Author Archives: jamessnider

About jamessnider

James Snider is the Vice President of Business Development for Engstrom Trading, LLC. Engstrom imports products from Scandinavian countries and builds a market for them in the USA and Canada. http://TFXNonStickUSA.com

The Man Who Saved the World


stanislav-petrovStanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov : retired lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces.

On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines passenger jet Flight 007 was shot down over the Sea of Japan by a Soviet fighter jet. All 269 passengers and crew, including a US Congressman, were killed in cold blood. Anti-Soviet sentiment in the United States soared. Tensions rose to heights not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Three weeks later, just after midnight, the Soviets detected a missile heading straight for Moscow. Stanislav Petrov was the duty officer at the nuclear early-warning center that morning.

At first, Petrov could not move, unable to believe what he was seeing. But with the alarm sounding, the red screen in front of him flashed “launch”. A quick check of the “Confidence Interval” showed that this alert had the highest level of reliability. There could be no doubt. The Soviet Union was under attack. A minute later, the alarm went off again, indicating that a second missile had been launched, then a third, fourth and fifth. The red screen changed from “launch” to “missile strike.” He had to pick up the phone and notify his commander, an action that would have resulted in a counter attack. World War III would have been over long before the sun rose on the charred remains of Moscow.

Petrov was not the typical Air Defense officer. He was the only one to receive a civilian education. His colleagues were all professional soldiers; taught to take orders and follow protocol. Petrov was just a little bit skeptical. This system was new and not well tested. The fact that all systems indicated “No Margin of Error” added to his skepticism. As he reasoned through the situation, he could not understand why the Americans would only send 5 missiles? That would not incapacitate the military and retribution would be brutal. With only minutes to make a decision, Petrov checked with the satellite radar technicians. They had detected no missiles.

Later, he recalled, “I knew perfectly well that nobody would be able to correct my mistake if I had made one.” He made his decision. He called the army headquarters to report the incident as a malfunction. Then he waited. A missile would strike within minutes if he’d been wrong. 23 minutes after the first alarm, he realized that nothing had happened and he’d just saved millions of lives and quite possibly, the whole world.

The false alarm was triggered by an anomalous alignment of sunlight with high-altitude clouds over North Dakota, picked up by a spy satellite at just the wrong moment in its elliptical orbit.

After hours of intense questioning, Petrov was praised for his “correct actions” and promised a reward. However, he was later reprimanded for improper filing of paperwork on the incident. As it turns out, this incident brought to light a number of other bugs in the Soviet missile detection system. To praise Petrov would have brought attention to the failures of his superiors and influential scientist. The man who saved the world was “reassigned”, took early retirement and later, suffered a nervous breakdown. Like a Dilbert cartoon gone evil.

Sometimes, doing the right thing carries bad consequences, but that is not the end of the story. Reorgs happen. The old boss is replaced by the new boss. Yuri Andropov (former Chairman of the KGP) was General Secretary of the Communist Party (A.K.A. President of the Soviet Union) at the time. Andropov was a man who looked like he’d never laughed at a joke, ever. I am sure that Petrov was convinced, from time to time, that he was in line for a lethal dose of lead to the base of his skull. But he is alive today and living in Russia.

With the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Petrov’s story got out. Plenty of NATO nations were eager to have Petrov over for dinner and an award (and sometimes, a little money). Petrov took it all in stride. In later years he would say, “I was neither punished nor rewarded. I was doing my job.” His nonchalance and devotion to duty made it so his wife never learned of his heroic actions. She died before it became public. “She never asked. I never brought it up.”

Good Luck and Godspeed!

 

 


Do Not Look For a Job Doing What You Love


Steve Jobs

I can not say it any better than the professionals at Business Insider… particularly since they quote Steve Jobs. You need to learn to love what you do and not do what you love (as we are so often told).

Here is the article

http://www.businessinsider.com/you-should-love-what-you-do-not-do-what-you-love-2015-12


100 Years Ago


Things were very different in 1915.

100 years ago


I’ve learned ….


Women laughing and having fun

That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend with whom to act goofy.

Good Luck and Godspeed!


Onward Thru The Fog


jimmy_stewart_in_its_a_wonderful_life

I am sure that we have all wished we could go back and do things differently. As for me, I am not sure how far back I would have to go before I could make things turn out the way I would like. Maybe my Freshman year of college would be enough. I would have remained in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas (at Austin), which is where I started. I would have ignored the fervent advice of my father (a prominent Radiologist in Austin) who instructed me that I would hate being a salesman “groveling around, buying coffee and laughing at terrible jokes simply to make a sale” ….and I would have gone straight into sales as soon as I graduated with my BBA. I love “sales” and those terrible jokes are a lot funnier when they are attached to a commission.

However, more recently, I have seen “going back and doing it differently” with a more sinister view. Maybe it is because I have officially left “middle age” and moved into “old age” but I see “having a do over” with a mixed vantage point….like “It’s A Wonderful Life” written by Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame. If you went back and did it over, what makes you think things would work out better? They may work out worse!

Would you wake up every day at exactly the same time? Would your words be exactly the same words as you spoke originally? Would you leave the house at exactly the same time? Would you walk down the street or drive at exactly the same speed as before? No, impossible! The “redo” would be different in ways you could never control.

Every one of us has had “close calls” where we almost received life changing injuries or perhaps death. In the “do over world” we may have very well died at 12 years old, or 18 or 30…. If you believe in a God who is in control of all things, who would protect you a second time, do you not believe that He has protected you the first time as well? Do you not believe that you stand today at a cross roads?

We will never receive a “do over” and that is a wonderful thing. Who would want to relive the miserable years of middle school, even if you could be 20% richer today from what you learned? You lived your life. Now it is time to get on with it, based on what you learned. Do the things you should have done and broadcast your new accomplishments via social media. Those who are looking for people with your experience on LinkedIn will be interested in what you are doing now to sharpen your skills. If there is dirt on you from the past, cover it up with new entries on Facebook and Twitter. Prospective employers are going to look for information on you on the Internet. Make the good information easy to find based on your posts to social media. They will never make it to page 18 of Google search results if they find information (that you controlled) on pages 1 – 17.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

 


Sticky Message


Judgement Donorcycle

As I drove home from work  at 10:30 last night, I was passed by four motorcycles going between 90 and 100 mph, based on the fact that I was driving at highway speeds and they left me behind like I was standing still. It was astonishing to imagine four young lives putting themselves so needlessly at risk. I was reminded of a scene from the TV Show “ER” in which Nurse Hathaway is patching up a macho biker who’d taken a spill. She asked him if he knew what they called motorcycles in the ER; “Donorcycles”. He laughed and said, “Donorcycles…I like that.” Hathaway responded with no humor, “You would.”

As my mind continued to drift along these lines, I remembered something the late great Paul Harvey said during his news show many years ago. We like to think, when we reach the end of our lives, that our bodies have just worn out. But in reality, we actually rust out instead of wear out.  Cigarettes, alcohol, poor eating habits and lack of exercise all tear our bodies down prematurely.

I was listening to a discussion on the local NPR about a year ago and the comment was made that we are afraid of sharks and lightening but what we should really fear is french fries and cheese burgers. Very few people die from sharks or lightening but millions die each year from obesity and heart disease.

In one of the greatest marketing books written in recent years, “Made to Stick” the story is told of an effort by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to change the practice of using coconut oil for popping popcorn in movie theaters. After many efforts to get the message across, only one message actually drove the point home and made a difference. They showed three meals: bacon and eggs, Big Mac with fries and a steak dinner. Then they showed a medium size popcorn topped with butter. The popcorn had more fat than a whole day’s worth of high fat meals. That started the groundswell to get coconut oil removed from movie theater popcorn.

What do these four stories have in common, apart from the fact that they are all health related? They all have the sticky message that “Made to Stick” discusses.

Donorcyle…rust out, not wear out…fear cheeseburgers, not sharks….one box of popcorn has more fat than a typical bad American diet… these message stuck with me for years.

What does this have to do with finding a job via social media? Too many times we waste our social media profiles with trivia. Tell me quickly what you do very well and grab my attention. “SQL server super geek” is much more useful than “Devoted father of 3 rowdy boys.” “Eat, drink and breathe SEO” is much more compelling than “Digital marketing fan.” “Certified Guerrilla Marketer” catches my attention more than “MBA, humorist and friend to many.”

Get on with it and give me that sound bite that makes me remember you. For more information, take a look at this previous post: What I Learned from an Arrogant Doctor


The Blessing of Being Underemployed


ImageMy Mother during World War II, Waiting for My Father to Return from the Pacific

I have been fortunate to be underemployed for several years. That seems like a terrible thing, but for me, it has been a blessing that money will never overshadow. Both my parents are in their 90s now. Since the day I left home in the 1970s, I have been too busy with “life” to make the drive down to Austin and spend time with them. At first, my wife and I would drive down for major holidays. This continued through the early childhood of our first child. By the time the second child arrived, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter at home just seemed like a better option.

I lost touch with the family I grew up with.

Since I was laid off 5 years ago, I needed money, even if the money came from part-time work doing things a professional with an MBA and years in the high-tech industry should never be expected to do. I painted houses, I did yard work, I hawked products at the State Fair of Texas, I did in-store demos…whatever I could find.

My family in Austin was generous with little jobs to help me keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. They offered me jobs at good pay. They even insisted on giving me more than I asked for and loaded up my car with groceries and put “gas money” in my pocket for the return trip to the DFW area.

However, none of this, as much as I appreciated it, can compare to the benefit of simply getting to know my original family again.

Today, I am working to get a young business off the ground. I no longer take on part-time jobs from my Austin family. However, my “day job” still takes me down to Austin on a monthly basis. I stay with my parents each time I travel to the Texas Hill Country so as to not miss an opportunity to spend a few more hours with them.

Recently, my mother has gone into a serious decline. Twelve years ago, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The best doctors in town treated her with a variety of medications which slowed the inevitable, but the end is at hand. After living in the same house since 1959, she is now living in an extended care facility. What could have been a sad end to an extraordinary life has turned into a glorious send off to a woman loved by many.

I never knew the impact she had on so many people until I spent several hours by her bed in the extended care facility. If my work life had not been interrupted by a devastating lay-off 5 years ago, followed by a protracted return to full employment, I would have missed one of the greatest events in my life.

 Vi Outside TalbotsMy Mother One Year Ago,Waiting for My Father to Pick Her Up After Bible Study

I spent some wonderful time with my mother two weeks ago at the assisted living facility in Austin. As she slowly fades, communication is becoming difficult. At moments, she could answer questions, at other times, I had to guess what she was trying to communicate and at other times, I just sat next to her while she slept.

I saw some of her many friends drop by to see her. They could not tell, because they were only there for a few minutes, but I could see the changes on my mother’s face as she recognized their voices and she smiled, faintly.

Sometimes, after they left, my mother would start to talk to them, having rallied a bit from the visit. It would only be a few words, repeated over and over, facing in the direction where her friend had been moments before. She was loved much, because she loved much.

It was not depressing to be there with her. It was a chance to just spend time with her as I’d said, for so many years, that I should do. Over the seven hours (over two days) I sat next to her, I was rarely alone for more that 20 minutes before another friend or family member would show up. I saw friends lavish love on her and tell me their favorite stories about her. I saw family members giving selflessly to her as she had done for them for so many years. I saw the best in people, brought out into the open as they expressed their love for the woman who gave so much to me for so many years.

I think that we all say that we hope we go quickly and do not linger, but this lingering departure of my mother has given so many people a chance to express their love for her while she still has some ability to experience it. This is a good closure experience for many of us who have already started to miss her.

As I woke up in the house where both my father and mother lived until recently (the house where my 92 year old father still lives and where I grew up), I was struck by how empty the house felt without my mother in it. Not lonely or depressing but empty. One small person was missing, but that small person is the heart of that house.

Good Luck and Godspeed.