Money Coaching Blog

We sure do get this money stuff tangled up, don’t we? This is the place where I untangle pieces of it. Most of it’s about money while some of it’s about something else that strikes my interest. All of it is about noticing how things get knotted up and how to untangle the knots. Oh, and if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give it a good shake and see what untangles.

Whoa the Worry!

We all do it.  We worry, fret, agonize, brood, and get into a dither.  It’s a human thing to do.  The question is: When is it actually effective?  And when isn’t it?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for most of is all that nattering in our heads.  That critic voice saying “you should — you must — why haven’t you…” over and over again, in every way possible.  And we get trapped in this land of defending, feeling ‘wrong‘, beating ourselves up, second guessing — you get the picture, right?

It’s hardwired in for us.  It’s very, very old, and has to do with safety and security.  There is a part of us that is obsessed with keeping us safe.  It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?  And it would be, except that Inner Critic in our heads has a very narrow and somewhat odd perspective about what is safe!

It defines safe as where you are in this moment.  Frankly it doesn’t care about a bunch of things that make our lives challenging.  Things like piles of debt,  toxic relationships, being stuck in jobs we hate, etc.  It’s fundamental criteria is that you are not currently in imminent danger — like literally on FIRE!  Seems fairly safe to say our Inner Critic has some paranoia going on!

This critic voice in our heads is not a new thing.  It’s been around as long as humans have.  Monkey Mind, Gremlin, Sabatour… all sorts of names.  And we coaches are all too familiar with it.  It’s a big part of what keeps clients stuck.  See, whenever we try something new or different there is a chance we will mess something up.  Frankly, messing things up can be a very good thing because it leads to new ideas, possibilities, and results.  And trying something new just freaks our Inner Critic out.  It gets very activated and wants to reign you in, keep you safe, keep you right where you are in this moment!

It has a very simple and effective technique to get you off track: It distracts you.  There are many ways it does that.  A couple of classic ways are:

  • It gets you into a ginormous discussion in your head.
  • It lectures you on how bad, wrong, or stupid you are.
  • It berates, belittles, and ‘bad dogs’ you.

It’s really effective.  All this fretting on your part, fueled by the critic voice in your head, serves to distract you from any ‘new‘ idea and keep you right where you have always been!

Our Inner Critics are crafty. They know us really well.  They know the tender spots.  They will do anything to keep you safe—and again, they define safe as where you are right now.

There’s the real rub in this.  You cannot change, improve, grow, or attain new goals without doing something different.  T’aint possible.  All that time you spend nattering in your head with your Inner Critic is just distracting and sidelining you.  It’s not helpful, at all!

The most effective method I have found to stop the critic — and just in case you haven’t noticed, I think stopping it is a crucial thing to do — is to hold and think about it entirely differently.  Instead of engaging with it at all, think of it as a signal that you are doing something new and different.  Don’t try to calm the fear — instead rejoice and applaud that you are trying something new!  In a bizarre way, your job is to rattle your critic, isn’t it?  If you are just “drawing inside the lines” and “holding the status quo” nothing is going to change… NOTHING!  So instead of joining your Inner Critic in its lecture, judgement, and finger wagging, how about you celebrate that you are doing something different?  Revel in it a bit.  Know that you can change and make choices.  Thank the Inner Critic for the signal, while not falling into its distraction trap!

A good technique to distinguish between Inner Critic and something important for you to know or pay attention to is to ask yourself:

  • Is this ‘conversation‘ in my head distracting me from what I’m trying to do, or to focus on?
  • Is there a ‘tone‘ attached to the message I’m getting, like fear or shame?  Your Inner Critic always has a tone.  Your Inner Wisdom never has a tone.

See if you can’t say “Whoa there!” to all that worry, be kinder to yourself, and get more traction on your dreams!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Need some help with this? Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.  Happy spending!

Playing with Virtual Money

It’s summer!  Time to be a bit more playful.  Personally I’ve been doing more playing and less blogging.  How about  a way for you to ‘play’ with your money this summer that is fun, whimsical, and doesn’t actually spend any of it … because it’s virtual?

It’s my twist of the Prosperity Game, which has been around for years—so long that there are apps and even printed checks you can buy to play the game.  None of that is actually needed to play the game.  All you need is some place to track what’s happening , like a journal.

It’s a game you play with yourself by spending virtual money everyday.  You start with $100 and double it each day ($100, $200, $400, $800, etc).  One of the rules is that you have to spend all the money each day.  Sometimes people want to save up for something, but that’s not necessary.  Since it doubles every day you will be close to spending a million a day in just two weeks ($819,200)  Another rule is that  you have to spend it on yourself.  You can take people with you on trips, or the like, but you must spend the money on yourself.  The point is to explore and clarify your relationship and thoughts about money—not just give it away. While playing the game you will shop, make lists, spend imaginary money on imaginary things.  I suggest you don’t get tied up in the fiddly bits of things like sales tax.  Rounding off is fine.  It’s not about record keeping!  No actual money is used.

It’s a very interesting game.  Over the years, I’ve encouraged many of my clients to play this game.  It does several intriguing things.  One thing it does is pretty effectively show you where your “money ceiling” is.  Your “money ceiling” is the amount of money you just can’t understand—the amount that is beyond your personal limit.  It’s a good thing to know.  If you approach your money ceiling without knowing where it is, it can suddenly open up and sweep you away.

The game also helps you reframe your ideas of:

  • What is expensive
  • What is cheap
  • The value of things
  • What you really want
  • How much stuff you can handle

All very intriguing concepts to play with and understand.

Okay, now that you know the basics of how the game works, let’s look at the part of the game that I’m most intrigued with. Your brain actually thinks it is real money.  Your head doesn’t know the difference between your spending the money virtually or in reality.  I know this by personal experience.

When I played first this game, I lived in a house where the washing machine drained into a deep sink.  It was a very old, very heavy sink with a small drain.  I had a furry spaniel dog, Decaf, who contributed lots of hair to the laundry, and frequently that hair would come out of the washer hose in a way that would plug the sink, and cause it to overflow on to the floor.  Not a fun thing to clean up.

Naturally, early in playing the money game I decided to “pay” some of my virtual money to get that sink fixed.  Yipee!  Problem solved.  About a week later I did some laundry, and the sink overflowed.  There I was, standing in water, with my hands on my hips saying “Damn it!  I paid to get that sink fixed and it’s overflowing!” and then it struck me.  I had paid to get the sink fixed with virtual money!  It wasn’t really fixed.

Other people I know have had similar experiences with this game.  One person offered to loan a friend $25,000 until it occurred to her that it was virtual money she was offering.

I learned a bunch of other things playing the game.  Some of my ideas of what was ‘expensive’ and what was ‘cheap’ shifted.  And then there was the place where I just felt overwhelmed.  The place where I had hit my money ceiling.  A very good thing to know.  I suggest that you play at least one day past that place, because just beyond that point often lurks some really amazing dreams.

The real point is that your thoughts about money are fluid and can change.  That’s good news.  You can change your money thinking.  You can provide some different experiences of money for your brain, even virtual ones, and your brain will accept them as real even when they aren’t.  That’s good news.  It’s also odd news.  It would seem  to be telling us that it’s important that you pay attention to the messages that you send your brain about money, wouldn’t it?

How about playing this money game to explore what’s going on in your head around money, and learn about some new possibilities.  At the very least it’s a bit of a fun summer lark!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear how the game worked for you. Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.  Happy spending!

Making Room to Move Forward

So long ago that I don’t remember when—or frankly where—I got this idea, I heard about a process to help us get some traction on moving forward from big wadded up messes.  I’ve been suggesting this idea to several clients lately, so I decided it was time for a blog!

We all get stuck in ‘loops’ regarding traumatic issues.  It can seem like we just keep circling, and circling, and then circling yet again.  Going over and over the old stuff.  It’s not just that it’s exhausting — it’s ineffective, and it keeps us from moving forward.

Yes, some things are just really hard to deal with.  They just keep haunting us.  Those things that stand in our way have a story behind them—a tale of what happened, all the circumstances, who said what to whom, what the weather was… it goes on and on.  Additionally, a lot of this kind of situation is really old stuff.  It includes things from childhood, relationships, money, etc.

The solution for how to stop stirring the pot and get moving to some new thoughts and choices lies in neural science.  Here’s the fundamental problem: When you start thinking about the issue, you ‘activate’ the neural pathway that all the details and circumstances are parked in.  As you think of one bit of the problem, all sorts of other things come to mind.  Soon you get totally swamped, just like “when you are up to your ass in alligators, you forget that the purpose was to drain the swamp!

The solution is to put all the alligators… um, circumstances, issues, details, etc… around the issue in a container.  Yes, imagine some kind of container.  It could be a safe with a big heavy door, an old chest with a lock, a file cabinet, whatever you want.  The point is to put all the details somewhere.

The next step is to have a name for the container.  Be thoughtful about this name.  It’s a tool to help you refer to ALL the stuff in the container without having to reopen and look at it.  Don’t pick a name that’s going to cause you to go into all the details again.  Also be careful to not pick a name that’s going to create unnecessary angst in a different direction.  It’s the difference between “the time the car broke down” and “the time the car broke down on the way to grandma’s house” — you really, don’t want to reactivate it your head every time you go to her house!

Now that you have the mess nicely contained—and aren’t looking at the gators—you can do the important thinking to move forward.  You can get strategic, you can make plans, you can come up with new and maybe even different ideas—all without being sucked in by the details and circumstances because they are tucked nicely away in your container.  Later you can always go reopen the container and revisit what happen if you want to.

Meanwhile, You can have a clear head without distraction to focus on moving forward.  Whew!  What a relief that will be.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in making room to change give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

What You Say About Money Matters

Remember that now-old, computer adage: Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)?  It’s even more crucial when we apply it to our thoughts.  Our brains put like thoughts together in neural pathways.  All our thoughts about any particular thing get connected together.

It’s really quite fascinating.  For example it’s kind of like a bunch of cupboards.  When you open the door to the cupboard there are all the goodies in there.  Until you open the door you don’t actually think about what’s in there.  For example, most of us have a cupboard we could call “Friends from childhood” — we don’t open in very often, but when we do we can see a bunch of people in it.  Just think of the name of one kid you knew. Got ’em?  Okay, now as you remember them the cupboard door opens wider and you can see more kids in there.

It’s a pretty cool system, and I think there is no coincidence that in many ways computers are structured in a similar fashion.  Even though we may not have had all the brain science worked out when computers were invented, the style and method of our thinking influenced the design.

Okay, so what on earth does that have to do with money and what you say about it?  The short answer is EVERYTHING!

What you focus on is what you create.  You gather more and more fodder to support your position, and all that fodder makes the ‘cupboard’ bigger and bigger.

What exactly do you say about money? We know that the odds are your parents said things like:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees
  • You’ll have to work really hard to make any
  • There’s never enough of it

The irony is that because they believed that, they proved it — with one small but important caveat.  See the use of the ‘enough’ word?  Our brain pays no attention to the ‘never’ in that sentence.  What it does do is focus on creating the enough word.  The problem is enough is a ‘scarcity’ word.  Think about it.  One way or another there was always ‘enough’ — just enough.

The quantity of scarcity thoughts in the “money cupboard” in most of our heads is huge.  That neural pathway is jam-packed with examples, reinforcement, fodder.  Conversely, the money thought cupboard around the idea of plenty, or lots, is a tiny little cupboard from perhaps a doll house.

The result being that when it comes to money, just like when it comes to other thoughts and ideas, we reinforce what we have always reinforced.  We are at the very least in the habit of thinking that way.

Changing that thinking, and thus the results you create, is both hard and easy.  It’s as easy as being conscious of what you say and think about money, and changing from an ‘enough/scarcity’ to a ‘plenty/lots’ conversation.   And that is also hard to do, mostly because it’s a very ingrained habit.

My suggestion is to institute a counter-balancing method.  Start by being easy with yourself.  Don’t give yourself a hard time when you use that scarcity word.  And when you use it, and notice it, then immediately replace it with a more abundant word.  At the very least balance it with a counter-balance statement.  For example: “I never make enough money, except when I do!”  It can actually be an amusing thing to do.

The reason that all this is so important is that you can’t actually create the abundance or security you want to get past ‘scarcity’ or ‘enough-ness’ until you can believe it’s possible.  And you cannot be in ‘plenty land’ as long as you keep reinforcing the neural pathway that is a massive cupboard filled with scarcity thinking.

Here’s an example that might help.  Did you take a foreign language in school?  I took French.  Most classes focused on you speaking the foreign language, right? We didn’t try to learn French by speaking English.  That just wouldn’t work.  And I found when I went to France on a trip, the longer I was there, the easier it was for me to understand the language.  I had even started to think in French by the end of the trip.  What was happening is that the French ‘cupboard’ was getting filled. 

It’s the same with your money thinking and beliefs.  You can change it, and it’s a simple and as hard as learning to do anything different.  Remember, when it comes to money, what you say about it does matter!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in changing what you say about money give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Money Self-Talk

Did you happen to see this quote on Facebook?  Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion.  What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.’

You probably won’t be surprised that my brain went right to:  ‘…and when it comes to money, it’s an even more taboo topic!’  Mostly we don’t even talk about that we don’t talk about it, and the aforementioned ‘lack of understanding’ around money is monumental.  I truly do think it’s the MOST taboo topic on the planet.

And the person we talk to the least about money is actually ourself.  Sure we have money conversations in our head.  Most often they are rants about what we are doing wrong — judgements of our short comings.  These aren’t actual conversations where we listen — really listen — to what we are saying about money.  This is unexplored money self-talk.

The important thing here, is that what we say is what we believe.  Our internal dialog rules our brain.  If the primary belief we have is that money is this awful, scary stuff that we can’t actually get a handle on and don’t understand, we will make that the truth and act accordingly.

A large part of my job is to really hear what people are saying, both out loud and in their heads.  I try to clue in on when I hear someone using internal and external language-based judgement, criticism, and just not feeling good about ourselves.  Some of the words that we use around money that tip me off to this are: enough, earned, value, deserve, frugal, broke, wasteful.  Other words that strike even deeper show how we judge what we are doing —  how we  ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’, and ‘got to’.  It’s often pretty subtle stuff.  And I’m pretty much all over my clients, encouraging them to thinking in terms of ‘wanting’ or ‘choosing’ to do things instead of all those other options.

The real reason for that is that coming from that more self-directed positive place is just plain more effective.  All that negative nattering distracts us from the task at hand, and that limits our abilities.

How about you find a way to have a couple of heart-to-heart money conversations with yourself?  I know it sounds a bit ‘out there’ but why not?  Tune in and notice when you say a negative thing about yourself, about you and money, even about your expectations of what is possible in your life.  Why not start by making a simple list of your self-talk phrases and then noting if they are positive, negative, or even neutral.

What’s going on there in your head?  You can absolutely shift it.  You can learn new words and hold new ideas.  You even can learn to ‘correct’ yourself when you say something like, “I’ll never make it!”  You can choose to follow it with “…unless, of course, I do!

There is a bit of sneaky science behind this idea.  It’s all about neural pathways.  The ones that get more use get stronger, the ones with little use diminish.  You get to choose.  What are you reinforcing?  See what you can learn about what you really say about money.  And how, with just a bit of noticing and language focus, you can change your money thinking — really, you can!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in hearing your internal messages and making these change give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Self-Cleaning Oven

Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves — to be a self-cleaning oven.  For me, this last month has been one of those times that irritatingly remind me of that.  In many ways being a ‘Self-Cleaning Oven’ is the counterpoint of my last blog: What If It’s Not Actually About You?‘  Were you able to read that one?  Magically the same cut and paste of the link to that blog—which I used for Facebook and notifying list-serves—didn’t work for the larger mass of folks on my ‘list’.  Razzlefrats!

I will not burden you with all the things that have been challenging for me this month, but suffice it to say that I finally wrote down a list.  It’s now over a dozen.  Maybe I could lay some of it at the doorstep of planetary influences (Mercury in retrograde)?  Certainly, having this ‘cold’ I’ve been fussing with for over a month didn’t help.  The challenges have been wide-reaching, involving clients, friends, technology, isolation — oh, and even money!

I don’t bring all this up to start a ‘poor me’ conversation.  I do bring it up to acknowledge that  we all have times like these, and we need methods to cope with such times.

What I notice is that inevitably it finally comes down to each of us being a self-cleaning oven.  What I really mean by that is, no matter how much support you have from friends, family, and outside resources, it is always up to you to find your own way.  It’s up to you to explore options, find resources, change—or keep—your thinking, make choices, and solve the problem.

To hearken back to the ‘It’s Not Actually About You’ blog, the stuff others try to project on you isn’t about you… AND it follows that what you feel about others isn’t about them, it’s all about you, TO YOU!  The trick is what you do with that.

Remember that old idea that ‘no one can actually make us angry’?  Yes, we do get angry, sad, frustrated — all sorts of emotions!  And these emotions are real and valid.  They are also our projection of our values, morals, history, dreams…

Many, many times we get caught trying to change others in the hope of creating a different result.  The problem is we can’t change others.  We can only change ourselves and our choices.  I did a presentation last week on ‘Managing VS Meeting Client Expectations’ a favorite topic of mine.  One woman raised her hand and asked about several ‘difficult clients’ she just couldn’t please.  Those of you that know me well won’t be surprised that I told her about the difficulty in trying to teach a pig to sing. (That is, it wastes your time and irritates the pig.)  The point is not to keep trying to make people who are difficult happy — it is about finding clients that appreciate you and your work.

No matter how many resources you have, there is always that point where it’s you and you alone who makes the choice of how to react and respond.  Thus the self-cleaning oven analogy.  How can you move more quickly from the frustration with others to the place where you really look at why this bothers you.  How can you be introspective in those moments?  That’s what the self-cleaning oven is all about.  Yes, it may burn and feel harsh sometimes, and in the end it is yourself you need to honor and care for.  You have dreams, values, and ideals that need to be honored and respected… and you are the one to do that for yourself.

And just in case you were wondering: you don’t actually have to declare this position to others.  You don’t have to tell them you are going to take care of yourself.  You just need to do it.  Primarily because taking care of you—being your own self-cleaning oven—is ALL about you, not them.

How about the next time something or someone gets under your skin, you take a moment to see what part of what you feel is about your sense of what’s fair, your values, your dreams — you — and then take some time to be a self-cleaning oven.  What would be the value of that for you?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore some specific ways to be a Self-Cleaning Oven give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

What If It’s Not Actually About You?

It’s a really interesting question to ponder, because MOST of the time, it really isn’t about us —even when it feels like it is!  We all process every thought and idea through our own filters.  What we notice about others always is a reflection of what we care about or are interested in — our personal opinions, our values.  It’s just how it is.

I know you have had the experience of, for example, getting a new car and all of a sudden you notice all the other cars of the same model on the road with you.  It almost feels like everyone ran out and got the same car because you did, doesn’t it?  Part of this feeling comes from that really valuable, hard-won human survival trait of Pattern Making — we make patterns  like crazy all the time.  It allows us to not clutter our brains by spending a bunch of time analyzing things.

We respond and react to the thing we are used to, focused on, care about.  And we find it bizarre when others don’t notice or care the same way we do!  For example, I do have several friends that not only don’t have pets, but actually don’t care about animals at all.  I can hardly grok that.  I’m likely, in any circumstance, to pay more attention to the critter than their human!

One of the exercises that is often suggested by counselors and coaches is to ask your friends what they think of you.  It’s often a very positive and illuminating thing to do.  After all, our friends like us!  And it’s also illuminating about the friends, because the things they notice about you reflect what they care about.  If they remark on your kindness and caring for others, it’s because that’s important to them.  If they notice your shoes it’s because they are into shoes.

Here’s an ‘on-point’ example:  Back in the 80’s I dated this really wonderful man, Bill.  Bill was a car guy, big time.  He had a gorgeous ‘Vette‘ that he babied and adored.  At some point we noticed this really interesting thing.  It was about the way we gave directions to folks about how to find some particular place.  He gave directions with reference points of Gas Stations and Car Dealerships.  I’m sure that those of you that know me will not be surprised to hear that my directions had to do with Grocery Stores and Restaurants.  We each noticed and ‘honored’ what was important to us, what we loved and valued.

The point is that when someone makes a comment about you, judges you, criticizes you, it is alway much less about you and more about them.  Something in their experience has been triggered.  Something they have strong opinions about… something about them!

And here’s how and why this is useful to know.  If, before any kind of challenging conversation or interaction, you can repeat to yourself, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not” you will be much more effective and calm in the exchange.  Afterall, it’s actually not about you!  It’s about their projection around you, or what you represent to them, or how they want you to be… but not actually about you.  And that is true even when they say it is about you!  

Huh?  How can that be?  I’m not saying you aren’t responsible for your actions. You are.  But how others respond to them is their stuff not yours.  This is good news/bad news.  It’s less about us than we think.  The real value here is that if you can hold the idea the this “isn’t about me” you can truly be more present, and effective in the conversation.

I believe that a really effective sweet spot is to be “100% committed and unattached, at the same time” because when we get “attached” we get muddled.  And a great way to not get attached is to remember: “It’s not about me!

Easier said than done, but well worth striving for and practicing, yes?  How might your interactions with others be different with you knowingit’s really not about me?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to play more with this idea give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

Money Strata

We all have beliefs about money that we cling to, and when those beliefs get challenged, our reality also gets challenged.  One of the fundamental, and in many ways “unspoken” beliefs about money has to do with the “socio-economic strata” that you and your family belong to.

There are places in the world where which level of society you belong to is crucial.  For example, England still has the House of Lords.  Other places practice less obvious but equally strident categorizing.  I noticed when I lived in the South that the first question I was asked by new acquaintances was what housing development I lived in.  The answer to this question told people what strata to put me in.

We like to think of ourselves as a “democratic” society, and in many ways we are.  But when it comes to neighborhoods—and money—we have many levels.

There is an exceptionally strong internal compass to stay in our lane, and certainly to not rock the boat!

What if the only thing that actually kept us in our class or strata was the belief that a given strata was somehow where we belonged?  Guess what?  That belief is the only thing that really does keep us there, and it’s incredibly powerful.  There are amazing statistics about people who win the lottery being back to the financial status they were in before winning within just a few years.  Mismanagement and lack of financial acumen can be part of that, but I think it’s much more about being pushed into a money “strata” you don’t understand and aren’t sure how to fit into.  These people somehow feel they don’t belong in the new place, so they find ways to sabotage themselves right back to where the came from, to where they think they “belong”.  I remember once being reluctant to buy a house in a particular neighborhood.  The voice inside my head said: “You’d have to get dressed and put on makeup to get the mail!”  Definitely a step above my comfort zone.

Mostly, when we step outside of the norm, what comes with that stepping is a disruption of the old systems.  Part of what holds many families together are common beliefs and practices around money.  Many Depression Era families are proud of their ability to “keep body and soul together”.   Being able to “get through the hard times” is a part of how they see and value their family.  If someone in the family goes off and suddenly “makes good”, what does that say about the ones left behind?  It might just say that they could have chosen differently too!  And wouldn’t that be awkward?  What if everyone had a choice?

In what ways does your “strata” keep you stuck, and what would you choose if you could?  Have you even thought about how your clan and class keep you from pursuing new ideas?  What if you could decide what you wanted, and go after it?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore the challenge of your Money Strata give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

Surviving SPAM – A Lot!

I’d really love for this to just be a bad Jeopardy category title — unfortunately it’s not!  It’s more a hard-won cautionary tale.

By now we ALL are up to our butts in daily SPAM, phishing, and other nasty email stuff.  I actually tracked it, and in February I received over 3000 emails that exemplify this.  Yes, my spam filter goodies caught many of them, and I am now I am also adept at using ‘ignore’ and ‘junk’, not just ‘delete.’

Today’s story is a more twisted tale about my receiving lots of unwanted email.  It’s about being inundated with ‘blog comments’ that aren’t comments.  They are sales pitches, weird things, and some were even in cyrillic!  This all started in January, and frankly it was driving me nuts!

I contacted my techno/puter genius and he came up with a solution to solve the problem.  It was all about having people ‘sign in’ to the blog before leaving a comment, thus avoiding the robotic messy spammers.  I would still maintain control on accepting their ‘membership’ in the blog, and approving their posts.  I thought all was good…little did I know!

I didn’t really notice that I hadn’t had any sign-ups or comments until someone emailed me directly with a comment and mentioned that they couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on the blog.  Our next step was to include some language that we thought would clarify the process.  After that I asked a couple of trusted friends to try it out.  They got mired and stuck in it.  Ouch!

Only then did I remember a very crucial thing — to not make it hard for fans or clients to engage with me!  I’ve had some past experience in having clients irritated with me, when technology beyond my control wasn’t ‘friendly’, and certainly didn’t want to repeat that in any way!

It was about this time that I remembered that I had leapt in to the ‘apparent’ issue without really getting to the core problem first.  We all do that, we are trained to do that.  I remember when I was first exposed to working in a company, that the ‘rule’ was to not bring a problem to your manager without also having a solution for it.  Old habits die hard, and even though I now know better, the pressure of being uber spammed had me ‘regress under stress’, and my puter person had taken that stress at face value.  Oops!

As I got back to the core issue, which was making it easy for real people to leave a comment, the clouds started to part.

There was a fundamental flaw in my initial interpretation of the flood of spamsters fussing on my blog.  I thought it was because of the huge increase in this stuff I was experiencing everywhere.  I was wrong.  Turns out that a handy app/plugin named Akismet was the culprit. I knew I had this and assumed it was something that was free for everybody…after all, I’ve had the website for a while now.  And on WordPress it said that the software was ‘up to date’.  What I finally discovered, with the brilliant insight of my tech person, was that the software was up to date, but the license wasn’t!  Really!  Yipes!  God forbid that should be made clear to those of us that don’t speak fluent programmer-gab!

Makes sense though, everything went whacking in January.  It probably was when the previous license expired or a free trial ended.  And then all hell broke loose.  And near as I can tell no one ever notified me that I had it on a trial, or that the trial period or license had expired.

So now things are all good.  You don’t have to ‘join’ anything to leave a message.  No passwords for commenters.  No confusion for my readers.  I have paid for a year of magic Akismet.  It is catching and marking as SPAM about 20 ‘comments’ a day from the bad guys…yippee!

It cost some money, took way too much time, disrupted some clients, and probably caused some general consternation that I don’t even know about for some people.

Sometimes, I must admit, I do wonder if all this ‘progress’ is really worth it?  And in hindsight, I do appreciate the reminder — or perhaps we should call it “swift kick in the arse”— to dig deeper around what the issue really is before I leap into a solution!

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to kvetch about SPAM give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

The Big Secret About Getting Fired

Throughout my life there have been many times when I feel like Cassandra.  She was a Greek prophetess cursed by Apollo so that her prophecies, though true, were fated never to be believed.  For me it has often been about stating what I felt was obvious and having others look at me like I’d just landed from some other planet.

One of those areas in which I notice I have a really different perspective is ‘why people get fired.’  It looks like they got fired because they made mistakes, embezzled from the company, or didn’t do the job effectively.  My experience in corporate land says that’s not so.

Before I detail this out let me say that I’ve only been fired once, from my very first job.  I have, however, fired people, seen others being fired, and heard a myriad of stories from friends and clients about being fired.  I know this really isn’t about Money, and yet I keep running into this with clients.  My point is to expose that this does happen, and warn you so you don’t get caught in it yourself.

You may have a very different opinion, and here’s what I notice: What gets you fired is not really about the work you do, or don’t do.  It’s how you fit in the culture of the company.  It about whether or not the people in power like you—and by the way, those people may not be in the top slots on the org chart!  It’s a system thing.  Are you a fit?  Or do you stand out?

In many ways, a Company—just like a Country—has a personality.  In order to fit in and be successful you need to align with that personality.  If you don’t, you won’t last.

Oh,  they will find a more plausible reason to let you go than that you don’t fit.  But nevertheless, it will really be that you just don’t fit.

In my experience if you get hired and really aren’t competent at the job you will be let go within a short time—six months or less.  If you’ve been there awhile and somehow now they don’t like you, and you are sensing impending doom, know that it’s about  that you don’t fit in the current culture, or perhaps in where the culture is going.

The irony is that NO ONE actually talks about this.  Thus my Cassandra thing!  I worked in various Corporate lands from 1970 to 2000 and found this to be present everywhere.  As a manager I admit that I would find other issues/mistakes to come up with a viable reason for firing the person.  They were all true and valid.  However the real reason was that they just didn’t fit.

If someone fit in the culture those mistakes would be forgiven or overlooked.  If you don’t fit you aren’t forgiven.  Certainly in some ways this is awful, it’s like cliques in High School.  And it’s what is happening.

So my suggestion is to look for kindred spirits and places you ‘fit’ as a person, as much as you look for a job that suits your skills.  It’s no fun to stay where we don’t fit, and it’s more than likely not worth the money however much it is.

And if you are in a place that you did fit, and somehow the culture has changed, dig deeper and see if your being suddenly always in trouble, or let go has to do with that… there may be some financial compensation for you if the game has changed.  For example if you recently got a raise or a promotion, and then get transferred to another boss who fires you, there is something else going on—something for which you may be able to get some compensation.

Bottom line — fitting in is often way more important than being competent.  Just sayin’

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to chat about Cassandra things of your own, or how to navigate these ‘not performance based’ problems give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.