Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jenny: Vision Boards

I just read this adorable post about Vision Boards by Christine Kane, self-described "Mentor To Women Who Are Changing the World." This is something Joseph and I will definitely be up to in the next few days, if we can afford a cab into town.

A vision board is a big collage of images that inspire you or represent things you want to attract into your life.

What would be on your vision board?

Jenny: Management Theory

Joseph’s here in Tennessee for a training conference. When he came home yesterday, I looked over the material he brought home. I noticed that he had been taught about “leadership styles.” I find the concept of “style” in management, and even the word “leadership” dangerous to any business. It gives lazy (read: laissez-faire) managers and micro (read: autocratic) managers permission to be so, and call themselves “effective leaders.” Whenever a criticism is made about these types of managers, the response will be “Well, that’s my leadership style.”

Leadership in itself is dangerous. Every bloody conflict has two leaders: one who wants the bloodshed, and one who wants to end it. We tend to worship the later, and ignore the former, despite the fact that both are effective leaders.

(Case in point: Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill)

The purpose of leadership is to subjugate individual consciousness which relieves the leader of the stress of millions of undirected choices. With everybody making their own individual choices, change and progress is slow and gradual. Leadership is used to speed up the process, and exploit individuals into accomplishing a goal that the individuals did not choose, often by means that the individuals do not wholly approve. (See Level 3 below)

My first point is this: the goal, be it financial, business, relational, artistic, or service, is the leader. The goal is the leader. Not the CEO, manager or supervisor. The clearer and more direct the goal; the more effective is its leadership. Obsess over the goal. Stare at it. Write it down a hundred times. Get it printed on note cards and review daily. Tack it in big poster board letters on the bedroom and office wall. Google it and read every hit. Look up the definition of every word in the goal (even I, they, and, the) and copy them down. Visualize the goal. What does it look like? Draw it, paint it, and collage it. Act it out with colleagues and underlings.

Working the goal into the subconscious will help accomplish it. The subconscious mind will give direction towards the goal. It’s like brainwashing that you can do to yourself.

Now brainwash everyone else on the team. Tell them the goal. Don’t tell them the strategy first, because most likely, they won’t understand it. Everybody has their own brain, that’s why you put together a team in the first place right?

Or did you just hire/recruit these people for their bodies?

Every meeting and memo should be focused on the goal first, then strategies. Different people will bring different ideas to the table. When everybody is subconsciously obsessed with the goal, it won’t be hard to select the most direct course of action.

Remember: the goal is the leader.

The 4 Levels of Management

Having worked with different types of managers for the last 7-8 years, I know a lot about them and I formulated this theory around my experiences. There is only one type of effective manager: Level 4. You are either a level 4 manager or you’re on you’re way to becoming one.

Level 1:

A level 1 manager might as well be called a level 0 manager because they aren’t managing anything but their own chaos. This manager is a business owner who is trying to do everything on their own because they don’t trust anyone with their money. Or an artist whose being held back because they don’t want to give up creative autonomy to an assistant.

What these managers are missing out on is that ideas, creativity and consciousness work best on a grand scale, and poorly on a small one. What is a writer without readers? What is a business with no employees or customers? Nothing.

Bringing ideas into the realm of reality requires sharing them with other people. When a Level 1 manager realizes this they become a Level 2 manager.

Level 2:

When a manager hires that first assistant or employee they become, by default, a level 2 manager. The artist or business owner realizes they need help and they think that adding more people is the solution. That’s a good start, but they haven’t made it to level 4 yet.

The employee or assistant quickly gets frustrated and quits because the level 2 manager has no idea what the assistant or employee should do. The manager gets frustrated: it’s obvious what my assistant should be doing! Everything I don’t have time to do! The manager sees the employee as an extension of his/herself and not a being in their own right.

Eventually, the level 2 manager will realize that if they come up with a list or group of tasks for the employee to accomplish, it will make the situation simpler. At this point Level 2 becomes Level 3.

Level 3:

A level 3 manager stifles and controls all levels of production by dictating what the employees should do. Most managers and management systems are based in level 3. They use glitter, mnemonics, catch phrases, uniforms, training regimes, discipline schedules, coercion, incentives, reward programs and persuasive speech to get employees to obey.

Every minute, hour, day, week, month, quarter and year are judged by complex mathematical systems. Judged harshly. Nothing can ever be enough, usually because the corporate goal (whether communicated or not) is: Make as much money as humanly possible, and then some. A level 3 manager feels that eliminating “laziness” and “personality problems” can maximize production. And they are right. Just look at the military. Wipe everybody clean of personal choice and personal identity and you have a perfect fighting machine.

If the manager is running a militaristic operation, they should and often do, stay at level 3. Level 3 is viewed as the pinnacle of management technique. This is where Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill became effective leaders: using glitter, coercion, distractions and invigorating speeches. It’s also where many potentially good managers get burned out, and “laissez-faire” and “autocratic” managers get stuck.

Level 4:

Level 4 managers are ineffective leaders. They are not in control of production levels, ways or means. They cannot lead by example because they value individual input. They do not want to work with perfectly functional automatons; they enjoy working with quirky, dysfunctional, ineffective human beings. They do not dictate what each team member should do and wait for results or fulfillment of expectations.

Level 4 managers can identify a goal; they communicate it honestly, and then obsess over it. They know how to guide team members who aren’t aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know how to get the team obsessed with the goal, and they know team members who aren’t obsessed with the goal will leave. They know that if the team is focused on the goal, they will accomplish it by the fastest and most direct means.

Level 4 managers can deal with hyper quantifiable goals like “We need to make $1900 this hour.” They are even better at complex goals like “Create a sense of community within our store including: management, staff, customers, vendors and service providers, and the community at large.”

At the top of every success is a level 4 manager. Level 4 managers could care less about the rate of success or failure of their ideas and strategies. They don’t need complex financial, mathematical or scientific systems. They go with their gut, and their gut knows the goal inside and out. That “gut feeling” is the subconscious telling the manager what to do next.

That’s the difference between Level 3 and Level 4. A level 3 manager does what the numbers say to do 85% of the time. They risk very little, so they accomplish the same amount. When the management is focused on numbers, they get numbers. When they focus on employee obedience, they get employee obedience.

When they focus on the goal they get the goal.

As a parting note I will recall the scene in Ocean's Thirteen when Al Pacino’s character, an autocratic manager and effective leader, is communicating his goal of winning his fifth Five-Diamond Award to one of his employees: a maid. He shouts out his accomplishments aggressively at her, communicating very effectively his goal: to win the award. He is also communicating something else: if she doesn’t get him this award, she will lose her livelihood. If livelihood is the only thing a manger can offer his/her team, that manager will never leave Level 3.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Joseph Recounts the Journey

So day one….

But first, Why do I always start out stories with So…

So… Day one.

We got a late start with all the packing we had not done and all the cleaning we had not had time to do and all the not wanting to really do this we were feeling we kinda put things off a bit.

Lesson one. When packing up to move and you only own one car, get done early so you can run all those errands you need to do BEFORE hooking a 2000 pound trailer onto the back of your car. I mean it is seriously impossible to take a bunch of stuff to the Salvation Army when you have no room in the car for anything but you and Jenny and the cat.

Now lets talk about the cat. I tell Jenny and the cat all the time that I hate him (the cat). This is clearly not true. I happen to adore him no matter how many times he wakes me up or makes me step on him or is just in general a VERY VERY VERY bad cat. But I do love him. In fact I love him so much that I took Jenny and I to the vet to ask for a sedative for the cat because he does not travel well. Now it is true that the vet is kind of hot and I may not have been paying super close attention but this is sort of what I remember.

Joseph: “Can you give us a sedative for the cat? We're going on a really long car ride.”

Vet Lady: “Just give him benedryl.”

Joseph: “How much?”

Vet Lady : “A quarter tablet, or 1.3 ml of children's benedryl.”

Joseph: “OK!”

See not a lot of conversation for me to be distracted by her hotness even if Jenny was.

So lesson two. When giving your cat a medication that he has never had before, try it out before hand or he will throw up all over YOUR head and not Jenny's. All down your back, and all over the seat and all over you and not anywhere near Jenny and all over your seat and hat and back and not anywhere near Jenny and then Jenny will say “Oh its just because he loves you."

We were on our way to dinner at a great little restaurant that gives these frequent diner cards and we were going to try and use ours for $10 off.

After getting cleaned up in the parking lot of Price Chopper. We headed to the restaurant and had a decent meal, however….

Lesson Three: When in a hurry make sure the restaurant knows whose section they put you in so you don’t sit there for 45 minutes before you finally get someone’s attention and they come over and say “Oh sorry there was a mistake and no one knew whose section you were in.” It was a good meal though and they make a great chicken sandwich. And they did give us our whole meal for free because they forgot the horseradish sauce when we asked for it.

Then we got on the road and headed out. We drove 5 hours or so and then we couldn’t stay awake anymore. So off we pull to an EconoLo(Bleep out of the corporate name) and Jenny looks online at Priceli(bleep out of the corporate name) and finds a better deal about 14 minutes away. So I say “Sorry we found a rate of 65 including tax so were going to go there.”

Lesson Four: Don’t hand your credit card to someone unless they WRITE down how much they are going to charge you no matter what they SAY. They can just say they said something different later on. Then you pay WAY too much for the dirtiest smelliest hotel ever!

Lesson Five: No matter what you do or endure, it really is an adventure, no matter how bad or stressful it is when right next to you is someone you love more than breath and they are happy to be with you in this life.

NEXT TIME: An explanation of how we got here and why without blame or accusation. Think I can do that. Or How did dis 'appen? (spoken in a Janeane Garofalo french accent).

Jenny: Fast Food

I, as a rule, avoid eating fast food. There are notable exceptions to this. I won't AbsTru them.

1. I ate certain things from Arby's because eating makes me less cranky at work. I never ate anything from Arby's unless I was working. I ordered two pizzas from Sbarros in the mall for the same reason.
2. Joseph and I go to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries about twice a month when we don't have a lot of time. We eat their fries because they appear to be nothing but grease and potatoes. We eat a hamburger from there about twice every 2 months.
3. We order pizza (and salad and chicken) from local pizza places. I "never" order pizza from Pizza Hut or Domino's. I love supporting local businesses (not national franchises).
4. I have a weakness for a steak salad from Chipotle. I get lettuce, steak, and the mild salsa.

With that aside, I've been eating an abnormal amount of fast food in the last couple days. While traveling with an overpacked car, a dehydrated and hyperactive cat, a heavy trailer and hills too steep for our transmission and 100 degree heat pounding on our heads, fast food has been a life saver.

The truth about life and food is that you can't have one without the other. If you dont eat long enough, you'll waste away and die. Wasting is a medical condition, not a euphemism for hunger. Hunger protects us from wasting. Our brains start fantasizing about food. There are two options: eat or get cranky. The crankiness is the aggression we need to kill something to eat, or kill someone to steal their food. Aggression, the hills, the cat, the trailer: it's a dangerous cocktail. You don't want to be distracted while towing.

Arguing with a woman who is preparing to kill would definitely qualify as a distraction.

In comes McDonald's. I don't know why, but I will eat McDonald's. I won't eat Wendy's or Burger King. I won't eat Taco Bell or Long John Silver's. I have an obsession with doing things "the right way." I guess my brain just accepts McDonald's as the "right way" to do fast food.

I've had McDonald's twice in the last two days: #9, 3 pieces, large combo with the sweet tea and barbecue sauce. I was tempted the second time to find out how many calories I was eating. Then I stopped myself. I'm stressed enough. I know my meal is 1400 calories, approx. If its more, I'd feel bad.

At night we've been ordering Domino's. Domino's must have some sort of deal with hotels because their ads are all over the room. My pizza last night was the Deluxe Feast: pepperoni, sausage, onions, green peppers and mushrooms. I've been eating it slice by slice today for all-day sustenance. Microwaved. If you know me, you know I avoid microwaving food at all costs.

My situation with traveling and fast food is proving my belief about food manufacturing, fast food and food technology. When getting fresh food is beyond difficult, you're in an emergency situation (like long distance travel, war, environmental crisis, poverty) mechanically produced, chemically preserved food is manna from heaven. If you made a mistake and didn't plan properly: fast food is a solution to avoid making your situation more dire.

But it's not for everyday. Everyday we should be perusing gardens to dig up potatoes, snap off corn and peas, cut lettuce and the like. When I get to my destination I know that I'm going to go back to my old habit of avoiding fast food, microwaves, and most of the center aisles of  the grocery store.

Until then: 5 Guys.

Jenny: States We've Passed Through

A combination of hunger, anxiety and claustraphobia saturated my physical form as I left New York. New York is a cool state. Just ask anyone who isn't from there. Even people from California think New York is cool. Everyone who lives in New York wants to leave and go to Massachusetts. Or Florida. Or Ohio. Or ANYWHERE ELSE.
Great things about New York: apples, maple syrup, Saratoga water, clever custom plates, Stewart's, snow, 50 South, Marquis Warner.

New Jersey. This is the one they call The Garden State, but is more famous for being covered in litter. You can never miss New York more than when you are in New Jersey. We tried to get a hotel but failed. We didnt realize that having the most millionaire families in America would drive the hotel rates up so high.

Pennsylvania is New England's bowels. When you're in New Jersey, you can pretend you're still in New England. You can tell yourself that its not getting hotter, and the food isnt getting crappier, and the people stupider. But once you hit Pennsylvania... its all downhill. And uphill and downhill. The South is coming, Mid-Atlantic is its harbinger. We stayed at a creepy Travelodge here. I dont even remember what city. But my credit card does.

I wasnt in this state long enough to show you a map of it. Who is this beruffled man? George Culvert the Baron of Maryland. He got kicked out of Parliament for being a Catholic.

This bespecktacled fellow? Why it's our good friend John "Sunshine On My Gosh Darned Shoulders" Denver. We were in West Virginia for less than an hour, but it was as green and good and holy as John Denver said it would be.

Joseph hates Virginia. He used to live there and all hell broke loose. I try to hate it with him, but alas, they had some delicious blue crab, fresh caught, you know how I am with food. This is the seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It reads, Sic Semper Tyrannis: Thus Always to Tyrants. The Lady standing up on Tyranny is Virtue, not Timothy McVeigh, John Wilkes Booth, or Brutus. Virtue, not Terror, stands upon Tyranny.

Remember that.

We stayed in a HoJo in Roanoke. Upon leaving I noticed the heat for the first time in 4 years.

Where we are now:
Powell, Tennessee. Greenest State in the Land of the Free. I would have totally voted for Davy Crockett, except, well I would have been a slave. And even if I wasn't a slave, neither women nor Negroes were permitted to vote.

The air is dense as fog here, and it rained last night. I miss the lovely crisp New York air, smooth with wood smoke and lavender.

Jenny: What Is the Quacklemeister Life?

Many people ask Joseph and I questions about our life, what we are up to, how we met, why we do what we do and for how many jelly beans, etc. And sometimes we ask ourselves the same questions. So we decided the best way to muse and disseminate was through this blog. We also have tons of friends that we lost to frequent and abrupt cross-country moves. We like to keep in touch, but we're really bad at it.

So with good intentions in one hand and technology in the other I bring you: The Quacklemeister Life.


Have you ever met Jenny or Joseph Quacklemeister?

Do you like Jenny or Joseph Quacklemeister and/or want and/or used to be friends with either or both of them?

Do you enjoy reading dissemination or musings?

Do you have questions that you'd like answered?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this blog is for you.

Introducing The Quacklemeisters

Why Quacklemeister? It's a name I made up in high school when forced to explain, pseudo-anonymously how our relationship came to be. It’s unique, meaningless name that screams US! Those weird people who live (insert our current address).

Me: Jenny Blankety- a 22-year-old woman. Like a frozen computer screen, I’m confused, but working on it.

My boyfriend/fiancé/soulmate: Joseph Quacklemeister, 39. Professional calmnifier.

My cat: Prince Albert Unpierced Mushroomcap. Our cat is a very very very bad cat.

Ex-Mrs. Quacklemeister: Juliana Snackcrackerson, fyi.

Joseph’s daughter: Jasmine Snackscrackerson-Quacklemeister, 10. No, you're right, it should be Jasmine Quacklemeister-Snackcrackerson, but that’s another post for another time.

Side note: Some of you may be asking, what about the Valentines (Apex, Dalia, Aryn, et al)? Here is the corporate approved answer:

The Valentines is a religious organization whose members worship the number 17. This is not a religious blog. The Quacklemeisters do not approve or disapprove of any religion. Please redial the number and try again.

The Absolute Truth

I will tell the absolute truth. This is the internet and I understand that things can become unreasonable. If at any point telling the absolute truth on this blog becomes unreasonable, I will revert to AbsTru. AbsTru is a censoring program I installed in my brain. It rewords facts, data, opinions and events into TruNuggets. TruNuggets are easily digestible for those with sensitive brains. They’re salty, chewy and flavored with natural truth extract.

AbsTru TruNuggets: When you can’t chew what’s true!

Questions? Photos? Letters? Postcards? Opinionated Editorials? Recipes? Reviews? Advice? Long Distance Art/Performance?
Tells us what you want and we will deliver!

The Inaugural Quack


I heard you guys were moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Did the person who told me this lie?

No, you were not lied to. We are indeed moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We left the great empirical state of New York on Friday April 30, 2010 at 8pm.

Why would you want to move away... don't you love us anymore?

Yes, we love you. Jenny does not want to move but ex-Mrs. Quacklemeister is taking too much of Joseph's money, so we have to go to New Mexico to fight it. Plus, Joseph wants to see his daughter, Jasmine Quacklemeister, age 10.

I helped you move or gave you a gift, are you grateful?

No, we're not grateful. We're thankful. Which is much more meaningful in our eyes.

Are you ever coming back?

Jenny plans to come back to attend RPI in 2014 or so. And we also plan to go on splendid Adirondack vacays too.

Where are you keeping the cat?

Our cat, Prince Albert Unpierced Mushroomcap, stays with us in the hotel, and he rides on top of a suitcase in the car.

Did you know that having animals roaming the car is dangerous?

Yeah, but he yowls if he's in the carrier.

Does Jenny have a job?

Lol. She's working on it.

Does Joseph have a job?

Yes. Same as the one in New York.

Can I ask you another question?

Yup. Just nail them up in the comments! Specify who (Jenny or Joseph or both) you want to answer.