Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

Aging and Mortality Warning Signs

About three weeks back Teresa and I were doing some landscaping work in the back yard, I was digging up some of the dirt by the new shed.  The ground level was too high to open the door on the shed during winter, which inhibited being able to drive through the shed with the snowblower.  So we decided to repave a lot of the area surrounding the patio with larger stones.

During said shoveling activity, I felt a generalized, non acute pain in my chest.  Not necessarily concentrated but from shoulder to shoulder.  I stopped shoveling and attempted to understand where it was coming from.   I really couldn’t.  If you know anything about the potential for death in the US, pain in the chest is nothing to mess around with as it’s a primary indicator of a “heart attack” or myocardial infarction–a situation where arteries are struggling or incapable of delivering blood to the heart at which point the heart cannot get enough oxygen to properly pump blood.  Without oxygen the muscle tissue begins to die off and often leads to death.

After stopping shoveling I took it easy the rest of the day.  I went and saw a general practitioner to get their opinion on it.  I work out three to four times a week and never have any issues.  My thoughts were that it was a general muscular strain that could be confused with issues from coronary arterial disease.  The doctor was very cautious but thought that was a good guess. They ran and electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) and everything seemed fine.

Since then I’ve been trying to be aware if there are any other issues but nothing seems too off other than the occasional twinge from reaching a certain way.  All good, but this type of thing is a big wakeup call generally.

The idea of having issues with your heart is really scary.  Not necessarily on a personal level so much as that my daughter is so young and the idea of not being around was terrifying–and worrisome.  I was thinking about it nonstop for a few days and everything else seemed a lot less important.  I’m 99% sure it was all just a scare, but it will probably only serve to help me focus on the things I’d already been wanting to do–eat healthier and get in better shape.

Regardless of how old you are, taking care of yourself  is important if only for those around you that depend on it.

Mobile Computing

It’s been a long time now that I’ve expected mobile computing to take over the desktop computing platforms.  There’s always going to be a desktop platform (or at least some version of it) as it’s so helpful to have large screens for analyzing data.  I use two wide screens at work, usually have multiple Excel files, Email, Powerpoints and PDFs open.  It’s very productive.

On a side note–it seems like a lot more lately people have been asking me “What do you do at work all day?” I think it’s pretty lost on people as “Marketing” sounds really generic.  I love my work because it’s largely variable.  My role is centered on business growth and runs the gamut from market research (a lot of it) to helping our business development teams build relationships and get project work.  Every day is different and it’s an incredible job at an incredible company.

Productivity at work is very important, but at home it doesn’t mean a lot.  Most of my computing at home is simply a leisure experience.  And most websites have gotten well developed enough that a tablet computer is just fine for interaction.  We have speakers and seating upstairs, where my favorite past time of listening to music happens.  Since having put in all of those components, my computing with a full QWERTY at home has gone down immensely.  As have my posts to this site.

There’s still a ton of interesting things going on, but posts will likely continue to dwindle until I figure out how to bake it into a routine.  Juniper has kept us busy this last year and it’s been a really fun and challenging change.

Mobile computing is here to stay and will only get stronger.  It makes me wonder if writing, even if only from casual folks such as myself, will dissipate more thoroughly throughout the world as this technology continues it’s path toward ubiquity.

Happy Mother’s Day

I called Mom this morning and think she appreciated it.  My parents were here this last week to watch Juni as our daycare provider had vacation planned.  Having some help around for those situations really does mean a lot–thanks Mom and Dad!

Today is a special Mother’s Day as it’s Teresa’s first with Juni in the house.  I’m not sure how we’ll celebrate, but we will.

I’m not big on made up holidays, and Mother’s Day definitely falls into the category, however the importance of celebrating parents makes it seem a little more genuine.  Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.

Work Travel

The last three weeks have all been work travel.  San Francisco, Dallas, and Richmond Virginia.

I don’t mind work travel, it’s a nice chance to meet with customers and hear what they are working on in their business.  It also breaks up the typical work you have going on, although it also means potentially falling behind slightly.  Every day after a trip is usually spent catching up on emails and trying to get back into actual project work while trying to manage the new things coming your way in addition.

Travel is not, however, glamorous in any way.  Often when I mention to people that I’m traveling to meet with customers or for an exhibition, people will state how they wish they travelled and insinuate that it’s just having a good time.  It’s not.  It’s real work and it’s draining too.  I do enjoy it, but make no mistakes about it being a vacation of some sort.

In my previous role, I worked with sales teams that had corporate account managers overseeing very large global customers (and today work in a similar situation although in a different industry.)  These folks travelled all the time, near every week.  Much like consultants, the job is based anywhere and everywhere you are needed.  And that’s why you’re compensated as such.  That life is simply not something I could do and I’m filled with admiration for people that can handle a family life and still travel consistently.  It would be very difficult in my esteem.

Travel is a part of business, at least for many roles, however it’s still work and if you think otherwise…you likely haven’t had to travel much for work.

The Manager and Direct Report Relationship

I’ve been thinking a lot more about the manager and direct report.  I’ve been direct report to about 15 people in my life in all my different roles.  I’ve seen a lot of different styles of management, as have many of you.

It’s important to consider the objective of this relationship prior to analyzing it in depth.  There are many potential scenarios that one could cite as the reason for this relationship existing at all:

1.  Hierarchical management of resources – too many people in an organization makes it impossible for one person to manage all, hence many managers and direct reports
2.  Functional expertise and knowledge – having someone oversee another in order to properly transfer knowledge of the position needs and expectations, this includes leadership transitions over time
3.   Responsibility ownership – managers often are responsible for the output (volume, quality) of someone at an organization

There are other things that could be discussed, but those three things seem to cover off on the organizational considerations that come to mind.  The next questions are focused on the individuals, what does it take to be a “good” manager or a “good” direct report.  Most organizations write job descriptions for the positions themselves.  But how to facilitate those roles in the lens of manager and direct report is worth considering.

A manager’s work is primarily concerned with getting the best out of their team, much like a coach for a sport–at least in context of managing others.   However, managers are also tasked with the functional output of their role.  In effect, they are managing to objectives for the organization *in addition* to managing people that are likely also working toward that objective.  To put an example of this down, a marketing manager may well be accountable for revenue and margin growth within a business, she is given resources (budget, direct reports, etc.) to accomplish the tasks that lead to those outcomes and judged accordingly.

For new managers, if you’re considering how to outline your role, consider the idea of bifurcating your work into two larger buckets:  delivering the business results and delivering team performance.  They are not necessarily the exact same, though they should be correlated in terms of objectives and metrics.

I’ll dive more thoroughly into both of these ideas in the future.

Energy Studies

As of late, due to my new role, I’ve been spending a great deal of time learning about energy.  Particularly energy finance and construction of generation projects.

At not point in my life did I consider electricity and how it’s used.  Obviously we teach a good deal about it in school, but considering how the electric grid is built and how it actually works is beyond most people.  It’s one of many, many things we take for granted here in the United States.  Our infrastructure in many capacities is beyond that of other governments and we should be very thankful for that fact.

There are some extremely interesting misconceptions about the grid.  Many people believe the majority of our energy is from sustainable sources.  In reality, just over 1% of our energy comes from solar and about 4% comes from wind.  There are other sources of course but those are the largest representations.  The majority of our energy still comes from coal and natural gas.  Nuclear power is another significant source, but it has not been growing recently.

Over the last six months I’ve focused pretty exclusively on solar energy projects, and it will continue to be my focus for the foreseeable future, however now I’m branching out more to the broader industry.  There’s an incredible amount to learn and seemingly less and less time.  Solar is the future.  I am biased due to my role, but I wholeheartedly believe we will deploy enough solar in the next three decades to overtake fossil fuels.  It’s going to be an amazing journey and I’m very proud to be part of the change.

Time to go read.

Learn to Make Honey

An ant cannot walk into a beehive and change how bees do things.

First the ant must learn to make honey.

Consider the Lobster – David Foster Wallace

Before the last year ended, I completed the book “Consider the Lobster” by DFW.  He was a truly impressive writer in many regards.  His ability to explain his internal thought process in a witty and endearing fashion was above his peers.  This book is actually an amalgamation of essays he had put together over the course of time.

Here’s a brief run down of each:

lobsterBig Red Son – a rolling discussion of the happening at the pornography industry’s main convention.

Certainly the End of Something Or Other One Would Sort of Have to Think – a book review of John Updike’s most recent work.

Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness From Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed – Self explanatory.

Authority and American Usage – an in depth look at the explanation of how prose is deciphered and given rules, including dictionaries and updates to literature critiquing texts.

The View From Mrs. Thompson’s – The best work of the lot, a review of post 9/11 life in a smaller, rural town and the differences between the enlightened cynics and the thoroughly good Americans.  This really resonated with me and is at the core of how I think about people and their lives.

How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart – A review of the hopelessly trite Tracy Austin autobiography, who I’d never heard of, but was a prodigal tennis start of the 80’s and put something of a clunker for DFW, a big fan.

Up Simba – An objective look at politics and campaigns through the lens of the McCain parade in 2000.  Extremely well done and interesting despite the seemingly lackluster subject matter.

Consider the Lobster – thinking about carnivores and what we should be concerned with in general as sentient beings.

Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky – I still have no clue what this was about.

Host – An interview with and deep dive into talk radio brass tacks.  Very well done look at the personalities and business that pokes and prods our sensibilities to create drama and divisive interest.

If you like DFW already, this is an easy purchase.  We lost a great one.

The long times

It’s been quite some time since writing something of substance, or at least a grouping of written ideas of substance.  The times, they are a changin’.

Juniper is still yet to fully bloom, but she is bright and amazing and temporal and all encompassing.  She really is an amazing little thing.  Skinny like a spindle.  Smiling always.  Infuriatingly fickle.  Full of life and love.  Utterly important to my day to day and my understanding in general.  She’s a bridge to a new world.  A road toward a sunset.   A whisper of the beauty in humanity.

When you are young, all your best is there for the world to see and appreciate.  All the best virtues of our species are in the youth.  This is the reason that full grown adults show pictures of themselves as young people, babies or slightly older.  They remember themselves for being pure at heart and idealistic.  As you grow older, the world puts upon you with many pragmatic considerations that have more or less nothing to do with the joy of being a young person.  There are so many great things to appreciate which are simply beyond youth culture’s capability to comprehend–perhaps this is an intentional dichotomy.

At any rate, the work involved with raising another human as dictated by my moral compass has proven to be a near earth shattering expectation by any right, and it has eaten up gobs of time, which at the present moment is unlikely to see any upheaval.   We’re in the long times.  The time when there is little left to say for lack of time.  But it is a good time, and for those of you looking for an update, even if myself at a later date, we are thankful for it.

Organizational Perspectives – Add Value However You Can

When someone says they are “in the weeds” it means they can’t really see much beyond what their day to day tasks is. Imagine wading through a bog of cattails, you cannot really see anything and your lucky to know which way to go at all!

The longer you are in one organization, the more likely this is for most people.  Organizations will usually give you more and more responsibilities as you stay (hopefully–this is a sign you are doing well) and the deeper you are embedded in these roles, the less likely it is you can “see” what to do outside of them.  Conversely, your understanding and knowledge of how an organization works improves over the course of time as well.  There is a dichotomy in those two ideas but they are not necessarily opposed.

A differentiation point in people is found when they have the capacity to understand different areas of an organization, how they work and how it applies to their own situation.  They can use that information to increase the efficiency or efficacy of their particular situation.  Simultaneously, they can take on more areas for improvement while managing the prior tasks — new responsibilities.  There are only so many people that have capability to do multiple types of work and take on additional capacity due to efficiency.  Organizations are actually doing quite well with these people because their efficiency or efficacy comparative to others that are incapable of such work increases throughput.  Organizations need to be able to recognize that ability and reward it accordingly, if they do not they are both becoming inefficient and running risk of those individuals leaving for organizations that will reward them.  The down side is that if they are recognizing and awarding the wrong people, the whole system is undermined with the potential for significant distress toward organizational goals.

When people want to get promoted, they are likely to cite their time in their roles and how well they perform their jobs.  The problem there is that simply doing your job well should not warrant promotion.  That warrants staying in the same role.  Promotion should happen as you learn how to help the organization in new ways.  Those things can come in all forms, but most likely orient around taking on more responsibility–in the form of task management or potentially educating and managing others’ work.

When people assume that getting promoted is an equation that they provide variables for (X years of work doing Y and Z tasks = new title and 10% increase in salary) it shows that they aren’t thinking critically about their work.  Everyone in an organization is there for a reason.  Understanding how you add value to the organization is paramount to improving output and creating new opportunities for growth.

If you do not know what that means–the easiest way to explain it is that every business has a profit and loss statement (P&L).  Somewhere in that P&L you reside.  You are part of the cost of running the organization.  Your work is needed to help drive the objectives of that organization–likely revenue, gross margin or net income.  It doesn’t matter if you sell directly or are a cost center.  Regardless if you’re sweeping the floors or the CEO, you are in that P&L.   Figure out how what YOU do adds value and do more of it.

This all sounds nebulous.  And it should.  There is no roadmap to tell you how to manage your career or get promoted.  It’s on you to figure it out.  But if you are struggling with that, go back to the P&L and figure out where you fall first.  Try to understand if you are more valuable than your salary; you should be if you are working there.  If you’re not, it’s time to change your role there or find something where you can flourish.

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