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April 2012

When will I start my yellow brick road journey?

When I talk to people about their lives the most popular concept of time is:

The future will be better. And Now is definitely not a good time to make a change.

There is widespread occurrence of optimistic procrastination. People plan to do many things. Down the road a better future awaits--an Emerald City down a yellow brick road. These include things that they must do, to ambitions and aspirations, to full on bucket list items. Many things get jammed into their time capsule of the future. Funny thing is the amount of time continues to shrink and the amount of things to do grows inversely. Not a great formula for fulfillment. Most dream more than they do. Still others enjoy the momentary pleasure they get from self deception and deceiving others with their fantasies.Yellow brick road

It is impossible to argue with somebody’s future plans, isn’t it? Like a 8 year old who tells you he will be an astronaut or President, we never burst those bubbles of the future unless we are cruel. But we act similarly when we hear about the sometimes preposterous and possibly more unlikely scenarios of grown-ups. “I plan to own my own business.” “Head a non-profit.” “Launch a new start-up.”

But the planning required to even consider that path are procrastinated as well. Do they talk to others in their network who already do these things? Do they understand what it takes and more important, would they enjoy the experience? Everyone envisions that their restaurant, their idea for a new app, even their non-profit etc will succeed, get rave reviews and grow like a weed—and of course make them financially well off. Similarly, becoming a VP or CEO is much better than what they have now. Because more is always better. We know there are substantial pluses and minuses to all choices but living ambiguously allows us to avoid the confusion that comes from facts, real plans and the experiences of others.

Do friends let friends drive their lives in a state of ambiguity?

So the seemingly endless time ahead is aided and abetted by a very able co-conspirator--the persistent thought that Now is a terrible time to make any changes. We are all so busy Now to think about the future. Busy with what seems important Now and never getting to what we want. Being busy is never a life strategy.

Time flies and you never get it back. And stuff happens—wonderful and horrible events that throw you off track. Optimistic procrastination ensures that the Emerald City remains an illusion. One thing is certain you never come this way again.

Things do improve with age, your perspective, your maturity, your judgment, your priorities. But the opportunity to evolve and change is always NOW.

Implement your plan. Get on your yellow brick road.

A new friend has aging parents that have dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Egyptian Pyramids. His parents physicality is evaporating and they always wanted to see these sights. So he is taking them next month to both Paris and Cairo! Not a convenient time for my friend, but it is not his time that is important. A man I worked with has struggled with his relationship with his daughter. The daughter is in school 3 hours away and my friend now drives every Tuesday to have dinner with her. Shockingly their relationship has improved. :) I met a stay at home mom who has teenage sons and she is trying to recalibrate her career, so she is volunteering at nights and weekends at a non-profit to make a career shift. She could wait until both her sons graduate, but she was compelled to follow her heart and get a head start on her dreams.

If you are doing something to pursue your goals, aspirations etc now, then you will be with others who want that too. You will be talking about what you are doing and we know that links us to others and new connections. So active pursuit of what you want is not just a hollow cry to get motivated and eschew procrastination. It is a process of actions that changes your orbit and puts you into new constellations of support that push you further toward your destination leaving potential regrets in your gulfstream.

What time is it? Time to move! Time to get off the road of self deception, procrastination and ambiguity. Time to help others make and take the time to get where they need to go. Time to find your yellow brick road and join others who support and understand your journey.

Thanks for reading. John

Winning without being first

Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.--Napoleon Hill

Talked to a friend who saw his dream job in a passive Linked In message. He was surprised that a job like this existed and wasn't even looking. (amazing what happens when you are not looking) He applied and got to the finals and could taste it. But was told he did not have a little extra the #1 candidate had. He was deeply disappointed. Over the next few months. he licked his wounds and chalked it up as a lesson of life and was deeply grateful that he found an example of what his next adventure would be. But then time and a positive perspective yield benefits. Low and behold, he gets a call from the recruiter and the "better" candidate quit and my friend was being back if he was still interested! No other candidates will be interviewed so it appears he will get his dream job.Tortoise and hare

In my travels, I have heard this story over and over again. People who suffer the initial disappointing defeat of a door slammed in their face only to find a new window swings open through persistence and grace.

I truly believe things happen for a reason and if you don't give up on who you are and what you want, new opportunities are revealed. New paths appear. I have learned that there are many paths that can take you where you want to go and to wonderful places you did not know existed.

It's not what happens to us, but the response to what happens to us that hurts us. ---Stephen Covey

My career path is a road filled with potholes, detours and surprising off ramps. Not to mention the paths I chose NOT to take. While I'd like to take credit for my trajectory, the truth is I was rarely the top pick for anything. I have learned over time that my persistence and presence kept me in the process and sometimes, through a series of quirks and situations I was hired. I know that my mentors and network played a much bigger role than I ever did.

My hiring at the UCLA Alumni Association only happened after a series of candidates turned the job down. I was the "least qualified" of all of the candidates considered, according to the executive search firm in charge of the placement. My lack of university and alumni relations experience was considered a major deficiency. Once I became interested in this job, I waged a "campaign" to get it. During this time, unbeknownst to me, all of the top candidates fell away. I asked all of my references to advocate for my candidacy. As a result, I was politely asked, "please stop the lobbying". In the end, I believe expressing my serious interest in the position was the difference that got me the job.

Once you get it, what placed you finished in the original race is irrelevant.

Numerous times my hiring, appointment to a board, and selection as a keynote speaker came after the top candidates were considered. I don't have a complex about this! :) I have learned that the tortoise can win the race. That being available, qualified, well-connected, and truly interested in the opportunity has always mattered.

I love the story about how Dick Clark got his big break on the Bandstand television show, when the original host was arrested for drunk driving. While I am sure Clark wanted the job, he was never expecting that his radio career would become a tv career in an unexpected moment. Clearly he was ready!Paul macarelli

My fav story involves Paul Marcarelli, the "Can you hear me now?" guy from Verizon. Paul was filming one of his famous commercials at our house and talking to a group of my kids and neighbors. One of the kids blurted out, "How much do you make?" And after an uncomfortable silence, Paul told these mesmerized kids that he was living his dream and makes "millions", but that he was not Verizon's first choice.  As Paul tells the story, he was an understudy, who's primary occupation was a waiter. When the first commercial was to be filmed, the lead actor came onto the set heavily made up to conceal his new black eye. Apparently he had a rough nite which ended in a bar fight. The Director fired the actor and summoned Paul in front of the cameras--for the next 9 years. And the rest is history!

What does all this mean?

  • Always be ready. Always look like you are ready.
  • Every interview is important to build your brand, no matter where you end up.
  • Be open and ready for a new and unexpected opportunity.
  • Stay in touch with your "dream" employer. Stuff happens.
  • Continue building your skills and delivering the goods.
  • Keep your netwok engaged with your searches and your dreams
  • Never give up on your dreams or yourself.

It is not whether you win, it is whether you get the opportunity. And you get the opportunity if you are consistently ready, willing and able.

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

Breaking the addiction to Zoloft for our souls

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. H L Mencken attributed.

Used in the 1960 Oscar nominated film, Inherit the Wind, where a newspaper editor says, "It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

I think this is everyone's job. This is why we exist. To care for those suffering and to make those not suffering to care.

Harvard released a study that shows that the protesters for the Occupy movement represent the top 1% of the world's population in wealth! We are all too comfortable!

More than ever we medicate our soul to avoid feeling for others. In order to focus on our needs we turn a blind eye to those in need.  

Nature abhors a vacuum. None exist.

Our  souls despise emptiness. Yet many seem to be.

We fool ourselves into to thinking we are caring and empathetic. We wear colored ribbons, and stand when the military is present, we buy products that support our causes, and we talk/complain about the needs of the poor and down trodden. These are all commendable gestures but we know they are insufficient. We know in our hearts that we should do more. We know that our actions are passive and not confronting the real problems. We make excuses that the issues are complex, overwhelming, and beyond our expertise. So we do nothing. It is zoloft for the soul. Each time we fool ourselves by doing or thinking something "good" we take a swig of anti-depressants to numb us from the reality. Numb is dumb. And we know it.Zoloft

We know that all problems are addressed one person, one family, one, neighborhood, and one community at a time. Taht one person can make a difference. But we can easily hide in the shadows of the enormity of the issue or problem. "My kid's school is bad, but it is the system that fails our children, so my involvement with the PTA will do nothing." "Homelessness is primarily caused by mental illness, so what can I do?" "I really do want to volunteer, but I am very busy right now." I remember asking a man on my board at Big Brothers Big Sisters, why he was involved. He said. "I am here for the kids." I told him none of the kids will ever be at a board meeting you have to come to our events, to the schools, or to our offices during the work day to see the kids. He told me he was too busy for that. Our soul cries out for a more fulfillment and more humanity in our lives and yet we pretend, procrastinate and hesitate.

The map is not the territory.  Alfred Korcybski

We have to deep dive into these issues we care about to understand them. We have to pursue them with passion and compassion. We have to see and experience the issue first hand. What is the truth about my kid's school? Or about the homeless in my area? Which organizations are devoted to this issues? How can I help? What are others doing? Does my charitable giving follow my heart? We have to answer and pursue these questions with our network and our mentors. We have to advance our thoughts to test our convictions and our commitments.

We talk more about the next product we are going to buy, the video we saw,  complain about our dental benefits, or feed the rumor mill with our gossip. All of these diversions are part of the way we medicate ourselves.

Many people I meet talk about "helping others" or "changing the world" like it is a European vacation they will take upon retirement. They envision themselves having more time and flexibility in this utopian time ahead. That's when they will take the off ramp from the medicated freeway and put what they care about in the center of their lives. We know it is a lie. I get so depressed when I hear these false promises to become more altruistic and caring in a future time. It makes me want to take Zoloft, but  don't. :)

What people don't understand is we don't have much time. If you are 25 or 65, your time to define your life by your deeds and not just your thoughts is limited. You have to care AND act on those feelings now. Maybe you feel guilty. Maybe you are "doing enough". The truth is each of us can and should do more. We have to detox our souls from the comforting meds of avoidance and emptiness and replace them with heavy doses of the the realities of the opportunities to reduce the suffering that surrounds us.

The irony is once we do this, we fill our soul and we become more engaged in our lives. We meet people who share this lifestyle. We become more successful because our lives are more aligned with who we are, they become more reality based and less numb. We do it not just to comfort the afflicted but to afflict our souls with the comfort of truly being human.

 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