Dealing with Job Obsolescence

I remember when I’ve been out of it for a couple of days. I had a cold and lost my appetite. (The only good thing about being sick and not eating is that I am back to my pre-Christmas weight.)

In the midst of my lethargic response to being ill, I watched Wheel of Fortune; which I’ve not viewed an entire episode in years. I noticed that much has changed. Initially, Vanna White was a “letter turner.”

Then, with advances in technology, there is nothing left to turn. And although she touched each tile before the letter displays, I suspected that someone else was actually making it happen—after all, if they can make the tiles light up without Vanna’s help, they can likewise make the letters display, sans Vanna.

Sadly, Vanna’s original job had become obsolete and superfluous.  Correspondingly, it was likely, that sometime during our working lifetime, we, too, will be faced with job obsolescence.

There were two ways to deal with such a development. One is to prepare for an alternate career. Vanna has done some acting. However, her leading role foray (Goddess of Love) was not well-received (for the record, I had no objections).

The other strategy of preparing for job obsolescence is to make oneself essential to the organization. This is exactly what happened. Vanna, although was no longer performing a substantive role in the show’s mechanics, has nevertheless become so crucial to its ongoing success as to have been named the show’s co-host. 

This developed even though we are only allowed to hear Vanna in the closing seconds of each episode (though I am quite sure that her mic used to be on throughout the show, allowing her to cheer for and encourage the contestants.)

So, courtesy of Vanna White we can ascertain some great career strategies: 1) develop other options and 2) make yourself indispensable.  Either way, you’ll be covered.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.


A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Years ago, in a June issue of Inc Magazine includes an article, Innovation: The Outer Limits, which captured my attention. It detailed “the hottest, most mind-blowing high-tech products” looming on the horizon. It certainly grabbed my attention, causing me to shudder with glee—really.

First were quantum computers, promising to run circles around the current offerings, reducing hours of calculations to mere seconds. Then there were devices that will detect and respond to brain waves—great for gamers and virtual reality projections. Listed next was manufactured body parts: prostheses, replacement eyes, and synthetic organs. 

Another promising advance lies in the area of nanotechnology with the ability to alter substances at the molecular level and—my personal fav—nanomachines that could be injected into your body to repair, rebuilt, or scour.

Last was the opportunity to chemically enhance the brain, thereby improving memory. This really excited me. Wouldn’t it be great to remember more and quickly recall details? Sign me up! But wait. What about the things you want to forget? That unhappy consideration dimmed my enthusiasm a bit. 

However, what really gave me pause was the recollection of a novel I read in high school (if I can recall something from four decades ago, maybe my memory’s not all that bad after all—but then, why do I sometimes blank on my address?)

The book was Flowers for Algernon (see the Spark Notes to refresh your memory—ironic humor intended). Essentially, it’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process, which catapults him to the genius level. Unfortunately, the mental improvement is short-lived as he soon regresses to his former self, with the implication that he could soon die.

Technology is exhilarating and its implications are exciting, but given the potential downside, perhaps I’m not quite ready to improve my memory after all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.


How to Understand Weather Forecasts

Are you sometimes confused by weather forecasts? I am.

“Sunny” and “cloudy” I comprehend, but “partly sunny,” “mostly sunny,” “partly cloudy,” and “mostly cloudy” leave me a bit unsure.

My hope was to clarify this, but the only conclusion I can reach is “No one knows for sure.”

The Reader’s Digest said “partly sunny” is the same as “mostly cloudy,” while “mostly sunny” equates to “partly cloudy,” as in:

sunny (or clear)
mostly sunny or partly cloudy
partly sunny or mostly cloudy

But I couldn’t corroborate this. Another source says the middle ground is shared by “partly sunny,” which is the same as “partly cloudy,” with “mostly cloudy” residing on one side and “mostly sunny” on the other side. This results in:

sunny (or clear)
mostly sunny
partly sunny or partly cloudy
mostly cloudy

And I found other explanations as well.

Of course, any forecast with “sunny” in it would only apply to daylight hours, while indications of cloudiness level is equally applicable for day or night.

Perhaps the real explanation is if weather forecasters can keep us confused, there’s less chance of us accusing them of being wrong.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.


Websites I Can’t Live Without

Please forgive the hyperbole in the title “Websites I Can’t Live Without.” The truth is, yes, I can live without them. However, I use them so frequently than not having them at my disposal would create a void.

Google: I use Google for all my Internet searches and online research. I launch it from my toolbar in Firefox, which takes me to Google for the search results. I can quickly zero in on the exact information I need and only seldom get distracted.

TheFreeDictionary: For online dictionaries, this is my favorite. If I’m writing anything, there’s a good chance that I have this site open. It allows me to quickly verify the correct usage of a word, as well as point to synonyms. (Random trivia question that was recently posed to me: “What is a synonym for euphemism?”)

IMDB: For all my movie, television, and actor information, I immediately go to imdb (“Internet Movie DataBase”). I tend to spend too much time there: I suppose that it is my guilty pleasure—no, wait that might be…

BibleGateway: This is a great site to read or study the Bible. Search by verse, key words, or topic. Plus it has lots of related tools and resources. It also has more Bible translations than I knew existed.

The Weather Channel: Yes, I’m fixated on the weather and is my go-to source. Though lately, I’m more inclined to use their app.

Amazon: As a writer, it seems I’m often looking up books and checking authors. Though I’m not there every day, it’s close.

I use these sites almost every day that I’m online—which happens to be almost every day.  I suppose that I could live without them—but why try?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.



We Need an App For That: Five Ways Technology Skews My Thinking

Several years ago, a coworker and I would spend hours driving from one office to another. Though he wasn’t a soft-spoken guy, I often strained to hear him as we traveled down the road. This only happened in the car and nowhere else. On many occasions I had this crazy impulse to reach for the stereo to turn up his volume. A couple times, my hand actually moved in that direction. Alas, real life lacks a volume control.

Other times, when listening to people with heavy accents, I sometimes don’t catch all their words. What did he say? It sounded like “transliteration,” but that makes no sense. Maybe he said, “Get on the bus.” That would make sense, but it sure didn’t sound like that. If only I could turn on close captioning then I wouldn’t miss a thing.

At home, my wife and I often “discuss” what we’ve said to each other. I accuse her of not listening, and she claims I miscommunicated. “Let’s go back and play the audio recording,” she says in exasperation. Sometimes I wish we can because I’m sure I’ll be vindicated, and other times I’m glad we can’t because she’s probably right. Someone needs to design an app for that—or maybe not.

It’s not just audio, either. Once, after watching a handful of loose papers—ones once carefully organized—fly about the room in disarray, I longed for an undo button. Although I can hit “control Z” on my computer to correct a few errant keystrokes, there are no do-overs in life. The reality is I should have been more careful and not in such a rush. Thinking before acting is better than wishing for an undo.

Television also affects how I try to interact with reality. Often I see something happen in real life, but not paying attention, I wish to watch it again. I mentally reach for the TV remote to “go back” ten seconds or long for an instant replay to catch every element in slow-motion detail. But no matter how often I wish for this, it never happens.

While I may dream of an app to address these issues, the reality is I don’t need technology to solve my problems. What I need is to focus on life as it unfolds around me, to slow down, and to avoid distraction.

Life is a gift, and I don’t want to miss another moment of it.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s new book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words