Finding Your People

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When playing the life and career game, one of the most important quests we are given is to find our people. These people are different from your original family or clan members; your clan members are part of your hometown and are there to provide you with a sense of belonging from which to launch out into your life adventure. This new quest, which is first given around high school graduation time, is a chain quest that can last a lifetime. At the end of it, however, lies your true identity and the others who are like you. High school and college counselors are a great resource for n00bs to gain insight about who they are as a person and what direction they should go in to begin looking for “their people.” If skipping the college route and jumping straight into the workforce is more of a n00bs style, then getting the counsel of an experienced, trusted friend or family member would be the place to begin.  These resources aid the young adventurer by helping them evaluate and discover what the noob’s calling might be. These people are the noob’s trainers or mentors. For some, they may gain a mentor in their first job or at college. Whichever the case may be, the n00b’s life path will steer him or her to a place of convergence with this trainer. The universe knows that a young adventurer needs guidance, and it will send the right person into the newbie’s path, where the mentor will call forth and validate the noob’s identity and general purpose. Sometimes it is difficult to listen to these initial mentors because they may tell us the truth. In the movie Finding Joe, there is a tale of a tiger cub who had been raised by sheep. If it hadn’t been for an adult tiger to walk by and recognize the abnormality, the young cub would have thought it was a sheep for the rest of its life. But as fate would have it, the adult tiger took the cub and led it to see its reflection in a watering hole. There, the mentor revealed the cub’s false reality and showed it the truth. The movie explains that the truth can be difficult to swallow at first. It can challenge everything a young n00b previously believed. However, the truth is essential to hear if one is ever to go forth and find one’s self and eventually find one’s people. Trainers in an MMORPG let adventurers know how to perfect their class. They train them. They help them understand how to use their natural gifts, talents, and skills. They reveal the truth and guide them.  This can mean leaving behind some juvenile securities in exchange for the insecurity of growing into what one is destined to be. It can be painful, but it is the only path to transformation and true identity. The job of a trainer is to help you discover who you really are. Once newbies embrace their true calling, they can go forth and look for their tribe.  Out there, somewhere, in the big, wide world is a group of travelers who have all been following the same star. The star has called them, just as it has called all the adventurers of the same type. Some find their people earlier in life than others.  It is a complex chain quest of listening, observing, saying no to distractions, and receiving the truth. But, at some point, if adventurers want to fulfill their destiny, they will have to have the courage to accept the truth of who they are. Inevitably, this will require shedding a comfortable skin of who they aren’t. It will mean taking a stand. It will mean leaving behind some who were friends at one time, but now seem to keep the adventurer trapped and stunted.  On the other side, however, is a confidence and convergence in the adventurer’s life that can’t otherwise be obtained. Once the quest is completed, and the adventurer finds their people, they can begin to plant the seeds that will grow into their greatest contribution. Finding one’s people is an essential piece of the overall life and career journey. The search may take decades for some. The quest is given as one leaves home for the first time, but the journey isn’t complete until one has shed the skin of prescribed identity and embraced the truth of who they really are. Once discovered, however, the hero will never look back. The old skin won’t fit anymore. In this authenticity, adventurers join a group of others who have completed a similar chain quest. They, too, have endured loss and insecurity to get to this gathering. All have allowed their trainers to guide them to this point. They have received notoriety and rewards along the way to keep them headed in the right direction. Each has something to share with the group. And it is from belonging and marinating within this group of similars that the adventurer is finally affirmed and encouraged to “relax” and begin producing. The search for Maslow’s belonging and esteem needs are met here. Here is where the adventurer crafts their own unique contribution to the world. Carry on, friends, and embrace the truth. Find your people. They are there waiting for you on the other side of your quest. Seek out your trainers and listen for the truth. Stay tooned, J    

Don’t Put Out the Fire Too Early! A New Year’s Warning.

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About midway through the first section of Boss Level: How to Hack Your Way to the Top of Your Career “N00b,” there is a passage I called “Fears, Doubts, and Nay-sayers: Dismissing Bad Advice.” Ask anyone who is old enough to express an opinion or have had a perspective or dream, and they can attest to the fact that, at some point, they have been on the receiving end of a disheartening comment from a “nay-sayer.” Nay-sayers are always around us. Perhaps they enter our lives to help us form grit. But, experiencing nay-sayers during the early years of our lives (before level/age 19) can negatively shape our views and efforts. For example, when my mom was a kid, she was often told she was “stupid” by her drunk and frequently absent father. Because of this, she felt she could never learn. She barely passed high school and though she loved to read, learn, and was a fantastic speller, she concluded early on that higher education must not be for her because she was “stupid.” It wasn’t until she turned 50 that she went back to school. She became the most certified esthetician in our city within three years. Unbeknownst to my brother and me, she could see the writing on the wall that her marriage would be ending a few short years later, and the necessity to provide an income for herself trumped the negative tapes she replayed in her head that she was dumb. The sad part is that she was trapped by the words of her father for nearly 30 years prior to her breakthrough. We may all have similar stories with varying time-frames of fear, doubt, and confidence issues. Maybe we are surrounded by nay-sayers right now, or perhaps we have just made the decision to break free. The new year always makes room for us to contemplate our paths and where we are heading or not heading. Instead of re-writing an entry here about how to carry on when fears, doubts, and naysayers encroach on our lives, I think the excerpt from the book suffices:   Fears, Doubts, and Nay-Sayers: Dismissing Bad Advice “Misery loves company.” The old adage remains true. When others don’t have your best interest at heart, they try to find ways to make themselves feel better at your expense. For example, a pretty girl may not compliment a prettier girl, even if she deserves it, because it may only serve to make the pretty girl feel less pretty. The same goes for guys and strength. The same for who’s “coolest.” When we don’t have another’s best interest in mind, we feel that if we tell others how awesome they are, that we are giving them an advantage over us. Even worse, there are times we might even knock the achievements another person has attained, just to hold them back from believing in themselves. We may do this because we feel sorry for ourselves that we may not have a special quality of our own to believe in. Why? Because we haven’t worked as long or persevered as much as they have yet, and we want to have what we don’t deserve without having to do all the work for it. Since we are envious that they have put in the work, we try to make their accomplishments seem less significant. It’s sick, isn’t it? There will always be “nay-sayers” in your life. They will tell you that your idea has a “one-in-a-million (or billion)” chance of succeeding. They will tell you “it’s already been tried.” They will say to you that you won’t be able to support yourself on that kind of a job, it’s a “tough row to hoe,” “you can’t have your head in the clouds,” or “you’re a dreamer.” No matter the saying or advice, nay-sayers are people who want to keep you back. They aren’t for you. They don’t care if you succeed or fail. They really aren’t that interested in you or your success at all. In fact, their demeaning comments are really just for themselves. What they are really saying out loud is “I’m fine the way I am, and it’s easier not to try things.” They tell themselves, “If I can convince myself that not trying something risky is actually smarter, then I can stay right where I am and not have to endure embarrassment or disappointment if I try and then fail.” You see, for nay-sayers and others who give you bad advice, they couldn’t care any less for you than they already do. They don’t care about you; they only care about themselves. It’s foolish to even give their words a second thought. On the other hand, those who do really care for you, go ecstatic when you are successful. They love your ideas. They root you on! They laugh and get excited when you laugh and get excited about something great happening in your life. These people think of you and your success as their own success. They imagine how happy they would be if this plan, idea, or success story was their own, and in turn, they feel elated for you because it is happening to you. These are the people who love you. Sometimes, even those who have your best interest in mind can sound like a nay-sayer, but they aren’t. People who are truly on your side may feel the need to caution you on a plan or idea that may actually bring you harm. Remember, love must also protect – and aggressively at that. The mother bear will not let a predator harm her cubs no matter how much the cubs are foolhardy in thinking they’ve gained a new playmate. Love rejoices and it protects, but it is never self-serving or envious. Know from whom you are getting advice. “Consider the source,” as they say. A simple question will help you know instantly if the one giving you advice is a nay-sayer or a self-serving individual: “Do you love me?” You’ll […]

Happiness, Self-Sufficiency, and the Soulfire Sword

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When I first started playing Everquest, I rolled a Paladin named Qrusafix Crossbones. It was great to be a holy knight, fighting undead hordes to the death. I loved being a dwarf paladin so much that over a five-year span, I created a dwarf pally three different times. My favorite quest was the Soulfire quest.  This was a paladin only adventure where a diligent player could complete a long chain quest and eventually obtain the Soulfire: a flaming sword.  It was the mark of an experienced paladin, and everyone in the realm knew by the sight of the sword exactly who you were and the epic challenge you had endured. It was iconic. On the road to becoming an elite player of real life, we begin to get opportunities to “upgrade our armor” beginning with the high school years. Here, we begin to become expected and trusted to branch out on our own, bit by bit. One could say that it is in high school where the first part of our own Soulfire chain quest is introduced. Teachers and speakers address the students, casting vision for what lies beyond the walls of safety and within the forest of uncertainty of the real world. They provide “maps” (for the ones who are keen enough to listen) for avoiding pitfalls and finding shortcuts through the thick of things. They supply the listener with tools that will aid their success such as how to communicate, network, set goals, invest, take risks, apply knowledge, seek out mentors, and much more. However, each one of these “tools” always comes with a cost: the life adventurer must take action and face a challenge to receive them. For instance, to become an effective communicator (whereby one can learn the art of persuasion in order to open career opportunities,) the adventurer needs to practice communicating. At first, one’s writing or speaking may be unfocused, unclear, awkward, and unintentional. However, with each subsequent effort and reflection on what worked and what didn’t, the life player learns how to hone this skill and eventually earn an armor “upgrade” in the communication department. Earning upgrades are little victories on the road to self-sufficiency. Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics proposes that when something is self-sufficient it is perfect. He says, “For the final and perfect good seems to be self-sufficient…we define as “self-sufficient” that which taken by itself makes life something desirable and deficient in nothing. It is happiness, in our opinion, which fits this description.”(1097b – 6, 14-15). As many would agree, happiness is the goal of life. We all want to be happy, and we all do various things to try to make that happiness a reality. When we take on a challenge and earn a small victory, we are slowly building toward the “happiness” that we envision when our quest for our own “Soulfire” will be complete. The little victories contain the same seeds of happiness as the reward of the Soulfire does. Each victory IS happiness. Each stepping stone on the way to the end contains its own happiness, and each time we succeed, we, at that moment, are self-sufficient. Little victories = happiness. Little victories build self-sufficiency. They say that the joy is in the journey, not at the end of the journey. I would propose that there is joy in both places. Upgrades to your armor, whether large or small, are still upgrades; they both contain happiness and both speak to self-sufficiency. When we feel that we can confront life and stand on our own, we feel alive. We feel we are making progress on our epic chain quest. And when we finally obtain our own Soulfire sword, we love both the artifact and what it represents: the little victories that made the journey so enjoyable. Stay Tooned, J.P.

Being a N00b

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Almost 20 years ago, a student of mine Greg made a comment about being a n00b in the ground-braking MMORPG game Everquest. He said, “Being a n00b is so much fun.” Greg was much further along in the game than I was and had rolled many characters. However, he always liked creating noobs and leveling them up from 1-20 before losing interest, and then starting all over with another new character. He had his mains, but every so often, he liked to go back and just be a n00b. One of the reasons being a n00b in an MMORPG is so fun is because gaining XP happens rapidly. The game consists of learning the basics, and with each successful completion of some very simple tasks, and without much effort or risk, you get to level up.  When you die, it is no big deal; no one gets mad at you, you don’t lose experience, and you just get to act silly and frolic through some low-level, low-risk lands with great names like North Freeport, East Commonlands, Misty Thicket, and the Butcherblock Mountains. The stakes are low, and the enjoyment high. You get to try things out, explore, and learn about the game in a safe way. The practice you get helps you understand how to play your role, so that you can be an effective contributor once what you bring to the table matters a lot more. Being a n00b IRL is similar. Whether it is just being “new” to life itself as a kid, or being a new player in a particular career field, the newbie stage allows for some awesome opportunities to grow in a safe environment. The veterans of life or of a career love to watch you learn and help out as they can. They have been through some of the more challenging aspects of the world, and want to offer you advice and support, so you don’t make the same mistakes that they did. In the last post, I mentioned looking back upon our formative years to determine why we have the passions and interests that we do. Part of these formative years take place at school from Kindergarten through fifth grade. These ages, five to ten, are the first half of the n00b experience. During these years, we are to take advantage of low risk, high reward opportunities. Here, we begin to gain confidence in our abilities. The learning curve is gradual and safe, yet our minds are developing and changing rapidly. Learning how to handle failure during these stages is very important. When we fall and skin our knees, the good trainers will tell us to “shake it off, you’re ok, so get back up and keep going.” Under their confidence and guidance, we don’t focus on our failures, but rather keep focus on completing tasks and reaching our goals. Obstacles don’t get time or credit. We move around them with eyes fixed on what really makes us feel capable: achievement. It’s like a kid who has a mom who ignores the bloody knees, calmly wipes them off with a rag, and tells the kid to keep playing. Her confidence becomes the child’s, too. For the mom who freaks out and cries, “Oh my poor little baby! Your knees are bleeding!” the child then learns to focus on the failure – the obstacle – the problem – the fear. This is where we can get stuck on our journey to level up. Whether moms or third-grade teachers, our early trainers set the tone for us. Remember that the n00b stage is supposed to be a time of safely learning through trial and error. It is supposed to be a time to brush failure to the side and focus on what can be learned instead. It is a time for keeping the eye on the prize until you receive it.  The cost of the mistake is very low. Learning how to navigate and stay confident during the n00b stage is directly related to competence during the soloing stage (ages 18-29.) Looking back, if we find that we were “trained” to focus too much on the “skinned knees” instead of the goal, that might be why we are disinterested or fearful to set goals and achieve them even now. However, if we can look back and find those trainers who helped us overcome a mindset or obstacle and kept us focused on achievement, we can channel that perspective into a confidence that can help us continue to upgrade our armor and level up in our lives and careers. Remember that being a n00b is a gift. It is a chance to learn with low expectation, responsibility, and risk. At the same time, these proving grounds can be the greatest time to impress the veterans. How you handle the newbie failures sets the tone for the respect you gain for yourself and from others. Stay Tooned, JP

Why Am I Passionate about XYZ?

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There is common question that most people ask at some point in their lifetime: Why I am here?  This question seeks an answer that will give the asker purpose. We want to know why we matter and how our existence makes a difference in this world. I think it is important to look back upon our childhoods as the place where we began to form our values, opinions, fears, passions, self-worth, ideologies, and trust thresholds. Though at the time when we were children we didn’t realize all that we believed in or why, now that we are older, we can look back and make some connections as to why we are the way we are. In an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, your newly created avatar is directed to go visit your class trainer. If you chose to be an undead warlock, for example, you might be sent down into a crypt to find a robed skeleton hunched over a pile of books. When he notices your presence, he begins a conversation with you and tells you about your abilities, gives you a simple quest to complete, and provides you with a simple weapon or spell to use to assist you.  Here, you begin your first training exercises.  As you practice your new abilities, you begin to gain a bit of affinity for your class role: your contribution. You slowly start to envision how your special abilities can be used, and at the same time, what your abilities can’t achieve. As you complete a set of small training exercises, your mentor rewards you with in game currency, better armor, and/or experience points (XP.) IRL, our parents, relatives, and teachers all play the role of different “trainers” in our lives. Some of these trainers what to teach you how to be something you are not, while others see how to bring out and shape the innate predispositions you already display. These influences greatly shape our thinking and confidence. We believe we are smart or not, good or not, worthy or not, accepted or not, and valued or not due to how these mentors relate to us.  If we were treated well, we slowly began to believe in ourselves and our abilities. If we were treated irresponsibly, we slowly began to develop insecurities, doubts, and fears. Looking back on your own childhood experiences, how did your trainers treat you? Which ones helped you flourish in confidence and sense of value, and which ones impeded your self-assurance and progress? Ask yourself how those influences may have shaped your thinking. These influences have something to do with the answer to the question: Why am I here? If you have had some significantly positive mentors in your life, your mind will generate some possible answers to this question. If you have had some significantly negative influences in your life, the answer to this question may be harder to acquire. These considerations are important as you begin to make decisions about your future. As you take a step back and look at your life from a bird’s-eye view, what have been your patterns? What is it that you have found that you consistently repeat? If you look closely, you discover that you already do what you are. That is because when we were young, we were either affirmed or discouraged when we began to take risks. These affirmations and discouragements shaped us.  They made us believe a certain perception of reality about the world, others, and ourselves. Now that you are older, the real fun begins: you get to decide which ideologies, values, fears, etc. are worth holding on to and which ones need discarding. They were all just humans, just like you. Some got it right and some didn’t, just like we all do. You may discover that after playing for a while, that an “undead warlock” just isn’t your style – you aren’t gaining an affinity for that kind of experience. So, you make a decision to roll a new character. Perhaps it is a Dwarf warrior or an Elf druid. Whatever the case, it is important to know yourself and the influences that have shaped you in order to choose a life that you can be passionate about: a life that brings you joy as you navigate the game. You can’t go back and start over like you can in a video game, but you can do something similar: you can make a decision today to make the changes that will set you on a new course – one that makes you passionate about XYZ. Stay Tooned, JP

Character Creation and Your Career

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At the beginning of an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, a new player is taken to the character creation screen. The decisions made on this screen will affect the rest of your experiences in the actual game itself. This first step is very exciting because it is full of potential.  There are several different avatars to choose from, and they all come ready with innate abilities and specialized benefits. There are dwarves, humans, orcs, goblins, undead, trolls, elves and more. In addition, after new players choose a character, they choose the class role they want to play in the game. These can include careers as a mage, warrior, priest, hunter, warlock, shaman, druid and other roles. Further customization allows a player to practice a profession like mining, jewel crafting, tailoring, or blacksmithing.  So basically, a player creates a character he or she is passionate about playing. This passion about who you are via your new avatar is what gives you the patience, interest, and commitment to take your newbie character all the way from level 1 to the level cap in the game. Without a passion for your character, you won’t want to play the game.  This is how it is with ourselves IRL. As we grow up from age 1 to age 18, we learn something about ourselves. We learn what we are good at and what is difficult for us. Some of us may be good at a particular role, like public speaking or drawing, while others may be good at leadership, sales, or any number of special skills. Whatever it may be, it is important to be you. When you play the game of real life and career, you want to be passionate and motivated about it. If you are rolling a character in this life that isn’t who you are, you won’t be passionate about playing. However, if you take a moment to think of your optimal self – the self you envision where you are an epic player in that particular career – you will begin to feel passionate about what you can become and how you can contribute to this life. The character creation screen of your life is affected by your upbringing, world-views, experiences, and friendships. All of this goes on in the background when you are young, culminating into an awareness of your identity when you are about to embark out on your own as a young adult. At this point,  you may not like some of the things about your identity as you begin to look introspectively at what you have become. However, never underestimate the power of choice. You can take what you are and begin to hone your raw identity into a vision of what you want to be when you are your best self.  Like rolling a character and class role, you begin with the basics of your nature, and then embark on quests to gain experience that will help you level up your identity and contribution. It takes time, but the passion you have for the vision of your best and most accomplished self keeps you motivated to play the life and career game. Stay Tooned, JP

What is MMRLRPG Exactly?

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MMRLRPG theory, Massively Multiplayer Real-Life Role Playing Game theory, is the career-stage theory at the heart of Boss Level. From it, we can learn how to maximize and properly navigate the opportunities available to us during our career journey. It is formed from four components. First, it takes the main engine that drives MMORPGs a.k.a. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. The idea in MMORPGs is to have a game where people can create personal avatars and team up with other people to earn the most epic rewards and defeat the most difficult “bosses” (monsters.) Second, MMRLRPG theory incorporates a truncated version of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth cycle – the hero’s journey- as a skeleton for the events people commonly encounter in their work careers. Third, MMRLRPG follows Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs as a way to track how each stage satisfies the human’s motivation for purpose in light of career satisfaction. Fourth, the theory considers the common literary story structure of the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution to put our career journey in the general context of the basic timing needed to live out a well-earned (or well-told) career story. When put all together, MMRLRPG theory looks like this: Here, you can see that the ultimate goal in one’s career journey is to become “elite,” a master of your field of study, and give that knowledge and skill back to workforce for the next generation to build upon.  The process of becoming a master or guru of your field of study, however, is the challenge. Not everyone who enters the workforce, leaves it as a master.  So what does it take to maximize your purpose and contribution to the workforce so that at the end, you have gained enough XP to earn the title of “Elite?” We will discuss this process in a series of upcoming posts, beginning with a look back at the formative years of our lives that taught us how to interact with other creatures in our realm. Stay Tooned, JP

What Is This Place?

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Boss Level is a place where workforce newbies can receive and share helpful information on navigating the most epic quest that life gives you: your career.  I will be discussing different passages in my book Boss Level: How to Hack Your Way to the Top of Your Career to offer support to all who may need a little encouragement to carry on in your chosen career field. I offer up for your consideration a correlation between the stages in your career journey and the stages commonly found in MMORPGs. Here they are: Stage One: Hometown; Stage Two: Soloing; Stage Three: Grinding; Stage Four: Dungeon Running; Stage Five: Raiding; Stage Six: Arenas. (Link to book here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1544079974) You see, I love games. Board games, pencil and paper games, outdoor games, carnival games, you name it, if there is a challenging objective, I want to see if I can beat it. But there has been one type of game that has been the hallmark of the last 35 years: video games. Ever since I received my first Atari way back in 1978, I was hooked. I had to challenge myself to beat the bosses, find the Easter eggs, and discover the secrets. I remember finding out about the game ADVENTURE, and if you used the bridge in the right place inside the black castle, you would find the first ever Easter egg – a little gray dot that allowed passage into a secret room. I was mesmerized when I was able to pass the boundary and see the name of the creator of the game in chromatic letters: Warren Robinett. From there it was conquering Pitfall and then on to Intellivision, Nintendo, and PC games. Enter 1999 and EverQuest – the game that changed everything. Here, you could actually BE a character in the game yourself. On top of that, you could meet up with your friends, chat, and conquer bosses (or wipe) all in the name of fun. But the game that perfected the MMORPG genre for me, was, and always will be, World of Warcraft. Now I know that VR is here and will be the next evolutionary change in gaming, but let’s just say that venue will be for the next generation to write about. It hit me one day, while the ingredients of story structure, Campbell’s hero’s journey, Maslow’s human motivational needs, and leveling up my orc warrior were all swirling around in my brain, that getting from level 1 to level 70 (that was the level cap at the time,) was exactly like getting from 1 to 70 IRL. In other words, the journey to level up from n00b to elite was just like the journey we all take to get from newbie in the workforce to a retired expert in our field of industry.  Then, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth came into play, and I could clearly see the entire process unfold before my eyes.  Next, what it means to be human and what motivates us to press on through difficulty to achieve our full potential came into view through Maslow’s work. It was all coalescing.  In all of our lives there is the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution – the perfect story.  If we only could see that our career life was a story – not a series of juxtaposed events that we have to stumble through, hoping to finally get and keep a good paying job. No, it was a process – a long process with great adventure and epic rewards- if you knew how to play. And having played the game long enough to look into the rear view mirror and see where I have been, and at the same time be close enough to the end to see the beauty of the The Grey Havens in the distance, the vision came upon me to construct an overarching theory for career navigation: the MMRLRPG theory. The Massively Multiplayer Real Life Role-Playing Game theory takes you from n00b to Boss, showing you how to hack your way to the top of your career. Stay tooned, J.P.