How Changing My Perspective Led to My Career

Our perspective on something influences everything. The magazine, Inc., has a good article on “Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life”[1]. The author made some really good points:

  • You are “successful” when are you are walking your path, always learning, always growing.
  • You are “doing what you love” when you see every moment as an opportunity.
  • It’s up to you to discover what that opportunity is.
  • Focus on the lesson, not the problem.
  • Lessons are everywhere. It’s on you to find them.
  • Shifting your perspective is what makes all the difference.
Open the door to what? 
That's always the mystery.
Open the door to what? That’s always the mystery.

My career in state taxes happened this very way. A recession was going on and my employer was going under. I had a family to support and the only job I could find was doing state taxes. It wasn’t my favorite thing, but it was the only offer I could find.

The reason why? No one else wanted to do it. My peers wanted jobs in federal and international taxation. They were willing to risk unemployment for it. I had done state taxes and while it wasn’t my favorite, I could make a living doing it while others were losing their homes and for some, their marriages.

And I came to find, I was very very good at it. All the things that made me an average federal person, made me a very good state tax person. I didn’t understand that until I was doing it full-time (prior to this, I did it as part of my other work).

Federal taxes requires attention to many details and minutia. Get one wrong and it’s big dollars.

But state taxes is a volume operation. You have many many tax returns to get out, whether it’s state income tax, sales tax, property tax, business licenses, annual reports or unclaimed property. Every state has different rules, different forms, and in many instances, local taxes (county, city and special districts). And they’re all done differently.

To do state taxes well, I had to be highly organized, keep track of multiple details, understand the federal return and workpapers, and not miss deadlines (which were also highly inconsistent).

So what changed? My perspective. I knew I’d be doing state taxes for a while and my odds of getting back into federal were low. No one wanted to do what I was doing and my employer could hire people for federal any time they wanted.

I worked hard to learn the field and my job. It sucked, it wasn’t what I wanted, but since I was there, I wanted to make the best of it. It turned into a lucrative career for me and kept me employed for as long as I wanted to work. In fact, after retiring in 2015 and again in 2018, I came back to work earlier this year for a part-time position doing state taxes.

Over the years, I’ve had many interns. Quite a few of them believed me that state taxes was a good thing to know even if they chose to not make a career out of it. The more I preached that this was fun, it was good to know, and at some point it would help their career, the more they believe me and opened up to the experience it gave them. For a number of them, it helped their job interviews and career because it distinguished them from other employees and get ahead of the crowd because they knew more than just federal.

But changing my perspective was what made the difference in having a great career, helping / mentoring employees, and being a success in the workplace.


[1] https://www.inc.com/nicolas-cole/change-your-perspective-change-your-life.html by @nicholascole77, published April 26, 2016.

Walk in Wonder

It’s late autumn in the far southern part of the United States. I’m enjoying late afternoon walks near my house and here are ten things I’ve noticed while walking:

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia
  1. The warmth of the late afternoon. No matter how cold the mornings are starting, by the late afternoon, I don’t need a coat to walk outside. The same temperature in the spring feels much cooler, I think because the earth is retaining cold. But at this time of the year, the earth is retaining warmth.

  2. The trees have such variety! Some are golden yellow (no red ones on my walk), others have no leaves, some have barely started to change. But overall, the branches are more bare and it is a definite look of autumn. Interestingly enough, our crepe myrtle is nearly bare and our neighbor’s tree, which borders our yard, is still green and lush with leaves. I wonder if they watered it more when it was so hot in the summer.

  3. The clacking of the leaves as they fall or bang against each other. I always know when summer is ending because while the leaves are still green and on the trees, they’ve dried out and make noise when they hit against each other. That accelerates in late fall though – dried leaves on the pavement and sidewalks has a distinctive sound. It’s melancholy – winter isn’t far behind – and a signal that it’s time to put summer to bed and get ready for winter.

  4. The crunching of the leaves under my feet as I walk. My grandsons (and their mother before them) love to drag their feet and hear the leaves crunch. Even my beagle enjoyed it! If there was a big pile of leaves somewhere, he had to walk through it both to sniff what was there and I really think he enjoyed hearing it too.

  5. The street can be slippery with all the leaves, especially when it’s wet. I have to be careful to not walk on top of a bunch of leaves on the pavement. I can feel them slipping under my feet on some days; I walk in the middle where there’s less leaves and my footing is more sure.

  6. Our neighbors are burning leaves and a tree that they’ve taken down. It’s more smoke than I’d like when I’m near it, but when I’m at the other side of the neighborhood, it smells good. Burning leaves has always been a sign of autumn and goodbye to summer.

  7. With the leaves down, there’s so much more sunlight on my face as I walk. I have to make sure I bring a hat, although even with more sunlight, it’s not always warm. Somedays I still need a coat, especially when I’m in the shade.

  8. I love the light at this time of the year! No matter when I take my camera out, it’s always a warm yellow, from morning to late afternoon. I don’t take my camera to walk around the neighborhood, but I still observe the gorgeous light that the autumn brings, from the trees to the house windows to the overall scenery.

  9. A neighbor is using their outside grill. I can smell the meat cooking and the charcoal. It’s making me hungry! It also reminds me to buy a pork shoulder to smoke on my Big Green Egg this weekend. I love using the Egg in the cooler weather. I’m not fighting the bugs or mosquitoes and it’s very primal to play with fire when it’s cold outside.

  10. It’s so much easier to breathe at this time of the year. The humidity is down, but it’s not so cold yet that my bronchial tubes hurt. As a result, I can go farther and the hills aren’t so hard to walk up.

What are your favorite observations when you go for a walk at this time of the year? Please. . . add to my list!

Looking Through the Window

I love looking in windows when I’m taking pictures. Part of it is wondering how others live, but I think a bigger part is just curiosity as to what’s there. I liked this storefront window – not only was it decorated colorfully, but you could see all the way through to the building behind it, which is not common.

This triptych finished the window in three different styles. I originally started working on it as a creativity exercise on minimalism then moved onto another exercise in black & white.

One of the things I like about doing creativity exercises is that it expands my skills and gets me out of my comfort zone. I don’t have to like the end result, I need to be open to trying and failing. It’s frustrating sometimes though, having to sit and think what do I do next? And how do I do it? Thankfully Google offers up a lot of answers, as do the forums for my various photography software.

The middle photo was my usual fine art photography style, using Topaz Studio 1.

The left one was from Topaz Studio 2, AI Remix. My intention was to try something really different and I did! It turned out pretty good but is definitely not my usual style.

The right style was black and white with a high key. I don’t usually like black and white, but this also turned out good. I used ON1 for the rendering.

These pictures were taken at a store front in Dayton, Virginia.

Looking Towards the Sun

“And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.”
― Nicholas Sparks

This was post processed using Edward Hopper 1 in Topaz Studio and a 2 Lil’ Owls texture from the Exposition collection. Finishing touches in ON1 included a surreal dynamic contrast, lens blur for the vignette and the border, instant.

Beagle As Still Life

I am not a photographer who takes still life subject matter. I understand the concepts of it and I love seeing it when done well by others. But for me, it’s too much fussing for the end result.

I had more thoughts on this several years ago when I took a macro photography class from Bryan Peterson. I spent all day wrestling with my subject matter, made a bunch of mistakes, and decided that it wasn’t for me (you can see the post here).

So in Week 3 of Kim Klassen’s class, A Month of Multiples, we had an assignment to shoot a still life. After enough procrastination, I decided on a different subject matter for my still life.

I offer for your laughter “Beagle as Still Life”. Nothing, but nothing, will interfere with his naps, except maybe the crinkle of a cheese wrapper or the rattle of his harness. His sleep is an essential part of his daily routine and when it’s nap time, all other life ceases. Some days, we even check to make sure he’s still breathing.

So here is my still life for the Week 3 assignment. As one of my blogging friends commented, it certainly was still!

Iced Tea for Breakfast

I drink iced tea for breakfast everyday – even when I worked in downtown Minneapolis in the winter! There was a Caribou in the skyway that I took to get from the parking deck to my office. Each day they had a different flavor and no matter what the temperature was outside, people were buying it. The iced chamomile tea was good (not enough caffeine in the morning though) but I didn’t like the Earl Grey.

I also use a Starbucks cup with a screw-on lid for a tea to go. My daughter calls it my adult sippy cup and she’s right! Even if it gets knocked over, it doesn’t leak. A few years ago at the start of a meeting, I did actually knock it over. My boss jumped back quickly and we were all relieved that nothing spilled.

The hubby and I eat breakfast out frequently. We started this years ago due to all the overtime I worked and in retirement, it’s a nice way to start the day.

This photo was for a project on the in-between week for A Month of Multiples with Kim Klassen. The creative group that I belong to decided on it and it was great fun to see everyone’s coffee, tea, and various morning beverages. The stories behind the mugs was the best.

This was post processed in Topaz Studio using SJ Watercolor. Textures were added from 2 Lil’ Owls – the Brilliance, Epiphany, and Fairy Dust collections. The border was from Photomorphis.

A Week In My Life

“I think daily life is the most beautiful and wonderful thing that anyone can have.” – Ana Tijoux

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Week 2 with A Month of Multiples (Kim Klassen) had several assignments, including documenting everyday life and real (raw) life. I combined them together to a week in my life.

This includes:

Walking at the local park – I love going here. It has paved paths which is nice when it’s rainy or I’m tired. The dirt paths give my feet and ankles a great workout, although I have to be careful not to trip. Best of all, it’s only a 5 minute drive from the house!

A day trip to do some photography – We drove to the western edge of Virginia to a town called Dayton. It was cute, we had a nice lunch at a local restaurant, chatted with a number of locals (our cameras and tripods created a lot of curiosity), and got some nice pictures. In this picture, the Blue Ridge Mountains are in the background.

Reading on the deck with a clingy old dog – He’s getting even more tumors and instead of being squishy, they’re rock hard. He’s not breathing right either. But when I go outside to read on the deck, he wants to be there with me. I’m loving him as much as possible while I still have him.

Trimming nails for the same old dog – Since he doesn’t go outside much anymore, his nails grow long really fast. I think it’s easier for him to walk if they’re short, but since he hates getting them cut, I’ve let them get longer. It’s not ideal, but I don’t want to argue with him over it anymore. It’s not fun for either one of us.

Taking a walk around the neighborhood – Between our subdivision and the sidewalks on the main roads, I can go a good long ways. I usually turn around at this corner, but I always enjoy taking a minute to enjoy how pretty it is.

Our crepe myrtle came in bloom a second time! – All the crepe myrtles came back in bloom recently and they’re even more lush than they were in July. We’ve never had that happen before, but they must be liking the cooler weather and rain.

Walking an old beagle twice a day – His walks are mostly sniffing for cats in the storm sewers these days, so he gets his own walk separate from mine. On the days it’s super hot or he’s limping, our walks consist of checking out the side and front yard. It makes him happy and helps him sleep better.

So that’s my raw and real life! Thanks for coming along and having a chuckle at how awesome my days are.

One Spot Challenge

I’m doing a photography class with Kim Klassen titled “The Month of Multiples”. It’s purpose is to encourage us to really look at what we’re photographing and shoot with intentionality.

I took the class a) for inspiration in my photography; b) Kim is a great teacher and I always learn something and c) it sounded fun / interesting.

The take-away for the first week? Don’t be so busy behind the computer that you neglect taking pictures. Yep, that’s easy to have happen.

Week 1 had a one spot challenge, which wasn’t hard to do at the botanical garden. The goal was to truly look at what’s in front of us and take multiple pictures without wandering more than four feet away.

Of course, having a zoom lens and the ability to crop my photos helps too. It was pretty breezy at the moment I took these. That poor butterfly was whipped back and forth and I had to wait for the plant to stop moving before I even got this. Even so, it’s a bit over to one side.

I loved these grasses! There was no signage telling me what they were, but the backlighting made them shine like little jewels. And those green mounds were gorgeous.

These pretty little flowers just begged for a close-up study.

The last one in here was at the end of the curve in the first photo so it was not within four feet of the one spot. But when I got down there, I turned around and looked back and thought huh. Not bad!

I don’t usually take pictures facing that way, but I did this time. So I was paying attention and shooting with intention.

I took many more pictures than this, but they weren’t in one spot. The biggest surprise was the crepe myrtles were back in bloom for a second time – big deep, lush, beautiful blooms. Even better than they were a month ago. Apparently some rain and cooler temperatures were to their liking!

Taking a Walk

Smiling Back at Me
Taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Richmond, Virginia
.

I love taking walks and often use my camera as an excuse to do so. Having a wonderful botanical garden so close to my house makes a big difference too – I can be there with a short drive and the scenery changes constantly.

With my camera, I’m much more observant on my walks. This is true with my cell phone camera as well. I’m looking and scanning for what could be an interesting picture. I’m also looking to see what’s new, different, or what’s changed since the last time I was there.

Not every picture is perfect and not every photo is worthy of post processing work. But by showing up and taking pictures frequently, many are in fact worth further work. But to have such pictures in my inventory, I have to be out there taking them.

The flowers above are so cheery – I feel like they’re just waiting for me to smile back at them.

This was post processed using the Fresh Start Haze and Soft Boost actions from 2 Lil’ Owls. Textures were from Jai Johnson’s Impressionist Spring and Splendid Spring collections. Topaz provided the Artries Movie Poster abstraction, and ON1 was used for various finishing effects.