Monday, February 20, 2012

How is Myers doing these days?

Since I became unemployed in November, I have become accustomed to people asking me "how are you doing" and "how is the job search going?" The short and easy answers to this are "great" and "making contacts and progress, but slowly."

Like many things in life, the longer answers are the more interesting. The job search question is binary: one is either employed or unemployed. I haven't found anything yet, so I am not going to talk about employment in this blog post. I will concentrate on how I'm doing.

Before I go into detail, I'd like to reveal two recent sources of inspiration. The first comes from Mike Robbins, who I was introduced to in December 2010. Mike is a motivational speaker who spoke at a sales conference for an hour. I subscribed to his podcast and became a regular listener. There is one particular podcast from February last year that I took to heart. It is titled "Go For It: The Power of Boldness." You've all heard much of this advice before: go out of your zone of comfort, boldly go where no man has gone before, learn new things, etc. He brought these together in a complete package. I would suggest reading his blog and his five main points
  1. Be true to yourself
  2. Live with passion
  3. Step out
  4. Lean on others
  5. When you fall down, get back up
I think we can all work on all of these, but my weaknesses were number one and especially number three. The past three months and give me the opportunity to work on these weaknesses. I'm having fun "being out there" and seeing the world outside Adobe.

Another source of inspiration came to me during a sermon at church recently. I've always talked about how your strengths are your weaknesses and vice versa, but always thought this applied to personality traits. This Zen Buddhist story summarizes my life journey of the past year.

There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"Maybe yes, maybe no. We'll see," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"Maybe yes, maybe no. We'll see," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"Maybe yes, maybe no. We'll see," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
"Maybe yes, maybe no. We'll see," said the farmer.

Like the story, it is difficult to tell a negative event from a positive one. It is all part of the journey of life and something to be enjoyed as we live it. Having a cycling accident, a torn ligament and my arm in a cast for the next six weeks could be looked at by many as something very negative. It is preventing me from a few things that I'd like to do, such as attending a conference in Palm Springs later this week, but there will be other opportunities and other ways to make contact with people I had hoped to meet there.

I've also taken the opportunity of losing the use of one arm to learn speech-to-text software on my new Mac. This is been a blessing because my typing was never that good in the first place. And I've learned to be much more deliberate in my speech, and stop saying "you know" every 15 seconds. This entire blog was dictated to the computer. I love Dragon Express and wish that I had started with this class of software years ago.

The other opportunity for inspiration has been social and food-oriented. The greatest shock of being gone from the Adobe was the social isolation. I was accustomed to hundreds of e-mails daily (I may have only cared about 10 of them), 50 people on instant messaging and interactions with dozens of people in meetings and on the phone. That was all gone on Wednesday morning. My wife and daughter who were both very supportive but it wasn't the same. LinkedIn groups and phone calls to previous coworkers did help a bit, but electronic social engagement is a weak substitute.

I love to bake and looked for a way to combine baking and social interaction. I had a discussion with another local person whose "position was eliminated;" we hit on the idea of having other ex-Adobe people over for coffee, fresh baked goods and social interaction weekly. To make a long story short, we started these gatherings two weeks later. I baked scones, muffins and coffee cakes on various weeks and we all enjoyed the company. We even did the "suburban mom" thing of having a Christmas cookie exchange the week before Christmas. None of us, whether men or women, had ever done one of these previously. The cookies were great and the company even better. This group's activity dwindled in January with my injury, but will be active again soon.

I've taken this opportunity to learn to make wonderful scones, especially Cream Cheese Apricot Scones. Part of my secret is the great recipes from the The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook. Part of it is special spices and flavorings such as Pure Fiori Di Sicilia Extract 4 - Ounce Bottle from the King Arthur catalog (you can order direct from King Arthur in one ounce bottles, or larger volumes from the Amazon-based reseller). The last part is just practice. Baking and losing weight tend to be at cross purposes. I solved this by baking, having one or two scones for myself and then serving them to this ex-Adobe group or dropping the rest off the bike store that my son works at in Los Gatos. They have come to love my scones and even talk to customers about them.

The ultimate referral was when a customer came into the shop and overheard a conversation about scones taking place at the front register; they asked where the bakery that made these scones. He left a business card, which I have; I may be catering a baby shower in the future. But I'll also say that I receive even better service when I stop into the bike shop now, as I was bringing scones in almost every week.

The time I've had since Adobe has given me the opportunity to contact people I haven't talked to for years. I've had the opportunity to both reinforce existing friendships and grow new ones. I've been able to attend events such as Social Media Week last week; I never would have found the time to do that in the past as I was "too busy." Now I have the chance to grow and learn.

The answer to the question I posed in the title is "I am doing great." To answer my post from November 13, it is now clear that I'm not going back to Adobe. I gave it a last shot at the end of January, but nothing worked out. I feel good about not going back. The economy is picking up and there are many interesting positions in companies. It's just a matter of finding the right match.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

An explanation for my period of silence

You may have noticed that my blogs and Facebook have been mostly silent since mid-January. I'd like to explain this.

A few things have been going on in my life lately. First I had a minor, at least for me, accident on my road bike on January 25. My front wheel lost traction in a turn and I ended up sliding down the road at 20 miles per hour, losing a bit of skin on my right side, cracking two ribs in doing something to my left hand and thumb that is still a bit of a mystery: I see a new doctor on Thursday to try to figure that out. At this point, the ribs are healed, the skin is fine, and I have learned how to use speech to text software on the computer so I'm able to communicate again. In a few days I'll do a blog post that has more details on the accident.

Just so you know, this accident and injuries have not dampened my spirits one iota. In fact, I have considered using computer dictation software for over a decade but never had the compelling event to force it. I also bought a new MacBook Air on the morning of the 25th before the bike accident and am greatly enjoying learning my new Mac as well as all of the speech capabilities of Siri on my iPhone 4S. It is the first time in ages that I've been able to just spend my time learning my tools. Two key tools to me have been the trackpad gestures on the Mac and the Dragon Express computer dictation software. I'll be doing a few more blog entries about those in the future.

Please bear with minor errors in grammar and editing in my blog for the next month or so. Careful editing requires significant keyboard gestures, so you are getting these blogs pretty much as I have dictated them.