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Survival, with honor, that outmoded and all-important word, is as difficult as ever and as all-important to a writer. Those who do not last are always more beloved since no one has to see them in their long, dull, unrelenting, no-quarter-given-and-no-quarter-received, fights that they make to do something as they believe it should be done before they die. Those who die or quit early and easy and with every good reason are preferred because they are understandable and human. Failure and well-disguised cowardice are more human and more beloved. -- Ernest Hemingway
I recently had a chance to help my son and my daughter work up a résumé. I could give you a bunch of career help clichés here, but you know them, so I won't. I did, however, want to hit on one theme that I don't hear too often: consistency.
People do best when they learn something about you and they see or hear it portrayed to them over and over.
"He's got such a great attitude."
"Her insight is so on-the-mark."
"She's always running circles around everyone else."
There is a differentiator about you in your soft skills that separates you from others. It is your brand. And if there's one thing people like about the brands that they love, it's consistency in the ways that the brand distinguishes itself.
This need for consistency doesn't mean that there can't be other means for variety. But if you're known for your insight, people expect you to continue to be insightful. If you're known for your energy, people expect you to be energetic. Any variation from that known and expected trait waters down your brand.
I coached my kids to have the wording in their résumé reflect the testimonials from their references and what they would exhibit in an interview. Don't put "great customer service" on your résumé unless your references will say that about you. Talk about the strengths that your references will share with your potential employer. It will be in your résumé, in the words of those who have experience with you, and it will be obvious in how you carry yourself in every interview.
Consistency in the brand of "you" sells you to the person looking for what you offer. In this niched world, if your brand is positive and you push hard enough, you'll find the right gig for your consistently demonstrated niche.
ETC: It's tempting to apply this to other things, like political campaigns. Mitt Romney's slow traction for a lot of conservatives was the fact that he has espoused liberal positions in the past. His résumé didn't match his interview with the public. Same thing goes for Obama. The great "uniter" hung out for 20 years with an anti-American bigot. We become who we hang around, and people now question his brand's authenticity by his chosen associations.
Consider how you want to be portrayed, and line up your résumé, references, and your interviews to reflect that portrayal consistently.
No big review here: just sayin' that we took the fam to see Iron Man yesterday. Everybody loved it. Robert Downey Jr was perfect in the role.
By the way - if you see it, stay for all of the credits. There's something you need to see at the end.
What's interesting is that as we're walking away from the theater, I looked at Tamara and four of our sons. It occurred to me that the bunch with us was bigger than most families - and yet Aaron, Tate, Austin, and Jacob were only half our kids. (Bari saw it with us but had to leave for work right away, Nick was working at Blockbuster, Tyler was out skating, and Tess is in Georgia.)
Good gravy, but our family is huge.
ETC: Here's a bit of trivia - my web site alerts me that this is my 1000th post.
David Bach wrote a series of books on getting wealthy based on home-ownership. In the first half of this decade, his logic made sense: you can mortgage a new home, make the payments, and then watch your equity and personal wealth rise. In places like Orange County, California, the average home's value more than doubled between 2000 and 2005. Automatic Millionaire Homeowner? You betcha. It's how to make money without even trying, he coached.
It used to be that a home was, well, just that: a home. Then people figured out that home values appreciate, and in the last decade, they appreciated faster than the rate of inflation. But when the value of the finished product rises faster than the cost to produce, that leads to oversupply because people see easy money, and oversupply means that a correction in assessed value is coming.
David wasn't wrong. He preaches the long haul and learned his chops during a time when there wasn't a bubble in housing. Long-term, buying a house and living in it is a sound strategy for wealth. The thing is: this is the age of flipping the house, not investing in it. That depth of investment requires permanence and ours is a transient society. In? The home as the new ATM. Out? The home as a vehicle for retirement security.
Now, I'm exaggerating - not everyone sees their home as temporary. But there was a commercial a couple of decades ago for the financial firm, Smith Barney, and the tag line was that Smith Barney made their money the old-fashioned way. "They earn it," stated the venerable John Houseman.
That phrase once had a romantic and sturdy air to it. Not any more. No financial institution today would try to impress upon us that their method of money management relies on "old-fashioned" practices. But here's something sobering:
People in their 20s and 30s grew up in an age of unprecedented technological advancements - a factor that has affected their views of the future.
"This generation feels that somehow or another they're going to figure out some technological advancement that's going to get them out of their financial troubles and outsmart the market," says Manning, who served as adviser to the forthcoming documentary "In Debt We Trust." The documentary paints a picture of national financial crisis stemming from the personal-debt burden.
[Generation Y] was kind of shielded from a lot of financial responsibilities. The generation's financial literacy is abysmal, with personal finances to match. Only 52% of high school seniors passed a recent national financial literacy test, meaning adults entering the work force do not know enough about basic budgeting, interest rates or taxes to make sound decisions for their own lives.
According to the National Association of Realtors, today's median first-time homebuyer is 32 years old and puts down just 2% on a $150,000 home.
Which means that today's median homebuyer only has $3,000 saved up. I almost wanna bet that some of that might have been borrowed from parents...
From the article:
The problem is not lack of smarts, but can be chalked up to an environment in which parents coddle their children, bank deregulation has made the financial landscape confusingly complicated, and consumerism rules.
I want the works I want the whole works Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises Of all shapes and sizes And now Don't care how I want it now Don't care how I want it now
Waiting and saving for what you want? How quaint.
A lot of parents believe that their job is to take care of their children, when in fact their job is to train their children to be self-sufficient adults. Vast difference.
I'm not sure how to change our culture to once again cherish making money the old-fashioned way - earning it, saving it, investing it - but I suspect it might start by appealing to the retirement needs of parents who constantly have to jump in and save their kids. If the coddling ceases, the survival instinct will kick in.
Does that sound mean?
Keep in mind that I'm referring to 19-year-olds and not 9-year-olds. But then I think that should be obvious, shouldn't it?
Companies are, by and large, really bad at interacting with their audience. Companies create this really big counter across which they do business.
Ignore those behind the curtain. Focus instead on the great and powerful Oz...
You see, corporate big wigs are worried about lawsuits and trade secrets and proprietary information and embarrassment. That is so very much the wrong concern.
What the big wigs really need to worry about is something that never occurs to them - the secret sauce that happens where the customer interacts with the front-line employee. That's where all the money is made. So many great ideas and opportunities happen right there. But few employees are trained to recognize them, and managers - particularly those higher up - are never close enough to see it even if they are trained to recognize those nuances of better business.
What would happen if you brought the customer into the company, behind the curtain, and let them interact with you on business development?
Non-disclosures and secrecy and hush-hush. Compliance and regulation. White knuckles abound.
My goodness but that takes all of the fun out of it. Gone are the spontaneity and creativity of freeform innovation amidst the eggshell back-pedaling that happens at the introduction of a new idea. And yet it's the customers, if they were allowed to just open up and talk about their experience, who would help every employee see a better way.
What if a company openly put their ideas on the table and encouraged people to chime in and help grow the concepts?
Of course, like all other consumer goods companies, Kraft has an open line to its customers, toll free numbers where customers can call with questions, complaints – or ideas for new products or improvements. In the past, however, nothing happened with this input. The WSJ quotes Mary Kay Haben, Senior Vice President for Open Innovation at the company, "We would have said, 'Thank you, but we're not accepting ideas.'"
This has changed now with the launch of a new consumer web site where everyone can submit ideas for new products, processes, advertising or whatever. Kraft in the moment is in the desperate move to re-invent itself. While the company owns some of the best known brands, including Oreo cookies, Philadelphia Cheese, Milka chocolate, and Jell-o, it has struggled in the last years to generate the profits it used to have in the past.
And like many companies, after a first stage of heavy cost cutting, Kraft is now focusing on innovation. And realizes that it will miss too many opportunities by just relying on its internal resources.
In 2005 an amazing thing happened. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and other major Web brands started crowdsourcing. They opened up formerly proprietary code for some of their key API's (application programming interfaces) to the world's freelance developers. Realizing how much global creative energy there is to tap, and how limited their own resources were by comparison, these companies took a 180 degree turn on the "not invented here" freeway and struck a blow for raw, rampant innovation. Their assumption was that others would think of things they might not. And they were right.
Do you know a company struggling to retain its past strength? As the US heads toward a down economy, struggling companies won't be hard to find.
So I ask: what's the real harm of putting ideas out there for open discussion?
The great value of the large company is that it has the resources that help it move faster when it chooses to do so. If an openly collaborated idea has merit, the brand and the resources can work together to move the idea to reality faster than any other entity might move it. And let's say that other companies knew about the open ideation. Hey - companies deal with competition all of the time...
So is trade secrecy the real concern? Or is it change...
Because a good idea made public might mean that the expectations of the audience are now set to anticipate the launch of the good idea into production. Which, of course, requires movement.
I have no idea why Sony, a really large company, wants to ignore such a significant part of the male population, but it does.
I own a pair of Sony headphones. Note the very hard plastic headband.
Wear that across your naked skull for more than 5 minutes and you have a headache. Guaranteed. So I wear the headphones with the band off my head and to the back, which is at best awkward and probably looks retarded.
Hatin' on the bald man...
Tired of this, I went to Best Buy tonight. I figured that since my Sony headphones cost me all of $30, I would get a more expensive pair. With padding. In the past, I've always liked Sony headphones. But then prior to this pair, they always had padding on the headband.
I browsed all of the Sony headphones. The $65 pair. The $79 pair. All of them featured the hard plastic headband. Except for one pair: the Bluetooth-enabled, headband-padded pair that sold for only $229.
Now, I just want to say... I love music. I love the nuances of music that only a great pair of headphones can expose. But no pair of headphones is worth $229 when all I really want is comfort. Is it too much to ask that I not suffer a headache when I listen to music?
Hatin' on the bald man. Or, maybe Sony needs some bald guys in their quality assurance department. None of the Sony headphones under $100 would have made it out of the room.
"Ouch! Do it over!" would have been the cry from the tester to the clueless engineer at Sony.
Sony lost me today. I'm now a Bose fan. For $139 (which was hard to do, but I do love music) I bought the Bose Triport headphones.
Notice the headband; it's very comfortably cushioned.
Bose did a smart thing. There was a Bose display and I could try out the headphones before I bought them. Very nice.
Sony? Not at all. In fact, the Sony headbands were hidden by packaging cardboard. I had to ask a sales associate to help me learn that every pair was adorned with that hard, scalp-crushing, unyielding plastic headband.
I like my cushy Bose headphones. They love on my shiny bald head while I listen to fabulous music.
I'm one of those people you hate - that person who hits the pillow and within the span of two minutes, I'm out.
There's a reason for that... it didn't used to be that way. I trained myself. It was once the case that I would lie in bed at night and waste a couple of hours trying to sleep. Frustrating, which of course only made it worse.
Then I happened on the thing that helped...
What I learned about myself is that I couldn't sleep because I thought too much. Or rather, that I couldn't ignore my thoughts. At any given moment, thoughts would drift through my head. And at night, in the quiet of it all, thoughts were these noisy attention-getters waving for my attention. So I'd grab one and think about it for a while. Then another would hearken, and so on, and soon it's too late for me to get a reasonable sleep.
This came up at a discussion I had in a chance meeting during a brief stop at Panera with Angela Maiers and Mike Sansone. So I told them how I overcame this predicament.
At that time when I was plagued with a perpetual lack of sleep, I used to like to listen to music in the dark. The sounds were more vivid, I think, for the lack of distraction. Kind of like listening to music with headphones, if you know what I mean. So late at night and in the dark, you'd find me on the apartment living floor lit in the LED glow of my roommate Larry's Marantz stereo.
Well, I bought a boom box. And when I took a shower, the boom box started to accompany me. Fun to sing in the shower. One day, I accidentally bumped the light switch while plugging it in, and so I decided to just take my shower in the dark. Was pretty cool. But that later progressed to turning on the shower as hot as I could stand it and sitting in tub with the water raining over me in the absolute dark for 15 minutes. Which became habit. And what I found was that if I removed the music, it was kind of like sleep. Thoughts were there, but instead of grabbing them, I would just watch them float by. And that too became habit. As did immediate sleep, because instead of thinking, I would focus on letting my body sink into the bed. By the time that every muscle was relaxed into the mattress, I was, miraculously, out.
Kelly mentioned this guy, Tommy Emmanuel, in the comments, and referenced a different video, which was quite remarkable. So I watched that and several others and just watching the different techniques this guy throws at this song blows me away.
It's been my experience that people begin to get angry when things don't go as they expected. Whether their children didn't behave as they wished, their belongings weren't where they left them, their project didn't proceed as planned, or other drivers didn't drive safely around them on the road... everyone has expectations. When circumstances circumvent our expectations, it can annoy us and lead us to anger, if we let it.
Think about that the next time you find yourself steaming... what expectation of yours went awry?
Which is why, I think, that so much of life tries to set things on a course for an expected outcome. We give our children rules, our belongings a place, our projects a project plan according to the guidelines of project management, and laws for driving. It's all about leading our expectations.
Let's call that civilization - a coherent set of rules upon which most of us agree to live. Civil-ization: the polite society. A world without anger.
My son asked me the other day about what makes for happiness. It was a discussion he'd had in class at school. When he asked me for my definition, I told him:
Happiness is a choice.
That threw him because it wasn't like the answers he'd heard in class from his peers. So I explained.
What are the worst conditions you can imagine - those in which no person can possibly be happy?
Human potential has no limit as long as you believe you can do it and are willing to work hard enough, said a former POW who spent nearly seven years in a prison camp during the Vietnam war, only to emerge to be fluent in Spanish, a world record holder in jump roping and with the ability to do thousands of sit-ups and over 300 pushups continually, all from experiences in prison.
The crux of Hubbard's speech was that anyone can overcome adversity and reach beyond the loftiest of goals by developing a positive, focused state of mind.
"Without a focus and a game plan to improve myself a little more each day, I would never have survived in a North Vietnamese prison, much less life after prison," Hubbard said.
Living on only 300 calories a day, consisting of a bowl of rice and a bowl of green food that was commonly called "weeds," served twice daily with two cups of water, Hubbard worked his way up to being able to do 300 push-ups and 2,700 sit-ups, and six hours of jump roping continuously. Also, using a tapping code on the wall of his cell, Hubbard, who had never known any Spanish, learned the language fluently and memorized a 46-verse poem without ever seeing or hearing any words.
How would you be in that environment? Pissed? Depressed? Suicidal?
For the first 150 days in the prison, he sat around feeling sorry for himself, but then decided to make a change. "At that point I decided no matter what happened I would never, ever have a bad day again," Hubbard said.
He said that he "decided." It was a choice for him to not have a bad day - amidst the worst of human conditions.
Rules won't make people happy. It won't make society polite. Despite all of the laws, divorce still usually ends in bitterness, people still kill other people, and politicians - the lawmakers themselves - steal on a regular basis from taxpayers.
Happiness doesn't come when all of your expectations, needs, and wants are consistently met. Happiness comes when you find yourself unlocking your own human potential and you see the world through eyes of thankfulness. If you have that, chaos can abound and it won't matter. Like Ed Hubbard, you'll stay positive - because you choose to be happy.
Some people spend their weekend doing fun stuff. I'm spending mine coding. I have no problem with leisurely activities. I'm envious, in a way. But I know why I'm doing this. I'm driven today so that I can be driving tomorrow...
Like cattle in a chute, we're led to move in certain ways. The word "sale" will pull people off their intended route. A woman who moves too fast will drive many men off. A penny glued to the floor will bring a lot of people to try and pick it up.
Face it. We can be predictable.
I've never liked cars much. I hate driving. My vehicle of choice has two wheels.
Fuel efficiency? This baby's got it in spades.
How will the permanency of high gas prices affect our behavior? Like cattle in a chute, we will move toward more economical vehicles, less commuting, more telecommuting, more public transit... these are somewhat predictable trends.
Less predictable, but understandable, would be a surge in home gyms, gardening, Netflix, and camping - among other gas-negligent things you can do.
Apply it to your industry... how does this shape up?
If you're a teacher, students might get less involved in sports. It costs money to drive to these many events, after all. What might you emphasize in its place to help your students?
You own a restaurant, so maybe you could offer a deal where people can buy a meal tonight and then take one "to go" to heat up for tomorrow night? Saves gas, more efficient.
You sell real estate? You might want to ensure that prospective buyers are pre-qualified before driving them all over. Or perhaps look into providing more 360° home tours via the web for your listings.
As I've heard before, if you're going to get kicked, just make sure that you're pointed in the right direction first.
Liberal parents love their children - or so they say. Because only a cruel, mean parent would willingly put their child into slave labor, and that's exactly what is happening today... millions of parents going gaga over national health care and other new entitlements.
Government knows nothing about health care. If an HMO is bad, why is government-managed care any different or better? As a bloated and ignorant middleman in the health care system, it can't do anything except stick out its big meaty paw and expect you to pay yet more money on top of the doctor's fees to pay for its health-care-managing bureaucrats. They didn't go to school for it, so what value is government bringing to health care to make it better for you?
All that money has to come from somewhere... government doesn't make its own money. Money for all these promised programs will come from your kids.
Entitlements are the new child slave labor in America.
Tomorrow's retiring generation will exact their comfort from tomorrow's workers - our kids today.
Love your children? Derail entitlements now.
Only the cruel and greedy vote for politicians who promise them more entitlements.
Parents who get excited for government entitlements are either cruel parents who knowingly want to make the lives of their children harder, or they are ignorant rubes who can't do the math to understand the harm of the added bureaucratic cost.
I love my kids. I want them to enjoy America's freedoms as much as possible. They won't do it with a $1 million-plus lifetime tax burden taken straight from their paycheck before they can even see a dime of it. Think about it... a home doesn't cost that much.
I think I'm gonna get a bumper sticker:
"Entitlements = American Child Slave Labor"
Or maybe this:
"National Health Care = 50% Tax Rate for Our Kids"
"It's Cruel to Make Kids Pay for Your Retirement"
Entitlements will crush our kids. People who love kids would never support that and would never vote for politicians who promise entitlements.
Today, I met with a woman I know who runs her own web company. While chit-chatting, she mentioned that she was having problems hiring salespeople. The last guy she hired sold her product / service to one customer in the entire last year, all while on a mix of commission and salary. She told him earlier this week that he was now all commission. She's not holding her breath for his next sale.
"Honestly," she said, "I just don't know how willing some people are to, you know, work."
In the meantime, she's sold her product / service to several companies and organizations in just the last two months.
Sales isn't for everyone, that's for sure, but it does take work. From contact to interest to demo to sale... and then to implementation and follow-up and service... it's a lot of contact and relationship management.
"Don't get lazy. It might seem dire, but if you work it you WILL find a job. Some of my friends went on vacation, started drinking, or generally just hung out with their families. Those people took a LOT longer to find a job than the friends of mine who approached their time off [wisely].
Make sure you spend at least 30% of every day trying to find a job. That means working on your resume. Getting your cover letter finished. Sending out resumes. Searching the web for work. Networking. Etc. At first your time spent on these tasks should be a lot higher, but after weeks of watching the job sites for jobs and having your resume checked over by 10 of your friends you will naturally have more time to spend on other things.
In talking with a former manager earlier this week, she remarked how she has heard that the Millenium Generation will not get the urgency of life. Their parents take care of most everything for them. They won't be as accountable for their actions. I don't know where she heard all of this, but if true, bummer for them.
Work... it's a good thing. Personally, I like work. I like the accomplishment of creating what wasn't there before. I try to teach my kids to like work. What they like most about work right now is the paycheck they receive. But there's more to work than that. I suppose that awareness comes with experience.
Is work celebrated by most folks? Anticipated and desired? If not, how do you teach that?