Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê

don’t try to understand ’em, just rope and throw and brand ’em

While trying to scare up contracting work, I am often talking to several companies, each in different stages of the process. Many times, it has seemed like two or more of them are going to turn real at once. I fear that I am in danger of overcommitting myself. Over time, I have learned to ignore that concern. No matter how much of a sure thing any particular negotiation might seem, I know from bitter experience that they may simply stop writing back, with no explanation whatsoever. In fact, that’s the most likely outcome. I’ve had to learn not to take it personally. To tell you the truth, I think it’s incredibly rude, but I just can’t let myself get worked up about it. I’d never stop being angry.

Well, for the first time ever, it has happened. I now have two full-time jobs: The one that is taking me to Calgary for two weeks, and another with a company in Berkeley that maintains a stable of iOS apps. And a part-time iPhone project that might require my attention at any minute.

(In the interest of keeping my own memories straight, I guess I should mention that I did actually have two full-time jobs once before, along about 2006. It wasn’t in the context of contracting, though. It was near the beginning of my boring corporate job, which was driving me completely nuts. So I took on a one hundred percent remote assignment with this other company in Los Angeles, as a tryout. The remote people were even worse, and they weren’t offering much money, so I quit after only two days. And I learned how to negotiate the stifling environment at the local corporate job, at least well enough that it wasn’t killing me every day.)

Further, there is this other guy, who I have had ongoing negotiations with, who just asked for my “availability.” We have never worked together before, but I like him. This is a relationship I would like to nurture. So I said I could take a small project if he has one, just to see if we can work together. Ergo, I have effectively turned down work. Yet another first. Naturally, I have “turned down” oDesk-style grunt-work that pays twelve bucks an hour, but that doesn’t count.

Having spent most of my life in office-type situations, all my instincts are telling me that I should quit one or the other of these two full-time jobs. So far, I prefer the Berkeley company. I like the way the guy in charge talks to me. He gives me a very high-level overview of the problem he has to solve, and lets me take it from there. If only everybody I’ve ever worked for was like that.

Alas, it would be difficult to quit the Calgary job. Contracts have been signed. I have accepted money for the expedited passport application, which I would have to return. And this job is through the “federation of contractors” company. I don’t want to sour that relationship. They could wind up giving me a whole lot of work over the years. So, I can’t quit that one.

I could easily quit the Berkeley job. We are at the very beginning. I have done no work, and accepted no money. But this job pays significantly better, and the first project they have given me is cooler.

Even if there weren’t valid, undeniable reasons to keep both of these jobs, I think I’d do it anyway. One serious error I’ve made in the past is forgetting that jobs end. When the money is reliably rolling in, I have a tendency to stop thinking about where my next opportunity is going to come from. And I know that one or the other of these two jobs is likely a whole lot worse than it seems, because I don’t yet know the whole story. When the time comes to ultimately quit one or the other, I can use the losing job as leverage and insurance.

So, here I am, making the conscious decision to allow myself to become seriously overcommitted. Scary. Guess I’ll be chained to my Mac for the next several months.

I’ve said before I have no real skills that make me good at contracting, other than tenacity. So I want to make note of something that seems to have worked pretty well.

When I was in early negotiations with the place in Calgary, I wrote up a report of the first phone interview I had, to present to the people at the contracting company who got the lead for me. Most of what I wrote was just blind enthusiasm, “it seems to have gone well,” blah blah blah. But I also noted that I liked the guy I was talking to. It was true at the time I wrote it. Since then, that guy has shown me a bit of his bad side, so I’m not so sure it’s true now. Not that he’s terrible or anything, just not my favorite person in the world. But that off-hand, throwaway remark seems to have really tickled the fancy of the hiring manager in charge of this job. Every time we talk about it, and we’re trying to decide if it’s going well or not, he says “You like the guy, right?” It’s like a sigil he’s holding onto, which helps convince him of the rightness of going forward. I bet he has repeated it to somebody at the Calgary company. And I got the job, so it seems to have worked.

The process of becoming successful in work situations is largely a matter of repeating magic incantations that ultimately make no sense to me. If saying “I like the guy” is one of them, then sure, I’m willing to do that. Doesn’t matter much if it’s true or not. I can’t fake enthusiasm very well, but those four simple words, spoken in my normal tone of voice, apparently helped quite a bit.
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