spituality

Become a Public Person

It's a real wrenching thing to go from being a private person to being a public person. But it's what everyone wants - to get everyone's attention, to have your music make a living for you, to be validated in that way. --James Taylor

My Dad Roderick Yoshimi Kobara lived a full and fulfilling life. He died peacefully just before his 90 birthday.  His life was a version of the American dream. He grew up in poverty outside of Salinas California. His father, my grandfather, died before he was 50 and only had one good profitable year as a farmer. I never met my grandfather, he was a hard living and hard drinking man of few words. From the little bits I have pieced together it was a brutal life. Dad decided to go to college and forge his own path. His entire family was interned in the concentration camps in Poston Arizona in WWII and lost everything. Nevertheless, he enlisted in the army to serve his country. He emerged out of the camps with a hunger to prove he was an American. He legally added Roderick to his name to become more accepted in the mainstream culture. He got admitted into the University of San Francisco and got straight As his first year. He knew he was not that smart so transferred to UC Berkeley to be challenged. He wanted to be a medical doctor, but his inferior camp education set him back and he pursued business and ultimately accounting. He faced enormous discrimination on campus and after he graduated from Berkeley to pursue a career in accounting. Finally a Jewish accountant in Stockton hired him as an apprentice. He passed his CPA exams and became one of the first Japanese-American CPAs in California. He opened his practice just outside of J-town in San Jose, where he built and operated his firm for more than 50 years. He was a self-made man who valued his heritage, education, hard work, and service to community and family

Despite his success he saw his own potential to do more.

Dad

He had high expectations of his children. He desperately wanted his kids to become successful and named them John, Mitchell, Katherine and Elizabeth. Assimilation and fitting in was an essential value. He was a man of few words, not unlike other Nisei men (second generation Japanese-Americans). Hugs and the words “I love you” came decades later when he was a grandparent. Yet he provided for his kids to have every opportunity he did not.

We all want to please our Dads. I was no different.

More than any other person my Dad is responsible for my development as an evangelist for networking and mentoring. 

In the early 60’s my parents would have friends over to play bridge or to socialize. He told us many times to come down from our rooms and to shake the hands of his friends and introduce ourselves. We rarely did. It was an exhausting loop of unmet expectations that irritated and I think embarrassed our father. One night, he called Mitch and me into the kitchen for yet another lecture on self-introductions. We were oblivious and disinterested teenagers and this pissed him off. He talked for a few minutes about what it takes to be successful in America. That meeting people, shaking hands, speaking well and becoming a “public person” were critical skills. He talked of his own struggles and wanted us to have an advantage. (I am giving him some eloquence here) A speech he never gave again. We looked lost. So he grabs me by the shirt, just to get my undivided attention while Mitch braced himself for something worse. He says, “If you do not become a public person, I am sending you to a psychiatrist!” More confusion washed over our faces. He left us exasperated and angry.

I never forgot that night and those words. I tried to give speeches in high school; I joined the band and student council. But I was so uncomfortable with myself. In college I continued to push myself to fit in and to become a better speaker and meeting others. But they remained elusive skills. I was introverted and an inauthentic speaker. I sought advice and eventually took public speaking classes. In graduate school, the idea of a public person returned to me and I continued on a winding uphill path of developing my public person skills.

After decades of trying to interpret my Dad’s goal for us, I found my own way. Years ago I invited him to hear me lead a workshop, where I told this story. I introduced him to the class and asked him if the “public person and psychiatrist” part was true—he nodded affirmatively. Then he said, “See and you turned out pretty good!” High praise from my father. But I also saw a flash of parental satisfaction as we both enjoyed a moment from the sculpted versions of our histories.

Today, my goal of being a public person has evolved. How do we reveal our true selves? How do we see as much as be seen? How do we help others without expectation? How do we engage others to pursue our common pursuit of meaning and fulfillment? How do we become part of something much larger than ourselves?

How do we become and how do we help others become a public person?

Bottomline: He mentored me and introduced me to networking. He planted a seed within me that I made my own. He inspired SWiVEL.

Although many think I need a psychiatrist, my Dad’s antidote has worked so far. :)

Thanks Dad for your sacrifices, for giving me so many opportunities, for teaching me how to play golf, for loving me in your own way and encouraging me to “smell the roses”. Thanks for giving me the challenge and satisfaction of trying to become a public person. Your life and your advice will continue to inspire me.

Roderick Y. Kobara   9.19.25 to 8.20.15

Thanks for reading.


Our Philanthropic Journey

Most of us do not relate to the word philanthropy. It is Bill Gatesian, John Rockefelleresque, foreign word that is reserved for the Bentley crowd. Even wealthy donors do not use the "P" word. Yet the literal meaning of philanthropy is beautiful. From its Greek origins it translates to Love of Humanity. In other words giving is a way of expressing our love for one another. 

Regrettably only a few of us can be on the Forbes 400, but all of us give. We give as much as we can. Most of us could give more---time and money--but we all have a generous spirit.  Philanthropist

Yet giving away money is a mysterious business. To the uninformed, giving away a lot of money would be easy and fun. Like most things it is not what you think it is. I was with a nameless billionaire the other day (you are so important John!!) and he complained about the "burden" of his giving--that "there is no way I can give away all of my money before I die." I know some of you just want a name and and contact info :) But in all serious pursuits, in all careers--when you fully engage yourself in the art and science of something--challenges are revealed. You begin to realize how much you do not know. It can paralyze you or it can liberate you. To most it causes a brain freeze bigger than chugging a giant milkshake.

Funny thing, people with wealth or any extra money will tell you they love their philanthropy. They will tell you how fulfilling it is. Similar to any of us when asked about our computer skills--no one is not "proficient"! People who give away money who generally have been successful in life find it hard to admit that their philanthropy is transactional, random, and a "burden".

As I have said in this space for years, the key principle in life is to give without an expectation. Be ready to give first. Lead with your giving. Not just money, but with your attention, time, and expertise. When you are truly philanthropic with your life and have turned off WIIFM (what's in it for me), you benefit in ways that far exceed your giving. 

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Picasso

All of our journeys are philanthropic. We do not have to be billionaires to make a difference. We forget how much we have when we focus on what we want. We love humanity but do not know where to begin. 

As you know I help people give their money away. But I have learned that if the giving is not tied to the donor's heart, passions, their authentic interests, their core values, then their philanthropy is limited and unfulfilling. Giving becomes a task even a source of stress (like with my new billionaire buddy:). That's how many people feel about networking and mentoring. We can view time as our greatest asset and we become time hoarders--or so we think. We view it as precious and hold it back from others on one hand and then just waste it like we have all of the time in the world.

I literally get sick when people say things like, "Can't wait until this day/month/year is over!" You never get the time back. You can get your money back! Time is irretrievable. 

Reminded of Seneca's incredible 2000 year old book On the Shortness of Life

It is not that we have a short time to live, but we make it short by wasting a lot of it. We are frugal in guarding our personal property, but as it comes to squandering time, we are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

Do I have to regale you with the physical, spiritual, intellectual benefits of giving? The increase in endorphins, oxytocin or just plain old satisfaction. Studies abound that show that generous people are happier, live longer and are healthier. In the newish book, The Paradox of Generosity, philanthropic families "had broader social circles, less self absorbed, and a greater sense of purpose." I had the great pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Kristof about his new book A Path Appears, perhaps the best book on philanthropy I have read. This is like 8 great books in one. And Nicholas and his partner Sheryl have done a wonderful job of making the case to give more and how to do it. 

It is also well known and verified through research that you give like your network. If you live in a gated community you give 40% less than the average American! Because wealthy people who live in wealthy communities are trying to keep up with the Joneses. If you hang out with people who are less generous, chances are you are too. And "live more cynical and narrow lives" according to the research. Giving broadens your network to new worlds. Worlds outside of our bubbles, "gated communities" of homogeneous people who reinforce each other's perspective disconnected from reality. Susan Fiske's research at Princeton is the most disheartening. The wealthier we are the more we view poor people as objects instead of people. In other words, when we reside in a biosphere protected from the harsh realities of the real world, poor people are things not human.

So reach out and connect. break your bubbles and break out of your biospheres. Seek people and charities you love and help them. Get the benefits of giving and giving more. 

So as we meander down our philanthropic paths, consider how much you have and start giving it away. Lead with your giving and it will take you to places that you want to go. Places that show you purpose, meaning, and why you are here.

I developed a special edition of my SWiVEL doc  Download SWIVEL Philanthropy_2014 for people to help one another with their philanthropy. Share it.

I get so much out of writing these posts--way more than you! Thank you for the gift of your readership. John

 


Thermodynamic Networking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is real energy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

  


Who You Are then What You Do

There is such an over-emphasis on defining success by what you do. Many people see their job title as the single most important defining quality of their lives. Any job, even important ones, will never fully define a person. Titles, positions, roles, employers, industries are just labels on the human beings. You define those labels. You are so much bigger than your day job. Who you are. What you stand for. Becoming the best you can be. Being good. Helping others. Your values. Your passions. Your ability to love. These things define you. Who_are_you

Big difference between a good career and a good life.

I meet so many people who tell me:

I am a totally different person at work than I am at home.

In my next chapter, I want to do something that is meaningful to me.

We all play roles in our lives and they are different. I get it. But you compromise yourself when you can't bring your whole self to work. Again, I am not talking about your job but to your work! If you are not getting meaning from your life, then it is by definition a meaningless life. 

Settling for a life that is disconnected from the soul is a tragedy.

David Brooks recently wrote about the warped way people think about their careers and lives:

 In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.

Working on who you are should define what you do--you are defined by your soul. Who are you and who are you becoming? 

Rene Descartes in trying to prove we exist said, "I think therefore I am." 
What are YOU thinking? You are what you are thinking. 
I do therefore I am--makes no sense. Cogito-ergo-sum

Becoming the accumulation of what you do is a resume not a life. It is certainly not your soul. Nurturing and aligning your soul around your beliefs and your life portfolio is our challenge and should be our joy.

People are so overbearingly concerned about what others, including their kids, should be. 
Kevin McCarthy says, "Stop shoulding on yourself and on others."
Let's take the time to find out who we are---not just what we do or should do. 

We will define ourselves by whether we pursued what we believed, thought, and desired. In the end, many will define themselves not by what they did, but rather by what they did not do and wanted to---their regrets.

When people are connected to their heart and their soul, their eyes light up, they are filled with life! We need those connections. We need the amazing greatness within every human being to shine. We need the light and the warmth. We need the solutions and the salvations.

The most efficient and effective strategy that will maximize our society's returns requires each of us to become and help others become, who they are. To develop that inner goodness. Helping people know themselves, pursue their gifts, and define their lives accordingly is the greatest mentoring and networking opportunity.

Who are you? Will your job title be your legacy or your epitaph? Now what are you going to do?

Thanks for reading. John

 


Curious Connection to the Chumash

My life path has been altered by the many chance connections I have had. I married a woman I met on a plane ride. I signed an agreement to publish a calendar with a dinner table seat mate I just met . I was referred to a new job by someone I met at Starbucks. And on and on.......have learned that if I keep an open mind, an open heart, and open to connections, things happen. Things that will expand my world and my world view.

Mati and Luhui Waiti are Chumash (shoo-maush) spiritual leaders and environmental advocates for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. They run a non-profit called Wishtoyo, dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the Chumash culture. How did these people become friends and how does my family become supporters of Wishtoyo?Wishtoyo3

The wife of one of my closest friends, Brenda Berman, was part Choctaw Indian. When she was diagnosed with a deadly and unstoppable form of breast cancer called "triple negative", she sought spiritual support. Brenda's close friend Jennifer thought a re-connection to her Indian roots might help. She knew Wishtoyo and introduced Brenda and her husband Mitch to Mati and Luhui. The Chumash traditions brought great peace to Brenda. They helped her through her pain and struggle during her last days. They connected Brenda with her inner spirit in palpable ways. It is impossible to explain here, but it was extraordinary.

Brenda's husband Mitch, who previously had little spirituality, was transformed by the message and meaning of the Chumash, but especially by the spiritual embrace of Mati and Luhui. He is a different person today.

To be honest, while I was happy for Brenda and her family in finding their peace, I was wary about what this meant to me. I was not seeking any spiritual guidance or facing any personal tragedies.

Over the last 6 months, my family and I learned more about Wishtoyo, largely through several memorials for Brenda. Today, we have become deeply involved with Wishtoyo. We have been moved by the words and actions of Mati and Luhui. We have acquired an understanding of what Brenda experienced and we are better for it. When I think about it, it is a surprising turn of events.

So literally, a friend of a friend introduced us to a world we did not know---to people who seemed foreign  and not terribly relevant. How did a series of exotic experiences became existentially essential? How did this happen? Luck? Destiny?

More than anything it is open-mindedness. Acceptance of new and different things. The more my life is changed by these encounters, the more I  seek them and share them. I have come to learn how my view of the world, my routines, habits and preferences filter out so much. I am constantly humbled how much I don't know and understand.

We erroneously think that new experiences are out there in a special place we should visit some day. Reality is you encounter them everyday and they are right in front of you disguised as people, opportunities, and ideas you ignore. Connections are not chance they are a choice.

Wishtoyo means rainbow bridge in Chumash. We all need to be open to new bridges that connect us with one another and to our inner spirits.

Thanks for reading. John