Your Life in a Circle

Most people would agree that a career transition is a daunting endeavor.

Yet one of the most challenging aspects of a career transition or a job search is something that most people don’t consider and plan for before I meet with them.

What am I referring to?

Carving out enough time in your life to devote to the process.

I have many clients who come to see me with a great deal of excitement about making a significant career change. They usually have been thinking about it for a while, and have finally made a commitment to themselves to make it happen.

A very important step.

Yet most clients have not yet given any thought to another very important element of the process. Finding and carving out enough time every week to actually devote to the process. (note: this is really crucial no matter what type of change in your life you are considering)

ImageUnfortunately, wanting a career transition doesn’t respond to magic wands. One needs to take many actions: Getting prepared with your career story, identifying potential paths, researching, talking and networking with people numerous times, re-assessing your potential paths, building new alliances, applying to various roles and practicing how you present yourself, etc. etc.

We can come to a decision about changing something about our lives and feel good about it – but nothing will actually change unless we take action. And those actions can’t exist in a vacuum.

Simply charting out your week in a pie-chart format can be very helpful.    Your Life in a Circle

Draw in all the pieces of pie that comprise your life every week.  Do you spend 60% of your time at your current job? 5% at church? 25% with family and friends? 10% at church or community activities?

That’s great – but where are you going to fit in the time to make a career transition (your pie already adds up to 100%+)?

You can’t expect that you will expand the universe and make each day have more than 24 hours. You can try but you will wind up just spinning your wheels and nothing will change. Which is even more frustrating.

That means something has got to go. You will need to make some decisions about what aspects of your daily life you are willing to forego in order to accomplish your goal.

What will you do differently?

  • Awaken an hour earlier each day to get in some morning time for networking
  • Use social media sites to strengthen your network
  • Use your lunchtimes to meet with networking contacts
  • Get to work 60 minutes earlier and use the extra time to research companies and associations online, etc.
  • Stay up an hour later each night to strategize and reach out to your online networks
  • Schedule Saturday mornings for career development activities

What is it?

What are you willing to change in your current daily activities to make room for the actions you must take to make a career transition?     Image

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The Twenty Minute Difference: A Case Study in Manager Flexibility

Managers – What are you thinking?

I have a great deal of respect for Managers. I know how tough it is to be one – I was there for many years.  Juggling the pressures of the job and managing people, who all have their own personalities, development desires, work habits, and expectations is one huge difficult task. As rewarding as it can often be, it is a big, big job.

Yet often times I cannot believe how foolish some managers can be, and how inept they are at building an environment of high productivity and trust.

But I have to say that I also am thinking, “Come on, people. Does this really make sense?”

A new client shared with me the primary reason she is looking for another job.

Before I tell you why, let me offer a bit of context.

My client, let’s call her Janice, has been working for EnergyAlive (fictitious name) for over eight years, and has been promoted three times into a Manager position. She is very well-liked, very smart, and has received consistently high performance ratings. (That’s why she was promoted).

So, what’s the problem?   

A new Director (Mason) recently came on board into the company. Within a few weeks, all of a sudden, everything changed. There is a problem.

Janice wants out – NOW.  She is seriously looking for another job.

Why is something that was going so right, all of a sudden going so wrong?

  Janice has a young son, John. John attends kindergarten nearby and goes to   after school care so that Janice can pick him up at 5:00pm every day after she leaves work.

Janice’s previous Director had given her the flexibility to leave 20 minutes early each day so that she could reach the daycare center on time to pick up her son. Janice usually took shorter lunches and was a hard worker so it all worked out.

Janice was grateful because it often took up to an hour, with traffic, to reach the daycare center. She greatly appreciated her Director’s faith in her to get the job done even though she had to leave a little early. She worked hard to show that appreciation.

Mason arrives as the new Director. He is gung-ho to “make his mark”.

Mason has a different idea of what the “rules” are.   

In plain English, Mason doesn’t believe in flexibility. He has laid down the law that Janice must stay at work until 4:30pm just as her hours dictate.

Janice now has a new worry every day – a big one. If she can’t make it to the daycare center by 5:00pm, she gets charged for an extra two hours because the daycare manager wants to close up at 5:00.

So what is happening?  Janice is stressed out every day. She rushes into her car and drives (perhaps a bit too fast) to get to the daycare center as quickly as possible – and rarely makes it on time. So along with the added stress, Janice also now has a much bigger daycare bill.

Janice now has a chip on her shoulder about the company (and Mason).  Are you surprised?

What used to be a very productive and positive relationship between Janice and EnergyAlive, has all of a sudden become a very tense and negative one.

I see this as Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

No, I take that back. I don’t even see this as Penny WiseIt is just plain foolish.

  • EnergyAlive has already lost an excellent employee. Janice will be gone soon. She has excellent skills and can bring those skills elsewhere.
  • Janice knows the company (and its customers) very well.  She used to have respect for EnergyAlive and its services, and really put in 110% effort to do a good job. Not anymore. Why should she care about them when they don’t care about her?
  • It will cost EnergyAlive several thousand dollars to hire and retrain and onboard a new manager to take Janice’s place. Usually this takes up to 8 months or more. There will be lost time and perhaps a big slip in customer service.
  • Janice’s co-workers know what’s going on and are also ticked off. They feel for Janice and can’t understand why Mason can’t be reasonable. It doesn’t bother them that Janice used to leave 20 minutes early. They like having her as their manager. She treats them with respect.
  • Mason is standing firm, because he doesn’t want to ‘lose face’. (He doesn’t realize he has already lost it)

Have you seen these types of situations arise? Have you been involved in one? It’s quite amazing how a change in the Director position has created such a negative impact on the employees and the company within a few short weeks.

Where is HR? Is anyone paying attention?  Who is coaching Mason that he may be establishing a reputation in the company that might eventually cause his derailment?  What’s fair? What’s reasonable?  What makes sense?

Twenty minutes of flexibility. Is this too much to ask?

Important things to think about.

As a manager and leader – how will YOU handle these issues?

A report by Sodexo (has approximately 125,000 employees in North America alone) in 2012 shows employers need to think beyond the business and outside the traditional office setting to create an engaged, productive workforce*.

*2012 Workplace Trends Report: Integration, Flexibility and Wellness Top Drivers of Employee Engagement *

“…Because recession or not, the U.S. still has a skilled worker shortage.  As the economy picks up and the boomers finally do retire, it is only going to get a whole lot worse.  Companies that get ahead and build real cultures of workplace flexibility are going to have the staffing advantage and the competitive edge.

“Flex is no longer an ’employee benefit’.  Those days are gone.  Today it is an all-around public policy issue and bottom-line corporate strategy.”

Sodexco’s research predicts continued focus on well-being and the ability to deliver a unique value proposition to business communities that focuses on not only integrated, effective and efficient use of space, but also the performance of human capital. Employees are looking to organizations for tools and resources to help them simplify their lives, stay healthy and balanced, and bring their “whole self” to work as these continue to be top drivers of engagement.”

Terry Del Percio is a Career Transition and Workplace Consultant based out of Beverly, MA. Follow her on Twitter at @WorkIntegrity or visit her website at www.workstrategies.com  

Fear: Our Biggest Obstacle

What would you do with your life if fear didn’t play a role?

“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear.   She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.    But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.   

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons.

The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”

— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Entering into a Career Transition?  We can help you jump the chasm and beat the fear.  WorkStrategies.com Terry Del Percio | 978.282.8900         

Does Anybody (Else) Care About My Career?

After reporting to eleven bosses in eleven years at the last organization I worked for as a communications director, I knew it was time for me to take control of my work life. The way I put it to myself was, “If anyone’s going to pilot my life, it’s going to be me.”

If you’re a boomer who’s facing your professional future with a frown, the tactics I used to resolve my situation, as well as the tips at the end of this post, can help you plan your own Great Escape.

The specific conditions that provoked my personal wake-up call and the exact career I embarked on might not be the same as yours. But if you know that what you’re doing with your life isn’t what you were meant to do, I hope that parts of the strategy I applied can offer you a path to your next career.

Coaching     

Long before I abandoned my job, I put myself into the hands of a coach. I can still picture myself hunched over a yellow lined pad, feverishly writing down my coach’s tenets of success. A lot of them had to do with modifying my mental attitude. She convinced me that it was critical that I focus on success rather than stir up every thought of failure I could summon.

I finally realized that if I didn’t take the first few baby steps she outlined, I would never arrive at any grand goal I might have had in mind.

In my case, that meant that if I didn’t submit my writing for publication, 100% of it would be unpublished. So, while still at my old job, I submitted an essay to a national publication. From hundreds of applicants, I was among the 12 chosen to write a whole series of articles. That experience demonstrated for me that I had something valuable to offer.

Then my coach and I moved on to writing down simple steps I could take to begin a new career.

For example, I was to set up my home office to be effective for my new career (and the new me), rather than for the old ones. That helped me start seeing myself in a new light, and begin to take myself seriously.   

Strategies

I want to share some more of the strategies my coach taught me.

Keep your hand in. Even before you can leave or change your job and do what you like full time, take advantage of opportunities to do the work you want to do. It may be as a volunteer. Some people get new jobs based on work they did do or contacts they made through volunteer work.

Associate with others who are doing what you want to do. Seek out those who are in the field you want to be in. It’s easy to do that these days. If there’s no one in your community who shares your interests, join an online community through the groups on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.com. Some of the people you “meet” online will live in your area, and after chatting online for a while, you can get together in person, if you chose to.

Carve out a physical space, no matter how small, where you will do your new work. It might be a corner of your kitchen or bedroom, a section of your attic, or even—weather permitting—your porch.

Take classes in the field you want to enter. That has the double benefit of making it possible to meet others with your interests.

Pay down your bills, in preparation for your new work—which might not pay as much as you’re used to earning.

Put a little money aside—even if it’s only a few dollars a week—and earmark it for your new career. (I left my job right at the beginning of this last recession, so it was pretty scary. But scarier still was the toll my job was taking on my health and well being.) 

Don’t wait for permission from anyone—not your husband, your family, your parents, or your employer. Of course, it’s better to have everyone’s cooperation. But remind yourself that you deserve to be fulfilled in your work. Your mind and body will thank you. And those close to you will see that you’re a lot more fun to be around when you’re doing work that’s meaningful to you.

Prepare yourself to take a risk. There’ll be some sleepless nights during your transition. But if you’re like most of us who have put off our passions in favor of a job we don’t feel suited for, you’re probably already doing some tossing and turning in the wee hours.  

As we get older, we begin to wonder how much longer we can afford to put off our dreams. What are we waiting for? A lottery win would be nice, but come on, what are the odds of that happening?

After my first meeting with my coach, I hung a quotation above my desk. It’s by the novelist Louis Auchincloss, a cousin of Jackie Onassis.

“One can spend one’s whole existence never learning the simple lesson that one has only one life and that if one fails to do what one wants with it, nobody really cares.”


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Lynette Benton is the author of the essays, “From Part Time to Parting Time” in Skirt! Magazine and “After Burnout, a New Career Helping Writers,” in More Magazine online.

She is also the author of Polish and Publish: The Indispensable Toolkit for Creative Writers to Get Started and Get Published. Her website is http://lynettebentonwriting.com.

Note: For more excellent strategies on making a career transition, check out the book Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra.

Is Overcommitment the New Badge of Honor?

When was the last time you laid in the grass on a beautiful summer day and looked up at the clouds?

I attended a lecture tonight. The speaker was an American monk – Sumati Marut (aka Brian Smith). It was sponsored by the Asian Classics Institute on Cape Ann.

Guess what the Honorable Marut talked about?  (He’s a very practical guy)  

Problems and solutions.

What’s the problem? We want to be happy, yet our lives are consumed with work, stress, and overcommitment.

Our lives are consumed by ‘busy-ness’ (sounds like business, eh?)

Marut shared statistics with us that you have probably heard before:

  • 80% of workers are stressed on the job
  • 34% of employees rush eating their lunch – if they have lunch at all
  • 460 Million vacation days per year are turned back in and not used

How did American society get to the point where it is prestigious to be so busy?When did it start being okay to expect that workers should work 50, 60, 70 hours per week?

When did it become acceptable to push people to be so “productive” on the job that they suffer from exponential amounts of stress related illnesses – mental and physical?  

Where did we acquire this compulsion of having to do something every minute of the day? Is it socially desirable to be so busy and stressed?

Has our self worth become so attached to our ‘busy-ness’ that we are afraid to stop the insanity?

Do we keep so busy so we don’t have to look at the meaninglessness of what we are doing? Do we even notice how busy we are?

When did we start the habit of coming home from work only to begin turning everyone “on” around us (again)?  We walk in the door only to turn on our computer, our televisions, iPods, iPads, Wii, etc. These are all stimulants.

We’re exhausted, fall into bed later than we should and then begin it all again. Is that happiness?

When does it all stop? When do we make different choices?

How do we find happiness?

Some of these can be tough questions if you want to dig into them. A happier life requires some radical shifts, yet Marut offers us some suggestions that don’t seem so radical at all.

Will we stop to listen or relinquish the joy of our lives to busy-ness?

  • Get enough sleep. There is medical evidence that less than 8 hours sleep impacts our health negatively. How much sleep do you get each night?
  • Don’t wake up to a jarring alarm clock sound. This is not a peaceful way to start your day.
  • Stop the cycle of buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff. Simplify your life, reduce the need to earn more and more money. Stop.
  • Practice this mantra. “I have enough”. Repeat. “I have enough”.
  • Stop thinking about yourself and focus on helping someone else.

If you are unhappy, you cannot blame the job or your boss or the bills or your kids. The responsibility and the power to be happy is yours, and yours alone.

Take one step towards creating a discipline for a simple meditation practice every day. Meditation is actually quite simple and there are many different ways to practice it. The key is the word “practice”.

Are you committed to your own happiness?

Your Mobile Phone: A Tool for Mindfulness

I am sure you have heard the term ‘mindfulness’. It is tossed about frequently these days. I’m glad of that, since it seems the idea is making its way into the mainstream. That’s a good thing, in my humble eyes.

Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience.

For example, a mindful approach to one’s inner experience is simply viewing “thoughts as thoughts” as opposed to evaluating thoughts as positive or negative. http://bit.ly/9rxspw

Mindfulness plays a central role in the teaching of Buddhist meditation. Buddhism is a philosophy that began in India in the 6th century and is becoming increasingly accepted in western culture.

Although Dr. David Rock wrote in Psychology Today that he has a problem with mindfulness being linked to any religion, because he worries that people will ignore it simply for that reason, his piece is full of useful information and I encourage you to take a peek.

Dr. Rock believes that as we get older, we resist learning new things. I’m not sure I agree, but his blog is definitely worth reading, especially if you are interested in the health benefits of mindfulness.

The best statement in Dr. Rock’s post is that ‘even the most cynical, anti-self-awareness agitator can’t help but see that they will be better off practicing this skill (mindfulness)’.

Okay – since I believe that we become more open-minded as we get older, let me briefly introduce the idea of Buddhism. Are you with me?

The Buddha, many centuries ago, identified Four Noble Truths as the foundation of this spiritual practice.

See if you can relate to any of these Four Noble Truths.

1. Life is full of suffering

2. Craving and desire is the cause of suffering.

3. Craving and desire can come to an end, therefore ending our suffering

4. The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration

This is a lot to digest at one sitting. So let’s just focus on one small aspect.

To practice Right Livelihood means to use the practice of mindfulness to address the problems of daily life, including work.

Take telephone meditation, for example.  This can be a very important practice for you, if you’ll try it.

When the phone rings (yes, even your mobile phone), try hearing it as a bell of mindfulness. Are you giggling yet? Experiencing some discomfort at the thought of a new perspective?

Stop what you are doing and breathe in and out deeply and consciously three times before you pick up the phone.

Alert: I bet this will be very difficult for you to do. Please tell me if you can do it the next time the phone rings.

If you choose to practice this, I wonder if your phone calls will take on a different tone. What do you think?

I’m curious to hear how you do.

From Our Point of View

A guest blogpost about how to keep high achieving women engaged & on the move, published with permission. You might want to share this with the CEO or your boss, whoever that might be.                                                  

From Our Point of View: How to Engage and Retain High-Achieving Women
by Marcia Reynolds,
Author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction

1. Provide Developmental Opportunities

One of our greatest passions is to resolve complex challenges, yet we need our managers to provide the resources for learning so we can be continually successful. We are top talent because we are committed to being the best. We come to you with experiences and degrees. To continue on our path to excellence, we need you to support the continuation of our development by offering ample tuition reimbursement and encouragement to further our learning. We want you to treat training and coaching programs not as perks but as a part of your overall business strategy. Frankly, to stay innovative and progressive, all employees should be trained in communication skills, managing change, dealing with their emotions, and building strong relationships with their peers within and across divisional borders. This is especially true in tough economic times when you need everyone to stay on top of their game. The last thing you want to do is cut funding for training and coaching when we are facing major difficulties. Give us more opportunities to learn and grow so we can help you take the company to the top faster than our competition. We would love for you to engage us in that challenge.

Also, provide us with mentors who are passionate about what they do so we are inspired to stay and learn more. We like to feel that we are in the company of smart and spirited people. We like to connect with leaders in other areas. We want breadth as well as depth of knowledge. If possible, create a platform where the most successful women in the company can network with and develop the younger female talent so the pipeline grows. Also, we are not always politically astute, so a good mentor can help us put our energies in the right places and see opportunities that we might miss that best use our talents.

2. Make Our Mission Meaningful

We want to be a part of something that feels bigger than ourselves. Even if our products are not that meaningful in the bigger scheme of life, we want to work for companies that care for their employees, respect the environment, and support their local communities. We will eventually disengage if we don’t see how our work fits into a broader, more significant context. We struggle with committing to, a monetary goal or a drive solely focused on beating our competitors. We don’t just work to make a living. We work to make life better. We will align our energies with your penchant for profit when we can see the evidence of our good work in the world, even if that means we are simply helping people to feel more safe and happy. We know in our hearts we can make a significant difference on this planet. If we are doing that in our jobs, we are likely to stick around and share with the world how excited we are about our work.

3. Continually Affirm Our Contribution and Value

Our sense of contribution and value to the organization is as important to us as our paycheck, but we can’t always see the larger effect of our work. We need to know how well we did in relation to the people we touch, whether it’s our peers or our customers. It’s not enough for us to know we have great knowledge and ability. We need to know if we have made an impact and that others value our involvement.

This acknowledgment needs to be continual because our sense of contribution is fleeting. Once we finish a task, we are quickly on to the next. There’s always another project to master and another crisis for us to resolve. You need to remind us of our impact because we tend to lose this sense while swimming in the sea of our assignments.

However, don’t overload us because you can count on us for results. We love to give outstanding performances. We love that you trust us. Yet if you rely on us too much, we would rather look for another job than face failure. Make sure to regularly ask us how we are feeling about our work and if we need any resources to get our work done. We often struggle with asking for help. Even when we ask to figure out a problem on our own, we still appreciate that you check in to see if we need any additional support.

4. Design and Foster a Creative and Collaborative Environment

We love to work for leaders who create environments that provide an open flow of communication in all directions. Let us talk freely, whether it’s around the real water cooler or the virtual water cooler using social media. Environments that support collaboration foster rapid innovations. We want easy access to tools and resources. We want our leaders to be visionaries and catalysts who transfer decision-making to us and allow us to choose how we want to work. Instead of managing people from a top-down position, leaders should see themselves as the “spokesperson” in the middle of the wheel with employees in motion around them. They should inspire more than enforce. Cooperative cultures represent the future of management. We want to help you make this significant change.

5. Delegate Clear Expectations and Then Let Go

If you give us what we need to do a great job on work that is meaningful to us and valuable to the organization, we won’t disappoint you. Give us control over the processes and decisions related to our tasks as much as possible. We love figuring out the best solutions. We need to feel we have the power to implement what we plan. If you think we need a more strategic perspective, coach us to see other possibilities instead of telling us what to do. When you delegate a project to us, give us the authority to talk to all stakeholders to negotiate actions. We will report our progress to you on a schedule we agree to and respond to issues promptly. We learn fast from our mistakes.

Let us know early on when changes will affect our work and share with us the reasons for the change. These days, those kinds of changes happen daily. We need to know about a shift in direction as soon as you do. If something comes up and you have to make a decision that goes counter to what we had hoped for, tell us why you made the decision so we can develop our business acumen. We want to grow beyond our technical capability. Letting us see through your eyes gives us what we need to succeed in our future positions.

6. Recognize Outstanding Performance

We like working for companies that have a culture of recognition. You may think that we are just doing our jobs, but we need to be recognized for our hard work even when it becomes the norm. Your recognition can be as simple as a personal comment or written note praising something we specifically did and the impact it had. We also like public recognition. When you visibly recognize our continual peak performance you demonstrate to everyone that you value this behavior. And don’t just recognize results; show appreciation for our creativity, inclusiveness, optimism, and determination even if the results did not turn out as expected. When you honor our efforts, you help us to feel proud. We need help when it comes to stopping and admiring our work. If you give us this gift, we will repeat the behavior you reward.

Also, please recognize us by knowing us. We are staunchly loyal to the people who show they care about us now and in the future. Know our talents, goals, and dreams. If you were called by HR today and asked what you thought were my strengths, frustrations, and aspirations, could you answer these questions? Know who we are today and what we want for tomorrow. If we aren’t clear about what we want for our careers, help us envision our future. Then offer to support us as we move forward on this path.

7. Give Us Flexible Work Schedules

We need help in managing our energy more than our time. We will work obsessively to complete important projects. Yet we need to renew our energy so we don’t burn out. Therefore, we want flexible schedules based on meeting goals instead of wasting time in traffic or on “who can stay the latest” contests. We recognize the need to be present for important meetings, but on days we can get more work done from home, trust us. We have become comfortable with technology and will use it to communicate. Because we always produce results, let us figure out how we will get the work done. If you want to know more about setting up work cultures that are flexible and successful as a result, look at what these companies are doing: Capitol One, Deloitte & Touche, Best Buy, Marriott, Patagonia, AES Corporation, Sun Microsystems, IBM, PepsiCo, and Wal-Mart. At the Brazilian company Semco, employees choose their own salaries, set their own hours, and have no job titles, yet the profits keep growing and there is practically no employee turnover. By the time you read this, more companies will have followed suit. We’re hoping you want to stay ahead of the pack with these progressive companies.

If we have children to take care of, don’t put us on a “mommy track” that doesn’t have access to promotions and plum assignments. Let us decide what we can handle. If you allow us the flexibility to meet the goals on our own terms, we will in turn be honest with you about what is possible. If we decide we need to step back because our home-life challenges need our attention, welcome us back when we are ready and we will amaze you with the results we produce.
The above is an excerpt from the book Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Marcia Reynolds, author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction

Author Bio
Marcia Reynolds
, PsyD, organizational psychologist and Master Certified Coach, is author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction is president of Covisioning, a training and coaching firm helping companies worldwide unleash the brilliance in their people.

For more information please visit wanderwomanbook.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Please note: The opinions and ideas expressed by guest writers are not necessarily the opinions of the site owner.