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The Most Important Business Lesson I Ever Learned

I hate changing jobs. Oh, I don’t mind getting a new job. I actually enjoy interviewing. The part I struggle with is actually applying, picking a job and saying, “Yeah, I could. . .I should have that job.”

It’s not that I lack confidence either. I’m comfortable in as in individual contributor, or as a second level manager. It’s simply the visualisation of myself in a new position, a new role.

My first real position was a support operator for WordPerfect corporation in Orem Utah. When I started in IT in the late 80s, it was enough if you could touch type. I excelled at support. It was a job I could do well. I had more than a little experience with computers already. And I was good with people.

I quickly moved up in the support organization. But few people make support a career, and I was no different. Eventually, I started looking outside of the support organization for a new position.

I had a good friend who was a WordPerfect Sales Rep in Washington DC. He recommended me for a position on the sales team. I had been travelling as an escalation engineer. I would work with the sales team setting up and later troubleshooting WordPerfect email installations.

My friend Jim knew I was good in front of clients. I wasn’t easily rattled. I obviously had a great handle on the technology. In other words, I was a great fit for the position.

I didn’t get it.

Jim was part of the interview process. Although he had to remain objective. I interviewed poorly. I was tentative. I was everything I later worked to overcome.

Jim and I talked about it afterward. And it was then that he gave me this piece of advice,

If you really are the best person for the job, it’s not arrogant to admit it. In fact, you owe it to your employer to put yourself out there and push for the position.

I had been overly deferential. In an effort to not be boastful, I’d gone too far to the other side and downplayed my accomplishments. Jim knew the work I’d done, but I hadn’t adequetly explained it during the intview process.

It’s a fine line between modesty and bragging. But, if you are the best choice for the job, don’t be afraid to let people know. If you don’t, no one else will.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved


Why Do We Need To Never Forget?

Like many you, I have a tough time with September 11. It’s the only day each year I can bear to watch the videos and look at the pictures. I wasn’t planning to write about it. It’s probably not healthy, but I intended to fly the flag, mourn, and then put the memories away for another year. I might never forget, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy remembering.

But, a funny thing happened to me on September 11 this year. I found myself meeting with a group of students and their parents who have experienced some form of trauma in their lives. For some it’s abuse, for some it’s abandonment. But, each of the kids there had to deal with some level of major trauma. And not a single one of them remembered 9/11. Many hadn’t even been born.

The therapists had us divide into small groups and answer the question, “Why is it important to never forget September 11?” Our group had 10 people. One other parent was old enough to remember that day, but she had been in the 5th grade on September 11, 2001.

“Would y’all like me to go through my experience that day?” I suggested to the group? “Sure, go ahead.”

And I then related where I was, what I was doing and most importantly what I was thinking and feeling on that September morning 17 years ago. My story, like every “9/11 Story” was unique to me. But, to the teenagers in that circle, it was the 9/11 Story.

I have a friend who becomes slightly annoyed at the “Never Forget” memes. “How could I ever forget? You don’t have to remind me. I lived through it.”

And it was during that discussion on September 11 with those injured kids that I finally understood the “Never Forget” mantra. It’s not for me, or my friend, those of us who lived through it. It’s for the next generation. It’s for the people who only have history books to teach them the events of that day. And it was a tragic day, but so was December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy. The day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. So was November 22, 1963 in Dallas, as President Kennedy was killed.

Kennedy’s death belonged to my parents generation. Pearl Harbor to my grandparents. September 11 was my generation’s tragic moment. But, for the next generation the events stream together. They are all “Before I was born — old.” And yet, the war we started after 9/11 has been raging their entire lives. They need to understand why we are fighting and why while all those events were impactful, it’s important to remember the day the World Stopped Turning.

Here are my reasons why it’s important to remember September 11, in no particular order.

1. There are people in this world that want to kill you.

We didn’t know who Osama bin Laden was. We had never heard of al Qaeda. We didn’t understand that there were entire groups that wanted nothing so much as they wanted to hurt and kill as many Americans as possible.

2. We are vulnerable.

Prior to 9/11 we had a sense of invincibility. Bad things happened other places in the world. Not here. We were safe then. We weren’t, but we thought we were. We know we aren’t now.

3. Life goes on.

The fact that we are not safe doesn’t need to paralyze us in fear. The Irish, the Israelis, and dozens of other people in the world have been threatened for decades and they go on about their lives. We learned that we could do that too. In fact, we learned that it’s really the only choice in the face of terror.

4. America is a good friend but a terrible enemy.

Osama bin Laden’s organization struck at us from half a world away. Our president vowed to track down the people responsible no matter how long it took or where they were hiding. We had an election and a new president from a different party came to power, but the relentlessness with which we hunted down those responsible didn’t waver. Eventually we found those ultimately responsible and we killed them.

5. We are more alike than we are different.

People who were alive seventeen years ago remember the tragedy of 9/11, and the amazing transformation of 9/12. We put aside our difference and came together. We came together to grieve. Many of us came together to pray. Mostly we supported one another. If the terrorists thought that the attacks of that day would break our spirit, they instead saw us unite in spirit. We were much stronger afterward than before.

But, I think that strength was always there. We argue over policies and roads, red and blue, left and right. But, like brothers and sisters who argue while growing up in the same house, when the house is threatened, we look out for one another. We are stronger together than apart.

That’s what we need to always remember and never forget.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved


Confessions Of A Car Snob

I didn’t mean to be a snob. I mean I didn’t start out to be one. In fact, I thought I was doing the exact opposite. I once owned a 1966 Mustang.It was the closest I’ve ever come to having a having a desirable car.

It wasn’t a great car. It had a tow hitch on the back when I bought it. But, I loved that car.

Most of my cars have been practical. I’ve owned minivans and Suburbans. I’ve owned two Honda Civics. I do have two what could be considered luxury vehicles parked in ront of my house. A Chrysler New Yorker 5th Avenue and a Lexus ES 300. I say they could be considered luxury cars if they weren’t both over 20 years old and showing their age.

My favorite vehicle was a 1978 F250 pickup. It was best described as “mostly green.” It had manual windows and locks. No air conditioning. It never had a radio. The engine was in great shape, but the body wasn’t. It was also one of the few vehicles I’ve had that had a standard transmission. I taught my two oldest girls to drive stick in that old truck. We had to sell it prior to a move a few years ago prior to a move out of state.

Recently I was driving a 2006 Grand Prix. Again, a fairly practical car. I’d done a bit of work on it, mostly to fix a leak in the cooling system. Being a neutral gray, it was pretty non-descript. You would probably not have even noticed me if you drove past me.

I recently sold it to my 18 year old son. He moved out last month and has been riding a moped. That’s great in the summer, but Utah winters don’t mix well with two wheeled “open air” vehicles.

My daily ride became a 1994 Dodge Dakota. The body is in tough shape, but the engine is great. The radio doesn’t work. The air conditioning is broken. It has manual windows and locks. It’s best described as “mostly green.”

The great thing about driving an old truck, especially one that has a few dents and fading paint, is commuting on the freeway. In a typical commuter car, if you want to merge on the freeway, you look for an open spot, turn on your blinker and then merge when it’s clear. When you drive what most people would call a “beater” you just merge. Oh sure, I still signal, I still try to be a courteous driver. But, where in a Pontiac Grand Prix, some of the Utah drivers attempt to intimidate me, by speeding up once my signal is on, in an old “mostly green” Dodge Dakota, they give me plenty of room. They make a space.

I was driving through Northern Orem Utah recently and saw an old Ford truck. Probably a 1978. It had plenty of rust and looked awesome. Then, I noticed it had an antique license plate. Utah lets you get a special plate for vehicles older than 20 years. Many of my cars have been older than 20 years. So, I’ve considered if I would ever want to get a classic license plate.

It’s never appealed to me. In fact, as I looked at the aging truck with the new looking classic license plate, I found myself making jusgements about the owner that I’d never met. Why would he ruin a great looking truck like that?

And then I realized I’d become a snob. I’d become a car snob. And I hadn’t recognized it because I wasn’t the typical car snob. I workw ith a guy who owns a Corvette. He takes great care of his car and is rightly proud of how it looks.

I care about how my car looks as well. But, where he’s interested in making sure his car looks nice, I’m proud of how bad my car looks. He is rightly proud of a classic Corvette C4. I’m equally proud of a beat up pickup with a clam shell on the back.

I’ll probably get the radio fixed at some point. The worst of the summer heat in the high mountain desert of Utah is over for the year, so I may wait to fix the AC until next spring.

I still don’t think I’ll ever get an “old guy” plate, but I have a better understanding of that guy in North Orem who 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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Most Expensive Meeting I’ve Ever Attended

Conservatively, I’d say the meeting cost about $1.5M per hour, or about $25,000 per minute. It could have been much more. I doubt it was less.

I work for a global company. It’s based in Europe, but operates in over 100 countries. Last week we had a global meeting to hear from the international president.

The company has tens of thousands of employees. But, even if we were a small company of 10, a staff meeting is the single most expensive meeting your company will have.

I once worked for a company where I was the manager over the email team. The manager I reported to also had managers under him who were over the identity management team, networking, database, and desktop computing. Like many managers he had a weekly staff meeting. During his staff meetings we would continue to work on email until it was our turn to brief him on our team’s issues.

After several weeks, my manager became frustrated.

It bothers me that you guys keep working on email during my meetings.

Well, we all have back to back meetings and we also have tons of email. If we don’t do it here, we have to stay late or take it home.

That staff meeting was one of the most expensive meetings of the week. My manager’s entire staff was not doing anything else on our own jobs while we were in that meeting. Is it any wonder we wanted to take advantage of each spare moment?

Knowing your staff meetings are the most expensive meeting you will hold all week (or quarterly as in the case of our global meeting) it makes sense to be as efficient with the time as possible.

I don’t schedule a lot of meetings. Most of the work I do is one on one, a phone call, an email, a text or an instant message. When I do schedule meetings, especially reoccuring staff meetings, I schedule them for 30 minutes and try to finish early.

Entire books have been written about meetings, how to hold a meeting, how to avoid meetings, how to use your imagination to cast Hollywood actors as the people in your meeting. My favorite is to count the number of men vs women. In IT the ratio is typically 3:1 up to 10:1.

It’s a good bet that if your attendees have time and the need to play those kind of mind games, your meeting is too long.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Why People Who Say “See The Movie Before Criticizing It” Are Wrong

There’s a new movie coming out about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. It’s called “First Man.” There’s some controversy around it. The film’s director Damien Chazelle chose to not film a scene of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin actually planting the flag on the moon. The flag appears in the background of other scenes, but there is no shot of the two astronauts putting up the American flag.

Critics have complained that not including that scene is unAmerican. Others have told the critics to stop judging a film that they haven’t yet seen. That those critics should first go see the film before criticizing it. Those others are wrong.

There are two political documentaries coming out this summer. The first, Death of a Nation was released on August 3, 2018. It’s directed by Dinesh D’Souza. It’s fair to say that D’Souza is pretty conservative. He was convicted of illegally donating more than the allowable limits to Republican candidates several years ago. President Trump pardoned him this summer.

Death of a Nation compares presidents Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln. The reviews are pretty bipolar. Of the 4181 reviews on IMDB, 54.5% rate it a 9 or 10/10. It was rated a 1 or 2/10 by 38.3% of reviewers. The remaining 7.2% of reviewers gave it a rating between 3 and 8.

Dinesh D’Souza has a history of popular documentaries. His movie “2016: Obama’s America” made $33M and is the 33rd top grossing documentary of all time.

The second film is by liberal film maker Michael Moore. On September 21 he will release “Fahrenheit 11/9,” a film that he hopes will “be the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.” Fahrenheit 11/9 is a variation on the title of his earlier film, “Fahrenheit 9/11” which took a critical view of the Bush presidency. “Fahrenheit 9/11” was itself a variation on the Ray Bradbury book, “Fahrenheit 451.” The title is the burning temperature of paper. The book describes a society that surpresses knowledge by burning books.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” is the top grossing documentary of all time. It earned about $119M. It’s reveiwers were not quite as bifected as those of “Death of a Nation” but were still divided. Of all reviewers, 77.6% rated it a 7, 8, 9 or 10. Of those who didn’t like it, 8.6% rated it a 1 or a 2. That left 13.8% of reviewers who thought it was a 3, 4, 5 or 6. It’s a good bet that “Fahrenheit 11/9 will see similar divided views.

If you are like most people in America, you probably view yourself as liberal, conservative or independent. And if you are independent, you probably lean one way or the other, liberal or conservative.

It’s a good bet that Moore’s film is going to find fans in the Liberal side of the populace, just as D’Souza’s film has found fans on the Conservative side.

Now, think of the film that does not align closest with your own political beliefs. Should you go see that film before criticizing it? Fairness would seem to say you should.

You shouldn’t.

Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is not the best documentary of all time. In fact, depending on the lists, “Fahrenheit 9/11” doesn’t even make the top 50. Rotten Tomatoes ranks “Fahrenheit 9/11” as the 83rd best documentary of all time. The all time best documentary (using Rotten Tomatoes rating) is 2008’s “Man on a Wire.” It made just under $3M. A measly 2% of what “Fahrenheit 9/11” made.

Michael Moore didn’t make the best documentary, he made the most profitable. And that’s why the argument to “Go see a movie before you criticize it” falls apart. I’m sure both Mr Moore and Mr D’Souza would love it if all their critics went to see their movies. It would quickly make “Death of a Nation” and “Fahrenheit 11/9” two of the most popular (and profitable) documentaries of all time.

Director Rob Reiner is an unapologetic liberal. However, I don’t know a single person who would would refuse to go see “Princess Bride” because it was made by a liberal film maker. Even his “political” film “The American President” was entertaining. I’ve always thought it was his attempt to “teach” Bill Clinton how to be a president.

Mel Gibson is politically conservative. And yet, last year his movie “Hacksaw Ridge” about Medal of Honor winner Desmond Doss, wasn’t boycotted by liberals.

You should go see a movie if it’s a good movie (Princess Bride, Hacksaw Ridge.) You should avoid a movie if it’s a bad movie. And it’s completely okay to define “bad” however you want, and to take the advice of others.

However, remember that film makers make movies with the intent of people going to see the movie. That why Damien Chazell made “First Man.” He wants people to come see his movie. Merely going to see a movie at the theater means you are contributing to its success. If you don’t want to contribute to a movie, maybe because it’s made by D’Souza, or Moore, or it doesn’t show the planting of the American flag, it’s actually counterproductive to first go see the movie.

You support the film maker by buying a ticket. You don’t have to buy a ticket to be allowed to share your opinion.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Working 5 Hours For 5 Cents

Maybe it was longer than five hours. I may have lost track. But over the past few days I put in 5 hours for five cents. Actually only the second 5 hours was for 5 cents, the first five hours, which was more like 8 hours was free.

Let me go back to the beginning. My son’s car, a 1991 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue needed a new power steering pump because his leaks. It costs about $250 to have a mechanic put in a new water pump. My son’s car is probably not worth more than $500-$1000. It didn’t make sense to pay a mechanic. Especially when I could do it.

Of course, I could do it. . .twice.

The first time took longer than it probably should have. My son is riding his bike while the weather is nice. He’s not in a hurry to have his car back. In fact, he was thinking of selling it to help finance a mission for the Mormon church.

The power steering pump is buried way down in the bottom part of the engine compartment.

In fact, the mechanic would have replaced it from the bottom. The mechanic has a lift. I don’t have a lift. I have jack stands. I did it from the top.

After a couple weeks I managed to get the power steering pump out. You can buy replacement power steering pumps for a 91 Chrsysler, but you cannot get a replacement resevoir.

I switched the resevoir from the old pump to the new pump and eventually, over several days got it put back together. . .and it leaked. Worse than the old one.

I stared at that leaky power steering pump for a long time. It had taken hours to get that pump out and then more hours to get it back in. I didn’t want to do it again.

I did it again. Fortunately the second time I took it apart, it only took about 90 minutes to get the pump out. As I looked at the connection between the pump and the resevoir I realized what the issue was. A $0.05 rubber washer.

The old one was worn and wouldn’t hold a seal. I put the new washer on and put the pump back together with the resevoir. No leaks.

Another four or five hours later and I finally had the engine reassembled. We filled the power steering resevoir and . . .no leaks.

I thought about that rubber washer. If I’d simply replaced it the first time, I wouldn’t have had to redo the entire project. Failure to notice that small detail cost me hours and hours of additional work.

Is there a business application? I’ve had projects fail because someone forgot one small detail at the very beginning.

I was once working on a migration from Microsoft Exchange email to Novell Groupwise email. We migrated 3000 users over Labor Day weekend. We finished early. During our final validation steps we noticed that some of the images for one email were attached to a different email. We didn’t worry about it too much since the images were mostly from SPAM emails.

But, then, I noticed that not all the emails were SPAM. Some of them were legitimate email that was cross-linked.

We were migrating a hospital’s email.

HIPAA requires that you not allow anyone except a person’s doctor see their medical information. Like the medical information in the emails we had tried to migrate.

Our programmer found a tiny flaw in his code. He corrected it and we started the entire migration again.

The Devil is in the details.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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