I met John Kim Bell, the founder of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, when Jack Weatherford and I were working on the idea of creating a television series called Native Roots, a story about the contributions of the native peoples of the Americas to our creative evolution. We were exploring ideas and creative ways the series could contribute to the interests of the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in exciting and assisting aboriginal peoples, particularly aboriginal youth, in realizing their full potential.
The National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation hosted the Aboriginal Achievement Awards and organized career fairs for aboriginal youth. I was asked to talk to the 1998 Aboriginal Youth Career Fair about opportunities in the world of marketing and communications. The career fair was called Blueprint for the Future. This was my contribution.
I am honoured to have this opportunity to talk to you. I am conscious as I talk about possibilities for your future that, as an aboriginal friend of mine once observed, when we communicate we carry a heavy responsibility.
Your future, and our future, depends on your ability to learn how to learn and to learn what to learn. And this is how you will increase your value in the marketplace.
I was asked to talk to you about opportunities in the world of marketing and communications and the education you might need to prepare yourself as you explore your choices for a career. I could do that. But the world is changing rapidly and it is going to change even more rapidly in the future so I am not sure how useful that would be. So instead I will tell you how I would approach the job of deciding on a career. And I cannot tell you about the education you might need but I will tell you what I think you need to learn. And finally, I will tell you what I think you need to do to get to where you want to be.
How would I decide on a career?
I have had a number of careers as many of you will. There are limitless opportunities so you can make your job easier by establishing some criteria and setting out some considerations.
When I decided to change my career and start a new business a few years ago I set out a number of considerations. That I could earn a better than average income. That my success would be dependent on my own effort and not dependent on any one individual. That the business I worked in would have products or services which sold to the world and where one sale led to another. That my work would keep my intellectual and emotional energies challenged and give me opportunities to be creative. And a business that would have a low overhead, require low investment, be relatively free of regulation, and have limitless possibilities. I looked for several years before the idea Go Direct Marketing appeared.
If I were setting out on my career today or deciding to change my career now this would be my criteria. Doing something I enjoy doing. Doing something I am good at and that I feel I could be successful doing. Doing something that would give me the opportunity to keep learning, that would be stimulating and fun, that would give me variety, that would give me interesting people to work with and learn from, that would give me the freedom, ability, and opportunity to take initiative, and that could open up limitless possibilities.
What I would also do is look for a career in an area where there will always be a need. Careers contributing to maintaining and improving the quality of life of others and helping others become more successful for example. Careers built around basic services such as food, shelter, and health care rather than non-essential things. Careers built around finding solutions to problems and issues of common concern. Finding out why we behave the way we do. Finding better ways of working with one another. Finding how we could eliminate violence and how we could care for others better, particularly our children and our elders. And finding how we reduce inequities, how we celebrate and enjoy our differences, and how we care better for our environment.
I think providing opportunities for learning experiences and creating enterprise that contributes to helping individuals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses become more successful is a growth industry.
And finally I would focus on how I see myself, – who I am, who I want to be, what I would like to become and be able to do, and what I would like to see happen. And not on what I want to have or get.
Go with your gut. Don’t go into somebody else’s business
What to learn
So now, what do I think you need to learn? In my opinion there are seven things we all need to learn to become more successful and if we are going to solve the problems we are facing. We need to learn how to learn. We need to learn how to deal with change. We need to learn how to change. We need to learn how to change things. This means we need to learn how to communicate, how to develop relationships, and how to create.
If we, meaning all of us, spend more time learning how to do these things we will all be better off.
Learning how to learn
We learn all the time with all of our abilities and most of it unconsciously. What we want to learn is how to direct or manage our learning and how to make connections between what we learn and what we know, what we want to learn, and where we want to go. When we create a connection we get a new picture and understanding on which we act.
We need to want to learn. We need to have a desired outcome in mind. Like becoming a hockey player. We need to select our outcomes carefully and learn what works.
This is what I have learned about learning
Pay attention. Every moment is an opportunity to learn. Put yourself in places where you can learn and with people you can learn from. Be a critical observer. Watch, question, consider. Be your own counsel.
Be open. Don’t make judgments. Be flexible. Consider the possibilities and the value.
Act. We learn through experience. Failure is one of our best learning experiences. Don’t be distressed by it. Learn from it.
Talk. Most of what I learned, good and bad, I learned from others through conversation. Be curious. Be interested. Conversation is the fastest way to new insights, understandings, and ideas.
Take charge. Why would we allow ourselves to be taught? Take opinions, points of view, information, stories, and ideas and see how they fit and where they fit. Don’t accept someone else’s point of view unless it makes sense to you, works for you, and moves you forward in your interests.
It’s fun. It is perhaps the greatest pleasure in life and the greatest reward.
Learning how to change
We learn how to behave unconsciously by learning what behaviour gets us what we want and by watching others.
When we are young we are not in control of events or of our circumstances and we often learn behaviours that don’t work well as we react to our needs and we often don’t get a chance to learn behaviours that do work.
What we do is who we are. We describe others by observing on their behaviour, not by what they say or think they are.
What we do is how we create who we become. We become what we do. If we want to become more of who we want to be it usually means changing the way we behave.
Three tips on learning how to change
Learn what behaviour works by watching other people, successful people you admire, and successful people you don’t admire.
Observe on your own behaviour, what works and what doesn’t work, and how it resulted in the outcomes you were pursuing.
Learn from what feels good. We have a quality, a sense, that tells us what is good and what is not so good. If we make a poor choice, learn from it. If we make a good choice, feel good about it.
Our feelings are how we improve our ability to learn how to change and our reaction to what happens to us is how we learn what we want to change.
Learning how to create relationships
This could be called learning how to make a contribution. If you want to create a relationship look for ways to contribute. Learn the connection between contributing to a relationship and the quality of the relationship
Look for the people you want to create a relationship with and what they want or need or would contribute to their interests.
Show how you feel. If you care people won’t know unless you show it. Care is something we do, not just something we feel.
Take personal responsibility for your relationships but be true to yourself
Deliver on commitments and respect and appreciate differences.
And last, look for people you respect and admire, who are honest, who play fair, and who you appreciate. We are only able to maintain a limited number of relationships so make them with people you like and appreciate.
Learning how to change things
We are entering a time of increasingly rapid change. That is exciting and I think it is good. But we need to change a lot of the things we are doing and how we are doing things.
The people who will be most valued and most in demand in a time of change are those who can change easily themselves, those who are able to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things, and those who know how to change things. They will become our leaders.
We change things through communication. Communications assisting people in seeing things differently so they behave differently. Communications assisting people in understanding how they can change circumstances for themselves. And communications exciting people with ideas and opportunities that contribute to their interests
That is how and why I ended up in the communication business. Because we cannot learn from one another, we cannot learn how to work together, and we cannot change things without communications
One last connection
Watch your attitude. Our attitude is a function of what we believe and how we see and feel about the world. There is a connection between our attitude and our behaviour, and our learning, and the quality of our relationships, and our success, and our personal well-being. Check your attitude. Learn the connection.
How to look at your career
Your career is not a job. Your career is your life. It is who you are. You are a creative work in progress. You can let circumstances and events and the influences of other people determine what you become. You can blame circumstances or other people for what happens. Or you can take charge of your life and become your own unique creation.
Take personal responsibility. It is on that day you can change how you live and free yourself to become who you want to be and realize your dream.
From Blueprint for the Future
1998 National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation Career Fair
Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre
Thursday January 29, 1998
The evolution of my point of view
This is what I think we need to learn now to be able to more successfully address the challenges we are facing in our world today and improve our ability to contribute to opportunities we have to create a better world for tomorrow.
- We need to learn how to learn.
- We need to learn how to respond to our experience.
- We need to learn how to change the way we see and do things.
- We need to learn how to contribute to changing how others see and do things.
- We need to learn how to communicate.
- We need to learn how to create relationships.
- We need to learn the art of creating.
- We need to learn how to overcome our fear of loss, harm, and failure.
- We need to learn how to respond to our experience of loss, harm, and failure.
- We need to learn how to create community.
If we spend more time learning how to do these things better we will all be better off.
Our blueprint for the future
In the new world, our opportunities to learn have never been greater. There is no interest, idea, enterprise, or story we can not explore and learn from in our theatre of the new world, the world wide web. Our ability to learn how to become more successful in pursuit of our interests however still lies in our ability to learn how things work, how we work, and what contributes to creating connections and relationships with one another to create possibilities together.
Our blueprint for the future in the new world is to explore and learn how to demonstrate creative leadership, creative entrepreneurship, and creative contribution in the communities we are part of and to pursue opportunities to create a place for ourselves in the communities we would like to be part of and contribute to. Demonstrating our creative contribution increases our value to our community and improves our ability to create connections, community, and creative enterprise with others.
We learn from our experience. We contribute to creating our experience. We create with our experience. Our blueprint for the future lies in learning how to create with our experience, as individuals, as communities, and as a community.
What we can do
What we can do to improve our ability to create possibilities for the future of our world is to focus our attention on learning how we learn, learning how to learn, and learning how we can improve our ability to learn from one another, learn with one another, and learn how to create possibilities with and for one another.
What we can do is focus our attention on creating a future for our learning resources in our theatre of a new world that increases their contribution to our knowledge, understanding, and ability to create a new world for our future.
Centre for Learning
Centre for Media Literacy
Centre for Creative Leadership
Centre for Creative Entrepreneurship
Creative Community Enterprise
Community Learning Centre
Exploring Our Nature
The Science of Probabilities
The Art of Possibilities
Creating with Our Experience