I think about the differences between those who know technology sufficiently to apply it and manage it versus those who actually invent it. Always and immediately, I come to the conclusion that I am not one of the inventors. I am a manager.
How do we USE this XYZ bit of technology to do what we’re doing better/smarter/faster? How will it ease our burdens and contribute toward continuous process improvement? Those are the things I am good at, my business "superpowers".
I would like to find a way to use my powers for good. Instead of putting money in the pockets of the already-wealthy, I would love to somehow be of benefit to those who are helpless under the big business reign of terror…
I was out walking yesterday morning and came upon some sea gulls fighting over a discarded slab of pizza – or at least what passes for pizza here in Southwest Florida. One of the birds persistently pecked at the pizza until it was light enough for him to carry it in flight. In this manner, he was able to get it away from his opponents and have it all to himself.
[pullquote]Strategy that works is definitely a competitive advantage. Just make sure that what you are fighting for is worth it.[/pullquote] This little tableau, which took less than a minute to play out, illustrated an important point for me. Strategy that works is definitely a competitive advantage. Just make sure that what you are fighting for is worth it. I mean, FLORIDA pizza? C’mon! 😉
Is there any reason I should continue to channel sincere effort toward the conventional, when it’s not really what I want? As I told a few friends recently – I’ve been praying for the wrong thing. I’ve been focusing on a job. What job should I choose? Will there be any jobs available? What if I don’t find a job? Job, job, job – wrong, wrong, wrong!
I don’t want a job. I want INCOME. I’m not saying that I don’t want to work. I’m saying that we all work for a reason, and that reason is to get some money so we can support our lives. So what we really, REALLY want, at the very core, is INCOME. A job is just ONE way of getting that.
Since I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, I’m confusing the Universe by asking for a job. So, let me clarify that for you, Universe.
I want INCOME.
You get to decide how you’re going to deliver it to me.
And no pizza, please – not unless it was born and raised in New York 😉
[pullquote]My friends have entered into an unwitting conspiracy on my behalf – a conspiracy designed to help me see that this is not a time of bell, book and candle…[/pullquote]
“Clock, keys and Light…. clock, keys and Light….”
These words represent ordinary objects routinely encountered in everyday life. But last night, as the ritual annual viewing of “Love Actually” provided a flickering yet sufficient glow for the addressing of Christmas cards, “clock, keys and light” morphed into something akin to one of those pesky “ear worm” songs (Like this one. You’re welcome). Virulently pestilent, “clock, keys and light” repeated itself over and over in my mind with a cadence similar to that of “bell, book and candle”, a phrase used long ago to describe a once-popular method for the excommunication of sinners from the Catholic Church. When used in an excommunication ritual, the “bell” represents a death knell for the sinner’s soul, the “book” is shut to represent cutting the sinner off from the teachings of the Church and the candle is extinguished, leaving the sinner in the darkness of damnation.
(“Bell, Book and Candle” is also the title of a film, a romantic comedy starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novack. I recommend it, if only for the delight of hearing the actors utter one of the great cat names of all time – “Pyewacket”. Go on and say it now. “Pyewacket. Pyewacket. PYEWACKET!” See how delightful that is?)
SUBSCRIBERS: if you don’t see video below this sentence, please click through to the blog
You might say that I’ve suffered something of an excommunication recently. Early in September, the bell tolled for the death of my 19 year career at Too Big To Fail. After having handed in my badge, the door slammed behind me and I no longer had access; I was shut out of that institution forever. Darkness descended, sort of a radio silence. I no longer know anything about the day-to-day doings there, or of the people with whom I’d enjoyed daily contact for so very many years.
Whereas “bell, book and candle” are punishments, “clock, keys and light” are gifts. They came to me from some of the intended recipients of the cards I was addressing last night, which is what prompted the chanting inside my head. Oddly – or perhaps not – all three items arrived in the mail within the last month, and all three were sent to me by people I met online. One woman hails from Colorado, another from the Midwest and the third right here in Florida. Ironically, the Floridian is the only one of the three I haven’t actually met – this, despite the fact that until last year, we were at most 30 minutes apart by car.
“Spotty” is from Colorado. I met her on an internet forum in connection with our mutual love of all things Disney. We’ve attended a few meets together at Walt Disney World, most recently during the inaugural Princess Half Marathon, which she finished despite a very painful knee. Spotty is the one amongst these three online friends with whom I’ve spent the most face-time. The fact that a good chunk of this face-time occurred in a tequila bar should not, in any way, be construed as a commentary on the quality of our interactions. It was fabulously fun face-TIME and therefore, Spotty is naturally the giver of the clock. The clock arrived on November 12th. It’s a tiny, shiny, perfect little gifty-treat, a memento from some anniversary celebrated by Disneyland in California. The face of the clock bears a portrait of my favorite Disney character, Tinkerbell. I did not save the SMS text exchange that preceded its arrival in my mailbox, but I have a vague recollection that Spotty was performing a purge of possessions when she found the clock, and since I am known elsewhere on the internet as “Tink *~*~*”, it made her think of me. I was touched at her thoughtfulness in asking to send it to me.
“GPC” is a blogger who hails from the Midwest; you can find her at Shedding The Wolf. I originally met her online as “Sandpail Gail” on a forum dedicated to discussion about Sanibel and Captiva, the magical sub-tropical islands which lured me to relocate to Southwest Florida from Da Loverly Isle Of Long. It’s an unfortunate hallmark of the times in which we live; GPC has also been recently “excommunicated” from her career, so we can definitely relate to one another’s current respective plights. In the surprise package from GPC were two key blanks that can be cut to fit the lock of my choice. They are pretty much the same size as my current house keys. These gifts arrived on December 11th and like the clock, they also bear the visage of Tinkerbell.
Last but certainly not least is “Maidenshade”, my fellow Floridian and kindred spirit – so kindred, I’ve actually friended her on Facebook, which is something usually reserved for people I’ve met and spent time with. “Maidenshade” is the name of her business, where she hand-crafts beautiful lampshades and night lights. One day last summer, I was accosted in the aisle of a local home goods warehouse by a massive framed piece of art. It’s a bold and stunningly modern departure for the woman whose home is filled with ornately carved antiques. However, I was inexplicably drawn to it. I knew the moment I clapped eyes on it that the large expanse of bare, white wall over the garden tub in The Palace (my master bath) would henceforth be barren no more. I posted a photo of it to Facebook and now Jen has cleverly gone and made me a beautiful night light to match. I took delivery of it on December 14th and immediately installed it in The Palace, marveling at how impeccably made it is.
Why am I writing about these gifts? Well, it’s like this. I saved the return addresses on all three packages so that I could record them in my contacts list on my phone and send “thank you” notes in the form of Christmas cards. Last night, I assembled all the essential implements of Christmas carding and laid them out on the blue suede damnsofa – the requisite smelly candle (it’s called Yankee Candle “Sparkling Snow”), the seasonal entertainment (the aforementioned DVD of Love Actually – although, Christmas music can also be used), the cards with scenes like Santa posed inappropriately beneath a palm tree, the pens, stamps, return address labels, phone with the contacts list and a cup of Tazo decaf chai.
The first three cards I wrote were for the recipients listed on the return addresses I’d ripped from the packages containing the clock, the keys and the light. And as I was writing, the phrase began to sing in my head – “clock, keys, light…” – which eventually transformed itself into “Time! Answers! Illumination!”
My friends have entered into an unwitting conspiracy on my behalf – a conspiracy designed to help me see that this is not a time of bell, book and candle, not a time of death, imprisonment and darkness. It is, rather, a period in my life rich with gifts. Time, unfettered by work-a-day obligations, is a gift. Time permits me to explore, to discover answers that have lain locked behind obligation and practicality, to open the doors to my secret (so secret, it’s hidden even from me!) calling and illuminate what lies inside.
How did you all know just what I needed, and in just such a combination that would capture and keep my attention and fire my imagination? I think you are all remarkable, but I bet you didn’t – know, that is. There’s another explanation, however – episodic Memos From The Universe. That’s what this is. And I thank you all for answering whatever call from the Universe it was that you heard, which has led me to relax, if just a little, and believe, if only for a day, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this time, doing pretty much what I’m supposed to be doing.
The author points out protestations about age, about the established versus the unencumbered. I think it’s more than that. Anyone past their 20s has had shit happen to them. Therefore, they come with a pre-crushed soul. We KNOW that bad stuff can and does happen to good people. We KNOW that happy endings are not only optional, they are rare. Even the soul-crushing day jobs are rare birds these days. So if one cannot get one of those, what makes one think one can get a dream job?
See? The fact that I even typed that sentence is evidence of my own pre-crushed soul. How can you un-learn what life has taught you? How can you un-know the certain knowledge that life sucks and then you die, and that everything else is a lie, a fantasy that you use to soothe yourself?
“President Obama has complained that the U.S. tax system encourages companies to invest and hire abroad, but a bill that would have ended certain tax credits and deferrals to companies expanding or moving overseas was voted down in the Senate last week.”
Why in God’s name are companies getting tax credits and deferrals to put Americans out of work? WHY? And why has our current Senate neglected to correct this matter?
And while I’m frothing at the mouth, I’d like to point out that it should have been a condition for accepting bailout money – “Too Big To Fail” should have been made to promise that they would not hire anywhere but the United States for X many years. Yes, years. After all, it was American taxpayer dollars that bailed ’em out – why should anyone but American taxpayers benefit? Violators should go to jail – the entire board, hard time, no parole.
We’ve been had, I’m afraid – had and used. And our politicians, it is clear, will not represent our interests and will not help us. It doesn’t matter who is voted into office. “Too Big To Fail” owns enough of them to get their way. The rest of us get to bend over.
* Drove 2 hours to Tampa. The scenery is nice, so this is not terrible, once in a while. All the way up, I kept noting to myself that this was the last time that I’d pass this way on my way to the office. There will be plenty of times that I will pass at least some of that way to get to Orlando, but I’ll never go to the office again.
* Surrendered laptop and 19-year career, the latter of which fit neatly into a 2 quart Ziploc bag. No, I don’t still look like that. You know when that picture was taken? Back in the early 90s, I went through chemo and my hair all fell out. I flat out refused to have my photo taken for a badge because I knew I would not always be bald. So after about a year and a half, that’s how far my hair had grown out, and I consented to having the badge photo taken. I’m guessing this was early 1995! * Went to lunch with friends at favorite local hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant
* Thought often of Lisa, whose memorial service was held today. Only I could not go, on account of having to surrender today.
* Left office and no sooner did I get on the highway then I noticed – too late – a bazillion Florida state troopers lying in wait. Speed trap!
* Cop let me off with a minuscule fine compared to what he could have – I suppose because I’ve never in my 50 year life EVER been pulled over for a moving violation before. That was really nice of him. I burst into tears when he told me and confessed that I’d been laid off today. He could not have been nicer. I think I actually said to him, “I mean, could this day get any fucking worse?”. Um, yeah… * Got home, raised garage door, was prepared to drive car in, noticed the snake was back. Yes, AGAIN – the BIG-ASS snake, not one of those little pencil snakes. This is what I get for going organic – frogs fling themselves at my lighted windows each night, anoles squeeze under the screen doors and poop all over the lanai, and snakes decide to like my house best. He wasn’t moving out of the way, either. What to do – run him down with the RAV? I did that last time. I don’t want any more bad Karma. Played with lowering and raising garage door, and he got scared and slithered off into the bushes. I bet he’ll be back.
* Got online and found that a beloved member of my cyber-parrish has died after 10+ years being acutely ill. Christi is finally free of all this earth put her through. But I can’t believe we will never pray and banter and commune together ever again. Well we will, just not here.
“Sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks.” 🙁
I shall practice what I preach. I told a friend today that loss happens to make space for new stuff to move in. Lost my job, lost my manager and mentor and friend Lisa, lost my perfect driving record, lost Christi… that’s an awful lot to lose. Whatever it is that’s coming, it must be huge 😯
“Here’s what all of you have done. You’ve made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. So, to all the people watching, I can never, ever thank you enough for the kindness to me. I’ll think about it for the rest of my life.
And all I ask is one thing. And this is… I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch. Please, do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you – amazing things will happen.”
The Tonight Show
22 January 2010
This is the way “Coco” departed from The Tonight Show – choked up, humble, vulnerable and a class act all the way. I very much appreciated his final farewell, but I must admit that at the same time, I was baffled and slightly annoyed at the admonishment to “don’t be cynical”. Baffled, because I wasn’t quite sure where that came from, and annoyed because I’d had my run-ins with the word before.
There were a few years during my tenure at the firm when the IT organization (barely) survived a failed outsourcing agreement. More than half of the IT professionals in the firm were outsourced but continued in their positions, while the rest of us “managed” to the terms of the agreement. Almost immediately, 20% of those outsourced were cut by their new employer, but in typical fashion, no one bothered to cut 20% of the work. The agreement was supposed to span Y years for $X billion dollars. It soon became obvious that this was a clash of the titans and a failure of epic proportions. Their marching orders were to do as little as possible for $X billion dollars over Y years and bill us for the balance. Our marching orders were to “manage” them into doing as MUCH as possible for $X billion dollars over Y years and never let them bill us a penny extra. Battle lines were drawn. Long-standing workplace relationships strained and sometimes fell apart. Some good talent left us simply because they felt neglected, cast out and betrayed.
Competition for the internal positions was fierce, and a forced ranking methodology was introduced, accompanied by “360 degree reviews”. This meant you could review each other according to a prescribed format. One of the questions in the 360 review was, “On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being Not At All and 5 being All The Time – how cynical is SoAndSo?”. I ask you – what the HELL does cynicism have to do with my ability to execute? If I’m hitting all my targets and delivering what I said I’d deliver and then some, why should anyone care if I’m intelligent enough to see the way things are and call them as I see them?
I refused to participate in the process. Among my colleagues, I am famous for a few pithy little sayings, but one of the most famous is, “Don’t ever give me a free form text box. Ever.” The 360 review format had free-form text boxes, and I wrote in them – yes all of them – that 360 degree reviews amounted to permission to assassinate one another and I refused to participate. I also told them what I thought of their little outsourcing agreement. I must not have been alone. A few other little insurrections were about to occur. I’ll only tell you about the most famous one.
At the end of two years, a committee from both sides got together to develop a presentation for executive management, all about issues and outcomes and accomplishments and all that stuff. By unanimous consensus, they had the balls to leave the “Accomplishments” slide completely and utterly blank. Management got the message. 360 degree reviews were discontinued, and the outsourcing agreement was dissolved. Everyone was brought back into the firm and given their old titles back without interruption in years of service.
Although executive management eventually acknowledged and corrected their mistakes, there was some serious damage done. We did lose talent, and we did lose cohesiveness. Many fell prey to burnout. Some folks had actually been thriving at the outsourced company. Loyalties had been completely transferred, and these people were really pissed off to be brought back over to the place that had robbed them of their control over their own careers, dumping them unceremoniously. And the final point of impact? The definition of “cynical” had been warped and twisted and used as a weapon, an aversive stimulus. Recognizing and telling an unpleasant truth was bad, it was wrong, it was “cynical”.
It’s difficult to refrain from sinking into the cynical abyss when life gives you so much good material for it. Wretched realities often overshadow their counterparts in this world. The current state of the world economy serves as a prime example. Bad choices made by greedy, bottom line-driven entities for whom the word “enough” has no meaning have resulted in crisis, recession, off-shoring and layoffs, joblessness, homelessness, and financial ruin. Catastrophic “acts of God” cause destruction, devastation, disease and death. How can we prevent these harsh life conditions from eroding our spirits, when our livelihoods, our homes, the very earth we stand on threatens to crumble away? How do we resist the call of the cynic, who says, “See, I told you so!” when it’s so patently obvious that he’s right?
How could it be bad? Cynicism is a by-product of intelligent discernment. It’s a refusal to drink the kool aid. Cynicism has fueled revolutions and helped to overturn oppressive empires. Cynicism has prevented many a snake oil salesman from making off with the family fortune. Cynicism may very well be a Darwinian response, necessary for the survival of the species.
The original Cynics were Greek philosophers. The basis of cynicism at that time was a belief in virtue and nature, and in the rejection of money and power as sources of happiness. Over time, cynicism became known much more for what it rejected than what it embraced. Modern definitions of the word tell us that today’s cynics have very little belief in the existence of virtue, and almost always focus instead on their conviction that all human motivation is selfish. It is tempting to conclude that cynics don’t believe in anyone or anything, but that is not true. Modern cynicism is not the absence of belief; it is a belief in failure, the failure of humans to rise above and reject their baser instincts in favor of virtue.
I wish to point out to Executive Management that there is a vast difference between believing in failure and simply recognizing it.
Clearly, the heartfelt speech delivered by “Coco” at the end of his Tonight Show run indicates that he still strongly believes in the good of man, despite the horrible way he’d just been treated by a bunch of them. You gotta hand it to a man who has been in television this long and still rejects cynicism. Although I’ve read an interview where he claimed to be purely as Irish Catholic as his ancestors who stepped off the boat in pre-Civil War Boston, I have the feeling that “Coco” is actually Greek for “I’m a believer!”.
I think the key to successful cynicism must be balance – go ahead and call ’em as you see ’em, but see BOTH the good and the bad. Extremism is never a good thing. See too much good, they’ll call you a Pollyanna. See too much bad, and you’re a misanthrope. See both and you’re… Conan O’Brien 😉
Image: A poster created by Mike Mitchell during the Tonight Show controversy of 2010 displaying his “Coco” nickname.
Treading the fine line between "alone" and "free"…