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As a native Bostonian (or at least Bay Stater), I often meet people who are from another part of the country and state that Bostonians are cold and mean, unlike people from other parts of the country, and that I’m “different and not like them”. I counter that I’m exactly like the other natives here, but as I have to translate concepts so often in my work, I’m better able to articulate the differences to others in terms they understand. After a particularly interesting talk I ad on Friday (thanks David!), I figured that it world probably be best for me to put my thoughts on writing. This post is basically a continuation or further development of my post on Chilly New Englanders.

My main point is that New Englanders have good boundaries. Sometimes a little to recalcitrant and difficult to penetrate, but they are are a part of who we are. We’re pretty aware of others and when we’re being invited in, and when we’re bring intruded. We give people space and wait for them to give us a signal. This Is very different from the warm welcome that most people from the Southern US do automatically. A comment I heard from a Southerner is that they want to be seen as welcoming. From a Northerner’s perspective, it’s an invasion. We want to know who we’re talking to, and what connections there might be.  My mind goes back to a very old formality that used to be common: The Calling Card.

It used to be in ages past, if you were going into a new city or starting in a new community, you would bring a calling card with you that introduced you to people and it would be from someone that they already had a relationship with.  You then knew that this new person was one that you already had something in common with.  While it might have been one of “good breeding” back in those days, a big thing was that you could talk about the same things.

In our modern times, we have the same thing.  Think about Yelp, Amazon, or any of the major social media sites.  You can ask about a business, product, or person, and figure out what their reputation is.  You don’t just pick up any book, movie, restaurant menu, etc.  You’re usually looking to see if you have some connection to it.  Has this actor performed in something else you liked?  Does the owner of this restaurant own another one your friend ate at and liked?  In our world, we’re constantly looking for references.  Just in New England, we tend to still do it for social reasons.  Does this person also like the Red Sox?  Does she also knit?  Does he do genealogy?  We’re looking to see if we have something in common, so we know we’ve got a good likelihood of getting along.

So, where do you get your references?


Still Speaking Comma, United Church of Christ

A number of years ago, the United Church of Christ started a campaign called “Still Speaking” and it was inspired by a quote by Gracie Allen, who said “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” The concept here is that there’s a whole bunch more to be learned in this world, and those that say we’ve heard it all and the “truth has been told”, never to be challenge, are missing a lot.  I’m not a UCC member, but I always respected that church and what they were trying to do to bring a little balance to the radical evangelicals who have been telling everyone who can hear that they have the answers and people should not trust their own experiences. <off soapbox>

This idea has really struck with me in a career development sense, especially as it relates to networking and building relationships.  I like to tell my clients that they should try to have every conversation that they have with people end in a comma, not a period.  Commas signify that there will be things still to come.  Periods signify that things have ended.  The goal for all professional (as well as personal!) relationships is that there is a future to be had, and you need to keep engaged in the conversation.

This is especially true when people are looking for a job.  A common mistake that I see is that people use a lot of period-ending questions, like “Do you have a job opening?”.  Most likely, the answer will be “No” and that ends the conversation.  If instead, you asked a comma-ending question like “I’m looking to find out more about Company X.  Where would you recommend that I look, or who could I talk to who can lead me to more information?”  That type of question will keep the conversation going, as there are more options, and it can take you in many different directions.

I would say that this tactic could be more helpful in all of our conversations, as it gives some breathing room to the person being asked (no one likes to say No all the time!) and it forces the question asker to be open to information that might not be what was expected.

So, what is your best comma-ending question you’ve used?

Many people seem to think that there is supposedly one correct way to write a resume and a cover letter, but nobody every tells you how to do it. I like to say that there isn’t one right way, but many right ways. My guiding advice is to consider who your audience is, and present your material in the same way that that audience likes to present information. Going for a graphic design job? You might want to make your resume more stylized and designed. If not, it will look like you don’t have a good eye for design. Want to be an editor? Better make sure that you are consistent in every part of the document. If you can’t do it here, how can you do it for them?

In working with people on resumes, I see a lot of different ways to present what you have to offer, and one thing that I see misused (in my humble opinion) is the bullet point. I cannot tell you how many people have come in to talk with me and said that they’ve always heard that you should only use bullet points on resumes. I think that this way of thinking really doesn’t serve the bullet point well, and diminishes it power. (This is similar to the argument that a resumes should always be one page). While in many circumstances this is true, it’s not always the case. It depends upon context, with the context here being the audience.

I like to say that a bullet has advantages and drawbacks. The advantage to a bullet is that:

  • It makes something stand out and say “Here! Look at me! I’m important!”

A bullet has a few drawbacks though:

  • A bullet takes up a lot of space
  • It’s indented
  • You waste space on short lines
  • You have bigger margins
  • Lines run over, Lines run over and then you have just one word on the next line
  • If everything is bulleted and is saying here look at me I’m important, nothing is saying look at me I’m important
  • Having too many bullets makes it seem like a paragraph that the reader has to sift through
  • I’ll just add a few more bullets here to hammer home the point
  • I’ll just add a few more bullets here to hammer home the point
  • I’ll just add a few more bullets here to hammer home the point

So if you made it through that example of Death By Bullet Point, you may or may not have seen the most important things to get across. To bring them out, I’m going to give them some space:

  • If everything is bulleted and is saying here look at me I’m important, nothing is saying look at me I’m important
  • Having too many bullets makes it seem like a paragraph that the reader has to sift through

Bullets are like salt in a dish: use them just enough to enhance the main dish. If you overuse them, it overwhelms everything else.

I like to say that the perfect number for bullet points is 3. People can only hold three thoughts in their consciousness at one time. Any more than that, and it just looks like a big paragraph that takes up a lot of space. It also helps you to mentally edit by thinking “Okay, what’s really the most important thing to get across?” That’s where bullets really shine.

So, what are the things in your life that deserve bullet points?

We’ve all been hearing a lot about this Winter Solstice being the end of the long range Mayan Calendar, and many are interpreting this as being “the end of the world”. I don’t know that many actually believe this are are doing apocalyptic planning like we’ve seen with so many religious zealots pronouncements before. I think that it’s been the impetus for more End of the World parties than anything else. We have our calendars that we put up on our walls every year, and we don’t think that it’s the end of the world every year. Imagine if you had to carve your calendars out of stone! You’d surely only make it so big, especially if you were dealing with as long a calendar as the Mayans were.

I saw a picture earlier on Facebook that had a man with the sign “The Beginning is Near”. I really like that one, as it focuses more on the fact that you can think of this as the start of something, and we all tend to like the possibilities of new things (why do you think we are always shopping so much and hoping that new shirt/house/car/spouse will finally bring us happiness?) There have been many more people that I’ve been seeing that are using this time to envision a time of a new vision of life, and I think that we’re seeing that in the world in general. Granted, there are many who are scared at things changing and are doing their best to hold back the tide of change (our most recent election and the reaction of many is proof of that.) As many of us know, it’s usually the resistance to what is that creates the most pain, and I think that a lot of the fear and pain in our society comes from people who want things to be one way when they are actually another. Look at how much money is being poured into voter suppression and marriage equality efforts. That’s coming out of a fear-based standpoint. These people are so attached to their own position that they can’t see the reality of what’s in front of them.

As I think most people are pain-averse, it would be actually easier to just accept what’s going on, and see what we can do with it. One group that is doing something more positive is Birth2012, and they are designating December 20-22 as Three Days of Love. How can we try to view everything and all people we come in contact with from a loving standpoint? While that sounds pie-in-the-sky, it does speak to are we really intentional about what we’re doing and thinking, and can we actually approach people with best intentions. I’m trying it, and would encourage you to also. What could be so bad about that?

So, what are you starting new this epoch?  Bright Solstice to you all!

A number of years ago, I was at an organizational development workshop where we brought in an improvisational comedy troupe to give us some training on improv techniques.  I remember is being very cool and somewhat freeing, as the whole thing was about “Yes, and..”, which is sort of the equivalent of playing verbal hacky sack.  You’re trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, and it’s very light hearted.  Also, you have to be very present about where you are and what’s going on, as you don’t know what’s going to come next and be ready.

As I have been doing my own personal development (as well as professional development) work, I’ve noticed that this concept can help you in all sorts of areas.  One thing that I’ve said over and over is that I’m a firm believer in reality.  I wish I were six feet tall, but I’m not, so what can I do with what I’ve got.  I’m not going to be 25 again, so how can I be the best middle aged man I can be.  You can’t deny what’s here, but it’s best to play with what you’ve got. It’s also accepting the personal power that you have within the situation.  You are powerful if you have control over your own actions in the moment, and don’t give them away to others.

I was thrilled when I found the YouTube video of Jane Lynch‘s Address at the Smith College 2012 Commencement.  In this, she expands on the topic of “Yes, and..” to state that we have to accept what we’ve got, and see what creative opportunities we can do with.  I invite you to watch the video and see how you can think about including more spontaneity and possibility in your life.

So, when was the last time you said “Yes, and..”?

“A Tale from the Decameron,” by John William Waterhouse, 1916

One of the things that I’m always talking about is the need to be a story teller in your job search.  You always have to retell the stories of your past accomplishment, experiences, and adventures in the working world to people who weren’t there.  Otherwise, they would already know you and wouldn’t have to ask!

There are many ways to tell a story, and in the job search, it will come out in certain ways: in your resume, your cover letter, the interview, your tweets, your online portfolio, your Facebook wall, when I google your name, what someone else tells me about you, etc.  The thing is that you need to know your stories first before you know which format to put them in.  I find that a great number of my clients want me to help them with their resumes, but they don’t know what stories to tell.  As I see it, there are three levels of the story of you:

  1. You in Your Essence: On the highest possible level, who do you say you are, and what do you want people to think of you.  You can think of this in some way to be in line with your vision of yourself, but it could manifest itself in many ways.
  2. You in the Roles of Your Life: You as a college student is different from you in your current job.  You have the story of you in each of your jobs, in every volunteer leadership role, and you as the captain of your middle school basketball team. How do you want to be known in each of these?
  3. You in the Projects You’ve Accomplished: Within each of your roles, you done some projects.  Those projects might have been big (running a convention) or small (writing a press release) but they were all projects that had a beginning, middle, and an end.  These are the stories that are easy enough to tell and get your point across about how you can help others.

What I’ve found is that many people are trying to tell a story about them at their essence (I’m great! I have great skills!), but it’s so vague that it doesn’t come across as meaningful, interesting or compelling. It’s really only in the stories about the projects you’ve accomplished that you can really make an impression.  They build up to the areas of your essence and your roles. (For thoughts about how to tell your story, check out my post about Fairy Tales and telling your story.)

Granted, you will tell your stories differently depending on the audience, but that’s an entirely differently blog post.

So, do you know who you want to tell your stories to, and what stories you want to tell?

Hello blogging world!

Ken at Taos Plaza, Taos, New Mexico, August 2012

I know, I’ve been a bit AWOL for a while.  I’ve had an amazing summer where I was traveling a lot and had a lot of adventures.  I went to New York State, New Brunswick, Provincetown (yes, there will be the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge post for that!), Kentucky, and New Mexico.  I have not tended to be a big traveler, but this year was different, and I was trying something new.  It has been a great experience with new learnings, and you will be seeing comments and pictures about them on this blog.

That being said, I’ve let you, and most importantly myself, down by not keeping up with blog posts.  Writing down my thoughts and comments on spirit, passion, and career is not only a way to put my thoughts in concrete form and promote my ideas to you (and any potential clients), but also a spiritual practice.  In the zen practice of every action you take can be mindful and promote your spiritual health, I’ve been blogging to keep myself focused and active in mind.  I’ve been more active in body this summer with all the traveling, and I have gotten better with being more consistent with my yoga and meditation practices.  That is a good thing, and I’m happy for that.

I can’t change the past, and it does absolutely no good to get down on myself for avoiding this, as I won’t be a better blogger now because I have a judgmental voice in my head.  I can just be kind to myself and move on forward.

So, how are you being kind to yourself and acknowledging your past shortcomings?

Ken at Swede Road, Little Ridge, New Brunswick, Canada, July 2012

Ken at Beach Point Landing, Truro, Massachusetts, July 2012

I just had a great time in New Brunswick and Mount Desert Island, Maine on a trip to find some family roots.  I had a lot of plans, and was recommended by a good friend (Thanks Scott!) to be more in the moment.  Here are my thoughts on that in video form.

So, have you gotten a great opportunity just because you were present to it?


It’s past Memorial Day, so in these parts it means that summer is officially in session. I know that many people have a reading list for the summer. I have not been one of those people. I don’t tend to read books as a “start here, finish book, start the next” type of reader. I tend to pick up about four or five books and read them spottily and sometime finish them, sometimes not.

My bookshelf has been crammed with books that I thought would be great to read, but I’ve never gotten to them. In the quest to be more intentional and to actually do things that I say I want to do, I’ve decided to publish my summer reading list and write a review of each book after I’m finished. I don’t tend to read fiction and as you’ll see most of them have something to do with spiritual, career, or productivity matters (or all three at once!) I wish I liked to read fiction, but as you see they are all non-fiction

Here are the books that I’ve decided I want to try to finish this summer:

  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: This book has been suggested to me more times that I can imagine from so many people, and I understand this is about how we can be with our creative selves.
  • Transitions by William Bridges: Career development is all about changes, and this is the standard book in my field. I’ve never read it before, so this is sort of my “good medicine” that I really need to experience.

  • Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal Stone & Sidra Stone: I, like so many, have some internal issues to work though, and this book was recommended by my friend Elsa (a mental health counselor) as a good resource for looking at this issue.
  • Planets in Work by Jamie Binder: Another recommendation from Elsa. I have been researching archetypes, and I’ve been looking at how those show up in astrological readings. This looks at how astrology could be used in career development decisions.
  • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle: This book was given to me by Casey Miller and he read this many times on his cross country bike trip. I’ve seen videos of Tolle speaking, but never read any of his works. It’s about time.
  • Awakening in Time by Pamela Kristan: I was at a presentation Pam gave at the Theosophical Society of Boston, and Pam’s work has to do with the intersection of productivity and spirituality. As you can imagine, this is right up my alley. I had to see how I can incorporate her ideas into my work.
  • Living & Loving Well by Joseph Stuczynski: Joe presented at Easton Mountain a few years ago, and his work focuses on getting clear with our values in order to make good decisions in our lives, especially about our personal relationships. This is more of a workbook to clarify your goals, so this should be a quick win in getting it done!
  • Mastering Respectful Confrontation by Joe Weston: Joe is an amazing human being and presenter, and I have been to numerous workshops that he has done, and this book puts done in words what he preaches. Joe’s main concept is that the concept of power in our culture has gotten to be connected more with physical strength and power over others, and he bases his alternative vision on Easter philosophy as the power within and with other people, and how we can have conversations that empower everyone and don’t deny our own needs. This is great stuff!
  • Making It All Work by David Allen: I have been a “Getting Things Done” (GTD) fan for a number of years, as David Allen’s philosophy about personal productivity is all about how to free yourself from the stress of life and having a “mind like water” so that you can easily accomplish things in your life without fretting about them. I was lucky enough to attend a seminar last year that David personally taught, and Making It All Work is the continuation of those theories.
  • How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy! by Paul Chek: In 2008, I was part of an online weight loss challenge through (which I won!) and DIAKADI Body was the exercise consultants on this. Though continuing to follow their great advice, I found out about Paul Chek’s work, which integrates the concepts of health, exercise, and nutrition with a more holistic & spiritual sense that really attracted me. I don’t know it so well, but have liked what I’ve seen.
  • Mindfulness by Ellen Langer: This book was given to me by my boss back in the early 1990’s, and while I’m obviously interested in it, I never finished this book that was one of the first on the subject. It’s time. Thanks Dave!
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert: Dan’s research into what makes us really happy (as opposed to what we say makes us happy) has been really enlightening to me, as I work with people to get at the core of their happiness.
  • Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good by Manuel Villacorta: In the aforementioned weight loss challenge, Manuel’s crew at MV Nutrition in San Francisco was invaluable to giving me the knowledge to eat better and lose weight. This is a new book that just came out last month, and again, I need to read it to remind myself of all the knowledge that I’ve learned (and maybe forgotten!) I highly, highly recommend that you pick up this book!

I might not get them all finished by Labor Day but it’s an intention (not at goal!).

So, what are you reading? Do you have any comments or experiences with any of these books?

I was recently at an presentation at the Association of Career Professionals International – New England where they had a panel of recruiters from some very large organizations. The topic was the new world of recruiting in the current internet age and how recruiters at companies are finding talent now differently than they where in the past. While there were many traditional ways presented, the one that really got my attention was the new role of Sourcer in the recruiting practice.

The traditional way that employment specialists used to work is that they would review the applications they received to find the best candidate from the pile. As the Internet age exploded and more and more candidates applied, technology grew to where recruiters were getting more sophisticated in searching for key words and other indicators in a resume that the candidate had the applicable background. This new approach is that recruiters are no longer limited by the people who see and apply to a position, but Sourcers will actively go out and find people who have the skills regardless of whether they know about the company or the job opening.

Some of the recruiters mentioned that in their employment organizations, there were twice as many Sourcers as Recruiters.

So, what does a Sourcer do? Research, and mostly on line. Whether scouring LinkedIn profiles (you do have a LinkedIn profile, don’t you?) or attending meetings and learning who are the hot people in a field. They are the ones who find people even before a job is posted. They make it their business to know the best candidates, get to know them, and get to know the people who know them to get referrals.

I like to say that these people are the Public Relations function of Recruiting. The definition of PR that I like to use is putting a good impression of the product or service into the customer’s mind even before the customer is thinking about making a purchase. These people do all the prework of the hiring process and it is good for you to know how they work.

How does this affect you? Well, do you have enough information out there do that people can find you and know what you’re good at? Can anyone else say how good you are and tell your story? Also, if you’re good at researching and know your way around the Internet, it could be a great new job opportunity. (Hello journalists!)

So, are you making yourself known to sources in your field?

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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