What Do You Dream Of?

I’m in the middle of watching a fantastic movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s about a man named Jiro who is known for the best sushi in the world.

There have been a few profound statements from various people interviewed in the movie. Yamamoto, a food writer, talks about the five attributes of a great chef:

“A great chef has the following five attributes. First, they take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level. Second, they aspire to improve their skills. Third, is cleanliness. The fourth attribute is impatience. They are better leaders than collaborators. They’re stubborn and insist on having it their way. And, finally a great chef is passionate.”

While Yamamoto is talking about great chefs, I think this could be said about great artists in general. An artist takes work very seriously, aspire to improve, are impatient, and are passionate. The only thing I’m not entirely sure of is cleanliness and artistry. Could this be about the purity of the artist’s aesthetic nature?

A former apprentice of Jiro, Mizutani, talks at length about Jiro’s work ethic:

“I wouldn’t say he is eccentric. He just works relentlessly every day. That’s how shokunin are. The way of the shokunin is to repeat the same thing every day. They just want to work. They aren’t trying to be special.”

Finally, Jiro simply says: “I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it.”

Buried in each of these quotes is the secret of success. Work hard. Don’t worry about fame or being special. Do what every you do for the love of it and for improving. It’s a simple as that.

So, what are you dreaming of? Electric sheep, sushi, changing the world? Keep dreaming, but remember to wake up and work.

What’s On Your List?

I came across a blog the other day that was about 30 ambitious goals before the author turned 30. That got me thinking, my next milestone birthday is 40, so what 40 ambitious goals do I want to accomplish before then?

I’m usually not one for making these types of lists, but I’ll be honest, life is a little dull right now and it could use a little focus, a little bit of spice.

My list consists of things that seem completely doable—from playing in a racquetball tournament to celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary in New York City—to things that seem borderline nuts and ultra ambitious—hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, skydiving and reading every book I own (I have way too many books).

It’s kind of fun having a little bit of perspective about what is ticking deep down inside. I may accomplish them all, I may do half or none, but at least I have something written down.

What is on your list of things to do?

Embracing Fear To Engage Imagination

The interview was proceeding as expected: well-prepared questions, exceptional answers. I was getting exactly what I needed for the overall video project—a glimpse into the organization’s purpose, history and future—when the Executive Director took the the interview in a whole new direction which would not only impact what my vision for the video was, but also uproot what the vision for my life and business is: “You mind if I say something? We need to address the fears that people have so that we can engage their imaginations. It’s when we are able to do this that something amazing can happen.”

While the context of this quote was related to the fears associated with starting new churches, i.e. religious start-ups, the idea of addressing fears in order to ignite imagination is relevant to our lives in areas of creativity, risk, success and failure.

What are you afraid of?

Fear is the fuel that drives decision-making at every level, as well as supply, demand, buying, selling, creation, reduction, competition, and the status quo. Fear is playing it safe regardless of what the appropriate response should be. It is a short-term reaction instead of a long-term solution. It is choosing to deal with only the problems that have solutions that can be created in the image of what is familiar and comfortable.

Fear is remaking, rebuilding, or reengineering what was once successful in hopes that it will succeed again. It is failing when success is wanted and succeeding when failure is the desired outcome. Fear provides the inevitable doubt that what you can imagine probably won’t work because it didn’t work for someone else.

While there are many fears that are realistic responses to the challenges and struggles of life, our fears are typically imaginative responses to the “what ifs” that we ask ourselves along our daily journey. They are our mind’s way of exercising imagination and creativity, without thought, purpose or direction.

Are you all in or are you ready to fold?

What is it that prevents you from pushing all in and committing wholeheartedly to the vision, plan and purpose of your life? Chances are, if you are like most of us it is either fear (as described above) or it is exhaustion from constantly reacting to the myriad snares and entrapments that surround our dreams.

What if there was a way to finally give everything that you had, knowing that regardless of whether you succeeded or failed, you could hold your head high at the end of the day?

The only way that you can give everything that you have is if you have engaged your imagination. If you have truly looked at what is buried deep inside of you to do. Not just for a career, but for the sake of the legacy that your life selflessly offers to the community, and to your family and friends.

Imagination from the deepest part of your soul has the power to not only shape your life, but transform the lives of others. It is one thing to dream, it is another thing to share, and yet a new level entirely to actually create a tangible manifestation of what was once a figment of your imagination.

There is tremendous power and fear in the act of imagining what could be. Fear will never be defeated or removed from our lives. However, when we are able to act despite our fears and engage our imaginations with purpose and direction, amazing things can happen.

Solving Problems One Doughnut At A Time

I love doughnuts. I haven’t had one in over a year and since I happened to be near Krispy Kreme, I figured tonight would be the night. I pulled into the parking lot, entered the sugar-haven of sin and proceeded to order a chocolate glazed, a chocolate creme cake (fitting since I had my King Ding Dong shirt on), a maple bar, and a Diet Coke (kidding, I ordered a small coffee). I gorged myself on at least 1,000 calories of decadent sweetness. I drained the coffee cup. Mmm, that was good. I probably could have eaten just one, two, or none, but I was satisfied.

As I was leaving they were making fresh original glazed doughnuts and I stared hypnotically at the machinery that delivered the dough to the oil, the automatic flippers turning the doughnuts, the waterfall of glaze and the cooling conveyor belt. I giggled in glee at watching the doughnuts being flipped automatically. I know, I know, I need help. The night couldn’t be any better.

I decided to go on a Sunday drive (the best kind of drives on Saturday night). I headed for the country roads north of Krispy Kreme. That was when the heaviness in my stomach started making my brain think about how long I would have to be on my exercise bike tonight to burn the calories from everything I just ate. I imagined myself on the bike. Cool, I think I can handle that. Then I envisioned myself working with a laptop while riding my exercise bike. I wonder what kind of laptop-holding apparatus could be built in order for that to be possible. The brainstorming session was just beginning.

I started asking myself a bunch of questions: Why don’t we have bike pedals attached to generators that are connected to batteries powering our computers? Why don’t large office buildings use the principles of crowdsourcing and have bike pedals that are connected to larger power storage units for the entire building? How much energy could be generated by one building of people pedaling at a leisurely pace as they go about their work day? Would it be possible to focus on your work while pedaling? Would this affect and change the way people think about their relationship to the environment and to the production and consumption of energy? Would this make a dent in our nation’s obesity problem?

It would be interesting to build a device for my house that would allow me to store the energy produced by my daily exercise routine, thus powering all of the devices that I daily use. I’m not a scientist or engineer so I’m not sure if it’s possible, but imagine the good things that could come from this idea. We could change the way energy is produced, thus changing the way we selfishly use energy. We could get a grip on the nation’s obesity problem by turning sedentary lifestyles into subconscious energy producing lives. The effective reversal of obesity would dramatically change health care to health management, giving a collective middle finger to the health care oligarchical system. We would no longer think about a power bill measured in watts, but in miles per hour. Imagine the incentive programs that could turn energy production into a game. Meritocracy in its finest form. The highest producer of energy would win a prize, perhaps a gift card to a clothing store, or even a coupon for three doughnuts and a small cup of coffee from Krispy Kreme, where they could solve the world’s problems, one doughnut at a time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get on my exercise bike before the sugar high wears off.

 

Preparing for the Future

I’m preparing for the future, there is no other way around it. I’m not just talking about tomorrow–although I have an event that I am emceeing, so I should be finalizing my preparations for what I will be talking about–I’m talking about the future of my life beyond age 40. Seeing as I am only 32, what I aspire to do in my mid-life is going to take the next eight years to set the foundation for, primarily because the life I want to have is a lot different than the life I live now.

Education

As I learn more about who I am, I realize how much education matters to me. I recently came across a Master’s program from Fielding Graduate University called “Media Psychology and Social Change.” I participated in an informational webinar on Wednesday and was blown away at how much this is program is inline with my desire to understand and communicate the impact of media on society and cultures. Fielding even has a doctorate in Media Psychology which dives more into theory and research, but for now I’m going to plan on beginning the Master’s program in 2012.

I have some prepping to do regarding finances, but until then this vision of pursuing “Media Psychology and Social Change” gives me something to look forward to and prepare for.

Speaking

One of my life’s ambitions is to one day speak at a TED Conference. Many don’t know what a TED Talk is, but they are 18 minutes of pure bliss, jam-packed with wisdom and insight from some of the world’s greatest thinkers, philosophers, scientists, filmmakers and entrepreneurs. You can see the majority of the past TED Talks for free on TED.com. Check out the site if you have a few hours to kill.

This definitely won’t happen tomorrow. Speaking has been a recent addition to my life this year, so I have A LOT to learn. But the more I do it, the more I love it. If that is the case today, I can only imagine my passion increasing as I continue to fine-tune and practice the art and craft of public speaking.

Writing

I love to write. It’s something that has been deeply rooted at my core since middle school. One day, I want to write a book, maybe even more than one. The best advice that I heard recently was this: “If you want to write, write.” Pretty simple and it is advice that I daily try to adhere to as I write two blog posts, one personal and one business-related. I have the beginnings of a book in the form of an outline and I see myself writing that in the next year or two, because I want to write it.

The truth is that as I nurture the desire to write books by daily writing, I see myself being able to fulfill this dream of writing books in the not-so-distant future.

Teaching

The final area of the future that I want to work towards is teaching at the college-level. I am an avid reader and consider myself to be a life-long learner. I love passing along the things that I learn in order to inspire and educate others.

I want to help inspire a generation of artists, photographers and filmmakers to not only make beautiful and meaningful works, but to understand the impact those works have on people.

There is an old saying, “those that can’t do, teach.” The more I look at the examples of my mother-in-law (a talented artist that teaches art to middle schoolers) and my dad (a seasoned business professional teaching business to college students), I see the error and fallacy of that figure of speech. It should really be, “those that do, teach.”

Something To Light My Fire

This a brief vision of the future that I am preparing for. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there, but it feels good to have something to look forward to beyond the day-to-day life that can be dull and rote.

Now that I have given you a taste for my future, how are you preparing for your future? Are you dreaming big dreams or just accepting mediocrity and mundanity?

Leadership Matters

When I wrote my weekly blog schedule early this week, I was going to originally write about the pursuit of risk. However, a funny thing happened this morning as I started brainstorming and writing a rough draft over two cups of Paper Tiger coffee and a hot chocolate: I started to write and dream about an actual pursuit of risk for my own life. Risk came down from the realm of the theoretical and became a vision, a dream, a B.H.A.G. (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal).

As someone that is interested, inspired and intrigued by leadership, I thought: If I were to plan a leadership conference featuring local leaders from the Vancouver, WA/Clark County area, what would I do? How would I structure an event? Who would I invite to speak? How much would I charge? How would I inspire people to pursue becoming leaders?

What’s in a Name: Leadership Matters

Dr. Cornel West has written two of my favorite books: Race Matters and Democracy Matters. Being heavily influenced by his writings, Leadership Matters seemed to be a fitting title for a conference devoted to leadership.

Most leadership conferences make them sound larger than life. Willow Creek Association’s annual leadership conference is titled: “The Global Leadership Summit.” It’s name matches the power of the speakers that are presenting this year: Howard Schultz, Seth Godin, Michelle Rhee, among others.

For me, Leadership Matters says it all. Regardless of whether you are a global leader or someone that wishes to impact and affect your local community, leadership matters. Scalable at any level.

Keynotes of Inspiration

I love keynote addresses by big names, but often times there are too many superstars at big conferences. Where are the people that are in the trenches, doing the work, and daily leading groups of people to better the world?

I would start Leadership Matters with a single keynote address from a global or national leader. Someone to inspire and motivate the attendees, preparing them for the rest of the conference. I would give them 30 minutes to speak on their particular angle of leadership.

After their address, I would take 20 minutes to interview them, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the audience. This would set the stage for the entire event, providing a model for each speaker: structured address and spontaneous questions from a moderator and the audience.

As far as a global leader that I would love to open the event, here are ten leaders that would be amazing:

  • Howard Schultz
  • Bill Moyers
  • Dr. Cornel West
  • Larry King
  • John Lasseter
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Bill & Melinda Gates
  • Jane Goodall
  • Jodie Foster

Who Would Speak?

With the exception of the keynote address, the rest of the speakers would be local leaders selected from areas of government, education, business, arts, science, journalism, media, not-for-profits/NGOs, community service, and the public sector. There would be seven leaders throughout the day following the model of 30 minutes to speak, 20 minutes to be interviewed, followed by 10 minutes for questions and answers.

How Much?

The problem with most things related to leadership is the high-cost associated with them. While I don’t believe that free is a very good model, it is imperative that leadership is affordable for those that would benefit the most. Here’s how I would initially set the attendance fees:

  • High-School Students: $10
  • College Students: $25
  • Adults: $50
  • Small Business Owners (1-50 employees): $75
  • Large Business Owners/Corporate Officers: $100

While this is not based on any economical factors, merely a gut reaction, I believe that leadership needs to be affordable and accessible for the younger generation. Those that have the means should pay more, not because it would give them more value, but for the impact that they would have on those that are just getting started. Idealistic, yes, but realistic nonetheless.

So What?

So, it really comes down to this: so what? Anyone can have an event with inspired talks and in-depth questions and answers. But the power of what I see in my mind is providing a strong and viable call to action for everyone in attendance.

At the end of each leader’s allotted time they would give a specific and tangible call to action. The power enters the picture with each person in attendance being given the information necessary to make an impulse decision at the conference itself.

If the call is to volunteer, organizations needing volunteers would be on hand to equip and sign people up. If the call is continued education, involvement in the public sector, lobbying on behalf of public services, there would be the opportunities on hand to answer the call.

Leadership Matters. Period.

So, that is what I would classify in my life as risky. I wouldn’t be in it to make money. I just want more quality and qualified leaders in the Vancouver, WA community. What I love about sharing dreams and visions is that what seems big, hairy and audacious to one person is attainable and manageable to another.

With that, share what you would classify as risky, and ACT. Because as you move forward in your life and dream big dreams, you might actually become what you want to be deep down inside. But that does require you to step outside your comfort zone, dream, and share.

Will I see you at Leadership Matters?