I had just read another of Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings blog posts – this one on How To Find Meaningful Work or, as she says, “The art-science of allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold,” when I saw this video of Thomas Keller addressing a packed auditorium of Stanford Business School students about how he attributes the lessons he learned as a dishwasher to his success.
Keller’s mother managed several restaurants and, as a young boy he spent a lot of hours in those restaurants, beginning as a dishwasher. He says that early experience was formative because, as a dishwasher, he needed to be:
1. Organized, efficient, attentive to detail. How he loaded the machine counted as much as how he unloaded it: the dishes, glasses and silverware had to be loaded a certain way to get them cleanest and unloaded efficiently. Feedback was instantaneous: things were either clean or not, and he could not afford for them not to be clean on his watch.
2. Part of a team: everyone relied on him to get their plates, glasses and silverware clean.
3. Aware of rituals: loading the washer, emptying it, or sweeping the floor – everything had to be done at a certain time. He equates this today to every aspect of a meal needing to be done at a certain time for the whole to come together.
4. Purposefully repetitive. He perfected his skills as a dishwasher by doing it over and over again, just as a chef perfects slicing onions by slicing them over and over again.
Today, Thomas Keller’s culinary empire includes four restaurants and a bakery, cookbooks, wines, a line with Williams Sonoma and now Cup4Cup - a Gluten free flour business. Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings by the Michelin Guide.
The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group is made up of a family of restaurants that range from the gastronomic experiences of The French Laundry, which actually was a French Steam Laundry dating back to the 1920′s, in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York City to the more relaxed atmosphere of Bouchon Bistro, the family style dishes of Ad Hoc, and the exquisite sweets you’ll discover at Bouchon Bakery. Each are bound by Keller’s passion to nourish and to provide memorable experiences for every guest that visits.
To quantify these experiences specifically:
Gift Cards for French Laundry in Yountville, Ca or Per Se in New York City range from: Silver at $750-800; Gold at $1550; and Black at $2500 – thankfully each card is for two!
Ad Hoc, also in Yountville has gift cards from $58 per person.
Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, with added locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, from $31 per person per gift.
I’d say, Keller definitely found what Popov describes as meaningful work by “allowing the petals of his identity to unfold!”
Yes, the former King of England’s skeleton was recently discovered in a shallow, unmarked grave under a modern parking lot. Humiliating as that is, the scariest part of this story may be that the King’s prolonged royal fall was due, in large part, to just one man, William Shakespeare. The great playwright wrote in his history play, Richard III, that Richard personally ordered the killing of two Princes, his 9 and 12-year old nephews, in the Tower of London to clear his way to the throne. Despite the fact that this was never proven, in point the King was never charged, Shakespeare’s villainous label has stuck for more than 500 years.
Shakespeare said, “All the World’s a Stage,” and he used this platform to celebrate or skewer many brands. This would be impossible for one man to do in today’s totally networked culture. Technology has created a seismic shift in the ways in which information and opinion are conveyed. Social media has created access to vast amounts of information, producing unprecedented transparency. It’s an opportunity for you to think in terms of how best to stage your brand for maximum benefit.
We call this Brandraising (a term we learned several years ago from one of our favorite blogs, The Duck Call), and the following tips will help you raise your brand:
1. Establish Your Character, Originality and Authenticity.
2. Identify and Showcase Your Skills and Talents – the gifts, passions, interests and natural aptitudes you are born with, which are part of your essential make-up, and those you’ve learned through experience.
3. Let Your Voice Be Heard and Seen. In this multi-media world you need to create a spoken, written, and visual message, which is relevant and consistent. Each and every word and image counts. It’s your story, your brand, your career and your life. No one is better equipped to capture the essential details than you.
Great learning tools:
The Spoken Word – This workshop “Shall I compare thee to a newscast spot?” on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio will help you fine tune your storytelling through the spoken word. You will learn about the importance of your voice – the sound, cadence, pauses and inflections – to achieve high impact particularity for all your non-visual communications.
The Written Word – Read E.B.White and William Strunk, Jr.’s The Elements of Style, a tiny but venerable guide, which is just as valuable today as when it was when first published in 1919. The guide begins with sixty-three words that could change your world of writing: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his [her] sentences short, or that he [she] avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
Picture It – Pictures, logos, videos and information graphics tell your story – your brand – in much less than a thousand words. There are many free online how-to articles about designing effective logos, choosing your social media photos, and creating videos to engage your audience. YouTube, for example, has some great tutorials for creating digital stories, and a section within YouTube (sponsored by Google and American Express) that allows a small business to create digital stories with professional-quality video, replete with graphics, editing, and sound.
4. Review, Edit, Rewrite. Always remember that, like a traditional on-the-ground network, your virtual brandraising network needs nurturing and on-going maintenance. Keep it fresh and up-to-date. If you limit your postings to once a year or even once a month, it connotes a certain lack of interest and commitment or, even worse, that you really don’t know what you are doing!
5. Listen to Your Critics. Once you post what you consider a wise or erudite tidbit, be open to feedback – both positive and negative. That interchange or exchange of information and insights is the real value added – the way we learn.
6. Stay Ahead of the Message. Know who you are online. If you think you control your online fate by not participating in any Social Media Networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, you must think again. Even better, try popping your name into Google’s search window.
Pitch is both a verb and a noun.
Verb: One can pitch an idea, a story, a song, a ball – one’s self.
Noun: The pitch is an idea, story, song – your self.
They are two distinct art forms. One can have perfect pitch, as in singing the true sound of any note in a piece of music, and still not understand the song.
Others can have a profound connection with a song and miss the true notes. If you’ve watched “The Voice” more than once on TV, you’ll have heard the ultimate criticism, “Pitchy!” When one of the judges declares a singer’s voice “pitchy” – not true, nor flat nor sharp but all over the place, it’s the kiss of death.
Don’t be tone deaf. When pitching yourself for a job you need to nail both the notes and the story. You must focus on your content, delivery, and above all – your value. The perfect pitch is so much more than what you know; it has to be about what you can do with what you know for the organization where you’d like to work. (See our earlier post on Leonardo Da Vinci’s radical working resumé.)
Three tips to get you off on the right note:
1. Create a compelling story: Put your best foot forward. The competition is fierce and you need to be able to demonstrate you are the best of the best. Focus on what you have to offer and why it will be of value – what’s in it for the organization. You know all about using active verbs but do not forget the blockbuster nouns – key words – that capture you, your strengths and your industry savvy.
2. Do your research: Know what problems/challenges your company-to-be needs to address and position yourself as key to delivering a distinctive, pro-active, sustainable solution.
3. Data: Don’t forget to include real evidence: metrics to quantify your successes and specific examples to qualify your accomplishments. You want to demonstrate the impact – outcomes and not just outputs – you can achieve to make a real difference.
It’s time to reclaim the positive aspects of pitching. You’re not a used car salesman trying to off-load a wreck. Nor are you a fickle, pie-in-the-sky visionary. As Yann Martel’s character, Pi, says in his book, Life of Pi,
and the spectacular new movie, “I had to stop hoping so much that a ship would rescue me. I should not count on outside help. Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.”
Ludwig van Beethoven said, “Music is the soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents.”
Soooo, warm up your vocal chords and pitch the music of your life and work!
Happy Birthday Emoticons! A picture is worth a thousand words and you’ve been telling stories for 30+ years.
The father of Emoticons — or emotional icons — was Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In 1982, he proposed that the following character sequence be used as a joke marker: : – )
These characters were quickly added to the lexicon.
The emotional characters spread like wildfire, capturing every conceivable expression with a keystroke or 2 or 3…
Simple as they are, these pictures convey a lot (maybe not a 1000 words but a lot) about what you’re trying to say in your communiques. In the same way, your photo on a site like LinkedIn is your professional emoticon, and it behooves you to think with care about what the photo you post conveys.
First and foremost, “professional” is the key word here. Whether you’re looking for a job or connecting with professional colleagues, you can be sure that your photo will be seen. The question is “how” will it be seen.
Save the cute puppies, your precocious toddlers, wild dancing, and fashion bling shots for the family album – hopefully tucked safely away in some trunk in the attic. Remember, there is no such thing as privacy online. Your photo is part of your brand, and unfortunately, a goofy picture may turn the people you hope to reach off before they ever get to the brilliant words with which you have crafted your professional acumen.
For some valuable, practical advice, check out this article, 11 Tips for Choosing Your LinkedIn Photo, by Norine Dagliano at CareerRealism.com.
You don’t need to hire a professional photographer. Find a friend who’s good with a camera, with whom you can relax and smile with confidence. You want to be accessible and engaging so those finding you online will be eager to hear what you have to say.
This Fast Company article, 6 Tips For Hiring Star Talent From A Top Hollywood Casting Director, by Mina Hochberg describes how the particular genius of casting directors is showcased in “Casting By,” a documentary which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Wisdom from that film and from top casting director Ellen Chenoweth,” Hochberg says, “shows you what Hollywood casting can teach you about finding, interviewing, and hiring your next star.”
When Hochberg writes, “A film’s success depends on perfect casting just as much as a company’s success depends on hiring the right talent,” I thought these six tips should be posted in every HR office.
1. Don’t wait for candidates to come to you.
2. Don’t always go with the most obvious candidate.
3. Don’t dismiss a promising candidate based on a bad interview.
4. Fight for your first choice.
5. If possible, take your time.
6. Look for strengths that the candidate might not even be aware of.
See the film if you can, but, until you can get to a screening, read this article, try to put yourself in the casting/hiring director’s shoes and imagine what he or she is looking for in a star and make it happen!
Your resume is your story. To bring it to life you must maximize your focus, relevancy, particularity – and, as always, your authenticity. Keep in mind Ernest Hemingway’s wisdom: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
I’ve recently read three unique pieces with key insights for this task.
The first is NY Times‘ columnist, David Brooks’, The Power of the Particular.” Brooks describes a Bruce Springtseen concert he attended in Spain,
“The oddest moment came mid-concert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, ‘I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!’”
“My best theory,” Brooks says, “is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call ‘paracosms.’ These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.”
“We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate… Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.”
“It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all.”
This workshop on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio helps us fine tune other aspects of our storytelling to achieve high impact particularity. You can tell a lot about yourself over a great deal of time, but if you need to capture someone’s attention quickly, you need to capture what counts in a minute.
Their tips to achieve compelling brevity are:
Now we know that particularity and brevity are important, but they are meaningless without authenticity and relevance.
Martin Zwilling writes in Forbes about John B. Montgomery’s new book, “Great From the Start,” which highlights Mark Zawacki’s five rules of relevancy. Zawacki’s rules, while focused on business startups are equally apt for the startup of your new life:
You’re not ready for a tombstone yet, so chuck that old resume and create a dynamic and vital new blueprint for the next stage of your life.
As I was driving out of Washington this afternoon, I was listening to an interview with the marvelous Trinidad-born, jazz musician, Etienne Charles, who is scheduled to perform at the DC Jazz Fest this month.
His rich music is, as described on his website, “at least four generations deep: his great-grandfather, Clement Monlouis, emigrated to Trinidad from the overseas French department of Martinique bringing his folk music to the village of Mayaro; the young trumpeter’s grandfather, Ralph Charles’ distinct cuatro style can be heard on the classic folk and calypso recordings of the Growling Tiger; and, Etienne’s father, Francis Charles, was a member of Phase II Pan Groove, one of Trinidad’s most progressive steel bands and one that Etienne himself would later join. Immersed in his father’s vast record collection, and suffused with the sounds of calypso, steel pan, and African Shango drumming, Etienne imbibed many of the influences that presently constitute the diverse colors of his harmonic palette.”
But, impressive as his musical heritage is, I was most struck when he commented on that heritage, saying, “The More You Live The More You Have To Express.”
How poignant, especially on this day when Queen Elizabeth, age 86, is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. Not too long ago, we noted in this blog just how much you and the Queen have in common.
Then, too, look at the stars participating in the Queen’s concert this evening: Sir Elton John, age 65; Sir Paul McCartney, age 70; and Dame Shirley Bassey, age 75, among many other “golden oldies.” Their performances, imbued with experience gleaned from the decades they have lived, were some of the most moving of their careers.
May we all live – and express our lives – as well!
More than a sight, Ari Seth Cohen’s new book, Advanced Style, is a testament to the art of being oneself – forever!
In his introduction, Cohen writes, “I have never considered ‘old’ a bad word. To be old is to be experienced, wise and advanced. The ladies [in their 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 100's] I photograph challenge stereotypical views on age and aging. They are youthful in mind and spirit and express themselves through personal style and individual creativity. The soul of Advanced Style is not bound to age or even style, but rather to the celebration of life.”
In this blog we have often addressed originality and the important ways in which that originality or style is our unique brand and our selling point as we seek to remain active in the work force or re-invent ourselves. Most recently, we noted in our ode to Edith Piaf, No Regrets: Have the Courage to Live a Life True to Yourself.
Creativity can and should be pro-active for, as George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”
The Grande Dames photographed by Cohen share their own nuggets of wisdom:
“Elegance is refined with age.”
“Style is above all, the right attitude.”
“Fashion says ‘me too,’ while style says ‘only me.’”
“If you try to imitate too much, you will look like nothing. Never compare, you are you!”
“We must dress every day for the theatre of our lives.”
In her forward to Advanced Style, Maira Kalman, a fashionista in her own right , as well as an illustrator, author, artist, and designer, says, “Ari Cohen has done something very important. He has looked at our grand population and singled out the people that, in a way, are most invisible and have the most to offer.”
“We are lucky,” Kalman continues, “when any older person crosses our path. Our lives are enriched just by proximity. The wisdom. The spirit. The saying exactly what they think. The dispensing of advice. The courage. The humor. The crankiness. The kindness. Or the iconoclasm. All of these come from people who have lived a long life.”
Ahhhh…. that “buy a hat” is also key for Mimi Weddell, one of Cohen’s many elegant ladies (pictured in the photo with Cohen, above), who said of her life, “I can’t imagine going without a hat. The only romantic thing left in life is a hat.”
My grandmother always wore a hat and I adored her. My great Aunt Dell wore her hat at a saucy angle as she fearlessly maneuvered her ambulance across the battlefields of France in WW I. Here’s to all the Grand Dames in our lives!