Defeat is Another Opportunity To Practice Being Prepared

Defeat is Another Opportunity To Practice Being Prepared


I am not a flawless Creator.

The last time I threw my life a curve on purpose was in 1994. Unlike a baseball pitcher practicing how to toss a curve ball, this life decision had no practice runs.

I had to win.

They say that when you ask for something you want through prayer, dreams, during meditation or those debates with your guardians and angels during long car rides, it will come to pass when all the pieces are agreed to and there is time to assemble the best outcome.

Or you can just go get the Golden Retriever puppy you have been wanting and show up at the house with it. I did that too one time.

In 1994 I went out to find me. I got tired of waiting for my big reveal.

I asked for a divorce from a man everyone loved and who was not only kind, but a devoted father and hard worker. We got along well. Even lived together while separating. We hired a divorce mediator who let us write our agreement, which I typed up on my home computer using WordPerfect. I didn’t ask for child support or alimony. He got the house. I moved out to a small condo down the road.

I had no job.

Looking back, I may have been testing myself. I didn’t know who I was, or what I was capable of. I was my own version of a software application in development, whose first business requirement was survival.

The Whole World is Here

They say we have a life purpose. There are those moments when you know the Universe is working on your game plan and, like any good coach, It shoves you out onto the playing field when it’s your turn to play. You can ignore Coach if you want to. I’m sure I missed many plays, which explains why practice sessions are so vital. You want to succeed, right?

When I saw the internet for the very first time, in 1994, I said out loud, “The whole world is here!” I could think of nothing better than to meet everyone. Since then, my career is tied to that one pivotal moment. Remember that scene in the movie, “Field of Dreams”, when the ball field is all lit up at night and players who have passed on come out to throw the ball around?

That was me back then, walking onto the field.

I had no idea how to play the game, but I knew I would learn. My own personal mantra is carved into my soul. It is this: “Don’t underestimate me.” It comes in handy from all that practice with failures or rejections. When Coach turns to me and signals me to come over, I’m not always feeling ready, but defeat is another opportunity to practice being prepared.

Since the web makes it possible to know each other, I learned things like:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from people you think are smarter than you. They are. So what. That’s why you want to ask them your questions.

2. Always be humble and kind.

3. Spell check. Grammar check. Repeat.

4. Never assume anything. Ever.

5. Some people may always judge you.

6. How to make a dream catcher, macramé, make a podcast and learn Angular. Not necessarily in that order.

7. The internet is forever-net. There are no take backs.

8. Google will change its mind. Often.

9. “Build it and they will come” is not a practical business requirement for web development.

10. A little shift in the wind can make the football bounce off the goal post.

That last one is important for me now.

Today I find myself standing at another crossroad. I have been working on a new personal career plan for myself for the past 3 years. There have been practice runs, like interviewing for jobs and being told I’m too old or overly qualified. I closed the online web design and marketing community I founded in 1998 after a twenty year run. Getting my hands into source code and teaching myself more difficult skills has both challenged and delighted me.

With all the inspirational and educational resources available on the web, there is no end to finding help when I need it. I’ve had many career successes and achievements, but when I tried to compile them into one place, I realized I never had the ego to record it all. This is because these achievements were always the direct result of having a mentor who believed in me, especially in those most crucial moments when I needed them to.

I took the phrase, “We create our reality”, to heart when I first read that statement somewhere back in the 1980’s. I’m not a flawless creator, but I try to show grace in disappointments and humor during pain, such as when I had my knees replaced. My PT therapists giggled whenever I referred to my left knee as “Hope”, because it was the first knee to be replaced and responded like a champ. Five weeks later, my right knee was replaced and fought the process, so I named it “Despair.” This pretty sums up those times when I kick myself towards another goal. There is hope. And there is despair.

It’s not easy to aim high. This is how I know that experience is my teacher and how fortunate I am to be open to the journey.

My tattoos are inside my skin.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Originally published in Medium February 18, 2019

What I Learned From the Job I Didn’t Get

What I Learned From the Job I Didn’t Get


For five weeks I put all client work on hold, went food and sleep deprived, and put on my Jessica Jones shoes and Super Woman mind-set to chase a job that was out of my reach.

Nevertheless, I pursued this job and set up a direct, ongoing dialog with the Universe about my progress. If I saw one of the red cardinals living on our country farm three times, that would mean I got the job. (Spoiler alert — He appeared twice.)

I have been a consultant since the day in 2002 when I was laid off from my job as a Software QA Usability Engineer and hired six hours later as a sub-contractor to test a call center software application for AT&T WorldNet. From that moment on, I powered through any barrier presented to me to learn whatever I needed to complete any job I was hired for.

Other than the two years when I accepted an invitation to work at a company that wanted help with offering usability services, I have been self employed and working from home. I am extremely disciplined working remotely. In fact, I’m on call 24/7 and holidays and routinely work overtime to meet deadlines. I haven’t taken a vacation since 2008.

It was a risk to apply for the position because the last three times I tried to leave consulting ended in confidence shattering disasters. In one, I was over qualified and knew more than the people interviewing me. For another one I needed a design portfolio. I perform site audits and test web sites and online applications. I even sketch mock-ups. Somebody else codes. So that was an interview fail.

Another try was to conduct accessibility testing for a series of apps. I spent a week creating example test plans, but the role went to a larger company, who I heard later quit.

Dream Job

Finally there was this dream job that appeared. I have a specific set of criteria that are needed before I consider a full time job. It must be remote. I want to be encouraged to learn new skills and the team needs to be as passionate as I am about the work.

This last attempt to jump into a full time job was with a major global corporation for a job I desperately wanted. I wasn’t hired.

The first reason was exactly what I had tried to convey to them all along, which is that I am not a product designer with a portfolio I am allowed to show. It makes no difference how many famous websites I’ve tested, audited or redesigned. They are all under confidentiality contracts as work I performed as a sub-contractor. I couldn’t prove that I know what goes where, why, how, when and for who without a way to demonstrate it.

I started the process on January 16. The final interview of a series of several was on February 14. On February 15 I knew I didn’t get the job. However, it was not until February 21 that I officially heard back. For a week I waited for the red cardinal to give me hope.

Applicants are given access to an online job tracking system where they can submit their resume, track the jobs they apply for and check on their status. The position I applied for was removed during the interview process and re-posted back to the public the day after my interview. Waiting for the official word, while seeing the answer online, was agony.

Of the 8 people who interviewed me, one was someone in the field that I admired and hoped to learn from. I wondered if that was a critical mistake on my part.

In addition to not having the required design portfolio proving my worth, the other reason I was given for not being offered the job was not having direct experience with a methodology specific to development cycles that as a consultant I’m not part of. I knew I needed the portfolio, but was surprised at the second reason because it was not in the job description.

As time went on I realized that I needed an advanced level of skills for a role where I was hoping to gain experience and the chance to learn and apply those advanced skills. My legendary passion for inclusive user experience design was never going to be enough.

Observations from The Field Less Followed

1. There isn’t a job role called “over achiever”.

2. There isn’t a job skill for “works too much”, “dedicated”, “passionate”, “bat shit crazy”.

3. Companies waste money hiring for projects that are not properly thought out.

4. If one person on the interviewing team doesn’t want you, that’s the end of the ballgame.

5. Not having a portfolio is like gambling with no money. You’re perceived as clueless.

6. Believing that you are of lesser importance than those interviewing you is wrong.

7. Never allow an interview process to go on too long.

8. Don’t dangle the carrot in front of a job applicant who is a “maybe”. I was a “definitely not”, who needed to be put out of my misery much sooner.

9. I learned what I didn’t know that I didn’t know and enrolled in courses to get the shiny newer knowingness.

10. Don’t put all your hopes in red cardinals.

In some circles people know me. That happens when you own a global community for 20 years for web designers, as I did, or write columns or speak at conferences, as I did.

I’m nobody when I look for a job to advance in my career. Every job opening that interested me, that I was willing to leave consulting, my brand, my friends, my community and my clients to chase after, presented me with all new people that I hoped to get to know and work with.

I may never have the courage to try and do that again.

Photo by Rose Elena on Unsplash

Originally published in Medium Feb 25, 2019

No Question Too Dumb


I interviewed an old friend who reminded me of the tagline for an online community I once owned and ran for twenty years. Our tagline was “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”

The people that found themselves joining the community were natural born self learners who did not hesitate to share their knowledge with others.

I built my first website in 1995. Thanks to several mentors who believed in me, I developed confidence and was inspired to keep trying new things. I taught myself how to animate images but required help when it came to handcoding nested tables in HTML pages.

I taught myself website promotion techniques, which later became known as search engine optimization (SEO). Whatever I was unclear about I knew where to find teachers, most of whom I remain friends with to this day.

Donna Cavalier came to my online community as a member, then became a moderator and finally one of the technical administrators, which were necessary as the forums grew and required better software. She was one of my most trusted advisors, not only because of her technical skills, but because she never made me feel dumb for needing help.

One of the reasons I started this new blog is because I needed to return to a time in my life where learning was fun and sharing knowledge wasn’t about competition or ego.

As a self starter and endless research maniac, I can spend hours trying to teach myself something new. I learned a very long ago that people who know what you want to know are often happy to teach you, without judgement.

I do enough of the self critical analyzing mumbo jumbo as it is. This video is my first time ever conducting an interview using Zoom. I’ve conducted interviews before, and been interviewed, but this was my first step into using Zoom as the platform.

I pulled the file into my Camtasia so that I could edit it and add an intro and exit credits and a few other fun things. Later, when I wanted to make more accessible, I tried to teach myself transcription but ended up learning how to create subtitles and uploading the edited text.

I gained more knowledge by doing and a newfound empathy for those whose job it is to make sure our words are available to those who like or require the assistance.

Zoom Interview with Kim Krause Berg and Donna Cavalier