Archive | May, 2011

make value

26 May

Will it push the ball forward? Are you making work, or making progress? Pick your cliche, but the gist of our professional–and even personal–existence is value. Introducing, creating, and delivering it.


This isn’t a motto just for work. Our lives are all tied up in value production and destruction. Being a good father brings value to your child’s life; plugging away at work, doing the routine minimum, and feeling our soul shrink a little bit each day destroys value.


We are happier when we are creating something enduring, for ourselves or others. We have been built to build: tables, relationships, organizations, ideas.


Create value today and tomorrow. Our value does not go away when we do. It becomes our legacy.




new failures

25 May

Most of our failures are old ones. We get hurt after doing that thing…again and again. We get depressed after eating that thing …again and again. We spread ourselves too thin…again and again.


Failure is fine. It lets us know we’re at least doing something. As the old military adage goes, anything is better than inaction. If we stay still we die as a curious and vibrant creature. Hitting a plateau is a soul-crushing feeling. Imagine you are in the middle of a flat, indistinguishable, and suffocating desert. Yep, that’s a plateau.


Take active living a step further: find new things to screw up on. Try out a new organization method, try out surfing, try out beef jerky ice cream. You will collect better stories to share, advice to pass on, and tips to learn. Your life wont be a desert, but an intriguing jungle.


Try new things, and fail at new things. Or, to your surprise, maybe you actually succeed. How about that.



work and play

24 May

If you were not paid to do your work, would you do it? It’s a very silly thing to think about, without a doubt. Most people would not even answer, but just give a blank stare. You kiddin’ me, dude??


But others wouldn’t. They’d at least give it a thought. They might calculate how much their financial obligations are tied into their job, and consider what not working would do to their life’s flow. It wouldn’t be a losing proposition, just one with some drawbacks.


The question is not silly in itself. It’s only silly when looking at everything else surrounding it. We’ve come to accept work as boring, taxing yet unchallenging, or something else just as unpleasant. Because work is work it demands pay. But does it?


What are some things we do for no pay? Play the guitar, write for our blog (ahem), coach a little league team. Are any of these things easy? No. Can we do any of these things without investing a good deal of time, effort, or attention? No. Yet we do them for no pay at all.


They are freeing. They are challenging. They are purposeful. They are play as much as work. No amount of money is greater than awesome, empowering play.


Some people get to do this on a regular basis. They put countless hours into something that uses their neurons and tendons, but also their hearts. Work and play are indistinguishable. It’s a joy to go to work.


Mark Twain put it simply:


Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.


Ask yourself this: Is pay the only thing keeping me at my job?


If that were to disappear, would you think twice about leaving? If you wouldn’t, then now you know you haven’t played at work. If it doesn’t feel like play, at least even some of the time, you shouldn’t expect bliss…and bliss is priceless.


you are what you speak

19 May

When I was about 12, I told my mom about my horrible friends who never wanted to do what I wanted to. “I should just make new friends!,” I proclaimed, probably as I shook my fist in the air. Her response was vintage Mrs. Zepeda:


“Maybe you’re the one who’s a bad friend”


Looking back on that gem reminds me of two things. 1) My mother never minced words, and 2) She was right.


I was placing all of the blame on an “other” (my friends), and by doing that I relieved myself of critical look in the mirror. I found out that, yeah, I was a crummy friend, stubborn and bossy (some things never change). After that aha!¬†moment, I tried harder to NOT be that, resulting in me keeping many of those friends for the rest of my childhood.


When we speak in me v. them terms, we are painting things black and white, when they are probably a whole lot of grey. We are missing an opportunity to ask questions like: Why is there a battle to begin with? What’s my role in this conflict? Could it be that I was the catalyst?


One way we create camps is through the adjectives we use for others. Calling someone lazy/mean/loud is not just a descriptor, but a line drawn in the sand. They (those lazy/mean/loud folk) are not me. I’d even venture to say that saying those things gives us a boost, by dropping them down a peg, at least in our mind.


But the rub is that those adjectives say much more about us than about them. How we label other people tends to be how we are ourselves. Maybe we are lazy/mean/loud folk, too. Not only that, but using negative descriptors means that we might be negative people ourselves.


The level of negativity [one] uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic or has other negative personality traits.


You are what you eat, and you are what you speak. Just like food, words are part of your diet. If you feed your mind and body negative communication, what do you expect? Feed yourself positive, wholesome adjectives for others, and you’ll notice the healthy boost.


Tweaking our language can do wonders to our outlook. Try (as hard as that may be) to find a redeeming quality in that “other” person: a personality trait, work ethic, physical feature, or lifestory. There’s always something good about someone. It’s hard to empathize, but it’s worth it. Find that goodness, focus on it, and shed that negative mind clutter.


nooks, books, and kindles

18 May

I stumbled upon this list of lovely bookstores on Salon, and couldn’t help but be in awe. These bookstores aren’t just edifices built on brick and wood, but symbols of something longer lasting. They have history, personality, panache, and cult followings.


People talk about how printed books are relics from an unsophisticated past. To be honest, the recent e-book/e-reader craze has yet to win me over: I don’t get it.


I love reading, but I also love books (not the same thing, to all Zodiac fans out there). It might just be my inner child, wanting to touch and feel my way around the world, but the physical presence of a book is quite unique.


The bookstore combines all those books and their inherent “bookiness,” and then adds another layer of personality atop.¬† A bookstore and its structure say a lot, not only about the owner, but about the neighborhood, the country, and the culture. Going through the slideshow you can’t help to think, “Yeah, that’s totally a French bookstore”/”Of course the Egyptian one would look like that.”


A book also carries with it a measure of time. Unlike e-books where one feels the same as 20 in your hand, the touch of a book communicates how much time you have or will invest in it. The books on your shelf symbolize months upon months of your lifetime. Do you get that feeling with a Kindle?


My main concern with e-readers is that they are yet another vehicle to speed up our days. Even if we make some “sit down and read” time with our Nooks/Kindles, we feel this background pang that might eventually lead us to check our email, online shop, or look up a word right then and there. E-books add to the frenzy.


Research shows that this generation’s teenagers (Generation Z?) are the most connected people around…yet the rate of depression among that group is alarmingly high. They have hundreds of friends online, and send/receive thousands of texts, but their face-to-face time with friendly faces is slim. They are connected, but not at all.


Milling about in a bookstore, thumbing through a potentially good read, is not unsophisticated, or antiquated. It just is. And sometimes, that offers plenty of value.


new curiosity

17 May

I’ve used this platform to write about various topics, but mostly politics and the tangled topics therein, for over 2 years now. I am prouder of some posts than others…and quite ashamed of a handful (I wrote that?). But overall, this space has let me write it all out, vent a bit, and think through keyboard taps. To be honest, it’s even been therapeutic.

That’s why I’ll keep writing, on a more consistent basis, and keep this space alive. But…


I’ve come to find a new curiosity/passion/obsession. You know something else is spinning your pistons when your reading selection is to brim about it. Over the last few months, I’ve become engrossed by this question:


How can we like work?


The corollary question would be: why is job satisfaction so important, yet so elusive?


It’s become a sort of unquestioned truth. Because work sucks, that’s why. Not true. Some people have jobs that make them happy. Research shows that most of us are happiest when AT work. Most moments of “bliss” happen during work hours. Our job satisfaction rate is the lowest ever since we began recording these numbers. Technology and innovation have given us a plethora of job/career choices, yet our misery at work continues to rise.




What is this reality leading us to?


What can we do to like our professional lives?


I’ve begun digging into the topic, and have essentially honed in my energy on this crucial, yet often overlooked question mark. This is not just about work, but about our psyches, society, communication, motivation, self-improvement, legacies, families, wealth, happiness, and history.


  • There are 8,700 hours in a year; if fully-employed, we spend at least a fourth of that time at work.
  • The people we spend the most time with a week are our co-workers.
  • Our bliss or lack thereof at work follows us to our families and friends.
  • Growing old also means looking back at our professional legacies.
  • Our dreams and talents grow or fade with the work we dive into.
  • Great work is done by great people, but sometimes great people never know what work will reach greatness.


So from today on, this blog will change focus. I may still write about politics here and there (and believe me, my passion for that will never fade), but this space will be dedicated to starting a discussion on being happy in your professional life.


I hope you will still tag along and contribute. Unless you are Jim Gaffigan or Ricky Gervais, monologues suck, so please stir the pot/add your two cents/any other cliche that’s in style


Here we go…



No more customer service (please)

4 May

You know when companies are doing something right. But you don’t realize it at the time. It hits you at a guttural level. Like beauty, you know when it’s there, and when it’s gone.

I was checking-in to my Southwest flight this morning, expecting the typical flight experience. “Pleasant” customer service, a dull in-flight environment, and the overall transactional feel flying nowadays conveys.

“Do you know the real name of Big Sexy?” the Southwest check-in lady asks me. I didn’t. “I think he’s from Phoenix.” She was having a conversation with both me and the other check-in gal. “Anyway, he is friends with my cousin. He also knows The Rock. How about that?” She said all of this while she checked my bags (bags fly free! remember?) and printing my boarding pass.

Next up, the in-flight safety procedure demonstrations…with jokes. The flight attendant sang some of the instructions, and sprinkled some good humor all about. “Remember to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on your child. And yes, we mean your husband.”

I even got “Plane Crackers” as my snacks.

The idea of customer service has become so sterilized that people sometimes dread being exposed to it, like the fluorescent light above our cubicles. But what Southwest, and other innovative companies (Virgin, for one) are doing now is customer engagement. The customer is not just that, but a part of the club. They are not a cog in the profit-making process. Customers are treated like friends, and who better to tell others about how great you are than your friends.

I write this as I am on the flight. I am sure this is just Southwest’s brain-washing ops in action, but the seats feel nicer, the plane cleaner, and for some odd reason, I expect to arrive early. Tell me this wont influence my next purchase?

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