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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?


Ken in Times Square, New York, 25 January 2012

It’s January 26th, and the sun is in the same spot it was many years ago when I first arrived into this world. It’s usually the coldest day of the winter (some years, the high temperature is 6 degrees Fahrenheit!). It’s Australia Day (where it’s much warmer), and also Eddie Van Halen, Wayne Gretzky, and Ellen DeGeneres‘ birthday! Auspicious all around!

I’m right now riding a bus, returning from New York City where I facilitated a networking event (which went very well, by the way) and got to get together with some friends there in New York, and I’ll soon be having dinner with a number of friends as soon as I get back. I’ve also been blessed by social media by getting literally over 150 birthday wishes, and a number of people have stated how I’ve helped them either their career development, or been there for someway personally. It’s such a blessing to be a part of these people’s live and have them in mind. I’m counting my blessings.

As many of you know, part of writing this blog, in addition to promoting my ideas about how your spirit affects how you show up in the world, has been to try out some concepts that I’ve been trying to figure out. I’ve personally been trying to “walk the talk” and do a lot of personal development work, and get clear on past demons and other things that have been holding me back. I now feel like I’ve ended one chapter of my life, and another one is starting. I know what I want, and it’s time to move forward.

This birthday is a big even number (but not a momentous one with a zero at the end) and it just feels solid to me. I’m grounded, know what I want, and have a blank slate of life ahead of me. In my retreat in the Bahamas, I was able to get some clarity on some intentions for 2012 (as opposed to goals), and one of them was to be more adventurous. I need to stretch myself and do some more daring things, travel to places I haven’t been to, and to be bolder in my own life. It’s a brave new world, and I’m starting it now.

So, what bold new things are you planning for the future?


Tree in Boston Common, December 2011

I started this blog (almost two years ago now) because I wanted to get out my ideas on the intersection of where people feel their passion and souls live and what they do in their lives to create meaning and support themselves. I’ve seen too many of my clients who are just blindly going through their professional careers who then 5, 10, 20 or even more years into it discover that they are completely unfulfilled and feel like they have been wasting their lives. It’s my goal to get as many people as possible to consider what’s important to them first before taking these steps. They might take the same actions, but this time with confidence.

I’ve also been doing a kit of personal reflection and study in my life and tried to share my learnings with all of you. Probably the greatest insight that I’ve had is one that I’ve read and heard for years, but I finally “got it”. As is probably apparent from my posts and my professional position, I’m a great proponent of planning and working your plan. I’m always looking for ways to be in control of what’s needed to be done (just look at all the posts that I have with the tags GTD, actions, goals, and the like). That’s my natural way of being and I can easily teach this to others. I’ve had to be a student of the other side, namely allowing things to happen.

I’ve been so driven to get things done that I’ve been impatient to allow things to happen. I’ve come to realize in a visceral sense (and not just intellectually) that there are too many variables in the world that I have no control over, and I have to learn how to just “be” in order to effectively deal with life’s challenges. As the saying goes “Life happens while you’re making other plans”. If I’ve been working so hard to get everything right, I’m not able to deal with what’s in front of me effectively.

In reviewing some of the data that I’ve seen from this blog, the #1 search term that brings people to my site is “human being versus human doing”. My first post on this is subject is one of my most read posts. I think that people have a great longing wondering if what they do has meaning and if there are other ways of being. As you can probably tell, it’s my work to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!”.

The first step is to practice “being”. It sounds cliche, but you have to work at slowing your mind down and just be present to the current moment. Our fast paced culture does all it can to keep us from bring present. This is not something I can just give you; it takes practice. You will screw it up a lot at the beginning. Keep trying. There are lots of different ways (yoga, meditation, prayer, serving others, etc.). Find the way that works for you and keep trying to do it and stay present.

Once you get that down, it will be much easier to actually take the action steps you need to make your dreams happen. You’ll have a focused goal and won’t have a lot if other things crowding your mind to keep you from the action steps to get them done.

So, how are you being today?

Woods Path

Everything has a shelf life: bread, yogurt, prescriptions, your body, and many relationships. As things change and morph in our world, the situations that brought things together are no longer there so strongly and we start to feel that this isn’t as comfortable or serving us like it used to. That’s when we start to get restless and start looking for something new.

While I think that this is a pretty natural process, many of my clients jump at the next thing instead of making a thoughtful transition. While you might feel in “Get me outta here!” mode, it’s best to first consider why you are feeling that way to make sure that you don’t go directly into another similar or worse situation (see my writing on The Foxhole Method of Career Development for more on this).

Usually you are frustrated in a position because there is some value that’s important to you that’s being squashed. Feel that your boss doesn’t listen to you? You probably value being respected and contributing.

I like to say this is when you’ve reached Kansas City Mode. Just like in the play Oklahoma!, it’s when you’ve gone about as far as you can go. If you’ve reached that point, it’s now time to really plan for how you’re going to make your next steps. You’re usually secure yet bored or frustrated. This is a great time to make a plan for the future instead of a knee jerk reaction. I’ve find that many people can handle any situation as long as they are making progress towards something better.

So, have you reach Kansas City Mode and what are you doing to move past that?

20111115-150752.jpgBeing successful, whichever way you define that, can be a difficult thing, as there are so many variables in the mix. It’s a combination of you, what you have to offer, the needs ofothers, and the zeitgeist of the moment all aligning. While you can’t change the world situation (on the large scale at least), you can affect your own situation.

As was mentioned to me again this past weekend, you need to “put on your own air mask before helping others” and that all comes down to managing your own needs first and foremost. You need to know what the situation is out there (e.g. Is there a need or market for someone who sings show tunes while riding a unicycle?) before you know what parts of you you need to develop. That being said, you also need to know what’s important to you before you decide which people, companies and industries you need to investigate. No use in trying to please someone or something that isn’t important to you.

That being said, there are three different areas that you have to be sure of yourself:

  • Head: Do you really know what you’re talking about? Are you sure the information is accurate? I’ve had too many clients take action steps because the “heard from somebody” that a certain job or industry would be a good choice. Do your research and get the facts.
  • Heart: Is this something that matters to you? Are your insides feeling good about what you’re doing? You need to know what’s important to you before spending your time, money and energy pursuing something that you are going to throw away later. Granted, sometimes you don’t know for sure, but listen to yourself first.
  • Guts: Do you have an instinct that you should do something? Not sure shy you’re interested in something but you know there’s a reason deep inside you? Our minds are complex and don’t always state our needs clearly to us (like our dreams). Again, it’s something to listen to.

We can’t ride on just our head, heart, or guts, but need to balance a great insight from one of them with wisdom from the others. Do you really want that great paying job that will make you travel too much? Are your dreams of Broadway stardom realistic given your mortgage? You need to consider all parts of you.

So, are you listening to your head, heart, and guts?

Note: If you want to another opportunity to slow down and listen to your body’s wisdom, please consider coming to my Alternative Black Friday workshop: Taking Stock of Your Life.

20111108-141049.jpgAs the days get darker, I’ve been feeling that this is a good time to reflect on where I am, what I’m doing, how it serves me, and what my best steps will be going forward.  I figure that one of the best ways to do that is to help other people do the same thing!

With that in mind, I’ve decided to do a one day retreat workshop on the day after Thanksgiving (usually called Black Friday because so many people are out shopping for Christmas gifts), so that I can focus on what’s really important and continue the thoughts of what I’m really thankful for.

Here’s the write up for the workshop:

This small (4-5 people) workshop will be an opportunity to use the day after Thanksgiving, when many people are going crazy to purchase things, to slow down and take stock of where you are in life and decide how you want to show up in the future.

There will be guided meditations, journaling, quiet contemplations, and group discussions to facilitate what is important to each of us, review of how we’ve shown up in life, and an opportunity to set our intentions for the future.

You can show your interest in attending by going to the Facebook event or leaving a comment here. You can go to to actually register for the event now.

So, are you being intentional about what you want out of life?

Addition: Here’s the video I made for this.  Please share!

20110927-125940.jpgWe’ve finally gotten to the time when we cannot deny that summer is coming to a close (although the warm, humid weather in New England is doing its best to fool us). The Swedish ancestry in me is lamenting the sun’s slow decent into the sky and the earlier sunsets. I’m trying to hold on to one more day of wearing shorts, and planning my yearly winter retreat southward.

This is starting the time to go inward and reflect, and that’s something that most of us are reticent to do. We keep thinking that the answer is “out there” somewhere: the perfect job, perfect mate, perfect house, etc. The truth is: the perfect whatever is out there, but you can’t recognize it unless you look inside yourself to be able to know what it is that your insides are craving.

In a job search, I see too many of my clients take a “Fire, Ready, Aim” approach to job search. They panic without knowing what they exactly want to do, and just start taking action without a lot of direction. What comes out of this more often than not is frustration or a job that feels soul-crushing after 6 months.

Whether it’s your future career, apartment, partner, or vacation, it’s good to know what you really want and need before taking action. The darker time of the year is a great time to slow down and start thinking of that.

So, have you really thought about what you want?

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the 3rd New England Xpo for Business at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, one of the largest Business to Business (B2B) events in New England.  There will be numerous workshops that will be presented by industry experts, as well as many companies looking for business connections.  I went last year and learned a lot (I’ll be at a lot of social media workshops!)

While this event is not one that I will particularly one that I think I’ll be finding particular customers, but you never know what opportunities will come up. Last year, I was interviewed by Jennifer Shaheen, the Technology Therapist about how to utilize social media in your career development. Check that interview out here. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to.

I’ll be there and will be tweeting, so check me out at @kenmattsson on Twitter, and the hashtag for the event is #NewEnglandXPO.

So, what are you changing up?  Where are you going that you normally wouldn’t tread?

As I described in my last blog post, many people do their job searches by doing the equivalent to sending bulk mail to the four corners of the universe, and hoping somebody offers them a job. In this newer, tougher job market, you are more likely to be in a crowded group of all the other people throwing their resumes into a pile for a hiring manager to review. Everyone looks pretty much the same when they are in those piles so I recommend that you choose which place you want to be so you have the time to know what those hiring managers want and you can then shine like a diamond in those places.

So, here are some things to think about when you are trying to narrow down where you want to be:

  1. What are the industries that interest you ( or at least don’t repel you): We all know that there are cultures to different industries and each if us is going to be more comfortable in some than in others. A biology lab will have a very different feel than a hotel catering office.  Choose which are the industries that are most interesting to you and you think will be the best culture fit for you. (A key indicator of this is what I call the “Ooh! Shiny!” affect. If you look at it and it piques your interest, chances are there is something about it that will make you want to work there).
  2. Where do you want to work: If you ate currently in a place where you can’t relocate, you probably know how long a commute you are willing to consider.  If you can move, you probably know which cities/states/countries really interest you. Whichever it is, look at a map and draw a line around the actual area that you would be willing to go to.
  3. What’s the overlap: Now, using your research skills (and if you don’t have any, ask a librarian),  find all the employers in the industries you are interested that have offices in the locations that you’ve indicated. You should be able to find 30-50 companies. If you find fewer, it might be a more difficult time, but then you have to know these particular companies and employers better, since they should know you before the job even opens up.

So, have you done your homework and know the places you want to work for?

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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