Reclaim Your Future: 12 Practices To Help You Own Your Life

Note: This is the second of a two-part series about reclaiming your future. In Part 1, I described the increasingly surreal, matrix-like climate that government seems to be creating, and touched on some reasons for taking charge of your life. In this part, I provide an overview of actions you can take to begin to own your life, and exercise more control over your destiny. To go deeper on any point, just follow the links.

Reclaim Your Future (2)Have you ever found yourself saying about another person, that they ought to get a life? Yeah, me too. And if you’re like me, on occasion, you’ve probably found yourself admitting, “Man, I need to get a life!!” So, my question is, when do you say that? [Tweet this]  

Well, again drawing on personal experience, I’ll bet you’ve been most prone to feel a need for big change when:

        • You’ve felt like things were slipping out of your control.
        • Things beyond your control were negatively affecting you.
        • You’ve felt obligated in some uncomfortable way.
        • You faced too many competing demands, and felt overwhelmed.

Too often, people feel the biggest need for change when they’re trapped in circumstances that cause pain. And there’s no bigger source of pain, than a feeling of overwhelm that makes you feel helpless. It’s even more painful when you see things you can change, but you’re afraid to give yourself permission. [Tweet this]  

Well, stop it! Instead, get ready to take action!

I won’t claim to have an answer for your specific circumstances. Owning your life and reclaiming your future is ultimately up to you. [Tweet this]  Still, here are 12 ideas to get you started:

1. Journey Inward.

Since the time Socrates first uttered the injunction “Know Thyself,” countless others have chimed in with the same advice. So, I’m betting you’ve heard this. Yet, I’d guess you haven’t really done the kind of deep dive of introspection that leads to genuine insight. If not, why not give it a shot? And if you need an easy way to get started you may want to check out, Kerry Pastine’s nifty little book.

2. Establish Your Quest.

It’s very likely that one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced – or need to face – is making a conscious decision about what you want out of life. Yet, counterintuitive as it seems, you’ve probably been trying to achieve it for a very long time. You see, I believe we decide pretty early on, and often unconsciously, what we want our lives to be about. It’s a big reason, why I’m such an advocate of uncovering your story. I’ve coached lots of people on doing this, with great result. But I know for some, this retrospective exercise is tedious. So, alternatively, you may want to invest effort in some visioning work to figure out your quest.

3. Understand How Others See You.

Having worked with lots of people on their “personal brands,” I can tell you that many have only a faint idea about the real value they deliver to others. Maybe that’s you too. So, how do you find out? You ask. You can ask others directly, or you can choose to do an anonymous 360 survey. However, you do it, you’re likely to validate things you already know, but also to uncover a few surprises. Still, if you are opting for the red pill, this provides a unique reality check.

4. Be Authentically You.

As you probably know, we’ve crossed a threshold into a value-driven world. It’s no longer sufficient to define yourself in terms of a title or professional category. Instead, you need to answer a prospective employer’s question, “What can you do for me?” So, you need to position your unique value. Yet, who you are and what makes you worth knowing is a question that will be on the mind of everyone you meet, whether you meet them at a social function, at a community event, or at the gym. And when you meet others, it always helps you to connect when you’re being your best self.

5. Seek Belonging.

Of course, it’s easier to connect with others when you’re tuned in to the needs, wants, values, and beliefs of the communities you seek to belong to. People tend to gravitate to people they resonate with. And if you’ve ever experienced the magic of discovering shared interests and experiences, you already know this. Now build on it. Because the possibility of becoming known, liked, and trusted by others can often hinge on the perception that you’re “one of us,” and that you “get it.” So, find your people in all parts of your life, and make yourself visible to them!

6. Open Yourself Up To New Relationships. 

It’s said that variety is the spice of life, and this is ever more true of relationships.  So, seek out friends from a diverse array of ages, genders, ethnicities, and locations. Interacting with people from around the world can broaden your perspectives, and enrich your human experience. Diverse FriendsThis is much easier than ever because social media allows you to put yourself out there. So, jump in. And when you do, be a proactive conversation starter. Often saying hello and making a relevant comment often launches relationships! Do this in face-to-face meet ups too. In fact, forget the script, and dare to engage in conversations without a net.

While you’re reaching out to make new friends, don’t forget to cultivate relationships with people in your work-related communities. You probably already know lots of people who matter to your work life. Still, there is real benefit in growing that community beyond geographic and industry boundaries. Again, think variety! There is some evidence that you become more valuable as you grow a wide and diverse network.

7. Run Your Career Like A Free Agent.

The world of work has changed. Forever. While it’s true that there are still people who fit the traditional model of employee, the trend is toward free agency. Most often, this means you’re a contractor, and probably short-term. You make a valuable contribution to projects for as long as you’re needed. Then you move on. So, even as you deliver value to one client, you always need to be looking for that next opportunity. Being a free agent requires skillful self-management as well as clarity about what matters to you in finding happiness at work. Yet, more fundamentally, it means choosing yourself! Because if you don’t, you risk becoming a career zombie.

8. Learn New Things.

You probably already know that in a rapidly changing world, it’s important to keep up. Lots of people don’t, but it doesn’t mean you have to join them. If you want to reclaim your future, you need to do the learning that makes your career portable across time. Determine what you need to learn, then put yourself in charge of making sure it happens. And if you need a little extra motivation to start, see what one of the most challenging fitness systems can teach you about success.

9. Take Care of Yourself.  

Owning your life means you’re responsible for regular maintenance.  So, dedicate time to the self-care that will sustain your personal vitality. As you know, it means investing time in proper nutrition, exercise, and other wellness practices. Still, there are ways to fire up your resilience by adding other successful living practices.

10. Forget About Reinventing Yourself.

Many people, maybe even you, often face life’s disappointments with the resolve to reinvent themselves. It sounds pretty attractive, actually. Perhaps because of the promise of a fresh start. Problem is, self-reinvention is a myth, and can lead to an illusion of change. Better to engage in the kind of critical self-assessment and learning that allows you to bring out your best.

11. Decide To Be Happy.  

How do you attain happiness? Well, if you’re like a lot of people, you might be waiting for some magic event or set of circumstances that will make you happy. Decide To Be HappyThe truth is, though, happiness is less a matter of circumstance than personal choice and daily practices. And there is some significant happiness research to back this up. Turns out, there are eight happiness practices that work. Find out what they are and start applying them right now!!

12.  Give Yourself Permission To Keep Trying.

It’s pretty amazing how often people who need to make some positive change will announce their bravery or say they’re giving themselves permission. Declarations are great! But change only lives in action. And mastery only results when you move through feeble your first steps to eventual mastery. Sure, we all know what Nike and Yoda say about doing and trying. Forget all that, and keep trying. Let’s face it, you don’t learn, and you don’t get better, if you don’t try. On the road to reclaiming your future, you will stumble and fall. Yet, if you truly want to own your life, pick yourself back up, and keep trying.

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Was this helpful? If so, do you want more? Let me know the challenges you face, and I’ll address them in future posts. Just leave a comment. Or, if you’d like to privately share a challenge for me to address, use my contact page.

It Really Is Who You Know … And Who They Know

Who You KnowQuick!

If I say “networking,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking job search or business development. You may also be feeling some of the internal resistance that surfaces at the prospect of meeting new people and building new relationships. But I bet the last thing you’re thinking about is how cultivating a broader network builds value for you and benefits the people you serve.

Why do I say this?

In a post on business lessons from CrossFit, I made the point that, “Your success can only be as great as your community.  So, foster meaningful relationships and mutual support.” I think that’s very solid advice, and believe we all need to have a core community – or communities – with people who support, nurture, and sustain us over time. Yet, I had a recent insight about the power of networks. It’s this: The broader your network, coupled with your ability to navigate it, the more valuable you become. [Tweet this]  

Your Talent Takes You Only So Far

How did I come to this insight? Well, certainly some recent reading pointed me in this direction. Yet, there’s nothing that sparks a flash of insight quite like first hand experience. So, let me tell you a little story.

During a recent conversation with a prospective career strategy client, I was asking about where she wanted to take her career. As soon as she mentioned her primary goal, I had an “ah ha” moment. It occurred to me that one of the ways I could help her was to introduce her to members of my own high technology network. Seemed to me that some of these folks could help her evaluate her skills with respect to relevant opportunities.

Of course, there’s nothing earth shattering here. Actually, making LinkedIn introductions is a pretty common strategy for helping people connect with individuals who can point them to opportunities. What is significant, however, was my insight that, besides my coaching skills, my network made me even more valuable to this person.

How significant is this?  Turns out it’s pretty significant.

[Read more…]

Don’t Become A Career Zombie: How To Survive the Apocalypse

For my last post, I drew on some Halloween inspiration to help you avoid the fate of The Invisible Man in managing your online presence. I promised a second installment to share how a career lesson from the zombie apocalypse of World War Z applies to you. So, read and learn.

Apocalyptic retro poster. Sunset. Grunge background.I love it when I gain perspective from unlikely places! This is probably not so surprising. I’ll bet it’s the same for you.  Yet, for me, the more unlikely the source of insight, the bigger the impact. So, stick with me, and I’ll show you what I mean.

Lately, I’ve been reading, Max Brooks’ World War Z. What’s amazing is that it has offered what I think is a central lesson for career management, today. Yeah, I know. Zombie war? Career management? You’re probably thinking, “Give me a break!” [Tweet This]

Not A Zombie Crisis But An Economic One

Frankly, needing to survive a zombie crisis is highly unlikely. Yet, we have, for several years, been living through economic crisis – with clear impacts on careers. This is not news. Yet, what may surprise you is that this jobs crisis has deep roots. [Tweet This] In fact, writers like Charles Handy and William Bridges, long ago predicted the demise corporate positions. And despite the fact that people continue to pursue full-time spots, Dan Pink has correctly characterized our nation as a free agent one – and it continues to evolve.

So, what does this have in common with surviving a zombie war?

World War Z character Arthur Sinclair, Junior, in describing an effort known as the National Reeducation Act, talks about how careers like executive, analyst, consultant which were viable in the prewar world became totally inadequate in the time of crisis. The world no longer needed people to talk on the phone to broker deals or to review contracts. He then makes an astute observation:

“That’s the way the world works. But one day it doesn’t. No one needs a contract reviewed or a deal brokered. … For some, this was scarier than the living dead.”

By contrast, the people who did well were

“… people who knew how to take care of themselves, how to survive on very little and work with what they had.”

This is as true in our real crisis as it is in Brooks’ fictional one.

Choosing Yourself

While it’s important to have specific strategies, I think this suggests a fundamental capacity for self-direction. Over the years, I’ve tended to think of that as making choices that allow you to own your life. Yet, there is another slant on autonomy that’s offered up by James Altucher who calls characterizes it as choosing yourself.

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Hiding In Plain Sight

The Invisible ManAh, it’s that time of year! You know, beer fests and Halloween. I don’t know about you, but it’s actually Halloween that most fires me up!  Not only is it good fun, but it also offers rich symbolism and abundant metaphor. So much so, it inspired me to write a couple of posts that apply eerie – and even ghoulish – themes to career success.

This first post focuses on avoiding the fate of The Invisible Man in managing your online presence.

Meet Griffin

In the classic novella by H.G. Wells, the main character, Griffin, is a man consumed with his greed for power and fame. As a scientist, he believes that “…if a person’s refractive index is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible.” Of course, he decides to carry out this procedure on himself. And voilà! He becomes invisible. But there’s one small problem. He can’t reverse the process. This, of course, leads to mental instability and his ultimate death!

Avoid Using Camouflage

Being able to hide oneself does not, of course, require becoming invisible. Actually, the ability to hide in plain sight is built into nature. It’s called camouflage. It’s a protective adaptation that allows organisms to blend in with their surroundings.

Camouflage may provide survival advantages in the wild. Yet, blending in is a huge disadvantage in the world of work. [Tweet This] In fact, if you’re a consumer of career and business advice, you know the emphasis is not on fitting in but on standing out. In today’s competitive world, the thinking goes, you need to discern and leverage your personal brand across a range of media – and especially on line.

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Could It Be Time For You To Get Real About Your Career?

girl with two faces“Oh, come on, get real!” Chances are good that you’ve heard this from friends more than once in your life. Me too. In fact, you’ve probably offered up this gentle guidance yourself. I know I have. Actually, I’m about to do it again…

Like a lot of people, you’re no doubt aware of lots of realities about the world of work. You know the results your company expects of you, you know you need to be prepared for your annual performance appraisal, …and you know making your boss look good is usually good for your career. You also know you need to give office gossip at least some credence, you know you have to watch your back, and you know you’re expected to do ever more with even less.

And most importantly, you know how to fit in. After all, it’s something you’ve been doing most of your career.

Actually, like many people, you may have gotten so caught up in your career adventure that, even now, you may be as eager to fit in to your profession, industry, and organization, as you were on day one. Over time, this desire has been reinforced by seeing that if you perform well, and have a little luck, your career advances. You also get to keep your job, and you become even better at doing what’s expected.

Sure, it can be difficult at times. Generally, however, you’ve progressed in your career by being astute enough to figure out what others want from you – and agile enough to provide it. Yet, I think this kind of success holds a danger, and it’s this: You form a picture of yourself that meets work specs, even if it’s several beats short of who you truly are. [Tweet This]

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Play Your Part: Make “Typecasting” Work for You

CastingHave you ever imagined yourself as a movie actor? If so, what roles do you play? More importantly, how similar are your imaginary roles to who you are in real life? I ask because I think the world of acting offers us a useful lesson in career success.

One of my friends is an actor who is carefully building his career. Fortunately, he has a great day job and an award winning film to his credit.  Recently, during dinner in LA (where else?), we talked about personal branding for actors. During this and a subsequent conversation in Atlanta, I learned some things that seem to have broad application to pursuing success in other industries.

According to my friend, getting started in acting is often based on your type; specifically:

“… typecasting … [or] the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups.”

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Putting Yourself “Out There”

Social MediaI know I can sometimes take myself too seriously. How about you? Yet, I actually do make an effort to “put myself out there,” on social media, by showing the fun parts of who I am. What about you? Do you put yourself out there? Are you willing to share who you are as a person? To show some of what you enjoy in life?

Let me explain why I ask.

The other day, I posted a LinkedIn update to a Chris Brogan post, leading with, “If you take yourself seriously, this is not for you. But it probably should be.” Part of the reason I said that was my sense that, as a social media platform for business people, this update might not fit LinkedIn.

Since posting it, I’ve been thinking about what made me think people take themselves so seriously. Part of it, is the nature of LinkedIn as professional platform. It’s where people present who they are as a business people. Yet, I also realized that besides sharing their experience and a summary of what they do, there was something else contributing to my sense of their seriousness. Then it hit me. I realized it came from their “passion” statements.

By passion statements, I mean the way people prop up their image by saying what floats their professional boat. You know, statements like,  “I am passionate about…

  • Helping my clients get that loan…
  • Empowering others to have their say…
  • Achieving growth for businesses…
  • Building customer engagement.”

When I see these statements in profiles, I often think, “But what are you silly about?” No, seriously!

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The Public Life of Your Personal Brand

ConferenceHave you ever stopped to think about how you’re managing your public life? Okay, maybe you’re wondering,  “What public life?”

So, let me explain.

Most of us will agree we have a personal life and we have a work life. Yet, we don’t usually think about having a “public” life. We know politicians and celebrities have public lives. But think we do not. Yet, the reality is that your success is driven by the positive regard of others. Though you may not have looked at it this way, your reputation exists by virtue of the way your public sees you.

Actually, because you know your professional presence online is important, you no doubt have a LinkedIn account. And there’s a good chance you’re on Twitter.  You may even have worked to build your personal brand with online profiles that include your unique attributes, motivated skills, and other information you hope will attract people who may be able to hire or do business with you. While you might not have thought of it this way before, your web presence is one facet of your public life.

Still, your public life cannot be contained inside passive online profiles. It needs to be dynamic. If you want to earn positive regard of others and attract opportunity, you need to “put yourself out there.” As principal ambassador of “brand you,” you need to regularly engage with the people who make up your audiences, both online and at face-to-face meet ups! It’s the only way you can make the kind of emotional connections with people who can support your success. Think of it this way: No connection, no brand.

Yet, if you think of this as “networking,” it will seem daunting. It’s not. So, don’t think of it that way. Instead, think of your public life as ongoing conversations that are intended to help you get to know and establish friendly relationships with members of your community. To build those relationships, your focus, needs to be on them. Not you.

This is not new idea. A wise man once said:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

That man was Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.  As I see it, Carnegie offers timeless advice with ongoing relevance. In his writing he capture the essence a successful public life. So, if attracting the positive regard of others is important to your personal brand – and it is – you would do well to (re)discover his principles.

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So, how are you managing your public life? If you want to share, I’d love to know. Just leave your comment on this post.

My People, Your People, and Lunch.

LunchHow often do you connect with your people? And just who are your people anyway? Yes, these may seem like strange questions. So, let me explain.

Recently, I referenced an old blog post of mine, and it made me think of a classic Hollywood line:

“Have your people call my people, and we’ll do lunch.”

I’m pretty sure you know this line. It’s kind of a cliché, actually. What it suggests is people can be so successful and busy that they need their assistants to manage their lives.

Yet, that’s not exactly how I mean it. [Read more…]