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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002

James Milojkovic: anything is possible James Milojkovic: anything is possible (May 08, 2002)

by Tim Seyfert

As a child, James Milojkovic's mother often told him to "make the impossible possible." Now a noted psychologist, he has built a career on that advice for the past two decades.

"I like to shift what people believe they can achieve," he said. "My motivation is showing people the true power they have."

Each summer at Stanford University, Milojkovic (pronounced Miloy-kovich) shows people how to tap into this power with his "Managing Innovation" course. In it, a hodgepodge of Silicon Valley executives, soul-searching college students, and recent high school graduates gather to learn how to become masters of their own destiny.

Though many of his students have included the higher-ups from Hewlett Packard, Intel and Apple Computer, Milojkovic isn't just teaching a how-to course for corporate America.

His students come from varied backgrounds, but they share a common desire: change. Whether they are unhappy with their jobs, unsure what major to study or seeking a way to achieve a lifelong goal, Milojkovic gets them to see their lives in a new light.

"I help people become a new observer, to look at life through different eyes and see what really matters." he said. "I could bring the superstar out of someone."

Being in the same league with superstars is something the 46-year-old Milojkovic has strived for since childhood.

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1957, he credits his mother with never letting him shy away from his dreams.

"She was committed to me having a great life," he said.

That persistence paid off in 1983 when, after graduating with honors from the University of Melbourne, Milojkovic was given a full scholarship to pursue graduate work in Stanford University's psychology department.

But it was outside the classroom that he learned his most valuable lesson.

In the late 1980s, the loss of two friends planted the seeds for Milojkovic's uncompromising "live now" mentality.

During his second year at Stanford, his mentor, psychology professor Merrill Carlsmith, died of smoking-induced lung cancer. Milojkovic was both saddened and angered by the loss.

"Here was this brilliant man with a stupid habit," he said. "That really changed things for me."

Then, as he watched a friend deteriorate from AIDS, he deepened his appreciation for life.

"I was there when he died," he said. "One of the last things he said to me was to value life and not to wait."

By the time he finished his doctoral thesis, the driven psychologist knew what he needed to do.

"You become aware of what really matters, "he said. "I knew that the only person that should live my life was me."

Today, Milojkovic is leading a crusade to help people find the things that truly matter to them. In addition to his duties at Stanford, Milojkovic founded the company Knowledge Passion, a San Francisco-based consulting firm. As a private consultant, he uses his ideas to help various Bay Area companies develop fresh views and resolve internal disputes. With Charles Schwab, Kaiser Permanente and Adobe Systems on his roster, Milojkovic sees Silicon Valley as "a bud still waiting to bloom."

"Many of the area's biggest companies have only achieved one percent of their true potential," he said. "Their biggest enemy is fear of failure. Most of them just sit in a cubicle and hope for the best."

Milojkovic sees fear as a barrier for most people.

"It's only when we attempt the absurd that we achieve the impossible," he said.

To him, each individual holds his or her own definition of success. And these days, the determined motivator shows no signs of slowing down his mission to help others find their "life of greatness."

"We all have the power to achieve what we want," he said. "Many people just don't know how to find that power, but it's there."

E-mail Tim Seyfert at


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