Lying and the truth
Words, how we choose them, if we choose them, are so critical to who we are and what we think. We say so many things, often words just are shot out of our mouths without our full consciousness. There is a premium put on speed of response and whatever is pre-loaded, pre-fabricated--not pre-meditated--sprays forth. Words fly out of our open pieholes unwittingly. We say things, important things, with no connection to heart or mind. Empty habits of sounds that we neither hear or feel just fly out of our face like an AK 47 strafing the air indiscriminately.
Most of the time we are in our fog of life where we go through motions, say words, make decisions, and unwittingly set the courses of our lives.
We fire off our cannons enamored with the booms but disinterested in the targets.
We are what we say.
Sometimes we try to retrieve a flock of bats that escape the cave, flying in regret formation. We later say "I had to eat my words." Usually refers to the bitter taste of being wrong. Swallowing one's pride and gagging on the foul reflux of crow or the pungence of humble pie.
What if the words we say were delicious? What if we curated words so that we consciously uttered tasty syllables? Words with fiber, complexity and real flavor.
Of course this takes our full awareness. Just as in eating, when we rush and never really savor the food we love--when we chew and swallow in a hasty transactional fashion that make the chef cry.
I had a powerful conversation with Akuyoe Graham, the founder of Spirit Awakening. She is an award winning performer who has dedicated her life to helping at-risk youth. One of the many keys to her success and the success of her program is coaching these young people to tell their own stories well. To craft a narrative that authentically conveys their life arc.
Akuyoe speaks with passion and she articulates, pronounces, enunciates her words so beautifully. I assumed it was her stage training, but I learned how centered she is--how connected to her heart her words are.
Her presence mentored me. It showed me how someone connected to the present looks and sounds.
We were talking and she said, "John your words sound so delicious. I like it when you speak like that." I felt I was talking like I always talked. But she made me realize how important it was to pair my words with my feelings. To literally taste the words. To be in the words. It was noticeable to Akuyoe. She revealed a great truth to me.
I am often more clued into people's eyes. They are windows into which I see connection, energy, and authenticity. But words are formed in the mind and are released into the air to breathe life into our ideas and identity.
For the last few years, I have been desperately and erratically tasting my words. To hear them and make notes of the accuracy and alignment with my intentions. I write more. Every day. To work on my words. To align my thoughts with my heart. To speak truth to myself and then to others.
By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.- Jean Baptiste Girard
Like a more insightful Miller Light Ad: Taste great!. More fulfilling! (if you don't get it move on)
I listen better too. To the words being thrown my way. I watch to see if they taste what they are saying. It is so obvious--the facial expression, the curl of the lip, the eyes and the inflection. These non-verbals say so much about the genuine connection between the phonetical sound manipulations and the truth.
I talk to many people about their plans, their "dreams", their destinations. Most of these people say words that are blander than melba toast.
I asked a young executive going back to get her law degree, "What type of law will you pursue?" (the number 1 question she will be asked!) She said unhesitantly, "I am going into corporate law." I said, "Wow that is so non-specific."
I asked a new college grad what he plans on doing. He said, "I want to be a middle-man." My face scrunched into incredulity. He went on to tell me the man he plans to be in the middle of things. :)
I start off almost every new class I teach in grad school with this question: "Introduce yourself by telling me the lie you tell your parents about what you will do with this degree--the one that works." More than 1000 students have responded, none have protested.
What little lies are we repeating? How do our words taste when we talk about ourselves or the future?
Words are small parts of the truth. They deceive and give certainty. All things are unknowable. The tip of an unfathomable iceberg. Hypnotized and numbed into believing the word---no job title, no phrase truly defines you. Eckhart Tolle
One of my favorite examples: In response to the ever present American question:"What do you do?"
Often I hear: "I am just a___________." The words of feigned humility or low self-esteem. Both are deadly.
We use words that are safe, leave us room for error or escape, non-committal thoughts that give us options, politically correct, non-offensive words that say nothing.
These words also disable the network of opportunity and connections to commonality.
We are much more concerned about not offending or over impressing others than using words that impress us. So our priority is the taste of our audience not words that taste good.
All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. Kahlil Gibran
Take those crumbs and let's make something delicious.
Thanks for reading. John
It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. —James Thurber
Questions have been at the heart of the most life altering moments for me. Questions that stop you in your tracks and shift the way we see the world. These questions that dared me and scared me.
If you knew the date of your death, how would you live differently?
What is your calling?
What would you say or do, if you knew you were dying? Why wait until then?
How much is enough?
What if you removed all of the expectations of others, who would you be?
Questions that assaulted my complacency and sleep walking. They punched me in the face and I punched back. I now dance with these question today. I don't dismiss them as irrelevant intrusions or unwelcome visitors on my well planned life. They humble me, keep me grounded, and guide me into the unknown.
Life is about asking better questions. And given the time and the context, we need to question everything. No assumption when fully examined holds up. The status quo is unacceptable.
But that means we have to stop the carousel of our "busy" lives to wonder about where we are going? To reflect on whether our actions are aligned with our ambitions. To evaluate the joy we have in our lives. Are we deferring joy?!!!!!!
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver
Each moment you think you figured everything out or what your future holds contains the seeds of your undoing.
I have the great privilege of helping different people wrestle with their personal and professional goals. I set a figurative and literal discussion table with some questions that provoke self expression. I am merely attempting to advance conversations. First, an internal thinking conversation within the individuals I address. And then an external conversation between others. Expressing oneself out loud in front of others provides comfort, commiseration, connections and even community. "I am not alone." "I need help to figure this out." "There are ways to get unstuck." etc. During the last few months I have led groups of undergrads, homeless adults, executives, community leaders, and recently released felons. The human needs override the unique circumstances and experiences they bring to the table. Differences matter, but at the core we struggle with the same things. With the same questions.
What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question. - Jonas Salk
Through hundreds of sessions I have stirred up groups with these questions:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What do I want?
Where am I going?
What difference will I make?
Of course some hesitate to tell the truth and others gush forth. Again the tension between what we say and what we mean emerges into the harsh light of scrutiny. I do not allow clarifications. Mean what you say and say what you mean! Because we all say things and talk without thinking. We are pretty inarticulate as a species when it comes to who we are and what we want.
Some sample questions that emerged from these conversations:
How many friends would you have if they spoke to you the way you speak to yourself?
If you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with, how are you doing?
If you compared your allocation of time and your priorities, how would it look?
When is the right time to change my life/career?
When do you give up on your dream?
Hard, if not impossible, to answer these questions by oneself. Isolation is the biggest challenge. A horrible recipe of wavering self confidence, relative success (others are better off or being behind expectations), perception of inadequate competence, obligation of previous choices (family, debt, etc) and the absence of time to consider the future.
Some people get caught up in versions of the happiness question. "What will make me happier?"
Todd Kashdan, a psychology professor at George Mason University, reported a few years ago on studies that concluded that people who think being happy is important are more likely to become depressed: “Organizing your life around trying to become happier, making happiness the primary objective of life, gets in the way of actually becoming happy.”
Happiness is a brief state of being, so questions about happiness are only briefly relevant.
Yeah, just asking questions changes our behavior. Again authentic curiosity drives us to connections with sources and people that enlarge our pov and our lives. But then we have to act on the answers we encounter.
That's why I updated the Download SWiVEL doc 2018 with 16 questions for 2018. To help people confront these issues. To write down their responses to help them move forward.
These questions are used in palliative care for older patients and were featured in the wonderful book by Atul Guwande, Being Mortal.
1. What is your understanding of your current health or condition?
2. If your current condition worsens, what are your goals?
3. What are your fears?
4. Are there any tradeoffs you are willing to make or not?
5. What would a good day be like?
We just don't understand what we don't ask. We operate on the fumes of assumptions, habits honed out of weakness and biased ideas that reinforce our status quo. We need to stop the car in a new community of questions and ask for directions. We need to get uncomfortable, break habits, confront assumptions, and listen to new sources. To open up new thoughts and destinations. Where are you going in 2018?
Renew your curiosity and let it propel you forward.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Rainier Maria Rilke
So don't dismiss the large and perplexing questions you cannot answer, allow yourself to grow into the answers. Learn to dance with the questions, they will teach you new steps.
Here's to great questions, a better journey and the courage to ask for help.
Thanks for reading. John
PS: Please share the question that keeps you honest about your journey. The question that stops and make you think about where you are going. I will send you my latest publication: Life Interrupted and Inspired by Words.
When I was 12 I was obsessed with the heart. Heart transplants. Artificial hearts. Michael DeBakey and Christiaan Barnard were my heroes. I was going to be a cardiologist. I surrounded myself with heart models and books. The idea of replacing someone's heart was so futuristic and mind boggling. But my less than stellar grades in science and math forced me onto a different career path. Yet my interest in the heart grew--the role of the heart both physically and metaphysically. I have always been drawn to people who are wholehearted in their lives. On the other hand, always wondered why some seem to ignore their hearts entirely. I developed a keen ability to hear people's hearts in their words, see people's hearts in their eyes, and sense people's hearts in their actions.
I was paired up with a woman on the golf course and we got to chatting, that's why I love golf--you meet and get to know people. She started talking about her kids and how she and her husband wanted to help her children find happiness in the material world. "Find themselves amidst the clatter and clutter of societal expectations and the system of consumption." How to help them resist the peer pressures and even parental pressures to become people to enjoy life with less--with less than they have now? A very self-aware woman! And a pretty heavy conversation by hole #7! I rarely talk about the volatile topic of parenting and never with someone I just met. Most parents are talking about what their kids lack or are doing wrong. A focus on more. More education. More discipline. More serious. More like them! This mom wants to help her kids develop their hearts!
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart.- Helen Keller
Later that week, I was invited to meet with a group of scholarship recipients. These were college students, grad students and even alumni. One of the most poignant moments was when a young man asked, "I got my MBA. I work for a prestigious bank. I have a promising career in finance. But increasingly, I feel disconnected with the purpose of our work. It lacks personal meaning for me. When and how do I re-think my career, when I have a very good well-paying job?" His heart was getting through the noise and appearance of "success" and he was listening!
Heart-driven conversations questioning the status quo. Their hearts are spilling out through their lips to a random stranger! Trying to resist the gravitational pull of conventional wisdom.
These conversations are like verbal defibrillators for me! It gets me pumped up to talk to others about their truths. It helps me re-ignite my "plan", my assumptions and jolts my heart and the truths within.
"Recent work in the relatively new field of neurocardiology has firmly established that the heart is a sensory organ and an information encoding and processing center, with an extensive intrinsic nervous system that’s sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a heart brain. Its circuitry enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the cranial brain. To everyone’s surprise, the findings have demonstrated that the heart’s intrinsic nervous system is a complex, self-organized system." Dr. Dominique Surel
Most of us could benefit from a little open-heart "surgery". Breaking our hearts open to guide our lives. Transplant our fear and doubt with courage. Call it a passion bypass!
As a youngster I wondered how many beats each heart had. Each heart has a finite number of beats. When it will stop no one knows. Expecting to live a specific amount of time, defies the reality around us. Today is the only time we can rely on. As parents, employers, mentors, partners, all we can do is create the conditions where this self-awareness can thrive. Where the heart builds an express lane to where courage resides in the brain.
And "courage" is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."
A close friend was just offered a new job--a "better job". More prestige, more money, more authority. Logical for her to go for it. No brainer, right? But the brain cannot make all the decisions or we are doomed. She came to me for advice. I listened, trying hard not to judge her and not to "fix" her. I heard her inner conflict. Similar to the teacher who is asked to be an administrator. Or the the salesman to be the VP. I heard her talk about losing her connection to the clients, as an advocate of their needs. It was obvious this was a poor fit. But that's not my call. She texted me and wrote: "They are going to offer me the job, what should I do?" I wrote, "At this point, only your gut and heart know the answer. You have all of the facts. Trust yourself."
Your heart talks to you everyday. Are you listening?
It is so easy to ignore the heart as an irrational and emotional voice of distraction. I have. I did. I still fight the tyranny of expectations. The overlord of optics. They are brutal and relentless bullies.
Takes courage to listen to your own goodness, and act on it. Pablo Casals
Practice open heart "surgery" on yourself :) Let your courage speak through your heart. Listen. Then follow the instructions. Failing to do this risks heart failure.
Thanks for reading. John
Infants don't understand the concept of permanence. It is an essential stage of cognitive and sensory motor skill development. We have all done this with little kids. We hide our faces with our hands and then reveal our faces and say Peek a Boo! And the kids are astonished and amazed. Like a magic trick. They laugh uncontrollably because of the surprise.
And when toddlers cover their faces, they think they are invisible.
When we grow up we are still confused about what is real. We think we are invisible. As adults we hide our own faces and our feelings We become quite clever in masking our true selves. And the mask can become the face.
I meet many people at many points in their lives. Junctions, detours, shifts, inflection points, crossroads--all names for the same thing---Life! Every moment considering choices is about change. Anyway, I try to use these moments to see if I get clues about what they really want. Poker players call it the "tell". A sign given off by facial expression, body tics, and or inflection that gives away a truth.
I recently met with a younger man and he was babbling on about who he was and his impressive background ( I remember when I use to show up and throw up) He said, "I want to help people." (When I hear this it takes every ounce of my control not to say, "Yeah "people" that narrows your career choices!") Instead I said "Which people?" And after a series of these back and forths. He spoke eloquently about "helping people overcome what he had overcome." I stopped him and asked him to tell me how he felt. I told him how I felt. It was pretty emotional. His eyes, inflection and body language did all of the talking. And we built a small rhetorical campfire and sat down to explore this personal story. He thought I read his mind, but he opened his book and read from his heart. I was moved.
That honesty about what matters gives me a view of what I think is the soul. The true self who hides in the costume and mask department of our minds. It is a bit of a game of hide and seek I play with others and myself. To get the souls to come out and play and share.
It reminds me to be vulnerable and empathetic in the way I listen and think. It helps me immensely. And I know it has an impact on others and the dimensions of conversation that ensue.
I am convinced that we unconsciously let others and ourselves suppress so much of our potential and our soulfulness. The heavy blanket of expectations, political correctness, not looking stupid, not making other people uncomfortable, not being good enough etc etc.
Sheryl Turkle and her fascinating book, Reclaiming Conversation:
My research shows that we are too busy connecting to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet these are the kinds of conversations in which intimacy and empathy develop, collaboration grows, and creativity thrives. We move from conversation to mere connection. And I worry that sometimes we forget the difference. Or forget that this is a difference that matters.
In our daily conversations, it starts with so called small talk, exchanges where we move our lips and sounds tumble out of our pie holes. Classic example is "How are you?" and you reply reflexively, "Fine. You?" and a thousand unthinking variations. But our robotic chatter is not limited to these informal seemingly meaningless verbal transactions. They now consume most of our time. Like bad texting exchanges that say nothing. We partake in a lot of live face to face superficial texting through our mouths.
We say words and others say words we neither listen to or fully comprehend what pablum spews back and forth. It is not that we are uncaring souls, but we have rehearsed our routines like inadequate amateur versions of Robin Williams' improv group of personalities. We pull something from our inner hard drive and it plays without much thought.
How do we disrupt this pattern if we want to have more interesting and meaningful conversations? How do we show our empathy and compassion for one another? Who starts the real conversation?
Do we have the time and patience? Do we?
And yet we want help. We crave and cry out for mentoring for guidance for support--on our terms, just in time, convenient, fast and simple to assemble. We want life and career advice that comes out of an IKEA box, or fits into a 3 minute YouTube. Not a revealing conversation.
Love Akuyoe Graham's advice to me about enjoying the taste of the words. Meaning that you take the time and thought to savor what you say. You sense the words you speak, their weight, their intention and you convey those thoughts with your face and your body.
Am I there, present, vulnerable, open, attentive, listening, more interested than interesting? That matters. And can make way to real conversations.
Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation How talk can change our lives:
Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they just don't exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. It's a spark that two minds create.
How many conversations do we have like that? Wouldn't that be good?
In my analysis this real conversation is a meeting of the minds and a meeting of the souls.
It takes both sides to make this happen.
Peek a boo (excerpt from my poem)
I see you
Then you’re gone
I see what you want to be, what you try to be
I see what you want me to see
I saw something
The glint of the sun through the clouds
I felt you
A warm breeze on a summer eve
Something real and fleeting
Like a poltergeist
The warmth and chill of presence
I feel you
Peek a boo
But just like that you disappear
From right in front to out of sight
Are you gone or just hiding?
What are you afraid of?
When will I see you again?
Maybe it’s me
Am I scaring you?
Peek a boo
I see me
Like a mirror image
That glimpse of you was a glimpse of me
I want what you want
And your words are the words I want
I hear me through you
Peek a boo
You are changing me
Am I changing you?
An open heart opens the mind
We are changed
We try to be invulnerable and see no flaw
We become vulnerable and see the light
Peek a boo
I learn from you
When I was teaching you
Peek a boo
You mentor me
When I was trying to mentor you
You helped me
Did I help you?
Peek a boo
I saw you
And you see me
I need you
And you need me
Come out to play and let’s be John E. Kobara
We must help others and ourselves explore and share our truths, our souls.
If we see it, acknowledge it, welcome it. And embrace it.
Build a campfire and listen to each other's stories. We have so much to learn from one another.
Thanks for reading.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw
Some people discuss "change" like it is a monster. A source of stress and distress. "Change" is a darkening cloud that will bring great tragedy and pain.
Or a savior for necessary evolution. And the light on the path of purpose.
Those who embrace the change are empowered by the change. Yeah, it has to do with risk and self-esteem. If you are defined by your job or your title or your retirement plan then the bogeyman of change is Godzilla.
But if you exist to serve, adapt and pursue your passions, then change becomes your sidekick.
None of us wants the status quo. Right? The status quo sucks. For people suffering. For our careers. For our families. For our communities. Putting our worlds on freeze-frame would imprison everyone to now. Now John, you are misinterpreting me! So tell me oh misinterpreted one, What do you want? Tell me! You want change on your terms, on your schedule, Zeus?!! You want convenient change in the economy size to fit into your carry-on luggage?
Change is the air we breathe and the ground we traverse. Change is life. Life is change. We never step in the same river twice, we never have the same conversation or see the same film the same way. We evolve and the world around us evolves and we both try and catch up. Once you understand change is the water from David Foster Wallace's epic commencement address.
Change is just happening, it is relentless. Not even talking about the shifting sands of the world around us that we are partially or totally ignorant of. The butterfly wings that are shaping El Nino or the currency wars that are impacting our retirement plans........
Yes earthshaking change gets our attention at least for a few moments. You get laid off. Someone becomes terminally ill. You become a grandfather. You have a break-up. You get a new boss. The famous study of recent paraplegics and lottery winners showed that a year after their life defining events, both groups had the same levels of happiness! We get over the big changes. And we miss the subtle and important ones.
Change is how we react to it--if we react at all.
One of our favorite past times is participating in the unnecessary stress inducing game of hating change.
The future is already here it s just not evenly distributed. William Gibson
You hoped things would "stabilize" or "stay the same" for a little while so you could catch your breath? Hah!
Change is neither an enemy or a friend. It is.
Change is subtle and like the glaciers or the coral reefs, big changes occur over long horizons. But if we don't notice them its too late.
Our brains are changing and capable of change. Not just memory loss! If we literally put our minds to it. :)
The Luddite who will not upgrade their flip phone. The smoker who thinks they are the exception. The parent who raises their kids like they were. The manager who does not listen to his staff. The perfectionist who never makes a mistake.......
Time stands still---in their minds. And the world evolves without them.
The crazy thing is YOU are changing and evolving. And could change even more if you let yourself.
Like the lizard or snake that molts and sheds their entire skin we are evolving more invisibly. (the average human sheds about 1mm skin cells a day!)
Here is the big deal. Everything you do, people you encounter, visuals you ingest, thoughts that you entertain, are making micro and macro changes to you--if you let them.
Are you aware of these changes? Good question!
Are we allowing the changes to change you? Better question!
Do we appreciate the changes that are changing you? Right question!
Is your disagreement with my words changing you a little? :)
This is not a solo exercise. It is the process of engagement with others. Change is accelerated in a social network, a trusting group of diverse truth tellers who provide and receive honest feedback and different perspectives.
Networking and mentoring done with altruism, an open heart and mind, fuel change possibilities. Help your colleagues and friends and relatives see and embrace their change.
The tyranny of certainty is the real enemy. We develop "truths" about what we don't know. This can range from naivete to ignorance to racism. Certainty prevents us from learning.
You are a whirling dervish of velcro picking up little pieces of change along the way. But if you whirl on the same beaten known paths then change is relative for you. If you whirl off the known roads of life and explore the world then you change and challenge your certainties.
We must break down the gates of certainty to get to the gardens of change.
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
Change is neither friend or foe. It is a frame of mind. Mind the change and change your mind.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. I humbly offer a version of this timeless quote from Gandhi.
Let us be changed by the world we see.
Thanks for reading. John
Most of us do not relate to the word philanthropy. It is Bill Gatesian, John Rockefelleresque, foreign word that is reserved for the Bentley crowd. Even wealthy donors do not use the "P" word. Yet the literal meaning of philanthropy is beautiful. From its Greek origins it translates to Love of Humanity. In other words giving is a way of expressing our love for one another.
Yet giving away money is a mysterious business. To the uninformed, giving away a lot of money would be easy and fun. Like most things it is not what you think it is. I was with a nameless billionaire the other day (you are so important John!!) and he complained about the "burden" of his giving--that "there is no way I can give away all of my money before I die." I know some of you just want a name and and contact info :) But in all serious pursuits, in all careers--when you fully engage yourself in the art and science of something--challenges are revealed. You begin to realize how much you do not know. It can paralyze you or it can liberate you. To most it causes a brain freeze bigger than chugging a giant milkshake.
Funny thing, people with wealth or any extra money will tell you they love their philanthropy. They will tell you how fulfilling it is. Similar to any of us when asked about our computer skills--no one is not "proficient"! People who give away money who generally have been successful in life find it hard to admit that their philanthropy is transactional, random, and a "burden".
As I have said in this space for years, the key principle in life is to give without an expectation. Be ready to give first. Lead with your giving. Not just money, but with your attention, time, and expertise. When you are truly philanthropic with your life and have turned off WIIFM (what's in it for me), you benefit in ways that far exceed your giving.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Picasso
All of our journeys are philanthropic. We do not have to be billionaires to make a difference. We forget how much we have when we focus on what we want. We love humanity but do not know where to begin.
As you know I help people give their money away. But I have learned that if the giving is not tied to the donor's heart, passions, their authentic interests, their core values, then their philanthropy is limited and unfulfilling. Giving becomes a task even a source of stress (like with my new billionaire buddy:). That's how many people feel about networking and mentoring. We can view time as our greatest asset and we become time hoarders--or so we think. We view it as precious and hold it back from others on one hand and then just waste it like we have all of the time in the world.
I literally get sick when people say things like, "Can't wait until this day/month/year is over!" You never get the time back. You can get your money back! Time is irretrievable.
Reminded of Seneca's incredible 2000 year old book On the Shortness of Life.
It is not that we have a short time to live, but we make it short by wasting a lot of it. We are frugal in guarding our personal property, but as it comes to squandering time, we are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.
Do I have to regale you with the physical, spiritual, intellectual benefits of giving? The increase in endorphins, oxytocin or just plain old satisfaction. Studies abound that show that generous people are happier, live longer and are healthier. In the newish book, The Paradox of Generosity, philanthropic families "had broader social circles, less self absorbed, and a greater sense of purpose." I had the great pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Kristof about his new book A Path Appears, perhaps the best book on philanthropy I have read. This is like 8 great books in one. And Nicholas and his partner Sheryl have done a wonderful job of making the case to give more and how to do it.
It is also well known and verified through research that you give like your network. If you live in a gated community you give 40% less than the average American! Because wealthy people who live in wealthy communities are trying to keep up with the Joneses. If you hang out with people who are less generous, chances are you are too. And "live more cynical and narrow lives" according to the research. Giving broadens your network to new worlds. Worlds outside of our bubbles, "gated communities" of homogeneous people who reinforce each other's perspective disconnected from reality. Susan Fiske's research at Princeton is the most disheartening. The wealthier we are the more we view poor people as objects instead of people. In other words, when we reside in a biosphere protected from the harsh realities of the real world, poor people are things not human.
So reach out and connect. break your bubbles and break out of your biospheres. Seek people and charities you love and help them. Get the benefits of giving and giving more.
So as we meander down our philanthropic paths, consider how much you have and start giving it away. Lead with your giving and it will take you to places that you want to go. Places that show you purpose, meaning, and why you are here.
I developed a special edition of my SWiVEL doc Download SWIVEL Philanthropy_2014 for people to help one another with their philanthropy. Share it.
I get so much out of writing these posts--way more than you! Thank you for the gift of your readership. John
People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives. J. Michael Straczynski
How do we take full responsibility for where we are? Embrace what we are doing to get where we need to go. See our current opportunity as the best step to advance our lives and the lives of others.
Put the victim, excuses, entitlement and blame game behind us and power ahead by embracing the present.
Not talking about "hanging in there" or "toughing it out" or certainly not "waiting for something good to come along."
You underestimate what you have and how it can help you advance.
How do we love what we do to do what we love?
What you say to yourself and others becomes who you are. Your story is what connects you to your future and to others.
You attract whatever negative and or positive vibes you give off.
"I hate my job." "I can't wait to get out of here." "I don't believe in what I am doing any more."
It's odd but very frequent when people tell me that they are basically unhappy with their jobs and their lives. By the way, 70% of Americans say they are disengaged from their jobs--70%! (Gallup State of the American Workplace)
People say the darndest things. :) They appear to have little pride in themselves.
As the Mad Hatter advised Alice at the tea party:
Then you should say what you mean.
I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.
Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter.
You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!
So say what you mean but mean what you say! And like what you got to get what you like!
You got to embrace your circumstances, your current work, your employer and your life---because it's what you got. And you have to describe what you have by appreciating the positive and making lemonade.
I am not saying to stay at a toxic job. I am not saying to sugar coat your thoughts about your work and to lie about it. I am not talking about blind loyalty. I am speaking of a loyalty and commitment to yourself. This is your job. This is your life. And to the extent you allow your job to define you, you have to own it.
And your narrative, your storyline, can't be just negative. What you say about your work reflects on you and impacts your buzz and your trajectory.
So many people sound like fugitives to me. They are fleeing something to find something better. They have a foot out the door and are seeking the next thing. They are not in the present but stuck in the past and scheming about the future. They are not in the now. Just finished the New New Thing by Michael Lewis. Your life can't always be about the new new thing but about the now now thing.
Opportunities seek those that adapt and succeed and make the most out of what they have.
First of all the pursuit of life driven by passion and meaning can only be partially satisfied by one's professional career. For some fortunate people, work life can generate the bulk of one's life satisfaction. But for many of us we have to adopt a portfolio approach to life. Like your investments you need an allocation strategy to create returns from multiple sources which can "hedge" the others. We need a constellation of interests to feed our great hunger and curiosity for stimulation and meaning. If we place all of our eggs in one basket, place all of our chips on one bet, invest all of our energy into our job, the result is predictably an insufficient life.
People who are engaged in their lives. Who exude energy, confidence and positivity. These are people who by and large manage a broad and diverse portfolio of interests and activities. Their day job is but one source of their life force.
These are people who are busy, really busy. They make the most of what they have and they always seem in demand.
Get your story straight. What are you doing now that is interesting and engaging? Own where you are regardless of the challenges. Love it. Build on what you have to get to the next step in your plan.
What are you optimizing for?, asks Brian David Johnson, Intel's futurist. How are you using the present to plan your evolving future? How are you spending your work time and non-work time to provide more stimulation and growth? What is energizing your progress and your momentum now? What skills, knowledge and abilities are you honing?
It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus
One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses. Henry Miller
Don't dismiss your life as "Not what I want to do" or "It's just a job" Talk about what's emerging for you. Talk about what you are optimizing for. That will help you and others see your path.
You are going somewhere, right? And this place where you are is the best place to get there--because that's where you are!
Be what you say and say what you are. Appreciate what you have and who you are. And do it with pride and energy.
Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
Thanks for reading. John
When I was younger and even more sarcastic (How could that be John?), I was in an interview and was asked my least favorite question: "What is your 10 year plan?" Even back in the pre-hisoric times of my youth, this was a stupid question. I know what the interviewer wanted. "Where are you going and how does this job fit into your plans?" But most interviewers ask clever robotic questions that are part of a list and do not think about the question's intent but more about disrupting the poise of the interviewee----but I digress.
So, as I am prone to do, I turned the tables on my interviewer. "Great question. I think it is impossible to predict the future. If you tell me what the next 10 years will be like then I will tell you what my plan is?" As you can imagine, this did not go well. I did not get an answer nor the job! But, as we know better today than ever before, the world is evolving and shifting faster than we can plan for it. Favorite quote: "If it works it is obsolete."
Like a skeet shooter or a NASA engineer who is planning the landing of Curiosity--you got to think about the trajectory, and aim where there is nothing now. So if you can not predict the next 10 years, how do you plan? How does it feel when you aim at nothing? It is far better to aim at nothingness with an idea than to accept the nothingness that is on its way to you. Of course, experience is a great teacher. It gives you a sense of where you are going. But where are you going?
I am in a constant process with people who seek my time to predict the future and their futures. This is a process that is fraught with great dangers. I listen and tell them what I hear and sometimes my willing and volunteer victims see the future--their futures. The futures that have hidden within themselves.
How are you trending? In other words, where is your trajectory and momentum? Are you getting better, in what, how? And what is your next milestone? And where are you slipping? When you plot these coordinates you will be able to see your trajectory--not your aspirations--but where you are heading. Still confused?
Your ascendancy has to be tangible it can't be just a dream. You can't rely on luck or some divine intervention. You have to push ahead driven by your heart and your curiosity. Yes your next career might find you but you have to recognize it.
Many people tell me they will run a non-profit in their future, but are taking no steps to scaffold that possibility. Many people will have better lives in the future. Many people tell me they will give back later, volunteer more later, get involved down the road. Why not engage now in what you care about? Busy? Too busy? To think about your future or aim at the nothingness where you want to be. Listen carefully and you can hear a the magma of a volcanic regret heating up. A regret that will pour lava all over your your beautiful green grass dreams.
Your future is coming up the path and it passes you everyday. Then a new offramp appears and disappears. It never stops.
The next 10 years are going to be your best ones, if you think about your trajectory. If you fill in the nothingness of your story with the steps you are taking to explore your future.
The future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed. William Gibson
I just talked to a 25 year veteran of a dying industry and he knows he waited too long to shift but he is ready now. I talked to a 26 year old who is having a "pre-mid-life" crises. I talked to new divorcee who sees this change as her opportunity. I am coaching multiple college aspirants about their educational plans. And talked to a dear friend who is recovering from a terminal illness that "surprised" him.
All of them are focused on their futures differently. You don't want tragedy to get you focused. But we use what we have. You want to take control of your future and begin to trot out your future narrative--your story. Where is the protagonist going? And test it with mentors and your network.
How are you trending? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where are you going? What do you want?
One thing is certain, absolutely certain--don't wait. Don't procrastinate! Don't every say you will deal with the future later. Because the future will have come and gone.
You have everything or nothing ahead of you--which will it be?
Thanks for reading. John
Our brains are not always connected to our mouths. We say stuff that sounds good that gets embedded in our hard drives and flows out our pieholes without any awareness of the meaning of these words. I meet lots of people who tell me their dreams, goals and ideas. I listen to the words they use. Robotically spoken words that have become de rigueur to sound smart and modern. Apparently if you are human with a pulse you now have certain traits because everyone now utters these attributes as their own. Here are the top 2 that have become commodities and to me suspicious:
What people really like is being in environments described by these words. Everyone loves to work in "entrepreneurial", "innovative" or "creative" organizations. But that does NOT make you these things. This is the confusion.
Breathing the air in Africa never makes you African. Being around talent does not make you talented. Being the son of an artist has never made me artistic. :)
First of all you have to prove with evidence that you are any words you use. Like Robin Williams, you would have at least 5 stories queued up ready to "ad lib" your proof that you are what you say you are. I know this sounds basic, but most people don't have any proof ready so there is nothing behind the curtain. In my experience these people are not evil purveyors of deceit, but they usually have not filtered what is directly flowing out of their craniums. So they do deceive themselves. These words and many others are part of their memorized routines, reflexive habits that occur well outside of their consciousness.
When you use these words and all of you do, please be prepared to defend them with other words and examples you have thought about.
Let me just focus on Entrepreneurial. This one bugs me more than the rest. This is a sacred word to me. I know and have worked with true entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are friends of mine. And you are no entrepreneur! (you know who you are)
Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
Are You Entrepreneurial? This means you like taking chances; you take risks; you embrace failure and love to iterate. You are driven by passion and the problem you desire to solve. Most entreprenuers have been fired multiple times. They quit cozy jobs with dental benefits to pursue a passion or an audacious concept with no benefits. Entreprenuers have glorious stories of failure. They have some stories of success. They always have side projects they are building in their proverbial garages. You are not entrepreneurial sometimes. You can't just turn on your entrepreneurial talent. It is in your DNA and it manifests itself everywhere you are.
So if this is not you and you have no proof, stop saying you are entrepreneurial!
Big difference between claiming to be entrepreneurial and wanting to become an entrepreneur! It's great to aspire to be an entrepreneur. Seek them out as mentors, engage in entrepreneurial ventures, and explore your entreprenerial side. Try it on for size. The bug will bite you or not. You will know when it happens. Then this term will be true for you. Only then will you understand why true entrepreneurs recoil at hearing imposters cheapen this way of living and working by recklessly and irresponsibly adding "entrepreneurial" to their list of words in their resumes.
Let's also help others stop using these words when they are not true. Evaluate the words you use and be prepared to back them up with deeds.
Thanks for reading. John
Nobody should be the victim of their own resume.
Odds are you have neglected your resume. It is a poor reflection of who you are, what you have done and where you are going. I see so many horrific resumes! This is your key marketing and networking document whether you like it or not. Once you come to grips with the fact that this document will probably determine how your career path goes, hopefully you will spend more time updating it than the few seconds it takes to read it. Yes, the average resume is read for just 8-10 seconds. However updating your resume will take hours. But it has been my experience that few people update their resumes regularly and then slap one together when they need it.
I have joked that I send my resume to my mother for mother's day because it makes her beam with pride.
Every resume should be re-booted and renovated. For if you have not learned anything, accomplished anything, or done anything over the last x years since you updated your resume, you should go straight to the unemployment office and not collect $200. Every resume needs to be updated.
How do you differentiate yourself? How do you tell YOUR story? How are you interesting?
Here are 10 easy basic steps to evaluate and tune up your resume:
- No Career Objective--Save your customized language for the cover letter. Listing a generic job goal hurts you.
- Chronological Only!--No functional resumes! These look like you are trying to hide something! No one can read these and figure out what you did and when. Use months to show employment periods.
- Lead with Education If You are Young--New grads have to tout their degrees. But people out for 5 years or so put education at the end.
- One Page for New Grads Only--If you have no substantive work/professional experience, then use a single sheet. But if you have accumulated real and relevant experience then you can go to two or more. After three, you better have cured cancer!
- Describe Your Employer--If the reader does know the company/organization they assume the worst. Add a couple of sentences that describe the unique qualities and mission of your employer. You can take it off their website. Some employers are well known, but most are mysteries.
- What Did you Do with your Job Responsibilities?-- List the duties of what anyone would do in your job, but add bullets that relect the accomplishments you achieved. What did you do with the job that was beyond the average occupant of this position? Did you bring in money, save money, create innovations, solve problems.....? How did you add value?
- Nothing Fancy--No special fonts, no colored paper, no images/logos or photos of you! Remember most resumes are input into systems and fancy formatting gets re-arranged and makes your resume look really bad.
- Add Internships, Volunteer Work, and Other Activities can be Integrated--When relevant to a particular job, you should include the substantive roles in and amongst your work history. If you chaired a major board or a committee of the company, then list it as a "job".
- Remove References Upon Request--Never list your references at the end. You will want to give the hiring organization a customized list of names that reflect their interests and requests. Taking off the obvious statement "References Upon Request" will give your more space.
- Great Cover Letter--Very important that this never is a generic note that feels like a mass mailing form letter. This is a great canvas where you will paint a picture of yourself that you want the reader to get. What is your story? Tell it so the reader does not have to guess. Plus you can mention who referred you to this job/organization. Being referred is the most powerful thing you can do. That referring name differentiates your resume/application from the others. Plus, they have to remember what they did with you in case there is follow-up!
Time Gaps--You were laid off 8 months ago. You been on maternity/mommy leave for a couple years. Unless you were just on the couch, you were doing something besides applying for jobs online, right? Any consulting, volunteer work, internships become more relevant especially at the top of your resume. Recent studies show you will get way fewer call backs when there is an extended gap at the top of your resume. Duh!
Proof Readers--Have your confidantes read your stuff for readability, typos, grammar, formatand to help you present the best case. They know you and they will also push you to brag appropriately.
Resume Resources--Many online free resources. I like Rileyguide.
Please reboot your resume. Get it into to shape to represent you well! Impossible to network without one.
Thanks for reading. John
I like cooking. It is like therapy for me. It is a chance to be creative and then you get to literally enjoy your work! :) I follow two basic approaches. I either start with a recipe that I have cut out of a publication that intrigued me. Or I look in the frig and see what is there. The first method requires me to plan, buy stuff, and take time to read and learn. The second is a challenge but is the lazier alternative. I enjoy both forms of cooking.
Life is like my cooking analogy. (stay with me). You can always rely on what you have, what you know, and who you know. Or you can add new learnings, new connections, and new ideas to your process. I know this is not an either or proposition. We all have our tendencies, our habits, and our default modes of living and cooking.
I have seen that people network this way too. They have a few people they rely on for their career nourishment, their advice, and their direction. Not talking about your mentors now. I am referring to your network that is beyond your friends and family. These are people that may occupy your extended reference list, including former bosses, colleagues--people who you from time to time rely upon for advice and connections. How fresh or stale is this network?
This is the network that is in your frig.
Now think about where you are going with your life and career. Your ambitions, goals, and career aspirations--(your recipes, if I have not overstretched this analogy already). How does your network relate to these thoughts? In other words, does your current go-to network have the experiences, background, passion, connections to help you get to where you are going?
If you have read any of my posts you know that you can never under-estimate your existing relationships--that you often don't know who you know.
But I also want you to take an inventory of your current network. To see whether you need to add to your network or uncover your needs in your existing network.
The point is to design your network. Curate a network that has the dimensions and facets that reflect your interests, career objectives, and passions.
I meet so many people who want to work in a non-profit. That is what they say. "I want to work for a non-profit." They might as well have said they want to live in Asia. The lack of specificity will engage no one in your quest. After I pummel them with questions about the specifics, I always ask them, "Who do you know that works in a non-profit (especially one they want to work for)?" Most tell me they do but HAVE NOT HAD THE TIME TO CONNECT WITH THEM? Hmmmmmm.
Our networks have to reflect where we are going and certainly match up with what we tell others are important to us.
Look in your frig. See what you need to acquire, learn about, read about---specifically who you want to meet. Is everyone in your network more or less like you? Then you need to add some variety to your cooking! Talking to yourself will only get you so far! You need new ideas, inspirations, and energy. Once you have a good idea about your goals then seek people with names you want to meet. People with certain titles. People in specific orgs. Which orgs are the leaders in this field/industry? Who are the thought leaders?
Are you following the people, organizations and publications that reflect your goals?
Curate your own network. Not just by adding friends on FB or linking on Linked-in. Do it with intention and purpose. Not just to get jobs, but to deepen your understanding and your commitment to your goals--the ones you say to yourself and to others. Once you connect with others those words and thoughts will change but your path will become more clear.
Thanks for reading. John
I think it was Dennis Miller who said he has a rare case of ADD/OCD. He says he is afflicted with constantly changing what he is obsessed about. :)
Hmmmm maybe all of us suffer from this......
Every week I get to hear how people intend to improve their live, pursue new careers, and search for their next resume filler. I can now predict what what most people say. Not sure where this downloaded verbiage comes from, but the vast majority utter a pablum of memorized (read non-authentic words) about their future. These words inevitably and inexorably sabotage their chances to achieve their goals. Let me explain.
I was recently interviewed by a executive coaching site to provide some advice to their subscribers. One of the questions was:
What three interview questions are the most effective?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why are you leaving or left your last job?
- How will this job advance your longer term career goal?
I try to get to the candidate's story--the story of goals, passion, and self reflection. The true story, not the half truths of a resume--but the inner thoughts and persona of the candidate.
Intuitively we know that the job of a candidate is to differentiate oneself. It is the ultimate marketing challenge of telling the interviewer/employer what sets you apart from the sea of "qualified" humans who seek the same spot. Right?
Here are the typical and predictable and yes, you guessed it, worst answers to my questions:
- Why do you want this job? I love what (employer name) does. Seems like a place I could make a difference. Really looking for a place to grow.
- Why are you leaving or left your last job? My current position/place of employment limits my mobility. I am looking for new opportunities where I will have more mobility and opportunity.
- How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Eventually I want to head my own/division/company/non-profit and I see this position as helping me achieve this.
Why do we spend so much time and energy demonstrating why we are like everyone else? Why is our pitch-- our story, our marketing materials--resume and cover letter, and our approach to interviews like every other candidate?!!
Laziness, apathy, perhaps ADD/OCD and our rush to act, play leading roles in this regression to the mean. We want quick solutions--so we plug in generic phrases and ideas to to keep the engine of progress going--even if the result is mediocrity.
Not sure how these oft repeated answers get embedded in our brains and process but I have seen this pattern over and over again. Reading these answers you get a distinct idea that "this job" is not the focus of this conversation. You learn little about the person. Everything in these answers speaks to the future--what the candidate will need to advance. No attention is paid to learning and contributing to "this job". No expression of awareness of what the candidate needs to advance in their career--in other words what they hope to achieve/gain to lighten their intended path.
- Why do you want this job? How does this job align with your purpose? Everyone wants to "make a difference and a place to grow". What are your personal reasons to work here?
- Why are you leaving or left your last job? This is a delicate and important question that needs to be addressed. Layoff is an answer that requires details. Dissatisfaction with the job, the growth, the purpose need attention and inform the question above. Lack of prep on this question demonstrates lack of readiness to move on.
- How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Another softball question that tees up your chance to solidify your answers above. This is the space you use to talk about how you expect to grow, what opportunities that you found lacking in your previous job you hope to uncover here, and what areas you hope to hone, refine and master to become more confident. In other words, "How will this job challenge you?" Is this merely a stepping stone. This is not the place to say, "I want to be the head of (employer)." Or some other ambiguous ambitious sounding words about becoming the head of something. Often "this job" will probably not lead to this goal (even if you believed your own answer) raising serious doubts about your understanding of "this job" and your attention span for "this job."
Cover letters, interviewing, networking, mentoring, answering questions, and telling your story are more about vulnerability and authenticity than regurgitating your quals and resume.
Otherwise your auto-pilot average answers to the questions unwittingly sabotage your candidacy.
Get compulsive and obsessive about your story--your real story. Invest time into it and develop the words that convey your ideas and your candidacy. Let your greatness, goodness and needs shine!
Thanks for reading. John
We are so obsessed with negativity, with the horrific, with the tragic, and especially with the potential for horrible and threatening endings. The end of the world? The fiscal cliff? Remember Y2K? Or Nostradamus? Yes, it is sensational and fun to discuss. But we tend to see the bad that could happen and that prevents us from the good that could occur. If you are truly realistic about the risks you take, then you would not be afraid.
I love talking to newish grads who are unemployed or even better, dissatisfied employed people searching for more "meaning in their lives". Both of these groups need to fully assess the risks of their indecision and the risks of their choices. If you do not assert your needs, engage others, and take baby steps or giant strides toward things that you want in your life, please stop complaining.
The risks of inaction are always greater than the risks of action.
I recently looked at a resume of a person who underestimates his qualities and therefore his dreams. I listened to his story and it was a dry regurgitation of "facts". Clearly uncomfortable telling his less than compelling story that was muddled by his mouth full of humble pie. So I said to him, "Oh so you are a creative person, a person with great interest in aesthetics, and you have adapted to many very different circumstances. You need to use these themes to punctuate your story, your resume and your networking."
He looked at me and said, "How did you get that?" I just listened and tried to listen for the good not try and pick apart what he delivered. It can be difficult to see the threads of your life to weave your story. You need a confidante or mentor to give you the unfiltered feedback and help you identify the threads.
Your storyline past, present and future needs to incorporate who you are not what you have done!
Waiting for New Years? Really? You need an official start date and time when everybody else is doing the same thing? Sorry, I thought I was talking to an individual with ideas, and courage. Mistook you for someone who was going to live with fewer regrets. I hoped you were the person who was going to change things this year.
There is no other time but NOW.
Tired from all your shopping and eating..........You just need a little down time........ C'mon!
Get Ready: Your World Begins Today! Won't make the headlines but it is certainly a storyline that should capture your attention.
No YouTube. No Powerpoint. No Visual Threats. Just the amazing things in your heart and mind that need to be done.
Focus on the positive and the opportunity and the risks will fade.
Here's what Bassam Tarazi says:
To understand the worst means to write out our real-world worst-case scenario. Not the death, fire, and brimstone stuff we like to make up but that actual worst-case scenario: money lost, opportunities passed up, family we may disappoint. Write it down. Bathe yourself in it. Understand it. Acknowledge it.
Now, write down how you would bounce back from that worst-case scenario. Who would you contact? What skills could you put on display? Where would you have to live? How long could you live off savings? How could you earn money?
Got it? Good. You’ve understood the worst-case scenario, and now you can use the rest of your energies (and there should be a lot of it left) to fight for the best.
Start a conversation with yourself. A real conversation about what is important. Write it down. Document what you are thinking. Look at your resume and at your network and examine the gaps. Start talking about this path of passion or curiosity. Use this new storyline to engage others and seek advice and counsel.
It is your choice: you can see the cliff and the potential fall or take advantage of the glorious view. You can see the clock as winding down or starting up. You can avoid the risks or avoid the regrets.
Yes, the End of the Year nears, but the beginning of your next chapter starts any time you want.
Thanks for reading. John
Many of us have visions of ourselves and our futures that give us hope or delusion. We think about these visions and often make no efforts to purse them. Potentially dangerous stuff because we get mesmerized by our dream and get lulled to sleep.
Like Lenny in Mice and Men. We dream and then can literally squeeze the life out of our dreams by not waking up and taking action.
"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is we put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our window." Dale Carnegie
I hear a lot about these rose gardens or "greener pastures" that exist in our dreams and over the horizon. Specific ideas and details of what lies ahead--in our imaginations. These roses are inviting and aromatic. The grass is green and lush.
The trouble is we don't actually visit these garden and pasture like places. Maybe we don't want to ruin the image and perfection. Maybe we are afraid of failure. Maybe we are too busy--yikes! Maybe we are waiting for the "right" time--double yikes!
I get exhausted from hearing these visions with no action.
People ask me everyday, "What is a good mentor?" A good mentor pushes the mentee to start a rose garden or weed the pasture of their dreams. A good mentor will not tolerate hearing about the dream more than a couple of times without seeing real steps in pursuing that dream. I am trying to be a good mentor right now.
Stop talking about your dream and test it. Bring some reality to the dream by taking field trips to that place.
I recently was introduced by a friend in Barcelona to a new friend from Germany: Balazs. He has been dreaming about moving his family and business to LA. He had a short stint here in a study abroad program and a family member recently moved here. He was convinced that the pasture was greener in LA. He decided to pursue his dream. He researched the business environment, used his network--that's where I was contacted--and flew to LA. He gave himself a month to explore the pastures of LA and the limits of his dream. He immersed himself in a new place. Balazs is very bright and talented, but he is a reserved and trusting guy. Yet he pushed himself to network and jump into new situations, and literally knock on doors to conduct his research. He was like an amazing advance man for a big campaign. Testing messages, needs, and interest all the while selling himself. Hard stuff. I connected him to my network and he ran with it. He met hundreds of people, visited dozens of companies and in the end, conducted a thorough investigation of his dream. What he didn't expect was how this tour of LA was a tour of his soul, of his assumptions about his business and about his life. Because Balazs was open to the feedback, he learned that LA could work if he changed his dream. His dream has been tempered by reality and he can now decide if it is greener.
Reminds me of the two shoe salesmen who visited Africa many years ago. The first wrote back and said,"No one wears shoes here, no opportunities." The second one wrote back, "No one wears shoes, huge opportunity." Going to see things changes how you view things.
I have heard these phrases recently. I call them ambitiousness without ambition.
I want to get an MBA. What's the GMAT?
I want to own my own business. What's ebitda?
I want to run a non-profit without fundraising.
Who doesn't want the success without the work? The dream without waking up.
We say silly things and then dream about them.
We need to know what we are saying and dreaming about. Reality can bring those pastures into focus and purse them. Or allow you to delete that dream and build a new one. What a waste of a life to regret a dream you did not want.
Not trying to deter you from dreaming just dream in HD. Dream accurately. Understand the path to the dream. Every beautiful rose garden has thorns, bugs, and you have to bury some manure. Every picturesque green pasture has weeds, vermin, and requires a lot of work.
Use your network and your mentors to visit the pastures and meet the farmers. Learn about the soil and seed. Wear the shoes. Is it still green?.
Curiousity may have killed the cat but it may breathe life into your dreams.
Balazs traveled 6000 miles to test his dream. Odds are your dreams are so much closer.
Wake up, stand up, and smell the roses and run through those pastures.
Thanks for reading. John
The most popular radio station in the world is WII-FM. WII-FM is shrill and repetitive. WII-FM is What's In It For Me. We have to turn down the volume and listen to the real music of our lives--Your heart, your mind, and the people around you. Yes you have needs, but you still have much more to offer. We all want and need things but the best way to receive is to give. That's correct, your mom was right again! Same goes for mentoring.
Almost everyone I talk to wants to find a mentor, the "right" mentor, a "better" mentor. They crave advice and counsel to help them advance their lives. Most people expect this new improved and very special mentor to point them in the right direction and provide them with the answers. Those of us who mentor others know that's not what usually happens . Mentoring is a two-way conversation that helps one another discover the truth--the truth that lies within. So that's why everyone should be mentoring others as much as they seek mentoring. Once you put others before yourself. Once you practice what you preach. Once you teach, you understand the role of the student. The world comes into focus as you are not waiting for a mentor but helping someone else. You take control again. You drive instead of waiting to be picked up. That's why I advocate a lifestyle of mentoring. It is not passive or dependent. It is pro-active and direct.
Choosing to mentor is to choose to help others, to engage others, thereby helping oneself.
So think first to mentor, then to be mentored.
Always give without an expectation. That is the cardinal rule of this lifestyle of mentoring and networking. And the returns to you will be plentiful.
- A cousin seeks your advice
- A friend's daughter wants to discuss college options
- A long time colleague at work needs your help, but has never asked for it
- One of your best friends is stuck in life
- A former employee has a friend that wants to discuss careers
All of these are warm sources of need. Make the time to help, mentor and share your wisdom.
No matter what stage you are in your life, there is another you can mentor. Someone you care about who could use your perspective. Someone you are going to help be accountable to themselves. Accountable to their own goals and dreams. A mentor is not the source of all knowledge, they have experience, perspective and the will to be candid. Not just kind and encouraging. Not just helpful and sensitive. Not the type that winces and cringes on the inside and smiles on the outside when we hear others say crazy things. Not phony nice. We need to be a bit more intolerant of the BS and the loose language that comes from people we care about. We need to help others rein in their weak plans and weaker efforts. Most of all we need to be truthmeisters.
My best mentors reflect me, my words, my goals like an HD mirror. They show me the good, the bad and the ugly that I emit. I get to see and hear myself like never before with much better clarity.
Articulating advice and doling out the truth is not credible or relevant if you don't live by it. That's why the mentor always gains, because the act of advising another reinforces your values, your behaviors and your goodness. Mentoring is about vulnerability. Mentoring is not the coach who says "do what I say and not what I do." Mentoring gives the mentor the courage to tell the truth and to open up and discuss how they are overcoming their weaknesses and foibles. And the mentee musters the courage to hear the truth, confront their own weaknesses and discover themselves.
Still doubt the mentor is rewarded more?
Recent research now shows that those that mentor achieves far greater benefits. Mentors make substantially more money, are more successful and the mentees are more likely to help others--mentoring creates more mentoring.
Mentors pay it forward.
A quick review of the benefits of mentoring:
- You always get more--including pay and promotion!
- The mentee benefits
- The mentee helps others
- The world benefits from people more connected that help one another
Any questions? :)
Mentoring is not a service YOU provide--it is the human act of helping one another that advances YOUR life.
Mentor first, then seek mentoring. Pay it forward and it will always come back to you.
Thanks for reading. John
We are a product of our environment, right? No doubt that everything we do and everyone we encounter changes us a little or a lot. But how do we take advantage of the crowds arounds us? How do we avoid being dragged down by the crowd? And regressing to the mean? Everyday we can be pushed to realize our potential or pulled to be like everybody else.
The nail that sticks out gets hammered. Japanese proverb
It is human nature to to fall in line. the Asch conformity experiments demonstrate that we will lie about what we see to conform.
I meet thousands of people who are in the federal witness relocation program. No not real former witnesses hiding out. But people under assumed identities--identities that they assumed from the advice of others. People told them what they should be, what they should study, what jobs made financial sense. They ignored their own interests to make the crowds around them happy.
Don't accept hand-me-down dreams.
If we were a product how would we market ourselves? How would we promote our brand? What would differentiate us from the other products? Your resume? Your job? You?
Fear, the change around us, doubt about our chances, make us conservative and practical. We pull back our dreams, our aspirations, and our talents. We accept less of ourselves. Less of who we are and what we want. Not talking about our personal budgets. Financial prudence should always govern. I am talking about carving out a life and career that truly reflects you.
If you always do what you have always done then you always get what you always got. Stuart Crab
Finding what makes you different requires hard work, experimentation, fast failures, iteration, and certainly not settling. To live an authentic life you have to pursue who you truly are. So the journey is a self discovery of what you love doing, what defines you, what your talents and strengths are. Your network and your mentors can help guide you through this journey if you open your mind and heart.
A true life starts with talking straight about who you are and who want to become. Taking chances to become your best authentic self. Stop using false statements---the use of other people's words that mean nothing to you but satisfactorily answer the question of "Where are you going?" Or "What are you doing with your life?" Glib but disingenuous answers that are meant to stop the conversation. A great mentor would never let you get away with such answers.
It would be much easier to live a life that "happens". You take what comes to you. Settle for what others want for you. The authentic life is the opposite, you chase it. You hunt it down. You stalk your passion and purpose.
Why be a commodity of a crowd? Are you different? Are you average? 76% of Americans say they are above average. So I guess above average is the commodity. :) We can't accept that.
I leave you with a wonderful Carlos Casteneda quote:
All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. ... Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
There is wisdom in crowds but don't get lost in them.
Thanks for reading. John
Obviously not talking about George Carlin's seven curse words. And if you have never heard of George Carlin, may he rest in peace--get with it!
I am talking about 7 career phrases that set me off. Seven word configurations that people blurt out with casual regularity that I find profane. These phrases push my buttons and require great restraint from me to not say something more offensive! :) They are toxic to networking and mentoring. They mask real issues that hold back careers and potential.
These are robotic reflexive automaton utterances that mean nothing but say volumes about the speaker. They are symptoms of issues which are being denied or ignored.
- I'm very busy- We hear this everyday, many times a day.You say:"How are you?" and we hear: "Very busy." Everyone is busy and we are busy all of the time. We breathe air, gravity keeps us put, the earth circles the sun, and we are busy? Anyone not busy?!! The question: What are we busy doing? My truly favorite is when a subordinate comes into my office and says, "Are you busy?" "Not sorry to interrupt." or "Do you have a moment?" I usually, say "So funny I was just napping. Doing nothing. What do you want?" We know in our hearts that busy-ness can not be the focus of our business. Stop saying this!
- I need more balance in my life--You don't. I know what you mean, you want more. You want more time for family, hobbies, and life outside of work. But you also want more from work--more money, more growth, and more fulfillment. Balance is a mythical pie chart of equal pieces. Never happens. You want a bigger pie! You need to prioritize and to invest more time to expand your life.
- My life is going according to my plan--Yikes! So you have a plan for yourself and the rest of the universe? Please share it. Because if your plan predicts the economy, world events, your bosses mood, and your employer's next re-org--then you have to buy lotto tickets! Your plan needs to be to become the best you can be and to adapt rapidly. To nurture who you are and to engage your talents with the world. A linear chronological plan that provides a lock-step map to your future is an insurance plan for self deception. Quit planning and start doing.
- I am going to wait and see what happens--Confused by change and chaos? We wait for a calmer moment to make our move. "When the economy improves..." "After this new VP gets settled.." "When the company completes this restructuring.." Let me tell you a secret. If you want to be competitive, speed is the deciding factor. Unless you are Benjamin Button, you are not getting any younger. Waiting is for wimps and frankly waiting is a giant pile of procrastination. Not saying be impulsive and stupid, I am encouraging you to move and act on your instincts. Wait and you will miss the window of opportunity. It's only your dreams that await you.
- I want more stability--See #2 above. I meet a lot of people that say they want stability. They say they don’t want change. They want to keep what they have. These people are lying to themselves. No one who is ambitious and wants a better life wants stability. No parent who loves their kids wants things to stay the same. Nobody who is alive, who is conscious of the needs in our community, of the inequities in our society wants things to stay the same. You want change.
- What's so tough about non-profit work?--I am so sick and tired of big shot execs de-valuing what non-profits do. I think the word non-profit hurts our work and our reputation. The non-profit sector is an essential economic engine in this country. Last year it was $1.4 trillion in size. Sorry for that rant, but I wish I could implant these facts into the minds of some of the arrogant people that I encounter. Having worked multiple times in both for-profit and non-profit. It is not a contest. Non-profit work is so much more difficult to be successful. You have a business model that can not scale based on demand. There is a nonsensical lack of appreciation for overhead for non-profits when a corporation can have 85% "overhead" in their product. If you want to transfer your skills to non-profits--humble yourself ---become a student. Lose your assumptions, learn the differences, apply your talents and success will follow. Then I am all ears.
- I am really not passionate about anything--You can't believe how many times I hear this. Young and mature. Exec and student. Men and women. All ethnicities. People who have devoted themselves to a "plan"--go back to #3 above--and thought passion would be delivered to them. The skies or their hearts would magically open up and they would get a healthy dose of the passion thing. So distracted by what they thought the formula for "success" is, they missed themselves and the world around them. No passion. New grads without a clue and retirees with nothing to do. You have to get lost to find yourself. Passion comes from your pursuit of happiness and the happiness of others. It comes from connecting who you are and the world around you. Never too late, but your time here requires you to find this.
Wow, do I feel better. I have vented and maybe you have understood. Now there is a possibility that you will not say these things and disabuse others from saying these phrases too. Thanks George for inspiring me.
Thanks for reading. John
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 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
Maybe it is the aging process or a deluded sense of maturity but being diplomatic seems less and less relevant. Certainly, there is a great value in packaging messages in digestible and palatable chunks. So how can we embrace an air of sensitivity for other people's feelings and on the other hand not let them get away with stuff? How do we answer questions with the greatest candor and frankness without hurting people?
"I want the truth. You can't handle the truth." Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in a few Good Men
If you have read my posts, you know I define mentoring as "a reality check". The obligation that we hold the mirror of truth so our friends can see themselves. And lastly, that mentoring can never be just encouragement and support. That effective mentoring is an exchange of truths based upon mutual benefit.
The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. -Attributed to James A. Garfield
The classic question from a wife to a husband, that tests his manhood and his ability to stay married, "Do I look fat in this dress?" How can such a simple question conjure up fear, a furious internal debate about right and wrong and the origins of the universe? :)
But outside of these moments of marital imbalance, we need to be able to give and take the truth. How long should we go on with our little lives with a totally inaccurate picture of ourselves? You can't cut your own hair and you can't see yourself by yourself. The layers of denial, rationalization, self-defense, and sheer ego are thicker than the walls at Fort Knox.
The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths. ~William James
Let's be honest :), we each have skills, expertise, and personal attributes that are under-appreciated and should be honed and sharpened on a regular basis. But the only way we will grow is to confront our deficiencies, our bad habits, and our unfulfilled aspirations. You have to be surrounded by and gravitate towards truth tellers and shun and avoid the sycophants, the butt kissers, and any mirrors that reinforce self-deception.
Working at a foundation you have to be extra vigilant. It is amazing how much younger, smarter and funnier I have become since I started working at CCF! In fact, a mentor of mine, advised me when I took this job, "You will feel like the buxom tall blonde when you go to parties." How about that for the truth! Drink that kool-aid and you will go on a hollow binge of self-importance.
Over an over again in my life adventure I have sought and received advice that pushed and pulled me. My mentors have shown me the inconsistencies of my words and actions. Helped me avoid career choices, preserve relationships, and build confidence in ways I can never could have done by myself.
People who avoid going to the doctors, financial planners, academic advisors, or career counselors to get an annual check-up on their lives are the people who like living in the ignorant space outside of the truth. "What I don't know will not hurt me." Yikes!
Take an inventory of the truthful mentors and mirrors you have in your life. Who can you depend upon to give you a reality check? Who makes you uncomfortable or even intimidates you? Who is a bit more like you want to be? (Not who you admire, but someone that you want to be like--there is a difference) Become a mentoring seeking missile. Stalk mentoring opportunities. Finding the right mentor(s) is a process of wanting to be mentored, being mentorable and knowing yourself.
While there is an intuitive focus on improving, we must also appreciate the good in ourselves and others. Being generous with the truth includes telling people in our lives how much they mean to us, that we love them, and expressing our gratitude for the gifts we receive from them.
"You know, that other dress shows off your sexy figure better", might be a better answer for the confounded husband. But we are confronted with these choices everyday as a parent, manager, colleague, and friend. Seeking more "mirrors" that won't lie to us has to be our goal. Being more and more truthful with yourself and with others has to be our goals.
Let's mentor each other with greater and greater dosages of the truth so that we reach our goals with a clearer picture of who we are.
Thanks for reading. John
We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger. ~Tad Williams
Lying is so complicated. You have to remember who you told and who knows. It is an endless process to avoid the truth.Telling the truth is much different than not telling a lie. It starts with little lies we tell ourselves and others. And it can lead to self deception. In the end, we have to ask ourselves, are we who we say we are? Are who we think we are?
Don't make up stuff about yourself, especially about your education. If you did not complete a degree or don't plan to, don't say otherwise. Pretty shocking how many people I have met who lie about their academic records. They just brazenly make false statements about their education. Everyone knows that academic records are checked, so what is the point. It is a deal breaker in job offers and brutalizes your brand. Offered a job to an extraordinary candidate. He was a VERY qualified candidate. His routine background check showed that he had not earned a BA. When we informed him he said he would clear it up and we never heard back from him again. Not sure if it was embarrassment or fear. If he would have told us that he was working on his degree, we would have figured out something. He lied and ran. Don't say you are going to get a graduate degree unless you are planning to. In an informational interview I met this bright young lady who was highly recommended to me. She told me she was "going to get her MBA." I quickly asked her when she was applying and how did she do on the GMAT. She was surprised by the questions and became quite flustered. She looked at me and sheepishly said, "Do you have to take the GMAT?" YIKES!
Don't misrepresent why you left a job.Was it a layoff? A restructuring? A poor fit? Was it amicable? Tell the story. Leave out all of the gory details, but explain what happened in a credible way. This is my favorite--"I just left because I outgrew the position." Yeah, you just quit in the middle of the recession without another job because you were not challenged. Huh? Jon Lovitz, as the pathological liar on SNL used to say, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"
Don't name drop. Don't exaggerate who you know and how well you know them. The world is small and getting smaller and lies will be unceremoniously unmasked. In my strange and wonderful career I have shaken the hands and "met" many important people. I would never say I "know" them or drop their names in conversations. People tell me they were referred to me by people I know. Then I find out they don't know the person who referred them. Not good form. I was just introduced to someone and before we shake hands, she says "You know so and so don't you." The name shocked me because I did know this person but they were fired for excessive drinking at work! Needless to say this meeting did not go well and my impression of her, and her judgment, were damaged.
Don't lie about your compensation requirements hoping you will work it out in the negotiations. I always ask what is "your minimum salary requirement." I require an answer. If someone says, "Its does not matter" or "I am totally negotiable." Then we expect they really want the job and money is secondary. Just had a candidate tell us this and then when the offer was made, he told us his minimum salary, which was 20% higher than we were offering. Don't ever hire liars, they will never stop lying.
Here's the biggest one. Stop lying to yourself. Stop telling yourself and others things that are not true. Things about your plans and your future. Start talking about what you REALLY want. And start taking steps to understand these things better. Know thyself! And then make it happen.
It is not enough to tell the truth. You have to reveal yourself. You have to express what is unique about you. Why knowing you, hiring you, helping you is worth it. What makes you tick. What makes you happy. What you want and where you are going. I see thousands of resumes, then I meet the person. I do not want to hear the recitation of their resume. I know literacy is an issue but provide me with the amazing stuff that is NOT on your resume. So I say "tell me your story." Or I ask about the "other side of the resume", "what you do when you aren't working". Repeatedly, I get these very bland answers like, "I read a lot." or the ubiquitous "I like to travel." I know they are interesting and have compelling stories and personalities, but I rarely hear them. But when I do, it separates them from the pack. It makes them memorable and real. The world is filled with competent people like you, just not enough interesting ones.
The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff. ~Ambrose Bierce
Networking and mentoring like all relatiuonships require truth and transparency to work well. They require trust that is only built upon the strong bond of understanding each other. You are so much more than a resume and a series of jobs. You are a light that is shining on a future---your future. There is no one else like you. So why lie. The truth about you is pretty compelling stuff, more than you think. ean it. You just have to express it and articulate it. You have so many talents and unfulfilled dreams. People love other people's dreams and destinies. You have to talk about the real you and stop lying about a you, you may be pretending to be.
White lies, little lies, and lying to not offend people are things we all do. Dumb lies, that enhance our standing with others need to be curbed. But deceiving ourselves, now that is a crime that has to stop.
Like all of my posts, we have to help those we mentor to adopt these principles. So, if you are a fountain of truth and transparency, teach others how to know and transmit their truths.
Thanks for reading. John