Category Archives: Career & Money

My Minimalist journey begins.

Photo credit: Sketch Guy

Photo credit: Sketch Guy

“There’s a consequence for being over-prepared. ”

I remember reading this NY Times’ article awhile back on minimalism and feeling taken aback. I’ve always been good at throwing stuff away (the consequence of obsessively hoarding magazines as a teenager), but I had never taken time to consider the psychological aspects in regards to how I relate to my “stuff.”

I’m currently in the middle of moving my apartment around. And when I say moving around, I really mean that my roommate is moving out, and I find myself with a lot of space. Perhaps too much.

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THIS SCREAMS ROBERT FROST

THIS SCREAMS ROBERT FROST

After months of putting out positive “new-job” vibes into the universe to attract my dream job, two weeks ago I got just that: a new job. It was perfect for me: as the small company’s office manager and first admin, I would have a great deal of autonomy as an employee, the ability to serve as kind of the central “human” hub for the small office, the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. And I would be surrounded by people my age with similar backgrounds.

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Jobs in a Millennial world: Respect your job candidates, and they won’t forget it.

(Photo credit: tristarkarate.com)

(Photo credit: tristarkarate.com)

I recently interviewed for a position at a progressive company with a yoga studio blahblahblah. I was excited because, if hired, I’d be working for a company that seems stoked on its employees: I’ve found that company that really gets it! 

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Employees to Entrepreneurs: One mistake and your ass is grass.

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My experience as a Task Rabbit, a virtual and in-person assistant who works with “task posters” on a contract basis, has made me question everything I thought I knew about business and capitalism and treating people “right.”

I recently signed up to deliver boxes of produce from farmers’ markets to chic, higher-end restaurants in the city. On Saturday mornings. At 7am. My first delivery was last weekend. The process took about 3 hours, required the use of a dolly, was somewhat humiliating because I have a master’s degree, and my car – its seats coated in dust – is still in need of a good vacuum. For my labor, I made $50.

I drove home, egg mcmuffin in hand, checking in with myself on how I felt about the payment. I can be hyper-sensitive to people taking advantage of me. I decided this person wasn’t. And since I was saving this person money by agreeing to work outside the site so that he didn’t have to pay posting fees, it was a win-win situation, and I had a recurring job. Later that weekend, he paypal-ed me. We would get in touch the following Thurs re: the next weekend’s deliveries. And life went on.

The naive employee in me, who is excited to be a part of new endeavors, emailed the fine purveyor this morning – “Hey [name redacted]! The LA Marathon is this Sunday – how do you want to handle the delivery routes?”

Taskposter response: “No worries. No deliveries this Sunday. By the way, would you take $40 per delivery instead of $50?”

And here I was, one second excited to help this person out – ready to be on his team, and the next, an employee scorned.

It’s not often you find someone who is as engaged in your work as you are. But when your funds are limited, what’s more important – human capital or getting the best deal?

I don’t have any answers (although I suspect the maxim “moderation is key” is helpful here). But I do know that when these situations arise and you don’t take care of them well, you leave people with bad tastes in their mouths, for you and your burgeoning company. And more quickly than you can snap your greedy little entrepreneurial fingers, a fruitful partnership is (potentially) irreparably damaged with one bad seed.

I didn’t make it to SXSW. Or, the concept of the sunk cost.

maybe we can commiserate next year GC

maybe we can commiserate at SXSW next year GC

Remember learning about the “sunk cost” concept in an economics’ class? Essentially – you buy a ticket. For a concert. When the date of the concert comes up, you find you can’t go. Your friends will tell you to sell the ticket to recoup some of the cost. In the economic world though, it doesn’t matter – you already lost that money.

As I’ve been saving and paying down debt, this concept has been helpful to me. (Thought it’s super counterintuitive.)

This weekend the annual SXSW festival is making its way to Austin (film, music, interactive). I was excited to attend the interactive portion, for which I paid $895 *hangs head in shame*. I planned to hear Tim Berners-Lee (REAL inventor of the Internet – hope Al Gore doesn’t run into him, as Al will also be there) speak along with Elon Musk (the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur) and The Oatmeal. Shaquille O’Neal will be talking about how to effectively utilize social media. Organizers, last-minute, announced there would be a Grumpy Cat appearance. There were panels on how the online porn industry is changing and on the developing role women gamers are playing in the industry. Does it get any more weird, eclectic, incredible?

And what was a doable trip a few months ago suddenly became undoable. I couldn’t get work off – ok, so I can’t see the Oatmeal. I’ll just go for the weekend. But it’s $400 to change my flight. I’ll just use my American Airlines’ credit card.

It’s easy to feel like we’re losing money if we don’t take advantage of something we paid for that has a deferred value. The truth is if I had paid that $400 to change my ticket, I would have been $400 poorer. That’s it. The $895 I paid for the conference is resting peacefully back in December 2012. In an effort to revive it, I would have had to spend more money.

There’s a power in letting go of our sunk costs. Of accepting right where we are. I think I saved $400 this weekend. Let’s go with that.

If you haven’t delved into the SXSW Interactive sphere, I suggest following the coverage, if you’re into that sort of thing. Austin Chronicle.

Other people’s papers. Or, what’s in a college degree?

cheater cheater

cheater cheater

I did it in college. I might have done it in high school. And here we are –  nearly ten years later – and I’m still getting paid to write other people’s research papers.

2004: One of my senior-year college roommates offers me $50 cash to write her 10-page research paper on cleft palates. (She was an education major.) And while my parents were my only source of income at the time and their preferred method of payment involved my blue-and-yellow VisaBuxx card (the credit card you pre-load; Target market? Teens.), I didn’t do it for the money. I did it for the thrill.

It took me 24 hours. I stayed up. I took Adderall for the first and last time. I learned kind of a lot about cleft palates. I finished the paper, literally sick and tired, but found myself curled up in my Ikea bed around 10am after the all-nighter bloated with a strange pride. We gamed the system. We stuck it to the man. This is what it feels like to live!

My love affair with academic dishonesty flared up again this past week: Through a virtual-assistant web site, I started working for a girl – T – who needed some help with a short research paper for her business class. “Help” really meaning someone who would write the paper for her. I worked on it at work. At home. I became invested and engrossed. I emailed the final version to her with a little note: “I love doing this kind of work, so if you have more and would like to work outside the site, let me know!”

She took me up on the offer. It’s all a little mysterious, but from what I can gather, I now seem to be completing the course for her. And while I love the work and the set-up, it doesn’t mean I think it’s ok.

This is how I look at it semi-freakonomically. I think the argument against T and I’s arrangement is a) it’s dishonest, and 2) it isn’t good for the student. And what would we as a society do if a majority of our college graduates had actually employed a smaller minority of outside individuals to complete their collegiate work for them? Are the graduates fit to enter the workforce? It really begs the question – what does having a college degree in America today mean?

College can be just as much about learning to live with the institutions that govern our lives, figuring out how to maneuver around the red tape, as it can be about learning. For all I know, T is a hustler – she’s getting a degree to get ahead, not to apply the concept of marketing myopia to her employer’s mission statement. There’s an opportunity cost to doing her college coursework – what could she be doing instead? How do we know that that something is not more beneficial for her?

I do it because I miss the urgency. The high stakes. The deadlines. I’m lucky – at least in terms of collegiate work. I love learning, particularly through writing, putting pieces of a puzzle together and not having the luxury of over-thinking the whole thing. (It’s pretty rare that someone approaches you three weeks ahead of time with a paper to write.) I think I especially like the ability to put the work aside when I’m done. It’s the best way to get around the writer’s ultimate dilemma: that the success, or lack thereof, of something we produce says something about us fundamentally. This kind of work – it’s part of me, but not who I am.

At this point, I’m mostly worried that T will start spending money on me that she doesn’t have, the dependency issue. I’m also worried that maybe she does need to know some of this stuff. If I start getting indications that either is happening, I’ll have to take a second look at our arrangement.

For now, it’s one of those things in life that’s best approached as…it is what it is.

Andrew James Taggart, Practical Philosopher, Ph.D.

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