One bite at a time…

…Is how you eat an elephant.

Yesterday I declared a wish to live elsewhere. To manage that, I need something I don’t have: money. (Wow. I so don’t have money.)

The good news is that since I’m the author of a new book that trends to positive reviews (in spite of its many flaws), I’ve felt confident that given enough time, my proverbial ship will come in.

The bad news is that I can only demand so much if it does. There are ways for me to get from here to elsewhere that don’t require me to have money in the bank at the beginning of the process, but that leaves an awful lot to chance.

I think I made it pretty clear yesterday that I don’t leave things to chance unless it can’t be helped.

That means money. Which means work. And for the sake of my mental health, that means a steady job, not just contracts.

Speak of the Devil

While I was working on yesterday’s entry, I saw a post declaring that the paper (or one of its sister business units) is looking for someone with my skills under the heading of a line producer. Well, less than my skills — I’d reckon three-to-five years of experience in a slightly narrower skillset, with more of a journalism-colored background, as opposed to my fifteen years of freelancing in new media backed up with a clipbook that I wasn’t hired full-time to write (and wrote more for the sake of my cv than my pocketbook).

…And the posting was for responsibilities to be undertaken during overnights. Not ideal.

Ideal or not, it’s a shot at a steady paycheck, for a company that I have few reservations about, that maintains their premises within walking distance of my apartment. A guy in my position could do onehelluvalot worse.

I’ve been wondering if they’ll bejudge to the effect of “overqualified trouble” and roundfile me, but Lawrence is small enough that someone will probably go “heywaitaminute, at least talk to the guy. He’s opinionated for a reason.” (…More than one, I like to think.)

Interview chess

It’s a useful exercise to think ahead, even if they don’t write or call me back. My skillset’s a bit annular — I switched my main energies to copywriting and being an emotional mess right around the time that frameworks took off, and the thought of requesting a boatload of API code over the network, just to make some widget, makes me sick to my stomach since I can accomplish the same thing locally with a fraction of the computing resources. I’m also pretty offended by the skills erosion that’s encouraged by framework adoption.

(I get the point to frameworks; it’s just that with my work history, the only present reason for which I can justify deploying them is to prove that I can. Boooooorrriiiiiing. I am not looking forward to that screaming example of makework.)

The upshot of the void in my skills is that when I finally snag a job, I will be massively underqualified (at least on paper), massively overqualified, or walking into a role that’s been tailored to my skills.

Sorry, folks, but my ego’s not capacious enough for me to count on the latter outcome. Instead of feeding my ego, I think about how to handle the other outcomes on my feet.

From start to finish

There’s no getting around the fact that… I’m pretty brittle.

Once upon a time, it was worse. If you think I’m an opinionated jerk now, you should meet my 21-year-old self. That guy was brittle.

The brittleness shattered. That was what I meant yesterday when I wrote that I started the process of getting over myself at that point in my life. When you witness the horrifying consequences of human depravity but cannot turn away as in the past, you question the existence of your own soul. When you realize that you’ve got a long time more to live — and thus a good deal more depravity to witness — you question the whole notion of sanity.

Between that combined-arms assault on my (already tenuous) faith and the mellowing of age, I long since stopped believing that I was the smartest, or most virtuous, or most sticktoitive person in the room. The belief that I was smart, virtuous, and sticktoitive at all almost withered away, too.

The upshot is that beyond a certain point, I’ve ceased to give a shit. I want to show up for work, do the best job I can, make something with at least some value in the process, then finally go home and mind my own business until I do it over again the next day.

There’s still enough of a spark in me that I want to change the world somehow, but first things first: this hand-to-mouth-living-on-the-forebearance-of-my-family crap has gotta go.

Water, shelter, and food: those are the priorities ahead of being useful and affiliated. All of those priorities are tons easier to meet when you’ve got cash in hand.

So if I were king

The caveat that really makes me stop and think is that I’m habituated to the Shit Magnet role. When someone starts playing at politics, I’m a primary target. When someone feels like kicking the dog, I too often take on the role of the dog. When someone wants to play Hurry Up And Wait, I'm the one stuck waiting — to the detriment of my pocketbook.

That happens because I’m habituated to it. Some vibe I throw, some value I manifest, paints a bullseye on my chest, and I don’t even realize it until it’s too late.

While it’s certainly true that I’d rather it be me instead of someone with yet thinner skin — I’ve proven what I can take, and it’s a lot, thanks — it does get old. Alpha-gorilla bullshit brings out the very best passive-aggressive resentment I have to offer, and that gets old, too.

Today I don’t have any epiphanies. I only have worst-case scenarios and cold, hard truths.

All I’ve got to fight back with is faith, and that feels like it’s in pretty short supply right now. As for that state of sieige, it’s no crisis at all.

Music

Midnight Oil, “King of the Mountain”
@amazon
@allmusic

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King of the Mountain

King of the Mountain —by Ben Henick, 24 June 2010

All journal entries

  1. Talking About the Weather
  2. To the Rafters?
  3. Coming of Age with Killer Apps
  4. Race to the Bottom
  5. Meditations on Decay
  6. Net Neutrality, or the Lack Thereof
  7. Three Problems
  8. Post Mortem of a Book Project
  9. The Egg and the Chicken
  10. Yellow Dog
  11. Digging Through the Clutter
  12. Lessons from Mom
  13. Being Careful What You Wish For
  14. Out on a Limb
  15. Beliefs, No. 1
  16. Like a Chimney
  17. Does Not Compute
  18. Past Trends, Future Results
  19. Beyond These Four Walls
  20. Competence, Confidence, and Reality
  21. Anesthesia
  22. King of the Mountain
  23. “A Deer in the Headlights”

Disclaimer: This is definitely self-indulgent. If you don’t like it, read somebody else.

This nook of the Internet is my antidote for Twitter. ©2010 Ben Henick, all rights reserved.

Job, or hell?

Yesterday I happened on two links. (Good grief, I love the Web.) The first is an e-mail alideshow of sorts aimed at the guts of some hypocrite named Spencer, the author’s (erstwhile imaginary) boss. The second is an article in Slate discussing the (un-) desirability of low- to mid-level service jobs.

…And then there’s the story of the flight attendant who on Monday found a spectacular way to say “take this job and shove it” after being verbally assaulted at length by a passenger.

All three pieces are a kick. Reading them in rapid succession, as I did yesterday afternoon, is a kick in the guts. The article about jobs-in-general particularly evoked from me a visceral response.

Rich get richer, poor get poorer

The sense of entitlement to profit that I raised a few days ago is evident in every talk about compensation I’ve heard about, or participated in, in the past several years. It seems to me like the vast majority want labor for the cheapest they can possibly obtain, while remaining content to throw handfuls of money at senior management and holders of equity — even ones who, as it turns out, contribute little or nothing.

It always seems like the same old story: hire somebody with the basic minimum of proven ability in order to get away with paying them as little as possible, train them up to the minimum needed by the organization, fire the ones who don’t take comfortably to that scheme at the instant they’re identified, and work the others to the bone until they burn out.

I believe that on some level, most people recognize that this is going on. However, I struggle to understand why. It seems axiomatic to me that people who feel valued will work harder, yet the trend moves toward every possible effort to remind people that they’re replaceable and ought to get the best out of things while they can.

Compassion vs. sociopathy

The only fact that adequately explains this prevailing state of affairs is broad, unwitting subscription to the system cobbled together from the amoral rants of a mildly nutty Russian emigré. On balance that would not be so bad, except that like that ethos’ nemeses — Communism and Christianity — “Objectivism” works a hell of a lot better in theory than in practice.

I see two deep flaws with this ethos, deepening my my confusion. First, we can’t all be Howard Roark; lots of us lack the temperament requisite to that outcome. As much to the point, if we all could have and act upon that power, civilization as we know it would rapidly descend into barbarism. One man’s clear thinker is another’s cold-hearted sonofabitch, and the latter type is awfully good at inducing conflict.

Second, human beings possess and act upon compassion compulsively; the ones who habitually refuse or fail to do so are (rightly) called sociopaths. We all recognize that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and communities tend to raise the minimum when given the chance. Cutting loose that weak link instead… goes a bit far.

Meritocracy

The happy finish of the labor market’s neo-Nietzchean race to the botom can be found in two virtues that are compatible with all of the belief systems in play: honesty and fidelity.

As it stands, the realities of social (im-) mobility leave some with first-class tickets, and consign the rest to steerage barring both outstanding luck and superlative effort. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that anyone who manages to climb their way out of steerage won’t be shoved back down by some vindictive asshole.

Rewarding honesty and fidelity in the workplace — and penalizing those who lie, cheat, and habitually cover their asses — would go a long way toward making the labor market a better place for everybody.

We have the technological capacity to discover and promote out of steerage quickly the ones who’ve earned it, as a matter of course. We can do the reverse for those who feel most inclined to rest on their laurels. Why don’t we?

Music

Hey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ for a Livin’”
@amazon
@allmusic