wonder

Random Acts of Progress and the Drunkard's Walk

We unfortunately seem to be unconsciously biased against those in society who come out on top or the bottom. When we assess the world, we tend to see what we expect to see. We can equate degree of success with degree of talent and reinforce our conclusions of causality by noting the correlation. The worst type of confirmation bias. The " I wish more people worked hard, as I have"--myopic self-deception. In reality there is often little difference in ability/talent between the "successful" and the "unsuccessful". The biggest difference is how randomness impacted the outcomes and opportunities. 

In Leonard Mlodinow's insightful book: The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, he asserts how things that appear linear, cause and effect, and intentional, all the way down to the molecular level are random.

Whoa, I can feel I pushed your doubt buttons! Fair enough. But let me explain and allow some randomness to influence your thinking oh reader of great certainty ;)

The random motion of molecules in a fluid can be viewed as a metaphor for our own paths through life, and so it is worthwhile to take a little time to give Einstein’s work a closer look. According to the atomic picture, the fundamental motion of water molecules is chaotic. The molecules fly first this way, then that, moving in a straight line only until deflected by an encounter with one of their sisters. This type of path—in which at various points the direction changes randomly—is often called a drunkard’s walk, for reasons obvious to anyone who has ever enjoyed a few too many martinis (more sober mathematicians and scientists sometimes call it a random walk). If particles that float in a liquid are, as atomic theory predicts, constantly and randomly bombarded by the molecules of the liquid, one might expect them to jiggle this way and that owing to the collisions.

So many things we do are impacted by things we don't do and that sets us on a course--or a walk if you will. Things are always colliding with our direction and ideas and once in a while we see them or pay attention to them. We can take credit for these momentary and intermittent flashes of awareness. Our brains want to simplify the timeline so that we can take or give credit or issue blame.

Phone-whale_3188738b

Your place of birth, your parents, your health, your general DNA allocation was random. Even if you think that there was divine intervention or a pre-conceived destiny, there was a huge component of randomness that derived your 23 chromosomes. And all of the "decisions" you made or were made for you. 

What if I didn't accept my mentor's advice that led to a new career? Talked to that stranger who I married and have three kids with? Made that turn, or went to that event, or went on that date, or said yes, instead of no, or wore the red tie, or had Mexican instead of Italian...... Do you really know what would have could have happened? What we pay attention to makes a difference. 

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

What we do know is not everyone is born into the same randomness, contexts for chance, opportunities for choice. There is great inequity in the sets of randomness we inherit. We all know the story of the immigrant who overcomes obstacles to become a billionaire. Or a blind singer who becomes a record breaking star. And if we are not careful we believe that random opportunity is out there for every immigrant or disabled person. 

We know the randomness at Exeter is different than at East LA Community College. The different molecules that are bombarding off of you will create different drunkard's walks. 

I don't think you can be deliberate about shaping your course forward because you then end up somewhere completely stale and expected.  

I think a lot about this relationship between cynicism and hope. And critical thinking without hope is cynicism. But hope without critical thinking is naïveté. Maria Popova

So I try to reside between the two to try to build a bridge, because blaming others and feeling hopeless about changing our course generates a feeling of futility. Then cynicism rises up to provide a false sense of protection while our dreams evaporate. We can restore our hope and energy by moving forward even if we are stumbling and failing along the way. 

But on the other hand, believing blindly that everything will work out just fine also produces a kind of resignation because we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. And I think in order to survive, both as individuals and as a civilization, but especially in order to thrive, we need to bridge critical thinking with hope."

What appears random or "lucky" was usually right in front of you. You know when you think of something and then it appears everywhere--not talking about Google's algorithms :) Or the so-called Law of Attraction. But it is true when you think and discuss your needs your bucket list, your dream job, yes things "appear"

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Paolo Coelho

So two huge lessons I have learned. Help those with fewer choices and chances see the periphery, see the molecules around them, help them to allow life to happen and divert them from their unsatisfying pursuit of happiness.

Listen to your heart. Open your eyes. Let the paths that are there surround you and reveal themselves.

And for those with fewer chances and choices, those who are more bombarded by the molecules lower on Maslow's, help them have a better chance to see the molecules that are foreign and strange. Guide them to a space where they can see themselves. Where there is sufficiency of opportunity. Not a crutch but a helping hand to give them perspective.

Why? Because we need all of the talent we have to blossom. We desperately need more people to find what they want and to be less oppressed by what others expect. 

Randomness enables us to express things we did not know we had or wanted. Randomness awakens the genius in each of us. Randomness is the way of nature.

Not ignoring reality and responsibility, but being more aware of what interests us, taking chances, and eliminating regrets before they happen. 

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

Life just appears before you. Choices, chances. Too often we try to take credit for what is and we forget how we got there. All of the advice, education, mistakes, mentoring, role models, and yes luck, should take a rear seat to our false and unfounded control over our destinies. 

Yes being focused helps immensely. Yes being planful is also very useful. But what are you missing while you plan? Is your plan and laser-like attention creating a myopia that ignores amazing opportunities or revelations.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Emerson

Random acts of kindness and progress. Allowing the molecules of randomness push us on our own drunkard's walk and discover new people and places. 

Judy Rupp's excerpt from Old maps don't work

It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Thermodynamic Networking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is real energy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

  


Parallel Parenting and Our Tattoos

I would rather talk about people's politics or religion than their parenting. When I see, hear, and discuss people's theories about parenting, I have to take a large dose of chill pills. We all know that there any many roads to a destination and no one parenting method assures success. Believe me I am no expert. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Doing it well requires all of your abilities. But the differences in theory, practice, and outcomes are enormous. What manifests is the parents upbringing and values and often less about the uniqueness of their children. Because there is this little thing that needs to be accounted for----The DNA of the child! Once you recognize and understand these differences, you become focused on them, not your expectations. Sorry to digress into a much bigger topic but what I have learned that parenting, like most of life, is about others not me. When I remind myself that I am the student not the teacher--that is when I have grown as a parent, as a mentor, and as a human being.  Philanthropy

There are thousands of examples where the children mentor the parents, if the parents are open to learning. This has been dubbed by some parallel learning--where the students start teaching each other to deepen learning. And formal and informal programs which help parents and students learn together to strengthen each other. This is very prominent in new immigrant families where the kids, often very young kids, guide their parents through the maze of American life. The kids assimilate, learn the language and then teach and mentor their parents to assimilate as well. Parallel learning is part of life, if we embrace the opportunities. If we are open to being mentored from anyone anywhere, then your kids, all kids, will teach you. If only to reacquaint ourselves with joy and wonder! So the potential for parallel learning, mentoring and parenting exists all around us. As I have discussed here mentoring always benefits the mentor more than the mentee. Once you know that, your design and goals for any mentoring opportunity gets altered.

Our parents can show us a lot of things: they can show us how we are to be and what things we ought to strive for, or they can show us how not to be and what things we ought to stray from, then you may have the kind of parents that show you all the things about you that you want to get rid of and you realize those traits aren't yours at all but are merely your parents' marks that have rubbed off onto you. C. Joybell C.

What marks have influenced you and others? How about tattoos?

For the last several years I have been observing how selected tattoo removal programs are transforming the lives of former gang members. Forty years ago, my first work was as a volunteer counselor in the California Youth Authority and I have gravitated to this work with at-risk youth over my career.  Stay with me. 

I have been pushing for an increase in the capacity of tattoo removal resources as part of the pioneering work of the Gang Reduction Youth Development work in the City of LA. What I saw and learned is that the removal of tattoos which can take between 6-10 painful sessions, is part of a spirtual and emotional healing for these former gang members. Literally a removal of layers of their past that reinforces their commitment to change. These tattoo removal sessions are an external cleansing that clarifies the identity of the person inside and propels them forward. 

Tattoo removalI recently witnessed the removal of prison tattoos on the hands of a young man. I watched with protective eye wear as the nurse bearing down on the laser gun within a half of inch of one of his hands burned off the ink. He said he did not hurt, but I watched his feet curl up after each segment was completed. The nurse said we should be done in 6 more sessions. He asked, "For each hand?!!"  Yes. she calmly said. That translates to 12 sessions because they can only work on one hand at a time. So this 20 something year old told me he has got to "straighten out" his life. "I have to get a job and no one will hire me if I have these"--showing me his hands. I asked what brought about this desire to change. He smiled and said sincerely, "I have a 2 year old daughter now. And I have to do right by her."

Despite all of the stereotypical and tragic stories, here is a father who woke up and is changing himself to be a better parent. But who changed whom? His daughter started asking questions about his hands and then he started to ask questions. And questions about who we are and what are we doing can sometimes disturb the tectonic plates and the ground opens up and a new world emerges.

Not sure how this story will end, but it has a new beginning. One where the parent is more self aware of his looks and behavior. He will be a better father. She will gain his attention and time. Will he stick with it? He has 12 sessions left. I was convinced he will. Once you hear and see and experience hope, it empowers you--especially when you can see thate future in the eyes of your  2 year old.

Talking to the case workers, they told me me that taking the kids to school, the perceptions of other parents and the friends of their kids also weighed in. 

We all want the same things. To fit in. To raise good kids. To leave a legacy.

All of us have tattoos we need to remove, that hold us back. But few of us will go through the pain and inconvenience of going under life's laser.

Are we open to learn from our kids? To engage in parallel mentoring? Who do we influence and who COULD influence us? 

 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


Gluten-Free Alumni Network

I recently attended an informal and delightful gathering of my former colleagues from my previous life as an alumni director at UCLA. It had been about 15 years since we had all seen each other. I learned early in each of my careers: seek out the influencers, the leaders, and the potential mentors in the industry. Connect with the people who will facilitate your education in that field. Alumni work was no different. I found a group of remarkable mentors. These gentlemen continue to be industry thought leaders and helped me define my life beyond my stint in alumni work.

Eustace Theodore at Yale: He taught the importance of understanding your institution's history. He characterized alumni work as continuing a great conversation.

Steve Grafton at Michigan: He taught me that nice guys do finish first. And how to honor traditions and evolve beyond them.

Bill Stone at Stanford: Bill mentored me in many ways, but the value of the words we use to articulate mission may be the most lesson. He also told me, “never have people who make less than you on your compensation committee.” :)

Doug Dibbert at North Carolina: Generously shared his wisdom with me. He humbled me to enjoy the journey more than my career aspirations. Sage advice.

Photo
Doug, me, Steve, Bill and Eustace

 

We ended up meeting up at Roy’s Restaurant in San Francisco where Bill’s wife Debbie Duncan joined us. I opened the menu and saw that they had a gluten free menu. We have recently come to expect this offering as we have become hyper aware of food allergies and celiac in particular. This menu triggered a conversation about Debbie’s gluten allergies, and the precision or the lack thereof, with these “gluten-free” offerings. She warned us that relying on the special menu needs to be accompanied with instructions to the kitchen to insure a more gluten free meal. For those with an intolerance for wheat, gluten can be dangerous.

This reminded us of a story about Bill and Debbie’s daughter Molly. Molly has endured gluten allergies her entire life.

Gluten freeMore than 20 years ago, when celiac and gluten were not in our vocabulary, Bill was commiserating with me about the fate of his daughter Molly. Molly was very sick, not able to eat and was dangerously losing weight. He was a bit emotional, and I could tell that he feared the worse. He asked for my help.

The week before I was at a picnic with some UCLA alumni and a couple of parents were talking about their daughter and how she was not able to eat and lost a lot of weight. They found out that she had “a wheat intolerance”. Once they removed wheat products from her diet she gained weight and was back to normal. I saw her little daughter running around the park as proof of what seemed like a minor miracle to these parents. Never heard of anything like it before.

Back to my distressing conversation with Bill about his “emaciated” daughter Molly. I said, “Bill, I heard about this ailment of “wheat intolerance” over the weekend. I am just repeating what I heard but it sounds strangely like what Molly has.” Bill was desperate to give the stumped Stanford Medical Center team any new leads. “I am going to tell them to check it out.”

Long story short, it was “wheat intolerance”. Today, Molly is a “perfectly healthy” 23 year old.

Debbie turned to me during our dinner, “You saved her life.”

Soon after Molly’s diagnosis, Debbie wrote a MY TURN column in Newsweek entitled, “What’s wrong with my baby?” This was one of the beginnings of the awareness of celiac and the seriousness of gluten allergies. She later wrote a best selling book to help siblings cope with an ailing brother or sister--When Molly was in the Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children.

I did what any friend would do. Tried to help with anything I had—even a bit of well-timed hearsay.

The lesson for me is to speak up and share what I know. Lead by helping people. Connect prople to other experts. Don’t pre-judge what you know or what others know. As Debbie pointedly described in her column, it was hard to believe that the battery of tests conducted at Stanford did not uncover the allergy.

My little water drop of seemingly innocuous advice was one of the many influences to push Debbie to write and help thousands of others---perhaps thousands of Mollys. Ocean drop

I am constantly reminded how much people help me with insights and “obvious” advice. How I try to help others with the same. Very little is universally understood and most people are unaware of where they need help.

I am constantly amazed when people write me or mention words I said that made a difference to them.

When your network asks for help you respond. You give and give generously without expectation.

Say what you are thinking, don’t hesitate. Yes, try to package it in a way that is digestible and palatable. But share what you know and what you see. This is how we help each other.

It could save or change a life. One thing is certain, it will change yours.

Thanks for reading. John


The Wisdom of 10 Year Olds

Pretty much all of the honest truth telling in the world is done by children. Oliver Wendell Holmes

If you have been around young people, especially those 10 and under, you know that profound things emerge from their brains and their mouths. If you let them. If you listen. Their minds have few if any filters. They speak what they think. Political correctness be damned. They know no such rules. Their thoughts are pure and real.

I always love talking to young people, because I try and remember what it would be like to be that free and open. 

Here are two random and indeed, profound thoughts I have encountered from two 10 year olds I know:

My daughter Malia just graduated from college, with honors I might add. (fortunately for her, intelligence skips generations!) But when she was 10 she wrote this poem for her gymnastics coach Zak. While I was a bit jealous of Zak, I love this timeless expression of her youthful life that may resonate with you. Wisdom beyond her years. Not because she was bright but because she was free.

Road of Life

By   Malia Kobara   Dedicated to Zak

 

Life is like a road

It just goes on and on

The loose pebbles

They are your mistakes

They make the journey rough

The hills …

The hills are your pleasures

You must work up to them

Before taking the joyous ride down

And the turns

Those mysterious turns

They are tomorrow and you

Yes, you decide what happens that next day

And after all these years on this road of life

I hope you know…

Your path can lead you anywhere

 

The second 10 year old is Caine of Caines Arcade fame. What I love about Caine is he is still a kid! Please watch this incredible video about the impact he has made as a rising 5th grader!

Coming back from his speaking engagement in Cannes France, he wrote these rules of life on a barf bag. Rules I suggest apply to all of us.

  1. Be nice to customers.
  2. Do a business that is fun.
  3. Do not give up. (Caine circled and underlined this one three times)
  4. Start with what you have.
  5. Use recycled stuff.

Caines Barf BagInside of each us is a free 10 year old who can express his/her emotions and ideas without fearing judgment. How do we re-kindle that creative, energetic spirit, that sense of freedom?

We have to!

We have to help others unlock their possibilities.

That is why we network and mentor. To help others write their poetry, their ideas, and to help them pursue their dreams. 

The key to unlocking this potential is by listening to our hearts and the hearts of others. When we speak and hear others speak passionately and freely we have to encourage it. Not apply our expectations or the expectations of others, but to find an outlet for that expression. We have to let others become who they are.

We see this pure expression in our kids. Maybe we all should learn from the wisdom of 10 year olds. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


A Life of Internships

I think experiential learning is the most important and meaningful form of education. In my humble opinion learning by doing has no peer. The idea of internships may be at least 150 years old. Its origins really come from the medical profession where docs in training learn, under expert supervision, about the body and the various disciplines--to understand the whole of medicine and in part to select a specialty. I love this as an metaphor for life and careers--Continuous education about the "body" of your work and your life. A process to adapt, morph, and sharpen your understanding of what you want and the whole of who you are becoming. 

For students in school, internships may be more important than any elective. A student who graduates without experience: volunteer, internship, apprenticeship, or work is at a serious disadvantage. But more important, the student--now just an alum--has not learned about what they want. One's career development can not come from a book or even a blog for that matter. :)

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.  Confucious

For students of life ( that would be everyone!) the concept of internships has to be adopted as a part of your life. Shorter stints that stimulate your intellectual and spiritual self. Internships are "test drives", career dress rehearsals, due diligence with experiences.

So internships have been elevated to a new level. They enjoy a new popularity and status amongst people who left the ivy covered halls decades ago. Now there is even a movie coming out this summer about this! Why? Simply put, people are trying to adapt. Trying to figure out what they are going to do next. They lack the experience in a field that appeals to them. But this movie and the popularity of internships are too often thought of as an emergency oriented intervention. A drastic last resort step that requires sacrifice and risk to reboot a career. While that can and does work, internships are most effective as a mindset. An open mindset of learning, seeking experiences, and for mentorships. Testing new ideas, interests and embracing failure. 

One of my major gripes is the linear nature of people's approach to education, career development.... There are steps, there is myopia, there is a focus that ultimately ends the same way--too many eggs in the same narrow basket of experience. Wow, is that risky!

How do you become multi-talented, multi-facted? How do you invest in your career to make it more recession proof? More resilient to change, turbulence, and downturns? No financial portfolio that intends to grow and survive is invested in one thing. You need growth opportunities, and less risky investments that "hedge" the downside. You need international and domestic. You need large cap and small cap. The same applies to a career. Silly to rely on a single job to sustain your development.  

Every good job is an temporary assignment that is an adventure, a seminar and is fulfilling. Dick Bolles 

I think life is an internship, many internships. You enroll in internships to continue to grow, experiment, and learn. Your job is your core internship. Your hobby is an internship. Your start-up on the side is an internship. Your volunteer work is an internship. 

Your approach to all of your internships is the same. Who will mentor/teach me? What do I want to learn? What will make this experience meaningful to me? 

If we understand the truth that nothing is permanent. That our expertise is perishable. That our connection to our evolving personal, spiritual, financial, and professional needs needs to be dynamic. Then we realize that doing our job will predictably and inevitably lead to dissatisfaction and worse--the inability to transition to other worlds. This always makes the whole of life less rewarding. So how will you change this outcome? 

Fish out of water
Courtesy of Start-Up You

Throughout my career (of internships) I have worked with and met many people who have used internships well. A few examples:

  • 24 year old employee who asked to do "extra work" at a school mentoring project I was managing. This was an internship added onto her job.  She wanted experience with "education". Today she is a principal of a school.
  • 48 year old consultant with an MBA who interns to use his expertise to help non-profits become more sustainable. 
  • 30 year old lawyer who wanted to go into marketing and volunteered for the marketing committee of her favorite charity. Today she is the head of marketing at a telcom company.

They came to the realization that there current "portfolios" were inadequate. They needed to branch out. They had to diversify.

Here's the kicker, internships super charge your network. New colleagues are a new network. While you should invest in reinvigorating and deepening your network at your job, having a constellation of mentors and networks has gigantic advantages.

So I am advocating that you evaluate your current opportunities for internships. Follow your heart and find intentional experiential assignments both in your job and outside that will deepen your understanding of the body of your work and life.  

Thanks for reading. John


Avoid Career Alzheimers--Reconnect to Your Purpose

Through luck, fate and my own assertiveness, I meet incredible leaders and people who have achieved success. In these encounters they have said things that have altered my life. They have mentored me. Things I adopted as models for my own trajectory and just as often, things that frightened me. I have learned as much from those I want to emulate as from those I want to not be like. Just as in art you gravitate to the positive spaces because of the negative spaces. People's lives have become my yin and yang of life. Yin yang

Here are several of my favorite true encounters (some details were altered to protect the innocent):

  • After losing the vote to become Prime Minister of his country, he was stripped of his executive privileges, "How in the @&!# did I think I could run this country, I didn't even know what it costs to park in my building." 
  • 6 months before he was fired, this prominent Div 1 coach said to me, "I don't have time to go to practices as much as I should." 
  • After declaring bankruptcy, this owner of a chain of restaurants told me, "It had been a long time since I had eaten at one of my restaurants." 
  • A colleague of mine worked for a hyper wealthy family and was seeking permission to spend $100,000. She was told, "Why are we wasting time on this? I made this much money in the time we have been talking."

"Success" can breed an over confidence that can ironically lead to an utter disconnection from the very work and people that generated the success. That form of arrogance almost always leads to disaster.

Every week I meet executives and managers who have early onset of what I call Career Alzheimers. These are people who are getting tired (not necessarily old!) of their work. Yes, we all want less hassle, fewer people issues, and more theoretical work. Here's the rub. Once you lose connection with the customer (not the data), the staff (not the metrics), the community (not the view from your office), you have lost your way. You have Career Alzheimers!

Here's my mythical wikipedia post for Career Alzheimers:

Career Alzheimers (CA) is a common form of professional dementia. It worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to career termination. Although Career Alzheimers develops differently for every individual, there are many common symptoms. Early symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be 'age-related'. In the early stages, the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering what they love about their job. When CA is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with telltale statements that rely too heavily on abstract concepts, theories, and metrics demonstrating a growing disconnection from real things and people. Some show confusion, irritability, mood swings, trouble with language, especially concerning their passion for their work. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw further and further from the day to day work, from colleagues and from the society. Gradually, these conditions worsen often leading to end of career. Since the disease is different for each individual, predicting how it will affect the person is difficult. CA develops for an unknown and variable amount of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. The cause and progression of CA are not well understood. My unscientific research indicates that the disease is associated with the increasing depersonalization of the success metrics of work. Fortunately, CA is curable. Self awareness is the first step and then to seek mentoring help to confirm the disorder and treatment. Treatment is simple—take steps to humanize your work. Get out of your office. Get tactile, visceral, palpable stories about the solutions you are providing, unmet need, nuances and challenges of the execution of the work your department/team/company does. Regular doses of the humanity of your work will immediately combat CA and can keep it from reoccurring. 

I love that Warren Buffett drives his own car and talks to his shareholders and people in general. He may be elderly but he is still grounded to the basics of what makes him a success. He will never have CA!

Carve out more time to meet with the beneficiaries of your work. Make scheduled and unscheduled visits to partners, customers, offices, and even competitors. It will shift your perspective every single time. It will energize you! It will trigger a small and sometimes large reminder of the purpose of your work that too often gets boiled down to a "bottomline" that has sucked all of the humanity out of our existence. Yes, we need to measure things, but we also have to remember the measure of our purpose. 

Self diagnose. Ask people you trust. Early signs? Late stages? Re-engage or retire--and find something new to reinvigorate you. Never too late. You hold the cure. 

Thanks for reading. John 


When? Calendar your Connections and Schedule your Priorities

If you are anything like me, if it is not on the calendar of life it does not exist.

After you have decided why you want to do something and what you want to do---the question is always when? Now Later

I calendar reminders to call/e-mail people that are on the top of my list. Most are once a month until forever. It pushes me to take an action versus waiting for the "free time" moment that never comes. 

People always ask me for "tips", quick strategies, easy fixes, three easy steps to a better life through networking and mentoring. Of course, they don't use these exact words but in our short attention span theatres where an extra nano-second starts our minds to wander--we want instant gratification and success. Clearly this is a very dangerous mode--impatient, get to the point, give me the answer--mindset that can be the ruination of relationships--the heart and soul of networking and mentoring. Not going to lecture you on the power and wisdom of attention, presence, and smelling the roses. We all are well aware of how much of life, the density, complexity, the magic, the wonder we miss everday. 

KayakHere is a "tip" that will hopefully slow your turbo kayak down. In the rushing river of life, we tend to focus on the rapids and not on the scent in the air, the clarity of the water or the scenery. Parts of the shoreline beckon but we ignore them because we are too busy fighting the river alone.

Using our attention to be intentional.

Think about how many times you experience the following:

  • You encounter an old friend, a former colleague and they say, "Let's get together."
  • You get an e-mail/FB friend or Linkedin request from someone you don't see any more and they say, "Love to see you soon."
  • A friend of yours says we should walk, play golf, have dinner more often.

More often than not WE go into auto pilot/robot brain and respond with meaningless words like "Sure" or "That would be great" or "Let's do it", words that mean nothing to you or the recipient because there is no When!

When someone you just met or want to see again or someone new or known offers you an opportunity to connect--you pull out your trusty iPhone or blackberry and you say--What's convenient for you? Let's book something now.

There is no other time but NOW. There was a past NOW and there will be a future NOW. Eckart Tolle

When is the key here? Otherwise the real answer becomes the day after never. :)

Schedule your priorities. Schedule your connections. Put it into your calendar.

If it is not on the calendar of life then it does not exist.

Let's have lunch   When?

We should catch up   When?

Love to see you more   When?

Two things happen when you practice this. 1. You book a tentative date. 2. The other robot wakes up and realizes what words have fallen out of his mouth and makes an instant excuse by saying something like "Let me get back to you, I'm really busy.... :)

This is especially entertaining when someone is trying to impress you and unconsciously makes an offer to hook you up with special treatment, access to something, some VIP deal... you know what I am talking about. If you say to them, love to take you up on that, when can I talk to you about specifics? I do this almost every time a "big shot" says "love to host you at my club (golf-and a course I want to play)". I shoot back, "I always wanted to play there, what dates work for you?"

I am all for serendipity and spontaneity, but the next step has to get onto a calendar.

Force yourself to schedule things that are important to you. Don't let important people, opportunities and priorities watch you pass by as you are busily fighting the river.

I guarantee you these new scheduled connections will provide you with incalculable benefits.

Stop prioritizing your schedule. Schedule your priorities. When will your  calendar reflect your priorities?

Thanks for reading. John

 PS: When could stand for Why Humans Evade Networking. 

 


Develop Yourself by Exposing Your Film

Heard advice for 3rd graders and new retirees from two different leaders. Funny thing it was almost identical advice. 

What do 8year olds and senior citizens have in common? A lot. They both are at important junctures in their lives. 

At least that is what Robin Petgrave and Robert Emmons told me and others this week. Robin gives his time and talent to a non-profit called Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton. And Robert is "retired" and has become a spokesperson to encourage senior citizens to make the most of their encore years. 

Robin said, "Kids are like good film, they just need exposure and beautiful things develop." Then he turned to a bunch of school children and said, "Don't think about a job, stay curious and think about stuff you love to do. And I guarantee you can find a way to be paid for doing it. I did."   Camera and film

Robin is a trained helicopter pilot and today he teaches elementary school children how to fly. Yes, fly planes . Some of them as young as 6 years old! He teaches these kids discipline, the science of flying and the history of aviation along the way. He is an incredible example of a person who is using his skills and talents to do good. His passion and his compassion are contagious. But most of all he now runs a very successful program that is literally and figuratively helping at-risk kids reach for the stars. 

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.  Aldous Huxley

Robert is an accomplished businessman and consultant. He has become a published poet and successful sculptor. He has written a number of books in his "retirement", to help others make the most of their retirements. 

He said, "Now is the time (retirement) for what you really care about. Remain curious. Great accomplishments are the product of great passion. If you do not have a passion, find one. Reinvent yourself. Align yourself with something you care about, something that stirs the passions within, something that will embolden and enhance your senior years. Make a mind shift that focuses on the possibilities for a better life." 

The only way to develop your life is through exposure. Exposure to ideas, causes, and concepts that inspire. Exposure to the people who shift your perspective and make you think. 

You will have many new starts in your life. Many new chapters. All of these are chances to re-imagine your path and reinvent yourself.

No matter what age you are. No matter what stage of your life. The advice is aways the same: Stay curious and pursue your passions. Philanthropy

Retirees are like older film that need new exposure to develop a new life.

It never ends. The answers are never easy. It has nothing to do with luck. You have to pursue who you truly are. So the journey is a self discovery of who you are, what you love doing, what defines you, what your talents and strengths are. External stimuli trigger these discoveries. People stimulate the triggers. True living only comes when one takes chances on oneself to become their best authentic self. It would be much easier to live a life that "happens". You take what comes to you. A life of passion and fulfillment is the opposite, you chase it. You hunt it down. You stalk your passion and purpose. 

So many people think that their dreams will emerge magically through their computer. By sitting at their desk and  fool themselves into thinking that they are trying hard. Life will not come to you, you have to go out and grab it.

 The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it keep looking. Don't settle. Steve Jobs

Meeting people like Robin and Robert remind me that I must continue on the infinite path of finding the ways I can contribute, help others, and engage my gifts. That my age and stage are just different versions of the same question: What am I going to do with my life? I must remain curious and open to new things if I want to reinvent myself. While passion will define what I do and who I am. I must seek it and always engage the people around me to help me find it.

Quit worrying about the age or quality of your film. Expose it to the things that matter and amazing things will develop.

Thanks for reading. John

The One Percent/Degree Solution

Most of us work so hard. We are engaged with our lives and our work. We show up and put in the time.  And we are at our limits. We have little if anything else to give. Time, energy, brain cells--we are at capacity.  Seems inconceivable to do any more than we do. Right?

When will we pursue those "other" goals in our lives? Those things that we long to do, have to do? 

Was with a good friend this week and he was discussing his three new side businesses he is launching and pursuing. Three! He has a full time job, two kids and a labrador! He has little money, but puts in the sweat equity and engages his network. He is trying to build his future, keep his mind fresh, and make some money. How does he do it? He manages his time through his priorities. Is he stressed out? Nope. He is fully engaged in his life. Funny thing, he has other irons in the fire. And he thinks he is just an "average" guy!

If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more you do the more you can do. Lucille Ball. 

If you are human, then you waste so much time. C'mon admit it. There are times when you are just distracting yourself, biding your time, all the while your ideas/causes/dreams just wait and get older. Be honest!

It is trite and maybe irritating to hear, but you have to take small steps. Give one percent more--one more degree of effort. One percent! Everyone has one percent to give. One percent more in time, money, effort, and energy. Yes you do!

If you give that one per cent to something you have always wanted to do. Something you care about. Like your talent, your art, your dreams. You will feel good about yourself.

Don't fall behind on your bills and your dreams.  Les Brown

And, when someone says, "Hey what's new?" You can say something interesting! And those conversations will lead to new connections!

Now networking and mentoring have a purpose. To meet people who are doing what you are interested in. Getting advice about these special things. These pursuits will be treats in your life. Sweet and delicious moments for your personal gratification of understanding your larger role and purpose. These times that are not chores but times you will look forward to. And guess what happens, the one percent expands because it is so important to you.

Look if you have the perfect balance in your life of challenge, growth, and fulfillment, then please stop reading. 

For the rest of us, we are so close to what we want you can see it. But our inertia, doubts, resistance, and plain ole laziness prevent us from what we want.

Watch this video. 

One more degree of effort. We give up too easily in the pursuit of what is important to us. One percent more time and attention.

One percent of your time is  like 30 mins a week. What if you scheduled 30 mins during every week to reconnect with someone you have lost touch with. Put it on your calendar. Do it every week. Be discipined about it. Use the time to e-mail, telephone, Google people.

This is even more productive and fulfilling if you are reaching out to people about your idea, cause, or dream. To compare notes, pick brains, to learn, and to be inspired. To be inspired every week! Wow. 

Persistence, consistency, and building the habit of making time for what you want. It is simply amazing when you do something consistently.

You will regret not using this time--now. Over time you will get busier! And these special thoughts get shelved and predictably--absence will make the heart grow fonder. Neglect makes these lost opportunities more precious and more bitter regrets later.

Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.  St Francis de Assisi

I guarantee if you don't exert the one percent or the one degree of extra effort, nothing will happen. 

Little efforts lead to bigger ones. Small steps lead to bigger strides. Commit yourself to connecting your ideas with others and unexpected things will happen.

 Thanks for reading. John


Life Lessons from NOLA

Had the great pleasure of spending the last week in New Orleans. It is a special place that continues to struggle post-Katrina and from the more recent damage from Isaac. Yet her spirit is strong. The people of New Orleans are resilient, even though many of the physical structures around them are vacant and abandoned. I was both disturbed and inspired by what I saw and experienced. Here are 4 of the lessons I got from this recovering grand dame:

1.Love Thy Neighbor: Especially during elections, we become more cynical about politics and politicians. The value of public service has steadily dropped and few people pursue it. But we know that we need strong, smart, and reality based leadership. We need people who lead with words and actions. I was fortunate to hear the mayor of NOLA, Matt Landrieu, speak about his city. He talked frankly about his top issues: crime. But specifically the homicide rate of young black men, which is 10x their % of the population. He told graphic stories of the unintended consequences of these deaths on the families, neighborhood, economy and community. His big message was, "Until we have as much empathy for the perpetrators of the crime as we do the victims, we will make no progress." Not exactly a political statement! He challenged the audience to think about how we as a society failed the criminal youth. How the family failed to nurture, the schools failed to teach, the churches failed to morally guide. How we all have to assume responsibility for that "criminal". In a world of "personal responsibility" gone mad, where we should  just be responsible for ourselves and our family. But we know in our hearts, that will never be enough. We have to pursue our humanistic instincts to help one another, to take responsibility for one another--only then can we advance our ideals for our community. We know our destinies are tied to one another. 

Preservation
Photo I took of Preservation Hall

 We must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides.  Thich Nhat Hanh

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another. Mother Teresa 

2. Music is the greatest soul food: A friend took me to the Preservation Hall to experience the birthplace of jazz. One of my top life experiences of all time! Crowded in this tiny storefront shop that serves as their theatre, we were treated to the gritty and beautiful sounds of Amazing Grace, What a Wonderful World, When the Saints Go Marching In, and other classics. The building just like the faces of the musicians expressed great history and great humility. Their music and their voices tattooed my soul with their passion. 

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. Plato

3.  Taxicab to Friendship:  Cab drivers are always a source of great knowledge and insight. Few people see as much as they do. I always talk to cab drivers. And if I listen carefully I learn things about them, the world and myself. My experience in NOLA may have been the most interesting to date. I took a couple of colleagues to go see Candy Chang's Before I Die exhibit. Candy installed a giant blackboard on an abandoned building to allow people to fill in the blank after "Before I Die______. These exhibits are now displayed around the world. Anyway, I wanted to see where it all started. Long story short we got lost (my fault) and then discovered that the abandoned building was refurbished and Candy's work was gone. Through this adventure we got to know Haten, a Tunisian cab driver/entrepreneur who has lived in NOLA for 16 years. We learned much about the city and about his story of struggle and joy. We learned about his family, his education and his career. Haten is an optimist and humanist. As an immigrant he is still pursuing the American dream despite many setbacks and his stint as a cab driver will be "temporary". In all of the commotion of our adventure , I left my iPad in the seat pocket of his taxi. Haten returned it to me! As I thanked him, he smiled and asked, "When do you leave for the airport? May I take you?" Always the entrepreneur! Haten picked me up at the hotel and noticed a couple of women waiting for a taxi and asked me if they could go with us. They jumped in his cab and off we went. Haten and I picked up our conversation where we left off. And when he dropped me off, he said, "Please call me next time you are in New Orleans and call me and let me know how you are doing." The two women, turned to me and said almost in unison, "How do you know that guy?!" I said, "Oh, we are friends."

Good things happen when you meet strangers. Yo Yo Ma

4. Mentors are everywhere: I got the chance to meet Leah Chase who has run the Dooky Chase restaurant for 66 years! Leah, the Queen of Creole, has fed every US President since the 60's, Martin Luther King and a host of other dignitaries. While she is a world reknown chef she is a philosopher, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and a truth teller too. She told us that "if you pay attention, everyone becomes your mentor." And in those precious moments with her, we paid attention and we were served up a delicious platter full of Chase mentoring! 

I look forward to my return to NOLA.

Thanks for reading. John


Who You Are then What You Do

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

Big difference between a good career and a good life.

I meet so many people who tell me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

 


Bundles of Potentiality

Readers of my blog have a greater and larger understanding of networking. Not a set of techniques used to advance personal agendas or selfish goals. Such networking is short term, short lived, and short on changing lives and the world around us.

Networking is a process of connecting people, their ideas, their dreams, and their synergistic power. Networking is a set of relationships that forms a web of love and support for the people in and around it. It is a way of life or a lifestyle. Research shows us this is not just a collection of good ideas for self improvement, this is about how the world works It is about our human potential and releasing that potential for the common good.

According to Margaret Wheatley:
The scientific search for the basic building blocks of life has revealed a startling fact: there are none.  The deeper that physicists peer into the nature of reality, the only thing they find is relationships.  Even sub-atomic particles do not exist alone. One physicist described neutrons, electrons, etc. as “. . .a set of relationships that reach outward to other things.”  Although physicists still name them as separate, these particles aren’t ever visible until they’re in relationship with other particles.  Everything in the Universe is composed of these “bundles of potentiality” that only manifest their potential in relationship.

We live in a culture that does not acknowledge this scientific fact.  We believe wholeheartedly in the individual and build organizations based on this erroneous idea.  We create org charts of separate boxes, with lines connecting the boxes that indicate reporting relationships and alleged channels of communication.  But our neatly drawn organizations are as fictitious as building blocks are to physicists.  The only form of organization used on this planet is the network—webs of interconnected, interdependent relationships.  This is true for human organizations as well.  Whatever boxes we stuff staff into, people always reach out to those who will give them information, be their allies, offer support or cheer them up.  Those lines and boxes are imaginary.  The real organization is always a dense network of relationships. Unfathomable_potential_goal_cards_business_card-p240184404307414631z74gr_400
 
We are just "bundles of potentiality" that only manifest their potential in relationship.

In many ways we are like acorns with hundreds, perhaps thousands of oak trees within us. Seeds of potential that will sprout, grow and endure only under the right circumstances----relationships. Most of us never know our true bundle of potentiality. We get caught up in our lives and we reap what we sow. We are afraid of our potentiality. And most potential is lost.

It is the many relationships and experiences in our networks that cause friction with our potentiality and sometimes sparks fly. Sparks of inspiration, understanding and meaning. When we connect to help, to learn, to support, and to explore our goodness and the goodness of others, we encounter our potentialities. We start to understand how interconnected we are. How intertwined our potentiality is. How much our destinies are tied together.
Funny thing is we can see the potentiality in others. It is often plain to us what others could or should do. Others see us that way too. What would happen if we helped one another to reach that potential? To work together to find our common interests and seek the common good. 
We waste so much time on our differences.
  
As the physicist notes above, we need to reach outward and become visible, our potentiality becomes visible only through relationships.
 
If we don't connect and work together we will perish. We will not create, procreate or generate new solutions and ideas.
 
A network is a web of mutual obligations, of love, and caring of human expression. Nothing that lives and thrives is alone or not networked. To network is to be human. That's why we network. To pursue our common bundles of potentiality and make them visible.
Thanks for reading.  John
 

Curious Connection to the Chumash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John


Your two-sided career mouth

It is hard to understand what people mean--when they say conflicting things.

I want to go to grad school, or travel, but we don't get off the couch.

I want to win the lottery but never buy tickets

I want more but I don't want to do more

I want to meet my soul mate but don't want to meet anyone

I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.  Robert McCloskeyTwo mes

I meet a lot of people who confess things to me about their careers. And in that moment of honesty they say confusing things. Things that come from different sides of their mouths. I get to know in that instant the doubter and the doer, the courageous and the cowardly, the fearless and the fearful.

What I want to be and what I really want to be

What I hope to be and what I have to be

What I tell my parents and what I tell myself

Love people but not personnel

Enjoy selling but not sales

Value diversity, but no amongst my friends

Like change (read variety) but not change management

Love risk but want a guaranteed salary and retirement

Want new experiences but only the ones I choose

March Hare: …Then you should say what you mean.
Alice: I do; at least - at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know.
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit!

Pick your storyline and stick to it. Your story is all you got. Who you are and where you are going. Impossible to get help from anyone or make connections when your storyline is untold, inconsistent, or worse, conflicting.

Why do we take jobs we don't want, to impress people we don't like, to buy things we don't want? Deepak Chopra

Because we get distracted and settle for what looks good, or what others tell us or what just happens. Because we are NOT pursuing what WE want.

Time is meaningless to those who say things they don't mean. And in the meantime, time marches on and as Les Brown says, ..You fall behind in your bills and your dreams.....

We look to find our lives by exploring the new. We look for inspiration from other people's lives. Yet our inspiration is within us.

This is where mentoring and self reflection can be transformational. Making sure you know your story by telling it to yourself and to others you trust. To get feedback and direction.

We are creatures of habit who have thoughts and goals that often don't align with our actions. Either we have to wake up to these conflicts or we have to get help in understanding them.

Speak your possibilities.  Eric Saperston 

And if you do speak with your heart you will make connections to yourself and the world around you. The sooner you close one side of your mouth, the sooner you will have a clear idea of what you have to do to become who you are.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”  Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You Will Go......

Thanks for reading. John


Let Your Inner Child Fly

The holidays bring back a flood of memories for me. I love being around kids who open up their Hanukah and Christmas gifts with reckless abandon and express real joy out loud.

Adults are obsolete children.  ~Dr. Seuss

Some people think I have never grown up. Okay a lot of people! But who is counting anyway?!!

More than anything I wish you more childishness, more foolishness, more fun and joy. We are so serious. We take ourselves way too seriously.

The grand metaphor of the metamorphosis. How the baby caterpillar develops into a cocoon and goes through the pain and suffering of the metamorphosis of pubescence and emerges as a beautiful high flying adult butterfly. This seemed correct until I heard a scientist describe the caterpillar as the one that was the adult--slow and wingless. A plodder limited by physical and mental capacities, afraid of then consequences. And the butterfly is the child who can fly, flit and explore, fearless and free. Caterpillar

Kids are always flying and adults are more often stuck out on a limb. Children are free of the self consciousness and adults suffer from looking good and being right. If we succumb to the inexorable decline of our freedom to create and be, then we become old and sedentary without regard to our chronological age. When risk aversity beats us into a locked step conformity with what is expected of us and we comply.

Neoteny is the retention of juvenile characteristics.  I like Joi Ito's take on it. Not talking about our obsession to LOOK young, I am talking about keeping the spirit of the child alive within us. The ability to play and to see the possibilities. To say and think things that speak to our possibilities and dreams. Relentless curiosity and free of what you fear others may think.

Remember the movie Big?

Play is important and necessary. All work and no play makes you a dull person!

I have a friend who won't play board games with his son because HE doesn't like board games. He is so hung up on getting him to grow up.

My childhood may be over, but that doesn't mean playtime is.  ~Ron Olson

We become progressively blind as we age. We see the world from our selfish and narrow perspective. A child sees so much that we can no longer see. They see the real things that exist between and amongst the things we create and impose on the world. They see the colors, and hear the sounds.Big

Ask kids what they want, besides a material thing. The answer will stun you. They have not been burdened with all of the reasons they can not or should not do things. Their imaginations are fertile and unfettered.

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.  ~Pablo Picasso

Our kids grow up too fast and they lose their sense of play and fun. We need to enjoy and let go of all of the ridiculous expectations we impose on ourselves and others. We need to have fun by experimenting and exploring. Kids take chances by doing foolish things where they express themselves freely and naturally. They are vulnerable and open to what happens.

We need to laugh more--at ourselves--and less at others.

Not going to ignore my responsibilities as a parent, a citizen, or an adult, but I want to fly more like a butterfly and crawl less like a caterpillar. How about you?

How do we do this?

Take a chill pill.  Relax. Everything is not a federal issue that requires a no prisoners approach. Remain urgent about your goals but enjoy what is happening to you and what you are doing.

Value fun and play around us. Schedule time to play that you look forward to--a hobby, games with others, and just discovering an unscheduled time for fun.

Hang out with kids. Kids, young people, or just people younger than you, will give you energy and perspective. They will also teach you things if you are present! If you pay attention they will mentor YOU!

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. ----Benjamin Button

Thanks for reading. John


Wonder, Wander and Speak to your Dream

Had the opportunity to hear Eric Saperston speak the other day. He was a breath of fresh and inspiring air. He is a free spirit who went on a quest to discover the secret of success. All of this was the focus of a documentary film call The Journey. Eric is such a cool and down to earth guy who walks the talk.

 

He literally followed this Chinese proverb:

To know the road ahead ask those coming back.

Here's the essence I gleaned from his talk.

  1. Live a Life of Wonder---Seek experiences, people that test your limits that make you think, that define your dreams. Live in awe by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Find and then pursue the "what" you want to do.
  2. Live an Open Life---Do you have the courage and confidence to ask for help? To know when you don't know and seek assistance. Eric says too many people think they can "fake it til the make it." He met John Portman, a famous architect, on his journey. Mr Portman said, "An open life is yours if you have the courage to ask for help."
  3. Speak your Possibility---Clearly articulate the "what". Your dream, your goals, your aspirations. Talk about what you want and engage others in your quest. Ask for help, advice, for role models. Tell your story and where it is going.

Succinct and relevant words to live by. Can't be successful doing just one or two of these. You need all three.

Eric learned and confirmed that total strangers would share with you great truths. The fact is many people will share their truths with you--if you ask. I remember when I shared the stage with Jack Canter of Chicken Soup fame. He discussed the lessons he learned from pro-athletes, movie stars, and famous leaders. Yes, well-known persons have very compelling points of view. But I argued that day that the "average" people I knew had equally if not more powerful words of wisdom. That the people you interact with on a daily basis are the real stars and will give you more value and mentorship than a far away icon. As a society, we place too much value on celebrity, but I digress...

The people you know or have access to have amazing insights and secrets they would love to share with you if they had the opportunity. They can help you understand how to get you on a path that has more fulfillment, reward and meaning. Find them.

Once you realize what you don't know, you seek help. And if you ask for help, you will learn, progress, and get closer to your goals. But you gotta ask.

Most people say they are team players and that they collaborate well. But most do not know how to engage others to learn. Knowing who to ask, I have found is the biggest key to success and effective leadership. The old Jersey joke, "I know a guy who knows a guy....." Find people who know what you don't know.

Driven by wonder, you wander. You look for advice and answers and encounter the awe. And because you live an open life, your journey to seek help gets shifts and changes. And you can arrive at destinations you never planned.

We adopt a lifestyle of mentoring and networking and "speak our possibility," and seek the possibilities of others. We encounter others on our journey that we help and they help us. This is a life that defines the dream.

Thanks for reading. John