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ISE Columnist Vernon May, OSP & ISP Operations Expert

What’s Wrong With Jim?

Jan. 15, 2021
In the 1890’s, Jim was the best lumberjack in Minnesota, and had been for years. At 32 years old, he was a mountain of man and in his prime. Though […]
ISE Columnist Vernon May, OSP & ISP Operations Expert
ISE Columnist Vernon May, OSP & ISP Operations Expert

In the 1890’s, Jim was the best lumberjack in Minnesota, and had been for years. At 32 years old, he was a mountain of man and in his prime. Though few believed them, rumors were that a blacksmith once used his stomach as an anvil.

Slowly over time, Jim’s production went down. Then, at some point, within a matter of months, he had gone from being the top lumberjack to way below average. Everybody in the company knew about it and several rumors were flying around as to the cause. Finally, the foreman had to pull Jim into his office.

Foreman: "Jim, as you know, you were our best lumberjack for years. Now, if things don’t change, I might have to let you go".

Jim: "I know, and I can’t explain it."

Foreman: "Are you feeling OK?"

Jim: "Never better. I believe I can lift and carry more than I ever have".

Foreman: "Are things OK at home?"

Jim: "They could not be better. We just had another baby, and everyone is doing great."

Foreman: "Has the company done anything to make you angry?"

Jim: "No, I have always been treated fairly here, and I like everybody I work with".

Foreman: "Then, I hate to ask this, but have you been sluffing off? Have you been working as hard as you used to?

Jim: "No, I have not. In fact, I have been working harder than I ever have."

Perplexed, the foreman sat back in his chair and thought for a minute. "Jim, have you sharpened your axe?"

A broad smile broke out on Jim’s face.

Forgive the use of fiction to make a point, but it is a vital point that was re-introduced to me. What happened to Jim can happen to all of us.

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

Dealing With the New Normal

Until March 11th of 2020, field visits with technicians, engineers, and managers, to experience their day-to-day real world has been the engine of my column and my business. The one opportunity I have had since March 11 to work onsite required a 2-week quarantine in a hotel room before I was around the employees. Then another quarantine when I came back because of the restrictions in my state after traveling out of state. Simply put, my old normal is no longer feasible.

Like everybody else, I am making the most of remote communications, and I am more of a fan today than I was at the beginning. Still, I had to do something to change the game.

Though the term has too broad a meaning to argue its use, I have been referred to as an expert since my mid-thirties. I don’t like it because it raises everybody expectations and sometimes beyond what I can really do. However, the worst thing that can happen is when you start to believe that you are an expert — in anything. The temptation is even greater as you get older.

The captain of the RMS Titanic, Captain Smith, was the most experienced captain in the White Star Line. The maiden voyage was to be his victory lap before retirement. A less experienced captain might have slowed down in the ice field with a ship he did not know. Captain Smith, of course, was such an expert that he just plowed ahead. And we all know what happened next.

Making the Most of the Web

For the first time in decades, I have  the time to stop being an expert and can be a student again. It is so much easier now than it was. Though I miss going to the local library, the web puts the entire Library of Congress at our disposal with just a few mouse clicks.

Here are a few things I see now, and some coming soon:
Focused intense training is available online at much lower costs than live training or at no cost at all.
I believe that "near free" college degrees will be available in the next generation.
One could argue that the "degree" mentality is already obsolete.
Implants that increase human performance are less than a decade away.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science will be downloadable in seconds.

A Sharpened Axe

Personally, I have been taking online courses to learn the newer computer programming languages. Almost nobody is using the languages that I know anymore, and the new ones are so much easier. After fighting socket errors for years, Python makes it possible with 4 lines of code to access a web site, and it works on everything I have tried. I was almost brought to tears by that performance.

The standards are also better than before. In an age where the refrigerator and stove must talk to each over the home Wi-Fi, common data transfer protocols must be simple and consistent. Data sent and received in the JSON protocol is so consistently good that if there is a problem, then somebody did not follow the rules.

The best part about being a student again is the joy of learning. It is addictive. No matter how many times I am called an expert again, I will never again let my axe get dull.

[toggle title=”Sharpen the Ax, er, Saw” load=”hide”]With Thanks and Acknowledgements to Dr. Stephen R. Covey

We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.
(Dr. Stephen R. Covey)

In Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit #7 is Sharpen The Saw®. It focuses on productivity. To sharpen the saw, as he defined it, means to preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have – you!

Sharpen the Saw has 4 areas for continuous improvement. Here are some examples of activities in each of these 4 areas:
1. Physical (Body): Exercise, nutrition, stress management, and rest
2. Social / Emotional (Heart): Making social and meaningful connections with others (key relationships)
3. Mental: Learning, reading, writing, study, and teaching
4. Spiritual: Service; values clarification; inspirational literature, music, arts; spending time in nature

Seek continuous improvement and renewal professional and personally. Renewal is the principle – and the process – that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.

As you renew yourself in each of the 4 areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other 6 habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you.

For more information, visit

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Got Ideas?
As always, we are looking column ideas. Don’t be shy about the chance to be published in an international magazine. All submissions are treated seriously. For more information, and to send me your ideas, contact me via email: [email protected], visit, and follow me on Twitter @Vernonmay13.

About the Author

Vernon May

Vernon May is the Chief Technologist and Founder of Vernon May Solutions. He is an expert in OSP and ISP Operations, and focuses on new technology introduction, from marketing and sales to design enhancement to training to product approval. Along with writing a column for ISE magazine, he also hosts seminars available throughout the country.

For more information, call Vernon at 1.319.238.0285, email: [email protected], visit, and follow him on Twitter @Vernonmay13.