Thursday, September 27, 2018

7

7 is the exact number of unique page views my last posting received before I pulled it off-line.  Quite frankly, that's 6 too many page views.  I'll afford fellow blogger Sean Gowden the difference between the 6 and 7 views, as I owe him a debt of thanks.  More on that in a moment (or two).

I'd like to say that I never take down postings, but that's simply not true.  Between late 2016 and early 2017, when I was in full job-search mode, I actually took down a large number of postings, 98% of which had to do with former Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino.  This is a deeply Roman Catholic area, and I didn't need to hamper my job prospects with social media content that may have upset a recruiter or hiring manager.  As a side note, I could bring those postings back, but then they would all appear as new (all be it very dated) content.  Anyway, while I've taken down postings for practical purposes, I've never taken anything down because I was embarrassed or ashamed of what I wrote.  Until now.

Words like "ashamed" and "embarrassed" are maybe a tad bit too strong in totality, but they do describe how I felt about the content after the fact.  Even more surprising is the fact that what I posted was actually a watered-down version of something that was, well, even worse.  Yes, that was the *edited* version.  For one of the few times in my life not being popular has been something of a blessing.

So, what's behind all of this?  Two things really:
  1. I'm struggling a bit on the career front.
  2. I'm the person who gives, not gets, advice.
"Struggling" is not a term of art here; my struggle could be someone else's day of sunshine, smiles, kittens, and rainbows.  To paraphrase many guests at Rudy Guiliani's first wedding, "it's all relative"(1).  What's more, my career has always been a refuge, a place where I knew what I was doing and could control my destiny to a great extent, even when the rest of my life was in shreds.  This fact makes it all the more difficult for me to acknowledge that, at this very moment, that refuge no longer exists.  In a sense, I feel a kind of loss.

As to the second point, well, I think it speaks for itself.  As a statement of absolute fact though, it's pretty much rubbish.  We all need help from time to time. Sean was kind enough to point that out to me in a posting comment.  Suffice to say, "Physician, heal thyself" is far harder to execute than you think, even when you're not an actual physician.

What to do about all of this?  Well, I did debate(2) the idea of simply closing up the blog shop, but I just don't want to do that, especially after nearly 10 years.  Then there is the whole blog hiatus thing, but I've always found such proclamations to be silly:  Either have a blog and create content or delete it.  All told, simply owning up to things and pressing the reset button made the most sense.  Hence this posting.

What's next?  Well first and foremost, get this posting out of the way.  Second, I'm officially funneling any career-related-angst-fueled energy I may be experiencing into other activities.  Being transparent and authentic is good and noble, but in reality, there needs to be a (more thoughtful) time to every purpose under heaven.

Cue the music...



* * * * * *

(1) The former mayor of New York and current POTUS advisor's first wife was actually his second cousin.  Honestly, she was (citation here).
(2) In my head, for about a day.  Side note: I don't like odd numbers, which means that I'll write pretty much anything in order to have an even number of footnotes.





Sunday, September 16, 2018

Help!


Being something of a Beatles fan, I've read several interviews with the late John Lennon where he is asked "what's the best song you've ever written?" or "what's your favorite Beatles song?".

Something of a surprise is the fact that Lennon has answered "Help!".  

The surprising part of that answer is that "Help!" is from what could be described as coming from the early Loveable Mop Top era of the band. Remember, John Lennon has written some, shall we say, significant songs in his life. Titles such as "Imagine" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" come to mind.

Side note: Contrary to what's noted in the songwriting credits, for most of their career together John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote separately, with the other simply helping in spots.  How can tell the songwriter of a Beatles song? Outside of material that was written for Ringo or George, it's the song's lead singer.

Anyway, I never really thought that much about the song Help!, well outside of the fact that it's a catchy tune from a fun movie (of the same name) until I heard/read John Lennon talk about it.  You see, Lennon was literally crying for help in (and with) the song. That's why it was among his favorites: It was honest.

Oh, and just to make all of us feel just a bit inadequate, Lennon wrote the song in his early 20's. In my early 20's I was still in school, with not even the raw ability to comprehend just how deep a sentiment a simple song like Help! could convey.

So, what's the connection here? Why even post this?  Well, I am not very good at asking for help. In fact, I hate it. I was always afraid to ask for it growing up, lest it is perceived as being some kind of weakness that my mother could then exploit.  That carried through to my adulthood, especially so after losing my job in late 2016.  If there ever was a time when someone should ask for help it is with a job search, but yet by and large I didn't.  Maybe that partially explains the career pickle I now find myself in, which is another post for another day.

I am trying though.

The loss of both a 28-year employment and a brother in short order have had a profound impact on me, more so than I have ever truly admitted.  It got to the point where, after several very difficult months in 2017, I really did need help.  Sometimes circumstances overwhelm our abilities to self-correct, a fact that I should have realized far sooner than I actually did.  In any event, I'm still availing myself of help, and it has been (at the risk of being duplicative) helpful.  

The first moral here is that the biggest lies we tell are those that we tell ourselves. Just ourselves.

The second moral is that we all need help from time to time.  All of us.  There is no victory in trying to solve problems that are above our emotional and intellectual pay grade.  And there is always a pay grade above us, no matter who we are and what we do.  This is a lesson I'm likely to continue to learn for the rest of my life.  Luckily though, I have a secret weapon:  A wife who knows me and cares enough to tell me the truth when I'm too stubborn to admit it to myself.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Fear of Having Peaked

I don't readily admit to being afraid of anything.  In fact, I think I've noted this point in many prior postings.  Yet something has been nagging at me for the past month (or probably longer) that I've only now begun to understand.  That revelation?  I'm afraid that my best days, from a professional perspective, are behind me.

Side note:  I've already established that (physically) my best days are behind me, but that's okay because that's true for all of us who are over, say, age 40.  

This fear isn't completely unfounded, as I can point to several things that prove I've been on something of a professional decline of late.  A decline that exists at least in my head, which is probably the point of this whole posting.  Maybe I have peaked, and maybe that's okay.  Well, that's what I want to tell myself.  The more positive alternative is something along the lines of "no, your best days are in front of you".  Kind of like a tree-lined street in Stockholm, Sweden.

(Just an excuse to share a picture of Stockholm)

I honestly don't know which of the above (past peak/peak is yet to come) is actually true.  I do know what statistics tell us.  That answer is, by the way, 48.  At about age 48 men typically reach their earnings peak(1).  There's even a chart:

(From the website Sciencealter.com)

There are, by the way, multiple sources that point to this very same set of conclusions.  As something of a "science guy," I do find some comfort in this finding, the kind of comfort that comes from not feeling entirely singled out.  In case you are curious, that comfort, at least for me, lasted about 12 hours.  

I'll note that this really isn't even about money.  In addition to having married well, I've tried to live responsibly, keeping most of my expenses (excluding expensive, once-in-a-lifetime cruises) to a minimum.  No, this is more about pride, about the sense that I have capabilities that may be withering.  It's about circumstances, not economics.

In the terrific book Drive(2), author Daniel Pink makes the case that personal and professional satisfaction hinges on three things:
  1. Autonomy - Being able to act independently
  2. Mastery - The sense that you know what you are doing
  3. Purpose - The idea that what you do has a deeper meaning

I actually had the opportunity to hear Daniel Pink speak on this very topic a few years ago at an ATD conference.  Assuming again that this whole mental pickle I find myself in really isn't about money, then is it about missing one of the three things noted above?  That's a question I can't fully answer at this stage.  If anything, maybe this is about purpose (or lack thereof).

Like much of the more introspective stuff I write (and speaking of purpose), the process is as important as anything else.  Just typing this out has a kind of purpose to it.  Hopefully, that purpose isn't seen as seeking pity or anything of that sort.  The interest on my part is simply getting this set of thoughts out of my system.  It's about maybe someone reading this and thinking "yeah, I've felt (or feel) that way too".  It's about trying to organize, make sense of and give another voice to the incessant thoughts in my head around this topic, one that has been occupying too much mental real estate of late.

The intellectual and rational me know that this whole mess is far more in my control than it is out of my control.  It knows that success is more than just what you do to pay the mortgage.  It knows that I could get run over by a bus tomorrow morning and it would still be noted in my eulogy that I came from little and did well for myself.  I'd like to think that part of me...the intellectual and rational part...is ultimately what rules the day.  That's just not how we human work though.  It's simply not that simple.  Maybe the underlying fear here is less about being past my peak and more about a sense of lacking control over this part of my life(3).     

Maybe I should have been an electrician. 


* * * * * *


(1) Citations:

(2) More on Daniel Pink's framework can be found at:

(3) See a related posting here:
http://www.sgalbert.com/2018/04/from-anger-avoiding-control-freak.html







Monday, September 3, 2018

Road Apples, #175

Road Apples
I haven't written a Road Apples posting in almost a year.  Part of it, I have to confess, is the fact that I tend to view them as being less interesting.  The hit counts tell me that they are less interesting to others as well, not that (in theory) I care about such things.  Anyway, and who cares, for here goes.

"Body Shaming"
I put the term in quotes because, in part, the whole premise of the activity is questionable, at best.  In point of fact, none of us should care less what anyone else looks like, period.  Now if someone is in your family and, for example, you are concerned that their excess weight may create health issues, well then, by all means, do talk to them about it.  But to criticize some person you don't know because they don't meet your standards of beauty?  Simply ridiculous, on many levels.  

About 4 Years
That's the amount of time I think I have left in me for serious, middle-of-the-day in the summer yard work.  One outcome from this weekend's work?  If my heart were truly bad, I would already be on a slab at this very moment, so I guess that's a good sign.  

They Love Me
Mosquitos, that is.  I was using the pressure washer on Saturday afternoon (a gas one...strong enough to strip the skin off your feet if you're not careful), and when all is said and done, I think I easily got at least six mosquito bites from the endeavor.  Granted that popularity has never been something I've been good at in my lifetime, but it would be nice if what little I did have wasn't wasted on invertebrates.

Blog-O-Versary
The ten-year anniversary of this blog occurs on October 27, 2018.  I know this because I put it on a label that is plastered on the monitor from which I actually see this text as I am typing.  I guess I should save the deep (and other) thoughts until then.

Sign of the Times
Fall is, in theory, my favorite time of the year, and as today is Labor Day, it's not too far around the corner.  In as much as I don't enjoy the really cold weather once it arrives, I do enjoy the change from the really hot stuff that July and August bring.  I'm already starting to go through my warm weather clothing, figuring out what I haven't worn so that it can be donated.

The Upcoming Schism
The Catholic Church is, in my estimation, nearly at the point of a major schism.  There's a longer post in that topic, but if you are at all interested in religion...from a spiritual or an academic perspective...then pay attention over the next few years.  Deeply conservative Catholics are leveraging the abuse of children as a means to force Pope Francis to resign.  This isn' about the abuse of children, by the way, it's about a Pope that they feel isn't doctrinally conservative enough for their tastes.  Case in point:  If this were about the clerical abuse of children, then John Paul II would never have been canonized.  More to come.

Conference on Youth
Philadelphia Catholic Archbishop Chaput has asked that the Church's upcoming Conference on Youth be canceled and in its place, a synod should be held on the life of bishops.  You can read more at this link.  While I understand the sad but ironic twist that accompanies a conference on youth has for the Church, simply being more internally focused isn't the answer.  How about a synod on the culture of a church that, for some bishops, fostered the abuse of children instead?

Doors
During our recent cruise to Northern Europe, I took about 1600 photographs.  Two of my favorite photographs are of doors.



I think there's a bigger meaning to this, but I'm at a loss to figure it out at the moment.

Labor Day
Today is Labor Day, and regardless of one's political orientation, I think we can all agree that our country sometimes devalues hard work and labor.  There is a nobility to be found in working with your hands to accomplish something, be it constructing a house or cutting your grass.  As a wise person once told me, the most important person in the world isn't a political or a corporate CEO...it's a plumber when you have blocked up toilet on a Sunday.