In Through The Out Door

I’ve been reading a book about parenting lately that explores, among other things, how to embrace and engage your “spirited child.” We have one of those. A delightful little kid who has TONS of spirit. So we’re trying to figure out how to utilize that spirit in the most positive way we can. You see, my in-laws both spent their entire careers trying to better the lives of children. Not their own, though they did a damn good job at that, too.  So when they speak about and give guidance on what to provide children with at young age, I listen. Intently. The recurring theme is this: focus on their strengths and use those strengths to overcome or minimize any weaknesses. It’s not a very complicated theme, but some of the stories I hear from about their work seems to indicate that many parents  weren’t able to embrace that simple theme.

Once again, I’m getting sidetracked. This book I’m reading goes into fairly specific detail about introverts and extroverts. I began thinking about my own personality traits as I really explored the two supposed opposites. What I found was that I have most definitely lean towards introvert, but I do have some extrovert tendencies.

Let’s go to Wikipedia for some more detail. My responses below are in bold:

Introverts often:

  • Gain energy when they are alone – hell yes
  • Derive energy from the inner world, ie, feelings, ideas, impressions – yep
  • Are good listeners – nope, but I’m trying
  • Think before you do or say – most of the time
  • Maintain more eye contact while listening to someone than when you speak to him – big time yes
  • Have little interest, but any interest is very immersed – nope
  • Only deep relationships with others is called “friendship” – yes
  • Prefer to talk face to face than in the group – oh lord yes
  • Speak slowly, with pauses –  no
  • That they need silence to concentrate, do not like it when they interrupt the work or any other activities (eg, ringing phone) – pretty much
  • Benefit from long-term memory, which often have the feeling of “lightheadedness” and may have trouble finding the right words during a conversation. yes
  • Better than extroverts to cope with tasks requiring attention – perhaps, but I’m not convinced
  • Easier to learn than by reading a conversation with others – yes
  • Prefer to reveal their inadequacy wit and mismatch – yes bigtime
  • Work the same regardless of whether they are praised or not, – nope, love praise
  • May have difficulty remembering faces and names – big yes, but can remember almost ANY phone number

So you can see that I have a lot introverted features. I am generally very uncomfortable talking and participating in large groups and prefer smaller groups or one-on-one. It’s not like I start to shake and pee myself in large groups, it’s just not my preference. I try my best. I absolutely LOVE spending time with myself. Which isn’t to say I ALWAYS need to be alone, but having time to myself does get me re-energized and always has. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, so perhaps I got used to it and embraced it.

Now, an extrovert, according to Wikipedia:

is the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self. Extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and are generally enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious in social situations. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings such as: parties, community activities, public demonstrations, business, and political groups. Politics, teaching, sales, managing and brokering are fields that favor extroversion. An extroverted person enjoys and becomes energized by larger groups of people while time alone is less enjoyable and boring to them.

This is not me. For the most part. I believe very much that I have some extroverted tendencies. I do enjoy human interaction very much. In small groups. There are times when I am very talkative, though you have to know me quite well. Other than that, nothing in that description fits me very well. It’s all very interesting stuff. More from Wikipedia – and this pretty much nails it on the head for me:

Although extroverts and introverts have real personality and behavior differences, it is important to avoid pigeonholing or stereotyping by personality. Humans are complex and unique, and because extroversion varies along a continuum, they may have a mixture of both orientations. A person who acts introverted in one scenario may act extroverted in another, and people can learn to act “against type” in certain situations. Jung’s theory states that when someone’s primary function is extroverted, his secondary function is always introverted (and vice versa).

So I see facets of both traits in my own children. I will, in observance and the experience of what my in-laws have told me, do my best to have my children embrace their strengths and whether they are introverts or extroverts doesn’t really matter because one isn’t better than the other. But it’s fun to delve into this stuff again (I studied and minored in Sociology in college). Yes, by the way, I have taken the Myers-Briggs test. I came out as an INFP, but was extremely close to ENFP. So there you have it. Your complete reading of my personality. Fascinating, I know. Or not.

Company and Privacy

Tomorrow (March 8) will mark exactly one year since I changed jobs. It seems completely impossible that one year has gone by so quickly, but the numbers don’t lie. Many of my friends ask me how it’s going and if I think I made the right move. As you might imagine, sometimes it takes a year – or even longer – to know for sure if you’ve done the right thing when you make a job change. Making a change that dramatic can be traumatic. Me? Hell, I consider myself lucky that I elected to make the change. Not a lot of people seem to be able to do that on their own these days. So almost every day, I thank my lucky stars I even have a job.

The answer to the question, by the way, is a resounding, amplified, loud YES. Believe me, there are still days when I feel like I’m walking through the dark woods with little-to-no guidance, but for the most part I must say the move has been insanely positive, exciting and of course educational, but professionally and sociologically. There haven’t been many days when I wanted to get back to the utter comfort of what I did before, to slink back into the old chair at Ask and just put it on robot. That happens when you do something for nine years – it becomes robot. So you rust it out and move on.

So, that thing about walking through the dark woods – I think this feeling is amplified when I think about where I came from – a larger organization with a lot of processes in place.  I spent nine years there and Ask in 2001 was actually a lot like where I am now:  a younger, leaner, wild-west of a place. When Ask was bought for 2 billion bucks in 2005, everything changed. My job itself didn’t change much, but the company around me most certainly did. It matured. Fast.

I spent an additional four years there after the acquisition and, all told, ended up learning a TON and soaking up an environment of extremely smart, creative, driven people. People whom I sometimes miss daily. When I think about Ask, I never think “boy, I miss that job.” Because I don’t. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I didn’t really feel challenged there anymore. It was like throwing on that old, comfortable college sweatshirt during my last year, which by the way, was one of my most successful years there. I, like the old sweatshirt, was completely functional, but worn out, frayed – and, yeah, time for something new. So when I think about Ask now, I think about some of the really fun times I had there with really great people. The frustrations and crap fade away with time. Much like life itself, it’s the relationships that matter most. I don’t keep in regular touch with many people there, but I do occasionally drop in for a hello on chat or email from time to time. It’ll be fun to hang with them again when the situation presents itself. And it will.

The new job? I guess I can’t call it the new job anymore, can I? The last year has been a seachange, learning to navigate the sometimes choppy and sometimes smooth waters of an entirely new set of heartbeats. Retail is an interesting beast, let me tell you. I was on the ground floor of the Newbury Comics internet business for about a year back in 1998-99 and that’s the extent of my retail experience, other than working in a mall record store in high school in 1988-89. As you imagine, though, given my interest in hockey, the perks are lovely. Many people ask me if I am sick of hockey yet. No, I am not at all.

Ten years after Newbury Comics, at this time last year, I plopped into the chair of Marketing guy (online and offline) at one of the country’s largest hockey and lacrosse retailers. Niche retailing, they call it. I’m still learning every day. I learn from my boss. I learn a LOT from our store managers, whether they know it or not. I learn from my co-workers. And I sincerely hope they learn from me, because I do believe I have a lot to share. Geez, I hope they feel the same.

Anyway, isn’t that what life is about? Learning. Learning about work, about people, about everything. Tonight I had to explain to one of my children what “company” is. In the process of potty training, he has learned what “privacy” is, so in the context of one of those conversations, the subject of having “company” came up (as a quick sidenote, my boy has only requested privacy on the potty once, otherwise, it has required my or Steph’s, um, company). So I had to tell my son what” company” was and the only thing that popped into my head was to tell him “company is when you need someone with you.”

I have to say, needing someone with you is a statement for the ages, whether it applies to work, home, or friends. There are the very rare people you meet in life who are truly, completely satisfied being alone. Think about that for a second. How many people do you know who are 100% happy by themselves? Not many. Company is what it’s all about. Be it your spouse, your co-workers or your friends, company is what makes most people’s world’s tick. When you look back on it all, you’re sure as hell not going to think about all your jobs, are you?

I know I won’t. But I can tell you this: I love my job. And I love company. Am I making any sense? I’m not sure.

I Don’t Remember, I Don’t Recall

I went to a friend’s 40th birthday party the other night. I guess this is the year all my old classmates and I turn 40.

I have this very specific memory of laying down on the floor of my house, probably 9 or 10 years old. The TV is on and it is the evening. I have a pen and a notebook and I’m laying on the floor, writing in the notebook. I’m writing down numbers. Lots of numbers, next to each other, on top of one another, numbers everywhere, really. I occasionally look up at the TV, but for the most part as I am laying there on my stomach with my pajamas on. I distinctly remember scanning the page, up and down, looking at the numbers and saying to myself “this is probably what math is like in college.” A few minutes later I distinctly remember saying to myself “wow, I will be 29 in the year 2000.”

What does all this have to do with a 40th birthday party? Well, memories for one. The recurring theme of this blog is that I am rather fascinated with the passage of time and all the sociological and mental aspects of dealing with it. We are obviously not the same people at 10, 20, 30 and 40. Obviously. Just think of yourself at those ages and how much you changed every ten years. It’s all dramatic change. I find myself wondering if the level of change will be similar from 40 to 50. I think the changes will be more physical on this go around. But who am I to know? I guess the older people can chime in if they want.

Anyway, memories. As we sat around the table at the party, each of us had very specific memories of one another that we all pretty much forgot. One woman who I’ve known since the age of five told me she remembered clear as day that back in Kindergarten I always seemed to know the days of week. I always knew what day it was. Of course, I have no memories of this. Another friend reminded me that when we were 19 he crashed for months on the couch of the apartment on Peterborough St in Boston. I felt bad, and told him so, that I had forgotten about this. How could I have possibly forgotten about someone who I lived with? For months! Of course, as soon as he said it, I remembered that and more and he also filled in some cracks of my memory about other amusing stuff that happened in that apartment and on that floor.

So how is that we can retain certain things, certain moments, from when we’re splayed out on the floor of our house when we’re 9, but we can’t remmeber someone we lived with for a couple of months when we were 19? It’s absolutely fascinating stuff.  Anyway, that night was a blast. When you get five people who have known each other for that long a period of time, there are inevitably some chestnuts that get unearthed. The biggest laugh of the night (and probably the biggest laugh of the YEAR) was the result of something that someone had forgotten, in fact.

So this is the year we all turn 40. I’m pretty okay with that, so long as I can keep connecting with the people I’ve been on the ride with. One thing that does keep changing for me is the value of those relationships. Even if I only connect with them once a year, once a month, once a whatever. Those relationships keep getting more important to me. I want to hear more stories that I’ve forgotten. I want to laugh. I want to remember.

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Peter Gabriel, “I Don’t Remember”

I got no means to show identification
I got no papers show you what I am
You'll have to take me just the way that you find me
What's gone is gone and I do not give a damn
Empty stomach, empty head
I got empty heart and empty bed
I don't remember
I don't remember

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything

Strange is your language and I have no decoder
Why don't you make your inentions clear
With eyes to the sun and your mouth to the soda
Saying, "Tell me the truth, you got nothing to fear
Stop staring at me like a bird of prey
I'm all mixed up, I got nothing to say
I don't remember
I don't remember

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything
Anything at all

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don't remember, I don't recall
i got no memory of anything
absolutely anything at all
I don't remember

Checking In

I don’t know. I have to tell you, I really wish I could write here more. I truly do. I miss really taking the time to write, to really think something out and put it down. It’s funny – this week a friend of mine emailed to tell me that he still reads the blog and is happy that someone out there is still writing in the “long-form” online format, instead of doing what everyone else is doing, which is writing in 140 character blips (i.e., Facebook and Twitter). Here’s the problem – I’m updating Facebook and Twitter WAY  more than here. Because that is honestly all I have time for. I feel like the bad guy, abandoning a 10 year relationship, which is essentially what I have done.

It makes me a little sad. But how sad can I be? It’s life, man. Commuting has replaced blogging. So be it. There’s not much I can do about it, so I’ll continue to miss writing, but I’ll try to do it when I can. “When I can” tends to be Saturday nights at roughly 11 or midnight. Normally I’m in bed at this time every night, but Saturday’s I’ll draw it out a little and go old school. Spend a little time by myself. Try to find some new music or read a book, maybe write a post.

But it’s hard to come up with stuff when my life is so……….well…….I don’t know. Nothing interesting is happening. I should re-phrase that. I’m pretty sure that every day something interesting happens with my kids and life, but I’ve said it before and I will say it again – this blog is not about my kids. And it never will be. There’s plenty of mommy and daddy blogs out there if that’s what you’re looking for, so go find them.

Speaking of books, I’ve just finished Jean Edward Smith’s FDR biopic. Good golly. It was almost 900 pages. Now, I knew FDR’s presidency was transformative, but I never realized to what degree. The things this man accomplished in office were astounding. He didn’t do it without controversy, or without having some pretty low ratings in the public opinion polls, but my goodness, the list of things his administration accomplished are extraordinary. If you are at all a fan of history, this one is one of the best. A captivating, interesting read. A lot of the personal stuff (and there was a lot with FDR) was left out of the book, which I appreciated. You can’t write a fair bio without getting into it in some detail, but the book was largely focused on his professional accomplishments. What a read!

I’m still following this year’s version of the Bruins with great interest. I’ve been to probably 6 games and I think I’m 1-5. All of them have been close. I’d like to hope I’m not an albatross around the team’s neck when I am there. Because I plan to be at all the playoff games this spring. I do not think they will make the Cup finals, but I think they’re a possibility for a fairly deep run if they can make a meaningful move before the trading deadline.

Get Off My Cloud

I was thinking about privacy today. There is a much talk about Facebook (or any other internet entity that has a social focus) and the controversy surrounding your privacy. I guess most people aren’t aware that there are a litany of options for you when it comes to sharing your data on Facebook. You can open yourself up to the entire world or you can make everything private. I don’t necessarily view Facebook as being mis-leading to its gazillions of users about privacy, I view the gazillions of users who don’t take the time to seek out their privacy options as……..lazy, I guess.

Oh, there is grand debate about your privacy settings when you first sign up – some may say that Facebook should make ALL of your data private from the get-go.  But they don’t. Or that they should make the privacy options easier to understand. But they don’t, really. I’ll let you guess why. It starts with an M and it ends with a Y. They need dinner, too, you know. That’s why those ads you see on the right side of the page are so eerily accurate when it comes to your interests. They are accurate most of the time, any way. Nobody is perfect.  So why is everyone so spooked? I don’t think the Facebook ads are that invasive. Sometimes I laugh at the targeting. But other times I’m pretty impressed that a lot of the advertising is stuff I am actually interested in. I can tell you that I, as a marketer, have bought these ads for the company I work for and I’ve been largely happy with the results.

Yes, privacy in the age of the internet has gotten much looser and there is potential for more impact. You can’t argue that one. There’s a lot of info about you out there. I remember as a wee lad, we used to pull the old ‘79 Mercury Cougar up to the Fotomat. Kids of the ’70s and ’80s, you surely remember this little place! Oh, you don’t? Well, look here. When I say little, I mean little. We used to pull the car up and drop off and pickup our photos. Of course, as a kid I  never gave much thought to privacy, but let’s face it, as far back as forever your privacy has been exposed to many people of all stripes, including those high schoolers who worked at Fotomat that could see all your family pictures. Just imagine some of the stuff THEY saw! Or think about this – in the early age of the telephone, operators could sit there and listen to your every word. Don’t forget that. Having your privacy exposed is not some new-fangled issue. It’s just become more of a target with the explosion of the internet – there is clearly more on the line.

So the whole privacy thing? A concern for sure, but let’s not get all overheated about it. Do the work to protect yourself – websites aren’t going to do it for you. If you are at all suspicious, then simply don’t participate. Like Gene Simmons said, “if you don’t like it, then don’t listen to it.” And I hate Gene Simmons.

Robot Probe

Somewhere on the interwebs in the last year two I wrote something about New Years Resolutions. I don’t make them every year – and for good reason – I usually don’t feel the need to. Now, let me be clear: setting goals for one’s self is fine. After all, we live in a world where you need to strive for something, otherwise you’ll likely find yourself listless, floating around. Hopefully we all have goals, be it personal or professional. But I don’t necessarily need to sit down with pen and paper, stroke my chin and pontificate every year on January 1 about what I need to do in the next 12 months. I don’t need calendar dates to strive for things, I guess. I’m working towards something all the time. That being said, I’ve made resolutions before. Last year at this time, for some whacked out reason, I felt the need to make three of them and I said on Facebook (or was it Twitter? Or my blog?) that I would reveal them at the end of 2010. Well, here we are, the end of 2010 and here they are (were?)

1. To get a new job. Which I did. I don’t need to go into details – you can read my blog back in February and March for the details. was a great place to work. I dearly miss the people I worked with on a daily basis, for the most part. But it was time. It was also absolutely the right move, beyond any doubt. The new job (is it still new?) provides lots of challenges (and rewards) and I’m glad I made the move. It is a complete shift in so many ways (cultural, structural….the works) and it really woke me up in ways I think I’m still discovering.

2. To be more patient. Can’t say I accomplished this one. I really really wanted to, though. I am, historically, a fairly impatient person. I don’t like it at all and I suppose I have nobody to blame but myself. I’d love to place ALL the blame on the fact I’m in the first generation of people who grew up with so many options for truly instant gratification (cable TV, the excesses of the 1980s, mobile phones, blah blah blah) but in the end I’m the one who has to do the work to improve this. Before you get any pictures in your head, I’m not some fiery yelling type. I’ve never punched a wall. Never fought. I never yell. I occasionally slam my hockey stick on the bench, but that happens maybe once every two years. I’m more a brooder than a yeller. I was thinking that having twins would force me to become more patient, but I’m not sure that has happened. I’m here to tell you that having two 3 year olds will test your patience…..and then some. I am my own harshest critic, so I think I can do better. By the way,  I don’t think I’m less patient then before having kids, I’m just the same. Impatient. I don’t need New Year’s to convince me it needs work, so I’m calling this one a work in progress.

3. To start weightlifting again. Let me paint the picture for you – I’m not striving to have veins popping out of my pectorals. I mean, have you seen me? Hello. But I do miss the weights. And I do notice the difference. And I WILL start again. But I didn’t get to it this year. Now, for this I have a completely legit excuse – I spent a lot of the year with ailments that prevented me from doing it meaningfully. For much of the year I had a goofed up elbow that would have become much worse had I done any kind of regiment on weights. For the initial six months of 2010, I was also battling a shoulder ailment that really sidetracked me. I even had x-rays and rehab on it. Both seem better now, so the only thing that appears to be stopping me from picking it up again is time – and I will find it. Now, the question begs itself – had I continued doing weights over the last 1-2 years, would these ailments have even happened? Of course, impossible to say, so I can’t subject myself to wondering.

So…..I hit .333. There’s two ways to look at it. If I’m a baseball player, I’m an All-Star hitter. If I’m taking a school test, it’s an F. I guess the true answer is somewhere in between.

2011 – I’m going to go back to not having resolutions. And away we go.

Hybrid Driving

Driving a hybrid car is definitely a different experience. Witness the following:

- My car offers a lot of information to a driver. I can, by toggling a single button, get access to my tire pressure (which is important for hybrids), what my average MPG is for each of my last five gas tanks, what my average MPG is in total (this was reset when I bought the car) and of course, my current MPG for the current gas tank.

- I also have access as I drive to my efficiency. What I mean is that I can see, in real time as I drive, what my MPG is. This is an interesting phenomenon. On one hand, it’s amazing to see how efficient I’m driving – while I drive. I can, and do, make adjustments based on the meter. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to be made aware every single time I touch the gas that I’m gulping petrol. Life has enough guilt trips, so I’m not sure I need my dashboard computer giving me more. In the end, though, I have to remember why I bought the vehicle.

- The car has two driving modes that help enhance MPG. One is ECON. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of it, but I can tell you that it reduces power at low speeds when you hit the gas. This is, perhaps, where you notice the largest difference between a hybrid and a traditional gas engine car. In ECON mode, you are conserving quite a bit of fuel by not feeling that instant gratification you’re used to with a gas burner. Since I purchased the car, I have not taken the mode out of ECON. Again, remembering why I bought the vehicle.

- There is also EV mode. This seems like more a marketing feature to me, but if you’re in EV mode, it means the car is running on no gas whatsoever. This is ideal for 92 year olds who drive under 20mph all the time. After 20mph, it switches automatically to the gas/hybrid engine. So it doesn’t really do much for the average driver.

- So here’s what I’ve learned about driving efficiency: cruise control is your best friend. You get optimal efficiency by NOT pressing the gas. So don’t think of the cruise control as a traditional old-school highway tool. I use it everywhere now, to prevent me from going 35 to 40 to 35 to 30 to 40, which I have historically been prone to do. I’m really learning to drive patiently, which I think my wife will just love. It is a little amusing to set the cruise control at 25 or whatever, but the amusement or I guess the embarrassment of doing the speed limit is far overshadowed by the little readout that tells me I’m averaging 60 MPG’s by doing so.

- Embrace neutral. Drop the car into neutral on large downward hills and slopes and Earth will love you. It some cases it will throw the car into EV mode automatically, which will immediately qualify you to be Al Gore’s cousin. And you can smile as your readout again tells you you’re at 60 MPG’s.

- Warm up the car. Better efficiency when you drive a car that’s been running for a few minutes. That’s true with any car, not just hybrid.

- I haven’t driven during hot weather yet, but the word is that air conditioning detracts from MPG. Sigh. This will be a battle, given that I would probably fork over my life savings to be comfortable and cool during the summer. We will see how much it affects MPG in the summer of ‘11.

So what are the results? I’ve had 6 fill-ups thus far and my average MPG is 26.9. I’m pretty sure I can do better, because on my 4th tank I put up a 27.7. This is roughly equivalent or possibly a slight improvement on my old Camry. Given my car is a 7 seat Highlander Hybrid with double the cargo space, I’m generally satisfied, but striving to improve that mpg!