Tag Archives: Business

Maybe This is How My Wife Felt

Bill Murray throws golf club

This.

I want to quit my job even though I like many things about it.

It’s not just because I find traditionally structured 9-to-5s to be wholly dissatisfying, but because there aren’t cool-enough bosses (mine are mostly awesome) nor enough money in the world (I do okay) to buy my unquestioning loyalty.

In military, law enforcement, firefighting ladder companies, mountain climbing teams, space shuttle crews, and other applications, you’ll find an established chain of command. Not following—or even questioning—orders can be the difference between life and death. I understand this and have a fundamental respect for leadership structures and believe people in management deserve a modicum of respect by virtue of that chain of command.

The stakes tend to be less in for-profit business. I work for a private company. We sell things no one needs, but many people want. For better or worse, the bottom line is the bottom line, though our corporate culture is particularly people-friendly and community-minded.

By all appearances, inside and out, it’s an excellent company that is No. 1 in its market globally, has a reputation for being professional with customers and business partners, and has as many multi-decade employees as I’ve ever seen. I still want to quit.

I like my bosses and the vast majority of my co-workers. I still want to quit.

I like the actual internet marketing work I do and try to improve my craft every day. But I still want to quit.

And I think maybe there are a bunch of parallels here to how wives and mothers feel about their married lives, sharing homes with their husbands and children, and doing her best to raise good kids in a life where she’s being pulled in so many different directions.

I think maybe I feel about my job the way, in the end, my wife felt about me.

On Loyalty and Effort

I didn’t just accept this job five years ago because it seemed better than my old job, and come into it with a ho-hum work ethic and mindset.

This job, in many ways, saved my life.

On Jan. 1, 2010, I became another in a long line of laid-off newspaper reporters following the 2008 economic implosion. And because I’m never intentionally masochistic, I chose to move on from my journalism career and find another way to make money. I was jobless for 18 months, freaking out because I had a toddler son at home and a wife who clearly was not digging being married to an unemployable loser. I made money freelance writing, but with child and family healthcare costs, I needed to find something steady with a benefits package.

Eventually, I was hired into one of my company’s coolest and fastest-growing departments, and work with a bunch of good, smart people.

I went from total loser, to well-paid guy with a seat at the table for macro-level conversations about business strategy, overnight.

This job gives me the money to pay for my home and Jeep, and the money to support my son.

This job provided something steady during my divorce.

This job introduced me to friends I hope I’ll have forever.

This job gave me a real-world laboratory to study marketing and human behavior, and gave me a front-row seat to the constantly changing digital world where it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

I am grateful for this job. I LIKE my job. 

But I still want to quit.

And if my next career move wasn’t going to be me jumping off into entrepreneurial waters, maybe I’d already be gone.

Why?

Because the leadership at my company despite their best intentions are the business-world equivalent of shitty husbands, and no matter how many good things there are to appreciate and admire about them, I have—in metaphorical-relationship terms—transitioned to Apathetic Robot Wife mode, and recently realized: I’m done.

I’m done because I don’t care enough anymore. And the leadership at my company, even though they do so many good things for us and create a mostly nice place to work, is the reason why.

Husband: ‘Why Are You Doing This To Me?’

“Um. You did this to yourself,” she replies.

I was hired by my company to do a job. I write things—website copy, emails, blog posts—designed sometimes to educate and inform existing or potential customers, and sometimes to provide a very specific sales call to action. Buy this awesome thing right now!

They give me money in exchange for these services where I’d like to believe I make them a lot more money than I’m paid.

Like a newlywed bride, I was totally psyched to be here five years ago. I devoted a lot of time and energy to honing my craft, studying its impact, and generating new ideas. I felt emotionally invested in my work, proud of my contribution, and passionately spoke up in meetings about doing things “the right way” as I perceived them. Best practices = Success. I really believe that.

I came in early and stayed late. I poured myself into the work knowing I could make positive contributions, studying results, and always striving for incremental improvement.

Because in the digital world we can measure with decent precision the performance of a marketing email send, or blog post, or social media engagement, or web traffic, we don’t always have to guess how our customers respond to our work.

We often can see that doing X generates good results and more sales, and that doing Y does not.

My switch flipped to No-More-Fucks-Left-To-Give mode when my bosses made crappy decisions that costs us money for political and ego reasons, despite evidence supporting our protests.

Then we tried one more time and it happened again.

Surely, we’ll go back to doing the right thing with this overwhelming evidence we’re sabotaging our efforts, I thought.

And then it didn’t. And that’s when I felt a part of me shut off.

Okay, dicks. Have it your way.

One of my jobs is to write emails. Some people further up the corporate food chain probably don’t think it’s super-important. Kind of like how some husband feels about his wife’s efforts to keep the kitchen clean.

Our company makes a lot of money, so as a percentage, any individual email I write—some of which generate more in 48 hours than my annual salary—still might not register much with upper management.

Nonetheless, what I love about email marketing is that I can measure my impact on the company. If I write a subject line that gets 18 percent of people to open it and 2 percent of people to click to our website, that’s worth a certain amount of money. If I write a better subject line and copy, I might move 23 percent to open that email and 4 percent to click through. Over time, those incremental improvements are what I live for, professionally. I fight for those inches. If my effort and creativity improves those numbers just a point or two every large-scale email, over the course of a year, it means we sold a lot more stuff, and we make a lot more money, and I feel good when that happens.

I care. Not because they’ll give me a big raise if I do this. (They won’t.) Not because I’ll receive recognition or pats on the back outside of my annual review. (I will not.)

It’s because I take pride in my work, and I want to do it well. It’s because I’m part of something, and am invested in our success. It’s because I feel loyal, and it is my pleasure to make meaningful contributions.

I can live with the fact that no matter how hard I work, I’ll get little more than cost-of-living raises.

I can live with the fact that no matter how little someone else works, they will too.

I can live with the fact that I have to wear crappy business casual clothes that are neither casual nor particularly nice or professional like a good little cubicle soldier.

I can live with the fact that even though I can do my job from any internet-connected computer in the world, I’m not allowed to work elsewhere.

But I can’t live with the people I’m supposed to respect being given evidence their decisions cost us money and sabotage our work, and then watch them choose to stay the course.

They’re Not Doing It Purposefully

Making us feel shitty about our jobs, I mean. They’re not. They don’t know they’re doing it.

They’re good people. I’m sure if they REALLY UNDERSTOOD how their decisions affected the rest of us on a psychological and emotional level, they’d maybe do things differently. 

But they don’t get it. They expect us to work just as hard on the next project even though we know it can’t perform as well as it should. They expect me to care like I always have. They probably think because I no longer argue as passionately as I once did that I’m totally satisfied with things here.

Then, it hit me: My bosses are husbands who leave dishes by the sink.

And some of my co-workers and I are the wives who finally have had enough. I can’t keep giving THIS much of a shit for something that doesn’t reward the effort.

Maybe this isn’t what’s happening. Maybe they’re NOT stubbornly clinging to their I’m-The-Boss egos. Maybe they really believe they’re doing the right thing, and maybe they’re totally oblivious about how that impacts our job satisfaction, work performance, and office culture.

But if sure-as-shit FEELS like they’re intentionally doing things that undermine our efforts.

I could take it the first time. It didn’t faze me.

I could take it the first hundred times. There’s so much good here to be grateful for.

I could take it the first thousand times, even as frustration mounted.

But somewhere along the way, one of my bosses left one too many “dishes” by the sink.

And now things will never be the same.

I’ll write their things because they give me money to do so. But I used to write things with an attitude of wanting to give more than I take. That’s gone now, and I wish it wasn’t.

I want to believe in unconditional love in marriage, but I now understand there will always be some conditions.

If you wake up every morning, and your partner says to you “Hey! You’re a stupid, ugly asshole!,” and then punches you in the face, there are a finite number of times you’ll stand there taking the verbal and physical punch.

Sometimes, love dies.

I’m not sad about my job. I’m maybe a tiny bit angry. Mostly, I’m apathetic.

And no matter how comfortable I am, or how many fond memories I have, or how much I like and appreciate my job and wish things were different, I’m done now.

I don’t know whether I’ll leave in three or six months, or in one or two years. But I am leaving.

In my heart and mind, I’m already gone.

And no, the irony isn’t lost on me.

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A Blog Vacation

(Image/fpchiro.com)

(Image/fpchiro.com)

I try to explain how it works in my head but most people don’t or can’t understand.

It’s probably really hard for a working mother to empathize. After all, she’s a superhero. Raising children. Managing calendars and balancing them against the scheduling needs and wants of the family. She is often working harder around the house than the rest of us, doing the things I spent the first 34 years of my life taking for granted. Keeping bathroom mirrors and porcelain shiny and spotless. Keeping floors swept and vacuumed. Keeping caught up on laundry. Keeping countertops and home offices uncluttered. Keeping the pantry and refrigerator appropriately stocked. They do all that AFTER working 40- to 50-hour weeks.

I sometimes come off undisciplined. Forgetful. Irresponsible. Unreliable.

I’m not proud of it. I’m even a little ashamed. Unless other people are relying on me, I am unlikely to meet a self-imposed deadline. Unless someone (probably a girl) is going to come over and pass judgment on the way I keep my home, I am unlikely to keep it as clean and organized as I’d prefer.

To be sure, I DO like the feeling of a clean and orderly home. I DO like the feeling of accomplishment following completion of a job well done.

But if there are competing interests? Even ones that matter less? I have an amazing capacity for procrastination. And despite my self-awareness, I’ve never found a way to overcome it.

I was diagnosed with ADHD. If I’m remembering the data correctly, about 5% of people’s brains work like mine. It has its advantages. It does. But the effective management of too many things suffers when I don’t have help.

My young son keeps me busy, even though I only have him at home half the time.

Me and two partners launched our start-up company in recent months. We even have clients now. It means that all of the extra professional work I do, errands I run, and housework I (sometimes) complete, is squeezed into nights when my son is with his mom. I try to stay socially active, too, because it’s really important. But that’s usually the first to suffer when life beckons.

I spend 40-plus hours per week at my full-time office job.

I’m trying (somewhat poorly) to write a book.

I’m trying to maintain good exercise and eating habits.

And I’m trying to keep this blog active, and God-willing, interesting to a few people.

Because I’m me, EVERYTHING suffers when the task list gets long. I do good work when I channel all of my focus and energy into one thing. I can do that, one project at a time.

But I’m kind of a disaster when life demands more than one thing from me at once. And in the real world, being an adult—especially a parent—requires that I be on top of more than just one thing at any given time.

In addition to the emotional, spiritual and physical (giggity) balance having a partner provides, I’ve really learned the value of having someone who helps and supports you each day (and whose mere existence motivates me to provide return help and support).

I was an emotional disaster in the aftermath of my marital separation and divorce two years ago. And that—BY FAR—is the worst part of divorce. Feeling dead inside.

But once you get back on your feet and find the internal balance, peace, confidence, hopefulness that had been missing, what you’re left with is this realization about—for lack of a better phrase—the logistics of being an adult. Especially one with parental and professional responsibilities.

Two years later, that’s the hardest part now. No question. If I could fire myself as manager of my life, I totally would.

I’ve been feeling—I don’t know—overwhelmed?—for a while now.

I’m doing a bad job staying in touch with people. My kitchen counter is an emergency of the cluttered variety. I have a bunch of projects that need finished for our growing small business. The book isn’t progressing as I’d like. My email inbox is piling up. And I have to leave town this weekend.

Again, to virtually any mom, or probably any woman (okay, or responsible guy), I probably sound like a dumb, whiny loser. I don’t care. I don’t know whether all the chaos I feel is real. It’s probably something I just manifest in my head. But my brain can’t tell the difference.

I’m not saying I won’t write. I’m not saying I’m going to intentionally post less often.

I’m just saying, I need to slow down in certain areas so I can put more energy into others, just to make sure I don’t totally lose it.

Maybe I’ll post again soon. Or maybe I’ll post again in three weeks. I don’t know.

I just know I need to reset, and I won’t know when it has happened until I feel it.

I hope I see you whenever that happens.

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A Post About Nothing and Everything

(Image/teepublic.com)

(Image/teepublic.com)

I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen. Another one of those I-don’t-know-what-to-write moments.

“What happens if you just took a pass on writing a post for today?” a friend asked.

“I took a pass on writing a post on Wednesday,” I said.

Maybe it’s time to cut back to two days a week. Or maybe something awful needs to happen because I tend to do my best writing when I feel.

It’s not that I don’t feel. Life is just more typical of the human experience I remember having prior to all the shitty things that happened once I turned 30.

Maybe that’s something, though. Sometimes people hurting after divorce want someone to tell them how long it’s going to hurt. That’s what I wanted to know the most back then. When will I be ME again? Ever?

I kind of wanted to die for the first six months, didn’t care whether I died the following six, but noticed improvement. I don’t remember the 18-month mark which means it wasn’t that significant, and I must have felt better.

As we sit today, I am two years and more than four months away from the separation date—the worst day of my life. And I’m totally fine. Things about my life are shittier than when I was married. But some things are better. It’s how you feel when you wake up in the morning that really matters.

The “problems” I wake up thinking about today are a spoonful of sugar compared to the fuckness of divorce. I’m down nearly 20 pounds. I feel pretty good. I’m actively engaged in various business pursuits as I attempt to improve my financial standing.

It’s a very nice change. To not feel wretched all the time.

I’m not saying two years from now, you won’t hurt anymore. Everyone deals with these things differently in their own way and at their own pace. But I think MOST people are MOSTLY the same on the inside. I think you can mark your calendars for the two-year mark as a nice “I’ll totally feel better then!” benchmark. But don’t forget to be grateful each step of the way when you notice the pain fading.

It’s a slow process.

But you notice yourself breathing more easily, smiling more, living more fully, with each passing day.

As I sit here not knowing what to write, I choose gratitude for those things.

Things on my Mind

That’s usually what I try to write about. Whatever’s top of mind.

I spend a lot of time thinking about my career.

No one gives a shit. I’m not going to write about that.

I was interested in, and entertained by, last night’s GOP presidential debate even though I tend to feel mostly disgust for Washington politics (toward both major parties) and am usually politically engaged only during election cycles.

Political conversation is too divisive. Debate and defending myself exhausts me. And I’ve never (not even once) seen someone change their mind while discussing issues with someone with whom they disagreed. I don’t want to write about it.

To that end, I’ve been reflecting on relationships between people from different backgrounds or faiths or political philosophies, and whether it’s sensible for those people to try to make a relationship work.

Not unlike my general belief that couples too far apart in age are often making a poor choice in terms of sustainability, I have strong feelings about other aspects of a couple’s personality makeup as well.

I once spelled out exactly what I’m looking for in a relationship partner. It has been read just 162 times because it’s one of my oldest posts.

I went back and read it to see whether I feel differently today.

I don’t.

I’m not going to write about that because I already have.

So what am I going to write about?

Nothing.

Everything.

This.

I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.

But I do know it’s good to be back. To recognize myself again. To feel back.

And maybe that’s what this is really about. You tell me.

*PUBLISH*

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We Only Need 5% To Say Yes

power-of-5percent

I work in a cubicle and I’m 35 and my life is always going to feel a little crappy and disappointing unless I do something about it.

Going to bed every night and doing the same thing each day is NOT a viable strategy for improving your life. We wait for things to change. But they rarely do.

Before you know it, it’s too late and you’re old and you can’t afford to live until you’re 85 anyway, so maybe it would be better to just die because at least that would be affordable.

Or.

Just maybe there’s an opportunity to play a leading role in making our lives what we want them to be.

Being 35 sometimes scares me because I feel like I’ve lost so much time, but it’s also not without its perks.

Remember Bill Murray’s Phil Connors character in Groundhog Day?

“Maybe the real God uses tricks, you know? Maybe he’s not omnipotent. He’s just been around so long, he knows everything.”

There’s an important truth there about life experience that you can’t fully appreciate until you feel it.

I don’t know when it happened. And it had nothing to do with my chronological age.

But at some point, I recently concluded: I’m not a kid anymore. I’m good at a few things. I’m capable, and I need to do something.

When I lost my job on Jan. 1, 2010, I knew my newspaper career was over.

The recession had slaughtered newsrooms everywhere. When no one’s making money, no one’s advertising. When no one’s advertising, news organizations are making less money.

That, combined with the breakneck speed with which the internet has grown as everyone’s primary news source, sealed print journalism’s fate.

The news business will never be what it used to be.

I needed to reinvent myself.

And I’ve never done particularly well with change.

Because of people I knew through my wife, I got some seed projects to get started as a freelance writer. And just like that, I became a guy who wrote marketing copy for websites and stuff.

I’m not shitty.

But there are limitations to what you can do when your primary discipline is writing. I was never going to be able to provide the comprehensive services people need from their internet marketing agencies, consultants, or in-house departments.

And frankly? I’m just not responsible and disciplined enough to handle all of the administrative aspects of business operation on my own. It’s because I’m a large child.

My business was never going to blossom into something more on the merits of my writing projects.

Damn. I need to get a job, I realized.

And I did.

I was offered a pretty good job writing website copy and blog content for two top-1% (by global traffic) sites. I also write email copy. The kind you get from Kohl’s or Groupon or Walmart or Victoria’s Secret.

We send lots and lots of email to customers.

We get an enormous amount of traffic from Google and other search engines and social media networks.

And you know how many of those people buy something? Single-digit percentages.

Sometimes less than 1%. Sometimes closer to 10%.

Let’s split the difference and call it 5%.

That means that for every 100 people that interacts with something I write—a blog post or retail email or an individual part page on a website where something is for sale, only a super-small fraction (maybe 5, at most!) ever buy anything.

We call it the “conversion rate.”

And guess what? In my line of work, a 5% conversion rate is fairly awesome.

Is There a Point?

A couple friends and I are talking about taking the skills we’ve developed in marketing and trying to build something from it.

A business of our own.

There are a virtually infinite amount of small businesses out there who do a subpar job marketing themselves on the web. We can make them more money. We know it. And better yet? We can prove it. Because almost everything is measurable on the web.

It will be a side project at first.

And God-willing, it will grow into something meaningful. Only time will tell.

But here’s the mindset I want to have, and I think it applies to most facets of my life.

In business, as in life, we’re going to hear “No” a lot. It’s probably going to feel too often.

Rejection hurts. And we get discouraged.

Based on the math I see, 95% of everyone who sees my stuff doesn’t do what I want them to.

That’s 95% rejection!!!

And without context that might feel like a lot.

But I do have context. You can change the world with a 5% response rate.

If 5% are going to do what we want to, then we only need to increase the amount of people we’re communicating with to grow. If 5% out of every hundred businesses we pitch say yes, we have five new clients.

Work twice as hard, we’ll have 10. And so on.

The conclusion? Success is a virtual certainty IF only you’re brave enough to ask enough people to let you help them, and then deliver good work.

We can hear “No” and feel the pains and discouragement of rejection 95 out of 100 times, and still win.

It may end up nothing. Or it may change everything.

No matter what, it’s another opportunity to choose ourselves and control our own destinies.

And there aren’t many things in life better than that.

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Watch For Falling Prices

carpe_diem11

Walmart.com had a pricing snafu on its website this morning where some items were marked down ridiculously low and others were marked ridiculously high.

Popular video game Grand Theft Auto V was marked down to $18 and had sold out. Many toys and books and other items were marked down as much as 85 percent.

I overheard a co-worker mention it. It generated some office buzz. We got online and laughed at some of the prices, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures priced at $369.99.

There was either a glitch on the back end of Walmart.com’s web pricing, or someone hacked the site.

The Opportunist

I’ve never read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. It was on sale for $3.05. I put it in my online shopping cart. My favorite novelist’s new book—Michael Connelly’s The Gods of Guilt—is set to release on December 2. It was on sale for $3.05 as well, plus free shipping.

I plugged in my debit card info and ordered both books. $11 with a small shipping charge for the Gladwell book.

Boom. Savviest purchase ever.

I texted a couple people about it encouraging them to take advantage, knowing full well this was a pricing mistake and that Walmart was losing money each and every time someone ordered something at these prices.

Is this who I want to be?

Is it okay to do what I did this morning?

Let’s discuss.

The It’s-Wrong Argument

Of course it’s not okay.

It’s fundamentally no different than a bank truck getting in a freeway accident, having the bank’s money flying all over the road, and being one of the people who snatches up as much of it as possible and drives away.

I KNEW Walmart wasn’t having a special sale. The evidence was obvious. There was a glitch. A mistake. There was even the possibility that some rogue hacker had caused this, and here I was trying to capitalize on it. Near as I can tell, I swindled Walmart out of about $30 by ordering those two books this morning.

Would I ever walk into a Walmart (*shudder*) and just steal $30 worth of goods? Not a chance.

So, why did I think this was okay? Why was my instinct to jump all over what I saw as an opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of others?

The It’s-Perfectly-Fine, Walmart-is-the-Retail-Satan Argument

Of course it’s okay.

Fuck Walmart.

They’ve been using brute force and high-volume buying power to put competition out of business for years. Little mom-and-pop shops all over the United States and presumably other countries are just shutting down because Walmart’s bean counters decided they could turn a huge profit by opening a new store in a particular location.

It’s a small-business death knell—the news of a massive discount retailer moving into town. At least for any small business that sells similar wares as Walmart. And Walmart sells an awful lot of stuff.

Walmart makes all of its money doing EXACTLY what I did this morning. Jumping at an opportunity to get more for less.

The Final Analysis

I don’t really know how I feel about it. My guilt meter isn’t exactly going off the charts right now.

In fact, my co-worker JUST came back from Walmart where she’d ordered some things at huge discounts and Walmart refused to honor the purchases she’d scheduled for in-store pickup. They canceled the orders. My co-worker didn’t argue with them, she said.

In my case, I asked for my books to be delivered to my house. I even paid the delivery fee for one of them. It will be interesting to see whether Walmart treats my order differently as a result.

I don’t particularly care either way, but in the end, I’d like to see my books show up on my porch one of these days.

I’ll pick up the package. I’ll smile. Hell yeah, I’ll think. I just got a good deal.

Then, you know what I’m going to do?

I’m going to read Gladwell’s Outliers. Then I’m going to spend 10,000 hours doing something.

And a decade from now?

I’m going to be so rad at something, you’re not even going to be able to recognize me.

I’ll be tall and rich and smart and funny and getting laid and happy. Everyone’s going to be like: “Hey Matt! You’re so amazing and happy and sexually active! How ever did you pull off this magnificent life!?!?”

And I’ll say: “Walmart.com, baby. A glitch in The Matrix. I seized opportunity.”

They won’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

But you will.

Carpe Diem.

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