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Month: June 2008

A New Job


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Well this certainly does nothing to help me get out of the rat race but it does keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. I decided that I would take the severance from the company I currently work for rather than let them give me a pay cut or more responsibility and the same pay. I was able to make this decision because I got offered a job at another company. It’s still retail but it’s with a company that is at the top of the pet supply industry instead of at the bottom of the office supply industry like where I am at now. I really think it is only a matter of time until this company is bought out or goes out of business all together and I would rather not be around for either scenario. I did find out today though that they were going to offer me the assistant manager position, albeit for the same money I was currently getting.

One of the really cool things is that my new job is only a 10 mile commute. So I’ve fulfilled my mission of a 10 Mile or Less Commute. When I first started that idea I never knew that I would be accomplishing it so fast. But a failing company helped make that a reality.

Another cool thing is that today is my last day and I don’t start my new job until Monday so I’ve got several days off that I can really try and act out my Beating Your To Do Lists ideas.

I really don’t know what this new job will be like. All signs point to it being better working conditions than what I have been dealing with. I did some quick math and was able to estimate that I will be spending about 80 less hours in my car each year simply because of having a shorter commute. I’m still thinking about getting a scooter to drive to work because of how good the gas mileage would be but I think it would take a couple years to actually pay for itself so I’m not sure about that yet.

Monday begins yet another chapter in my working career. The adventure continues.


Beating Your To-Do Lists


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There you are at the office on Friday afternoon thinking to yourself that you’ve got your whole weekend ahead of you. (I’m speaking hypothetically of course. I neither work in an office or know what it’s like to have weekends off.) You know you’ve got a lot to do at home and so you begin to write out a to do list of everything you want to get accomplished. You say to yourself that this weekend will be the one where you get everything done and you can finally relax because you’re caught up on work around the house. But then the weekend comes and goes and you find that you only got a small portion of your list accomplished and your precious time away from your job was filled with fruitless hours of trying to accomplish work that ultimately didn’t get finished because real life happens and family needs or whatever have derailed your carefully planned to do list. Feeling disappointed and anything but rested you return to work on Monday and already begin to calculate next weekend’s to do list that this time will succeed!

I’ve been in this cycle far too many times. I’ve tried different methods of breaking the cycle to varying degrees of only partial success. Recently though I tried a whole new approach to to do lists. If I know that, by some miracle, I will have multiple days off in a row coming up I will try to make a big to do list several days in advance. If I don’t specifically write down everything that needs done around the house things will be forgotten, it just happens. Once I have made my list I try to get as many things accomplished on that list as possible before the days off even arrive. The goal here is to get my giant list down to just a few things before the weekend starts, so that when I do have time off from work I’m not spending all of that time working. Otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose of having time off doesn’t it?

Give it a shot and see what happens. I know that when I get off work each day the last thing I want to do is more work, but if it means a day or two without having anything that needs done to do, well then that is completely worth it.


Seeing Your Goals Through To Completion


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Some people get writers block, I just get bored. I’m the type of person that can think of many different ideas for projects but then once I get the ball rolling I often lose interest and want to move on to something else. The problem with this approach for people who are working for themselves and not someone who has minions to carry out his wishes, is that there is no one left to carry on the project once the original idea maker has decided to move on.

If you are trying to get out of the rat race then you can’t afford this approach to your ideas. You either need to plan for and recognize in advance which ideas are not even feasible, and therefore not waste time pursuing them, or you need to see things through to completion. And completion of a project can mean many different things, including years of hard work depending on what you are attempting to do. You need to be able to honestly ask yourself if that level of dedication is something you want to commit to and if not you need to bale out before you even begin.

Getting more to the heart of what this article is about though, what if you are already committed to an idea? You’ve dedicated time, resources, and money to a concept and now the day to day drudgery of seeing the idea through to completion is starting to wear you down. Maybe you thought it would be a good idea to make money from a blog and now you’ve got to have high quality original articles written on time several times a week and let’s face it sometimes you just don’t feel like it. So do you throw in the towel when the going gets tough?

That would be the easy path to take. The path of least resistance that takes you right back where you started. Right back where you can briefly follow another tangent of an idea instead of really committing yourself to one excellent idea and pursuing it with all you have. I’m preaching to myself here as well, though I’ve seen others far worse at these things than I am. I’ve known a couple people that think of lots of ideas and start making investments into the ideas only to abandon them shortly afterwards and sometimes trying to get others to develop their ideas for them for a small cut before the final abandonment happens.

I’m not innocent of this approach to projects either but here’s the best advice I know how to give: Slow down, think on it, sleep on it, keep a file on your computer of your really big impossible to accomplish ideas, and then pursue what seems best and leave the rest. Seek advice from others when possible though be aware that anyone is capable of stealing your ideas. The theft of an idea isn’t so bad in and of itself, it’s the completion of an idea that matters. So don’t be so paranoid that you can’t lean on others for advice but don’t be so trusting that you are easily taken advantage of.


Using Blog Carnivals To Promote Your Blog


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There are two approaches to making a blog. One is to keep a personal log of your life with little regard to how many people are reading your content. The other approach is to reach as many people as possible for the purpose of delivering your ideas to the world at large and more likely to try and make a profit from your blog.

One of the easiest ways to drive some traffic to your blog is to submit your articles to blog carnivals. This can be done through blogcarnival.com, which is an archive of thousands of carnivals that are categorized and listed according to date of when the next upcoming issue will be posted. Having your article listed on a relevant carnival can drive extra traffic to your blog and most likely those visitors would not have found your blog otherwise. Like anything on the Internet, blog carnivals have varying degrees of quality and traffic that they are capable of delivering to your site. Giving your articles an appropriate yet memorable title will give you greater success when trying to get noticed by carnival operators.

I used blog carnivals quite a bit to jump start the traffic on this site but in the last couple weeks I have been admittedly lax in submitting articles to carnivals and I’ve noticed a bit of a dip in my daily traffic. From this I can gather that not all of the visitors from these carnivals are very valuable to my site, but there is an unseen value here. A key to boosting your search engine rankings is getting other sites to link to yours and I’ve found no easier way of securing external links than with blog carnivals. This is where blog carnivals provide you the opportunity for sustained repeat traffic through search engines.

There are other good aspects of blog carnivals as well. They can be great resources for you in learning new things from some of the really great writers who are out there writing these blogs that are listed in the carnivals. There is a lot of junk in the blogosphere as well and a quality carnival won’t list junk articles so it’s sort of like having a trash filter on whatever topic you are looking for more information on.

It’s also incredibly easy to start your own carnival and get it listed at blogcarnival.com. This approach allows you to snag some traffic from other sites who’s articles you’ve listed without doing any content creation yourself.


Job Update


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I hate making entries like this because I feel like I’m adding nothing of real value to my readers lives. On the other hand this website is supposed to chronicle my journey in life.

So apparently I won’t find out for another week and a half whether or not I still have a job with the company I’m currently with. It seems that they want to wait until the last day to tell everyone who is getting a new position who is getting laid off. I’m not sitting around though I’ve got interviews with other companies coming up so hopefully something good will come from that.

I think the part of this whole thing that is really frustrating is that it feels like I’m just digging myself deeper into the Rat Race by either surviving this corporate restructuring or beginning a job at yet another company.


I Like Paying $4 For Gas


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Really, I like spending $60 to fill up the tank in my car…okay maybe I don’t like it. In fact I pretty much hate it, I’m going broke just driving to work each day. But the Democrats in Washington must think that we all like paying $4 a gallon for gas because they are standing in the way of lower prices again. Or maybe they don’t think about us at all, they only think about themselves.

On Wednesday Republican representative John Peterson was trying to push a bill through a house subcommittee that would open up offshore drilling for oil for the first time in 27 years. The Democrats however defeated the bill saying ridiculous things like “we can’t drill our way out of this” and claiming that it will take 7 to 10 years to get any of the oil to shore. Okay so it will take some time to get it done, so the Democrats solution is to just do nothing instead.

The environmentalists were there too of course trying to keep prosperity out of America’s hands and placing it even more firmly into the hands of terrorist nations. For the Democrats’ part in all of this, it was a completely political decision. Their plan is to ensure that gas prices stay high in a presidential election year so that they can say things like “Eight years of a Republican president has given you high gas prices, do you really want more of that?”, when really they are the ones that have caused the price increases and are now keeping those prices high while they pretend to be on the side of the American people.

I wish I could believe that their plan won’t work but I can’t believe that. The reason that I can’t believe it is that most Americans don’t pay any attention to the day to day sleazy things that politicians do to hinder their constituents and advance their own careers. For a lot of people on election day it is simply a brainless choice between Republican or Democrat parties and very little thought given to what the candidates, regardless of party, actually stand for. I’m generally not a pessimistic person but I really have a hard time seeing any change in the near future to this political formula that drives our nation (into the ground) because the people who have the power to change the status quo are the only ones who are beneficiaries of the status quo and therefore have no desire to change things.

So then as usual we are on our own. I for one plan to try and continue my pursuits of energy saving lifestyle and a 10 mile or less commute to work. I might not have the power to change the world but I can do my best to keep the world of politics from ruining my finances.


Live It Like You Mean It


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My recent employment issues once again has me contemplating where my life is headed. As should be pretty clear to regular readers of my articles I obviously have no love for being a part of corporate America. And the main reason is because I’ve got other things I want to be doing with my life. And I just keep realizing how time keeps going by without me being all that much closer to achieving my life goals. When I was away from home for a month earlier this year training for my wonderful new job that has turned into a nightmare, I was able to write half a dozen new songs while in my hotel room. I returned home excited by the possibilities that new musical productivity in 2008 would mean. Four months later though those songs haven’t been recorded and I’ve barely touched my new songs. Thanks largely to a job where I’m working 50 hrs a week instead of the 40 that I used to work.

So here I am on the verge of another possible job change and I have to question what this next move has in store for my creative pursuits. I’ve known people much more talented than myself that have quit any creative pursuits in favor of college or jobs. There’s obviously nothing wrong with any of these choices for people who don’t have creative aspirations for a dream. But for me it is a dream and I can’t just let it die because of a job. The question I find myself asking myself is, what if I continue down this path for ten more years? Those thoughts scare me like not much else can. I’ve worked in retail for more than 7 years and its been 7 years too long. The idea that ten years from now I could still be working retail and no closer to accomplishing much with music or writing is a depressing thought indeed.

But if am completely honest with myself, I need to acknowledge that I haven’t done everything I could to pursue my dreams. Far from it. Everyone needs time to relax and kick back after a hard days’ work but it is all too easy to become complacent and plop down in front of the television for hours or play video games or whatever. If I and anyone like me is truly serious about our creative pursuits then we need to live like we mean it. I did some serious editing to this article before I posted it and the main reason is that the original tone was one of frustration at my circumstances. But then today during my lunch break, I spent most of it playing games on my phone instead of using the time to write like I usually do. If I really do want to get somewhere I need to actually put in the effort even when I sometimes don’t feel like it. I’ve dealt with this idea in the past, but it seems like I need to keep reminding myself.

So what is my solution? What is my hope for the future of my dreams? I have to believe that I haven’t been given talent for no reason. I have to believe that I was meant to use my talents for something more than just entertaining myself. I have to continue to believe that one day I will actually be doing something more meaningful than helping customers buy office products. And at the same time not lose site of the possibility that there is a reason why the people I work with are in my life, that they might somehow need me in their lives and that I might somehow need them in mine. I must be resolute in my pursuit of my dreams, yet not take for granted what is around me in the here and now. I’m usually not this introspective on this blog but recent events have me being a bit introspective lately.

Some random trivia for you: The title for this article was taken from a line in a song I wrote a few years ago titled “You Remain.” It’s about someone reaching the end of their life and questioning whether any good had come from it. It’s sung from the perspective of someone affirming to the person that they had indeed impacted many lives.


I’ve Been Eliminated


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Well it seems that once again I am being kicked around by the greed mongers who run the rat race. I found out on last Friday that as of June 26th my position is being eliminated, along with many other positions. The company has provided three possible outcomes for myself and the thousands of other individuals affected by this. I can end up with a position that has the same pay but much more responsibility (including all of the responsibilities I already had), I could end up with a position that has only slightly less responsibility than what I have now but with significantly less pay, or I could just have no job at all with very little severance pay. Awesome.

Now, I understand that the people in charge of this company have an obligation to keep it profitable but that isn’t any consolation to the 2000+ people who will be losing their jobs in a couple weeks. This is causing a lot of hardship for the families affected by it and they all feel powerless in the face of this big corporation. As much as I feel bad for everyone else dealing with this situation, my main concern is being able to take care of my own family and I’m not waiting around to see how everything plays out in the next couple weeks. I’m applying anywhere and everywhere. When the dust settles if I still work for this company, it won’t matter. I’ll still be looking to get out because there is no good outcome possible of the two choices that mean I’m still employed by them. For the month of May retailers cut 27,000 jobs and I’m sure June will post similar numbers. Things with the economy won’t improve anytime soon and the full weight of Internet competition is really starting to hit traditional retail stores hard.

As a side note they aren’t as of yet making cutbacks at corporate headquarters, but they did think it was a good idea to turn off the air conditioning at the stores. It’s 85 degrees in my office right now.

This will be the first time in my working career that I might be leaving a job at a time other than my choosing. The best I can hope for out of all of this is that maybe I can finally find a job outside of the stink hole that is retail. It was just over 5 months ago when I got the call offering me the job at this company. I was so excited to be leaving the job I had held for almost 6 years. I didn’t know what this new job would be like and I didn’t care. I was getting out of a place I had hated for much of the time I worked there. And when I started at this new job, I actually liked it somewhat. I had never known that was possible. But then only a few months into working there they started cutting payroll drastically and at the same time they began to add many layers of bureaucratic micro-management to the job. And now of course this, “In two weeks you will no longer have a job, unless we see fit to keep you around under crappier conditions than you were already experiencing.” I knew the company was doing pretty bad but nobody working there expected these kinds of drastic measures. As always I can’t mention the name of the company, at least not while I am still employed there. I’ll keep things updated as they happen.


You Are the Product


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This article is in some ways a continuation of Wednesday’s article, Raising the Value of You. Once again I will be discussing the field of creative professionals on the Internet, though the concepts discussed in this article apply equally well in many areas of business.

If you are a creative professional and you want to succeed at online business then you need to start thinking of yourself as a product that you are trying to sell. And with any product you need to arm yourself with knowledge about the product so you can determine how best to market it, package it, and price it.

To know how to market the product of you you need to know what your target audience is. If you are writing a blog about fishing then your market will probably be something like males from 20-50 who are in to fishing. This knowledge should affect your website design, your written voice and choice of words, and where if anywhere you plan to buy advertising for your blog. But more to the point of thinking of yourself as the product, you need to determine what sort of image you are going to present to your adoring fans-to-be. I believe that you should be yourself, it’s who you are best at being anyway. But the Internet gives you a little leeway in this. If you make your life to be a little larger than real life, as long as you are a competent writer, your readers won’t know. I think a much better route to take however is one that stretches you to become more than who you are now, to try things that you’ve never done before. This helps keeps you as a product fresh, and it keeps things interesting for you as well.

So what kind of packaging is best for you? Shiny plastic with slick graphics or a brown paper bag? Logic dictates that you want the most professional look that you can possibly create (or buy) for yourself. Strangely enough though some of the people on the Internet who are the best at making a living doing what they do, do it with fairly substandard looking sites. Sometimes the presentation isn’t as important as the backbone that drives a website. Walk this line softly. Strive to look professional but don’t get too caught up in all the bells and whistles of Internet technology that you lose site of creating great content.

So what about price? How much are you worth? If you are selling a service then you should be charging whatever your market can bear and if you are really good at what you do and market yourself well, that could be a good deal. But if you are just starting out in the service field you may want to consider offering lower prices to attract some clients. There is a flip side to this method however, if you sell yourself too cheap you are making yourself look like a startup when your potential clients might not otherwise have any notion of that.

But about those of us who are not actually selling anything, does price still apply? Maybe not directly, but there ways that it can. In the earlier example of the person writing a blog about fishing from above, he’s not selling access to the blog or any products himself. But he can sell advertising and needs to determine what that is worth to potential advertisers. Again the principles of setting price that I discussed above apply here but with one small problem. Even if he is really good at what he does, website stats don’t lie and neither do search engine rankings. Potential advertisers won’t be fooled if you don’t have the traffic to back up what you are trying to charge, unless they too are startups and don’t know any better.
In the end, you are the only one who is going to sell yourself to other people so you better have a good idea of what you are and how the public will see you.


Raising the Value of You


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If you were going to start a business in the physical world and wanted to sell products, you would invest a good bit in advertising and hope the customers came rolling in. From there it would be up to you to wow them with your sales techniques and provide good customer service in hopes that they come back. Well when you are starting an online business things don’t work that much different when you are trying to sell products. You build a store, invest in advertising, and provide great customer service and hope the people keep coming back to your store and not the millions of competitors.

But what if what you are trying to sell is yourself? What I’m most familiar with is writing and music so I apologize if some of you are getting tired of examples that relate to those two subjects. Let’s say for example if you are a musician and you are trying to stand out from the crowd or you are a writer trying to promote a book you are self-publishing. Social networking sites can be a good source of millions of potential customers for your creative outlets but I have found that they don’t work as well as we all might like. On MySpace.com for example people use 3rd party websites to rake in thousands of “friends” that they can then promote themselves to. The problem is that everyone is doing this same thing and of 99% of your “friends” really don’t care what you are trying to sell them through your bulletin posts because all that most of them are trying to do is get thousands of friends as well and most of them have probably never even been to your MySpace page.

In economic hard times and the ever growing sea of other creative professionals on the Internet it’s no longer a viable business model to simply exist on the Internet and expect people will give you their money. Unless you are at the top of your creative field, which I hope none of the people reading this are arrogant enough to claim that they are. So what then is the solution?

The solution lies in giving your website visitors something valuable in their lives. Whether that is free advice, interesting articles about topics relevant to them, or free music or artwork. The idea is that if you add value into their lives, then they will (hopefully) at some point add monetary value into yours. Musicians who work in the Electronica genre have been masters of this concept for years. Artists routinely release several full length digital albums completely free of charge and build a huge following before they start charging money for their art. And when they do start charging money they find out one of two things: That their music has really affected people’s lives and they want to continue that experience or that their art wasn’t as powerful as thousands of free downloads had led them to believe.

Another example is one of my favorite authors Jeffrey A. Carver. Not only does he maintain a blog that he updates regularly with answers to readers questions but he is the author of WriteScifi.com, an extensive online writing resources for people wanting to get into writing Science Fiction and Fantasy and it’s completely free of charge. Talk about giving your website visitors something valuable.

So make yourself valuable. Don’t always look at the quick dollar but rather take the long view and actually be something to people. The old business models don’t apply to creative professionals in an online world.



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