Friday, February 25, 2011

Full-Time Employee vs. Business Owner

Full-Time Employee vs. Business Owner

I've worked for other companies, and I've owned my own business. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, no matter which side you're on. Here's a typical day in both lives.

Full-Time Employee
6:00 am: (Alarm) Crap, 6:00 already? Tonight I'm going to bed early. I can't make it on seven hours of sleep. Stupid CSI: Miami.

6:25: Shower. Shave in the shower to save time. I'm going to be late.

6:50: Toast and OJ. No time for a real breakfast. I can make up for it at lunch.

7:00: Leave the house. I hate rush hour.

7:20: I've been creeping along for 15 minutes. Probably an accident up ahead.

7:40: Finally got past it. A little fender bender everyone had to gawk at.

8:00: Barely made it. Check emails — 50 since I left last night, 10 of them marked urgent.

8:55: Urgent emails answered. Your poor planning doesn't not make it my problem. Need to get work done.

9:00: Staff meeting. Everyone talks about their progress since our last meeting, two days ago.

10:00: Committee meeting. Have to sit through a third discussion about our mission statement. I suggest we don't need one, which is met with stony stares from everyone else.

11:55: Urgent press release request from my boss. Grab a burger and work through lunch.

1:30: My boss wants me to sit in for her at some department meting. I said I had to finish the press release, but she says it can wait. She has a lunch meeting that's going to run late.

2:00: Turns out my boss had all the information everyone needed. Sitting in for her helps no one.

3:00: How can anyone stretch a meeting to one hour when the main person doesn't even show up? Glad I don't work for that guy.

3:30: Press release is finally done. Boss griped about it taking so long, but she took two hours for lunch?

3:35: 60 more emails, 20 of them marked urgent. None of them are.

5:05: Walk to the car, and realize I never got my regular work done.

5:45: Not even halfway home. Cop pulled some speeder over, and everyone had to gawk. Crawled along for 25 minutes just to move three miles.

6:00: Home again. Glad the day is over. Time to forget about work, spend time with the family. Wish I owned my own business. That life must be so easy.

11:00: Bed time. Wanted to get to bed early, but stupid Criminal Minds was on.

Small Business Owner
8:00: (Alarm). Crap, 8:00? I need to go to bed early tonight. No meetings until lunch, so I don't have to rush.

9:00: Great thing about leaving now? No rush hour. Get to work in 25 minutes.

9:25: Check email — 90 of them, 20 of them from clients, 10 of them urgent.

10:30: Urgent emails answered. Put out several client fires. Need to get some work done — crap, I have to write that sales proposal.

11:15: Emailed the proposal. Need to balance Quickbooks before lunch meeting with accountant — crap, I have to finish a client's web copy before lunch.

12:00: Lunch meeting isn't until 1:00. Need to balance Quickbooks — crap, I have to write that book review. Promised the publisher he'd have it today.

12:30: Still have to write a chapter for the book, write a new presentation, and edit 12 articles. Wish I didn't have that lunch meeting now. Never did balance Quickbooks. Looks like I need to pay accountant to do it.

2:30: I really need to quit having lunch meetings. They always run too long. I should have canceled and worked through lunch.

3:00: Coffee meeting with prospective client. Pack up work and I'll head home from there.

4:00: Got an email on my mobile phone. Writer flaked out on me, can't meet deadline for two articles. Needed them by tomorrow. Last time I use that guy.

4:30: Traffic was smooth. I love not driving during rush hour. Answer new emails before dinner.

6:00: Dinner time with the family.

7:00: Wife and kids are watching TV. I need to work on the book chapter.

10:00: Tuck the kids in bed. Worked enough on the chapter, but I need to write the presentation.

11:00: Need to write first draft of missed articles. Stupid flaky writers.

12:00: Have to edit those 12 articles. I really should do this during the day, I'm not at my sharpest.

2:30: Bed time. I wish I had a regular job so I didn't have to work so much.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

My Brief Time in Baseball

My Brief Time in Baseball

Spring training got underway this past week with those four magical words every baseball fan loves to hear: "pitchers and catchers report."

I love baseball's tenacity against the weather. Baseball ignores Punxsutawney Phil's weather prediction with its own six week window. About two weeks after the groundhog tells us whether we'll have six more weeks of winter, 750 ball players show up to their warm weather locales to begin six weeks of knocking the rust off their arms, preparing to be the boys of summer once more.

I was never that great at baseball, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. I played for one full and two partial seasons of Cub Scout baseball as a kid. The last two seasons I suffered season-ending injuries — a broken collarbone one year, and a broken arm the next. I was the Bob Sanders of Cub Scout baseball. Although I never played organized baseball afterward, I still played enough backyard ball to carry me well into my early teens.

But my first forays into baseball were not great, and it's only after three-and-a-half decades separate me from my first trips to the plate that I can finally talk about it.

"Not great" is actually an overstatement. "Pretty bad" is closer to the mark; "downright awful" is probably the most accurate

As a glasses wearer, my biggest fear at the plate was being smashed in the face by the ball. I knew the idea of "keeping my eye on the ball" was just a metaphor, but my main goal was to keep the ball off my eye.

Getting hit in the face was also my biggest fear in the infield, in the outfield, and sitting in the dugout. The only safe place on the field was as the catcher, because he wore a face mask. His biggest fear was getting hit in the junk by a bad foul tip.

Nothing frightens an 8-year-old boy more than getting hit in the junk, except maybe getting clocked in the face by a 200 mile-an-hour fastball flung at him by a 10-year-old pitching ace with a mustache and a tattoo on his arm of the Chinese symbol for "death from above."

When we first learned how to play, our coach was the pitcher. He taught me how to hold the bat, to stand at the plate, and to keep my knees from quaking too badly to swing at a pitch. While he had more control than the man-child they had picked to be our pitcher, I was still deathly afraid of getting hit.

"If you swing and miss, it's a strike," he told me that first day. "If you don't swing, it's a ball. Three strikes and you're out, four balls and you get to walk to first."

Once he said that, I had a plan. I knew how I was going to become a baseball star, and never have to worry about getting smashed in the face by a fast ball: if I didn't swing four times in a row, I would get a walk.

It was genius. It was brilliant. And despite over 100 years of baseball history, at eight years old, I was the first person to ever figure out that by never swinging a bat, I could be a baseball superstar. My Cub Scout team could even win the entire World Series with this plan.

This worked the first two times up at bat. Even though the coach was pitching, and he was throwing floaters that defied gravity and drifted lazily across the plate, I firmly stood my ground. I never swung the bat, and twice, I took my base, as promised.

My strategy was quickly dashed when my coach told me I had to swing the bat because in a few days, they would call strikes that passed through my "strike zone."

"What's a 'strike zone?'" I asked.

"That's the area where, if the ball passes through it, it's a strike."

Crap. My brilliant strategy were ground into dust and brushed off home plate. There goes the World Series.

I did eventually learn how to swing the bat, but I never quite got over my fear of getting a ball in the face. The following year, I was lucky enough to break my collarbone and then arm, and avoided the risk of facial injury for two more seasons.

The next fall, I took up soccer, which I played constantly for the next 13 years.

And got smashed in the face with the ball about once a year.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Fanny Pack is Making a Comeback

The Fanny Pack is Making a Comeback

Brace yourself, I've got some horrible news.

The fanny pack is making a comeback.

New York Fashion Week starts this week, and as I was listening to an NPR news report, they announced that the bulky butt backpack usually worn by the tragically unhip was making a comeback after 20 years as a fashion punchline.

But the fashionistas in New York don't want you to call it a fanny pack, because that would make it seem stupid.

Instead, they want you to call it a "hands free bag" or "bum bag," which they believe is decidedly less stupid. (It's not.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, designer Yvan Mispelaere wanted to bring them back, saying they "represented motion, dancing, and celebrating the sun." I suppose if you're a famous fashion designer, you need to say things like "represents motion, dancing, and celebrating the sun" when you charge $325 for something you could originally get for $9.95 at a gas station.

The other reason designers wish you called it a bum bag instead of a fanny pack is because of the British slang term for fanny. I can't say what it is, except to say only women have fannies.

These new "hands free bags" are no longer the utilitarian butt backpacks worn by pudgy, balding insurance salesmen wearing button-down short sleeve shirts, shorts, and mid-calf white socks, being screamed at by his bratty kids at Six Flags.

Now they're a high fashion accessory more suited for holding an ID and credit card, a cell phone, and a tube of lipstick.

Mispelaere says that calling them a hands-free bag conveys "a functional shape, but with a touch of glamour, a touch of luxury, and a touch of seriousness."

Actually, I don't think the term "hands free bag" conveys any of that. It conveys utility, convenience, and the ability to fight off bears should the need arise. For $325, it had better come with a year's worth of free hamburgers and a model to feed them to me. Drop the price to $275, and it can be a hand model.

I've carried a hands-free bag for years. It's called a backpack. I can put my laptop in it, four books, several electronics connector cords, a computer mouse, two Moleskine notebooks, a digital camera, and an iPod. There's even a place to stick a water bottle. Best of all, it only cost $25, or 92 percent less than Mispelaere's bag.

Not so surprisingly, designers hate the old-fashioned fanny grannies we're so used to seeing. TV presenter and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi despises fanny packs.

They are forever associated with "scary American tourists at the Louvre," Mizrahi, an American, told the Wall Street Journal. "You either love them and make them part of your life, or you fight them until the end," he said. Then he snickered and said, "until the 'end,' get it?!"

This year's designers are serious about shedding the old fuddy-duddy image, because they can't sell them to people with more money than sense (way more money) if they're called fanny packs. If we use the same term for these new accessories that we used for butt purses, then designers like Sang A Im-Propp can't sell an alligator version of her "belt bag" for $1,995.

"The term 'fanny pack' is just eww, so cheesy, so tacky, so horrible," she said, oblivious to the the cheesy, tacky, horribleness of using the skin of a dead reptile so some bubble-headed model has some place to stick her lipstick and coke vial.

It gets worse: Herm├Ęs has a fanny pack that costs $4,675 and will hit stores in the Spring. You could buy a 2004 Ford Mustang for that much, secure in the knowledge that "Mustang" is not a British slang word for things we're not allowed to say in a newspaper.

But apparently, these new fanny packs are useful for more than just carrying stuff. LA fashion designer Lizz Wasserman says she has more than 20 different fanny packs, and they come in handy when she's in the clubs.

"If you go out dancing, a fanny pack is very necessary," said Lizz. "Especially if you don't want other people dancing with you."

Umm, okay sure, Lizz. The fanny packs are why people aren't dancing with you.

I don't care what the fashionistas demand that we call these bags in some desperate attempt to hide the fact that they're nothing more than ridiculously priced, slimmed down butt backpacks.

They'll always be fanny packs to me. Painfully small, seriously undernourished fanny packs.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

TV Weather People Get Second Win of Season

TV Weather People Get Second Win of Season

We've spent the last two days here in Indiana trying to fend off the snow and ice storms that blanketed the entire eastern half of the country, and snowed me in for two days. Luckily, I own the company, so I can work from home if I want to.

Of course, my kids are home schooled, which means they work at home every day.

I missed working in my office this week.

After a mix of snow, ice, more snow, and then more ice, my yard has turned into a frozen lake. My kids enjoy it because it's a big slippery slope of frictionless fun. My dog hates it for the same reason.

My wife reminds me constantly that taking the dog out is not "dog hockey."

We were hammered by the ice and snow after an entire weekend of dire predictions and scary warnings from the TV weather people. A lot of people didn't take them seriously at first, but they kept talking about how Indiana was going to be pounded with the "worst ice storm in years," and we began to pay attention.

The problem is the weather people don't have a great record in predicting the weather. We've been warned time and again about the impending doom of a giant snow monster heading our way, only to be pelted with a light dusting of snow, or a mile long snow squall that's gone in 10 minutes.

By my count, they've been right twice this winter about major storms heading our way. Of course, one of them was the big blizzard in January that hit every state in the Continental US except for Florida, and this one, which went from Texas all the way to Maine.

So, the weather forecasters getting these two right is sort of like the only French military's victory happening during the French Revolutionary War. When the entire continent is being pounded by an icepocalypse, you're bound to get a win.

Icepocalypse. It was one of the many terms people were using on Twitter all day Monday, talking about the coming storm: Snowmageddon, Coldemort, Kaiser Snowze, or my personal favorite, SNOMG!

It doesn't help when forecasters are screaming about the dangerous storms heading our way like used car salesmen announcing their BIG SAVINGS at CRAZY LOW PRICES.

"Today only, we've got three feet of snow that threatens to smother us all like a needy girlfriend with mother issues. Come on down and tell 'em Big Phil sent you!"

"We ordered too much precipitation, and we're pricing it to move before the tax man comes!"

Still, thanks to our local news stations' overinflation of the drama of these two storms (not to mention their many other overdramatized misses), only managed to frighten the bejeezus out of most Hoosiers, and many of us flocked to the grocery stores for fear that we would be snowed in by the impending Ice Age, and that the roads would not be cleared off until sometime this summer.

I even ducked out early from an evening networking meeting, because I was worried about the coming storm that was already looming in the horizon. After talking to a few friends who weren't as overly dramatic as the TV weather people, I realized that we were probably going to be buried under a thick sheet of ice by bedtime, so I ought to head home.

I stopped by the grocery store on the way home, getting there around 7:00, just as the rain was turning to ice.

I had been hearing all day that the grocery stores were jam packed and that people were swarming over the food like bees on honey. When I showed up, the stores were nearly empty, both of people and food.

But I had a secret weapon, something that apparently no one else had: a shopping list of healthy foods my wife has been feeding us for the last several months. Oatmeal, organic yogurt, whole grain pasta, and oranges. And with the exception of one item — organic ground beef — I was able to get everything on the list.

The other essential items everyone else needed — bread, eggs, Captain Crunch, potatoes — were long gone. Shelves were empty, and the stockers were standing around in a daze, like they had just been raided by Vikings, and faced the daunting aftermath of cleaning up the carnage.

So, the TV weather people got themselves a second win in just as many months. That's great for them, because their other panicked screams about life-threatening weather have melted away like snow flurries in June.

Their much needed win has inspired a lot of people to never give up on their dreams, no matter the odds or or how awful their past performance.

I hear the French army has been trash talking the Germans again.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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