How Do I Know If I Am In Love?

Like when you are in the Maserati dealership, if you have to ask you are in the wrong place!
 
Had the great fortune of hearing this question from numerous younger people. Am I in love? How do you know? Love
 
I recently talked to a young man who asked me these questions. He then blurted out that he spent the last five years with this woman and he was going to marry her because he doesn't think he has another five years in him to meet someone else. Yikes
 
And I hear this same sentiment pertaining to career choices. 
 
Years ago, I was asked to address 500 PhDs at a career conference who no longer want to work in their fields of research.
 
I conducted a workshop called "Running from the Law" for 350 lawyers.
 
I think the analogies between love and life, dating and working are closely related. We seek companionship, trust, belonging, meaning, and mutuality in our lives. In everything. Not just for a soul mate or life partner but in our careers.We want our work to feed our insatiable desire for connection, emotional connection connection that matters and give us a deep sense of pride, security, confidence and meaning. We are lying to ourselves if we deny this.
 
Virtually none of us remember being in the sandbox as a toddler telling our friends and parents that we would be doing what we are doing now. Because life is a crazy journey of twists and turns, some say fate, others know its more about choices and chances. But I digress. 
 
Our jobs and internships, are our forays into our work /love life. We are "courting careers", we are scouring the match.coms of jobs, we are asking friends to set us up, we are constantly comparing our unrealistic list of needs/wants and even demands to our "dates". Is this what I want? Is this where I am supposed to be? Is this all there is? Is this how I am supposed to feel? 
 
We want to be in love and to be loved. 
 
In the hundreds of conversations I have had, it is the lover not the object of love who is the most challenged. We don't know what we want and therefore  our search is always one more of questioning than satisfying. We fall into things. We settle. We rationalize. Most of all we defer and wait.  Not sure for what.
 
Last week I talked to a newish non-profit leader who is questioning his career "date". Are you passionate about your work?, I queried. "No but I am working hard.", she said. Wonderful answer avoidance! Read: Not in a serious relationship yet.
 
Dating is not serious if there is not the possibility of marriage.
 
Met an executive in business and I asked him to tell me about his work. He looks at his shoes and says, "Just run a PR firm." Whoa, pride alert! Then he added, "I am not able to do good things like you." Major guilt exposed! Why not? Why does he think he is stuck in this bad relationship? Why does he accept not being in love?
 

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

We need strength and courage in our professional lives. We get it from our engagement intellectually and emotionally from what we do--paid and unpaid. 

But John, do you know how hard it is to find what you are talking about? Yeah I do. So when did you give up on things that were hard or even impossible? When did you push the auto-pilot button to give the controls of your life to "whatever"?

Some wake up and make changes. They are no longer in love and they get a divorce from their jobs. Some get dumped. because they waited too long. Still others stay in toxic, abusive relationships. 
  
Do we seek practical love? Or convenient love? Or do we pursue head over heels in love? Do we want love we rationalize or love we can brag about?

Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love. - Rumi

Time is not slowing down. Time is ticking. Like the maternal biological clock--When will you give birth to your dreams?
 
I am not saying to quit, divorce or bail, I am saying investing in the opportunity to make it work. A great and enduring relationship takes work. It doesn't just glide on the energy of puppy love. 
 
Are you in love with what you are doing, who you are becoming? Are you in love with the potential, the chance to grow?
 
Yes? Then, you understand. Keep working at it. If No, then you need to take control of the helm and get your little boat pointed in the right direction. Your compass is your heart.
 
Only you have formed the rules and boundaries of the current world. Only you can change it up and make it what you want.
 
Use your network of mentors and advisors to help you evaluate your choices. 
 
Last week I met a woman about her career. She said, " I am so overwhelmed. I am almost drowning. But it has been a long time since I felt this challenged, so connected to my work, forcing me to use my brain and everything I have. I am so grateful to be here!
 
It's a beautiful thing when people are in love.
 
You know if you are love. Only you do.
 
Thanks for reading. John 

What Would the Wolf Do?

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  John Muir 

This video beautifully and inspiringly tells the story of trophic cascades, basically where the top of the food chain is disrupted and the changes that follow. In this case, the re-introduction of the wolves into Yellowstone National Park dramatically shifted the course of the entire eco-system from the migration pattern of the elk to the height of the forest to the direction of the river. A great and visual lesson on the unknown consequences of changing things in our environment, in our worlds. We know everything is connected to everything else. We intellectually understand that at the atomic level we are in an infinite sea of life. We are part of this connectedness. What we do matters. There are immediate and unseen impacts from our actions and our in-actions that reverberate out and into the future. 

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. - Mother Teresa 

We also know that we have to do what we were meant to do. We can not hold back. Yes to be fulfilled and to feel purposeful. But we need to do it because of the ripple effect. The waves it sends out to others. We want to help others. We do. That's why I have advocated a lifestyle of networking and mentoring to help others. If we make it part our lives, part of the way we think and act, then it is not special, it is routine. And the ripples reverberate your righteousness. 

When we are wolves seeking our habitat and doing what wolves need to do. We change the world.

When we are not wolves we suppress nature, and the world changes anyway, often without us. 

Intuitively we think we know what happens when we do something. The cause and effect. We naively imagine a linear relationship of our actions and the intended consequences. But what really happens and what happens if we do nothing?

The world without wolves?

But too often we wait. Wait for a sign, for the "right time". We contemplate our navels and consider our options. We take chances or we balk at choices. We embrace the fear or we regret it later. We show up or don't. We say what's on our minds or we shrink from the truth.

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.  James Baldwin

Consider, if we do not act or speak or assist someone. Consider what happens if we do not build relationships, connect, network and mentor each other. Consider the cascade of events that would happen if you do or do not.

We have many excuses. We tend to think about obsess about what will go wrong. How I will be embarrassed. The inconvenience of the time. 

What if:

If I did not talk to this woman on a plane I would not be married and have three kids!

If I did not take a pay cut for a job I loved I would not be in this career.

If my mother had not encouraged me to be a YMCA counselor I may not have become a Big Brother.

If I did not become a Big Brother I would not be writing this blog.

I am sure you have  a longer and better list, if you think about it. We can think of these as special even magical moments. They are. And they aren't. The more you do the more that these moments occur. And best of all it triggers consequences well beyond you. 

We know your very presence makes a difference. But we forget. 

You avoid talking about politics, religion, or anything controversial or revealing about you, for fear of judgment or being politically incorrect. And your voice is silenced. People that look to you for guidance hear nothing and they adopt silence and neutrality as a mode of living. And your silence begets silence.

It is the slipperiest of slopes. You do less and less to protect what you have.

What our peers do matters. We crowd source. We pride ourselves on individualism but we can default to the lemmings. We follow and fall for what others around us do.

Maybe you need a different crowd. 

We have to be ourselves. Our best selves. Our most generous, compassionate and empathetic selves.

You agree to mentor someone even though "you are busy" and there is a cascade.

What happens to everything around and after you, if you are not you?

Nature abhors a vacuum. So when you fail to act, to show up, to do what you want to do the world changes anyway. The cascade of events that follow your absence is different. 

All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.  Octavia Butler 

But will you be the change that starts a beautiful cascade of events that you can not predict and only your presence generates? 

It all starts with giving without an expectation. 

The future is helping children you will never know. 

Give up on your dream and your instincts and you mess with the cosmos. 

WWWD? The world needs your ripples. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Positively Positive

We can donate money, or send aid, or volunteer at a shelter, but the first thing we must do is take responsibility and stock of our own path of consciousness. If we come into harmony with ourselves and vibrate from that out into the world, we are the de facto change. Panache Desai

Seeing the world for what it is and not what it could be is so hard. 

Everyday I have a wrestling match with the forces of  negativity- the criticisms-what should be. I strive to see the best in others, in things, in experiences. But I have been cursed with seeing myself and others on the scale of potential. Potential is a brutal measure, because it can never be fully satisfied.

How do I address the dissatisfaction I have with myself and the world in a positive manner?

Dont be neg
From beinggrownups.com

 

We all have so many excuses to be negative. But we have to change our perspective to change things. You know about the study of recent lottery winners and recently inflicted parapalegics. One year after their life defining events, both groups had the same levels of happiness! It's perspective. 

How will the next opportunity or challenge define our lives? Perspective is everything!

Perhaps the biggest challenge I face is being positive, seeing the positive, and surrendering to the positive. I do not mean be happy, or perky, or a purveyor of phony smiles. Nothing is more irritating than people who say rehearsed positive things. We all work with and know people who try to be Patty Positive. 

Not only talking about gratitude, optimism or guilt either. Although these are powerful forces of life. No, I am speaking of perspective, a positive lens. We rarely see the whole picture. And rarely see the good before us. We zoom in on our targets. We tend to skip over the strengths and focus on the weaknesses. 

We see inadequacy before we see virtue. We see the weeds in the rose garden.

We all like good gossip. To hear about the foibles of others. Schadenfreude. We like House of Cards, Scandal, and Orange is the New Black. Negative settings entertain us. We are all critics. Foodies, and Filmies. We have developed more sophisticated tastes where there are winners and losers. American Idol, AGT, and the Voice have taught us how to hit the buzzer. 

So we are all looking for the rare talent and the OMG. And when disappointed we engage our razor ribbon tongues to slice and dice with the best of them. 

We know that acknowledging the positive is good. It makes us feel good, it makes others feel good. Not pollyannish disingenuous sycophantic babble, but authentic recognition of the good and the positive. 

My mother taught me that there is good in everything. That there is bad in everything. How do you appreciate the good?

Yes, let's make lemonade but also appreciate the lemons.

Yin yang

I truly appreciate what people do for me, how they support me. I do appreciate the care they take and the details of what they do. But I do not always acknowledge it. 

It is well accepted that negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill. Stress — the belief that we are at risk — triggers physiological pathways such as the “fight-or-flight” response, mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. These have evolved to protect us from danger, but if switched on long-term they increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes and dementia. People who see themselves in a more positive light than others see them — have lower cardiovascular responses to stress and recover faster, as well as lower baseline cortisol levels.  Jo Marchant

10 steps I am trying to take to become more positive:

  1. Quiet the mind to see and feel. Become more mindful.
  2. Don't react until I have a deeper understanding. 
  3. Listen like it matters.
  4. Catch people doing good!
  5. Start all sentences with the good I see and feel.
  6. If you have something nice to say, SAY IT! Don't wait for a better time. 
  7. Always connect to something bigger than me. Purpose makes me positive. 
  8. Always give without expectation.
  9. See the possibility as well as the problem.
  10. Shed people who are negative. Strengthen my positive network.

I love the concept of Positive Psychology: Understanding what makes us happy versus studying what screws us up. 

In the book Far from the Tree , Andrew Solomon opens our eyes to see ability and uniqueness where we have labeled disability.

Let's acknowledge the wow before the woe. 

I feel my growing awareness will help me. Like all bad habits it is a step process. Small steps and bigger strides. Lead with the positive.

I am positive I am going to be more positive.

It’s about your worth. Your self-worth… You — and only you — can ultimately put the price tag on that. Your tag reveals not only how you value yourself, but how imaginative and original you are about valuing others. In my experience, happier people are people who have not only a high price tag on themselves, but a high price tag on the people around them — and the tags don’t necessarily have to do with market value. They have to do with all the sense that adds up to human value. Anna Deveare Smith

Being positive resonates, vibrates, and influences the world around us. 

What will you do to strengthen your positivity and your positive network? 

Thanks for your positivity. John

 


Making the Jump

Every day, every fork in the road, every choice we confront, there is a leap of faith we must make or avoid. Little decisions can lead to bigger decisions. If life is a journey then we must take steps to keep moving and jumping can accelerate our quest. Hard to just move faster. We feel we are going at warp speed now, right? Our natural resistance to any change can trigger our lizard brain to move us back from the cliff.  (Pre-historic preference: when confronted, fight, flight, or stand perfectly still and hope it passes) Too often we jump to conclusions instead of to our destinies. We fear change so much and of course, failing, that we are paralyzed. We analyze, we consider, we weigh, and we examine the fine particles stored in our umbilical area :) But we don't act on what we know is right or best for us. I see it everyday. We become prisoners to this analysis and the warm feeling of the status quo. There is no parole hearing to get out of this jail. You have to escape these confines because you want to.  

Skydive jump
Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

I know some of you are already saying soothing things to yourself because you believe you are in control of your life. Hope that is true. Others of you have begun reinforcing the height and width of the walls that incarcerate you. Stop!

Here's the deal. Not asking you to blindly leap to the newish thing without your brain. I am not telling you to use your heart as your only compass (although I think that organ is under utilized) I am saying decide and do! (Avoiding the Nike ad) I am saying Jump!

Jumping from one place to the next is frowned upon by some. And yet the jump to the next level is always admired. Is the next level always up? Really? It isn't. So making the jump from bad habit to good. From a meaningless job to one that fulfills. From a better self to your best self. Jump over the fear of failure and make it happen!

Skydive feet
Me over the north shore of Oahu

I meet so many neurotic professionals who can not surrender to the jump. 

29 year old man who is so smart so gifted so confused. He wants a career. But he is so concerned about appearances, what others think (he would deny this) that he has no room to consider HIS fate. His parents and his "friends" are the shackles that prevent him from jumping. He wants to get married and have children -those things will also wait for his leap. Graduate school? (That omnipresent demon of delay) Career change? Internship? He came to see me and I simply told him to silence all of the voices except his own. Forget what others think. What do YOU think? Make it happen! And  jump!

I have been obsessed with the physical act of jumping since I was a kid. I still like it, even with my bad knees and back. I was in track and field for many years and was a jumper. High, triple and long. I know, I am pretty short but I had decent hops. That's how I met one of my best friends Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the TJ. He's in this video. Love this classic song: JUMP! Makes you want to.......

My career and my life has been a series of jumps. Being ready to jump at opportunities and through fleeting windows of opportunity. That's how I got my present job and how I met my wife.

I have been also plowing through my bucket list and jumping was on it--Parachuting, paragliding, and skydiving--did them all. And then my kids wanted to skydive so I went again last weekend.

After that jump, here's what I wrote to my kids:

We jumped out of a plane! We ignored the possibility of failure to enjoy a thrill, a sense of surrender, a wonder, and a great memory. Life is a series of jumps from different heights and perspectives. We have had many jumps together. Fear is always the enemy. Overcoming it is our single greatest learning and teaching moment. We have had our share of bumpy landings, but here you are. Thanks for letting me experience this moment with all of you. You got a chance to see your grandparents and our parents. They are taking a different jump, with a different set of fears at this point in their lives. They live through you and your jumps. Instead of bracing for impact, how about embracing every moment we have together. How do we brace for enlightenment and love? Here's to many more jumps together! (Not just out of a plane!) Love Dad

Skydive family
Me and my kids

We all went tandem skydiving with an instructor. Because big jumps should not be done alone. Without my partner Sarah, I could not have made any jumps in my life. In fact she did not join us on the skydive, because someone has to be grounded! The point is you need help, support and expertise to make most leaps. So ask for help to build your strength and courage to jump. 

Time is our enemy, to explore what we want and where we are going. We have to help others jump, especially the younger folks around us. To jump to new worlds, new experiences, and new opportunities--to activate a different part of the brain to subordinate our lizard head. Once you jump and learn and grow you get hooked on jumping. 

Every day an opportunity to connect, to mentor, to advance our lives emerges and evaporates. We have to jump on these moments as well. No need to just think about the monster jumps, because the little jumps will lead you there. Get into the habit of jumping on the chances and challenges right in front of you.

Where are you jumping next? And who will you help make their big jump?

Thanks for reading. John


What is Your Realm?

A close colleague of mine was discussing the future of an unemployed at-risk youth we had just met, "We can not just dress up these young men and teach them how to get jobs at fast food restaurants. We must help them understand their place in the realm of their world. Their role in society. Then and only then will they help themselves and their communities."

Realm: Noun. Meaning: domain, activity, sphere, knowledge, interest

Aren't we all "at-risk" of not knowing our role, our realm? 

Each of us has a "realm".  A place which inspires us. An environment that brings out the best in us. Work that is meaningful to us. Our realm nurtures our sense of duty and commitment to what we do.

What is your realm? Your realm of possibility and responsibility?

I am often in debates and discussions about being a king or a kingmaker. But why aren't we talking about the kingdom and its needs. The kingdom is the community--your realm. 

If our realm is only about ourselves, tis a small and selfish realm indeed. 

Big hat no cattle.  Big Hat

Becoming a better person, a more educated person, a more mature person, a more successful person--always starts with the realm---How that person contributes to things beyond themselves. So a realm is unique and specific idea, cause, skillset, space that you embrace, protect, invest in and stand for.

We now face the danger, which in the past has been the most destructive to the humans: Success, plenty, comfort and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers. John Steinbeck  1962

Our own comfort and happiness can limit our realm. Jim Collins, business guru, called it the "undisciplined pursuit of more". More for what? Most of us need little, we want a lot! Yet we know others who need what we have.

It is human nature to start with oneself but where is the humanity in this?

What should I be? vs How can I be useful?

Who I am vs What I do?

I am good vs Good I do

People tell me everday they want to be entreprenuers, or start non-profits, they rarely say what they want to do for the world and how they will change it. I never hear "I want to cure cancer", or "Mentor at risk youth" or "Increase the quality of STEM education" or "Alleviate the suffering of the homeless"

I hear selfish, often innocuous and mostly meaningless general thoughts about their futures.

  • "I want to make a difference." Huh?
  • "I want to do something I believe in." What?
  • "I want to make money." Become a counterfeiter!
  • "I am going to retire soon to rest." Another act of procrastination.
  • "I don't want to make other people rich." Yikes!
  • "I want to help people."  OMG!
  • "I want to grow." Who doesn't?!

Remember the emperor with no clothes? That's what we sound and look like when we say these things. When we care more about what others think and have no realm. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything! Or wear anything! Or say or do anything or nothing at all.

Without a realm it is near impossible to network and be mentored. 

But John I have no realm, but want one. What do I do?

  1. Self awareness is the first step and now your eyes are open
  2. Listen to your heart and take notes. 
  3. Explore what seriously interests you and drives you. Use your network.
  4. Your realm is not just your job. You can have multiple realms. Start small and grow.
  5. Do not wait. This is the best time to start.

#1 myth in Greg McKeown's terrific 12 myths that lead to a busy and unfulfilling life:

"I'm too busy living to think about life." This is a huge blamethrower. It's not my fault everyone else expects so much of me. 

I always wanted to be somebody, but I realized I should have been more specific. Lily Tomlin

Been mentoring a young man for years. Tried to get him to focus on life instead of his ambition. His goal was a title not a mission. He talked of promotions not deeds. Tried to engage him in the work vs his own welfare. He is just emerging from that super selfish time that I have blogged about between 24-30 years old. Finally he has emerged from the fog of self absorption and saw his realm. I had to wait this one out. Not entirely his fault he was a Me Myself and I kinda guy. Recently the fog cleared and he can see past his own shoes and the path has emerged from the darkness. He thinks I made the fog disappear. He doesn't realize that when you are looking at yourself you can't see anything or anyone else. And he is now pursuing his usefulness in his realm.

Refine your sense of how you will do something about what you care about, what angers you, what vision you have for your communty what gives you joy and how you can help others. Before you refine your resume and interview skills! 

A focus on just building yourself without context is a form of naricissim that can lead to a life of disappointment and unfulfilled potential. This is the leading cause of a life of regret. 

Call it maturity. Call it fate. Call it career development. Self awareness leads to enlightenment if you let it. 

Your realm is waiting. You are the king or queen but how is your kingdom doing? We are at risk of being too busy to think about life. So find your realm.

GOT realm? For the good of your realm!

Thanks for reading. John  


Like what you got to get what you like

People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives. J. Michael Straczynski

How do we take full responsibility for where we are? Embrace what we are doing to get where we need to go. See our current opportunity as the best step to advance our lives and the lives of others.

Put the victim, excuses, entitlement and blame game behind us and power ahead by embracing the present.

Not talking about "hanging in there" or "toughing it out" or certainly not "waiting for something good to come along."

You underestimate what you have and how it can help you advance.

How do we love what we do to do what we love?

What you say to yourself and others becomes who you are. Your story is what connects you to your future and to others.

You attract whatever negative and or positive vibes you give off.

"I hate my job." "I can't wait to get out of here." "I don't believe in what I am doing any more."

It's odd but very frequent when people tell me that they are basically unhappy with their jobs and their lives. By the way, 70% of Americans say they are disengaged from their jobs--70%! (Gallup State of the American Workplace)

People say the darndest things. :) They appear to have little pride in themselves. 

As the Mad Hatter advised Alice at the tea party:

Then you should say what you mean. 

I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.

Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter.

You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!

So say what you mean but mean what you say! And like what you got to get what you like!

You got to embrace your circumstances, your current work, your employer and your life---because it's what you got. And you have to describe what you have by appreciating the positive and making lemonade.

I am not saying to stay at a toxic job. I am not saying to sugar coat your thoughts about your work and to lie about it. I am not talking about blind loyalty. I am speaking of a loyalty and commitment to yourself. This is your job. This is your life. And to the extent you allow your job to define you, you have to own it. 

And your narrative, your storyline, can't be just negative. What you say about your work reflects on you and impacts your buzz and your trajectory.

So many people sound like fugitives to me. They are fleeing something to find something better. They have a foot out the door and are seeking the next thing. They are not in the present but stuck in the past and scheming about the future. They are not in the now. Just finished the New New Thing by Michael Lewis. Your life can't always be about the new new thing but about the now now thing. 

Opportunities seek those that adapt and succeed and make the most out of what they have. 

First of all the pursuit of life driven by passion and meaning can only be partially satisfied by one's professional career. For some fortunate people, work life can generate the bulk of one's life satisfaction. But for many of us we have to adopt a portfolio approach to life. Like your investments you need an allocation strategy to create returns from multiple sources which can "hedge" the others. We need a constellation of interests to feed our great hunger and curiosity for stimulation and meaning. If we place all of our eggs in one basket, place all of our chips on one bet, invest all of our energy into our job, the result is predictably an insufficient life.

Life choicesPeople who are engaged in their lives. Who exude energy, confidence and positivity. These are people who by and large manage a broad and diverse portfolio of interests and activities. Their day job is but one source of their life force.

These are people who are busy, really busy. They make the most of what they have and they always seem in demand.

Get your story straight. What are you doing now that is interesting and engaging? Own where you are regardless of the challenges. Love it. Build on what you have to get to the next step in your plan.

What are you optimizing for?, asks Brian David Johnson, Intel's futurist.  How are you using the present to plan your evolving future? How are you spending your work time and non-work time to provide more stimulation and growth? What is energizing your progress and your momentum now? What skills, knowledge and abilities are you honing?

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus

One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses. Henry Miller

Don't dismiss your life as "Not what I want to do" or "It's just a job" Talk about what's emerging for you. Talk about what you are optimizing for. That will help you and others see your path.

You are going somewhere, right? And this place where you are is the best place to get there--because that's where you are!

Be what you say and say what you are. Appreciate what you have and who you are. And do it with pride and energy. 

Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Thanks for reading. John


Invisible Asians: Where are you from?

Asian Pacific Islanders (API) are the fastest growing population in the US.  We have achieved many things in this country. And from the superficial data of education, income, and overall poverty, APIs are the "most successful" ethnic group including whites in the country. 1 of 19 Americans, 1 in 7 Californians, and 1 in 6 LA County residents are API. The largest alumni population for hundreds of the top schools will be API in the next decade. It is conceivable that API college grads will exceed both African American and Latino populations by 2025. You combine the Model Minority Myth with the low profile of APIs and you get the subordination of one of the greatest assets of this country. You also bury the real needs of the poor and vulnerable APIs because we are not capable of dis-aggregating the data of the multiple ethnic groups which make up APIs in America.

Consider these facts:

  • The parents of Cambodian Americans suffer greater levels of PTSD than returning vets from Iraq, according to Rand.
  • Poverty among API populations has increased at almost twice the rate as African Americans since the recession according to Pew. Now more than 2 million APIs live below the poverty line in the US.
  • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups are more likely to live beneath the poverty line than any population in the nation. 

APIs like any pan-ethnic group is diverse and complex, defying generalizations and stereotyping. Averages mask the depth and breadth of the 42 sub-ethnic and islander groups. So the stereotypes prevail. Asians-racism-sandbox-748086

APIs are okay. Let's not talk or worry about them. They don't make any noise, they don't have large political caucuses, or clout in the media, so you can ignore them with impunity. So very few polls on anything show the voices and opinions of APIs. (As if we don't exist) A national discussion of Boys and Men of Color excludes APIs ( I guess we don't have enough color? And how do at-risk Cambodian, Pilipino, Laotion, or Samoan young men react to this?) I could go on and on.

A very recent Wharton study of 6500 top university professors revealed the following:

  • Faculty were most likely to respond to e-mails from white males. But more surprising was the high level of racial bias against Asians and Indians -- professors were likeliest to ignore e-mails from these students.
  • The pernicious nature of the "model minority" stereotype of Asians, and the fact that Asians are still viewed as the most foreign "other" in our American culture -- perhaps the biggest outsiders in the politics of "not like us."

It makes no sense.This country does not value APIs and APIs have not done themselves any favors by flying under the radar and not making their voices heard. APIs are invisible and most Americans look by us and through us. 

Thanks John for the interesting dive into API data. What does this have to do with SWiVELTime?

The way I look and the way people perceive me has impacted my networking and mentoring throughout my whole life.

I am a fully assimilated API. Oh I have been criticized for "selling out" and for being less Asian than I should be. My parents wanted me to be Americans first--to fit in after their experiences in the internment camps.  That's why my parents named me John instead of Toraichi. Why my parents sacrificed to move us into a white school district to get a better education and to facilitate my Americanization. So I am guilty by assimilation. 

I have also tried to single handedly combat the Model Minority Myth by getting low grades in math and science in high school! It made my teachers crazy! :)

So I have tried to fit in and to engage others to fit in. Even though I have been the first and only Asian so many times I have lost count. I am grateful to my parents and for the opportunities I have been given. (even though I was almost always considered "under-qualified") I have been lucky because some people believed in me and I have made the most of it. 

And yet, I have encountered incredible ignorance, covert discrimination, and overt racism. 

 Just want to point out what everyone who looks like me faces.

Every day someone ignores me or says something about "Asians". And then they say "Not you John. You know what I mean."

These are statements made to to me this year:

"Don't we have too many Asians here?"

"You are the best Asian speaker I have ever heard!"

Were you born here?

Not going to even try to pronounce your name. I am really bad with Asian names.

Are you John Kobara? Oh I thought you were Hispanic? What kind of name is Kobara?

I have presented to thousands of API leaders. And I can tell you there is a widespread corporate, non-profit, government, and legislative bias to not advance  APIs. Even for APIs who have exceeded the metrics, requirements and expectations. Like the well known anti-Asian bias that the Ivy League schools have erected to limit API admissions. Jeremy Lin had a much tougher time getting into Harvard than starting in the NBA!

Anti-Asian bias exists in every organization,it is a silent and pernicious prejudicial haze that influences and limits promotions and career paths. Bottom-line is executives do not see APIs as leaders. They see us as "competent and efficient." About as attractive as a blind date with a great personality. So we don't benefit from diversity recruitment, management opportunities--that's why APIs are the most under-represented population in the corporate board rooms.

We are invisible to many. But we are here. And we have to let our presence be known.

We  are neither victims or the entitled. We are not acknowledged, we are ignored and therefore not understood. The consequences are brutal. As a nation we neglect one of the most diverse, high potential, highest need, populations in this country. Why?

Is it the fault of APIs because we are quiet, reserved, and inscrutable?

APIs are part of the great American story. We are from here. But do you see us? 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Ambition to Walk the Talk

How do we become who we say we are? Is aspirational language how we grow into our lives? We often describe ourselves in generous terms. Are we who we say we are?. 

I call myself a social entrepreneur. I say I am one so it is so, right. Not so fast. We are not what we say we are!

We are certainly not what our bios say! :) Footprints-in-The-Sand-

I attended the spectacular Skoll World Forum a couple of weeks ago to meet with like minded people from around the world--so I thought.  

For me it was the Skull Forum, because I felt my cranium get filled up!

In my skull sized kingdom, ala David Foster Wallace, I am pretty good at what I do. A legend in my own mind! I know this is not true but I deceive myself by saying things and going to places where I look good. I joke I have always been in the top 10% of the bottom half of my class. :) Never fully convinced I belong or deserve to be there.

So at the Skoll conference I pushed myself to meet real social entrepreneurs. People who put their careers on the line for their ideas, to help others and solve a problem. It was so refreshing and humbling.

There were some sages on the stage--from Richard Branson to Malala who made me think. But the real impact of the conference was in the aisles and in the conference rooms where I sat with people from all over the planet who are dreaming and doing amazing things. (Did meet some wannabes like me too :)

Martin Burt: Changing the definition and solutions for poverty in Paraguay.

Dina Sherif: Growing the social entrepreneur community to energize the evolution of Cairo, Egypt.

Oren Yakobovich: Exposing human rights violations through innovative surveillance.

Monica Yunus: An extraordinary opera singer, daughter of Muhammad Yunus, who is changing the world through the arts.

They reminded me what social entrepreneurs look like, what they sound like, and what they do. Without role models we have nothing. Great inspiration for what I have to do--where I have to walk. Not to be like them, but to become who I am. Make sense?

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the way is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road–
Only wakes upon the sea.

antonio machado

Walking the talk is ultimately about authenticity. Who am I and where am I going? What do I stand for? How do I learn? How do I make a difference? The truths.

Once we get real and stop believing our press releases we have a chance at becoming something. 

Ambition, if it feeds at all,does so on the ambitions of others.  Susan Sontag

If you allow it your ambition is altered by others. Your best ambition is open source and needs inputs and energy. It can not be static. And developing your ambition takes effort. When we are younger we just want more, more opportunities, more growth, more responsibility, more titles, more influence, and more money. As we mature, we realize that more is undefined and this type of amorphous ambitiousness is aimless and meaningless. That we must have purposes that energize us. Our paths will be defined by what we do versus what we want. And when we are fully engaged, wholeheartedly entwined, then we see the benefits of connecting to and learning from others. That our mission is not a solo flight but a community fight. Iterating requires the ideas and inspirations of others, not to get there first but to make progress towards the goals together. 

Walking the talk requires walking. Walking down the path of others, with others. Walking in their shoes. Walking to make progress and to push forward. Talking is never walking. Let your walking do the the talking. 

When you walk you meet people, especially if you are not following a single route, but a meandering path to your ambition. That way you can't just walk with your friends or family. You must walk with new sources of ideas and perspectives. 

When you learn new things you change your path, you alter your gait, you become less certain about your original destination and your ambition grows.

To some this sounds wish-washy and unfocused. But to me and others, it is the path to clarity.

When you go through the turnstile to enter the library of ideas-- to check out every aisle and every book--not to peruse the aisles and books you know, then you will confront new sources of truth and reality. 

Ambition is connecting and ambitiousness is isolating. 

Everyone says they want to change the world. But we all know that saying things and doing things are two entirely different universes. Walking your talk does matter. That's your ambition. Change your talk by walking. 

Think about what you say to yourself and to others. -How you define yourself and your future. Then start walking. 

Thanks for reading. John


Networking with Humility

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. 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 Bully of Doubt

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. 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

You-re-Not-Good-Enough-You-re-BetterThe easiest way to shut up the bully, the voice of doubt is to shift the mindset. To adopt a perspective that it is not about winning or losing but playing the game. 

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.

You are Your Story--What you say about yourself becomes you. What is your story? How do you introduce yourself? How do you answer the question, "What do you do?" It matters. I wince when people say, "I am just a Mom/student/(fill in the blank)" Be proud and authentic about who you are and where you are in your life! 
 
Your Network Is Your Antidote--Seek and connect with people who model and  live the way you want to live. People who are working on things you need to work on. People who push you and tell you the truth. People who see the world differently than you do. A network like this will pull you, inspire you, and give you energy to move way beyond doubt. 
 
Help and Mentor Others--Strength and self worth and self esteem comes from doing good. You see the best in yourself when you are generous and supportive. You will always get more than you give. Helping others is not for a time when you are at a better place but a way for you to get to a better place. 
 
Stop the bully of doubt, by engaging, by asking for help, and appreciating the good within you. It is a choice. Your choice. To unleash your goodness.
 
Thanks for reading. John

I Am Generic to Keep My Options Open

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. Generic

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. 

ColaA 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

 


What The Puck?

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. 

Puck

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


Thermodynamic Networking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is real energy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John

  


What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

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?

A lot.

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:

  • Nothing
  • Not much
  • Keeping my head above water
  • Busy. Very busy
  • Same ole same ole
  • Nothing to complain about
  • Nada mucho, how about you?

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.

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

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


Our Barbellion Choices

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. :)

I call this the barbellion syndrome. Heavy weighted goals at either end of a spectrum that make progress overwhelming. They get stuck in their indecisiveness, ambivalence and lack of clarity. Barbell control

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

 


Parallel Parenting and Our Tattoos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Merry-Go-Round Resolutions

The root of “career” is the Latin “carrus,” meaning “wheeled vehicle” (which is also the source of  the word car).  One French derivative of “carrus” was “carriere,” meaning “racecourse,” and when the noun “career” first appeared in English it meant “racetrack,”  the course of life meaning was a later development.  And the verb career means to go at full speed, perhaps even reckless, not unlike the word careen.  Racetrack

The point is your career is a race around a track where you go round and round to see who wins. You go as fast as you can and then your race ends. Was it fun, worthwhile, did you win?

Makes me wince too--the truth hurts.

To me our race track careers can be more like a Merry-Go-Round. We sit passively on a ride that gives us the false impression of progress and speed. We think we are in control because we we are distracted by the motion, the music and the lights. We can end up going nowhere. Ending up where we began.

Most of us are out of control racers who come around the turn at new year's and make general promises to ourselves and possibly others, we call them resolutions.

I am not a huge fan of new year's resolutions only because people wait for this time of year to make changes in their lives. When we know that change and challenge never waits for the ball to drop in Times Square. Change has to be an organic, inexorable, process of adaptability. (I also feel the same way about birthdays, weekends and summer vacations. Everyday is a chance to change and improve.) However, I do like any excuse to evaluate and reflect upon a time that has passed to commit ourselves to overcoming the gaps in our plans.

How do we avoid making the same general, non-measurable resolutions every year like:

  • Lose weight and exercise more
  • Read more
  • Make more time for a hobby, or start-up business
  • Devote more time to see friends and family

We know these never work. These safe, general, non-committal statements allow us to procrastinate. They are dejavu all over again. Success is not defined. Accountability is avoided. They are nice ideas that will never get traction without goals or milestones.

I always wanted a better life but now I realize I should have been more specific. (I paraphrase Lily Tomlin)

How many pounds by when? How many times a week? What will your resting heartbeat be? What about your BMI? What books, what hobby? And how far will you take your extra-curricular activities. When will you spend time with whom? Who will you help? From whom will you seek help?

Santa-Monica-merry-go-round-720x506Merry-Go-Rounds can give the exhilaration of movement and the delusion of enjoyment, until you realize you have not gone anywhere. 

As Les Brown says, "...then you find out you are behind with your bills and your dreams!"

How do we plan our lives to advance and evolve. Envision and then change, right? Set goals and execute?  Attack weaknesses and man up? 

Is change always about improvement in the future?

Or is it also about avoiding regrets and misery?

Do you respond to a positive vision or to avoiding the negative consequences of inaction? 

Pain or pleasure? Choose.

Is change always adding or is it also subtracting?

Is less sometimes more?

Before you add why not subtract. Maybe getting rid of plans, possessions, and even people will make a difference.

What got you here probably won't get you there. So change is necessary.

Change starts with you and how you envision your future self.

Let's make resolutions that scare us a little bit. Challenge us. Or don't make them at all.

Specify your goals, your timelines, your metrics, your deadlines and hold your self accountable to get off the Merry-Go-Round. 

Devoting more time for others. (Probably only second most popular resolution to weight loss) Needs specificity. Here are a few basic recommendations:

  1. Put these "others" on the top of your to-do list. Make them priorities.
  2. Make a list of the people who you want to reconnect with. Like the list of wines you want to buy or movies to see.....
  3. Schedule your priorities vs. prioritizing your schedule. Set dates and times to meet with, call, e-mail these "others" you supposedly care about.
  4. Set aside time every week to reconnect with someone you know or want to know better. Initiate the contact even if it is "their turn."

You will be the one who benefits from these connections. Yes, you will lead with your help, but you will be the one to reap the rewards of deepening your relationships with others.  

So, stop reflect now and often. Make specific goals for yourself. Hold yourself accountable based on your preferences. Schedule your priorities. These are the rings you are trying to grab to make your ride purposeful and fulfilling. Then your career will get off of the Merry-Go-Round loop and move you down the path.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers

Thanks for reading. John


Give AND Get

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.  Give-get1_11-282

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


Identity Theft and the Unicorn of Security

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.

STOP!

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. 

Escalator
Courtesy of Start-Up You

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


In Giving and Living--Later is Probably Never

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:

Jack Dorsey ‏@jack   4:49 PM - 3 Dec 13

I probably have 18,000 more sunsets in my life. One of them is happening now. 

 
I think the spirit of this tweet is wonderful. Time is fleeting and we have limited time and sunsets. I used to count the Sundays left before my kids went to college. Jack assume he will live to 85 in calculating the 18000. He also assumes he will watch all of them. Let's say he only sees one a week  that reduces it to 2471. And once a month would leave only 600. This all assumes he sees and lives for 48 more years. I hope he does. But let's switch sunsets to hugs with your kids? Or one on one time with your mom. Or golf with your Dad. I did not realize that last February was going to be the last time I played golf with my father. I seriously thought I had dozens left. No more.  Golfers
 
"Next time, let's do that." There is no next time. Even if you do cross those coordinates again you will be different, the place will be different, the experience will be different. 

Carpe Diem. 

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 :)

Doing later, being later and/or giving later makes no sense if you believe that our time is limited. 

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


The Habit of Gratitude

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!

Written and produced by Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod.

Video from KarmaTube


My Musings on Mentoring

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


Your Future--Nothing or Everything

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. Crystal-ball

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

 


Pursuit of Passion Formula or Folly

There are a number of authors and bloggers selling books and their points of view that "follow your passions" is the worst career and life advice. They argue that focusing on the development of your expertise, skills, and competencies is a much surer way to "success". Is this a great debate? Not to me. I believe it is folly to argue, either or, in matters of the heart and the mind.

Cal Newport (So Good They Can't Ignore You), Bassam Tarazi, Ramit Sethi, and most recently Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) have jumped on the anti-passion bandwagon.
Scott Adams:  "For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. Success caused passion more than passion caused success. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. But the ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed.”  Van Gogh

Scott, that's not passion. That's rationalization and self-justification. And that's how you deal with failure?! How about trying to cure cancer, solve poverty, bringing education to the inner city? Wow if we could all just dispose of things we were not good at. Imagine if we could all accept the "drain of passion" because things did not work out! Such a selfish and narrow view of passion.

Cal Newport:  "Passion is a side effect of mastery."

Really Cal? Passion only comes from what you are good at? So passion can't drive mastery? I guess Cal has not met the hundreds of non-profit leaders I have. Or spent time with artists. Or with immigrant entrepreneurs who don't have anything but the burning desire to survive and flourish. Nor with foster youth who have been abused and now in college repairing their lives. These types of passion do not exist in the ivory tower, they thrive in the community of need. These people use their passion like fuel. Yes, their passion propels their mastery. It is the expression of who they are.

Of course, telling people to  just Follow your passions! Blind to who they are. Deaf to what their heart says. Dumb to their education and expertise--Yes of course this is foolish advice to chase rainbows without a toolbox of skills and expertise.  Passion and success

As Daniel Pink asserts in his book Drive, true motivation comes from Autonomy, Mastery AND Purpose. These intertwined concepts engage people in fulfilling lives and work. 
Many people approach love and even mentoring in this way. "Love will conquer all." That if they find the love of their lives it will make everything in their lives better. Love does not pay the bills or complete your degree. People approach me in search of mentors as if the "right" mentor will magically guide them to the promised land. Are you prepared for a serious relationship and commitment? Are you mentorable? Are you ready for guidance and direction? Follow your passion(s) is relevant for those who, like all successful people, are working on their whole selves--on their mastery and their purpose. You have to be prepared to do what you love, be who you want to be, and follow your passions. And live passionately.

If I didn't know better, I would accuse these passion naysayers of wanting us to just suck it up and work for the man. To accept the tenets of the industrial/educational complex that all promotions and success are based on meeting and exceeding the job descriptions. We know that is absurd. To not bring our hearts to work, just our lunchpails. There is a conspiracy to tell you just to bear down and do your jobs and avoid the distractions of your inner calls for purpose and meaning from the quarterly goals of shareholders. I spent several careers making others wealthy. I know this philosophy of the owners and the holders of the equity---"Do your job and make it your life! And you will gain some valuable experiences!"
Living a passionless life and career is a waste and empty.

Even these writers who want to sell books and gain attention would agree that passion makes a difference in the success of individuals and organizations. But their perspective only helps the extremely naive and confuse the sophisticated.

Consider these thoughts:
Follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.  Bertrand Russell

Passion and expertise are siamese twins. They feed each other. Success is tied to both. 
Passion is what animates, energizes, and actualizes our skills, talents, abilities and expertise. 
Passion is the suffering we endure in trying to become the best we can, the way we interpret our purpose in life, and the focus on the needs of others. Passion drives our best work.
Yes we all need to hone our hard skills but we have to nurture our soft skills as well. For those of us who aspire to lead and make a difference, it will be the soft skills that will enhance careers. And at the core needs to be a fire of passion that stokes our desire to do something that matters to ourselves and others.

If you do not build a life, not just your job, around your passions, you will wither from the quicksand of settling for what comes to you and not pursuing what you care about. 

It is true that a "follow your passion(s)" advice to the uneducated/unskilled is unadvised and dangerous. But to condemn this advice for those of us searching for meaning and purpose is criminal.

 Thanks for reading. John


Driving and Serving Your Passions

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.

ME-Banker

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.”  Whyibanking

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

 


5 Years of Blah Blah Blog

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.

Chinese-Bamboo-Forest
Chinese Bamboo Forest

 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


Applying Your Passion to College and to Life

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!" Glasses-of-iced-tea

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: 

  • I gave a short speech on passion for my colleagues at a national conference of community foundations to add a little kindling to their belly fires. 
  • I led a  session for a giving circle to re-energize their collective passion around community needs and their personal definitions of meaningful giving. 
  • Lastly, I appeared on a friend's local radio show to discuss how the true passions of the students applying for college admission make a difference.

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. 

Sumi eWhen 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

 


Speed Networking Can Kill

One of my favorite John Wooden quotes: Be Quick But Don’t Hurry.

When you rush you make mistakes. Speed kills. I should know I have been a speed demon most of my life. I do believe that if you want to succeed you need to move and move quickly. Yeah the slow and steady tortoise can win the race but to qualify and compete in the race of life, you need to move. However, moving too fast, especially without thinking can hurt you. I have had many hard lessons, especially when I was younger, where I accelerated and ran right over my allies and opportunities.  Speed kills

We are all so busy that we rarely distinguish the tasks on our plate. Everything can be treated with the same value and care or lack thereof. That can be disastrous.

Emails, text messages, and communications fly in at you at hyperspace speed. You delete, forward, and reply with the best of them. But we have to know when something requires a different pace and attention. Something personal, sensitive and even emotional requires super slo mo. Otherwise you can come off too transactional and cold. Haste truly makes landfills!

My first marketing manager had a love hate relationship with my proliferation of ideas. He loved the diversity and the ability to  alter the reality we faced. He hated my ideation and the versioning I might come up with. He stopped me one day and said, “Speed, price or quality—pick two.” You may have heard this, but at that time it was a wonderful chilling moment as a young twenty-something manager. He was saying you can’t have it all and speed comes with a cost.

We all learn, or suffer the consequences, to adapt to the situations we encounter in the speed of life.

Last week, I encountered several speedsters, all of them under 30, who made big blunders in trying to react to me too quickly.

  1. Cold e-mail intro leads nowhere--I contacted a young woman that I had met several times to see if she knew someone at a particular company. I was trying to make a connection for another acquaintance. I was researching who I knew who had the “warmest”/closest connection. When I inquired through social media, she said she did know someone (turns out not very well) and immediately made an e-mail intro. The abbreviated uninformative intro never worked and I never heard from that person. It was clear that my contact was trying to be helpful but in her speed she may actually have unwittingly done more harm than good. I later found a warmer connection to that same person and this acquaintance of mine handled it the correct way. They talked to me, they talked to my referee, and then they talked to the company contact. A real connection was made.
  2. High speed brand mis-management—I was introduced to an intern at a company I was visiting. It ended up we were waiting together in the conference room and I asked him, “Where were you before this?” I assumed that he would reveal the university he graduated from. He blurted out, “I got a useless masters degree to bridge me to this internship and then later I will get my MBA. I always wanted an MBA.” Huh? A million questions jumped into my head, but the inflection, body language, and overall demeanor of this young man screamed lack of confidence and even embarrassment. Did he know how much this hurt his brand? No pride in his accomplishment nor affinity with this masters program. I never learned the identity of this “useless” program. He seemed bright but his articulated storyline to a stranger was poorly delivered and thought through. His brand crashed and burned right in front of us.
  3. Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail (another Wooden quote)—Had an informational interview and quasi-mentoring session with a young man who wanted career advice. The focus of his inquiry was for-profit vs non-profit sectors. However, this 27 year old gentleman had not done any homework, no research, no introspection, no prep for our session. It was a frustrating time for both of us. He wanted me to tell him what to do and I wanted to know what he wanted. Seemed like he was so busy he neglected to remember how busy I am. So I asked many questions and he had no answers. Mentoring done well, is about the bigger questions of purpose and goals, not serving as a human Google search for careers.

Yes, in all three cases I gave these people feedback on what they said and did......

The point here is to make the time for the relationships that matter. To stop and listen. They are not ALL another to-do item on your list. Get milk, balance check book, make dental appt and get mentored. Get your story together. Think about to whom you are speaking—a person who might be able to help you--even strangers. What is your first impression? Take time to make the actual connections--life is not a video game. 

Let’s be quicker but less hurried. Less transactional, more personal. Make the effort to connect with the person in front of you. If you don’t, the victim could be you.

Thanks for slowing down and reading. John


Observations about my Globalism

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. 

Network intelligence 2
Courtesy of Start-Up You

 

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

 


Suffering Indifference

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. Blessings

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.

But how much effort should we expend to save the few? Remember the old story about saving the starfish? It does make a difference to the one.  StarfishBoy

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


The Strongest Weak Tie: Cousins

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

Weak ties multiple groups
Sample Network

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  ;)

 


Don't Let Your Resume Dictate Your Career Path

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.

But when is the right time to leave, change, or quit? Time 2

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:

  • What would make your next job/position more fulfilling?
  • Have you made a list of the things you want to sharpen and add to your toolbox?
  • Have you fully explored options to take on new duties, challenges, growth opportunities at your current position? (This assumes you know what you want)
  • Have you fully explored acquiring these skills and experiences outside of your day job?
  • Is your next best job up the ladder, down the ladder or somewhere else?
  • Have you talked to your mentors about these answers?

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


Add Some Grit to Your Diet

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.

So grit plus grit equals success. Grit squared. GRIT

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.

Grit 1

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?

Grit 2

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. 

Got Grit? 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Gluten-Free Alumni Network

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

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

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

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

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

Photo
Doug, me, Steve, Bill and Eustace

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. John