Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wanabat Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. I refer of course to Wanabat, the Cambodian New Year. Happy 2553 BE (Buddhist Era).

As you probably know, Wanabat falls at the end of the harvesting season when farmers can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Wanabat is often celebrated with water-throwing or dousing, similar to water boarding, but of a good natured sort.

In commemoration of the holiday, I have assembled some Wanabat resolutions which I’m going to keep by gosh:

1. Spend more quantity time with the special people in my life, the loved ones who really matter, which come to think of it are pretty much me. So even more me time in 2553.

2. Give myself permission to love myself again, and most importantly, act upon it. Initiate a love affair with myself. Shower myself with spontaneous acts of affection on a frequent basis. Arrange romantic candlelight dinners with myself and read aloud sonnets proclaiming everlasting love and devotion to myself.

3. Sell all stocks and shift funds to online gambling sites that provide a more secure rate of return.

4. Confront gambling addiction. No wait, that’s too confrontational. Nurture gambling addiction.

5. Get a new look, or for that matter any look.

6. Improve my listening skills, or at least pretend to listen, or maybe just nod my head occasionally.

7. Connect to 10,000 new friends on Facebook and ask each of them for a $1,000 loan secured by my Facebook wall.

8. Watch less television and more YouTube. Make that more television and lots more YouTube.

9. Recharge my batteries and consider switching over to ethanol or any other alcohol based compound.

10. Do something about global warming, even if it’s merely a hollow, symbolic gesture like turning up the air conditioning in the summertime.

11. Remove Mccain-Palin poster from my front lawn and replace it with “White Middle Aged Bald Guys Seeking Bail Out, for Obama” poster.

12. Finally quit smoking once and for all. This should be doable as I don’t smoke. Always handy to have at least one realistic resolution.

© copyright 2009, LoserCafe, All rights reserved.

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Memo to my Boss

Memo

From: Norm

To: Boss

Subject: Executive Compensation

According to the media, we are living in desperate times, and desperate times as they say call for desperate measures. Take the Treasury Department restriction on executive compensation to just $500,000 a year for banks that (reluctantly) receive federal bailout money. Call me a socialist (on second thought don’t!), but I believe this could perhaps be extended to the private sector – to our very own company even. You’re thinking: Norm, you talk a good talk, but are you prepared to walk a good walk? (In these shoes?) Yes, I am! I am prepared to make this supreme sacrifice here and now.

Specifically, I propose that effective immediately my compensation be adjusted to $499,999 per annum (that’s per year in case you’re not fluent in Latin). That is well within the $500,000 cap imposed upon the banking industry, the very backbone of our economy (which reminds me I need to book an appointment with my chiropractor, my back is killing me). I understand that this means foregoing the deferred compensation package I have been receiving in the form of company backed collateralized debt obligations (please remind me again, exactly how do I cash these in?) I am also prepared to give up the executive perks that had been generously bestowed upon me including the all expenses trip to the company’s annual arm wrestling tournament in Indianapolis . Fortunately my team building skills are fairly well honed by now.

You are probably thinking, this makes a great deal of sense, but how do I justify this rather substantial increase in salary at a time when management has been charged with reducing expense and headcount? The answer is simple: Ever wonder why the Yankees pay ARod $28 million a year when the Yankees fail to make the playoffs or why the head of Merrill Lynch pulled in a $15 million bonus last year while his firm went down the tubes. It’s called pay for performance, not results. Not only past and present performance, but potential future performance, weighted by probability and discounted for net present value. In other words, you’ve got to look beyond the numbers. Downsizing and cost cutting are part of the problem, not the solution.

Sure, you can pay me what I’m worth - and you know what - that’s exactly what you’ll get. Or you can pay me far more than what I’m worth, in which case, you’ll get all that and then some. As any economist will tell you, you get what you pay for. If you want to hire the best people, you need to pay top dollar, and in all humility, I am best people material. So why arbitrarily limit compensation in the first place you might ask? Good question for President Obama!

This is a classic case of viewing the glass as half empty as opposed to half full. Needless to say I am not in the glass half empty camp, and neither I trust are you. When I see a glass, with a few drops of water or even with no water in it, I look beyond that to the water that could potentially inhabit the glass. I see not only a glass overflowing with water, I see a flood of water. I’m thinking, somebody grab a mop for Christ sake and clean up this mess. A mess not in the negative sense, but a positive mess, a mess of abundance and happiness. That’s why during last summer’s so called drought, I continued to water my lawn in full view, notwithstanding the dirty looks from some of my neighbors, in full knowledge that the so called drought was merely an opportunity to accommodate the deluge of rain that would inevitably follow. Interesting fact: the human body is composed 78% of water, give or take.

The bottom line is that somebody has to step up to the plate and make the necessary sacrifices imposed by the government, so it might as well be me. I say together we can make a difference, and once again please refresh my memory on the company backed collateralized debt obligations.

A great man once told me, Norm, your opportunities are limited only by your imagination; your success is limited only by your enthusiasm; your upside is limited only by your desire, and for goodness sake, go out and buy yourself a decent set of cufflinks already. That great man was you.

© copyright 2009, LoserCafe, All rights reserved.

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Kiss My Grass

And they will beat their plowshares into scythes
and their pitchforks into rakes. — Isaiah 2:4


According to the eminent theorist Professor Klaus Von Yurman, landscaping is in reality one-upmanship waged by means of gardening. Professor Yurman draws a sharp distinction between landscaping strategy, which falls primarily within the realm of botany, and landscaping tactics which falls squarely within the realm of horticulture. All this is widely accepted, though I have to admit that when it came to my own lawn I was at a complete loss as to strategy or tactics; all I knew was that my lawn was swimming in crap. Literally. I came by this knowledge upon being served with a citation from my township’s Bureau of Waste Management.

As to the dismal state of my lawn I had nobody but myself to blame or should I say my wife. It was my wife who pressured me into delegating the lawn mowing to my son. Pay the boy $20 to mow the lawn and instill some responsibility. It would kill two birds with one stone, build up my son’s character and preserve what remained of my lumbar vertebrae. Unfortunately it would also kill my lawn because my son’s understanding of the arrangement was $20 a week and he would maybe mow the lawn if and the extent to which circumstances would permit. Inevitably however circumstances seldom permitted - circumstances such as tennis, twittering, facebooking, shopping, and chilling. Of course my daughter who had an airtight parity clause written into her contract would insist on the same deal, leaving me $40 a week in the hole. Then there was my wife - who is not exactly domestic - more like foreign - from Massachusetts that is - a place real Americans (especially Americans from Massachusetts) have a hard time pronouncing let alone spelling.

In a matter of weeks my lawn began to resemble the brush land outback of the Kalahari and the situation steadily deteriorated from there. My neighbors began to dump their trash on my lawn, not merely their recyclables. Apparently they mistook our lawn for the village garbage dump. Next came the dogs. Then things finally came to a head when the block committee held a secret meeting and voted us off the block association. Henceforth we would be shunned by our neighbors. If we needed to borrow a cup of sugar, we would need to go around the corner. This would pose a major hardship because although we purchased sugar by the fifty kilo bag, we were constantly running out, and don’t get me started on our dental bills.

In abject despair I turned to Professor Klaus Von Yurman’s seminal text “Horticultural Thinking, and What To Do About It.” I read with particular interest his chapter on “so called” professional gardeners, which was rather complex and mathematical, though I could discern a distinctly ominous tone. After several days of intense caution, and against my better judgment, I hired our local landscaping service Sandino & Sons, though as I later learned his sons had a similar deal to that of my children. After obtaining the services of a Spanish interpreter I was heartened to learn that Sandino would mow my lawn for the modest sum of $80 per week, May through September. Given that I was already in to the tune of $40 per week, the additional $80 per week seemed like a steal, especially if it included having my lawn mowed. I signed up on the spot. A month later when Sandino finally showed up (sans sons), he informed me of a slight complication. My lawn was apparently diseased, and whatever it was, it was highly contagious. The only hope would be to tear up the lawn and start from scratch. Happily I would be eligible for a limited time 10% member discount, so the cost would not exceed $8,200 unless complication arose, which as he disclosed “inevitably would, in all honesty”. The only alternative would be to lay pavement over the lawn, which would of course be unthinkable. After a second of considered thought I opted for the unthinkable.

As the final section of concrete was being poured, I was served with yet another summons, this time from the township’s Department of Planning, Building and Zoning. Apparently my little home improvement project was in non-compliance with building code section 347-173, which mandates the procurement of a bona fide permit for partial or total demolition of residential property, and which in any case would not have been granted in accordance with zoning ordinance 548-345 subparagraph D, prohibiting the pouring of concrete, pavement, tar or any other inorganic substance on acreage hereto designated for horticultural use. Failure to comply may result in a fine of up to $60,000 and prison time up to 2 years for repeat offenses.

Twelve thousand dollars later, after the final slab of concrete had been pulled out, I was at the end of my rope - literally out of rope - so I rushed out to the hardware store to buy some. On a wild impulse I also purchased a bag of grass seed figuring what more do I have to lose. Turned out the bag of grass seed was infested with rat feces, but I returned it for a brand new bag, and laid down some grass seed. Well the grass gods must have been with me that day because a brand new all American green lawn sprouted in a matter of two weeks. Then I threw total caution to the wind and had a go at the lawnmower all on my own. Turns out mowing the lawn is actually salubrious for your back; it exercises the muscles and stretches the joints. Feeling pretty heady at that point, I mustered up the gumption to call off the mowing deal with my son and daughter, pocketing an additional 40 bucks a week.

It wasn’t pretty though. They convened a family meeting and threatened to mount a massive legal challenge to the Supreme Court if need be. Nevertheless with all the money I am saving, I once again am able to make the dental payments; don’t get me started on my dental and legal bills.

Most importantly, however, I am a man again. I am at one with my lawn.

© Copyright 2009, LoserCafe. All rights reserved.

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Company Culture: Finding the Best Fit

Congratulations! You’ve got a job offer, finally. But is it the right job for you? Are we talking about a fleeting infatuation or a long term relationship? Are you and the company truly simpatico or merely lusting after one another? Are you unprotected? No matter how prestigious the position, how high the salary, how outrageous your target bonus, how high up the corporate ladder, how fabulous the health plan, how generous your vacation days, how amazing your corner office view (by the way what was the name of that recruiter again?), if your company culture is unhappy or ethically challenged, you may not in the end feel entirely fulfilled (note: though in the end we’re all dead anyway). It is therefore incumbent upon you to determine whether your prospective employer is aligned with your core values and beliefs, but how? Luckily for you, we have devised a patented 6-step approach to assessing company cultural fit, guaranteed not to fail. Guaranteed by whom you might ask. Guaranteed by Clifford&Norm.com, that’s whom.

Step #1: Self Assessment
The first step in this process is self assessment. Ask yourself: In all honesty, do I have any core values and beliefs? If you are like most people, the answer to this question will be a resounding no, in which case you are in luck. You needn’t read on any further, though you might want to just for the heck of it, in the unlikely event you acquire any core values and beliefs later on in your career.

Step #2: Inventory of Core Values & Beliefs
As to those of you who imagine that you hold core values and beliefs or anticipate doing so in the future, there is a second crucial question you must ask yourself (note: it’s not too late to go back to step #1 and call it a day): What are my core values and beliefs, or what might they be if I were to have any? Unlike step #1, which is a simple “yes, no, or depends” type question, this second step is somewhat more open ended, and thus requires some reflection and thought. Of course there’s still time to go back to step #1 and crack open that six-pack. OK, time is up, list your core values and beliefs in order of importance, or if you are having a difficult time prioritizing, just list them in alphabetical order, or just randomly, the order isn’t really all that essential.

Step #3: Clear your mind
Take a long break and clear your mind, but don’t leave your self assessment list lying around where it will get thrown away or lost in the clutter. Store it in a prominent location such as your kitchen table; just whatever you do, don’t lose the bloody list. (Note: in the event you do lose the list, which you most likely will, you can simply return to step #1 and move on already.)

Step #4 Assess Company Culture
Culture is expressed through the words and behaviors of each employee, especially bosses. The job interview is your golden opportunity to assess the work environment and organizational norms. But how can you assess the company culture during the interview while you are trumpeting your accomplishments, expanding on your differentiated value proposition and repositioning your weaknesses into strengths? Well, nobody said it was going to be easy (note: Don’t tell me you haven’t gone back to step #1 yet; what’s wrong with you?). Your window of opportunity is towards the end of the interview when you are invited to ask questions. Here are 3 fool proof questions you would be well advised to memorize verbatim (just do it):
• Does your company have a company culture, and if so can you describe it? Also where can I locate it on your company web site?
• I am a work hard, play hard kind of guy (or gal). But what really gets me up in the morning is making money and lots of it. Not just dollars and cents, but also Euros, Pounds, Pesos, Rubles, Rupees, Dinars, and Shekels. Is this compatible with your company culture?
• I am a people person. My management philosophy is to put people first; especially people of the opposite gender who I find exceedingly attractive, however I am also very bottom line oriented, and I tend to put profit firster. How does this map to your company culture?

Another effective assessment tool is keen observation. Don’t let anything escape your notice during the interview. No detail is too small or trivial. At the same time, it is essential not to be distracted, and to stay on message. Here are some factors to be on the lookout for during your interview:
• Office Décor: How did the workspace look and feel to you? Was the paint peeling? Did you notice any offensive photos or artwork on display such as swastikas, confederate battle flags or other potentially offensive imagery? Were the restrooms conveniently located?
• Courtesy & Respect: How well were you treated while interviewing? Were you left in the waiting area for hours on end and forced to fill out a detailed 20-page application in triplicate? Were you treated like an honored guest or a terrorist? If the latter, were you subjected to torture as defined by the Bush doctrine (physical pain equivalent in intensity to serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death)? Were you at least provided with an interview schedule?
• Rapport: Were there any unusual gestures or offensive language that the interviewer used? What sort of body language was conveyed? How about eye contact? Did the interviewer bring up any uncomfortable topics of a violent or prurient nature? Did the interviewer at any time request a cash payment or personal favors? Did the interviewer smile and shake your hand firmly at the close of the interview?

Remember, interviews are your opportunity to observe, ask questions and assess the company culture. In some cases it can even lead to getting a job offer.


Step #5 Take Another Break
Time to take a deep breath again and relax. You’ve just been through the interview from hell for chrissake. Don’t worry too much about the follow up letter. You’ll get around to it when you get around to it. Besides, if the cultural fit isn’t right, what’s the point? Cultural fit is what needs to be focused upon first and foremost. At this point I bet you’re wishing you had taken my advice earlier on and skipped back to step #1 and be done with it. Well, dream on, it’s too late for that now. (Note: technically it’s not too late, you can return to step #1 at any time).

Step #6 Map Self Assessment to Company Culture Assessment
The sixth and final step is the part that requires a modest attention to detail. First retrieve your self assessment document (don’t tell me you lost it; no more excuses already), then map each of your company culture observations to your self assessment listing. Don’t panic you can do this, though perhaps not competently though, which is why you should consider engaging a certified Company Culture Compatibility (CCC) Consultant such as myself. Yes, it’s expensive, and worth every penny and more. Company culture compatibility assessment is the last place to be penny wise and career foolish.

Conclusion:
We can’t guarantee that you will find the perfect workplace that is 100% aligned with your every value and belief, but if you rigorously follow our patented 6-Step process you ought to eventually find an organization out there where the culture and your values can to some extent coexist. But why take a chance? Immediately contact a certified Company Culture Compatibility (CCC) Consultant such as myself, and leave your worries behind. Remember we’re not just talking about a job, we’re talking about your career.

© copyright 2009, LoserCafe, All rights reserved.

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Talk (Think!) Like a Winner

If you harbor any hope of being a winner in life, it is necessary to not only talk like a winner, but also to think like one. Sequence is unimportant, either will do. To be a winner in today’s dog eat dog rat race you need to not only talk the talk and walk the walk, you need to think the think. Fortunately I’ve done all the hard thinking for you. Here are some essential phrases that can turn you into an instant winner:

Winner: “Loser-Winner. I don’t think of people in those terms.”
Translation: Of course I do; everybody does, except for losers.

Winner: “When it comes to people I am colorblind.”
Translation: The only color I see is green; show me the green. There are three types of people in the world: those that have increased my wealth, those that in the future may increase my wealth, and those that will never increase my wealth. Those in the last group I wish nothing but a life of unending misery.

Winner: “You hit stage in life when it’s time to give back.”
Translation: Yeah, pay back all the losers that have stood in my way.

Winner: “It’s better to give than to receive.”
Translation: Pain

Winner: “Money makes the world go round.”
Translation: And then some

Winner: “We’re all in this together.”
Translation: Some more than others, if you get my drift.

Winner:”There’s more to life than money.”
Translation: Perhaps, but nothing worth wasting your time on.

Winner: “It’s not about me, it’s about us.”
Translation: It’s 100% about me.

Winner: “I didn’t vote for Obama, but I am glad he is president.”
Translation: Impeach Obama. Palin, 2012.

Winner: “Money can’t buy happiness”
Translation: It can and it does, and I am living evidence of it. I am extremely happy.

Winner: “I hate terrorists as much as anybody, but Americans don’t torture, period.”
Translation: Just kill the brutes and be done with it.

Winner: “It is best to win without a fight.”
Translation: Either way is fine.

Winner: “You can't take it with you”
Translation: You can't, I can

Winner: “I'm all about win-win”
Translation: I win-win, you lose-lose.

Winner: “A winner never loses and a loser never wins”
Translation: What’s the matter, you can’t read?

Winner: “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Translation: It’s you.

Perhaps you are thinking, if you’re such a winner Mr. big shot, why are you wasting your time writing advice to losers who are beyond any hope? To which I would respond, who asked you, loser? But if you must really know, I do it for the money of course. I get paid obscene amounts of money for writing BS like this.

© copyright 2009, LoserCafe, All rights reserved.

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