Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Story -- (and I'm Sticking to It)

My Own Story
    My own story is a history of twists and turns, detours and roundabouts.  I wish that somehow I could've had the wisdom or discernment about careers or business that I am starting to develop now, back then in my teens and 20's.   It seems that my dreams and goals didn't really start blooming until I was nearly 40.  I'm grateful for all I learned previously, and certainly not regretful of my past, however ho-hum it might've seemed in retrospect.  I became like many people : lacking any kind of motivation or concept of a better life, I settled into a lifestyle of mediocrity, accepting whatever was dealt to me as my destiny's lot, and not questioning my pay scale or my lackadaisical attitude about my jobs or work.

Following in the Footsteps  
   Let me tell you about my father's background, and perhaps this will help you understand  my background and development.  My father worked in the retail sales environment for 45 years.  He was the youngest store manager in his company's entire chain at 21 years old.  He typically won all of the chain's sales contests, beating store managers that were 25 or more years older than himself.  Before he was 30, he left the department chain to go to work for a small town men's specialty store as Assistant Manager.  Within two years, he was Manager of the store, and remained in that position, for two different periods, from the late 50's until 1971, and from 1972 until the mid 90's, when he retired.  In the intermittent year (1971-72), we moved about 200 miles to my aunt and uncle's hometown, where my dad had heard of a job opening at the same chain that he left back in his early days.  He accepted and worked a position of Assistant Manager, until it was apparent to him that his main job was to help train the manager's nephew, and it was proposed to him to take a Store Manager's job in Oklahoma.  For some reason, moving that far away did not appeal to him or to my mother.  So we moved back, and he took the same job that he had before. 

   I need not go any farther for you to see that my dad was very knowledgable and capable at retail management.  In fact, a college professor gave my father a copy of his Business book, autographed with the words, "To Bob, who could write his own book about business management."  I always wished that my dad would've done just that.  He knew and read people very well, and loved interacting with them.  He had the "gift of gab" and loved selling and being able to please his customers.

Early Years
  It was in this environment that at about 21, I started out in the work world by working for my dad.  I worked off and on for several years.  My dad helped me get a job with the same chain that he started with, and worked there for a couple of years.  While working these jobs, a friend of mine got me interested in computers, and I began taking a few courses at the local community college, which eventually led into an associate's and then a bachelor's degree.  I felt newly energized, putting all of my time and energy into learning and developing a new career path in technology.  While in school, I managed to secure several jobs in the field, working as a computer operator at one organization, and then as a computer help desk operator.  As I was finishing school and after graduation, I worked as an assistant to a Network Administrator, and as a Computer Tech at my college.

  In about 2000, after the last company I had worked for closed down the local office, I found it more difficult to find a job in this field, and began a job search which had degenerated into finding "anything to do".  After being so driven to find a new career, it was a terrible awakening to realize that I might have to leave what I had felt so excited about, to go back to the routine of working a menial, ordinary type of job.  After a few months of searching, I wound up at a local hotel, and worked at two different ones over the next five years.  In the meantime, I was still interested in computers and the possibility of returning to that market, but the right opportunity did not immediately present itself, and over time, I settled in again to accepting the status quo.

A Brand New Direction
  I ended up working at a printing shop for two years, and then back into retail department store sales for another two years.   I had picked up a habit though, while working at the hotel jobs.  I was a customer service / front desk clerk, and while waiting for guests to arrive or for a phone call, I began letting my mind "wander" and imagining things that I would like to do with my life, and areas that I would like to explore as a career.  I popped a disk into a computer, and began typing up these different ideas.  Over a period of a few months, I had amassed what was probably the equivalent of 50-75 pages of ideas.  These weren't just one-liners;  they were fully developed business plans, with bulleted lists and short and long-range goals.  And it wasn't just a handful of ideas.  There were probably dozens of them.   You can see that this was a time of letting my spirit out of its cage and letting it attempt to fly into unknown territories.

Goals and Dreams
  Just about five years ago, a friend had given me the idea of starting my own business. The idea came from us throwing around word puns, and laughing between ourselves.  Then one day, he said, "That would be good on a tee shirt."  And then, "I bet that would sell, if you put it on a shirt."  The original idea was to print up tee shirts, and put them on consignment in different shops around town, and eventually other areas.  But along the same time, it became aware to me that a lot of companies were springing up online, ones that somehow were able to offer free services to just anyone that was interested in
Browse My NovelTees Tee Shirt Store
starting their own independent online store.  I went to one of them, and started a free website.  This was the origins of what is now known as "NovelTees".  I started by spending my one or two days off a week, using the interactive screen to combine clip art graphics and text on tee shirts, caps, and bumper stickers.  I probably put up a dozen shirts my first day.  And now, there are between 1,500 to 2,000 items for sale.  It has not become a full-time career or income yet, but it is a start in a new direction, with a great potential for growth and success.  I eventually want to expand into several online stores, and also take the business offline, when I develop the capital to do so, and print my own shirts, reducing the overhead, and being able to sell them at community festivals and flea markets.

   Another idea of mine which has become a reality is my guitar teaching.  I began playing the guitar when I was a teenager, never with the idea of teaching anyone else.  In fact, at the time, I wasn't sure that I would ever really learn to play.  But in the 90's, while I was working those other jobs, I started teaching in a guitar shop, and did so for two years, developing about 20-25 students, working two days a week.   I also taught a guitar course
Go Check Out My GuiTarHeel Website
at the local community college.  Then, for some reason, that idea fell to the wayside for the next twenty years, but about two years ago, after being on unemployment for over a year, I decided to "test the waters" again, and found a local senior adult center that was interested in having guitar classes.  I've been doing them for the past year, teaching three classes now, averaging about 25-30 students per eight-week session.  See my Guitar Site for more information on this venture.

  It was in this context that I took the local library's offering of a "Blogging for Beginners" class in June 2013.  This class allowed my past technological background and my newly fertilized visions for various online business ventures to fuse together into an amalgamated, unified path.  I had developed a personal website while taking a class in HTML and web design back in the 90's.  It was mostly for my class,
Visit "The Bob Page"
and for my friends.  They loved it, and told me so.  But eventually it, like most of my other projects and dreams, fell by the wayside, while pursuing other dead end roads.  After taking this blogging class, I immediately set out to re-invent this website.  It was called "The Bob Page", and was basically.. about ME -- "Bob".  However, I'm in the process of learning how to delicately combine personal and business into one consolidated web community, which hopefully will someday soon develop into both an enjoyable hobby plus a career and income.

  More later.. as "My Story" develops more.. & more.. & more.. Stay in Touch.. 

Maximum Age / Minimum Wage

    I've got a Tee Shirt on my "NovelTees" store that portrays "Minimum Age / Minimum Wage".   It's meant to be a pun or jab at teens trying to find work whenever they reach the minimum age for a work permit.   Usually the only thing available is a minimum wage entry level job.  

    On the other hand, I've seen some teenagers venturing out to even start their own businesses while in high school, or even before.  The days of kids setting up lemonade stands are almost gone now.  Kids are web savvy, creating complex Internet sites and learning how to play and even create
Order This Shirt @ My NovelTees Store
computer video games.  Some other young people are venturing into other areas, like crafts or food or writing.  I've heard of girls baking and selling cookies.  

   One of my college friends had a daughter who she helped set up a website and sold cookies online.  Although I'm sure that a lot of them had their parents' guidance and help, I am amazed and impressed that so many that are so young can manage to imagine and conceive such enterprises, and then follow through on it to actually put it into motion and achieve a measure of success.

   One of the focuses of this "Make This Job & Love It" site is to try to help people get out of the old mentality of "I CAN'T do this" or accepting their current job or career status as "Oh well, somebody's got to do it".  If you are in this mental state, then you are ACCEPTING the status quo, and ENDURING your work, rather than EXCEPTING the status quo, and ENJOYING your work.   I had lunch with a couple of friends yesterday.  One of them said about their past job, "Well, it was a necessary evil... it had its pro's and con's."  He enjoyed his co-workers;  in fact, some of them are still casual friends several years after he left the job.  He found that the job itself was not that difficult.  He was a photographer, who went in, did his job, and then usually went home.  But he found that the company did not treat him fairly, cut the benefits to a bare minimum, and at the end, left him with no alternative but to quit.

  My own story has similarities to my friend's, although the circumstances are different. It was about four years ago that I returned back to my hometown from about a two-year stay in Nashville, and was somewhat excited to be able to find a job within about a week.  It so happened that one of the managers, the one conducting the job interviews, was a former co-worker or boss at one of my former jobs.  I was hired, and settled into the retail environment once more.  Having just spent almost two years in a retail sales job in Nashville, it was natural for me to be comfortable in that setting.  But what I began to see and find over the course of the next 2-3 months was that this particular job was a return to "Point Zero" for me, a reoccurring revolving door or detour off of life's highway.  I had been making almost $10 an hour at the former job.  Even though our commission had been cut out about halfway through my stay there, I was pretty satisfied.  To some of you, working for $10 an hour is an appalling thought.  To me, it was Retail Heaven.  When I got back home, and got the new job, I was again making Minimum Wage, which was something in the neighborhood of $7.25 an hour.  I was being paid a stipend of 50 cents for store credit applications that were collected and approved.  (Wow!)  My former job in Nashville had given us $2.00 for each credit application.  When I asked the manager about the differential, he just flatly stated, "It's your job. Take it or leave it."  At 5:30 a.m. sales meetings, the store managers would look at me and make remarks like, "We're counting on you for five credit app's today. Come on.. you can do it!"   The appeal of this pitch was totally lost on me.  I began to see through this whole game of the corporate ladder, and the low rung to which I was seemingly permanently affixed.

  After about two months, the store laid me off.  It had been a seasonal temp job anyway.  Two or three of us got extended into regular employees.  I was one of the "unlucky" ones that got axed.  But looking back, I could not thank them enough for their generosity in letting me go.  It opened the door to almost two years of unemployment, through which I began to look for other alternatives to the Minimum Wage dead end.

  More later.. For an in-depth look at my history and background, read "My Story--(and I'm Sticking to It!").