A Question of Impact

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The questions lobbed across the table…

What impact do you want to have? And, on whom?

I sat, for a moment, like a dear in headlights.

After a year packed with media interviews, I have answers for pretty much every question. Good ones. Interview-crushing, soundbite-worthy ones. But, this wasn’t an interview. It was a friendly conversation in a quaint Indian restaurant on the middle of Long Island. There were no cameras, no microphones, no digital voice recorders…and I was stumped.

These two questions cut through all my prepared stuff and went straight for my psychic jugular.

“That’s exactly the exploration I’m in the middle of,” I responded, then began to lay out the litany of projects I’d explored since selling my last “real” company a year before and publishing Career Renegade in January.

The voice on the other side of the table was Srikumar Rao, former Columbia University B-School and LIU professor, Forbes contributing editor, author of Are You Ready to Succeed? and founder of Creativity and Personal Mastery Institute (CPMI). We’d been introduced days earlier by a mutual friend and discovered an immediate sense of connection on the phone, so we took it to the next level with lunch.

Now, as many of you know, I have a love-hate relationship with “personal development.”

Actually, it’s more like mild dislike – hate. I love genuine tools, people and processes that guide you deeper into what matters and elicit change, but I hate that 99% of everything out there is repackaged hooey that adds very little to either the body of genuinely transformative work or the ability to have a very real, tangible impact on peoples’ lives. Which is, I think, why Srikumar and I connected.

He’s NOT full of crap…and I like that!

In his last book, Are You Ready to Succeed? (aff link), Rao is both authentic and transparent. You’d think he was a blogger, but apparently a few others outside social media operate under this same ethic. Who knew?

Rather than taking credit for the contents, he readily shares that much of the wisdom is drawn not only from his years in big business and teaching, but from the cumulative experience of thought and spiritual leaders and philosophers over thousands of years, many from Eastern traditions. His contribution is more on the side of “Westernizing” and synthesizing them into a coherent “system” or approach, complete with lessons, ideas, processes and exercises.

My conversation with Rao and subsequent reading of his book pushed a lot of buttons in me.

Some of what he shares is easy to digest and accept, other elements push the boundaries of what I’d call verifiable science. But, what I love about that part of his teachings is that he doesn’t require blind faith. Indeed, he simply asks for you to suspend judgment while you try what he suggests and let the outcomes leave you persuaded or not. I also like that his approach and the entire course were developed not as an info-product, but as part of the curriculum of two different universities and they’ve been tested and validated by hundreds of exceptionally accomplished, high-level executives. Also, a friend who I consider really smart raved about it.

But, let’s get back to lunch…

As my conversation with Srikumar went on, we compared a lot of notes on writing, speaking, passions and future plans, but my head kept circling back to his earlier questions.

What impact did I want to have? And, on whom?

Truth be told, I’m still having trouble honing in on the answer. Amazing opportunities lay in front of me. I’ve worked insanely hard to open a lot of doors over the last year. But, I’ve also hesitated more than I’m comfortable with. Not, because I don’t know what makes me come alive or am disconnected from my passions. But, because often times deciding between options is more difficult than identifying one.

And, I’m not yet convinced there is a single, quantifiable group of people I want or need to choose between.

But, I’m also not convinced I can have the depth of impact I want when I’m playing too many games at once.

So, we moved the conversation over to Rao’s vision for his work. A shift that was actually instigated when I turned the same two questions back on him. And got an immediate, laser-focused response. He is wildly passionate about and fully committed to fundamentally changing the way people, very often at the highest levels, experience work. His message is well defined, his audience is crystal clear and his vehicle is his Creativity and Personal Mastery course.

The more we spoke, the more I wanted to experience his course myself.

In part, to know this new friend better. But also because I wanted to see if I’ve really been deluding myself into thinking I can keep catering to a variety of communities and still have the impact I want to have. And, I want to have a better answer to the two impact questions. One with the same laser focus and commitment that’d just poured out of Rao’s mouth. Which is why I was thrilled when he asked, “would you like to do the course?”

Turns out, Rao is offering the Creativity and Personal Mastery course in NYC from February to April.

In fact, just this morning, he shared this may be the last time it’s offered outside of more of a private enterprise-level business setting. Here’s a link with all the details (download the syllabus at the bottom) . FYI – it’s called a course, because, as I mentioned, it’s not a one-off event (aka pitchfest), but a nearly 3-month course, one that until recently was taught at Columbia University’s graduate school of business and Long Island University as well as privately to a small army of top-level execs.

I spent some time reading through the detailed syllabus and was a bit mesmerized.

Here’s the overview from Rao’s website:

This is a course on “creativity”, about the human mind and its immense potential and how you can harness it to achieve your own ends and whether those ends are worth achieving. To reach any major goal you will probably need the help of others, so we will study leadership and the qualities of a leader. Most of all, this course is designed to help you discover your unique purpose for existence. At the very least it will get you started on this quest.

The exercises prescribed are drawn from varied disciplines and many have their roots in different ancient traditions. These exercises produce results and have been used and refined by such eminently hard-nosed bodies as the United States Armed Forces and trainers of Olympic athletes. The course also deals explicitly with issues such as developing personal values, ethics, integrity and achieving mastery. A particular focus is the understanding and resolving of conflicts between personal values and workplace actions.

I’m in, working on my application as we speak…

But, you guys know I’m always thinking of you. So, I asked Rao, “hey listen, I know you only have around 20 seats for the February program in NYC, but I have thousands of readers around the NYC area and they are an amazingly thoughtful community of people. Any chance I could persuade you to offer them an Awake@TheWheel discount?”

Why don’t we do this, he said…

Tell your readers they may deduct $1,000 from the tuition (provided there are still seats available) if they register for the NYC program, email their applications directly to me (his email’s on the application) and mention they came from you.

So, I’m passing this on to you now.

I’ll be there, diving into the experience, setting up my 2010 to break out on an extraordinarily high level. Would love to share the experience with you if you’re game.

Even if you can’t make it, do yourself a favor and spend some time asking not what you want to do in 2010, but;

  • What impact do I want to have? And…
  • On whom?

And, if you have the answer, I’d love to hear more in the comments below…

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20 responses

20 responses to “A Question of Impact”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jonathanfields: What impact do you want to have? And, on whom?… http://is.gd/68ckz

  2. Jeremy Long says:

    Great post man. Very inspiring and a great opportunity for those able to attend the class!

  3. Adrian Munday says:

    Wow, not as easy to answer as I thought… maybe “playing too many games at once” as you say. Great post. Reminds of the old adage: You can work, sleep or play: pick two!

  4. Nelia says:

    I’m a chick that likes tangibles. And right now my tangibles are my staff. My desired impact and my who is to enable my staff to improve their lot in life.

    When starting my venture, my equation was quality product + quality client service = profit. Now my “=” is increased ability to increase my staff and create more opportunities for my staff (+ profit). It’s been an interesting and unexpected transition.

    I’m definitely in for the Jonathan Fields experience.

  5. Jonathan:

    Too many options? That’s just as bad as having too few.

    I have been in similar situation in college when I would open up too many doors, commit to too many activities and friends only to find out that I cannot fulfill all of my commitments because there is not enough time.

    What happened eventually is that all of those doors closed and many connections were lost.

    What worked for me was to consciously eliminate many of those options no matter how appealing they sounded to me. It is not easy to do, because you keep thinking what if this what if that. It kind of comes down to pick the path that works for you and taking chances.

    That worked for me and now I am very conscious of any opportunities that come my way. I think long and hard before I accept them. Try that, maybe it will help you gain laser-focus in your life as well.


  6. “I love genuine tools, people and processes that guide you deeper into what matters and elicit change, but I hate that 99% of everything out there is repackaged hooey that adds very little to either the body of genuinely transformative work or the ability to have a very real, tangible impact on peoples’ lives.”

    You just sounded out everything I think about “personal development” and gave me a reason why to never stop reading your blog.

  7. Really great questions. I love this post, particularly as it resonates with a phrase that came to me yesterday:

    “Depth, not breadth.”

    Enjoy Srikumar Rao’s course — it sounds like a wonderful opportunity! Perhaps one of these days he will bring it to the West coast…

  8. Anna CNA says:

    This is a wonderful post. By the way you are asking a really a difficult question. Great post. Thanks.

  9. There are a few people I want to be able to impact in 2010:
    -my three children: I want to leave with them a legacy of hard work makes anything attainable. Being a single parent, who has had to be less available in the last 3 years, I want them to see that hard work enables you to attain your goals and that it does pay off. I want to impact them to lead better, more empowered lives.

    -my clients: I am a counsellor and I want my time with my clients to be so empowering for them that they can reach deep within themselves to find and muster the strength and inner courage that those that have undergone intense trauma have although they do not know it. I want to honor their suffering in such a way that they can reach down to their profound strength and grab life by the horns, kick it in the butt, overcome and succeed

  10. Werner says:

    If only the class could be webcast…

  11. I’ve been certain for quite some time that I want to help folks transition from corporate thinking to the belief that they can make a great living doing something they love, and if they’re not sure what they love, help them sort that out as well. I want them to get up every morning as fired up about ‘work’ as I do. I wanna change the world, one new entrepreneur at a time. (If we all do it, it quickly becomes exponential. 2 to the 33rd power = the whole planet)

  12. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, Terry Starbucker, Jeff Tippett, Fabeku Fatunmise, Scott Carson and others. Scott Carson said: RT @jonathanfields: What impact do you want to have? And, on whom?… http://is.gd/68ckz […]

  13. Randy says:

    How about we get real for a minute…isn’t the #1 reason people don’t get what they want is because they don’t have the self-discipline needed?

    The stuff out there is 99% regurgitation…why shouldn’t it be… why not write more about self-discipline?

  14. Philip Di Pietro says:

    Being unconditional love is my choice of impact…and every human being i meet is impacted as i am impacted by them, subtle & unmeasurable, profound & unmeasurable, conscious & unconscious. thanks for asking, be well jon 🙂

  15. Jonathan,

    I do try not to leave “awesome post” comments, but if you’re talking about impact, I felt I should just weigh in; I found this through Liz Strauss’ SOB Cafe for this week (which I’m on too, jinkies) – and you’ve got my attention. Subscribed to the RSS and the newsletter.

    Sometimes impact is deffinately not obvious. But it’s nice to get clued in, so; excellent piece.


  16. Navjit says:

    Freeing hearts and minds from a flatland world view

    Of leaders especially>

    Free hearts Rule.

  17. Jonathan,

    This post has the greatest impact on me of any post I’ve ever read. How dare you introduce me to this wonderfully delicious course that I now desperately want to take when it’s in NY and I’m in CA!

    I’ve never seen a course syllabus so long or so alluring. Right now I’m trying to figure out how I can arrange to move to NY for the life of this course so I can absorb its riches. I already feel that the activities are life-changing. Just reading about them made me tingle. I just saved the pdf so I can read the mandatory books.

    My major goal for this year is to figure out how best to share my passion in a way that will have positive impact on the world and my success, abundance and inner joy. This course is what I’ve been looking for to help me figure this out and lay out my plan.

    Thanks Jonathan.

  18. Carol B. says:

    One part of the Covey Seven Habits coursework many years ago was to write a personal mission statement. Mine includes this answer for the questions “what impact do you want to have and on whom”.

    Leave each place, person and situation better than I found them.

    For me this translates to very basic, local, personal-effort actions – If I see paper or pop can trash while walking, pick it up. Smile at store clerks. Listen closely when friends talk, and offer my suggestions if they want them (but only if they want them). Use my professsional skills on the Board of a nonprofit that helps people learn to read. Donate food and funds to effective charities (those I’ve seen in action).

    I don’t expect my actions to have a perfect result, just to make some improvement. My unstated expectation is that someone may see my actions and decide to do something, too, rather than wait for someone else to improve their world. And whether or not that happens, I know I’ve made a difference. People are willing to make huge changes, when the choice is their own. They resent having change imposed upon them or coercion.

  19. Marsanne says:

    I’ve had this page open on my computer since the day you sent it out, and you know what? I still can’t put my finger on what kind of impact I want to make. I can think of tons of little things that I want to happen, but when I try to put them together into one quantifiable ideal, I just can’t do it. I’ll have to keep working on it, I suppose. In the mean time, I’m going to print this out and hang it over my desk…..

  20. […] Jonathan Fields, the original career renegade, is using a very short disclosure next to the affiliate […]