How To Be Livid
Prattling on about this nonsense and that is all well and good, but the time has come to put lofty ideas into action. It’s time to be livid.
Pro Tip: You may want to keep some napkins handy just in case veins on your forehead pop.
Sometimes life will lope up on you from behind and give you ample reasons to be angry. Sometimes (although I can’t imagine why) you aren’t even in the mood to be angry yet life will foist itself upon you regardless. It will literally force you to be livid against your will.
True, those are sublime experiences, but they do tend to be rather random and when the chips are down, you really can’t count them.
So, what to do? Take matters into your own hands, of course! With my tried and true techniques, and a bit of practice, so you’ll soon be livid with the best of them, as often as you want and when you need it the most.
Sound too good to be true? It probably is. See? I can feel it working already!
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Do you need change?
It had been an enjoyable meal. At least until it all went sideways.
The waitress approached our table, looked me directly in the eye and said, “Do you need change?”
Wait. What? You don’t even know me! How dare you?
I had to admit, though. She was right. I did need change. A lot of it. I decided to start with a slice of New York cheesecake (is there any other kind?) drizzled with strawberry syrup.
Luckily 2014 was right around the corner and I’d soon have the opportunity to issue false platitudes and reassuring justifications to myself and pretend that I’d try to improve.
Since she was there, I decided to ask her for her assessment and she gave me the following list.
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The calculus of NaNoWriMo
The Romans had their Coliseum. The sick bastards over at The Office of Letters and Light have a little something known as NaNoWriMo.
That stands for National Novel Writing Month.
Letters and Light? Are you kidding me? Euphemism much???
So yeah, obviously they get off on pain and humiliation. It’s a two-pronged approach. How does it work? A little something like this.
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Knot for Teacher
Shouts to planetjan on this one…
This post will be like a big ball of used gum. I keep coming back and editing in more bits. Thus, it won’t be very cohesive and is going to jump all over the place. You have been warned. (Note to my students: Here I employe the classic negativity technique known as “Tell Them How You’ll Suck Right Up Front.”)
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB – for added fun pronounce this as “nicklebee”) was one of the first things proposed by George W. Bush, not long after the Supreme Court decision that helped make him president. With that kind of mandate under his belt he leaped in and, on January 23, 2001, boldly proposed NCLB. The bill was mothered by Senator Ted Kennedy and received “overwhelming bi-partisan support” in Congress. It become the law of the land on January 8, 2002.
One of the driving ideas behind NCLB was that measurable standards and goals would lead to positive individual outcomes in students. This included, of course, incentives in the form of Title I funds and how those funds would be allocated to government-run schools that receive federal funding.
At the bottom of this post I’m including an amazing video from TED entitled, “How do we do the right thing?” This is a topic I ponder a lot. The video covers lots of topics, including doctors, but also has a fair amount about teachers. What does an emphasis on things like test scores tied to funding bring?
The video tells one story. A teacher was visited by a consultant. The purpose of the visit was to help the teacher produce higher test scores for the school. The consultant was there to provide training towards that goal. Step One: Ignore students who would pass the tests no matter what. Step Two: Ignore students who would fail the tests no matter what. Step Three: Ignore students who were too new to the district that their scores would not count toward funding incentives. The remaining “bubble” students were the only ones deemed to be worthy of the teacher’s attention.
Wow. And that’s the system taking a major shit on human beings. Now, let’s move on an explore some other ideas.
Human brains love to categorize things. As a matter of routine we make snap judgements, thin slice and judge books by their cover, in spite of the old adage that says we can’t. It’s something that we do.
How can this sort of thing manifest itself?
One of my favorite researchers of all time is Dr. Ellen Langer. She wrote the book Mindfulness which is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. (If experiments like the ones I’m about to describe interest you, go find this book and read it. You’re in for a treat.)
In one of her experiments, two women were given three tasks. First, they were asked to individually solve arithmetic problems. Then they were given labels at random – “boss” and “assistant” – and asked to solve anagrams as a team. Finally, they went back to solving arithmetic problems individually again.
What do you think happened? The person given the “boss” label solved more math problems than she initially had in phase one of the test. The person given the “assistant” label solved less math problems.
Holy shit. Think about that. These were just words assigned to people in an experiment. I would imagine, as such, that they’d have much less power than the real life labels we take on each and every minutes of our lives. What a mind fuck!
It doesn’t end there. There have been other experiments involving teachers and students. In the experiments groups of students were randomly separated into two groups. One group of students was labeled “gifted” or as having high IQs and the other group of students was not. The label of “gifted” was communicated to teachers. The results were dramatic. Consistently the groups labeled as “gifted” performed higher than the control groups.
The label was affecting the teachers. It turned out that when dealing with students they thought were gifted, teachers interacted with their students differently. They looked at the students more often. They smiled and nodded at them more. They taught more content, set higher goals, called on them more frequently and give them more time to answer.
This sort of phenomenon, where people place greater expectations on others which leads to greater results is known as the Pygmalion effect.
Another example of the powerful effect of labels is the famous Stanford prison experiment. In this case, in addition to labels, the structure of a setting (a prison) powerfully manifested to such a degree that the two-week experiment had to be terminated early after six days.
The mind can be a strange thing. I’d like to close out this post with two more examples of Dr. Langer experiments.
Langer, a social psychologist and teacher, has written a book, this is actually her fourth on mindfulness but first on health, that is philosophical in part, and practical throughout. It is based on many of her studies and those conducted with her students. One classic study Langer conducted had senior citizens, some of whom were in nursing type facilities spend a week living as though it was 1959 again, wearing the type of clothes they wore then, doing things like carrying their own suitcases, which they hadn’t done in years, bringing photos of who they were then and “acting as if” they were their younger version, again. A week later, most were actually livelier, stronger and healthier, they expressed more vitality and took more interest in life than they had in years. (Source.)
And, excerpted from Dr. Langer’s web site…
In the 1970s my colleague Judith Rodin and I conducted an experiment with nursing home residents. We encouraged one group of participants to find ways to make more decisions for themselves. For example, they were allowed to choose where to receive visitors, and if and when to watch the movies that were shown at the home. Each also chose a houseplant to care for, and they were to decide where to place the plant in their room, as well as when and how much to water it. Our intent was to make the nursing home residents more mindful, to help them engage with the world and live their lives more fully.
A second, control group received no such instructions to make their own decisions; they were given houseplants but told that the nursing staff would care for them. A year and a half later, we found that members of the first group were more cheerful, active, and alert, based on a variety of tests we had administered both before and after the experiment. Allowing for the fact that they were all elderly and quite frail at the start, we were pleased that they were also much healthier: we were surprised, however, that less than half as many of the more engaged group had died than had those in the control group.
Dramatic results, eh? My advice is to be mindful about your brain. You never know what it might be doing to you.
To blog every single day takes considerable effort. And just a bit of planning.
I find that maintaining a regular routine is helpful. Establishing a rhythm and maintaining it is very helpful to meeting a post-every-day objective.
My normal routine is to always write at least one day in advance. So if I write a post in the morning before work, that post will be scheduled for five minutes after UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) so that the post will have the correct date. For me, that’s 4:05pm or 5:05pm depending on if daylight savings time is in effect or not.
So, by knocking out a post and scheduling it, I’ve effectively taken care of tomorrow’s post. That’s a good feeling. You’ve given yourself a bit of a cushion and you can adapt a bit if something unexpected takes you away from your normal writing time.
If you’re going on vacation and won’t have access to a computer, you need to kick it up a notch and have enough posts queued. So far the WordPress scheduling feature hasn’t let me down.
What sucks is when you get knocked off that routine. I’ve been really sick with phlegmitis for far too long. (Tomorrow will be officially two weeks.) And I was out of town two weeks ago and was one post behind on auto-scheduling for the vacation. So I got behind on my blogging rhythm and I’ve been behind ever since.
Now when I sit down to write a post in the morning, I’m writing for the current day. If I somehow don’t get it done before I leave for work, then I’m screwed because I won’t be home before WordPress rolls over to a new date. And that will mean I missed a day. It’s now or never. That adds a bit of pressure.
When I’m on my routine the days seem to fly by. When I’m off my routine I find myself worrying about how and when I’ll write my next post and everything feels off-kilter.
Hopefully I’ll feel better soon, get an unexpected chunk of free time, and maybe even enough energy to get back on my game. It could happen.
What are your blogging goals and what methods do you use to help you get there? What works for you?
Speak, reap and weep
Me: [hanging up my cell phone] “Well, my wife is back in urgent care.”
Boss: “Look at that! We sold two of the XJ-21’s today!”
And they say interpersonal relationships don’t mean much any more. Ha!
You ever met anyone like this? Someone who wants you to hang on every word they say, especially about the excruciating minutia of their day, while they simultaneously take a verbal dump on you every time you speak?
Boss: “Tom, what do you think about adding the XJ-21’s to our web site?”
Me: “Actually, I’ve been working on a template that will…”
Boss: “Cause I think we could sell a few, if only they were up there. Know what I mean?”
Me: “Uh, yeah. Whatever.”
Perhaps the funniest aspect of all of this is how the boss never seems to notice when I’ve checked out of the conversation. I just shut my fuckin’ trap, stare off into space, turn my back on him and return to my computer. Whatever. Whatever!!!
Yep. Hilarious. It’s friggin’ a barrel of laughs to be minimized as a person and stomped on every fucking time you open your mouth. Let’s put on our thinking caps. Do you think there is any possible way treating people like that will have consequences? Think it will encourage them to be the most enthusiastic member of your team? To proactively go out and do things for you? To care about what you have to say when the shoe is on the other foot? Foster bitterness? Loathing? Spite?
Both of the examples above are typical at my job. At no point does anyone ever come back and say, “Eh? Your wife? In urgent care? What’s up with that?” Nope. In one ear and out the other and never to be thought of again, unless, of course, you’re dumb enough to make a second attempt. But I’m usually so fried there is little chance of that.
So yeah, like I alluded to in a recent post, my #1 overriding goal, my prime directive, my mission in life every single time I haul my sorry ass into work is clear and present and always on my mind as I try to go about my duties:
Don’t speak. Don’t attempt to engage enemies in conversation. Speaking only serves to embolden office combatants and facilitates the exchange of power from those who actually care to those who are fucking assholes.
It’s a very worthy goal. One I prostrate myself to continually all day long. I strive to keep it the foremost thing on my mind as I do my job. Even so, I’m only human, so failure is inevitable.
In some ways, it’s more important how you grapple with that failure than striving to meet the goal in the first place. After all, as something that can’t actually be achieved, a goal is little more than a mechanism to getting to your special place. And, at least for me, lovingly embracing failure with self-flagellation is the key.
At last! Only after sweet failure can you come face to face with the one and only persona that will never interrupt or fail to listen. That is, of course, your inner persona. A persona that will truly embrace your thoughts of failure. It’s a persona that’s always there for you.
“Your hubris is especially delicious when it rots.”
“What made you think they’d take interest in that?”
“Why don’t you just offer up your throat next time?”
“You make me sick.”
“Think those bastards give a shit?”
“Please, try that some more. I’m grabbing some popcorn. This will be good!”
Finally, conversations worth having! Even better they don’t have to involve other people who are nothing more than winking assholes.
In the end, the only one you can count on is yourself.
What’s the “take away” here? You have to dig deep to find the goodness, but it’s there. My old friend yin-yang still can be found if we know where to look. The lesson of duality is that if something is especially reaming me out then there must be something else to be learned, too. Right?
It’s like being eviscerated and having your bowels strewn about on the floor in front of you. In that situation you really have two choices. Bitch about the steam or take the opportunity to learn a little something for the future (albeit one that has only a few seconds left).
Instead of bitching about the steam, why not say, “Hey. Thanks for spilling out my entrails. Now I have the chance to practice the art of divination and, just maybe, I can glean my fortune.” Now that’s turning lemons into lemonade!
I guess the flow of a normal workday happens for a reason. It’s the natural order of things. It’s about the daily journey to the place you need to be. You can’t have one without the other. In that respect, I guess the role played by assholes is important after all.