Saturday, December 31, 2011

I’m in a New Year State of Mind

Billy with a lot more hair (I know the feeling)
A song by the boy from New York City is running through my head today.

A picture postcard
A folded stub
A program of the play
File away your photographs
Of your holiday

And your mementos
Will turn to dust
But that's the price you pay
For every year's a souvenir
That slowly fades away

Every year's a souvenir
That slowly fades away

Music & Lyrics by Billy Joel

Friday, December 30, 2011

2 things to add to your 2012 Resolutions

80175-1367-020fAs 2011 is all but in the rearview and we gird our loins for what awaits us in 2012 (ready or not, here it comes) – many of us go thru the annual rite of making resolutions (or goals) for the coming year.  These may be of a personal or professional nature and are intended to start us – or keep us -  on a desired path (to being a better father, a better widget maker, or a person of better health).

We all know if you don’t state (and re-state) and measure your goals, there is little chance of you reaching them.  You gotta step on the scale each week (whether you ate a cabbage-only meal 3 times a day all week or spent Ladies Night downing 13 or 14 Mojitos with your pals).  Those are the paint-by-the numbers way to achieve your goals and check the box complete at the end of the year.

But for all the PMP® in me – goals, resolutions and deadlines are more than numbers. I look back at one set of “project” goals from 2012 which I oft talked about here (my “Marathon Project”). 

My project goals were:

  1. Be (Significant) Injury Free (or at least reduce severity and length of the inevitable)
  2. Train and run my first Marathon
  3. Run 1,000 miles in 2011  (training for #2 should take care of #3)

I do an inside my head, Tiger Woods fist pump when I see that I achieved all three goals and exceeded my own expectations.  But as I sit here on the cusp of the brand new year, I feel very different about these goals than when I set them.

The game inside the game…

This time last year, I was determined to cross off that bucket list item of finishing my first Marathon.   That was the impetus for the journey and of the three goals - it is the “sexiest”.  Run a marathon and people clap when you cross the finish line (even for slow people like me), you post pictures on Facebook and you get a shirt and a medal. 

But on this end of the finish line, I feel more of a sense accomplishment with the other two goals.

The injury-free goal was the most important of the three (that’s why it was first).  This was all about risk management. Simple: Get injured and your season is over (or at worst – you can’t properly train).  I only missed one scheduled workout to injury all year (which is a first for any training season). That’s fairly remarkable given my age and size.  Special thanks goes to the makers of Advil® and Archer Farmers frozen corn for helping me reach that mile marker (the latter used as ice packs that form fit to the sore body part)

As for running my first 1,000 mile season, that experience I cherish the most.  Running that many miles means I survived the 115 degree swing in temps during the year, the pains and poundings (see bloody proof in the above picture), and the ear-piercing sound of the alarm clock going off at 3:07 a.m. to get a mid-range run in before work (when all I really wanted to do was stay in bed). 

But there was the hidden ROI from my project. 

…and the unexpected result

The sum of my journey was that I wielded discipline and patience.  Discipline to hit the road on a below zero morning or a rainy, muggy afternoon married with patience not to overtrain.  Knowing when to cut back to save your body and mind – not just because you are being a slacker that morning.

I knew (and planned) that I would need those two tools to reach my goal – but I didn’t realize that they would be something in themselves that I would covet at the end of the road (as it were).

The resolution will not be televised

As you set your goals – what other (step) goals and tools will you need to get there?  What hidden outcomes from your journey await?  At the end of 2012, will you be looking down at the integers on your scale or looking forward to the reflection of yourself in the mirror (and doing that fist pump).

What’s your plan?   No matter what they are – most likely you’ll need to stock up on discipline and patience to get you there.

Enjoy the the last lap of 2011 and best wishes for Happy New Year to us all/

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To take you and the Sun to promised lands

The LEAST favorite day of the year is here (especially those in these Northern providences): The Summer Solstice.
I rant today not against the pagan underpinnings of this Solstice, but the Martellato tone of the bell for which it tolls. Although (contrary to popular wisdom) the days will not actually get shorter in these parts until Sunday, we’ve nonetheless reached the mountaintop of daylight in the Summer of 2011 (and I can see the other side). Just as quickly as (nearly all) those pre-commute tempo runs had been lapped by the light of dawn, the darkness will once again begin the take back of the night as it slithers upon the 6 month journey to the most dark time of the year.

While I am singing one season following another for you in my head, Asparagus is gone from the Farmers Market and will soon give way to juicy tomatoes, scary deep fried Mayonnaise (at your state and county fair), tart apples, bulbous pumpkins, and then flint corn (the multi-colored corn with the politically incorrect name) .

For runners, the dog days of summer may not be over (in fact they are just beginning) but that Fall marathon you’ve been training for is getting larger in the window (and gosh golly you’ve not done enough hill work, Fatso). Soon you'll be trying to get ice out – instead of into – your water bottle.

Gosh – I’m starting to depress myself (tapping my inner Marvin)

Marvin: I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed.
Trillian: Well, we have something that may take your mind off it.
Marvin: It won't work, I have an exceptionally large mind.

Well, I wish you'd just tell me rather than try to engage my enthusiasm

If you’re expecting a GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may post (then you’ve haven’t dug far enough into my back catalog of posts). This is just another riff on the previous post about goals (and tracking to them). Whether it is that aforementioned marathon, you’re first Triathlon, getting that new job/new promotion, mixing in (more than just) a salad into your diet, finishing painting trim on the backside of the house as you promised your wife or grabbing another catch with your son (or Dad) – another milestone like today (and the others you’ve set for yourself) are opportunities for you to ask yourself,  how ya’, doin?

Having your corn knee-high – or being 2 pant sizes down – by the 4th of July is less than 2 weeks away.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Random | And the beat goes on

The news of the last 24 hours was one of those Al Stewart moments that collapses the bookends of (nearly) a decade into a single moment.  I (like many folks) was immediately transported back to that Tuesday morning in September 2001.  The sights, sounds, smells and the feelings of that day that also lives in infamy flooded me. 

As is common in these human milestone markers (the birth of a child, your 40th birthday, MJ dying), we can often take stock and ponder the delta of all the things in our lives that have changed over that period.

I heard the news back then, oh boy

In 2001, I was in my recently purchased first home and my just as recently acquired unemployment status.  Just 3 days past my 3 days of severance, I sat in my spacious home office that Tuesday morning massively searching online for a job and scheduling networking meetings.  I was listening to KSTP-AM (talk radio - the social/edgy/viral/ media of that day) when (the late) Mark O’Connell announced “a private plane” had struck the Trade Center in New York.

Still in my work outfit of that day (running shorts and a wife beater), I headed into the living room and turned on the TV and flopped onto the couch.  Moments later,  I witnessed a second plane hit the other tower.  For the next 3 days, Max (my cat) and I remained similarly splayed on that couch watching all the gory details unfold on broadcast/cable news (primarily through the eyes the late Peter Jennings and the now retired Tom Brokow).  There was little else to do - my anemic job search ground to halt as quickly as civilian air traffic that day.

Who told you this guy was in here?

Fast forward to last night.

I am in the same room as 2001 – but now it is my master bedroom.  Max the cat is still there – but also my wife (who I did not know in 2001).  She was watching The Housewives of “Whatever” (since I was not paying attention).  

I had my headphones plugged into my iPad and had resumed streaming “The Sting” via Netflix (as I often use movies as sleep inducing white noise):

Billie: Who told you this guy was in here?
Lieutenant William Snyder: Nobody. I just know what kind of woman he likes. Going to check all the joy houses till I find him

The movie had just rolled by the above scene (with Charles Durning and Eileen Brennan) when a muted beep from a KSTP-TV “push notification” informed me that President Obama was about to speak.  Soon thereafter, we all knew why he was to speak.  It would be over an hour before he came to the podium – by which time both my wife and I had fallen asleep.

The next day, reports chronicled (that like so many recent events around the globe) that Twitter was the source of the first credible reports. 

History has turned a page, ah-huh

As I am wont to do – linking and transitions filled my mind and my morning commute (although dressed in a real suit as I headed to a client site today). 

Of course, in 2001 I did not have a blog (let alone this one).  In 2021, I doubt I will.  What will be the social media killer app of that day? 

October 23, 2001 – one month after 9/11, the first iPod was introduced to the market (white only).  Many colors and variations of iPods, iPhones, iTouches and two iPads would follow. In 2020 – what will be the mass communication media platform of that day…the holodeck?.  If so – I hope I have the life size (virtual) Paul Newman and Robert Redford acting in my living room

There are countless other examples that remind us that drums keep pounding rhythm to the brain….

All I know is we don’t really know what is to come in technology and media that far in advance (although we get closer to the Jetsons and jetpacks every day).   All I know is that I look forward to the journey to come. 

Oh – and don’t worry.  My wife swears that Max will beat the odds and still be with us in 2021 (at a  spry 25 years old). 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Conjunction Junction – make that your function

If I was to sort and group my email Sent folder by Subject text, “30 Second World Famous Introduction” would be one of the most used texts.  I just finished sending another one of these networking “blind dates”.

I talked about this in a longer post in 2009 (20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #4 How do I start to network?) but I wanted to hit this specific topic again (because it is so important).

To quote that post (and myself): 

(Connecting people) is something I strongly believe in (and do at least once a week). This is all about hooking-up folks whenever you can - WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED. Whether you call it pay it forward or Instant Karma (as I prefer to), connecting others in your circle expands your circle, too.  So if you know two people that could benefit from meeting each other – hook them up

I often hook-up people with my “Blind Date Introduction” email I am fond of sending (just did it last night). 

The email comes in 4 parts and goes something like this:

  • The set-up:  Why I think you two should meet
  • Person 1 Bio:  How I know you and why you are special
  • Person 2 Bio: How I know the other person and why they are special
  • Contact: Provide each others contact info with a note to contact the person (or not) as they both see fit

If you do only one thing in 2011 to grow your network – make connecting people that one thing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stop Asking Bozo Interview Questions

BozoLet’s start with an admission: I have asked stupid interview questions.  I’m not proud of it. But now – I’m in bozo recovery.

Before recovery, the bozo question I often asked (that I nicked from another bozo) was, “if you could be on a cover of a magazine, what cover would it be”?  That, of course was before the TMZ, broadcast yourself on social media era). 

After a year of asking that question, I got some good answers (PM Network) and some answers that I didn’t know quite what to do with (Dog Fancy) .  But then -  I just stopped. 

No - I don’t find salvation from some great epiphany (or reading a blog post from a bozo like this one), I stopped because I realized that whatever answer they gave me to that question – it had no bearing on whether I would hire them (there were no obvious screen out answers like I want to be on Hustler magazine).

Hey man, Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars

I was reminiscing about those Bozo Questions of Interviews Past after reading the CareerBuilder post Star Wars or Star Trek? Questions you just might hear in the interview .  It was all about bozo interview questions – with one being “which do you like better, Star Wars or Star Trek”?


In addition to the bozo question of the title – it offered up a few more:

“I was once asked what I would bring if the department had a potluck.” - Amanda L.

“What color is your brain?” - Connie B.

“Which Winnie the Pooh character do you relate with the most and why?” - Celie H.

“If we asked you to wear a bumble bee costume, walk around and hand out candy to employees, would you do it?” - Lisa M.

Oh boy.

I’ll add one of my own (that I witnessed):

“If it was a dark alley at night, and I was a little girl, would you throw rocks at me”

Can I throw them now?

Incoming (Prepare for the bozo, not the question)

The CareerBuilder post went on to offer some more great examples and some good suggestions on preparing (like bolt if they ask you an illegal question).  But really, I don’t think you can prepare for a question a bozo may ask.  You just need to be prepared for the bozo on the other side of the desk. 

That preparation looks like:

  1. Prepare for what you can Get your ducks in a row for the questions that are legit (and you are likely to get).  If you’re not sweating “why do you want to work here?”, you’ll have more time to side-step the bucket of confetti when it comes your way.
  2. Breathe  When the bozo question hits you – just breathe.  Take a moment to formulate an answer.  Really – the answer shouldn’t matter and probably won’t.  If your job hinges on “I like Star Trek because Tribbles are cute” – it may be best to move on either way.  Answer calmly and as intelligently as you can (just don’t say you like the Cardassians – or heaven forbid that you like The Kardashians).
  3. Don’t answer wrong  Don’t miss obvious wrong answers.  If you are asked, “What outdoor activity do you hate the most?” – don’t answer fishing if there is a large, taxidermied carp mounted on a board behind the hiring manager’s desk.  No reason to give a bad answer when other good answers (Lacrosse) are available in that spot.
  4. May not be a bozo question Some questions may just appear to be bozo-filled but may be legitimate questions.  If I ask you how would you get out of a stuck elevator, for certain jobs, that type of thinking may be important to know (your McGyverness if you will).  Based on your prep work – you should be able to deduce what they are looking for.

Outgoing (If you have orange hair, a bright red nose, and big floppy shoes and are asking the questions)

For those of you still asking the bozo questions:

  1. Stop it Right now.
  2. Don’t Be a Shock Jock You have heard it before, right?  I ask off the wall questions to see how people handle stress in their job.  BS.  You ask them because you are a bozo.  That’s artificial stress that likely has no indication of how they will handle real stress, or the real stress in the particular job.  You’re not probing – your dangling people (like Michael Jackson did with Blanket).
  3. Don’t Be Lazy Devise your interview question that get you the answer you need.  Using our stress example above, ask some probing questions about how they handled stress.  That looks like this: “talk about a stressful project were you had to resolve the problem…how did you resolve it, be specific…give me an example where a resolution did not go well, be specific….).   That should give you a better idea on how they think more than the “Boo!” approach.
  4. You’re not Zappos  Zappos is a very unique, very successful, and has a well-defined company culture.  So when Zappos asks a candidate something like “On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you? Why did you choose that number?” they can use that information to evaluate candidates (and after reading Tony’s book, I bet the second half of that question is the more important part).  At your company, how weird someone is more likely will determine the size of their cubicle.  That brings us to our next point…
  5. Be genuine  If your inquiry is on the edge of a bozo question (but you think it is important in the evaluation) put the candidate at ease.  Loosen the jar (not the one with the pop out snakes) and let them know it is coming.  If you’re not a bozo in the delivery, they won’t freak out and will be able to give you a more telling answer. 
  6. Stop it I mean it

Tell us (Shameless plug for Comments)

Have you asked a bozo question?  What made you stop?  What is the oddest question you were ever asked?  What is the weirdest answer you gave?

Please – leave a comment (share the bozoisty).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Quote | Purpose and Direction

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction – John F. Kennedy

I gleaned this quote out of my recent read of The Kennedy Detail (that I reviewed the other day).   Seemed like a fitting quote to start the New Year off right.

What is your purpose and/or direction in your life in 2011?   Where will you go – be it personal, professional, physical health, financial health or mental health?   Do you have a plan, a goal or your own roadmap?  Am I sounding like the Theme from Mahogany yet?

Hopefully between swigging eggnog and digging yourself out of the nationwide blizzards, you’ve had some time to think of questions like these (and others you have asked yourself).

I welcome you to 2011 and wish you all the success in progress towards those goals.

Happy New You Year!