wait and see

Making the Jump

Every day, every fork in the road, every choice we confront, there is a leap of faith we must make or avoid. Little decisions can lead to bigger decisions. If life is a journey then we must take steps to keep moving and jumping can accelerate our quest. Hard to just move faster. We feel we are going at warp speed now, right? Our natural resistance to any change can trigger our lizard brain to move us back from the cliff.  (Pre-historic preference: when confronted, fight, flight, or stand perfectly still and hope it passes) Too often we jump to conclusions instead of to our destinies. We fear change so much and of course, failing, that we are paralyzed. We analyze, we consider, we weigh, and we examine the fine particles stored in our umbilical area :) But we don't act on what we know is right or best for us. I see it everyday. We become prisoners to this analysis and the warm feeling of the status quo. There is no parole hearing to get out of this jail. You have to escape these confines because you want to.  

Skydive jump
Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

I know some of you are already saying soothing things to yourself because you believe you are in control of your life. Hope that is true. Others of you have begun reinforcing the height and width of the walls that incarcerate you. Stop!

Here's the deal. Not asking you to blindly leap to the newish thing without your brain. I am not telling you to use your heart as your only compass (although I think that organ is under utilized) I am saying decide and do! (Avoiding the Nike ad) I am saying Jump!

Jumping from one place to the next is frowned upon by some. And yet the jump to the next level is always admired. Is the next level always up? Really? It isn't. So making the jump from bad habit to good. From a meaningless job to one that fulfills. From a better self to your best self. Jump over the fear of failure and make it happen!

Skydive feet
Me over the north shore of Oahu

I meet so many neurotic professionals who can not surrender to the jump. 

29 year old man who is so smart so gifted so confused. He wants a career. But he is so concerned about appearances, what others think (he would deny this) that he has no room to consider HIS fate. His parents and his "friends" are the shackles that prevent him from jumping. He wants to get married and have children -those things will also wait for his leap. Graduate school? (That omnipresent demon of delay) Career change? Internship? He came to see me and I simply told him to silence all of the voices except his own. Forget what others think. What do YOU think? Make it happen! And  jump!

I have been obsessed with the physical act of jumping since I was a kid. I still like it, even with my bad knees and back. I was in track and field for many years and was a jumper. High, triple and long. I know, I am pretty short but I had decent hops. That's how I met one of my best friends Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the TJ. He's in this video. Love this classic song: JUMP! Makes you want to.......

My career and my life has been a series of jumps. Being ready to jump at opportunities and through fleeting windows of opportunity. That's how I got my present job and how I met my wife.

I have been also plowing through my bucket list and jumping was on it--Parachuting, paragliding, and skydiving--did them all. And then my kids wanted to skydive so I went again last weekend.

After that jump, here's what I wrote to my kids:

We jumped out of a plane! We ignored the possibility of failure to enjoy a thrill, a sense of surrender, a wonder, and a great memory. Life is a series of jumps from different heights and perspectives. We have had many jumps together. Fear is always the enemy. Overcoming it is our single greatest learning and teaching moment. We have had our share of bumpy landings, but here you are. Thanks for letting me experience this moment with all of you. You got a chance to see your grandparents and our parents. They are taking a different jump, with a different set of fears at this point in their lives. They live through you and your jumps. Instead of bracing for impact, how about embracing every moment we have together. How do we brace for enlightenment and love? Here's to many more jumps together! (Not just out of a plane!) Love Dad

Skydive family
Me and my kids

We all went tandem skydiving with an instructor. Because big jumps should not be done alone. Without my partner Sarah, I could not have made any jumps in my life. In fact she did not join us on the skydive, because someone has to be grounded! The point is you need help, support and expertise to make most leaps. So ask for help to build your strength and courage to jump. 

Time is our enemy, to explore what we want and where we are going. We have to help others jump, especially the younger folks around us. To jump to new worlds, new experiences, and new opportunities--to activate a different part of the brain to subordinate our lizard head. Once you jump and learn and grow you get hooked on jumping. 

Every day an opportunity to connect, to mentor, to advance our lives emerges and evaporates. We have to jump on these moments as well. No need to just think about the monster jumps, because the little jumps will lead you there. Get into the habit of jumping on the chances and challenges right in front of you.

Where are you jumping next? And who will you help make their big jump?

Thanks for reading. John


What is Your Realm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hat no cattle.  Big Hat

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

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

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

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

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

Who I am vs What I do?

I am good vs Good I do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOT realm? For the good of your realm!

Thanks for reading. John  


Like what you got to get what you like

People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives. J. Michael Straczynski

How do we take full responsibility for where we are? Embrace what we are doing to get where we need to go. See our current opportunity as the best step to advance our lives and the lives of others.

Put the victim, excuses, entitlement and blame game behind us and power ahead by embracing the present.

Not talking about "hanging in there" or "toughing it out" or certainly not "waiting for something good to come along."

You underestimate what you have and how it can help you advance.

How do we love what we do to do what we love?

What you say to yourself and others becomes who you are. Your story is what connects you to your future and to others.

You attract whatever negative and or positive vibes you give off.

"I hate my job." "I can't wait to get out of here." "I don't believe in what I am doing any more."

It's odd but very frequent when people tell me that they are basically unhappy with their jobs and their lives. By the way, 70% of Americans say they are disengaged from their jobs--70%! (Gallup State of the American Workplace)

People say the darndest things. :) They appear to have little pride in themselves. 

As the Mad Hatter advised Alice at the tea party:

Then you should say what you mean. 

I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.

Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter.

You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!

So say what you mean but mean what you say! And like what you got to get what you like!

You got to embrace your circumstances, your current work, your employer and your life---because it's what you got. And you have to describe what you have by appreciating the positive and making lemonade.

I am not saying to stay at a toxic job. I am not saying to sugar coat your thoughts about your work and to lie about it. I am not talking about blind loyalty. I am speaking of a loyalty and commitment to yourself. This is your job. This is your life. And to the extent you allow your job to define you, you have to own it. 

And your narrative, your storyline, can't be just negative. What you say about your work reflects on you and impacts your buzz and your trajectory.

So many people sound like fugitives to me. They are fleeing something to find something better. They have a foot out the door and are seeking the next thing. They are not in the present but stuck in the past and scheming about the future. They are not in the now. Just finished the New New Thing by Michael Lewis. Your life can't always be about the new new thing but about the now now thing. 

Opportunities seek those that adapt and succeed and make the most out of what they have. 

First of all the pursuit of life driven by passion and meaning can only be partially satisfied by one's professional career. For some fortunate people, work life can generate the bulk of one's life satisfaction. But for many of us we have to adopt a portfolio approach to life. Like your investments you need an allocation strategy to create returns from multiple sources which can "hedge" the others. We need a constellation of interests to feed our great hunger and curiosity for stimulation and meaning. If we place all of our eggs in one basket, place all of our chips on one bet, invest all of our energy into our job, the result is predictably an insufficient life.

Life choicesPeople who are engaged in their lives. Who exude energy, confidence and positivity. These are people who by and large manage a broad and diverse portfolio of interests and activities. Their day job is but one source of their life force.

These are people who are busy, really busy. They make the most of what they have and they always seem in demand.

Get your story straight. What are you doing now that is interesting and engaging? Own where you are regardless of the challenges. Love it. Build on what you have to get to the next step in your plan.

What are you optimizing for?, asks Brian David Johnson, Intel's futurist.  How are you using the present to plan your evolving future? How are you spending your work time and non-work time to provide more stimulation and growth? What is energizing your progress and your momentum now? What skills, knowledge and abilities are you honing?

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus

One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses. Henry Miller

Don't dismiss your life as "Not what I want to do" or "It's just a job" Talk about what's emerging for you. Talk about what you are optimizing for. That will help you and others see your path.

You are going somewhere, right? And this place where you are is the best place to get there--because that's where you are!

Be what you say and say what you are. Appreciate what you have and who you are. And do it with pride and energy. 

Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Thanks for reading. John


Our Barbellion Choices

Each of us must experience one of two pains - the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Which pain will you choose?  Robin Crow

Everything we do is a choice. Either we proactively act or the absence of our actions chooses for us. We want so many things. We act only on a few of them. We think we are lucky and we are. Mostly because we have choices. :) More often than not the luck of great fortune does not drive up to our door, ring the doorbell and present itself on a silver platter. We also want conflicting things. Things which counteract each other. Things that are polar opposites.

A few examples of things I hear every week:

WANT                                                  DON'T WANT

Fast track to the top                                        No overtime or weekend work

Learn more                                                      No more formal education

Entreprenuerial opportunities                        Security of employment

Not stuck behind a desk                                  Hate networking

Wants a mentor                                               No time to mentor others

New adventure                                                Stability

I have hundreds of these pairs. I try not to laugh or make a face when I hear them. I really think I could be at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Funny thing, the people saying these oxymorinic aspirations can't hear the grinding of the goals that are slowing them down if not derailing their progress. They do not realize that they maintain this career dissonance to forestall decisions. Young and old use these competing weights to wittingly or unwittingly hold themselves back.

My absolute favorite: Start-up with a retirement plan. :)

I call this the barbellion syndrome. Heavy weighted goals at either end of a spectrum that make progress overwhelming. They get stuck in their indecisiveness, ambivalence and lack of clarity. Barbell control

We have the capacity to make every decision complex. We play what if scenarios, imagine disasters that await, or accumulate excuses to immobilize ourselves. A pervasive form of self-sabotage. In the end we do nothing.

Until we embrace what we really want, who we really are--we reside in the comfort of "going with the flow." Life happens to us.

Every choice has risk. The more you embrace the risk associated with what you want the sooner you will act. Otherwise live with the regrets and for all of our sake, don't talk about it!

Look you can achieve many things  in your life. You can design and engineer a career that is customized around your needs. You can reach out to others who have done it before and they can show you the ropes and the paths. It is so much easier to lift the weights with others.

There is no gain without pain. The pain of discipline. And the pleasure of defining who you are. The pleasure of minimizing regrets. Because the pain of regret is so much greater. 

Then you will see why helping others lift their weights and avoid the barbellion syndrome of inaction, of worrying, and of letting life pass them by--will help you. 

Defining what you want will give purpose to the weight and pain of the path you choose. But you must choose.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Merry-Go-Round Resolutions

The root of “career” is the Latin “carrus,” meaning “wheeled vehicle” (which is also the source of  the word car).  One French derivative of “carrus” was “carriere,” meaning “racecourse,” and when the noun “career” first appeared in English it meant “racetrack,”  the course of life meaning was a later development.  And the verb career means to go at full speed, perhaps even reckless, not unlike the word careen.  Racetrack

The point is your career is a race around a track where you go round and round to see who wins. You go as fast as you can and then your race ends. Was it fun, worthwhile, did you win?

Makes me wince too--the truth hurts.

To me our race track careers can be more like a Merry-Go-Round. We sit passively on a ride that gives us the false impression of progress and speed. We think we are in control because we we are distracted by the motion, the music and the lights. We can end up going nowhere. Ending up where we began.

Most of us are out of control racers who come around the turn at new year's and make general promises to ourselves and possibly others, we call them resolutions.

I am not a huge fan of new year's resolutions only because people wait for this time of year to make changes in their lives. When we know that change and challenge never waits for the ball to drop in Times Square. Change has to be an organic, inexorable, process of adaptability. (I also feel the same way about birthdays, weekends and summer vacations. Everyday is a chance to change and improve.) However, I do like any excuse to evaluate and reflect upon a time that has passed to commit ourselves to overcoming the gaps in our plans.

How do we avoid making the same general, non-measurable resolutions every year like:

  • Lose weight and exercise more
  • Read more
  • Make more time for a hobby, or start-up business
  • Devote more time to see friends and family

We know these never work. These safe, general, non-committal statements allow us to procrastinate. They are dejavu all over again. Success is not defined. Accountability is avoided. They are nice ideas that will never get traction without goals or milestones.

I always wanted a better life but now I realize I should have been more specific. (I paraphrase Lily Tomlin)

How many pounds by when? How many times a week? What will your resting heartbeat be? What about your BMI? What books, what hobby? And how far will you take your extra-curricular activities. When will you spend time with whom? Who will you help? From whom will you seek help?

Santa-Monica-merry-go-round-720x506Merry-Go-Rounds can give the exhilaration of movement and the delusion of enjoyment, until you realize you have not gone anywhere. 

As Les Brown says, "...then you find out you are behind with your bills and your dreams!"

How do we plan our lives to advance and evolve. Envision and then change, right? Set goals and execute?  Attack weaknesses and man up? 

Is change always about improvement in the future?

Or is it also about avoiding regrets and misery?

Do you respond to a positive vision or to avoiding the negative consequences of inaction? 

Pain or pleasure? Choose.

Is change always adding or is it also subtracting?

Is less sometimes more?

Before you add why not subtract. Maybe getting rid of plans, possessions, and even people will make a difference.

What got you here probably won't get you there. So change is necessary.

Change starts with you and how you envision your future self.

Let's make resolutions that scare us a little bit. Challenge us. Or don't make them at all.

Specify your goals, your timelines, your metrics, your deadlines and hold your self accountable to get off the Merry-Go-Round. 

Devoting more time for others. (Probably only second most popular resolution to weight loss) Needs specificity. Here are a few basic recommendations:

  1. Put these "others" on the top of your to-do list. Make them priorities.
  2. Make a list of the people who you want to reconnect with. Like the list of wines you want to buy or movies to see.....
  3. Schedule your priorities vs. prioritizing your schedule. Set dates and times to meet with, call, e-mail these "others" you supposedly care about.
  4. Set aside time every week to reconnect with someone you know or want to know better. Initiate the contact even if it is "their turn."

You will be the one who benefits from these connections. Yes, you will lead with your help, but you will be the one to reap the rewards of deepening your relationships with others.  

So, stop reflect now and often. Make specific goals for yourself. Hold yourself accountable based on your preferences. Schedule your priorities. These are the rings you are trying to grab to make your ride purposeful and fulfilling. Then your career will get off of the Merry-Go-Round loop and move you down the path.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers

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

 


Driving and Serving Your Passions

My speech from last month: Serve with Passion.

This last week I had three encounters that gave me pause about how we define our lives and our passions. How we define the path we want to be on. People say things to me that influence my own trajectory and I share them here.

ME-Banker

I talked to two young people within two hours of each other about their college applications. Every year I agree to help someone’s offspring with this joyful process. Inevitably, the conversation addresses the proverbial life question: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” These young people have been well coached and they have well-rehearsed and semi-believable answers. These two college aspirants answered the question identically—“I want to be an Investment Banker, an I-Banker.” To which, I replied, “Really, why?” (Noticing this as a new trend among the youth—focus on making money) And they serve up a frothy blend of rationales that they have been fed by their well-meaning parents. A superficial Frappuccino of entrepreneurship, financial upside, and intellectual curiosity. Then I say, “I think you want to be a ME-Banker.” Sounding like a horrible stereotyped native American in some B western. “Doesn’t seem like you want to help others or solve problems, sounds like it is more about you and making money.” (check out the chart I lifted from a serious site promoting the profession of I-Banking) They look puzzled and I say, “Never mind, let’s talk about YOUR education and why YOU want to go to college.”  Whyibanking

Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Is

A quote from Steven Pressfield in his interview with Oprah. Love it! Pressfield is the author of one of my fav books, The War of Art. When will we act on what we say we care about? How do we overcome our obstacles to place a higher priority on our relationships, our health, our communities, and our careers? When do we actually invest ourselves in the process of making a difference vs. wishing we could? When was the last time you planned to change the world, your own world?

Takes courage to listen to our goodness and act on it.  Pablo Casals

I Am No Longer a Passenger, I Am Driving My Life.

Had lunch with a former colleague. She was giving me the usual update on her family and her job. It was like the predictable script that all of us have endured. Like a polite sparring match, no real blows are exchanged. It is nothing like boxing. It is a make believe conversation where no one has fun or gets hurt. We will have our luncheon update until the next exchange of pleasantries. I could not take it. So I blurted out, “Aren’t you due for a career change?” She is my age and has been at the same job for more than 5 years—close to her average tenure. She looked aghast. “I wasn’t going to talk about this…...” She then shifted into a fully engaged, wholehearted discussion of her plan to get more flexibility in her schedule, to move from LA and to plot out her retirement. Recently, she woke up to her mortality and decided that she needed to get behind the steering wheel of her life. She wanted more time for what was important to her. Time was more valuable than the money. Moving would make this possible. “I am no longer a passenger, I am driving my life!”, she exclaimed. Her office was starting the plans for a new 5 year project she would lead. She calculated the ages of her kids and estimated her own enjoyable lifespan and she has been driving ever since.

It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.  Steven Pressfield 

Pur your priorities passions on the top of your to-do list. Your heart and your time would be chief among them. If we taught this to our kids they would be happier and more fulfilled. We gotta move from I-Banker to I-Driver. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Headline: Your World Begins!

We are so obsessed with negativity, with the horrific, with the tragic, and especially with the potential for horrible and threatening endings. The end of the world? The fiscal cliff? Remember Y2K? Or Nostradamus? Yes, it is sensational and fun to discuss. But we tend to see the bad that could happen and that prevents us from the good that could occur. If you are truly realistic about the risks you take, then you would not be afraid. 

I love talking to newish grads who are unemployed or even better, dissatisfied employed people searching for more "meaning in their lives". Both of these groups need to fully assess the risks of their indecision and the risks of their choices. If you do not assert your needs, engage others, and take baby steps or giant strides toward things that you want in your life, please stop complaining.

The risks of inaction are always greater than the risks of action. 

I recently looked at a resume of a person who underestimates his qualities and therefore his dreams. I listened to his story and it was a dry regurgitation of "facts". Clearly uncomfortable telling his less than compelling story that was muddled by his mouth full of humble pie. So I said to him, "Oh so you are a creative person, a person with great interest in aesthetics, and you have adapted to many very different circumstances. You need to use these themes to punctuate your story, your resume and your networking." 

He looked at me and said, "How did you get that?" I just listened and tried to listen for the good not try and pick apart what he delivered. It can be difficult to see the threads of your life to weave your story. You need a confidante or mentor to give you the unfiltered feedback and help you identify the threads.  

Your storyline past, present and future needs to incorporate who you are not what you have done!

Disaster, failure, and the risk of looking stupid are on your mind. It would be really stupid if you do not move your carcass toward your goals and articulate your story this year! Headline

Waiting for New Years? Really? You need an official start date and time when everybody else is doing the same thing? Sorry, I thought I was talking to an individual with ideas, and courage. Mistook you for someone who was going to live with fewer regrets. I hoped you were the person who was going to change things this year.

There is no other time but NOW. 

Tired from all your shopping and eating..........You just need a little down time........ C'mon!

Get Ready: Your World Begins Today! Won't make the headlines but it is certainly a storyline that  should capture your attention. 

No YouTube. No Powerpoint. No Visual Threats. Just the amazing things in your heart and mind that need to be done. 

Focus on the positive and the opportunity and the risks will fade.

Here's what Bassam Tarazi says:

To understand the worst means to write out our real-world worst-case scenario. Not the death, fire, and brimstone stuff we like to make up but that actual worst-case scenario: money lost, opportunities passed up, family we may disappoint. Write it down. Bathe yourself in it. Understand it. Acknowledge it.

Now, write down how you would bounce back from that worst-case scenario. Who would you contact? What skills could you put on display? Where would you have to live? How long could you live off savings? How could you earn money?

Got it? Good. You’ve understood the worst-case scenario, and now you can use the rest of your energies (and there should be a lot of it left) to fight for the best.

Start a conversation with yourself. A real conversation about what is important. Write it down. Document what you are thinking. Look at your resume and at your network and examine the gaps. Start talking about this path of passion or curiosity. Use this new storyline to engage others and seek advice and counsel.

It is your choice: you can see the cliff and the potential fall or take advantage of the glorious view. You can see the clock as winding down or starting up. You can avoid the risks or avoid the regrets.

Yes, the End of the Year nears, but the beginning of your next chapter starts any time you want.

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

 


Overcoming Realism to CHANGE

I was with a bunch of colleagues recently. We were asked to think about the future and new possibilities. Always fascinating and illuminating to hear what others think, how they think, and what gets discussed. It was a tough conversation because the dominant theme became the safe, the certain and the least dangerous. It is so understandable why there is a such a strong gravitational pull in these directions. Hard to take risks in an environment that punishes failure. Difficult to go out of the box when resources and time are scarce. I get it. I really do.

When should we take chances? Assume more risk? Do what we really want to do? Resistance

Some people say the best time to venture out on the limb, tip toe onto the thinner ice, swing for the fences, and go for it---is when they feel safe. Huh?!! Yeah sure it is a lot easier to take a chance when there is little danger.  Make a big bet when the outcome is certain. C'mon, the people who say they are entrepreneurial, they are self-starters and like start-up environments, and they say they love risks. It has become one of the required and now meaningless self professed attributes like computer proficiency, collaborative, results-oriented, and possessing strong communication skills. The only proof of taking chances are evidence of the chances taken. Where you risked losing something. Otherwise you like the safety and certainty of what you have. That's human nature. Most people deceive themselves. Hanging on is their priority. Playing not to lose is very different than playing to win. Being afraid of making mistakes is not the mindset of an entrepreneur or a risk taker.

Talked to a long time colleague who has multiple job offers in this environment. They all will pay him well. He is leaning toward the one option that requires him to work for a start-up, 3000 miles away because it meets his goals to further develop his future marketability. He has always planned to "retire" in 9 years when he turns 50. Why should he abandon his plans if his family is up for it?

This is the difference between leadership and management. Adapting vs surviving. Seeing the possibilities vs the obstacles and dangers. The classic glass half full or half empty syndrome.

More than ever I hear the conforming chants of realism. The admonitions of potential jeopardy. The need for certainty and predictability. Let's be realistic. Let's focus on what is achievable. Let's not waste time on brainstorming. I try not to scream and run out of these rooms. :)

When most people stop innovating, stop brain storming, and stop envisioning their futures, huge opportunities emerge. When there is a traffic jam, some wait and wait--a few break out of the pack and find a way home.

Strange thing about human nature, we tend to seek the status quo and resist change when we have free choice or if we are coerced. If times are good, then we think times will continue to be good and even get better, so we stay the course. And when times are bad and things around us are failing, we tend to hunker down and pull the covers over our heads and hope the clouds pass. Complacency is homeostasis for many. The power of resistance to change can never be underestimated. 

Am I saying that you can never be satisfied and where you are? Am I arguing for a nomadic existence where dissatisfaction is a way of life? Kinda. Of course we have to find the joy in everyday and everything, but I have adopted a view that if you are not obsessive about improving and advancing, you will end your life drowning in dissatisfaction. The evolution of nature, of the marketplaces, of even outer space is inexorable and unstoppable. So what is the argument to stop our own personal progress, development and evolution? How can we justify resisting change?

Unlike nature, the marketplace and space--your time is finite.

Realism erodes and corrupts vision and ambition.  It sucks all of the future out of the work and opportunities.

I have worked with visionaries who have dared to pursue the steep part of the curve when the easy way out was always available. Big ideas, new ideas are easier to pursue when risk is manageable--when  the economy is stronger--when confidence is higher. Those that succeed never think that way.

Here's the rub. There is this nasty consequence to this type of thinking. Opportunity cost. What we lose when we don't think bigger. And who loses. Not just what the risk averse person or organization might gain. Most notable is how the improved benefit to the customer/beneficiary is ignored. This makes me crazy. In the name of self preservation we set aside the reason we exist--our mission. We were established to make people's lives better. Realism tells us we have to accept the status quo and good enough becomes our new goal!

Waiting for any nightmare to end requires us to wake up.

We have to help each other combat the epidemic of realism and resistance. We have to inspire ourselves to pursue our visions for change and fulfillment.

Thanks for reading. John


Reflection, Roses, and Regrets

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

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

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

I will be happier when_________________-.

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

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

My next career development activity is __________________________

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

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

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

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

When you see roses smell them.

Schedule reflection time.

Define your destination(s).

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

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

Kobara's law of priorities-- :)

The unimportant will always attempt to sabotage the important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

 


Waiting for Weekends---TGIF, Hump Day, Monday Morning Blues and other forms of Resistance

These strange cultural anachronistic phrases can prevent us from seeing the opportunities in every week. We make cute little monikers for every other day in the week to make time go by fast and give us wimpy little breathers. It's like we are still in 5th grade staring at the second hand of the clock as it ticks off seconds in slow motion and we crave a snack or a nap to get us through the day. Really?! Breaking time into these little digestible chunks takes our eyes off the prize. We focus on the short sprints instead of the marathon and the finish line.

 I get it, if you are stuck in a hard labor, assembly line, toxic job where you have no intellectual or emotional connection to the meaning or purpose of the work. Somehow, you took a job in some sort of prison camp. :) YOU have to plot your escape plan. I'm talking to the rest of you who put in your exhausting 40 hours a week (national average is closer to 35) as a runway for the weekend or evening pursuits. :) And then of course, Mondays and Fridays are the most frequent "sick" days. They still recommend that you avoid purchasing cars made on those days!Weekend So a three day work week for a four day weekend.

I see tremendous waste in talent and potential everyday. People who say they want to excel in their lives but who have erected so many barriers to their own success. Yes, they sabotage themselves! One of the greatest psychological syndromes that we impose on ourselves is our perception of the work week and weekends--How we view time. We inherited or invented rules and mythology about these artificial time lines. Times when we "work" and times when we "rest" and times when we "play". The irony is we know these distinctions do not make sense. We know that life and work get intertwined and interlaced whether we like it or not. We can't turn off our brains or put parental locks on certain of life's channels. You can't compartmentalize your life--"weekends are for me" or "once I leave the office I stop thinking about my career." These are ridiculous ideas if we care about your work and you have ideas about our contribution to the world. Because life happens. Or as the the Southwest flight attendant said, "Be careful when opening the overhead bins, because shift happens." It takes relentless pursuit to catch our dreams. And the clock ticks on..... Photo-clock14

Some of you have heard me rant about the fallacies of a well-balanced life and that we need to pursue a well-lopsided one!

Your minimal 40 hours of work is out of a possible 168 hours a week. If I give you 8 hours of sleep and 4.5 hours of free time everyday. That still leaves you with another full work week!

Yogi Berra said, You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left. 

I know some of you moonlight, go to school, pursue your "art", work at non-profits. Fewer of you have set goals and milestones that will define your life--places to see, experiences to attempt etc. But most of you get arrested by the powerful gravitational pull of the couch! Author Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance. Resistance or friction in your life that impedes the development of your uniqueness and greatness. Some of you smirk or roll your eyes. But your life is different and whether you want to admit it or not you have very tangible and special ideas about you future. Your legacy is still being written.

I met a guy on the golf course who told me he would play 3000 rounds of golf before he died. At first this doesn't sound like much. Do the math. He is 62 and he already racked up 500 rounds. So if he plays until he is 75, he has 13 years of golf left. If he plays 4.5 times a week almost every week he barely makes it! Once you start quantifying your goals into years, months and weeks, I know you will view time and Mondays and Fridays differently.

Once I came to these conclusions about time, I re-arranged my whole life about 20 years ago. The difference between Mondays and Fridays melted into days, just days. I started waking up earlier on weekends, earlier than I did for work at that time. I realized how precious time was. I put in more time into every phase of my life. But especially into my career. I realized how I could be more exasperated with myself and others if I did not make more progress towards my goals. Goals that got re-defined by what I valued, enjoyed and loved. That's how I came up with my Download SWIVEL_new_2009 document to help people prioritize these goals.

I must tell you that once I came to this epiphany about time. That I was the master of my time. I am more satisfied and fulfilled with what I am doing and the progress I am making. I am more engaged and focused on who I am and where I am going. And I am told, I am more pleasant to be around. :)

My mother used to say every morning, "Let's get going. Your life is wasting away!" Like so many pieces of advice I was given as a child, I now understand these words.

As Coach Wooden said so well, "Make everyday your masterpiece." And he was definitely talking about weekends too!

Thanks for reading and for your time. John


To What Do You Give Your Intention and Attention?

Had the great fortune of attending a terrific workshop on the principles of grant making, the art and science of giving away money from foundations. I know it sounds like an easy and enviable job, but much harder than you think. Anyway, had the pleasure of being trained by Bob Long, former VP of the Kellogg Foundation and Ken Gladish, former national president of the YMCA and president of the Austin Community Foundation. Both are faculty at the Grantmaking School. (Yes there is a graduate level school dedicated to this work!)

Over time I have learned that all "best practices" for effective work,  regardless of sector or industry share the same basic principles. And that these principles are often wonderful guides for your life, your career development, and your relationships.

Bob introduced us to the concepts of Intention and Attention.

  • Intention--What are/were you intending to do? i.e. Goal

  • Attention--What are you paying attention to given that intention? i.e. Measures of progress

Remember, he was talking about grants from foundations. And the point was to articulate your grant making goal and identify measures of progress. Then constantly remind yourself of that intention and those measures. Why? Because we digress, we drift, we lose focus. Like right now when your mind is wandering, finish reading my blog! :) In non-profit work we often refer to this as "mission drift". Straying from your goal AND from what you are good at. You can see the broader applicability of these ideas already.

Coach John Wooden's used the word Intentness. It was a word he made up, always apologized for this by the way, and it resides in his Pyramid of Success. The Coach taught us all that paying attention to your intentions leads us to the actions that determine success in everything we undertake.

Take these very simple and important questions and apply them to your life, your job, and your career. Apply them to your faith, your volunteer work, and your hobbies.

What is your intention? And what are you paying attention to to see that you are making progress toward your intention?

Please do not say, "I am just trying to enjoy what I do and see what happens." Because you think you are either lucky or lazy? You may be niether. As I have opined, a Wait and See strategy is the certain path to disaster.

Don't be confused. What's nice about the word intention is it is what you want and hope for. It is as macro or as micro as you desire. It is personalized and customized to you. It is as ambitious and achievable as you want. To be ambitious you need ambition.

Here's the kicker. When you have clear or clearer intentions, to which you are paying attention, you will attract opportunities and people. The gravitational pull of commonalities is powerful. Not always positive though. Negative intentions are just as sticky as the positive ones. You saw the studies of obese people and the likelihood they are connected to other obese people. Smokers too. Aimless, goal less, ambitionless people also connect and friend each other. Why hang out with people that are the same as you if you are lost or unhappy? Your network spirals up or down depending on your intentions and actions.

I am constantly monitoring my kids' friends. I love the diversity of interests and backgrounds they represent. But I watch for too much group think/peer pressure about school or courses. I want my kids to always be exposed to smarter, more ambitious, harder working people. Not everyone they know, that would be irresponsible and ineffective. But enough exposure to see different intentions and paths through their own experiences and contacts, not because their sage father says so.

And such is life, your intentions and attentions determine your networks and ultimately your mentors. The Buddhist saying applies, When the student is ready, the teacher appears. No way your teacher/mentor will appear with out clear intentions.

Your conversations, engagements, and encounters are greatly influenced by what you focused on. Without these concepts mentoring and networking are non-substantive and frustrating exercises.

What is your intention today? Tomorrow? And are you paying attention to your progress?

Thanks for 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