Musings from The Rack

The more I work on this blog, the more I realize how many hats I actually wear…well, metaphorical hats I figuratively wear. I also realize, more and more, I’m not the only one who has so many hats to wear. Sure, I may have worn one too many hats in my former job; however, donning the hats needed for everyday tasks is itself a task that most adults have to endure.

As I write this, I’m preparing to go to bed after spending the last few hours struggling with a plumbing issue. No, I’m not in need of a urologist…I mean actual drains and pipes. I have been wearing the homeowner’s hat. This particular hat is not the focus of this week’s post, though. It has only been a distraction from the hat that I have on my mind (see what I did there?). Today’s hat is the one you never see, again.

Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I received the news of a death in my extended family. Not someone I’m related to, but the father of family by marriage. You’ve seen me gripe about my former position and I have, perhaps, eluded to how that position took away from me more than I want to admit. One of the things I was unable to do (while in that position) was attend certain family obligations. This time was different. Having absolutely nowhere to be than with my family, I made the ninety minute drive to spend a scant half hour with family and give my heartfelt condolences for the loss.

There’s a hat we all wear when someone dies. It’s a dressy hat, one worn with dignity and respect for the grieving family in the time of their loss. How often have I not thought, though, about the hats of the deceased. Where do they go? Does someone else pick them up and give them a home, allow their purpose to remain?

I looked at the John Deere ball-cap in the casket perched next to the pillow and realized that I would never see that hat, again. In a very literal sense, since the hat was being buried with the decedent, no one would see that hat, again. But, he wore so many hats: Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, farmer, worker, veteran, friend, in-law…just to name what I know to be true. The hats unknown to me may number in the hundreds, for all I know.

And now…they are just hats.

His daughter told me his death felt like someone reached inside her and ripped a part of her away. I tried to say the right thing. I tried to be empathetic and sympathetic at the same time. I tried to let her, her brothers and sisters, her whole family know that I wished there were something I could do. In the end, all I could offer was the half hour.

The trip home was a reflective one. How we react to death is mirrored by what we believe about  life. I thought about the John Deere hat and wondered what the rack would look like withoutScreenshot from 2015-11-28 01:07:46 it. By the time I got home, though, I could only think of one of my favorite quotes. While I don’t think it would have helped at the viewing; while it may have sounded like the same kind of know-it-all advice from well-wishers; while it may be simple, it is also powerful, and I hope my pain-stricken family can find peace in it’s simplicity.

Farewell, HR. I am better for having met you.



Musings from The Rack

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Yep, this is what the Dad Hat looks like.

Okay, in all fairness, it doesn’t always look like this. In fact, I’d say it rarely looks like this; however, we remember the stress more easily than we remember the routine. This week, the routine was disrupted, and this week’s picture is rather fitting (and also why I didn’t post on Sunday night, as per uzh).

Last Wednesday, my boy had surgery. It wasn’t anything overly concerning–outside the fact that any time someone is under general anesthesia it’s a concern–but, the nights that followed the procedure took their toll on me. He slept in the living room so that we could ensure his head was propped, and I slept in my recliner where I could see him at all times. He did great! I slept like crap four nights in a row. So, after several nights of worry, along with our large family Thanksgiving gathering (yesterday), and the literal pain in the back that rounded out the trifecta, my wife insisted I relax and get a good night’s sleep. After a few Guiness Draughts, I was out! That being said, I apologize for the tardiness of The Rack, this week (last week, if you prefer).

No intention of making this a long post. The most important point to be made is how proud I am to wear this hat and I’ll proudly wear it, the rest of my life…even when it looks like it did, last night.

I love you, little t!



Musings from The Rack

Today, I spent much more time in the home office than I wanted, working on end of term assignments. Good news: I finished everything! Bad news: I neglected my boy for the bulk of the day. So, as I write this, I’m feeling like a bit of a heel for making him endure another lonely Sunday. I only hope that–one day–he understands why I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as he would have liked.

That is not the hat du jour, though.

I had a great opportunity, Friday, to spend some time with a couple of the gentlemen that I worked with, the last few years. In fact, they are two of the three that have taken over my responsibilities, since I left. And, though we were meeting socially and as equals, I still felt overwhelmed with how much they appeared to still respect what I had to say. It was so much fun to share drinks and fellowship with them, and it reminded me of a hat that I wore while I was their boss: The Counselor’s hat.

12270432_10205108355528115_1172813898_nNow, the hat in the picture has been altered to protect the innocent (that would be me…don’t want any trouble), but under the big smiley face is the logo that graced every day of my life for the past several years. Looking at all of the metaphorical hats worn, while I was there, the counselor hat is one that I think gave me some of the greatest rewards.

The longer I was in my leadership position, the more my opinion was trusted and the more my input was requested by those higher on the perch. And while advising on ideas and strategy is so rewarding, I think counseling those in my charge came with even greater rewards. It saddens me that much of the work I did from my seat may be nullified by someone only interested in managing, not leading. But, I did my best to impart whatever wisdom I had so the program I took over and grew would maintain its integrity. I’m certain that can happen, but it may be a little rocky.

If I may put on the counselor hat beneath the hidden logo, once more, I think I would try to impress just how important it is to be a good leader. You see, I always had employees that went out of their way to help me, but I truly feel that it was because I did the same, for them. So, here’s some bullets to bite. I hope the list helps, at least a little:

  • You’re not given respect; you earn respect.
  • Don’t tell someone to do something; ask them to help.
  • Get your hands dirty (and your shirt, your hair, your new pants that you just bought, etc).
  • Expect the best from them and that’s what they’ll give you.
  • Remember that your desk is also a dining room table.
  • You may do a thousand wonderful things, but they’ll remember the one thing that was bad.
  • Meetings make you stupid(er).
  • You are not their friend; you are their boss.

There’s a lot more bullets that accompany the counselor hat (like what to do when they are sitting in your office, crying, and miserable with work and/or home life), but some of that knowledge you have to learn the hard way. Of course, any good leader that I’ve had always gave me a long rope, but I always knew it wasn’t so I’d hang myself. It was so I could find my way back if I couldn’t handle things on my own. Consider the rope there, and whether you use if for security or suicide is up to you.

Good luck, guys (and gals).

Auf Wiedersehen!


Musings from The Rack

I have been dreading this weekend since the school term started. Ugh! I am worn out from all the research, re-writes, and regurgitation (okay…the last one was just for effect). I’m pretty sure that one of the final papers I wrote is going to yield a big fat disappointment, but at least it’s done.

Time to move on.

empty_rackTomorrow starts the week of me becoming a small business owner…well, kinda. I’ll be starting my freelance career as a professional writer. Being in business for oneself is the dream of many Americans, and the freedom that comes with it has been in my sights for some time. Having an opportunity for my love of writing to translate to making money (you know…pending my big book deal) is a challenge I’m ready to undertake, but it also scares the crap out of me!

I’ve established a name for the business (clever, IMHO, but we’ll see), purchased a domain name (with the same allegedly clever name), and compiled a list of the first people/businesses that I’ll try to sway to give me a shot. Tomorrow I’ll try to secure the last couple of items I need before selling myself (sorry that sounds so dirty) and will finish the last lesson in my training manual. The next day, I’ll read all of the supplemental material (so I know everything possible), work on the new website, set-up an associated Twitter and Facebook account, and vomit several times. Yeah…I’ve got a great plan for making a wonderful living. All I need, now, is the actual work.

I’ve never worn a small business owner hat (well…except when I was a DJ in the ’90s, but I’m not really counting that), so the hat rack is lacking the appropriate visual aid. I am adept at wearing a lot of hats, but it’s really hard putting a new one on for the first time. Hopefully I’ll be able to combine all the hats for this venture into one big hat that is comfortable to wear. I’m hoping to finally realize that old idiom: if you love what you do, it’s not work. 



Musings from The Rack

I’ve had some nice feedback on posts that have been on The Rack, but–as Ricky Ricardo would say–I still got some splaining to do. Tonight, as the family is tucked and sawing logs, I thought I’d give a little more insight into what I had in mind.

Honestly (I want to see you be brave…sorry), that part of my tagline–hat aficionado–was largely a reflection of my former job. While there, I wore a great number of metaphorical hats, experience that I cherish and will never regret. However, the hats that I wore the last several years had a tendency to not stay on the hat rack at work…they came home with me, way too often. Sometimes, I would wear a work-hat home and have to change it, while driving. Sometimes (more often than I care to think about), I’d have to remove my sleeping cap and put on one of my work hats while I walked from the bedroom to the living room…or back to the office.

Looking back, I can think of nine distinctively different hats that I wore in my former position. Some of the duties that came with those hats have been split among three people, since I left, and if I have one wish for my successors it is that they are able to take off the hat and leave it on the rack at work, as often as possible.

For now, I have been realizing that I have lot of hats at home, too. It is funny, to me, how my need to stretch myself over many disciplines has manifest itself in literal as well as metaphorical hats. My wife will attest to the great number of literal hats in our house, yet I find a use for nearly every one of them. You know what, though? I’m not nearly as stressed when I have to take off the student hat so I can put on the fitness hat in order to wear my dad hat a little more comfortably. I’m proud to display my Coast Guard Auxiliary hat next to my writer hat that sits on top of my (dusty) musician’s hat. I have more hats on the hat rack at home than I ever had on the hat rack at work, each hat representing a responsibility that teenage Tony would have never dreamed of.

I know people with decidedly fewer hats than I have: Firefighters that wear one hat to and from work, and gladly put it on in the middle of the night, and talk about wearing it when it’s not on; farmer’s that wear one hat as soon as they get up at the butt-crack of dawn, and wear it until they reach the dinner table, that evening; soldiers; police officers…all wearing a work hat proudly and passionately. To each of them, I tip all of my hats and sincerely say, “Thank you.”

We all wear hats, every day. Even those that we only think wear one hat have so many hats that we don’t even know about. I think, for me, it’s time I stop complaining about all the hats and embrace the journey that each hat took with me. It’s time to stop being so arrogant that I think I’m the only one with so many hats. It’s time that I realize that perhaps the reason I need so many hats is because my head is so big. It’s time to feel proud about whatever hat I’m wearing…and stop complaining about it being too tight.

20151102_005422It’s time to go to bed.

…but, before I do, it’s time to display tonight’s hat, and display it proudly. Proudly wearing the fan hat, let me congratulate The Kansas City Royals. Enjoy wearing your World Series Champions hats!



A little something from AWAI’s The Golden Thread

How to Abolish Writer’s Block

You sit at the computer, fingers twitching over the keyboard. You’re ready to start writing. But, no matter how hard you squeeze your gray matter, nothing comes out.

Absolutely nothing.

You’ve been hit with dreaded writer’s block, the bane of all writers everywhere.

Here’s what science fiction writer and Carnegie Medal recipient Terry Pratchett said about writer’s block …

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

— Terry Pratchett

I don’t agree with Pratchett’s snide comments about Californians. (After all, I am one!) But, I do agree about writer’s block.

I do not believe in writer’s block. You shouldn’t either. As freelancers, we can’t afford to. Writing is our livelihood, and we can’t indulge ourselves like that.

More importantly, this phrase carries a hidden danger having more to do with imagery and belief than with the act of writing.

The word “block” conjures an image of a huge concrete cube. Can’t get over it. Can’t go ‘round it. Can’t get under it.

If you give into the idea of writer’s block, you accept the image of an insurmountable barrier to your writing, your livelihood, your success.

There is a solution. Successful copywriters have developed strategies for blasting the “challenge of the blank page.” (I like that term better. Don’t you?)

Here are five Blank Page Blasters for overcoming this challenge that will get you writing quickly when faced with a blank page or computer screen.

Blank Page Blaster #1: Determine where you are …

Your first step in overcoming the challenge of the blank page is a quick one: Figure out where you are in the process.

Let’s say you’re at the very beginning of your writing. You have no idea how to begin or even what approach to take. Your ideas are all jumbled up.

When faced with these challenges at the beginning of writing, I know one thing is for certain. You don’t have a strong enough compelling idea. You don’t have enough details.

Solution: As eager as you might be to get on with your writing, you must do more research. Even if a deadline looms large, the time you spend expanding your knowledge and understanding of your product, the prospect, and the prospect’s core emotions, the easier and faster your writing will go.

Blank Page Blaster #2: Let “chunks” get half your copy written …

So, let’s say you’ve done tons of research. You have a compelling idea, and you have a good outline. You may even have written a bunch of headlines. But, you’re stuck. Your lead is nowhere to be found.

Now what?

Jen Stevens, John Forde, and I talked at Bootcamp a couple of weeks ago about a strategy that can get you writing with confidence.

All promotional copy has standard components that are easier to write than “hard stuff up front.” These chunks of copy include testimonials, false close, price reveal, guarantee, call to action, guru bio information, and order device.

These chunks don’t change in concept much from one promo to another. So, you can lift ones you’ve already used in an earlier promo and drop them into your current one.

When you do that, your letter is already a third to half written before you start writing the harder stuff like your lead.

The confidence of having that much written relieves stress and gives you confidence. And, that’s often enough to get you rolling right through the harder stuff.

And, if you’re writing your first promotion and don’t have your own copy to lift from?

Get inspiration from other copy for similar products. In other words, dip into your swipe files.

Blank Page Blaster #3: Change the scenery …

The challenge of the blank page doesn’t always hit when you’re faced with a blank page. Sometimes you get stuck getting the next paragraph started. Frustration sets in. Nothing comes.

Give yourself a change of scenery. Get away from wherever you write.

Exercise. (The increased oxygen flow works wonders.) Take a shower. (The negative ions stimulate feelings of well-being and increase creativity.) Go for a walk. Take a nap.

But, when you’re doing these change-of-scenery activities, do not try to find a solution to your writing challenge. Good ideas arise on the edges of consciousness … not when you’re searching for them.

(An example from my life: I was struggling to find a way to transition to this section. So, I went to feed our cat Mr. Skitters and get a cup of coffee. Five minutes later, I have 102 words written!)

Blank Page Blaster #4: Give yourself some time …

When you’re really stuck, sometimes the only solution is to “sleep on it.” During sleep, your subconscious mind creates ways around your problem. When you waken, the answer to your challenge is often right in front of you.

But, your mind can be a tricky fellow. That solution can fade quickly. So, be prepared to trap it. Keep pen and paper or a small voice recorder next to your bed.

Blank Page Blaster #5: Give yourself permission to be imperfect …

My final Blank Page Blaster is the easiest to imagine but the hardest for any writer to accept.

We want our words to be perfect as they appear on the page. This mindset is a recipe for inaction. Instead, take the advice of American historian Jacques Barzun …

“Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.”

I’d love to hear what Blank Page Blasters you’ve found effective. Tell us in the comment section. Our readers and I are eager to hear them.

Next week, we’ll be talking about an idea I learned from Mike Palmer at Bootcamp this year. It’s one I never heard before, and I’m sure it will help you write more confidently.

Until then …

 … Keep writing!


This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available. For a complimentary subscription, visit