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Our Population Future

July 8, 2017

My good friend Joe Aaron is an economic futurist – someone who gets paid to explain trends and what the future will hold.

I asked him about the recent report that the United States fertility rate had hit a new low, since it features prominently in his  conclusion that the country is headed for real trouble if we, as a nation of immigrants, don’t change our policies.immigrants

I asked if the news changed his opinion. This is his response:

The short answer is no. It does not change my thinking on demographics here in the U.S. If you read between the lines, the article describes a part of our population, the Millennials, who are putting off having children and marriage. 

“The number one reason child birth is dropping in the civilized world today is economic. Young people can’t afford children anymore or are unwilling to make the financial sacrifices. It cost half a million to raise a kid and send them to college. That explains why 20% of our population decides to stay childless.

“The more educated you are, the less likely you are to have an unwanted pregnancy. Women can now get birth control with ease.

Finally, a woman with a good education can have a career and financial independence. If she decides she wants to have a baby she can. She no longer needs a man.

Where demographics are changing in the in the U.S. is at the state level. For example, Maine’s population is actually shrinking each year. Vermont is flat. New Hampshire’s population is flat. But they will both join Maine in the dying category this decade.

These three states have a medium age of 42, the highest in the country. The medium age for the U.S. is 37. This means they are an ageing society. This means their citizens are aging out of the work force. If this trend continues, and I have no doubt it will, in 15 years this will impact the state gov’t’s credit rating.

These three states have an unemployment rates below 3%. This is too low. It puts upward pressure on wages. This in turn puts pressure on a business to consider leaving the state.

If you are a technology company, where are you going to find employees with technology skills? Imagine a recession caused by a lack of workers. It is possible there.

The glass is half empty for small towns and rural area. The kids are all leaving for the bigger cities. It is a brain drain. Manufacturing plants will have jobs that go unfilled. Schools will close.

I find little to be happy about when it comes to our nation’s demographics. We better embrace immigration while people still want to come here.”

 

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The Cognitive Prism and Emotional Intelligence

December 30, 2015

We all see things differently. Not literally – when the sun shines we pretty much all see it the same way – but emotionally.images

Our opinions, world view, emotional triggers are all a function of a complex cognitive prism that colors how we see the world.This prism is created both from our personality  and the events that shape our lives: the old nature vs. nurture debate that’s been going on for years.

I’ll let the psychologists figure out which is more dominant, but from a coaching standpoint, they combine to  help us create a view of the world that is unique.

What seems to make perfect logical sense to one person, is patently absurd to someone else. What seems like a logical assumption, which become the basis of a decision, seems obvious. In truth, it’s a coach’s job too help clients see that there might be some other interpretations.

Recognizing alternatives is one facet of emotional intelligence. Self realization helps us understand that there is a cognitive prism filtering every bit of information coming into our brain. Understanding the biases that are inherent in the prism, helps us understand why others disagree, and finally, taking steps to correct the distortions of the prism helps us grow.

In truth, many people don’t really want to make changes, but the real key is understanding that there may be a bias your view of the world. You can decide if adjustments are necessary.

Dealing with your our prism is key to your happiness, your interaction with others and every aspect of life – both at home and at work. This is emotional intelligence.

I was reminded of this prism a few days ago when I was working with a high school junior who was trying to figure out ‘the rest of his life’ during our 45-minute phone call. I was trying to help him decide where he should apply to college and what careers interested him.

Many young people have a wide range of interests and have a difficult time separating a career from a crush on a favorite teacher. The young man I was assisting had a range of interests that was even wider. He had always been a voracious reader and is familiar with topics ranging from history and religion to politics, economics and engineering.

For him, narrowing the list had become almost impossible, so he had decided to use income as his measuring stick. As he told me,”I really like history and enjoy reading everything I can find, but the only job I would probably ever get is teaching, and I know that doesn’t make that much money, so I think I’ll just consider that a hobby.”

He also ‘knew’ that engineers have the potential to make more money so it seemed logical that engineering was the best choice because at least his starting salary would be higher.

He could see no purpose in getting a liberal arts degree. Beyond the notion that an undergraduate degree limits your employment options,  he needed some facts to go with his assumptions.

I suggested that before our next call he do a bit of research.( If I just told him the answers he wouldn’t believe me anyway)

I gave him two weeks to answer the following questions:

What percentage of new employees in high tech had degrees in the social sciences?

What is the average lifetime earnings of a social science graduate?

What percentage of social science majors go on the get an advanced degree?

I am hoping that the answers will help readjust his prism and help him understand that some of the assumptions he was making were not based on reality.

If he still insists that an engineering degree is the only option, I certainly won’t try to talk him out of it, but he should  know all the facts before he makes his decision.

Next time you have a decision to make ask yourself what underlying assumption you might would to re-evaluate.

 

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‘Rules’ in Need of Adjustment

November 18, 2015

I just finished reading Laszlo Bock’s ‘Work Rules’ and while I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the book I definitely think it needs an attitude adjustment.51Df4YVLvbL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Bock is Google’s head of People Operations, which is an advanced version of what most people would know as human resources. Like many hi-tech firms, Google feels HR is an outdated term and doesn’t really explain what the department does. In truth, at least at Google, the department does a lot more than traditional HR departments.

But that’s really part of the problem. Bock presents a myriad of suggestions  for managing, promoting, recruiting and measuring employees or potential employees. Many of the procedures were developed at the company using statistical models developed by Google and all are presented as a common sense logical alternative to the way  other firms operate. A common refrain is simply “why would you do it any other way?”

This rationale comes despite that fact that the new procedures represent significant changes from the way Google used to do things, which were also supposedly based on statistical models and were  logical conclusions to the way things should be done.

Old methodology which has now been jettisoned include minimal middle management and the well known brain teasers which stumped thousands of job seekers.

Bock admits what everyone else in HR had been telling them for years: Everyone needs management and brain teasers only test how well someone can solve a specific problem, not overall creativity or performance.

The reality is, that despite their reliance on statistics, Google’s employee turnover  is no better than many other firms and they felt obliged to sign on to an illegal agreement with other tech firms not to poach employees. That case has been settled but the issue has not disappeared.

While there are a plethora of great ideas in the book, that many firms would do well to consider, my problem  is really an attitude issue. Much like a lot of other actions which aggravated many people, (such as private buses using public bus stops) Google seems to assume that what they do should not face the same scrutiny as others.

Other firms, they seem to feel, should be grateful that Google has shared their ideas so openly and should adopt them. That may be true, since there is a lot of bad management at most companies, but no-one likes to be told what is right for them.

In truth the best use for the book, might be for potential employees who want to figure out what principles will govern their potential employment.

And for that reason, I will suggest it for all my career clients, although I will warn them about the attitude adjustment that may be in order.

 

 

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The Monetary Value of Your Job

November 4, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,observations,Tech — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 12:46 pm

I had two clients this week who both needed some not so subtle reminders that the value of their jobs might be different from the monetary value of their paychecks.images

Both were young people who had been working at their first real jobs since they graduated from college last June and both had jobs in their chosen career field,  – but neither was happy.

Both were having a very difficult time putting a value on their work.

The first, a young man who was working for an established retailer was frustrated that his pay was not as much as many of his peers in hi-tech, and was concerned about why he wasn’t being promoted.

His work, he said, had become routine, and while he was busy, he felt his job had become routine. At the same time, his commute was about 20 minutes, and he was  living on his own.  He admitted that his supervisor was very open to discussion about additional responsibilities, although she was honest in saying that a promotion was unrealistic for at least another year.

He liked his co-workers, found the environment relaxing, and felt no fear that he was about to be downsized out of his job if the economy soured.

My other client, a young woman, hated her job, and while she was in her chosen field,  counseling, she felt the office was disorganized, there was constant turnover and her ability to help her clients as a case manager, was actually inhibited by her work environment.

She admitted that she was barely able to support herself and was not making much more than she was at a waitress job she had while she sent out resumes a year  ago.

The question to both of them was simple. What is the value of the externalities, apart from the actual work.

For the young man:

Was it worth and extra  $5,000 in salary knowing that he would be exposed to additional experiences, making him more valuable to his current or future employers?

Was is worth an extra $10,000 knowing that his job was secure even if the economy slowed?

And what of the value of a pleasant work enviroment, with an easy commute?

No, he didn’t have free meals, transportation, or  haircuts like his fellow classmates in Silicon Valley, but he wan’t working 80 hours a week in a high-stress environment either.

So maybe his salary was lower, but he was doing better than he thought.

The opposite was clearly true for the young woman. Everything about her job was subtracting value from her paycheck.

Since she was in social work the very least she could expect was that the job would provide ‘supervised hours’ she could apply to an advanced degree or certification, if she went back to school.

But even that benefit was denied her.

The reality was that she was making less than she thought and was getting no benefit from the job. She might as well have taken any other job, since it ws really just a way to support herself until she figured out her next step.

After our sessions my message to each of them was the same: When you assess your job you need to consider more than just a paycheck. Sometimes that adds to the value of your job, and sometimes you might be better off moving on, as quickly as possible.

Do the math, next time you get your paycheck, and see where you stand.

 

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Career Conundrums

April 18, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Tech — Tags: , , — admin @ 5:51 am

Everyone needs a career coach. I realize that’s a bit self-severing coming from a career coach, but it’s true.

The thought occurred to me this week when I received LinkedIn requests to congratulate my connections who were passing employment milestones.

What is your next career?

What is your next career?

Everyone has questions, no matter what stage their career has reached.

The new college graduate wonders about accepting a job offer, thinking she doesn’t want to ‘get stuck’ doing ‘that job’ for the rest of her life.It seems to be a revelation when I point out that the job will change quickly, and in the current  job climate, 1 year may be a career.

Young people who have reached the 1-year mark, start to worry all over again about what they should be doing next. They’ve had one boss and are convinced they could do his job.

They see a friend or two changing jobs and wonder if they should be looking too. In most cases they haven’t even bothered to ask their current employer what their future might look like, if they stayed.

I can remember calls from clients who have been working in the same position for 3 or 4 years and have developed enough maturity to question what they want to do next. Some just know, they don’t want to do what they have been doing, but don’t realize how valuable that knowledge is. At least they’re  beginning to understand how lucky they are to have a choice and how many choices there are.

Ask a lot of older employees with well established careers, and they’ll be happy to point out  that they have no idea’ how they got to this stage in their careers, it wasn’t a plan, it just happened.

Then, there are the long-term employees who have worked for the same company for 5 or 10 years, and have actually earned a reputation and may have gotten a call from a recruiter. The knowledge that someone may actually value your skills has to be weighed against what are now, significant financial and family obligations. The decision gets much tougher since it may involves children, spouses, extended family and a host of other issues.

It’s impossible to make decision like that dispassionately, because everyone you talk to, except a coach, has an opinion.

Finally there are people who have spent 20 or more years with one company.These veterans are wondering about all the decisions they have made, and how they just woke up one morning and wondered,  “Is that all there is?” I have yet to meet a client at this stage who doesn’t, at some point tell me, “Ya know, what I really want to do is start a company that…” You fill in the blank.

They are often speak glowingly about their idea or dream and the enthusiasm is infectious. The trick becomes trying to figure out why they haven’t created their new career. Working through the list of why they can’t, is often a revelation and can take several sessions. In the end , they will either realize that they might have a good idea, or that they really just like having the dream.

Whatever career anniversary you’re having, a coach can’t make decisions for you, but we can make sure you ask the right questions.

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Can We All Agree – 4/5/15 Edition

April 5, 2015

This week’s commentary on the news:

Can we all agree that no matter what kind of agreement the EU and US reach with Iran, Mr. Netanyahu and his GOP will oppose it?

Can we all agree that it’s better to be talking with Iran than fighting with them? Although it’s tough to ignore their state sponsored terrorism.

Can we all agree that the continuing revelations about the copilot of the Germanwings plane, make the whole episode, much more tragic?05kentucky2-master675

Can we ll agree that Lufthansa Airlines is in a lot of trouble if they knew their pilot was seriously depressed, and still allowed to fly?

Can we ll agree that, it’s not the ‘liberal press’ or ‘militant gays’ that are behind the brouhaha over the Indiana and Arkansas religious freedom bills?

Can we all agree that the European Union’s skepticism about the business practices of Google, Apple and Facebook is much healthier than the unquestioning ‘regulation’ of US agencies?

Can we all agree that for residents of the northern third of the country, ‘Play Ball’ may be the most welcomed phrase they’ve heard in a long time?

Can we all agree that while McDonald’s decision to give raises to minimum  wage employees at company stores, is good news, $12/hour is still not a living wage?

Can we all agree that while California’s drought is very serious, exempting farmers, who use 70% of the state’s water, undermines Governor Brown’s credibility? BTW: It’s supposed to be raining for the next three days here in Northern CA.

images Can we all agree that outside of  Kentucky, most of us were pulling for Wisconsin in the NCAA semi-final on Saturday?

Can we all agree that varsity letters should be awarded for academic accomplishment, as well as extra-curricular activities such as  speech, drama, music, art, and dance?

Can we all agree that the charges against  NJ Senator Robert Menendez are an indictment of the Citizen’s United, Supreme Court decision?

Can we all agree that Trevor Noah is off to a bad start as host of The Daily Show, even though he hasn’t even hosted a program yet?

Can we all agree that while cheating is wrong, and should not be condoned, we are troubled by  the potential jail terms that the Atlanta educators are now facing?

And finally,

Can we all agree that the thought of Al Franken and John Stewart in the US Senate is very funny?

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Can We All Agree – 3/28/15 Edition

March 28, 2015

Can we all agree that Amanda Knox may be the most relieved person in the world right now?

Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox

Can we all agree that while there is certainly evidence of discrimination in Silicon Valley, Ellen Pao’s plight was not the right case to make the point?

Can we all agree that Indiana’s new law allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBT couples is a black eye for the state and was totally unnecessary?

Can we all agree that the latest facts surrounding crash of the Germanwings airliner are truly terrifying?

Can we all agree that Sen. Herry Reid’s decision to retire was the right move?

Can we all agree that the the House’s ability to pass a Medicare payment bill, might offer some hope for the future?

Can We All agree that trying to understand the ISIS-Houti-Yemeni-Saudi Arabian-Iranian-Iraqi battle gets more confusing (and critical) every day?

Can we all agree that keeping some US troops in Afghanistan was inevitable?

Can we all agree that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is the most cynical of all politicians? Making inflammatory statements before the election and then trying to disavow them weeks after his party was was re-elected.

Can we all agree that the spy vs. spy saga in the Iran nuclear talks is not really surprising.

Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

Can we all agree that regardless of whether Bowe Bergdahl is a deserter or not, he should not have been left behind as the US pulled out of Afghanistan?

Can we all agree that Sen. Ted Cruz’s highly orchestrated announcement of his presidential bid rings a bit hollow?

Can we all agree that Sen. Cruz’s decision to accept coverage under the Affordable Care Act, makes a mockery of his  stated opposition – especially since he had other options?

Can we all agree that 230 White House meetings in 6 years, is a bit much for any one company, even Google?

 

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Can We All Agree? 3/21/15 Edition

March 21, 2015

Can we all agree that the ‘arsenic in wine’ news could win the award for bogus story of the month. Now SF lawyers are trying to make a killing off it?

Can we all agree that the last thing we want with our coffee is a conversation about race relations?Unknown

Can we all agree that a Church who tries to drown homeless people has lost its way?

Can we all agree that March Madness has lost a bit of luster? It’s big business and needs an overhaul.

Can we all agree that holding the Attorney General nomination hostage to abortion is a strategy that is doomed to failure? Just another nail in the GOP coffin.

Can we all agree that within the next five years Pete Rose will be welcomed into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Can we all agree that we are shocked, that John Boehner is shocked that Aaron Schock resigned amid a spending scandal that has been going on for two years?

6337948-3x2-340x227

Devastation in Vanuatu

Can we all agree that until last week, none of us could have found Vanuatu on a world map?

Can we all agree that the Governor and other state agencies need to do more to convince the average California resident that the drought is serious?

Can we all agree that the GOP budget produced in the House, just shows how little they understand about governance. Even their own party in the Senate thinks it’s laughable.

Can we all agree that the Israeli election means there will be no peace in our lifetime?

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Israeli’s soon to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Can we all agree that the explosion in new options for viewing television content is a little reminiscent of what happened when the government forced AT&T to break up? Or am I just showing my age?

Can we all agree that San Francisco’s texting controversy is shocking for the content and source of the text?

Can we all agree that Chris Borland’s decision to retire from football at 24 could signal a major change for the sport?

Can we all agree that Microsoft’s decision to put an end to Internet Explorer is a realization that they need to give up on the past and begin to innovate to stay relevant?

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What I learned at Wisdom 2.0

March 3, 2015

In my last post I outlined my overall view of the recently concluded Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

I have to admit that after three days there were some valuable take aways;

I learned:

Three great tips for Karaoke (from the CEO of LinkedIn Jeff Weiner).

How NOT to connect with  tech company HR types.

Tibetan monks work on a sand sculpture at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Tibetan monks work on a sand sculpture at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Even when they are off, cellphones, (or weapons of mass distraction), can disrupt a conversation.

Uni-tasking will be the next big trend. (Sherry Turkle, author)

There are still people (Pico Iyer)  who do not own a cellphone and manage to navigate the world.

Conversations need at least 7 minutes before they really get down to anything substantive.

Empathy, is the real victim among young people who try to talk and text at the same time, because they never learn how to read facial expressions.

Nomophobia is the fear of being without your cellphone.

Alanis Morrisette, in addition to being a great singer, is very smart and has spent a lot of time in a therapist’s office.

Humans of New York – a website dedicated to telling the story of ordinary New Yorkers, is a fine continuation of individual story telling in the tradition of Studs Terkel.

A job may not be a career, but if you can combine them with a calling you may actually have something.

Getting rid of ‘Shoulds’ to create more room for ‘Musts’ may be the key to happiness and satisfaction.

Meditators, monks, and teaching masters have all learned that marketing is the key to spreading the word. It seems everyone now had a catch phrase to make it easier for public acceptance of their theology.

According to Mark Twain the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.

That’s really quite a bit to learn in a three day conference.

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The Wisdom 2.0 Bottom Line

March 2, 2015

I spent the last few days at the annual Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

IMG_0962

Michael Gervais, (left) George Mumford and Mike Robbins (right) discuss sports and psychology and the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco February 28, 2015,

Many of you have probably never heard of the event, so a little context is probably in order.

Attendance this year reached 2500 and could have gone higher if organizers had not capped it. The conference is designed as a combination celebration and support group for anyone trying to bring more:  (pick one) consciousness, gratitude, or mindfulness to technology and business.

Attendees come from all over the world, although a large percentage are from California, to hear a variety of speakers from CEO’s to human resource managers, explain how they have tried to humanize their companies and deal with the increasing demands of the ‘always on’ world.

Using mindful meditation, exhortations to be present, and a wide variety of what many might consider alternative techniques, the conference is in direct contrast to the prevailing view of corporate America as a ruthless, cut throat, bottom line, profit driven culture.

In addition to the conference presentations on everything from neuroscience to networking, there are rooms devoted to meditation, and yoga, as well as a trade show in the Inspiration Lounge.

Many sessions focus on how to live a more fulfilling and compassionate life and to make choices that leave you happier both personally and in your career.

Here you can also find the latest in relaxation and stress reduction equipment and techniques.

While you might think the principles were some import from Europe, most of the foreign attendees, are quick to note that the techniques are uniquely American, which is what draws them here.

Companies with representative include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Gap and a host of others who say that recent studies have shown conclusively that promoting mindfulness and self realization in their workforce actually adds to their bottom line in  quantifiable manner.

In reality the conference is a large networking event, where like-minded folks can get together to reinforce their beliefs in hopes of connecting with someone who can help them move forward in their career.

A large percentage of the attendees are personal/executive coaches or management consultants, who are looking to make connections with those HR types from Google, Twitter, Facebook and GAP, to  improve workplace performance. Admittedly the chances are slim, but you never know.

In two days I collected a raft of business cards, and spoke with lawyers, coaches, HR managers and some old friends from the spa and yoga worlds.

My wife, who is a clinical psychologist, and attended the first Wisdom conference 6 years ago, may be a more typical participant, but she was ill over the weekend and insisted I attend.

I’ll admit I was hesitant, but after three days I was pleasantly surprised and happy I made the effort. More on some of the things I learned will come in subsequent posts.

When organizers at the opening session asked who, in the audience, was a first-time attendee, I raised my hand along with two-thirds of the crowd.

Sponsors were thrilled, saying it showed how the movement was attracting new members. But you have to think; what does it mean when attendees at previous sessions are not coming back in significant numbers?

If this were a business that had to rely on new customers for 66% of it’s profit each year, would you be optimistic?

 

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