Graduates — It’s your time to take charge!

4608963722_7c88e503f8_bCongratulations to the millions of Americans graduating from high schools, technical institutes, community colleges, universities, and graduate schools! This is your moment to shine and take pride in your achievements.

This also may be a time when you have a rush of mixed emotions — exhilaration, eagerness, uneasiness, and perhaps worry. All of these feelings come with taking the next steps in your career.

We want you to enjoy your career journey. Indeed, if you think of your career as a story, you will be writing many chapters. We’re committed to helping you be the hero of your talent story. So, we’ve provided some special resources and support just for you.

First, here’s a selection of blog posts that will stimulate your thinking and help you pursue your next steps with greater confidence.

Why Should an Employer Choose You? Many job applicants make a big mistake in their interviews. They make the job interview about themselves rather than about the job.

Make Yourself the Hero of Your Talent Story The hero story can belong to all of us, not just a chosen few. It doesn’t matter what your story is or what your circumstances are.

What makes you come alive? Start making the most of your talent by identifying what makes you come alive. Trying to fit into someone else’s mold won’t work.

Your Brain is a Ferrari The best race car drivers, driving Ferraris, couldn’t go very fast if they were to find themselves stuck on the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour on Friday afternoon. The same principle applies to you.

The World Belongs to the Talented and That Means You Talent isn’t hierarchical. Everyone has talent and anyone, anytime, anywhere can use proven keys to unlock his or her talent and the talent of others regardless of their position.

Small Actions; Big Results The Daily Action Pack is a group of small actions that you take each day (at least 5 days per week) that, over time: give you a near certainty of realizing your hope.
Second, if you add a comment to this post or any of the blog posts listed above by June 30, 2014, we’ll enter you into a drawing for one of two Talent Catalyst Conversations that we will provide free of charge. As described in the book, “Take Charge of Your Talent,” a Talent Catalyst Conversation is a great way in less than hour to articulate your hopes, identify resources and opportunities to fulfill them, and sketch out actions you can take to get started. This will become the start of your hero’s story.


Don and Jay

Photo by: John Walker

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Posted in Support

Are you afraid of your hopes?

I was.


When my friend and spiritual director Art Stevens asked me the question, “What are your hopes?”, it stopped me in my tracks. No one in the 46 years of my life before that time had ever asked me about my hopes. Discussions with teachers, prospective employers, and colleagues typically focused on what job I wanted, where did I expect to be in the next three to five years, or what others with my training and experience accomplished. I remember saying something lame but acceptable as I might in a job interview, “I want to be leading a growing organization that’s helping to improve people’s lives.”

Art’s loving and piercing blue eyes didn’t let me wiggle off that easily, however. He asked, “Why is that important to you?” Aw, come on, I thought. He’s serious. Since I had worked hard to become the CEO of Silicon Valley company and felt very invested in the career path of what a Stanford MBA/JD “should” be doing, I didn’t want to be rocking my boat. Yet, there was something about Art’s questions that stuck with me. What were my hopes, not someone else’s expectations of me, but my hopes, my aspirations, my unique calling?

What was great about how Art asked these questions was his unconditional love regardless of the answers I offered. He didn’t judge my responses or explicitly or implicitly push me to say more, do more, or be more than I was willing to offer. As a result, I could live with the questions rather than try to defend my current perspectives and commitments. I could be open to whether there might be a better, more rewarding path for myself and my family and explore the possibilities.

These questions helped me look more deeply into myself and tap the wellsprings of my own aspirations and motivation. They helped free me from the seductive sirens of Silicon Valley that called me in directions that were not mine. They gave me and my family something solid that we could discuss and build upon to find fulfillment together.

It’s this experience, this freedom, that we want you to have for yourself, your work, and your family. That’s why the Talent Catalyst Conversation beings with the core questions of “What are your hopes for your talent?” and “Why are they important to you?” It’s also why we invite your Talent Catalyst to be a generous listener for you. A generous listener holds forth your deepest hopes and reflects what you say without having an “agenda” for you. A generous listener has a spirit of unconditional love for you that encourages expression of your unique abilities.

We’ve learned through decades of coaching and the latest neuroscience and psychology that when people are in a hopeful frame of mind, they do their best and more effective thinking. So, while exploring your hopes may feel risky, it’s a proven path to freedom and fulfillment. Find a Talent Catalyst and enjoy the journey!

Don Maruska

 Photo by: Darren Tunnicliff



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Posted in Personal Stories

What makes you come alive?

Start making the most of your talent by identifying what makes you come alive. Trying to fit into someone else’s mold won’t work. So, consider this quote.

don and jay harold whitman

Take a few minutes to jot down and share with someone what makes you come alive. Is it using a particular skill or expertise? Is it working with others to accomplish something? Is it learning something new and looking for ways to grow? Create a list that will help you articulate your hopes for having your talent come alive. Then, others can help you find the needs and opportunities where you can express and fulfill your talent uniquely and powerfully to benefit yourself and the world.



Original source unknown

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Posted in Talent in the Workplace

What Is the Message of Your Life?

photoHave you seen the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Washington, D.C.? It is a moving image of the gaunt Gandhi walking forward determinedly with a staff in his hand.  The most compelling part of the statue is the quote from him that appears on the base: “My life is my message.” That short statement speaks volumes not only about Gandhi but also to each of us.

Gandhi’s simple life of determined, non-violence created a movement that brought Britain to grant independence to India. His life—how he lived and what he said–expressed his message with integrity. Long before Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement–“The medium is the message.”—Gandhi’s life was the medium of his message.

What is the message of our lives? This question invites soul searching. What does the way I’m living my life convey about my message? What would others infer that I really value from what they can see of my actions? Are these in alignment with who I am and how I want to be?

We invite you to take a few minutes to check your life message. Write down your habits and behaviors both in words and actions. What message do they convey? Then, ask family members or friends who know you to write down the messages they think your life expresses. Are the messages in alignment with your hopes for your life? How might you change what you are doing to bring how you are living more closely in tune with what you truly wish to express?

As Gandhi’s life demonstrates, our strength and our fulfillment lies not in the wealth or power of the positions we hold but in the messages we send from how we live our lives. Your family, friends, coworkers, and communities are listening for your message.

Posted in Personal Stories

3 Types of Reflective Listening that Can Transform Your Relationships

5961100771_9cb408c6c6_bEffective listening will dramatically enhance your relationships in all areas of your life. We train people in the art and science of generous listening to be Talent Catalysts in powerful Talent Catalyst Conversations. You can use these same Talent Catalyst skills in every aspect of your life.

Typical interactions fall short because our listening becomes routine and full of assumptions. We think we know what people are saying. We may even assume that we know what they will say.

Generous, reflective listening transforms relationships to be more engaging and rewarding. It gets beyond the assumptions and superficial exchanges to deeper truths.

You can transform your relationships by using three types of reflective listening.

  • Reflect the words. Simply repeat or paraphrase the words the other person said. This may sound awfully basic, but you will be surprised at how beautifully it gives a person the chance to clarify his or her own thoughts.
  • Reflect the feeling. Let the speaker know what emotion you hear in his or her voice. For example, “It sounds like you may be feeling some frustration with that.”
  • Reflect hopes or needs. Explore what the person’s deeper hopes or aspirations may be. For example, “Sounds like you need to know you’ve done your best.”

How can these reflections transform your relationships?

The quality of your relationships has a direct correlation to how much people think they matter when they’re with you. When you take the time to reflect meaning, feelings, and hopes, people know that they matter and often become more open to exploring fresh ways of looking at important issues.

Habitual ways of listening become familiar ruts. It may take a bit of effort to become an effective generous listener. Are your relationships worth it?

 Photo by: Bindaas Madhavi


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Posted in Talent Exercises

Make Yourself the Hero of Your Talent Story


2462726290_086e80dab3_nMaybe you don’t want to wait for someone else to come along and make everything right for you. Maybe you don’t want to wait for a golden opportunity or to inherit money from an as-yet-unknown source or to be picked by others to move forward or to wait for your boss to retire or die so that you can advance.

The hero story can belong to all of us, not just a chosen few. It doesn’t matter what your story is or what your circumstances are. If you are seriously stuck and hate your job, or if you are hoping to make more of the satisfying career you already have, the keys are one and the same.

No matter who you are or what your situation is, it all comes down to one point: you always have a choice. You get to decide how you are going to play out your talent story and your role in it. Unless you default and give the power to someone else, it’s yours to decide.

When we make choices that are in accord with our hopes and desires, we generally feel good and get a surge of energy and commitment that comes from being in alignment and taking charge. This is not to say that we won’t have to deal with tough situations along the road. We all do. But when we hold true to our hopes, we can take the bumps.

Here are the elements to be the hero of your talent story.

Heroes have hopes.

Heroes have hopes and are willing to do what it takes to realize them. Every hero has fears too. Heroes confront their fears and act on their hopes. If they are on course and confront obstacles, they use their talents to find a way to deal with them. However, in the end, they keep moving forward.

Heroes recognize opportunities.

Heroes look for opportunities. Where others see dead ends, heroes see possibilities. When heroes see inroads, they take them. If they don’t see a way in, they enlist others to help create new solutions.

Heroes act.

Even when others are afraid to get involved and prefer to play it safe and watch from a distance, heroes find ways to make steady progress toward their objectives.

It’s important to note that heroes are not rabid risk takers. While they are willing to try new approaches, they (or the people who support them) usually have a keen sense of risk and opportunity. Indeed, some of the biggest risk takers, Silicon Valley venture capitalists, focus on how to wring risk out of new ventures to help them succeed. Therefore, we’re not suggesting that you bet the farm to develop and apply your talent. It’s your story. You’ll get to write it how you wish. We will help you to explore the healthy stretches that can lead to heroic results for you.

For now, think about how you’d like to become the hero of your talent. Thousands of people have enjoyed creating their hero stories in Talent Catalyst Conversations with generous listeners. You can too.

Photo by: Hoszi

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Posted in Talent in the Workplace

4 Great Categories to Include in Your Talent Action Pack


The Daily Talent Action Pack effectively breaks your bigger projects into bite-sized actions. Using the Daily Action Pack will provide you with a form of accountability, give you helpful reminders, and encourage you to fulfill your hopes.

The Daily Talent Action Pack is a group of actions that you take each day, at least five days per week, that when completed, add up to realizing your hope. It establishes the consistent actions you need to accomplish what’s truly important to you. It also gives you a way of completing your work each day with a sense of progress and pride.

Here are four great categories to include in your personal “Pack.”

1. Productivity Actions. These include all items that end with you having produced something: writing, coding, designing, planning, fixing, planting, developing, etc.

1. Marketing Actions. These include all items that have you spreading your message: calls, mailings, videos, blogs, web-site updates, personal interactions, etc.

1. Research Actions. These include all items that increase your knowledge and awareness of your market, your industry, your skill set, your place in the world, etc.

1. Self-Care Actions.  These include all items that ensure your ability to be at your best mentally, emotionally, and physically: eating well, exercise, meditation, rest, de-stressing, self-expression, etc.

We encourage you to start small and expand your Talent Action Pack up as you go. It’s better to have fewer items and win each day than feel like you’re always running behind.  Consistency will win the day.

 Photo by: Manuel Quiroga 


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Posted in Talent Exercises

Why Should an Employer Choose You?

4607148434_f33c3962d7_mMany job applicants make a big mistake in their interviews. They make the job interview about themselves rather than about the job.

First and foremost, employers want to know how you are going to help them — not what’s great about you. Sure, you want them to be excited about you and your accomplishments. In order to captivate their interest, however, employers need to know that you understand their requirements. They also need evidence of how you can help.

Under the pressure of a job interview, you need a clear approach to make your case. A proven formula for this discussion is what we call Intention, Observation, Request, and Confirmation. The Intention creates a bridge between what they want and what you have to offer. The Observation gives them concrete evidence of how you have delivered. The Request states clearly what you want in terms of an opportunity to contribute. Finally, you use the Confirmation to see if you are on track and to outline the next steps.

You’ll benefit from writing out your thoughts on these four critical elements. (There are examples on pages 102-103 of “Take Charge of Your Talent.”)

Ask someone to listen to you express your request. Practice until it feels easy and natural for you and your listener confirms that you’re ready to go.

Getting what you want isn’t difficult … if you know how to ask.

Photo by: bpsusf

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Posted in Talent Exercises

Recovering from a Layoff or Firing

Sad businesswomanDo you know someone who has been laid off or fired? In today’s economy, most people know someone in this situation. Perhaps, it’s you.

It turns out that the old adage, “You need to get your head screwed on right” actually has a foundation of truth in it. When someone is laid off or fired, fear sets in and robs them of their best thinking. Brain scans show that fear drives metabolism to the amygdala (“fight or flight”) and leaves the creative and productive thinking parts of the brain (pre-frontal cortex and cerebral lobes) starved. It’s similar to someone going into cardiac arrest. They need a spark to bring them back to life.

How can this happen for the laid off person? The key is to bring a jolt of fresh thinking. This comes with someone serving as a talent catalyst — a generous listener who nourishes the stricken person’s brain with questions that kick start their better thinking.

Instead of dwelling on the loss, a Talent Catalyst Conversation focuses on the person’s hopes for his or her career and why those are important. Repeatedly, we’ve seen the power of these simple questions and additional ones that help people gain an awareness of the many resources and opportunities around them. With their better thinking engaged, people begin to create a pathway out of their despair.

Don’t let someone dwell in misery. You can ask valuable questions that will help bring the person’s career back to life.

 Photo by: John_2

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Posted in Overcoming Obstacles

Connect with What Your Emotions Have to Tell You

7649260168_d741f34dfb_nThe first questions in a Talent Catalyst Conversation are “What are your hopes for your talent?” and “Why are they important to you?” These questions serve as the beginning of an incredibly useful exercise.

However, there is another dimension behind the “Hope” questions worth paying attention to by both the Talent Catalyst asking the questions and the Talent Hero responding to them. It’s the dimension of emotions. You can think of the words someone says as the melody of a song. The emotions are like the rhythm. Both contribute powerfully.

For the Talent Catalyst: We encourage you to reflect what you are hearing and that means listening to more than the words. When answers are accompanied by emotions, reflect the emotions as well.  Emotional Intelligence studies indicate that the expression of these emotions may be valuable clues to where this conversation wants, and needs, to go.  By reflecting the emotions you are hearing, you are giving that emotion validity. You are tacitly granting permission for the Hero to include it in her or his story.

For the Talent Hero: Many of us were taught not to display our emotions in public.  Even in a Talent Catalyst Conversation with a trusted companion, we may find ourselves wanting to pull back from or hide an emerging emotion. In this context, however, the emotion may be just the “juice” your talent needs to burst into the open and create a powerful Hero Story.

Here are several common emotional responses that are worth exploring:

1.The Big Grin…When you talk about your hopes, you find yourself grinning from ear to ear, and your Talent Catalyst notices it as well. If you follow that grin, it can lead you to make some great choices for your talent.

2. The Moist Eye…Maybe you find yourself welling up and fighting back the tears. Perhaps these are tears of inspiration or signs that the hope has been buried too long or that it is connected with a pain or wound from your          past. There is no need in this context to explore the root cause, but honoring its presence can create the clarity you need to express yourself fully.

3. The Fire in the Belly…This could be passion, frustration, and even anger that is associated with deeply held beliefs and values. There is power in these emotions that can lead you to places you’ll never find by playing it cool.

You’ll notice that these emotional responses are not just about feelings. They also have physical sensations. They are tangible reminders that we are fully human and that our talent lies in that humanity.


            Photo by: Maryvery

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Posted in Talent Exercises features “3 Keys to Unlocking Employee Talent”
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