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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?


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.

20111107-085858.jpgWhile I’ve been in a more contemplative, meaning of the Universe type of space on this blog lately, I also have that productivity/get it done side to myself. Today, you’ll get a shot of that practical side of myself.

The reason I’m so focused on knowing yourself and what you want is that until you know and understand that, it’s hard to know where to put your efforts in the job search (and you’ll waste a lot of time). But once you are clear on your vision and goals, it’s time to start doing your research.

I’ve been very surprised that when I recommend that people do research, they really don’t know what to do. Consider this a little list of resources if you are going to develop a list of target companies for your job search.

  1. Your Reference Librarian: Whether at a your local library or a major research university’s library, librarians are your friends. They aren’t about book and telling you to be quiet. Librarians are like fox hounds for information. Put them on the trail and they are off. Just tell them the type of information you need (e.g. “All the TV stations in the state of Connecticut” or “film festivals that specialize in documentaries”) and they have databases (more about them below) and print resources that can help you locate them quickly. They are a great resource that most people overlook.
  2. Databases: As mentioned above, many libraries have access to large databases of information that will help you out. Most aren’t available to the general public, but libraries subscribe to these great services. Take advantage of them!
  3. LinkedIn: Yes, LinkedIn is great for doing research! Find out what companies people in a LinkedIn group work for. Discover where that person used to work as its probably in the same field. Look at the people who are linked to someone in the field and where do they work. lots of possibilities!
  4. Google: We all know Google, but there’s a good chance you’re not using it to its full extent. For example, if there’s a company you’re interested in, you can google the company name and the name of something else you have in common (e.g. The name of the school you went to) to find out if there is an alum who works there or if there’s a special program that both are working on. Put your detective hat on and look for clues!

So, are you searching for something or waiting for it to find you?

Many times when I first talk with a client, it’s because they are frustrated because they’ve been sending out resumes, usually dozens a day, for months, and they’ve gotten little to no response from their efforts. My first question to them usually is “So, what are you looking for?”. The usual answer to that is either “anything” or “I don’t know”.

If this is the case, it’s no wonder that no one is responding. People hire others because they need help and you’ve let them know how you can help them. If you don’t know who you’re searching for, then you won’t know what to do to help them. Otherwise, you’re shooting into the deep void hoping to hit a target you can’t see.

The reason why so many people panic in the job search is because they feel out of control and don’t feel prepared for what’s ahead. My answer us to “get a clue” and do some research to find out what it is you’re looking for. Granted, to hone your goals, you might need to work with someone like me to tease out your goals, but many people can just start doing tea search and that will help.

I like to say there are two ways to do research:

Dead & Alive

Dead Research means that you don’t get any response when you ask a question. This is anything in print. You can get a lot of information that way but it’s static.

Live Research means that you get a response when you ask questions. This is actually talking with people. You will always get more up-to-date and dynamic information this way, and you will also be building relationships. Informational interviews, networking events, etc. are great places to find out more information if you are focused on what you’re looking for and have a plan.

Most people hide behind their resumes and computers and never get out to talk with people. This is one of the main reasons that it takes people so long to get a job. If you don’t do your research, you’ll be the “deer in the headlights” and not been seen as an asset.

So, do you know what you’re stepping into?

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?

Spring has truly arrived in New England. Just this week, most of the trees burst out with buds, leaves, and best of all, flowers. In my walks on Boston’s Public Garden, I get to smell the flowering dogwoods (at least I think that’s the name of that tree!) and the scent is amazing. We’ve had a tough winter here, so we are all looking so forward to having nice weather.

In this area, it’s also the time when colleges unleash another batch of graduates from their studies. Most of these students have never had to look for a job, and they do the one thing that is easiest to do and that worked for their parents: send our a lot of resumes. It’s also the time when these same people fret that no one is getting back to them and giving them a job.

Looking for a job is a marketing campaign and you are the product. You need to identify who are the people who might hire you and let them know of your qualifications and give them enough context of your background to feel like you’re not hell on wheels to work with. Sending resumes is one way to do it, but not the only way (and not even the best way).  If a company was trying to introduce a product and the only thing they dis was to send out mailings to every person possible, they probably wouldn’t get a great response. It’s not surprising that job searchers don’t get different results with the same tactics.

So, what do you do then?  Well, what are some other ways to let people know that you’re great?  First you need to know which people need to know. This might sound obvious, but it’s the biggest mistake I find job seekers making. When I ask them where the want a job, the commonest answer is “anywhere”. just like bulk mail, if you are spreading yourself too thin, you’re not likely to find your target.

Note:  My next post will be about identifying your targets, so subscribe to the blog to find out when I post that.

So, do you know who needs to know how great you are?

For the second year in a row, I’ll be delivering a career exploration workshop at Easton Mountain called “Finding Your Calling: Making Connections Between Your Spirit and Your Work” and this year I’m offering it on March 18-20, 2011.  If should be a great opportunity for those people who are interested in finding out more.

Easton Mountain Logo

For those of you interested in participating, here are the homework exercises that I ask everyone to complete before coming to the weekend:

  • List, Ten People You Think Have Cool Jobs: Think about ten people who you know of (but may or may not know personally) who you think have really cool jobs, and list some of the reasons why you think their jobs are cool.
  • List, Ten Organizations You Think Would Be Cool To Work At: Think about ten places you know of (but may or may not really have a great understanding of) where you think it would be really cool to work there, and list some of the reasons why you think it is cool.
  • Essay, Perfect Day in Your Perfect Job: Write an essay (anywhere from one paragraph to three pages) of your perfect day in your perfect job.  Include as many details as possible.  Examples: When do you get to work?  Who do you work with?  What is the result of your actions?  Answer as many “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions as possible.  You do not need to state the title of your job, they company, your particular duties, etc.
  • List 10 Successes of Your Life: List 10 situations in your life that you consider a success.  It does not matter if anyone else thought it was a success, but you felt proud of it.  For each situation, notate:
    1.      The Situation that you encountered,
    2.      The Action you took to change that situation, and
    3.      The Result of that action.
  • Pluses & Minuses of Current and Past Jobs: Look at the last three jobs that you’ve had, and make a list of at least five things you’ve liked, and five things you haven’t liked, about each position.

If you’re not sure if you want to come, you might want to start thinking about these exercises that might get your mind going.  We’ll be going over them and much more in the workshop.  Let me know if you have questions.  A complete description of the workshop is available at the Easton Mountain programming page for the workshop.

So, what are you doing to get what you want in life?

Last year, I won a basket at the silent auction at my church, First Parish in Cambridge Unitarian Universalist. It was a “Man’s Basket” and along with the great tie rack and really cool scarf, I also got a gift certificate to Le Pli Spa in Harvard Square for a manicure and a pedicure.  This is something I’ve never done and was really intrigued to have it done.

Now I’d normally never spend this much money for something like this (a $60 value!) but I’ve heard lots of women in my life talk about getting there nails done. Finally, I made the appointment and went this past Monday. I was the only customer st the spa, and was the last appointment of the day.

Now, those of you who have had it done talk about how it’s pampering and relaxing. I was looking forward to it.

What did I find for myself? Not relaxing at all.

I was interested in what was happening, what the attendant was doing, what tools she was using, and having to hold my hands and feet at particular angles so she could do her work.  It felt relatively nice and, who knows, I might do it again, but I’m not going for the relaxing factor.

So, what did I get out of this? Well, I noticed that my feet felt nicer when I was going home, and I’m sure my nails are in better shape.  I also found out that I can get this done for a lot cheaper than going to an expensive spa (if I do it again).

This makes me think that many times in our career lives, we make assumptions about what life a certain job, employer, or co-worker is going to be like, and we create stories about them without having all the data.  Once we actually experience it, we might feel quite differently. I’m always telling people who have big dreams about a career to actually get to know the reality of it before you invest too much energy in it.

What stories to you have about things not being all you thought they would be?

PS – Remember to let people know about the contest for a free weekend at Easton Mountain.  Deadline is 9/25/10.  Go to for all the information about applying!

Nothing strikes fear into introverts (or extroverts) than being told they should network. Visions of hordes of slimy people in suits shaking as many hands as possible haunt the minds of people who are looking to get ahead in their careers. “I’m not like that! I can’t do that and be the real me!”

This teleworkshop will review strategies where you can truly be consistent to yourself, but also make connections with others. We’ll discuss online networking, informational interviewing, and strategies to make connections at a networking or professional event without having an anxiety attack.

Register for this event at You will be sent the phone number and access code the day before the event. Remember, the event is FREE, but you will need to pay your own long distance charges for the call.

Questions before the event welcomed!

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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