The Perpetual Gift of Music

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ~ Plato
by Pete Ferguson
It is 6:20 in the morning. I sit here typing on my computer listening to a very passionate rendition of “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns from the Carnival of the Animals collection played by my 15-year old son Mark on the cello. In the background I can hear my daughter’s flute, but cannot pick up the tune.
Mark has much ground to travel before he is at Yo Yo Ma’s level, but I can feel his desire to play this most soulful piece with passion and a desire to be true to the piece.
At 5:00 I was awakened by the piano. Too lost in the world between dream and reality, I do not recall what he was playing, but it is the best way to start the morning slowly and at my own pace.
In another 30 minutes I will hear my two younger daughters duo practice – both sitting on the piano bench with Ashley facing forward playing the piano and and Abbie facing the opposite direction playing violin.
Abbie and Ashley do not play the same piece, in fact they will not even be playing at the same tempo. Quite remarkable as I am too easily distracted to attempt a similar feat.
This gift of a gradual wakeup only happens during the week.
As I lay in bed last Saturday morning at 7:40 am to a silent house I realized how much I will miss all of this in 20 years when my yet-unborn daughter will likely move out to pursue her life’s passions with her older brothers and sisters having long since moved out.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
My love for music began early. My father was a translator for university music departments traveling to Asia and so we would be invited to preparatory performances. I cannot recall the exact moment the spark ignited, but it has burned ever since. I started violin in third grade and piano I believe in fifth. Unfortunately I lacked the discipline to advance forward and when we moved at age 13, I put down the violin and have not yet taken it back up again although I play the piano from time to time.
As I watched the Super Bowl last week, with men in their 30s heading towards retirement (and many of them with physical injuries), it struck me that my children – if they continue the pursuit of music – will just be warming up in their 30s.
And I realize that like the Olympic flame, music is a gift that continues to be shared with others wanting to listen, wanting to also learn to play, or wanting to compose anew. And what a wonderful gift to enjoy.

Should You Go to University?

I have a bachelors degree in Communications, Public Relations & Marketing. I’m also a “Certified Protection Professional” with the American Society for Industrial Security.

In and of themselves, these two certificates I have in my office do not open doors for me. What each did, however, is unlock critical thinking.

by Pete Ferguson

I also have a bookshelf full of great books – which also got me thinking outside of the box. And despite being in the security industry, I regularly read Fast Company, Inc, HR Manager, CIO, and ComputerWorld magazines and attend webinars and other learning opportunities not directly related to my field.

Barry Schwartz on LinkedIn writes:

In my view, higher education should be equipping students to answer these four questions:

  1. What is worth knowing?
  2. What is worth doing?
  3. What makes for a good human life?
  4. What are my responsibilities to other people?

College is not the only place in which answers to these questions can develop, but it is an important place. And siloed, specialized training in a discipline—any discipline—will answer none of them.

I’m grateful for all of my learning experiences. I would like to get a Master’s degree when Miles (my youngest, now 3) is settled in school. I do better in a structured environment and I liked attending classes and having debates with people not in my line of profession when I started a few years back. But with family, civic, work, travel and other things occupying my time, it wasn’t a good fit.

My father has a PhD and it has served him well. My mentor and career coach Dan Miller did everything required for a PhD except his dissertation when he decided he could spend a year writing a paper that four old men would critique and then it would sit in an archive at the library, or sell a few million dollars in books and seminars on “48 Days to the Work You Love.”

We had a mid-level position open last month – three PhDs applied. The salary I can offer would maybe pay for one semester of school. That blows my mind that someone would invest over $200k on a degree to make $50-60k a year. You may break even the day you die.

Whatever you do, always be learning – advice I received multiple times from good professors and my father – and have tried to apply.

Other great advice I received often is to always be writing. And having written over 240 blog entries here – and commented on countless others – I can attest that it has been very educational and helped me see new perspectives.

Finally, network! Not talking FaceBook here – LinkedIn is better – but make sure you are setting up lunch and coffee appointments to pick people’s brains.

I recently sat down with a very successful CEO and asked him what advice he has for someone my age to get more mentors. His answer – ask, and show value. He says many of his C-level executive friends and peers often talk about wanting to have a mentee, but seldom get asked. He recommends I select ten people and invite them to lunch on my expense. Be very specific on time requirements (and stick to what you commit to) and actively follow up on everything discussed.

What are you doing to continue your education?

But That’s The Perfect Job for Me! …

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Pete Ferguson

Recently my brother-in-law applied for a job with great promise and increased salary. He did his research and was convinced that it would be the perfect opportunity.

Unfortunately he didn’t get it.

Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. ~ Ronald Reagan

Today I worked out with friend with whom I’d worked a year or so ago to fix up his resume, identify his passion, and put together a plan of action.

He also applied for a job that he thought would be perfect for him – but didn’t get it. Now he is back in school and working towards a much more promising future.

At the time he was applying for the job I discussed with him the bureaucracy and politics he would have to face. At the time he just wanted a steady salary and sense of purpose and the ability to go from unemployed to gainfully employed.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ~ Confucius

I’ve had several opportunities over the years to apply for what I also thought would be the perfect job. I got into the final interviews and thankfully the other party decided I wasn’t the best fit for the position.

At the time I was disappointed, discouraged, and dismayed. But I’ve since had the chance to go back and visit the person who did take on the job or talk to others who worked (and now no longer work) for those companies and I can very clearly see how I would not have been happy for very long.

This month I commence my 15th year at eBay. That’s a really long time. If I was in Law Enforcement or the military, I’d be five years from retirement.

Throughout the journey I’ve been blessed to make of my job what I want to make of it. There are many times I feel it is the perfect job for me. There have been times when I have felt stuck and needed to get out.

Thankfully each time I’ve been able to change direction and create the perfect job for me.

There was a time I loved to travel. And I did 180,000 miles in a year going to Asia and Europe.

There was a time I loved to manage large teams and I was privileged to have over 100  reports across multiple continents.

I burned out, however, spent a few years getting back in touch with what I love to do most – build. And now I’m in a position that was not a position two years ago and I’m having the time of my life.

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done. ~ George Carlin

Being out of work sucks. But for me and the friends I’ve seen go through it, it has also been a very powerful shift in understanding oneself – getting in touch with one’s true inner passion for work and making dramatic changes to move in a different direction.

If you are currently in the job search – all the best luck to you. It is hard to understand now, but many of the “right” jobs will not feel like the right job after a few weeks. You not getting that position now sucks – but in the longer run I hope you can look back and see why. I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed to see the 20/20 hindsight.

It is a hard transition to go from expecting others to make you happy (with salary, benefits, promotions, etc.) and turn inward and realize the only person capable of these things is yourself.

A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.- Zig Ziglar

Where Does the Sidewalk Finally End?

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends. ~ Shel Silverstein

by Pete Ferguson

As a child I often read the poems of Shel Silverstein and dreamed the wide open dreams of a child’s innocence. I pictured where the end of the world was, and as “Uncle Shel” suggests – where the sidewalk finally ends.

I searched in India – but instead of sidewalks there were many social and caste barriers. I searched in China – but there were too many sidewalks and McDonald’s. I searched throughout Europe and across North America. But I kept finding more and more structure and sidewalks – defined paths where society mandates we should walk.

Yesterday as I tried a different way to work I wandered down a new road where I had not been before and found this sign.

The memories of childhood daydreams flooded back. The limitless potential of what I could become in this life returned, and I have no regrets.

I’ve spent considerable time throughout the world traveling, experiencing, working, and meeting wonderful people – and learning from them. It has broadened my perception on many issues and provided new ideas and thoughts I had not considered before.

Secretly and playfully in the back of my mind I was always searching for where the “sidewalk ends” – where the paved world ceases and the world of imagination takes hold, releasing all barriers and limits on creativity and what the world “should” be.

Little did I know, the official end of the sidewalk was so close to my childhood home.

I didn’t have to search the world for it, although I continue to enjoy the journey.

This year I also met “Uncle Shel,” but didn’t realize it.

Often in this blog I have referred to Dan Miller, author, coach and someone who has shown me where the sidewalk ends in the constrained world of what many of us have been taught about “work.” Dan’s permission to leave the “sidewalk” has allowed me to dream about new ideas and opportunities.

When I was at Dan’s property in May, I met his son, Jared Angaza. At the time I couldn’t place why he looked so familiar, why someone younger than I brought about a nostalgic feeling. But this morning as I looked for pictures of Shel, I immediately understood… (and hope Jared will forgive me)

Jared has searched the world for where the sidewalk ends and has broken many barriers of how the world thinks about Africa, philanthropy, and hopeless women driven to prostitution.

Jared lives in Africa and instead of begging for donations for his ministry, he has worked with widowed women driven to prostitution as the only means by which they thought they could survive after losing their husbands to the internal strifes within their country.

“We made a commitment early on that we’ll never treat our artisans as charity cases. We will not let their past define their future. We will give them a voice and a path to experiencing dignity.” ~ Jared Angaza

Using what many might mistakenly refer to as garbage, they transform scraps of paper into beautiful and unique one-of-a-kind jewelry which is then marketed in America as chic fashion.

“The process takes the paper detritus of Rwanda — whether it’s school folders, film festival posters or paper company waste — and rolls, strings and glues it, then lacquers it with a wood varnish for durability and shine. The result is a collection of stunningly elegant and earthy pieces that look both tribal and modern.” – Nashville Scene

Just as the paper is repurposed to something beautiful and of great value, the women’s lives are also transformed as they become independent and successful artisans and business women.

Talk about the sidewalk ending and a whole new world of possibilities opening!

Where does the sidewalk end for you and what new beginnings are awaiting where the structured lines of society fade to wide open possibilities?

Life should be deliberate. Our peace, happiness and attitude should not be circumstantial. We choose it. Or we don’t. Ultimately, we all do exactly what we want. It’s just a matter of how much we want it. ~ “Uncle” Jared Angaza


Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Getting People to Want to Know You Better

Every week you have the opportunity to meet new people, share a little about yourself, and learn more about them. Regardless of the facts of your life, how you frame your perspective will have a lot to do with how much longer the relationship will last.

Author, Career Coach Dan Miller

by Pete Ferguson

Whether you are hunting for a new job, looking for a date, or just hanging out, there are countless opportunities in a day to meet someone new. Online, in person, over the phone, how you project your personality is the tipping point in how to get people to like you.

I’m not talking about lying or manipulating a situation, I’m under the assumption that you are a likable person. What I am talking about is the attitude and perspective you employ in how you approach others.

Friend and author Dan Miller, explained this well in his new book, Wisdom Meets Passion:

“What do you tell people when you first meet them? Like anyone else, I can tell my life story as a healthy version or a victim version.”

I grew up in a home where we didn’t even have running water until I was in the 8thgrade. I knew nothing but poverty. As a 5-yr-old I was forced to get up at 5:30 AM to do my share of the farming chores. Most Christmases I got a new pair of blue jeans – my one pair for the coming year. Because of my parents’ legalistic religious beliefs I was not allowed to go to movies, dances or sporting events. Our home was rigid and somber – little laughter. I received zero in financial help from my parents. I hated the cold weather in Ohio. If only I had been born into a family with more opportunity –


In my family we learned how to make good use of everything – nothing was wasted. We grew our own food and I created toys from things other families discarded. As a small boy I had the opportunity to experience real work and to begin my commitment to work that was meaningful – and profitable. With no TV or radio in our house I became an avid reader and that opened me up to a wealth of wisdom and knowledge … The creativity and ingenuity I experienced as a child has served me in a thousand ways in helping me “see” opportunities others miss.

Both of Dan’s versions of his life are equally true, but which account makes you want to get to know Dan more?

“What is your story? Even if you lost your job, your dog died, you’ve got heartburn and they repossessed the truck – what story do you want to be replaying in your mind to move to a higher level of success? What picture are you presenting to others? If you’re telling yourself an unhealthy story of your life it will perpetuate the same reality. Creating a healthy story could change the way you see your life – and the way others see and respond to you.”

Very true Dan, thanks for the illustrative reminder. Our attitude and perspective are the one thing we can control regardless of a situation.

Why Job Hopping May Not Be Bad

Both of my grandfathers remained at one job the majority of their lives. My wife’s grandfather did to. Now the average job length is 13 months for people under 30 and 2.4 years for the rest of us. Are you prepared?

by Pete Ferguson

My mother’s father worked in the auto industry. For the majority of his life.

He was responsible for stretching the vinyl tops onto Cadillacs among other tasks. He was a skilled upholsterer and mechanic. And it provided for his family, purchased the house my grandmother still lives in, and taught him many skills.

I’ve been at one company for 13+ years, but I’ve changed job functions every 3-4 years. In tech terms, I’m an old timer and as recruiters have told me, my greatest asset is that I’ve been at one company for so long – and my greatest liability is that I’ve been at one company for so long.

We are in a new normal where many kids have seen mom and dad – likely grandma and grandpa as well – laid off, downsized, rightsized, furloughed, repositioned, and otherwise rejected from a job they have given their heart and soul to daily for years.

The newer generation isn’t stupid, they’ve learned not to put too much stock into a career because they’ve seen the pain it has brought those around them.

In the past, job-hoping has been considered a bad thing. According to a study by Evolv, a san Francisco-headquartered surveyor, there is essentially zero correlation between the number of jobs hourly call-center agents held and their future job tenure.

(“Job Hopping Isn’t Hazardous to Employers,” David Shadovitz – Human Resource Executive, June 16, 2012, p8)

What matters most, according to the study, is “job fit, personality and skills.”

The good news is that you and I are in control of all three of these attributes. We can choose to invest in ourselves. I was given great advice by Dr. Laurie Wilson, then Head of the Communications Department at Brigham Young:

  • Have an emergency fund of six months income, stay out of debt
  • Always be learning, researching, reading, gaining new knowledge and experience
  • Network, network, network

I’m sure there was other advice she gave, but these stuck and have been reiterated by every good business book I’ve read. It took a while to get them all going, but having all three has provided a lifeboat of peace when layoffs at my company came and went and as other changes in business have come.

Tomorrow I will talk about a USA Today article about how training cutbacks in corporate America are also the new norm as companies are seeing employees leave faster and have fewer discretionary funds.

You have to take control of your life, build up your skills, and expand your network. According to the article listed above, the average time recruiters spend on a resume is an all-time low – six seconds. Applying online is no longer going to work. You have to have a sturdy network and build a platform to establish your credibility.

Learn: We are all self employed. You may only have one corporate client. What are you doing weekly to build and improve your skills?

Act: Do you have an updated resume? Resumes are just for job searching, they are a way you can measure your skills and abilities and outline areas where you need to grow and add new knowledge. Having an updated resume on LinkedIn also allows recruiters to reach out to you with opportunities otherwise not publicized.

Share: Networking is key. Go to lunch with people outside of your normal network. Ask for help of someone with many more years experience. Mentor someone much younger than you.

Photo Credits:

When Dreams Become Reality

Daring to do what you dreamed to do as a kid can pay off in a big way.

by Pete Ferguson

As a kid, I loved to play with Lego plastic bricks. They were a door to  a world of imagination, exploration, and fun.

Over the years I collected many different sets and was always on the lookout for more tires and other parts that moved to allow for greater variations.

One of the best things that happened to my Lego addiction was the birth of my baby brother, Mark. I was eleven at the time and it gave me an “excuse” to continue to play for many more years.

It was fun to teach Mark the ins and outs of organization and construction. The “best thing” was repeated again as I’ve had children. Now our collection takes up three sets of plastic drawers and each child has their own selection.

As a kid, I had heard a rumor that there were Lego Masters, but didn’t know what it took to become one. As it turns out, there are only four official Lego Master Model Builders – who work for Lego and help drive the company’s vision. The interview process is very different than your standard Corporate America gig.

Resumes aren’t very important, creativity is key. Twenty-three-year-old Andrew Johnson of Illinois is the newest — and youngest — to earn the title.

Instead of filling out an employment application, Johnson submitted a stop-animation video featuring a Lego catapult firing a boulder at a dragon. On the basis of that video, he was chosen to battle other candidates in a three-round build-off in front of an audience of kids and parents.

Aside from the official Lego company builders, there are also a number of other master artisans who have left traditional jobs to “play” with plastic bricks.

In an earlier posting, I talked about Nathan Sawaya who left his schooling and career as a lawyer and now holds the distinction of being the first lego artisan to have a solo museum exhibit.

While I still like to create with blocks, I do not desire to build Legos as a profession. However, I do understand the transferable skills – organization, getting the right pieces in the right place, creative problem solving, and the satisfaction of building something worth sharing.

What dreams have you made a reality and which dreams still need to be explored? What skills from your play as a child – and as an adult – are transferable to other areas of competence?

Learn: Take an inventory of what you loved to do as a kid – still love to do as an adult. (One of Dan Miller’s clients loved to read history books and now makes six figures narrating history books for home schoolers for example.) What transferable skills exist, and are you using them?

Act: Have some fun, surf the internet, plan to attend a seminar on how to be a professional basket weaver, how to open a scuba diving school, what it takes to be a professional skate boarder, or skate board builder. Hopefully you get the idea

Share: Find youth with the same passions and mentor them. You will both learn and grow in the process. Scouting has been great for me to relive highlights of childhood and create new memories with my son.

Photo Credit:

Read the story of Andrew here