Networking, Self-Worth & Validation

Networking, Self-Worth & Validation

I've had the pleasure of developing and delivering various networking trainings across the decade. The audiences have ranged executive-level interns, non-profit staff, political and professional organizations.

Of the more recent trainings I've led (3 in the last 2 years), I've noticed a unique shift from others in the past. There seems to be a greater need for external validation by the networker of the group they are networking with.

Common questions in the training include:

 1. What's the best way to approach?

2. How do I come off as someone they really want to know?

3. What if they are not interested in what I do?

4. How do I talk about myself without coming off as I'm bragging?

Fear is a constant in everything we do and we really want to make sure that we're going to maximize our networking opportunities. Totally get that. What bothers me most about the above questions is that there seems to be a clear lack of self-worth and a need to get external validation in order to make the networking "successful."

Engagement in networking session is two things: transactional and emotional. Now, I'm not saying you have to cry with the everyone at a networking event (although to get that vulnerable with another that quickly would be a pretty cool feat), but you have to develop some level of emotional connection in order to start building trust in developing a long-lasting connection. It appears the focus tends to be on the transactional part of the relationship, i.e. common professional interests, how you can help me, how I can help you, quid pro quo, etc.

What I tell those in my training is that transactional will always take care of itself. When there is a mutual benefit professionally or in business, those things will develop and you can follow through on that whenever you want. The emotional connection of networking is where you should always focus on as it is the hardest and its all based on your ability to be vulnerable (which is a lot harder than it looks).

And there's the rub- to be vulnerable, to share one's self, is directly correlated with your personal self-esteem. I draw from Nathaniel Brandon's definition of self-esteem where self-esteem requires (1) self-efficacy - the belief that one has the ability to be able to make “it” happen in the world around them - and (2) self-respect - the belief that they actually deserve the “it” they desire.


So, that's great, but WTF does this mean?

Lets frame these concepts as beliefs in the context of networking:

1. I walk into a room and I believe in my uniqueness and desire to contribute in the world and seek to find others in the room that will be allies in my professional and/or personal journey. (Self-respect)

2. I have the social skills to develop relationships in the room. (Self-efficacy)

3. I believe I will maximize my opportunities at this networking event. (Self-esteem)


A bad example by comparison:

1. I hope I find someone in the room that I connect with so that they can help me in my career (poor self-efficacy).

2. I hope I'm not too awkward. (poor self-respect)

3. I hope that I’m able to hide my flaws effectively so that people will like me and I can help build my career. (weak self-esteem).


So, which one of the examples above would YOU rather be network with?


See the second set of beliefs and throw them out the window. Those questions relate to an individual seeking to manipulate a desired outcome. They, the people in the room, are not your focus. It's you, being you, having confidence in you, and the desire for something great that should be motivating you.


Are you open to the possibilities of meeting others that can help you on your transactional path?

What do you most emotionally connect with in your transactional desires?

What are the traits of the person you would like to meet to help you in your transactional needs?

How did you find the people that have helped you on your path today?


 Illuminating awareness. Facilitating choice.

© 2019 All Rights Reserved

Postmodernism & Core Practices

Postmodernism & Core Practices

Postmodernism is loosely defined as an era marked by skepticism, irony and mistrust of convention and norms. A "reimagining" of anything related to philosophy, politics, economics, morality, societal norms, etc. It’s widely viewed as a reaction to modernism, which were philosophies and ideologies that have existed since the 18th Century’s Age of Enlightenment. 

The reality of postmodernism is that in the quest for better, we end up avoiding what has done us good along the way. Great becomes the enemy of the good. While some will argue that if we can't have greatness, then why try? Or if you're Gen Z, why have any limitations at all to try.

This process of reinvention and innovation isn’t all gravy. The loss of process and routine is all too common. More importantly, inconsistency is the culprit to stifling peak levels of productivity (or have I just internalized the work/production cycle in capitalism a bit too much?).

The irony that this discussion and my perspectives are a result of postmodernist era is not lost on me. The question I seek to answer (and possibly you too), is to what end?

Creating Fire.jpg

Is life really better reimagining basic tenets of how we live? Is this really helping in developing our youth into more productive, loving citizens?

Does this really contribute to personal happiness?

Or is the resulting mass confusion just a means to keep us in endless existential inquiry while those with actual, concrete goals pull the rug out, i.e. money, from under those searching the sky for answers?

While I feel that we are in an era where harnessing the creative process is more important than ever for career and life-long learning, the value of routine cannot be discarded. I go back to religion – how modernist of me, I know – to find the value of moderation. Whether it’s the Bible, Quran or the Torah, there are countless examples of seeking moderation in one’s thoughts, actions and activities; the need to seek balance as a human being.

Where this can seem counter to the creative process, which can be wildly random, spontaneous and unstructured, structure does not have to be anathema in this postmodern era.

Will simple routines like making your bed every morning going to limit one’s creativity?

What are routines that benefit you, i.e. gym, yoga, sports, writing, silence, music, etc.?

Recall those moments of great creativity- what were the environmental conditions that allowed it to happen?

What are core principles/activities/routines/practices that will keep you sustained while you find your creative genius?


Illuminating Awareness. Facilitating Choice.

© 2019 All Rights Reserved


Reframing the "New" Masculinity

Reframing the "New" Masculinity      

There has been much discussion about "toxic masculinity" and what it means to be masculine in an age of feminism and female empowerment. Globalism and subsequent postmodernist era has forced all people to confront behaviors, beliefs and previous processes to reassess its relevance or obsolescence. How we define masculinity and femininity is no exception.

What the current definition of toxic is what we would consider to be easily tempered and "unregulated" masculinity where decision-making and authority are hierarchal or vested via being rather than performance, i.e. daddy says, etc. Studies have demonstrated varying effects of higher levels of testosterone in men and I’m a firm believer of not blaming things that are natural like men’s biology/biochemistry so I won’t consider the argument of “high testosterone” anytime or anywhere. Now, with female breadwinners more prevalent than in the past, more women in the workplace - and as of the 2018 Congressional mid-term elections many more women in Congress – political, social and economic influence has created more nuance in how we define authority figures and leadership traits. This has led to conflict with previous structures where men were the primary breadwinner, leaders, and thus, dictated norms.

I posit a different definition of masculinity; one that does not discard or discredit the past, but rather, allows for a more abundant future.

What if masculinity is better defined as an increased bandwidth to engage in all activities in a meaningful way? For instance, going hunting one weekend while learning how to cook the next? To complete in a boxing tournament one week and volunteer at an elderly home the next? To be more empathetic as well as competitive, in your pursuits? The ability to be more well-rounded while also conducting those activities that maximize your testosterone (or health, generally). Aggression and empathy are not mutually exclusive.

The primary dialogue on masculinity is based on polarity and producing a cognitive dissonance, i.e. a disturbance that can show up as anxiety, anger or reactivity. The negative reaction then produces a “doubling down” on pre-existing beliefs and norms and a rejection of anything contrary. This negative framing, designed to instigate in my opinion, is hardly a framework to show what is possible; it is a framework designed to produce anger and polarization, which limits the ability to collaborate and communicate in effective ways.

Examples you ask? The Gillette ad included a shot of men of different ethnicities; all arms are crossed cooking on identical grills, one after the other in an endless line, as if all men are the same.

Gillette Ad-Men_Grill.jpg

Clearly not true, but designed to create polarization. The boys who were fighting as one man says, “boys will be boys.” Later in the ad, (presumably) the father breaks up the kids stating that’s not how we treat other people. This is open to incredibly broad interpretation and very confusing. So boys wrestling or play fighting is now toxic? God forbid we play football, boxing or other sports. Even with the (presumably) dad dragging his kid through a crowd by pushing people aside with a careless regard, it’s a snapshot in time with no context leading us to believe the worst, i.e. that’s he’s a jerk (ironically, if it was a woman doing the same thing, would we have the same response? I know I would give her the benefit of the doubt as she’s demonstrating urgency for something.). I think it also serves as a metaphor of an old masculinity dragging younger generations along with their outdated beliefs (which is pretty brilliant).

The critical component to successfully bridging the gap in this discussion is the emotional intelligence and self-investigation that it requires. Inevitably, the cognitive dissonance that would occur with older generations - and those who may have been raised within more historical, patriarchal structures - who may be more set in their ways (not the rule, just my personal observation) requires more self-reflection and less impulsive reaction. The ability to have the emotional intelligence to know what you're feeling when it happens and to personally investigate your beliefs when it limits your possibilities or opportunities for contribution in society or in your social circles.

There is no magic formula (duh). The demands, and interpretations, of women are to be taken into consideration, but not the final word. Each and only each individual, in this case a man, knows the intent and manages the impulses within themselves. In the case of a man, building their aggressiveness, managing his competitive nature all while simultaneously building their ability to empathize and connect with others is his responsibility alone.

The future in a globalized era requires more of everyone (you guessed it, there will be a feminism article dropping too!). That includes the ability to have empathy, to recognize when their selfish tendencies negatively impact the social interest, when to be assertive and aggressive and how to manage the impulses that make us human, responsibly.  


What behaviors do you exhibit that you may consider “toxic” and what examples do you have of them?

Where do you believe behavioral traits may impact you connecting with others in the workplace/dating/family?

For men, when does your competitive instinct work against you?

 For men, do you feel connected to your aggressive instinct? What about your aggressive instinct do you love? How does it impact the social interest?

For men, what kind of man do you want to be remembered as?

For women, what kind of men do you remember?

What is wrong with being a man of developing his primal nature AND contributing in a healthy way to society?

What are we doing to facilitate the best of both worlds?


Illuminating Awareness. Facilitating Choice.

© 2018 All Rights Reserved


Where is the Generativity?

As I re-read Erik Erikson’s theory of psychological development, I can’t help but think about the differing generations in our current political system.

We have progressives, headlined by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that represent the millennial generation. The first generation to grow up in the age of smartphones and technology (I consider anyone who hasn’t used a rotary phone as the official line between xennials and millennials).

The vast majority, as well as senior leadership in the House of Representatives and Senate, are baby boomers in their 60’s or 70’s. As expressed in The Intercept, their sterile, communication style is a bit out of date in our current 24/7 media climate where those that connect and evoke emotions, capture our attention and generate passion. Our current president is 72 and potential contenders in 2020 like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are 74 and 76, respectively. Even outside of the political world, elder generations are regularly criticizing younger members of Congress with ambiguous, loaded terminology.

A general description of Erikson’s theory of psychological development is detailed in the graphic below. The levels that particularly concern me are Level 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation and Level 8: Integrity vs. Despair. In Level 8, I consider whether members of Congress in their 60’s and 70’s, feel more despair than integrity about their actions. When you look at legislation recently passed or policies currently being pushed, does it really take into consideration of the majority of society, the “99%?” In the most recent Government shutdown, who is standing for old ideas (wall, anyone?) or pushing for innovative, technology-based solutions?

Psychosocial Crisis Basic Virtue Age

Trust vs. Mistrust Hope 0 - 1½

Autonomy vs. Shame Will 1½ - 3

Initiative vs. Guilt Purpose 3 - 5

Industry vs. Inferiority Competency 5 - 12

Identity vs. Role Confusion Fidelity 12 - 18

Intimacy vs. Isolation Love 18 - 40

Generativity vs. Stagnation Care 40 - 65

Ego Integrity vs. Despair Wisdom 65+


Level 7, Generativity vs. Stagnation, defines the development of care – care for others and the world around them – as successful development during this stage. Generativity, as Erikson defines, includes an interest to nurture the following generation and society in general. This definition closely aligns with popular modern leadership theories.

Where is the generativity? We currently see older generations usurping and clinging to power with the tips of their fingernails. Succession planning is abysmal and nepotism is everywhere. Criticism of young future generations is normative (and considered valid). Young people looking for opportunities are waiting for older generations to pass the torch, as opposed to older generations stepping up as mentors and providing a transition. Honoring meritocracy, a part of the American dream, is more the exception than the rule.

What could be the reasons that older generations are not developing care or demonstrating generativity? In the current toxic economic state of the middle class, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck let alone focus on their 401k. The current toxic capitalism that we are experiencing – a “zero sum game” where everyone tries to take all – only contributes to the issue. Why mentor or relinquish control when you’re just trying to survive and/or win?

Further, developing our youth’s capacities through education has become a limiting proposition with the rising cost of private education and the degradation of public schooling. While no statistics exist, it appears the older generations seem to prefer on building wealth by any means necessary in this toxic capitalistic environment to be able to not only provide for themselves, but for their future generations. Saturday Night Live sums it up (pretty hilariously) in this skit. You can catch the despair more than ego integrity in the skit, which is what makes it so funny (sadly?).

If a successful Level 7 – development of care – contributes to development at Level 8, I think the baby boomers in our senior leadership just might drown us in their despair.

Just so I’m not a debbie-downer (all respect to the awesome Debbie’s out there), there are examples of encouraging mentorship and new, creative leadership happening. Specifically, in the NFL (of all places). NFL coaches Rich McVay and Matt Nagy (widely considered to be announced 2018 Coach of the Year) are millennials and xennials who are not only demonstrating leadership, but changing the game with their success. Their coaching trees extend from former coaches who were known for their tutelage of younger players.

One of the wisest skills I’ve learned - and try to utilize - is to know when to step up and when to step back.

Who knew that stagnation of society vs. progress may depend on it?

Who better to lead progress than the one’s who will live and raise future generations in it?


Social Comparison Theory & You

Social Comparison Theory and You

In 1954, Leon Festinger developed theories that are critically important today. In the social media era, your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., is your avatar, i.e. branding, and who you are to the world. There are algorithms developed that (to the extent you are unaware) can tell you more than you know about yourself.

Social Comparison Theory explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and abilities by comparing themselves to others in order to reduce uncertainty in social environments, and learn how to define the self. The defining of the self is correlated to the social environment of the individual and a desire to "fit in," gain accurate self-evaluation or validate their opinions from the environment around them.

Social Comparison Theory & You

Social Comparison Theory & You

Studies have shown that individuals only share the best of themselves in social media in efforts to provide the best possible self-presentation. Essentially, the golden rule for accumulating "likes."

Consider that expressions of emotion can manifest themselves in other ways for other people. Where one can be happy for someone's happiness, it can also manifest a feeling of discontent and/or unhappiness for their own current status in life in comparison to others, i.e. I wish I was on a beach right now like her/him, etc.

In social comparison theory, the environment of self-evaluation is critically important. Whereas I doubt Leon Festinger considered the advent of social media, many individuals spend a considerable amount of time on social media for basic information needs, i.e. news, family happenings, friends, events, etc. The threat of cyber-bullying and trolls also exists to create discomfort to views that are not aligned with others beliefs. Additionally, the things that people view tend to align with their existing worldview or a shared quality or belief. As stated by Festinger himself:

 "A person does not tend to evaluate his opinions or his abilities by comparison with, others who are too divergent from himself. If some other person’s ability is too far from his own, either above or below, it is not possible to evaluate his own ability accurately by comparison with this other person. There is then a tendency not to make the comparison."

I posture that one maintain awareness of what they consider in their social environment and where they seek acceptance and validation from. In Festingers' time, social comparison theory was heavily correlated with proximity and defined by physical distance; essentially, the more proximate your social circle, the more influence they have on how you self-evaluate your beliefs/opinions. I don't think anyone ever considered that the social environment could actually be the world, be virtual and in the palm of your hand?

Consider that you are self-evaluating in comparing yourself to others.

What is the intention behind your self-evaluation? Is it an underlying insecurity? Is it for self-improvement and/or self-development?

How do you feel about yourself and the environment(s) you are comparing yourself to?

What is the delta between you and the environment(s) you are comparing yourself to?

Who impacts your self-evaluation? Your parents in a far away city/country? Your friends in your neighborhood? The smartphone in your hand?

Who do you want to impact your self-evaluation? Your parents in a City far away? Your friends in your neighborhood? The smartphone in your hand?


Illuminating Awareness. Facilitating Choice. 

© 2018 All Rights Reserved


The Future is Existential

The Future is Existential

Jean Paul Sartre believed that “existence precedes essence.” The physical body or the existence of the individual preceded the essence, or the purpose, true nature of the individual. Sartre was a strong believer in taking full responsibility of one’s life and that each individual was essentially the author and creator of their “own life project” or, that the actions of the individual leads to essence.

Religion offers the converse, that there is essence that precedes existence, whether that’s a soul or that a concept of your creation had to have existed prior to your creation. In Islam, while there are various interpretations on the topic, there are some that speak to the transcendental existence of the soul and its relationship with God (its Creator) prior to:

"breathed into him Al-Ruh." [Quran, 32:9]

Might be a little difficult to keep track of who you are and what you’re for at any given moment. #AgeOf(Mis)Information

Might be a little difficult to keep track of who you are and what you’re for at any given moment. #AgeOf(Mis)Information

Even in scripture throughout the Quran, knowledge is not attained or provided, but remembered by the individual; there is a presumption that the transcendental soul already knows what its true nature is and that worldly experiences help the self to remember the truth, as defined by God, i.e. the Creator. It also presupposes that truth is good and ordained to bring you closer to God, or the principles defined as divine by God [See upcoming 99 Qualities of God post for more information/clarity].

Regardless of your belief of whether existence or essence came first, the fact remains that one’s actions and experiences will ultimately lead to outcomes towards one’s vision or definition of success, i.e. money, fame, etc. In a non-religious context, your actions are contributing to whatever your goals may be or the values you wish to espouse in the world. In a religious context, your experiences will help one “remember” truth and to a path that could bring greater closeness with God. Both, as Sartre would (potentially) argue, are contributions to your own life project.

Something else that Sartre (potentially) would agree with is that taking action is paramount in either instance; taking action and creating experiences is akin to taking full responsibility of your future. In either example – religious or non-religious – the definition of taking action and the creation of experience has changed with the advent of technology. So much so, person-to-person interaction - or even getting off your couch - may not be even necessary to achieve action and build experience(s), i.e. social media, internet, etc. 

Further, with this advance of technology, big data has become a thing. Marketing and algorithms that predict behavior are becoming more and more remarkably accurate to guide individuals into targeted commerce. In a world of everything, the algorithm will just lead you buy things that happen to be on your path of your life project… right? Or is it the other way around?

Hence, I make my claim that for all of us to NOT become mindless consumers, the future must be existential. If we can make claim to hold certain existential beliefs and create a vision that can keep us on a path that is aligned with self, rather than easily sidetracked by consumerism, we can further and champion the development of self. Its much better than the converse - producers swaying our impulses (which they may know us better that we do with big data) and potentially taking us off track of whatever could be enriching the self.

What products have become your vices?

Do those products align with the way you want to live your life?

What products negatively impact the vision of what you want to be?

What do you want to be and how do your consumer choices contribute toward that existential vision?

How much do you think about the responsibility of your consumer choices?

How do you want to exist?

How do you control and take responsibility of your existence?


Illuminating Awareness. Facilitating Choice.

© 2018 All Rights Reserved


A Psychosocial Case for God

A Psychosocial Case for God

In America, the rise of atheism has impacted all age groups, but has particularly taken strong hold in younger generations.

There are many common, logical arguments such as:

 "Who could actual get one of each animal and put them on a boat. I can't even get my dog to not pee in the house."

 "How does one part a sea, scientifically?"

These arguments are overly simplistic and are commonly used to extrapolate over and invalidate religion as a whole, i.e. throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, if these stories are to be believed, and they are impossible for me to relate to, the rest of it has to be questioned, right? Yes, just as much as the parts of scripture that you can relate to and have a value in your life.

I suggest a psychosocial argument for God. Specifically, as an existential and transcendental defense mechanism to the maladies of life.

Any choice is ultimately based upon survival and basic human nature. Pain and pleasure mechanisms become the base operating program. Relativism can take hold and decisions can be solely based upon risk, reward and worldly acknowledgement. Further, since we are social creatures, it can lead to a life where an action/reaction to worldly acknowledgement becomes the paramount concern. This manifests itself, at its most extreme, by absolute conformity or a constant rebellion to the social world.

The reality is that we are all somewhere in-between. No one fully accepts all the world has to offer and we make choices every second about what and how we want to be in the world. Without God, or a belief that in a transcendental, existential entity, we essentially live in the here and now with no consistent structure or governance over our actions; to live in complete hedonism and/or survival with no binding moral agreement to restrain choices and/or actions. To believe that most are aware enough to give careful consideration to consistency in their principles or self-determined doctrines, actions and beliefs gives our human nature too much credit.     

That said, human nature is not the enemy. Rather, it just is. It is something we manage every second of every day to (hopefully) promote healthy choices. If you chose to only eat delicious food, it's very likely your health will suffer, i.e. America's obesity epidemic. If you keep a balanced diet, a system that restricts your most basest desires, i.e. sugar, chances are you'll live longer and enjoy greater health (and potentially be happier as a result). While eating choices serves as an easy metaphor, this management of human nature extends to every part  of your life, i.e. relationships, sex, community, career, etc.


In the choice to decide between belief in a transcendental entity vs. a relativist or self-determined doctrine, consider what can help you control your human nature, primal urges or rebellion that can promote self-destruction in the most extreme of cases. The abdication of that responsibility to a transcendental entity can provide an appropriate defense mechanism to manage the good and bad of the world. Abdication of that responsibility to one's own senses, which are under constant marketing attack in this capitalistic society, will break even the most conscious and "willpowered" amongst us. A consistent approach, with a community of co-believers, i.e. support group, that can help us address the very real issues in life that will cause despair, frustration and other maladies we find in the world that can potentially block our ability to act. The belief of an entity that, whether it really exists or not, can serve as a beacon while the senses are inundated and overwhelmed.

Whether we like it or not, technology is quickly changing everything around us. The amount of time on social media and websites (like this one) is increasing every day so much so that it is its own economy. Distractions, target marketing and big data are breaking us all down to our most basest (depraved?) tendencies. One look at porn and what it's doing to our brains and relationships will give you all the examples you need.

Is your beacon going to be a website, the followers on your page, author, blogger, fantasy [insert worldly fallible item here]?

Do you have so much faith in yourself that you will not fall prey to the power of success?

That you will maintain a sense of morality is a more and more relativist world?

Is living a life in the moment living your best life? Are your senses infallible?

Where do you go when you senses fail you?


Illuminating awareness. Facilitating choice.

© 2018 All Rights Reserved