Just got back from three days in Reno, helping a client raise money for their company.  Our local "finder" of potential investors, who I'll call Anne, is quite an interesting person, and the three days were unexpectedly delightful.

I don't gamble.  When I was 9 or so, the kid across the street, a couple of years older than me, taught me to play poker and proceeded to clean me out of $1.35, which was about 2/3 of my total net worth at the time.  The experience was quite traumatic, and lasted until my 20's.  By that time, I knew too much mathematics to get any enjoyment out of it (for those of you who are not mathematical, here is the nutshell: if a game of chance is fair and you play it repeatedly, the person who has the most money virtually always wins.  The casino games are not fair--they favor the casino, and the casinos already have more money than me by a large factor.  Get the point?)

I've spent time in Los Vegas at conferences.  I'll always treasure my friend's depiction of Los Vegas as a place founded by people "who were thrown out of Los Angeles for poor taste."  And I've passed by Reno several times on I80, but never stopped.  My lip would curl a little, and I would mutter something like "tacky" and keep driving.

Well, I enjoyed Reno a lot.  Driving back, I think it's because I just stayed out of judgment the whole time.  The little kid in me was delighted by the glitter and the lights, and I let that glitter delight me.  Reno is 'Western' in a way that the Bay Area isn't (90% of the residents of the Bay Area grew up somewhere else, and it is very diverse).  The people I met were independent, strong, and enjoyed living close to nature, and even enjoyed the struggle with nature that the area invited.  I enjoyed the "wide open" feeling--no mental fences, no stifling traditions.  As I contemplate a possible move to Boston, I think the contrast will be a telling one.

Anne is a good example of a Reno person.  In her mid forties, but has spent a lot of time outdoors and looks older.  Energy and enthusiasm.  Grew up in a difficult household, and was widowed at 28 when her husband was killed in a construction accident.  Vegetarian, loves hiking, quite athletic.  Knows everybody in town, and found us several excellent potential investors.  Laughs a lot, and is a wonderful dining partner--the three of us rarely had a meal that lasted less than 4 hours (3 of it talk).  I feel like I made a couple of good friends this weekend--Anne and my client--and that is a very good feeling.

One of our discussions led to talking about career values.  What is important to us about our career.  There is a very powerful technique taught in NLP for working with values, which are often conflicting or internally inconsistent.  As a result of these discussions, I spent three hours working with Anne on her career values.

The process is pretty simple--first you list words or short phrases that represent things that are important to you about a career.  Anne came up with 14.  Then you order them from most to least important.  In this process, you usually discover that several of the ones you listed are really the same value.  So with Anne we ended up with 8 values, in order.  Then we talk about why this value is important.  The intent is to discover whether the value is important because of the positive benefits it brings or because it staves off negative things.  For example, if someone has a value of "earning a good salary", and you question them, they may say things like "I don't want to be poor.  I have to pay my rent.  If I don't get paid, I don't eat."--earning money is seen primarily as keeping a bunch of bad things from happening.  Or someone else might have the same value and say things like "I love to travel.  I like living in a beautiful house and being able to decorate it to my taste.  It gives me a lot of satisfaction to donate to charities that I believe in."  This is primarily positive.

When you have the ordered list of values, and know which ones are "towards" (what you want) and which ones are "away" (preventing what you don't want), then you look at them for values that might conflict (such as "a well-organized working environment" and "A chance to express my creativity").  These are explored.  And then there are a variety of NLP techniques for dealing with these conflicts, and with away-from goals.

So Anne's highest career value was "Speaking Truthfully"  She wants a place where she can speak her truth.  Upon discussion, this turned out to be almost totally an "way from" value.  She felt with many jobs she had to bury who she was, and that she couldn't express her creativity, or even express her opinions or feelings, on the job.  A little questioning disclosed that her opinions had been actively suppressed in her childhood, and her worst job experiences had reproduced her childhood environment.  A major "Aha!" for her on this one.  But we weren't done.  Further questioning showed that the key issue was really being seen as she truly was.  I said "so in order to work at these jobs, you had to be an imposter!"  Another major Aha!  That word provoked a strong physiological reaction--her neck became beet red, she started coughing, and she said she felt like she was being choked.  It was clear that she was not allowed to speak her truth!

Now we worked on the "being allowed" part of this.  She was not allowing herself to speak her truth, to be seen--she was not seeing herself.  The Aha's were coming fast now.  It worked so well for her to first pick a cruddy job, where she had to be an imposter to do the job, and then hate the job and the job environment, rather than facing her own fears of expressing who she was.  This was a big breakthrough for her.  Tears and sobs, leading to another physiological shift--she seemed far more centered, focused, and resolute.  So, we talked about her career values again.  The eight values had become four.  "Earning a reasonable income", which was #6 on her first list, 80% away from, turned in to "Make lots of money!", #2 on the new list, 100% towards.  She said over and over all weekend "That was so amazing".  She tried to explain to my client what we had done, and ended up sputtering.  

I'm pretty realistic about how much you can do working with someone for a few hours.  In terms of lasting change, overcoming the habits of a lifetime, not much.  However, you can bring awareness.  And with awareness, you can start a process of lasting change.  We'll see what comes of this.  I hope she makes a lot of money finding investors for us.  And there are no words to describe how satisfying it is to be there in this way for someone who is ready to move to the next level.

I'm getting inundated by calls and materials about Boston.  Diana and I are going the day after Thanksgiving to "check it out" and see whether we really want to make this move.  I'll keep you posted...

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.