Posts Tagged ‘Barry Davis’

Ready to increase your vocabulary (as in Readers’ Digest “Increase Your Word Power”)? Here’s the definition of counterfactual (n): a conditional statement the first clause of which expresses something contrary to fact, as “If I had known.”.

In his excellent book If Only: How to Turn Regret into Opportunity, Neil Roese describes the two directions wFail Hashtaghich counterfactual thinking can take, explaining why the Bronze Medal Winner at the Olympics is happier than the Silver Medal recipient. Even though Silver is #2 in the world in their sport, they focus up to missing the Gold while the Bronze recipient focuses downward to see what they have accomplished (I almost didn’t medal)!

Here’s the Career Application: this “downward” thinking causes the Bronze Medal careerist to be better equipped to learn, to develop insights, to challenge themselves to greater accomplishments, while the Silver Medalist (without the benefit of downward counterfactual thinking) may find themselves in a self-defeating “woulda, coulda, shoulda” spiral.

Let’s close with a few timely quotes on Failure:

“There are defeats that carry with them the radiant promise of coming victory.” – F.W. Boreham

“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing. “ – Robert E. Lee

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage, Mythbuster

“Make excellent mistakes.” – Dan Pink (via Johnny Bunko)

So, the next time you “fail,” think downward!

I am particularly enamored of this concept of mine, although I will confess that it HAUNTS ME AT TIMES! This does not reduce its value, however!

Life is full of decisions, and career development has more than its share of them. As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

WithConfused man due respect to the sagacious Yogi, that won’t work! So how can you decide whether or not to move ahead in a particular direction, return a call, schedule an interview, take a promotion, mail out a resume, etc.? I suggest that you apply what I have termed my “WHY NOT?” Principle(tm): simply stated, if you cannot answer “No” to a question (e.g., Should I consider taking on this new project?), the next answer is always “Yes.” In other words, until you can make the case for “why not?” – why you should not investigate the opportunity – you should move ahead at least one more step. After all, no answer will come to you if you just sit there!

Let’s investigate some scenarios where you can apply my “Why Not? Principle(tm).”

1.   You’re called by a company for an interview. The position under consideration seems to be significantly below your qualifications, but they still want to see you. Do you go in to see them or not?

WHY NOT?

No good answer. You don’t have adequate information to make an informed, intelligent decision. Perhaps the position is better than it seems from the outside. The company may see your skills and identify a better fit for you in the organization (this really does happen!). This is not the only position that will ever open up in this organization, and you have the opportunity to make a positive contact with the company.

  • Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

2.   A longtime friend provides you with a lead to a job that does not interest you at all, nor does it allow you to use any of the skills and experience you want to bring to the job market. Do you follow up on the opportunity?

WHY NOT?

Following up on a situation that you have no interest in is a waste of the company’s time and yours, as well as being less than honest towards your friend. It would be much better to thank your friend for the advice and the intended opportunity, explaining why you would not be interested and helping your friend better understand your career targets and employment goals. Also, you could damage your relationship by not telling your friend the truth.

  • Be kind but honest. Thank them but help them to help you better.

3.   Your company is pressing you to interview for a position that you know has no relationship to your career goals or personal interests. You know you can do the job, but don’t really want to! Do you go for the interview or not? After all, isn’t every promotion a good move?!

WHY NOT?

Wasting their time is not a good way to invest yours. Some people might consider this a “no risk” opportunity to get some interview practice, but I see it as a disingenuous act, wasting the time of a company that obviously only wants to see  interested applicants. Here’s an additional concern: since you’re not under pressure, you may interview very confidently and end up receiving a promotion offer you didn’t want in the first place! THEN what do you do?

  • Politely turn down their kind offer, using this opportunity to help your organization better understand where your interests and best abilities to contribute lie.

4.   An acquaintance in the community wants to meet you for lunch to help you in your career development. This is someone you know to have no “clout” or real connections with any “heavy hitters.” Do you schedule or work up a believable excuse?

WHY NOT?

No good answer here, either. Everyone knows someone. You may think this person is not connected (and you may be right), but some of the best opportunities for serendipitous, extraordinary surprises can come from the most unlikely situations. It’s nice that this person wants to help. Give him or her the time and the benefit of the doubt. Remember: you don’t have to take all of the advice you get, just listen to it. The relationship you enhance may be much more valuable than any information you may get!

  • Have lunch with them and listen to what they have to say. There is no way of telling what opportunities could result.

Try employing my “Why Not Principle(tm).” It will press you into more action, reduce your second-guessing, create serendipitous possibilities and perhaps even help you to see more results.

“WHY NOT?”

Even though the papers, Internet,  smartphones, etc. are touting encouraging news regarding the job market, many of us are nearby, if not related to, people that I prefer to term as “Free Agents.” That is, for one reason or another, they still find themselves unemployed, in the face of the latest statistics from the Department of Labor. After all, it’s cold comfort to read how there are less people unemployed if you are still in that statistic!

I’d like to suggest some practical tips on “being there” for these folks…Image

  • Keep them in your social circle. Unemployment is not communicable and we all need interaction with others (even those who don’t think so!).
  • Ask for a copy of their resume. Look it over, learn more about them and what they have done. If you have good advice on how it’s written or how to use it, share it with them.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunity that may interest them, whether it’s an article in the Business Section of the paper, a comment at the hair salon, a sign in the lawn in front of a company or a blog you just read.
  • When appropriate, offer to serve as a reference or provide an introduction to opportunities for them.
  • Provide a sympathetic and non-judgmental ear. Job search is tough sledding. They may just need a sounding board at times, not advice.
  • Maintain regular contact and follow up in a positive and supportive manner.
  • Never, EVER ask them, “Didn’t you find work YET?!”

Finally, be a friend. They need one now, more than ever!

The best path is always the positive one. I owe the following parable to my dear Grandma Lucy Matilda Rhoads Davis. She’s in Heaven now, but thoughts of her always bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Here it is…

Old Saidie, an aged widow in a sleepy little town, always had a nice thing to say about everyone she met. She didn’t seem to have a negative bone in her body, and was consistently able to point out the good side of people.

Well, the town drunk died. This ne’er do well had never held a job in his life. His entire existence consisted of scaring toddlers, taking advantage of others or bumming money for cigarettes and alcohol. As he had finally Optimism buttompassed away, the entire town showed up at the funeral, if only to find out what Saidie would have to say about a man who seemed to be totally lacking any good qualities in his entire life.

As Saidie shuffled up to the casket, one brave soul called out, “Hey, Saidie! What did you think of Mr. Johnson?!

Without missing a beat, Saidie smiled and exclaimed, “Oh, couldn’t he whistle?!”

Let’s be more like Saidie, finding and celebrating the Best that’s around us. We just have to pay attention to find it!

Thanks, Grandma Lucy!

I am presenting training for my yearly marathon (26.2 miles, for the uninitiated of my readers) and, God willing, I plan to reach the finish line sometime before dark (we start around 8:30 in the morning).

As any of you who have been involved in a job search, career development (or LIFE, if you’re really paying attention) know, the experience is more like a long distance race than a sprint! My chosen fitness pastime, running, has borne out this fact for over 30 of my years. I can still recall my first marathon experience: the gun went off, we all bolted out of the gate, and I took off like my singlet was on fire. I vividly remember bragging to my cohorts along the course, even as far along as the 15th mile of the 26.2, “this race is MINE!”

Then I met, for my first time, my now bosom buddy The Wall. Somewhere around mile 18-22, most runners reach a point where the body wants to be done but the finish line still beckons. For my first marathon, this meant that last 6.2 miles would be excruciatingly slow. I had not learned the cardinal rule of distance running: PACING. My credo now for marathons is one I borrowed from a T-shirt I read on one of my many 26.2 adventures – “Start out slow, then taper off.”

I have also gleaned one other pearl of wisdom, the title of this blog: Run through the finishing line. As the picture demonstrates, my weary figure has managed to finish ahead of a number of individuals, but NOT because I found another gear, my carbo-loading kicked in, or I reached down deep to burst past my fellow runners in a blaze of glory. I finished ahead of them because they slowed down. They saw the finish line and started to back off, since they were almost there. I simply determined to keep my pace, not slowing down until the finish line was behind me.

I think you see my metaphor. As you move ahead in your job search, your career development, or your life, there is no way to know if the present opportunity before you is the finishing line, or if the real result is around the next bend. My years of running have taught me that, whenever I slow down to jog through the finish line, I am almost always passed by someone who has not done so. To be sure, there have been times when my technique has still caused me to be passed by someone with more talent than me (there are a lot of them out there!), but at least by maintaining my pace I create the opportunity for the best results.

The morale of this blog: if you think you will get your dream opportunity by Friday, don’t stop looking ahead on Wednesday.  In some ways, there really is no Finish Line. Never stop learning and growing!

OK, so maybe this is a lousy pun, but I have real concerns over the knee-jerk dismissal of Twitter as a social media tool because of the plethora of inane, insipid, even profane babblings out there.

Here are a few key reasons why I am an advocate for the Twitterverse:

I’m a BIG FAN of the 140 character limit!

Although I’m not all that enthused by shortcuts like 2nite and b4, any application that makes us do more with less is OK in my book. I can easily glance at a Tweet and determine if it’s worth considering or skipping. If the author’s point resonates with me and there’s a URL in the message, I’ll check it out. If not, I can quickly move on. 

#Hashtags rule.

Using a product like www.wefollow.com, I can easily search out the hot topics or issues that are mission critical for me at that moment. I can then find out who is saying what, increase my audience by imbedding the appropriate tag in my message, or perhaps create my own tag to start something new.

Friendly “helper” applications are everywhere.

You can download a “dashboard” like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, et al to keep connected with Twitter (as well as other applications) easily and quickly. I seldom open Twitter (unless I am revising my profile), using one of these “helpers” to keep a digital eye out for me.

Companies and organizations are joining the show.

As is the case with many other Social Media tools, more and more sites are displaying the little blue “t” or his ornithological companion on their home page to allow customers, clients, potential employees, etc. to get engaged within the 140 character universe. There are even sites like http://www.tweetmyjobs.com http://www.twitjobsearch.com, etc. that post job openings. Log onto the sites of companies and organizations of interest. You’ll be surprised how many request that you “follow us on Twitter!”

In closing, I cannot deny the fact that a large percentage of what is “tweeted” is inane, insipid, banal, even profane. The answer to this is simple – Don’t follow anyone who does this! To quote www.despair.com and their take on Twitter: “Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few..”

Notwithstanding all the digital drivel that is out their under the auspices of that little bluebird, Twitter has much to offer!

… and you can retweet me on that (@bl_davis)!

“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing. “ – Robert E. Lee

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage, Mythbuster

“Make excellent mistakes.” – Dan Pink (via Johnny Bunko)

“Oops! I didn’t know THAT would happen!” Have you ever spoken those words after attempting something that “crashed and burned” before your eyes? I know I have.

Here’s another question: Did you learn anything from it? (Hint: The correct answer should be “Yes.” Some of our best lessons emerge from dismal failure. We all know the story of Edison who supposedly said of his lack of success along way to developing the incandescent light, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Every “failure” is an opportunity for significant insight, if we will only pay attention.

Please allow me to quote the sprite Diana from Dan Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko (if you have not read this excellent little tome, you should, it takes only about 15 minutes!!): “the most successful people make spectacular mistakes – huge, honking screwups! …each time they make a mistake, they get a little better and move a little closer to excellence.”

So, get out there and make a mistake! You could LEARN something!