Category Archives: Careers

What if?

What if you lost all of your money in a Wall Street crash? What might you do?

Jump out the window? Some people take that route.
Drink? There’s always an available bar stool.
Try your luck on Broadway? Now that’s crazy talk.

Except it wasn’t for a guy named Yip Harburg. The co-owner of an electric appliance company, Harburg’s business went bankrupt in 1929 and he found himself tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Friends and family encouraged him to get back into business but Yarburg had other plans. You see, he’d always wanted to be a lyricist on Broadway and now he had the time and energy to pursue it. But that’s absurd, right? There’s no shortage of writers on Broadway.

But Yarburg didn’t worry about that, he went to Broadway and wrote stuff anyway.

So what happened? Yarburg wrote, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? a tune that struck a note with the masses and became immortalized as part of the soundtrack of the Great Depression. He also wrote the lyrics for Over the Rainbow famously sung by, of course, Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. That little ditty—which happens to be known by everyone on the planet with a TV—won Yarburg an Oscar for his trouble.

Now what if Yip hadn’t lost all of his money? What if he never tried to make his Broadway dream come true?

What if, indeed.

Imagine…

Who is your favorite hero? A star of stage and screen? A figure from history? A contemporary business leader?

Picture that individual.

Now imagine that person waking up as you today. In your body. With your friends, family and job. Your skill set, your contacts. What would he or she do to jumpstart your career and life? Would they settle? What steps would that person take today to achieve success?

Imagine!

Who do you want to be?

In recent years, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been taking shots from the tabloids regarding his personal life, his record as governor, and his recent movie comeback.

But instead of chuckling at late night jokes at his expense (whether deserved or otherwise) the success-minded will ask themselves some questions: do I have the strength within me to achieve everything I ever wanted? Can I even dream that big? Arnold’s words, taken from a 2009 USC commencement address demand harsh introspection and action.

Dig deep down and ask yourself who do you want to be? Not what but who? What is the point of living on this Earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?

Arnold started with no money, no connections, no U.S. citizenship, no command of the English language. There were a million reasons he should have just stayed in Thaal, Austria. This video features lots of imagery of Arnold in his prime, but it’s really less about him (he got his) and more about you.

Watch it, and put your dreams against his template for success.

Career lessons from Joe Walsh

Today, careers everywhere have been shaken up. No gig is guaranteed, and many people are on their own when it comes to benefits or health plans while politicians sort out the details. But musicians have always lived this way. Recently, you might have caught some of the History of the Eagles documentary on TV that cast the latest light on the dark corners of that business.

The lot of the musician is one of constant adaptation, persistence and reinvention. You have to prove yourself every night in front of a new audience, pretty much for the rest of your life if you plan on being around that long. Many don’t make it.

But a good example of successfully navigating this sea of uncertainty is Joe Walsh, as a solo artist and an “Eagle,” he’s always proven to be maneuverable, versatile entertainer devoted to his craft. So since we’re in a rocking mood, let’s glean some career lessons from this iconic guitarist.

Always look for opportunity. Walsh started his career in the James Gang when their song Funk #49 kicked off the 1970′s by blowing out Camero speakers everywhere. After three records with the Gang, Walsh had some money and fame, but he knew it was no time to get comfortable. So he bailed out of the James Gang to start a new band, Barnstorm, and then kicked off a solo career that would result in over a dozen albums. Do you balance staying “comfortable” with taking risks?

March to your own drummer. Not too many artists put their solo career on hold to join a band, but that’s what Walsh did when he agreed to replace Eagles’ guitarist Bernie Leadon in 1975. The result was a new direction for the band that produced their classic Hotel California album. Walsh’s guitar solo on the title track ranks as one of the best ever. Always be open to new options, and keep in mind that your next gig might be in a direction you didn’t anticipate.

Always bring something to the table. Walsh brought three things to this established band. 1. An edgy guitar sound that gave The Eagles the opportunity to venture out into fresh territory. 2. New song ideas including riffs and lyrics. 3. The willingness to collaborate and compromise in a team environment. (The latter is often not easy for those used to calling the shots, such as solo artists.) New ideas and fresh thinking are not the sole province of entrepreneurs and start-ups. If you are joining an established organization it’s just as important that you bring creativity, money making (or saving) ideas, and a team-player attitude.

Cultivate your network. Over the years Walsh has helped out by playing guitar on records for many artists from Dan Fogelberg and John Entwistle to Any Gibb and REO Speedwagon. He’s also known to be generous with his gear, sharing vintage guitars from his collection with other musicians such as Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page. Do more than just connect with others on LinkedIn. Cultivating a network where you share your time, talent and treasure pays lifelong dividends.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. While he’s a member of a superstar band and his songs have been rock radio staples for decades, Walsh doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s known as one of the most laid back approachable “rock stars” around. His albums reflect this with titles such as, “So What,” “Ordinary Average Guy,” and “Got Any Gum?” In a world of inflated egos, social media status updates and bloated bios, take the road less traveled and let your work speak for you. Do that and you’ll be in business…for the long run.

Pope

Jorge Mario Bergoglio woke up this morning as a cardinal. This afternoon he was elected pope and became Francis I. In his first appearance he asked the crowds for their blessing as be began his “journey’ as head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Are you ready for a new journey if the opportunity presents itself? Are you making yourself available for an opportunity to present itself? You’re not too old, Bergoglio is 76 and his life just changed a few hours ago.

Pope lesson: be true to yourself, but always be ready to assume a new responsibility and identity.

Strange deer

It was midnight as I negotiated a turn and slammed on my brakes as a four-legged creature materialized on the side of the road. I had never seen anything like it. It was about the size of a small deer and almost entirely white in color. It looked at me with curious brown eyes and hopped away for several yards before stopping. Yes, it hopped. It also had a small hump, like a camel. I have spent many years in the outdoors and I had never seen anything like it.

Google revealed it to be a piebald deer. Apparently it possessed a one-in-a-hundred inherited genetic trait.

Imagine, an encounter with a rare ungulate right in my own neighborhood. If there can be deer-size things living in your neighborhood that you’ve never seen, maybe there are jobs nearby that you’ve never imagined.

It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time…and the more you’re out there looking, the better the odds.

Lunch

You have a lot of emails to attend to. You have spreadsheets to fill out, forms to complete and a desk covered in problems and projects. It’s easy to keep your head down and plow through the work. But sometimes some of the best work gets done when you talk to others and get to know them.

Understandably, many people are “too busy” to go to lunch. But that’s even more reason why you should do it.

Going to lunch with someone could be the best career move you make all week.

What do you tell yourself?

I’m not handy.

I’m bad with numbers.

I can’t draw.

We become used to saying these things. But when you were a kid you improvised, you knew your flash cards and you drew whatever you wanted. What happened? Maybe you decided it was easier to be bad at things. Not everything, just something.

Buy a house and you’ll become handy because things will need to be fixed.

Put yourself in charge of a budget and your numbers skills will improve.

Get a notebook and start doodling and you’ll see your ideas take shape.

Enough people will tell you what you’re not good at, why add to the noise?

Interview

In this video, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill audition for their roles as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Essentially it’s a video of a job interview. The interesting thing is that when this was being filmed, their roles were not yet iconic, Star Wars didn’t yet exist, and there was no guarantee the movie would work. You can sense the skepticism an observer might have watching them at the time…What IS this? What are they talking about? Would I really want to see it? The grainy reality of the audition is a contrast from the polished, edited dialogue delivered by the costumed characters we know from the movie.

If you’re interviewing for a job you might find Harrison and Mark here easy to relate to. They’re not widely known, they’re taking a chance on a position that they might fail at, and they need to demonstrate in a convincing way that they are right for the roles.

While we can’t picture anyone else as Han Solo, Ford mentions in another interview that there were hundreds of other candidates trying out for the Captain Solo job as well. Hundreds of people going for an obscure position in a venture with long odds for success. But a space pirate welcomes those odds, and as we pursue our careers perhaps we all should, too.

The waiting place

“I can’t wait until my vacation.” The person in the store said.

“Is it Friday, yet?” The delivery guy asked.

“Only three weeks until Daylight saving time.” Another pointed out.

They mean well, but unfortunately they’re all in “The Waiting Place”, which of course you know from Oh, the Places You’ll Go! It’s perhaps the worst of the many pitfalls one can face in one’s life and career. Dr. Seuss portrays this a a sort of self-imposed Pergatory where everyone just waits for something to happen. It’s an easy place to visit, and it’s easy to linger there. After all something has to happen sometime right?

Except when it doesn’t.

Find a door to open and get out of there.