Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stop Using the Fax Machine if You Want to Appear Relevant

This morning I read a great post from Bob Lowry of A Satisfying Retirement. Bob recently read Graeme Thomson’s book George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door a biography of George Harrison. In his post, Lowry writes about the similarities he shares with Harrison. Here is the parallel Lowry makes between his career and Harrisons:
My tie to this story and his life? For the last 6-8 years of my radio consulting business did not evolve. I stayed with the same message, the same ideas, and the same approach that had proved so successful for me through the 1980's into the mid 90's. Even though my industry had changed dramatically, I stopped learning and listening. I didn't change my message or my methods. As a result, my business slowly slipped away until, in the same year that George Harrison died, I found myself faced with retirement, several years before I would have felt financially more secure. I had been passed by. I had stopped changing and found my approach irrelevant.

This post got me thinking about how to stay relevant in the workplace. My company has lost several employees this year to early retirement. When asked why they were leaving, they all responded the same way; their jobs were too stressful and they felt they couldn’t keep up with the changing technology. They weren't forced to retire, but I did hear grumblings about them and their failure to embrace change in meetings. Some managers had recommended phasing these employees out. Fortunately, other managers knew their value and protected them.

How do you know you are becoming irrelevant?

You still use the fax machine:
Last week during a meeting with our bank’s relationship manager, she recommended we stop receiving wire confirmations via fax. This service was costing our company $15 per fax while an email confirmation was free. This led to a conversation about how the fax machine was obsolete, expensive, inefficient etc. Our bank account manager has even contemplated removing his fax number from his business card. He only gets a couple of faxes a month and they are credit confirmations. I immediately knew why this was happening. His clients hadn’t updated their credit reference sheet which still listed fax numbers. (I may be one of them).

My former employee who despised and fought change with a passion was the only employee in our department to still use the fax machine on a regular basis. Every time I walked past the fax machine I’d pick up her faxes then drop them off at her desk. Her replacement refuses to use the fax machine. She also dislikes voice mail and instructs almost everyone who calls her to email her in the future.

You can’t find files after you save them:
Recently my company transferred our computer's data to a new server. During the process our IT manager complained about one of our employees, “She never takes classes to improve her skills or learn better ways to do her job.” His gripe: she didn’t know how to use windows and hadn’t been saving her Microsoft files to the server. I knew right away what she was doing wrong, since I used to do the same thing. When saving files that had been emailed to her she just hit save rather than moving the files to her documents folder and then saving them. My former employee from above used to do the same thing and I and my co-workers were constantly helping her find her files.

After this conversation I suggested our outside computer consultant conduct a class on windows for our administrative staff. He wasn’t keen on the idea saying everyone younger than 45 would be bored. Since most of the employees that struggled with windows have now left the company, this class is now on hold.

If you struggle with windows I suggest you take a class. They offer them at most tech schools, also some libraries and employment agencies offer them at minimal cost or for free.

You are still using the original version of your company’s software; new employees are no longer trained on this software and it doesn’t have the latest software enhancements.
All of the employees who retired early were using the old, outdated version of our company’s software.

You don’t know how to use pivot tables in excel:
A few weeks ago one of my gym buddies, who works in health care, approached me at the gym to tell me she had started using pivot tables and that she loves them. “Hmm… pivot tables doesn’t that have something to do with graphing.” She told me this knowing I’m an accountant and assuming I used them. I said something like great! Then went back to my workout. Afterwards I found an 8-hour class offered by my professional organization on pivot tables and considered signing up, but it is offered the same day as my scheduled doctor’s appointment. You know what a hassle it is to reschedule doctor's appointments, so I didn't sign-up. Someday my department will be filled with 25-year olds whispering behind my back, “She doesn’t know how to use pivot tables.”

Speaking of irrelevant, I still have blogspot in my blog’s URL:
How long have I been blogging? Too long to not have my own domain name. I have an excuse though – I want a domain I can continue to grow and work with throughout the remainder of my blogging career. This year I’m trying out different topics other than work and careers to see what I am comfortable with. With this post – on relevancy – I feel I’m one step closer.

How do you stay relevant?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ride of Your Life by Ran Zilca

I first discovered Ran Zilca author of Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peacewhile researching my Be Strong Project (a project I created to help me become stronger in my 50th year). He had written a great article on building inner strength for Psychology Today which I used as the foundation for my project. Later, I had the opportunity to interview Zilca about inner strength. You can read that interview here. Recently, I was offered a free copy of Ride of Your Lifefor review. Below are my thoughts.

What is Ride of Your Life about?

In Zilca’s own words:
The book is a guide to inner peace, composed over a 6,000 mile, coast-to-coast solo motorcycle ride I took in 2010. I started in New York and rode to California and then down the California coast line. On my way I interviewed different scientists and authors like Deepak Chopra, Phil Zimbardo, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Byron Katie. The collective wisdom of these experts and of the many people I met on the road, along with the meditative experience of riding in solitude each day, yielded very interesting insights that form the guide.

What was his motivation for this project?

Also in Zilca's words:
I was just turning 40, and being very successful in business and in my personal life, but unsure as to who I really am. I think that many people experience this type of feeling in midlife, where they know what they do and where they live, but not exactly sure who they are. It made me feel restless, so I went out to rediscover my identity, quiet the restlessness, and regain my inner peace.

My Thoughts:

This book is a little bit travelogue, a little bit self-help/self-discovery and a little bit memoir. If you sum up the three parts it is a great little book packed with wisdom. Here are some of my favorite nuggets:

From Dr. Barbara Frederickson Zilca learns bad experiences affect us more than good, but good is more frequent than bad. 

Her first book, Positivity, describes various research studies on positive emotions. The findings are astounding in their simplicity and have to do with the number of positive emotions a person experiences during a day compared with the number of negative emotions, a ratio that is simply called  “the positivity ratio.” If that ratio equals three or higher, you eventually go into an “upward spiral” – a state of flourishing. If your daily dose of positive emotion is less than three times the negative, you risk going into a negative state. Simply put, to flourish, you need to experience three times the good for anything bad. (Pg. 45)
This makes so much sense to me. On days when I come home from work thinking what a lousy day, yet can’t name the reason for my bad day – just a lot of small negative events this study explains it.  My bad day is due to my positivity ratio being upside down. I am not experiencing enough positive emotions to counteract all of my negative encounters.

An effective strategy to become happier:
Cultivate openness so that a person can recognize, notice, and appreciate the good that is already taking place in his or her life, and this way, tip the positivity ratio in his or her favor. (Pg. 45)
Instead of using “be positive” as a motto she prefers “be open,” or be appreciative and kind.

From Deepak Chopra he learns flexibility is the very source of inner strength: “Infinite flexibility is the secret of immortality.”
Flexibility is an attitude more than anything else. It means that I don’t need to always be rigidly attached to anything: a situation, a relationship, a point of view, or an outcome. If you are flexible, the challenge is gone. (Pg. 165)
Lastly, I am adding traveling between Routes 61 and 152 to my bucket list. Zilca describes this landscape as surprisingly Mediterranean. I am also adding the Gila National Forest to the list which reminded Zilca of Switzerland. 

Bottom Line:
Ride of Your Life is a great little book packed with nuggets of wisdom. I recommend it for mid-lifers experiencing a crises or anyone at any stage of life who is looking for more. My only negative is the book seemed to end rather abruptly. I get it the ride was over and Zilca went home, but I would have preferred more exploration of what he learned and how he applied these new ideas once he returned home.

Have you read this book?  What were your thoughts?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

What Is Your Go-To-Diet Meal? March Recap

Project Manhattan
The first quarter of my 2015 live healthy on a budget challenge is now complete. I know I keep saying this challenge is not about weight loss, but I have to admit I was hoping to lose a couple of pounds and certainly didn’t think I’d gain weight. Unfortunately as of today, I am two pounds heavier than I was on January 1st. My new employee works part-time at a chocolate store – chocolate is one of my major weaknesses and all of her lunch room samples have gotten the best of me.

In years past, when I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight I’ve used the break-up diet (you all know what this one is don’t you – your significant other dumps you and you can’t bring yourself to eat) and starvation – meaning I ate almost nothing - a can of vegetables for dinner then allowing myself one soda cracker if I woke up during the night with hunger pangs. I did manage to lose weight a few years ago utilizing portion control and healthy eating, but haven’t been able to do this yet this year.

Throughout the years my go-to-diet meal has been Flounder and Vegetables Sealed in Silver. This is easy to make and is perfect for a Friday night when you have a big event the next day. This is not a meal I could eat every night, actually probably not more than once every two weeks or so plus, neither sole or flounder are offered at my local grocery store right now, so I am on the look-out for new diet recipes.

I did make a few healthy meals which are worth mentioning this month. They are:

Turkey Meatloaf from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Acid Reflux Diet
by Maria Bella (As far as acid reflux books go, this one is helpful plus, it contains over 120 recipes)
I’ve made quite a few turkey meatloaf recipes over the years. This is one of the best. It includes a cup of frozen vegetables and mozzarella cheese. As for an acid reflux recipe it is also pretty good, most of them are so bland. My husband has been on an acid reflux diet for about two months now, though his doctor was never sure if acid reflux was the cause of his pain. Since the diet and medication don’t seem to be working, his doctor now believes the pain is from arthritis not acid-reflux.

Teriyaki Tuna Steaks from Leslie L. Cooper’s Low-Fat Living Cookbook: 250 Easy, Great-Tasting Recipes. Fresh tuna is not exactly a budget food, but this recipe was worth it.

Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Mustard recommended by Ray of British Mum USA. I’ve never had roasted chick peas before and was not disappointed.  I took this one to work for lunch, since hubby refuses to eat chick peas. All I can say is he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

This Zucchini soup recipe.

Here are my remaining healthy living challenge stats for March:

Strength and physical fitness:
I made it to the gym three times a week every week this month (which was my goal). My fitness class rotation includes a turbo kick class, Zumba and cardio combat. I also attended a step and an insane strength class one day when I was off of work.

I was able to do eleven walking pushups at the end of the month.  January 1st I was able to do seven, so I am making progress.

$500 a month grocery budget:
We spent $453 in February. We bought a lot of honey. I’ve been using it in healthy muffin recipes and my husband has been making a honey and apple vinegar concoction for his acid reflux as a replacement for coffee. I also spent money on frozen fruit, shrimp, low-fat ground beef and a pork roast.

Healthy living books:
I finished four books this month:

The No More Excuses Diet  by Maria Kang:
My opinion of this book became tainted when I became aware of her fat-shaming tactics which I wrote about here.

Drop Dead Healthy; One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs:
This one was too much of a publicity stunt for me to be taken seriously, but I did add some of the books he mentioned to my reading list.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia De Rossi
A book about eating disorders and self-acceptance I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace by Ran Zilca
This book brought new insight into the stresses of my life.  Watch for my review next week.

April Goals:
For April, I plan to get serious about weight-loss.  I am considering a no-sugar diet reset. Trish of Love, Laughter & Insanity recently lost six pounds on a 21-day sugar reset. I will need a couple of weeks to research and prepare. In the meantime, I am looking for new healthy meal suggestions.

Also, for April I am considering adding a 4th workout to my weekly line up.

What is your favorite go-to diet meal?