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The P-P-P-Plan

February 3, 2010

Notable News from a Year Ago, February 3, 2009: Last year around this time, peanut butter, at least in America, is deadlier and more feared than swine flu.

Plan Artifact: Thanksgiving Motivation

In honor of the letter P, which has been disgraced by the fall of peanut butter, I thought that today, especially in light of the fact that I will be turning thirty-one this Saturday, I would lay down the particulars for what up to this point I have only given spare mention: this so-called Plan, or more appropriately, The P-P-P-Plan.  As one of the main purposes of this diary [now a blog] is to tell you what I am doing during these rough economic times, as well as what I’m thinking, this entry will be special in that it is the first of its kind.

And then, at the end, I’ll finish with something unique: the first draft of a piece inspired by Barack Obama called “How to Change the World.”  [A year has passed and besides an Honorable Mention, there were no takers for publication, so I’m actually presenting the entire piece to you for free.  You can read it under “The Works”, or by clicking here.]

So, what is The P-P-P-Plan?  Well, to answer that first I have to tell you where I am, and then I can illustrate easier where it is that I hope to go.  And where I am is gainfully employed, eight years and counting, to a Fortune 200 company.  What do I do exactly?  In a world where productivity gains and inventory minimization through technology is the golden chalice, it’s easier if I just paint a picture.

So imagine you’re a customer, and you want to buy something — say you want some Nike Air Jordans.  At this point, in my job, I don’t do a lot with customer facing.  Which is to say, in general, I don’t care how you enter the order.  You can do it online.  You can do it over the phone.  Or you could be the manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods and realize you’re expecting to sell 250 pairs of Jordans over Christmas and New Years, and you’ve only got 35 on hand, so you’re placing a replenishment order to the Nike Warehouse.  Like I said — I don’t really care.  My job doesn’t start until further down the line.

What happens to all these customer and replenishment orders?  Well, in the grand scheme of things, they make it back to manufacturing orders through “routings”.  In the case of Nikes, the system’s set up to send the orders to a sweat shop in China or Indonesia.  For a Camry, the order ends up at the Toyota assembly plant in Kentucky.  And at this point, I’m starting to take interest, because I work with ERP (Enterprise Requirements Planning) systems, and specifically, I take customer orders and translate them in shop floor instructions.

Bottom line: you don’t get your Nikes or your Camry unless a manufacturing plant has some level of “shop floor control”.  Because people and machine need to know how many rubber soles and canvass uppers (and how much “air”) make a pair of Jordans; they need to know what color your Camry should be, and if you footed the extra $5K for the special allow wheels package; they need to know how long and how many Jordans and Camrys to make to fulfill your request; and, when they’re done, people and machine have to report what they did and how many, from which the system calculates how long it should’ve taken and produces variance reports and other tools that aid management, particularly accounting, in decision-making and oversight.

Wow, a mouth full.  It would’ve been easier to say I’m a Business or Functional Analyst, but those terms leave too much to interpretation and my purpose here is specificity.  Regardless of what you call it, the P-P-P-Plan suggests that when it’s all said and done — when I retire — I really want to work for myself and stand on my own two feet.

The Plan suggests that perhaps there’s a possibility I won’t have to wait until I’m retired to do it.

The story of how this came to be is interesting, but we’ll cover that another day.  For now, I’ll tell you about the idea of the Renaissance Man, and how, even from high school, I’ve wanted to be self-reliant.  A Renaissance Man, in case you don’t know, is a man of all things science and art, music and athletics.  Basically, he’s a big-headed know-it-all, and the discovery of this term in high school was crucial to me because, unlike most people, I had a craving for science and English, logic and illogic, all my life.  Up until then I felt weird because of these dual urges, but afterward, I had something to call it, and I didn’t feel so strange anymore.

And, then of course, there’s the famous essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who himself was a world-renowned Renaissance Man, and since that moment I’ve always known that at some point in my life, I wanted to be a Renaissance Man; I knew I wanted to be self-reliant.  People wonder why I went to engineering school if I really wanted to be a writer, and I can answer it through self-reliance: I went to engineering school because I wanted to be self-reliant.  I didn’t want to have to ask my parents for money anymore.

But I always knew, even then, that self-reliance meant more than just having a steady job.  I knew, sooner or later, that I was going to have to go out and find what that self-reliance really meant to me.  Thus, I present to you today: The Plan.

The Plan

Given what I have already told you in previous entries, The Plan consists of two parts, both of which should be obvious.  The first is the stock market.  Although riches are possible, the main purpose behind the work I do in the stock market is the accomplishment of self-reliance in finances.  That means, first and foremost, debt elimination.  And while including the obvious student loans and credit card bills, my definition of zero-debt also includes mortgages.  With the fiscal crisis and banks failing left and right, I’m of the impression that any debt, especially against a residence, is bad debt.  In case that was too difficult I’ll translate: I don’t want to be homeless.

Once I’m debt-free The Plan, quite literally, is to let the money pile up.  I’ve seen in through my personal budget year after year: when you’re not giving it away to someone else, the money slacks up pretty damn fast.  Once I’m debt-free, The Plan stipulates an avoidance of all future debt.  I won’t buy a new car unless I can pay for it cash.  I won’t buy another house unless I can pay for it cash.  The list goes on and on.  The goal is to be my own banker — to be totally self-reliant in my personal finances.

Now that the first part of The Plan is illuminated, the second part is obvious: Writing.  I mean, why else commit to chronicling your life once a week if not because some part of you hungered for the written word?  I can’t do writing justice here (and as I said before I’ll tell you the complete story later), but writing brings me joy in a way few things can.

Like most unpublished writers, I yearn for recognition and bestsellers, but I liken my conversion in my writing pursuits to my thinking with the stock market.  You wouldn’t think the two had anything in common, but boy do they ever.  Just like I’m not out for riches in the stock market (although I would gladly accept them if they came), I’m not out for bestsellers as an author.  I’m pursuing the stock market to be debt free; with writing, I’m doing it for the joy and happiness I feel inside when I do it.

Of course, everything I write now I do it with an eye for publishing, but after seven years and thousands of slammed doors, I know publishing is not a guarantee.  So, if publication isn’t a given but I’m still writing, what am I getting out of it?  It’s because I’ve progressed, like a thirsty traveler, to the point that I would do it even if it never sold, or no one ever read it — I’m doing it for me.  In effect, I write everyday (or whenever I can) to convince myself first that I’m the best writer I can be, and in some respect, I feel like until I am convicted of my own talent and worth more than anyone else on the planet can ever be, I will never accomplish my goal.  So that’s where I am now.  I’m convincing myself, day after day.

I’m also tantalizingly close to just giving my work away for free.  [In case, you haven’t noticed, I am given my work all for free.  Not all of it, but this diary, which takes a relatively small fraction of my brain power and creativity — I’m giving it away.  There may be more in the future, but as of now, this is it.]

But don’t let the psychosomatic talk about feeling all warm and fuzzy inside fool you; I still have goals.  The number one goal for 2009: I’m attending a Pitch the Novel conference in New York later this year.  For seven years I’ve been writing, mostly in seclusion, but now it’s time to round out my experience and attend a writing conference.  Get my name out there.

The money’s in place to attend because my 2009 budget has a Pitch the Novel line-item.  I’ll save money on the trip because my wife’s parents live in Brooklyn, so I’ll just stay with them during the week, and ride the train into Manhattan.  In fact, we were in New York for Thanksgiving last year and I used the trip for reconnoitering.  We met some college friends in Manhattan at Fat Annie’s Truck Stop to watch Georgia Tech trounce Georgia (Yo, and we’re talking trounce — over 400 yards rushing!), and along the way we stopped by the scaffolding-effaced building where the conference will be held later this year, both of which are only a few blocks over from Madison Square Garden.  I took a picture of a sign inside the building and made some mental notes for the return trip.  The picture is hanging on the bulletin board in my room now.  I’m going.  I won’t be stopped.

As for the novel I will pitch, I thought about it last July.  Originally, I didn’t think it was anything more than a short story, but then it transformed into a novel called Merry Go Round, and in it’s latest iteration I’m call it The Dopple Effect[And of today, I’m not even writing it, I’m finishing The Inner Limit, but that’s how it goes sometimes.] It’s only a third of the way complete, and even if I hump, I doubt it will be in pristine shape before the conference, which is tentatively scheduled for June/July.

But no problem.  I’ve done things with this novel that I didn’t with the previous two that I’ve written.  I’ve written character histories.  I’ve written a synopsis.  I’ve written query letters and one sentence hooks, and worked at defining the genre and target audience before the novel is complete (currently The Dopple Effect is high concept).  More than anything I’m focusing on writing and pitching/selling a marketable book and the New York Pitch Conference, even if I’m only half of the way complete, will only help my market knowledge.  Bottom line: I’m not leaving this book to chance and the pithy whims of my Muse.  Success, I’m told, is not an accident.  Publishing isn’t either.

In between thinking of the marketing background for my main publication vehicle, I’ve written (or rather, revised since the idea is over four years old) a nonfiction piece called “Incidental Music,” and submitted it to competition the last week of January.  The piece I’m going to finish with (at least, the portion I can complete tonight) [again, you’re getting the whole thing for free] is another nonfiction piece that I got the message about only this morning in my email, but more on that in a minute.

So, in real general terms, this is The Plan.  Both aspects, stock market and writing, have been in the offing for several years now, two and seven, respectively.  I’ve fallen, cursed myself, cursed others — but I’m still in the fight, and I’m not going quietly into the night.  Though success is still several thousand, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of steps ahead of me, I would lying if I didn’t tell you I feel more confident and powerful in both arenas everyday.  I feel a measure of control when I look at the market now and place trades; I feel a gathering of forces around everything that I write.  It’s only a matter of time before the rock yields to the rushing water, before you’re hearing me the way I want you to.

So, without further ado, I give you “How to Change the World,” the nonfiction article I decided to write just this morning.  In the funny, illogical way of creation, I started to name last Tuesday’s entry “How to Change the World”, but instead I wrote it down as the title for this week’s entry, and moved on.  Then, this morning, I got an email from New Millennium Writings, which I have submitted to before, about an Obama Millennium Award contest that ends March 1st.  Quite naturally, the title “How to Change the World” sounded fitting.  Quite naturally, I thought about how I felt two weeks ago when I didn’t have anything to say about Obama’s inauguration but, instead, sat down and started this diary.  Now, because of what I’ve done the past two weeks, I have something to say and a possible forum which to say it in.

A power is gathering, I’m telling you.  It’s bigger than me and anything I’ve ever seen.

So here it: a sample of the first draft of “How to Change the World”.

[Go here to read it.]

Next Vista: Wednesday, February 10, 2010, “On Being Thirty-One”

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