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Revisiting an old post. . .(kinda, sorta)

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Find your PassionFive – nearly six – years ago I wrote a post entitled, “You Have To Know the “Rules” . . .(before you can break or bend them)”. It was a not-all-that-subtle attempt to explain how to approach the interview process; how to dress appropriately combined with an attempt to advise job-seekers on the (then touchy) subject of tattoos. The job market had tanked and I felt there was a need for information about finding work, and the various problems that arise during the job search. There are a lot of them, and not all of them have to do with “pounding the pavement”, submitting resumés, etc. . . There was nothing new in the post, nothing that shouldn’t have been “common knowledge” or “common sense”. Still, the article seemed a “good fit” so I posted it, and then promptly forgot about it and moved on to different topics. Then a funny thing happened.

Of all the posts I’ve written on this blog (and I’m the first to admit there haven’t been all that many), “You Have To Know the “Rules” . . .” is the one post most often referenced by people stopping by this blog.  I began to wonder why. I’ve written on a variety of topics, not all of which have to do with job-hunting.  Many have been (at least to me) humorous or autobiographical; some have been straight fiction.  So why did this one post elicit so much popularity after so many years? Are there still people “out there” who need help job-hunting, or dealing with the interview process? Or was it something else?

Were people looking for some “magic bullet” that would allow them to find the perfect job, the most satisfying career, the most blissful life? Was the title of the post misleading? Were my readers referencing the post in hopes of finding some “inside track” that would magically supply them with the key to finding happiness? Is that why people were reading “You Have To Know The “Rules”. . . ? God, I hope not!

Because the simple truth of the matter is, there aren’t any. There are no one-size-fits-all “rules” for anything. In fact, the only “rules” are the ones you make for yourself. Everything else is a “guideline”, a “suggestion”. Sure corporations large and small have “rules” for how the work gets done, how the employees should behave, etc. . .(but they’re the corporation’s rules, not yours) and you can accept them or reject them, along with the job. That’s entirely up to you.

What it comes down to, in the final analysis is this: “Rules”, whether they’re set up by your parents, teachers, pastors, employers or friends are really their expectations of how you should behave, or what you should learn, or what you should believe, or what you should do to try to fit in and nothing more. It’s up to you to decide those things, not someone else.

You have your own ideas of what constitutes a good life, a happy life. You have your own dreams and plans and hopes for the future. It’s up to you – and you alone – to make those plans and dreams and hopes reality. You’ll never get there if you spend your time (and it’s a very limited amount of time) trying to live up to someone (or everyone) else’s expectations, or “rules”. (Image courtesy of gapingvoid,com)






Written by stevewthomas

May 9, 2016 at 11:55 am

Like children and gardens, creativity needs nurturing

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          For anyone who wishes to nurture their “creative spirit”, or wishes they were “more creative”, I have a few suggestions.  The first is, get a job.  If you already have one, fine.  Keep it.  If you don’t, get one.  Now.   I know this is going to sound counter-intuitive to those of you who’ve grown up on the “all you need is passion and the will to succeed” myth, but the truth — the very ugly truth — is, unless you’re a “trust fund baby” or Mom and Dad are willing to foot the bills while you search for your bliss, without a job you’re likely to find yourself living in your car down by the river, real quick.  So if you don’t have a job, find one.  It doesn’t have to be the job, it just has to be a job; one that pays you enough to pay the bills and have enough left over for a modicum of entertainment now and then (all work and no play . . . ).  It also helps if it doesn’t make you gag when you think about it, or show up at the office (or wherever) with a loaded AK-47.  If it does, find another job. Quick!  Oh, and it also helps if it affords you enough time for “outside interests”.  There aren’t many of these types of jobs around, but there are some; find one that suits.

          Once you’ve established how you make your living, make an effort to develop those outside interests; something different from your workaday job.  It doesn’t have to be radically different, just different enough so you don’t associate it with how you earn your living, and different enough to provide a distraction.  The “distractive (is that even a word?) element” in your choice of outside interest is important.  Creative ideas have an infuriating habit of showing up at the least opportune moments, usually when you’re doing something else.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been elbow-deep in my herb garden or engrossed in a project at my craft bench when the solution to a problem I’ve been struggling with (like writing this post) presents itself.

          I can hear you saying, “But I don’t have time for “outside interests”!”  That’s pretty much a standard response.  Today’s work environment is so competitive, so mind-numbingly tedious, all you want to do at day’s end is plop in a chair and “veg out” or mindlessly surf the ‘net.  I know, I’ve been there (binge-watching “Breaking Bad” or “GoT” or “Girls” or . . . whatever).  But if you were to divert some of that time and devote it to doing something you enjoy; playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, woodworking, working with crafts, yoga . . . whatever “floats your boat”, I’ll wager you’ll soon find yourself making time for it.  Besides, you didn’t really want to watch another NCIS marathon, did you?

           I know what you’re thinking, “All that may be true, but I’m not interested in any of that stuff.  None of if sounds “interesting” enough.”  No?  Well, you’re sitting at your computer, right now.  Why not “google” your local community college or artists’ co-operative?  I bet they have dozens, if not hundreds, of interesting ideas.  Ever thought about origami?  Tulle painting? How about glass-blowing?  Why not join an acting class?

           The point I’m attempting to make here is, once you have the necessities in hand, its time to open yourself up to new experiences.  Pique your curiosity.  Experiment with life. Meet new people; exchange ideas, learn new skills.  It’s the only way to prepare yourself for the opportunities that will present themselves. 

          Being creative is not a passive activity; you can’t sit back and wait for inspiration to come to you.  You have to go out and inspire yourself.  Creativity, like Life, is not a spectator sport.  So turn off the “Doctor Who?” retrospective and find something interesting to do.



Written by stevewthomas

May 26, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Finding passion (revisited). . .

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To start with, I’m not going to be posting anymore fiction here.  It’s obvious (at least to me) I have no talent for it. so you won’t have to suffer with any of that drivel in the future.  That being said, here is some “drivel” of a different sort.  To wit:


       Find your PassionWe’ve been hearing this advice, doled out by business leaders, successful artists and entrepreneurs, for years.  “Do what you love, the money will follow”, they tell us, or “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Jeffrey Katzenberg (yes, that, Pixar, Jeffrey Katzenberg) thinks we should stop (at least temporarily) following our dreams.

          Addressing an audience of several hundred at  the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles recently, Katzenberg said, business leaders “talk to kids today about following your dreams, but I’m not actually sure that’s such a great idea.  How about follow your skill?” he asked, then added, “I believe every human being does something great.  Follow that thing you’re really good at and that may become your passion.”  Here was a successful business leader, one of the “movers and shakers” of the film industry telling hundreds of people, “don’t follow your passion”.  I was stunned.

          At first, it sounded as though he was saying, “forget passion, get a job”.  But then I thought about it for a couple of minutes and I realized he was really explaining, in a very succinct way, how to find your passion.  It starts by being good at something; and everybody is good at something.  It’s in developing the skills that enable us to do what we’re good at that allows us to find that passion, that joie de vie that urges us from “good” to “great”.  There are other advantages to developing skills.

          Unless you’re independently wealthy, with no need to generate an income (and I don’t know of anyone in that situation, especially in today’s economy), the necessity of “gainful employment” is one that can’t be overlooked.  Skills are marketable: passion, not so much.  You may be passionate about climate change or painting or marine biology or baseball; or all of them for that matter. No one said you can’t be passionate about more than one thing. But it you don’t possess the skills necessary to pursue those passions, it’s unlikely you’ll find employment in any field other than fast food. 

(Thanks to gapingvoid for the graphic)


Written by stevewthomas

May 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm

“I Hate My Job!” . . .(but do you, really?)

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It’s absolutely astonishing how often you hear this complaint; from friends, co-workers, even complete strangers.  You’ve more than likely even voiced it yourself, at one time of another during your working life.  If you were to believe everything you read in magazines, newspapers and online, or hear on television and radio, you would undoubtedly come to the conclusion, there is no one, anywhere in the world, who actually enjoys what they do for a living.  No one.  Anywhere.  And therein lies the rub. . .

It seems counter-intuitive to spend four, six, eight, or however many, years of schooling, preparing to go into a particular line of work, one you love (or think you do, anyway), enter the workplace armed with all (or nearly all) the skills needed to succeed in your chosen field, work for a few years, (perhaps even moving up the “ladder of success” in the process), only to discover you really can’t stand what it is you do.  It just doesn’t make any sense, really.

But if you were to examine all the reasons you supposedly hate your job, you’re bound to come to the conclusion you don’t really hate your work.  You love the work; you love doing what you do, you just hate all the “other stuff”.  Boring meetings.  Unrealistic schedules.  Micro-managers, Superfluous paperwork.  In short, what you hate is all the crap you have to wade through just to do the work.  It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and run screaming (as soon as possible after quitting time) to the nearest bar in a vain attempt to slough off the despair that’s gripped you.  So you sit there, in the cool semi-darkness, sipping your second (or third?) beer, vodka/tonic, martini, or what-have-you, thinking about how much you hate your job and how you would love to extricate yourself from the soul-crushing prison it has become.  You know, quit the “9-to-5” job and start a “consulting” business, or maybe try “freelancing”.  Those are enticing ideas, sitting in a bar, but in the “cold light of day”, they’re very scary and potentially very, very expensive.

There are alternatives, and they don’t involve taking any undue risks, like the ones associated with changing employers or freelancing, etc.  The alternatives are called “Hobbies“.  Wait a minute.  Don’t start laughing just yet.  Think about it.  Hobbies require little, or no, upfront investment.  Likewise, there is no risk involved (unless, and until, you decide to take them).  Hobbies allow you to explore other employment opportunities (almost as if they were designed that way) without sacrificing any financial security you’ve accrued  through gainful employment.  Hobbies also have the added benefit of being a proven stress reducer.  Let’s face it, by the time you get home (be it a mortgage-laden house or an overpriced apartment), you’re so stressed out, so emotionally and physically drained, you have no desire to do much of anything but “veg out” in front of the TV or mindlessly surf the ‘Net, then drag yourself to bed, sleep (fitfully) for a few all-too-brief hours, only to wake up and repeat the entire process.  Not so with hobbies.  They have the benefit of being relaxing and invigorating.  There are some hobbies that promote a Zen-like atmosphere most conducive to meditation which, in turn, allows access to that under-nourished creative sense we all possess and which your job has nearly starved out of existence.  Even people who pursue hobbies closely associated with their workaday life experience renewed interest and creative focus in what they’re  doing.

Best of all, there’s no “mickey mouse” nonsense involved in a hobby.  No meetings.  No superfluous paperwork.  No nitpicking micro-manager staring over your shoulder.  There’s just you and the work.  And you can make it as difficult or as easy as you like.  You can even make mistakes!  There’s no “dark cloud of failure” hanging over your head.  You can do it over or throw it away,  It’s your choice.  And isn’t that what it’s all about, really?

What is “Writer’s Block”, really?

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DSCN0890  When I decide to write a post, one of the first assumptions I make is everyone who reads the post is a “writer” of one description or another; they are communicators, storytellers of one kind or another, regardless of the medium they use.  We all have the “cacoethia scribendi“, the itch to scribble and when we can’t scratch that itch the resulting tension becomes almost unbearable.  We call this inability to “scratch the itch” writer’s block.

I’ve suffered from this “malady”, often for long periods of time, struggled mightily trying to tell my story, to put words — any words — on the page only to be met with frustration and anger, finally tearing the page from the pad and hurling it onto the ever-growing pile of crumpled pages in (and around) the wastebasket.  At that point, I usually “disengage” from the process of writing proper and find something else to occupy my mind (I say “writing proper” because we all know the writing never actually stops when we move away from the page; there’s always “something” niggling in the recesses of our brains, eventually forcing us back to that cursed blank page).  I’ll grab my camera and wander the neighborhood in search of something to photograph, or pick up a book ( this activity usually only reinforces my feeling of failure at having been unable to fill that blank page), or I’ll turn my attention to some neglected housekeeping task, all the while hoping by doing so my unconscious/subconscious mind will eventually provide the impetus to return to the page and fill it with “deathless prose”.  It rarely happens and, in any case, my prose could hardly be called, “deathless”.

I was looking through my picture library when I came across the image above: a fountain pen seemingly abandoned on a blank pad of paper.  I had intended it as nothing more than a “study”, an exercise in composition and perspective.  I hadn’t intended it as anything else.  But seeing it in the context of my struggle with “writer’s block”, I became aware of the story behind the image.  In selecting those specific items for my “study”, I had unintentionally begun the process of writing this post.  In fact, I had “written” it, almost in its entirety.  That’s when the “light went on” and I come to understand the nature — the true nature — of my difficulty.  I wasn’t suffering from “writer’s block”, I was suffering from “translator’s block!”  The reason I couldn’t get the words on paper wasn’t because I couldn’t find the right words, I couldn’t find the right language — the right medium in which to begin.  I needed a visual cue — a “Rosetta Stone”, so to speak — to help me translate what was in my head and put it on the page.

If living has taught me anything it’s there is more than one language, one medium, in which to tell a story.  This was my story.  It started with a picture.  Your story may begin,  or it may be written in its entirety, in another “language”  — music, painting, sculpture, dance, what-have-you.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is your story.  Don’t confine yourself to only one way of telling.  What we call “writer’s block” is really your mind telling you, “There could be a different — better — way to tell this story”.  As creatives we owe it to ourselves (and our readers/viewers/listeners) to find that way.

Deconstructing food & other shifts in perspective . . .

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If you’ve been following this blog lately, you may know I’ve recently acquired a new camera, a Nikon L810; one of the Coolpix line of point-and-shoot cameras from Nikon.  I decided I needed something more than the pocket-sized Fuji I had previously; one “dedicated”, so to speak, to use in photographing the jewelry I create.  The fact that its almost completely automatic and therefore “idiot proof” was another point in favor of the camera’s purchase.  But something happened during the process of learning all the features and functions of the camera.  After a few hours of playing around with the camera, I became aware of a subtle shift in the way I viewed the world around me.  The reason for this stems, in part, I’m sure, from the fact the type of photography I gravitated toward, shooting small things like earrings, bracelets and the like, is referred to as “product photography”.  The vast majority of the time these pictures are taken at very close range with what is called a “Macro” lens; one designed for close-ups.  Getting close to your subjects allows you to see, not just heretofore unnoticed details of objects, you begin, slowly at first, to see the artistic value of the different parts of the whole.  In a very real sense, by narrowing your focus, you widen your view.  I began to see the possibilities inherent in the discreet parts of objects rather than simply seeing the assembled whole.  And I began to experiment. . .DSCN0847  At first, I played with whole objects (like this silk flower) and light.  I also added a dark background and a sheet of polished glass.  The light source was a $10.00 pocket Maglite (not exactly hi-tech lighting).  Encouraged, I continued playing with light to enhance color and mood.  The resulting pictures really made me feel good about what I was doing (and learning) . . .DSCN0852 I began to learn to trust my camera, that it was “seeing” more than my eyes. . .      DSCN0854 The results of my efforts were clichés, to be sure; pictures taken so many times by photography students worldwide, seen by so many people, they have become mundane and nearly void of impact.  But not by me,  I had never done anything like this and I was extremely happy with my results (untutored as I was) and emboldened to try other experiments. . .with food — recipes, to be precise.DSCN0862 DSCN0871  I call these two pictures, “Pasta & Sauce” and “Guacamolé”, respectively.  They are experiments (often seen experiments, to be sure) in deconstruction, the constituent parts of an Italian dinner and a Mexican chip-dip,  Nothing special but I enjoyed doing them and was gratified by the resulting images.  There was still one more experiment I wanted to try,  I wanted to see if I could create a picture that reinterpreted an existing object as something other than what it was.  The object was a Christmas gift from my daughter.  Maybe you’ll think the resulting “reinterpretation” is a little too “cute”, but I like it.DSCN0863 The unassembled pieces of a puzzle depicting present-day San Francisco.  I call it, “San Francisco, April, 1906”. 

Some of the Things on my Mind . . .

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I haven’t been posting much the past few days and I want to apologize to those few who have taken the trouble to stop by and see if anything new has been posted.  Actually, I’ve been reading quite bit; blogs (other than mine), books and magazines (both online and off).  I think the reading has had more to do with my lack of writing than any inability on my part to find something of interest to write about or any “writers’ block” .  The simple truth of the matter is, I despair of my writing.  The more I read, the more I come to realize the tremendous amount of I don’t know what (I was going to say self-delusion, but that somehow doesn’t really convey what I mean; hubris probably comes closest to the mark) it takes to aspire to being a writer. 

I know myself well enough to realize this attitude stems, mostly, from my own low self-esteem; I have no background in writing, no extended education and no true writing experience (outside of “letters-to-the-editor” and more than one failed attempt(s) at blogging). I wrote papers, of course, during my brief collegiate career but never gave it much thought as a means of earning a living, just assignments that needed completion.  Still, for all that, I’ve always (at least it seems like “always”) had this cacoethia scribendi, this “itch to scribble”  I just couldn’t shake.  So, having filled my (up until then, empty) head with Romantic visions of conquering the “world of letters”, I embarked on my “writing career”.  It lasted a little over a year.  What I learned was I had no real skill with words and absolutely no tolerance for rejection, which is kind of weird when you consider how many times I’ve been married.  Don’t ask, it’s not something I’m especially proud of (except for the fact I kept doing it until I got it right). 

Anyway, I set aside any notion of being, or becoming, a writer and set out in search of “gainful employment”.  In the course of my wanderings in the world of work, I’ve been at various times a sailor, salesman, taxi driver, bartender and cook; none of which were especially enjoyable (with the exception of cooking, but then I have this inbred desire to eat on occasion and cooking seemed a “good fit”).  I still wrote, from time to time, still scratching that “itch to scribble”, but didn’t produce anything of more than passing interest (to me anyway).  Then, when I wasn’t looking, something happened that really changed everything.  I got old.

I didn’t look old.  I certainly didn’t feel old.  When I looked in the mirror each morning, I still saw a young man, ready to take on the world, staring sleepily back at me.  I could still work, could still be productive.  I hadn’t done anything wrong, hadn’t done anything except survive; in spite of everything, Viet Nam, living in California (Oakland in the 60s), and  all that followed, I’d managed (somehow) to live to “retirement age”.  I was a “Senior Citizen” and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.  I tried, really tried to prove I wasn’t ready to be set out to pasture, but the effort proved useless.  I simply wasn’t “marketable”, as one interviewer phrased it.  As I said earlier, I’m not real good with rejection, so I finally accepted the reality of my situation and settled into retirement, uncomfortably.  Anybody tells you when you retire, you should enjoy those “golden years” is full of **it!  If I had to  assign a metal to retirement it wouldn’t be gold, it’d be lead.  Dull, gray, heavy lead.  Describes retirement (for me anyway) perfectly; dull, gray and heavy.

So, this is why I’m here, writing this drivel.  I’m tired of my dull, gray, heavy life and I’m trying to do something, something to give me a reason to get out of bed in the afternoon.

I just had an interesting thought; a question, really.  If the College of Cardinals had elected a black pope, would the Holy See pay any more attention to him than the Republicans do to President Obama?  Just askin’. . .

(I’ll try to be less “whiny” in future posts, I promise.)

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