ASK Tim – Career Counseling

I got a great question this week from a 57 old robotics engineer and you can read my answer below. However, let’s all help out this one.



I’m a 57 year old robotics engineer in the California and am starting to worry about being able to stay employed until I can retire. Currently only have about $240,000 in retirement account, so it’s pretty sure I’ll be working for a few more years (or more). My concern is the tendency of some employers to hack away at the older employees and replace them with cheaper, younger people. I’m very good at what I do, but is that enough?



The sad truth is you are right. Margins are so tight for companies and the pressure to run leaner and leaner organizations will keep companies constantly looking for opportunities s to cut cost. Keeping payroll down is common practice and one easy way to do that is to replace older, more expensive talent with younger, cheaper talent.

What can you do?

1. Take the lay of the land

Assess how important your specific skillset is to the success of the company and how many other people possess the knowledge you possess. If the company has very few robotic engineers and it is difficult to find qualified people for the role then I like your chances of keeping yourself employed into your 60’s. If robotic engineers are falling out of trees and it’s relatively easy to train one to do your job then pay close attention to the following steps below. Also, how unique is our skillset? I did some recruiting for software companies for a couple of years and there are certain technical skills that are so hard to find and in such high demand you could have murdered people on the job and still not have been fired.   Does your technical skillset fall into that category? If so, sit back, relax and demand a raise!

2. Increase your value

Disclaimer: The following suggestions could also hasten your departure so you must use your knowledge of the company to predict whether these would enhance your market value and job security or hasten your departure since you are sharing exclusive knowledge.

Are there other ways you can increase your value on the job? Can you become a knowledge resource for others? Take on a long term project that will have great impact for the company?   Examples:

    • Teach a class
    • Mentor program
    • Create a centralized knowledge base
    • Write a user’s manual for your position
    • Enroll in professional training outside of work hours.
      • Leadership/Management classes
      • Project management

3. Cross Train

This one is self-explanatory

4. Increase your popularity

It never hurts to be nice. If you have a reputation for being a difficult or surly employee this certainly makes it easier to dump your salary; likewise if you are demanding or a nonconformist. Are you still wearing jeans even after the company has decided to switch to more professional attire? Do you blow off the weekly staff meeting because it’s a waste of time?   Do you ignore emails and are slow to respond to stupid requests? All ammunition that can help the company decide it’s time for you to go.

5. Brush up the resume

This may be the most impactful thing you can do. Get your resume current and stay active with your network of peers and associates. Is there an organization you can join that gets you out and meeting other people like the AAES (American Association of Engineers Society)? I have counseled people in their late 50’s after they have lost their job and trust me on this one, you do not want to be job searching while unemployed at 57. You need to stay plugged into the market place so you are aware of what’s available out there for robotic engineers. Maybe there’s a startup that needs a senior guy.

This is probably the single biggest mistake professionals make and perfectly understandable. They get complacent. Staying plugged into your professional network will keep you abreast of current market conditions and allow you to build relationships that could lead to another job quickly in the event you get fired.   It can also give you peace of mind since you will feel more in control of your destiny.

This is hard to sustain when you are currently employed (low motivation) so maybe you can use the buddy system and find a peer that will accompany you to events and associations where you can network and work your magic.

6. Keep your eye on your boss.

Perhaps the most obvious answer is to keep a close eye on your boss.   Keeping the boss happy is a no brainer but also keep a close eye on what he/she is doing. Is your boss ambitious? If your boss is ambitious then I would want to make sure my boss sees me as a key cog in their ability to achieve their goals. Has my boss been here a long time or a short time? When will they retire?  Are they an engineer or an administrator? Most importantly do you have the kind of relationship with your boss where they will share candid information with you? You need someone that can give you insight into what the senior leadership of the company is thinking and your boss is the most obvious conduit so try and foster that dialogue.

I hope this helps but my guess is you already knew all this. However, with humans I find we usually know the answer but getting ourselves to follow through is where we often get stuck. Take my advice, truly embrace the concept of being a cost cutting liability and use that motivation (fear) to take some action on any or all of the above strategies.   Doing any or all of the above will help ease anxiety and set you up for success or what we like to say in the business, “It’s a win-win.”

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Blog Talk Radio – Career Counseling

This week I’ll be sharing tips, tricks and cautions from my 20 years of counseling professionals.     Tune in if you want to hear the number 1 reason that holds people back in their career.

Tune in or better yet, call in with a question!

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Blog Talk Radio – Emotional Heritage

I cannot begin to articulate the weariness that marketing brings upon me.  I am 100% SICK AND TIRED of trying to figure out new and different ways to entice people to listen to what I have to say.  It has come to this…Listen to my show if you want to hear cool shit.

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The Human Slot Machine

Do you know why you feel the way you do? Do you know exactly how it is you come to a decision? We like to think our thoughts and feelings are working seamlessly in service to our consciously stated goals and values but what if that isn’t the case?

It is comforting for humans to think of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors unfolding in a predictable, consciously directed manner. Indeed, many a cognitive behaviorist would diagram the flow like this:

Conscious Thought







A real life example:

The other day my wife asked me the following question, “Did you have a chance to fix the fan?”  My immediate thought was, “She is mad at me because I said I would fix the fan a week ago and I did nothing.” This was followed by another thought, “She is angry because I never do anything around here.” That thought created the emotion of fear.

The emotion then elicited the following behavior, “NO!” I snapped with a tone that implied “and I dare you to criticize me because if you do I will rain holy terror down upon you till the end of my days.”

You will be relieved to know it went no further than that.   I took a few minutes to calm myself down then went back to Lynn and we discussed when I might get around to fixing the fan (Random disclaimer, I am about as handy around the house as Stephen Hawking during a power outage).

As you can see the story fits the description of the flow chart diagramed above but it just so happens I was in a very bad mood (what are the odds?) that day. Had I been in a good mood I would have had the following thoughts:

“Oops, I started to fix the fan last week but got distracted by a shiny object out on the lawn which turned out to be a nothing but then I looked in our mailbox and the new Gaming Magazine had arrived which had a fascinating article on virtual reality, so I went online to research a thought I had and when I looked up 6 hours had elapsed.”

This thought would be followed by still more thoughts such as, “I am so hard to live with,” and, “Lynn is very patient and understanding”, which would generate feelings of love and gratitude.

My behavior would follow. I would say to Lynn, “No, I didn’t fix the fan. Want me to try and fix it now?”

So what really generated my thought?  As much as I would like to tell you my thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all working together in a coherent fashion, it seems more like my behaviors are the result of a sub-conscious motivational slot machine whose behavioral pay-off is RANDOM! Let’s revisit the fan incident, this time more accurately diagraming the motivational process:

LYNN: “Tim, did you have a chance to fix the fan?”





Me:   “Ha ha ha, I’m such a space cadet. No, want me to do it now?”

Or, depending on my mood……

LYNN: “Tim, did you have a chance to fix the fan?”






ME: “NO! Got a problem with that?!!?”

Sure, sure, we know I’m bipolar and all but consider this final story and decide for yourself if maybe some of your motivations are not as consciously driven as you might hope.

While on summer vacation my Mom and I got into a donnybrook of a fight; a knockdown, drag him out, no holds barred, heavyweight brawl. This was a matchup between two seasoned veterans.  In one corner the reigning heavyweight champ, my mom – weighing in at 105 pounds with a mood, on a good day, best described as unstable. She works behind the peek-a-boo defense of “I am a victim” and if you let your guard down she will come right over the top with a guilt laden tirade guaranteed to fell even the toughest of fighters. (I love you, Mom! Nothing personal).

In the other corner, the number one ranked contender – weighing in at (cough, cough) 175 lbs. and working behind a dizzying defense of arrogance and ignorance; he utilizes speed, cynicism, sarcasm and a blatant disregard for the rules. When backed into a corner you can expect an endless rein of low blows culminating in a kitchen sink attack designed to make you question reality itself.

So there we are, my mom and I, going at it hammer and tongs and my mom has lost it. She is angry, HURT and threatening to pack up her things and move to my sister’s cabin. But it just so happens that we have a Safar ride scheduled with the whole family so we are forced to put the fight on hold, pretend we are fine and pile into the car and go off on Safari (In Ohio no less).

We drive through the Safari which turns out to be a great time. On the Safari, a host of huge animals surrounded our car, stuck their heads through the open windows and tried to wrestle the food cups right out of our hands! It was hilarious (and not my car). There was LOTS of laughing and a good time had by all (except the animals who are stuck living their lives in a pen in Ohio).

We return home and my mom is in a GREAT MOOD! The endless laughing during the Safari has triggered a body state and mood that has completely reconditioned her. She has forgotten her hurt feelings and there is no more talk of leaving. The rest of the week goes off without a hitch.

Problem Solved.

In reality it would seem our behavior  comes from a cacophony of subconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, moods, random conditioning, distorted memories and a never ending craving for drama and pop tarts (maybe that last one is just me).

So before you open your mouth and express your thoughts and feelings on a subject, be sure you take a few minutes to consider the true source of your motivation or you might end up in an argument that has about as much meaning as voting (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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The Moral Animal

A few quotes to wrap your head around this morning.  These are from one of my favorite books, Moral Animal, by Robert Wright

“We live in cities and suburbs and watch TV and drink beer, all the while being pushed and pulled by feelings designed to propagate our genes in a small hunter-gatherer population.”

“Morality is the device of an animal of exceptional cognitive complexity, pursuing interests in an exceptionally complex social system”

“The human conscience can be viewed as the administrator of a savings account in which moral reputation is stored.  Making judgments about resource allocation is what the human conscience is designed to do.”

“We are potentially moral animals – which is more than any other animal can say – but we aren’t naturally moral animals.  To be moral animals, we must realize how thoroughly we are not.”

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Blog Talk Radio – Temperment Theory and Practice

This week at 12 noon PST we (me, myself and I) discuss temperament theory.  Tune in and find out about an amazing 30 year longitudinal study that proves once and for all your relationship issues ARE NOT PERSONAL!  They are mechanical.

Or just tune in and take a quick power nap under your desk.  Either way is cool because I just need the ratings.

Blog Talk RADIO


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Lawn Darts

Good Day to you all.  It gives me great pleasure to write today’s column.  That’s right, you heard me correctly.  Today’s column is about pleasure.  I am actually happy because Mother Nature has helped me prove a point.  And the point is that judgments, social perceptions and “doing the right thing” are all fabrications of the human race and nothing more.  There is no such thing as “right” or “ethical” behavior and there certainly isn’t something called “personal integrity”.  It’s all about personality + environment…period.

Let me explain.  Right now Northern California, where I live, is experiencing a drought and there is talk of rationing water.   Along with the drought there has come a strong push within the community to preserve water.  It’s all the rage now to talk about the different ways in which you personally are conserving water at home (I’ve decided to drink nothing but scotch to do my part).

Amidst these conversations you can see people succumbing to the power of public approval.  On a daily basis you can witness an individual lie about how much they are doing to conserve water.  A lie to gain social approval costs you next to nothing and in most cases you will never be discovered.

For example, my wife, whenever it rains, takes every bucket, trash can, cereal bowl and shot glass in the house and puts them all out in the yard. This allows her to collect rainwater, store it, then use it to water her plants, thus saving gallons of water so the state of California can continue to keep all those golf courses in Pam Springs green (FYI – Palm Springs is a desert!).  As part of my ongoing secret social experiments, I like to tell this story  to gauge reactions of neighbors, friends (I could have friends) and so forth.  When I tell this story to people, EVERY SINGLE PERSON says, “That’s a great idea, I’m going to do that next time it rains.”  Right.  And from this day forward I am swearing off Pop-tarts, Doritos and taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Anyhow, this is where the pleasure part comes in.  Another social norm I find silly is the judgment placed on the condition and quality of your front lawn. In my town a full, lush, weed-free green lawn is a status symbol that speaks volumes about your work ethic, conscientiousness and net worth.   My front lawn has weeds, dead spots and a smattering of doggie landmines from inconsiderate dog walkers that I refuse to pick up.  But that’s ok, because now that the drought is upon us, Lynn and I have decided it is best for the planet to let the lawn die so as to conserve water.

Well, here we go now.  Do you see what’s coming down the pike?  Do you see how, without lifting a finger, I am going to go from being a lazy, low conscientious home owner with low community status to a PIONEERING  CONSERVATIONIST who cares more about the planet than about the judgments of his neighbors.  ALL WITHOUT LIFTING A FINGER.

Oh be still my beating heart.  And it gets even better.  Not only do I now become a champion for the planet and someone of deep moral character, but these hard working home owners who toil endlessly to keep their yards looking good are now SELFISH, SELF-CENTERED, SHALLOW PARASITES leaching off the natural resources of our planet.  Sweet.

So there you go.  A little drought and suddenly the lazy, low character peeps are walking tall and looking good while the hard working industrious types are branded with a Scarlett Letter A on their front lawn.

Who knows, if the drought gets severe enough the government might insist people stop working and stay in bed to limit their bodies need for water.  Here I thought I was lazy and a slacker but it turns out, after all these years, I was a visionary.

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Blog Talk Radio

It must be Monday.  Today at noon PST.

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The Tape Worm Technique

Remember back in elementary school there was the urban myth about getting a tapeworm in your stomach.  The tapeworm would eat all the food in your stomach and this would cause you to lose weight and die no matter how much you ate.  The solution, so the myth went, was to stop eating for a few days and this would force the tapeworm to become really hungry.  It would become so hungry that you could then hold a piece of food in front of your mouth and the tape worm would come all the way up from your stomach and out your mouth to get the food and it was right at that moment  you could grab it and yank it out.

In life, there can come a time when our situation has become so entrenched we must enact the Tape Worm Technique. Because, every fear you ignore and bury, like the tape worm, steals your nourishment and diminishes your capacity for happiness.

Here is an example from my life.   For the last 5 years or so I had a strong desire to do my own speaking.  I wanted to get paid to speak to audiences about the stuff I thought was important but my part-time consulting job occupied most of my thoughts and all of my energy.  I kept telling myself I would get around to speaking but for various reasons I kept putting it off.  Then, in November, I was “let go” by my long time business partner.  Once the consulting gig was taken away two motivational factors leapt to the forefront of my conscious brain.

  1. The immediate need to make money.
  2. Fear.  As I began to try and sell my own work I noticed how much fear I had been holding.  I was afraid my ideas were laughable or that I was somehow deficient.  This was the real basis of my troubles

Without the motivation created by condition number 1, I never would have had enough energy or motivation to challenge condition number 2.  I only did so because I was now starving.

I was afraid, deep down, that I was not good enough.  Furthermore, I had trapped myself in a job that was providing me money while at the same time keeping me from having to face my fears.  But the cost was expensive because it was also making me miserable and over time my body began to tell me this.  How did it do this?  By making me feel depressed.  I got sad.  But did I pay attention to this feeling?  Noooooo.  In fact, I started writing this blog several years ago because I needed to vent the dark emotions building up in me.   I had to do something because:

  1. – my environment was making me sad


2. – I was afraid to quit and move on.

And that is why I got a lot of emails telling me my blog was dark and depressing because I was living in that space.  The blog acted like a substitute for an antidepressant.  Since I was too scared to change my environment and the environment was causing the dark emotions to keep churning, I needed a vehicle to either suppress the emotions (antidepressant) or vent the negative emotions. So if you are depressed and want to save money on your prescriptions stop blaming yourself and read on.

We cannot will ourselves through behavior changes and motivational issues.  Willpower is a limited resource and an expensive brain function.  When times are tough it’s the first thing thrown overboard.  But more than that, we can’t even see the fear that is holding us back.  The brain prefers to bury our fears deep in our unconscious, especially if those fears are going to prevent us from achieving our short term objectives. Once the fears are buried, the brain must now continue to divert resources to keep that fear under wraps.

Remember, we are still operating with a caveman brain.  Any action or thought that doesn’t help us out IMMEDIATELY is pushed aside and buried because the brain is operating on a day-to-day, strictly need-to-know, survival criteria.

Think about PTSD as an example.  People that experience traumatic events have to bury the intense fear in the moment so they can focus on behaviors that will help them survive the traumatic event as its happening.  But later, that fear is too great and it breaks through the subconscious to the surface.  We all suffer from PTSD in some capacity; it’s only a question of degrees.

But our motivation to face those fears is conflicted.  It’s easier and safer in the short term to push those fears back down and because we do this ever so gradually over a long time we don’t realize how much of our vitality  is being stolen from us.

I am happy to say I have given 4 speaking gigs in the last month that were well received and have led to more business!  More importantly, I can SEE now  the fear that was holding me back and robbing me of energy.  This is the key point.  Until you see the fear holding you back you have no chance of confronting it.  I was able to have this breakthrough not because I had exceptional character, integrity or courage but because my environment forced me to do it.   I got canned and had no choice (for the record I would have canned me too)!

The main bullet point here is that it was my environment more than anything that was causing most of my problems. Sometimes,  it’s just time to quit the job, leave your marriage, sell your kids, burn your house to the ground or  do whatever you need to do to force yourself to MOVE FORWARD.

“Sometimes, Joel, you have to say, ‘What the heck!?’”

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Nomothetic View

Eventually I will write again but as you can see I have been having fun experimenting with video and now podcasts.  This is the problem with an overly creative, experimental mind, we are never able to leave well enough alone.  So you will have to suffer through yet another week of radio,

This week tune in to learn about the Nomothetic view of humans…it is guaranteed to blow your mind

I’m broadcasting live on the air at noon pacific time or 11 am if you forgot to turn your clocks ahead.


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