Over the span of my career, I took great joy in preparing drafts of memos, briefing notes and all kinds of correspondence for my management team. Naturally, I learned a lot along the way and I was more than happy to pass on to the advice to the newest generation when it was my turn to coach them.
In the early days, one comment that came back a few times was the editing note, “in full first”.
By saying that, my director was suggesting that I should write out an acronym in full the first time it appeared in the document and then to include its acronym version in parentheses. Once that is clarified to the reader, the writer can then feel free to use the acronym in its shortened form throughout the rest of the document.
What sage advice that was! To this day, I really appreciate the time, effort and patience that this busy executive took in tutoring me on the importance of spelling out an acronym.
She explained that an acronym that might be commonly used by my peers and myself might not be evident to someone on another team, someone who isn’t involved in the technical aspects of the work, or someone outside of our organization. Continue reading
A few years back, I wrote a blog post called “My Writer’s Uniform” in which I speculated on what I might be wearing in retirement when I would be free from office dress codes and pursuing my life’s purpose in writing. Of course, the pandemic was nowhere on our radar at that time.
In 2020, when we started working from home due to the pandemic, the line between home life and work life quickly blurred. That being the case, I made a point of putting on jeans during working hours. When I was off the clock, I could relax and cozy up in my comfortable sweat pants and sweat shirts. In my mind, this helped with the boundary setting between work and home.
In 2021 when I retired, it came as no surprise that the sweats became the default outfit. After 33 years of getting dressed for work, I appreciated the break from the pressure of putting on the office “armour.” However, when I was making public appearances like in-person appointments or running errands, I was more than happy to build a comfortable outfit around my favourite jeans.
But it was early in 2022, when I knew it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and answer life’s calling in writing that the wardrobe question came up again. With this next phase in life just beginning, I could not imagine spending the next 30, 40 or 50 years in sweat pants. There had to be a happy medium.
As I was waking up one morning, I looked over at the sweat pant and sweat shirt ensemble I had hung on the door handle in preparation for that day. I asked myself, “Does this outfit really make me feel more creative?” Continue reading
It is rather funny the habits we pick up along life’s journey, especially the ones that become less relevant at a different stage in life.
For me, it is the need to explain… to justify… to contextualize… to rationalize.
It is an impulse with very deep roots that I find somewhat challenging to reprogram.
Over the span of my 33 year career, many of our day-to-day transactions needed to be supported by a business case and more often than not, a justification. Frankly, I didn’t mind too much, as justifications seemed, for lack of a better word, “justified” in the business world.
That being the case, in learning to write for the public sector, the development of well crafted, logical justifications was a recurring task. It was the way to bring an issue to senior management and to seek approval to proceed with a proposed solution. And, might I say, what a great learning opportunity for an aspiring writer!
When I received confirmation that a business case or a justification I wrote (or co-wrote) was approved, it always took me back to childhood. It felt just like it did when I received a gold star on my report card.
To see an idea come to fruition was always so gratifying. Continue reading
Filed under 50+, Humour, stories
When I was recently out running socially distanced, masked, heavily hand sanitized errands, I was delighted when a store clerk asked, “Well aren’t we dressed up for shopping. Special occasion?”
I wasn’t fishing for a compliment, but thanks to Covid-19 and so many months of only going out for essential errands, I hadn’t received a compliment on an outfit in ages. What a thrill!
But in a senior’s moment, I had to take a look down to remind myself of what I was wearing. Everything was as I remembered it: a plain black t-shirt, plain black jeans, a jean jacket and a favourite pair of Chelsea boots.
I admit that I did give it about 15 seconds of thought when I chose the pieces, but it wasn’t so much in an effort to make a fashion statement as it was more of a strategic move to prevent the accidental mixing of a dark navy blue t-shirt with black jeans. One never knows when the fashion police might be lurking.
I replied jokingly (but deep down, quite seriously), “After being in lockdown for so long, it’s just such a thrill to be wearing clothes again instead of sweats. Going out for any reason is a special occasion!” Continue reading
Filed under 50+, Misc blogs
Back in my school days, I was a huge fan of marketing classes and thought that one day I might want to work in advertising. Life took a different spin and I didn’t end up working in that field, but I still had the opportunity to put some marketing know-how to good use in the field that chose me.
Just the same, as much as I bow to the wisdom of the marketing masters, I really don’t understand when or why everything suddenly became an “experience”.
Picking up something at the store has become a retail experience. Getting a bite to eat has become a dining experience. Music is now a listening experience and movies are now a viewing experience.
Did everything have to become an experience?
I was amused when I recently visited an establishment and noticed a poster prompting readers to tell management about their experience. The odd thing is that it was posted in the men’s washroom.
What would I have written back? Do they really want a description of my bathroom experience? (Careful what you wish for! Creative types with a sneaky sense of humour might actually take you up on the offer.)
“My approach to the urinal was a pleasant one as the aroma of disinfectant pucks filled my sinuses with a gentle, welcoming blend of lavender and chlorine.
The automatic flushing mechanism was very effective in bathing the urinal in a fresh cascade of water, reminiscent of a serene waterfall, a perfectly choreographed three seconds after I stepped away. I couldn’t have cued it better if I had flushed it myself. Continue reading
When I attended university 35 years ago, majoring in business administration, the book “In Search of Excellence” written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. was often referenced as a case study in best practices.
As a student in the 1980s, the book resonated with me. I was particularly in awe of the innovative concept of seeking input from clients and front line employees for simple yet effective ideas for enhancing the quality of products and services. The concept’s success was further demonstrated in the documentary movie that was making the rounds at that time.
“In Search of Excellence” was probably the book that inspired me most to pursue a career in business. Even as a young man, I was moved when a business (a store, a restaurant or a service) valued quality and worked a little harder to achieve it. This was (and still is) an important value for me and it appealed to me to think that a business career could revolve around the theme of quality.
But when the business world constantly hungers for a competitive edge, management principles are ever-evolving and replaced by new theories and best practices. And as a consumer, I am saddened that quality has been caught in the crossfire.
Some products don’t seem to last as long as they used to, despite the call to be more mindful of our use of landfills. Some stores are ghost towns, where it is impossible to find assistance when I need to ask questions or to get a product from a high shelf. And when I am able to find assistance, on some occasions I am given wrong directions or wrong answers.
I have also noticed some products I buy often getting cheapened by cutting corners on workmanship or incorporating cheaper materials. It is very disappointing. Continue reading
Filed under 50+, Inspiring
In late September, I had the good fortune of attending the Jann Arden concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Not only is Jann’s concert an evening of superlative music, but between songs, Jann charms the audience with her hysterically funny stories. I hope she never puts her musical career on hold, but if she ever does, she could easily have a brilliant future as a stand up comedienne!
In one of her stories, she tells of how the Columbia House Record Club was responsible for exposing her to such a diverse range of music in her formative years as a musical artist, an opportunity she might not have otherwise found growing up in rural Springbank, Alberta.
As she told the story, I could not help but draw a parallel to my own musical education which I owe almost entirely to MuchMusic (and its French-speaking sister station, MusiquePlus), back when they were “The Nation’s Music Station”, airing music videos “24 hours a day, in stereo”.
Today’s reality of YouTube, Vevo, iTunes and video on demand is a dream come true, allowing Continue reading