Musings on decisions and factors that drive them.
Nation of Fear
Wed, Sep 30 2009 12:01
Swimming with Sharks
A number of my friends from Europe and South America have remarked on the culture of the U.S. as being "fear based." From their perspectives, most TV advertisements surrounding the news center on fear of succumbing to disease. The news, itself, seems a compendium of real, or worse, merely potential disasters. We fear terrorism. We fear job loss. We fear disease. We fear snow. Stir the pot of fear, and then it's "News at Eleven." Fear is the great "hook" for attracting "viewing audiences." The great marketing mechanism.
Recently, the New York Times wrote an article on the manipulation of a prevalent fear about Medicare being diminished during health care reform. We've all heard the ignorant shout of "Don't let the government touch my Medicare!" Let us add to the litany of fears, fear of our own government, the hand that feeds us, in this case.
Decisions are clearly influenced when one has been reared in a culture of fear. A few years ago, I took a colleague through use of our software to determine what he sought in a new job. He started by listing everything he did not want in a job. His statements evolved from unpleasant situations that he had experienced in the past in other jobs. For every negative statement he made starting with "Well, I don't want..." I worked with him to rephrase the statement to be more what he would be looking for, and less about what he was worried. So a statement such as "I don't want to be in a dead end job." became "The job will have potential for growth and advancement." "I don't want to wind up giving up all my free time, working weekends, etc." became "The job will respect my personal life, allowing me my own personal time."
Re-phrasing negatives to positives helps. However, this can go only so far. One still is framing a future based on fears about the past.
Steeped in a culture of fear, it is hard NOT to frame one's future based on overcoming or avoiding perceived problems. But doing so is not choosing a destination. It is merely "winding up somewhere," having been pushed into that position by fear.
Focusing on a desired destination can prevent this "backing in" to one's future. No matter how unrealistic positive desires may sound at first, state them. This may seem much harder to do, than to bow before a future not chosen, but which appears inevitable. It may take time to do this.
Life will never be trouble free, of course. But, overcoming troubles can be put in better perspective if one knows where one is headed by choice. It is the difference between swimming with sharks, and swimming through sharks to a better destination. Yes, one could be eaten in either case. But in the former, one will die in a miserable state of fear. In the latter, one dies with hope. The smell of fear can invite being preyed upon. Manipulators count upon it.
The value of "attending" or "graduating" from high school
Wed, Sep 23 2009 12:01
Seattle Public Schools announced the intention to reduce standards required for graduation from the city's public high schools.
A few questions come to mind:
- If a subject only requires a "D" to enable the recipient to be considered fit to enter and function in the outside world, one wonders, is the subject even worth teaching?
- If the subject is deemed worth teaching, shouldn't one demonstrate better understanding and capability in it than a "D" would indicate?
- If there are a set of courses that are unnecessary to prepare one for "a job" in the outside world, and another set that are deemed essential to prepare one to enter a higher institution of learning (and for which a "D" would be insufficient demonstration of knowledge), should there not be a clear delineation between the two "systems" and the standards required to graduate from each? Should not a diploma indicate from which system the student has graduated? (In earlier times, a "vocational" and a "college prep" track, selectable by students, were available.)
- While it might be appealing to students to be allowed to graduate with a D average, one must consider a future employer's perspective: what is the appeal of such a student, especially compared with a student who received a higher grade average?
The change in standards is a case of taking the concept of "no child left behind" completely at face value. Instead of this program being interpreted as providing opportunity for learning to all, the focus has shifted to revising a system to allow passing all, regardless of how they have utilized the opportunity they were given to learn.
Asked on TV to explain the rationale behind this potential revision of standards, one person had the audacity to say "Having a high school diploma helps a person get a job." Not for long, if that diploma means nothing. Reducing standards for graduation from high school, converts the meaning of "graduation" to "having attended." It no longer signals readiness for the next level of academic learning, or even for entering the workforce. While trying to help those at the low end of the bell curve, the move adversely affects the perceived merit of those at the top end.
Additionally, this move has not given due consideration to potential employers' perspectives. Companies rely on sources for quality "resources." Providing on-the-job training for an applicant is a cost that they would like to avoid. Extra steps in determining variations behind the face value of a diploma ("certification" of competence) costs money. As the value of "graduation" from a certain "workforce source" becomes obscured, the use of that source for hiring will drop.
A cause-and-effect analysis for these types of decisions should clearly be done. Let us hope that those voting on this issue on October 7th, think this through and do so. Wouldn't it be comforting to believe that those making this decision had better than a C average when they graduated?
Mon, Sep 7 2009 12:01
We were asked by a good friend to help them in contemplation of one of life's big decisions. Changing jobs after decades with one company. Such a decision is not just about a job, or about comparing one's current job with an opportunity that suddenly appears.
Embedded in all important life decisions are unique underlying elements that define one's own particular philosophy of life. Qualities or aspects for an individual that make "life good." Without clarity of these elements and their relative importance, one runs the risk of moving from job to job, and of having one's life defined for one, instead of choosing one's own path.
A job can appeal for being a "stepping stone" or because one "needs the money." Such reasons need to be viewed in the overall context of one's desired happiness in life. The argument against such contemplation, especially during tough economic times, is that it is a luxury. One hour for one's happiness? A small luxury indeed. The framework one creates structures the discussion of the particulars of any job. Without it, a job selected may not be part of a chosen "path" to the future. One may indeed be only taking the next step to "wherever one winds up." Big difference.
One hour. Write down what is important in one's life, not just one's job. Determine the relative importance of each statement written. Assess job opportunities in terms of those statements. Which opportunities are most supportive, cumulatively, in helping achieve all your desires? In tough economic times, temptation will be strong to take the job offering the most money. But roads "diverge in the yellow wood," and we know that things "lead on" from choices made. It may not always be an option to retrace one's steps. Better to know the desired destination, and have it frame the choice one makes and the paths one chooses.