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Catching My Breath Before The Next Wave

Rodney, we have decided to postpone the ribbon cutting for Louisville.

Till when?

January 14th.

I got about 45 minutes. That’s how long my travel calendar was free. This job was already turning into one of the most traveled in my career. (Five Percent Travel)

Louisville was our final call center opening for the year. We had squeezed the project schedule down to just over 2 months. And the team, my phenomenal team, pulled it off. We were all fairly burned out. My desktop engineer had literally passed out multiple times by pushing himself so hard.

The Fall is birthday season at my house. We had to carefully schedule birthday celebrations for the few days per month I would be home.

And it all wrapped up November 12 when our agents took their first call. Originally the schedule called for starting on Tuesday November 11th. But, that’s Veterans Day and we chose to honor the day by waiting. (And it didn’t hurt that it added an extra day to my schedule.)

But, the rest of the year was completely clear. I have a personal trip scheduled in December to fly “home” to Olympia, WA and be the best man as two old high school friends get married. . .to each other.

I wasn’t even done with my last trip when the Account Manager told me that we were coming back in January for the formal opening. Okay, but that’s just one trip. I’m sure that now that the site is up and running my schedule will settle down.

I got this letter in the mail.


You might be able to see the signature, but it’s signed by Matthew B. Durrant, Chief Justice, Utah Supreme Court.

Jury Duty.

Don’t get me wrong. I think jury duty is not just a duty but a privilege. My employer, like many employers gives me the time off. But, I had a problem. The summons was for next year. They said I might get called any time from Jan 2nd to March 31, and did I have any potential conflicts during that time?

Well, I knew I had one, but I was pretty sure there were going to be more. I went back to Scott, the Account Manager.

Do you know when we are planning to release the new lines of business next year?

I should.

What does that mean?

It means, I know we have 4 new product lines being released between January 20th and the end of February. I’m still a little fuzzy on the exact dates.

I’ll just say last two weeks of January and the first three weeks of February. . .

Don’t forget we have a trip to Texas for the Quarterly Business Review with the client in February.

. . .all of February.

I never imagined that 3 months out was not enough time to get something on my calendar. We are also opening another call center next year. That will be another month of travel.

Maybe I’ll get picked for a jury trial? Hopefully a really LONG jury trial. . .with a sequestered jury.

(Actually, I’m just thrilled to be working at a job where I get to solve interesting problems every day.Having a job is much better than no having a job.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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No Refunds? I Don’t Think So

I’m sorry. It’s our policy to not grant refunds.

I understand that, and I know you didn’t make the rules. So, let’s talk about some ways that we can resolve this.

Sometimes there is no way out except through. For example, if you signed a cell phone contract and two months later you want out, you are going to pay. If you want to break your lease and you don’t have a tenant to take it over for you, you’re going to pay.

But, there are occasionally times where you can work a deal. I don’t consider myself an expert negotiator by any means. But, sometimes I’ve gotten lucky.

Satellite TV

When I was leaving Wisconsin (The Worst It Can Get?) I left a satellite receiver on the roof of the house. We had installed it for TV, but also for internet. It was one of the many things we could no longer afford, but that didn’t stop the company from continuing to bill us. I didn’t want them to know that we’d abandoned it. But, I also didn’t want to keep paying money I didn’t have for a service I could no longer use.

Mr. Bliss, I’m really sorry, but our policy is if you cancel the contract you are responsible for the remainder of the contract.

Then it’s not really canceling it, is it? It’s just paying the entire thing in advance.

Yeah, but it’s all spelled out in the contract you signed. Can you tell me what features you no longer find valuable?

Look, I just realized that I don’t need satellite TV, and I don’t want to pay for something I don’t need and won’t use.

What if we upgraded you to the premium channels for a year? Would that make a difference?

Not really. I don’t want the channels I have. More channels won’t make any difference.

Well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m not going to use your service anymore. I’m also certainly not going to pay for something I don’t want. So, you can continue to bill me but I will ignore them. You can send it to collections, but we both know that it will cost you more money than my contract is worth. And unless you sue me, you’re not going to get any more money. Now, that seems like a lot of trouble. We could save both of us a lot of aggravation if we just agree to cancel the contract right now.

Well, I can see your point. I suppose it does make more sense to simply cancel your contract.

Thank you.

If you’ll just box up and send us the control module from the dish, we can call it even.

Yeah, that was going to be a problem. I was in Washington, the dish and it’s control box were sitting on a house in Wisconsin.

Look you guys sent out an installer and he did everything. I’m not even sure where it would be on my roof.

Well, it’s really easy to find. I can walk you through it.

I’m not comfortable getting up on my roof. If your installer can come retrieve that will work best. Tell him to not bother ringing the doorbell. Just go ahead and get the box.

Yeah, come anytime, we’re gone.

Part of what made this negotiation work was that I was willing to take the consequences. I figured I was headed toward bankruptcy or close to it. I had very little to lose. However, I didn’t want additional debts. If I could get this one shut down, that was one less company that I would have to deal with later.

I’ve talked about my negotiating strategy before (Decide What You Will Accept and What You Will Give Up. When You Get One Or The Other, STOP.)

I also figured that the company had a point in the discussion beyond which they agreed you were a lost customer.

The second example was not as easy. I didn’t have nearly as much leverage. Sometimes you have to lay your cards on the table.

Let me say that I love the WebEx product. It’s an intuitive, full featured conferencing system. In fact, I loved it so much that while president of RESMARK, I signed us up for a year of web conferencing services.

They are good, but they are also expensive. When RESMARK started to wind down, the WebEx contract was one of the things my investors wanted me to cancel. Like most companies, WebEx had a policy that if you signed on for a year, you had to pay for the year even if you wanted to cancel.

We don’t really have a cancellation policy. You can choose to not renew when your contract is up, but until then the contract is binding.

What if the company is going out of business?

We weren’t, but it was worth a shot.

Then, we would look to the owners to honor contracts. Are you going out of business?

Well, not exactly. We are combining with our parent company and they already have a corporate web conferencing system. We don’t need two.

We’ve found that we typically compare very favorably with other conferencing software. The parent company may want to switch.

No sadly. They are going to stick with their own.

Then, I’m not sure I can help you.

Look, we are not going to use your software. We also are not going to keep paying for a service that we don’t use. So, what’s it going to take to get out of this contract?

Ultimately I think we paid a one month penalty. Again, I tried to show the agent that it would be easier for them if they let me go than tried to keep me. I didn’t really have leverage on them. The company was a going concern, and wouldn’t have ignored monthly invoices if WebEx kept sending them. But, given a choice most people will be reasonable.

My final example is a product that we never used even though we were paying for it. Blame confusing cell phone bills.


I was late to the texting world. Maybe it’s because I’m old and don’t like new things. Maybe it’s just that I never used it therefore I never needed to use it. Whatever the reason, my wife and I didn’t have texting on our phones. This was back in the flip-phone days. Six months into our contract, I happened to scrutinizing the cell phone bill. I was trying to make sense out of the hundreds of line item add-ons when I saw a strange line,

Text Messaging. . . . . .$5

That was weird because my phone didn’t have texting ability. So, I looked at the previous month. Sure enough, another $5 charge.

My wife keeps very careful track of bills. We had phone bills back to the beginning of the contract. They all had a $5 text charge. So I called support.

Thanks for calling in today. How can I help you?

I had a question about the $5 charge for texting on my phone bill.

What’s your question?

Why is it there?

That’s your charge for text messaging.

Yeah, but I don’t have text messaging.

Sure you do.


Not my most brilliant response.

Yes, your account is set up to send and receive unlimited texts.

Can I get that money refunded?

Why would we do that?

Because, if you’ll check your records you will notice that I have not sent or received a single text in the six months I’ve been your customer. I’m pretty sure the salesman said we weren’t getting it.

I’ll have to check with my supervisor.

Yeah, go ahead. I’ll wait.

Let’s be clear, they did not have to give me anything back. But, remember that customer service reps are people too. Appeal to their better nature and sometimes you’ll be surprised.

Mr. Bliss, we’re going to go ahead and credit your account for $30. Did you want to cancel the text messaging feature?

No, I think I might actually start using it.

One thing I’d didn’t do in any of these scenarios was to get mad. I didn’t lose my temper for three important reasons. First, I chose not to since I didn’t think it would help. If I thought it would help i’d have done it.

Second, the person I was talking to didn’t make the rule. I wanted them to want to help me. Yelling at a customer service agent is generally counter productive.

Third, the agents were used to dealing with angry people. (I’ve been a phone rep.) I wanted to try to exceed the expectations of the agent. If I could exceed their expectations high enough, they would want to reciprocate. (Exceeding the Speed Limit And Expectations.)

I don’t get a refund, or avoid a speeding ticket every time. But, it happens often enough that I’ve found the reasonable approach is the best first strategy.

And sometimes it’s just nice to be nice.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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A Dish Best Served Cold


I don’t do it very often. And if I were a better man, I wouldn’t have gotten so much pleasure from it.

I needed something from one of the engineering teams at headquarters. I knew it was going to be difficult. I tend to refer to the engineering teams in our company as “my engineers.” Not because I’m trying to build a fifedom, and they certainly don’t answer to me, but because I spend so much of my time interacting with our client, who has it’s own engineering teams, it’s just easier to talk about “my engineers.” But, HQ had their own separate team of engineers. Our two divisions shared a name, but little else. But, still I needed something. It came up while I was trying to solve a customer issue with a member of my network team.

I’ve done all I can Rodney. We need the DDNT engineers from corporate to tell us the IP address range they are using.

Who do I need to engage?

Ha. No way are you going to get one of their engineers to touch this problem.

The ironic thing was that my network engineer was extremely difficult to get hold of. The network team tended to hide their online status in our instant message product. Their status was always set to AWAY. However, most times you could simply start typing and they’d answer. . maybe. Their phone numbers were unpublished.

I would schedule meetings with him. Then, the day before the meeting, I would remind him and inform his manager about the meeting. Then an hour before the meeting, I would call and leave voice mail for him and then 5 minutes before the meeting I would call his manager to get him on the phone.

No, it’s not a good system. It’s a broken system, but it worked after a fashion. Getting an engineer from HQ was going to be part detective, part bulldog and part just bull. . .

First stop was our official liaison with the DDNT team. He worked in our division and he was the guy who was supposed to coordinate between the two teams.

Lars, I need to talk to a DDNT engineer.

Did you have a trouble ticket?

Yes, but I just need a couple questions for this custom DDNT route we set up for our client.

Has it ever worked?

No. We are building it from scratch.

Put it in a ticket and then if they don’t get back to you let me know.

I DID put it in a ticket. They said since it’s a custom setup they don’t support it.

If you already had your answer, why are you bugging me?

Yeah, Lars wasn’t going to be my way in.

Next stop was our incident management team. These guys are the ones who get tasked with coordinating outages. They have to be able to contact anyone in the entire enterprise. If anyone could tell me the right place to start it was them.

Paul, I need to know who to engage with if I have a DDMT issue?

Well, Walter Smothers is the VP. Chris Jones is one of the engineers. But, be aware that Walter is very protective of his teams.


I didn’t have phone numbers, of course. Paul liked me, but not that much. I used our Instant Message program and talked to Chris. It was a near repeat of my conversation with Lars. No way was he getting on a phone call with either the customer or my engineer. Put it in a ticket and we’ll get to it when we feel like it.

Okay, I guess I’ll try the front door. I created a ticket.

Please ask the client for their source IP, destination IP, URL and any error they are receiving.

The problem was that I’d already asked the client all that information and included it in the ticket. But Chris wanted it sent again.

I should point out that I had worked this issue with our client for 7 months. That’s an eternity in the IT world. The client was getting pretty upset with me and my company. No way did I want to go back and ask them the exact same questions I’d asked 3 weeks earlier. The answer wasn’t going to be any different. I tried to explain this to Chris. Finally, his patience wore out. He reminded me that I wasn’t to talk to him unless I’d escalated through Lars first.

It was time to call for close air support. If you are going to square off with another department, always ALWAYS have air cover lined up. In my case I had a VP and a couple senior directors.

Kurt, Allen and Renée, I need your help. . .

And of course, I cc:’d Chris Jones, and his VP Walter Smothers. I let my executive team know what was coming.

The emails started flying fast and furious. It’s one thing to tell me, a “lowly” PM to go away. It’s harder to tell a VP to take a flying leap. When the dust settled, the DDNT team committed to work my issue and talk to my engineer if we would open a ticket and put our questions.

I’d spent a fair share of political capital, but I’d gotten what I needed, a commitment to let my engineers talk to their engineers.

Remember how my network engineer was hard to get hold of? Yeah, he just dropped off the net. I finally had the communication channels open and he quit talking. Three days went by with me begging my engineer to put some questions into a ticket and let me send it over.

Now I needed a second airstrike, this one closer to home.

Allen, could you escalate to our Network managers?

Two hours later I got a call from another network engineer.

Rodney, what help do you need?

Here we go again. Fortunately, our second engineer figured out how we could solve the entire problem just with information that we and the client had. No need to go back to the DDNT team.

Finally, after 7 months, the client could access DDNT from their location. I was thrilled. I bought the engineering team a dozen doughnuts. I let our executive team know, I informed the client. . .and then, I got to take my revenge.

Dear Walter and Chris, we got DDNT setup and working for the client. Thank you so much for your help in getting our client access to the tools they needed.

Was it childish? Maybe a little. Was it true? Not a bit. They hadn’t done anything to help and they knew it. They also knew that I knew it. But, by offering them a sincere thank you for work that they didn’t do but should have, I got to get a little of my own back.

I wouldn’t recommend alienating your engineering teams. You absolutely need them. You need to take every opportunity to validate them and their work. But, occasionally, when they’ve forced you to beg and scrape it’s satisfying to remind them, in the nicest possible way, that we should all be focused on helping customers and clients.

If that reminder comes across a little cold, well some dishes are best served that way.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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The Difference Between Incompetent And Grossly Incompetent

You have 65 plans from which to choose.

Based on the information you provided your options are:
- Buy healthcare for yourself, your spouse and your children from your work
- Buy healthcare for yourself and your spouse from work and your children from the Exchange marketplace
- Buy healthcare for yourself from work, for your spouse from the marketplace, and for your children from the Exchange marketplace
- Buy healthcare for yourself from work, for your spouse from either work or the marketplace and have your children covered by CHIP
- Don’t buy insurance and pay a penalty. . .and a lot of $$ in doctor bills

You may qualify for a subsidy.

Your spouse may qualify for a subsidy.

Your children may qualify for a subsidy.

You may not qualify for a subsidy.

You have until November 21 to make a choice.

If you choose wrong, you are stuck with your choice until December 2015.


It’s open enrollment time at work. I’m a project manager. I’m used to making tradeoffs, at looking at a series of options and choosing one for my project and my team.

I have no clue how to buy healthcare. My work has three options. Only one of them meets the ACA guidelines.

So, if I select one of the other plans I have to pay a penalty?


It shouldn’t be this hard. . .It shouldn’t be this expensive.

While working for a startup called Agile Studios in Orem, UT, we decided to offer our employees healthcare. Marcus was the VP of HR. I’m not sure why we had a VP of HR when we only had a dozen employees, but I didn’t hand out the titles.

Marcus wasn’t particularly good at his job. But, he was tasked with finding us a healthcare option that our meager budget could afford. In the meantime our crew of programmers went about their day writing and testing code. I went about my day working with clients. We all were engaged and busy. Finally, Marcus announces that we have selected a health insurance company.

The coverage isn’t great, but it’s better than nothing. And the best part, we could afford to pay for the entire premium without asking employees to give up part of their check.

Everyone was happy to sign up. Everyone that is except Dave (

I’ll pass. My wife has good insurance and I really don’t want the hassle of two insurance plans.

You can’t pass.

Why not?

Everyone has to sign up. It’s a requirement that all employees sign up for the health insurance plan.

Oh. I didn’t realize that. In that case, I quit.

And he did. He didn’t actually leave, but he switched from a W2, or a fulltime employee to a 1099 or contractor.

But, it made me think. The one job the VP of HR has is finding and hiring good employees. He was incompetent at that. But there’s a difference between incompetent and grossly incompetent.

If you are bad at your job, you are incompetent. If you are so bad at your job that you accomplish the opposite of your goals, then you are grossly incompetent. His benefit package made people quit rather than accept it. That’s gross incompetence.

Now I have to get back to studying to become an expert on the Affordable Care Act and health insurance.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Well, THAT Was Rather Sudden

It came out of the blue. I watched it unfold like some live action 3D movie. One minute I’m rushing through Chicago’s O’Hare airport trying desperately to catch a plane, the next a fight breaks out right in front of me.

First, a little context. Once again, I was traveling last week and once again my flight was delayed. This time it was delayed coming out of Louisville. My corporate scheduler always, always, always books me on a flight with a layover. It’s not just me. Other people at my company said the same thing. Apparently, it’s cheaper to have a layover every week. And like clockwork, every week my first flight is delayed and it causes problems with my second flight. (Cloud Computing. . .Sort Of.)

This time, both my outbound trip (I Don’t Really Know Edward H. McNamera. . .But I Hate Him Anyway) and my return flight last Friday were delayed. For the return, I wasn’t too worried. It wouldn’t have helped anyway. My flight was supposed to leave at around 6:30pm from Kentucky. I schedule them like that on purpose. It lets me work nearly an entire day. Sure, it screws with some of my weekend, but it’s a price I’ll pay.

Or so I thought. Sitting in the terminal in Louisville, they announced our flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Apparently the inbound flight crew wasn’t going to arrive in time. My layover in Chicago was only supposed to be 40 minutes. I checked with a very pleasant gate agent named Rick.

Well, Mr. Bliss. You will probably land before the flight to Salt Lake is scheduled to leave. If you run like hell, you might make it.


But, I tell you what I’m going to do, just in case. I’ve reserved a seat for you on the next flight out but it’s not until Saturday morning at 11:00am. If you miss the flight tonight, you go find a ticket agent and tell them the crazy guy in Louisville put you on another flight.

I’ve never found that getting mad at a gate agent helps anything. Rick did the best that could be done.

Behind me in line waiting to talk to Rick was a guy named Eric. Eric looked to be about 50 years old and he was trying to get home to Little Rock. His flight to Louisville was so screwed up that he ended up renting a truck and driving. Now he was trying to get home. His flight out of Chicago left 10 minutes before mine did.

The flight finally arrived in Louisville, we got on and headed for Chicago. Before they closed the cabin door, I texted a friend.

Might end up staying overnight in Chicago. Free for dinner?

Maybe. Text me when you arrive.

I lived in Chicago for a couple of years a long time ago. The thought of an extra night and a chance to eat deep dish stuffed spinach pizza at Giordanno’s was not at all unpleasant.

I checked with the flight attendant to find out which gate we would be landing at. I knew my Salt Lake flight was leaving from F4.

We will be arriving at gate C2.

Not looking good. Here’s a map of the Chicago terminal.


See that green line that goes from gate C9 to E3? Yeah, that’s a bus. And those shuttle busses run on a 15 minute schedule. I figure I had about 12 minutes to get to my gate. If I got the bus just right I might make it. In a way, it would have been easier if the flight from Kentucky were another 15 minutes later. In that case, I wouldn’t have even tried.

But, like many people on my plane, I really wanted to make it home Friday night.

As we landed, the captain asked those people who were not making connections to let us runners go first. I grabbed my bag and sprinted up the jetway and into the terminal along with everyone else, including Eric.

At this point it got weird. Eric started yelling.

Hey, outta the way. Coming through. We got places to go and people to see.

Not surprisingly, this annoyed some of his fellow travelers. Not me, because I let him go in front of me. But, there were a couple of guys in the 20′s who took exception to this old guy pushing passed them. I’m not even sure what they said, since at this point I was trying to make my own way through the crowd, albeit somewhat quieter than Eric.

I guess their comments got on Eric’s last nerve because I saw him turn around and rush them. Eric had a rollerboard style suitcase in each hand. That was good because I think otherwise he would have taken a swing at one of these guys. Instead he rushed back and chest bumped one of the young guys.

I say it got weird, because I knew Eric’s circumstance. He was in a hurry. A really big, every second counts, hurry. His attack required him to abandon, at least temporarily, his goal of making his flight and instead start an altercation that potentially would delay him, or even land him in jail or a hospital.

The two guys were just as surprised as I was.

Wha? . . . I just got assaulted.

At this point their language became more colorful and they decided since they were moving in the same direction as Eric, they weren’t interested in letting his challenge go unanswered.

It might have ended there, in a swarm of humanity as we each rushed our separate ways, except that we arrived at gate C9, the shuttle stop. Eric needed to get to terminal F also.

He stopped. They stopped. And the war of words continued to escalate.

What would you do? I’d met the guy a couple hours earlier, I was hurrying for my own plane. Look the other way? Call a cop? Pull out my camera phone?

Eric ended up in the wrong line. He misunderstood an instruction from the shuttle guide and ended up on the other side of the aisleway from the actual line and he was nose to nose with his two new friends. As I walked toward them I heard one of the young guys say,

Go ahead and take a swing at me. I’ll have a couple hundred witnesses.

The tension was reaching a breaking point. I walked over and reached between Eric and the closest guy. Putting my hand on his shoulder I said,

The line we need to be in is over here.

I don’t consider myself a brave person. I’m not a coward either, but I don’t look for confrontations. I freely admit this one could have turned out badly for me at this point. If they were determined to fight, I’d just literally stuck my nose in the middle of it.

Fortunately, it broke the tension. It gave Eric an out and it gave the two guys a chance to save face. They yelled at him as we walked to the other side of the aisle-way and lined up for what we hoped was not a 15 minute wait.

I don’t know if Eric made his plane. Last I saw him he was rushing down terminal F headed for his gate. I made my plane with about 8 minutes to spare. It was enough time to text my friend,

Caught my flight. Maybe dinner next time.

As I settled into my seat I thought about Eric and his actions. How odd that he was doing things that were directly counter to his stated goal. His goal was to get to his plane on time. Arguing and fighting with total strangers might have prevented that. Even his yelling at people to get out of his way was counter productive. He would have gotten to the shuttle stop just as fast or faster without being rude. It reminded me of one of my favorite sayings about your temper,

The man who can control his temper in an argument has a distinct advantage over the man who can’t.

I hope you got home safe Eric. I’m glad I could help.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Howard Needed A New Hobby

Hey Sandra, I think I’ll take up doodling.
– Howard Tayler circa 2000

Howard is a brilliant success by any measure. He’s a world famous cartoonist. Creator of the award winning web comic Schlock Mercenary. He and his friends won a Hugo for the Writing Excuses podcast. Since June of 2000 (Can You Be Funny Everyday…For Thirteen Years?) he’s drawn his comic and given it away for free on the Internet every day. For the past 10 years he’s done it full time.

But, ten years ago, Howard had a problem. He had launched his cartooning career after walking away from a very successful position in corporate IT. Prior to the big leap Howard was spending 40 hours per week, writing, drawing, inking, coloring and uploading his comic every day. That was in addition to 40-60 hours per week at a regular job.

By quitting the corporate gig and cartooning full time he had the ultimate job right?

If you make your advocation your vocation you never have to work another day in your life.

But, Howard soon discovered a problem. If you make your hobby your job, rather than always indulging in your hobby, you actually find that you are now always working.

It’s called the Overjustification Hypothesis.

It’s the idea that when you get paid to do something that you used to do for free, it changes your attitude about the activity. The authors of the book Influencer discuss the concept in light of trying to get people to do things. If you want your child to enjoy reading so you start paying her for each book she reads, the motivation changes from intrinsic to mercenary. Soon she will only read if she knows she is getting paid.

Adults are the same way. Even when we are motivating ourselves, when a financial incentive enters the picture, we think about the task differently. Howard found that while he still enjoyed his work, it was no longer a diversion. He needed something where he could go play.


Howard decided to start painting miniatures. With his eye for color and costumes, he’s very good at it. I follow his comic, but I haven’t been into miniatures since I was a kid. I have no appreciate for the art.

(Photo Credit: Howard Tayler used with permission)

Here’s the second problem that my friend Howard ran into. Should he sell his miniatures?

There are tens of thousands of people who read Schlock Mercenary, listen to Writing Excuses and pretty much scoop up everything that Howard produces around either one. You can buy books, calendars, t-shirts, hats, challenge coins, and any number of assorted Schlock items. You can buy Writing excuses CD’s that are broken up into brief 15 minute podcasts. In the words of the podcasters, “. . . because you’re in a hurry, and we aren’t that smart.”

So, there is a ready market for Howard Tayler painted miniatures. Why not sell them? I mean, he’s going to paint them anyway, why not get a few bucks for the effort?

Because then he’d have to go get another hobby. If miniatures become part of his inventory, then he’s right back where he was when he started doing Schlock full-time.

I don’t know a lot of artists. I know a bunch of writers and maybe a painter or two, but it’s not a universe I circulate in very much. So, I don’t know if all artists need a hobby separate from their profession. As a writer, I find I do. Mine is music. I’m not particularly good at song writing, but when I have a lot of writing to do, a musical break helps me refocus. I’m not a famous enough writer to do it full time, so in a sense writing is the hobby I go to when the IT job calls for a break.

I do know that Howard doesn’t sell his painted miniatures. I don’t think he can afford to.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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How I Lost 30 lbs And You Can’t


210 lbs

The scale was wrong. It had to be. I’d never been over 200 lbs. But still, my clothes were starting to be a little tight. And my belts were shrinking.

Yeah, I used all the excuses and justifications. Because I have a high metabolism. I always had. Sure, I wasn’t playing pickup basketball anymore, but I wasn’t getting fat. That didn’t happen to me.

I went through denial for about a week. I’m not sure what stage of grief feeling guilty is, but that’s what came next. I know that people struggle with their weight. And I know that it’s not a matter of will power. But, frankly, I hadn’t been particularly sympathetic. It’s not like I felt the need to tell anyone what I was thinking. And I really did know that people were trying. But, I lacked empathy.

I got it really quick.

But, now the hard work starts, right? I decided I wanted to lose 30 lbs. One hundred eighty pounds sounded like a reasonable goal. How? I’d never been on a diet.

I realized I had one important advantage. I didn’t really care about food. (You Don’t Get To Pick Anymore) I wasn’t sure that would be enough.

First I cut out all soda. I didn’t really like it. . .much. But, I drank a lot of it. Mostly I drank it for the caffiene. It was what I used to treat adult ADD (I Worked From Home Because The Light Turned Red) Instead, I switched to a single daily dose of one of those energy powders you pour into a bottle of water.

ADD addressed.

I drank lots of water. And I read where a survey found that people who lost weight consistently ate breakfast. So, I bought some Grape Nuts (otherwise known as twigs and gravel.) And I cut out most of the rest of my sugar.

And finally, I started weighing myself everyday.

And I waited.

Why will it work for me and not for you? Because your demons are not my demons. What motivates you might not motivate me. and what scares me doesn’t scare you.

I’m a member of Toastmasters. (Psst. . .Can You Give A Speech Right Now?) More people list public speaking as their biggest fear than list death. They would rather die than give a speech.

When people find out I’m in toastmasters they often tell me how brave I am.

I’m not brave.

I’ve always been comfortable in front of people. It doesn’t scare me. It doesn’t take bravery to do something that you enjoy, that doesn’t scare you. I’ve seen true bravery on stage.

I’ve seen a 14 year old girl stand at a podium so scared she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move. I’m not sure she could breath. And she got through it. She literally read one word at a time. That was brave.

I’ve seen a man so scared of going on stage at a comedy open mic that he could barely speak. He couldn’t remember his jokes and when he pulled his jokes out of his pocket he was shaking so badly he couldn’t read his writing. But, he got up anyway. That was brave.

We each face different challenges. We each have to slay our own dragons.

What scares me might not scare you. What scares you might not bother me.

It started to work.

The pounds started to come off. A few pounds per week. One day I walked through our office and a coworker said,

Rodney, did you lose weight?

It was weird. I was down about 20 lbs. I didn’t think anyone had noticed. But, the weirdest thing that was that realized I really don’t care about food. I’m back in Louisville. On Monday I was here by myself. I went to Walgreens and bought some microwaveable bowls of soup for $5. On Tuesday all the executive same into town. We had a company dinner at a restaurant that charged $14 for an appetizer. I had a $30 steak and potatoes dinner. Wednesday? Back to Walgreens.

Halloween? I decided a wanted a single snack sized Butterfinger. It was great, and that’s all I ate.

I’m down 27 lbs. And I kind of feel guilty that I haven’t struggled at it as much as others. I feel bad, and I don’t feel superior. There are lots of things I can’t do. There are things that I’m terrified of doing. I really wish I could tell others how to lose 27 lbs. I can’t. Not unless you become me.

So, yeah I lost 27 (it’s almost 30) and you can’t. At least not the way I did.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com


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