´╗┐When "we" is really "I" I recently went to an event at a professional organization to hear a specialist speak about a technical issue, and before I went, I looked at the speaker's website (I won't link to it here or mention the specifics because I'm not being complimentary and don't want the person to know I'm being critical). All over the website, it used the pronoun "we," as in "we provide," "we train," "we deliver," and even the title "Who we are" on the About page. So I assumed there were at least a few trainers/consultants working for the company. But when I asked the speaker how many employees he had, or if he used freelancers instead, he said, "I'm the only one who works there." I was surprised, but when I really thought about it, I realized he's not the only business person who puts "we" on his website. Earlier this year, I was looking at an acquaintance's website, and since "we" was all over it, I naturally asked how many people worked for the company. But I got the same answer: "I work by myself."
I think it is misleading and even untruthful to put "we" on a business website when there is really just one person working there. Are people seriously impressed (and do they believe it) when a business *appears* to be more than just a one-man show? It ends up being hype and can even affect the person's reputation because other people might find out that he/she is putting misinformation on the official site. It also seems like individual business people are trying to puff themselves up to attract attention. I know of an established company that hired someone who implied that they were larger than they actually were, and when they were given a large project, they couldn't handle it, because their "we" was really "I." So the large company had to find an alternative when the single person couldn't deliver on time (he was totally overwhelmed, though I don't know if he scrambled to find some freelance help). People don't always end up being exposed like that, but they're still taking a gamble when they claim to be something they're not.
Some people seemed talented and professional, but when their website ends up being hyperbole, it's not only insincere but not respectable. Plus, some people create a website with "we" all over it, and they haven't even bothered to create a proper business (ie, registering with the Secretary of State, paying the fees, creating an LLC or incorporating). It's better to be honest and say you're a freelancer rather than create a fancy website and pretending to be more than you actually are.
So I commend those people who are truthful in the representation of their business and services. One such person is language fan/pro Sarah Dillon. When she only had her translation/interpretation business, she was totally upfront on her website about working by herself (I've never met her, so I'm just summarizing her approach based on what I saw). Now she's become a consultant, but she still makes it clear that she's alone. There's nothing wrong with that, and she doesn't seem to be a wannabe. So I'm assuming the way she works is ethical, as well.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Language nerd? I was doing a search for the meaning and usage of the word "twee" because I like the sound and connotation. I've heard British people say it, and I like how they apply the word to a variety of situations. I don't really consider it a common American word, so I was surprised that a professional journalist wrote an entire column/article (whatever it's called) in the Tribune pretty much focused on it. Even out of the gate, he seems obsessed with it:
Twee is pervasive, genteel and hard to bear, pixie-haired, wide-eyed and precocious. Twee is also out of hand, and more complicated than it seems. See, though being twee is often regarded as a negative quality, tweeness is not necessarily insufferable.
Obviously, he's into language in a general sense because he's a professional writer and seems to be doing well (and lucky to be working in the shrinking newspaper biz), but he *really* seems to be into language because he shapes his piece around the word "twee" to the point that I wonder if his intention was to write about the word or about pop culture (which seems to be his beat). It's almost nerdy, which is refreshing to see in the simplifying media world. (I'm a proponent of clear, simple writing, so it's not a knock against what 21st century mass writing has become, just an observation.)
But back to the American vs British usage of the word. Because I pretty much never hear people say it in the USA but have heard Brits use it, I assume it's not at the top of people's minds here. So it's surprising that he shapes the essay around the word, as if people have heard it often and are nodding their heads in agreement. Are people sick of the word, or concept? I don't know if they hear it enough to get sick of it, or even know what it really means and how it can be applied.
I'm not saying what he's doing is wrong, it's just atypical because his post seems like it's meant to be a review of some TV shows, but it's also a review of American culture, yet also expresses a fascination with the word itself. His enthusiasm is obvious, and his writing seems to be really good (which is why he's living the dream). Author : Margaret Larkin
They transliterated ??? as "sushiito." The double-i means it's a long sound, but ??? doesn't have that: ?=su ?=shi ?=to. If they were truly transliterating it, the Japanese would be ????: ?=su ?=shi ?=i ?=to. It seems like they're trying to be clever because they've created a sushi burrito, so they've combined the two words, but they failed in the execution.
Also, I'm concerned about the spelling of "kimchi." According to my favorite Japanese language site, Popjisyo (which now has other Asian languages), when I pasted the Korean word ?? in, it translated it as "kimchi." Even an official kimchi museum in Korea spells it that way. But the sign has that spelling, plus "kimchii." Why couldn't they at least settle on one? (Thought I suspect the double-i would be wrong anyway.)
I'm surprised that a restaurant in a major part of the city (downtown Chicago) made such mistakes. They could've gotten some native speakers or knowledgeable non-natives to proofread the sign. Way to go! How's your food? Author : Margaret Larkin
I think I figured out what a friend is For what seems like a long time, I've been wondering what defines a friend. A lot of people have several "friends" on Fakebook and other social media, and someone might say they're going out with a friend after work, or going on a friend's boat or to a party with "friends." But are those people really friends? Does it matter?
I think it's easier to make friends while we're in school because a lot of people are around us every day, which makes social connections easy. Once we leave school, our environment isn't saturated with people. Some workplaces have a lot of people, but they're silently working at computers or are guarded because they have to maintain a public face in order to survive the politics and maneuvering. One wrong word and they could be out of favor with coworkers, or even out of a job. So as we get older, socializing becomes more superficial because there's more at stake, and lines have been drawn.
People also get busy and live on their own track. If you happen to be on the same track, such as at a job, in a neighborhood, or at your kids' activities, then they'll let you in, and you seem to become friends (or remain friends if you met at another stage of life). But once the track changes, individuals continue moving in their own direction, and crossover is rare or non-existent. Especially in the USA, Americans travel on their own path, and busyness just creates walls between people, or they don't even bother to notice who's around them. Even if people had lots of friends as they were growing up and in university, conditions change because their friends might not be motivated to keep in touch or make an effort to meet up offline as they take on more responsibilities and are worn out from their personal and professional lives. One big life change is having kids--the parents have so much to do every day that friendships become auxiliary, and free time is pretty much non-existent until the kids get to a certain age (as long as they're not high maintenance or the parents aren't the helicopter types).
Sometimes we go through life assuming that people really don't give us much thought, until someone dies. A person who seemed to not have many friends could end up with over 100 at their funeral, where people say positive things and remember the person fondly, as if they really were friends. Maybe it takes death to realize who our friends are, but let's hope not--by that time, it's too late.
Here's what I've realized: friends stay with you no matter where you work or who you are. For example, I worked with someone who I got along with very well. When they got a job somewhere else, the communication via email, text, and even in person continued. That is a friend. Here's who is not a friend: someone I work with who ceases to communicate with me when I leave the job, even when I make an effort. Essentially, the relationship is contextual. Friendships aren't contextual; acquaintances are. Some people will consider their coworkers their friends because they eat lunch together, talk about problems, recognize each other's birthdays, etc. But unless that person is a friend, it all crumbles when someone moves on.
Time also determines friendship. It's very hard to remain friends with someone as life continues and changes occur. I have a couple of friends who I've known for several years, and we really don't have a lot in common at this point, but we keep in touch, go out occasionally, talk on the phone, and generally make an effort to stay connected. It's history that has bonded us, not every similarity.
Which brings me to the next point: friends accept you even if you have different views or lifestyles. A key to enjoying a friend is hanging out with them and talking about whatever you want to, and feeling comfortable enough to express yourself and disagree with the other person without any condemnation. It's also the opportunity to relax and be yourself. I don't care how free American culture claims to be; not many people create an atmosphere for others to be themselves, and people are self-conscious, so they reign in their personalities if they want to feel like they belong.
Friends don't control others. There is the obvious way of controlling, which is sadistic and usually refers to abusive romantic relationships. But what I'm talking about is more subtle and is revealed over time. Some people were raised in chaos or simply have a need for their world to be ordered. That includes people. So they want their friends to behave in a certain way and to say certain things. If the person crosses some kind of perceived line, they're punished or ignored. There's a lack of freedom in conversations or behavior, and there's a kind of standard set which stifles the non-dysfunctional person. Controlling people aren't friends and won't be until they lighten up.
As life throws us curveballs, our definition of friendship changes. They're no longer just the folks we go out with and have fun. They're the ones who encourage us, are available, can talk about anything, and know how to take it easy. They also can give constructive criticism and don't have a problem with receiving it, either. Basically, when we meet someone we click with, it begins a journey and develops from there.
There are a lot of people I like who are interesting and nice, and I wish we could be friends. They are acquaintances or simply people I have met who I might not see again. Because they don't care about becoming friends, or they just don't make the time, the "acquaintance" status doesn't change. And then there are other people who I used to know, who I wish I could still be friends with, but geographical distance or disinterest caused communication to cease.
I know some people who I don't see often, but they call me a "friend." So what they recognize is the connection or history, but we don't carve out a space to hang out. I guess that's okay, because it could be the thought that counts in the end. Author : Margaret Larkin
Dialling I had to borrow a Brit's cell phone because I forgot mine, and as the call was going through, the phone said "dialling." I noticed that the phone was a Chinese brand, so I told the Brit that the Chinese company didn't proofread before production. She said "dialling" is the correct spelling in the UK, and that was the first time I'd ever heard of such a variation.
Even when I wrote the word in the headline and in this post, it was underlined to alert me to the misspelling, but in England, it's okay. And after doing a search online, I noticed that it's the correct spelling in Canada, too. A CTV news story from today says, "he advised that dialling 911 is still the best option during an emergency." There goes that spell-check warning again because I'm in the USA, and here we write "dialing," which seems to make more sense to me.
I know that the English-speaking world has different spellings for different words (such as "specialize" and other words that end in "lize" in American English, but "lise" in other countries). I also know that American English is not the mother tongue, so what right do we have to question anything? But still, after a lifetime of seeing a single "l" after "dial," it's jarring to see two of them.
Ones that really strike my American eye as wrong are BrE dialling and fuelling. Since the l is preceded by a 'long' vowel (the diphthongs /aj/ and /ju/) in my pronunciation), they shouldn't have doubled consonants, just as one doesn't double the L in tailing or healing. They seem to come under the 'doubling' rule because dial and fuel are perceived as having two syllables each, with the latter one being unstressed--i.e. di-al and fu-el. The COD presents the BrE pronunciation as /dai(?)l/ and /'fju:?l/--so definitely two syllables in fuel but not necessarily in dial.
Actually, I think I usually pronounce "dial" as two syllables, but since the emphasis is on the first syllable, the "l" still "shouldn't" be doubled. (I put "shouldn't" in quotes because it seems to be some old rule, and who am I to judge?) I don't have any linguistic theory to add, so I'll just simply say that the spelling seems weird (that's my non-intellectual, non-academic take on it, since I don't even claim to be a linguist). Author : Margaret Larkin
Secondment I was watching the British show New Tricks (the "London Underground" episode), and heard the character DCI Sasha Miller tell another detective that he's someone's "secondment." I had to look up the meaning, since I've never seen or heard it, especially in any kind of media or fictional story. Even when I type the word in this post, it gets underlined in the draft as if it's a spelling mistake (underlined to be spell-checked). My American Heritage Dictionary book doesn't include it, and it's not on their website, either. I even have a large Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, and it's nowhere to be found.
So I'm concluding it's a British word, and that's what the Oxford dictionary says, too. The way the word was used in the show, I assumed it was alluding to the more "traditional" meaning of the word, which is found at the Merriam-Webster site: "the detachment of a person (such as a military officer) from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere." But Oxford defines it as "The temporary transfer of an official or worker to another position or employment." I'm guessing that the Oxford definition (which also shows up elsewhere online) is the contemporary meaning of the word, which is probably a result of the evolution from military to civilian use because work takes up so much of our lives. Basically, when Sasha was telling the other detective to work with someone else on an aspect of the case, the meaning could fall in either camp.
The word seems to be major enough in England to cause people to write on websites about it. For instance, one article on a job site gives advice about "Going on secondment". I bet such advice has never existed on American sites; if people were to see such an article, they'd wonder what it actually means. It seems like a foreign word, even though we share the same language. And Brits reading this would probably think I'm making too much of it. But it's new to me, and another word that shows how our English languages can be dialectical in some respects :p
The full episode is below (which is very kind of the show's producers to post online).
Author : Margaret Larkin
Speak only to the sympathetic I was talking to someone who hasn't had to work in several years, didn't get a college degree or even take any classes, and basically has been living a good life, thanks to a successful spouse and insulated social circle.
They were asking me about someone who is working in a very tough industry, who has had a hard time getting work. The person has done "day jobs" between being unemployed, and success in the desired profession has been elusive.
The lack of success has been devastating, demoralizing, and depressing. It's caused sadness and anger, and the suffering is real.
The insulated person who was asking about the sufferer had the usual judgement in their voice. And for once I could say, "They're working." Not just at a job, but one in the desired profession. The professional breakthrough seems like a miracle, and is a welcome reprieve from years of striving and strife.
What many people don't seem to understand is that pursuing a dream is hard, heartbreaking, and can even be painful. The mistake that the dreamers make is telling all kinds of people about their pursuit. What they should be doing is only talking about the dream to those they trust, who won't judge them or discourage them.
The problem with people who are living safely, or are happy to maintain the status quo, is that they don't seem to comprehend or care that others don't see life as a straight, predictable line that can be tamed. The people who are taking chances and are paying the price for their vision need to avoid those people who are not on a similar path. Otherwise, they will be faced with judgement, indifference, and a lack of understanding. Which will make the suffering worse, and cause further isolation.
A person doesn't have to be free of the need to work to lack sympathy; it could be someone whose logical steps have led to a "sensible" career, who hasn't even thought about pursuing anything outside of their scheduled job commitments. What matters most is to avoid those who are not supportive and instead find like-minded people. Then life will become more sane.
Author : Margaret Larkin
How death changed my perspective I've been thinking about this for years, especially since I seem to have experienced a lot over the past decade (I want to write about it all here, but instead I talk about it offline with sympathetic people).
In 2006, when John Deaver was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in less than a month, my view of friends and people I like changed forever. Before he was sick, I communicated with him usually via email, but I always assumed he'd be around. So I took him for granted. That's not unusual; there are a lot of people in our lives who we expect to live for a while because they're not elderly and aren't ill. But surprisingly, he had advanced colon cancer which spread to his brain, and his life was cut short.
After that, when I would meet someone I like, I would make an effort to stay in touch and would compliment them and let them know about the positive feelings I felt. I didn't do that with John. I remember when he'd just had brain surgery, and he could barely talk. He seemed like a content child. I shared how I felt, but I knew time was running out. Since then, I'd be sure to be honest with people and try to encourage them. I also realized that the relationships we have should be valued. That means I want to connect with others in a real way and not waste time on trivialities or tiresome games.
I think some people think I'm weird. That's probably because they haven't experienced such an awakening. So as I've become more sensitive, honest, and wanting to realistically connect, many people have not. They're on their own tracks, pursuing what they want. I used to be the same way; I had my tasks and goals, and I went about trying to get them done. I'd see people along the way, but I didn't really consider their worth.
What's resulted is a frequent analysis of how people, especially Americans (since I'm American and have been in the US most of my life), relate to others. We are in a country where we can pretty much live how we want. We can pursue our dreams, meet lots of people, and travel on our own individual path. American life is fantastic in that way. There aren't many cultural rules that emerge from a long history; we're a young country and there is so much variety, we can pretty much shape our destinies. We can establish something in one city, make friends, join clubs, then move somewhere else and start again. Those friends we make are situational, and we might maintain contact on social media, but we don't really have to do much because new people can be found wherever we are.
I guess I was a typical American in that way. Since John's death, and the deaths of family and others over the years (and witnessing serious illnesses), I've realized that people really matter. I don't even know how to define a friend at this point because a lot people operate at a busy pace, getting their stuff done. If something were to seriously happen, who would show up? I've noticed people say kind things when something serious happens, but then they're back to their own grids.
I wonder if other people have noticed what I have, or what they think. Many people have written about social isolation, and that could be another post. But does the typical person think about their view of others' roles in life? Maybe death will make them think about it. Author : Margaret Larkin
I\'m keeping a journal It seems like I've neglected this blog, but I've still been writing a lot. I decided a few months ago to keep a journal, and it seems to help. I've avoided it for several years because I didn't want to face my thoughts, but it's helped me clear my head. I'm also able to quickly express how I feel through writing instead of walking around with the feelings bottled up inside.
What's not typical, I guess, is that I'm doing it online, though I'm not publicizing or promoting the entries. I've started another blog somewhere else, and haven't told anyone about it. Most of the entries are private, and a few are public, but they're about topics I can't write about here, because I would probably get into trouble for being too honest.
At first, I was going to just create a document on my computer and write that way, but I thought since I really like writing online, I'll do my journal there, even though there's no audience. But there's something "dangerous" about writing online, even when the posts aren't exposed. The service could be hacked and all the contents revealed, or maybe someone would figure out who I am from reading the public posts. Who knows. But it's not as solid as writing in a book or typing a Word document.
Sometimes my private posts become public because I realize things that should be shared with the world, in case someone stumbles upon it and wants some "help" or at least understanding. I've done lots of searches online and have found blogs that nailed what I was thinking, and that kind of sympathetic expression helps me feel that I'm not alone.
I recommend people keep a journal (I'm not going to use "journal" as a verb, as in "I recommend people journal"), especially if things are not going their way. Then they can avoid venting to people who don't want to listen or getting angry about some disappointment in life without turning bitter.
Honestly, if the Internet was how it was 20 years ago, maybe we could get away with being honest online. But at this point, I don't want to be so transparent because I have no idea what my work situation will be, and I don't want to jeopardize any potential opportunities. Now I'm getting frustrated, so I think I'll resume writing elsewhere :)
Author : Margaret Larkin
About video production I took my second digital video class this semester, and the instructor said we can get extra credit if we talk to someone at a video production company and write an essay about it. So I contacted an established business in Chicago: Big Shoulders, which is a full-service production house. They do all kinds of production for various clients, and do live broadcasts as well. They have three locations: one in the Hancock building, one on Wacker and Michigan, and a warehouse in Alsip. On the day I visited the Hancock location, they were broadcasting a live satellite tour. A man was sitting in front of an image of the Chicago skyline, and he spoke to TV outlets throughout the country.
Big Shoulders doesn?t own any shows but provides whatever is needed to get projects done. Several people work there, so the company usually doesn?t have to hire freelancers, unlike other production companies that are headed by one or two people who staff each project with lots of freelancers. Usually employees are assigned to one aspect of a project, including motion graphics, camera crews, audio engineering, editing, and graphic design.
I talked to Jeff Tudor, who is an executive producer. He has worked in TV news with CNN, and also freelanced with crews in Chicago. As part of managing projects at the company, he has to set the budget. In order to efficiently budget a project, he has to know the day rate of the employees, overall labor costs, how long it will take to shoot and edit, and allow for extra time in case there are problems at the location (such as sound) or if the talent makes mistakes. A project includes a budget, production schedule, shooting which takes 10 to 12 hours a day, photography, building sets, and post-production. Editing could take up to two weeks, and the company usually uses Avid (by the way, he said if you don?t know Avid, skills from other computer programs translate). If clients have a smaller budget, more inexperienced people are assigned to work on it and cheaper cameras are used.
He said that video is a small community, so it?s important to network and get to know people in the industry. A good way to build relationships is to make friends and to listen, and as you work on crews, you can meet people who will tell you about opportunities. Big production houses have cocktail parties and seasonal events, so people can connect there, too. He said the best way to build a network is to do an internship. Big Shoulders has internships for students and an extern program for people who are already out of school. Doing an internship or externship is a great way to gain skills and demonstrate your proficiency because that?s how they usually hire people. He also said people should get to know the scheduling departments of production companies to find opportunities.
He said a person?s reel should be a one-and-a-half minute compilation of their best, most recent segments. If you work behind the scenes and aren?t involved in imaging or other work that can be represented visually, then use photos that show you working in a studio. If you?re too busy to update your reel, you should compile notes about what you want to put in the reel when you have more time to do it. It?s also important to be on LinkedIn so that potential employers can easily see your experience.
Overall, you should be professional, easy to work with, and open to new opportunities. Jeff said his friend was a boom operator on many shoots, and because he was always on a set, he was able to watch people work. He learned a lot, and is now a director. So just observing the whole process helped him move ahead. What I found interesting was that Jeff said the industry in Chicago isn?t really competitive. People get along and just focus on doing their jobs. He said that Chicago is a friendly, hard-working place, and people are open to sharing information and talking about projects. That is very different from radio, which is a competitive, shrinking business full of insecurity. He also said that while LA is more entertainment-oriented, Chicago is varied, where people do independent and corporate films. He said he likes working in the business because it?s collaborative, fun, creative, and every day is different.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Rare newsletter I've been getting newsletters from various people and companies for a while, and I've even written newsletters. But recently I got a really good newsletter from Dobie Maxwell, who's a comedian. You'd think his newsletters would be light, funny, and even superficial, but his latest newsletter has a lot of honesty that is rare.
Usually newsletters, even end-of-year holiday letters, are filled with positive information that is also self-congratulatory to make the reader feel impressed. But Dobie's newsletter from this month has sincere feelings that are pretty much never seen in newsletters or in those boastful holiday cards that make the family seem extraordinary. Such honesty is also rare nowadays in blogs (which I've mentioned before), but he's consistently written such posts at his blog, too (though he discontinued it last year to write a book).
Anyway, he said I can post an excerpt from his newsletter, so here it is:
My whole life is taking on a new direction of late, and I?m not 100% sure where it?s going but I know I?m really liking it. Gone forever are the days when I devoted the all of my being to chasing the dream of being an entertainer. No more being on the road 45 to 50 weeks a year ? year after year after year. I?ve had my fill of that.
The thrill of being on stage is still fun, but only to a degree. When I?m off stage I am finding there is a lot more to life than just trying to get to the next gig. There is a huge price that comes with chasing the showbiz dream, and I just don?t think it?s worth it ? at least not for me. I feel myself yearning to experience new challenges.
One of if not the most delightful things that has happened in my life has been the continuing reconnection with my siblings. It has been exactly what I have wanted since I was a small child, and having it happen has been nothing short of a miracle. I never thought it was possible, but after a lifetime of waiting it really is happening.
Not caring in the least what happens show business wise has ironically given me a new found power I have never felt before. There is all kinds of sucking up to be done to people of questionable integrity, and that?s pretty much what show biz is. I never enjoyed that part of it, and it has showed. I have managed to alienate myself with more than one ?powers that be?, and that has caused undue pain and stress.
Now, I could not care less about any of that. The people that don?t like me aren?t going to change their opinion any time soon, so why try to change their minds? I?m not going to let them control my ultimate destiny, even though they think they do.
They might be able to book or not book me for some comedy shows, but that?s as far as it goes. They can?t stop the growth of my soul, and that?s what has happened in this past year with my family reconnection. There is a part of me that was asleep for decades, and now it?s wide awake and enjoying life. Comedy can?t touch that.
The newsletter is longer than what I've posted here, and if you want to sign up for them, email him at email@example.com Author : Margaret Larkin
A good writing gig I was going to name this post "The Best Writing Gig" but I decided against it because I don't know if "best" is possible in anything. But for the past year, I've been a news writer at one of the most successful news radio stations in the US, and probably the top radio station in Chicago.
I've been writing for several years for different companies, and because I'm not an introvert, it's been sort of tough in some situations because there wasn't much, or any, in-person human contact. I assumed that's how writing is, which is why I've never done it full time. However, when I got the news writing gig, I discovered it had these positive elements:
1 - I'm really part of a team. I work with an editor, who sets the stories and content; an on-air news anchor, who reads what I write; and an assistant producer, who's in charge of audio that appears in some of the stories (some stories are only text while others include audio). Each of us plays a role, and we each have to do our job to make the group strong. So instead of writing alone at a computer and sending out the copy to someone who I might never meet offline, I am in a room with other people, which helps to satisfy my more extroverted characteristics.
2 - What I write is immediate. Even though the deadlines are tight, what I write is read on the air within an hour of when it's finished. I can also hear the person read what I write, so I know that what I write really matters. The urgency forces me to be quick and correct while also making sense for the listeners. The challenge gives me a rush and also satisfies another aspect of my personality, which is intensity. Other types of writing may have a deadline, but I usually just send it out and don't know when the person will respond or what they think. I also have to motivate myself to finish the work because there's no one physically there waiting for it to use it as urgently. It's satisfying to know the value of what I produce.
3 - I'm working with professionals. Radio is full of people who knew someone to get their job and others who are hired for reasons other than skill. But everyone I currently work with is good at what they do, and they take it seriously. They didn't get their jobs because they knew someone but because they had to prove themselves in some way, through tests (writers have to take a timed writing test to be considered), airchecks, and experience. It's probably one of the few radio stations that is so professional, and the standards are high. It's like playing with a sports team that's won a bunch of championships.
Basically, I've done a lot of solitary writing and translation work that is really suited to an introvert. I love language, but I don't always want to sit at a computer all alone working on pieces that are sent out into the ether. When I started this blog, I was working a lot more with language in such a situation. After taking some detours, I'm back in the language world, but I'm even more convinced that I don't want to just float in an orbit around the connected world alone at my desk. So I'm glad I have this good writing gig to offset other work that is more indicative of isolating, technology-driven modern society (which is a subject for another post).
Author : Margaret Larkin
Some work-related highlights of 2014 Now that the year is coming to a close, I want to write about some memorable, positive work experiences that I had this year. I don't usually write about work, though sometimes I'd love to vent about some things, but that's obviously a huge mistake to make online. During the holiday season for the past few years, I've worked many days at WGN Radio filling in for the Creative Director, Commercial Director, and even some producers. This year I haven't had the opportunity to do that because I was required to leave there in order to take a writer's gig at another radio station (which will be a separate post because it's the best writing gig I've ever had). Even though my positive work experiences really span more than just this year, I want to talk about it now because this year was the end of that chapter in my [weird] work life.
First of all, radio is a shrinking, failing business for many reasons that a lot of other people have delved into in various places online, so I won't get into it here. But the combination of the insecure business plus insecure people means working with others, especially on-air folks, can be challenging (some aspects of which I wrote about in The Help and The Hierarchy of Personality). Earlier this year my time with Bill Moller wrapped up. I had been working on his show as a producer for almost two years. He has been working in media (mostly TV) for several years, and is also a highly-paid consultant. Basically, he's a very successful guy, but the way he treated me was memorable because he didn't care that I wasn't successful (well, that I wasn't successful in the same way--I guess in terms of life satisfaction, I'm successful). Successful people *should* treat others well, but unfortunately I've noticed that someone as decent as Bill is rare for a few reasons that probably include money, position, and the inability to relate to, or care about, those who aren't on the same level. Bill always let me be myself, which meant a lot to me since I don't have a milquetoast personality, and he let me express my thoughts and opinions, even if he didn't agree. He also consistently showed appreciation for what I was doing, even though, honestly, my job wasn't difficult. It's his decency that made my job easy because he was never demanding or rude, and he never "pulled rank" to let me know he was the Talent, and I was not. I really felt like I was a part of a team, which, again, is rare in radio. I was treated so well and respectfully, it became a standard when I worked with others to the point that I really didn't want to work on other shows anymore.
Another excellent experience was filling in for the Commercial Director. What made it so fantastic was that I was doing very enjoyable work, plus I was interacting with wonderful people *every single* time. It is very hard to find such a combination. When my boss took time off and I would fill in, he totally trusted me and just let me do my job. I absolutely looked forward to filling in for him, and it is probably the best work experience I've ever had. I won't name the people here because they might be embarrassed, but I had to deal with sales people, production people, voiceover people, traffic/continuity people, management, and sometimes on-air people, and I always had fun, fulfilling interactions with them. There were times when the deadlines were tight, but it always worked out, and I really felt like the whole thing gelled in every way. Another rare experience.
Filling in for the Creative Director was a different experience, but what made it special was the guy I filled in for had a ton of experience and was super-picky, but he also trusted me to do the work. He even complimented me, which he doesn't do readily, so it meant a lot. Overall, doing creative audio for a radio station engages the mind like few other tasks do, and I was privileged to get that opportunity.
Of course, teaching this year was good, and I will continue to do it because there is no strife or office politics, which is another rare situation. It's also a place where we can be open and outgoing and have fun. (I mentioned that workplace in my Introverted World post.)
I've tried to thank individual people outside this blog post, but if I've forgotten anyone, I'd like to say THANK YOU and have a great 2015! Author : Margaret Larkin
If you like David Bowie, see this exhibition Even though I live near the Museum of Contemporary Art and like David Bowie's music, I wasn't very interested in going to the exhibition until I got an email offering a slight discount (because I'd already bought a ticket for someone else). It was worth the price! I wasn't expecting much because when I'd seen other exhibitions of famous people, there weren't many artifacts, and the presentations didn't seem so innovative. A good example of an underwhelming and disappointing exhibition was about PelÚ, which I saw in Brazil. Even though I don't care much about soccer, I thought there would be more information and items to look at that covered his life and career. What I remember most was how it seemed to be a commercial for Coke. Maybe I'm not remembering accurately, but the Coke logo and red color seemed to dominate the exhibition. So I thought the "David Bowie Is" show would be a bunch of hollow hype. But it was way more!
The most impressive aspect of the exhibit was how they creatively used multimedia to show his performances, influences, and recollections. There were also numerous documents, including handwritten lyrics, historical artifacts, and sketches. Plus, there were several outfits displayed that he'd used throughout his career, along with explanations of the designers and inspirations (such as Kansai Yamamoto using concepts from 19th century Japanese theater). When I bought the tickets, the guy said that it would take 1.5 hours to get through the whole show. But I spent about 4 hours there, and would have stayed longer if the museum didn't have to close. It's best to go through it twice to fully get the impact of all the visuals and to listen to the audio that enhances some of the installations. If you're into his music, you'll hear many songs in your headphones as you pass by TVs and through rooms, and in the final room, you can see various performances from over the years. This is a room worth settling in to for a while because it also has his outfits that are illuminated between the sets. I even watched all of his film clips. Seriously, it's a vibrant show that effectively showcases his creativity over years.
Time is running out--the exhibition is only until January 4, and Chicago is the only venue in the United States! If you don't live in Chicago, it's worth the trip, because you'll also get to see the city all lit up for the holidays. I didn't intend on even blogging about the show, but it was so impressive, I really think Bowie fans should see it. (I took all the pictures below: prepping the poster, opening night, and how the poster looked on the museum's wall.)
Author : Margaret Larkin
A great explanation of creative struggles It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog, and I thought I was going to post more often since I resumed working more with language (as a news writer and ESL teacher). But I've been taking a digital video class this semester that has filled my brain, ie, I haven't really expressed myself creatively in other areas. Even though my video projects are short, they've taken several hours, in addition to the other homework, class time, and socializing with other students. It's been fantastic, and is one of, or possibly the best, class I've ever taken!
Since I'm not working in radio much and haven't been doing any audio production for radio lately (which I used to do more often at the previous companies I worked), I've felt down and frustrated at times. But then I would notice that my mood would lift when I worked on my video projects. For instance, I've been working on creating a rough cut of my final project, and even though it's just a few minutes long, I've spent thousands of minutes refining the visual and audio aspects of it, and have felt great every time! Even when I do a blog post here, I feel really good, like I'm in The Zone. But my lack of writing here made me inexplicably muddled and I kept feeling guilty due to procrastination and avoidance.
It turns out that the weird feelings I've been having are actually "normal" for a creative person. I don't go around thinking I'm creative, and really don't admit to it if someone brings it up, but after reading this post by an artist, it all makes sense.
The artist, Cedar Lee, writes that artists struggle psychologically and have other negative feelings, then offers her theories about why they get depressed if they don't work: art is empowering, art gives identity, art makes you high. The post is worth the read--you might identify with what she's saying, even if you do other creative things. Actually, I've heard that performers crash when they step off a stage or away from a microphone. There are probably other good articles out there about creative depression, so I'll keep looking. Author : Margaret Larkin
I should answer this question, then duck...because it'll drive people who are trying to get published absolutely crazy. I was asked to. I was off the air at the time ("between jobs" as they say in the business), and was sending out a weekly newsletter called "JC Mail," which was a collection of random thoughts and sort of a text version of the show, really. A guy who owns a publishing company here was a subscriber, and sent me a note that said, "I think you should write a book!" I responded, "I think you're right!" About ten months later I did my first of about twenty book signings for Real Life Stories of JC and the Breakfast Club...Or Twenty Minutes In the Dark with Madonna. (The title refers to an interview I was doing with Madonna when a power failure hit.) That book went on to become the fastest-selling book in the publisher's history.
How did you write it? Was it hard to remember all the anecdotes and experiences you had?
The mistake most creative people make is that they don't record or write down their ideas. The greatest idea in the world is useless if you can't REMEMBER it. At the time I carried one of those little voice-recorders around religiously. When I had an idea or recalled a story I thought might be usable I'd bark it into that recorder. Then I transcribed and organized the hundreds of entries and started writing.
When you started writing, did you do an outline? How did you organize all those stories? Did the publisher help you?
The publisher didn't really contribute. I outlined things. The first book was a lot easier because there was a chronology of sorts. It was, in essence, part autobiography, so you start at the beginning, talking about how you got into the business, who your early influences were, then trace the development of your career and take everyone right up to what was, at the time, present day.
Your book makes the radio biz seem really intense and difficult. How would you describe it?
Cut-throat. Radio might be on the bottom rung of the show-biz ladder but it's still show business. And show business is a cut-throat racket.
How is it cut-throat?
ANY form of show-business is cut-throat. Radio is no exception. If you're successful at something, there's always a bunch of people observing who don't think you deserve it and think they can do it a lot better than you can. Radio and show-business is no place to go looking for friends. Now, you may MAKE some friends along the way, but I've found it's the exception to the rule.
What do you think of radio's future?
As for radio's "future," I'd say it's not good. And outside of a few rah-rahs, consultants and industry proponents whose very existence depends on a thriving broadcast industry, I don't know too many people IN the business who think much of it anymore. And, really...why WOULD they. The people calling the shots, by-and-large (and many of them ARE, btw...) are running what's left of it into the ground with ridiculously long commercial stop-sets, a great-diminished on-air staff, decidedly UN-exciting music programming, talk show hosts more interested in what THEY have to say than what their listeners have to say...and all of this at a time when radio is facing its most challenging competition in history. It's all a recipe for disaster, really.
How did people respond to the book when it came out (people in the media and fans)?
Even some of my biggest detractors praised the book because it really was good! I didn't see a single, rotten review. They saved all their venom for the SECOND book! But I think people were really surprised to see I could write. Even my dad, who was a voracious reader, was just stunned.
Why did they save venom for the second book?
I think I stunned everyone, even including my greatest detractors, with the first book's "quality." Nobody saw it coming. When the second one came out they had "recovered," righted themselves, and got their claws out again. In their defense, the second book wasn't nearly as good. But you can only tell your life story once, and I did that in book #1.
How did you have the energy to do so much in your career and keep those crazy hours?
I've never been afraid of hard work. I won't say it was the most difficult thing I ever did, but it required tremendous focus. I was newly-divorced so I was pretty much able to write, for the most part, every day for about eight months.
What about when you were working in radio? I noticed you did morning radio which required waking up very early, plus you did promotional and other activities.
There were really long days and I worked really hard. If you're going to sign on to do these kinds of jobs you have to understand it just comes with the territory. But I really enjoyed being as prominent in the market as I was at the time. I mean, the new "Batman" movie comes out and you're one of a small handful of people who's seen it? That's exciting to know hundreds of thousands of people are listening to and watching what you say, and wondering how YOU got to be sitting across from George Clooney and kidding around with him. There is an incredible rush that comes with that. It's like being handed the baseball to be the starting pitcher of the World Series.
What kind of reaction did you get from the people who you wrote about in the book, such as Emmis management, the head of KMOX, and others?
Much to my surprise, I think most people derived a twisted sense of "enjoyment" over having been referenced in the book. But the thing I really had going for me is that I was very much a "pack-rat" back in those days. So I literally had the newspaper clips, letters, memos, videotapes and other documentation for every story I told, every claim I made and every person or group I called out. It's sort of hard to challenge the validity of a story when you include the clip from the newspaper or a transcript of an encounter.
What kind of feedback did celebrities give about your assessments about them in the back of the book?
Well, I knew they'd never see that stuff because they're all in California and New York, so I was real brave about the things I wrote. Now, I also wrote about some local "celebrities," but I don't recall much reaction. Frankly, in most cases it was a lot of more-detailed back-stories of things, events and people most of my readers already knew about and had an opinion about.
This book was published about 15 years ago. What would you change, omit, or write differently?
I'm embarrassed to admit there were sixteen errors, typos or mistakes. I got the most guff about referencing the address of "The Munsters" address incorrectly. I'm serious. Also, I had a lot of issues with the editor that was assigned to my project. She was a 40-ish, single, very Catholic type and I just don't think she got it. So I'd want a different type of editor. I may also have wanted to "slicken" up the production values. We had an awesome cover and introduction, but the font, resolution and other curb-appeal aspects of the book could have been better. But, in terms of content, I was pretty pleased at the time. It was a first venture. You learn a lot.
What did you learn, and what advice do you have for people who want to write a similar book or another non-fiction book?
Advice: Take notes for six months to a year. Along the way, write down specific phrases and/or short thoughts about exactly HOW you want to write certain passages. WRITE DOWN your ideas!!! Test out some of the stories on friends and family. See if they react with interest and curiosity to the extent you anticipate. Remember, when Jay Leno was at the absolute peak of his popularity and making twenty-five million dollars a year, he was still out every Sunday night at a comedy club in Hermosa Beach testing out new material.
What did I learn? That writing a book is hard. At least it is if you want to write a real good one. Author : Margaret Larkin
An extrovert in an introverted world I've been thinking about this for a while and have searched online for blog posts or articles about extroverts dealing with an introverted culture, but have barely seen anything. Some articles tend to be about the characteristics of extroverts vs introverts, or how extroverts are misunderstood. But in my case, I've had to submerge my more extroverted qualities to survive in the introverted world.
First of all, I'm not struggling as much as I was several months ago when I was doing a lot of work that didn't require much talking because I've been teaching, which requires talking and the ability to connect with people. Plus, my coworkers are extroverts and are truly interested in people, so I feel like I've been liberated from the introverted shackles that surround people like me who just want to be ourselves. When I first returned to teaching after a couple semesters off, my boss asked me what was wrong because I was so quiet. I told her that I had been silenced and limited for months, and had to act a certain way to survive and be tolerated. It seems like a weird concept in a place of extroverts, but I eventually adjusted to that more open environment and have felt satisfied. And in my non-teaching work, I don't deal with people directly but I work with people who like to chat, so it's a good balance. Still, it shouldn't be so rare that I have to write about the exceptions.
I'm married to an introvert, so I know very well what they're like. They're drained by people, they need alone time, they feel pressure to talk, etc. There are several articles and blog posts about introverts' trials and tribulations, especially since Susan Cain wrote the book Quiet, which I read with amazement. What world is she talking about?! In many workplaces, it seems that only certain people are allowed to talk or even attend meetings and conventions. But I see those people as part of the elite, or in highly paid jobs that are hard to get. When a meeting is required, usually the managers are the ones that go, and if more people are invited, the lower level employees aren't really allowed to give feedback or show their personality (especially if they work in a hierarchy of personality), so they have to stay quiet. Yet Cain was talking about meetings, social functions, group work...she was a highly paid attorney in a high-powered job. The average worker doesn't have such opportunities. And it's more apparent when an extrovert has to deal with such a situation. A lot of work has to be done on a computer, and that has nothing to do with people interaction. I'm sure she had to work on a computer too, but she was in a privileged position that allowed her to walk away from the screen to attend the extroverted functions she abhorred. Hey Susan Cain, if you have a Google alert activated and see this blog post, please contact me and explain how I can get a piece of your extroverted chores. I will gladly take on speaking engagements (she's become so successful, that she has expanded the opportunities from her extroverted-oriented jobs to having to do speeches, including the impossible-to-score Ted Talk), social activities, and other tasks in a life that seems far from the usual drudgery that people have to put up with.
For an extrovert, jobs shouldn't have to be totally people-oriented to be satisfying (like nursing, teaching, customer service, retail). I don't want to always work with people because I like to write, research, read, take care of website content, and do other introverted things. But hey, people like me who like to do such work also want people contact and to laugh and socialize. We want social interaction to break up the silence. We don't mind being interrupted. We want to use our minds but occasionally use our mouths, too, and we want a lively atmosphere because we like people-oriented stimulation. But I've noticed that in situations where computers are a necessary tool and there's a certain power structure in place, the ones who are in the special segment get to do more than just stare at a screen. They get to go to functions and conduct training sessions and socialize with others in the upper echelon.
And it's not just attaining such access to those more extroverted activities, but being able to be ourselves. That in itself should be a blog post, because I think it is very difficult to be yourself, even if "experts" in American culture say that's the ideal goal. Actually, being yourself can be detrimental whether you're an extrovert or not. One time I talked to someone who loved acting, loved becoming someone else, loved becoming a character. I've always maintained that I would love to be...me. We're too busy trying to survive by not being who we are, that becoming someone else seems to be superfluous. However, even if it is rare, it is possible to be who you are if you're working or circulating in social/extracurricular circles where such tolerance to authenticity exists.
Then there's the changing workplace, where work isn't done at a company with other people. I often hear about the great economy that existed after World War II and for several years after that, where people got jobs...somewhere physical. Now companies are fractured and people freelance or work alone. What a perfect economy for an introvert but a nightmare for an extrovert. Even if someone has a job at a place, they may not be able to stay there long or establish relationships with their coworkers due to downsizing, layoffs, dysfunction that results from paranoia and restrictions, etc. But in Cain's baffling world, people have jobs, they work with others, they have to survive a workplace where collaboration and communication are required. What a great concept...can you hook me up with your nightmare?
Anyway, other than work is just the world that we live in--it's more introverted because technology has created walls. A lot of interaction is online or through other digital tools, and people don't know how to communicate offline so well. That's another reason why I find Cain's book puzzling. She talked about the school culture, which is very well suited to my needs, since there are lots of social opportunities and clubs to join. But once we leave school, we're faced with a hyper-individualistic culture where people use their phones more for texting than talking, and where people like to stick to small talk, if they talk at all, because they haven't been socialized too well to actually deal with people. Everyone says introverts don't like small talk, and guess what...extroverts like me don't like it either. We like to communicate with live people and have fun, but that doesn't mean we want to talk about nothing all day. Also, people assume that extroverts like talking to just anyone, but I really clam up when I encounter phony people. That's when I do seem like an introvert.
In fact, I've worked or been in so many situations that were restraining, thus were better suited for introverts, that I've learned how to be more introverted myself. I've gone days without talking, and inside my head I was suffering, but outside I seemed like a bland, quiet person who didn't have much to say. People have even told me I'm introverted and have been surprised when I've said I really am not. I'm just not a shallow extrovert (and there's nothing wrong with those kinds of people--at least they're excited to live) but rather someone who really is energized by people--as long as they're interesting and not phony :) So to those introverts who feel like they have to be extroverted: I have had to be like you to survive as well. In fact, if Cain did hire me to work for her introverted empire, I'd fit in well because I not only could take on her extroverted tasks, but I would be able to conform to her introversion because I've already been doing it for years.
I did work in a situation that required both introverted and extroverted characteristics, and I had a great time because I worked on a computer for hours, but sometimes salespeople or other extroverts would come in to ask questions, request certain projects, or just chat. It was fantastic because I could use my mind and analytical abilities but could also socialize once in a while. On the flip side, I worked in a situation where there was no extraneous talking tolerated, and I wasn't allowed to ask questions until the end of the day. Or I had to gather up the questions to ask them all at once sometime during the day. So if an extroverted person were to blend work talk with social talk, we'd get in trouble.
Introverts are lucky that they have technology and air conditioning and other things that take them indoors away from people. If you're suffering in a world of extroverts, think about how many times you have to work on a computer, or when you have the option of a computer and phone over live people. There are many opportunities to not socialize with people, especially if you have a quiet job instead of a people-oriented one, and you don't have to go out after work, either. There's TV, Internet, books, a solitary walk, and lots of other things introverts can do. But if you're an extrovert and want to score an invite to a cool social event where there are people you can click with, or want to have a job where talking breaks up silent tasks or a top-heavy structure, then good luck! Maybe my short tale of struggle will cause other extroverts to share their stories, thus counter the abundance of pro-introvert stuff online, which is where introverts seem to love to hang out. Author : Margaret Larkin
Metrofiction is back If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably seen me mention the Metrofiction site, which was originally created a decade ago. John Deaver (who passed away in 2006), John Banas, MM Plude, and I met in a fiction writing class and formed a writing group. I decided to set up a website for the group, and called it Metrofiction since we all took the writing class in the city and I'd been living in the city for several years.
I took the site down for a few years because I was getting more involved with radio and my podcast (which also meant I didn't post here as much), but decided to resurrect it because I'm working more in the language world again.
I also included John Deaver's story that he submitted to the original site. I wish he was still here!
Author : Margaret Larkin
David Tennant\'s American accent I was watching a news show and saw a promo for Gracepoint, which is the American version of Broadchurch. I can't believe I haven't seen Broadchurch since I've seen a lot of other British TV shows, but now I'm interested. But what I'm more interested in is David Tennant, who has an American accent in Gracepoint.
He's Scottish, but he's already stretched himself by using a British accent for the various TV shows he's done there. But in Broadchurch he has a strong Scottish accent, so I'm sure he was able to relax. However, in the American show, I bet he had to work very hard at developing the right sound. I don't know how successful he is because I can't find videos online that show his performance at length. All that seems to be out there are previews, like this one:
A number of British press outlets have quoted Alicia Lutes from her interesting analysis of his accent, and props goes to the Guardian for providing the link to the article (others didn't). Lutes criticizes his accent but I don't think it's so bad, at least the tiny parts I've seen. Maybe if I could watch an entire episode, I'd be a better judge.
Actually, Erica Buist gives an interesting analysis in the Guardian that is a counter-argument to Lutes' criticism. But I am not taking sides since I don't have enough to go on.
A nerdy type took the time to put together a comparison of the two TV shows' trailers, so you can see how Tennant switches between his Scottish and American accents. You can also see how similar the two shows seem to be, which seems risky since anyone can see either and might be annoyed at how close they are.
One person whose American accent is weak and who seems self-conscious about it is Poppy Montgomery (which I criticized before). It seems like she's trying so hard to have an American accent, it makes her acting suffer because she doesn't show much emotion and seems like she's in accent-survival mode. Because I'm aware of her struggle, it keeps me from just sitting back and enjoying her performance. I've seen her shortcomings in Without a Trace and a TV movie she was in called "Murder in the Hamptons", but TV Guide includes her in a "Worst American Accents" list for her "confusing" accent in Unforgettable. She's really Australian, yet doesn't seem to use her native accent in TV interviews, either.
Anyway, we'll see how David Tennant does in the new show and if other people approve or criticize him in his American portrayal. And for the record, there are plenty of Americans who can't do a proper British accent or even southern American accent, so it looks like various actors need good voice coaches. Author : Margaret Larkin
Getting unstuck I haven't posted here in a while because I've been reading a variety of books to blog about, and was asked to interview businessman and writer Barry Moltz for another blog. So I spent time reading his new book called How To Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again, formulated questions, and worked with the answers. I could've easily asked him questions by just skimming his book or didn't really have to read it at all, but if someone wants me to do an interview about a book, I read the entire thing.
So I read the book, asked him questions, wrote an introduction to the interview, and submitted the post to the blog. Unfortunately, it didn't fit the blog's format, so instead of trying to rework it to make it fit, I decided to post it here with a more expanded introduction that fits *my* format, which is not business-y or agenda-driven (which a lot of blogs have become--stiff, impersonal, self-serving, over-functional, etc).
I've done work for Barry over the past year and have had a good experience working for him. He's also a consultant who knows what he's talking about because he's experienced failure and success, and is honest about his struggles. That's why the book he wrote is helpful. You also don't have to read it from beginning to end because it's set up to solve a variety of business problems, so you can just look up the issue you're dealing with and read that part.
One chapter that stood out was about understanding financial statements. Some people are really into numbers, so they take the time to check their balance sheets and other statements to make sure their cash flow is good. But many business owners find it tedious and intimidating to analyze the numbers, so they continue along in ignorance. Then when they notice that they have major financial problems, they are surprised. Checking financial statements isn't as exciting as doing the business, but if a business owner doesn't understand them, they're going to end up broke or not making what they should. Barry says in the book that he sold a business for way less than it was worth due to such ignorance.
I haven't read every business book and blog out there, but there isn't a lot of advice that includes understanding financial statements. It's not a sexy topic and seems really dry, and the lack of such information really makes me wonder if those "experts" understand their *own* financials. After reading Barry's book, I realized that an enterprising person can create a niche by giving financial advice to business owners who are afraid or uneducated about financial statements. The person can break down the complexities for any kind of entrepreneur to understand through books, lectures, and various media, then create their own successful business through that! So take this idea and run with it because I'm not numbers-minded.
But it's not like no one talks about financials. In one business reality show called The Profit, Marcus Lemonis will look at a failing business' books and let the owner know how off the mark they are with their own estimates. Even restaurant reality shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant Impossible talk about the economics of running a restaurant and tell the owners to think about what they're actually spending on each meal.
Anyway, below is the Q&A I did with Barry, who's super-busy but seems to still enjoy non-work aspects of life.
What is the biggest problem that causes business owners to get stuck?
Companies only do sales and marketing when business is slow. They need to have a systematic way to always do marketing so they can be there when customers are ready to buy.
What are your suggestions for creating a system?
You?ve got to watch my videos or take my class :-)
I was surprised to read that many business owners don?t understand financial statements. Why is that, and what should they do?
They do not get an education on how to read financial statements. It is not intuitive and they are afraid to ask their CPA for help.
Why are they afraid, and what do you suggest for learning how to read the statements?
They are afraid they should understand the statements but don't. Read about how to learn in my book How to Get Unstuck.
How can business owners avoid complacency?
Always ask, ?Am I still solving a real pain for a customer who can pay to fix it??
What if you've discovered that you're no longer solving a pain?
Morph the business to find the pain.
What?s a good way to stand out in a down economy when there?s also so much competition?
Connect personally with customers. This can be done through some pretty slick tech to show that you really care.
What slick tech do you recommend?
No slick tech but using CRM [Customer Relationship Management] and Social Media work--be personal.
How can business owners maintain their passion and productivity?
Ask yourself, ?Why am I really doing this, and how do I want to make a difference in the world??
Do you have suggestions to go through that reflective process?
Ask everyday, ?Why am I in the business I am in?? Take time off during the week, month, year to reflect.
Author : Margaret Larkin
In too deep: a stilted translation I saw a post at Madameriri and decided to translate it because it was titled: "I often tell foreigners 'I don't watch anime'." What I should've done is finished reading it before I dived [or dove] in, because I thought it was about a Japanese person who doesn't like anime. So I slogged through it, and by the end I realized that the writer *did* like anime, or at least didn't mind them.
Not only did I spend a lot of time translating it, but my translation ended up sounding like stilted English. And that's the problem a lot of translators have: do you try to stay true to the original text, or do you write/edit it to make it sound really smooth and natural in the target language, thus majorly reworking the original author's word choice?
I've been trying to figure out what to do. I'd spent all this time translating it, plus the title was deceptive, and the original writing seemed sort of vague and circular in how the author was trying to make her point. I was thinking of not posting it because it sounds sort of odd, but I didn't want all that work to go to waste. So I've decided to post the stilted version instead of rewriting the English to sound like a regular blog post. Did I do the wrong thing?! I don't know! But I hope it makes sense. I need to let go and move on! So here it is, the translation of????????????????????????????:
Japanese anime have been popular abroad for a while. But even now, there are a lot of people throughout the world who have a prejudiced view of anime. Japanese anime are for "geeks who like Japan" or they?re what "kids" watch, so I decided to not watch them.
Until now, when foreigners asked me which anime I watch, I?ve usually said, "I don't really watch them." If I had seen any, it was just one of Ghibli?s, or what I'd occasionally watched with my siblings. Basically, I hadn't really seen them--that's because I decided I didn?t like them, and because of the image they have.
When I?d hear people talk, I?d think, "How pitiful." As a result of deciding not to watch anime, I've probably missed out on seeing a lot of great ones. It?s up to the individual to watch or not watch anime. And even if they disappear from society, they'll still live on. But saying, "I don't like that thing" can give the wrong impression, and that person?s life and outlook can seem narrow.
Other than anime, these things have often come up:
"I don't trust raw fish, so I don't eat sushi." "I've never eaten blue cheese and it seems impossible. I will not eat it." "Indian movie? I haven't seen one, not interested." "Since I get along well with Japanese people, I don't need foreign friends." ?etc.
A while ago, I met an American foreign student who wanted whatever she ate and saw explained to her. For instance, when we ate champon, she asked questions such as, "How was this soup made?" "What kinds of seafood are in there?" "Is the seafood in here also in America?" "Where does the shrimp come from?" etc. She ended up not eating champon, and I was disappointed that I couldn't introduce her to that delicious Japanese food.
Perhaps if she'd trusted me and tried the champon, she probably would've thought, "Unforgettable Japanese flavor." It would've been good for her to take even just one bite. It would?ve been good to do it, even if it tasted just slightly good.
It?s better to try eating something instead of being afraid. Then someone can decide if they like it or hate it. If someone doesn't eat it, they won?t know how it tastes, so they can't say anything about it. Even if it doesn?t taste good, it's good to understand that it's "bad."
A while ago, I didn't like anime or manga. At that time, after my foreign boyfriend (who's now my husband) pretty much forced me to watch anime, I thought, "Japanese anime are wonderful." Until then I'd decided, "Anime are something kids watch" and thought I was stupid for believing that.
Inside of me there's a subconscious "decision" box that's been cleared, but it's difficult. I really want to protect the box, and by making the box important, I protect myself, though it reverses unexpectedly.
When I try Out of the Box thinking (thinking outside boundaries), the best benefit for me is that I am not like others. And if I don?t like myself, I have to first try.
Maybe I will start to know things my entire life.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Calm down introverts: you don\'t have to act extroverted Even though I've done a good job of hiding it, I'm more extroverted than introverted. In fact, I'd say I rarely get to express that aspect of my personality (a rant that I'll get into in another post), but when I do get a chance to act how I really am, ie, talkative and extroverted, I'm quite happy.
But sometimes I meet people who are *too* extroverted, like they're trying too hard to act that way. I really like talking to outgoing people, but the folks I'm talking about seem to try too hard. Sometimes those people will tell me that they're really introverted, and I say I'm surprised. But upon further reflection, I'm really not because they seem to be over-compensating for their introversion. It's the forced behavior that makes me become more quiet, and those faux-extroverts will ask me why I'm like that, or they might make some snide remark to someone--or even me--about my deficiencies.
More than once I've talked to people who go out of their way to be really talkative and cheerful...like *too* cheerful, and I'll pretty much clam up and not say much because I'm not into phony conversation. I really am excited about stuff, but I don't want to have to manufacture such an attitude to match their hyped-up one. So what's happened is they'll say something disparaging to a common acquaintance about me. Some people might be appalled I didn't say much, or I seem cold and distant. Well if they would just take a breather, then I would say something, but they seem to go on to the next thing and want me to follow along. Basically, I'm the real deal, they're not, and they seem to be so wrapped up in creating their extroverted persona that they don't bother to discern my true one. Or sometimes they'll ask questions and we'll "talk" but they'll be so hopped-up they'll over-ask or over-talk and I feel like we're not connecting. Which probably also annoys them. I just want to say, "Calm down...be who you are. Then I'll talk more and you won't be annoyed with my reaction."
On the other hand, I've talked to people who are truly outgoing and are energized by people. I had a job where I'd sometimes have to talk to salespeople and other talkative folks, and I had a fantastic time. It was much easier to talk to them because they were sincere in their communication and were ready to interact with the world. Since I'm basically the same but didn't have as much chance to show that side of my personality, I was ready to participate and I think they enjoyed my side of the conversation, too.
So here's some advice to introverts: use your analytical powers to judge people, then talk to them accordingly. I don't know about what other true extroverts think, but being hyper and over-talkative and aggressive does not impress me; it makes me clam up and wonder what's up with you. There is nothing wrong with introversion, unless you are socially inept and don't know how to have a conversation with someone. Then you need training. But talking a bunch because you think that's what you're supposed to do makes you seem oblivious to social rules, and the resulting judgement when I don't respond how you want makes you seem super small-minded.
A while ago I worked with someone who talked a lot and barely listened...he seemed to talk too much to the point where another more extroverted coworker asked if he was dull-witted, or what was going on. I just said, "He's introverted," and the coworker understood: overcompensation.
If you act like yourself, a lot of people would probably appreciate you. And you don't have to smile all the time either. Calm down. There are all kinds of people in the world, and the more mature of us appreciate diversity.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Are we supposed to play roles? I've been reading the book Lonely, and it's made me wonder if we're expected, or if society is set up, for us to play roles as we get older. I think when we're in school and we have an outgoing or social personality, we naturally make friends who we can call or hang out with at random times. We don't need structure to connect with others because our interests and personalities help us to bond with them more organically.
But as we get older, most of us have to work to pay bills, and to advance in our careers, we have to navigate tiresome interactions that cut into spontaneity. Not everyone can be trusted because they have their own agenda or they're simply not good people. Or they could just be boring conformists.
Some people amazingly stay in touch with their school friends, so even if they're isolated in a new situation, they manage to have some type of social life that doesn't require them to be anything than who they are. There is so much movement and individualism in American society (the one I know best since I live here), that it's like people are putting up fences around themselves as they proceed on their own tracks. So crossover seems to occur in structured situations: work, kids' schools and activities, or groups people join.
There are many causes of loneliness (which I want to discuss in another post sometime), but one of them is the lack of connecting with people through natural interactions. If someone gets involved in an organization, it's easy to communicate with people through formal events or plans. But what would happen if the organization ceased to exist? Would those people want to hang out and even help each other? What about mothers who are in the suburbs raising kids and connect with other moms around them through sports, park programs, PTA, etc? When those kids grow up and move away, they won't have the kids' activities and goals to work within to connect to other parents. So their role is a mother, a working professional's role is entrenched in a socially inclined workplace, and another person is on the board of some group. Their roles are set, and they come with places they belong.
But is it possible to belong without having a formal title or role? I know only a few people who don't tie relationships to roles or responsibilities. They just like to connect with people and make an effort to communicate despite the context. But it seems most people expect pieces to be in place, and when a piece of the environment is gone, the cord is cut.
American society seems transient and temporary, which I think causes isolation and loneliness.
Author : Margaret Larkin
I\'m back in language land It's been almost 10 years since I've started this blog, and when I first started it, I was doing a lot with language: writing, editing, translating, reading...plus, I was an aspiring fiction writer and needed a space to express myself and my love of language.
Then a lot happened in my work life, and part of it consumed my mind to the point where I really didn't have the space or energy to write much here. Basically, I got interested in the radio biz when I met Rick Kogan, then eventually got some work in it about a year after that. Then the drama began, and I was trying to balance dealing with the challenges of the [not always nice] people and the business itself, which seems to be hanging by a thread (when you compare it to other media and entertainment outlets). Somehow I've managed to stay in the business for eight years, and recently achieved the seemingly impossible: I've been hired to write and edit at one of the top stations in the U.S.A.
Until recently, I'd been so focused on audio, though I did continue writing and editing for various businesses the whole time I was working in radio. Plus, my podcast was getting a lot more traction, so I focused more on that because it was satisfying to get positive reactions and lots of hits. (But this blog had gotten lots of hits too, especially before social media took my attention away as well.)
I just didn't have the headspace to think about language other than when I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) or used it at work.
But now that I have this unbelievable gig, it's totally reignited my love of language. I sit there wondering how I can make active verbs more effective than passive, and I just feel good because what I write goes on the air to millions of people within minutes. It's a satisfying writing experience.
I've even begun to read more because I feel more settled at a great station that seems to have no drama. It makes thinking off the clock easier and more accessible because I'm not wasting brain cells trying to figure out a survival strategy.
So I'm going to post here more often, and get into language enjoyment once again. And I still have more to say about my months-long absence, but it's time to eat something now :D
I'm talking about radio, but I'm sure the entertainment business and TV news also have talent who treat people like The Help. Some people who are on the air haven't gotten the memo about the democratization of the media. They think they are the most important figures in the culture and think people are there to serve them, whether they're producers, interns, sales people, or even station management. They are the performers, they seem to think, they're the ones disseminating information, and it doesn't seem to occur to them that they are human beings who are equal in worth to other human beings.
Talent who see others as The Help express such an attitude in various ways. When sales people go to talk to them, they see it as a waste of their time and might grant an audience for a brief moment before they say they have to leave. They think sales is not supposed to be in the vicinity of their craft. After all, they are the talent, and the sales people are "over there"; why would they want to spend time with them? They're part of the bean counter class; they don't get it. And when station management wants the talent to participate in a meeting, they don't see it as necessary because meetings are for regular workers who have to do what they're told. They think management doesn't understand how hard it is to talk into that microphone every day, to come up with something witty and compelling. They're just a bunch of suits that don't get it either. And producers: who are they? They're supposed to have everything ready and do everything, even when the talent change their minds. It's as if the talent are lying on a divan and are being fanned by large feathers which The Help hold. If the talent want the fanning to go faster, they end up complaining that it's too fast, even though they requested it. They'll keep changing their speed requests and are never satisfied and complain that The Help are inept because they're not able to deliver what they want. Or it's as if the producers are holding buckets that must catch every drop of liquid that spills over from the talent's cup, wherever the talent go and however they're holding the cup, even if it's not correct or structurally sound.
Sometimes the talent will appear really nice, but they're really being condescendingly benevolent because if they don't treat The Help graciously, they won't get what they want. But behind closed doors, when they're talking to what they perceive as their equals, they'll complain about The Help, no matter how small the perceived infraction is. They'll smile and speak in a seemingly professional way because they need a technical issue resolved, which makes The Help feel like they're interacting with talent who are really "cool". But once The Help walk away when equipment is working again, the Talent will roll their eyes to those in their inner circle and nitpick about other problems that are always, in the end, The Help's fault.
But woe to the talent who are confronted with talent who are greater than they are. All of a sudden, they are faced with someone more important, more powerful, more beloved than they are. They get upset when those bigger stars don't respond to them or treat them as The Help. They have no condescension as they do for the lesser people who usually surround them, but aspire to be like that greater talent and even envy them. They look for approval and become disgruntled if they're not considered equal to those higher beings. But it doesn't occur to them to take their negative experience and apply it to those people they treat as The Help. They just resume their attitude and continue their status quo.
But not all hope is lost, because there are talent who understand that the media is no longer the monolith it once was, that they're merely human beings in a business who are interacting with other human beings in the same business. The talent that do not treat others like The Help speak to people respectfully, without condescension. If they're rude, they apologize to those they've yelled at or whom they've been overly demanding towards. They realize that if someone were to behave towards them in such a negative way, they wouldn't like it, which is why they have the humility to recognize they were out of line. They also don't see the people around them as in a caste system, who reside in a lower tier. They see everyone as part of the team, whether it's the intern, producer, management, or janitor. But even if the media weren't in meltdown mode, no talent should treat anyone as The Help, no matter how much power they think they have.