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Getting Stuck

I could. . .or maybe I could. . .or what if I. . .No. Instead, I’ll. . .

Anxiety and ADHD are not a good combination. Most days it’s not an issue. I go to therapy. I take Lexapro. I make lists and I manage my stress.

And most days, that’s enough. Most days.

Today wasn’t most days.

If my schedule is set, I don’t have to think. I can simply go from one meeting to the next. I can respond to questions. Hold conversations. It’s not that different than a normal day.

But, it’s the unstructured time that kills me. Again, not most days. But, on days that my anxiety is high, it’s almost impossible to make a decision. Should I start on the Windows 10 project plan? Or maybe respond to emails? Or what if I decide to dig into the error we keep getting with the Skype meetings?

There are so many choices I often can’t choose. Even deciding something as simple as whether to move a book from the top of my desk where it’s slightly in the way, to the bookshelf is a struggle.

Even typing this, it sounds stupid. I know that. Lift you arm, grab the book and move it. How tough is that? How can you claim you are immobolized?

And yet. . .and yet. . .my hand shakes. I reach for the book only to pull it back. Maybe I should make a list? But, even that requires a decision and try as I might I simply cannot make one.

Fortunately, writing is not one of the issues affected by my anxiety. Louis L’Amore once said,

I could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and wirte with my typewriter on my knees.

I’ve always tried to emulate his work ethic.

Ben Bova, the famous Science Fiction writer, declared,

I never had writer’s block. I couldn’t afford it.

Writing, has always been my refuge. Give me a keyboard and a blank page and I’ll give you 800-1000 words per day.

If only I could do that with my decision making.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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What Do You Think About When You Don’t Have To Think?

A quiet mountain meadow? A solitary stroll down a slot canyon? A hike through the California redwoods? Where would you go if you needed to be in a peaceful place? Oh, and you needed to be alone.

I’m starting a new therapy technique. It’s called EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. We’ll pick some traumatic moments from my past and process them. We’ll talk through these events. But, it can get intense. (Or so I’m told.) When it gets too intense, my therapist wants me to have a mental image of a place, a safe place that I can go to in my mind.

I’ve thought a lot about where I would want to go. I’ve been to many wonderful spots in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been to slot canyons that were no more than 6 feet wide with walls 100 feet tall. I’ve spent the day in the the prettiest high mountain meadow you could imagine. Watched over by a snow capped Mt Timpanogos, the most beautiful mountain in the world.

I’ve spent nights camped out under the wide expanse of the universe. So far from city lights that the Milky Way lit up our campsite more than a full moon. I’ve rafted down whitewater rivers in the heart of Colorado.

Where would you go? What place would be calming, peaceful and safe to you?

There are many places close to home that I could have chosen. But, instead I opted for somewhere a lot farther and further away.

I also thought about a motorcycle trip. I’ve ridden bikes since I was a kid. I mostly stopped once I had my own kids. The feelings of freedom, riding in the open air is intoxicating. But, it’s also extremely dangerous. I don’t worry about my own ability to ride. The problem is other drivers.

Start seeing motorcycles

As appealing as a long stretch of highway, a bike and the wind on my face (of course, I’m wearing a helmet. I’m not stupid), is, I decided on a place even more isolated and to me, more peaceful.

I decided my happy place is a boat. Well, on a boat. A 36 foot sail boat. I’m familiar with this boat. I’ve sailed it for years in my head.

Toby Keith and the ultimate “sailor” Jimmy Buffet once recorded a song called Sailboat For Sale.

I could sail the ocean
If the wind would come and get me

My boat sails the ocean in my dreams. I imagine what it would be like to sail around the world without touching land. Sometimes I take the Panama Canal. Sometimes I sail South through the Straits of Magellan. I’ve sailed through the South Pacific. Cool breezes keeping the temperatures moderate and the boat moving.

I’m not sure why I always choose to sail alone. I’m never lonely. It’s always peaceful. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and cannot imagine life without them. So, it’s not a matter of running away. It’s simply a moment of being away.

When I was a kid, we had a record player. One of the albums we had was the story of Disney’s Song of The South. That movie is out of print. It is one of the Disney properties that will never be rereleased. It featured jovial happy slaves in the American antebellum South.

But, the stories about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear taught important lessons that transcend the unfortunate setting in which they were told. One I remember is called “The Laughing Place.”

Brer Rabbit, the trickster, was captured by Brer Bear. Brer Rabbit started telling Brer Bear about his “laughing place.” Brer Rabbit talked about how wonderful it was for him. How when he was there, he laughed and laughed and laughed. Finally, he convinced Brer Bear to take him to this laughing place before taking him to Brer Fox to be killed and eaten.

When they arrived, Brer Bear was immeadiately set upon by bees. In the ensuing confusion, Brer Rabbit, of course, escaped. As he made his escape, Brer Bear accused him of lying.

I thought you said this was a laughing place. I ain’t laughing.

I said this was MY laughing place. You have to find your own laughing place.

And, of course, he was laughing as he said it.

And a happy place is like that. Mine is a sailboat in the middle of a deep blue ocean. Yours is going to be someplace else. And that’s okay.

If you haven’t found it yet, just think about where you think about when you don’t have to think about anything.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Start of A Very Long Journey

The journey of a thousand miles begins wtih one step.
– Lao Tzu

Today I watched a journey begin. Is it a long journey? Probably. At least three months, possibly as many two years. I also said goodbye to my oldest son as he started on his journey.

We don’t have as many rights of passage in our society as we once had. Young men don’t go off to war. We don’t have an initiation or feats of strength to mark the time with a boy becomes a man. High school graduation is close, I suppose. But, graduation is more an ending than a beginning.

The Mormon church, or as it prefers to be known by it’s full name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a very specific coming of age event. Each young man of 18 years old is expected to serve a mission for the church. The missions can be either a teaching mission or a service mission.

You’ve seen church missionaries on teaching missions. They are the ones with white shirts and ties and black name tags. You’ll often see them on bicycles.

A teaching missionary’s days are spent mostly visiting and teaching people about Jesus Christ. There are plenty of other topics, but everything comes back to a testimony of the Savior.

Teaching missionaries devote 100% of their time to missionary work. No jobs, no movies, no music (except Tabernacle Choir hymns.) They get one day per week to do shopping, washing clothes and generally playing basketball. The rest of the time, typically 60-70 hours per week is spent doing missionary work.

My son will be a teaching missionary for at least the next three months.

Missionaries can also be called to a service mission. Service missionaries do a wide range of tasks. Some work in the church canneries and farms. Some work in the temples helping do much of the day to day tasks needed to keep the church’s 175 temples running.

My nephew is serving a service mission on a cattle ranch in Arizona. He’ll be there for another 18 months.

It might seem strange to you if you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. After all, why would a young man, just starting out in life want to take two years and spend it either working for free or teaching people about Jesus Christ?

It’s a noble endeavor, of course, but two years of exclusive attention service means a two year delay on education. A two year delay on college sports. A two year delay on starting a profession. Why willingly set yourself back like that?

Each young man has to make his own decision on why to go. Or even if he wants to go. And not all young men decide to go. Steve Young is a fairly well known member of the church. He played quarterback for BYU. The “B-Y” in BYU stands for Brigham Young, the second leader of the church and Steve Young’s ancestor. And yet, he decided to skip going on a mission and start his football career.

Jeremy Guthrie, on the other hand, suspended a promising baseball career to serve a mission. He later went on to pitch in game 7 of the World Series. Guthrie said that even if it meant he’d never pitch in the majors, he still would have gone on a mission.

I’ve never regretted the two years I spent teaching deaf people in Chicago and Anaheim in the early 1980’s.

My son will be laboring in the Layton Utah area for the next three months. After that, he may end up somewhere else for the rest of his mission. It won’t take a mission for him to become a man. He’s already done that on his own. But, two years devoted to service will teach him things that he couldn’t learn any other way.

Elder Bliss took his first step today. He’ll pedal more than a thousand before he’s done.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Movie In Your Head Stinks

I love it when a show ends or a movie series wraps and suddenly everyone is a master director, producer, and writer here to tell us how it was really pretty terrible and you know they could do better if they had the chance.

Some friends and I call this “the imaginary movie in your head”, which is a deeply personal and customized idea of how to do something “right” if only those jerks actually doing it would listen. When something large, popular, or significant ends? We get to hear a lot from people motivated by these phantom productions of id and dreamstuff.

– Jack Norris Writer, Game Designer

A movie came out recently that was the conclusion of a long line of movies. My friend Jack intentionally avoided mentioning the film. I think it was because his comment isn’t really about any particularly movie. It could be about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, or Twilight or Firefly.

His point is that after the fact, the critics are quick to point out the apparent flaws. The plot points that weren’t to their liking. “That actress should want to play that role they refused, that actor should be 20 years younger, etc…” as Jack noted.

I’ve seen similar attitudes in business. No one knows better how to run a business than those who are not actually in charge of running it. I’ve worked for some large companies, Microsoft, WordPerfect. My current employer has 130,000 employees around the world.

Large companies typically have well defined processes and policies. Rules and regulations.

Ever heard of a crazy law? You know, like bear wrestling matches are prohibited in Alabama. Wire cutters cannot be carried in your pocket in Texas. Or, Utah’s law that alcohol may not be sold during an emergency.

The thing about every one of those crazy laws, is that it was passed because someone, somewhere did the things that are now outlawed. Every law is like that. Typically they come about because someone somewhere did something stupid, like used a hairdryer while bathing, and now there’s a law.

The same goes for rules in a company. Most of the processes and procedures are in place because the company at one point or another needed them. That doesn’t stop employees from deciding that this policy or that process should be changed.

Jack understands this about movies too.

“This isn’t to say the media we get is perfect. . .”

The same is true in business. I remember two examples from when I worked at WordPerfect. The first was way back when software was installed by floppy disk. (Those are large versions of the SAVE icon. And worked kind of like thumb drives.)

WordPerfect sent out a lot of floppy disks. Thousands per week. It was the only way to send out software patches. Their postage costs were huge. One day a guy working in the shipping department figured out how to save the company a lot of money on shipping. “A lot” as in $25,000 per month. This was in the early 1990’s.

The guy told his supervisor how the company could save over a quarter million dollars per year. In appreciation the company gave him gift certificates for dinner a nice restaurant. Actually, the company didn’t have to do anything. Should they have done more? I think so. Their response made people less inclined to come up with money saving ideas.

But, when people complained, I told them that “When you have your own company, you can run it anyway you want.”

The second example, was a policy change that the company made saying employees could only take three sick days to care for relatives. After that, they had to take time without pay. It seemed like a reasonable, if somewhat harsh policy on the surface. It was certainly within the company’s rights to make such a policy. The fact that it was a horrible policy didn’t matter.

And it was a terrible policy. It turned honest employees into dishonest employees. We were a call center that started taking calls at 6:00AM. And we had lots of young families. If a young mother gets up at 5:00AM and finds her toddler throwing up, who is she going to call assuming she’s already used her three days? No one. She’s going to call in and claim to be sick, thereby taking care of her child, but also breaking company policy.

Someone, who has been anonymous all these years and will remain so, sent a letter to the board of directors and the VP over HR explaining that exact scenario.

The company didn’t have to change their policy. And when that anonymous writer starts his (or her) own company someday he (or she) can make whatever policy they want.

In this case, the company opted to change their policy.

But, the fact is, despite these examples, most suggestions that people offer are impractical. I once drove a paper route. We barely made enough to cover gas. The paper should increase our pay, right? Except for the fact that the papers were in the process of dying off from the online news sites. There was no way the paper was going to boost our pay. My idea worked great for me. Not so well for the company.

The same thing is true in movies. Again from my friend Jack,

The imaginary movie in your head actually sucks in some fundamental way for anyone who isn’t you or very much like you. Sometimes it flat out ignores reality in favor of what “should” happen. Other times it just, untethered by actual needs to presented narrative and production, floats around in little pieces of scenes and plots that make for great tweets or social media posts, but perhaps not good TV/film.

So, when you start your own business, or make your own movie, or write your own novel, feel free to make your own rules and create your own plots. Until then it’s probably best to just keep the movie in your head.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Remembering What I love About My job

It’s not often you get to revisit a postponed or worse yet, cancelled project. Business is typically a forward looking enterprise. Like a truck on a one way road, there’s almost never a chance to circule back and revisit a previous decision.

I just got to revisit a previous decision. My company has multiple sites all across the United States. I started when we just opening our first site in Salt Lake City. We’ve now grown dramatically.

Each time we move to a new location, there’s a ton of work that needs to be done. Building plans need to be drawn, approved and premitted. Equipment has to be ordered. People have to be hired and trained. The entire operation takes weeks of work. Typically it takes about three weeks more than the schedulers give me, but we’ve always managed to bring the project in on time.

A couple of years ago we decided to open a fifth location in southern Georgia. We informed me of the location and we got to work. We built our project plan. We did the build out, ordered the equipment. We flew out to Georgia several times.

In fact, we were all ready to start hiring people when the needs of the business changed.

The Georgia site has been cancelled.

I fall in love a little bit with each site we build out. I spend hours working on the site. I spend days on site. I spend months thinking and planning for it.

The Georgia site was the first time we had built out a site and then abandoned it. Some other client moved into it. For months afterward, my team would describe bad news as “Georgia.”

After years of rapid growth, after Georgia we went into more of a maintenance mode. We added additional people at various sites, but
no new sites.

Building out a new site is a very stressful and time pressured process. It’s work I have to do on top of my normal job as well. But, there’s something exciting about building something new. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.

These week I got an email:

We have decided to expand into the Georgia site.

The email was a day ago and we’ve already had multiple meetings. We have plenty of questions we still need to figure out. We have people to assign, project plans to build. The initial GoLive date was months away. And then, the schedule is was shortened to about three weeks less than we need.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

He Screwed Up. . .We Still Let Him Go To The Dance

My son was struggling to obey the rules. He was respectful enough, but still had issues being where he was supposed to be and doing his jobs. So, it was surprising to him when we announced that we were going to let him attend prom.

His counslor was surprised too.

I’m not sure what to say. I know he was really looking forward to it, but he told me that based on some of these other things, he didn’t think he’d be allowed to go.

Yes?

So. . . why is he allowed to go?

We let him go because we said we would. We often make contracts with our kids. We tell them what extra privileges they can earn, and what the requirements are to earn them. We generally write it down so there is no misunderstandings later. (There are always still misunderstandings later.)

Attendance at Prom was an extra privlege. The requirement was grades. He had to get his grades up to an agreed upon level. It was a struggle for him, but he did it. He even cleared a failing grade from the previous term.

But, he also had additional problems that cropped up, right? Am I not rewarding him for poor behavior? If he’s not following the rules, not doing his chores, not being where he said he’d be, shouldn’t those be corrected before he goes to a dance?

No.

Part of the reason we write contracts with our kids is so that they start to learn, not only about contracts, but about keeping your word, being responsible, and most importantly, working for a reward.

I want my kids to understand that putting in hard work pays off. I just had a daughter graduate from the University of Utah today. She went back to school after having 4 kids to finish her degree. She understood the requirements and made the sacrifices to satisfy them.

The agreement with my son about his grades was pretty clear: get your grades up and you can go to the dance. As the parent, I could certainly change the conditions after the fact, but what message would I be sending? That the contract didn’t matter? That even if you do the work, someone can arbitrarily change the rules? Those are not the lessons I want him to absorb.

So, we’ll work with him on getting his room clean, and doing his chores, and checking in. Those are all important things for him to do.

But, we’ll also let him enjoy the reward for his hard work. And I will pray that he will learn well the lesson that hard work pays off.

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Project Managers vs Program Managers

LAAAADDDDIEESSS and GENTLEMEN. In this corner armed with a gantt chart and a calendar, the PROJECT MANAGER! And in this corner, armed with client requests and a budget projection the PROGRAM MANAGER!

LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMMMMMMBLE!

Okay, it’s not quite that bad. But, there’s a reason the project manager and the stakeholder, or sponsor or program manager shouldn’t be the same person. They have different and competing roles.

Program manager isn’t part of the typical PMI project plan. A program manager mostly fills the role of stake holder or sponsor. The program manager needs to understand the needs of the customer. She needs to understand how the solution will fit into the existing infrastructure.

The project manager doesn’t actually need to understand the solution before the project starts. He needs to be able to take the requirements, coordinate with subject matter experts, look at the schedule and build a task list.

Why would I suggest that the PM and the PM (project and program) are at odds? The project manager needs to keep the project on track. She is responsible for getting the project done on time.

The program manager is responsible for the feature lists. He needs to look at the schedule, as well, and the program manager may be the one to make the tough calls about what needs to be cut from the feature list.

Typically the program manager is trying to push in “one more feature.” The project manager is trying to push out features to keep the schedule straight.

And that’s assuming the budget is known and stable.

We have a new collaborative project starting with our client. I’m the program manager on my side. I work with a counterpart on the client side. The client assigned a project manager to run the project on their side. I’m negotiating with our project manager team.

I tried to explain why we should assign our own project manager. The project manager team looked at the request

But, it’s a pretty small project. Why can’t you be the project manager?

Well, I’m already standing in a corner. . .ready to rumble.

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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