Category Archives: Job Search Blog

… No, no, don’t do that, Joseph!!!

Joseph has been with this company for about two years. He’d been on his last job for five years in the job before that, ten. He was first line manager at a pretty aggressive company and had followed a friend of his to the company that he had worked for a number of years earlier. Trusting his friend, when he took the job he may be didn’t get as detailed of an idea of how the compensation plan worked. He trusted his friend I was anxious to go to work for him, and the new company seemed reasonable enough with some positive nuances that his old company didn’t have.

First-line managers jobs are often the most difficult. Those blessed souls have all kinds of responsibility, not a lot of authority and, especially in sales don’t make anywhere near the money that salespeople can make. The influence that these people may have over their earnings isn’t anywhere near as great as it was when they were on first-line. This is especially true in sales but also in other professions.

After about the first eight months of his employment Joseph started realizing that the compensation program wasn’t quite “as advertised.” There were a lot of “if, ands and buts” in the fine lines of his earnings agreement and unless the planets aligned perfectly he was never going to make within $50,000 of what he had made in last job that he left. That’s when he started getting a little irritated.

He loved the job and loved the people, though. He had more responsibility than he had before. He knew when he joined the company that there were some ‘challenges,’ but he just knew he could overcome them and do well. Then his duties expanded and, in his case, his quota went up but his compensation program didn’t. He found out that it was really hard to fire people at this company and almost a lot harder to hire people. Then a “hand tieing”  policy for absolutely everything and it seemed like the corporate counsel just about ran the company.

Joseph’s region quickly became the number one region in the country and although he was getting all kinds of accolades, i.e. name recognition in the corporate newspaper, a really nice engraved watch and recognition (applause) at the corporate meeting… It wasn’t affecting his pocket book one bit. At first, he voiced his concern to his erstwhile friend, boss. But as time went on his concern became frustration and then he became downright pissed off. His boss is a really good guy but he couldn’t do much about anything and he certainly couldn’t help Joseph make more money. The longer he worked there more frustrated he became.

So, the other day, Joseph told his boss, in a moment of anger that he just wasn’t going to take it any longer and he quit. Joseph was a client of ours, so he decided to come by and talk about it.

He admits that it was a moment of great emotion when they were having a discussion (argument) about his quote and how he was going to attain it. Joseph has a tremendous amount of emotion and passion and sometimes, gets in trouble.

He quit without a job. He weakly, rationalized the fact that he quit without a jobBy stating that, “I’ve never had trouble finding another job.” But the truth is the guy his only had three jobs in almost 20 years and every time he changed he went to work for somebody that was a “friend” of his. Joseph has absolutely no idea how difficult it is going to be for him to find a job. Hiring managers off the street only happens one out of eight times. The other seven times people are promoted from within, whether they deserve it or not. And in this economy there are fewer managers and there’s ever been. The shock of Joseph’s dilemma was beginning to set in.

Don’t get me wrong. Joseph is an excellent manager. The jobs like that are very, very, very rare. One can’t just raise their hand and say, “I’m ready,” and have the job appear. In between the lines, Joseph expressed, fallaciously, but most people think, that “there’s always a good place for a good manager.” Well this just isn’t so. If Joseph (and me) are fortunate enough to find the opening in his fairly narrow discipline of business, he will have a good chance. That’s a big “if.”

When I explained to him that this could go on for months, (I’m talking, 6 to 8 months) his eyes glazed over a bit. Joseph’s a really good guy and he might get lucky. But it would’ve been a lot more prudent to find a job before he left this one.

Here’s the lesson. No matter how pissed off and irritated you get, don’t leave your (lousy) job for you secured another one. You never know how long it’s going to take to find another one.

We will keep you posted as to how Joseph’s search is coming along.

…Trump’s Interviewing lessons…OMG


It was certainly painful to watch the presidential debate a week ago Monday. We can always learn from debates. If you’re old enough to remember the Kennedy/Nixon debates where candidate Kennedy looked so “presidential”, tanned and charismatic… and poor Mr. Nixon looked like he was hung over, or remembering Ronald Reagan’s comment about Walter Mondale’s youth and inexperience when asked if his age was going to be a problem, you realize that these debates have lots of lessons.

If Donald Trump had been in an interview for a job he wouldn’t get hired. (Please, please, don’t think I’m taking sides here. I’m of the opinion that it’s sad that we have such poor choices for this election.) It was clear that Mr. Trump did very little preparing for the debate. That’s his first big mistake.

I can’t tell you the number of times over the years that I have had candidates tell me that they really didn’t need to practice interviewing, that all I needed to do was get them the interview and they could wing it with no problem at all. In spite of my coaching and teaching these folks simply think they know better than that and they will have no problem and then they go into the interview and bumble it just like Mr. Trump did. When my candidates do this it’s easy for me to think, “Well, they don’t deserve the damn job” because they just didn’t go to the trouble to prepare”. They do what Mr. Trump did and rely on three or four “lip loads” and then keep repeating them over and over. They come up with a few facts that don’t appear to really know what they’re talking about. In short, they know exactly what questions are going to be asked but don’t practice the answers.

Now this guy is getting in another two chances, And for the country’s sake, we all hope he does better. But here are the major interviewing “mistakes” we can learn from:

  • Don’t scowl or look grumpy when being asked a question. Look at the person asking the question with empathy and interest… even if you’re pissed off. This is especially true when a male is interviewing with (or debating) a female. If you are a man, you can look mean and downright ugly to another man. But not to a woman. (Trump really had a problem here because he was being “interviewed” by a guy but debating a woman. I will admit that’s really hard to do.)
  • Don’t roll your eyes in contempt when another person is speaking. You look like a jerk.
  • Don’t interrupt the person asking the question. It’s rude.
  • Don’t interrupt the other person when they are speaking. It’s rude.
  • Be prepared with a number of topics you can bring up if you don’t like a particular question.
  • Learn how to “deflect” just a bit when you get a question that is meant to trap you.
  • There are going to be essentially 10 or 12 real solid questions that are going to be asked. You know what they are and even though they will be asked in a number of different ways, for goodness sakes, practice the damn answers. Again, you know what the questions are going to be. Prepare!!
  • Know when to be humble, for God’s sake. When someone tries to nail you about a mistake you made, admit it…don’t defend it. Everyone makes mistakes and they really don’t mind if you do, as long as you acknowledge it was a mistake and asked for  forgiveness. “Looking back on it, that was a mistake that I wish I hadn’t made.” That’s it! End of discussion. Let’s move on. If pressed about the mistake, again, simply acknowledge the mistake and maybe mention what you would’ve done differently. “Again that was an error of judgment. It was a mistake. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve…..”
  • Have a slight bit of a sense of humor. Smile once in a while. Act comfortable in your own skin, even if you’re not. Take what you say seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Or at least don’t come across that way.
  • When someone catches you off guard with a topic you are not even remotely ready for (when you should be), like Alicia Michado, shuuuuut up. Don’t say a word. Especially, don’t act surprised. Even if you didn’t expect the topic to come up or don’t even know what the other person’s talking about, don’t act like it. “I don’t remember the situation. I will have to look into it.” When you say something like, “whatch-you talkin’ about” when you know it must be some kind of big deal that you have forgotten, you really look dumb.

Unfortunately, if Mr. Trump had been interviewing for a job…which he really is, he wouldn’t have gotten hired. He just wasn’t prepared. Because he wasn’t prepared he was on his heels all night. Let’s hope he learns by his mistakes.

Whether you like the guy or not, all of us really want to see the difference in ideas and policies that he and his opponent have. All of the above issues are more mannerisms than they are content. We all want to know about the issues and not get stuck on the mannerisms. As with any interviewing situation we can all get distracted by the mannerisms and can’t “hear” what is being said. Mr. Trump has got one strike against him. Two more and he is out.

This should be a lesson to anyone who is interviewing… prepare!

P.S. Don’t TWEET nutin!


…. A $35,000 simple application of the first law of economics

It’s so very simple! So very, very simple! The first law of economics: “All money value is created through and backed by the production of commodities, trades, goods and services.” I will never quite understand why people who are looking for a job, even if they have one, don’t understand this simple law. Applied to the practice of finding a job, it simply states, “Your value is created through and backed by the (perceived) services you will provide.” It is that simple. If you show a prospective employer that you can provide better service than any of the other candidates, the more money you will receive.

A week or so ago we were working with a client who was looking for a controller and told us they would pay between $100,000 and $150,000 base salary along with some bonus. They made it very clear that the very top, top, top of their scale was $150,000 and they weren’t likely to pay anywhere close to that. They must have repeated it as a mantra at least a dozen times.

They hired our candidate. They paid her $185,000 and were so glad to do it they couldn’t see straight. In fact they were almost apologetic. The reason? She gave them so many good value propositions that she could do for them they were compelled to hire her. Now, she knew before she went to the interview that these people wanted to pay $100,000. She went anyhow. She barely even talked about money, except to say that the money was important but not the most important thing about the job. She just simply gave them so many really good reasons as to why they should hire her and what she could do for them, they raised her salary $35,000 more than the top of their scale.

If people looking for a job simply paid attention to the track record that they might offer a prospective employer and then present that value proposition to as many people as possible could they would have no trouble finding a job. She went into absolute detail, addressing just about every aspect of the financial picture of the company That she had researched from just about every source, the company’s bank, the company’s manufacturing companies, their customers, their competitors. She knew more about the company than the hiring authority did. She communicated what she suspected to be the biggest financial problems of the company and the three or four things she would do to address them. She did absolutely thorough research.

After two interviews our client was absolutely sold on her. Because they didn’t want to mess around and lose her, they simply told her, “the highest base we thought we were going to pay was $150,000, but with your skills and experience we are willing to offer you $185,000.” And she was thrilled.

What’s even more interesting about this is that she’s making $200,000 in her present job. She took a cut from her present salary because the opportunity and the company were so good. He makes both sides of the desk look good,


…”lying?!! But everybody’s doing it… look at Hillary”

This is what I heard from a candidate this week. And this wasn’t some entry-level kid. This was a 20 year veteran who been an EVP at a well-known company. He was complaining because one of our clients was considering him for a regional VP job and just plain stopped when they found out that he lied. He worked at a company for about six months a number of years ago and didn’t have it on his resume. It was 10 years ago and he figured that it didn’t have anything to do with his most recent career so he left off his resume. It so happens that one of the people working at our client company recognized his resume, said that he knew him because they had worked together a number of years ago at the company… that wasn’t on his resume. Our client interpreted this as lying, which in the strictest sense, it was. So, unfortunately, they passed on him.

It was devastating to all of us, including our client firm’s CEO. Most everyone had their heart set on hiring this guy and he had his heart set on taking the job. I have started my 43rd year in this profession and I have to admit that I’m still torn about this kind of thing. Being educated from childhood by Benedictine nuns, Augustinian and Jesuit priests, I’ve always been taught to never lie. (Of course, the Jesuits would probably also consider the philosophical relativity of lying.) Even Sister Mary Peter, In third grade told us that, “if somebody comes to the door and asks if your mother is home and she’s not, you can tell them that she is, but she just can’t come to the door right now.” Or, when we were in seventh or eighth grade and read The Diary of Anne Frank  and discussed in religion class a hypothetical question, “What would you say to the Nazi trooper who came to the door and asked if there were any Jewish people in your house.” Of course we would lie.

Regarding getting a job, I have known thousands of candidates over the years who eliminated short stints on their resumes, took sole credit for accomplishments their team actually accomplished, fudged on their title, embellished on their performance, elongated the time they were at a particular company, lied about the amount of money they made, who they knew, their name change (I still will never understand the why of this), their marital status, whether or not they had a drivers license, an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, where they were born, how long they have been married, how long it took them to graduate from college, languages they were fluent in, their golf handicap, why they left their last job and the jobs before that, where they lived, the number of DWIs they’ve received, the ages of their children… Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Some people lie about important stuff as well as the most inconsequential, ridiculous stuff you ever heard of.

In spite of modern technology that can verify just about any fact, candidates still lie about things like having a degree when they don’t, length of time spent at a job, titles and some of their last positions etc. This is crazy! One phone call can reveal, for instance, if a person has a degree from any school. Why would someone lie about this? It can be “fact checked” so easily. The resume a candidate sent over the Internet three years ago is likely to be somewhere out there in cyberspace. If that same person’s resume is a lot different today than it was three years ago, the candidate will be eliminated if it is discovered. It’s that simple

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right answer for this dilemma. The most moralist among us would justify lying under certain circumstances. Regarding a job search though, the job seeker needs to realize that they are going to be held to a higher standard than Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and all of the rest of the politicians who lie/embellish/stretch the truth/deny what they said/forget/reframe.

I have to tell people “don’t lie.” It probably isn’t going to do much good, people will lie anyhow. Just remember that employers are looking for just as many reasons not to hire you as they are to hire you. If anyone lies about anything in their job search, a prospective employer has no choice but to eliminate that candidate. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s ability to do the job or not. It has to do with the fact that if the candidate is hired in spite of the known lies, a hiring authority will be held responsible for an inept, downright stupid decision to hire a liar.

I can understand people feeling like the risk is worth running. The job someone had for three months 10 years ago probably won’t make one bit of difference in person’s performance on the job they are seeking today.  The same might go for a DWI a person got 15 years ago. Does it make a difference on how people perform if they have a degree? I know a number of very high level managers in the city who lied about having a degree, even the schools they attend. They do a hell of a job. But there’s still liars.

It’s pretty sad that we will accept outright lying from our politicians and be appalled by those who may “embellish” about their grade point in college. That’s reality! Cursing it doesn’t matter one iota.

Don’t lie.

… don’t be afraid of paranoia

There’s nothing like a good dose of daily paranoia to get you going. Don’t let anybody kid you, every one of us, even the most experienced and successful wakes up every day with a bit of paranoia wondering, “can I do it again today?”… “Am I really that good?”

Those of us that have learned to live with paranoia find it to be a tremendously healthy emotion if it’s used in the right way. There is unhealthy paranoia and healthy paranoia. We often go berserk with unhealthy paranoia when we should’ve been dealing with it in a healthy way, making it healthy paranoia a long time earlier. In fact, in the business situation, no matter what level you are, if you don’t experience some paranoia you probably aren’t doing your job. And if someone tries to tell me that they have no paranoia… even the slightest bit… that’s the time I remind them that they should be afraid as hell, because they’re probably at one of the biggest risk moments of their life and they don’t even know it. This feeling of invincibility is the first step towards self-destruction.

Unhealthy paranoia is the kind of fear that most people get. They’re afraid of everything. They’re afraid the economy. They’re afraid of their company’s ability to survive the difficult times. They’re are afraid if things are too bad, they’ll go broke. They’re afraid that if things are too good, everybody and their company will get apathetic and expect success. They are afraid to enjoy success because they know it, too, will end. They spend a few hours of their day commiserating with other paranoid people looking for things to be paranoid about. They begin every sentence with, “I’m afraid…” And usually follow it with probability of how things won’t work. No matter how successful they become they are still “afraid.” Even when they should be on top of the world, enjoying success, they remind themselves and everyone else how afraid they are. They are no fun at all even with millions of dollars and everything money can buy. Unfortunately, they have no courage. Most often they implode and “fail” internally despite seemingly external success. They most often die with their money but no one cares.

Healthy paranoia, on the other hand, excites. It puts us on edge. But it’s a healthy fear. What separates healthy paranoia from unhealthy paranoia Is that healthy paranoia leads us to take massive action. When we lay out a massive action plan and then follow it, we can usually work our way out of of our most difficult fears. These people with healthy paranoia begin every day realizing that anything can happen and they need to be ready for it.

These people with healthy paranoia look back on all of the setbacks they’ve had, from going broke, to losing their job, to losing their businesses, to losing loved ones prematurely to death, to experiencing just about every human difficulty you can imagine and somehow they learn from these experiences. They realize the words of Frederick Nietzsche, that “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” This awareness gives them courage. Even though they have fear in the pit of their stomach, they know that since they’ve conquered it before, they can conquer it again. These are joyous, grateful people even in the gravest of situations, even with fear in their gut.

So, if you’re one of those people who operates with unhealthy paranoia try to change the way you see and experience things. Focus on the good things paranoia has helped you to attain. Try to see how that fear in the pit of your stomach can also motivated you. Hang around, even go to work for, someone with healthy paranoia and simply ask them how they do it. Ask them what kind of “self talk” they do.

Don’t be afraid of paranoia… Make it your friend and motivator.




…Saying stupid stuff… Just plain stupid

I don’t even know whether it does any good to write about this, but I have to vent somehow. Four times this week, our organization had four different candidates say the dumbest, most stupid stuff in an interview that you could ever imagine.

These people are not high school dropouts or interviewing for their first job. They were grown people, ages 30 to 58. All had college degrees. Two had master degrees. Two of them had actually been managers in their previous jobs. One had been a regional VP. These were (supposedly) bright, intelligent professionals who had great track records. Even after all of these years in this business… our average recruiter has been in the profession 16.3 years … we are still amazed at some of the things that people say. Here were the four statements that were made in these people’s interviews:

“I sued my last employer, but I won!”

“I’m just coming off a bout with severe depression.”

“I’m going through an absolutely terrible, horrific divorce. And it’s not likely to be over for two years.”

“I want your job in the next five years!” (Ok, it was the 30 year old.)

Almost every one of these people said that the reason they gave for making these statements was that they “wanted to be transparent.” (All but the 30-year-old, who thought he was being candid.) What’s with that? Well, maybe they were. But they were eliminated for saying such stupid stuff.

Now, if you interview for a job and you think it’s too much stress because you’re going through a very strenuous divorce or you’re concerned about your most recent depression, don’t take the job. It’s okay. But there’s no good reason to tell an employer any of these things. The guy who sued his previous employer might have been 100% correct in doing so, but no employer is going to ever run that risk. A severe bout with depression or an ugly, emotional divorce says to a prospective employer, “this person might be messed up for some time and I can’t afford to run that risk.”

Don’t give me that, “they’re not supposed to discriminate against anyone who is going through a divorce or has suffered an illness!” Riiiiiiiiiight! Suuuuuuuuuure! Do you think anyone is going to admit not hiring a candidate because they said such stupid stuff. Even two of the candidates stated that they could see the hiring authority’s enthusiasm die once they said what they did.

People absolutely need to be honest. But none of these folks were asked these questions, they simply volunteered the information.

You might be able to say stuff like this and still be a U.S. presidential candidate, but it will never get you a job in the real world.


What a Great Attitude!

Every once in a while, we all run into a rather surprising but pleasant situation. I have to admit that I spend a lot of my time listening to well-paid executives complain a lot about their jobs and the companies they work for. Most of the situations I work with, for both candidates and employers, are fairly difficult ones. Finding a job is the fourth most emotional thing people do and I believe that hiring someone is likely to be the fifth. Much of looking for a job and hiring is downright scary. But once in a while I am pleasantly surprised.

One of my candidates, Thomas, recently took a VP position with a mid-size technology firm and he is working for a rather difficult CEO/founder. Now there are a lot of those kinds of guys and gals out there. They are brilliant people when it comes to developing a product or a business system, but absolutely abominable when it comes to managing people. Thomas’ CEO is just that kind. He is always the smartest guy in the room. He has a big ego. He always wants to control. And nobody can do any job as well as he can. But this CEO needs Thomas. He’s already been through a number of people like Thomas and since the company’s board is beginning to question the CEO’s ability to get along with anybody they pretty much imposed Thomas on the CEO. (I know dozens of you out there think I’m talking about your CEO! Right!!)

Thomas is a great VP and even in the short period of time that he has spent at the new company, he has made some positive differences. He was sharing with me some of the challenges that he is having and going to have with the CEO. He said one thing that was really interesting and very gratifying. He said, “It’s my job to change me and to really work with this guy so we can get something done and make the company a lot better. If I change me so I can better work with him it’ll be a good deal for all of us.” We’ll have to wait and see how this works out, because the CEO has been through quite a number of VP’s. But WOW! What an attitude on Thomas’ part.

I have to admit that I have heard very, very, very few managers in my career take an attitude that they were the ones who had to change. Most of us think that if everybody would see the world the way we did and they changed, the world would run very smoothly. Instead of complaining, bitching and moaning about what an idiot his boss was, Thomas was thinking of what he could do and how he could change to work better with the CEO and make the company better. How refreshing. Bet it works!

It made me wonder how much better our companies would be… and how much better we all would be… if more of us thought about how we could change in order to work with some of the people that we work with, rather than wishing how others would change. I get a strong feeling that Thomas is going to do really well in this new job. What a great attitude!


How to discover the job and career you will love


I’ve helped over 10,200 individuals find a job or change careers since 1973.  I’m asked, quite often, “Tony, how can I find a job or career that I will love?”

I discovered a few simple, not necessarily easy, but simple principals that these people practice:

  1. They assess and know their aptitudes.

They know what they are strong and what they are weak at. By the time most professional athletes are 18 or 19 years old they know what they have an aptitude for. They’ve measured those aptitudes in competitive sports situations. Business people, however have a little more difficulty. I recommend that people at a young age have their aptitudes tested, and not by some $25 online aptitude test.  I’m talking about places like Johnson O’Connor or AMES testing – people who do elaborate tests and give you an elaborate report about your personal aptitudes.

Many people hate their jobs and hate their careers because they are trying to work in a field they don’t have a natural aptitude for. It leads to a mediocre life. If you’re not good at math, it’s not likely you would make a good accountant.

Most of us fall into what we have an aptitude for quite by accident. We try enough things and then fall into a job or career that might take advantage of our natural abilities, but aptitude testing may quickly reveal most of our strengths and weaknesses. When aptitudes are honed and well-developed, we end up calling them gifts. But those polished gifts didn’t start out that way. They were raw to begin with.

Knowing your aptitudes is the first step. Then…

  1. Expect to begin as a total novice and then work really, really, really hardand discover flow and the zone.

Working really hard means accepting ignorance, then breaking down the basic functions of the job and then doing them over and over until they are mastered. This means an investment of a phenomenal amount of time and effort even when they are exhausted and want to quit.

Working really hard means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, as well as being overwhelmed most of the time. It means drinking through a fire hose and being exhilarated by being overwhelmed.

Unless they are fortunate enough at a very early age to be involved in some kind of intense endeavor like sports or music where intense practicing starts early in life, somewhere along the line, the very first time, quite by accident, people who love their career find themselves falling into flow and “the zone.”  For most of us, the first time this experience occurs is in an intimate relationship with someone we love, prayer, meditation or maybe holding a baby. All of a sudden, there is no thinking, just doing. They are conscious of only the very present moment, not the past, not the future, just the moment.  Their work flows out of them effortlessly. It is joyous, fun, playful, even spiritual.  It becomes an art form and the worker becomes the artist. This state doesn’t happen every day but the more often it comes the more often it comes again and the more often it’s desired.

By being a beginner and working harder than anyone else, reaching the zone of flow from time to time…Then…

  1. Seek the intrinsic value in what they do.

They look for their own personal, internal growth and satisfaction as much as they do in perfecting what they do. They practice what they do for the sheer fun and joy of doing it and because it makes them feel good as they are growing, it takes a life of its own.

The momentum of intrinsic growth and getting better and better leads to the fact that:

4 They really love and are passionate about what they do.

Next to their relationship with God and their family, they enjoy what they do more than anything else. They often enjoy it more than they want to eat or sleep. They are so passionate and enthusiastic about it, what they do becomes a part of them and they become a part of what they do. They personally identify with their work and it brings them joy and happiness. They often have to force themselves to step away and refresh.

This doesn’t mean that they like what they do all the time. There is a big part of what they do that involves difficult, excruciating “pain”… not fun or pleasant at all. They do learn to appreciate what they don’t like, recognizing that is part of the pathway to success.

They love what they do so much:

  1. They do it for a purpose or vision greater than they are.

The purpose of doing what they do transcends making a living. They see the purpose of what they do in the light of its impact on others, even all of mankind. It takes on a spiritual dimension that’s greater than the activity. This greater purpose transforms their work and their job into a calling. It is a personal mission to affect the greater world with their work

The greater purpose or vision leads to:

  1. A healthy balance of paranoia, courage and grit.

Everyone who loves their career and their job lives with a permanent amount of paranoia. No matter how accomplished they become they always a little voice inside of them asking themselves, “Are you really that good?  Can I do it again today?”

One of the best metaphors for this healthy paranoia is this thought:  “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Courage in this metaphor is the faith and the confidence that I can and will run. Courage gives me the confidence to practice running, which gives me more courage to run harder and faster. Courage counterbalances the paranoid and keeps paranoia from simply freezing me from inactivity.

…and grit …It’s the experience in our metaphor of running “until I am totally exhausted, but have the perseverance and passion to get up and keep running.” The tension between paranoia and courage leads to creativity.

A healthy balance of paranoia, courage and grit leads to:

  1. 7. Great clarity and simplicity in explaining what they do.

Their clarity is astounding. They explain what they do in its simplest format. This doesn’t mean that what they do is easy! Just because they can explain it simply doesn’t mean that it is easy. Bench pressing 500 pounds is simple but it’s not easy. In fact, it’s very hard… very hard.

Clarity and simplicity lead to seeing things for what they really are. These people deal with reality… hard-core reality.

Great clarity and simplicity leads to:

  1. They develop a system, a process of doing business and personal rituals and routine for life.

 They focus on the process and they don’t worry about the results. If they focus too much on results, anxiety and fear of failure will result. They focus on the steps in the process because they can control them. They love the process as much as the accomplishment.

Most of the people who love and develop their career live routine lives with lots of rituals. They develop specific patterns for living that allow their cognitive and emotional efforts to focus on their work. They don’t have to expend a lot of emotional or mental energy in deciding which white shirt to wear or which black pair of socks to choose or what time to meditate every day. Rituals and routines alleviate the conscious energy needed to make small inconsequential decisions. Those routine decisions, added together, take a tremendous amount of mental and emotional effort.  Rituals and routines conserve mental and emotional energy so it can be used for the creative aspects of work.

Developing a process with rituals and routines leads to:

  1. The 10,000 hour principal and expecting a phenomenal number of failures and setbacks – reaching unconscious competency.

 Okay, maybe it’s not exactly 10,000 hours exactly when a person becomes totally competent. But people who really learn to love their job and career put a phenomenal amount of time in doing what they do. They practice over and over and over and over when most people would give up. They experience of phenomenal number of failures and setbacks. They love what they do so much they bounce back from those setbacks and that separates them from most people.

They reach unconscious competency. Unconscious competency allows them to think and focus on the parts of their work that need improvement. They do the majority of the work without a conscious effort leaving the mind free to focus on the creative side of the endeavor. They have so many mental models of what can happen or will happen they just plain “know what to do” at the right time. They appear to be geniuses to others, but it is their level of competency that allows them to simply “know.”

Their process of ‘”practice” and expecting a phenomenal number of failures leads to:

  1. Finding mentors and being a constant student, then becoming a mentor.

Some of us are fortunate enough to simply fall into finding good teachers.

Hopefully, the mentors we find are good practitioners and good leaders. But bad leaders can often be great practitioners. We may be able to learn a practice or skill from someone who might be a jerk. The physician who has the habit of smoking might be a great practitioner of medicine, but a lousy mentor of what to do. We can learn from skilled practitioners who might be lousy human beings.  We can learn from bad managers.  Maybe we learn what not to do or how not to be from these people.

People who love their career know that after seeking mentors, becoming a mentor is a tremendously high priority. Teaching others elevates a person’s intellect and mastery of what they do. After all, the teacher always learns more than the student.

Which leads to:

  1. Humility and gratitude

The kind of people we’re speaking of have a tremendous amount of humility. Their accomplishments never seem to go to their head. In fact, most often they don’t think their accomplishments or successes are that big a deal. They don’t compare themselves to other people, they compare themselves to their own perception of their potential. Since they are always striving to be better they gracefully accept what they have accomplished. They have a healthy ego but not a big ego.

There humility leads to a great deal of gratitude. Most of us acknowledge our Creator for the gifts we have received. But even if we aren’t sure of where those attributes and gifts have come from, we are grateful for the opportunity to work…to practice our skills daily.  Even we can’t believe our own accomplishments. We are in awe of the whole thing!

Which leads to:

  1. We reframe stories of our past… And write stories of our future.

When I was 10 years old I wrote a story of myself being Superman. When I learned I couldn’t fly I reframed this story that at least I could become the strongest man on earth. When I imagined a story of myself becoming a doctor when I went to college, I reframed my story when I had to drop out of freshman chemistry right before I failed it. When I imagine the story of getting a PhD in higher education and becoming president of a college in 1973, my beautiful wife Chris reframed that story when I couldn’t find a job by explaining to me that she was pregnant with our first child, I had no job and we’d better get to Texas and go to work.

Being storytellers of our own lives, reframing it and rewriting it we come to the conclusion that:

  1. What they grow to become is more important than what they accomplish.

These kind of people realized that how they grow personally is more important and everlasting than whatever they accomplish. No matter how accomplished they become externally they will always strive to become better internally. They know how they grow internally is permanent and everlasting. Every generation is full of externally successful people who, in the long run, implode. Our newspapers report daily about people who are appear to have it all and because their heart and soul don’t expand to the level of their seemingly external greatness, they self-destruct, often destroying others with them. Their “inside” doesn’t grow to the level of their “outside” and they can’t keep the “outside” façade from crumbling. What they became in the process of getting what they wanted isn’t very great.

People who love their career remember the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The purpose of this life is not prosperity as we know it, but rather the maturing of the human soul.

… A sobering experience and a sad feeling

I’ve known Sean Copeland for more than 20 years. I placed him a number of times and he was also a client of mine from time to time. We weren’t bosom buddies or good friends. I guess I’d call him a business friend. I’m in the kind of business that I only run into people when they need me… either to help them find a job or help them find an employee. But it is amazing how I’ve gotten to know so much about so many people over so many years. It is not uncommon for me to help them find their first or second job and follow them through their career, not only as they change jobs, but as they raise their families and grow older. I remember when his 11-year-old son was born.

One of my associates told me Friday that Sean and his 11-year-old son were killed in Nice, France last week, and asked me if I knew him. They were the only two Americans to be murdered there. It’s kind of amazing that of only two Americans, they would have ties to Dallas.

Sean was a good guy. He talked about his kids and his family and they were always more important than business. I called Sean about a year ago to see if he was happy in his job and he said that he was. I hadn’t spoken to him since. As I say, I go in and out of people’s lives, depending on the need.

This terrorism thing, the murderers of a policeman… the murderers of anybody for that matter, should touch us all, but they’re a little more shocking and hurtful when you personally know the people. It is sobering to think of how all of those people in France and the victims of the shootings here in America had close relatives and friends even as distant as I was to Sean.

And the folks in this world who don’t want to admit that evil exists don’t know how to explain this kind of thing. These kinds of murders should not happen, but they do. Evil does exist and it does try to steal souls in these outward manners as well as more subtle ones.

These kinds of things put the normal function of business that we throw ourselves into every day, thinking it is so important and all-consuming, into perspective. I’ll pass by Sean’s name in the database from time to time and I’ll leave it there and offer up a little prayer for his soul and that of his 11-year-old son too. The world is mysterious.

And, as hard as it is to do, I will pray for the guy that murdered him also. I really don’t want to, but I will.