This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Richard Bolles. In his own words:
Early life and career
Bolles grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey,and graduated from Teaneck High School in 1945, where his yearbook described him stating “Dick’s future will be scientific / But in which field he’s not specific.” After a brief stint in the United States Navy, attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying chemical engineering, and Harvard University, where he graduated with a B.A. in Physics, cum laude. He attended General Theological Seminary (Episcopal) in New York City, from which he graduated with a Master’s Degree in the New Testament. After ordination, he served as a Fellow and Tutor at the Seminary, and then served churches in New Jersey. Following this, he served as Canon Pastor of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He also served on the National Staff of United Ministries in Higher Education for a number of years.
Bolles is the brother of investigative journalist Don Bolles, and Ann Bolles Johnson. His paternal grandfather, Stephen Bolles, was a U.S. member of Congress from Wisconsin (died 1941), and his father was for many years an editor with the Associated Press (died 1972).
Bolles has received many honors. He was the 2006 recipient of the National Samaritan award, joining such prestigious company as Karl Menninger, Peter Drucker, Norman Vincent Peale, Betty Ford, and Sir John Templeton. The Library of Congress in 1996 named his book as one of 25 that have shaped reader’s lives. His book has appeared on The New York Times best-seller list (paperback non-fiction) a total of 288 weeks.
Bolles makes public speaking appearances and leads workshops around the United States. He releases updated editions of his Parachute book every year, as well as working on new titles. The latest title is “The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide”, a short 100 page book. He has had various co-authors for some of his other books, including Howard Figler, Carol Christen, Dale Brown, and one of his sons, Mark Bolles. Mark is the principal author of their book Job Hunting on the Internet ISBN 1-58008-652-7. He is also a member of high-IQ society Mensa.
He lives in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area and was married in 2004 to the former Marciana Garcia Mendoza Navarrete, who is from Cavite in the Philippines. He has four children by a previous marriage, and his wife has two.”
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Jonathan: Hey everyone Jonathan Bailor with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Really have a treat for you today. One of the most well-known authors of all time literally wrote the book that Time Magazine called one of the one hundred all-time that’s non-fiction books. The Library of Congress calls it one of the twenty five books that have shaped reader’s lives. Fortune Magazine you may have heard of them, they said ideally everyone would read this authors book in the tenth grade and again every year thereafter.
If haven’t guessed yet our author today and guest today is Dick Bolles. You may know him as Richard N. Bolles because that is the name you will see on the cover of his amazing book, What Color is Your Parachute. The best-selling job hunters and career changing guide of all time. Dick welcome to the show brother.
Dick: Thank you Jonathan.
Jonathan: Sir I am so happy to have you here and just to get started for the listeners who are not familiar with you and your work which I know will probably a small percentage of them, but can you tell us a little bit of your story and what led you down this path.
Dick: The path being writing the book?
Dick: I was fired, that always starts you thinking hard. I was fired from my position, I was in an ordained episcopal minister that time, and I’m not anymore. But at that time I was the canon pastor of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco up on Mob Hill. They had to let me go because of the budget crunch. I got another job where I was a roaming shepherd. I visited all the college campuses on behalf of the Episcopal Church in the nine western states.
I ask them to say if they have any problems, I was visiting all the campus ministers of ten different denominations that was my charge. They said we had a problem we’re all being let go because of a budget crunch. We know you’re history, we know you know something about that so tell us what we should do. I said I haven’t got a clue. But I said you have a handsome travel budget and I can research it. I went around to research how they could make the transitions from serving the church to being out there in a secular world and I wrote up my notes.
I self-published it back in December 1, 1970 which of course was back when dinosaur where still roaming the earth. Then I was approach by a commercial publisher who had seen my book on somebody’s desk. He asked me, this was 1972, he asked me if he could publish it commercially. He said he would published just as is because it was clearly written for clergy, campus clergy. I said no, I’m getting strange orders from people I never thought would order such a book. If we’re going to do it let’s make it for general public.
Furthermore I want the freedom to revise it every year once you tell me that the cost of republishing is not astronomical. Within two years he told me it was okay and every year since then we’ve been putting out an annual edition. I do it all myself, I don’t have any staff, I do all the research, I do all the writing, I do most of the editing although I have a wonderful editor over a ten speed press. The press that approach me with that offer that many years ago in ‘72 and she does find my spelling errors and a few things like that but generally it goes straight from my computer keyboard to the printer and it sold now over 10 million copies.
It’s in twenty six countries, it’s used all around the world and just grew like topsy. I didn’t write the book to make money. I just wanted to help some people that were in trouble. I wasn’t even part of my charter. I did the research and stuff during my summer vacations. People like what they found because they found unusual ideas and the book just grew like topsy. Got all the accolades that you mentioned but for me everybody that writes me, which they do daily say this book changed my life, is for me a great bonus for more than any income from the book.
Jonathan: Dick you mentioned you were motivated to do this originally and continue to have such ownership and passion for this mission to help people and anyone who has read your book knows that it’s about more than just acquiring a job. There’s a lot of metaphysical self-examination. Why am I here purpose type things? Can you tell us a little bit about more than metaphysical side and soul searching side of Finding the Color of Your Parachute?
Dick: We discovered early on. I have a network now, they’re not paid, really a bunch of people around the world and the write to meet constantly telling me what’s going on in their village and what changes their observing. My field technically is not job hunting. My field technically is called lifework planning. I prefer lifework designing but saying that if we have to stop and think about our future with work, why don’t we start also thinking about our future with leisure and our future with relationships and our future with learning and so on.
We quickly discovered that one of the things that was true about job hunting was connected to wider issues of life and that was people who sat down and did a self-inventory, sat down and figure out who am I really? What is it that I really have to offer to the world? We’re infernally more successful in finding work than the people who skip that step. I puzzled that over the years and I figured out why this was so true. Why sitting down figuring out who you are is so effective as a preliminary that you actually go out and looking for work.
It is that in many areas of life we don’t learn, we unlearn. We think we know how to do with certain things, we develop certain techniques because everyone tells us we should and then we learn that no that is really true. That isn’t really the right way to go. There’s a lot of unlearning that happens in life before people can learn. Sitting down doing yourself inventory you unlearn the pictures you’ve been holding of yourself which are largely dictated by what jobs you have over your lifetime does thus far.
You start to rethink yourself. We dissect their history in the world of work and in life down into its basic atoms or building blocks and then build up a new understanding of who you are and where they want to go with their life. People tell me the self-inventory is a part of the book that most helps them change their life.
Jonathan: Dick it seems like this idea, this intersection, and the unexamined life is not one worth living. Certainly something has been around for thousands of years and you’ve breath wonderful new life into it. I’m curious Dick there is another take. I forget what you called it. You mentioned your profession is not necessarily job hunting. It’s something else but that made me jot down this term lifestyle design. There’s a lot of people, I am not sure if you’re familiar with maybe Timothy Farris who talks about lifestyle design. I’m curious if you have thoughts on differences and similarities between your approach and the approaches of lifestyle design?
Dick: No not really. I’m familiar with other authors working with the health field, gerontology field and stuff and I know Farris’ works very well. I’ve read his books and stuff. I don’t sit down and really try to compare the two. I’m so busy hammering out my own understanding, I’m now 86 years old and I’m trying still to figure out the essence of some other questions that puzzled me when I was 22.
I’m always evolving and I’m really not paying to what other people’s insights are except as I find myself sitting often on a panel with them and they talk about what is it they’re up to. I do read voraciously on the internet, I read articles, I read magazines, I don’t read many books frankly. Bookish.com approached me recently and said it was the list of your eight favorite books. They said if I could give us a list of your eight favorite books. I said if I could give you a list of eight books I would be astonished because I said everyone assumes a writer is also a reader and I happen to be one of the exception to that.
I’ll tell you why I don’t like to read other people’s books. Because I want my thinking, God gave me a very good mind, it’s in the top 1% of the country in IQ. I like to involve my own ideas, I get a million of them every day. I am very very creative with the ideas that march through my mind and I really love to explore them. One time I was in a workshop, this was for two hundred and thirty colleges in the Midwest. There were like career planners or career directors at all those colleges. It was a three day workshop that they asked me to lead for them to train them.
The beginning of the third day, I don’t know what possessed them to wait so long. This middle aged guy stands up and stands himself up to his full height and he says, Mr. Bolles what exactly are your qualifications for teaching this? I said that’s the beauty of it I don’t have any. Everybody in the room laughs except him. I owed him a further explanation I said, I don’t come to this field with the assumptions of other people. I come with fresh curiosity. I don’t know what the rules have been. I don’t know how it was done in the past. I’m free to think of strategies, I’m free to think of passages that people are involved.
Based on what’s going on in my own mind and I really love that. I think that kind of creativity and that kind of freedom is what’s got me alive. I have splendid health even at this age. I’m always evolving my own understanding of health, I drive to pay a lot of attention to my own view of life and my own mind and the affective relationships on what’s going on in my life. There’s hardly any passage or subject relative to life and relative to well-being that I don’t think about.
I often come up with my own curiosity and then I fly to Wikipedia on the internet and research it. I don’t like to read books but I sure love to find out what are the people saying. I like summaries of that nature so that’s the way I’ve been evolving in my book and the way I been evolving in my thinking.
Jonathan: Dick two characteristics you have that I admire very much and I want to have you in the show so that we could explore with the listeners two things. One obviously you are incredibly proactive individual. You’re also incredibly self-directed individual. What gives you that strength and that confidence to say what you just said? Which is basically, it’s the fact that I don’t know anything that enables me to know things that no one else yet knows.
Dick: I wouldn’t pretty quiet so starkly but you are on the right track that is my philosophy. How did I get started on that? I don’t really know I just have always been the kind that of maverick. I’ve always been the person I was for fifty years. I was an ordained episcopal minister and I always wondered if the church didn’t feel like it was the way I was [inaudible 0:19:18] wanted to spit me out. Because I am always a maverick I never liked to follow the rules. I live out of the right side of my brain not on the left.
I was very great friends with Jack Schwartz who’s for many years one of the leaders in health and he used to say when I ask you, he was a mind reader. He used to say when I ask you a question you hang pictures all over the walls in the room. I changed the question and you changed some of the pictures but left some of the others up. He said you think in pictures before you think in words.
Your genius or whatever you want to call it is that you’re good at translating pictures into words. I think in terms of pictures all day long and when people ask me a question the first thing that pops into my mind is a picture and then I try to think of how to translate that into words that will help them to see what I saw in the picture.
Jonathan: Dick you’ve been doing this like you’ve mention for decades. You’re 86 years young now and you could continue to have this passion and vigor for life. What do you attribute such long lasting passion and vigor to?
Dick: I will give you the unpopular answers because the unpopular answers turn out to be true. I have a rock solid religious faith, I was raised in the Christian church, I have always believed in God, I have always believed in Jesus and I read the scriptures daily. But on the other hand along with that I am trained in the sciences. I went into the MIT and study chemical engineering there. Then I transferred in the last two years of my college education to Harvard and I studied under all the great professors that were there at that time.
I had my major already secure. For two years I could just dabble in any subject I wanted to so I got very trained in the rigors in scientific thinking. My faith is a very intelligent faith but it means the world to me. The other thing is my marriage. I am married to an incredible woman and I’ve been married before but this is the happiest time of my whole life because of the way which we interact with each other. When you get to a certain age you learn that a battle worth fighting and there are some battles that are not worth fighting.
You will just decide what’s important and you decide what’s not important. You have a much better philosophy about daily life. Just as a result of how well you live. You were young smart ass when you were younger and you learn not to be that. You get whooped by life sometimes but over the years I’ve learned that relationships are the key to my happiness, the key to my health, the key to my life. My wife is a Filipino. She is a license nurse’s assistant so she knows all the medical arts and we just have joy.
We are both extremely playful. I will put playfulness high on the list of answers to your question. I think that if you don’t stay playful all your life, if you think that your mission in life is to become an adult. Then becoming an adult means serious about things then you miss a lot of possibilities of life. We, my wife and I joke from morning until night. We play with phrases, we play with what we see, may jokes about trees and shapes in the sky and just anything that catches our curiosity and our attention.
Jonathan: Dick I can certainly resonate with the sense of attributing your life to something bigger than oneself and maintaining the spirit of play. Certainly seems like two things that will help us also live better lives. If you have to put third on that list what would that be?
Dick: I put three actually out there actually, let me remind you. I owe it to my faith. I owe it to the rigors of scientific thinking. Things I like about job hunting is job hunting is essentially an empirical science which means that if you propose something you can go out and test it right away and find out if it works or not and that is with great joy. I love science. I love having some discipline to the mind so the mind doesn’t wonder over the dessert.
So the first thing I said was my faith. The second was my training and thinking. The third is relationships. If you want a forth, I would say I pay a lot of attention to my health. Huge amount of attention. I don’t do the usual advice. I don’t exercise a lot and I drank Coke every day since I was 20 years old and so forth but I also pay attention to my instinct. My instinct say stop eating this food, I stopped eating it. My instinct say you need to get bed rest badly, I follow my instinct.
I’ve learned over the years my instincts toward preservation and towards well-being are very sound. I used to take vitamin E for example because everyone said you should take vitamin E. Then one day I just woke up and said I really don’t want to do this. This doesn’t feel to me like it’s really doing that much and then they start publishing articles in medical journals. Saying that vitamin E is not something you should take in a lot of and I thought how can my instinct know that ahead of all the research? That has been very important to me. I love good health and I love life and so I try to follow my instincts. I’ve learned my instincts are good.
Jonathan: I love that. Looking back, trusting the self, examining the self, being playful and then associating the self with something greater then itself. Dick what’s next for you?
Dick: Next I’m working on three new books. Next I’m dying to have a vacation with my wife so we’re going to go to Hawaii in October once I get these books written. I am just exploring what I want to do that’s fun. Probably I’m taking more time to be with my wife and we celebrated our anniversary which was last Saturday. By going out in the nature and spending the whole day hiking around, watching flowers and going through botanical gardens and stuff. That’s the future for me. I want to get more playful and I want to enjoy every ounce of the days of life I have left for me on this earth.
Jonathan: Dick Bolles thank you for all that you’ve done to help so many enjoy the days they have on this earth. Greatly appreciate it and greatly appreciate your time with us today.
Dick: You are very welcome Jonathan.
Jonathan: Listeners I hope you’ve enjoy this peek into the life and mind of an author who I know as if not touched your life personally, certainly touched the life of someone you know as he has touched your life of literally tenths of million. Our guest today was Dick Bolles the author of What Color is Your Parachute. You can learn more about him by typing his name to any search engine or by visiting jobhuntersbible.com or going to any place in the world that has books because they will certainly have the copy of What Color is Your Parachute. Thank you so much for joining us today and please remember that this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.
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