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Learn and grow through experiences

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Career & Financials

Bring your genius to work!

One of our favorite ambiguities. First find the genius within you and then share the gift with the world. Why and how? Let’s dive into it the ExperienceZone way.

What is your genius?

Some things, which go without saying need to be said loud. Among these the fact that you’re unique. Yeah, your mum might have told you already. And you even might believe it. But do you know why? Do you embrace the concept? Do you further live and breathe it? This is not your kumbayah inspirational blog but a career management gem. To this end, uniqueness means your individual set of passions and thus strengths. It’s tied to you as a person and only exists once on this planet (duh, that’s why it’s…unique).

Follow me here. Your individual way to see the world, to approach challenges and to find solutions is called genius. Its potential is as large as the ones of Mozart, Einstein and Steve Jobs (funny that latter still requires the first name) but also the one of the beggar asking you for a dime on your way to work. Bottom line, we all come equally equipped to this world. Yet, potential is raw material and useless until unfold.

How do you evoke your genius?

Talent is overrated. Mozart’s father made him play the piano as a baby. Well, I hear you argue that only children learn new complex things fast and if you’ve miss the train, you’re doomed to a mediocre life just because your evil parents didn’t stretch you enough. Neuroscience doesn’t let us off the hook though. Your brain changes all the time. Your life-style, incl. your diet, social network and mind-food, determines your brainpower.

Assuming you want to become smarter or happier, you first have to find out what you like to do. Passions are the things you’re naturally interested in and the fun activities, which don’t require external reward. Those you love to sink your teeth in, work extra hours and feel connected to yourself without feeling stress or even loss of energy along the way. So, grab a pen and write down your passions. Finally, boil them down to 3-5 core passions.

How do you contribute your genius?

Once you’ve identified your passions, you want to think about related strengths. If you like to talk, you might communicate effectively. If you swallow one book each week, you might be a fast reader. If you find joy in art, you might be good in drawing. After you jotted down your strengths, creatively find jobs, which are based on these. Communication skills are important in politics, consulting and healthcare (just to name a few). Reading is necessary for the education sector, journalists and authors. Drawing is a key skill of visual artists.

You’ve got a job already? Then reflect upon whether you’re able to bring your genius to work each day. If money were no object, would you still go to work? If you’re forced to take a sabbatical of one year, what would you do? If you picture yourself on your deathbed, would you regret your career? Be honest but don’t stress: I’m bad in navigation and names. Einstein had problems memorizing texts. Where there’s light, there’s shadow.

Which employment type suits you best?

Qualification is the stepping stone for your professional life. Once you’ve acquired market relevant skills, you make a career choice. Yet, which employment type is best for you? Employee, freelancer or entrepreneur? Let’s check this one out the ExperienceZone way.

The three employment types

The world is yours. Especially if you got good grades in school and university. That’s what they tell you at least. Well, that’s only half of the story. The other one deals with your decision along the way. Which major do you pick? Which career path do you choose? And related to that: How you want to start in your career? I studied Business Administration and started to work for a huge consulting company. A great way to learn an grow by supporting various clients in different project formats and roles within.

After you’re a few years into your career, you want to reflect on your progress: How steep is your learning curve? Is learning still the most important criterion in this phase of your professional life? Are you satisfied with the make-up of your career? Periodic checks along the way ensure you to realign yourself to your mission, which is build up on your strengths and ultimately passions. Once you got disconnected from those, you’re not following your heart anymore. Instead you function like a robot, which is programmed to take care of food, clothing and shelter (I know that robots actually don’t need any of those).

As you grow, you want to be aware that the risk-and-reward profiles between the employment types differ. As an employee, you’re contributing to a company. Traditionally you’re receiving a fix salary plus bonus as well as benefits. This is a relative sure-shot with low risk and decent rewards. Once you decide to become a freelancer, you need to acquire customers yourself plus take care of the back-office stuff. The money first flows into your pockets straightaway. Hence, it’s mid risk and mid rewards. As an entrepreneur, you’re running your own business and employ people. This is high-risks (you need to pay their salaries) but can be high reward (since others generate revenue and thus profits for you).

Make career smart decisions

I’m still working as an employee and enjoy doing consulting. In addition I have hobbies, which complement my natural passions, like running ExperienceZone a platform for people to learn and grow. I’m blogging almost daily and share videos. There’re various ways to live your dream, Which one works for you?

  1. Get a skill edge: Qualification is the first step towards a great career. Actually, you need to internalize the concept of life-long-learning. Hence it might make sense to start your career in the corporate world to learn and grow after your initial qualification steps. Dive into the know-what, know-how and know-who in various environment. Get a T-shape skill-set, which means deep functional expertise in one area plus decent experience in related ones too.
  2. Embrace change: Everything changes every moment. This is how our world  are designed. If you let things change your life, you give up control. You work in jobs, which are actually not based on your passions. So, drive change proactively by taking control of your life. This implies regular checkpoints with yourself. Introspection in form of a personality analysis helps you to make up your mind about your career.
  3. Mind the pros and cons: Where there’s light, there’s shadow. Every employment type has up- and downsides attached to it. Being accountable for our employees’ food, clothing and shelter, puts pressure on you as an entrepreneur. Learn to deal with it. Plus mind the prerequisites. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. This means that before you change your employment type, say from an employee to a freelancer, you want to first establish a network of potential clients before you jump into the cold water.

How to find your profession

You only live a few decades on this planet. Hence, the sure-fire way to turn your passions into your profession. How do you do this? Let’s discover it the ExperienceZone way.

What drives you?

Nature and nurture. You certainly come with certain predispositions on planet earth. Those natural capabilities make math being either a walk in the park or through hell. If you top this with the approach to rather build up on your strengths than level out your weaknesses, your skill blueprint manifests itself into a job. Great! You do stuff you’re naturally good at!

Yet, what if talent is way overrated? What if you can become passionate and thus a master in anything? What if you also need to give something, which the world truly needs and others are willing to pay for? Now, we’re talking about the passion-to-profession continuum. This ExperienceZone concept says that you’ve been born with an almost empty skill-bucket. Only the ground is covered with some seeds called talents. As you go through life you’ve to grow these talents into unique strengths or combinations of skills. The fertilizer is called passion. Your motivation interest. What does this mean? The more interested you’re in something, the more you learn about it. The deeper you dig, the more passionate and knowledgeable you become. A powerful combination: You can talk more broadly and in more detail about a topic with more enthusiasm (know-what). Also, you apply it in daily life and make experiences (know-how). This way you can grow plants of capabilities (silo-skills) and eventually a garden (symbiotic skills through cross-application). Finally, you need to maintain your knowledge-ecosystem by cutting off obsolete branches and adding new components, which are in demand by others.

How do you grow a profession?

I used to believe that I’m not strong in math until I grew into an IT consulting role. Then I thought that presentation skills are either god-given or non-existent. This believe got destroyed by me holding hundreds of presentations like second nature. So, how do you find your profession?

  1. Get to know yourself. What keeps you focused for hours? During which activities do you forget time? When do you experience flow? First, write down these basic passions. Then translate them into strengths. You love drawing? Then you’re probably good in seeing and capturing stuff visually.
  2. Define your reason for existence. Once you’ve your key 3-5 strengths clear, you want to think about how the world looks today and how you want it to look like in an ideal state. Visualize how people act within. How do they live? What do they do? What do they need? Now, its time to define your mission. Your contribution to achieving this dream future.
  3. Turn your mission into your profession. Your profession is to translate your mission into a career. What jobs are available, which make you live your mission? Do you want to be a painter to make others happy? Then go for it!

How to make your written application sing to a recruiter

You want to get your dream job? Earn money by following your heart? Make your passion your profession? It’s time to step up your application game! Instead of bribing the gatekeeper called recruiter, you can simply convince her to joyfully give you the keys to the kingdom. How? Well, let’s check it out the ExperienceZone way.

Brevity and clarity

“If I would have had more time, I would have written you a shorter note.” Getting rid of prosaic slack takes time – in any communication way, shape or form. Yet, essentialism is more important than ever. Why’s that? Nowadays, we’re being swamped with information from all directions. Every hour, we’re uploading YouTube videos, which one human being can’t watch in a lifetime. Every day, blogs articles are written, which no one can ever read. Recruiters are knowledge workers. They review hundreds of resumes each day. Google even receives thousands of applications per vacancy. How do you ensure that yours stand out? By sticking to the “one-page” rule. A single-sheet resume provides the overloaded HR professional your entire career history at a glance. No cumbersome printing. No staples. No flipping.

Brevity is necessary but by far not sufficient. It’s like a small plate without food on it. Hence, you want to structure your information in an easily digestible way. Communication is always about the receiver. So, how do you spoon-feed the stressed hiring managers? Think common sense. Consider your cover letter being a marriage proposal towards a company. First you outline what it wants, then you pitch your accomplishments and finally you match both. In terms of your resume, it’s about reserving most space for a reverse chronological documentation of your responsibilities and achievements. Personal information at the top and qualification highlights at the bottom. Each in one line. Period.

Destroy the competition

Yeah, you read right: There’s a war for talent going on outside. Yet, on the other hand there’s a battle for highly paid dream jobs alike. Here’s how you win it:

  1. Stick to your guns: Know where you’re coming from, who you’re and where you want to go. This requires you to run a personality analysis and gain clarity about your mission and aims in life. Also, you want to reflect on your professional life regularly. Capture any updates in your career tracking document. Essentially, it’s the long version of your resume. Latter represents always a one-pager containing the latest and most relevant work experiences as an extract of your career tracking document.
  2. Become a mercenary: Sit down every three months (note to self) and reflect upon the past quarter. Any new roles and responsibilities? Great, put them on top of your resume. Any new successes? Awesome, they are even more important. Like in every other situation in life, you’re selling yourself here. So, its time to act up a notch. I don’t mean lying but stepping the spotlight and enjoying it. Learn to sugar code information. Especially, if you’ve gaps in your resume. Turn risks into opportunities and bugs into features.
  3. Aim and shoot: Having an updated resume is half of the story. The other one tells your matching. The more information you gather about a vacancy, the more specific is your application, i.e. cover letter (or corporate marriage proposal) and resume in term of relevant skills as well as experiences. Kill two birds with calling the recruiter: Get from a cold to a warm relationship and get company or open requisition input by asking some smart questions. Take time to shape and ask someone for a 4-eye check – in terms of structure, content, spelling, grammar and prose. Then put everything (cover letter, resume and certificates) in one PDF file and shoot!

What would you do if money were no object?

We live only a few decades on this planet. Yet we spend most of our time qualifying for our jobs and thereafter in our jobs. Eat, sleep, work, repeat. 9 to 5 became 8 to 8 plus weekends. Line between working and private life increasingly blur. Many take their hamster wheels home. How do you combine passion and profession best? Let’s investigate this one the ExperienceZone way.

Money ain’t a thing?

From the beginning of history, humans established communities build on the contribution principle. You are good with a spear? Great! You’ll go hunting with the older guys. You’re good in detecting eatable fruit? Awesome! Based on our unique skills, we found our place in society.

Then we invented money and a financial system around it. Money is supposed to reflect the value of a product or service. Value is an expression of how important an commodity is for the customer and how urgent she wants to have that. So, if money is just a results of your value proposition, how do you maximize the value you add to others? Your strengths are the key to the value kingdom. The more you leverage your strengths, the more high-quality services you’ll provide. Your strengths are those things you can do extraordinary well. Their raw materials are called passions. The activities you care about. They keep you up all night. Make you run extra miles with a smile on your face since you’re following your heart.

Bottom line: Money is not the cause but outcome of happiness. Hence, smart people first identify their passions, which build the basis for their strengths. Then they think about how they can add value to others by using their unique skill-set. Money – as manifested energy – flows back to them naturally.

How can you find your profession?

Yesterday, I met a guy in his 50s with two professions: Firstly, he’s a dive instructor and trip organizer (that’s his passion). Secondly, he consults web startups (that’s his bread-and-butter job). I asked him why he’s two jobs and is not only following his heart to dive. He responded that he loves to dive, yet teaching others require other skills. Also, he enjoys having two jobs. Really interesting statement from a baby-boomer. Anyway, here’re my recommendations:

  1. Find your passions. This is so critical. Run a personality analysis. Define your mission and aims in life. I know what I love: Researching, enriching factual book know-what with my anecdotal experience know-how by connecting dots. This happens through reading and actions (input), thinking (transformation) as well as writing and speaking (output). What are the things you burn for?
  2. Derive your strengths. What can you do exceptionally well by leaning in with your passions? I’m meantime good in extracting the essence of complex subjects and explain them in simple terms – in written or spoken language. My diving buddy loves diving and talking about it. Consequently, he’s a brilliant dive instructor and someone who takes others places to enable great underwater experiences.
  3. Find your profession. Life is too short go for second best. Think big and pursue your audacious goals relentlessly. You’ll never over-accomplish objectives, so you can shoot for the stars in first place? What do other people need now and (maybe more importantly) five years down the road? In more bold terms: How can you contribute to make this world a better place by playing out your strengths and creating something of value, which others are willing to pay for. Then you earn money by living your dream.

Did you know that one billion people cannot read or write?

“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” The old Chinese praised activity as the most effective way to learn new stuff. Reading however is often a first step to get your head around an topic area. Its one of the first techniques we learn in school. Yet many people do know master this skill. Why’s that? Let’s check out causes and measures the ExperienceZone way.

How we learn by writing and reading

Writing and reading are basic skills. They go hand-in-hand. Learning new things traditionally happens by reading a text. Already in the stone age, our ancestors painted hunting stories on cave walls. In ancient Egypt, the hieroglyphs tell us stories of pharaohs and their allegiances.

Nowadays, first graders learn reading and usually thereafter writing in school. Especially early in life, reading and writing create new synaptic connections. Those increase our know-what and know-how alike. Whilst former helps you to appear smart at a barbecue party small-talk, latter makes you mentally flexible. In other words: Know-how reflects your ability to quickly come up with creative solutions to ad-hoc problems. A key skill in our increasingly complex world.

Reading and writing have a nature-nuture-relation and can create a virtuous cycle of mastery. By reading a text, you get a basic understanding. If you extract its essence by writing a summary in your own words thereafter or even enriching it with related knowledge, your mind starts to dig really deep into the meaning. This approach increases your memory. If you only read a text, you remember 30% of the content. Yet if you add other senses, like hearing and speaking to seeing, you memorize 70%. In case you even massage the content, it jumps to 90%!

Ergo: Usually it starts with reading. Then you top up by listening to stuff, discussing it or even adding your own flavor. An approach which education institutions follow.

Many people lack the basics

Due to various reasons, 6 out 8 human beings cannot read and/or write. Hence they face serious challenges to qualify for jobs. With increasing complexity across all industries and thus professions, reading and writings are givens in your corporate world. Moreover illiterates have a hard time in their everyday hustle and bustle. Text is our communication foundation. Signposts, newspaper and signatures. Anytime and anywhere we’re expected to read and write stuff. Those who can’t are socially disabled and run the risk to be isolated.

What can you do to make a change?

Take a two-pronged approach: Take care of yourself before you help others (freely according to the oxygen supply advises on an airplane).

  1. Focus and expand. There’re gazillion books. Every year more than ever get published. This is due to the fact that our collective knowledge pool grows year over year plus bringing out your own book has never been easier. So, check first into which areas you want to dive deeper into to fuel your employability to reinforce your career choice intellectually. Either you’re passionate about a subject already or you develop it through digging into it. Yet if it’s too far off your interest mark, reading about it will be frustrating. Find the right balance. At ExperienceZone, we believe in well-rounded T-shape skill-sets. Hence, put your expertise stakes in the ground and expand into related areas thereafter.
  2. Learn systemically. Yeah, if you made it to here, you can surely read (although my English is admitably sometimes hard to decipher). Yet you can always step up your game. Check out speed-reading for instance. Especially if you read a lot, it can make sense to do this more efficiently. Just bear in mind, that effectiveness, i.e. comprehensibility can suffer if you skim over text without really digesting it. Therefore you want to smartly combine initial reading with consecutive mind-mapping, talking and writing  summaries. Consider buying an eReader to save money, packing weight and volume during travels. Think about audio books, which you can listen too whilst almost any physical activity. Absorb knowledge everyday, yet take time to let it sink. Read inspiring light content unrelated to your profession prior to going to sleep. This enables recovery and expands your horizon.
  3. Support others. Reading and writing are privileges. However, they don’t need to be. You can help people to learn or improve their skills. Get to know NGOs, which help those having the short end of the literature stick. Check how you can support without only donating money. Give tutoring to people in need. Those can be the student next door or one on the other side of the world. Modern phone and video conferencing tools are available to transfer knowledge. Teaching helps you to master content. Plus you can make it a two-way street: Almost every other human being can teach you something. You are good in math and want to gain basic Mandarin language skills? Find a student in China interested in learning English and filling her math knowledge gaps! There’re no limits and thus excuses nowadays.

Why do successful people have large libraries and small TVs?

I stole that quote from a book I recently read. Why did it catch my eye? Well, every child gets told it should read a book instead of playing Angry Birds on the tablet. “Reading makes you smarter.” Yet is that really true? And if yes, why’s that? Once again, I played Sherlock Holmes for you to solve that case in an ExperienceZone fashion.

Why watching TV is a double edged sword

Let’s start with your beloved telly. It provides you information. So far so good. But the data is predigested. What does this mean? You get moving pictures with audio. Your minds (yes plural, since we’re talking brain, heart and gut) just need to consume the visual and auditive meal. No space for imagination and thus creativity. Even worse: Everything, which is shown to you sticks in your subconscious. Especially if it’s presented in a way that touches your emotions. Stuff that makes you move internally. That’s exactly what the producers and directors want! If you’re having an intense experience, you tend to switch into the same channel again. Or you’re even willing to pay for watching it. We’re addicted to sensations. That’s the reason why only bad news are good news. Why are action movies, thrillers and dramas way more successful than documentaries? Because they shake you up! Don’t get me wrong: We love experiences! But only the good ones. What happens if you watch a horror movie and go to bed afterwards? You configure your subconscious. Even if you don’t have nightmares, your subconscious will co-create a reality, which is similar to what it received beforehand. Do you want your life to become a horror movie? I guess not…

Books tease your imagination and creativity

Do you want to be street smart instead? Find the best solutions to challenges in your life? Get along with others better every day? Then start to read regularly! I can tell you in thousand words how honey tastes. You won’t get it until you try it. So, why’s reading so powerful?

Firstly, the act of reading requires focus. Focus is the silver bullet of success. Unfortunately many of us don’t train this exceptional skill. In contrast: Our daily hustle promotes distraction. Your phone goes. An email arrives. Someone comes to your desk whilst you’re working on the super-important board presentation. Life is about balance. If you spend more time on simultaneity, you will find it harder to work things through sequentially. Bear in mind that our brain is wired to process information in bits. That’s why reading line after line is an easily digestible way to build up knowledge. Even more than that: You need to make a mental effort. Your brain is a muscle and wants to be trained. Yet I often need to jump over the McGuire hump and read at least a page after a long day.

Secondly, reading makes you think about what you’re absorbing whilst you’re doing it. This triggers pictures in your brain. Especially, if you read a novel. You think about how the characters look like, how the environment and situation is made up. You make you own movie in your head. That is also creating new neurotic interfaces and makes you brain more complex. The tighter your neurotic network, the more flexible you become in your communication and behavior.

Enough said: Get some good books and read every day!

ExperienceZone is all about trying new stuff and cultivating new routines, which do you good. Here’s what I want you to do step by step:

  1. Check yourself. What are you interested in? Beautifying your home? Biographies of great men? Or actionable tipps and tricks to improve your life? Go library and flip through some books. Or on an online platform and check out some bestsellers.
  2. Get started and follow through. You need to start reading every day. It’s an exercise that trains your brain. So schedule some time with yourself. I’m reading before I go to bed. It has a positive tiring impact on me. Sometimes I only cover a page or two before I fall asleep with the book open in my hands. Also, I read a couple of books in parallel. Yet never more than three. Otherwise distraction sets in. I love having one lying next to me on my sofa or in my sports bag.
  3. Reduce TV time. I own a large TV. Yet I only switch it on occasionally. I don’t watch the usual program. Instead I watch documentaries and inspiring movies with happy ends. So be conscious about what you’re watching. You are a product of everything you experienced in your life. That includes media consumption to a large extent for many people.

Who really owns your career?

Why do you go to work: To earn money? To have something to do? To receive recognition? Many peoples’ careers are like rocket chairs: They keep them busy but lead to nowhere. Why’s that? Because they don’t take ownership. Instead folks just go with the flow. “Well, I became a dentist because my father was one…” Nothing against being a someone who repairs others’ teeth, yet I invite you to question the decisions in your life as well as their reversibility. You can always adjust the course. That requires you to embrace one golden ExperienceZone rule:

Only you own your career, which is as dynamic as your passions

How do you put these condensed truths into practice? First understand them and their implications. Let’s slice and dice it:

  1. You own your career. Yeah, your partner might have a stake in it. Though bear in mind that you’re tasked to do what feels right to you. Nobody else can know that and take that burden off your shoulders. Your boss might promise to support you. Yet at max she can do is open doors. You need to choose which one you want to go through.
  2. Your career is dynamic. In the 20th century, we had these “from the cradle to the grave” employment relationships. Your grandfather might worked for his company from his internship till retirement. That concept doesn’t hold water anymore. Meantime, the world became more complex and versatile. Hence, replace predictability with opportunity.
  3. Your passions guide the way. It might sound corny yet is so true: You’re designed to do what you love to do. Why’s that important? Your passions emerge from love. Love is an emotion. It makes you move. The more you move the better you become in something. One day you’ll accomplish mastery. This way passions translate into strengths. They create your contributions to the world and value to others. That’s what people are willing to pay for. Got it?

So, how do you jump on the driver seat?

Next you want to take action:

  1. Run a personality analysis to gain clarity about where you’re coming from, who you’re and where you’re going to.
  2. Decide to live a fully self-determined life going forward.
  3. Check your attitudes. Align them towards success
  4. Define your mission. The individual reason for you to be on this planet.
  5. Set at least one aim in life in each area. Pursue those relentlessly.

In terms of Career & Financials, embrace the concept of life long learning. Also, check if you’re still on track by digging down to your passions. Make sure that you build your career based on solid ground and aligned with your mission. Update your resume on a quarterly basis and go interviewing to stay in shape. The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war.

What is your experience zone?

Most of us spend 99% of our time in our comfort zones. Eat, work, sleep, and repeat. Days, weeks, months and years pass by. What a waste of time! We only have a few decades on this planet. Let’s use them! So, what do you need to do? Awareness is the first step towards change. Recognize your comfort zone. The functional area, in which you don’t take much risk yet don’t learn a lot too.

Do you want to stop existing and start living? Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Tap into your experience zone to learn, grow, and become truly happy. Experiences turn into memories in hindsight. What do most people think about on their deathbeds? Definitely not about the money they earned, the houses they lived in or the cars they drove. Rather the people they met, the placed they traveled, and the experiences they made.

Take deliberate steps into your ExperienceZone. Watch out: It is thin and you might overrun into your danger zone; uncharted territory, in which every step could be your last one. Do every day or at least every week something new. Start with small things like using the other hand to brush your teeth or taking another way to work without switching on your GPS. Write a bucket list of things you’d like to do before you die. Or best case create an aims in life folder. Make sure that those cover all areas of life: Nutrition & Energy, Family & Friends, Community & Environment, Sports & Relaxation, Recreation & Fun, Career & Financials, and Self Development. Also, ensure that it addresses all dimensions of being, doing, having, and giving.

Finally, go out and just do it. Jump fear straight in its face. Irrational fears are a great pointer towards the things which you need to do to learn, grow and become happy.

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