Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quitter: The First Chapter

Quitter: The First Chapter

I'm reading a book called Quitter, by Jon Acuff.

It's good. Very good.

So far, the book describes the difference between a day job and a dream job and how the two are related.

Lots of what he's saying hits at the core of my heart, illuminating things I've seen only dimly before. Because I'm a writer, and a teacher, I have now an undeniable urge to pass on some of the good stuff I've found in his book.

Chapter One: Don't Quit Your Day Job

"The trick to removing your clothes in a bathroom stall is to start with your shirt."

That's the first sentence in Jon's book. Really. It's his way of grabbing the reader's attention, drawing him into the essence of this first chapter: Jon hated his day job and loved his dream job.

You'll have to read the book to see how bathroom-stall clothes-removal ties into the conflict between day and dream jobs. But I wanted you to quickly understand Jon's style of writing. He is not the sort of writer who walks in a stately manner up to a podium and begins to lecture. Jon is the goofy, nerdy guy who shambles up front and draws cartoons on the whiteboard, talking about some crazy, alien-from-space story which morphs suddenly into an intensely serious heart-to-heart, honest-to-the-core insight which ignites a torch in the readers mind, illuminating long-dark reaches of a seldom-visited cave.

I really like his style.

Jon is a quitter, a professional quitter, posting enviable stats on the Quitter's Board of Fame. He claims eight jobs in eight years, " that were all 40-hour-a-week, 401(k)-offering, health-insurance-transferring, me-in-a-plain-colored-cubical jobs." (page 3)

He admits that his career history is a common tale. The average job tenure for 25-34-year-olds is only 3.1 years (page 4). But Jon's experience has shown him that the modern trend toward job-hopping is a result of a massive, generational set of lies:

  • Lie: Work is usually miserable
  • Lie: It's possible to separate who we are at work, from who we are outside of work
  • Lie: To be all we can be, the first step is to quit our jobs

"Despite the fact that quitting your job is the new American dream, it's usually the worst thing you can do right now." (page 6)

The moment you quit your day job, your secure, boring, dream-killing day job, you trade one miserable boss for an innumerable bunch of unrelenting, uncaring bosses:

  • The electric bill
  • The water bill
  • Chase Mortgage
  • Pampers 120-packs
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Trader Joe's
  • Johnny's Auto Repair
  • Comcast Cable
  • Many more...

Leaving your secure day job has the real potential of making your lovely spouse your boss. Financial insecurity can make every dollar the basis for scrutiny, debate and argument. Quitting your day job means your dream job is now longer just for's for keeps. Now your dream job must please the public, because without customers, your dream job will wither and die. Having fun with your dream job in your spare time allowed you the luxury of doing it your way, with little risk. When your dream job because The Only Job, it must be politically correct and economically robust.

"If you have a job - even a less-than-ideal one - you get to say a pretty vital word: No." (page 13)

Building your dream job while staying with your day job allows you to set the terms of how and what you will do. "Saying no is one of your most important resources, especially in the beginning. And the simplest and safest way to kepp your no's is to keep your day job." (page 16)

Stay Dangerous

One of surprising concepts that Jon describes in this first chapter is the necessity of "staying dangerous". For Jon, this means having the economic freedom to experiment or follow paths that might not have much support from others, but it's something important or interesting you you. Your day job requires safe, routine, predictable behavior, but your dream job offers an environment in which you can make, write, sing, produce, create things that are new or different, on the edge and inventive. Quitting your day job too soon requires your dream job to become much more stable, predictable and crowd-pleasing.

"Quitting a job doesn't jump-start a dream because dreams take planning, purpose and progress to succeed. that stuff has to happen befor you quit your day job."

Jon makes a strong case for the benefits of staying with your day job and building your dream job in your spare time.

This first chapter has been encouraging and enlightening...I'm anxious to get to the next chapter.

You can read Quitter or download as an ebook here:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Break-Away Lanyard Knot

Break-Away Lanyard Knot

It's easy to buy hardware to attach to a lanyard that will break away if snagged accidentally. My work requires that I wear an ID badge around my neck, and my employer supplies simple neck lanyards with plastic break-away clasps.

That's OK...I guess. I'd much prefer a solution that is cord only, using a break-away knot. A search of the internet didn't yield exactly what I was searching for, so I tried my own design.

Here's how I did it.

Step One: Start with about 60 inches of cord.

I used 1/8-inch diameter cord, similar to paracord, but a bit more stiff. Paracord would probably work even better.

Step Two: Make a bight 24 inches from one end.

The length of the bight is not critical. After experimenting, 24 inches seemed a good way to start, but the knots will need dressing, and exact lengths will be adjusted later.

Also, the diameter, and the stiffness, of the cord you choose to use will affect cord length. Be prepared to be flexible and innovative!

Step Three: Tie a decorative knot.

Tie the knot about 1-3/4 inches from the bight. Dress the knot, leaving one cord of the bight short, about 17-1/2 inches long. When the length of the loop and short cord are about right, tighten up the decorative knot.

I chose to tie a Diamond Knot (Boatswain's Whistle Knot). Stormdrane recommends this page to help learn the Diamond Knot.

Any decorative knot will work. The Celtic Button Knot is another favorite of mine. Tie it along a single strand of cord and feed the bight back through, following the original strand back out, to form a loop.

However, the Diamond Knot is much simpler, and makes a smaller, more compact knot than the doubled Celtic Button Knot.

These dimensions were designed to fit a split ring with a diameter of 1-3/8". If you'll be attaching the lanyard loop to a ring of a different size, adjust the loop length as needed.

Step Four: Finish each end.

The longer leg of the lanyard should be about 30 inches long. Fuse the ends with a flame, if the cord is synthetic, to prevent unraveling and fraying. The end of the shorter leg of the lanyard should be as smooth and narrow as possible. This will be the cord that will slip out of the break-away knot. If the end of the short leg of the lanyard is too large, it won't slip out of the knot.

Step Five: Tie the Break-away Knot.

To tie the Break-away Lanyard Knot, follow these steps:

First, tie a simple Overhand Knot at the end of the longer leg. Dress the knot tightly at the very end of the cord. This will help to prevent the end of the knot from slipping under tension.

I used a Common Whipping Knot as my Break-away Knot. Using the longer leg of the lanyard, I tied a whipping knot on the shorter leg. The longer the whipping, the more friction will hold the shorter cord, and the harder it will to break away if snagged. You'll need to experiment with different lengths of whipping and different degrees of tightness with which you cinch the knot.

Second, make a bight in the longer leg, at the same length as the shorter leg.

Third, lay the bight over the shorter leg.

Fourth, wrap the longer leg around the bight and the shorter cord, wrapping it around three cords all together. Wrap towards the bight, until you reach the end knot, and insert the knotted end of the long leg into the bight.

Fifth, pull on the longer cord to slowly tighten the knot. The tighter you pull the knot, the more load will be required to "break-away". You may have to repeatedly tie the knot and experiment with pulling the lanyard off your neck.

The goal is to have a lanyard that fits comfortably around your neck and holds your badge or whistle securely, yet if the lanyard snags on something, or a perpetrator attempts to choke you with it, the knot will break away.

Tighten the knot and then try to pull the shorter cord through the knot. If it seems to pull too easily, tighten the knot more.

When you have the knot tightened sufficiently, pull the shorter cord until its end is right at the edge of the knot.

There you have it!

A neck lanyard secure enough to hold an ID badge or whistle or compass, but safe enough to break away if snagged or caught.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.