Thursday, December 31, 2015

A life well-lived

Yes, you can have a decent life even if you are filthy stinking rich. But you might have to work at it.

Ian Prior, writing in Bank of America's, says happiness and rewarding mean different things to different people.

A well-lived life should not be assessed at the end--but planned for, one of his sources says.

Still, they did a survey and many wealthy people are prepared for normal health care expenses, but not for biggies, such as a crisis of their own.

From the survey:

What is most important in life: Health (98%), family, financial security, connections, legacy, passions, personal growth, giving back, acconmplishments and work. In that order.

How did the respondent rate themselves? Overall health--B, Annual exams--B+, Healthy weight--B, Regular exercise--B, Balanced diet--B, Not smoking--A, Yoga, stretching etc--C, Stress relief--B-.

Only 93% identified as financially secure.

So where do you stand? Do you explore the meaning of life or strive for a life of meaning?

Hint: The latter does not necessarily involve piles of cash.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's c-c-c-old in here

I live in the desert--it is suppose to be killer hot in summer, sort of balmy in winter. It's 32 degrees out. I sit here wrapped in blankets typing with my thin desert blood.

Even in your workplace, I bet there are discussions over temperature.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, office temperature can be the subject of um...discussions.

Twenty percent of workers say they have clashed with a coworker over the heat or air.

People feel temperature affects their ability to work. It does--the whimpering alone.

So what do people do--according to the survey?

--Dress in layers (44%)

--Drink hot beverages (36%)

--Wear a jacket all day (27%)

--Use a space heater (15%)

--Use a blanket *7%)

You maybe could even more to a warmer space--say the conference room--if your supervisor says OK.

I go the layers and blanket route with hot tea.

A friend who also works at home has an electric blanket for her legs. Sounds toasty about now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hiring the overqualified can help your business

You're not alone, Clark.
You know the old saying--Overqualified people will work for a while and leave when something better comes along.

But two assistant profs of management at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, recently published a paper in the J of Applied Psych, says when over qualified people see they are not the only big fish in the pond they tend to be more favorable about their overqualification and perform better.

Normalized in the workplace, overqualification, in other words, exerts a positive influence.

When an overqualified person comes on board, they should be shown they are in good company and are working with a highly qualified group.

OK, you heard it here first.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holidays are waning, but home-cooked meals are not

Despite all the indignant sputtering about fast food, consumers prepare five evening meals a week at home.

Home cooking seems to increase slightly with age, says the Institute of Food Technologists. Millennials eat dinner out the most, but not by much.

Over the past five years, the percentage of consumers who like to try new recipes increased by 32%.

Eighteen percent of households use their slow cookers.

Garlic, onion, peppers, jalapeno peppers, balsamic vinegar, chives, and feta are the most popular pantry staples, according to Gallup.

Stir fry dinner kits, packaged meal kits, and heat-and-eat pasta and potatoes are hits with Millennials.

One in four home cooks also wants to keep up traditional and cultural recipes and and dishes.

This is good, right?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Transformers--giving the gift of leadership?

Autobot or Decepticon? Beats me.
Dunno where some of these stories come from--universities, yes--but do they just try to gin up holiday subjects? Probably.

Dr Peter Harms, assistant prof of management in the Culverhouse College of Commerce, says the popular Transformers toys provide lessons in leadership.

Leaders must lead in unusual contexts, he says--and fighting robots disguised as cars fit the description of unusual context, he says.

Yes--he did a paper, along with Seth Spain of Binghamton University, which will be included in the Emerald Group Publishing's book series "Monographs in Leadership and Management."

They looked at the personality characteristics of the Transformers on the boxes and in the DVDs.

Both the Autobots and their rivals, the evil Decepticons, are more intelligent, powerful, and courageous than their team members.


Intelligence was the one necessary condition for effective leadership. You have to be the decider.


The Decepticons are highly centralized--one leader, few followers. The Autobots and their leaders show a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the team.

The Decepticons are always trying to overthrow the leader.

I am not sure the average 8-yr old will get all this...Maybe subliminally.

Do kids pipe up wanting to be Autobots? No clue.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

'Splaining gaps in your resume

People, especially these days, do not work straight through--they may be laid off, leave to raise kids, relocate with no new job on tap, take time to buzz over to the Himalayas...any number of reasons.

Katherine Nobles, a contributor to Career Contessa, has some tips for explaining fallow periods in your work history.

--First, get comfortable with your positives and don't over-focus on that gap. What are your strengths, what have you learned from past experiences, how could you help the organization grow? The interviewer may be less interested in the gap than you are.

--That time off--how did it work for you? Did it improve your coping skills, your organizational skills? Did you freelance? Volunteer? Learn a language?

--Be honest and open...though diplomatic. Don't exaggerate or lie. Don't speak badly of another employer. Talk about what you learned about the industry, about yourself.

The point it--think about all this ahead of time...Be ready.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How to get motivated--try to enjoy the challenge

Do you think you guys are the only people I try to get off the dime to do hard things? My own family members need motivation all the time!  I do, even.

It's too easy to slop around, not open bills because you have no money, not take a chance on looking for a new job, put up with an abusive person, and so on.

But one thing I have learned kicking around this planet for many decades is--face facts, see what you are looking at, make some sort of plan...take it one step at a time. Just facing down unpleasant facts can give some relief.

A new study from the Univ of Chicago Booth School of Business (J of Personality and Social Psychology) says once you get into an activity, say your "plan," it becomes a positive experience.

They also found when looking back on an activity, their test subjs tended to underestimate how important it was to actually do it.

Also: Those working out in a gym valued having an enjoyable workout more than those surveyed before working out.

Sooo...where does this leave us... If you have an unpleasant task to face, plunge in, see the satisfactions in each step of doing it, give yourself credit for not being an immature scrub always with your head in the sand.

You stood up! It might even be fun...well, fun may be too strong.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Kitchen solutions looking for problems?

What, this old thing?
From the Institute of Food Technologists come some things we can look for in the kitchen of the future.

--Appliances will be wired to monitor their contents and reorder when supplies run low. Products nearing expiration would be moved to the front (how, I wonder).

--Each family member can print the dinner they want using a countertop 3D printer--and the food will be printed out, taking into consideration allergies, likes, dislikes. etc.

--Induction cooktops will heat only the area being used.

--Counters, sinks and cooking surfaces will move up or down at the touch of a button.

--Facial recognition will even do this when a person walks in.

--Virtual chefs will appear to walk people through food prep.

--The kitchen will consult with your fitness system--yes, you need more carbs after a strenuous workout.

--Video monitoring will help you see what's in the fridge.

--Also in the fridge--ultraviolet light to sterilize food, and a blast chiller will keep it freezy.

Golly, I don't know how I manage cooking and eating leftovers, with my one-height stove that doesn't know me from Adam's cat--and just turns on and cooks stuff.

By the way--I don't want the darn appliances ordering things and spending money I may not have.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Santa is all business

Ryan Holmes, CEO of, says the Jolly Old Elf is a tough businessman.

He has maintained a large global operation from a remote site for hundreds of years. His net worth, according to Forbes, is infinity dollars.

--He knows how to delegate. He relies on those elves. He doesn't waste time looking over their shoulders. Mrs. Claus does the baking. The toys are top-notch, the assembly line never breaks down. He saves on clothes and decisions with a uniform.

--Again, he thinks globally and did so before this became trendy.

--He has delivery down pat. All in one night--a supreme feat even Amazon can't match.

--He has tremendous customer support because of his exceptional service. He offers free chimney delivery, although this is a huge pain. You can write him, sit on his lap--he's everywhere.

We can't all be Santa, but Trump (eyeroll) and Bezos can't hold a Christmas candle to this guy.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

So you want to start a food business....

Aw--just kidding.
Every episode of SHARK TANK, it seems, has at least one food hopeful. Cupcakes, barbecue, health drinks, you name it. The Sharks always remark that this is a very hard business segment to crack--so much competition.

But, these days, according to Julian Mellentin,, millennials are food explorers--fusions, new tastes. Snacks based on seaweed alone are already a $250 million market.

Some pluses:

If the volumes of potential customers are low, you can come in under the radar and not run into the big boys coming to eat your lunch. Peter Drucker, business guru from Harvard, lauds the small market.

The new wrinkles are low volume--but can command high prices. Twenty to 30% of people will bite on health and wellness--and they pay.

New brands, at least at first, can use alternative distribution channels such as gyms, health food stores, and gas stations/convenience stores.

Small brands can go directly to the consumer--sell online. The Hint no-sugar drink gets a quarter of its sales online.

With a small brand, you can take your time. The bigger brands kill off ideas if they don't make money immediately.

Some challenges:

You must keep a close eye on consumer behavior with small brands. People may get bored with baked chips (had some the other day--yuck).

If you have no recognition, you need to go the PR route and give out samples.

Cash flow from sales is not enough--sooner than you think, you will need an investor or many of them. A hundred grand is mimimum for marketing and fulfillment of orders.

But this does not mean it can't be done. Even a company that sends out whole cakes made it big on SHARK TANK.

Cake is something you can get anyplace--but it worked as an online business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The future of clothes

Memory Mirror in action.
Was reading Marie Claire magazine (Jan) and came across a story on the future of shopping. They asked some clothes mavens what they predicted.

Leila Yavari, fashion director of Virtual dressing rooms--try on from your phone. And soon--buy directly from Instagram and Pinterest feeds. She also would like to see an Instant Outfit Machine like on the Jetson's.

Lauren Santo Domingo, cofounder, Moda Operandi: Etailers will add personal shopping and private salons for trying on,

Rebecca Minkoff, designer: Brick and mortar stores will go higher tech. Touchscreen mirrors--get another size with a tap on the screen. Outdoor and sunset lighting in the booth, too.

Sarah Rutson, vp, Net-A-Porter: Social media-based buying is coming.

Carmen Busquets, fashion investor. People will custom-design their own clothes on the screen and get them sent to the door.

Note: Neiman Marcus has Memory Mirrors--capturing images and video so you can compare outfits side my side.

A video of my rear end? No.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ah, Facebook--how can I quit you?

Actually, I did quit. The day of the IPO. But others I know continue to participate...

But hasn't everyone wanted to quit? Reclaim their time? Not find out weird and embarrassing things about their friends?

Now Cornell Information Science tells us why leaving this pastime is so hard to do.

--Perceived addiction. People who think Facebook really is an addiction, strumming those endorphins or whatever, are more                                                            likely to return.

--Privacy and surveillance. If you used Facebook to manage what others think of you, it's harder to quit and you are more likely to come back. If you think your are being monitored--it's easier.

--Your mood. In a good mood? Easier to quit.

--Other social media may play a role. Say you have Twitter--it may be easier to quit Facebook. But if you really think about the appropriate role of media in your life, you may alter your Facebook--taking it off your phone, reducing your friends, or limiting the time you spend there.

Still Facebook is how some groups stay in touch...and many people love it.

So...if you are being thoughtful about it and it is not devouring your life and you don't care if the govt and companies "spy" on you, play through.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Do not say this to someone who's been laid off

Yes, people are still getting laid off, despite the perky official statements.

Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder, reminds us that people who have lost their job can range from angry, to depressed, to in denial, to humiliated. What you say next can matter.

Some no-nos:

"Don't let it get you down." A job loss can feel like a death--you can go through the five stages of grief--of course, you are down. Give the person time and space before throwing this one out.

"You'll bounce back." How do you know? This may be an emotional downward spiral. And don't try those dumb ideas like "Everything happens for a reason" or "When a door closes..."

"What did you do?" Hey--maybe the person did nothing to deserve it, but thanks for blaming it on them.

"Wish I had a reason to leave my job." You don't.

"Well, here is MY advice..." Who asked?

"OMG, are you freaked out right now?" Maybe the person was dealing, but THEN got freaked out hearing that.

Instead, Lorenz says, say: "I am here for you." And listen--don't always try to fix or give advice, just listen.

Speaking of listening, I listened to a sort of funny book called, "Nothing Happens Until it Happens to You," by a newspaper columnist named T.M. Shine, who gets abruptly laid off. It had its moments--he languished in unemployment, encountered a nutty life coach, seemed to get pretty used to being a costumed waver (see pix), reluctantly rides a dolphin, befriends a crazy neighbor woman, looks for a long-lost grade school buddy, drinks in a clearing in the woods with his pals, and of course, sends out  few resumes.

Some of these strategies are not recommended, by the way.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gifting at the office

Like the word "gift" as a verb? Me, either.

But I digress. Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder, says 21% of workers plan to buy presents for coworkers--and 20% also plan to give the boss a gift.

They asked some workers what the weirdest gift they ever received from a coworker was.

--Duct tape

--A squirrel toilet seat decal

--A bag with a coat in it

--A giant heart-shaped candy (maybe from another holiday?)

--A picture of a bear

--A bowling ball

--Homemade sausages

--A ceramic sheep with clothes for every season

Employers are also feeling the spirit. Sixty-six percent plan to give a holiday party this year--up 3% from last year.

Forty-five percent will give employees gifts, 47% charity donations.

OK OK--the bonus. Fifty-four percent plan a holiday bonus, up from 47% last year.

I remember back when I had a real job--they gave lavish parties, in a hotel, formal. Then it went to in the office. Then it went to a gift certificate from the local grocery store. This was noted, believe me.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Finding a mentor--not a piece of cake

A mentor is sort of like a life coach within your company or industry. The person knows the ropes, knows the people, looks out for you and provides advice.

Cassie Weber, Government Executive, No 19, 2015. said she once asked a bunch of journalists if she could be their protege. She sent warm, hand written letters. But these people did not know her, had no interest, and tossed the notes.

So she has some tips:

Be sure someone is isn't already looking out for you. You may not need a formal mentor.

Know the difference between a sponsor and a mentor. A sponsor helps you win promotions, maneuver around people, take the next step. A mentor could even be someone from your past outside of your work world.

Check your network for mentor possibilities. You need good personal chemistry.

Be honest--does the relationship work? What if the person is not, over time, really that supportive--or even goes against you. Trust your gut.

Make sure the relationship is mutual.  Send little notes, clippings that would interest them--and are not just about you.

Maybe you need a posse or group instead of a single mentor. Met, set goals, report back.

Mentor someone else--see what it's like.

Remember, mentors can come at any stage--you don't need to find one for your whole career.

According to Weber, finding a mentor is like love--you need to be open, ready--but can't force it.

I had several mentors, and I mentored. Usually, I found, you fall into it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hey, kids, math and science for all this Christmas

Melissa Jurist, program manager of K-12 education at the College of Engineering, Univ of Delaware, has some suggestions for kids who love science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

These are the tools real scientists use, she says.

Younger kids (4-6): A stethoscope to check the dog's heartbeat and also their own.

Owl pellets--you an get these online--pick them open and find little mouse bones and other things the owl could not digest and whurpsed up instead.

Magnets are fun--large enough to not be swallowed, even by smaller siblings.

Older kids (7-12): Dissect a chicken leg (this means a scalpel and careful supervision).

Make something out of balsa, a light as air wood, that will hold 5 pounds.

How about a pantograph--learn math from scale--trace a small item and make it bigger.

Check out Arduno and Raspberry Pi--about $50.A huge online community comes with this.

Learn coding.

It's OK for kids to fail, for their structure to aids learning.

And all this also requires a lot of hands-on parenting. So come on, all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Toxic worker can cost a company

Amy X. Wang, Government Executive magazine, Dec 4, 2015, says a working paper out of Harvard Business School looked at the performance of more than 50,000 employees at 11 companies and concluded that rooting out a toxic employee saved the company twice as much as hiring a fabulous new one.

Mostly, in this study, the cost of the toxic worker was from other employees quitting because of the person.

Hiring a superstar benefited the companies an average of  $5,303. Avoiding a toxic person benefited the companies $12, 489.

What is toxic? If you have to ask...

OK--they meant pushy, aggressive, and inappropriate. This covers a lot as everyone reading this knows.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Of course, failure is an option

"Failure is not an option." NASA never said this, but it ended up in the script for Apollo 13, according to Robert D. Behn, a lecturer at the JFK School of Govt at Harvard, writing in Govt Executive magazine.

Of course, failure is an option--it happens all the time. I think it was Thomas Edison who said, "What do you mean I don't know anything--I know 5,000 things that don't work."

Tom failed--a lot. But you have the lights on, don't you? So did Lincoln, Churchill, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, Darwin, Beethoven, Steve jobs and Bill Gates.

In fact, failure precedes almost all success.We can't always invent, on the first try, a perfect solution.

Experimentation means failure of experiments as well as success.

In science, we consider a "guess" a hypothesis. Sounds better, doesn't it? Acting on this guess then most often results in failure.

But when success comes, it's that much sweeter. That is me talking, not that Harvard guy.

Friday, December 4, 2015

No rest for the weary job hunter

According to Richard Eisenberg, Forbes, many unemployed people knock off the hunt for the holidays, figuring everyone is too busy to worry about hiring.

Mistake--he quotes Susan P. Joyce of as saying.

This is a great time she says.

You can "Netplay"--not Network--at this time of year. Reconnect, Catch up. You will also meet new people at parties.

You may also be able to schedule "informational nterviews" when people are less busy between Christmas and New Year's.

In fact, that week is "magic," says Nan S. Russell, Job-Hunt's loss recovery expert. Sometimes the gatekeepers are not around, but the bosses are.

Tag up with your Linked In connections...congratulate them on a birthday or wish them happy holidays.

If you get a family portrait taken, refresh your online photo--get one taken of just you. (I am guilty of using an old picture...)

Check out old HS or college friends on Facebook. See where they are in life.

Try to connect with recruiters during the holidays--same thing, the gatekeepers may be out.

Send holiday cards to people you have interviewed with.

Volunteer--you never know who may be serving soup next to you.

All of this does not mean you can be a crafty bore asking for a job every place you go. But it does mean you can't just stop the whole process.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Speak up during your next review

Sitting down for your annual review can stress your last nerve. Rather than hang your head and wait for blows to fall, how about asking some questions?

Guru Robert Half suggests one question could be: What steps do I need to take to get to the next level? Chances are the supervisor will be impressed with your ambition (what if the next level is her job?).

What are the dept's priorities for the coming year and how can I help meet them? This shows you are  team player.

What skills might I acquire to help improve my performance? The company may even pay.

What are the dept's successes over the past year? If you are flustered over a negative comment, this can shift the conversation to more positve realms.

What can I do to help my coworkers and management next year? This is especially good if you review is good--shows you are invested in the company's success.

Can we schedule a followup? Say you'd like to think about the information you've received and would like to discuss it further.

A review is an opportunity not a bloodbath. You may even get a raise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Shopping" at work can get you in trouble

Cheese it--the cops!
Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder, says shopping from the desk is on the rise. Half of workers say they will do it. forty-two percent will spend more than an hour.

Forty-two will use their phones or tablets to pare down the Christmas list. Last year, that was 27%.

But here comes The Grinch. Twelve percent of employers say they would fire someone caught doing this. This is up from 8% last year.

Of course, the holidays are not the only time employers worry about wasted time on personal activities. But this, year surveillance is up,

--36% of employers say their company monitors sites employees visit (4% last yr)

--55% prohibit posting o behalf of the company on social media (that was 50% last yr)

--28% say they have fired someone for using the internet for personal reasons and 18% have fired an employee for something posted on social media

You know your workplace--are you vulnerable? Your boss may be making a list and checking it twice.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Attention: Artists

Sadly, artists need day jobs in most instances. According to Caitlin Boho, CareerBuilder, these jobs are usually in retail or food service.

Jennifer Hudson used to sing into her mic at Burger King.

Kurt Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership.

Some possible gigs are:

Personal trainer. You can set your own schedule. And work out for free. Great for actors who are and want to be ripped.

Nanny. Check out websites like Again, you can get a flexible schedule.

Freelance photographer. Get a free website from someplace like Take headshots for actor friends. Build a portfolio.

Research assistant. Check with universities and think tanks.

Administrative assistant. Data entry, web research, proofreading, editing.

Or go Passion-Adjacent. Work in a gallery, build sets, be a production assistant,

A job gets you energized and out there. The ideas will flow.