Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Last Relationship

I was reading this article a few days ago and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.

While I watch Mad Men and have enjoyed the entertainment provided by the character Don Draper, the focus of this article that stuck out to me was the analysis of relationships.

The specific portion that sticks with me is the idea that there are two types of relationships. The first type is modeled by Don Draper on the show. He is married but has various adulterous affairs at points throughout the show. While this life of having no consequences for your actions and seeming to always get what you want sounds appealing, the author points out what is going on underneath the surface. The reality is that Don can have these affairs because the relationship he has with his wife is shallow and meaningless. There is no guilt or regret because the deeper feelings don't exist, only a shallow act, with both parties playing the part.

Now the second type of relationship is not modeled in the show. The author enlightens us though, saying that in it both parties have a real connection. As is seen in writings about marriage, the idea is that the relationship between two parties is so strong that each puts the groups best benefit ahead of that of the individual. If one of these parties was to participate in an affair, it would shatter that dynamic and tear the relationship apart.

The author goes on to discuss the bar scene. Those looking for the second type of relationship fail when meeting people at the bar. This is because the ideal for them would be to find someone who is interested in them uniquely for who they are, meaning no other would do. The reality of the bar scene is that everyone is interchangeable; the reason a person is able to attract another is that the other being attracted could be replaced by any other. There is no uniqueness, no interest in the individuals defining characteristics, only that they embody what is being sought out at this current moment in time.

This has stuck with me for so long because of how much I can identify with it. Having been in a long term relationship, I've seen what the second type of relationship could be like. Unfortunately, I sought too hard to mold the relationship into the second type instead of seeking one that would naturally fit into it. Ever since, I've spent time learning about the first type, trying to come to terms with why I couldn't find the second at the bars where relationships seem so easy to trigger.

I'm looking forward to seeing what further insight can come from the second part of his analysis.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Salary and Incentives

I had a conversation with a girl at one point where we talked about incentives. All these things that you could do: make more money, ask for a promotion, start a new business. The blocking point always comes back to the fundamental question, why?

Her incentive was so that she could stay home and have more sex. Gotta love progressive thinking ;)

In all reality, she is leaps and bounds ahead of me. My life has become a trap of accepted losses. I've trained myself into thinking I have to stay where I am so I can pay the bills with a potential future upside. My focus has become minimizing expenses instead of promoting growth.

Not sure how to incentivize my way out though, since all options seem to contain the subset of working at a job I hate for 8 hours a day until the transition can occur. The decision around if it can happen or not is also centered around a choice made by someone else, unless I miraculously determine how to make someone else do what I want them to do.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Men and Women Interaction

I found this article today.

I sent it to a couple of female friends to see if they agreed with it or not. Both of them did, which completely astounds me as a guy. Being a 5'10", small shouldered, 165lb guy, I've never considered myself much of a physical threat. To see that women think like this is pretty shocking. Frankly, more disturbing than shocking.

My favorite part was actually one commenter who wrote this:

"I have to admit I’m troubled by the idea that somehow every man should be viewed as a potential rapist. Yes, using common sense makes sense. But, to me, assuming that a guy who says hi to you on a bus may want to rape you is taking that a step too far, and isn’t much different from the parents who refuse to allow their 11-year-old to walk two blocks to the bus stop lest they be kidnapped by one of the child molesters hiding in the bushes. Child sexual abuse happens. It’s wrong, it’s tragic, and it should be dealt with so it becomes less common. But, viewing every adult or situation with suspicion is not the best way to go about that, and I think viewing every man or social interaction with a man you don’t know as a potential rape threat is also not particularly productive.

For me, I refuse to live my life in fear. I also refuse to let the fact that some men are rapists keep me from engaging in a friendly way in everyday social interactions with men, even if those interactions aren’t always the ones I’d most want to be having. Do I take reasonable precautions? Of course. If I get a genuinely creepy vibe off somebody, or I suspect I’m being followed, I take action. But, I just don’t get scared (or annoyed, or put out) because a guy on a bus or at a coffee shop or in the library starts talking to me. Because odds are they are NOT a rapist, odds are I’m in a situation where they could not do me any physical harm without causing a scene even if they wanted to, and I just won’t view others through the lens of fear.

I mean, yeah, it’s annoying when you are trying to listen to your iPod and somebody starts talking to you on a bus, whether it’s a man or woman. But, honestly, I feel like I see a little bit of trying to justify that annoyance at having your sense of personal isolation/space invaded by treating it as a genuine threat, when in most cases it isn’t. I don’t know, I feel like part of the price we pay for living in a society–like paying taxes–is having to at times endure social interactions we would rather not be engaged in. It means sometimes listening to the woman sitting next to you in the waiting room tell you about her daughter’s wedding or the guy sitting next to you on the plane tell you about his job even though you’d really rather not have to deal with either of them. We are not guaranteed the right, when we go out in public, to not have any social interactions we don’t want to have. We do have the right to not be harassed, of course. But, a guy (or women, or child) saying hello and trying to strike up a non-sexual conversation isn’t engaging in harassment, even if he is annoying. Some people just don’t have the same set of social skills that we might expect, and in general they mean no harm, and really in a public place they could do very little harm even if they did intend it, so I don’t really see why they need to be treated as a potential rapist rather than as a human being who might just want some human connection of some kind in a culture that seems to be sorely lacking in opportunities for it.

I just see so many people complain about having to deal with other people, and honestly I think it’s something we just need to suck it up and accept as part of life. Some people can’t stand ever having a child make noise around them. Some people (and I admit to being one of them, although I try to just get over it and deal) can’t stand having to sit next to somebody on a bus who doesn’t have the same hygiene habits we expect, or having a fat person near them on a plane. Some people don’t like men talking to them. And while people will have reasons of varying degrees of validity for those feelings, I’m not sure we can expect the world to cater to any of them, unless we go off to live in isolation somewhere, or that we should expect the world to cater to them. I may want to knit and listen to my iPod on the plane, but that doesn’t mean that I have some inalienable right to do so without anybody interrupting me, or that somebody is committing a grave wrong if they dare try to engage me in conversation.

I live in an area with a really high rate of property crime. And yet I’m not going to approach every male between maybe 15-30 (those most likely to commit the crimes) as if they may or may not be a purse-snatcher. I’m just not. I will not live my life in fear like that. I won’t demean the vast majority of men between 15-30 living here who aren’t thieves by doing that. That is, for me, no way to live. And it saddens me enormously that so many women seem to view every single man they don’t know as a potential rapist, just like it saddens me how many parents raise their children to view every adult they don’t know as a potential child molester. We do need to be aware and alert, but I also think we shouldn’t let that awareness turn into a paranoia that causes us to deny the fact that most people–male or female–are basically good people who have desires and intentions not much different from our own."

As a nice guy who this kind of behavior is outside the realm of possibility for, that just summed it all up for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On the Internet, No One Knows You're a Dog

I run into this problem frequently. Doing software development work at my job, I'm practically required to be at the computer 8 hours a day. That being said, the only way to talk to my friends is through chat programs, text messages or email. Being someone with an overactive imagination, my friends overtime seem to develop their own 'online identity' in my mind.

Have you ever noticed that? Your friend Mike can be thought of one way, but MikeIsCool55 seems to take on his own identity completely separate from his reality. Maybe the concepts discussed online are different than the ones in person, maybe the lack of body language and inflection creates a course separate identity, maybe I'm actually talking to someone else!

Regardless of what causes it, it creates a problem. The problem mainly being that over time the real person often becomes a subset of the online fantasy. So when you do then see the person face-to-face, the illusion is shattered.

This happened to me just a few days ago. I talk to one of my friends everyday online. Going to see her in person at her job, it was like the mask came off. Now, whenever I think about talking to her online all I can picture is the reality... and it bothers me. I liked the fantasy better.

Has anyone else experienced this? Any thoughts or solutions?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bird's Eye View

Often times I feel like I get sucked into a low level view of my life. It becomes a struggle to just 'get through the next day' or 'knock this task off the check list'. The bigger forest is lost from inside the trees.

This most often occurs when I spend a large amount of time talking to one person. Like a movie goer, I get sucked into their plot line and start to see life from their perspective. Often I can even become addicted to their point of view, like I want to suck every last thought out so I can map out their entire perspective and then see the world through their eyes.

In some cases I imagine this could be a good thing. If the person is positive and optimistic, it can pull me out of funk. If they are creative, passionate or motivated, it can inspire me to charge forward. In the cases when the person is negative and cynical, it can be disastrous. I start to spiral around in their negative thought pattern, seeing each task as an unbeatable challenge and crumbling further and further under the weight.

Only when I break myself away from the individual do I start to regain focus and perspective.

Often I quip about needing new friends or wanting to restart my life somewhere else. While I am mainly just joking, there is a kernel of truth in those thoughts. I seem to be effected to a large degree by the people that surround me, seemingly more than others. So going forward I need to take stock of who I surround myself with and choose with care.

Do you see these same patterns? What have you done to beat them?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

IM Problem

There are a lot of subtle benefits to my job. I get paid more than a lot of my friends. I have unadulterated internet access. I'm paid to sit on the computer all day. There really isn't a lot of work that I have to do. I know everyone that I work with. I can come and go as I please each day with little thought to anyone watching me or caring. I have access to latest and greatest software.

In all honesty, it's a great job. There are very little problems I just do what is asked of me and don't go looking for them. The biggest problem is my own lack of patience and laziness. It's easier to sit around and read articles all day than talk to someone about getting more interesting work to do. It's easier to talk to friends online and complain about how bored I am than actually sit and focus on task or talk to someone in the office and get a solution for whatever my roadblock is.

I love the fantasy though. The idea that there is some perfect job out there. Or really that I can get paid to do whatever I want whenever I want.

Every time I start something new, I expect some ideal situation. I'm going to walk in and be surrounded by smart, successful, beautiful people all with big goals and dreams and connections to make them happen. Even the MBA program I just started, the people are normal. There is a range of backgrounds, ages and ambitions. But for some reason I wanted some perfect fantasy.

I'm not sure where my expectations come from. Maybe it's all just because of some ridiculous fantasy. I'm in love with what could be rather than what is. Always thinking something else would be better rather than enjoying what is.

Will I always want the fantasy? Will I ever find happiness in what I have?

Anyone else notice this? What have you done about it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I found a way out!

I'm applying for an MBA program that starts in two weeks. I even did some research and found a Graduate Assistant position that will pay for my tuition. In a matter of two to three weeks, my life could be completely turned around and finally heading in the direction I want.

So why am I frustrated?

Well, after a marathon of events to get essays put together and all the information needed for my application, I was able to submit it last week. Now it currently is sitting in 'Incomplete' status because I need one more recommendation letter submitted.

So my future is hanging in the balance and it's all pending the actions of other people outside of my control.

The tough thing about a recommendation is that the person writing it is already doing you a favor. So to bug them and pester them to finish faster isn't going to help your cause. If you want a good recommendation, you have to give them time to put it together on their schedule.

So here I sit, tense, nervouse, excited... and my fate out of my hands, waiting on other people.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Conversations in my Head

Now, before you jump to "Wow, this guy is a crazy.", let me explain.

Sometimes when I'm stressed out, or I feel like someone is expecting something from me that I can't fulfill, I start to have these conversations in my head. Essentially it is very simple. The person I feel like has some demand for my time or some expectation of me is who I converse with. Usually it goes something like this:

"I thought we were going to "

"I'm sorry, I have too much going on and I'm struggling to keep up with it. I feel really overwhelmed."

"Yes, but you know we do , so I'm expecting to do it"

"Yes, I know. I can't though! I'm sorry. What am I suppose to do? I can't do everything for everyone."

"Yes, but still, I don't want to be disappointed."

"I'm sorry, but it can't be about you all the time. This time it's about me, I'm the one who needs help."

"Yes, but I can't help you."

"I know, but you could at least not add more stuff."

"Yes, but..."

After actually writing it down, I'm starting to see why I'm so stressed out all the time. First, I seem to create obligations in my mind that may or may not actually exist. Second, I have an inability to actually let other people help me. Third, I'm always trying to do everything, even though it just isn't possible.

Ok, now you can go to "Wow, this guy is crazy."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Split Focus and Time Management

After moving over the weekend, I am now focusing on repairing my routine and getting to a stable situation. Here are some of my observations about this process:

- When I signed up for commitments, I made the decision based on my schedule and the time available at the time of the decision, with no considerations of future demands.

- One main thing trapping me in my current job is that, in order to fill the boredom of the downtime, I've made other obligations that now require me to have a certain amount of down time at work.

- There are an infinite number of things a person could do, but inconsistent effort is wasted due to all the directions it pulls an individual being in opposition.

- Everything in life involves elements of resource management, there is only so much time, effort and energy a person has.

- A team of people can accomplish so much more than just one. This is why quick sort and heap sort work so well.

- Roommate dynamics, without existing relationships, are similar to entering a prison. You have to establish the ground rules immediately, but at the same time not make decisions too early.

My final conclusion in all of this is that there is no right/wrong way to do things. You cannot do anything 'perfectly' because everyone has their own perspective and definition. Life is all about making things work effectively.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Is the Resume dead?

With high unemployment rates (9%?) and jobs becoming harder and harder to find, esp for new grads, is the resume dead?

The resume, or the "Curriculum vitae" is a listing of experience and qualifications. While there are a large variety of formats and a larger body of recommendations for how to write a resume, the concept is to display what you have done in the past that will qualify you for the future. As technology has progressed, resumes seem to have boiled down to documents sent through key word searches or quickly scanned and parsed by a Human Resources professional.

Just because an applicant has a well presented and written resume or a large list of qualifications, there is still no guarantee that they will work for the company or that the company is the right fit for them. In fact, the flat, stale document only tells a small story that can make the matching process almost impossible for anyone who is not highly experienced or in some cases, just lucky.

So what solution is there for this problem? With the trend in technology towards the sharing of more and more information, shouldn't the resume also get a face lift? Why not present a more holistic approach where the elements that makes up a person's life are included in the hiring determination process? Already places like Facebook, MySpace and even Twitter are being examined, sometimes without the prospects knowledge. Why not make this information part of the process for the applicant?

My proposed solution is for prospective employees to scrap the online application process. Instead of having to fill out the same forms for every application, this information should be included in our online representation of ourselves. Entered once, privacy can be placed around it so that it is not visible to the general public but could be quickly sent out to companies of our choosing. In this ideal representation, an individual can keep record of all the activities they feel are relevant and then these will be displayed as a listing of credentials.

The benefit of leaving it to the user to update their profile, is in their choosing of activities worth listing. While they may participate in ten activities, the two or three they then write into their profile are going to be the ones they enjoyed the most. Essentially this filtering allows for the individual to lay out their interests and passions for all to see. Companies can then find the people who are most likely to enjoy the job they need filled based on a quick search of public profiles.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moving to the City

I've decided to make some shifts in my life. The major one I'm working on is moving to the city.

Packing is always an interesting experience. Only by physically going through all your stuff and attempting to figure out how to transport it from location to location do you realize its real value. Some things you gladly find ways to transport. Others you realize are just slow accumulations of things you don't want to invest the time into dealing with.

While moving can be stressful and require a large amount of invested time and effort, I feel like it would be in people's best interest to move every two years. If you have a house and mortgage, maybe you shouldn't actually move but instead still pack up and then unpack all of your stuff.

This sounds absurd I'm sure. It takes a lot of time to move all the stuff around and when you unpacked it the first time you put mental energy into determining where and how you wanted it. The thing though, is over time it is easy to get stuck in a rut. If everything is always done the same, how can you really expect anything to change in your life?

Maybe you're happy with your life and don't want it to change. That's fine. But if you aren't happy, breaking up the routine and changing things around can potentially give you that boost to making life better.

Change can be difficult and often reverts back to old ways. Sometimes though, you can trigger a difference that makes all the effort worth it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Life Area Effects

I've been noticing lately the combined effects of areas of my life. Say you break an individual down into the following areas:
Physical Health, Employment (Work / Job / Contribution), Financial, Relationships
Each of these elements contributes to some degree to their overall happiness level. Having a strong foundation and support structure in one area will help make up for deficiencies in others. As things change, it could topple over existing structures.

I wish I had a better grasp of this concept. Right now my work life has gone up and down, sometimes adding positive support, other times dropping the floor out from under me. My living situation is in flux as I prepare for a big move, so that has caused some stress. I've developed some good relationships that are adding to my life and providing some solid support.

It's hard to quantify and qualify all these influences and come up with any kind of model for actually objectifying how they impact my life. In order to do that I would need to spend some time clarifying the parameters and logging enough information to start creating definitions and logging real conclusions.

My current goal is to put together a program around this kind of foundation. I'm going to take my business coaching company and turn it into a life coaching company. I'll work with individuals to lay out specific life improvement goals and then design steps they take towards them as well as ways to measure them and record the results.

This is all in a very soft, formative stage at this point, but my interest has been in this kind of thing for a while. I feel like I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish with this approach than I had with the business coaching, so making this switch will be a step in the right direction. It's going to take a lot of time and focus though, so I've got a lot of things to take care of first.

I'll try to continue to update the process.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Life is a Mess

I had dinner with a friend last night and left with one primary feeling over everything else. My life is a mess.

I'm not sure when or how it happened, but I know at this point I've lost focus on all my goals and objectives for my life. So much so at this point that I don't even know where to begin to find out where I left off.

To be fair, I'm currently suffering from a Respiratory infection. The effects of this have been extreme fatigue and lack of memory along with a deep cough. As you can tell from my writing, I'm also having an increasingly hard time organizing and collecting my thoughts. I'm all over the place with pretty much everything that I do.

I had thought that I was doing well. I have a job that makes me a good amount of money, a place to live, a car. I have good friends and a large family. Most people would probably trade with me at any point. Knowing that doesn't help much since I feel so confused and lost.

I've gotten to the point know where there are just so many things to know and consider about every aspect of life that I've completely lost the ability to discern what is right or wrong. I feel like I have preferences for some things over others, but most of the time I am not conscious of my decision making process or cognoscente of the factors I'm using in making choices.

I feel very lost and purposeless.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Work Rollercoaster

So yesterday, at the end of the day, one of my coworkers gave me a public dressing down about creating work items in our system. Normally, this kind of thing really wouldn't bother me, but it really got to me this time, and has every time it has happened at this company. The reason for this is because I was doing exactly what I was told to do by my boss. When I tried to defend myself, she told me that my boss is wrong and not to do it anymore.

I've had a good number of jobs so far in my life. I worked at my parish office, as a lifeguard, for a few temp companies, at the dorm front desk, for a defense software company, at GameStop and now at this health IT company. This is the only place I've felt like I don't know what is expected of me, if I'm doing my job correctly.

I feel trapped in a dead end job. It's like an abusive relationship - I want to leave but I need it to pay the bills. I've been working here for two years and it's almost like I've done so many different things that I'm not good at anything.

At this point I'm really just lost. I've lost so much professional confidence that I don't know what to do.

Can anyone help me?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cardinal

Before I begin this story, a quick disclaimer. I don't know what you believe, this story is not about beliefs or trying to convince you to believe something you do not. This story is about a personal experience that meant something to me and I found worthy to share.

Three years ago, on June 1, 2006, my grandmother passed away. She was a sweet lady who firmly believed in killing with kindness and always supported her family in good times and bad. She loved animals, one particular one being cardinals, and hence had collected a good number of them. After she passed, it was decided that each grandchild would be given one to help remember her.

I never felt I needed a cardinal to remember my Grandmother, but I did decide that every time I saw a cardinal going forth from then on, it would mean that my Grandma was looking out for me like she had during some critical times in my life.

On Monday, June 1, 2009 I was scheduled to give my tenth speech for Toastmasters. Since the tenth speech is a landmark in which you are awarded your Competent Communicator award, I decided to invite my family and friends to come see it. This was a big mistake because it amplified my nervousness about giving the speech.

I had spent a lot of time writing, revising and reviewing my speech but for some reason I could not get it to stick in my mind. The night before I recorded myself saying each part of the speech and even set it to play back in a loop while I slept. Unfortunately, the only consequence of this was my having a dream in which I could not get an mp3 player I was listening to with my speech playing to stop, no matter how many times I hit pause.

Sleep deprived and a nervous wreck, I struggled through my normal routine and headed off to work. Almost on the verge of a panic attack, I pulled up to the stop sign at the end of my neighborhood and that's when it happened. Over the car flew a cardinal, ducking in to sight right in front of me. It hung in the air for a few moments and then glided off down the road.

A wave washed over me and I thought of my grandma. It was like she was saying not to worry, it would all turn out alright. And the panic inside of me released.

That night I gave my speech and it went even better than I expected. My family and friends enjoyed it. It was a great accomplishment for me and a night I won't soon forget.

But what sticks with me now is the memory of that cardinal flying overhead and the knowledge that even still, in those critical moments, my grandma is still looking over me.

The War Within - Toastmasters Speech #10

The War Within – Toastmasters Speech #10

There is no instruction manual for life. At times we all wish that there was some clear set path for what to do and what direction to follow. Maybe in the form of a voice booming out from the sky, telling us what is right for our life. But this could never work because life is not actually a journey, not a straight path towards a destination. Life is a battle, a constant struggle between two great forces.
Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and all my fellow warriors in this battle we call life.

Before I describe the two sides, I think all of us have already experienced them. Every day we face a multitude of choices. Most of these choices have become so routine that we make them in our subconscious. But it is not the individual smaller choices that really defines us, but rather the large choice of what direction in which we are moving our lives.

Growing up, I was always following the goal, “do well in school, take a hard major, get a safe, secure job”. I put the time and effort in to do well and graduate as quickly as I could. After graduation, I had lined up a good job and was ready to reap the rewards of my diligence and hard work. But when I started working, I realized something was wrong.

Looking at my life, everything read so well on paper. I had accomplished all my goals, avoided all the classic pitfalls, and had done all that should have been required for success. But stats and credentials on paper never seem to capture the whole picture. I had thought that the battle was over and I had won, but in reality, the internal struggle had just begun.

So what is this struggle? On one side, we have what we know in our core we want, what will validate us, what will give our lives the purpose that we desire. This is our essence, our driving force, our true motivation and the only real guide book that exists for our lives. It is unique to us and something that we can only determine on our own, by learning who we are and what makes us that way.

On the other side, we have the enemies fighting against us. They take many forms, like feelings such as fear, doubt, and uncertainty. External forces like peer pressure, a sense of keeping up with the Jones’, and society’s path for our lives. Even temptations like fame, fortune or power. One or all of these or others may influence us. They trick us into thinking we should try be a different person, follow someone else’s dream or think less of ourselves.

This can affect us in a wide variety of ways. We could spend time with the wrong crowd of people, who can influence us to think negatively or participate in destructive acts. We could work a job we hate just for the money and fear that we have no alternative ways to create income. We could stay in an abusive relationship because we feel that no one else would want us. Any or all of these things weigh on us since we know it is not what we want, but the fear is too great to move forward.

Our world celebrates the stories of great individuals that have come before, people who have a list of amazing accomplishments. The focus is always the end of the struggle, where they reach a level of success that makes an impact on the world. But a key element that is often brushed quickly aside is the deep price paid to walk the path to greatness. Often they were forced to let go of all they had, fall to the point where they had nothing left except their passion for what they wanted to define their lives. Once they had nothing left to lose, only then were they able to know with absolute certainty what was really important.

I cannot claim to know what you want, only you can know that. I do know that we all share this deep desire to be ourselves, to know our purpose and to leave our mark. It is not easy to do this. Often it is only the flames of conflict, the pounding force of loss, and the intimidating fear of confronting the unknown that inspires this personal growth.

How do we begin to change the tide in this battle? How do we take control of our life and take the right path? How do we really know what we want? By listening to ourselves. We all already have the right answer, we just have to start being true to it. It may not be easy, but we don’t have to do it all at once, we just have to take the first step.

So I encourage you to take that next step. Challenge the fear head on and push it back. Take the risk, pay the price and know that the battles may be difficult, but you will win the war within.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Winds of Change

I'm getting this feeling today. I have no scientific evidence to prove that it means anything. All I know is that I feel like a wave is building on the horizon, gaining strength and speed as it moves closer. A wave of change.

I posted previously about looking to find a new job. I've poked and prodded here and there with little result so far. I don't know if that will be the change or something else. I feel almost like a restlessness, like a tired patron watching the end of an act of a play before the curtain followed by the start of a new scene.

Tomorrow I embark on a trip to the Midwest. I'm capitalizing on the opportunity by stopping in Las Vegas for a few days on the way back. I feel like it's the intermission during the scene change and when I get back, the shift will occur.

Again, I don't know what this really means. Maybe nothing will come of it. But at the same time I trust my gut.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How to find the right Career for you

There are a lot of how to guides for finding the right career for you. Many people have written long books explaining detailed processes for narrowing it down and figuring it all out. Usually this involves some kind of paper and pen list. You write down everything you like in the world, and as you do it you slowly get a better idea for what you like more than than other things. Then eventually your favorite activity is suppose to bubble up to the surface of your brain and you're happy and know exactly what you want.

In my experience, this has never worked. I have a lot of interests and they are often changing or are unrelated to each other. Also, part of what would make a great job for me would be that it changes frequently since I get bored with doing the same thing and often go through periods where I feel more or less inclined to work independently.

Another large factor in determining what I want to do is the pay. No, life is not all about money. I do have financial goals as well as bills to pay though, so as much as I'd like to pretend I don't need to think about money at all, that would be a lie.

So taking all of this into account, I present you with a new strategy. It's as simple as possible and involves no pencil and paper. Here goes...

Envision all of your hobbies that you are an active participant in doing the work beyond just being a member. For example, if you write on a forum all day, this does not count. If you have signed up to be an administer for that forum, then that would count. If you just attend meetings, that does not count. If you are on an executive committee or are helping out on projects, that counts.

Now that you know what you care enough about to actually put extra work into, merge those activities with your current job. Think about what position would use all of those skills or would combine those interests. It doesn't have to be exact, but should be related.

In order to offer more clarity, I will use myself as a demonstration.

Right now I volunteer as a coach for a basketball team, I am the Treasurer of the Toastmasters club that I belong to, I am a Lector at my church and I organize my own group for the MS walk. Since I play active roles in coaching, Toastmasters and the MS walk but am just a participant as a Lector, I will remove that from consideration. My day job is doing software development work.

So taking all this together, I should do a job involving coaching/teaching how to use or develop software and includes gathering and coordinating a group of people for a good cause.

Now, that's not a final result but without needing paper and a pen, I have a solid idea that I can use as a starting point and continue to refine. With the right direction in mind, I can either work to shape my current job into something that fits that, or try to jump to another position that is inline with my idea.

Friday, May 8, 2009


"Nostalgia has an expiration date."

That was a quote from my brother. He was cleaning up his room before moving out to college and had been piling a lot of old mementos into the trash. He was moving on and cleaning out the old to make room for the new.

In some ways I really agree with him. I've noticed recently that I have no memory of most days. They fit the pattern like most of the others with small differences, but on the whole it all just blurs together. Life has become more about the routine and the long term effect of habits over individual unique experiences.

But there are some times when that's not true. I'll eat a certain food, drive by a certain location or hear a certain song and it'll trigger a memory. Only those truly happy times really stick that well, and when I remember them is when I get that feeling of nostalgia.

This morning I heard 'Ants Marching' by the Dave Matthews Band and it triggered a memory of my brothers and I all hanging out in the basement of my parent's house. It seems so long ago at this point, but it was some of the happiest times in my life. Just like now, there are problems you are dealing with or things you are struggling to accomplish, but something about that camaraderie just resonates deeply inside.

At this point we are all much older. Our lives are further developed, our interests and social networks expanded further away from each other. Our situations and responsibilities much different. Those times have long past.

The thought makes me sad. In life there is always going to be change. You can only hold onto people, places or things for so long before the expiration date comes.

It is comforting though to know that even when everything else starts to be forgotten, some memories will always remain.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to Deal with Uncertainty

A little background information first. Recently I've been feeling good and thinking a lot clearer. I'm not sure the exact cause of this, my current theory is that by switching to sleeping on my stomach instead of my back is preventing me from rolling around in my sleep, so I actually get more REM sleep and my body is actually healing and recovering.

So, having this new found energy, I've been putting a lot of thought into my life and how to improve my current situation. For the past year or so, I've been thrashing around between ideas, not really knowing what direction I want to take or what I really want to do. This is partially because even though I have an idea of where I want to go, I have no idea what steps to take to actually get there. I keep trying things, but not with any consistency or effort to actually get anywhere.

Along this line, a recent post on Steve Pavlina's blog talks about the 'Abuse of Power' and how a person can end up in a self-defeating cycle that imprisons them rather than enabling them (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2009/05/abuse-of-power/). This is precisely what I had been doing by constantly answering the question, "What do I want to do with my life?" with "I don't know". The reality is that I do know. I want to work in a situation like Toastmasters, where there is a structured program for growth with clear steps and milestones of achievement. I want to take what I learn and then mentor others who want to learn those skills. I want to become a leader and take on larger challenges.

At my current job, I have begun to do this in some ways. I'm doing business analysis work on a health care system in CNMI. I'm running the QA and Testing effort for the DJS. I created a new structure for how documentation should be stored and used internally so that it can be shared and used as an asset. Unfortunately, I have no interest in electronic health records or Mental Health and Substance Abuse treatment. Therefore, I'm currently focusing my efforts on finding quality companies that work in sectors that I am interested in, such as Green Technology and Military Defense.

What this all comes back to is goals. It is easy to start drifting through life when you have too much uncertainty about what you want. The problem with this is that no one is going to come into your life and tell you what you want. The only way to figure it out is to cut down the options to a manageable number and then make the effort to start trying them. Pick one thing, put your best effort out to making it happen. If you don't like it, you cross it off the list and move onto the next thing.

Trust me, I know I make it sound easy but is actually really hard to do. No one likes failing, no one likes rejection. As much as they hurt, they are less painful than the feeling of regret of seeing time go by and having nothing to show for it. Nothing is as disheartening as the feeling of drifting, uncertain what to do.

One of the member of my Toastmasters club just won the International Speech Competition at the District level. His speech centered around one key point that is important for everyone. To be a leader, to accomplish your goals, to be respected and create value, you need to start with three words.

I am responsible.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I've finally made this realization. Interestingly enough, I've been told this many times in the past but for some reason it never really clicked until now. Life demands specialists.

What am I talking about?

Well, think of your own experiences. When you do searches online. When you talk to your friends. Whenever you do anything. What are you looking for? An expert.

Say you're hungry and you want Chinese food. What is the thought process? I imagine it goes something like this:
- What Chinese places do I know?
- Am I happy with my recent experience at favorite of places that I know?
- Do I want to try something new?
- Who do I know that likes Chinese?
- Where do they think I should eat?

Let's say you're going to cook dinner. Do you ask someone who doesn't know how to cook what you should do? No, you ask someone with relative experience greater than yours. If you do a search online, you are looking for a specific piece of knowledge or a detailed guide, not information about the theory behind cooking or a story someone wrote about an experience they had cooking.

The world demands specialists. That's where keywords comes in. That's where clients come from. People's nature to seek out someone who knows better than them in one specific topic.

So the question is, what to specialize in? What to be an expert on?

Normally, I have a tendency to learn something quickly and then move on to something new. Instead of doing that, I need to pick a specific process, do it, get to an expert level at it and then write up descriptions for how to do it that others will want to benefit from.

I do this naturally in a lot of scenarios. I analyze situations and anything that I repeatedly do, I create algorithms for how to do it in an optimal fashion. Now I need to start transcribing them and then publishing them.

Laughing By Myself

So after a few days of watching reactions, I'm getting the impression that I'm the only one who laughs at my jokes.

I'm not exactly sure why this is. Personally, I think my jokes are witty and well timed. Apparently from empirical evidence, I may be the only one who thinks this. It's strange though because the stupid, obvious jokes that other people make seem to get a lot of laughs. I usually like things that make you think a little or reference previously discussed items. Maybe I'm too deep with it, or people just don't find that style funny.

In an effort to try different things, I've made some stupid puns recently just to see what reaction I get. I think the people that are use to me just ignore them or find them bland. I'm not sure about other people since I haven't been launching into a lot of conversations with random people.

I guess I should start considering the audience more when making jokes. Either that or just stop making jokes. It's hard to find the right line between just being yourself and fitting in or being who people want you to be.

Sometimes I feel like there is this whole code of social behavior that I just never learned growing up. I was always kinda the outsider, never really belonging to one group or another. I guess it could be more about the relationship you have with people and their relative comfort with you also. I imagine my jokes are almost like inside jokes that only I get or jokes that people aren't comfortable enough with me to know that I'm kidding and it's ok to laugh at.

I'll have to observe more and try to make better conclusions.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Strange Twist

So after acting like I don't exist for a few weeks, my employer has thrown a strange twist at me. They want me to fly out to Idaho to do some training. But before I get into that, there is a reason this is so odd.

On Monday I went for a run so I could think about my future and what I want now that I know I'm not going to Austin. I ran through some scenarios in my head and there was only one that really felt like it resonated. I need to quit my job.

After a little more thought, I realized that it all lines up just right. I can quit on May 29th, which is the two year anniversary of when I started working here. That gives me a month to make arrangements and make sure I'm not jumping into a big pile of nothing or some fleeting hopes and dreams of magic success.

My idea is to switch to doing consulting work on a case by case basis. That way instead of having my employer be my only customer, I can start to diversify and build a bigger base of skills and contacts. If I build my income back up to the current level in that model, there is still a growing potential for more income sources and areas to test out. Also, there is more risk but more control since the more time and effort I put into it, the more I should get back out.

Following this line of thought, I'd have to give my two week notice on May 15. Interestingly enough, now they want me to fly out on May 19-21.

So I'm a little torn. At this point this is all still a work in progress. Most of the advice I've gotten since I came up with the idea has been to not jump into something unless I have a plan. I have two weeks to put something together, so I'm going to see what I can do. The Toastmasters conference is this weekend so I figure that and Craig's List will be my best bets for starting to build up a network of clients.

So, here goes nothing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Plan B

I've spent the last 3 months working on an application to a business school in Austin, Texas. As I've mentioned in the past, my goal is start my own business, and I've attempted this several times now. This school is built around accelerating students through the learning curve so that they have all the tools they need to do just that. Unfortunately, I was rejected.

So the question is, now what?

Before I answer that, what really bothers me about this is something that happened that made me apply to the school. I was reading their website after hearing about it from my brother and I got this feeling. It was more than a gut feeling, it felt like it came right from my bones. Like everything that makes me who I am was pulling me toward this school. It just felt so absolutely right. So to get that feeling, put all the work in to apply to the school and then get rejected is soul crushing.

So now what? Now I figure out what Plan B is and do that. The nice thing about this process is that it has helped me identify the areas in my life that must change and the strong areas that I don't want to change. So I have to start cutting out the bad and building on the good. Even though I won't be doing what I so desperately wanted to, at least I know what needs to be done. I think it's false to pretend like rejection is really something good, I mostly think people are just lying to themselves when they say that. I am going to try and get at least something from it to help soften the impact of the blow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I've built a cage around myself. From the outside it looks like a comfortable place, nice place to live, quiet workplace, weekly routine of things to do. Still a cage.

There is this idea that I and I'm sure many others subscribe to in our everyday lives. You commit to a routine, convincing yourself that you're progressing. Each day earns some more money and you're building to this day when you can finally be free. You can turn in your 9-5 for that peaceful, happy retirement that you've earned through sacrifice of all the best years of your life. There are just enough small victories along the way to keep a person appeased into continuing to live quietly.

I feel it's all an illusion. The society we've built up around ourselves along with the ideas that keep it going are really just a house of cards keeping the truth out. There are many people on the other side, shouting to us to come outside, but its so hard. Once you get into the routine, you've set a standard. How can you not work to keep it? Why would you want to lose now for the hope of an uncertain future regardless of the potential benefits?

Why? Because it's the truth. Outside of our cages is the lifestyle people were suppose to live. Maybe it doesn't include as much modern luxury but it does include what we desire at our core. Meaning.

We all desire to matter. To be something great. To make a difference.

I know for myself that I am not making that difference in my cage. I'm the hamster running on the wheel. I desire to do something that matters but that is not what is asked of me in the cage. Just keep spinning, don't disrupt the flow. That is what is asked of me.

But there is no reprieve. All that exists is wrestling with the fear that keeps you where you are until, hopefully, one day you break through. I just hope I have what it takes to make it to that point.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I think I'm starting to get a better understanding of how people see me. This is mainly because of the people who are doing to me what I must do to other people.

Let me take a second to explain. When people send me emails, I respond usually within the hour if not immediately. When people call me, even if they don't leave a message, I call them back, usually right when I see the missed call.

Recently I've met some people who respond constantly with no delay to any message they are sent. It's nice at first, but then after a while you start running out of stuff to say back. They're all about results, results, results. I don't have any results for some of the stuff I'm working on. It's because I'm afraid and don't put the effort into it that I should. I know this, I hate this, but it's extremely hard to force yourself to act on something, even when you don't have anything else to do.

So clearly I do this same thing to other people. They're doing what they want and moving at their own pace and enjoying it and I keep making demands of them to do more or do what I think they should. That must be really annoying.

Knowing this, I'm not sure what is a good solution. Most people seem to be able to generate stuff to do when they are bored. Maybe my lack of focus on detail is what saves me time but then kills me later because of the lack of recall. Also, my jumping from thing to thing leads to a large amount of projects left uncompleted or pending. I never seem to make the time to accomplish big things.

Ironically enough, the big things that I have accomplished and taken the time to do right are the ones I usually end up happy about. An example is my car. I took a long time searching around to determine all the criteria that mattered to me. Then I tried out a lot of cars and finally had put together all the info I needed to make a decision. To this day I'm extremely happy with and excited about my car.

I think the reason I have a problem at work is because of my location. Being in the middle of an open cubicle room, I feel like people can always see what I'm doing. This makes me think I have to always have the appearance that I'm working or busy, even when I'm not. Even when I am working, I feel like any distraction pulls my focus away even when wearing headphones. So I have a situation where I'm setting myself up for failure.

Having these thoughts is always a dual edged sword. It's like now you know what the problem is, but most of the time the solution seems out of my control. So you end up just stewing in the problem.


I belong to Toastmasters and am working my way through the original manual to get the ten speeches finished in order to get my Competent Communicator award. Last night I gave my ninth speech. Normally, I'd post the speech here but I did a presentation with slides, so it wouldn't make a lot of sense without all the elements.

I learned something interesting in giving the speech. For each speech I've spent a lot of time crafting an informative and interesting mixture of content. I figured this approach would keep the audience's attention while giving them valuable advice they can start to apply. I've found that the reaction is never what I would expect.

Here is an example. Last night I started my speech by saying "You're fired!". The idea was to grab attention because people are worried because there is constant talk about how bad the economy is right now. I then talked about steps that people can take to remove that fear by diversifying their income sources.

At the end, the feedback I got was pretty standard. "Great speech". "Very informative". The one that stood out was that I could have said "You're fired" like Trump does in his Celebrity Apprentice show.

So what I've learned from this is that people really don't care about the content of your speech. You could give them the advice of jumping off a bridge or hiding their money under the mattress. It's all about entertainment. Relatable entertainment. Which means pop culture references, word play, unexpected shifts and anything for a laugh.

I'm not sure why this is. I have a feeling that when you present something that seems academic in nature, you're challenging people to think. After a long day at work most people are tired of thinking. They want to shut down and be entertained. This is why athletes, musicians and entertainers get paid so much money.

I have a feeling this is part of the reason my blog is not popular. I could post random photoshoped images and probably get orders of magnitude more hits than I do currently.

So the question is what to do with this knowledge. I write this blog mainly for myself to help organize my thoughts and capture knowledge gained, so I don't anticipate changing that any time soon. I also write these speeches because I have a message I want to get out. I will have to change my approach in that area though, because people don't care about your message if you don't wrap it right. Maybe I'll write the tenth speech the way I normally would, and then from there forward I'll just play to the crowd as much as possible.

I'm still left a little unsettled by this. I don't want to judge, people work hard and deserve to live their lives the way they want to. I seem to have a personal obsession with growth and progress, and it usually makes me unhappy because I'm always pushing to do more. So if others have found a way to be happy and that's what it takes, then I wish them the best. This life is short with fleeting rewards for hard effort. Finding any kind of happiness and holding onto it as long as possible is sometimes all we really have. I'm not ready to give up my quest and abandon my ways, but at least now I hope I can go forward with a clearer understanding.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Personality Theory

I've posted some before about Personality Theory. I even went through my period of denial about being an ENFP and claiming that I'm an INFP. Recently I invested more time into learning about some additional complexities that I hadn't though of before, which is how I determined my real type. I'll share the additional layers and how they work.

The first layer of the theory are the 16 different types themselves. They revolve around the four main categories that govern how an individual operates, mainly the I/E, N/S, F/T and J/P distinction. Rather than discussing each type, you can take the test or read about the different possibilities here.

The second layer is the interaction between the types. The same site I just mentioned includes a handy chart for determining the interaction between the types and how they work here. I was able to determine my type by taking various relationships I have and figuring out which relationships between myself and the other individuals fit correctly in the chart. Once I had solidified my type, I made a key insight.

Usually when you try to determine someone else's personality, you think of specific examples or general behavioral trends the person follows and map it to the right type. The problem with this is that there is a large bias based on the side of the person that you see. So you may be really introverted and then think someone else is just because you only see and interact with them in environments that accent those qualities in the targeted individual. Either that or your like/dislike of that person could influence you to project qualities onto them. So the only way to remove the bias is to look at the patterns of your relationship. Then you can map the actual pattern of your relationship back to the chart to determine what type they must be.

The third layer is the type of relationship you have with the person. The interaction may be a negative one, but if the person holds the right role in your life relative to you, then it could be just right for what you would want. An example would be a Mother having a supervision relationship with a child or a significant other being your duality type. I believe that when we line up the right interaction in the right role is where the idea of 'soul mate' relationships comes from. It's not that there is some uniqueness to the person that you were destined for each other, it's that you matched up all the components just right.

Clearly it is no simple task to engineer your whole social sphere. The nice thing about this knowledge is that you can spot problems early or open yourself up to possibilities that you would not have recognized otherwise. Maybe you know someone who is your duality type, but because you didn't hit off a great relationship right away you never invested the time to develop it further. You could be missing out on something truly exceptional, but with this knowledge you'll know it's worth putting in the extra effort for the potential of a rewarding long term relationship.

This is as deep as I have taken this at this point. There are a lot of other variables like background, interests, education, intelligence, environment, etc which play a role in the development of relationships. Those effects, like the effects of personality interactions, play a lesser role to the individuals desire to make a relationship work. Having the information provides a tool though for collecting information and using it to make more accurate decisions.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quick Thought

Never quit a job because you're having too much fun and it doesn't feel like a 'real' job.

I've learned the hard way my whole life so far that life sucks if you try to play by everyone else's rules. The best moments in life are the ones where you are the person walking around with the gorilla suit on.

Even though you'd think this is obvious, it is incredibly hard to keep in this state. I'm working to reboot my life soon, and once I do, I'm setting my default mode to 'if I'm not enjoying it while I'm doing it, it shouldn't be done'.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I had written a post a while back about what it takes to be able to charge someone for services. In other words, how much knowledge and experience does it take to justify billing someone. The answer is surprising.

If you are like me, you grew up going to a school till you graduate and then moving up to the next school. You may have stopped at high school, college, post graduate studies, or maybe you are still going. The idea though, is that by completing all the school programs you are gaining a specific knowledge that makes you qualified to be payed. After growing up with this, you are conditioned to the idea, thinking that is the only way things work. The reality is different.

We see alternatives all the time. The guy selling flowers on the side of the road doesn't have a degree or certification in biology or horticulture. He just has flowers. You have a need for flowers, so it is worth it to you to exchange for them. All he had to do was get the flowers and position himself in a place where the price he is set is less than the value of the flowers to the people passing by.

So there you have the answer to qualifications. What qualifies you is your ability to secure a resource, set a price, and get a level of exposure. Nothing else is required.

This can be misleading though, because it brushes over the hardest part. That is, actually doing it.

The main reason the average person has one job as their sole source of income is because it is easy. You gained the qualifications, you got through the interview, now your reward is to just show up everyday and then receive a paycheck for your efforts. You have earned the right to put in your eight hours and then go home and watch TV, with two days out of the week left free for you.

So now the question is no longer are you qualified but rather, are you willing to do the work.