2015 Faves and Raves

I cannot believe I have been blogging for over a year now, averaging about three posts per month.

My purpose in blogging is to share examples of storytelling or sharing from my own life, by way of example, for those who might be interested in writing a memoir, or for seeing how they might re-capture old memories to share with interested parties.

Below is a short list of some popular posts you may have missed, and some of my favorites which you might find worth revisiting.

My video memoir company, Storyography: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/no-one-can-stop-time-but-hearing-those-stories-again-slows-it-just-a-little/ , is another way to share stories which captures individual performance as part of the storytelling experience and not merely the words shared.

The biggest hit, which surprised me some, was “Mandatory Moon Bathing in Minnesota”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/he-was-naked-as-a-blooming-orchid/

I’m not sure why that one grabbed so much attention over others. Maybe the title intrigued.

Another relative hit was “The Best Cab Driver in Buenos Aires”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/long-may-he-ride/  which describes some of my experiences while working in that charming city.

Some of my posts are more autobiographical than others. Other posts are more opinion oriented. My favorite of these which didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved was “Greenman Died for Your Niblets”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/to-our-surprise-cheers-and-salutations-greeted-our-approach-to-the-gate-green-man-was-a-star/

Some of my posts amounted to musings about the human condition as viewed through a prism of my own experience. One example of this, which didn’t attract the attention I had hoped was “Swings”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/swings/ ,

or “Taxi Driver Uber Alles”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/each-second-is-a-threshold-to-eternity/ which I thought deserved more attention.

The Territorial Imperative” was about my encounter with a very assertive spider: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/i-cringed-at-the-memory-of-what-i-yelled-that-night-during-my-desperate-search-what-had-i-wrought/ .

That was a companion piece to the popular “The Company You Keep”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/to-say-this-house-was-infested-is-like-saying-forests-have-trees/ in which I recounted my futile war with cockroaches while in college.

I also published a few practical posts exploring the value of writing a memoir “The Irreplaceable Memoir”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/the-irreplaceable-memoir/

or a distillation of what I presented weekly in a workshop for job seekers on how best to find gainful employment. “The Best Solution to the Problem” was my summary of the workshop: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/the-best-solution-to-the-problem/ .

Godzilla”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/there-is-a-piece-of-godzilla-in-all-of-us/

and “The Show Must Go On” : https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-show-must-go-on/ share memories of my career in motion pictures.

My favorites probably fell in my recounting episodes of my life that were fun to write and (I’m told), hilarious to read. “Bad Hair Day”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/i-looked-like-a-psychotic-texas-ranger/ ,

A Knuckle Sandwich and a Side of Steroids Please”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/a-knuckle-sandwich-and-a-side-of-steroids-please/ ,

Sunny Sleepy San Raphael”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/judging-by-her-word-count-the-woman-was-winning-but-we-had-to-acknowledge-he-made-some-very-impressive-points-with-his-rare-interjections/

and “What’s in a Name, Jack”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/whats-in-a-name-jack/ are my favorites in that genre.

Much attention has been paid of late, to concussions, due in part to the Will Smith movie of that name. My post “Isn’t this Fun?” https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/isnt-this-fun/ deals with my personal experience with a concussion.

At risk of naming all of my posts, I will stop with this brief list of personal highlights. But feel free to revisit some of these and others. They all have something to offer and offer some amusement or a diversion from the tedium of the day.

Please feel free to comment or add to the conversation. I appreciate your input. Thank you for reading.

And you are welcome to visit my Storyography website at: http://www.lifestoryography.com/

See you next year.


The Best Solution to the Problem

Job seekers need to focus on the two questions that will inform all aspects and steps in the interview process.

These are: What problem does the company look to solve? And how can you best demonstrate your experience to be seen as the best possible solution to the problem they are solving?

What is the problem the employer seeks to solve?

I had dropped out of college and my parents made broad hints that I should find work. While reading the paper, not the want ads, it hit me. The front page was filled with typos. There was hardly a sentence without some glaring error. I knew I could solve their problem.

I applied for the proof reader position. The editor asked me, since they had not advertised for a proof reader, what inspired me to apply?

I smiled and said that I was not responding to an ad but rather, their front page cried out for a proof reader.

When the editor grasped what I was saying, he laughed with me and admitted the front page needed attention. However, budget constraints kept him from hiring anyone. I didn’t get the job.

Will you always get the job? No. I am talking about getting an edge.

It is expensive to add personnel. Companies do not hire for charitable reasons. They won’t hire unless a problem demands a solution.  How can you expect to get hired unless you provide the best solution to the problem?

The job description in the listing will specify why they are hiring. You need to get your own ad to them, tailored to suit their needs, in the form of a resume.

The Resume– an abstract of your problem solving ability

 Much has been written about resumes’ optimal length, formatting and the best quality of paper on which to print them. However, before submitting it, examine your resume through the prism of – does it present you as the best solution to the problem?

You did not do A, B and C. You solved problems A, B and C using a variety of skills. Or you used a multi-faceted skillset to solve similar problems to A, B and C, those problems the company will hire you to solve.

Use active verbs. They add energy and allow you to pare your word count.

Tailor your resume so that point after point presents you as the perfect solution to their problem. Obviously, your skills exceed those needed for one particular problem. Nonetheless, you can show the depth of your experience and the breadth of your ability by using every bullet point to focus or support your main argument: Hire me, problem solved.

Interviews – auditioning your problem solving ability

Everyone has seen lists of the best questions (and the answers) you need for the interview. Forget them. What if they ask questions from a different list? Memorized answers will not get you hired.

Those lists of questions miss the point. The big question is: what impression will you make when you first walk through the door?

Everyone hates first impressions. They aren’t fair, and they are unavoidable. If you are alive, you cannot help but form opinions of people within about three seconds of first meeting them.

It is sometimes known as ‘the survival instinct’. Any infant learns to quickly judge the intent of that stranger who just entered the room. Can you blame it? Somehow, we never unlearned that primal impulse. Make it work for you.

Obviously, you don’t want to look like a troll when entering the interview. You want to look good. But besides grooming, what makes ‘good’?

More to lose

Believe it or not, your interviewer(s) have more to lose by hiring the wrong person, than you do by not getting hired.

If you don’t get hired, you will have spent some time, met some people and left them with the gnawing sense that they missed a good bet by not signing you on. Hopefully you learned something. But you are no worse off than before the interview.

If they hire the wrong person, that curious scent they detect when that wrong person moves into his new office, may be from a bad attitude, poor hygiene or maybe a juicy law suit smoldering under the newbie’s collar. Bad hires are expensive, in both time and money.

The Solution

Back to you. You are not begging for a job. You are there to solve their problem. You are their solution. You have arrived.

The most important thing is to create an impression of self-confidence. They are anxious to find the right person. Everyone else they met had clammy hands and nervous laughter.

How would the best solution for their problem act?

Right. Like you.

You walk in, are calm, self-assured, and are in command of your persona and the skills they are seeking. What’s not to like?

You are more relaxed than anyone else in the room. You carry yourself like you already have the job. Not arrogant. Self-assured and with nothing to lose. You are your humble best. The best doesn’t need braggadocio because the best stands on solid ground. Like you.

You deliver because you have the stuff – the best solution to their problem.

Over Qualification

Being told one is over qualified sucks. It is a ‘nice’ way to say ‘we don’t like you’. How does one argue with ‘you are too good for the job’?

The flaw, however, is in your presentation. Somehow you made them feel you didn’t really want the job. Perhaps you indicated your purpose was to get in the door and then impatiently move beyond the job for which you were hired.

Your purpose must be to get the job they are hiring for. You want that job. If you over shoot, tip your hand, or wax grandiose in your description of your accomplishments, they won’t believe you desire what they can offer.

Tone down your presentation. Don’t lie, and aim for the job they are offering. If your skills are better used elsewhere, once you are in, they will see that and find a way to challenge you. No one will believe a brain surgeon wants to be a janitor. They won’t.

If you present yourself as the best solution to their problem, they won’t think you are over qualified. They will ask, “When can you start?”

Berlin Wall Falls!

“Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?”

It is hard to believe that jewel of the Northwest was ever ridiculed in such a manner but in the 1960’s it was a one industry town and Boeing (yes, that Boeing) was on the skids. People were leaving Seattle for greener pastures. People will always move toward opportunity however they define it.

Then Bill Gates moved Microsoft close by and the term ‘Californication’ was coined as Californians migrated north and snapped up beautiful homes for a fraction of what they sold theirs for back south. Berlin, Germany was another city in the ‘60’s that struggled with an outward migration.

After WWII, Berlin was in the curious state of having been partitioned by the victorious allies who were not so allied anymore. Berlin was situated in what had become East Germany but was divided among the U.S., English, French and Soviet Russian forces. Thousands of citizens would go about their daily routines and cross at various checkpoints. But thousands who left East Berlin (controlled by the Communistic Russians) in the morning would not return at night. About this time, the term ‘braindrain’ was coined.

This was troubling to the powers controlling East Berlin. A worker’s paradise was being created and the best and brightest were leaving, sometimes with only what they could carry. Each day the man in charge would get up and before his cornflakes were soggy would lose a thousand more of his citizens to the West. It is enough to make a dictator testy.

Of course, this was embarrassing to the authorities. People were expected to flock into East Germany, not out of it. But there you are. Many things were tried to stem the flow but with no good results. In fact their tactics of intimidation only made matters worse and were a PR disaster. Mass arrests and shootings by the police tend to get misconstrued by the hoi polloi.

Finally, one morning all of Berlin (and the world) awoke to find a crude wall had been erected completely surrounding the city of West Berlin. This was unprecedented. Usually in history, walls were erected to keep people out; i.e. castles, forts, etc. China built the Great Wall of China to keep the Mongol hordes at bay, not to keep the Chinese from escaping to Mongolia.
When it happened, the world was outraged. No one ever expected it to fall. The Communists held their territory and people in an iron grip. Winston Churchill spoke of this as an ‘iron curtain across Europe’. And now we are celebrating 25 years since it was torn down.

Up to then, walls built to keep people in were associated with prisons. The Communists wanted to avoid that particular connection and so it was explained, with a straight face, that the wall was built to keep fascistic influences from polluting the worker’s paradise.

It was easy in those days to blame the fascists for almost everything as they had just lost WWII, were universally hated and deserved to be. But no one really believed the wall was built to keep the fascists out as most of the surviving fascists had magically transformed into Communists. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

The irony which escaped no one was that while the East German police claimed to be protecting their city, the ‘infiltrators’ coming into East Berlin were all shot in the back as they climbed the wall to escape.
One of the great Cold War novels, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” is centered on East Berlin and the Wall and is deliciously cynical about that time and place.

In a side light, the fascists got their name from an odd weapon made up of an ax like blade protruding from a bundle of sticks bound together, a ‘fascio’. The old silver Mercury dimes in the U.S. carry an image of one for reasons I’ve never understood. That design disappeared when FDR’s image replaced Mercury on the dime, which I do understand. FDR may have been many things but he was no Fascist.

I remember seeing a movie then, now long forgotten, called “the Seventh Question”. It was made in Germany and released with subtitles about a German boy, Hans, about ten, living in East Berlin at the time the Communists took over.

One day in school his teacher hands out a questionnaire and instructs the students to take it home and complete it with their parents. The seventh question on this document inquires about each family’s religious affiliation and activities with any churches or religious organization.

Hans realizes, having just survived the Nazi scourge that a regime which puts the state first and the individual last could only want to know this information for purposes of control. The boy struggles whether to show his parents the questionnaire. His father is an official at the local church. Hans doesn’t want his father to get into trouble.

Events put Hans in a position where he must act. He crosses from East to West and doesn’t look back.

People move toward opportunity.