Managing Creativity with Harriet Tubman

I just read the most cool article in Mental_Floss magazine.  Check out the magazine sometime…interesting facts that are stimulating and out of the ordinary. The article was about Harriet Tubman, the famous lady who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War.  She redefined leveraging creativity to achieve her goals.  It is fascinating and written by Erik Sass.


There was a bounty on Harriet for the equivalent of $1 million as she led 19 journeys freeing more than 300 slaves. This wasn’t easy as you can imagine.  The obstacles to achieve our goals for the most part pale in comparison.  She followed several approaches that are reflective of successful people today.

*  Know your terrain and where you are heading
Slave owners often kept their slaves close so they wouldn’t know their surroundings and wouldn’t know how to escape. Tubman would manage the navigation and at times on the fly leveraging dense forests, and swamps. Sometimes she would need to split the group up and provide to the group simple easy to follow advise for a meeting point.

* Know your clients and manage them effectively
The slaves were often brought to freedom as a family unit. Kids could give away their presence by crying so to address this, she always carried paragoric, an opium varient.

* Make sure everyone knew who’s in charge
Runaway slaves faced draconian punishments if they were caught so sometimes, they would change their minds and wish to return to servitude. But going back would have exposed her Underground Railroad network. So she gave them a choice facing the barrel of a gun. Die a slave or be free!!!

* Work the News Cycle, control your messaging.
Slave owners would alert bounty hunters with substantial rewards to capture runaway slaves. So Harriet would initiate her rescues on a Saturday giving her a 48 hour head start before the ads circulate in the Monday paper.

Since Harriet was engaged in activities with life/death implications, clearly some of her actions would be viewed as over the top in what most of us face in our day to day lives. But, she addressed problems through solution approaches you can use.

Action of the Day
Imagine you were rescuing your career and running yourself through the Underground Railroad. How would you prepare for this herculean task?  Pretend Harriet is right beside you ready to coach you. What would she tell you?  Are you ready to take the lead?

Quote of the Day
“Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.”  Stephen Sondheim:  Award-winning American composer & lyricist

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Happiness – No Arms or Legs Required

As you can tell from reviewing my posts on this website, Upgrading Your Career is less about any technical abilities and more about your attitude, getting along with people and possessing a never quit philosophy.

You will just love this video on Nick Vujicic. A man born without arms and legs. But…..he has made a life for himself based not on self pity but self exploration, living life to its fullest and sharing his passion with others. Take a look.

I have experienced, like many of you, periods in my life where I felt nothing went right.   There were times when I felt very alone and lacked confidence in myself.  My career has had bumps in the road. I sometimes just did not want to look at myself in the mirror.  As Zig Ziglar would say,  I would throw myself a pity party. Have you gone through periods like this?  Nick leads by example and overcomes his struggles through sheer brute force of a positive attitude and desire to make a difference for people.  For almost all of us, our career and life could not be more challenging than what Nick has experienced. Yet Nick finds happiness. Nick finds hope. You know what….if I were an employer, I would bend over backwards to see how I can bring Nick into my company. There is a lesson there for all of us. Be inspired. Allow others to be an example for you. We all have room to grow and become a better person.

Action of the Day
Before you go to sleep tonight, sit at the edge of your bed and think about what you appreciate. Think about how Nick might handle the problems you are facing right now. How can you shift your thinking from problems waiting to happen to opportunities waiting to come forward? This is an exciting time of your life, right now. Embrace it.

Quote of the Day
“It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.”   Brian Tracy

Youtube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ZuKF3dxCY  Nick’s Website: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

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Solving Business Problems Methodically

In our careers, we are always faced with uncertainty.

Uncertainty comes from things we cannot control. This includes the economy, how other people act/perform, and just pure fate. Successful people don’t stress out because there are uncontrollable factors in their lives. By definition, they are uncontrollable.

What we focus on are the things we can control.  Marty Zwilling from Startup Professionals, Inc. wrote a terrific blog on the 6 Tips to Max Your Business Problem Solving Skills.  You can train yourself to be a problem solver. Here are the 6 tenants:

1. Practice Active Listening  – Resist the urge to vocally jump into the fray, and listen attentively without interruption.
2. Promise Action but Manage Expectations – You know the drill….Undercommit, Overdeliver!!
3. Investigate thoroughly – Don’t assume anything…GATHER THE FACTS!!!
4. Provide Regular Updates to All – Communication is the most underrated element of problem solving but probably the most important step.
5. Make a Timely Decision – Assemble the facts, talk to all the stakeholders of a problem, then make the solution decision. Don’t delay….that’s status quo.
6. Follow up – Reconfirm your decision within hours or latest days by all who is impacted. Explain why.

Action of the Day : Review the last decision you have made (or led others in making) that impacted more than yourself. Did you follow each of the above 6 steps. If not, which one did you fail to adequately address? What happened as a result? Write down these 6 steps onto a small index card. Carry it with you for a week. Refer to it daily. You are working to modify your behavior. This typically takes a period of constant repetition until it is habit. You will find over several weeks that you have trained yourself to follow these steps intuitively whenever confronted with a significant business problem/decision you need to make.

Quote of the Day :  “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.  ~Author Unknown

Picture Credit: © Ginasanders | Dreamstime.com

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What if 20,000 People Came to your Rescue?

Imagine how you would feel if you messed up singing the national anthem in front of over 20,000 people in an arena on national TV?  Many of us would avert the crises by never putting ourselves in that situation. But, Natalie Gilbert, the winner of a Toyota sponsored contest for an up and coming vocal performer, found out what it is like. She forgot the words, but the very best of human nature came out. Watch what Coach Mo Cheeks, former head coach of the Philadelphia 76rs, did.

Imagine how powerful you can be if you went through life, and your career, with the fundamental belief in the positive nature of people. Most people wish the best of others and will root for their success. Just like for Natalie, the whole arena wanted this risk taking experience to be as positive as possible.  Imagine if you were one of the people in the audience that night. Wouldn’t you have wanted to lift Natalie’s spirits during this challenging experience?

Action of the Day:  If you knew that everyone you knew would be there to break a fall, help you recover from a failed experience, give you a smile when you felt like crying, what would you consider doing?  Visualize yourself doing that risk with all your loved ones, friends, and every acquaintance you know but forget their name, were there to root you on all the way. Feel that warm feeling.  Now for the fun part, how can you be that person who helps others rise to the occasion even when they believe they are destined for failure?  Find that opportunity to help others, even anonymously.   You will find yourself transforming into an even more “giving” person. Giving people are the most successful people in the world.

Quote of the Day: “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Can Lying impact your Career?

Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, found himself in some hot water recently for being exposed on blemishes to his academic record.  It seems that he let stand uncorrected in corporate biographies and other official public documents that his background included college degrees in both accounting and computer science. But he reportedly only has a degree in accounting. Some of you might be thinking:

                                                                                                                                                      What’s the Big Deal? 

Why, he even publicly apologized for the controversy to the Yahoo employees per this article from the web news-zine The Inquirer titled…Yahoo CEO apologizes to staff for lying.  No harm, no foul, right?

This is a perfect example to leverage as a lesson for all of us.  In our career, we are often judged on several factors. These include results, how well we get along with people and working hard. However, all of these attributes are nothing without being viewed as a person with integrity.  Think about it.  Consider all of your friends and people you know. Put them in buckets. Those who make things happen, charismatic and a person who you know tells the truth and will not compromise their values to move ahead in life.   Very likely, you will not have someone in your top-tier category of people you most admire and respect if they lie and demonstrate weak integrity. You simply don’t trust them and you don’t let them into your inner circle.

At the time of this writing, Scott Thomas is still CEO but there are calls for his ouster. Most blemishes of truth are done with very little risk of getting caught.  I suggest to take the high road. Be honest.  If you haven’t achieved something, don’t claim it. If you have earned revenues, report it.  Life becomes much simpler. You will become that person of integrity who will be trusted to take on growing roles of responsibilities during their career by decision makers you don’t even know are out there.

The long-term benefit of having the reputation of honesty and taking the high ground will be much more valuable than any short-term benefit from claiming a result that didn’t happen.  Only you can decide which direction to go when you reach this proverbial fork in the road.

Update as of 5/12 : Scott Thomas lost his job as CEO for Yahoo due to not being truthful on his resume.

Action of the Day:  Are there any blemishes of truth you are aware you have made in the past week in order to accomplish a goal and manipulate the perception others have of you?  Write them down.  Create a list of the benefits and negatives that comes from continuing this behavior.  Is it really worth it? If you agree it is not worth it, start evaluating how you can move forward being more honest to yourself and others.

Quote of the Day:   Every time I’ve done something that doesn’t feel right, it’s ended up not being right.  ~Mario Cuomo (former governor of New York).

Picture: © Luis Louro | Dreamstime.com

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Am I an Entrepreneur? It doesn’t Matter

Entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our economy by bearing the financial risks to drive innovation and value to their customers.  We salute them.


Are there shades of grey in being an Entrepreneur or is it black and white?  Can you be employed by others but still bring significant value to your company?   If your employer fails, you typically simply move on taking on the risk of lost income, not loss net worth.  However, what if you started to think like an entrepreneur where you are currently employed. Deborah Bailey wrote an interesting article to reflect this concept titled Become a Star Employee by Thinking Like an Entrepreneur.  There are several key take aways:

Your Attitude
Entrepreneurs start out with a vision of what they want to create, whether it is a product or a service. As an employee, your vision is just as important. The good news is that you have 100% control of this

Be Creative
Another trait of entrepreneurs is the ability to find creative ways to get things done. You also  have 100% control of this. Entrepreneurs must think creatively even in their sleep.  If you only do so during your waking hours, you are ahead of a majority of others.  If your employer goes out of its way to keep your creativity at bay, pick your battles.  If possible, find a new manager more responsive to new ideas. Believe it or not, they are there waiting for you!!!

Keep an Open Mind
A most important trait of entrepreneurs is the ability to learn new information and to continue to adapt.  Guess what, you have 100% control of this as well.  Many people find themselves doing the same type of responsibilities for years and get comfortable. Are you in this situation? If so, find a new set where you are more on the edge. It will reawaken your thought processes and clear your mind for new approaches and opportunities.

Thinking like an entrepreneur will ensure you will increase your value to your employer. With this brings increased opportunities, greater income potential and a life filled more with excitement.

ACTION FOR THE DAY
Imagine receiving an unexpected letter in the mail. You open it up and it declares that you are the new owner of the company you currently work for.  You have been given authority to make changes in the way your company earns revenue or manages its costs. Take a look at your roles and responsibilities in your current position.   Identify 3 ideas to accomplish your responsibilities in a faster and/or more efficient way.  How would you run your newly found company with a positive attitude, creative approach and keeping an open mind?  Who would you want to talk to in your company to implement these ideas?

Quote of the Day
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!! – Goethe


Picture Credit : © Shane Trotter | Dreamstime.com

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People Networking – How to Get Started

At all times of your career, your most valued assets will be your Network.   Networking is a commonly referenced to mean developing and maintaining contacts and personal connections with a variety of people who might be helpful to you and your career. This topic will be an exciting venture of focus.

We will be focusing on this very important career skill and I will share some valuable fundamentals and helpful tools to take you to the next level from where you are. According to a very good blog posted by blog.Jobfully.com on “How to Create a Network”, there is one place to turn to for fundamentally creating your network.

Start Close to Home
You do not need to initiate your efforts by cold calling people who don’t know you or start raking through LinkedIn to find new people to link up with to get to know…That can be both time consuming, inefficient and to say the least, downright intimidating.

I remember a time during my 20s when I was sure that I wanted to focus on the “aging industry” aka supporting those 65+.   I wanted to meet people familiar with the topic.   So I picked the name of the best selling author of a book on Aging during the 1980s and wrote him a letter asking for a chance to meet him and discuss the topic.   If you are familiar with the phrase “Six Degrees of Separation”, I was more like trying to go from ten degrees to one in a single dramatic step. And I was not offering to help him, but rather to get his help(I have learned better since).  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for dramatic steps, but there was high probability of failing on my first attempt. And fail i did….I should have started more methodically to build my network on the “aging” topic  and “started close to home”.

A more effective route to pursue is the following order of priority to find people to meet:

*       Family members
*       Friends
*       Co workers
*       Organizations you belong to (Religious, Interest Groups, Political affiliations)
*       LinkedIn and Facebook Connections

Either you know people linked to the topic you wish to learn more about or they know someone. You have so much to offer others that you might be overlooking….A different perspective…a fresh face who wants to learn something new…you are a potential helper/mentor to others on the topics you know well and understand…..Never sell yourself short….You have so much to give…and it is through this giving that you will ultimately develop a very valuable People Network to help you on your life’s journey.

Action of the Day:   If you haven’t already, establish a personal journal to capture your journey of improvement. It is so valuable to track your progress and issues on a daily basis to learn from your experiences.   Write down the top 5 people you consider to be part of your network.   Jot down what is important to them in their lives and career and what you do on a regular basis to help them make progress towards their goals. If you do not know what is important to them, schedule time and find out. Try to figure out how you can help and start taking steps to do so.  Always start from the point of view of giving….you will feel better as a person and find that mysteriously, you will receive  back 10X more than what you give…Networking is not about taking…it is about giving…

Quote of the Day:  “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.     Zig Ziglar, famous leadership and personal motivation expert.

Picture: © Werg | Dreamstime.com

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5 Ways to Make a Positive Impression

Skills are not always about specific capabilities like putting things together, typing so many words per minute or being able to write software code to solve the most complex Sudoku puzzles.  To succeed in this world(however you define success), you must build relationships through sincere based interactions with people.

Very few people can succeed without collaboration and partnership with others.   Before you can develop these relationships, you need to make a great first impression. This is a soft skill(one we do not take a college course to develop). Soft skills tend to focus on communication and interpersonal skills.

We know they are important. When is the last time you wanted to partner with someone who didn’t leave you with a positive impression. Martin Zwilling, CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; published a list of 7 things to avoid making a Poor Impression.  I summarized to 5.

* Dress appropriately from the perspective of the person you are trying to impress
  (Dress more conservatively than might be expected…if unsure, wear business attire – always)

* Find a common business link or friend to warm up the connection 
(Key — Research who the person/company you will be connecting with.  Leverage Google,
Facebook, LinkedIn 
…you can be sure the same will be done on you…what do you have
in common?)

* Be prepared to concisely state your key objective
(In communication circles, this is known as your elevator pitch…you have 1 minute to
clearly state what you want
and have questions prepared to continue the dialogue as
appropriate)

* Know a lot, but don’t flaunt it
(Remember, you are building a relationship….clearly do your homework and be prepared
to answer any question..
but don’t be arrogant…they need to not only respect you
but like you!!
)

* Be positive, courteous, on time, and attentive
  
(All those years of mother/father teaching you manners will pay off here…be polite, say
Hello
 and respect the other people’s time….Don’t be late for any reason!!)

Action:  Make a lunch, coffee or even a 15 minute catch up appointment with someone you know.  It can be with someone you meet with frequently or someone who you have not invested much time in the past to meet with. Pretend you haven’t met this person before.  Perform a virtual search on this individual and put together a picture of him/her strictly based on the information available online. What do you have in common?  Memorize the information and prepare some questions.  Create an elevator pitch where you have uncovered a common interest and would like to discuss their knowledge on the topic in more details.  Show up for the appointment 5 minutes earlier than the committed time. Work hard to make a great impression.  Take note of the experience. How did it go?  Were you able to further connect with the individual to establish or enhance a bond?

Quote of the Day: “Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.”
Dalai Lama

Picture : © Corwinsg | Dreamstime.com

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Do you make $50M Career Decisions?

In 2011, a former law student at San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law sued the school for $50 million, after she couldn’t find a job while building up $150K in student loans. She claims the school falsified employment statistics without disputing the quality of her education.

This raises a fascinating question: Who is responsible for picking the right career path, right set of employment expectations and developing the right communication skills?

Your Parents : Probably not…parents want not only what is best for you…but they also want you to do what minimizes their own worst case fears. (you know,  on your being destitute, homeless, loveless, and all alone).

 
I have children and I can fully imagine this. But, honestly, parents can’t pick their kids’ interests, career pursuits or dreams.
 

Your Friends:   In the words of Macaulay Culkin in the movie Home Alone“I don’t think so”.  They want what is best for you…but their desires/values and issues are going to be different from yours. Like your parents, they care and they know you very well. But…they are not career experts.

Career Experts : They can help for sure. They are available online in blogs, in books, at schools, or people specializing in this area of consulting for fees. But, unlike your parents or friends, they don’t know you. So at the end of the day…it comes down to ……

YOU!!!

This conclusion is both scary and extremely liberating. It confirms that you are blessed with the freedom of choice.  This is very exciting. There are many processes/tools to support your decision process. We will explore these over time…together.

Question 1:  What was the basis for your past career path decisions? The answer to this can help confirm the source of your current set of skillsets and resolve if they are skills you wish to maintain long term for a career.

Question 2: If you could pretend that no matter what career  pursuit you picked, your parents, friends and people you highly respect would bless it, support it and be totally thrilled with decision, what 3 potential paths would you consider? 

Action: In the next 48 hours, investigate what skills are needed for this path and the ways you could learn this new career. Can you learn these skills at night and apply the new skills you want to build in your current job? You will be surprised how this could be a WIN/WIN for you and your employer or customers.

Quote of the Day:  “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”   Steve Jobs

Introducing – Upgrade Your Career – The Blog

Picture by Idea Go

Greetings everyone and welcome. With an eye on exploring ways to address your career concerns and issues, this new blog that will start to focus on various topics for those interested to “Upgrade Your Career”. This could mean one of the following to you:

1) You want to do something different and/or better than where you are today

2) You are not working and looking for a job to support yourself

3) You are questioning your life’s direction deeply and fundamentally

2) You enjoy what you are doing today but want to earn more $

3) You enjoy the area of your current career and earn enough money to meet your needs, but you want to explore different aspects of your current career focus

4) You enjoy what you are doing, but your significant other, parents,or dog hates it. What else is out there?

What’s the angle? The angle is practicality, with a focus on expediency. It combines guidance for action while building your “can do” thoughts and beliefs. Making changes in lives is work.  But, we can have fun and enjoy the ride. Consider this to be the start of our journey together.

Don’t ever lose faith in yourself. You are not only enough, but someone special with gifts waiting to be explored and appreciated and compensated. We all can make a clean start and make improvements in our career and in our lives. Starting today. The how will be explored. The “why” starts in the mirror.