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Sunday musings 10/19/14

Sunday musings…

1) Inconvenience. “Inconvenience is only adventure wrongly considered.” C.K. Chesterton (1908).

I’m gonna chew on this and visit it next week. This is really good.

2) Wedding. It’s wedding season 2.0 for Clan bingo. Our progeny and their friends are in full wedding mode. We seem to be on the 2/month plan.

v2.0 is quite a little pricier than v1.0.

3) Patent. Jonas Salk would be 100 this weekend.

With all of the hysteria about Ebola it’s worth noting that literally hundreds of thousands of children were either killed or crippled every single year in the U.S. from Polio before the Salk vaccine was developed and widely disseminated. >300,000 children were killed by Smallpox each year. Last year some 56,000 Americans died from the Flu. Every single one of these has been, or could be avoided through the use of a vaccine. All of them trace back in some way to Salk.
When asked who owned the patent on his vaccine Salk was said to have answered thusly: “Well, I guess the people, I would say. There is no patent.

Could you patent the sun?”

3) Short sale. Lots of meanings for this, especially with the whole real estate bust thing. Kinda scary words at any time, but all the more frightening when we hear that the big gov-backed mortgage giants will once again loosen their lending standards, arguably the initial step that built up our housing bubble in the first place.

As usual, though, the obvious leap is not the one I’m interested in today. The more frightening short sale is one in which you sell YOURSELF short. Settle for something that is not good for you, or not really good enough, because you think what you have is somehow all you deserve. That’s terrifying, and I’m calling you out, right now.

Why are you still in that job that makes you shudder at the very thought of waking up on a work day? That boyfriend or girlfriend who is always dragging you down, telling you you’re not good enough without them, or holding you back because they can’t handle your success? Tell me, why are they still in the picture? Seriously, you’re gonna have to help me out on this one because I just don’t get those kinds of decisions. Defaulting to the status quo only makes sense when the status quo is pretty darned good.

This is not about selling yourself, this is about assigning worth. I’ve talked a bit about this before but I was reminded of it this weekend when I met a young woman who can reasonably be described as “the whole package”, and yet she seems to have tied herself to someone who wishes to hold her back, just as the anchor holds the speed boat at bay. She is selling herself short into what should be a booming market for who she is and could be. She, you, all of us are worth so much more.

Don’t sell yourself short.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings 10/12/14

In life, as in baseball, there is a complete canon of unwritten rules. Call them The Human Contract. It exists for all but those who live their lives entirely alone. Quite different from the so-called “Social Contract” in which government attempts to provide for the less fortunate among its citizens, The Human Contract at its core allows for a smooth set of interactions among humans within a defined space. It bends and stretches depending on when and where it is applied, but it is ever-present wherever  one finds more than one human being.

A very funny comedian brought it up on morning drive-time radio in the context of what is–and isn’t–OK to do while on a commercial flight. Taking off your shoes and socks and putting your feet on the seat back in front of you, or eating a tuna sandwich were a couple of his examples of humans breaking their contract. Many of you who have befriended me travel for a living and I thought of you.

Most of these unwritten rules are, you know, unwritten because they constitute something which approaches the intersection between common sense and common courtesy. Like, don’t floss your teeth in the van after you made all of your travel mates late waiting for you anyway. The comedian was way funnier about it, but you get the picture.

Reading the comments for yesterday’s CrossFit.com WOD I was reminded of the Human Contract and how it, like politics, is local, derived in, and particular to, a specific place. 9 years ago I lurked there for 3 or 4 months before I posted anything so that I could get a sense for the local customs. Learn the unwritten rules as it were. Some of them are universal. Do your homework. Know what you are talking about before you start talking. Expect to support your statements with something more than “I think” or “I feel”. Be polite; tone is as important as content. None of that has changed in the years since 2005. Every other space has equally well-defined “rules of the road”, and it is equally important that one spend the time necessary to learn them.

The preamble for The Human Contract if it were ever to be actually written would doubtless begin with something along the lines of “That which unites us far exceeds anything that may divide us.” This is most certainly true in the CrossFit world, both in your local Affiliate communities and in the Cyber-gym, and it is equally true for every airline passenger.

It behooves you to do a bit of research on the local version of The Human Contract before you make your entrance, too.

On Football

Randy texted me about the exciting finish to the ND/Stanford NCAA football game. It made me smile. Not the result, not even the topic, but the excitement. A parent is only as happy as his least happy kid, and at that moment one of my kids was very happy. Randy’s football playing days are long behind him, but the game still brings him joy.

Me? Not so much.

Oh sure, there was a time when football never seemed to be any lower on my list of wonderful things than 2 or 3. I was a medium-sized fish in a puddle as a high school football player, but I didn’t have the game out of my system when I graduated. Accepted at one Ivy League school and waitlisted at another, I turned down both because I was too small to have any chance of playing football at that level. Instead I went to a very old, very small school and played a bit all 4 years. Now done as a player I was nonetheless still enthralled by all other things football.

Many of my closest friends were met on the freshly cut football fields of my youth. Wins and losses followed on those fields, most of which I’ve long forgotten. Indeed, I’ve written before that it is only the losses I remember, especially those that resulted from some personal failure in a game. A fumble, perhaps, or a blown coverage. And yet there is no escaping the fact that those countless hours at practice, in the locker room, and on the field are in large part responsible for who I am, the adult I’ve become.

It’s a powerful thing, football. Families rally around a favorite team. Lifetime friendships are renewed and strengthened through shared fanhood. Annual calendars are set only after the team’s home schedule is published. The game itself is exhilarating to both play and watch. At least, it was. I find myself finding all kinds of reasons not to watch football games now. Not consciously finding “big picture” reasons like domestic violence or performance-enhancing drugs so much as tiny reasons, like Beth wants me to tag along to the barn, or Abbie the world’s smartest (and most easily bored) dog would like an adventure kind of reasons. Football of all sorts played at any and all levels has sunken to a kind of triviality, easily trumped by a trip to the grocery store.

No one thing is responsible for this falling out of love, as it were. This fall is different from the last, and the one before only in that it is now glaringly obvious that football holds for me no essential attraction by itself. Looking back my only surprise is that it took me so long. Why didn’t I begin to turn away as my friend the ER doc buzzed through Dan’s shoulder pads with a saw in order to get him into the MRI? Or when I walked onto the field after Randy knocked himself out cold with a helmut-to helmut tackle to force a fourth down, his first concussion? I was still young, still sure that the game would bring my sons what I thought it had brought me.

I see them now, both of my boys, face down and immobile, and I shudder. I started to see them each time I saw a player go down in high school, or college, or the pros. I began to see that I valued those young men nearly as much as my own boys, and I started to notice that the game of football had become The Game. Those entrusted with The Game did not–do not–appear to share my feelings about the players.

The junior high coach carries the star running back to the bench, there to wrap the sprained ankle in the hope of returning him to the game. Junior High! In a high school freshman game, a rout, the first string defense is still on the field in the fourth quarter, the opportunity to play in a game slipping away for kids on the bench who may never get another chance, when the starting safety goes down with a severed spine on a play he should have been watching from the sideline. What was the first string learning at that point in that freshman game? Alumni and athletic directors and coaches at colleges noted for academic excellence openly opine that they cannot win without lowering the admission standards for football players, and just as openly run those kids off the team and out of their scholarships when they are no longer needed to win. The game in the NFL becomes more violent by the week, with ever more gratuitous violence magnifying the carnage wreaked upon the bodies of the players. Ex-pros roam the earth as a kind of walking dead.

When did football become The Game? When did the keepers of the game become keepers of The Game? When did football players as young as high school become little more than a modern stand-in for gladiators thrown into the arena for the amusement of the many and the benefit of a tiny protected few? I’d like to think that there was such a time, an inflection point when it did change, but I fear it has been ever thus. If that is so then I, too, bear some responsibility for what The Game has become. I did not turn away, or turn my own sons away, at the time of my own dawning awareness that The Game and its keepers cared naught for our sons at all, but only for themselves and their respective place and privilege. The ends (get a bigger coaching gig, fill the coffers of alma mater, protect the TV ratings) justify ever more distasteful means (alter transcripts, bury criminal behavior, obfuscate and evade when asking for public funds).

There was a time when my own playing days were long over when I still found myself on edge as the weather chilled and the smell of cut grass filled the autumn air. It was time to get ready to play football. Those days are in my distant past, and I find that I no longer even think about watching, indeed can no longer see myself watching, except as a vehicle with which I can channel the joy of a child who loves football. This may answer “why?”: I can no longer watch a game whose keepers have lost sight of the fact that someone’s child plays in The Game.

One wonders about the parents of gladiators past, when and why they stopped watching their version of The Game.

 

Sunday Musings 9/28/14

Sunday musings…

1) Happystance. Pleasant coincidence. Should be a word.

2) Hanlon’s Razor. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

3) Jeter. Honor and dignity. Class. A winner above all. Pick your superlative, really.

For me it’s a toss-up as to whether Derek Jeter is the most significant professional athlete of our time or the least. How could that possibly be, you ask? Jeter is the antithesis of the drug-infested, narcissistic culture of the privileged professional, a throwback to the time of Stan Musial, or maybe more accurately Joe DiMaggio. By offering us such a stark contrast to so very many of his contemporaries Jeter is the most significant pro to grace our screens for the last 20 years.

The fact that so few other professional athletes in any sport have followed his lead, and that we as a viewing public have needed such epic examples of bad behavior (and so many!) before we either noticed the behavior, or for that matter Jeter, renders The Captain but a footnote in the arena of Sport as Civic Religion.

Which in the end says much more about us than it does about Derek Jeter.

4) Patriotism. If you are not a CrossFitter you might wonder why one would take about patriotism, or being a patriot today. Makes sense to all of us, though. We meet a new CrossFit “Hero” today, a perfect time to think about patriotism.

The simplest and most accurate definition of a patriot is one who loves, supports, and defends his/her country. Full stop. Patriotism of this sort is quite different from the false patriotism manufactured by, say, Putin, whose call to a return of Russian glory is more about self-interest than fidelity to his motherland.

In a country such as the United States (or Canada) that lacks the advantage of shared ancestry and history that extends to the beginning of civilization, patriotism is often demonstrated by its smaller alter ego “civic duty” or devotion. In the absence of ancient commonalities a citizen must consciously choose to seek to come together with his/her fellow citizens as a concrete manifestation of patriotism.

How do we do this? How do we encourage a greater degree of patriotism from a broader swath of American citizenry? I think three simple things would get us off to a good start. First, let’s stop giving a free pass to people who are enjoying all of the benefits of citizenry and yet miss no opportunity to denigrate all things American. You know who they are. The so-called cultural elite, especially those in the academic community who never miss a nit to pick, always on the side of putting down America and things American? There’s a difference between constructive criticism in an attempt to promote a better country to love and an open contempt for not only country but the very idea of love and support for your country. Why should these people be our national thought leaders if they care so little for our nation?

By the same token, too much emphasis is placed on issues and ideas on the margin at the expense of elemental, more global ones. Take, for example, the Pledge of Allegiance. Why is it an issue at all whether or not the words “…under G0d,…” are in our national declaration of fidelity to country? The Pledge is one of our patriotism, our love and support for our nation. This would constitute such an overwhelming majority of the purpose behind the Pledge that we should relegate the distraction of the debate on these two words to the periphery of the discussion where it belongs. We ought neither to allow ourselves the luxury of such selfish discussions, nor others the privilege of driving discussions away from the importance of such a primary issue, patriotism.

Lastly, we should return to a time when each of us made it a point to think of the success of our country as something to which we, as individuals, must attend. Pride in nation and sincere hope for national success must no longer be something looked down upon, but rather something that each of us learns and practices. Our leaders must begin to work toward more than their own self-interest and that of their peers, but also to that of country. For the rest of us, it is enough to look at our own little parts of the country and make whatever small effort we can to make it just a tiny bit better. We should call out those who seek to tear down our nation and make them uncomfortable in that effort, as we should lift up those we see working for a better, more unified whole.

Patriotism is neither trite nor trivial. All it might take is to think for a moment before you act or speak about being a patriot, of supporting and loving and defending your country, even when you are trying to make it a better one.

I’ll see you next week…

Why I Coach and Why I Care About Your Coach

Why do I coach? I mean, I already have a day job, and 24 hours in a day is a lie. Why do I care about CrossFit coaching that occurs, or as the case may be doesn’t occur, in other Boxes? Heck, I’m fortunate in that I have personal access to our CrossFit Subject Matter Experts (great video by Coach Burgener on CrossFit.com. Keep ’em coming!), and one of my favorite places–CrossFit.com–has no real coaching to speak of. There are lots of demonstrations but no real feedback, and you need both for true coaching.

I coach for rather selfish reasons. It’s unbelievably satisfying to see someone achieve a goal they could barely even imagine, even more satisfying to have that athlete give thanks for whatever small contribution I might have made. I enjoy it so much that I took a huge bite of humble pie and went to a clinic where better coaches dissected all aspects of my coaching in order that I might be better. My son Randy  and wife Beth came for the same reasons. I coach for the pure enjoyment of helping people get better, and I coach CrossFit because it’s simply the the best way I’ve found to achieve that.

Why, then, would I care about coaching anywhere else by anyone else? Greg Glassman has not only given us the CrossFit system of creating fitness, he has offered a clear path to a greater role for a coach in the production of not only fitness but also health. I am part of that coaching lineage. What am I to make then of the athlete who comes to my gym with 2 years of membership in a CrossFit Affiliate who cannot perform an air squat? What is the appropriate reaction when I see athletes from other Boxes participating in fitness competitions who perform basic lifts at opening weights with grossly dangerous form? It makes me wonder if they were ever coached at all.

If you are a CrossFit athlete at an Affiliate gym you should demand coaching. More than that, you should demand coaching excellence. You’ve chosen to join a gym and you’ve put yourself in the hands of a coach who should be teaching you CrossFit and teaching it well. Otherwise you might just as well hang out on CrossFit.com. Perhaps you would be better off.

For CrossFit coaches out there I’m throwing down the gauntlet. It’s no longer enough to just roll out some rubber flooring and hang a few pull-up bars, if it ever was. You’ve been hired to coach athletes and make them better. Do it. You are trained to coach CrossFit, so for the love of God coach CrossFit. Teach mechanics, then consistency, then and only then intensity. Seek for them and on their behalf virtuosity in both your coaching and their CrossFit. You, too, are part of that same coaching lineage as I, one that began with Coach Glassman and includes thousands of others. How you coach reflects on each of us, and frankly it reflects on CrossFit itself.

That, my friend, is why I care.

 

 

Reflections of an Aging Athlete

Old. Yup. “The Heir” turns 26 today. “Lovely Daughter” is 24 and my doppelgänger “Lil’bingo” is 22. My body is screaming from yesterday’s CrossFit WOD–I ran a mile. I’m answering emails and questions from CrossFit friends about CF in the “Master’s” category. I am closer to 55 than 54, closer in age to my cataract patients than my school-age patients. My Dad had a quadruple bypass at 54. Old.

How do you do this “old thing” anyway? It seems I don’t have an owner’s manual for myself, just like I didn’t have an owner’s manual for the kids. What am I to expect now? What is it that lies just ahead, and what then beyond that? Is this muscle soreness a freak thing, the anomaly, or is it a harbinger of things to come? How about fitness gains? I’m now 9 years into my CrossFit journey. How much longer can I expect to achieve PR’s? As I contemplate these questions how far forward should I allow my gaze to roam?

There are no answers to those questions, of course. Any answers only lead to the next set of the same. To look too far beyond a couple of tomorrows is as dangerous as it is to look back beyond a couple of yesterdays. Looking behind even a little bit risks the indulgence of regret, what has always seemed to me to be a sure recipe for sadness. I have written elsewhere that to go even further back, beyond Creation or the Primordial Soup or the Big Bang is an invitation to madness.

To look too far into the future is to invite desire, to risk the creation of wants that grow into something that feels like need. If or when these fail to materialize a different type of sadness arises, this one born of resentment. If one projects these too far into the future, to retirement, to rest, to redemption and beyond, the risk of madness can arise once again.

I surely do not know the answer to the question of how to age well. There is no map for the journey that lies ahead, no cosmic GPS. I have only the strategies that have served me thus far, and the hope that they will serve me yet. I have faith, and that faith allows me to resist the temptation to look either too far behind or too far ahead. Faith is the vaccine against madness.

And I am happy. I realized it once again in a phone call with a dear friend, met through Crossfit, and once again when I said goodnight to my darling Beth last night. I am happy because I have very little desire and even less regret; I want what I have and this inoculates me against both resentment and regret.

Yes, indeed, I am older, but I have at least one more today. That’s just what I wanted.

 

Think for Yourself

The world is filled with stories for which we are awash in what someone else thinks about the story. Not so much about what they think about the facts of the story. No, that would be too reasonable, and take altogether to much time and effort. It’s all about making a story fit the world view of the commentator, about coming to a conclusion often before the story itself has come to a conclusion.

Our various information highways are jammed with “drivers” who are jumping to a conclusion, with all of the dangers inherent in that. Benghazi, Ray Rice, Ferguson, Bay Village. Each of these (and others you can think of) is, or will be soon, shorthand for a class of stories in which the signature characteristic was a jump to conclusion by large groups of people holding opposing world views who sought to use the story as a gavel to be pounded upon their own personal pulpit. I offer here no opinions whatsoever on the facts of any of these particular stories, only the observation that in each of them the rush to opine on the greater societal/political meaning they might involve was in itself harmful.

You could offer that these examples are indicative only of our new “gotta know”, always on news demand/deluge brought about by the info firehose of the internet. You could expand that by saying that these stories and the societal firestorm they’ve lit could only have happened in this new age in which everyone has a pulpit, be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or a blog. To this I would reply that the internet and the amplifiers that ride along its rails are simply that: accelerants rather than fire starters. The issue is prematurely jumping to a conclusion for the simple reason that your conclusion confers some personal benefit to you, the jumper, regardless of the validity of your conclusion once the fire is naught but the cool embers of the facts remain.

This is not new. This is not a function of 100 or 1000 channel cable news or the internet. A million bloggers vs. a hundred columnists, Twitter vs. letters to the editor. Drew Carey’s opinion and his money. None of those. This is about waiting for the whole story to unwind and for the cold hard reality of the facts to lay bare before you, rather than parsing the meaning of one of these events through the prism of an ideologue who has a size 12 to bang, or someone famous who has an opinion, or needs some buzz. It may be “new” if we consider the timeframe of papyrus vs printing press, but that’s as new as it gets.

Proof? Tawana Brawley.

Too young to know who that is? Too old to remember the story and the associated firestorm? Google/Bing/Ask.com it (those really ARE new). It’s a tale of people with ulterior motives who took control of a story that could be twisted to fit their worldview and their agenda without regard for either the truth or the effect of their machinations on the real lives of the real people who’d actually lived the real story. All in the “archaic” age of newspapers, network news, and the infancy of talk radio. Read about it; you won’t find it unfamiliar at all.

There are two lessons here, one that enrages and one that educates. There are never any consequences for those who use supposition and spin a tale that promotes their world view, often for personal gain. Indeed, you will find eerily familiar names in the news ca. 1989 as in the news ca. 2014. The actionable lesson predates papyrus and is so oft told it would be trite were it not so often ignored, if ever learned: arrive at a conclusion when, and only when, you have real facts at your disposal.

Then think for yourself.

 

Who Talks to People Like That?

“I suppose I’m sorry I missed my appointment on Thursday. So, anyway, here are the ground rules for how this phone call is going to go and how you’re going to give me the appointment I want.”

“I know it’s been two years and the doctor said my son would need glasses for school and that it’s really busy during back to school time. Yah Yah…I get it. I don’t care that everyone with after school appointments called weeks ago. School has started and he needs an appointment RIGHT NOW. I demand to talk to the doctor.”

“What do you MEAN the doctor’s 5:00PM appointments are all filled? I told you she wants new contact lenses RIGHT NOW! 10 AM tomorrow is totally unacceptable. You tell the doctor I’ll be coming in with her in 2 weeks and you can be SURE I’m going to tell the doctor how unacceptable this is.” CLICK

Seriously, who talks to people like this? These are all near exact quotes from established patients calling to make appointments for routine, non-emergent visits. All three had received explicit instructions at the conclusion of their previous visits, and all had been sent recall reminders that it was time to make their next appointment. Remember, we are a very busy eyecare practice with 3 doctors that sees emergency patients on a same-day basis, including nights and weekends. We are not averse to working hard or seeing extra patients, and we counsel our patients that we will sometimes run a bit behind because of this ER visit policy. Philosophically it doesn’t seem right to over-book our schedule, making the conscientious have to wait longer in the office during their visit, in order to accommodate those who make little or no effort to respond to our instructions and reminders.

Let alone those who talk to my staff like these three. Sheesh. Trust me, the tone in their voices was exactly as you’d imagine it as you read it, equal parts incredulous and offended that anyone could possibly not understand how much more important THEY are than everyone else on the schedule. It got me to thinking, though. What would it be like if people talked like this in other walks of life?

For instance, you are the Registrar at, oh, how about Harvard. You pick up the phone and somebody’s Daddy is calling about Econ 101 taught by N. Gregory Mankiw. The class is full. Actually, it’s oversubscribed and there’s a waiting list with 125 kids already on it. The registration deadline was 2 weeks ago, a deadline that the young scholar just blew off and a deadline that Daddy doesn’t even acknowledge. ” You’re not listening to me. I told you that my son will be in that class. He has a spot waiting for him at Goldman Sachs and no one is going to  keep him from getting what he deserves. I demand to speak with Mankiw.” How do you think that turns out for Sonny?

Or how about this? The flight to Chicago is full, and since it’s about an hour before takeoff no more folks are coming off the standby list. Standing at the United desk is a very well-dressed professional addressing the agent. “I suppose I’m sorry that I didn’t make it to the earlier flight I was booked on. Here are the ground rules for how this discussion is going to go, and how you are going to escort me onto this flight.” I can definitely see some sort of escort coming, can’t you?

Imagine what it would be like if you could listen to a call coming to a judge’s bailiff from someone who talked to everyone like my three patients. “Really? I said I needed to get this ticket taken care of right away but I’m only available late in the afternoon. 2 weeks from now is too long to wait. 10 AM tomorrow for court? That’s just unacceptable. Why aren’t there more times at the end of the day? I will be there at 5:00 in two weeks and you can be SURE I will tell the judge what I think of this.” What would you give to see that one play out?

When I hear the way people talk to folks who work in health care it makes me wonder how far they take it. Does it go so far as to extend to Church? “Listen Father, it’s football season. The Buckeyes on Saturday and the Browns on Sunday, ya know? This whole Saturday and Sunday mass schedule doesn’t line up with the season at all. I can’t believe you don’t get that! Why can’t we just move mass to Monday until after the Bowl Games and the Super Bowl. Tell you what…just forget about it. I’ll be here on Sunday and I’m going right to God on this one. You just make sure he’s in Church this weekend so I can tell him directly.” Well, we know that God is always in Church, and that He does, indeed, hear every petition a member of His flock makes. Like Danny Meyer, the great restauranteur in NYC who holds that the customer is NOT always right, but does have a right to be heard. Actually, this example gives me some comfort, some direction in how we might deal with patients who talk to our staff in such a brassy, entitled manner. We are definitely not God, or even the least bit God-like, but like Danny Meyer and God, we can always listen, as we know they do, and we will always politely offer them an answer.

Sometimes, the answer is “no”.

It’s (Still) All About Jobs

Lots of noise in the business world about the economy. What’s the Fed gonna do? Is the Recession over? Will rising interest rates pull us back into the despair of 2008-10? What about the blah blah blah?  That’s all this noise is, really. Blah blah blah. It’s all about jobs. Still. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs and work. There aren’t enough jobs out there. People have stopped looking for jobs. Unemployment is stagnant, but even those numbers don’t tell the story because hundreds of thousands of people have just given up the search.

But wait, there’s another side to the coin. It seems that there are hundreds of thousands of jobs out there, but businesses can’t find people with the skills, or even the desire to learn the skills necessary to fill those jobs. Gone is the willingness to take an entry-level job of whatever sort at whatever pay in order to start the journey to “get ahead”. Some would go so far as to say that NOT taking that low-pay starter job is a rational decision. The cumulative value of various and sundry government programs add up to a “salary” that far exceeds most entry level jobs, benefits which would go away if one took such a position.

So which is it? Come on…you can’t have it both ways now. Either there are no jobs, employers are withholding jobs to avoid this or that (Obamacare, yadda yadda), or employable adults are simply unwilling to work. Which is it? Are there no jobs, or has there been a paradigm shift in the collective sense of what it is that must be present in a job before it is worth taking?

I call BS on the no jobs thing. There are jobs out there to be had. Good jobs. Jobs that will add up to $20, $30, $40 or more per hour jobs. The problem with all of those jobs, and the reason that employers are having a tough time filling them is two-fold: you don’t start at $20, $30, or $40 per hour, and in order to have those jobs you have to do actual work. It’s Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT of Happiness, not Happiness.

Pursuit is another word for work.

Say what you will about government policies that discourage hiring (30 hour work week = full time, mandatory provision of health “insurance” for companies with >50 employees), gnash as many teeth as you please about the inability to house a family on a single minimum wage income (what household has only one worker now, anyhow?), mount as much hew and cry all you wish about income disparity, in the end it all comes down to a very simple, very common denominator: in order to have a job you must be willing to go to work.

All work has value; there is honor is any job. That is not to say that all jobs and all work are equal, or have equal value, or even that there is any justice in the valuation of one job relative to another (why is someone who sells municipal bonds a millionaire while the plumber who drains the basement that was supposed to be kept dry by the pipes purchased with those bonds is not?). No, the point is that having a job, going to work, doing the work has an intrinsic value in and of itself, and that all jobs intersect in society in order that society can function, much like the 11 men on a football team must each do his job in order to move the ball down field.

It’s been offered many times by many people that the best social program for a society is a job. The job you start with, or the job you may have at the moment is not necessarily the job you want to end up with, but each job provides you with a sense of participating, of producing, of contributing, while at the same time perhaps providing a stepping stone to something better. The “Pursuit” in Pursuit of Happiness.

To land and then to keep a job is really not all that difficult. I worked for others as a younger man, and for some 25 years now I have been an employer. Really, as someone who gives people a job I’m here to tell you it’s not that tough to get one. You need three things, only, to get a job. You must WANT a job. Once you have a job must be willing to DO the job, to work hard. You must have integrity–you must be honest.

Seriously, that’s all it takes.

Ideally you would add a fourth component; you would be ambitious. People who have jobs to fill also have businesses to grow, and growing businesses have room for ambitious workers to grow into much larger jobs. Hard workers who are honest, who put in an honest day’s work who have any ambition whatsoever move up, either with the company that gave them that first job or with another company that is competing for the skills they acquired because they took that “entry-level” job. The managing editor of Time Magazine started there in a sub-minimum wage job as a fact-checker. She is the epitome of the axiom that all you need is a foot in the door and the willingness to work hard.

Sure, sure, I know, it’s not always that cut and dried, and people get rooked, and bad stuff happens. I know. That’s life. Life happens. Life can be hard. In life, though, the reality is that rarely, if ever, is anything handed to you. You earn it. You don’t sit back because something unfortunate might happen because the odds are really stacked in your favor that they won’t, go against you that is, if you simply go out and demonstrate your willingness to get a job, even an entry-level job, work hard, and be honest. The work/life balance thing is all well and good, as long as you remember that work is part of the equation, too.

Indeed, work comes first.

 

Thoughtfulness in a Self-Important World

Thoughtful: 1) Contemplative, pensive. To give deep consideration to an idea, news, or concept. 2) Showing consideration for the feelings or needs of other people.

How much information is too much and who gets to make that choice? Is there an element of timing in that question? For instance, is the amount of information that is ultimately enough (and not too much) subject to some kind of schedule, and if so who gets to choose when the information is made available? I’m prompted to think about this by a couple of very current events, or types of events: two instances of death resulting from police/citizen interactions, and more than several instances of government officials or public individuals enmeshed in scandal, or the appearance of scandal. You’ll not find commentary here about the particulars of any of these current events; I have no standing and therefore will offer no comments. My over-arching thesis, though, is that the twin virtues of transparency and disclosure have been tarnished in these instances by the evil twins impatience and entitlement.

Think about it for a moment. Events that are large and important fairly cry out for patience and a deeper, more thoughtful discussion. One that begins after facts have been extricated from the web of innuendo that is born in the bosom of personal opinion. The stampede of analysis now comes even as a story unfolds, before it even ends. It matters not whether we are observers of an event that touches on a certifiable “big theme” (e.g. racism), or one that is tiny, local, or personal (e.g. infidelity). The commonality rests not with the protagonists in the event but rather within its observers, especially those who comment: it’s all about them.

Are you old enough to remember when it was considered unseemly to be a self-promoter? Even if you are, it’s tough to recall those days before the ever-connected world when blatant “look at me” or “listen to me” behavior was met with the collective cluck of a society bred for humility. This “cult of self-promotion” not only imposes itself on big events and grand issues (comments that begin with “I think…”), it also means that no one is to be allowed a privacy if the entitled and impatient self-promoters decide that they simply must know, well, whatever. Right now. “A universal, wrathful demand of the public for complete disclosure” about everything and anything. (Gideon Lewis-Kraus)

The need to know trumps all; one who asks the question in some way is granted all manner of primacy over one who might have the answer. It’s can be uncomfortable to watch at times.

The phenomena is not without irony. Witness articles critical of self-promotion that tell the story of someone who is almost famous for talking about not promoting him/herself. Nice, huh? It’s like a hall of mirrors, a kind of “Inception”. Trust that it doesn’t escape my attention that there are more than several folks out there who consider “musings” and “Random Thoughts: a form of self-promotion. An irony within a discussion of irony.

There’s a certain power in thoughtfulness, a seriousness that induces thoughtfulness, in turn, in the listener. If we always know what you think or what you did precisely when you thought or acted, how are we to ascertain what, if anything, is important? If one demands full and immediate disclosure of any and all information, regardless of how significant or trivial it might be, or how public or private the consequences, how are we to order anything at all along the grand/small continuum? At some point the primacy of the inquisitor must find its limit, if only for a moment.

A moment of peace for the rest of us, should we care to think about something deeper than the event in question. A moment of peace for an individual who might harken back to an earlier day, one when it was possible to graciously decline to offer anything at all, lest it encourage someone to be interested enough to ask questions.