As you probably know Typepad, the host of my blog, was hacked and the entire site has been down for a few days. But as you can see we are back up and I will be adding a new post shortly. Thanks for your understanding and for reading. John
As you probably know Typepad, the host of my blog, was hacked and the entire site has been down for a few days. But as you can see we are back up and I will be adding a new post shortly. Thanks for your understanding and for reading. John
Some of you that know me are wondering how I could write such a post. Humility has not always been my most evident trait. (That would be an understatement John!) But as they say, those who can't do, teach! :)
But my ego and self obsession have been down-sized over the years. I have been humbled by the world around me. Not sure it is seen by others, not sure I truly care. But I have made a concious effort to keep my hunger for self adulation in check.
I am humbled every day by the needs of others, by the potential of the human spirit, by the unknown and the unknowable. I am in awe of everyone I meet for their uniquenness. For I used to under-estimate others and over-estimate myself. If I am aware I am filled with humility.
As I started to become more self-aware, more authentic with myself, and more open to the world around me--I could not help but see how insignificant I am. That my relevance is tied to others. And to my pursuit of larger purposes and questions than myself. That the truth about education is the more you learn the more you discover what you don't know.
Always cracks me up, that some people think that getting another degree will clarify things for them--that they will obtain more certainty about their lives (not just their jobs/careers) If done well, education confuses the student more, in a good way. Education enables you to ask better questions. But I digress....
Don't be so humble you are not that great. Golda Meier
True humility is not an act. It is the real sense of your self importance in the bigger scheme of things--however you define it. It is toning down our arrogance and our sense of certainty. It is a realization that you are not the center of the universe.
I remember when I was 19 years old and I was completing a medical intake form for the first time by myself. It asked for my religion. I thought that was irrelevant, so I wrote "Protagonism". To my surprise the doctor inquired about my stated faith. I said. "I believe I am the main character of my story." Another failed attempt at Kobara humor:)
But we can be so deluded by our own individual perspective.
David Foster Wallace mused about this in his famous commencement address:
Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.
One strange manifestation of this self-centeredness, is our unwillingness to reveal what we need to work on in our lives. Our inability to embrace what we need to know, learn and understand-- the way we are taught to address our weaknesses.
Popular career guidance sources preach "turn your weaknesses into strengths". When you network or interview you are supposed to provide these types of answers or assert these types of thoughts, when asked, "What areas are you trying to improve upon?"
"I am a perfectionist. I want work to hard and too long to get things just right."
"I love to work too much. I am a work-aholic."
"I let others take the credit for the work I do. I don't assert myself enough."
For whatever reason, this is now SOP for many folks. They robotically say these things that have been commoditized and therefore regress to the mean instead of differentiating themselves.
I have found that more than 50% of students, networkers, job seekers--in my unscientific networking study--say they are stumped by a direct question about their "weaknesses". They literally say, "I don't know what to say." "I'll have to think about it." "Wow, that is a good question."
To have no weaknesses is not a sign of strength, but a sign of ignorance and even arrogance.
To me, this shows a hollowness, an emptiness, an immaturity and an abject lack of self awareness that repels potential opportunities.
A truthful, insightful answer that reveals the person's desire to improve is an endangered species.
Showing our vulnerability to others is seen as a weakness, but we know the opposite is true.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brene Brown
How do I balance my strengths and show my upside as well?
How do I express my qualifications and my competencies as well as my desire to learn and improve?
That they need me as much I need them.
How can opportunities be mutually beneficial arrangements where all parties have clear objectives to help each other?
This is the way the best networking and mentoring work. The reciprocity. The trust that exposes the needs and resources of both sides.
Humility is grounded in the understanding that the tip of the iceberg of your knowledge is dwarfed by what lies around and beneath you.
When people know what you need and want, they can help you.
It takes courage to know your needs. It takes real courage to ask for help.
More David Foster Wallace: Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
Listen more than you talk. Be prepared to give without expectations before you self promote. Put the needs of others before your own.
Then you will see that you are not the center of the universe but at the center of opportunity.
Thanks for reading. John
The greatest revolution in our generation is that of human beings, who by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. Marilyn Ferguson
One of the most surprising things to students of my mentoring workshops is my advice to mentor themselves. That the very first and most connection that one must make is the connection with thyself. To know thyself and to understand the improv group you have residing within you. Yeah that crazy group of personalities that counsel you, make fun of you, inspire you, and doubt everything you do. They hold your interests, your passions, your emotions--and your potential.
Some people have a board of directors in their mind running their lives in an orderly consistent fashion. But most of us, including yours truly, have this collection of competing and often conflicting voices in our heads. Chief among them: Ambition, Doubt, and Confidence. A very rough variation of Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego.
Like any capable improv group some of the material works, some gives pause, and some falls flat. And like all improv groups there are compelling personalities. And the voice of Doubt can be the bully.
The bully yells louder and the group falls apart. Because we can be weak and easily succumb to the bully’s powers. Doubt undermines our confidence and therefore our ambition. Doubt breeds the most unfortunate process of settling.
Like most bullies Doubt is strengthened by the weakness of others. Doubt is hungry and greedy and it will eat your confidence for a snack--if you let it. Yes, there are many layers of accumulated experience, self-talk and other people's ideas and expectations that give Doubt its strength and power. But you always have to confront the bully!
You are not good enough. You have never been good enough. No matter what you do, you fall short of what you could and should do.
Confidence is fragile. And the voice of doubt can be brutal.
Top grad students were randomly told they were falling well below expectations without any evidence . 40% agreed with the unfounded criticism. Saying things like: "I know. I never meet expectations." WTF?
We all tiptoe on a very fine line of self confidence that is so delicate.
When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt. Honore de Balzac
We doubt whether the good times will last and that the law of probability will catch up. In golf, like in life, or even flipping a coin, the "odds" are the same each time you try. But we think that the good is perishable. Our mind lets doubt ruin our momentum.
But we also know that life is not a Chair of Bowlies, as my dyslexic friend says :) Yeah there is sweet fruit but there are always going to be the pits.
It is about moving forward through the challenges. Not in a straight uninterrupted line, but in a spiral upwards propelled by your lessons and failures.
Go from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
By the way we need doubt otherwise we are overconfident, obnoxious, unteachable, ego maniacs who live in a mythical world of certainty--the only thing worst than doubt.
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. Voltaire
Here are a few tips on how to put the bully of doubt in its place:
Let Doubt Out--Express your doubt see if it flies or dies. Talk about your doubts with others. Get feedback and ideas. Talk to your mentors about whether these doubts are real or imagined. And find strategies to address them. Doubt in captivity festers. Doubt in the open can be tamed.
Build on Your Strengths--Focus and build on what you good at doing. SWiVEL! Great basketball players shoot their way through the slump. Keep honing and practicing. Build your confidence around who you are and what you love doing.
I am seeing a rise in generic humans. I am meeting them at events, they are connecting with me on Linkedin, they read my blog --they are everywhere. I used to spot this species mostly at undergraduate institutions where undeclared majors evolved into generics. But today I meet them in all stages of life. Apparently the current brutal job search world squeezes out any differentiating attributes, any passion from their personalities. They are like walking dead who are indiscrimnate about their employment. And they are multiplying!
Sorry let me back up and describe this human who is proliferating among us.
Generic humans are brandless, non-commital, dispassionate, and directionless bags of protoplasm that are doing everything possible to be open to any and all jobs opportunities. It is FOMO for jobs. So they have become Spock like creatures devoid of their emotions, dreams, and passions. They are the cowardly lion on the yellow brick road of life. They are mercenaries who will work for any army. Free agents who just want dental benefits.
Last week a thirty-something year-old guy, well dressed, well spoken was referred to me by a former colleague. He wanted an informational interview to understand my world. I always say yes to my former colleagues requests! Anyway, this guy has a good resume and is looking for a job. Unclear where he is going on his resume, but that doesn't bother me (especially if you look at my resume!) I learn a lot about him and his quirks in the first 90 seconds.
He started off like this: "So glad I am meeting with you because I really want to work for a non-profit. I want to help other people and when I have volunteered I have been the most fulfilled, so I decided that choosing non-profit work would center my life around what matters to me. But everyone keeps telling me that I have to have a cause or a specific issue to focus on. But I tell them that doesn't matter. I have decided to work for a non-profit--a good non-profit that is making a difference. With good leadership and management. A stable non-profit, not too big not too small. I have a lot to offer in terms of skills and experiences. The right non-profit would be lucky to get me. So am I wrong? Am I doing something wrong? Do you think I need a cause or an issue? What do you think?" Whew!
He is Generic with diarrhea of the mouth! It is like putting "non-profit job" in the Google search bar to find employment. So you have narrowed your search to 1.6 million non-profits in the US! 40,000 in LA!
I said, are you single? He said, "Yes, what of it?" Is this how you date?, I said. No preferences, no dimensions of compatibility, no emotions?
He said "No way!" Okay, then why don't you look for a job the same way?! You have to express what you want and you have to have causes or issues that matter to you more than others!
If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.
A 28 year old woman recently told me that the industry, the product, the service of her future employer was irrelevant. She winked and told me, "Well I wouldn't work for a firearms manufacturer." We laughed and laughed, as I screamed inside.
These Generics think they are being smart and clever. Everyone except them knows that their pitch, elevator speech, or BIT leads nowhere. "If you do not know where you are going, every path will lead you there." And mostly in vicious circles where you end up at the beginning again. And no one can help a Generic because their search is undefined.
Generics would not buy clothes, pick a restaurant, or buy a car this way. They would research what they WANT, what they PREFER, and what they DESIRE. They would shop and compare before they buy. They would have lists of prospective employers without regard to openings. In short, their search would be informed by their values, needs and wants.
Generics say, "I just want to keep my options open." Like the open sea or deep space. Open becomes infinite. Yeah yeah we want options. But it makes you sound indifferent to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! We have to link to things we care about. We always have preferred industries, preferred jobs, and preferred employers in mind. Then others can help you!
Today's job market actually requires the opposite. People who care about the product, service and or purpose are a better fit than generics. Competence and adaptability, and energy are a dime a gross. With fewer open positions , the new filters from the employer side is FIT. And FIT is directly linked with an emotional and intellectual connection with the organization's purpose. Someone who loves the work will be more engaged, more loyal, stay longer, and work harder. Non-profits, for-profits, public sector, private sector--doesn't matter.
As a Generic, you should be fired as your own brand manager!
Stop keeping your options open. Stop saying that. Start expressing what you want, what you care about, who you are and what you need. Stop being generic! And friends don't let their friends become generic.
If you were hiring wouldn't you always prefer an employee who cares about the work and the mission? Be that candidate!
Thanks for reading. John
Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been. Advice from Wayne Gretzky's Dad
Do we know where our own momentum is carrying us? Where are we pointed? Where are we going?
We know what got you here won't get you there.
The point here is focus on the skating to get to the goal.
I am not talking about your retirement date. We all will retire. I am talking about your life's direction. Not talking about what you want to be when you grow up. I am speaking of the focus on what you are doing and thinking now that propels you forward.
I am definitely not talking about a plan with specific deadlines.
Envisioning a future is not necessarily about a specific date or time. Time to that future is less relevant than what you are doing now that relates to that future. The key time is the Now. Linking the Now to the Future.
Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is. Eckhart Tolle
Now is the most important thing for the next step. If you don't take care of the Now then I can guarantee you what's next is going to disappoint. Where in the puck are you going?
Is this confusing? Stay with me.
I meet so many young people who naturally are obsessed with their futures. Looking, down the road often unrealistically, for certainty and for guarantees of "success". Ahhhh to be young, restless, and ambitious! But they focus on these end goals to the detriment of their current experience building work. They are in a hurry to succeed and are less interested in the effort required to chase their puck. They are more interested in the next game! And their resumes reflect it.
I meet more experienced people (read older!) who are impatient with the rate of change and more fearful. They have less time and more to lose. These folks also want to translate and transfer what they know--even if what they know is not directly relevant. Some can be arrogant about their backgrounds and never make the commitment to recalibrate their skills. They think it is unfair for them to pay their dues again. They like their puck and where its been and wish more people appreciated it. Former change agents unwilling to change!
The point of Gretzky's Dad's advice is to look up from the grindstone and envision your general trajectory. When your current work is put in the context of that direction that's when you gain confidence, fulfillment and a sense of meaning. You are moving to where your goals are.
Then you can engage your network, expand your network to help you.
So the present is key to the next step. What you are doing right now is critical to where you are going?
Love what you are doing to do what you love.
Too many don't make this connection. They think their job is their problem. It lacks "mobility", "mentoring", and "fulfillment". They forget that every job is a temporary opportunity. They fail to see the opportunity in what they are doing now, even if it seems off course. What pains me, is the speed to surrender. How easily we give up and give in to these "obstacles" in our path. What creative things can we do to optimize opportunities where we are? What are we doing outside of work to augment our portfolio of experiences to offset the gaps at our jobs?
A few years ago I interviewed a man who told me how important "social justice" was to him. I asked what is he doing about "social justice" in his life. "Oh nothing right now, but it is very important!" Or my all time favorite story. A young woman told me that her next step was an MBA. I asked her how her GMAT prep was going. She said, What's the GMAT?" Yikes.
On the other hand, I hired an ambitious young man who took a salary cut to work with me. I was counseled not to hire him because he would leave (don't we all leave?:) He exceeded everyone's standards and set new ones. He gained insight into his path and painstakingly honed his craft by taking on more than his share. His work always helped others look good. A few years later he now qualified for a perfect job and he left us better off. He skated hard to catch up with his puck.
How much do our current deeds and activities relate to the path we say/think we are on?
Stop being so generic, so non-commital in describing where you are going to be safe and leave your options open. A directionless puck never scores.
What can we do NOW to align our skating with the direction of our puck? Or set a new direction that may require new skating skills.
Let's all focus on what it takes to skate where our puck is going.
Thanks for reading. John
Energy exists in many different forms, such as light, heat, chemical, and electrical. Energy is the fuel and ability to do work. Thermodynamics is the study and understanding of energy.
The first law of thermodynamics: Energy can not be created or destroyed. But it can be changed from one form to another. The total amount of energy and matter in the universe remains constant, changing from one form to another.
The second law of thermodynamics states that in the process of energy transfer, some energy will dissipate. This is also commonly referred to as entropy. Entropy is a measure of this dissipation and degradation that leads to disorder and uncertainty. The flow of energy maintains order and life. Entropy wins when organisms cease to take in energy and die.
There is human energy. We convert energy into new forms that fuel us and others. Energy propels us to do our work. We feed off others and they feed off us. Without energy we wither.
We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically. ― Neil deGrasse Tyson
Whether we intend it or not we transfer energy. We give and we take. We deposit positive and negative energy knowingly and unwittingly. Energy is our human currency. Some people have great wealth others are incredibly poor. Some enter a room with much and others look vanquished. Some seem to have the gift of increasing the energy around them and others make it disappear like David Copperfield.
I have been increasingly conscious of my own energy and the energy around me. How do I add or take from the environment? Yet, I have found it tough to adjust my own attitude or openness to get beyond just reacting versus surrendering to the energy. What I mean is, I can easily spend most of my energy on my negative thoughts about myself or judging the world around me instead of investing my energy positively into others and the world around me.
What I have found, although not able to replicate it every time, that I can be a positive source of energy and surf off the energy around me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can be a source of energy for me. By being engaged you can focus the positive energy. Most days, I fill my tank off others with some to spare. If I do it well I leave my own energy trail. But if I do it in that order, that is, to seek the energy of others before I try and give off my energy, then the energy is authentic. It's simple, the energy around us is so much more potent and unexplored then the energy within us. The combination, the fusion, the blend of energies is what life is. Not the preservation of our own. Protecting our energy by foolishly doling it out to only those deserving of it is where we get ito a real energy shortage. We need others energy to grow and advance. Energy was meant to share and be transferred. That is Thermodynamic Networking!
I used to think that I should inspire others (give them energy). But when I look to be inspired by those present, that inspires me!
This is real energy!
I have witnessed many imposters and posers who try to add counterfeit energy. Inauthentic energy. I know this one young man who thinks being "up", smiley face, and positive is ALWAYS good. He is never aware of the context. He is "happy" no matter what. He puts on a show. It is not only irritating but detrimental. Like a commercial you have seen too many times you know how it ends and you are tired of the message. I know others who are very energetic--about themselves. So it is positive but ego-centric, which may be the worst of all.
A person functioning exclusively in the Cartesian mode typically lead ego-centered, competitive, goal-oriented lives. Overpreoccupied with their past and their future, they tend to have a limited awareness of the present and thus a limited ability to derive satisfaction from ordinary activities in everyday life. They concentrate on manipulating the external world and measure their living standard by the quantity of material possessions, while they become ever more alienated from their inner world and unable to appreciate the process of life. For people whose existence is dominated by this mode of experience no level of wealth, power, or fame will bring genuine satisfaction. Fritjof Capra, Tao of Physics
But I have also seen the masters, who listen intently, allowing others to lead the conversations and who are better interviewers than 60 Minutes. They tease out the energy in others. They make you feel important even though they are the important one. They have a genuine interest in people and topics. They fill the gaps with attentiveness and eye contact. They are present when most people drift and think of themselves. They are in the moment and care about what is being said before they speak.
Entropy occurs with selfishness and isolation. It comes when people think their success is their own making. Entropy comes from self deception and denying the energy of others.
So how do we gain and give energy? How do we enhance versus detract from the energy wave around us? How do we submerge our selfish thoughts to learn, explore and connect in meaningful ways? How do we adopt thermodynamic networking to positively invest our energy? How do we see the beauty in others before we think of ourselves?
In the end we neither create or destroy energy. We transfer it either intentionally or unintentionally. If we make an effort to be the source of authentic positive energy, then we can energize our life's purpose and the trajectories of others.
Thanks for reading. John
Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.
How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others. But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness.
I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.
But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?
Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives.
So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"
My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:
You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.
Nothing. Really busy.
Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.
Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?
We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.
"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that--"Nothing" is simply not true.
So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.
Do you believe in the Law of Attraction? You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to---Negative or positive.
So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing.
So now change the setting to an interview. Are your answers different? Of course.
How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?
How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?
How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client?
The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do.
The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.
Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment!
Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!
Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.
Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading--anything and everything is available to mention.
I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?
You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help--besides yourself?!
Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing?
I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers--anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs--How do you answer the question: "What's new?"
This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.
I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.
Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.
What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.
Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.
Thanks for reading. John
Each of us must experience one of two pains - the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Which pain will you choose? Robin Crow
Everything we do is a choice. Either we proactively act or the absence of our actions chooses for us. We want so many things. We act only on a few of them. We think we are lucky and we are. Mostly because we have choices. :) More often than not the luck of great fortune does not drive up to our door, ring the doorbell and present itself on a silver platter. We also want conflicting things. Things which counteract each other. Things that are polar opposites.
A few examples of things I hear every week:
WANT DON'T WANT
Fast track to the top No overtime or weekend work
Learn more No more formal education
Entreprenuerial opportunities Security of employment
Not stuck behind a desk Hate networking
Wants a mentor No time to mentor others
New adventure Stability
I have hundreds of these pairs. I try not to laugh or make a face when I hear them. I really think I could be at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Funny thing, the people saying these oxymorinic aspirations can't hear the grinding of the goals that are slowing them down if not derailing their progress. They do not realize that they maintain this career dissonance to forestall decisions. Young and old use these competing weights to wittingly or unwittingly hold themselves back.
My absolute favorite: Start-up with a retirement plan. :)
We have the capacity to make every decision complex. We play what if scenarios, imagine disasters that await, or accumulate excuses to immobilize ourselves. A pervasive form of self-sabotage. In the end we do nothing.
Until we embrace what we really want, who we really are--we reside in the comfort of "going with the flow." Life happens to us.
Every choice has risk. The more you embrace the risk associated with what you want the sooner you will act. Otherwise live with the regrets and for all of our sake, don't talk about it!
Look you can achieve many things in your life. You can design and engineer a career that is customized around your needs. You can reach out to others who have done it before and they can show you the ropes and the paths. It is so much easier to lift the weights with others.
There is no gain without pain. The pain of discipline. And the pleasure of defining who you are. The pleasure of minimizing regrets. Because the pain of regret is so much greater.
Then you will see why helping others lift their weights and avoid the barbellion syndrome of inaction, of worrying, and of letting life pass them by--will help you.
Defining what you want will give purpose to the weight and pain of the path you choose. But you must choose.
Thanks for reading. John
I would rather talk about people's politics or religion than their parenting. When I see, hear, and discuss people's theories about parenting, I have to take a large dose of chill pills. We all know that there any many roads to a destination and no one parenting method assures success. Believe me I am no expert. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Doing it well requires all of your abilities. But the differences in theory, practice, and outcomes are enormous. What manifests is the parents upbringing and values and often less about the uniqueness of their children. Because there is this little thing that needs to be accounted for----The DNA of the child! Once you recognize and understand these differences, you become focused on them, not your expectations. Sorry to digress into a much bigger topic but what I have learned that parenting, like most of life, is about others not me. When I remind myself that I am the student not the teacher--that is when I have grown as a parent, as a mentor, and as a human being.
There are thousands of examples where the children mentor the parents, if the parents are open to learning. This has been dubbed by some parallel learning--where the students start teaching each other to deepen learning. And formal and informal programs which help parents and students learn together to strengthen each other. This is very prominent in new immigrant families where the kids, often very young kids, guide their parents through the maze of American life. The kids assimilate, learn the language and then teach and mentor their parents to assimilate as well. Parallel learning is part of life, if we embrace the opportunities. If we are open to being mentored from anyone anywhere, then your kids, all kids, will teach you. If only to reacquaint ourselves with joy and wonder! So the potential for parallel learning, mentoring and parenting exists all around us. As I have discussed here mentoring always benefits the mentor more than the mentee. Once you know that, your design and goals for any mentoring opportunity gets altered.
Our parents can show us a lot of things: they can show us how we are to be and what things we ought to strive for, or they can show us how not to be and what things we ought to stray from, then you may have the kind of parents that show you all the things about you that you want to get rid of and you realize those traits aren't yours at all but are merely your parents' marks that have rubbed off onto you. C. Joybell C.
What marks have influenced you and others? How about tattoos?
For the last several years I have been observing how selected tattoo removal programs are transforming the lives of former gang members. Forty years ago, my first work was as a volunteer counselor in the California Youth Authority and I have gravitated to this work with at-risk youth over my career. Stay with me.
I have been pushing for an increase in the capacity of tattoo removal resources as part of the pioneering work of the Gang Reduction Youth Development work in the City of LA. What I saw and learned is that the removal of tattoos which can take between 6-10 painful sessions, is part of a spirtual and emotional healing for these former gang members. Literally a removal of layers of their past that reinforces their commitment to change. These tattoo removal sessions are an external cleansing that clarifies the identity of the person inside and propels them forward.
I recently witnessed the removal of prison tattoos on the hands of a young man. I watched with protective eye wear as the nurse bearing down on the laser gun within a half of inch of one of his hands burned off the ink. He said he did not hurt, but I watched his feet curl up after each segment was completed. The nurse said we should be done in 6 more sessions. He asked, "For each hand?!!" Yes. she calmly said. That translates to 12 sessions because they can only work on one hand at a time. So this 20 something year old told me he has got to "straighten out" his life. "I have to get a job and no one will hire me if I have these"--showing me his hands. I asked what brought about this desire to change. He smiled and said sincerely, "I have a 2 year old daughter now. And I have to do right by her."
Despite all of the stereotypical and tragic stories, here is a father who woke up and is changing himself to be a better parent. But who changed whom? His daughter started asking questions about his hands and then he started to ask questions. And questions about who we are and what are we doing can sometimes disturb the tectonic plates and the ground opens up and a new world emerges.
Not sure how this story will end, but it has a new beginning. One where the parent is more self aware of his looks and behavior. He will be a better father. She will gain his attention and time. Will he stick with it? He has 12 sessions left. I was convinced he will. Once you hear and see and experience hope, it empowers you--especially when you can see thate future in the eyes of your 2 year old.
Talking to the case workers, they told me me that taking the kids to school, the perceptions of other parents and the friends of their kids also weighed in.
We all want the same things. To fit in. To raise good kids. To leave a legacy.
All of us have tattoos we need to remove, that hold us back. But few of us will go through the pain and inconvenience of going under life's laser.
Are we open to learn from our kids? To engage in parallel mentoring? Who do we influence and who COULD influence us?
Thanks for reading. John
The root of “career” is the Latin “carrus,” meaning “wheeled vehicle” (which is also the source of the word car). One French derivative of “carrus” was “carriere,” meaning “racecourse,” and when the noun “career” first appeared in English it meant “racetrack,” the course of life meaning was a later development. And the verb career means to go at full speed, perhaps even reckless, not unlike the word careen.
The point is your career is a race around a track where you go round and round to see who wins. You go as fast as you can and then your race ends. Was it fun, worthwhile, did you win?
Makes me wince too--the truth hurts.
To me our race track careers can be more like a Merry-Go-Round. We sit passively on a ride that gives us the false impression of progress and speed. We think we are in control because we we are distracted by the motion, the music and the lights. We can end up going nowhere. Ending up where we began.
Most of us are out of control racers who come around the turn at new year's and make general promises to ourselves and possibly others, we call them resolutions.
I am not a huge fan of new year's resolutions only because people wait for this time of year to make changes in their lives. When we know that change and challenge never waits for the ball to drop in Times Square. Change has to be an organic, inexorable, process of adaptability. (I also feel the same way about birthdays, weekends and summer vacations. Everyday is a chance to change and improve.) However, I do like any excuse to evaluate and reflect upon a time that has passed to commit ourselves to overcoming the gaps in our plans.
How do we avoid making the same general, non-measurable resolutions every year like:
We know these never work. These safe, general, non-committal statements allow us to procrastinate. They are dejavu all over again. Success is not defined. Accountability is avoided. They are nice ideas that will never get traction without goals or milestones.
I always wanted a better life but now I realize I should have been more specific. (I paraphrase Lily Tomlin)
How many pounds by when? How many times a week? What will your resting heartbeat be? What about your BMI? What books, what hobby? And how far will you take your extra-curricular activities. When will you spend time with whom? Who will you help? From whom will you seek help?
As Les Brown says, "...then you find out you are behind with your bills and your dreams!"
How do we plan our lives to advance and evolve. Envision and then change, right? Set goals and execute? Attack weaknesses and man up?
Is change always about improvement in the future?
Or is it also about avoiding regrets and misery?
Do you respond to a positive vision or to avoiding the negative consequences of inaction?
Pain or pleasure? Choose.
Is change always adding or is it also subtracting?
Is less sometimes more?
Before you add why not subtract. Maybe getting rid of plans, possessions, and even people will make a difference.
What got you here probably won't get you there. So change is necessary.
Change starts with you and how you envision your future self.
Let's make resolutions that scare us a little bit. Challenge us. Or don't make them at all.
Specify your goals, your timelines, your metrics, your deadlines and hold your self accountable to get off the Merry-Go-Round.
Devoting more time for others. (Probably only second most popular resolution to weight loss) Needs specificity. Here are a few basic recommendations:
You will be the one who benefits from these connections. Yes, you will lead with your help, but you will be the one to reap the rewards of deepening your relationships with others.
So, stop reflect now and often. Make specific goals for yourself. Hold yourself accountable based on your preferences. Schedule your priorities. These are the rings you are trying to grab to make your ride purposeful and fulfilling. Then your career will get off of the Merry-Go-Round loop and move you down the path.
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers
Thanks for reading. John
We have all been told that it is better to give than to receive. I know as a kid this was never intuitive. We constantly wanted to receive. We had so many needs and wants. As a child, receiving was way better. But as we grew and matured we understood the wisdom in this maxim. You realize that you Get what you Give. That sharing is not an act of generosity but a necessity of the soul. Material things fade in importance and meaning replaces money. We understand that we have much more to give from our wealth, our wisdom, and our work. Guilt can motivate but gratitude sustains our generosity. We learn the intrinsic benefit of giving that redeems us as givers.
When you give, you feel generous, you feel powerful. When you think about others you strengthen yourself. While we may give to get these benefits, we need to always remind ourselves that we have the precious opportunity to give--we get to give.
For it is in giving that we receive. Francis de Assisi
As a country we are generous. We have been a model of philanthropy and giving of time and money for the world. But when we measure our efforts not as a comparison to other nations but to our own expectations we might come to different conclusions.
The average US household gives about 4.2% of their income. Most of it goes to church , alma mater and to the hospital, about 67% of all giving. *
Wealthier people give less. Households making over $200,000 a year (top 5% of earners) who live in really nice neighborhoods give 50% less than the average American household. In fact only one zipcode of the top 20 wealthiest zipcodes (where average income approaches $500,000) is in the top 1000 zipcodes of giving %. *
So it is also surprising how little we give. Aren't you surprised? What should we give 5%, 10%, more?
If we moved the needle to 5% fo all Americans individual giving would increase about $60 billion a year!
Each of us can give more. We can.
But why do we give? What motivates us?
In a newish book by Adam Grant, Give or Take, he details the benefits of giving. With decades of research he concludes there are three types of people.
Givers: They give without expectation and make giving a priority. They look for giving opportunities not just react to them.
Matchers: They keep track of the score. Who owes whom. They believe in full reciprocity and equity. I scratch your back......
Takers: They always make out in all transactions even in giving. They are Me first.Only give if they gain.
Of course, few admit they are Takers, but we all know them. I meet gobs of them. They try to be subtle and sly but you spot them a mile away. Their favorite radio station is WII-FM. What's In It For Me! Giving to them is a deal where they reap the profit. Most people think they are Matchers, some are disguised Takers. Matchers see equity in giving. Matchers beleive in equity and that they should always get their fair share. Givers trust others intentions. They believe in giving first and last. Givers are represented at both ends of the barbell. Super successful and failures. People who give generously ascend their worlds or they foolishly give everything away without any self-interest. But givers who are not fools are the most successful.
Grant makes many surprising findings that basically reinforce the idea that unconditional giving to those in need, to a cause greater than themselves, builds a base of support and connects them to new worlds. In other words, it strengthens your network! A network that is diverse and "touches multiple domains and worlds."
Grant asserts that giving always helps the giver most. He describes many studies and cases here. Once the Giver understands the need, meets the people with need, connects with the need, then the Giver benefits more. Givers think of themselves as role models. They think about the consequences of not giving. Givers care.
So as a fundraiser, I have met all types with every conceivable motivation and angle. In the non-profit world there is usually a "Give or Get" requirement for members of boards of directors. Meaning you have to give or get money for the non-profit with some $ minimum. Even though this is a "requirement" many do not meet it. I prefer Give AND Get--meaning you must give something personally to have "skin" in the game. The amount is what you can afford, but you need to be personally invested. My experience is that few board members meet and exceed these duties. They refuse to give. I have watched hedge fund managers whine like babies. Super wealthy folks give more excuses than a tardy teenager. These are phony givers. They masquerade as givers but do not give. They are Takers who are not truly committed to the cause or the organization they brag about serving.
Some jaded and cynical people tell me that rich people got rich by being Takers. But as Grant shows in his book, true Givers are the ones who go to the top.
On the other hand, I have met so many truly generous people who I aspire to be like. To always help. To always give. To always personally invest myself. These giving mentors have shown me the way. Taking is short term, and matching takes a lot of effort to keep track. I have learned that my capacity to give can grow with practice and exercise. I can and must give more.
So in life you have to Give AND Get. We all want to be givers. The more you give proactively the more you get. Your giving and the way you give mentors your children and everyone else who looks up you. If you give more without an expectation, without listening to WII-FM, you will receive so much more than you imagined.
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill
Thank you for giving me your attention. And for what you give to others. John
*Chronicle of Philanthropy study of giving 2013
We need to believe in magic, myth, and miracles. We need to fantasize and dream to distract us from the drudgery of our day to day lives. To make sense of the meaning of our Groundhog Day existence.
This is where I go insane. People confess these things to me and I lose it. Drudgery?! Groundhog Day? That is unacceptable. You don't need distractions you need a new life. Why do we settle? Why do we endure the pain and suffering? Because we are martyrs? Because "this is the best it can be"?
Never fault anyone who wants a job that will last until they die. They just don't exist. :) I just met two young managers who basically told me they want an annuity as a career. You know, where you can literally produce an excel spreadsheet and a linear graph of the "guarantee" of the compensation, benefits and retirement. The unicorn of security.
This late 20ish man and woman were like characters from a Mad Men era of career certainty. Get on the escalator and it will take you to the top.
I know that global instability, the insecurity of families, the nightmarish experience of serial layoffs and unemployment breed this extreme, illogical, and actually quite dangerous perspective.
Tried to guide these two people, with only little effect. The young woman has been laid off several times consecutively. Three promising jobs were attained since she earned her graduate degree in business. Three name brand firms with sterling reputations (2 of which no longer exist). Three bosses who assured her of a career path. Her confidence was shattered. Her risk averse muscles grew on steroids. She now wants certainty. Yikes! I get it. I really do. Being jilted at the alter three times would make anyone anti-marriage. But would it make you anti-love? Anti-dreams? She has accepted a position as a bureaucrat that offers "security of employment" and a "great pension". "If I just keep my head down and do my job, I'm set for life." But is that a life you want?
Our conversation shifted to her life outside of her job. I strongly advised her to build out this part of her life to "balance" her job with her passions and other skills. This woman has so much to offer and it would be a waste and a shame if she does not invest this part of herself. She and the community would be poorer. My secret unspoken idea was to make sure she built her network and confidence outside of her day job as a hedge against the unthinkable but possible 4th layoff!
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Mandela
The young man with a young family has also endured a triumvirate of bad choices. Four jobs that were not "good fits". Four consecutive times where there was a serious disconnect between both bosses and missions. Four "layoffs". Now all he wants is "security and stability". It was obvious to me that this gentleman was using somebody's else's compass to find his career. When he looked in the mirror he did not see his own image. He did not know himself. The "fit" would never happen until he knew his own size and his preferences. As I preach here ad nauseum, the first networking connection is thyself! I tried to steer the conversation away from his "bad luck" and "poor timing" to the delicate subject at hand. Lucky for me, he arrived at his own doorstep to begin a process and now contemplates a path that reflects his interests and his life. I know this sounds obvious, but I encounter many people who are under the assumed identities of what they think they "should" do, "should" be--everyone has told them what they are good at and what makes sense. They adopt this identity and the consequences in the long run are devastating. They allow others to steal their identities.
So while we all want more security, stability, and certainty in our lives, it will not come from a job with a pension. It will not come from identity theft.
These great and elusive concepts undermine your confidence in your path. That life is not about security of employment but the security of knowing oneself. Your confidence to build a life outside of your job that is potentially more fulfilling. Your confidence that you will never be defined by your job. Your confidence that you embrace change and are ready for it. It will come from your energy to thrive.
Over time you realize that the source of one comes from its opposite. Security comes from your comfort with insecurity. Stability comes from your understanding of instability. And the only thing you are certain of is uncertainty.
These two people will find their way. It just will not be what they planned.
I am reminded of the power of mentoring: when I give advice it helps the me/the mentor more than the mentees. I am grateful for the chance to help others and to think about my own disjointed path and whether I am being true to myself. I will continue to push myself and others towards their own identities and away from the false gods of stability and security.
Thanks for reading. John
Most people I meet think that the life down the road will always be better. We subscribe to this strange belief that we have infinite time. That the future is when we will focus on what is important, personal, and enjoyable. I guess we think life is like a great multi-course meal. We start off with drinks and some finger food and then you dig into the real food and end up with something really sweet at the end. We know this is not true. All phases of life should be guided by what we want and who you are. Fully contributing our talent and abilities to improving the campsite for the next campers. Whatever that means to you!
At HuffPost we've made theThird Metric -- redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give -- a key editorial focus. But while it's not hard to live a Third Metric life, it's very easy not to. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It's easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It's easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we're living them. Until we're no longer living them. Arianna Huffington
Life is short. And when you account for life's curve balls, your kids, parenting your parents, and your own health--it is a lot shorter than you think. We all have close friends who died young--who had "untimely" deaths. Do we really know how much time we have?
Just read a tweet from Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square fame:
I probably have 18,000 more sunsets in my life. One of them is happening now.
But the real point is, when we say "later" we mean "never". Because stuff happens.
One of my greatest pet peeves (I have a few:) is when people tell me that they have no time to "give", "volunteer", or "do what I want" because they are so busy. Busy being busy? They have amazing plans for later. --When they are less busy, retired or win the lottery :)
Steve Davis of PATH: First, avoid the ‘I’m-going-to-give-back-later [to society]‘ trap. I find it offensive. I hope people haven’t spent the first part of their lives just taking. So the first advice is: Think about this as an integrated model. Don’t wait to get involved in your community and to get involved in the world--because you are working.
Second point, if you are in a place where you’re ready to make a really deeper transition to actually moving toward this work in mid-career, the first thing you should do is make sure that you spend some time volunteering, engaging, figuring out where your passion is. Because, at the end of the day, this is work, a lot of work — hard, complex work — and you don’t get rewarded as much; you get different kinds of rewards. It is important to tie to a passion or a skill because that’s what’s going to drive you forward.
The third, to the younger folks in their 20s, I would say remember that we are in a world where cross-sectoral work is vital. We need people who not only have good intentions about the government or public or nonprofit or private sector, we also need people who’ve actually experienced working in more than one sector because you have to come in to bust some myths about the way people behave. You have to come in understanding incentives and intentions. This could actually create great careers.
Let's stop saying what we will do later. Let's make plans to do and be things now and tomorrow. As I say to anyone who will listen, Live your legacy!
Will your regret be "Needed to spend more time at the office"? "Wish I would have had more stuff?" Really? How many sunsets or hugs do you have left?
Later probably means never.
Today is a great day to start doing what you know needs to be done--to help yourself and to help others. To strengthen your network and to mentor others.
Thanks for reading. John
As we gather with friends and family to give thanks for what we have and for those we are not with, I wanted to express my gratitude to you.
Sharing my thoughts here has made me a better person. I see things, read things, and most important--do things differently.
Thank you for energizing me, for inspiring me, for pushing me to be who I want to be. For helping me appreciate what I have and what I can do with what I have.
Let's all re-commit ourselves to feel and express our gratitude everyday--make it a habit.
And then filled with that gratitude we can help others who need us and have so much less than us.
Thank you for giving me the courage to pursue the habit of gratitude.
Happy Giving of Thanks and for reading. John
I participated in a worldwide 21 day Gratitude Challenge and this video was produced by several of the volunteer participants. Enjoy!
Video from KarmaTube
A couple young friends of mine Joaquin Beltran and Chris Schlaufman, started this new web community called Mentorvine--an online community where "aspiring individuals connect with experienced professionals" to advance careers. For those of you having trouble following along I have been cast as the "experienced professional". :)
My stream of consciousness on mentoring:
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
Thanks for reading. John
My speech from last month: Serve with Passion.
This last week I had three encounters that gave me pause about how we define our lives and our passions. How we define the path we want to be on. People say things to me that influence my own trajectory and I share them here.
I talked to two young people within two hours of each other about their college applications. Every year I agree to help someone’s offspring with this joyful process. Inevitably, the conversation addresses the proverbial life question: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” These young people have been well coached and they have well-rehearsed and semi-believable answers. These two college aspirants answered the question identically—“I want to be an Investment Banker, an I-Banker.” To which, I replied, “Really, why?” (Noticing this as a new trend among the youth—focus on making money) And they serve up a frothy blend of rationales that they have been fed by their well-meaning parents. A superficial Frappuccino of entrepreneurship, financial upside, and intellectual curiosity. Then I say, “I think you want to be a ME-Banker.” Sounding like a horrible stereotyped native American in some B western. “Doesn’t seem like you want to help others or solve problems, sounds like it is more about you and making money.” (check out the chart I lifted from a serious site promoting the profession of I-Banking) They look puzzled and I say, “Never mind, let’s talk about YOUR education and why YOU want to go to college.”
Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Is
A quote from Steven Pressfield in his interview with Oprah. Love it! Pressfield is the author of one of my fav books, The War of Art. When will we act on what we say we care about? How do we overcome our obstacles to place a higher priority on our relationships, our health, our communities, and our careers? When do we actually invest ourselves in the process of making a difference vs. wishing we could? When was the last time you planned to change the world, your own world?
Takes courage to listen to our goodness and act on it. Pablo Casals
I Am No Longer a Passenger, I Am Driving My Life.
Had lunch with a former colleague. She was giving me the usual update on her family and her job. It was like the predictable script that all of us have endured. Like a polite sparring match, no real blows are exchanged. It is nothing like boxing. It is a make believe conversation where no one has fun or gets hurt. We will have our luncheon update until the next exchange of pleasantries. I could not take it. So I blurted out, “Aren’t you due for a career change?” She is my age and has been at the same job for more than 5 years—close to her average tenure. She looked aghast. “I wasn’t going to talk about this…...” She then shifted into a fully engaged, wholehearted discussion of her plan to get more flexibility in her schedule, to move from LA and to plot out her retirement. Recently, she woke up to her mortality and decided that she needed to get behind the steering wheel of her life. She wanted more time for what was important to her. Time was more valuable than the money. Moving would make this possible. “I am no longer a passenger, I am driving my life!”, she exclaimed. Her office was starting the plans for a new 5 year project she would lead. She calculated the ages of her kids and estimated her own enjoyable lifespan and she has been driving ever since.
It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot. Steven Pressfield
Pur your priorities passions on the top of your to-do list. Your heart and your time would be chief among them. If we taught this to our kids they would be happier and more fulfilled. We gotta move from I-Banker to I-Driver.
Thanks for reading. John
I started this blog in 2008, just before the collapse of the economy. 350 posts, more than 30,000 words and 120,000 page views later, I never dreamed it would have taken me on this journey. I guess it is like life, if you trust yourself and push ahead then it will take you to amazing places. And it has. I really started SWiVELTime for me. I wanted the discipline of researching, writing, and thinking every week. For me it is an enjoyable struggle to come up with material every week that allows me to express my observations and learnings. (I am in awe of the Seth Godins who post every day.)
My content moved over time from the common myths and tools of networking to a more macro perspective on the potential of the individual. Over the years I have lost readers due to this change. They wanted tools and techniques. Something they can put to use right away. It is a perfectly rational and reasonable expectation. But I have always felt the need to lay the context and conditions of personal and professional growth before discussing the how-tos. And you and this blog have pushed me deeper into my root structure of understanding so I can grow. I am more consumed by my obsession about the human potential and the distractions and resistance we encounter preventing us from becoming who want to be—who were meant to be. I am more convinced than ever that we are interconnected and interdependent. That our destinies are tied to one another. That WE is so much stronger than me. That's why I have become more focused on the why over the what.
Mentor and network for the greater purpose of helping others rather than the acquisition of an infinite and unfulfilling more for oneself.
Reminded of the amazing story of a particular strand of Chinese bamboo which only develops its roots for 5 years and then in the 6th year it breaks the ground and grows 75 feet high! (cited in Paulo Coelho's book Aleph)
This blog has refined and sharpened my presentations and vice versa. A great dance of learning and understanding between my readers and audience members. A dance of possibilities.
If I had a tatoo ( I have none:) It would bear my favorite quote that symbolizes this blog:
Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. F. Peter Dunne
I have tried to do both. As John Wooden told me, "Sometimes you have to slap people on the back and sometimes a little lower."
The feedback I have received from you has humbled me. It has taught me many lessons. It has guided and mentored me. People have revealed themselves to this obscure blogger and it has energized my belief in the incredible potential that we all possess.
Despite the millions of resources on the web, there seems to be a need for these conversations, for these explorations of questions that define our lives. Few places espouse the adoption of a lifestyle of mentoring and networking.
Like all good teaching and mentoring, the teacher and the mentor benefit most. You have changed my trajectory, my orbit, and my path.
As my mother says when I thank her---Okage sama---Thanks to you!
Thanks for your indulgence, for your readership and for helping me continue to learn. This is not a trite way to fish for congratulations or gratitude. It is merely an acknowledgement of my deep appreciation for your contributions in making this blogger a better person and better at his job.
In this sixth year and in the spirit of the Chinese bamboo, I wish for you a great growth spurt in your opportunities and prosperity.
Thanks for reading. John
I was with a donor at a Hollywood eaterie. We both ordered ice teas. The waitress asked if we wanted regular or passion. I said regular and my guest ordered passion. The teas came and neither of the teas were passion. We called over our beautiful wannabe actress to correct her inadvertent mistake. The donor said, "Hey I ordered the passion ice tea and got regular." She leaned in close to him without missing a beat and said, "Didn't I serve it with passion?!" He reflexively said, "You did!"
Is our tea of life supposed to have passion it? Do we have to order it or make it ourselves? Or do we merely have to serve it with passion?
I am pretty obsessed with living life with passion and helping others find their passions. To be perfectly honest, I help myself by helping others. Other people's passions get me psyched to be more diligent about my own. I use other people's passions to add to my passion river. Kind of a passion junkie. I must confess, I am trying to inspire and motivate yours truly. I have learned that successful networking, mentoring, and careers are based on this principle of engaging others' passions and defining my own.
This was a big week for the topic of passion:
You don't need to be applying for college to articulate your passions. We all have a constellation of passions within us that we nurture and ignore. That we pursue and neglect. True passion involves others and the needs of others. It starts with the pain of our lack of personal fulfillment, the suffering of others we care about, and the the unmet needs of people we may never know. It can come as easily from disappointment or from total engagement. It is the basis of your emotional connection to what you do and WHY you do it.
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain
You can discover it and have an aha moment. Or it can sneak up on you and scare you into understanding yourself.
Always taken by my mother's story of the moment she knew painting would define her life. She was 49 with 4 kids under the age of 10 she decided to take a sumi-e Japanese brush stroke painting lesson. She lifted the brush with fresh black ink on it and struck the canvas and she was transformed in that moment. She remembers it like it was yesterday, "I said to myself, "Where have you been?" She found herself and has been painting ever since. Her ability to express herself through oil paints changed her and everything around her. It centered her. Gave her energy and vitality. She had a purpose like no other.
When you share or when others share their passions it shines out of the eyes, the body language and the voice. We exude an extra energy when we connect with passion. It is when we present our best selves. You have to help others recognize this when they do it!
It is when work and play blur. When Mondays and Fridays are exactly the same.
I try to find and associate with very competent people who are also passionate about their lives. You have to have both! Because competence in the absence of passion is not only boring but is limited to mediocrity. And passion without competence is shrill and a waste of time. I look for both in every hire I make, every board I join, every job I take, and every one of my relationships.
A job is never just a job. A life is never just a life. We can't be waiting for something better. Or to do it all when we retire. How will we leave our imprint?
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. Jack London
Help your son or daughter see their inner strengths and talents before you tell them what their career will be. Explore with your friends why they aren't doing more of the things they say are important to them. Assist people who are nearing retirement age to explore their passions now. Make the pursuit of passions
This is the hardest work we can do--to help others and ourselves find passion. For there is no other work. We need people's passions to engage our total selves in our work and our lives. We need passion to innovate, to solve problems, and to wring out the potential in our world.There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela
Move passion up on your to-do list. Serve and live with passion!
Thanks for reading. John
Each of us prides ourselves on our worldliness. We have traveled a bit and met and know people from around the globe. But few of us are truly global in our thinking and our understanding. I certainly am not. The truth is we cling to our nationalistic perspectives. It is human nature to see others through the lens of our home cultures.
I get sensitized to this collision of perspectives when I travel. I see the "ugly Americans" who loudly and indifferently run roughshod over their hosts. I also cringe when I see the giant influx of Asian tourists who seem oblivious to the world around them.
For I can be mistaken for either of these groups! Not good.
You have undoubtedly heard about the promulgations from the Chinese government to encourage their citizens who travel to be more polite and respectful. Can you imagine if the US government did this? The videos would become a reality show instead of a teaching moment. But I digress....
Chinese tourism alone accounted for 83 million trips abroad and spending of a dizzying $102 billion up 10000% in 12 years! So before we criticize the Chinese, they are our customers.
So the opportunities and challenges from the increased globalization is seen on both sides. The hosts and the visitors have so much to learn about each other. Both sides have to be more sensitive to their in-sensitivities.
As a funny aside--we visited Scotland, my wife Sarah and I were buying gifts for family and friends. We decided on Scottish wool scarves. Sarah asked the saleswoman where the scarves were made. She said, "If it just says "Made in Scotland" then it is made in China. (Huh?) But if it has a brand label it is probably made in Scotland." She showed us the pricier scarves and whispered, "These are made in Scotland, but they are exactly the same as the Chinese made."
My trip abroad was centered around a couple of speeches I delivered at an international conference of universities held in the UK where representatives from 28 countries and 6 continents attended (no attendees from Antarctica:)! Making sure that my presentation was scrubbed for Americanisms, US references, nationalism was so so much harder than I thought. But it was a mind expanding exercise to question words, examples, jokes, images that would literally translate to a global audience.
I had mind altering conversations about philanthropy and education with people from South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Greece and Australia.
For example, I asked one of the attendees about the "diversity" of the conference. She asked me what I meant. I noticed how ethnically un-diverse the audience looked to me. She pushed back hard. "That is such a US perspective!" We don't think about that type of diversity. We never think about that. We think about nationalities but not ethnicities." Whoa
Everyone I met was so knowledgeable about the US, our politics, culture, and issues. They were all multi-lingual multi-cultural and multi-talented people who seemed to traverse these differences with ease. While I struggled with one language and the ability to remember the location of some of the countries. Talk about a competitiveness complex.
It is always humbling to realize how much I don't know. Without this exposure my view of the world, my globalism, remains myopic and limited.
Yet the whole world faces change and the challenges of addressing that change with agility. That is what we have in common. The issues of career pathing, networking, mentoring, and fulfilling dreams are a very similar human condition around the rock.
I was grateful to have my mind and my network expanded. It taught me how much more I need to stalk global experiences at home and abroad. To strengthen my globalism muscles I need to engage and confront my limited perspective more often.
I learn over and over again. That our networks define us. That the people and ideas that you encounter change you. And by talking to people with the same perspective will always limit you. That there is a global networked brain that we all have access to, but few of us are connected to. The world is literally passing us by. We are only using a small part of our brain. That I have to read more, listen and understand context, and worldview more, to communicate and operate globally. I need to continue to expand my global networked intelligence. How about you?
Thanks for reading. John
Total humility comes from when you have nothing. When you are without your status, your stuff, and your pretentions, you are reduced to the real you. Not just being devoid of your material things. But when you have lost your self-confidence, your self-esteem, your hope for the future. I know I protect myself with many trappings, devices, and artificial comforts. Some of you have been there and know the truth about this basic suffering. I can only imagine this scenario—which means I know really nothing about it. Most of us are fortunate to live far from this level of humility. Far from the bottom or middle of Maslow’s. We take for granted what we have need and want. As a result, our ability to be compassionate---literally--with suffering—disappears. We are numb to what separates us from the real and genuine feelings of others—especially those in need.
Like me, I am sure you appreciate the opportunities you have been given and the good fortune that has smiled on us. We all know that a few fine twists in our storyline and things would be much different.
It is a brutal world filled with heartbreaking images and ideas. We have to cloak ourselves in emotional Teflon so that we can function, right?
Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. - J.K. Rowling
So we become very adept at faking our emotions. We are skilled at pretending to care. Our compassion banks only can dispense so much otherwise we will be bankrupt. We have to use our emotional outlays sparingly—reserve it for the people close to us. Isn’t that right?
Some people say, "I know what you are going through?" “I can only imagine how you are feeling?" “I know what you mean.”
Not sure most people do. We mean well but we are not well meaning. We say these things in the transaction oriented speed of life. We do not have time to care. Few of us have the capacity to engage ourselves emotionally in every tragedy, every hardship, so we get very adroit at feigning sympathy, empathy, and compassion.
Zen Buddhist monks in training have a ritual called takahatsu. These young monks must beg for food on the street to learn their role, to understand who they are, and to learn humility.
So we build our defenses and protect ourselves. We even get uncomfortable when we and/or others show their emotions. We find it hard to look at people who are suffering. We avert our eyes when we see nameless homeless people. As if our eye contact will hurt us. We know in our hearts, that indifference will hurt us more.
I was struck by this blog by Optimus Outcast, an anonymous film exec who sat on a freeway onramp for a day—his takahatsu. Here is an excerpt from his observations:
Why is it so hard to make eye contact with someone in less fortunate circumstances? Why is it so scary just to look? We lock ourselves away in our fortresses with the openings sealed tight. A you-can-sleep-peacefully-at-night guarantee that the outer edges will be kept safely at bay. We will never be required to be uncomfortable. Our cars, our houses, our offices all offer these qualities. But, then if you think about, so does a coffin.
Maybe the scary part isn’t just to look. The scary part is to look and then look away. A reminder that, in all of our professed capabilities, sometimes we are still helpless to change things. If we look away, is this our own cardboard sign that reads, “I have given up.”?
I am a born sucker. I take some pride that I have not lost all, but I have lost a lot, of my trust in strangers. I give time and money to almost anyone. I have incredible and disastrous stories of my unsuccessful attempts to help others. I was regaling some colleagues about how I have been duped by panhandlers. This resulted in a spirited discussion with a colleague who said, "There is no doubt what happens when you give a panhandler money. No doubt." She won't give panhandlers money because she is convinced that ALL panhandlers are addicts of some type. The money goes straight to drugs or alcohol.
I understand this logic. And I know that it is mostly true. But this logic becomes part of the thickness of our Teflon coating. We begin to make generalizations about “those people”. But don’t we need as much pathos as we do logos? I also believe that we cannot dismiss an entire group because of a theory, even a “factual theory”. Because we are wrong too many times. I have seen and continue to seek out the people who have beat the odds. They renew my faith in the great potential of all people. The hundreds of death row inmates who have been exonerated through the Innocence Project. The countless kids from the ghetto who have succeeded in school and life. The online teacher I met who typed with her toes because she has no hands.
Sometimes it is easier for us to give up on each other than a product. How many times has a product or service not lived up to the hype or advertising? I know. Yet we still buy. Maybe a bit more warily and carefully. But we buy.
How much of our humanity dies when we come to these conclusions that ALL of somebody is not good or able to be helped or have ulterior motives?
We lose a little of ourselves every time we think and act this way.
We must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. Thich Nhat Hanh
In my professional world of philanthropy, we talk about those who need our help. We rarely talk to those we want to help. It's crazy. Our ideas become so sterilized from reality. So intellectual. So safe from the truth.
How do we renew our sense of reality by visiting the suffering we are trying to address or lessen? How do we truly get into the shoes of our colleagues, neighbors, brothers and sisters? How do we help our network by allowing ourselves to suffer with them---to have compassion? To listen, to learn and to love. To have the vulnerability and humility to know.
I write this not to preach but to confess. I write this not to inflict guilt but to remind. I write this to help me suffer with you.
Thanks for reading. John
Just got back from a reunion of our extended family. I do mean extended! It was extraordinary to dive into the gene pool forawhile and explore my roots and my wings. Energized by my younger cousins who represent the Yonseis--4th generation Japanese-Americans a rainbow coalition of beautiful multi-racial and multi-ethnic backgrounds. This weekend I met a national surfing champion, a violinist who played at Carnegie Hall, an actress--and these were among my cousins under 19! Amazing who you are related to and don't know.
We all have cousins. From real cousins to people you are somehow related to (e.g. people married to your cousins, all the way to strangers you refer to as "cousins". In fact we are all cousins in one way or another. Read that Prince William and Kate are 12th cousins (once removed) and Brad Pitt and President Obama are 9th cousins. The further we go back our family lines converge and we are all related. But I digress.
When we think of our networks, we usually think about the inner circle of our close friends, relatives and confidantes. Mark Granovetter referred to these as our Strong Ties. In general, we take care of our strong ties. The challenge with strong ties is they usually are not that diverse. We tend to hang around and seek the time and attention of people like us, religiously, politically, and financially. Therefore a network composed just of your strong ties is limiting. You need people in your network that will transport you out of the box of your limitations to introduce you to new networks. You need a diverse network of opinions, viewpoints and connections. Granvetter called these your Weak Ties.
Granovetter defined ties: a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.
He concluded that some of the the most important ties are the ones which "bridge" you to new connections, new networks, and new opportunities. His research showed that "no strong tie is a bridge." That weak ties are much better bridges.
One of my mantras is: It is amazing who you know who you don't know.
Great and beneficial networking focuses on your existing network before new connections. The key is reconnecting and deepening your relationship with people you know, especially weak ties--like your cousins--to expand your network.
You want your network to grow, but organically and warmly. Your existing network is a catalogue of warm calls, much different than the icy world of strangers that you don't know.
Second mantra: Being introduced is the most powerful form of networking.
The most potent network development comes from your existing contact list. Meeting new people through others.
Get over the "embarrassment" of the time lapse between contacts. Stop letting your benevolent disregard for them stop you from reaching out and re-kindling a good conversation. This is why some gravitate to the casino of meeting new people, rather than than apologizing to an old friend and starting anew. Can you hear the crazy that screams out of this convoluted logic?
Yeah, but we are all guilty of this. It took a reunion for me to reconnect with my cousins.
Focus on making your weak ties stronger and then seek the diversity of other people's networks.
It is one thing to say you are open to new things and new opportunities. That you believe in serendipity. Everyone does. But it is a giant leap to actively cultivate weak ties, like your cousins, to truly encounter the serendipitous.
Sometimes you meet people that appear in your life. I know you are lucky but not that lucky---you are not the magnetic center of the universe. You must make your magnets, your luck, and the effort to make new connections.
Call or e-mail a cousin today. Listen to them. Tell your story. Help each other. The world will become smaller, warmer and bit more interesting. It has for me.
Thanks for reading. Your cousin John ;)
Wouldn't it be nice if our next career adventure would magically present itself just when the challenge and growth runs out of our current gig? And how will you be spending your lottery ticket winnings? ;)
But most I meet wait until a crises hits and act surprised when a different adventure ensues. An adventure for which they are ill prepared.
Some measure it by time. "Gosh it's been 5 years, I guess I need to move on." Maybe. Maybe not. Jobs don't have an expiration date. Resumes do not require advancement in set increments. If you are so linear and myopic you might employ this approach.
The other one I hear al lot is, "I don't like my job, but I better stick it out for 2 years so my resume doesn't look weird."
Really? It is your story. You are the writer and the main character. But what is the plot and where are you going?
I always think about jobs like relationships. Few are forever. Almost all take hard work and you can't give up on a whim. And toxic ones need to be abandoned.
Don't let your resume dictate your career path.
As I have said ad nauseum, "To be ambitiousness you need an ambition." Meaning--just wanting more without a concept of success is purposeless and direction-less.
Just talked to a young rising star executive who was working for a big movie studio. He had a cushy job, nice work-life balance, and was well compensated. He and his wife recently had a baby and he woke up to his new responsibilities. Yet he also started to confront his age and stage in life. Most people reach this moment and they recoil from change and hunker down to retain the staus quo. But this young man realized that he was settling. That he was not growing or even contributing to the end product. He had been with this employer for awhile and could easily stretch it out a few more. Nevertheless, he decided to make a career change. He left for a start-up.
Not because he was fired but because he was fired up. Not because he hit a ceiling but because he saw the door to his own future. Not because he had a bad boss, but because he realized he is in charge of his own destiny.
This is the key to a life of satisfaction. Make your own path. Determine your own trajectory.
Some would say he was crazy. He should have waited until the baby was older. (They are planning to have several kids) Others understand that you have an internal clock. What other people think is irrelevant. It is your clock and your sense of timing that matters. Not what looks right but what feels right.
Timing is everything and the time is always now. This is the time to think, plan and execute on your plans.
Know when it is time. Listen to your mentors and those who care. But then listen to your heart. Like this young exec, you realize you want something different, then you start to define what you want, and then you seek it.
Being restless is not a career plan. "It just seems like a time to change." Is a bizarre feeling to risk your career. Great yiddish word: shpilkes. "ants in the pants" state of impatience and/or agitation.
Shpilkes is not sufficient to re-write your resume.
I remember I was sittiing in my office--an office I designed. I was so comfortable. I was large and in charge. I had a team of assistants and many "yes" people. I suddenly woke up from my self admiration and I realized I was becoming a bit of a fraud. (I found later that almost 75% of execs feel this way) I was further and further removed from the purpose of our work. I was no longer challenged. The depth of my knowledge and expertise was becoming a Wizard of Oz show. Admittedly, I had a good show, but only the showman knows what's backstage.
Anyway, I realized I was getting soft. That my creative muscles were not being exercised. That my competence was relying on others and my expertise was fading. I learned I had to re-engage with the details. Craft the words, understand the code, feel and see the purpose of our work. It is why I gravitate to start-up environments, so I can stay fresh and challenged and avoid getting too comfortable.
But you are different. You have to design your own path. You gotta know what you want. Do you?
If the "perfect opportunity" walked up and tapped you on the shoulder would you recognize it? Would you be ready to leap?
Very likely that you will leave your current position. Will you be the one making the decision about the timing of your transition?
A few destination check questions:
A few things are certain. Change will continue to grind away. Your expertise will become obsolete. You can let others decide your fate or take control of the steering wheel of your career and guide it to the path that reflects your goals and your needs. The path with your heart.
The real question is when will you do that? Your resume does not get a vote.
Thanks for reading. John
No I did not say "grits". And this is NOT another rant about Paula Dean. :)
I said grit--"The perseverance and passion for long term goals." Or the "abrasive particles or granules that facilitate grinding."
I think both are needed. A persistent attitude that pushes you to practice and to improve. And friction of reality along the way to keep you focused.
The path to success is a grinding process of honing, of shaping, of refining your skills knowledge and abilities. Without the friction of reality and the dogged persistence.
Deliberate practice, operationally defined as studying and memorizing words while alone, better predicted performance in the National Spelling Bee than being quizzed by others or reading for pleasure. Rated as the most effortful and least enjoyable type of preparation activity, deliberate practice was increasingly favored over being quizzed as spellers accumulated competition experience.
Deliberate Practice Spells Success:
Why Grittier Competitors Triumph at the
National Spelling Bee Anglea Lee Duckworth et al
This grit comes from your heart your commitment to pushing the rock up the hill and understanding the purpose. It is the alignment of your heart and your work. You know when you are out of alignment. You know when you start packing your bag at 4:50pm everyday. You also know when you are energized and exhausted at the same time. This grit can not be purchased. It is acquired and reinforced through your wholehearted engagement. This grit emerges from the work to extract the beauty and meaning from your efforts.
Does not necessarily or exclusively come from your day job. But you have to exercise and grow your grit muscles. You can get your grit on in your volunteer life, at your church, at your kid's school. Where is your grit and how can you make a bigger part of your life?
One of the most influential ways to re-activate your grit is to dive into the need. When you see how your product and service is used. When you talk to the people who need your solution. When you feel the emotional connection people make to your work, it reconnects you with purpose. "Ahhh, that's why I do this."
Make time to visit your "customers", hear their stories, see their faces, and re-immerse yourself in mission.
This is grit that wakes you up from the monotony of your routine and your habits. This is the grit with friction that afflicts the comfortable.
It is a virtuous cycle of grit begets grit. To get grit you give grit.
Thanks for reading. John
I recently attended an informal and delightful gathering of my former colleagues from my previous life as an alumni director at UCLA. It had been about 15 years since we had all seen each other. I learned early in each of my careers: seek out the influencers, the leaders, and the potential mentors in the industry. Connect with the people who will facilitate your education in that field. Alumni work was no different. I found a group of remarkable mentors. These gentlemen continue to be industry thought leaders and helped me define my life beyond my stint in alumni work.
Eustace Theodore at Yale: He taught the importance of understanding your institution's history. He characterized alumni work as continuing a great conversation.
Steve Grafton at Michigan: He taught me that nice guys do finish first. And how to honor traditions and evolve beyond them.
Bill Stone at Stanford: Bill mentored me in many ways, but the value of the words we use to articulate mission may be the most lesson. He also told me, “never have people who make less than you on your compensation committee.” :)
Doug Dibbert at North Carolina: Generously shared his wisdom with me. He humbled me to enjoy the journey more than my career aspirations. Sage advice.
We ended up
meeting up at Roy’s Restaurant in San Francisco where Bill’s wife Debbie Duncan
joined us. I opened the menu and saw that they had a gluten free menu. We have recently
come to expect this offering as we have become hyper aware of food allergies
and celiac in particular. This menu triggered a conversation about Debbie’s
gluten allergies, and the precision or the lack thereof, with these “gluten-free”
offerings. She warned us that relying on the special menu needs to be
accompanied with instructions to the kitchen to insure a more gluten free meal. For those with an intolerance for wheat, gluten can be dangerous.
This reminded us of a story about Bill and Debbie’s daughter Molly. Molly has endured gluten allergies her entire life.
More than 20 years ago, when celiac and gluten were not in our vocabulary, Bill was commiserating with me about the fate of his daughter Molly. Molly was very sick, not able to eat and was dangerously losing weight. He was a bit emotional, and I could tell that he feared the worse. He asked for my help.
The week before I was at a picnic with some UCLA alumni and a couple of parents were talking about their daughter and how she was not able to eat and lost a lot of weight. They found out that she had “a wheat intolerance”. Once they removed wheat products from her diet she gained weight and was back to normal. I saw her little daughter running around the park as proof of what seemed like a minor miracle to these parents. Never heard of anything like it before.
Back to my distressing conversation with Bill about his “emaciated” daughter Molly. I said, “Bill, I heard about this ailment of “wheat intolerance” over the weekend. I am just repeating what I heard but it sounds strangely like what Molly has.” Bill was desperate to give the stumped Stanford Medical Center team any new leads. “I am going to tell them to check it out.”
Long story short, it was “wheat intolerance”. Today, Molly is a “perfectly healthy” 23 year old.
Debbie turned to me during our dinner, “You saved her life.”
Soon after Molly’s diagnosis, Debbie wrote a MY TURN column in Newsweek entitled, “What’s wrong with my baby?” This was one of the beginnings of the awareness of celiac and the seriousness of gluten allergies. She later wrote a best selling book to help siblings cope with an ailing brother or sister--When Molly was in the Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children.
I did what any friend would do. Tried to help with anything I had—even a bit of well-timed hearsay.
The lesson for me is to speak up and share what I know. Lead by helping people. Connect prople to other experts. Don’t
pre-judge what you know or what others know. As Debbie pointedly described in
her column, it was hard to believe that the battery of tests conducted at
Stanford did not uncover the allergy.
I am constantly reminded how much people help me with insights and “obvious” advice. How I try to help others with the same. Very little is universally understood and most people are unaware of where they need help.
I am constantly amazed when people write me or mention words I said that made a difference to them.
When your network asks for help you respond. You give and give generously without expectation.
Say what you are thinking, don’t hesitate. Yes, try to package it in a way that is digestible and palatable. But share what you know and what you see. This is how we help each other.
It could save or change a life. One thing is certain, it will change yours.
Thanks for reading. John
Do we see and hear ourselves? Do we know how we come off? Other people do. But how do we gather, curate, and ultimately utilize these insights and observations to improve?
Heidi Grant Halvorson, author HBR blogger recently wrote:
“If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?
If we are going to ever improve, we need solid evidence about where we went wrong. Unfortunately, that's the kind of evidence that usually doesn't make it to our consciousness, making self-diagnosis practically impossible. And your own ratings of your personality traits are NOT well correlated with the impressions of other people (who know you well).”
That's why I have 360 degree evaluations everywhere I have led teams. That's why I am such a big advocate of mentoring. You need to actively seek, receive and digest, honest and constructive feedback on a regular basis. To get an accurate picture of you and the you, you want to be. You have to learn how to see and hear yourself.
It is almost impossible to see yourself, hear yourself, and understand yourself-by yourself.
The challenge is we get into a mode of talking and behaving where we are say and do comfortable things or phrases that don’t connect us to the real world at that moment. We are not present and self-aware. Our concentration and focus drifts so easily.
Each of us comes to very fast conclusions from the things we observe, experience and encounter. We assign values, preferences, and judgments to OTHERS. We rarely turn this amazing power on ourselves.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and experiencing that moment. You hear yourself talk. You see yourself act. You think about the way you think.
Emotional Intelligence EQ is simply put: “.. the ability to monitor one's and others feelings/emotions and understand them to guide your behavior and actions.” Daniel Goleman
According to Goleman there are 5 emotional competencies:
I am really focusing on #1, #4 and #5. How does the way you come off genuinely represent you, the needs of others and results in something desirable?
Many sources out there to develop your EQ, your mindfulness. Meditation helps many. I like this post on Overcoming the Obstacles to Mindfulness.
Once self-aware you develop empathy for others and your ability to lead your life and persuade others increases.
I See You. Do You See You? If we are more mindful and share these thoughts we can start to see ourselves. When we see ourselves we engage others in authentic ways that reflect the time, the moment, the feelings of the others. Your EQ is high. That’s when you make a connection. Not just a transaction for goods and services, but you connect. That’s when networking and mentoring pay off. When you reveal yourself and reveal the needs of others. Then we help each other see our truths, our true selves.
Thanks for reading. John
I have always admired bonsai as a living piece of art. The idea that you could miniaturize a tree was amazing to me. I visited bonsai gardens as a child and remember seeing a forest of cypress that were under 18 inches tall.
But when I heard Professor Yunus discuss Bonsai People, I started to think about the ways we miniaturize people's potential and their dreams. How we limit our own potential and dreams. How we bonsai others and ourselves.
As Professor Yunus says, we do build pots around many people. Pots of stereotypes. Pots of indifference. Pots of our lowered expectations. The poor lack the base or space to grow.
Sometimes well intentioned people try to "help" others by making their goals "more realistic". The parent who tells his daughter not to become an artist because there is no money in it. The college counselor who told me I was not university material.
These are all root trimming activities. Ways of clipping the potential of another.
THE STORY OF THE ELEPHANT The elephant is the strongest animal in the kingdom. But it is very strange the way circus trainers keep the elephants tied up. Wrapped around the leg of the little baby elephant will be a great big chain; but wrapped around the leg of the huge adult elephant will be a little flimsy rope. The elephant trainer will tell you that after a few months of straining against a big chain, the baby elephant will finally give up. After that, the trainer can replace the big strong chain with a weak little rope, and the elephant never knows the difference. Even thought the adult elephant could snap the rope with one mighty tug of his foot, he never even tries. Why? Because the long months of struggling against the chain have conditioned and convinced him to believe that it's impossible!
What imaginary rope or pot limits your thinking and your pursuit of what you can be?
Some people really believe that "somebody else" will free them from their self imposed bondage. Yes, it does take mentors, colleagues, coaches, sponsors and teachers to show you options, paths and opportunities to break free from the circus trainer and bonsai gardener. You do need a network or truth tellers to give you real feedback. But you have to be open to it.
When the student is ready the teacher appears. Buddha
Do we maintain the pots we are planted in? Are others to blame for the pot we are in? Yes society, your DNA and your environment contribute greatly to your pot. But what are you going to do about it?
Love it or leave it?
Stop complaining about the pot or rope the supposedly holding you back. Take control of your career and your life.
Met this kid who grew up in the hood and will graduate from a prestigious private school. He convinced his parents that he needed more education. He got people to support him morally and financially. He is passionate about his future and difference he will make. Hard to count the pots he has broken and grown out of. He wanted more, pursued it, got some help and now can taste it. Nobody will ever miniaturize his dreams again.
In the same week met with a former colleague who has everything. She is well educated has money in the bank and many options. But she is stuck. Her pot has thick and high walls that she imagines. No vision for her future. No desire to improve. Just hoping to get "more". More opportunities and more responsibilities. I gave her advice but it slid off of her teflon coating. She does not want to make an effort to change. She is going to wait for the "right" time. Wow. Easy to predict that she will get root rot and her pot will continue to stunt her growth. A self made bonsai.
There will never be a better time than right now. I don't mean quit your job today, but to take serious and continuous steps to break free from the little rope that has conditioned you to stay put. Not even the proverbial golden handcuffs, but paper handcuffs that are forged from your fears. Your fear of your own potential.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. Michelangelo
As I have said many times big difference between ambitious and ambition. Wanting "more" is way different than going after "more".
More will not usually come looking for you. And if it does you have to be ready.
Bonsai are the most cared for, pampered, plants in the world. They are so dependent on this care that they will not succeed without it. Maybe you really like where you are, then stop talking about a different future. Enjoy what you have.
So either stay in your pot and become a beautiful groomed bonsai. Or get your Shawshank on!
Most people can become bonsai. Great seeds that yearn for the light but find that their pot is comfortable and ultimately restricts their mobility.
We have an obligation to help others break free of their constraints to grow. And to not miniaturize other people's dreams.
Thanks for reading. John
When I first got into the networking game and tried to define what I was doing and why--I was drawn to the research on reciprocity. That reciprocity and mutual obligation are the most powerful sources of influence in the world. I was very influenced by Robert Cialdini's body of work, his lectures and my conversations with him.
The idea that networking and later mentoring revolved around creating mutual obligation. In fact I used to tell a long and very popular story about how we do favors for others--favors we don't want to do, but we don't know how to say "no". When you are thanked for a favor you did not want to do, I counseled people to say, "I know you would do the same for me." And like you did the favor against your better instincts, the person who received your generosity will unwittingly say how they "owe" you. This gimmick "proved" our inner desire to help one another. That's what I thought and that's what I taught.
Expectations are the ruination of the individual. Tomi D. Kobara
What I have learned since is that auto-reciprocity syndrome (I made this up), the robotic, sub-conscious process of responding to one another and owing one another is not a reflection of our true selves.
The idea of expecting a return for our generosity is the darkside of reciprocity. That giving that is conditional, is really not giving. Once you plant the seed of obligation, the main growth comes through your selfishness.
This conclusion generates all sorts of questions:
Not saying that these forms of gifts are not good or needed. I think we would all admit that unconditional giving is different. Is any giving unconditional?
Yes! I have seen it. People who give freely and quickly. You have witnessed it too. Now do these people give to feel good and to feel good about themselves--isn't that a selfish need?
I am not counting this as reciprocity.
I love Steven Levine's distinctions about three types of giving.
Are you a beggarly, friendly or kingly networker?
I mentally and intellectually made this shift from reciprocity in my giving awhile ago. I truly try to give unconditionally especially in my networking and mentoring. I have found it is so much less complicated when you don't keep score. Give first, give often, give without expectation. That is my goal.
Like everything in life the more often you do it the easier it becomes.
Some people say give first and then get. I am going much further here. Just Give. Give because it reflects who we are and what we want to be. Give because it makes us feel good. Give anonymously. Give because we care.
I know I am not the only one who is thinking this way. I know that each of you is giving a lot of yourselves. And I truly appreciate how generous you are with your time and your resources. I am writing this as a confession about what I have learned about networking and mentoring over these decades. I am writing to remind me and anyone else that the greatest ROI is to the preservation of your authentic self. Becoming a "kingly" giver and networker is our goal.
People who view life as a zero sum game, they believe that every gift must be replaced. That every commitment generates a commitment. This is pure reciprocity.
Generosity is unlimited. You always have something to give. You have more to give.
I have had the great pleasure to hear Muhammad Yunus speak and he reminds me of this goal. He speaks in absolutes and I think purely about what we need to do as fellow human beings. His mission in life is "When poverty is in the museum". I love the vision of visiting a museum in the future with a comprehensive display on poverty! But he also talks about social business. Business that has no profit and gives its returns to the community and the customers. He was asked why a business that limits its profits would not qualify as a social business. He said, "When you get 1% in profits, it is human nature to try and make it 2%. Not having profits you focus 100% on the business of helping people."
Likewise, when you think about what you get first or what you are owed, you put yourself before the gift. It compromises your generosity, your networking and your mentoring.
How can we all give more freely because we are merely temporary custodians of possessions, connections and knowledge?
Life is not about trades and transactions. Not about IOUs. I have traded reciprocity for generosity.
Life is about being the best you can be and helping others be the same.
Thanks for reading. John