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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Recommendation - "Lawn Boy"

In the article, "Good Night Moon" and the Interview, I talked about the importance of reading to and with our kids.  While driving out to my son's school with him and his mother we were treated to an impromptu verbal book report.  The book was "Lawn Boy" and he launched into an impassioned description of the book. My first thought was that we would not have had this discussion if we had let him bring his PSP with him in the car. My second thought was, "That is an awesome book!  I am going to have to read it as well."

So, that night after the kids were in bed, I plopped down on the couch with the 88 page elementary school book and dove in.  45 minutes later I  not only confirmed my earlier opinion that this was a good educational book for pre-teens but also found that I had enjoyed the story myself.

The story begins with what may possibly be the best birthday present ever given to a 12 year old, a riding lawn mower.  Our protagonist starts it up and begins mowing his own family's lawn only to have the next door neighbor lean over the fence and ask him how much he charges for lawns.  Thus begins his lawn mowing business.  I liked that his lawn mowing job arose while he was working rather than sitting on the couch.  While I don't believe in karma, I do think that people working hard and taking some action are more likely  to come across opportunities. A good lesson for the kids.

Throughout the book the author is continuously breaking down the finances from Lawn Boy's various enterprises.  He goes into the math and ideas related to income minus expenses, taxes, commissions, bonuses, etc.  Even if a little of the vocabulary sticks, it will be a benefit.  Confidence in interviews or any discussion of difficult topics comes from familiarity.  Learning some of the terms and concepts now about profit and loss can make it easier to understand them later.  The titles of the chapters are great just by themselves (Chapter 3 - The Law of Increasing Product Demand Versus Flat Production Capacity).

In Chapter 3 our hero meets Arnold, a new lawn client who becomes his partner/stock broker/agent.  Lawn Boy was doing fine on his own and making good money mowing lawns but through partnering with Arnold he was able to expand his business dramatically.  Throughout many books on leadership, it is pointed out that success is very rarely achieved by oneself.  Being able and willing to ask for help is a key to advancement in your kid's career.

Finally, Lawn Boy, who has been afraid to tell his parents about his success all summer comes clean and Mom and Dad surprise him with their understanding and support.  A great message to kids that it is OK to talk with Mom and Dad.  We can be trusted!

My son is 10 and enjoyed the book.  Older kids will have a better grasp of some of the bigger words.  This is also a good book to read with your kids.  The questions that come up while reading will help your kids to understand and retain more of the ideas.

Not all elementary school books have to be about boogers or ponies!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fat kids don't get as many job offers

Studies have shown that employees who are overweight earn less money than their more fit peers.  This difference is larger for women than it is for men.
Surveys of employers consistently find that they prefer "normal" weight applicants rather than those who are overweight.
Other surveys indicated that 10% of personnel managers would not want an overweight employee to meet with a client.  Amazingly, that same 10% believed that it would be OK to fire an employee for being overweight.
50% of those polled through Personnel Today thought that being overweight had a negative affect on productivity.
Unlike gender or race, overweight employees and job applicants are not protected unless they can show a medical connection that may  then be classified as a handicap.
Extrapolating from the percentages coming out of the surveys listed above, I am going to assume that an overweight new grad interviewing for a job will be declined 30% of the time because of their weight.  The common bias towards overweight job applicants is that they lack discipline or are not healthy.  For an employer, possible health issues leading to missed working days and lower productivity will cause them to decline a suspect candidate every time.

As hard as it is for young people (any people?) to find a good job these days, do we want our sons and daughters to deal with yet another obstacle "if" it can be avoided?  Fortunately, we can make a difference and the sooner we start the better.

In Sweden, researchers found that the number of fat cells in our bodies is determined to a large extent during our childhood years.  Fat cells regenerate at a normal rate throughout our lives but as kids, they also multiply (all our cells do when we are young, that is why we get taller). Fat cells growing in our kids now will be with them forever.

We need to be teaching our kids the importance of taking care of their bodies now.  It is not complicated, there are only 3 goals to remember:

  1. Help our kids to develop healthy eating habits.
  2. Help our kids to get into the habit of regular exercise.
  3. Set the right example!

Help our kids to develop healthy eating habits.
The common guidelines for a healthy diet change in small ways all the time as researchers come up with new studies but here is a list of basics for feeding our kids:

  • Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Healthy proteins like lean meat, nuts and eggs
  • Whole grain is better than processed (white flour)
  • Broil, grill or steam foods instead of frying them
  • Less fast food and junk food
  • More water and milk instead of fruit juices and so
Our kids will not eat the broiled salmon and broccoli we made for them while we sit down to enjoy a hamburger and potato chips.  If we want our kids to eat well, WE need to eat well too.  It is essential that this habit be developed early on when we parents still have control over (most of) what goes into their mouths.  Once they hit their teen years and realize they can buy junk with their lunch money it is too late.

Help our kids to get into the habit of regular exercise.
Kids age 2 to 3 will benefit from 90 minutes a day. Motor skills are developing and they have lots of energy at this age range.  Often just giving them enough space to run around will be all you need to do.  If your child is quieter and need some encouragement then get out there with them.  Tag and follow the leader are games your 3 year old will play with you until you fall down.

From age 4 to 18 the recommended minimum is one hour a day. This is only a minimum, more is OK! As our kids start to get older, signing them up for soccer or dance class will not only help to keep them fit but also help them to build social skills.

The ages 13 to 18 are often the most challenging as it is at this age range that the active lifestyles of children turn into the sedentary pace of teens. We can reinforce whichever activity our kids show interest in by participating.  If it is a dance recital then make sure to attend. If baseball, then play catch with them in the back yard. Added bonus! Kids who exercise sleep better and are less stressed.

Set the right example!
If we eat well, our kids will also. If we exercise regularly then so will they.  It does not happen overnight.  Habits take time to form and the only way is to repeat the same activity over and over again.  Exercise together, limit screen time, take active vacations (hiking, swimming, etc). We can start now to take away an unfair hurdle from our kid's future prospects.

Disclaimer: I believe that the candidate's ability to do the job, not weight or appearance, should be how employers make hiring decisions. Unfortunately, the world does not always work that way.