Posts Tagged ‘Work’

Need Something to Do?

Things that need doing, that desperately need doing, that I do not have time to do:

1. A real, physical newspaper for Lehi.  I started one, but have not had the time to continue.  It was worth the investment.  I learned a lot.  I believe it matters.

2. A serious attempt at a local literary revival.  I know a good deal about the mechanics of how to get a book written, published, and sold.  I am also a fierce proponent of the power of locality and community, and, although this runs counter to the conventional wisdom, I believe that the physical is still more powerful than the virtual.  I believe that it is not only possible but highly desirable to have a local press for local writers distributing books through local stores.  I can see the entire thing, how it would all work.  I don’t have time (and likely don’t have the skills) to do it.

3. Hard research on the value of coaching rotation in college football.  I have a theory.  It would be an interesting one – and potentially a valuable one – to any university that was thinking of trying to win a national championship.  Don’t have time to do the research to see if my theory is true.

4. A solid PR campaign for the mortgage/ real-estate industry.  We’ve been savaged over the last few years because of the economic downturn supposedly caused by the greed and fraud of people who do what I do.  The record could use some straightening out, and more than that, the value created by people that do what I do should be and must be highlighted.  Those of us that are really good at what we do provide services that save people millions.  I believe it would be a very good thing if more people understood that.

5. TEDx Lehi.  There are huge numbers of techies in this part of the valley, and more coming all the time.  We’re a creative and interesting bunch.  The TED program is one of the most interesting and inspiring ideas I’ve seen in a long while, and I want to be part of putting one on right here in Utah County.  I don’t have time to do it.

6. Writing Training Trap.  My good friend Glen has a terrific idea for a business book.  It needs to be written.  Not only can I not write it, I don’t even have time to badger him so that HE has time to write it.

That’s depressing enough for one day.

I had a friend ask me if I was going to survive the wreckage of the mortgage industry, if I was worried about being out of business.  There are several stock answers I use to that question (“as long as there’s a mortgage industry, I’ll be working in it,” etc.) , but I decided at that moment on a new one: Hell no.  The second I don’t have a job here I have ten more ready to go.  Give me back the 40+ weekly hours I spend on mortgages, and I probably have time to do three or four of those things above.  If City 1st ever gets rid of me, I won’t even have time to move my desk.

Meantime, if you’re looking around for something to do, I have some suggestions.

Introducing Brass Tack

Today’s post is directly inspired by a fantastic post on the Brass Tack blog, run by Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear – and do you not LOVE her name?) and Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra, one of the best handles on Twitter, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever read).  The post is here, and you may not continue reading the below until you have read Tamsen’s post there.

I lived for twelve years in one town down the road. Met a few people. Caused some trouble. Ended up not wanting to stay because of the reaction some had to that trouble. I had a few friends, knew a couple of people, but on the whole, I was nobody.

Then I moved up the road. The first week I was here, I went to the Chamber of Commerce meeting. And instead of sitting at the back, getting my bearings, I sat up front and introduced myself to the Chairman before the meeting. I was invited to stay after. Then to sit on the Board. Then I was the Chairman myself after a couple years. The same thing happened in Rotary, and over and over in other organizations. Shockingly, in just a couple of years I knew everyone in town, where in the other town I knew only a handful of people. The difference was exactly what Tamsen brilliantly outlined in her post.

People drop out of those organizations all the time, and the main reason they give is “it just doesn’t work for me”, which, being that I was in a position to observe, meant “I don’t do anything, so nobody can tell how awesome I am. Guess I’ll quit.” Those of us that have been there, and worked, some of us for years, know that these organizations can be fantastic networking tools, but they respond with a multiple of the force we put into them, after we demonstrate that we’re in it for the long haul. Put in zero, and no multiple will help. Put it huge effort for one project, then disappear, and a similar thing happens.  But stick around and push, and pretty soon the other workers want to know who you are, and what you can do to make their lives better.  That’s business.

Tamsen put this all so well. And do we ever need the reminder.

Are you all in?

There’s a film I like called Gattaca.  It’s a morality play about how each of us has inside us someone better and someone worse than the person we are right now.

There’s a particular scene where Vincent, our hero, who has been told all his life that he is inferior, is swimming in a raging storm, racing his perfect older brother, and beating him.  Here’s the relevant exchange:

Anton Freeman: Vincent! How are you doing this Vincent? How have you done any of this? We have to go back.
Vincent: It’s too late for that. We’re closer to the other side.
Anton Freeman: What other side? You wanna drown us both?
Vincent: You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.

I won’t ruin the film for you by telling you anything else.  But to me, the message of that was that if you’re going to become the best possible you, you have to use up your reserves.  You have to leave nothing for the swim back.  Vincent was Anton’s superior, because Vincent, though genetically inferior, was the best possible Vincent, and Anton, like most of those told they were genetically superior, never risked enough to become anything more than a pale shadow of what he could have been.

A few posts back I wrote about potential, and how all my life I was told that I had this immense potential, and how I was sure that I was a disappointment to most of the people that said that.  I’ve also written about aging, and how with age comes the realization that there are a larger and larger number of things I will never get better at than I am right now.  None of that is false.

But there was something buried in those posts that I am only now coming to understand.  I am 42 years old now.  I am, by most any measure, middle-aged.  And what image does that call up for you?  Yeah, me too.  Consolidation.  Conservation.  Rationing of strength and resource.  I finally hit an age where people don’t really expect me to do bigger things that those I have already done.  I have become Vincent, after all my life as Anton.

All of us are Vincent.  All of us have the potential to defy our limitations.  But we cannot do it without doing what he did, and playing flat out.  All the way.  Pushing the chips to the center of the table and risking everything on the river card.  Yes, we can certainly make a good life for ourselves without that.  We can be happy.  We can be safe.

But we cannot be extraordinary.  In the last analysis, I believe that the greatest enemy of the amazing is not the terrible, but the pretty cool.  The good enough.  The decent.  It is far harder to go from respected and competent to mind-blowing than it is to go there from awful.  At awful, what do you have to lose?  You don’t go back.  You keep swimming to the farther shore, because you know you aren’t saving anything for the swim back.

We are meant to be extraordinary.  We are meant to shine, not to glow faintly.  Bet big.  Risk.  Try for something astonishing.  Go all in.

If you do, my money’s on you.

A To-DON’T List

What’s on your to-don’t list today?

A few weeks back, on Facebook, I asked people for their time-management suggestions.  I got a lot of them, and most of them were outstanding.  One in particular, from my old friend Janice Welker, leaped out at me, and set me thinking ever since.  She said that a to-do list was a chance for her to decide on all those things she was not going to do that day, that she used it to remember who was in control of her life.  I thought that was a great concept.

So, in the spirit of that, here is today’s to-don’t list:

1. Don’t stay in bed because you think nobody will care if you’re just a few minutes late.

2. Don’t assume that Jeanette knows you love her, just because you told her last night.

3. Don’t figure that the kids will weed just as hard if you’re not out there with them.

4. Don’t leave the baby for Jeanette to change because you think your work is too important for you to take a couple minutes.

5. Don’t make your body try to do its work on a glass of water and some vitamins.

6. Don’t call later.  There is no “later”.

7. Don’t figure people are smart enough to know what you need without your asking them.

8. Don’t think you can fit everything in that you have to do without taking a couple minutes to plan.

9. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is more important than your family.  It’s just louder.

10. Don’t think you’re ever going to get around to going fishing with your Dad unless you put something on the calendar.

11. Don’t think people that need mortgage lending in Utah are going to call you out of the blue, even if you aren’t doing anything to let them know you’re there.

12. Don’t expect blocks of time to magically open up in your calendar so you can take your wife out for ice cream.

13. Don’t get discouraged because two hours of writing only gets 4.7% of your book written.  It’s 4.7% more than you had before you started.

There’s more, but this post was not on the to-do list this morning, which I had better get back to.  What’s on YOUR to-Don’t list today?

Blow-You-Away Service? Believe It.

I’m a nut about good customer service.  I strongly recommend 1st Choice AMS, the great people at Jimmy Johns on Alpine Hwy in Lehi, and now I have a new fave as well.

My good friend Jonathan and I went to lunch today and chose the American Fork Olive Garden as our spot.  There’s a story behind that.  But one thing at a time.

We got there, got right in, had to wait maybe ten seconds, and our cheerful waitress Laura showed up and gave us a thorough rundown of the menu.  Mentioned some new stuff there.  Pointed out a couple things.  She was professional.  We ordered the soup, salad and breadsticks, which is what I go there for, and Jonathan got the spinach-artichoke dip as well.  She told us it would be about 7 minutes, and asked if we wanted our other stuff first.  We did.

She was back in about 2 minutes with the other stuff.  Cheese on top?  Don’t mind if I do.  I love the Toscana, and Jonathan is into the Gnocchi, so we munched on that and the breadsticks and generally, Laura was right on top of us the whole time.  She was within one minute of her prediction on the dip, too.  Which was also excellent.

We were never without breadsticks – one of my pet peeves about Olive Garden is that I run through the breadsticks too fast.  Not too fast for Laura, apparently.  Clearly, it was not her first day on the job, but she also went out of her way to make sure we were having a good time.  And we told her we noticed that.  We like to do that; I believe that if you praise something, you get more of it, and if you criticize something, you get less of it, generally speaking.  So we told her she was doing a great job, because she was.

Then we get the bill.  And inside it is this:

Okay, NOW I’m going to have to see the manager, who was Darren today, and tell him how impressed I am with Laura (and, frankly, I shouldn’t forget Colleen, either), and that she’s underpaid.  So he comes out, and we chat, and he tells us she’s getting free dessert for making us so pleased.  We part amiably, then Jonathan pulls out two gift cards to pay.

“Know where I got these?” he asked me.

“No,” I said.

“From right here,” he said.

This Olive Garden was hit by a car just last Friday.  It went through the wall into the bathrooms and could have seriously injured a huge number of people (fortunately, it didn’t).  Of course, the restaurant was then closed for repairs.  But during the closed period, while they were furiously rebuilding, anyone that came to Olive Garden to eat, and had to be turned away, was met in the parking lot by the waitstaff, who thanked everyone graciously for coming, then gave them gift cards to let them know how much the restaurant appreciated them coming there, even if they couldn’t now get a meal.  I bet the restaurant even paid the staff to be there, which is a huge deal for many of them.

Unbelievable.  Service like this, appreciation like this, even the very tiny act of giving the waitstaff little cards on which they could write thank-you notes to the patrons are signs of a truly exceptional business.  Everyone there deserves applause, and a great share of our patronage now and into the future.

Go see for yourself.