Living in California felt like I lived in Camelot.  It rained at night, but was sunny during the day.  Here’s an excerpt from the song:

I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot,
That’s how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

I had never lived anywhere with such gorgeously consistent weather.  I had heard a lot about the smog, but most of the time, I didn’t notice it.

The flip side of the coin was that I didn’t have a job, and I needed to find one.  I had never had much trouble with that before, but welcome to the real world of the unemployed.  As a side note, I have loads of compassion for all of the people who have become unemployed because of our current economy.

Because I lived with my brother, who didn’t charge me anything, I was able to survive for a few months on meager unemployment wages.  But I wanted to work; I needed to work.  I survive on being productive.

Out of pure frustration, I signed up for a career counseling school.  I thought it was a sophisticated employment agency, but it turned out to be a school for how to find a job.  I had to do homework, learning about myself, for 3 months, before writing my resume.  One of the first assignments was to write an autobiography with nothing negative in it.

That was difficult for me, because I saw most of my life through a cloudy, resentful lens.  To complete the assignment, I finally wrote what was true for me – and it wasn’t positive.  The counselor said that I had failed, and proceeded to walk me through some of the painful events of my life.

An example:  He asked, “Didn’t you learn anything good from that.”  I would reply, “No.  I learned that my parents didn’t love me.”  He persisted, “Are you sure that you learned nothing from having to pay for your own college education?”  I thought for a minute and said, “Well, I guess I learned to budget and depend on myself.”  He asked, “And how do you feel about that now?”  I said, “I’m glad I learned about money, and that I was able to graduate and pay for it myself.”

A huge turning point in my life.

From that one example, I was able to rewrite the autobiography – only writing about the valuable lessons I had learned from each experience.

I no longer felt a need to blame my parents; I no longer wanted to talk about my past.   My attitude and self esteem soared.

Soon thereafter, I responded to a newspaper ad, and was hired by Black and Decker.  I started out as a sales analyst, but worked my way up to office manager for the southern California regional office.   My salary was much lower than my last job in Texas, but I was happy to be working.  I saw it as a temporary, in-between, job, but I stayed there for 3 years.  I learned a lot in that job.  My self-taught computer skills continued to improve.

I arranged all travel arrangements for the national sales meeting, and saved the company more than $30,000 in airline expense.  I have a passion for saving money on travel.

I enjoyed traveling to headquarters outside of Baltimore, Maryland, 2 or 3 times a year.  (I fell in love with blue crabs!)  I also visited each District Office, once or twice each year.  My favorite one to visit was in Seattle.  I had become friends with the one woman in that office, and she and I drove to Vancouver and Victoria, Canada, and Whidbey Island, Washington, where she lived.

Glaciers and aqua water, Whistler, Canada

We also had an annual district sales meeting in Whistler, Canada, which is one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever seen.  I had saved so much money on planning the meeting that we had significant dollars leftover for entertainment.  We went flightseeing, in a small seaplane, over the breathtaking glaciers.  We went whitewater rafting, for my first and only time, on a Class 6 river.  I had purchaed a disposable, waterproof camera, so that I could take pictures on that trip.  All of the scenery was fantastic.  I also was able to realize a dream of experiencing a hot air balloon ride.  I’m glad that I did it, but discovered that I prefer viewing most things on the ground, rather than from above.

My boss, Bob, was always given a certain budget for each annual sales meeting.  He gave me the challenge of planning one meeting in Newport Beach.  It was really fun to tour several luxurious resorts and negotiate the best deal.  Bob wanted to rent a large yacht to tour Newport Harbor, and have a catered brunch.  But he told me that no expense like that could show up on any invoice sent to headquarters.  One of the properties had a solution.  They would give us enough complimentary rooms to pay for the yacht adventure.  The hotel paid for the boat and billed us for all of the rooms.  Bob was thrilled and impressed, but I’m not sure how successful he was in preventing everyone from bragging to other offices about that amazing day…

One of my other favorite memories from that meeting was that I shot photos throughout the multi-day meeting.   I then presented a slide show, set to the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” at the end of the event.  No one had ever done that before, and it was received well.  (It would have been so much easier with today’s digital technology.)

At the last national sales meeting I attended, Black and Decker brought in a motivational speaker to teach us about setting goals and getting what we want out of life.  They used the Franklin Covey system as their model.  During that session, filling out the worksheets, I realized that my goals were not being realized in that job.

The CEO gave a speech on his simple formula for success:

  1. Envision what you want.
  2. Create a plan to get that vision.
  3. Execute the plan.
  4. Get what you want.

After that meeting, I sat down with my boss, and discussed my goals.  He, frankly, told me that, unless I wanted to go to headquarters, those goals could not be met at Black and Decker’s regional office.  He was sorry to lose me, but he had always felt that I was over-qualified, so wasn’t surprised.

My brother told me about a couple of guys, who owned a hazardous waste management company, and needed computer help.  I went and talked to them, and they agreed to hire me as a consultant, to help them (while I looked for a permanent job.)  After about a month, they asked me if I would come to work for them full-time.  I, armed with my new goals, told them that I didn’t come cheap.  They made me a pretty nice offer, but I refused it, explaining that I needed to make a certain amount of money to be able to accomplish my financial goals.

When they heard that, they not only offered me the exact salary amount that I requested, but offered me a 20% bonus, if the company achieved certain profit goals.  I was thrilled.

Things started out rather rocky, because I had to completely revamp their systems and procedures.   At that point, I was not a true computer programmer, so I hired one to write a custom program for us.  Once we had that up and running, it was smoother sailing.   As office manager, I managed everything in the office, from supervising the office staff to handling all administrative office duties (or rather using the computer to handle most of them.)

The 2 partners were then able to do nothing but sell, which resulted in their revenues increasing from $1 million dollars to $4 million dollars in one year.  Pretty impressive, huh?  I was proud of my part in making that happen, but I didn’t feel good about it.   My brother hadn’t known these 2 men very well, and their ethics didn’t match up with mine.  The lesson learned was that it was good to have goals, and accomplish great success, but at what price to my self respect?

To be continued –

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