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The Day I Discovered I Was Doing My Job For Free

How well do you like your job? I’ve had jobs that I really enjoyed. I’ve had jobs that I couldn’t wait to leave. My current job falls into the first category. Even if you really love your job, would you work for free? I didn’t think I would. My philosophy has always been:

I’m working so I can have the resources to support my family.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job, but it’s not where I get my affirmation. It could end tomorrow and I’d just go find another one. I quit marrying my jobs a long time ago.

Which is why I was surprised to discover I was lying to myself. I was wrong about the whole “would you work for free” question. I’d always assumed that if I won the lottery, I’d quit my job, buy a boat and spend more time on the coasts. See? I wouldn’t still work!

But, that’s not the question. It’s not about winning the lottery. It’s about the little things we do; the checking email after dinner, the travelling on a weekend for a business trip, the idea of looking at what needs to be done and doing it rather than watching the clock. It’s about the times you don’t have to work but you choose to anyway. In that case, would you work for free?

And I discovered the answer to that question last weekend during a hiking trip to the mountains. I’m the on-call guy for my position. . .always. I literally don’t have an “off” time. I “own” four call centers across the United States. Some of them take calls 24 hours per day. If something goes wrong with the computers or the software I’m the guy they call. And I’m pretty good at my job.

I used to have peers. Seriously, I was part of a team of account managers. Each of us was responsible for one of our large accounts. We changed my role because I wasn’t like them. Either because of my personality, or the requirements of my client, I was much more involved than my peers.

But, no one is available literally around the clock. And I love hiking and camping. You think you have trouble getting cell phone reception in your city? Try getting it surrounded by slot canyons and mountains. During the times I don’t think I’ll have good reception, I have a backup. Last weekend was one of those times. We were hiking up a canyon and camping between the range of foothills and the larger mountains behind us. We occasionally had glimpses of the valley down the canyons.

As we were hiking on the face of Mt Timpanogos, my phone rang. It was one of my centers reporting that they were having a technical issue. What should I do? I had a backup lined up. I could let him take the call.

I took the call. At the time, I wasn’t sure why. Was it an overinflated martyr complex? Was I a glutton for punishment? Was it a refusal to give up control?

I didn’t think too much about it at the time. It was a beautiful day. I found a comfortable log to sit on just off the trail. I was in the middle of a gorgeous meadow with truly amazing views in every direction. The other boy scout leaders took our troop of scouts to hike a nearby peak. I put my headphones in, and enjoyed my lunch as we worked through the technical issue which had spread to all 4 of my call centers.

The scouts returned before we resolved the issue.

Yeah, this is Rodney. I’m going to start heading down this canyon and I know I’m going to lose reception. It’s 2.5 miles to the trailhead and I figure that should take me about 90 minutes. I’ll dial back in when I get done. If you need something in the mean time, call my backup.

And with that, I followed the scouts off the mountain and down Battle Creek Canyon. It was a short drive home from the canyon and I came in and went straight to my office to rejoin the outage call. It was another couple of hours before we finally got it wrapped up and I could start unpacking and take a shower.

Why had I taken that call? I didn’t have to. It was a Saturday. I was literally in the wilderness and I had a backup all lined up and ready to help.

Finally, the answer hit me. It wasn’t because of any need for control, or to feel like a martyr. I honestly loved my job. That afternoon sitting in the meadow, rather than feeling like work or stressful was extremely calming. I had a great time.

Did I get paid any more because I took that call?

Was anyone extra impressed because I interrupted my day in the mountains?

Was I going to get those hours back?

Nope. It was a fairly typical call. One that I’ve taken dozens of times. The setting was a little different, but overall, it was just another day at the office. And if you love what you do, it feels more like play and less like work.

Would I be willing to work for free?

I think I just did.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Lessons We Don’t Realize We are Teaching

I know we must be getting close.

I was surprised. The young scout was the slowest hiker in our troop. We were completing a two day twelve mile hike in the beautiful Utah mountains. As the slowest leader, my role was to hike with the slowest group. We had two boys who were going to be the last out of the canyon. Alex, was a fairly strong hiker, but he had decided to match his pace to Kerry. Kerry was the slowest, but he was a victim of genetics. He was by far the smallest kid. And while his pack wasn’t abnormally heavy, he definitely had the highest pack/body weight ratio.

Kerry was determined, but this was an aggressive hike and a challenging trail. I’d been doing my best to encourage Kerry from the beginning. He was naturally an upbeat cheerful kid, but after miles and miles his enthusiasm was definitely lagging. Having hiked the trail before, I’d tried to help him look forward to upcoming milestones.

In another half mile or so the trail levels out. This is the hardest part.

There’s a bench that’s built into the canyon wall up ahead around one of these bends.

We’ll be out of the bare rocks and into a more forested area soon.

The spring where we will be having dinner is just up ahead. You can do it.

And so it went on the way up to our campsite on Friday. As we headed off the mountain on Saturday, it was the same thing in reverse. The problem was the canyon we were in had few unique features. It was two and a half miles of beautiful scenery. But, other than the small river that accompanied us, there were few breaks in the trees or the trail. I did the best I could to offer encouragement.

It’s all downhill.

We’ll be coming to a waterfall soon.

Ah, the waterfall. Not only was it the most obvious feature, it also was the two mile marker. Even though the trail is downhill it’s actually harder on your knees to hike downhill. My old knees had been complaining for miles. Even the boys were struggling at this point. I held out the promise of the waterfall for what felt like hours and miles. Each ripple in the stream garnered the same response.

Is that the waterfall?

You’ll know it when you see it.

Is THAT the waterfall?

You’ll know it when you see it. We’re gettting closer. Just about there.

It was the hiking equivalent of “Are we there yet?” But, I couldn’t get too upset with the boys. They weren’t complaining. They were just trying to gauge how much longer they had to push on. Which is why I was surprised when during one of our many breaks, Kerry announced,

I know we are close now.

Really? Why do you say that?

Because you just drank the last of your water.

Hiking in the desert, even next to a river, means you pay close attention to your water. It’s probably the most important lesson we teach the boys.

Do this wrong and you might die.

And it was true. Water is your first, second and hopefully not last thought when venturing into Utah’s backcountry. I had another pint or so of emergency water, but Kerry didn’t know that. He’d just watched me drink the last of my water and he knew that I wouldn’t go far in the wilderness without carrying water.

It made me realize how closely I’m watched. All the encouraging words in the world that “we’re almost there” didn’t count as much as the single example of drinking a mouthful of water. I thought about my aching knees. My tired shoulders and sore back. Had I complained about them? I didn’t think so. Perhaps this was part of the reason the boys themselves were willing to silently bear the stresses of trail. I hoped so.

We are always an example. What we say is important, but not as important as what we do.

We reached the waterfall about 10 minutes later. They knew it when they saw it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Littlest Heroes

I’ll bet if you needed to, you could tell me who won the 100M dash at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. You could tell me who finished 2rd in the 2013 Boston Marathon. You could even tell me who finished 3rd at in the 2016 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance car race.

But, those races had many more participants. From a few more in the 100M dash to hundreds more in the Boston Marathon. We remember, and honor the winners. This post is about those who didn’t come in first, or second, or even third. I won’t call them the losers, although in a strict “zero-sum-game” accounting there can only be a single winner. Still, I don’t think the rest of the participants don’t fit the definition of losers.

Like most sports leagues, the National Football League (NFL) holds an annual draft to allow teams to pick new players. Unlike other leagues, the NFL specifically recognizes the last player drafted. He’s given the title of Mr. Irrelevant. Far from being a “loser,” in the past Mr. Irrelevant has played in Super Bowls and set NFL records.

As many of you know, I went hiking last weekend. It was a hard hike. And we had several boys on their first hike. My days of leading the pack in a physcial activity are long gone. I’m a slow hiker and I know it. It doesn’t bother me since I don’t see it as a competition. Being slow means that I get to play “sweeper.” I’m the last leader and my job is to make sure all the boys are in front of me. So, as slow as I hike, I cannot go any faster than the slowest boy.

I spent a lot of time on the trail with these stragglers. I talk to them, although they are often out of breath from the hike. I encourage them. I joke with them. And when we finally arrive at the end of the trail, I tell them the same lame joke,

Once again I have cleverly tricked all of you into finishing before me.

We hiked 12 miles on Friday and Saturday. The “older” boys (13 versus 12) finished in about 5-6 hours. The younger boys finished in more like 7-8 hours.

It’s easy to think of the hike in terms of a race. We could chart out first place, second and so on. And, of course, we could easily identify our Mr. Irrelevant. But, I don’t see it that way. It’s really about doing hard things. And who did the hard thing?

Two years ago we did this hike and my son, who was 12 at the time was that last boy. We were hiking in the rain and it was cold and windy. The trail has many steep drop offs to the canyon floor a hundred feet or more below. My son was especially nervous about the cliffs and the drops offs. Being his dad, I offered to walk beside him on the narrow trail. I would put myself between him and the drop off.

Are you sure you have enough room to walk over there, Dad?

I’m fine. There’s plenty of room. You just focus on the trail.

Actually? Every other step started a minor rock slide. The trail was not much more than 24″ wide. With each step I scrambled to keep my feet from sliding off.

When we finally reached camp, I asked him, within earshot of the rest of the scouts,

Which one of us was bravest on the trail?

Well, you were. I was afraid until you were willing to walk on the edge. That was really brave.

Wrong. I wasn’t brave at all. In fact, the trail didn’t scare me at all. How can you be brave if you don’t have to overcome a fear? But, you, on the other hand were really nervous. And yet, you kept going. You faced your fear and conquered it. That is what bravery is: being afraid and doing it anyway.

The following year, my son walked the trail with confidence. His fear no more than a memory.

I feel the same way about the order our hikers finish in. The boys at the front should be commended for completing a difficult hike. But, for many of them, it was not as large a challenge. They regularly do strenuous physical activities and while this might have been a little harder than they are used to, it wasn’t completely out of their comfort zone.

But, the small guys, the young guys, our Mr. Irrelevant had to do something that they literally thought was beyond them. They had to dig down and find the will to go on when they weren’t sure they could take one more step. Every one of our boys carried their own gear up and down the mountain. They carried their own food and water, sleeping bag and clothes. As they finally walk out of Battle Creek Canyon at the end of the hike, they had come to embody a quote by famous coach Vince Lombardi.

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

So, by all means, praise those who finish first, the biggest, the strongest, the fastest, but also realize that victory is overcoming the limitations you create in your own mind. And save some praise for the littlest heroes as well.

1. Usain Bolt of Jamacia won the 100M gold in Beijing with a world record time of 9.72 seconds
2. Micah Kogo of Kenya took second at the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:10:27
3. Audi Sport Team Joest took third at Le Mons with drivers Loic Duval from France, Lucas di Grassi from Brazil and Oliver Jarvis from the UK with 372 laps completed

Mr. Irrelevant 2017 was Chad Kelly, a QB from Mississippi, selected by the Denver Broncos with the 253rd pick.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Tradition And A Mountain

How often do y’all do your planning meetings?

We pretty much have a rolling 12 month calendar. We do the same activity every month. This month was Baldy.

I’m not sure how many years this scout troop has been doing this particular hike. My neighbor used to be the scoutmaster. We’ve had three different scoutmasters since him. He started the Baldy hike probably at least ten years ago.

Our scout troop is sponsered by a church congregation. That means the boys who went on the first Baldy hike years ago are now finishing college. The hike has become a rite of passage for young men in our neighborhood. It’s not an easy hike. If the boys get to summit Baldy, the route is 12 miles from Grove Creek trailhead to the Battle Creek trailhead. The net change in elevation is about 3500 feet. With the up and down trail, it’s even more.

I say “if” the boys summit because that’s not always a given. Utah in May can be unpredictable. We go on the hike rain or shine. The last two years have been more shiny than rainy. The three years before that were rainy and one year even had 6″ of new snow the night of the campout.

This is often the first campout our new scouts go on. And it’s certainly the hardest hike any of them have done to that point. Not just the hardest scout hike. It’s often the hardest hike these 12 year old boys have ever done in their lives. The thing about hiking through Utah’s mountains is that once we leave the trailhead there’s only two ways to go: forward or back. And going back really isn’t an option.

The beginning portion of the hike is pretty steep. We have boys that are as small as 70 or 80 lbs. A general rule of backpacking is that your backpack should be less than 1/3 of your body weight. An empty backpack weighs 7-8 lbs. Throw in a sleeping bag, shared portion of a tent, clothes, sleeping pad, food and water and a “light” backpack might be 25-30 lbs. As an adult, my pack was 44 lbs.

About the second mile, the boys start to really feel the weight of their packs. Water weighs 8 lbs/gallon. The boys carry as much water as they can stand. We make one stop at a spring for dinner and fill up water enough for the rest of the hike.

Going up the mountian, we encourage the boys to carry extra water. Coming off the mountain we encourage the boys to only bring what they need to get them to back to the trailhead.

It’s amazing to watch these boys do hard things. We had eight boys hike with us over the weekend. The youngest was 11 the oldest was 13. And every one of them hiked the entire trail and summitted the Baldy. Some of the older boys might never again make a hike or even campout. But for the rest of their lives they can look to the East in our valley and see a mountain and be able to say, “I stood on top of that mountain.”

As leaders we will continue to make this hike every May, rain or shine, keeping the tradition alive.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Once More Upon The Mountain

Because it’s there.
– George Mallory on why he wanted to climb Mt Everest

I have bad knees. It comes from too many steroids as a teenager. I was taking 125 mg per day for months when I was 14 years old. the doctors warned me they would take 4-5″ off my height. (I’m 6’0″ both my brother are over 6’3″.) What the doctor didn’t tell me was the effect it would have on my knees. The sound like crunching gravel when I stand up or squat down.

But, today I’m going to abuse them. . on purpose. I’ll strap a 35 lbs (okay, MAYBE it’s closer to 40 lbs, but only because my sons aren’t coming to help share the tent load) pack on and climb up the side of a mountain. It’s going to be too hot and then way too cold. I’m going to sleep on the ground and my knees are going to ache the whole way. Tomorrow, we’ll summit at 8500 feet and the walk down will be the worst part of the trip.

Why do I do it?

Ask me on Monday.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

When The Snow Wouldn’t Melt

It felt like the end of the world. It turned dark and streetlamps started to come on although it was only 9:00am on a Sunday morning. It looked like snow at first. That fine grained snow that doesn’t really form flakes. If snow could drizzle, that’s what it was like. But, it wasn’t snow. It’s doesn’t snow in Eastern Washington in May. It covered everything; cars, lawns, houses and acres and acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and alfalfa. And it kept coming down for hours and hours. When it finally stopped it was about 6 inches deep.

When the clouds finally cleared, it was kind of pretty in a way. Like a new blanket of slightly grey snow that stretched as the eye could see. Miles and miles of it. But, this snow wasn’t going to melt. And to the farmers who were worried about their crops it looked like the end of the world.

May 18, 1980 I was getting ready to go to church. I was 15 and my brother had just turned 17. We liked church. Most times we got ourselves there. My parents weren’t active church goers at the time. It was left to us if we wanted to attend. The only rule was,

If you can’t get up for church on Sunday morning, you can’t go to the dances on Saturday night.

We loved those dances. This day, was a Sunday that started like many others. But 37 years later, I still remember where I was and what I was doing that morning. I was standing on my front porch in Lacey, WA, a small town south of Seattle, looking South at the growing ash cloud from the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. The eruption which started with an earthquake at 8:32AM lasted about nine hours and threw 3.3 billion cubic yards of ash into the atmosphere.

The prevailing wind pattern in Washington is from West to East. Lacey, located about 70 miles north of Saint Helens didn’t get hit by the ash at first. We had a spectacular view of it as the angry volcano continued to throw ash 15,000 feet into the atmosphere. The ash pushed off to the East and fell heavily on the Palouse farm country of Eastern Washington and Oregon and Western Idaho. We actually got a dusting of ash when the cloud made it all they way around the globe. 

It was through news coverage that we saw the impact on the farming communities in the Eastern part of the state. My grandparents lived in Tekoa, WA on the Idaho border. The ash was inches deep in their yard, on their sidewalks, on their cars and their houses. Ash is probably a bad name for it. It wasn’t ash that you’d get from a fire. Instead it was what you would get if you burned rocks or sand. Scraping it off your car immediately ruined the paint. Driving in it was outlawed for several days and even after the travel restriction was lifted, you risked heating it up and turning the ash to glass inside your engine.

After the initial blast, the real question became, “What do you do with it?” It was literally everywhere. And when it got wet, it became even heavier, as it soaked up and held any water. Folks cleared it off their roofs and their cars and then they started clearing their walks and their lawns. They piled it wherever there was space. All the while the farmers anxiously watched their fields for any signs of life. Eventually, the hardy plants started to push up through the blanket of ash. Some farmers lost crops but many of them had bumper crops. The ash “blanket” had trapped heat and moisture under the soil and turned the fields into incubators. The plants that survived came roaring back. Much to the relief of those whose livelihood depended on those crops.

Two years later, in 1982, I went to live with my grandfather for the summer and worked on a friend’s farm. On the surface the land had nearly fully recovered. But, as we would start harvesting a field of wheat, the point at which the trucks turned off the road into the field would quickly become a trough of ash as the thin veneer of new growth was run into the ground.

During my summer in farm country, I attended a play put on by the local high school kids. I don’t remember the subject of the play, but it was set in Italy. At one point the actor playing the tour guide said,

On your left you can see Mount Vesuvius, Europe’s only active volcano. It last erupted in 79 A.D. wiping out the city of Pompeii. Aren’t volcanos interesting?

Everyone in the theater agreed on the answer: No. Not at all.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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