Category Archives: Leadership

Closing Career Chapters – Cheers to New Beginnings and Endless Opportunities 

In October 2017, I felt exhausted, both physically and emotionally.  The last three and a half years weighed on my heart and my mind.  My calendar was filled with “good luck on your next chapter” appointments.  Work felt like a succession of good-bye and/or good luck lunches strung together on a ragged piece of twine.  It hurt and it stung every time a friend left the company, regardless of whether they relocated to Texas or left the company altogether.  I lived in a perpetual state of mourning – losing so many friends in my immediate circle, one happy hour or one bon voyage cake at a time – hurt.  And the weight gain that accompanies bon voyages cakes and lunches slowly began to show on my hips.

Because of my role, I spent hours upon hours listening to team members cry as they wrestled with the decision of whether or not to move to Texas.  Some had family considerations to take into account. Would my spouse/partner be able to find a job?  What are the schools like in North Texas?  Others were just shocked with the idea of moving.  How can I go from Kentucky or Ohio into an area with a higher cost of living?  I just finished remodeling my kitchen and bought a snow blower for the winter.  Will I be able to find a barber/hair dresser/church/supermarket to meet my personal needs?  I took on a little bit of everyone’s pain when they vented to me.  It ate away at my heart and soul, one teardrop at a time.

Although I felt exhausted, I knew it was my duty to help the company.  My focus sharpened to support diversity and inclusion, especially from a talent retention and development standpoint, to create a new culture for the company.  I also kept my decision about my relocation a huge secret.  I didn’t want to influence anyone’s personal decision based on what I decided to do.  So I didn’t tell anyone that I had elected to NOT move until the company required a public commitment.  I told my boss and my friends at the very last minute.  Keeping that secret was a struggle and it added to the heavy burden on my shoulders.

In late August, I heard about an open position at a long-standing Southern California company for their Head of Diversity role.  Rather than working with a headhunter or placement agency, I decided to take on the recruiting process alone.  I knew a few people who had strong connections inside the company and the company did good work in the community.  My resume and application made its way to the hiring manager and a recruiter called me right away.  By the end of September, I had a day set to speak with four executives from this company.  The day went well, I felt confident that I would receive a job offer but I still had two more weeks with my current company.

As one of my last tasks for my former company, I spoke at an African American employee resource group event in San Diego County.  It was the day before my last day of employment. Unbeknownst to me, at least two of the attendees worked for the long-standing Southern California company I mentioned earlier.  At the end of my presentation, they both asked what my next career move might be and if I would consider working for their company.  All of that felt fantastic.

When I spoke with the hiring manager, whom I really respected and looked forward to working for, I mentioned that I definitely felt interested in taking the position and I was exhausted.  So exhausted in fact that I needed two months off.   My brain felt tired and out of smart juice.  I needed to spend some time with my family, my loved ones and my dojo to recharge.  That meant that I would not entertain starting a new position until January 2018.  To my surprise, he supported my decision and said that the company wants someone to start right away but they also want the right person in the position so they would wait for me.  We discussed a start date in January 2018 and would check in with each other when the date grew closer.

I felt lighter and a bit happier with the prospect of having time off to close out 2017 and refresh my mind and soul.  Knowing that I would be able to go to a new job with a company that had a strong commitment and strategy for diversity and inclusion allowed me to breathe easily.  Then came the second conversation with the recruiter about little details like compensation and benefits.

When I received a verbal offer, my mood changed from a cheerful Snow White princess to a dark and Evil Queen.  All those good feelings dissipated and I felt insulted by the compensation offer.  In addition, I received information regarding other parts of the package that turned out to me incorrect but did not make me want to even take the time to negotiate.  When I declined the offer the next day, I did not even want to waste my time with asking for more money.  All I said was that the offer that was presented to me was less than my minimum salary requirement.  Why would I want to go to a company that didn’t make me feel valued or appreciated?  Actually, I felt like I didn’t even want to speak to the hiring manager about the situation.  They did offer me more money and a sign-on bonus but it was too little, too late.  The hiring manager felt horrible, especially since the recruiter reports to him.  It may have been a case of miscommunication but when a company is trying to bring in talent, mistakes like this can cost a lot.  We wasted time with the interview process, they willingly waited for almost two months to finalize my offer, and I wound up feeling undervalued while they wound up not filling the position.  Lose-Lose.

By then the year 2017 was almost over.  Most companies did not do much hiring in December.  I didn’t fully engage with the job search firm that my former company had contracted with for all of us who elected not to move to Texas.  My initial meetings with them told me that they had no idea what I did for a living, how could they find me a job?

As I began to explore possible open positions, I grew keenly aware of issues around diversity and inclusion that had begun to populate the headlines in social media, newspapers, and magazines.  Having worked in entertainment heightened my awareness of #metoo and discrimination along lines of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, and other social identities.  And living in the United States as a diversity professional pains me to read headlines from our current President and his administration, particularly when he mocks people with disabilities or makes a racist comment about another country or acts like a sexist misogynistic pig.  My own family members experienced the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 concert.  Mass shootings at schools across America continue to plague our nation and our teenagers are leading the charge to call for policy reform and change.  There are so many issues that involve diversity and inclusion.  Actually, I suppose any issue that impacts human beings involves diversity and inclusion.

In December, I sent applications to two different companies from two very different industries:  entertainment/tech/video games and research/science.  Both posted positions that were brand new to their organizations.  One had no diversity and inclusion strategy developed while the other company had a strong foundation but needed experienced leaders who could both execute and design new plans.  The second company called me before New Year’s Eve to schedule an initial phone screen for January 2, 2018.  I felt good knowing that I would start the year off with a deliberate launch of my search for new employment. Or, the planning the death of FUNemployment.

January 2nd arrived after a rather quiet New Year’s Eve celebration.  My puppy and I took a walk at dusk in Hermosa Beach, before all of the parties began.  We returned home to watch movies and snuggle on the couch.  A quiet night was all I required to say “Adios” to 2017.  On the morning of January 2nd, I had an initial conversation with one of the Directors of Talent Acquisition from the research/science company.  She convinced me that the company’s Mission drove all their business decisions:  Enable customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.  I definitely wanted to speak with others from the organization.  From January 3rd on, the process progressed rapidly.  The next interview was scheduled for less than a week later, via video conference, with the hiring manager.  I hardly had time to reach out to my network to get the scoop on the company’s efforts and the hiring manager’s reputation.  Our conversation started out with his puppy barking in his office, the pup was vying for attention from his human.  I knew that we would definitely have puppy ownership to bond over while we discussed diversity and inclusion philosophies and strategies.  After that conversation, an in-person interview with his boss was scheduled.  The night before my interview, I posted a snippet of a slide that I reviewed as part of my research on the company on social media.  My hula sister reached out to me the next morning on my drive to my interview and said, “Call me asap.”  Turns out she recently took a job with this same company and could not help but gush about how great her experience has been.  That conversation made me even more excited to continue through the interview process.  This interview was with my boss’s boss who had attended UCLA at the same time as me.  He also knew of a fantastic restaurant in Pacific Grove so we talked a bit about food and wine.  We spoke for over an hour and I left feeling confident that the conversation went well.  Soon thereafter had two more video interviews with other leaders from the organization.  The last conversation I had struck the tone of “we would be lucky to have you on the team.”  What a refreshing feeling compared to the last company I considered.

Of course, the director of talent acquisition from the entertainment/tech/video game company scheduled a call with me for the same day as my video interviews.  I felt obligated to speak with him, even though I felt like the other company would be a great fit and a wonderful place to make a difference.  At the end of our call, he said that he had quite a few more phone screens and would probably be back to me in a couple of weeks.  I mentioned that I had spoken with another company and would no doubt be receiving an offer within that timeframe.  He understood and asked that I keep him abreast of my situation.  During that call, a voicemail from the first company popped up.  I felt too tired to check it so I plopped on my bed for a nap.

The next day, I had an email wanting to set up a phone call with the hiring manager from the entertainment company.  So my day started off with good news.  I threw on some warm clothes and sneakers so I could take Kihon for a long walk.  She’s trained to poop once in the morning and once in the evening, if we break that schedule Kihon will poop on her pad but it is always in our bedroom for some reason.  She freely pees on the other pads when necessary but poop is always deposited on the pads left in our bedroom.  Is she trying to tell us something?

On our walk, I took a few snaps of her playing and dialed up the first recruiter I spoke with in January.  I apologized for not returning her call the day before and explained that I felt exhausted from the cold I kept trying to shake.  She understood and simply said, “We just wanted to make you an offer of employment with us.  Everyone felt impressed by your accomplishments and enjoyed speaking with you.  Here is what we want to offer you…”  Not only did the compensation match my expectations but they also offered to make my position remote.  I would not have to commute to the closest office:  90 miles south of me.  Even with carpool stickers and my Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, that commute would suck eggs.  The formal offer letter arrived via email, as did a request to meet with the hiring manager from the other company.  What a delightful problem to have.  I agreed to speak with the hiring manager, to alleviate any risk of doubt in my mind about accepting an offer from the first company.

It felt like I interviewed the hiring manager from the entertainment/tech/video game company about “why diversity now”?  She stated her case and her vision and noted the support of her senior leaders and peers.  Her big question for me, “What diversity issues should we be addressing?”  I brought up #metoo as a huge diversity issue for women, people of color and people who are LGBT.  I noted the inequities in diversity across both above the line and below the line production teams.  In addition, I stated that people with disabilities have capabilities when it comes to working in tech that are often overlooked because of the hiring manager’s unconscious biases.  And, I briefly mentioned that I had popped onto Reddit to read what the players had to say to each other while they played the companies games as well as what they were saying about each other and the company.  None of my comments brought up specifics about the employee life cycle around recruiting, retaining, and developing talent.  There are just so many opportunities for improvement by leveraging diversity and building a more inclusive work environment for companies who cross the industries of entertainment, technology and video games.  That job would be a huge one.  We said our polite goodbyes and I hung up the phone, excited that this woman wanted to create a new culture at her company but knowing it would have to be without me.

My decision all came down to what I felt in my piko (gut) and my personal connection to the company’s mission.  My last job felt like an ideal situation, a CEO as champion, supported by executives and leaders who genuinely “get it.”  And the employees backed up our work through volunteerism, charitable donations, taking on assignments outside of their job description, and pushing on us to keep charging ahead.  This new company is poised to accelerate their progress exponentially.  Their CEO supports the work on a personal and professional level.  His commitment shines through authentically.  I feel confident that our department will make a difference and push the company’s mission forward:  “We enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer.”  My next chapter will be focused on that mission.  Not a bad gig at all.

What’s Your Ikigai (Reason for Being)?

Wikipedia lends the following definition:

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase Raison d’être. Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the cultural belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.[1] Examples include work, hobbies and raising children.[2]

The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (wikt:生き?) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail” (sequentially voiced as gai) “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’etre”.[3]

In the culture of Okinawaikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”; that is, a reason to enjoy life. In a TED TalkDan Buettner suggested ikigai as one of the reasons people in the area had such long lives.[4]

The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not necessarily linked to one’s economic status or the present state of society. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make us feel ikigai are not actions we are forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.

In the article named Ikigai — jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei (“Ikigai: the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom”) Kobayashi Tsukasa says that “people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization.”[1][5]

My Ikigai is to stay active and perpetuate the rich API culture through my hobbies – dancing hula, paddling outriggers, and teaching karate.  Working out in the dojo taught me more about surviving and thriving in Corporate America as a single mom than any self-help seminar or MBA could have.  Recently, I opened a karate dojo as my passion project.  We focus on the values of Respect, Discipline, and Self-Confidence to help our students find their Ikigai.

Ikigai JaeRequiro

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#TeamTogisala #togisalashorinryu #fitlife #GirlPower #respect #discipline #focus #selfconfidence #selfdefense #dojoOhana #ikigai

Getting Published; A Forward for “Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will to Change” #diversity #inclusion

My colleague and friend, Jennifer Brown, asked me to write the Forward for her new book, “Inclusion:  Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will to Change.”  It has just been released and when I saw an advance copy of it in the bookstore at the 2016 Out & Equal Conference, it made me smile.  Hard copy books feel so official and important to me.  I love reading on my iPad or Kindle but the tactile feel of turning paper pages and even the scent of paper and printing ink add to my enjoyment when I read a hard copy book.  Seeing my name in print after something that I wrote was exciting.

I have to thank Noemie Iniguez, a young Black Belt from our brother dojo in South Carolina, for doing a quick edit to my draft before I sent it to the publisher. When I blog, I just write.  I don’t edit or even spellcheck.  But for this forward, I felt like I should send it over as close to final as I possibly could and a second pair of eyes reviewing a draft is always helpful.

So here is the Forward.  And if you’re interested in purchasing a book,

Get updates and download your free chapter here: http://jenniferbrownconsulting.com/inclusion-the-book

When Jennifer approached me with a request to contribute to the forward of
her book, I felt extremely honored. I consider Jennifer to be a trusted
thought leader and a dear friend. We easily move from holding deep,
strategic conversations about social justice and diversity to giggling over
silly events involving family and friends. But I felt pressure to write
comments on point with what is happening today in our country around
diversity and inclusion.  Honestly, my will to change has levelled up like
the obsessed Pokemon Go gamers wandering the streets across America. As our
country struggles with tension across groups, it feels like I have job
security because I get paid to create change. Our systems are broken, our
country is wounded and we must have the will to create change to heal.
By the time I received more details on Jennifer’s book, our country had
heard more reports of police officers shooting African Americans, woken up
to news of the Orlando nightclub attack, and just experienced the sniper’s
attack on police officers in Dallas. Putting this in context with the
concept of “Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change” made it easy
for me to craft my thoughts to this Forward. I am delighted and humbled to
be afforded this opportunity to put into writing my respect and admiration
for Jennifer and her work.
When I joined my company eighteen years ago to work in “Corporate
Diversity,” I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My definition of
“diversity” was limited to race and gender. Like most people, my thoughts I
focused on protected classes; I saw this position as an opportunity to give
voice to the underdog. I joined Corporate America in the late 90’s and found
very few role models for me to emulate. Where would I find the Gen X,
Asian-Pacific American, LGBT Ally, single mother of a biracial child with
disabilities who were running companies and calling the shots? Diversity
became a concept I connected with immediately and revealed itself as one of
the only ways I felt that I could make an impact in my company and leave a
legacy, because of my will to create change.
The concept of “inclusion” hit me as very fresh and exciting, an opportunity
to bring straight white men over 40 into the work and really make the
culture change effort for everyone. After all, I quickly learned that
culture change is not about taking anything away from one group to give to
another, it isn’t a “fight the power” theory, it is about creating space for
all individuals to fully contribute and thrive. And corporate culture change
must be focused on the bottom line:  working towards keeping a competitive
advantage in these uncertain economic times, driven by a will to change.
Creating change is often a lonely place. Finding the will to change, and to
create real change requires passion and patience. One needs passion to
create change, passion for what is possible, and passion about seeing
results. If a person becomes involved with Diversity and Inclusion for
monetary rewards or recognition, it is doubtful that he or she will be
successful. This work is about service to the company and to others. The
ultimate goal is higher performance, which only comes about when people are
feeling valued, supported and respected for their individuality.
My mom once asked me to describe what I do for a living. I answered, “Well,
it feels like I bang my head against the wall of resistance to create
change. At times, the wall of resistance actually cracks, which gives me a
moment to rest and inspires me to continue.” The will to change requires a
lot of patience and a strong will to change. Patience is about realizing
that change happens when one convinces their constituents to slow down to
adjust behaviors so they can speed up the way they do business. Allow
yourself to see the signs of change, acknowledge the necessary work you put
in and celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

The will to change must come from deep inside the change agent. No one can
artificially manifest that sort of will.  Jennifer Brown has laid out real
time examples of how we must find our own voices to create change. Don’t be
your toughest critic and minimize your accomplishments, this work takes
time, this work takes dedication and this work takes patience. Keep that in
perspective when someone tells you that you haven’t been successful. It all
begins with understanding our own values and motivation to live life in
today’s turbulent and uncertain world.

Thumb-typed on my iPhone

“Moral Compass” #DojoOhana #LiveAloha

At the top of the meeting today, my boss introduced me to the entire group as a hard-working leader, dedicated LGBT Ally, and the “moral compass” of the department.  That struck me as a bit of a surprise. According to the dictionary, the phrase “moral compass” is used in reference to a person’s ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly.  

An image of Season 5 Glenn Rhee from “The Walking Dead” popped into my head.  His character always worked to find the win win solution or to avoid unnecessary violence on the show. Glenn put his family and loved ones first but never intentionally harmed another character. In the show, Glenn played the role of level-headed thinker and worked hard to keep peace for his group. (I really can’t help myself. I nerd out over “The Walking Dead”, “Star Wars”, and “Game of Thrones” while I’m at work.)

The interesting thing is, as I considered what “moral compass” meant, I remembered what happened when my Kumu gave our class Hawaiian names. Everyone had pretty names that started with the letter “K”. We had “Kaleikamaka” and “Kalani Ki’e Ki’e” and “Kapualani”, amongst other names. My given Hawaiian name was different from everyone else, “Pi’ilaniwahine”. When I asked what my name meant, Uncle Randy replied, “I see you as someone who works very hard, hula doesn’t necessarily come easy to you. You also always want to do the right thing and help others. So your name breaks down like this:  Pi’i = to ascend; Lani = heaven; wahine = woman.  Pi’ilani was the last king of Maui so ‘wahine’ is important to your name. You also always fight for equality for women.  So, your name means:  ‘The woman who ascends to heaven and achieves greatness.'” At the time, my name felt like big shoes to fill. It was a surprise to hear that he saw me as a person who always does the right thing. I fought for the underdog, I believed in equality and integrity. These days, I don’t even consider the deeper meaning of my name, I just love it because it is mine. 

As I reflect on the past eighteen months and all the change that our dojo has endured, being a moral compass becomes even more notable. We have experienced betrayal and uncovered dishonesty from people we once trusted. We have also seen loyalty dissipate in a flash. But instead of lashing out by taking an eye for an eye approach, I believe that living with respect and acting with integrity is the right approach. Team Togisala will rebuild by staying focused on our goals to teach karate, drill basics, and develop champions. 

To anyone who has knocked one of us down or stolen what isn’t yours, you cannot break us. When you point your finger at us in judgment and accuse us of doing something wrong, take a look at how many fingers are pointing at you. And as you try to keep someone from our dojo under your thumb, look around. You are no match for the multiple pair of hands around us that lift us up. The true meaning of Dojo Ohana is to give and love with no expectations of receiving anything in return. Our Dojo Ohana crosses multiple martial arts disciplines and even crosses state lines. As much as you try to take take take from those who you once called your friends, you will always wind up alone. Even Zazou in “Lion King” knows, “Cheetahs never prosper.”  


My boss may consider my role on the team as the “moral compass”  But I believe in Living Aloha. Do not harm but take no shit. Family first and family is not limited to blood relatives. My moral compass is grounded in the values I learned through my martial arts journey:  Respect, Discipline, Integrity, Perseverance, Humility. That’s what drives my moral compass. 

Brain Drain and Pain – Why Inclusion Matters

When a human being is born, their brain weighs one pound. If you are reading this blog, your brain probably weighs about three pounds. Through normal human development and physical growth starting as a swaddled infant to toddling around as a toddler to tip-toeing through life as a tween/teen and eventually, achieving adult status, your brain gained two more pounds. Every life experience, jump rope jumped, schoolbook read and to a lesser extent, television show watched, has contributed to your brain’s development and weight gain. Every human being is unique because no one has had exactly the same life experiences. Even identical twins bring diversity to a conversation because genetic make-up aside, they are not exactly the same person.

That was the gist of the first two minutes of a presentation I heard this week by a woman who is a UCLA professor in the Psychology Department and the Anderson School of Management. Because my career has been focused on creating work environments where people can bring their full selves to work and contribute freely in a safe environment, I became intrigued with every word Dr. Iris Firstenberg spoke. Diversity is so much more than race and gender, that I understood and tried to communicate in all of my presentations and interactions at work. But to learn about how neuroscience creates diversity in each and every human being was truly a “mind blown’ moment. And I do not find myself shocked or surprised by much at this stage of my career. Pi’ilani’s mind went kaboom.

Here is what I learned about the brain.

 

 

Near the center of the brain exists the Limbic System. According to Wikipedia: “The limbic system was originally defined by Paul Broca as a series of cortical structures surrounding the limit between the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem: the border, or limbus, of the brain. These structures were known together as the limbic lobe. Further studies began to associate these areas with emotional and motivational processes and linked them to subcortical components that were grouped into the limbic system. The existence of such a system as an isolated entity responsible for the neurological regulation of emotion has gone into disuse and currently it is considered as one of the many parts of the brain that regulate visceral, autonomic processes.”

So, what does that actually mean? The limbic system is responsible for both emotions and memory. Consider an experience from your life that was highly emotional, maybe you were PISSED at your best friend for borrowing your favorite sweater or perhaps your favorite pet passed away unexpectedly and you cried for days, aren’t those memories burned into your mind? In your brain (and every other human being’s brain), the emotional center is right next to the memory center. That means that highly emotional experiences are highly memorable experiences. Much to my delight, I also learned that food and alcohol directly impact the limbic system. That satisfaction and gratification can elicit an emotional reaction and create lasting memories. For an Asian Pacific Islander like me, every social gathering must revolve around food and drink. For example, holiday get-togethers in my family consist of multiple rounds of food starting with loads of appetizers, followed by a hearty meal with both ethnic and American dishes , ending with delightful desserts and all accompanied by fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails or fancy sodas for the kids and/or teetotalers.

Another thing to consider is that people need to constantly stimulate their brains. Because your brain is constantly sculpting itself and growing and changing through experiences such as traveling, reading, dancing or playing music. This sort of on-going learning stimulates growth in your brain and can help stave off Alzheimer’s, even if you have a genetic disposition for the disease. So encourage your elderly family and friends to read, do crosswords, play cards, exercise and stay social to keep that brain sculpting going.

But what about when people are experiencing stress? They are being driven by their emotional brain – fear, danger, nerves, anxiety. When there are lots of connections going up to that area and not enough connections coming down to placate that brain, the emotional brain is overwhelmed.  Emotion trumps logic every time. Human beings absolutely need to calm that brain down to think logically. Think about when you’re arguing with your partner or sibling or child and you’re both so sure that your point of view is the right answer. As you build your argument and elevate your voices and blood pressure, it becomes harder and harder to truly hear the other person’s point of view. If you are trying to end the argument or calm the situation down, remember this little tip. Louder is not better. The limbic system hears in a nonverbal manner. So take a breath and sit next to the person, not across from one another, to make it easier to calm them down. Feel free to give them a drink or some food. Because a sense of touch is calming, it may be appropriate for you to gently touch the other person, place a hand softly on their shoulder, or hold their hand in yours. This can all help calm down the limbic system and allow the disagreement to begin to dissipate.

So how does this relate to one’s work environment? You risk charges of sexual harassment if you place your hand on a work colleague. And it is rare that a disagreement would escalate to a yelling match at the office. But what happens when you don’t include people at work. Maybe you walk around and look at your shoes or your phone because you’re a bit of an introvert like me. Or perhaps you really are so busy that you forget to say Hello to someone in the hall or people who sit near your desk. Exclusion, even when it is not done with any intention of hurting someone, can directly impact morale and productivity. In fact, neuroscience has proven that being excluded or rejected can be as painful as being socked in the stomach, people elicit the exact same brainwave patterns in each case. Whether it is a person who never gets invited to lunch or a person who just got dumped by the love of their life, it all hurts the same in their brainwaves.

Consider a time when you felt social rejection as a tween or teenager. We all have stories of being rejected or excluded and we probably all remember how much it hurt, despite our well-intended parents telling us that “you’ll get over it” or “this too shall pass”. These rejections stay with us as adults and definitely impact our decision making and socialization.

I grew up in a fantastic neighborhood where I could walk to my elementary school and all of our neighbors were very friendly. I was lucky to have kids across the street who were close to my age, who cares if they were mostly boys, I learned how to throw a tight spiral in 5th grade. Around the corner, my best friends lived and we roller skated and played together all the time. But one thing was missing, there were no other Filipino kids in my neighborhood. My besties were also children of Asian immigrant parents but none were Pinoy. At around 12 years of age, I wanted to learn more about Filipino culture and asked if my mom would take me someplace so I could learn Filipino folk dancing.

The national dance of the Philippines is called the Tinikling, which pays homage to the movements of a much-loved bird, and is a graceful and athletic challenge of dancing and jumping in between bamboo poles that are being struck together to keep rhythm. It looks similar to playing jump rope, except that the dancers perform the steps around and between the bamboo poles, and the dance becomes faster until someone makes a mistake and the next set of dancers takes a turn. It looked like fun and I really wanted to connect with my culture so my mother took me to the Filipino Community Club across town so I could join their youth group.

I walked in wearing my Izod polo shirt, jeans, and Birkenstocks. The other kids from this neighborhood were in baggies, MaryJanes and Chucks. All of girls wore lipstick and used hairspray and looked so much more feminine than me. They were polite to me when the supervisor walked me around to let them know I was going to join their dance classes. However, as soon as we were left alone, one of the girls stage whispered to her friend, “What IS she wearing? Hippie shoes, ugh, gross.” At that moment, I decided that I wouldn’t come back and I never told my mom why. It became really hard for me to make friends with other Pinay girls after that because I thought they would all reject me in that way. Thankfully I had awesome cousins who were like my best friends so I did get large doses of my culture that way. But unfortunately, I never learned about Filipino folk dancing until college.

Inclusion is fundamental to all human interaction. When you include people and treat them with respect, they feel engaged and trusted. People need to be welcoming and honest to build friendships. Leaders have to be vulnerable for employees feel trusted. When someone feels excluded, the brain reacts to it in the same way as when the body is kicked in the stomach. Do your best to behave inclusively in all of your relationships. And keep in mind that logic cannot be achieved if emotions are running high.

Letter of Resignation

Sorry to start off this way but I have to apologize. I have been neglecting this blog of late. Work and life have reached a frenetic pace, once again, and I can’t even carve out free time to play with my newly acquired MacBook Pro to learn how to produce a podcast. My body clock had been thrown out of whack so badly that my acupuncturist took one quick glance at me, and said, “I haven’t seen you for a while, you look really pretty, I like your haircut.” She then took a hard look into my eyes and at tongue (I still don’t get why Chinese doctors read patient’s tongues) and followed up with, “Oh, but you look completely worn out. In all these years of treating you, I have never seen you look this bad.” Thanks, Doc, as if I didn’t already feel like shit when I staggered through the door. I say all of that to explain why I have been absent from posting to this blog for almost two full months. I haven’t been writing much, aside from the numerous communications at work but no one wants to read that, right?

Very recently, I wrote a letter of resignation. I haven’t crafted one of these in almost 20 years. My career has taken me through many twists and turns but when it is all said and done, I have worked for different affiliates of my current company for almost 17 years. Prior to this, my employment was through an employment agency so no formal letter of resignation was required when I have moved on to permanent employment.

So as I sat at my keyboard with the intention of typing a brief letter to announce my resignation, I realized that I didn’t know where to start. To the Internet I raced. A quick google search brought me to websites with advice and coaching on how to write a cover letter and create a resume that will “pop” and catch a recruiter’s eye. Don’t believe what you read on the internet. If you are applying for a job via a website, use key words in your resume and cover letter that will be read when your materials are scanned by a computer. Rare is the case that a human being will read your cover letter and resume when it first arrives. You need to have the electronic scanner bot approve you before a live organism such as an HR recruiting team member touches your resume and cover letter.

The guidance on resignation letters felt impersonal and dry. Essentially, I gleaned that one should not burn bridges when leaving a place employment (#noduh) and showing gratitude for the knowledge and experience acquired at one’s soon to be past place of employment is important.

Just to be clear, I haven’t left my current employer. I have resigned from the Diversity Collegium. The website describes the organization as such: “The Diversity Collegium is a group of 25 professionals that has been meeting for more than two decades for the purpose of advancing the work that has come to be known as the field of Diversity and Inclusion. The Collegium members meet to discuss current issues in the field. In the process, they conduct research and prepare papers on current and cutting edge questions. Membership in the group is by invitation only and is managed so that a balance of diversity is created among its members including such dimensions as race/ethnicity, industry, gender, and how one practices in the field. The Diversity Collegium is a non-profit corporation registered in the State of Washington, USA.”

As I reflected on my time with the organization that I chose to resign from, I realized that the experience I gained has have impacted my professional life tremendously. My connection to men and women who founded the field and study of diversity and inclusion kicks ass on any PhD. We had dialogue and debate on issues that crossed race, gender, sexual orientation, global diversity, people with disabilities and when I joined, I wanted to explore generational diversity and personality style (introvert/extrovert) to the conversation.

My involvement with developing the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (as an expert panelist) is what I am most proud of in terms of a tangible deliverable from my time with the Diversity Collegium. The Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks: Standards for Organizations Around the World, was co-authored by Julie O’Mara and Alan Richter, Ph.D., along with 80 Expert Panelists. 



The Diversity Collegium does not charge a fee for anyone to download or use this tool. If you’re a practitioner with interest in this tool, go to their website to download The Global D&I Benchmarks tool.

One of the other highlights of my time with Diversity Collegium was having a quiet conversation about generational differences with the legendary R. Roosevelt Thomas over wine and a brownie. Moments like that are priceless. I wrote my letter of resignation with a smile because the friendships that I made through the Diversity Collegium have filled my life with luster and laughter. Hopefully, the next letter of resignation that I write will be completed with smiles and sweet memories like brownies and wine.

 

 

The Basics are Everything in #karate

The sun shone brightly on that clear Fall morning. Obviously, no one had informed the sun that it was October 26th, as the temperature had already reached the low 70s by 9:30am. I reached for my Maui Jim’s as I started the car and noticed my hand shook a bit. Nerves brought a chill to my bone, not autumn weather. The belt promotion test day had arrived and eight karatekas would face the physical and mental challenge of testing their abilities: perform kata – open hand and with weapons, spar against multiple opponents simultaneously and display working knowledge/practical application of martial arts techniques. This must occur after enduring an extremely physically challenging work-out. Each karateka must able to execute self-defense techniques, translate Japanese words and phrases and articulately respond to questions about training.

When I thought about the physical part of the test, I wasn’t worried. I had complete faith in my current fitness level. My training included cardio, hula, and karate. And the fundamental blocks, kicks and punches came back to me, just like riding a bike. Sensei Richard Rabago always said, “The basics are everything.” We would drill our blocks, kicks and punches for 30 to 45 minutes a night before the actual work out would begin.

The one thing that made me nervous was wondering if it would be hard for me to control my emotions. The last time I talked to Sensei Rabago about training, I had mentioned that I was ready to come back, as soon as my work life settled down. He responded, “Good. We are ready when you are. You should have been a black belt by now anyway.” That was about three years ago, when my manager at work became unexpectedly “separated” from the company and I suddenly found myself burdened with triple the workload and no additional resources at work or at home. Before I knew it, two years had passed and Sensei’s health had slowly begun to deteriorate. The dojo may always be ready for me but it never dawned on me that Sensei Rabago would not be there to guide my training.

Back in the day, I spent four days a week in the dojo. My week revolved around working out and sweating on the dojo floor. I would pack food to eat in the office at 5:00pm so that I would have enough energy to burn. My wardrobe consisted of long sleeved blouses and long skirts to hide the bruises from blocks and practicing techniques. I loved training so much, it was the best part of my day.

Those evenings would go a little something like this: A sempai (brown belt) or more junior black belt would lead warm up exercises. Military style jumping jacks “1-2-3-ONE! 2-2-3-TWO!” and so on, for at least three sets of ten. We would then stretch for 10 -15 minutes, and not some light head-shoulders-knees-and toes baloney, we would loosen up our quads, hamstrings, calves, knees, ankles, groin and move into splits before working on the appendages of our upper body. This would start the perspiration before any sort of kicking or punching was even mentioned.

Once we were sufficiently warmed up, if Sensei Rabago would walk out on to the floor we all kind of took a deep breath in and side eyed each other. We knew we were in for a work out. Two sets of ten punches each chudan zuki – middle punch; jodan zuki – upper punch; gedan zuki – low punch, with ten push-ups between each set. When you do the math, that adds up to a lot of push-ups. Follow that up with triple punch sets to work on speed with either squats or sit-ups in between each. Between karate, hula, tennis, volleyball and basketball, my knees have suffered abuse for my entire life. We followed the same routine for blocks: jodan uke – high block; soto uke – outside block; uchi uke – Inside block; and gedan barai – low block. Then we started kicks: Mawashi Geri, Yoko Geri, Mae Geri, etc. My favorite kick is the roundhouse, mawashi geri, because I feel like I can get so much power out of turning my hip over and adding the pivot. It always felt like a combination of throwing a baseball and doing a dance pivot, thrown with the intention of breaking an opponent’s femur. I also enjoyed the gedan barai – low block because the best way to block is to try to make yourself the smallest target possible and that means turning your shoulders and bending your knees. Something about that motion always felt like a dance move to me.

Training in the dojo taught me about much more than just self-defense. Sensei Rabago emphasized that women and girls learn to defend themselves against attacks. But when I think back to my training, I realized that my career success and life accomplishments can be attributed to the self-confidence and self-respect that Sensei instilled in all of his students. We represented more than just ourselves when we wore that gi or competed in tournaments. We were committed to training to improve ourselves. We were dedicated to perpetuating the tradition of Okinawan Shorin Ryu through our studies. We were warriors. I am a single mom of a biracial child with multiple learning disabilities and I hold down a demanding career, that makes me a working warrior.

Martial arts training teaches self-reliance and independence because you are the only person who can perform the kata or defend in kumite. However, Sensei Rabago nurtured his students in a way that can only be described as a family environment. The young students had to complete their homework before they could train. We weren’t allowed to walk outside with our gi on, and definitely restricted from wearing our belts outside. Sensei always said, “it doesn’t matter what color your belt is, all it does is hold your pants up.” This, from a 7th Dan Master. Humility and hard work, that was the biggest lesson I took away from Sensei Richard Rabago.  His philosophy on the dojo, “Money is important, but we don’t live our lives by it.  We want to keep the doors open, train dedicated students and make good people.”
On May 8, 2003, in Sensei Richard Rabago’s dojo, I broke a board for the first time with a reverse punch. He told me, “Good job, Girl. Pi’i, if you can break a board, you can break a bone”. I’ve kept it in my office to remind me that I can achieve anything if I’m willing to work hard (and I can break someone’s bone if they deserve it). Bam.

Today, I am lucky to study under Sensei Butch Togisala, Sensei Rabago’s number one black belt. Sensei Togisala has more trophies than one can count and has been a black belt as long as I have known him. I see the same family spirit in his new dojo. Even though he isn’t as hard on the kids as Sensei Rabago was, I love watching him teach. Sensei Togisala knows who to push hard, who to encourage and who to nurture. And I appreciate that he doesn’t train me “like a girl.” He trains me like a Warrior and I push myself to be a better karate-ka every day, in everything I do, starting with the basics: Punch-Kick-Block. The basics are everything.

May 25, 2012
Sensei Richard Rabago, 7th Dan
Sensei Richard Rabago was born August 14th, 1943 on the Island of O’ahu and raised on the garden isle of Kauai. As he was growing up on the Islands, Rabago Sensei had the opportunity to experience and study many different forms of martial arts. Rabago Sensei martial studies included: Judo, Aikido, Kempo and boxing. After completing high school Rabago Sensei moved to California in August of 1961. Then, he began his training in Shotokan Karate under the instruction of Tsutomu Oshima and Hidetaka Nishiyama.

Rabago Sensei trained and studied the principles of Shotokan until 1968. In
1969, he began his study of Shorin-Ryu Karate under Senseis’ George Terukina and Seikichi Iha. He progressed through the years and earned his title as “Sensei”. Rabago Sensei then opened his own dojo and for the past 30 plus years taught Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu and specialized techniques in use of force in Torrance, California.

Rabago Sensei has the experience, training credentials, and Budo skill to have earned the right to be called “Master” several times over. If you call him that, however, you’ll most likely get a roll of the eyes, a slightly embarrassed laugh, and the words, “just call me Sensei – that’s enough”. A throwback to the age of Budo and Honor, where a Karate-ka earned respect through skill and dedication, not by self-given titles, Rabago Sensei measures himself against a higher standard than is commonly used in martial arts today. Rabago Sensei has learned his most important lesson. “The basics are everything”.

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Sensei Richard Rabago, 7th Dan

 

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Me, 4th Kyu