Fabulous at Fifty?

Today is my 50th birthday. Nothing more to say about it really. 50 years on the planet. 50 years of knowing others on the journey. 50 years of life, love, trouble and strife. It’s the kind of milestone that makes you suddenly take stock of your life and re evaluate your priorities. In my case, this involved a move to a house I really couldn’t afford to provide a better environment for my daughter, starting a skateboard company on a shoestring, getting divorced and staring imminent destitution in the face. It’s not a comforting feeling.

The biggest surprise I’ve found is just how disposable anyone over 50 seems nowadays. Age discrimination or not, companies won’t look at me for jobs I am completely qualified for. Vermont is a small state, and I’ve pissed enough people off in it to expect that the informal referral network buzzes with vitriol and stories every time my resume hits a desk. I know without a shadow of a doubt that at least one ex boss has systematically destroyed my professional reputation in this state. The frustration about not being able to do anything about that is extreme, but I have found ways to focus it into steely resolve. In my situation, I have to find gainful employment in my own business, selling stuff outside of the state but allowing me to live within it in something that has manageable stress levels. I am finding this to be a tall order and I’m not exactly sure why. I have a bucket of skills that is huge and deep in good, relevant areas. I don’t have the pseudo qualifications needed to play the game in the traditional way. In short – I’m an oddball. Put me in the right situation and I’ll blow your socks off. The wrong one however will quickly lead to frustration, dissatisfaction and a burning desire to leave. I’m just not cut out for spending years of a finite life working for douchebags who’s main skill is residing in other peoples rectums and who’s only active product is carbon dioxide.

So I fight my personal demons daily, somehow finding the strength to face the enormous challenges and make progress. It has to be this way. The alternatives don’t bear thinking about (although I do – frequently). The business will expand and gain momentum. Money will start to flow and life will get better. I have to believe that. Doing that daily though – well that’s the biggest challenge of my life so far.

Thanks for reading this rambling post. I’d be interested to hear your comments on all this, especially if you have ideas on what I can do.

Hotels, airlines, rental cars and consulting gigs.

I’m in DeKalb IL right now having just done a small consulting gig for a former client. This consisted of about 5 hours of workshops designed to re energize their organizational transformation. I’ve been designing the course for the last week in conjunction with the excellent team there (who I trained initially three years ago while with GEHC). It went very well, considering I had to adjust on the fly having had my transport arrangements shot to hell by United and Advantage Car rental. I couldn’t get a flight out the same day though with that schedule and pricing so I had to stay over.

I’m in the excellent Country Inn and Suites in Sycamore IL. I love this hotel. When I was working with this client before, I stayed here a lot and was always blown away by the quality and value this hotel gives. I think because they’re in a small town they have to try that bit harder. It never ceases to amaze me what the big hotel chains can get away with in big city locations. Charges for parking, internet, late check out, extra anything… It piles up on top of the already inflated prices for rooms. I’m sorry, but I have a moral problem with paying $200+ a night for a hotel room anywhere! Especially if that’s a base price.

I dug into my frequent flyer account and brought my partner along with me this time. She’s sleeping blissfully right now. We’re heading into Chicago for some sightseeing a little later before heading back to VT this evening on the late flight. Just getting out of the routine for two days is a wonderful thing. Especially when you have access to the hot tub 🙂

So this is more of a rambling, not very focused post today. Just wanted to put fingertips on touch screen for a bit. I hope wherever you are, you’re not overpaying for hotels, being shafted by car rental companies or fuming at airline incompetence.

And a postscript – United got us into Burlington International Airport a solid 5 mins early, but we had to wait 13 mins for a ground crew to guide the plane in as they only have one! The final kick in the gentleman vegetables was when they couldn’t be bothered to take the gate check bags off the plane and give us them again plane side, but put them through the check baggage system instead. So yet again I stand at a crowded carousel waiting for a carry on bag having another 30 mins tacked onto my journey. BTV – you suck! #btvsucks

Kids and friends and the tale of a fantastic Saturday.

I’m constantly amazed how kids are molded by their environments. This week, my 8 year old daughter had her iPad taken away because she ran up $700 in “in app” purchases, charged to her Mom’s credit card. Now, apart from the obvious retort of “why weren’t the purchase restrictions activated?” It illustrated some interesting facets of childhood in 2013 for me.

I like to think of myself as a somewhat cool and groovy dad. I know technology. I’m a professional skateboarder and run my own skateboard company. I’m not an accountant, doctor, architect, counselor or any of those professions that have an inherent air of stuffiness about them (although I do know many people with those occupations who are way less than stuffy). I’ve even had my share of video game addictions and understand all too well the lure of the demon screen. I can relate to the kids, man.

It was a big old blow to the forehead then when I realized my little bundle of genes has an iPad addiction. She is withdrawn without it. She finds minecraft parody songs on YouTube and learns them. She gets jittery without a screen in her hand. I take at least half of the responsibility for this, but only half.

This latest transgression landed her a week without iPad privileges and she was due a 7 day stretch at my house so I was more than a little worried about how this would go. So imagine my surprise when this morning she found the girl next door, and they spent three hours happily fishing for minnows in the stream by my house. I have t seen her that happy in quite some time. No screens involved/. For a few hours I had the extraordinary experience of pottering about in the autumn sunshine happily emptying boxes and putting stuff away while being as to hear the girls having good old natural mud between the toes fun catching minnows.

Not to be a sentimental old hector, but I had to smile – a lot. It revived some of my increasingly cynical outlook on kids and the future. Give ’em a stream, a net, an old branston pickle jar and a friend on a gorgeous sunny day and you really can’t help thinking “yeah – they’re going to be a all right”. It’s moments like those I was hoping for when I decided to make this move. Yay me!

Moving…

About a month ago my ex emailed me with a lead on a freshly renovated house about 5 mins WALK from my daughter’s school. I contacted the owner, kept in touch and decided to move there from the second story condo I’d been renting. I just completed this move last weekend, and I have to tell you – I cannot believe the difference being in a place you actually enjoy and appreciate makes.

I work a lot by intuition and empathic tuning, so things such as energy levels affect me deeply. This place is surrounded by trees and is amazingly quiet considering it’s about a quarter mile from the major highway in VT. I feel instantly at home, which is something I never had at the condo. I mean – I thought I had it, but it was very different. This is a visceral “down in your scrotum” feeling of natural belonging. I love it.

I’d love to continue espousing the benefits of country living, but my point in this blog was to highlight the actual process of moving itself. See , I thought that moving out of my marital house with minimal stuff was easy. Sure , I needed help with the big items like couches, but everything else was a breeze. Not so this time. It seemed like the boxes would never end. The move took three days total, including one with a borrowed van to move the big stuff (thanks Dave) and we’re still unpacking. It was also physically hard. I guess sedentary life has a habit of creeping up on you. Once in a while deep physical exertion is a good thing.

Despite the turmoil, I would recommend moving regularly. It keeps you sharp, forces you to be somewhat minimalist and cull unneeded items every time. That being said – I don’t intend moving from this place any time soon. 🙂

The Stockbridge Paradox

Jim Collins in his epic book “good to great” describes a condition each successful leader needs. It’s called the Stockbridge paradox after an admiral Stockwell who was captured at war. Each day he had to reconcile thoughts of indefinite optimism that he would either be rescued or escape, while simultaneously understanding the brutal realities of the situation he was in.

A start up is like that. Day to day there are many things thrown at you which could erode your confidence to the point of doubting the original premise of the business. It’s up to you to understand the scope of the realities and change course as necessary to accommodate them. The one thing that cannot falter is the founders belief that the enterprise will work. If that falters, the shop is directionless and starts to drift off course. It’s a unique set of circumstances and takes some getting used to. I hope I’m strong enough to make it through this.