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July 8, 2002
Things I Would and Would Not Do Differently
"I regret nothing!....." the poor sod cries as he falls to his death. So goes one death scene in a Simpsons episode. Despite approaching the big 3-0 mark, I'm not at a point yet where I've started reviewing my life too much. I don't think I really regret anything I've done thus far, but that's not to say I wouldn't change the way I've done some things in the past. Generally I've done well for myself - I'm not a woman trapped in a man's body, I'm not in the wrong career, and I'm not trapped in a city or marriage that I desperately need to get out of. Life's pretty good.
Could it be a bit better? Yeah, I'd have to say so. I'm only human, and some of my decisions have been boners to say the least. Some mistakes I learned a lot from and would not change. Others I've learned from, and would want to avoid making again.
No Car, But Amway's OK
In 1995 I was working out in Calgary from January until April. During this time (one of the best times I've had during university that didn't occur on campus) I somehow got roped into doing Amway. At the time it sounded good, so I started up, and was still sold on it when I came back to Ontario. I was going to grow my business really quickly and graduate in a Ferrari, so I decided that I'd need a car so I could go Show The Plan to all my downline. So I found myself a Mercury Tracer 5 speed and bought it.
First, I wouldn't get a Tracer again. It was a decent car, but due only to the fact that it was a rebadged Mazda 323. Ford can't build a decent compact to save its life (jury's still out on the Focus) so it plagiarized its Japanese subsidiary Mazda. The only reason I got this particular car is because I had a choice of either a Toyota Tercel wagon or this one. Why? I was purchasing through a business associate of my father's, and this is what he had in my range. I will say that this little car got me everywhere I needed to go and didn't give me much trouble at all, and actually was really fun to drive down snow-covered Ottawa side streets rally-style. That was a blast.
However, in hindsight I just wouldn't have purchased a car at all. Although the business model of Amway can work and will work if you put your life into it, I just couldn't get excited about selling catalogue products and getting others excited about doing the same. So it got tossed, and I really had no use for a car after that. Instead, I had a depleted bank account (which I could have done a lot better things with) and a 2nd-hand hatchback that I couldn't sell for a decent price. Eventually, I just gave it to my father (in lieu of paying off what I owed him for it) and eventually my stepbrother killed it by not changing its oil. RIP, ugly little car.
I don't regret doing Amway, however. As uninteresting and unlikely as it was that I was going to succeed in Amway's business plan, I did learn quite a bit, both about myself and about business. I don't apply what I learned daily, and can't even recall all the things I did learn, but it's all there in the back of my mind somewhere, and it pops up when it's needed. If you have a few months of free evenings and weekends and you feel like learning something about an infrequently seen side of the entrepreneurial community, seek out an Amway dealer and ask to be shown The Plan.
Job Hopping - Reasons Both Good and Bad, Part 1
I've held three jobs since I graduated just over five years ago. Looking back on them (as one tends to do when you've got unlimited unpaid free time and are reworking your résumé) I understand that there were good decisions and bad decisions made in changing jobs, some of which I'd probably change given the chance.
I left my first job for very good reasons, and they stand firm today. Actually, even firmer today, as right now the company is on uncertain financial footings and layoffs were recently announced. Essentially, the career path that was being laid down for everyone at the company was the same, as it was a small company and we all did pretty much the same kind of work. However, after two years in this job there was better money in training than there was in what we were currently doing. I enjoyed what I was doing, and did not want to become a corporate trainer with my power tie, pressed slacks and slick manner. I'm not a salesman, and did not want to become one for that purpose. So I needed to change jobs to keep on track with my still-developing career path.
So, leaving there was good. What I did after is kind of a toss-up. The company I jumped into was an excellent company, known worldwide for quality products, and I was a part of making those products. The position I held was challenging enough but did not require stupid hours, and was organized enough to be helpful but not so regimented as to strangle you in red tape. A really good balance, and I'd work there again if I could. However, the instant I got there I took a very significant cut in pay, which I think was a huge mistake. I only managed to regain what ground I lost by once again switching jobs just over a year later. Despite my first job changing direction on me, it was not to the point yet that I was being given tasks to do that I didn't want to do - the changes were only impending. I should have been able to hold out a month or two longer and found something that did not require such a drastic cut in pay. The cut was not even warranted, and the HR person who got me was probably laughing all the way home that night, as he scored a highly trained professional with tons of experience on the software they had implemented, at a bargain-basement price. Bad call.
I don't feel like going into this story, simply because it still irks me somewhat. Suffice to say, we bought a vacuum cleaner that cost well over $1000. That price was actually a substantial discount over what they wanted, but still, it's a shitload of money for a vacuum. It really is a good vacuum, and it does its job rather well. Ten times better than any other vacuum? Hard to say, but to this day I still wonder how the hell we got looped into buying it, even at the nearly 50% discount. If I had this to do over again, I'd have something to say about their demo, and send them packing. They can keep their fucking free knife.
Job Hopping - Reasons Both Good and Bad, Part 2
The reason I left my second job was pretty basic, and now to look back on it from an unemployed point of view, kinda stupid. My wife and I were expecting our first child, and my work was a 45 minute commute out of town, across back roads that were on the scary side of unmaintained during the winter months. We talked about it, and thought that it would be a good idea if I could find work that was closer to home, for the purposes of being closer to my family and spending more time with my family instead of on the road. Sounded quite reasonable at the time, especially going into the scary realm of parenthood for the first time.
Well, I traded a 45 minute one-way commute for a 25 minute one-way commute. Net gain of quite a bit of salary, and a net gain of about 40 minutes more with my family. Actually, I probably didn't gain any time with my family, as I didn't have to get up as early because I didn't have such a long commute! So, I got more money, but didn't enjoy the job as much (and got fired to boot). Bad call #2.
The Big One - Relationships
I'm sure everyone has had a relationship or two that they have regretted for one reason or another. I've had a healthy number of previous relationships, some of which were quite good but just didn't work out for one reason or another. Then there were the relationships that left me wondering how the hell I got into them, how they ever started, and what the hell happened to blow them apart so quickly. Sadly, there's two of them.
One was in Ottawa. I met someone that was a housemate of a friend of mine. For some reason we got along, meshed in some fashion. Tragically, this particular relationship was probably doomed from the beginning, having substantial doses of religion and recovery from a sordid past life.
I found myself being taken on a rather wild ride, one that I had no idea where it started, and I really had no clue where it was going. It wasn't scary per se, but boy, was it disconcerting. Within two months things completely fell apart, I never saw her again, and I was back to my normal self. I can't say I learned anything, I'm not even sure that I left a positive impression or not, so overall I think I'd take a miss on that one given a 2nd chance. I could have become fluent in Klingon in that time instead - and it probably would have done me more good.
The other one was in Toronto. A group that posted on an Ontario newsgroup got together in Toronto for a weekend of fun. I met the housemate of the person that was organizing the event, who was nice enough but a bit strange. Not only was she as tall as I (a good 6 feet) and worked as a bouncer at one of the campus pubs, she was a cat. She purred, sometimes rubbed up against you, and yes, even bit you at times. At one point she bit me, I snapped, and bit her back, and we both wound up laughing and drooling all over each other, and we were friends.
Things heated up a bit, and we started seeing each other on weekends. Then suddenly one weekend things went weird on a trip up to visit one of her friends, and we never hooked up again. I did hear from her again, but only through her housemate, whom I was still friends with. Despite the fact that I again didn't learn anything and I'm not sure whether I was good for her or not, I'd probably go through that one again. It was fun, and pretty much harmless. While somewhat confusing, it's not nearly the mindfuck that the first one was.
Not bad. I certainly could have done much worse, and despite my errors I'm doing fairly well (save for the job thing at the moment). The only unfortunate part of it all is that despite learning from all these errors (and the ones I haven't told you too) there are yet more boners, bad decisions, screwups, and events waiting to blindside me down the road. But that's life, and you have to roll with it. So in the meantime I'll just enjoy my family, be thankful for what I know and have learned, and have that extra bowl of black forest frozen yogurt. (Bad decision? Maybe... but I never seem to learn...)
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