Trust

Peek a Boo! I See Me

Infants don't understand the concept of permanence. It is an essential stage of cognitive and sensory motor skill development. We have all done this with little kids. We hide our faces with our hands and then reveal our faces and say Peek a Boo! And the kids are astonished and amazed. Like a magic trick. They laugh uncontrollably because of the surprise.

And when toddlers cover their faces, they think they are invisible.

When we grow up we are still confused about what is real. We think we are invisible. As adults we hide our own faces and our feelings We become quite clever in masking our true selves. And the mask can become the face. Peekaboo

I meet many people at many points in their lives. Junctions, detours, shifts, inflection points, crossroads--all names for the same thing---Life! Every moment considering choices is about change. Anyway, I try to use these moments to see if I get clues about what they really want. Poker players call it the "tell". A sign given off by facial expression, body tics, and or inflection that gives away a truth.

I recently met with a younger man and he was babbling on about who he was and his impressive background ( I remember when I use to show up and throw up) He said, "I want to help people." (When I hear this it takes every ounce of my control not to say, "Yeah "people" that narrows your career choices!") Instead I said "Which people?" And after a series of these back and forths. He spoke eloquently about "helping people overcome what he had overcome." I stopped him and asked him to tell me how he felt. I told him how I felt. It was pretty emotional. His eyes, inflection and body language did all of the talking. And we built a small rhetorical campfire and sat down to explore this personal story. He thought I read his mind, but he opened his book and read from his heart. I was moved.

That honesty about what matters gives me a view of what I think is the soul. The true self who hides in the costume and mask department of our minds. It is a bit of a game of hide and seek I play with others and myself. To get the souls to come out and play and share.

It reminds me to be vulnerable and empathetic in the way I listen and think. It helps me immensely. And I know it has an impact on others and the dimensions of conversation that ensue.

I am convinced that we unconsciously let others and ourselves suppress so much of our potential and our soulfulness. The heavy blanket of expectations, political correctness, not looking stupid, not making other people uncomfortable, not being good enough etc etc.

Sheryl Turkle and her fascinating book, Reclaiming Conversation:

My research shows that we are too busy connecting to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet these are the kinds of conversations in which intimacy and empathy develop, collaboration grows, and creativity thrives. We move from conversation to mere connection. And I worry that sometimes we forget the difference. Or forget that this is a difference that matters.

In our daily conversations, it starts with so called small talk, exchanges where we move our lips and sounds tumble out of our pie holes. Classic example is "How are you?" and you reply reflexively, "Fine. You?" and a thousand unthinking variations. But our robotic chatter is not limited to these informal seemingly meaningless verbal transactions. They now consume most of our time. Like bad texting exchanges that say nothing. We partake in a lot of live face to face superficial texting through our mouths. 

We say words and others say words we neither listen to or fully comprehend what pablum spews back and forth. It is not that we are uncaring souls, but we have rehearsed our routines like inadequate amateur versions of Robin Williams' improv group of personalities. We pull something from our inner hard drive and it plays without much thought.

How do we disrupt this pattern if we want to have more interesting and meaningful conversations? How do we show our empathy and compassion for one another? Who starts the real conversation?

Do we have the time and patience? Do we?

And yet we want help. We crave and cry out for mentoring for guidance for support--on our terms, just in time, convenient, fast and simple to assemble. We want life and career advice that comes out of an IKEA box, or fits into a 3 minute YouTube. Not a revealing conversation.

Love Akuyoe Graham's advice to me about enjoying the taste of the words. Meaning that you take the time and thought to savor what you say. You sense the words you speak, their weight, their intention and you convey those thoughts with your face and your body.

Am I there, present, vulnerable, open, attentive, listening, more interested than interesting? That matters. And can make way to real conversations.

Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation How talk can change our lives:

Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they just don't exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. It's a spark that two minds create.

How many conversations do we have like that? Wouldn't that be good?

In my analysis this real conversation is a meeting of the minds and a meeting of the souls. 

It takes both sides to make this happen.

Peek a boo (excerpt from my poem)

I see you

Then you’re gone

I see what you want to be, what you try to be

I see what you want me to see

I saw something

The glint of the sun through the clouds

I felt you

A warm breeze on a summer eve

Something real and fleeting

Like a poltergeist

The warmth and chill of presence

I feel you

Peek a boo

But just like that you disappear

From right in front to out of sight

Are you gone or just hiding?

What are you afraid of?

When will I see you again?

Maybe it’s me

Am I scaring you?

Peek a boo

I see me

Like a mirror image

That glimpse of you was a glimpse of me

I want what you want

And your words are the words I want

I hear me through you

Peek a boo

You are changing me

Am I changing you?

An open heart opens the mind

We are changed

We try to be invulnerable and see no flaw

We become vulnerable and see the light

Peek a boo

I learn from you

When I was teaching you

Peek a boo

You mentor me

When I was trying to mentor you

You helped me 

Did I help you?

Peek a boo

I saw you

And you see me

I need you

And you need me

Come out to play and let’s be                                                          John E. Kobara

 

We must help others and ourselves explore and share our truths, our souls. 

If we see it, acknowledge it, welcome it. And embrace it. 

Build a campfire and listen to each other's stories. We have so much to learn from one another. 

Thanks for reading. 


Find Mentoring not a Mentor

May be the number one question I am asked: "How do I find a mentor?"  Usually this question is shrouded in mythology, poor assumptions, and a desire for a quick fix. Of all things, mentoring is not a fast solution to your challenges. There is this idea that "the right person" will have the answers to your career and life questions. That this guru will provide a lighted path to your salvation and success.  

Great mentoring can give you insight into who you are and what you want. Great mentoring can clarify your choices and your strategies to build a more fulfilling and rewarding career and life. 

Learning, acquiring knowledge and gaining insight have changed.

Old School

New School

I learn most from those with more experience

 

I learn from everyone around me

 

Excellence is defined by what I know

 

Excellence is defined by my strengths and what I do

 

I learn from books and in classrooms

I learn continuously and experientially in small real time bites

Just as a single book, class, website will not answer all of your questions, neither can a single person. Most people who ask me this question have created this super person in their minds--a guru available 24/7 who knows it all and can answer your questions. Like the "perfect" boyfriend/girlfriend, the perfect job and unicorns -- they don't exist. I know you get this, but each of us holds out a little hope that such a person is out there. And in the end it prevents us from being mentored. GURU1

Mentoring is never just getting answers. We need multiple mentoring sources. They are not all going to be "older and wiser". They are not all going to be in your industry or field. They share your perspective, your interests and they tell you the truth. The people who you know or who you meet who are authentic and with whom YOU are authentic. It is where vulnerability and openness govern the exchange. Networking is a robust give and take. It is a dance of authenticity and vulnerability. 

Perfection is always the enemy of the good.

One of the most amusing things is when I spend high quality time with someone who seeks my advice. I may have even purchased them a meal, taken time from my family..... I answer their questions, I provide real feedback and try to mentor them. I do this not because I am generous, I do it because I benefit from these interactions. I have acquired knowledge I want to and like to share. I always learn something new and it reinforces and reveals things that I need to practice. At the end of these sessions, more than half of the people ask me one of two questions. 

  • When can we meet again?
  • Will you be my mentor?

I just tried to mentor this person! They seem more interested in checking off a box on their to-do list.  GOT MENTOR. They are more interested in a mentor than the mentoring! Some even ask for a regular monthly session! 

Look, I totally understand why people search for and want a mentor. But take the advice that  resonates with you and do something! Fail with it. Succeed with it. Discover new stuff along the way. Then, talk to the source of the "mentoring" and ask for help to answer new questions. That's how a potential mentoring relationship is formed. 

Mentoring relationships are serious relationships. They don't develop in an instant. Very few can say "She was my mentor at first sight." ;) Mentoring like all relationships that matter evolve over time, where trust is built upon genuine efforts and the truth.

A couple of years ago, I met a parent volunteer at a school I was touring. She impressed me and inspired me with her energy and passion for her daughter's education. I asked her what she did and she told me she looking for work. I suggestsed we meet and I tried to plug her into my network. I told her to read my blog to answer any questions. The other night, I saw her at an event and I asked how she was doing. She is gainfully employed after a tough 6 month search. She was clearly happier and more confident. She cited my posts on resumes and interviewing as very helpful. She told me she would stay in touch. And I know we will. We have a mentoring relationship, but we will never call it that.

Mentoring is all around you. It is ubiquitous. Some of it you need to just breathe it in and reflect upon it. Some you need to seek. And out of that process a "mentor" may emerge. My point is when you get mentored in a moment or in a meeting--Take action. Use the mentoring, then get more mentoring. At the very least, refine your questions through experience. 

Mentoring is an iterative process that requires the application of a theory. It is your theory of change. Your plan for progress. Your pursuit of happiness. If you don't have a theory, then finding mentoring or a mentor will be a frustrating experience. 

It is always about the content. We seek answers not a single source. 

Don't get stuck looking for the perfect mentor or even an official mentor. Find great mentoring, but don't be surprised if you do not use the M word. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Mentor, teacher, coach--What do I need?

This is an important question. There are times when you need teachers and coaches, but, In my opinion, you ALWAYS need a mentor or three. Mentors provide guidance and reality checks as you and your career/life develop. A mentor provides ongoing or momentary feedback that helps you focus on what is important to you and to your future success. The big difference is you don't go shopping for a mentor like you might for a coach or a teacher.

I teach, I coach and I also mentor. I am recruited to serve in the first two roles.  When I teach I bring a curriculum, an agenda, a set of questions and goals. When I coach I bring questions and I listen, but I drive the content and the subject matter. When I mentor, I listen, but for the most part I let the mentee drive. Mentoring can easily start in the teaching and/or coach environments. But lectures and transmitting knowledge and experience is a small part of the true mentoring relationship. Mentoring depends heavily on the growing set of questions and self awareness of both mentor and mentee. Awareness of the needs and possibilities of both. Some people never get this--that mentoring is a two-way street and consequently they rarely experience mentoring. They may be inspired or their view of themselves may be shifted by a conversation or an insight shared. But mentoring is a persistent process that is defined by the conversation built on trust and truth.Dialogue

Steve Blank, the well known entrepreneur, recently opined about this phenomenon--people's confusion about these roles and specifically how one acquires a mentor. He mentions how he has received requests to be a mentor while he is on the stage lecturing. Awkward! In this consumer society we think we can just pick a mentor, even ask a total stranger to be a mentor. Mentoring relationships usually emerge from relationships of trust. A chemistry is developed between the two parties over some period of time, it can be rather quick or lengthy, then a deeper sharing of thoughts, ideas, philosophies and advice generates the mentoring. Mentoring is not a commodity. You don't seek it, shop it, and then buy it.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Buddha

As Steve says, "mentoring is a dialogue", it is a higher order exchange, a frank conversation to help each other. Teaching tends to be a one-way flow of ideas. I know that all of these methods are not silos and that they blur into one another, that the lines that define them are at best fuzzy. But mentoring is different.

In fact, the Steve Blank posting was tweeted and shared by a former mentee of mine, who has in turn become my mentor. And the roles have continued to shift and change depending on the subject and the circumstance. This has been a process that has been repeated many times for me--Where the roles over time always reverse and vary. In a mentoring relationship we serve as reality checks, sources of ideas, and instant mentoring partners. When we need each other we are available for one another. Mentoring is a great dialogue, a give and take, a relationship of mutual benefit and trust.

The real question is are you mentorable? Are you ready to be mentored? Really? Are you prepared to be mentored ? A person who has not given any thought to their goals, has not done any soul searching, does not know their strengths, is not passionately curious about their future, is not a good candidate for mentoring. Some people I encounter, young and more mature, hope that the mentor they find will unlock the secret recipe of success and shine a bright and glorious light on their new path to fulfillment and success. I kid you not! They are starving for great wisdom, connections, and insights to be served up on a silver platter from the Iron Chef kitchen of the mentor. They expect to sit back and be served and consume the contents of the dishes and magically life will be delicious. Yikes! Waiter

Finding your mentor(s) is a process of meeting people, people you respect, admire, work with, volunteer with, and encounter in your pursuit of your life's work. People that are part of your journey of curiosity and discovery. If you are focused on becoming the best you can be, you will find a mentor and be mentored. Your quest for answers will push you towards people you know and new people you will meet. And some of those relationships will become mentoring dialogues that last months, years, and even a lifetime.

There has been great evidence that mentoring relationships with at-youth risk that last less than 1 year and even 2 years can damage the youth. Why? Because the process of developing trust and mutual understanding takes time, regardless of the great willingness of the participants, time, persistence, the process of showing up and caring, to strengthen a relationship to be able to have the meaningful dialogue. Until that relationship becomes a trusting one, little mentoring benefit occurs. Every mentoring relationship I have had has made me a better person, manager, parent, and leader. And every survey of mentors that I have read, every attempt to understand the benefits of mentoring show that the MENTOR gains more than the mentee. The target of the at-risk youth mentoring or corporate mentoring, always gets less than the mentor. This may sound counter-intuitive, but you would know if you mentored others. That's why I have been advocating adopting a lifestyle of mentoring, because the benefits are so overwhelmingly positive to the mentor and do a lot of good for the mentee. This is proof that the dialogue and the reciprocity are essential to mentoring.

Understand your greatness, pursue your passions, and become the best you can be and you will find mentoring. Seek great teachers, great coaches to hone your skills, your craft, and your questions, mentoring will find you.

Thanks for reading. John


Amazing who you know, but you don't know

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching that the primary step in networking is:

First strengthen existing relationships and then expand your circles of friends

Brushstroke circle There is an obsession with meeting new people. That new people will unlock our potential, teach us new things, and create new opportunities. And that the people we know, have met, are surrounded by, are inadequate. Even as I write this again, it sounds stupid, doesn't it?

What comes into focus is how poorly we know and explore what we have. There is an irresistible allure of the new. It's why products offer new versions. Why car makers roll out their new line-ups. It also causes many divorces. We like shiny things and our consumerism world reinforces it. But often the new is irrational and riskier. And often it is more expensive.

I am not telling you not to meet new people. You gotta get out of your comfort zones and diversify your human portfolios. You have to inject new into everything you do. But it is not your first step. It is not a step to overlook. Meeting the new, will always be more challenging, more time consuming, and less comfortable.

Why ignore the network you have and the people you know?

People I meet always underestimate their own networks. According to them, their "rolodex" is always weak and does not contain the expertise they need. After I ask a series of questions, they "discover" that someone they know well could be a great connection. It never fails. Had lunch will a former colleague this week, and he is exploring a career change. He wanted me to connect him with new people. During our meal, he admitted knowing a senior executive at a very attractive employer. I added real value to the session by saying, "Please contact him." :)Rolodex

You may be able to recall or remember things about people from your glorious present or past. And making an effort to make these recollections is a start. However, it is more likely you don't even know these people in your network. You don't know their resumes and their backgrounds. And therefore you have no idea what their networking potential is. But this is just the beginning of what you don't know about your network and how you undervalue it.

The big deal here is that your current network knows you and in most cases you have established a level of trust through common experiences. Your current network cares about you. And that creates opportunities to get authentic feedback and ideas beyond their contacts. People who know you can move quickly to the questions you want to discuss. Chemistry and comfort exist. It provides a warm platform to now get to know them better. I guarantee this process will reveal a new constellation of connections and contacts for you to explore. The other super added value here is your network can refer you to these connections, because they know you!

Now here is an ugly truth. If you have been negligent about maintaining your relationships. Reconnecting with "old friends" or former colleagues can be awkward. And the sirens of the new network beckon. But c'mon, most people want to connect and reconnect. I get asked this question all the time, "How do I reconnect with former colleagues and friends?" My answer is always the same, "Call them, e-mail them." Just make the connection and if necessary, apologize for being out of touch.They will understand. Plus you will enjoy it!

A new world of connections and opportunities awaits and many of them reside in the past. Don't leap over your exisiting network just to meet new people. It is amazing who you know but don't know. Reach out and connect!

Thanks for reading. John 


Truth and Candor: Key Ingredients in the Recipe of Mentoring and Networking

Remember in Liar Liar when Jim Carrey's character was only allowed to to tell the truth. "Do you like my new dress?"-- he was asked. "Whatever takes the focus off your head," he replies.

No need to put our truth tasers on the kill setting! Taser

The truth is, we are less than candid everyday. How we answer the question, "How are you?", for example.

Sometimes being vague, evasive and telling a little fib is the only thing to do to avoid a fight or an unnecessary confrontation. We all have friends where we have to avoid certain political, religious, and parenting conversations, because we just have to agree to disagree.

There is always a time and a place to be the diplomat, the nice person. You know, the person who couches things in lovely and euphemistic ways. Where between the lines is a vast and cavernous space where the truth lives comfortably and invisibly.

George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place."

I am talking about candor, frankness, and directness in conversations.

Candor: Unreserved, honest, or sincere expression 

I am more focused on the sincere side of this ledger. Less on the brutal portion.

We have all experienced the broad gamut of styles from the flame thrower who uses the truth to burn everyone and everything. Then there are the “happy” people who smile and even giggle during a challenging moment and will do anything to not ruffle feathers or make anyone uncomfortable. Like all things we need to use the middle lanes of these communication freeways.

But if the truth was a more common currency in our everyday exchanges and transaction, we would be better off. Candor of the sincere type, would speed up so many things in our lives. Getting people to contribute their ideas and real thoughts frequently would facilitate change, improvement, and greater outcomes in our personal and professional worlds. Having people get to what's bothering them and complimenting the good would be so efficient not to mention pleasant.

Truth begets truth.

As a friendly reminder to myself and you good readers, the truth also includes the good and the praiseworthy. Sometimes, we hear "tell the truth" and we think give the bad news or make a confession.

Scales So many candid truthful good things go unsaid. How much we love, care about, appreciate the people and things around us too often remain unexpressed thoughts.

For those of you following along, mentoring and networking require a few extra scoops of candor if the recipe is to work. Both mentee and mentor need to get to a place of truth telling as fast as they can. Otherwise great time and effort can be wasted and misunderstood if it remains a polite game of mutual admiration.

Party manners are in order at the beginning of any relationship. We all know that this period is not real, later we will share ourselves with greater transparency.

Office politics is the most brutal and most challenging of all worlds. More than 2 people in an office and controversy, petty thoughts and behaviors can ensue. Getting beyond the rumor mill, the conspiracy theories, and the repetitive whining is a challenge in every office I have occupied. Part human nature, part management, and part culture.

Not speaking up. Not saying what you think. Not being an active contributor to your organizations’ development and evolution is a cardinal sin if you want to grow into a more effective manager/leader. The higher up the food chain you go, the more truth based on evidence and judgment is demanded. Less time for nuance, interpretation, and just plain waiting.

Sure it would be nicer and better if your boss, the work culture, your friends, your family all modeled this behavior more. And if they did it you would do it. What?!! There you go again, sounds like a whiny person who is not in control of their life and actions. Why not be first to model the behavior you want to see. Request more candid feedback and answers in your conversations. Seek and tell the truth.

Remember in Alice in Wonderland when the March Hare says to Alice, "Then you should say what you mean." And mean what you say.  200px-MarchHare

Thanks for reading. John


Your Career Kitchen Cabinet

We all know that any great organization, company, even celebrity, certainly political leaders need a small circle of trusted advisers. And as we see in the news headlines everyday, if that counsel is not real and provides only encouragement for the wishes of the leaders(s), then trouble is imminent. --Like the old drunk who relies on the lamp post more for support than any illumination. True advisers provide accountability and a reality check on actions and plans. Who advises us? The regular folk who are not famous, rich or elected? We all have goals and dreams, but many of us need help to keep us on track. Otherwise, we can get away with saying and thinking things we never do. By the way, thathabit will give you a monorail ticket to a very undesirable place called Regret City!

Less than a couple of weeks into the new year you are probably still committed to your resolutions -- please say you have not bailed yet. :) One way to insure longer term success is to form a "kitchen cabinet",a group of your trusted advisers to monitor your progress and hold you to your goals. Similar to a board of directors, your cabinet knows your goals and asks for status reports. Like a a good board they are not interested in effort and activity, they want results. They are interested in a better you. BoardBoard room

However, unless you are such a popular person where you can attract people to serve your needs and you alone, then you should build a different structure based upon reciprocity. A group, no more than 6, that agrees to help one another. This kitchen cabinet gets together on a regular basis for the expressed purpose of advising and assisting ALL members succeed. This is a group of serious colleagues that care about each other and are committed to helping one another. Career guru Barbara Sher calls these success teams. It is a mentoring seance, where you are joined by the futures you see for one another.

Here are some basic tips on how you get started buiding your career kitchen cabinet:

  1. Forming the cabinet--Clearly, picking the members of your cabinet is the toughest part. Start with a couple of the people you know well. People you trust and getting together with them more frequently would be fun. If they know each other that is even better. Meet with them and broach the idea. I advise against couples only because invariably it introduces elements that can distract from the group goals. Things like chemistry, candor, and buy-in can be factors. If you are daring, each of your closest associates could invite one person that would add new dimensions and breadth to the group. And there is always something about having new people there to make you more attentive to the process. The key is getting people that have rapport, agree on the group goals, and are committed to mutual success. Try to avoid a group that all have the same backgrounds, political beliefs, or industry connections. This is where diverse thinking is powerful.
  2. Convening the cabinet--Without consistency this will not work. Sher recommends weekly meetings. I think monthly will work. But like a good book club, you got to prepare and show otherwise all is lost. Each member rotates to convene the group by choosing the location and date and time (if you have not settled on a regular date and time which is recommended.) You can set standards about the quality of the establishment, cuisine, newness etc to add a little incentive for the group. One group I was in required the host to cook "extraordinary" food so at least the food might generate thought. The group should make a one year commitment--12 meetings.
  3. Common ground for the cabinet--This is critical. Getting everyone familiar with the bios and backgrounds of each member is essential. So spending time on the introductions, in-depth and revealing understandings of one another will generate a new network of opportunities. Next, everyone needs to write down their goals. Use my SWiVEL or devise one based upon the needs and interests of the group. Having a common form that gives everyone a starting point for the conversations that will ensue.
  4. Cabinet sessions--After the intros and written docs, the sessions just have to make time for every member to report on their progress and allow for feedback. Not so formulaic that it feels too structured but focused on your purpose as a group. The assumption is every member is there to offer advice, expertise, and their network.

Hands together
But this is not a business as usual approach that helps one another achieve mediocrity. The secret to this concept is others will invariably see your potential more than you do. Your ideas become more polished or get abandoned because of the feedback. And when the group gets some momentum built on respect and trust, then the cabinet can become an incubation lab to explore new ideas and aspirations.

The reality is WE is always better than ME. We have to work together to refine our ideas about where we are going. A kitchen cabinet can be a powerful advantage that strengthens your network and your path to achieving your goals.

Thanks for reading. John


The amazing networks of strangers

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
Margaret Mead 

First a shout out to my friends and colleagues of APEX, the premiere Asian American professional networking group here in SoCal. APEX celebrated its sweet 16 birthday last night. For the last two years, APEX has been under the fantastic leadership of Hogan Lee who has taken founder Stephen Liu's vision to new heights. There are many things I like about APEX. I have watched it grow and mature. Today it enables thousands of youngish Asian Americans (I am too old :) and new immigrant Asians to develop their confidence through mentoring, networking, leadership and service. 

Topbar_apexlogo

 Apex has grown well beyond the typical networking and mingling orgs that connect young people for business and pleasure and evolved into a formidable community resource for new leaders. I have always advised joining organizations that have purpose and meaning to network v.s. joining a networking org that has no other purpose.  Some people are still critical of ethnic oriented groups because they segregate. What those critics don't understand is groups, especially immigrant and under-represented groups, need to build bridges of commonality to integrate the tremendous ambitions and talents of the very diverse Asian American community into the greater society. To be honest we need more APEX-like orgs. Congrats to Hogan and his leadership team for their accomplishments. 

This last week I was reminded of the power of strangers networking. Previously unconnected people coming together for a common purpose, driven by self interest resulting in collective benefit. Howard Rheingold said in his book , "Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation."  

Group idea

James Surowieki in his book the Wisdom of Crowds asserted how valuable the informed perspectives of the many are to see the whole and to derive more effective solutions. 

Open source organizations have led the way using smart mobs and wise crowds for many years. Open source, some say open architecture, allows for contributions and improvements to come from diverse peer-based sources v.s. a closed controlled and hierarchical system. You have undoubtedly heard of or used many open source products/services. WikipediaFirefox, and Moodle come to mind. Linux pioneered open source development where volunteers and peers update and improve the software or service driven by their own professional development AND contributing to the common good. Most often these products and services are free to use as well. 

Beyond open source, there are numerous examples where smart crowds are gathering. I just joined Groupon. (a commercial enterprise) Have you seen this? Bulk buying with strangers. A deal is offered in your home city (24 now) and a minimum number of purchasers to get the deal is announced. The deal is not good until that number is reached within a set time. Sort of an eBay bid for a Buy it Now with a minimum number of buyers. Brilliant. 

One of the hottest trends in philanthropy are giving circles.  Giving circles are groups of like minded people who gather offline and online to use the wisdom of the group to find worthy recipients of their collective charity. Smaller groups are more enjoyable and more effective.Today giving circles account for $100mm of gifts annually.

J0439587

J0439587

I have been a huge fan of Donorschoose.org. They have led the way in making small project donations delightful and easy. Donorchoose enables tens of thousands of teachers (250,000 so far) to post their requests for supplies, special class projects, and field trips. A donor can contribute as little as $1. Here's the great part: Donorchoose receives the donations, delivers the purchases, including the field trips to the teachers AND thanks the donors. If you give $100 or more your get a report on how the donation was used and the impact it had. What has been a pleasant surprise is that donors are not just geographically focused, but also funding ideas and subjects across the nation. For example, donors who love Shakespeare, search and fund those projects locally and across the country. Donorschoose calls it Citizen Philanthropy and they have set a standard that all fundraising orgs should follow.

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Patientslikeme
 is another incredible site where you can connect with other people and their networks who have similar medical challenges. And get the benefit of wise and smart crowds.

I have learned how to rely on strangers on the net, I am trying to translate that to my face-to-face life! How much wiser would we be? How much smarter would our decisions be?-- if we would work and think together in an open source way. 

Thanks for reading. John


Building a network of trust and honored obligation

It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no one can sincerely try to help one another without helping oneself.  Ralph Waldo Emerson


The first lesson of networking is to always give without an expectation. We have all encountered those that take first, never intending to return the favor. Or worse, those that deceive to gain advantage. The news is replete with the con artists, the grifters, the felonious who take advantage of the gullible and the weak. The scandalous and despicable Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme has littered the financial, charitable, and investor community with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of victims. Victims, who through a network of trust, were deceived on so many levels. It is now clear that the biggest victim may be our trust in one another. Every time someone gets burned, deceived, and hoodwinked, one of the candles of trust is blown out and we live in a darker world. Don't some of us have to look in the mirror and ask how much do we have to answer for this misplaced trust? Were we partially blinded by the prospects of extraordinary returns? Avarice and selfishness can be influential accomplices in our mistaken choices. 

Trust is so essential to our lives. It guides us through the traffic intersections, at our babysitters, when we enter our credit card #, and when someone shakes your hand and makes a commitment. We have all been betrayed. And it gives us pause and perhaps makes us each a little more callous and a little less trusting. In the end, you have to write-off, literally and figuratively, these setbacks as aberrations and exceptions. And if you are like me, you trust again. I am a bit of a sucker. And I have many stories where my good faith investments of time and resources were based upon deceit or false hopes. I have endured great disappointment in myself and others. However, these experiences have taught me many things. But being less compassionate has never been one of the lessons. Regrettably, we can become more wary in granting unconditional trust, but we have to recommit ourselves to trusting and believing in human decency and reciprocity. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

The LA Times columnist Tim Rutten reports that, "...every just society is bound by the ties of reciprocal obligation. Each member of the social order owes to every other an equal commitment to the common good." Reciprocity is the most powerful form of networking. Mutual obligation and our connection to the common good is unique to the human race. Alvin Gouldner and other sociologists have reported that "there is no human society that does not subscribe to the expectation of reciprocation." The world re-known anthropologist Richard Leakey agrees: "We are human because our ancestors learned to share their food in an honored network of obligation." Robert Cialdini, noted social psychologist, found in his extensive research that "human societies derive a truly significant competitive advantage from the reciprocity rule." In short, when we need each other, when we depend on one another: we become a stronger community. We have to make frequent and generous deposits into the bank of goodwill knowing that withdrawals can be made when needed.Call it kharma. Call it insurance. Call it the power of we. While we may endorse this concept, and there are reasons to doubt it, wouldn't it be amazing if we all lived this way? 

Madoff exploited this human virtue and damaged our community trust. We are grateful if we were not directly victimized and we reach out and help those who were. It all has to start with our mindset. Giving first. Nurturing our networks. Being true to the common good. And rejecting any violations of reciprocity as violations of our connection to one another. Networking is not a technique to get a job or a favor, it is a way of life that spans all cultures and defines the human species. Investing in our networks strengthens our sense of belonging and our interdependence. Through our ethical commitment to networking, we add more fire to the eternal flame of human trust and shed more light on our common ground. 

Happy Holidays! May the spirit of giving continue to guide and inspire you! Thanks for reading, John