Friday, November 30, 2012

Championship Double Header

It was playoff week for my Monday (Open Division) and Thursday (Friendship Division) basketball leagues.  Entering the playoffs, both of my teams were probably considered underdogs.  My Monday team was pretty good but faced a distinct size disadvantage against our opponents.  My Thursday team had beaten our playoff opponent the week before but our overall record wasn't that great.  We tended to run hot and cold.

However, both teams came through with some extremely good basketball.  My Monday team played patient, got good shots, and raced out to an early lead.  We eventually would win 77-63.  My Thursday team did one better.  We jumped out to a 16-0 lead, led 33-11 at halftime and ultimately won 53-39.

Thus, somewhat surprisingly, both my teams are in the championship games next week.  In both games, my teams will probably be considered underdogs once again.   Both opponents have a ton of firepower and we will have to work hard to stay competitive.

This will be my first time playing in two championship games in less than a week.  My best season was in 2008 when I played in championship games in a Easter Tournament, Summer Basketball League and a Fall Basketball League (won one, lost two).   As a side note, I will not be the ONLY player playing in both championship games.  A couple of guys who play both teams will be opposing me next week.

As far as importance of these championship games, they are not particular important.  Don't get me wrong.  I definitely would love to win both games.  There is something unique if my teams could come through.  However, by my unofficial count, next week's championship games will be the 13th and 14th I have played in over the 20+ years that I played in adult league basketball.

In my younger days, I was high strung and nervous prior to playoffs and championships.  It got so bad that I didn't do particularly well.  However, I've played in so many playoff and championship games over the years that I realize that it's just another game.  My approach is to treat these games just like any other.  No need to make it more important than it really is.  After all, we don't win trophies or money.  It's all about for a positive memory and pride.

I find that staying relaxed is the best approach.  My goal for next week is to help my teams win both championships.  If we don't win, it's ok.  It takes work to just get to the championship game and that effort should be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Per my usual routine, I have usually done a "Things To Be Thankful For" around Thanksgiving.  Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 2012 edition:

"My Twin" -  I don't have any brothers or sisters in the biological sense but I am lucky to be blessed with a friend who is, in all intensive purposes, my "twin".   We share something that is unusual but has become a unifying thing and a source of humor.  Beyond the laughs lie two good friends who look out for each other.  We talk frequently to share our ups / downs but also just to check in on the other person.   Can't ask much more from a good friend.

"Basketball" - As always, I'm thankful for basketball.  But not just the game but the people involved, especially the two basketball leagues I play in and the group of guys I play with on Saturday.  It's great to get exercise but to also hang out with the guys as well.

"San Francisco" - You never know what you miss until you get it back.  I worked in downtown SF from around 1999 until 2002.  After 2002,  I've worked in various cities but never got back to downtown SF.  Just last week, I returned to downtown SF and I am loving it.  I've got friends who I can meet up with constantly and plenty of food, activities around that I can do.

"The Visitor" -   I'm going to keep this one brief.  But I want to acknowledge a person that I met recently.   Thanks for everything and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

"Sales / Speaking Skills" - Once a upon a time, I was a tech support engineer who was trying to learn to become a Sales Engineer.  I went through quite a few difficult situations and have grown up faster than I expected.  These days, speaking in front of customers, large crowds or other things don't bother me.

"Ricardo / iMovie / Movie Editing" - Special thanks to a guy named Ricardo who plays in my basketball league.  It was due to his idea of capturing videos that spurred me to pick up the basics of movie editing.  Thanks to iMovie for making the process easy and editing movies a fun task.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"You Seem To Run Into People You Know Everywhere"

Yesterday night, I was thinking about something a friend of mine said to me a few years ago.  She had commented to me:  "You Seem To Run Into People You Know Everywhere".   I had decided I was going to blog about this topic tonight.

Well, before I even get started on the topic, my friend's comment was proven true once again tonight.  I went to a birthday dinner with some friends.  As I arrived at the restaurant, I ran into a former grammar school classmate who was also waiting at the restaurant with her friends.  We caught up a bit before I had to go to get seated.

As the dinner with my friends concluded, I was suddenly greeted by not one, but TWO young ladies.  These two were former basketball players of mine who are now in the working world.  The two ladies were just having a night out and we caught up a bit.  I hadn't seen the gals too often since I coached them but it was good to see and talk to them.

Back to the original point of the post now!  My friend had made the comment to me because it seemed like every time I was out with her and our friends, I would inevitably run into someone I knew.  To be fair, I don't think it was "EVERY TIME" but it happened often enough (and at different locations) that my friends did notice.

The question people may ask is why do I know so many people?  There's actually a pretty easy explanation.   The major reason is that I have participated in various aspects of basketball over the years.

I served as a assistant and head basketball coach for my old grammar school for the better part of 12 years.   In that time, I worked with 6 different teams.  Additionally, I was a spectator at games for other teams in the program.  So not only did I know my own players, I knew the coaches and players from the others teams.

I have worked as a basketball official for about 20 years (20 years in youth, 10+ years in high school and adult).  Officiating introduces you to a ton of different people.  I've probably worked with hundreds of different referee partners over the years.   I've probably talked to tons of coaches and gym directors along the way.  Plus, don't forget the players.  I am surprised that some players actually REMEMBER that I officiated them was they were younger.   Plus, with the adult leagues I officiate, I tend to see some of the same players over and over so you get to know them over time.

Lastly, I've played in adult basketball leagues for the better part of 20 years.  I've played with dozens of teams and hundreds of different players.  Of course,  I've played against of ton of teams and players as well.

From this, you can see why I do have a tendency to run into a lot of people.  I may not know all these people well, but I do have a shared experience with them in one way or another.  To be fair, it's not all basketball people.  I do see former co-workers, classmates and other folks too.

I guess I'm just that popular.  Seriously, I just LIKE people and most people do seem to remember me too.  I am curious about people, love to talk and so it's natural I would easily catch up with people I haven't seen in a long time.

I'll leave on this note.  I have about 700+ Facebook friends.  I'm proud to say that most (if not all) are people I know in person (in one way, shape or form).  I don't randomly add Facebook friends for the heck of it.  Most of the 700+ Facebook friends would fit into the basketball, co-workers, classmates or just friends category!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Reach Out And Touch Someone

In 2012, there are some many ways to communicate with people.  You have the old standbys like the telephone / cellphone or even meeting face to face.  But you could throw in the multitude of electronic options such as email, instant messaging, Facebook / Social Media and text messaging. 

Electronic communications are great in short bursts but can feel awfully impersonal.  If faced with a choice of NO communication or electronic communication, I'm sure most people would prefer to communicate electronically versus not communicating at all. 

Personally, I find that talking to someone over the phone or in person is much better than strictly exchanging electronic communications.  I do my share of emails, instant messages, and texting but just talking to another person has a lot of benefits than just doing electronic communications.  Talking to someone makes you feel like you're understood.  Plus, hearing the laughs and other things associated with talking is a part of the human experience.  Having electronic communications should supplement this AND NOT REPLACE talking on the phone or meeting your friends. 

Additionally, as the holiday seasons approach, it's always good to reach out to friends.  One friend commented to me last year:  "TV shows and commercials make it seem like everyone is happy".  I definitely understood his point.  During holidays, it seems like "everyone" is happy getting together with friends and family. 

But in reality, there are many people who are going through struggles.  The obvious people are the people without jobs, families or other basic necessities.  But even regular people go through some down times as well.  

If you recognize this in someone you know, do a favor and reach out.  To borrow the phrase from the old AT&T commercials back in the 1980's:  "REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE".  Give someone a call and say hi.  Meet someone up for dinner.  I am sure your friends will appreciate it!  

One of my friends definitely did that for me last year.  I had been going through some worries and the friend would call to check up on me.  At the end of the day, that's what friends are for.  

Sunday, November 04, 2012

To Move Forward, Sometimes You Have To Venture Into The Unknown

I had some deep conversations this past week.  Those conversations led me to think about how many people get to a point in their lives (work, family, etc) where they feel stagnant.    Things seem routine and maybe even a little boring.   For some this feeling is ok, but for others, they yearn to break out of the routine into something new.

Yet, many people don't even know where to begin to change.  I definitely was like this.  There were a few things in my life in the years past where I felt things had gotten stagnant.  I liked what I did but it felt like the "same old thing".   I was semi-aware of this but did not know how to get out of it.

Fortunately, for a couple of situations in my life, I found a way to break out of the routine into something newer and fresher.

Basketball Officiating

I started officiating youth basketball around 1993.  I had served as a volunteer coach for my old catholic grammar school since 1988.  The school's athletic director needed an official at another school he ran and he asked me to help out.

I signed up and started officiating in addition to my coaching duties.  The early years were rough as I had no idea what I was doing.  Over time, my experience grew and I gained confidence in my capabilities.  However, the youth league was limited in training the officials.   I knew a lot of about the youth league but not about the "actual" rules of basketball.

As time went on, I realized I was getting bored of officiating the youth league.  I didn't really know what to do so I just kept doing the routine for a few years until a chance opportunity appeared.  I had referred a couple of friends to come officiate in the youth league with me.

They joined the youth league but took a chance to join a basketball officiating group to work high school and adult basketball games around 2002.  I had tried to join this group a few years before but had not been accepted.  With a second opportunity, I went along with my friends to training and was finally accepted into the group.

Though I wouldn't realize it at the time, this situation was a great thing for me.  Joining the group was tough initially but the knowledge and experience I gained were great for me.  I was able to apply it to youth basketball as well and get my interest back.

While my high school officiating hasn't gone as well as I would like due to multiple issues (mainly work), I have enjoyed the past 10 years working with the officiating group.

Sales Engineering

Fresh out of college, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my career.  For the first year, I stayed with a part time administrative job I had.  I had worked with the company toward the end of my college days and they were willing to keep me around.

About a year after I graduated from college, I saw a posting for a "Technical Analyst" position at my college Career Center and immediately applied.  After screening with the folks at the Career Center, I interviewed with a manager at the company.   The interview was pretty uneventful and I was told a few days later that I had gotten the position.

From those humble beginnings, I spent seven years at the company (1999 to 2006).  For about 5 1/2 years, I was a technical support representative (the other 1 1/2 years were spent as a process manager).

By 2006, I had gotten a little tired of doing technical support and was looking for a change.   An opportunity presented itself with a smaller company which I ultimately decided to pursue.   With the smaller company, I ended up doing a mix of work including technical support, sales engineering, manual writing, QA Testing and project management.    The overall experience was good but I got laid off as the company had not been doing well.

At this point, I still yearned for a change.  While I had gotten an opportunity to diversify my skills, I still spent a good amount of time on the phone with customers doing technical support.   I wanted to get away from that type of work if it was possible. I looked around for jobs online.  However, most of what I was qualified for was still technical support positions.

Then a chance opportunity occurred one day.  I was out one day when my cell phone rang.  I answered the call as I was expecting a call back from a company regarding a job I had applied for.  It turned out to be a recruiter instead.

This particular recruiter had saw my resume and inquired if I would be interested in a "Sales Engineer" position with a local company.   He had noticed that I had some sales engineer experience with my last job.

We talked a lot about my background, the job, and the requirements.  After the discussion, the recruiter stated he was impressed and wanted to submit my resume to the hiring manager.  I was a little less sure and asked the recruiter to send me information on the position so I could think about it.

After a few days, I had emailed the recruiter to decline the position.  The reasons were simple.  I did not know much about Sales and I did not know much of the about the technology that was required for the position.   The recruiter emailed me back almost immediately and stated that I should reconsider.

I thought about this for a short while and called the recruiter back about 30 minutes later.  I told him that he could submit my resume.  The reason for the change of heart?  I had finally seen that this job would be a natural evolution from my technical support position.

After one interview with my manager (who is now a Vice President), I got the position and remain there today (after 4 years +/- some layoffs....another story hahaha).


As you can see from my stories, I was a little stagnant in some aspects of my life.  Yet, I was fortunate enough to have some opportunities come up to break out of the routine.  That is really my main point.

Many people feel they have to "find something" to break out of their routine.  In reality, I have found that opportunities COME TO YOU.  You just have to learn to be aware and take advantage.  Have courage to venture into the unknown even if you're not sure it's the right thing.

Good luck!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Moving Time / Changing TIme

For my current job, I currently work at a remote sales office a few miles outside of San Francisco.  I've been at this office since I was first hired back in 2008.   My company's headquarters is based out of Virginia.

In about four days, the majority of the staff (including me) at this remote office will make a move to Downtown San Francisco.   There will be a few others who have chosen to move to another office near Silicon Valley.

Anytime you move anywhere (work or house), there will be changes.  My co-workers and I will face a host of new changes to deal with a host of new changes.  For me personally, here's what I will have to adjust to:

Getting back to taking PUBLIC TRANSIT to work.  It was been a decade or more since I last took public transit to work.  Fortunately, it's close to home and not that big of a deal.

Getting used to no free parking.  I do a lot of things after work and will likely need a car.  Alas, I will be forced to pay for parking if I drive to work which is not fun.

The commute from my house to the current office is very easy.  Commuting to downtown SF in public transit will be relatively smooth.  Driving to downtown SF is a different story.

On the days, I don't drive to downtown SF, I will leave my car at home.  Alas, I will need to invest in a residential parking permit.  Otherwise, I may get a parking ticket if I leave my car at home all day.  Some parts of SF do this as otherwise out of town folks will just park their cars in some parts of the city all day.

The current offices have a small workout facility but the new offices will not.  I will likely have to make some trips to a nearby 24 hour fitness instead.   A friend has already said I should take some workout classes with him so that will be interesting.

However, while all of this sounds "negative", it's really just adjusting to the changes.  The positives for the move are:

I will be close to a lot of friends who also work downtown.  I can meet up with lunch / dinner and go workout really close by.

Being downtown, there will be plenty of shopping I can do before heading home.  From my current office, I would have to drive to the local mall.

It may take a while to adjusted but once I get used to things, it will be a great thing to be back working in the heart of downtown San Francisco.