Saturday, November 18, 2006

Honestly Practice Business

A question comes up during my shopping research for cut-rate computer parts. Specifically, what constitutes good business practice? There are obviously two different points of view, from the enterprise and from the customer.

I submit that there is, in fact, a third.

Let's first look at the customer's view.

A typical purchaser of product or service wants to know in clear terms what they are buying and for how much?

This is such a loaded statement it's not even funny. In itself, it has many interpretations depending on the point of view, as I mentioned above, but namely: what defines clear?

Clear is supposed to be vocabulary and explanation that the common customer will understand reasonably. It is also a description of the product that is true or at least reasonably close to the true form. In other words, once the customer has understood the product description he or she should receive something close to his or her expectation.

I'll tackle price in a minute.

From the business point of view, one should assume a stance commensurate with clarity for the purchaser, right? Wrong. The enterprise instead works to fulfill the purchaser’s need or perceived need.

You can immediately see the disparity, although not entirely opposing, it can still lead interesting discrepancy.

I'll use the example of Bell Canada and up-selling. When a Bell Canada customer has a problem, more often than not, Bell will attempt to sell the solution. This is a matter of corporate philosophy. A case was made recently that a cell subscriber, through some technological bug, would get charged long distance for local calls. Suffice to say that the bug itself is very, very difficult to resolve. The solution was to subscribe to a cellular long-distance plan, which the customer eventually did, at some extra cost to her even though she only makes local calls.

We know it's not her fault, we know it's a techno-bug, but this is the solution Bell proposed. The purchaser "needed" to get a long-distance plan. This is a valid business view, though unsatisfactory it may be.

The third point of view, again from an enterprise perspective, is to provide the customer with a fac-simile that satisfies a first-view interpretation. The snow-job. The simplest example of the latter is the bait and switch, or the eBay gambit. For example, a picture is put up on a listing, and the actual product is significantly different but only upon close-up inspection.

So we get to the issue of price.

The last point of view is defensible only on the basis that the price is commensurate with the value of the real article, and not the publicity. The phrase "for that price, what did you expect?" comes to mind.

Fair price for fair product? The issue with this is that the customer expectation is not fulfilled in any way, but the fault may actually lie with the purchaser and not the seller, since due diligence of the buyer would have sorted everything out up front... Like I said, from that business’s point of view.

The case can be made that a picture can be misleading, and so forth, but this is only defensible from the customer point of view. Either business will accept this as a legitimate business practice, but the customer would not.

Whether it is ethical will be invalidated by our first enterprise model, yet embraced by the second.

This demonstrates the 3 views. Which one is correct and proper? More importantly, which one will survive in the long run?

Running a legitimate, upstanding and ethical business is becoming increasingly difficult. I mentioned trust in my blog yesterday, and here repeatedly shady business practices have all but eroded trust completely.

As consumers we are now, more then ever, intolerant of bad practice. In fact we routinely declare war on perceived bad practice whether it exists or not! This makes running a business on the up-and-up very difficult indeed. Anyone can feel slighted, with just about anything, especially when unreasonable expectations aren't met. I believe that we are becoming a society of knee-jerk reactions and, quite unfortunately, rightly so.

The natural reaction from business is to become more defensive on all fronts instead of straightforward and assuming the all-important responsibility. My problem with my 4Runner's premature tire wear is a prime example of this. And I can't say I blame them. After all the enterprise is composed of humans as well.

Abuse is now occurring from all sides, and we reap what only a few have sown, but overgrew the rest.

Here our court system fails us miserably, whereas it should be a solution. We now turn towards the courts, public opinion or otherwise, for vengeance or satisfaction, or to right a wrong. Seldom, if ever, do we simply hand over the issue to a judge for an impartial decision.

I make a detour to illustrate this point. Two good friends are hanging-out together in a one of their bedrooms. The dog wants out, and the owner asks his buddy to open the door. The friend does so, waits an unspecified amount of time, doesn't check to see if the dog has doubled back and closes the door, trapping and breaking the dog’s tail. The dog is rushed to the vet, with no other harm, but the tail must be removed.

Now the friends argue about who should cover the cost of a broken tail. They cannot come to a resolution, so instead of fighting and potentially destroying their friendship, they go to small claims court, and agree to abide by whatever decision the judge takes. The judge makes a call and the friends remain friends!

This is really, in my humble opinion, how courts should be used. End of detour.

We are becoming more and more trigger-happy but some businesses have forced us to do this and so the circle is complete. This is something we have to live with, on both sides. Luckily, most purchases we make are relatively problem free, but there is almost always some little thing to taint the experience.

If we review Bell's case, the company should really assume the extra cost since the technology that they are responsible for is at fault. A judge has not ruled on this as of yet, as far as I know.

The eBay case yielded a refund agreement! But the refund has yet to appear anywhere.

Back to our friends. The judge ruled in favour of the door-opening friend. He couldn't reasonably be expected to be more careful, since he isn't a dog owner himself, and could not reasonably predict that the dog would double back, and there was no malice in closing the door. Ruling: cost of ownership. The owner pays the vet fee.

So honest mistakes are made, but what of deliberate misleading? What is deliberate? Deliberate introduces the concept of malice.

Is Bell being malicious?

Not really, but the corporate view is clear: the customer now has the correct service. Not what she wants, but the need is being fulfilled at proper value. It’s a snaky philosophy to be sure, and not a customer centric view, but a perfectly acceptable business model.

However, we do know that Bell is consistent in their up-selling practices. Evidence abounds. Think what you will.

Is the eBay merchant being malicious?

Yes in being misleading, but no since a full refund is agreed, and then yes again for having the customer chase the refund down. Is there malice in the stalling tactic? Unsure. If it is indeed a tactic then it is reprehensible. And we don't yet know if the merchant is consistent in this kind of shady practice. eBay feedback is a damned good indicator, but not evidence, since it could be vindictive as well.

Which is worse? Hard to say since the only real gauge will be survival.

The eBay merchant will eventually get boycotted or garner enough negative feedback comments to seriously dampen his sales. But Bell can survive a hell of a long time because in theory, upselling doesn't take away from the basic quality of the product. In practice, their dubious philosophy will kill them when, or rather if, enough people become savvy.

So vigilance is the real price.

Most of the transactions we effect in our daily lives are, thankfully, satisfactory. So we unconsciously repeat our business there.

As paying customers we should actively support, and in a way protect, those businesses that adopt, and keep, our customer view.

But we don’t, because truth be told most of the time we just can’t tell.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Neo Experience Necessary

What makes experiences worthwhile? This is not rhetorical... I think it is realization of the lessons learned.

Sometimes we turn to our elders, or those we view as wise, to share their experience with us. In point of fact, we are asking them to share their life-lessons.

Now, if they have learned nothing, their experience is useless to us, obviously.

On the other hand, lessons learned by others are invaluable, for one, it keeps us from making the same mistakes as they did! More importantly however, we can internalize their story with little or no cost, and a modicum of listening investment.

We do this all the time. What did you think of Marineland? Would you go to Turkey? What do you know about Toyotas? The questions go on. Our aim is to gather useful information for our possible use later on. The answers then become part of our own baggage of usable knowledge for decision-making.

When we do this, we couch the experience with our opinion of the person we are speaking with. The more trustworthy the person, the better we feel the information might be valuable. Also, if our tastes are similar, the more likely a person’s experience is likely to mimic our own. You wouldn’t ask someone who hates marine life to recommend Marineland in Niagra Falls as vacation spot, for instance.

Couching is key to gathering intelligence. The information gotten depends on the source of course, but our interpretation of a Ford-lover’s opinion on Toyotas for example, will be reinforced if the Ford-lover finds Toyota to be a good product, thereby overcoming his own prejudice. High praise indeed.

Also, the connoisseur is useful in the same way. The Ford-lover will likely have a complete and rounded knowledge of his beloved product. More than likely, he or she will be well aware of pitfalls unknown to the public at large.

So I’ve demonstrated that all information is good, depending how it is couched. A case can be made that the person is trying to snow you, in which instance, the trustworthiness needs to be questioned first, and then the information.

I now get to applicability.

One’s experience may or may not be applicable to our own situation. The real trick is to recognize when it is. The other person will give you a best guess based on observation and evaluation of your situation vs. their own. Often times, when we take another point of view our own situation becomes clearer. In effect, standing back from the problem to get a better overall view.

Then we must decide to apply only the parts that fit. Those parts that don’t, we simply discard.

For example, a situation that occurred recently had me giving advice about a situation very similar to one I had lived through a few years back. All the parameters were exactly the same, with different people of course. The problems that I was consulting on paralleled my own almost word for word. It’s like I was in a twilight zone. With flashbacks and everything.

So I shared my view of the situation through my experience, but none of the history of that experience. In a way, I bypassed the couching and I really shouldn’t have.

This finally brings us to the issue of trust that I mentioned above.

I said earlier that the lesson is only as good as the person giving it. No trust in that person will negate the lesson altogether, even before we get to couching and applicability.

Trust is a very strange concept. We trust almost everyone blindly! Case in point: we trust that the driver coming the other way isn’t going to cross the yellow line. This trust is borne of years of sampling that this one rule of the road is most always followed. Yet, it is still a person driving that other car.

Trust is then the constant and expected repetition of an action. It is conditioning.

It’s odd that we can say, with conviction: “I trust person so-and-so to fuck me over whenever they can.”

In effect trust isn’t necessarily a “good-thing”™, it is, rather, a consistent thing.

If a person is consistent in giving information that makes sense, and is a propos, we will internalize it and accept that it may be useful. By the way someone who is totally inconsistent will often be dismissed as insane, or not having a clue. Funny thing that.

Note that I am in no way debating that the information is factual, nor indeed true, but simply that it is useful to us, to reject or to accept as we see fit.

The mechanics of this concept has been a puzzle to me for many years. I’ve always wondered how a person of intelligence could come to believe utter nonsense, yet another disbelieve something that is, for all intents and purposes, factual beyond doubt.

If any element is missing or broken in my information triangle: couching, applicability and trust, then we have misdirected experience, or worse.

I saw a report on scientology on TV, and quite clearly the scientologist do not trust psychologists, or in fact the entire field of psychology. So the trust element is the issue. This is akin to car salesmen, who suffer from a prejudice, which was caused by years of similar experiences of consistently erroneous information. I’m not saying psychologists are like used-car salesmen, but obviously the scientologists do.

The other two points of the triangle: couching and applicability are much easier. In a sense, they are personal judgment and straightforward evaluation. The former opens the door, the latter slams it shut.

If I don’t listen to the report, I have already chosen not to couch anything at all. If I do listen, and “trust” that the report itself is fair, I have thus couched the information… then I return to applying, or not, the concepts, so it becomes my call again.

I have said before that some people cannot tell the difference between what they believe and what is fact. I now think this is too much trust in a given information on their part, but without due couching.

I have also said before that some people don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. I think this is too much couching and not enough trust or applicability.

Anyway, this past week, NCIS debunked the non-apology philosophy. To quote the actress “I thought you had to be strong to apologize,” or words to that effect. So obviously the writers of the show read my previous blog on apologizing.

I used trust of the character Gibbs, couched the apology statement appropriately to my reality and wrote a blog on the “opposing” applicability.

And I now feel somewhat vindicated by the TV writers, fine people that they are.

I’m not sure I had any specific point or parting statement to make on this conjured triangle. And I’m not pretending that this triangle is neither exact nor complete.

‘twas nothing more than trying to gain perspective on the human mind.

And maybe that's the experience I wish to share with you.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Researching Peeve

OK, pet peeve time, I have just a couple today, but they are related.

I have been doing a lot of research recently into the acquisition of a new PC. As a matter of fact I am investigating the possibility of building one for myself. I’ve done it before, and it’s a lot of fun.

The PC I’m running now is old, I mean antediluvian-old, it dates all the way back to 1999. I have upgraded many things over the years, not the least of which is the memory and VGA card. I would upgrade the memory again, but the main board is locked at 512MB of RAM and won’t go any higher.

So we come across my first peeve. The retail version of this board is supposed to take 1000MB of RAM whereas the version that I have in my commercially manufactured machine is limited to 512MB, which means that XP is painful at best and tends to swap continuously. (I may explain some of this jargon in a later series of blogs.)

I consulted with my best mate from Montreal on a PC for his home, and the one thing that stuck with me about that machine was, again, the RAM limitation. By the way, his machine is also from the same manufacturer. Rock solid as they are, one has to be careful about future proofing. Mind you his PC will be perfectly adequate for Vista when it comes out in January, with double the room for RAM to spare. So he’ll be good to go for at least 3 or 4 years, likely many more.

I am disappointed that the manufacturer is up to old bullshit tricks. That is with limiting a key component, whereas the same, commercially available, motherboard is not so limited. I understand the business case for it, but it still remains a peeve.

My second peeve for today is with documentation available on the web for the above research. I read articles, reviews, machinery shootouts and general information on the boards and equipments. It’s all good. Sometimes I will explore a tangent, for instance power-supplies, and will investigate uses, features, functions, differences, design and sometimes history.

And so the peeve is exposed: I ran across this wonderful article on a special and great piece of kit. I look all over for it, and the manufacturer has disappeared!

What the f---? Simple really, the article I was reading was not dated, so there was no way for me to tell that the kit was actually some 6 years old and the manufacturer was bought out like 4 years ago!

The web is a wonderful place for research, but this annoys the hell out of me that text can just exist out there with no context of date or time. Heck, even free newsgroups and mailing lists have date stamps! But honest to goodness e-zine (web-based magazine) articles are more often than not, undated!

I must get back to my research now. I just found a reference to this wonderful new thing, it’s called lunix and it’s for… a commodore 64.

Oops. Never mind.

Friday, November 10, 2006

War – Part 2: Omega Man

Yet again I draw up on a movie as my muse, The Omega Man with Charlton Heston as Robert Neville. This wasn’t a particularly good movie, although the suspense was palpable, more to the point, it was a doomsday film, like many, many such films during the late 60s and throughout the 70s. It was a sign of the times. The world lived in very real fear of total annihilation and Hollywood represented this in movies.

We know what transpired during the end of the 60s with peace rallies and demonstrations against “the bomb” and so forth. Regardless of the great events of the era with Apollo program, etc. in the back of everyone’s mind was the possibility of a flash, a warm feeling and then nothingness. (Note again the proper use of the word “regardless” and not that abomination irregardless.)

The TV and radios emitting a high-pitched “this is a test” broadcast would strike a nerve every single time. I even remember exercises in school where we’d be told to crawl underneath our desks upon hearing the howler on the intercom. Fun and games.

For years afterwards, I would hoard little amounts of food for days, chocolate bars and dry fruit stowed under my desk at home, which I would renew and restock every few days. I always kept a radio nearby with spare batteries. My little knife would always be tended and sharpened. Even my dress was commensurate with apocalyptic events. I would favour jeans and sneakers and would feel physically ill-at ease in dress pants, shirt and shoes, because, well, if a bomb exploded nearby, I would be more mobile and ready in overalls and running shoes.

These were not conscious thoughts on my part, they were simply the habits of a young mind really, a kid whose comprehension of a nuclear blast was black and white: either I’d see a flash, feel warm and die, or I would survive and wake up to a living hell.

I enjoy doomsday movies now that the cold war is over. I also understand that blockbuster nuclear bombs are actually not all that powerful in the grand scheme of things. Younger, I was told that 6 warheads would wipe out the entire planet. This was common knowledge, albeit quite false. The purpose was served though: “Just one nuclear bomb can fuck up your whole day.”

The cold war was indeed a war in the strictest sense of the word: there was conflict, there was an enemy, and there were casualties. Most of the wounded were psychological in nature, and of course there were physical casualties in skirmishes and within the espionage community. No one remained unaffected. No one.

The effect was far-reaching and as usual, insidious. That we didn’t blow ourselves to smithereens is a testament that our enemies weren’t any crazier than we were.

How we got there is irrelevant for now. The fact that the entire world was on pins and needles for decades is the stuff nightmares are made of.
I am fairly certain that a part of my recurring depression symptoms do originate from the fear of being blown up when I was a kid, or more specifically once I was aware that forces were at work that could wipe out my entire universe with my not being able to do a damned thing about it. This makes a really good case for the peaceniks’ demonstrations.

Kids normally have the “invincibility” complex at some stage in their development, and death just isn’t part of their vocabulary. To some degree this was true for me, in the form of reckless riding on my bicycle, with the car later on, and other such insane activities. But deep down, instant death was very much part of my vocabulary and that of my friends. Not something we talked about very much mind you. Even today, a pitched howler tone on the TV or radio will square my heart solidly in my throat. I am hardwired that it can only mean one thing, until I get a grip of myself. Even the after-hours colour-carrier tone on the TV will startle me if I’m not expecting it.

Being reminded day after day of imminent detonation skewed our perspective, and rightly so. Hate and loathing fuelled by fear make for a potent recipe and because of it we were very ready and willing to retaliate, if it came down to it.

In this sense, luckily, the war was cold and never degenerated into all arms conflict.

The seed of retribution had been planted, but never fully came to fruition.

Friday, November 03, 2006

War - Part 1: Cry Havoc

This is my first instalment in my treatise of war: Cry 'Havoc!' And let slip the dogs of war.

I’ve just finished watching the movie “The Dogs of War” again, with Christopher Walken as Jamie Shannon. And the tagline above is originally from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

I want to examine this phrase, to which I attribute loaded meaning.

Cry, yell, order to havoc. Assumes there is a personal imperative or command to do so. Probably well out of one’s control, might I add. That one would even order the creation of havoc is the essence of conflict. The personal reasons to reek destruction is never without some kind of trigger, such as retribution, revenge, lust for violence, power or as in this case, money. We’re not talking juvenile vandalism here!

Havoc is obvious. Used nowadays in the phrase “play havoc”, I agree with pundits who portend that it’s lost the force of the earlier phrase. Havoc is not a bed of roses; it is general devastation and destruction. The watered down version yields great confusion and disorder, which isn’t exactly devastation by any stretch.

“Let slip” is even more obvious as a synonym to release, but almost reluctantly. A firm grasp is simply now, not so firm, as the leash slips, not ripped or thrown, it is let.

The dogs has two distinct meanings, the face-value which appears as a ferocious animal since it is borne of war.

However, I’ve come to understand a second meaning, possibly cynical in nature, those dogs are also locks or devices to stop or hold fast some kind of machinery. This illustrates a concept that maybe war is always upon us, but always held in check by the locking mechanisms of peace and process. If the dogs are released, the machine is then free to begin its purpose of mayhem and death.

Merriam-Webster also mentions dogs are synonymous with feet. Yet again the image is significant and intense: feet of war, will trample.

That phrase, which is notorious, as are many quotes from that literary genius Shakespeare, has always held this kind of significant meaning for me, ever since I read Fred Forsyth’s book, with the phrase as a tagline on it as well. It was years later saw the movie adaptation for the first time.

In the movie all our mercenaries, except Drew, go home. The book however ends with blood in the protagonist, Jamie Shannon’s mouth. It’s his own. Now, make of that what you will.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

When You Fuck Up

NCIS would have you believe that apologizing is a “sign of weakness”. That’s what Gibbs would say on this marvellous TV show.  This is a statement that has stuck in my craw since the first time I heard it. I understand why it’s bullshit now more than ever.

Just very recently, I made a sad-assed mistake with one of my very best friends. The mistake itself is not relevant; suffice it to say that I spoke out of turn and hurt my dear, dear friend.

On the one hand, I could do the Gibbs thing and refuse to apologize, since I am not weak!

Or alternately, if this friend will find room for forgiveness, I am given to apologize profusely and with very sincere regret.

I could see Gibbs’ scenario with regards to federal agents not wanting to appear weak in front of suspects et al, and so as a matter of course, would refrain from doing so, in case it slipped out during an interview.

However, I firmly believe that caring for and nurturing a friendship entails acts of much higher courage, once in a while, such as asking for forgiveness when a mistake has been made.

The ideal situation is to be perfect all the time and thusly never make mistakes that would require apologies. Such is not my case. No one is perfect, not I, not anyone, much as each of us would like to believe. The pressure to be at our best at all times is high enough without adding utopic perfection to the weight.

Once the bad has been committed, there remains only one single course of action for any kind of salvage of the friendship, and that is to keep the lines of communication open. Without this primordial umbilical cord all hope of regaining what was is lost.

Words have this uncanny ability to stay. It has been proven by philosophers and communication-majors that once a word is out, it can never again be recalled. It will forever, sometimes regrettably, affect the other party.

This is why it becomes critically important to keep channels open in order to at least tamper the effect with, you guessed it, more words. Explanations maybe, or simple compassion is often more appropriate, in this case sincere regret.

This is where the apology comes in. It is the groundwork for building a new relationship between the interlocutors. The friendship may be damaged, but forgiveness yields new ground to break, for the work to continue on, despite the bent-up shape it’s in now.

If the friendship was true it should be able to withstand such an assault that a mistake can unleash.

I wish I hadn’t hurt my friend’s feelings,
In fact, I wish I hadn’t made any mistake in the first place,
I certainly wish to salvage a friendship,
I wish to make things right again,
I wish for forgiveness,
I wish for… friendship to prevail.

As much as I wish all these things, my mistake has been committed, and because of it, none of these depend on me anymore, it all depends on my friend.

There are only two things I can possibly do to rekindle the friendship: apologize, and hope.

And I am, very sincerely, doing both.

Choice of Curse

“It’s all about choices.”

When I hear that phrase I want to scream.

It is the mainstay of all time management courses; they will say the same thing.

Any and all life-changing courses will say the same thing.

Any therapy, coaching, life, plan, wants, desires, jobs, even love, is all about choices.

Why should there be a choice? It’s one of the great curses that God wreaked upon us.

The apple in the Garden of Eden wasn’t poisoned, nor did it yield to pestilence, nor any kind of damnation. In fact the choice itself, to pick & eat, was God fucking with his new toys. The choice itself IS the damnation. The apple is totally irrelevant, in fact, I’m pretty sure getting Adam and Eve to eat the apple per se, was a side bet between God and the Devil. So the snake was pissing itself laughing, really, because God already established  temptation by inventing choice in the first place. And that was all God’s doing.

So choice is a curse. For a freedom-seeking person like me, this seems counterintuitive, yet there it is.

Back in my first, and last, time management course the teacher asked for examples to use for decision making in order to plan and utilise the available time during a workday. A lot of us were there from the technical support organization, so the question of the pager came up.

He said simply: “turn it off! Pagers will mess up your time planning faster than anything in the office, second only to the telephone.”

“But,” we cried, “we can’t just turn off our pagers!”

“It’s a question of choice and owning that choice we’ve made.” He said deadpan.

Me, and every single other person in tech-service was thinking, “and my choices are to be out of a job - or - keep the pager turned on? What the fuck kinda choice is that?”

“It’s a choice you have to make in order to own your time!”

Everything he had to say from that point on was more-or-less lost, as we were deciding on the choice we now had to make: whether to leave the time-management course right then and there - or - stay and see if anything useful would come up later.

Some of us left.

There are no tricks to time management. There just aren’t any. Don’t even bother taking a time-management class, it is itself a waste of time, because time management doesn’t exist, only choices as to what to do with that time. Maybe a better course would be “decision making.”

The above example is a simple one but with huge consequence. Our decision, which was taken unconsciously, was simply to keep our job and keep putting up with the overload, and the pager. We couldn’t manage either the overload, nor time, and that became quite clear by the end of the class.

The only choice that remains is overload, until you crack, and then you have to choose leaving or changing your job, and sometimes even this is beyond your control, like getting laid off, for example.

Life is about choices lost or damned. I’m not talking about deciding to rent a movie vs. watching a show you’ve taped; I’m talking about managing life.

In such cases, invariably and inevitably, the choices are always rock-and-hard place types. When you get into decisions about what you want most out of life, you often get pasted into the corner. I’m not saying all wants and desires are mutually exclusive, not at all, what I am saying is that most of the really big ones are.

The successful people tout balance as the epitome of choice. “You have to have balance in your life,” I hear them say.

An example I’ve used in a previous blog, one can raise a family or have a sports car. If one has a job that allows balancing both, you are either fucking people over for a living or you are spending all your time at work and your spouse or S.O. is raising the kids and your sports car is an expensive commute vehicle, as opposed to being a refreshing toy. Yeah, that’s balance all right. But is it really what one wanted?

Once we’ve accumulated a number of wants for ourselves, it becomes increasingly difficult to derive satisfaction from any of them without impacting the other. See above about raising kids versus satisfying career versus sports car.

One possible philosophy is to “need-not, want-not.”  Indeed this can work, by sublimating the problem entirely. This utter refusal to make any further choice is in reality changing the rules of the game. More power to them! But I wonder how they make the rent? This is a perfect tactic for convicts for instance. Don’t know that I’d want to go that route.

Another is to time-slice. Career for 20 years, kids for 20 years, time to heal myself for… well, we get the idea. This one is managing your life plan, balanced though it is not within each slice. It can work if you have the patience and determination for it. It forces one to live in the moment probably more so than any other philosophy. Not bad really. A strategy that is effective for many people. Just not for me.

What’s left is wrangling, scheming, planning, and all around chuckin’ & jivin’ to have your cake and eat it too. Then most of your effort is invested in attaining what you want, and not so much enjoying it. Some proponents will say: “it’s the trip that matters, not the destination.” I think of those Tibetan monks climbing the mountain… because it’s there.

I’ve jumped from one to the other in my life, hoping to stumble across a fitting philosophy for myself. The latter has been somewhat successful, I say this because it’s been somewhat unfulfilling as well, at least as far as the trip goes.

Right now, I am engaged in that crossroads again where choices are laid out in front of me, because, well, I want them to be.

So now I have rocks, I have hard-places, and I have the curse.