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Career Counseling – If You Knew Then What You Know NowIf You Knew Then What You Know Now

“THEY” say…HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 VISION. But is it really?
If you had the ability to see into the future, would that cause you to change your behavior? Would you pursue the unknown with the same passion, if you knew in advance that you would be successful…or fall short of your goals? Well…we can’t! This is the type of thinking that leads people to spend their lives regretting the decisions made and things you chose NOT to pursue. It reminds me of the poem by Shel Silverstein that I used to read to my daughter: “All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas Layin’ In The Sun, Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done… But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas All Ran Away And Hid From One Little Did.” Why do so many people find themselves saying: “I wish I could’ve done things differently?” It’s NEVER too late to pursue your dreams!

For example, have you always wanted to find your dream job, so you can pursue your life’s passions? There are so many resources available to you to make that dream a reality, from career coaches to self-assessment tools, the alumni network of the schools you attended, your social and professional networks. Was it your dream to start your own business? Now is the absolute PERFECT time to do that! From business consultants to city and state agencies, business incubators, micro-lenders, there is a HUGE support network for those who wish to start their own business. The cold hard truth is, the only REAL barrier preventing you from realizing the dreams you cast aside long ago in favor of more practical pursuits lie between your ears. It’s that little damaging voice in your head that repeats…” I CAN’T because…” Set aside all the practical reasons (EXCUSES) we tell ourselves for a moment: * I’m too old/too young * I don’t have enough money * I don’t have the right support network If you could overcome all those challenges, what’s really is preventing you from achieving your goals. Come on…SAY IT…

Could it be a FEAR OF FAILURE? Now we’re getting somewhere. So what if you reach for the stars and fall short. You still will reach the moon. All of those excuses we make empower us with a built-in rationale for NOT daring to fail. We live in TRANSFORMATIONAL times. Entire industries are being drastically reformed. Corporations with tens if not hundreds of thousands of employees deemed too big to fail ARE failing.
Global competition, constantly changing technology, the commercialization of the Internet have been changing the global balance of power between nations. ONLY THOSE PEOPLE WITH THE WILLINGNESS/ABILITY TO CHANGE BY REINVENTING THEMSELVES WILL SURVIVE in these changing times.
Toss aside all of the excuses that mire us in inertia. Do NOT accept that you cannot change. You deserve to give yourself the opportunity to achieve all of the goals that you wanted to achieve, but you let that voice of fear and self-doubt pull you away from your ambitions. You don’t need to have a crystal ball to imagine a life for yourself filled with hope and realizing all your dreams.
Here is a list of things you can and should be doing right now to begin this transformation: * Distance yourself from all those people who tell you you can’t:
* Set tangible 1 week, 1, 2 and 3-month, 6 month and 9-month tangible goals. Write them down! Revisit those goals WEEKLY to monitor progress.
* Create a TASK LIST of things you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals. The list should include: – All required task items – Descriptions of what each task entails – Start and end dates for each – Who OWNS the task (it will be YOU most of the time) – Task contributors – those people that will help you achieve the task – Status: Open, in-progress, completed, planned, etc. – Contingencies: Anything that will prevent you from achieving the task
* 168 – you only have 168 hours in a week. dust off those time management skills to prioritize your work-life balance so you can accomplish those tasks
* Coach ’em up, coach: Get a coach! Ideally it would be …me. Seriously, go out and find yourself someone that comes personally recommended to you who can help you. they must have a personality and values that match your own,. they should “GET” you. They should know when to push/challenge you, and when you need them to support/nurture you. At all times, you should be making significant progress towards achieving tangible goals by knocking off those tasks. As we look back on our lives, the most PAINFUL thing we can ever say/think about our time on this earth is… “IF ONLY I HAD DONE…”

Business Transformation – Popeye, Quick Fixes and Stomach Stapling

The past few weeks I’ve been blogging about pork products. So, in an effort to move to the healthier side of things I bring you…
Spinach! Well, spinach as a metaphor for quick fixes thanks to the dwarfish sailor with huge forearms, Popeye. You remember…”I’m Popeye the sailor man…toot toot!!!”
When there were problems or he had to beat up Brutus Blutarski, to save Olive Oil, he’d chug a can of the leafy energy vegetable and WHAM! POW! He’d make things right.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we humans love to take the easy way out like Popeye. Overweight? No problem…get your stomach stapled. Need 6-pack abs? Strap a vibrator across your chest. You can eat all the pork products you want. In no time at all, that vibrating belt will transform your mid-section from a spare tire to a ripped grill.
Do you have business problems that keep you up at night? No worries. Use the “EASY” button as your get-out-of-jail-free card. You get an automatic do-over, at least that’s what the commercials would have you believe.

Have a failing business? No problem. Fire some of your workers.
It won’t hurt at all. Right? You’ll achieve immediate short-term results. Who cares? After all, you might think most of your people are lazy, complain too much, watch the clock, waste precious time and productivity by searching the Internet, right?
Jack Welch said it was critical to get rid of the bottom third (“C” people) in your organization. Heck, you may be thinking it’s time to churn your staff, like pro football teams churn the bottoms of their rosters.
Don’t worry. You have your own personal can of business owner “spinach.” Its the employees you choose to keep. You can dump the terminated employees’ work on your remaining workers. They’ll be happy to kick in, work those extra hours, see their families less, even take a pay cut…right? They’re “thrilled” to help, just to still have a paycheck these days.

We are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that these myopic, narrow-minded management decisions have had on America’s workforce. Four years of layoffs, down-sizing, right-sizing, re-engineering, and reductions in workforce have effectively beaten down the OVERWORKED, OVERSTRESSED, EMOTIONALLY DISENGAGED American workforce.
Those easy to implement short-term policies that were instilled in most American organizations have taken a huge negative toll on our workforce. I see it countless times in my work with job seekers. Many people who are still working are highly resentful of their employers. they are burned out, beaten up, and looking to leave. There isn’t an ocean of spinach large enough to fix the damage done, especially to the people who were out of work and have given up looking for jobs.
Workers are now even MORE motivated to leave and many are planning to do just that…quit your organization EVEN THOUGH the job market is so weak.

Now is the time for business owners, managers, and executives to start considering a path to implement really tough decisions to save their organizations.
NOW is the time to unleash their people’s full potential. The quick decisions that achieve drastic positive results are NOT going to be easy to make. For consideration, I present some strategies that I have been implementing with my clients:
* Treat your best clients like your employees: Ask them what you do that’s working for them. Ask them how you can improve. Take them to breakfast. Why not implement a “best customer” quarterly appreciation breakfast.
* Treat your employees like your best customers: It’s time to do what President Reagan said in his speech at Brandenburg gate in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down these walls.” Remove the barriers that CONTROL your people. Let your employees determine your policies, procedures, systems and products.
* Ask your people to engage like never before: Ask your employees what you’re doing right and wrong! Let them design their workflows, schedules. Offer job-sharing, telecommuting. create a committee to develop an ongoing idea generation program to solicit the ideas from all of your people. Make their voices heard, and implement their suggestions.
* Fund a new business incubator program: Your best people are planning right now to leave you. Put aside money in your budget to fund their ideas, so they stay in your company and work on new products and services you can integrate into your offerings. Otherwise, they’re going to leave you to start their own business and do it themselves.
* Act like Mayor Ed Koch of New York City: He was famous for always asking: “How am I doing New York?” It’s time to have that conversation with your people. What do they like about you? What do they hate? What benefits do they want? Are you coaching, mentoring, rewarding, training, recognizing, and providing the resources they need?
* Make every goal a STRETCH goal: Every single employee goal should be a challenge. They should have to strive mightily towards achieving every goal. Meet with your people weekly to ensure they have what they need from you , in order to be a success. Celebrate failures where people take calculated risks to achieve tremendous results.
* Fail GREATLY: It’s not too late to change your business model, organizational structure, products and services, and your culture. There are no easy quick steps, or short-cuts in today’s global competitive climate. The quickest road to long-term success is to embrace failure as a learning endeavor.


Business Productivity, Pork Fried Rice, and Failing Greatly

In my last blog on the Hunger Games, I made a reference to “Business Bacon” as a metaphor for things businesses do (like eating bacon) that they know are bad for them but they do ANYWAY (it’s sooooooo good!)
In keeping with the whole pork product theme, this week I bring you – pork fried rice. Think of it as something we justify (eat) that is (supposedly) good for us (“Hey, its got eggs and vegetables in it!”) but we KNOW it’s bad for us.
What practices is your organization doing that it rationalizes is critical to success, when everyone knows better. Unproductive mandatory meetings? Forcing sales people to travel excessively to “maintain” accounts? Refusing to embrace non-traditional workplace best practices? The bigger question to ask is: “How does your small business gain consistently high levels of business productivity?”
For every bite of the pork fried rice that represents the prevailing hierarchical, corporate, structured SLOW decision-making, ask yourself “Why do we (continue to) do this?” Better yet, pose the million dollar question: “What if…?”
This is how great organizations go from good to great. They transform themselves. It’s a diet of calculated rationalizing avoidance. And a much healthier “diet” for your company’s future success.
Which leads me to the awesomely enlightening idea of FAILING GREATLY! Why do we fear failure so much? Why have we been taught ever since we were little that to fail is horrible and something we should always avoid?
Growing up under that cloud leads us to pursue safety at all costs. In today’s transformational times, avoiding risks in our personal and professional life offers us dire consequences such as:
* We avoid changing careers for fear of the unknown.
* We accept average goals for ourselves that that don’t force us to stretch.
* We tell ourselves we CAN’T start our own business.
When did we stop challenging ourselves. It’s why Jim Collins wrote: “Good is the enemy of great” in his book Good to Great.
I contend that when we accept that good is good enough, we set in motion powerful forces that lead us ultimately to failure.
Steve Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” Truer words have never been spoken. Why not demand greatness from yourself. If you reach for the stars and fall short, you still reach the moon.
John F. Kennedy said: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
He also said: “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
Take your pick – either are words to LIVE by! That is how he led America to pursue a space program that got us to the moon. Still not buying this whole “FAIL GREAT” theme? Ask yourself this: “When did America stop trying to expand its space program?” I propose that a VERY strong correlation be made between America’s looking away from the heavens and our Nation’s perceived fall from (global power) greatness?
I went to the gym this morning after a VEEEEEERY long absence. Getting back into the swing of a fallen exercise regimen can be rationalized all sorts of ways…being overworked, having an impossible work-life balance, too many commitments to others, etc.
Look, I know the rationalization “song & dance” that we go through once our New Year’s resolutions are safely in the rear view mirror. It’s especially challenging for me to come up with new excuses. After all, MY gym (Club KO) is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from my house.
So, my once easy 40 minute workout routine is now a real “HUFFER.” Sitting on the stationary bike I wondered…how many excuses have I made not to be here that I never let my clients get away with? How many times do we lie to ourselves as a coping mechanism? As we head into this gorgeous spring of ours, I’d like to pose the question: “When are you going to demand greatness from yourself, and…FOR YOURSELF!
Let’s rekindle the passion for greatness that we all share. Expect great things from yourself. A final thought:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Oh, the places you will go by Dr. Seuss

The Hunger Games, a (Career coach) Boy on Fire and BACON!

The Hunger Games, The Boy on Fire, and BACON!
Continuing the “movie” theme from my last blog (The Lorax, Planting Seeds, and HOPE) this week I take you to the world of…
The Hunger Games
Last Friday, we took my daughter to see the movie with her friends’ birthday party. My wife, daughter, and I all read the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, so we were REALLY looking forward to the movie.
For those who don’t know the overall theme…all twelve of the Districts are required to send TWO children every year to compete “to the death” in the Hunger Games. This is their punishment for attempting to revolt against the Capital. All citizens are forced to watch the Games, and see all but two contestants die.
Every family MUST enter every child’s name at least once, but can choose to enter a child’s names multiple times (thus increasing their chance of being chosen) in order to obtain additional benefits (extra food, clothing, etc.)
The story covers the 2 children who represent District 12, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark.
Without giving away what happens, I had a really weird thought as I watched the movie. The children whose names are entered to be selected for the Hunger Games are sacrificed like so many workers who were cast aside these past 4 years by organizations who attempted to stay in business (avoid the wrath of the Capital.)
Why are layoffs the first knee-jerk reaction that organizations pursue, and why are the people on the front line who serve their clients, make their products, deliver their services, and perform the tasks required to keep the organization running the ones who are always pushed out so they are left to fight to the death with the other unemployed to get re-hired? My career counseling advice is to tell my clients to avoid the types of organizational cultures that treat their employees this way.
We have seen this trend repeat itself almost constantly since 2008. In my DUAL role of career coach and business coach consultant, I have been helping the people that were sacrificed. Much like Hamitch Abernathy, the drunk Hunger Games victor from District 12 who is forced to help train Katniss and Peeta, the best I can do is give people the tools required to find their DREAM job in today’s Global contract workplace.
Allow me to introduce the “Boy on Fire.”
Katniss becomes known as the “girl on fire” before the Games when the competitors are introduced to the viewing public during a televised pre-Games event. The designer assigned to work with her and Peeta dress them in shining black costumes with live flames to symbolize their District as a coal-producing region. Getting the public to like you is critical for Game participants. During the game, people can send you much needed supplies to keep you alive IF they like you.
Well, it’s taken me FOUR years, but I’m finally becoming the BOY ON FIRE with my career counseling services. Business is booming, personal referrals are coming in for my career coaching, and the “Districts” are starting to embrace my job search, career transition, and business strategies.
Which leads me to (mmmmmmmmm) BACON…
We all know that it is bad for us, but we eat it anyway. It tastes soooo good. What BACON have organizations been eating? Stated differently…what are the things that organizations are doing that they know are bad for their long-term health, but they continue to do those things because they’re familiar, easy,and reliable (like laying off their employees when times get tough.)

Eating the BACON (or continuing to do things that are doomed for failure) is the behavior that got us in this position in the first place. It begin in the 1980s with outsourcing and off-shoring, continued through the introduction of the internet, advanced technology, global competition, and massive layoffs across EVERY industry.
So to all you organizations that believe you an keep eating the bacon and not suffer any adverse health effects…you must change constantly to survive. Here’s a list of To-Dos to get you off that salty, heart-disease triggering pork product:
* Treat your employees like your customers;
* Treat your customers like your employees;
* Spend MORE on your marketing;
* Make emotional connections with your partners;
* Treat your top customers differently; and
* Look to build stronger relationships with your partners, vendors, suppliers, consultants, contractors.

The (Career Coach) Lorax, Planting Seeds and HOPE

On Sunday, I took my 11 year old daughter to see the new movie The Lorax.
I wasn’t expecting to have an epiphany about my decision to become a career coach and a business consultant. I was just trying to do something with my girl on a Sunday afternoon. However, that darned Dr. Seuss had other plans for me.
When we walked out of the movie theater, it was clear to me that I shared a lot with the Lorax, who speaks for the trees. It was my personal decision to leave Corporate America four years ago, and I chose to focus the rest of my career helping others find their dream job, and pursue their passion to start their own business.
Sitting there watching this movie, it affirmed that what I’m doing now will help plant the seeds needed to help grow our American economy, and position people for future success. What does that have to do with the Lorax? Well, for that you have to know the story.
For those who DON’T know, the Lorax is about a greedy young man named Once-ler. He leaves his family to prove that he is not a failure. He searches the world over for the perfect material to make his Thneed garments. He finds it in the ideal Truffula tree and cuts the tree down. Once-ler is immediately visited by the mythical Lorax, who tells him not to cut down the trees. The Lorax warns Once-ler that evil things will befall him if he continues his ways.

Once-ler promises not to cut down any more trees. He goes to the city to try and sell his Thneeds, but fails at first. Then, the fickle public embraces his thneeds. Once-ler needs to ramp up to meet this skyrocketing demand, so he calls his family. They arrive and begin chopping down all of the trees in sight, to the disappointment of the Lorax.
When the last tree is cut down, there can be no more Thneeds. Once-ler’s family leaves him. He becomes a recluse living in the barren wastelands that used to be the beautiful forest.The forests have been destroyed and the creatures who depend on the trees have departed. The air and water is polluted.
Many years later, a young boy named Ted travels outside the polluted plastic city Thneedville to visit Once-ler and ask him how he can find a tree for a girl Ted really likes. He asks Once-ler why the world is in such a run-down state and there are no trees in Thneedville. Once-ler responds “it is all my fault.”
Watching the movie was REALLY hard for me. I kept thinking about all of the abuses our society has leveled upon the environment and ourselves. I started to get very emotional. At some point we humans are going to have to make a moral stand. Even our latest BEST intentions have led to unintended consequences and have stalled in the face of the status quo.

The Lorax, Planting Seeds… and HOPE

I’m not too proud to admit that at the end of the movie when Once-ler gives Ted the last tree seed and he plants it in the town square over the initial protests of the town, I got choked up.
As we were leaving the theater a strange thing happened. My daughter said to me: “Dad, you’re like the Lorax.” I was floored so I replied: “Why do you say that?”
She said: “You help everyone that you can find jobs and fix their companies by giving them your advice. You’re the Lorax.”
Wow! I never thought of my new career as a career coach equating with The Lorax’s mission. Maybe if we can all do our little bit then maybe…just maybe…we’ll be able to stop the destruction. After all, it only takes ONE seed to plant a forest.

Elephants, Camels, Splendor, Squalor and Business Success.

 Elephants, Camels, Splendor, Squalor…and Higher Education

My Trip to the Land of Gandhi, the Taj Mahal and Bollywood.
On February 26, I returned from an unforgettable, exhausting and life-changing TWO WEEK journey through the oldest democracy that is India.
It was the sort of global whirlwind tour that would make Thomas Friedman proud.
On February 12, we flew out of the Newark, NJ airport. Upon our arrival at the airport, Jamaican and Indian agents at the Lufthansa desk checked our bags and sent us on our way. After a 7 hour flight we changed planes in Frankfurt, Germany and arrived at our final destination…after EIGHTEEN hours.
Everywhere homeless dogs roamed the streets.
We visited with family in Pune. While there, we took the train from Pune to Pimperey for a day trip. Although we bought our tickets in advance, we still had to ask 7 or 8 people where to board the train. They have cars for women only, cancer patients, the elderly, first class reserved…everyone. But if you get on the wrong train car with the wrong tickets, you get thrown off (literally, as happened to a homeless boy next to us) or (potentially) arrested (as almost happened to us!)
In Pimperey we visited a temple, shopped in the market stalls, and ate mutton and a hole in the wall. At every turn, there was something amazing to see.
That Friday we flew from Pune to Gandhi airport in Delhi then went to old Delhi to visit the Mahatma Gandhi memorial. It was like the tomb for john F. Kennedy at the Arlington National Cemetary with the ever-burning flame. We then visited the ancient forts with Hindu-Islam shared influence Qtab Minar, Jama Masjid, and Lal Quila (“Red Fort.”) We stopped to see the new Delhi Indian Parliament and monument to India’s fallen soldiers. The highlight for my daughter was our rickshaw rides through the back alleys of Chandani Chowk.

On Monday, we drove from Delhi to Agra (a four hour car ride) and visited the paanch mahal palace at Fatephpur Sikri, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in honor of Saint Salim Christi whom he visited when he was desperate to conceive a son and male heir. After visiting Salim Christi, Akbar’s wife conceived a son. The palace served as the capital of the Mughal empire from 1571 to 1585. So cool!

We then saw the Taj Mahal. It’s really hard to describe adequately the true splendor and stunning architectural beauty of the Taj Mahal. Suffice to say, this American who grew up in New York City, lived in San Francisco and Washington D.C. was rendered speechless!

After that, we finished our journey by visiting Mumbai (Bombay) a major Metropolitan city. My family visited my wife’s mother’s two Aunts who are in their late 80s but still as feisty as ever. My daughter spent an afternoon with FOUR generations of her mother’s family. You simply CAN’T put a price on that!
What amazed me most about India’s society is the tremendous dichotomy that exists in all things, from the unbelievable opulence of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai to the abject poverty and squalor of the surrounding shanty towns.

Another example…there is significant disrepair evident at the national monuments. Graffiti painted on the walls of the Queen Victoria train station and cut into the red stone of the Red Fort. Meanwhile, corporations are funding a massive effort to build Colleges and Universities to educate the impoverished, socioeconomically challenged lower classes to defend against ever having to outsource labor.
The Government, despite rampant corruption, is making a major effort to work with these companies to bring higher education to the poorest, least educated segments of their society.

America could stand for a bit of that emphasis on making higher education more affordable for the masses as a way to spur on business start-ups and business growth along with career mobility for all. Clearly, we could stand for a greater emphasis on, and appreciation for, the importance of educating more segments of our society as a means for achieving career success for millions of Americans.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We experienced the rustic villages, massive religious temples, historic palaces and forts, sprawling new urban centers and suburbs expanding from over-populated cities. In all our experiences, the backdrop was the fusion of past, present and future colliding and co-existing.
Having said all that, I’m glad to be back in America where you see the taxis coming at you before they strike, motorists stop for pedestrians and the cows, elephants, and camels all stay off of the highways.
Be on the lookout for my next blog: “Ethan ROCKS consulting in 2012!