Tag Archives: empoderamiento profesional

You’re a baby step away from your career Nirvana…no bullshitake.

In the 6th century BC, Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher and central figure of Taoism, said:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

To Lao’s words I’d like to add:

”That journey is completed a (baby) step at a time.”

(shame Lao didn’t get to see Bill Murray starring in “What About Bob?”)

History lesson aside, how on earth do you make that work for your career? 


(what da!)

Kaizen is the Japanese word for ‘improvement’.  Kai stands for ‘change’ and Zen for ‘good’.  It’s the name given to the philosophy that focuses on gradual, continuous, and incremental improvements – in every aspect of life.

It’s the implementation of that philosophy that turned the Japanese manufacturing industry into a world superpower after it was blown to pieces during World War II.

Take it from the lion’s mouth – Toyota’s President:

‘Why do you think Toyota has been successful so far?’ ‘We’re doing the same thing we always did: we’re consistent. There’s no genius in our company. We just do whatever we believe is right, trying every day to improve every little bit and piece.  But when 70 years of very small improvements accumulate, they become a revolution’ – Katsuaki Watanabe.

Now I’m determined to make Kaizen part of your modus operandi. 

If you look at the upper-right hand corner of my blog (below my picture), you’ll see a box labeled: Power Boost.  Inside that box, you will find easy-to-action tips that will be updated regularly.  The sum of the tips will lead you to career Nirvana one step at a time – a la Kaizen style. 

No bullshitake.

Power Boosts were designed as a series with the main objective to empower you to claim control of your career and keep you in the seat of power. That means that they follow a logical order which has a beginning, but not an end.  It also means that you can start taking Power Boosts at any time. (What about now!) If you happen to miss one or even a few, don’t sweat it.  I have them saved in an archive – and I’ll happily send them to you. (Simply send me an email or leave a comment.)

To be taken in small – concentrated doses.

It will take you a few minutes each day to action a Power Boost. 

Here’s why?

1. Reading the Power Boost – 10 seconds flat

2. Taking action NOW (Like a shot of fresh wheatgrass, it has a short shelf life) – 1 to 5 minutes, on the clock.

3. Repeating – do the math.

Start small, start NOW!



Not a sports fan? Don’t fake it…

(Networking for Loners revisited)

Shawn Graham’s post about networking over at Courting Your Career got me thinking about – well, networking.  Admittedly he makes a valid point about how following sports is a great strategy to break the ice particularly with people from different backgrounds.   I agree that as a Latin American if I were a football, a basketball or a baseball fan, it may have been easier to connect with others on the US college scene.   Now that I’m living and working in Sydney, I would probably find more connections with locals if I’d be a footy, a rugby or a cricket fan.  However, as much as I enjoy playing tennis, cycling and swimming, I have trouble faking an interest in watching others play – let alone memorizing their stats.  And even when I know that my tennis game is bound to improve from watching the pros at work, I have trouble stretching my attention span to watching a full match.

For those of you who are also at a loss for words when the conversation gravitates towards the latest sporting news, know that there are many other effective ways to connect – without trespassing no-go zones. (My personal ones are: gossiping, politics, sex and religion.)

  1. Food – As an experience we all share and most everyone enjoys, food is a universal glue amongst us all.  Thankfully, unlike sex, it’s acceptable to share our love for it with strangers. There’s also no need to be a gourmand to be an authority on the subject.  Sharing our finds of eateries around town, our sick & twisted encounters during our travels, or our own experiments and creations (whether successful or not) all make for a sure way to bond with people.
  2. Wine, beer and hard liquor – This is not reserved for snobs and it’s certainly not about sharing with strangers what a fool you made of yourself while drunk at last year’s company Christmas party (save that for the bar scene).  There’s more to speaking about booze than drunkenness and hangovers.  Not enough has been said about grape varietals, single malt whisky and boutique beers, seriously.
  3. Books – Only at high school parties it’s uncool to talk about what you’re reading. Sharing with someone what’s on your night-table or your favorite author is a sure way to connect in a non-threatening way.  Personally, whenever I meet someone I find interesting, I ask them about what they’re reading. That’s how I’ve found some really great reads – and bonded with bosses. (feel free to label me ‘geek’) Why if you don’t read? (which I find hard to believe if you’ve made it this far in your career), keep going down the list.
  4. All things culture –There’s no need to try too hard (or dress up) because whether it’s theatre productions, concerts, movies, exhibitions, or the opera, most people enjoy some form of art.  Speaking with others about the many expressions of art is such an easy way to keep your finger on the pulse of culture. As a bonus, you stand to find out about events that you would’ve otherwise missed.
  5. Travel – It’s more the norm than the exception to meet people who have travelled beyond their country borders (except for Bush Jr. – that’s as far as I’ll trespass the no-go zone).  Whatever you do, avoid giving someone a laundry list of all the places you’ve travelled to.  That’s what nouveau travellers do.  Besides, one of the easiest ways to connect with people is by listening.  Also, we all love stories.  Systematically running down a list of all the stamps on your passport is bound to bore people and make you come across as obnoxious. Focus on experiences you’ve lived overseas.   Feel free to throw in tips.
  6. TV shows – How much can you talk about Desperate Housewives at a business meeting without coming across as unprofessional?  For hours if your client is into it as much as you are!  DH aside, it’s likely that people watch some sort of TV show.  Aside from being an easy way to connect with people, finding out what they watch is a good way to learn something more about them. (For the record DH is my favorite form of brain candy and I indulge once a week – not twice – on Monday nights, Sydney time.)
  7. Sports – No, not watching them, playing them. And you don’t need to be a jock (like some have labeled me). In our health conscious world, it’s more common to find people who are active than those who aren’t.  And how refreshing it is to see how the business world no longer revolves around golf. You don’t need to look that hard to find colleagues and clients who regularly run, bike, swim, practice yoga, hike or play basketball, tennis or soccer.  In that sense, I’ve found that sports are a great conversation starter.
  8. Them – So you have this one-of-a-kind individualistic individual in front of you and you’ve failed to connect with them through any of the topics on this list.  What now?  Talk about them. I guarantee that will do the trick. We all love to talk about ourselves – especially with someone who shows a genuine interest in us.  Besides, as humans, you’ll find that we’re not that different from one another. We all have dreams, fears, feelings. Albeit the content of all those may be different, but we experience very similar things.

It is possible to network without faking it.  I know this after trying very hard to fake an interest in watching sports.   After a few failed attempts – marked by falling asleep shortly after the national anthem – I’m glad I stuck to my guns and instead looked for other ways to connect with people. Staying true to myself and sharing my real interests has made a big difference in my own path.  Beyond what faking it would have achieved. Guaranteed.


Photo by Dallas Photoworks.




Short & sweet

Picture shot at Tropfest 2009, the world’s largest short film festival.

Last night over 150,000 people gathered at outdoor venues across Australia to watch 16 short films.  

And what do all those thousands of people have in common?  

A love for all things short – as in brief. 

Note to self: One of the most effective ways to get your point across at work is to keep it short. 

Do your ideas pass the elevator pitch test?  In other words, can you sum up your main ideas in 30 seconds or less – the average time of an elevator ride?

When looking to get buy-in for your ideas, keep in mind that the greatness of ideas is based on others understanding them.


Want to see more photos? flickr

Why my first guest blogger is anonymous

This is a big leap of faith for me.  

For the very first time since this blog was launched I’ve reached out to ask a reader to write a guest post.  This reader is one of those highly talented but unassuming people who likes to fly below the radar.  That’s why he has asked me to keep his post anonymous.  For the purpose of this post, lets call him Joe. (This reader is also in the habit of sending me quite relevant and thought provoking comments via facebook.)
I agreed to publish Joe’s post – even if it meant leaving out his real identity – because I believe that doing so is very much in line with my vision for this blog; and my writing career in general.  In order to inspire and empower my readers, I do not believe that I need to brag about anyone’s flashy titles or qualifications. What adds real value to my readers is a person’s insight and experience.  That is what I believe everyone should wear like a badge of honor – not whether they are a CEO, a director or have an MBA. And that’s exactly why Joe’s words deliver.

I hope that like me, you’ll find many lessons in Joe’s search for his career’s ‘g-spot’.  

Finding “that”*

I was at a funeral recently and arrived a few minutes late.  I was taken aback to hear how inspired and passionate the priest was delivering the speech.  This was probably because he was a close friend of the person who died. He said something very important that we often forget because we are too busy living our daily lives: “Leave a mark before you go and do it by living to the fullest”.
I’ve been thinking about his words ever since.  
Plenty of priests, rabbis, monks, parents and friends repeat this. As do we, but are we really doing it? Only the person inside each of us can really answer this.
When Silvana invited me to participate in this blog I was a bit cautious about what to write.  After considering several subjects, I decided to write about how we go about finding the right career and choosing what we do – because I believe that our decision resonates beyond what most us are aware of.
A career is not about academics or money it is about finding the lifestyle that makes us truly happy, something that if taken away from us, makes us cease to exist.  What we study or even the jobs we hold are not what define us. It’s deeper than that. It is how we chose to live and what we are 24/7 that defines us.
Then how does one go about finding the path to live to the fullest?  
Some are born knowing what they will do, others grow into something, others have a great talent and others happen to find it by some crazy accident.
For me, finding the right path, the right job, the right place to be and live, what I call “that” has come after searching and falling for many years. I have shoved my nose into so many industries, places, jobs and what not that I think I have more stories than answers to the question above.
And what is “that”?
A friend of mine once said that being in love is wanting to be at the same place every day and not getting enough of it. That’s exactly “that” because finding the perfect career or lifestyle is about loving what you do to keep doing it forever.
Today I work in the music business.  I’ve been doing so for over 5 years.  To be honest I am not leaving it until someone drags me out after they have killed me. Growing up I never dreamed of doing something like this nor was music an important part of my life, like it is for everyone in my industry. I stumbled upon it after 6 years of being a serial entrepreneur, working in the telecom industry, recycling, aeronautics and the internet. (I got to know the internet industry quite well when the Y2K stock market bubble blew up in my face, hard.)
I used to think the music business was easy: you have a talented musician, show him on a stage and thousands will come by some magical reason. I decided to embark on this “easy” task by buying music business books and making phone calls.
Then I hit a brick wall so hard it took me a while to get up. This is an industry like any other, governed by laws, treaties, costs, financial projections, negotiations, contracts, inventories, time management and all the little things we deal with in any business. Artists are products.  And I cannot tell you how many thousands or hundreds of thousands there are, plus the millions who want to make it. If you want cutthroat by all means join in.
The difference with other industries is that this is a qualitative one. Every product we sell reaches the senses, nothing more. Music hits the emotions like no other vehicle and for some reason it fit me perfectly because all business decisions are based on how the qualitative mixes in with the quantitative, the money. How do you pick a single for a new album? How do you know how to charge for a single concert? How do you sell your artist to an ad agency who wants to place his/her song and image for a brand? We don’t sell carpets that cost $100 to make and sell it for $200 because it fits the market price range. We sell talent and this cannot be measured. This is the beauty of it.  That there are very little formulas in this business; we make them up as we go. For some reason that I still don’t know I am perfect for this (or I like to think so) and want to continue at it for a long time. Since I found it somewhat by accident I am lucky enough to say that “that” found me, but I had been looking for it as well, I just did not know that it was the music industry. I am plain lucky I guess.
When it comes to making the right career choice it may sound a bit silly but do it from the gut, which is nothing more than mixing brains and heart. In other words, there is no magic in finding the right career.  It just takes a lot of wanting to explore, falling down and getting back up a million times until you find “that” or it finds you. Being what you do will make you do it well.  Most importantly it will define how far you want to take it.
I like Oriental philosophy very much so I’ll leave you with this quote from Confucius: “Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
*Read at your own risk

Believe in yourself, seriously

Thought for today – being produced by a well oxygenated brain and a body high on endorphins after a 45-minute spinning session:

Believe in yourself.  And each time that you’re tempted to either look at what others are doing or imitate them – STOP.  Ask yourself: “Did that person achieve what they did by imitating others? Or did they become a leader in their field by believing in themselves?”

While it is okay to learn from others and have role models – it is not okay to discredit your view of the world around you.

Believe in yourself.  Really, really believe in yourself.

Dan – the personal brand man – does it again

Dan Schawbel, Gen Y’s personal branding guru, has done it again with his latest issue of Personal Branding Magazine (click here to download your free sample).

As the magazine’s editor, here’s what Dan has to say about this issue:

Many people rush into personal branding, without first taking precious time to discover who they are and what they want to do for the rest of their lives. In this issue, we expose how to unlock your true potential, unearth your passion, acquire the necessary skills and how to set achievable goals. We’ve interviewed some of the leading businessmen, such as Marcus Buckingham, to help you with your own personal development.”

In a nut-shell, I highly recommend that you go grab a coffee or a tea (if you’re like me) and start reading your free sample.  It’s packed with valuable information – that will take your career game to the next level.

To subscribe to the full publication, which is out on 1 Feb (a few sleeps away), click here.  The price for an annual subscription, which includes 4 issues is $12.95.  Even better, half of the proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.

What’s in it for me? 

This is my chance to support a good friend and fellow blogger who’s work I admire and personally learn from.  Also, Dan has invited me to write The Brand Assessment column for the following four issues.  A project I’m most proud and excited about joining.

Stay tuned.

You either have it or you don’t

A few days ago, while I was at the hair salon, Debbie*, the twentysomething who was washing my hair, offered to give me a scalp massage.  Without even thinking about it I accepted her very generous offer.  Shortly after she started, it became obvious that she was not good at it.  Aside from missing all the pressure points on my head, her hands had no strength and even felt weightless on my scalp. Sure I’m aware that my assessment of her performance is harsh and to some extent ungrateful.

But hear me out before you judge me too harshly. 

It was Debbie’s subpar performance that made me think about what happens when a person chooses a career that requires them to use skills which they do not have a natural talent for.

Taking Debbie’s example, from how she performed a simple activity with her hands, it appears that she doesn’t have a knack for using her hands, yet has chosen a career which depends on her manual abilities.  I’m open to your opinion, but I suspect that her lack of talent in giving scalp massages is strongly linked to her potential (or lack of) as a hair-dresser.  Granted she’s relatively new in the field, and she could certainly learn the trade, but I think that she’ll never get to be a superstar.  And my main concern is that if she continues to do something she’s not great at, she’s incurring an opportunity cost.  So are her employer and her customers.   The tricky part is she’s just so friendly and has such a great attitude that her employer is probably willing to over-look her lack of talent and her customers are willing to put up with a mediocre service because it’s being delivered with a smile.  

The question is will she be much better off (and successful) doing something that comes naturally to her?  For example, I think that she’d be great in sales or customer service.  By observing her, it seemed that she was enjoying herself and was great at speaking with people and booking appointments over the phone.  Down the line, because she has experience working in a salon, she could sell beauty products and eventually manage a sales team.  All activities which use her communication skills more than her hands.

It might be too late for me to tell Debbie all this, but it’s not too late for any of us to learn from her example.  Take time right now, as I did (while getting a lukewarm scalp massage) to think about your own strengths and weaknesses at work. 

List all those skills that you have that you feel you acquired quite effortlessly and that you tend to be better at doing than most.  Then be honest with yourself and list all those things which do not come naturally to you and that it’s taken quite an effort for you to learn. 

Looking at your list of strengths, do you think you’ll be able to get paid for any of your strong skills?  For example I’m told by those who know me that I have exceptional hand-eye coordination and that I’m a great communicator.  I did play college level tennis but I never developed the strength of a pro.  On the other hand, I’ve made a good living in business development by building strong relationships with clients.  As far as my weaknesses go, while I know enough about balance sheets and income statements, I know that accounting is far from a strength of mine.  It took me way too much effort and time to get a passing grade in my accounting courses in business school.  Consequently I’m not going for the CFO position.

Now what should I do about Debbie?  Should I give her a copy of this post and save her some time?

*Name made up to avoid over-using pronouns.

Like the picture? Zio Dave at flickr