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.
These strategic steps are designed to help you to use this downtime to invest in yourself. These are not soothing tips to help distract you from your feelings of anxiety. If you’re out of work and don’t want to be, the loss of identity can be overwhelming, but, as the late, John Gardner said, “you have more power in you than you know, so pull up your socks and get on with it.”
In this case “pulling up your socks” requires more than pluck and optimism. To proactively and purposefully re-boot your career, you need to begin with some hard-core introspection. You need to assess the depth of your experience, to understand how your skill sets relate to and can be applied to what you’d like to do next, to identify what you don’t know that you need to learn, and to have the courage to move forward.
1. Accept the reality. We’ve all read the stats that, if you’re over 40, it could take a year or more to find new work.
2. Explore what makes you tick. Do a formal assessment such as: Myers Briggs, The Birkman Method or Clifton Strengths Finder to determine your strengths, values, priorities, motivators and align your goals.
3. Mine your hidden talents. Someone once said, “The greatest wastes are unused talents and untried ideas.” What ideas do you have quietly percolating on a back burner? Do you have a hobby that could be a good business venture? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
1) Rebuilding the world one toothpick at a time. Stan Munro was out of work, when he began building things with toothpicks. He started with small churches, progressed to cathedrals, and then whole cities made entirely of thousands of toothpicks. He was invited to display his artwork at a museum in Spain and is now exhibiting his toothpick masterpieces in museums all over the world.
2) Decluttering your speciality? As you clear out stuff, think about selling those treasures on sites like eBay, Craig’s List, Tradesy.com, and Etsy, at yard sales or give away what you don’t need. Perhaps you have a real knack for it and can help others set up systems to declutter their lives. Then, too, you could set up a shop and sell their things online for a commission, if they’d prefer not to get into the online marketplace.
3) Create a blog. Not only will it sharpen your social media skills, it could turn into other writing assignments, a book or maybe even a movie. The Meryl Streep movie, “Julie and Julia,” began as a blog about a disgruntled office worker blogging about trying every recipe in Julia Childs’ The Art of French Cooking.
4. Become a Skills’ Learning Magnet. Do not rest on your laurels. Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resumé, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past kudos into present-day assets. “Real knowledge,” Confucius said, “is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
First, determine what skills you need or need to re-tune. This might seem a daunting task, but good help is available at the O*Net Resource Center. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a free online tool developed under the sponsorship of the US Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA) through a grant to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. The O*NET program is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Central to the project is the O*NET database, containing information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors. The database, which is available to the public at no cost, is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation. The database also provides the basis for their Career Exploration Tools, a set of valuable assessment instruments for workers looking to find or change careers.
5. Put a lid on your shy genes. As we mentioned in an earlier post, “You have to step out of the batting cage to hit a home run!” Volunteer, but don’t just volunteer to stamp envelopes. Join a committee at your neighborhood school, church or business club. Get involved to connect, learn and use this opportunity to test market your idea or product. For example, if cupcakes or natural snacks are your passion, offer to provide refreshments and listen to your customers’ “feedback.”
Don’t let your fear of being wrong paralyze you. Thomas Alva Edison did not think of his experiments in terms of success or failure, but rather as learning. In his efforts to create the first storage battery, he conducted 10,000 experiments!
It takes courage to believe in your self, to start something new. Thinking of “The Wizard of Oz” celebrating its 75th birthday and record of the most watched movie of all time, I remember this quote about the cowardly lion from Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying…’I will try again tomorrow.”
While some of us are still trying to figure out the intricacies of crowdfunding, Pearl Malkin, as reported by Parija Kavilanz in CNN Money this week, has, in her almost 9th decade, launched a campaign to raise $3,500 on Kickstarter.com for her first startup. Her business is Happy Canes. She buys old canes at Good Will stores and turns them into snappy walking sticks by decorating them with artificial flowers.
Pearl is what my grandmother used to call a pistol. Bored with her plain black cane, she decided to glue on a few flowers. It did not take long, Kavilanz reports, for Pearl to branch out, creating different canes to match different outfits. When a close family friend visited, he suggested she turn the canes into a small business. He told Pearl about funding through Kickstarter and selling through Etsy, an online marketplace for handcrafted goods. He set her up on both sites in January, and Happy Canes now sell for $60each on Etsy. Pearl has raised $1,856 from 71 backers so far and, if she gets the full $3500, she wants to hire some helpers to create 10-20 made-to-order Happy Canes a day.
When Kavilanz asked Pearl, “Why start a business now? The self-proclaimed rebel said, ‘I can’t sit idle and watch boring TV all day long. I want to make people happy, spread a little cheer around and maybe buy some nice shoes again.’”
Kickstarter, for those not as much in the know as Pearl, is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects – everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Since Kickstarter’s launch in April, 2009, over $450 million has been pledged by more than 3 million people, funding more than 35,000 creative projects.
For more startup funding info, check this Forbes Beginners Guide.
In the meantime, take a peek at Grandma Pearl’s Happy Canes in her Etsy shop.
Behind the Holstee Manifesto is a business launched in the heat of the recession in May 2009. Brothers Mike and Dave and their partner, Fabian knew they wanted to create more than a business – the trio wanted to create a lifestyle. So the first thing Holstee’s three founders did was sit together and write down exactly what was on their minds. They wanted to create a company that breathes passion into the world everyday. It was to be a reminder of what we live for. The result became known as the Holstee Manifesto and, through all avenues of social media, the manifesto has been viewed over 80,000,000 times to date!
Starting in the summer of 2009, they dove head first into the world of design and production. After six months and a huge learning curve, Holstee launched its first line of Recycled Tees made of 100% recycled plastic bottles that were milled, cut and sewn within 150 miles of each other in North Carolina. Starting with this first round, 10% of all sales were lent to entrepreneurs in extreme poverty through non-profit micro-lending organizations like Kiva.org – a tradition they are proud to still embrace.
Amazed and inspired by the community of individuals who have embraced the Holstee Manifesto as their own, the founders have created this My Life project to capture, celebrate and share the stories that speak to the truth that life is indeed about the people you meet and the things you create with them.
Last week, over lunch with a colleague, I heard about a school science project where an enterprising student (her son) sprinkled drops of dark roast coffee over some luxurious blossoms to asses the affect on the normally no slacker worker bees hovering over the garden. Result = ravenous worker bees become super buzzed.
Later that afternoon, I read these remarkable Stories of Baby Boomerangs in the San Francisco Chronicle. Baby Boomerangs is the handle, authors Sam Whiting, Meredith May, and Bek Phillips, give to “people in their 50s and 60s who walk out the door of one career in order to walk in the door of another.”
Their “Boomerangs” include a career attorney, who launches a doggie day care business; a US Air Force E-7 master sergeant, who retires his wings and takes to his feet to deliver mail; and a 60-year-old woman with a successful engineering career, who “was on the back of a BMW motorcycle in La Paz, Baja, when her second career idea hit her. She rode directly to the airport and caught a plane to get her to San Francisco in time to grab the last spot in a yearlong certificate program to become a life coach.”
Then to cap off the week, I read Over 50 and Under No Illusions by Caitlin Kelly in the New York Times. Kelly says, “It’s a baby boomer’s nightmare. One moment you’re 40-ish and moving up, the next you’re 50-plus and suddenly, shockingly, moving out — jobless in a tough economy.”
Kelly describes five Boomers who have gone through the emotional and financial strains of late-career unemployment and have successfully come out the other end of that dismal tunnel by tuning up their skills, plucking up their determination, and catching a bit of luck. “Changing jobs or careers turned out to be a good thing,” she says, “despite the many risks involved” for this indefatigable five.
These Boomerangs – with their extra Buzz and a good dose of their inner provocateur asking what’s next – can inspire us all to embrace the new year as an opportunity for change and reinvention.
Throughout his long and productive 84-year career, world-renown French artist, Henri Matisse (1869-1953), continually redirected his creative energies by tackling at least six different styles of painting, sculpture, paper cut-outs, illustrated books, architectural design and stained-glass windows.
And, all of this happened after Matisse had launched his first career as a lawyer! Yes, a lawyer. When he was eighteen, Matisse’s father encouraged him to study law in Paris. For two years, Matisse did brilliantly even though he found law boring and totally uninspiring, and then he was struck down with appendicitis. To ease his convalescence, his mother brought him a box of art supplies. Matisse said, “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life.” His father was deeply disappointed, but his mother, whose art had been limited to painting designs on porcelain, advised her son not to adhere to the “rules” of art, but rather listen to his own emotions. And that is what Matisse did – over and over again – as he was living his art.
He began painting still-lives and landscapes in the traditional Flemish style, but quickly transitioned to Impressionism, painting his first masterpiece The Dinner Table in 1897. The French traditionalists denounced it and, discouraged by their response, Matisse briefly turned to sculpture. Though he did not pursue this for long, it continued to influence form in his painting for the rest of his life.
His next style, Modernism, was influenced by such post-Impressionists as Paul Cézanne and Gauguin. From there, he dabbled in Pointillism and Naturalism. That’s five stylistic reinventions so far in this his second career. His sixth came in 1905, when he was considered the leader of the Fauve painting movement.
Over the next 36 years, he created hundreds of masterpieces until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1941 and the surgery necessitated he use a wheelchair. Physically diminished, his creativity soared to new heights. He called what was to be his last 14 years, “Une seconde vie,” a second life. He created his vibrant cut paper collages, and described the process as “painting with scissors.” His assistants helped him mount the cut-outs on the walls of his room and he said, “You see, as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk… There are leaves, fruits, a bird.” Then, in 1947 he published Jazz, a brilliant, limited-edition book containing prints of his colorful cut paper collages.
Lastly, Matisse’s final reinvention was to design in 1951 the interior and the stained-glass windows for the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence.
Matisse was a genius at reinvention – an inspiration to all of us to try it at least once. The good news is that there’s lots of help out there. Here are four great places to start:
Seth Godin, marketing guru, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of fourteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages, has written, Why We Are All Artists. In his online conversation he describes how we are all “capable of making a difference, of being bold, and of changing more than we are willing to admit. We are capable of making art.”
The Idea Champions share 50 Ways to Foster Innovation. This blog post is about developing a culture of sustainable innovation in organizations, but the same principles apply to individual lives, as well.
From the Harvard Business Review Blog, check out, How to Master a New Skill.
And don’t miss Kerry Hannon’s terrific new book, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Healthy and Happy, and Pays the Bills, which was named book-of-the-month in the Washington Post’s “Color of Money Book Club“.
Happy New Year and Happy New You!
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!
Author and teacher, Angela Maiers, is a passionate advocate of life-long learning, and this lesson she shared with a group of first graders is just as valuable for us with 50+ more years down the road. Angela and the first graders talked about power of curiosity, and more specifically the power we hold as learners when we know how to ask the right question.
She says, “Being in charge of the questions we ask matters. Successful thinking and learning require questions to be framed in a wide variety of ways. The ‘framing’ of our questions dramatically influences what we can and are able to understand. Just teaching students to question is not enough. It is critical to explore where different questions take us as learners.”
We have become skilled at answering questions. Think about the experience you have in test prep. Think about all your interview prep sessions. How many sites do you Google for sample questions before an interview, to minimize any surprise questions? That’s a great way for the interviewer to learn about you, but what have you learned in the process?
I remember telling my own children, when they were stressing over the questions a college admissions’ officer would ask them, that it was even more important for them to ask questions about the college – courses, professors, culture etc. Gradually, they understood that they were signing up for four years of living and learning – at an, even then, pretty steep cost – and it would behoove them to ask a few questions. They had a moment of enlightenment as they realized they, too, had something special to offer, and their questions about the institution where they wanted to invest their hearts, minds, time, and money also let the interviewer see and understand the assets they were bringing to the table.
The same experience applies to you, whether you are interviewing for a job or for a loan to start your own business. Let your interviewer know the assets you bring and ask the questions that will prompt them to sell that job or loan to you.
Maiers says, “It is important for us to know how the types of questions we ask impact and influence the answers we are capable of getting.”
Different kinds of questions she describes are:
· Clarifying Questions
· Sorting and Sifting Out Questions
· Strategic Questions
· Planning Questions
· Elaboration Questions
· Comparing Questions
Specific cues he offers to stimulate questions are:
Once you have some answers, test them by taking a few steps forward. You may have to back-up and try again, but first, ask yourself why these initial steps did or did not work? The answers will put you in an even stronger position to take those next steps.
Just Start Asking!