Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

Tag: Who moved my cheese

Being paid what you’re worth

In December of 1985 I drove 100 miles or more to start my first job, after graduating from the journalism program at Centennial College in Toronto.

In Durham.

Not “region” as I had thought based on the job posting in The Globe & Mail. Not commutable Oshawa or Whitby.

Nope, Durham, Ontario. North of Guelph, south of Owen Sound and for this aspiring writer hailing from what has often been called “Scarberia,” the Toronto suburb-city in it’s own right-and now part of the GTA, Scarborough.

My boss was a wheeler-dealer named George Benninger. The monthly publication was called “Insight on Collectables,” a trade publication that gave industry folks, gift shops and fans of collector plates, Royal Doulton figurines and art prints the latest news about the pieces and artists they loved.

One of the many Norman Rockwell collector plates I wrote about

The starting salary was $225 a week.

But…if I recall, it went up $25 a week for the next three “you’re still here” periods so after a year I was making a whopping $300 week.

And the rent on my bachelor apartment in Owen Sound was $225 a month. In a 3-storey building with next to no sound dampening. Which can be annoying. Or entertaining. One night, the young lady upstairs woke me up with her orgasm and she and her man got busy at all hours of the day.

No complaints here. A woman experiencing pleasure is a wonderful experience. Life is short (and I’m guessing her man wasn’t).

So, money, bills and all that stuff.

Making more a week than I paid a month in rent? I had lots of beer money. Subscribed to the movie network package on cable TV, a conversation overheard by a cheap co-worker who still had a black and white TV (it was 1985).

One of the coolest parts of my job at Insight was interviewing the artists at trade shows. I met James Lumbers at The Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival, north of Peterborough, Ontario.

Lumbers would take photos of an abandoned gas station and add the ghosts of patrons and service attendants to what one gallery owner called “spook stuff.”

I interview James Lumbers, the man who painted this. He combined modern day scenes with ghosts of people and cats.

Sadly, the “make more in a week than you pay for rent in a month” equation has flipped. Expenses have gone way up, salary hasn’t. Though I bet my bank CEO is making ten times the money he made three decades ago. The rich get much richer. The middle class stay in the middle and are made to feel grateful for still being employed.

Or they get downsized or restructured.

I’m now a freelance writer. No salary or guaranteed income but if there’s one lesson I have learned over these many years it’s that you have to be in control of your future.

A few years back, someone recommended this book to me.

So true. You can’t keep running back to where the cheese was. It’s been moved.

I’ve got a long way to go in paying off my condo mortgage. But I’m in control of my earnings.

And the sound dampening isn’t great here either but my neighbors upstairs are in their 70s, living in Australia from September to June and the most I ever hear during the four months they roam above, thankfully, is snoring.



Wanna be a success? Get off your ass

I went to the library in search of research material for my radio show and ended up checking out Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking,” and “Me, Inc.” by the blood-spewing, fire-breathing bass player from KISS, Gene Simmons.
Palmer funded her album through a Kickstarter campaign because she asked fans for money (she’s also married to one my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman).
Simmons lacked a business degree, musical training and experience in a wide range of things to become highly successful in business, music and a whole lotta things.
If I can summarize his book, subtitled, “Build an Army of One, Unleash Your Inner Rock God, Win in Life and Business,” it’s this…
get off your ass.
Gene says stop watching TV, don’t bother taking up golf, don’t take vacations, don’t live (in the words of Loverboy) for the weekend. Spend your spare time bettering yourself. Read. Learn.
Then again, many of us heard that from our parents.
My Dad was fond of saying that the day you stop learning is the day you die…or something like that.
Simmons is a fan of entrepreneur and highly-paid motivational speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, who espouses the same ideas, mainly that after you come home from work, you have from 7 pm to 2 pm to learn skills and better yourself.
Dad didn’t have the internet. God knows he would have loved reading The Guardian or The Washington Post online (he did subscribe to Newsweek). He watched TV but preferred shows that had some kind of mental stimulation, whether it was 60 Minutes, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report or the clever dialogue that made M*A*S*H more than just a sitcom.
Is there a compromise?
Gene suggests there isn’t. Give up your extra curricular activities, and only become friends with people who support and nurture your development. Watch football with your pals at the local bar? You’re a loser, in his view.
Vaynerchuk has a series of videos and in one, says that the digital age actually benefits people over 40 because they have life skills and experience. So, rather than giving in and thinking the younger generation has an edge in this area, they should realize the opposite is true. Wisdom has its benefits.
Simmons is 66. Palmer, 39, and Vaynerchuck, 40.
Not exactly the 20-something Silicon Valley tech wizards we’ve come to think are ruling the world.
Bob Lefetz…the music blogger who has often taken issue with the entrepreneurial visions of the KISS co-founder…frequently rips into music industry folks who can’t accept change because in his words, “someone moved their cheese.”
One of my radio collagues clued me in to the meaning of that phrase. It’s a self-help book called Who Moved My Cheese, and the central theme of that guide is, anticipate, embrace and adapt to change.
Or get left behind, working a job that makes you eagerly look forward to going home, watching TV, and living for the weekend.
Or get downsized or let go.
With all due respect to Gene, and I still enjoy listening to KISS songs, I will combine his advice with Palmer’s, Vaynerchuk’s, Lefsetz’s and most of all, what Dad said (even if I rebelled at the time, what teenager didn’t? Well, probably not Simmons).
I will keep learning, reading, and trying to better myself before someone moves my cheese.
And I will sneak a peak at the TV. The Affair is on. Ruth Wilson is sexy as hell.

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