Steve Jobs

What is your story? Understanding your narrative and where it is taking you

I have found that people do not appreciate their own stories. There is such a premium placed on amazing, dramatic, tear-jerkers that average stories, just stories about who we are and what we want are relegated to the "boring" file. So these stories are neglected and unformed. Yet I have found that every personal story told is fascinating. 

Our stories are helpful to others so they can help us. But our stories can reinforce our own behaviors and actions and become self fulfilling prophecies. Greatest-story1

Not talking about your interview technique or even how to sound clever at a cocktail party.

I am talking about what you say to yourself and how that reveals itself to others. 

The classics: "I am not good at math." "I have a terrible voice." "I can't even draw a circle." "I can't even boil water." "I am such a terrible public speaker."

Whether you like it or not these are part of your story and become part of your reputation. 

What are you good at? What are you most confident about? Are you risk averse? Are you afraid of failure or looking stupid?

You can become what you say you are and not become what you don't say. 

What are you telling yourself about you?

I made a woman and a young man cry recently. I didn't mean to.

It was my interpretation of their stories that got them choked up.

The gentleman was testing his pitch for a new venture he was thinking of starting and I told him that people want to invest in you who are you. I gave him my version of the hardships he had overcome.

The lady was looking to make a very serious career change and I asked her to tell me why? She struggled with her answer. I summarized her rationale, qualifications and the value she would add. 

I loved their stories. Basically I told them their own stories. I gleaned from them what they were saying and I crafted the stories--positive stories. I have no special skill or technique. I listened to them and read their resumes. These were uplifting meetings for all of us. To see people's potential and share it with them was inspirational for me! When your story is set free and it resonates with the protagonist it creates vulnerability--like a secret was told out loud. It is liberating. It can be cathartic. It is empowering.

And your story evolves, if you allow it. If you keep an eye on the possibility ahead you can edit your story.

One of the many benefits of mentoring and networking is to work on your internal narrative. What story is guiding how you live and what you do. The greatest gift is to ask someone you trust: "What do you see in me?" 'Where do you see me going?" 

Steve Jobs advice from his famous commencement address still rings true. "Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly already want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Hearing your inner voice out loud gives it life and freedom far from the tyranny of others expectations.

Is your story fraught with limitations, excuses and pessimism? Or is it nestled in optimism, opportunities, and lessons? 

"I have few options." "I don't have the right (education, job, mentor, financial condition....)" 


"There are so many things I can do and learn." "This problem is going to teach me new things." 

It is a choice. The story you tell. 

Stories we tell ourselves and others define our well-being. Depressed individuals often have deeply ingrained internal stories such as ‘I’m never good enough,’ or ‘My father told me I should have been a doctor.’  Versus athletes who visualize success and use mantras like "You have been here before. You know what to do."

From Phillipa Perry's book How to Stay Sane "The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved. If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up. We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves, at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck."

Take control of your story. Own it. Interrupt the negative audio loops. Open it up. Tell your truths. Talk about it. Listen to other people's assessments of it. Edit and enhance your story. See the possibilities over the problems. Your story is amazing. Sometimes you just have to get out of its way. 

Thanks for reading. John


Start-Ups and Your Collective Intelligence

.All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed---finding our food, feeding ourselves. That’s where human history began. We have forgotten that we are entrepreneurs. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank

There is an obsession with start-ups. Something very exciting about developing a new thing from scratch. I have had the pleasure and pressure of working for founders—the people who were possessed by an idea. I learned a way of thinking, call it entrepreneurship. I learned that being truly creative and inventive requires an iterative process of trial and error. It requires a passion of purpose. And a critical eye and mind for the elements of success. We all have the capability of an entrepreneur and crave the energy and urgency that comes from a new venture, but only some of us pursue it as a way of living. Vfa

That’s why I agreed to join the initial faculty of VentureforAmerica (VFA). This is its own networking story—VFA’s founder, Andrew Yang, is a good friend of a former Coro Fellow I mentored and Eddie Shiomi, VP of Programs, an undergraduate student I mentored at UCLA. VFA is a brand new non-profit that recruits top new college grads and immerses them in a “start-up” mentality and then places them in new ventures for 2 years to apprentice under veteran entrepreneurs. Its mission is to revitalize America through entrepreneurship---that’s all! J How cool is this?!

So I parachuted into VFA’s start-up boot camp that is 4 weeks of an intense hybrid curriculum of “start-up weekends”, hackfests, and MBA-like case studies. I injected my ideas about career development and networking and performed some team coaching of these 40 wannabe entrepreneurs—VFA Fellows. I witnessed the birth of their start-up mindsets. New parts of their grey matter were being exercised. You could see the learning in their eyes! Unlike many internships or graduate programs, VFA is engaging their entrepreneurial brains and installing a new way of thinking through learning by doing. These Fellows will never see the world the same again.

My entrepreneurial juices were rejuvenated by this boot camp and the bright minds of the VFA Fellows.

On the plane ride back to LA, I finished Reid (Mr., Start-up and Linked-In founder) Hoffman’s book, The Start-UP of You. It is a wonderful inspiring book that frames the issues of career development in new and digestible ways.

For many of us, the most important start-up is the Start-Up of You! Retooling the old self for the new world. Getting new motivation and energy to do some much needed self-re-invention. If you were a company or a concept, how would you evaluate your marketability, your competition, your packaging? This book pushes you to change and adapt and provides some good steps and exercises to get you going. .

Hoffman re-defines and re-positions Networking as the critical element to your start-up. Old networking used to be vertical along the hierarchical lines of the employer. No longer. You need to nurture a horizontal network across companies, sectors, and geography.

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” Is your network aspirational? Or is it holding you back?

 “An individual’s power is raised exponentially with the help of the network (team).”Hoffman asserts a concept of Network Intelligence. That your network is teeming with information and ideas that are being exchanged that you can and should access. And there are other networks that are connected to your network and new networks that have valuable information, ideas, and guidance about your life questions and goals.

In the Global Brain: The Evolution of the Mass Mind, Howard Bloom goes into excruciating detail and scientific evidence to convince his readers that the whole world down to the sub-atomic and microscopic levels is interconnected into a Global Brain. --A network of collective intelligence that influences and informs everything.

Hoffman’s point is we are missing out on the intelligence of our networks and the intelligence of networks we encounter and discover. Networks which are only 2 degrees of separation from us! The people who know the people we know.

You dabble in and rely upon networks of strangers intelligence all of the time. We count on reviews of products or restaurants made by strangers. We read Wikipedia or surf the net with Firefox—open source worlds nurtured by strangers. Imagine if we tapped into the collective intelligence of people we know and the people they know. This is the essence of networking in the 21st century.

Then Hoffman moves into Build Genuine Relationships. I know no one tries to build disingenuous relationships but we do! I love this chapter because it is what I have been preaching for 2 decades. :)

Relationship builders:

  • Help others first. I say, Give without expectation. They don’t keep score. They think about their relationships all of the time not when they need them
  • Don’t focus on quantity of “friends” but prioritize the quality of relationships. Relationships that advance aspirations through a “diverse team of allies and advisors with whom you grow over time.”
  • Focus on getting to know people in their existing network. As I say, It is amazing who you know, who you don’t know. They connect to new people through their network. They avoid cold calling and prefer to be introduced.

“Genuine” relationship requires great empathy and active listening. You have to turn off the most powerful radio station in the world. WII-FM—What’s In It For Me.

Networking intelligence, collective intelligence and accessing the Global Brain are essential to your start-up and a greater community of sharing and learning from one another. Enroll in your own boot camp. Take on the most important start-up----YOU. After all, you are an entrepreneur, now start acting like one.

Thanks for reading. John



Connecting the Dots

Steve Jobs lived a life of great trials and tribulations, great victories and achievements.

He pursued his passions and his curiosities, not because it was part of a plan. Because it fascinated him. He found work he loved which he never considered work. He met people, had ideas, and pursued thoughts, not in an effort to reach a goal. He connected dots that made sense only in hindsight.Dots

Here's what he said: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."


Even if you have watched this before, watch it again! It is so inspirational particularly that we have lost him.

Steve Jobs has been likened to Thomas Edison, but I have always thought of him as a combination of Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg. He was no angel, few geniuses are. But a true visionary. Never had the opportunity to meet him but like most of us I admired his insatiable creativity and pursuit of excellence.

Think for a second that his seemingly innocuous logo symbol –Apple with a bite missing—is the forbidden fruit. He always pushed himself beyond the garden of eden. After all one of his daughters was named Eve!

His story is an American fairy tale of the emergence of greatness from humble and “average” beginnings. Those of us who have been around lots of kids, if you look carefully, you can see the genius in each one of them. The genius of uniqueness and of their unfettered spirit of the possibilities. The DNA cocktail is powerful and if it is allowed to take root and grow, amazing happens. But all too often we try to conform and guide our kids to follow a formula, often the parents vicarious recipe, for success. We want the kids to fit in. Yet we simultaneously hold a contradictory thought---we believe each individual is unique and special. Why then do we try and smooth out all of the wrinkles, remove all of the weird, and push and pull our young ones into a regimented line?

I contend we lose a Steve Jobs like kid everyday to our well intentioned desire to make all of the unique birds fly in formation.

I am an addict for vision. For the people who can lift their sights from their footsteps, up to the horizon and beyond. It is not that I do not value the past or the present, but I have long understood that being satisfied with the status quo is foolhardy. That life is an endless journey about improving our lot and the lots of those that follow. In that vein, people who are restless and unsettled about the current world, yearn for the next iterations. Steve Jobs was relentless and never satisfied—that’s the way visionaries are.

We each have visions for our future, for our families future and for our sociiety. We need those visions.

One of his greatest lessons is his view of life as connecting dots. Life is the pursuit of things and people that fascinate you, that capture your imagination, that drive your curiosity and passion--with no guarantees. These are the dots that you should connect. But instead of myopically accumulating dots with a plan. Like a bad scavenger hunt, you collect interesting dots that connect you to new ideas about yourself and the possibilities.

If you can not make sense of the people and experiences you encounter except through hindsight, then how do you know if you are doing it “right”? A better question is, how can you reject the opportunity to meet someone or to experience something if you won’t know the value until later?

Actually that is what this little blog is about. Trusting yourself to take chances and to make leaps of faith. A lifestyle of connections not driven by selfish needs but a lifestyle of making connections to help people and to discover the world. A world that will teach us about ourselves by trusting our guts and our hearts to become the best of who we were meant to be.

Thanks for reading. John