Meh

My wife and I are well-suited.  Her strengths complement my weaknesses.  My strengths do the same for her weaknesses.  We both help the other with a soapbox commentary on blogs and Facebook posts.  I get on one (sometimes), and she helps me back away from publicizing commentary that makes me sound like the old opinionated Chief I am.

And then we tend to have random -topic conversation on the way to COSTCO.

“Meh.   I just love the videos that have goats interacting with people.”  My dearest love continued, “Meh?   I wonder if that really is a word.  Or just a sound?   Sounds like a goat.”

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There was a time when I might have known the origin of this.  I was raised to be both physically-active and a bookworm.  But I digress.

In the decades before iPhones and Androids,  I might read a lot of books to invigorate my vocabulary; these days not so much.  On my smartphone, Internet dictionaries tell me “meh” in indeed a word.

Meh: used to express indifference or mild disappointment

No less an authority but the Merriam-Webster dictionary tells me it has been a word in common use since 1992.

What other words became part of the lexicon in 1992?

  • arm-candy
  • cyber
  • Gen X
  • time suck

With everyone using text, Snapchat, Twitter, or other app – the spoken word is probably going to disappear.   The written word is already only trendy – but is my stock in trade  so I cannot believe it will ever become an archaeological artifact.   Is language going to hell?   Meh!

Not just the sound goats make.  At least this post has not been a time suck.

iphone with snapshot logo on screen
Photo by Tim Savage on Pexels.com

Ask the Chief: interview skills

 The world’s third oldest profession*.

When I was a younger Sailor,  traveling from foreign port to foreign port,  I encountered a lot of outgoing people engaged as vendors, tour guides, shopkeepers and restaurant owners.   Often their families were the wait staff that ran these places or made the things that provided their living.  When your livelihood depends on people, there is an advantage in being a “people person”.

When I was a kid,  I was actually an introvert.  A gangling kid with poor eyesight,  I was not the best athlete nor a glib talker and jokester.  From several moves, a lot of activities that caught my interest,  studying people, and experience in several professions from ranching to construction,  furniture sales and auto parts counter work, I got to talking with and taking an interest in people.  I worked as a bartender and waiter before I went into the military.   One of my dreams, long before I became a technical worker in the telecommunications industry, was opening a bar or restaurant based on what I visited in foreign places.    A kind of dive that had “atmosphere”.   With all that experience of these exotic places and tourists from every part of the world I thought it would be fun.   I had been working in bars and restaurants prior to my military service so it was somewhat familiar.   I learned to speak, or at least communicate in  three foreign languages, Spanish, French and Russian.

The service industry depends on people-skills as well as a strong work ethic.  Marketing.  Being a good listener as well as an observant and diligent service provider.  And have a good memory for people’s names, their likes, and so on.   In France in he early 1990s I saw the “smash sandwich” vendors – paninis as America now knows them – and thought it was a novel idea to bring to these shores.  With the buxom women staffing these kiosks, the Toulon vendors served a lot of sandwiches.   In Turkey, shoeshine boys mobbed visitors, appearing at the dock where our ship’s water taxis deposited them. These  kids knew how to say “shoe shine” and  make small talk about sports, whether you were an American sailor, a Brit, an Arab or perhaps even Chinese tourist.  Even sailors wearing sneakers were not overlooked by boys with pats of shoe polish.    In the markets, almost every vendor spoke some foreign tongue.

Interviewing, like selling,  takes skill and people-smarts

Just as there are people who do not understand the difference between “selling” and “buying”,   there are people who do not understand that the interview is a skill that one perfects.   Preparation,  listening, knowing what and how, to answer a question is part of the interview.   Confidence, balanced with humility,  and understanding the requirements of the job being sought as well as knowing something of you prospective employer, can win the interview.

Technical professionals I have coached have earned an offer of employment, not only from their preparation, but knowing how to “answer the question being asked” with sufficient detail, but not enough to get bogged down.   It is a marketing opportunity to show that you will be an asset to those doing the hiring, but not telling them as much.  And to win their trust, through your personality and likeability.

I know others who are successful gardeners,  pool men, insurance agents and financial counselors.  Some are musicians.  Others are artists and writers.   And still others with a love for and enough experience in hunting, fishing, camping or motor sports, they made professions as guides and teachers.  And they connect with their clients and employers, with the same people-smarts.

 

Commitment and self-improvement

Practicing interviews, such as the “elevator talk” or meeting people in social settings, is valuable.  Listening to people’s names and observing details about those you converse with, not only makes the other person feel valued, but aids in your ability to connect with your message.

Books I have read recently and recommend to everyone,  engineer, actor, or military member in transition,   include  How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Gabor (Simon & Shuster),  and the classic,   How to Win Friends and Influence People , by Dale Carnegie.   Another great read and short,  is The One Minute Sales Person, by Spencer Johnson, MD, and Larry Wilson (Harper Collins).  There are also many good books and websites on personal development, the interviewing process in the social media age as well.

 

Selling “you”

In a job interview,  a prepared and confident person builds a relationship and earns trust with the interviewer and the employer.  Beyond the hiring process,  as an employee or consultant, you continue being a student of the company, the people you meet, and learning by asking the right questions.  There is also the times and places you can market yourself for new opportunities in the company, and by demonstrating value – increasing the bottom line,  can use the same interviewing skills to ask for raises as well.

As a manager, you are still engaged in the sales profession.  Whether as team leader, morale booster,  mentor,  recruiter or  discipline agent, you still show the “customer” the value of the company and role that person fills,  which provides their needs and their relationship to the team.

 

People do not want to be “sold” but they do want to “buy”

Just as someone who shops for a new vehicle, kitchen appliance, or bringing on a new team member,  the skill is in recognizing what motivates, interests or is valued by the customer.   A customer looking for the security of business insurance is not going to respond to the agent’s ‘hot buttons’.  And an employer is not going to be encouraged by a prospective employee’s focus on pay rate, vacation earned  or working hours.

Interviewing requires diligent effort and practice.   But the military member also has what many other applicants lack.   Focus.  Endurance.  Attention to detail. And maturity.  As well as experience working under stressful situations and deadlines.  So take charge and carry out your mission.  Interview, interview, interview.  And I have benefited from fifty years of practice.  I am no longer gangling, nor introverted.  I have been a recruiter and meet people everywhere I go.  Though my best friends will tell me I am still not “glib”.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.     – Senior Chief (Ret.)

 

* Wikipedia repeats the quote attributed to Ronald Reagan that a politician is the second-oldest profession.  Prostitution is frequently quipped as the “oldest” profession.

 

Military, Active, Reserve or Retired:

  • If you live in, or are moving to,  the San Diego area,  

  • In the market for a new home, or refinancing an existing one?

Contact Doug Diemer:

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Consider this a personal testimonial as he made my VA Refinance a very smooth transaction in 2016.   I receive no compensation for any referral. 

Self-made

Do you think “outside the box”?  In other words, when you were a child were you chided for coloring outside the lines in a coloring book or for using “wrong” color crayons for subjects?  Did you ask a lot of questions? Were you someone who could ace your tests in school but were bored with rules, homework, and projects that “wasted” your time?   At work, do you get easily frustrated with the forms, chain of approvals, and eventual denial of your ideas for improving productivity?

Why is it that some of the best marketers and entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings, school dropouts and the like?  Perhaps these individuals are an anomaly.  Scholarly articles on the subject of entrepreneurship indicate that past success, “coloring outside the lines”, and stellar educational credentials predispose a person to be a successful entrepreneur,  it is not necessarily required to make a successful venture.    Some of the people I  am familiar with personally have built businesses though focused effort and personal ambition.  Yet many of today’s workers never achieve a level of comfort that is not mortgaged (homes,  cars, recreational vehicles).  We all become chained to our standard of living because of company health plans, steady paycheck and known, if not satisfying expectations.   Whatever happened to the people who threw everything they owned into a covered wagon and headed West into the undeveloped land in the 1800s?

What happened to the “American Dream”?

As one of the last Baby Boomers,  I have spent more than forty years. half in the military and half in the private sector, employed by someone else’s vision.  A year before I turn sixty,  I am wondering whether playing by “rules”, following the “Baby Boomer” model of (1) get a good education, (2a) join the military,  (2b) get a good job ,  and (3) through hard work and long working hours/effort  buy into the “American Dream”.  Is getting married, raising kids to have the same dreams, sending them to college; and retiring comfortably at some age around sixty or sixty-five still possible?  Somehow in the  past forty years, everything got more expensive,  taxes, fees,  and legal restrictions got ever-more difficult to compensate in order to obtain that retirement.  And so, for many, a second-income became necessary just to stay “even”.

Entrepreneurs are self-made

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was not born into wealth.  He was the son of a teenage mom, and adopted by his mother’s second husband (who had arrived from Cuba a few years earlier knowing only a few words in English).  He held a variety of jobs growing up.  Brilliant and obsessed to make a better life, he was a garage-inventor.  Perhaps the early struggles in his family, helped him focus on academic achievement, which in turn lead him to Princeton. When he decided later to follow his passion, it was then he founded what would become Amazon.   And we know how successful Amazon has become.

Richard Branson, son of an attorney in England, has childhood dyslexia.  He dropped out of school and at sixteen founded a music magazine.  The billionaire founder of the Virgin group began with money from that venture to found a music studio.   Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Corp, was a brilliant college dropout who created the company in his parent’s garage.  While Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard after very impressive scholastic achievement, he certainly built Facebook from a combination of intellect and ambition.  Logan Green and John Zimmer , former college students, created the ride-sharing service from improvements they learned from a service Zimmer built to help college students get around via Craigslist and Facebook linking.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century,  my maternal great-great-uncle, Philip Ward, an impoverished immigrant from Belfast (then Ulster) Ireland, established a mail-order business ( Bullock and Ward), in Chicago and the Mid-West, a rival to Sears, Roebuck and J.C. Penneys.  It did well until the beginning of the First World War.   Other maternal Irish family forebears had built businesses in the linen trade and chocolates (confections) in Ireland that prospered up until the Second World War.   My paternal ancestors came to New York from Poland and became tradesmen and entrepreneurs, engineers and shopkeepers.

Members of my family and extended family have been motivated by necessity  as well as intellect to have successful careers.   A Registered Nurse and single mother who went to school, worked, and raised her children, excelling at each to create a balanced life.  Mothers who achieved position and higher income with the largest corporations to support their families.  Entrepreneurs and marketing trainers who helped a national network improve their businesses.   And  some have followed a path a little more  “outside the lines” to create opportunity for themselves and for others through a nationally recognized  network marketing firm.

Find your why

What sort of vacation have you taken this year?   What trade-off have you made to have that new(er) car so you can get to work?    How often have you used that 5th wheel in your driveway since you signed the payment plan?    What size apartment have you been limited to because of income?  Are you working harder and longer to pay for the child-care for your kids?  Do you spend more time ill or seeing a specialist than enjoying mid-life?

For me,  I have driven eighty (80) miles or more every work-day for eleven years to my employer.    And that employer pays me enough now, to pay for my home – small that it is – and my new used car, but also means that my wife also has to work very long hours to  pay our bills and hope for retirement someday.    We do not have a pile of money.  And the years spent in search of “retirement” is perhaps the motive for wanting something better.

 Finding “time and money”

The old saying about being able to have time OR money, but not both has certainly had some application in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century.   But the additional reality is that your Government will take its cut of whatever you do extra.    However, the way to continue to earn is through residual income. That is income that continues  and increases beyond your own effort and time to earn it.

And with health problems for the last twenty years, a focus on healthy living and exercise – so I can afford to “retire” and ENJOY it – are reasons I chose to get involved with Beach Body.   I’ve seen what a niece has built through diligent effort -hard work- over eight years, in that she overcame health issues, and can work from home – a home her business afforded herself and her husband, while being mom to her two kids.  And she has been actively involved helping about 1600 people through her business build income and better lives in the process.

Like everything else in life,  the amount of effort put into an education, a career, a business venture, or a personal life is directly responsible for the achievement.   In the military, just about everyone who maintains an “average” performance can retire after twenty years with an average stipend. But additional effort and preparation can result in someone being selected as a Chief Petty Officer.  And of those,  even more effort, preparation, and focus, someone may retire as a Senior Chief ( or Master Chief).   With effort, and single-minded focus, someone may achieve an Amazon,  an Apple, a Facebook.  or a Beach Body enterprise.    Or even the 6 AM commute, ten-hour day, and 5 PM commute home.

Entrepreneurs.   Work Ethic plus an American ( or Latino, Canadian or British) Dream.

I have to go.  I need to go workout.

If you want to know more about an opportunity to get healthier, or help your child who loves the gym but is working double-shifts all the time,  check out  BeachBody

 

maybe I shouldn’t

 

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;  – Proverbs 1:32

Another blogger I follow published a story of a workman in a farming community who ignorantly, but purposely, set a blaze to burn cut brush in very dry conditions.  It was a day with a light breeze.  And it was next to fields that provide this blogger’s animals’ feed.   Another quick-reacting farmer cut a fire-break that minimized the destruction that would have been – to the surrounding fields and forest.

My wife recounted by phone to me mid-day a terrifying encounter on a highway with a fool speeding behind her by inches, screaming, throwing the “finger” around, and swerving around and slamming on brakes.  Worse still, he was taking pictures of her with a cell phone.  A maniac on a mission to kill himself or others.  She was shaken but unscathed.  And her passenger, returning from a cardiac treatment, safe as well.  And the often-maligned law enforcement officers were not present to intercept “road rage”.

A train operator in a large metropolitan center on the U.S. East Coast was distractedly using a cellphone while a train was traveling through an area too rapidly to navigate a turn.  Of course it crashed.  Because the automated speed-control feature of the track had not been installed at that time.  In the IOT (Internet of Things),  we are not yet at the future our futurist movies depict.  But then fallible humans design them.

A Navy ship with a highly-advanced navigation console, but relatively unfamiliar operators and overly confident command authority, collided with a commercial ship. It resulted in death, destruction, and ruined lives and careers.  This week, a social media post by a popular American television star, blatantly and undeniably abhorrent, resulted in firing and the show’s cancellation.  A  fool’s big mouth resulted in lost jobs for all those behind the scenes.

Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil. – Plato

People are often responsible – or irresponsible – for many problems that beset us.  Many times, of course, the things that plague mankind including influenza or wildfires, earthquakes or volcanoes are beyond human control.   But then, building a community on an active earthquake fault or on an island (Hawaii) created by an active volcano is by human design.

These behaviors and consequences are reasons to find comfort and instruction in the Proverbs of the Bible, wisdom of the ancient Greek philosophers, or other contemplative authors.   Human behavior has been the same for thousands of years. Only the technology has changed.

Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971  via http://www.quotegarden.com

Quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com except where noted

when the lights go out

Sometimes the best lighting of all is a power failure.  Douglas Coupland / http://www.brainyquote.com

I swear I only measured the voltage of the dead lamp.  I didn’t cause the whole neighborhood at that moment to go dark.

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Determining the reason why that fixture was bad was on my to-do list for six days.  In my garage, I have a cheap light fixture – the one dime-store novels feature in the dingy hotel rooms or corridors – mounted above the kitchen door.  One evening, I switched on the light switch – and the lamp went on.  I turned it off when I was done.  I turned it on again and it immediately went dark.   Seems simple enough but can be easily tested whether the light bulb burned out.   That’s where life steps in and pushes down on the to-do list.    Fast -forward to today.   Motivated,  I finally recalled where I put my digital multimeter (one of three I have) in an accessible tool bag.  I hypothesized  – I am an engineering test guy – the light switch itself went bad.     But just as touched the meter a second time to the fixture, the house and garage and outside went pitch black. Without a sound.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. Edgar Allan Poe
/www.brainyquote.com

Fumbling in the dark to find my cell phone just inside on the dining table a few feet away,  I found the “flashlight” function.  First thing through my head was the thought, were I at sea, I would have myself chewed out by myself for being so ill-prepared and untrained for emergencies.   O brother!   But before I could get all my protective gear,  tool bag and batten down the hatches,  the lights snapped back on.    My mind did not go to all the dark places, when I second-guess my actions.   I mean, really.  I just came home from a bible study group I lead tonight. I was still feeling the glow of good participation and feedback.

I wonder if this was like the last power failure where a guy hit the wrong switch by mistake.  That error a few years ago shut down virtually everything in Southern California for several hours. A “training opportunity.”   Tonight, with everything back up within a minute told me that it was human error again.

It’s a lot like my work right now.  I have a broken device, some confusing email, and my boss has absolute confidence I will determine the problem now that I am back to work.  Can you get it resolved by Thursday? Thanks.    No pressure.  I just need to run through everything myself.  I could sure use a power failure at work about noon tomorrow – maybe for a week?   Thanks.