Research Publications Newsletters Above the Fold Above the Fold - 9 June 2016

Everything you need to know...fits on a catalog card

This is my last scheduled ATF issue prepared on my final day at OCLC. As I moved closer to my retirement date over the last months I've had the chance to say grateful farewells to a lot of people. Earlier in February we had a very nice open house (photos) to celebrate moving in (to our new office space) and moving on (my retirement).  Of course there were some much appreciated, overly-generous remarks and I got to say a few words.

I mentioned that getting ready for retirement was more work than I had imagined. There was no retirement fairy. Rather there was lots of paperwork and planning especially around finances. In doing that work I once again come across the viral phenomenon of a few years ago - the 4x6 index card that has all the financial advice you will ever need. It encouraged quite a few other financial advisers to offer variants. What all these had in common was that they were short, sensible steps that were easy to state and difficult to do consistently.

These index cards also got me thinking about my long, fortunate, and satisfying career. I wondered whether I could fit what I learned on an index card.  In fact, I was able to do it on a catalog card. During the open house somebody asked if they could see my card. I demurred at the time but now I think I'll just share it with all of you.


I stared at this on my plane ride home from OCLC headquarters and thought it might need a little bit of additional gloss. So here’s the annotated version I did during the flight.


A larger image of the original card is here along with the annotated version that glossed the advice. So for what it's worth here's my take on what you should do if you want the best chances of having a satisfying career.

Have mentors/heroes – Even if they don’t know it. Find people to study and emulate.

Presume competence – Give everybody their chance. Let them provide the evidence.

Ask for help – Do it early and often. People appreciate it and don’t blame you.

Listen – You never know who is going to be your teacher.

Own your choices – You should know this by now and you should know it is hard.

Be trustworthy – Responsibility, confidentiality, etc. It’s bilateral. Be this to get this.

Do hard things first – Whatever you think is tough should be the priority. The rest of the day, week, month, year will be better.

Prefer the future – Value change. Be in charge of it.

Have a bias to action – Because nothing changes if nothing changes.

Strive for objectivity - We are bundles of biases. All we can do is strive to be aware.

Don’t fear conflict or reflection – Because change or action will require one or both.

Some things just take time – Be reflective enough to identify them. You can make progress even when you can’t have perfection.

It really is about the people – Treasure the companionship. Hope for friendship. (Corollary: Bad relationships almost always stay bad. Disengage early like an adult.)

The Golden Rule – Skip the rest. You could just have this one. (But remember the bundle of biases we carry.)

Bonus – Work somewhere that has a purpose; don’t work anywhere you can’t laugh.

I'm sure there are unnecessarily-long, padded-out business, self-help, and life-improvement books written about each one of these bits of advice and counsel. My parting gift - you can skip them. And like the financial advice - they are simple to state and difficult to practice. I certainly didn't follow them all the time but they guided the way I wanted to behave.

I can't name all the people who taught me, supported me, worked with me and put up with me. I can thank all of them. I'm very grateful. Best wishes. (Michalko)

P.S. In one of those index card variants on the financial advice, Jane Bryant Quinn led with:

"When you retire you are finally free - but free to do what? Let go of who you were and focus on who you’ll become.


What's next for Above the Fold?

Above The Fold will continue. I’m pleased that my colleagues in OCLC Research are taking it on. At first they plan to make the email newsletter into a monthly occurrence and then ramp up the number of issues once a pattern has been established.  I think readers will continue to enjoy ATF given the smart folks that will be recommending articles and the unique voices they will bring to the commentary. Some long-time readers will remember that we occasionally used the group to produce ATF this way in the past. They covered vacation or other times when I was unable to keep up. You enjoyed their choices and voices then. I’m sure you will once again.