Cheers: Just Follow Your Nose, It Always Knows

Guy Kawasaki’s   Holy Kaw!  segment on led me to an interesting article in WSJ titled, No Glass Ceiling for the Best Job in the World by David Kesmodel.  In this article he reflects how even though men account for nearly 73% of the beer-drinking market, women apparently are better tasters when it comes to testing new product.

Though I could reflect on how stereotypes have prevented employers from identifying top talent, what struck me most in this article is how often it is that people can go through their entire lives without ever noticing or identifying what their talents or gifts are.

The article mentions how Miller Brewing recruited women in-house from marketers and secretaries to see if any of them had any talent as professional tasters.  I imagine that in that quest, they identified some true talent–talent that would be more valuable applied in tasting than whatever else they were doing for the company.

It makes me wonder What if these individuals worked in some other manufacturing outfit, say auto parts?  What if they limited their search to individuals that had already established themselves as tasters (must have experience!)?

Apparently, there was an element of randomness or happenstance that allowed these opportunities to occur.  But in regards to identifying what your talent is, there is another gem in the article, where a Polish beer taster reflects how she is not quite sure why she is an adept beer-taster. Her best guess is that she loved to smell perfumes as a child.

Here are two things that can be learned from this woman in regards to career:

  1.  One way to identify your career calling is to identify something that brings (or brought) you pleasure.  The woman who enjoyed playing and experimenting with aromas now gets paid to identify minute tastes and aromas in beer. What did you love to do/spend hours doing when you were a child?  Might this thing have any context in what you do now for a living?
  2. Try not to disregard anything that is (or was) unique about you.  Enjoying perfumes might seem so trivial in most any context, but look what it led to for this woman?

Placebo or Nocebo: Which Pill Will You Swallow?

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to get my Swine Flu immunization. Quite a few people in my circle have been getting sick, and the media’s pervasive coverage of this illness would make it seem that the pending pandemic is potentially pernicious enough to rival the Black Plague or something so dramatic. So, with that, I determined, “Why not?”

While waiting in the doctor’s office, I grabbed the news magazine on the top and began reading. I cannot tell you the date or name of the publication, nor the name of the article, but what I read was quite fascinating indeed.

Most of us are familiar with the placebo effect, where an inert pill (commonly sugar) is given to a patient who is then told that the said pill will have therapeutic effect. Lo and behold, the condition of some patients improves, because the patient merely believes that the placebo will help them.

The article I read spoke that the opposite effect or nocebo sometimes occurs with patients who are told that a treatment might have undesirable side effects. We have seen how pharmaceutical companies (almost laughably) toss in their “undesirable side effects” disclaimers in the television ads for new medications. It turns out that when people are under the impression that a medication “may hurt” or bring about these undesirable side effects when given an inert treatment, they often feel the negative effects.

This got me thinking of the negativity that surrounds recession times. How does the media coverage of mass layoffs and unemployment rates impact your perception? I often find myself acknowledging that accomplishing various career or job search goals is difficult because of the times we are facing. Am I doing my clients (or myself) a favor by “pragmatically” observing that there are less jobs out there right now, therefore making their job search more difficult–or am I rather feeding a nocebo negativity, deterring them from an optimism that would feed their motivation and allow them to remain persistent in the hopes that they will soon find success?

After reading this article, I am determined to stick with the latter perception, and dwell on the positive as Pollyannaish as this may be. Perception is key. Those that are able to ignore the naysayers and who persistently pursue their goals and dreams are the ones who can change the world, innovate, and achieve the most. How does your perception of yourself, your situation, and of the greater world around you impact your achievement? Do you allow failures to derail you, or do you see them rather as opportunities to learn so that you will ultimately be successful toward whatever it is you are questing for?

Your attitude or perception can either be a placebo or nocebo regardless of what situation you face. If the distance between hard and impossible is a thousand miles wide, imagine then what can be done, no matter what barriers you currently face. Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” Can you imagine a better economy? A better job? A better life? A better world? Take the positive pill and you can find whatever remedy you are seeking.

Surviving the Recession Drought

I don’t suspect that I will ever look at nature with the ego-dissolving spiritual intensity of Eckhart Tolle or his Transcendentalist predecessors, but I do enjoy the meditative solitude of being out in nature and am often inspired by it. And so yesterday, I decided to fully enjoy an hour-long hike. In that brief outing, I did have some remarkable revelations. First, I realized that though I have now been exercising regularly (thanks, Craig), I have a long way to go if I want to tackle steep inclines at a brisk pace. But more significantly, I was inspired by the mostly dry and dead vegetation. Brown and tan weeds abound throughout the hills of Southern California in the summertime, a side-effect of the sunny and cloud-free climate that otherwise makes the area so popular. Though these dead and brittle weeds are more likely to spark up in flames than to spark inspiration, yesterday I noticed something remarkable. While most of the plants looked dead, some plants somehow remained green in the midst of a drought-arid season. How can it be that these plants thrive while their immediate neighbors are dying from an unfavorable season? What made these plants better adapted to handle the harsh environment that they were planted in? Were they merely fortunate to have had their seeds land in a shadier area or somewhere closer to the water table, or was it more that they had the proper genetic make-up to flourish?
These same questions can be applied to people in a recession economy. With less wealth, many jobs have dried up. And many who still have jobs are feeling the stress of pending layoffs and carrying the slack of a lean workforce. Having access to a rainmaker might be nice right about now in this economy, but let us remember: we are not plants. Unlike plants, we do not need to be rooted in an environment that does not allow us to thrive. And not only can we move, but we also have potential to adapt quickly to our changing environment to get more favorable results. You may feel ties to your unfulfilling job/occupation just because you have been planted there for so long. Perhaps you are afraid to move because for the most part, nothing looks better around you (there really was not much green on my hike yesterday.) Maybe you are feeling resentful at your peers who are experiencing success right now, while for you, every day is a struggle. Perhaps you have not discovered changes you might make in yourself that might bring you greater success with the cards that you have been dealt. So you grew up in a dysfunctional home, think you are too shy to network and market yourself, or you have always wanted to do something but are too afraid or just don’t know how to start. How far can the apple travel from the tree? How much can you grow, adapt, and learn? And what changes/adaptations might you strive for so that you can flourish?
And maybe it is most important to appreciate things already in you that can make life favorable. What is unique and special about you? What things have you done already that have rewarded you with achievement or success? Perhaps there is nothing wrong with you or what you are doing (or are trying to do) and now is just a test of perseverance and endurance. I assure you that soon after the temperatures cool and a few rains kick in, some of these same plants that looked dead yesterday will spring back to life, and begin to even flourish more than their neighbors who now seemingly have an advantage in the dry season.
Move, change, or stay rooted in persistence and determination: you have options. Though it is not always clear what option is best, whatever option you choose for yourself, carry with it a seed of hope and optimism—for that is the one thing that allows life to abound in any environment.

Be Incredible

A few weeks ago I was watching a television airing of The Incredibles. Don’t ask why I sometimes do this when I own the DVD of a film, but that would be another topic. What I wanted to dwell on is more like what Pamela Slim does with Cinderella and appreciate how accurately career development is portrayed in a story marketed for children.
At the beginning of the movie, Mr. Incredible loves his job as a super hero so much, that he nearly misses his own wedding in order to do his job. Though I would hope that this is not the extreme it would take to prove that your job is ideally fitting, it is certainly a sign that you have found your element. This is then contrasted with when he is compelled to give up his job as superhero and try to fit in the banal and dubious role of insurance clerk. Are his weight gain and general dissatisfaction at home all due to this change in career? We would have to at least suspect such.
Again, we see how he is still drawn to what is most authentic, surreptitiously sneaking out with Frozone to fight crime. What do you find yourself voluntarily doing with your free time? What do your leisure pursuits possibly communicate about what you might be doing for your work life?
Lastly, we get the immediate transformation once Mr. Incredible is summoned to the mysterious island to fight the evil robot. The results are dramatic: he is empowered and invigorated, he is inspired to take better care of his health, passion has returned to his marriage, and he is better connected with his family in general. This is perhaps the most significant picture message that can be derived from the film. The insurance job is so exaggeratedly unfitting as Mr. Incredible can barely fit in his confining cubicle/office chair.
Are you “stuck” in a job because you are afraid to leave it because of the “security” it provides for your family? If the job makes you miserable, what are you really providing for your family anyway, when your energy and presence is perhaps the most significant gift you can provide? And is it any wonder that when the entire family is allowed to be their true selves, the bond between them is the greatest?
The truth is, when you have found the most fitting work, it makes you feel incredible. How would you like to feel like a rock star or superhero every day? And then imagine what that would do for every aspect of your life.

Is Your Work Worth Dying For?

The other evening, I watched a fascinating lecture on UCTV, the television channel that broadcasts lectures from the University of California. The particular lecture I was watching was one given by Laura A. Schmidt, titled Health in America: Whats Health Reform Got to Do with It? In it, Dr. Schmidt discusses the sociological dynamics of healthcare, and identifies something that has long been asserted by career development professionals. She suggests that the less autonomy people have at work, the more stress they tend to experience in life. And the more stress one experiences, the more likely they are to also experience the most damaging health care problems experienced by Americans. Her point was effectively made by graphs showing the incidence of major health problems correlated with social status. Those who are marginalized or who have lower status were more susceptible to health ailments, while those who have the greatest amount of control in their work had the least health problem incidence.
Though her points were made to influence how the United States approaches health care policy, they make an equally compelling statement about the workforce of the country. Is it really worth it to stay in a job that has you so stressed out that you are miserable? If you consider how EXPENSIVE health care is in its present state, and how a job where you do not feel empowered with autonomy or competent enough to feel like you are effective can be harmful to your health or even kill you, is it worth it?
How much control and autonomy do you have at your work? Are your daily tasks the kinds of tasks that you are good at, that you enjoy doing? If you are lacking in your work in either regard, take a moment to consider how your job is impacting your health. Does your job leave you feeling so drained that you are not motivated to exercise? Is it so stressful that you resort to not-so-healthy practices like binge eating, eating high-fat or high-sugary foods, drinking to excess, or using other harmful drugs? If so, strive for something better and work towards it. Work that makes you feel good about yourself will probably motivate you to also take better care of your health. So when you do this, I imagine, you are taking a step toward healthy living, and you might be more naturally inclined to be healthy in more areas in your life. Imagine if everyone loved their jobs. If that were the case, perhaps there would be no need for health care reform, because there would be no crisis in health costs to begin with.

Brush That Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Approximately six months ago I began the process of transferring and transforming my blog from an old site to a new site. Though this process began with a passionate fury, I found myself bogged down when it came to deciding which WordPress theme I should use. I am still as frugal as they come—so I limited myself to free themes, and even with that limit—there were ENDLESS options, and none that I came upon were something that I liked—something that I could call ME. Months passed with me stuck only on choosing a theme. And then, I found one that was good enough. But by then, I felt so badly about not writing for so long that it then took a month or two for me to get back on my mission and do what I set out to do in this blog which was to write honest, inspirational, and sometimes witty blog entries sharing my knowledge and experience. I procrastinated. I procrastinated because I was dismayed that my way of establishing a new blog format and domain was taking a hiatus of over six months and essentially turning my new blog into an instant ghost town. I guess the kick I needed was the combination of reading a blog posting from Leo Babauta from Zen Habits about killing excuses and a Facebook posting on Independence Day from fitness trainer

Craig Ballantyne:“If you fall ‘off the wagon’, cut your losses, don’t worry about it, and get right back on track. Immediately. It’s minor damage that can be dealt with.”

I have given others similar advice in the past—but admittedly, it is more difficult to step back into something after you have let it slide for a while. I am back, determined to bring new life to my domains—virtually and in reality. And here is the essence of success in career and in all of life’s endeavors: do not get lost in barriers, setbacks, insignificant details, or general comfort and complacency. My inability to choose a blog theme could easily be related to the existential challenge we all face which is connecting with the right theme for your unique self. When we are in a period of transition, it is sometimes difficult to create a new path or theme for ourselves. Though this consideration is most important, the pitfall is getting lost in possibilities and not making progress at all. Wherever you are in life, stay committed to your continual growth and dedicated to understanding your unique God-given role in the universe and how to use that role to your greatest potential.

Change You Need

Obama is moments away from taking office. Already there are naysayers criticizing his lofty promises or accusing him of being an extension of the crooked politics that abound in Illinois. Even many who voted for him and currently support him are somewhat sceptical about his immediate ability to attack all the the problems his administration will inherit.

Regardless of how you feel about the new President, there is something to be said about his promise for change and the bold willingness he has to lead the United States. Considering the great social strides that have been made between the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. and the historical magnificence of what is to occur tomorrow, there is amazing hope and possibility in change.

But what about personal change? Perhaps circumstances in your life are troubling or even overwhelming to you. I have seen a lot of people who have had difficulty finding work or finding work that is enough to provide sustenance for their families. I have worked with those that hate their jobs, but still continue to stay in them. The first thing I try to remind these people (as I sometimes must remind myself) is that although our efforts to improve our lives or solve our problems are not always met with success, real change and improvement are only possible with effort. Complacency and denial are far worse enemies than the problems we face themselves, because there is little hope that the problems will go away if they are never faced.

To make this point while also acknowledging the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and the pending inaugural history, I quote the great writer, James Baldwin, who wrote powerfully for the social change that he believed in an age of institutionalized racism and segregation:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Now, being the time of the new year and the time of a new executive administration is a good time to reflect on the changes you would like in your own life. Be bold and face the areas in your life that need to be changed. Courageously face areas that need to be improved. Face the things you would like to change today, and hopefully the result you will have is being able to face a better tomorrow.

Facebook Insanity

It took quite a while and a whole lot of resistance, but three weeks ago, I signed up for Facebook as an additional means for me to expand my network and general branding. I had avoided Facebook because I was worried its application was less professional and sophisticated than what I was already using. Moreover, already on Twitter and LinkedIn for sometime, it did not make sense for me to add anything else because I really did not want to be too preoccupied with social networking management.

Nonetheless, one of my best friends entreated me to try it—and I have to say I have really enjoyed the experience so far and am amazed at its potential. But I do have some warnings about the pitfalls that one (including me) can easily fall into. I think I can assume that most professionals are aware that it is not advisable to post anything questionable because employers will do background checks for anything dubious. Scrupulously, I naturally only posted my professional profile picture and some of my favorite pictures of me with the kids. Still I could not anticipate what happened to me once I did sign up. The majority of my Facebook friends were old high school friends from twenty years ago. In high school, I was a prankster—and it was not long before I allowed myself to regress to my high school mind set in my Facebook interactions. There are countless silly applications on Facebook. You can pass around a drink, throw snowballs, invite others to play online games, kidnap others, give hugs, kisses, and somethings that I think are unmentionable. And in the three weeks that I have been on Facebook, all of these things happened to me. So much for maintaining a professional image. This in part was the inspiration for me to do my last post on being as mad as hell–a voice that was certainly more alive in me as a teenager.

Fortunately, one can do a few things to escape this miry mess. I have included a few that I am aware of:

  • Create more than one profile, and have one profile that is strictly professional, restricting access to your other profiles.
  • In the Facebook controls, you can control what information gets posted on your wall and broadcasted to others. If you do not want the rest of the world to know that you completed a drug deal in the game Mob Wars, simply deactivate the posts so that this information is not broadcast. Additionally, all posts can be deleted—so if you forgot to exclude an inappropriate post, you can still erase it before it becomes damaging.
  • You can “hide” from individuals who you do not want to associate with your Facebook profile.

Now if only someone could advise me on dealing with the present addiction I have with some of these games my friends relentlessly invite me to.

Your Inspiring Book

It was just the other week when I wrote about getting life back into a sense of balance. Since then, I have made progress in my own life, moving in the direction of my choice, but I acknowledge that I still need to take greater charge and face hurdles that I have still avoided.

Today, I read a most-inspiring posting on this topic from Gail over at Inspire Me Today. If you ever start to feel like you are an actor in your life instead of the author, here is an excellent framing that will help remind you to take charge and move toward what you really want, making the most of everyday.

Here’s a small excerpt of Gail’s posting, Get Out of the Book:

Just because the world is hurled at me- I don’t have to catch it! I have the choice in that moment to jump in and play, or not. Once I remembered that I am the author, everything became easier. Nothing was as serious as it seemed just moments before. I have the power to make the choice to play the game or not- and today, I’m just not playing. I shut the book and put it down. There are more fun things to do, so instead, I’m rewriting the script to fit the day I choose to experience.

Take time to reflect on how you are approaching each day, and dwell on how you wish to write it. Even if things are thrown at you, you are the author of your attitude and the way you therefore create and perceive the story of your life.

Elusive Life Balance

The present transitions in my life have inspired me to reveal what my internal motivational coach is prodding in a self-talk of sorts. Honestly, I am struggling. I feel like my life is out of balance, and I am not focused on moving beyond where I do not want to be and moving forward in the direction that I chose to go. And this is more related to my life at home than it is with my job, but career consists of all of the facets of one’s life and is not limited to paid occupations.

For one, I have found myself too busy to be the loyal blogger that I set out to be, and yet I know I have the kind of ideas that potentially can inspire others daily. Why have I not found the time to dedicate myself to this enjoyment? Whenever my life becomes more of what I feel I have to do and less of what I want to do, I try to reassess what I am doing and regain the balance that I have somehow relinquished.

What gives you energy? What drives you? How much of your waking hours are you doing such things? Ideally, whether your quest is for any combination of fulfillment, enjoyment, actualization, meaning, productivity, or leaving behind a legacy, the goal is to have this vitality in the largest proportion possible. This vitality for you might be only one thing, or a fine mix of many things. For some, it is recreational fun, for others it is excelling in a gift or talent, or perhaps it is the satisfaction of making a difference.

The trick of life balance is to take a moment to analyze how you are spending each day. Are you doing what you want to do with your life? If not, are you taking risks and making sacrifices that will help you grow and develop in a way that will ultimately get you there? If your life is anything otherwise, it is time for you to challenge yourself. Take a risk. Be courageous. Persevere through adversity. Dream and take charge.

Think life as similar to the journey of the tightrope walker. Even if the path of life were as linear and tight as a tightrope, one must constantly adjust their balance bar to successfully get anywhere. Add in the chaos and curves that reality throws in, and realize that the “balance” in life is the result of vigilant efforts to constantly adjust without ever hesitating too long when the feeling of falling seems to overwhelm. Instead, maintain your composure when you otherwise feel you might lose your step. Move forward, onward, above, and beyond. With the right balance, you can go far and do amazing things.