March 28, 2009

Recently, my son shared some troubling news: he no longer was interested in playing classical guitar. What do you mean? The kid’s a natural, a genius! He could be the next Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, Andre Segovia! But no, he’s had enough. Too busy texting his friends. Ahhh teenagers! More than angry, I was terribly saddened. I still remember when as an eight year-old he announced he wanted to play guitar. Sure, I said. Up until then I had no inkling of his artistic inclinations. He loved math and science, doodled a little, and had a lead foot capable of landing a goal from the other end of the little league soccer field, but a musician? Who knew? Well, after about the second month of taking private lessons, his teacher – a musician himself and an instructor who’d seen a lot in forty years – informed me that he was, well, you know, a natural. He grasped the notes, the chords, even started creating his own music. Pretty soon he was performing in recitals and winning over anyone who heard him play.

OC Guitar Circle Recital with his current teacher, David Grimes, Director of Guitar Studies. CSUF

OC Guitar Circle Recital with his current teacher, David Grimes, Director of Guitar Studies. CSUF

You should have seen this kid! He thrived under pressure! Anyways, it’s all over now. He’s lost interest and, of course, I’m devastated. Not that I expected him to make a living off his music necessarily, but I do love and respect the arts (H-e-l-l-o, I’m a writer!) and music is very dear to me. I always thought that, if nothing else, this instrument could be his pal, his buddy, the one to turn to during hard times: you know, college exams, first rejection, crash of first car, etc. Everyone needs a beer, a song, etc., right?
But after careful consideration, I realized that 1) as I always preach, you can’t lead your life based on other people’s desires, and 2) who knows if this is a bad thing or a good thing. And I remembered this short Chinese story*:

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away, and all the neighbors came around to commiserate that evening, saying “So sorry to hear your horse has run away. That’s too bad.” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it and everybody came around that evening and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky! What a wonderful turn of events, you now have eight horses!” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day the farmer’s son tried to break one of these horses to ride, but was thrown off and broke his leg. And all the neighbors came around and said, “Oh, dear, that’s too bad.” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
The following day the conscription officers came around to draft people into the army and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. All the people came around again and said, “Isn’t that just great!” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”

So! Moral of the story: If you’re down and out because you just lost your job, or worse, it’s been a while since your layoff/resize and you’re getting desperate, just think about the Chinese farmer’s wisdom. Sit yourself down, grab a cold one, and strum a few bars. And remember, good or bad, it all comes down to “Maybe.”

*Play to live by Alan Watts


Call it what you may, you’re still unemployed!

March 27, 2009

This morning I received my business word of the day from www.Netlingo.com
(I get the jargon, too. It’s a lot more wicked!).  The word was rightsizing and the definition was -no lie:

A perversion of “downsizing,” meant to showcase the wisdom acquired by the “sizer” since his/her last foray into the re-scaling jungle. It sounds better than “layoffs.”

 Now, I ask you, who cares what it’s called? The important thing is what it does. So, great, the marketing department of a great corporation you have been performing at the top of your game for decides that the right number of employees is say, a bit off, and well that needs to be remediated (another great business term), so you and your whole group or part of your group or just you and someone in Wichita have to go. And after your meager severance package is paid and your Cobra benefits announced (ha! Are they kidding? You wouldn’t have been able to afford Cobra while you were employed, much less now. What are they thinking?) Well, of course, they’re not thinking, otherwise they would have known a long time ago the optimum (great word!) size of their operations and saved you the pain and agony of getting laidoff, oh sorry, rightsized.

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Cell Phone Banners Spell Success

March 17, 2009

A couple of days ago as I was fidgeting with my cell phone trying to delete some graffiti my teenager had left on my main screen (Nick was here!), I realized this space was prime real estate for true inspiration. So I set out to create a banner that read “I am successful!”. You have no idea what effect this phrase has on me every time I pick up my phone. There in black over a beachy background (what else would you expect?), these three little words stare back at me prompting me to respond. I guess I could disagree, but then where would that lead me? Oh yeah, DepressionVille. Nah, I don’t want to go there. Instead, I smile, primarily because the message still takes me by surprise –the memory not being quite what it once was– and secondly because it’s true and I can’t help but concur with it.

 As I was walking out of the office building I was not to return to on that Laid Off day, a very wise and dear man provided me with some great words of encouragement. “You’re a CEO, don’t forget that, you’ll land on your feet.” Wow! That was comforting, especially coming from someone who had known me only for a very short time. Yes, I had helped him edit a book he’s currently writing, but other than that, what did he really know about me, my work ethics, professionalism, etc.? Oh yeah, I helped him edit his book. I forgot. I’ve got to look into this memory thing. But I digress. I guess you’ve figured out that I do this a lot. Bear with me. It gets better.

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Unemployment – Day 2

March 14, 2009

Okay, so it’s been a while since my first and last post. Hey, I was trying to sort things out. Let’s start all over.

Day 2. Now what? Well, if you really think about it, only one thing has happened. You’ve been let go. You no longer have an office, a restaurant, a store, or a music studio to go to. So, you stay home, save on gas, clothes and lunch. Watch your language! I’m not making light of the situation. Hell no! (I don’t have to watch my language since I’m the one writing this.) Here’s what I’m saying: You can choose to despair. Or you can choose not to. Now, a little despairing may be a good thing at the beginning. Get it out of the way: picture losing your home, your car being towed, or your children going without food or medicine. Cry, scream or break something (not too valuable as you may not be able to replace it just yet). You owe it to yourself. Life sucks right now! Done? Now, get it together and let’s go. There’s a lot to do, especially during these times.

Not only is the economy in the outhouse, but the whole business structure has changed and is continuing to change as we speak. Things are not the way they used to be. And in order to find yourself in this new and changing world, you have to be a little creative. Reinvent yourself, as they say.

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Layoff on Career Day – The irony of it all

February 26, 2009

“How ironic,” Nick said as he hugged me tight while my tears pelted on his shoulders and my body shook from frustration, “you got laid off on Career Day.”  It had only been a few hours since I had stood in front of three different groups of middle school kids, his peers, talking about advertising copywriting, my profession. I talked about my work and my life, undeniably interchangeable, particularly for a creative person who works their God-given talent. I talked about loving what I do. I talked about how even the marketing jobs I hated provided great learning and how it all comes together in the end. I told them how because of mergers, acquisitions, impatient or greedy investors, bad management, I had been laid off several times, witnessed great agencies close and some very talented people scatter to find new meaning to their lives. I also told them the layoffs were the reason we were now living in Southern California. “Not too shabby, is it?” I posed. They didn’t respond. Actually, they didn’t respond too much at all. With very few exceptions, it seemed that I was staring into blank walls. Blank stares staring back. I had never experienced such a thing. These kids showed no emotion whatsoever. My son had warned me, though, so I didn’t take it personally. On occasion, someone would blink and then I’d turn to them with my story. “They’re alive!” I thought. There were a few squinty eyes in the room. Since most of the kids were Asian, I wasn’t sure if they needed glasses or if this was due to the size and shape of their eyes. Every now and then someone would raise a timid hand and a squeaky voice would ask if, like, you know, I worked with a group, or like by myself, or you know. The teacher, my hostess, and the blessed creature who sat through my back-to-back presentations and now knew more than she cared to about all things advertising, would translate and I would respond.

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