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There is, at least I believe there is, a fundamental belief that all it takes to do well in your life is to make it through elementary school, middle school, high school, and college — and then everything is just plain awesome. “You succeeded” they all say, whomever this all-encompassing ‘they’ are. They tell you that you should not have to work about anything because success has been granted to you on the basis of the previous sixteen or so years of your existence, a span of time where you spent most of it trying to prove that you were better than they thought you were and deserved respect that you usually did not get because you were ‘just a child’ or ‘immature’ or ‘not ready’. But now, with diploma in hand and mortar board flying through the air you are so freakin’ ready that it hurts to even think about it and now comes the ticker tape and now comes the camera flashes of fame and fortune.
What do you mean it doesn’t work out like that?
Oh wait, right. Exactly. The same people who said you weren’t ready at eighteen are now saying you aren’t ready because all you did was graduate from college and haven’t been in the ‘real world’. And the same people that see you do well in the real world still scoff because maybe you haven’t been also raising a family, and the same people see you fighting with two jobs and a family and see you struggling and maybe, just maybe, you need a little help from the government and now you really, severely failed. Success was supposed to be handed to you, and somehow in their eyes you dropped the ball. Good work. I hope you cherish that degree you aren’t using in that job that no one helped you get, or they did help you and now are forever indignant about it. Way to freakin’ go.
That’s a little more like it, but maybe a little too morose and melodramatic.
It’s not to say that there are not people out there that live that life, but I want to slip in between those two ends of the post-college spectrum and look at the majority. The majority that struggles to balance between trying to earn a career at exactly the pace the rest of the world wants you to, regardless of how qualified (or in some cases unqualified) you are. The Peter Principle says that eventually everyone will get to a place that is just outside of their range of qualifications, but will be unable to move down because that move would put them into a position for which they are somehow overqualified. This is why middle-management is such a wide divide between hourly’s and executives. You are being held onto a low rung of the corporate ladder until either a new spot opens up somewhere above you. You might be two or three spots below where you “should be” by way of ability, but oh, wait…you’ve only been in the company for a year and that position, the one you are able to do, has a three-year minimum work experience requirement. Going outside of that requirement is akin to spitting in the face of your mother or father. It has never happened before and there is no damn way they are going to start it now for you, the one-year hourly that they now feel has a chip on his shoulder for even dreaming of moving up so ‘early’ when you aren’t even close to ‘ready’ for it.
I hate to bring it all back to schools, but that is where it starts. Schools do not teach success they way they should. Society doesn’t teach it, and if they do, they aren’t exactly following all the rules. Sure, there are students that jump ahead and Doogie Howser their way into a graduation at 16 or 15, but then you have to face an even harsher society than your intellectual peers (who are 17 or 18) do. Now you really aren’t prepared for the world, despite already giving proof that you can at least handle yourself on a level deeming you worthy of jumping ahead of formal education, something that most people think is some kind of odd rumor or old wives’ tale that never actually happens but people can dream about.
It’s not even so much that ‘teaching’ success that is the problem. It’s letting it exist at all in the first place in a way that is fruitful and useful. Sure, a younger student in an older class is going to deal with peer problems, but that is more on the issue of personal respect than anything else. I hate to sound like a doting old grandparent shouting about kids needing to be respectful, but if that is taught properly it should not be as much of an issue. “Kids will be kids” they say, except when they are it’s lambasted as awful by all those that think that kids should be more like adults without treating them as such ever, ever, ever, ever.
Let’s pick a side here. Either let kids be kids and treat them as kids – by educating them and helping them become the best adults they can – or let kids be adults – but maybe without pinning them beneath a glass ceiling of ‘experience’ and ‘age’ regardless of how much better than everyone else they happen to be. Success, in any form, should be heralded, respected, and celebrated – from learning how to not go to the bathroom in your underwear, to learning to read, or to drive, or to give open heart surgery without severe injury or death occurring. Somewhere along the line we stop giving that kind of encouragement and start hoping that if we just yell at them to be like adults enough they will, forgetting just how much that yelling reveals you to be just as childish and immature as the people you are targeting.
Good work, adult. You want your child to be successful, but have never shown them what it looks like because that might push them to some day be better than you. And that is something that you just can not allow to happen, is it?
Originally, I wanted to title this post “Stupid Doesn’t Win”, except that sometimes it really, really, really does. It wins far more than it ever should, and as my updated title says, it should simply never, ever win. Not even once. Not at all.
There seems to be an issue with defeating stupidity – to not allow it to exist in even the smallest of quantities. People are always eager to point out that stupidity and ignorance are “found everywhere” and cite it as “inescapable”, which is apparently reason enough for them to not try and fight against it. If anything has to stop, that sort of thinking should be top of the list. Allowing even an iota of unintelligent thought to cloud the judgment of any decision is almost worse than even allowing its voice to be heard in the first place.
Think about it: If I want something to work properly, especially something that involves a team, I am going to train the heck out of everything and everyone until the only way a mistake should likely happen is by sheer bad luck or at least something that is completely out of the control of me or my team. If someone on the team is not able to understand exactly what is going on, why they have to do what is being asked of them, and how their completion of the task helps out not only everyone else on the team but maybe even the rest of the company – then they should not be in that spot. Fire them, replace them, relocate them – whatever needs to be done to make sure that they are not the thing that causes failure. Granted, I hate failure that is not in my control, but when it is in my control it is a billion times worse. If I am just a cog in a corporate machine, and the gear I crank helps crank fifteen other gears that eventually helps get something important done, then I am just going to crank until I can’t crank anymore. If I am not sure if I am cranking it correctly, then I will figure out if I am doing it wrong and change my work if I am. If I think I have found a better way to crank it, then I damn sure do not want to hear my superiors tell me that doing it a better way would be bad because the other people around me cranking the same gear would not be able to crank it the better way because they are stupid.
You never hear machines complain that what they have to do is too hard, or if you reprogram to do their job differently they don’t suddenly give up because they don’t understand what it is you are telling them. They just do it, that is unless the program has tons of bugs in it or the machine isn’t capable of actually replicating the needs of the new program. If either of those things happen, you either rewrite the program to suit the machine or you replace the machine – usually without a second thought. Human workers are obviously not machines, but the same rules should nevertheless apply. If you tell them to do something, and they can’t, either figure out a better way to teach them (rewrite the program) or find someone new to take over (replace the machine). It is hard to accept that, as far as business is concerned, we are just little machines that combine to help power a big machine to success. Stupidity only exists in machines because the people that built them screwed up, that doesn’t mean the designers and engineers just leave it there because, hey, it is inescapable and everywhere. No, they fix it, because stupidity should never, ever win.
Stop letting it.
Now, I’m not trying to create a whole bunch of stress here in either direction. I promise. Worrying too much that you are wasting time in some classes while not doing enough in the classes you care about is not where I want your focus to be. Even if everything went my way, there would still be time out of your day spent doing those things you might not exactly enjoy. I’m not trying to be some kind of torturous whip-loving headmaster and I am definitely not trying to be hypocritical although it may be coming across that way. It is just that there is an entire universe that is absolutely meant to be discovered and experienced and if you want to get as much of that sponged into your brain as possible you might have to look in directions you never would have though of before. You have nine months a year for twelve months of your life, at least, to be a captive audience toward a hardcore, non-stop information stream. It’s amazing to think about. Maybe you love things like Star Wars but never thought that a physics class could show you how much technology has advanced to make the possibilities of laser weaponry or even interstellar travel much more of a possibility than the grandiose boosts of science fiction could drown you with. The best thing about that, though, is that there are people out there doing that kind of thing for a living.
The problem with this information stream comes in multiple layers and flavors, but they all are mostly just distractions. You know, all of that social high-school drama stuff that clogs up your maximum brain time. I can’t tell you to turn that off. Trust me, I tried quite a few times in my younger days to ignore those kinds of things and it just did not work nor will probably ever work. Life doesn’t work that way. The only thing I can say for sure, and I’m sure most of you have heard it before, is that you are not the first nor the last that will survive those issues and, suffice to say, they almost never matter as much as you think they do when trapped in that moment.
It truly amazes me just how much time a teenager will spend worrying about a big date, a bad hair day, or a dropped text message conversation while paying relatively little attention to their own (hopefully) bright future. I know, I know, school is an every day thing no matter what but that dance is once in a year, if you not once in a lifetime! Everything has to be perfect! I can admit that one harsh grade among dozens of high scores is nothing to fret over, at least not on the level of a zit on the forehead or a bad first date… … …Sarcasm aside, that low grade might not matter, but I use it to create a mental picture of just how much students care about the stuff that may never affect them again, but staying out of focus from the wonderful world of knowledge can hurt over time and you may not even realize it until it is way too late.
Am I implying here that you should live without emotions or personal connections? Nope. Personalities are built on that stage, looking out into an audience of your peers for approval. Just remember to keep it all in perspective. You would be surprised how much insanely important drama you forget over the years. I feel like I’m being hypocritical again, or maybe just confusing. It is just not enough to proclaim “BALANCE” as an answer when everything should be swayed more to the side of just, well, figuring out your life. Yes, you do have a while to get that all squared away, but this is a pretty good warning that time ticks faster than you think. Eight years I have been out of school and I feel like I could do it all over again tomorrow. I am more a student now than I ever was when I was supposed to be, and I am dismayed that no second chances exist so that I can pay more attention to what I missed the first time. It may be just a matter of hindsight as 20/20 now but the reason people like me talk like this is to clue you in on what we see from here in your future that you can not or will not see from your present. There is quite a bit of haze wafting out in the front of you on the walk of life, no question about that, and it takes a lot of guts and hard work to fight through it and come out at the right place on the other side…
Part three coming soon. Class dismissed.
Two quick notes:
1. What follows is part one of what will at least be a two part piece. I have not as of yet completely worked my way through it but should have it complete in the coming days unless it really gets out of control. The genesis of it was wondering what exactly I would say to my 9th grade self about the school years ahead, and this is what was born out of it.
2. If you enjoy what follows, or anything I have posted on this site in the past few months, it would be amazing if you gave me a little word-of-mouth advertising to all of your various social networks or anyone else who might get a kick out of reading my rants and opinions. There are various ways to share content, all done through buttons at the bottom of each post. I am definitely not at any kind of level where paid advertising would do me any good, but maybe in a few months or a year I will find myself there. I would just appreciate some kind of readership base. That may be asking way too much of the people that do visit this place at my insistence, but I am also aware that many people find this site through Google and other search platforms. I love all of that and do not want it to stop, but I would love to see this grow. The more I see that people care, the harder it will push me to create. Thanks in advance.
I begin with little more than a question –
“Does school matter to you?”
Oh, and another question — “Why?”
The way a person answers that question says a lot about them, especially if they are still in school. As I am no longer in school, I can admit that school only mattered to me because I was told it was supposed to matter. “Graduate, go to college, get a job” they all said as though this apparent assembly line process was so streamlined that failure was a complete impossibility. The sad truth is that I really did want an education. It just so happened that what I was being offered did not always mesh with with my expectations. I spent numerous hours in and out of classrooms learning, studying, and being tested on information that I knew would have absolutely no bearing on my existence. And guess what? All of that information is gone, or at least is so buried in my subconscious so as to never be recalled even with a gun to my head. I can not even give examples; that is just how far gone it all is. It simply did not matter.
That right there changes the question though. It is not about the school itself, right? It is about what is actually being taught that does or does not matter. How many people care about all those niche sciences, carpentry, metal work, and brain draining high-end mathematics? Are you still taking a least some of those classes? Of course, because you are told to – you have almost no choice. Your fates were determined long ago that in order to move forward in life you had to complete those classes no matter what – by any means necessary.
It is about now where you might look at me and notice a little bit of bitterness. Yes, that might be true. Even when I was a student I felt like what I was doing was not worth my time or effort. I was a disenfranchised with a system that labeled me as smart and then chastised me for not “applying myself” when all I did was pass what they told me to. I was not happy, and I realized that “C or better” got me to the end just as much as 110% did. Looking back on that, I see how awful a choice that was. Still, I would make it today just the same if I was thrown back into that situation. The problem is that I would still be completely, utterly wrong. A little bit of conscious effort could have given me the education I dreamed of, or close to it, without sacrificing years of my time to all of those undesired pursuits.
First, I should have looked at what I was interested in. That’s a pretty good starting point for using any time and energy that you consider important. Then I should have looked at what exactly I was good at, and prayed there was some sort of overlap between those two categories. From that overlap, or at least those two separate categories, I could have gotten a much better snapshot of my potential future. In fairness, I loved computers in high school, but one college level programming class left me with a giant wound in my heart after I realized just how unfit I was for that profession. It took me way too long to look at writing and more abstract creativity as I think I could maybe possibly kind of do, and I’m still paying for that now. Things could be very different if I would have noticed that in the ninth grade instead of the fourteenth.
That is why school really does matter. I may not like the system but it served as a great laboratory of all sorts of subjects that I may never have come across otherwise. It also, for better or worse, can give you plenty of time to realize what you may be darn good at and might want to look into as to what type of life you could make for yourself with your cache of newly discovered skills.
Let’s face it, I’m in no way trained to be a teacher, but that is what I would teach if I could – how to engineer the brightest possible future. I do not want my students to see their entire childhood as a raging gauntlet of information bent on destruction. Yes, there is a never-ending supply of information ready to be swam through, but the right navigational tools can turn that great, wide open ocean into a picturesque river of success…
That’s a pretty lovely piece of writing that I will end this section on. Part two of some as of yet unidentified number will be up in the near future, probably within 48 hours. I hope you come back and check it out. Until then…
Hard work is hard. Just gaze at that sentence for a while. Think of every single little thing that can muck up your ability to do whatever work it is you want to do. Think of the physical problems, the mental ones, and everything in between. There are a lot of circumstances that can make it almost impossible to work, including your own limitations, whether real or imagined. Hard work is hard. Never forget it.
Going over most of my writings I have realized that many of them deal, in some way, about maximizing output. It comes down to how much of something you want to produce and how you are going to go about producing. Production Level simply denotes how much you wish to produce, though what exactly you produce is entirely up to you. Effort Level is how much work you want to have to do to reach your Production Level. The problems begin to start when either the EL is too low or the PL is too high after taking into account all other variables.
Before I get into those variables, I want to explore these two levels in slightly more detail. It is in my opinion that entities (corporations, businesses, and by association the people in charge of them) care more about Production than Effort. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, are the general day-to-day worker ants of those entities, who almost always care more about their required Effort than what they are being told to Produce. Obviously, there are cases where employees do care about the Production, especially in the world of sales and commissions. These people can see incredibly clearly how much their effort and their production are tied together. They don’t boost their Effort, and their Production, in this case finalized sales, takes a huge hit. Success in just about any field can be correlated with how much a person values Production over Effort.
Back to the variables. It is worth mentioning that having a lower PL does not always mean someone is using a lower EL. The problem with the variables is that it does not take many of them to disrupt the conversion rate between EL and PL. For starters, everyone has a maximum EL built into them. There is only so much work a given person can do before they just have to stop or dramatic slow down. As such, this will always create a maximum PL, because even if the human factor is entirely removed from the equation, there are still only so many hours in the day.
Time is a harsh variable in the EL/PL ratio, especially when it comes to deadlines or even simply the end of the work day arriving much sooner than you actually wish to (at least on some level). In that way Time is, in actuality, also a constant. We can not actually change how much time we have, but we can change what exactly we do in that time to make sure we are maximizing our output. If a boss or supervisor decides to change a deadline suddenly, moving it much closer than originally intended, that causes the necessary PL to skyrocket, which it can not afford not to, but the variables it changes (like morale) could actually be much more of a hindrance than a help.
Just remember that Production should always be the goal, no matter what work is being done. Make sure to take notice when the necessary Effort required is becoming impossible to manage, and continue to refine and hone your understanding of the ratios needed for success to be not just possible – but inevitable. Hard work will still be hard, but only as hard as it has to be.
(…and make sure to check out my Tumblr, Apparently Photographic, among the links on the right. It is currently a wasteland, but I hope to add new material as much as I can. I am open to suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Invite me to Google+ if you happen to sneak in somehow – JM)
It’s not easy being a student, obviously. From preschool to master’s programs one is stuck having their education almost entirely under the control of whatever teacher or professor you have guiding you down the path of knowledge. Of course, the same situation exists among the working class regardless of position. The main problem I have witnessed over my school and work careers has been an absolutely disgusting amount of apprehension when it comes to the trainee/student moving away from the trainer/teacher (though of course there are exceptions).
Let’s look at this from the point of view of the student. We’ve all been there. We get placed into a job or a subject that we are unfamiliar with and given a guide rope to hang on to on the route to (hopefully) understanding. We follow our leader along the route and eventually we all reach the large clearing that opens to the vast openness that is the future. You have been trained up to the point of being acceptable at the tasks necessary for survival. While you may not be ready to be the teacher or the leader you are still a viable example along the trail for the next group through and this is exactly what the teacher wants, at least on the business side. On the educational side, the teacher wants you as close to mastery as possible to be able to move up to the next level of difficulty in the curriculum. This can be problematic when teachers are only given a finite amount of time with which to get you to that level, while in the workforce there is still a bit of a deadline, but it is much easier to blame your trainer for your shortcomings than it is to blame a schoolteacher that you might not have geometry grasped the way you need to.
This is where the apprehension comes in. Everyone knows that in the case of on-the-job trainer/trainee relations that unless the trainee is really at the top of Mt. Inept that the trainer will take more flak for the abilities of the trainee than the trainee will. It is incredibly easy to turn a supervisor on a trainer when you are just learning the ropes simply because you are just learning. It is acceptable to make mistakes. There is nothing inherently wrong with screwing up as a rookie (barring fields like medicine, bomb-making, and chemical mixing), let’s be perfectly honest about that. You are supposed to screw up. In fact, it is almost so ingrained in society that if you go into a job blind and do it well it comes as a total surprise.
This is how the apprehension is created. You are given a scape goat in the former of the person in charge of leading you and molding you into an acceptable employee. They take the blame, not you. Eventually this could snowball into all sorts of personal issues and intense fogs of hatred at your workplace, so it is key to balance the thin line of being able to do the work and yet still able to pass the buck when the moment is appropriate. Everyone knows how to do this. Everyone. It is almost depressing to see the aptitude people possess in covering their own behinds. If we applied our brains to the job as much as we apply it to Houdini’ng ourselves away from scrutiny we would have Renaissances stacking up like cars in NYC traffic.
So what is the point of all of this? Stop it. Take the blame. Give yourself up. The quicker you do, the faster you will learn. Trust me. But don’t just roll over like a dog who just got caught tearing through a trash can. Even if you have absolutely no desire to be an expert at your menial, minimum wage, blue collar position that you took just to pay your way through college you still need to allow yourself to be the target just as much if not way more than you dive out of the way of the supervisory danger. Showing that you are willing to be coached is looked at with a million times more pride and respect than those that run for the hills at the slightest hint of gray skies.
As far as education goes, just don’t give up. If you have to ask a thousand questions to get to the answer, fine. At least you didn’t throw your head up in confusion and throw your trigonometry homework into a burning trash can rather than ever crack open a textbook with numbers on the cover again. Failure is allowed and should be embraced so long as you continue putting your head down, digging your feet into the dirt and continuing to push forward. Success will come eventually, especially if you do not allow your own apprehensions to cut off that rope and that route to the calm, beautiful clearing of knowledge that you know is out there. It will embrace you harder than any failure. Trust me.
So around 18 months ago or so I started this blog in the hopes of spreading my random ideas out for the world to see. Thanks to various personal issues I can honestly say that I did not get very far. Now, with a renewed sense of energy, purpose, and hopefully ability I will try and craft something of much more substance and with a more refined subject matter.
I first thought of the title of this blog as sort of my own tongue-in-cheek look at my own ideas. I really had no clue as to how good or bad they were, just that I had them and wanted to share them. Do not misunderstand me here – that is still my goal with this project (obviously) but now I find myself staring head-long at something that I have always kept hovering in my brain cloud – Education.
Let’s be honest. There are problems. Small-scale, large-scale, and everything in between seems to have various degrees of brokenness. I’m not going to stand on a soapbox and wax political about teacher’s unions or educational funding (even if the latter is incredibly important). I am more in the realm of the classroom itself and what the student should be taking out of it to move along down the winding road of life. I have the highest of hopes that in my quest to discover why schools are how they are, why students behave as they do, and why the world sees our current educational system as the correct first step to a successful future that I will not simply flounder and fail. Just like the school system, I do not want to consider failure as an option nor will I simply grade myself a little higher to make me someone else’s problem. The first step to creating new standards is to follow them oneself.
Here goes nothing.
Class, for now, dismissed.