thank you

Who got you here?

Yes, yes, yes--we all need to be more grateful, more thankful for what we have. Feel fortunate and blessed for the opportunities and people in our lives. Yes, and the research shows that if we do this we will be happier and healthier--and live longer. We all agree with this and most of us think we do do these things. 

But how did you get here, to this point in your life? To right now? 

There are still a few people out there that still believe that they have controlled their own destinies. That they pull the levers of their lives with no help from others and they alone are responsible for their successes. I know this is crazy, but we all know people like this. They live in a mythical  "I" world.

Linkedin JEK
My Linkedin Map

From the research of Robert Emmons, an expert on gratitude:

People who are ungrateful tend to be characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity, and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval. Narcissists reject the ties that bind people into relationships of reciprocity. They expect special favors and feel no need to pay back or pay forward. 

Entitlement is at the core of narcissism. This attitude says, “Life owes me something” or “People owe me something” or “I deserve this.” In all its manifestations, a preoccupation with the self can cause us to forget our benefits and our benefactors or to feel that we are owed things from others and therefore have no reason to feel thankful. Entitlement and self-absorption are massive impediments to gratitude. You will certainly not feel grateful when you do receive what you think you have coming, because after all, you have it coming. Counting blessings will be ineffective because grievances will always outnumber gifts.

Were narcissistic entitlement a condition that afflicted only a small percentage of humankind, then there would be little cause for concern. 

In addition, to your mother who brought you into this world, nothing any of us have done has been done alone. We get help, support, mentorship, inspiration, and energy from others. I am not even talking about our ancestors who suffered and toiled to get us here. My focus here are the people that got you to this NOW.

I think about this everyday. Not because I am such a grateful person although I try. But because I wonder who introduced me to this person I am with?, who helped me get on this board?, who advised me?,  who invited me? who hired me? who referred me?....I can't stop thinking about it. It builds this giant ladder, scaffolding, this network  around me. The incredible accumulation of help, support, mentoring and ass-kicking I have been lucky to receive. 

Yes "I" have been ready for some of this help and support. "I" prepared myself for some opportunities. But if I am honest with myself, I realize that my Net enables me to Work. My Network is behind me, beside me, and below me to push. catch and pull me. Yes, I have to have goals and ideas and passion, but without the network I am not empowered to succeed.

We careen through life and our orbits, trajectories, and perspectives are changed by every encounter with people and experiences. But certain people have influenced you and helped you more than others.  

 I am because we are. I am what I am because of who we all are. Ubuntu

I am constantly humbled by these thoughts. (And some would tell you, that makes my healthy self concept more tolerable! :) So I try to let the people who got me here know how I am doing and to thank them for their help. When I do this, it always makes both of us feel good. Like a little life loop was closed. And I try to help anyone who asks for help, not because I expect something in return but because that's what people did for me. Pay it forward. Pay it back. But give thanks to the help we get and the help we give. 

This is what propels us. This is the fuel for our lives. 

But once you start believing your own bio, your own press releases, you can start to hallucinate that you have designed your own life.

Who got you here? The list is long. Take a moment to appreciate your Network. Then drop a few of them a note, a text, an e-mail, a call to thank them for helping you get here. Not just this week, but anytime you think of it. This not a holiday thing, this is a gratitude thing. This is a network thing.

There is no "I" in network. (sorry could not resist)

Yes let's be grateful and filled with gratitude--then let's acknowledge and thank the people that got us here--everyday!

Thank you for helping me get to this point in my life by allowing me to express myself and to connect with you. Thanks for reading. John


The Habit of Gratitude

As we gather with friends and family to give thanks for what we have and for those we are not with, I wanted to express my gratitude to you.

Sharing my thoughts here has made me a better person. I see things, read things, and most important--do things differently.

Thank you for energizing me, for inspiring me, for pushing me to be who I want to be. For helping me appreciate what I have and what I can do with what I have.

Let's all re-commit ourselves to feel and express our gratitude everyday--make it a habit.

And then filled with that gratitude we can help others who need us and have so much less than us.

Thank you for giving me the courage to pursue the habit of gratitude. 

Happy Giving of Thanks and for reading. John

I participated in a worldwide 21 day Gratitude Challenge and this video was produced by several of the volunteer participants. Enjoy!

Written and produced by Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod.

Video from KarmaTube


5 Years of Blah Blah Blog

I started this blog in 2008, just before the collapse of the economy.  350 posts, more than 30,000 words and 120,000 page views later, I never dreamed it would have taken me on this journey. I guess it is like life, if you trust yourself and push ahead then it will take you to amazing places. And it has. I really started SWiVELTime for me. I wanted the discipline of researching, writing, and thinking every week. For me it is an enjoyable struggle to come up with material every week that allows me to express my observations and learnings. (I am in awe of the Seth Godins who post every day.)

My content moved over time from the common myths and tools of networking to a more macro perspective on the potential of the individual. Over the years I have lost readers due to this change. They wanted tools and techniques. Something they can put to use right away. It is a perfectly rational and reasonable expectation. But I have always felt the need to lay the context and conditions of personal and professional growth before discussing the how-tos. And you and this blog have pushed me deeper into my root structure of understanding so I can grow. I am more consumed by my obsession about the human potential and the distractions and resistance we encounter preventing us from becoming who want to be—who were meant to be. I am more convinced than ever that we are interconnected and interdependent. That our destinies are tied to one another. That WE is so much stronger than me. That's why I have become more focused on the why over the what.

Chinese-Bamboo-Forest
Chinese Bamboo Forest

 Mentor and network for the greater purpose of helping others rather than the acquisition of an infinite and unfulfilling more for oneself.

Reminded of the amazing story of a particular strand of Chinese bamboo which only develops its roots for 5 years and then in the 6th year it breaks the ground and grows 75 feet high! (cited in Paulo Coelho's book Aleph)

This blog has refined and sharpened my presentations and vice versa. A great dance of learning and understanding between my readers and audience members. A dance of possibilities.

If I had a tatoo ( I have none:) It would bear my favorite quote that symbolizes this blog:

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. F. Peter Dunne

I have tried to do both. As John Wooden told me, "Sometimes you have to slap people on the back and sometimes a little lower."

The feedback I have received from you has humbled me. It has taught me many lessons. It has guided and mentored me. People have revealed themselves to this obscure blogger and it has energized my belief in the incredible potential that we all possess.

Despite the millions of resources on the web, there seems to be a need for these conversations, for these explorations of questions that define our lives. Few places espouse the adoption of a lifestyle of mentoring and networking. 

Like all good teaching and mentoring, the teacher and the mentor benefit most. You have changed my trajectory, my orbit, and my path.

As my mother says when I thank her---Okage sama---Thanks to you!

Thanks for your indulgence, for your readership and for helping me continue to learn. This is not a trite way to fish for congratulations or gratitude. It is merely an acknowledgement of my deep appreciation for your contributions in making this blogger a better person and better at his job.

In this sixth year and in the spirit of the Chinese bamboo, I wish for you a great growth spurt in your opportunities and prosperity.

Thanks for reading. John


Do yourself a favor, say YES!

As we approach another week of turkey and thankfulness, we pause to reflect on the time, challenges and blessings we all have had. It is a wonderful time to be with family and appreciate what we have.

 

How do we directly convey our appreciation to those who deserve it? People in our present, people from our past? People who help us routinely and people who set you on the right path? But is saying "thanks" enough? Well, it is a very important start.

 

If you are truly grateful, repay them with an offer of unconditional support. How can I help YOU? Make an unsolicited offer to do them a favor. I do believe that reciprocity is the most powerful form of exchange. Ask people how you can help them. I am not talking about a well maintained ledger of give and get. I am suggesting that you need to repay what you have received with an act of generosity. Make sense?Yes

 

Here's the lesson: People said "Yes" to you. They agreed to help you, guide you, and get you what you needed. Without their willingness to say YES, you would not be where you are.

 

For many years one of my many new year's resolutions was to " to say "NO" more often, to decline "opportunities" and favors, so I could focus on "priorities". It was one of my early career efforts to be more focused on time management. I naively thought I could and should control what happened to me. That the word "NO" would protect me from bad things that would undermine my grand plan and my mission. Once I learned that the only thing I controlled was my ignorance, I was free. So I abandoned it as a goal when I realized, what a negative thought it is. Saying YES is good. Being open and positive is so much more important to me than the alternative.

 

It is a a universal truth that you attract to your life what you give time, attention and focus--positive and negative. Say YES to the positive!

 

The word YES has helped me experience the flow of life that comes my way. It opened my eyes, my heart and my mind to new ideas, people, careers, and opportunities. Most important, it helped me become stronger and better as a person!

 

In writing this, a friend shared this link with me. Sasha Dichter of Acumen Fund conducted an experiment of just saying YES for 30 days--the generosity experiment.

 

Warning: for you literalists, I am not talking about hedonism, your unhealthful habits or illegal activity. :) Talking about helping each other.

 

If you talk to my assistants over the years, certainly my wife, they will concur that my inclination to say YES and agree to things can seem random and overwhelming.

 

I sometimes get used and abused--that is a risk. Some say I am a sucker, others generous. I never regret it.

 

Saying YES, and agreeing to do people favors is the currency of karmic capitalists. You learn that the more you say YES the more you get. What goes around comes around and usually it is a quick trip! Not driven by material gains or things, but experiences, new people, perspective, self awareness, getting out of your comfort zone and most important feeling good about who you are! Doing good begets good.

  

Saying YES becomes a frame of mind. And we all know that to change the game we have to change the frame!

 

So easy to say NO! 

 

One of the first words our kids learn after "Dada", is "NO". Why? because we say it so often. 

 

The YES philosophy has many consequences. It takes some time and effort to fulfill and deliver on your favors you say YES to. But the upside and return to you is 10x the "cost". Say YES to:

  • Meeting with people to discuss ideas
  • References
  • Job searches
  • Informational interviews
  • Resume reviews

Try to avoid the delusion that saying NO is more disciplined and focused as I once did. Try saying YES often if not all of the time. And your heart, your mind, and your soul will gain energy, rhythm, understanding and satisfaction.  

 

Express your gratitude by doing others favors. Do yourself a favor, say YES!

 

Thanks for reading. John


Networking Tips from Beggars

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

Raisin children!

Raisin money!

Raisin hell!

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John