The mud on his boots was thick, thick and slimy. His pants were tucked into the tops of his boots at mid-calf, duct-tape sealing the boots to the jeans for the frequent instances when the mud got deeper than the boots got high. The faded denim hung loose around his bony hips and streaks of dirt changed the color to a dull brownish hue. The old t-shirt he had on was equally the worse for wear and was covered by an orange reflective vest, the two bright yellow vertical stripes on the vest clashing with the dull worn look of the rest of his wardrobe. On his head was a rust colored hard-hat covered haphazardly in stickers from the various jobs he had worked over the years. Each sticker a badge of honor, like the campaign ribbons on a soldiers uniform. The hard hat itself was spattered with mud and concrete, a testament of the long hard days it had seen. Under the hard hat was a faded blue bandanna which was wrapped around the sweat band. Out from the back of the hard hat hung a pony tail of brown hair streaked with grey, thin and ratty and held together with a rubber band. The face of the man was guant and craggy, deep lines creasing across his forehead and from the corners of his eyes. Despite his world weary appearance, his demeanor was upbeat and friendly. Approaching the door of the restaurant he stomped his feet a few times to remove the excess mud. At the counter he ordered fish and chips to go, then moved to the side and waited patiently for his lunch to be prepared. It was his second month of consecutive employment after two years with no job and he was hungry, hungry to work. The long days, the deep mud, the uncertainty of the next job, he did not mind. It was all he knew and all he could do. He was happy and a thin smile was on his lips.
BRRRRRINNINNNNNNG! The alarm felt like a kick to the head. He rolled up and turned it off. It was 4:30AM. Skipping the shower, he pulled his stiff and faded Carhardts on and stood up. He stumbled across the room and hit the light switch, the dim florescent bulb flickered to life and began to buzz. Stooping down he grabbed the shirts he had peeled off only a few hours earlier and pulled them over his head. The base layer was a yellowed synthetic long sleeve, over which was a faded blue t-shirt with two horizontal reflective bars on front and back. He looked around the small room, at the crumpled bedding on a camping cot, at the broken AC unit sitting in the corner, at the tattered Backstreet Boys poster hanging on the wall. Leaving the light on, he walked through the dark kitchen and out into the warm spring air. The 6 month old Ford Super Duty spun to life, and before putting it in gear, he stuffed a large wad of dip between his bottom teeth and lip. Roaring into the local gas station he left the truck running as he walked inside. Two minutes later he was back outside with a Cliff bar, two 16oz Rockstar energy drinks, and a fresh can of dip. The sticker on the back window of the Ford said “Gamakatsu”. He spun the truck out onto the highway for the hour drive into work. As the miles poured under the new tires, he thought about the night before, the week before, the years before. There wasn’t much to mark the time. Work had been steady, and he never turned down an overtime hour in his life. In fact, the last year he had averaged 55 hours a week. This Saturday was just like any other, another day on the job. As the city came into view, the rising sun passed behind the looming structure on which he had spent most of his waking hours for the past two years. The cranes and concrete forms 300 feet in the air gave it the look of an offshore oil platform, thick and wide at the top, stark and unmoving against the orange to yellow to blue sky. He didn’t see any of this however; he pulled the truck into the empty parking garage, taking the same spot he took every day. Taking the last few swigs of one of the Rockstar’s he threw the can into the bed of the truck, stuffed the full can into the jacket he pulled off the passenger seat, and turned toward the jobsite, joining the trickle of others just like himself, just like any other day, just like any other year. It was 5:45AM, and he took a second dip out of the fresh can.
Ready for something boring? If so, you should stop reading now, because I am going to discuss SWOT analysis, which is by no means boring. So what is SWOT analysis and why should you care about it? Broadly speaking, SWOT is a tool used in business to analyze the current state of an organization, department, or individual. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. The Strengths and Weaknesses are an assessment of the internal state, the Opportunities and Threats assess factors which are external. Once again, these are broad definitions; you could perform a SWOT analysis of a large multi-national corporation, or a single individual.
So how is it used you ask? Let me show you by performing a SWOT of my ability to complete the Seattle half marathon.
- I have run the distance (13.1 miles) previously.
- I enjoy running.
- I like to finish what I start.
- I have never run 13.1 miles in a race situation.
- I sprained an ankle over the summer and it is still bothering me.
- I have a tendency to push myself too hard in the beginning of a race.
- The day of the race should be cold which means heat exhaustion won’t be a factor.
- There will be hydration stations along the course for mid-race refueling.
- There is a donut shop near the race finish. Donuts dancing in my head will keep me going.
- There are lots of hills in Seattle and the course will surely travel over many of them.
- The jostling and proximity of the crowd of runners will be a tripping hazard, particularly just off the start.
- The race occurs on the Sunday after Thanksgiving which makes watching my food intake in the days before the race that much more difficult.
So there you have it, an assessment of my ability to finish the Seattle half marathon. My strengths coupled with the opportunities should enable me to overcome my weakness and any threats which lie in my path.
A SWOT is a great way to quickly see the big picture, to take a step back and assess the situation. There is no minimum or maximum to the number of items you should come up with for each category, rather you should consider all angles, and the listing of the items will take care of themselves if you give the task its due diligence. Now get out there and start SWOTing things, your job, your financial situation, your golf game, whatever you want…
- Stereotypical Employee Profiles is a recurring feature on PowerOgre.com. It’s meant to be a humorous look at the different personalities we all work with. These profiles are a complete generalization and not based on specific individuals. Read on.
The golden boy is that most frustrating of co-workers, the employee who can do no wrong, the boss’s favorite, and next in line for a meritless promotion. The golden boy is usually young, not older than 35. The golden boy may not be the worst employee, but he is certainly not the best. He is usually very smart, knows it, and uses it to his advantage accordingly. The golden boy is famous for not preparing for presentations, leaving important work till the last minute, and using his charm to schmooze through situations where he may be unprepared. The golden boy can typically be found in the break room talking about his latest achievements of which there are many.
The golden boy is an excellent athlete, and uses company functions to prove it. Whether it be a basketball game at the company picnic, the company golf tournament, or the team building exercise at the bowling alley, the golden boy is sure to dominate all athletic endeavors. This is not lost on the boss, who considers the golden boy a shoo-in for upper management based on his athletic talents alone.
The golden boy often seems to stumble into success. He takes an “under the radar” trip to Starbucks, and ends up running into an old friend who turns out to be a potential client for the company. He puts off working on a project until the last minute, stays all night to finish it, and winds up getting praise from the boss when it’s noticed that he worked late. The golden boy is always unintentionally in the right place at the right time. He is famous for falling backwards into success.
Maybe we could all stand to learn a thing or two from the golden boy. Work smart, stay late when you have to, maintain relationships, always look for ways to be in the right place at a critical time, and be good at sports.
I was waiting in the elevator lobby of a Seattle high rise office building on a typical weekday; Starbucks in one hand, and documents of critical importance in the other. I was headed towards my beloved Pathfinder in the parking garage, and not thinking much about my surroundings. Even with 6 dedicated parking garage elevators in the building, I found myself waiting for the next available one. I was the only person in the lobby until a girl walked around the corner and joined me. I did not take much notice, this was not a particularly earth shattering event. About 5 seconds after the girl arrived, a rather stocky looking guy in jeans and an un-tucked polo shirt appeared in the lobby. He had a short haircut and carried his arms away from his body as if he was afraid of letting them touch his torso. Before he saw that I was in the vicinity, he blurted out “Are you really gonna do this?”. I realized he was directing this at the girl, and for the first time I looked at her and saw tears on her face; her mascara was running down her cheek and she was sniffling. At this point the guy noticed my presence and awkwardly tried to act like nothing was happening. The girl turned her back and inched away from him.
The elevator arrived and I stepped aboard. The girl hurried to get on with me, and after a brief hesitation the guy joined us. So there I was, trapped in an elevator with a crying girl, and a visibly angry guy, hurtling 6 stories into the ground. There was no music on this elevator, and the only noise was the occasional sniffle from the girl. The guy stood with his back to me facing the door, his shoulders pushed back and his arms held off his body in that same tense position. If he would have had hair on the back of his neck, it would have been standing on end. I stood in silence and bit my lip to keep from showing any emotion on my face. Mercifully they were getting off at the stop prior to mine. The elevator doors opened, and the guy stalked off without so much as a backward glance. He flung the glass door of the elevator lobby open, and the girl meekly followed behind. The elevator doors shut, and I was whisked down to my stop. I couldn’t help but replay the incident over and over in my head. What was their relationship? Why were they upset? Did they get things figured out? Was the guy as abusive as the vibe he was giving off? Was the girl in a dangerous situation? I’ll never know the answer.
Human emotion is a powerful thing, and it is something not typically seen in an office building on a typical day. Emotion is so powerful that it can have an effect on those in the area, even if they are not directly involved. Think of the emotion displayed by athletes in a sporting event that is picked up by the crowd. Think of a sad movie that has everyone in the theater tearing up. Think of a street magician with a crowd of people gathered around laughing. Emotion jumps through people like electricity. I had no ties whatsoever to the couple in the elevator, and yet their emotion affected me in a powerful way. If the couple’s emotion had been positive, and not negative, would I have felt so strongly affected? Is negative emotion more powerful? I would like to think not. What do you think?