This little known trick could save your life during a street riot

Remember that soda commercial where they took some young folks and sort of implied that a soft drink could solve the world’s problems? It worked splendidly and nobody got upset. It was the seventies and the world was a smoldering mess. Somehow people saw the commercial for what it was. “Can’t we all just get along,” a couple decades before the LA riots.

A competing soda commercial is out now that tries to tap into the same zeitgeist among young people. And it’s a huge swing and a miss. What Coke understood that Pepsi still doesn’t is that you must not hit a theme so squarely on the nose. Coke was able to convey a feeling of unity and love in 1971, when the US was literally on fire and at home and at war abroad. And they did it without showing the VC or Bational Guard laying down their weapons because a famous chick handed them a Coke.

That said, it is still much ado about nothing. Our culture has become a spoon fed controversy mess. Our attention and energy are precious resources, coveted by the new media. What if we chose to make a difference in the world instead of handing over our attention to the news channels’ advertisers? I know it’s hard. Believe me, left on my own, I would spend my days surfing Facebook and making emotional arguments for and against every freaking thing. I kno me. I’ve seen me do it. But life is too important. I want to try and do the hard work of ignoring the trivial. Of making actual change instead of just being outraged.

Or maybe I’ll just give a soda to a cop/Muslim/republican/commie. That’ll fix it.

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Independent Mindset – Part 2

Those with an independent mindset will lean into the future and the fear. They have the confidence that there is no roadmap and that’s okay. They make their own roadmap. They see situations as they are and they take charge. They are responsible for their own well-being and they are responsible for the well-being of their tribe. They give freely and receive graciously. They are creating the future they want to see. They will not wait for someone else to do something. And these bold leaders will always be in high demand.

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An Independent Mindset, Part 1

I have been working as an independent consultant for about 15 years. I have had a pretty independent mindset, though, since about 3 or 4 years after I left college. Given current global and local trends – disappearing factory jobs, stagnant salaries and wages, and the automation of things once thought unautomatable (is that a word?) – it’s a good thing I have that mindset. If you’ve read the amazing book, Linchpin by Seth Godin, you will get some of what I am going to describe.

What happens when a robot can do your job? No need to speculate. The U.S. has been hemorrhaging auto-plant jobs for 3 decades. The UAW, and along with it Detroit, has been on the verge of collapse since I can remember. Why? Mexico? China? Japan? Nope. It’s Hal 9000. Or Herbie the Love Bug. Or C3PO. Whatever you call it (Marvin?), a robot can do the repetitive work of screwing in bolts, welding parts, and painting cars faster, better, more consistently, and way cheaper than Johnny Lunchpail.

No worries, say my fellow engineers. The robots will always need someone to design them. To write the software that tells the robots what to do. Really? Guess what. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly getting to the point where it can design robots, write the software that controls robots, and even think up new robots. Scarier still, AI will soon be able to design and build new AI. And by the middle of the next decade, the AI that AI designs and builds will be better than the AI that designed and built it. Scared yet?

It’s easy to see who loses in this game. Anyone who depends on a job that requires compliance to a definable set of rules. Because if you can write down a set of rules, then you can program a robot to do it. If you can easily write your job description with little thought, then very soon, someone will program a computer to do it. Even the programmer’s job will go away once an AI figures out how to program a computer to do his job.

So, who wins? Part 2, coming soon.

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How much more money could you be making as an Independent Consultant?

This is a test. The following calculator is intended for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to actual persons, fictional or nonfictional, living or dead, is purely a figment of your imagination. Under no circumstances should anyone ever use this calculator. Ever. If, however, it causes you to stop and go, hmmm… give me a shout. If you see ways it could be better, let me know that, too.

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How to be Independent: Setting your rate (guest post)

I tried for the first time over the weekend. I hired username amiablewriter to write a blogpost for me. I gave very little direction and asked for a 300 to 500 word blog post on how to determine your rate as an independent consultant. The result follows. Not bad for $20. It’s not really my voice, though, so not sure this will be the right approach for me. What do you think?

How to Determine What to Charge per Hour as an Independent Consultant

Whether you are an independent consultant, a freelancer, or a professional worker, sometimes you face the big question of what to charge your client per hour? This question pops up because your charges will go a long way to determine your cumulative earnings. You neither want to charge your customers more nor charge them less. So, how do you go about it without them cheating you or you cheating them? Below are simple steps to put you through:

Determine your worth

Know the quality of service you will be providing and balance it between the market factors and the business costs. Before you make your quotations, consider the following factors:

  • The market rate regarding your work and location.
  • Your experience, efficiency, and skill.
  • The rate to cover your costs.

Ascertain the number of working hours

Let’s assume you work for 5 hours in a day, and your project will last for a week. There are 5 working days in a week. This data implies that you will work for (5*5) = 25 hours to complete the project.

Determine the amount you want to earn on the project

Determine the amount you want to make on the project based on the quality of service. The nature of your consultancy is a crucial factor that determines what to earn. Ensure you balance it with the market factor.

Determine your hourly rate

Your hourly rate is the total amount to be earned on the project divided by the total number hours. Let’s assume you will be receiving $1000. Then your charge is 1000/25= $40 per hour.

Determine your consulting rate

Your consulting rate is the addition of your hourly rate and cushion.  Cushion directly takes care of your expenses such as self-employment task and the likes. It varies from 30- 50 percent of your hourly rate. Let’s assume cushion is 50 percent. Then you have 50/100 *$40=$20. Your consulting rate is now $40 + $20=$60 per hour.

Bottom Line

Make use of the above tips so that you can perfectly determine what to charge your clients per hour. These steps give a quick view of how you can determine your hourly rate. In determining your hourly rate, ensure you are conversant with the market rate and keep your goals in mind. Good luck!

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Writing is Hard – three reasons to do it anyway

That title is misleading. Writing is not hard. Sitting down to write and staying sat down and keeping writing is hard. Putting the right words in the right order to make sentences and then making those sentences connect to other sentences to make paragraphs that flow and work together to make sense is pert near impossible. So why try? I can think of three reasons off the top of my head.

  1. Money. If you can train yourself or get trained by someone to write something other people want to read. Well, you can make some money writing. Funny thing about writing. We all have the same 26 letters of raw material to work with. 26 symbols that, put together in seemingly random, but exquisitely correct order, make someone else know what you’re trying to say. And if what you’re trying to say is what they need or want to read, then they’ll pay you to read it. Kind of like a carpenter putting together the right pieces of wood in the right shapes to be something someone wants to have – a house, a cart, a cabinet, a chicken coop. It’s all the same wood put together in seemingly random, but exquisitely correct order.
  2. Sanity. Sometimes, when you don’t know what else to do or think. There’s only one thing to do. Grab your pen and put it to paper.
  3. Entertainment. Sometimes I really crack me up. Sometimes while I’m writing and sometimes years after I’ve written what I wrote. Hell, sometimes I read what I wrote a few years ago and wish I were witty enough to write that only to find out I did write that.

I suppose there are a lot more than three reasons to write. Or maybe fewer than three.

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How to be Independent: Write your story, then burn it

Chapter 1: Write your current Story, then burn it

When I was growing up, my generation was taught the following “sure fire steps to

1. Stay in school and study hard

2. Go to college and study hard some more

3. Get good grades and participate in lots of extracurricular activities

4. Either:

a. Go to law/business/grad school or…

b. Interview with the best corporations, land an entry-level job

5. Work hard

6. Climb the corporate ladder

7. Contribute to your 401k, save for your kids’ college
8. Fit in, play the game, take the training, show up early and leave late, work
weekends – all to make sure you were not the one laid off when the inevitable
downturns come

9. Retire

10. Travel, fish, learn to play banjo, try stand-up comedy, take a cooking class –
finally have the time to do what you want in life

11. Write memoirs

12. Pass along what’s left of your money (or your debt) to your kids (after the medical
system has taken its share)

My father grew up a poor sharecropper from the southern U.S. He was determined to
make a better life for him and his family. When he was 18, a truck came through town
hauling laborers north to the fertile fruit orchards of Michigan. He hopped on for a
better life picking fruit. Fortunately, the truck broke down in northwest Indiana. He
heard the local foundry was hiring so he headed over and started work the same day. He
worked hard, sought progressively higher pay grades, contributed to his 401k, saved for
his kids’ college, played the game. He is now retired and doing all the things he never
had time to do before. A great life. Except for the factory part. He worked hard for
longer hours in dirty and hot conditions. He wanted a better life for us kids. So, he gave
us what he did not have – encouragement to stay in school and get a good education. He
also gave us the part he did have – encouragement to get a job, work hard, climb the
ladder, save for retirement.

Thus, my story is predictable. Until step 8. That’s where I disrupted the process and
found a better way.

I grew up in a small northwest Indiana town and went to public
schools. I was happy and got good grades. Learning was always fun to me and pleasing
the teachers and my parents was my number one goal. I graduated valedictorian of my
high school class and went to the prestigious Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in
Terre Haute, Indiana (look it up; “prestigious” is not an overstatement). I studied hard
and earned my B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering. Grad school was not an option for
me – I wanted to start earning bank as soon as possible. I landed an entry level process
engineering job at a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. Good pay. Good 401k match.
Good advancement opportunities.

But it was missing something. I was missing something.

Next time: a move to Chicago not on my own terms…

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