Tag Archives: self-actualization

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

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…


Connect With Exceptional Career Women NOW!

I’m proud to say that I’m now a blogger at womenforhire.com.  Founded in 1999, it’s a website dedicated to “connecting employers with the brightest group of diverse career women, as well as providing those women with exceptional advice on advancement”.

I’ve found it to be one of the few sites that puts its money where its mouth is.  It offers top-shelf information in a style that’s empowering and refreshing – and lots of it is free.

They posted my article on playing forward your decisions to stop the self-sabotage.  Here’s a taste:

“what may seem very minor decisions throughout our day, deserve more of our attention because they could end up disturbing our lives in a major way.”

Read more of Stopping My Self-sabotage

Stay tuned!

To MBA or not to MBA? That’s Andy’s question

There’s a discussion going on over at brazencareerist.  Andy Drish is trying to decide whether to get an MBA or not.  His dilemma came about because his employer is offering to pay for part of his MBA and he’s finding that to be too good an offer to refuse.  Among the things that have been brought up in the course of the discussion are:

1. Whether or not he has enough work experience or will he be one of the youngest in the program – and feel that he cannot contribute as much as the more experienced students.

2. Are his two local schools the best choices?

3. How quickly should he aim to complete the program.

What I noticed was not being considered – and it was something I thought about when I looked into getting an MBA – is the opportunity cost.  While I was kicking the tires of local MBA programs in Sydney, something became evident early on.  In a labor market where everyone and anyone has an MBA, the degree no longer makes candidates stand out as much.  As a consequence the increase in pay is not as significant as it was a few years back when not as many job candidates had an MBA.  In a nut shell, I found the return on investment in an MBA to be questionable. 

That puts an interesting spin on things.  Ten years ago, getting an MBA was the no-brainer thing to do if you wanted to rise up the corporate ladder at a faster than average rate.  Today the answer is not as black and white as that.  In an increasingly diverse and complex environment, traits like entrepreneurship and resiliency are powerful commodities.  Neither of which can realistically be mastered in the comfort of an air-conditioned class room. Both are the result of living through real experiences and manoeuvring through real challenges.  As such, putting yourself on the line and starting your own business or taking time to travel and explore the world, are two experiences that will make you stand out from the pack.  Speaking for myself, I do not have an MBA.  I’m not saying that I never will get one, but I know that my experience as an entrepreneur has landed me jobs that I would otherwise not have been considered for. 

If it’s the knowledge that you’re looking for in an MBA program, today there’s so much information outside of the walls of academia that personally I do not see the need to sit in a class just for that.  As long as you’re making time to read quality material and to listen to pod casts, it’s possible to stay on top of the major trends in management, finance, accounting, strategy, change among other things.  Here are two of my favorite sources of information: Harvard Business IdeaCast and TED

‘What about networking?’ you say.  Sure it’s likely that you’ll meet like-minded go-getters and high achievers just like you in an MBA program.  But that’s not the only place where these type of people congregate.  If you have $50k to spend and the time to spare, I think you’ll be better off joining the most prestigious golf club, tennis club or sailing club in your area.  There, for even less money and more fun, you’ll get to meet the who’s who of the business world.  And even better than at a university, there will be a cross-section of people.  At clubs it’s likely that you’ll find more than just cubicle bound employees in their 20s and 30s like you looking to get ahead.  For example business owners, CEOs and other decision makers of a variety of age groups – who either got an MBA years ago or never got close to academia.  Another effective way to make good connections is through doing volunteer work.  The major perk is you get to support good causes while you meet people who may one day be key in your career. 

I’m not saying that MBA’s are dead – and that people should stop getting them.  Personally, I’m still open to the possibility that one day I’ll enrol.

However, I am asking people to look at an MBA degree for what it’s worth. I’m asking you to be open to other possibilities. An MBA is not a cure-all for career stagnation.  Other things like starting your own business, travelling and writing a book are also solid ways to breathe life into your work life.  If you do enrol in an MBA, I hope that it is for the right reasons.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts.



Jobs close to home are under valued

Once upon a time I used to think less of those people who considered a long commute to work a deal breaker when considering a job offer.  My main requirements to accept a job were money and title.  If I felt that I could either do the job or learn it and the money was good and the title glamorous enough then the deal was done – the job was mine.  That was true until I accepted a job that was a 1-hour drive (each way) in heavy traffic from my home.  The first 6 months of my job I was over the moon.  I got a significantly higher salary than at my previous job, my package came with a car and an office all to myself.  Life was good.  I would drive to and from work with music blasting in my car – I was loving every minute of it. 

My bubble burst when I attended an informational evening for one of the local MBA programs.  There I found out that on average students spend 10 hours a week on course work, per class.  Although I did not enrol in an MBA program (I’ll write about that in my next post) that number came too close for comfort.  It became obvious to me that by sitting in traffic, I was in essence wasting 10 hours of my week (480 hours a year).  Before then I had no real use for those 10 hours so I was quite happy to sit in my car and use the time to psych myself up for my day and unwind after work.  But as soon as I found a better use for my time, I began to feel that I was incurring an opportunity cost.  When that happened, I started to dread my daily drive.  However, not being one to stay stuck for too long, I started to listen to educational CDs in my car (I confess, I was a late adopter of MP3 technology – now I’m addicted to pod casts!).  Feeling that I was not wasting away as much in my car, certainly helped me cope with the commute, but it did not make the feeling go away entirely.

When I resigned from that job after 18 months I can’t say that it was because of the commute, but it was certainly one of the things that helped tip the scale.  From that experience onwards, a short commute has become one of my top 10 must haves in a job.  It comes close to working with like-minded people, in a industry I believe in, in a role where I can contribute to society, in a company that takes the environment into account – and a nice pay package.

Does that make me a loser?  If that’s what you think, well, at least I’m not a time waster.