Verbal plagiarism and great one-liners

H

ave you ever been to a party and are struggling to say something witty that will make the crowd laugh, creating a lasting impression of how smart, intelligent and generally speaking, world-wise you are? Of course not, because my readers are all those things and a bag of chips. But…for the poor saps who sometimes struggle, let me give you some tips.

First, read a book on conversation starters. I do this every so often (first started years ago when I was in marketing, invariably thrust into ad-hoc social situations with people of all ages and cultures–I’d recommend one but I’ve probably read a dozen, skipping over the ones for grandparents and odd groups). The second, read a book on the most plagiarized quotes. This is a great, and a hidden secret. Know why? So many people quote others then pass it off as their own ‘funny’ or ‘points of light’ (hate that phrase) that I love to be able to call someone on their own BS.

I’ll give you a personal example (for really, who among us doesn’t quote a lyric in a song, a line from a movie or a sentence from a book). I’m reading a script that is being used for a film that’s already in pre-production. A Major General enters the room, and is front of a bunch of swat-like enforcers who are anxious and nervous, sweat dripping and making irrelevant small talk. That’s how I describe it in my summary to you. But the screenwriter has written thus:what if I just say it?

“Major General stands like  Satan appearing before his lesser demons.”

Now, I have used this phrase on many occasions. “So I’m standing in line and there he is, John Doe, standing like Satan appearing before his lesser demons….’), and I get the laugh I desire, along with the ‘you’re so ___’ funny/witty/original. I thank them. I smile. Do I attribute a screenwriter whose phrase will never see the light of day. Nope.

Then I say this around another person at the office, not thinking, for by this time, I’ve adopted as my own personal brand of funny.

“Great line,” says he, “you got that from XX screenplay didn’t you.”

Oops. Been caught. What do I do? Own it of course. “Absolutely,” I say. “One of the best lines in the entire first half, and it’s not even in the movie.” This serves the purpose of redirecting the glare of shame from on me and opens the door to talking about the production schedule.

And therein lies the value (and risk) of verbal plagiarism: great one liners can be said without fear of repercussion, unless of course, the person to whom you are saying said one-liner can name the quote source.

PS- you can always use the free plagiarism checker if you suspect someone is ‘too witty.’

The destructive force of Impatience

shrunken sweater

Imagine this in green. That’s what I did to Roger’s sweater in my moment of impatience

My mother taught me many things. How to do laundry wasn’t one of them. So says Rog. When a green, merrino wool cashmere sweater emerged from the dryer, it was the size of an American Doll outfit. An off-white cashmere vest turned a hot pink after being blended with a pair of red sweats. Countless gym socks and underpants have changed color and size, though at least no one sees the misadventures.

To what do I attribute this to? Impatience. Lack of an eye for detail, or rather, for caring enough to read the tags.

What Rog pointed out to me was this failing is costing us money. Lots of it. What I didn’t admit to him was that it has cost me a lot more than that. Impatience in my (early) career cost me credibility (when I showed a ‘draft’ press release to my CEO without first spell-checking it (and my boss, the VP of marketing wasn’t around so I figured I’d go straight to the source, which normally, wouldn’t have been an issue, but I rushed it, and after that, I was forced to go through my boss–for four year). It cost me money (not reading the fine print for investment documents), and personally, my lack of patience has enabled me to skip over section of emails (so I made calls being half-informed), etc etc etc.

Have I learned? I wondered, in that split second where Rog is freaking over the sweater. uhh, sort of. I delude myself by repeating (only to myself of course), that “when it really matters,” I slow down and take my time. But do I really? No, I really don’t. That’s why it takes me multiple editing cycles and I errors still get through. It’s why I’ll show up at the doctor and be surprised by a bill (because I didn’t read the fine print). It’s why I’ll bring a gift to the party when they wanted donations (again, didn’t take the time to read the details on the evite invitation.

What will it take? Oh, I know. In the last year, when I was all busted up, I was injesting copious amounts of pain-killing drugs. That forced me to slow down and re-read things s.l.o.w.l.y. But now that I’m healed, I’m back to my old sorry ways. Wait–one other thing will turn down the speed at which I normally operate. Humility- or rather, for me, that’s code for ‘getting kicked in the butt.’ When I’ve had a bad experience (someone scowls at me for no reason at a store), or worse, I get rejected from a publisher (which really brings me down), I have no desire to rush. In fact, I’m like molasses in Vermont mid-winter. I can barely move. I stare. I contemplate. I consider. All the things I should normally do, but don’t.

Impatience, I’ve learned, is bad just about all the time, with the exception of getting out of the shower before the water goes cold and getting in line for the latest Hobbit movie. So my top 5 tips to calming myself down and entering my Zen zone:

5. consider what happened the last time I was impatient (and it was all bad)
4. remember what it cost me when I didn’t re-read the document before I signed it
3. recall how stupid I looked when I showed up wearing the wrong thing or bringing the wrong item on the wrong day
2. envision the moment of embarrassment of friend, partner or business associate when I made an uninformed remark
1. predict what will happen again if I don’t take that five minutes to genuflect (genuinely+reflect= genuflect)

 

Finding the blue behind the clouds: sometimes, you just need a kick in the butt

I’m not sure what it is about my existence that people think I’m always happy. I’m not. I get bummed out like anyone else, but this doesn’t stop people (colleagues, acquaintances) from telling me their situations. I suppose that my general feeling is that we are here on Earth to have experiences and grow as individuals, so if we are going to go through bad shit, then lets make the most of it.

Now I’m going to share with you an email I received from a long-time colleague (former client, turned friend and now business partner). Then I’m going to provide the email I sent to him in response, and finally, the conclusion. FYI, he is a former millionaire, high-flyer, now finding himself in an all-too-common situation, fighting depression. His world was dark and grey, and I knew it was my job to help him find some blue sky. Read on.

 —–Original Message—–

 From: Joe

 Sent: Thursday, April 3, 2014 5:41 AM

 To: sarah@

 Subject: Must be great having your cast off?

 

 I was thinking about you and Roger, how smart you have  both have been. Building your nest egg, creating value for the Family, seeing the future and doing what you both want to do. I guess that is why I have always been envious of you.

 

People say live in the moment. I always lived in the moment. Today was as far as I could see. When I was young and moved to Southern California from New York. I went nuts, I partied every night, I would go out until 3 in the morning come home sleep for 2hours be in the office by 7:30am, and do the same thing the next night. I never saved a dime or worried about the future.

 I didn’t care. I married Margorie when I was 30 and it took her 5 years to get me back to Earth. I have no idea why she stayed with me? Now I am in the Winter of my years and reflect on reality. I think I  will always have a smile on my face, because of the experiences I have had. Someone who is born crazy, hard to face reality every day, saving money, old age, having a nest egg, being able to go on river cruises  and play golf in retirement. I will never experience That, but I am not sure if I would have changed. Margorie has stuck by me and times are tough. She said this the other day ” you are an Asshole, you ruined our lives financially, but you always make me laugh” she was dating a doctor from UCLA when I met her. She should have stayed with the doctor? I went out with Susan Anton, she was dating Dudley Moore.

 The next night is when I met Margorie.
 

Well Sarah, the business side I hope before I meet the Great Sales Manager In the Sky,I hope I can reflect on some of the good things I have done.

Getting tired my Dear. I have been a fighter my whole life, but just getting tired.
 

All the best.

Joe
 
** I waited on the response for a few hours. Until after lunch. And this is what I wrote, and the rest of the conversation.
 
 On Apr 4, 2014, at 1:03 PM, “Sarah Gerdes” wrote:
Hey Jim–
 
Well the cast is indeed off, but I’m thrown right into 3 hours of physical therapy. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do (physically) that is, but if they tell me it’s going to be a year for
full mobility, what I hear is “I’ll do that in 3 months.” Otherwise known, in Sarah-talk as “screw that.” Those rules don’t apply to me. 
 Jim, I must say that sometimes I want to reach through the computer and shake you up man! You have so much to give and offer, and you are doing that every day by waking up, facing the world and picking up  the phone. You do it out of sheer will, grit and determination. You should be proud of yourself instead of having a pity-party (if I may be so bold). Who cares if you aren’t playing golf and drinking? You don’t want to be fat and lazy anyway. In fact, you are still contributing to the world and doing something.
 Let me tell you something. Yesterday, I go into a store that I’ve been frequenting for about 12 years. I haven’t been in 6 months, and yesterday was my first day of freedom from this prison that is my home. Well, I start talking to the woman (who I always speak to) and two young girls come up, prob in their early 20’s. They are buying a boat load of candles, so of course I ask why. They look at each other, then me, and one responds “for my mother’s funeral, they were her favorite.” I say I’m sorry, and then easily transition to ‘but that’s nice that you to have her favorite candle and allow others to take a bit of her away with them.” I proceed to tell them that at my brothers funeral last summer, my sister invited everyone to take their favorite flower from the casket, and they did.
Jim, before last summer, I would have been stumped and uncomfortable; not anymore. Death is a part of life. So is sadness, disappointment and failure, but so is rebirth.
 
Then the girls leave, and I start talking with the woman. She walks me out to the car, and applauds how I handled that, and she asks about my foot. She tells me her husband lost his engineering job four  years ago, and while he was working at Lowes (after 3 years of not wanting to face the music and the retirement going away), she had a heart attack. She was hooked up to tubes for 10 days and it kept her alive. Because his insurance (Cobra) had run out, they had no ability to repay the bills.   They had no savings. They couldn’t sell their home. So she has a bill of $165,000 dollars that she pays in monthly installments. She’s been working at this little shop for nearly 12 years. She’ll be
 working for the rest of her life (and she’s 63).
 
Her tells me her husband finally took a job in Texas, and he was able to travel home 2 times last year. This next year, his current project will finish up, they hope to sell their home, buy an apartment or condo someplace cheaper (wherever that will be) and both work until the day they die.
 
Here comes the interesting part. It turns out she lives five doors  down from me. The lights at their home are always dark (but then, they live around a curve and it’s sort of hard to see). She was  telling me that on her 6 acre property, they have an indoor riding arena, that both her daughters grew up showing horses nationally, one got an MBA from NYU and the other became a police officer because she wanted to give back to society.
 
 “Everything we gave our daughters growing up, and everything we thought we had is gone,” she said, matter of factly. She works. She goes home to a dark, 5,800 square foot home (save her pitbull she rescued). When we discovered we are “neighbors,” by virtue of living in the same community, we both died of shock. She’s the sweetest woman, and completely alone. She didn’t know about my life, I didn’t know about hers, and yet we’ve been friendly for a decade.
 
I applauded her ability to have the fortitude and continue on.
 
 “What else am I going to do?” she asked. “I’m happy to be alive, even if we are broke and have nothing.” I could tell she was a woman that for many years, had have everything. But she said it with humility  and grace, I wondered if she had come to a place of acceptance or contentment. I don’t think so. Contentment implies one is happy with their lot in life, and frankly, I don’t think she is, but she has “accepted” that this is her lot in life, at least for the time being. As she said, her kids are healthy, happy and well-employed. She and her husband have done well. They are gutting it out. She makes no bones about her debt or requirement to downsize, and that her girls and grandkids will never grow up riding horses and traveling the world. It is what it is.
“Do you want me to save some bunny rabbits for you?” she asks me as I go to shut the door. She has remembered that I love to shop after holidays for chotckies that I can get 80% of retail.
 “Absolutely,” I reply.
 
 “I just can’t believe I didn’t know about your foot,” she said apologetically. “Let me know if you need anything–in fact,” she interrupted herself. “I’m going to set aside the rabbits and bring them to you. Don’t you do a thing.”
 
She helped me to the car, shut the door and I felt like the friend I didn’t know I had, but I already had, was right there, right in front of me, and in those 5 minutes, I learned more about her than the
previous 12 years. I also felt graced with her wisdom.
 
Joe, I could tell you about another close (older) friend- his loss, his tragedies, but I won’t. suffice it to say you and he are in the exact same circumstances, but he has you by a decade. It’s killing/killed him, but he too, wakes up, picks up the phone and is determined to make it happen. And he will keep going until the day he dies. Not that he hasn’t thought about killing himself, but it would hurt all of us, particularly his wife, who has said pretty much the exact thing to my friend that Margorie has said to you. But that’s what love is all about. Two people who love each other and stay together through it all.
 Remember, it’s all temporary anyway. The way we handle our difficulties says more about us than anything else.
 Ok. Enough of my wisdom. Happy Friday!!!  
 
And this is Joe’s reply.
 
On Apr 4, 2014, at 1:31  PM
 
You never cease to amaze me. That is a great story and now the lady is your neighbor, unreal.We need to do a movie together? You are right everything you wrote. Reality is so boring, ha,ha. The good news I have no debt. 1 credit card with 800 bucks on it, I just want to get enough to buy a house and not rent.
 
Just keep plugging.  thanks for the encouragement!! I needed a kick in the Ass.
 
Epilogue-
“Joe” is right. Sometimes, what we need to see the blue through the ever-darkening clouds above us is a nice kick in the pattootie. Rog gives it to me, and I give it to myself. And why not? The color of blue is so much happier than grey.

 

 

Need a Job? 5 proven sources to jump start your career

A friend’s boyfriend has been out of full-time work for two years, bouncing from temporary job to contracting, luckily in the field of physics, chemistry and gaming (you might ask, what in the world does he do? Well, he plays with things that blow up, like an educated, well-intentioned chemical Ali, but on harmless enough).

In any case, I get this updated LinkedIn notification that he now has a permanent job. It’s hourly, not salaried, but pays well, offers amazing benefits and is close by.

Here’s my own belief. Getting a job is like hitchhiking. Unless you put yourself out there, no one will even give you a first (or second) glance.

“What was the trick?” I asked my friend, who’d been commiserating with me about the dramas of an unemployed family member.

“He called an old boss,” she said, adding a ‘duh!’ for good measure.

It’s not the first strategy I’d think about using were I in that situation, but it made sense. Why not? Hiring failure rates run about 80% when a firm uses ads. Their employees (the hiring managers) would probably love to hear from former employees, assuming the field is one that allows for transition (e.g. retail to marketing, not attorney to doctor).

I thought about bosses, but I also considered former clients. (heaven forbid I need to go out and get a real job sometime in the future). With nothing better to do, (for I am still bed-bound), I searched my contact database for names of former clients. Specifically, individuals who had left the ‘client’ company and were now working elsewhere. Turns out I have nice relationships with folks inside Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and a slew of other companies that may be interesting to me at some point. That was good news to me. I can at least reach out and say hello (which I did by the way, just to make sure my name still rings a bell).

At least twice a week, I will get a resume or inquiry from someone looking for a helping hand. Here are a few of my suggestions. Try reaching out to:

  • School community-parents, teachers. Soccer moms or yore are now the PTA, art docents, you name it wonderpeople (for both men and women volunteer). Schools and orgs have after-school programs that need paid helpers. These folks also have partners/spouses who work and may know of an opening.
  • Church employment. Quite a few churches have strong employment arms, and the LDS church is one of them. The job openings list can be found by city/state and is a fantastic resources. If you don’t belong to the church, I bet you know someone who is. As your member friend to look on the ‘job postings’ site.
  • Neighbors. These people may not be your best friends, or friends at all. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t help if given the chance. If you are a loved-one is unemployed, what’s to lose? Go tell them what’s up, the skill set and if they know of any opportunities. Said humbly yet fervently and a bit of passionate zing, it might be a kickstart of grand proportions.
  • Service providers. Don’t laugh. I’m talking the garage repairman, the painter, the plumber, the car technician, the clerk you see a thousand times at the grocery story—all of these people know at least 50-100 people. That has to include someone in some industry that you care about. (I’m making the grand assumption that you are a) nice to all these people so b) they would want to help you).

From Pie sales to Big Sales

A good friend of mine Kristin, is now a successful sales professional but for about five years prior ot working outside the home she made and sold pies. Beyond making a few hundred bucks every week, she created a fabulous reputation for kindness and having can-do attitude for a dozens of business owners and professionals who wanted to give a pie to a new client, take to a party, or what have you. When Kristen’s daughter entered full-time school, the first thing Kristen did was tap into her network of “pie buyers,” as she called them. Within a week she had four interviews and two weeks later, had her first job in sales. Granted, it took her five years to move from inside sales (phone calls) to outside sales, but now she makes nearly $75,000 a year and has a great life. All because she tapped into her network.Today, she estimates half her business is referral, and the other half folks that she just starts talking to in line at Starbucks, or wherever else she finds herself surrounded by people. To her “every person waiting in line is a potential customer or new contact.” That new contact is a stranger in the beginning, but falls in to a category above.

As I’ve been typing, I’ve received an email imploring me to help a relatively new acquaintance get more contract work. Better go answer that one right now.

The Writer’s Bible: schedules that work

This is my evening writing spot:
on bed, classic 80’s movie playing for background
noise and cat. Can you name the movie?

Discipline is what makes a writer. It means staying in when the weather is nice, waking up early when the kids are asleep, skipping a ski day at college to get in eight hours of writing. But you’re there…you are willing to do all these things.

In the last 20 years I’ve learned that crafting a schedule that works is harder than actually writing, because it continually changes. Writing schedules during college are different (school, study, sleep, social),  and this is dramatically different from a full-time job with no kids, which doesn’t translate to any job (or no job) with children.

College schedule

Write in between study breaks.
After class, hit the library, take 10 minutes and re-read your outline, or your last chapter. Set the timer for 15 minutes minimum. That’s it. Then stop, do your homework. Why this order? Because you have put your dream first. It’ motivating. It’s inspiring, and this inspiration will encourage you to study more intensively, ignore the hot guy who’s eyeing you and get back to writing.

Career Writing

I couldn’t focus on writing before work until I’d had several books published. I was too tired to do it after work, usually because I had more take-home office materials that left me more time. The best time for me to write? When the rest of the world is on the Internet (not kidding. Just ask Jupiter Research).
3 PM in the afternoon.
Studies show this is when the brain needs a break. Assuming you have the right location (and vocation), set the timer and go. Short break is 15-20 or 30 max. Apply the same methodology. You will find the same sense of motivation as with college, but this environment lends itself to the benefits of creativity. I found that problem solving was made easier…my mind switched from dull to sharp. I was happier, because I worked on my dream. I was getting one step closer with each sentence and each paragraph. In a week, you can have a chapter.
Friday night.
Hit the gym and then go home and get after your dream. Even if you do this two Friday nights, while your peers are spending money and preparing for a night of carbo-loading, you are geared up for a serious progress over the next two days.
Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday is a “free day,” so it’s yours to plan. I will relate a my own experiences. When I exercise first, shower and then sit down to write, I’m so relaxed that after about 30 minutes, my body wants to sleep, not write. Because of this, I will write first, take a break to exercise, then go back.
Sunday.
During my many years in the career world, I traveled for 70% of the time. I didn’t bother write until I got on the plane. I prepared to write by reading my present work or other materials, so the minute I was cleared to open my laptop, and got after it. I found that writing on a plane can deliver a book in just a few months.

Writing with a Family

Marriage didn’t change my writing in the least. In fact, it improved my output. Rog is as determined and disciplined in his own life as I am–who else would work a full time job, play a college sport and get his graduate degree in 13 months. Compared to him, I’m a complete slacker.
Never, EVER, prioritize yourself over your children.
From day one–to now–I never opened my laptop when my kids were home. This only changed when my oldest daughter hit 1st grade (this year), and I’d sit by her with my computer as she did her homework. When she’s done, I’m done.
Morning.
I love nothing more than waking when the house is quiet. Going back to patterns I set in college, I get in at least 15 minutes–sometimes only 5!–but it’s starts me off right.
Naps.
Boy, is this the best time ever. It’s a no-brainer with one kid but harder with 2 kids.
Rotation. I found that Rog and I got testy when we didn’t have our “me-time.” Because of our personalities, this ‘me-time’ usually involved either physical activity (him hockey, me lots of things), we’d rotate. Not kidding you. This is what it looked like for the first 5 years–not it’s only slightly modified.

  • Saturday outing. At least 2 Saturdays a month (usually rotating) Dad would, and still does, take the girls for an outing by himself. The park. The zoo. The library. Whatever. Two hours was more than enough for me to crank out a nice set of pages. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I just napped. Don’t tell.
  • Sunday morning. Same thing as above, but this was on the opposite weekends. It was also nice because Rog could then mix in his own personal activities and be satisfied as well.
  • Evenings. I can’t get quality/quiet time until the kids are down. This has varied with age. Since they stay up later with each passing year, it’s gotten more challenging, because I wind down. I don’t push it now, but if they get to bed 9 latest-which is quite late, I will still get 2 solid ours in.

When you add all the hours up, it’s @2.5 hrs in the am, and 4-8 each weekend. Even without any strange evening slots, I’ve got 6.5-10 hours a week. That’s nearly 40 hours a month. A ton!

Time to create a novel.

Boy, isn’t this the most over-asked question. Authors are reluctant to say–why, I’m not sure, but I guess it’s because there is no “right” answer. If you say 3 months, it comes across as an egotistical lie (unless you’re Stephen King who says he writes 20 pages a day). If you say 6 months, then you suck. Reality is you write the framework, front to end. Then you go and add ‘layers.’ One might be narrative. Another description. Another character depth, and so on. This means another 7-11 times, but it’s here and there. Nothing like the first.

Here’s my answer. I go by hours. It takes me, on average, 20 hours to write 50 pages. That means in 1-3 months, I can have a book completed. The subsequent re-writes vary dramatically, but it’s another 2-3 months. So a completed, agent-ready book is 5-6 months, and it also includes a proof-reading period so the basics are caught–only a few days.

There it is. It’s achievable. It’s straightforward. It’s bloody time consuming, but you can do it.

Reclaim an hour of your life each day: Get this robot. The Roomba 5-star Review

It doesn’t matter how many times me, my husband sweep the floors and vacuum,  we can’t keep up with the daily dirt and grime that comes with three kids, two adults and two animals going in and out of the house.



Offender #1. White cat + dark floors=
Roomba heaven

The day or reckoning occurred as most things do in our house; with a marital spat about how often we clean the floors and how often we need “reinforcements.” As a bit of context, our cleaning people (a lovely pair of 2) have come every other week for 5 years. For this, we have paid $245 per time, and it takes them 2.5-3 hour. Not bad. But let me be clear. We aren’t spoiled. No. We “clean” daily. We don’t have a lot of clutter. We vacuum daily and sweep after every meal (and many times in between).

But here’s the deal. My husband’s version of “clean,” equates to using a toothbrush on the sink faucets (I’m not kidding you either. You think this happens only in movies. Nope. It’s my life).  My version of clean stops at the disinfectant and the dishrag  after every use, and mopping once a week. But then, what do you expect from a “hobbiest” how takes apart his Porsche engine for fun and flies planes because it’s faster than driving. He’s slightly anal. I think I’m the normal American wife. I have a job. I cook. I clean. I do my own laundry (the notion of cleaning people seeing our underwear is likewise gross). But I digress.


Can you tell where the Roomba is hiding?

Thus it was, after 10 years of marriage, I drew the line. Or rather, I handed back the toothbrush and said “have at it.” The following day, he comes home from Costcowith a big box with green packaging. It was a Roomba by iRobot. The invention that has saved me hours of daily cleaning and nearly saved my marriage (ok, maybe saved a daily fight or two over the indoor animals).

“This is how much I value our marriage.” He shows me the Roomba product. I’m unimpressed. I’m not down with a Rover-like machine that looks more comfortable on Mars, and certainly and weirded-out and skeptical when he tells me it “learns the house,” thereby memorizing the furniture. Anything that learns better than I do is far too Matrix-meets-Terminator of artificial intelligence.
A different photo. Right behind the piano

Nonetheless, he’s believed the marketing and packaging hype enough to spend $300 on the thing. As a refresher, Rog spent years at Microsoft as a product manager before moving up and eventually running three businesses totaling $1.2B in revenue. I spent years as a product manager, before skipping to partnerships and business development (where I could do deals that allowed the products to be sold). We are marketing people by nature and background, thus, the truism is…true. We love to be marketed to. Just don’t market to us with a crappy product. Do it with a good product, and we are yours for life.

The review

First, the terrain.

Mixed flooring with multiple transitions and stairs. We have angled transitions from wood as well as a flat, but raised, transitions. Multiple oriental rugs with different materials (some with tassles, others not) as well as rugs in the kitchen that have intentionally frayed edges. Also have invisible stairs and couches of different heights. Main floor square footprint: 2,500. Top floor is all wood, multiple rugs, two transitions to marble, footprint is 1100. Bottom floor, all carpet, two step up/down transitions but only about 1 inch. Footprint: 1100.

What happened

The Roomba got plugged in. It charged. Roger programmed it for the time of the day for 9 am. It came out on the mark, and we watched as this foreign-looking thing whirled around and got familiar with its new home.

On the stairs. It stopped on the smooth edge, and didn’t go over. That was good. On the other edge (below our floating stairs), where we have a slight lip, it got confused (or so we thought). What we hypothesize occurred was it started to go over the lip and then knew it was going to suffer a sudden and immediate death by robotic suicide and changed its mind. However, when that happened, it couldn’t recover. We had to reset it.

In the kitchen. It worked as advertised. I give it a 4.5/5. It couldn’t get in the wee-corners because it’s round (not sure if longer whisks would help or not). On the upside, it proved itself superior to other devices we own, having no problem on the uneven slate, which is fantastic, because I’ve had 3 different electronic vacuums (Electrolux to name just one) that weren’t as good. By this, I mean that some items get flipped by the whisk and do no more than bounce across the surface. Not so with the Roomba. It comes. It whirls. It leaves a clean floor underneath.
Bar stools. We have four bar stools in the kitchen. It goes under, picks up and around, but unless the stools are pulled out, it misses the 2 inches between the front two legs and the wall. It can help itself. It does not, as yet, have the ability to fold space and time (Dune reference) and get between.

Rog didn’t say “merry Christmas.” No. He skipped right over
that and said “Look at this. You HAVE to blog about
this. Right now.” That’s a believer. (note: Roomba
product managers: you deserve a bonus in 2013). 
On the rugs. It loves rugs. It devours everything. And I do mean everything. Poor tassles. They are clean, but a little worse for the wear. If I were my mom, I’d have one of those Persian-rug tassle rakes to use after its been one-overed by the Roomba, but I’m not that crazy. (Besides, who sells those things anyway?). And we have another rug that is frayed at the edge, and one of us is too cheap to get it fixed. So the Roomba isn’t helping things by continuing the damage. That said, it’s not the Roomba’s fault. At least it’s clean.

In one hour, the Roomba picked up so much gunk (that would be the technical word for disgusting hair, dirt and filth), both rog and I were a little sick. We always thought we had clean floors (I really do take the Electrolux around the house once or twice a day no matter what). Further—this was the day AFTER we had the cleaning people. Goes to show what a house of 5 people and 2 animals will do to a floor.

“If it can do this for the main floor, think of upstairs!” Rog told me. The next day, he was back at Costco for another. My brother recently built a 6,000 square foot home in Vegas, and my sister told his wife all about what the Roomba could do with her floors , and all the time she could get back for herself (because all she was doing while we were there was running around behind everyone, sweeping). She too, was skeptical, but after hearing my sister rave about ours (she’d witnessed it’s magic first-hand), she went out and ordered 2. One for upstairs and another for downstairs. She also bought the infared device on my recommendation.

My biggest (and only) complaint is actually a product marketer’s dilemma. The height goes up and down, as it should, in order to get up and over objects. However, it constantly gets stuck under our bed, which is atop another Persian rug. So we suspect what happens is that it lifts itself up to get over the rug, but then can’t go down fast enough to make it under the bed. This doesn’t happen under our couches downstairs, nor even under a chaise lounge that’s in the bedroom. In both those scenarios, the edge of the rug is at least a foot away from the start of the couch/chaise lounge. On our bed, where it’s getting stuck, the edge is only 2-3 inches. (As you can see, we are giving the Roomba the benefit of the doubt, like a scorned lover who’s in denial, already making excuses).

Tip 1: Purchase the infa-red device. We put ours by the stairs. The invisible light is Roomba-suicide prevention.

Tip 2: Pick up underwear or strings before the Roomba starts. It has a taste for my iphone cord It ripped it to shreds (clearly, it’s an Android fan), but with a little ducktape and a blessing, it worked. Thankfully.

Tip 3: If you have 2 floors, save yourself the gas money. Buck it up and buy 2.

Overall product review: 5 stars. I have faith that the product managers (who are of course, brilliant), will fix the up and down issue, since I can’t be the only customer that suffers from the incessant getting-stuck-under-the-bed thing.

Giving Second Chances

“You’ve known this guy five years longer than I have, what am I supposed to do with him?” The question was heavy with irony. The famous movie producer asking me what to do about the very person who introduced us…a person I’ll call Joe.

“Tell me the rest,” I said, buying time. He described a person with erratic behavior- missing some meetings, inconsistent emails, forgetfulness.
“Symptoms of a bigger problem,” I concluded, diagnosing thesituation. “Have you asked him what’s going on?” The producer says “of course not- I wanted to call you first. You’ve known him a lot longer and maybe this is normal.” Uh, no. 
“People who are great for years and are consistent don’t just up and go crazy,” I told him. “Something is going on and I bet ten to one its his personal life. Kids. Marriage- I bet marriage.” Nothing screws up a working environment like a bad marriage.
“What do I do?” He asked- this from a man who had been through several, shall we say, contentious divorces.
“You take a business approach. Confront it head on, ask him what’s up, what you can do, and if its personal and getting ugly, you understand and will work with him, up to a point, and that point is if its hurting the business. He take a leave off the project, no bad feelings, but his responsibility is to not let it get that bad.”
Fast forward a week. The conversation between producer and Joe happened, and my gut was right on- marriage problems, and mid-divorce. It took an ugly turn and went on for 6 months. Joe took 2 breaks over the course if the  work, different lengths each time, but overall his efforts didn’t completely suffer. The producer owed this to the fact that it was all out in the open right up front, he was able to organize alternate resources if required.  As important, expectations were adjusted to a realistic level.
If you are a manager (or peer) observing a dramatic change in another’s attitude or habits, consider the direct approach, or bringing in someone how can (eg HR). If you are the person going through the drama, do yourself a favor and tell your manager before that person fires you for poor work. You have a lot more to gain and may find a sympathetic ear from an unlikely place. The majority of people have experienced breakup, and would rather keep a good worker and suffer through some short-term issues.

Bad Boss Techniques: Support under Fire

Sunday night used to be a day of dread for me, starting at about 4 pm. I had to get up and face a person who was once decent, then neutral, then not so great. It turned out that the individual in question (a man) was having personal issues (marital strife) and wasn’t getting great peer reviews (learned this after he left) but in the meantime, he was busy making my life, and the lives of those on our team, a living breathing mass of molten lava-like workplace pergatory.

This is you: Armed with strategies
to deal with your boss on Monday morning

So, to all those you have had, or presently do have, or will have in the future, some form or gnarly manager, here are my words of wisdom that you should put on your body like a soldier going into battle.

The mission: Stay alive. The last man (or woman) standing might just be you.

The strategy: Use techniques and tact to stay alive until said boss gets metaphorically killed (e.g. fired) or resign.

The tactics: These are your point by point techniques, so listen up recruit.

1. Keep your peace. Do your job, be polite, don’t gossip and don’t rant to anyone on Facebook, at the gym or at the bar about your manager. Vent to God. He’s the only one that will keep it a secret. No one else has a motivation to protect you. If He knows your boss, He’ll understand.

2.  Be nice and patient. You hate your manager. I get it. I’ve been there. I vividly recall moments where I absolutely suffered gut-churning diahreah-inducing pain when the person walked in the room. Did I fart? No, I smiled (which probably caused a brain fart and that’s why I’m sort-of stupid now, but I digress). Have some grace and show the person some dignity due his/her rank and management position. Others will notice and commend you on your ability to deal with your bosses momentary lapses of reason, and then guess what? When your boss is gone, you are going to be noticed (in theory).

3. Support under fire. Don’t turn traitor when the boss is out of the room or his/her neck is on the line. Show some support until the bitter end. That person (and although it’s hard, your terrible boss IS a person with real feelings, a life, parents/kids, a dog). If you do or say anything subversive about said boss it will come back to bite you (see point 1). Furthermore, that person may in fact go on to be employed somewhere else where you want to work. By that time, the boss’s personal issues might be resolved, lessons learned and the individual could be a completely different person. Don’t screw yourself prematurely. Keep your options open, and do this by maintaining the line even when your boss ain’t so much fun.

I’d love to share with you a lot of experiences that support my above tactics, but I won’t, for this blog could become a novel. Suffice it to say that I’ve done the opposite (and screwed myself) and then I learned, and my (horrid) boss was one of the first people to hire me when I opened my own consulting firm. I’ve seen how individuals suffering from personal issues go nuts and take it out on those around them (e.g. me) and then when the dust settles, they go back to being great.

So be like Bugs Bunny and tonight, when you are praying that you’ll get a new job, say another prayer just as fervently– that you will have patience and fortitude with your boss from hell, and that you can be nice and patient and support the tyrant until they are taken away from your misery. It might get you a bit farther than the alternative prayer that they will get hit by a truck.

Meeting Integrity Two words for good business

Being late to a meeting is disrespectful. It’s arrogant. It bespeaks of a self-importance on the part of the person being late while at the same time, dismissing those that are at the meeting, the person who called the meeting, the most of all, the individual(s) who are actually conveying the information. However, sometimes the bad karma of the universe comes back around to bite the creator in the butt, and this is one such true story, and I’m delighted to tell it.

Here’s the context. Partner at a multi-million dollar consulting firm calls Rog, my husband. Partner indicates he is interviewing a woman who “used to work with Rog” at Microsoft. Partner tells Roger her name. Roger keeps his peace, and says nothing negative, not wanting to allow past experiences taint the opinion of said Partner. “She might have changed,” Rog told me later. Rog says “yes, she’s smart, perhaps even brilliant, but she didn’t always listen to other people’s opinion.” Partner replies that he will take a chance on a brilliant person, even one who won’t listen, as long as they are respectful.

Meeting time is set. Partner waits for “Woman”- the interviewee- who, by this time, has left her position as a Director at Microsoft, where she left a trail of dead bodies in her wake, mostly due to climbing over them like locusts after they’ve devoured their young. After 30 minutes, Woman calls and claims a meeting has gone late. (Keep in mind that Woman had called Partner to attain new business for her own newly-formed consulting firm, and she figured-hey, I’m smart, I’ll leverage a few names, get referrals and get going. Why not? Everyone does it).

Partner calls Roger Was she like this before? Rog’s answer- Yes. Before Partner could ask the next question, Rog answers it for him. “Because she thinks she’s entitled,” he continues. “She’s used to being rude and getting away with it, and because she was a lone female in her area at Microsoft, she could do and say things and no one complained.” Evenso, Partner gave her another chance. Meeting two was set for 5:30 pm to allow for enough time. 5:45 comes and no call. At 6:15, Partner is in his car and driving home when Woman calls on his cell phone, apologizing, asking to come over and reschedule.

“No,” replied Partner calmly. “I won’t reschedule and we won’t ever be meeting in this lifetime.” (direct quote, no kidding). The woman is flabbergasted, and acted rather offended. Partner later explained to Rog that it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d offered an apology (which she didn’t), it wouldn’t have mattered.

“You lack meeting integrity,” Partner told her unsympathetically. “If you can respect a person enough to show up on time, not to mention blowing me off entirely, especially if you are the one wanting something from me, how are you going to treat a client that you are supposed to be serving?” As a parting shot, Partner added not to bother calling his organization again. Ever.

I was so thrilled when I heard this, for I can only describe her as a person who comes from a densely-populated country, is well-educated (several degrees) and has had no issue letting others know she is smarter, better informed and generally speaking, in a higher power position than they. In other words, she had it coming to her, proving once again that really bad attitudes and bad karma comes around.

Need a sales boost? Try Career Days (at school)

On a whim, I looked at the comments of this blog and was embarrassed that quite a few had been posted from July and prior that I’d never seen. eek. One very good question was about getting into schools, and while the comment was from an author, Cyndy Etler, I know that other professionals have seriously benefitted from spending an hour or two at a career day. It may work for you, your sales/revenue and your career. Here’s how.

What is it?
prgrsvimghttp://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4898256714665288&w=207&h=207&c=8&pid=3.1&qlt=90&rm=2Career Day is a one-day event common in most elementary, junior, senior high schools and colleges around the world. Pre-college, the teachers and administrator’s, but also members of the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) reach out to the parents of students that can spare some time to educate students on possible career choices. Activities included in the day vary from school to school. The youngest I’ve seen is 5th grade (10 year olds) and it goes up from there. Sessions are typically 40 minutes.

Who does it?
Doctors, authors, pilots, firefighters–you name it. Individuals who appear to have interesting careers. Admittedly, I’ve not run into any accountants, but hey, accounting is a serious profession, so why not?

Does it pay?
Nope. Free.

Why do it?
A few reasons.

  • Networking. You get to meet all the other administrators, parents and other speakers (who prob use accountants).
  • Sales. Dentists need new referrals. See above. For an author (like one of my alter egos), kids regularly purchase my books after I speak, but I am very careful not to “pitch” my book– rather– I keep it to the business of writing and what being an author is all about. That said, if I’m asked to talk about being a movie producer, then it’s all film clips and talking about living in the LA world- which is weird anyway.
  • Pride. This means for your kid(s) who think you have a cool profession. This gets serious points on the home front.
  • Referrals– and by this I mean-inter-school referrals. The kids are usually asked to “rate the speaker” and if you are good, then you will get referrals to other schools. I suppose one could eventually make a living from doing this, and it sure beats the heck out of cold-calling.

Fall–now–is the time. Career days are usually organized in the fall.

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