Stepping out of the comfort zone

I’m one that likes to check a map or Google it before I depart to an unknown destination. I also create a list (at minimum a mental list) before I go shopping for groceries. I’ll do some research before making even a modest purchase. You get the drift – I’m a planner. I make excellent decisions after I do the appropriate amount of legwork.

Now let’s transfer that line of thinking into the professional work realm. I assume that sought after skills in an employee would include those attributes mentioned above – someone that makes excellent decisions by way of methodical research. Someone that does not jump the gun and forge ahead without at the very least asking a few questions.

Yet I am finding out that is NOT the case. In today’s super-fast-paced world what is most sought after is that employee with attributes that include quick decision making, the ability to forge ahead with confidence and to run with the ball all the way to the . . . oh, ok . . . the end zone.

Employers must establish a trust level before allowing an employee to make decisions on its behalf in that manner. Even if that employee shows visible signs of stress and discomfort at doing so, beware – one may be asked to be in that position again and again. And what do you know, that employee shines even when out of their comfort zone and is rewarded with even more big decisions to make on behalf of the company!

For me, long gone are the days where you work within your area of trained expertise (the comfort zone). I am asked time and time again to do these things, so the trust is there. But wow, the stress is there, too. I grumble a bit (a lot), and if I step back like I have done today, I see that I am actually being trusted with responsbility that others are not. I also see that rewards are tangible via the accomplished feeling I obtain and that I’m actually growing as a person by being pushed.

Now, back to my list.

Time for an update?

It most certainly is. I have been away from the blog for awhile but after stumbling across some of my old posts and enjoying what I read, I decided to come back and see how this feels.

30 Years! Our high school class of 1982 president sent a message recently asking for input on how we wanted to handle a reunion. My goodness – 30 years. As my mom and I agreed, the mind does not age but the body fools us when we look in the mirror and don’t see that person we knew from back then.

Milestones: Laura’s daughter Kayla is graduating from Butler University this month. I remember the feeling of having the world in front of me, having all options open to me – and it was overwhelming. Kayla has the smarts, contacts and experience to handle what’s in front of her and I’m looking forward to helping in any way I can.

New friends: Facebook is a huge time waster, but I have recently found a group of fellow diabetes insipidus buddies that makes my visits to Facebook leaving me feeling like that time spent is more productive. What a wealth of information! Connecting with those that have many of the same experiences has been comforting. It’s also a place where I can contribute my knowledge and hopefully help others gain some understanding.

Marty with his JackBacks iPhone back.

Technology geek: Not a high-tech gadget, but combining wood with the glass and aluminum that makes up my iPhone has proven to be just the individual piece of flair I was looking for. I found JackBacks, “real wood iPhone accessories,” and ordered the Amber Bamboo wooden back. I like it. My goal was to get rid of the cover I was using, even though it was pretty minimal, to better show off the design of the phone while throwing some of my personality at it. I think I nailed it!

Finances: Always on my mind. I like to think I’m in a little better control and see some positives very soon. My hope is that I mellow out on the whole money thing but I don’t think I’m wired that way. Somebody, give me something else to worry about!

Health: I see my doctor at least four times per year and I’d like to cut that back to twice a year. To do that, I need to get back on the healthy side by exercising and eating properly. Sounds so easy, right!?

Square Credit Card Terminal for iPhone

Square Card Reader
Square Card Reader for iPhone

After a few weeks of anticipation I received my Square card reader in the mail yesterday. For a gadget freak this makes for a great day. What is Square? It’s a company, an app, and a hardware device all in one that sheds the traditional expenses and complications of acquiring and using a credit card terminal for the ease and simplicity of downloading a free app and accepting credit card payments via your iPhone.

No, this is not for everyone although I see immediate benefits for those that have the opportunity to sell their products and services but not the means to take credit card payments. Have a booth at at art fair? Collecting money from parents for kid’s soccer, baseball or football uniforms? Collecting donations? This is a super easy way to do so. Enter the amount to collect, add a note, optionally take a photo of the item, swipe the card and send an email receipt to the customer. Your money is deposited into the account of your choice weekly.

You do have to watch the expenses though. First of all, consider you may not have made that sale in the first place if you did not have the ability to collect via credit card. Then, realize 2.75% + 15 cents per transaction will be removed by Square before deposits are made. (If you collect more than $1,000 other conditions apply.)

I’m open for business and now accepting credit card payments with my Square device – anybody care to make a donation? Check it out at

Furnace Fix Update – Draft Inducer Motor Replaced

As a follow up to my previous post regarding fixing my furnace, the draft inducer motor part arrived quickly, but I waited a few days since the weather was hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit when it arrived. And, I didn’t want to risk a screw up and possibly living without heat for a night.

Since it was 55 degrees out on Saturday, I took care of the replacement. Pretty simple, the only scary part was the thought of losing one of the sheet metal screws into the depths of the furnace. Here’s a photo of the final result (note the new style cooling fan).

Draft-Inducer-Motor-New Motor-Package

Draft Inducer Motor Money-Saving Furnace Fix

FYI see the update to this post here. The gas furnace in my house is only 7 years old. A couple weeks ago, it started singing to me. Normally a baritone, the furnace decided to expand into the tenor vocal range. Then a certain pain was evident in its song until I finally translated it as “help me . . . help me . . . help me.”

Sure, I could call the number on the side of the furnace and get charged for premium weekend service, but I decided to dive right in and see if I could fix this myself. After all, how hard could it be? I have the internet plus an awesome set of tools.

I started by simply removing the access panel and observing and listening. From there, I found several different manuals available for download via the web and pinned the noise down to the draft inducer motor. Apparently somewhat common, the sealed bearings were worn, causing the shaft to bind and cause the noisy squealing.

I called my friend Steve, who dropped by and we pulled the motor and put a temporary fix in place. We unsealed the bearings, cleaned them, and re-packed them with lithium grease and reassembled. Lo and behold, no more noise! I found the part online for less than $100 and will replace it when it arrives.

I can imagine a service call would have resulted in one charge, then the part would have been ordered and the next service call to install the new motor likely would have totaled over $500. draft inducer motor

The draft inducer motor is just behind the plastic cooling fan above.

draft inducer motor2

The part that is to be replaced is the motor (the black part) Carrier part number 318984-753.
I found it online at Shortys HVAC Supplies.

Calculate Your Comeback

investmentIf your portfolio losses look like this, then check out the Comeback Calculator courtesy of the New York Times. It’s not as bleak as it may seem, and history is certainly on your side. Stay the course with your asset allocation based on your age, projected age of retirement and risk tolerance and continue to fund your IRA, 401K or other retirement portfolio and hold tight.

Oh, and please seek the advice of your investment counselor before making any sudden or substantial money moves.

My Water Filter Quest Quenched

I have one of those Brita water pitchers in my fridge that requires a filter change at a recommended 2 month interval. I really like the fresh-tasting water and having it readily available encourages me to drink more. But, I tend to procrastinate when I have extinguished my supply of water filters, so the last filter has been stretched to last about 6 months (with no ill effects – that I know of).

Why do I procrastinate? Those water filters are expensive! Think of replacement ink jet cartridge expensive – you’ve purchased an inexpensive appliance but in order to continue to use it you are required to purchase costly consumables. So, you’re stuck.

Alas, in the same vein as my earlier post about finding a great deal on a magazine subscription, I found a great price on replacement filters by doing some research on the web. I found an eBay store and clicked on “buy it now” to save more than 50% off the retail price I was finding at popular discount big-box stores. The purchase arrived quickly and safely, and the filters are great. Cheers!

A Positive Customer Service Experience with AT&T

Since all we see are complaints, I thought I’d provide a little balance by sharing something positive. My AT&T mobile phone bill has consistently been predictable, landing somewhere around $89. This morning I received the emailed “you have a new bill” notice and opened it to find a $9.99 charge from “m-Qube Inc.” What? A quick Google search resulted in many entries showing unauthorized charges and complaints against this company. So I immediately knew this was not an isolated case.

I called the number in the “merchant contact” column on my bill next to this entry which turned out to be AT&T customer service. I explained I had an unauthorized charge on my bill. Very quickly, the agent let me know the charge would be credited, would not return (since it turned out it was a “subscription”), and the agent even added a feature to my account at no cost that requires a PIN be entered to approve any text-message based charges. Nice! The charge has been wiped out, not to return. This took about 2 minutes of my day this morning, less time than it took to write this post!

A Rebate For More Than Purchase Price

I just filled out and submitted at rebate form for a 4GB compact flash card I purchased. Do the math:

  • Purchase price including shipping was $69.84.
  • The rebate is $70.
  • Final price is -.16.

How does that work? Does the company “make it up in volume?” Are they trying to get rid of old stock? Is the card used or defective or “gray market?” I purchased the card since I needed more capacity in my digital camera (sample photo at right pulled from the new card – so it works fine).

All businesses need to make a profit to stay in business and while I’ll take the rebate, I don’t understand this offer.

Magazine Subscriptions – Renewed AutoWeek Today

AutoWeek has been reminding me for the last several months that my magazine subscription is about to expire. I’ve been a long-time customer of theirs and fully planned on renewing my subscription. After three or four mailings requesting my renewal and two issues exclaiming “this is your last issue” via a cover wrap I decided to do something. 

My normal course of action is to do some research first before paying the full price that is initially offered. First step was to pull up my account via and see if there was a renewal deal. Nope. Still $29.99 per year. I do think that’s a good value for 52 issues so I’d be willing to pay that . . . but searching and finding a better price via the Internet gives me some great sense of accomplishment. Not that I want to “stick it” to AutoWeek (I don’t), it’s really just fun to hunt down that cheaper price and then swoop in for the kill. (Hunting instinct carried out on the web?)

It’s my form of shopping, checking things out before I lay down the cash. So, after 5 minutes of Google searches, what did I pay for a year’s subscription? $9.32! Woo Hoo! If you like to hunt down deals like I do, a Google search is all it takes to save you some dough. By the way, I found this deal at For whatever reason, if you go directly to their website and search for AutoWeek, you don’t get the special pricing. But when you search via Google you get a special link that includes the coupon code. Enjoy your hunt!