Monday, August 15, 2011

Breaking Free

Is the daily grind eating away at your spirit? Do you secretly wish you could leave it all behind and discover the job of your dreams? Suzy Welch, Best-selling author, television commentator, noted business journalist and Chick-fil-A Leadercast, ‘Voice of Purpose’ speaker, suggests 5 key questions to ask today that will “turn your work into joy.”

Not long ago, I saw an old friend who recently realized she was—at last—totally happy at work, much to her surprise. "I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up," she told me. Ten years earlier, she had moved from Boston to the Midwest because of her husband's job. She didn't exactly kick and scream, but her jaw was surely clenched and she was trying to hold back tears. She had left behind everything and everyone familiar to her, including a rewarding if not perfect part-time position as a hospice worker. Her two sons, then ages 8 and 10, were similarly glum about the move. But move they had to, and move they did.

At first, as the family settled in, my friend stayed home, convinced that her dream of a fulfilling career was stalled, possibly over. But slowly, due to a mixture of financial necessity and boredom, she began to inch back into the workplace. A hospice offer fell through, so she worked as a medical center administrator for a few years and then as a community college admissions officer. She liked aspects of both jobs, but neither felt like a calling. Eventually, with a sigh of resignation, she took a job as a religion teacher at a parochial high school. I was a philosophy major in college, so this will do for now, she told herself.

Then a funny thing happened. My friend noticed that the career she'd backed into and settled for filled her with joy. She found teaching teenagers exhilarating—and sometimes downright hilarious. As we spoke, she was moved to tears recounting how she helped the son of a poor Iraqi family, a recent immigrant to the United States, get into a well-known university. She described reading each student's graduation essay, titled "How I Want to Live My Life."

"You should hear these kids," she said with pride. "They've got goals as big as the sky. They all seem to know what they want to be when they grow up. I've only just discovered that myself!"

She is 51 years old.

And that is exactly how it usually goes. You can figure out what you want to be when you grow up. You just have to be very grown up to do it.

Sure, there are women among us who decide they want to be federal judges at age 12 and get appointed by age 32. But they are more annoying than average. Most women discover their "exactly right" job through a messy, iterative process that involves years of experimentation and reinvention. They grab opportunities when they zip by; they make wrong turns and run twice as fast to correct them; they juggle the husbands and kids who show up along the way; and, very often, they sacrifice a piece of their own dreams on their families' behalf. Most women search, adjust, and search some more for the right career...until one day, it finally appears out of the fog of life's experiences.

In other words, there are no shortcuts to discovering the perfect job. There is just a journey.

Now, can you hurry that process along and make it less bumpy? Can you actually speed up finding the answer to the "What should I be when I grow up" question?

I think you can, but you need to embrace a practice that requires discipline, candor, and a bit of courage. Simply put: You need to relentlessly ask yourself five questions.

Question 1

Does this job allow me to work with "my people"—individuals who share my sensibilities about life—or do I have to put on a persona to get through the day?

Question 2

Does this job challenge, stretch, change, and otherwise make me smarter—or does it leave my brain in neutral?

Question 3

Does this job, because of the company's "brand" or my level of responsibility, open the door to future jobs?

Question 4

Does this job represent a considerable compromise for the sake of my family and if so, do I sincerely accept that deal with all of its consequences?

Question 5

Does this job—the stuff I actually do day-to-day—touch my heart and feed my soul in meaningful ways?

These questions won't tell you if you should become a veterinarian, work in high tech, write a novel, manage a restaurant, or open your own advertising agency. The questions will, however, guide you once your journey has begun, their answers suggesting whether you should stay in a job and give it your all or get up the gumption to move on to something else. Eventually, the questions, which you can ask about either the job you currently hold or a position you are considering, will steer you toward the career that that turns work into joy.

By Suzy Welch
Excerpt from Getting Unstuck,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Yesterday I took a short break while my client's perm was neutralizing. The ladies in the break room were discussing tips, and how cheap some people are. For example, there's this mother-daughter team that comes in for full highlights/lowlights, spends $175 and then tips the girls doing their hair $3 each. (Not unlike those ad clients who insist on the least expensive commercial shoot possible, but mandate that it happen in LA -- with no craft service and a cheap hotel for the agency. You have to explain that a shoot in LA is UNION and that craft service is required by law. Jeesh. Anyway, back to the tips...) I shared the story of the lady who laid out her dollar's worth of change in a row on my station, and how I surreptitiously took a picture of her doing it. (see my post from July 7th, "Tips Again.")

A new girl, whom I had yet to meet, said "Oh, you're the Blogger!"

I would have thought I'd freak out that someone at school knew about this blog. But really I was pretty flattered. Especially when she said she really likes it and thinks it's funny.
Still, I was pretty surprised that someone just "found" it. So I asked -- How did you find it?"
"I do a lot of research. I found it when I was looking at this school."

Two or three people around us asked "what blog, what?" I just answered "I haven't posted in a really, really long time." Since everyone at school talks over each other and has the attention span of a flea, they were all on to the next thing before my secret was out. That's a lot like advertising too. Maybe it has to do with being creative. A lot of creative people together -- they're loud, talk over each other and jump from thing to thing. I always thought that that conversational style was a New York thing. Now I think it has to do with being creative. But I digress once again.

So I told the new girl "Don't tell anyone. I really don't want anyone at school to know about it. I joke around that I'm writing a book that'll be made into a screen play and Tyler Perry will play Rhonda; but everyone thinks its a joke. It sort of is, it's sort of not."

How Starbucks Saved My Life, the book that inspired this crazy journey of mine, is being made into a movie starring Tom Hanks. So you never know.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Yesterday I had a client with really thick, luxurious beautiful hair that hung just below her shoulders. Her hair was definitely her best feature. She came in saying she wanted "a wedge, but didn't want to loose a lot of the length." Now a "wedge," is the Dorothy Hamill cut from the '70's. (The client is 61 years old.) So the consultation took some time during which I began to understand the look she was going for and suggested a long layered cut. But she insisted that she wanted the back graduated, so we finally agreed to a long (just above shoulder length) inverted bob. I parted her off and started cutting the back. She said "You're not cutting off ten inches back there are you?" I showed her how much 3 inches is on the comb (there are numbered notches); then held the hair up in the mirror to show her where I was cutting. She said "Oh good, cause I don't want too much off." Her very dense hair took about twenty five minutes to cut, during which time she kept grabbing combs off my station and parting off and combing her hair. I had to keep telling her that I knew how to part hair and that if she wanted the cut to come out right she had to stop playing with her hair while I was working. I then gave her a fabulous (if I do say so myself) blow-out. Other students, and two instructors, commented on how great it looked. When I was done she said "Oh this is much too long. The kids will say it's not different at all." Since we had had only FOUR clients the entire day and I was extremely bored, I agreed to cut it again. So I took off another two and a half inches. Then she wanted the it set on hot rollers. So we did that too. Even though she didn't pay for it. When we finally finished she said she loved the cut but would come back in two weeks cause she wanted to do something so the curl would hold. I told her that they way to get that would be with a long layered cut! Then we had a 15 minute discussion/consultation about her color.

So many things in this experience were just like advertising clients. Getting crap for free, trying to do it them selves, dictating a process that can never result in the product they want. Jeshshshsh.

When I worked on Borden. We did a year's worth of research to develop a new ad platform for Sweetened Condensed Milk. In almost every focus group we'd have some woman weeping as she remembered her grandmother's pie or uncle's home-made strawberry ice cream. Simply seeing the package could make their eyes start to fill up. And not just one or two times. This happened in almost every group. Advertising gold! Now all we had to do was take all that emotional intensity and package it in a :30 spot. The Creative Team did a masterful job. The storyboards tested well and we where sure people would be making twice the amount of fudge and double the pies they had made in pervious holiday seasons. But WAIT! Right before
production was to begin the Client mandated that we revise the spots to :15's. We spent weeks trying to create :15's with the emotional impact of the :30's. It just wasn't going to happen. We explained the nature of theatre -- and how to have intense emotion you need tension. And tension has to build, and that takes TIME. Client still wanted to "make it like the Hallmark spots." They couldn't believe that what Hallmark does in a :60 or :90 can't be done in :15. Of course we ended up with :15 vignettes that did little more than list the product attributes among a somewhat warm family feeling. No tears among our viewers. And no big bump in business.

You just can't win. If you can, let me know how.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Resume Gold?

I read a little article on Talent Zoo about age-proofing your resume. Apparently this is important for 20-somethings and people over 45. The author suggested leaving off the dates. Does this really work? If I got a resume without dates on it I'd be suspicious right away. "What's this guy hiding? Prison?" I think it's pretty easy to tell from a resume if someone is young and inexperienced. And when hiring for a junior position one doesn't expect a lot of experience. According to the article, the ideal amount of experience is 12 years. Anything older than 15, as well as graduation dates, should be eliminated. My first thought is that for me this would be kind of tragic since the first 12 years of my career were spent on Cheesebrough-Pond's and Procter & Gamble. Resume gold. But I do realize that the gold has now turned to lead and should probably be jettisoned. On the plus side, I do look a hell of a lot younger than I am. People are always shocked at my age. Usually the cashier's at Aldi and the girls at school. "Why Miss Cynthia, you older than my mother. I never would have thought that. For real?"

TV is free

It's true. TV does come through the air, and it's free! Isn't that so much more twenty-first century than having it come through cable and costing $100+/month? With the exceptions of Dexter, Man Men and Being Human it's all as it was prior to the disconnection. Thanks to the gifts of three converter boxes, our old TiVo and Comedy Central on line. We should have done this years ago.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upside Down

We learned last week that we're now upside down in our mortgage. Reason being that TWO years ago, Hamilton County readjusted our property taxes based on the purchase price of the house in 2006 -- AND THEY NEVER TOLD US. For the past TWO years, Chase (the holder of our mortgage) was taking the extra funds needed to meet the new tax base out of our escrow account. Neither Hamilton County nor Chase ever notified us. Seems to me like this kind of thing should be illegal. Now that the escrow account has been COMPLETELY depleted, our monthly mortage payment has risen $302. We can appeal this assessment; but only between January 1 and March 31st. Long story short, we're screwed. $302 may not sound like a lot when you're making big advertising money, but it's a tremendous amount when you've been unemployed for a year and a half -- and are looking at making very little money for quite a long time to come.

So we're getting rid of cable TV, the land-line, the newspapers, all subscriptions, the Y membership. All along I've been thinking it's some kind of miracle we've done as well as we have since I lost my job. Just by giving up vacations, restaurants, entertaining, retirement contributions, and college fund contributions we were able to get along pretty much as before. And really I've hardly "felt" it -- what with being at school 40 - 50 hours a week, JJ's new school/football, volunteering and church stuff, my life is fuller than it's ever been. But the pinch has come.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Soul Food

As you know, I'm learning about a lot more than just hair, skin and nails at the Western Hills School of Beauty and Hair Design. One of the other things I've been learning is how to cook soul food. I've adopted Ms. Kathy's Corn Pudding recipe and have made it for many a BBQ this Summer. Everyone LOVES it and it is super easy:

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix together:
1 can corn
1 can creamed corn
1 stick of butter melted
1/2 to 1 cup of sour cream
1 package Jiffy Corn Bread Mix

Pour into a medium size casserole dish and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. It's slappin'!

Also try Ms. Margaret's Greens. This recipe takes a very long time, as the greens need to simmer for at least four hours. But if you're a white girl like me, who always loved greens but had no idea
how to make them, this recipe is also very easy.

Use a big, high-quality stew pot.
Cover two smoked turkey wings with water, bring to boil and then simmer until the meat falls off the bones. About two hours. Strain out bones return liquid and meat to pot.

Rinse four to six bunches of collard greens. (I bought too much
thinking it would shrink down like spinach. It shrinks, but a lot less then spinach would.)
Chop the greens by slicing every 1/2" or so. Discard the very bottoms and very tops of the bunches.
Put the greens in the pot with the smoked turkey and simmer for four hours.
Add salt and pepper to taste -- and hot sauce/hot pepper if you like it. Delicious!