Category Archives: Advice

A Male Perspective On Work/Life Balance

I am reading “This is How” by Augusten Burroughs of “Running with Scissors” fame.   This is both a self-help book and a parody of traditional self-help, and pretty funny, too.   One chapter focuses on limits and how it’s a good thing that we all have limits, whether it’s of time, money, ability or something else.   That got me thinking in many ways including how this relates to the work/life balance discussions that are all the rage in the web-sphere and media via blogs, forums and articles.   What made his take most interesting to me is that he is not writing from the perspective of someone married with children.  Basically his argument is that limits force us to be creative.  If life had no limits, our life would feel stagnant and valueless.  And the line that struck me the most: “Not having it all is good.”

You should read the book for that chapter alone.  While he really wasn’t talking about women juggling career/work/chores/life, it seemed applicable to that situation.   Time limits can definitely lead to exhaustion but it also forces you to make better use of time, at work and at home.

Sometimes it’s good to get a male perspective on a topic dominated and discussed mostly by women.

Oh, there’s also a very good chapter about how to be fat.

Random Bits Of Good Advice

By the time you’re 40ish, or been around long enough, you’ve been on the receiving end of tons of advice — some good, some not so good or at least not applicable to your life.  I thought that I would compile some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.  Maybe you’ll gain something from these “words of wisdom” too.

  • Never get into credit card debt” – My Mom, delivered in such a severe and foreboding tone that I didn’t even ask her why and I never racked up any debt)
  • “If your kids fall or bump into something and you know they’re not hurt, just distract them.  ” – Male co-worker.  This tactic also works if they’re fighting over toys or cry for no reason.  You can distract them with funny faces, loud noises or other shiny toys.
  • “You can only change your reaction to people.”  – A friend, after hearing me complain one too many times about the same people.
  • Money buys freedom.” – I can’t remember who said this but I think it was a rock musician.
  • Don’t lean back ahead of time – Wandering Scientist, who has written a million good posts about balancing work and motherhood.  Lots of practical tips as well as thoughful posts.  I’ve written about this too and the most important thing is to not feel guilty.
  • “Forget balance. Choose Flexibility” – The Happiest Mom blog. This is good advice for anyone with interests outside of work.
  • “If someone tries to abduct you, fight back and don’t let them take you away to an isolated place.” – High school teacher, to the whole class.  This stuck with me because it had no context in terms of the school subject.  This teacher was also male and he was so sincere and heartfelt that it made me take more notice for some reason.  I now wonder if he experienced any personal tragedy.
  • If you only have a few minutes to clean before guests arrive, clean the bathroom (clean toilet, wipe sink, quick sweep of the floors).  Drop an Alka Seltzer in the toilet bowl.” – Probably a Martha Stewart or Real Simple magazine tip, i.e. clean what people will notice most.
  • “To find a good, affordable restaurant in a foreign country, take a peek inside and see if most of the customers are local.  If yes, it’s a good bet the food is authentic and reasonably priced.”Rick Steves, of the PBS travel series.  That’s not an exact quote but I followed this advice in Europe and it really made a difference in my travel experiences.
  • “Focus on your strengths.” I forget where I read this but as someone who tend to focus on improving my weaknesses, this was a bit of a revelation.  While I do continually try to improve myself, I do my best work when I take on projects that play to my strengths.
  • “Rock your baby up and down with energy, like this.” – A Nurse, who showed us that many babies prefer a vigorous up-and-down rocking motion rather than the gentle back-and-forth motion.  It sounds strange and sometimes it felt like our babies were hanging on for dear life, but it worked!

Advice is a funny thing. After I wrote down the above list, I realized that most of the advice I take to heart come from strangers or acquaintances (blogs, books, famous people), not people I’m close to in real life.  I don’t know if that’s common or if I’m more dismissive of advice I hear from family and friends, or if most advice given are nothing more than well-meaning clichés.

Another thing about advice is that timing comes into play.  Sometimes two people can give you the exact same advice, phrased differently, and you just don’t pay attention until you’re ready to hear it.

What are some unforgettable, and good, advice you’ve received or read somewhere?

Say No To Bitterness…Tips To Improve Your 9 to 5 Work Life

In my earlier post “How Not To Be That Bitter, Old Person In The Corner Cubicle“, I linked bitterness with the mid-life crisis.  The longer you’re in the work force, the more crap you encounter, the more jaded you’re likely to be. That’s not to say that I haven’t encountered bitter disillusioned young people of course!

Since I have a middle-aged perspective, I thought I would share more concrete ideas on what I’m doing to avoid this burnt-out attitude.  I’m not 100% successful but being aware of this tendency is half the battle.  A job has a huge impact on your finances so it’s worthwhile to invest some time into making the most of it.   
1 ) Start An Interesting Project on your own
Recently, without my boss’s consent or encouragement, I put together a report that provided research stats, analysis and ideas for an upcoming major project.  I know that my boss was impressed that I took the initiative. The verdict is still out whether this will give me the opportunity to lead the project but I know the contribution will be remembered and will be a factor during evaluations.  More importantly, instead of browsing the web or emailing friends during downtime, I kept myself engaged as I researched and wrote up the report.  I learned a lot in the process and that puts me in a good spot should we move forward.
The financial angle: I’m not patting myself on the back and saying I’m a star employee but this type of thinking can help anyone further their career and get a bigger raise.
2 ) Take Classes
I’ve been fortunate to have employers that encouraged and paid for additional training. I know that not everyone is so lucky. Even within the same organization, I’ve noticed that some bosses are more likely to pay for training than others and not all employees benefit equally.  At my last job, I initiated the idea for taking professional training and was the only one who got it approved and paid for.  Those classes kept me motivated and happier on a day-to-day basis until I was ready to quit.
Huge Savings: I took about 8 classes averaging $695 plus books and parking, which means a total savings of approximately $5,560 – $6,000.
3 ) Start Interesting Side Projects (like a blog!)
If you’re not able to develop skills on the job, you can still learn new skills on your own.  It may be more costly without employer help but some things are free. You can start your own blog to improve your writing skills, volunteer to develop other worthwhile skills or take online classes for Excel, PowerPoint, Web Design and other essential skills.
Side Income? I’m not blogging for money but you never know if a writing/blogging opportunity may come up.
My basic mantra is that’s it’s important to always keep learning. The happiest retirees I know are the ones who are taking classes, traveling, or finding ways to keep mentally and physically active.  Studies have shown that your senses come alive when you are thrown into new situations.  This can mean anything from learning a language to trying new foods or even taking a stroll through unfamiliar neighborhoods.
I know that my advice won’t work for all fields or in all situations. If you can’t muster any enthusiasm for your job, it’s important to remember that a job doesn’t have to be your passion.  This interesting article about loving your day offers even more perspective.  Sometimes it’s good enough to just do your job well and call it a day!