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16Jul/090

Calculated Inexperience

This thought is a bit of a follow up from the previous post.

I'm a not a very traditional engineer in a lot of ways. I suck at simple arithmetic, I'm very extroverted, I get bored by tedious & repetitive tasks, and I'm very into artistic expression. But one trait that fits the bill is that I'm a very analytical person. I follow a very stoic and logical philosophy when it comes to my approach to life. But I'm also a hypocrite in that I'm a very emotional being... more on that later.

I've been spending a lot of mental capital on figuring out what my next step should be and a lot of that debate is centered around the contrast between instinct & advice or common wisdom. I have a strong interest in starting a venture; of course, the right way to go about doing this is to study up on how business are funded, how venture capital works, get an MBA, analyze the prevailing market trends and, of course, drink from the firehouse of information that's out there about current or formerly successful entrepreneurs. Like I said, I'm going to do this thing right if I'm going to do it.

But here goes the problem, there is no "right." There's only did, or didn't. Logic follows that startups fail more than they succeed and any analysis of the situation will always bring you to the same logical conclusion. Don't.

So I return where I left off at the part about being a creature of emotion. I love my job right now. In fact, it's my dream job. It's very challenging, very dynamic, offers endless learning opportunities, and I'm highly respected by my colleagues. As I write this, I'm 27 years old and am blessed with such an amazing life; but, if I just work for the rest of my life, I've basically reached my peak. Sure, I'll finish grad school and make more money and gain more responsibility, but I've cleared a lot of the greatest hurtles to success. I have to stop thinking through this so much and I have start getting emotional!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PhQTZcG5S8]

I recently watched this video from my youth again and realized that success isn't enough, I have to do great things. I had suppressed my memories from my childhood so much that I forgot how much of a fighter and survivor I was and had to be to make it through that crap. I can't waste all that effort on complacency & a BMW M3, I have to act! I need to be young, stupid, bold and naive. I need to try to reinvent the world and be so ignorant that I think I can!

Let's go!

17Mar/093

Stress as a Motivator

Somewhere along the line, I’ve been labeled as a pretty calm and collective guy buy my friends, and people who are generally close to me. I always chocked it up to the fact that I’m kind of a science guy who likes to take a Spock-like logic and reason based approach to life. But I came across a thought recently while talking with my partner, about relative levels of stress (her baseline ability to be stressed out is a bit higher than mine).

The conversation came to light while talking about focus. She’s at that point where a lot of things are beginning to converge; mainly keeping up with matters of career, health, relationship and just life in general. There are so many things going on in life right now that things can get really overwhelming very quickly.

So the question came up about how am I able stay focused even though I spend the entire week away from home and I spend all day Saturday in school? I hadn’t really thought of it because my life was so busy, I was just going with the flow (so it seemed). But it was at that point where I fully realized how stressed out I was (am). See, it’s not that I’m a too cool fool, it’s that I’m so sensitive to stress that I employ all of my essence to extinguishing whatever in my life is causing me stress.

So what’s the take home message?

I’ve always had this belief that stress should be avoided at all costs and that somehow, if you ever got stressed out, you were less of a person for not being able to “handle your shit.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so averse to stress, maybe that’s the way our bodies and minds let us know what we should be working on and striving for. Let’s embrace our stress, acknowledge its existence, determine its cause, and channel its power to extinguish the root cause. Let’s use it to give us focus and to accomplish our goals.

Stress can be the fire under your ass that pushes you to do great things.

22Jan/092

2008 in Review & Welcome to elliottpayne.com!

2008 was a big year for me, as you might be able to tell by the severe lack of updates to my blog. There's a lot I want to say here but I may have summarize for now.

  • Welcome to elliottpayne.com - First and foremost, I'm switching the blog over to elliottpayne.com. I'm making the move to coincide with some of my earlier thoughts on Web 2.0 and about generating an online presence. In summary, our online persona's and offline persona's need to coalesce as one and we need to move toward a more accurate representation of ourselves regardless of the venue. This move is the beginning of such a transition. I'm not sure how I want to format it, but I want to (either through tags/categories or pages) write posts that represent my various interests, mainly separated by the following categories: personal, professional, and creative.
  • Holy career change batman! – 2008 was punctuated by a massive career move for me. I went from being a manufacturing engineer in a dysfunctional working environment (let alone all the damn metal shavings that would always get stuck in my shoes) to a business consultant for a software company. I posted briefly about this right when it happened, but this is such a huge deal for me. This was always one of my dream jobs, and something that I was hoping to be able to someday do after I finished my MBA and here I am, still a year away from graduating, already at the “promise land.”
  • What economic downturn? – Consultants get paid significantly more than engineers. Just an FYI. So when the news broke that we were basically going back to the stone-age, I was getting on a plane to fly to a client and getting paid much more than I used to in the process. Of course the fantasy of a dream job and the reality of that same job are never in alignment. I’ve been traveling 100% (gone Monday through Friday, home on weekends) since the end of September. The pay bump for consulting isn’t because it’s difficult (it’s challenging no doubt, but in a fun way), it’s because I’ve spent more time with the bartender at a stupid micro-brewery in a dingy suburb of Philadelphia than my charming, lovely, wildly creative, stunningly sexy, scientifically genius, philosophically wonderful, and intellectually stimulating girlfriend in the last few months. There’s no free lunch here. Sacrifices are being made, but I have hopes and dreams beyond making money, so I’m hoping everything pays off in the end. Besides, student loans are no joke, gotta make it up somehow!
  • We got a puppy – Miyagi is the most awesomest laid back Chinese Crested you’ll ever meet. And I’m glad he keeps my lady company while I’m away. He’s also damn adorable (and I’m comfortable admitting it).
Miyagi!

Miyagi!

  • I sold my CRX – Seems like a piece of minutia at first glance, but this car has meant a lot to me. One of the things that motivated me to go to engineering school in the first place was my first passion of car racing. I used to literally close my eyes and imagine myself taking laps around Nürburgring when I would get stuck on a thermodynamics or deformable body mechanics problem and not have an answer after 4+ hours of really intensive work on just one problem (man those classes sucked). I’d close my eyes and remind myself of why I was putting myself through the pain and the hell of it all. A very momentous chapter of my life closes with the sale of this fine automobile. Gladly, it goes to the home of another car enthusiast and hopefully I’ll be able to grace the wheel some day at a future autocross.

I used the proceeds to fund my latest passion of photography and bought myself a new D-SLR, then banked the rest. This was also the first major step of uncluttering my life and putting more focus on what matters to me. I will return another day to racing (the WRX is pretty damn fun to drive too), but I need to focus on priorities right now.

So you can see 2008 was pretty big year for me. And I think it’s also pretty apparent why I haven’t been updating at all. I’m starting to adjust to the travel, so I’m hoping to work the blog into my routine.

I’m a fairly active blog reader, so I’ve installed a widget to the right that shows my shared google reader articles. If I haven’t been updating in while, at least check out some of the things I’ve been following out in the ether. At times, that says more about me than anything I write.

15Aug/081

HOW A New Job Can Make You Happier

I kept my last post brief because it had been so long since I posted, I wanted to at least give a quick update. Now that I'm back on the horse, I want to spend a little time on the How. Some people say that you shouldn't put so much emotional real estate into a job, and that career satisfaction is as much about your state of mind as it is what you actually do: I fully agree with that sentiment, but I think there are some other factors involved as well.

Focus on the context

Sometimes a new job is needed because your current job is so depressing, sometimes a new opportunity presents itself and is such a good fit for you and your goals that you can't pass it up. There are many driving factors that affect your emotional relationship with your job and why you might need a new one.

Your current job sucks!

  • Toxic environment - sometimes the environment you work in is so dysfuctional that you come home stressed out, depressed, and exausted just from having to put up with the people you work with. This is one of those self evident things (hopefully) that should be easy to spot in the wild.
  • No respect - similar to toxic environment, but can exist in its own right. You don't need to be admired by your colleges and adored by your superiors, but you should be able to at least be treated like a human.
  • Dead end - and lastly, a job doesn't have to be a torture chamber of an experience, sometimes the opportunity cost of staying at a job can set you back for years and really put a hamper on your long term goals and happiness.

The new opportunity is so much better than what you do now:

  • An offer you can't refuse - Whether you've been on an agressive job search for months or an aquaintance you met last week offers you an amazing job out of nowhere; sometimes it doesn't matter how good or bad your current job is, an opportunity presents itself that is SO great that it's a no brainer to move on and progress your career to the next level.
  • You know what you want - And what you're doing right now ain't it.  Getting a job in the field you want will, by definition, place you in a happier environment unless...
  • You don't know what you want - You don't like what you're doing now, but have no idea what you'd rather do instead.  This is your opportunity to experiment! You might come across a new line of work that really inspires you.  What's the worst thing that could happen?  You get another crappy job?  Quit and start all over again.

Well there you have it.  A short list of items that I've found true to my job/happiness hunting experience.  I'm still in the honeymoon phase right now though, so check back in a couple months and see how happy I am.  But the fact of the matter is that all jobs have their down points, but the key is to know when those down points have crossed a line and be keen to when that happens.

20Jul/081

A New Job CAN Make You Happier

Well, it's been a long journey (7 months to be exact), but I finally made it! I started a couple of weeks ago as a business consultant for a large software firm. I pretty much kept my job search to myself over that time and I wasn't just looking for a new job, I was looking for a new direction for life.

I just got back in town from training and it's good to be back. I just want to post a quick update and let you know I haven't died.

Next time around I'll tell you how a new job can make you happier, not just that it does.

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10Jun/081

Youth is Wasted on the Young

I always thought this quote was kind of funny and peculiar, I always thought it reeked of envy; yet I secretly wished I could somehow join this exclusive club, whose right of passage was simply the passing of time, to gain a deeper understanding of it. I was born in '81, just at the cusp of what they're calling Gen-Y; hell, I graduated H.S. in 2000 so that kind of makes me the official first wave of millennials huh?

Well, that means I'll be 27 this year and closer to 30 than to 20, so I recently had my first youth is wasted on the young moment. I was making my way to the radio station (on campus) and it was around that time of year when all of the freshmen and sophomores (i.e. the youngin's) were clearing out of the dorms; I saw a group of really young one's (it's crazy how obviously young people look in their late teens/early twenties) lallygagging outside, all care free and purple haired as they want, and I thought to myself "those bastards don't know how good they have it!" That's because I was running late and all stressed out because I was doing the radio Saturday evenings, working 40+ hours a week, and going to grad school on weeknights all at the same time: I was self admittedly envious of the fact that they had no pressing matters, they had no monkey on their back flinging poo at ever turn of life. As far as they were concerned, all they had to do was worry about getting their crap out by some arbitrary cutoff day.

Then I had to take a step back away from the situation and slap myself in the face to bring myself back to reality. By the time I finished my undergrad I'd been to Beijing, Taiwan (twice), lived on the east coast, lived on the west coast, fallen in love, gotten my heart broken, partied a lot, made wonderful wonderful friends... Long story short, I had a really sweet, kick-ass time in college.

The lesson learned is that life is wasted on the living.

It is every person's responsibility to live life right now. I think the author's heart was in the right place when he coined this phrase, but I think he lets himself and generations of people off the hook by placing the blame on a risk free (and therefore reward free) life on the naiveté of youth. I also have to give credit where credit is due; perhaps the genius of this quote is that young people will hear it and take a moment to reflect on their lives and, in an attempt to spite the generation that proceeds them, get up and actually do something with their lives.

One can only hope.