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  • Because you're at home, or thoughts on happiness, work flow, building a business and changing your story.

    May we begin with a story?

    Great, thank you.

    The other day I had the following exchange with my younger son:

    Him: "Do you still go to an office?"
    Me: "If someone asks me to come in for a meeting I do."
    Him: "Like you used to do though, like its work?"
    Me: "I think so, sort of?"
    Him: "Are they clients?"
    Me: "Yes they are, exactly."
    Him: "So it is work?"
    Me: "Yes."
    Him: "Good, you seem happier."

    And I am.

    It's been just over six months since I went out on my own, partially by choice, and a lot not by choice, not really, which means that in terms of the laws of personal branding, entreprenuership and self-promotion, it's time to reflect on what I've learned, how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking as I look to the future.

    (1) Working at home, which was not a completely foreign concept to me is great. I really enjoy the energy and flow of the day, but... when you work at home, people like to think since you're at home you can take care of things that need to be taken care of that have nothing to do with work, because you know you're at... home. Which is not to say I don't like the freedom of folding laundry during a conference call or running to the supermarket during a break, but it also suggests that there is a reasonable argument for finding office space of some kind.


    (2) I can just as easily lose myself in hours of work as I did during my days working to 9-5, but disruptions feel really disruptive now. It may be that was true when I worked in an office as well, but I don't remember it that way. Being home it's so much easier to drift from a personal call or other distraction to the couch, kitchen or the internet, briefly losing myself in reading news feeds as opposed to getting back to work. This is very much about flow, and it now requires more attention, and maintenance, to achieve it. This applies as well when I take a day off, or travel for a gig, the rhythm of the day and the regular flow of my work is wholly disrupted and it now takes that much more time to find it again.

    (3) Speaking of the day, there almost never feels like there is a natural stopping point or a reason not to work every day of the week. Or late into the night. Sometimes I stop because there's no choice, I fall asleep, there are plans, and nothing else will get done, but these days, it always feels like a trade-off. Why not put in another hour or get-up early on Sunday? I did it for years when the kids were little so I could write, so why not do the same as I try to build a business? Why not indeed? That said, I also find that when I do stop, or decide not to re-start late at night, the work still gets done. This shouldn't surprise me, I've always gotten the work done, and that hasn't changed, and so maybe its okay to just say enough, today, for now, and maybe I need to trust in that more.

    (4) Still, Mondays are still Mondays. There remains a sense of feeling overwhelmed as the week takes off whether I work every day or not and I'm in an office or not. And yet, Sundays are no longer Sundays. Over the years whether I worked on Sunday or not, a kind of dread would build throughout the day, a pre-sense of being overwhelmed about what was to come. But not any more. I flow from day to day now, and yes Mondays suck for a minute, but that's because everyone else is getting started and I have to ride their wave of energy and not mine.

    (5) My relationship to Mondays isn't the only thing that's changed, my relationship to money has as well. And not just the ever more conscious pursuit of it, which is certainly a thing, or getting it when someone owes it to me, but the actual ebb and flow, that word again, of it into and out of our house, and how and when things get paid for. I had stopped thinking about this, that movement. I lived with someone who cared, and I got lazy. But now I can't be, or don't want to be. I need to know when invoices go out because I worry about when the bills, and payments, are coming in, how they compliment eachother in term of timing, and how it all works day to day and month to month. It's inspiring, more like coming to know the parts of a machine, or an organism, living and breathing, and I'm feeding it. I always cared, but it was in an abstract way. No more.

    (6) Even that isn't the most profound change I've encountered though. When I started being at home most of the time, I found myself struggling to follow what was being said and asked of me. I live with people who talk fast, sometimes as they're walking away and down the hall and on to the next thing, but it immediately felt like a concern. And it was. As I initially sought, and failed at, the more full-time work opportunities I pursued prior to all of this, I had some struggles following directions, and making sense, of things. It was confusing to me. That had never really happened before, and while I believe there are myriad reasons for some of that, once home, it became obvious that there was an actual problem. That problem is my hearing. And so, if I haven't seen you recently, or you haven't noticed my hearing aids, know that this has been going on for some time, and I especially have problems with high pitched tones, particularly the voices of women and children. Jokes aside, I've been missing a lot of conversations for some time now, though I have no idea how long, and if you think I didn't do something you asked me to do during the last year or so, it's possible I didn't hear you, but was nodding because I was confused and embarrassed as to why I wasn't following the conversation. To be honest, I didn't know I was doing it, but I do now, and I'm doing a lot less of it. I'm also happy to talk further about if you are so inclined.

    (7) Related to this in a way, but not exactly, is that I have spent a lifetime using self-deprecating jokes to deflect things that embarrassed me, to manage-up, to not try and sound like a know-it-all or even just be funny. I like being funny. However, as opposed to my now long-time and now long lost job, self-deprecation didn't seem to work as well at the newer jobs I tried, and then one day during the last six months, a client told me to drop it. He said it made me look less confident, and that I lacked swagger. And he wanted swagger. So, I'm working on dropping it in work situations. Maybe you've noticed, and if so, I'd love to hear what you think. I'm not sure I'm sold on this as a necessity, but there is something liberating about it. Own your confidence, and don't be a dick, but don't be embarrassed about your ideas either. I never thought I was, and I've always been vocal, but it's worth thinking about this as I move from place to place and opportunity to opportunity. I'm no longer quite as static, and maybe concentrating on swagger is a necessity.

    (8) It's also ever more clear to me that if one is out in the world and selling themselves, they are the product, and like any product, one needs to be able to package it, provide a framework, let people know what they can expect, when and how they will receive it and what it will cost them. I'm working on this now as well, thinking it through and trying to define what I've been doing and what I want to do. All of that is coming. There are frameworks that are emerging organically and I'm going to formalize them, offer them to the world and call it a business.

    More on that soon.

    (9) I will say this now though, the best, unexpected part of being out on my own has been opportunities to coach, both authors wanting to create, or restructure their books, as well as small businesses and career changers wanting to talk about branding and language and organizing their thoughts. It's been wonderful and I'm really good at it. I also recognize now that I always wanted to do this kind of thing, that I wanted to help people get unstuck and tell their stories, be strategic, and an ideas guy, taking so much of what I did well in partnerships and office situations over the years, but was somehow embarrassed to say that out loud.

    Not any more. I'm giving it a name, it's coaching and I'm digging it.

    And now for a call back, or a book-end to all of this, another story ayway before I go... for now.

    When I first went out on my own, I was at a networking event and I had the following conversation with some guy:

    Him: "So you're out on your own, huh?"
    Me: "Yes, I guess so."
    Him: "Things weren't going well for you were they?"
    Me: "I guess not, but why do you say that?"
    Him: "Because people don't go out on their own when things are going well."

    I never thought about it that way, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. Things not going well are a big part of my story recently, but that doesn't mean I can't tell a different story, or at least change the narrative. That's the plan anyway, and I'm in it, now, and as my son pointed out, I'm happier.

    So, as I said, more soon, and if you want to talk about any of this, let me know, I would be thrilled to do so.

  • Beginning, Middle, and End: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part IV.

    The End.

    “Good cover letters tell a story. Beginning, middle, and end.” -Hannah Frei, Career Advancement Center, Lake Forest College

    And so we are at the end... for now.

    I concluded the last post by speaking to what the final part of the Loop 202 semester looks like, and where we start examining how all of these steps, tools, and strategies hang together when it comes to the job search. Also, how I assign an article by an author I love, myself, to help the students further organize their thoughts, and that piece is titled “The Search: Obtaining the Right Job, Finding Yourself, and Crafting a Career.”

    But there is also what what was, and what is, which is to say, that even as I revisit the syllabus from semester to semester, revising and refining it, some times we do so during the semester as well.

    For example, this semester I wanted to introduce a greater focus on having the students grapple with how they can apply their story to thinking about their brand and looking forward. And so in that vein I've introduced simple branding exercises such as the following:

    - What 3 words would I use to describe myself when I first meet someone?
    - What 3 words would someone else use to describe me having just met me?
    - How do they compare, and are there words that work better?

    Refining.

    I've also sought to keep refining our focus in a more granular way however on skill-building and enhancing connections from class to class and tool to tool.

    Last semester as we talked about crafting resumes I got stuck on the idea that we were building out stronger resumes, but only briefly talking about cover letters... they go together though, and so I added a cover letter section this semester, where we spent time breaking cover letters down by component, looking at language, honing the craft.

    I was also struck that the students need to be able to tell their stories in all spaces, and in all ways, and that called for insights into how we break our story down and into an "Elevator Speech."

    And so we have have introduced a section on that as well, which might I add, is still to come, so more on that soon.

    Interviews... Informational and Otherwise.

    We focus on Information Interviewing as well, recognizing that while informational interviews may not yield jobs, one can still learn a lot about the jobs and industries, one wants to know more about, make connections, and work on their narrative. One thing I ask students to do when we cover this section, is Identify three orgs/people they want to schedule informational interviews with... and then go out and do so.   

    We move on to applying these skills through meeting with professionals from out in the field by hosting a career panel and Q&A. There are also now so many graduates of the program out in the work world, or looking anyway, that I hold a similar panel populated with Loop 202 grads as well.

    We further hone in on interview skills, by bringing back our Improv instructor, runnning warm-up exercises, and then swapping out interview questions for the usual Improv scenarios so everyone is thinking on their feet, engaging in active listening, and having fun.

    I added a section on salary negotiations in recent semesters too, because like with cover letters, if we were going to keep talking about somethinig, I felt like we ought to be sure we were actually covering it and learning something.

    We finish with a final project focused on building an online portfolio/web presence. Not everyone may need one, but with the marketplace transforming more and more from the traditional into something digital, one has to show what they've done and make it accessible. So why not start here, now, putting your best self, and ongoing narrative out in the world, and at worst, though ideally at best, be ahead of the curve?

    Finally.

    And so we are beginning, middle, and end ourselves.

    This has been intended as a love letter to this class I love, and these students who rock, where we talk about a topic I find endlessly fascinating.

    My ongoing goal is that the class becomes a lab and a piece of performance art, always, on and always thinking, creating, and becoming its best self.

    With that in mind, I will always tweak it, seeing some kind of ephemeral perfection.

    This semester I tweaked the response papers students have historically submitted, and we now do those in class, and in long hand, the facilitation, and facilitators, as well as the direction of the discussion unknown before the start of class. The first time I suggested this, no one volunteered to facilitate, but the second and third times both yielded results in terms of facilitation... and great discussion.

    Ultimately then, and on good days, there is a beginning, middle, and end to class as well. It is both tightly constructed, and loosely implemented, and we repeat it and build on it, and keep honing the craft.

    And with that we are end, and if you want to know more about any of this, you know what to do.

    Control Your Own Narrative: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part I.

    Did I Mention Story: Or The Ongoing Search for Story (maybe I did mention story) and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part II.

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part III.

  • Seeking: Stories, Cool Opportunities, Transformation.

    For some time now, I've had this idea that I wanted to write about my search for work. I wanted to do so as a reflection of how I think about teaching my class Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, and to a lesser extent the article I wrote many years ago the first time I engaged in an extensive job search: The Search: Obtaining the Right Job, Finding Your Self, and Crafting a Career.

    The idea came to me, because just over 18 months ago I left my long time place of employment. I didn't have a plan and I suddenly had to look for work for the for time in a long time.

    I thought I had been open to opportunities before that, but I hadn't really been doing anything. Yes, I had been keeping my resume up to date and my eyes and ears open for interesting things, working side gigs, taking meetings, looking to get my name on projects and publications, opening doors, and pushing, always pushing to work on the next cool thing.

    The thing is, these are the action you take when you're employed, and not exactly willing, or wanting, to leave something that you like, or are comfortable in. When you're scared and not really sure what comes next.

    A job search though is something else. It's contacting everyone you've ever met, worked with, talked to, sat with in a meeting, or next to on a bus, plane, or train, and asking them if they have anything or know anyone, and to keep you in mind if an anything comes up.

    It's also punching-up your LinkedIn page, using it to follow organizations you admire, and connecting with people who do stuff that you want to do even when you do not know them.

    It's saying yes to networking events, finding confidence, and putting yourself out there. All the way out there.

    And it's getting your story down, who you are, and where you've been, what you want to do, and how it all connects. It's also telling that story in a succinct, but slamming fashion, while somehow remaining authentic.

    These are things I know to be true, these are things I teach, and these are actions I have taken.

    What I have ignored, or overlooked, though during these past months is the need to work on things you love and feel passionate about. Sometimes that means, looking back over your career, and life, to remind you what it is that energizes you most. Sometimes it's reminding yourself about what you don't like spending time on. And most difficult, is coming to both understand, and embrace, that there are things you just aren't good at, something that has become painfully clear to me as I sought the next big thing.

    None of this is easy, but it is necessary. Being happy is important. Knowing yourself is important. Spending time working on things that energize you are important.

    In the past few months I've revisited many things I once worked on, but hadn't recently - leading teams, collaboration, story development, strategic planning, building partnerships, organizational change, facilitation, and book promotion - and things I want to spend more time on - storytelling, branding, teaching, and training.

    I've also made a decision: I'm going to go out on my own, I'm going to consult, chase projects that excite me, and look for cool opportunties that are focused in these areas.

    I'm going to craft a new story for myself and figure out how all of these things hang together. I'm going to help people and organizations tell their stories in new and exciting ways. And I'm going to explore how I can link people who want to promote their work and their ideas in cool and innovative ways, with the endlessly fascinating artists, designers, changemakers, and thought leaders I've been cultivating, curating, and connecting with over at (my once faux) cultural and lifestyle (empire) site This Blog Will Change Your Life.

    You can read more specifically about my intentions on my website here and I hope that you will. After that, please let me know what you think about all of this, tell your friends and networks about me, and then let me know how we can work together.

    Cool?

    Thanks.