Your New Client

I live in Cleveland, so I swim around in a giant aquarium of businesses that potentially need my services.  Nearly every business I visit struggles with some aspect of information processing that is messy or repetitive.  Armed with Filemaker Pro, I mentally design the interface and structure of the database that would solve their problems.  If my life’s quest was for creating order, my weapon of choice is Filemaker Pro.

There’s plenty of business out there (I’m never caught up), but not every business is a potential client.  Knowing that can save you thousands of hours and dollars in marketing efforts.

First, and perhaps most obviously, some personalities are not a good fit.  Early days I allowed myself to be hired by a couple of guys who sensed my uncertainty as a fairly new developer.  They mowed over my advice, made extreme demands, instructed me to do what I knew not to do, and generally made me miserable and less confidant.  I got confidant enough to bow out of those business relationships.  As always, wisdom isn’t bought cheaply, so I count those hours as well spent.  Now a fifteen minute phone call is enough to tell me whether I want to gently direct that client in a different direction.  If they definitely want me, I know to negotiate to avoid those potential problems before they occur.

Less obviously, Filemaker Pro isn’t necessarily the best tool for every client’s immediate needs.  If you know me, you know how I adore Filemaker — both what it does and the opportunities it has provided me personally.  But to give your clients the best value, you have to offer them the best tool for the best job.  A 5 HP 10 inch table saw with a 52 inch table is a thing of glory to behold, a spectactular tool . . . but it’s not the tool you need if you’re clipping your toenails.  As good as it might be, it could lead to regrets.

I love hearing from potential clients, but I can often eliminate them as my potential clients with the first phone call or email.  Here are some examples:

  • They want me to work for free.  Not at all uncommon, I’m afraid, and sometimes it’s for a very good cause.  If you’re seeing success in your business, I believe you should be giving back.  But you do also have to pay your bills.  I’ve got my causes and I work hard to do a good job for them.  My pro bono dance card is full.
  • They want an awesome database and have budgeted $1000 for it.  See above.  I usually advise them to look within their organization for someone tech savvy, who might be able to start with a Starter Solution and develop by the seat of her pants.  Isn’t that how a lot of us started?
  • They want a Filemaker Pro accounting system.  That’s fine if you’re an accountant, but I’m not.   Bluntly, if you don’t have a thorough understanding of professional accounting, you have no business trying to build an accounting system.  You’re robbing your client if you try.  Buy a boxed program and connect it to FM using a plug-in from Data Buzz or another developer.
  • They want me now, and I’m booked up.  I’m planning on writing more about the whole “job martyr” ethic that thrives in the tech world, but for now I’ll just say, I’m fifty years old.  One of my daughters is grown and one has one foot out the door.  I love my work but I also love my family, my life, art, taking bike rides, seeing shows, traveling and reading.  I’m learning, late it life, to like sleep, or at least show respect for the need of sleep.  If my work load is already meeting or exceeding my allocated work hours, and they won’t wait or work with one of my contractors, I’ll turn them down.
  • Filemaker Pro isn’t the right tool for the job.  Because FM Pro is so flexible and customizable, it’s possible that every organization really can benefit from having an FM Pro solution.  I’m pretty sure I’m right about that.  But that doesn’t mean that FM Pro is right for every job within every organization.

Whether your target market is b2b or individual customers, it’s easy to fall into that mindset that there are no bad customers — especially if times are lean.   It’s worth sitting down and really sorting out who your best potential clients are.  Save yourself and them the time and hardship of trying to please everyone.


Rough Month

I considered starting off with “It’s been a rough month for women in business.”   But I can’t defend that sweeping generality.  43% of women voted for Trump.  That group was largely populated by white women, so, nice job ladies.  Way to trust your privilege.

A fun thing to Google is “Why do people vote against their own best interest?”

I can, at least generalize enough to say that I’m one of many people who are trying to come to terms with the words “President-elect Donald Trump.”  That last time I saw so many media people in tears was 9/11.

When Donald Trump became a real contender, My Tom and I seriously talked about our options.  But we really have only one option.  This is our home.  This is our country.  And as white, blue-eyed straight citizens who are on but not quite over the edge of financial disaster, we have no business doing anything but trying to stand for the less privileged.

I’m not exactly sure how.   I’m wearing a safety pin and set my profile picture on Facebook to Black Lives Matter.  I went ahead and put my congressman on speed dial.  Trump supporters are accusing me of not being patriotic enough to let it go.  Progressives (and nouveau progressives) have descended to angry accusations at each other.  Bluntly, it all sucks.

Trump as president is still largely an unknown.  Which of his reckless promises will he keep?  Which contradictory promises will he abandon?  As of this writing, he’s already back-pedaling on some of the alarming vows, so maybe the biggest threat from him will be his uncurbed tongue, hyper-sensitivity and impulsive behavior.  That frees us to vomit over the realization that just under half of this country is either full of hate or fine with hate.

I don’t have a good conclusion to this blog, so I will end here.


Your Superpower

My kids are fairly obsessed with superheroes — X-men, Arrow, Ironman . . .   I might think they are bit too old to care about that, but I still managed to get infected with the bug.  I don’t care about the individual heroes, although I have a fondness for Wonder Woman, but the powers fascinate me.  On nights when I can’t sleep, I think about it:

Image result for wonder woman
Who saves people in distress while wearing a bathing suit?

What power would I pick, if I could just pick one?

The possibilities are as endless as the imagination, of course.  And it’s all a moot point, because, although I consider myself to be a pretty nice person who smiles at strangers, returns groceries I accidentally didn’t pay for, and takes my vitamins, no one ever offers me a superpower.

Kind of frustrating.

Still, thinking about it in the light of day, I had to realize that I could have written a quiz:  Your Favorite SuperPower Reveals Your Personality!    or maybe, …Reveals Your Dominant Stressor.

Let’s take a look:

  • Invisibility.  This was a good power when I was worrying about kids in the rough parts of Cleveland.  I could sneak in, steal baskets of illegal guns and drop them off at the police station.  Maybe rock neglected babies at night.  Unfortunately I soon realized that my paltry efforts would barely make a dent.  And I kept avoiding the idea of how I could use it to my own advantage (dropping my manuscripts on editor’s desks, learning bank passwords).  I could turn into a Nemesis in about 20 minutes.
  • Influence.  What if I could shake hands with people, and EVERYONE I shook hands with would be compelled to use their personal gifts to make the world better?   So cool, right?  Now that would make a dent in the pain on the planet.  That’s a great one, except for the whole free agency thing.  Basically, I’d be turning people into minions.  Minions for good, hopefully, but still.
  • 5 Hour Time Stop.  This is a favorite.  I started with the idea of just eliminating sleep.  That would buy me 6-7.5 hours to get done all the things I’m not getting done.  Tempting, but at my late age I’ve finally sort of come to terms with the fact that my body requires sleep, and I’ve (mostly) stopped fighting it.  I’ve (mostly, again) stopped resenting the fact that instead of the advertised ~90 years, you really only get 60 because you have to spend the other 30 unconscious.    I’ve grown kind of fond of sleeping — warm blankets, warm Tom, peaceful drifting.  Why didn’t anyone tell me it could be so pleasant?

    So instead I went with 5 extra hours.   At, say, 4:05 pm, I would get up to go to the bathroom.  To the world (ie Tom) I would seem to be gone only a minute.  But I’d have a gratis 5 hours to get things accomplished.  I could get that next book written, study the latest technology or finish a database, then slide back into bed for the rest of the night.

With the first two of those, I told you what I was worried about.  It took me longer to see it with the third.  I’d over-extended myself, signing on to another business that I loved but didn’t have time for.  I wanted the five hours because I’d used up the 24 I’d been allotted.

I became genuinely frustrated that I couldn’t have that power.  That frustration told me what I’d been refusing to see — that I needed to let some things go.

I still allow myself to sort through the options from time to time.   To date, no one has approached me with an offer of any superhero, even a second-rate one like elasticity or arrow-shooting.  But the superhero question does have a different kind of power — alerting me that I’ve exceeded my bandwidth or limitations in some way.  So I’ll try to donate more and write more letters demanding improvements for the little guys, but I’ll try to worry about them less.  Because even without my compellingly good-intentioned handshake, there are a LOT of people out there already fighting for their well-being, so I don’t have to imagine it’s all on me.  And I will (already have) cut my responsibilities to what I can reasonably handle in a day.

So now it’s your turn.  What superpowers would you choose?  Why?   And if it’s really, really appealing, should you be making a change in your own life?



Life, Basically.

I was a hot mess for a while after my first husband passed.  Seriously, if you knew me then, you’re already nodding in agreement.  And, if you didn’t need know me then, well . . . you don’t need the details.

He had been sick for so long.  My entire life was dedicated to keeping him alive, even after, maybe, it was good for him.  Bad things just kept piling on — bills, unhappy kids, hospital visits and the terrifying, looming, unseeable future.   I was as close to despair as I’ve ever been.

So when he was gone, and the new life, whatever it was going to be, had begun, I thought the bad things were over.  I didn’t quite formulate that thought; it was just there.  I didn’t even know I thought it until maybe a month after he died.  During the prayer requests at church, the pastor told us about a member who had had a devastating stroke at too young of an age.

I was shocked.

I was genuinely shocked, that this bad thing had happened.  The bad things were supposed to be over!

Even as I thought it, as I felt it, I knew it was absurd.  Life would keep happening.  Death would keep happening.  Illness, money worries, parenting challenges, they were all still rolling toward all of us like the big rock ball in Raiders of the Lost Arc.

Life, basically.

It was an overwhelming realization.  I was absolutely convinced that I couldn’t handle it.  I had nothing left to give.  And for a while I was right — I did a terrible job at life.  For a while, I seemed to only do things to slow myself down and speed up that ball.

We like need to pretend that we have security.  The promise of a happily ever after, or at least of longevity.  Like all the happy citizens of King Ezekiel’s Kingdom (Walking Dead reference), we cling to the illusion that we are safe.  It gets us through the day.

Image result for walking dead  the kingdom

But we are not safe.  Life is risky and messy and it always ends in death.   If that thought overwhelms or terrifies you,  it doesn’t mean you can’t handle it.  It probably needs that you are in need of replenishment.  Sleep, nourishment, love, mediation, prayer, art . . . whatever feeds your soul.  Allow yourself some time to heal.  Get your balance.

But when you are well, get back to the business of living in the fragile illusion.

Boot up your laptop and start working like you can’t lose your income tomorrow.  Love your spouse like nothing will ever happen to him or her.  Hug your kid like she’s not hellbent on flying overseas to the most underdeveloped nation she can hike into.

But don’t quite believe it.   Don’t trust it.  Save money for tomorrow, but spend some today.  Tell your stories now, even if the kids roll their eyes.  Pay to zipline, and when you’re standing up there, way too high, knowing you could die, let go.   Love hard, with your whole heart, and express it openly.  Do embarrassing things.  Chat with the homeless guy.  Taste caviar and fugu.

That big round ball is rolling toward us, faster and faster and faster.  But knowing that is what makes the fugu so delicious.


My political views have been very costly

My political views have been very costly to me. At least six relationships withered under the light of my evolving point of view. My dad wouldn’t see me for the final 3 years of his life, until I shouldered my way back in two weeks before he passed.

Obviously, these relationships were already fragile if my opinions about policy could shatter them, but they might never have actually broken without that blow.

A politically conservative relative heard me say that and asked politely how I identify myself. “I’m not starting a debate or an argument,” he added politely. “I’m just curious.”

“I’m a progressive,” I answered automatically, but instantly realized that’s not a real answer. “That doesn’t actually tell you what I think,” I told him, “but how I think.”

For me, at least, the word “progressive” indicates that you identify the problem, look at possible solutions, scrutinize available knowledge and research, and pragmatically pursue the best approach for the most people.

If you don’t identify as a progressive, I’m cool with that. If you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian . . . whatever. You still can and should be willing to have your opinions challenged. You should still be able to look at research and vote based on the best likely outcome, instead of voting because you hate a certain candidate or believe certain people shouldn’t do certain things or (have certain problems).

You believe that teens shouldn’t have sex? Okay.

But they ARE having sex, so how about we accept that reality and try to minimize the long-reaching consequences.

You believe that poor people should never have children? Okay.

But they ARE having children, so how about we invest some resources into making sure those children grow up to be productive, sane, emotionally and physically well members of the community.

You absolutely hate that candidate, but all indications are that the other candidate will bring on the demise of modern society as we know it? How about we avoid the whole demise thing by pragmatically voting for the lesser of two evils.

The world is a complicated place full of complicated people who may believe and even need things different from you. You can be all disappointed and sad about it . . . or you can take a good long look at facts and find the best next step.

This is funny . . . but also sort of pro

This is funny . . . but also sort of profound. Lately, what have you considered starting, but then dismissed because it will take too long?

Going back to school?
Building an intricate project?
Writing a book?
De-cluttering your entire house?

Some projects are too huge, too daunting to take on all at once. You think, “Wait! That will take me five years! I’ll be (insert age) by then.”

So the question is, how old will you be in five years if you DON’T start?

Start. Take baby steps, but start.