1967_Dead-Eye_Rob
When I was in third grade, we lived in Fairbanks Alaska, and I wanted to be a grown up. Because Alaska is frontier wilderness, a lot of the activities I remember were around doing things in the outdoors with the family.

I wanted to be grown up, so I got a paper route (at eight years old I was the youngest one they’d ever had). I remember that I had to borrow my Dad’s typewriter to write the circulation department telling them why I wanted to be a paper boy.

I also remember my parents making me take my little brother with me so I wouldn’t get into trouble and getting into trouble anyway (but that’s a whole bunch of different stories).

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I’ve worked hard (as many others have) to eliminate credit cards, stay away from large fee charging banks, and generally protect my money, so when I recently learned that the EDD is paying people with debit cards, I got a bit angry (see: http://www.sfbg.com/2011/09/13/banking-misfortune?page=0,1.)

Debit Card

Now I think the idea of giving people an option other than a check or direct deposit is commendable, and I hope that the EDD at least did this to save some money (although I can’t imagine how this could possibly be more cost effective than an EFT, since somebody has to pay all those bank fees that B of A loves to charge). And maybe I’m just being old fashioned, like a generation ago when the move from cash to paychecks first happened, or again when direct deposit became the norm.

But I don’t think this is really the same, because when a check (or a direct deposit happened), you weren’t an involuntary customer of Bank of America. You were a customer of whatever bank you wanted to be. And if you weren’t a Bank of America customer, they couldn’t count you on their customer roles.

Overnight, B of A has a huge influx of people they can market to. They have an additional revenue stream as well, since these are debit cards, so if you use them at a merchant, that merchant has to pay fees to get their money.

Will the next step be elimination of paychecks ? Maybe the IRS would like that: your money would pass through B of A, they could directly pull taxes from there since it is the Bank of America ….

This just feels plain wrong to me.

There’s a saying I’ve heard in self-help and twelve step programs that basically means you will learn more about yourself if you continue to do the work: “More shall be revealed …”

I’ve always been a very confident person when it comes to my ability to adapt to work, and always felt that as long as there were challenging problems to solve, I’d have no problem finding work. And while I am highly skilled, I have come to believe that I have been very lucky, and I may have therefore been a bit arrogant about my abilities.

Recently I recognized the fact that intentions and actions don’t always meet. I was flying home and the overhead bins were full next to my seat, so I walked back and placed my bag in a bin a few seats back. As I turned to go back to my seat, I saw a woman who obviously had been ready to put her bag in that spot. I work very hard to be a nice guy, but in this instance, I just continued back to my seat. My intention hadn’t been to upset this person, but my actions did so.

Last year, in October, I was released from a contract that I’d been on for a few years. I had been brought in to temporarily fill a vacancy, but was able to keep extending the contract by doing good work. The organization I was working for was worried about cash flow due to some expansion they were doing, so it seemed like this would be a temporary cost cutting measure.

Immediately after that, the market tanked, and jobs started disappearing. I wasn’t too worried, knowing that typically when jobs get scarce, contracts become more plentiful. I hadn’t had any time off for years, so I decided not to look too hard for the rest of the year.

Even though I wasn’t working too hard at finding a new job, I started to become a bit worried. I was only seeing contracts that had rates lower than salaries for the same work, and often were all inclusive out of state jobs. I did the math on a couple of these and found that I would be working for free by the time I paid for airfare and hotel.

So after the first of the year, I figured I better step the search up. I started working full time on my job search, and spending a lot more time on networking. I went to Job Connections nearly every Saturday, called and emailed friends and former coworkers, and talked to every recruiter that called. I spent hours trying to redo my resume to make it work for a couple of different types of jobs.

And during all this, I took advantage of my time off, studying for, and getting my PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. The silver lining in being out of work for many months, was that I was spending a lot of time on self improvement.

The biggest downside was watching the dwindle, and trying not to panic. We reviewed finances and realized we spent way too much money on a lot of things, and cut our expenses neatly in half. We dropped our burn rate enough to extend our expected “run out of cash” date to be somewhere around the end of the year. Somehow, even though we’d both lived in the paycheck to paycheck mode before, it was almost scarier to see the cash reserves disappear. There was that unfounded fear that we’d lose everything and be homeless.

Luckily for me, my network did pay off, and I picked up a contract that a friend of mine found me. Seemed like things were rolling again. But my lesson wasn’t yet over: I underestimated some politics and made some mistakes at this contract, and I was quickly out of a job. My intentions were to help improve a less than optimal process into one that was efficient, making the lives of nurses and patients better. My actions however only gave a politically charged situation more ammunition.

I lost that job because of two bits of arrogance: not paying attention to the inner voice that told me I should uncover my stakeholder’s needs early, and overestimating my abilities. The contract was supposed to have taken me through the end of the year, instead it lasted only a few weeks. I had been humbled again.

In the mean time, people in my network continued to struggle with the job market. The average time people were unemployed was beginning to stretch out beyond a year. People with more impressive backgrounds than mine were having trouble finding jobs. Companies that really needed employees weren’t hiring to minimize risk from another downturn, or were doing things like taking advantage of the downturn to replace expensive people with less expensive ones.

So after losing that job, I really came to the conclusion I had to take whatever came along, as long as it was something I could do. I started working on equity projects for startups, splitting my time between several of them. I went to meetups, and any free networking events I could find. I took a short contract doing development work. Still the bank account dwindled.

And then out of the blue, I got a call from a woman I had worked with a couple of years ago. I work really hard to stay in touch with people, but I’m definitely humble about my abilities in that area, so I was really happy that she thought enough of me to give me that call. It was perfect timing. It was a salaried job, which I haven’t had for years. I’ve always looked at contracting as just a different way to be compensated however, so I gladly took the job.

As it turns out, it’s a huge job, that I’m sure will challenge the limits of my abilities. I have confidence in my abilities, but humility about my ability to mark the boundaries of those abilities now, which I think will help me grow and meet these challenges.

And I’m sure, as they say: “More shall be revealed …”

I am going to break one of the rules of social media and talk about politics. I’ve had lots of conversations with people I know who generally share my views on issues, but being disenfranchised and fear based, have the strong feeling that politics should never be talked about.

And to a point I agree. People are so strongly aligned along party lines, that if you say the wrong thing, you will alienate many people. The weird thing for me is that most people don’t even know why they follow those party lines.

I spoke to a very smart young man a while back and asked him which party he belonged to.

“The X party”, he said.

“Why did you choose that party?”,  I asked assuming he would have a logical reason for why he joined that party.

“Well, I guess mostly because my parents were in the X party”, he replied.

And even stranger, the lines shift based on what the other party is saying. An idea that one party comes up with is immediately opposed by the other, even if that idea is a plank in the opposing party’s platform.

Take the recent rhetoric about the healthcare reform work. From everything I’ve seen, what is being proposed is almost exactly the same thing that the Republicans proposed when Clinton was trying to get them to move on universal healthcare. A sort of modified version of what we have today that tries to fix the biggest fiscal problems with our current system.

But who is labeling this “Obamacare” and calling it socialism? It appears to me that it is the same people who caused Clinton to crash and burn, and who proposed the approach of universal health care combined with capitalism.

This is but one example, but there seem to be endless times that  opposition is simply a tribal fight. The Democrats reject all Republican ideas, the Republicans reject all the Libertarian ideas, and they all view each other as bad and wrong. It’s one reason I don’t declare a party, and would probably still be independent if I didn’t want to vote in primaries.

I often wonder if we just got rid of the parties, could we have an intelligent discussion about the issues. Are people just naturally unwilling to consider other viewpoints?

For me, health care is broken, and there are simple things we could do to fix some of the big problems. By making sure people could actually see doctors when they need to, we would reduce the burden on emergency rooms and hospitals caused by people who have either had to forgo care that would have been less expensive.

Add to that fixing some of the corruption in the insurance industry (which also prevents people from getting care early with things like “pre-existing condition” clauses), and not only would  health care costs go down, but productivity would go up, due to a healthier population.

It’s not rocket science, it’s what we need, and anything is better than the current system that is bankrupting the country.