Archives for June 2008

Career Wisdom for New College Graduates

This is the commencement address you probably won’t hear.

It’s my life’s work to help others find their work life freedom. I believe that work life happiness and work life freedom go hand in hand. In terms of the work choices available to new graduates and their willingness to seize their work life freedom, not a lot has changed in the 35 years since I’ve graduated college.

New graduates with technical skills can generally find higher-paying entry-level employment. But this message is for well-rounded, right–brained, Bachelor of Arts grads – the modern day generalists and renaissance men and women. You are dubiously blessed with many interests and the ability to do a lot of things well. Who you are, what you can do, and the options available to you are what seem to make your employment prospects gloomier.

In 1973, I was you. Much like today, it was a tight job market for new graduates. I had just graduated with a degree in Political Science that I suspected I’d never apply to my actual career. Social unrest and the Vietnam War had soured me on ever working in politics.

I began to look for work. After a few months, my options were between two lousy choices. I could enter the management-training program of a national steakhouse chain, or I could take a self-employed position selling life insurance on straight commission. I often wonder what turns my life may have taken if I had chosen differently? I was young and ignorant, yet I accepted the insurance opportunity simply because of the work life freedom it offered. As long as I sold enough, no one told me what to do or where to go – and I found that deeply appealing. I made an important decision based on what I valued, even if I wasn’t even aware of the concept of values until much later in life.

That’s my point. Even though you may be unaware of it – your life is speaking to you right now. Are you listening? To do so, you’ll need to tune out all the chatter of well-meaning folks who want you to conform and take the best job you can get. But is a job really right for you? At what price will you compromise your freedom and your happiness?

If you are one of those uncertain renaissance folks, I want you to know that you are truly more fortunate because you don’t exactly fit any existing employment positions. I know this can be a very scary time for you. Many of you feel that getting a job means growing up and surrendering your freedom. Well, you’re right about that. I can understand your hesitation; who in their right mind voluntarily surrenders their freedom?

I also understand that a lot of fear around the lack of money comes into play in all of your decisions. You may need to temporarily put your dreams on the side burner while you create a small financial reserve. But even if you go for a job for only financial reasons, allow your heart and soul to have some say in the decision. Every choice you make has consequences. Even some for-the-money-only jobs are better for you than others.

I’ve seen a lot after 10 years of work life happiness coaching. I’d like you to consider this. What if you didn’t have to give up your freedom? What if you could be paid well just for being yourself? Would that be appealing? What would you do if you knew, beyond any doubt, that the following three statements were true and would turn out to be true for you?

1. Even now your life is trying to speak to you through your available options. It may be hard to get your attention, but somewhere among your options is a choice that will ultimately serve you well because it will put you on the path that is a better fit for who you are. It’s your duty to choose the option that will make you feel most alive.

2. It’s more likely that you’ll find your work life happiness and freedom in a self-employed opportunity of your own creation than in the higher paying, but much more restricted, life of an employee. Your parents and most everyone else will want you to be cautious and go for the steady, more stable financial situation. This will calm their fears, but they aren’t the ones who could end up slaving away in uninspired work for the next 35-40 years. You are. It’s your life and your choice.

3. You may not think that you have what it takes to be your own boss own right now, but your suitability to life and work will increase sooner by boldly claiming your freedom now. The longer you wait to be the person you really are, the more difficult it will be to choose what makes you happy. Even if you miss badly, the experience of going for it will ultimately pay off for you.

Life is challenging. However, by being genuine and by making authentic choices, we get more competent at living. Meeting challenges, and not just going through the motions, is the only kind of life worth living.

“Self-esteem fully realized is the experience that we are appropriate to life and to the requirements of life. To trust one’s mind and know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.” Nathaniel Branden

You are worthy. You are capable. Who you are is enough to create a life of freedom and happiness. Get started today. You can be true to yourself now or you can believe in the “make money first” myth and hire a career coach like me after two decades of uninspired living. The choice is yours. It’s your life. Be happy now.

Cash in on the Hidden Gold Beneath Your Fears

For every entrepreneur who has already seized the freedom of self-employment, there are at least 10 who want to but hesitate to take the leap. As a coach, it’s obvious to me that these folks are looking at what they fear – rather than what they want. But how can we encourage them? How can we help them to take action in spite of their fears?

Here’s one way. As a card-carrying member of the Eternal Optimists’ Club, I often ask this question when faced with an unexpected challenge. What’s good about it?

This morning I began pondering what’s good about my fears? What’s the value of fears? Fears arise for a reason. Behind every fear is a path that leads to greater freedom and fulfillment. So one could reasonably argue that fears point to a value that we cannot see until we face the fear.

In order to bring forth our pure and fearless selves, we need to face and examine the fears that are coming up for us in the present moment. We won’t find the gold by being afraid to look, and we won’t find it by looking in the wrong place.

Often a coaching client will share that he or she is in a funk and doesn’t know what it is, or what has caused it. Then the client will begin an ineffective pursuit to find out why. Why do I feel this way? When struggling, do not seek to understand why it is that you struggle. You’ll seldom be able to find the truth from that perspective.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Albert Einstein

Instead, try making the assumption that you are fearful of something that needs further exploration. Instead of asking the judgment-laden question: What’s wrong with me? Or: Why am I feeling this way? Ask: What do I fear? If you are the kind of person who avoids facing your fears, you may have more than one fear. No sweat, just write them all down until the most demanding culprit reveals is itself. Then inquire internally to find one or more things that are good about the specific fear.

There is hidden gold waiting to be mined just beneath the surface of your fears. You just need an approach that will help you to see the gold. Below, I’ve offered five approaches to uncover it. First read the approach and then answer the accompanying fear identifier.

Fears point to decisions that need to be made.

What decision(s) have I been putting off?

Fears show us that greater truths need to be realized.

Since fears are imagined and not real, they are there to help us to transition to what is real. What greater truth am I not seeing because I’ve been afraid to look?

Fears alert us to potential danger.

What signs am I misreading or not seeing that could cause me harm?

Fears expose our erroneous self-judgments.

Where have I been doubting and judging myself without any proof that it’s true?

Fears show us what is stopping us by revealing our excuses.

What stories have I been telling myself in the form of excuses that stop me from taking action?

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. Dale Carnegie.

In order to be fearless, we need to face our fears as they arise. That way there is no build-up and nothing lying in wait that comes back to get us. Your fears are your friends. They exist to show you value that you haven’t yet seen. Don’t allow them to determine your destiny by fearing. Instead, allow them to shine a light on your optimum path by courageously facing them.

If you’ve read this far and still have fears, then you have yet to answer the questions above. Answer them and become the fearless creator you were meant to be.

The Three Most Direct Ways to Earn More Money Now

Often I’ll begin coaching a self-employed, brand new coaching client who needs to get the money flowing now. When I begin coaching a client who needs to earn more immediately, it’s off-purpose to plant future seeds. This is the checklist I use to get more cash generated quickly.

1). Identify who it is that you want to serve the most.

Who do you really enjoy working with? Serving which demographic most warms your heart? What do these prospects really care about? What problems do they usually have that they must solve soon? What brings them alive? What are they not willing to compromise? Once you’ve answered these questions to the point of knowing exactly who they are and what they care about, then you can express yourself more clearly and they can find you more easily. Read a description here of those who I want to serve the most.

2). Ask for the money.

“All the money you want, someone else has, and you need to ask them for it to receive it.” Egbert Sukop

I’m not just talking about putting things out there on your blog or your website. I’m talking about calling up people you know and asking them whom they know. But ask for referrals very specifically by describing your answers to #1 above. Then, after describing whom you most want to serve, ask. Who does that bring to mind? Who do you know who fits that description? They can tell by the enthusiasm in your voice that you passionately want to serve that person so they are much more eager to refer you. Remember, it’s often not the direct action that brings in the cash. Often results come parallel to action.

3). Work in the now.

It’s very likely that in this moment you and I have enough money. The bills are current and there is gas in our car, a roof over our heads and food in the fridge. In this moment, all is well. So why do we feel like we have so little when we actually have enough? How can we feel like we have so little when something always turns up and it always turns out to be enough? Hasn’t that been your experience?

The now is the only place where we can produce anything. In the present we are powerful and in the future or the past we are powerless. Yet we don’t commit to living in this moment, do we? Have you ever wondered why?

Here is a fundamentally erroneous belief that you may not know you have. If you believe that money will solve all your problems then it will always seem as though you don’t have enough money. Why? You always have problems to solve. Since you will always have problems you will never have enough money to seem like you’re problem-free and that will make you strive for an unreachable future where you are problem free. It’s a no-win game to play.

Our biggest problem is that feeling of future security that we crave. It’s not enough for us to feel good about what we have now. No, we also want a guarantee that we will have more than enough in the future. It’s that focus on the future that creates the stress in the moment and that stress lessens your ability to maximize your earnings in the now. You can’t possibly be there and earn here. It sounds so obvious but that’s where powerless victims tend to take their thoughts.

If you really want to get the money flowing, then run your thoughts and actions by this quick checklist. Make the adjustments you need to make and feel good about where you are and what you have right now. Which of these three do you need to engage to get more money flowing? On which of these three do you tend to lose your focus? Is there a fourth strategy that you would add?

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A Father’s Day Tribute to my Dad, Tom-on-the Hill

It was a sunny summer day in 1956. I was six years old and my Dad came to me and asked me how much money I had. I counted my nickels and pennies and told him 17 cents. He said that just might be enough, why don’t you go and see? Lou our neighbor across the street had a litter of Collie/Irish setter mixed breed puppies and my Dad had set it up with Lou to accept whatever I had as payment. Dad waited on the bank for me while I went across the road by myself to see the puppies. I came back with Spotty my dog for 10 joy-filled years.

I’m thinking about my Dad today because this is my second Father’s Day since he passed in May of last year. As I write today. I’m not sure if this post will have any great life lessons or have any purpose at all – other than to pay tribute to a great guy, my Dad, Tom-on-the Hill.

I do hope it will cause you to gratefully reflect today on the connection you have or had with your Dad. Like his son, my Dad was far from perfect. But I take comfort in knowing that he did the best job he knew how to do. A very strange dynamic exists between fathers and sons. As a teenager I recall being perplexed about why my friends thought my Dad was so cool. I can see our relationship much clearer now. As I listen to Harry Chapin sing Cat’s in the Cradle, much more than sadness comes up for me today. Some say we choose our parents. If that’s the case – it’s the wisest choice I’ve ever made.

I’d like you to meet my Dad, Tom-on-the Hill. Every man he met for the first time he called chief and everyone he knew, he called buddy. When he called you buddy, you felt like his buddy.

He was proud that he’d built his own home, with his own hands. The home he built is exactly one mile from Mingo Church at the highest point on the hill. In fact that’s how he identified himself on the phone. This is Tom, Tom Volkar, up on the hill.

Dad never did learn to say no. I couldn’t understand that. Growing up, time after time, I’d hear him agree to do another side plastering patch job he didn’t feel like doing. He may have said yes a lot when he wanted to say no, but over the years it was all the yeses of help to many, when they needed it most that made him the friend he was. That deep generosity of his workingman services was his strength.

He lived by this motto. If you can’t say anything good about someone – say nothing at all. He made you feel comfortable. He expressed genuine concern. And always together with Mom, in his home you felt at home.

It’s been said that the most honest measure of love is how we feel in another’s presence. By that measure my Dad was a champion.

Too often we underestimate the power of a pat on the back, a smile, a listening ear, the encouragement of a strong and loving grip, or even the smallest act of caring all of which add up to a life that in many small ways did indeed make the world a better place.

My Dad, Tom gave all those things and more. Now as I attend family gatherings and observe our family I feel truly blessed.

For the true measure of a man, of Tom-on-the-Hill, must surely be in the collective character, closeness and love of the family he created that will live on forever inspired by his gentle Spirit.

Get Real about Your Work

Somehow we have lost our way when it comes to our work. Most of us may believe that it’s possible to enjoy delightful work, but how much of our work is actually delightful?

Woman in Field

Some feel that work can all be like play and others feel that some of it needs to be like work. That’s what I examined in this post, Work as Play? I keep changing my mind on that one but that’s not what I want to address in this post. Or do I?

First, I want to ask this question.

Why do we complicate the things that matter the most to us? Specifically, why do we needlessly complicate creating a life of delightful work? (If you’re thinking, “I don’t complicate having delightful work, it’s just that I ________ {fill in the blank}….” then that’s what I mean by complicating it. For example, having reasons why you don’t have a life of delightful work is “complicating” it.)

Is it because we fear the change so much that the complication is a defense to delay it?

Or do we really, deep down, not think that delightful work is possible for us?

Or, are we really that afraid of our own brilliance or of our unique success?

Do you agree that the answer to delightful work is found within? Then why do we look to others for answers? Aren’t we the better source of wisdom in our own lives? What fears arise in you when you examine the possibility of totally delightful work?

That raises another question. Is it really the happiness and fulfillment of delightful work that we want or is it freedom from having to work at all that most attracts us?

For example, I think it’s interesting that so many of us coaches and bloggers seek to develop streams of passive income. What’s that about? We could say that we just want our bliss to be shared with a larger audience, and there could be some truth to that. But let’s get real here. Let’s talk about what we hope to gain.

Do we really want to become Internet info-marketers? Not that there is anything wrong with that. But is that your passion? Are you seeking delightful work or the positional advantage of not having to work at all? If you’re really looking for a way to earn money from not being physically present, is this an objective or an evasion? Is the work that we do so uninspiring that we are driven to develop ways of evading it?

I only pose these difficult questions because I’m asking them of myself right now.

Let’s dig deeper and get real about our work. Perhaps we could take a deep breath and start fresh with our examination?

In our work we ought to experience as much joy as we possibly can. Can we agree on that as a starting point? In my welcoming message I wrote: Delightful work is: amusing, attractive, captivating, clever, engaging, enjoyable, fascinating, gratifying, luscious and thrilling. Captivating, engaging, enjoyable and fascinating! That’s how I’d like to work more often. Here’s a confession. I write about delightful work and not all of my work is delightful. But whose responsibility is that? It certainly can’t be anyone else’s but mine.

I already do enjoy the freedoms that I care the most about, the freedoms of self-expression and self-determination.

The freedom of self-expression allows us to openly say whatever we want about our work. The freedom of self-determination is enjoying the option to be completely at choice as to when, how, with whom, where and on what you work. It is even the freedom of choosing whether to work or not.

Is this drive to develop info-marketing products really our way of seizing the freedom of self-determination? Does this really mean that we want to be free from the obligation of work? Do we really want to be free to choose whether or not we work at all? It’s really interesting to see what remains when we completely remove money and its accompanying self-created pressures from the equation. If you did that, what would remain?

Would your work life look different than it does now?

How specifically would it look different?

What would you immediately drop? Add?

What would you do more off? Less off?

Would you be working more or less? Would you be working at all?

Would you still be trying to build your opt-in list, sell your eBooks and become a successful info-marketer? Or, if money were no longer an issue, would you even care about that anymore?

What would be the central theme of your work? Why don’t we find out?

Excellent, then let’s do an exercise to remove the need for money completely from our work and see what remains.

You’ll need your imagination, a timer, blank paper and a pen or pencil. Set the timer for four minutes and start it when cued to do so. Get that stuff and come back to reading. It will be well worth your while. Ready?

Here’s the scenario. Imagine you’ve received a registered letter from a venture capital investment firm. They represent a large conglomerate that wants to buy the complete rights to an original idea of yours. There is no negotiation. They are offering you 3.7 million dollars. As you read on, you see that there is a catch in the form of some very peculiar terms. The letter will self-destruct within four minutes and the offer will be withdrawn – unless you complete an exercise exactly as instructed. You are being asked to open an envelope and as you do your four minutes will begin.

In the envelope is one instruction. You must write down the whole truth about the work you intend to do once the issue of money is gone. Tell the truth and the money is yours. Otherwise you get zip. Ready? Pick up your pencil and start the timer.

First you may have been tempted to fix a few other things in your life. But after you purchased the home and car, after you traveled the world, after you were generous with charities, friends and family. Now what? What about your work?

What did you write? How will your work be different? I’m betting that your answers are more real than the work you are now doing. I’ll share my answers in the first comment and I’d be honored if you share yours as well.

The bad news is that no one is waiting to offer you 3.7 million dollars. The good news is that you now have a blueprint to follow to do the work you were meant to do. By doing so, you have raised the probability of making your work delightful and of earning your own 3.7 million dollars. The only question is this: Will you use this blueprint or will you go back to following your fears instead of your own inner wisdom?

Will you please honor yourself and do this exercise? Will you honor yourself (and all of us) even further by commenting and sharing what you actually came up with?

In case you’re wondering, I found the writing of this post to be completely delightful.

Make Your Move to the Freedom of Self-Employment

Many talk about the wonderful freedoms of self-employment, but they wait to make their move. They have made up all kinds of reasons why now just isn’t the right time. But if they take the time to look within, they know they’re lying to themselves.

Here’s the truth. Most folks are more ready to make their move than they give themselves credit for. I’d like to prove it to you. Are you willing to play along? In my coaching practice, I know a client is going to eventually get where they want to be once they reach a state of inspired confidence. Inspired confidence simply means that you know what you want and you are confident that you can make it happen.

I know that you’ll feel better about yourself once you take any small inspired action towards your objective. I know you’ll believe in yourself and your capabilities more once you are in active pursuit of your work life freedom. Somehow, we’ve got to get you out of your head and into action. So let’s start here. I’ll provide the formula. You provide the ingredients.

Right now, in this moment, what inspires you?

You might have a new goal or an old dream or a budding idea that inspires you. I’m talking about that animating, enlivening, emboldening, invigorating inspiration that lifts you and lightens you just thinking about it. There’s no sense playing along unless you can stop and write something down now. It’s time to leave the realm of just reading and thinking. Do yourself a big favor and actively participate this time.

It inspires me to imagine a world where the majority of folks are actively engaged in their work life freedom. Wouldn’t that be something? Imagine how uplifting it would be to run into more folks who were inspired by their work than bored by it.

But what inspires you? Got something? Excellent! Let’s make it a reality.

First I want to share some ground rules. It really can be this simple. If you can agree to these ground rules you’ve got it licked.

  1. You accept and act on the basis that you inherently have the capability to pull this off.
  2. You agree to take one small action that will get you closer to realizing the objective of your inspiration.
  3. You agree to celebrate the completion of that action regardless of its results.
  4. You agree to honor these ground rules as if they were sacred covenants.

Here’s the formula:

Inspiration + Belief + Divine Connection = Inspired Confidence

Here’s why this formula will work for you. You’ve provided the object of your inspiration, so we know it’s authentic.

Anything works when you believe it does. Why not believe that this simple formula can work for you? If what you’re doing isn’t working, then what do you have to lose? I’m not charging you for this. I’m just asking you to trust my experience as a coach and my deep desire for the world to be free from deadening work.

Divine connection states that God is not a tease. If you were not capable of bringing forth your inspired idea to reality, then it would not have ever come to you as a desire. All desires originally emanate from Divine Intelligence. The connection is yours for the asking. Your desires are not some cruel joke being played on you. If you aren’t acting on your inspirations – you’re the one playing the joke.

Please remember the ground rules you agreed to. No more hesitation – it’s your time to act. Before you do, right now, imagine your dream in actuality. Feel the gloriousness of living it. Imagine the beautiful change you’ve brought to the world. Isn’t it time to find your vocation within the freedom of self-employment?

Vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. Frederich Buechner

The world is thirsty for the expression of your deep gladness. Don’t make us wait any longer.

If you know of someone who has dreamed of being their own boss but has waited, please forward them this post. It’s my mission to help them see that they need not wait any longer. There is always a small step that can be taken to move us closer to where we want to be.