What I Learned from My Dog: Part 2

Untitled  How do dogs spend their days?

- Eating, sleeping, sniffing, barking, chasing

We human beings can learn a few things from them. The eating and sleeping part we all get. But what about:

- Sniffing – this is the equivalent of learning, but hands on learning, not the… oh I went to college kind. The kind where you have to get right in there and possibly not be ‘perfect.’ This is where the real learning happens.

- Barking – this is the communicating part of the day. We all communicate in various ways, we whimper, we brag, we talk etc. But dogs don’t gossip, they don’t shame each other, (okay they may bully a bit but they do it for a survival reason.)

-Chasing – My dog watches the squirrels, chipmunks and birds out the window. She was bred to dig varmints out of holes so she’s happy to let the critters be. But occasionally she finds something so compelling, she just has to chase it. Can you relate? I can.

One last thing. When the wind blows, instead of turning away, she puts her face right into it. The harder it blows, the longer she stands facing it. This inspires me: when the wind is blowing in my face, I work to stand firm, sniff and see what I can learn.

Seasick

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I visited (helped out) one of my children recently; they just had their first child. Watching your child with their child is one of life’s great joys.  We are fortunate, mom and baby are doing well.

As I watch them learn about their new family member, I am impressed by their calmness. They are both exhausted and yet, they simply go with the flow. They don’t fight against the exhaustion or the baby’s crying; they just accept it. Together they figure out what to do and then they do it. If you were like them as a new parent, then you are probably thinking, what’s the big deal? Well, I applaud you too.

For many of us, being in an overwhelming circumstance is … overwhelming. Small things become big things. Irritability takes over. For those of us with depression, this is, unfortunately, somewhat normal. We are not calm in the face of things we can’t change. We fight, argue, moan, blame… everything but accept.

Leonard Cohen’s quote struck me because when I think back on how many times I did not… “become the ocean,” or surrender to/accept the circumstances, I realize that I could have (perhaps) saved myself some grief.  In those difficult days, the more I fought the ocean waves, the more ‘seasick’ I becameAfter many years, I learned how to surrender with dignity and peace of mind.

One of my favorite sayings is, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Most of the time when I was lost, I thought I was my own teacher. I was wrong.

So if you find yourself in transition, if you are in the middle of a difficult time, I empathize. Ask yourself, am I fighting the waves? In the past when I have been ‘seasick, it’s because I didn’t know how to do anything differently. I didn’t know how to become the ocean. If you don’t know how to become the ocean (and you’re sick and tired of being seasick) ask for help. Start by asking one person. If they can’t help, ask someone else and keep asking until you find, your teacher.

If you don’t know Leonard Cohen, check him out. If you’ve never heard him sing this… you’re in for a treat.

Photo credit: direct current

Key Hiring Question: When & Why Will You Leave?

When you are interviewing for a job… probably one of the last things on your mind… is why and when you might leave. You’re thinking… I don’t even have the job… why would I think about when I might leave?

Great companies make this complex question part of the interview process.

In an insightful article by someone I admire, Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, How I Hire: Figuring Out Fit — And The Exit Strategy… she outlines the criteria and process for assessing candidates based on culture, skills and my favorite and what I consider relatively unique…  sense of purpose.

“As part of the hiring process, I also talk with people about how they will leave Altimeter one day. The idea of lifetime employment is dead, so why not face up to the reality that this person we’re hiring will one day leave? It’s a core part of us living the value of Integrity — that openness and transparency develops trust.” Charlene Li

The last regular, ‘show up in the office’ job I had, I actually negotiated my departure date as part of my hiring package. When they offered me the job, I told them I would stay one year.  It allowed me to focus on getting the job done without worrying about how I’d leave. It was very empowering.

I am not suggesting that every time you take a job, you should negotiate your exit. What I am suggesting is that you think about what you want to get from the assignment… even it it’s just to earn some money or stay for 6 months.  Be conscious of what it will look like when you have reached that goal.

By the way, this takes courage and it puts the responsibility for finding your next ‘step’ right where it belongs; with you.

Image credit: Diane Arbus Moving On

Leadership: Handout or Hand Up?

As leaders do we see ourselves as coaches, mentors and teachers or as managers, bosses and the person “in-charge.” The distinction may be subtle but the influence you may have on people and the results you drive may not be subtle. In the book, “Leaders East Last,” (title derived from the Marine Corps where enlisted men always eat first), Simon Sinek says, “whether a leader puts themselves or their people first, determines if they are worthy of our love and loyalty. Leadership is a decision not a rank.”

Many people think that the ‘younger generation’ is lazy and entitled. I say every generation has this type of person. I see so many 20-30 somethings doing such great things; I hope you see them that way too. I loved this article, “Meet 6 Entrepreneurs Who Use Tech to Change the World.” Each young entrepreneur is doing something simple to solve a problem. My favorite is HandUp started by a young woman named Rose Broome.

“HandUp is direct giving for homeless people and others in need in your neighborhood. Your donations are redeemed for basic needs like food, clothing, and medical care through our partner organization Project Homeless Connect.”

Like all start ups, this one will have critics and bumps along the way. What I like is that Rose didn’t just give the homeless woman a dollar and forget her. She’s looking for a way to help stabilize her situation. It may be a handout right now, but hopefully a hand up is on it way too.

Photo credit: photo leroys

You Must Go to College BEFORE You Start a Company

We're midway through the judging at the <a href="http://www.dfj.com/venturechallenge">DFJ Venture Challenge</a> today…Here you see a UC Davis team demonstrating light-dimming demand response to help reduce utility bl...

I was skimming through a book titled, “The $100 Startup, Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, ” by Chris Guillebeau (a wicked cool guy). In the first pages, he tells the story of Michael Hanna, the successful sales professional.  Twenty plus years experience and he is called in to his boss’s office, the HR person shows up, he’s let go, handed a cardboard box and walked to his car. He moans and worries for a while but then something happens.  He starts a company by accident and ends up a successful entrepreneur.

Kids, You Must Go to College

I am stunned when I hear parents and teachers say, you must go to college before you start a company. You don’t have enough ‘experience.’ What could you possibly do? How will you live? and on and on. Thousands of reasons why not.

Hey folks, for many, what you learn in college won’t get you a job, a career or make you happy. There are wonderful alternatives to college (40 Alternatives to College) but we, as a society, don’t support or value them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think college is great. I understand about “education-related income”and there are lots of successful people who are high school drop outs… Peter Jennings (new anchor), Princess Diana, Bill Gates, David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, etc.I have a young friend who was accepted to MBA programs at MIT and Stanford who opted to skip grad school to start his first company.

My point is that encouraging every kid to go to college, whether they want to or not, is dumb. Look around at Gen Y, they are starting organizations and changing the world including Warren Buffet’s ‘heir apparent.”

Photo credit: Enlightening. Jurvetson

Shut Up and Listen. You Can’t Learn If You’re Talking.

<a href="http://voxterra.blogspot.com/">TerraVox</a><a href="http://voxterra.blogspot.com/">TerraVox</a>

Have you ever tried listening to someone who is annoying you? Have you ever tried going a whole day without giving your opinion, not even once? If you’re an introvert, this may be easier for you. But for outgoing people, this  is a big problem.

And, by the way, it can be a problem for all of us. Most of us love to hear ourselves talk. We love to tell our side of the argument, our thoughts on other people’s lives etc. That’s why people love stories. It satisfies the need we humans have to know about others and compare ourselves to the them.

But the truth is WE CAN’T LEARN IF WE ARE TALKING.

Put a sock in it. The more important the relationship, the more we need to work on listening. Try it and let me know how the experiment works for you. I’ll let you know how I’m doing.

(By the way, if you have a job interview and the question comes about areas of self- improvement; a statement about the sincere desire to improve one’s listening skills for both personal and professional reasons can work. Just be prepared to talk about what you are doing to improve and make sure you are really practicing!)

Photo credit: Shhh Vox Efx

Moments

“Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies … and it will not come again…” Gwendolyn Brooks

It’s been a long, cold winter and yes, it’s only February. But since I got my dog, I am outside several times a day, no matter what the weather. This. is. good. It helps  me to be acutely aware of the birds, the squirrels, the ice, the temperature, everything.

For today, I encourage you to exhaust each little moment. Pay extra attention to the person talking to you. Taste that food. Smile more. Laugh more. I record America’s Funniest Home videos and watch it when I feel blue. It snaps me out of whatever negativity I might be feeling.

It’s easier to stay home than voyage, isn’t it? Will you share your secret for exhausting the little moment?

If you don’t know Gwendolyn Brooks, check her out. 

Advice From A Tree… Stand Tall

A very dear friend of mine recently passed away suddenly at the tender age of  62. She was a spiritual seeker, yoga teacher, artist. mother, widow and generally an inspiration. When I read these words, I thought of her. Practical, simple and profound. If I were going to rename my blog… I’d probably call it, advice from a tree.

Mj Bindu Delekta

Do You Have B. S. S. ?

My dear, here, we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that,” Alice In Wonderland

BSS = Big Shot Syndrome – Have you got it? Before you say NOooo … Ponder these questions… there are no right or wrong answers.

  1. At work, do you think more about the money you  make or what you’re learning? (You have to pick one, you can’t say both)
  2. How often do you do volunteer work?
  3. Do you regularly work more than 50 hours a week at your job?
  4. Do you have a creative hobby that you actively pursue (have fun with every week)?
  5. How much money is enough? In other words, if you had x dollars, would you stop working and relax?
  6. Do you think about your legacy? (Not the money you might leave but what will you be remembered for?)
  7. Do you shop for recreation?
  8. Do you believe that the car you drive is symbol of your status in society? (Does driving your car make you proud?)

Ok, enough with the questions. The idea is for you to figure out what you are doing with your life. We all have obligations and of course we want to be good providers, but do we sacrifice our well-being, our relationships and our health in order to be a big shot?

These are questions only you can answer. If you think you’d like to be more aware of your choices, be more conscious of how you spend your precious time — then you might start with this article, “How Much Money is Enough?” If you want something meatier… you might try Rochester’s own, Pam Klainer’s book, “How Much is Enough,” where she helps each of us explore the power of our own ‘money story’ and how to use the story to help us craft the life/legacy we truly want.

Photo Credit: Diamond Age  jurvetson

“Failure is a Process … You Have to Fail Over and Over”

“Failure is a process … you have to fail over and over and over again to get anything that’s worthwhile.” Jules Feiffer cartoonist

Feel like a failure? You’re actually winning. Watch this 40 second video about the power of failure. According to Mr. Feiffer, you need to continuously try new things and fail in order to create anything worthwhile. Think about raising children. If you think you didn’t fail over and over again… I suspect you are kidding yourself.

Think about nature. Evolution is a series of failures in order to find the best way forward: the flower that is drought resistant or the leaf that absorbs water more effectively.

I am teaching a new online course. Learning the software is driving me crazy. Just when I think I have learned something, it appears that I forget it. And this is happening live, in front of my students. Humbling to say the least.

Think of the last time you failed. Did you curl up in a ball? Did you try to deny it? Were you ashamed? This last is the worst of it. Failure is a sign that you are trying. If you can’t think of the last time you failed, then you are either not paying attention or you aren’t trying anything new. The old saying, nothing ventured, nothing gained, warns us to keep trying new things. To live fully we need to fall on faces from time to time.

Photo credit: Fig leaf John Leach

If you are unfamiliar with Jules Feiffer’s delightful cartoons (as well as the rest of his body of work), check him out.