Why you don’t “Deserve” a dime, Or: Learn the miracle of not being a tool

by hulk

If I could bring back one person to start beating people over the head, I would bring back Harry Truman. Why? “The buck stops here.” How easy is it to blame external conditions for our lack of satisfaction? It seems perfectly logical to trace events that have had direct influence on our lives and caused us some kind of hardship. However if you really look at many hardships, there is either a pattern or a series of exacerbations. Allow me to explain. I recently had an accident on the highway. I was driving at a high rate of speed in icy conditions because I couldn’t stand being behind slow moving cars. This ended up costing me $600 in repairs to my vehicle and who knows what kind of insurance hike is awaiting me when my next insurance bill comes next month. I am fairly clearly at fault here. Don’t you know someone who might blame the city for not plowing before rush hour? Or perhaps someone who would demand better industry-wide tire quality, or might ask for icy condition training to be incorporated into driver’s license tests? It’s certainly the response the government would take in response to a singular incident. Wow, I just thought of another rant, but I’ll continue with this one for now.

Let me make a more realistic point: I’ve had some trouble at work getting the technicians producing parts for me to adequately inspect the parts. They are all of similar age and background and one of them is able to find defects while the other two cannot. She spends more time with the parts and takes a closer look at them. The other two take a detached attitude to the parts. Should I not come home complaining about lazy techs who are so hard to work with? I would not do this since I know all three are excellent workers. Let’s say I didn’t know them. Wouldn’t I blame any missed defects on their “laziness”? Also take an operator who was, until recently, performing some operations involving cutting on my parts. I found, upon inspecting her work before shipping, that she had cut up several of the parts improperly, rendering them useless. She had lied to me about not finding any defects when I asked. Should I not blame her for my loss of parts?

OR: Should I take responsibility as the engineer for the project? Should I design a better inspection process that is more foolproof and requires less effort from the technicians? Should I define better what a defect is and hold a training session to show them what I am looking for and what I am not worried about? Should I have inspected the operator’s work earlier to make sure she was not improperly cutting parts, or explained to her more carefully which sections of the parts were necessary and which were not? Should I have given her tools that would have made it difficult to accidentally mangle the parts?

Here lies the freedom you can grant yourself with personal responsibility. When external factors are turned into internal factors, you find that there are actions you can take to counteract undesirable conditions. It’s liberating, ironically, to blame oneself for problems because you can immediately see your areas for improvement.

Where am I going with this? I saw some posts online today about the injustice of wealth distribution, about how middle-class families are having trouble with their bills, and how we lack such things as universal health care. I was speaking with a co-worker the other day about the costs of health care and how I simply didn’t want to see a doctor for some conditions. I also said that health care today is better than the alternative years ago. He asked which alternative that was. I said it was to die, or simply lie there in pain. You see, we forget how quickly medicine has advanced. Yes, some of these techniques are prohibitively expensive. Yes, child vaccinations and doctor’s visits run up burdensome costs. Think of this: Many in the world have to deal with not getting any care for their child, or comparatively poor care. And twenty, thirty years ago, most of these care options didn’t exist! We didn’t wake up to a world that charged too much without providing the salary: we woke up to a world with so many conveniences in it and no easy way to afford them all. No, your average American is not able to afford all the luxuries we associate with the middle class without going into debt. Yes, the middle class is disappearing – awash in a sea of luxury unavailable years ago. Now we cry about the cost of our groceries while our children are getting fat? People simply don’t go hungry anymore! Now you can certainly point out that a virus my mentor calls “The Royalty Model” has infected American corporations to the point where corporations can have layoffs while giving CEOs and upper management bonuses (it actually happened at United Airways). To me that deserves to be a separate debate, and I assure you, the royalty model pisses me off too. It encourages imcompetence in the form of Powerpoint slides.

Think of all the modern conveniences your parents, let alone your grandparents, did not have at your age. You assume the ownership of a car, a home, television, plenty of food, eating out occasionally, entertainment, kitchen equipment, medical care. The problem isn’t with our salaries: it’s that there’s too much stuff to buy. And in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses” we’ve all gone into credit card debt for things we assume we deserve and need simply to live in modern society. If you really want to save money, think creatively. Do your kids need expensive karate lessons, or could some time spent with them at home give them the exercise needed? Can you or can you not find jobs for you and your spouse allowing flexible hours? Do you need two cars? What about carpooling, or moving closer to an urban area? Do you need that damn idiot box, or will library books serve? Do your kids need tons of plastic crap? Do you need that home computer? A DVD player? Do you need a home as big as the one you own, in the area you live? Years ago, homes were much smaller.

I contend that the quality of life has gone up too fast for salaries to match, while contending with a corporate model that necessitates hostile management-employee relationships. Their needs to be a change in business schools that train these people and attitudes among managers, as well as a return to a simpler lifestyle. Trust me, it’d be better financially and spiritually.

I only wish I had the courage to get rid of some of my stuff and live like the Amish. They’re so polite!