Friday, July 28, 2017

How Did We Survive Bad Parental Advice?

When I was a kid, I was convinced parents and teachers gave terrible advice. When it came to dealing with playground issues — bullies, being teased, being picked on — they had no clue what was going on in a kid's world or how to handle certain problems.

Now that I'm a parent myself, dealing with my own kids' problems, I realize their old advice is still pretty terrible.

Remember "if they tease you, it's because they like you?" I heard it in the first grade when a girl told on me for teasing her.

I thought, "Eww! No, I don't." and I quit because I didn't want anyone to think I actually liked her. But we all realized that was patently absurd and no one ever believed it except for the teachers who kept saying it.

Teachers continue to perpetuate this idea despite it being a) false, and b) dangerous. Not only are you telling the teaser that this is how to tell someone you like them, it teaches the other person that being picked on is an acceptable demonstration of love. Teach a kid this is acceptable, and this is how you end up getting stalkers in your bushes.

Besides, what happens if I retaliate? Is that the beginning of a courtship? What if I stab the other person with my compass? Does that mean I like them back? I don't want to send any mixed signals or anything.

Of course, the friends who made fun of me weren't doing it because they liked me. They thought the plaid pants I was wearing in the third grade were hysterical.
However, those kids weren't my "real friends," because as everyone knows, friends who judge you because of your clothes are not your real friends.

Apparently, my real friends were some secret plaid pants-wearing nerd cabal who met every week to play Dungeons & Dragons, but I never actually met them.

This "not your real friends" business was never very comforting. Of course, kids will tease each other about their clothes. It's what kids do. They're rotten little turds who don't know you're supposed to hide your true feelings behind a frozen mask of civility.

But they tease because they're just jealous. Apparently, that's the only reason kids are mean to other kids. According to my mom, it's because I was smart, handsome, and loved to read. (Hey, just because her advice was bad doesn't mean she was wrong about everything.)

And also my pants, apparently. They were jealous of my pants. Not every kid got to wear pea-green-and-burgundy plaid pants, so I was special. To hear my mom tell it, these kids would run home after school, fling themselves on their beds, and sob and wail that they didn't have pants like mine. My pants gnawed at their very soul, and they hated me for it.

The dumbest piece of advice I heard was how to deal with bullies.

"If someone is picking on you, just ignore them and they'll go away."

Clearly, someone has never dealt with bullies. They don't go away because you don't react. They continue picking and punching until they get a reaction, which is what they want. They're patient in their cruelty and they'll punch you over and over until you finally acknowledge them.

Don't believe me? How many times will a little kid shout "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" before he gives up and goes away?

Trick question. The little turd won't shut up ever. I've been in restaurants where the mom is talking and is ignoring her kid or just hasn't taught him what manners are. Either way, the kid ain't going away no matter how hard she pretends he isn't there.

The only thing worse than a parent not understanding how bullying worked were the teachers and principals who were either unsympathetic or unwilling to listen. There were a couple times I got punished for fighting when it was basically just some bully beating the crap out of me.

I mean, I can see getting in trouble if both of us were whaling away on each other. But when it's just one kid repeatedly punching another kid, there's no reason the second kid should face any kind of punishment.

Ice cream was not an unreasonable expectation.

But the principals and teachers were as unsympathetic as prison guards. They would claim they had to "be fair" and couldn't show favoritism. Except it's not favoritism when you only punish a bullying A-hole for being a bullying A-hole. That's justice.

You don't prosecute both the burglar and the home owner, or the car jacker and the car owner. But this notion of "fairness" in punishing both the bully and the victim was one of the dumbest things any school administrator could have done.

Or maybe they just really liked me.


Photo credit: Thomas Ricker (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)



You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Olathe, Kansas State of the City Address

My fellow Olatheans, it has been a wonderful year, after a whole string of wonderful years. And as your mayor, I am proud to deliver my state of the city address in this year of our Lord, 2037. It's hard to imagine that we would go from the nation's 193rd largest city to its 10th largest in just 20 short years. And it's all thank to our wonderful beaches!

(Cheers and laughter.)

Who knew that a simple article from Wallethub.com could have been the focal point of the world-changing growth of our city. Those of you who moved to Olathe in the last 20 years may not know our history. We used to be the fourth largest city in Kansas with a population of 135,000, and things were fine. They were just fine.

(Cheers and applause from the old-timers.)

Those of us originally from the Midwest know that feeling well. We like it when things are Just Fine. But then that Wallethub article was published, and it changed everything. Now we're the largest city in Kansas, and Kansas City is now a suburb of Olathe!

(Wild cheers from the crowd.)

In that article, "Best Beach Towns to Live In," Wallethub examined various cities with beaches, and ranked them in terms of affordability, weather, economy, and quality of life. And our tiny beaches next to Lake Olathe and Cedar Lake ranked higher than Miami Beach, Florida. Wallethub ranked us at number 20, and Miami Beach at number 27! We even finished beat Newport Beach, California.
Well, folks around here thought it was all a mite amusing. Surely this was written by some intern who had failed basic geography, or at least had never been to the ocean before. It was good for a few laughs, and I can remember being in college at Kansas State University and making jokes about it. We had fun on Twitter that day, I can tell you. You folks remember Twitter, back in the good old days?

(The crowd murmurs fondly in remembrance.)

Except it turns out other people took it seriously. They began moving to little Olathe to pursue the beach life. The beaches got bigger, and people began putting up little bamboo hutches with grass roofs to serve drinks and food. Then there were a couple restaurants. My father started his restaurant empire by opening Turf's Up, the first Midwestern beach-themed restaurant. That was quickly followed by a series of nightclubs and bars that drew the nighttime beach crowd, and we never looked back.

Pretty soon, the city was overrun with beautiful rich people who were attracted by our glamorous beach life. It wasn't too long before people began flocking to little Olathe for some of that beach life. Even Jimmy Buffet's last three albums have all reflected the Kansas beach attitude: Wichita Dreamin', Last Mango in Iola, and Far Side of Missouri.

We had fashion shows, you started to see Ferraris and Lamborghinis everywhere, and there was a Cuban music revival, even though we only had two Cuban families, and they were former baseball players who just never left.

In my six years as mayor, we've swapped baseball teams with Miami, which sparked a wonderful rivalry. These days, everybody gets excited about the games between the Miami Royals and Olathe Marlins, and we call it the Battle of the Beaches.

The Kansas City Chiefs finally changed their historically racist name to the Olathe Breakers, and every year, we look forward to the Beach Bowl between the Breakers and the Dolphins.

Finally, the Kansas Heat is in the middle of their seventh season in the NBA's Western Division. Of course, some of that Miami Heat luck followed them up here, because they're currently fifth in the division. I guess some things never change.

Olathe continues to prosper thanks to our beaches, our businesses, and our people. Property values are growing, we have more condos per capita than even New York City, tourism is one of our primary industries, and our unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, compared to seven percent for the rest of the country.

We aren't the only city to benefit from Wallethub's complete lack of understanding of statistical research. Thanks to their staggering geographic ignorance, Cincinnati now has the country's best art scene, the Portland, Oregon theater district is considered an American treasure, and Oklahoma City is now the hot dog capital of the world.

And their latest article means Kansas isn't done growing. The "Best Pizza in the Country" article lists Antonio's Pizza in Manhattan, Kansas as the 13th best, just behind Brooklyn, but ahead of Chicago. So to our friends in Manhattan, let me just say, "hold on for the ride."


Photo credit: Ichabod (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Four Pieces of Sage Advice on Job Hunting

Most of us know the pain and frustration of an extended job search, especially if you were looking several years ago during the Great Recession, when jobs were scarce and companies were going out of business.

Even now, several years later, I know people who are having difficulty finding work in their chosen field, earning a living at their profession. And it occurred to me that some of you may need a little ego boost as you search for the next chapter in your life.

As a veteran job seeker who has applied for hundreds of jobs, thanks to the mocking curse of the online mega job boards, I've learned a few important lessons about patience, tenacity, and how not to be bitter, even when the hiring manager is a know-nothing hamster fart.

Here are a few lessons to share with you about your job search.

If you're a young person, remember that your current job is not your career. I know a 17-year-old kid who searched for a job for several months, hoping to find his dream job, working for a music producer or a music studio.
McDonald's in Kyoto, Japan. Could be worse though. It could be a Rally's.

That job never materialized and he got a job at a restaurant instead. I remember he was disappointed about his fate, so I reminded him that he wasn't going to be at the restaurant forever. In fact, most 17-year-olds' jobs won't last to the next full moon. I had my 17-year-old job for three months which is probably some kind of record.

If you're anything like today's Millennials, you've got a good 20 or 30 jobs ahead of you, so it's okay if this job isn't the one you want. You'll get and lose four new jobs while you're asleep tonight, so don't worry about being stuck.

It's okay to take rejection personally. Rejection sucks. It feels like your very humanity has been rejected. The only thing more painful is being turned down after you proposed on the stadium Jumbotron. (Jeez, what a loser! She kept the ring too. His mom still keeps in touch with her though, even had her and her new husband over for dinner last week.)

Of course, there are plenty of perpetually-employed people who will tell you "don't feel so bad, it's not personal."

These people are idiots.

Of course, it's personal! You've just offered your best self to an employer, told them "this is who I am as a person," and placed your heart on their desk, and that jerk of a hiring manager stomped on it with a pair of golf cleats. How can that not be personal?

Having said all that, it's usually not personal. It comes down to whether they thought you were a good fit for the company. Or if they could hire someone for less. Or if you're in marketing, if the other person was young and pretty.

And since I'm neither, you'd better bet I take that personally! Mouth-breathing hamster farts!

Start your own company. I mean it. If you don't have a job, don't fall for that "my job is looking for another job" nonsense. Nothing will drive you deeper into a depressive funk than spending 40 hours a week applying for jobs online and not hearing anything back. Instead, start a company, or become a freelancer, using the skills you do have.

If you're an accountant, become a small business bookkeeper. If you're in marketing, become a marketing consultant. If you're an electrician or builder, become a contractor.

As heartless as it sounds, employers don't like to hire people who don't have jobs. Never mind they could be bailing someone out of a tough spot. Never mind they could earn lifelong loyalty by hiring someone who hasn't worked in nine months. They just tell themselves, "there but for the grace of God go I," and hire someone away from another company.

So start your own company, get some business cards, and go out and find new customers. At the very least, it makes you look employed to a hiring manager. But at the very best, you'll be wildly successful, get rich, and you can tell those hiring managers what they can go do to themselves.

Finally, just remember that you're amazing. If a company didn't hire you, remember, it's because those people are know-nothing hamster farts. They wouldn't recognize talent and a winning personality if it smacked them upside the head.

Instead, they realized you're a proverbial unicorn of skills and experience, and they're threatened by your brilliance. You set the bar of excellence so high just by breathing that their knees tremble at the mere thought of you.

So if you're having a tough time finding a new job, just know that a lot of people are pulling for you, hoping for your very best, and sending you positive thoughts and energy.

Of course, none of us have real jobs ourselves, so that's about all we can help you with. But we're all pulling for you!

Photo credit: Ben Garney (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Which Part of 'No' Don't You Understand?

Erik is out of the office this week partly because of the Fourth of July week, but also because it was his birthday the week before. He retreated to some spa, whining about his "mouth wrinkles," so we're republishing a piece from 2003.

It's not something I like to talk about, but when I was in college I did something I'm not proud of.

I was a telemarketer.

Okay, I was only a telemarketer for about three hours, but still, it was pretty traumatic.

It was my last summer in college, and I was looking for a part-time job. I called a company I found in a classified ad, and I was hired right over the phone. I should have been suspicious when I was hired based purely on how I sounded. There was no application, no background check, and no questions about whether I got disgruntled easily or owned any guns.

The "business" was a single room in an office complex with three folding tables, six folding chairs, six phones, and two windows that didn't open. That normally wouldn't matter, but out of the six people there, I was the only one who didn't smoke. Everyone else was like those smokestacks on anti-pollution ads.
My job was to call local businesses written on a stack of index cards and get donations for the Fraternal Order of Police. I would get paid 50 percent of any donations. But I realized the deck was literally stacked against me when I got all the small businesses, while my boss' buddy got all the big businesses and previous donors.

I coughed and hacked my way through three hours without a single donation and enough smoke in my lungs to set off a fire alarm. So when I left for lunch, I didn't go back.

That experience left a bitter taste in my mouth for a week, although it could have been the second-hand smoke. After that, I've had mixed feelings about telemarketers.

On the one hand, I feel sorry for the people who try to earn a living by calling complete strangers. On the other hand, I hate them.

So I'm torn: do I put myself in their tobacco-stained shoes and be as kind as possible when I say no? Or do I hang up as soon as they stumble over my name and start reading their script?

It's not that I get annoyed that they call me at all. It's that some telemarketers are so pushy they won't take "NO!" for an answer, even when I've said it 37 times.

One guy even started talking louder when I tried to explain that I wasn't interested in new windows for my house because it was less than five years old.

"Alright, you've convinced me. I'll listen," I said.

He stopped talking. "Really?"

"No," I said and hung up.

My problem was solved when the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communication Commission launched the national "Do Not Call" list. You can join it by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting DoNotCall.gov.

But the telemarketers aren't happy that people have registered at (888) 382-1222 or DoNotCall.gov. They think it's an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

According to an Associated Press story, Tim Searcy of the American Teleservices Association said ". . . the FCC ignored its obligations under the federal law and the Constitution to carefully balance the privacy interests of consumers with the First Amendment rights of legitimate telemarketers."

What Searcy doesn't seem to understand is that the First Amendment only guarantees the right to free speech, it doesn't guarantee you an audience. Especially at dinnertime. It means I don't have to sit through TV commercials, listen to protest groups as I walk down the street, or read literature shoved at me by radical cult members. And it certainly doesn't mean I have to listen to pushy telemarketers asking me if I'm satisfied with my long distance carrier.

So I have a harsh, but much-needed message for the telemarketers: We. . . how do I put this. . . ? We, uhh. . . we just don't like you.

I'm sorry. It's not you. It's not you at all. It's us. We like our privacy. We need our space. That's why we've registered at (888) 382-1222 or DoNotCall.gov. So please don't call anymore. Maybe someday, when we're both older and more mature, we can try again. But until then, we want to talk to other people. So don't call, don't write, and don't send email.

In the meantime, we'll use our caller ID to screen calls from numbers we don't remember. Or we'll dial *77 on our touch-tone phones to reject anonymous calls. (2017 Update: If you have a mobile phone, you can download apps like Mr. Number to block spam callers. Here's the iOS version or Android version)

But we'll think of you often. Especially every five years when our registration expires, and we have to reregister at (888) 382-1222 or DoNotCall.gov.


Photo credit: OddibeKerfeld (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.