Thursday, February 24, 2011


The older I get, the more easily frustrated I seem to get. I think it’s because I don't want to waste time and do want some control over how I spend it. I'm glad that I'm finding ways to not let things get to me.

--When I need information from a client, colleague or friend before I can move forward on something with an impending deadline. I don’t want to nag, but do want what I need with sufficient leeway so I’m not scrambling at the last minute. I truly appreciate those who do what they say they will, when they say they’ll do it. Those who respect other people’s time by being on time. Those who follow through.

--Recently I’ve put a couple of irons in the fire that seemed like good ideas, but didn’t pay off or took longer than I’d anticipated. Of course not everything works out the way we’d like; I'm not dwelling on small setbacks, am learning what I can and moving on to the next iron.

--Tackling unpleasant tasks, like taxes. When you’re a Gainfully Unemployed, you can work for numerous places in the course of a year. So instead of having one 1099, I have a bunch. Even though I have an accountant, there’s a lot of prep work and tedious math.

--Poor customer service. Those automated voice people are so annoying!!! I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Please try again. And when you finally reach a human, you often have to repeat details you’ve provided. You're lucky if you can get one who can actually resolve your issue. restaurants. If a place I want to go that I know is crowded won’t take reservations, I’ll go somewhere else. Some people don’t mind hanging out at the bar (or at some Chicago hotspots, practically standing on top of those already eating) waiting for a table, but I’d prefer to eat at a less popular time.

How do you deal with frustration? Here’s to focusing on good experiences and taking the frustrating ones in stride.

Life of Excellence

Associated Content


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hard drives, graphics & ports, oh my!

Deciding what kind of new computer to buy can be overwhelming. I know I want speed, ease of use and reliability. But there are so many kinds, so many options, so many ways to customize that even after making myself dizzy reading reviews and taking questionnaires about how I use a computer, I still don’t know what to buy.

Mac vs. PC? We’ve all seen the commercials slamming PCs and touting Macs. Many friends also rave about Macs, but I’ve been using one a couple of days a week and still don’t get what all the hoopla is about. And the way the programs zoom larger and smaller when you mouse over them makes me a little seasick.  One benefit is supposed to be fewer viruses, but I (knock wood) haven’t had any trouble with any of my PCs.

Desktop (all-in-one or tower), laptop or netbook? Laptops of any size just aren’t ergonomic enough IMO as a primary computer because the keyboard is too close to the monitor. They’re great for taking notes during interviews, working at a friend’s place or in a coffee shop.  But it’s hard to maintain good posture or proper arm and wrist position all day every day on a laptop.  Plus a bigger monitor is useful when working on more than one document at a time and when doing audio projects. The all-in-ones look cool, take up less space and have fewer cords. A touchscreen would be fun…
Memory and hard drives-how much is enough? GB, RAM, cores, speed, storage…enough acronyms and definitions to boggle the mind. Intel, AMD...sigh.

Brand: I’ve been a Dell fan. But bopping around review sites encourages me to at least consider HP, Asus, Sony and/or Lenovo.

Peripherals: The base price of many PCs seems quite reasonable. But then you start adding in all the other stuff you want…a larger monitor (I know I want one that's bigger than 19", which I currently have, but how big? Do I really need a TV tuner, too?), Microsoft Office. How important are better speakers? How will I know until I play music on the new PC? Is buying these items with my PC easier on the wallet? Maybe I should spend more time researching a la carte prices.  I should also check for any discounts, such as AAA.

Where to buy? Online at the manufacturer's site, Amazon or somewhere like  Some sites offer buying assistance via live chat.  Would an in-store purchase be easier?

Back to the drawing board...any suggestions?

eHow: How to Buy a Computer What Computer Should I Buy?

wikiHow: How to Buy a New Computer

Thursday, February 10, 2011


No, that’s not a typo. I don’t mean fReelancing, which I’ve decided can imply that one is either willing or expected to work for free. I mean feelancing; independent contractors deserve fair pay for their skills and products. The need for the Gainfully Unemployed to set competitive rates to secure work can lead us to go too low, fearing we’ll lose the job, or too high, perhaps because we’re overconfident or not up to speed on the going rates in our industries.

We might get asked to do a project for free, or at a pennies per hour rate, as a trial. Or because of anticipated volume of work, we’re expected to agree to a far lower rate than usual. Offering discounts to a good client is one thing. Undervaluing your time/skill is quite another.

Sometimes we take a project that seems fairly priced, but, like those 1 credit college courses that required more work than a 3 credit course, take more time/effort/frustration than expected, so our rate per hour is less than anticipated. Hopefully there’s still something to learn and some benefit received from those experiences.

For on camera and VO talent, usage is another payment issue. You may get a fair or even great hourly rate for the shoot, but instead of a reasonable buyout period (such as 1 year, trade use only), the client wants use in perpetuity…either in a specific medium like the Internet or even all media known or unknown.

The client benefits from unlimited access to your images without paying you a reasonable sum for that privilege. You, on the other hand, may be prevented from booking any other gigs in that product category…because you have a competing ad out there. Let’s say you do an unlimited usage print job for XYZ coffee. The next time you audition for a coffee-- or maybe even a beverage-- print or on camera job that could very likely pay more than the job you did and include a buyout, you’ll very likely have to list your conflicts. So I’ve turned down a couple of auditions because I’m just not comfortable closing myself off to future work. My goal is to build a career, not close myself off from opportunities.

Other times we may call ourselves feelancers, but aren’t bringing in any clients, jobs or revenue. Or we’re not getting paid what we’re worth. How long are you willing to pursue a business where your hourly rate averages out to minimum wage or less? Or when what you think is diligent pursuit of clients yields some interest in the form of meetings or discussions, but no new business?

Feelancing/owning your own business is about bringing in reasonable fees.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Doing the Right Thing

This week Chicago was socked with its 3rd biggest snowstorm...20.2".  Schools and many offices closed, the airports basically shut down, Brookfield Zoo closed for the 2nd time in 77 years, a rehearsal and audition I had were canceled, hundreds of commuters were stranded on Lake Shore Drive, huge snow drifts and 40+ mph wind gusts kept many from shoveling out their cars, the city advised residents not to drive, etc. 

But my current place of business remained open.  Would venturing out in the Blizzard of 2011 be foolhardy, or be honoring my commitment, being reliable?  Would I feel intrepid if I went or like a wimp if I didn't?  Was staying home or going in the right thing to do?

I solicited advice.  I watched the morning news and assessed the situation.  CTA buses were running.  I was going in.

Garbed in study boots, snowpants and my most weather-proof down coat, I ventured forth.  The journey didn't begin auspiciously: drifts blocked the door.  Up the stairs and down another set I went.  Success.  The route to the bus required traversing a side street piled so high with snow it looked like something out of a movie.  Some cars were buried so deep you could only see the tops.  I had to slog through thigh-high drifts, which was a bit frightening.  I considered turning back to cozy safety, but pressed on.  And only saw two other people with their dog.  Finally I made it to the bus stop.  Only a few other hardy souls were out and about, walking in the street because the sidewalks were too snowy.  Only a few cars passed.  Just one taxi, with a passenger.  How many who stayed home were supposed to go to work, but either didn't or absolutely couldn't?     

I ducked into an building alcove to await the bus.  It arrived, fortunately half-empty.  The main street had clearly been plowed, though more snow was accumulating.  Because hardly anyone was going to work, I reached my destination quickly.  Shortly after I got there, the weather took a downturn...heavy snow, strong gusts. 

But I'd made it in, and on time.  The people I work for were very happy. 

Hindsight shows I did do the right thing.  Of course, at the time decision-making is required, we just have to weigh our options and go with our gut feelings.