Here's part of "Tricky Living," copyright by Russ Walter, first edition. For newer info, read the 32nd edition of the "Secret Guide to Computers & Tricky Living" at
Good luck with your career.
Use your bean!
A good-for-nothing relative sent me this memo from the
anonymous Internet about how job-hunting requires the patience of Job:
My first job? In an orange-juice factory! But I got canned: couldn’t
Then I worked as a lumberjack
but couldn’t hack it, so they gave me the ax.
I tried being a tailor but
wasn’t suited for it, since it was a sew-sew job.
I tried working in a muffler
factory, but that was exhausting.
I tried being a barber but
couldn’t cut it.
I tried being a chef to spice
up my life, but I didn’t have the thyme.
I tried being a deli worker. But any way I sliced it, I couldn’t
cut the mustard.
Next came a job in a shoe
factory. I tried but didn’t fit in.
I tried being a musician but
wasn’t noteworthy enough.
I studied a long time to become
a doctor but didn’t have enough patience.
I became a professional fisherman but found I couldn’t live on my net
I worked for a pool-maintenance
company, but the work was too draining.
I got hired to feed giraffes at
a zoo but got fired because I wasn’t up to it.
Then I got a job in a health
club, but they said I wasn’t fit for the job.
I worked at Starbucks but quit
because it was always the same old grind.
I finally took a job as an
historian, until I realized there was no future in it.
So I retired — and found I’m a
perfect fit for the job… of doing nothing!
My friend Larry Govoni was an airline pilot. One day, when he
was leaving the plane, he saw a worker underneath the plane, trying to empty
the plane’s toilet. Unfortunately, the hose burst and sprayed shit all over the
worker. Larry looked at the poor worker and asked, “Why do you put up with a
job like this? Why don’t you quit?” The worker replied:
What!!! And give up a career in
the aerospace industry?
What’s the significance of that tale? Here’s the moral:
Your first job might rain shit
on you, but it can lead to better things.
Here’s the counter-moral:
If your first job rains shit on you, remember that it can lead to better
things — but probably won’t.
To create an impressive résumé, you can give yourself a fancy
title, even if you’re just unemployed at home:
What you do Your title
answer & screen phone calls Manager
of high-speed fiber-optic network
generally mow the lawn General in charge of
use weed killer & bug
killer Director of
scrub & wash the dishes Chief surgeon, microbiology
rinse & dry the dishes Chief officer, aquatic
take out the garbage Director of environmental
clean the house Curator of the Americana
get divorced First mate on the USS
By dishing out those titles to your housemates, you can make
household chores more fun. Aye, aye, mate! Salute the dishes!
You’re the captain
You’re the captain of your own fate.
Who’s the boss, really? Each employee wants to be the
employee’s boss, but that boss wants to be the boss’s boss, until you finally
get up to the chief
executive officer (CEO), who’s still not really the final boss,
since the CEO is at the mercy of the Board of Directors and its chairman, who
really isn’t the boss either, since he’s at the mercy of the stockholders who
can vote him out of office. But the stockholders aren’t the bosses either,
since they’re rather powerless to control the company: they just gaze at it
Some computer techs view their employers not as “bosses” but
as “clients.” If the “clients” are mean to them, they quit and find different clients
who are nicer. The techs treat those corporations not as their bosses but
rather their tools, to use as ways to get “computers to play with” and
“interesting experiences,” until it’s time to move on to experiences that are
So remember: you’re not just an “employee”; you’re your own
boss. If your “client” ever gives you a hard time, find another and let your
client go begging and whither.
You’re in charge, tiger. Just make sure that, before you quit,
you have another job lined up — or at least some savings to get over the bump.
The word on the door
Here’s an old famous tale:
A professor is walking to his
classroom and trying to think of how to inspire his students to improve. When
he gets to the door, he sees the word “Push,” which gives him the idea: he
walks into the classroom and gives an inspiring speech ending with, “To get
ahead in your career, you need one key
thing, written on the door you came through!” They look and see “Pull.”
To get ahead, you need to push yourself to work harder, but
you also need to get friendly with folks who can pull you up.
Hate your job?
Drew Carey said:
You hate your job? Why didn’t
you say so!
There’s a support group for that: it’s called Everybody, and they
meet at the bar.
If you get a job on the night crew, congratulations: you’ve
won the right to recite this poem.
called a secret worker.
work throughout the night.
keep the world in order,
mornings will delight.
you may never see me,
glad that I’ve been here.
folks come to relieve me,
give each other cheer.
try to do what’s right.
tell me when I’m wrong.
give a second chance
give the world my song.
creature of the night,
venture out at day
stare at God’s bright light
sleep and work and pray.
If you make a mistake at work, apologize. My uncle recommends
I’m the opposite of a mechanic.
A mechanic screws things down.
I screw things up.
Dreams and passions
A friend asked, “What are your passions, and did you follow
your dreams?” Here’s my reply:
I followed my dream, but she
locked the door.
My passion is fruit, but the
passion fruit’s taste doesn’t live up to its image.
Follow your dreams until they turn impractical. Then fine-tune
them, to maximize ROI (return on investment).
I confess to this passion:
I want to do enough good to
make me famous for doing good.
Although the word “famous” makes me seem vain, it’s my form of
reinforcement and at least produces a positive social effect.
To help your company succeed, hang cute signs that make your
customers smile, such as these gems (from the anonymous Internet and my
Where seen Message
Tire shop Invite
us to your next blowout.
Muffler shop No
appointment necessary. We hear you coming.
Radiator shop Best
place in town to take a leak.
Tow truck We
don’t charge an arm and a leg. We want tows.
Tow truck #2 If
you drink and drive, we might meet by accident.
Car dealership Best way to get back on your feet: miss a car
stand there hungry. Come in and get fed up.
Pizza shop 7
days without pizza makes one weak.
Propane-filling station Tank
heaven for little grills.
Septic-tank truck We’re
#1 in the #2 business
Plumber’s truck We
repair what your husband fixed.
Plumber’s truck #2 Don’t
sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.
Electrician’s truck Let
us remove your shorts.
Electric company We’d
be delighted if you send in your payment.
if you don’t, you will be.
Plastic surgeon’s office Hello. Can we pick your nose?
Podiatrist’s office Time
wounds all heels.
Proctologist’s door To
expedite your visit, please back in.
Veterinarian’s office Be
back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!
Maternity-room door Push.
Gynecologist’s office Dr.
Jones, at your cervix.
Optometrist’s office If you
don’t see what you’re looking for,
come to the right place.
Funeral home’s lawn Drive
carefully. We’ll wait.
Motel’s swimming pool We don’t swim in your toilet.
don’t piss in our pool.
welcome! Dog food is expensive.
Employee’s T-shirt I’ve
used up my sick days, so I’m calling in dead.
Nonsmoking area If we
assume you’re on fire and take action.
Store security dept. God
helps those who help themselves,
God help those who help themselves here.
Jimmy Durante said:
Be nice to people on your way
because you might meet them on
your way down.
If you’re the boss, here are 4 cost-effective ways to be nice
to your employees:
raises frequently If necessary, make the raises small, but make sure they’re frequent (for
employees doing well).
For an hourly employee, give a 25¢-per-hour raise, often. For
example, instead of giving a $1-per-hour raise at the end of the year, give a
25¢-per-hour raise 4 times per year.
That way, the employee can proudly tell family & friends
about the frequent raises, and the employees will feel their careers and lives
are moving forward. That pride will turn into a more enthusiastic work ethic,
more energy & speed, more efficiency, and less turnover. It will also
encourage other employees to do better so they can get raises soon too!
Just tell your employees, “I’m looking for a solid excuse to give you all
raises soon, so do well!”
I’ve had good luck starting employees at low salaries (while
in training) but giving them frequent raises as they learn more and become more marketable: a 25¢-per-hour raise every
“favors” Although high wages and salaries are effective
motivator, “favors” are even more effective and cost less.
Take the employees to dinner. (The meal is partly a tax
write-off if you spend at least half of the conversation on business.) Give the
employees a pleasant working environment. Give them flexible hours. Let them
take time off from work whenever they wish (without pay but without criticizing
them). Thank them and praise them when they do well (or at least haven’t
screwed up recently).
Employees remember favors, tell their friends about them, and
make the employees want to stay at your company because of their love for your
personal interest in them.
Look at your bottom line: a bunch of favors costs even less
than a tiny raise and is remembered more. Moreover, they make you seem human
instead of an asshole.
fire a bad employee immediately Instead, chat with the employee.
Say you want to help the employee do better to protect the
employee from getting fired. Say that you’re on the employee’s side and you
won’t fire the employee unless you have to, but warn that the “have to” might
come soon unless the employee and you can work together to make things better.
When you say that you’re willing to “go to bat” for the
employee, the employee will typically respond by trying to “go to bat” for you.
If you think the employee is hopelessly incompetent and will
get fired anyway, chat with the employee to help find a more suitable line of
work. That will help the employee’s future and also help yours, since you’ll
avoid getting penalized by the state
government for generating unemployment claims.
a good employee who leaves If a good employee decides to leave
the company, congratulate the employee on moving ahead and for “graduating”
from the job. Remind the employee that alumni are always welcome to come back,
as consultants or part-timers or temps or, after further experiences outside
the company, to higher positions in management.
When other employees see you congratulate the dear departed,
those employees will feel less nervous about telling you their career
plans, so you won’t be hit by unexpected departures that could wreck
When my employees go on to hunt for better jobs and ask me for
a “job recommendation,” I say “gladly” and also say I prefer to give the
recommendation by phone.
When the interviewer phones me to ask whether the employee was
good, I try to think of at least one good thing and one bad thing to say about
If I were to say just good
things, the interviewer would think I was just whitewashing over problems and
wasn’t telling the whole truth, so I try to include something that’s negative
but not important to that particular job. Then the interviewer trusts me for
being a well-balanced objective journalist and thinks employee’s strengths and
weaknesses are good match to the new job,
making the employee an enthusiastic member of the new team.
I try to help all employees do well in their afterlife, just
like a high-school tries to help its graduates move on to the best colleges.
Then I can brag to new faces who are thinking of working for me, “This is a
great place to work, because this job prepares you for a super-successful
career: just look at what happened to my graduates!”
That’s the same pitch the military uses, to get kids to
enlist: this job trains you to be tomorrow’s leaders.
On the anonymous Internet, I found this cute example of a job
Memo to Managing Director:
1 Bob Smith, my assistant
programmer, can always be found
2 hard at work at his desk.
He works independently, without
3 wasting company time
talking to colleagues. Bob never
4 thinks twice about
assisting fellow employees, and always
5 finishes given
assignments on time. Often he takes extended
6 measures to complete his
work, sometimes skipping coffee
7 breaks. Bob is a
dedicated individual who has absolutely no
8 vanity in spite of his
high accomplishments and profound
9 knowledge in his field. I
firmly believe that Bob can be
10 classed as an asset
employee, the type which cannot be
11 dispensed with.
Consequently, I recommend that Bob be
12 promoted to executive
management, and a proposal will be
13 executed as soon as
That idiot was standing over my
shoulder while I wrote the report I sent you earlier today. Please reread just
the odd-numbered lines.
Business executives ponder the tale of the 3 envelopes:
It’s time for a new
person to be the CEO. He gets this advice from his predecessor: “I’ve prepared
3 envelopes. Here they are, but don’t open them yet. If you ever have trouble,
open the first envelope. If you have further trouble, open the second envelope.
If you have even more trouble, open the third envelope. Each envelope contains
3 magic words telling you what to do so the company will succeed. Good luck.”
At first, the new CEO
does well, as the company’s employees eagerly help him learn the ropes and give
him the benefit of the doubt. But after that honeymoon period, things start
He opens the first
envelope. It contains these 3 magic words: “Blame your predecessor.” He’s so
happy to read those words, because they’re so right! He obeys those words. He
tells the employees and stockholders that the company’s problems are just the
delayed consequences of the mistakes that his predecessor made, and he’ll usher
in the dawn of a new, better era. That pep talk works. Everybody is inspired by
his gung-ho forward-looking attitude, and the company improves. But eventually,
things start going downhill again.
He opens the second
envelope. It contains these 3 magic words: “Reorganize the company.” He’s so
happy to read those words, because they’re so right! He obeys those words. He
fires the employees who are deadwood and invents new ways of managing
everything. That improves the company. But eventually, things start going
He opens the third
envelope. It says: “Prepare three envelopes.”
Every CEO goes through those 3 cycles before getting canned. Which
envelope is your company’s CEO using now? #1, #2, or #3?