Day 2, Leg 4, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Good Friday, March 29 — we were on the road before 7:30 a.m., but by the time we gassed up, resorted to breakfast at McDonalds due to lack of finding local, non-chain restaurants in Broken Bow, it was about 9 a.m. before we headed east on Hwy 70 to Glenwood, Arkansas, North on 8, north on 27 to Russelville, north on Hwy 7 to Harrison, East on 62 to Mountain Home. Now the impressions and details.

The weather was overcast and at times foggy and misting, but the temps were mild – hovering upper 50s, until the sun broke through, mid-afternoon, resulting in upper 60s. The landscape is surprisingly beautiful. I’m not sure I ever thought about what Arkansas looked like. What we found was many rivers and creeks, farm and ranch land, lots of trees and logging, rolling hills and the beautiful Ozark National Forest. In all, I think today was one of my top 5 favorite motorcycle rides, and I’ve been on some beauties!

On the other end of the beauty spectrum, I saw lots of run down trailer homes, some with years of accumulated junk and rust in the yard, especially earlier in the day (west/southwest Arkansas).  The towns, counties scenic points and businesses had quaint and sometimes funny names – Dierks, Daisy, Kirby, “Y”, Caddo Gap, Mt. Ida, Booger Hollow, Ouachita, Washita, Story, Aly, Onyx, Rover, Danville, Ranger, Chickalah, Yell, Dog Patch, Dardanelle, Dover, Sand Gap, Jasper, Harrison, Bellefonte, Pyatt, Snow, Summit, Yellville, Flippin, Gassville and Mountain Home, where we will spend the night.

We had lunch outside Russellville at Colton’s Steak House, and just as we were preparing to leave, I got a phone call from a recruiter about a contract job at my former employer. It was an important call for a couple of reasons — it reminded me of all the SUPER people I had an opportunity to work on the most challenging project of my career the last few years I was there. It also reminded me how grateful I am that my position was eliminated there, following the successful completion of that challenging project, as it gave me the chance to explore and create completely new career and business possibilities that are challenging and exciting in completely different ways. I’ve always coached my team member to look for the opportunities that come out of change; and I’ve always truly believed and experienced that personally. My displacement was the biggest and most challenging career change, and I believe that change has – and will continue to – provide the greatest opportunities. Not that it has been easy to see that every moment or day, but looking back over the past year, and forward to the future, it is clearly a positive change.

One of those opportunities has been this Winter Adventure! Although today was a long one on the road – about 320 miles – the route was so beautiful, with such great biking roads, that it really didn’t feel very tiring. It was challenging for me, without being frightening, like some of the higher mountain highways we’ve traveled on past trips.  The elevation was probably about 2,000 ft at the highest point, but it seemed higher. Many great sweepers, some button hooks and many stretches didn’t have much traffic, so in other words – AWESOME riding! The stretches of pavement that were wet slowed me down quite a bit, but had to appreciate the upside that we never actually got rained on!

We checked in to the EconoLodge about 5:30 p.m. and after a short snooze and shower, we walked to the Mexican restaurant next door for a nice meal and great conversation. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to ensure that this is really my life. I’m so grateful for all the experiences, people and opportunities I am blessed with! Hope you are enjoying sharing them with me!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Dear employer: it’s time for your performance review!

It’s a good time for me to make a list of the things I want to receive from my employer or client. I am developing new communications consulting clients and simultaneously exploring a few select “permanent” employment opportunities. Such a list will help my new manager or client and me evaluate whether we are a good fit for each other. Here is my first draft.

What I want to receive from my employer and manager

Reward me with generous, competitive compensation that reflect the type, level and complexity of the work I do and the value I add. Even if the economic environment has impacted your compensation curve, be creative and involve me in negotiation to arrive at a compensation structure that meets both our needs.

Support my career development. Give me increasingly higher visibility projects and more responsibility. Suggest “extra-curricular” activities inside or outside the company that will help me develop. Support my professional association involvement and education. Keep your eyes open for possible advancement opportunities for me elsewhere in the company. Give me formal and informal feedback frequently – no surprises at annual review time! Ask my internal and external customers for input on my performance. Offer me earned raises, promotions and titles before I ask for them.

Walk the talk of trust and integrity. The company’s vision and values establish high standards for ethical behavior, business practices and respect for team members. Company leaders and managers walk the company talk. Believe that I will represent you and our group with integrity. Allow me to work without micromanagement. Give me the credit I deserve for my work, even when I’m not in the room. Recognize me formally and informally for small and large accomplishments.

Offer and expect flexibility – trust me to manage my time and deliverables honestly. Don’t require rigid start and stop times or hours. Support me working from home or other remote location when the job can be accomplished successfully from there.

Respect my personal time. In other words, don’t send me email messages at night and on weekends, as it establishes a culture of never disconnecting from work. Or at least don’t expect me to answer your messages at those times. Support me in taking all the paid time off that I’ve earned. Manage our workload such that work weeks that are more than 40-45 hours are the exception, not the rule.

Nurture a friendly, healthy, FUN culture by caring about my needs, at work and to some extent, my personal life. Communicate as early and as much as you can about company and leadership strategies and changes. Make an effort to ask me how my kids are doing, how I spent my vacation and what sports teams I cheer for. Encourage me to take a lunch break, work out and eat well by setting the model for that behavior. Connect me with my teammates and partners within and outside our group. Lead a little bit of goofing off and laughter to relieve stress, reset perspectives and improve productivity.

In my past experience, interview time or evaluation time is primarily about my skills, experience, scope of responsibilities and how well I performed them. Through my personal growth, I’ve learned that to be a truly outstanding employee, I have to be a happy one. And to be happy, I need my career to support my lifestyle, not the opposite.

  • What is (or will be) on your list of what you want to receive from your employer?
  • Can you see yourself talking to your manager or an interviewer about your list? Why or why not?
  • Do you think I’m crazy to have such a list, when so many people are still desperate for a job – any job? 

Thanks for your feedback!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Conquering disappointment with gratitude

The celebration dinner I had in mind for last night became a consolation dinner. After the four very positive and progressively deep interviews he had, my dinner companion got the news late yesterday that the company offered the position to another candidate. Ouch!

The disappointment, back-story and experience of this particular candidate is familiar to many thousands of talented, deserving people across the country every day. I doubt the 12.1 million unemployed counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics even includes those who graduated from college during the tempest of the most depressed and depressing economic times this country has experienced in generations – or possibly ever! I have personally experienced the full spectrum of emotions related to “displacement” while at or near the pinnacle of my corporate career and a comfortable lifestyle – not just once, but twice during the past few years.

So what is there to be grateful about, given all that bad news?

What if instead of accepting the mindset of being unemployed, I embraced the excitement and possibilities of being an entrepreneur, parent, grandparent, and volunteer? What if I replaced the term “career networking” in my vocabulary with the mindset of reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances and making new ones? Instead of channeling my energy on feeling angry, frustrated or depressed, I laser focused on gratitude, trust and attracting opportunities?

If you have just finished shopping for your dinner at the local food shelf, and my views sound impossibly, insultingly and incredibly naïve, I apologize. And I will dare to say that these words are even more relevant to you.

Although I’ve never suffered the deep bruises of rock bottom hope- and homelessness that some have, I have had significant economic and emotional low points in my lifetime. I’ve been the beneficiary of public assistance and have rooted for coins in jackets and sofas to meet basic needs. I’ve mourned the untimely and unfair loss of jobs and loved ones. I’ve struggled at times to define who I am and what path I am meant to walk. And today, I am counted among the 12.1 million unemployed.

And yet, throughout my life and today I believe – actually expect – that there are always better days ahead, where my own efforts, ideas and skills intersect with my faith that the Universe will deliver everything I need. Not always when and how I expect or prefer (how about Friday, via UPS, with a pink bow!), but always in different and sometimes better ways and times than I could even imagine. I’ll share some examples with you in the coming days.

I’m keeping a daily list of my successes and things I’m grateful for. I review that list when I need encouragement and reminders. I also recommend watching Louie Schwartzberg’s Happiness Revealed project video – maybe daily for a while!

  • What are you grateful for?
  • What are your techniques for conquering disappointment with gratitude?

Thank you for your feedback!

Love, Tomboy Tam