Thursday, April 24, 2003

April 24, 2003

Boy, it's been quite some time since I've sat down here at the machine to put down what I've been doing. It's strange, I've been busy, but it feels like I haven't really done much since we put the sleds away for the summer. To keep it interesting, I'll try to be brief, and rather than going in chronological order, I'm gonna group it by activity. Nothing like a little change-up for the springtime.

SKELETON
The season may have ended, but as I'd paid for a full session at TOSH, I thought I might as well keep running on that infernal treadmill until my time was up. The size of the workout group got a lot smaller as most of the other sliders moved back to their regular homes, rediscovered their jobs or just got tired of coming. Whatever the reason, it was pretty much the Bargo boys and myself twice a week. The atmosphere was light, despite the workouts getting heavier each time. The last few sessions, Ildiko cranked the treadmill up to a 35% grade, running it at 14 mph. Needless to say, the legs were a bit wobbly at the end of each day.

I had two chances to get up to 20 mph on a flat grade, but each time I came up just short (the story of my season), only running at it for five out of the necessary six seconds before I had to grab the bar to keep from shooting off the back of the treadmill. The prize was only a t-shirt, and lord knows, I didn't need another one of those, but for pride, it would have been nice. Despite that little setback, when we went to our post-test, I found the results that I had been looking for. The TOSH system must work, because in only three months, and with virtually no weight training, I dropped my time in the 40 from a 5.22 to a 4.98, and increased my vertical jump by 4 inches. With a little time in the weight room this summer and into the fall, I should be able to get my start times down in the low-5's. I only hope that I can inspire myself to really do it. When I was in college, I would usually wait until the very last minute to write my papers. When I would get a B+ on it, rather than say "if I'd started earlier, I could have had an A," I'd appreciate the extra time I had to play around as opposed to spending it in the library.


WORK
With no skeleton to mess with my schedule, it was time to really buckle down and try to find a job. Zebeez was going out of business, so it was with great joy that I saw an ad in the paper for the Pearl Izumi outlet across the street. For those of you who don't know, Pearl Izumi is the premier brand of cycling and fitness clothing in the country. I absolutely love my P.I. shorts, and won't wear anything else when I ride. To make a long story short, I had two interviews, and the employee discount was mine. Employee discounts are great, unless you're only making $8.50 an hour and working 20 hours a week. After paying bills, I didn't have much left over for fancy shorts, shoes and jerseys (actually, I was still pretty much in the hole, so it was a real test of willpower). They wanted to train me to be a "floor supervisor" which is just a fancy name for "guy who has to close the store on Friday and Saturday nights so the manager and assistant manager don't have to." Don't get me wrong, the management is nice at the store -- Kirstin the manager is really flexible about giving people time off, even if she's totally focused on silly things like Units Per Transaction. Seriously, if I sell a $150 jacket and a $90 pair of shorts, isn't that better than the person who sells four pairs of $5 socks? But that's what the corporate office rates her at, so each transaction ended with "are you sure you don't need some extra socks? How about a Clif bar?" putting me only a half step above "you want fries with that?"

Matt the assistant manager is a soccer player who rarely gets to play because he has to work weekends. Funny guy with a classic 1980s Dodge K car. I worry about him every night he has to drive back to Salt Lake through the snow in that heap, but he's survived so far. The rest of the staff is pretty cool, but it's hard to work with folks who've never been in the corporate world, and who just move from one small job to the next. Guess I better get used to that here in Park City, as most people play first, then work second. I'd like to do that, but it's hard to rid myself of that work hard work ethic.

Because it wasn't enough just to work at the mall, I also picked up a job teaching 5 - 8 year olds to play soccer. Now, I've only had one previous coaching job, but I guess a lifetime of playing was enough skill for the people at the Racquet Club. Little did I know what I was getting into. I often said that managing a team of adults was harder than dealing with kids, but boy, was I wrong there. Both groups will constantly whine "coooaach...when do we get to scrimmage???" but at least there isn't the constant fear that comes from trying to work under the watchful eye of parents.

There's also the strain of trying to keep sixteen 5 and 6-year-olds from running into each other while they try to dribble around a small gym for the first time. Thankfully, I had the great assistance of two young men -- really kids themselves -- who were helping to coach as part of the public service requirement from the International Baccalaureate program they were in. I'll be honest, it's been a long time since I've participated in any soccer drills, let alone run them. Plus, the new wave in coaching young kids is all about playing games, rather than standing in line to run passing drills. Thankfully Flynn and Tommy did a lot of research before each practice, and came up with a lot of games for us to try. Then, they would demonstrate the necessary skills, and even help set up cones. So what did I have to do, you ask? Mostly it was to be the authority figure, explain what we were going to do, and keep spirits up. Plus, there was the constant "good jobs," "way to go's," and "attaboy/attagirl," not to mention the occasional comforting hug after someone inevitably ran smack into someone else.

Most of the kids were great, asking questions, saying thank you, and generally following instructions. But as any first-grade teacher will tell you, even the best kids have their moments. There was one girl who ran full-speed through the gym, barely controlling the ball, screaming at the top of her lungs (all while her mom sat blissfully unaware on the sidelines). Another who preferred to just sit down in the middle of the court, and a third who really wanted to play basketball for most of practice, constantly picking the ball up and shooting at the hoops on the sides. Even with the little distractions, it was a pleasure to teach kids the basics of the game I have loved and played my entire life. By the end of the month, there was definite improvement across the board. Kids who could barely dribble at the start were able to string two and three passes together. They were so good, that I used some of my PhotoShop magic and our new color printer to make up "Official Soccer Licenses" for each of them (see an example at: http://members.aol.com/ori2006/soccerlicense.jpg ). I wish you could have seen the faces on these kids when they received these. I can only imagine what the poor coach of their spring team is going to say when they show up with their cards, and the other kids don't have them.

Unfortunately, the soccer gig was only for a month, and the Pearl Izumi job was only for a few hours a week, so I really had to keep looking for that elusive "real job." I got a resource book that listed all the web design and advertising agencies in the Salt Lake area, and sent resumes to all of them. Only one replied -- and he didn't even have a job to offer. He was impressed with what he read, and merely wanted to meet me. It was a nice meeting, and if I can figure out how to get some of the companies that AOL used to work with to switch ad firms, then I might be able to manage those accounts. I made some inquiries to people back at Dulles, but nobody has responded yet. At a minimum, it was a nice ego boost, and I got this cool set of "Corporate Kingdom" trading cards that this agency developed. I think I might be able to turn that into an improv game, so I'll bring that up with my new group (more on that later).

So there I was, selling cycling jerseys and running shorts three days a week, making barely enough each month to make my car payment, let alone the mortgage, when who should come calling, but concussion boy himself, Ivan Hendren. After crashing out of the club seeding races, we hadn't seen much of Ivan as he stopped coming to TOSH. He'd been working hard, trying to get his rose business on more solid ground (see these amazingly huge flowers at http://www.jungleroses.com), but the reason he called me was that he wanted to grow his mortgage broker business.

Now I have never, ever, ever wanted to be a salesman. I can tolerate working in retail, because customers come to you looking for something, but the idea of going out and getting people to buy things they weren't really thinking of buying was something that just made me uncomfortable. The sad thing is, I am a natural salesman. I'm great talking to strangers, making them feel comfortable, and I'm a good listener. Again, to make a long story short -- after much anguish, I decided to join in. He was paying for the license and my first set of qualified leads, so my up-front risk was limited. Three weeks later, and I've made one sale -- to my sister who was going to refinance with someone else. Unfortunately, in order to get the deal, I had to eat a lot of fees, so my cut is far from what Ivan was saying was average -- but hey, it's been a good learning experience. So has been calling all these leads. So far I haven't been able to get anyone to say yes. I've gotten a lot of "I'll think about it's, call me back in a couple of days," plus a couple of "Sure, let's do it...is it going to be a problem that I've missed three mortgage payments since my bankruptcy two years ago?" I'm gonna keep plugging away, because, after all, what choice do I have? I think all I need is one sale to go through for me to see that this could really be something for me. I can set my own hours, work from home, and there's potential to make serious money. But this initial period is frustrating me something fierce and it's hard to stay motivated in the face of repeated failure (again, a recurring theme for this year). As I close this overly long update, I say this -- better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all.


FUN THINGS
Playing soccer on a men's team (2 goals and an assist in 3 games), and a co-ed team -- good way to meet people and hopefully get some refi or sales business for above.
Joined an improv group. They're a bunch of beginners mostly, and most of the games are really gimmicky, but it's good to get out and play again. Should be in a show soon.

That's all for now, I'll try to keep this thing updated a bit more often.