Tag Archives: self-improvement

¿Que hay mas allá del borde?

JumpSiento miedo. Claro que siento miedo. 

¿O piensas que porque escribo un blog acerca de varios temas – entre ellos lo vital que es enfrentar nuestros miedos – no siento miedo?  ¿Acaso como crees que sé que es importante enfrentar miedos – en el camino a alcanzar nuestras metas? Simplemente porque lo he vivido con mi propia piel.  Por eso es que se.

Entonces hoy me doy permiso de sentir miedo – y de confesárselo al mundo. 

Siento miedo de que no alcance metas que me he propuesto y para las cuales he desarrollado planes y estrategias.  ¿Que tal si fracaso – aun así después de tanto esfuerzo, dedicación, intención y compromiso?

Que susto ¿ah?

Si, siento susto – también siento mucho gusto.

Me da gusto saber que independiente de los resultados que obtenga – le estoy dando lo mejor de mí a mi vida.  Que constantemente estoy buscando vivir con mi mejor versión.  Expresando mis fortalezas al máximo, retándome, extendiendo mis límites, aprendiendo sin cesar.

Así sé que, gane o pierda, viví al máximo – y sin arrepentimiento.

Si por otro lado, no lo intento – o si nivelo mis expectativas con mis miedos – aunque alcance esas metas mas bajas – eso solo dejara arrepentimiento.  Y jamás descubriré que hay mas allá del borde, cual es mi potencial , o que hubiera sido realmente posible. Jamás. (ouch!)

Entonces con mis miedos y demás defectos abordo – y claro esta con mis fortalezas y demás cualidades – me voy con toda.  Así es que puedo garantizar que no me arrepentiré de cómo viví mi vida – esta única que nos han dado.

Cuéntame, ¿que hay mas allá de tu borde?

Buena foto, ah? Gracias flickr

Why on Earth are you here?

Even during an economic downturn, finding meaning in our lives is not a privilege reserved only for a select few – it’s everyone’s responsibility.

At the risk of sounding too preachy, I’ll borrow some insight from Jewish wisdom that says: ”The day that you were born was the day that G-d decided that the world could no longer live without you.”

That means two things:

First, that we all matter to this world. 

Second, that it is up to each one of us to find out exactly why we were put on Earth – so that we can fulfill our unique purpose. (I can assure you that while paying bills is part of life’s package – it is not anyone’s main reason for being)

Here I share with you the process that helped me uncover what I’ve come to call my reason for being.

To get your mental juices flowing, take time to imagine what you would do with your life if you did not have any bills to pay.  If it helps your imagination, take some time to relax before you answer this question.   Close you eyes if it helps you relax.  Take a few deep breaths.  Let it all go.  Once your mind is still, imagine that it’s your 80th birthday (or 100th depending on your gene pool).  What would you like your friends and family to say about your achievements and your contributions?  What about your adventures?

Now consider the following three dimensions of your work life:

  1. Distinguishing skill: This is something that not only you are able to do well, but you are well known for at work.  Think about the tasks or projects for which you are the ‘go to person’.  For example, among my friends, I’m the go-to-person for career advice.  It’s been that way for several years even before I decided to write a book on the subject.
  2. Predominant interest:  It’s possible that you have many interests.  Even so, pay close attention – observe yourself.  What one interest do you keep going back to?  Which is the one that has not been a passing fad in your life?  If you’ve been drawn to fads all your life, what is the theme of those fads? In my case self-improvement has been the undercurrent of most of my interests.  Whether I’ve taken up meditation, read books on leadership, or spent time learning about health and nutrition.  The predominant theme of all these activities is self-improvement.  Consequently I’ve read hundreds of books that are directly related to the subject.
  3. Obvious strength:  Beyond being a skill or something that you can do, it is part of your essence as a person.  It is not something that you learned through practice.  Instead, it’s something you can do innately.  For example, people who know me well, like my husband of eight years and some of my bosses, have mentioned that I’m great at persuading people about things I believe in.  I did not learn how to do this – and no one taught me this. It’s something I do – and I don’t know why.  If you’re having trouble identifying this, ask people who know you well.  Ask colleagues, bosses, relatives or friends.

Where your distinguishing skill (career advice), predominant interest (self-improvement) and obvious strength (persuasion) intersect is your unique reason for being.

When I took time to complete this exercise, I discovered that my reason for being is:

To inspire and empower people around the world to create, follow and succeed on their path and consequently become better citizens of planet Earth.  To achieve this I will empower you with insight and know-how to claim control over your career and succeed on your own terms.

It’s your turn now.  I’d love to know why on earth were you put on Earth. 

10 tell tale signs of a meaning LESS job

According to Jewish Mysticism (a.k.a. Kabbalah) the number 9 represents truth*.  Since it’s 2009, I’ve taken the liberty to declare this my year of finding my own truth. 

Part of my commitment has been to discover what gives meaning to my life.  That includes finding meaningful work.  Those things that bring meaning to my life are what I call my truth.  And as I have my truth, I  believe that you do as well.  Some of you may already know what that is.  In case you don’t, read on to see how you can tell if your current job is devoid of meaning.

Here are the tell tale signs:

1.      You feel that it’s enough to do as little as possible in your job. 

2.      You start to crave external rewards, like bonuses, a pat on the back or a ‘well done’ from your boss.

3.      You play the blame game – and flick-off responsibility for your well-being at work to your boss or employer.

4.      You are stuck focusing on ‘what happened?’ rather than ‘what can I do?’ whenever a challenge comes your way.

5.      Little annoyances feel like big obstacles.

6.      It seems that most of your friends’ jobs are better than yours.

7.      You feel jealous – instead of happy – for other people’s achievements.

8.      You spend more time planning your next holiday than developing a five year plan for your career.

9.      Drudgery rather than excitement is your prevailing mood during the week.

10.  Paying bills is your only reason for being – and for getting out of bed every morning.

In my next post I’ll share with you an exercise I completed that brought me closer to finding my truth at work .

Stay tuned.


*Thank you Rabbi Shuey Rosemblum for sharing your wisdom.

Is your job meaning full or empty?

On my latest trip to South America I met a remarkable woman who I’ll call Maria.

Maria took care of my grandfather for many years until the second that life left him a week ago at age 96.*  As thankful as I am for her unconditional support and care for grandpa Pipo during his last years, that’s not the reason why I found her to be a special person.

Here’s why. 

After the funeral, Maria and I became quite close and she opened up to me.  During one of our last conversations she confessed that she had a dilemma and asked me for some advice.  She was in the middle of deciding whether to accept what most of her colleagues would consider an attractive job offer.   My grandfather’s second wife offered Maria the opportunity to stay working in her household and keep her company for an indefinite period of time.  In her new role she would not be required to take care of sick or elderly people.  In essence, Maria was offered a cruisy job for a very competitive pay.  Even so, Maria was conflicted because she happens to take pride and find meaning in her nursing role.  Keeping a healthy person company – although is easy in comparison  – does not give Maria the fulfillment that she finds in knowing that thanks to her, an elderly person has a better quality of life during their last years on Earth.

Maria’s dilemma reminded me of a situation I encountered some years ago while I was attending a sales conference as a medical sales representative.  During an afternoon break I overheard one of the more senior sales reps say to a group of rookies that they should give their new job at least six months, because after they got the hang of things, they wouldn’t have to do much – and still get paid well.  That conversation has stayed with me over the years because I’m still trying to figure out how someone can stay at a job where they get paid to do ‘not much’.  In this situation one might think that employees are short-changing their employer.   In my mind, the only one getting short-changed is the employee who is wasting their lifetime doing ‘not much.’

New York Times best-selling author and ultra-vagabond Tim Ferriss may not agree with me.  He might argue that making money without having to work is the ideal scenario because it means that there’s time to do other things in life – like dance Tango.  That’s fine by me if a vagabond existence brings meaning to someone’s life.  If it doesn’t, then a cruisy job comes only at the expense of the employee – not the employer.

Like Maria, doing something that I find meaningful brings meaning to my life.  That is one of the reasons I go to work.  The question is what brings meaning to your life?  Is that what you’re spending your lifetime on?


*Thanks everyone for your kind words and support. Given that Grandpa Pipo passed painlessly at 96, I feel sad that he is gone, but happy that he had a full life and I’m hopeful that he is in a better place. Fingers crossed that I inherited his gene pool!

Nimble is the way

Even if I may not always agree with what Dr. Sullivan has to say over at ere.net (like what he wrote about talent swapping), his out-of-the-box thinking is quite refreshing.  Recently he wrote an article about proximity recruiting.  Proximity recruiting is about finding candidates through face-to-face interactions – as opposed to non-physical recruiting including job ads and boards.  If you’ve been to a career fair, then you experienced vanilla-flavored proximity recruiting.

In his article Dr. Sullivan presents the example of a start-up company that took proximity recruiting to the next level.  Because I found their story inspiring, here are a few of the details. 

In need of talented staff, when this start-up got tipped by insiders of one of the biggest and most innovative players in the market that they were restructuring and laying off several hundred of their employees, the start-up team got to work.  Rather than passively wait for those employees who lost their jobs or were about to, to find their company on the internet or at the next career fair.   They created their own opportunity to engage in proximity recruiting.  Literally, they set up a taco stand outside the big player’s offices.   As those who were affected by the restructuring left the building, they were invited for a free meal – which included a chance to meet and greet the team and learn about job opportunities. 

Some might see this as a desperate and maybe even unethical move – because it can be said that the start-up’s aim was to steal talent from the other company.  Fair enough, but it’s already common practice for companies to steal clients from one another – that’s what astronomical sales and marketing budgets are for.  And more important, their strategy worked.    Since in the age of twitter nothing goes unnoticed or stays quiet, the start-up received free publicity – which in the end resulted in more people learning about them – and their innovative ways – and some eventually applied for a job.

The moral of this story is that the start-up used its small size to its advantage.   In a nutshell, they were nimble because they were quick, responsive and resourceful. 

You and I as job seekers can choose to follow their lead.  In the current economic climate being nimble – as employees or self-employed – is a necessity.

How are you thinking outside-the-box?  Or are you staying stuck, paralyzed by your fears, waiting for the calm to restore?

*Thank you sportsscribe at flickr for the photo

Be Where Like-minded Young Professionals Go for Advice

It has been an active end of year. 

My first book is in the editing stage, my posts are appearing on more and more places in the blogoshpere (thanks everyone for your support!) and I’ve been invited to contribute to a number of blogging communities.  

As I shared with you earlier, I’m now part of the Women For Hire Be Gutsy Blog.  I’m also part of the blogging communities over at Damselsinsuccess and of course Brazencareerist.  To my absolute delight, recently I was invited to contribute to the Tools For Life blog at Qvisory.

Very much in line with my own vision, Qvisory is a nonprofit online advocacy and service that was created specifically to help 18 to 34 year olds take control of their money, their career and their health. I’m thrilled to be part of their team of volunteer contributors.  I’ll update my posts regularly.

In my first post I cover the pros of having a day job before going into business on your own.  Based on my own experiences as a serial entrepreneur and strategic job hopper, these are some of the tips you’ll find: 

1.    Make mistakes on someone else’s tab

2.    Receive free training

3.    Get ideas

Read more of: Why Bother With a Day Job When You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?

And no, this is not a self-promotion. My intention in sharing this with you is to pass on a few online resources which I’ve found valuable in more ways than one.  

Happy, healthy and abundant holidays everyone!

*Like the picture? Go to flickr

Working with your family: a privilege or a curse? (part 2 of 2)

In an earlier post I shared with you my positive experiences while working in my mom’s business.        

To give you the full story, here are some of the major downsides of working with your family:

‘Mommy’s little girl’ syndrome:  Although it’s possible that you’ll achieve  almost instant trust with your family, you might have to work extra hard for other colleague’s respect and support.  Personally, while working in my mom’s business, at times I felt that my authority and competence were questioned simply because some of my colleagues saw me as mommy’s girl.

The shop’s always open:  Often times, for the sake of the business, shop-talk can take away time from sharing with your parents things outside of work.  It might even be the focus during family gatherings.  At times I felt that I was loosing access to the personal side of my mom because we were mainly talking shop.  However after some time I realized that nothing was lost.  It was more a case that our relationship was changing and evolving.

Increased tension:  Undoubtedly adding the business dimension to a family relationship is bound to increase the tension.  Be prepared for there to be differences of opinion on matters that impact more than at what time you can borrow the family car or at what time you can come back from a party.  In our family’s case the tension was manageable and did not have any lasting negative effects, but I can certainly see how working with parents can easily hurt relationships which are fragile to begin with.

Un-real expectations:  While the risks of working in a family business are real – it’s your inheritance that’s on the line – it’s possible that your family will be unrealistically kind and understanding towards you.  Personally, I experienced a mini-rude awakening when I went to work at other organizations, in the ‘real world’.  To begin with my bosses were not as nurturing and forgiving as only a parent can be.

Too comfortable to grow:  If your parents tend to be protective of you, it might lead to you getting too comfortable.  Although my mom is very demanding of me, I know that at the end of the day she’s bound to forgive me.  Knowing this made me a bit soft and at times I found myself not pushing myself as far as I tended to in other organizations.

If like me you have the option to work in your family’s business, the best approach would be to get experience in other organizations – say for 2 to 5 years – and then go carry your family’s torch.  The reasoning behind this is very much in line with what I wrote in an earlier post about college graduates with entrepreneurial spirits (like me) getting a day job before jumping in to their own business.

What do you think?

(Photo from Jill Greenberg’s exhibition End of Times)

Working with your family: a privilege or a curse? (part 1 of 2)

Based on my experience working in and out of my family’s business, I know that while there certainly are advantages, working with parents is not all fun and games.

Here I share with you the major perks that I lived in my first job out of college while working as the assistant manager of my mom’s restaurant group. (In my next post you’ll hear the other side of the story)

This is part of my inheritance – I trust that you’ll spend it wisely:

Trust and responsibility:  If like me you have a solid relationship with your parents, working in their business could mean that you reach a level of trust and responsibility that you’ll find hard to match in any other organization.  I found this to be the case particularly when I worked in entry-level jobs at other companies.  While I felt I was trusted, I was never really entrusted with the level of responsibilities that I had almost since day one when I was working with my mom’s business.

Quick approval for projects:  Because of the high level of trust, it’s quite possible that your projects will be approved faster than in any other organization.  After all it’s likely that you’ll have more pull with the decision maker.

Ups expectations:  Admittedly taking on more responsibilities in an entry level job can mean a steeper learning curve.  However, it can also set a higher benchmark for your career.  (Later I’ll talk about the downside of that)

Easy access to a solid network:  By association with your parents, it is quite possible that you’ll have faster access to a network of decision makers, key opinion leaders and other people high up in the pecking order in the business community.  Personally, I discovered that developing the same level of rapport on my own took longer.

Carry the torch:  Working in the family business means that you’ll play an integral part in continuing your family’s legacy – which some day you’ll be able to pass on to your own children. 

Bonding:  By virtue of experiencing more things with your parents, like facing the challenges of running a business, you’ll end up bonding more with them.  I found that I got to know things about my mom that I otherwise wouldn’t, like her gift for influencing others without being authoritative.

I’d LOVE to learn from your experiences.

And stay tuned for the other side of the story.

Talent Swapping – a Threat or an Opportunity?

Evil, evil, evil is what I was thinking after re-reading for the third time an article on talent swapping over at ere.net (“a premier online community for recruiters, with more than 95,000 unique visitors per month”)

To let you in on my thoughts, I’ll start by defining a S.W.A.P. (Strategically Waving Average Performers).

In the words of Dr. John Sullivan who is a well-known thought leader in HR and called the “Michael Jordan of Hiring” by Fast Company magazine, it means:

“borrowed from the professional sports industry…In sports, winning is everything, and it is a common practice for team management to externally seek out a “superior” player in a key position to replace a struggling player. When the team finds an available star, they “SWAP” or replace their struggling player…When applied to the corporate world, a S.W.A.P. initiative proactively replaces poor performers in a key job only when an arguably/measurably better candidate has been identified and successfully recruited by the talent management function.”1

Read that one more time in case by now it’s not clear to you that in the end of a S.W.A.P. an employee loses their job as a result of a deliberate measure from management to clean out ordinary performers.

At the very least, talent swapping is evil, but I’m also thinking that it’s out of touch.  Dr. Sullivan decided to write the article and then ere.net decided to publish it on 24 Nov. – a time when over a million people have been laid-off because of cut-backs.2  Talk about trying to be part of the solution…not.

What were both parties thinking? 

I’m not naïve.  I know that a lot of people, including recruiters, are struggling during the economic downturn. Masquerading as an idea to increase productivity in the work place, talent swapping is just another revenue-generating tool for recruiters.  Put in very simple terms, a candidate is hired by a company and ka-ching! out goes a cut for the recruiter.  As one who also has bills to pay, it would be hypocritical on my part to blame recruiters for looking outside the box for new streams of income.  (In that sense Dr. Sullivan gets an A+ for creativity.)

And here’s what Dr. Sullivan was thinking.  Among other things, he thinks that an economic down turn, because of higher than average lay-offs, is a perfect time for companies to go hunting for top talent.  Okay, I also get that.  While a poor performer looses their job, a top performer gets a job – that was not open by a traditional way.  I can somewhat see the silver lining in that.

What I find most uncomfortable (and to me sounds like war drums) is what Dr. Sullivan thinks is one of the advantages of such an initiative:

 “It sends a clear message to all employees that continuous improvement of skills and ability to perform is as much an individual’s responsibility as it is the organization’s, and provides real consequences for those who ignore the mandate.”

A bit harsh don’t you think?

And by the way, according to Dr. Sullivan’s online bio, he’s “a frequent speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley firms.  Formerly the chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies – the 43,000-employee HP spin-off – he is now a professor of management at San Francisco State University” 

Translation:  your employer has potentially paid for his advice.

In saying this, I am not one to play the cog employee victim card – far from.  (check out my bio if you need proof of this)

Instead, to me this is a great opportunity to point out the idea that even as employees we are self-employed.  More than anything that means that career advancement is  each person’s responsibility.  Leaving it up to an employer, aside from feeling like watching the grass grow – is simply risky business.  Potentially the same team in the HR department that designed your company’s career development program is also an advocate of S.W.A.P.  Contradictory to say the least, don’t you think?

Dr. Sullivan’s article also makes it clear that there are more opportunities for top performers.  That means that your track record is your ticket to ride during good and bad times.

This is what I think.  I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts.

Networking for loners (made easy)

I confess.  In most areas of my life I’m a loner.

Sports have been a major part of my life ever since I can remember.   And for the most part I’ve gravitated towards individual activities.  Singles tennis, running, skateboarding, biking, swimming.  All of which involve very minimal interaction with other people – if any at all.  Don’t get me wrong, I can handle having another person next to me on a court or a field, but more than that and it becomes a threat to my existence (kinda’ like what Warhol said about his nudity).

Even though I was nominated ‘best all around’ during my senior year in high-school (I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you) in college I was labelled a GDI (and proud). 

At work I tend to eat lunch alone at my desk.  I’m known for saying ‘no thanks’ to invitations – more so if they involve going out with a group.  It could be because I am a bit of a workaholic that I stay back working, but mostly it’s because I love to sit and enjoy the silence.  That’s how I gather my thoughts and psych myself up for the afternoon.

So how on earth does a loner like me end up making a good living in business development and getting several awards in the process?  When it’s a job that requires that I mingle with people?

Here are my secrets to networking and getting what I want from people:

1. Be genuine:  It is much more likely that people who care about you are those who will help you.  The best way I know how to get people to care about me is for me to care about them.  It really is that simple.  At work functions I apply the 80/20 rule and I only spend time with people I find interesting.  I know that if I bond with one or two people, chances are I’ll be able to get more out of our relationship than if I tap 20 people and move on.  And I’ll enjoy myself along the way because I’ll be dealing with people I genuinely like and who I feel I can be myself around.

2. Don’t wait until you need someone to approach them:  I don’t like being used.  That’s how I know that other people don’t like it either.  To avoid getting to a point where I only contact people when I need them, I stay loosely connected – because I care to know how they are (remember, we bonded at some point).  It’s just like practicing preventive medicine vs the curative kind.  If I approach someone when I need them, it’s too late.  They will sense that I’m using them.  And although they may play along and get me what I want in the short-term, chances are that I’ve lost a relationship.

3. First give:  I love to receive things from people – and it doesn’t have to be big for my energy levels to spike.  A sincere compliment has a similar effect on me as a bunch of flowers – both trigger my serotonin response.  And when someone gives me something – as small as a compliment – I feel good about being nice back to them.  That’s why I know others also feel good about reciprocating after I’ve given them something.  Making deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts has proven to be a good investment.  If you’re thinking that it’s too Machiavellian to go around complimenting people left and right, re-read my secret number one.

4.  Ask, ask, ask:  I admire people who persevere.  And I will go out of my way for people who believe so much in what they’re doing that they’re willing to do anything to see their cause through.  When someone I barely know asks me for something, I find it gutsy, not annoying.  More so, I feel honored that someone with such great qualities considers that I can help them.  That’s why I believe that anyone worth asking will not mind my own asking.

How have you loners out there made it in this network-crazed world?  I’d love to know…