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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Shades of Grey

Despite everything that I've done - educator, banker, engineering technician, insurance, published writer - I only have one college degree.

I picked up some engineering classes.  I've managed to get my insurance license as well as a few other certifications here and there.  I tell people sometimes that I have a Masters because honestly I feel like I do.  I am something like 12 credit hours shy of a degree in Biology as well. 

My degree in education taught me two things and two things only.  The first was how to research.  If I don't know something I'll find out about in a matter of minutes or hours, depending on hard the subject at hand is.  The second goes hand in hand with that research.  It taught me how to think.  How to question?  How to debate.

It's served me well over time.

So when I hear a story about the lack of education among a certain religious group, in this case the Jehovah Witness group.  I want to scream at my radio.

Not only do they pressure their youth not to go to college, but also to drop out of high school.  It seems to me that any faith that can't handle the pressure of being questioned is no faith at all.

One of their leaders, Tony Morris, actually comes out and clearly states that even associating with those of another faith can make you question your own.  "If we are in continued association with those who do not believe the same, it can erode our thinking and convictions… It is one thing to work on a job with others, and quite another matter to immerse oneself in an institution of “learning.”

Umm....Okay.

The problem of course is that we don't live in a vacuum.  You can't stay static.  The world simply will not allow it.  Especially today were we live in 60 second news cycles, are replacing our eyes with our phones and are being exposed to things like Hinduism, Islam and people of different colors, faiths, and cultural backgrounds on a more day to day basis.

The old days of the perfect 1950's family are long gone.     Frankly we have to stop yearning for them.

Back to the topic at hand.  Jehovah's Witness believers have the lowest education out of all believers.  No surprise when you consider that quote above.

As such they are often the lowest paid workers in the United States.  Now in their defense I do understand that they believe that the Judgment day could be as early as next Tuesday.  Why prepare for the future when you have no future.  Seems rather dark and disturbing to me.

I started thinking about education in general and the Western Religions.  Islam had a fantastic history of encouraging education and the sciences in general.  Frankly don't let the morons of ISIS or other groups fool you.  They still encourage education and science.

When your speaking to your Indonesian doctor or your engineer from  Bangladesh, chances are that he or she is a Muslim.  Indeed, according to a 2010 study, something like 23% of the world practices Islam to some extent.

I'll do the math for the Jehovah's Witness's in the group.  That is nearly 1 in every 4 people on earth.

Judaism has a long history of supporting education.  So does Catholicism.  In fact, the Catholic definition of a miracle is something that science can not explain.

All these faiths have grown and changed over time.  Sometimes because of history, sometimes because of changes in the society, sometimes because you just can't explain something without reexamine something core to your belief.

I suppose that is what scares more fundamentalist sects (like the morons in ISIS or the Witnesses).  Because if you are able to question God, then you have to look within your self and find your own failings.  You have to face up to the fact that maybe God did create the Homosexual.  Maybe God, in fact, is planning something other than your narrow world view.

It's a shade of Grey.   It's in that grey area that really cool stuff happens.  It's called growth, it's called learning.  I'll take a shade of grey over something black or white any day of the week.

I know that education can't solve all questions.  Your faith though has to be tested now and again, if it's not then it's not a true faith.  It's just a lie you tell yourself.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

For Rowen - the door to door poet

I'm not sure what it is that attracts me to this story.  I heard about on BBC news hour, then one quick little Google search later I found him.  Rowen the door to door poet.

I wish I could put my finger and what I find so interesting about this story.  Poetry, you see, is not really my thing.  If I read something, anything at all anymore it's generally non-fiction.  I used to be an avid reader, but with the demands of my new job (more on that in a bit) and life in general...it gets harder and harder to find time to read!

Maybe that's why I am so enamored with the idea of a "door to door" poet.  We all have stories to tell, we all have art within us.  Maybe, just maybe I've not been feeding the creative side in me enough.

Since the first of February I've been dedicating myself to my new business.  It's not that easy to start one up, considering that I was going to make a go of it in a tough field.   Insurance is not easy.  No one really thinks about it till they need it...and by that time it's often to late.

To make matters even more interesting is the field that I decided to concentrate on.  Final Expense.   Death of course is going to happen to us all...even Rowen the Door to Door poet.  However this means that I'm generally working with older people and that are on limited budgets and whose health is not the best.

Insurance for them is going to be pricey, they may not qualify and you have to knock on a lot of doors.  It's also about stories.

I like to tell the story of the old man that I wrote a policy for years ago.  He discovered he had stage for cancer and only had a few months to live.  He calls me on the phone and says "Rob, can you help me here."
In my story he ends up using a rider to take his family - his kids and grand kids - on a all expenses paid trip to Disney world.

"He called it is parting gift." I tell my potential clients.

Only that story is not true.  Does it matter?   Should it?

Stories matter.

 Of course all this is going on at the same time my old job is picking up.  Sue has done a great job in running our small newspaper distribution service.  We picked up a local paper called the Laker and are serving the local Dade City/Zephyrhills area with it.   Total distribution of 9000 papers.  Our yearly income from that job alone doubles what we made last year total.   We don't handle the home distribution side, but the business side which means we don't distribute all 9000 papers, but it's still a large number and a  big win for us.

It eats into our time as a couple.  It is part of our story.

When I was laying in bed this morning thinking about the story of the poet, about how a high school friend of mine has just published her first novel, how I would have to run about today trying to deliver a different paper...what I was going to write about.  What I was going to say.

I get it now...it's the story that interests me.   It's the story that matters.  Isn't that why I used to blog about my motorcycle?  Isn't that what I'm doing right this moment?  Telling a story?  Working things out in my head?

You know what...I'm glad I do this.  Even if no one may ever read it or comment.  Sometimes you just need to say "I'm here, and this is my story."

Make your story wonderful.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shit, or get off the pot

When I was growing up my Dad used to say that a lot.  When I was a kid I thought it meant he wanted me to hurry up.  To get my ass in gear, etc.

He probably did.

Now that I'm a little older, 50, I'm starting to think that maybe...just maybe he also meant something else.  Make a decision.  Make a choice and live with the consequences of that choice; but make a choice and move forward.

For the last several months I've been playing around with the idea of starting my own independent insurance agency.   I would be the only salesman, all the responsibility of that company would fall on me.  My success or failure would rest squarely on my shoulders.

I've putted around and have not really pushed or made any true effort to succeed.  In fact, I have only made two presentations so far and have no sales for either presentation.  The first person was really not that interested, you could tell by their total lack of interest in what I was offering them...and the sad thing is that their family was pushing them to do it.  The second presentation was a disaster on my part...I wasn't prepared as I should have been...and that showed.  They even asked me how long I've sold insurance.  I have a third one coming up...and this one I will be ready for.

The thing is that I've been in customer service and sales all my life in one form or another.  I've worked for banks for twelve years, I've worked in insurance the last two and a half years.  I spent two glorious years with the IRS (and that was a job I should have never have lost #regrets).  The thing is I've sold everything from magazines to checking accounts to home loans.  Selling someone a small five or 10 thousand dollar policy to cover their final expenses should be child's play.

Everything I've done though has been over the phone.  I've never made a face to face sale. 

I've been so good at my jobs in customer service and sales that I've worked as a trainer and even as a supervisor.  I've managed my own distribution business for nearly eleven years now.   Although I just deliver, my partner handles the contract side of things and we just hired our sixth employee.

I'm an introvert...I do better over the phone and the internet, where my personality can shine through.  Just don't ask me to speak or talk or interact with you in public. 

Going this route, this independent sales route scares the hell out of me.  Of course, I know that I'm only doing it part time.  I want to protect Sue and myself from what coming.  I can see retirement hanging like a big black cloud on the horizon.  For her and I to do what we want to do (travel) then I'm going to need to be in a better position.  Independent sales, with its residual income, is the way to go.

Her pay is not going to increase much...and my job does not offer me advancement or much reason to stay.  Although I will stay there for now, for I am ugly but not stupid. 

To quote my father:  "Shit, or get off the pot."

Right now is the time.   I've some money saved up, about fifteen thousand, that will be used for advertising and buying leads.  God forbid if I lost my job that would carry us for three to five months till things really started rolling.  Nothing creates sales like fear of losing everything.

Shit or get off the pot.





Sunday, January 15, 2017

After thoughts on the election

This post originally appeared on my other Blog - Scooter Revolution - all the way back on Nov. 11, 2016.

I thought I should post it here as well.  I've not edited it in any away and I think I will be returning to this blog a bit more in the future.




I debated about posting something political.

I actually created a separate blog for political posts but gave it up after a short time simply because it became apparent to me that my chosen candidate, Bernie Sanders, was not going to be nominated.  Like many, I felt disappointed but I predicted a close election...however like many I expected Hillary Clinton to win.

Although in hindsight the same issues that I had with Clinton from the very beginning were the ones that doomed her in the end.  I'm not going to repeat what the pundits are saying because they got it all wrong...I'm giving my personal opinions on why she failed.

1)  The White House is not a prize to be given from father to son or from husband to wife. - The American people still remember what happened the last time that happened.  Well no pundits will admit to that part of the puzzle, I think Americans feel that their government is being controlled by only a small group of people (and it is).  When the public is feeling frustrated with many issues concerning our government, having someone nominated who seems to think the White House was her birthright was a bad idea.

2)  The Democratic Party was out of touch with it's own people. - The DNC email leaks showed a clear preference for Hillary Clinton.  Which lead to cries of voter fraud and "rigged" elections (remember that word for it's important).   When she accepted the nomination she should have clearly apologized for that, calling out the DNC leadership and reached out to the various Sanders supporters during the convention. Instead of doing that she was left facing a mass exit of delegates during the convention.  A group that voted for her in the end (most of them) or stayed home election day (some of them).  Or voted for Jill Stein and the Greens (like I did).  

When Sanders won states in the rust belt and Midwest he did so because his economic message was resonating.  Interestingly enough, his anti Trade speeches and Trump's anti Trade speeches were not that different. 

The DNC did not pick up on this.   Or other concerns that Sanders showed the American people were concerned about.  What little she did learn from the Sanders campaign she seemed she didn't believe.  This lead to an enthusiasm gap.  

3)  Hillary was running a conventional campaign during an unconventional time and against an unconventional candidate. - Against a more conventional Republican opponent, like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio she would have been able to point at her experience and successes.  She could have said basically "Are you better off than you were 8 years ago?" and got a resounding yes.  Because, like it or not, the Republicans really don't have a platform themselves.  They are in the process of redefining themselves and are having a small civil war in the party.

Hillary could have played against that weakness.  Trump was playing the fool and the media.  Knowing that everything he said would be picked up....your on the news more for saying something stupid than for policy.  If you break it down, Trump got more people talking about him than Hillary ever did.

Well some of it was clearly disturbing and often bordered on out and out racism.  He clearly got is message apart that the "swamp" needed drained...and that Hillary and her ilk were the cause of it. 

4)  Trump is a master of language.  No really! - or "it's not what you say but how you say it." - Let's take a look at the word "rigged."

Strictly defined it means to assemble or adjust.  The problem is that most of the media thought when Trump was saying the election was "rigged" they defined it as "voter fraud."  Which is not what Trump was saying.  He was basically saying "Those in power don't care about you."  or more specifically "Hillary Clinton doesn't care about you."

Given the email scandal, the issues of her trustworthiness, the various scandals real or imagined, the fact that she often seemed cold and calculating...the American people heard that definition.  Not the "voter fraud".  They heard that the powerful had "rigged" the election.  They were not going to put up with that.

He played off the fears, the anger, and yes...even the racism and hate in America.  He also attracted the intellectual, the gay, the mixed raced and yes even some Latino votes.  You don't get 59,937,338 people to vote for you if your only playing the racism card.  You get that many votes by using language that drives your points home.   Salespeople do it all the time...if your listening you will hear they are selling the need for you to have product X, and not the product itself.

5)  Don't believe the hype - The polls all showed Hillary winning.  So what happened?  How could the polls be so wrong.  Since is actually the second election in a row where polls have lead us astray.  So the question is why?

That I don't have an answer for, other than I think that pollsters are looking at the wrong sets of data.  That they are making assumptions that the data didn't bare out.

I've seen more Trump signs than Clinton signs as I rode about before the election.   I saw more anti-Clinton memes and posts on Facebook than I saw anti Trump memes...and most of those were posted by liberals.  Sometimes a pollster needs to get out and actually be in the field pounding on doors.


So What Happens Next?
A) The Democratic Party may be damaged beyond repair.   
I know that seems drastic but let me explain:  They alienated a large chunk of their future voting block with younger, more liberal leaning kids.  The old unions and northern states are no longer solidly blue due to aging demographics and the failure of the party to capture the rural white vote (which went solidly for Trump).
They lost the Senate, House, the White House and the courts.   The move to the Center Right that started with Bill Clinton will probably end with Hillary Clinton.  Not that the left of the party is looking that great.  Sanders is currently 75.  Elizabeth Warren is 67 and will be 71 in 2020, plus she lost much of her credibility in supporting Clinton.  
If the party is to move forward it needs to get back to it's roots and that is the poor working man.  While there may be one or two leaders waiting in the wings, there is no one particular name that stands out. 
B)  The Republican Party can't celebrate yet.
They are still fractured and Trump is a business man first and foremost.  He is not beholden to any political agenda other than his own.  He's already stated he will not touch Social Security or Medicare (something the Republicans have threatened to cut in the past).  He's more of an isolationist than having a strong military, again this goes against the Republican grain.  
He's more likely to work with the minority to get stuff done, that means compromise which the Tea Party wing of the party has stood against.  Many in the party railed against him both in the primaries and in the general election...now that he is President the small civil war has calmed for a bit, but may flair up again.
Many in the Republican party were standing against Trump or flat out refused to endorse him, Trump may or may not be willing to push a particular agenda.  
so what should we do?
The damage is done.  2016 will go down in history as a watershed year for a lot of reasons.  All we can do is take a "wait and see" approach to things and hope for the best.  Personally I think that Trump is starting to feel the weight of the world about him...and is just as surprised as the rest of us.
In the end if he surrounds himself with staff that tell him what a "Great President" is and what a "Great President" does....he may surprise us yet.   He has so far.