When An Unstoppable Force Meets An Immovable Object? :









Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.”  Abraham Lincoln



Now that you know a bit about my background, I think it’s time to take a step back before we continue to move forward. While I really loved my job at “I.B.M.,” I needed to earn more money in order to be able to raise my daughter in the fashion to which I wanted her to become accustomed. That fashion was to have food on the table every night and shoes that fit when she went to school. You can tell that I had modest aspirations. I was fortunate to get hired in the food service industry. That’s a highfalutin way to say that I got a job as the evening and week-end cashier at a local supermarket. I was able to work my way up to assistant head cashier due to my love of keeping the books, counting the money, and bossing staff around. The last of course was my main strength. I got so good at it that they decided that the “boys” in the meat department could use a little direction setting aka bossing around and so I got transferred. The best part about this transfer was not the crisp clean white coat I got to wear every day, nor the 45° temperatures and heavy lifting that kept me slim and trim, but as you can surmise it was the raise in pay. I was now a proud member of the AMCBW (Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America). A dollar raise was a dollar raise and in those days a dollar raise went a long way toward raising my daughter.

It wasn’t long before I pined for my old job working with the stockers on the night shift passing our idle time waiting for those night owl customers to drift in from the street to shop or fill their pockets and waiting for the scheduled trucks to arrive and be unloaded. We had some fun those night stockers and I. How many of you can say that you joined in lobster races from the Deli to the Meat Department? I don’t think the Deli Manager ever knew why so many of her lobsters were less active in the morning than they had been the day before. Poor tired out things.  The night shift brought out the animals in more ways than one, but I was younger then and fun is fun.

I learned that in the meat department when an immovable object (IO- the butcher boys) was confronted with an unstoppable force (UF- that would be bossy me), much heat and energy was created and something had to give or there was going to be an explosion. After a few weeks of having the IO of four load up the line with fresh meat and frozen products that needed to be shrink wrapped and displayed properly in the front meat cases by the UF of one (Me), I pondered on my dilemma as I worked at warp speed to wrap the line while the IO’s sipped their coffee in the break room and waited for the line to get cleared.  This just was not going the way that I had planned it at all. I decided that in order to work peacefully side by side with these immovable objects I needed to determine how to wrap the UF in me around the IO’s and figure out how to get my way, which of course was the right way, and make it their idea! As you can imagine, this was no easy task.

It would be ideal if I could say that I was successful at doing this as soon as I realized I needed to change. But alas, that was not the case. I even got chased around the band saw by one of the IO’s brandishing a boning knife, fortunately I was faster than he was and all ended well.  Over time I was able to tailor my approach to meet the needs of my audience and I can say that these were the most difficult IO’s I have had to deal with in my career. You could say that this was a lesson learned at the point of a knife.

My success became well-known within our division and I became a part of the new store opening team. My primary role was teaching all of the IO’s how to do things the “right way.” A few of these things still exist today, sunny side up for the meat in the tray, facing up the case before and after busy times in the day, and always answering the meat room bell with a smile and can do attitude even when it’s the 20th customer of the day asked for their 19 cents a pound frozen turkey be cut into four equal pieces.

Even today, I carry these knife welding, frozen turkey cutting images with me as I learn how to deal with all of the new IO’s I meet.  Have you ever encountered an IO? Did you figure out how to make the UF in you have success when faced with this challenge?


Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?


Walk tall because, as Dr. Seuss said, ” you have brains in your head – you have feet in your shoes – you can steer yourself – any direction you choose.”








If you’ve been reading my blog this year, you will remember that my commitment was to share my life experiences and what I have learned from them.  When I look back over my posts I have mainly been true to this commitment. What I have not shared is the circuitous path that I have taken to get to where I am at today.  A high level view of this path is below.

  • Early Years  –  Having a mother who had a career      outside the home – March post
  • Formative Years – Choir practice with the Nuns – April post
  • First Job –  Fired for sitting down on the job – May post
  • First Professional Job – I.B.M. and the metal monster – May 17 post
  • Punching  the Clock – The job that put the food on that table – Coming soon
  • Back to  School – Seeking That Professional Career – Coming soon
  • Running a Small Business – The Agony of Defeat – Coming soon
  • Having a Career – Where the education got me – Coming soon
  • Founding a Non-Profit – The Legacy We Leave – Coming soon
  • What’s Next? – Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks – This post

As you can see I am going to run ahead and go to the end of this path and then go back and walk you along with me. The reason I am jumping ahead is because I am experiencing one of those “significant emotional events” in my life. I have a new boss and for the first time in a long time I have someone who is going to give me some coaching to get forward momentum on my career.  The start of this coaching has me wondering if I can indeed change some the things that will help me to progress. When faced with a challenge you may realize by now that I turn to reading. This time is no different. I have purchased three books (I need a lot of help), “Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark, “What To Ask The Person In The Mirror” by Robert Kaplan, and” What You’re Really Meant To Do” also by Kaplan.

I am just starting to read these books, but one theme that they all have in common is the need to solicit honest feedback. They suggest 360 reviews from not only your peers, but in order to get a full perspective, that you include feedback from a subset of everyone that you interact with on a daily basis.   My “coach” has started this with my permission by getting some feedback. The focus of this feedback was what was seen as my strengths and weaknesses.  This feedback was welcome but at the same time a bit daunting and caused me to wonder if there are just some aspects of being me that I may not be able to change. Not that I really see myself as an “old dog,” but let’s face it I have been around for a long time and some of these things that may just an intrinsic part of who I am.

In her book, Dorie Clark writes about changing your personal brand.  She recommends that in order to start this effort you need to understand how you are perceived today and then determine how you need to be perceived in order to move to the next phase of your career journey.  Some feedback that I have received is that I need to be “less casual” and that I often give less informed input on “technical topics.”    I can rationalize both of them, but in the end it is all about how I am perceived. With that in mind, I am trying to determine if what my coach has said are “just small changes to my approach,” or are these really behaviors that will be much more difficult for me to change.

I would like to think that my casualness is an asset in that I treat all levels of the organization with equal respect, from the night janitor who I see often to the CEO who I see less often. I will continue to smile and interact in the same casual manner. As for the input on technical topics, I have found that it is very effective when in a discussion with highly technical individuals to ask a dumb question or make a seemingly less informed statement. This normally causes them to rise to the occasion and explain what is really happening in terms that any layman can understand. It challenges them to think and interact in a different manner. I call this “get the crayons out” we’re going to talk to Doris.

My commitment is to finish reading the books and continue meeting with my coach.  Once I have done that, I will then determine how I can make some changes in my behaviors and personal brand. I would like to invite you to give me your thoughts on my strengths and weaknesses. Please feel free to email them to me at doris.amstutz@sage.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, just write them on a slip of paper and slip it under my office door.

Oh and to close the “old dog” comment, here is an article from Cathy Perme that I find puts it all into perspective. http://www.cmperme.com/pdf/cmp0513.pdf