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In our new world of social media, there are numerous new ways that we can be in contact with friends, business connections, high school classmates, and random people that we met at a party nine months ago. While two if the most prominent networks online are LinkedIn (for professional contacts or friends who you don’t mind vouching for) and Facebook (for friends, sort-of friends, random one-time contacts, etc.), there are numerous other social websites that look to connect people who share particular interests. Two that I currently and involved with are GTD Connect (for people working on productivity issues using the GTD philosophy) and Real Jock (a sports and fitness website for gay men).  These are places that you can find people who have the same interests as you and share ideas. There’s a site for just about every interest; many which I am sure would surprise you as to its narrowness of focus.

In just about each of these site, there’s an opportunity to make a connection to another person. Whether it’s called a friend, link, buddy, co-worker, or whatever, it’s your way of saying that this is someone that you have a mutual understanding that you share some experience.

I have found that there are two types of approaches to this: the “open networker” and the “I-take-the-phrase-friend-seriously connector”. The Open Networker is one who sees social networking as way to expand a network and figures they will get to know you when you get into your inner circle. The other is one where they aren’t going to admit you to their secret club until you’ve already got a relationship developed outside of the venue.

There are plusses and minuses to each, and it can vary for each person within the different settings. It also depends on how you want to be seen in the world. I don’t tend to be an open networker, as I want to be able to speak with some knowledge if someone asks me about someone I’m connected with. If I really don’t know them, then 1) I won’t have a lot to say if someone asks me about them, and 2) if I want to engage them in some way, they don’t know me and will be less likely to help.So, here’s how I manage my connections in the three largest social networking sites:

LinkedIn: I only connect with people who I have had personal or professional interactions (in person or on line) previous to our connecting. I also need to feel that I could speak highly about them if asked for a recommendation. Since everyone can see your connections, you are as credible as the company you keep. If I don’t know you, I can’t recommend you.

Twitter: I’m happy to have as many people connect with me on Twitter as possible! That’s where I try to put a public face on what I do, both personally and professional.  Feel free to follow me at https://twitter.com/kenmattsson.

Facebook: I have two places on Facebook to connect.

  • The Spirit-Work Connection: This is my group where I post about issues that I think are important to think about where you intersect with the work you to and the spirit you are.  I post meditations daily and links to resources that I think can help people.  I encourage everyone (that means you!) to join the Spirit-Work Connection.  It’s open to everyone, whether I have a strong personal connection or not.
  • My personal Facebook Account: This is where I write about all sorts of things that come to mind.  I limit this to people who I know personally outside of Facebook.

I’m more of the “get to know me first” type guy. Once I get to know you, I’ll can let you in (guess it’s the chilly New Englander in me!) Granted, you can also subscribe to this blog, and get to know me more here.  Even better, post a comment about something I’ve said.

If you ask to connect with me, and I don’t know you, I’ll probably ask you where we know each other from.  That will force you to say “oh, we don’t know each other.” Then I’ll probably refer you to this blog post. 🙂

I want to manage my reputation in the world, and part of my reputation is the people I surround myself with. If I don’t know you, then I can’t be sure.  I’m sure you’re great, but until I know that, I’ll play coy.

So, how are you managing who you’re connected with?

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I’ve got a beard now, and I’ve had it for almost two years. I grow a good beard and I’ve been encouraged over the past few decades to grow it. The problem was always that at about three weeks time, I would want to to tear my face off as it would get so itchy (and my face would break out). I have a lot of friends who have beards (and really think that all men look better with beards) and I would tell them that I was about to shave off my beard because if the itching. With great fervor, they would insist that I just grow it out and it wouldn’t itch anymore.  It never worked for me, as I’d last at most a month.

Finally, I grew it out and I tried something different.  I noticed that a lot of guys would now have their beards really short, and I thought it looked really cool.  I got a shaver with the trimmer guide, and just kept my beard to about a seven days growth.  Surprise, I didn’t itch.  Found out that I’ve got very curly beard hair, and by growing it longer, it would curl back into my face and make me itch.  Whereas for other guys, growing their beard out would make it more comfortable, for me it’s the opposite.

In navigating our career paths, many times we get recommendations from people that work for them, but don’t work for us, and many times they are absolutely sure are know the right thing.  This goes to show that you really have to look at what is your own situation, what works for you, and what doesn’t.  That’s one reason that I work with so many people in asking the “What do you want?” question.  Until you know more about what’s important to you and your own situational specifics, it’s hard to know where to go.

So, how do you know what recommendations to take?

Note: Remember about my Finding Your Calling Workshop at Easton Mountain, March 18-20, 2011!  Tell your friends!

When I was growing up in my little home town about 20 miles west of Boston, I grew up thinking that everything inside Rte 128 (the ring road about 10 miles outside of the city) was filled with skyscrapers and people with knives. My mother was very scared of the city and she instilled that fear in us. We could go in occasionally, but it always felt like we were ready for an attack at any moment. The real revelation to me was when my sister and I started to go into a dance group at MIT weekly, meet different people who lived there (and many who had lived in different places around the world) and we got to see that it wasn’t a more dangerous place than our little town, but just one with more and different people.

That emboldened me to spread my wings a lot more. I went to college in Upstate New York (it was always expected that I would go to a state school), worked for a summer in Germany, and lived in Taiwan for a year studying Mandarin Chinese and teaching English. I definitely got over that fear in my life to go and try different places.

There have been other parts of my life that I’ve been recently seeing that I have the same sort of fear. Can I be truly and fully me and have people accept me? Can I be bold in stating what I want? Can I move forward with things when I dint know what the future will hold?  These questions have many times stopped me from doing things, contemplating things, or trying things out.

I see thus a lot with my clients in that they want to change their lives bit there is some fear that is just keeping them frozen. The worst part about it usually is that they don’t know they are in fear. Fear seems to be stealth and show up when we don’t realize it.

If you are acting our of fear, you are not in touch with your own personal power, and then you will always react to others’ stimuli instead of working toward your own goals.

So, what are you afraid of, and what is it keeping you from doing? Are you practicing being afraid, or practicing being powerful?

I’m just returned from my vacation at Gay Spirit Camp at Easton Mountain, and am in that phase of trying to reintegrate myself back into my life here, but also integrate the special things I got from my experiences. I took some great workshops, met some great new friends, reacquainted myself with established friends, and really just tried to be in the moment and not have an agenda (granted my playful self had an agenda which was to not have an agenda.)

Here are some random thoughts about what I got out of the week-long retreat:

I, and about everyone in our society, is touch-starved. For a whole week, I would get a hug just about every 10 feet I would walk. The culture there is one of not denying the body as part of your spiritual self and safe, respectful touch is encouraged. I had some lovely hour long talks in the main hammock while cuddling with some new friends (thanks each to Scott and Jim) and also took a workshop on Hugging as a Spiritual Practice.

When we deny part of who we are, we are so much smaller for it. I took a great workshop on Respectful Confrontation with Joe Weston, and my major learning for myself is that I need to be on environments that let me be all there. That includes work, relationships, friendships, housing, activities, etc. I might not be big physically (only 5’7″) but I’m big energetically.  I need to be in spaces where I don’t deny myself that.

One of my main goals of the week was not to rush. I normally am very goal oriented and find myself in these weeks thinking “By the end of the week I’ll be relaxed “. I decided this time to try being relaxed the entire time. I limited myself to one workshop a day, made sure I had time for lying in hammocks or having a leisurely conversation.  I needed to practice this so that I can get better at it in the rest of my life.  I’m finding that practice comes up in every facet of my life, whether it’s music, exercise, relationships, work, anything.

What have you learned from this summer that you can take into the Fall? What are you practicing?

It’s been a while since I posted my last blog post, as I was on vacation in Newfoundland with my father. It’s been a long journey to get to this trip, and I feel like with it, I’m coming to a new chapter in my life.

As many know, I lost my mother last September after a long battle with lung, heart, and immune system illnesses that she’d been fighting for most of her life. She finally had a heart attack which caused her to lose blood flow to her brain, and the family had to make the decision to take her off life support. As she was a real fighter, it took four agonizing days for her to finally pass on. Those says were very difficult for me, my Dad, brother and sister.

During that time, I knew that it was going to be very difficult for my Dad. They had been together for 53 years, and I wanted to have something positive for him to look forward to and not just loss. I had gone in 2007 to Sweden to visit all the villages where the family came from. My mother’s entire family and my Dad’s father’s family all came from there. The only part of the puzzle I was missing was my Dad’s mother’s family who came from Renews, Newfoundland. I proposed to him that we go and made all the arrangements.

It was a great trip and I learned a lot, and it was good to spend time with my Dad. I didn’t get to do everything that I wanted, but that’s reason enough to go back. This trip was me being tour guide for Dad and for him to have this experience. What is really noticeable for me is that this seems to close a couple of chapters in my life. I’ve been to all the ancestral home places (those where items on my bucket list) and the final remnant of my Mom’s death is done.

What’s next? What’s new?  All messages coming to me through meditation and friends seems to be that this is a new chapter. I probably need some more quiet time to plan and reflect, but I’m realizing that every moment is time for something new to arise.

What’s new for you?  Are you creating it it letting it happen to you?

I’ve just returned from an intensive weekend program at Easton Mountain called Authentic Eros, facilitated by Kai Ehrhardt and Don Shewey. I had heard great things about this program and knew that it would force me to look at myself more closely to see how I was being in my interactions with other men.

I came onto this workshop with the intention of being present all the time. Like many others on this high speed world of ours, I tend to always be thinking about many more things than what I’m doing at the moment. While my meditation practice has helped me be more centered, it’s much harder for me when I’m out in the “real world” and have more inputs.

We also did a lot of exercises on saying what you want and negotiating when that doesn’t align with others wants. This is a big one for me. As someone in the helping profession, I want to help others, many times to the detriment of my own needs. It’s and ongoing learning process, and this took me one more step.

Some of my key learnings were:

  • I have a difficult time doing more than one thing at a time – I know this is why I like playing the hammered dulcimer (two hands doing similar movements) better than playing the guitar (two hands doing different movements).. My mind just doesn’t function well in that situation. This also got me to recognize my coping pattern of trying to build systems where things are automatically bunched together. That way, my mind thinks it’s all one action.
  • When I’m present in my body and all the voices in my head have been quieted, I can feel the rhythm of my body – We did a lot of meditative type activities (thanks Kai!) and one that really worked for me was when I was invited to take an inhalation and have the back of my pelvis go down. In all the breathing and yoga work I’ve done, I’ve always had the front of my pelvis go down. It probably just came at the right time, because it felt like my whole trunk relaxed. I then was feeling a pulse of my body like when I’m laying on the acupuncturist’s table.  This revelation felt like finally finding your balance when learning to ride a bicycle. Now at least I know what it feels like and I can shoot for getting that feeling again.
  • I tend to go out in the world with armor on – I’m finally accepting something that I’ve denied for a long time: people find me attractive. This may seem a silly thing to many of you, but it’s been something that gas been difficult for me. I’m realizing that I’m in such need of control, that I get scared if men approach me and I’m not interested. I sort of freeze up and armor myself against everyone, or at least the shields cone up when I sense “danger”. More practice needed in claiming my own power to get what I want in the world, and to gracefully decline what I doesn’t serve me.

Any similar experiences?  If you were at the retreat, please feel free to leave your own comments.

Two big things happened this weekend that really got me thinking about how I tend to mark my days. First, it was May morning, which in many traditional societies marks the beginning of summer and the bright, warm part of the year. In the Boston area, the folk/ritual dance community rises and “dances up the sun” at sunrise on May 1st (5:39 am here. It’s the only day of the year that I voluntarily get up anywhere near that early). We sing, we dance, wind ribbons around the maypole and generally rejoice that the winter is gone. This ceremony mimics those that have been done on England for centuries. Coupled with the New England Folk Festival last weekend and Lilac Sunday next weekend, it’s functioned as the end of one season and the start of another.

Additionally, we had a massive water pipe failure here on Saturday, and 2 million people in Boston were under orders to boil their water. Havoc reigned yesterday when people couldn’t get their morning coffee because Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t have the water to make it. Many people’s morning rituals were put akilter. While I don’t drink coffee (tea is the nectar of the Gods), it also put a crimp on my personal routines also. I didn’t do my meditations, and I was generally off.  Thank God the water has been played as of this morning!

Finally, I was at the Living Soulfully group in Boston (for gay men to continue their personal development started at Easton Mountain programs), and Bob Bruillard led a session on what lessons we can learn from our ancestors. In it, Bob stated that ritual is a way for us to mentally separate one experience from another. It allows us to close a chapter and start anew. It marks our days and accomplishments.

In Boston, we are now entering the times of college graduations. Students will be marking that they have accomplished something great, and looking for the next steps. For all of us, taking notice of our achievements and intentionally saying that we are moving on is a healthy way of mentally clearing our mind and moving forward.

What are you noticing and marking today? What are your rituals?

New England Stone Walll

This morning, I was riding the bus and a couple got on and was speaking very loudly so that everyone else could hear about their issues with a gutter drain (it’s been raining a lot in the Boston area lately). I was noticing that I was getting annoyed as I really couldn’t get away from their conversation. Trying to be the on-the-way-to-enlightenment kind of guy I aspire to, I asked myself why was this so triggering for me. What came up for me was that I felt like my personal space wasn’t being respected.

I’ve also recently run into a number of people who have moved to the Boston area and have mentioned about how difficult it is to meet people here. I know that we New Englanders have a reputation for being cold and unfriendly (which I never understood. I’m very friendly and I have more friends than I can keep up with). When people ask me how I know do many people, I always mention it’s from all the activities that I’m involved in (church, dancing groups, etc.) I have something in common with these people that we share, and that’s how I get to know people.

I’ve also noticed that people from “away” seen to think that just because someone is in close proximity to you, that you should get to know them. I can identify a number of people that I see quite often in my daily life, but I’ve got no reason to talk with them other than they are physically close to me. It would be really awkward for me to just go up and strike up a conversation with nothing in particular to talk about (and this is from an extrovert’s extrovert!)

While this might be appropriate in other parts, for us New Englanders it’s an intrution that goes against our “good fences make good neighbors” ethic. Call it shy, call it proper, but that’s the way we are. Demonstrate that we’ve got something else in common and we’ll talk for days.

So, what does this have to do with networking? Everything.

When you are trying to network to find out information, if you just go up to someone randomly, they might feel confronted and uncomfortable. Can you demonstrate that you’ve got something on common? Can you respect their privacy and borders by not asking too much? Can you demonstrate that it would be a benefit for me to keep the conversation going with you? If you’re approaching me yet making me work to build the connection, I’m not going to think it’s worth the effort.

So, how do you connect with people? Leave your thoughts below.

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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