Tag Archives: life advice

tomorrow

Set Yourself Up For Tomorrow, Today.

By: Chris Warren.

I consider myself an average person with average problems. Some days are great, most are good, and thankfully only a few are miserable. No matter what goes down in my fairly busy life, there is always one constant: Tomorrow will be another chance to try again.

Everyone has had a bad day but no one has ever had a bad tomorrow. And that is the beauty of a new day. Much pithy wisdom has been produced about tomorrow. In truth, it’s a complete unknown and nobody really knows what it will be filled with. When I wake up in the morning, all I know for sure is I’m not dead. Everything after that is an upgrade. When tomorrow becomes now, I owe it to myself and everyone around me to make the best of it.

When I wake up in the morning, all I know for sure is I’m not dead. Everything after that is an upgrade.

Years ago my parents had a neighbor who had a very well paying job, a nice house, and a circle of good natured friends. He was affable and got along with everyone. Then he abruptly quit his job and started avoiding people. He spent most of his days sitting alone in his yard smoking and drinking beer. He neglected his property. His friends stopped coming around. He would do passive-aggressive things to irritate the neighbors such as leave the radio playing loudly out an open window while he was gone all afternoon; this behavior escalated to the point that the police got involved. What was this dude’s problem? Alcoholism? Mental illness? Just stopped giving a damn? He sold his house and was last seen leaving town in a junky old truck pulling a small travel trailer. I’m guessing whatever he’s doing now, assuming he’s even still alive, involves a lot of beer and cigarettes.

I never woke up in a worse mood than when I went to bed the night before. Part of the appeal of tomorrow is that you have to sleep a little before you get there, and the physiological effect of rest goes a long way in recalibrating our psyches. Setting yourself up for a positive day means deciding that the hours that lay before you are a choice. It’s true that we usually don’t have complete control over what we do with those hours, but we do have control over how to react to them.

Attitudes are a lot easier to control than situations. If you decide now that tomorrow will suck, then there is a 100% chance that it will. At some point my parents’ neighbor decided that it was easier to accept a mediocre today than put any effort into a better tomorrow. I believe he was neither mentally ill nor an alcoholic. There was nothing deep going on with this guy. He just was a bitter, pissed off, lazy old man who gave up on his tomorrow.

My best and closest friend has spent the last two years trying to get out of a demoralizing, low-paying job in a cable TV company call center: Applying for dozens of other positions, going on interviews, and chasing leads. All of it turned out to be dead ends. We talk at least a few times a week and during this whole time never once did I sense he was feeling sorry for himself or letting go of his confidence that there was something else out there, maybe tomorrow. Finally, he got a job offer that was better than expected! He starts next week. He never gave up on his tomorrow.

Every night before lights out, I pause for a moment and contemplate the previous day. What did I do right? What do I regret? What can I carry forward to make tomorrow better, and what bad habits need to go? What must I do to avoid becoming that bitter, pissed off, lazy old man? In the morning the cycle begins anew: When the future becomes now, the attitude we have in the reality of today will determine how we handle…tomorrow.

Graduation’s Greatest Hits?

By Chris Warren.

In the next month or two, high school and college seniors will be graduating and moving forward with their lives. The well intended commencement speeches typically include a list of pithy if not outright condescending advice for the graduates. It’s not too late for those who have been asked to give these speeches to carefully edit themselves and avoid patronizing clichés. The list could go on for pages and pages, but here are a few of the “greatest hits” to be avoided for all time:

Do what you love and the money will follow. This is at the top of my list as the biggest heap o’graduation shit that has ever been spoken. Any activity you are passionate about but can’t support yourself with is called a hobby. There is no cosmic law that states anyone can make money doing anything if only they love doing it enough. Since life is not a one way street, those who insist on believing this ridiculous idealism must also accept with it the equally foolish converse argument: One cannot earn a living doing something they hate. I’m going to settle this nonsense with some easily quantifiable earthly reality: There are tens of millions more people toiling away at barely tolerable but reasonably well paying occupations than there are making a decent buck at their dream job. Acceptable alternative advice: If you love something that much, the money (or lack of it) won’t matter.redstone

Be yourself. I don’t get this one. How can you not “be yourself?” Taken to its ultimate conclusion, this lame pop psychology narcissism is just another excuse for every individual to think the world must form around them. But the world is full of uncomfortable circumstances where you might have to be polite when you don’t mean it, be supportive when inside you don’t agree, or be cooperative with people you think are incompetent. Those who are dishonest or fake about who they are are being themselves. Cheerfully going along with something you don’t like for diplomatic reasons or to attain a legitimate goal is not the same as willfully involving oneself in objectionable, immoral, or illegal activities. Acceptable alternative advice: Acting is an important life skill; learn to adapt your outward behavior to any situation even if it means being insincere.

Think outside the box. This tiresome business buzzword has leaked into academia and is the only point on the list that sort-of comes close to being useful wisdom. Unfortunately, it has evolved into a catch all vindication for dumb ideas and dead end personal goals. Thinking outside the box works best for older people who have learned from prior successes and failures and have enough restraint to know how far they can go. Less discerning young people are inclined to be different just for the sake of being different with no clear end game other than to clash with tradition. The “box” existed as long as it has for a reason. Some things just plain work and do not need to be challenged. Acceptable alternative advice: Thinking outside the box is fine, but only if the method used is better than what is already in the box.

By time young people reach graduation, they have spent many years exposed to a wide range of viewpoints from the internet and are far more adept at spotting a recycled idea than us older types were at their age. They are too smart to fall for dusted off hollow maxims that are accurate to a limited degree but have no mass appeal to today’s graduates and do not work for 99% of the people who try them. The opportunity to effect the lives of young people is very fleeting; commencement speakers should not waste the few minutes they have spreading unrelatable one-liners that at best are poorly chosen, and at worst full blown lies.

Why Your Career Should Be Like A Ford F-150 Truck.

By: Chris Warren

One of the hardest parts of running any business is knowing the sweet spot between leaving a good thing alone and changing to keep up with the times. No company can succeed by completely ignoring one or the other. The danger is that tradition vs. change is a business minefield. History is loaded with both good and bad examples of how this concept was handled. Most of them are bad. A few are remarkable in that they were even proposed at all. That is the position the Ford Motor Company places itself in with the 2015 F-150 pickup truck.

To fully appreciate the magnitude of this grand experiment, one must first understand the importance of the F-150 to Ford. In a word, it’s everything. It’s been not only the best selling truck for over four decades, but also the best selling vehicle of any class for almost as long. You heard that right: The best selling car in the United States, is a truck.

What Ford is planning is a complete changeover for the F-150 to use a lot of aluminum, rivets and high tech glue to hold parts together, and a fleet of brand new engine designs. The end goal is to improve fuel economy while keeping the “Built Ford Tough” image. There is a huge risk that so many changes so quickly will result in a lot of reliability problems and rejection by customers. High gas milage is nice, but trucks must above all be able to work hard, haul heavy things, push snow, and pull trailers. Their owners tend to beat the hell out of them. Light and dainty is for hybrids.

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company ©2014
Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company ©2014

 

About 40% of the entire North American truck market is claimed by this one single model. There is an old joke in automotive circles that Ford is a truck company that occasionally cranks out a few cars just for kicks. In continuous production since 1948, the Ford F-series pedigree transcends generations. By any measure it’s an American legend. Why mess with a legend?

The problem with legends is that they tend to get complacent. This happens a lot not just with products but also with entertainers, athletes, and people who are very successful in business and feel their place is secure. That is, until someone comes along and one-ups them. They might have become jaded, tired, or lazy. They may have quit trying. The exact reason doesn’t matter. The end result is always the same: They became irrelevant. Irrelevance is what kills a legend. No matter good you are, no matter how great your ideas or depth of your knowledge, none if it matters if no one cares. Hanging one’s hat on past successes and making no effort to build on them will almost assure irrelevance.

Ford was not motivated solely by a daring spirit when they made such a huge leap with their legendary flagship vehicle. New fuel milage standards are coming by 2020, and eventually all trucks will have to go on a diet. What makes Ford’s move so gutsy is they could have come up with a new, limited market truck to test the changes on first, or they could have waited for another manufacturer to do it and copied them. Instead, Ford took the one product that has largest, most loyal following and made all the changes at once. There is a life lesson buried in the next chapter of the Ford F-150 story.

My first full time job was as a call center service rep at the phone company. It paid well, had good benefits, and a stable schedule. My coworkers were pleasant; the boss was reasonable. It was not a mindless task. We had to know billing and order procedures in two separate and complex computer systems and were expected to do what was needed to shepherd every issue through to the end while acting professionally towards difficult and sometimes abusive customers. It required both technical and people skills. I got good at it; I was soon helping train new representatives and was often consulted to solve difficult problems. It felt good to be respected and valuable.

Logo ™ © Ford Motor Company
Logo ™ © Ford Motor Company

Things began incrementally changing. Management took away our autonomy and authority to resolve customer issues; we had to follow an exactly prescribed procedure and there was not much tolerance for drifting off the plan even when the plan was not the best path to resolution for the customer. We went from being a true service-focused group to an inbound sales force that dealt with customer service issues as an afterthought. A lot of the people I started with in the company moved on to other positions. One day it hit me: I had gone from respected team member to cube farm drone. By then I had been doing the same job for seven and half years. I looked around and wondered how dumb could I be not to have seen the place going downhill right in front of me? Why did I put up with it for so long?

Unlike the automotive industry, there is no team of engineers and marketing spin doctors making sure I am the trendy thing everyone wants. I have to be my own legendary product. Had I adopted an “F-150 attitude” I would not have just sat there in my cube bullshitting myself into thinking my past successes were enough to insulate me from the changes that made my job untenable. I should have been positioning myself as the one every else is trying to keep up with. Instead, I went in panic mode, scrambling to escape from an unfulfilling job that was only going to get worse. The whole situation was totally avoidable and totally my fault.

I eventually found my way to another, better job in the company. This time I was not going to let myself become irrelevant. Less than two years into it I was actively looking to move on. I ended up with something far better than what I expected, and it came at a perfect time: Not long after I left, my old workgroup was also transformed from a cheerful crew of thoughtful problem solvers to scatterbrained checklist followers. They were ultimately absorbed back into the very call center I was running from in the first place. The mess had come full circle, but this time I was paying attention and dodged a huge bullet.

Of course you can play it safe, keep doing what you’re doing with no changes, nervously hoping  your sanity stays intact and the boss still wants you five or ten or more years from now. Or you can wait for someone else to take the big leap, wait to see how it goes and then make your move. Or you can be the one who goes first. The connection between the Ford F-150 and how we should be managing our careers is as huge and imposing as the truck itself. Take a hint from the Ford Motor Company: No one will care who did it second.