Tag Archives: Words

When did Built to Last become Planned Obsolescence?

I could do a bit of research and find out the actual answer to my question from a marketing or product development standpoint, but that isn’t my objective.  (If you know, please do share.)  I’m more interested in this question in an esoteric manner; we seem to have started this idea with products, quietly and slowly (washers and dryers used to be built for 15-20 years, now 8 seems to be the norm yet they cost comparatively more!) and the idea has spread to other parts of business and life.

End of Child Labor is Progress (Cotton mill workers,1909.Lewis Hines, National Child Labor Collection-Library of Congress.)

End of Child Labor is Progress (Cotton mill workers,1909.Lewis Hines, National Child Labor Collection-Library of Congress.)


Now progress is different than planned obsolescence – I learned to type on an old manual typewriter (my pinky fingers will never forget the force exerted to depress those keys was nearly beyond their power) and am thrilled to now use Word on my laptop to create.  That is progress, new inventions to improve upon old process.  Calligraphy and quill pens are now lovely in living history settings and used for artistic expression, but we will stick with our gel pens, thanks.


And as for applying the concept of obsolete to people, well skills might get a little stale, but not a person.  A person who has learned how to navigate a changing world always has something to offer.  We might have to slow down our hurry just a bit, sit down and have a chat, and then cull through the conversation for the good stuff.  But there will be good stuff; solid knowledge on making a life, earning a living, solving problems.


Older people might not know their way around all of these devices, but should your GPS break most would be capable and happy to show you how to read a map.  To tell you a story or two about the area where you find yourself.  How it once was, how it came to be what you see before you.  Sometimes this means a place quite different as the story progresses, but since nature is cyclical sometimes it means returning to something similar to what it was before.


One of the answers to my question might be, ‘that’s progress’.  Hmmm.  It seems to be more about pure commerce to me, which is what it is; but then we should carefully consider what parts of the world to apply the concept.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



Filed under Job Search, Personal Growth, Work Life

Consternated, Bewildered and Confounded

We must be getting smarter than previous generations.  How else to explain it, the severe lack of use for these words – consternated, bewildered and confounded?  We live in a hard to navigate and complex world that folks from a couple of generations ago would describe as downright consternating, if not wholly bewildering.  And yet, we have almost entirely ceased to describe ourselves and our surroundings in these terms.


It couldn’t be that we have reduced our vocabularies to short, easily texted words, no not that.  It must be that we have grown in our ability to understand complexity, that we are no longer ever perplexed, at sea, baffled, befuddled, or bemused.

public domain old movie still

public domain old movie still


Except, I must say that I have my moments when I am baffled, when something is unclear.  When I would be caught with the cocked-head dog pose if someone took my picture.  Maybe I am alone in my consternation, left behind while everyone else figured out the keys that protect against bewilderment.  I text – yes I learned when my children were in their teens or I wouldn’t have heard from them.  And I confess that texting long words is tiring.  My fingers find it perplexing, even.  They cannot keep up.


Rules about the appropriateness of texting while at work can be bemusing.  Or is your employee handbook silent on the topic?  It must be ok by default then, confound it.


Are you ever befuddled?  What causes it?  I hope you never find yourself at sea without a paddle, unless you have a motor that is.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Fugacious Moments, Opportunities for Enlightenment

I enjoy history and gardening so I have been reading Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf happily for the last few days.  She is reintroducing me to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison and making them more fully fleshed out people through a common interest in plants and gardening.


The Founding Fathers, public domain

The Founding Fathers, public domain

Anyway, she uses the word fugacious and as you know I love adding a new word to my vocabulary and then using it here.  In botany fugacious means falling or fading early, and in general use it means fleeting or transitory.  Hmmm, I’m impressed in her use of language already and then she finds a means to use this word that doubly helps to tie her passion (botany and gardening) to her theme.


My mind is turning to those chance moments that can open up whole new vistas in our lives.  The stuff that makes for great book and movie plots, but more importantly quietly improves the lives of many.  Beyond serendipity which is the chance encounter that can bring on a better mood or a bit of much needed confidence boost.  More that instant when you stumble into something that profoundly affects you, speaks to something elemental deep in you.


People who create foundations after an emotionally disabling experience come to mind, but also the person who assigns themselves as the welcoming face for new employees or students because they well remember the disorientation that newness brings up.   Sharing a little trick that you’ve learned which makes an odious task more bearable.  Offering a kind word to a stranger who is clearly in the midst of a bad moment.


Fleeting means there and then gone, but if you capture it in that moment and disperse it somehow, imagine what it might become.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Manifest Destiny, Personalized and Modernized

John Gast's painting American Progress 1872, public domain

John Gast’s painting American Progress 1872, public domain

Maybe it’s because we just passed another 4th of July holiday, and it is the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg and I’ve been dipping back in history in general but I woke up in the middle of the night recently thinking about manifest destiny.  My next thought was to try to bring up the context for the reference, followed by the thought that I should take this back up again in the morning.

This phrase seems to have been coined in the 1800s, with broad use and unclear definition.  Basically the phrase was used in whatever manner suited expansion of the American ideal of that time and place.  I remember hearing it in both history and literature classes back in my school days.

America has had reach from the east to the west coasts for some time, one of the intents of manifest destiny, and we have promoted democratic ideals globally which is another intent.  We seem to have grown a bit weary and jaded at this stage of American progress and leave idealism for small pockets of energetic folk.

But I put personalized and modernized in the title after this 19th century ideal.

Something which is manifest is evident or obvious and while we don’t much talk in terms of destiny anymore, we know that it means something that will happen.  Perhaps we could apply this to the current debate about the place of higher education, for each individual.  Based on a person’s overall goals in life, is it their manifest destiny to attend college?  (And thereby, most likely, incur debt?)

There are no overreaching answers to questions like these, rather personal reflection on the balance of the question against the expectation of the individual – i.e. if it is my manifest destiny to (fill in the blank) then college seems (select one: worth the cost and effort, not worth the cost and effort).

Answer me this, what do you think of manifest destiny?

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Creative Release of Steam

I used to work with someone who offered a great saying to those in the midst of a frustrated mood, “Use your words”.  Ah, easier said than done when anger builds up steam, though.  Someone cuts us off in traffic, or cuts us off at the knees in a meeting and we are reduced to curse words and the word ‘idiot’.


photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain


Why do we let ourselves become rattlebrains in these moments when in our mind’s eye we increase in wit and use words like rapiers to slash our opposite to bits verbally?  Because we let fall to the wayside all of the arcane creative verbiage that gave nincompoops and rabbitbrains their due. 


Today we have a whole host of words to dust off and drumble (to sound like a drum, to mumble) under our breath when we encounter domnoddies, clodpolls, timbernonces and their ilk.  Our mothers taught us, rightly, that it isn’t polite to call names – but our blood pressure demands some release when we stumble upon a ninnyhammer or a dumbbunny or two.


Our more highly developed selves understand that when we use derogatory words we are comporting ourselves at the same intellectual level as a lackwit, but as we define someone else’s actions as being worthy of the name jobbernowl, we start to see less red.  (Notice here that I’ve called out as the actions of the other person which enflame, and not the person as a whole, reason is kicking back in as the initial steam dissipates.)   Plus these words are fun to say, try it.  They roll off the tongue in a much richer way than the expletives that survived to modern times. 


The next time that you feel the frustration mounting, don’t allow yourself to be reduced to an addlepated lackwit, use your words creatively now that you have upbigged your vocabulary.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Get Their Attention

attentionStop me if I’ve told this one, but I’m pretty sure that I haven’t told it here, at least with this intent.  This is my go-to story about the importance of appropriate email subject lines (and good diplomacy).  Fairly early on in my corporate learning curve I had an email exchange with the principal (read owner, responsible party) of a distribution company regarding a customer account that was my responsibility.  The subject line was a one word job, the main name of the customer in question.


We went back and forth as I clarified and then resolved his question.  At the end he came back and wrote that I should do a better job of naming my emails.  Huh?  Just to be sure, I scrolled to the beginning of the email and sure enough he had originated the string.  Still, he was right – the subject was entirely too generic and didn’t offer any reference points to the specific topic at hand.  I briefly answered back that I agreed that the subject line of this particular email was not very clear and left it at that.


So began my mission to improve my own email subject line protocols.  Which included renaming an email that had a vague heading at my first reply.  (Be careful in renaming an email when there were multiple recipients because that can lead to further misunderstanding.)  When I moved into supervisory and then management roles, I made this a frequent topic within my team.  A big part of our job was clarity in communication – the first step is appropriately naming a thing.


Email volume is high for most people, so your naming protocol should be short and to the point.  Sometimes a little lyrical helps to get noticed, but utilitarian is best.  Get a feel for what is best for you by reviewing the subjects of the emails that land in your inbox – which ones draw your eye and why?  Are the subject lines that are used suitable for the actual email content?  Also consider your recipient – what speaks to them?


I hope I got your attention.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Like an Idea? Do You Espouse and Engender It?

No, this has nothing to do with gender or marriage.  To espouse is to adopt or embrace.  To engender is to bring into existence.


LikeIt used to be that we had to show that we liked ideas through bumper stickers or t-shirts, through talk and actions with friends and family; but now we can like an idea on social media.  In the click of a button.  And move on.


What if it was a particularly worthy idea that needed to be nurtured to propagate, though?  If clicking ‘like’ just wasn’t enough to feed it and help it to grow into an act, a way of being.  We need to espouse these ideas, take them into our hearts and heads and make them our own.


Imagine if working folks ages ago had just hit ‘like’ about the idea of having weekends, a time with your family to recharge?  Someone engendered the idea and many others espoused it until it became the norm.  Until we have forgotten that the idea of a weekend is quite modern.


We have been taught since we were very small, universally, that our actions speak louder than our words.  Like is a word, and clicking on it can barely be counted as an action.  Do your everyday actions live up to the likes that you have shown on social media?


We are bombarded with information, much of it quite subjective – many bits of it resonate for us based on current or past experience.  Or a wish for our best selves.  Our best selves espouse and engender these affirmative ideas that we click on in our social media sessions.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Confusing the Search for a Job with a Validation Check

I have gotten good responses when I write about skills and I have been working on a potential post about the difference between job skills and job search skills when I was distracted by a more powerful idea, the implied relationship between validation and a job.  We all encounter, need, fight off a range of internal and external motivators.  Some people are greatly influenced by the external, some greatly by internal and the rest of us fluctuate between moderate areas of these two extremes.


People who regularly read this blog know that the idea of value comes up here quite frequently because fulfillment of value (meaning worth) is right there after fulfillment of our basic needs.  Validation is closely related.



verb (used with object), val·i·dat·ed, val·i·dat·ing.

  1. 1.   to make valid; substantiate; confirm: Time validated our suspicions.

We like to get our parking fees validated, consensus validates our opinions – and so on.


photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

Sometimes we too closely relate our value to the money that we are able to make and therefore our job becomes our greatest validation of worth.  Making job loss equate to lack of validation; which then brings us to run the risk of becoming unsubstantiated in our own minds.


Which couldn’t be further from the truth – circling back to value as an example; each of us is a bundle of unique learning and experience which is valuable in and of itself.  Add this to a life scenario – work, personal – and we can bring value to bear in sharing, building, striving.


A job is a productive use of our time, education and effort for which we are monetarily compensated.  But it is only part of the overall value that we can offer.  Job seeking is an effort to find a new position, which will allow the job seeker to participate in a productive mutual activity.


Validation comes from all of the facets of our lives, in all the many ways that we can provide value – community, family, friends, with work being part and parcel of the whole.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Assiduously Applied

I’ve mentioned before that I love words, and would love to see a broader use of words.  So today I bring up this sinuously sounding offering:




1. constant; unremitting: assiduous reading.

2.constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task;persevering; industrious; attentive:

an assiduous student.


Repetitive tasks become assiduous application of diligence – I bet you never before felt so smart sorting through your emails and answering the same question from different customers!


But seriously, every career could use a little assiduous application of mental elbow grease to keep our value up.  No one wants to get a reputation for being inconstant or lazy, unless you have an endless alternative source of income.


Used in a sentence:

  • Assiduous blogging gains a writer a larger following.
  • Monitoring trade journals assiduously for appropriate articles, and sharing them with the team leader, got the intern a permanent full time position.
  • Jane worked assiduously to upgrade her excel skills, and was able to help her team improve their quarterly reports as a result.


Perhaps you already have a list of tasks where you have persevered, possibly now is the time to bring these to the attention of your supervisor, using this unsung word.  Diligence is a good strong word, but it has had its day and needs a rest to become less trite and stale.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Call to Action

Whether we are natural list makers or not, the length of our to-dos requires some type of tracking or we are lost.  The have-tos are simply relentless.  But let’s flip the coin to the other side – when we need something from others or want others to do something in response to us.  Do they clearly know it?


Some people are very good at getting others to do things and the rest of us muddle through it.  Can you recall a time or two when you were pretty sure that someone was asking you for something but they were so vague you either had to ask or pretended that you didn’t catch their real meaning?  They didn’t come right out with their call to action perhaps counting on our good graces to step in and offer.


When my kids were in their early teens they would say things like, I need this list of supplies for a project and I would take it from there and ask questions like when is it due, how many, what color and the like.  When they got into their mid-teens I would respond with ‘that’s nice’ and wait.  (Of course I explained the first time that I was turning more of the responsibility over to them to actually ask me to get the stuff.)  There were a couple of times when they didn’t get what they needed, but they figured out that they had to turn the statement into a question and be the responsible party to get the action completed.


We think that adults don’t need that same process explanation, but sometimes they do.  Send me an email and tell me a nice story, thanks.  Oh, you wanted me to do something, I didn’t see that spelled out.  There wasn’t a call to action on my part.  You were passing on the thing, but I read that you were telling me about it.  Because you didn’t say, ‘I would like for you to do xyz, please’.


Sometimes I truly didn’t catch the intent, and sometimes I used the vagueness to avoid stepping in.


Spend time on your hook – why should I help you, what’s in it for me – but don’t forget to set the hook before you end the contact, by spelling out your call to action.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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