Saturday, January 20, 2018

I once wrote that negotiation was my biggest weakness. But in fact, I might have 2 biggest weaknesses of equal...weakness. Haha.

My memory is a weakness that impairs me everyday. Just ask my wife. Just kidding, don't ask her.

Hold on, I have to look up synonyms for the word "weakness" because I can't keep saying "weakness" throughout this post otherwise you'll tell me my weakness is my vocabulary.

The deficiency is debilitating and it only gets worse with age. So I've had to come up with ways to help me from continuous failure in this respect. The method most utilized is writing. But more specifically, I've come up with a system of notation to help fill the gaps in my mind and ensure that I steer clear of any lapse.

In my notebook, I write down to-do lists, questions, reminders, and other notes worth remembering. Next to each line item, I draw an empty circle. And as I complete the tasks I put a checkmark in the circle.

Notes that have a greater importance receive the asterisk, and if some kind of future benefit will be received, then that gets a (+).

Of course, I date everything so that I can keep track of the timing but that's standard practice, isn't it?

When I was fresh out of college and starting my first job, my first full-time boss told me that I should carry paper and pen with me everywhere I go. It's not because she knew how faulty my memory was, but because it's a good habit to develop if you want to stay on top of your game and not miss out on the important things. Ever since then, I've kept this habit, and I've tried to instill it in everyone that I work with.

Does it help? So far, so good. The harder part is to remember to write things down when I first think of them... I get distracted easily...

Friday, January 19, 2018

After 35 Years Of Service - Retirement Is Around The Corner

On Tuesday, January 9th my mom tendered her intent to retire effective February 14th. This is the beginning of the end of a career that lasted 35 years.

She started her career at the General Hospital at Passaic back in 1983, the year I was born. It was a small community hospital, and still is but modernized. It's gone through ownership changes, hirings, firing, protests, union troubles. And she's gone through the ringer of the ICU, NICU, Heart Room, Recovery Room, ER, and back to the ICU for the majority of her career there. So both hospital and employee have gone through everything together. Quite an amazing feat!

As she sat in the chair of the Human Resource contact, mom couldn't help but cry. The Director of HR came by to wish her well and to thank her for her many years of service, welcoming her to come back anytime to visit or to help out part-time. Mom said she intends to volunteer some of her time at the hospital. Obviously it's hard to part with the place.

As we walked through the different units informing a few of her colleagues of her impending early retirement, she would say things like, "this is where my two children were born" to give them perspective on her long tenure with these people. Some were jealous, but most were happy that she was going to enjoy her time without work. Even the new head nurse, who we also informed out of courtesy, who had never met her previously said he had heard good things about her.

Mom is obviously a friendly face in the hospital because everywhere we walked someone would smile, say hello, ask her how she was doing, or even say that it's been a while since they've seen her. Which is true, she's been out for a while on disability (foot surgery), and will continue to be out until February (doctor's orders). Whether it was a sanitary engineer, security service worker, transporter, or any of the many doctors and nurses - they all said hello and when she informed them of the news, they all congratulated her.

We collected her belonging from her 2 lockers in the locker room. And she decided to come back one more time before her last day to bid farewell to the other staff she didn't see that day. I know she was sad to leave for the day and know she wouldn't be an employee there at some point in the near future, but I also know that she will enjoy her retirement to the fullest possible.

The experience made me happy and proud to witness the impact she's made on a small NJ hospital and the staff and patients that come in and out of it on a daily basis. It was great to see how much my mom loved the hospital and her job. But it also made me wonder... Do people even stay at their jobs that long any more? It's a shame they don't because a lifetime of dedication is for the benefit of the institution and a clear indicator of character.

Congratulations Mom!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Queen of Katwe

The other day, we were searching for a movie to watch on Netflix. We tend to peruse the Drama section. And in going through all the pictures, we came across an unusual title for a Disney movie - Queen of Katwe. I say unusual because when I think Disney, I think of animated films and not documentaries.

We were drawn to this movie because of 2 words that stood out to us in the description. "Chess" and "Uganda" were those 2 words.

Having been to Uganda and seen the city of Kampala, where this story takes place, was the first draw. Then knowing it was about a game that I used to play constantly when I was a kid was the second reason to press "play." Finding out later that the Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o played a role in this movie was just an added bonus.

This drama based on a true story about Phiona Mutesi, a child of the slums of Kampala and eventual chess champion (played by Madina Nalwanga), was inspiring and truly encapsulated a quote referred to by Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo that:
"The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them.

Given all the obstacles that Phiona had to overcome, her achievements are outstanding and should serve as an example to everyone that the challenges in life are a necessary struggle that will propel you to success if you are not "quick to tip your King."

The movie is also quite a tribute to the efforts and triumphs of Katende, who uses sports and chess as tools to mentor and encourage vulnerable children living on streets and in the slums of Uganda. Robert's true success is listening to his heart and devoting his life's education to improve the lives of others who come from a similar background. 

The Queen of Katwe needs to be on your movie playlist, if not already. 

Create Jobs My Ass

It didn't take too much time into the New Year to learn about the real life effects of Tax Reform. It didn't take long to live the reality. And it's completely the opposite of what listening to some under-analyzed projections were speculating and predicting. The GOP tax bill was stamped, by all those in favor of it, as a job creator. BULLSHIT. I called it. That's what it is.

Just one week into 2018 and 3 companies have already indicated to me that they are in "cost-cutting" and "cost reduction" mode and job cuts would not be a surprise in the near future. Their words, not mine. To make matters even more ironic, these are tax departments that I was speaking with. You would think that tax reform would definitely create jobs for tax professionals to assist with the implementation of all matters of tax reform, but clearly the cost centers are continuing to cost cut.

"The reason is simple: Businesses invest when there is more demand for their products, not because their tax rate is lower. We don’t have a capital shortage now; we have a demand shortage, driven by stagnant wages. Cutting corporate taxes will only lead — as it did the last time we lowered the tax rate for companies that brought profits back to the U.S. — to more money for shareholders and CEOs. Many of the companies who got the biggest tax breaks actually reduced jobs." - The Hill

For a bill that was supposed to make employment concerns reach the top of the list, it doesn't seem that way. Most companies will buyback stock with their newly found tax savings, not hire more employees.
"Many indicators show jobs and wages are on the back burner. Paying down debt and buying stock back from shareholders were the top two goals CEOs mentioned in a survey done this summer by Bank of America (BAC). Mergers and acquisitions was third. Capital spending -- like building plants or upgrading equipment, which can lead to more hiring -- placed fourth." - CNN Money
The tax policy is flawed. Big time. Not only does it benefit the wealthy and the corporations, it also screws the middle class in more ways than one. And jobs creation is just another bullet on the list of detriments to the heart of the American economy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

It Helps To Jot It Down

I recently started doing something that I used to do daily while at work. Keep a daily notebook.

It's been very helpful to keep track of things that I need to do (make a checklist), take notes of interesting things I've read about, define words that I didn't know the meaning of previously, and jot down ideas that I've come up with hoping to expound on them in the future (next big idea?).

My notebook is starting to get filled with a variety of crude information, and it's helping me keep organized and not let ideas vanish into thin air. It's also helped me to keep my anxiety and stress levels down.

Almost every day, I flip back through it to make sure I've accomplished the tasks I previously wrote down and briefly review ideas I've come up with and informational (work and life related) blurbs meant to remind me of bankable knowledge.

Do you keep a daily notebook?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Mantra For Your Mentality

Mrauk-U, Myanmar

While I was working, I sometimes encountered situations that were terribly frustrating. The amount of work would build up and completing it gave rise to anxiety. Or communication with co-workers or business contacts were aggravating, not fruitful, or straight up confrontational. 
Angkor Wat

I found that taking a step back was the most helpful action I could take. There was a point when I decided I needed to make change. I needed a mantra. So I took a few minutes to write up some lines in Word, printed them out, and tacked them to my board in my line of sight.

Any time it would catch my eye, I was almost forced to read through it. It gave me a reason to pause in the middle of a hectic day or situation to calm down and reassure myself that everything was going to be ok. The work was going to be completed. And the relationships could be mended. The stress was worth the results.

Most recently, I've decided to create a couple of new mantras to combat my new frustrations and anxieties. I wake up each morning, have breakfast, and recite these lines before I continue my day. It's been a good start so far...