What was your childhood like in Manila ?
I was number 10 in a family of 11 kids. The constant smell of food is a very vivid memory for me. My parents came from a town on the outskirts of Manila. My grandparents had a rice paddy, a fishpond, and livestock. Everything was right in their back-yard. If you wanted chicken for dinner, you had to catch one and give it to Grandma so she could pluck it.
Did you always want to be a chef ?
When our family immigrated to Chicago in ’83, I wanted to find a job in food science, but it was difficult. Mom had a friend who worked at a hotel. I started there as a salad girl.
And that was that ?
Yes. When I walked in and saw my first chef wearing the white shoes and scarf, the tall hat, and the starched uniform, I thought, Where have you been all my life?
What’s your family’s experience of food like today?
My husband is also a chef, so our 14-year-old daughter has always eaten adult food. We took her to a tasting when she was four or five on her best double umbrella stroller, and she actually kept up with us.
How did you wind up at the White House?
There was a state dinner for Nelson Mandela during the Clinton administration. I was working at a D.C. restaurant called the Colonnade. They asked chefs in the neighborhood to help. Then, in 1998, the White House’s chef brought me in as sous chef. In 2005 the Bushes installed me as their executive chef.
What was that moment like—finding out you got the job?
I saw the news streaming on CNN: “White House installs first female executive chef.” It was scary, in a good way. The movie Finding Nemo always comes to mind—when all the fish escape the tank and jump into the water and look at each other and say, “Now what?”
Tell us about one of the toughest meals you’ve ever pulled off.
Last year, at the Africa Leaders Summit, we had to cook for 50 heads of state. We had to accommodate all the dietary restrictions, practices, and preferences. It was a huge logistical challenge.
How do you lead your team in a situation like that?
I’m more of a coaching leader. You want to rally the people around you. You’re there to look at everyone’s talents and make sure you get the best of each team member. We have a lot of different ethnic backgrounds in the kitchen. The sous chefs have all these wonderful recipes in their heads. I always welcome everybody’s ideas.
What’s your best time-management secret?
I have an hour commute to work. It gives me time to plan, so I’m set to take care of the most important things first. As soon as I walk in the kitchen, I know what I’m going to do.
How much sleep do you get?
We make sure our daughter is in bed by 9:30 at the latest. Within 10 minutes, my husband and I are conked out as well. I get up around 4:30.
What’s your morning routine?
I do a little organizing so that when I leave, the bed is made and the house is clean. I also take a little quiet time in the morning. I have a Bible phone app that has a suggested daily reading that I like to use.
Do you have time for exercise?
We have a 50-pound poodle at home that needs a whole lot of walking in the morning. I try to do that at least four times a week.
You take care of two families—the Obamas and your own. How do you do it?
My husband stepped back from his executive-chef job to be a work-at-home dad. He’s a great support system. He makes sure our daughter is driven to practices and doctors’ appointments, and he does the cooking Monday to Friday. I take over on the weekends. He’s such a great partner. I couldn’t ask for more.
What’s your advice to those aspiring to succeed in your field?
The key is balancing your career life, your home life, and your spiritual life. That helps me be a better chef. I try to get home in time for dinner at least three times a week. I’m very protective of Saturday because it’s family time. We don’t schedule anything. My daughter and I try out different recipes. She loves to bake. And now the question on everyone’s mind:
What do the Obamas like to eat?
The First Family loves fresh food and any-thing seasonal. In 2010 the First Lady installed a four-season garden. We use a lot of vegetables from there. It’s a beautiful resource. You just walk in the backyard and pick whatever you want. It’s almost like coming back home to my grandma’s place. Everything is right there.
When James Brown sang This Is a Man’s World in 1966, he was right. He did go on to sing: It would be nothing without a woman” but this does little topersuadeus.In equality is still a daily reality.Although sisters are doing it for themselves in the workplace, research conducted by the World Economic Forum reveals that in South Africa, women still earn up to 33% less than men. And women are still grossly under-represented in top leadership roles. Khanyi, 35, will never forget the day she was made a partner at a law firm.“I was shocked when I discovered that although I’d made it I wasn’t considered to be on the same level as my male colleagues,”she says. “I was one of only two women who were partners in the firm but I felt undermined.”
Importance of gender transformation in the workplace
After two years, Khanyi eventually quit to start her own practice. “Many might think I gave up, or wasn’t strong enough,but I’m proud of my decision. I didn’t feel valued and respected,”she says. Janine Hicks from the Commission for Gender Equality says the responsibility of achieving gender equality starts at the top. “We need leadership within companies to understand the importance of gender transformation in the workplace, the value of managing diversity, the legal requirements in terms of international conventions and employment equity legislation – and then put measures in place to drive this process,”says Hicks.
She adds that this would entail making transformation a leadership responsibility, not just the responsibility of a human resources manager to report employment equity. “It requires setting targets, developing appropriate strategies and policies, and assigning accountability for implementation at a senior level. It should also be built into performance management, monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and assigned necessary budgets,” explains Hicks. Forbes Magazine’s recent richest people in the world list features only two women in the top 10.One is in the number eight position and the other in number 10 – and neither of them are black.
Awareness and activism around this issue
Bringing it closer to home, the richest man in South Africa, Ivan Glasenberg of Glencore International, secured a net worth of R61, 5 billion in 2014,while the richest woman, Wendy Appelbaum of Liberty Investors, is worth a total of only R2, 6 billion. On a much smaller scale, most women in leadership positions aren’t getting the same income as their male counterparts. Hicks says: “The issue of equal pay for work of equal value has been an issue in international policy advocacy and the subject of feminist and women’s rights campaigns for decades. “This has enabled the issue to acquire greater traction and response. In South Africa, there’s a gender wage gap that is not adequately addressed. We need more awareness and activism around this issue from women’s organisations, trade unions and Parliament.
We have to force companies to enact measures to eradicate this gap.” To try to rectify the imbalance, the Employment Equity Commission has proposed amending the Employment Equity Act of 1998 to promote gender equality in the workplace. “The workplace is deeply patriarchal, with entrenched institutional cultures and behaviours that have become normalised based on our perceptions and prejudices in relation to the roles and competencies of men and women, and the fundamental discrimination that exists in all social spheres.
There’s insufficient understanding of the set of issues and responsibilities, and we are not seeing CEOs of companies, boards of directors and director generals of government departments who are putting such measures in place.” But there’s hope — the commission is determined to rectify this imbalance. “We walk the path with those entities who haven’t achieved equality. We call them to appear before us to account for their poor performance and ensure they commit to work on this issue.
Representation of women in positions of leadership
We develop recommendations for them on appropriate interventions and have shared best practice in terms of strategies and policies that would be required to address their short comings,” says Hicks. It’s important to know you have rights when it comes to gender inequality in the workplace. And it’s also worth knowing that if you are in a position of leadership or influence, it’s not too late to turn your company around. “Where necessary, we’ve provided training and awareness for the seen tities. We’ve also reported to Parliament and named all the entities that have appeared before us. We’ve given our findings on where they are failing to comply with employment equity measures and constitutional and other labour legislative requirements, such as failure to put in place policy and systems to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, which is a common area of concern. Should we encounter instances of outright discrimination on the basis of gender, we could take the entity involved to the equality court, being empowered to do so by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000,” elaborates Hicks.
The South African Development Community’s gender protocol indicated in 2008 that there should be a 50% representation of women in positions of leadership by 2015, but this is not yet the case. However, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (Bwasa) is working to improve those numbers. “Bwasa’s 2015 Women in Leadership census study is likely to continue to reflect lower percentages of women than men at boardroom level,” says Kareema Mitha, the association’s executive director. “It’s vital to note that although many organisations have assisted us with the gathering of information, many have not. With such attitudes and a lack of commitment from organisations to participate in this important study, it is no wonder women are struggling to make it out there and succeed in their careers at higher organisational levels,” she adds. We need to keep fighting for equality.
Even though we may not see the fruits of our labour immediately, future generations will benefit. American feminist Susan Anthony once said: “The day will come when man will recognise woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development oftherace.”■
Myth: If I let go of this relationship, job, or situation, I may never get a better opportunity.
Magic: When I say goodbye to a situation that isn’t right for me, I create the space for a new gift to enter my life.
Have you ever been afraid to make a change in your life, even when you are unhappy or frustrated, thinking, “If I give up what little I have, I may never find anything better” ? Have you ignored what your feelings are trying to tell you, turning to logic instead to find the direction you’re looking for? While our feelings can certainly carry us of course at times, they are also a pathway to the truth—your inner truth—if you listen to them.
Logic alone won’t get you there
It’s essential to evaluate your feelings as you would any other piece of information you gather so that you can make an emotionally intelligent choice in every situation. Logic alone won’t get you there. In the words of the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, “A mind all logic is like a knife all blade; it makes the hand bleed that uses it.” Lani discovered how life-changing it could be to follow through on what her feelings were telling her when she was unexpectedly faced with an issue that challenged both her career and her character.
She thought she had finally found the perfect job. It was in the right location and on the right career track, and she was working directly with the owner of the company as his assistant. Then one day she discovered that her boss was dealing unethically with his clients. She knew this was wrong and hoped that something or someone would come along to correct the situation so she wouldn’t have to rock the boat. But nothing changed, and Lani knew that she could not let the situation go unchallenged.
An opening for life to work its magic
When she finally mustered the courage to speak to her boss, he brushed aside her concerns. So she told him that if he didn’t stop his behaviour, she would quit in one week. Seven days later, Lani found herself walking out the door with nothing but a small box of her belongings in her arms. As she paused in the downstairs lobby of the office building to catch her breath, wondering what she would do now with no job, no severance package, and no leads, an older, well-dressed gentleman stopped next to her.
He was having some trouble opening his new briefcase. Lani instinctively offered to help and figured out the problem right away. “You’re clever,” the man said, thanking her. “If I’m so clever,” she shot back without thinking, “then maybe you should hire me!” As it turned out, the man was looking for a good office manager.
Lani was a great fit for the job. “He was so respectful, and that new job paid much more than the old one,” she later told me. “I really didn’t have to be worried at all about taking a stand for what I believed in or about leaving that job.” In fact, the universe was just waiting for her to make room in her life to receive the gift of this new job. Sometimes walking away is the right way to be walking. It creates an opening for life to work its magic.
Even though Catherine grew up splashing around in shallow lakes and even water-skiing, she never really knew how to swim.
But when a group of friends invited her on a white-water-rafting trip on the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania, she thought she’d give it a try. After all, she’d always managed just fine with a life jacket. Then her raft hit a huge rock. Catherine was tossed into the rough water and immediately pulled under by an eddy.
As it turned out, her life jacket wasn’t fastened properly. Instead of keeping her afloat, it pressed against her eyes and mouth. She found herself gasping for air. “I remember thinking, I haven’t breathed in a really long time. This isn’t good,” says Catherine, who was 29 at the time.
Fortunately, a passing kayaker rescued her. “But I was completely traumatized,” she says. “I refused to get back into the water with my friends and ended up hiking five miles to our camp.” After that, Catherine had a deep fear of the water—any water.
Finally, her husband, Alan, who grew up boating, made her a deal. “He said, ‘If you take swimming lessons, I’ll take dance lessons,’” she says. “I’ve been wanting him to dance for years.” So she signed up for a session with Beth Davis, a swim coach. Just wading into the indoor pool for her first private lesson started Catherine’s heart pounding. “I was full of terror,” she says. “When water went up my nose, I started coughing and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was having flashbacks to the river.” Nevertheless, Catherine came back once a week for three months. She and Beth talked a lot during those sessions. “During one class, we didn’t even get in the water,” Catherine says. “Beth explained that few people who set a massive goal ever meet it.
She told me, ‘Yard by yard is hard, but inch by inch is a cinch.’ That philosophy of taking small steps really resonated with me.” Maybe that’s because Beth was such a good role model for overcoming fear. An avid rock climber, she’d recently fallen 20 feet and endured a harrowing stay in the hospital. Still, she resumed climbing. “I could see the scars from her surgery,” Catherine says. “When I felt scared in the pool, I’d look over at Beth. I’d think about what she’d overcome, and I’d ask myself, ‘What am I so scared of?’” After two years, Catherine says, she felt comfortable swimming in the deep end. And after three, she could swim a whole lap there. These days she swims three mornings a week, sometimes with Alan, who still hasn’t signed up for those dance lessons! “But we have an amazing relationship,” she says. “Alan encourages and supports me, and I guess now we dance when we swim together.”
Many people are petrified to speak in public. Jackie used to be scared to speak to anyone.
“I couldn’t talk on the phone or say hello to a co-worker,” she says. “If a waiter remembered my order when I went back to a restaurant, I was mortified.” Jackie wasn’t an introvert, and she wasn’t shy, exactly. She had social anxiety disorder, a paralyzing fear of being judged and embarrassed in almost any social situation. She traces her anxiety to her childhood, when her family moved frequently because of her father’s job. By the time she was 9 years old, she’d gone to seven different schools.
After one move, when she was in fourth grade, she had particular trouble making new friends. One day when she went out of home to buy a best vacuum for stairs since her house had many steps but she can not even talked to the customer service. From there, her fears snowballed to the point where she even avoided making eye contact with classmates. “I spent recess walking the outskirts of the playground by myself,” she says. Through college, marriage and motherhood, her anxiety remained. Then, in 2008, when Jackie turned 40, she went to a meeting she’d read about for shy people in her area. It was the first place she heard the term social anxiety. After she googled its symptoms, she had an epiphany: “The way I was feeling wasn’t because of my personality,” she says. “I had a real disorder that could be fixed.” Armed with her new knowledge, she signed up for weekly cognitive behavioral group therapy, led by a psychologist who used exercises to help Jackie and a dozen others with social anxiety disorder.
During one such exercise, Jackie was asked to make small talk for several minutes with the person nearest her, then switch to a new person until she’d chatted up everyone in the room. The only thing that got her through the excruciating exercise was “knowing that everyone else was just as anxious as me,” she says. Still, Jackie froze when it came time for a bigger assignment: attending a pool party at a group member’s home. A few days before, Jackie’s stomach was already in knots.
She called the group leader, who pointed out that she was getting caught up in her usual pattern of negative thoughts. He suggested she practice positive “coping statements” such as “When this is over, I’ll be happy that I went.” “I repeated them in my head, and they helped,” she says. “I was able not only to go to the party but also to feel glad I’d gone.” At one point during her therapy, she and her husband went out to dinner—and she found herself actually joking with the server. Learning to relax and think more positively still helps Jackie conquer her fears every day. “Today I can hang out and talk to people—even strangers—just like everybody else,” she says proudly. “A few years ago, I never would have dreamed that was possible.”
When Lovelyn was 6 years old and on the way to visit family during a heavy rainstorm, she witnessed a horrific crash on a twisting Pennsylvania road.
“I heard a loud bang,” she recalls, “and when I turned to look out the window, I saw two people flying out of a car. The man spun like a break-dancer.” The experience didn’t stop Lovelyn from riding as a passenger, but she avoided driving at all costs. “My parents had to force me to get my license,” she says. “When my mom let me buy her junky Chevette from her for $300, I was more excited to decorate it than to drive it.”
Throughout college, Lovelyn’s Chevette mostly sat untouched in the parking lot. After graduation, when she absolutely had to drive to various jobs, she would, but it felt like torture. She avoided busy roads and making left- hand turns because she’d have to drive across oncoming traffic. She worried about cars rear-ending her. Once she married, she relied on her husband, Patrick, to transport her places. “If I was going somewhere new, I’d have him drive me there first so I could see all the turns or roads to avoid,” she says.
“Then I broke out in a sweat and white-knuckled the steering wheel.” When she and Patrick, who is British, moved to a town just outside London in 2008, she was thrilled—the extensive public transportation in the United Kingdom meant she’d almost never have to drive. But when they moved back to Florida in 2012, her old fears returned and were even more intense. “The first time I got back behind the wheel, my neck and shoulders tensed up and I began sweating,” she says. “I ended up going to an unfamiliar supermarket simply because it was closer and didn’t involve a scary left turn. They didn’t havewhat I needed, but I just came home anyway.” In 2013, Lovelyn, a voracious reader, came across Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, a self-help book. Its premise—that meditation can lead to lasting changes—intrigued her. “In the past, I’d been willing myself to change, but it hadn’t worked,” she says. “Meditation seemed like it might be the answer.”
After finishing the book, she began watching instructional videos that meditation teachers uploaded to YouTube. The first time she tried to follow along with a video, it didn’t go well. “I desperately tried to relax,” she remembers. “Instead, I ended up feeling likeI couldn’t breathe.” But instead of giving up, she kept trying to meditate. Then one day it dawned on her: “There was no mystical secret,” she says. “All I had to do was sit quietly and focus on my breathing. Once I did that, something clicked.” Meditation calmed her—to the point where she felt she could tackle her fear of driving. “Did my heart still race? Did I still sweat like a pig? Yes!” she says. “But I forced myself to drive anyway. Each time I did, I became a little less anxious.” Lovelyn still feels a clutch of terror every now and then when she is driving alone. “But now,” she says, “I have that tool of mindfulness in my pocket and can pull it out at any time.”
We spend more time at work than anywhere else, but do we really know what it is our bosses want from us? Sure, the obvious answer would be to complete the tasks and objectives at hand, but that’s not really what it’s all about. Former chairperson and chief executiveof Xerox Corporation, AnneM Mulcahy,once said:
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied and more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” So what is really expected of you to be able to reach this profitability at work and to achieve the maximum level of success?
How many times have you put your hand up when your boss requires volunteers for a project she’s starting? Being keen is often a characteristic that many people dislike or try to avoid because no one wants to be that “eager beaver” in the office. But sometimes it can pay off. President and chief executive of leadership firm Lead From Within, Lolly Daskal, says the phrase “I’ll do it” is one your boss wants to hear.
“When you’re already in a high-pressure position, nobody wants to take on more responsibility. But if you look at it from a different perspective, it’s really an opportunity to show your boss that you’re proactive, willing to pitch in, are a team player and are reliable. It establishes you as a natural ‘go-to’ person,” she writes in Inc magazine. She adds that although it may seem like a bit of extra work, the benefits are tremendous. It’s worth mentioning that this type of eager is not to be confused with being a people pleaser.
Often underrated,this is an important factor in the workplace. There’s a woman in our office who never turns down an opportunity to help because she understands the importance of the role she plays and that helping out isn’t a step down for her. In a world driven by success, it’s easy to make it all about you.
People would much rather look out for themselves than consider the well being of a company at large. Although sometimes that reasoning is justifiable, being a team player can be beneficial. Robert Galford, the managing partner of the Center for Leading Organisations, writes in the Harvard Business Review that your boss wants you to “build a following of competent people who trust you, trust each other, keep you in the loop, and feel as if you are there to help and guide without getting in the way”.
Daskal further elaborates this by saying that hearing the words “I can help” is a good thing. “Offering to help a colleague who is stuck, overburdened or unexpectedly called away shows interest and a willingness to do more. It also demonstrates your focus on the big picture rather than your own role, and it casts you as an agent of camaraderie and collaboration,” she adds. So next time there’s a crisis, get stuck in and help where you can.
Being optimistic really does pay off sometimes, and although many might think it’s a waste of energy, looking for that silver lining can help you get ahead. Having a solution to a problem not only shows initiative, but displays you are always fully present in the workplace. Daskal writes: “Bosses hear a lot of problems all day, and they’re usually the ones who have to come up with all the solutions. The next time there’s an issue you need to bring to your boss’ attention, come prepared with a solution in hand.” Anyone can identify a problem, but coming up with an action plan is what really counts.
The chief executive and founder of publishing and consulting firm Human Workplace, Liz Ryan, told LinkedIn that the workplace is in fact a place to solve problems. “You learn something new and grow your flame a little bit more every time you solve a problem at work,” she says.
Being transparent in your work environment isn’t just something to do for you to feel good about, it can be a huge growth point in terms of accountability and keeping the channels of communication open and free. Daskal says: “When you make a mistake – and we all make mistakes, even the best of us–find a way to come to your boss and say, ‘I made a mistake and took care of it.’
If possible, also share what you’re doing to prevent it from happening again. In that way, what’s most memorable is not the mistake but your responsibility and accountability.” Honesty is underrated, with many sweeping things under the carpet and leaving them to fester. Ryan goes as far as saying that one owes their employer the truth about what happens in the workplace.
“When you speak up, your muscles grow,” she adds. Trial lawyer and contributor on Americanbar.org, G Grant Dixon III, writes thatconfessing and rectifying your mistakes means you’re human. “You are going to make mistakes, no matter how hard you try,” he says. So accepting that and being honest about those mistakes is worth it.
Tembisa, 32, works at a call centre. She was desperate when she accepted the job, and doesn’t enjoy going to work anymore. In 2013, the Washington Post reported that only 13% of people worldwide actually
enjoy going to work. This boils down to passion: Does the job mean a lot to you or is it just a nine-to-five and a secure salary? “If you hate your job, start a stealth job search on the side, but don’t slack off in your current role. That isn’t fair to your employer, its customers or your team-mates. It’s not fair to yourself. As long as you have the job, put your heart into it,” Ryan emphasises.
There aren’t a lot of people who can say that they’re truly passionate about the work that they do, but it’s never too late to work towards that passion. For some, it comes easier than others, but if you haven’t found a way to make your passion your work yet, push what you’re doing with respect for yourself. Ryan shares her motto for this particular point: “An employee’s job is to give his or her best work every day. A manager’s job is to give the employee a good reason to come back to work tomorrow.”
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
Not everyone is confident in expressing themselves, but coming out of your shell can really help you stand out. Daskal says: “It’s great for your boss to know you can fix things and that you’re willing to go beyond expectations, but it’s when you bring new ideas to the table that you really shine.”
She highlights that being seen for what you can do and who you are is the first step to this. If you’ve been putting yourself out there and just not getting any joy from your employer, keep trying, and if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to move on. Author of New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain, is a perfect example of someone for whom speaking out paid off. She writes: “I am not a natural self-discloser at all. It took me 30 years to realise my childhood dream of becoming a writer, partly because I was afraid to write about personal things – yet these were the subjects I was drawn to.
Eventually, my drive to write grew stronger than my fear, and I’ve never looked back.” Although these are but a few of the things that make bosses tick, they’re definitely worth trying to apply in your workplace. ■
HAVING A PURPOSE in life may be protective against stroke. At Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, brain autopsies showed that older people were much less likely to have evidence of strokes in their brains if they’d felt a strong purpose in life. Other studies show that a life purpose is linked with living longer, slowing Alzheimer’s disease, lower risks of depression and heart attack – and even a better sex life! But what defines a life purpose? Researchers say that’s up to you. It might mean constantly learning and bettering yourself or contributing to your community. Inspired to find yours? Here are 45 ways to get you started.
- PUT PEN TO PAPER
The process of writing down what you find meaningful will set you on the right track. Try making these lists.
- List your core values. What do you believe in? What is most important to you?
- List things that fascinate you. What captures your interest? What would you like to know more about?
- List your skills. What are your special talents? What do you enjoy doing?
- List all the reasons why you got up this morning!
- SEEK THERAPY
Feeling daunted by the task of finding your life’s meaning on your own? Trained therapists can actually guide you through the process. Yes, life-purpose counselling is a thing!
- SET GOALS
Purpose can be defined as having specific goals to work toward. Do you want to learn a language, master the violin, build a school-house, write that epic screenplay? “Purpose is about having a vision in life,” writes Duke University professor Harold Koenig in his book Purpose and Power In Retirement: New Opportunities for Meaning and Significance. “This vision is a picture of something important and significant that we see in our mind’s eye, a picture of something we have not yet achieved but have decided is worth the effort to obtain.”
- GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND …
- Invent something Older inventors are often successful because they have more life experience,
which can enhance their insight and problem-solving skills.
- Teach something Share your expertise! Teaching degrees aren’t necessarily required for instructors of continuing education courses.
- Write something Your memoirs might inspire the next generation.
- LOSE YOURSELF
Have you ever been so thoroughly absorbed in what you were doing that you completely lost track of time? That’s a clue to what your life’s purpose might be.
- JUST IMAGINE…
Think on this: if you had a million dollars to give away to others, what would you do with it? Another clue!
- SAVE A LIFE
It gives meaning to your own, and it might not be as out of reach as you think.
- Join a stem cell registry.
- Sign your organ donor card.
- Donate your blood.
- Take a CPR course.
- Donate time or money to a humanitarian agency.
- MEDITATE ON IT
At the University of California San Francisco, people who participated in a three-month meditation retreat felt a greater sense of their purpose in life compared to those on the retreat’s waiting list.
- FIND MORE PURPOSE IN YOUR CAREER
A Gallup poll found that only one in six Canadians feels engaged in their jobs. We don’t always have control over what we do, but here’s how you can find more meaning in your work.
- Concentrate on how what you do makes a difference to others.
- Embrace opportunities to develop new skills as they come up.
- Tap into the workplace community, whether it’s by joining the company bowling team or attending a co-worker’s baby shower.
- FIND MORE PURPOSE IN YOUR CAREER
A Gallup poll found that only one in six Canadians feels engaged in their jobs. We don’t always have control over what we do, but here’s how you can find more meaning in your work.
- Concentrate on how what you do makes a difference to others.
- Embrace opportunities to develop new skills as they come up.
- Tap into the workplace community, whether it’s by joining the company bowling team or attending a co-worker’s baby shower.
- UH, I PICK LOVE
Vienna psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author of the 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, believed there were three pathways to finding your life’s meaning: love, work and suffering.
- WE CHECKED WITH THE EXPERTS
- Ask your younger self “Sometimes it’s best to return to basics when you’re looking for your life’s purpose, and that would be back in your past. What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? How about when you were 16? What were your interests and passions? You might be surprised to learn that you still love the same things!”
— Vikki Stark, psychotherapist, Montreal.
- Get mad about you “Examine your anger. When people in mid-life are looking for purpose, I encourage them to look at what they’ve been pushing away. Often it’s anger, and I suggest looking into what we are angry about. Are there chances missed, societal injustices, thwarted hopes? If we’re angry, there’s usually a passion underneath that wants our attention, badly.”
— Pamela Rubin, certified counsellor, Halifax.
- Make it yourself “Instead of considering your purpose as something to be found, try thinking of it as something to be created. You are, in the grand scheme of things, already talented in your life’s purpose. This shift in perspective will empower you to take action and follow your unique way to infuse your life with your purpose.”
— Ryan Cuillerier, certified professional coach, Vancouver.
- THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!
- Life Purpose Get more insights into your own identity and values. www.lifepurposeapp.com
- On Purpose Create a “purpose statement,” then track which daily activities are in line with your purpose.www.dungbeetle.org/about-the-app
- Motto Dots Inspire yourself with your own life-changing catch-phrases. www.mottodots.com
- DON’T CONFUSE A HAPPY LIFE WITH A MEANINGFUL ONE
It’s possible to have both happiness and purpose in your life. But you can have one without the other. A survey by a Florida State University psychologist uncovered five key differences. Getting what you want may makeyou happy but won’t provide meaning. Happiness is connected to the present. A meaningful life is linked to the past, present and future. Happiness is lower in people who have more stress and anxiety, but meaning is higher in these same people. Self-expression and exploring personal identity don’t make people happier, but they do provide meaning. Takers have happiness. Givers have meaning.
How would traumatizing mathematics help in any way when you are thrown away on the job market and trying to sell your skills and assets to the highest bidder?
Brett Nelson, a former engineer and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, has come up with a formula designed to help you find the perfect job! What does it do you don’t do? It helps you find the so-called “confidence factor”, a ratio between 0% and 100%. Further explanations ahead.
And now nerds are smiling and beating everyone up!
(that is figuratively… but still!)
And now would be the time for the most reluctant of us when faced to mathematics, numbers, ratios and formulas to happily turn their jacket and find the perfect job! Mr. Nelson and his formula will make you appreciate the company of numbers. Yes, it surely seems a bit scary at first sight, but his calculations are still quite simple:
CF = 0.2x(Salary) + 0.15x(Satisfaction) + 0.15x(Opportunity) + 0.1x(Personal Time) + 0.1x(Company’s culture) + 0.1x(Company’s financial health) + 0.05x(Company’s location) + 0.05x(Team work) + 0.05x(Professional evolution) + 0.05x(Interactions in and outside the company)
And now on your way to calculate your “confidence factor” (CF):
- Salary : Is this job well enough payed? Does your salary cover your needs? Each time, pick a ratio from 0% to 100%.
- Satisfaction : Do you really enjoy the job you do or do you just do it without looking for improvement?
- Opportunity : Shall this job allow you to evolve and lead you to the position you eventually really wish to occupy and fulfill?
- Personal time : Does this job still leaves you enough time to actually enjoy your personal life?
- Company culture : Do you feel comfortable in your work environment as well as with your colleagues?
- Financial health : Is your company thriving or meeting difficulties?
- Location : Does the location of the company, where you shall eventually work, suit you?
- Team work : Does the job involve team work or solo? Pick this ration according to your personal preferences.
- Professional evolution : Shall the job ever stay the same or will you be in charge of multiple tasks during this mission?
- Interactions : Shall you work with a number of companies or in direct contact with customers/users during your mission?
To each variable a ration that you pick from 0% to 100%, 0% being entirely unsatisfied and 100% extremely satisfied. Example: the proposed salary – or the one you actually perceive – is entirely satisfactory to you; coefficient for salary being 0,2, multiply 0,2 by, let’s say, 90 (because who is always entirely satisfied with his salary, right?), hence: 95 x 0,2.
And so on for each factor involved here: location of the company is to far from home? Note it 30 x 0,05 or maybe 35. You will be in direct contact with users and it’s a supplementary motivation to work? Well, who knows, they might be unpleasant, but that’s a plus! Note it 80 x 0,05. And the list goes on and on.
To each his own calculator
Thus add up every factor and you will end up with your CF or “confidence factor”. To be sure that the Nelson formula has done the job, the inventor warns, be always sure that the sum be > 1. What’s more, if some factors are found irrelevant to your own situation, simply put them away of the equation.
Now to find out the results:
- If your CF or “confidence factor” is under 60%, you should not, very clearly, accept the job offered to you, or you should quit the one you currently occupy (theoretically of course!).
- Your CF goes between 61% and 75%? Good enough, but you should still think it through: you can do better.
- If your CF is over 75%, this job is for you!
- Beyond 90%, that is perfection.
And after this tremendous effort in mobilizing my neurons for this career equation I need to go back to my best mattress for side sleepers for a nighty night, probably…
But before that, one last quick add from Mr. Nelson before you write your resignation letter and go off for a better job:
“This formula is not rigorously scientific but it will certainly allow you to clarify your thoughts and take the best of decisions amongst your possible options” … No rush!
RECENTLY, DESIGNER AND ARTIST CATHE HOLDEN SAT DOWN TO CHAT WITH STITCH ABOUT HER UPCOMING F+W VIDEO SERIES, “INSPIRED BARN,” DEBUTING IN LATE JULY.
Cathe lives a simple life by choice in Northern California after opting to give up her steady paycheck to stay home with her family and develop her creative business. From her roots as a graphic designer, she created a thriving DIY crafting business that will be reflected in the new series, “Inspired Barn,” a nod to the way her business grew from her bedroom to her garage to a barn makeover.
Everything was created on a tight budget, but the results are beautiful. Here, Cathe shares how she crafted her dream and her tips for living a modest and creative life.
Amber Eden: Can you tell us more about your philosophy for creating Inspired Barn?
Cathe Holden: After an incredible wide-reaching audience response to my design and craft blog, I was often requested to instruct and speak at various creative events around the country. With young children at home it wasn’t always ideal for me to be away. So after a few years of traveling to teach, it occurred to me that I could invite attendees to classes in my very own workshop here in Petaluma. My husband and I repurposed a large storage outbuilding on our property into a big craft studio and classroom.
Here I can work, craft, assemble kits, and host DIY events in my community. However, teaching only in Northern California is somewhat limiting to those who are unable to attend because of location, and so the “Inspired Barn” video series was born. Now I can share my favorite craft projects, techniques, and style with anyone. And now that my kids are all grown, who knows, I may even one day take “Inspired Barn” on the road.
AE: You talk about living well, but living modestly. Your barn is so gorgeous. Can you explain how that came together with your resources and resourcefulness?
CH: I love to shop and collect vintage items, but I’m frugal and I’m patient. I collect only practical items that can be used as materials in craft projects, to store craft materials, or as furniture and furnishings that benefit the process of crafting. I have a good idea of what I’m looking for at all times and will wait and search until I find it or something similar at the lowest price possible. I frequent eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and flea markets on a very regular basis with a savviness for the search.
Many of the larger furniture pieces in my workshop were items pulled from our home such as breakfast and dining tables, bookcases, and cupboards, all which were initially acquired inexpensively or second hand. Smaller items such as a watch case and office supply cabinets for housing small supplies were found at flea markets, estate sales, or local antique shops. Having an overall theme helps keep a cohesive, balanced look in the space.
I refer to my decorating style for the barn as mercantile chic—a mix of vintage advertising, bins, and drawers, mixed with an eclectic amount of color and whimsy. I enjoy collecting, decorating, and organizing Inspired Barn as a craft in itself.
AE: How did you get started crafting?
CH: I suppose I’ve always been a crafter. Even as a small kid I was assembling bits of junk found among the gravel in the alleyway, or scraps of office supplies brought home from work by my mom, into funky works of art.
As an old-school commercial artist, I segued into handcrafting as more than a hobby a few years after most graphic design tasks became digitized. I missed working with my hands and began spending time in online [crafting] communities.
I embraced a new and exciting way to pursue my creative endeavors while satisfying my need to work with physical tools and materials through crafting. It was then that I began sharing a graphic designer’s take on crafting on my blog, JustSomethingIMade.com.
AE : Where do you see crafting fitting into the bigger picture of your business?
CH: Although crafting has become my business through blogging and teaching, I also plan to produce craft materials unique to my style and aesthetic. I’m currently designing a line of typographic, mercantile-style stencils, some of which I have designed exclusively for the video series kit.
It’s my intention to create projects and products that are both simple and impactful. I do this by designing exciting crafts with easy-to-follow instruction, sharing loads of inspiration for customizing, and developing uncommon materials and products.
AE : What is your vision for Inspired Barn?
CH: My hope is for Inspired Barn to become a vintage-style brand known for facilitating individual creativity, repurposing, and re-imagining. Through instruction, ideas, products and materials, it’s my hope for Inspired Barn to become an extraordinary handcraft resource for multiple craft genres online, in print, and in stores.
Learning a language can help unlock new adventures. “When you learn other languages, you open up an entirely new culture and every single person from that culture,” says Benny Lewis, author of Fluent in 3 Months. But so few of us take the trouble to try. Think it’s too hard? Convinced you don’t have the time? Read on…
How hard is it ?
While it’s not the easiest thing in the world for everyone, learning a language doesn’t have to be that difficult–the key thing is that you want to do it. “I think the biggest problem is finding the time and keeping motivated,” says Sarah Cole from online resource Teach Yourself languages. “You don’t always see results fast, so people often just give up.”
Preparation is key. Lay out a plan before you start learning, setting both short-term and long-term goals. However, make sure your plan isn’t too daunting so you’re not put off, advises Lisa Frumkes, from language learning software publisher Rosetta Stone. Once you’ve decided what your aims are, it’s all about finding the right language-learning method for you.
Ways to learn a language
There are many ways to study a new language. You can self-teach yourself – perhaps investing in interactive online learning courses or via audio CDs that you can listen to wherever you like. You can hire a teacher for one-to-one tuition or join a class to benefit from common learning. Or you could try a combination.
It’s useful to discover what type of learner you are. Are you a visual learner, someone who might improve by watching films? Are you more of an audio learner? Or do you benefit from reading a good old-fashioned textbook?
Benny reckons that one of the most effective ways is to befriend someone whose mother tongue is the language you’re aiming to learn. “Set yourself up with a language exchange person or teacher online and talk to a native. Your skills will improve through genuine use of the language.” Benny and Sarah both recommend iTalki (italki.com), a Skype-style online service via which you can have video calls with both locals and teachers for immediate feedback.
Utilise ‘wasted time’
Many of us think we don’t have time to learn a language, but there are always hidden pockets you can utilise. “Keep your learning materials handy,” says Lisa. “Then, when you have odd bits of time available – waiting in a queue, for the bus, for a meeting to start – you can steal a few minutes to study. Even five minutes could be beneficial.”
Lisa adds that regular chunks of learning are ideal: “Consistent, preferably daily, effort is key.” Little and often every day is much more effective than large blocks of learning once or twice a week.
Make it fun
The important thing to remember is to have fun. “Learning a language is hard work, but it needn’t be drudgery,” says Lisa. Include light-hearted ways of learning. If you enjoy watching films, choose the odd movie in your target language and turn off the subtitles. Or tune in to a foreign radio station. Even if you don’t understand much of what is being said, you’ll be getting used to the sounds and flow of the language.
Language teacher Kerstin Hammes (fluentlanguage.co.uk) agrees: “It’s important to remember that learning a language is suppose to be fun and not a critical survival skill.”
Don’t heap too much pressure on yourself – set realistic targets, says Benny. For example, try to learn the words for objects in your kitchen one day, before choosing a different room or theme the next. If you’re feeling confident, try to form your own basic sentences by the end of the first week, even if they’re grammatically incorrect.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
There is no shame in mispronouncing a word or not quite understanding a response. It’s all part of the learning process. “The more mistakes you make, the more practice you get, and the faster you will improve,” says Benny. “Don’t wait until you’re ‘ready’, because that feeling will never come. We always have more to learn.” One way to overcome this fear is to start speaking the language from day one. Don’t be afraid to try it out on a short trip or on any visiting tourists.
“I think people worry too much about their accent or wait to speak until they think they’ll be perfect,” adds Sarah. We’re not even perfect at our own language. How often do we say the wrong word or use
Practice makes perfect
To really improve and learn a language quickly, it comes down to practice. Be disciplined. When you feel at the end of your tether or a bit fed up, remember why you’re learning the language in the first place, whether that’s to turn that trip of a lifetime into an unforgettable one, or to give you the chance to strike up friendships with locals. “Language is what defines us as human. It’s what characterises cultures,” says Sarah. Just as with life, with language you will never stop learning new words or new phrases.
Keep practising; when you feel you’ve learned as much as you can, try to use the language as often as possible, so you don’t lose all that hard work! Next time you’re abroad, a local could be so impressed by your efforts they might point you in the direction of somewhere good for food or even a secret place. So decide on your method, set some targets and get started. Make learning a language your next adventure.
An expat explains how she went from fearing a French faux pas to ordering crossaints by the Seine.
Why did you decide to learn a language?
Learning to speak another language has always been on my bucket list, so I grabbed the opportunity to live in France. Arriving here with sketchy memories of GCSE French meant I was plunged in at the deep end with a lot of work to be done.
Why do you think languages are perceived to be so hard to learn?
Anything that requires dedication – such as going to the gym or learning to play a musical instrument – is always difficult at the beginning. You have to put in the time to get the results. It would be fantastic if you could become bilingual overnight but sadly there is no quick fix. You’d also miss out on the fun/frustrating journey to becoming fluent in a language.
What different methods did you find most useful when you were learning French?
At the beginning I would sit with a dictionary and an Asterix comic, working through every page. Yes, it took me five hours, but that sense of pride when I understood what I was reading was a real boost! Films, podcasts, language apps and online radio stations also helped. That way I learned much more ‘real’ French.
How did you fit learning a language into your busy schedule?
I’ve never had a formal French lesson; I just tried to use my brain as a little sponge, soaking up everything going on around me – the radio and television are always on in the background.
What are your top tips for learning a language?
Overcome your fear of making mistakes. They will happen but you will learn from them. I was so terrified of making any faux pas I kept my mouth shut for too long but now I just go for it. Even if the sentence isn’t perfectly formed, at least I’m trying!
Having a career in welding will surely help make one earn a decent livelihood. In fact, if one is to work harder, it could prove to be a rewarding career or business that will bear a range of benefits for the welder and his family.
Apart from the construction, home improvement, and manufacturing sectors, there are a lot of other industries a welder could get into. Welders, for instance, can get into the following industries:
- Heavy Equipment Manufacturing
- The Arts
- Light Equipment Manufacturing
- The Academe
- Robotics and Computer Engineering
As such, welders are in demand in the United States and other countries. Studies in fact suggest that because of hiring migrant workers, as well as the younger generations’ lack of interest in pursuing a Skilled Trades Profession like welding, the demand for welders continue to go up.
But the opportunities in this profession are endless. A welder can explore any of the following career opportunities that are in demand in this country and abroad:
- Underwater Welder
- Welding Educator
- Materials Engineer
- Welding Engineer
- Sheet Metal Worker
- Welding Inspector
- Machine Operators
- Robotics Technician
- Welding Technician
- Business Owner
- Structural Iron Worker
Aside from being a professional welder, a welder can also explore a career in the academe as a teacher or a trainer once he has gotten certifications, and earned the number of years of experience required to teach the vocation. For some, being able to pass on their knowledge is just as fulfilling as having a high-paying job.
Welding is likewise a career that offers continuous learning process as trends, and new techniques are discovered. Certifications are being offered as well to open up more learning, earning, and career opportunities for the welder. Certificate courses include those that let one become any of the following:
- Certified Welding Inspector
- Certified Welder
- Certified Radiographic Interpreter
- Certified Welding Educator
- Certified Welding Engineer
- Certified Welding Supervisor
- Certified Robotic Arc Welder
And since there is a shortage on welders, the salary being offered to those in the profession are very decent. In fact, welders get paid even before they finish their vocational course through paid apprenticeship programs. Now compare that to college degrees that cost much, pays at almost the same level, and may even require loans, such that the graduate cannot get to fully enjoy his salary upon graduation as he has to pay for his educational loans.
Now if one decides to pursue a career in welding, it will be great to note that he could in fact, choose a path that he will enjoy. For instance, if one loves scuba diving, the welder can definitely pursue a career in underwater welding. An interest in cellphones and gadgets, can also merit exploring a career in the consumer electronics industry. If one would like to pursue a career in engineering, a four-year course in welding engineering could lead the welder right through it.
There indeed are plenty of options in terms of exploring a career in welding, but most experienced professionals would say that for a welder to succeed, practice, as well as continuous studies should be pursued. The more experience the welder gains, the more opportunities become available to him.
The exposure he gets from the various industries he decides to work in also help much in terms of giving him the experience, expertise and skills that he will need.
In fact, welders from developing countries are in for a brighter future with the increasing worldwide demand for welders. It gives these professional and skilled welders the chance to work abroad, earn higher salaries, and for some, get to bring their families in the countries they work in. And since most developed countries provide a better quality of life for children, the whole family of the migrant worker stands to benefit from the good career choices the welder made.
And while the demand for professional skilled workers increase, analysts in developed countries fear that sooner the shortage will be badly felt, if not negatively impact their industries. The best thing to do, they say is to re-educate the youth into the benefits and advantages of pursuing skilled trades professions like welding. This, or continue hiring workers from overseas.
As for the welder himself, all he has to do is to continue learning, practicing, and exploring new trends and techniques in his industry. He should also not think twice about exploring new opportunities that abound in his line of work.
Of course safety should always be paramount in the practice of his profession. Attending safety seminars, as well as being informed about the safest ways to carry out his work could help him reach his full potential. Using a best welding helmet could be one of the wisest investments he could ever make in his career, as a great helmet will be his partner in honing his craft and in earning more experiences.
My daughter is going off travelling next month. She’s taking in a few interesting places, which as a Dad, have got me worried. When she declared her itinerary, the conversation went something like:
“Sierra Leone? No chance: Ebola.”
“Columbia? Drug barons!”
“Argentina – No way!”
“Two reasons: The Hand of God & secondly the Falklands. They still hate us. Didn’t you watch Top Gear?”
Now, it would appear that I’m living in the past and that actually Buenos Aries is very cosmopolitan, but our character is very much framed by our experiences and my memories of the Falklands war is seminal in that it was the first time I realised the reality of conflict was not the same as portrayed in a John Wayne movie.
Dealing with advising a wide range of age groups on the subject of wealth and possessions, I do see that our age can determine our attitude to money. The elderly have lived through World Wars and this produced a scarcity of many items that we simply now take for granted. But this has given them a greater value of “things” and there’s a need for tangibility, such as having a passbook for their savings account. It’s real, physical and reassuring to be able to see how much they have. Their wealth is in their hand rather than in the ether. This understanding of value has come about through experiencing scarcity, and also having to have saved up for anything they needed to buy. Thus, although hard, the word austerity is not something new or daunting for them. They’ve always been a careful generation.
Similarly, many cultures revere the qualities of gold, as once again it is tangible, portable, and safe from being gambled away into a crisis by a greedy banker! However, younger generations have known nothing but relative wealth, immediate access through credit, and a confidence in handling their finances through their iPhone.
I still remember the first credit A Different Generation card I got in about 1983. It was the time of “soccer casuals” and the look was a diamond Pringle jumper over a Lyle & Scott roll-neck and Louis Jeans and, with no internet shopping, to look the part involved a shopping trip to London where, having flashed the credit card, four of us left the shop looking the dogs (I’m not going to complete that particular vernacular). Over the next few months I got paid in dribs and drabs down the pub that then bought the next few rounds and I ended up having to forfeit a present and a 21 st birthday party with my Dad paying £100 off my credit card bill! I simply did not have the means to pay it off. Yet again, an experience, which I found so negative, shaped my view and I’ve never gone a month without paying my card off in full.
I also only have one credit card so in the event of something unforeseen happening such as no work, or an illness, my liability is capped at an affordable amount. I’m from that transitional generation where some seem to have been able to embrace credit and live with it while others have remained wary.
However, as a nation we saw our debt to income ratio soar from 100% in 1999 to a staggering 160% in
2008. We are paying this off and this rate is coming down, but perhaps the experience of this level of credit pain (which is happening at individual, Corporate and Governmental levels) may produce a new generation who will revert to our elders’ view of debt, and revive the lost art of saving. Difficult to imagine whilst the only option for many who only want to better themselves is to take out a loan to cover the cost of university when they leave school
If the main entrance is locked, try the side door.
Certain magazines have an emotional allure for us–we’ve dreamed of seeing our bylines in them. High-profile, large-circulation publications pay the highest rates and often have the most prestige. Part of the allure, admittedly, is the challenge, but unless we know someone inside, it can start to seem useless to keep repeatedly knocking. It’s time to look for another way in.
“It is rare that we will assign a feature article to a writer with whom we have not worked,” read the editorial guidelines for freelancers on the Travel + Leisure website. “The best sections to start with are those in the front of the magazine.” Most major magazine editors would echo that advice.
The front of the magazine, commonly called “the front of the book,” refers to the pages of shorter articles that appear before the feature articles begin. Often they are grouped into “departments,” each covering a subject such as travel, people, style or entertainment. But sometimes they are not organized at all–a string of pearls. (Hint: WD’s FOB is the Inkwell department you’re reading right now. And, yes, it’s the easiest place to break in.)
FOB articles have a little less gravitas, are often more of-the-moment, and typically pay less than features. If a writer’s byline and existing credits are not on a par with the magazine’s reputation, an FOB piece is usually his starter assignment to see if he is worthy of being considered as a features writer. It gets you invited into the house when you could still be banging at the front door.
In my own case, some sympathetic editors who have turned down my features pitches have instead asked me to write a short article–an unspoken but welcome consolation prize.
PREPARING THE PITCH
FOB articles are not to be taken any less seriously than features. Flub one and you probably won’t be asked back.
Study the departments carefully, as these are very targeted pieces. Many magazines have editorial calendars with theme issues announced in advance, which you can usually access in the “advertising” section of their sites. These calendars can both guide you to new ideas and better target those you already have.
Before making the pitch, answer these questions: Why would the reader care? What’s the best angle? Why now? Why me? Your query for a short piece might sound very much like the final article–consider it your writing test.
MAKING THE PITCH
Finding the right editor to pitch–or even any editor to contact–may not be easy. As with any business, a magazine may be run top-down with the executive editor calling the shots on all assignments. At other publications, department editors are kings and queens of their own fiefdoms. But regardless of who sees your query first, most pitches that pass the first hurdle will likely be further vetted by others on staff.
For editorial guidance and contact info, I first check the current Writer’s Market or writersmarket.com (both from WD Books), and then look at the magazine’s website. Some have staff directories with email contacts, but many give only one entry: info@ publication.com. In those cases, I select an editor from the magazine’s masthead, title my message “Writer’s Query” and give the salutation to the chosen editor.
Then I wait.
LEVERAGING YOUR FIRST FOB
To paraphrase an old business dictum, “The purpose of the first article is to sell a second article, hopefully a bigger one.” At least six magazines for which I now write features started me out with FOB assignments. And truth be told, I still pitch them ideas of lesser importance as FOBs. It’s extra money.
Moving up isn’t easy or guaranteed. I’ve sold seven front-of-the-book pieces to one national mag without achieving a features byline–I have yet to pitch the right idea at the right time. But I’m getting paid, colleagues and other editors comment on my pieces in this flashy publication, and every pitch I send them–FOB or feature–gets real consideration because they now recognize my name.
Finally, department editors generally become your advocates in moving up to features. They are often young, ambitious and loyal to those they consider “their writers.” They will remember you in their next editing incarnation.
FINDING THE THIRD DOOR
Increasingly, there is a third door to publications, one I think of as the “stage door.” That is website features, very similar to FOB pieces, but generally lighter and more topical or timely. There is perhaps less pay and prestige in these Web articles, but they get you in the door, and give you an opening to become part of the site editor’s entourage.
Of course, always be bold enough to pitch a great feature idea to a great mag–it can and has worked for many writers. But don’t give up easily if you fail. There’s more than one way to get that coveted byline.
Roger Morris writes from Pennsylvania, primarily about wine, food and travel for publications including Town & Country, USA Today’s Co/Escape, Wine Enthusiast, Beverage Media and The Drinks Business. His most recent book, The Brandywine Book of the Seasons, was co-authored with his wife, Ella.
This year Eddie Redmayne was crowned Best Actor at the Oscars for his leading role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. I must state for the record how impressed I was by Eddie Redmayne with his agonizing portrayal of the world famous scientist. One critic described it as an acting master class. Until watching this film, I had never really appreciated that Hawking is such an extraordinary man, and not just because of his scientific achievements.
Stephen Hawking’s story
For the uninitiated, The Theory Of Everything is an inspirational tale of amazing resilience against overwhelming odds. It tells the true story of Hawking’s life from the beginnings of his postgraduate studies at Cambridge through to later life after his best-selling book A Brief History Of Time was published. While studying for his PhD, Hawking received the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with the debilitating terminal illness motor neuron disease. This truly appalling disease typically leads to rapid loss of all motor functions. Hawking quickly became very disabled and at the age of 21 was given two years to live.
In those bleak moments when he was first diagnosed, Hawking was in shock and lost all motivation to complete his PhD. But while he was in hospital, a boy he vaguely knew died of leukaemia in a bed opposite. In his autobiography entitled My Brief History (Bantam Press 2013), Hawking writes: “Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself, I remember that boy.” Spurred on by a renewed zest for life, he also developed a love interest and became engaged to Jane Wilde. Together they developed a determination not to let his difficult circumstances prevent him from completing his studies.
Overcome the tragedy
They kept looking for different ways to overcome his worsening disability so that he could achieve his goal. Aided and abetted by developments in technology, Hawking has been able to not only survive way beyond his predicted life expectancy, but also transform himself into an internationally renowned expert in his field, accidentally acquiring cult celebrity status along the way.
What I found so challenging about this story is that Hawking did not let his circumstances dictate everything about his life, but kept looking for ways to circumvent the major obstacles that were presented to him. So when you feel like giving up because everything is stacking against you, why don’t you give yourself a two-hour break and watch this thought-provoking and wellacted film? And if you can’t get to see the film, take a trip to your local library to borrow Hawking’s autobiography – described by the Daily Mail as “worth reading for its message of hope”. You too should experience a dose of Hawking motivation
Growing up in Northern Ireland, Jonny always loved the outdoor life. He recalls: “There was always an adventurous streak to me. Going through school I was a bit bored, knowing that I would rather be outside. I just enjoyed being outside, playing, rather than working too hard.” At the age of nine he joined a kayak club – just for fun – but the water skills he learned were to become significant in later life in a way he could never have imagined.
The tragic accident
Jonny met his wife Fiona at a ski resort in France. In 2012, they booked a two-week skiing holiday back in France with some friends. On what proved to be the fateful day, Fiona had a problem with her snowboard and needed to go to a shop in town for a repair while the others headed up the mountain.
From the lift they could see a snow-park, which attracted Jonny’s attention. The others weren’t interested so Jonny went alone. Ironically the last thing his friend Tristan said to him was: “I don’t want to get injured this early in the holiday. See you at the restaurant.” So the plan was for Jonny to have a quick run through the park and meet the others for dinner.
He takes up the story.
- “When I came into the park it was quite busy and I did not want to hang around so I saw there was a jump that no one was hitting and went for that one. It was a bit bigger than I would really have wanted to start on but it wasn’t the biggest in the park. It was a red so not massive.
- “As I approached it I noticed that the snow was a bit slushy and I was going a bit too slow and didn’t really want to hit it. There were voices in my head saying, ‘you don’t have to do it’ and another one saying – ‘go on, you will be fine’. And I listened to the voice that I usually listen to and hit the jump. I had picked up too much speed at this point, to try and close the gap and I remember popping up into the air.
- “As I was hanging in the air I started to look down and spot my landing and thought ‘you’re really high up here’. I said, ‘God, you are going to have to look after me’. As I tried to land, I landed on my feet but I crumpled under the weight of myself. I had cleared the landing and landed on the flat after the jump. I came sliding to a halt and had to stick my head in the snow and come to a stop.
- “When I came to a stop, my legs were sort of hunched up, in a foetal position. I knew I couldn’t move my legs but I was in too much pain to be able to move anything, so I just lay there really still.”
The operation to save the last chance for walking
Before long a snow patrol arrived but immediately recognised the seriousness of the injury and radioed for a doctor and air ambulance. He was taken to Annecy hospital. After he had an MRI scan, the surgeon said: “You have had a bad break of your lower lumber and to give you the best chance of walking again we need to operate now. So the team is going to come in and prep you for surgery.”
He was on the acute ward in Annecy for six days and was later transferred to Stoke Mandeville. Once a patient was able to sit in a wheelchair for six hours, they could transfer to the rehab unit. Jonny’s competitive nature came to the fore in this situation. One hour the first day, then two and by the end of the week he had done his six hours and could transfer to rehab. After just over four months in rehab he was discharged from Stoke Mandeville Hospital on 10 May 2013.
Where is your god when you need him most ?
Jonny had grown up in a Christian family and at a young age observed how his parents’ faith impacted their life and “wanted what they had”. He says of his own faith: “Through having that relationship with God, how I go about my day-to-day life is different. And it brings me a lot of happiness.”
That leads to us the inevitable question: where was God when the accident occurred? Is Jonny mad at God? “There have certainly been times when I was frustrated and angry – usually more with myself than anything else. There was a time in hospital when I was frustrated about it all and arguing with God. There was one night in particular I had just got into bed and I remembered I had not brushed my teeth. And I forced myself to get up and brush my teeth. And then I was angry and asked: Why did you allow this to happen?
“And I had this memory of a tree in my back garden and when I was a kid I was allowed to climb to a certain point – my dad had tied a rope swing onto it and I wasn’t allowed to climb beyond that point; but I used to do it all the time anyway. And I have that memory: you weren’t allowed to climb beyond that point but you did. And I felt God was saying: ‘I didn’t allow the accident to happen but it happened. So how are you going to deal with it?’ So my attitude became ‘I will get up and brush my teeth and push on again’.”
How did Jonny recover ?
Shortly after his discharge from hospital he applied to go on a British Paralympic Association “Road to Rio” weekend aimed at spotting athletes with potential. Jonny was offered a chance to train with the British Canoeing squad and ultimately funding as an elite athlete. Elite paracanoe events are sprints. Jonny’s previous experience of canoeing had been more white-water and slalom. “It is similar to what I’d done before and the boat skills I had made a big difference and helped me be successful so early. But I’ve had to learn the whole sprint side, the power and putting the muscle on. It is similar but very different.”
In 2013, he managed to come second in the national championships. In 2014, he won the GB Championships and followed that with silver medals at the European and World Championships. The Worlds took place in Moscow at the lake used for the 1980 Olympics. It was a great experience for Jonny.
“The scale of the competition and the venue was quite exciting. I had won the selection race to get there so I knew I could compete at the world level. I went there with no real nerves about what I was going to do. It was simply to deliver what we do every day in training. So I felt quite confident being there and was able to enjoy it.”
Paracanoe events will be included in the Paralympics for the first time in Rio next year where they will be six events – three for men and three for women. While this represents great news for the sport, the Rio programme is not without controversy. There are two types of boat in paracanoeing: K1: Kayak where a double-ended paddle is used and V1: Va’a (outrigger canoe) where a single bladed paddle is used. Where Jonny won his European and World Championship medals in the V1 class, all events in Rio will be K1.
All you have to do is try once more
Although disappointed, Jonny is still determined. “In terms of paddling, it is just a different rhythm that you get into and a different technique. With the V1 I was able to put a lot more power into it but with the kayak I am having to refine my skills.” Jonny likes to apply a verse from the Bible to his life. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). He explains: “On the start line you could easily get intimidated but I remind myself that I don’t have the spirit of fear. I have got power and I have that power because I’ve been working in the gym and I know how strong I am and how explosive that strength can be. And also I have the power of God in me which gives me strength and gives me the reason to do what I’m doing. And I can glorify God through that. And I have got power and I really do love what I’m doing. I’m able to be out in a boat racing, which is an awesome place to be, and I’m paid to do it and I’ve got an amazing family who support me doing it. So there’s no reason to feel anything other than love for what I’m doing. And sound mind – I can logically explain why I’m sitting on the start line because I have worked hard and won races and got to where I need to be. So that verse drives me through a race.”
Jonny refuses to let the accident define him. “Who I am as a person is defined by my relationship with God and I didn’t feel that needed to be diminished. I certainly feel that the accident has changed my relationship but it didn’t need to change who I was as a person. I believe that God has plans for me that are good. It is hard to say that this spinal injury was good but good things can happen through it and I still believe that God has good intentions for me and wants me to achieve good things and to do that in his name because I have a relationship with him.”
Most freelancers turn to the Internet to find work. And while there are plenty of legitimate job opportunities to be found online, many others are too good to be true. Navigating this virtual minefield and avoiding scams can become a key element of your job, as today’s scams are particularly sophisticated. Fortunately, a bit of knowledge and constant vigilance can protect your work–and your paycheck–from con artists.
How can they scam you ?
I always considered myself to be pretty careful. In my years of writing Web content, I’ve come across plenty of scam artists:
- Clients who ask for multiple revisions as a way to get several articles.
- Clients who ask for bank account information under the guise of direct-depositing payments.
- Prospective clients who ask for unpaid samples as a way to score free content with no intention of actually paying for the job.
One scam I was not prepared for, however, was the so-called “check” scam. The mechanics of the scam are fairly straightforward: First, an individual approaches you with an assignment, such as a document to be edited. He offers payment in advance using a stolen, forged or otherwise fraudulent check. He then cancels the assignment, demands a refund and requests that you wire him the money.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re ever taken in by a scam artist
It’s in your best interest to file a police report. Even though the odds of the authorities actually finding the scam artist are slim, doing so will help protect you from fraud charges of your own if you accidentally write any hot checks, and it improves your odds of having bank fees waived.
Prevention is always the best medicine
There are ways you can spot a possible scam before it gets out of hand. In hindsight, these are things I could have done to save myself the hassle and disappointment of being taken in by check fraud:
- Get as many details about the project as you can. My first red flag should have been that the client was always eager to discuss payment but had little to say about the project itself. Before you begin, you should know where the project will be published and who exactly is ordering it. Check the website of the client–both the end-client and any intermediary broker–and refuse to deal with anyone whose identity you can’t verify.
- Use a written contract. In it, specify your payment preference, number of revisions you’ll complete, deadlines and any other details that seem relevant. Forward the contract to the client and don’t start work until the terms have been agreed upon and signed.
- Use a safe and secure payment method. Paypal is easy to use and one of the safest options, but be aware that clients can still cancel a payment after making it. Another option is a money order or secure wire transfer such as Western Union. Don’t accept personal checks; take checks only from a well-established company that you know for a fact hired you to do the work. Even cashier’s checks can be faked.
- Verify that funds are available before cashing a check. If you do accept a check, you can call the issuing bank to ensure that funds are in the account before cashing it. Don’t count on your bank to do this for you.
- Request a portion of the payment in advance. Or, for larger projects, after completing an agreed-upon portion of the project. Ensure that the payment method worked before proceeding with additional work. Be wary of any client who offers to pay entirely up front. Even if they’re not scammers, these clients can still cause headaches if they decide to cancel the project and demand reimbursement.
- Consider working through a brokering service. Textbroker, eLance, oDesk and Guru collect payments from the client on your behalf and hold them in a secure account. When the work is complete, you are paid by the brokering site. These sites do take a commission of your earnings, but the price can be a fair compromise for the security they offer.
- Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never run into a scammer. Anytime you use the Internet to find potential clients, you run the risk of meeting a thief or con artist. By practicing some vigilance and taking steps to protect yourself, you can weed out these unsavory characters and focus on the real, valuable paying clients who make up the backbone of any freelancer’s career. Tips: Freelance writing is an interesting way to work and earn money, it maybe easy if you have a good foreign language skills and ability to work under high pressure. You can find many good clients and have them rated you a better rank for getting jobs easier.