Should You Go to University?

I have a bachelors degree in Communications, Public Relations & Marketing. I’m also a “Certified Protection Professional” with the American Society for Industrial Security.

In and of themselves, these two certificates I have in my office do not open doors for me. What each did, however, is unlock critical thinking.

by Pete Ferguson

I also have a bookshelf full of great books – which also got me thinking outside of the box. And despite being in the security industry, I regularly read Fast Company, Inc, HR Manager, CIO, and ComputerWorld magazines and attend webinars and other learning opportunities not directly related to my field.

Barry Schwartz on LinkedIn writes:

In my view, higher education should be equipping students to answer these four questions:

  1. What is worth knowing?
  2. What is worth doing?
  3. What makes for a good human life?
  4. What are my responsibilities to other people?

College is not the only place in which answers to these questions can develop, but it is an important place. And siloed, specialized training in a discipline—any discipline—will answer none of them.

I’m grateful for all of my learning experiences. I would like to get a Master’s degree when Miles (my youngest, now 3) is settled in school. I do better in a structured environment and I liked attending classes and having debates with people not in my line of profession when I started a few years back. But with family, civic, work, travel and other things occupying my time, it wasn’t a good fit.

My father has a PhD and it has served him well. My mentor and career coach Dan Miller did everything required for a PhD except his dissertation when he decided he could spend a year writing a paper that four old men would critique and then it would sit in an archive at the library, or sell a few million dollars in books and seminars on “48 Days to the Work You Love.”

We had a mid-level position open last month – three PhDs applied. The salary I can offer would maybe pay for one semester of school. That blows my mind that someone would invest over $200k on a degree to make $50-60k a year. You may break even the day you die.

Whatever you do, always be learning – advice I received multiple times from good professors and my father – and have tried to apply.

Other great advice I received often is to always be writing. And having written over 240 blog entries here – and commented on countless others – I can attest that it has been very educational and helped me see new perspectives.

Finally, network! Not talking FaceBook here – LinkedIn is better – but make sure you are setting up lunch and coffee appointments to pick people’s brains.

I recently sat down with a very successful CEO and asked him what advice he has for someone my age to get more mentors. His answer – ask, and show value. He says many of his C-level executive friends and peers often talk about wanting to have a mentee, but seldom get asked. He recommends I select ten people and invite them to lunch on my expense. Be very specific on time requirements (and stick to what you commit to) and actively follow up on everything discussed.

What are you doing to continue your education?

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But That’s The Perfect Job for Me! …

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Pete Ferguson

Recently my brother-in-law applied for a job with great promise and increased salary. He did his research and was convinced that it would be the perfect opportunity.

Unfortunately he didn’t get it.

Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. ~ Ronald Reagan

Today I worked out with friend with whom I’d worked a year or so ago to fix up his resume, identify his passion, and put together a plan of action.

He also applied for a job that he thought would be perfect for him – but didn’t get it. Now he is back in school and working towards a much more promising future.

At the time he was applying for the job I discussed with him the bureaucracy and politics he would have to face. At the time he just wanted a steady salary and sense of purpose and the ability to go from unemployed to gainfully employed.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ~ Confucius

I’ve had several opportunities over the years to apply for what I also thought would be the perfect job. I got into the final interviews and thankfully the other party decided I wasn’t the best fit for the position.

At the time I was disappointed, discouraged, and dismayed. But I’ve since had the chance to go back and visit the person who did take on the job or talk to others who worked (and now no longer work) for those companies and I can very clearly see how I would not have been happy for very long.

This month I commence my 15th year at eBay. That’s a really long time. If I was in Law Enforcement or the military, I’d be five years from retirement.

Throughout the journey I’ve been blessed to make of my job what I want to make of it. There are many times I feel it is the perfect job for me. There have been times when I have felt stuck and needed to get out.

Thankfully each time I’ve been able to change direction and create the perfect job for me.

There was a time I loved to travel. And I did 180,000 miles in a year going to Asia and Europe.

There was a time I loved to manage large teams and I was privileged to have over 100  reports across multiple continents.

I burned out, however, spent a few years getting back in touch with what I love to do most – build. And now I’m in a position that was not a position two years ago and I’m having the time of my life.

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done. ~ George Carlin

Being out of work sucks. But for me and the friends I’ve seen go through it, it has also been a very powerful shift in understanding oneself – getting in touch with one’s true inner passion for work and making dramatic changes to move in a different direction.

If you are currently in the job search – all the best luck to you. It is hard to understand now, but many of the “right” jobs will not feel like the right job after a few weeks. You not getting that position now sucks – but in the longer run I hope you can look back and see why. I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed to see the 20/20 hindsight.

It is a hard transition to go from expecting others to make you happy (with salary, benefits, promotions, etc.) and turn inward and realize the only person capable of these things is yourself.

A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.- Zig Ziglar

Pay it Forward

Don’t be a selfish, self-centered jerk … ~ Me

by Pete Ferguson

A few weeks back I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from several of my fellow bloggers in some time.

I wondered about that for about three seconds. Then I remembered I had not visited or commented on their work for an even longer time.

Shame on me.

Easily rectified. Over the past several weeks I’ve worked to visit and comment on 4-6 blogs of others for every time I’ve written anew.

First, I was inspired to take better care of my body by Ann Musico who educated me that I should be drinking a lot more water. (Still working on this one …)

Next I was reminded by Jeff David that food is good – but I’m trying to avoid anything deep fried, so I must refrain from the photos on his website.

While poetry is generally not my thing, I always enjoy Caroline Gavin’s refreshing prose and her radio shows – of which I was honored to be invited to be interviewed a while back. She is a great hostess, check out her shows.

Because of Farnoosh Brock’s newsletter on juicing vs. blending, I finally took action and tried the following reciepe – which was very good despite what my family had to say about the consistency and color:

– 2 cups spinach leaves, 1 small avocado (or half a large one), 1 banana, 1/2 cup water (I had to add about another 1/4th to get it to pour)

Miles calls it “green poop.” That doesn’t help when you are about to drink a glass.

Until I can get ahold of a good juicer, I will be playing around with blending.

As much as I like to get stuff out of my head by writing – and hope that others are inspired – it is even more important for me to be reading, learning, commenting, and supporting others in the same line of work.

It is rare that we have a great epiphany whilst being entrapped by our own thoughts and actions. But when we are more focused on others, we are able to subconsciously reflect, learn, grow, mature, change, and develop.

Have a great week and I hope others pay it forward to you with a compliment, a thank you, or another kind deed. And I hope you can find a way to do the same for another. I’ll be looking out for more opportunities myself.

Where Does the Sidewalk Finally End?

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends. ~ Shel Silverstein

by Pete Ferguson

As a child I often read the poems of Shel Silverstein and dreamed the wide open dreams of a child’s innocence. I pictured where the end of the world was, and as “Uncle Shel” suggests – where the sidewalk finally ends.

I searched in India – but instead of sidewalks there were many social and caste barriers. I searched in China – but there were too many sidewalks and McDonald’s. I searched throughout Europe and across North America. But I kept finding more and more structure and sidewalks – defined paths where society mandates we should walk.

Yesterday as I tried a different way to work I wandered down a new road where I had not been before and found this sign.

The memories of childhood daydreams flooded back. The limitless potential of what I could become in this life returned, and I have no regrets.

I’ve spent considerable time throughout the world traveling, experiencing, working, and meeting wonderful people – and learning from them. It has broadened my perception on many issues and provided new ideas and thoughts I had not considered before.

Secretly and playfully in the back of my mind I was always searching for where the “sidewalk ends” – where the paved world ceases and the world of imagination takes hold, releasing all barriers and limits on creativity and what the world “should” be.

Little did I know, the official end of the sidewalk was so close to my childhood home.

I didn’t have to search the world for it, although I continue to enjoy the journey.

This year I also met “Uncle Shel,” but didn’t realize it.

Often in this blog I have referred to Dan Miller, author, coach and someone who has shown me where the sidewalk ends in the constrained world of what many of us have been taught about “work.” Dan’s permission to leave the “sidewalk” has allowed me to dream about new ideas and opportunities.

When I was at Dan’s property in May, I met his son, Jared Angaza. At the time I couldn’t place why he looked so familiar, why someone younger than I brought about a nostalgic feeling. But this morning as I looked for pictures of Shel, I immediately understood… (and hope Jared will forgive me)

Jared has searched the world for where the sidewalk ends and has broken many barriers of how the world thinks about Africa, philanthropy, and hopeless women driven to prostitution.

Jared lives in Africa and instead of begging for donations for his ministry, he has worked with widowed women driven to prostitution as the only means by which they thought they could survive after losing their husbands to the internal strifes within their country.

“We made a commitment early on that we’ll never treat our artisans as charity cases. We will not let their past define their future. We will give them a voice and a path to experiencing dignity.” ~ Jared Angaza

Using what many might mistakenly refer to as garbage, they transform scraps of paper into beautiful and unique one-of-a-kind jewelry which is then marketed in America as chic fashion.

“The process takes the paper detritus of Rwanda — whether it’s school folders, film festival posters or paper company waste — and rolls, strings and glues it, then lacquers it with a wood varnish for durability and shine. The result is a collection of stunningly elegant and earthy pieces that look both tribal and modern.” – Nashville Scene

Just as the paper is repurposed to something beautiful and of great value, the women’s lives are also transformed as they become independent and successful artisans and business women.

Talk about the sidewalk ending and a whole new world of possibilities opening!

Where does the sidewalk end for you and what new beginnings are awaiting where the structured lines of society fade to wide open possibilities?

Life should be deliberate. Our peace, happiness and attitude should not be circumstantial. We choose it. Or we don’t. Ultimately, we all do exactly what we want. It’s just a matter of how much we want it. ~ “Uncle” Jared Angaza

 

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Stop Eating Your Brain!

“Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents … When we stop playing, we start dying.” ~ Stuart Brown, MD, “Play.” (pages 49 & 73)

by Pete Ferguson

The Sea Squirt is the coach potato of the sea, sitting in a stream of nutrients with no activity until it literally devours its own primitive cerebral ganglia “brain.”

As a “tadpole,” however, the Sea Squirt’s tiny brain is active as it seeks out nutrients, moving about, exploring and growing.

As the Sea Squirt develops into an adult, it attaches permanently to a rock or a boat’s hull or pilings where the passing current will provide enough nutrients to survive.

Don’t Be a Sea Squirt

I’ve had those times in life when I found a job that supplied just enough to get by. The goal was to exist, get paid, eat, sleep, wake up and exist another day. The weekend was a quick reprieve, and then back to the grindstone.

Hopefully this does not describe your current position, if it does, it is time to detach from the hull of someone else’s boat and get moving!

Follow Your Passion in Life

Author and mentor Dan Miller will never retire in the traditional sense, because there is nothing to retire from. He has found the intersection of play and work and his life’s ambition is to help others do the same.

Dan lives on a 10 acre “Gentleman’s Farm” in Franklin, Tennessee. He writes and career coaches out of a converted barn which has been christened “The Sanctuary.”

Throughout the week, Dan will have many hours devoted to reading, writing, consulting and podcasting. But he will also have many hours of “play” hanging out with his granddaughters, exploring his property, moving wood chips about with his tractor and going to lunch regularly with people who just need to talk about their frustrations in feeling “stuck” in their current career.

Many of Dan’s activities would be considered wasting time in a corporate setting. But Dan has described how some of his best ideas have developed while on the tractor or watching the animals walk through his property. And the measuring stick for his ideas is a large one – in his podcasts he often references a product needing to generate a million dollars or more.

Forget the “c-suite” corner office, Dan’s Sanctuary is the ultimate office and has allowed him to changes the lives of countless others.

Play More – Live Longer

Play is the key to longevity and enjoyment in life. On pages 72 & 73 of Stuart Brown’s book “Play:”

A study done in Okinawa, Japan, by the National Geographic Society revealed that engaging in activities like playing with young children was as important as diet and exercise in fostering the Okinawans’ legendary longevity … When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over – things fall apart … When we stop playing, we start dying.”

Tomorrow I’ll breakdown the various states of play, and hopefully – like me – you will be surprised at what is considered play and give yourself permission to engage in a lot more play!

Learn: Are you currently spending the majority of your time enjoying what you do? If not, what would you describe as your perfect day (after the sleeping all day, reading and doing “nothing” gets boring on a vacation, what do you like to “do?”)

Act: Get out and play today, even if that means 10 minutes on a break walking outside and watching birds fly, pigeons peck at the park, or just taking a brisk walk.

Share: If you are not living your ultimate desires – most of us are not yet – who is? Talk to that person, read about them, find out how they made the transition.

Commit: Commit now that you are not going to just sit in a nursing home and veg the remainder of your days when you “retire” (i.e. Give Up) at the end of your corporate existence!

Photo Credits:

Book Credits:

Getting People to Want to Know You Better

Every week you have the opportunity to meet new people, share a little about yourself, and learn more about them. Regardless of the facts of your life, how you frame your perspective will have a lot to do with how much longer the relationship will last.

Author, Career Coach Dan Miller

by Pete Ferguson

Whether you are hunting for a new job, looking for a date, or just hanging out, there are countless opportunities in a day to meet someone new. Online, in person, over the phone, how you project your personality is the tipping point in how to get people to like you.

I’m not talking about lying or manipulating a situation, I’m under the assumption that you are a likable person. What I am talking about is the attitude and perspective you employ in how you approach others.

Friend and author Dan Miller, explained this well in his new book, Wisdom Meets Passion:

“What do you tell people when you first meet them? Like anyone else, I can tell my life story as a healthy version or a victim version.”

I grew up in a home where we didn’t even have running water until I was in the 8thgrade. I knew nothing but poverty. As a 5-yr-old I was forced to get up at 5:30 AM to do my share of the farming chores. Most Christmases I got a new pair of blue jeans – my one pair for the coming year. Because of my parents’ legalistic religious beliefs I was not allowed to go to movies, dances or sporting events. Our home was rigid and somber – little laughter. I received zero in financial help from my parents. I hated the cold weather in Ohio. If only I had been born into a family with more opportunity –

Or

In my family we learned how to make good use of everything – nothing was wasted. We grew our own food and I created toys from things other families discarded. As a small boy I had the opportunity to experience real work and to begin my commitment to work that was meaningful – and profitable. With no TV or radio in our house I became an avid reader and that opened me up to a wealth of wisdom and knowledge … The creativity and ingenuity I experienced as a child has served me in a thousand ways in helping me “see” opportunities others miss.

Both of Dan’s versions of his life are equally true, but which account makes you want to get to know Dan more?

“What is your story? Even if you lost your job, your dog died, you’ve got heartburn and they repossessed the truck – what story do you want to be replaying in your mind to move to a higher level of success? What picture are you presenting to others? If you’re telling yourself an unhealthy story of your life it will perpetuate the same reality. Creating a healthy story could change the way you see your life – and the way others see and respond to you.”

Very true Dan, thanks for the illustrative reminder. Our attitude and perspective are the one thing we can control regardless of a situation.

Training is Your Competitive Edge

Whether you are self-employed or working for a corporation, training is your competitive edge to your future success. It sets you apart from the competition, boosts your confidence, and moves you into future success.

by Pete Ferguson

According to USA Today’s August 10th newspaper, companies are cutting back in training. This is causing a skills gap, which makes it harder for companies to find new qualified workers.

It is a self perpetuating circle. Companies have fewer funds for training, so turnover is higher.

“Firms have grown weary of paying workers to gain skills only to watch them soon defect to competitors.” ~ Susan Cantrell, Accenture consultant.

But I see an upside not mentioned in the article. If you are an employer, the more training you provide, the better you can attract quality employees. If you are self-employed, now is the time to increase your personal development to get an edge on the competition.

“Employers want people to hit the ground running. They don’t want to train anybody” ~ Peter Cappeli, Wharton School of Management Professor.

Even the government has dropped funding this year for training unemployed workers by 16% compared to five years ago.

And if you are an employee, student, or stay-at-home mom or dad, now is the time to open your own ME University for ongoing development and training. Because if you do not open it and start attending, no one else will.

So, how do you start? How much money will you need?

You start today, and given that you are reading this blog online, you already have the internet, so you have all the equipment you need.

Find a topic you have always wanted to know more about. Find articles, blogs, and communities who share the same desire. Pick out someone who has been wildly successful in the field and find out which books they read, which blogs they follow.

Then, keep a journal or blog on what you learn. Much of blog writing is more for the development of the author than the reader. This forum allows me to write, open dialogue, and reference what matters to me today. The other great thing about a blog is that you provide training for others through your own self-exploration.

If you are currently employed, look around you at work. There likely are training programs regardless of cutbacks of which you can and should take advantage. There are always people in your department with more experience, or there are peers within other organizations.

Learn: Identify two areas where you want to further develop. If you are stuck, consider investing in taking the 48 Days Personality Profile. It will help identify your strengths, and where others may perceive you as struggling.

Act: Make a plan to learn more, be more, do more.

Share: Talk to a mentor, be a mentor. Write in a journal or blog to further explore your thoughts.

Credits:

Training Cutbacks Thwart Jobless, Paul Davidson, USA Today. August 10, 2012