Fulfilling a debt obligation... a win-win.

photo-helping hand.jpg

I’m not really sure if what I’m about to say is reflective of anything in particularly or just an example of me trying to be helpful — I would like to think it may offer some insight into the importance of strategic social media thinking, networking and the moral imperative that requires you to help when asked (or at the very least, seriously consider it).

In an unsolicited conversation that came my way through LinkedIn I found myself offering some advice and thoughts with regard to a career transition into sales. The conversation went like this (verbatim):

A Stranger — Hi Graham, I have decided to change my career path from being an organic chemist (MSc) to a sales representative. This is what I am truly passionate about and I hope you can advise me on this transition. Please accept my request. Regards

Me— Sure... assuming you have no experience I would start by reading the one minute sales person and the little red book of selling... there is also something called “strength finder”... worth profiling yourself to see if your really align with a career in sales... although older publications still foundational... I would start here...

Not so much a Stranger — Good morning Graham, Thank you for taking the time to respond to my request and sharing your thoughts. It’s interesting because about two or three days before I got your message, I borrowed the red book of selling from a nearby library. I have been reading it since then and there are a lot in that book to learn. I would definitely search for the other book you mentioned in your message. Also, I will try that strength finder to see if my personality traits matches up with a sales career. Regards

Still Me — The thinking is to determine if sales is something you really want to do and what it involves... if you still think you want to do it, redraft your cv to be sales oriented, word smith your linkedIn with subtle sales language... your opportunity will be entry level sales positions or sales gigs with small companies... obviously using your chemistry background is ideal but it may not work out that way in the beginning... start applying... google STAR interview questions as it will give you a feel for what you will be asked... since you have no experience you have to leverage your potential... Good luck

Not a Stranger — I very much appreciate your time providing all those precious information. Regards

I will admit it’s nice to have someone reach out for opinion and advice, so when the person reached out I recognized right away that they were trying to build and work their network as part of a career development goal, and was particularly interested that their career choice was in the commercial space (which I have a big soft spot for). I was also gently reminded of a moral imperative that simply says, “When someone asks for help, you try to help them”… I do appreciate there is some contextual consideration to this imperative, but when it comes to advice and insight in your field of expertise, there is a certain debt obligation requiring you to share.

For anyone who has developed a certain degree of expertise and success, it would be hard for me to accept there weren’t mentors, advisors and supportive conversations involved along the way; all sharing information, advice and insight that ultimately became building blocks for that success. This is a debt that needs to be recognized and passed on in the same way that it was received. And if you don’t like the idea of debt and obligation just think of yourself as a catalyst — sharing doesn’t really impact you in any negative way but can precipitate great change for others.

And if your are still struggling with a perceived altruistic gesture, keep in mind you will expand your network, probably learn something, continue to craft your thoughts and theories, and have a microphone for an audience who wants to hear what you have to say.

And this is what we call a WIN - WIN


Leadership, making a decision, and the subtle serendipity of the universe.


Ultimately this may just be just two independent events that happened in close succession and I’m just mashing them together to get my word count up — let’s see where we land before making a call one way or another There was a trip down memory lane while walking that had me thinking about the definition of leadership, and while I was waiting in line at one of my favourite coffee shops I witnessed a person trying to decide what to have for a breakfast snack.

Independent Event One

The reason I happened to being wading back through the years and thinking about Leadership may be the result of some recent events, a desire to come up with a blog topic, or simply the joy of reminiscing on moments that are now so distant (and if I’m honest, a little sketchy when it comes to the detail). What I do remember is I was at the front of the room engaged in a discussion about leadership, and after a couple of definitions were offered up, I simply said,

“No that’s management, leadership is about having a vision”.

Over the years, I’ve probably enhanced this definition to include a people component but at the heart of it, Leadership is about having a vision that rallies people, process and activities. Leadership is about pulling people to a vision and management is about pushing people to a vision. The whole leadership-management dynamic, in a practical sense, is really more a matter of semantics because most people (to differing degrees) are doing both at any given time. The one thing I can say with great conviction is if you don’t have a vision you aren’t a leader (and that’s OK; I think it’s fair to say in many cases, at many times, there are way too many chiefs and not enough indians — as the saying goes).

vision [ˈviZHən] NOUN: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

I’m sure there are many who can offer a better definition (in both accuracy and wordsmithing) for leadership, but I will have to say it’s hard to disagree with the fact that when there isn’t a vision there is nothing for people and activities to rally around, and although arguably there may be work done, nothing of substance is accomplished or achieved.

Independent Event Two

“ What kind of breakfast sandwiches do you have, ok, ok. I’m not sure which one to have, um, um; Sally, which one do you think I should have… uh huh, uh huh. I’m still not sure; ok, ok, I will have a tea and I guess….”

As I watched her walk away I’m not really sure she got what she wanted but I guess it didn’t matter because she obviously didn’t know what she wanted. Not surprising though, that’s what happen when there isn’t any vision to focus your decisions.

Call it a stoke of luck, a coincidence or the subtle serendipity of the universe, my trip down memory lane and standing in line at a coffee shop was not so independent, and I got the blog topic I was looking for.


PS — Before you use “Leader or Lead” on your LinkedIn profile, business card or CV, you may want to review what your applicable vision is — it will make it much easy when the time comes to making a decision.

Moments — words to live by...


It came about in a conversation. We were talking about the challenges of the day and I was struck with how profound these words were, “I will find a way to make it happen”.

I suppose the struggles of the day and how we work through them are not new, but there is a realization that countless others have walked the same path, said the same things, and that this is something that connects us throughout the ages; offering up a profound insight.

nosce te ipsum 

(Know Thyself)  

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

(I shall either find a way or make one)

Memento mori 

(Remember that you will die)

Time smoothens everything and history reflects our memories, interpretations or simply represents good public relations; these may be the words uttered by philosophers, great military men and have adorned great temples — or maybe not, we may never truly know. You can be assured though, these words (and countless others) have been spoken long before the conversation of this day, and resonate just as profoundly.

In the current vernacular, these words make for very good Guiding Principles to live by—

 Know who you are, what you are good at (and not good at), and be comfortable with it; make things happen and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done; don’t take any of it for granted because this precious, fabulous life is shorter than you think.

My words. Not theirs (to the best of my knowledge).