Archive for January, 2011

Reimagining Ourselves

January 25th, 2011
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Ever since I started producing the Career Changers TV show for OC16 a little over a year ago, I've been emailing myself links to lots of articles about job hunting advice... most of it pertaining to full-time work for people in their 20s or 30s. The reason is depressingly obvious: if you're over 40 or 50, all the interview/resume tips in the world may not make much difference in a bad job market. Yet that age group is growing in numbers and our population is living longer. Retirement is becoming a luxury that many Baby Boomers can't afford -- unless they're retired government workers with generous benefits, that is.

So what can we do about it? If you have a job or business, you have to continue learning new skills and get better at what you do. If you're out of work, you may have to be retrained for a different occupation or go back to school. Either way though, you still have to look beyond your current situation and think about what you'd like to be doing 20-30 years from now. Mary Catherine Bateson has written a book, "Composing a Further Life," which is about how best to use this "gift of time" that comes with living longer. She suggests you take on new projects and follow passions that you can continue to develop once you retire from working full time.

Here's an excerpt from the L.A. Times review of her book (my emphasis added below):

Bateson's most famous book, "Composing a Life," was published in 1989. It spread, word-of-mouth, hand to hand, around the world — reprinted dozens of times in more than a dozen languages. The message was: Life is an art form, not a linear, predictable process. We do the best we can at each potential turning point, given the information and the self-knowledge we possess. It is the kind of book fans keep multiple copies of, to press into the hands of friends busily agonizing over how to exert their will over the course of their own lives.

In this new book, Bateson encourages a similar, lapidary approach to the question: What are we going to do with this gift of time? "How, in growing older do I become more truly myself, and how does that spell out in what I do or say or contribute?"

Although my wife looks forward to the day she can retire, I do not because I'm a writer and want to continue creating until the day I die. To be honest, I dislike the concept of "retirement" (other than for physical reasons). This notion that people should be put out to pasture at age 60 or 65 rankles me. In fact, I think for many people, early retirement is an awful thing. Sleeping in late has its charms, but when it becomes your daily life and there is no purpose in your activities other than whiling away the hours, is that really living? Traveling is wonderful... but after you've been around the world, what then?

Of course, it's different if you have a spouse and kids you have to support. Since my wife and I don't have children, we've had more freedom to do what we want, career-wise. But getting back to Bateson's book premise, I agree with her view: we should see our lives as a work of art that we have a hand in creating, here and now -- and for the future. What do you want to be doing when you're 65 or 70 that will still give you satisfaction and make you happy?

Today's relevant links:

Book Review: "Composing a Further Life"

Career Questions for Yourself - Good way to look at your long-term goals and happiness.

For daily viewing times of Career Changers TV on OC16, please visit our website or check out our YouTube Channel videos.

Job Fair Tidbits

January 21st, 2011
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Career Changers TV co-producer, Rob "Aukai" Reynolds, and I were at Job Quest on Weds. to shoot "Help Wanted" segments for our February show, and came away with some scoops for job seekers. While the local news media has been focused on the Disney Aulani Resort, did you know there are many other employment opportunities at Ko Olina Resort & Marina?

In fact, they created a centralized location where you can go to find out about job openings at the Ko Olina Beach Villas, golf club, marina, operations, two wedding companies, Roy's Ko Olina, Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Clujb, the Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, and Aulani as well. Radasha Ho'ohuli, Ko Olina Workforce Developer Manager, also told us they will be having their own job fair on Sat., Feb. 19. To find out more, call Radasha at 671-2512. There is a www.KoOlina.com website, but they haven't posted any info about the job fair yet. Here's the "Careers" page link, which is at the bottom of the home page in tiny type.

We also have some other leads we'll be sharing in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

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Although I don't appear on camera when we shoot job fair segments, I still dress as if I was going on an interview. Besides, I knew Disney Aulani execs were going to be there, so I wanted to make a favorable impression since we hope to do future pieces on the new resort as it gets closer to opening in August. Anyhow, after I parked my car and began walking toward the Blaisdell Arena, a local lady called out to me: "Your pants, sir!"

Huh? I know I can be scatter-brained and forget things when I'm rushing around in the morning before a shoot, but I was fairly certain I had remembered to put on my pants. My next thought was there might be some unsightly stain on my pants that I hadn't noticed when I left the house. But the lady pointed down at my shoes, and I saw that the bottom of my pant leg was semi-tucked into my right sock. "You no can go to job interview dressed li' dat," she chuckled. She probably was used to giving her kids the once-over every morning before they headed off to school. I thanked her for alerting me to my fashion faux pas, and fixed my pants.

So, do any of you have an amusing or embarrassing job interview mishap you'd like to share? I'll keep the comments open, but it may take a few minutes to appear since I have to manually approve them while deleting spam-bot replies. Have a great weekend, and don't forget to check out our latest Career Changers TV show on OC16! Click here for our daily viewing schedule, or visit our CCTV YouTube Channel.

Dealing with Setbacks

January 17th, 2011
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"Bummer." That's what I wrote in my journal notebook when I found out this morning my Menehune screenplay didn't make the Amazon Studios finalist cut for two $20,000 awards they're giving out this month. It got me to thinking about how people deal with various setbacks -- be it losing a game, not getting a job you applied for, or failing to achieve a personal goal that's important to you. Are you an analyzer? Or someone who needs to vent and talk it out?

Me, I write about it. In my drinking days, every failure or stroke of bad luck sent me off to the bar where I could spill my troubles to whoever would listen. Now, my fingers tap out my tales of woe in blogs and emails to other writers and friends. It's like "sharing" at an AA meeting, except I do it online instead of in a roomful of people. As with 12 Step programs, sometimes the best advice comes in the form of a simple saying: "First things first. Live and let live. Easy does it..."

I was reminded of that when reading a story in Friday's Star-Advertiser about actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. He noted that it's not whether you fall or make a mistake, but what you do after you fall. His answer is you stand up... and keep getting back up each time you fall. Sure, we've all heard that before. Yet we need to hear it again when we feel like we just can't get up one more time after the latest knock-down. After I read the article, I emailed Cary about doing an interview for my Career Changers TV show and we chatted awhile. We first met about four years ago through a mutual friend -- Alice Inoue, who is featured on our current show. Which is cool because Alice talks about how personal setbacks led to her new calling as an astrology/feng shui consultant and life coach.

Although I do read my daily horoscope, I'm skeptical about the notion that stars and planets can influence our lives. However, I also concede that if you believe in anything strongly enough, it very well could alter your future. Call it the power of suggestion or the placebo effect. We become what we think about. The reason I read horoscopes is that the better ones often contain words of wisdom that can apply to everyday situations. And it's uncanny how often the advice seems to be directly related to what's going on in my life. Coincidence or destiny? Perhaps a little of both. The universe works in mysterious ways, and being open to whatever vibes are out there, might lead to life-changing opportunities. It's really a matter of mutual awareness.

Take the Cary Tagawa connection, for example. I had been pitching my INUGAMI script to Hollywood people, but nothing came of it. Then after Wayne Harada dropped my name in his column, my sister was talking to Alice Inoue, and she mentioned that she knew Cary. Alice offered to show my script to him, and I jumped at the chance. A couple of weeks later, he called and said he'd like to meet with me. Turned out he really liked INUGAMI. There was just one problem. He wasn't interested in playing the "bad guy" role I had written for him. Cary wanted to play the good guy for a change! I was stoked that he wanted to do something with my script, and he even talked about showing it to potential movie investors. But it would require major rewriting, and having an Asian-American in the lead role is very rare in Hollywood films. It's a tough sell. So we've stayed in touch and Cary says he still thinks about the INUGAMI script. Who knows, one of these days the stars may line up and the movie will happen.

In the meantime, I'll continue to write new stuff, and each time I get a rejection or fall, I'll stand up again... because lying on your back feeling sorry for yourself ain't gonna do you much good, is it? (Put on Warren Zevon's "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" if you need a kick in the pants!)

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Speaking of Alice, we filmed another segment for her feng shui office tips that will air next month. My wife, Isabel, allowed us to shoot it at Corporate Office Centers, which offers virtual offices, temporary office space and meeting rooms. COC is good for small businesses that don't want to sign long-term leases, but want a Downtown address when they need to meet clients. Anyhow, Alice demonstrated the practical aspects of feng shui and won over some skeptics... namely, me.

By slightly moving a cabinet that had been flush against the corner of a hallway, she made a tangible difference for at least one COC client. Alice pointed out that nature isn't linear with many right angles -- it tends to curve and bend. After Alice repositioned the cabinet at a diagonal angle, it did look better. Then later, a client in a wheelchair thanked us because she said it was much easier for her to turn that corner. The woman was beaming! It made us feel good too.

Today's relevant links:

Cary Tagawa article from Friday's Star-Advertiser

Alice Inoue segment, Part 1

Corporate Office Centers video

Daily viewing times for Career Changers TV on OC16, and more CCTV YouTube Channel videos.

Disney at Jan. 19 "Job Quest"

January 13th, 2011
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Disney's new Aulani Resort at Ko Olina will be the featured employer at the big Jan. 19 job fair at the Blaisdell, according to Job Quest organizer Beth Busch. You'll find a link to the Aulani site at the end of this post, which will give you a better idea of what kind of positions are available. However, there may be other jobs not listed so it may pay to visit their booth to find out more. The event starts at 10 AM and runs until 3 PM. Click here to pre-register.

If any of you plan on attending and would like to be on the Career Changers TV show as a "job seeker" (we'll let you pitch your qualifications to our viewers), please email me <richfigel@gmail.com> or look for us at the Blaisdell. Over 125 companies will be represented, and word on the street is that the pace of hiring is starting to pick up in Honolulu. Dress as if you were going to a job interview and bring up-to-date resumes. Be prepared to sell yourself on the spot since there will be actual decision-makers and HR people at some booths.

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Speaking of the Aulani Resort, which will include the mythical Menehune as a motif in their water park area, I received some exciting news yesterday: my LEGENDS OF THE MENEHUNE big budget family/adventure screenplay made the Amazon Studios first ever Top 50 semifinalists cut. They received over 2,500 scripts from all over the world, and will be announcing the six finalists for two $20,000 cash prize awards next week. Amazon's Hollywood partner is Warner Bros., and they intend to produce movies that are developed through the competition process. Thanks to all of you who downloaded my script! Although peer reviews were not included in the judging process, I still appreciate the local support.

As much as I would love to have Amazon Studios or Warner Bros. buy my script, I really believe it's a Disney movie -- and it would tie in nicely to their Aulani Resort menehune theme, of course! Anyone out there with a Disney connection?

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The Hawaii scenery looked spectacular in last night's premiere episode of Off the Map. As for the show itself, eh, wasn't terrible... a bit too cutesy for my tastes. Felt like it was trying too hard to establish characters' back stories. We get it already -- they're all trying to escape something in their past and taking a "leap of faith" by literally jumping off a cliff into the ocean. If you want to see a great television series that has superb writing and acting, use Netflix streaming to watch the first season of Friday Night Lights (which features one of the young male actors on Off the Map).

Ostensibly, FNL is about how life revolves around high school football in a small Texas town. Yet it's really about families, and people who are doing their best to achieve the American Dream. It's the most realistic TV drama I've ever seen. I didn't watch it when it first aired because I thought my wife wouldn't be into the football aspects... wow, was I wrong. Isabel got hooked after one show, then insisted we watch all 23 episodes of the first season within the next couple of weeks! Seasons 2 through 4 were just as good or even better since the characters truly grow over time. Even if you're not a big football fan, I think you'll like it a lot. It will break your heart, while leaving you wanting more after each episode is over.

Today's relevant links:

Aulani Resort jobs

Amazon Studios contest (ongoing btw, which means writers and filmmakers can still enter)

Friday Night Lights on Netflix

To find daily viewing times and info about the current Career Changers TV show, visit our site. You can also view segments from past episodes on our YouTube Channel. Looking for temporary or short-term Downtown office space? See my wife's video for Corporate Office Centers at Waterfront Plaza!

Holiday Leftovers and Zumba Madness

January 10th, 2011
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Here it is just 10 days into the new year, and I'm already trying to play catch-up with blogs and personal business. So before I start posting material related to the economic outlook for 2011 and job trends, I wanted to share a few more observations gleaned from my recent Kona trip and other developments that tie into my own chosen career path.

First, there's the growing problem of noise pollution in Hawaii. People come to the islands to relax and enjoy the tranquility of our beaches and ocean. When my wife and I go outer island, we turn off the cell phones and try to find quiet beach spots where we can snorkel or look out at the sea. It's how we recharge ourselves. So there we were at Kahalu'u Beach Park, totally immersed in a serene beautiful undersea world, snorkeling... and suddenly we hear LOUD THUMPING underwater. I surfaced and craned my neck, searching for the source of the "music" that was blasting out from somewhere on land. It turned out to be an open-sided pavilion at the Outrigger Keahou Beach Resort next to the beach park. You may have already guessed what it was: yep, another Zumba class.

If Zumba enthusiasts want to crank up the volume, they should do it in enclosed spaces. Moreover, is there some exercise-related reason the music has to be so loud that it causes underwater vibrations? Do super-amplified sound waves break down body fat? Other snorkelers and beach-goers were also staring at the pavilion and wondering whether there was some kind of private disco party going on at 9:30 AM on a weekend morning. When I asked the lifeguard how often he had to endure this Zumba madness, he frowned and said it was "only" once a week. Still, if you're a visitor or resident who wants to have some peace and quiet at a public beach, I don't think you should be subjected to the whims of a group of 10 sweaty women who feel the need to let the whole world know they like Zumba.

Instead of silently sitting on the beach and putting up with it, I walked over and had to shout over the music: "COULD YOU PLEASE TURN IT DOWN! WE CAN HEAR YOUR MUSIC UNDERWATER A HUNDRED YARDS AWAY!" One of the women continued doing her Zumba moves and snapped back, "We're exercising!" I replied, "I KNOW, BUT DO YOU HAVE TO PLAY IT SO LOUD?" She repeated, "We're exercising," and continued. Since they had no intention of lowering the volume, I went to the front desk and asked for a manager. A security guard came out, wrote down my name and phone number, but did nothing to address the problem. He said they used to have the Zumba classes next to the tennis courts, then moved it to the pavilion for unspecified reasons (gee, could it be the tennis players objected?). "It's a service we provide for our guests," he told me. What about the beach users and snorkelers who weren't interested in their Zumba "services"?

What irked me most was this wasn't the first time I've encountered rude Zumba promoters. In Kailua, they've done fund-raiser Zumba marathons at an elementary school next to the public tennis courts. They put up signs and banners promoting Zumba classes, then blasted music so loud it could be heard a half-mile away. I get it. They want people to hear how much fun they're having while working up a sweat, so more people will sign up and pay for Zumba classes. But how would they feel if someone walked into their sessions carrying a boom box, blaring heavy metal or polkas?

It's not just Zumba that is adding to daily noise pollution. Increasingly, it's amped-up car stereo systems with low frequency bass volumes set to levels that can induce involuntary loss of bowel control, and motorcycles traveling in packs. If Hawaii wants to maintain its image as a world-class travel destination, shouldn't we be doing something to enforce noise limits near beaches and public parks? Just saying.

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On the cab ride to the Kona airport from where we had to drop off our rental car, we had a sad conversation with the driver. He used to have a flooring business that fell on hard times the past couple of years. The part-time taxi gig was becoming a full-time job since the building of new projects was at a virtual standstill on the Big Island. Homeowners were also holding back on remodeling projects as well, and slow real estate sales translated to fewer opportunities for businesses that fix up properties after they change hands.

A big part of the problem is fall-out from the mortgage mess that resulted in banks drastically tightening up their loan approval process. My wife and I witnessed it first-hand when we applied for a mortgage refinance back in August. Rates had dipped below 4 percent and I wanted to lock in (my existing 30-year mortgage with Bank of Hawaii was at 5 percent). Despite having a stellar credit rating, solid income and decent savings, we just signed the closing documents last week -- four months after we locked in at 3.78 for a 30-year fixed mortgage. I thought the potential hang-up might be getting a fast turn-around on the appraisal since appraisers get backlogged whenever rates drop to low levels. No problem there. In fact, the appraised value was for twice the amount of the loan we were seeking, so we thought approval would be quick. That was two months ago. The bank then asked for all kinds of additional documentation to show how much cash we had on hand or in retirement accounts.

If it takes someone with good credit and savings that long to complete a re-fi, I can only imagine that many employed, hard-working people are having an equally difficult time getting approval on re-fi's or new mortgages. That directly affects our local economy because I think there are many people like myself who want to tap into equity lines or use re-fi's to pay for home improvement projects, but the banks have them in a holding pattern. For us, new carpeting, bathroom flooring, remodeling work, have all been put on the back burner while we waited for the bank to okay our loan.

It's not that the banks don't have the money. They do. They're just being exceedingly cautious because of the financial meltdown that happened two years ago. Hopefully, as our economy sees more signs of improvement, they'll start loosening up a little and approve more loans -- not just for homeowners, but small businesses too. And once that begins to happen, guys like our Kona cab driver might be able to return to their real occupations instead of moonlighting in dead-end jobs.

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For daily viewing times of the new Career Changers TV show, please visit our website. You can also watch selected segments from past episodes on our YouTube Channel. Got ideas or leads for future show stories? Drop me an email with a brief pitch!