What’s your Story?

Responsible people – independent people – know that there is a story about their life that explains how they came to be who they are. Ask them and they will tell it to you. It typically starts somewhere around adolescence with a child who was extra interested or extra good at certain things. The story will describe particular challenges encountered and triumphs achieved. Sometime in early adulthood, the story takes a turn toward making money. How he first started making money. How he discovered he was really good at something or how he became good at it. The story traces a line of success that seemed like it would end only with a triumphant early retirement. Then the disillusionment part of the story pops up. He did everything right. He found his “thing” and he worked hard at it. Kept his nose “mostly” clean. But the triumphant early retirement seemed less attainable than ever. So a dramatic change. A plot twist. More success. Smash cut to… the Next Big Thing.

Yep. Every independent person has a story they are happy to tell. And we all know that the story is not The Truth. We know it’s not The Truth but we still treat it as though it is. Until one day when we decide to start writing a new story. We know the new story – the one about our future – isn’t The Truth either. But it can seem just as real as the story about our past.So, if this untrue story about our past describes what made us who we are today, then why can’t the untrue story about our future describe what will make us who we want to become? Pro tip: it can. A future tense story, however untrue it may be, can nudge us ever closer to us having our wildest dreams come true.

Write your story. Make it seem real. Just be careful not to start thinking of it as the Truth.

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Independence is a Mindset

Independence is a mindset, not a political statement or a worldview. Those with an independent mindset know how to help without judgment and without regard for the personal cost. Repayment or just desserts never enter the man with and independent mind. They also know how to ask for help and receive help graciously when needed. Generous when giving, humble and grateful when receiving. These are signs of having reached a State of Independence.

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Why I am avoiding politics on social media

1920-cartoon2A few minutes ago, I posted my first non-sarcastic political comment on Facebook in months. It reminded me of one of the reasons for my self-imposed exile.

… and the cycle continues… replace a few words and your comment could have copied and pasted from 2009.
Is it a matter of my age or accumulated wisdom or my built-in bias (maybe all three)?
I don’t know if we need to get the money out of Washington or if term limits would be the answer but we need to address corruption and we need to stop falling for the divisive tactics. Also, we need rainbows and unicorns.

And there you have it in a nutshell. Nothing changes. Very few of us believe we are going to change the world with a post on social media, but most of us hope we at least can move the needle, even if slightly, and even if only with our friends and family. Moving the needle because our collective hope and we post. And we argue. And we lose friends. And we ruin Thanksgiving (again). And we stress ourselves out and scare ourselves to death and surrender our peace of mind to a point of view: That if we don’t stop The Others then They will destroy everyone’s way of life and everyone’s future and They will continue causing suffering and pain. We can’t let the Bad Guys win! We make these sacrifices in hopes of nudging the needle. Even if a little. Even with just a few people.

The needle does move. And more than just a little. It moves a lot. One hundred eighty degrees in fact. All of our screaming and posting and sacrificing our peace has flipped the needle in the exact opposite direction we intended.

In 2009, the Democrats were trying to fix a collapsing healthcare system that was causing suffering and pain and that would destroy everyone’s future. In 2009, the Republicans were obstructing and fear-mongering and misleading and dividing us. In 2009, the sensible center begged the Republicans to come to the negotiating table. In 2009, the Democrats told us that it was no use. The Republicans hated Obama and they would not in negotiate in good faith. So in 2009, the Democrats did it alone. To end suffering and pain and to save our future.

In 2017, the Republicans are trying to fix a collapsing healthcare system that is causing suffering and pain and that will destroy everyone’s future. In 2017, the Democrats are obstructing and fear-mongering and misleading and dividing us. In 2017, the sensible center is begging the Democrats to come to the negotiating table. In 2017, the Republicans are telling us that it is no use. The Democrats hate Trump and they will not negotiate in good faith. So in 2017, the Republicans will do it alone. To end suffering and pain and to save our future.

I wonder what they’ll say in 2025.

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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 freelancer.com 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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