Saying No

No, Nope, Non, Nein

11 or so years ago, I was bouncing around in the Washington Improv Troupe. I was working a day job too, because 20-50 bucks a week plus drinks didn’t feed my habit for lunch meat and cheese.

It was around this time, late 98 I think, I was told that I should really explore this part of my life, move to Chicago and train at Second City. I was starting to go GIS and really liked it, and I have this hatred/fear of waiting tables so it became that dream that sits on a shelf and a pull it out whenever my life gets fucked up and I say “woulda coulda shoulda.” We all have that decision point, so I know I’m not unique. If you’re 40 and you haven’t had it yet, you just never recognized it.

But my failed career as a comedy writer isn’t what this is about, its about improv’s only real rule, besides don’t urinate on the audience, but thats really more of a social moray, not a rule. Accept what your team throws at you and go with it. If you block what someone throws at you on stage, its not funny. You block the natural flow of it, its your job to take what they throw, whatever it is, build on it, and keep going. Full acceptance of what is thrown at you, and yes it actually feels like it is being thrown at you, is the key to a successful skit.

I was talking to a friend the other day,and she told me that Tina Fey, who did train at Second City and worked the desk at the Y while doing it, recognized this in her book “Bossypants.” She never says no to her kids, just figures out a way to make it work. I love that philosophy of parenting. Rolling with it. But that isn’t what this post is about either. That’s for another time in the near future.

I had adopted the “Never say No” outlook into my professional life, and it got me to a place where I was a paratrooper. I could be dropped in anywhere, and turn things around regardless of technology, or how effed up the project was. Sure we had requirements documents and other parameters, but that’s just like saying, “You’re a cab driver on the moon” and those are the parameters of the skit.

Then, I get this position, where I love the client, but the company I work for isn’t the greatest. Its a Small Business, and the founder was just looking to cash out on his time in the service and make one last score before he fully retired. My roll with it outlook pushed me over to the point of massive massive burn out. People left, they weren’t replaced, and I was taking on their responsibility, as well as my own. That situation pushed me past a point I didn’t believe existed…..It completely ate me up, and in ways, I still have the professional scars from that situation. My next two positions have suffered because of those scars. Like rebound girlfriends, I treated them without the respect they deserved, its shown in my work, and my attitude.

With the events of the past year disappearing over the horizon, and with other items near resolution, its made me reconsider the “Never say no” aspect of what once was, and what should be my professional character. I need to get back to the “roll with it mentality I had, a scant few years ago.”

Accept what is thrown at you, because that’s all you’re going to get, and for your troupe to continue to perform in this venue, and get free drinks and cab fare home, you gotta be funny, or at least give the audience what they want, and surprise them.

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That which does not kill me

So, I’ve been working off and on on this blog entry about the NorthCOM COP conference, and all the thousands of COPS I’ve seen over the past 6 months. But I’m putting that on hold, because I want to write something here, and I don’t want to interrupt it with geospeak, or tech babble, this is far more important. And this has to get out of my head.

In the past 5 months I’ve had two near misses, each one different, and neither related to lifestyle. Back in late March, I had a pulmonary embolism. I lost my breath, my heart pounded, and I thought I was having a heart attack. I didn’t know I was prone to clotting at the time, but I learned pretty fucking quick how it can affect you.

When I got to the hospital, the cool Harley riding nurse informed me that I had a widowmaker, and the fact that I even survived was a 1000 to 1 shot. I bounced around the hospital between ICU and Gen Pop for 6 days, was released and put on a regiment of rat poison to keep my blood from clotting and so that this would never happen again.

Now, this affected me on levels I’m still exploring. I have a daughter whose about to turn 2, and a divorce in the works, so there are a number of activities happening in the 3 ring circus that is Todd’s life. I was released on April 5th, hobbled around for a few days on a walker, got tonnes of crap from those who love me, but thats how you know they love you :).

August 23rd, same year. I think I have heartburn or food poisoning or something. Til I notice my, well we’ll call it stool, is dark black and has a smell like nothing I ever smelled before. I go lay down for a bit, and then 5.9 Earthquake hits. I get out of bed to look for the mushroom cloud and faceplant on my floor. I crawl back into bed, cough up some blood and call 911. Supporting myself on the wall, I slide to the front door and wait. What happens next is a flurry of dropping BP, Saline Solutions, and being knocked out, and waking up in a different hospital two days later. When I wake up, I learn I have a 3″ gash in my esophagus, which I’m still not sure what caused the slice, but something did. And since I was on blood thinners, I was bleeding out internally. The two events are in no way related, other than the medication I was on to stop the first one from happening almost killed me on the second one. Anyway, its 22 days of you’ll be released in 3 days, 4 days, 10 days. I was pretty sure I had died along the way and gone to purgatory. During those 22 days I picked up every complication one can think off, Pneumonia, Blood Borne bacteria, and my bowels shut down (from passing 10 pints of digested blood).

I did a great deal of thinking while I was in bed, well that and bad TV. My conclusion came to I had been living for other people for a majority of my life, and from here on out, I’m living for my daughter first, then me. Well that, and when I do shed this mortal coil, I want to be alert, and have it be quick. I don’t want to be lingered over by doctors until I expire.

My parents are here keeping an eye on me and helping me out a bit, Dr. says I need that for another week or so, I’m not going to argue….I spent 22 days in bed, i’m pretty weak still.

Lessons learned from this….really, the rip in the esophagus has about the same odds as being hit by a car, which is basically what it was. A random event, where internal factors amplified the whole incident. The other lessons I have learned before, life is short and can end at any time, so, make sure those you care about know it, make sure you hug your kids often and well, tell people you love them, and in the end, the job doesn’t mean jack shit, its just what you do for money.

I’m seeing my shrink today for the first time since this happened, so 4 weeks. I have way to much in my head to dump out in a 50 minute session, but her and I will muddle through, we always do.

Not to end on a down note, but 2011 has been a REALLY BAD YEAR, I joke when I say its trying to kill me, but it just might. I could really use a hash mark or two in the W column, these days I feel like the Nationals.

I’ll make it through this, I always do, I’m tough, I’m strong and I have an amazing support network, who will scoop me up when I’m down.

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Twitter v/ IRL

Survive Carbombs (either kind) with Geo_Rube 12 times, get the 13th free

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Going down to the Cross Roads

The only thing I’m sure of is that by this time next year, everything will be completely different

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Do I look like a guy with a plan?

Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.

So, not only did I get what I wanted from my meeting, I got that and THEN SOME. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it. I’m ramping up capabilities and people, and getting things aligned.

I have this idea in my head of what it should look like, but I know when the rubber hits the road its going to look a bit different.

What is nice is that for the first time I feel like an asset, and not just a bill code. I feel like I’m contributing more than just to the bottom line. The only other time I felt like that was at L-3. I liked CH2M, but I was just a bill code there. At L-3 I contributed to the corporation and I felt like an asset. I left because I got scared. They started axing people, and I jumped. Even when my manager said that they weren’t going to do that to me, I still jumped. All I could think about was when my dad came home in 1980 and said that he was fired.

My dad was a master carpenter, was for 50 years. from 18-68. But the job security is about the same as any contractor. I see the similarities all the time. I remember neighbors bringing over food because they “made too much” when got wind that pop was laid off. I was a poor kid, and I didn’t want that to happen to my wife, now my wife and daughter. I’ve seen contracts dry up, I’ve seen people sent home because there wasn’t room for them on overhead for 4 hours that day so they had to take PTO. I’ve heard of people who hadn’t taken a planned vacation in 5 years because of their PTO was consumed with “down time.” Same as my pop. A number of home projects were done during his down time. Like when he took two old cheap swingsets and made them into a shed. Mom always pushed him to take a factory job, but he liked working with wood, and being outside.

Marit’s birth is what really pushed this. I need to get out of the fully operational and go 50/50 business and operational. More stability, more time with her.

But I digress

I have one piece of the puzzle, I need two more to be the foundation of precisely what I want. And I know who I want in those positions.

In a number of ways I feel like the dog that has caught the car. But the thing is, I’ve seen good divisions, and bad divisions. I’ve worked for shitty managers, and amazing managers. I’ve seen people who really know how to do BD work it, and I’ve seen total bullshitters. I need to take the best from the stew that is my career, and fucking do this. I may fail, but at least I’ve tried.

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Lets see if this sticks

I’ve been stuck in twitter zings and facebook updates for a while now.  I thought that blogging would be something I was over.  I think I was wrong.

I do need a place to babble about stuff, not just send a buck40 across an iPhone blast or posting pictures of my kid with buzzy captions.

Let me preface this with saying the following, I am passionate about what I do.  That of course is the crux of my issue.  The people I work with are motivated by something besides, “the mission” or “the solutions” they are focused exclusively on the following terms revenue and profit.

Interesting Work for Interesting People, is the best philosophy in this business, otherwise you find yourself chasing every stupid little project that comes up.  Government Contracting isn’t all sitting the Crisis Center, and knowing the right thing to do at that right moment.  Sometimes, you’re a guy who just has to throw a switch.  Thats your job, throw a switch.  Thats fine for some companies to chase, ones that are focused on profits as their sole motives.

Why am I writing about this now, because I am formulating my thoughts for a meeting I’m going to have in about 45 minutes with the VP of something, Not sure if its operations or what.  He’s been hiring BD folks to go win work, and we have a really shallow bench.  Like, its pretty much me, and a couple of other guys.

In the interest of full disclosure, as I tweeted about yesterday, I’ve decided to ditch professionalism, in lieu of something better, being myself.  I kick ass, I know I do, I know what I am capable of, and I know what I can’t do.  For a majority of my career, I’ve been the guy they drop into a failing project, turn it around and deliver it.  From both a PM as well as a code slinger.   I don’t need people cheerleading from the sidelines, I need people who understand this stuff, a little at least, and who can help support me in those meetings.

If you want to build a geospatial group, then give me the effin resources to do it, and the effin’ time.  Point blank, I care more about my 10 month old’s spit up than I do about building a geospatial practice for you.  Ask me again in 5 years, and I’ll tell you I’m more interested in her skinned knee. I’ll do what I can to help you, but when push comes to shove, wife and daughter win.

Where is this going, well, I’m not going to do billable work for 8-10 hours a day then go home and “work on the Geospatial Group.”  If you want it, its going to cost you something.  I can build it for you, I can fucking do this from soup to nuts.  From the contacts, both contractor and fed, writing the proposal, winning the goddamned work, and actually doing the job.

I’ve pushed myself for companies, I’ve lost myself in projects, where I became a project “hero.”  Nothing else mattered besides delivery, and when I see coworkers and friends in similar situations, I try to warn them, but they truly never listen, because they are heros.  I’ll give you far more than 110% during the hours when lil girl is at daycare, or when I’m on travel.  But, for a long-term thing, my choice is to watch her crawl, watch my wife and her play, and make sure she knows that I’m there.

I understand there are situations where I can’t be, but anyone that I can control I will, and this is one of those.

So, put up the cash, get me some help, or watch this melt away.

Thanks for reading my psych up 🙂

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