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The Next Chapter – Sneak Preview

Fake magazine cover for Entrepreneur MagazineAfter leaving a job at a college in Minnesota, I’ve spent the past 16 months working as an independent contractor doing consulting, speaking engagements, webinars, and the like. It has been exhilarating, as long as that term equally applies to the highs and the lows that life sends our way.

Yep, lots of good things have happened. My network of educators around the country (and beyond) has really paid off as far as getting contracts from friends and from friends of friends. I’ve been able to do some really fun and fascinating work for a variety of clients. Much to my delight, I never was faced with the same project or task twice. Always something new, always more to learn, always the next challenge.

At the same time, it’s been a real roller coaster ride from a financial perspective. Overall, it was a definite reduction of the income with which we had grown accustomed. However, less income wasn’t the problem. Uncertainty about future income was a significant problem. I often talked about how I had a long list of “maybes” and how I needed a fair number of those maybes to turn into “yeses.” Sometimes a maybe turned into an actual contract for work to be done, but often times they didn’t. With three kids to put through college, the maybes really start to take a toll on you. “Maybe I’ll get that contract with XYZ College” quickly turns into “maybe I’ll be able to pay for my kids to go to college.”

When I told people about my adventure as a self-employed person working on the fringes of higher education, my standard line was something like this: “Being self-employed is a whole lot like being unemployed – just different paperwork.”

I’ve know for about the past year that I really wasn’t interested in trying to get another job at a college or university. I pretty much have a been-there, done-that feeling along those lines. 27 years working inside higher ed seems like enough, especially considering the uncertainty of those jobs going forward (I’m living proof of that). I was pretty sure that I wanted to always work in some way connected to higher ed, just not necessarily in the middle of it. That’s why the consulting gig was a good thing, but not perfect. That’s also why I think my next adventure will be totally awesome. I get to continue working in the education sector, I get to have a regular paycheck and other benefits, and I get to engage in totally new and exciting work with people that I genuinely like and admire.

Next week I’ll be ready to spill the beans about where this next chapter will be written and with whom. Until then, just know that this feels 100% right.

Thanks very much to my clients over the past 16 months; including Roane State CC, Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical, Broward College, MnSCU System Office, MnSCU 360 Program, Rowan-Cabarrus CC, TBR-ROCC, MCCVLC, all my webinar subscribers, and the many speaking engagements such as ELCC, Montana XLi, MODLA, WITC, SHOT, SC4, Gogebic CC, UW-Eau Claire, Davenport U, UW-Oshkosh, and many others.

Thanks very much to my mentors and references along the way: John, Kathy, Gary, Jowell, Myk, James, Lisa, and many more.

Thanks to my special colleagues, too numerous to mention, and too easy to leave some out. You know who you are (I hope!!).

This is starting to sound like an obit, which it most definitely is not. Just turning the page and moving on to the next chapter. Over the next month I’ll be wrapping up work on a couple of consulting projects  and a few speaking engagements, and then I’ll be starting a new adventure. Next week I’ll be ready to tell you about that adventure.

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Say What You Mean

Seems like I’ve been allowing myself to get lathered up lately by people using words that don’t really mean what they’re supposed to mean. Our language is screwed up enough without us intentionally making it more so.

For example, I made a full post recently about how “Best Practices” is a terrible use of the word “best.” Even gotSign asks "what's in a name?" some feedback that said that it’s obvious that we don’t really mean “best,” but that it’s still the best way to get the point across. No, it isn’t! Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Then, the most recent post prior to this was about how ROI (return on investment) is used in all kinds of ways that don’t really match with what that term technically means. Sure, there’s no great harm in using the term incorrectly, as long as you think the dumbing down of society is no great harm.

Another inexact (actually, just plain wrong) use of our words comes in the form of “open source.” If I had a nickle for every time in the past couple of years that I saw a presentation where the presenter talked about all these great open source tools they were using, such as Evernote, and Google Docs, and PBworks, and Prezi!! No, no, no; a thousands time no. Do they feel the need to use the term “open source” because they think that makes them cool? A free web-based tool is not necessarily (in fact, not usually) an open source tool. Please learn what the term really means.

Maybe you’re saying that it matters not what we call something; it mainly matters what that something is and what we do with it. “A rose by any other name…”? Yes, I suppose that sounds pretty good – but it probably isn’t going to work for me. We’ve been told that Abe Lincoln was a man of sizable intellect. One of my favorite Lincolnisms provides good evidence of that intellect, I think. One of his stories is something that I have brought up in conversation dozens of times over the years. The tale (tail?) goes something like ‘How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?’ Many people jump to the answer of five. Lincoln’s comeback would be that there are only four legs, for calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.

Calling a calf's tail a leg, does not make it a leg.

Just because you say your practices are best, doesn’t make them the best. Just because you say that you invested in your education doesn’t make it an actual investment. Just because you say I’m an idiot, doesn’t make … oh, never mind on that one.

And now about the Lincoln story. Saying that it was about a dog doesn’t make it about a dog.

This very cool article seems to set the record straight about Lincoln’s quote. And from that blog post you can find the original book from the 1800’s that includes this story on pages 241-242.

Sign photo (at top) By jack dorsey (CC-BY)

Original “Calf in Autumn” photo (CC-BY) By Glen Bowman

Maybe Walmart will Ban Me

This is a bit off-topic. I recently collected a little photo evidence of pricing peculiarities at the local Walmart store for a blog post. This morning I saw this article on Boing Boing about something very similar, so I decided to post mine as well.

Vegas casinos can ban good gamblers who might make a profit from their legal means of beating the house, such as card counting in blackjack.  A restaurant owner can discriminate against people with no shirt and/or no shoes. In fact private businesses can basically choose who they do business with and who they don’t, as long as those decisions are not discriminatory on the basis of  race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

So, I’m guessing the local Walmart store won’t be too happy with me since I was using my camera phone to snap a few photos of their pricing irregularities. I find it odd and misleading (not illegal, immoral, or even insane – just odd and misleading) for larger quantities of a product to have a higher per unit price than smaller quantities of the exact same product. So here’s a few shots of same.

My daughter loves Spaghettios. I buy small cans rather than large ones.

We have a bunny. They sell some pretty good bunny food at Walmart. I buy 4-pound bags at $4.42 rather than the 8-pound bags for $9.96. Exact same food.

My mother-in-law likes to keep a large stash of chicken broth on hand – just in case. She would be well advised to buy the small cans rather than the larger box.

So, the real question is, “who cares?” Probably almost no one. And now that I’ve got this out of my head (and camera) and onto the blog – I don’t really care anymore either. I’ll just continue to make good choices on which quantities to buy and let Wally World continue to exploit those who are math-challenged.

BTW, I’ve seen the argument that it makes to sense to pay more per unit (ounce, pound, whatever) for a large quantity over a small one since it is more convenient for you to have the large quantity on hand. Seems to me that this is just more convenient for Walmart. But really, I’m over it now.