You Never Regret Being Generous

Chris Guillebeau had an interesting post on his blog earlier this week. It has to do with a tip to a cab driver and a lack of anything smaller than a $5. Because he lacked anything smaller, he kept the $5 and didn’t tip the cab driver.

He stated in his post

It’s funny how I don’t often regret being generous, but when I choose to be stingy, it comes back to me later.

That really resonated with me. I can’t remember a time that I shouldn’t have given what I did, but I can think of many times that I should have given more, or something at all.

Rethinking How I Look At The World

Those who know me know how little enthusiasm I have for sports. I’ve never developed an interest. I’ve tried. I just couldn’t do it. Which is why I’m surprised at something that happened.

I got a call Sunday night. A friend of mine had Phillies tickets, and asked if I wanted to go to the game. I almost reflexively (and politely) declined. But then something went through my head. It’s something I’ve been chewing on for a while now.

I may not be that interested in the game, but I do enjoy spending time with my friends. And I don’t get asked to go to games very often. I said I’d like to go and we worked out the details.

I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life based on what would make me comfortable, or what would allow me to avoid inconveniences. I’ve turned down plenty of adventures because I didn’t want to deal with crowds and traffic.

But I’ve also given up a lot of chances to build relationships.

So I went to the game. And I had a good time. I spend time with friends. The weather was awesome. We had great seats, just off 1st base and in the shade for most of the game.

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In 2004, right before Joshua was born, my brother in law had Phillies tickets for a Friday afternoon game and was going to take the whole family. I was working the swing shift at that time, but I was able to get off. Then one guy didn’t show up for work. I could have fought harder to leave, but I didn’t. I stayed and worked. It hit me yesterday that I should have gone to that game.

I made the pledge to myself that I’m going to stop making decisions that allow me to stay home and read or surf the Internet. I’m going to start doing more to build friendships and to get out and meet people. Maybe I’ll go to the Army/Navy game this year with a friend.

John Maxwell: Don’t Shun The Sting

This post by John Maxwell hit home for me. I had to make a phone call last night. I got an answering machine. I’m not very good with voice mails. Even with people I know, I’ve never been good. I sometimes opt to hang up on the voice mail and try to call later. My messages are very stilted because I lack feedback from the person. But when I’m calling for business, it’s bad form to not leave a message.

After I left a message last night, Christina told me it sounded horrible. I agree.

But, I am going to have to master the art of the phone call and the voice mail message to succeed in my business. I guess I’ll just have to keep at it.

I’ve only known of John Maxwell as an accomplished speaker. Like me with phone calls, he once started from somewhere too.

INC Magazine: Top Business Books

INC Magazine has a list of the “Top Business Books”. I’ve actually read one of them. You can try to guess which one.

Of all the reading lists I’ve come across, INC’s is one of the least inspiring. I don’t know if it’s because the reviews are so short. They’re way too short to tell you why that particular book would be useful, at least, in my case. Seeing how these books come from 800ceoread, they’re probably for people high up in large organizations.

I have found a few useful reading lists. Joel Spolski put together a list for a software MBA curriculum his company was offering about 5 years ago. I can’t find evidence at this point that this list has been updated. I also recently blogged about the Personal MBA Reading List. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about a Navy Reading List I came across.

I think reading lists are important. When I come across people I respect and admire (and want to be like), I always want to find out what books they’ve read.

Do you follow a reading list? Where do you get your ideas for books to read from?

The Fastest Way To The Top

Most of my life, I’ve tried to take the fastest path I could find to the top. It’s rarely worked well. At times, I’ve felt like an overachiever. At other times, I’ve felt like a total failure.

In November, after I realized that my job was headed south, I bought Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book “Thou Shall Prosper”. I bought the 1st edition for Kindle and read it on my iPhone. It took months to finish reading. I digested it slowly. I’ve been wanting to find some way to work for myself for a while. I don’t know if this is it or not, or if I still have to learn more. I don’t know.

This isn’t a tangent. I’m bringing two threads together. While I’ve been unemployed, I rediscovered Diablo. I started playing the first version in 1999 or 2000. I used to play a modem game with a guy from work. It was a great stress reliever. After a long day of development testing, I could go home, pop a cold beer, and fire up Diablo. I’d walk through the dungeons slaying monsters and pretending they were Lockheed Martin engineers. Until you’ve had to support them, you won’t understand. I don’t mean the monsters.

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Commitment Part II: By The Way, The Navy Broke It’s Contract With Me

Yesterday, I published a blog post about commitments. I revealed how I was tempted to get out of the Navy by failing weight standards, but decided to honor my commitment.

I honored my end of the contract, even though the Navy broke it’s end before I even signed it.

I joined the Navy through the Delayed Enlistment Program the summer after my junior year of high school. I was already enlisted as a senior, and I left for boot camp 2 days after graduation. When I signed the contract, I honestly didn’t believe we’d graduate that late.

But the Navy’s end of the contract was always broken.

When I signed the contract, I was promised a $1500 enlistment bonus. I didn’t exact care about the bonus, but it was a bonus promised to me by contract. I would have joined anyway. I honestly didn’t have any other ideas. My dad was enlisted in the Air Force. I grew up in the military. I didn’t really know anything else. I would love to have been a fighter pilot, but I wasn’t ready for college yet. I didn’t think I was, anyway. So enlisting was my only option.

When I talked to the Air Force recruiter, he acted like he had a girl in the back room and had better things to do than talk to me. The Navy recruiter called me on a day when I was bored out of my skull and had little better to do than talk to him. The Navy offered me a better deal than the Air Force, so I took it.

I was to collect my enlistment bonus upon completion of my “A” School, or technical school. We got our bonuses on the last day of school on our way out the door. I was expecting a check for approximately $1250, which would have been what was left of the $1500 after taxes were taken out. Instead, I got a check for $800, which was what was left of $1000 after taxes at that time. When I questioned it, I was told to take it up with legal at my next duty station.

So, when I got to San Diego, I showed up at legal with the stub from the check (of course, I cashed it anyway) and my enlistment contract which showed a bonus due to me of $1500.

From what I understand, enlistment bonuses are MUCH larger now. But in 1992, they were tiny.

Legal told me that $1000 was the standard bonus for my rate (Fire Controlman), and the people at MEPS (the Military Enlistment Processing Station) did not have the authority to promise me more than the standard amount. I asked for the language in the contract stating such. I was instead told that if I wanted to push the issue, the Navy would let me out for breach of contract. I always figured that was a line of bull, but as a 19 year old E-4, I could only do so much.

I said I’d think about it. Many times over the next 5 years, I asked myself why I didn’t take it.

So you see, I kept my end of the contract even though the Navy broke its end before I even signed it.

Alternate Work Schedules: What’s Best For You?

The company that laid me off last month rolled out what they called "Flexible Work Schedules" at the end of 2008. I elected not to participate because I considered these schedules to be far less flexible than a regular 8 hour day 5 days a week.

One model required you to work 9 hours every day and take 1 day off every two weeks. The other model required 8 hour days one week, then 10 hour days the next, with 1 day off in the 2 week period. Maybe if they'd called it an "Alternate Work Schedule" I would have considered it. But by calling it a "Flexible Work Schedule" while making it less flexible than the original model, my BS detector just about blew my eardrum out. Oh, yeah, if an unpaid holiday appeared (they only gave us 7 paid holidays a year, and Black Friday wasn't one of them), your day off became that holiday whether you liked it or not. Yeah, real flexible. Also, if a paid holiday appeared during a time when you were scheduled to work more than 8 hours a day, you had to take vacation to make up the balance. Again, super flexible. 

It's scary when companies believe their own BS.

I've worked a flexible schedule before. When I was at BAE systems, I was required to put in 80 hours in 2 weeks. I could flex up to 16 hours from one week to the next within a pay period. As long as my work was getting done, I could come and go as I pleased. I loved it. If I needed a day off (or was sick) I could work a couple of 12 hour days to make up for the missed day. I could leave for a few hours and come back. Nobody ever said anything as long as my work was getting done, which it was.

I really enjoyed that kind of flexibility. I normally worked 9 hour days and took a half day most Fridays. I could come in on weekends if needed to make up time. I loved coming in on Saturday, when nobody else was there. I could get a lot done with the entire floor all to myself.

When Caleb tried a physics experiment (he wanted to see if his hand and the minivan sliding door could both occupy space simultaneously) I got up and left for the ER. I came back a few hours later and worked late.

INC Magazine has an article about Four Day Work Weeks. I don't actually like the concept of 4 day work weeks. I like to have the option to do them occasionally, but I would not want a 4 day work week to replace a 5 day work week.

Here's why:

  • 10 hour days are exhausting- Seriously, they wear you down. I don't mind doing 10 and 12 hours days as the situation requires, but I wouldn't want to do them all the time.
  • Workload is rarely that predictable
  • They limit flexibility to handle workload- what do you do when something comes up on Friday, but everybody is off? "Oh, sorry Mr. Client, we don't work on Friday. You'll have to wait until Monday." That or you can incur some overtime expenses.
  • Life is rarely that predictable

Here's my preference:

  • Hire professionals that you can trust. Seriously, if you catch somebody cheating on time, fire them.
  • Tell your professionals what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.
  • Give your professionals some leeway to decide what needs to be done and when it can be done.

In this age of knowledge work, many jobs can be done outside the limitations of a 9 to 5 workday set in a physical location. Why not change compensation to a model based on what gets done rather than how many hours a butt is in a chair? Some service jobs are still somewhat chained to time and space, but most knowledge jobs aren't. Give knowledge workers some space and watch what happens.