Tag Archives: social impact

Walking Increases Creative Thinking

Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 1.48.01 PMAnother bit of research adds to the continuing empirical evidence for the interconnections of mind/body/spirit/behavior. This study found that the act of walking increases one’s creative thinking. In this study, Stanford University researchers examined creativity levels when people walked versus sitting. They found that one’s creative output increased by 60% when they walked. The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and described by May Wong in a Stanford University release. She writes:

Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was known for his walking meetings. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has also been seen holding meetings on foot. And perhaps you’ve paced back and forth on occasion to drum up ideas. A new study by Stanford researchers provides an explanation for this. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter, according to a study co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, andDaniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The study found Continue reading

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The Rapid Transformation Of Business Leaders Is Underway

Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 5.48.05 PMA version of my article previously appeared in The Huffington Post
Some recent studies reveal a dramatically changing face of business leaders already underway; and, what the leadership needs of the future will look like. I see these and other related observations coinciding with a broader shift in our society, and perhaps worldwide. It’s towards heightened interconnection and interdependence, desire for diversity, collaboration as part of the DNA, and a major shift in attitudes about hierarchy and success.

One study of Fortune 100 executives, featured in the Harvard Business Review, found that the majority of senior executives today went to state universities, not the more elite schools. A Washington Post report of the study pointed out that “In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001 that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges.”

Moreover, nearly 11 percent are foreign born. And while women still deal with the glass ceiling, they have a more rapid rise to the top ranks, today. Nevertheless, it’s significant to note that nearly 87 percent of corporate board seats are held by white workers. According to research by DiversityInc and the think tank Catalyst, six African Americans are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 7.4 percent hold corporate board seats; eight Hispanics are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 3.3 percent hold corporate board seats.

Even so, it’s clear that a shift is underway along many fronts. For example, Continue reading

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The Value Of Not Going It Alone

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 11.36.53 AMThe Virgin Group founder and business visionary Richard Branson provides some interesting and — in my view — valuable perspectives about the importance of building connections, both in business and in life. He highlights a theme that I think is part of a psychologically and socially healthy life in today’s fluid world. In EntrepreneurBranson writes, “To achieve your goals, you need to be on the lookout for the opportunity to make connections wherever you go. Welcome chance encounters and opportunities to dream up outlandish plans. The person with the skill set you need to get your new business idea off the ground may be sitting at the next table in the cafe. Go over and say hello.”

In his full article Branson writes:

I love bumping into people and finding out who they are and what they’re working on. You never know who you’re going to meet. Such encounters can be valuable: If you think about how your most important relationships began — with business partners, your spouse, with friends and mentors — the stories will almost all involve chance meetings. My curiosity about others and ability to connect with people have helped me to succeed — after all, if people don’t know who you are, they are not going to do business with you.

Many people think that an entrepreneur is someone who operates alone, overcoming challenges and bringing his idea to market through sheer force of personality. This is completely inaccurate. Few entrepreneurs — scratch that: almost no one — ever achieved anything worthwhile without help. To be successful in business, you need to connect and collaborate and delegate.

Finding ways to meet with people in the real world and build business relationships is becoming ever more important in the digital age. Continue reading

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What Do Companies With the Happiest Workers Look Like?

Screen shot 2014-01-07 at 10.07.43 AMThe latest survey of how employees view their companies provides more evidence that the most engaged, energized and “happiest” workers are those whose workplaces and careers provide a sense of meaning, opportunity for growth, development and creative innovation — more than just pay or career advancement. This survey, conducted by Glassdoor, was summarized in a Fast Company story by Drake Baer about six “secrets” of the happiest workplaces.

Baer writes,”Rather than showing a focus on perks, compensation, and other incentives, the best-rated workplaces had a range of intrinsic motivators, like challenging work, impact upon society, and an opportunity to work with brilliant colleagues.” This year’s overall winners were the consultancy Bain & Company, who was named best large company to work for. The investment website the Motley Fool won for best medium-sized company, while Twitter was named the best tech company to work for.

Unsurprisingly, tech firms were overrepresented in the top 50–though the results have little to do with Silicon Valley perks. “Rather than ‘it’s because they pay a lot’ or because it’s ‘hey, we’re Facebook, and we give everyone as much food as they possibly eat,'” says Glassdoor SVP of People Allyson Willoughby, “the reasons people like where they work were much deeper.”

Click here for the full report and listing of top companies from the survey.

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In Search of Solutions to Life’s Complexity

Screen shot 2013-12-11 at 9.17.13 AMA recent article in The Economist  discussed the impact of complexity in business. It highlights, indirectly, some themes that I think infiltrate all segments of society and that raise new challenges for personal lives as well as organizations. The Schumpeter column points out that “…managing complexity is at the top of businesspeople’s agenda. Businesspeople are confronted by more of everything than ever before. They have to make decisions at a faster pace.” For example, new products have a more uncertain future. “Harvard Business School’s William Sahlman warns young entrepreneurs about ‘the big eraser in the sky’ that can come down at any moment and ‘wipe out all their cleverness and effort’.”

The article contrasts two different views of the solutions to growing complexity: One is to recognize and accept it. It cites Don Tapscott, of “Wikinomics” fame, who observes that “…the information revolution is replacing one kind of management (command-and-control) with another (based on self-organising networks).” And John Hagel of Deloitte has talked about “…the growing disconnect between “linear institutions and the non-linear world that is developing around us.” That is, “Organisations built for this new world may look complex and unwieldy but they have an inner logic and powers of self-organisation.” The alternative solution is to impose simplicity, which the column suggests is a more persuasive strategy: “It is striking how many of the world’s most successful businesses thrive on simplicity of some sort.” And, “The biggest threat to business almost always comes from too much complexity rather than too much simplicity. The conglomerates of the 1960s crumbled because they tried to manage too many businesses in too many different industries.” For the full article, click here.

I think these observations raise broad questions, beyond business: What constitutes the most adaptive, flexible, productive and psychologically healthy ways of dealing with complexity within our individual lives, at one end of the spectrum; and for public policy, at the other? The ongoing, systemic transformation impacts personal relationships, career decisions and dilemmas, one’s values and mental outlook, one’s role as a participant citizen in society; and how to conduct one’s life, overall, in this changing world. What’s the end-game is, so to speak? These are psycho-social questions that need to be addressed as a whole. They are, well…complex.

 

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How To Align Your Money, Personal Values and Sustainability

This is a guest post by Brian Kaminer, founder of Talgra, which provides consultation to people on ways to create positive social and environmental change, through aligning money and values with investing. It was previously published on Green Money.

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My Roadmap

After 17 years in the brokerage business at a boutique trading firm, I got the chance to explore areas that were of greater personal interest to me and felt in alignment with my values. Sustainability quickly got my attention and my role as the father of three boys also furthered my interest on the topic. I initially focused on resource / energy conservation and solar energy for about 2 years. After learning about the concept of Slow Money and attending various conferences in 2010, my awareness about the role of money and investing was elevated to a new level. Since then I have immersed myself in this field while working to commit financial resources to support my core values and understanding of sustainability. This is very much an evolving and rewarding personal process.

While doing so, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of information and resources available on this subject. It seems to be exponentially growing in content and visibility. Organizing and connecting what I have been learning has increased my understanding of the field and presented the opportunity to share this with others by creating a resource document. This process enables me to see the bigger picture.

Towards that, I created the Money and Impact Investing Directory Continue reading

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The Life and Contributions of Albert Murray, Writer and Social Critic

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 5.46.57 PMIn a recent, well-deserved front-page obituary, the New York Times described the life and contributions of Albert Murray, a major writer, cultural and social figure, who died at 97. In the Times article, Mel Watkins writes, “Albert Murray, an essayist, critic and novelist who influenced the national discussion about race by challenging black separatism, insisting that the black experience was essential to American culture and inextricably tied to it, died on Sunday at his home in Harlem. He was 97.”

And, “As blacks fought in the streets for civil rights, black integrationists and black nationalists dueled in the academy and in books and essays. And Mr. Murray was in the middle of the debate, along with writers and artists including James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Romare Bearden and his good friend Ralph Ellison.”

Younger people may be unfamiliar with Murray’s writings and contributions, so it was good to see the Times give prominent coverage to his passing. Click here for the complete article.

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A Case Study In CSR

Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 1.51.45 PMThis is a guest post by John Friedman, head of communications for corporate citizenship for Sodexo. A thought-leader in CSR and sustainability, John has published widely in these areas, including The Huffington Post, and his work has been cited by Forbes and other publications. 

When any company or organization demonstrates that it is conducting its business in a way that benefits society, improves (or at least mitigates negative impacts on) the environment and is able to do so in a way that is profitable, it lives the values of sustainability and, in theory, everyone benefits. While smaller organizations may have it easier – in terms of getting buy-in and ensuring that practices support the desired objectives – they also struggle for financial resources. Conversely, larger multi-national organizations may (but not always) have more financial means but engaging a larger, decentralized workforce and a more complex supply chain can be difficult to say the least.

When big multi-nationals commit to sustainability they do so recognizing the challenge (although in my experience that is sometimes underestimated) as well as the massive opportunity to make a difference. The most successful companies, I have found, commit fully to the strategy based not on short-term market trends or a desire to ‘look good’ but rather based on their core and foundational values that have served them well for years. Staying true to the culture helps them to overcome the hurdles and obstacles that come up in the course of doing business. ‘Stay the course, because this is who we are’ is a stronger rallying cry than ‘this is the new way and we told you it would be rough.’ Continue reading

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Social Networks, Self-Esteem and Diminished Self-Control

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 10.37.57 AMAn interesting study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School finds that positive comments and “likes” on Facebook and related social media, while apparently increasing self-esteem, can also have a negative impact on self-control in “real” life — at least with respect to diet and credit card debt. Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study is summarized in this Columbia Business School report, and in Science Daily:

Users of Facebook and other social networks should beware of allowing their self-esteem — boosted by “likes” or positive comments from close friends — to influence their behavior: It could reduce their self-control both on and offline, according to an academic paper by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School that has recently been published online in the Journal of Consumer Research. Continue reading

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Gun Violence And Its Social Roots

Screen shot 2012-12-19 at 11.54.15 AMIt’s quite likely that nothing at all will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. But if there is a sea change of attitude and action, it would result from a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans who summon the courage to oppose the NRA’s threats to defeat their reelection campaigns, and then enact and enforce reasonable gun laws. Such laws would occupy the “middle ground” that respects the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want to possess firearms for protection of their homes; and yet, limits the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. At the same time, legislators’ actions would also include creating additional resources for mentally disturbed people, including helping families, schools, and the general public recognize potential signs of disturbance and greater sources of help. Legislation that protects the public from the easy availability of assault weapons and multiple rounds of ammunition would recognize the rights of people to be protected from the use of such weapons for killing.

But keep this in mind: Most mentally disturbed people never become violent. In fact, most killings aren’t committed by the severely mentally disturbed. Moreover, we can’t predict who might become violent. We know that certain combinations of emotions, such as intense anger, fueled by alcohol or drugs, may result in violence. But many people fit that profile and never commit a violent act, let alone murder anyone.

A deeper, more complex issue is harder to address. It concerns underlying cultural attitudes and norms within American society that Continue reading

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In Northern Mali, Extremists Silence Music And Drive Out Artists

This is a sad, destructive situation for both people and culture. Sudarsan Raghavan’s story in the Washington Post describes the efforts by extremists in Mali to attack and destroy all forms of music. He writes, “Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland. Hundreds of musicians have fled south to Bamako, the capital, and to other towns and neighboring countries, driven out by hard-liners who have decreed any form of music — save for the tunes set to Koranic verses — as being against their religion.”

And yet, within the range of Islamic traditions, music is highly regarded and a vital resource for spiritual development. The form of Sufism that is more closely linked with Islam is a good example. Raghavan points out that “playing music brings lashes with whips, even prison time, and MP3 and cassette players are seized and destroyed.” For the full article click here, or read on: Continue reading

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Understanding The Disappointment Of “Red America”

It’s crucial for our own personal growth and development to be able to step outside ourselves, our own perspectives, and experience the world through the eyes of those who see it differently. Seeing and understanding through the lens of others – especially those with whom we disagree — builds empathy and compassion. And that’s vital for strengthening that which is shared, and for working towards common goals – beyond differences. Bill Clinton is a master at conveying understanding to those who feel scared and angry about changes occurring in our country. And Eli Saslow’s recent portrayal of the disappointment felt by Romney supporters in the Washington Post does a good job at that, as well. He writes:

She arrived early to take apart the campaign office piece by piece, just as she felt so many other things about her life were being dismantled. Beth Cox wore a Mitt Romney T-shirt, a cross around her neck and fresh eyeliner, even though she had been crying on and off and knew her makeup was likely to run….Her calendar read “Victory Day!!” and she had planned to celebrate in the office by hosting a dance party and selling Romney souvenirs. But instead she was packing those souvenirs into boxes…Here in the heart of Red America, Cox and many others spent last week grieving not only for themselves and their candidate but also for a country they now believe has gone wildly off track.

For the complete article, click here.

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Can True Solitude Be Found In A Wired World?

This article, by AP writer Martha Irvine, highlights an issue worth deeper exploration: the simultaneous upside and downside of being always wired. Especially its impact on both well-being and a sense of interconnection, of community. The latter is visible during Hurricane Sandy’s impact on our lives.

She writes:

When was the last time you were alone, and unwired? Really, truly by yourself. Just you and your thoughts — no cellphone, no tablet, no laptop. Many of us crave that kind of solitude, though in an increasingly wired world, it’s a rare commodity. We check texts and emails, and update our online status, at any hour — when we’re lying in bed or sitting at stop lights or on trains. Sometimes, we even do so when we’re on the toilet.

We feel obligated, yes. But we’re also fascinated with this connectedness, constantly tinkering and checking in — an obsession that’s starting to get pushback from a small but growing legion of tech users who are feeling the need to unplug and get away.

“What might have felt like an obligation at first has become an addiction. It’s almost as if we don’t know how to be alone, or we are afraid of what we’ll find when we are alone with ourselves,” says Camille Preston, a tech and communication consultant based in Cambridge, Mass.

“It’s easier to keep doing, than it is to be in stillness.”

One could argue that, in this economy, Continue reading

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Richard Branson Calls For A “B Team” Of Business Leaders

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Richard Branson’s ideas are always worth attention. Here, he calls for a “B Team:” A small group of business leaders who will campaign for reforms to make capitalism more oriented to the long term and socially more responsible. He’s always been on the forefront of ideas and actions that promote joining successful business enterprises with contributing to the social good. In this article from The Economist, he describes a new venture that he calls the “B Team:”

SLOWING down seems to be the last thing on Sir Richard Branson’s mind. Since turning 62 in July, the bearded British entrepreneur has as usual been making headlines around the world. On October 3rd he celebrated victory in a campaign to overturn the British government’s decision to strip Virgin Trains, of which his Virgin Group owns 51%, of the West Coast main-line rail franchise. The government now admits it got its sums wrong, as Sir Richard had claimed, and the bidding process will be rerun (see article). Recently Sir Richard has also been in the news for (among other things) urging Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to end America’s war on drugs; declaring his intention to visit Mars; and parking a mock-up of the new Upper Class bar from his transatlantic aircraft outside the New York Stock Exchange. From there he promoted his latest book (“Like A Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School”) and led a discussion with his Twitter followers. The subject under discussion was: “How can business change the world for the better?”

This last topic has become increasingly central to Brand Branson in the past few years—although social activism has been part of Sir Richard’s repertoire since he opened advice centres for students in the 1960s. Under Virgin Unite, its charitable arm, his corporate empire has become a leader in the booming business of “cause marketing” (aligning brands with charities). Continue reading

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The 2012 Campaign Reveals Two Contrasting Views of Personal Success

The 2012 presidential campaign exposes a clash between an older, narrowly focused — and declining — view of success, and one that’s both broader and steadily rising. It has both social and political implications worth our attention.

The view that Mitt Romney conveys is the older one. It’s essentially that success means achieving power, money and career position for oneself and family. Period. It’s a traditional, self-focused vision of a successful life. It’s also embodied in Paul Ryan’s positions about the “makers” and the “takers.”

The other view, conveyed by President Obama, is closer to what I call “whole life” success. That’s a growing shift towards viewing a successful life as one that includes personal achievement, but extends beyond it to supporting and helping others elevate their own lives. It’s based on awareness that we’re all interdependent and interconnected in today’s world. And, that your own life course – including your financial and career success — is highly interwoven with everyone else’s.

The latter perspective is not new, of course. But it’s been steadily rising in our culture; increasingly visible in the values and actions of younger generations, in particular. Let’s look at some statements that contrast the older, traditional view of success with the broader, whole life view. Then, let’s look at where the latter is taking root, and why President Obama retains one foot in the older view when he describes the path to success, today.

First, Romney emphasizes that Americans should be Continue reading

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Five Steps That Reveal Your Life’s Purpose

Like many of us, you might feel that there’s a true purpose to your life but you haven’t yet found or discovered it, especially when trapped within a life that’s unfulfilling or feels out of synch with your true purpose for being. Teachings of Eastern mystics say each of us have a particular purpose in life, though we might not know how to recognize it. Interestingly, some new research suggests ways to discover and pursue your true purpose. Moreover, having a purpose in life is found to protect yourself from mental decline – not a bad bi-product.

Some are awakened to it from an event or moment of illumination that opens the way. A recent example: Adam Steltzner, the NASA scientist who headed the team that designed and carried out the successful landing of the Mars rover, Curiosity. In an NPR interview Steltzner spoke of having played in a rock band after high school rather than going to college. While waiting for stardom, his friends went to college and on with their lives. On his way home from a gig one night he looked up and was suddenly fascinated with the stars, especially the constellation Orion.

 “The fact that it was in a different place in the sky at night when I returned home from playing a gig… that was it. I was totally turned on by this idea of understanding my world.” He had to know all about the laws that govern the universe. Seltzner enrolled in a physics course, and over the next several years earned a Ph.D., which led to where he is today.

Most of us, though, have to work at discovering our purpose. Too often it’s clouded over by our conditioning and adapting to life experiences and choices – from family and culture; our educational and career path; our relationships. We’re so enraptured with our outer life – or absorbed by it – that awareness of our true purpose dims to just a flicker. Consequently, many go through life feeling off-track, out of tune in some way. That creates major stress over time, and new research finds that such stress will increase your risk of death from all sources.

Here are five steps that can help activate your life’s purpose: Continue reading

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Green Leadership: Learning It And Doing It

A previous post described what a green business leadership mindset consists of. I argued personal buy-in among leaders is essential to establish, communicate and enact sustainable and socially responsible practices. Here, I describe how leaders can learn to build that mindset, and how that underlies successful and innovative practices.

I see two linked pathways to developing and applying green leadership: First, acquiring and learning relevant facts and evidence-based understanding about emerging global and workforce realities. These require new actions for long-term survival and success. The second is leadership self-development, through self-awareness awareness and other sources of learning. Both must become part of the leader’s “DNA” in order for sustainable practices to be successful.

Two Pathways To A Green Leadership Mentality

Learning Facts and Information

This includes acquiring information: Documented research findings; related, science-derived data; and evidence-based understanding and interpretation of current environmental and workforce realities. For example: Continue reading

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Strong Emotions Can Make People’s Brains “Tick” Together

Some interesting new research from Aalto University and Turku PET Centre finds that

Sharing others’ emotional states provides the observers a somatosensory and neural framework that facilitates understanding others’ intentions and actions and allows to ‘tune in’ or ‘sync’ with them. Such automatic tuning facilitates social interaction.

I think an important implication of these findings for political and social movements is that positive, joint action can result from being “tuned-in” to each other, but this can also facilitate shared, mass delusions and beliefs. The research was described in Medical News Today:

Human emotions are extremely infectious. For instance, emotional expression like seeing someone smile often also triggers a smile in the person observing. These emotional synchronizations could be of help in social interactions. For example, if all members in a group share the same emotional state, their brains and bodies process the environment in a similar way. Researchers have now discovered that strong emotions can literally synchronize different peoples’ brain activities.

In their study, the researchers measured the participants’ brain activity by using functional magnetic resonance imaging whilst they were viewing either short pleasant, neutral and unpleasant movies.

The findings revealed that strong, unpleasant emotions in particular synchronized the frontal and midline regions of the brain’s emotion processing network, whilst highly stimulating events synchronized activity in those networks in the brain that were involved in attention, vision and sense of touch.

Observers who share other people’s emotional states become a part of a somatosensory and neural framework. This enables them to understand other people’s intentions and actions, allowing them to ‘tune in’ or ‘synchronize’ with them. Adjunct Professor Lauri Nemmenmaa from Aalto University states that this ability to automatically tune in enables social interaction and group processes.

Nummenmaa concludes stating that the finding is a key implication for current neural models of human emotions and group behavior, as it broadens the understanding of mental disorders with abnormal socioemotional processing.

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Why Obama and Romney Both Misunderstand “The American Dream”

As Romney begins his pivot, he and President Obama are highlighting their competing visions for growing prosperity and riches: One, building from the bottom up; the other, trickling from the top down. The data show that Obama’s argument is more correct, but don’t look for any bipartisan compromise towards creating a sane fiscal policy. Nor, for that matter, towards progress on any other major issues. From a political psychology perspective, one can interpret the policies adovcated by the Republicans as increasingly extreme and reactionary. They are likely to create suffering for large segments of society. At the same time, the party is resuscitating social issues from decades ago.

These have dangerous consequences, and you can’t help wondering what’s driving their positions with such zeal. There are many sources, but a major one is psychological. It has three strands which culminate in policies that pervert what politicians like to call The American Dream the possibility for all members of society to build a successful and fulfilling life. But that dream is increasingly pointed towards the few who can become rich, at the expense of the many. Let’s look at the three psychological strands that underlie that twist, and how they impact peoples work and lives.

Little Boys Play-Acting As Grown-Ups

The younger Republicans often sound like little boys making demands and arguments that they imagine big, grown-up men do and say when they have power, like I will have my way, and you must obey me. Interestingly, most of them are baby boomers now in their midlife years. Perhaps this reflects a psychological and cultural theme of this generation worth exploring. But their posturing does appear to reflect a twisted sense of what it means to be a psychologically mature adult man, who — in reality — must be able to engage with collaboratively to achieve anything. Continue reading

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Romney and Gingrich Share an “Inner Life” Problem

Both liberal and conservative political writers have been commenting on the negative public reactions to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, despite their being the leading Republican contenders for their party’s nomination. For example, conservative George Will portrays Romney as the personwe don’t trustwritingof the“… impression many Republicans seem to have of his slipperiness…(and) the suspicion that there is something synthetic about him.”Liberal Eugene Robinson describes Gingrich as the personwe don’t like, citing bothFox and CNN pollsshowing that Gingrich has about a 57% disapproval rating.

But there’s something both Gingrich and Romney share — though in opposite ways — that contributes to these negative perceptions: It’s a problem within theinner lifeof each, as it drives their outer life personas and behavior.

In essence, Mitt Romney is perceived by many as stiff and too scripted; unable to connect with ordinary people or be spontaneous in his interactions with them, even when trying to be humorous. Writing in theNational Review,Jonah Goldbergrefers to Romney’s“… 2 percent milk personality… his authentic inauthenticity problem isn’t going away. And it’s sapping enthusiasm from the rank and file.”I don’t think Romney’s patrician background can account for this. The Kennedys, for example, generated a strong sense of connection with the lives of ordinary people, despite their wealth.

On the other hand, Newt Gingrich has, in fact, aroused a strong connection with Republican voters, who seem to feel a shared anger and resentment about current problems. And yet, he’s simultaneously perceived as arrogant, grandiose and unstable — both by the very voters who support him as well as by conservatives. For example,Wall Street Journalcolumnist Peggy Noonandescribes himas“… a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!'”and Charles Krauthammerwritesthat“Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.”

So, what’s their inner life problem? To explain, your inner life is Continue reading

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The Spiritual Similarities Between Steve Jobs and George Harrison

The day Steve Jobs died — Oct. 5 — coincided with HBO’s broadcast of the first part of Martin Scorsese’sdocumentaryon the life of George Harrison, “Living In The Material World.” That conjunction of events brought to mind some interesting parallels between the lives of Jobs and Harrison. I think we can learn something of value about their life journeys — their ups and downs, their losses and transitions during their middle years and… how they handled the prospect of death.

Both moved through and beyond their young adult years along different yet similar paths. Their examples highlight the importance of deciding what you choose to live and work for; and how your choices impact the world, as you grow towards becoming a full adult.

Knowing what it means to become an adult is especially crucial once you’ve entered your 30s and the decades beyond. That’s when the core challenge of life looms large: Discovering and acting upon what has lasting value, as opposed to embracing impermanent, superficial or illusory goals. That is, awakening to what really matters to you, and then pursuing it with passion, conviction and focus.

Both Jobs and Harrison appear to have discovered Continue reading

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The GoodMakers Street Team — A Mother Watches Young Activists Empower Global Change

The following is a guest blog by Tilo Ponder, a Los Angeles based Writer/Producer of documentary films. �Tilo Ponder has spent her career as a catalyst for dynamic and integrated campaigns across all media, working with major�entertainment and consumer brands in her 20+ years of working in�the advertising agency world. Given the chance to parlay that experience into a more purposeful existence, she co-founded GoodMakers Films. �Tilo’s intense passion is�a driving force behind�GoodMakers Films,�a�non-profit organization which creates�dynamic�promotional�documentaries that empower charities to get their message�out to a�global audience. �tilo@goodmakersfilms.org

When my 21-year-old daughter suddenly left�NYU Tisch a year and a half ago and came home to Los Angeles, she didn�t really know what she was returning to do — only that she was deeply concerned about how rapidly the deteriorating economy was impacting the world around her. She reported that her college friends were feeling anxious and depressed, some of them dropping out of school as their parents, who had lost their jobs, were unable to keep up with tuition payments.� In our home, we were scrambling to keep everything going, but were committed to keeping our daughter in college, no matter what.� My husband is a�freelance commercial director, I was at an ad agency heading up production and also running our own production company. Add to this, managing investment properties in other states, shuttling our 5-year-old son to pre-school and sports activities, while also supporting an 18-year-old daughter living in Scotland and a 2-hour daily work commute — our lives were jam-packed, but worked somehow.Our daughter�s announcement that she was taking a �semester break� created unrest and an ominous feeling that a small piece of our intricately maneuvered lives were being un-wedged in a dangerous way. I secretly wondered why she couldn�t just stay put.� Having tucked her away at a good college, I had assumed that she’d be set for 4-5 years, and that afterwards she�d be on her way to a prosperous career.� I challenged her assertions that her generation was apathetic and directionless, citing how it was her generation that only a year earlier ensured our nation�s first black president because of their passionate involvement in the final days of the campaign.� My daughter�agreed on that point, but added that after so much build up to��change� and the subsequent downfall of a global economy, her�generation had even less to believe in than before.

Given that, I wasn�t prepared for what followed. Continue reading

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Gen X and Gen Y Workers Are Driving The New “4.0” Career

I often hear the following laments from younger and older careerists — about each other:

Younger workers: “These older people just don’t get it. They expect us to just fall into line, follow bureaucratic rules, and they don’t show us respect for what we know or what we can do.”

The older workers: “These young people just don’t understand how to function within an organization. They want recognition, promotion, everything before they’ve earned it, step-by-step, like we had to do. That’s not how reality is.”

They remind me of a couple who said about each other, “It’s not that we see things differently. It’s worse than that: We’re seeing different things!”

In a way, they are. Different career orientations are like lenses through which you view the world. In my recent post on the rise of the 4.0 career, I wrote that this shift is most visible among Generation X and Generation Y workers, but that it’s a broader movement as well, originating with baby boomers and the 60s generation who are now moving through midlife. But as the 4.0 career orientation grows, it’s also spawning the above differences in perception. In this post I describe the younger generation’s contribution to the 4.0 career transformation. It began before the economic meltdown and will continue to have an impact on organizations and personal lives in the years ahead, post-recovery.

To recap a bit, what I call the 4.0 career orientation includes but extends beyond the 3.0 career concerns that emerged in the last 20 years. The latter are about finding personally meaningful work and seeking a good work-life balance. In essence, the 3.0 careerist is focused on self-development. In contrast, the 4.0 orientation includes but also moves beyond those more personal concerns. It’s more focused on having an impact on something larger than oneself, contributing something socially useful that connects with the needs of the larger human community. The vehicle is opportunity for continuous new learning and creative innovation at work. The 4.0 orientation links with the movement towards creating successful businesses that also contribute to the solution of social problems. Continue reading

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How Does Volunteerism Affect The Volunteer?

During our increasingly stretched-out holiday season, it’s easy to feel a bit cynical about people who suddenly want to do some volunteering. The staff of service organizations often wince at the prospect of receiving more offers of help than they actually need. “Where were you therest of the year?” they mutter silently.

To be fair, many people are not just a once- or twice-a-year volunteer. In fact, volunteering one’s time, service and expertise ison the rise among all age groups. For many, it’s an integral part of their lives, an expression of their core values. That’s raised a question in my mind: Does volunteering time and service impact the life of thevolunteer? And if so, how?

In recent years, I’ve researched this a bit through seminars we’ve held at the Center for Progressive Development for volunteers interested in exploring how their volunteering affects their personal and professional lives.

We’ve found that volunteer activity often reshapes or redirects people’s values, perspectives and even their life goals in several ways. It can spur new growth and awareness, both spiritually and emotionally. Sometimes the changes are slight, but clear — like the person who committed herself to ongoing work with a mission that she had initially chosen at random, in response to her company’s suggestion to employees that they consider volunteer service.

In other cases, the impact of volunteer work is more dramatic: changing the company one works for, or, asone man did, changing his Continue reading

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The 4.0 Career Is Coming: Are You Ready?

Originally published in The Huffington Post

Even in the midst of our economic disaster that’s hitting all but the wealthiest Americans, a transformation is continuing within people’s orientation to work. I call it the rise of the 4.0 career. ??This growing shift concerns how men and women think about and pursue their careers. It also defines the features of organizations that they want to work for and commit to. This shift that I describe below transcends its most visible form: Generation X’s and, especially, Generation Y’s attitudes and behavior in the workplace. Those are part of a broader shift whose origins are within men and women at the younger end of the baby boomer spectrum.

I first encountered this while interviewing yuppies (remember them?) in the 1980s for my book Modern Madness, about the emotional downside of career success. I often found that people would want to talk about a gnawing feeling of wanting something more “meaningful” from their work. They didn’t have quite the right language back then to express what that would look like other than feeling a gap between their personal values and the trade-offs they had to make to keep moving up in their careers and companies. The positive ideals of the 60s seemed to have trickled down into their yearnings, where they remained a kind of irritant.

Flashing forward 25 years, those people are now today’s midlife baby boomers. Their earlier irritation has bloomed into consciously expressed attitudes and behavior that have filtered down into the younger generations, where they’ve continued to evolve. Today, they’re reshaping how people think about and pursue their careers within today’s era of interconnection, constant networking and unpredictable change.

I’ll oversimplify for the sake of highlighting an evolution of people’s career orientations:

Career Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0… And The Emerging 4.0

The 1.0 career describes Continue reading

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A “Social Psychosis” Rises In Our Culture

Much of the ongoing debate in political, business and social/cultural arenas is rooted in an underlying disagreement about what best serves national interests and individual lives. Is it promoting the common good, or serving self-interest?

As interdependence and interconnection on this planet become ever-more apparent, new challenges and conflicts arise for personal life, the role of government and the conduct of business leadership. In response to these new realities, people’s attitudes and behavior are shifting more towards serving the larger common good; now necessary for successful, flexible and psychologically resilient functioning.

However, these shifts clash with a long-prevailing ideology, that the primary pursuit ofself-interest best serves the public interest and personal success. That ideology has also prevailed in our views of adult psychological health and maturity. In essence, the pursuit of greed, self-centeredness and materialism have become the holy trinity of public and private conduct. And it’s generating a growing “social psychosis.”

That is, the benefits of self-interest in personal lives and public policy supposedly trump any that accrue from serving the common good; the latter would undermine the former, if put into practice. For example, the argument against helping the unemployed, extending health insurance for all Americans or addressing climate change is that they would hurt the economy and therefore negatively impact your well-being and life success.

To question or critique this ideology might even be called “un-American.” That would be correct; a good thing, actually, because the values and conduct that seem to have “worked” for so long now falter in today’s rapidly changing world. No longer do they ensure long-term success, well-being or security. Several observers have written about the faltering of the old system in today’s world. For example, Jeff Jarvis of CUNY, who haswritten about a

…great restructuring’ of the economy and society, starting with a fundamental change in our relationships — how we are linked and intertwined and how we act.

Or Umair Haque, who has been describing

…the new principles of a new economy, built around stewardship, trusteeship, guardianship, leadership, partnership.

in his Harvard Business Schoolblog posts.

The Social Psychosis Backlash
The reaction to the growing interconnection is a creeping “social psychosis.” Like the frog in the pot of water who doesn’t notice the slowly rising temperature Continue reading

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Fooling “All of the People….”

Its quite an achievement: Todays Republicans members of the Party of Abraham Lincoln, after all — are steadily disproving one of Lincolns most quoted lines: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

The current version of the GOP is doing a good job at trying to fool all of the people, all of the time. And, with the help of many Democrats, who give new meaning to the term, fellow travelers.

Case in point: The issue of the soon-to-expire tax cuts for the rich. The Bush tax cut legislation of 2001 included a provision that they would expire at the end of 2010, and tax rates would then revert to 2000 levels. The Obama administration wants to keep the tax cuts in place for the middle class, who would benefit from them during this continued economic near-depression; but let them revert back to previous levels for those with very high incomes, when they expire at the end of this year.

But guess what? The Republicans, together with a number of Democrats, are fighting vigorously to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans and their Democratic allies argue that its more beneficial to the economy to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthy those making over $2 million a year — because that would help small business.

Tell me, how many small business owners make that kind of income? And how would we make up for the loss of revenue? By taking away benefits for the middle and lower classes, in the form of food stamps and other benefits or services.

This is where trying to fool all of the people all of the time comes in: The entire argument is disguised in Orwellian terms, as necessary and good way to benefit everyone. Writing in the New York Times, Paul Krugman exposes this with a good analysis of the deception and corruption behind it all.

For example, he points out that continuing the tax cuts for the rich would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But thats the least of it: estimates are the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. (and) the average tax break for those lucky few the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

Krugman is right on target when he points out that

its hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and arent likely to spend a windfall. No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy.

He also points out that this reflects our corrupt political culture,

in which Congress wont take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.

So, what will prevail: The corruption, deception increasingly rampant in our culture disguised in Orwellian terms, as helping you, the average American? Or Lincolns observation?

Stay tuned.

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Learning To “Forget Yourself”

“Becoming Sane…” Part IV

In Part III of becoming sane. I wrote that our prevailing model of psychological health needs revision for todays world for outward success in a changing world, and for internal well-being. I concluded by saying that a key to emotional resiliency and, more broadly, psychological health, in current times is learning to forget yourself.

So what does that mean? Not thinking about your own needs? Not looking out for yourself? Not quite. Im using the phrase forget yourself to highlight an important capacity for health, survival, and happiness in todays tumultuous, interconnected environment: the capacity to focus more on problems, needs, and solutions beyond just your own. That is, the person who is too absorbed in his or her own self, own conflicts, own disappointments, and the like is much less able to engage the larger dilemmas and issues in positive, solution-oriented ways. And that deficiency circles back to create dysfunction, damaged relationships, and career downturns.

Along the way Ill be writing more about specific ways you can learn to forget yourself in your work, your relationships and your role as a global citizen. Here are some guidelines that help lay the foundation.

Three Responsibilities:

Think about your responsibilities as a human being living in todays world, and on this planet. Specifically, consider the following three responsibilities. They can serve as helpful guidelines for moving through and beyond the tendency we all share — to focus too much on our own selves.

Responsibility for your own mind-body-spirit

Recognize that its your job, alone, to continue learning and developing your emotional, mental, creative and physical capacities. Enlarging these capacities helps provide the flexibility and adaptability you need to deal with changes, good or bad. Dont become like the character John Marcher in Henry James The Beast In The Jungle, who waited passively, believing that something significant was going to happenand ended up with a failed life.

Responsibility for those less able

Part of the new criteria for psychological health include this awareness: You grow through your efforts to help and support others, less able than yourself, to find and follow a healthy path in this world. Find someone who needs and would welcome your aid, whether your children or family member. But stretch further, to include a stranger or those within the extended world community who suffer from lack of clean water, from famine, disease or torture. Organizations and individuals who could use your help are a click away on the Internet.

Responsibility for the planet

Reflect on the fact that your actions at home or in your community can help maintain a healthy, sustainable planet for future inhabitants, including your own descendants. Or, they can further jeopardize the environment they will live in. Look at your own actions in your home, your community, and at work. Ask yourself, are you becoming a good ancestor?

Some Steps You Can Take:

Loosen the grip of self-interest

Use self-awareness to observe and contain your Continue reading

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Today’s Psychologically Healthy Adult — Neither Adult Nor Healthy

Becoming Sane….Part III

In previous posts on the theme of becoming sane in a turbulent, interconnected, unpredictable world, I described why conventional emotional resiliency doesnt work in the 21st Century; and what that means for building a psychologically healthy life in todays world.

In this post Ill explain why many of the conflicts men and women deal with today stem from this contradiction: The criteria for adult psychological health accepted by the mental health professions and the general public doesnt really describe an adult. Nor, for that matter, does it describe psychological health.

A contradiction, to be sure, so let me explain: As we entered the world of the 21st Century our definition of psychological health was largely defined by the absence of psychiatric symptoms. The problem is, thats like defining a happy person as someone whos not depressed. Moreover, sometimes what appears to be a psychiatric symptom reflects movement towards greater health and growth in a persons life situation.

But more significantly, our conventional view of psychological health is, in effect, a well-adapted, well-functioning child in relation to parents or parent figures. Or, a sibling who interacts appropriately in a social context with other siblings. Either way, it describes a person functioning within and adapted to a world shaped and run by parents, psychologically speaking.

That is, we pretty much equate healthy psychological functioning with effective management or resolution of child- or sibling-based conflicts. For example, resolving and managing such child-based conflicts as impulse control; narcissistic or grandiose attitudes; and traumas around attachment, from indifference, abandonment, abuse, or parenting that otherwise damages your adult capacity for intimacy or trusting relationships.

Healthy resolution of sibling-type conflicts includes learning effective ways to compete with other siblings at work or in intimate relationships; managing your fears of success or disapproval; containing passive-aggressive, manipulative or other self-undermining tendencies; and finding ways to perform effectively, especially in the workplace, towards people whose approval, acceptance and reward you need or crave.

Its no surprise, then, that many people feel and behave like children in a grown-up world. Examples permeate popular culture. A good one is the popular TV show, The Office. It often portrays the eruption of these sibling-type conflicts, as the workers act out their resentments or compete with one another to win the favor of office manager Michael, another grown-up child who is self-serving and clueless about his own competitive motives and insecurity.

Unconscious child-type conflicts are often visible within intimate relationships and family life, as well. They provide a steady stream of material for novels and movies. You can see, for example, fears of abandonment in a man who demands constant attention and assurance that hes loved; or low-self worth in a woman whos unconsciously attracted to partners who dominate or manipulate her.Of course its critical that you learn to become aware of and manage effectively whatever emotional damage you bring from your early experiences into adulthood. We all have some. Thats a good starting point for adult psychological health, but its not sufficient. A well-adapted member of a community of other children and siblings within a psychological world of parents is not the same thing as a healthy adult. Especially not within todays interconnected, non-linear world.

So without a picture of what a healthy adult would feel, think and do in the current environment, youre left with questions but few answers. For example:

  • How can you maintain the mental focus to keep your career skills sharp and stay on a successful path at work when you suddenly acquire a new boss who wants to take things in a new direction? Or if your company is acquired by another, or goes out of business?
  • How can you best respond, mentally, if you have a new baby and a drop in family income at the same time that globalization sidetracks your career?
  • How can you handle the pressure to work longer or do more business travel when your spouse faces the same demands?
  • Whats the healthiest way to keep your relationship alive with fresh energy or avoid the temptation of an affair?
  • And how do you deal emotionally with the threat of terrorism always lurking in the background of your mind while enjoying life at the same time?

We now live within a world where the only constant is change, and where a new requirement is being able to compete and collaborate with everyone from everywhere about almost everything.

Doing that with self-awareness and knowledge of how to grow and develop all facets of your being thats the new path to adult psychological health. But you need to know where to find the path.

Learning From The Business World?

Actually, I think we can learn a lot about whats needed for psychological health from changes occurring in the business world. Continue reading

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The Psychology Of Public Policy

The other day Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stirred up some interesting reactions. He said in a speech that Americans are faced with having to accept higher taxes or readjustments in programs like Medicare and Social Security, in order to avoid ever-increasing budget deficits that will be catastrophic.

Now I’m not an economist (see former Undersecretary of Commerce Ev Ehrlich’s blog for such matters). But I started thinking about Bernanke’s comments — and the reactions from some Republicans and assorted “anti-tax patriots” who came out with guns blazing (metaphorically….so far) — from a psychological perspective. I find some psychological attitudes and ideology about the role of individuals in society driving the reactions to what Bernanke raised. They’re visible as well in the angry, hostile response to the health care legislation and, more broadly, the fear and loathing of “government takeover.”

Here’s what Bernanke said:

“These choices are difficult, and it always seems easier to put them off — until the day they cannot be put off anymore. But unless we as a nation demonstrate a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility, in the longer run we will have neither financial stability nor healthy economic growth.” And, “To avoid large and ultimately unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above.”

In The Washington Post story reporting Bernanke’s speech, writers Neil Irwin and Lori Montgomerypoint out that:

“…the economic downturn — with tumbling tax revenue, aggressive stimulus spending and rising safety-net payments such as unemployment insurance — has driven already large budget deficits to their highest level relative to the economy since the end of World War II. This has fueled public concern over how long the United States can sustain its fiscal policies.

The upshot of what we’re facing appears to be this: Our current way of life is unsustainable. So what’s a possible remedy, according to Bernanke and others? Raising taxes, not lowering them. Cuts in Medicare benefits. Raising the retirement age. And bringing rising health care costs down. To do any or all of that requires a different mentality about our responsibility and obligations to others in our society. And it’s not pleasant. That’s the psychology part.

That is, we’re highly attached to the ideology that we are and should be separate, isolated individuals; that each of us should look out for one’s own self-interest. And we define that largely by material acquisition and money. Hence, opposition to “redistribution” of wealth, even though that’s exactly what we do via taxes that support all the services that we expect society to give us. We also define our self-interest as psychologically healthy, mature, even; the hallmark of a succesful life. Those that don’t do as well are not my problem.

Except now they are: We’ve been hit with the reality that our world is so interconnected that someone else’s “problem” is also our own. Toconsider subordinating some of our personal wants and goals for the larger common good feels foreign and frightening. Yet that’s exactly what we’re faced with doing. It begins with shifting our mental perspectives towards recognizing that we’re all in the same boat — not just we Americans, but all of us in this global community. And it means stimulating the emotional counterpart of that perspective — the hard-wired capacity for empathy. And then, making the sacrifices that result from embracing the new realities. The economic collapse has made the need for those shifts very apparent. We’re faced with learning to sacrifice in ways that we’re not used to doing, in order to thrive as individuals and a society in the world as it now exists.

But such shifts meet with strong, ingrained resistance and denial. They’re fueled by unrealistic, almost delusional notions that pursuing self-interest at all costs will lead to success and well-being. So, for example, Republicans pounced on the suggestion of increasing taxes. They also went afterremarks byPaul A. Volcker earlier this week, who spoke very directly in favor of higher taxes. He said that the U.S. might have to consider a European-style sales tax, known as a value-added tax, to close the budget gap. He said “If at the end of the day we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes.”

That’s a pretty direct, unvarnished statement of reality. But Republicans accused Obama of plotting a big tax hike, for nefarious purposes. ”To make up for the largest levels of spending and deficits in modern history, the Administration is laying the foundation for a large, misguided new tax, a first-time American VAT.” Sen. Charles E. Grassley said in a statement.

Onward goes the struggle between facing reality and dealing with it, or not facing it….and still having to deal with it

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What Is The “4.0” Career?

Some readers have asked me to explain why I have a category labeled Work and Career ‘4.0.’ Fair enough: A few of these blog posts are tagged that way, but I havent described what I mean by that designation.

What I call 4.0 is a shorthand way of describing a new evolution I see in peoples attitudes, behavior and desires about their work and career. Think of 1.0 as more of a survival orientation to work. Its how people think about and engage in their work when theyre in situations of extreme hardship, political upheaval, or within socio-economic conditions that limit their opportunity and choices. That probably describes the situation for the masses of people throughout most of history, and of course it exists today. In such situations, just earning enough of a living to survive and support yourself and your family is your target, your criteria of success. Today, the conflicts that people experience within version 1.0 often concern working conditions, discrimination and limited opportunities for getting onto a career path that can lead to something better.

Version 2.0 emerged with the political and economic environments that gave rise to the modern career; that is, mostly within increasingly large, bureaucratic organizations from about the late 1800s into the early 20th Century. Those organizations required layers of management and administration white-collar jobs. Advancement became possible along a defined path, and was available to people who could gain a foothold within it, usually because of educational opportunities and/or social class advantages they were born into. Seeking recognition, power, status, and material perks from steady advancement define success with Version 2.0. It still predominates within todays career culture. Its where you find the conditions that generate, for example, work-life conflict, boredom, workplace bullying, hostile management practices, and subtle racial and gender barriers to moving up.

Version 3.0 arose just in the last few decades. It reflects Continue reading

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Values and Behavior Are Evolving Towards Success & Service To Others

Great Nicholas Kristof piece in NYT about Scott Harrison’s Charity: Water http://bit.ly/yfRgm

I interviewed Scott for an article I wrote in the Washington Post in 2007 and was impressed with his ability to put his business and media savvy and talents in the service of addressing a humanitarian problem.

Even more impressive and significant is his personal story arc: From an awakening out of a self-centered life; which led to an unexpected, almost serendipity experience; which led, in turn, to creating a successful venture — one thats having tremendous impact on people who are deprived of something as basic as clean water. http://www.charitywater.org

Im finding that people like Scott are emblematic of a growing evolution within personal values and behavior, today: Redefining success away from self-centeredness, greed and purely personal gain; and towards using your talents to serve the common good. My study of this evolution suggests that it reflects an emerging new definition of psychological health that fits the needs of our post-globalized era.

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Actually, We’re All World Citizens, Now….

Newt Gingrich says, “Let me be clear:I am not a citizen of the world.” What planet does he inhabit, then? Here on totally interconnected Earth, we’ve all become global citizens. That’s especially clear, since the economic collapse last Fall. The reality is that success and security depend on that awareness — and on actions that reflect it, in public policy, business and in individual behavior – especially since the economic meltdown.

It’s frightening that the GOP finds that so…well, frightening.

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