Thursday, December 31, 2009

That Was The Year That Was

And so another year - indeed, another decade grind to an end. I sit here in New Home as I write this evening, the sound of fire crackers punctuating the windy, cold evening silence.

And what a year it has been: laid off in January, getting a new job in a new state in June, living alone until August, moving the family to New Home in August, selling the house in Old Home in December. Almost entirely in a single year, the warp and woof of my life has been completely altered in ways that I suspect will only make their impact known in the years to come looking back.

A humbling year as well. I have never been in the position of losing my job not by choice, nor of the futility of not having another one just "pop" into place - indeed, almost feeling like one was begging to get one. It was humbling as well to have to rent a room, living in a space that was not in anyway my own, away from my family for 2.5 months. And the whole house sale - being completely dependent on the bank to make their decision to allow the sale of my house to go through -was not only a good reminder of the Biblical adage "The borrower is the slave of the lender" but, again, a humbling experience of coming with hat in hand.

It is of passing note for introspective purposes that in fact our net worth is actually less than when we entered this decade. Even in the financial realm, it's as if a great wave washed through and washed out the last ten years.

A great wave. It's an apt metaphor perhaps for the Greatest Wave of all: The Sovereignty of God.

Because, deep down, I am forced to confront the fact that in spite of all that I have done and not done, of the errors created and successes achieved by me, all of this has occurred according to God's plan. I cannot see it, nor can fully ascertain (if I ever will be) what all has occurred.

But it does give some comfort that, surrounded by change in virtually every aspect of my life, that God is still in control of this as well, guiding things for His eternal glory and my temporal benefit, even if I cannot see it. And it fills me with a sense of anticipation for next year, to see why God brought us here and disrupted (from a human standpoint) our lives.

And I suppose that is not an entirely unfitting thought to end the 2009 blog year - a year of change but a year of God's sovereignty revealed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bookstore Bonanza

Yesterday evening I did what for me is the equivalent of binge drinking: I went to a used book store having a 20% off sale by myself, with no timetable.

Dear Lord, the intoxication of it all.

I have reached the point at which used bookstores hold a greater hold on me than new bookstores. Why? One of course is price: a used hardcover can be had for $6.00? $7.00? Try that at a new bookstore.

The other - and perhaps the more engaging reason - is that it's a great adventure. I can pretty well predict what I will find in any new bookstore; used bookstores, not so much. Who knows what editions I will find, what off the wall subjects I will suddenly become interested in, what old books from 30 years ago I will suddenly remember by seeing a cover and triggering a memory? The voyage of discovery alone is worth it.

And 20% off? Try that at a new bookstore.

I ended up acquiring my usual miscellany of subjects: Lew Wallace's Ben Hur, Japanese Fortified Temples and Monasteries, Osaka 1614-1615: The Last Samurai Battle, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Japanese Art of War by Thomas Cleary, and The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for Transformation of a Culture by Vindal and Ruth Mangalwadi. It will keep me busy over this long holiday weekend with a lot of reading and pondering.

There is not a better feeling in the world than walking out to the car with a pile of books you paid only $26.00 for.

Except for the thought, "You know, the sale runs until tomorrow..."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Virtual Monday

So it's arrived: The virtual Monday of the last work week of the year.

I could tell I was back by the fact that my ability to sleep through the night magically went away and I woke up far before the alarm instead of gracefully coming out of sleep.

In a way, I can tell my time away was a good one simply because I did not think of work once. Not a single time - no "I forgot to take care of this" or "There are five things I have to do when I get back". Which is great for vacation of course - but it all comes rolling down on your head all the harder when you get back.

Which, I suppose, should tell me something else.

I read Gene Logsdon's The Last of the Husbandmen: A Novel of Farming Life which I got for Christmas yesterday. I love anything that Logsdon writes so that alone was a pleasure; the fact that the book chronicles the fictional life of a young man who essentially comes back to traditional farming as a career and the life he and his extended family live over a forty five year period. There is something in reading his books, even in going up to The Ranch, that gives me a deep sense of rootedness that I fail to get when I contemplate leaving this computer and getting ready to go to work this morning.

Just random thoughts on a virtual Monday I suppose. But the thought still nags me: in the past decade, I've had 6 different jobs, bought two houses and sold one at a loss, and now lived in four different locations. For guy that (apparently) values rootedness and stability, I don't seem to be living my conviction.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Old Home Farewell

On 24 December 2009 at 1030, I left the last part of 5 years of my life behind. We packed up the last garden items into the truck and left Old Home for good. The house recorded later that day.

It was a bizarre feeling: we walked through the house one last time, where 4.5 of our lives had been spent. Going through sparked different memories: a spirograph that Nighean gheal had left on her window when we moved; the dirty spot right above the baseboard in our closet where my desk was and where I rested my feet; the bedroom that I had painted and then told The Ravishing Mrs. TB "You watch - we'll have to move out of state; the asparagus in back, dormant for the winter, waiting to be cut back and then be cut in spring for the first time. All of this mingled in the background of family events and Thanksgivings and Christmases and Nighean dhonn's birth, loomed over by the specter of The Firm, which had made it all possible.

And so out the door we went, shook hands with our Realtor, got in the truck, and drove away.

I've been asked numerous times since then "You must feel a great sense of relief". My response is always the same: "Not really. It's been so distant to me for so many months now, sort of dragging on out of my control, that it's less a sense of relief than a sense of 'one more thing off the list.' As an event, it simply is not registering."

But there is a sense I suppose - a sense that is not quite fully registered yet - of finally being at an end: an end of The Firm, an end of 5 years of self-imposed financial instability, an end (if I think about it) of a period of whipsawing back and forth between careers and directions. 2010 will be, if nothing else, a year of new beginnings.

And perhaps that in itself is a reason for rejoicing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I am fighting with a bout of passionlessness this week.

About everything: work, home, family, relationships, activities, just life in general.

Let me clear: it is not depression - or at least, not directly. It's a sense of doing things - anything- and taking no pleasure about it.

It is what drives mid life crises, I thing: a combination of realizing that the payoff to almost everything we do in our day is much less than we thought it would be, a knowledge that the things that we believed when younger which we would have turned to to stave off these feelings will not change things significantly as we used to believe they would, but the desire to feel about the things in our life the way we used to.

I am realizing that I want to be passionate in my life. I want passion: raw, throbbing passion. I want to be excited about life, not simply existing in it from day to day. I want to be enthused, to be touched in the deep core of my being instead of just exist from day to day on the outskirts of myself, going through the motions of daily living .

It's as if I feel like I am disconnected from my own emotions, that they have gone into some big void in my center and have not come out, replaced by the ability to get through each day - maybe even a defense mechanism created by these same emotions to deal with the fact that they lament where I am in my life now.

But passion is not emotion. I can still experience emotion - more often anger or depression than anything else these days - without any greater sense of being passionate after the fact. In some ways it almost feels like an semi-automated response.

But it's a fair statement to say I have no desire to go on this way. It's like digging through the rind of an orange which only seems to continue to get thicker every day without getting to the fruit.

Again, I think it is was drives the middle age crisis - especially for men: that grasping after something, maybe indefinable for them, that they felt the experienced once but can no longer feel, and the desperation to do anything - anything!-to find that passion once again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The House

We got word today: House in Old Home will close on Thursday. An ironic Christmas present?

Ironic? Yes. This is forcing me to confront (once again) all of my old ghosts from The Firm.

Simply put, this was not the way things were supposed to end. This house was emblematic of my new career and new started: the house (paid off by now, of course, due to superior planning), a successful fellow in my new field, well on my way to achieving financial independence.

Needless to say, things have taken a different path. As a point of comparison, our net worth now is less than it was 10 years ago.

I just feel...spent. Collapsed. Happy...Happy? Happy is not really the word. Not even relief, I suppose - just a weary sort of sense that it's done. At last. A tired end to a five year saga.

What happens now? I don't really know. I have been consistently shocked by the amount of damage my unemployed period did to our finances. I had thought that it was blip in our year; the reality is, we had redlined things so much that it will take us far longer than I had anticipated to dig ourselves back out.

Another house? I laugh to myself. I figure at this point, my credit is somewhere next to that of a change machine in a supermarket.

Which is an odd place to find myself again. It's as if the one thing that I have desired, stability, has been moved out of my life.

Or pride perhaps. Going through this process has been a humbling experience - although probably not humbling enough! You become dependent on so many things: the buyer, the bank, the kindness of so many that have helped this process go through.

I'm undecided if I'll go back to see the house one last time as we visit Old Home this Christmas. In so many ways, it represents a failure to me - not only a failure to hold the line, to provide, but a failure of dreams and aspirations.

And those are the hardest failures of all.

Christmas Again

And so here we are at the week of Christmas again.

In speaking with The Ravishing Mrs. TB this weekend as she made her trek back to Old Home, she commented that she would be driving by where we vacationed last January and could she Na Clann the area we were in. Her comment was "Wow, a lot has sure changed in a year."

Her comment gave me pause for thought as I sat here in New Home with myself, the dog and the rabbits, waiting to trek myself. A huge amount of things have changed this year - if we're blessed, by the end of the year our lives will essentially have completely made over in the course of a year.

Made over? We live in a different place, attend a different church and different schools, have a different job, are separated from our families which for most of our lives have been within 2 hours of us, and are (finally) digging out of the last elements of a decision with the Firm made 5 years ago.

And then comes Christmas.

Christmas, the annual of reminder of Emmanuel (God with us), God reaching down from Heaven to us, reaching us where we are.

Where we are. Even if we're not where we've been, even if the rhythm of our celebrations is completely changed, even if it doesn't "feel" right.

It's a guide beacon for the year, even as Sunday is a guide beacon for the week: a place and time that brings us back to something beyond ourselves, forcing out the year and its events back to the back of our consciousness for a time, forcing us to focus on the realities which exist beyond those things which are our daily (or annual) grind.

May this Christmas find each of us stopped in our lives, even as the shepherds were, looking at The Star.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


"I do think one of the worst sins a man can be guilty of in this world is to be idle. I can almost forgive a drunkard, but a lazy man I do think there is very little pardon for. I think a man who is idle has as good a reason to be a penitent before God as David had when he was an adulterer, for the most abominable thing in the world is for a man to let the grass grow up to his ankles and do nothing. God never sent a man into the world to be idle. And there are some who make a tolerably fair profession, but who do nothing from one year's end to the other." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Star Trek and Better

I watched the most recent addition to the Star Trek last night which came out this year. I was not necessarily interested in seeing it - I am a child of the original series, so of course everything that thinkers with the original concept is always a bit suspect in my book -but none the less (at The Ravishing Mrs. TB's prompting) went ahead and watched it.

How pleasantly surprised I was - beyond the effects (which were very cool), I found a relatively engaging story that was (I think) pretty true to the original concept of the franchise. Yes, I know, they've overused the time travel thing a bit, but at least less so than they did in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

But the thing that was most engaging to me - almost surprisingly - was the concept of James T. Kirk as a young man who, wandering off into the land of wasted dreams, is challenged by Captain Christopher Pike to live a better life "Your father saved 800 lives. You can do better."

It had a strong resonance within me, especially as I look at my day to day existence, where (especially at work) I can almost palpably feel the bar setting getting set lower, as the realities of completing things seem to take over those "lines in the sand" that I continually draw. It's as if I am settling lower, not higher, in my daily existence.

But I should tell myself with Pike "You can do better."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I wish I had something meaningful to say, Lord:
Something of value, something of glory to you.
But instead, today, I have gray.
Big puffy clouds of gray that swirl with moisture and humidity,
or maybe with my tears and frustration.

That's what it feels like, Lord: A fog.
A sightless, amorphous fog
which obscures shapes and clouds vision,
deadening sound and light,
leaving only a sense of oppression of spirit.

As the sun behind the clouds,
shining though not seen,
so too are you here now Lord,
are present behind all that is now.

But right now, I cannot see or feel that:
I can only feel the clinging dampness
and smell the mustiness
and see, not the Son shining in glory,
but only gray.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Integrating the Whole

I'm locked in a battle this morning as I sit here this morning: on the one hand, the load of all I have to do this week is mounting up; on the other, the sense that I need to choose to react differently.

React differently? By the time I get to work, get the computer on, and make coffee, the fix is generally already in: too much to do, too little time to do it, what won't I get done today, what emergencies will occur, how long will I have to stay. And I haven't yet logged in.

What that creates, it occurs to me, is a sense of futility in work (and to a lesser extent, in life) as well as preparing my mindset to be in the defensive mode. What I need to do is change that to something else (I won't be bold enough to say positive at this point - just something else).

So here's the crux: how do I do that?

I can assure you that PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) is not enough. That has been tried numerous times, and inevitably gets wiped out as soon as the first big emergency occurs.

Scripture works better - maybe holds out until Tuesday, until it, too, gets overtaken by the realization that trying to have an attitude as a good worker does not make the work any more interesting or even doable.

So what is it? I think I know.

Perhaps it is simply the process of not investing ourselves so totally in our work that we only come to confuse our work with our lives.

By the time I am midway through the day, I am equating myself with my ability to complete everything on my plate. My whole world is essentially focused around this sliver of life (I say sliver because, when I go [as inevitably will happen], all the effort that is not self knowledge will simply turn to paper dust) instead of life as a totality, an integrated whole.

And I want that so badly - that life as an integrated whole - that perhaps I try to substitute the activity that I spend the most time at as that integration instead of putting work into the larger context of my life.

Wow. That's a pretty deep thought for 0600 in the morning.

But that's it, isn't it - or maybe part of it anyway. An integrated life. A sense that who I am and what I do are internally consistent, instead of trying to straddle parts and collapsing into the middle.

So how does one integrate - or in my case, step away from the cliff?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Time and Money

I had mentioned last week that I have been working more - closer to 50 hours a week than the standard 40 - and feeling a bit run down, behind the eight ball, and just downright miserable - but after all , you have to do it: you know, take one for the team, not getting paid by the hour, etc. etc.

It bothered me to the point that I started noodling figures around in my head. So I did a little subtracting and dividing. And gave myself the shock of my life: for every week I "donate" my time, I cut my hourly pay and salary by 21%.

I say the shock of my life. I mean it. If someone came up to me and said "Hey, I have an investment that will yield 21% less than what you put into it" I'd call them a fool. Apparently when I do the deed myself, it's no big deal.

The other thing that shocks me is that I willing to put 20% more effort into someone else's pocket but not my own. What is it about me that enables me to not do the one instead of the other?

Confidence maybe. Ease of taking the road more traveled: work is laid out and I know what I have to do. Personal things engage me 100%, including providing leadership and tasks for myself (which again is a confidence thing: if you're not confident you can make good decisions, you tend not to make them).

I'm not sure, but this bears more thought -and action. Donating 20% of my potential salary to someone else will run my bank account - and personal energy account - down quickly.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Telltale Coffee

Yesterday I came up with the single greatest indicator of how any company truly functions. I believe it can be applied across the board to any company, any industry, any size.

It's coffee.

More specifically, it's the coffee supply, be it in a pot, a carafe, or an airpot.

How can this be, you ask? How can a simple liquid in a simple container tell me everything I need to know about a company?

It's how often it gets filled.

Think about it. What did you learn in kindergarten (I mean, other than naptime is at 1:00)? The lessons that were reinforced at home: If you use something, put it back. If you make a mess, clean it up. Treat others as you would be treated.

But this rule apparently does not apply to coffee.

Think about it: how many times have either come to a coffee dispenser or simply watched one and found that it was empty? What was the reaction of the user - did they stop and make another pot, or did they just continue down the line of coffee dispensers (finding them all empty), shrug their shoulders in disgust, and walk on?

More often than not, they walked on. Because making coffee is not something that "important" people do - and by default, most people in their mind are "important".

If people will not do the simplest of tasks (coffee, filter, water, button) - especially after they use up the last bit - they communicate both that their needs, wants, and goals are primary and that service which may not directly benefit themselves is not a critical issue.

Too simplistic, you argue? My response is simply to look at the business or place of employ: where is the focus of the employees? Is it on service - both to customers and fellow workers - or is it merely those things which will advance first the individual involved and then the company, with fellow employees or customers being last (yes, "service" can be included in here, but it's not sincere)?

Watch carefully. And then go look to their coffee pots.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time and Priority

I met with An Dagda Mor yesterday concerning the task list I had provided him the day before. I was hopeful that it would allow some items to be removed from it, lessening my work load.

That is not what happened.

He first of all thanked me for putting the list together ("very useful") and then showed me his redline assignations of priority levels: 1, 2, 3. His comment was "Do them in priority of the number. 1 before 2, then three." He suggested a column for "action", listing what action would be taken. We talked about blocking out sections of time, even closing the office door to get things done.

You've noticed by now that nothing has come off of the list.

He then said a comment in passing that I just let lie there "You could also work a few more hours a day". He didn't dwell on it, I didn't point it out (I already work more than the standard every day), and we went on. I didn't think much of it until speaking with Fear Mor and Fear Beag, when Fear Mor said "I don't think that was an idle comment but a suggestion."

My afternoon went somewhat downhill from there.

Priorities. The priorities of life. The priorities that I set - and the priorities that are set for me. Time is finite and there are only so many hours in a day (24) or week (168) to accomplish anything.

If you're familiar with Stephen Covey, you'll know his four quadrant system: Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Important, Urgent and Not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important. Under this system, the priority of the item (urgency and importance) should determine what amount of time we spend on it. Covey's point is that the most people live in the crisis mode (always fighting the Urgent and Important) or the retreat from reality (the Not Urgent and Not Important). Only by pulling time from the other areas in quadrant II, the Not Urgent but Important, can we begin to be truly effective.

Which is where it breaks down for me. How do I tell people "Hey, your urgency does not trump my important. I'll get around to it". You know what happens: they go make commentary, and suddenly you're getting the call or the e-mail from a superior "You need to make this happen."

Likewise, how do you effectively tell work "Hey, my family takes priority" when the constant fear of not having a job looms over your head?

Like everything else, theory is great: how do I turn it into practice?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Time and Efficiency

A windy morning as I sit here in front the computer in New Home.

The wind seems to match my mood this week: blown hither and yon by elements beyond my control. There's a very real sense in my life that I am so often in very small control of events that impact it, and more often it's riding the waves rather than directing them that is the task of the day.

I know. This disagrees with most of the success literature you will read: "Control your time! Do high value items! Choose what you engage in for maximum effectiveness"! And so on. And maybe that's true in some things. But not nearly most of them.

I had to do something yesterday I have seldom (if ever) had to do: talk to my boss about work load, simply saying that "I can't do everything that I've been tasked with." I hated doing it - it's like an admission of guilt, of laziness, of failure - of putting myself one step closer to that line of being first in the event of a layoff.

But the reality is that I simply can't. Thanks to keeping track of time (see yesterday's post), I've got a better of sense of how long things take - and guess what, they inevitably take longer than someone thinks. However, I seem to consistently carry around this burden of guilt that I should be able to, or can - that somehow I can increase my efficiency to 110%, which I suppose I could do if I cut off every activity not directly related to accomplishing a needed task.

The ironic thing about that last thought is that even if I did that, it still would not necessarily correlate to efficiency. Why? Because I am still at the mercy of those winds not of my choosing.

And there is nothing sillier than being efficient at a useless task of no importance.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Use of Time

In an exercise partially driven by anger (look, there it is again) I started tracking my time at work. Nothing too complex, just 10 or 12 categories covering my general job duties. I wanted to have something to throw up the next time "how I'm using my time" came up.

What has been revealed is (to me, anyway) nothing short of amazing: I can't do everything I'm asked to do. There simply isn't enough time.

The thing that has really become evident is the extent to which those things which require time that you wouldn't expect. For example, I have a category for my direct reports. I spend about 5% of my time a week interacting with them: not necessarily about work per se, but about items of work or not even work related. Sure, I could gain back this 5% (2 hours a week, if you were counting) if I wanted - but I would lose the relationships that both make work a pleasure as well as keep the wheels greased for when emergencies truly arise and we need to call forth the extra effort.

Or the popular "other" category"- getting a drink, visiting the local restroom, even just getting up and moving around. Again, about 5% a week. Could I cut that down to 1 hour? Would it matter if I did?

What leaps out at me is that even as I look at my use of time, what I find is that time can never be used as productively as one might think when 1) You are not really in control of it; and 2) When you cannot dictate your own priorities.

"Work on higher value activities" the books say. This tends to work if you can determine your own higher value activities rather than have them determined for you.

The other thing it raises is that I may be creating an impossible situation for myself with impossible hopes: I cannot do everything. I cannot do close to everything. I can only do what I can do. More efficiently? Yes, possibly. But no level of efficiency will make all things possible, or doable - or more importantly, build the relationships that are the most important when those things disappear.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christ and Motivation

Where is Christ in my daily life?

I get so bogged down in the "realities" of dealing with life and business - schedules and timelines that have to be met, things that have to be accomplished, even trying to get a decent amount of sleep - that it feels like He often gets removed from my life -or at least shrugged off.

I suppose part of it is my own problem - after all, am I truly trying to integrate God into my day and "Live for the glory of God" in a conscious way, or do I seek to put Him into the cracks or even try to integrate Him at all?

It so often feels hard - the slowing down of activity for even a second just consciously think "God, what would you have me do here?" Or then I just get frustrated with everything that is going on, somehow associate this "fault" with God's will, and say "Fine then, I"ll just slog on through", muttering "Glory to God in the Highest" through clenched teeth.

I try to make myself angry, because at least anger I can feel and it pushes me to do something. God wants me to motivated, but not angry. The problem is, motivation is a much more difficult target because I have to find something to be motivated about. Anger, I can self create pretty effectively.

So how do I compile these two items - living to glorify God consciously in my daily life, and being motivated, not angry? I don't know, but at these two lies the fork in the road between a useful life to God and a wasted life.

A thought: What if my circumstances have been created for me to take action and I misinterpret them as being given to me to suffer through? Does God always require submission to the circumstances or action against them?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Job Fear

Another blazing light in the trail of things that are/are not important to me in a career: I don't like living in fear.

Not the general fear of business, you understand. The fear of the market, the fear of not making payroll, the fear of being laid off (although see below). These are all just part and parcel of the whole employment experience.

No, the fear I'm referring to is that fear of not performing well and being let go. Not performing well? Surely you jest - after all, I've never had a less than good review, and am generally respected and liked by my coworkers. Surely I can't be referring to me?

But I am. There is a sense at my current employment, something I've not (ever) sensed before, of always being on the radar, of the good not being recalled and the bad being emphasized, of being one step away from receiving a box for your personal things. In a kind of small way, it feels like The Terror in Jacobin France, never knowing at what hour one could get dragged away.

But to be fair, maybe feeding into this is the fear of layoff. I am surprised at the visceral reaction I have to the concept of another layoff. I understand it could happen, but there is again almost a sense of sheer terror when I contemplate it. Part of that, I suppose, is due to to where we are, which is not in a nearly as good position as in January - and the ramifications of that. But the other is a sense of helplessness that stems from the fact that it may happen again, and I can do nothing about it.

So what? Well, I think it means that I need to pay attention to another two things when I am considering a job or any career:

1) What is the history of the company? Is there open communication? Recent departures? How many and why?

2) What is the state of this industry and the company? Position of strength or weakness? What do they do and is there a demand for the next five years? Have they had layoffs, or their industry? Why?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

People or Position

I made an importantish (as C.S. Lewis would say) discovery yesterday about my career: I don't want (or need) to be a senior level executive.

(Yes, I know, you ask why I say this now in my lowly position. Stick with me.)

The realization burst on my consciousness yesterday as I was sitting amongst some coworkers at lunch, chatting about different items. Suddenly I realized: anyone above a managerial level doesn't get this.

They never get to eat lunch with the people that work under them - and when they do, the conversation is so often not free flowing but forced. They often really don't understand what is actually going on at a company: they set policy and goals, but too often don't have a pulse for what is going on beneath them, like living in California but not knowing what the slow but steady tectonic plates are doing underground.

Simply put, they just lose touch with people.

And that is actually part of my job that I like - not so much the enforcement that goes along with it, but the being able to stop by anywhere and simply have people be themselves as you interact with them, not suddenly becoming stiff or fearful or just clamming up.

Does that mean I don't ever want to be in charge? No, not saying that. I enjoy being responsible - but as long as I have the authority to go along with the responsibility. So being in charge of myself or a few others is not something to continue to work for - it's just where I do it.

What it does mean is that the idea of me continuing in industry with the hopes of rising to the senior "C" level is against the grain of what I value in human interactions and therefore not a direction to pursue.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


"Excellence, like mediocrity and poor performance, is a habit. Quality breeds quality. Do one thing well, and you will want the rest to come up to the same standard. Make habit of cutting corners, and you may begin to doubt whether you are capable of doing quality work. This is one reason why it is vital that you do your best, even if you do not view the work you are currently doing as important or meaningful. Once made, habits are difficult to break." - Laurence G. Boldt, How to Find the Work You Love

Excellence - a concept that transcends what you do, or where you do it, or with whom you do it.

And yet how seldom practiced in my own life. How often do I do something "with excellence"?

Excellence: The quality of being excellent

Excellent: Superior (archaic use); very good of its kind: eminently good.

(Both definitions from

Part of the problem for myself personally is that perhaps I think that excellence should be recognized and rewarded by others. The sad fact is that in fact excellence is seldom rewarded.

But that's not a reason to do it - as David Eddings' character Silk says "Sloppiness makes bad habits". If I allow myself to be guided only by what others will recognize, mine would be a pathetic life indeed.

The one place that it may impact my life immediately is the excellence of those around me i.e. do I work in a place (or have I ever done so) where excellence was the goal? More often than not, I'm forced to respond that the answer is usually no; the goal was to do the minimum in order to meet whatever requirements were there. Has there ever been somewhere I worked where excellence was the goal?

Once. Long ago, when I was doing performance music as a part of a musical group. We expected that we would do our best. We aimed towards that and were satisfied with nothing less.

Possibly my first two industry jobs as well, where I was a manufacturing grunt. But that (as I think about it) was largely driven by my managers, who had high expectations. And maybe my first job after The Firm, where again my manager would have been the driver. The companies were perhaps much less driven than I thought.

But those are both long gone, 10-15 years ago. Since then, it seems that it has been a stream of companies (including The Firm) where excellence was proclaimed but acceptability was the accepted standard.

Yes, excellence is something that I need to choose and practice (and write more about, perhaps) - but what does that say about how I choose employment now, even as I start to work my way through my spot in life?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


"Those who postpone the hour of living as they ought are like the fool who waits for the river to pass before crossing; the river glides, and will forever." - Horace

Two reminders yesterday -as if I needed more - that life is swift:

1) One of my old senior manager's husband passed away last week. He was 64 years old.

2) In Old Home, an acquaintance of The Ravishing Mrs. TB was killed in a car crash yesterday. He had five children, including a baby.

Swift indeed. Memento mori - Remember you will die.

Which makes living each day to the fullest extent possible all that more important.