This Is Not Your Grandfather’s “Job Security”

I can’t remember the last time I had a stunning day at work, but last week I had one of those days.

The stunner was the revelation that three people I had worked with, and come to know over the last five years,  lost their jobs. Just like that. In almost “mob hit” style, one minute we were talking, and the next they were gone.

Without a word.

Having been in the game for a long time now, I was less stunned than a lot of my workmates. But the fact that I felt this way at all showed just how complacent I’ve become.

This is not your grandfather’s world of “job security.” For all but a tiny percentage of workers, there is no longer the 40 year career at one company, retiring to collect a pension into your golden years.

Anyone that believes a corporation is going to “take care of them,” and is going to care about any more other than the concerns of its shareholders, is playing a dangerous game.

If you believe in such a thing as job security, you are doing yourself a disservice.

If you think there is a corporation that will take care of you more than you can take care of yourself, you’d better think again.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

My grandparents’ generation worked in factories, some their entire lives. They worked hard, and were rewarded them with a paycheck, pension and job security.

My own grandparents could have retired from jobs, from working for somebody else. They decided to run their own businesses instead, drawing success from their restaurants and providing for themselves the ultimate job security: As long as the doors were open, and sales were brisk, they could never get “fired.”

I never had a job until I was 35 years old. I worked in the family business, and I could always have that work as long as I wanted it.

There is no such thing as “job security,” no matter what you may tell yourself.  Whether you are just starting your career or are a little long in the tooth, look at that fact as an opportunity. It’s a new world, but you can take full advantage if you’re well armed.

One of my close friends made the comment if you have a strong support group, you can worry a little less. I tend to agree with him. The more connections, the more close friends and relatives you have that can cover your back, the better.

If you suddenly find yourself out of work, then let them go to work for you. Friends love helping each other out, right?

It can help if you have other skills beside your job as well. In my past life, I was a bartender in the family business. To make extra cash over the holidays this past year, I was a part time bartender again. It’s a skill that I’ll always have, and that people are willing to pay for.

Whether you realize it or not, you have a skill like that too. It is just up to you to find out what that is.

Speaking of friends, cash in the bank is a big ally too.  A cash cushion can keep you relaxed and stress free. It doesn’t have to be huge, but you better have something. You don’t want the situation of losing an income with your savings account dry as a bone.

I have no doubt the friends that I no longer work with will be OK, and land on their feet. They are a talented bunch, and one in particular already had a side business up and running.

But if there’s a lesson they can teach, it’s always be ready. Always be looking over your shoulder. And have your options in place if you ever need them. Chances are you will.

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My “Resolution?” Keep Tradition Alive and Kicking

The “New Year’s Resolution” is more popular than ever. I tend to not put a lot of faith into them, however. Always begun with the best of intentions, they soon crash, burn, and flame out quickly.14th Street - Tree

You see the same type of resolution, year in and year out. Many people pledge to lose weight, get back in shape, repair relationships, organize their lives, etc.

A couple of months later, that Christmas gift treadmill that was supposed to be your running partner serves as the prettiest and priciest clothes hanger you’ve ever owned.

My resolution would be to strengthen a habit I already have: keep traditions,  the ones I was fortunate enough to experience growing up, alive and kicking.

Ideally, I would be doing this just for my children, so they could get a taste of the very good life, but if I’m honest with myself… I’m doing it for my own benefit, as well. I never want to forget where I came from.

My old Italian ladies aren’t around anymore. The rituals and methods they practiced survive only if we keep them breathing by our active participation. That guardian of the old school traditions that I want to be? Playing at full strength here and now.

Everyone has cultural traditions that bring them closer to their roots, and to that warm, fuzzy feeling you had when you were a kid. I recommend they be part of your list of “resolutions.” Here’s just several ways I’m going to carry them out in the coming year:

In The Kitchen  My wife and I are no slouches in this area, but for Christmas we received some beautiful cookbooks from some very thoughtful people that are going to allow us to ratchet up our knowledge of traditional Italian peasant dishes. Many of these recipes are what I ate growing up, and are still a staple of our diet now.

At Table  Eating together as a family has always been a high priority after the kids came along, just like I did when I was young. The table is also where I shared great coffee with my immigrant grandparents in past years, and my wife and I still make espresso in a stainless steel pot every morning to continue the ritual. It’s the best.

14th Street GrapesIn The Vineyard  The house where my grandparents used to live has two ample grape arbors that yield the best grape jelly you will ever taste. Making the jelly from those grapes is hard work, but we love to do it to this day. We still have access to the grape vines, so we’re hoping 2012 brings another sweet batch.

At The Holidays  On Christmas Eve years ago, my family would always serve very traditional fish and seafood dishes to celebrate the holiday. It’s a tradition we’ve let slip recently. I felt insane jealousy (and hunger) when Vince posted pictures of a seafood feast at his house this past Christmas Eve. My wife Suzanne and I have pledged to bring this back home in 2012, and host a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner with our relatives.

In My Mind  With today’s need for instant updates and instant gratification and instant everything, it’s little wonder your mind races through the day. My girls (meaning my grandmother and my godmother) had a simple way to quiet their minds—they said prayers. And I think they were on to something, so I’m doing this more lately. Whether it’s prayers, meditation, or just five minutes in the day to sit and be quiet without interruption, the result is clear: it’s definitely good for body, mind, and soul.

Yes, I’m going to exercise more (Had a great workout before writing this) and eat my vegetables, but if I can keep a candle of tradition flickering within my family, 2012 will be a prosperous and very happy New Year.

Photographs of 14th Street courtesy of Gabrielle DeGiorgio

What are your resolutions this year? Is tradition a part of it? Start a discussion in the comment section, and feel free to tweet and/or share. You know someone that needs a little kick in the “traditions”!

Why You Shouldn’t Give a Damn About Athletes and Celebrities

A favorite movie of mine is A Bronx Tale. In a pivotal scene in the movie, the character played by Italian American actor Chazz Palminteri, a gangster named Sonny, has a unique way of comforting a young charge after a Yankees World Series defeat.

The young boy, named Calogero, was upset because Mickey Mantle cried after the heart breaking loss. Sonny, in a rather direct manner, asked why he felt this way – because in a big picture world, Mickey Mantle was a megastar who didn’t give a shit about him, his family, or the struggles they faced every day.

As the boy grew into a man, he never felt the same way about the Yankees again.

The scene has merit – a (perceived) truth was revealed to a boy that couldn’t have comprehended it beforehand. And if Mantle was aloof towards his fans in the ’60s at all, well – he’s got nothing on the modern athlete.

While American families struggled to recover from an economic recession, NBA owners locked out their rank and file players because, much like the NFL before them, they can’t figure out how to divide their billions.

Potential billionaire LeBron James

And while negotiations take place, and the matter eventually gets resolved, please remember that these players, like Mantle decades ago, won’t give a damn about you or your struggles either.

Yes, there are players that care. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints still helps recovering Katrina victims from his home base. Fellow football player Warrick Dunn created a foundation that has purchased many homes for struggling single families. It’s my belief that guys of this caliber are few and far between.

Maybe that’s just perception. We hear so many more stories about players involved in domestic violence, drunken driving, and in the case of Plaxico Burress, literally shooting themselves in the foot. Ironic. We need better from those in the spotlight.

But the athlete, or any celebrity for that matter, is a fallible human being, who’s really not required to care about anything but themselves if that’s their choice.

I am a big Yankee fan. My grandparents loved the Yankees, especially legendary shortstop Phil Rizzuto. I harbor no illusions, though. As much of a fan as I continue to be, I realize the Yankees were, in the past,  the cream of the crop of the spoiled rotten gazillionaire athlete. And that may never change.

But I’ve changed my attitude. And maybe you should too. The next time you arrange your day to spend your hours watching your team’s game and cheer for your favorite player – in lieu of maybe doing something with your family – keep a thought in the back of your mind.

Just like in the movie, Mickey didn’t care.

ARod doesn’t care, and neither does LeBron.

The striking NBA players don’t care about you, just about the bucket loads of cash they will fight tooth and nail over. So return the favor – and don’t care about them so much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Monday Night Football is on. I’m anxious to see which millionaire plays the hardest tonight….

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent” – Lorenzo Anello (Robert DeNiro) in “A Bronx Tale”

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25 Health & Weight Loss Tips From A Former Fat Guy. I Need Them More Than Ever

After my last post, I was all pumped up to write the next, revealing tips and advice on how I lost a bunch of weight when I was younger, and how I have managed to maintain my good health since then.

I started the draft of the post, doing my outline and taking notes, thinking of what a great piece of writing it would be, and how it could help. On the Friday before Columbus Day, I received a mail packet from my physician with the results of a recent blood test.

Briefly, some of my test results were less than optimal. My blood glucose levels were on the high side, but that wasn’t the number that set off the alarms. I had a triglyceride reading of 472. Above 500 is something my doctor refers to as “dangerously high”.

To say I was bummed by this would be an understatement. I was shocked, frankly. I thought I was living the right kind of life, that would keep me healthy. But, I wasn’t really living it at all. I definitely got more than a little mad at myself for this. And my ambition to write the next post was a little deflated.

For those that are unfamiliar with triglycerides, just think “fatty acids in your blood”. An overabundance of them puts you at risk for heart disease. Factors like a diet excessive in carbohydrates and alcohol use can raise your triglyceride level.

Apparently, the “party all weekend” mentality has caught up with me.  🙂

To lower these numbers, my doctor wanted to put me on a low dose prescription medication. I think I’m going to hold off on that for now, and try lifestyle change instead. Modifying my diet, as well as stepping it up with daily exercise.

After some consideration, I’ve decided to go through with the original post idea (it was meant to be part two of this previous post), although part of me feels that I’m obviously not the expert on living a healthy life. But, I have lost a ton of weight before, and I can keep this info in front of my face and make myself healthier by sharing with others. A win-win.

I don’t have a problem going this route now, as starting to change my eating and activity  habits seems to be working for me. Last week, I weighed in a 206.5 lbs. This week I’m at 203.

Here’s my two cents on what helped me lose weight in the past, and what will hopefully get me back to better health now:

  • Eat healthy foods that you actually enjoy eating.
  • For me, this includes fruits like apples and bananas, eggs, chicken breast, turkey, and green veggies cooked with garlic and olive oil.
  • Go for natural foods every time, not stuff in a box.
  • Just because the box has words like “lean” and “healthy” on it doesn’t make it so
  • In other words, be wary of food marketing. Educate yourself.
  • Eat only pastas that end in the letter “i”  🙂
  • Exercise. Your first move: push the plate away.
  • Moderation, in all things, is the key.
  • Avoid drive-through windows like the poison center they are.
  • If you must do the drive-through, get the salad.
  • Salads don’t mean “boring eating”. You can add to them with lean proteins, nuts,  and berries to make them filling and tasty. Just no fatty dressings.
  • Track your meals for a week. You might be surprised what you put in your body.
  • Pick a “cheat day”. Mine is Sunday.
  • On that day, have yourself some pizza and ice cream.
  • Just don’t eat a whole pizza and a gallon of ice cream.
  • Use the stairs. Leave the elevators for the elderly and the handicapped.
  • Exercise. Try walking. You have all the equipment you need.
  • Eat sweet potatoes instead of white.
  • By the way, have I mentioned fruits and veggies?
  • I’ve cut just about all sugar out of my diet. You can reduce it too.
  • I’ve eliminated white flour. This is poison too. Whole grains only.
  • Ask yourself: Would a caveman have eaten this?
  • Cavemen ate meat they killed and plants that grew on trees or in the ground. They didn’t have Pringles and Doritos back then.
  • Consume alcohol moderately, or not at all. Red wine is a good choice if you must.
  • Exercise. My doctor’s letter practically screamed the word “aerobic” at me. I’m running now. For my life.

Bonus Tip: Exercise some more. Make it fun! Since I’ve gotten those test results, I’ve walked, jogged, sprinted with my dog, played touch football with my son and his friend, did jumping jacks, and calisthenics. I jumped rope last night for the first time in years. Wanna sweat? Try jumping rope for 15 or 20 minutes. I had a blast!

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments, I can use all the help I can get!

Hi, My Name Is Joe. And I’m Addicted To Food.

My wife and I indulge in a guilty pleasure each morning before we leave for work. Nope, it’s not what you’re thinking. This little slice of sin that we partake of is seeing what senseless drivel NBC is promoting on the TODAY Show.

I will give credit when it is due. At times, the show will have a story that is riveting and inspiring, like the one about the late Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn. But, for the most part, I think a lot of what TODAY offers is, to be kind, less than stellar.

It’s like that train wreck that you shouldn’t look at, but you can’t turn away.

What the show seems to specialize in is turning the spotlight on people who do things that are stupid and/or detrimental to their lives, and then refuse to take responsibility for it. For that, you get the reward of an interview with Matt and Ann.

One of this week’s features was “food addiction”. You know, the type of addiction that happens with drugs and alcohol, but with burgers and fries instead.

It was, in a word, awesome. It detailed the life story of a woman who said she tried all kinds of diets, and always struggled with certain types of food. She was addicted to it. She finally opted for surgery as a last resort to lose weight. No mention of attempting a  healthy lifestyle, vegetables, walking, exercise, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Just diets (which ultimately fail: lifestyle change = success) and surgery.

I will say, I did empathize. Because I think I’m addicted too.

You heard me right. My name is Joe. And I may have a food addiction.

My drug of choice is Italian food. When I’m not eating it, I’m talking about it with a friend or a co-worker. If I’m not talking about it, I’m probably thinking about it. Or I’m watching my wife cook it. Sometimes, I cook it. I’ve just begun, within the last couple of years, to take a serious interest in what happens in the kitchen. And I’m not bad at it.

I make a mean tomato sauce. And I do some other things very well too.

Yup, say words like marinara, carbonara, puttanesca, cannoli…you may as well be on a street corner, whispering “Hey, pal…you want some of this?”

We all have our issues. I’ve certainly had my struggles with food. When I was a kid, I was the pudgy pre-teen that was an easy target for the occasional cruel comment or joke. I did what I needed to do, taking responsibility for myself, to take that weight off. Back then, I used inspiration from Sly Stallone’s breakthrough project to possibly save my life.

Back when I was a kid, there was no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit against a restaurant you thought made you fat because they put a gun against your head and forced you to super size the fries. Nope, that phrase “personal responsibility” reared its ugly head.

Almost one in three people are obese at this point in our country, and there seems to be some confusion as to why it happens, and what can be done about it. In the battle for the title of most obese nation, America’s the champ. Were number one…

Although weight loss tips may not apply to everybody (read: don’t post an angry comment here on how your glands don’t allow you to lose weight–I’m covering all my bases), some very simple but time tested principles will always work when trying to drop some lbs and get in better shape.

Want some tips from a former fat guy on how to lose weight and keep it off? Sweet. Stop by for the next post to get the “skinny” 🙂 To make sure you don’t miss it, just subscribe already. I won’t spam you, offer you a free e-book (yet), or try to sell you anything other than the advantages of putting some Old School principles into your hectic, short attention span, modern life.

My grandmother and grandfather showed them to me. So I know they’re right.

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