Friday, February 26, 2016

Lazy Like a Fox

Before anyone gets the wrong idea and starts thinking I'm actually as dumb as I look, I wanted to clarify that I know the phrase is "Crazy like a Fox." Maybe I'm just too lazy to think of a better title....or am I?

I have yet to experience writer's block. Some of you may wish at times that I thought I had writer's block, but it just hasn't happened. I'm sure a big part of it comes down to the fact that I can ramble on and on without a topic. I'm not saying all of it's worth reading....just that it never stopped me from writing.

The strange thing right now is that I'm just not feeling all that much like writing. I still have ideas popping through my head all day long. It's just that none of them seem to push me far enough to put pen to paper. (I don't actually write these out with pen and paper....It just sounded good in my head.)

I've been sitting here wondering if I should keep pumping out random nonsense just for the sake of posting something or pretend like I actually care about what I write....because I do.  Even though most of my readers probably struggle with differentiating between my good posts and the bad, I don't really want to write when the "feeling" to write just isn't there.

Anyway, long story short (too late)... I just thought I'd say something so you knew what was going on if/when there are a little longer gaps between posts. I know there are at least three or four of you out there who would actually notice. Until next time....

PS- While I was at it, I also decided to kill the average jester Facebook page. I have been enjoying not having a personal FB page for two months now and decided to make a 100% clean break.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Just Say No

My wife and I find ourselves telling our two little girls that saying "no" is not a valid option. The question I've had bouncing around in my head today is whether or not this line of thinking is good for all situations. The answer is easy.... No.

The first thing that my girls will try and tell me in response to the "no is not an option" rule is that my wife and I say no to them all the time. Is that fair? No. Is it right that we do that? Absolutely.

There are a lot of reasons to say no to your kids. The most important one, in my mind at least, is for their own safety. My five year old wants to play in the street. No. She wants to drive my truck. No. She wants to juggle knives in the kitchen like she saw on tv. least not if Mom is looking. 

Discipline comes in at a close second. We are very good about letting the girls make their own decisions in many circumstances, but we typically control it to a degree. We like to give them options to pick from in order to expedite the decision making process and to allow them to make their own decision...within our parameters. At the end of the day though, what Mom and Dad says - goes. No questions asked. 

You're probably going to think I'm crazy on this next one, but.... there are times you should say no to your spouse. I am obviously not implying, or endorsing, saying no to your spouse merely to maintain some sort of edge in a power struggle. I am just saying that sometimes the answer is no and being open and honest with your spouse means you will occasionally say no.

If my wife were to ask me to spend all day Saturday watching the back to back chick flick marathon on the Hallmark channel? No. Nuh-Uh. Ain't gonna happen. See how easy that is? Being honest saved me from a miserable day where I would probably end up resenting my wife and clawing my eyes out of my head. 

There are times to say no at work as well. I've been in some form of Sales or Customer Service for the better part of 20 years. If I were to take a poll right now, I'd be willing to bet most people have the "customer is always right" concept stuck in their head and therefore can't fathom anyone ever saying no to a customer. In the real world though, we should probably be saying it a lot more often than we do.

There are a lot of times that saying no to a customer is actually beneficial to them because what they want isn't the right solution or may not really solve their problem. Or, saying no to one person may allow you to say yes to five others. There are plenty of reasons, but my point is we shouldn't be afraid to say no from time to time....even to a customer.

How about with your co-workers, or dare I add, your employer? Do you say no to them every once in a while? I'm not talking about being an unhelpful jerk or saying no to something that is clearly your sole responsibility to do. I'm talking about setting limits and being realistic with your time. It's never good to over promise and under deliver. You're not helping anyone out by making promises you don't have a chance of keeping. 

Your own sanity is of some value as well. Saying yes to everything under the sun will burn you out and result in poor performance. That doesn't do anyone any good.

Think about it over the next day or two. Pay attention to your automated responses to various requests and questions. I did it for just a few hours today and quickly saw how many times my "auto-reply" of yes or no was out my mouth before my brain caught up to the question. I suppose that lends itself to a further conversation of thinking before I speak in general, but I don't have time for that tonight. Until next time....

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Brilliant Idiot

Do you think you're smart? Are you really? Sometimes, when your brain is firing on all cylinders, you can start to feel pretty good about yourself. Other days...not so much. I've had a couple of opportunities to think about this over the course of the past week.

My younger daughter had kindergarten roundup this week. I could go on and on about how I can feel so young at heart one minute and then old the next, but that's not the point I wanted to focus on today. I'm referring to feeling good about how much you think you know only to find out how much more there is to learn. 

During kindergarten roundup, one of the teachers made a comment about how much education has sped up these days. I know a lot of it comes from the advancements in technology. It does have a possible downside - like a four year old who knows how to navigate the web and ends up being glued to some electronic device seemingly non-stop....if you were to let them. But there is also the upside of how fast they can (and do) learn things these days.

I know I was blown away when my older daughter was reading chapter books the summer following her kindergarten year. I was feeling pretty proud and having great thoughts about how my wife and I passed on our "smarts" to our kids. Then I remembered that my kindergarten experience involved learning numbers, letters, colors and eating crayons. At least as far as I can remember.

A lot of this comes down to our own perception and the particular circumstances. Take the fact that I work in the Information and Technology industry. My family and friends think I'm some sort of computer genius. It doesn't matter how many times I explain to them that my role is a customer service and account management type role, and NOT a technician, they still think I'm some computer expert. That's just not the case.

To my dad, the fact that I can remote into his computer and fix some minor issues leaves him thinking I'm a computer guru. But if you take into account the fact that he spent more of his life without computers than with them, you have to take his opinion with a grain of salt. 

If you read my last post about my move out of Sales and into the Service department at work, you'd know that I now have the opportunity to see just how little I really know about the finer inner-workings of technology. (In case you didn't, or won't, read the post - I'm still not a technician. I just get to work more closely with them and see what they do from day to day..... I didn't want to scare any of our clients who might stumble across this.) 

I am being reminded daily how much there is to learn. To be honest though, I'm not too hard on myself about it. For one, I don't claim to be a computer technician and I don't have to be to do my job effectively. (Although it will certainly help the more I do know and continue to learn.) More importantly though, technology changes just as fast as you can learn it, so I don't beat myself up about it. I just surround myself with people smarter than me. 

I am interested to see how much my knowledge changes with my new opportunity. I have a great go-to guru and conveyor of knowledge. (I won't name him specifically because I don't want to embarrass Dan....ooops.) Honestly though, it could go either way considering my pestering questions might wear the poor guy out and cause him to have a break down. Hopefully not though.

The moral of this story (yes, I still try and have one every once in a while) is to keep on learning. If you start feeling like you're pretty smart, it probably means you're oblivious to all the things you don't know. And while you're at it, make sure you have great teachers. Until next time....

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lemons Into Lemonade

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Basically, it's a twist (no pun intended) on the idea of life being what you make of it. Nobody gets everything they want all the time. Unless you're the luckiest person in the history of the world, things don't always go the way you want them to 100% of the time.

I was handed what I originally considered to be a lemon a couple weeks ago. For those of you who haven't read every single post I've ever written or gone so far as to stalk me on LinkedIn, I work in the Information Technology industry. As part of a restructuring we are doing at work to better provide value to our clients, my role has changed.

My role for the last 16-17 months was the Inside Account Manager in the Sales department of a Managed Services Provider. This position had me handling the day to day transactional needs of our existing clients. Hardware and software purchases, life cycle management and one-off purchase requests - that was me.

I was in the process of moving into an Account Manager role. This position would be considered a promotion and has the added bonus of face-to-face client interaction rather than my former phone call and email relationships I had with our clients. I love interacting with clients in person and this was a move I was ecstatic to make. Then I got my lemon.

We restructured our company and our processes in a manner that not only better provides value for our clients, but also does it in a lean manner that means we no longer needed to add an additional Account Manager (my would-have-been promotion).

My new role, Design Desk, is very similar to my former Inside Account Manager role, but with a few differences. The biggest change is that I am no longer in the Sales department.  I am now operating from within the Service department - what all us Sales guys refer to as "the dark side." This role also keeps me in house and away from the face-to-face client interaction I was looking forward to. It's also more of a lateral move than the promotion the Account Manager position would have been.

Needless to say, I was not initially excited about this change. Actually, when I was asked what I thought about it, I believe I said "I was not excited about it - not even a little bit." Truth be told though, that comment was an unfair knee jerk reaction as I didn't really have all the information because my new role was still being developed when I first heard about it.

Now, after a week or so of learning about this new position, my opinion has changed dramatically. I've never been a fan of "Sales" in the sense that many people mistakenly think of it as selling anything you can to make more money for the company. I do however love customer service. I have always looked at Sales as providing customer service...which just happens to generate revenue.

I will be able to provide even better customer service with the newly adopted service model we now have. That's a big plus for me. I am also gaining a greater insight into the Technical Services and Project side of our company. That added knowledge will not only make my job more exciting and fulfilling, it will also make me more valuable to our team and our clients.

Whether this was ever really a lemon or just a snap judgement in my mind, it doesn't really matter. Once I finally wrapped my mind around it, I am now excited for the possibilities. I would say that I made lemonade with my lemon, but I really don't like lemonade. I'd like to think I was just practicing what I preach about looking for the best in everything....even if my own identification of "the best" was a bit delayed in this example.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this new role plays out. Right out of the gate, it's looking like it will be beneficial on a number of levels. I will do my best not to ramble on about it in too many of my future posts. I've just been bouncing this whole scenario around in my head for the past week and, just like a typical blogger, I had to write it out to clear it out. Until next time....

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Eating Your Feelings

My wife sent sent me a text yesterday saying "I feel like eating my feelings. Will explain later." Little did I know at the time, she and a co-worker were having a discussion about it and joking about whether a guy knows what that means or not. For the record, I do least...I think I do.

Eating Your Feelings
My general (guy) understanding of a woman's "eating your feelings" is that there is something weighing heavily on her mind or stressing her out. This feeling makes her want to just eat something like the stereotypical carton of ice cream. Granted, in my wife's case, it would probably also include a juicy burger, a brat and some cheddar fries on the side. What can I wife has great taste in food.

The problem with the out-of-the-blue text my wife sent is that I do have a basic understanding of what the phrase means to her. Unfortunately, that puts me in mild panic mode because I was then left wondering what horrific thing had happened. Did she lose her job? Did someone die? Why would she set me up for concern without any details?

Of course, me being the laid back fairly neutral guy I am, I responded with a joke to lighten the mood. Since she used about ten different food shaped emoticons in her initial text, I responded with something like "Is it something serious or were you just looking for an excuse to use all the emoticons?"

She then responded that it's nothing really and she'd fill me in later that evening. That''s when I remembered that she used to cry "every time the wind changed direction." I can say that open and honestly because it is a matter of public least for our family. I jokingly made that comment once while we were dating and one of her brothers used it in their toast at our wedding.

Either way, knowing that little tidbit about my wife helped calm my fears. Even though she doesn't cry every time the wind changes direction anymore, I know that she would have given me more details (and probably not a text) if it was anything serious.

Feelings To Eat
The guy's take on eating your feelings is typically the opposite. That's the case for me at least and i do consider myself to be the "average guy." Because of that, I will write this next part as if it's a universal truth to all guys rather than just me.

Guys only eat because of one type of feeling: The feeling to eat. I'm pretty sure guys don't have emotions, so it really just comes down to feeling like eating. I guess it's like my wife crying when the wind changes direction. A guy would feel like eating when the wind changes direction.

It's lunch time, I could go for a burger a fries. It's Tuesday, I could really eat a pizza. I'm bored, I could really go for a steak right about now. You get the picture. We're driven by a passing thought in our mind about a glorious feast and want to act on it.

As far as dealing with stressors, we have our own means of coping. It often involves things like yard work, tinkering on an engine, getting together with the guys for a card game or the like. Everyone is different, but they all have that activity that gets them through it. I could be wrong, but I think the refreshments (of the hops and barley variety) involved during previously stated activities help a bit too.

Food Is Awesome
Whatever label you want to put on your desire to eat, it's all good. Who cares what the reason is? Food is awesome. Do we really need to label our reason for eating? I suppose the label is more a matter of justification for eating food that probably isn't the healthiest option. Just like with anything else though, if you enjoy it in moderation, it shouldn't be a problem.

I will admit that I'm not the poster boy for that. My "moderation" or portion control when it comes to food is not the greatest. It would help if my wife wasn't such an awesome cook. It would probably also help if my love of food wasn't so great, broad and all encompassing. Let's face it, I still get excited about Mac and Cheese with hot dogs.

I gotta run now. All this talk about food is making me hungry for breakfast. I could really go for steak and eggs with a side of sausage. Unfortunately, I think it will end up being a bowl of Crunchy Granola Raisin Bran. Maybe I should start a shopping list....and figure out how I'll pay for all the food I'd want to buy. Until next time....

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Well That's Just WWWonderful

There are a number of ways that you can access information on the good old world wide web. There is a wide variety of web browsers for you to choose from. I am partial to Chrome, but there are a few web portals I use that just seem to run smoother with other browsers. In addition to choosing a browser, there is an ever-growing selection of devices you can use to access the internet.

PC's, laptops, tablets and phones are used on a nearly constant basis throughout the day to access the immeasurable amount of data out there on the web. No matter what your preferred means of access, one thing trumps it all....You need a connection that works.

I was particularly irritated this week when I wasn't able to access my very own website. Not only could I not access my WordPress admin portal to write a post. I couldn't even view my own website online.

It had nothing to do with my internet connection being out. It all came down to my IP address. The only thing that was wrong with my IP address was that my own host was blocking it. With all the spam hits I continually have to fight so my analytics reports aren't completely skewed, you'd think my very own IP address would be safe....and you'd be wrong.

After receiving an "everything's fine on our end" report from my host, I continued to press on and troubleshoot the issue on my own. I managed to eliminate all possibilities other than my host flat-out blocking my IP. I submitted another tick to my host to find out that, sure enough, they were blocking my IP. That's annoying, but was fortunately a quick fix once I identified the problem for my know...the people who are supposed to be able to identify what's going on with the site their hosting.

This "minor" irritation started me thinking more seriously about my (currently) half-hearted move back to Blogger. Since I am caring less and less about the web design side and more about the writing side, why should I continue to pay for hosting services? Even more so now that my host apparently can't keep my (the owner of the domain) IP address off the blacklist.

So I took the plunge and cancelled my web hosting package and kept only my domain hosting. I figured I would just re-direct my domain to my Blogger account. Pretty simple right? Not with this host. They gave me the song and dance that I couldn't re-direct my domain unless I paid for a hosting plan. Pretty funny since I do that exact thing with another host.

I then took the obvious next step. I am now transferring my domain name to another host. This of course is after being blocked by my (soon to be) former host's from redirecting my URL. So, I am now in that 5-7 day wait for the transfer to complete so I can finally redirect my to my blogger site.

Basically this is a rather long winded way of letting you know that I am aware my URL has not been functioning properly. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused either of my loyal readers.

The good news is that if you're actually reading this, you either found my Blogger page and/or my URL is working again. Either way, I'm glad you made it through the confusion and found me again.

Now that this fiasco is almost completely behind me, I am looking forward to blogging on my original Blogger account again. I'm not going to guarantee that my writing will get any better, but I can tell you I will spend less time being distracted by the bells and whistles of a full-blown hosted website. We'll see how it goes. Until next time....

Monday, February 1, 2016

Cut or Grow?

It’s the age-old question most of us seem to face on a recurring cycle: Cut it or let it grow? It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, teenager or senior citizen. The question is always there.

I thought about this today when I saw a co-worker had made the decision to go from a full beard to clean shaven…a choice I have made all too many times before. Just like I have done in the past, he has already decided to grow it back. Sounds like me. I get the urge to go clean shaven every couple of years. Like clockwork, I shave the beard….and two minutes later (literally)… I decide to grow it back. Without a beard, or at least a goatee, I look like a pudgy little kid. That’s typically all it takes for me to decide to grow back a little “facial coverage.”

I go through a similar process with the length of my hair. Having spent the better part of my life with a high and tight, Marine Corps haircut, I am partial to very short hair. I get the urge a couple times a year to grow out my hair. (For the record, “growing out my hair” means growing it out to maybe an inch.) I usually can’t stand it when it reaches the half-inch mark and then cut it shorter again.

The irritating part about me deciding to give up on growing out my hair is that it usually takes just long enough to get it that long that I get a tan line. Then, when I decide to go back to a high and tight, I have (what feels like) a glowing white bald head. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that many of us deal with.

It could be worse….I could be my wife. You can take that in two different ways. The first being my examples above. My wife is the one who has to be seen in public with me while I look like a pudgy kid with a glowing white bald head. The second is that I think women have the whole “cut or grow” problem worse than us guys.

It only takes me a week to grow my beard back. It takes my wife six months to grow her hair back out after chopping it off. I think most women tend to take it a bit more personally as well. While I will just be irritated with my choice for a few minutes, my wife will be upset about her choice for months. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit, but the reversal of chopping off six inches of hair does take a lot longer to grow back than a beard.

Sure, I suppose there a few tougher decisions in life that whether to cut or grow your hair, but those get talked about in everyone else’s blogs. I figured it was my duty to bring to light the hard-call decisions that everyone else is afraid to talk about. There’s no need to thank me. Just be sure to think about me next time you make a quick judgement call decision to cut your hair or beard and then think “Oh crap! What did I just do?” Until next time….