Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hibernating and philosophising (other people's problems)

I really want to hibernate at this time of year. Some minor upgrades in my flat, together with a bit more interest at work, should mean better sleep and a more awake and creative hedgehog over the next few weeks. But I don't like winter very much. At least the days are getting longer now.

Tango helps me a lot in winter - most of the time it's a guaranteed mood-lifter, and even when the social side can be emotionally tricky, stepping on a few emotional mines is much better for me than just hiding away from this stuff.

My first week back at work contained far too much stressing about big-company problems. More or less all big companies that have been around for the time it takes to get big, have more or less the same problems. They include organisational stupidity: not stupidity of the people, as such, but stupidity created by the mere size of the organisation. Pointless and irritating problems that go unsolved for years, or even decades, because they are on too big a scale for anyone who can actually see them to solve, but too small a scale to be seen by anyone with the power to solve them, while at the same time being too embarrassingly stupid for the person whose problem they are supposed to be, to acknowledge their existence at all. It happens all the time.

Working for a big organisation also has advantages, and I know very well what they are. If I can't take big-company problems any more, the only answer is to move to a small company. Small companies have different problems and different advantages. Generally speaking, I can take big-company problems. Every now and then I just have to have a rant to my Mum or something. But I'm keeping an open mind. If you want a really good writer and "applications" bod who can talk to programmers, isn't a fool or a pedant, and frankly enjoys International English, feel free to make me an offer. I don't like long hours but I'm good at thinking, and I never lie to project managers. If I don't know the answer, I'll say so. But I'm all right where I am. Oh, and I can draw diagrams that make my boss less confused rather than more.

Everybody has problems. When I am feeling fed up about something, it's a good idea to ask myself:
  • What, exactly, is really the problem? Does it even exist? How do I know?
  • Is there anything that I can DO about this problem? Would it work?
  • Is it actually, primarily, when it comes down to it, MY problem?

Nothing necessarily gives us the obligation or the right to try to solve other people's problems. Other people have a right to their own problems, and they have a right to understand them, solve them, or neglect them in their own way. Even if a problem is to some extent a problem for me, it may be that there's someone else who has a better claim on it. I'm entitled to protect myself from harm, but I'm not entitled to run around clearing plates or moving furniture when I'm supposed to be a guest. That's irritating and officious at best; controlling and manipulative at worst. And if you don't know how the dishwasher works or where anything goes, it's harmful. The guest also has a role to play.

It's sometimes a good exercise to look around your life for things that are Somebody Else's Problem.

My new year's resolutions - well, I'll call them plans:

1) Stop worrying about big-company problems
2) Work on my leading.

New in my RSS feed:
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a superb writer and thinker on many subjects, but I particularly admire his willingness to distinguish between what he knows and what he doesn't know. That's how you tell real imagination from Bullshit. I love his articles on reading books - he's been reading George Eliot and Jane Austen.


Dieudonne said...

"what he knows and what he doesn't know"
And then the fun really starts in considering what we don't know that we don't know.
Thanks, enjoyed your post.

TwoToTango said...

" considering what we don't know that we don't know."

Which is only possible "by chance", e.g. when you talk with someone about a topic and that person tells you about your blind spot. I just had an experience like this on the observer-side when I did a job interview with a person. He didn't realize that he was completely ignorant about a vital subject of the job description until I gave him an example of what I was looking for. A real eye-opener for both of us and an awesome experience. He might still get the job if he is willing to enter into the "new" subject, though. :-)

msHedgehog said...

It's not only by chance: you can also do research and experimentation to discover what the next thing that you don't know is. In fact once you've passed the level of inoffensive comptence I'm not sure there's any other way of improving at something like tango.

Iain said...

"Discovering the next thing that you don't know" sounds like an interesting subject for a blog post...

TwoToTango said...

Agreed if you are already in a mode of exploring / willingness to learn. But then it seems to me that in this mode you are already suspecting that there still might be something around that you don't know yet?

Dieudonne said...


Absolutely, "chance" is a response to an intention/inquiry (whether or not we are aware of it) that we have about something.

@TwoToTango said...
Wouldn't be fun if we chose to be about playing in our blind spots at will, as opposed to waitinig for discoveries haphazardly.
And this is where msHedgehog's coment comes in: "In fact once you've passed the level of inoffensive comptence I'm not sure there's any other way of improving at something like tango."

"Inoffensive competence": thanks for the smile, I am stealing it.

msHedgehog said...

@TwoToTango; well, yes. But that's just a basic aspect of being interested in something, for which there isn't really any substitute.