A Timely Commentary

A Timely Commentary

I’ve been working for a while on a post which details what just happened recently with my life. I had a bit of a downward turn, in most every way. It’s coming and it’s a doozie. That is, how I went from having a steady, years-long happy marriage with a newborn baby and stepdaughter that I had helped raise for a decade, to suddenly being thrown to the curb as trash.

But while I craft that narrative, which should entertain, educate and be a warning for all men, I happened upon this video post from Paul Joseph Watson, whom I share many perspectives with. His offerings usually are political in nature, but this one veered to the side, and into an area where I also have to completely agree. My ex-wife just got engaged for the third time, not 4 months after our divorce was finalized. Beggars can’t be choosers, sure, but it goes deeper than just being willing to marry the first person that crosses your path. Paul explains it quite well, indeed. It’s a mental illness.

An Ironic Piece of Writing

An Ironic Piece of Writing

Here’s an ironic bit of foreshadowing I stumbled across tonight. Something I wrote obviously about 2 years ago prior to my stepdaughter’s mother divorcing me. There are 2 passages that are particularly ominous, which I still hold to be true. And has become reality, as I haven’t seen my previous stepdaughter since June, 2017. I wrote this when she was 14. I last saw her when she was 15.

A Shoutout to All the Stepparents

One of the most thankless jobs in the world is that of a step-parent. Sure, praise is awarded when she or he goes above and beyond expectations from time to time, but generally, the role is status-quo. And the expectations are usually pretty high to begin with. At least those of the biological parents. And, of course, those standards vary wildly from person to person, but most parents at least consider their own parental standards to be high, even if in the scheme of things they aren’t.

I don’t write this to pat myself on the back, having been the surrogate father for a girl from age 4 to age 14. If you’re accepting the role for the accolades, you’re going to be highly disappointed. And that isn’t what the job is about anyway. The job is its own reward. Or at least that’s how I view it. You really have to, anyway. It’s a critical and very important job that has been awarded and should be viewed as a privilege. Same as I view my role of parent.

Stepparents have no legal rights regarding the children unless for some reason there’s adoption involved. That’s rare, however. So your input can be viewed as ancillary by some of the legal parents if that’s the view they’ve chosen to take. I’m sure every situation is different in what the agreement is as to how much influence the stepparent’s opinion and decisions have in the arrangement. It’s a discussion that must be initiated, an agreement must be made, and the situation evaluated, reviewed and tweaked as necessary through life as the child gets older and family dynamics change.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a stepparent is not having legal rights. So you don’t have any skin in the game to begin with but you’re doing at least all the work of a legal parent. You’re doing the job for the sake of wanting to help raise a child properly, in a home with a stable family consisting of a mother, father, and child. So it’s a rewarding job in that respect.

Depending on the age of the child, that aspect can be extremely important, and in the case of divorces, is a horrible reality the child must face day-in and day-out. There is no father in the house along with a mother, and the fact the parents don’t show affection or love towards one another surely causes psychological problems, or will cause relationship issues of their own when they get older. A small child sees nuclear families as the norm everywhere they look, except for their own new set of houses(they have no one place to consider “home” any longer), and they aren’t a part of such a traditional arrangement. There’s a lack of love that exists in the triangle. But that’s a whole different post.

Depending on the age of the child, that aspect can be extremely important, and in the case of divorces, is a horrible reality the child must face day-in and day-out. There is no father in the house along with a mother, and the fact the parents don’t show affection or love towards one another surely causes psychological problems, or will cause relationship issues of their own when they get older. A small child sees nuclear families as the norm everywhere they look, except for their own new set of houses(they have no one place to consider “home” any longer), and they aren’t a part of such a traditional arrangement. There’s a lack of love that exists in the triangle. But that’s a whole different post.

So not only is the child not genetically yours, which may even be a fact you’re reminded of from time to time by the child, parent, or other parties for any number of reasons(sometimes just to be rather rude), but you perpetually must walk a fine line with what type of input you give. Even figuring out if the input is needed or wanted can be difficult. As a natural parent, of course, you give it. But as a stepparent, it may be crossing certain unspoken or spoken lines. What you deem as support can be viewed as criticism or in any number of unexpected ways by the other parent and/or child. And then relationship problems may emerge between husband and wife where there were none. Minefields everywhere for the stepparent.

In addition to that problem, the stepparent doesn’t just have inlaws. He/she now has a whole, strange family to contend with in addition to her/his in-laws. The biological father/mother may be a fine person, but because of the disposition of the divorce(in most cases – you may have married a widower/widow, but that’s a rarer case) that led to the child being separated from one parent for at least half their lives, there’s usually some friction that exists already which you’re now a part of. Differences of opinion and arguments arise between the biological parents that you get stuck in and must help mediate, and some tricky negotiation often is necessary.

And it’s not just the other biological parent. Their parents, or the other, 3rd set of grandparents(at least, depending on your spouse’s family’s family tree), are involved. So you have two sets of in-laws, one of which you had no intention of dealing with. Can it get any better?

As you help raise the child/children as a stepparent, you have to keep a focus on the reality of the bond that’s established as well. You obviously can’t love the child to the degree a natural parent would, and even trying or allowing oneself to would be dangerous. That’s a bond that will be destroyed in a catastrophic way if you get divorced. That child or the children suddenly are no longer part of your life. It’s as if they’ve died since your involvement has suddenly been reduced to zero, and you likely won’t see them much again, if at all. And once again the piece of the family puzzle you’ve existed as in their life has been removed from the child’s life suddenly, and not in a loving way, to say the least. Needless to say, this has negative consequences for the child.

That’s a bond that will be destroyed in a catastrophic way if you get divorced. That child or the children suddenly are no longer part of your life. It’s as if they’ve died since your involvement has suddenly been reduced to zero, and you likely won’t see them much again, if at all. And once again the piece of the family puzzle you’ve existed as in their life has been removed from the child’s life suddenly, and not in a loving way, to say the least. Needless to say, this has negative consequences for the child.

These are all factors that the biological parent may realize but probably doesn’t dwell on much. Why would they? But for a person to accept the role of a stepparent, as much of an honor as it may be, is agreeing to add a whole universe of strangeness to a marriage. I don’t mean the child is strangeness, of course, the role of substitute is unchartered territory.

father daughter dance

The State of Children’s Media

The State of Children’s Media

My daughter recently turned three, and for those unaware, that’s plenty old enough to want to be entertained with electronic devices like iPad, iPhones, and TVs/DVDs. The toddler years. Her vocabulary is developing, she’s learning to potty train, and doing daily tasks like brushing your teeth and washing your hands needs to be reinforced.

So, who caters to entertaining this age group? What’s available to them? It’s a lot different than when I was her age, of course, but it’s interesting from a parent’s perspective to think about.

For a very long time, Cecelia and I were into Peppa Pig. And the same group that produces PP has another show, which I like the best of any of them: Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. The characters’ relationships are better developed and the plots are awesome. They’re both well-written, and not overmarketed. Same voices as Peppa Pig. Peppa is around a lot, but it’s not like she’s at McDonald’s, checkout lines, all clothing, room decor and everywhere you turn like Disney’s strategy.

But I figured out why I prefer them to every other type of show out there. They actually have plots and have fun and are funny and creative. Others try it, but and there are some very creative shows out there like Storybots and some with interesting art direction like Calliou, but they all MUST teach something. There’s never any plain old fun; every single show and episode is about learning something, from ABCs, 123s, brushing teeth, using the potty, how to control anger, how to share, or whatever. It’s waaaaay overdone.

Parents should be quite capable of teaching, preferably via routine demonstration and positive reinforcement, how to do any of these things. But the people who produce these shows never skip an opportunity to create lesson after lesson. And when they pile up, like they tend to, on YouTube, it becomes brainwashing propaganda that isn’t too removed from a Clockwork Orange. I’m up to my yarbles in too many monkeys jumping on the bed.

oh my lovlies

I’ve also come to realize, as I’m sure all parents eventually do, that there are only about 8 toddler age songs, and they’re repurposed over and over. Ba-Ba-Black Sheep is the same as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And some shows have no shame. They’ll just make up some melody and “sing” the lesson over it, in a way that resembles improvised freestyle rap, that doesn’t rhyme. The only way rap could actually become worse.

On top of that, there are some decently-produced shows, like Calliou, but the writers have decided to have the kid whine, complain, and act pretty much the opposite of how children should act. And don’t think my daughter doesn’t notice and try things she sees. She is VERY attentive, and absorbs everything going on around her, and files it away to replicate at a later time. The strongest learning force seems to be by example, which will certainly make a parent with good intentions stay on his toes. He unnecessarily complains about everything, which I make sure to point out when I watch these shows with my daughter, which I make sure to do.

What about the standards, like Disney, Sesame Street, and PBS you ask? Well, they’ve decided to make some changes since we were younger. Disney repurposes everything that can be merchandised in every possible way, and charges for everything. Disney’s about money. Their offerings for toddlers isn’t anything to even mention. They have more PG-rated material than anything. Sesame Street has become some sort of weird idealist-run subliminal propaganda machine and my daughter isn’t interested in it anyway. PBS has Daniel Tiger, but again, it’s about how to cope with feelings and how everything revolves around feelings. If there were a show that was the polar opposite, it would be a show about nothing but computer-coding. Which would appeal to me, but hardly is interesting to a 3-year-old. She tries to be into it because it looks like it should be interesting but just isn’t. Daniel Tiger’s guilty of the rhyme and melody-free songwriting mentioned above.

super grover

And the political correctness. It’s run amok. However, the person most noticeably absent in most shows is — you guessed it — the father. Don’t think I’m going to miss that. It’s actually RARE to find a toddler-age show with a married white Christian mother and father with natural children. There’s always got to be a twist, or the producers just said “screw it” and made the characters muppets or fruits or something that absolves them of having to choose a race, gender, religion, or even in some cases, species. Some shows are subtle about it, like Peppa Pig. The doofus who always oversleeps and loses things, and otherwise screws up is Pedro Pony, who is the metaphor for America. Dauphin Donkey, the jackass, is France. There’s one show, “Dave & Ava” which is two small children that always wear animals-themed jammies and are Swedish they’re so Aryan. Of course, they have a black mother, which isn’t even explained. There’s also a cartoon aimed at Mexicans, and every character is unhealthily overweight and borderline diabetic. Just to normalize it in children’s’ minds. But can you name a show that portrays the father/husband as a strong role model?

dave and ava and mom

Remember when parents only had to worry about commercials? All media produced for toddler-age children is a form of marketing, or else it doesn’t get made. ALL of it.

How to Embed Tweets

How to Embed Tweets

Twitter has made it incredibly easy to share your tweets in a variety of formats, as opposed to how you used to have to embed tweets, which was a little laborious.

Just head to https://publish.twitter.com/ and replace my handle (@mbmusgrove) with your own. Then follow the easy instructions.

And The Beat Goes On

And The Beat Goes On

I wrote extensively about putting together a stereo system and the ups and downs I went through to finally settle on something worthwhile, for a large room. But I had an itch to have some good sound in my den, which is where I do most of my work these days at home, and spend quite a bit of time with Cecelia. It’s where the fireplace is and books are as well as her “office” which is a desk with a lamp and actually a pretty nice setup. She seriously considers it her work office, and that wouldn’t be a misnomer. She gets some good work done there. She drafted the manuscript for her first autobiography there as well as some peace accords.

cecelias office

I cut TV out of my life years ago, and haven’t missed it one bit. I’ll watch videos on YouTube, movies, and shows periodically on Netflix, or a DVD, but cable and a subscription is history. After having satellite with hundreds of channels to choose from, and still having trouble finding anything worth my time, I realized it was a futile and wasteful endeavor. The hardest part is finding places to watch college football games each Fall, but other than that, it’s bliss.

What I find myself doing instead is reading, working or tinkering around on a laptop while listening to music. I have music playing around me almost all day. I have a stereo in my office I listen to Spotify and random Dead shows on during the day, and then always have music on at home. There are a lot of speakers around here.

What I like as much as listening to music is finding gear to listen to it with. Matching items up sonically isn’t too difficult if you know what you’re doing. Make sure 8 Ohm speakers are driven by an amplifier that works best with 8 Ohm speakers, and reading the specs tells you the story of the speakers, or amp, preamp, or whatever. I love researching, and searching for, the perfect sound setups. I don’t have an insane budget, but I have some nice stuff, and not all of it costs an arm and a leg. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the performance and design of some lesser-known manufacturers who are cheaper than more recognizable names. A lot of times the reason the names are so recognizable is that they have and spend a ton on marketing, which they pay for by charging premium prices for sub-premium products. Think Bose and Beats.

What I got for the den is a set of Wharfedale Denton speakers, which are simply incredible. Red mahogany cabinets. They look amazing and sound even better. Shipped from Britain with a pair of white gloves, of course, to keep them tidy. (British components seem to be winning the day; I have a Cambridge Audio CAX-60 amp as well, made in Britain.) I’m breaking them in now, and their sound is unrivaled in their competitive arena. They could charge 3 times what they do for these speakers and justify it. They are incredible. My Klipsch Heresy’s sound good too of course but they’re LOUD and BIG and I use them in the large living area when Cecelia or I need to rock out. These are warm, rich and full sounding. The speakers are special edition 80th anniversary Dentons so they have a Tungsten grille cover. The speaker cabinets are beautiful mahogany, and go with the sub I’m going to match them with, which is a Polk HTS 10, a retro-looking downward-firing 10-inch sub that should do the trick nicely. The Wharfedales have plenty of bass themselves, but can’t pull off what a good subwoofer can do. I’m eager to hook that sub up. For a sub-$1000 system, it doesn’t get any better. No way.

red mahogany denton

The integrated amp is a Sabaj A4. A What you ask? A very versatile, affordable, sturdy, appropriately powerful amp no one’s heard of. And it’s not going to win any design awards. But it works beautifully. And has an output for a sub, 5 inputs, including optical and headphones. It has a Bluetooth receiver and you can control the bass, treble, brightness of the display, and more. Usually, it’s just going to be a little black metal box that has a blue glowing line below a very understated display. It’s as unobtrusive as they come. It also comes with a remote and some poor instructions in small print, unfortunately for my aging eyes.

sabaj a4

As usual Mediabridge 14 gauge cables. The speakers allow for bi-wiring, so I might rig it up so that a short piece of cable is going through the open posts. I’ll be interested to see whether it makes a noticeable difference. As the speakers wear in there should be a little more warmth to them.

What I’ve done, instead of bi-wiring them which I see as unnecessary for my use case, is to replace/supplement the metal jumpers on the posts with heavy gauge speaker wire. That reduces any perceived graininess, for sure. I also am using my BO6 with the Sabaj amp, because the Bluetooth pairing with the Sabaj was giving me fits. I could sometimes get it to pair, but the BO6 signal is so strong it overrides everything else in the house. And with a lot running on Bluetooth around here, it gets annoying. But if you get some Wharfedale Dentons, I’d recommend jumping the high/low pass posts with good speaker wire instead of what’s supplied.

jumpers

I have the Polk Subwoofer hooked up and I have to say, this is a great system. I’m finding myself listening to it more than the Klipshes and Cambridge setup. It sounds richer and doesn’t fatigue your ears as quickly. The room each system is in is different of course, which makes an acoustical difference. But Radiohead never sounded better. I hear details that I never heard before, even with some nice Sennheiser headphones and my Heresy speakers. Bluegrass sounds great as well, which is usually recorded in a different arrangement. (The musicians are circled around a single mic, or they approach microphones as they take turns.) The Polk sub handles the deep, plunky standup bass notes well and the Wharfedales handle the jangly banjo trebles great. And they image a soundstage really well. Very high and broad for the size speakers. I have them on 32″ wooden stands. The sub has a cool retro look to it, which I like. I might try hooking the Cambridge amp up to the Wharfedales and Polk sub and see what happens. Just to see the difference between the relatively inexpensive Sabaj and the pricey Cambridge.

polk subwoofer

 

Working for The Man

Working for The Man

I work for a great company. And the best part is that there’s a lot of ways that I can make the company even greater, which is my job, and which is to say I have a great job. I’m happy to be able to say that I have a great job at a great company, even if that company is actually 6+ companies and the industry is one I have no prior experience in. Fortunately, I learn fast, especially when I’m learning about something I’m interested in. The world my company operates in is one I’m interested in, and I think most men would be: industrial manufacturing. But it doesn’t end there by a long shot. Precision engineering is intimately involved and at an impressive scale.

a large dryer

There are so many positive aspects of where I work and what I do, it would fill a novel. But I’m going to try and break it all down and sort out the most relevant parts. And some of the info can’t be divulged due to competitive secrets and proprietary factors. I’m going to explain it as if I was talking to my daughter Cecelia because, in fact, a lot of the reason I bother writing stuff like this down is so she can read it one day and may it will help her understand what I do, where, and how I think.

The primary company I work for basically builds asphalt plants. I’ve already come to regard asphalt as black gold. Asphalt is good, cement is bad. It’s a private company that was started by a guy from Missouri around 4 decades ago, and he has managed to build a very impressive portfolio of companies and assemble a wonderful group of people. It’s a testament to the type of person he is, and the type of person that does well in the business world. He’s still the president, and my boss, and he’s forgotten more about asphalt than most people in the business know. Of course he’s smart and shrewd, but he’s also funny, humble and an all-around great guy. And politically, he and I see eye to eye as well, which is not only refreshing, but rare in Louisville, KY which is a dark shade of blue. His leadership style is awesome. He’s very open to trying new ideas and things, and up to date technologically, which is an impressive trait. He’s very concise. He’s on the ball.

When I was evaluating the company and trying to decide where I was going to work, something that struck me was the number of people that have been working there for a long time. The company has around 300 employees and collectively, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number years’ experience, all of them earned at our company, amounted to well over a thousand. 20, 25, 30, 35+ years there isn’t uncommon, believe it or not, but it’s VERY uncommon  these days in business overall. Quite a few people there are easily retireable, but they keep on working because it’s such a great place to work. People don’t leave. As a result, there is a definite family feeling within the company. A lot of those people have spent more time at work with each other over the years than with their spouses. But of course, families are celebrated there, and there are all sorts of opportunities to interact in a non-work way, like the giant company picnic at Beckley Creek Park coming up or the birthday lunch bashes that are held each month for all the people that have a birthday that month. This past Wednesday was my birthday and it fell on the same day as the company party for me and about 5 others.

Something else that stood out to me when I was thinking about joining them is the way they interviewed and “recruited” me. I was lucky enough to have a few other companies interested in me simultaneously, and was able to compare experiences. The company I work for now contacted me via email after I missed their calls because my little daughter set up call forwarding somehow when she was playing with my phone. Thank God. However, I wanted to work for a company with people that are diligent enough to follow up via email if they can’t reach someone over the phone, so I could view it as a test instead. I interviewed with the owner, and the key employees among the companies who I’d be working with, and was even taken out to lunch before I ever even met an employee of another company that was interviewing me via a paid recruiter. They acted fast, and were personal, and direct, and decisive. It was clear who the winner was among the group of candidate companies. And after I was hired, the owner went out of his way to make me feel welcome, and he still does. That’s partly why he’s successful.

There are a lot of things I love about my job but I won’t list them out. Everyone has their preferences, so what I enjoy and find fulfilling is probably different than most. But it always comes back to the company. I’m given the latitude and freedom to make meaningful changes to the company, which is rewarding. What I do directly impacts the bottom line, so it’s a thrill to find ways I can increase revenue, and I’m identifying a lot of opportunities. I wish there were more hours in the day so I could implement the things I’m building and planning more quickly. But I know for a fact that what I’m doing and will be doing will have a dramatic effect on our revenue (and costs) which enriches all the people that work there. So I’m helping to make a lot of people’s lives better. That’s a nice thing to be able to say about your job. My job entails creativity as well as being able to use my MBA, which is perfect.

We have several manufacturing facilities around Louisville, and visiting them is always fun. One of the cool things I now get to do is see how our products are made. Our products are like gigantic Tonka toys. They’re huge. We also make industrial dryers and kilns for people all around the world, so the business isn’t limited to the world of asphalt at all. People use our dryers to help manufacture all sorts of things. Bourbon, food, chemicals, and on and on. And not only do we make the best in the business, we make a lot of innovative products no one else even has. We have engineers all over the place, and they design some clever heavy duty items for the industry. We have a lot of brains in our company, which is also appealing. Lots of thinkers. And builders. Which is part of what makes it such a great fit for me–I love building things and being around high-energy people who are achievers.

I get to learn all the time, too which is awesome. Obviously with no asphalt or engineering background, I’ve got a lot to learn right now. Drinking from a firehose, as they say. Which I’m doing but the owner is making sure I have all the tools I need and providing opportunities for me to get plant tours and taught from some of the most experienced people in the business. Formal learning as well; I’m getting my OSHA and MSHA certifications next week. And staying abreast of innovation and new technology is encouraged. The owner gave me a copy of Disrupt by Luke Williams which I’ll be reading this weekend. How great is this place?

 

Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Annie Musgrove, R.I.P.

This past Wednesday I lost who I have to consider my best friend these days, after being together over eleven years. I adopted Annie from the Asheville, NC Animal Shelter shortly after moving to Asheville from my home state of South Carolina. I even sold my Porsche and got an Explorer so I could haul her around in comfort vs. style, and Annie ended up outlasting not only that Ford Explorer, but the marriage that would come several years later. She’s been with me through thick and thin and was always loyal, which is more than I can say about certain other females that rambled through my life and made similar promises.

annie dog

I almost didn’t adopt her. I was walking out of the pound when the girl that worked there urged me to play with the German Shepherd/retriever mix that had been dropped off a week earlier. I was looking for an older, larger dog, and a female. And she was a little smaller at 65 pounds than I was looking for. Older dogs are the last to go at shelters, which is a shame because they’re housebroken, appreciative, mellow, and you already know what their personality is like. When you adopt a puppy, you don’t really know how they’ll end up. But Annie was 5 years old when we met. She was very smart, which is a nice trait to have in a dog. Having a dumb dog isn’t fun, and there are some out there. I’ve had one before, and they can be frustrating. But Annie was as smart as a dog comes.

annie

I decided that she would be a good companion and left the shelter with her on December 7, 2006. And she was by my side from that point on, through a lot of craziness. She got to see the beaches of South Carolina, the Blue Ridge mountains, swim in the Gulf of Mexico, travel through the Smoky Mountains, and live in three states. She helped me earn my MBA in Tuscaloosa, hiding out in our tiny little graduate student apartment. She accompanied me on hundreds of miles worth of walks all across the South, and we saw some beautiful sunsets and sights during many, many colorful seasons. Fall walks around the Grove Park Inn in Asheville were beautiful, and she loved to play and swim in Lake Martin with my cousins’ dogs in Eclectic, Alabama. She had a squirrel-chasing problem which she managed to give up, thankfully.  I was always worried a car would be the reason that we’d have to say goodbye to her. In fact, it was old age, as she lived a long and happy life, which was as comfortable as I could make it for her. She deserved it.  The period during which we were together was not missing hard times, for sure. And she was there for me each and every time I needed her. I’m not saying she knew how much support she provided, which of course has its limits when it’s being rationed by a 4 legged mute with a relatively low IQ and who is only able to see things in shades of grey.

But she did know she provided a service to our small pack of two. Other than clean-up duty, I mean. She lost her hearing around age 12, which I blame myself for. Long trips with my music turned up to 11 definitely wasn’t good for a dog’s sensitive hearing, which I always felt bad about. But the deafness did provide relief and peace from the horror or fireworks, thunder, and other unexplained far away demonic sounds that terrified her to the point of trembling in fear. I could usually get her to relax eventually, however. Often that kind of stress would release some of her coat and undercoat, which she shed twice a year, but for very extended periods. I have to think that over the years I brushed, vacuumed and swept away hundreds of pounds of blonde and black fur dropped by her. It never bothered me, but she was a prodigious shedder. And a beggar. She got the brains of a German Shepherd and the manipulative skills of a retriever and knew how to work a kitchen.

She was well into her 16th year of life when she finally had to say goodbye. I had tried to prepare myself for the event for years preceding it, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. It was impossibly hard to say goodbye to such a good friend who gave so much and asked for so little. She was everything anyone could ask for in a companion and offered whatever she could to me unconditionally and with a big bushy wag of her tail. She was an exceptional dog.

 

 

Who Are You?

Who Are You?

As part of an interview process, I recently took a predictive index behavioral assessment evaluation. I appreciated the people looking at me taking the time to evaluate me in more depth than just my resume and a phone call. Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs test, which precipitated from Carl Jung’s work and slots you into four categories, eg: ENTJ. I love these types of assessments and have always been fascinated by human psychology. I considered majoring in psychology for a while in college and took enough classes in it to nearly do it. And I read a lot of books that dissect the mind and tinker around to see what make us tick and causes us to behave the way we do and make the decisions we do. As a marketer, I’m passionate about consumer behavior, aka human behavior, which bumps up against sociology as well. It’s fascinating to study people as individuals and how we act collectively in certain situations, in certain cultures. It usually leaves more unanswered questions than answered ones, but it’s fun and fulfilling to know how we’re wired and engineered. I also find it helps interact with others more easily, which is also why I suppose I was asked to take the test. They wanted to know who they were dealing with.

Most of these types of tests ask you the same questions over and over in different ways. And you sort of know what they’re getting at. In other words, you can easily manipulate them. But that’s not advised. Unless you truly just don’t care about your results and the purpose for which you’re taking it. Answering them honestly and thoughtfully will yield some interesting insight as to who you are and how you work, and people being people, everyone loves to know about themselves.

This Predictive Index test is different, however. I did a bit of research on the company and history of the test and how it’s built, because it’s only a 2-page test, with a list of adjectives. All you have to do is indicate how you think others view you and how you view yourself, or how accurate the words are to that end. Many of the words are synonyms, and being an English major, I also found this test to be even more interesting for the choice of adjectives used and their subtleties. The test has been in use since 1955, which is a LONG time ago, for the psychological field, so one would expect accurate results, right? Here’s how they developed the form:

Adjectives for our form were field tested with results from more than 136,000 people and went through content review, psychometric review, and fairness review. The assessment was then given to a global norm group of more than 10,000 people. Norm tables and scoring models were updated and verified before finalizing the form and sending it through a multilevel translation process and regional review.

I found my results to be surprisingly accurate, inasmuch as I know myself and consider how others describe me.

MichaelMusgrove-PIReport

I later took a DISC assessment, which is a 24 question “test” in which you arrange a series of adjectives in order of how you feel they define you, from most to least. The adjective sets that you must arrange sometimes have nothing to do with one another, which makes you choose a hierarchy of traits. As with the Predictive Index, you can tell the words were carefully chosen, and what the exercise is aiming at. But I take them seriously, since trying to game the thing is pretty poor form and will end up only hurting me and the company.

Not surprisingly, it reflects the results the Predictive Index found. I’m results-oriented, care a lot about quality and details, have high standards, can communicate well, am careful and deliberate, and don’t have much patience, which I’ve always struggled with. The funny thing is, I consider myself patient. Our perception of ourselves and how others view us being different isn’t news to me, though. That’s the case with nearly everyone, I’d imagine. It’s like hearing your voice for the first time compared to what you think you sound like.

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Some Thoughts on Compensation

Some Thoughts on Compensation

Money Makes the World Go Around

People think about money a lot, and I’m no different. Especially recently, since I’m looking to make more as well as facing paying a lot out to people for various goods and services. Rent, legal bills, utilities, loans, maintenance, and much of the same things everyone has. Probably not in the same ratios, however.

I have mounting legal bills because of a divorce that has been in proceedings for around 7 months. We’re no closer today to closing our case than we were 7 months ago, but I’ve managed to amass thousands in legal bills for my lawyer’s services. That got me to thinking: what other jobs and fields are there where people get paid not based on results or outcome, but on product, and in some cases, just showing up day after day? My lawyer is very skilled in the courtroom and drafting/filing paperwork. He is very unskilled when it comes to managing an office (aside from reliably sending out invoices) and closing cases. But for divorce lawyers, there’s a conflict of interest in how they are compensated. It behooves them to keep the cases open because an open case represents a money tree. If he/she needs money, file a motion. Send an email or make a phone call. They bill down to 6 minutes at a time in some cases, and it’s not unheard of a divorce lawyer to charge $375 an hour. The retired judge who was handling our second round of mediation, which failed as expected, was surprised to learn my lawyer “only” charged $275 an hour. And for the mediator to show up and accomplish nothing, he himself was paid hundreds of dollars, as was my attorney. They basically passed notes back and forth between my wife and me on our behalf until I was forced to walk away.

In much of business, business owners hire employees based on their output capabilities. Labor is like a machine and is judged and paid based on that premise. It’s not depreciable, however. When looking for a job, the candidate must show that he/she can produce quality work consistently, under stress or whatever the position entails. That’s why it’s good to have a job where you can quantify your work accurately.  If you have one where it’s tricky to measure your output, so that you can justify your wages and justify increases, you might find yourself on the low end of the pay scale. Secondary school teachers face this. College professors don’t because their value to schools is in the ability to publish articles. The teaching aspect isn’t what is compensated, which is proven by the difference in what adjunct teachers are paid and tenure-track professors are. The difference between the two is only that the latter is expected to publish, and do service. The number of articles and level of journals that they appear in is easy to see, and the ones that do so at a high-level research school are paid more than those a lower level teaching school.

Government administrative jobs usually are viewed and compensated more on input than output. But that varies of course. In some cases, compensation is simply a reflection of what the other guy is making somewhere else. Although the public county school system I live in is one of the most poorly run in the country, the new superintendent just received over a $100,000 raise because that’s what some other people make elsewhere. It had nothing to do with the fact that the school system is on probation for all sorts of violations, the state is threatening to take over, and the superintendent was already doing the very same job for $100,000 less. Meanwhile today, teachers are picketing at the state capital and threatening a walkout over their pay packages.

Doctors are paid similarly as well, and “earn” comparably high salaries. They are paid whether you get well or die, however, not on the quality jobs they do. Just on whether they attend to you as a patient or not is why they’re paid. It’s why I’ve had to bring my little daughter to see a doctor, even though what was to take place could have been done over the phone. In order for the doctor to be paid by the insurance company, he needed to have the patient physically standing there.

Engineers are paid well, but they are paid on quality and scope of work. Makes sense. Executives are similarly paid. There are goals and metrics in place they must achieve. A lot of people speak poorly of the amount of money a CEO makes, but at least he/she can justify why or why they didn’t earn the money. The same can’t be said for many other professions though. It makes you wonder what types of people gravitate to each type of job? Some people are fine being judged by their work and have their pay depend on their productivity, like most salespeople. Others rely on protections to warrant a paycheck, whether they do a good job or not, or at all. Union jobs, tenured jobs, political jobs, etc…

 

The 2 Worlds of Marketing

The 2 Worlds of Marketing

Most people don’t give marketing much thought. Which is how marketers like it. But with so many people online these days, it’s impossible to avoid online marketers trying every trick in the book to lure you into buying their products and services. That’s why a lot of people confuse marketing with sales. Sales are part of marketing, but marketing isn’t really a part of sales.

And with so many companies and people trying to sell stuff online, there has emerged a very large cottage industry of “digital” marketers. I even label myself as such depending on who I’m marketing myself to. My background is that of traditional marketing, however, which is a completely different field. During the years by running an online business, I’ve learned all there is about digital marketing as well, and even have certifications in it, for whatever they’re worth.

You’ll see a lot of familiar names, especially if you hang out on LinkedIn, such as Neil Patel, Larry Kim, Gary Vaynerchuk and Neal Schaffer. What you’ll also notice in these people’s bios is that they’re speakers and authors as well(and quite well-paid consultants). Their names always appear on the “must-follow” and “most influential” lists of marketers.

But that’s misleading. And that’s because you have to know what marketing really is, which most people don’t. They think it has to do with sales and advertising. Which it does, but that isn’t what it is.

A good example is this article that landed in my inbox which is “21 Questions to Ask before Implementing Marketing Automation.” It begins with a SHOCKING! statistic that less than 10% of companies have implemented automated marketing. That’s most likely because they aren’t talking about marketing. It’s “Sales Lead Software.” The sales department would be handling this, not marketing. Marketing for the product/service was primarily done long ago when the marketing plan was being executed. This whole article is geared more toward sales, not marketing, but it has “marketing” littered throughout it.

Marketing is about satisfying people’s wants and needs in, hopefully, an innovative way. Doesn’t have to be innovative, but in a competitive setting like business it should be to be successful. And there are lots of innovative ways to go about that task using the internet. And within that space, these folks are pretty good at marketing. Themselves. To people that are also looking to reach a large target market, like they do with themselves. This is where it begins to get blurry.

Traditional marketing consists of market research using any number of tools such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and so on to determine the size of the target market, the interest in the product or service and associated features, and whether there’s even a market at all. A detailed inspection is done with regards to the environmental aspects that surround the product/service, such as governmental/regulatory issues, geographical issues, technological, political, and competitive factors that need to be considered. Usually, a great amount of data are collected to analyze using multivariate testing and regression analysis and the whole affair is heavily quantified and then manipulated and many, many complex Excel spreadsheets are created with lots of graphs and charts to illustrate the findings. This is what CMOs and highly-paid consultants do for companies, and what you learn to do when you get an MBA like I did. And you can dive even deeper, like I did, and concentrate in marketing strategy.

Contrast that with digital marketing, which consists mostly of getting followers, “likes,” getting people to engage with your blog posts, and sign up for newsletters and email lists. It’s really more “sales” than marketing. Hubspot, which has become a multibillion-dollar company by helping small businesses market themselves, specializes in “inbound marketing,” as it’s commonly known, but in fact is a series of sales tactics. It also involves SEO, which is simply staying on top of best practices to rank in Google’s ever-changing algorithms.

The people mentioned earlier are adept at leading people down the sales funnel via trial and error of growing their own personal fan base over the years, but likely have never spent much time actually studying marketing, per se. They are charismatic, and have good sales chops, have found their niche, but would have a hard time telling you what a p-value is used for. What makes these “marketing influencers” money is speaking gigs and book sales, and not so much bare-metal marketing.

For me personally, I’ve found it’s best to be versed in both traditional and digital marketing. Digital marketing is a supplement to traditional and is a valuable, and I’d even argue necessary, set of tools in ths day and age. It’s sort of rare to find that set of skills as I look around, however. Thus the 2 separate worlds of marketing that are developing. Universities don’t teach digital marketing. It’s something that changes too quickly and involves trends, dynamic coding, writing skills, design and schools simply aren’t agile enough to properly equip anyone to be effective. And the digital marketers don’t typically mess with the academic world of traditional marketing. You might find a few people that happen to have an MBA or a Masters in Marketing, but it’s usually just coincidental.