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Know That It Is Not Possible To Know Everything You Think You Know (Learn from Mistakes)

April 29, 2011

“Failure can not be your final destination, rather you can use it to shatter limits on your journey to greatness”Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Men’s Basketball Coach

June 15-30 in Michigan may be the most stressful time of year for all soccer coaches and administrators. That’s the time of year when all the clubs run tryouts for the next year. That’s when all the usual suspects show up to see
if they can make your club’s team. It’s when parents have devised plans to attend their chosen club(s) so that little Johnny can play for their favorite club, or the best club or maybe just with their friends. I can’t communicate just how misguided I feel the whole process is and what it does to parents and kids. Over the years, I’ve learned more about the human psyche just from those few days of stress each June.

In today’s competitive world, I’m fully aware that some organizations recommend that parents get to know the coach before tryout. The argument goes that the more likely you are to know the coach and his/her philosophies and style, the
more likely you are to make a better judgment about having your child tryout for that coach. Generally, I agree with this, but I also have an issue with the whole “shopping around” that the competitive and highly lucrative youth game has become. Not only does the act of “shopping” say to your current coach “You’re not the coach for my little Johnny”, but it wraps the “Helicopter Parent” image on so many. Even worse, it’s the coaches who then have to manage these “Helicopter Parents” in addition to the challenges of just coaching!

We continue to make the mistake in the US that says we must have our kids with the most successful, most competitive program in order for our kids to progress and succeed in life and as athletes. I now of plenty of kids who went through high-level, highly competitive clubs who now regret making that choice. They realize that they could have remained with their original clubs and grown just as well. Was it a mistake for these kids to go the direction they chose? Not necessarily. It’s just something they’ve come to regret at the moment, but I’m certain they will recognize other mistakes later in life that will have far greater impact than which soccer club they chose to play for.

Spring 2004, we’re coming to a close of the U10 season for my oldest son’s team. I’ve now been coaching the both teams for 2 years, and we’re beginning to see successes and improvement on the field. At the end of a game, I’m introduced to a family and their son interested in attending my tryout in the coming weeks. They say that they’ve watched a couple of our games and they like the way I communicate with the boys.

Sure enough, that boy shows up, along with 60+ other players for the tryout! It’s the largest tryout group I’ve had to deal with so I employee several dads to help with the various timing activities I always run through. One is this new boys’ father.

He’s definitely a likeable guy and asks good questions. He’s detailed in handling the task I’ve given him and does a fine job at it. We are able to form 3 teams that year, and his son makes the “B” team. At that time, I had another coach
working with me, so he was given the “C” team to work with for the year. I would stay out of coaching or training the team so it could be his to develop.

Back to the dad – as we begin summer training, he expresses interest in assisting me, which I accept since there really isn’t anyone else that seems to have the interest or seemingly general athletic knowledge. Over the next 3 seasons,
Coach A and I worked well together. We always seemed to be thinking alike at game time as I would seemingly say something to a player that he was just about to. We joked often about how this would happen, but in the end, we were doing our best to make the boys better players. I even helped him for a season on the basketball court as our boys played together on a fun, tournament team with several of the same soccer players. There certainly was a time in my past when I wanted to coach basketball, but the way basketball coaches are almost encouraged to scream and yell at their players just did not fit my style. The way soccer flows on the field and how events unfold fits more with my style of coaching.

Coach A and I also became pretty good friends over those 3 years. We travelled together to a few soccer tournaments, broke-bread at each other’s homes and did things friends do – communicate about our families and kid’s lives. Thankfully, this ability to communicate helped when after those 3 years, we both determined that it would be best for the team that he step down as the team’s Assistant Coach and allow me to have some other, young professionals step in with some assistance. We both originally approached the subject with trepidation, but it was the same conclusion we both wished for.

Unfortunately, more than a year later when another coach took over the team, with me still assisting, we had something of a small falling out. At a winter indoor game, I was coaching the team as the new coach was out-of-town. In that game, my son apparently said “Shut Up” to the parents and apparently looked straight at Coach A on the other sideline. After the game, he approached me and my son about this. Details aside, there was little communication between us after that day most likely because I didn’t agree with his evaluation of the situation or that I basically sided with my son. Granted, my son needed to be a bit more mature in the tone with which he spoke to the adults, but part of my coaching philosophy encouraged players to speak to their own feelings and tell parents to keep quiet during games. It might not be popular, or seem disrespectful — as Coach A expressed — but it’s the principle of leading young men to have confidence and courage is particular situations that I was standing my ground on.

It wasn’t until later in the year when drama surrounded the Plymouth Soccer Club that I realized just how little my so-called friends were no longer communicating with me and the mistakes I made would stack up.

Amidst this drama our club Director of Coaching called a meeting at which all of the coaches and numerous parents, including Coach A, showed up. Only one Board member was present as we were told the other members were at other meetings. To-date I still can’t determine what those meetings were. In my role, I had every right to ask the questions but never did so publicly. Anyway, Coach A didn’t say a word at the meeting. He never made eye contact with me nor attempted to speak to me after. With so much happening at that time period – right in the middle of the firestorm – I didn’t, and still don’t, understand why he never asked me any questions. He loved to ask questions and dig deeper in to a conversation, but not in this particular situation. To this day, it’s a mystery.

In retrospect, the real mystery is why I didn’t just ask? Why didn’t I approach him about it? Why, after he took his son to another club at the next tryout, didn’t I try to understand his perspective of the issues?

Furthermore, when at the Board meeting just before tryout, Coach A made a statement that appeared to support the problematic existing Board, why did I continue to remain so silent? It was this approach of silence that caused so many problems for me and the many relationships that suffered in the Spring of 2010. I wasn’t learning from my mistakes and I still did not know what I did not know!

Know How Many Licks it Takes to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop (Know by Doing!)

April 27, 2011

We didn’t always have the “0’s and “1’s” of digital technology, but we always had the “Oh’s and Ah’s of purposeful story telling.” – Peter Guber, Mandalay Entertainment

My step-father used to tell stories every chance there was a group gathering, or just to make some point, and the stories would inevitably be the same stories of his time in the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We all got so tired of hearing them, but I did eventually learn something about story telling. If you’re not any good at it, people stop listening to the important message you may have. If all they hear is a ‘data dump’, they tune out. When all they hear is “me, me, me”, they really stop caring about “you, you, you.” How does that one phrase go?? — “People don’t care what you have to say until they know you care.”

I once thought I knew what I would do with my life. I was 16 or 17 and put in my high school yearbook that I would graduate college and take over my father’s business. A few years in to college, and after almost dropping out, my father’s business closed and he moved to Florida. I think at the time I had expressed that I had no interest in taking over the business, but I think that was the youthful stubbornness so prevalent in my family and me! Although 25 years later I don’t necessarily regret not wanting to take on that business, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like had I gone in that direction. Truth is that my study habits at that time, and willingness to take on tough assignments, or really take on anything challenging, was less than stellar. I rarely stretched myself or did anything meaningful, thus I squeaked out a degree in Sports Marketing and Management and searched out a decent paying job to hopefully support the new love of my life, Tiffany. My time with a ground transportation company (limousines) allowed me first recognize the importance of “Know By Doing.”

All the different careers in those early days worked out ok financially, and provided a wide variety of experiences, but later on, new employers really didn’t like the constant changes I had gone through. As our family grew with the addition of Ryan, Jason and Niklas, and we moved from Indiana to Michigan, my career choices always resulted in some form of disappointment and lack of desire. However, there was a period in 2001-2002 where I found what I believed were my passions — Soccer and GuiXT.

Granted, soccer is a passion for millions all over the world and gradually catching hold in the US, but why in the world would GuiXT become a passion?!?! When I took on the responsibility to develop the GuiXT scripts for the project I was on in 2001, I’m fairly certain it was because I wanted something important to actually be responsible for. I really don’t like just being a cog or another inactive soul in a large enterprise/project. I knew I had to have something important to do and be the primary responsible person for it. I knew that really focusing on the GuiXT development and “just doing it” would help my career growth. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Upon completion of that project, although I felt it was a stellar job of doing something even trainers at SAP America said wasn’t possible, the GuiXT scripts met some user frustration and management pushback. It was too early in my career and personal maturity to realize that these feelings are just natural for most people as they are never satisfied with the work of others. Ultimately, I left that company and my next employer in hopes of providing my GuiXT expertise to other projects. It was my hope that really “Doing It” would lead to numerous projects and future SAP opportunities.

It was soccer where “Know By Doing” really took shape.

It was September, 2001 and I’m a newly certified referee in the city of Plymouth, MI. After a self-inflicted hiatus of 14 years from the game of soccer or any youth sports, and just a few years of coaching recreational soccer for the city, I have been volunteering for as many opportunities as possible to be involved with the program. At one particular game I’m to referee, I meet a coach for the local club’s boys Select team – I think they were U12’s or U13’s. I briefly mention that I am also a coach and would love to meet someone within the club who I could talk to about future coaching at this higher level. With my oldest son playing U8 Recreational soccer, I want the opportunity to continue coaching him for many years to come. As fate would have it, the person I was talking to was the club’s Vice President and his assistant coach was the club’s Secretary. We exchanged numbers and came across each other a few more times that fall season when I
refereed more of their games.

Later in our relationships, we often laughed about the happenings of one particular contentious game when I had to show a yellow card for Dissent to one of their players. There had been a lot of yapping by players that game – as most U13+ boys games go – but this one boy just kept talking and talking until I finally showed the card to keep him quiet and calm the game down. For many years thereafter, both coaches reminded me regularly how they just didn’t understand that card because the player was always “so quiet” with them. To this day I contend it was the correct judgment, but the reality, like many referee decisions – and many decisions in life – was that it very well could have been another player.

We also came to know each other better because of two unrelated games I officiated that fall season. It was for a particular imposing, seemingly over-confident coach for the club. I had been warned by the Referee Assignor prior to the game that this coach could be quite intimidating and loud. Although I feared the worst, nothing ever came of any of those encounters. My conversations with the other Board members always made comment to this particular coach and his demeanor. I certainly never expected any of these people to play such a pivotal role later in my soccer life.

February 2002, I was working in Oakville, Ontario, Canada – Toronto suburb – finding myself on a phone call with the self-appointed Coaching Director for the Plymouth Soccer Club. We’ll just call him Mr. Santos. It was my first phone interview with anyone from a soccer club about my background in the game of soccer, my philosophy of coaching and why I so desperately wanted to coach for this club. We talked for about an hour which turned out to be one of the shortest phone calls with Mr. Santos I’d ever have. He had a knack for yapping on and on about the same developmental tactics and club direction. Little did I know about the landscape of competitive youth soccer in the Southeast Michigan (Detroit suburbs) area at that time!

As this conversation progressed, I knew that I would be able to step into an important role for the club fairly quickly. Something in my gut just told me they needed help and I was feeling very confident that my personality fit with what they had and what they needed. Over the next few months, I was slotted as one of the two new U9 boys’ coaches for the upcoming year. Thinking it was the way to encourage boys to come to the tryout, I made up personal business cards to pass out to parents after U8 Recreational games. The looks I got ranged from confusion to utter disbelief that I would even approach such a subject. For the most part, I think it was well received since there were about 50 boys who came to those June tryout. The other coach and I divided up the boys in an attempt to make equal level playing teams and went about our business of forming our teams. While that sounds simple enough it has its own separate story that always makes me laugh.

Prior to the tryout, we met and essentially agreed to divide the players as best we could for 2 equal teams. I informed him that no matter what, there were 4 boys who committed to doing this, plus my son, as long as they could play for me. No problem.

Tryout day and we are evaluating the talent. Coach comes to me with his list of players he “must have” because they are “the best players.” Not only was this not what we agreed upon – must have been his limited English being from Yugoslavia – but all 5 of the boys we earlier agreed upon were on his list, my son included! I was stubborn enough to not let him get the best of me, even though I wanted everything to be equal. In the end, I essentially kept those 5 boys from my Recreational team, plus 6 others. This team, as well as the other team that I eventually became coach of later that winter, remained my primary focus for many years. I’m very grateful for the relationships that my family and I have been able to forge with every one of those boys and their families over the years. Many of those relationships and past experiences were pivotal in the continuing development of my own coaching philosophies, style and decisions to be so involved with the club. Quite the opposite, though, the decision to be so ingrained in coaching these teams and the club caused me to disregard and turn down numerous other consulting positions that could have been quite lucrative.

In John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach, he relates numerous stories of his development from player at Purdue University to the progression as coach at UCLA and those dynastic years. Throughout it all, it had nothing to do with some revolutionary playing system or intimidation of his players. It came down to the incredible humility, discipline and morals that he displays every day of his life and tried to instill in his players. I’ve studied many of his writings and writings from other authors about him over the years never tiring of the same stories and lessons. In my formative youth years, I had a few coaches that had both positive and negative impact on how I played and how I became motivated to stay involved in sports. Granted, those early dreams of being “in the Big Leagues” were far-fetched, but I always reflect upon many of those coaching lessons much like I do from the silent mentoring of John Wooden.

My Little League baseball coach, in particular, is the one coach I admired the most. He was the father of an elementary school classmate/friend and still a friend to my step-father. I don’t get back to my hometown, so I haven’t seen him for many, many years. I only played baseball with him for 4 years, and those were early formative years when learning the fundamentals was tantamount to any success or glory on the field. We had some pretty good teams those years, at least from the perspective of having only 6 teams in the little town of Litchfield, NH. We won plenty of important games, got a lot of plastic trophies and I played on some All-Star teams, but the single most important thing I remember from those years wasn’t on the field of play. At one of our year-end banquets to celebrate the season for all the teams, when handing me my Championship trophy for that final season I’d be with him, he said that I would always be “a great leader when it [came my] time.” He always treated me as a team leader and I always sensed that what he was teaching me was important.

Funny thing about being 12 is that you take many things too literally. I learned over the years that just because someone feels you are a leader doesn’t mean someone else will necessarily see that or make you the leader. I know I didn’t learn how to effectively, and humbly, be a leader in any capacity until the later years with the Plymouth Soccer Club and coaching those boys teams.

Shortly after taking on the coaching responsibilities for the boys teams, I was also involving myself in more of the club’s administrative activities. It was probably more for the fact that I volunteered and the club’s Board of Directors essentially accepted me in the group as their new Secretary. No formal vote or grand meeting to ask for volunteers. I voiced my willingness and was accepted. Over the next 4 years, I did whatever it took to help improve the club in terms of image, communications, direction and general competitiveness of teams. I always felt my ’95 boys teams (we had grown to 3 teams by U11) were becoming the most competitive in the club and were seeing great on-field success at that point in time. Obviously self-centered, but I had my reasons.

At our November 2007 Executive Committee meeting it was recommended that I take on the President role as the current club President expressed a desire to step down. This was about 3 months earlier than originally planned, but I was ready for the opportunity and the club was ready for the change.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2009. Although we experienced a slight contraction in the total number of teams for the year after having the largest number – 27 down from 32 – the club was showing its members that we could offer a great value for the money being invested in their children. Professional soccer players were now on staff and the amount of training time far exceeded what most others were experiencing at other high-priced clubs. Our price structure had been built over the past 2 seasons so that better financial leveraging could be managed for coach stipends and other club amenities. We were on a very positive track forward. In retrospect, I had learned a lot, done a lot and experienced so much personal growth that I knew it took about 3 licks to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop! However, it was at this same time in our club development where some perspective was lost and some of us didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Job Search

April 26, 2011

Ten years ago, I took on the challenge to be part of a SAP 4.6C implementation. In that same project, I became known as the GuiXT expert for the screen-scraping development necessitated by the company’s need to modify the Sales Order/Delivery process in the somewhat complicated SAP environment. I detail this and other development experiences on my Consulting page. These GuiXT focused projects — and a couple other ventures I took on in 2008-2010 — created a sort of gap in my SAP experience that most SAP-related projects are considering a negative on my resume. What I’m now trying to figure out is how to gain the more relevant and recent SAP experience to get in to a decent SAP position.

Starting an active search for a project in February 2008 led to very little good leads. At that time, I was also being very stubborn and determined to stay local to Michigan or telecommute because of my deep involvement with the Plymouth Soccer Club. As the club President, coach of numerous teams and responsible for training every day, I felt that I couldn’t abandon that commitment. My eventual commitment to a career in SAP and consulting waned through 2008, but then picked up steam again in early 2009. From January – August, 2009, I submitted applications to more than 200 projects and unrelated IT positions all over the US. But, again, because of my stubbornness, I missed out on several positions because I felt I needed to uphold my commitment to PSC.

When I finally joined a small company in Michigan as a Technical Support Analyst, my responsibilities with PSC remained, but I was able to balance both the new job and the club responsibilities. It was the events of winter and spring 2010 that changed what I am now doing and what I hope to be doing in the future.

The story of those events from 2010 that I wish to relate is currently in a document of some 40+ pages and is obviously far too much for this post. My intentions over the next several months is to chronicle this with more intent and to relate it to my earlier post of Being an Expert and what I hope to be doing with my career in the very near future. I believe that the Top 10 List of knowing you are an expert relates to most everything in life! What I hope these subsequent posts do for me is actually figure out what will be best for me in my future career. IT Consultant? IT Trainer? Teacher? What will it be?

In the meantime, I’m actively looking for new SAP projects (primarily in the Sales & Distribution [SD] arena) and hopefully new GuiXT opportunities to broaden my knowledge and experience. Since March 21st, I’ve contacted 41 projects and have had numerous email/phone contacts about other projects all over the US. I’m available and willing to travel for any project. Well, almost any… I had a contact for one in New York City but it’s just not economically feasible to travel to NYC on a regular basis.

Being an Expert

April 21, 2011

Saw this list on an SAP blog. Had to share.

You can add the words ABOUT <Your Area of Expertise> after each of these.
Here then is Richard’s Top Ten List on How to Know You Are an  <SAP> Expert
Number 10 – Know What You Do Not Know   ABOUT <My Area of Expertise>
Number 9  –  Know What You Know
Number 8  –  Know How to Find Out What You Do Not Know
Number 7  –  Know How to Forget What You Know So You Can Know Something Else You Do Not Know
Number 6  –  Know How to Learn From Others What You Do Not Know
Number 5  –  Know How to Teach Others What You Know
Number 4  –  Know How to Deliver on Promises Made About What You Do Not Know
Number 3  –  Know How to Deliver What You Know
Number 2  –  Know That It Is Not Possible To Know Everything You Think You Know
and The Number 1 Thing That Makes You An Expert
Know How Many Licks It Takes To Get To The Center Of A Tootsie Roll.
 
I hope the above gives some of you insight.  Maybe even some of you laugh.  Some might wonder if this is serious.  It is. 
Translation
10.  Be Humble
9.   Be Confident
8.   Learn
7.   Grow
6.   Listen
5.   Give
4.   Think
3.   Execute
2.   Learn From Mistakes
1.   Know by Doing! 
 Number 1 for me is important.  Do not be one of those that thinks you know because you read it.  Know because you figured it out.

I have a good friend, Jose, whom I consider my SAP mentor. Aside from the fact that we haven’t seen each other for almost 5 years, he’s always tried to help me with whatever career decision I make. Since 2006, my career has taken so many different paths that I’m certain he thinks I’m crazy. Nonetheless, he’s always been a good friend.

Although it’s never been succinctly listed like this before, this top 10 list is exactly what I learned from Jose many years ago working together on an SAP project. So often I would hear people refer to someone else as an ‘expert’, but likely they weren’t. Even Jose deflected that label because he knew there was so much more to learn. I don’t think he realized then that he was an ‘expert’ according every item on this list. I’d like to think he still is. I’d like to think that one day I will have the opportunity to say that I have been able to demonstrate each of these, too. Getting better at #2 is a biggie for me.

Disappointments

April 13, 2011

Just over one year ago this week began the most disappointing experience in my life. I’ve made vague reference to it in past postings and have been detailing it in a private log for sharing at some point in the future. However, what got me really thinking about this topic was more recent events that highlight how we can either chose to be disappointed and stay in a poor attitude or recognize that disappointment is just part of constant change in our lives and use its lessons for future growth.

As you know, I recently stepped down from my role as President with the Plymouth Soccer Club to take on a full-time Business Analyst role out-of-state. Commuting back and forth has it pros and cons, but we have income to battle that nasty debt monster! With these changes, the club was also waiting to hear if one of our coaches would be returning after his winter indoor league play in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Two guys on the MISL Scoring Leader list are coaches for PSC, both are good friends, but one is actually my older son’s coach. So, whether he was coming back or not was important to know. When he informed us that he wouldn’t be returning — he got a year-round contract in the other city and was given a home to live in rent-free — the club’s Director of Coaching and President had to scramble a bit to determine who the best replacement coach would be. Although I am the team’s former coach, and I will be around for the majority of their games, I have to remain in an advisory role so that the new coach can do his thing and the players can learn from him. Certainly, it’s a disappointment for me to not be able to maintain a high level of involvement with the boys, but it’s best that I fade off as just a parent for these last couple of years before they all go off to college.

The real disappointment has been for my oldest son as a member of this team. After all the drama that took place last year with the club, then being able to keep the team together even after losing so many teammates to other clubs, then not playing for his high school because of who the JV coach was (that’s part of last year’s club drama I’m writing about separately), he now deals with having his coach who he really liked not returning. This is after being promised he would return and that the team was going to have a strong year of rebuilding. He is so conflicted with the idea that someone would commit to something and change their mind at the last-minute resulting in so many 15-16 year old boys having to adjust to someone they didn’t try out for. Much like how a college coach recruits players then decides to leave at the end of the year leaving those new recruits uncertain of their playing  and development future. While most younger players are more flexible and can handle such a change, these older, generally more mature, boys can feel the pain of such a change. I feel for them.

As I said, I’m disappointed too, but I fully understand this coach’s position and the opportunity it presents. Similarly, I had to make a difficult decision to move forward with my new full-time position out-of-state which resulted in stepping away from something so near and dear to my heart. Just because you step away for the moment (under good terms), doesn’t always mean you are stepping away for good. Nor does it mean that those effected should feel betrayed. We have to recognize the opportunities presented to the other person and the value it provides for their goals and objectives. While I know my son is generally mature in most situations, I can only hope that he gains more maturity in this situation and moves on to making the rest of the season a positive experience for he and his teammates.

Winning and Losing

I spent the past weekend with my whole family — all 6 of us plus Tiffany’s father — in Indianapolis, IN for a soccer tournament that Jason’s team was playing in. When I was coaching, I’d have 2-3 teams playing and I would be running from game to game. This time, it was all Jason and the 4 games he played. Thankfully, they made it to the Final game after a hard-fought 3-2 win against the team they would eventually play in the final. Unfortunately, they lost the final 3-2. With the time that game would end, I knew it would be cutting close to get me to the airport for my flight back to Syracuse. I let the coach have his talk with the team at the end, but was feeling overly anxious considering the amount of time we had. Even though the team would be receiving Finalists trophies, I had to pull Jason away from the team and run off.

Never in 8 years that we have been attending tournaments have I ever had to run in such a hurry, and never have I deprived my kids the opportunity to experience the bonding that goes with such a win or loss. Until now!

Many hours later, sitting on the plane, it hit me that Jason didn’t get to experience being with his team for that trophy presentation. Even though he has experienced many winning and losing trophy presentations, I just feel that it’s important that all players get to experience those moments so that they know how to deal with both success and failure later in life. I won’t debate the pros and cons of that, but having this personal epiphany cements my belief of its importance in the maturation process for all of my boys.

Jobs

We’ve all been disappointed with the jobs that didn’t work out, or ended up working for bosses that we couldn’t stand, or maybe we’ve been that boss or employee who is just unbearable to work with. What about the scenarios where you know when you interview that something is just “off” about the person you interviewed with, or that the company just seems “too quiet”? Maybe it’s just something in your gut that says “I’m not too sure about it,” but there’s some overarching factor that causes you to take the job anyway. I’ll bet in all cases, that’s money!

I find myself in that position now after being with my new employer for 9 weeks. As noted elsewhere, it’s a full-time position in East Syracuse, NY that would result in my family being relocated. We’d have to sell our home, find somewhere to live in NY, ensure it’s in the right school district for the boys, be in an area that is right for the family and, ultimately, move away from all the family we have in Michigan.

The initial disappointment of having to move was quite stressful for all of us for about a week. Although we seemed to be dealing with it in the most positive ways, we came to some conclusions about 6 weeks in to the venture.

  1. Probably the single factor that led me to everything else was a statement made in a meeting on March 17, 2011 that SAP is “highly unlikely to be implemented any time soon” at this new company. Other conversations confirm that it “might be on the 5 year horizon” and that since “everything works now, why bother spending that kind of money.” The high probability, and general promise, of an SAP implementation was a major factor for taking the job — ok, the income and relocation costs certainly helped! — but now there’s almost no reason for my existence at the company. Even the so-called “Business Analyst” role has nothing to do with my IT experience and preference.
  2. To sell our home in Michigan would result in us losing about $60-70k in the original equity. Granted, the market has nose-dived in MI, and the value is far below that initial purchase, but that’s a tough pill to swallow. On the flip side, the preparation, reorganization and few minor repairs we hustled on were great for really getting the house back in order.
  3. Trying to find a place in NY had become a difficult task for two factors. 1) Finding a home or temporary apartment that we would ‘fit’ in, in one of the towns we had narrowed down to wasn’t panning out, and 2) our credit rating after this 3 year struggle has taken such a beating that we don’t qualify for anything.
  4. Tiffany and I came to the realization that we REALLY just don’t want to move! She is too close to all her friends, her mother and father are close by and very important in everything we do as a family, and my heart is just not in to making the change. When we told the boys, they were beyond ecstatic of being able to stay in Michigan.
  5. Finally, I have been contacted for so many contract opportunities all over the country, as well as a prospective GuiXT project in San Diego — crossing my fingers! — that I’m certain something will click soon.

On one hand, I’m excited about the opportunities of all the contract jobs out there after almost 3 years of nearly nothing. On the other hand, it’s a fine balance to ensure we have income and can maintain our already super tight budget until something else more in line with my SAP and GuiXT skills. In this case, unfortunately, the resulting disappointment will be with the company when I tell them I must depart for greener pastures. For my own peace of mind, the sooner the better.

Mass Transportation

April 2, 2011

I love the idea of taking a train versus most other mass, long distance transportation. It was a weekly thing for me back in 2001 when I was working in Oakville, Ontario. I think I was spoiled by the short 4 hour ride and the First Class service on Via Rail, though. With the full meal service and incredibly comfortable seats, it was all train travel should be.

A few weeks ago I worked an arrangement with my current employer to alternate working weeks in Michigan and New York. So this coming week I’ll be working in Michigan. Definitely a great thing, but the logistics of the following weekend put a small glitch in the plans. See, Jason has a soccer tournament in Indianapolis, IN. My original plan was I would be working in NY that week, fly to Indy for the tournament and then fly back, or better yet not fly and ride home with the family. Well, now it’s actually working out opposite that so I had to make different arrangements to get to Michigan for this weekend so I can take the flight from Indy to Syracuse after the tournament.

Airline prices are simply outrageous!!! Over $400 for a one way flight Syracuse to Detroit! This after the $200 I already paid for the round trip Syracuse-Indy flight. Lucky enough, Amtrak runs through Syracuse to Toledo, OH and then there’s a bus to Ann Arbor. That works! And for only $76 that’s a deal. I spend that easily on the tank of gas, tolls and snacks it takes to drive the 7 hours, plus the wear and tear on my car.

The flip side is that the only train between Syracuse and Toledo runs overnight, 10pm – 6:30am. I prepared myself for the idea of trying to contort my body for sleep in a regular seat, but 3 1/2 hours into it and sleep just ain’t happening for me. Sure these seats are far more roomy and accommodating than the average airplane seat — even most First Class seats — but it’s the constant bumps, rocking, swaying and general train noises that are keeping me from getting any shut eye. Then there are the stops every hour for the next station. Part of the experience, I guess.

I really feel bad for those people who have the extra 4-5 hours to Chicago, IL.

Since this is the only train that runs this route, I have to wonder why there isn’t one earlier in the day? I’m certain the dismal economic situation Amtrak always seems to be faced with is a factor, but what about providing convenient schedules for it’s customers? I’m lucky I don’t need to take the train from Toledo to Syracuse as that runs something like 3:00am – 12pm!!! While the train is a cost effective option, looks like the car is still my preferred mode for the regular commutes.

Oh, I almost forgot the real reason why I started this. It was going to be a rant about poor customer service. When I think about it, it’s a rare occurrence in today’s hyper-focused customer-centric world that I experience poor service. I even go out of my way to be extra diligent looking for good service (like the girl at the Hampton Inn outside St. Louis who scrapped the ice from everyone’s car that morning in January – yes – told her manager that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen).

The incident at hand tonight was initially something I overheard and the rude tone this attendant took with a couple passengers. It was just so venomous and condecending. Shortly after, though, was the moment that got me fuming.

At the previous station stop, the seat pair next to me opened up, so I took the opportunity to jump over giving me and other guy room to stretch out. When the attendant made his rounds he noticed something wasn’t right since my ‘card’ identifying my final stop wasn’t over my seat. Oh, no! The audacity that I would move!! In his best “elementary school-bus driver” voice tells me to “get back in your seat!”

“Thanks, but I’m fine here since it’s open seating,” I said with a smile.

“You’re not listening to me. Get back in your seat. I’m saving these seats for the families I have coming on.” It was all I could do to not laugh, but I smiled and watched him turn around. I stayed in the seat and on his next pass, after there were no families boarding at the next station, he moved my card to me seat! I guess I’m allowed to sit where I’m most comfortable after all.

Ah, the fun of travel. That week in Florida can’t come soon enough.

Chapter 3 – Eight Weeks Later

April 1, 2011

What a difference  8 weeks makes. A new direction with a new company and a few bills caught up, oh but there are other opportunities out there that better suit my family needs and desires. Turns out the move the Syracuse really isn’t what the family wants to do and the position with this company doesn’t seem to be what I expected. Once again, I probably set myself up with false expectations based on the assumptions of an SAP implementation.

As that implementation is not likely happening and the work I’m faced with is almost non-existent, the irony of having numerous recruiters contact me at the same time reopens the avenue to contract work again. Better yet, a contact made yesterday points to a new GuiXT contract on the West Coast. I’m certain it will take a few days to learn more.

Ultimately, the biggest concern has been financial feasibility of moving. Selling our home would mean walking away with absolutely no money to then purchase or leverage for anything in NY. Heck, our lovely credit score doesn’t help either. Even in the long-term, we just don’t see us being able to get into another home if we sell now. In the end, it’s just not the right move for us. I’ll bide my time in Syracuse until the latest and greatest comes along. Until that happens, I am working furiously to get my name in the hands of employers, recruiters and headhunters regarding my SAP and GuiXT skills.