S2 E67 — Here’s What I Didn’t Know That Will Help You

My distinguished career began with jobs I hated. I didn’t know why.  It ended with me advising executives and executive MBA students not to make the same mistakes I had made over the years, when I knew why.

This is a continuation of my story

“5”  Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980): “Do you actually know your strengths? They are so inherent that it takes another person to point them out for you to even begin to realize what they are.” Aries

Hi and welcome to Saturday’s Episode 67 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 20th day of June in the summer of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E66The Romance of a Good Humor Man in Detroit; S2 E65Pandemic Uncovered 11 Life-Changing Secrets You Shouldn’t Ignore; S2 E64Let the Beers and Weekend Partying Begin

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E67Don’t Misunderstand Me; S1 E66Do Your Proposals Lead to Contracts?;S1 E65Focus Your Mental Energy; S1 E64 — Father and Son Rituals out of Storage


My distinguished career began with jobs I hated. I didn’t know why.  It ended with me advising executives and executive MBA students not to make the same mistakes I had made over the years, when I knew why.

In my research and first hand experience I distinguished between working for yourself independently (which could free yourself up to live anywhere your heart desired), or to follow the more traditional path and work for someone else instead. 

Which translated into focusing on geographical regions where the jobs were and the employers were located. In 90% of the cases, my executive MBA students chose the latter.

Privatized Services B2B Business Model

Next up,  three more professional services businesses, but with a B2B business model for which insurance carriers paid private companies to offer vocational rehabilitation services to workers injured on the job and who were probably unlikely to return to their occupation.  

Originally most cases I saw were for back injuries and thus required work modifications or a transition into a different job classification.  

I provided testing, counseling and monitoring as an independent contractor — being my own boss — until I added a marketing skill set (carefully differentiated from sales) for the third private company.

I became their employee in a business offering outplacement (coaching managers and professionals through their layoffs into their next job) retail career services to people out of work, but not paid by their former company (and who likely wouldn’t pay $3,000 to $5,000 out of their pocked because they had put off looking for a job until it was too late and had to eat and have money left over to buy gas) and our vocational services paid by the insurance carrier — or as in most of my clients paid by “self-insurers” like the City of San Diego and its counterpart, the County of San Diego.

For this last job I commuted 1 hour and 30 minutes from Orange County to Hotel Circle on the 8 freeway in San Diego.  

I drove along the coast starting just north of San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and San Clemente — the South Coast region of Orange County Beach Towns — through the long stretch of Camp Pendleton into North San Diego County past towns like Oceanside, Carlsbad, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, Leucadia and Encinitas, Del Mar and down into San Diego County’s Torrey Pines, La Jolla, and finally past Pacific Beach and Mission Beach where I tried to land my first position in my psychology profession, but to no avail.

Online Membership Start Up

Light bulb.  

I had uncovered job search related data and reports. 

Somebody wrote a book I found at a library promising how you could repurpose information into reports and sell them — making money while you slept. 

I already rented a PO box in Laguna Beach.  

I liked money.  

And, sleeping. 

And, Laguna Beach.  

So I ran ads for my InFox business.  I began and ended my commute in Laguna so I mailed reports and received requests efficiently.  

Alas, the cash flow trickled and dried up.  InFox turned out to be one more attempt at becoming rich and famous as an information entrepreneur. 

But, I couldn’t afford to pay for the electricity to keep the light bulb next to my bed lit.  

A couple of years earlier when I sketched out my “Where do you go from here” dreams, I thought writing poems and taking black and white photos could turn me into a greeting card mogul until that light bulb dimmed.

Modifying Group Job Search Behavior

But on Hotel Circle Drive, applying behavior modification principles I learned in graduate school and at the Behavior Modification Institute to clients in job search groups made me realize that I enjoyed facilitating teams and dispensing advice. 

The County of San Diego sent us a steady stream of stress cases — cops, sheriffs and firemen.  I enjoyed interacting with them figuring out their next career move. 

But I needed to move on.  

Where else closer to home, in what other job that included groups, could I find a better fit? 

And, more importantly how could I rebrand myself to qualify for a career change?


Rebranding Seeds

In Orange County the Association Training and Development is where corporate trainers and consultants affiliated. Burned out school teachers in their late 20s credentialed in classroom education transitioned into the profession in droves.  Why couldn’t I?  But, I worked in San Diego and commuted 3 hours daily.  So, for the association I volunteered to create a position referral service . 

I fielded new openings and published them in their newsletter. 

Which gave me advanced warning through the service I built of openings at premier Orange County employers when recruiters called me with their descriptions. 

No decision maker has the time or patience to interview everyone who believes they are the perfect candidate.  So human resources manages a funnel with a wide front end designed to screen candidates out and narrow the flow of probable candidates to the top two or three to present to the decision maker.

But, training and development was a function in human resources.  They happily disclosed information to me not available to the general public.  And with a little sleuthing on my part offered a way in outside of normal channels. 

“5”  Steve Smith, 30: “You don’t get your shot when you’re good enough or when you deserve it.  You get your shot when it comes up.” Gemini

So, during my nearly year long career transition as weeks turned into months my faith had been tested.  Was this plan I doggishly followed as sound as when I confidently kicked it off?  

I really didn’t control the outcome.  

It felt like the rip tide had taken me out to sea from Newport Beach and took all my energy to swim against it to shore hundreds of yards away from where my beach towel and umbrella sat.  

And then swoosh a wave pushed me with so much speed and power back into shore that I totally wasn’t ready or prepared.  But I’m grateful for it.  I got my shot in my first job of my new career.

Internal Consultant 40,000 Employees

For five years I “faked it until I made it” as an internal consultant in the management development and training. 

Other than my college and university experience, this was my first taste of working in a large organization — 40,000 employees at its peak with 6,000 in the corporate office.  

Here’s what I didn’t know.

The executive team misread the length of an industry-wide recession which plunged the mature engineering and construction into a prolonged decline. 

“5”  Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61; Stephen King, 72: “If you think too far into the situation, you’re likely to get lost in details and complications, making it impossible to take a stance.” Virgo

Right after I accepted my first job in my new career — the one I talked my way into with transferrable skills and had to fake until I made it — I felt my new career slip away.

A crisis threw me and all my colleagues in our internal consulting unit into high alert.  

With a partner I just barely met, we worked out a comprehensive system for laying off engineers and project administrators. 

But, we couldn’t sell it to the executives with the purse strings.  Until, we surfaced their resistance and dumbed down our pitch to what would happen in the first thirty days.  

That bite sized chunk turned out to be much easier for them to swallow.  And, working everything out comprehensively gave us the advantage of anticipating almost all of the failure points to avoid.

Which woke me up to life in the fast lane as I processed hundreds through our internally run outplacement programs. 

But, that my career wasn’t in jeopardy.  I helped improve quality, introduce new technology, teach and facilitate sales teams (I know, right) and at the corporate headquarters send high potential managers in the developmental pipeline to university executive programs for rounding out.

Immune System Reactions to Dramatic Change

I learned large-scale organizations resist change like an immune system does.  

It takes skill and talent to package new ideas — newer ways of doing things better — than the tried and true, especially during a decline when hundreds of employees receive their pink slips on alternative Fridays like clock work.

What else?  Oh, you need a plan A for thriving in the good times and a plan B for surviving in the dark times.  

Plan A is what I followed when I was recruited by an organizational development and strategy consultant for one of his clients and who was familiar with articles I published in the association’s newsletter.

Climate for Innovation

I met with his client, the general manager, of one of the California divisions that prided itself on being the tail that wagged the dog headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.  

Was it just dumb luck that every time the three piece suit wearing CEO with red tie and black glossy shoes visited the division it was casual day? 

Actually, everyday was casual day so I take that question back.  

My Plan A dreamed I’d be working for a high-tech company with very bright engineers that worked on bringing products to market in record time.  

A fast-paced, innovative culture that attracted the best of the best. Our motto was simply, “It’s better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.” 

Our GM told everyone that each time the CEO walked the halls he didn’t understand what we were doing, but as long as we hit our numbers he wasn’t going to interfere. 

And, then all hell broke loose when an impending merger of equal sized players became delayed due to alleged bribery for government contracts at the other company and the ensuing uncertainty about who would be doing what and what our new identity would be. 

I participated as an organizational development director with the new corporate task force which tackled the rebranding and communications campaign.

Now I learned about how  competitive rivals with two different immune systems develop equal and opposite anti-bodies over five years, but especially in the first 18 months of selling something that even we didn’t understand.

The most fun I had was during that 5-year run applying what I had just learned in a new setting.  I had been recruited to orchestrate a “cultural change” by doing all right things, in some case just the opposite of efforts in my previous job.  

One of my co-conspirators called what we had going, “A license to steal, but in a good way.”  As long as we helped move the needle towards a “Climate for Innovation” we were appreciated.  But, when our senior executive sponsor couldn’t resist the temptations headhunters persistently dangled in front of him, it was over abruptly.  

What took five years to institutionalize fell apart in 6 months.


“5”  Steve Zahn, 51: “A scattered mind can get focused right quick with the broom of intention to focus it. Write down your top aim, and then give yourself a timeframe in which to accomplish it.” Scorpio

So necessary today as I struggle with the next two volumes I write to complete “The Knowledge Path: Live. Love. Work. Play. Invest. Leave a Legacy.” However, today a broom is quite literal for prepping our backyard patio to host our pandemic “Fathers Day” tomorrow. 

Random ones that make me want change my sign.

“5”  Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980): “Do you actually know your strengths? They are so inherent that it takes another person to point them out for you to even begin to realize what they are.” Aries 

How can you pursue the best fit for you in your career trajectory if you don’t know what your strengths are, what you love doing and what is in demand?  And, that my friends what my original research is all about in my work in progress, “Volume Two Manuscript”.

“5”  Steve Smith, 30: Capture your heart’s memories. If you don’t, who will? The way you see it may not match how others do, but it is nonetheless a vital part of the story.” Gemini

Likewise, this describes my other passion project’s work in progress, “Volume Three Manuscript.”

“5”  Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61; Stephen King, 72:Every generation evolves. You’ll notice today how you do things differently from the way your parents did, and their parents… and you’ll get a sense of what is working and what’s not.” Virgo

And, this captures what the first volume was all about, “The Knowledge Path: Live. Love. Work. Play. Invest. Leave a Legacy.”  The second volume addresses work. The third volume teases out what it means to consider the wisdom you’ve accumulated in the form of a legacy.

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 3808 to 3911.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


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