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Tag Archives: life balance

Personality Reorder

imageTimes have changed and so have I.  A recent reassessment of myself via personality profile informed me of such.  It was just a very simple personality test, one meant to be simple and easy to administer, but useful enough to apply in a workplace environment.  The test is called Kingdomality and the results of the test will map your personality to a particular role in a self-sufficient medieval village. 


I had taken this test back in about 2010 and I’m somewhat surprised I don’t have any past posts that discuss Kingdomality or my results.  I know I have discussed it in another blog, but apparently, not here.  So then, why not now?

imageIn my earlier results, I was classified as a “discoverer”.  This was the person in the village that would leave and go in search of great things and bring them back to the village for everyone’s use.  And that’s pretty much what I did in my work life.  I would find new technologies and techniques and present them to everyone, then I’d be off again.  It sounds like every team would want one of these people, but you also have to understand that discoverers are hard to pin down and may have trouble focusing on current tasks because they would much rather be exploring.  And that’s pretty much what I did.

imageIn my most recent test, my result was a “dreamer-minstrel”.  I think their role is to encourage and cheer everyone up, like a wandering minstrel.  I never really thought of myself as encouraging at work.  I’ve been pretty cynical for quite a while and have a slightly bleak outlook on the company’s future.

In the time between tests, the world changed.  For one, I grew very weary of the rate of change in the software development world.  Because of that, there was nothing I felt like discovering any more.  If I did discover something, would it still be around in six months?  Secondly, at my job, things are pretty stable.  There isn’t a pressing need to get with the latest technology.  That need was there when I first got hired, but we’re pretty good now.

Over the weekend, it finally dawned on me why my results changed.  It’s my relationship.  When I first took the test, I was single (well, almost divorced) and was plowing all my effort into my career.  This time around, I’ve been in an excellent relationship for many years.  And one of my primary functions in that relationship is cheerleader.  The GF had made a deprecating remark on something and I immediately reframed the issue for her in a positive light.  I should have noticed that behavior earlier because I do it somewhat frequently.

I’m not going to say I’m always good at it (“God damn it!  Things are not that bad!”) nor will I say I do it for everyone (“Excuse me miss, I overheard your comment and I wanted to say that I think your hair looks great.”).  There are very few people in my inner circle, which has the benefit of not exhausting me from being supportive. 

Trying to extend that into the workplace means that I try to understand the positive reasons for the crazy business decisions we have been making as of late.  And even if I don’t understand or agree with them, I need to try and promote them as good for all of us.  Is it lying?  No, it’s just focusing on the positive.  That wall of water approaching?  Well, it’s been pretty hot lately and it will cool us off.


The CubeRoof

At work, some time ago, we had contractors doing a build-out of new offices right beside our cube farm.  This got me thinking, why can’t we all have offices?  Along with this consideration, I am always hearing from the vampires in my group about how horrible the lighting is.  Everyone wants the light to be cut to 50% or less.  I’m not in that group.  I like light.  I brainstormed a new product idea to help us all.

Why does a company build cubicles and not not all offices?  Some reasons could be:

  • Cheaper
  • Layout flexibility
  • Increased communication, for better or worse
  • Increased oversight

Why do employees want offices and dislike cubicles?

  • Increased privacy
  • More environmental control (light/temperature/décor)
  • Sense of ownership

So what’s the difference between a cube and an office?

  • Door
  • Walls to the ceiling
  • Windows or lack of windows
  • Basically, enclosure. 

So let’s completely forget about convincing management to let their subordinates shut themselves behind a door.  I walk a tight line between being controlling and liberal, and with the co-workers I have, allowing a closed door is simply an invitation to sleep all day.

So if we can’t have doors, we can create enclosure by raising the walls to the ceiling.  This, however, would create serious issues with lighting, temperature, and airflow.  So, my idea is to lower the ceiling to the cube: CubeRoof.

The biggest design point of CubeRoof would be the modular, minimal pieces involved in the system.  Taking cues from both IKEA and ClosetMaid, the CubeRoof system would be cheap and easy.

The first element of any roof is the truss.  The truss is comprised of three straight elements and three angles.  To simplify the system, there are a small number of extendable aluminum beams, similar to “cargo bars”, in varying maximum lengths.  This comprise the angles of the truss and the support beams between them.  Then, there are adjustable angle brackets that connect the beams.  The adjustability allows any peak or pitch of the roof.  The angle brackets have a lip for attachment to the top of the cubicle wall, and a post to accept another beam to connect trusses.

Finally, the roof material is simple nylon fabric sheets connected to the trusses and to each other with Velcro.  Having different lengths, widths, and colors provides for an endless combination of roof styles.  Light color fabrics for diffused light, dark colors for light blocking.  Inset screens for ventilation and panels for adjustable “skylights.”  Aftermarket and customizing possibilities could be large.

I would estimate one CubeRoof requiring three interconnected trusses, which would be eight straight bars, nine angle connectors, and two properly-sized roof panels.  Of course, I’m not going to build it.  That would be for someone much better than me, if you believe in the power of capitalism.

Coming Soon, Housing Crisis 2.0

This guy I know, well, I know him because he’s the one who used to own my house, but anyway, he keeps me around to do computer work for him.  And I do it.  And I get compensated handsomely, despite me telling him I don’t really need the money.  Well, anyway, I was at his house the other night doing computer stuff and he and his GF were having a conversation in hushed tones.  But I was right there beside them, and I was the only other one in the room, so I don’t know exactly why they were talking like that.  Except, I kinda do.

But let me first say this about the guy.  He’s successful.  Quite so.  He runs his own business in a subset of an industry where there is little to no competition and he is sought out for that skill and expertise.  He’s down to earth, but at the same time, he’s got plenty of money to spend.  You name it, he’s got it.  Boat, Corvette, camper, truck, huge house on a large plot of land, huge TVs everywhere.  Just got a divorce and is swallowing multi-thousand dollar alimony payments without slowing down.  Has someone who runs over right away when he has a computer problem and pays them much more than necessary.

And he’s pretty business smart.  I mean, he has a very successful business of his own, but he also had the sense to buy the land his house was built on when it only had a couple of trailers on it.  He now rents out the trailers and that pays his mortgage and then some.  So, I guess you would say he’s a successful landlord as well.

But now, in whispers, he’s talking to his GF in front of me about an opportunity to become a house flipper.  He has heard of an opportunity to buy a distressed house and he thinks he can flip it without investing any time or effort and learn how to do it correctly.  He may be right or he may not be.  But when I hear, “I just want to be the middleman”, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe he’s been watching too much Flip or Flop.  Maybe he’s been inspired from stories from his GF (who’s a property appraiser).  Maybe he’s just got too much cash lying around (what a problem to have). 

The thing is, experts say that when the rabble starts acting like experts, it’s time to make for the exits.  I’ve been reading stories about the increase of flipping and I’ve seen the HGTV shows that are promoting this more and more.  It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we were here.  But here we are.  I’m going to have to get myself prepared for this.

Christmas Startup Costs

This is the first year I’m going to be celebrating Christmas.  When I say that, I mean this is the first year I’m going to be doing the traditional tree and trimmings.  In years past, I did a tiny 3-ft, pre-lit artificial tree.  You know, the bare minimum.  I’m approaching this as a multi-year project, building up a little each year.  Maybe next year will be exterior decorations.

The point I’m making is that I’m starting with nothing.  I don’t even think I have a single tree ornament of my own.  So, if you are considering doing your first Christmas, consider this list for the things that you will need.  But, keep in mind, most all of these will be reusable next year, so you can spend a little more and get quality stuff that will last year after year.  Normally, I would factor in whether I wanted to have something new each year and budget for disposable items.  But I think Christmas stuff should have a sense of stability and memories each time they are used.  And if your approach is also a multi-year vision, decide what you want for next year and hit the after Christmas sales.

So, this is what I started with:

Tree Skirt

This was the first advance purchase.  The GF and I were evaluating our options at Old Time Pottery and we found one with the fabric we liked, but not the right colors.  Later, we were at Lowes and saw one we both immediately liked.  We noticed that Lowes’ Christmas supplies were really selling out (impressive), so I grabbed it right then to avoid any remorse over missing something we both agreed on.  Price: $30.

Tree Lights

Wow, so many options.  When I was growing up, we had one option for bulbs.  I think they are classified as C7.  But now, you have the LED lights and all these different shapes and colors.  This is where I had to start thinking.  I could do a themed tree, like all gold or silver or blue, in which case, I’d probably get a single-colored set.  Or, I could go traditional and get the multi-colored sets. 

I like the look of themed trees, but they seem so boring to me.  I wanted a more interesting tree, with ornaments of all different types, to encourage exploration and to capture different moments.  So, the lights I choose will either be multicolored or dual colored.

I started at Lowes.  What the hell.  They’re down to less than a full isle of Christmas stuff.  Less than a full isle! They didn’t have the lights I wanted.  Ok, let’s try Sears.  Sears usually surprises me with prices and selection.  Nope, Sears is down to thin pickings as well. Ok then, I know Target has them because I saw them the day before when I bought my tree stand.

I bought a 200-bulb string and two 50-bulb strings, for a total of $63.  All LED, all sphere shaped.  The 200-bulb is shiny and faceted and the two small strings are solid pearl lights.  That’s about 100 ft of lights, at $.63/ft  Not cheap, but much better than I budgeted.

Tree Ornaments

Consistent with my choice to have a non-themed tree, the ornaments will be a collection of many different shapes, colors, and styles.  One thing I am against, though, is “shatter-resistant” ornaments.  These plastic bulbs with the visible molding seams are cheap and tacky.  I understand their place in families with dumb children, but for the record, I never broke a glass ornament when I was growing up.  And since my household is not and will not be child-friendly, I’m having nice high-quality glass ornaments.  Although, after discussing with the girlfriend, we’re going to have to put shatterproof ornaments of some sort at the bottom to account for curious cat and clumsy dog – their first Christmas with a real tree.

There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to ornaments.  And the prices are all over the place, too.  You’ll probably start with some multi-sets, then in future years, buy unique individual pieces to create memories.

I hit two places at first, Old Time Pottery and Michaels, and got some basic red/green/clear balls and a spire tree topper (which I’ve learned is called a Finial).  Total running cost: $47. Then I did another run at Big Lots, Sears and JCPenney.  The quality is getting better and plenty of diversity.  Total now: $104.  At this point the cat thinks this is going to be the best Christmas ever.


Then I hit Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, Bealls, Target (again), and Michaels (again).  And I think we’re done.  Total: $195.  We did decide to go with the fancy ornament hooks instead of the simple wire hooks.  I have to say, they’re worth the investment, both in looks and usability.

As far as what we ended up with, there’s probably close to 200 ornaments on the tree, between glass balls, icicles, bells, diamond and ruby gems, a few birds, a bird nest, individual personal items, and some novelty items.

The Tree

The tree is going to be a live tree.  The initial reason for this is to have the more traditional experience.  If I find I don’t like it, I can always go artificial next year.  But I think I owe it to myself to try the real tree first.

We went to a tree stand that’s always been coming to town since I can remember: “Booger Mountain”.  We picked out a tree.  A big tree.  8 feet high and dense and wide.  They only took cash, and it was a chunk of cash.  $90.

Tree Stand

Since I’m going natural, I’ll need a tree stand.  I might as well get a nice one.  I had a couple of gift cards from Target, so I figured I’d use them there.  I ended up with a nice plastic stand with an easy watering opening for $20, $10 after gift cards.  I thought that was a good deal until I stopped at Walgreens and saw a stand on clearance for $7.  But what’s done is done.  My stand is good for an 8’ tree.  It did the job just fine.

The Complete Damage

Adding up everything, I’ve spend $390 on this project.  All but $90 will be reusable in future years.  The girlfriend spend $300 on her own exterior home decorating (first year for that, too) and all of that will be reusable in future years.  So, it looks like we’re even.

Do What You Love, Because What You Love Needs You

In my line of work, which is software development, there are two distinct types of people.  There are programmers and there are people who “do programming”.  You can probably relate that to your job, too, especially if you are in the former group for your field.  Some people are the field, and others are in the field.

If you define yourself by what you do, meaning you take pride in your work, you constantly learn the latest of what is going on in your profession, and you strive to push your profession further and be –if not notable – at least respected in your field, than you are your field.  That means you say “I am an X.” 

If you go to work to accomplish your tasks and mentally clock out at the end of the day to live your life, if you don’t have any interest in learning or studying what you do at work outside of work, then you are simply in your field.  Then you would say “I do X.”  Even if you work late or come in on weekends.  That just means you’re a good employee.  Then you would say, “I work at X doing Y.”

The people that “do” and not “are” should be reconsidering what they do.  Not only are they doing themselves a disservice because they lack the passion for their activity, but they are doing a disservice to the profession they are occupying.

In my line of work, there are plenty of people who are mediocre programmers.  And they get paid quite well and can do some good things for a company.  But they can’t do great things for the company.  And sometimes they can do bad things by not doing great things.  Think of security.  If you have a good programmer at a company and a great hacker who wants to attack that company, well, you know how that’s going to end up.

In any profession, do the people in the field bring down or hold back the ones who are the field?  Imagine going to the hospital and being worked on by not “a doctor” but instead someone who “does surgery.”  And what about those people who actually identify themselves this way unknowingly?  “I do house painting” vs. “I am a house painter.”  “This is what I do” vs. “This is what I am.”  It’s a big difference.

I feel I need to point out that skill and competency don’t play into this at all.  There’s the sarcastic, mocking statement, “I’m an artist!”, but despite skill level, the person that makes a statement like that has passion and will do the best that they currently can.  More importantly, they will constantly try to get better.  They push forward out of desire where others get pulled forward out of necessity.

There’s an endless number of professions out there and the one that you really want to do really wants you to do it.  They don’t want the clock-in/clock-out workers.  They want champions and leaders.  If everyone did what they loved, everyone would benefit.

The Simple Life

Today, I got thinking about a business model that just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.  At my workplace, once a week, we have a food truck come by.  It’s not really a food truck, it’s a hot dog stand.  You can get a couple of hot dogs, chips, and drink for $5.  Not a bad deal, but I didn’t like the flavor of their hot dogs, so I go elsewhere.

Anyway, my mind is trying to figure out how these guys survive.  My office isn’t huge; it can’t have more than 100 people in it.  And I can’t imagine that many people eat hot dogs every week.  So assuming 30 people getting food, that’s $150 a day.  That’s gross income.  Take out daily expenses like: vehicle gas, cooking gas, cooler ice, food cost, taxes, and cleaning supplies; and less frequent expenses like: insurance (doubtful), advertising/marketing, and cooking equipment, and what would you be left with?  And there’s two guys running it, so divide whatever profit is left in half.

Now assuming that maybe they can get by on whatever they are bringing in.  What’s the end game?  They can only be at place at one time, so they can’t increase sales.  The only way to do that is to go to a place that has more customers.  There’s no decent economies of scale because a second location requires double of just about everything.  Bulk purchases of supplies wouldn’t help all that much.

As far as entrepreneurial businesses go, this one is definitely in the “I love what I do” category.

What You Know, In Your Favor

Last night, actually early this morning, like 3 in the morning, I was driving home after returning from vacation.  It was late and dark, and I was tired.  Surprisingly, I was not the only person on the road at that hour, even though I was driving secondary highways.  Usually, it was nice to have another car on the road to keep my focus and pace, but sometimes it wasn’t, with people racing up behind me or pulling me faster than I was comfortable.  In those instances, I had the usual thoughts of “idiot” and “moron”, but I got to thinking about why people drive like they do.

Usually, you can attribute slow drivers behavior to a unhurried lifestyle.  Where I live, there’s no shortage of old people to drive 10-15 under the speed limit because they have nowhere to go.  What else?  Tourists, we have plenty of those, too.  People that are looking for something in particular among the clusters of business along the road.  Those are both understandable cases.  What about the cautious and the reckless, though?  That’s the situation I was in.  I was being cautious and I felt others were being reckless.  And my mind wandered to the concept of wisdom, earned by experience.

The conclusion I came to is that living life is a perpetual game of risk management.  Let’s put this in a totally different perspective.  If presented with an opportunity to walk a tightrope between two buildings, most normal people would do a risk assessment.  “I have never walked on a tightrope before, so my experience in this endeavor is zero.  Let’s then say that makes my chances of success, zero.”  A moderately skilled tightrope walker would do different evaluations.  “I’ve walked that distance before. The winds would be stronger than what I’ve experienced, and the height might cause some extra distraction.  I have a decent chance of success.”  A skilled walker would only have to do a quick evaluation.  “I can do that.  Distance and height aren’t an issue.  What’s the weather going to be like?”

I consider myself an experienced driver, so my evaluation of driving conditions is pretty quick.  However, experience has taught me that there are many variables that need to be considered.  Road debris and wildlife are chief among those concerns.  Driving late at night in the woods doesn’t give you much reaction time.  Yet, some people drive like it’s broad daylight. 

I assume these drivers just don’t have the experience I have.  And you don’t even have to experience something personally to gain from it.  Have you ever had a moment of thought like, “If I’d left a little bit earlier, that could have been me.”  Or maybe “If I’d left a little bit later, that could have been me.”  After enough of these moments, the wisdom comes.  “It doesn’t matter when I leave, it can be me.”  And so you have to be aware of what could happen at any time.  Maybe these drivers haven’t seen enough yet.  “I’ve never seen a cop on this road” is popular.  Replace that with “never seen a tree down”, “never seen a deer”, “never blown a tire”,”never slid on a turn” or any number of other things that I’ve seen or done in my years.

But experience brings wisdom.  I was once in their shoes.  As a reckless youth many years ago, I was driving on a slushy highway up north.  Inexplicably, I had the cruise control on.  Even more incredibly, when I caught up to a car, I simply moved into the passing lane – up a hill, on a turn, with the cruise control on – and promptly lost all traction.  My car spun 360 degrees around, and the other car slowed down to give me room to do my thing.  Now in front of the other car, I spun another 180 degrees, slid off the road backwards and slammed into the mountainside.  The other car slowed down enough to make sure I was ok when I got out of my car, then promptly left me there to die.  Middle of winter, probably 20 miles from anything and long before cell phones existed.  It’s a really good thing people were more helpful back then.

Since then, I’ve grown up a lot and put a lot of experience into my mental file as to what could happen when you do the wrong things.

Get More

Many months ago, I had come across a book, The Four Hour Work Week, and I was quite unimpressed by it and its author.  Recently, a blogger that I follow read the book and was advocating for it.  Not for the processes in the book exactly, but more along the line of “getting your due.”

My personal employment situation is different than both the Four Hour author and this blogger.  I work for a company and I develop and maintain their internal software.  I’m not a consultant, so the blog author’s primary arguments about “you are paid $50/hr, but your employer gets paid $150-$300/hr for the work you do” don’t resonate with me.  Even so, I have held those jobs in the past, so I know what it’s about.

I know myself well enough to say, I’m not cut out for running a business.  I know because I’ve tried.  There’s a lot involved.  The blogger says that for the difference in what you get made vs what you could potentially make, you could hire the people that can make it happen for you.  Not a salesperson?  Hire one.  Not an accountant?  Hire one.  And I guess you could keep justifying that a lot.  After all you’re making 3-6x what you were making before.

At least you’d be making that much if you were perpetually busy.  Scott Adams recent book has a very wise observation that there is an upper bound on what you can make if your income is dependent on your labor.  And that’s the upper bound.  There is no lower bound. And when you start from scratch, you don’t have the luxury of a backlog of work and pay.

Bottom line is you have to be of the entrepreneur mold.  And there shouldn’t be anything wrong with not being of that type.  You should still be able to be successful by being the best you can be in your field.

With that position – my position – stated, I must say that I believe the teachings of the “four hour work week” are detrimental for young workers.  If you find this works for you, then you are already that type of person.  I don’t believe just anyone can become “that person”.  I know I couldn’t live with myself like that.  I’ve also learned in my time that I don’t want to be associated with people like that.

Which then brings me back to my inner conflict with a blogger I enjoy reading.  I guess I need to wish him well, because everyone has to find their own way.  My way has worked well for me.  Could I have more?  Probably.  Would I also have more stress in my life?  Probably.  Would I trade more money for more stress?  Absolutely not.

Thanks For Your Opinion

I’ve been saying 2015 is going to be a great year.  It’s a year I’m going to focus on me and not get involved with outside projects like helping other people or starting businesses, or committing to volunteer to a group.  Doesn’t that sound selfish?

Well, I believe everyone needs to have a period of time to reflect and recharge.  Putting out energy and effort all the time is very difficult and draining, especially for an introvert. (And what’s up with all the recent articles on introverts, anyway?)

While I spend this time building myself back up, I also want to take the time and look at myself and others and decide what needs changing.  One of the things that I’ve really gotten irritated with is people’s tendency to state opinion as fact.  And if they’re not stating it as fact, then they’re stating it as an absolute.  If it’s not an absolute, then it’s being stated as a benchmark.  You get what I’m saying.  “This product will make your life easier.”  If not that, then, “This product is the best.”  And if not that that, then, “If you’re not using this product, then you’re not getting any benefit.”

Sounds like Marketing 101, right?  So why try to fight that?  I’m sure I do it on occasion, too.  But that’s something I want to change.  The tone of people when they make statements like that is exclusionary.  What they are saying, to a degree, is, “I use this (or do this, or have this, or even want this), and if you don’t as well, you are inferior.”  Notice that it can actually be used against people when you aren’t even in the group, just that you want to be in the group is enough.

What’s the alternative?  First, understand that your choice is always a personal opinion.  Guard your statement like, “In my opinion, this product is the best.” or “For my needs, this product works best.”  You are allowing the other person to disagree without either of you losing face. Now if the other person responds with a personal attack like, “that’s because you’re stupid,” well, what can you do?  You know what you’re dealing with.

Next, realize that there are many ways of accomplishing the same result. A product or service or lifestyle or anything else is made up of a bunch of smaller parts.  A person’s choice may still satisfy the individual needs even if the whole product is different.  In summary, this is the “that’s not important to me” factor that no one ever considers when making broad opinion-based statements.  Of course, counter-arguments can devolve into “If that’s not important to you, then you don’t know anything about this.”

Understanding and remembering these points is what I want to work on this year.  I don’t want to be that person, that fanboy, that pretentious jerk, that know-it-all.  I want to be inclusive, not exclusive.  Accept people’s choice and don’t insult them for it.  Recognize that your choice may be better-suited (not better) and if so, promote the details that make it better-suited (not better) for that person.  Understand that you don’t know what is unimportant to others and don’t insist they make it important.

A good example I’ve mentioned before is the motorcycling community.  Some people are like “If you don’t ride a Harley, you’re nothing” and others are like, “As long as you’re on two wheels (or three in some cases), you’re cool.”  Exclusive vs. inclusive.  And at the end of the day, we’re all just people.

Let Me Tell You

This is something that I’ve seen for a long time.  Maybe I’ve complained about it before.  But I’ve started to see the problem manifested in different ways and the progression is a little disturbing to me.

Quite a long while ago, news channels discovered there wasn’t really enough news to support a 24-hr cycle.  So they started doing more sensationalistic pieces.  Then they started moving towards opinion pieces.  With “opinion news”, they could discuss the same news story in many different ways, filling up the time needed.  The problem with that is that it’s opinion.  That’s one person telling you what you should believe.  And you know what?  That works very damn well.

Recently, an organization I was affiliated with came under attack by a variety of people led by a single blogger who drew a multi-step path of loose connections into an accusation of racism.  And you know what?  It worked pretty damn well.  Not flawless, because many people were able to think rationally and refute the claims.  But, when led down a path – “and if that’s true, then…” – some people will see whatever it is you want them to see.

Most recently, I saw a funny video on Youtube.  In the related videos, I was surprised to see some new genre, “reaction videos” was now legitimate.  Think about that.  You’re watching a video of people watching a video.  I bring this up because it’s another way of leading you down the path.  “You see how these people are reacting to this?  You didn’t react the same way.  You’re different.” 

And that’s the root of the problem.  All of these sources are trying to tell you how to think, how to behave, and what to believe.  Be yourself, be confident, be good.