Skip to content

Strangely Un-selfaware

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I shouldn’t care. Well, I care, but I should be okay with it.

Normally I’m pretty self aware. By that I mean I understand why I do things. I understand why kids leaving my handtools out annoys me. I understand why I’m okay with cleaning the kitchen, but not the stove. I understand why I hate needles.

I never make a decision at work without having thought through the implications. If you try to play office politics with me, you’ll lose. Because, you can’t get me out of my head. I see everything.

It’s why I hate Father’s Day.

Sure, that’s a terrible thing to say. I have 13 children. THIRTEEN. And six grandkids. And Sunday they spoiled me. My daughter invited me to her house on Saturday for smoked BBQ ribs, and gave me a fantastic gift. It’s a new door handle for my front door. The “long” kind that has a lever you push down with your thumb. My old one broke and my door has had a round doorknob on it for the past few months.

Then, Sunday, I had a wonderful meal with my lovely wife’s homemade potato salad. My son came to hang out and we talked until 1:00AM. (So happy, he’s turned into a man I can be friends with.) The kids at home surprised me by landscaping the area around our trees. It was exactly what I wanted.

Perfect day, right?

No. And I’m not entirely sure why.

I have multiple fathers. I have a birth father and I have an adopted father. I actually chose my adopted father when I was 14. He was married to my mother and I decided I wanted to be adopted. I didn’t hate my birth dad. But, I was also a 14 year old kid. I didn’t know anything.

I’m happy I was adopted and for reasons that remain unclear to the 50+ year old version of myself, I kept my birth father from being a part of my life.

You might think that sounds cruel. And for you it would be. Some of you might think that sounds fantastic. For me it was. . .simpler.

My adopted father was never comfortable with Father’s day. I dreaded, we both dreaded the obligatory phone call on Father’s day. While I loved him, Father’s Day was a strain for us both. After he passed away nine years ago last week (yes, he died the week before Father’s Day) things got easier on Father’s Day.

A few months ago, my birth father had cancer. It was serious, and given his age, his odds of not making it were scary. I had to decide what to do?

I finally wrote him a letter. The first one in 40 years. He wrote back. We exchanged multiple letters. Finally last month, I was in Idaho and made the 6 hour round trip to visit him in Central Washington.

We had a great visit. We reconnected. Maybe I was selfish for asking him to stay out of my life for decades. He missed watching me grow up. He missed getting to know grandchildren.

Was I cruel? I don’t think so. I certainly wasn’t intentionally being cruel. Just as going to see him was not designed to be magnanimous. In fact, when it comes to him, I’m not sure why I do what I do. And for someone who prides himself on being self-aware, that scares me.

When I talke to him I feel like I’m 14 years old again. But, it’s not anything he does. It’s me and my psychosis. It’s not right. It’s probably not healthy. It confuses me.

And I even know that it’s not him, it’s me. But, just knowing you have an irrational fear of ladders doesn’t mean you don’t have a fear of ladders. It just means you know it’s irrational. That’s how I feel, or don’t feel about him.

So, Father’s Day was going great until I realized that there was a text to send. . .again.

I don’t even know what it is about the entire situation that throws me off my game. The one thing I do know is that it’s not him or anything he’s said or done. No, I know this is entirely in my head.

Knowing doesn’t help.

Hope your Father’s Day was better than mine.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Advertisements

I Quit My Job Today

I quit my job today.

That’s how the guy sitting next to me on the plane from Richmond to Atlanta opened our conversation.

I normally don’t talk to people on planes. I travel a lot and I have a routine. I have a nice neck pillow. And I’ve modified it to allow my noise cancelling headphones to fit easily. I bring my own water bottle and typically set my iPad to my Jazz collection.

Oh, and then I often will go to sleep.

I generally don’t have any interest talking to the people around me. It’s not that I’m not sociable. The problem talking on a plane is you can hear great at the gate. But, once you get into the air, it’s really hard to hear.

But, we were sitting at the gate and the guy in the aisle seat seemed to be looking for some validation.

Oh?

He didn’t seem to need any encouragement to continue.

My wife is going to kill me.

Yeah, that’s not a conversation you should have over the phone.

He explained that he was a stats guy. He’d been working for an insurance company and just got to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore. He was working for a company that didn’t value his role. Well, they valued his contribution, just not him.

When I got there they had processes that would take two hours to run. By the time I was done with them, they were running in less than a minute.

I thought about the times I had struggled with managers or companies. As a Program Manager solely responsible for the technical relationship between my company and our biggest client, I found myself working for a man who was new to being a manager.

Like my seatmate, I was also incredibly good at what I did. Our client paid us over $100M per year. I was a large part of our team keeping them happy. And yet, my manager didn’t want to talk about my success with the client. Despite the fact I was oncall 24×7 and a salaried employee, my manager insisted I be at my desk no later than 7:00am and leave no earlier than 3:00pm. The company didn’t have a comp time policy. If I spent 4 hours working on an outage the night before, I was still expected at my desk at 7:00am. He claimed he needed to be able to contact me.

I don’t understand. Why don’t you just call me if you need something from me?

I don’t feel like I should have to track you down via your cell phone.

Huh?

My seatmate went on to explain that financially he would be fine. His home outside Chicago was paid for. He had plenty of money in the bank. Nice cars that were also paid for.

It was clear that it was more a sense of failure than anything that was distressing him. The economy is booming. He’s highly skilled and won’t have a problem finding another job.

I can afford to be picky.

But, I could see that it was coming to grips with the fact he’d made a mistake and now had to fly home and explain it to his wife. I felt for the guy.

It was at that point that the person for our middle seat showed up. She was a flight attendant on her way to work in Key West. I adjusted my neck pillow and slipped my headphones over my head. As I did, I heard him strike up a conversation with our new row-mate.

I quit my job today. My wife’s going to kill me.

I hope he finds a position that he’ll enjoy.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Long Trip For A Short Meeting

Yesterday I travelled for nearly the entire day. Tomorrow I’ll travel for nearly the entire day. Today, I had about a 5 hour meeting.

I don’t know what the ratio of travel time to meeting time was, but whatever it was, it was worth it.

I’m in Raliegh, North Carolina. We had an audit today. We have them about once a year at all of our sites. This was a security audit. The format of a security audit is pretty straight forward. The client sends out an auditor. Our security person and I come out from Salt Lake City.

We then work with the various departments at our center; operations, HR, Mission Control, local desktops, account management, site management, quality assurance, compliance, senior management, security, facilities, and more.

The auditor sets the pace. He moves from group to group, sometimes agent to agent. He asks questions. He observes. He checks. It sounds confrontational. It’s actually very collaborative.

Some people view an audit like a test. We certainly perpare for it like we would an exam. But, an audit isn’t a test, it’s an evaluation. The purpose of an exam is not to find out if you did right or wrong. The point is to find the areas where you can improve.

Several years ago I worked as the IT manager for the email system of a large non-profit organization. We had a brand new Microsoft Exchange email system. It was a very large system. We had over 30,000 users. We were still in the process of tuning the email system. A process that can take up to a year. We have to figure out how much storage we need. We needed to know how big our servers needed to be. How many users we could put on each database. How many databases per server. There were dozens of metrics we were watching.

My manager called me into his office,

You know the auditors will be here tomorrow, right?

Sure, you’ve told me every day all week.

Well, audits are a big deal. The auditor will be meeting with just you for much of the day. Don’t tell him anything.

Excuse me?

I mean don’t volunteer any information. Don’t give him anything.

My manager viewed an audit like an exam. Instead, I treated like an evaluation. I figured that I could hire a consultant to help me tune my new system, or the auditor could do it for free. I viewed it as an evaluation rather than an examination.

The auditor today wanted to help us make our system better. If there was a weakness, he’d find it. Not because he wanted us to fail, but because he was interested in making us better.

Even though our audits happen once per year, we run our business on a day to day basis as if we are being audited every day. The auditor found a single issue with a security patch. We immediately patched the affected computer.

After five hours we went through our “Finding” meeting. To no one’s surprise we passed with zero issues. I almost wish the auditor had found something. After all, we can always get better.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Build Your Tribe

I considered the question,

Do I have a team? Or do I have a tribe?

In my company I don’t have anyone who reports to me. I’m not a team leader, or a team manager. In fact, my role is defined in such a way that I don’t even have any peers. My manager doesn’t hold a weekly team meeting on Mondays where we all share what we did over the weekend and discuss plans for the week.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of teams. A team leader, or team manager is one of the most important positions in any company, ranking right up there with company president, and C-level executives.

But, currently I’m team-less, in the traditional sense. And yet, I do have a team. Sure, it’s a virtual team. But, it’s a team nonetheless. It’s prehaps better described as a tribe.

My tribe is made up of the people that I work with and more importantly, the people who I depend on to do my job. In addition my tribe is people who depend on my in order to do their jobs.

So, Monday morning I get together with a group of people who depend on me and we talk a little about what we did over the weekend and what the plan is for this week. We typically don’t spend a lot of time in chitchat. Even when I was a formal team manager, I tried to remember that just because my story about visiting the Grand Canyon last week was interesting to me, didn’t mean it was interesting to others. At least it’s probably not the most important thing they are doing.

But, how do you build a team? Sure, I can recognize the people I depend on for success. It’s not always the people that the company thinks are my teammates. Prior to our last reorganization, I did have a team. We had a meeting every Monday morning where we talked about our weekend and what we had planned for the week. But, I didn’t share any tasks or goals with the rest of my “team.”

They were not my tribe. I went out to find my tribe.

You build your tribe in three steps.

First: Identify your tribe. Figure out who you need and who needs you. This is the easy part.

Second: Assemble your tribe. The difference between teams and tribes is that teams are brought together by yoru employer. Tribes are assembled on their own. Membership in a tribe requires mutual trust and mutual support. We share a tribe because we can help each other. And we support one another.

Third: Nuture your tribe. Once the tribe is assembled, it has to be nurtured or it will dissolve. You nurture your tribe by doing “triby” things. You invest in each others stories. You buy them ice creatme. You ask about their weekend. You measure each others success and help each other succeed.

I don’t have a team. But, my tribe is strong and doing amazing things.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Have Albert Einstein Run Your Meetings

Did he say, “Everything should be as simple as possible but not simpler”?

Or was it, “Everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler”?

Or, maybe it was, “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

Whew!

He probably said at least one of them. And while the great physicist was talking about basic elements of the universe, he could have been talking about meetings.

I was once criticized, formally in an annual performance review, for having too few meetings. The quote was, “I’ve reviewed Rodney’s calendar and he has fewer meetings scheduled than his peers.” I got an extremely low review score, for this perceived inadequecy along with others of equally questionable application to my position.

The fact is meetings can be very useful. But, they can also be a drain, a bore, a waste of time. I work very hard to make sure my meetings are none of those.

The first way is that I don’t have a lot. I spent a lot of time on email and Skype talking to my team. Our business runs fast enough that often waiting for a meeting to make a decision is too late.

I have a few standing meetings. They are status meetings with the team that depends on me, and the team that I depend on. Those are two different teams. Still I run both meetings.

The standard length of my meetings is 30 minutes. Especially if it’s a standing meeting. I want people to show up. Almost everyone is dialing in, so I can’t bring doughnuts as a bribe. So, I figure, I’ll use as little time as possible of their day.

Now, mind you, these are not planning meetings, or design meetings. These are standing status meetings. A chance for me to tell the teams what I’m working on and find out where they are with the stuff they are working on.

I wish we started on time. I’m always on time. But, not everyone can be there right at the start. The first two or three minutes is me trying random jokes and light hearted comments on the people who showed up at the start. We get going at two minutes after the start. And we end. . .we always end at the scheduled ending time.

In the middle, I run. Literally I run the meeting and figuratively I run through the status. If I have more than can go into a meeting, I put it in an email.

If you come to one of my meetings, it’s going to be short and to the point. Just like Einstein taught.

I think his statement could be reworded:

Meetings should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

And we are now out of time. Meeting adjourned.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Don’t Bad Mouth Your Employer. . .Even If You’re Robert De Niro (Just Shut Up And Sing)

Yesterday was an entertainment industry award show. It was the Tony Awards for outstanding performances on Broadway. At least I think it was. Like many Americans, I don’t watch awards shows.

In 1974, when the US population was 213 million, about 10% of them watched the Tony Awards. It was actually 20.03M, or 9.4%. I’m told that in television numbers, that is a big deal.

The year’s Tony Awards were watched by 6.3M people. Down a lot from 45 years ago. The numbers look even worse when you consider that the US population today is 327M. That means that in 45 years the veiwers dropped from 9.4% to 1.9%. There are lots of reasons why. We have more ways to get the news. We don’t have to watch the show to know who wins, for example.

This trend is not unique to the Tony’s. All awards shows, and television in general have lost viewers.

Donald Trump’s popularity currently stands at 41.7%, according to poll tracking site, fivethirtyeight.com. That’s really close to where Ronald Reagan and Barrack Obama were at this point in their presidencies. Actually, that’s not saying much. Because Reagan and Obama both took over failing economies, a year and a half in, neither had seen their policies start to turn the economy around. Trump on the other hand inherited a strong economy.

But, that’s not the point of this post. The point is that more than 40% of the American public approve of Donald Trump’s job as president. We all know he’s never been above 50%, not even on election night when he only garnered 46%, losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton who also didn’t garner 50% of the popular vote, but beat Trump by earning 48%.

But, that’s also not the point of this post.

The point is that 134,700,000 Americans give the president a thumbs up on his job performance.

It’s typically not a good idea to criticize your employer. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” comes to mind. I enjoy my job and I receive the accolades that my company offers those who do a good job. But, I have no doubt that were I to bad mouth them, or worse, if I were to insult our clients and customers, the people who pay us, I would be quickly given the opportunity to go be successful SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Robert De Niro spoke at the Tony Awards on Sunday night. In fact, the only reason I know the Tony Awards were on is the news coverage that Mr De Niro caused. I don’t know if he was hosting or just a presenter. Like I said, I, along with the vast majority of the public, don’t watch the awards shows.

De Niro departed from whatever prepared remarks he may have had to go on an expletive-laced tirade against the president. The show was broadcast live and the censors had a time keeping up with where to insert the *bleeps*.

A friend suggested that De Niro was brave for using his influence. She’s a good friend, but I think she’s wrong. No one watching the Tonys came away thinking, “I was okay with Trump until I heard that Bob De Niro didn’t like him. I’m out.”

And De Niro has made no secret of his desire to “punch the president in the face.” Okay, we get it. You don’t like him.

Here’s my issue with De Niro. If you are in an industry that relies on the public to pay you, why would you essentially alienate 40% of your audience? No one is going to quit watching the Tonys because of what De Niro said. In fact, he got a standing ovation from the glitterati in attendance. Sure, he was playing to his crowd.

But, you certainly are not going to build audience that way. De Niro is primarily known as a movie actor. The YTD domestic box office receipts for movies in 2018 are about $5.2B. It’s about on par with previous years. But, take out the three super hero movies (Black Panther, Infinity War and Deadpool 2) and that numbers drops to $3.6B. It’s not been a particularly good year when you consider the depth of the field. A few stars and a lot of less popular fare.

Whether you are part of the 40% that thinks President Trump is doing a good job, or the nearly 60% that thinks he isn’t, if you business depends on earning $5,000,000,000 by selling tickets at $9 each, you should be interested in attracting, or at least not driving away your audience.

So, to Mr De Niro, or Meryl Streep, or Hollywood’s talking-head du jour, we are your employer.

Shut up and sing already.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

That’s Probably Something I Should Have Known

Two bucket list items in one week!

Huh?

Visiting Route 66. It’s on my bucket list.

You have a bucket list? How did I not know this?

If I was having that conversation with a coworker, it might understandable. Even a friend, I think I might be forgiven for not knowing. Unfortunately this conversation was during the drive back from Wilson Arizona to the Grand Canyon and the person telling me was my lovely wife.

It’s not like we are newlyweds, just getting to know one another. Nope. My lovely wife has put up with me for over 30 years. In all that time I didn’t realize she has a bucket list.

Are there other things on your bucket list?

Oh sure, lots.

It was like meeting a total stranger. We’ve lived less than 500 miles from the Grand Canyon for years and it was on my lovely wife’s list of the things she wanted to see before she died? I didn’t know whether to be grateful she’d finally got to see it, or appalled that me, her husband not only did make it happen, but didn’t know.

What else don’t I know? I’m pretty sure we have 13 kids. I know all their names and everything.

Six grandbabies still, right? I didn’t miss one?

She’s actually happy in our house, right? Is blue even her favorite color?

What about you?

What do you mean?

Do you have a bucket list?

Ah. . .yeah. . .I guess. . .

So, what’s on it?

Well. . .visit all 30 baseball stadiums

That’s it?

. . .So, pretty cool driving down Route 66, don’t you think?

She knows me much better than I know her.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: