Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22, 2011

Because you already know that this week is devoted to family and to a happy Thanksgiving holiday for all (you, too!), I thought I would include a great photo I found instead of text for today's blog post.  Once I decided on the name of "eye train" for this blog, I went Googling to see if there were any photos that might appeal to both the "eye" part and the "train" part.  Well, I didn't locate a "train" part as in professional training / teaching / enlightening folks, but I did find this photo which I liked a great deal.  It's from a train station in Japan, and the photographer gave me her permission to post it.

Hope you enjoy it too.  Based on the advice of some of my networking friends, I am now considering an adjustment to the schedule of classes I will be offering.  But more on that later as the new product develops.  Today, I'll be making cornbread and biscuits for Thursday's dressing. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 20, 2011

Wow.  One may start blogging with the deeply-held belief that it will only take fifteen or twenty minutes every other day or so to sit down at the computer, put fingers to keyboard, and type out some marvelously creative and insightful observations on life in middle Tennessee.  Because the focus of this blog is on training, one must be careful to link the topic of the day to bring it back home to training.  Well well well.  When one has stuffed one's calendar full of networking appointments (and one MUST have networking appointments to get the word out), and there is a minor car emergency in the family to deal with and a cat who needs a trip to the vet for a pressing problem , and one must seek a work/life balance by being sure to purchase appropriate and sensible Christmas gifts and all the ingredients necessary for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, one becomes aware that one is likely to write in long run-on sentences, and unlike the fact that the sentences never seem to end,the work day does.  And then you wake up and it's late Sunday afternoon and you've only written one minor blog all week when you intended to get two, three, or four written.  Whew.

The good news is -- I marked some items off my "to do" list.  I got a good but ambitious idea from one of those networking contacts.  An idea about a product I could offer to potential employers of me, the freelancer who is just starting out.  I will be working on that idea this very week.  And, let's be honest, I will also be working on brining a turkey, cooking some cornbread and some biscuits, and wondering whether we actually have enough onions to see us through the T-Day lunch/dinner this week.  You know, there is a word that combines "breakfast" and "lunch" -- and of course that word is brunch.  Why isn't there a word that describes the late lunch, way early dinner meal?  I guess it's that neither linner nor dunch sounds very appetizing.  Food.  Big seasonal lunch/dinners are important for a number of reasons.  First of all, it's a special time when you make cornbread dressing the old fashioned and difficult way, chopping onions and celery for thirty minutes.  And it's important to see your family because when all else fails, they will be there for you.  Food is not only physical, then, it's also emotional, spiritual, familial.  It gives you a center, a core tradition.  It works because it is dependable and it gives you a chance to tell your family how much they mean to you.  And there's probably nothing more important than that.  Even busy networking doesn't hold a candle to the support you get from your family.  And that's why Thanksgiving duties trump new business blogging, and that's okay. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011

I'm making some progress on the whole TeachingTechnology.com adventure.  This weekend, I was able to create a Facebook page -- a necessary ingredient with all businesses these days. Not having a FB page is like trying to cook without butter, I suppose, and anyone who knows me knows that butter ranks right up there with bread, milk, and coffee on my grocery list.  I also linked in a link to my LinkedIn page.  I understand that LinkedIn is more professional; you won't find unflattering pictures taken after the member consumed her fourth glass of wine ("hey, it was Happy Hour!") or pictures of your beloved cat or dog in yoga poses.

I don't "get" Twitter, however.  Hubs and I started a Twitter account and selected 10 people/groups we wanted to "follow."  Upon first crack with this new experience, one of the tweets was an individual who said that 49% of folks who are in college shouldn't be there.  I thought, well that's a GREAT motivator (not!).  So to practice the tweet experience, I replied "92% of statistics are wrong.  I learned that in my first year of college."  Now I meant this reply to be kind of a push-back, suggesting that she's being awfully dismissive of all college experiences for all students.  She replied back with a snide "And which college did you attend?"  And that' when Twitter started to fade for me.  Had I wished to continue this inane conversation, I would have had to somehow justify to her that I attended a college in Tennessee that very few individuals know about or can correctly pronounce the name of.  And I'm not sure I can reasonably justify anything in 140 characters.  So -- I decided not to join the Twittering aficionados.

I'm going to devote some energy to this blog instead.  By the way, let's give credit where it's due.  When I explained to one of my friends (Jeana B.) at my former position that I was going to resign and to strike out on my own, I told her the main plan for the new freelance business.  She said "Well, you've got to have a blog.  Everybody reads blogs."  So, Jeana, as rough and rugged as this blog is, consider yourself the godmother, the muse, the force of inspiration. 

Right now I'm reading a book on blogging, but I am not gaining terribly useful information from it.  It was written by a blogger who covers the black celebrity entertainment scene.  We're talking Kanye, Big Boi, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy.  So, let me offer a one-sentence quotation from her page 29 and I believe you will recognize why this book, whose front cover proclaims "What You Need to Know if You Want to Have a Succesful and Profitable Blog" and to get "Thousands of Unique Hits Per Day."  Here's that verbatim quote:  "Let's say you are out for dinner and in walks Beyonce and Jay-Z."  Let me state right here and now that if I am ever out for dinner and Beyonce, Jay-Z, or Lyle Lovett walks into the Steak & Shake close to Rivergate Mall, I promise to include that jewel in my very next post.  Wait for it. 

So -- I'm well past my 140 characters, I guess I best move on.  Thanks, Jeana, and thanks to you for reading this.  It's time now to start working on that Business Writing PowerPoint. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


November 1, 2011

We have great faith in our prescription medicines.  Right?  Don’t you recall how, decades ago, raising a child meant a series of injections for measles, mumps, rubella.  Your child probably had chicken pox.   And your back got really hurt when you tried to move that table by yourself.  Medicine seems to have gotten more convenient.  Now, there are walk-in clinics, easy breezy flu shots, and of course the various trustworthy medicines the doctor would prescribe?  How about a Z-pac?  You’re sick, you go to the doctor, and you leave the office with a prescription or two, head off to the pharmacy before the drive home? 

Yet prescription drugs kill far more people per year than heroin and cocaine combined.  Wait a minute – whaaaat?  Yes, that’s the finding – published today, November 1, 2011 – from the Center for Disease Control.  The CDC says that four times as many people die these days from prescription narcotics.  Oh, by the way, there’s also four times the number of prescriptions written for painkillers.  According to the CDC, in 2008 there were 20,044 overdose deaths from prescription drugs of various kinds.  But about two-thirds of those deaths resulted from narcotic painkillers.  Tylox.  Vicodin.  Xanax.  Oxycontin.  I had a dentist give me a Lortab prescription after a simple tooth extraction.

Are we in that much pain?  The observation brings to light the fact that our offices and workplaces need to toe the line regarding drug use.  All drug use.  Not just the illegal stuff.  Managers and supervisors need to be able to recognize that their employees are likely taking drugs of some kind.  Naturally we hope those drugs are being consumed to assist in resolving a medical issue.  But people are stressed these days.  A company would surely benefit from putting a solid substance abuse policy in place and training their employees in not only the details of the policy but also in the widespread use of various drugs.  It would open people’s eyes.  And it might even save a life. 
November 2, 2011

Ever heard of a 12-year old named Adnan Nevic?  He’s from Bosnia, and he’s got a great hope for world peace.  Adnan is the symbolic six-billionth baby, born October 12, 1999 – along with some 320,000 other babies born that same day.  His name, his face, his perspective came up again this week when the symbolic seven-billionth baby was born a couple of days ago.  Before Adnan, of course, was Matej Gaspar from Croatia, the symbolic five-billionth baby born July 11, 1987. 

Obviously, we don’t know exactly which baby born on October 31, 2011 was truly the seven-billionth individual to join this Earth.  That’s why the word “symbolic” comes into play.  Little Danica Camacho (Philippines) got her face in the news, as did Nargis of Uttar Pradesh, India, but thousands and thousands of other babies born on that day – we will never hear of them.  Never.  Not the one born with a deformed arm or the one who expired a few minutes later. 

What the whole seven-billionth baby spectacle does for me is to remind me of the breadth of our diversity.  We are different from one another.  There are lots of realities and life situations and train wrecks and incredible sadnesses in our world (and there are also round-bellied fuzzy puppies and good iced tea, too).  A friend of mine posted this quotation from Kahlil Gibran today:  “Say not ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather ‘I have found a truth.”  That sounds like “a truth” to me.  It is my hope that when we go to work our jobs, when we labor to earn that paycheck at the end of the month, we can demonstrate a little patience and understanding and appreciation and tolerance for those who think differently than we do.  That’s a hard task, to be sure.  But it is – a truth.  And it makes me wonder why so many companies balk at offering diversity training.  Becoming more aware, more patient, more tolerant – that’s got to be a good thing, not only for your individual employees but, by extension, for your company as well.  Can’t we all just get along?  Another hard task and, yes, another example of a truth that’s badly needed in our close-up worlds.

November 3, 2011

Today I’m thinking about sexual harassment.  Naturally, it’s been in the news lately because a reporter, investigating the background of presidential hopeful Herman Cain, discovered that Mr. Cain had been charged with sexual harassment back in the 1990s.  Mr. Cain asserts that he has never sexually harassed anyone.  Yet, apparently the two women who charged him with harassment won a monetary award because of his oft-forgotten transgressions.

I know that approximately 85% of sexual harassment cases are filed by women.  Look up that statistic on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission government website if you need further proof (http://www.eeoc.gov).  I wish for once that a case where a man has felt that the behavior of his female colleague, or mayor, or CEO, or attorney, or professor was unwelcome and that he had been victimized by her.  Perhaps – but not likely – having a man speak up might make other men realize that sexual harassment is, well, harassing behavior.  Harassing, as in you’re a jerk to treat me in this manner, or to prevent me from succeeding in this workplace, behavior.  Not welcome. 

Think back to all of the cases that have caught the nation’s attention.  You must start with the classic Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill case from the early 1990s.  By the way, after that caught the public’s attention, the number of lawsuits alleging sexual harassment jumped 50% -- 50%! – after the Thomas/Hill debacle.  Suddenly it was okay to discuss this uncomfortable matter in public.  Then there was Bill Clinton, of course. There was a significantly scandalous case in middle Tennessee regarding a powerful university administrator.  Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Dominic Strauss-Kahn.  Herman Cain.  I could go on…

I think that cases such as Wal-mart’s front-page litigation, where women filed a class action suit, should be renamed gender harassment or perhaps gender discrimination, not sexual harassment.  But that’s a topic for another day, because it still makes my blood boil that so much gender harassment and wage inequity still exists.

November 10, 2011

Okay, I’m going to start with the whole “eating the elephant” theory.  That’s the approach that in order to tackle any large, pachydermish project, especially one that seems as formidable as ingesting an entire elephant that weighs perhaps 10 tons, you must start small.  Take it little by little.  Chip away here, and then chip away there.  One step, or one bite, at a time, as it were. 

This theory depends upon the notion that there is an end to accomplish eventually, that an endgame exists.  That once you have moved through the stubby legs, the massive sides, the tree-sized trunk, the leathery ears, that eventually you’ll have nothing left but one last chewy bite of swishy tail.  And you can declare yourself victorious at having finished the entire gastronomic feat of eating an elephant. 

I want to transfer this theory to my new-found status as an unemployed person.  One would naturally presume that the objective is simply to locate another job.  But the endgame of this elephant is too fuzzy for me to perceive.  Today is Day 8 of unemployment (not counting weekends).  And in those eight days, I have accomplished several respectable steps.  I ordered new business cards.  I placed an ad in a tech magazine, due to come out in January, that will reach 10,000 people.  I attended a women’s luncheon where networking underscores the group’s entire organizational philosophy, and I handed out a few homemade business cards (the “real” one haven’t yet arrived).  I created a web presence of which I am proud, a task that included teaching myself how to bitchslap a recalcitrant cheap web software that came with no instructions.  And I read a book, cleaned the refrigerator, and got new brakes on my car.  Yes, I have spent the 64 “working” hours in prime fashion.

But here’s the deal.  I don’t know what kind of job I (hard swallow here) really want.  I’m smart.  I can do most anything I put my mind to (re: bitchslap statement above).  I know that I am pleased with myself after teaching a good class.  I feel good.  Proud.  Like I have accomplished something.  Improved somebody’s life in some small way. 

So I am proceeding with the presumption that what I really want to do is to have my own freelance training business.  I know for certain that leaving the place where I was employed was the right move (bye-bye reliable paycheck).  The scanty ethics of those individuals and my own ethics were never going to match.  As I review my entire career, in fact, there are only two supervisors I totally respected (AJB and WTS).  So I guess that awareness translates into the axiom that I need to be my “own boss.”  But, wow, what a huge and frightening endeavor that is.  It’s massive.  Elephantine, one might say.  Ketchup, anyone?

November 11, 2011

I finished reading Jon Acuff’s book Quitter today.  The book offers some excellent advice on how to move from your “day job” (which you probably don’t enjoy that much) to your “dream job” (which is an integral part of the American Dream).  If I’m really living the American Dream Job, I scoot off to work – and it’s obviously a nice, short commute, no worries about time of travel or gas prices or the loud knocking sound whenever I turn the defroster on – and arrive at the job with the convenient parking space that does indeed take eight, nine hours of my day but it’s one at which I am serenely happy.  I contribute.  I make a palpable difference in lots of people’s lives.  I improve the world by the astuteness of my observations and the accuracy of my charts and graphs and diagrams of appropriate sewer piping.  In short, I rock.

I have a nice lunch, empower even more people after lunch, and scoot back home in the afternoon to my 3-bedroom, 2½ bathroom, all brick home with a freshly manicured lawn.  And when I open the front door, Jon Acuff’s very best advice starts to break down.  Jon is, as you might presume, a guy.  When he arrives home, his lovely wife and his two beautiful children greet him with happy smiles.  The non-shedding dog and the pleasantly scented cat stand guard nearby, wagging and swishing (respectively) their tails.  Jon now has down time.  He is able to enjoy the nutritious, delicious meal his wife has prepared, and he is careful not to spill any of the salad dressing on the starched and ironed linen tablecloth. 

Jon’s book fails to acknowledge that for Partner 1 to be wholly successful, Partner 2 has done a whale of work behind the scenes.  (To be fair, Jon does include conversations he and his wife had).  In other words, Jon’s book is decidedly from a male perspective.  He doesn’t emphasize enough, IMHO, the roles and the endless duties that are still relegated to the female half of the equation.  And these roles and endless duties make a person tired.  Yes, grumpy.  And often feeling like Sisyphus, who, once he achieves the monumental task of pushing that rock all the way uphill, gravity asserts itself and the rock – and the basket of laundry – rolls back downhill in an endless cycle.

Besides gender roles, the second issue Jon simply can’t see is that of age.  Jon is, I believe, in his mid-30s.  He has perhaps thirty years of meaningful work ahead of him.  Jon includes a helpful “scorecard” near the end of Quitter to help the reader determine whether he/she is authentically ready to quit his/her day job.  But there are two or three inquiries he should add to the scorecard.  For instance: 53.  Stuck in this job for the past ten years with no possible hope of promotion and no salary advance for the past four years.  = +10 points.    54.  Your house is already paid for, and you put a new roof on just three years ago.  = +15 points.    I understand completely that those of Jon’s age group, the Gen Xers, probably are not in the situation where they are already home owners rather than mortgagers.  But having done the hard work already to get that house paid off?  That’s no small feat, to be sure.  I am reminded of the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where Towanda (Kathy Bates) politely says to the two young female drivers that she was waiting for this particular parking space they rudely power into.  They toss off a breezy, “Face it; we’re younger and faster!”  In response, Towanda batters their VW bug and, with a smirk, says “Girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.”  Those of us who are already receiving invitations to join AARP should get a few points by default, I reckon. 

Jon’s book is excellent.  I’m going to recommend it to other readers, even to those in my age group.  But in the next blog post, I will explore one other point Jon fails to mention.  Maybe it’s from sheer innocence; maybe it’s never happened to him in his positions at AutoTrader and his other multiple work sites.  It’s called politics.  Item # 55.  Inhabit a job where what you know doesn’t really matter, it’s who you know; i.e., work in a highly charged political environment. = +50 points.   Maybe we need to rethink his scorecard.