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Life is One Big Miracle

It’s true! Miracles really do abound! They surround us, ever present, always waiting for us to simply see them. Shhhh — you’ve got to be quiet. You’ve got to clear your head of the twirling and whirling of a mind mired in yesterdays and tortured by tomorrows. The thing is, the yesterdays and tomorrows don’t exist; there is only this moment — this very one that exists while you are reading this. If you look around you and see, REALLY see, they’re there. The miracles.  

Granted, sometimes life seems to intervene in our thoughts and the Tasmanian devil emerges from its abyss. But it can be sent back to whatever miserable dark corner it came from.

A story in kind: Once upon a time there was a family that for many, many years was embedded in some really yucky, serious dysfunction the likes of which is not relevant here. But what is relevant is that this dysfunction resulted in enabling, splitting, and general ugliness among all the  family members. This family  certainly had its issues with the recent death of the mother of the adult only child daughter, and the subsequent marriage of her father to a former family friend which resulted in a mass of the issues just described.  In particular, the daughter of the only child daughter began to drink. She drank for days at a time, becoming buried in her bed, never bothering to use the bathroom, not eating, and only emerging to stagger to the liquor store down the street. As her mind became pickled by alcohol, her behavior became horrendous. Always her grandfather’s favorite, at the age of 20, she convinced him to support her, and from that time on, it all went downhill. As a result, other family relationships became distorted, strained, and otherwise relegated to a pickle jar filled with rotten vinegar. And while this family began to fall apart, this young woman began her incredible journey from detox to rehab to hospitalization and back to begin the cycle again until within one year, she had been to 16 facilities. Many times her mother had to call 911 because she slurred that she had mixed drugs into the vodkaa cocktail. Her breathing would become erratic and she would slip in and out of consciousness. Once her blood alcohol was .3.

Hospital emergency rooms became a standard routine, and the young woman’s mother came to know many of the EMS techs. This was not the way she wanted to meet these wonderful people. And so, time after time, the young woman said, “Never again, this is it,” and time after time, she would be found drunk yet again amidst a pile of filth in her bed. It was so bad that even her therapist, who she would see sporadically if she wasn’t immersed in a binge, said told the mother to prepare for her daughter’s death, that she had never seen such a virulent case of alcoholism and that quite frankly, she was not very hopeful about the outcome. And so, the young woman’s body began to break down — gastro-intestinal bleeding, anemia, and liver problems. While this was happening,  the family continued on their dysfunctional journey. Particularly acrimonious was the relationship between the only child daughter and her father, for reasons that were what they were and that resulted in complete disengagement.

But then something happened. The grandfather’s new wife suggested that the family go to a counselor since everyone was so distraught about the seeming hopelessness of the alcoholic young woman. Everyone agreed. The sessions began. People cried, people came together, a bond was formed, the pain and anger melted into understanding and love. The grandfather saw it — to the complete exultation of the other family members, he saw it — he understood — he owned the damage that he had done with his enabling and constant support of his grandaughter despite her lies and manipulation. And so, it stopped. The rent he paid for. The cell-phone he had on his plan. The car insurance. The cash handouts here and there. All of it, stopped, finished, done.

And so this is the miracle. The f ire in the souls of the family stopped its burning and charring and turned into a gentle, calming, and  life-sustaining warmth. The bond, which began oh so tentatively, grew into a strong, nurturing and united front. The family began to love again and thus the miracle happened.

It’s fun ny how life works. And it’s even funnier how miracles work. The point here is that if this family had allowed itself to remain mired in the darkness of the young woman’s soul and alcoholism, it never would have seen light or felt the warmth of a true deus ex machina.

Amen

Do You Remember When???

Not — err, meaning no, I do not remember. There are several reasons for this memory void. First — age. Second — “the pause.” Third — it’s simply been a damn long time.

I’ve missed you. I’ve missed me. There’s been a lot going on — too much to regale you with, but I’m back, and happy to be so. I hope you are happy, too — for whatever reason(s)!

Summer’s here — reason # 1 to be happy. I have a sweet little Boston terrier pup ensconced on my lap — reason # 2 to be happy. And “I’m back!!!!” — reason # 3 to be happy!!

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Perfect Pen or Perfect Perfume

Talk about expensive obsessions. For years now, I have been on the never-ending quest for both THE perfect pen and THE perfect perfume. How are these related? I’ve thought about that a bit, and I think that both of those things are highly personal ways of denoting our uniqueness. “Wow, where did you get that awesome pen?” (not BIC) or, “How refreshing and clean you smell!” (not Emeraude)

I have never been able to settle on a single scent, and if I like one today, chances are good I won’t like it tomorrow. This is not good. This is very EXPENSIVE! My son has fueled this propensity of mine even more. He is a free-wheeling, money-making 20-something who has something like 20 colognes, three of which are Creed. Now, if you’re not familiar with Creed, we’re talking big ones. As in bucks. Lovely scents, but still. So as he self-educates all about the merits (and not) of various scents, he keeps telling me I’ll love this, I have to get that, nd so on. Problem is — I do, what he says, that is.

Now, pens. I’m on my own with the pen obsession, and it probably stems way back to those little number and letter boxes we had in first and second grade. I loved those things. Don’t ask me to explain the correlation, just trust me, it’s there. My pen odyssey is, simply put, out of control. I have boxes of pens all over the house. I am not satisfied with just one pen, I have to get the package with one of each color. Then there are the expensive pens. I’ve held the reins somewhat on this, but I could still have put the money I’ve spent on pens to other, more sensible use.

The answer? I am looking for some really great smelling soap and I’m going to borrow my son’s BIC stick pen.

Miracles Do Happen …

Or so my boyfriend tells me. I guess he should know because he became deaf at the age of 23. At the time he was a factory worker and he has since gone on to get a masters  degree and become a professor at a well known university. That transition would certainly be what I call a miracle. I am  in need of a many miracles at the moment for various and assorted reasons I won’t bore you with. Mine are beginning to show a glimmer of light in the distance, so I would like to pass on some small bit of wisdom about how miracles can happen to you.

  • Don’t try to make it happen: Too, too, too many people try to control, manipulate, and insist that things happen the way they want. You can’t make miracles happen. You can make something happen, but miracles are not in your control. I know of a man who is very controlling and manipulative, and he is constantly insisting that everything be in his control and happen the way he wants. This same man is always complaining about his bad luck. Duh! When you make it happen (unless its a job task or something you are required to do professionally), it interferes with the way things are supposed to happen, which is what miracles are!
  • Don’t sit around and wait: This is the opposite of making it happen. Many people get in such a tizz over their issues that instead of carrying on with their days, they become virtually paralyzed, think obsessively, have panic attacks, and hyperventilate.
  • Breathe: The breath is the greatest gift we have been given. No matter what your state of mind, stop every now and then, and watch yourself breathe. It’s a most fascinating thing, to put your mind onto your breathing — in, out, in, out. And it is astonishingly soothing. Beats Xanax for sure!
  • Live: Once you have figured out how to breathe again, your next step is to simply live. Go about your days, focus on the task at hand, take control of your thoughts when they start to wander to unsettling things,  but be gentle in the process.
  • Do good work: Ah, for me there’s nothing more comforting and reassuring than doing good work. First, it requires presence of mind, second, it has a beginning and an end, and third, it affords a terrific sense of self-esteem for a job well-done.
  • Let go of it: They say let go and let God in Twelve Step groups, but even just the concept of let go is tremendously valuable. The thing we all do is hope, pray, and wish for a certain outcome. We need money, a new car, improved health. But that’s not how it works. Miracles are very independent creatures. You need money to pay the mortgage? Suddenly you get a call for a new job that pays twice what you make now. Or the county wants to buy your house for a new road going through. That’s how it works. Things happen, and they happen when and how you least expect.

So, Merry Christmas, and here’s to your miracles!

7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Clients

I’ve been around various business enclaves and individuals for many, many, moons, and I feel compelled to write about and share what I’ve learned over these moon cycles. Most of my writings here are from the point of view of dealing with clients, but hopefully applicable as well to whatever business situation you find yourself in.

  1. You can’t change them: I recently did work for a man who had a skewed view that people were out to get him, especially from a financial standpoint. No matter what the true situation and real intentions were, this man felt exploited and acted from that perception. The moral of this story is to make the effort to understand where your business contacts are coming from and act accordingly by either accommodating their quirks, or exiting stage left. In my situation, I should have exited long, long before I did, but retrospect is golden.
  2. Beware of focus issues: One of the most stressful and ultimately disastrous experiences I had was dealing with an individual who simply could not remain focused on the project tasks at hand. In fact, on most of his projects he would change direction multiple times, never allowing for the time it takes to see the fruits of our labors.
  3. Watch out for hyper rabbit behaviors: Similar to Number 2, but ultimately more disastrous. The same individual would become discouraged if a project, in this case websites, did not make immediate returns, and I mean immediate. He’d then launch into this rabbit jumping thing and move onto something else. Frankly, it was crazy behavior, and my advice to you is to get out quick if you see this kind of thing going on because no matter what you do, you’ll be blamed. You simply won’t win.
  4. Make sure you have a contract: Oh what a fool I was! (Isn’t there a song with that title?) I “trusted” one fool client and never wrote up a contract. I did work for him for 4 years and one day he simply closed shop and I was left with a big fat nothing, as in zero, as in no provision for some sort of separation accommodation. This was a VERY rough lesson to learn the hard way.
  5. Avoid falling on deaf ears: This is one of those things that happens often in business and frankly, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. But, what you CAN do is watch for danger signals such as when what you do say is turned against you in manipulative ways, or consider quitting when you see things beginning to crumble when your ideas could have contributed to a more successful outcome.
  6. Guard against control, control, control: If you are working as a service provider/independent contractor, MAKE SURE that you make it clear that you are charging for deliverables where time is not a consideration, or you’re billing by the hour, where obviously time is an issue. In your contract, spell out either that you’re charging a flat fee for specific projects or that you will bill only for the hours you work and you will determine when you work those hours, not the client. It’s important that you get this straight from the start to prevent future stress and misunderstanding as well as to maintain control of your professional life.
  7. Be on guard against mood swings and other mental health issues: I worked for one guy whose mood swings were not only scary, but also detrimental to the work at hand. One day he was high as the sky, the next day, low as mowed lawn. Unless you are a trained shrink, there’s not a darn thing you can do in these situations but run as fast and as far as you can.

I think the most important piece of advice I can pass on to you is to keep the focus on yourself, and take care of yourself, no matter what the situation you find yourself in. It’s very easy to fall victim to business bullies and those who otherwise prey on those of us who aim to please. But ultimately, if you have not pleased yourself by finding good work, working for reasonable and fair people, your reputation and confidence will suffer and set you up for future failure. Not a good place to be, and a place you can definitely avoid.

Diane Schuler: Spin City Supreme

Several readers have asked me why I write about Diane Schuler when my main theme is about business writing and rhetoric. Before when they asked me, I couldn’t give them any better answer than there was something about the whole story that was riveting, compelling, and false. Something was missing, something big. And thus I wrote to find understanding. I do believe I now have it.

I ask you to take a brief journey to check out the surveillance video of when Diane stopped at a gas station and went in looking for analgesics for her excruciatingly painful tooth.

Ponder a moment. What did you see? Did you see what I saw?

I was shocked. I did NOT see the pretty woman in the white suit, standing next to her husband, both wearing broad smiles. I did NOT see the cute mother in sunglasses surrounded by her beautiful children and handsome husband.

What I DID see was a surprisingly big woman, a woman who walked into that convenience store with an almost masculine stride, a woman who left the store empty handed and went back to her red minivan where she evidently did something that took quite some time: settle the children? Rearrange stuff in the car? Drink a significant amount of vodka?

After this seemingly long pause, I saw a red minivan pull out quite purposefully, and head out to the main road where, it appeared to me, Diane pulled  right out in front of an ongoing vehicle. Help me, did I see this right? Am I mistaken?

Here’s what I am thinking. I am thinking that Diane was pissed — mega-pissed — when that convenience store did not have any pain meds. From that point on, her anger took over. Think about the reports of her aggressive and erratic driving — honking, lights flashing, tailgating, dangerous passing. Aren’t these the kinds of things characteristic of road rage? In her state of red and irrational anger, she drank, and she drank, and she drank some more. And as she poured liquid fire down her throat, it was an antidote to her anger, until it wasn’t.

Let me say that I think Diane Schuler’s husband, Danny, and his lawyer, Dominic Barbara (where’s he been lately?) painted an extraordinarily un-Diane picture so we would all keep shaking our heads wondering what wasn’t feeling right about all of this. I read somewhere else recently where Diane was at times brusque and abrasive. She was the breadwinner — earning over $100,000 per year while poor Danny slugged away at $48,000 as a night patrol person in local parks. Her sister-in-law, Danny’s sister, admitted several weeks ago that Diane smoked pot every day and that she was a heavy drinker. This Diane is the round peg, round hole answer to the puzzle.

So why the ruse? Many reasons, the insurance — surely Danny is now terrified wondering how he will support himself and his surviving child, Danny’s denial and desperate need to keep Diane as his wonder woman, the family’s real desire to keep Diane’s name from being blackened for the same of her son, and many, many, more.

But in the meantime, the Bastardi family who seeks the truth, who NEEDS to truth to put closure to their nightmare of death, must dwell in a cesspool of their own anger, anger that will never truly mitigate until they have found their round peg and round hole. God bless, you, Bastardi family.