Poetry: Unsentimental Journey

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Spa music drones in surround, covering

The drone of the engine like a cocoon

For a dying moth that will never dance

Orgasmically before the white light.

The other drone, in semi-consciousness,

Awakens to the stench and scream of brakes,

Finds his hands already clenched tight from dread

Of the thing that waits at the road’s dead end.

Changing lanes, choosing to avoid quick death

For the tamer option of wasting life

In a sea of trivia, in a world

Without significance, free from all hope.

Having chosen, he turns into the lot,

Parks the car, sighs, and enters the workplace.

 

Photo Credit: © Dawn Allynn | Dreamstime.com Commute

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What to Do When You Feel Trapped

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With a stagnant economy, many people feel stuck in their jobs. They didn’t like their jobs much before the economy went sour, but now those jobs are an oppressive daily reality. When your options are limited, you lose hope, and without hope, we feel trapped. People need possibilities, and this economy isn’t giving us much to work with.

We make the situation worse by rationalizing our fears. When things seem risky, we stay put and avoid taking any risks. This is even true for people whose jobs are in demand; employers are having a hard time prying people loose from the alleged safety of a job they’ve had for a while.

If you feel trapped, logic is your greatest enemy. You’re probably in the situation because you have rationalized your fears and believe you’re taking the logical course. When you’re dealing with a chaotic reality, Mr. Spock is not going to be much help.

However, Spock would probably be helpful in pointing out that your logic is based on flimsy information having to do with our comfort with status quo. What we know seems safer even though the evidence would indicate otherwise. In a fear-driven economy, no job is safe. For example, nurses are always in high demand, but many facilities are cutting nursing staff as health care organizations restructure in preparation for the new post-reform reality.

So, if you can’t stay put and there’s nowhere to go, what do you do?

What doesn’t make sense is continuing to do what you’ve been doing, because all that has given you is stuckness. If your strategy is based on the eventual turnaround of the economy, then your strategy is based entirely on an unknown and uncontrollable variable. All you’re doing is waiting for the guillotine to fall, which I imagine is a very uncomfortable feeling.

Drop the logic and follow your instincts. Start dreaming of different possibilities. Learn about things you’ve always wanted to learn about. If you can afford it, take some classes; if you can’t, dust off your library card and check the online or newspaper listings for free lectures and seminars. Consider leaving it all behind and moving to another locale, or just hitting the road for a while. Whatever you do, start moving, either physically or intellectually. You can’t get unstuck if you stay in the same place. If you decide to embark on a path into the unknown, remember to trust your native intelligence. After all, you’re smart enough to have figured out that the current situation is a no-win scenario.

Take a look at the people in your life. They can be the greatest source of help or the heaviest weight due to the expectations and obligations they heap on you. If there are relationships that are holding you back from possibilities, phase them out and find people who will support you for just being you.

Look closely at your own stubbornness. Stubbornness is usually based on a fear of dealing with new situations. If you’re clinging to old beliefs and dreams that no longer nourish you, if you find yourself repeating old rules that have been stuck in your head for years, then you are probably your greatest obstacle. Identify your dogma and begin to let it go.

And don’t forget to ask others for help when you need it. All of us feel awkward asking for help, but the truth is that many people are willing to help, even in this me-first society of ours. 

By forcing yourself to rethink the situation, recapture your imagination and avoid the trap of perceiving the world as one of infinite limitations. There are always opportunities if you keep your mind open to them. They may be nothing like what you had in mind, but the last thing you need when you are looking for a way out is to try to control the situation. Even if it takes time for something new to come up, you’ll feel better that you’re learning, growing and considering the possible rather than stubbornly holding on to what you believe is impossible.

Why Business Books Are Helplessly Helpless

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©1983 Paperboat, via Dreamstime.com

I’ve had a few real jobs that required me to read extensively in the genre of business books.

Correction: I’ve had a few real jobs that required me to skim business books. It’s impossible to actually read a business book, because there’s so little there there.

When I have to read one, I skip to the end of a chapter and pray that the author has included a summary of his or her five main points. That way I don’t have to slog through fake cliche-ridden dialogue or stories of companies that were considered great at the time but wound up either going down in flames or exposed as a truly gruesome place to work. In From Good to Great, Jim Collins celebrated Circuit City, who wound up firing their more senior employees to save money, which alienated their customers and led them to the bankruptcy they so truly deserved.

Serves Collins right for focusing primarily on the financials.

Many business books are full of dumbed-down cliché material repackaged to look cute and fresh. Very similar to the fruit growers who packaged borderline tangerines in a bag and named them Cuties. Books like Who Moved My Cheese? and anything by Ken Blanchard fall into this category. I can’t decide if these are dumbed down because business people are dumb or if it’s because few people have the stomach to take business seriously (it’s really not that difficult, folks).

There are “scholarly” business books, usually published through the Harvard Business Review or the like, that are designed to help people who care about status to believe that what they’re doing actually requires intelligence. Although written in better English, they too fall short in the substance department. They create jobs for wannabe gurus and leave it at that.

Some business books provide “real-world situations” that people can relate to, then boilerplate solutions that won’t change a damn thing. The 5 Dysfunctions of Team falls into this category. These books are dangerously naive about human beings and generally ignore the fundamental conflict of interest that exists in any profit-oriented organization.

As a person who has had some moderate success in actually changing organizations, I can say there are very few books that have helped to shape change. Few are in the genre of business books: Impro by Keith Johnstone, Education for Critical Consciousness by Paolo Freire, The Abilene Paradox by Jerry Harvey and Maverick by Ricardo Semler. I would also add many of Dickens’ novels to the list because he clearly understood the split-personality reality of having to make your living inside large organizations.

The bottom line, as business people love to say, is this: until business people are willing to truly problematize themselves as individuals, to realize and accept the responsibility of leaders to their employees and to work to create workplaces that nourish souls instead of killing them, business books will continue to be the empty fluff they are. Any idiot can make money, and if we only demand profit from our leaders, we will continue to have idiotic workplace cultures where we bury our feelings of profound alienation by telling ourselves how lucky we are to have jobs in the first place.