or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Work

(as originally published in inc. magazine)

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I recently received an invitation to deliver a speech to a conference full of young adults. The topic: ‘Preparing for Professional Life’.

This struck me as patently vague, but interesting and in my wheelhouse, considering some of my recent work on career management.

I hopped on the horn with the event planner to see if she might help me tighten up my slippery grip on the topic.

“Happily.” She said. “Specifically, we’re looking for someone to give them a point of view as to what matters most… as they prepare for professional life.”

Me…


On humility and perspective in politics

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“Hey Bechtel… For someone who writes a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, how come you don’t write a lot of stuff about politics?”
~Imaginary Frenemy

“Good question, Imaginary Frenemy, glad you asked.”
~Me with a beer on a Friday night

(There’s a lot more that can go wrong than right with this kind of piece, so for starters, I want to thank you in advance for your grace and good faith.)

The single most impactful thing I’ve read all year was a blog series full of profanity-wielding stick figures called “The Story of Us”, by Tim Urban…


In 1997, I lived in a basement flat in Bayswater, West London, England. Broke as a joke, I spent what little walking-around-money I had on blooms ‘n baubles for this young lady I’d met who’d eventually become my bride. Sticking to a diet of (mostly) baguettes and canned pasta sauce, I’d lose 15 pounds. My friends Steve, Jason, Kevin, and Hans came to visit, and between my atrophy and my Dutch Boy haircut, they agreed I looked like the illegitimate son of David Spade.

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When I wasn’t in class, or courting Barbara Ann, or drinking my way across London with…


In defense of the greatest American artwork of the 21st century

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Hamilton is now available for home viewing.

(Which, if that were the end of my post, would get about 43 of you “already in the echo chamber” to click like or love, and that would be that.)

I’m writing this instead to friends who have told me they’re uninterested in Hamilton because they:

  1. Don’t like rap
  2. Aren’t a history buff
  3. Can’t understand why the actors are people of color
  4. Won’t understand what’s happening because the words are “too fast”
  5. Don’t want to have to “learn” stuff while being entertained

To each objection I’d say:

  1. I’m not a hip-hop head, but…

Field Notes from the Future, Vol. II

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Tuesday, August 19th, 2030-Something

Annabelle’s curiosity is turned up to 11.

A Level 3 customer advocate, her watch has tapped her with an offer to help a “Mr. Kaiser” solve a particularly puzzling problem with his espresso machine. The projected difficulty rating (and associated payment) is an “8”; A reasonable investment of her time on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday afternoon.

She accepts.

As an L3, Annabelle tends to see a lot of interesting work routed her way. Her teammates Mark and Taylor, Level 1 and 2 respectively, typically solve a good 90% of customers’ issues, meaning Belle primarily gets her…


Putting a name to a part of me

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Photo Credit: Cheryl M. Photography

Tuesday April 25th, 2006. 2 AM — Home, Plainfield IL.

I’m a newly minted 29-year-old dad, rocking my one-month-old son Brady back to sleep after feeding him a bottle.

It’s dim. Pitch black defeated only by the classic Winnie the Pooh nightlight stuck into an outlet on my right. Matching Pooh Bear table lamp dimmed to that barely-there dreamsicle orange that today’s LED’s still can’t quite nail. Brady has slipped into a food coma and all is right in the world.

Until it isn’t.

I catch a glimpse, to the left, of what looks to be an electrical spark under the window. Competing parental instincts find me torn between jumping…


Field Notes from the Future, Vol. I

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Wednesday, September 25th, 2030-Something

All packed up and en route to this year’s healthcare conference. Glad for the chance to share laughs and break bread with the team. Randy, in particular, is a riot every time we go to Vegas. “Chief Energizing Officer” indeed.

I remember a time, oh, 10–15 years ago, when folks were lamenting “the end of travel”, which, in retrospect, was (thankfully) a bucket full of overreaction. Looking back, I suppose what we were actually starting to see was the death of a particularly irritating subset of travel we used to call “commuting”.

Remember Commuting? Ugh. The…


That time I was defeated by a pink rubber band

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March 30th, 2019.

I’m at Play it Again Sports flanked by a bevy of literal soccer moms.

It’s a scrum. We’re all buying used shoes for our kids’ upcoming seasons. Annabelle had requested “cute” shoes. “With purple”. Supply and demand says she’ll get what she gets: Black, with grey (once white) trim, smelling like a balanced bouquet of their previous owners’ socks.

$13 later, having awarded myself “frugal father of the year”, I’m wandering the store, hunting for treasure. Used golf clubs? Meh. Skateboards? Nah.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a fluorescent rainbow of 4 feet…


An essential style guide for professionals who are new to working from home

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One of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau, said “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

Like Henry, I’m typically the kind to be more concerned about one’s inner stylings than their sartorial splendor. That said, my 20+ year career has taught me that “professional dress” is less about individual exceptionalism and more about minimizing distraction.

And so it goes with “Digital Dress”. The gear we bring to bear in our remote setup doesn’t need to be “amazeballs”, but rather “professional enough” to allow everyone to get down to business.

Style…


A testimonial to James Kowalsky on the occasion of his being named Illinois Charter School Teacher of the Year

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James Kowalsky, of Southland College Preparatory High School wins Illinois Charter School Teacher of the Year.

I met Mr. Kowalsky in August of 1990.

I was entering 9th grade and he was my high school soccer coach.

The first thing that struck me as a 13yr old: He was so much… fun? He had this floppy, dancy, joy of life out there on the practice field. My soccer coaches before (and after) Kowah (As the seniors called him) were all about making us run laps and hollering at us. Coach Kowalsky was out there doing these George Bush SNL impressions and cracking us all up. …

Mike Bechtel

I’m an inventor, professor, and futurist. I try to make sense of “all things newfangled”. Medium writings and opinions my own.

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