Tag Archives: transitions

More Than Just a New Job

The way the world is designed, heck, the way life itself is designed, it is impossible to go through a full lifetime without some major life changes and adjustments.  Regardless of what lifestyle choices we make, we all undergo periodic transformations.  Every one of us transforms from being an infant, to a child, to an adolescent, and to an adult.  Afterwards, most of us will transform to becoming parents ourselves.

Life in the 21st Century requires more personal transformations than ever!  Today nearly all of us go to college.  A life transformation occurs both at the start and the completion of our college education.  Additionally, the world is changing at an ever faster pace.  Gone are the days when one would be able to learn a couple of key skills to use over the course of a 40 year career with the same company.  Recent writing has even suggested that the most effective people reinvent themselves every 3-5 years.  Coincidentally, the current average time that a person stays at a job is 4.6 years.

It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment in which I realized that I needed to undergo a significant re-invention.  We often have this notion that ideas just pop into people’s heads out of nowhere.  We have all seen shows where a light bulb suddenly pops upon the screen, indicating that someone has come to a sudden realization.  This is not actually the case.  In reality, ideas are often developed over time, with contributions from multiple people.

For me, it took two separate disappointing experiences in traditionally-structured jobs, a whole bunch of reading, extensive self-reflection, and discussions with plenty of individuals, including some who had undergone a similar transformation themselves.

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Life after college started off really good for me, all things considered.  In Chicago, I had a steady job with a large corporation, where I met a lot of people who were also in their 20s, and had plenty of chances to enjoy big city life.

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It was the life I had imagined for myself at the time, but inevitably, things had to change.

The hardest thing I learned about life working for a large corporation is that a person can put in several good years, and have their work output feel quite well received by those around them, and still have decisions made on their behalf that are not necessarily in their best interest.  Essentially, what I learned, which sounds elementary to me now, is that corporations do not care about people, and that in large structured environments, people are often far removed from people making decisions.  It is common for someone to have decisions being made regarding their career path by people who do not know them much beyond what would be included in a two page resume.

During this time, I did explore a bit about non-traditional work environments, reading books such as The Art of Non-Conformity.  But, I guess I was not ready for it, and so I returned to another traditional structured work environment.

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I have not discussed this much in this blog.  As a matter of fact, I kind of feel like a phony even admitting that while I have been writing this travel blog, documenting the trips I was taking, I spent a good number of days sitting at a desk in an office like this.  Most people would not consider that the lifestyle of a “travel writer”.

I am starting to believe that every life transformation has both externally driven and internally driven components.  What I mean by this is that, the same way rehab programs only work for people who first “admit they have a problem”, someone can only re-invent themselves, when they come to some form of realization that it needs to happen.  However, I do not see situations where someone decides to make major life changes in response to nothing.

Usually, something happens to make one come to the realization that what they are currently doing is not working.  Sometimes, it’s just bad luck, like bad market conditions for a particular industry.

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Other times, it is something more positive, like being introduced to something new, a new idea, a new way of thinking, or a new opportunity.

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For me, it unfortunately took a combination of experiences.  At work, I once again felt that feeling of alienation, as once again decisions were made without my best interests in mind.  It actually lead to a work environment that I found not only non-fulfilling, but also unpleasant.

Through the afore mentioned self-reflection, reading and discussions I had over the course of 2015, I came to several key realizations that go beyond the standard “I need a new job”.  I realized that….

  • I had originally decided to apply for the types of work I had applied for because I had not really considered the alternatives.
  • It is not just the few bold people that work in environments other than office jobs with 9-5-ish hours.
  • With automation, globalization, and other forces, we are going to have to be more creative, self-directed, and individually motivated in order to maintain our current standard of living.
  • In order to get what I want out of life I am going to make some major adjustments myself.

For the last few weeks, I have been transitioning to a new employment situation, as a “consultant”.  This environment is described to me as being halfway between being in a “traditional” structured office environment and being a freelancer.  It requires me to work differently, think differently, and act differently.  As is the case for many that are self-employed, there are some financial risks, but in exchange, there is increased flexibility and autonomy.  With all these changes, who knows what adventures await!

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I am actually quite excited about making these adjustments.

In my new world, there are no more cubicles, and I do not have a permanent office.  This means that both meeting people and finding work will require significantly more individual initiative.  Without having the same people around me every day, I am going to have to determine for myself which people I should be associating with, both in a personal and professional sense.

In my new world, there is significantly less structure.  Nobody is there to tell me what time I should be doing what.  In order to ensure productivity, I will have to create this structure myself, determining each day, week, and month what I need to get done and when I will be doing it.

And, most importantly, my new world requires me to fully embrace thinking of life as a “slalom”.  Just as those that compete in slalom skiing must think several turns ahead of time, I must be prepared to think several moves ahead of time to ensure that I am setting myself up for a successful, and more importantly, enjoyable life both short and long term.

This requires a new me, and hopefully a better me.  It requires me to be more confident, both in what I believe in, as well as what decisions I make and what I believe myself capable of.  It requires me to take initiative without being paralyzed by the fear of failure that causes so many people to not pursue their ideas and passions.  But, most importantly, I believe it requires me to not lose sight of who I am and what makes me a unique individual.  Of late, I have been active in encouraging others as they pursue their individual pursuits.  What I am hoping for, both for myself, and for everybody around me, is that we do not transform ourselves into a completely different person, but that we are able to become what I refer to as the best version of yourself.

 

The New Place in Town

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When we think of “travel”, we usually think of the process of someone physically transporting themselves to another location, and, through that travel, experiencing something different from what they typically experience in their home towns.  And, it is that experience that I typically write about on this blog.  But, travel is actually a two way street.  Sometimes, the experiences of another place comes to us in our hometowns.  If it weren’t for this second form of travel, us Americans would not know about many cultural institutions near and dear to us, like burritos, yoga, sushi, or reggae music.

With the level of mobility in and out of, as well as within the United States of America, our culture ends up being in a constant state of flux.  Case in point, I remember when I was 12 years old going out for Thai food for this first time in my life, and thinking it was strange and exotic.  Nowadays, one can find Thai restaurants everywhere.  It’s become just as standard as pizza, another result of experiences of other lands coming to us, in our diet.

I must admit that last year, I had no idea what Detroit Style Pizza was.  In fact, I had no idea that Detroit even had a style of pizza.  To be fair though, having grown up partially in New York and partially in Chicago, two large cities known for their pizza, it had never really occurred to me that any place other than those two had a style of pizza.  By the time I had reached college, I had pretty much, in my head, categorized all pizza into three different categories; New York style thin crust pizza, Chicago’s deep dish pizza, and everything else, with Papa Johns typically taking the title for the least offensive member of this category (in my head).

But, since then, I had learned that Saint Louis, Colorado, and New Haven, Connecticut, all also have their own style of pizza.  So, when my friend told me about his upcoming business venture, opening up a restaurant serving Detroit style pizza, the concept did not sound completely foreign to me.  And, it helped that he did a really good job of describing it to me.  Through some research on my own, I later learned that Detroit style pizza has been around since the 1940s.  Yet, Denver, like everywhere else, appears to have suddenly become aware of this pizza style within the last couple of years.

Blue Pan Pizza opened 10 days ago in the West Highland neighborhood of Denver, one of Denver’s trendier neighborhoods.  It is a growing neighborhood in a growing city, with a lot going on.  It also appears to be a popular place for young families.  Both at Blue Pan, and at other nearby bars, I noticed a lot of babies and small children in the area.  So, I guess it is a good thing that the pizza turned out to be good, thus giving me no reason to swear in front of the children in the restaurant.

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As a general rule, I try the best I can to go “all in” when trying something new, and get the authentic experience.  So, while Blue Pan also offers standard Italian, and thin crust pizzas, I ordered the authentic Detroit style, as recommended by my friend, and restaurant co-owner Giles Flanagin.  One of the pizza styles is actually called “the 313” which appeals to my love of area codes (I celebrate “Area Code Day” every year).  The other pizza I ordered was called the “Brooklyn Bridge”.

I ended up really enjoying the pizza, as did the rest of my party.  Two other places in Denver offer Detroit style pizza.  I have yet to try the other two, so I have no means of direct comparison.  However, Giles had mentioned to me the importance they place on the quality of their ingredients, which I believe is why I ended up enjoying the pizza.

More than having a good meal, and being exposed to a completely new kind of food, I found myself just genuinely feeling happy that evening.  I was happy for my friend.  I was happy for my city.  I was happy for the neighborhood.  Ultimately, I was happy to have seen someone take an idea, something that starts out as just a bunch of words and images inside their head, and turn it into a reality.  It was right there in front of me, and completely real and completely successful.  Wow!

And, amazingly, although I desire more than anything in the world to be able to create an enterprise of my own, I did not even feel any envy.  Everyone is better off, and one person successfully executing an idea does not preclude another from doing so with a different idea.  In fact, seeing that it can be done should provide hope to all Americans who one day hope to have an impact on the world beyond just doing work and keeping a job.

Who knows what the future holds for Blue Pan, and the entire Detroit Style pizza industry.  American culture is in constant flux.  Some new entries to our mainstream culture stick permanently, while others die off.  In the 1990s, the cultural experience of Seattle’s coffee drinking scene traveled to the rest of the country.  It stayed.  A few years later, the southern cultural experience of Krisy Kreme donuts also came to us.  It left.  Will Detroit style pizza stay with us?  Only time will tell.  But, it appears to be off to a good start.

The End of a Season

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Last November, prior to the start of the 2014-2015 ski season, I attended a screening of Warren Miller’s No Turning Back.  The main part of this film is broken up into eight segments, each one featuring a different location around the world, and each one containing footage of extreme skiing or snowboarding interwoven into a storyline that describes the people and the culture around snow sports in that location.  This film’s primary impact is to get skiers and snowboarders excited about the upcoming season.  However, the introduction to this film actually contained a reminder that every ski season comes to an inevitable end.  A time lapse of a ski resort becoming progressively more green over time (during springtime) is shown while the narrator (of the introduction) compares skiing and ski season to “falling in love with someone you know is going to leave you in four months.”

Well, here in Colorado, that four month expiration date appears to be rapidly approaching.  On Friday (3/27), Vail ski resort, the largest in the state, was still being patronized by a significant number of snow sport enthusiasts.  However, signs everywhere are pointing towards the inevitable decline in the quality of the skiing that accompanies the transition from winter into spring.  Not the only recent day to feature temperatures exceeding 50F, sections of bare ground can be seen not only on the horizon, but also on many of the slopes themselves, particularly slopes that feature bumps on Vail’s back side.

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Increasingly, trails are either being signed to caution skiers of this variable terrain, or being closed off altogether.

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Conditions like these are often labelled “spring conditions”, a label that is both descript and non-discript at the same time.  Labels like “powder” and “groomed” are commonly used to describe the snow conditions on any given slope.  These two labels, amongst the most commonly used, provide a clear indication of what kind of snow a skier or snowboarder can expect to encounter.  When conditions are labeled as “spring conditions”, they are often quite variable.

Over the course of the day on Friday, I encountered all sorts of snow conditions.  There were parts with large clumps of snow, parts with hard packed snow, parts that were quite icy, and, of course parts that were very slushy.  I even managed to find a couple of spots with untouched new snow in the trees (I am not calling it “powder” as the snow is wet in variety, much like the snow one would regularly see in New York City).  I often encountered a significant variety of snow conditions while traversing a single ski trail.  Transitioning, often from hard packed to icy, and then to slushy, would cause sudden shifts in my weight distribution.  Being jerked, both forwards and backwards while skiing down the mountain almost made me feel as if I were at a rodeo.  Only, instead of being jerked around by a bull, angry that his reproductive region had been recently violated, I was being jerked around by what is labeled “spring conditions”.

Regardless of whether we ski, partake in some other form of activity, or just enjoy warmer weather, spring, and the conditions associated with it, do often jerk us around, much in the same way I was at Vail.  Springtime is not a slow and steady transition from winter’s chill to warmer weather.  It is often chaotic with wildly variant weather patterns that people in Oklahoma are unfortunately all too familiar with.

Sometimes, as is the case in the Northeastern U.S. this year, winter just seems to keep on going, maintaining it’s grip far longer than expected.  Those who eagerly anticipate spring’s warmth have a rough time with years like this one, as it almost feels as if nature is trying to torment them.  Other years are far more choppy.  In many parts of the country, this time of year can feature weeks that include both summer-like warmth, and snow, sometimes even within a day or two of each other.  It is not unheard of for an early spring warm period to trigger some to plant outdoors, only to have these plants killed by an unexpected hard freeze later in the year.

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Much like all other aspects of life, at the end of one season comes another one.  And, while the season to play in the snow is coming to an end, spring brings with it a whole new set of opportunities.  For those whose one and only love is skiing or snowboarding, the end of winter can feel very much like the narrator of No Turning Back described it; as having a feeling similar to having lost a love after four months.  However, for those who are fortunate enough to have found an appreciation for all of life’s seasons, the end of winter, and the transition to spring, while an ending in one sort, is also a beginning, with spring bringing with it a new set of opportunities.

The main advantage to living somewhere with seasons, as opposed to somewhere with consistent weather, is the variety that comes along with these cyclical changes.  In places like these, each season is distinct from the last.  At different times of year, we go to different places, and do different things, and even incorporate periods of rest and renewal into the cycle.  It provides life with a clear breaking point that distinguishes one year from another; something that many lack beyond college and graduate school.  I will most likely be back at Vail ski resort, to once again enjoy some of the world’s best skiing, before the end of 2015.  When that occurs, it will certainly have the look and feel of a completely new ski season distinct from the one that just ended.  Until then, the time has come to go and explore different places, maybe chase some storms, take some longer bike rides, or visit some places that are much more easily reached without the threat of a blizzard interrupting travel.  The coming months will certainly feature some amazing experiences that I cannot wait to have, enjoy, and share.

Welcome to Fall

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Although the weather in many places in the country is still quite warm, the fall season is upon us.  Along with it comes all of the things associated with fall; shorter days, football games, all sorts of stuff made out of pumpkin, and, of course the fall colors.

For many, fall’s best feature is the colors that arrive as some species of trees make the necessary preparations for the coming winter season.  The Aspen trees at higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains are amongst the first to change colors.  In fact, at elevations near 10,000′, fall colors can even arrive towards the beginning of September.  In the Eastern States, colors will only begin to appear at the end of September in places like Northern Minnesota and the higher terrain in New England.  Most places will see their peak colors in October or Early November.

To view some of these Aspen trees, I headed to Rocky Mountain National Park, which actually has more of these trees than I had previously remembered seeing.  Of course, I had never been there during the fall before today, and probably did not pay enough attention to the tree types on my summer trips.  Like most places in Colorado, there are still more pine trees (and other “evergreen” varieties) than Aspens.  But, there are enough to make large patches of yellow and orange stand out while viewing the park.

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Also, the colors themselves appeared more vivid here than they did in the places I had previously gone to view fall colors in Colorado.  I found out that this is one of the most popular places in Colorado for viewing fall colors.  This weekend, Estes Park is holding their annual Autumn Gold Festival, indicating that this is indeed the best time of year to search for fall colors in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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The arrival of these fall colors, of course, indicates the changing of the seasons.  They remind us (just in case the football and pumpkin flavored everything is not enough) of the transition that is currently occurring, and, of course, of the winter that lies ahead.  They also remind us of the cyclical nature of most things on this planet.  And, they also remind us that all things on this planet, whether they be as periodic and predictable as an ocean tide, or as complicated as the global economy, undergo periodic transformations.

Those among us currently experiencing a rough period can look to the colors on the trees, and take solace in the fact that nothing is permanent, including situation they are currently in.  Just as the season must change, and just as periods of war and peace are inevitable, one’s current situation will eventually transform too, for better or worse.  And, at some point, regardless of how any particular person feels about their life’s situation, it will come time to move on to the next phase, or the next “chapter” of their life.  We did not chose to enter fall- fall just started.  I am sure there are some that would gladly stay in summer for a few more months.

Alongside, each individual’s periodic transformations, society as a whole also undergoes periodic transformations, which often end up intertwined with each person’s individual story.  Here in the United States, the 1950s-1970s was a time of great transition in which our society became more inclusive and individualistic.  More recently, the proliferation of the internet and later social media transformed the way we communicate.

Of course, with every transition, there is some level of predictability, but also some level of uncertainty with regards to the eventual outcome.  Will the coming winter be bitterly cold, or mild?  How much snow will we get?  Will it be a good ski season?

What can I expect from my new job?  Will my marriage work?  Will I like the city I chose to move to?

And, of course, the European philosophers that ignited the Age of Enlightenment had no clue that these ideas would lead to a series of revolutions amongst their colonized land in the “New World”.  Nor did the global political and economic community know what was to come of these newly established countries until several decades into their existence.

I believe our society is currently undergoing a transition, partly in response to the recent economic collapse, but also partly in response to some of the shortcomings of our current societal structure.  Maybe the internet and social media transformation has yet to be completed, and we are still working out how our society is going to incorporate all of these new innovations.  In-person interaction was somewhat degraded by the proliferation of social media and smart phones, and there is much talk about periodically “unplugging” from technology.  The cause of, and lessons to be taken from, the financial collapse is still very much under debate.  But, with the increased competition for both jobs and business, many are taking aim at one of the most destructive aspects of early 21st Century culture; the demand for instant gratification.  As is the case with any other transition, there is a lot of uncertainty, and what our society will look like in 10 years is anyone’s guess.  But, I am cautiously optimistic about these developments.

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For those unable to get up to their favorite fall color viewing spot this weekend, there is still time.  While many trees have already changed colors, there are some that have yet to “turn”.  Those who make it up to Rocky Mountain National Park over the next couple of weeks will still be able to enjoy some fall colors.