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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Travel: The Disease of Corporations

Do Silicon Valley Warriors need to travel? Travel has been the byproduct of new GEO model that many company's tout as the most efficient way to the nirvana of profitability. Except it doesn't work that way. Companies fail today just as they failed years ago when the present model wasn't popular. Having their production in Asia hasn't stopped the bleeding. New technology like videoconferencing has not stopped the travel disease for IMHO that is what it is. Some people have to travel all year and some folks need to travel once a year and the rest don't need to travel at all. But for some reason travel is a sign of status. One company I worked at canceled all unnecessary travel. I thought employees would be relieved but instead many of them showed up in my office whining because they couldn't go to some sales conference or customer visit.

These days with the rising cost of fuel and "the new model" companies say that they save money by taking parts of their business offshore but the spend money getting there and back regularly to see what is happening. I believe certain key people need to do this but the problem is that they often take a retinue of retainers along because they think they need to see whatever it is too. Travel costs and the constant desire to run up air miles so that people can upgrade is a part of the game. Some employees travel to escape responsibility of any kind.

At Sun Microsystems I had the chance to observe two techies in one of my groups who traveled at the drop of a hat but never to where the action was. No one ever called them on it. Of course I only saw two but I knew there were thousands who did this at just this one company. The CEO McNealy insisted that employees fly coach which was smart. But when he found out that one of his former employees had his own corporate jet, he changed his toon, got his own jet and took the warps off of coach only flying.
I can't say I blame him. It's just funny that it was a pissing game that got him to change, not good common sense.

There was one VP who took his whole staff with him quarterly on trips Europe and Asia. That was often 6-10 people in the air off to somewhere (and back of course). When he was fired the BIG trips stopped rather suddenly.

What was the saying? We'll go far to find the right employee. We'll even go to Asia.

Travel is a sickness. It burns fuel and money and profits. There are people who need to travel. OK, I said that. People told me that I would get nowhere in my career if I wasn't willing to travel. I had groups in Asia and Europe. I never traveled there on business.


I got to Vice President and made several million dollars which is chump change in Silicon Valley. Sort of like climbing Denali instead of Everest. But I got up and back without dying. Fell a few times, got scrapped up but made it back to base camp.

One of HR Managers on the East Coast ragged me constantly about getting out there. I finally told her to stuff it. That's why I have you out there, I said. I went once, finally but by that time she was gone caught up in downsizing. Nice trip. 100 degrees and humid coming out of Logan Airport. Spent 3 days there and came back home.

What did I accomplish? I sat in a few meetings that would have gone off fine without me spending time with people who flew to the West Coast quarterly anyway. So one trip to the East Coast in 6 years at Sun. That was enough.

Would I travel if the need arose.


As often as I would want surgery. That often.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Running July 28-August 3


Was too zonked out to run on Monday after the trip back from Seattle so I went out this morning and ran an easy 76 minutes up the RR Tracks. I always feel a bit sluggish after hanging around hotel rooms and airports and today was no difference. But my HR stayed easily under 70% so I decided to just keep going.


Good day! Jake and I ran 3 up and backs in 25:13-24:52-24:40. I kept my HR average under 70% so that showed progress. The one negative was that my left, upper achilles was a tad sore after the second loop so I stuck an extra heel lift in on both sides and got through the last loops with no further problems. Since I have stayed away from the hills I have to wonder what is causing this set back. When I got home I ran another 5 minutes testing the damned thing and there was no problem.

My plan is to take it easy for the next week or two and try not to let this get away from me. I will stay on the flats and take walking breaks. Jake is traveling the next two weeks so I can run my own courses and monitor this.


I wrapped up my left lower calf and instep with Coban tape and did a 40 minute slow jog in the early afternoon. It was in the 70's but felt hotter. The good news, once again, was no problems with my calf. The bad news was that at one point in the run, I was sure that if I had started walking my pace would have remained the same. Slowly but surely my walking pace and running pace are converging.


I slept in (7:30 AM for me). Then I went out and jogged an easy 45 minutes keeping the HRM grooved at 130. The calf and achilles held up. I taped my arch and that was it. I had planned to run another 25-30 minutes in the afternoon but it was hot (80's) and I just decided that it wasn't worth it. Lesson learned. Get out early and get your running done. Doubtful these days that you will come back on a Saturday afternoon during the summer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

28 minutes

I just got back Seattle. My family went up there for a niece's wedding. I have know her for 28 years but have spoken to her for perhaps 28 quality minutes in all that time. I don't mean 28 minutes continuously. I mean 28 minutes total.

Of course I didn't go up there for my niece who I barely know. I went up for my wife who went up for his sister, whose daughter, my niece, was getting married. Now don't misunderstand me, my niece is nice enough. In fact she is the real thing. I have observed her over the years growing up from the pie faces, 5 year child who was the flower girl at our wedding back in 1980, to a tall, friendly, kind young women who was overdue to get married to her long long time boyfriend. They were friends in high school. Now they are in their mid 30's (or getting there). So that big biological clock is ticking.

But that's not the story.

I pretty much dislike big family events even if it's the family I married into. I mean we just up there in February for my nephew's (in-law) funeral which was even a bigger event . 500 people. Maybe more. Every seems to know I hate big family events. I guess I haven't done a very good job of hiding it. I don't mind going to Seattle and seeing a little bit of everyone but hours of 5 minutes of everyone gets tiring even though they are mostly good people. Some of them are evil but in a Lord of the Rings sort of way. It's better they stay that way of the whole book won't be that interesting.

The key to going on this trip (and it was a short trip) was just to totally flow with everything. I decided I could not and would not control schedules, who we saw or even fill that "I hate these events" type of role. So for 48 hours I was in a social free fall and I admit tat it was kind of liberating. As I said to my wife when she asked What do you want to do? I would reply, Whatsoever you prefer. I am just glad to drive you where we need to go.

When our plane threatened to be very delayed coming home I vegged with that too. Airports are not my favorite place to just hand out (book stores are) but I hung swinging by my neck anyway and much to my utter surprise the flight was a grand total of 15 minutes late. I promised myself that I would not complain and I didn't. I took a nap on the flight home. That was nice. Almost like not flying at all. You get aboard, lean back in your seat, put your shades on and the next thing you know someone is telling you that you'll be landing in about 15 minutes.

There are some strange tribal divisions in our family up there. Stuff has happened that is dividing family ties and demanding loyalties. Fortunately because we live far, far away (we might as well be in Mongolia, we are pretty much out of it (whatever it is). At the moment it is subliminal and open warfare is rare. So there were people who talk to us and those who don't. I think those people have self aligned us and assume we're not on there side anymore. For our generation and the one just after us, the innocence is gone. The open spontaneity has been replaced by the numbing effects of career, divorce, child rearing and a potential coming war over inheritance. What was once the Shire has become Rohan and Gondor overshadowed by Mordor and Mount Doom. The search for the rings of power are afoot but few know what they can do much less even what they look like.

I have one ring (the true one of Man) but I keep it hidden, hanging from a rawhide cord looped around my neck.

My best guess is with the passing of the King (my father in law) the war will spring up and rage anew. The critical thing for us warriors from other lands is to stay aloof from the battle to come and let the family hammer it out. In the meantime, I will hold tightly to the one ring.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Running July 21-27

Sidewalks........My World


I ran 70 minutes but it was broken up by my having to pick up Amber, the twelve year old wonder dog, from the vet. I ran 50 minutes, went and picked up Amber and then ran another 20 minutes. The last half of the second run was really decent. The HRM did not bounce up as it did on Saturday mostly because it was cooler. Even when I moved along at a decent clip, the HRM stayed in the low 140's.


Jake and I ran at Forbes Mill. I think he is seeing the light. He insisted that we run slow, which was fine with me. We ran up and back 3 times staying in the 26's and 27's and keeping my HR under 150. Our total time out was 81 minutes and small change. At breakfast afterward, Jake told me not to let him forget this effort. His legs felt good and he had run 3 up and backs for the first time in a long time.


I ran 75 minutes this morning. Another slog run keeping my HR in the low to mid 140's. It was already feeling warm by the time I got out of the house just before 9 am. I ran up the RR tracks and added a loop to extend the distance. I kept thinking about bouncing a golf ball on cement and that kept much of the run on the dirt. Easier on my legs.

I still love cement though.

PS, Love cement.

We're flying up to Seattle Saturday for a wedding and I probably won't run up there so this is probably it for the week. If I can I will walk Sunday (if there is time).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lunch with John

John and I met for lunch today. We've been friends since 1975. It was John who rescued me from being a regional manager for Dairy Belle and then strategized with me on how I could get into Silicon Valley.

We both have been through "it". John and I have never worked at the same company (we tried once or twice but no banana). Between us we have seen just about everything the Valley has to throw at you, both good and bad. The strange thing is that despite our best intentions were both still here. We both did well on IPO's and both reached millionaire status. neither of us were lucky enough to be at a Google or Netscape. We worked at blue collar technology companies where you had to deliver real product before you could go public. This is nether good or bad. It's just the breaks.

Had Transmeta gone public as planned in 1999 we would have fit the Netscape model, probably zoomed up to 100 dollars a share and I would have had a private jet. But because Transmeta was really Transmeta.COM, we were lucky to get out at all in late 2000. Of course by then we were real. It's just that the valley was beginning to tank (think dot com bust).

I am one of the lucky ones though. I made my million (and then some), left Transmeta in the late summer of 2002, took 6 months off and then slid back into consulting in early 2003. I came back to all of those folks who hadn't benefited by the dot com explosion of the late 1990's. If I had GTHM* many of them didn't. I could come and go as I pleased. They couldn't. But at first it made no difference. I was as penned up as the rest of them. Money was nice but my mind couldn't keep up. years back, before my so called career, money wasn't a limiting factor. My mind was already free. 27 years on the chain gang had changed that. It was then that it occurred to me.

I had been brainwashed and they had paid me well, to do it.

That was 2003. Now it is 2008 and I am just beginning to realize what the other freedom is. I use to have it with no cash and now that had cash, I had lost the other vital part of the equation. It's like Oppenheimer. He works for years building the bomb and the realizes what a terrible weapon it is once he sees it explode for the first time at Alamogordo in New Mexico.

What did he think he was building. The world's biggest water balloon?

Yanks bomb Nagasaki! Thousand drown!

What did I think I was going to find at the end of my quest for monetary independence?

The same primitive, boss pleasing brain that had gotten me through the prior 27 years.

What a surprise.

I have come to find that the real work began after Transmeta.

*Go To Hell Money

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let slip the dogs of war

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war; That this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial.

Layoffs are like U-Boats. You know they are out there but they are often a surprise regardless.

Execs find reasons to be absent and they leave their line managers and HR to do the dirty work. Then they come back the day after bleating "It was the right thing to do."

The old saying, old men make war and young men fight them is no where truer than when layoffs are in the offing.

I can remember walking into one company as the brand new HR director. At the Friday all hands there were at least a dozen people who knew my reputation and this coupled with a casual remark about my work history made it necessary for me to meet with all twelve, one after the other, to set things right.

9 years later I walked into another company all hands and was introduced as the brand new HR VP. When asked to make a comment I raised up the soft drink I held in my hand and said "Glad to be here," and let it go at that. I had learned my lesson well.

As far as all hands are concerned, and big meetings for that matter, the less said the better. And if you can get away with saying nothing, then that is even better still.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Don't ask

Big Rule for getting work:

Don't ask.

If I ask for work I don't get it. I don't know why. Marketing and sales never has worked for me. My best jobs have come because people called me.

I can help people in my network and I can let them know I am out there looking too but if I stray across the line, I lose.

Twice in the last week I offered my services to people who needed help. One admitted that he could have used me months ago and the other said thanks but the time wasn't right. Each time I walked out to my car asking myself, "Why did I do that?" No desperation on my part. I don't need the work to survive. But in each case I broke my own rule.

With one client, I offered to help over and over again as I watched a specific situation deteriorate. In the end I stopped asking. Months later they asked me to come in and fix things as if I had never brought up the idea myself. This is a constant lesson for me.

Offering without being asked weakens me. It undermines my freedom. It undermines my sense of myself. They have to ask me. I have earned that much freedom.

Batman Assualts Mother & Sister (maybe)

He may have gotten Batman mixed up with Count Dracula. It is easy to do.

Report: 'Batman' accused of assaulting mom, sister

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer 18 minutes ago

LONDON - Batman star Christian Bale was arrested Tuesday over allegations of assault, British media reported.

British media had reported that Bale's mother and sister complained they were assaulted by the 34-year-old actor at the Dorchester Hotel in London on Sunday night, a day before the European premiere of his latest film, "The Dark Knight."

The women made the allegation at a local police station in southern England on Monday, Britain's Press Association news agency said. It later said Bale had been arrested, citing "police sources."

Monday, July 21, 2008

How to be Lawrence of Arabia

This is also an idea who's time has come. Lawrence was many things.

Straight, Gay, Bi? Who knows. Liked to have himself whipped.

A great influencer for sure. A loner of the first order. A Changer of history. A man who made something important happen. A person who dreamed with his eyes wide open and made his dream a reality.

Great movie even though Peter O'Toole was a head taller than the real Lawrence.

So these are some of the chapters.

How to speak Arabic
How to ride a camel
How to go long periods of time without water
How to influence people who initially don't give a dam about you
How to sleep on the ground
How to be British
How to be an Arab
How to shoot a gun
How to survive shooting your camel in the head (by mistake of course)
How to come in and out of a room without being noticed
How to be friends with women while avoiding sex
How to have friends in high places
How to write a BIG book
How to get your weight down under 100 pounds
How to find good servants
How to cross the Nefud, the worst desert in the world.
How to be a horses ass when ever you feel the yearning
How to dominate a meeting by being the last person to speak
How to be promoted from a lieutenant to a Colonel in 4 easy steps
How to go from Colonel to private
How to get along without money
How to think out of the box. Any box.
How to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


These days I am a Ronin or a warrior with no master.

That describes a true consultant.

Someone once wrote that when you are a servant at least you want to be the very best servant that the master has. For so long that was my problem. I wanted to be the trusted right hand of the leader. What I found was the undying loyalty was two handed or maybe better described as backhanded. The same hand that patted you on the shoulder and told you that you had done a fine job could also be used to slap you hard when you made a mistake or did not so the task the way the master would have wanted it done.

But to be a warrior often means to be a servant and to be a servant means to be under the direction and control of another.

I have had many masters over the years. Some were benign and some were to be respected. I learned from them. But some were little more than bullies in the clothing of a warrior. The only thing I learned from them was that loyalty meant little or nothing. You were used and then discarded. Oh they used fancy words to lure you in and keep you close and the same fancy words while they slipped a dagger into your side.

That is the reason I became a Ronin. I could still wield the weapons of my trade but I owned nothing to any single an (or woman). I did not want to come in from the cold as many warriors do. I wanted employment but not on their terms.

So I slip through many kingdoms and along the way there are those who eye my independence and ask what it takes to be like me.

The answer is the same but they don't want to hear it any more than I did when I was in their place.

The ability to say "no" I tell them. The ability to walk away if things aren't to your liking.

Some months ago I sat across from one of those masters who had lured me in changing and editing his promises as we went along. Eventually he told me that I was not a team player and that I was too meek. He played words like some play music on a violin. He spoke of strength while asking me to yield and kneel. That was his game. He always forced his people to their knees. I had seen it again and again. Now he was trying it with me. I thought about it for a time. Yielding is so easy. It is like giving into the cold high up on a mountain and sleeping that dreamless sleep that eventually becomes death. Except in this sleep you do not die.

I thought about what I had fought for over the years. I knew the answer in my warrior, Ronin heart.

So I listened to him impassively but at the end I stood up and with great restraint thanked him for his wisdom. Then I walked out, drove home and sent him this message.

Best for both of us if I push on. I am sure you'll agree.

This was not a good fit for either side.

You see for me when he played his violin, there was no music.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On the Running Front

I ran an easy 45 minutes on Friday morning keeping my HRM in the 120's and 130's. It was cool and overcast.

On Saturday I got going late so I ran 20 minutes of calorie burning slow stuff before having a light coffee laden breakfast with my club. I did quaff several energy bars on the way over. Then I came back in the early afternoon and ran another 60 minutes of what turned out to be a difficult challenge of trying to stay under 70%. It was warmer but not hot. Still it was warm enough to make me have to walk on a half dozen occasions when the HRM read over 150. Frankly I was glad when I hit the hour mark. I stopped on the spot and walked back to the house. My best guess was that I was light on carbs and not really very well hydrated. I felt OK though. The HRM tends to do that. It just keeps me from running any harder than I need to on a given day.

I stepped on the scale today for the first time in months. I am about 5-6 pounds away from my goal weight. Only a pound over my racing weight.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The New Job: The First Day

I always found it exciting to start a new job. Of course finding the bathrooms was critical unless you felt comfortable taking a piss in the parking lot or the memorial grove planted in remembrance of some departed employee. Usually a company HR person would walk me around and orient me to where the pit stop was. Above is Dale, HR weenie asking for my help in finding the toilets. She had just plain forgotten where they were located. The running water was a big clue. It also turned out to be a big problem.

Call the plumber!

I never really liked new hire orientation. It was the awkward day where you got the company spiel and signed all of that important paperwork. Then you are released to your hiring manager only to find that your phone ain't hooked up and your computer isn't connected.

So you sit there reading manuals and if you are lucky, you get to attend some unimportant meetings.

Of course I am very philosophical about the first day. I just keep smiling, don't complain and get past it. I know all to soon I will be involved and in the know so I might as well enjoy the brief respite from the heck (in place of Hell) of corporate life.

Taking a Xanax helps too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

There is going to be a layoff and.....

I first heard those words in May, 1983. My manager, Ming the Merciless* called me in at 9 AM in the morning.

"There is going to be a layoff," he said, "and it is going to affect you."

Well, Hell Ming* I knew there was going to be a layoff. I had already come in early and cleaned out my desk.

I got a heads up the day before. Facilities always knew ahead of time and I had friends of friends over there. The word leaked out. I was on the list.

It's OK, Ming

Of course a month ago, sensing things were going to get bad I had gone out and interviewed with another company and had gotten a nice offer. I took it into Ming and he told me in effusive and flowery language that the company really wanted me to stay and that I would be one of the last ones ever laid off.

It's OK, Ming. You don't have to go through the whole script. Legal had given him one those layoff scripts. Some managers just can't do it on the their own.

I was already out the door. Just end the damn speech. I am ready to go already.

Ming felt guilty and slung me some extra severance. I just thanked him for not throwing me to the clay people or vaporizing me with the death ray.

Ready to go, Ming.

This was my first layoff. There were two more to follow. Another in 1986 and my last official one on 1992.

So I have been to the show. Rich knows layoffs.

So here are just a few of the dozen or so BIG RULES that I have learned about layoffs.

1. Get out of Dodge quickly. I try to get out of the building as quickly as I can. I do best when I move on. I can always send an email or phone people I care about back there. But I can't tarry. I need to move on because I am now looking for another job and it's not back there. It's out there. So I want to get out there as quickly as possible.

I have a good friend who had 17 boxes of personal stuff in his office when the reaper finally caught up with him. It took him all day to get out of town. Now he is working for a new company but he keeps his personal stuff at home.

2. Start networking as soon as possible. It's going to take time to get your job search momentum going. You may stumble onto something early on but for the rest of us, it takes time. 5-10 touches a day. A touch is an email, a phone call or coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner related to your search. By the way, it can take 100-200 touches to get a job. So get going!

3. Don't spend too much time focusing on the resume. I hear people say all the time "Oh, I have to work on my resume and then I will kick things into gear." Since most jobs are filled through referral, who you know is way more important than what your resume looks like.

4. Don't stop pushing your search until you have a signed offer letter for a job you want. It's way too easy to lose momentum if you reign in and it is hard to get the ball rolling again.

Layoffs aren't for sissies. You have to man up (or woman up). The search process, as tough as it can often be, makes you more self reliant and let's you know that you have the ability to find another job.

No job is the job. No company is the company. Remember that. Give them 100% while you are there but understand, it can be yanked away any time a company sees fit. All you have is your skills and knowledge and ability to find another place to work. You can take that anywhere.

*Ming is not my manager's real name. I called him this to protect his actual identity. I mean if you knew his actual name was Jim, that would make it much easier for you to figure out who this guy actually was.


People are panicking about the economy. Like a bunch of cattle. Stampeding across the prairie until they exhaust themselves. Yes, there were thousands of bad housing loans made by banks. Yes, the price of oil is up (OK, way up). Suddenly the economy is the BIG issue not the war in the Middle East. And there is nothing any of can really do about it. The war, the oil or the bad loans. So what do we do? We panic and in our spare time participate in a run on our respective banks.

We learned very little from the Vietnam War. One generation and we already have ourselves entangled in a no win war in the Middle East which by the way is absolutely one of the worst places to be conducting this sort of operation.

We learned almost nothing from the gas crisis of the 1970's. Instead of reducing our dependency our Middle Eastern Oil, we decided (somehow) that answer was to go one a SUV binge.

We learned very little from the Dot Com bust of the 2001-2002. It was bad. Really bad. Like base jumping with no chute. We panicked that time around too. Putting good money into bad investments. That time it was companies with no there there. This times it was banks making zero down loans (HOW STUPID WAS THAT).

But we can't change any of this. But we can panic so that is what we do.

It has not occurred to us to simply stop watching the panic mongering news on TV, in the paper and on the web. Time for a news fast. I am not talking about sticking our heads in the ground. Make sure your investment are OK if you must and then turn your attention to something else.

Over time we'll all settle down and find some other stupid thing to occupy our minds. I mean we haven't invaded Iran and Syria yet (RIGHT). There is still time.

Or we could just cut our dependence on foreign oil.

Wow, what a concept.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

AT Run

Forbes Mill this morning. I ran one easy up and back in 24:30 never going over 70% of max. Jake showed up and wanted to bash a loop and I thought what in the heck did I have to lose so I went up again getting my HR up into the 85% range as quickly as possible. I stayed there up to the dam reaching it at just over 11 minutes and then came back down allowing my HR to drift up to 90% on occasion. I was back to the Mill in 21:17. Nothing outstanding but at least I accomplished two things.

1. I set a standard for that course.

2. It was my first run since late May that I pushed into AT so it was good to feel that effort again. No question that I could have run under 21 if I had not paid attention to the HRM.

I warmed down enough to make this 6 miles total.

The Batman Handbook

Now here's an idea who's time has come. This author wrote a book, or maybe we should call it a manual, on how normal guys can become Batman. I looked inside and it really delivers. here are some of the topics covered within the book.

"How to make a quick costume change"
"How to train a sidekick"
"How to build a Batcave"
"How to drive the Batmobile on two wheels"
"How to do a backflip"
"How to slide down the Bat-Pole"
"How to Throw a Batarang"
"How to disarm a gunman"
"How to take a kick to the head"
"How to take out a room full of goons"
"How to search for clues"
"How to extract a confession"
"How to withstand poison kisses"
"How to withstand hypnosis"
"How to break free of bindings"
"How to Blend into the shadows and slip away"

So why is this book timely?

Well, I was just thinking about what the delta was between what I am now which is basically 5'7" and 140 pounds and Batman who is like 6 feet tall and 180 pounds (or more). Of course Batman is perennially young and has his own theme music and I am older than dirt and no one has written a theme song for me.

Maybe I should set my sights a bit lower. Uh, I was thinking of something like the following.

The Lawrence of Arabia Handbook.

I think my chances of being a top flight camel rider are higher than being able to withstand poison kisses. I can take a kick to the head (from some pretty viscious bosses) and I know I blend in well with shadows and I have been known to slip away from quite a few company Xmas parties in my time.

Batman or Lawrence of Arabia? It's hard to choose.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Went further

I ran 65-66 minutes today. I wore the (HRM) heart rate monitor and stayed under 70% the whole way. I am very clear now that this is the way I need to train. Every other day, use the HRM and forget the rest.

1 X and 10 X

Joan sent me a message. Edited slightly to protect her identity.

Hi Rich,

I submitted my letter about 2 weeks ago, but last day will be 1 August.

In the long run (and justly as likely the short run), I think this is the best decision, considering that I have solid financial resources.

I definitely valued your input, and I think your instincts were *very* on. I did expose their total lapse in following up with me during my evaluation period -- this worked to my advantage.

Crummy boss is away for wedding ceremony and honeymoon.

With my appreciation to you, always!


Ann had the misfortune to be working for a two headed boss. Actually, two in a box. There was the so called good boss, who always deferred to the crummy boss. The crummy guy was one of those bigger than life types who was very slippery, non confrontational and ubiquitous. Always on the move, rarely in the office and a top flight seagull manager. Flies in, poops on your head and flies back out. If Joan had stayed in this job she would have been dying.

In fact there are a lot of good folks dying out there in the world of work (WOW).
Joan is lucky. She has money in the bank. She could leave a toxic situation like this.
Most people don't put GTH (Go To Hell) money in the bank. 6 - 12 months is usually enough.

My friend Ivan said it well.

1 x your annual take home and you don't owe anything to that job.

10 x and you don't owe anything to any job.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Motivation and running

I am drifting back into running. My motivation is low even though my body seems ready. I ran 30 minutes yesterday and 40 minutes (plus) today. I feel so removed from anything approaching fast even though I continue to be engaged at breakfast. Of course that is eating and talking. Tom, who was sitting next to me, asked why I decided to stop racing. That was back in 1995. I told him that the race times I was running were my motivation for staying in the game and they had dropped off significantly from my best years of competition. Even though they were competitive for my age group I was no longer motivated by them. As you age you don't get faster, especially if you have been racing for 25 years. Age is a relentless competitor, said Bill Bowerman.

Tom asked me if I could see why other runners would keep on competing even though they were slowing too. I told him that I could absolutely see it. Mine was a simply personal choice only meant to pertain to me.

If I went back to racing, I would go with a clean mental slate (and that would be the challenge). So if my first race was 25 minutes for 5K then that would be my PR. The days when I could run 10 minutes faster would be irrelevant. I gave away my trophy's and medals a few years back. I have never missed them. For all I know they are being reused in some youth program or moldering is some land fill. For me it was never about awards. It was always about being the fastest runner I could be on a given day.

I always like the journey and I have thought about racing again but starting clean. But you have to forget about they way it used to be. It's an anchor otherwise.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Desk Rage

The article below appeared on Yahoo today.

I guess it's OK to get angry again at work after so many years of being told it was politically incorrect. Actually this is just typical Zoo Animal behavior. When people take out there frustrations at work is usually against peers or that other other position, the underling. Ta Dah!

It's the lion who bites their keeper arm off. It biting the hand that feed you.

Being in Human Resources for years you all kinds of rage. Some of it gets physical. One time at Sun, a father and son, both employees, got in to a fight in the hallway outside my office. Everyone scattered for safety. I walked out and told them to get a hold of themselves except later on I realized that they did have of hold themselves (in this case being each other). Not being very physically imposing, I was surprised when they immediately let go of each other. I pulled them into a nearby conference room and had them sit down.

Towering over them, if 5'7" can tower over anyone but Hobbits, I told them in no uncertain alpha male terms that I was going to leave the office and if they came out without being able to shake hands I would make sure that both were put on warning which could include being fired. Physical violence was cause of immediate dismissal.

"Don't come out until you've settled this," I warned them. Then I slammed the door on the way out.

A few minutes later they came out, shook hands, and that was that. No repeat incident.

Later on their respective boss, John, a good colleague of mine, came up to my office. He had heard about the ruckus and wanted to know the details. Because John and I had faced the scabbard (this another story) he approved of the way I had handled it. Both were decent employees but they couldn't separate home problems from work.

So what do I believe? Zero tolerance (OK maybe one warning). But the culture has to support it.

I had a coach in my senior year of high school who warned very succinctly about goofing off at track meets or practice (Oh I was a funny one!). I did it one too many times and he kicked me off the team. It cost me a Varsity Block Letter.


Desk rage spoils workplace for many Americans

By Ellen Wulfhorst Thu Jul 10, 12:35 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Get out of the way, road rage. Here comes desk rage.

Anger in the workplace -- employees and employers who are grumpy, insulting, short-tempered or worse -- is shockingly common and likely growing as Americans cope with woes of rising costs, job uncertainty or overwhelming debt, experts say.

"It runs the gamut from just rudeness up to pretty extreme abusive behaviors," said Paul Spector, professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of South Florida. "The severe cases of fatal violence get a lot of press but in some ways this is more insidious because it affects millions of people."

Nearly half of U.S. workers in America report yelling and verbal abuse on the job, with roughly a quarter saying it has driven them to tears, research has shown.

Other research showed one-sixth of workers reported anger at work has led to property damage, while a tenth reported physical violence and fear their workplace might not be safe.

"It's a total disaster," said Anna Maravelas, author of "How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress." "Rudeness, impatience, people being angry -- we used to do that kind of stuff at home but at work, we were professional. Now it's almost becoming trendy to do it at work.

"It was something we did behind closed doors," she said. "Now people are losing their sense of embarrassment over it."

Contemporary pressures such as rising fuel costs fan the flames, said John Challenger, head of Chicago's Challenger, Gray & Christmas workplace consultants.

"People are coming to work after a long commute, sitting in traffic watching their discretionary income burn up. They're ready for a fight or just really upset," he said.

Added to that, he said, are financially strapped workers having to cut back on paying for personal pastimes that might serve as an antidote to work pressures.


"That means people come into work after a weekend and they haven't been able to let off any steam," he said.

Spector said his research has found 2 percent to 3 percent of people admit to pushing, slapping or hitting someone at work. With roughly 100 million people in the U.S. work force, he said, that's as many as 3 million people.

Maravelas said she conducted a seminar this week in rural Iowa, where she asked participants if they thought anger was increasing at their workplace.

Everyone raised their hands, she said, which is typically the response she gets. She cited research showing 88 percent of U.S. employees think incivility is rising at work.

"Many of us sense we're losing ground economically and socially. The safety net is unraveling. Hence, anxiety and unease are skyrocketing," she said.

People reassure themselves by blaming others and "find comfort in believing their suffering is caused by a callous, incompetent or selfish organization, leader, supplier, union or regulatory body," she said.

The worst offenders are overachievers, said Rachelle Canter, a workplace expert and social psychologist. "The usual profile is Type A, really, really smart, with impossibly high standards they set for themselves as well as for other people.

"They are so invested, I would say maybe over-invested, in success and in everyone being every bit as driven as they are that they just lose their sense of perspective, and they can lash out at other people," said Canter, author of "Make the Right Career Move."

But desk rage extends across industry and class lines, from top white-collar jobs to gritty blue-collar work, and companies pay dearly in terms of lost productivity, sagging morale and higher absenteeism, Spector said.

The worst cases end in violence, he said.

"Somebody didn't just come to work one day and shoot somebody," Spector said. "There's probably been a pattern of less extreme behaviors leading up to it."

Thursday, July 10, 2008


All in all a quiet week for the Silicon Valley Warrior. I am practicing for my time off later this year. I was talking to a friend today with a good friend who is being laid off. Of course it is mutual. We both mutually agree that I am going to be laid off.

Anyway, mindfulness came up. Slowing things down and doing things more deliberately. So much of what we are conditioned to do is response based.

24-7. Not a football score but a bulls**t term someone came up with to show that they were on the job all the time. We surround ourselves with PDA's and cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging and email. We literally insure that we can't be anything else but up to date or falling behind. Falling behind what might be the question but still these tools, which many of us are slaves to, insure that we can always be reached and always respond.

One guy I coached (sorry it always seems to be a guy) use to take phone calls in meetings.

"Hi Honey," he would say loudly. It was his common law wife or whatever. In any case they share a house and headaches.

"Honey. I am in a meeting. Can I call you back?"

OK, sweets. I love you Honey.

I finally took him out in the hallway and told him to stuff the phone up his a**. Well, you know where.

"It might be an emergency," he said.

"How often is it an emergency?" I asked.

He looked sheepish.

I mean damn! Even the CEO wasn't taking cell phone calls during meetings.

But he wasn't alone. People do it all the time. They stare at their phones myopically. "Gee whiz, I wonder who this call is from? Hold on just a minute," they finally say as they take the call. Ten minutes later, unable to tell the caller that they are in a meeting, they are still talking. I don't get too uptight about it. I do tend to wander off if their call takes too long though. I believe that cell phones give people a false sense of being important and make them not have to be alone with themselves.
Marilyn Monroe died phoning people. Phones were a drug to her.

The worst of the offenders tend to turn over their jobs more rapidly because despite the fact they are always reachable, that bonding person to person connection just doesn't happen.

Finding a job is an art form. So is keeping one.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Back at Forbes Mill (for runners)

Jake and I met early (7:30 AM) to beat the heat. We ran up and back in 24:32 which seemed very easy to me. Good Sign! Then we jogged over to the track that swarming with the San Jose State Girl's Cross Country Team. Jake went off and ran some drills and then 30 meter dashes. I ran 8 x flying 100 meters starting gingerly (my calf is fine. I want it to remain that way). 21-21-21-20-20-19-19-18. 300 easy jog recovery. I ran into Augie Argabright the head coach over at SJ State. He stated the Cindergals back in the 1960's which spawned Francie Larrieu. She made the Olympic team at various distances 5 times! Cyndy Poor also came out of the group. She ran on the 1976 Olympic Team.

Here's the scoop on him from the SJSUS web page.


Augie Argabright embarks on his 14th season as the San Jose State University cross country head coach in 2007. The women’s head coach since 1994, he added the duties as the men’s head coach in 1997 when the program was reinstated.

His student-athletes have earned 15 All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC) honors, 61 Academic All-WAC accolades and two Cross Country Only national championships. In addition, two of his women’s teams were honored for academic excellence by the Women’s Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association.

During his five-decade professional career, he has coached 12 high school cross country All-Americans, 10 U.S. cross country and seven high school state track and field champions.

A pioneer in women’s cross country circles, he formed the San Jose Cindergals Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team in 1967 and was its director and head coach until 1982. The Cindergals were recognized as one of the world’s top teams under his direction and won nine AAU national championships.

Argabright coached five-time U.S. Olympian and 1992 Opening Ceremonies flag bearer Francie Larrieu and two-time U.S. Olympian Cyndy Poor. He was a three-time coach of the U.S. Track and Field team and a two-time coach of the U.S. National cross country team.

The 1971 San Jose State graduate established the cross country and track and field programs at West Valley College in 1977. West Valley won two state championships in cross country and two in track and field. He was named the 1980 California Community College Coach of the Year.

“This is a great place to run if you want to be successful in the classroom and on the course,” said Argabright. “With our main schedule in the fall and our lighter schedule in the spring, you can take more classes or harder classes in the spring. If you want to run in college, academics must come first. Then, this is the best place to come.”

“Augie is one of those very rarest of coaches who combines science and knowledge, with passion for what he does to help young people better themselves,” said Brooks Johnson, former Stanford University and USA national team track and field coach.

Argabright and his wife, Kathy, reside in San Jose. They have two grown children, Jeff and Meg.

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Rules of Influence

Rules Of Influence

People at work are always complaining that they don’t have enough power but if they stopped and took a big deep breath, they would all realize that they do have something else and that is influence.

Every way that people are going to act has already happened. Oh, the technology changes but human behavior has changed very little over the past thirty to forty thousand years. So when we are trying to figure out how to deal with a people type challenge we can easily just study history.

You don’t have to go back to far to figure the best way to influence people. Less than a hundred years in fact. Lawrence of Arabia figured it out back in 1917 when he was in the middle of successfully influencing the Arab tribes of the Western Arabia to revolt against the Ottoman Turks during World War One. He documented what he found out about influencing tribes in his Twenty-Seven Articles. Here are the highlights. I have shortened them down and modernized the language so us twenty-first century folks can understand what he was getting at.

1. When approaching a new situation start slow. A bad start is tough to fix.
2. Don’t make it about you. It has to be about them. If you draw too much attention to yourself people won’t trust you.
3. Dress like the people you are influencing.
4. Know and understand the different culture.
5. Don’t make people act or follow your strategy. Figure out how to adapt to their way of doing things.
6. It is better that others do it poorly than that you do it yourself.
7. Get to know and work through the leaders. Put their needs before yours.
8. Have a good sense of humor. You will need it.
9. Don’t drive people to do things. Lead them. They will follow your recommendations once they trust you.
10. Don’t try to influence in big meetings. Get in the tent of the leaders (get their trust) so you can drop by and suggest things on the fly. They will be better received.

Here are all 27 of them (below) just as Lawrence wrote them up back in 1917. There may be some words you don’t understand but if you have a computer you can always look them up. It’s the ability to translate what has happened in the past and harvest the big rules and apply them to the present that is the secret.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Thoughts about Training (non runners can skip)

I walked 60 minutes today. Half of it with Amber, the amazing 12 year old Golden Retriever.

I was thinking more about what it is going to take for me to run "fast" again. Some of it I like and some it I don't like.

I need to drop weight. 135 pounds would be optimal.

The mile is my way back like it or not. If I can get my mile time down, all else will follow.

The key to the mile is getting my 400 meter time down. I need to gap the per lap pace of my date pace mile by about 15 seconds. So for example If I wanted to run a 5:40 mile which is 85 seconds per lap, it would help if I could run a 70 second 400.

The key to the 400 is sprint 100's. It's not important that I run these all out as much as it is important that they enable me to run a 70 second 400.

Strength can come from running over distance time trials and speed from running under distance trials plus those 100's. In a word I need to bracket the 1600 with 400, 800 and 3200 meter pace runs as well as 1600 meter trials. This isn't about doing intervals as much as trials.

Dimitri can help me. I can say to him, take me through a quick 400 and he is glad to do it. It is right down his alley anyway.

The rest of my running will be slow and easy. Steady running, while fun, tends to leave me in a state of constant fatigue. I will miss those progression runs. Good for the head but bad for the body.

News Fast

I am beginning to believe someone who once said that a news fast is good for one's sole. Not watching the news or reading the papers or scanning the Internet for the latest has been an interesting experience. News can create anxiety. There is little any of us can do about what we read anyway. Yes, 41 people were blown up in Kandahar the other day. Of course I wouldn't even be in Afghanistan if it were up to me but as long as we are there, there is not one iota I can do to stop a suicide bomber from blowing themselves up in a crowded area. I have had a lifetime full of floating anxiety and fear. So have most of us.

Yeah, 9-11 was a biggie. I get that. It was hard to pull my eyes away from the TV set. It was mesmerizing and terrible all at once. But short of flying to New York and working at ground zero there was little I was going to really do except to check up on some of my east coast friends to make sure they were all OK.

One of them wasn't by the way. Phil Rosenzweig had died in the second plane to hit a tower in the World Trade Center. He was a colleague of mine at Sun Microsystems. I had been his HR guy when I worked at Sun Labs.

I left Sun in mid 1998. Phil died on 9-11 in 2001 and in 2004 I returned to Sun for a contract job and often took my coffee sitting on a marble bench dedicated to his memory. It was out in the courtyard under some lovely trees.

Anyway, back to this news fast idea. Last year I stopped following the news for months at a time. I missed nothing of importance even though many important things happened. This year I got sucked back in by the primaries until I could puke at the sight of any of the major political candidates. Then I shut it down again. Between cell phones, PDA's, computers, the Internet and newspapers, we have many tools and little privacy. It interferes with our mindfulness. I am not saying that we should dump it all. I am just saying it is good to turn it off for a time.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Bond Girl

Well they just announced the latest Bond Girl. One of the reasons I was left off the committee (again) was because I recommended America Ferrera with the stipulation that she play the role as Ugly Betty. Looks like I lost out. They name that pops up is Olga Kurylenko another TALL one. At least Ugly Betty is real sized. I'll pass on the movie. They can spritz it up all they want but until they put some real people in it, the whole franchise is just way too antiseptic.

Getting Fired

My first job after college was with 3M. I was in the manager's training program starting off at the order desk for microfilm sales office in Redwood City. That ought to date things. In any case I lasted about 3-4 months and was fired. I had no real training. The guy who had the job before me, Chuck (God, I can still remember his name!) was leaving the day after I started. He took me through the basics and then was gone. Now there was another order desk guy right across the hall for another division but no one ever thought to have me spend time with him. I was also pretty green and the thought didn't occur to me either.

The first month I led all sales offices in errors. My boss, Ray made sure that he threw that one in my face. Can't say I blamed him. It was up around 16%.

The next month focused hard on improving my score. Every time you made an error the warehouse in Santa Clara would send you a notification in the interoffice mail. I traced the number of orders I put through and the number of errors. It was simply math.


Anyway after my second month I knew I was down around 3% which based on the number from the month before told me I would be among the leaders. I waited for Ray to bring that tally sheet in but it never showed up. I asked about it but was given some sort of mumbling excuse about that not being very important. I was only 22 but even at this point I knew something was wrong.

In the meantime I had figured out a way to speed up order processing so that some of our very pissed off customers could get overdue product. One of the very angriest was a small company called United Airlines. Most orders were sent in by interoffice mail. In a few cases each month I called in orders directly to the warehouse and sent in the order paperwork at backup. It seems that this was against policy. Bottom Line: Sales people happy, former pissed off customers happy but someone wasn't happy.

One day I am covering the front lobby when someone walked in to interview for my job. Even this dim witted, green behind the ears, recent college grad knew what was up. I talked to my father about it.

"They are going to fire you," he said without any fanfare.

I decided to hang in there and get fired. My father and I agreed that it would be a good experience. Strange but true. It was the beginning of my oddity for the surreal in the world of work. Each day I would chant silently to myself, Today I am going to be fired! Today I am going to be fired.

Strangely it didn't happen for another month. My error rate was down to about 1% but I knew that at this point I was a dead man walking. When I was finally fired I went out gracefully. The sales people were very pissed and so were several of our big customers. I didn't tell them. The sales resp did. One of the senior VP's over at United called me and offered me a job with them sight unseen.

"As long as you don't have two heads," he added cautiously. I thanked him profusely but said that my future lay elsewhere. I was 22 and already burned to a cinder.

I always thought Ray was sort of a jerk for not letting me know what was going on but recently I realized that he was just a young branch manager trying to make a go of it and I was a loose cannon. Maybe if I were him I would have fired me too. He still ranks among my worst bosses (even though I forgive him). In presidential terms I would rate him below James Buchanan, who put off the whole Civil War so Lincoln could deal with it but above Bush Junior who never found a war he didn't like.


On the running front. I jogged an easy 40 minutes today. I got out before 9 am. The heat is settling in and will hammer the Bay Area for the next 4-5 days.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Sign of the Consultant

I have been a consultant for 6 years. I have had numerous clients. Every now and then I run into a worker bee (like I once was) who becomes enamored with my work, life style. They want to be a consultant too.

I have this business name, Last Chance Consulting. For many clients I am their last chance to turn things around before their organization topples down around them.

The other day a guy I have been coaching, calls me and tells me that he is finally getting the hang of this Last Chance Consulting thing. Of course he is not a consultant but an employee of a client. I have already warned him repeatedly that his job is at risk. He is a bit like the Holy Roman Empire. Neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Recently I have just gone silent on him. Way too high a bloody body count to prop him up. Good person, means well but he is like a woolly mammoth running off a cliff.

I have to turn away. This guy will crash and burn. Not much money in the bank. He has not made it priority to put some cushion dough for situations just like he will be facing head on soon enough. I hate it when you are only as good as your last paycheck.
You can make millions a year but if you don't put some of it away, you are toast.

Anyway, here are some of the signs of a true consultant

1. You can walk away from any job at any time. This is true whether a client blows you out or you blow them out.

2. You have go to hell money in the bank. Even 6 months will do it. You make putting this money in the bank a priority because you know this is part of your strategy. See number 1 above. Otherwise you are just another employee-type in hiding.

3. You don't need an office, computer or phone at the client site. Nice to have but you can operate without it.

4. You have no need to go to company party's and events. You either get this or you don't. Most people don't.

5. Job title and pay no longer are an element in your work strategy. You charge what you feel you are worth or what is fair. That is that. Your title? Consultant.

6. The price to make you go inside is way too high. Loss of freedom (see number 1). Doesn't mean you'll never do this but it would only be for a set period and for a large amount of stock and even that is a big maybe.

I had to struggle to get to this place in my life. I took the long way around route (stupid me) but I still got there.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Break Time

I am thinking of taking 3-4 months off from work. My present contract runs through the end of September but maybe I can get out early. I won't walk out but if the company doesn't seem to need me, I will gladly slowly evaporate. I have been working solidly for the past 28 years. OK, I have been consulting part time for the past 6 years but I am overdue. The goal is not to stop working just to take a break and see how it feels.

I always thought it would be easy to walk away. I certainly did in 1974, 1976 and 1979 but my conditioning has changed. I keep saying "this is it" but it never really is. I was thinking about how we cage ourselves. In Lord of the Rings, Aragorn speaks to Eowyn a maiden of Rohan about such things.

"What do you fear, lady?" he asked.

"A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."

The Return of the King: "The Passing of the Grey Company,"

The words of Eowyn, daughter of the King of Rohan.

Zoo Animals and Beasts of Prey, A Parable

There are two types of workers in Silicon Valley.

The first types are zoo animals. That accounts for most of us. We like to feel safe and we like to stay put and be fed every day by our keeper. The really good animals try to stay in a zoo as long as possible. Eventually they lose whatever hunting instinct they ever had. If the zoo lets them out they wouldn’t have a basic idea of where to get their next meal. It is important for Zoo animals to fit in and not make too many waves. It’s particularly not a good idea to bite the keeper even though it happens now and then.

If a zoo animal consistently misbehaves they might be put out to fend for themselves or they might be sent to the circus where they have to perform special tricks for a time and then they might be let back in the zoo.
Good little zoo animals really get off on being part of the zoo community and doing zoo type events. In time they come to expect them.

The second type is a beast of prey. A prey animal does not like the zoo and in fact prefers to be out on the plains fending for themselves. They will take a chance and go for a long time in between meals to stay independent even though, now and then, they will come into a habitat just for the food then they will quickly disappear again. They can’t perform and do tricks like zoo or circus animals. They can only be themselves.

Sometimes you’ll see animals that will call themselves beasts of prey but they will come and squat in a zoo for a long time while telling the zoo animals the glory of being independent. But in fact they are not prey animals at all. These are really zoo habitat animals that can survive knowing that while they don’t officially belong to the zoo, they are allowed to stay as long as they perform tricks now and then. When they are asked to leave the zoo they become quite indignant. That’s when everyone knows them for what they really are.

One of my very favorite zoos is a place called Zoogle. It is a very big zoo and the animals are expected to act quite tame. It helps if they went through some sort of well-regarded animal obedience schooling and scored highly when tested for what type of tricks they could do. If you take a tour of Zoogle different talking animals will come out of their cages and give you pre-scripted speeches about what they do. By the way, old animals need not apply.

Beasts of prey best stay away from places like Zoogle. There are many other interesting hunting grounds and sources of fresh meat. Even though Zoogle has a half dozen or so feeding troughs, beasts of prey would rather go hungry for a day or two. The food is advertised as free but the price is living in a cage. That is way too high a price to pay for a beast. Beasts may not get regular meals or live as long as Zoo animals but they get to live life as nature intended, living freely on the open plains, hunting their next meal. Their instincts are intact.

But then it is all a matter of what type of animal you want to be.

35 minutes of glory

I ran an easy 35 minutes over at West Valley this morning. So the progress continues.
Went to breakfast afterward. Quite a crowd. Jake showed up. He is in recovery mode. He really blasted himself.

Which reminds me, when I get back up to steam I plan on doing perfect training. The only problem; what exactly is perfect training?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Up and Back

I returned to Forbes Mill today and ran a slow continuous up and back with Jake. 2.62 miles non stop. No problems. We walked 32 minutes afterward. I originally pulled my calf muscle on the 4th of June so this little side trip has been another month of rest and rehab.

Jake is very beat up between running dinky workouts himself on the days he should be resting and then trying to run with the kids he is coaching. I get it. You want to believe you can stay close but the pure fact is that they are 14-18 years old and we are in our 60's. The very best of us would have problems keeping up.