Work: What Do You Want From Life?

I’ve written here before about the disincentive to work that many of us have experienced because of certain restrictive covenants that attatch to disability benefits. Now, I’d like to write about a benefit that may be sitting right in front of us. Please indulge me a bit, then I’ll hit you with the punchline.

If you’re like me, you’ve been out of work for some period of time, call it a few years. Your old job is a memory, and perhaps you miss it; maybe you like to work or enjoyed the work you did; perhaps you miss the conviviality or social interactions that develop when people share a common task or goal; maybe your job was a career and you were tearing-up the path earning more and more money and leading people.

Perhaps your old job was a nightmare; drudgery and mindless toil from when you punched-in or arrived until you could take a break; lunch was the highpoint of your day until quittin’ time. Maybe it was just a way to pay the bills.

Then BOOM! IT ALL STOPPED. What you had done for most of your life was gone. Good jobs or bad jobs became a cycle of days filled with pain. Today, you can’t even imagine a fun day at the beach, let alone your career.

Now, even though you suffer pain as I am suffering pain at this keyboard, you’re free. I’m free. My toes are burning. I’m cranking-up my neurostimulator, holding-off using any Fentanyl while the muscles in my shins twitch too fast for me to count and my butt is killing me from sitting…despite this…I’m having an okay time. I’m writing to you.

I wrote a lot in my old job, and I like to write. Unlike when I was working I write today about anything I want. I’m poking away at another blog, Alpha Drone, which is a tip sheet for people who would like to find a way to show themselves in a stronger light, or for people who are looking to land a job, stuff like that, but it’s a lot of work, so it’s a slow go; but I’ll get it off the ground.

What I’m doing is taking an old skill from my working days, and instead of doing it for someone else, I’m doing it for me. Try this: think of 10 things you love to do. Think of actions, not things; verbs not nouns: hobbies, sports, writing, photography, whatever. Long before I ever was paid to write a word, I wrote. It’s one of the things I love to do. That’s my first suggestion to you. Get a piece of paper and jot down ten things that you love to do. Here’s my list of 10 things I love to do:

  1. Write
  2. Read
  3. Listen to music
  4. Coach
  5. Talk
  6. Sell
  7. Analyze
  8. Argue
  9. Collect one of a kind things
  10. Compete

Next, on that same piece of paper, write 10 things you love. Think of nouns, not verbs. Also, try to list categories, not people. So instead of listing, “Wife” or “Husband”, write instead “Love”, or “Lifelong loving relationships”. When you do this, try for ten different things that you really love. The less the items on your list have in common, the more useful your list will be. Here, I’ll try my ten. Next to some of my items, I’ll put some words that I might have used instead. See if you can figure-out why I chose a word that included in it’s meaning the words in parentheses.

  1. God (Jesus Christ, Holy Mother, Trinity, Faith, Belief, religion)
  2. Family (wife, parents, in-laws, children, grandparents, pet(?))
  3. Friends (enemies, long lost, bonding, conversation)
  4. Sports (Baseball, Football, Pro, College, HS, Little League)
  5. Business (Money, Industry, Careers, Development, Economics)
  6. Antiques (Furniture, Barn, Hand-made knives, tools, crockery, marbles)
  7. Books (First edition, collectibles, fiction, mystery, gambling)
  8. The Ocean (Ships, Whaling, Models, Fishing Industry, sailing)
  9. Philosophy (Scientific Theory, Mathematics, Ethics, Ontology)
  10. Psychology (Human behavior, habits, trends, Psychopharmacology)

Now, what happens if I combine items, say one from each of the two lists. Lets take “sell” from the list of things I love to do, and Ships from the list of things I love. Is the combination a job? Sell ships? The first thing that comes to mind is an image of a gigantic trans-oceanic oil tanker. Well, some company built it for another company that uses it, which means someone, somehow sold this tanker, but I can’t imagine me anywhere in that process. I’ll promise you this, there is a man or a woman who brought the user and the builder together, and no matter what the title of that person is, the ship was sold.

Think instead of ships, the vessels, a smaller version. Think of a ship model, then use another love of mine “hand-made” and add it to ship, and we’ve now created a job: selling hand made ship models. This is much closer to home; not only do I own 2 hand made model sailing ships, I also know who made them. I speak with him on the phone; I know a supplier. I also know buyers; I’ve met them at shows, chatted with them on websites, and talked with them on the phone.

I’m seconds away from creating a job that is something I already love to do, sell. Not only that, I already know the product upside-down, and inside-out because it’s a hobby of mine. I know the highly sought after craftsmen, and the craftsmen who are relatively unknown, but want to be represented to the collectors.

I can speak passionately and knowledgeably to both buyers and sellers. I know the market. I know collectors who would love to start building a collection of American Clipper ships, but don’t want to spend a fortune. On the other hand, I know collectors who are looking for specific models from specific times. Some people want the Titanic, others the Graf Spee…merchant and military, sail or steam, highly detailed museum quality or simply hand made, perhaps primitive. Some collect just hulls; some makers specialize in repairing damaged models.

I’ve got it!!! I’ll call 5 craftsmen who are stuck with a model that someone didn’t end-up taking, then either call collectors or publish a list of available models. I can either buy them myself, and sell them at a mark-up (oh! I won’t buy anything until I’ve got at least 3 interested collectors), or I’ll call the maker, tell him I’ve sold his model, and that I’ll give him the seller for a 20% commish. He’ll be happy to do it–he unloads inventory and raises the price of his ships.

Maybe I’ll build a web-site. I’ll buy what I know is a good value, put the pictures up and see if anyone comes. If not, I’ll try calling or displaying in a show, or giving them to a shop to display and make a consignment deal with the owner.

Look back at my list. Remember, it’s mine; your’s would be very different, but just as useful to you as mine is to me. Consider that I could add other items from either list to this idea.

Back when I was working, one of my responsibilities was hiring people new to finance. I was often lucky enough to find people who loved the markets, had demonstrated a great track record showing a good work ethic, and loved to challenge themselves. These hires were called TROPHY HIRES. As I recall, almost all of those hires became highly successful at a particular job, often making themselves wealthy in a relatively short period of time. Of this group, I loved handing them their paychecks which were often larger than mine. I kept in mind, and reminded them that I didn’t pay them a dime, they paid themselves; I just handed them their checks.


The reason you should do this is that you may be abled to earn a certain amount of money without forfeiting your benefits!!! CHECK YOUR PLAN DOCUMENTS CAREFULLY! CALL YOUR PLAN ADMINISTRATOR AND ASK! GET THE ANSWER IN WRITING!

If you can earn a few bucks, and have a few good hours a day, then make the lists. Be scrupulously honest with yourself; the list is yours, you don’t have to share it with anyone. You may find that those few hours a day are great. You’ll look forward to doing the only a job you ever loved, because you created it. IF YOU NEED HELP, ASK! Drop me a line, I’ll help you in any way I can. Writing this blog is great for me. God bless you (and find something that’s great for you), Colin

What Ever Happened to Customer Service?

In my humble opinion, the number one issue a company should be paying attention to is customer service. But it seems more and more that getting the sale is taking priority over making the customer happy. Below are several examples of poor service – how would your company handled each of these circumstances?

I ordered file cabinets from Staples through their on-line store and was given a specific delivery date that their trucking company would deliver. The promised day came and went with no phone call to me to let me know there was a delay. The trucking company had very specific directions to my place of business, they had my phone number and I was sitting here all day waiting for them to show up. Even though Staples was using a local delivery service that was located less than 50 miles from my place of business and had in their possession not only the correct address but also detailed directions and I am located on the corner of a main highway the driver could not locate the delivery address (have they ever heard of Map Quest???). And they didn’t bother to call for further clarification. At about 6:00pm I called Staples and was told they would deliver the next day. Now wouldn’t you think that after all this, I would be at the top of the list the next day? Not so – at 7:00pm, after waiting another whole day, the delivery was finally made. They did offer and sent a $50.00 gift certificate for my troubles but I lost two days of work (as an consultant my work rarely consists of sitting in my office) and never again will I order from Staples.

My husband ordered a specialized type of ink from Digital Art Supplies also through their on-line store. This is a company he has had dealing with before and he expected no issues. The ink arrived in a timely matter, however when he opened up one of the cartridges a few days later, what he had was a plastic bag full of ink – the cartridge had leaked out its entire contents. He called Digital Art Supplies and the first person he spoke to said no problem, they would replace it immediately and have the damaged cartridge picked up. A few hours later, a second person called back (Dave) and informed us that the only way the exchange could be handled would be to either wait until they received the damaged cartridge before sending out a new one or charging him for the new cartridge and he could wait for the credit to be issued when they received the damaged one. And unless he wanted to pay extra the cartridge would be send ground service from California (from our experience expected delivery would be 10 to 14 days from the date of shipment). This order was a sale of over $600.00, they sent out what was clearly from the look of the box, a product that had been returned by a prior customer, and in their own words they have had this type of problem with this type of cartridge before. Of course they put the blame on Epson stating it was a drop shipment, however in the package was their invoice and their business cards. I guess Epson keeps a supply of each dealer’s stationery at their manufacturing plants. I think not – so why are you lying Dave? After explaining that he had an order to fill and not being able to use the ink was delaying the order and agreeing to pay for the extra shipping charges it was still going to be either wait until the damaged cartridge was in their hands or pay up front for a new cartridge and wait for the credit to be issued – neither solution was an example of good customer service. So I asked to speak to the manager and after waiting several hours she returned my phone call with the same lame solution. My husband ended sending back the cartridge (at his expense) and ordering a new one from another dealer (B&H Photo in New York) which was shipped the day he ordered it and will be here the day after it shipped. And so we will wait for the credit to be issued. Never again will he deal with Digital Art Supplies.

And what is up with UPS? This is a question for the people who set policy at this company. Each day I watch their brown trucks go up and down my street multiple times and yet if they have a package on their truck that is meant for us, they just will not take the few minutes to stop and make the delivery. They would rather run around like rats in a cage going right by several times and finally delivering our package sometime between 5:00 pm and 7:00 and sometimes at late as 9:00pm. Now I know they have delivery priorities depending on the level of service chosen however it seems that with the cost of gas nowadays, they are not saving any money by handling their deliveries in this manner. Does this make sense to anyone?

And speaking of deliveries – for all of you who provide delivery service or are in the business of providing a service where you arrive a person’s place of business or home, do you think you are endearing your customers by making them sit around an entire day waiting for you to show up? Here’s a unique idea – give your customer a specific time or a range within two or three hours when you will be there and be there on time. They will appreciate it and you will have happy customers, not angry ones.

We all have busy lives, and there is nothing more infuriating then to waste time trying to resolve an issue. Mistakes sometimes happen – when your company has a less than fully satisfied customer the best way to keep that customer is to find the best solution for them even if it’s cost you some money. The largest advertising budget cannot make up for just one dissatisfied customer. And a pleased customer is worth gold.

And for you customers, who feel you have been treated badly or unfairly, speak up with both your words and your pocketbooks. Report your non-performing online businesses to the many organizations that track these stores – Yahoo, Amazon, EBay, Alexa and Pay Pal are just a few. Start a blog writing about your experiences. Tell your friends and business associates. No matter if it is only a few cents or many dollars, customer service will only improve if you take the bull by the horns. One of two things will happen – either your vendor will respond to bad press or word of mouth and the resulting loss of sales or they will go out of business. Keep quiet and they will continue their “standard operating procedures”. And refuse to deal with businesses that don’t stand behind their products and services and do not respect your valuable time.