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A Do Over?

by tgposzadmin on August 2nd, 2019

Well, I am just about 20 weeks into my “retirement” and I have some impressions about work and life after work. First and foremost, there are no do-overs, no mulligan’s. Somewhere along the way you realize that you cannot go back and start over. Oh, I have heard, back in my college days, those people who would “take off” a year in order to travel Europe (is that even a thing?) but if you’re like me, where Mom and Dad were not rich, that simply was not an option. You start your career/work and you just keep going. A few bumps along the way. If only you knew then what you know now, that’s what we all think, but the experience, good or bad, you gain just goes into a base of knowledge, a database if you will, which helps to shape you as an individual making you better (or worse) at “stuff”.

Long Ago

Remembering back in high school, oh how important popularity was; to be part of the in-crowd, that would be the best, but now you realize that’s not you, either. A phony, no, not for me. Maybe someone close to you will “get” you, if you are fortunate, or maybe not. My own son has struggled with this, but you don’t like to talk ill of people, especially since the idea of bullying the bully is not really the answer either. At the end of the day, there is only you. Maybe there will be one close friend, maybe two. You should own it, this individualism; it’s all right. You want it to be better than that, but especially now, there is a very large problem with fragmentation in our society. I don’t see this getting any better anytime soon. Don’t be a follower, in our day, it was keeping up with the Jones’ – bunk. Today it’s a lot of how you can be “like” some other person. As if you make yourself into that person by wearing the same clothes or at least the same brands. Rather you should be your own person.

Marketing has figured this part out. Just look at any “lifestyle” ad in print or other media. By presenting these models the way they do, they want you to envy what those models represent, all smiles, all the time. Do you believe anyone in this fanciful universe ever has a bad day? And the marketing works. You WANT to be like that person in the ad. Let me sign up for that club, that vacation, that credit card, there is a lot of psychology involved in every ad that comes out.

Opportunity

Some will say “who your parents are helps”, as if you get a choice in that, also where you were born helps. But does opportunity depend on it? Well some kinds of opportunity makes it easier, but the disadvantaged, assuming you do the work, have opportunity as well. If you have no money, education is still available, but the entitled don’t want you to know this. Education is key, that’s what I tell my daughter… are you wasting time watching TV or doing whatever social media? Instead use the time to get ahead, that’s my advice. Everyone should “get” this. Seriously, you “could” be the next Instagram star, but probably not. The numbers are not there for you. Forget Facebook and Twitter. Unless you work really REALLY hard, and most everyone does not want to. The bulk of society think it’s owed to them, but to work for it, that’s what it is going to take. Sounds like a republican sort of message, but I am not one. It’s an old republican ideal anyway, today’s party has no resemblance to what they used to stand for.

Not that where you went to college doesn’t matter. But the clearest indicator of all is that it all comes down to you. At my last job, I did a few “cross” interviews, where the hiring manager wanted another interviewer’s opinion. These candidates obviously wanted to be hired, but honestly it didn’t really matter that you have a masters degree from MIT or Georgia Tech, or that you eat, sleep, live in Linux… it would help, don’t get me wrong, but what really matters is going to college and getting a degree in something. It proves you can do something from start to finish. For my company, it was these innate problem solving skills that are valuable. We might take you if you didn’t have a degree, but you’d have to prove that start to finish something in a very big way… that you could take it from beginning to the culmination of the “job” and then be able to articulate what you learned, what worked and what didn’t. The most important thing, IMHO, are these critical thinking skills. If I were to manage you, stop – why would I want to manage you? Not on your life. I have too many other things going on. I’ll give you the rules, set you on your path. Mistakes are a way of gaining even more education.

There is a story of an employee that made a terrible mistake one day. It cost the company millions of dollars. He decided he needed to offer his resignation to his boss. He prepared the letter, and sheepishly reported to the boss’ office. His boss didn’t accept the resignation, “are you kidding me? I just spent millions of dollars in education on you! You’ve learned something very valuable today, I want you to spend that capital here at this company making the right decisions.”

College

Look, college doesn’t prepare you for what comes next. You find a job, doing whatever, you’ve just got to pay your bills and maybe student loans. Waste five or six years figuring out that you’re on the wrong path, and then you feel you can’t change, maybe it’s too late. But don’t forget, college is like an entry fee. If you’re six years into the wrong career path, you still have that diploma. People just want to know you have it. So, find a school. Figure out what it takes for the diploma. With honors, even better.

And if you want to take the path without school… be prepared for hardship. Lucky? Maybe you’ve got parents that support you, otherwise you’re gonna find out it takes money to survive.

Or Family

But, life is kind of like a survival game… You could also have started a family with children and maybe get saddled with a mortgage on a house and maybe a car, an expensive one, to “prove” you’re on your way. No one told you to go have a family and all that, but if you want to pursue YOUR dream you’ve got to sacrifice. But who wants to sacrifice anymore? That’s someone else’s story. Especially in America. Other people, immigrants for example, want to sacrifice, because their situation may be pretty bad or they don’t have anything left. You could sacrifice in a different way, hopefully, by taking on the commitment of being truthful to another and supporting a young life as they grow up and make mistakes and don’t want to listen to you. I’ve met many who have not made this commitment, but they have the family anyway, almost a disposable family, based on the divorce rates and all. They want to try it on for size and if it doesn’t fit, then try on another. I tell my daughter, there are 28 boyfriends in her future, because it takes that long to find the right one. The one that will truly commit to you. Figure that out, find that 29th boy before you tie the knot. Divorce is messy.

So, should you marry someone if you think you’re gonna get divorced? To me, this is obviously just too painful. Maybe you don’t start out in a marriage believing you would get divorced, maybe you think it will solve some money problems, but even perfect marriages may be done for, you see we don’t know a lot of what happens behind closed doors… Truth is, marriage takes a lot of work and commitment, it’s an old fangled idea, but look it up. It means trying a 2nd, 3rd, nth time with the same partner because you both made a commitment to make it work. Let me repeat that, marriage takes a lot of work and commitment. 

And it is overwhelming. Many don’t want to make that kind of commitment. Or try to save the commitment when things fall apart. The wife and I, even to this day, talk about a marriage counselor we tried to work with for months and months until our own assessment still came up with “no progress” and then even though we’ve got all these problems, at least we agreed to jettison this counselor. We consider this period in our lives a waste of our time and money. Notice: we still work on things, together.

But you don’t know this stuff before you’re married. Maybe you’re working so hard on the “grind-stone” or trying to make the wrong career work, you can’t see where the pitfalls are. Maybe the love-at-first-sight thing happens… But in the end, it comes down to the right people. Sometimes it’s only one. Spend time with losers and you too are a loser. Not that everyone poor or going nowhere is a loser, being a good person counts for a lot, but a lot of the losers are misguided, they’re gonna make it, they could have made it, except for this thing… but if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Find the room where you can learn something.

But in marriage: we are animals, and we’re here to reproduce, and your children will make your life worthwhile – meaningful, assuming you pay attention to them and some freak accident doesn’t befall them. If not, then you have a disposable marriage, see above. If you don’t have children, your career or some other pastime has got to work, to make this life meaningful for you.

Getting ahead

Half of getting ahead is showing up. I think there was a movie with that line in it. You’d be surprised who can’t – show up, I mean. And if you’re not a kiss-ass, maybe you tend to work alone, because organizations and upward mobility are all about kissing up. People like to be flattered, and it’s a veritable network of relationships and unfortunately just doing your work is not enough. If you’re not looking for a new job the minute you start the old one the joke is on you. I have had 3 separate cases where I was working really really hard on whatever objective had been set before me, not just a small project, but an honest to god sea-change in the company. Thinking this was THE thing that was going to make sense to anyone that bothered to look, I let my guard down and my gawd, since I didn’t check with all the real people in charge, and there was a sea-change alright, only my objective wasn’t even on the boat any more. It was now officially adrift after that newly announced reorg. Not that these people in charge always have a clue either, but they do get to call the shots.

Rich and Poor

Startups and corporations don’t only make billionaires, they force people to be poor. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and the poor can’t pay their bills and since they have no money, politicians won’t listen to them. Case in point, Uber’s recent IPO. It all comes down to money, never forget that, a project has to either save money or generate revenue, hopefully it does both. But a lot of “product” out there requires someone to buy the product. If you’re buying it and it’s not making money for you, you’ve lost money on that product because that money is no longer working for you, say as an investment. When everyone has a phone, how do you keep selling that phone product to everyone? When you have an app, is it exclusive or a me-too? Build that factory in China or start advertising? Considering the concept of replacing a mobile phone and selling a new one – that works until differentiation is so slight that it doesn’t make sense to keep upgrading. Sell an attachment to the phone, a watch? Good idea, for a while. If your app doesn’t stand out, forget it. There is too much out there, attention spans are finite and you’re trying to stand out in the hurricane of the “appstore”. Meanwhile, look at your mobile phone bill. Multiply by 12 then by 15. That’s maybe $18-20 thousand dollars your putting into communication over 15 years. It better be earning some money for you or supporting your money earning efforts. By itself this kind of money is equal to a portion of an education, right? People don’t look at it that way. Sometimes they only think I need the phone to stay connected with Facebook. But are those connections helping you or are they helping Facebook sell you to the advertiser?

The truth is your phone, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – just as your career – they won’t keep you warm at night, which is why spouse and children are good for you. But this also pushes you into the wash, rinse, repeat cycle. I know, it’s a conundrum. That’s the essence of life, everybody keeps telling you how to do it, you feel inadequate, and it’s not until you’re old and tired that you realize no one had a better idea than you, they were just faking it, or bullying.

Outside your comfort zone

Remember, you can’t do anything you want, I’m 5’8″ and I can’t be a basketball player – stop it if you know some exceptions, trivia knowledge is for when you’re on “Jeopardy.” The marketing department doesn’t want an employee who knows history of sales, they want one who can get their salespeople to sell the project! Of course, NASA may want someone with an astro-physics degree, some of this is obvious. So you have to get the degree, and make sure it’s what you like to do. No sense to take up nursing if you don’t like people or when people are at their worst health.

You can find your niche. You have to understand the jungle. You’re on your own. No one will fine tune that niche story like you can, no one will really understand the capability you have like you yourself. But many don’t know how to take stock, how to understand what capabilities you have.

Getting old

I kept working with the idea that my life was in front of me, suddenly it’s behind. Your parents die and then maybe some friends die and then you realize maybe you’re next. Maybe the spouse becomes disabled and all the things you were going to do, the places you were going, it’s too late, time’s up. That’s the deal, you don’t realize all this until it’s too late. You’re drifting along in the sea of life, and then you’re hanging on to the side of the lifeboat.

Some people will tell you the truth, but you don’t listen, you only realize their wisdom in hindsight. No one ever remembers that missing status report when you retire years later. Or that to-do list with it’s outstanding items after your heart attack. But that boss that tells you to just go on your vacation, have a good time, work will be here when you get back… Priceless.

A lot of the “hanging onto the lifeboat” has to do with your health, which is everything… This idea doesn’t mean much when you’re 20, a whole lot more when you’re over 50. I am living that post 50 ideal and really try religiously to train with my group in Karate 2x per week. I think I’m doing ok, but I have my share of aches and pains and I carry too much weight for my long term comfort. We have a lot of reliance upon health care (usually tied to a job) in this country, including some advice (take this pill) or some bad ideas via advertising (use this aging cream) and lots of politics about why health care costs too much and how much is the responsibility of the public sector to manage. Side note: ⅓ of the money raised on Go-Fund-Me goes to someone’s health care problems. Since when is Go-Fund-Me a health care concern? I’m afraid it speaks volumes to the kinds of insurance (or lack there-of) types of problems we have in this country. Myself, I expect to drop into Medicare at the end of the year, but frankly, I’m worried. Could we really fix this? Sure. But, remember, it’s the money that talks, see above. The insurance money lobby is not going to allow change to just happen because we want it, there are other people beholding to them…

At the end, you can only look at your own actions and logic, including critical thought process that will keep you well. You will be tempted by the “marketing machine” for this magic pill to erase that fat, or that new doo-dad that will make life easy without really having to do any work, or that other thing… but really only eating well and getting exercise will help, assuming you don’t have some other condition that must be treated aggressively. On the exercise front, a lot of the research I’ve heard about indicates that vigorous exercise increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles, perhaps 32x more blood than when you are at rest. This makes sense, as the muscles work, the increased oxygen demand needs to be met, it’s classic supply and demand. Blood vessels expand, the vessels become more elastic, the lining becomes slippery. All good things. And what’s being found is that for people that vigorously exercise, the death rate, from all causes, not just cardiac, improves to give you more years of life. Plus recent research is that cognitive function improves; you get to keep your mind as you grow old!

I fear, however, that until our transportation systems (think bikes in Amsterdam vs. cars in Los Angeles) and food policy (how long has the food pyramid had carbs as a good thing?) change, there really isn’t a lot of hope for meaningful change across our population.

Getting along

And since we have touched on meaningless behaviour (magic pills, glued to your phone, addicted to gaming), I’d like to think that we can rise above and “take the high road” but frankly evidence is now straight in front of us that life is meaningless, achievement is, too, it’s all a game that means nothing. You can keep playing, believing you’ll be respected and feel better if you get ahead or “win”, or you can follow your own desires, achieve your own goals, assuming you haven’t been brainwashed by Facebook or political figures so that you don’t know what is right and wrong anymore. Someone is telling you what to do all the time, do you ever get to do what you want to do? A lot of your attitude here has come from your parents, I’m afraid. It’s the only explanation I have for why things like racism or anti-women’s rights still have a foothold today. The local paper the other day had an article on why the county I live in has a really large white supremacist population. Believe me, I had no idea.

Truly you should treat someone like you would want to be treated if you were in their space. No let’s just admit that many don’t care about this “golden rule”, that is an unfortunate fact of life. But you can’t really speak for them or change their mind about this until they are ready to change. And sometimes these people “think” they are on god’s side when even they don’t really know what side they really are on, they just can’t think for themselves. Just look at the abortion debate, which contains every kind of religious argument for why you should be on the side of life. Mixed with this healthy dose of GOD. You know, I’ve read the bible, too. And this GOD certainly loved the children and thru Jesus and his teachings, “bring the little children to me” – sure I get it.

But don’t forget the time of Moses, when every first born of the Egyptians was struck down. Those were real living children, not fetus’. Which makes me think the argument isn’t really about an unborn child, rather it’s about money. And not the money to perform abortions, that’s a drop in the bucket, especially compared to the cost of raising a child. I’m speaking of rich and poor again here, because if you don’t have access to a safe abortion, then you’re likely to be poor and will become or stay poor and, oh – see “follow the money” above. The incentive, I believe, is to truly keep the poor poor because a rich woman, or her rich “man”, is always going to be able to find a safe abortion procedure for the woman. A poor woman just cannot afford to go to where a safe abortion might be available.

So go ahead, talk to me about God, if you want, but then explain, really, this first born thing. Or more importantly, why the Pro-Life contingent doesn’t provide more support for the mother or the family after the birth. A birth, after all, is a 18-20 year process of raising the child. Do they really care about the child or have they been brainwashed into this narrowly focused attitude about life after conception. Maybe they want to be seen as having concern for the child’s life, without really having that true concern. Lookup Matthew 6:5.

Your road

And nothing happens if you don’t take your own action. You’ve got to involve yourself with what you believe in. To walk the journey, you actually have to take those steps. But where you go is always going to be “danger, danger Will Robinson”. Remember, too, there are tons of examples of successful people in the autumn of their life. Colonel (Harland) Sanders (although I hate the current commercials), Laura Ingalls Wilder, Grandma Moses, Ronald Regan. For those that successfully changed and had 2 or more careers, examples include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Julia Child, John Glenn, Martha Stewart, even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But let’s face, it doesn’t matter, because these people are not you. Do you have the same drive? Or maybe are you desperate enough?

Self-help books, I have some too, but they don’t work. You see, you’re you. These books are trying to mold you into something you’re not. Public schools are also trying to mold you, too. Stop fighting your whole life to be you.

Moments

What  about the moments, laughs, good times, doing things for others… In my family, “What we do now, Mom?” and “I’m going to go meet some people.” have a very special place in my heart. Not much makes me feel better. The wife and I, when the kids were in elementary school, used to volunteer at the curbside when parents were dropping off their kids for school. We’d help the kids safely out of the car, make sure they had their backpack, and kept them from being run over, Mom could then go ahead and drive on out of the parking lot. We felt good about that, but we also felt like we needed a baseball bat to throw the hammer down on that aberrant parent that didn’t get up on time, passed everyone in the 2-3 block long line of cars and honked their way to right in front of you, yells at the kids to “get out” and lordy, where is this world going to end up, hopefully these kids will survive…

But is this feel good stuff in the media? This falls into the category of unsung heroes, so no. It doesn’t sell newspapers. And don’t get me wrong, am I looking for accolades for the good I’ve done? No, I already got my positive feedback from those kids and those parents smiles that were the “normal” part of the group. It’s just that with the internet at 100 miles/hr, you tend to see everybody getting something and maybe you’re doing it wrong, but you’re not. Hopefully, your parents raised you right, with the sense of right and wrong.

Your own thing

You have your own special gift, quit doing what others are doing, trying to duplicate something that’s not you.  It’s hard, but respect people, find your own thing; keep your eyes open. Reincarnation, life after death, was created by people who were scared, who couldn’t believe this was it. Accept it and you’ve got new perspective. There are rewards in being a member of the group, you can keep the sabre tooth tiger at bay, but also restrictions, the group will keep you from exploring on your own.

Keep trying to solve your own personal puzzle, this is probably the key to happiness. You’re probably more valuable than you think, for example, ask me a question about a problem in Fortran programming or statistics, got you covered. But talk about Python or Ruby and you see the dilemma, that’s all people are looking for in job advertisements…skills you may not have. Think of it this way, if you’re older, you’re likely a leader, no matter what field you are in. You’re probably good in a crisis, assuming you want to play that role. And HR people are probably going to be looking closely at people over 50, who are looking for stability in the job vs. the 2-3 years maybe they can get out of a younger person trying to “achieve” something in their career. If they care specifically about Python, then they must have a very specific niche to fill and that’s not you.

But it’s very important to accept responsibility for your actions. If you screw up – say so, pick yourself up, get help, move forward. You don’t drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror. Don’t run you life by the failures in your past. What are you going to do from here FORWARD?

I am done

But for me, I am done. I reached a point where I am needed more at home, where no matter what the resources applied to the work problem, it wasn’t going to be solved anytime soon. Sort of like American politics. At this point, I realized, not only did I need an extended “break” – maybe I just needed to retire. So, I’m working on stuff at home, helping my wife, son, and daughter – some of you know why – staying active with karate and visiting places on vacations, worrying if there is going to be enough money, because we don’t live without resources. Normal stuff.

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