Early in my adult working life, I served as a data entry clerk. That wasn’t my actual job title but that’s mostly what I did. I worked. And I worked hard. Those first two years in the military I rarely took time off. I frequently worked nights, weekends, holidays, and took on other people’s workload.
Even today, I tend to become the victim of success, whereby I end up doing other people’s work for them and subsequently getting stuck, punished for productivity while I watch those same other people rewarded for incompetence.
It being government, none of us get paid more for working harder. Despite knowing that, I felt a drive to better myself as well as a drive to live up to high standard. Today, for me, it’s just a job. Back then, it was a calling – especially given all the commercials I saw prior to joining the military.
Well, those commercials are just commercials. I realized that early on, yet when I was with family, that held a certain image that I felt compelled to live up to. I think we can say the same about many jobs.
THE RULES OF EXTREME MEDIOCRITY
As comedy, here’s a partial list of some of the chapter titles for a book I’m working on (that I’ll probably publish no time soon), titled Shamurai, a Comedy:
• Aim for mediocrity
• Always lie about what you really want or just stop wanting
• Always seem busy
• Avoid speaking, ask questions, dumb questions, but not too dumb
• Disappear as soon as possible
• Downplay all skill
• Drag out work to fill the allotted time
• Forget all certifications
• Keep your door closed if you have one
• Never brag or take credit, because that means more work
• Never volunteer – you’re not getting paid more
• Praise everyone else – they’re not getting paid less
• Racism can help you avoid work
• Remain invisible
I left out the titles of some of the more productive chapters. My intent with each chapter is to fill it with real-life stories.
SELF-INTEREST EXPLAINS ALL
But not all self-interest is rational, as psychologist and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman points out. When I initially outlined the chapters, my theme was about how incentives (in particular, tangible incentives) explains much of the behavior I see.
Oh, no. There are much funnier influences at work. I’ve heard this quote attributed to J.P. Morgan, paraphrased, “There exist two reasons for why a man does something: the right reason, and the real reason.”
The right reason refers to the reason that we want to present to the world, and it’s usually something rational or logical sounding.
The real reason means just that, the uniquely human quirk that we believe, to other people, would probably sound embarrassing, humiliating, non-sensical, silly or maybe even scary. And therein lies the comedy.