You usually can’t tackle the biggest goals without the help of others, but there is often a time when you need to break away from those who got you this far if you want the highest prize.
It’s been a few weeks now since the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. I’m sure we all have particular memories that won’t soon fade. Like the Queen welcoming James Bond into the sanctity of her room, then skydiving from a helicopter into Olympic Stadium. Nor will l soon forget the end of the men’s marathon. When I switched channels to the marathon about 45 minutes earlier, it was clear that unless something shocking occurred the three particular athletes in the photo would garner the medals. They had already created sufficient distance between themselves and the next closest runner that it was unlikely they would overcome the gap. Continue reading →
Yesterday afternoon, I happened by a small crowd that had gathered around this particular fellow, who is a performer at the Scotiabank Buskerfest in the St. Lawrence Market area of downtown Toronto. At the pinnacle of this particular element in his not-quite-death-defying routine, I captured the moment with the camera I had conveniently brought along. When I posted this image on Flickr.com this morning, Suzanne noted “Life certainly is about balance…nice shot”. Her comment intrigued me. My initial reaction yesterday was to his precarious position, but of course no physical harm would come to him should he lose his balance and slip. On the other hand, his financial situation likely is extremely precarious, unless I have underestimated how lucrative busking can be. I don’t see a Budweiser or Pepsi logo on his jacket. He earns his living by entertaining audiences. At the Port Credit buskerfest in Mississauga last weekend, a performer reminded the audience many times that he was not paid by the organizers of the event. His only income is voluntary donations from the audience. Continue reading →
What’s your mental image of a writer’s life? Mine comes from watching too many episodes of “Murder She Wrote”, which are still broadcast at 7:00 p.m. every weekday evening in the Toronto market. In the familiar opening sequence, Jessica Fletcher is pounding away on what I am told is a Royal Magic Margin Vintage typewriter. Every once in a while she gets to type “THE END” with a great flourish. That final page gets added to a few hundred others and stuffed into a big manila envelope and mailed off to her publisher. Unlike Jessica, Andy Farmer, played by Chevy Chase in the movie “Funny Farm”, is not an established author. Andy sends a manuscript off to the publisher and watches the mailbox for a response. Each day a maniacal mailman drives by or near the mailbox. For poor Andy, those letters from the big city bring only bad news. If that wasn’t enough humiliation, his wife Elizabeth who isn’t supposed to be a writer at all, has her manuscript for a children’s book accepted for publication on the first attempt! Continue reading →
I was puzzled. I had in my hand one of the first editions of “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles, (much like the one at the right) long before it became the best-selling career book in history. Unlike other career guides, it didn’t start off with resume or interview skills. Instead, Bolles asked you to complete a series of exercises that produced “one piece of paper” that succinctly described your dream job. That is where I was puzzled. In his stories it was normal to precisely describe your ideal job and then methodically set out to land precisely that position. That couldn’t have been further from my own experience to that time or that of anyone I knew. In my world “beggars couldn’t be choosers”. Unless you had scarce skills that we were in high demand, you were grateful to be offered any job. If it wasn’t what you wanted, you just adapted.
After I completed the exercises, I had identified 8 characteristics of a dream job. I no longer have that one piece of paper, but I recall one particular requirement that seemed especially unrealistic. I wanted to commute less than 30 minutes of my home, which limited my options to our small city. The kind of job I wanted was typically found in the much larger city an hour away. I filed the little piece of paper and forgot it. After I had been hired, I happened across the list and compared my dream to the present position. To my astonishment, 7 of the 8 desired characteristics had been satisfied, including a 20 minute drive time! Did creating the list help me to get that job? I couldn’t tell you, but I no longer considered Bolles’ promise to be a pipe dream.
What kind of boss do you prefer? Would you rather work alone or as part of a team? You will be asked these questions in a job interview and you may be tempted to provide an evasive response. After all, you reason, you can adapt to whatever circumstances you encounter. In today’s job market it is essential that you credibly and persuasively communicate to an employer that you are already a good fit for that position. It is precisely when there is the glut of applicants for the position that you must distinguish yourself. The question of whether you prefer to work alone or with others is standard. If you haven’t sorted that out in advance you will likely give the unconvincing answer that you imagine the interviewer wants to hear.
So knowing yourself well is not a luxury in a competitive job market. It is more valuable than ever. Thank you, Mr. Bolles.