Golden Arches

Going all the way back to when I was a salesman, I have loved going to McDonald’s (or Maccas if you’re from down under) to sit and work. Here’s my short list, followed by my why’s:

  • Great Wifi
  • Okay music
  • Food
  • Those fries…
  • Unlimited caffine
  • Mmm… Those fries!

As an outside salesman, I strived to be done with my rout between 4 and 4:30pm so I could get under those arches and enjoy the security net their wifi provided me. I needent worry about if my air card in my work laptop was going to have a good day or a bad one when it mattered most, I didn’t need to worry about parking in a safe location and akwardly trying to talk on my phone while punching in last minute orders and order corrections. I always had enough space to be able to work comfortably, I knew where to sit to find an outlet to plug my computer into, and I knew most of all my connection would be rock solid right up to my 5pm hard cutoff time to get orders placed.

The music – it’s never the best, but I hardly ever find myself cringing at it. The other thing I like about it is it’s loud enough to listen to, but quiet enought that it blends into the background when you have more important things on your mind that need addressing.

Now, for the controversial part – the food. The food is what it is. I think just about everyone has had their food, and no matter if you generally love or hate their offerings, I think everyone agrees those fries are out standing. Even if the dissenters would never admit to it, I think even they like those fries!

Has your mother ever made anything as good as a mcdonalds fry? Not even close…
– Jim Gaffigan

And the never-ending stream of caffinated sweet bubbly water washes those fries down SO well! Although it confuses me that right now you can get a quarter gallon of soda for $1, but if you want a cup of water and you’re in the drive through, the best they can muster is a small. I have even asked, and the response is “I can only ring in a small…”

Go figure.

Golden Arches

Conversations

So many times we are surrounded by people, and we never dare to meet them. If you deceide to Be Present once in a while, you can find yourself engaged in some very interesting conversations, and in doing so meet a few of those people around you.

Just tonight, as I was sitting at McDonalds doing a bit of writing with pen and paper, I had the pleasure of meeting an older retired couple by simply being present as I wrote.

From the moment they sat down, I was evesdropping on them. The wife started by reading headlines out of the newspaper to her husband. I got a good chuckle as they talked about The Slenderman Scandal, especially when the wife curtly ended their discussion of that subject with a single word – “Stupid.”

The husband, sitting in a way where he could see the number of cars entering the drive through, remarked on the volume of people stopping by to grab dinner. The wife was then responding with her best examination of the situation. She brought up how many moms work now, and if they come home to a table full of dishes left over from breakfast, the laundry needs washing, and the beds aren’t made, who would have the time or energy to cook dinner at home?!It was at this point I turned my head and looked up at them. She noticed this, and shot me a “right?!”

I then got to chat with them about some of my peers and their home lives, their tendancies to either cook or go out to eat, and the impacts those decisions might be making on both them and their children.As they left, I had some lingering thoughts:

  • When was the last time I made MY bed after waking up?
  • What will my ideal blend of dining out and cooking at home be once I have children
  • What will it realistically end up being?
  • How lucky am I to have been able to have this talk with someone who doesn’t share my point of view?!

After that last thought crossed my mind, I couldn’t hlep but to smile and be grateful for not getting so caught up in my own agenda to have perhaps missed this encouter with such nice people.

Conversations

Be Present

I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues about a philosophy I’ve worked hard to adopt and practice daily. It is simply – Be Present.

What do these two simple words mean to me? They mean I am to invest myself in the present moment without getting caught up in things that have happened and things that need to or will happen. If I’m having a conversation with someone, they are the most important person to me in the whole world while I’m talking with them. I strive to set aside my agenda and intently listen to the conversation. I try not to let my mind wander.

So what I was saying was…

What is next on my to-do list? That’s right, I need to talk to Jan in accounts receivable about getting the Bahousky account caught back up…

You know what I mean?!

Uh oh… What were they talking about… Something about Jan? I don’t know… c’mon! Say SOMETHING!
I know, right?! Totally unbelievable…
I’m busted… they know I wasn’t paying attention…

As a sales professional, I have had to really learn to listen, and not to just the words, but also the message and tone of the message.

My other sales rep always does that to me!

I’m certain that whatever it is, it isn’t ALWAYS happening, but it has happened enough to create a negative feeling in this person, and if their expectations are to be exceeded, it would be wise not to repeat the actions of those before you, be it competition or otherwise.

Being present has revealed a lot to me about how people work, what makes them happy, and more obviously what makes them unhappy. How? Most people are all too glad to bend the ear of someone who is willing to sincerely listen to them, and listen for meaning and understanding instead of just listening to reply. Most people will tell you exactly what their concerns are if you simply set aside your motives and genuinely listen to them.

But… what else can being present mean?

What I have started to learn recently applies directly to my career. In the past, I tended to keep my eyes pointed forward, searching for the next opportunity to come along, instead of being present and excelling where I am in time, right this moment.

lennon_happiness

I was never happy with where I was because my gaze was already locked on the next step. I must admit, this has caused me to stumble and fall a couple of times. Now, I can say I’ve paused long enough to take in what I do. I have allowed myself the time and given myself permission to figure out where my strengths and weaknesses are, and to be honest with myself to the point of being able to say which areas I can realistically improve, and what I need to simply understand that I’m not good at. I fully understand the business side of a restaurant and can competently navigate my way through the obstacles that come with the territory of running a restaurant, but I may never be able to handle the dinner rush at that restaurant. I mean, I can cook, but to be able to keep up with a full line of orders pouring off the ticket printer… I don’t think that falls within my strengths. Anyways…

Career-wise, where I’m at right now as I write this does not have the best pay and I have no benefits through them. What I have gained by working for them is the time and space to understand what makes me happy and what does not, what I truly value in an employer and what I despise. I feel that had I jumped into another full-time high-pressure job right after my last one I would have never had this chance.

I can honestly say that I am happy with the work I do, because for the first time ever I am present at work. It may not pay well, and I have nothing else to sweeten the deal, but I am happy. I have commited to myself that I will be the best salesman I can be while I am with this team, and I hope that when it is time to take the next step along my career path that I leave them better than they were before me. Once it is time to take that step, it will not be out of desperation, neccessity, or shallow greed. I refuse to let those or any other negative factors drive my life anymore! The next step will be to follow my heart, and I’m absolutely sure that I will not have trouble finding happiness once again

Be Present

Teamwork

I currently have a fairly interesting dynamic at work right now that I’d like to share.

I’m back working for a retail outlet as a sales agent. My average transactions are in the hundreds of dollars, with the high mark being a bit over a grand. This is a non-commissioned sales job, so scrapping over who gets to help which customers is of little actual consequence. We as sales staff each have a mark we must hit each day to ensure the team succeeds, but aside from that, there’s not much skin in the game, so to speak. The way I view this job is that we, the sales team, are a big boat, and each sales person is put to task to help row this boat to meet our goals as a team. As a testament to our management team, when we meet the tough goals or overcome being drasticly behind on our weekly plans, we are rewarded with lunch the following weekend. In spite of it being a sales position, it feels much more like family.

What creates an interesting dynamic is the presence of one person who doesn’t seem to go with the flow of the rest of the team. This person seems to only be out for themselves. They feel some justification to get the king’s share of the hours, they feel slighted when you “take” a sale from them (remember, no commission on the sale), and this person even got upset when I gave a shift to a different co-worker without offering it to them first. This person would have ended up coming in on a day that was forecasted to be very slow, and for a whopping 90 minutes at most, yet they were rather upset when I gave my shift to the person who was already going to be there instead of them. On top of all of this, it’s blatantly obvious that this person seems to think they can trap their co-workers, and I have no doubt they would attempt to get one of us terminated if they could, all in the pursuit of more hours. There are likely other factors that are playing into this blood-thirst that I’m not privy to (maybe a benefits situation, but I’m only speculating at this point), but it is completely absurd how much this one person disrupts the rest of the staff.

The one and only caveat is that this person is actually rather good with customers, and I’m certain that this is the sole point upon which the decision to part ways with this individual has been stayed. However, as I asked my manager today – how much productivity and morale is being lost by the rest of us because of this one person’s negative impact on our place of business? Even though none of us dare to plainly discuss what’s going on with our customers, I know for a fact that people are perceptive and can probably feel a tension amongst us, even if they cannot quite figure out why they are feeling it. And to that point, I wonder what sort of impact that has on our interactions with our guests and the impact it makes on the overall success of our business. I know I’ve personally handled a few customers that seemed to be disproportionately upset as compared to the severity of their complaint. Were their moods subconsciously influenced by the air of discord lingering in our store that this one person has created? I can’t say with absolute certainty because people can simply be unreasonable, but I don’t think it’s a complete impossibility.

It’s to the point now that I’m going to start journaling any interactions we have, and I’m flat out going to report to our human resources department. I hate that this is what this has come to in the short time I’ve been working for my company, but nobody deserves to have to work in a hostile work environment. Every single person seems to walk on eggshells around this person, and that’s just not right. I’ve even been told that this person has made people cry because of how cruel they can be. Why this is tolerated at all is so far beyond my comprehension. I live in an at-will state for employment; fire this person and increase the overall health of the workplace.

Teamwork

Thoughts About Space

It’s 4:30am, and here I am: up late pondering the immensity of life. For the first time in a while, I am struck with the magnificence of our universe. All numbers are approximations.

Our own planet is 8,000mi across.

The distance from the Sun to Pluto is 3.67 BILLION miles, which is only 0.000625 light years.

The next closest star to us is Proxima Centauri, and that is 24.8 TRILLION miles away, or 4.22 light years.

Stepping up to our galaxy, the Milky Way, it would take 100,000 light years to travel from one edge all the way across to the opposite side, and it is home to 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) stars and it is a spiral galaxy.

The next closest spiral galaxy to us is the Andromeda galaxy. Just to get there would take 2,200,000 (2.2 million) years if you were traveling at the speed of light. It is roughly the same size as us, but houses 10x as many stars (1 trillion) as the Milky Way does. To put that in perspective, there are around half a trillion grains of sand on the average beach volleyball court, according to some calculations.

Then, there is a HUGE galaxy approximately 1 BILLION LIGHT YEARS away, simply called IC 1101. Its radius is 5x larger and its volume is 125x greater than another galaxy know as M87. M87 is about 200 times the size of our own galaxy, and 50 trillion times bigger than our very own star.

The funny thing about it all is that when I think about all of this immensity, I’m both humbled and also inspired, because while I’m a 6′ tall not-even-a-spec on the Earth, Dr. Niel DeGrasse Tyson reminds us that, according to science, our solar system is made up of bits of particulate left over from previous supernovas that then collapsed down to form the sun and the planets. That means that we, as creatures on this tiny little chunk of rock in the vastness of space and time, are made up of stars. We are not alone in the universe because we are part of the universe, and no matter what… That’s pretty damn cool.

For another interesting (and visual) lesson in perspective, follow this link.

Thoughts About Space