded in our society. A man stood up and said, "My track coach taught me to focus on the finish line. And if there are hurdles in the way, just get over them. The more we feel like victims, the higher the hurdles will appear." We know there is truth in both perspectives. The challenges for the poor and vulnerable are daunting. And without a mindset of self determination and self-reliance no one can succeed. The finish line can provide focus, but the hurdles can add motivation or they can deter.Hurdles  

On Wednesday I led a workshop in Plano Texas for a group of FritoLay managers and leaders who were tracked for accelerated paths. My job was to help them think about their opportunities and what they wanted. I used the carrot of the chance their employer was providing them. We discussed career and life strategies. We reflected on where they were going and why. One of the participants came up to me after our 4 hours together and said, "How will I know who I am? And what I want? I want to change, but there are so many expectations of me." I marveled at his candor and his moment of wonder about himself. I simply said, "Keep listening to yourself. Keep listening to your heart."

My week ended up at a celebration of the life of a dear friend who is dying. While we all are dying, few of us really live. A group of us did not want to wait until her memorial to express our gratitude and appreciation. For me, it is too late. I hate learning things about people at their funerals. We spent a wonderful afternoon learning and celebrating her diverse life. It was inspirational. It was uplifting. It gave all 120 of us a view of what is possible if we live to our fullest. It reminded us of how precious life is and how brief our time together can be. So were people inspired to change their lives by a great role model or by the fear of their own deaths?

I know it is both. And it really does not matter. Whatever helps us re-define our lives to push us to improve is great. We need examples of what life can be and we need the whack in the head from fear. We need to let people hit some hurdles so they can get back up and re-focus on the finish line. I am so optimistic about the future and the next generation. However we must guide, not coddle, our young people to let them find themselves so their dynamic DNA can flourish. We need to actively seek ways we can motivate ourselves and each other through the amazing blend of fear and inspiration that life gives us everyday.

Thanks for reading. John


5 Lessons on Connecting, Conversations and Courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


Act your age, whatever that is. And is it time to upgrade your network?

One of your year-end inventory items, is your age and the age of your network. Hold old are you? I know you "feel" younger than you are. I know you can't believe how time has flown by and you THINK you are younger. One of the great challenges of life is to age gracefully AND maintain your youth. Becoming more mature while remaining open to change.

As a society we are obsessed at LOOKING younger or preserving our appearance. So much time is wasted on creams, surgery, potions, and pills. We are more concerned with our graying heads than our aging gray matter. Barber

I used to have this wonderful barber. When I started to lose my hair, I asked him what should I be doing? "he said, "What do you mean?" "Do I need to take something or use anything?" I sheepishly queried? He looked into the mirror in front of us and grabbed my face with both hands. He said in a grave and serious tone while staring into my eyes through the mirror, "Is your hair the source of your dignity? You look great and a little less hair will not make you any less of the good person you are, right?!" I looked back at him, nodded and smiled because I knew he was right. My barber was wiser and more profound than I gave him credit. My hair was shorter but my wisdom was lengthened. And my barber got a larger tip. :)

The barber was right in his Popeye-esque philosophy, You are what you are.

The sooner you accept the changes to your appearance, the more time you have to focus on important matters.

So how old are you? If you want to know what your real age is check out  realage.com I like the way they ask you intrusive questions about your health and well-being to determine your real age. Questions that if answered truthfully yield a more accurate picture of yourself. Is the result true and accurate? You will know. Like in anything you can lie and get a more acceptable answer. Self-deception must be like smoking, you enjoy the immediate gratification even though you know you are killing yourself.

I  have been exercising my pre-frontal cortex with brain games for many years. My current brain age is 21! I know that is not true, but I also know it has kept my synaptic activity a little more lively.

We all know your age is a state of mind. It is how you live and what you think. Are you optimistic? Are you positive? Are you resistant to change and new ideas? How cynical are you? What kind of mental shape are you in? How are managing stress?

Your physical condition also matters. Your resting heart rate, your blood pressure, your diet, and exercise regimen make a difference in how old you feel.

These are all things you control. You do.

There are so many reasons to not take care yourself or think about these questions. After all we are so busy. We have so many things to do. We have many demands on our lives. We seem to be spinning our wheels in a quixotic quicksand in a timecapsule of futility. Really? Cue music for the smallest violins. 

So when were you going to address these issues and make some changes?

Our attitudes and our outlook on life need to be seriously tweaked. What used to work 5-10 years ago, won't work today!? Our young feeling needs to be  accompanied by a healthier lifestyle AND new and fresh sources of information and ideas.

Your network can be an important anti-aging process. Is your network tired and increasingly irrelevant to your future? Does your network have different perspectives and diverse view-points represented within it? Are there younger members? Are there people at work, at church, at your volunteer organization who can open up your mind and give you a dose of new thinking? How can I improve my network of advisors and supporters next year? Meet new people. Your age will be reflected in your network. Oldman to baby

My work on university campuses gave me a boost of youthful energy. Being around younger minds can innoculate you against the weight of rational and practical thinking. Being a parent is an opportunity to regain sanity by reflecting on your childhood and the future of your offspring. Young children are so free from all of the issues we older humans have. They act and speak without the baggage and parameters of adults. Their imagination is pure and unfiltered. That's why I continue to teach. Not so much to transmit knowledge as to seek the energy of fresh minds.

In my first job, my new boss told me he was hiring me into this new field of cable tv because I knew nothing about it. "Anyone who thinks they know cable tv will have to unlearn it, because the future of this business will be so different. "

Hard to unlearn things. Easier to learn new things. In many cases, different people and younger people can be your faculty. Learning will rejuvenate you.

Your age is also a function of your regrets. Stuff you have not done but wanted to. Your fading hopes and expectations for yourself. Things you wanted to experience and see, but are resigning yourself to never do. That pile of dreams that you are discarding--those would be regrets. The more you get the older you become. Have no regrets.

So take a look in the mirror and see the dignity that is you. Is the routinized slide down and over the hill of life acceptable? Then make a change. Take inventory of your literal and figurative vital signs. Think less about how you look and more about what you have left to give your family and your community. Start pushing back father time with new energy and ideas that come from not becoming complacent and settling for a growing pile of regrets. Plan to turn some of those almost regrets into memories and milestones.

What age will you be in 2011? It could be an extraordinary year. Will it be for you?

Thanks for reading. John


Reflecting on our glass barriers and the road beyond

Starting my own process of reflecting on the last year--what I accomplished and what did not get done. Always like to start BEFORE the year end, to get a running head start on the new year. I have been blessed to encounter many new people and ideas during the last 12 months. These experiences have revealed many things to me about myself and the world around me. Most prominent to me is the amount of talent that is wasted or untapped. Talent that is obvious to everyone except the person with the talent. It is easiest to observe in children. You see their genius manifested in little things they do or say. Moments of brilliance, of enlightenment and joy that speak volumes about their essence and their possibilities. Then, over time layers of experience and nurture can suffocate the nature. External limits, preferences and rules unwittingly strangle that potential. As people grow up, this pattern continues and many enter the Federal Witness Relocation Program of assumed identities, where they adopt a life path that others give them. They become who others want them to be and accept somebody else's dream for themselves.This road rarely leads to a life fulfilled. Why does this happen over and over again? One less travelled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--   
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

We have to break the cycle, the habits, and the routine of traveling a road that is too comfortable and too predictable.

But practicality and reality form glass walls between our current selves and parts of our true selves. We see them but can't get to them. We know these limitations are mostly self imposed. We have conditioned ourselves to keep these goals and visions of ourselves distant. Not big crazy dreams, but our own progress towards our health, education, family matters, financial fitness--things we can achieve, but don't. If you will, new year's resolutions unfulfilled.

There have been many experiments with fleas and pike fish that show that conditioning limits their abilities. Fleas trained in a glass container for flea circuses would only jump at 50% of their ability after the lid was removed. Fish separated from their prey by a glass wall would not pursue the prey even after the glass wall was removed. Conditioning and doubt are both self imposed "glass impediments" that limit us.

So the glass walls and barriers don't really exist, we imagine them.

And for myself, I have a much better fix on my potential. I see the talent that I have not nurtured and cultivated. Partly due to sloth, partly due to priorities, partly due to chances and choices. All glassy excuses of different names. I have gotten great snapshots of that potential through my community of support. They give me pieces of feedback and guidance that when assembled, reveal a work in progress puzzle picture of my potential. I am so grateful that I have people in my life that give me these perspectives and insights.

I can't settle for what is. I sincerely believe that we are never done developing ourselves. Never. That the road of self discovery and self improvement is infinite. When you understand this, it is neither frustrating or exasperating. However, you do realize how precious time is.

So how do we break this cycle? How do we develop our own talent and the talent of others? We must focus on our strengths. We surround ourselves with people who know us and stretch those strengths. We connect with people who can help us identify our hidden goals and visions. There is a tendency to surround our selves with clones, with similar people, with similar perspectives, abilities, means, and backgrounds. That is human nature. Likes do attract. But when you see, experience, and learn from more divers and talented people, you can see the potential you have more clearly. Am I bumping up against a glass ceiling or wall of advisors and/or colleagues who no longer force me to see what is possible and focus on the status quo? How will I change this? Broken glass

We articulate our goals, visions, and even dreams to others to help us achieve them. Secret goals never get accomplished.

Reconnect with your dreams for yourself, your family, your community, and beyond. Reinvigorate your understanding of your great talents and find ways to nurture them. Expand your network of peers and mentors to include people who will push you and pull you through the glass walls and ceilings to attain your dreams through your talents and strengths. And help others do the same.

The sounds of "breaking" glass ceilings and walls makes glorious music. Lot easier to break the glass with others than by trying to do it yourself.

As I continue to reflect, I have a lot of glass to break, roads to travel, people to help and dreams to fulfill. Next year is shaping up to be pretty interesting. :)

Thanks for reading. John

 


What's your BIT?---How you introduce yourself matters

I conducted workshops for employees of PepsiCo and Gavina Coffee on multicultural networking and mentoring last week. How to connect with different people, from different backgrounds. How to inform your path by actively seeking new perspectives from other cultures and demography. There is always a fascination with my exercises to develop your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk.  Something I have written about several times. The process of obtaining those perspectives, of reconnecting with people you know but don't know, and meeting new and interesting folks, starts with a conversation. All relationships, new and ongoing are about the conversation. Continuing the conversation is the key to all great and fulfilling relationships.Could be e-mail, facebook postings, telephonic, or face-to-face. These exchanges of words and ideas build and deepen relationships. They all start or re-start at the beginning when you introduce yourself or re-introduce yourself.First-impression  
The the most fascinating of these routines is the self introduction. What you say in the first 10-15 seconds. Nothing can alter a conversation more than this. I call this your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk. It is so surprising what people say in their robotic way. They are not thinking before and when they talk. Their introduction is not customized to the situation or context. They often use company or industry jargon outside of work. I was in my son's classroom during his school's open house. I was proudly watching my son interacting with his classmates. I noticed another dad. He was dressed in the full designer blue suit, decked out with the gold Rolex, those little initials on his cuffs, and the $600 shoes--you know the type. I decided to introduce myself to him. With an outstretched hand I said, "I'm John, Bobby's dad." I pointed at Bobby. Mr. super executive wheeled around with his auto-smile flashing and boomed, "Hi, Steve Williams Sr. VP of Sales and Business Development for XYZ Corporation." "Nice to meet you", I replied and added, "Is one of these your kid?" He was still in the fog of work. He suddenly snapped out of it and said, "Oh yeah, Eddie's my son, that's him right there." "Oh good, for a minute there you scared me Steve, you know it is a misdemeanor to loiter on a school campus?", I quipped. Mr. Sr VP chuckled but I am not sure he was very amused. At least Steve accompanied his BIT with a smile and a firm handshake. It is bizarre how many adult professionals do not smile, and apparently lie to me and say, "Nice to meet you" with no direct eye contact and a face that reflects indifference and what appears to be disgust. And how many cadaver handshakes I have endured, the cold dead lifeless excuse for a greeting. Nothing better than to meet someone with these off-putting impressions. :)
 
Most people need to improve their BITs. This is not only what you say to introduce yourself, but how you respond to an initial inquiry. You know, "What brings you here?" or "What do you do?" etc etc  Here's a few basic questions to freshen your tired and auto-pilot BIT:
  1. Is your BIT an invitation or a roadblock?
  2. Is your BIT jargony or industry or company specific?
  3. Is your BIT customized for the situation and the audience?
  4. Is it delivered with some enthusiasm and a smile?  

Listen to yourself. Do you know what you are saying and to whom you are saying it? Be focused and remember where you are and who you are at the moment. Like Mr. Williams in my story above, he is a father first and foremost when he is at the school. No one cares about his classification at work when he is visiting his son's school. We all take on multiple roles and identities in our lives and each one deserves a BIT.

My new favorite BIT, depending on who I am talking to, is "I help wealthy people give away their money?" Always starts a conversation!

Students of all ages are the worst. They erroneously think being a student is a weakness. Everyone wants to help a student. So declaring your quest for knowledge and experience is endearing and engaging. "I am just a student," says you lack confidence and self respect. Versus "I am a 2nd year student at (school) and I am thinking about becoming a teacher." That invites questions and interest.

Weave in your hobby, avocation, current professional development pursuit. "I work for Gavina Coffee and a new mother of twins."  or ...."sit on the board of (your charity)"..........

Stop, think and listen to what you say about yourself. It may surprise you. Your BIT is the start of a great conversation or not. It is a key part of your first or newest impression. If you are not listening to what you are saying and how you are saying it, then odds are your recipient is less interested too.

What's your BIT?

Thanks for reading. John


Back to School: Enroll in your Continuous Education

I get to meet so many interesting people. How?---because I talk to them! :) Picked up by a taxi driver named Ed at the airport this week. (the most interesting source on what is going on, are the drivers of yellow cabs) I ask him about his family and we launch into a 30 minute discussion about education. He tells me all 5 of his children are back in school. His youngest is 25! He went on a fascinating and long winded description of all of his children's efforts to re-certify, re-position, re-invigorate, and re-fresh their careers. All face or have faced turmoil, change, layoffs, and obsolescence in the last few years. His middle son wanted to be a butcher, but abandoned that line of work because there is a 5 year apprenticeship requirement. His older son works for Amgen and applied to med school, but is now going to enroll in an MBA program. His third son is getting certified as a physical therapist. His daughter is taking online accounting courses to complete a business degree. His youngest son is enrolled in his third community college after finding out yet again, that the lack of a degree has hurt his job prospects. Not an atypical story but illustrative that the path to the next level nearly always requires ascending the educational steps to more knowledge and new expertise.

 Back to school  
To keep up and get ahead, you have to adopt a lifestyle of continuous education. Education that comes from many formal and informal sources. Training that addresses weaknesses, shortcomings as well as areas of new competency. It is not your passive openness to new ideas or change, it is the active and never-ending acquisition of new skills. You have to enroll yourself into continuous education!

Education is the great transformer. I used to have this quote pinned to the bulletin board in my office,

If it works, it is obsolete.

Some of you want to go back to school to get or finish a degree. No time like the present. Waiting makes no sense. Just talked to a young couple who both enrolled in different grad programs this Fall. They considered the typical polite approach of taking turns. They concluded, if they both enrolled they could study together and would not have to defer their plans for a family. They enrolled and jumped into their education with both feet!

I was helping my kids with their class schedules. Remember that chore of picking dates, times and subjects? Thinking about the general ed and major requirements? Considering the quality or reputation of the professors/teachers? I used to see this as a hassle. I try to help my kids see the enjoyment of choosing what you are going to learn and from whom. It was a stretch for them. Youth is wasted on the young!

This ritual of picking classes and professors is a wonderful model for continuous education that should never get old. Think about the next three years of work and life as your new masters degree in (fill it in). When you do that, you have to think about what "courses" you will be taking and who you want to teach you. Like my kids you have freedom of choice. Who at work can help you learn? Who at your volunteer workplace can teach you something new and needed? Who at your church can share their knowledge and expertise? You are surrounded by potential professors!

And how can you enhance your day job with outside activities to continuously learn? Love to write, then write. Have a favorite charity, volunteer. Have a business idea, develop it. Use these goals to guide your class schedule and professor selection. Build your continuous education with real-life experiences. Experiences that are driven by your passion and curiosity. That way enrolling in your continuous education curriculum will be easy and natural.

The alternative of resting on your past achievements and waiting for weekends to rest even more, is the best way to watch your career circle the drain accompanied by all of your regrets.

Here's another benefit. Once you enroll in your course work, you meet others with similar interests. You start connecting with people you know in different ways. And encounter new people along the way as well. Continuous education is a wonderful way to strengthen your network and your relationship with your mentors.

I was in the classroom as a student for many years, 22 to be exact. Partly pursuing my calling and mostly procrastinating my future. Studying with others, led by an expert, did help me think about my life and what I wanted. Having multiple degrees has never hurt my job prospects. However, what I learned is the classroom education was dwarfed by my experiences, training and continuous process of updating my skills. The moment you rest on your sheepskins is the moment you lose your mind. Stephen Covey preaches that sharpening your saw is a critical habit of effective people. Honing the edges of your brain and keeping your skills sharp takes ongoing effort and attention. As soon as you leave the ivy covered halls, close your last blue book, and turn your tassel on your mortar board, you have to re-enroll in your continuous education. The two online courses I am currently taking are so eye-opening! The world just keeps changing and an unattended toolbox gets antiquated.

My driver Ed's "kids" are all enrolled in their next classes, what are you doing? 

Thanks for reading. John


Non-verbal networking

We all know how important the non-verbal cues are to effective communication, relationship development, and networking. Our body language, inflection of our voice, our eye contact, facial expressions dominate the words we say. Those that study this stuff have said that words are only about 7-30% of the communication we intend. As I said, we know this in our heads, but we are not conscious of it.Body language 2

Tell your face---You see this one everyday, if you are paying attention. We have these robotic exchanges that have become meaningless transactions. You enter the elevator, or the office in the morning and you say something to greet anyone and everyone. It is neither sincere or intentional. We say things like "Good Morning", or "How are you?"--even if the morning sucks and you are not interested in or care about anyone's well-being. In fact, if the target of our pre-recorded pablum speaks, we are awakened  from our slumber and struggle to respond. My assistant for years, Patsy, would greet me every morning with a confusing happy voice and an enthusiastic Good morning! and a severe frown. At first I thought she had been part of a botox experiment gone awry. :( The first time she did this, I said, "if it is a good morning, tell your face!"

Do you remember the Michael Dukakis passionless response to the question about whether the death penalty should be applied to the murderer and rapist of his wife Kitty?

Without putting energy into your daily deliveries of words and messages, you will communicate poorly. Your posture, handshake, intonation, and your facial attention can undermine your persuasiveness.

A few basic tips to remember to keep focused:

  1. Engage the other person by looking into their eyes, listen and observe their body language.
  2. Keep your hands in front of you, instead of folding them, on your hips or in the "fig leaf" position.
  3. Smile. It will always brings energy into your voice and your eyes.

Lead with your passions--When people talk about what they care about, they stand up straighter, their eyes light up, and their voice is overflowing with expression. So funny, because many people have asked me if I have ESP. I listen to and watch people, and when they really smile and start becoming more animated, I tell them how obvious that this is an important subject to them. "How could you tell?", they query. Find out what others are passionate about, then your encounters and conversations will feed off one another.

How can you understand, see and hear any incongruences or distracting body language you create?

You practice in front of a mirror. You videotape your presentation skills. You get candid feedback from colleagues and confidantes. When I started the process to refine my speaking and presentations, I immediately improved. Seeing and hearing is believing. You become a student of yourself. How do others see you? How big is the gap between what you think you are doing and what others see? This is a critical skill, your accurate awareness of you. I became painfully aware of my strange an previously unknown habits and body language expressions through a thorough and relentless examination of my schtick. Still working on it and never again took it for granted.

Always suprised how under prepared people are for making impressions. They wing it. They hope that the right words and body language magiacally appear when called upon. Some people think they are Robin Williams! Most of us know that Robin doesn't ad lib, but draws on a library of practiced and rehearsed routines. I am not saying that you need to script yourself, but preparation with a keen eye on what it really looks and sounds like is essential.

As Allen Iverson said, "Are we talking about practice?" Yes we are!

Connect your mind to your body through your conciousness. Don't let your folded arms, furrowed brow, repeated "ums", shifty eyes, or inaudible voice, steal your opportunities and your compelling ideas.

Carry yourself, express yourself, with the spirit and energy that it matters--because it does.

Your ability to network is directly tied to your trustworthiness, believability, and likability. How you present yourself deserves at least as much prep and attention as your clever words and phrases.

I dedicate this post to my brother in-law Andrew Kim Weaver, who was tragically taken from us this week. Andrew was fiercely candid and famous for his non-verbal communication.

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


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


If you are down, you have to look UP!

After seeing a screening of Waiting for Superman, (which is a must see when it comes out in September) I started to think about looking up into the sky for help, super or not. We all have looked to the heavens for an explanation of a baffling situation or for some divine guidance. We also may look to our parents, our bosses or others above us in the food chain for answers or wisdom. Superman

The point is we have to see where we are going and seek assistance. Stop what we are doing to pause, reflect and think it through. Talking to somebody who understands and maybe has faced the same circumstances always helps.

Finding a true role model can make a difference. This person seems to have been able to balance the things that are important to you. Parent and career, community leader and accomplished professional. We meet, read about, and sometimes know these people. Call them mentors, call them role models, call them inspirations. You can admire them, but you need to study and ideally understand them. Understand the costs, the requirements, the support systems, the sense of fulfillment. You have to get beyond the gloss and the press images of success.

I have found that some people are born into success, others were inspired, and most worked hard to get there. None of the models I have followed have had it easy.

Keeping your eyes up and your mind on what lies ahead is more more important than ever. The writing on the wall, the signs of change, the risks and choices, and the opportunities. Imagine how dangerous it would be to drive by only looking at your dashboard. Looking up will tell you so much more.

I talk to people who loosely fall into three large groups these days. Group 1 is hanging on to what they have. Group 2 is making a move to the next chapter. Group 3 is hedging their bets, uncertain and or paralyzed. They are the worst off. At least Group 1 is loyal and committed. Group 2 is committed to change. Group three, like all groups who wallow in indecision, their careers have reached the ceiling and they only have a down button on their elevators.  

Looking up is not getting lost in the stars and distant dreams that seem improbable. It is not comparing your current circumstance to another greener pasture you have not visited or studied. It is keeping an eye on the horizon to see your options and next steps. It is looking up to those that can show you what you need to do. Looking up is making sure you are a couple steps ahead on the chess board of life. Role models, mentors and other confidantes can keep your thinking fresh.

In BreakingThrough, the Harvard Business Press examination of minority hard driving execs, found that a notable percentage who reached the top of their professions, did NOT want it. It was not as attractive as it looked from afar. They set a goal and spent years focused on the steps and strategies to get to that destination, without regard to what it takes to do that job--the sacrifices, the "costs", the travel, the politics, the distance from the customer. These ambitious people rarely looked up to question their goals. They became blindly committed to a path and their daily lives revolved around making progress to that end.

Again, we are all guilty of self deception. We make up stories about our paths that lead up to our goals. They sound good, but we have not mapped out these paths to the ends. 

Looking up Looking up is the recognition that our lives are moving toward a destination, intended or unintended. And it is never too late to make changes and course corrections.  Some people think this is the time to stay focused. I agree. Being focused is not tunnel vision. Staying focused means not giving up on your goals and the steps necessary to achieve them.

Things are looking up. Keeping your head down insures that inspiration, help, and your future will be out of sight. Looking up from our busy lives, looking up to people who can help you, looking up the path to where you are going and where you want to be--that is a strategy that will not require the services of a caped crusader.  

Thanks for reading. John


The Power of Following

As humans we follow. The concept of leadership is only valuable if there are followers. It is just another version of followership. CEOs, US Presidents, Ministers, Generals, all follow somebody, all take their orders from someone, all succeed another leader. We follow--We all move in accord with a model. Another way of saying mentoring, isn't it? We are all mentored and we follow that example. So great leadership is great followership? Great leaders are great mentees too. You follow? :)

I think we can easily get caught up in our own press releases and start to think that we, alone, invented our leadership abilities. That we were born with innate skills to lead. We know that batch of kool-aid is spiked with self-deceit and blind egotism.

And even if that was true, you need followers to make any form of leadership relevant and effective. Again, without followership you got no leadership.Fish followers

Most of us do not want to be at the bleeding edge of trends or ideas--too much risk and controversy. By the same token there is nothing worse than being at the end of a trend or a cause, that makes you out of step, out of touch and un-hip. So we follow our instincts and check our risk dashboards before following.

You know the questions we ask ourselves---Will I raise my hand and ask the "stupid question"? Will I speak out when something offensive has been said? When will I evangelize about my ideas and beliefs? At what time do I express a contrarian view? These are the day to day forms of followership/leadership that emerge. Sometimes we act and sometimes we regret acting or not acting.

It is rare and I would assert non-existent, to start something entirely new, that was not inspired or motivated by something/someone else.

I love this video


Let me reiterate the lessons here:

  1. Leadership is defined by the followers
  2. The leader needs to nurture the initial followers
  3. The first follower transforms a lone "nut" into a leader

Don't get caught up in just becoming a leader. Start leading by following. Look for ideas, mentors, role models, profiles, case studies, stories, that resonate with you and where you are going and who you are becoming. Talk to your network about these ideas, follow their leads. Invariably, what you want and seek is being done or being pursued. Who is doing it well? Who is considered the best? Who do you know that has these answers?

It all starts with what you want and what you value. Following is not a sign of weakness. It is a necessity. Follow something and/or someone to bring the best out of you.

By the way, maybe more than any other person you have been following, is your mom. :) Hope you acknowledged how much you appreciate being her follower this weekend and everyday.

Thanks for following along and reading. John


Wait and See---The Worst Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


The Ubuntu Networking Strategy

Familiarity and predictability make us comfortable. Nothing wrong with comfort. But sometimes comfort can breed resistance. The resistance to making changes in our lives. People know what they have to do to improve themselves. The really do. They need to lose weight, become better public speakers, learn more about their computers, develop their hobbies, and connect with others aka network! But life, our habits and change get in the way. Some of us call these excuses. :) Comfortable

How do we get unstuck from this comfort zone. This zone of "I am okay" or "Things aren't so bad" or "What difference will it make?" and "Not sure where to start"

These are the mantras of complacency and resistance. The forces that keep you on that monorail chugging along to your familiar network of stops and destinations.

Our confidence soars when we do things where the outcome is predictable, where our view of the world is affirmed, and where our anxiety levels are low. But this can turn into your personal version of the movie Ground Hog Day and such comfort can create monotony. Your confidence will also rise when you accomplish something new and different. Both life experiences are needed to move ahead. But living only in the comfortable routine will limit your network. Hard to meet new people or be introduced to new perspectives when you rely on your circle of comfort. And the limits of your network will set boundaries around your opportunities.

If you are satisfied with your life and your ambitions are sated, then the strategy of nurturing who you know and care about has no limitations, it is a blessing. You have the great luxury of not being distracted by new horizons or goals.

My view is you have to continually renew your network. Not suggesting you dump your friends for new ones, but just enhance and diversify your sources of inspiration and guidance.

Ubuntu, is a wonderful African thought and philosophy that means many things but it conveys "that a person only becomes a person through others."I think we all believe this. That who you know seriously influences who you are. Does your circle of friends reinforce your worldview or does it challenge/improve it? This is a very hard question, because to understand the limits of your worldview is to know outside points of view. But it is a question we need to ask ourselves over and over to keep us honest and grounded. For me the spirit and essence of ubuntu is to add dimensions to our thinking through the help of others. The world is not simple. By meeting and listening to others we begin to appreciate this complexity. For me, ubuntu means the more people you meet, especially if they add new perspectives to your life, you become more conscious of your strengths, weaknesses, talents, dreams, and opportunities and a lot less comfortable!

Take inventory of your network. And target the gaps. But then also just commit yourself to seeking out people different than yourself. Whatever that means to you. There is a rainbow of possibilities here. Political, religious, ethnic, geographic, sectoral, educational, age, gender, sexual orientation, and your hobbies. Let this carry over into your other habits such as your reading, your musical selections, your dining, your work collaborations etc etcConnections

John Izzo set a goal to make new friends, so he carried a 3x5 card around with him everyday to remind him of this goal. He committed to look at it 10 times a day! He carried it not as a burden but as a precious commodity that he valued. You could have a card that says, "Meet new and different people" It's a pretty anal approach but it  will remind you everyday to reach out and connect.

For me, I have set a goal of meeting one new and reconnecting with one person a week! And it is a joy. It is a new habit that is addictive and so beneficial for me. Every person adds something important to my perspective and understanding. Once you get started, it's hard to stop seeing the world through others and becoming more informed and more of an ubuntu person. You will be inspired in countless ways. You will appreciate more about the world and about yourself.

Being comfortable is a wonderful thing if you have reached your potential as a person. But if you are like me, getting uncomfortable through ubuntu networking has clarified what my potential could be.

Thanks for reading. John


One degree that will advance your career and your life

In the frenzy of admission and graduation season, I am reminded how often I am engaged in what seems like America's second favorite pastime, "The Graduate School Game." There seems to be an obsession with getting another degree. Have you seen this 212Movie?


What's the difference between 211 Fahrenheit and 212? That one degree is the difference between hot water and BOILING water! That's how a lot of people regard the next degree they want. They think it will take their luke warm careers and make them hot!. It could. It might. Might not.

When first year college students are surveyed every year, nearly 100% say they will earn a graduate school degree. Yet fewer than 30% ever enroll and much fewer earn a post-graduate degree. That aspiration does not die easily. And as time marches on that goal can grow into a tumor size thought that festers and evolves into a nasty regret. Worse case scenario is that elusive degree becomes the reason and crutch for a stalled career.

Po Bronson in his seminal book, What Should I Do With My Life?, concluded that another degree was NOT a factor for people who found fulfillment and success in their careers and lives.

Many people keep talking about this mystical magical degree even when the likelihood for them to start one is almost nil.

If you are serious about another degree, stop talking and thinking about getting one and take some steps to apply!Mortar board

As someone who endured and completed three post-graduate programs, mostly because I was constructively procrastinating my life. :) Let me add quickly, that having grad school degrees on your resume can help you get interviewed, but it can never replace real experience and achievements. And after you have a graduate degree or two, then what? PhD?

When I was in the cable tv industry, I met people with Masters in Cable TV. When I was running an online ed company, I met people with Masters in Educational Technology with a specialization in online education. Recently I met people with Masters in Philanthropy. First of all I give great credit to the universities that have diversified their product lines and are meeting customer demands. But the reality is a degree in fill in the blank, gets you some credibility and a limited view of the real world.

Life is my college, may I graduate well and earn some honors!    ~~Louisa May Alcott 

Basically, to keep up in this world you have to be in graduate school all the time. Face it, if it is in a textbook and a course it probably is obsolete. So let's talk about continuous education. Learning to adapt, evolving one's toolbox of experiences focused on expanding one's skills, knowledge and abilities. Formal or informal, you have to adopt this mindset if you want to evolve, grow and succeed. Enrolling in a formal degree program can help if you know what you want and NEED. But I think you should be earning a degree every 2-3 years at work! No, I am not specifically talking about a tuition reimbursement program or going to school at night. I am talking about your intentional educational advancement at your job and in your life.

I just completed my 2nd year in my newest career and I have definitely earned a reality based Masters degree in Philanthropy. I am far from done. As usual, I have learned enough to be intimidated by what I don't know. My goal is to re-enroll myself into a new degree program every 2-3 years and earn a new diploma outside of the classroom.School_of_hard_knocks_2

This mindset of continuous education can be powerful if you are purposeful. Here's how you can make your next 2-3 years on the job a degree program. Imagine you were enrolling in a grad school and choosing your area of concentration and now perusing your schedule of classes, investigating the qualifications of the professors, talking to others about their views, and ultimately making decisions. It would be daunting and fun. All of this would be driven by your strengths and weaknesses, your gaps, your needs, and your interests.

You have those same choices at work and in your life right now. Design your on the job degree program. The great news is you have already been admitted! Take all of the reflection you have done about your next university degree and what you wanted to gain from that experience and apply it to your life and work. What are your gaps and desired areas of concentration that you want to address? What core required courses are you missing and what electives have you dreamed of taking? What does your faculty at work look like? What departments/divisions have courses you need, have the best faculty? And what is your class schedule--how long will it take you to complete this degree?

In the next 2-3 years at work you will spend more time than at any equivalent grad school program. How do you carve a path through the next 24-36 months that make it transformational for your career and your life? Do you want to move into finance or out of finance? Do you want to gain management experience? Are you preparing to run your own business or organization? You have a lot to learn.

So your work world is limited or is not where you want to end up. Consider the full spectrum of options in your life. Again, based on your game plan of needs and desires, you volunteer, you moonlight, you educate yourself by seeking classes and professors who can guide you outside of work. All driven by your degree requirements.

Once you have a basic plan for yourself that is an honest reflection of what you want and heavily influenced by what you need, then you can begin to assemble your degree program.

Put both of your hands on your career's steering wheel and start to drive down the road that will give your more traction toward your goals.

If you believe that small changes can make big differences, then get that extra degree that will heat up your enthusiasm for where you are and where you going.

Thanks for reading. John


Re-inventing Yourself to Get Back to Work--The 360 Degree Job Search

More than ever I am having conversations with former execs, managers, and senior professionals who are in protracted searches for the same level positions they held. They are using their existing resumes and applying for the same titles, same/similar industry, and certainly the same compensation. They are exasperated but undaunted despite the lack of results. The overused quotation from Einstein is apropos here, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Albert

I hear many focused and definitive statements like these:

"I will not accept a position below Sr VP." I have to make more than $100,000 to live." "I have never been paid below this level. "I will never apply for a position below this level/salary."

But it is basic marketing 101 to evaluate your strategy when things are not working. Focus can become myopia. You have to change it up. You have to expand your search to jobs and industries and sector outside of your current world and where there are more prospects. You have to start looking 360, sideways and down instead of just in the same places. This inevitably starts the conversation about position, title and compensation. What is a lateral move? What is beneath me? What will compromise my entire career?

Settling for something lesser is not preferred but may be necessary. It may require huge changes in your lifestyle. Downsizing or rightsizing your life is probably smart now. Just like the entire business community that has cut back jobs, maybe one of yours, and is now prudently hiring at a very slow pace.

Looking for a new job is a brutal experience, especially if the search yields few leads and fewer interviews. It can be frustrating and discouraging. It triggers all of the worst feelings about your competence and confidence. Been there and it is no fun. The sooner you can get back to work the better.

Ladders When I was laid off I had to re-think my career and my life. I took a serious pay cut to re-build my experience in a new world--non-profits. So far, I have taken three pay cuts, two demotions, and 1 lateral move to make career changes. You have to go down the ladder to climb up another. It is just the law of nature. It is the method of surviving and sustaining your professional career.

You have to swallow your pride and your irrational ego and find a path that makes sense. Not working is the worst strategy. A big and growing gap between your impressive position and nothing raises more questions than not filling the void.

Piecing together a new career after a set back is one that all employers will sympathize with. When you show your desire by doing what is necessary, your story is more compelling.

You say you are creative and innovative. Then re-invent yourself!

The candidates that are having success are using a combination of volunteer work, consulting, related but "lower level"jobs , and education to fill in their resumes---to stay fresh and to keep the rent paid.

Hard to even get a look or a call back if your time between jobs is approaching a year and you have nothing on your resume.

Customizing your resume and your cover letter may be more important when you shift directions in your job search. I have advised many people to remove items from their resume to make them more aligned with a new industry/sector and/or lower level position, so they don't receive the dreaded "overqualified" response.

  • Align duties and achievements with the job requirements
  • Remove degrees or additional information that give you "too much" experience or education
  • Shorten your work experience to the last 10 years or so

In times like these you have to reach down and unplug your vanity and get back into the game. Demonstrate your resolve, your creativity, and your resilience and you will look and sound like a candidate worth hiring. With your new resume and targets, connect to your network to get new leads and feedback. Seek advice from your mentor. Hopefully, this re-energizes your search and opens up your eyes to opportunities and optimism.

Thanks for reading. John