Friday, June 29, 2012

On My Mind: Social Investments

In the continuing vein of maximizing your return on time investment Wait. That's never been a theme you idiot.

Shush voice in my head.

Anyways, I have lived much of my life roughly according to the following: "if you are awesome enough, people will naturally be attracted to you." Or, another way of putting it, your natural state should be able to make people interested. Be yourself. And if being yourself = being awesome, you are a winner. This has the underlying assumptions that 1) people are naturally interested in cool/interesting people and 2) organically grown "natural" relationships are the best.

The first one makes a lot of sense at face value. I certainly like hanging around interesting people. They tend to make life interesting.

It's the second reason that can be a bit of a trap. On one hand, you don't want to force fake relationships. Being someone you are not, hiding behind a mask, is not healthy and can lead to some very unhappy moments. Plus you either will always have a barrier up (not conducive to deep relationship and trust me people will pick up on it), will have to work really hard to maintain the persona for an extended period of time through a variety of complicated situations (hint, really hard), or eventually somehow morph into that person (hint, really freakin' hard). So don't go around trying to please people, you have to be yourself. On the other hand, taking things "naturally" means to some a very passive approach to relationships. You just be yourself and "let the win roll in" as it were. People who are worth it and like me will naturally flock to me and I just have to wait for them to come.

Just FYI, that's complete and utter crap. You're complete crap Not now dangit.

People may care about how naturally awesome you are. We get interested and wowed by athletes and brilliant minds and smooth talkers. But as detailed in this article they are even more interested in whether you will invest in their lives. If you are not interested in them, then most people are not interested in you.

I mean, let's face it. Why would I expect people to come and ask me to hang out if I never ask them? If I continually say I have a scheduling conflict why would they keep inviting me to events? If I never put effort into a relationship, a sharing of a life, then why expect someone else to put theirs out in the open? Because I'm just that awesome and if-only-they-took-the-time-to-find-out-the-real-me and

yeah right.

The best way of showing how awesome you are is to spend time and share things/experiences/thoughts. Investing in others causes them to open up. And when they open up, they will share about themselves. And if you have commonalities, you can share that part of your life too. And the reciprocation cycle becomes a positive feedback loop. A lot better than waiting for them to ask about your awesomeness that you keep hidden behind a mask of boredom. This is why commonalities naturally form the basis of relationships and friendships. And hatedom like I hate you STOP THAT

Granted, investing in yourself is also good. As many previous posts show I am a huge advocate of self-improvement. But just investing in yourself and expecting the rest of the world to automatically want to be your friend is silly. Why? Because it is rare people will ever find out about your awesome secret skill set. It's kinda a secret. You can't keep charging admission to get a glimpse of "who you really are". People will naturally just head to the attraction that not only doesn't charge an entry fee but gives out free ice cream and hugs to boot.

In short, don't expect people to take time to find out about the "real you" if you don't put in the time to find out the "real them." If you're looking for maximum friendship for your time, invest it in other people instead of yourself. It's more about value added than value extracted. Be the most awesome listener your friends know.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go beat up myself.

Don't let him get away with this! Call the police! He's a deranged schizophrenic stupid meanie face! HELP! HEL

Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day Edition

Oddly enough I'm pretty sure my dad had no idea what he was doing.

Now, he is a terribly awesome dad in general. I mean, he supported the family. He made sure things happened. He took command when called. He made sure we were safe. He was ready to sacrifice it all for us.

But at the same time there were moments it felt like he was grasping at straws. Like a very short period where he decided for our birthdays we'd spend the evening out with him. It was started while I was in middle school and felt kinda weird, and discontinued after a few years. Or how I never got an official "birds and the bees" talk. I picked up how to tie a tie from a book. Father-isms were few. Not at all the classic media portrayal of a father-son relationship.

Instead I learned from his actions. Like how he made sure Mom was taken care of when she got hurt (she broke an ankle once). Or how easy-going he was. How he was willing to chat up random people and learn about their lives. Or the way he could just shrug and let a problem roll off while in the background rapidly fixing it.

Probably the one role that best exemplified this was his work in A/V. One of my childhood memories was playing around in the sound booth during service while my Dad ran sound. Or how we'd get up extra early to setup the sanctuary by running wires and setting up microphones. I was told he was one of the best techs in the church. For special occasions he was usually the one running the system taking meticulous notes during rehearsals of how he wanted to balance the sounds for each song. He was skilled, gifted, and worked diligently making sure everything ran smoothly.

And yet it wasn't a glory job. You only notice the A/V team when things go wrong. He wasn't the head of the A/V teams. If things went badly or I bumped into a switch he'd just swiftly recover and go on instead of blowing up with frustration. He didn't brag; I didn't know how highly prized he was until I was told by others.

I also wasn't forced into anything. Even though other members of the church were curious if I'd eventually succeed him in the sound booth, he just smiled. If I asked about things he would explain, like what feedback was (I may or may not have caused it several times). But I wasn't being forcibly groomed. The way he figured is he'd be open to the possibility but he wouldn't force me to do anything.

This was typical him. Silent infrastructure, a cool head, and providing opportunity without forcing your hand. A classy leader from the background. And although he may not have always known what he was doing, he would never stop trying to do his best.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Juggling Glass Balls

I once had a teacher who told me life is like juggling a bunch of glass balls. You'll want to keep trying to add glass balls, but eventually it'll become harder and harder to keep them all in the air. And if you make a mistake, they go crashing into the ground.

Well, I definitely see this as truth.

On the job alone juggling the myriad of responsibilities and two major products. And within each project the various tasks people always seem to need done right then and there. Everyone seems to think their little job for me must be done right then and there.

Add on to that keeping up with social circles. Navigating different situations, scheduling which events I can and cannot attend, and making the hard choices when two groups' plans conflict. I can't hang out with everyone all the time. And I can't talk with everyone all the time.

Layer on that my own personal hobbies. Writing this blog. Consuming media. Keeping up with the latest headlines in the world. Reading.

Plus the grown-up stuff like paying bills and registering to vote and making sure my car isn't a smoldering hunk of metal because I didn't change the oil. Plus tracking my expenses to make sure I have enough to pay for all the stuff I want to spend my income on while saving an appropriate amount for future major goals and paying down what debts I have. And don't forget time to keep the house clean.

Oh, and if I have the spare cycles, plotting.

I have to put certain balls down and stop trying to juggle them. Or else everything is going to crash and burn.

Friday, June 1, 2012

"No Problem"

I'd like for you to take a moment to think about your default response to someone saying "Thanks!"


I noticed mine is "No Problem." There's nothing inherently wrong with it. It's a common response. It fits the requirements of a response (acknowledgement and acceptance). It isn't terribly haughty ("of course you should thank me"). At first glance.

But it does reveal something else. On my end, it is belittling what I did. I am saying that what I did took no effort nor put me at a disadvantage. There was no sacrifice in my actions. This fits perfectly in the context of trying to maintain an image that everything comes easily for me. That I have it all under control. Nothing can faze me, and really I didn't even break a sweat. I'm just that awesome.


And to the person who just graciously thanked me, from their position I am belittling their thanks. It wasn't something you really had to thank me for. After all, it was just a little thing I did out of my spare time and goodness of my heart. Nothing to it really. You don't even need to really thank me. It was that easy. I can do this all day and not break a sweat, so why are you even thanking me?

Now, as I hope you know those sorts of things don't run through my head. And I am fairly certain those who get this response don't feel ashamed they thanked me either. But still, sometimes it's the most subtle things that make the difference. And it is always the subtle things that reflect the deeper things inside.

What's your reflexive response, and what does it say about you?