Archives for the month of: October, 2012

The first time I realized I was actually out on my own was my first year in college. I got sick with the flu thanks to the Midwest weather. I had missed classes for a couple days and Tylenol and soup just weren’t cutting it. I finally broke down and decided I needed a doctor. I happened to be talking to my parents on the phone and explained my situation. My mom chimed in and offered to make me a doctor’s appointment. The only problem was I was 3 hours from home and she had no idea of any doctor in my area. Its not that I was spoiled and incapable of completing such chores, this was just the first realization that it was all on me. I honesty don’t remember if I had the energy to find a doctor or not, but I lived nonetheless.

Years later, I have moved from college, this time much further that 3 hours away from home. I ended up on the other side of the country in an area where I had no friends and no family. So everything was new – and everything was on me. It was time to step up and grow up.

Its not that this was a treacherous experience or anything, but it just addresses the little issues in life we often times don’t think about. Our parents raise us. Their network is our network. We go to the same doctor for years. We take our car to the same mechanic because that’s what we have always done. But if you really want to fuel your independence, start a list of your own “go to” people.

I actually had a 20-minute conversation with “my butcher” today as we discussed the right cut of meat to use for my Italian beef sandwiches. That led to football, which turn led to the discovery of us being from that same area of the country and cheering for the same team. That small conversation turned a random trip to the store into a very friendly experience. I now have a connection, a “go to” person, that will give me their expertise as friend.

I’ve repeated this experience with doctors. A random pre travel exam prior to my trip to Costa Rica led to a connection with the doc. He loves Costa Rica and travels there often. I was privy to some local advice before my trip.

Mechanics are another great connection to make. I hate car trouble. I’d rather be punched in the face than have car problems. So any time I need to take my car into the shop I’m already on edge. I happened to make buddies with a local mechanic over beers at happy hour one day. His shop is very close to my house. I still hate car problems with a passion but its much less stressful knowing I can trust the person who will be doing the work.

Not only will these “go to” people make your life easier in most cases, but it will also make you a more well rounded person. You’ll be able to add some local flare to the next conversation you find yourself in.  And don’t be afraid to share your own expertise. You may end up being someone else’s “go to” person. And there is no better advertising and networking than this word-of-mouth style. It makes the world a friendlier place to do business.

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It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. — Mark Twain

We always hear the older and wiser tell us to be careful not to burn our bridges. But as guys we let our egos scream louder and sometimes we think we need to stand our ground and speak our mind. And what do they know anyway?  I think most guys who have some life experience have probably experienced this or saw how close they were to experiencing it, only having avoided it by the luck of timing or choosing their words careful at the last moment.  If you haven’t had the joy of this experience let me illustrate the concept with my own experience that I stumbled upon recently.

When I was in college I amazingly found a job in my dream industry. I was able to get my foot in the door, work midnights, still complete school, and enjoy college life all in one. And it provided me with a full time paycheck when my largest bill was my bar tab.

Looking back it definitely benefited me to have that job. I received great training, met some great people, some of which I am still friends with today, and ultimately set me up to get to where I am today. But it was still a job so I had my own set of complaints about it. However, I’ve been removed from that job for almost ten years. I’ve moved across the country, done well with my career elsewhere and have created a good life for myself. So I look back and reminisce about the good times but don’t give it much thought past that.

Well a couple weeks ago, I attended a reunion of sorts back at college. Part of it included this division of the university having its own reunion because they had employed so many students over the years. I have to say was kind of excited to get back there and see some old faces and laugh about some old times.

I preface it by saying I did have a good time and got to see some old friends. BUT, I can’t count how many people who still work there brought up a bridge I apparently burnt some years back. In fact, I didn’t even remember the incident. But it was clear that many did, and that it made a lasting impression.

After I leave that job and moved away to take another job, I needed some training records from my former employer – in order to advance in my new job. When I contacted them and wasn’t getting the cooperation or answered that I needed I got fired up. (To be honest, I still don’t recall exactly what lit my fuse and I was afraid to ask anyone for more details because I didn’t want to wake a sleeping dragon). What I do remember is that I sent a company wide email. I vented my thoughts about everyone I couldn’t stand who worked there and everything I didn’t like about the company. I was pretty vocal because I was 24 and had nothing to lose.

I could have never imagined that I would continue to have contact with this people and this company throughout my life because of the closeness of my industry. And lucky for me, most of the recipients saw my view and where I was coming from, but I definitely didn’t think the plan through. Also some of my old friends have moved into management positions of that company so by their saving grace I was able to save face.

But you never know whom in your past you will need to contact and for what reason. People and jobs will come and go from your life. You don’t have to agree with all of them. And you don’t have to let anyone walk all over you. But think twice before you speak your mind. Not that you shouldn’t speak it, but think about how you will speak it. Because once it’s spoken, it still may not make a difference. So choose your battles. A true gentleman will smile and walk away.