A Promise to Myself

Sundays are normally where I post my status update for A Round of Words in 80 Days, ROW80 for short. If you’re like me, setting short-term goals (e.g. “Outline The Great American Novel”) works better than setting long-term goals at the start of the year (e.g. “By this time next year, I will have written The Great American Novel”). Since it’s a long-term goal, you figure you can slack off and get back to it eventually, then you reach the end of the year and you haven’t done JACK! SQUAT! on it.

(Chris Farley, David Spade, and Christina Applegate in what I consider the funniest sketch ever done on Saturday Night Live)

I’ve found that making long-term goals and plans works best if I break them down into smaller, shorter-term tasks. It’s the old “divide and conquer” gambit, the way Caesar conquered Gaul, the way you eat an elephant (one bite at a time).

Last night, though, Michelle Shaeffer, the woman who co-sponsors the Ultimate Blog Challenge, sent something out that caught my eye. She said that she didn’t make any resolutions, set any goals, or choose a theme for this year. Instead, she made a promise to herself:

I will not be afraid.

Wow, huh? I think I’ll make myself the same promise. How about you?

Random Things You’ll Like


I wanted to thank everyone who stopped by during the Ultimate Blog Challenge last month. I posted at least once a day, every day during the month of July, and have no plans to stop now. So, keep coming back for more. Please?

Stephanie Chandler has a post up at the Nonfiction Authors Association titled Why Writing Non-Fiction Could Be Your Calling. I talked about this on Monday, and she seems to have followed a similar path. It’s an excellent article, if you’ve either decided to write nonfiction or are trying to decide. Or not. In any case, it’s a good article.

Finally, Kristen Lamb (another one of those bloggers I read faithfully, and so should you) posted a piece to her blog called The War on Fun—How Modern Culture is KILLING Creativity. She recently started homeschooling her son because, as she puts it, he was “fired” from preschool for being more concerned with fighting zombies than with reading at a college level. She talks about summer vacation when she was growing up, and how the current obsession with getting kids into top colleges and universities is destroying what little creativity the kids are allowed to have. I’m recommending it because (a) Kristen is a fantastic writer and (b) it has inspired me to write my own memories of summer vacation. Kids in my county start school again this Monday, and it blows my mind.

How’s your day going?

The Thursday Ten: Career Advice from someone who screwed his up (#blogboost)


About ten years ago, the wheels came off my career. I had jobs after that, and while I did all right, it was never as good as it was before I left the job I held for almost twenty years (missed it by one month). What follows is a list of ten things that I would tell someone looking for a job. I wish I knew these things back when I first started working. Too soon old, too late smart.

  1. Network like crazy. Anyone you know is a potential source for career assistance. As much as I disagree with the decisions made by their management, Facebook is a good way to stay in touch with people you used to work with, went to school with, or knew from the old neighborhood. LinkedIn is another good site for staying in touch, and it’s specifically for professional networking. And don’t forget your family. You’d be amazed at how much help they can be. I was out of work in 1980 (along with a lot of people) and having trouble finding a job. One day, I get a call from my mother. She had been at a party where she ran into a recruiter, and he gave her his card. A couple of weeks later, I was back to work, thanks to the guy.
  2. Keep your resume up-to-date. In the last management class I took, the instructor advised us to always have a current copy of our resumes handy, and I never took his advice. I wrote my resume when I had to, when someone asked me for it, because it meant dragging out the typewriter, and I was a lousy typist. Thank heaven for computers. By the way, companies expect that you’ll tailor your resume to match the job description. I’d have a full resume with all your experience (more of a curriculum vitae, or CV) and use it as a starting point for the resumes you send out. That way, you don’t forget anything.
  3. Cultivate good relationships with recruiters. When I was getting established, I used to hate when recruiters (we called them headhunters) would call, because they’d keep you on the phone and try to browbeat you into making a job change when you didn’t want to. To put it bluntly, they were a pain in the ass. The truth is that companies hire them to pre-screen candidates. They hear about openings that don’t make Monster and CareerBuilder, and they’re valuable members of your network.
  4. Don’t be shy about quitting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that people born between 1957 and 1964 have held an average of eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 44. That averages to about 2.5 years per job (2.3636…., if you want to be exact). I’m sure the average has gone down since, so say 2 years. Companies expect you to leave after a couple of years. They might even be pushing you in that direction. Better to leave before they start thinking, “will So-and-So ever leave?”
  5. Don’t get too comfortable. I worked for a company that would have a good year and hire a bunch of people, then have a bad year and lay all of them off. If you get any sense that the company might be looking to downsize, it might be time to update your resume and start putting out feelers.
  6. Know what else you can do. Or, make sure you have a Plan B. And a Plan C, and as many plans as you can make. What’s going to happen when you can’t find work doing what you’ve always done? More importantly, what’s going to happen when you don’t want to do what you’ve always done? It’s never too early to start thinking about what’s next. You might even want to get a head start on your next career. A lady I worked with left her job when she sold the novel she was writing in her spare time.
  7. Keep track of your accomplishments. This goes deeper than knowing what they are so you can put them on a resume. Keep a journal of everything you do: every meeting, phone call, and email has some details that a prospective employer or client might be interested in. Details that you’ll forget if you don’t write them down. It’s good for another reason: You’ll be able to tell when your career is stalled.
  8. Save, save, save. You want to have at least six months’ worth of savings that isn’t tied up in an IRA or a 401(k) (or whatever you call them where you live) that you can put your hands on if you find yourself out of work. More than six months is even better.
  9. Don’t put too much faith in your employer. Benefit plans change, departments get reorganized, job descriptions change, people leave or get promoted (or “kicked upstairs”), and promises made one day can vanish into thin air the next. I had a friend who got a new job, and on her last day, she came back from her farewell lunch and had a message from the new company that they had eliminated her job (the one she had been hired for), and their offer was being rescinded. It happens. Be prepared.
  10. Manage your career, or your career will manage you. Things are always changing, and what’s true today won’t be true tomorrow. If you go with the flow, you could end up doing something you don’t want to do. You always have a choice, to decide whether to stay or to go. Trust your gut; if it’s telling you to go, listen and put the wheels in motion.

Finally, I’m confident that the day will come when everyone works and no one has a job. Daniel Pink calls it the “Free Agent Nation,” one in which employers become clients and employees become independent contractors. We’ll need a whole new set of skills when that happens. Times change, and we’ll have to change with them.

Now it’s your turn: Is there anything you’d add to the list? Is any of this advice way off base? I didn’t prioritize the list; what order would you list these in? Let me know in the comments!

WEAR SUNSCREEN! (#blogboost)

I had no idea what I was going to post today. Then I saw this in my Twitter feed.

…a new report found that the deadliest form of skin cancer has jumped 200 percent in the last four decades.

The acting U.S. surgeon general is asking Americans to give up their love of sunbathing and indoor tanning beds, given the alarming rise in melanoma cases diagnosed since 1973.

There are 63,000 new cases of melanoma in the United States every year and 9,000 people die from it. I don’t know why. Could be that we spend less time outside, could be the atmosphere has changed, making the ultraviolet rays from the sun stronger. Whatever the cause, that’s too many preventable deaths. I’ve watched someone die from melanoma, and it was an awful death. I don’t want to watch anyone else go through that.

Please, wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outside, and cover up whenever it’s practical to do so. Avoid tanning beds. And, if you see any changes in your skin, a new mole or one that’s changed color or shape, run, don’t walk, to the doctor and have it checked out. The chances of something getting out of hand are reduced the earlier you catch it.


Two for Tuesday: Level 42 (#blogboost)

I’ve become a Two Dots fanatic. It’s like Candy Crush and all the other games for smartphones and tablets. You connect dots of the same color, which removes them from the board and moves all the remaining dots down. You have a certain number of moves to complete a task (e.g. remove thirty red and thirty green dots in twenty-five moves). If you do, you get points and can move on to the next level, i.e. a tougher puzzle to solve. If you run out of moves before completing the task, you’re offered five more moves or a “bomb” for the low, low price of 99 cents. If you choose not to do business with them, you lose a life. Lose five lives, and you have to wait about two hours before you can try again. The creators of the game have said they have completed all of the levels without having to buy anything, so I don’t. Currently, I’m stuck at level 42, and it reminded me of Level 42, the rock/jazz/funk/fusion/Euro-pop/sophisti-pop band from the Eighties.

There was an issue of Bass Player magazine in the early Nineties (when I was playing bass) that had a feature on Mark King, Level 42’s bass player and lead singer. It talked about his bass-slapping technique, where you hit the strings with the side of your thumb rather than plucking them. I could never master the technique, but I enjoyed the band’s music. They started in 1979 with King, brothers Phil (drums) and Boon (guitar) Gould, and Mike Lindup (keyboards and vocals). Their first hit record in the UK was “The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up).” It reached the Top Ten in the UK in 1984. Their 1985 album World Machine was their breakthrough in the US and UK.

In the US, the hit single from that album was “Something About You,” which reached #7 on the Hot 100 in 1986. It’s our first song today.

In the UK, the hit single from the album was “Lessons in Love.” It hit #1, and is our second song.

After the release of Running in the Family in 1987, the Gould brothers left. Alan Murphy, Boon Gould’s replacement on guitar, died in 1989 after the release of Staring at the Sun, and was replaced by fusion guitarist Alan Holdsworth for their next album, 1991’s Guaranteed. They released one more album in the 1990’s, 1995’s Forever Now. Mark King’s brother Nathan joined the band in 2001, and the band released Retroglide in 2006. They’re still active, having just played the Castle Concerts in the UK two weeks ago. Their website is Level42.com.

Level 42, your Two for Tuesday, July 29, 2014,