Reluctance

Art: Vladimir Kush

I have been working with this word through the weekend and unbeknownst to me this has been a theme since last October.

According to the dictionary, being reluctant is to be “unwilling,” 1660s, from Latin reluctantem (nominative reluctans), present participle of reluctari “to struggle against, resist, make opposition,”

Reluctant, literally, struggling back from, implies some degree of struggle either with others who are inciting us on, or between our own inclination and some strong motive, as sense of duty, whether it operates as an impelling or as a restraining influence. [Century Dictionary]

On further contemplation, to be reluctant is a struggle externally as well as internally.

Externally, we drag our feet when we are pulled towards something that we are not quite ready to make a decision yet. For those of us who are tired of the accelerated pace of our world, where everyone talks faster, acts immediately and where hustling is some sort of admirable quality, reluctance shows up in various forms.

Sometimes it shows up to self sabotage or procrastinate. Sometimes it is in our best interests to preserve rushing hastily into realms we are not yet ready to undertake. It is born out of the fatigue of the past and in the confusion of transition. Sometimes reluctance is rooted in a deeper intuition around the importance of right timing.

Last Saturday, poet David Whyte spoke to us about reluctance and what it meant to each of us. How we could stop running away from it and instead sit with our struggle. For in our very resistance lies the way through the current that is swirling around us. In our ability to recognize our own reluctance, we develop greater compassion for the suffering of others.

All great movements, all inspired creations were birthed in the cauldron of opposition. Ideation and innovation spring from the push back to status quo.

If you are dragging your feet, feeling generally disobedient, it could be a good time to examine which area of your life lacks luster or where tiredness has robbed you of your inner vision.

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LinkedIn and the 5 Cs of Success

Most folks who know me know that I have been bullish on LinkedIn for a long time and I recently tweeted that I was in their 1%.  It feels good to be in the 1% of anything even though that narrows me down to 1 in 2 million.

I joined LI in 2005 and at that time very few people I knew were on the platform.  Today, there is one rule of thumb in the business world.  If you have time for only one platform in your busy life, take to LinkedIn.

Customer Centric

Many make the mistake of valuing packaging over substance.  Yes I can’t emphasize enough the value of a great UI, the product features or the importance of design.  But these would be irrelevant if you did not understand your audience.  To rise above the social clutter and to become the preferred medium to a very demanding corporate audience, LI had to capture and conquer the essentials.

They had to become a strong networking site.  They had to provide their audience with the tools to showcase their talents.  They had to bring in the environment that could make it happen.  When I started getting inbox requests from headhunters, I knew their gamble had paid off.  Two key segments accelerated growth.  When the sales team and the C-Suite who are typically too busy to join fanpages on Facebook or tweet about the big event, signed up to connect with their clients and network, it signaled a shift from social plus to meeting a business need.

Content

Initially not a strong player in content curation or creation, this changed when LI acquired Slideshare early 2012. It signaled the arrival of a robust content strategy with context setting.

Leena Rao writes in TechCrunch “LinkedIn has just acquired professional content sharing platform SlideShare for $119 million in cash and stock. SlideShare is a sharing platform for business documents, videos and presentations. SlideShare lets anyone share presentations and video and also serves as a social discovery platform for users to find relevant content and connect with other members who share similar interests. The company also has a huge enterprise following, and companies like IBM and others use the platform to curate content from all of their employees and partners on a branded page. SlideShare users have uploaded more than nine million presentations, and according to comScore, in March SlideShare had nearly 29 million unique visitors.

The acquisition makes a lot of sense from a product point of view. SlideShare recently deepened its integration with LinkedIn, and the two companies have compared their relationship to Chocolate and peanut butter for professionals.”

Connection

Connecting on LinkedIn in the past was about your virtual Rolodex.  It stayed dormant and apart from adding the reference tool, LI didn’t have much else to offer than using the site for your resume.  Today, the very ease of being able to endorse your connections for skills with relative ease has changed the nature of the game.   LI understands the essence of business, the power of networking and quid pro quo.  Giving and receiving is the basic currency of society.

According to Peter Rusev at LI, “In less than six months, 1 billion endorsements have been given out on LinkedIn representing thousands of skills, ranging from Visual C++ to Water Treatment and Creative Writing to Fitness.”

Credibility through Influence

I can follow Barack Obama, Tony Robbins or any other from the 220 and growing influencers on LinkedIn. When LI encouraged leaders and subject matter experts to share their knowledge, it embarked on an influencer engagement model that surpasses any other in the field.   In October 2012, LI launched the ability for members to follow an exclusive group of Influencers.  Itamar Orgard writes “Today, the list of influencers has grown to 220 leading professional voices, from the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic to the Chief Scientist at Bit.ly. The topics have been equally wide-ranging: The head of a non-profit explaining how to take a sick day; a world-renowned venture capitalist detailing China’s problem with paid spammers (and how to fight back); a bond king asking what we can learn from nepotism in professional football; and an organizational psychologist on why we hate teams at work. Collectively, these influencers have already posted more than 2,300 original posts on LinkedIn.”

Consistency

I use three social channels regularly for content sharing and context setting.  The others are used but need-dependent.

I said a couple of years ago, when I was speaking on a panel at Content Marketing World, that “Twitter is a bar.  Facebook is your living room and LinkedIn is your corporate happy hour.”  I will amend that.

Twitter is still a bar.  You walk in at 8 am and you may tweet and if nobody is around, your tweet drifts away.  You might have to repeat your order to the bartender a few times before it can get heard.  You will also have to scan the peeps for some are out to just market the bejeezus out of you.  For newcomers, Twitter is a lonely bar. They walk in and nobody knows their name unless they have VIP status.  Then they go straight up to the suite.

Facebook used to be a cozy living room where everyone was assured of a conversation that would stay within the four walls.  But today, Facebook is more like a big fat Indian wedding as the privacy laws have changed.  You know many of the folks there but it depends if you are from the bride or the bridegroom’s side.  There is a lot of eavesdropping.  Everyone is showing off their jewelery and their glittering saris.  You are never sure of the gossip that a single “comment” can evoke.

LinkedIn has stayed consistent to its game.  It used to be just a local office but now it has grown to become a global company.  Here you have more access to your colleagues, you can get a reference, you can convert your profile into a resume.  Then there are water cooler conversations within a group and if you need a private discussion, there is the inbox.  Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn has moved steadily up the ranks without taking sudden, edgy, arrogant “take it or leave it” steps.  Recently, it crossed 200 million users.  Those users have invested time on a platform and have included some personal details.  That is valuable data to possess.  Would I deactivate my account on LI to draw a line between business and personal?
No.
I have business history here.

Consistency is the sister of credibility and trust.  We perceive consistency to be a drudge and the anti thesis of innovation.  That is not true.  Innovation that succeeds and sustains is very often rooted in and stays sane in the slow and steady race onwards.

No, I don’t work for LinkedIn or related to a family member or affiliated with any of their agencies.

Yes, I am bullish on LinkedIn and will stay that way as trust is a currency that doesn’t fluctuate.

Shaku Selvakumar on LinkedIn

1 Billion Endorsements http://blog.linkedin.com/2013/03/06/1-billion-endorsements-given-on-linkedin-infographic
1 Billion Endorsements
http://blog.linkedin.com/2013/03/06/1-billion-endorsements-given-on-linkedin-infographic/

Six Simple Pleasures during my Sabbatical

So if you read my December blog post, Daring to Dream again or you have spoken to me recently you might know that I am on a short “sabbatical”.  No, I am not off to find myself.  I think I have a good idea of who I may be, pimples, wrinkles, cellulite and all.

This time off is more to air my brain and pump my heart.  I define “airing the brain” as the overdue effort that every human must make to clean out all the mildew, clear the deck, throw the junk so you can come back to the war front, ready and willing.  In the past, I would swing from one vine to the next with maybe two weeks of transition between jobs. That time was hardly enough to clear the garage or unpack from a hectic and rushed vacation.

This time off has been a gift to myself that I have earned.  Of course, I have discovered a few simple pleasures of slowing down.

1. I hear you
The other day I called my parents in India and instead of cleaning the dishes with my neck bent over unnaturally, I sat back, sipped my coffee, actually listened and had a conversation. When I put the phone down, I realized I hadn’t done this for a long time. The act of being completely present and respectful during a conversation. It is not just with your family, it is with every one around.  I have accrued so many deferred lunches, coffees and catch ups, that had I mapped that to a credit card, I might be hauled to court for unpaid bills. Relationships still need to be maintained the old fashioned way.  No matter the advances in social technology tools, your true clout will increase only if you invest your attention.

Our world has become a compression of everything. Micro blogs, instant pictures, abbreviated texts, staccato calls, rushed meals…that we think if our time does not have the ROI of 3X that it is being wasted.  My daughter texted me the other day when I told her that we couldn’t attend some concert.  She said “Mom! YOLO!!”  I wonder what is the definition of speed to her generation where all fat is trimmed and all communication condensed.

2. My virtual world is not World of Warcraft
Before the advent of gaming, my virtual world shifted from one day to another.  Pemberley, Thornfield Hall, Mordor, Ayodya.  There was Alice, Peter, Scarlett, Sita. Over the years, instead of finishing, I found that I had started accumulating books that I would defer for another day. By the time I would hit my bed exhausted and still anxious about work not completed, I would read two pages and doze off. So Blink took one month, The Power of Habit is still calling my name, and I am yet to finish Cutting for Stone.

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” Anne Lamott

I have bookmarked pages, downloaded pdfs and highlighted videos telling myself that someday I will find the time to get to all this great content.  You have to finish what you start or you will have a series of unfinished sentences, unwritten books, unclaimed emotions, unused gifts and untethered dreams.

Now I can read, take a class, or find out why Joan Didion kept a notebook or what Susan Sontag thought about love by going through brainpickings.org and not feel guilty about it.

3. One body for this one Life
My daughter has a mid morning break where she forgets about Math, US History and how an apple defined gravity.   Instead she heads to the playground with her friends for some fun time.  It is called exercising the body after exhausting the brain.  I put this up on my FB wall recently to remind myself that the car needed maintenance.

Dear Body,
I want to apologize for treating you so callously.
I have run you down.
I have starved you sometimes and then binged some.
The little water I have given you was an after thought.
I have not walked you enough or given you fresh air.
I have forced you to sit slumped over a desk without a break and fried your brain with my cell phone.
I have driven you crazy with stress and worry. I have raised your blood pressure with anger and frustration.
I have deprived you of adequate sleep on many nights.
Yet you have rarely let me down.
Please take me back, my best friend. I promise I will dedicate this year to your good health.
With all my gratitude

4. Staring into the distance
Please don’t hate me as you are reading this especially if you are in crisis mode. I used to be in crisis mode. Now I look outside my window or walk around and let the fresh air jumpstart my tired brain and my jaded eyes.  Ideas only hang out in well ventilated spaces.  Some are brilliant, some impractical, some whimsical.

Daniel Gilbert states “We live in a world in which people are censured, demoted, imprisoned, beheaded, simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough shit. That’s the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas.”

The other day, I wrote an entire framework for my next business only to find that after 24 hours I wasn’t excited about it. But the best part is that there are more ideas from where that came from. I just had to slow down to listen and now I am cataloguing it more diligently.

5. Memory muscle
“How did I miss that?” No matter how much I tried to keep up with all the planners and the gadgets, that refrain was constant in my brain. Hamstering was part of my parenting act. “Did you do your homework.” “Did I sign her up for Taikwondo?” “We have two recitals in two different schools on one evening?”
Many times it was missing a whole chunk of a dialogue because I was busy working on a launch deadline or something else while my child was explaining something. You know how children talk. They start right at the beginning when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and then they get tired of their own story and by the time it gets to the end, they forget to tell you the time, date and the key details. But if you are listening, you remember to prompt and ask the right questions.
Now I get to chauffeur, listen to them instead of getting on a conference call and not worry about rushing back.

6. Write me a river
What is great to see is the way so many have embraced writing.  So easy to blog.  So easy to write on your wall.  So easy to Photoshop, Instagram, Vine and Storify. So easy to capture what should not be forgotten.  The undeniable truth of our existence and our visibility.  In his brilliant book Stumbling for Happiness, Daniel Gilbert adds “Our inability to recall how we really felt is why our wealth of experiences turns out to be poverty of riches.”

There is an attic and a basement in each of us, stored with unrivaled wisdom that will be thrown away when we finally meet our maker. This time out is my own Dumbledore’s pensieve where strands of memory are recollected, shaped and then formed into words to inhabit paper.

Of course the icing on the “sabbatical” cake is being able to go grocery shopping in the mornings, take care of other traffic light errands, reconnect with friends for lunch and stand in line without fretting at the DMV.
Spiral of time. Courtesy vladimirkush.com

Spiral of time.
Courtesy vladimirkush.com

Timing and Tina Fey

Telling time is taught at school but the art of timing is a life lesson that is essential to learn to manage change and transition effectively.

A time to start and a time to finish.  A time to build and a time to sustain. A time to hold on and a time to move on.

Life is not linear but a series of cycles

Paying attention to where you are in the cycle helps you plan better. Which brings me to Tina Fey.  She is astute and she always seems to know when the baby has grown up and why gently saying goodbye keeps both mother and child sane.  I loved her work on SNL.  Who can forget her famous “Weekend Update” with Fallon and later Poehler or her perfectly executed “Palin” in 2008.  Leaving SNL to produce 30 Rock was a gamble with so many shows tanking.

30 Rock could have continued for another year or two and become another Office but the best stories on the show were already told.  Effective satire is difficult to pull off and many shows drag forever not able to let go till they are forcibly retired.

“Thank you, America. That’s our show! Not a lot people watched it, but the jokes on you because we got paid anyway.”

The corporate chemistry between Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy sizzled and thankfully there was no “happy ever after” typical office romance brewing.

Jack to Liz (Episode 1) “New York, third wave feminist, college educated, single and pretending to be happy about it, over-scheduled and undersexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover, and every two years you take up knitting for – about a week.”

Liz: Hang on – did you cast yourself in this show?
Jack: What can I say? We saw hundreds of actors for God. Finally the network executive just said I should play it.
Liz: You’re the network executive!
Liz: You’re playing with people’s lives here. Who do you think you are?
PA: (to Jack) God – we’re ready for you.

Liz to Jack (Series Finale) “You’re just an alcoholic with a great voice.”

Liz meets the start of her mid life with the same whining turbulence like most of us.  She dated and undated, married and adopted. She fretted, frazzled and fought albeit fairly.

Liz: “I pretty much do just whatever Oprah tells me to do”

Liz: “I want to roll my eyes right now but the doctor said if I keep doing it, my ocular muscles might spasm and eject my eyeballs.”

Jack “Corporate CEO” schemed and dreamed and schemed again.

“As I was taught in Six Sigma – analyze, strategize, succeed. I’m going to crush this problem — with my A.S.S.”

Jack Donaghy's Six Sigma Wheel of Domination
Jack Donaghy’s Six Sigma Wheel of Domination

And despite his “Six Sigma Wheel of Domination, Jack is not happy and of course solves it by buying a boat and tells Liz “I have to find my bliss, which for once is not an acronym for Beautiful Ladies In Short Shorts.”

GE 30 rock

We all have worked with a Jenna “the narcissist” Maroney where the spotlight is never florescent, a side profile is best and nobody can steal the show.

Liz: I don’t wanna be Jenna’s maid of honor. She wants her something borrowed to be Jessica Biels’ youth. I don’t know how to get that.

Liz: You are not the center of the universe, Jenna.
Jenna: I am too.  I am the moon.

Jenna finding her inner emotion when they take away the mirror in her dressing room: “I can’t see my tears without my mirror”

Jenna leaves us by reprising the Rural Juror song: “These were the best days of my flerm”

We have also known a Kenneth who is the perfect counterfoil for Jack. Tina makes sure that even in the midst of a jaded swamp, innocence and naivety can exist.  Good comedy is the best way to take the bite out of preaching.  She also says in a Yodesque voice “Dark time are these” and yes these are when most TV shows out there do not comply with quality.

In the series finale, Kenneth is the President of NBC and he shows Liz his list of “TV No-No Words”: conflict, urban, woman, divorce, shows about shows, writer, Justin Bartha, dramedy, New York, politics, high concept, complex, niche, quality, edgy, blog, immortal characters, and foreign.”

Exiting with exuberance

So when you recognize it is time to move on, leave already and leave in good humor.  The series finale was loaded with the best of 30 Rock, taking shots, bringing in cameos, paying homage to each character and even a token postscript.

As Liz sums up a tiny teary goodbye sitting in a strip club with Tracy “Working with you was hard, Tracy. You frustrated me and you wore me out. And because the human heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you, and I’m going to miss you.”

I will miss you, Liz Lemon and the crackpots at TGS but I am glad that Ms Fey is out there and still a working gal.

30 rock