Paraffins, Aflas®, Kalrez®, and Stomping Little Boys:  You Learn Something New Every Day

Truth be told, I should begin this post with one “stomping little boy”, since that was the learning opportunity I was faced with last night as soon as I got home.

Since that lesson carried over to this morning, I decided to add it to the list for today.

Before lunchtime today I’ve learned (and re-learned) about paraffins, Aflas®, and Kalrez®. Such is the glamour of working in my particular sector of capital lab equipment.

All three materials have properties that make them particularly useful for a variety of applications, especially where smooth running (lubrication) and being able to withstand very high temperatures are essential.

Come to think of it, those traits are not only useful in industrial applications, but also with respect to dealing successfully with stomping little boys.  One little dude in particular comes to mind.

My son just recently adopted this strategy for effectively communicating his displeasure, or at least frustration, with any given situation.  Since he can’t really talk yet, he resorts to the time-honored tradition of “body language”.

I usually react with a mix of humor and sympathy.  While it’s somewhat comical to see him react in such an immediate and extreme way,  I also feel bad that he’s feeling the frustrations he experiences that lead him to the stomp.

And so I try to empathize, respond with understanding and be even-keel along the way. At the same time, I also curse my own short-coming, when I’m unable to figure out what’s bothering him, help him find a solution and otherwise ease his angst.

So the underlying lessons?  Stay cool when things heat up, keep an open mind (and your sense of humor), be “smooth”, and stay after it – coping gets easier, and solutions present themselves eventually. Sometimes it just takes longer than you’d like.

Parenthood and the Nature of Rest

I was out of town with a couple of college buddies for a long weekend and returned home Sunday evening.

As we were making the return trip early on Sunday afternoon my wife called to give me the low-down on the state of things with our three little kids, so I would not be caught flat-footed when I walked in the door (a gesture I appreciated more as the conversation went on).

The two youngest kids (who share a room) had a particularly difficult night Saturday to Sunday, waking up every hour or so.  Thankfully my mother-in-law had been able to stay at the house to help take care of things while I was gone, but that only partially mediated the difficult night.  My wife was exhausted.

I knew when I got home I’d be walking into the chaos and so tried to prime myself before the plane landed.  I was very likely not going to get much sleep and needed to have a good attitude and make the most of whatever sleep I could get heading into Monday morning.

Sure enough, both of the younger kids did struggle throughout Sunday night, crying off and on.  My wife got up to attend our youngest daughter (the seven month old) around 2 AM.    She went back to sleep after a while, but then by 3 AM our son (the older of the two) was crying more loudly, agitated and awake.  I decided finally to get up and try to comfort him, change his diaper of need be, and take him to the family room couch, in effort to give everyone a better chance of getting more rest.

He and I dozed on the couch until half past  5 AM.  I reminded myself throughout the night that it was not only sleep which rejuvenates us for the next day, but also simply “resting”.  I made a point of keeping my eyes closed as I lay on the couch, even while I was half-awake, to give myself the best chance to rest.  I told my son over and over the same thing:  close your eyes, it’s still night-time, it’s still sleeping time.

I think maybe he got his best rest of the morning in his last hour and a half of slumber on the couch before we went to day care, and I then went on to work.

The main point of this little tale is, as parents we need to expand our perception of what a good night’s rest is, because often we just won’t get the 7-8 hours the health professionals say we should get.

Especially with little kids, we have to find alternate ways of maximizing the rest we do get, and even though we might be sleepy the next day, not let our attitude also suffer from the lack of conventional sleep.


And expect to be sleepy the next day.

What Road Are You On?


Source: Paul Salopek, copyright 2014

With the economy going down and the economy going up and the economy leveling off over the past 20 plus years, and with corresponding commentary around the new “hot careers”, and booming industries, I’ve been thinking a lot about the changing workplace,   the changing needs of organizations, and the evolution of work. I’m sure I’m not alone.

It’s pretty clear that the fundamentals are vital to being successful. As a worker (whether a line assembly guy or financial executive), you must develop your skills, substantiate (and maintain) your productivity, and continuously contribute to whatever your particular bottom line is to be thrive professionally.

However, even if you do all these things, if you’re in the wrong company or the wrong industry at the wrong time, no matter how good you are, your job may go by the wayside. You may find yourself updating your resume, searching, interrogating your linkedin network to find a new opportunity, or more basically, a way to pay the bills.

Thirty years ago when young people were coming into the workforce the experts talked about that generation changing jobs – even industries – five times during a career.

Fast forward to the Wild West of the internet / mobile technologies boom of the last twenty years. The job market saw people jumping from company to company, opportunity to progressively (seemingly) better opportunity in pursuit of the “big money”, the brass ring, the buy-out that would turn stock options into retirement pre-40.  People changed jobs like you might trade-in your car or update your wardrobe.

Then the bubble burst.  The hot industries, the hot companies matured, were acquired, or simply didn’t make it.  The sometimes crazy cash that was being thrown at any venture with “network” or “internet” in their name or mission statement dried up. Things stalled out. The recession hit. Many lost their jobs because payrolls needed to be trimmed. Others lost their jobs because the cool start up they were working closed its doors and the next best thing wasn’t around the corner.  Belts had to be tightened.

So where does that leave us today?  Over the last five years or so we’ve seen a bit of a renaissance emerge.  New technologies, new industries, new markets are again developing. Capital is being invested more wisely (some would say).  Entrepreneurs are being held to a more stringent standard to demonstrate their business ideas and that the products behind them are (or will be) viable in real time for a reasonable ROI.  Companies are turning profits, hitting their marks, managing their marketplace more successfully.

But a vibrant workplace is still slow to come back in some ways. And even as job opportunities have picked up, the nature of the work, and the underlying expectations, often now put the employee in a more dynamic (and precarious) position.

This central question must be answered:  What does one do to keep one’s prospects bright in the face of such a professional environment? There are two keys that we have to focus on in this case, and the good news is, we control them both.

First, not only do you have to develop your core work skills and knowledge base (whatever your discipline), but you have to keep on learning and improving. It’s all about attitude. You have to maintain a positive outlook and BE OPEN to learning new things.

Too often people that have been in the workforce for ten, fifteen, twenty years, get set in their ways. It’s human nature. But you have to turn that perspective on its head if you want to survive (even thrive) in today’s job market.

You need to be continually thinking about how you can improve, further the skills you have, and add new skills to your CV. Center your thinking around being innovative, progressive, efficient. Adding value is the key (see earlier post).

The second thing is be open to new industries, new fields, new arenas for you to apply your transferable skills.  Some people would disagree with me and that’s fine.  I maintain none-the-less that being willing and able to re-invent yourself and your skills is paramount.

Many people perceive that they are “stuck” in one industry (computer networking), one profession (accounting), or both.  If they lose their job, they don’t know where to look beyond other networking companies, other finance departments.  “I can’t switch now, not at my age. No one will consider me,” is an attitude I’ve heard time and again.

In the end though, if you’re looking for a job, it’s up to YOU to find your way, it’s up to YOU to sell yourself, it’s up to YOU to decide what job you will be happy with (title, responsibilities, compensation).  No one can do it for you.

Organizations are going to make the best decisions for themselves, which often means more 1099 workers (temporary/contracted) versus W-2 employees (with full benefits), and layoffs as the bottom line dictates.

You have to make the best decision for yourself, including the environment you want to work, creating your opportunities, being a relentless learner, being positive.

The question is, “What road are you on?”

Jens Voigt: THIS Old Guy Rules

Jens Voigt will be 43 on 17 September.  On 18 September he’ll be trying for the new record on the “Magic Hour”.   What is that, you might ask?  I know I did.  It’s one of the oldest records in professional cycling.

What Voigt will try to do is beat the hour record of 49.7 kilometers held by Ondrej Sosenka. The record attempt is scheduled to occur on September 18 in the Vélodrome Suisse in Grenchen.

Below is a piece I wrote a while back about Jens, under the title “Old Guys Rule”.  Yes they do.

Go Jensie GO!

Jens Voigt has been racing his bike a long time.  What started out as a means for his parents to help him expend some of his enormous reservoir of energy as a youth, right up today, he likes nothing more than to peddle his two-wheel stead to the front and ride faster than everyone else.

This season Voigt demonstrated once again that his basic philosophy encapsulated by the simple phrase he tells himself when racing, “Shut up, legs!” is still effective.

He took the 66th win of his career in May 2013 at the Tour of California.  He was 41 at the time.

Asked if his innate racing sense is something he can mentor a younger rider to do, Voigt replied, “I have a big engine; I can handle a big work load. I’m willing to work hard. I think this instinct is just part of who I am. It’s hard to teach because the decision-making is done in just a split second. It’s like a voice talking in your head, saying, ‘Go now! Go now! Go now!’ And then listening to the voice. I try to teach the boys to be brave, be courageous. On Sunday night if you have some energy left, it’s too late. There is no stage on Monday. Get it all out now. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be intimidated.”

Last year after the California time- trial which had Voigt on the podium in second place, he commented that he enjoyed every moment because he didn’t know how many more opportunities he would have to be there before his career was over. But last August he produced a stage win in Colorado and won a race in Germany two weeks ago, along with today’s win, making podiums look like a regular thing for 41-year old Voigt.

“I like to call this the ‘Indian Summer’ of my career, not the twilight,” he laughed. “Think how beautiful it is in Indian Summer. That’s where I am, in the Indian Summer of my career. Yes, I hate to admit it, I am getting older, and my career will come to an end one day. For the second year in a row I am the oldest licensed holder in the world. The oldest bike rider! But age is just a number, apparently.

“I think that you can’t only talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. If you can do that, there is no reason to stop or slow down or give it up.” Asked about earning himself another year’s contract with the win, he answered an emphatic, “I hope so! If someone asks me if I am ready to sign again for another year, I say ‘Hell yeah!’ ”

Great attitude, great life approach, great inspiration for us all.  Thanks, Jens, and Go man GO!