Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Following one's passions... (If you can)

Before I start, I want you to look at the picture below. I snagged this from the Facebook page of my last Army unit's chaplain in December of 2015.

Why is it so hard to reach that little green star?

This post is for the general public. However, I want certain individuals in my personal life to see this too. They seem to have a hard time understanding why I'm looking into other opportunities outside of Insurance. Or, at least the part of the insurance business that I have seen so far... One of them have even commented that I just don't want to work.

First of all, pull your head out of your fourth point of contact. I do want to work. However, I want the job to be suited to my talents, interests and personality as well. That way, I'll be successful and happy. You really should not do something just because you can and you'll get paid. That's a horrible reason to do something, folks. I'm sure I'd make a great contract killer too but, that would not be a good thing to do. Not to mention dangerous, stupid, illegal, sinful, harmful to society, etc. etc. etc.

So, why did I leave after the initial contract was completed without even trying to renew or extend that contract? Well, besides having a few things that needed to be done at home, the reasons were largely the same as ever: just too much bullshit all at once. I'll summarize them here...

General reasons why people quit their jobs:
  • a bad direct manager
  • poor job fit
  • co-workers not dedicated to quality
  • unsatisfactory pay and benefits
  • and a lack of connection to a broader purpose. (i.e. What's the point of it all?)
Note that all of these, with the exception of pay (which is cited more often from those who are already disengaged), involve the desire to do great work. If this looks familiar to any of my regular readers, it's because ALL of those things led to me leaving the Army too. Fortunately, I have not had to deal with all of those things in the Insurance business. My co-workers usually were dedicated to quality workmanship. As for bad managers... Well, I'm beginning to think that there are very few good managers left. Most range from decent to just plain worthless. I know leadership isn't always easy but, I would like to see more effort on the part of those in leadership positions.

Also, quite a few adjusters keep talking about 'the money' as being their sole motivation. (Or, motivation enough to put up with a lot of crap.) That is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Money is the means towards an end, not the end unto itself. Happiness should be the goal, not just acquiring more cash and the stuff it can buy. I don't even care about that right now. I have too many toys, anyway. There's never enough time to play with them all, even when I am not on one of these damned business trips...

Truth be told, I did this insurance adjusting thing only to have a source of income to replace the small-but-regular paychecks from the military. I have no real interest in being in the Insurance business long-term, even if I am pretty good at the job. (I literally had other adjusters tracking me down to thank me for writing such good file notes.) It's pretty dull and boring, not to mention a fine real-life example of the kind of corporate culture everyone hates anyway. I'm not willing to sacrifice my sanity, ambitions for the future and my life (as messed up as it is), just to chase a buck. That's worshiping a false idol: the 'almighty' dollar. And since I don't want to violate the 2nd Commandment (or the 2nd Statement, if you're reading it in the original Hebrew), I guess I won't be whoring/enslaving myself to a soulless corporation just to pad my wallet. I don't care if the paychecks are larger than any other business I have been in, thus far.

Besides, the money is not as good as it may look. When you factor in...
  • The INSANE taxes that are taken out of the check by the Feds every week...
  • The much lower taxes taken by the government of whatever state you're residing in while making that money...
  • Whatever taxes my home state is likely to charge on my income...
  • Having to support two households at once, namely my house in NOLA and whatever apartment I can find in whatever town this job takes me to...
  • Paying for hotels while I try to find an apartment in whatever time I can spare while working 60 hours per week...
...and it all starts to dwindle fast. The first 1 or 2 months on site in any of these 'deployments' as they are called (God, I hate that word), I am spending nearly everything I make on hotel bills, takeout, et al. and unable to save much. Even worse, on this 2nd 'business trip' (which is what I will say instead of deployment from this point forward. An insurance company would not understand what it means to a Veteran when they here the word 'deploy'.), I was clawing my way out of debt. I didn't get to save much of anything until the third month I was contracted to work in that assignment.

"Can't you just ask to stay longer?" you ask. Well, it's sometimes possible but, it's also a bit problematic.

Sometimes, the large insurance carrier I have worked for twice now does offer extensions to us Independent Adjusters. However, they always wait until the last minute and frequently change their minds. It's like dealing with a teenage girl trying to decide to take the class president or quarterback of the football team to the prom. They end up putting us into a position where we have to drop everything, put our lives on hold, and continue doing whatever it is we're doing on that particular job site. In my case, both business trips have been working in a call center handling auto claims. However, I was not able to extend my stay in either of the two assignments I've had, thus far.

The first one in Bakersfield, CA was awful because I had to deal with California people, the most narcissistic and self-centered group of Shitbags I have ever met. Damned near EVERY call I took usually started with the asshole on the other side spending 5-10 minutes cursing me out and riding my ass just because the corporate phone system sucked. Well, I'm sorry that you sat on hold for an hour and a half (no, that isn't an exaggeration, it could be that long) but, I am not the one causing you pain. I'm supposed to be the one helping you. The less of an asshole you are, the more motivated your adjuster will be to help you.

Anyway, the contract there ended on 12/31/2014. They waited until 12/22 to tell us they would extend 47 out of the 150 of us there. I didn't like the odds. Also, I had stuff that needed to be done at home that required my presence and couldn't be delayed.

Also, there's one individual who thinks I just arbitrarily decided to quit the California gig solely for the reasons I just laid out. Well, not quite. It wasn't just a toxic clientele (and toxic air quality) that made Bakersfield suck. The office wasn't exactly a place where I fit in, either.

I had officially separated (or divorced) from the Army in July of 2014. I got my adjusting license from Louisiana in August and went out to Commiefornia in September. I wasn't even used to being 'back in the world' yet. If not for an on-site trainer who was also a veteran (and could tell I had Asperger's Syndrome) looking out for me, I would have been fired within the first month. I had no idea what I was doing (at first). I didn't fit in with the corporate culture. I was also getting the impression that a lot of my co-workers there were actually afraid of me because I was a recently separated veteran. I didn't go into a lot of detail about the Army but, I didn't make a secret of how much it rubbed me the wrong way, either. I did tell a few stories to explain why it rubbed me the wrong way too, most of them having massive amounts of bureaucratic incompetence as a central theme. Greg, I don't know how you kept me from getting shit-canned but, I do greatly appreciate your efforts. You sir, are a very good person.

That company also promised me that they'd find more work for me soon. I don't know why I believed them. I didn't get anything more out of them except for a few training courses. I later found out this was more because of the insurance carrier that they provided adjusters for deciding they didn't need help. There was also a very light/practically non-existent hail and hurricane season. So, I am still in good standing with that company. I am not 100% sure what I think of them but, I don't have any malice or ill will towards them. That's good, right?

The second time around, in the last few months of 2015, was with another firm supplying independent adjusters to this one, massive insurance carrier. The job was in a small college town named West Lafayette, Indiana. Despite being the home of Purdue University (which is a truly excellent school for Science, Engineering and English) and having a few car factories in the area (Mainly Toyota and Subaru), that town was still dreadfully small, boring and miserable. It was also pretty ghetto-looking in a lot of areas too.

Anyway, this office was better than Bakersfield. My experience with this particular IA firm was a LOT better too. That is, right up until December 16th.

I had been told 2 weeks prior that the carrier wasn't going to extend anyone. Then, I get a phone call from the recruiter at the company that brought me on board. He tells me that we are going to be offered an extension. He neglected to tell me that I should have kept this to myself. So, I mention it to a few co-workers I was friendly with a few minutes later. Someone makes some phone calls and then, I'm being brought in to a teleconference with one of the on-site managers who was still in charge of us, despite leaving for a different location in Texas a few days prior.

This chick starts reading me the Riot Act, insinuating that I was a problem child (which surprised me since I got along quite well with everyone in that office) and finishes it off with 'I have nothing further to say to you.' Needless to say, I felt hurt, confused and was wondering if I had just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. I thought this person was respectable, only to find out that I was really dealing with a little fucking snake-in-the-grass who was more worried about protecting her own ass instead of providing good leadership.

I must have suspected something was amiss on a subconscious level. Many people decorate their cubicles with funny pictures of one kind or another. I had a few but, I also had a few pictures about leadership too. That sort of thing is VERY important to a man who has had to deal with some truly terrible leadership in his life. One of those pics was a quote from a General that I have a lot of respect for...

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. - Colin Powell

And General Powell could not be more correct. I had that problem with a number of NCO's in the Army and at least one company commander. They all lost my confidence for those exact two reasons. They didn't even make a good effort to help with anything and I genuinely believe that they did not care. I will NEVER tolerate that again.

Of course, this story gets worse. Only a few minutes later, ALL of us are called into a teleconference. In that conference, this chick explains that my recruiter was new and didn't know better than to tell me anything directly instead of going through the managers. She also name-drops me THREE times. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed off. This fucking CUNT was trying to publicly shame me. Why? Did she somehow think that I was going behind her back and trying to publicly spite her? I had merely mentioned that my recruiter said we were going to be offered an extension. I never said I was going to take that extension. I like to take some time to mull over decisions like that, anyway. I don't make important life decisions without due consideration.

After that meeting, the managers that were on site informed us all that they heard everyone was being offered an extension. Most other people accepted for their own reasons. I politely refused. The on-site managers thought it was because of what just happened in the teleconference. I told them it wasn't and that is the truth. I had already spent the two previous weeks planning a return home. I also had a few important things that couldn't be delayed waiting on me at home too. All that so-called leader did was put a rancid cherry on top of a shit sundae that I simply refused to eat. If someone is to be blamed for my inability to stay in Indiana longer, it would probably be the insurance carrier itself. They waited too long to decide if they wanted to extend us or not.

I am not going to be disrespected by terrible leaders or have some soulless bureaucracy jerk my chain. All of that came to an end when I took off the uniform. I swore to myself after that bad experience that I would NEVER allow anyone to treat me that way again. I am a man of my word.

And after all of that, there was still another damned teleconference. (God forbid we actually do our jobs and service those claims, right?) This time, the toxic manager asks about who accepted the extension. The on-site managers told her 'Well so far, everyone we've asked seems to have extended except Publius.' Her only response to that was 'Hmm, that's interesting...'

Yeah, I'll bet it was, chick. I think that was the point where she first realized that she messed up and lost command of the situation. There was no going back. I had no further dealings with her after that day. I had also told my recruiter that I was not going to extend there and that any future deployments I did with that company will NOT have that particular manager involved. He understood. He's also working diligently right now to find another assignment for me sometime in February or March.

However, that may not even happen.

As I have already stated, this insurance carrier is very fickle when it comes to deciding if it needs help from Independent Adjusters. Whether they intended it or not, we IA's end up being something of an indentured servant to this company. That's not even close to acceptable.

I have also had more than enough of this 'office job' kind of life. I had that in the Army and Insurance Adjusting and genuinely do not care for it at all. Sometimes, I genuinely miss working outside and getting all the fresh air and sunshine. Or, at least having a window to see the outside world instead of just the walls of a cubicle.

Besides, the carrier may wait nearly a year before deciding they need more Independent Adjusters. That happened to me before and I won't get stuck sitting at home for a long time again because of them.

This Insurance gig also presents one of the same problems that led me to leaving the Army: it keeps me from pursuing the goal of finding a wife and starting a family. Kinda hard to find the future Mrs. Publius and give birth to some modern-day Romans when you're moving around every few months and working 60 hours a week. And no, I am not going to consider an office place romance. They never work out.

So, what else can I do?

Well, I have a few other employment avenues to explore. There's a video game company opening up in New Orleans sometime soon. They are going to need employees for various things and I very well might be qualified. I do have that college degree in Game Design. Not to mention being an Army Veteran with some 'interesting' things on the resume and Insurance Adjusting licenses in at least 24 different states now... (Only 30 states require a license too.) In this particular case, the Career Services department at my college just might prove useful for once. Although, a friend of mine who was also one of my professors at that school has suggested otherwise. Either way, I will still give the ol' Career Services department at least this one more chance. It sure would be nice if they could help me find a job that I really like for once...

I should also be able to get into the auto appraising side of the insurance industry with some relative ease. I have experience as an adjuster working auto claims and a downright encyclopedic knowledge of automobile history, technology and lore. Being the guy who inspects vehicle damage at a shop/inspection station/in the field should be a breeze for me. That's what I've really wanted to do from the start of my time in this business, anyway.

There are also 2 other things I really want to do someday but, we'll talk about them later. One is a business I would like to start someday and the other involves one of the most noble professions of them all: being a Teacher. However, that would require several thousand dollars tuition and going back to school for a year. So, for now, that is not a realistic option. Hopefully, that can one day change.

And finally, here's another reason why I am sick and tired of being in my current, often unreliable method of employment: It puts me into a situation where I have to pretend to be something I'm not...

This applies to Aspies as well as Autistics.

This happens a lot, especially on these 'assignments' that I have been doing as an Independent Adjuster. I get physically and mentally exhausted by the third month. It becomes quite noticable by co-workers too. Since I returned home on New Year's Day, I have been out-of-sorts. I have something of a routine again with going to the gym in the morning, Tuesday night Bible study w/ Mom at church, et al. I did manage to do a few of the things on the To Do list that made me come home from Indiana as well. However, I am still not quite settled again. I'm not even sure why. Maybe it's because I'm worried that I may have to leave for another of those damned 'assignments' again? (Damn you, economic scarcity!) Or, maybe it's something else that's totally unrelated to any kind of work? Who knows?

Either way, I am really tired of my life being such a roller coaster... and just plain tired. Time to make things change... Somehow...

- Lord Publius

Sunday, January 24, 2016

36 Questions Designed to Help You Fall in Love with Anyone? Are you sure?

So, I cam across an article on Big Think that seemed less intellectual than their usual fare and more like click-bait Bullshit. Sadly, I think it was just click-bait. It was an article called '36 Questions Designed to Help You Fall in Love with Anyone' to which my Aspergian brain immediately responded with the quip 'citation needed.'

Anyway, I decided to debunk this notion as best as possible, just by answering the questions. Performing this little experiment involves having another person around and I don't have one right now. I took the questions and answered them below to the best of my abilities. It should become apparent just how insanely illogical this idea that a 36 question interview is somehow enough to make a person fall in love with you.

So, without further ado...

1.) Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Hmmm... How about a wealthy investor who believes in at least one of my business ideas?

2.) Would you like to be famous? In what way?

No, I prefer to be rich and powerful enough to ensure that the world cannot mess me over.

3.) Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

Sometimes, usually for a business purpose.

4.) What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

A day where I win the Powerball and make love to the woman of my dreams for hours on end. Next question.

5.) When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

I don't sing.

6.) If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

Mind. A body is pretty useless without a mind to control it, anyway.

7.) Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

No. Predicting the future is impossible, thanks to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

8.) Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

No partner at the moment.

9.) For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

NOT being in the Army anymore. I am not even remotely joking about this, either.

10.) If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

Not being sent to a religious school that was a LOT more concerned with football than Jesus. Next question.

11.) Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

What partner? Also, 4 minutes is never enough.

12.) If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Whatever social skills I'd need to be a success in the business world, assuming I don't have them already.

That, or becoming skinny and having the rapid metabolism I had when I was in my early 20's. That would also be nice.

13.) If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

Crystal balls cannot do those things.

14.) Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Yes, because I don't have the money to make it happen.

15.) What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Buying a house, surviving the Army, graduating college... They're all good choices. Take your pick.

16.) What do you value most in a friendship?


17.) What is your most treasured memory?

I can't answer this one. Too many to choose from...

18.) What is your most terrible memory?

I won't answer this one. Again, too many to choose from...

19.) If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

Obviously, I'd have to find a way to prevent my premature demise. Also, I'd have to find out how I can patent this new miraculous technology that allowed me to successfully predict the future. I could make some serious cash that way. :P

20.) What does friendship mean to you?

It means that I have someone to talk to and spend time with... And they aren't required to because of their job, a business arrangement or social obligations to me as a member of their family.

21.) What roles do love and affection play in your life?

Very few...

22.) Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

Unable to answer this since it requres another person to be here.

23.) How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

It was a lot closer and warmer when most of us were all in close proximity. Now, we are spread out across the country. My childhood was much like my life as an adult: one misadventure after another. It wasn't always unhappy but, it did involve a lot of shit that should not have happened. See what happens when you send your kids to a religious school that's more concerned with football than Jesus or education? (Especially when your son has no real interest in sports at all...)

24.) How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?


25.) Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “

Unable to answer this since it requires another person to be here.

26.) Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “

My life. My knowledge. My love. My genetic material since the children I want some day are not going to magically appear out of thin air...

27.) If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

Never expect me to behave in a normal way. It won't happen. For me, it's all about logic and reason. I never let emotion make any decisions at all. Even those decisions that you would think should be emotional in nature still aren't decided that way with me. Even if they play a part, logic and reason ultimately make the final call.

28.) Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

Unable to answer this since it requires another person to be here.

29.) Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

No. This is a public forum of sorts. That would not be appropriate. However, I can say that I was pretty embarrassed to be part of ALL of the units I was in during my time in service, except for C/551 @ Fort Gordon. That was the only one that was actually effective and had good leadership.

30.) When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

Men do not cry... Unless they just got kicked a really sensitive spot or ran out of land to conquer... :P

31.) Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

Unable to answer this since it requires another person to be here.

32.) What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

Abortions, child murder, rape... pretty much anything that involves something horrible happening to women and children.

33.) If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

I sincerely do not know.

34.) Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

The external HDD's attached to my computer. They will have a record of everything that I own, which I will need that for INS purposes.

If possible, I'll also try to grab the fireproof safes that I use for important documents and the locked rolling tough box where I keep Army records and various other important things.

35.) Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

I prefer not to dwell on this question.

36.) Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Unable to answer this very well since it requires another person to be here. The obvious choice would be the social skills deficit inherent in all people with Asperger's Syndrome. How do you really participate in society and socialize when you have no real interest in socializing or society?

So, do y'all love me yet? :P

- Lord Publius