Archive | Action RSS feed for this section

Part-time job throwback: what trends can I draw from the jobs I held as a teenager?

My first part-time job: the local library

My first part-time job started as a summer job helping at the local library. I lived in a small town in Missouri, and we had a historical library that was built using Carnegie dollars back in the early 20th century. It was a great small town, old feeling building. I hadn’t spent much time there, but somehow my dad had the idea that they might be willing to hire me for the summer. I honestly don’t quite know how it came about, but he helped me get an interview with the director of the library. Looking back, I was only 13 years old at the time because it seems like it was the summer after my 8th grade year.

Bolivar Carnegie Library part-time job

The local library where I worked when I was 13 year old — Source: Kaethesson

I would ride my bike to the library each day that summer in sometimes sweltering, moist heat, and I would spend my days sorting and shelving books, helping patrons find books, checking in and checking out books, and all the other things you imagine librarians doing. Through that experience, I learned how to deal with adults, both customers and employers, I gained some additional layers of responsibility, I came to understand the value of large print books and audio books, and I discovered that genealogy is a big deal for small town libraries.

My second part-time job: the local downtown law firm

I don’t remember how long I worked at the library, but it seems I may have worked there into the school year. At some point, I upgraded to working for the local downtown, small town law firm. I don’t remember if that shift was my idea or if that was also an idea hatched by my dad. One of the law firm partners was my best friend’s dad, so maybe it came about through the friendship, but there also may have been some dad initiative mixed in there as well. It seems like I started working at the law firm the summer after my freshman year, so i would have been 14 years old. I was young for my age in school, one of the youngest in my class.

At the law firm, I was responsible — along with one of the lawyers’ sons, with whom I alternated work days — for all filing and file tracking and for running all the errands to the court, the recorders office, the title company and other downtown venues with which the law firm did business. I was routinely called into attorneys’ offices and given photocopy projects or simple research projects and errands. Yes, I was a “gopher”, but I was hanging out with real lawyers in a real law firm and getting paid to do it. I had always considered being a lawyer, and from that experience, I learned many things, most of all that law firms are very quiet, sometimes serious, and professional places.

I worked at the law firm for a few years, and I had some great experiences there, including meeting then-governor John Ashcroft and wandering downtown shops with him as he shook hands on a campaign stop. I remember being aghast as he jaywalked from one corner of the downtown square to another, violating all downtown square walking traffic protocols I had learned as a young law firm employee, to get to a group of people and shake hands. I was even made an appearance in the background of a photo of him in the local newspaper the next day.

My third part-time job: the local weekly newspaper

In my junior year in high school, I took journalism class in high school and found traction for my love of photography and writing. That year, I approached the local weekly newspaper to see if they would hire me. Again, I think that whole process was actually initiated by my dad. I don’t remember making the initial contacts to get the job, which leads me to think that he did. I interviewed with the publisher of the newspaper, and he hired me to help at the newspaper to shoot, develop and print photos and to proofread and assist in the layout of the newspaper.

I ended up working at that weekly newspaper — the top weekly newspaper in the state of Missouri at the time — for the rest of high school and into college until my senior year in college. It was a great job that gave me lots of experience and connection and responsibility, and I owe much to the people who helped me along there and coached me and held me responsible and taught me the value of doing a good job, all in the context of the small town newspaper in which they (and eventually I) held much pride.

What trends can I draw from these part-time job experiences

Why do I write all of this? There are trends in these storyline that I notice:

1) My dad acted as a catalyst in contacting employers and connecting me into my part-time jobs

My dad was influential in the process of opening the doors necessary to help me get those jobs. Those employers likely did not have an opening for a high schooler. My dad talked to someone and convinced them to meet with me and consider opening up a position for me. His relational way and his initiative made all the difference in my getting those jobs.

2) The people who hired me for a part-time job were willing to train and coach me

Those employers were willing to hire me (some, at a very young age) and to find a way to use what skills I did have and to train me and coach me in the rest. I learned much through those years, and you can chalk that up to the leadership and staff at those companies who were willing to take a risk on me and deal with my failures and error and help train me into a young adult with better skills for tomorrow.

3) I was willing to hustle to get the part-time job and ultimately do the work to keep the job

I wanted work, I wanted the pay, and I was willing to work and learn and figure it out. I can tell you — I was not always a responsible young man, and I disappointed many times. But I still wanted those jobs, and I was willing to dress nice, figure out how to get there (even before I could drive), show up, and do the work day after day.

The 3 key elements involved in my early part-time job development

The trends I can quickly identify in my teenage part-time jobs are as follows:  The relationships with the employers and the job positions themselves were opened up through initiative and interaction on my behalf; employers were willing to take the time and provide the resource to hire and develop young people; and I was willing to put in the work to show dedication and desire on my part to show up and do the work.

Comments { 1 }

Writing as me and no one else

It doesn’t matter how much I want to write.  The writing and getting to the writing is the hard part.

In high school and college, I wrote constantly.  I journaled, I wrote poetry, I wrote fiction, and it just flowed.  I would sit down and write, and the crafted words would just come out.  What came out of me was actually pretty good writing that made people stop, read, look at me and want to talk about what they had just read.

I majored in English in college and I wrote plenty in that program, but, looking back, I have wished I had been able to find a writing degree  instead of just an English program that was much more focused on reading for the purpose of teaching than writing for the purpose of writing.

My dad is a published author many times over in the non-fiction realm.  When I was a child, he would disappear to his “study”, which was the dining room table that he’d taken over with books and an electric typewriter in that formal dining room we never used.  My evenings after dark were spent to the gentle hum of that typewriter off in the distance and his pecking away at the keys.  He would take breaks, eat a snack over the kitchen sink in our small galley kitchen, and then he would get back to his quick-paced hunting and pecking.

My dad has never formally learned to type in the ways I was taught to type in high school.  He still hunts and pecks on a keyboard faster than anyone I know.  It’s incredible to watch.  He would sit in the study, night after night, hunting and pecking away, building a book manuscript on pieces of typing paper.  I once met his editor, and she was a serious lady who knew how to slice and dice his manuscripts to make them brilliant.

He also had a newsletter that he would manually mail out back in the day.  My first job was typing in his newsletter subscriber  addresses into our Apple computer database software.  He was also always working on articles for periodicals, and the massive Writer’s Market volume was a constant around our house.

I grew up wanting to write like he wrote.  I wanted to publish books and articles and be known for my knowledge and for my nuances.  It was a very early goal (besides running for President).

Around sixth grade, I wrote an article outlining tips to get autographs on baseball memorabilia.  I submitted that article to a national baseball cards periodical, and they bought it!  They sent me a check for $20 and published my article with a byline, and I was so proud.  My dad was proud, too.  It was an incredible start to my career as a published author.

Through college, I worked at the local newspaper doing a combination of technical and creative work, including photography, layout, proofreading and editing.  I was never satisfied with how much writing opportunity I had at the newspaper.  I would wait intently for the week the sports editor would go on vacation so I could fill his spot and write actual articles for the newspaper.  I loved having a byline with my name on it alongside words that I had crafted specifically for those readers.

I think it all changed when I went to law school.  Law school changed both my thought processes but also my life processes.  The intensity of work gave me less time to pursue creative outlets, including writing for my own sake.

Law school pushed forward the more technical, more non-fiction part of my brain.  In doing so, it shifted how my mind settled in quiet moments, and honestly, I lost some of my whimsical creativity.  Everything running through my brain shifted into a technical processing of facts and details into theories and meanings.  It wasn’t bad.  It was just different.

It’s now almost 20 years later.  Life has become a version of busy that I never anticipated —  insanely busy sometimes.  I have a wife, a gaggle of kids, a career, commitments, and a life that doesn’t stop moving at many levels.  It’s hard to fit additional things into my life that I don’t really love and that I’m not really passionate about.  Just managing the daily details of our life is enough to keep anyone busy full time, but I’m still drawn to write.

I enjoy writing, and I write as lawyer, but it’s mostly drafting documents.  I feel I have really good at technical document drafting.  But I want more.

 Over the years, I have written some informational, promotional and periodical articles when asked to do so for work or for church.  At one point, I even wrote a recurring newsletter for our church’s small groups ministry.  I have run a few blogs and found a creative outlet there, but even then, I was mostly focusing on politics and religion (or coffee).  I’ve become more of an “expert” than a “creative,” although I’m still a very creative expert.  Over time, I’ve lost sight of that dream of being a “writer,” but it’s still lingering.

And now I find myself here — a dad, a husband, a professional, a middle-aged man — and I want to write.  I’m feeling a constant urge to write *something*, *anything*.  About a year ago, a friend challenged me to start journaling, and I did.  Then I set up a new blog space (this one), and wrote a little bit.

Interestingly, last December, my writing process fell apart.  I was talking to a trusted friend who enjoys tracking me, and he had read the few blog posts I had written.  In that conversation, he encouraged me to actually write *me* — not just ivory tower, preachy thoughts.  He has read other random, passionate posts of mine over time, primarily on social media, and he told me that my writing on my blog was nothing like what he knew of the real me.  He challenged me to write with meaning and honesty and out of the real me.

I took his encouragement to heart, and then I got stuck.  He was right.  I wasn’t writing me.  I was just writing to write something and be someone who wrote.

I has taken me most of a year to settle into a place of figuring out how to sit down and do my best to just write out of the person I am instead of writing out of a person I envision people want me to be out in fake Internet land.

For the last several weeks, I’ve daily said I was going to write.  And I haven’t.  And I understand that writing is a discipline that I just must do.  But there has been more to my struggle to write.

I have not been writing because I don’t want to disappoint myself.

I have not been writing because I don’t want disapproval of my closest people.

I have not been writing because I don’t want to realize that no one cares what I write.

I have not been writing because I don’t want to write something that triggers negative reactions, whether from myself, my closest people, or any third party out of there, whether they know me or not.

I have not been writing simply out of fear — pretty much fear of rejection.

Here I am writing anyway.  And, I’ll tell you, my heart is racing.  I’m not writing out of the deep engaged passion of a writer who can’t stop (although there is some of that mixed in).  I’m writing to get over the hurdle of anxiety of not writing well enough to be proud of what I’m doing.  Honestly, I know I will do well, but only if I write out of me.

If I write as a persona of a person that I think people want me to be, this won’t work.  And if I write gripped with fear of disappointing or offending other people, this won’t work.  I just have to write and reach deep inside, dig through the surface, and get past the facade I hold up that I think is the writer people want.

Instead, I need to write as just me.  Let’s do this.

Comments { 0 }

Change starts with 3 simple action words: Be, Give, Do

Ready to make change?  All generous action starts here:  Be. Give. Do.

Be: where action begins

All change starts by “being.”  It may seem funny to think of “being” as an action.  In elementary school, I learned that there are “being” verbs and “action” verbs, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that just “being” something and recognizing and acknowledging what’s going on inside you can be an action in and of itself.  The realization of “being” serves as the catalyst for all positive forward action.

When you feel something and it wells up inside you, that “being” emotion is generally the catalyst for something else much more active.   You have to “be” something good before you “do” something good.  What you “be” matters and affects your next steps.  Your actual outward actions are fully dependent on what you “be” first before you act.  Any positive forward action you take in your life and in the lives of others starts with  “be” as the catalyst for the action.

Spark of action
Simple examples of this starting place can be as follows:
Be generous.
Be grateful.
Be thankful.
Be humble.
Be gracious.
Be open-minded.
Be heroic.
Be courageous.
Be different.
Be creative.
Be encouraging.
Be a friend.
Be the one who stands up for what you believe in.
Be the one who makes a difference.

All of these “be” examples are internal ideas that can drive you to positive forward action.  When you feel those thoughts and ideas and emotions welling up inside you, you first realize that you’re feeling them, but you must then make a choice to let your external actions match your internal drive to “be” something.  A year or so ago, I read a challenging book about how to take that spark of “be” and move things forward titled Spark: Transform Your World, One Small Risk At A Time by Jason Jaggard.

You feel the “be” inside you and you think through it, sometimes in a split second.  Then at some point, you either do something about it, or you shove it down inside and try to act like it is not real and should not matter.  If you choose against shoving it down and instead choose to take that risk and take action, you’re moving forward.

Give: the active response to a “be”

The easiest next step once you acknowledge a “be” is to “give” something.   Don’t overcomplicate giving.  Giving is easy.  It’s actually one of the smallest, simplest, most elemental steps to take when you feel a “be” pop into your mind and thought process.  To “give” is simply to release your own selfish, internalized energy and let it turn outward into a release of external, action-based energy.

Be. Give. Do. Take Action!
A few general categories of giving could be:
Giving your time.
Giving your energy.
Giving your expertise.
Giving your advice.
Giving your reputation by serving as a reference for someone else.
Giving your money, whether just spare change or something significant.
Giving your skills and abilities.
Giving encouragement when you know it’s needed.
Giving positive words when you know that negative words are easier.
Giving up your spouse for the weekend so they can help someone with a problem.
Giving your stuff, whether it’s stuff you care about or stuff you never use.
Giving your mental power to a problem.

So many people try to mentally skip over the idea of “giving” because they think it requires an outlay of cash.  But to “give” is just the idea of expending any manner of resource — even the smallest amount of thought and care — on something or someone else.  Move past the idea that to “give” requires money (or whatever other resource you are convinced you don’t have).  Giving just involves you.

Your brain will try to trick you when you hear the word “give” and will throw up a roadblock that tells you that you’re not available because you don’t have time or energy or money or whatever that resource is.  In that moment, acknowledge your selfish, internalized energy trying to hold on to whatever it can grasp.

Once you’ve gathered your forces against your selfish, internalized self, unleash a “be” into the mental mix and see what happens.  Let a “be” act as the catalyst to help initiate a “give” of any kind.  Don’t forget that a “give” is the simplest, lowest-energy building block and next step toward creating positive forward action, and all you really need is a good “be” to discover a functional, actionable “give”.

Do: the culmination of giving

The last piece of this generosity trifecta is to “do”.  You might think that “giving” and “doing” are really the same thing, but they’re just cousins and have similarities but are wildly different.  A “do” is bigger and better and more organized than “give”.  To ‘give” is to implement the basic building block of action.  To “do” is to gather your “gives” into a big pile and to start building something with them like my kids do with LEGOs.

Do is the collective of giving efforts

To “give” is to move to action out of the motivation and inspiration of a “be”.  But to “do” is to move things in the real world in a way that actually makes a real difference.  To “do” something is to take your “be”, allow it to start consistently churning out some “gives” and then organizing those “gives” into something collective and useful.   To “do” is to make a change in the world through a collective of organized “gives”, whether it’s all given just by you or is multiplied through the “give” efforts of other people as well.

You can think of this in a molecular fashion.  “Be” is the electron sparking action.  “Give” is the atom, serving as the building block of identifiable action.  “Do” is those atoms coming together to form actual substance that produces movement.

Simplify the concepts as follows:

Be is the spark, the catalyst of action.
Give is the incremental action building block.
Do is the momentum caused of incremental actions.

I lay out this framework to help you understand where I am going as I talk about what you can do in the world through what you’ve been given.  I’ll be offering up ideas of what you could “be”, and I’ll be suggesting ways you might “give”, and I’ll be encouraging you to figure out what you want to “do” to make a difference and leave the world better than you found it.  Let me work through these ideas over time and challenge you in them and make them real enough for you to apply them in your own life.

Comments { 0 }
%d bloggers like this: