September 2007

I am not the perfect model for character in the workplace. In fact I have had my share of shortcomings. From the ages 15-18 I had close to 12 jobs. Part of it was due to the fact that once I conquered the learning curve then the job became mundane. I’ve always liked a challenge. In the process of this I somehow lost my integrity, character, and work ethics.

My first son was born back in ’03 and I joined the Air Force. They drill into you the core values of the service which are: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. I can buy that. Still, something was lacking. I had no motivation whatsoever. I viewed work as a means to an end and nothing more. Perhaps it’s because I knew that it wasn’t my career, maybe not?

After gaining and leaving multiple jobs in the real world I realized that being a man of character is a decision that you have to make everyday. There’s no golden Web 2.0 app that will teach you to not procrasinate or a blog on how to get motivated that can substitute for a determination that you will be a man of character, virtue, and integrity.

I’ve made my decision and to be honest it is a continual effort. They say that forming a habit takes around a month but for the habit to truly become a part of your everyday life that it is a 6 month process. I see my generation sinking to the bottom of the barrel while the baby boomers are left nodding their heads. I read stories and users’ comments that blow my mind. I look at the state of our country and realize that we need a savior and His name is Jesus.

We need Him in our schools, in our workplace, and in our coffee shops. In the Bible it says that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We live in a democracy and the thought of bowing to anybody is unorthodox and ludacris but I believe the words. There’s just something in the name of Jesus isn’t there? People scream out the name in vain. There are wars, disputes, miracles, and revolutions by that name. Some create their own version of Jesus and pawn it off on the rest of the world but I want the organic Jesus. The Jesus who loved and came to set the world free, because when you find the real Jesus… work, finances, your marriage, and everything in between seems to fall in place. There is power in His name.


I am at a new place in my life where setting up boundaries is critical. When I really dig to the core issue of what boundaries are I think of a story that I heard about regarding elementary students in a schoolyard. Some teacher probably wanted to prove some hypothesis he was working on and got the principal to sign off on it and it goes like this:

The school faculty setup a fence around the perimeter of the school yard and let the children play for a week. The next week they removed the fence to test the conduct of the children. Surprisingly the majority of the students didn’t leave the perimeter although the fence was removed.

It’s a great story and all but I want to know how does this apply to me personally? Digging to the core of the matter we see that boundaries are symbolic of protection through all walks of life. As a business man or woman you need to setup boundaries for the types of practices and ethics that you will allow to run your company. As a Christian you need to establish boundaries to protect each area of your life.

Setting up boundaries isn’t easy. I remember as a child I used to see the boundaries as a way of holding me back. The higher the fence, the better the challenge! If there was barbed wire I would find a way to bypass the danger. When I grew up and matured I realized that boundaries were established to protect me from something or to protect something from me.

Setting up boundaries in relationships gives you freedom to live life within the constrains of the predetermined boundaries. I am newbie at respecting the boundaries and am applying these principles to every facet of life: the law, work ethics, raising my kids, and building relationships. Somehow I know that respecting the boundaries will teach me to be a better man. I’m looking forward to the journey.

According to Wikipedia the Salamander’s name originates from natives that believed that the Salamander could walk through fire. Fast forward to the 21st Century, tune into the Discovery Channel and you see Bear Grylls from Man Vs. Wild roasting a Salamander over a fire to a tender crisp. See, the natives thought that the lizard was immune to the extreme heat and that they could walk through fire. Come to find out they were wrong. Dead wrong.

As individuals raised in a goal oriented society we have become a people that talk the talk but when worst comes to worst we don’t walk the walk. We bank on our 401k’s, our IRA funds, and all of the other perceived securities in this life and believe that they can take us through the fires and storms. That is until the stock market gets shaky… the housing market fails… the marriage turns sour. Immediately all the talk and all the speculation and all of the building dissolves before your eyes and you find yourself smack dab in the heat of the inferno.

The sad part is very few can withstand the heat. These people perceive that everything is peachy keen until they get thrown into the fire and shrivel up like a Salamander. These people simmer in the heat for a while until they near boiling point and buckle under the pressure. Unbeknownst to them that they were on the virge of breakthrough. The people that have left a legacy in this world are those who talked the talk, were thrown into the fire, and instead of buckling from the heat they used it as a catalyst to overcome the most overwhelming odds. Racism… false doctrine… slavery… the list goes on.

God can use people that are willing to endure the fires of life. You might get scorched at times. You might even catch on fire. But the ashes are a representation of a sacrifice that changed the world. I don’t want to be known as a Salamander do you?

o1. Start by adding anyone and everyone that you already know; whether they’re acquaintances, past colleagues, or the Starbucks barista that aspires to be the next Meg Whitman. Whoever has the gold makes the rules. Apply this methodology to your number of your LinkedIn connections and you too may end up with the perfect client in your 2nd or 3rd level contacts.

o2. Determine how you want to use LinkedIn. If you are looking for a new job and want to land that prime McKinsey interview then work on building up your references. If you’re a prodigy you probably won’t have to beg for references. For the rest of us you can take a colleague out for coffee and offer to write them a reference in exchange. If your primary goal for LinkedIn is to generate leads then position your profile in a way that doesn’t scare off potential clients. Put yourself on the other side of the fence; would you want to do business with someone who has “Cut Throat Sales Tyrant” on their tagline? Neither would I.

o3. Tweak your LinkedIn profile settings. Click on the Accounts & Settings link. Activate the OpenLink Network and ensure that My Public Profile displays your full information. Take Step 2 into consideration and craft your settings around whatever you want to get out of LinkedIn.

o4. Build up your elite clientele. After adding people that you already know you can start adding perfect strangers. Many people advise you to add as many 500+ LinkedIn gurus as possible for the sheer viral effect but I would rather add key industry leaders in my niche and tap into their small network than take the shot gun approach. Quality over quantity folks (after you get past the 30 contact milestone of course).Sometimes it is difficult to get your contacts to forward a referral for you, especially if you want to add someone who is in your 3rd level of contacts. I ended up upgrading to professional and using the InMail feature. You might be able to land lunch with just the right person potentially resulting in a huge account. The $200/yr. price tag doesn’t look so bad after all. You can also search for the individuals e-mail address via Google and make a few guesses if you have to. Add the user to your network and when it asks how you know the individual click “Other” and paste their e-mail address. I have had people e-mail me back asking how I know them. This is the perfect opportunity to strike up the initial conversation which will typically lead to a beautiful business relationship.

o5. Sync your LinkedIn account with Outlook. What many people don’t realize is that once a contact accepts your invitation, you have access to their e-mail address. Go figure! The free LinkedIn toolbar automatically syncs you r Outlook contact information with your LinkedIn account. It will also notify you if one of your colleagues changes jobs on you and leaves you sad and alone.

o6. Maintain your profile and contact requests! We’re all busy people running around like little chickens with our heads chopped off but networking has to be on purpose. Many contacts in my network never update their information. It can be for a variety of reasons but for the most part it is sheer laziness. Keeping your information updated and responding to network requests is a good indication that you’re an organized business professional. If you don’t want to add somebody for whatever reason then decline their request. Some executives won’t add you unless they have physically met with you in person. To each their own I suppose.

o7. Market yourself. It is the information age and we all want to have our information accessible 24x7x365. Everything is digital and if you’re still networking through a Rolodex you need to update your life. Place your LinkedIn profile’s URL on your business cards, in your blog, on your e-mail signature, and for thrill factor you can even tattoo it on your forehead. Other LinkedIn Nazi’s suggest search engine optimization techniques but I find that word of mouth and good ‘ol grassroots marketing does just fine.

o8. Use some common sense. Some LinkedIn users add everybody they can get their grubby little paws on. I’m all for a good amount of contacts but where do you draw the line? Some profiles come across as either severely unprofessional or borderline spam. You don’t want to be one of those guys. Guy Kawasaki only has 223 connections and I’m guessing he could easily be one of those “500+ contact guys”, but he isn’t, and unless you’re ridiculously famous then you shouldn’t be either.

o9. Take advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer. Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. With the Answer’s section in LinkedIn you can easily ask anybody in your network a question and you’ll typically receive great answers. LinkedIn is a great place to post jobs as well. When employees use LinkedIn it gives an employer the option to check references as well as other people in the company that can chime in on the employee’s work ethic. I guess LinkedIn isn’t all smoke and mirrors after all.

1o. Enjoy yourself. So many people view networking as a chore or obligation. Yes, it is an obligation if you want to build a solid framework leading to great business relationships and accounts but it can be fun at the same time. After a few solid hours of productivity I’ll browse LinkedIn for a while and respond to requests and messages. Quit stressing about it, drink your Starbucks, and let LinkedIn seep into your veins.