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Poets vs. Engineers

The other day I went to a networking lunch here in Orlando. It’s one of the better such meetings I’ve been to, enabling me the chance to have a few conversations of substance, and not just that sense of a whir of faces sizing me up as if to say “I wonder if you are of any value to me… Next please.”

At the end, I struck up conversation with a realtor, each of us sharing a bit of our stories—how we got to Orlando—and weathering the current economy among other things. After a time, he surprised me a bit with a couple of his comments, which he meant to be taken as compliments.

He said I had a “Zen quality” about me.

He also said I seemed “entrepreneurial.”

Perhaps they seem at odds. But taken in context, I totally tracked with him.

I had explained my love and experience of international travel, and well as living in far flung places such as Seattle and the South Pacific prior to coming to Orlando a couple years ago. And a quality of living that only comes by, well… getting out there and living.

That’s what he meant by entrepreneurial. Not afraid to experience life. And where things have not been all that, allowing the experiences to shape me for the better, nonetheless.

That’s where the Zen thing came in, contrasting what he described as my easy-going demeanor with his own edginess, which—normally taken as a good thing in business circles—he felt to be a disadvantage at times.

My new acquaintance was also talking about how he recognized a Zen demeanor does not always sit so well within the super-charged atmosphere of business circles.

Yep. I just laughed a bit, and quipped, “Poets vs. Engineers.” Or (true) entrepreneurs vs. technicians—living in tune with larger cycles and rhythms to life and not just the bottom line. Or artists vs. business people… Name your cliché; you get the point.

Of course, each has their place. But try telling that to the guy or gal who’s convinced that theirs is the most important thing in the world. Ever. Now let me charge you $500 for that advice. Or if I’m an artist, will you pay me peanuts for this thing of beauty now so that one day you can brag to your friends when it’s worth a $1000?

Beauty will save the world

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Hi Everyone,

I’ve been on vacation lately. A blog vacation, that is.

I know. I know. These are not welcome words, particularly coming from the fingertips of a writer—where among other things—consistency is key in branding ourselves.

How many times, for instance, have you come across a website where you find someone already claimed a domain name you felt to have great potential—only to see that most unspeakable of horrors… Only one or two entries, and then nada!

A dead blog. And nothing posted in months or years since the initial enthusiasm that gave birth to the only evidence that someone somewhere even bothered to create it in the first place. Which is right up there with “This web page is parked free, courtesy of …” or “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon!” and other dead ends in cyberspace. The internet equivalent of commercial building projects gone belly up in the real world.

Now on the positive side of things, it’s not as though I’ve stopped writing. Far from it, in fact. It’s just that publicly I’ve been largely incognito, save for an occasional article, and now—Tweeting. Most of my writing has been behind the scenes: journaling, business or ghost-writing assignments, and thus, off the grid.

I like being off the grid, actually. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, because when I am, chances are very good that I’m playing in fine style: exploring a new city, a new country, a new wilderness escape, or a new art museum.

But in this case, not so much. I just got behind. Busy. Distracted. Pulled in many directions, which ironically, has included looking for writing opportunities. And even lacking in inspiration some days to write here while attending to all these other matters.

Ahhh… WWJD? What would Julia (Cameron) do? My Morning Pages Muse.

Okay, so maybe not all the best reasons in the world. But hey—this is my confession.

Anyway, good to be back. And I hope to be checking in with you a little more often.

See you soon,

Brian

Gone on Walkabout

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Last night I was watching Lost. There’s a scene in this episode where a paraplegic  John Locke is being interviewed by an HR representative with a temp agency.

She asks him the question, What kind of animal do you see yourself as?

Always a straight shooter who’s never given to mincing his words, John perplexedly looks at the young woman and goes, “Excuse me?”

What follows is a humorous yet painfully real example of how a thing meant to be a helpful tool has become an obstacle instead. In this case, John can quickly see that he is going to be in trouble if he tries to jump through the hoops of squeezing his personality into a mythic animal type in order to get toward his desired objective: a job. With the woman unwilling to drop the question, Locke cuts to the chase and asks to speak with her supervisor. The young woman acquiesces to his request, but it’s clear from her expression that she is not happy being overstepped in the process, her own power and credibility hung out to dry.

In the next scene, we see Locke talking with the HR supervisor, Rose Nadler, who laughs with him as he begs her not to make him tell her what kind of animal he is. In essence, she agrees that he shouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of becoming something he’s not in order to try to honor who he really is. What follows is an example of someone using their position of power with a true awareness of how their decisions will impact others. Rose understands that she holds power and influence. But she doesn’t try to hide behind it, dismissing or ignoring this seeming nobody in order to fill her quotas or stroke her ego. She really does try to help Locke. We also get the sense that her judgment comes from possessing something that the younger employee under her does not: wisdom. As is usually the case, Rose’s wisdom is born out of life experience—experience that includes suffering—and in her case, having terminal cancer. And because of it, John’s frustrations with having limited options or being overlooked by others is not lost on her. But she doesn’t indulge his fantasies either (John tells her he wants to work on a construction site), carrying an even-minded realism in tandem with her compassion.

I bring this story up because it provides some good insights into the daunting challenge of finding work, particularly in this economy, as well as finding work that you’re passionate about or would be good at.

In my own job search process, it wasn’t too long ago that I applied for a really cool sounding position at a large non-profit organization. I already had some acquaintance with them for years and a great respect for what they do. In addition to having what I felt to be good qualifications, I was able to drop the name of a higher-ranking employee I knew there as well as those of a couple of people who’ve had considerable influence upon the organization. I felt at least I may get a good look over.

It took me the better part of the day to fill out the application, as there were many questions asked, some requiring detailed responses. Never fun, particularly when you don’t know beforehand if this kind of sweat will have any payoff—a point soon proven—as not even 30 minutes later, I get this generic email response that says:

“After careful consideration of your application we have decided to continue to pursue other candidates for [this] job opening. However we do thank you for your interest… I have attached our current job list for your convenience. Please let me know if any of these other openings are of interest to you.”

I was like, Man! What the?! I immediately started assuming all sorts of things:

Some newly sprung college kid who doesn’t have eyes to see the good stuff I put on there!…

They must not have read it…

It was a setup. They already knew who they were going to hire and the posting is just a formality…

Did I not use the right keywords?…

It might have been any of these things. Or it might have been none of them. Maybe they really did take a look and—nope—I just didn’t have what they were looking for. I guess my pride took a hit because I really saw better chances for myself in getting an interview here.

But then how do you ever know? And that’s my point—or at least what lies underneath the question, which is that HR departments have their own language and the seekers who read job postings are often left to guess what it is they need to talk about to get due consideration. How they read and respond to these postings is often way different than the way HR folks read their answers while blowing through their faceless names. And to a degree, this is intentional, as those who don’t know the required lingo unwittingly help HR in the elimination process.

Like an Air Force pilot buddy of mine says, What’s the gouge?—meaning “What’s the inside scoop needed to pass this test?”

In John Locke’s case, the gouge was that he’d just been vetted by the owner of the company, Hugo Reyes, who told him to have the meeting with HR in order to find the position he wanted.

Would that we were all so lucky… Well here’s to hoping you find the gouge the next time you’re unsure of your odds of success—whether that’s to have the fortune of knowing the right people, or to be able to play the game enough to tell some surly bloke what he wants to hear.

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The other day I got called in for an audition for a national commercial being shot here in Orlando.

Now me being an actor might feel kind of like Forrest Gump did being a national celebrity—it’s not something I exactly went looking for. I sort of stumbled onto it. To paraphrase Forrest: “I just felt like acting.”

Okay, so I should make it clear that this is not something I do for a living. Like many in this business, I do it on occasion. And in my case, during these tough economic times, it makes a lot of sense to find decent paying gigs on the side to supplement the cash flow. Feel free to dream yourself, but don’t get any grandiose ideas: while a couple have been nice paying ones, I’m waiting to move from the three-figure to the four-figure income range on this thing. Cumulatively, and not per gig, that is.

In other words, don’t quit your day job, because these sorts of things don’t come along all the time. And like most anything else, you have to work it if you want to be successful.

In this case, I had gotten the call for this opportunity from a new agent I’d just contacted. And I was pretty pumped, as it’s the best opportunity I’ve gotten so far (and easily could put me into the four-figure range).

Now you’d think I’d have the sense to be on my A game for this. But I quickly saw myself for the greenhorn I was, as I walked into this casting call underprepared. The notification had come so fast. And I’d rushed out to Ross to purchase the right kind of shirt a few hours beforehand, only to get increasingly uptight as the minutes ticked away toward appointment time and the shirt was still damp after running it through the dryer for an hour and a half. With little time to spare, I finally grabbed it, ironed it, and ran.

No worries, I thought, while slurping my coffee down the freeway—as there was only one line to speak:

“So that’s how the secret got out!”

How hard could it be?

But it’s amazing how challenging such a seemingly small thing can feel when you’re under pressure. And as with so much else, it’s the little things that count.

I got to the hotel where the auditions were being held, only to find that I was one of about half a dozen guys auditioning for the same part. Surely I could expect there to be others, right? This is why they call it a casting call—not a done deal. Still, though, it took seeing it firsthand to understand this better. And many of these guys looked pretty experienced.

To confirm this hunch, I saw that everyone else waiting in the lobby had headshots in hand to pass along to the agency. Calling cards to bookmark their faces from these busy auditions as well as to hopefully gain future work. I looked down at my empty hands.

Aw crap! I thought. Didn’t I read something about that? In my haste, I’d forgotten that this is how these things roll. Sure, I’d just mailed half a dozen photos and resumes to my agent (who lives in a different city than the agency running this thing). And I’ve done several gigs where I already had secured the part beforehand, and thus, didn’t need a headshot. In those cases, I’d worked as an extra, which is a little different than principle acting roles. Or if acting, I’d known the people doing the shooting beforehand and was given the opportunity without a need to audition.

Oops.

To make matters worse, the guy in the lobby lining us up for our time slots was a bit of a hard-ass—a fragile ego long grown cynical from this business—who didn’t like it when some of those from the hopeful lot gathered around him didn’t bow down in full subservience, as he barked out orders he expected us idiots to comply with. Two parties approaching the same situation from totally different perspectives.

To be honest, as I waited in line for my turn to go into the casting room, I felt kind of like I was back in grade school waiting to be called out by the teacher then exposed in front of the whole class as it’s revealed that I don’t have my homework. And I happened to spy some paperwork revealing that this Miami agency had sister offices in LA and New York. In other words, a big deal… No pressure.

The casting didn’t go so bad, though. The director and his assistant were actually pretty nice. And I was auditioning alongside a pleasant young woman who helped to loosen me up. Still, though, it probably wasn’t enough. At one point, the director asked me, “Are you just going to stand there?” Though this five-second sequence was confined within the same floor space, there’s a language to our bodies that we’re expected to bring when acting. It’s much more than just speaking lines with emphasis, or changing voice tones. And it had been far enough out since any acting classes I’ve taken for me to forget most of this.

The next take went better, though, and he seemed to approve…

So the last couple days have rolled by, and no callbacks. Rejection is part of the territory in this business, so I’m already putting this one behind me and gearing up for the next one. At least I got called in the first place, which was a hopeful sign. And if it happened once, it can happen again.

Next time, I’ll be ready.

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Who are These Guys???

Ever been on a website where a company encourages you to contact them, where friendly operators are standing by? There’s always a photo shown of a very nice looking individual, often a young woman who also happens to be dressed like she’s modeling for Ann Taylor. Presumably this person works for said company and this is an inside view of what things look like there.

I got to wondering about this recently, asking the question, “Who are these guys?!” I was on some company’s site showing a bunch of executives there looking like the happiest things in the world—like they had just bagged the deal of the century. More confident than The Donald after a round of telling someone, “You’re fired!”

Now, I’m not against attractive people in the workplace. Or trying to present a positive portrayal of one’s company, whether it’s to project confidence or a sense of cutting edge technology or expertise.

Plus, everyone knows that’s the business of advertising. Maybe in some instances, these images capture what it might look like to work in one of these places. And on occasion, I can think of situations where some persons or other I knew at a company could have modeled for one of these pics. And just maybe I’ve been influenced by too many episodes of The Office.

But ask yourself, How much does this look like the workplace you know? It’s kind of funny the consistently clean look of some websites that are obviously using stock photos of beautiful, grinning people in situations bearing little resemblance to the call centers and negotiation tables of much of Corporate America.

Ah, the magic of advertising!

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