Self-Taught Experts

Today ran across this resume opener:

Self Taught Computer Expert.

I find many non-graduates using “Self Taught” as a counter to a completed education. This individual did not have a college degree and let’s be honest, a degree isn’t the end-all, be-all indicator of success. Obviously Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and countless other successful people who live in your neighborhood and work at your firm are doing just great without that framed diploma.

That said, self-taught is an oxymoron. In the strictest sense of the term, self-taught means you learned by trial and error without outside influence.

Your parents taught you to tie your shoes. Your teachers taught you to read. Your older brother taught you which bands were cool. No one is truly “self-taught.” We all learn from someone.

Don’t discount the influencers in your life. If you want to be an expert in anything you need mentors & advisors. Saying you made it completely on your own is arrogant. And a lie.

Rather than claiming to be self-taught, you are better off saying you are resourceful. Able to apply research to practical solutions. Willing to listen. Willing to learn. Appreciative of life’s experience.

Gatorade Shower

The “Salvy Splash” has become a tradition for the Kansas City Royals. It’s an act of celebration for all fans to anticipate and enjoy. Today I want to tell you about a different kind of Gatorade shower.

I have been a basketball official for the better part of the past two decades. I work from high school varsity down to rec ball of all ages. This weekend I worked two 2nd grade games before the Championship games of a boys / girls varsity tournament. Throughout my career, I have experienced a wide range of emotions and reactions from game participants and fans. Overall people have been supportive and positive. I’ve had many people thank me after games which is always appreciated.

That said, officials have plenty of verbal abuse directed toward them. It’s just part of the job and something I’ve learned to take with a grain of salt. Generally outbursts are caused by emotional investment in a team, disagreement with our judgement, and a lack of rules knowledge. (For example, unlike football and soccer you are allowed to be the first to touch the ball after going out of bounds as long as you are not the dribbler, you have established one foot inbounds, and are not otherwise touching the boundary.)

I ignore 99.99% of the fans who shout out at a game & the rules say the coach deals with the other .01% at the direction of the officials.

Unfortunately there is a line that some people cross. I’ve heard parents threaten to “kick someone’s ass” after a game and while I’ve never felt physically threatened, this weekend an official at a tournament had to deal with a .01% fan who expressed displeasure at being ejected by hitting the official with a thrown Gatorade bottle. Not the type of Gatorade shower you expect, and one I’m hoping will keep that person from attending future games.

Years ago I was coaching my son’s basketball game. I did not agree with much of what the official was doing and was plenty vocal about it. I don’t remember what I said to him at the end of the game, but it wasn’t a compliment and it certainly wasn’t warranted. His response was priceless and launched my love of being a basketball official. He handed me a whistle and a plastic striped vest and said “Since you think this is so easy you have the next game.” Two decades and several thousand games later I’m still wearing the zebra stripes.

Over the years there are a number of things I’ve learned from my experience as an official.

  1. Everyone makes mistakes. Even professionals at a high level aren’t perfect (as evidenced by the no call on the travel at the end of the KU / K State game in Lawrence this month.)
  2. In many cases, your opinion isn’t nearly as important as you think. You can disagree with others and still have a civil discussion.
  3. There will always be people who are critical of your work. Unless they understand what you do and can help you grow, or hold some authority over you, ignore them.

Next time you want to judge someone’s work, walk a mile in their shoes first.

RIP Ace #30

Life isn’t easy. No promises are made. No day is guaranteed.

Today Kansas City is mourning the loss of Yordano Ventura.  Baseball is mourning the loss of both Ace and Andy Marte.

It is a time to grieve.

Pitchers and catchers report in 21 days. Yesterday leaves a big hole in Surprise that will never be completely filled. Despite this tragic loss, the team will have to move forward. No matter the outcome of the 2017 season, it will be a special one. A season to honor their friend taken much too soon. A season to remember what’s really important.

Out of this dark day there will be a light that emerges. Good will come from the bad. Watch for it because it will be easily recognized.

I saw some light last night. Every season the Royals put out a calendar with proceeds going to Braden’s Hope. This month features Ace and 9 year old Ameila Meyer. Ironic that he was taken from us in the month he was featured, but I’d like to think it’s a little sign that he’s okay, and that he has reunited with Ameila who passed in October. Their lights certainly shine brightly for one Kansas City mother. Check out the whole story here.

We all face difficulty in our lives. It is healthy to mourn, it is okay to be sad.

However, do not wallow in sadness. Indulging the dark leads down the wrong road. Find the light. Focus on the good that grows out of the pain. Light always beats the darkness.


We’re two weeks into 2017 and I’m just now getting around to updating the events on my website. I’d like to blame it on Procrastination, but the reality of the situation is much different. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Quadrant 1 if you’re familiar with Covey’s Time Management grid so the has taken a back seat. Fortunately I have a little time for Quadrant 2 today.

Which leads me to the point of this post. There’s a huge difference between Procrastination & Prioritization. 2017 is a year I’ve resolved to spend more time focused on the priorities. Important things like

  • My family.
  • Helping our new RiverPoint team have success.
  • My health.
  • Less social media, more social interaction.

If you follow my blog you know last year was tough. This year will be better. As one of my favorite lyricists says “Stay Positive.”

All right 2017 – I’m ready.

Pick up the Pieces

2016 has been a difficult year. This year did not start as hoped which was difficult. I’ve been here long enough to have weathered a few storms, so if that was our only challenge I wouldn’t take the time to write this. Unfortunately this is just the beginning of the story.

On February 27th one of my co-workers and close friends was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went on disability. His prognosis was good and we never gave a second thought to replacing him, we simply did what business development we had time to handle on his behalf. His are big shoes to fill so despite our efforts there was a tremendous dip in our business development activities over the first six months of the year. Thankfully we were able to bring back a former colleague for a period of time which helped tremendously jump-starting efforts and we quickly got our business back on track.

Everyone in sales has ups and downs – we were handling things the best we could while Jeff went through treatment. After several rounds of chemo in the spring he had to go through several months of recovery. Throughout his treatment the doctors were optimistic, and I was 100% convinced that he would be back to work in the fall. Unfortunately cancer had other plans. On Oct 25th he was put in hospice and my friend passed away Nov 10th surrounded by family. We went from anticipating his return to saying goodbye in a matter of a handful of weeks.

Everyone has lost someone close. It rips your heart in two and makes day-to-day difficult. Walking by a now cleaned-out office. Seeing his name everywhere.

2016 sucked. I’m glad it’s almost over.

Soon someone else will put pictures of their family on Jeff’s desk. They will start calling on Jeff’s clients. No doubt they will hear the stories and get to know a little about our friend. That makes me feel good. Jeff left an impression on everyone he touched.

I will continue to mourn the loss of a friend, but I will not linger on the pain or let it keep me from moving forward. I honor my friend by picking up the pieces, welcoming our new associate with open arms, and finding the good in the day. 2017 is going to be better. Even if it isn’t, I’m going to be thankful for what I have.

Management vs. Leadership

Peter: And here’s something else Bob. I have eight different bosses right now.
Bob: I beg your pardon?
Peter: Eight bosses.
Bob: Eight?
Peter: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

This classic exchange from the movie Office Space describes the epitome of management. Or more accurately micro-management. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of management. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been blessed throughout my career for working for some really great bosses. The one thing that make them great bosses is they aren’t managers – they are leaders.

What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?

  • Managers are coordinators. Leaders are teachers.
  • Managers put their trust in themselves. Leaders put their trust in others.
  • Managers care about results. Leaders care about you.
  • Managers need to know what you’re doing. Leaders trust you to do what needs to be done.
  • Managers enforce policy & procedure. Leaders teach policy & procedure and get out of the way.
  • Managers are accountable to their boss, not you. Leaders are accountable to their boss AND you.
  • Managers want control. Leaders hand over control to others.
  • Managers tell you what they want. Leaders inspire you to give what’s needed.

Leaders don’t care if the TPS report comes with a cover. They probably don’t even care what the TPS report contains. They trust their people to get it done right.

What’s Important

In February of this year my friend and colleague Jeff McMahill was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The survival rate for his particular strain (Burkitts) is anywhere from a 30% – 91% depending on the level of risk. Jeff was diagnosed at Stage 3 but being an otherwise overly healthy male the doctors were confident he would be on the upper end of that range. I knew it would be a difficult recovery but have been completely optimistic he would survive this horrid disease. My heart was broken last week when doctors told him that treatment had not eradicated the cancer, it is now growing out of control, they are out of options, and it is time to call hospice.

Tuesday, October 25th my friend Jeff was told he had a month left.

In the week since that awful day his family has not left his side. Dozens of friends have been to see him, many who leave with a heart wrenching goodbye hug. But amidst the profound sadness has been the sound of laughter as we reminisce over a life well lived. Jeff does not want to spend these last days alone. He is surrounding himself with those who love him and rather than simply die, he’s living his last days to their fullest.

What’s important to Jeff right now should be important to us all. The stuff means nothing. What’s important is the relationships we build throughout our lives. The experiences we share together.

Jeff and his wife Annie went to New York last year for Game Four of the World Series. I remember Jeff telling me he wasn’t sure why they were spending so much money on a single baseball game, but he spent it because who knows when the Royals would be back in the World Series. The Royals lost the game they attended, but the next evening at a NYC bar full of Royals fans while everyone else poured their champagne into glasses, Jeff sprayed his bottle all over complete strangers.

That’s how Jeff is, and that’s how I’ll remember him. A man full of life, loved by all who had the privilege of calling him friend.

Bank accounts can be rebuilt. Broken relationships can be repaired. You can always get more “stuff.” Time is the only thing you can’t get back.

Cherish every moment – the clock is ticking for us all.

PostScript: Jeff passed away peacefully at 6:55am Nov 10, 2016 surrounded by family. His time was too short, but nothing was left unsaid. He loved his wife “she’s perfect,” his kids, and all who knew him. Our last words to one another on Nov 8th were “I love you.” Never goodbye. See you on the other side. War Eagle.

Dealing with Grief & Creating Happiness

Losing a job is one life events that cause the most disruption. It’s right up there with divorce, death of a loved one, and major illness. Well meaning friends often say things like “this too shall pass” or “you’ll be fine” thinking that encouragement will help us feel better in the moment.

The truth is when we’re grieving we don’t want to hear about how “everything will be okay” and how good we’ll feel in the future. We don’t want someone to help us “get over it.” We want someone to help us get THROUGH it. Someone who will grab our hand and say “I’m here. What do you need?” Even when what we need is to be left alone, taking time to mourn is normal. It’s not just normal, it’s necessary.

Grief must be given it’s due, but it cannot be allowed to take over indefinitely. Keeping hurt front and center for months or years will lead to anger & bitterness. Seeking happiness becomes impossible because happiness is not something you FIND. Happiness is something you CREATE. Good or bad, we are a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts shape our actions and our actions shape our habits.

Create happiness by making a habit of believing in people. Expect the best out of them, not the worst. It is impossible to be happy when relationships are unhappy. Forgive those who’ve hurt you. Think about important people in your life today. Write down five or six reasons you are grateful to have them in your life.

Get into a habit of thinking about the goodness of life rather than the negative. It’s also impossible to be happy when only acknowledging the negative. Think about the good things that happened last week and write them down. Make this a habit.

Creating happiness leads to contentment. Look for good in little things. Even when you’re hurting there is good to be found. Being happy is not a goal, it’s the byproduct of our thinking and habits.

One more note on happiness. Don’t make wealth the center of your life. You can lose it in a minute and you certainly aren’t taking any of it with you. If your number one worry is your bank account you are investing in the wrong thing. He who dies with the most toys, dies.

As a Christian I put Jesus at the center of my life. A relationship with God through Jesus Christ is eternal and unchanging. He brings hope. He reduces stress. He helps me through change. He carries me through grief. Even in the darkest hours, He provides light and gives me peace. That is where I find contentment, even in the storm. That is where I choose to create happiness.

Postscript. After writing this yesterday I was given some news about a very ill friend that none of us ever want to hear, let alone give. Creating happiness is going to be tough for a while, and that’s okay.

Black Listed!

When considering people for employment organizations must protect themselves from liability and bad hires are fraught with risk. Candidates who have a history of any of the following are high risk hires.

  • Stealing money, property, and/or customers.
  • Harassing or threatening co-workers and/or customers.
  • Lying about ANYTHING. Especially education or other credentials or reason for dismissal from previous employers.
  • Refusing treatment* after testing positive, or testing positive more than once for banned substances (which may or may not be illegal.) *Some states mandate counseling rather than allowing termination for first offense.

While the above are obvious infractions, other behaviors that can land a person on a “no fly list” include:

  • Social media feeds and/or blogs. Click here to get an idea of what employers do and don’t want to see. Click here for my all time favorite “don’t do this if you are a job seeker” social media post. I can’t make this stuff up folks.  Research attracting employers and avoid social media pitfalls.
  • Reputation. Professional communities are smaller than you think and word does get around. One person speaking ill of another’s reputation is not a big concern. Multiple people with similar negative experiences is a red flag. A good recruiter will find “back-door” references (former co-workers not included on a provided list) and a handful of bad reviews will close a lot of doors permanently. Be nice to people and this will not be an issue.
  • References. Ideally references will be recent and a mix of supervisors & co-workers. Make sure they know you’re going to use them and they’ll support your efforts. I’ve made calls to a provided list and run into some downright negative feedback which tells me that person was oblivious to a troubled relationship. Not a trait I look for in new employees.
  • Interview appearance. Years ago I had a candidate show up in grass stained t-shirt, shoes & jeans – all replete with holes. What was this person thinking? Extreme examples aside, there are other things that send candidates to the naughty list like showing up intoxicated (it’s happened) or smelling like you chain smoked 4 cigs before the interview with the windows up. Drenching yourself in Drakkar Noir doesn’t cover that up by the way.
  • Interview behavior. I sent a candidate packing less than a minute into an interview because they leaned back in the chair with their hands behind their head the second they sat down. I’m shocked feet didn’t hit the table. This is an extreme example, but body language speaks volumes. There’s plenty of online advice for body language and interviewing tips. As a matter of fact, here’s some of mine.
  • Speaking of smoking. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing for everyone, especially employers. Employers who can provide a 100% non-smoking group to the insurer will get premium reductions.
  • Speaking of Reducing Insurance Costs. In an “informal letter to the public” the EEOC states that blanket restrictions of off duty alcohol consumption are not allowable under 1990’s Title I ADA legislation, but there is an earlier ruling by the Third Circuit court which employers could use to restrict that activity as well in an effort to reduce healthcare costs. That keg stand picture on Facebook might not be such a good idea while the courts are debating this issue.

Employers dig deep into a person’s background these days and are free to “black list” anyone as long as they comply with US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules & regulations and local EOE laws.

Don’t leave employers questioning your suitability for their staff. You never get a second chance at a first impression.

Immigration Reform

DISCLAIMER: This post doesn’t have anything to do with careers or searching for a job, it’s simply something I wrote because it’s an important topic worth consideration.

Here we are in the heart of the Presidential election and once again immigration reform is one of a handful of divisive topics. Trump wants to build a wall, Hillary wants to fast track a path to citizenship. It’s the usual polarized and partisan politics designed to cater to the extremes.

The millions of undocumented immigrants pouring over our southern border are being exploited. They work tirelessly for meager wages in the fields and slaughterhouses to make a better life for their families. They do this because as bad as conditions are for them in the US, the conditions at home are worse. They are also certainly draining our limited resources. Not because they are lazy, but because our current politics and policies keep them in the margins of society. It’s OUR fault they are crowding our emergency rooms and free clinics for healthcare. It’s OUR fault their children do not have access to educational opportunities.

They’re here, and they will continue to come here because the worst conditions here are better than in the slums of Guatemala City. Is their desire for freedom any different from those who landed on Plymouth Rock? Lest we forget unless you are of direct Native American descent, you are an immigrant.

However, immigration reform isn’t just about low-wage workers.

In technology, engineering, and other highly skilled, highly compensated jobs there is a temporary worker visa program called H1b. If you’re not familiar with H1b, boiled down to it’s essence you need to hold a Bachelor’s degree in a particular discipline from your home country to apply, and you must be “sponsored” by a company in the US.

Every year 250,000 people apply for the 65,000 available visas. It’s a pure lottery system so when you apply you have a 1 in 3 chance of getting the visa. It’s a system ripe with corruption and difficult for visa holders to be provided opportunity equal to a permanent resident or citizen.

If you’re lucky enough to be issued an H1b in April of 2017 and your country of origin is India your current wait for a Green Card is approximately a decade. We are spending tens of millions of dollars attracting young people into STEM careers while at the same time making an individual wait ten years to become a permanent resident when they already have a degree and experience.

Jokers on the left say immigrants from the south are taking jobs Americans don’t want. Clowns to the right brand non-documented immigrants “illegal” ascribing them criminals. Both sides have put so much red tape in place it’s exceptionally complicated and difficult to become a tax-paying, productive resident.

What neither side seems to remember is we are a nation of immigrants founded on principles that apply to everyone, not just those lucky enough to be born within our borders.

In colonial times you didn’t need to fill out a mountain of government forms to live in America, you just needed to get here and you were welcome to stay. At the turn of the 20th century people boarded large ships, some with nothing other than the clothes on their back and a few dollars in their pocket, and came through Ellis Island. Toward the end of the century good people risked their lives in the 90 shark-infested miles between Cuba and Key West to flee Castro’s oppression.

While you’re reading this good people are risking their lives in the deserts of the Southwest fleeing economic oppression for a shot at the American Dream. Today, on the other side of the world, good people are fleeing Islamic extremist groups who are taking over their homeland and executing anyone who does not agree with their twisted ideology.

We need to change our current immigration policies to make it easier for those who wish to come and contribute to do so. That said, there needs to be controls on this process. Immigrants MUST be properly vetted. If you can’t contribute you can’t stay – our public assistance programs are already overburdened. There should be harsh penalties for coming to the US and engaging in criminal activity. Full and equal status can wait – permanent residency should continue to be a part of the process.

I’m old enough to remember when Ho Chi Minh took over South Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of refugees came to the United States. These were people who often left with the clothes on their back. Today they and their families are contributing citizens.

This is not about displacing American workers. This is about honoring the fundamental founding principles of the United States. Do we need to be reminded of the words inscribed at the base of the symbol of our country’s freedom and liberty?

From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There’s a reason Jefferson used the word “men” and not “citizens.”

To me, this is not an issue of employment. It’s an issue of human rights and whether or not we want to welcome those fleeing oppression & economic decay for a better life in America. Our country stands at a cross-roads. The time for partisan politics is over – something needs to be done.