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] by @nicholascole77, published April 26, 2016.

2016 Word – Hustle

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

In the early part of 2016, I used One Word to frame the year and my intentions. The word that chose me was “hustle” after I’d done Jon Acuff’s “30 Days of Hustle” in January. Although I’d initially picked something else as my word, it became apparent that was to be my word this year. I can’t say I was too thrilled with it and I didn’t quite warm up to it until this fall.

I didn’t want to hustle anymore. I wanted down time, time with family and friends, time to have more fun, and to not be constantly striving.

Continue reading “2016 Word – Hustle”

Enjoying The Nice Weather

Our weather continues to be unseasonably moderate.  It’s been reasonable temperatures – only in the upper 70’s – and low humidity for the most part.  It’s been wonderful and this weekend, we couldn’t stay home and do chores.

Off we went to Williamsburg – have to use those passes! – for food and photos.

We left the house early (having arranged for the dogsitter to come during lunch and let the boys out), arriving at the Trellis Restaurant for breakfast.

They’ve redecorated to a more updated and eclectic atmosphere of earth tones, with mood lighting.  The new menu is also very improved over the old one and is better prepared as well.  We both ordered a hearty breakfast that included homemade biscuits, Virginia ham, eggs and potatoes.

The farmer’s market was in full swing right outside the window and we had a wonderful opportunity to people watch as we ate and listen to live music in Market Square.

© 2012 dogear6 llc

After breakfast, we split up.  It’s so much less frustrating for my favorite boy toy to set up his tripod and fuss over his pictures if I’m not there.  He carefully takes selected pictures, while I click away merrily at whatever catches my fancy, whether it works or not.  It’s also less frustrating for me to be able to dawdle over what appeals to me without him wanting me to get moving so he can find somewhere else to set up his tripod.

Although Williamsburg started out empty, that changed quickly as buses of tourists arrived.  Even so, I had a few minutes to sit by the pond in the Governor’s Palace and just unwind.  I did this for the first time in May when I went by myself for my birthday.  It’s quiet and peaceful as it’s way in the back and there’s usually no mosquitoes to chase me away.  Both in May and yesterday, I had my iPhone with.  I read some of your blogs and a few chapters from an e-Book, then just sat and watched the water ripple.

© 2012 dogear6 llc

This was to my right.  I kept turning to look at it – it was so peaceful there – and finally took a number of pictures, trying to capture the moment.  This is now the new header on my blog.

Over a month ago, I wrote of my frustrations with blogging, lack of time, lack of energy, and lack of enthusiasm.  I got a number of wonderful comments back from you, which I have distilled down and added more comments of my own.  One of the really big ones though was to not have such high expectations of myself and stop being so perfectionistic.  I’m still working on what that means for me, but it’s advice I’ve taken to heart.

That’s what this weekend was about.  My husband and I enjoyed the wonderful weather.  We ate out a nice breakfast and lunch (going back to the tea room) and checked out some museums that our pass allows us into.  We didn’t get home until late in the afternoon, then sat on the deck and enjoyed a late afternoon breeze as we read and chatted about the day.

Onion going to seed in the Governor’s Palace gardens
(© 2012 dogear6 llc)

Sunday was more of the same.  We made a run out to Home Depot for garden supplies to work outside in the cool morning.  We broke for a nice lunch at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, then wandered around the museum for several hours to see the new exhibits.  A Confederacy Chapel is at the edge of the ground and was open today.  We walked over there and looked at the beautiful stained glass windows, read the placards of some outside exhibits, and finally headed home for a nap and a relaxing evening.

It’s a pretty lengthy list of what didn’t get done this weekend – laundry, bills, cooking, freezing some excess food before it goes bad.  We did dishes. . . grudgingly.  We didn’t declutter and the only cleaning was some animal body functions involving target practice at the garbage can.

But wow.  We had fun, we relaxed and laughed, and for Monday, we are both ready to go back to work and be productive.

Walking During Lunch

These last several weeks have been unseasonably warm.  I enjoy walking during lunch for my exercise and thought you might like to see Brown’s Island and the canal off the James River in downtown Richmond.

This is the bridge I take across to get to the island, shown from the far end.  Click here for a close up picture of the bridge from last year.

Of course, I like to check the sky and see what the clouds are doing.  It’s one of my favorite things about taking pictures.  They’re all different too.

The trees have started budding, which I don’t think is a good sign.  Our maple and oak trees in the backyard are waking up.  So are the mosquitoes and the flies.  My herbs never died back.

Instead of crossing on the bridge, I can also go down these stairs instead and walk on the near side.  I usually don’t as it’s just benches and concrete.  Some days if if I’m not walking and the weather isn’t too nasty, I’ll eat my lunch on one of the benches just to get away from my desk for a while.

This is the view from the left of the bridge (looking east).  There are several restaurants down that way and I can cross back over the canal and walk on the sidewalks into Shockoe Slip.  To see some pictures I posted last year of walking along the canal in that direction, click here and here.

This is the view from the right of the bridge (looking west).  I posted pictures from when that white bridge was put into place here.

This cool sculpture is along the walking path.  It’s called “The Headmen” and is a tribute to the African-American boatmen who were part of the development of commerce in the city.  The city has other sculptures around it and I will post those a different time.

This beautiful building behind the sculpture is actually a corporate headquarters.  Several times a year, tourists try to get in, thinking it’s a museum.

The trains still run along here.  This one rumbled by as I was walking.

Here’s a view of the river.  The water was very sparkly the day I took it, but my camera didn’t quite catch it.  Along with the warm days, the humidity has come back.  My distance pictures have a fair degree of haziness because of that.

Shortly after I took this picture, a kayaker came through.  I thought it was a bit fast and choppy in this section, but he made it through without a problem.

There are some interesting things to see during my walk, although when the leaves are down it’s pretty barren.

While everything has a beauty to it, the winter makes it more difficult to find the beauty.  I have to work hard to make it look pretty, by being selective about the angle of my shot and cropping closely when possible.

This is what I see from the far side of the island.  My employer is in the far building to the left.

The river is full of seagulls.  These were so big that I thought they were turkey vultures until they took off.  I took several pictures as I walked until I got one where they weren’t so black against the sky and I could see the gray coloring of the gulls.

I took my walk about 1:30 pm.  The sun is angled low at this time of the year.  I miss the endless summer days of living in the Midwest, but I do not miss the endless winter nights.  The sun may be low, but it is light longer at this time of the year.

From here, I can either go back through the island to get to the bridge or I can continue up the sidewalk.   If my time is getting short, I’ll just take the sidewalk back.  I’ll sign in at the health club that I worked out on the outside trails.

A lot of people are used to seeing me come back into work with the camera.  It’s a great conversation starter as people are curious what I took a picture of during my walk.  All kinds of things, I’ll say.  All kinds of things.

A Wonderful Friday in Six Words

I had a wonderful day today and thought I’d describe it in six sentences of six words:

robin sings brightly before dawn breaks

bright sun, fresh air, lunchtime walk

my camera stalks today’s new picture

work energy rises for yearend close

waxing moon crisp in navy sky

And for today’s picture, taken several years ago:

jealous dog stuffs into cat bed

© 2012 dogear6 llc

Yes, he did!  A jealous 55 pound dog decided to use the cat bed since the cat was on the desk with me.  I was surprised he fit so well.  Can you believe he curled up so small? I was surprised the cat didn’t refuse to use the bed after it smelled like dog.

Over at A Daily Life is guest post by Pam at Mushy Cloud.  She’s given us her list of questions to use in remembering what happened last year.  I encourage you to try them out.  It’s easier to remember now what happened for your future self than it will be to remember it five years from now.

I’d also like to thank KittyHere for passing along the six word challenge.

Security Comes In Multiple Forms

Henry Ford once said,

The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.

What’s interesting about this quote is that my paternal grandfather worked for Henry Ford, inventing things such as the one piece metal roofs on cars.  Why did he invent it?  Because my father, being where a small child wasn’t supposed to be, put his foot through the tarred canvas roof that cars had once upon a time.

My grandfather was going to school in Germany when the hyperinflation happened in the 1920’s.  He had not yet converted his Swiss francs to German Marks and survived.  His friend was not so fortunate and lost everything.

For years, my grandfather told us to have job skills and keep them current.  Even if we lost all our money, the ability to earn money could not be taken away.  It was our security for tough times.  You have to imagine his thick accent as he would repeatedly give us this counsel.

That advice was true then and it is true still today.  I have friends who are unemployed and underemployed.  Our receptionist at work lost her job as an accountant and is working as a temp, greeting visitors and issuing badges.  It’s not a great use of her talents, but she has remain employed.  She hasn’t been in a hurry though to find another job – she’s really enjoyed doing this and is very good at it.

Other unemployed friends are working for the government as auditors, starting their own consulting firms, or working as contract labor.  It’s not great either, but it’s better than being unemployed and they’re grateful to have the work.

My favorite boy toy and I have invested heavily in my career.  We’ve moved around the country for better jobs or in some cases, to be employed.  I keep my networks strong and intact, and my job skills as well.  I enjoy technology, but more importantly make it a point to be current in its techniques and applications.

I hope to not be unemployed again – I’ve had my turn thank you – and am fortunate to both be employed and challenged in my current position.  Grandpa’s advice has stood me well all these years, as it has my daughter as she establishes her career and job skill set.  She tried the dog business for a year, closed it, and was able to re-enter the job market without a hitch (two interviews – two job offers – how good was that!).

My father-in-law established himself a new career when he was over 60 years old and worked ten more years.  He was a master machinist, working in the plants that printed magazines until they were closed and the work went overseas.  The union found him a contract job at the research facilities of Amoco Oil, where to his surprise he became quite the prize with the scientists seeking him out for his knowledge.

He didn’t understand for a long time that they valued him because he could deliver their ideas, knew how to construct the physical whatever-was-needed, and do it a very tight specification.  They sought him out to try out their ideas while in the conceptual stage, knowing that he had the expertise to judge if the idea would work or not.  I was proud of him for taking his skill set and making a new career from it.

This post became much longer than I intended.  The point is that our job skills are important, whether we work with our hands or our brains.  The ability to think, learn, and bring experience to the workplace will help many of us in the days ahead, whether staying where we are at or being forced into unwanted change.  Keep learning, keep growing and nurture your talents.

Here is my grandfather, next to the machine that he invented for Henry Ford.  I imagine he worked directly with Henry Ford on occasion.  Henry Ford was known for being blunt, aggressive, and temper prone; my grandfather was the same way.  I often wonder how they got along without coming to blows – I would think the arguments could be heard all over the building.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – IDENTICAL.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.


Instrumental People

I’m always so happy to find old pictures, especially of people who were instrumental in my life.  These were co-workers where I worked for nearly ten years before the company had financial difficulties, got sold, and everybody was gone.  Here we were moments before leaving to go to a Cubs game for the afternoon, a reward for a big project that was recently finished.

I’m at the far left – I didn’t fix myself up that day!  Two over from me is my boss, in the dark shirt and shorts.  He was ten years older than I was and so much wiser in the game of life.  His wife was a stay-at-home mother, I was not.  Even so, he was one of my biggest supporters when I had trouble balancing work and family, when I needed favors, and in helping me maintain equilibrium in my life.  I worked hard for him and he was fair in return.  I try to be the kind of boss he was – patient and kind, but providing feedback and correction when needed.  He mentored me daily and I do the same for my staff.

Three over from him is an older gentleman in a yellow shirt who also reported to my boss.  He was older than all of us, having actually passed retirement age a year or so earlier.  At one time he was a top dog in our field.  He had a problem with alcohol though, losing several jobs before going to work for a former employee of his.  His boss / former employee finally did an intervention and made him go to rehab.  This gentleman was vocal that it saved his life and he gave credit to his boss’s willingness to deliver a tough message (get help or get fired) and make it stick.

At the time I worked with him, he was twenty years older than my boss.  He was clear that he was not the boss.  He supported my boss anyway he could, he did any project asked of him, and he taught me that humility and respect were wonderful things no matter what your age or former position used to be.  He was a wonderful team player and example to those of us who were so much younger.

Two people in this picture taught me how I didn’t want to act in the workplace.  From one of these, I learned that no matter what I did, I was offensive merely by breathing the same air in the same room.  I finally had to toughen up and ignore it, being careful to not expose myself in a way that they could hurt me.  Another one taught me that no matter how much someone might smile and act nice, they would often backstab and could not be trusted.  I didn’t have to work with that one very often and generally documented each dealing we had to protect myself.

The rest of them were good friends.  We worked, laughed and cried together.  We pulled together at the end before the company went under and took care of each other as best we could.  They were a good crew and I am still in touch with some of them.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – PRECEDING.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.

Based On the Richter Scale – Moderate

Tuesday had a few scary moments when the earthquake occurred in Virginia.  I was at work, about forty miles from the epicenter.  Based on the Richter scale, it was a moderate earthquake which is defined in Wikipedia as:

Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings.

But when you’re on the sixth floor of a glass building with research labs several floors down, and the building start shaking the first thought is – did something happen downstairs?  But when the shaking doesn’t stop, those of us not from Virginia start asking do earthquakes happen here?  And the Virginia natives replied – not like that!

About half of us evacuated the building, the rest watching us from upstairs.  I lived in upstate New York when the towers came down, so I kept moving further and further down the driveway.  If something was going to happen, I didn’t want to be close to it.

It was scary and creepy, although surprising that it was actually enough to make all the major media within minutes.  It truly was a big deal.

Here’s the front of the office building where I work.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – HOME.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.


Pump Those Arms & Legs

Pump (from Wiktionary) – An instance of the action of a pump; one stroke of a pump; any action similar to pumping.

In late January, I started walking outside again.  I simply could not face another lunch workout in the gym, staring out the window as my legs did a pump on the stationary bike.  I wasn’t the only walking outside – you can see here all kinds of people along the canal (I took this in February), their arms and legs doing a pump as they walked along briskly.  I come back to my desk feeling better for the fresh air and exercise, making for a more productive afternoon.

To see how others might interpret today’s randomly selected word, check out KittyHere or There, Anywhere; hugmamma’s MIND, BODY and SOUL;  and ThreeSixFive, TwoZeroOneOne.  It is amazing how differently we each respond in our posts.

Word for tomorrow – CASTING.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”. 

For more information on participating in the challenge, click  the tab marked “challenge invitation”.