Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trailing the baby boomers

I was born a number of years after the baby boom following the second world war.  The baby boomers were of the generation born between the years 1946 and 1964.  My birth year is after 1964 so I am in the generation called Generation X or Gen X.

Here are my impressions of the baby boomers.  They are really into their own group.  They have this sense of pride about themselves just for being in existence.  It is listed as an achievement in their minds to be a part of this generation.  Something important happened that can only be understood if you were there.  If you happened to be born too early or too late, you will just never get it.

Baby boomers complain a lot but really have it quite good.  They rail against the conservative side but what got them to where they are was a lot of conservative practices.  They had a great education and great experiences but academics, sports and the like have been broken down from a successful formula to what it is today.  It always annoys me when a multimillionaire from this generation bashes the very foundation for his own success.  Instead of crediting the high expectations, the hard work, the moral charge of their youth, they gripe about it.

The generation previous to mine corners the better jobs and keeps them within the family.  The baby boomers stick together.  If there is a good job about to be given up, they let their own generation know about it.  As a result, my generation continues to go without experience and has to exist on less.  They are an amazingly talented group, there is no doubt in my mind.  However, I don't see a lot of effort to do much for the generation that follows them.

Those are just a few of my impressions of the baby boomers.  As you can guess, it has not been easy to live in their shadow.

What has been your impression of the baby boom generation?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Today I bought a domain name.  It is good for 12 months.  Keeping with my brand, I choose  It was available and I bought it at Go Daddy for $1.67.  The price was so low because they had a coupon code which I found at Deal News.  The web address was already taken.  That would have been an easier site address to work with but everything I have on the internet includes my full name.  This is true for my email, LinkedIn, and now website.  It is nice to have an easy, short name but in the age of the internet when you have a common name, it doesn't work out so well unless you were the first one there.  I tend to be a late adaptor or a slow to adapt consumer.

I'll see where this leads.  So far, I have just had the address forwarded to my LinkedIn site which is pretty cool.  I do not have plans at the moment to make a full blow website.  That is not out of the realm of possibility, I just don't see the need at the moment.  Now if someone asks me if I have a website, I can say "Yes".

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When no one sees my unique value

Who I am and what I have to offer is a tough sell evidently as no one seems to be buying.  Where are the customers that want honesty, integrity, and dependability?  I respect other people, those in management, and those I work with.  I care for the equipment, our collective goals, and the environment.  I can understand and follow instructions.  Yet, these soft skills are not much wanted in today's work world.  Corporations evidently want the person who crushes their competition, claws his way to the top, and keeps profits ahead of all other considerations.  Yet they gripe about employees lack of values, thief, and destruction of property.  Apparently wanting both sides is not seen as the contradiction it so obviously is.

So what does one do at this point when his unique value is not wanted in the market place?  I don't have the answer.  Almost everywhere I have worked has been a place where I have had to drop the real me off at the door and bend to their demands.  This is a difficult challenge and one that leads to burn out.  Compromising everyday for money is just so dejecting and exhausting.

Even though I don't fully know what I would like to do, I know that I would like to have control over what it is I am doing.  I can manage myself and I make good decisions.  I like to process work and move things forward.  That is where I am at and seeing that I will need to work independently is a start to what opportunity I get into next.

What have you done when no one has seen your unique value as useful?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Life skills verses technical skills

I would say that I have above average life skills but my technical skills need a boost.

My career coach says that my next opportunity will train me for what needs to be done.  He says not to worry about lacking technical skills in certain areas.  That is a struggle for me to believe and grasp.  As I look through online job postings, I honestly get a bit intimidated.  The list of duties, responsibilities, and expectations can be lengthly and not in my history or possession.  I can hardly believe what employers are asking for today.  I don't know where they expect these incredible super human people to come from.  Everyone wants the first in their class, great work experience, and a career path that has always ascended straight up with increasing speed.  Ridiculous!

I see myself as having life skills that others are without.  Good judgement, the ability to speak politely, and write succinctly begin to describe what I think I can do well.  I play by the rules, keep things in order, and pay my own way.  It is funny, the life skills are what some have said are the keys to a good life and a good work situation.  I am not sure if I have seen that played out yet.  Not destroying yourself is certain favorable but one still needs to be able to produce and solve and fix and sell.  I hope one day that my life skills will be in demand and seen as the asset they are by a paying customer or customers.

How have your life skills helped you in the marketplace?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spending time at a mini farm

This week I was out at a family members homestead mowing his lawn, trimming trees, and cleaning the garage.  It was so nice to work alone, see progress, and feel like I had accomplished something.  This place is way out there.  It is at least a half hour beyond a small town.  Large farm fields stretch everywhere as we are driving to the place.  We visit once a week or once every two weeks.  I like going out to it because it is a way to give back and help someone who can no longer live on his own.  It is also nice because of the openness of that part of the state.  Obviously it takes time to travel there and some effort to make anything happen.  At this time of year, it is easier to be out there because the weather is nice and there is something meaningful to do.  I can only guess as to what is going to happen to this mini farm.  Maybe someone will buy it, though like I said it is not near anything, and it is not in the best of shape.  Or a family member will take it over.  If it was literally abandoned, would it go to the county?  I hope it doesn't come to that.  Realistically though, I wonder how long we can keep the place up to at least some level of acceptability.  I wish more work had been done to it to get it ready to sell before the owner was forced to move.  That would have made our jobs a lot easier now.  A buyer could be out there.  I just wonder what price it will bring.

What is the best way to sell a rural property for a family member?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Working to work less

I find it very enjoyable to do work and complete tasks that I know will lower my work load in the future.  An example of that is when I trim trees in my yard.  I like to raise the canopy so that I can freely walk under it.  Once that work is done it is complete and I don't have to duck or bump my head in the future.  I even had a large birch tree entirely removed from my backyard because it was constantly dropping twigs that I would have to pick up or clear out of the gutters.  I remember at the time commenting to a neighbor about how I was going to contract to take the tree out.  I said to him that I was doing it so that my work load in the future would be less.

Working to work less is a wonderful feeling.  There is a real sense that I am moving forward.  I like getting things done once and for all.  If I have to touch something, I want to touch once and be done.  Doing the same task again and again with no hope of it ever abating is a bit discouraging to me.  So is doing a good job and being rewarded with more work and higher expectations without much financial reward.  That is just the opposite of the work situation that I would like to be involved with.  I would rather set things up, let it run with only a few tweaks and updates, and continuously earn from that initial effort.

How have you managed to set things up so that there is less work going forward?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Visiting the Optometrist

It has been years since I have visited an Optometrist.  Honestly, I don't think my eyes are any worse for it.  The last time I went to the eye doctor, I did the same routine of looking at the screen with one eye open and then the other.  I had already known that my right eye is slightly stronger than my left eye.  My eyes collectively are great and I would guess I am at the 20/20 level after having lasik eye surgery over ten years ago.  After being in a dark room, going through several exams and tests, and having some stress from being under scrutiny, the doctor said my left eye was slightly less clear than it should be.  He said he could fix it.  This was not at all helpful.  He really blew his credibility.  I can see fine and I usually have both eyes open so I see quite clearly.  For such a small difference, he wanted to get me back to using glasses.  Remember that an optometrist is a salesman too.  He makes money off of you buying eye care products.  To keep your eyes healthy, do the following.  Lower your stress, get your rest, and eat a wide variety of nutritious food.  It is also important to be out in natural light and don't stare at anything for long.  Move your eyes about and focus on different things.  Get eye surgery if you need to but don't fall for the idea that you always will need corrective lenses of some sort.  It is possible to improve and keep your vision.

What have you done to keep or even improve your eyesight?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What is holding me back in my career search

Recently I was challenged to write out what was the biggest obstacle in holding me back with my job search.  I think what is holding me back is that I do not have a clear understanding of what I want to do.  I know my personality style, my tendencies, and my soft skills.  I have a list of things that my ideal job is and is not.  I can tell you many details of what I would want it to be.  However, those are not job titles.  Having a clear job title, specialty or position, like engineer or accountant, can make the job hunt very straight forward as all one has to do is put that word into any search field and the results are there for one to pick from.  Entering dependable, conscientious, or steady do not yield much, if anything.  People I network with tell me that I should get back to them once I know what it is that I want to do.  I don't know why I can not pick one position title.  I know that I tend to over analyze things and constantly ask for more information before making a decision.  I know too that I don't want only my career to define me.  In my formative years, I never remember seeing someone that I admired so much that I wanted to emulate them.  I don't believe anyone ever observed something in me that caused them to exclaim what I would be a good at.  It is rather strange that there isn't something in me that desires a title.  I think I have good life skills and could add value to most any organization.  In many areas of my life, I believe I am doing well and growing.  The area of career has not been the success that I would like it to be however.

What is holding you back in your career?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Surprises of the Job Search

There have been at least three surprises in my job search that I would like to share with you.

One is how much free help there is out there.  We have a workforce development office in the area where there are computers to use, workshops to attend, counselors to meet with, and networking groups to participate in.  All at no cost.  Wherever you are at in the country, look for available, trained help in your area.  There are people out there who are looking to help you and want to make your career transition an easier one.  This has been a pleasant surprise and it reminds me how giving people can be.

Secondly, I have been surprised at how near strangers offer their help.  Folks who I have just been introduced to or have known for a short time will offer help, advice, and information.  They seem to emotionally invest in me very quickly and are seeing my success as their success.  This has been a surprise that has lightened my heart.  I love how new doors are flung open by new people in my life.  I am very thankful for this especially since I will not have the chance to repay them all.

Thirdly, I have been surprised at how unhelpful some people are in this job search.  In this case, it is people I thought I knew well.  They are either a relative or someone I have known for years.  I have been humble, let them know what my situation is, and asked for help.  Yet they close the door.  My emails go unanswered.  My initiation is brushed aside.  I never hear anything from them.  The irony is that they have the most to gain from me being in a good situation where I am happily working, making a difference, and bringing in a good paycheck.  It is sad really.  The people I would have thought would put out the most effort are the ones who seem to indicate that we can only be friends in the good times, not in the times of need.

What have you found surprising when searching for that new opportunity?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How I got a $2 Amazon MP3 credit

Yesterday, @amazonmp3 tweeted that if I shared my good taste in music on my Facebook account, I would be credited with $2.   It was really easy to click through from Twitter to the Amazon landing page where I needed to link my Facebook account to my Amazon account.  Now I have two songs to pick out.

There is usually a limited time that Amazon gives you to use the credit.

Go to Amazon MP3 download here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A little square of green

I was driving home from a meeting in Menasha and I decided to cross the Fox River and take a left onto Spenser Street.  This part of Appleton has house after house on small lots.  Along that road, I noticed a new patch of lawn.  It was green from edge to edge.  No weeds, no structure of any kind, no trees, no sign.  The last time I had driven by, the place looked like it had just been cleared of something.  It was edge to edge dirt but in my mind I supposed that a house or building had just been removed from that location.  My hear sang this week as I drove by and noticed the nice lawn and the open space.  

I am an advocate of green space.  I see the value of having green things grow nearby.  There is a certain calm and peace that comes with nature.  Somehow, it reduces stress and helps us unwind.  A bit of rough provides a space for birds and other creatures to inhabit, feed, and reproduce.   Trees and bushes break up the wind, sun, and blowing snow.  They provide oxygen and clean the air.

I wish more effort could be put into taking down old, unused buildings and returning the space to nature.  At the very least, doing so takes out a potentially dangerous structure.  We need to value what natural surroundings bring us.   I think our cities would be better off with the right balance of living space and green space.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to cut your gasoline usage

With gas just below $4 per gallon, it is important to get a handle on your usage of this product.

Before anything else, find out what you are spending in this category each month.  Then go to your budget and make the needed adjustments.  Don't overspend because the cost of gas has gone up.  Some area or areas need to be adjusted down when the fuel category has risen.

Next, look over your garage and determine what it is that you really need.  Maybe it is time to sell one of your motorized things.  Even consider getting rid of that third or second car that is not really a necessity.  Lightening your load can dramatically reduce your fuel expense.

For your remaining gas using equipment consider how you use it.  Is it possible to use it less?  For instance, not every blade of grass in your yard needs to be mowed.  Consider leaving parts of your lawn long so that you don't cut it each week.  This can save you money over time.

When running motors, turn them off when they are not being used.  A lot of gas is needlessly burned up when idling.

Keep your equipment running well.  Give it a little tender loving care.  Clean or replace the filters.  Make sure the oil is at an acceptable level.  Having a smooth running machine can save a lot on fuel costs.

Use the lowest octane available at the pump.  There is no real benefit to the higher octane.  It is blended for certain cars and you would know it if your particular car required it.

Get a handle on this expense.  It would seem that the cost of gas is going to remain stubbornly high for the near future.  The changes listed above are good to do anyway and will keep money in your pocket.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Norwegian Bachelor Farmer

I get a laugh when Garrison Keillor describes the Norwegian bachelor farmer during his Lake Wobegon segment on his Prairie Home Companion show.

Though I am not Norwegian, it is the easiest nationality to reference when I describe my ancestry.

Garrison's description is funny because it is so true and so terrible, in a twisted way.  This hick farmer is someone that goes against everything good parents teach their children in Minnesota.  This farmer is out in the country with a lawn that is about knee high.  He never goes to town to socialize, he misses church, sleeps in, wears old clothes, and lives alone with his junk.

This fictitious guy brings a smile to my face.  Possible because he is a distant relative or because, at my very worse, he is someone that I would probably be.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spend money to save money - part 15

A great way to spend money to save money is to purchase and attend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  The cost for my wife and I was only $93 this past winter and that was for both of us to go through it together and obtain a life time membership.  That cost included the materials for the class which consisted of a book, a workbook, access to a special section on his website, and audio CDs.  Plus the 13 class sessions held at a local church which included a video lesson of Dave teaching and discussion time afterward with others.  This personal finance educational course is a great way to spend a little money now to save a boat load later.  Dave will tell you how to get rid of debt using the Debt Snowball, how to save on purchases, how to secure your assets, and how to renegotiate for the better an owner financed mortgage.  After getting rid of debt and cutting costs, your next step will be to build wealth and give to causes that matter to you.  There are few sure things in life.  However, Dave Ramsey's course is very close to a sure thing in terms of the consumer finding something to do that will recoup the course cost.  As someone who has completed the course and applied the material, I would highly recommend FPU.  Invest in yourself as it can pay wonderful, and even unexpected, dividends.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Independence and Intelligence

This is a time in my life where I actually feel well-balanced.  I am able to spend time with my wife, I have completed several things around the house that needed to get done, I have time to myself to read and reflect, I am meeting new people at classes and clubs, and I am exercising 5 times per week.  What I am doing is living a pretty good life.  Without a doubt, this is very close to the life I would choose to live if money were no object.  Speaking of money, that is the one missing component.  All this freedom is wonderful but practically, I do need income.  Most likely, I will need to land a job.  (Although, I would like to start my own business).  However, that job needs to have a certain mix of independence and intelligence.  I like having freedom of movement.  I did not like having to be boxed into a cubical for 50 weeks a year.  That leaves me drained and unsociable at the end of the day.  I enjoy traveling and going out to do things.  I also need a certain level of intelligence.  Now, I am not the smartest person, however, I do have a clear mind, I have read 100's of books since college and have even passed quite a few tests since that time.  That is all to say that I do need mental stimulation.  So that is what I am looking for.  Independence and intelligence.  I have those things now and I would like to carry them with me into my next opportunity.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spend money to save money - part 14

There can be significant savings by being wise with the use of heating and cooling in your home.  Not too many years ago, we purchased a Honeywell 7-day programmable thermostat.  It was about $70 from a local home store.  It was replacing a very simple dial-type wall-mounted thermostat.  There isn't much that can be done with those types but manually turn it up and down.  The advantage with the programmable thermostat is that you can have the entire week planned out so that the house is at a certain temperature when you wake up, when you are gone, when you return home, and when you are in bed sleeping.  This can save you money because heating or cooling is not being done when you are away or not needing it.  Just set it and forget it and that really is its strength.  This type of thermostat does need a couple of AA batteries so that is an ongoing cost.  The Nest thermostat is possibly even a better product because it will eventually program and run itself.  The price tag is about $250 and I hope to have one sometime soon but at the moment, it is on my wish list.  So look at your thermostat and determine what you need.  Perhaps a few dollars on a programmable one will put you in place to have a comfortable home and at the same time save money in the long run.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I can be passionate about technology, financial matters, and arboriculture.

In regard to technology, I get excited for the new wiz-bang product on the market.  Generally, I like all things Apple but my interests are not limited to just iMacs, iPods, and iPhones.  Websites, apps, televisions, cameras all hold an interest to me.  I like to interact with new products and see what they can do.  It is fun to make the upgrade and have the latest.  It is also satisfying to find something that fits a need perfectly, purchasing the product, and incorporating it into my life.

In regard to financial matters, I can be very passionate about paying bills on time, keeping the checkbook balanced, and staying within budget.  I absolutely hate that our country is so far in debt.  It drives me crazy.  I do not like gambling and wish I could give people some of my self-control.  I live to truly save and put money aside.  Building wealth excites me.  Checking off to-do items like making a budget, getting a will documented, and buying life insurance all keep me going.  I want to win with money and I want others do win as well.  We can do it if we follow time-tested steps.

In regard to arboriculture, I enjoy so much getting the right tree into the right place.  I like trimming back trees appropriately to give clearance and visibility.  I like building wind or traffic or noise blocks with plants.  I like removing the dead or unsightly limbs from a tree.  There is just something so fulfilling with using nature to benefit oneself.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quiet determination

I am reading a great book right now called "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain.  One of the phrases she uses to describe an introvert is that he has a quiet determination about him.  We introverts are like that as we often hold strong feelings but those feelings are not easily seen on the surface.  We know what we want and are determined to get there.  There is a sort of steeliness to us and we set our face like flint.  All the nonsense talking that goes on out there we can live without as it is too surfacy.  We like deeper conversations.  We would rather problem solve and toss around ideas.  We want to win, we want to get ahead but we don't want to crush our competition or hurt someone in the process.  It isn't that we think we are better than others.  Believe me, we are very aware of our weaknesses.  There is a sort of protocol or process that we would prefer to take to get to our goals.  Being ruthless, narrow, and impolite are not the pathways we want to take to get ahead.  When I read "quiet determination" in Susan's book, I knew I wanted to grab that phrase and use it as my own.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Some may ask what my dislikes are.  In my personality DISC profile, several are listed and I have added a few more.

Multi-tasking - I much prefer single-tasking.  Focused attention is the best way to complete something.
Insensitivity - People could tone down their remarks and consider the other persons perspective.
Impatience - If we all slowed down a bit we could all achieve our goals in due time.
Disorganization - Everything has a place and should be put in their place, now.
Impropriety - Let's keep the bathroom humor and course joking for some other time.
Littering - Throw litter in the garbage can, not out the window.

My feelings are strong on these issues even though they may not be readily apparent.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spend money to save money - part 13

Buy a scissors.  They cost maybe $10.  Take out your credit cards and cut them up.  Paying for merchandise with your credit cards hurts you in two ways.  One, you will spend more money and buy more things as exchanging plastic for items does not cause mental anguish nearly to the same level as cash causes reservations in purchasing.  Two, with interest added to the retail cost, you are paying more.  Just to give you a clue, paying less for anything is the better idea.  So, today, take action.  Spend some money to save money.  Buy a scissors.  Cut up your credit cards.  All of them.  You will be better for this.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Dilema

My dilema is that my natural strengths and tendencies are not the highly prized by our culture.  Instead of talkative and confident, I am quiet and reserved.  I am not one that wants to crush my competition.  Everyone wants aggressive while I would rather get along.  Employers want those that are outgoing and who have high energy.  I am more comfortable on the edge of the group and I need to pace myself to get through the day.

There must be a place for me.  I believe we each have something special about us that if we apply it we will be number one in our field.  It is just taking me a long time to find my niche.

I have value.  I exercise good judgement.  I am a good citizen.  I am dependable and accurate.  I like to keep everything up-to-date and in good order.  My intellect is strong enough that I am curious and I ask good questions.

Where can I apply myself?  I would like to be in a place that is a good match for my natural bent and where I can be the true me.  I want to find my calling.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Travel and Learning

There was a questioned posed to our small group at Financial Peace University this past week.  It was, "What would you do if money was no object?"  Without even thinking, I said, "Travel south.  Where it is warm."   Wisconsin can be cloudy and gloomy quite often.  Winters, of course, are cold, long, and dark.  It would just be nice to not have to deal with the constant low temperatures.  I know I can move better when it is warmer.

Then on Friday, I attended an all day seminar call Leader-cast.  Sponsored by Chick-fil-A.  It sure would be nice to just learn and be with people committed to improvement.

So that would be an ideal life.  Travel and learn.  Travel and learn.  All over the world.  Plenty of scenic and warm settings.  Getting a brain workout.  Sounds good to me.  Where can I sign up?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My value

As a quiet man, it is maybe more difficult to see my value.  My value is that I take a long-term view.  I make decisions slowly, with more deliberation, after all the facts are gathered in.  I am careful with resources and keep good records.  I am supportive of leadership and strive to make their lives as easy as possible.  I value quality, putting everything in its place, and keeping things attractive.  I strive to get along well with society and am very agreeable.  I can write when necessary and communicate well through email.  I am steady and can handle routine better than most.  I like incremental improvement and building slowly.  Listening well is a strength of mine and if you need to talk, I can hear you out.  I remember obligations, meeting times, and who owes who.  I tend to blend in, stay below the radar, and keep a low profile.  Although I observe the superstars in any given field, I am not one that needs opulence or status.  I see patterns and can read a map.  Monitoring a situation is perfectly fine with me.  I remember facts, quotes, and odd information.  Names and faces are fairly easy for me.  I am compliant, amiable, and sensible.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Do Not Choose to be a Common Man

Last night at Financial Peace University, the lesson was on working in your strengths.  Part of the workbook had the following essay by Dean Alfange.  I think it expresses my heart very well right about now.   It can be found at Dave Ramsey.

~ I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon— if I can. I seek opportunity not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, "This I have done." ~

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Signed up for a class

Yesterday, I was applying at a technical college and the thought came to me that if I got the job I could start taking one class at a time toward a master's degree.  I found out that this particular college did not offer any master's program.  So I looked at areas of study.  The information technology programs were interesting.  I read through the requirements for certificates in IT - Database, IT - Mobile Applications Development, IT - Network Infrastructure, and IT - Security.  After talking to an instructor of Information Technology, she directed me to the certificate for IT - Security.  This is a high need area and very much in demand.  There are only four classes to gain the certification.  She thought that I would be helped by having the certification but it wasn't absolutely necessary for a job in the field.  I personally don't want to take classes just to take classes.  At this point in my life, I believe I need to be learning as I am earning.  Don't get me wrong.  I want to grow intellectually and personally as I consider myself a life-long learner.  It is just that I would like to be making deposits in my checking account as I am making deposits in my brain.  The class starts this summer, runs about two months, and can be done entirely online.  After this class is successfully completed, I want to take at least one more class for the certification in the fall and go from there.