A career begins with an abiding preoccupation

Sleepwalking through life?

Today the GSCE results came out in the UK. For American readers, GSCE is like graduating from high school though you can stay and spend an extra two years working on A levels for university entrance.

Huff Post interviewed 4 boys from just north of London. I was immediately struck by two observations. The richer the boy, the more disorientated he was. And how all the boys expected a vague ill-defined authority to sort out their career for them.

The two poorer boys were infinitely better off in my view. Both had had an objective or some time. Both had responded to events, which might have been crushingly disapppointing, but were brushed off by simply finding another path to the same goal. But both, of course, exited the school system – not surprising if you know anything about the rigidity of class in the UK.

Where is the vocation?

But I am not here to lament class – well not today anyway. I was struck that ‘careers advice’ was simply functional. Sign on here. Do this. Do that. I would like to see young people getting ‘to the heart’ of what interests them and defining their economic relationship with the world through a lens of their abiding interests.

Where is the abiding preoccupation?

In business, we might talk in terms of  ‘vision’ and ‘mission’. But look at the way the manufacturing giant Danone puts it:

If associating health benefits with the pleasure of eating is our permanent preoccupation, ensuring that products are made available to the greatest number of people is now the Danone’s new endeavour.

First, let’s ask ~ what is our permanent preoccupaton?  What do we return to time-and-time again because it is so important to us?  What do we hold so dear that it puzzles us that others don’t?  What are we always willing to work on, no matter the time of day or night?

And then, what is our priority right now?  What is the endeavour or practical project that is needed at this moment?

Vision and mission. Preoccupation and endeavour.  I like the second set of words a  lot more.  Don’t you?

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Dissolve your recession blues with 3 questions (and a Posterous blog & camera)

The mark of a good businessman is that he can succeed in bad times

Anyone can do well in a rising market.  When an economy is doing well, people trade with each other.  I make bread and I swap it for your milk.  While I am making bread, you plough my field.

In a sophisticated economy, we make the exchange process easier by swapping goods & services for money.  It’s easier all round.  And the sovereign ~ the king, queen, president or government ~ demands their share.  That’s called taxes.

In good times, we simply slot into the system.  Its easy.  Somebody wants something done. We do it. We get some money.  Our options improve.

In bad times, everyone tries to do everything for themselves.  It is harder to specialize because no one wants to trade their speciality for yours?

Is it?  Why is it so hard?

Why not just walk up to the person who has what you want and make an offer. I can do this for you if you do that for me?

Why haven’t you just done that?

Some where along the line we’ve lost our ability to think for ourselves

If we intend to be successful, in bad times and good, we have to be a little clearer about what we offer.

Here are 3 questions to ask and answer.

#1   What do I really enjoy doing?

Think about when you experience ‘flow’, that wonderful feeling when you are so engrossed that you loose track of time (and are late for the next think.)  Young people often experience flow in sport.  Where else have you experienced flow?

Now commit yourself to doing more of that.  Commit yourself to remembering when you experience flow.  Commit yourself to experiencing more flow, more often, and very frequently (every hour?).

Good.  Now we are enjoying ourselves we help others enjoy their lives!

#2   When do I bring the light to other people’s eyes?

When you are in flow, it’s unlikely that you are looking in the mirror.  If you were, it is likely you would see a magnificently radiant and happy person.  You eyes will be alive and dancing.

Everyone wants to feel like this.  When do people around you feel flow?  When do their eyes light up?

What is that you do that brings the light to other people’s eyes?  Which things do you love to do and which of these make other people so happy that their eyes sparkle with pleasure?

Where does your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet?

It’s a humbling experience to think of these sweet spots, isn’t it?  We don’t feel bold and brazen. We feel shy.  We feel hesitant.  We feel gentle.  We feel calm.  We know that this is our mission.  This is what we have been called to do in the ‘family of things’.

#3 Why do their eyes light up?

But we aren’t sure how to begin.  How do we grow this sweet spot where we are bringing a light to other people’s eyes?  We ask “why?”  When their eyes light up, what story are we helping them live?  What “flow” are they experiencing at that moment?  Who are they at that moment?  What is their purpose?

What essential information did we provide in that moment that helped their story come true?

We need to tell their story.  We need to take a photo and write a blog post.  Day-to-day, let’s document the place where we made someone’s story true.

That’s the point where we have something to trade

And to return from the poetic to commerce, it is at this point that we have something to trade.  We understand what we love to do.  We know when our pleasures are pleasures for others.   We understand their stories and we able to make them come true.  We can walk into someone’s shop or business and say to them, “I can do this for you.  Would you be able to do this for me in exchange?”

Capture those micro-moments when someone in your life lit up!

Now get on with it!  Opening a Posterous blog will take you a few minutes. Getting out your camera will take even less.  And send me your link!  I want to see you capture those micro-moments when someone in your life lit up!

1001 things we learn from live performers

#1  my career is a journey to find my people

A good performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “Here I am!”
A great performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “There you are!”

Steve Rapson from Art of the Solo Performer
contributed by DW from Connecticut, USA

and for #2 thru #1001 visit Music Thoughts

 

Can you stand up in front of 1000 people and state your personal elevator speech in 20 seconds?

A personal elevator speech

When I taught at the University of Canterbury, my colleague Peter Cammock, would ask our class of 900 or so students, whether they could stand up and state their life purpose in a 20 second elevator speech.

Elevator speeches are hard to write at the best of times. When they are yours too, they are really hard.

Crafting our elevator speech

There are perhaps 5 things that are helpful to understand about elevator speeches that help us in this task

  • Structure
  • Resonance with our deepest beliefs
  • The story of where we have come from and where we are going
  • Our immediate influences
  • And what we are still not sure about

Structure of an elevator speech

An elevator speech is a mini-business plan. Or a mini-operational order. It has five parts.

  • Situation – the story that is bigger than us
  • Mission – that part of the collective story that we will write
  • Execution – the chunks of our mission that can be fulfilled as sub-missions
  • Administration – the resources that we need
  • Communication – how will we know how well we are doing and who should we tell

[SMEAC]

Resonance with our deepest beliefs

Our elevator speech is not about what we must do, or what other people expect us to do. Duty wears us out and is sure to wear out anyone who is listening!

Our elevator speech is about those dearly held beliefs that are vital and engaging. Our elevator speech is about what brings us alive, what we quickens our pulse, and what brings a light to our eyes. If only we could see that!

The key to finding this magical place is to look at our relationship with others. What is that we love to to do and others love us to do?

We are likely to find this place in our our work, which even if solitary, like painting, is sociable ~ it is for others to use and enjoy.

Who are these others? What were we hoping when we started our work? How do we, or how do we hope to bring the light to other people’s eyes that we want in our own?

It is here, a unique place for each of us, where we feel totally at home. It is here that we live wholeheartedly and we don’t have to plan. It is here that “our deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets”!

Our story

The curious thing about our stories is that so much of our lives are disappointing. What would you feel if you were a graduate in today’s UK facing 20% unemployment and debts from your education?

How would you feel if you were like me? Your country gone. Your house gone. Your career gone. Your life in disarray.

Well, whatever we feel, we should not disown our stories. Our stories give us perspective and the more we have lost, the more perspective we have. As a noobe in the UK, my rich paste and perspective is a gift to people in my new home. My very disappointment is what I have to enrich the lives of others.

Our influences

As I arrived in a new country, I felt muddled. Any disruption ~ a new job, a new house, new friends ~ might have confused me. Losing a country is just an extreme mutation of a general theme!

Slowly, we begin to make sense of what we contribute through our interactions. I do a lot of work on the internet and I was helped on my way by reading the Chief Happiness Officer, Steve Roesler, and Barbara Sliter.

My mission is to be happy

From the Chief Happiness Officer, I learned that my job is to be happy. I felt a bit silly, I must tell you, until I realised that happiness isn’t my vision. My happiness isn’t the bigger story or the shared story. My happiness is my mission.

My happiness is how I contribute to the shared story because happiness is contagious. Because I am a noobe. Because I have a rich past and my perspective on what is good and true at this time and in this place helps people around me fulfil their missions, whatever those missions may be.

My vision is a world where we are confident of our countries

I learned my vision from Barbara Sliter.

“We are ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance of life. We are ready to be co-creators”.

I want to contribute to the world where our search for meaning is more legitimate, easier, likelier, just fun. Less hassle and more fun.

My vision, which I think is widely shared, is a world where people wake up with curiosity about what the day holds and sure that their contribution today makes their country great and their community great, their workplaces, schools and colleges thrive, and their families happy and warm places to be.

The execution

And I learned how to execute my mission from Steve Roesler. Steve suggested that employees must start the conversation. I am a work psychologist, so this is important to me.

My specific task in the next year or so is to learn, with other people, how to have these conversations, what it means to have these conversations, what are our choices when we have these conversations, and ultimately of course, what we have learned from these conversations and how they have evolved.

My immediate task, or rule-of-thumb, is to attend to my own conversation with work and people I work with ~”The way we hold the conversation” as David Whyte says.

I am not going to worry about what other people are doing. I am going to ask: does the way I hold my conversation about my work make me happy?

And then I will ask, if changing the way I hold the conversation makes me happy, does the conversation become better, fuller, richer, for other people around me? Do I fullfil my mission of being contagiously happy?

Our uncertainties

Like most people, I don’t say aloud, or post, what is really important to me. I wrote this post a good 18 months ago and I didn’t post it! But it was still in my drafts. Thank goodness for blogging! I wish I had posted it though. This is how far I have come.

I have pursued the vision and mission OK but I didn’t follow through the execution in a focused way. Imagine where I would be now if I had done so? Of course, I can do that now! With a little bit of thought, I can add the steps to be executed to other work that I am doing now!

Elevator speeches in brief!

And there we have it. Elevator speeches have a standard structure. We find out who and what we are in conversations including our work. Some people help us pinpoint what we are doing and where we are going.

We bring in our own story ~ as it is. Often our very disappointments which give us the perspective that others find valuable.

And then we must be bold enough to say what we are doing aloud!

Possibly I should add a step under execution:

Find more places to say my elevator speech aloud so that it gets better and crisper, shorter and more relevant.

I want to bring a light to other people’s eyes.

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CMT? Compulsive mind tidying!

Mind tidying

When you were a kid, did you clamor for the responsibility of untangling a ball of string, or a skein of wool?  I did. I always sort out computer cables too.  Do you?

It is not surprising, then, that I like coding. I like sorting out the logical flow behind a computer program.

The trouble, I find though, is that I can’t multi-task when I am writing a program   Trivial tasks can fit into breaks.  But “the balls of muddled kitchen string” begin to pile up.  I don’t have time to follow through and sort out the good ideas that are sparked by feeds and conversations.  Good ideas clutter my mind jostling for attention, and my brain becomes as jumbled as a kitchen drawer.  I begin to feel quite antsy.  I may have a whiz-bang computer program but the rest of my head is in a mess.

I need several hours a day to think and write.  I can’t live without it.  Even writing this has cleared my head.  Another good idea on the scrap pad beside me!  It may used. It may not.  I will only know when I’ve played with it a bit more.

How much time do you devote to writing each day? How much time do you need to keep your head clear?

Positive psychology in Barack Obama’s words

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“As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that, no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice.

And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights—for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

The mission and values of psychologists

In these words, Barack Obama has summed up the mission and purpose of psychologists all over the world most eloquently.

These goals are not just our goals.  They are the mission and purpose of other people too. After all, Obama is a lawyer, a college professor and a politician.

But if in what we do, we do not pursue these goals, then we do nothing at all.

The heart of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship

Barack Obama has said what positive psychologists and positive organizational scholars struggle to say simply.

It is the student who seeks to learn (not the teacher who intends to teach).

It is the voter who demands to be heard (not the politician who intends to tell).

It is the innocent who longs to be free (not the hypocritical who intends to justify).

It is the oppressed who yearns to be equal (not the the powerful who intends to explain).

It matters so much whose perspective we take.

It matters so much who is the subject of the sentence.

It matters so much whose intent we seek to buttress.

It matters so much that we choose the side of justice.

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Have a 4-Hour Workweek just like Tim Ferris

This post is a little presumptuous.   I have never met Tim Ferris, but like most people who spend a lot of time with computers, I have read his blog and watched some of his talks.   I want a 4-Hour Workweek too!

So what does Tim Ferris do?

As a trouper in first year lecture halls, you must forgive my penchant for turning everything into a 3 part list.

These are my thoughts.

1.   Tim’s sells “action art”

Tim decides to learn the tango, and wins the world championships.   He wants to gain muscle and he is The Incredible Hulk in weeks.  He learns to swim as an adult and is winning races in no time.

Whatever Tim does is breath-takingly audacious and gob-smackingly successful.

2.   Tim doesn’t just make art.  He packages it for sale through his blog & public speaking.

His big sale, of course, is his book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

3.  Tim also does his own marketing and he is his own agent

Tim has an active blog. He watches his numbers. And he manages the office for the “Tim Ferris” enterprise.

What Tim doesn’t do – is his own accountancy or his back-office operations.  He outsources the clerical work of his business to offshore firms offering clerical services.

What is Tim’s business model ?

1.  Tim centres his business on what he loves to do, what he does well, and on what we love him to do.

2.  Tim takes his work directly to the marketplace.

3.  Tim took the initiative to create a business structure around himself and does a fair share of the skilled and expensive management work himself.

What can you and I copy?

  • Do what we love, do what we do well and do what the world loves us to do.
  • Finish the task and go out to meet our audience.
  • Take the initiative and create and run the business we need to support the work we want to do.

Are you in a hurry?

Oh, we usually are!

So much so, we scamper over the first question.  Then we freeze in fright as soon as we think of selling our work for money.  And we never get round to thinking about business processes, let alone take charge of them.

Can I persuade you to spend 10 minutes trying?

Grab your favouite beverage, a pen and an old envelope!

1.  Of all things you do, what brings you that sense of deep pleasure of a job you know you do so well? Write down three things in 30 seconds!

2.  Done that? Now turn the envelope over and draw your value chain. On the left, put the raw material that you work with, draw a line across the page, and jot down all things you need to turn that raw material into whatever it is you make.

You can make a fish bone diagram with fish bones coming into a spine. My fish bones included headings like “access”, “willing people” “time”, “credibility” – all the deal breakers if I don’t get them right.

3.  Now you have your fish. On the tail at the left is your raw material. You probably have five or so bones coming in from either side. And the head to the right is the finished work.

Let’s finish off.

Draw some more lines (3 to 5) parallel to your fish’s spine. Label each line with things that need to happen for you get the resources you need.

It is quite likely that each of these represents a learning curve for you.  Which one’s can you get help with, and which one’s will you take responsibility for?

Do a quick cross-check that you have covered all the functions.

CEO: You

Operations: The work you love

Marketing: How you build connections

Sales: How you close deals

Buying: The source of critical physical resources and knowledge

Technical: Any equipment and technical skills you need

Accounting: Keeping count and keeping the taxman happy

HR: You

One more business model for a 4-Hour Workweek done-and-dusted!

Does this work for you? Did it take you closer to an action plan?

Do you feel you could surround yourself with the business you love?

Can you list what you need to learn to do and cheerfully put your learning goals in order?

Can you identify what you need to learn and throw the questions at Google?

I hope so. I made progress once I could get myself to pick up the envelope and the pen.

Apologies, Tim. I don’t know how much I’ve distorted your business but this is what I learned from you. So thanks.

What about your work is important, valuable and innovative?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

“So what is my first goal”, I said to the HR Director.  “The amount of work on my desk is expanding exponentially and I’ve only been here a few hours.  I must find an avatar, explore the communication system, and map my skills set.”

What are your priorities?  I know you will say get settled, but all employers say that, and they don’t mean it.  What do you want done by when?”

Kick the habit of looking to managers for goals

“Well, Goal One” Peter said, “is to kick the habit of looking to managers for goals.  We are not here to set goals. We provide an arena or framework for you to work, alone if you like and with other people if you wish.  We are a huge company and you can work with whomever you choose and with whomever chooses to work with you.”

Acknowledge your own judgment

“That’s stressful at first because it feels as if you have no boundaries.  And to feel oriented, we all need boundaries.”

“But you do have boundaries.  You’ve made choices all your life.  You’ve attended to some things and ignored others.  In your judg                    ment, some things are important and command your attention.”

“We will ask you to do a third task.  We will leaving your avatar to the end of the month.  In addition to exploring the communication system and thinking about your skill set, you have a third task, which is this.

What it important, valuable and innovative about your current project?

“Write down what you are working on now.  And then tell me

  • Why this project is important to you
  • Why you think is is valuable
  • Why you think it is innovative.

Why do you feel vital and alive when you are working on this project and why do you believe it adds vitality and quality to the way we live?”

“Let me give you an example.

Today, a young post-graduate in Sydney, Marsha Gittens,  published a post in Brazen Careerist on what she wants from work– her career must-haves.  She wants money, good leadership, perks, etc.  We all want the same things but right now the financial benefits of the corporate world are uppermost in her mind because she is making the change from being a student, with all that entails, to being a member of the corporate world, and all that entails.

But financial rewards are not her project.  The move from the student world to the corporate world is her project and we are all better off if we acknowledge that openly.  She will spend the next year or two finding out where she fits into the corporate world and she wants to know how roles are structured, what these roles involve, and how important they are to other people.  At the end of the year she will have done well if she has gained this knowledge that she does not have now.  Much of this knowledge can only be gained from the inside.  From being in a company. From working on a team.  From doing a job and getting her hands dirty.

“So she will not move as a spectator.  She moves as a player and she is looking for assignments that will give her the combination of overall understanding and hands-on experience consistent with her skills.

“You sought membership of Xoozya for reasons you told us when we recruited you, and for reasons you’ll have kept to yourself.  Whatever has been put on the table, at this juncture in your life, there is something you want to achieve and you believe that we are the tool for you to achieve it.  There are resources you expect to find here and that you will look for.

The young Australian post-graduate wants to find her toe hole in the corporate world.  To do that she needs to understand the corporate world.”

“You are mid-career and you want . .  . what?  Describe what you came here to achieve.  What are you working on and why did you believe that we have the resources you need.”

“What we suggest you do is write down your current project and answer those three questions.

  • What about the project is important to you?
  • Why do you believe it is valuable?
  • What about the project is truly innovative?  Why is it so important to be doing this work now and what about it is so special that it cannot be ignored?

Then we’ll talk again.  How about this time next Friday?”

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
  • Grab the RSS feeds for posts and comments top right
  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
  • Tweet the post
  • Stumble the post

And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization. This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities. Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.

Let’s bring the light back to our eyes

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Flow

Until today, I’ve always asked people about ‘flow’, activities which we love so much that we lose track of time.  Every one knows what these are, of course, because we run late and get into trouble!

You should try asking people! It usually takes no more than 5 minutes to get a young person’s eyes to light up with delight as they recall what they love doing.

But then ask how they will make a living and their eyes dull over as they contemplate what worries them most.

How can we find the place where our deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets?

In days gone by, to find that place, we used to join an organization. The transitions between the stages of our lives where quite abrupt. We went to school where we knew people. Then we went to university and college where we started again. Then we did the same when we went to work.

With each change, we could trust the organization to provide the place where our own passions and the world’s needs met.

That’s no longer the case. Our careers have become less a set of “steps in a staircase” and more a trumpet shape as we take our deep gladness and expand it like a daffodil in bloom to ever widening interaction with the world.

I used to think I was quite innovative about honing in so quickly and easily on our experience of flow – the activities that bring the light to our eyes – our deep gladness.

I’m glad I do that. But it is not enough.

I also have to ask

  • Who did you talk to today?
  • What did you do or say that gave you immense pleasure and that was also appreciated by the other person?

It’s around this frontier that we can build a portfolio for a successful career.

Can young people tell me about the place where their deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets?

I must ask them.  What will be the points of recognition?  What is the equivalent of losing track of time?  What body language tells us that we have found this place?

Can anyone help me?

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