With Friends Like Me…

I had some pretty strong opinions on the controversial razor ad that premiered online just before the Super Bowl. I won’t go into that too much here, but I found it to be a bit insulting and heavy-handed. I made the mistake of posting my opinion on my personal Facebook page.

I guess I should have expected a mixed-bag reaction as my friends list holds a very diverse group of people in just about every way people can be diverse, a fact I typically appreciate. But I struck a nerve with at least one friend and I was taken aback, honestly.

A woman I’ve known since we were in elementary school sent a private message regarding my post. She couldn’t understand my point of view, try as she might. She opened by complimenting me on being a good dad etc, but then lectured me and expressed her “disappointment” in my take on the ad.

Now, I’m not exactly proud of myself, but I let her have it. I’m a grown man and I wasn’t about to be condescended to in that way. Disappointed? What, is she my mother? How dare she respond to something that I posted for all to see in such a way! I told her that I couldn’t care less if she was disappointed in me and to my genuine surprise, she promptly unfriended. This, as dramatic as it was, got me thinking.

Why am I arguing with people I consider to be my friends?

Why do I insist on correcting every “wrong” I read on Facebook?

Am I actually being a friend?

Has a digital confrontation ever changed another’s mind and has mind ever been changed?

Will a complex problem ever be solved this way?

I don’t think so. So I quit. I’m still a Facebook user because I didn’t want to pull the plug on so many connections and re-connections I wouldn’t have made without it. But I’ve stopped engaging with any post I wanted to “correct”. No more arguments. Cold turkey. Done.

Facebook is super boring now. But I’ve discovered that I really wasn’t getting much from the confrontations anyway, other than a little high blood pressure.

I wasn’t being the friend I would want a friend to be. That’s no good, even on social media.

Love Them or Hate Them, Mondays Are Coming.

I’ll admit that I don’t exactly leap from my bed every Monday morning. While I am a morning person, I’m not sure I’d put the start of a new work week at the very top of my list of favorite things. Those spots are reserved for hanging with the family and tinkering with old cars. But it is actually pretty close to the top. I enjoy my job quite a bit, and I virtually never dread the alarm clock’s ring.

This wasn’t always the case, but more on that in a minute.

More and more I’ve been noticing posts on Facebook and Twitter howling over the end of the weekend. More and more complaining about the work week bringing much gnashing of teeth and gloomy doom. One particularly bad string of these posts culminated with a link to career podcast host claiming that two-thirds of Americans say they hate going into work on Monday.

2 of 3 people. That’s a lot. So I thought I’d put my 2 pennies in on this one.

Now, I assume that a good number of those asked would rather just not go to work at all. Fair enough. This post isn’t for those folks. This is for those readers who aren’t happy with their jobs, but do want to work. So if that’s you, read on.

I get it. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to sit on the couch on a Sunday evening and to watch the clock with dread.

Only 2 more hours before I have to go to bed.

Only 8 more hours before I have to be there.

What fresh hell awaits at the 8:30 meeting?

Will I be able to fix the broken thing that I didn’t break but will take the heat for its brokenness?

Will I be able to fix the thing(s) that I did break?

I hope my boss is late or skips that meeting and the next one.

The pang of anxiety when a new email hit my inbox.

If I was in a car crash, what injuries would keep me from work until this project is over but not harm me permanently?

That last one may sound ridiculous, but I did actually considered it on my way home from a previous employer one very stressful afternoon. I’ve also read career blogs on which others have expressed having the same thoughts, which is both comforting and terrifying.

This experience didn’t last too long for me. Check out my earlier post for the details.

So what’s the point?

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. 

The solution is simple, but extremely difficult.  Wait for it…

If you don’t want to dread Monday mornings, you must find a place where you enjoy being on Monday morning and go there. 

Stunningly brilliant, I know.

But in truth, it really is that simple. If you hate your job, get one that you don’t hate.

Now, here’s the not-so-simple part of actually doing that.

(Not all of this applied to me because I waited until I was fired to do these things. But you don’t have to.)

Here are some things you can do TODAY get you on track for workplace happiness:

  1. Step back from the swamp that is the day-to-day (minute-to-minute?) drudgery that is your job and write down 3 things that you like about what you do. Not who you work for or with, but the tasks that you enjoy completing.
  2. Now, give yourself a VERY honest assessment on what you’re good at doing. Think outside of your daily tasks at work. If you polled 5 of your closest friends, what would they say that you do well?
  3. Ok, take your answers from 1 and 2 and think of industries and/or types of jobs where you could combine what you like to do with what you’re good at doing. These jobs may even exists at your current employer.
  4.  Now scour your network (if you have none, GET ONE) and see who you know that works in those types of places.
  5. Take those people out to lunch and get a real idea as what their works entails.
  6. Apply for jobs that FIT YOU BEST regardles of your current experience.
  7. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs you think you won’t get. HR folks might have a need coming-up for a similar job with different requirements.

Easy-peasy, right? Not quite. Here are some things that might go along with such a transition:

  1. You might have to move. Your dream job may live somewhere you don’t.
  2. You might have to take a pay cut (YIKES!) – It’s true that switching industries can sometimes involve starting at a lower-level position. This isn’t always the case, but your happiness in the long-term might mean a lifestyle change for the short-term.
  3. It’s going to be uncomfortable for a while. Being the new kid, especially in a new industry or job type can be a struggle at first.
  4. You might have to suck it up for a bit while you acquire a new skill, take a class or get a credential you need for the job you want. Don’t quit your job until you’re ready to take the better one, but don’t use this as an excuse to stay put or as an excuse to go back to school forever.
  5. You actually have to do these things rather than sit and wait for things to improve where you are now.

That last one is the kicker. You must act. I know it sucks, but no one is going to shove you out of your own cubicle hell and into a job you love.

Change is painful, but I’d much rather face the pain of change than the prospect of hating (or even strongly disliking) the place where I’ll spend most of my life. You may never love your job, but you don’t have to hate it.

And when you don’t hate it, you’ll actually be good at it. And when you’re good at your job, all sorts of good things happen.

 

 

Yogi? Like the Bear?

Yesterday, we were watching a movie that mentioned yoga. I wasn’t really paying attention. Sawyer, (8) who has been taught some yoga in the 2nd grade (I don’t seem to remember an abundance of yogis in the halls of Miles Elementary circa 1984, but fine.) took exception to the pose they were doing in the movie. “That’s not yoga.” he says.
Apparently, the “King Cobra pose” was being performed incorrectly and Saw put on a demonstration of the correct King Cobra.
Now, if you’re not an on-the-verge-of-Zen master in training like your Uncle Jake, I’ll briefly describe the proper King Cobra as I understand it: Start prone on your belly and arch your back, not unlike but at the same time not at all like a swimsuit model emerging from the side of a pool while attempting to touch your toes to the back of your head. Easy.
Having seen Saw’s flawless execution, my wife challenged me to do the same with “You do that.” or words to that effect. I didn’t hear her well. She was partially obscured by the bottles of condiments I had set-up on a tray table for the bratwurst I was cramming in my face.
Not one to out done by a bendy 8-year-old and a scoffing wife, I made an attempt which was as quarter-hearted as it was colossal in failure. She laughed.
Of course, I challenged her to join us. A more serious attempt was made by all resulting in my left hamstring auditioning for a display case position at Aunt Annie’s Pretzels while my wife did a sing-song exclamation of “Cramp! Cramp! Cramp!” as we reached an excruciating oneness with the universe.

Yoga is not for sissies.

The Man Has Me Down 

This probably (hopefully) the closest I’ll get to a political post on my blog. It isn’t all that political anyway. It’s more an observation of behavior.

I’m compelled to write this after hearing for many months, from many sources that Gen-Xer’s (like me) and Millennials just can’t seem to get ahead like their parents did. Often, there’s a finger of blame pointed at politicians and demands that Washington should send some sort of help.

While in some cases there may have been an outside influence keeping us down, here’s a list of things that are stumbling blocks that we choose for ourselves.

(Note that I’m including things I may or may not have done myself here. I’m not telling which is which!)

No politician ever came to my house and forced me to:

1. Sign-up for $100k in student loans for a degree that leads to a $40k/year job.

2. Lease a car I can’t afford or roll negative equity from one silly car loan to another.

3. Choose to pay for an out-of-state school based on anything other than a specific degree program not offered in state.

4. Purchase toys on debt (campers, boats, jet skis)

5. Go on a cruise or other expensive vacation every year, or even every other year.

6.  Regularly buy $7.00 coffees.

7. Get the absolute maximum mortgage the nice banker says I can “afford”.

8. Adorn my body with multiple, visible tattoo, piercings or gauges so that I might rage against “society” when I  have trouble with employment.

9. Engage in DUI, drug and alcohol abuse or high-risk sexual behaviors.

10. Choose a degree with no thought given to its marketability.

11. Fail to show-up on time and perform my job as expected, every single day.

12. Be hateful, negative, or unkind to others.

13. Keep stuffing my closet with new clothes and shoes or my garage with tools.

14. Buy a smart phone as soon as the latest model is released.

15. Have multiple credit cards and zero savings.

16. Spend hundreds of dollars a month at bars and clubs.

17. Pay too much in rent so I can live in a “hip” part of town.

18. Buy for my kids every little thing they just have to have.

19. Fail to carry adequate insurance policies.

20. Post personal drama and dirty laundry on social media where potential employers might (will) find it.

I’ve heard it said that we’re getting paid nearly double what our parents earned at our age, but are living triple to quadruple their lifestyle.

Perhaps there was a reason so many of our parents loaded-up a good used station wagon and drove to the beach rather than flew the family to Cancun?

Our daily choices have far more impact on our prosperity than our government does.

Food for thought.

On the Road Again

There’s a party of 10 right behind me as I wait for my steak. Well, I should say as I continue to wait for my steak.  I’ve been waiting since breakfast to order it! The last meal on the boss for this trip.

I’m on the road again for work, sitting alone, but surrounded by people in a West Virginia Longhorn steakhouse. I’ve only been gone for 3 days, but it only takes 2 for me to start missing my family.

The party of 10 just broke into the birthday song, that should help.

I know this little time away is nothing compared to military deployments or over the road trucking and other long-term separations. But I still want to be home.

It’s my ritual to tuck the boys into bed each night. It’s my favorite time. I miss them.

My wife and I talk for almost an hour after we’ve decided to go to bed. Every night.  I miss her.

It’ll be OK tomorrow and I know these minor sacrifice help to keep them clothed and fed. So it’s OK. Just feeling my feelings. And eating them too.

That One Time I Got Fired 

Ready for a cold, hard truth? Here goes. You really can’t be anything you want to be, even if you try really hard. Now, most of us know that at some level. Most reasonable people would admit that no matter how hard they try, they’re probably not going to beat Michael Phelps to the other end of the pool. Regardless of the time spent at the gym, most of us don’t have the genetics to be the next Mr. Universe. But that’s not what I mean.

There are some regular people jobs out there for one reason or another fit so poorly with our personalities and/or our natural aptitude that it’s never going to work. If you would have told me so just a few years ago, I would have firmly reminded you that I had graduated from Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.  And how during my time in that awful swamp, I had pushed myself beyond every limit of my body and my mind. I made it through and learned how to never quit.

That’s true. I did that. I knew then (and I know now) how to get over, under,  around or through obstacles in the way. But what I wasn’t prepared for was what happens when everything you’ve got, your all isn’t enough. When pushing harder doesn’t make the thing move. When it happen to me, when I was FIRED, I  was caught unprepared.

But first, let’s take a step back. After a fairly successful enlistment,  I went on to get a decent corporate job and excelled at it. I was quickly promotes to an associate manager position, and all was well for a while.  Not too long after my promotion, the company was sold and layoffs in my department were soon to follow.

I figured if I could make another move up, there would be a little more security. But since the only way up in my department was through my boss’s office (and she wasn’t going anywhere) a lateral move with a level up seemed to be the best course. So that’s what I did. And it worked. And I hated it.

I really did. The work was horribly boring. As expected, my new boss wasn’t thrilled with my performance. My heart wasn’t in it and it showed. Before long, I was starting to look outside for a new gig.

It just so happened that a good friend was a chief muckity-muck at another local company. It was an established business with a start-up culture.  Which means they drink beer at work and curse a lot and right out loud. Oh, and the pay was much more than I’d even hoped for.  Sounds great right?

Here’s the thing,  I had no idea how anything worked. I just wanted the job so badly that I twisted my skill set around in my head until it fit the job description. If you get nothing else from the post, understand that doing this is a very bad idea!

For the first year, things went OK. I chalked the not so great days up to growing pains and buckled down. But, as was pretty common in the era, downsizing came around again. Clients left. Layoffs came. So I figured out where those clients went and followed them down the road to the new firm. The beginning of the end.

These folks were less forgiving and by the end of my first year, I was looking at a performance plan. A performance plan! I’d just spent the last 10 years getting nothing but glowing reviews and now I’m being “coached” on my failures to perform the basics of the job. What to do?

Like any good Marine, I doubled-down. No way was going to fail at this.  I bought books. I read blogs and watched videos. I talked to everyone I thought could help me. I worked like crazy. I refused time off at the holidays. I did everything I could think to do.

Then I got the Outlook invitation.

It was an invitation to a meeting with my boss that just said “connect” in the message. On a hunch, I checked the HR lady’s calendar. She also had a “connect” at that time. My time was up.

So what, right? So I got fired from a job I wasn’t any good at. Should I have been surprised? Nah. Was I? I was, actually.

I was surprised because it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Lazy people get fired, and I was working like mad to do it right and to get better.  But the fit was just so poor that it didn’t matter how much I studied or how much time I put in. It just didn’t work.

This isn’t all doom and gloom. The next job I landed fit like a glove. I had to learn yet another industry and work really hard, but my personal aptitude and personality just clicked. And I was back on top. And then the business was sold and I was laid off, but that’s not the point! I now have a better job in a similar industry that fits just right.

So, no. We really can’t do anything and we shouldn’t try to force a bad fit just to prove we can preserve. Find the fit and then do the work and things fall into place.

I had to learn that the hard way. Hardhead Jarhead.

Jake

You Should Have Seen It, Man.

Is it inherent in all men to embellish (or just plain lie) in order to be included in the pack? Why do we do it and where is the line drawn between good old-fashioned BS-ing and being dishonest?

As far back as I can recall, there have been regular exchanges in the school yard, at the drag strip and even in the office break room where everyone involved pushed a topic beyond any possibility of the truth. One story tops another,  then another and another until the group is just lying.  And everybody knows it. And no one seems to mind too much.

Fish stories, conquests of the fairer sex, racing victories and athletic prowess are common topics. It doesn’t even seem to matter if the people hearing the story were actually at the event in question and know what really happened.  It’s the strangest thing.

I suppose it’s just the competitive nature of most men to want to have the fastest, biggest, most dangerous whatever of the group. We don’t seem to be satisfied with letting the guy who’s telling the truth have his moment and no one seems the least bit interested calling out the biggest fibber.

There’s also a truth-less phenomenon I’ve observed in men where even when presented with overwhelming evidence that their statement is incorrect, the man will not admit they were misinformed or mistaken. It’s amazing the lengths to which they will go and facts they will bend to hold on to an obviously defeated position.

Pride? Maybe, but I’d say it hurts the pride more to flail about in an argument that’s already lost.

I’m not very good at telling these tall tales. My poker face is terrible. Maybe that’s why I don’t get it.

Do women do this?