Why He got that Promotion, Not You

NO sign on finger, shallow DOF,

Have you ever experienced this?

You came to the office one morning and saw practically everyone gathered in front of the bulletin board as if drawn by a sidewalk hawker peddling bottled love potions.

Your curiosity piqued, you joined the group, pushing and shoving, until you get to see what they were so interested about.

There, in the familiar company stationary was a memo saying, “Congratulations to the promotion of Mr. X, to the position of Department Head for Operations…The Management enjoins everyone to give Mr. X all the help and cooperation…”

You slapped your forehead hard enough to make you dizzy and, retreating back to your cubicle in a daze, muttered, “How could they? Why him, not I?”

You dropped onto your chair, your body tingling like having seen a ghost, your arms covered with goose bumps, wondering over and over again what happened; why the position you have coveted so much, and worked so hard for was given to someone else, not you…

Things like this are not rare. They are repeated over and over again in every organization, worldwide. In fact, right now, while you are moping over your big disappointment, someone somewhere is feeling as rotten as you.

And you know why? It’s not that you are dumb or will not dig in to work, if necessary. It’s just how the statistics of promotion work.

The 80/20 Rule:
The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, states that 80% of the performance of an organization, any organization large or small, is from the efforts of 20% of its members. Well, not exactly 80/20 but very close to it. Hate it as much as you want, but rule is unerring, like one of the physical laws of Nature.

If you apply the same mathematical logic to the 20% star performers, then go down until you cannot break it down further, you will appreciate how tough the competition was for the position you were vying for.

The question is, “Where were you in the 80/20 rule?” If you are honest with yourself, you will probably know why it was given to him, not to you.

Nevertheless, to be by-passed is a tough pill to swallow. It is downright demotivating. Characteristically, setbacks like this determine whether you are a wimp or a man.

Wimps moan and complain and let others know how they feel. They talk bad of the Mr. X or their direct supervisor; they sabotage their own performance and careers. Some even leave, hoping to find better treatment somewhere else.

But that is not the solution to your woes.

The solution is to be a man and immediately seek an audience with your supervisor to know the real score; where you failed and where you stand concerning future opportunities in the organization.

When and if you do, don’t be confrontational Simple ask his thoughts on the matter.

If you have previously done this, you would know the drill. But if you haven’t, your heart-to-heart talk with your boss would come out like this (maybe not exactly, but close to it):

He would commend you of your performance, of having met your key areas, even surpassing some of them. He would give you credit for having solved some of the company’s problems, of your ability to work well vertically and horizontally.

As if on cue that the conversation is over, he would assure you that you are still a viable candidate for future promotion opportunities. As you rise to leave, he would say as an afterthought, “Work on your assertiveness more and you will surely get it next time..”

“Assertiveness? What’s that? Would I be here if I wasn’t assertive?” these questions churn in your mind.

Are You Assertive?
Sitting down with your boss was great, but that was far from being assertive.

To be assertive is to be able to “insist, in a forthright and positive manner, the recognition of your rights.”

In an organizational milieu, assertiveness is a very important personal and interpersonal skill. It can help you in all your interactions with other people because you can express yourself in a clear, open and reasonable way, without undermining or disregarding their rights.

It allows you to disagree without being disagreeable, facilitates forging win-win situations because no feathers are ruffled, no feelings hurt and everybody given the chance to be heard.

Being assertive does not guarantee success all the time, but on occasions that you are, people will thank you even if you made them dance on the palm of your hand.

Call it diplomacy in the workplace.

Assertiveness is not to be mistaken for aggressiveness, undermining and rolling over the rights of others, or passiveness, allowing others to undermine your rights.

As you start walking back to your cubicle, think of the occasions when you allowed your associates to talk you out of a potentially good idea because you were so timid to sell its merits.

On the flip side, were there occasions when you bowled over your associates, strongly insisting that your idea is the best, that they were wrong?

I am sure there have been more than once of either and they make you blush with embarrassment now that you think of them.

I once had an associate, an Indian industrial engineer based in the U.S., who was the paradigm of assertiveness.

You can sit down with him the entire day talking of the operational issues. He would never raise his voice, never disagrees, and just keeps on nodding his head in agreement, even smiles occasionally.   But at the end of the day, he still got his way. It was so exasperating dealing with him, not because of his stubbornness but because he always managed to make as see the other side of things in a clear, and positive manner.

Assertiveness, aggressiveness and passiveness are all character traits which, like habits, are very difficult to break.

But if diamonds break, so can they. It depends on how badly you want to advance in your career.

Look at it this way. Which is more difficult to swallow, to learn to be assertive or to report to the office one morning, see the same scenario as before, and see history repeating itself before your eyes?

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Fight Apathy around You in Six Easy Steps



What is one of the most difficult problems any manager can have?

Is it technical issues? No. No matter how difficult it is, there is always a solution somewhere. You may just have to kick around hundreds of ideas until you come up with the best option.

Is it operational problems? I never lost any sleep over operational problems during my entire working life because I had my subordinates handle them .

Is it boss/subordinate relationship? Maybe a little bit scary and de-motivating. Either way, it can make your working life very stressful: As a subordinate, your smallest mistake can look catastrophic to your boss; as a boss you will doubt your management skills, or, much worse, be wary of a mutiny in your hands.

In most cases, however, a boss/subordinate relationship can easily be ironed out by a good dialogue. If that fails, it can be raised to Personnel Department for arbitration.

Is it people problem? Well, ask any manager the most difficult problem he/she has faced and they will be one in saying – people problems.

And when it comes to people-related problems, apathy will be at the top of the list.

Apathy in the workplace can make a manager wish he isn’t a manager; it could make him wish to be somewhere else, basking in the sun in some remote island rather than deal with people he has to repeatedly give instructions to, and check on frequently.

It makes a manager lose much time doing productive work because he is constantly monitoring their performance, keeping his ears to the ground to see if they are infecting other members of the group, or cooking up something to sully his reputation or undermine his authority.

Apathy in the workplace is like flu. It is very debilitating and energy-sapping. And it is just as contagious.

Before your entire group gets down with it, and take you along the way, you must do a little doctoring to bring your people back to health.

Here is a kitchen brew that was effective for me (hopefully, it will work for you, too):

 

Identify them:

There should not be many of them in your group. You would have your hands full if they comprise the majority.

It is easy to know them. In case your naivety gets the better of you, they are those who:

-       Procrastinate. They do for tomorrow what could have been done today;

-       They wait for others to move before they do;

-       They have the “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” attitude;

-       “Maybe,” or “It depends,” are their favorite words when asked to make a decision or a commitment.

-       They never volunteer for a project or special assignments;

-       They “disappear” when they see you coming.

-       They keep their peace and quiet in group discussions.

 

Talk to them:

Talk to them either as a group or individually.

Be prepared when you call them to your office. Don’t talk about the weather, politics or how their children are faring in school or their love life. Though they make good ice-breakers, you would be perceived weak and wasting their time if you dwell on these longer than necessary.

Talk about organizational goals, your personal goals and that of your group. Explore their own goals and try to connect them with the bigger goals of the organization.

They will agree with you most of the time; they will not argue or raise any furor over these. Remember they are indifferent, and generally don’t care about goals. They have the “I don’t care, I just work here,” mindset.

 

Go on the offensive:

No, I don’t mean throwing the books at them or wringing their necks to do better.

By going on the offensive, you cite to them real examples where their performance were below par, vis-à-vis, organizational standards; why you think they are apathetic towards their work, to you or the organization as a whole. .

In a friendly manner, explore their reasons for such behavior.

This could be very uncomfortable because, more often than not, you could be the cause of their apathy. Like in a father and son dialogue, the former usually ends up like sitting on a pile of smoldering charcoal.

Do not interrupt except to ask for clarifications. Listen proactively, take notes if you may. They will be will be invaluable in the next step.

 

Establish working parameters:

When everything is said and done, establish working parameters to slowly bring them out of their apathy and start functioning the way they are expected to.

This is where you bargain and haggle; give or take. This is where your magnanimity as a person and firmness as a manager are displayed. You may have to do a bit of pride-eating. But that is a small price to pay for getting the results expected of your people.

This is where you and your subordinates start the journey of making changes within yourselves as persons and as members of a team.

Before you part ways, get their commitments and give them yours.

 

Give it a test drive:

With your working parameters established, give it a test drive to see how it is goes in the workplace.

It may not work on the first try. Habits and attitudes are not easy to change. A piece of an agreement cannot change them overnight. But abandoning them is not an option, either.

Keep on tweaking them until it is workable. Get back to the drawing board as often as necessary until you get rid of all the bugs – yours and theirs.

 

Drive it yourself:

There are management activities that are best delegated and there are those that need personal attention. Curing apathy is undelegatable.

Take charge. Be on the forefront of your subordinates to show them that you mean business; that your goals and that of the organization are nothing to be loafed about.

This is going to be very taxing and stressful, but it will show the kind of leader you are. People always appreciate a manger that is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and be a part of the team. Dig in and get dirty.

Don’t micromanage though. This will make your people over-dependent on you. In fact, this will even be counter-productive in the long run as they will not learn how to make decisions independently.

 

There is no better job in any business organization than to be a manager, not only for the  prestige, the pay and the perks, but of being able to affect every aspect of the organization’s thrust and a direction.

It can also be a real pain if you goof off. And apathy is, in most cases, a management failure.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” don’t even let apathy develop in your group. If it does, the above suggestions can help you deal with it.

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Get Rid of Your Apathy before You are Rid Of



Do you feel this way in any given day?

After dragging yourself from bed, you go through your early morning rituals more asleep than awake; you drive to the office with a poker face, silently wishing of going the other way.

Then you get to the office and immediately head for the coffee machine where you take excessively slow and long sips from your cup as you drag your feet to your cubicle.

There you shuffle some papers; swipe a pile of documents from yesterday aside to give room for more that will come your way today. You cast a furtive look at the wall clock and silently curse for having to spend another dreary day in the office.

If you do, then apathy is slowly creeping into your working life.

This feeling is no strange for people who’ve been working at the same job for at least two years. Two hears is about the time, corporate world rule-of-thumb, for anyone to have mastered his/her job and start feeling a certain itch.

The itch for a lateral movement to broaden one’s skills, or move upward for more responsibilities, higher pay and better perks. If none is faintly visible in the horizon, they start feeling edgy; begin to have self-doubts, and their patience starts running thin. Others may lose their motivation to do better.

All these are normal, especially for ambitious people.

But if they become chronic, then your career aspiration is headed for a cul-de-sac.

Of course you wouldn’t want to be dead-ended, do you? You don’t want your career to be in a situation where there is no elbow room to wiggle yourself out of, would you?

I guess not.

So here are a few things to help you get out of your stupor:

1.    Identify what bugs you:
A bug is a slangy term used to tag anything that annoys us, or make us uncomfortable. We have the cold bug, the flu bug or the love bug (this can be annoying, too, if not handled well). And we blame them for the tiny and ugly insect bites that sometimes blemish our skin.

Characteristically they are very small; even microscopic. But the result of their bite can be disproportionately big.

So are the bugs that affect you at work. If you give them some thought, they are relatively small; certainly not big enough to make you feel apathy towards your work, you career. And they can be very annoying or even destructive to your career growth.

But you have to identify them, especially those that annoy you the most. The workplace can be as bug-infested as a junkies’ pad in a rundown tenement.

There is the boss bug, the work assignment bug, the lack-of-decision-making bug, the small-salary bug, boring job bug, the missed out promotion bug, the office politics bug. Or it could be a family-problem bug that goes with you to the office or a relationship-gone-sour bug.

If you look at them perceptively, they are very small but their bite can give you feelings of apathy towards your family, your work, the organization you belong to; or the whole word for that matter.

If you want to deal with them properly, properly identify them. It could be one bug or several bugs constantly and slowly eating at you.

2.    Do something with your bugs:
All my years in the corporate world tell me that getting rid of a flu or cold bug is easier than the workplace bug.

A flu or cold bug actually never leaves you. They stay with you. What stops them from affecting you is your healthy immune system. They will rear their debilitating heads if, for one reason or another, they will find a break in your body’s defensive system.

So are the bugs that make you apathetic. They will always be there. They are everywhere, regardless of company, size, industry or culture you are in. .

And they will always affect you if you allow them to.

So it is not so much as doing something about them but doing something about you – which means coming up with strategies to make your immune system effectively handle these bugs that are eating your career success and happiness away.

Is it an overbearing boss? Then talk to him directly about your problem rather than bottling it up inside you. Even if you don’t get the desired result, not only will it be a relieving experience, but, hopefully, it will make your boss realize that he is not as good as he thinks.

Is it your work schedule? Everybody in the office is in the same boat as you. Or you can arrange your personal schedules to fit with your work, not the other way around.

Is it a pay bug? Being apathetic will just make it worse. If you want to get a higher paycheck, then work for it. Be the best you can be to get a good performance appraisal.

By experience, I know that there is always a way of getting things done in an office, any office. It all depends on how strongly you feel for something; how determined you are in getting what you want – in a nice, but effective way.

And all these are within yourself.

3.    Change your mindset:
Have you ever solved a problem by thinking how difficult it is? No! Only by cranking up your brain for a solution.

Have you ever addressed a particularly irritating situation by complaining about it? No! Only by taking the bull by the horns and doing something about it.

Can you get out of your apathy by wallowing in self-pity, feeling aggrieved or discontented? No! Only by making yourself immune to the bugs that made you apathetic.

Once you have come up with strategies in dealing with them, stick with them until you have extricated yourself from your apathy; like getting out of a quicksand.

We all deserve to have a great life and only you can bring it into reality. You may have to make some changes in your outlook and perspective of life. And changes are always scary and difficult.

But the alternative is even more scary and difficult to accept.

You must get better or get beaten. There is no getting around that.

4.    Get involved:
It is easy to spot apathetic people in the office. They may not be overtly indifferent to the organization or with their co-workers. But they normally come later than most and are ready to go by knock-off time.

They don’t participate in company activities, never work longer hours and ready to make the dash at the sound of the buzzer.

They don’t get the breaks either, which, ironically, make them more apathetic.

If you want to be counted, stand up and be counted. The office environment has no room for fence-sitters and cheerers. But it has a lot of room for players, for people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and dig in to help achieve the company’s organizational goals.

Take part, not just be a part.

5.    Use your time and energy productively:
Procrastination and laziness are common traits of apathetic people.

They spend more time in front of their computers, take longer breaks, more trips to the comfort room than others, and sit on reports that upper management need for decision-making.

Some of these are probably dormant personal habits made worse by feelings of apathy.

Yes, it is difficult to break a habit, especially the bad ones. It is difficult to do things differently from what you are used to.

But is it more difficult than to fail in your career aspirations? Would you throw away a potentially good life for a habit or two you find difficult to break?

Smoking may be difficult to break if you know that you don’t have a suspicious spot in your lungs. But if your doctor tells you that you have, I bet you, you will stop without being told to.

Don’t wait for your boss to tell you that your procrastination and laziness are costing you your chances for promotion. It will be too late when he does.

6.    Enjoy your success, no matter how small:
Getting out of apathy, especially chronic apathy is not easy. It is not a single leap, but a series of steps; a process.

It is practically re-inventing yourself. You will need to change your mindset, your perspective of career development, in office inter-personal dynamics. You need to discard old habits and assume new ones. You may have to do a lot of compromises and probably even to confront issues head-on. You need to make hard decisions and difficult choices. But you have to make them.

You will need to be like a fluid – shape yourself to the container you are poured into, not to insist on having your own shape.

It is like resurrecting your career from the dead. And resurrections are always worth celebrating.

Give yourself a pat on the back or treat yourself to a good dinner for any progress you make, no matter how small. You deserve it.

A survey done by Gallup, a Washington-based polling organization, showed that practically half of the work force worldwide, hate their jobs They pretend to put in effort but tend to undermine the efforts of their boss and the people they work with.

In effect they represent a huge loss in the productive capacity and profitability of their organizations.

Are you one of them? Are you an asset or a liability to the company you work with? Do you wish to be such for the rest of your working life?

We are all brought into this world to make something worthwhile of ourselves; to achieve something significant for our families and the society we are members of.

Are you achieving those ends you are meant to achieve or undermining them?

The choice is yours.

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Are You Happy with Your Career



If you are typical of career people, chances are your answer is “No.”

According to a Gallup poll, a Washington D.C.-based polling organization, there are twice as many people who are not happy with their careers than those who are.

The study, released last year, involving 230,000 full-time and part-time workers in 142 countries, showed the following:

-    13% are actively engaged. They have a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection with their employers and spend the day driving innovation and moving the company forward;

-     24% are actively disengaged. They hate their jobs, act out and undermine what their co-workers accomplish;”

-    63% are simply “not engaged.” They are unhappy, but not drastically so. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.”

For anyone who has spent half of his life working, like I, this is hardly surprising. What the poll did was to put specific figures on this common workplace problem and how widespread it is.

But I guess it’s been there since primitive man found it necessary to form hunting parties to bring down bigger, faster, fiercer and smarter preys. They may be safe and efficient, but I bet they had people problems, too.

Hunting parties have drastically evolved since then. They have become organizations which are bigger, more complex, more multi-tiered and spread out. But they are still composed of people, and where there are people, there will always be people-related problems.

Problems like apathy.

Apathy, a Manager’s Nightmare:
I have seen this so many times in my career:

A new graduate comes into the workforce – energetic, enthusiastic and ambitious. He wants to change the world overnight by himself. He is always on time, and works long hours. He accepts every assignment and finishes them too.

Then he hits a snag, i.e., the pay is not enough to support his life style, his proposals are always turned down, he doesn’t have autonomy, he is not getting any support from his boss or peers, and so many other things that will cause him to putter and slow down  to a crawl.

Then apathy sets in.

Apathy is the lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving and exciting.

It is a manager’s greatest nemesis. Apathetic people cannot be made to work extra hours, when necessary. They don’t contribute to the achievement of organizational goals. On the other hand, they undermine them. They don’t accept special assignments. Rather, they have a battery of reasons for saying “No,” and always find every possible solution to operational problems undoable.

They cannot be motivated and dealing with them sometimes involve moving them to less critical  positions or out of the organization.

None, however, is a viable solution because they do not answer the root cause of the problem inherent in every organization which, by and large, creates apathy in the work place.

Apathy can rise out the following factors (of varying degrees) common to all organizations:

-   Compensation:
This is always a ticklish issue. It is either not enough or the other guy is paid higher for the same work done. And organizations are often not honest enough with their people on the factors affecting salaries.

They assume, wrongly, that people cannot understand such things as labor supply, company profitability, competition, type of industry, inflationary forces, etc., that affect salaries in one way of the other.

More often than not, organizations are poor in making employees understand that salaries are a function of job descriptions, which in turn, are governed by salary matrices, which, in turn are dependent on economic factors.

-   No Room at the Top:
This is typical with old organizations where top management positions are already occupied by people who are so comfortable in their executive chairs that they would put up a fight at the slightest mention of a re-shuffle.

-   Boredom:
In contrast to above, boredom is common among young organizations where things are still a bit chaotic to formulate cross-training programs to expose employees to different functions within the organization, or succession planning to give them something to hope for in the immediate future.

-   Too much control:
This can range from having so many regulations to stifle imagination and creativity, to lack of leeway to make operational decisions.

Environments like this can be so stifling that people are reduced to nothing but unthinking automatons. It robs them of the desire to do better, to excel.

-   Conflicting management decisions:
This is very common among multi-layered and multi-functional organizations where responsibilities sometimes are so interlocked, intertwined, and inter-dependent with each other that communications can often be confusing and contradictory.

The situation is made worse when subordinates are caught in a petty turf war between managers.

-   Favoritism:
Having favorites is a human foible. We all have favorites, i.e., favorite child, favorite pair of shoes, favorite shirt, favorite restaurant, or favorite subordinate.

Ironically a lot of mangers abet their subordinates to kowtow to them, whisper little bits of information here and there, do things outside of their job descriptions or do just about anything to get into their good graces.

This is either to feed their ego or to help them “keep their ears to the ground” so they can pre-empt unfavorable situations before they occur.

There is nothing wrong with that until or unless these little pets become little pests or be given undue advantage over the others in terms of salary increases or opportunities for advancement.

When this happens, a rot starts to form within the organization affecting everybody, robbing them of any motivation to do better or contribute more.

-   Too much office politics:
I decided to retire from my job when I started having a frown on my face, instead of a smile, in driving to the office each morning.

If you think politics is confined in the halls of government, think again. It is found in every aspect of our lives, maybe of different form, but give the same debilitating effects on people who are not good at it or don’t want to play the game.

Ironically, the higher you get in the organization, the more intense and nihilistic it becomes. It is practically “survival of the fittest” up there with a difference – instead of bared fangs and menacing claws, it is done with innocuous smiles, hearty handshakes and pats on the back.

It is done so deftly and innocently that, more often than not, you wouldn’t even feel the stab on your back until you get called into your boss’ office and be met with an expression on his face that practically tells you that heaven is about to come crashing down on you.

How to get around these:
Getting into an organization to pursue a career is like getting married. Anything can happen once you sign the contract. And once you are wed, getting out is never easy. Even if do manage to get out, the experience will be nothing short of traumatic, forever scarring your career possibilities.

It is very important, then, to take note of these two bits of wisdom I learned through the years:

First, for those who are starting out it is very important to know the organization you are getting into, e.g., the organizational culture and structure, policies on promotion and people development, salaries and benefits, type of management, etc.

Second, for those who are already in, always remember that there are no perfect organizations and the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence. More often than not, everything is a matter of perception.

Achieving your career objectives is never easy. There will always be difficulties along the way that threaten to offset you or throw you down on your back. They will always be there wherever you go, whatever organization you are in.

If you feel so strongly about your career happiness and success, find a way around those organizational obstacles that stand in your way, rather than be like a rudderless ship that drifts aimlessly until you run aground and be scuttled by the organization.

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Finding Yourself in Four Steps


In a bit of mea culpa, I unabashedly admitted that I was lost. What I thought was a walk in the blogging park, became an ordeal. I hoped to earn from it, but because I took it haphazardly, I paid for it dearly.

While I was lost in blogging, millions out there are lost in their careers, relationships, finances, parenting, health, societal obligations and many other aspects of living.

Being lost in a big city is not as dire as being lost to oneself. Except for a little embarrassment and loss of time, nothing more serious could possibly happen unless mugged in the bad part of town (if you happen to wander into it).

Being lost to oneself is more serious. It can make one feel incompetent, your self-confidence takes a dive. Doubt creeps in, and you start to question, and regretful of, the decisions you made. It makes you feel angry, frustrated and desperate. It stops you dead in your tracks, exclaiming, “How could I have gotten myself into such mess?”

Ironically, the more you dwell on the negative effects of your predicament, the deeper you get into the maze. Like falling into a quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you sink.

When was the last time you got lost in a new town? What did you do to find your way back in?

You stopped, took your bearings, consult a map or, ask a local for directions. .

Finding yourself requires a similar process. You may create your own, but it won’t be far from the following:

Admit that you are lost:
Stop complaining about the mess you are; blaming yourself or others for your misfortunes, for being stuck, and unable to move forward.

Self-pity will not do you any good. It will make you sink into despair, maybe depression.

Admitting you are lost has a calming effect. It makes you objectively realize the situation you are in and restores your mental faculties, like the lights after a power shortage.

It makes you size things up, allowing you to put them in their proper perspective.

But admit to what?

More often than not, people don’t know, or admit, that they are lost. Roughly, you are lost when:

-    You fall below your expectations. Instead of moving forward, you are moving in circles and you don’t know why. You are busy, yet accomplishing nothing;

-    You are not happy with what you have, even if people are envious of you for it;

-    Your marriage is on the rocks, your children are dropping out of school, your teen-age daughter is pregnant and you just bailed out your eldest son from jail for drugs or other petty crimes;

-    You are about to be evicted from your home, your car broke down and your credit cards are no longer honored for delinquent payments.

Looks familiar? These are just a few tell-tale signs that you have lost control of your life. And admitting it is essential in finding your way back in.

Spot the difference:
Ever did one of those “spot the difference” brain twisters?

If you haven’t, now is the time to do it.

Evaluate where you are now against where you were just before problems started raining down on you.

This will defog your mind a little bit; allows you to see the bigger picture of your predicament. It is kind standing on top of hill and looking down on the plains below where you can see possible alternative, and easier, routes to the top.

This requires objectivity, however. But that’s what finding oneself is – being objective.

Recall the wrong turns you made:
Where did I go wrong? What could I have possibly done that made me lose my bearings?

These and many more will creep into your mind as you try to find your way out of the maze. Take each one down. They will be handy as you try to find yourself again.

Are you lost in your career?

A lot of people have this problem. Consider these questions: Am I in the wrong career? Is this what I am meant to be or was born to do? Do I have the attitude and aptitude for it? Do I have the skills to succeed in it? Do I have sufficient people and technical skills to succeed? Will it give me personal satisfaction if achieve it?

These questions (and many more), will help you find yourself again.

Is your relationship on the rocks?

Where did I go wrong to cause the breakdown of our relationship? Where did we both go wrong? Are we compatible or incompatible? Did I value it? Did I spend time to nurture it and make it grow?

The process of asking yourself these hard and difficult questions is necessary to find some answers to help you find yourself again – regardless of the reasons for your being lost.

Write down all your answers. They will guide you in finding yourself.

Start backtracking:
One of my first jobs was that of construction crew. I don’t know if I was good at it but a week later, I was promoted to leadman, and given my own crew.

My euphoria for the trust given was short-lived, however, when I found out what my task would be.

It was to do all over again those huge pieces of equipment and panels (5 to 10 tons each) of a cement manufacturing plant which were incorrectly assembled or positioned by my predecessor.

Finding oneself takes no less an effort to do. The load, though not as heavy as an entire dust collector, can be as burdensome.

It requires either doing things all over again or casting aside your own long-held values, beliefs, habits, biases, etc. It may require a complete overhaul of yourself – a pill which is difficult to swallow for most people.

Don’t be afraid to do what’s necessary and to start all over again. If your happiness and success depend on it, every effort is worth it.

Finding yourself is knowing yourself, the real you. It is a very enlightening experience. It opens up a lot of possibilities that lie lurking within you.

It is difficult but there’s no getting around that, unless you want to end up in soup lines or sleeping in half-way houses, unable to keep a job, a relationship and estranged from your own children.

You find yourself when you overcome that something that is changing you, and take control of your own personality and life again. (source unknown)

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It is Ok to Get Lost, Just Don’t Stay Lost


I am lost.

No, not the big-city kind of lost, but something far worse. Losing one’s way in a new city easily be rectified by consulting a map, or, if a map is too complicated for your nut to crack, asking directions from the first person that comes along.

I am lost within myself. Where there are no maps, no street signs and nobody to ask directions from, except my gut feel, core values and honestly knowing myself, what I am good at and what I want from life – which can be quite daunting at times because, more often than not, we fashion ourselves according to our external environment, not from the landscape that exists within us.

I started my online presence so many years ago I have forgotten precisely when. But the reason remains as clear today as if it was only yesterday that I had my first domain name – to make money blogging.

I thought I can write and all I have to do was to have a blog site, write a few articles and money starts flowing in like the sands through the neck of an hourglass.

Well, the hourglass has been flipped more than a thousand times, the sands flowing endlessly from one bulb to the other. But the money, aside from a trickle, has remained more elusive as the Siberian Tiger.

Now, so many years later, I have a stinking feeling of being one of those which Jon Morrow appropriately calls, “a dumb blogger.”

The bad thing is that I don’t think I am dumb. Can anyone who has a degree in mechanical engineering, two semesters in post-graduate studies and retired as a process engineering manager for the Far East operations of a large multinational firm be dumb?

And I think I can write, too. At least that’s what my friends have been telling me – friends who have no clear idea what prose means and whose passing their English 101 was more on persistence than raw talent.

Yet I am not making any progress as a blogger. With more than 3000 subscribers, I would say that my current blog is not doing badly. But where is the money? My savings has become paper thin you can see through my bank account.

Of course, my predicament is by no means rare. Right now millions people are lost in their relationships, in their careers, in their dreams and aspirations in life. There are millions of people out there who have a huge disconnect between what their inner selves are and what their outer selves want to be or have. They chase leads after leads, jump from one opportunity to the next, ultimately finding themselves back in square one.

As an engineer, I had actualized my dreams. As a blogger, I am lost in my dreams.

I was good at process flows, production control, automation, goal-setting and living off operation budgets, motivating and developing people. As a blogger, I am beginning to doubt if I will ever get the privilege of falling under the shadow of the titans like Brian Clark, Jon Morrow, Seth Godin, to name a few, whose names are as related to blogging as Coca Cola to soda.

Being lost is not that bad:

Sometimes I feel so bad, so dejected and so insignificant. My self-esteem is constantly taking a beating for not having made an honest buck from my efforts.

It makes me constantly ask the questions most self-doubters (and losers) ask, “Will I ever make it? Am I good enough to make it?”

Questions that nobody can provide good answers to but the self. Questions that, if taken with a little bit of wisdom, can make us stop, ponder, think things very carefully and prod us to craft a game plan to find our way back.

Stopping or staying lost forever is not an option. It does make good alibi for leading an insignificant life of failure. But it does not make a good conversational piece. It does not make your presence felt in any gathering. On the contrary, it drives you into a corner where you sulk and mope for not having the courage and determination to un-lost yourself.

Henry David Thoreau said:

       “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Now I have a choice. Either back track or hack my way through the thick foliage of the jungle to find my way back to where I started and do things all over again, albeit better.

If you want to find yourself again, come and make the journey with me. .

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Success and the 80/20 Principle


80/20 is the famous Pareto Principle, coined by Joseph M. Juran, a business consultant, which states that 80 percent of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is roughly a rule-of-the thumb concept which is used heavily in business, e.g., 80% of the sales come from 20% of the clients.

This principle applies to other aspects of our lives as well. In school, roughly 80% of the discussion is kept going by 20% of the students. While all may probably graduate, only a few make it to the honor roll. And when they hit the job market, about 20 will most likely get hired in the first try.

When you look around the community, it’s a good bet that community activities are kept going and alive by a minority of the members. In professional sports, the bigger part of the gate’s receipts is produced by the few super stars, and at work, a company’s excellent bottom line is largely due to the efforts of a few overachievers.

The Pareto Principle is sometimes called “Pareto’s natural law of wealth.” As such, it is as unerring as the natural laws of gravity or inertia. But whereas, everything falls to the ground due to gravity, anybody can get away from the 80 and be among the 20. It is not a law of pre-ordination, or fate. You can move from being in a state of mediocrity to a state of excellence.

The question is, “How?”

In any given office or career, the anonymous many who are stuck in their static existence are chained there not by some external force or authority, but by their own self-limiting thoughts. Nobody is keeping them there, but themselves.

Therefore, if you want to move from the insignificant many to the elite few, remove the obstacles you have unwittingly placed around you. Get out of your box.

It is not going to be easy, though, because it would require ridding previously-held thoughts about yourself, about life, about career success and happiness. It might even require a complete overhaul of your core values. And change is always difficult. It means leaving behind things you love and cherish, things you value all your life (even if they have hindered you from moving forward), for things you are initially unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

But C.S. Lewis said:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Just as a seed must die for a plant to grow, a pupa to give birth to a butterfly, so must you let your old self die so you can allow a new you to grow into its full potential as a person, as a professional.

You can do that by starting to:

1.    Develop a feeling of discontentment:
Not the grumbling, and complaining kind of discontentment but of the “I’ve-got-to-do-better” kind.

Be discontented with your pay, your job, the people you work with, or even the company you work for, if necessary.

Being the best janitor, or clerk or engineer in your office is good. But at the end of the day, you are still a janitor; or clerk or an engineer.

Be discontented enough to want to be something else because out there is something a lot better for you. It’s just waiting to be worked for; to be claimed.

2.    Develop positive envy:
To be envious is not entirely bad.

Why do you think all commercials and ads use beautiful movie stars, top athletes and other famous people as product endorsers? Because they trigger the “If it is good for them, it should be good for me,” thought patterns among the buying public. They are meant to stir the envious desires of people

Envy is the root of all fads and fads set the stage for human evolution.

Feeling bad, depressed and losing self-confidence because of having been bypassed by an associate is the kind of envy you don’t want to have. It saps your energy, de-motivates you and could lead your promising career into an early demise.

Instead, say, “If he can do it, so I can. And better.” Try it and see how good it makes you feel; it allows you to see the bigger picture and sets you off running in the direction you want to take.

3.    Paying the price:
Everybody wants to succeed, but only very few want to pay the price. It may not be in monetary terms, though it won’t hurt to buy decent clothes and shoes, or get a good physical make-over.

But the real price, and this is too stiff for most, are the inner changes you have to make to succeed.

First, and foremost, change your attitude about yourself, your job, the people you work with, and the whole world around you. You are a lot better than you think.

Second, get rid of your bad habits and character traits, e.g., tardiness, absenteeism, failure to meet deadlines, procrastination, lack of self confidence, etc. These are manifestations of unprofessionalism and unless you get rid of these, you will remain a little leaguer.

Third, learn how to communicate and interact well with co-workers. Office interaction and communication are probably the least understood and underrated skills one must have up his sleeve to get ahead in his/her career. They are the most crucial if one intends to move from the insignificant 80 to the over-achieving 20.

Every effort you put in pursuing your career goals will all go to waste if you cannot communicate your intentions in a clear, simple, and understandable manner, and persuade others to support you because your relationship with them sucks.

4.    Learning new things and don’t stop:
Learning is one of the distinguishing traits of highly successful people. They never stop learning. They always have a book by the side and subscriptions to self-improvement, technology or business magazines.

They can carry themselves well in discussions covering a wide range of topics. And if necessary, rattle off figures, statistics and studies on subjects related to their fields of expertise.

The days of “mastery of one,” are long gone, supplanted by multi-tasking and multi-jobbing.

5.    Believing in yourself:
Unless you firmly believe in yourself, all of the above will be like a typical obstacle course in a military boot camp.

You will find them too high to scale, too slippery to get a hold on, to difficult to wriggle through or too risky even to try. You will hesitate, procrastinate, and make shortcuts. If they don’t work you try a different route or skirt around them until you hit another dead end. Finally you give up believing that you are just not cut out to be in the 20.

Louisa May Alcott (author of the classic novel, The Little Women) said:

“We all have our life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”

Success is, in most cases, not of lack of skill but a lack of will.

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What Does Success Look to You

This morning, the city’s cultural center was full of young boys and girls in their togas. Today is their graduation day. About this time of the year, a lot of young people move from one education level to the next. The ones I saw were just a very small portion of the entire tribe. A small portion of them move from school campuses to the real world.

For them, that is what success looks like – beaming faces and well-combed or coifed hair; new pairs of shoes, new clothes underneath their drab-looking togas. And yes, the lunches, dinners and parties to celebrate the occasion.

For their parents, success has a different face. It is of enjoying the rewards of their sacrifice in seeing their children through school; the fruits of their labor not going to waste. It is of having molded them so they can face adulthood better.

But the real face of success is not in the overall feeling of satisfaction for having hurdled so many difficulties, trials, travails, and expenses in moving from one point of one’s life to the next, but in the fruits that come with it.

Different people define “success” differently. However, they always define it in terms of feelings and emotions, not of things. Feelings and emotions will vanish faster than an early morning mist while things will remain a lot longer, if not forever. A few may even become legacies.

At the risk of being labeled too materialistic (which I am not contrite about since the world has become so materialistic), I find the real look of success as:

-    The diploma for basic high school, or a bachelor’s or post graduate studies;

-    In the office, it is gaining a title after one’s name, e.g., supervisor, manager or CEO, and the perks that come with it like a bigger cubicle or office with an assistant, a higher pay grade, use of company memberships and facilities or a slot in the company’s parking bay;

-    It is the car that now sits in the company parking lot; or a new flat in the upscale part of town;

-    If you have family, it is either renovating an old house, make it larger and better furnished, or moving to a more garish home in the suburb;

-    It is to have a supportive family or a relationship that you can go home to after a hectic day at the office;

-    Or have the time to engage in your favorite community activity;

-    The face of success is to give some orphans in your neighborhood or elsewhere a better chance in life, or to make our world a better place to live in;

-    It is to have the health and build you have always dreamed of;

-    And bask in the sun on a vacation resort somewhere in an out-of-the-way island in the tropics, with a sun-shade, a book and a glass of ice-cold juice by your side..

The face of success can be as varied as you want it to be. You have all the right to enjoy it to the fullest, to savor it, to take every bit of it without a drop falling wastefully to the ground.

And the face of success comes with a monetary sign.

As the saying goes, “nothing in life is free,” and, sadly, it is only available to those who have reached a certain level of accomplishment in their chosen careers. The higher the accomplishment, the more varied and expensive success looks like.

Offhand, we all desire success in whatever field we are engaged in. Subconsciously, what we are really after are the recognition and money that come with it.

Because of recognition and the money, people push their limits to get that promotion, to succeed in their businesses or be the best in their vocations. They are great motivators. Without them, everything is nothing but a fruitless flexing of the body and mind on things leading to nowhere. It is not doing any better than a slave in a galley.

People who say that they are not into it for the money are either lying, have too much of it already or just plain underrating the value of money in everything we do.

Can a guy on welfare do much? Could Mother Theresa have done her acts of charity if she did not have millions of donations at her disposal?

While it can be rightfully argued that that money needed to accomplish some things are not for personal gain, nevertheless, it underscores the need for money to do or move things along.

Yes, a lot of people are averse at the mere mention of money in relation to one’s life or career. But success is impossible without money as one of the necessary resources to achieve it. And success, in turn, produces the money to make people savor their accomplishments, or seek more successes.

Is money the root of all evils? Granting it is true, it is the kind of evil that makes the look of success a smiley emoticon.

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What do Robert Downey Jr., et al, Have in Common


What do Robert Downey Jr., Kurt Cobain and Tiger Woods have in common?

All have celebrity status in their chosen fields and they belong to the Gen X, a term coined by Douglas Coupland, a Canadian novelist who wrote the book, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.

Gen X is comprised of people between the ages of 33 to 44 in 2009 (born between 1965 and 1976). Mr. Coupland used the letter X, like the mathematical unknown, because, being sandwiched between the baby boomers and the acknowledged citizens of the cyber world, the Gen Y, they are difficult to define; very diverse and amorphous in its cross section.

Gen X demographics (metlife.com):
In 2009, Gen X represented 16% of the entire population in the U.S., equally divided between male and female. In 2030, it is expected to go down to 13%, because of a foreseen decline among the women.

In 2009, this group was mostly Whites (62%), followed by the Hispanics (18%), Blacks (12%), and Asians (6%). In 2030 the composition is expected to change due to a 2% drop among the Whites, 1% increase in the Hispanics, and a 2% increase among the Asians.

Note: The use of colors to denote racial identities is taken from the source of the survey.

Life Perspective:
Gen X is difficult to define because of the diversity in their interests and ethnicity. This diversity, however, has become their hallmark.

Gen Exers’ sense of commitment in the work place and loyalty to employers startled the previous generation. They generally dislike being workaholics, preferring quality time with family, instead. They have a better work-life balance, authenticity and self-sufficiency compared to the baby boomers.

They are comfortable with change. In fact a lot of them are catalysts of change. They brought into the world such wonderful electronic tools like Google, YouTube and Amazon, the way Scottish professor William Cullen paved the way for the birth of the refrigerator.

They are more technologically savvy than the baby boomers but not as much as Gen Y, and their use of technology is just as different.

Gen Xers grew up in a period of uncertainty and many are products of two-income families. To balance this out, they put children and stable family as one of their top priorities. They are thought to place more importance to personal life and family than finances.

Gen Xers are generally observed to be:
-    Independent;
-    Resilient;
-    Adaptable;
-    Cautious and skeptical.

Education and career:
Gen Exers are educated. Almost an equal number of men and women (11% and 12% respectively) have master’s degrees or higher. Though more women, 22%, have college degrees compared to men, 21%, more men graduated from high school, 31%, compared to women, 26%. Only very few among men and women have less than high school level education, 13% and 10%, respectively.

As expected, there are more men in production, transportation and material moving compared to women, 18% and 6%, respectively. Most of the women are in sales and office, 29% against 15% and in service. What is surprising is that more women are in management, professional and related fields, 44% against 35% among men.

Interests:
Considering their profiles and outlooks in life, Gen Xers are generally employed. Some have established their careers and found success in it. They have the capacity and means to spend. But being cautious and security conscious as they are, they put a good portion of their money on acquiring a home and on retirement funds.

Roughly 49% of their income goes to housing and house improvements, and 16% for personal insurance and pension funds. The rest goes to the usual, transportation, food and alcohol, entertainment, and health care – common expense items for all.

An article in everydayhowto.net, shows the most common items Gen Xers buy online. These are:
-    Home improvement equipment and materials;
-    Lawn and garden materials;
-    Furnishings;
-    Children’s goods;
-    Sports and leisure items.

I am a baby boomer and the last of my generation shall soon pass away. So will the members of the Gen X who are now slowly being shoved aside by the Gen Y, who, in turn, are slowly being upstaged by the latest kids in the block, Gen Z.

Should I be worried and sad of our coming demise? Not a bit. Generations come and go. That’s part of life that cannot be changed.

What we can change is how to live it.

Before the baby boomers, there was the Silent Generation. They left their footprints for their children, the baby boomers, to follow or avoid. Then the baby boomers came to practically control the world. The innovation they had effected, affected practically every aspect of our lives – particularly the Gen Xers, who are slowly affecting the Gen Y.. .

This cycle of death and rebirth, in a new and better form, will go on as long as Man lives, as long as the world exists.

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Why I am a bit of Gen X and Gen Y


My daughter, a doctor, is vehement in saying that should she have a child, she would never encourage him or her to be a doctor. Considering the penchant for young people these days to “make a statement,” to be different from their parents, I don’t think they will follow her lead on what to do with their lives when the time comes. Other than support them, financially and otherwise, I bet her children will do as they please.

This is what a couple of my businessmen friends feel, with much chagrin, towards their children.

After working all their lives to put up their businesses, made them grow from scratch, they have no one to turn them over to.  All their children don’t want to have anything to do with their Dad’s business. One sadly told me of his disappointment that after putting everything together for his children, laid down a secure future for them, not one is willing to take over now that he wants to step down.

This phenomenon, if it can be called such, is not new, and it starts very early in a child’s life. A child’s hands are held as it takes its first uneasy steps. But once it learns to balance itself, it will push away the hands that initially kept it from falling.

And this natural desire to be independent is not limited to walking. The child will soon want to tie his shoe laces, comb his/her hair, brush his/her teeth, choose  what to wear, and will raise a tantrum, if fed with the cereal it does not like.

As they grow older, they get more inputs from the environment, playmates, classmates, teachers and many other influences that will make them do things totally outside of their parents’ comprehension and expectations.

When they come of age and start to have minor run-ins with their “oldies,” they justify “generation gap” as the culprit behind such misunderstandings. While their parents’ are at a loss of how to handle the situation, they go on with their merry lives as it is what the world meant them to be.

Darwin would never have thought evolution would assume this face and nature. Of course, he could not have predicted that the Internet would come into being, making our lives evolve into something even I, two decades ago, would never have thought possible.

But it is here and it is very real. I can still remember wrangling with my parents (and I am sure you did, too) over the “generation gap” thing. How are we, as parents, now to handle the spinning off of the generation gap to Gen X and Gen Y?

Get to know Gen X or Gen Y:
I always thought I belong to the lost generation until a new word was introduced into my vocabulary – baby boomers. They are those born between 1946 and 1964. Since I was born in 1948, I was just too happy to identify with this group. I thought, at last, I am not really lost.

When my identity crisis was resolved, I was back to the evolution thing again.

To-date, I have more than 1,400 subscribers to my blog and growing by more than 20 a day. As the figures grew, so was my desire to know what kind of people would subscribe to happiness and success blogs, like mine. So I started some digging.

It was not really the kind of research SEO experts would do. Mine was kind of opening fortune cookies we find in Chinese restaurants. We keep on opening them up until we pull out something that suits our mood. Mine was the this Gen X and Gen Y thing. .

I was attracted to it for two reasons: First, I didn’t know that such exist and, Second, I wanted to know their age range and see if there is a close fit between either of them and those subscribing to my blog.

Here is what I found:

Gen X and Gen Y differ in the age range they belong to. Gen X is between 29 to 45 while Gen Y is between 18 to 28,

Both are born when the world has become too digital, but they use digital technology for entirely different reasons.

Gen X uses the available technology to support their lifestyle needs such as online banking, shopping, plane and hotel reservations, and other things made digitally convenient.

They lead hectic lives, have careers to pursue, and families to provide for. Their use of technology, therefore, is centered around saving time and stretching their budgets.

They read blogs to update their knowledge base or to keep up with the latest advancement in the digital world. Though their numbers are growing, they still fall behind Gen Y in the use of social media.

Gen Y, on the other hand, find digital technology as an extension of their personality. Sometimes it is often thought that know nothing else.

They have integrated technology into their daily lives. They spend more time online, watch more online videos and text message more than they verbally communicate – especially with their parents.

They constitute the long line each time Apple releases a new version of its iPad.

And they are the group online marketing companies are very interested in knowing, e.g., their buying habits, the technology stuff they are hungry to buy and so forth.

I find the above information nothing short of serendipitous. All the blogging and freelance writing gurus expound, “know your audience, know your audience,” to write effectively. But the question remains, “How?’
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Now I think I know who my subscribers are, and, more importantly, I know that I am bit of Gen X and Gen Y.

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