Tour’s Books Blog

December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Editorial,General,Musing on life,Observations and Comments — toursbooks @ 8:08 pm
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It seems hard to believe that the first decade of 2000 is coming to an end.  It’s been a decade of change for me, for my family, and for our country.  Perhaps one of the things I remember most clearly, other than 9/11 when I stood on the roof of the building where I worked watching New York City disappear in a cloud of dust on a beautiful fall day, is a moment of personal clarity two months later.  I worked for decades in corporate America and had a job I used to like.   The changes within the company caused me so much stress I had to have a thallium stress test on my heart just a month or so before 9/11.  I had planned to skip the rest of my vacation days that year so I could finish a project I was working on for a product launch.  Though I lost no family or close personal friends, I knew far too many who did.  I decided life was too short and I was taking off.  Thanksgiving 2001 found me sitting in a lovely large villa on the island of St John in the US Virgin Islands.  It was a real last minute arrangement and many people had canceled their vacations, which is how I ended up with that villa.  I recall sitting there dividing my time between reading and gazing at the beautiful view of Chocolate Hole.  I was puzzled because I felt something was missing.  That’s when it hit me – for the first time in nearly a year I had no chest pains.  I slept well and for more than 5 hours a night.  I didn’t even realize it then, but I had decided to do what I had longed to do for several years, quit my job and go to work for myself. 

Quitting a secure job that pays six figures when you’re not all that far from an early retirement is no small matter.  I knew I’d be leaving a lot of money of the table, but I felt I had to do this for myself.   Was it was wise decision?  Financially, probably not.  But I will tell you this, after my last day of work I went to my family doctor for my regular blood pressure check for essential hypertension.  I told him that I had quit and this had been my last day.  He stepped back, surprised, and said, “Thank God.  You wouldn’t have lived another year if you had stayed.”  Some things are more important than money.

Working for yourself has a lot of drawbacks.  Yeah, it looks great from the outside, but trust me, if you haven’t been around self-employed business people, it’s acute boredom between insane work.  But this past year was different.  It wasn’t just the sudden lack of work, it was industry attitude.  Not one dime would be spent proactively.  They’d wait and do it when the regulators forced them to and not before.  Every nickle and dime was watched.  It wasn’t the cost of hiring me – or someone like me – it was what I would represent, a commitment to a program that would be an ongoing cost that would add to their expenses and take away from the bottom line, forever and ever, amen.  People like me are there for a job, a few days, weeks, maybe a month spread out over half a year, but then I’m gone.  A one time deal.  But what I’m asked to create means buying and using materials over and over again.  Paying for special freight.  Paying to train people and document everything.  You want to know why healthcare costs are through the roof?  Come talk to those of us who work in the trenches and deal with ever more burdensome regulations that add expenses at exponential rates.  The flip side is to allow company’s to ‘do what’s right’.  Cue the laugh track.

OK, maybe that isn’t entirely fair, but it is getting ever closer to the new reality – the one where high quality is measured using 6 Sigma – and 6 Sigma is achieved by making tolerances wider so EVERYTHING meets the acceptance criteria.  Wait a minute, didn’t we do this before?  Does anyone remember W. Edward Deming?  I think we can safely say say everything old is new again.  Not surprising, is it?  Authors recycle plots, characters, settings, you name it and they borrow from other authors – sometimes it’s more than ‘borrowing’.  Ahem.  Think of it as being environmentally responsible.

Lives change.  We look back on decisions with 20/20 hindsight and wonder “what if”.  There are many things I’d like to change, people I wish I hadn’t trusted, people I should have treated better, decisions I wish I could unmake, but overall, I have no reason whine or complain.  Like all of humanity, I am imperfect.  A work in progress.  Too bad wisdom and experience can’t be passed on with old photos and grandma’s cutwork tablecloths that only a masochist would ever iron.  (Yeah, I did that too when I was in full entertaining battle mode.)  Live and learn is an old saying for a reason.  The world of 2010 is very different from the world of 2000.  The events of 9-11 and all that came after have reshaped the nation yet again.  Yet another financial bubble has burst, one of such a magnitude that millions on non-participants have been hurt.  I swear every time I read the news there’s another Ponzi scheme revealed, another person taking investors for a ride. I don’t know where we ran off the rails, but ripping people off has become a national pastime as infectious and viral as lunatics who want to be “reality TV” stars.

I know a few things.  I know I have friends out of work who can’t find jobs – and likely never will.  And I know people who have lost their homes, their life savings, and taken such an emotional and financial beating their lives will be forever changed.  I know people going broke paying for medical treatments for chronic conditions that are a long, slow, downward spiral.  I know people who have left their medical jobs, so discouraged by the burdensome insurance requirements and tiny payments they could no longer make a living.  I know as a nation we don’t hesitate to offer aid to those in need.  Somehow, in the midst of our own personal financial crisis, we still manage to find ways to give to others.  Even Paperback Swap started a program for Title 1 schools to get books to children to whom a book is rare treat.  Twenty-five schools have gotten anywhere from 500 to 2,000 books to help gets kids reading.  It’s things like this that make my day.  With all the bad stuff, good things still happen, even if it’s as small as 7 year old getting a book to call their own.  Needless to say, this program is near and dear to my heart, as it is to many PBS members.  The response is so fast, the first 7 schools met their point totals in hours.   I am always amazed at how resourceful we are in our ways to help others.

I have no solutions to the world’s problems, or even my own problems, so I’ll enjoy the good times and good things, however modest.  We only pass this way once, so we must make the most of our time.  Life is too short to be filled with bad books and bad food.  So here’s my New Year’s wish for all of you – May you have a happy, healthy, prosperous 2010.  May all the books you read be good ones – regardless of what the critics say.  Find joy in your life, your family and your friends, because they are worth more than all the ‘things’ that clutter our lives.  Happy reading and see you in 2010!

Happy 2010!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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