Monday, July 22, 2013


Summer soccer is almost over.

We are known as the Global Geezers, because we're an international group. And we're old. Also, the initials GG, when said aloud, is a Japanese slang for "old man."

This summer we played in the over-30 league because there is no over-40 league in summer. It is humbling, because you realize how much we change in the short course of a decade. The over-30s are very competitive, hard charging, and quick with their feet. And that's in the lower division. I'd hate to play against an upper division squad. In the over-40 league we're middle of the pack, and are poised to be in the top one or two teams this coming fall. Over-30 - not so much. Second from the bottom of ten teams, which isn't too bad.

Playing a sport is frustrating for me. For one thing, I quit sports in high school for no reason than I was a teenager and that's what teenagers do, because at that age I had a life ahead of me. Now, at almost 43, the majority of my life is behind me. I still have plenty of good years to do great things. What is changed is the confidence. When I play soccer I feel that lack of confidence. If I don't tape my ankles I risk severe injury, and that tape is all that keeps the pain at bay during the game. Not that I let pain stop me. Maybe that's why my ankles hurt; I will play through sprains. In fact, for a long time I was playing with a torn ligament, which surprised my doctor when he went in to remove bone spur in my right ankle; he asked how I was able to do anything, because the ligament was torn and there was infection in the ankle.

That attitude should serve me well in work. Only it doesn't, because I'm in a follower position. Leaders need to be fearless, driven. Followers - well, I guess it depends on the situation, but to use my standard military analogy, I'm a grunt, an infantryman, boots on the ground. You don't want your infantryman to use too much personal initiative. They need to follow orders, do what they are told. And that is hard for me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Unemployment Part 2 - So, you've lost your job - Now what?

In the last post I talked about ways to live your life so that, when unemployment happens, you might at least have some amount of financial stability, if not outright security. This post will deal with the feelings you have right after the layoff.

When I lived in California I got laid off four times in five years. Only one of those was a total surprise. Not that I was a pessimist, but you can generally tell if the company is struggling. This was during the Internet boom and bust. There were a lot of people getting laid off. You sort of expected it when you were just a journeyman white collar laborer.

My first layoff was with a very successful (still) software company. I had applied to a totally different company, not realizing that a much larger group had purchased them. So I actually got a job with a prestigious place, and I got to brag to my friends about it. I was not that good at the job. That was my fault. I chose to enter a profession that all but guaranteed failure, in that job and others to follow. I was in technical marketing. Anyway, about a year goes by and I've done okay. Not a great success, but not a great failure, either. Then we got this new VP. She was my first exposure to a truly bad leader. She brought with her to the job a consultant who happened to do the same thing I did; once she paid this consultant to re-write a white paper I had written, and when I did a file compare the consultant had changed less than 1% of the document. It was a great use of corporate resources. Anyway, the company was doing a website redesign. Part of my job was to assist the competitive intelligence team, and as soon as I saw the redesign (which had been completed and was in BETA mode) I noticed it looked just like our leading competitor's site. I mean exactly, to the point that if you saw the web pages side by side you couldn't tell a bit of difference. So I told my VP, who asked that I sent a summary email, which I did. She then forwarded that email to everyone at her level and above who had anything to do with the redesign. I heard that the VP of that team was severely reamed out over the redesign. Fast forward a couple of months. They announce that our group was being downsized and rolled into the corporate structure. If there were jobs available, we could apply and our applications would get strong consideration. There was one job available: under the VP that I had unintentionally embarrassed. Needless to say I didn't get the job.

Why tell this long story? Because that was the first time I was laid off. At that time my wife was in a PhD program at Berkeley, and the week after my layoff she had some major exams. I didn't tell her I lost my job. That might sound like a horrible thing to do, but she had enough to worry about; her exams were very important. What was to be gained by telling her? We were already living on a very tight budget. Every day for the week of her exams I left at my normal time and, rather than go into the city, I rode my bicycle up to a park above Berkeley or went to the library all day. When her exams were over, then I told her. Luckily, because of the Internet boom, I had a job within a month.

So how will you handle your layoff? It is easy to think selfishly, even if we're trying to be selfless. If you are married, your first task is to tell your spouse. And I suggest just coming out and saying it. "Honey I lost my job today. We'll be okay." Each relationship is different, and this can be a strong disruption, to say the least, and that's why I waited to tell my wife; telling her might have made me feel better, but it would have hurt her. But it is important to get your spouse on the same page as soon as possible, so your significant other doesn't go out and buy a big-ticket item.

Next we'll talk about the business of being unemployed. And you should treat it as such. Take advantage of the resources available, and set yourself a schedule.