Something small….

I read an article today (at LinkedIn) about a manager refusing to engage in ‘Stack Ranking’ of employees. It was a good article, and although I’d heard of it, I was really unaware of how the practice worked. I work for a state agency, and I’ve heard that it’s been used here (but heck, raises come so infrequently around here, period….that it rarely even comes up!)

But, it made me remember something I used to do when I worked in healthcare administration. I used to like to do the old ‘Memo’ containing ‘Supervisor’s Expectations’ with many of my employees. It wasn’t ‘negative’ per se, or really even meant to be ugly, but now, with many years of life and working under my belt, I’ll say this: I wouldn’t do that kind of crap nowadays….I just wouldn’t. If you’re a good manager, and you know how to motivate people, just through talking and chatting, your people should know what’s expected of them…..without a silly memo.

It’s demeaning and as a minimum, pedestrian, to treat your people like that.

Just throwing out some gratitude

I work in Texas. Child Protective Services is really in the news these days around these parts. We read lots of things (positive AND negative) about families and children in the press since an (apparent) need for more spending in that department is present.

This is silly…..but I just feel grateful for all the good things my Mom did for me when I was a kid. I really miss her…..she died many years ago. But I just really miss her and wish I could hug her and tell her ‘thank you’ today for all the great stuff she did for me while I was growing up. The music lessons, the money for school trips, the clothes, the cooking, the shopping, the doctor/dentist/orthodontist visits, church, weekends, hugs, laughter, an attentive ear…….and so much more. Thank you, Mom. I miss you every day. When you were alive, I thanked you…..several times……but I just wish I could do so VERY LOUDLY today, right here where I am.

Maybe this’ll help someone……

I generally don’t get too carried away here in terms of mental health stuff, but I thought I’d toss this into the ether as it might help someone out there. I could make this a REALLLLLL-LLLLLLYYYYY long post but I’m busy and not in the mood to do that right now.

This summer, while away on vacation, I had some time to do a little thinking about a few things…..to take stock of where I am and what I’m doing in my life. I’m in my mid-40’s (and sliding rapidly toward my LATE 40’s!)…..so these kinds of thing tend to happen around this time in a person’s life.

I make my living in the field of social services, which as anyone knows DOESN’T tend to reward workers in a large monetary sense of the word! A good number of years back, I spent some time in healthcare administration….and made EXCELLENT money, but it was VERY stressful on me and my family. Here’s the critical thing: I had several flavors of superiors (‘Senior V.P.’s’ blah-blah-blah….you get the idea). I generally DID NOT feel like I was cut out to climb the ladder and become one of those types of corporate talking-head type guys…..fine, great, groovy. In my self-talk, I might say: ‘I’m just not that type of guy.’ …….and hey, that’s perfectly fine. HOWEVER,  during my ‘epiphany’ I came to realize that, in very subtle ways, I’d been insulting myself for NOT TRYING TO BE one of those kinds of guys. I’d been tormenting (so-to-speak) myself for not being one of those conquer-the-universe type guys! On one side of my brain, I knew what I was/wasn’t…..but on the other side of my brain, I spent a lot of time calling myself a ‘loser’ etc.  That’s really twisted……..and so strange to me that I was just ‘deaf’ to that.  To continue this thought further, I’ve often been a ‘You’re OK, I’m not OK’ kind of person. I lean toward…..’Everyone else is on a cruise’……’Everyone else is getting promoted’…..’Everyone else is getting a raise’ in my mind……..all the while, ignoring the people who’re failing/struggling left-and-right!

So, here’s the deal: Life is hard……..FOR EVERYONE! That neighbor of yours, who’s always doing great…….he isn’t……….trust me on that. Everyone you know is struggling, and clawing and huffing and puffing their way through the day JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. One of those guys I know (I respected him, and still do today)……he experienced HUGE amounts of success in a company I worked for. Then, one day, his wife couldn’t pick up a dish. He took her to the hospital, right during the midst of his perfect life and his perfect kids (each of whom belonged on a magazine cover)….and his amazing house and his incredible salary…….to learn she had a massive brain tumor. She died 18 months later, at 42…..and his world got turned upside down….his beautiful, sweet, intelligent wife, who adored him and their kids.  I don’t glory or revel in that….I care about that guy……but life didn’t hand him perfection……’cause it NEVER promised that it would to begin with. No one gets perfection…..no one. 

On getting older and the related flotsam therein

Many people, even those in their 20’s are known to say, ‘Man, I’m getting old!’ or the old chestnut, ‘Man, getting old sucks.’ But I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind here lately: The realization that I seriously AM getting older.  I’m not quite in my ‘late 40’s’ just yet. But I am at that place where a lot of people find themselves…….haven’t remotely achieved the degree of career success I’d hoped for, don’t have nearly the money in the bank I’d hoped for, my marriage is so-so, my life is way too busily wrapped up in a mixture of tedious logistics and boring drivel. My business card has ‘social worker’ printed on it, but ‘guy who types numbers in little blocks displayed on a computer monitor’ is what it should read.

I honestly don’t feel like I’m in a mid-life crisis (I got that out of the way YEARS ago). I just can’t believe I have so FEW YEARS left to live. In my working life, I’ve tasted of both success and failure (as most have)…..but I’ve sort of flopped down in some sort of gray zone nestled between the two……and, in a manner of speaking, that’s OK with me. ‘Settling down’ is good for child-rearing years and I’m nuts about my kids. Work-wise, my wife is actually going through a much more painful spot that I am…..and I’m perfectly fine just grinding it out for a while so she can re-gain her footing, I really am.

It’s just hard realizing that I’m not that incredible anymore–notably, I probably never was, but for a while I THOUGHT I was (as most young people do)! I mean, I’ll nearly be an ‘old man’ in about 20 years…….20 years!!! How can I be 20 years away from being almost-old?! Geez, I’m rambling.  To be continued……….

Hmmmm, interesting

I’ve never been a huge fan of Psychology Today magazine. As a social worker, I find much of the stuff to be wacky, wonky babble that teeters near the line of astrology more than science. However, I stumbled upon this article today: No autism epidemic

Simply on the matter of thinking like a proper scientist, it’s a good article.

Careful what you measure!

Measurement is a big part of the grown-up working world. Companies measure profit vs. loss. Hospitals measure ‘bed days’ and ‘labor expenses’ etc. In some way, accounting has been an integral of ALL organized societies for gazillions of centuries. I worked in the for-profit healthcare area for a long time (and still do, in a moonlighting capacity, but for a MUCH smaller agency than I did in the old days). Back then ‘managing labor’ was HUGE. Admittedly, NOTHING IN THE WORLD can bleed money like a nursing facility or an assisted living center if you don’t keep an eye on staffing-to-patient ratios…..but I digress.

I find most forms of measurement interesting. Statistics is one of the few arenas of mathematics that has (pretty much) always made sense to me. News outlets manipulate statistics all the time…..they’re good at it. I read a bit on the VA-scheduling scandal earlier today and thought I’d put a clip up here:

“In some cases, the system encouraged manipulation even without explicit instruction from supervisors. A manager in West Palm Beach, Fla., sent out laudatory emails touting the shorter wait times the system showed. Schedulers in Harlingen, Texas, reported being berated by supervisors when they booked appointments showing longer wait times for veterans. (It was “not pretty,” one employee said.)” —USA Today 

From a young age, I picked up on how people could be ‘praised’ obliquely…….we say ‘good job’ about this-that-and-the-other all the time…..so human logic figures out quickly that whatever falls outside that is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.  Although I’m a veteran, I’ve never sought 10 seconds-worth of medical care from VA (although I may have to one day). That said, I’m certainly no expert on federalized-healthcare, either. I will say, though, that SYSTEMS develop their own system of values and mores. School teachers know this, they learn it quickly in college. ‘I like how Austin has his books stacked neatly, and is sitting quietly at his desk.’  They learn quickly to praise the desirable behavior…..and it works!  So, when the boss sends out e-mails that say: ‘Whoa, no wait times! You guys are awesome!’, what do you think will happen?!

Companies, hospitals, whomever, whatever, wherever: we have to fall in love with TRUTH, no matter the potential outcomes….and everyone knows….often, the truth hurts!

It’s All Good

This post has been a long time coming!!  I’m tired and busy right now, so I need to make it brief. I’ve spent too much time thinking my life is ‘small’……..many mechanisms of modern life can contribute to that type of mindset. There’s been a lot of dialogue about that very thing lately; ‘Everyone’s life is great and mine isn’t……..just look at Facebook and you’ll see!”  Poppycock, I say.

I have a great life. I have two amazing kids. I have a (fairly) loving wife. I have a good job and a good home in a good neighborhood. I have a smart brain and a good education. I help others who have a hard time helping themselves.

I can exert very little control over what mean people do to nice people who own a pizzeria in Indiana. I can do very little to impact human trafficking in Cambodia. I doubt that I can do a lot this week to effect polar ice caps or radiation leakage somewhere. Nope I don’t own anything that floats.  But, I can do something and I do do MANY things to help the world while living a full life. No, my life isn’t amazing. It isn’t filled with supermodels and high performance motorcycles (and whatever other stupid material thing that wont come to mind right now!) But I have good people and good co-workers and good neighbors and good fellow church-members in my life…..and that’s good. My life is good and I want to keep giving GOOD back to the world. I’m OK….I’m really, really OK…..and that’s great. Heck, that’s a long way from a ‘small life’!

Remember all the good in your life. Entropy resides all around us. Drink in today’s good stuff….because it won’t last forever!

It is what you make it!