1. Free gifts. As the amount of actual mail I need to send has plummeted, the number of organizations sending me “personalized address labels” as a “gift” has skyrocketed. It makes me wonder who’s running their marketing and fundraising department… and why they think this is a winning idea. I mean if you’re going to inundate me with junk mail, at least make it something that doesn’t stick to the blades of my shredder and give me an even worse impression of your organization.
2. Aggressive marketing of things I’ve already purchased. I bought a very nice marble urn for Winston. Since then I’ve been getting at least one email a week from the nice people at perfectmemorials.com offering me a wide range of other funerary items. This feels like another marketing fail to me. I mean urns aren’t exactly the kind of thing anyone need to purchase every week, right? I was very pleased with their service and the quality of the product I received and in time I would probably use them again as the need arose… but if they keep beating me about the head and neck with weekly messages in all likelihood I’ll go someone where else when the time comes.
3. Look at me-ism. There are few things I find more professionally unpleasant than people who demand attention for their ideas or presence in a room simply by virtue of position. Look, if I need a chief in the meeting, I’ll be the first one to invite them. More often, though, who I need is the person who actually does the work. If you need to be in a meeting just to feel important, maybe it’s time to check yourself.
1. Edible arrangements. Here’s a tip. If you’re going to send a “gift” that requires refrigeration to a friend, family member, or whatever, make sure that person is going to be home when it’s delivered. Otherwise the nice delivery person will annoy the dogs of your friend or family member’s neighbor and then that neighbor will end up having to rearrange 75% of the things in his own fridge to accommodate your thoughtful gift. As a general rule, your gifts should not constitute an added burden on an utterly disinterested third party.
2. The couple with the matching roller coolers. Every morning I arrive at the office at more or less the same time as a couple who seem to wear semi-matched outfits and roll identical rolling coolers across the parking lot to the building. I don’t know exactly what it is about this couple that annoys me quite so much, but it’s an automatic and visceral kind of thing. Their whole set up just feels wrong and unnatural.
3. Satellite Radio. My SiriusXM “demo” expired last week. Being a long term fan of being able to listen to the same three or four stations no matter where I drive, I logged in to my account and renewed my subscription. Only problem is for the last seven days the damned radio has showing nothing but the preview channel. By this morning, I’d completed half a dozen calls to “listener care” and at least twice that number of “refreshed signals.” I’d already made up my mind that they’d had their last call. Once the weekend rolled around and I had a few minutes to play the game, I was going to cancel the service and be done with it. Lo and behold, pulling out of the parking this afternoon the satellite receiver sprung to life as if nothing had ever been wrong with it. I’ve been a fan of the satellite radio for years, but I no longer have the patience for “services” that make me jump through hoops as part of the program. There are too many companies competing for entertainment dollars to keep shoveling cash at something that’s not dependable. Our friends beaming music down from space would probably be well served to remember that.
My entire life, I’ve been searching for just the right combination of words. I’ve always been convinced that words are important. They have meaning. I’m convinced that the right word and the right time can save your soul. In the right hands, words are a real thing of beauty. In the wrong ones you wonder if we all weren’t better off huddled around a paleolithic fire grunting and pointing to make our will known.
Maybe I’m biased because words are the gift I got. Other people got chiseled good looks and a full head of hair. I got words. That’s not a complaint. If I had to pick, I wouldn’t have had it differently. Words are my big gun. They’re the thing in my arsenal that make me think if I look just hard enough, put them in the right order, speak the incantation just so, I can turn the tide. It might not always seem this way, but when the moment calls for it I can be one seriously articulate sonofabitch.
I can count the times words let me down on one hand – maybe two if I really stretch way back. Those moments stand out mostly because they’ve almost always come as a complete shock. Words move people when you get them in the proper order and everything is supposed to follow from there. Except sometimes they don’t follow. Much to my chagrin I’ve had to learn repeatedly that you hit every syllable dead on and still fail to make a mark or carry your point. They’re not moments I like to dwell on, even though I’ve been doing that quite a bit these last few days.
It’s one of those unfortunate instances when best effort doesn’t stack up to good enough. It’s humbling and paves the way to all manner of self-doubt. It’s a bad head space to be in, but you can’t fight it – not directly, anyway. The best I’ve ever been able to manage is to drop my shoulder and shove through while hoping it doesn’t take too long to blunder through to a point where the world feels normally again.
The whole world is open before you. Congratulations! I won’t mention that you’ve just been booted into the real world into the teeth of one of the worst job markets in living memory, or the fact that your degree doesn’t actual qualify you to work in your field, or that you’re about to enter a soul crushing, mind numbing grind that will rob you of your youth and keep up its blistering until you’ve dropped dead or saved enough money for retirement – whichever comes first. I won’t bring any of that up because your graduation is a time of celebration. It’s a chance to recognize a milestone achievement before you go off to make your way in the world.
Life after graduation doesn’t have to be doom, gloom, and the choice between living in your parent’s basement or your own studio apartment with an endless parade of ramen for dinner. Sure, you’re going to want you weekends to stretch from Wednesday afternoons until early Monday morning, but a few rounds of sitting through some mindless 8AM staff meeting will most likely break you of that desire. It’s just one of the machine’s many ways of breaking you down so it can building build you back up into a useful and productive cog.
Hope isn’t lost, though. The good news is that countless generations have preceded you. A few of their number were even thoughtful enough to write down a the tips and tricks that will help you navigate the professional world you’re about to enter. Now I could let you in on all these secrets for free, but that really defeats the lesson I’m trying to teach here – that sometimes free advice isn’t worth the electrons it was written with. Sometimes if you want the inside scoop, you’ve got to be willing to pay.
Let’s face it, at the low, low price of $2.99 for the ebook, knowing what you’re in for before it happens would be deal at twice the price. So, my newly graduated friend, I invite you to head on over to iTunes, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon to pull back the curtain and take your first steps into a broader world forewarned and forearmed. Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees is the graduation present to yourself that you didn’t even know you needed.
With graduation just around the corner, I’m going to take this Sunday morning opportunity to plug what I think is the essential gift for each and every one of them. And what better gift could you give the graduate in your life than their very own copy of Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees? It’s the gift that says “I care about your future.”
Sure, I know this probably seems self serving, but do you really want your graduate to walk out into the professional world starry-eyed and unsuspecting of the sheer volume of ridiculous shit that’s awaiting them at every turn? Yeah. I didn’t think so. This is the field guide that you and I didn’t receive. We had to learn these little life lessons the hard way. Why not let the next generation benefit from our hard won lessons learned?
So that’s my pitch this morning. Click over to Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords and show that special person in your life that you really do care about their future. You do care, don’t you?
1. Christmas shopping. I know the old saying goes “It’s better to give than to receive” and while I’m sure there are some very good socio-religious reasons for that adage, my own Christmas shopping does not in any way reflect it. After a week of hitting the sales at my usual haunts, it’s pretty much Jeff: 10, Everyone Else: 0. I’m shooting to get most of my list covered down over this coming weekend. Fortunately, in the finest tradition of 21st century man, gift cards are pretty easy to find and I can have just about all of that knocked out in about an hour. I’m sure I could go spend the next three weeks carefully pondering what the recipients might want, but in the end, shopping for other people is mostly a wild ass shot in the dark. It’s better all around to take my chances with them knowing what they want instead of giving it my best blind guess.
2. Arguing on the internet. I’m a regular member of several online forums. One of the best aspects of the internet is that no matter what you’re interested in, there’s almost guaranteed to be a group of people out there interested in talking about the same thing. From investments to tortoise keeping, there’s a discussion out there for you. What I don’t understand is why so many people spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on these sites arguing with one another over nitpicky details that really make all that much difference. There’s something about having an internet connection that imbues people with the sense that they alone are the herald of the One Truth. I’m of the opinion that there is room for smart people to disagree, for there to be more than one version of the truth, without everyone being a bunch of doucheknockers. Then again, that theory depends largely on it being a discussion between smart people. Which may be the ultimate flaw in my logic.
3. Thirty minutes. That’s how much later than normal I left work on Tuesday. I signed off on it in advance and for once actually wanted to go to a meeting, but that didn’t take into account the fact that apparently leaving 1800 seconds after the end of my usual duty day approximately doubles the duration of my drive home from 45 minutes to nearly an hour and a half. If I wanted to deal with that kind of asshattery, I would have accepted the job down at Ft. Myer and not here in the sticks, thank you very much. File that one under the category labeled “Mistakes I Won’t Make a Second Time.”