Friday, September 30, 2005

Danger Quicksand - Have a Nice Day

They told me when I "volunteered" to enter the blogging world that I would be amazed at what I found as I surfed around the blogosphere. They were right. There are so many of these things out there, that it takes practically no time at all to start feeling like an electronic butterfly as you flit from blog-to-blog.

What I have found to date is that I am attracted to blogs that are focused on the world of career management (a term which for many of us may be in the running for oxymoron of the week). The fact that most of us have to work for a living, I guess I should not be so surprised that there is so much "out there" and that there are so many people who are willing to share their experiences and "learnings."

I find myself frequently going back to a blog hosted by David St. Lawrence called, Ripples. Maybe I just like his writing style, and maybe it is because I think we are of the same generation. Not sure, all I know is I check it pretty frequently.

In any event, David wrote this book called, Danger Quicksand - Have a Nice Day, An Unconventional Guide to Surviving Corporate Employment. He was kind enough to send me a copy, which I read with much discomfort and great interest. It is not a pretty picture, but it is one with which an awful lot of executives would relate all too well. The book is filled with, what felt to me, equal parts of cynicism and idealism, all of which comes from bitter experience.

My discomfort in reading the book came from seeing a lot of myself in many of the scenarios he describes, although at least in my own experience, I never felt I was working in a company or for a boss who was unethical.

He thinks a lot of people's experiences in the 21st century will lead toward more and more of us who will be going out on our own in some form, fashion, or another. I think he is more right than wrong. Indeed, as I read one particular "learning" that David shared about careers: "Work is like that rock, paper, scissors game. There is no long-term winning play" -- it made me shake my head in the affirmative. Those words also reminded me that one of the key reasons I started ExecuNet was because I had arrived at a time in my life where I realized how true those words really were (even though I had not articulated them in quite that way) and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do something about it.

David’s "learning" also made me realize that when people ask me about our company, the first words out of my mouth are "it is the most exciting and rewarding thing I have ever done in my life." Why? The answer lay in something else that he shared in this book which he attributes to Lloyd Lemons, a freelance writer. Lemons was writing about something he called "The Joys of a Micro Business." In the piece, Lemons listed the three things that a micro business should be about, and these were:

  1. It should be about bending the world a little, to fit your purpose, by doing something you truly enjoy doing. (I'll drink to that!)

  2. t's about being a catalyst for your own ideas, and not a facilitator of someone else's. (I'll drink to that too!)

  3. It's about personal freedom, largely brought about by the integration of working and living. (I'm still working on the "living" part)

David feels that there is rapid growth among those following this track, and that the Internet is the engine powering the growth. I think he is right on both counts, and consider myself more fortunate than I can say that ExecuNet is a part of it.


David St Lawrence said...

I am really interested in your comment, "My discomfort in reading the book came from seeing a lot of myself in many of the scenarios he describes, although at least in my own experience, I never felt I was working in a company or for a boss who was unethical."

I have 3 questions:

1. After you finished the book, did you have a different viewpoint regarding the ethics of your boss or company?

2. Was your discomfort eased by what you discovered in the book?

3. Do you feel better prepared to select or create a beneficial work environment in the future?

Dave Opton said...

I have finished the book. Indeed, did not start to write the blog comment until I had. My feelings about prior companies and bosses really didn't change as a result. I certainly have worked for any number of managers whose style I sure didn't like very much, but never thought they were unethical per se. Same for the companies. I saw the management of some of the companies do some pretty dumb stuff, but now having been part of running a business, albeit very small by comparison, I can certainly see how some things turn out to appear very dumb, especially the further away one is from the process that went into making the decisions.

I would have to say that my discomfort really didn't change all that much once I finished. In truth, although it will probably make you cringe when I say it, my corporate background is in HR, so the experiences about which you write are very familiar too me, on both sides of the equation. You give HR a pretty hard wrap, and I can understand why as well. I have friends who have been put in some very difficult situations. For myself, the bulk of my corporate life was with Xerox (left in '83) and I have to say that while I didn't always agree with some of the decisions made, I always feel very comfortable in taking a position on any issue with anyone and never felt compromised or threatened. For the last 7 years I was there, I was the Personnel Mgr.for their Corporate HQ, so I got to see a lot of stuff "up close and personal" and left the company feeling quite proud to have been associated with it.

As to question #3, I would like to think that I have taken many of the "learnings" I picked up over the past 40+ years and have tried to create a work environment here at ExecuNet of which I think you would approve. We are only 40 people, so we are lucky enough that we can still get everyone in the same room. We go to great lengths to make sure that we communicate with everyone all the time, including a company wide e-newsletter that I personally write every day. I don't know what the future may hold, but for now, I think we are doing very well. We do a lot of listening, we celebrate our successes, we support each other, and laugh a lot.