Archive for January, 2008

Go Ahead — Take a Big Sip!

January 31, 2008

Theologian John S. Dunne tells the story about a group of Spanish sailors who reached the continent of South America after a long and dangerous voyage. They happened to approach right at the headwaters of the Amazon River, an expanse of water so wide the sailors assumed it was a continuation of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Amazon River is the greatest river in the world. It contains over 20% of the earth’s fresh water. During the rainy season it expands to 24.8 miles wide at inland points. Where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean it is 202 miles wide, discharging eight trillion gallons of fresh water a day into the ocean. That fresh water can be detected over 200 miles out into the sea.

But these Spanish sailors didn’t realize that subtle change in the water. They had spent months knowing they couldn’t drink the water in which they were traveling. Any experienced sailor knows that drinking salt water will kill you. Although it didn’t look much different, and the change had taken place slowly, now they were right on top of the largest quantity of fresh water in the world. And with that nourishing, fresh water all around them, some of those sailors died of thirst.

That picture serves as a metaphor for how I see many people in the workplace today. They have become accustomed to work being drudgery, a bitter pill, a curse from God – something to be endured, a necessary trade-off for a paycheck – the “salt water” that life has dealt them. They know that work is not to be fulfilling, they eagerly anticipate Friday or retirement when they can leave that stinking job and really do something they enjoy and care about. But at the same time they are sitting right on top of the greatest opportunities for fulfilling work the world has ever known. Companies are desperately seeking people who understand their areas of competence and are ready to make a clear contribution to their corporate mission. With our shift from production work to knowledge work it has never been easier to transition into free-lance or independent contractor status, providing more time freedom and income potential. Being an entrepreneur no longer requires a big chunk of start-up capital or even a bricks and mortar structure.

Several years ago Jim Hodges was eager for a change. Over a casual dinner conversation his wife asked Jim, “If money were not important, what would you do?” Jim responded immediately, “I’d sit around the house and read old history books.” Guess what Jim does today. He reads old history books. He creates audio CDs as he brings to life old historical novels with his dramatic, engaging readings. With primarily a home schooling customer base, children beg to hear the next installment as they are simultaneously learning the rich stories from history. Recently I received this note from Jim – “Just thought you’d like to know that, doing what I love, my gross sales increased 49% this year to over 104K (and the year isn’t over yet), gross profits are up 69%, and net income is up 241%. All with a 7 second commute.”

Kathy came to see me because she wanted a change. She was a high level human resource director at a Fortune 500 company. With that she made the trip to the office complex each day in her business suit to find the cubicle with her name on it. I proposed that because of her training background she was an excellent candidate to present the training that companies like SkillPath, CareerTrack, Fred Pryor and others offer. They promote for a specialized workshop, fill a hotel conference room and need someone to walk in and do the presentation. Kathy was eagerly accepted by two of these companies as a presenter. For that she chooses 3-4 days a month where she presents the material and is paid $2000 for each day. In addition she is now an online faculty member for two major universities. She “teaches” and has office hours from her ranch where she sits at her computer in her blue jeans and cowboy hat. Recognize that she is still using the same skills that she used previously in a corporate setting. But Kathy told me recently that she is working approximately one third the time she did in her former position – and she has more than doubled her income.

Is it possible that rather than sitting in “salt water” you are actually right on top of your greatest opportunity as well? Let me assure you that as we hear about layoffs, recessions and economic downturns, there are opportunities all around you. Business is not declining and opportunities are not diminishing. However, they are most surely changing. We have seen subtle changes as we have moved from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age to the Technological Age to the Information Age and now to the Idea Age. But just as we have seen transitions from production work to knowledge work, we are now moving into an era that embraces “high concept” and “high touch” models of work. In place of the left-brain skills that were so important in the recent Information Age, we are seeing empathy, caring relationships, storytelling and compassion as the defining characteristics of those who are prospering today.

Any time is a good time to draw that proverbial line in the sand and ask yourself, “Where am I and where am I going?” Don’t let life happen to you – put yourself in the driver’s seat by designing the future you want. I know you don’t want to die of thirst while you’re sitting on top of an unlimited body of fresh water – stop, take a drink and savor the nurturing, life giving properties freely available to you.
Principles from No More Mondays.

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I’m Leaving — and feeling guilty

January 30, 2008

Each week I create a new online radio podcast — answering a few of the many questions we receive. Here are some of this week’s questions you can hear discussed on the 48 Days Radio Show.

1. My husband started two businesses, for which I am bookkeeper by default. I detest it, it isn’t me.

2. My gift is gab. I’d like to become a professional speaker, but is talent enough? How do I turn talking about nothing into a living?

3. I am currently in a job and soon to graduate from the local community college. I am feeling guilty and not sure how to let my boss know. Do I wait until I have a job or let him know I am looking?

4. Hi Dan, I was brought up hearing that if you make your hobby your fulltime job you would get tired of it and wouldn’t enjoy your hobby anymore.

5. Recently, I opened up a tackle shop on the internet called fishingtrail.com. Can you give some advice on how I can advertise it on a limited budget?

6. Dan, I am carefully planning a way to generate my own income. I want my wife to be involved as much as I in the decision making. yet, she is so scared of risk, she would rather live paycheck to paycheck with me working for an employer with ‘benefits’ than to invest time developing a long term plan with risk involved.

This is a “Recession?”

January 29, 2008

So the Super Bowl is this Sunday. A recent survey indicates that spending related to the big event could reach an all-time high of $10 billion. Consumers plan to buy nearly 4 million new television sets. And then the 158 million viewers will spend an average of $59.90 on related merchandise, including furniture, food and “beverages.”

And this doesn’t even begin to account for the money spent by the advertisers to have a shot at these 158 million TV watchers. Fox is charging a new record $2.7 million for one 30-second slot in Super Bowl XLII. 65 of those babies add up to more than $175 million in advertising revenue. Incidentally, I just did the math and that appears to be $90,000 a second. Apparently Budweiser, Pepsi, General Motors, Kraft, GoDaddy and Audi are convinced we are easily persuaded.

Doesn’t a “recession” imply that times are tough – that no one can afford anything new, not even new shoes, let alone TVs, lavish parties, booze and new cars? I think the real deal is the “recession” is an elusive term that impacts interest rates and general trends. Most of us have an incredible number of opportunities right in front of us. Thankfully, your chances for success are not determined by what happens in the White House, but by what happens in YOUR house.

Shift Work

January 28, 2008

Country music star Kenny Chesney has a new song and video — “Shift Work.”  This is one more of the thousands of songs that have parodied the misery of having to go to work every day.   I know there are some jobs out there that just seem monotonous and boring, but the thing that continuously amazes me is how people claim to be trapped.  As I look around I see work opportunities everywhere – and the opportunity for each of us to choose what we want to do. Yes I know the tendency is to get the cart before the horse – to look for where they are hiring or where you can get a paycheck – before determining what work really “fits” you and what you would enjoy.  But if you agree to take a job when you know what’s involved, then what sense does it make to bellyache and complain about it?   

Last week on a radio show I had a caller who works for the Chicago utility company.  He talked about how he loves going out to fix someone’s broken water line when it’s zero degrees outside.  He knows they appreciate it and he loves having the opportunity to be of service.  Now that’s not a job I’d take in a million years but it goes to show how individualized we can be in finding meaningful and fulfilling work.  Chapter Six of No More Mondays is titled “Secure” or “Imprisoned?”  In that section I caution against the trap of looking for security instead of opportunity.   

Years ago Henry David Thoreau said this: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Incidentally, the Chesney video is really cool — typical Chesney Caribean steel drum allure and the obvious appeal for a life beyond a boring “shift work” job.

How Low Can We Go?

January 28, 2008

Last week, here in the wonderful city of Nashville, TN representative Rob Briley apologized for his recent behavior.  While on a drunken rampage, he led the police down busy streets at 100 mph, cursed at the officers as they handcuffed him and then pleaded with them to shoot him in the head.  His wife says he has repeatedly been unfaithful and she’s filed for divorce.   But last week, from the front of the house chamber, he acknowledged having problems and asked for forgiveness.  Some of his colleagues applauded and hugged him.  It seems all is well and we can go back to making decisions that affect all the little people. 

Rep. Gary Moore, D-Joelton, comforted him by saying other politicians have demons, too.  “I don’t see that you’ve done anything that any of us in this room have not done,” Moore told him. “Some of us are alcoholics. Some of us are thieves. Some of us are adulterers. Truth of the matter is, we reflect society.

Hey, there’s a high standard to be proud of.  Let’s just accept that we are a bunch of maggots and go on with the reality of our miserable lives?  And with that “We reflect society?”  Is that really a rationale for excusing behavior that puts other lives in danger?  Would you tolerate this level of compromise in your company?  Whatever happened to striving for excellence and for expecting more of those in positions of leadership and power?  Does having money and power provide a pass on ethical and moral excellence – or should it raise the bar even more?  I frequently take prospective business partners to lunch at a local restaurant.  Watching them interact with the “lowly waitress” weighs heavily in telling me whether or not I want to do business with them.

Get Paid to Leave Your Job?

January 24, 2008

In this morning’s news Ford has announced they will offer buyouts and early retirement packages to 54,000 workers.  Obviously they are attempting to cut more jobs and replace those highly paid workers with those making about half the pay.

So the question is:  Are there any losers in this deal or can everybody win?  One of the stories I tell in No More Mondays is about a gentleman who said he hated his job for 17 years, and then was offered a $140,000 buyout.  And he was having a major struggle in making his decision.  My response was essentially – YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!”  How often do you get the opportunity to be paid $140,000 to leave a job you hate?  Take the money and run.  Surely you can figure out something to go TO with that kind of start-up capital. 

There are too many options for fulfilling, meaningful and profitable work all around us to settle for anything less.  If you “fired yourself” today, would you choose to apply for the same job you have now?  How much of a buyout would it take for you to walk away from your current job?

Don’t force me to live my dream

January 16, 2008

Each week I create a new online radio podcast — answering a few of the many questions we receive. Here are some of this week’s questions you can hear discussed on the 48 Days Radio Show.  I start this show by talking about how you can “earn” a free 48 Days Seminar Package ($649) by being a facilitator in your company or church. 

1.  I hate my job so much it depresses me. I feel trapped and my attitude at work is costing me opportunities. I try very hard to not think negatively. I need my income but I want out BADLY. I am not good a making friends and would rather work in a position that I could work at alone, any suggestions? 

2.  Married, 42, kids are grown, and debt free except for the house. I make $70K, together we make $130k.. I am working on BA in Business Administration. I am MISERABLE and tired of working for someone else. I want my own business. I don’t know what my calling is and don’t know how to find it or where to start.   

3.  Hello Mr. Miller, I find myself not reading your emails that come to my email account weekly because it forces me to think about how I really need to step out on faith and start living my dream. I am going to start my own business in 2008, so I need to know if I need a Business Plan to start my business. I have two ideas………….. 

4.  I’m self-employed. That’s the good news. The bad news is I really dread what I do. I’ve had two career paths evaporate from under me due to market conditions and company closures, so I went into business for myself. Now I’m faced with long days, customers who won’t pay on time or at all, and I’m physically worn out from performing the work. This is NOT what is supposed to happen. HELP!!!   

5.  I would like to start submitting articles I write to magazines/newspapers for publishing. What do I do to protect the content of my work and make sure I get paid for it? 

6.  Hi Dan, After listening to your podcast I’ve built up my courage to pursue my dream career – illustrating celebrities! At the moment I am working in a stressful atmosphere, doing administration in an auction house. I am eager to quit as soon as possible because it is so depressing, but I don’t want to jeopardize my financial stability while I pursue freelance illustration.  What do you suggest I do? Thank you,

Work Hard (for yourself) and Get Rich

January 13, 2008

My friend Dave Ramsey sent me an article this morning.   He has already reviewed No More Mondays and knows my message about recognizing new work models.  In this article, J. Paul Getty responds to the question:  “How does one go about making a million dollars?”  He says that unless you happen to locate a sunken treasure galleon or break the bank at Monte Carlo, there is really ony one way to do it.  “By going into business for yourself.”  He goes on to encourage readers to “never mind the bogey of ‘unsettled work conditions’ as is often cited as a major factor preventing businessmen from achieving success.”  He says don’t worry about the “population explosion” or “widespread unemployment” in the trend toward automation.  Getty concludes that those fears are groundless and “the future is bright for those who are confident, imaginative, and energetic.”

Sounds like he’s reading today’s newspaper.  Actually this article was written in September of 1961 — that’s more than 46 years ago.  The same reasons are given today by people explaining why they’re trapped in jobs they hate.  Guess what — if you want more success, don’t wait for circumstances to change — just change yourself and get started.

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Here’s a J. Paul Getty quotation that will make you scratch your head:

Going to work for a large company is like getting on a train. Are you going sixty miles an hour or is the train going sixty miles an hour and you’re just sitting still?

The Theology of Work

January 12, 2008

Each week I create a new online radio podcast — answering a few of the many questions we receive. Here are some of this week’s questions you can hear discussed on the 48 Days Radio Show.1. What is the best resource for a stay at home mom who has home schooled children for the past 28 years to determine direction for a career after an unwanted divorce? I have no formal education past high school.

2. I’ve been looking for a new job for 3 months now and trying to slowly read your book “48 Days…” but I realize what I love to do is sing and play guitar and write songs and poetry. How can I make a career out of a vocation?

3. I’ve recently been given an assignment by a mentor to develop my own “Theology of Work” (i.e. God’s purpose for having us work). He recommended I read Dorothy Sayers essay entitled “Why Work” and “The Call” by Os Guinness. 1. Would you recommend these materials? 2. What do you believe God’s purpose for human work is?

4. I’m in a job I hate, with a 40-mile one-way commute. I want to get a better job, but I need a degree (which I can’t afford because I’m in so much debt). How can I get a better job when I need the education that I can’t afford without the better job?

5. I am a graphic designer. I have two questions. The first is, as a graphic designer should I send samples of my work with the resume or wait until an interview? The second is, should I use a functional resume instead of a chronological one since I graduated April 2007 and don’t have much experience?

6. I am a 37 year old pharmacist and co-owner of an independent pharmacy. I make a comfortable living, but dislike my job due to insurance and the hectic pace. I have been in and around pharmacy my entire life, and feel trapped in my current situation. Any suggestions?

Monster — Don’t Fight Mondays

January 10, 2008

There is a new Monster.com ad that addresses the distate that Mondays bring to most workers.  You’ll see people grab mirrors, satellite dishes and whatever else they can to run up the hill and then attempt to deflect the sun’s rays.  They are attempting to keep the sun from coming up on Monday morning.  Of course, they utlimately realize the futility of their attempts and then drag off back to the office.

No More Mondays will be released on Tuesday, January 15th.  I think you’ll enjoy seeing the options for dreading Monday morning.  Watch for a special announcement on Tuesday!