Thursday, January 26, 2012

I loathe mediocrity

I loathe mediocrity.
I want to make a clear distinction before I even start. Trying your hardest and failing is part of life and that is not what I mean by settling for mediocrity. It is when you put forth only the minimum effort and end up with a result that is just passing or then failing that you have strived for mediocrity only.
Trying for mediocrity really bothers me. We’re all guilty of it on some level. Sometimes we just don’t feel up to the task that is at hand. Sometimes it’s a task that we’re really not enthused about. Sometimes we just don’t know what we’re doing. So instead of putting out that effort that could end up in a great result we just put out enough to know that it satisfies the criteria for completion.
This could stem from a fear of failure. Often a go big or go home, an all or nothing attitude is what it may take to succeed at a difficult task. The less difficult path may not offer as stellar of a result but may offer the safety net of no chance for failure. That’s not to say that striving for excellence is always a do or die, win or lose scenario since each situation is different. Putting out what is acceptable instead of exceptional though is what we see all too often in our society and what continues to lower the bar for others and bring us down a notch as human beings and as a society.
Too often in recent times we had discouraged competition, thwarted healthy rivalries and detracted from the hard work of those who are successful, in order to not offend or upset those who are only putting for the minimal effort. I would argue that we should instead be rewarding and incentivizing those who do well, who succeed and put forth the extra effort and encouraging those who put forth a worthy effort but fall short of the goal to try harder the next time. Those putting forth only the minimal should be encouraged to put more effort in, incentivized to put their best effort forward and praised for it only when doing so.
On several occasions I’ve read in horror stories of little league games that don’t keep score, where everyone gets a trophy at the end of the year. Really? Playing and not keeping score was called “practice” when I was a kid not a “game”.  What does this scoreless type of competition really teach those kids? I’m all for teaching equality and fairness, for praising a hearty effort. I also feel though that teaching kids that putting forth your best effort and failing is sometimes all that you can do and that you must face that throughout life. I’m also for the old cliché “to the victor go the spoils”. Teaching these lessons to kids is a good life lesson and when done properly will help make them a stronger individual as an adult. When those same kids try and fail showing them how to seize the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and try again is often one of the best teaching aides we can find. How else do we learn how to do something right if we don’t first understand what didn’t work on the first attempt? A toddler would not take their first steps without first learning what didn’t work to get them moving independently on two feet. Why would we coddle our kids and expect them to not learn the same things from their own efforts elsewhere in their lives? Why do we do this to ourselves and our co-workers or family as well?
Consider Thomas Edison. Edison was one of the great scientific and engineering minds of the 1800’s, revolutionizing the way we use electricity and coming up with a practical and safe electric light bulb (among many other fantastic inventions). Depending on the account you read it is said Edison failed to satisfy his requirements for an electric light bulb anywhere from hundreds to thousands of times before finding the right combination of correct parts and processes to create the bulb that satisfied his demands. Edison is often famously quoted as saying he did not fail hundreds (or thousands) of times he simply found that many ways not to make a bulb.
Imagine if Edison had simply strived for mediocrity. Safe, practical, longer life bulbs might have taken years or even decades to perfect if ever at all. The industrial revolution might have stalled or at least slowed down greatly. Reliable lighting in our homes and work places might have taken years to develop.
Consider this as well. There is often talk about decreasing the demands placed on medical students. These students often must work grueling hours completing internships as well as finding time in between to study what would seem to be a ludicrous amount of material in order to take and pass tests. I would argue these tests and ways of doing things exists for a reason. Physicians make life and death decisions, even treating a minor illness if done poorly could turn into a major ailment for a patient. Would you keep going to a physician who was unsure, indecisive or who appeared to cave under pressure when it was time to make difficult decisions? I am by no means saying physicians are perfect or that they never make a mistake. However if we lower the bar, relax the standards and settle for mediocrity with our medical professionals what quality of service are we going to get? Are you going to want to be treated by a mediocre physician?
Have you ever been somewhere and received bad service? Whether it was a restaurant, a retail store, getting your car fixed or buying a car? Why were you unhappy with that service? Chances are good it was because someone involved at some level, maybe not even the person you were dealing with was only putting forth a mediocre effort.
As a country we have in many ways settled for mediocrity because it’s comfortable. We’re fat, we’re lazy, instead of playing sports we pay big money for cable or satellite or game tickets and we watch other people get paid millions to play. We spend hours in front of the TV stuffing our faces in a comfy chair, if you like that sport so much why not go out and participate in a recreational league? Their all over the place. We’ve generally accepted and decided that it’s ok to file for bankruptcy; it’s ok to be on welfare or food stamps or other public assistance. I’m fine with you being on public assistance of some sort if you really need it, what is not ok is people who mooch the system and abuse it because they’ve settled for mediocrity instead of striving to be the best they can be. Those who choose to sit at home in their subsidized housing watching daytime tv and waiting for their next check to come in so they can buy some more scratch off lottery tickets at the store. The same goes for bankruptcy, if you’ve done all you can and you’re left with no other alternative then you are forced into it. If on the other hand you went out ran up a bunch of bills and instead of paying them you just decided it would be easier not to work hard and pay it off, then you have settled for mediocrity. There are all types of examples I could keep going on about, it has become too easy to take the low road instead of the high road and that’s the point I’m trying to make. What are we missing out on, what are we limiting ourselves to?
When I run in an event/race I know my limits and I work that entire race to run at the limit I set to meet my goal. Prior to that event I have spent countless hours in the weeks or months prior putting countless miles under my feet. I spend time training my body to get faster, become more efficient and be stronger. I spend hours each week in the swimming pool as cross training, improving my heart muscle, getting stronger and my improving my lungs. I stretch, I eat healthy food. On race day I often wake up at 4 or 5 am to eat a breakfast that will provide me with the energy I will need in a few hours (I go back to sleep after I eat). On some of those training days when my alarm goes off very early and I need to get a run in, or on those nights when it’s cold and rainy and it would be easier to stay in bed or stay on the couch than go to the YMCA and swim, I remind myself that I’m working toward a goal and that settling for mediocrity is what too many other people are doing at that moment. I really think that training physically has made my attitude better, and made me a better worker and better person.
Yes these are economically and in some ways socially difficult times. No, you are not expected to be the next Thomas Edison. Hardship though is often the fire that tempers an individual and breeds innovation. If we could all strive at our daily lives the way that we do at many of our personal goals, the way that many of our relatives did during times like the depression or the second world war then we might lose that acceptance of mediocrity and might make our society and our world a better place. Think of what we could do if we would just hold those ideals of doing our best high again.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Do You Kiss Your Mother with that Mouth?

Do You Kiss Your Mother with that Mouth?

Is it a case of life imitating art? I believe that may be a part of where this particular problem stems from though I do not completely blame movies, music or media entirely. I do realize that yes this is a free country and that the first amendment guarantees us free speech. What troubles me is the proliferation and rampant use of foul language in everyday settings, which seems to be growing.
You may be guilty of it yourself. I will grant you that in private or under extreme stress sometimes there may be no better word in the heat of the moment to describe or fit the agony, frustration or turmoil you are currently suffering. I would admit to being as guilty as anyone of giving in and using this type of language in the past, though as of the last several years I have made a conscious effort to curb that to a number of occurrences per year that could be counted on both hands at the most. As an alternative I often times mutter complete nonsense to myself as I’m working on a frustrating or difficult project; it usually makes me laugh and lightens my mood.
If Ralphie were a real person today he'd go blind from soap poisoning
Back to my opening statement, consider this; Hollywood is constantly trying to push the envelope, as is the music industry in many cases. The problem with language as I see it is that they’ve gone as far as they can go. Unlike gore, sex and nudity which “artists” will continue to push the limits of, there are only so many swear words available. So the only way to go further is to just keep piling on the expletives. When the only adjective in a sentence is the constant repetition of the same four letter word (or that word conjugated various ways) it makes little sense from a grammatical or reasoning standpoint, and it completely turns me off to what I’m watching (in this example).
Given the proliferation of such language in pop culture, it would seem that it has thus become more accepted in daily life, including in public use. As a kid I can rarely remember hearing the F-bomb being dropped in any place but in a movie. Keep in mind I grew up with a dad in the car business and spent quite a bit of time around a business environment both blue collar and white collar. I can recall no times prior to my teenage years hearing that word used in an open setting.
However today I hear this word among many others used on a regular basis. Not only do I hear it, I read it where various web sites, social media, etc contain stories or quotes containing not only that one but sometimes that one used several times or worse. Recently I had two college age women in our waiting area/office at work. One girl took a phone call on her cell phone and had a conversation that I can only describe as very colorful with the person on the other end. She not only used several colorful phrases but dropped the F-bomb at least every other sentence (sometimes three or more times in one sentence). This was all casual conversation for her, she was not angry or stressed, she was just using it in the same way I might use the phrases “messed up” “not right”, “unbelievable”, “whoa”, “you’re kidding” “blue”, “pretty”, “awesome”, “oh yeah”.  People will come to my desk and speak this way across the counter to me, or when they call on the phone. They are not necessarily directing anger or hate toward me as the word might imply in some cases but instead are using it as an adjective to describe something casually. This really makes me want to ask someone to leave and come back when they can speak in a language that resembles daily English and not the script from the latest horror movie.
Does anyone realize how stupid they sound when every sentence contains the same word used repeatedly? Yet it’s supposed to have a different meaning? Or it may be used as various parts of speech in the same sentence, noun, verb, pronoun, adjective, and adverb. When the same word is used repeatedly in this manner and it outnumbers the words that actually relate to what you’re talking about I have to say you don’t look just look and sound stupid, you come across (at least to me) as a complete moron with a limited grasp of the English language.
Read this sentence aloud and see if you can keep yourself from laughing or smirking; “I loving love you you loving mother lover, you’re such a loved up little love.”Ok so I made that up, but you get the idea I have replaced most of the parts of speech used in that sentence with the word “love”. You’re probably reading that thinking, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Do you see what I mean about the prolific usage of the same (or even multiple) profane words in a sentence. Replacing it with something that is not profane takes away the dagger’s edge of nastiness from the sentence and instead reveals how ridiculous it sounds.
Recently I was at my physician’s office for a routine checkup. I was alone in the waiting room. Another man came in and began talking to the receptionist. He was obviously frustrated and without getting into the details being a little bit whiney for not getting his way. He proceeded to start swearing at the receptionist. Without thinking I stood up out of my chair ready to ask him to leave (I really don’t know what got into me other than not wanting to see this young lady be bullied) she glanced my way and so did he “You will not talk to me like that!” she shouted. Glancing back at me standing up now and then back at her he backed down and apologized to her. I don’t know that I would have even done anything more in that situation but I’d like to think maybe I helped her take a stand and not be verbally abused by an abrasive person.
There was a time when using extreme amounts of expletives was reserved for combat situations, prison, R rated movies, comedians looking for shock value, backrooms, bar fights and private, quiet conversations. Such words were only shouted during those emergency moments when you’re about to crash your car, fall off the roof, stumble into a frozen pond or just smashed an extremity with something heavy or when two drunks were about to duke it out.
Not long ago using such coarse language was considered rude and disgusting in the presence of women and children. Saying such words in the wrong company was in some places enough to literally get you kicked out of an establishment, knocked out or in some cases maybe even have a gun pointed at you. In fact when I was a kid I can remember my grandmother saying that as a girl (think 1930’s) she was walking down the street with her older brother, a man walked by and said something foul (she never would say what the word was), my great uncle (her brother) proceeded to knockout the other man and leave him lying in the street for speaking in such a manner in front of his young sister.  While I see no reason for us to go back to the horse and buggy days in terms of how we deal with rude people, or the ways of life in rural Kentucky during the early 1930’s I do see a need for us to be more creative in our use of language and to exercise some courtesy, morality and civility. We should not be so coarse with each other, or so casually use these types of words, especially when we’re out in public.
Watchdog groups often cry foul over TV, music and video game violence, language or portrayal of women. They claim children may be influenced or desensitized by repeated exposure to such things. I believe as a society we may have been desensitized to the weight such foul words carry. In fact I would wager that since foul language has become so common place that not swearing may bear more leverage in a heated moment than letting loose of such words.  Just think about it the next time you’re having a conversation or are stuck in a moment where you might use an expletive, be creative and see what else you can come up with.
I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Almost Famous

Almost Famous
–why I love cars and what I’ve done about it for most of my life

It must be in my blood. That’s really what I think it ultimately boils down to. Either that or the car business itself has a sci-fi type of attraction that keeps drawing me back to it. Looking into the evidence further though I think it’s a combination of genetics and conditioning. Whatever it is, over the last nearly eighteen years I have come full circle in my work life and realized that I’m probably where I belong (or at least where I belong for now), read the story below to find out the details.

As a kid I was fascinated with cars. I can remember from a very young age sitting out in front of our house with my older brother Dan and naming the cars as they went by. By “young age” I don’t mean seven or eight, I’m thinking more like four or five at the oldest. I had a fascination from early on with cars and with anything that had wheels and moved.
I can remember some of my favorite toys being Hot Wheels cars, rolling them across the kitchen floor to “race” them, or constructing plastic tracks for a similar purpose. The Transformers cartoons was probably my favorite cartoon as well. It featured action hero robots that turned into cars, how cool was that, the cars saved people and turned into robots, and shot lasers and blew stuff up five days a week on afternoon prime time for kids TV. For a car obsessed kid, it didn’t get much better.

Another memory that comes to mind was probably sometime between the ages of six and eight being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I can remember very plainly stating that I wanted to work with my dad. My dad at that time was the service manager for a local Ford dealer. As is common with most boys I looked up to my father, he was my hero, the one who scared off monsters under the bed, took me to work with him on occasion and knew everything there was to know about anything.

Dad had a “demo” car as a job perk, which was often a station wagon or later a minivan because there were a lot of us kids to haul around every weekend (demo meaning demonstration model). Demos used to be more common than they are today in the car business, dealers would often give managers and some other employees(usually salesmen) a new vehicle to drive for a few thousand miles each month to get some new iron out on the roads. This was also a great way to show friends, neighbors, etc what came from where you work. So a new car every month appealed to me, something new to look at, explore and appreciate in the driveway.  

At such a young age I was also able to visit my dad at work on a somewhat regular basis, occasionally he would stop by his office on a Saturday to take care of something or grab some paperwork often bringing my younger brother David and me along. I had a firsthand look at the inner workings of a dealership at a very impressionable age. Looking back now on those memories it seems very surreal, and maybe that was part of the appeal when I was so young. The sounds of tools clanking and ratcheting, the hissing of compressed air, the shining new cars, the smell of wax and glass cleaner, the crazy greasy guys in the back fixing cars and the sharply dressed smooth talking men up front selling them. There were glossy books with pictures of the newest models and “technology” for me to flip through as well. To me it was always a picture too of people working together for a common cause, when customers came in to the shop to either buy a new car or get their car serviced or repaired, someone was there with a smile to help them. When everything was finished there was often a handshake and a smile. That at least is how it appeared from child’s perspective.

It didn’t help much that my older brother Dan began working at the car dealership as soon as he was old enough either. Dan was a car nut already and I would say between him and dad largely responsible for my interest in cars in general. From my perspective as a young boy it just seemed like this was the place to be, working at the dealership was doing something important. Cars were the coolest thing I knew of, so what could possibly be better than working around them.

At the ripe old age of 14 I was going to work with my dad at the dealership during the summers. I would help take out trash, file paperwork for him, organize and clean various things. I was paying my dues so to speak. At 15 I was at the dealership several days a week cleaning cars all summer. I think as a teenager I really began getting a closer look at the real world of the car business. I loved cleaning the cars though, getting new cars ready for delivery/customer pickup or to go on the showroom floor, or detailing a used unit to be put on the lot, it was hot, dirty, sweaty work, perfect for a teenage boy obsessed with cars. 

I remember that particular summer hearing from my dad “Son, don’t get into this business”, he was at the time half joking and half serious. Much like any work situation, where there are individuals there is eventually bound to be drama between them. Conflicts of one sort or another probably occurred more often than I was aware and as a manager he sometimes had to deal with these issues. That summer some of the shine on the car business might have dulled a bit and I was no longer sure working around cars in this setting was what I wanted to do. In the meantime it was work and it paid and I got to be around all those cool cars so I didn’t mind.

I spent the summer that I was 16 again washing cars. That summer was even better, I had a license, I could now drive the cars that I was being paid to clean, now I got paid to drive them, put gas in them and organize them on the lot. Less enthused about being in the heat I spent as much time as possible tidying up the cars that were on the showroom floor. That job though was something that we rotated each day, since you could literally spend at least a half hour basking in the air conditioning while you were cleaning those cars we took turns everyday on who cleaned the showroom cars.

Like many teenage boys I became increasingly obsessed with how cars worked. I had built and still did build model cars, I had a clear model engine that I could move by hand. Keep in mind at this point in time computer animation was still in its infancy, Jurassic Park had been the high point of CGI to that day and the internet was still a dark and mysterious place that was not so easily navigated. Much of what I read in magazines was left to my imagination to visualize with only a few usually very grainy black and white photos to help.

I read nearly everything I could get my hands on about cars, various car magazines with reviews, magazines about hot rods and how to modify your cars to go faster or look cooler. I can’t count the number of car stereos and stereo components I installed not only in my own car but in my friend’s cars as well. I detailed a few cars for friend’s parents on the side and even did a little side maintenance work for some of them. Much to my dad’s chagrin I did or attempted to do a lot of maintenance or repair work on my own cars, changing spark plugs, changing engine oil, I was still a bit intimidated in doing anything more extensive but that was changing. . I was able to get a fairly good grasp on most concepts though, probably better than most people my age at the time. That technical mindedness has continued to be useful nearly every day of my adult life. 

During this same time in my life I met Tom Milazzo. Tom and I were both bored in Chemistry class and the teacher had the misfortune of sitting us next to each other. Not knowing, but quickly discovering it we were both car nuts, particularly Mustangs. There really is no way I can calculate the amount of hours I spent with Tom during my last two years of high school. Working on our cars, reading magazines or cruising around. Lifelong friends are hard to find, but Tom and I still swing wrenches together on each other’s cars over sixteen years later. 

At this point in my teenage years I also loved to write, what a great thing I thought it would be to combine my love of writing and cars with a job in the car magazine business, writing for a publication. I didn’t realize it at the time but my opportunity to do this was just a few short years away.

Much like the weather, the many pastimes of teenage boys (and my wife tells me grown men as well) can change quickly. By my senior year of high school I was looking at going into computers and technology over working with cars. After spending nearly every summer at the dealership working in some capacity the car business itself had further tarnished in my eyes.  The world of technology was changing rapidly and PC’s because they had become so much cheaper were finally in wide proliferation, the internet was about to explode and change the world forever. I thought that computers were my golden ticket to the good life so that’s where I focused a lot of my attention at school. I figured I could get into computers, make a bigger paycheck than in the car business and fund my car hobby/addiction without working in the car business. At the time I didn’t realize how deeply ingrained in my DNA cars really were. I had also not yet experienced the mystical car business vortex.

A year after graduating high school I landed a job with a local company working the helpdesk for their IT department. It was good money for a guy who wasn’t even 19 yet and the benefits offered by that fortune 500 company were substantial to say the least. 

November 1998, me with my 1986 Mustang. I miss that car like an old friend
In nearly all of my free time I was working on my own Mustang that I had bought at the end of my senior year of high school. I raced that car almost weekly (sometimes twice weekly). I had also started and was working on a web site that featured write ups and photos about local Mustangs from the track and their owners. I was writing about cars and racing one in my spare time. The internet was still pretty green in the automotive journalism area so I was having a good time and a little success as I created a nice niche for myself.

In the fall of 1998 a new drag racing organization the NMRA (National Mustang Racers Association) came to Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, KY. I headed to the event with my brother Dan who was the track Chaplin for Beech Bend through a program called RFC (Racers For Christ). Taking my camera along I shot race coverage of the event and rushed home Sunday night to get my film developed and post the story to my little web site. By Monday morning I had the first online version of the race coverage anywhere. Apparently I drew more attention than I realized when I received an e-mail from the then head of the NMRA, James Lawrence asking me to call him about my coverage. Keep in mind these were the days before digital photography was widespread, internet coverage of events of any kind and live streaming were nearly nonexistent or seldom lived up to their hype, after all it was 1998. 

Through that phone call with James I developed a relationship with the NMRA that lasted for about five years. James asked me to check in once a month, let him know my thoughts on both the local and national scenes with concern to drag racing and Mustangs, racing trends and the performance industry. The NMRA was going through its early development phases and obviously they wanted to establish as many links around the country as they could (keep in mind that no one had ever thought of something like facebook or myspace at this point). That winter during a regularly scheduled phone call with James I received an invitation from him to talk with the then editor of NMRA’s monthly magazine Race Pages, Rob Kinnan and become a regular freelance contributor. 

That moment changed the way I viewed and participated in racing forever. Rob Kinnan to me was a giant of the car magazine industry. He had begun his career at Hot Rod Magazine, served as editor at 5.0 Mustang Magazine, both of which I read feverishly on a monthly basis, he had only left that job to purse a then better opportunity with the NMRA and subsequently the parent company they formed ProMedia.

This situation at the time was ideal for me. I had switched full time jobs to work for the IT department at KY Lottery. This job required that I work 12 hour shifts but in a two week pay period (14 days) I only worked 7 days and still made a full time salary (this was due to the number of hours worked). With my typically cooperative schedule at KY Lottery I was able to travel to NMRA events around the country on my weekend’s off. I was able to checkout a lot of cool cars and trucks, watch tons of great racing, get to know some of the racers and people I had only ever read about in magazines as well as meet all kinds of new and interesting people. If that wasn’t enough of a benefit I could often find enough material for freelance articles that I typically covered at least what it cost me to go to the events from my stories being published in Race Pages.

I contributed anywhere from one to four articles in nearly every issue of Race Pages for over three years. I also changed the way they dealt with photography. I bought an Olympus digital camera (I believe an E-10 was the model). It was a 4.5 Megapixel camera at a time when most digital cameras from a retail store were 1 or 1.5MP at the most. I worked with my local camera dealer and a few friends at how to correctly process digital images for print. Through my work I was able to convince NMRA and ProMedia to allow me to stop submitting film or slides and start sending work in on disc. Before I ended my freelance career with ProMedia and NMRA they were no longer accepting film or slides and instead had made the transition to all digital photography. I’d like to think I get a little credit for starting that trend.

During my freelance time with ProMedia they had also started a second magazine. There was a time when I contributed a large amount of content to it as well as Race Pages. Rob Kinnan called me on the phone one day; overwhelmed with his workload he was offering me the position of editor at this new magazine. Rob and the chiefs had met and decided Rob needed less work load, (I can hardly imagine being editor of two magazines at once). There was a hitch though; the job would require me to move to California, thousands of miles away from most of my friends, all of my family and a stable job. The pay would not be enough either for me to support myself and live on my own. Having no connections in the area near where I would be working and having no means to move on my own, I had to decline the offer. I did counter offer to do the work from where I lived, since most of it required traveling to races by car or plane, or dealing with freelance writers on the phone as well as a lot of work that would be completed on the computer. The in house staff needed someone present in the flesh though and we had not yet reached the age of telecommuting that we live in today where this might have been possible. 

My childhood friend who has known me the longest, Kelly, once remarked that the entire experience that I had as a freelancer reminded her of the movie “Almost Famous”. In some ways I might agree, a young guy from a small town gets to rub elbows, hangout and travel with some of his childhood heroes, while getting an inside glimpse at an industry he’s fascinated with and write about the experiences. With the exception of falling in love I think we have many of the key plot points from that movie (though I will admit to being infatuated with several girls that I met along the way during that time).

A few years into the freelance endeavor I decided to attempt taking my writing and photography skills into a full time career. I started my own business and spent the next year traveling the country to various racing events including NMRA both selling my photos to racers and fans as well as working on freelance articles. Unfortunately this was not an optimal full time career and between mistakes made on my part and a lack of sales I had to cease operations in late 2003 and close the company up for good in 2004. Having left KY Lottery nearly two years prior I was jobless for the first time in my entire adult life.

It would seem though that the mystical vortex of the car business would open up again and suck me back in. In January of 2004 I received an opportunity to work at the same dealer group as my dad. Byerly Nissan needed a person to serve as both service adviser and a parts truck driver. I could fit both ends, I knew enough about cars, the car business and how they worked to be a service adviser, I was good with people (which was a big plus) and I could “sell” work to customers that their cars needed. I had a clean driving record too so I could fill the second part of this dual role. My dad was the service manager for Byerly Ford located in the building next door, I was finally about to do what I said I’d wanted to do as a little kid, work with my dad, for real, as an adult.

I stayed at Byerly for about a year and a half eventually becoming solely the full time service adviser for the Nissan dealership(they needed me more on the service lane than in the parts truck so a new driver was hired). Driving to Dixie Highway from Crestwood each day, leaving at 6:30 in the morning and not getting home until 7:00 or later each night was wearing on me though. I found a job with an independent shop closer to home and left the dealership. I stayed in that next job for a little over a year, then I was made aware of a better opportunity at Pro-Tech, and I jumped on it. 

So today here I am, still in the car business. I’m the shop manager, service adviser, office manager, tech guy, whatever hat I need to wear today guy. Mostly I’m the manager/service adviser. I work for two very good owners who do a very good job not only taking care of customers and running an honest business but also at taking care of their employees (I’ve been here for over five years now). Like any job I have days where I go home and wonder if it’s really what I should be doing with my life, but those days when things click and go like they should, when everything falls into place and all the pieces work together like the gears of a clock, I know I’m where I belong, and doing what I’m meant to do (at least for now).

I will say that I sometimes miss traveling to the races, seeing all the action, the smell of tire smoke and racing fuel, standing on the starting line and feeling my chest shake from the sound of the engines, and meeting all those interesting people. Camping with the Dedpedal Racing guys, hanging out with the ProMedia staff, heading up to Indy to see my friend Jason McGrane and his now wife Audri. Riding with Beefcake in his latest toy and being the seat of the pants dyno in the passenger’s seat somewhere on an interstate in the Tri-State area. Spending the night on the couch at Ian and Sherrie Mullane’s hosue so Ian and I can leave early the next morning to drive all day heading to the next big event. Sitting in the race control tower and talking with Mike Galimi, Dr Meyer, Cindy Edwards and others during bad weather. Strange hotel rooms, late nights at the track, sleeping in my truck or in my photo trailer a tent or a friend’s RV and long hours on the road. That stuff was for the young single me. Married now, with a house, a nearly 50 hour a week job and trying to start family I have little time for those particular adventures. I do make it to about one NMRA event each year, and Sydney and I occasionally go to the local drag strip to watch or participate in some racing. During the summers we try to hit some local car cruises and shows when time allows. I still talk with a lot of the friends I made in the racing world, and I read about it online or in print, though I don’t follow the race results like I once did. I’d love to write some articles here and there but I have little inside info these days, my finger no longer on the pulse of the racing world like those glory days so long ago.

My current toy, a modified 1998 Mustang GT
You could say I’ve come full circle in 18 years. These days writing this blog, swinging wrenches on my own Mustang and my friend’s cars during some of my leisure time seems to be my two best creative outlets. Cars will always fascinate me and I’ll always have something in the garage to tinker with, change and modify. I will also continue to use this blog as a creative outlet for the part of me that enjoys writing. That for now is more than good enough.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Personal Top 10

Personal Top 10
2011 has finally made its exit. Every December and January there are all manner of top 10 lists abound in the media. There are the top 10 movies, the top 10 celebrities, the top 10 political stories, the top 10 songs, top 10 albums, there might even be a top ten of top 10 lists.  Rather than espouse my opinion on any of these subjects I simply offer up my own personal top moments of 2011. So without further delay here are my top 10 of 2011.
10) Just barely making the list at number 10 is Getting on Social Media. I had resisted Facebook for the last few years. I will admit I was tempted to jump on a few times but always felt I had better things to do with my time. This past November however I was left with little choice when we decided to open a FB page for the shop, to be an admin on this page required me to also get on the bandwagon. I dont regret it. Communicating with old friends is both interesting and fun. Its also very cool to see the pictures posted by various members of my family; some of those things may not have been easily shared or would have been easily forgotten.
I also got on twitter and began blogging. Both are interesting. Twitter as a friend said is like a big party line, the more people you follow or follow you, the bigger the party, so Im on there if you care to follow me @DonaldCreasonJr. Ive found my favorite two things on twitter are; one how rapid I can now get news both local and national very quickly; and two doing a live tweet of a movie. A live tweet is where several friends plan to watch the same movie at the exact same time. We then tweet our thoughts, comments, or adlib dialog to one another. This is a fantastic and fun way of having a movie night with your friends when you cant all get together.
Blogging has given me a fantastic outlet for my thoughts. Things I may not have written down otherwise.  I am finding that this weekly or twice weekly outlet is both sharpening my writing skills (which have been used very little lately) and has provided the platform for me to lay out both opinions and personal experiences. As my old friend Rhonda says in her blog, Blogging is cheaper than therapy and I find on some days that is definitely true even if the entry never gets posted.
9) Taking a college class occupies spot number nine on my list. This past spring I decided to see if I could hack it if I went back to school. Having never completed a degree I was also kicking around the idea of should I get one and if so, what should that be and what would I do with it.
 I signed up online and took principles of psychology class via KCTCS. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the class though not always the time it required for me to maintain a high grade. I dont know if I will choose to continue taking classes or not. In large part this is due to the time demands and I also do not know what I would get a degree in or do with it. My job satisfaction and security are the highest theyve been in recent years, I make a decent paycheck; I have some stability and seniority since I have been in my position for so long. Im not sure Id want to give any of that up, not that Id have to with a degree, but to have a degree for the sake of having one also doesnt make a lot of sense to me.
Family Vacation at Siesta Key, Florida, July, 2011
8) Coming in at number eight is Family Vacation with the in laws, for the first time. We took a family vacation this year with my in laws. This included Sydneys parents, her sister and brother in law and their four children. I was resistant to this idea at first, I get but two weeks of total vacation time each year, and I only get what I call the major holidays off. So my r&r time is very precious to me. That being said we were able to set some sensible ground rules for the week and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I would do it again under the right circumstances and I have never seen my mother and father in law so happy.
7) Dan and Sherry moving back home to Kentucky is sitting proudly at number 7 this year. In 2003 my brother Dan and his family moved to Springfield, MO. This was both a happy and sad occasion for me. I was happy for them and the opportunity that this move represented. However I was very sad, Dan and I had always been exceptionally close, Sherry had been around since I was nine years old and both their daughters were the closest of any niece or nephew that I had at the time. They moved back to Kentucky a few years later but still lived an hour and half away in Cynthiana. This spring they were presented with an opportunity to move back to our area. They say this is the last move period, and I believe them. Im happy to have my brothers family less than two miles from my house. I look forward to all the fun times and new memories to come.
6) Number six, though it could be higher on the list is the birth of baby Micah. My baby sister and her husbands second child Micah was born just before Christmas this year. If he is anything like his older brother he will be a delight to be around. There is no better Christmas gift than a new little one in the family and I am exceedingly thankful that Micah arrived safely and is in perfect health.
5) Overall Fitness gets us halfway through the list. I talked a lot about this in a previous blog so I will simply say this. I can run 10 miles; I have competed in multiple 5k and one 10k races. I am training for the mini marathon. I can swim 2 miles, I workout 5-7 days a week. I feel great; my resting heart rate is 48 beats per minute. My blood pressure and cholesterol are the lowest theyve been in years. I am not going back to being unhealthy, ever.
4) Competing comes in at number 4. I competed in and continue to compete in races. I love to compete in a friendly environment; it gets me out of my shell, away from my comfort zone and lets me see how I stack up against others win nothing more than bragging rights or a trophy is up for grabs.  I have won my age group a couple times in some races, which is good but I plan to be better.
Competing gives me goals to set for the next race especially when I dont even place in my age group. Competing humbles me as I hear results of those who completed a race five, six, or even nine minutes ahead of me. Competing is good and I look forward to more of it next year. My first competition of the year is coming up this Saturday at Cherokee Park, the Frostbite 5k, wish me luck, or better yet come out and run or walk the course yourself!
3) Taking third is joining Southeast Christian Church. My wife had been a member and I a regular attendee when we met, we had drifted to a couple of different churches but had never settled at any one.  The drifting was a result of Sydneys family moving to a church closer to her sisters home near Bardstown. We had no family to attend church with and we werent planning to drive over an hour each week to Bardstown to do so.
We came back to Southeast along with Sydneys family last winter and joined shortly after the first of the year. It really does feel like home when we attend each week.
2) Deciding to be a parent. I covered this extensively in another blog. It comes down to this, we are trying to become parents. Even if for some reason we do not have a child biologically of our own we will eventually become parents by choice through adoption (we may eventually choose to adopt as well). Im happy with either method though obviously having one on our own might be a little more fun in the getting started phase.
1) Making the top of the list is an important one to me, getting baptized. I finally got dunked. I had been a believer for most of my life. When I was in my late teens or early 20s I had even made a commitment as an adult to follow Christ, for some reason I had just never finished things up formally and been baptized. Not being baptized is kind of like shaking hands but not putting your signature on the contract in some ways. So with my brother in law Terry doing the honors I was baptized with my niece Delaney at the end of January. This will always be one of the most memorable evenings of my life and something Delaney, Terry and I can share together forever.
2011 was an eventful year for us. I could write out more things and make this list even longer but I see no reason to do so. I hope that each of you reading this gets what you want and deserve out of the New Year as I hope I too can meet all my personal goals. Remember to enjoy life to the fullest, pursue your dreams and seek Gods wisdom in your decisions He will always guide your heart in the right direction. 
Happy New Year.