Daily Archives: January 1, 2014

Instructions for anyone with a burning desire.


This might be the shortest, simplest life advice ever:

If you have a burning desire to do something, for f**k’s sake, do it.

Many of us don’t have a burning desire and that’s fine. It might be something you need to work at. But if you are lucky enough to possess that burning desire, that niggling won’t-go-away calling, that constant dream pulling at you, then please try it, start it, do it.

A desire burns for a reason. It’s calling you to do something about it. And it probably won’t go away until you get started.

I was talking to a friend at a drinks party. Like many of us, she’s found herself doing a job that isn’t really her.

So, what do you really want to do?” I asked her.

I ask this question a lot. Lots of time I hear back, “I don’t know”. Other times you see the person’s eyes light up, their voice get excited and it couldn’t be clearer.

That’s what I saw this time. My friend said her real dream was to become an art teacher. But she acknowledged there are a few obstacles in the way, and understandably, the obstacles had deterred her.

But hang on,” I cut across, “this desire to teach art, is it a burning desire?”.

I could see it in her eyes. An unequivocal yes. It was what she wanted. Now that was established, we talked about how she might be able to knock down those obstacles. We came up with some ideas to start exploring this dream.


The route to your burning desire may not be straightforward or easy. It will probably be daunting. But your passion will provide you with the fuel to get started.

Of course, having a burning desire doesn’t automatically provide a magic wand. Having the dream doesn’t mean you wake up the next morning and start living it. You still have to work at it. JK Rowling was rejected twelve times before she got lucky. My editor at the FT turned me down the first time I suggested I write for the paper. And the same happened the first time I approached the publisher who would end up publishing my first book. I got rejected. But yes, I had a burning desire. To write a book, to get published. And so I persevered.

There is no magic formula — but if there was — it might look something like this:

Burning Desire + Perseverance + Hard Graft = Your best chance of pulling it off.


Ian Sanders is a business storyteller, writer and advisor. His books have helped readers on their journey towards their burning desires.

Further Reading

Ignore your headmaster; Plough your own furrow.

 — I was a latecomer to Doctor Who, Blue Peter and the cream of 1970s children’s TV.

Written by

Business storyteller, Advisor, Financial Times writer, Idea explorer. I help businesses capture & tell their story. Author of: Mash-Up!, Zoom!, Juggle!, Leap!.

 

Be more productive in 2014 by organizing your information based on tasks


Our lives are filled with information. Online and offline, scribbled notes, post-its, to-do lists, research, web history, and much more. With information being a huge part of our lives these days (especially with the internet and our busy schedules), organizing them may be tough.

Why not organize based on the tasks we are doing?

We remember actions.

You can only know how to drive by actually driving. Apply the same concept on our information, and you can see that we remember what we were doing instead of what category it falls under. So instead of saving bookmarks under the category “Programming”, save it as “Learn JavaScript Programming” or instead of writing cake recipes in a notebook called “Recipes”, call it “Bake Cakes”. This makes it easier to refer back to our notes.

Actionable to-do lists.

Writing actionable to-do lists is a great productivity hack. It gives your tasks a meaning and makes it easier for our brain to comprehend it, hence increasing the chances of getting it done. Instead of organizing all your holiday planning and travel research under “Travel” or “Trip to San Francisco”, save it as “Planning trip to San Francisco”. Not only does it make you complete the task, it also makes it easier to refer back to all your travel plans.

Repeatable tasks.

Better organization just makes it easier to refer back to our information. Now that I have all my travel plans organized under “Planning trip to San Francisco”, the next time I go there I just have to look back at that task and view all the information that I have in there. This would even work for really small tasks you do everyday. For example, save all your favorite design websites in one task called “Get design inspiration” and you would be able to access them easily every time you need design inspiration.

Be specific.

It’s better to organize your informations in smaller, more specific tasks so it’s easier to search for them. Instead of saving programming resources as “Learn Programming”, split it to “Learn JavaScript Programming”, “Learn Python Programming”, and “Learn Ruby Programming”. Being specific would keep the information in smaller groups, making it easier to find them. You can also store them as subtasks to a larger category for better organization.

Get an app that does just that.

For those of you who spend most of your time online and need an app that saves all your information as tasks, use Overtask. It’s a Chrome extension that saves all your sites based on the task you are doing, allowing you to refer back to sites easily. Using Overtask, you are not just limited to saving research information, but also web apps that you need to complete the task. For example, have a task called “Write report for group assignment” and have web apps like Google Drive saved together with your research sites, communication tools like Facebook and Gmail, and team management tools like Trello.

Make 2014 a great year by organizing your information based on tasks to stay productive and organized. Happy New Year!

Written by

one word, ambitious.

Published December 31, 2013

 

When You Don’t Know What You Are Doing. The best option might be to do it anyway.


One of the greatest pleasures of working with technology is the opportunities we have to do something completely out of our routines for the first time. I remember the first Linux boxes I bootstrapped to put something online and when I decided to play with Responsive Design without knowing much about it. I’m pretty sure that most engineers out there already experienced something like this before: picking up a piece of tech for the first time or playing some other role in a project to help getting things out of the door.

And most of the times things end well. We might not do the best job on our first shot but we usually end up getting things done and people are happy about — eventually things might go south for reasons out of our control, but at least we tried.

The true grit required for such endeavours is one of the most important values that we should hold on, and use into push things forward as we go instead of giving away to the fear of failure and uncertainty.

Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.

Jake the Dog says it all. You can’t expect to be “good” at something if you don’t go through the path of learnings things for the first time and improving your skills through study and practice, through good and bad experiences.

There is always the concern about quality — a first timer won’t do the same job as someone who is experienced, and nobody wants to do a shitty job for the whole world to see. But quality is a complex beast to define: we can talk about things maintainability, performance, completeness and resilience, and it’s pretty hard to get all these things right at the same time. Finding the balance of these aspects for the context you are in will prove that you work might not be as shitty as you might think, and we can always find room for improvement — your second run can be much better than the first try.

You might think that you are not be writing the code you wish you were, but remember that you are doing it anyway. Going through that first step of experimenting with something new and being able to evolve with that is far more important than hiting the jackpot in the first try.

And if you still don’t feel confident enough to go through it I bet that there is someone out there to help you. Either working on something for your own company, trying to bootstrap your own thing or contributing to Open Source, there is always someone that can help you out face the unkown, someone to walk through the uncertainty with you. Someone to revisit what was done, point directions towards options or brainstorm new ideas.

Its amazing how supportive how we developers are with our own kind. Not because that is important for our own survival or evolution, but because teaching others has a gold reward of its own. If you haven’t experienced that yet, I strongly suggest that you try to do it.

Whenever you feel like a dog taking a wedding picture, remember that you are not the first neither the last. Go there and take that goddamn picture.

Written by

Often gives a crap, sometimes doesn’t give a fuck.Tweets at @lucasmazza while working with Ruby at @plataformatec.

Published September 30, 2013
Thanks to: Erich Kist

 

We can’t give up on university.


“I’m leaving the university at the end of this year.”

I quickly jolted my head up from the floor, suddenly staring my professor directly in the eye.

Over the past semester, this particular professor and I had developed a relatively close relationship, and I had started randomly popping into his office during open hours some weeks ago, originally to ensure I had a bit of an edge over the other students, but kept re-appearing simply because I enjoyed his company.

“Why?” I inquired quietly, suddenly much more aware of my surroundings than before: the empty bookshelves, the boxes, the official-looking paperwork on his desk.

“It’s been a tough year,” he replied, “…there’s just not much of a future for academics, especially in the humanities. These kids… and their parents… they think they’re here to get job training, and that’s ruining the entire system. I entered academia to do research and write, and with my small [design] business taking off, I will continue do that, maybe go back to France, who knows?”

I nodded, a little upset, but facing another example of what I have long known to be the inevitable — this wasn’t the first case a professor has confided to me about his imminent departure, and, as much as I’d like it to be, it likely won’t be the last.


Even as an undergraduate,I see signs of the so-called “fall of academia” — true, honest, liberal-arts-based academia — everywhere around me.

What these professors are facing — what academia is facing — doesn’t live in a bubble. The decline of the traditional liberal arts education has and will continue to send shockwaves across our entire society.

The pundits argue something along the lines of, “why spend thousands of dollars to a university when you can Google that shit or get an internship for free?” On the surface, their argument seems common-sensical, but their assumptions of what knowledge is, what information is, and what it means to be a free society are fundamentally flawed.


Liberal arts” are called that because, supposedly, they make man free. They may not make a man materially wealthy, but that’s not the point. In as early as Roman times, we see stoic philosophers such as Seneca reflecting on this notion:

“I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making. Such studies are profit-bringing occupations, useful only in so far as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater; they are our apprenticeship, not our real work. Hence you see why “liberal studies” are so called; it is because they are studies worthy of a free-born gentleman. But there is only one really liberal study, – that which gives a man his liberty. It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled. All other studies are puny and puerile.”

Throughout the next several thousand years, we find this debate consistently reappearing:

We call those studies liberal which are worthy of a free man; those studies by which we attain and practice virtue and wisdom; that education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men, and which are rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only. (Petrus Paulus Vergerius, 1400)

But those questions are no longer relavant when discussing education. Undergraduates focusing in philosophy or other humanities get a, “what the hell are you going to do with that degree,” while we somehow ignore the fact that a university education was originally intended to be sought by those with a love of wisdom — in Greek, “philo sophia,” or philosophy:

In truth, liberal arts education no longer exists — at least genuine liberal arts education — in this country. We have professionalized liberal arts to the point where they no longer provide the breadth of application and the enhanced capacity for civic engagement that is their signature. Over the past century the expert has dethroned the educated generalist to become the sole model of intellectual accomplishment.

The progression of today’s college student is to jettison every interest except one. And within that one, to continually narrow the focus, learning more and more about less and less; this, despite the evidence all around us of the interconnectedness of things. As one moves up the ladder, values other than technical competence are viewed with increasing suspicion. Questions such as, “What kind of a world are we making? What kind of a world should we be making? What kind of a world can we be making?” are treated with more and more skepticism, and move off the table. (Liz Coleman, 2009)


This, as throngs of venture capitalists with multi-million-dollar checkbooks purport online education will solve everything. But their assumptions are not only unproven, they’re dangerous. In our capitalistic society, education is one of the few remaining purely social institutions designed not for material profit, but to maintain a secular democracy — in a land where all men are created equal, education is designed to be a tool that allows all young people their right to a fulfilling pursuit of happiness.

But there’s something else they’re missing:

The online education utopians ignore the fact that free learning has existed for decades in the form of the public library and despite that availability, every kid within bicycling distance to his local branch didn’t turn into a self taught entrepreneur. Suggesting that online courses are the cure-all for our educational needs is like saying all you have to do to teach kids in the ghetto is give away textbooks on the corner. (Fransisco Dao, 2013)

Education is not about information. Nearly every member of our society has had access to throngs more information than it could possibly handle since the 16th century.

Instead, education is about knowledge and wisdom. While there is measurable debate over what, exactly, defines the essence of “university,” it seems very clear to me that university is not really about the information contained within individual courses. Instead, it is about the pursuit of the information: for instance, writing papers teaches rhetoric, reading Aristotle improves literacy and perspective, and studying European History allows students to understand a world with a very different set of values and social structures.


Unfortunately, like anything in a market such as ours, university is still bound by simple economic principles, and it doesn’t scale well: thanks to cost disease, the more people seeking a degree, the more expensive it will be for each person to receive said degree. Furthermore, the more people that enter the job market with postsecondary education, the more the material value of that education will deflate. What happens when a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough in a highly-competitive job market?


Based on both personal experiences and statistical data, it seems as though most undergraduates are not attending college to learn, or become free citizens. They’re there simply to get a better job. Or hell, any job.

This wasn’t always the case. Historically, university was designed for the intellectually-inclined, and it could support itself relatively well. But since the 1970′s, the number of young people attending college in the United States believing that that it will allow them “to be very well off financially” has risen significantly, while those attempting to “develop a meaningful philosophy of life,” has plummeted. Do these young people care about philosophy, the freedoms of mankind, and the pursuit of intellectualism? Or do they see college as an opportunity to attend a few dope-ass parties and get a degree so they’re job-market-ready? With billions of dollars on the line, these are questions we need to seriously ask ourselves.

Where the pundits are mistaken, and dangerously mistaken, is when the rhetoric they use to push their mission includes notions that university is simply job training that can be easily substituted. It isn’t. University is the pursuit of intellectualism, of developing a full mind, of vibrant debates, critical thinking, and developing a certain self of self-reliance and self-consciousness. Admittedly, you don’t find that in a textbook. And you don’t find it on Google or YouTube. You find that by by arguing against the textbook, by asking zillions of questions, by writing essays, in one-on-one’s with your professor, and yes, maybe by drinking way too much and making a few stupid decisions.


As I exited my professor’s office, I turned back.

“Thank you.”

He was one of the best professors I’ve had. An amazing lecturer. An incredible researcher. Tough, but only because he cared. I could tell this was not an easy decision for him. It causes me great distress to know that others won’t be near as blessed as I was.

But, unlike him, I still have hope.


We can fix academia. We can create a intellectual class ruled not by bank accounts but by curiosity, drive, and intelligence. But it won’t happen with Udacity. It won’t appear on Khan Academy.Where I think it will appear is in Google Hangouts, coffeeshop meetups, and in the minds of young people across the country. It’s a grassroots effort that, by design, no amount of money can buy (although some will help.)

We’re entering a new intellectual age, an age that will rival post-Gutenberg Europe. We can allow our new tools to enable us to create wonderful things, or we can lead ourselves down a path of destruction. We have the ability to control our own outcomes. But we can’t afford to give up on our universities.

Written by

i write software and stories.

 

The Simple Skill That Will Improve Your Job


 

 

 

In television, being a good interviewer is not just about asking the right questions.

It’s about listening to the answer.

Some of the greatest television interviews happened not because the interviewer asked the right question, but because he or she asked the right follow-up. Just watch interviews by Barbara Walters or the late David Frost, both of whom extracted information from their subjects (Monica Lewinsky, Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson) nobody else could get. At moments more inexperienced interviewers would have glossed over, they would pause and ask, “why” or “how come.” And bingo – that would be the one great moment in the interview.

What’s amazing is that listening is one of the most underrated skills in the workplace and yet, one of the most important. It is the skill that can help you seal a negotiation, make you more amiable to your boss or simply win you friends. Jim Reynolds, the CEO of a boutique investment bank in Chicago, Loop Capital, told me he sometimes has to tap his sales guys under the table in a negotiation to get them to be quiet.

“The secret to effective selling is not the guy who goes in talking ‘I can do I this and I can do that and I can make your business better,’” he said. “That was never the guy who was the top salesman. The top salesman was always the guy that could ask leading questions and then listen to the answer. I learned this early on in my twenties and I’m still trying to teach it to my bankers.”

“Whoever is doing the real listening is improving the art of effective communication and that person will get even better,” he said.

Jim noted that the reason why listening was so effective in sales was because most people, without realizing it, will tell you what problem they need solved. If you just listen carefully enough, you can present the solution right back to them.

(Click here to read the rest of Betty’s article!)

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Did you like this post? Then you’ll like Betty’s new bookWork Smarts: What CEOs Say You Need to Know to Get Ahead. You can read more at www.betty-liu.com and buy her book on Amazon.com and other booksellers. She is Editor-at-Large and anchor at Bloomberg Television and an ABC News contributor.

 

 

Posted by:Betty Liu

 

Negotiating With Yourself and Winning (For a Change)


The hardest promises to keep are often the ones we make to ourselves. That sad truth will soon be reconfirmed as countless well-intended New Year’s resolutions get broken just a few days after being made.

Why don’t we keep promises to ourselves? At the very least, why knowing what happened to our resolutions in years past, do we go on making empty pledges? Economists have one answer and psychologists, another. Philosophers offer a third.

Noble Laureate Tom Schelling’s classic book Choice and Consequence casts it as a problem of costs and benefits: our present-day self has different motivations than our future self. On January first, having binged over the holidays, wants to lose twenty pounds by June. But our future self is the one who has to eat less and exercise more.

One morning it may seem a little cold to go out for a run. That evening, it may hard to resist the chocolate mousse. Temptations appear in the here-and-now. Rewards for being virtuous are far away. Anyway, we tell ourselves, one transgression won’t make a difference. But since that logic is true every day, when June rolls around we won’t have lost an ounce.

The economic solution is to change the incentives so that our future self behaves. Schelling says that to lose weight, we should go to our lawyer and have her draw up an irrevocable trust. Whether we’re rich or poor, we should transfer every last thing we own, with the proviso that it all comes back to us in full if we meet our goal. But if we fail, not only do we lose everything, it all goes to the political candidate we most abhor.

It’s a doomsday strategy. Having put a cannon to our head, we’ll lace up our running shoes every day, no matter how wet or cold the morning. And rather than risk of being out of house and home, we’ll say “no thank you” to dessert, as well.

For psychologists, broken resolutions are evidence of competing agendas. Bob Kegan, co-author of How the Way We Talk Affects the Way We Work, says that before we can expect to improve our behavior we have to understand what keeps us stuck in it.

Bob has developed a powerful self-reflective exercise that exposes hidden resistance to change. It requires at least an hour of honest self-assessment, more if you pair up and do it together with a nonjudgmental friend. But it’s well worth it. I can testify from personal experience how the experience helped me better balance my work day. Once I recognized how I was unwittingly subverting my own intentions, I made modest changes in my routine. I still was accessible to colleagues and staff, but also protected more solitary time for projects that require undisturbed attention. As a result, I became more productive and less stressed.

The problem of living up to our aspirations is an ancient one. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius kept a daily journal in which he continually reminded himself of how his actions would determine his identity and character. (Bear in mind that the “you” he is writing to is himself.)

Early in the morning, when you are reluctant in your laziness to get up, let this thought be at hand: “I am rising to do the work of a human being.” Even though I know this, why am I still resentful if I am going out to do that for which I was born and that for which I was brought into the Cosmos? Or was I created so that I could like under my covers and keep warm?

Marcus was writing to himself, but like many readers I feel a kinship to him almost two thousand years later, especially on these winter mornings when it’s still dark when I wake. It’s not just a gambit for getting out of bed, however. Rather it’s an admonition that even small things we do define who we are.

Matt Gilbert, who commented on my prior post, noted how our thoughts become words; how words become actions; actions become habits; habits become character; and in the end, character shapes our destiny.

I can’t claim to be nearly as mindful as I should be, but especially as we spin into a new year, it’s good to remember that our passing thoughts and deeds ultimately constitute our lives. Striving to make them consistent with our larger aspirations is essential. But so is recognizing that certain goals and can sometimes be in conflict. (That’s certainly true for work-life balance.)

Our resolutions thus need to take into account all our aspirations and our constraints, as well. There’s no sense in setting ourselves up to fail. And most of us will have lapses. There will be days we don’t work out or we eat too much. There may be days, as well, when we aren’t as kind as we should be. Tom Schelling says that when we do slip, we should regard it as “merely having violated the law, not overthrown the constitution.”

In that spirit, I wish every reader that the coming year is one of learning, growth, and fulfillment.

Photo: InnervisionArt / Shutterstock

*****

Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler is the author of The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World (Simon & Schuster).

He has been a key figure at the renowned Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School since its founding 30 years ago. During the 2013-14 academic year, he continues to teach in executive programs at HBS and PON, and is also a visiting professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

 

Professional Bravery, Or Career Suicide?


December 30, 2013

inShare463

This latest email from a LinkedIn member got my attention.

Dear J.T.,

I know you normally help LinkedIn members who work for companies. But, I’m a business owner in need of some very important career advice. Can you help me?

For the last 12 years, I’ve run my own consulting company. At it’s peak, we had 20+ employees, did business globally, and earned millions in revenues annually. But today, I’m down to a much smaller staff and debate daily whether to close shop. While the business is still profitable, I’m drained by running it. The thrill of growing a company and creating jobs has been squashed by the frustration of staff turnover and the constant need to put out fires to keep things going. I am no longer inspired by business ownership. Instead, I’m tired, angry, and feel like I’m in a constant haze. I have a wife, two small children, and a lot of family and friends who I know aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Plus, my health is definitely suffering due to the stress. Yet, I can’t bring myself to officially call it quits. Here’s why…

My greatest fear is being seen as a failure by my peers – and then not being able to get a job because of it. While my network is large and I have many contacts at the executive level, I dread the idea of trying to explain why I decided to stop being my own boss. I know I have a reputation of being intense. Now, I’m concerned that how I’m perceived by peers, coupled with a decision to close my business will result in people assuming I’m too difficult to work with. Trust me, I’d relish the opportunity right now to let someone else be in charge. Having stressed over my business for the last several years, I know what it takes. I regret not ever finding a business partner, and now my company is too small to be sold. I can sincerely say I just want to work for someone else, do what I do best (business consulting services), and be able to contribute to something bigger.

My questions to you is this: Is closing the business and honestly sharing my desires with my network professional bravery, or career suicide?

This reader has a very valid concern. A lot of employers will immediately assume he’s “overqualified” – and that’s not good. (Read here to learn how that is code for something else.) They definitely will suspect the worst and try to read-between-the-lines with respect to his real motive for seeking employment. He’s wise to consider seriously how such a dramatic career change will be perceived.

It’s Not Failure, It’s Professional Evolution

To start, this business owner needs to step back and look at his situation from a wider viewpoint. He has successfully run a business for 11 years. 90% of small businesses fail in the first three years. This is an accomplishment in itself. One he should be very proud of.

Next, let’s look at what business ownership has taught him. The high’s and low’s of running a company make us smarter professionals. It also helps us have new respect for what it takes to keep a business running. Many employees just have no idea how hard this is. A staff of 20 can expect the world from one single owner. Without even knowing it, they can gang up on the employer.They criticize quickly, playing Monday-morning quarterback to every business decision. It doesn’t surprise me this business owner is feeling drained. Especially, if turnover and lack of loyalty left him feeling burned. Now, I’m not saying he was blameless. There’s a good chance employee management wasn’t his strong suit, but I sense he recognizes that. (Read this if you struggle to make good relationships at work that cost you professionally.)

In short, it appears to me this reader has evolved professionally and needs to go to the next level in his career. While he could easily keep running his small business, partnering up with people who have skills in things like HR and operations and assisting in the growth of a bigger, more stable business would actually be an upward career move for him. He needs to be part of a team again!

Tips for a Successful Transition

With the decision to close the company out of the way, there are several things this business owner should do before starting the process of shutting down. They are:

1) Have at least 2 years of savings set aside to cover living expenses. Finding the right opportunity is going to take time. Jobs at the executive level are not a dime a dozen. He’s going to deal with age discrimination as well. (Read more on why age discrimination should be expected here.) You don’t want to be stressed about covering the mortgage and take a role that doesn’t suit you.

2) Identify what industry you want to be and create an “Interview Bucket List” so you can target your networking efforts. Being able to share your passion for an industry and a set of businesses in it that you admire will make it clear to people you network with that your decision to change career directions was carefully thought through. You need to be able to give solid business reasons why you want to get into a particular industry as well as why these specific companies are on your list.

3) Seek several trusted mentors and ask them for their help. You will need a mini Board of Directors to help your business-of-one make this dramatic career shift. Reach out to three people you trust and admire and share with them what you are going through. Ask them for help in making this transition. Rest assured, you’ll help them someday in return. But right now, you need a circle of peers who can keep you focused and motivated through this career challenge.

4) Master a sincere and accountable explanation of your career story. Before you start discussing this with the world, you need to talk through how you are going to explain this decision. You need to be able to tell the story of your career leading up to this moment in a way that is objective and fair. You can’t be too negative or too positive – people won’t buy it. What they will buy is your accountability. Take ownership of the journey that has lead you to this moment. Share what you have experienced, and more importantly, how you’ve learned and grown as a professional along the way. An honest, yet optimistic assessment is what you need to convey. (Here’s an article I wrote for LinkedIn that maps out the right way to tell your Career Story.)

5) Create a solid plan for helping your remaining staff and clients transition out of your business. Your reputation will be assessed by the way you close the business. Make sure employees and customers have plenty of notice and support in their efforts to move on. Write recommendations on LinkedIn, open up your network connections to them, and do whatever you can to ensure each member of your business gets settled as much as possible before the doors close.

Business Ownership Isn’t the Only Form of Career Success

It should be clear by now this reader has the opportunity to be brave and move on to a new career opportunity. Being a business owner isn’t the only form of career success. More importantly, it’s not career success if it’s costing you a happy life. This reader has the chance to start a new, exciting chapter in his career – but only if he is brave enough to put aside his pride and fear of what others think.

There’s only one person we need to impress with our careers: OURSELVES. I hope this reader decides to embrace this belief. While it will take a lot of work, a more satisfying career and happier life awaits if he does.

What tips can you share to help this business owner start a new chapter in his career? I’d love to hear from other readers in the comments below.

 

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also founder of the career advice site, CAREEREALISM, and currently run the career coaching program, CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also like:

CAREEREALISM’s Founder, J.T. O’Donnell is a nationally syndicated career expert and workplace consultant who helps American workers of all ages find greater professional satisfaction. Her book,CAREEREALISM: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career, outlines her highly successful career-coaching methodology. Purchase her e-book of CAREEREALISM for only $9.95 by clicking here!

 

Image above by Shutterstock

 

Want That Promotion? Three Things Not to Say


 

 

At this time of year, many companies are completing annual reviews for employees, and many people are thinking about promotions. First, I want to say that in my experience, while promotions can be great in terms of resume building, validation from others, and can often come with salary increases, they are not the only “holy grail” in terms of building your career. I have found that what really counts is increasing scope and responsibility, the chance to learn new skills and the opportunity to challenge yourself to do more. Those things can come with promotions, but a promotion is not required to attain them.

That said, wanting to be promoted as a way to keep moving forward in your career is perfectly reasonable. For those of you for whom this is top of mind, I thought I’d share some tips about what I have seen work, both in my own career and for the many people I have had the joy to promote over the past 15+ years.

Usually, my posts cover suggestions of actions I believe are helpful to take in order to achieve your goals. This time, I thought I would cover a few things not to do or say when you are trying to get promoted in order to help people avoid the pitfalls I’ve seen happen before. Here are three things it’s best not to say on your path to a promotion:

1. “That’s not my job.”

The very nature of a promotion is that you will be moving into a job that is different and larger than the one you currently have. People are usually promoted when they are already demonstrating that they can perform at a level that is beyond the role they are currently in, so by definition you will be doing work that is “not your job.”

In addition, I have seen over and over again, that people who volunteer to do work that needs to be done, even when outside their role or even their function, are often seen as the “go to” people within their organization. Those “go to” people are the most trusted, and the most likely to be promoted, because they’ve already shown they can take on more than what they are currently doing. You want to be one of those people. And they never say, “that’s not my job,” even when asked to do something that may seem smaller or less important than their current role.

Of course, this doesn’t mean just saying yes to everything; it is still necessary to prioritize your work to ensure you can meet the commitments you make to people. It does mean saying yes to more things and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.

2. “That wasn’t my fault.”

People who ascend rapidly through organizations know that when something goes wrong, the most critical thing to focus on is how to fix the problem, rather than to play the blame game and determine whose fault it was. While it is important to diagnose how problems occurred in order to prevent them in the future, understanding and sharing that information broadly is more important that pointing to people who may have been responsible or denying accountability, whether or not you were directly involved.

The people who step up to help fix problems, whether they were involved in causing them, are the ones most likely to be chosen for promotions. And, people who readily do accept responsibility for problems caused by their own mistakes are seen as more accountable and more trustworthy.

Also, if no problem is ever caused by you, it likely means you aren’t taking enough risks. People who take risks will fail from time to time, and at those times, admitting it was your fault and saying how you learned from the failure is the best way to rise above your mistake and keep yourself on path to promotion. People who are willing to take chances, learn from their own mistakes, and broadcast those lessons to others are more likely to be promoted, since it is clear they are already functioning well independently and don’t need to be managed closely. At Change.org, we have instituted a concept we call the “Festival of Failure” to encourage people to take more chances and then (quickly) celebrate any failure that results and share the lessons with others so we can think big and try a lot of creative ideas without making the same mistake multiple times.

Accepting responsibility and taking ownership are critical at all levels of leadership. In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, where he examines what defines leaders of great companies, he describes the ultimate “level 5” leaders as people who “look in the mirror to assign blame, never citing external factors.” Owning your own mistakes will help you on your promotion path all the way to senior leadership positions.

3. “That isn’t going to work.”

It’s true; some ideas just won’t work. However, the employees whom I’ve seen be the most successful within organizations are the ones who build on others’ ideas rather than cut them down. Even if your first instinct is to say an idea is a bad one, try the old improvisational acting technique of “Yes, and….”

In improv comedy, when you enter a scene and someone gives you a crazy storyline, there is a rule that says you need to run with it in order to keep the scene moving forward in a positive (and hopefully funny) way. So instead of saying no, or changing the subject, you say “Yes, and…” and then build on the other person’s’ idea. This “additive thinking” has now become a common theme in the design thinking approach that is becoming increasingly used in businesses around the globe.

People who can master this technique of encouraging others and helping build on their ideas are more likely to be promoted because they are actively demonstrating several of the key skills required to be a strong leader. Conversely, people who take a generally negative view or a “that’s not how we do it here” approach are less likely to ascend to leadership positions. It’s not about being positive for the sake of positivity, but rather the belief that – by building on top of the spark of an idea, even one with some weaknesses at first glance – we can ultimately get to a better outcome.

So, on the path to promotion, I’ve seen that expanding beyond the scope of your role, taking risks and admitting to your mistakes, and building on the ideas of others can really make a difference. What advice do you have about things to do or not to do on the path towards promotion? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Jennifer Dulski

@jdulski

Jennifer Dulski is president and COO of Change.org, the world’s largest platform for social change. With more than 50 million users around the world, Change.org empowers people everywhere to create the change they want to see. http://change.org

Photo credit: pasukaru76 on Flickr

Posted by:Jennifer Dulski

 

8 Things I Learned In 2013


Writing one of those ‘Reflecting on 2013′ statuses on Facebook got me thinking about the bigger picture. This is my bigger picture. Enjoy!

Go Back to the Basics

Coming out of college, I wasn’t sure how to adjust to the ‘real world’ or what that even meant for that matter.

But it wasn’t until this year [1.5 years after graduating] that I learned that I needed to get back to the basics of what made me so happy growing up.

A big one was playing softball. I know, I know, I’m SUCH a lesbian stereotype but give me a second. Softball was a HUGE part of my life growing up; from 1o&Unders to travel ball championships in Seattle to JV softball in high school. By the time I stopped playing in high school, I had actually kind of hated it because of the pressure my father put on me. It wasn’t fun anymore. I was done.

But this year, I got to do it FOR ME. Not for him. I got to do it because it made ME happy and because I WANTED to play again. And so I did. And it was one of the best things I did this year.

The lesson I learned here: If it made me happy at one point in my life, why not try doing it again? Since softball made such a huge difference in my life, I’m going to take up boxing again since it gave me incredible joy for two years in college. Why not right?

Don’t be afraid of the word ‘creative’

For a long time, I never identified as a ‘creative.’ To be completely honest, it freaked me out. Internally I would say, ‘Who am I to say I’m creative? Who gets to be the judge of that?’

And now? I find it mentally freeing and that feels fucking amazing.

The lesson I learned here: Creativity is whatever you make it out to be. So go forward. Be bold with your ideas. And make some fucking noise.

Ask For Help

A lot of you know this about me, but I’m a stubborn motherfucker. It’s bad. I think I get it from my Mom’s hardheadedness (not a bad thing at all, love you Mom). Earlier this year, I started a new position without a direction or guidance. Some of it was to blame on the lack of structure, yes. But the rest was on me. I didn’t ask for help when I was flailing and I thought I would ‘prove my worth’ (what the fuck was I thinking with that?!) by doing everything on my own.

Clearly, I was wrong. Never be afraid to ask for help. I learned from some amazing mentors throughout the year which made a hell of a difference in my professional output (I’m lookin’ at you Megan, Greg, and Ann Marie).

The lesson I learned here: How are you going to grow creatively if you don’t learn from those around you and ask questions?

Quality > Quantity

I used to think having a lot of friends meant something in life. Maybe it was because I was never a popular person in middle school or high school. In college, I used to have lots of different types of friends that I segmented: ‘Boxing,’ ‘Marketing’ ‘Business’ ‘Hip Hop Club’ ‘Dorm,’ etc. But when I was in a crisis, I could only think of 2 people I wanted to call. It actually felt pretty lonely and made me realize that maybe I wasn’t opening myself up and keeping my guard up instead.

The lesson I learned here: It’s about the quality of friendships. When I say I want to grab a drink with you, it’s because I want to know what’s going on in your life because I care about you. I’m not saying it ‘just to say it.’

WRITE.

I love to write. Period. I mean, hell, I wanted to go to college for creative writing (thanks for talking me out of that one, Mom).

Whether a blog post or a tagline, I jot down ideas on the notes app on my phone. Random thoughts or ideas that pop into my head that maybe someday will culminate into a greater idea, who knows?

We all have to start somewhere right?

The lesson I learned here: Whether good bad or ugly, just write it down. Stare at it. Come back to it later. Because who’s stopping you?

READ

And don’t feel bad about it. Confession time: I read a lot of fanfiction about a particular couple on a particular TV show. Is that creepy? Probably. But you know what, I read for hours on end. I escape reality and delve into the lives of these characters which actually helps with content I create for my job. I take a look at the stories that get the most reviews and follows and identify the main themes that people identify with and that I myself love. I then translate those insights into pieces of micro-content for my brands. Yes, I’m a nerd.

I also got REALLY into the Divergent series. Yes it’s YA fiction but holy crap is it good.

The lesson I learned here: Reading something is better than reading nothing at all. As long as I’m enjoying it, who gives a crap what anyone else thinks.

You Don’t ‘HAVE’ to Stick it Out

I’ve been really fortunate in my life to have had the opportunities that I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, I work my ass off but I’m also incredibly thankful.

That said, I recently changed jobs a couple of months ago and in those two months, I realized that it was not the direction I wanted my career to go in. Again, no regrets here but now I know what I don’t want to be doing. And that’s okay.

Fortunately, I’ve found another position to start off the year in which I’ll be going back to doing what I love so much and be client-facing again. And I can’t wait.

The lesson I learned here: Go with your gut. If you don’t feel like it’s right, it’s probably not. So change your situation and be passionate about what you do.

Positivity > Negativity. Every time.

For a long time, I used to get down on myself for the smallest things or I used to see the negative side to something before I saw the positive. It was a pretty terrible way of living.

In March, I realized that as an individual, I have a set amount of energy. That energy is partitioned into various different actions. What makes a difference, I realized, is HOW those actions are executed.

I wanted to be a positive moving force for not only myself, but for others too. But in order to do that, I had to look at things from a more positive light. For example, instead of regrets, I find lessons. I also realized that when your outlook is positive, people tend to gravitate towards that.

The lesson I learned here (and my personal life motto that I coined this year): Why waste energy being negative when I can be awesome instead?

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Notre Dame | NYC | LGBT | http://t.co/VUvQpV9R | CA beaches, Craft Beer & Life = Love

 

Surviving Triathlon. The story of a fat guy and an epic race.


All Triathletes are Crazy, Some more than others

All Triathletes are Crazy, Some more than others

My first triathlon was in 2007. I’d like to brag and say it was the craziest, most difficult triathlon ever, but that would be a lie. It was a super-sprint triathlon. 400 meters of swimming, 12 miles of biking, and 1 (yes 1) mile of running.

There was one really good reason for me doing this distance and no more. I had gained some weight. A lot of weight actually. I started college in 2002 at 175 pounds. By the time I decided to take on triathlons, I was probably rolling around 290. I’d stopped using the scale around 275, so there’s no telling where I actually peaked.

So I decided to do something to “get back in shape”. I had been a competitive swimmer through high school and some of college, so I thought, “Heck, this triathlon thing looks interesting, I’m sure I can do it.”

Problem: I hate running.

Loathe might even be a better word than hate.

When I was convincing myself I could do this, I had to pretend I didn’t have the feelings about running that I actually did. So I went out and bought a bike and bike shoes and all the other requisite gear I’d need to complete this race.

I trained, sort of, for the next two-ish months. Training was hard to squeeze in because I was traveling for work a lot, and I lived in Madison, WI. Which meant there was beer. And when choosing between beer and exercise, the scale tips in one direction for me. Hence, the 290 pounds.

My run workouts consisted of halfheartedly trotting around my neighborhood for however long I felt like. Biking was me trying not to kill myself anytime I stopped. Clip-in shoes are crazy hard to get used to. And I skipped swimming workouts because in my mind I was still the guy who swam about 8000 yards a day. My mind told me I was Michael Phelps and I didn’t need to practice swimming.

Side note: I also didn’t swim because the gym I belonged to had a crappy 4 lane pool that they kept at something like 88 degrees so all the old people would enjoy being in there. My swim brethren reading this will know that swimming laps in that is like swimming laps in thick urine. It’s the worst. So I skipped swimming.

And then came race day.

Woof. Talk about not being prepared. I did fairly well on the swim. But it had been a really long time since I’d swam open water. So I forgot about all the waves and all the times someone swimming next to me who didn’t know what they were doing would kick me in the stomach, face, chest, or groin. Sometimes the kicks feel simultaneous.

I finished the swim and got myself all ready for the bike. Hopped on and started riding. About 1 mile in, my chain fell off. I was new to biking, so I panicked. I hadn’t done any research on what to do if parts of your bike fail during a race. So I sat on the side of the road and stared at my chain for a few minutes. Then I decided I’d need to figure something out and started fiddling with the chain. Magically, it was back on and I was ready to go again. I got about 8 miles further and realized the longest ride I had done up to this point was 9 miles. And it was beginning to show. I was crazy tired and didn’t know if I was going to be able to do the remaining 3 miles.

Somehow I slogged through those last few miles and got back to the transition area. I sat on the ground and huffed and puffed for a bit and then decided I should put my running shoes on so I could finish this stupid race. And so began the longest mile of my life.

I was running maybe 20 feet at a time and then walking a lot longer. See, I hadn’t really done any research on triathlon training. There’s this specific workout that triathletes do called a brick. You go for a bike ride and then immediately follow it with a run. You know, like you would in the race? It turns out that biking for long periods of time activate your legs in a way that’s different than you would for running. So all your biking muscles are all warmed up and ready to rock, but you need to transition to your running muscles, which were just along for the ride on the bike.

So my legs are screaming at me AND I’m fat and still not very cardiovascularly fit, so this mile run feels like it will never end. There are only three thoughts in my mind at this point, “Don’t puke all over yourself, there’s some cute girls here and you’ll look gross”, “Don’t pass out, there’s some cute girls here and you’ll look dumb”, and “This was probably the worst idea I’ve ever had”.

Eventually though, I did cross the finish line. I don’t remember my overall time, but I do remember that my mile “run” took 16 minutes and 30 seconds. I packed up all my stuff and went back to the place I had camped the night before and collapsed onto my sleeping bag. As I drifted off to sleep for a 4 hour nap, I remember only one thought being in my mind:

I could do that again.

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/ disciple of Christ / husband / misplaced sconnie / nerd / IT guy / photographer @ www.woodlerphoto.net/ outdoorsman / triathlete / crossfitter / beard grower

Published September 23, 2013