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Office Hours (Episode 4): The Inner Ring and Communication with Coworkers & Crowds

This week’s Office Hours is all about communication. Whether it’s at work, for a large audience, or for someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, communication can create great challenges or opportunities at work and in your day to day life.

In this episode, Isaac and I break down questions about communication in three different contexts and discuss a powerful essay by C.S. Lewis.

Check out the new episode of Office Hours now on iTunesYouTubedirect download and all major podcast platforms.

In this episode:

  • The Inner Ring by CS Lewis and the dangers of chasing prestige
  • How can you make sure your voice is heard at work?
  • How can you become a better public speaker?
  • How do you communicate with people when you feel that most people aren’t good at thinking critically?

Are You Ready for The Battle That Comes With Your Dream?

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

“I want to write a book. I want to build a business. I want to blah blah blah.”

No you don’t. You don’t want this.

You want to write comments on the things that other people build, but you don’t want to build. It’s an ugly game out there for those who think they have the right to build things. When you step up to the plate and create, you become a target. You can hide when you criticize, but you can’t hide when you create. You can no longer pretend to be the helpless little person when you create. You have to own your power in order to create and that means you have to give up a lot of the free sympathy and pity you get for being unimpressed by what other people create.

No one feels sorry for you anymore when you present yourself as someone who actually has something to say, to show, or to sell. Once you step into the arena of self-assertion, the rules and the standards change. And you gotta be ready for that. Following your dreams is like getting a boxing match with the heavyweight champion of the world: It’s exciting and promising when you get the chance to go for it, but you will neither make an impact nor will you be standing in the end unless you know how to take some hits.

Going after the things you want in life is great, but it comes with the cost of being misunderstood, criticized, and opposed by powerful or pesky forces. So if you want to create things you believe in, then you need to be mentally prepared for the psychological and social challenges that come with creating things.

Some people will accuse me of painting an unfairly harsh picture of the world or they might assume that I’m characterizing all forms of criticism as adversarial.  But this isn’t a critique of criticism nor is it a criticism of critique. It’s a challenge to those who say they want to create, but who are afraid of the reactions and responses the world may have to them.

For the purpose of the point I am making here, it doesn’t matter if the criticism is fair or not. If you step up and put yourself out there, you will have to deal with feedback that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable. You’ll never be a creator unless you’re willing to develop the fortitude necessary to grow from criticism without being broken by it.

Making things happen isn’t just about chasing your passion. It’s also about refusing to let anything or anyone steal your fire along the way.

You have to be willing to build yourself if you truly want to build something else.

Growth Over Glory

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

When giving a lecture before an audience of ethnobotany/entheogen enthusiasts, Terence Mckenna offered the following advice to those who dared to venture along the psychedelic path: “refuse to be paralyzed by astonishment.”

What he meant was this: When you’re on a journey of any kind, there are always cool things to look at along the way. And if you’re not careful, you’ll become so enchanted by bright and shiny things that you’ll forget about why you were on that journey in the first place. So stay focused on your original intent and don’t allow your mission to be halted by the blinding lights of novelty.

McKenna’s advice was specifically about the bizarre and beautiful visual images that people often report seeing while on DMT. For McKenna, the purpose of experimenting with DMT was self-knowledge, not recreational adventure or mindless escape. So his advice was about not getting spellbound by exotic elements encountered along the spiritual path.

This advice applies to any process involving the pursuit of a goal. Anyone who has ever fallen prey to the temptation of click-bait knows how easy it can be to get distracted by cheap thrills. You get online with the goal of getting some work done and before you realize what’s happening, you’ve already wasted thirty minutes chasing after sensational news headlines. That’s what it means to be paralyzed by astonishment.

Now I’d like to call your attention to a different sense of being paralyzed by astonishment. Instead of merely saying “don’t be distracted by bright and shiny things,” I add “and be extra careful in situations where you happen to be the bright and shiny thing.”

There are two ways you can be blinded by novelty. The first sense, and this is the sense McKenna warns against, is to become so fixated with a new object/experience that you lose your way. In this sense, the source of novelty is external. You are the observer and the novelty is the observed. The second sense is to become blindsided by the adulation that comes your way when other people are fascinated by your brilliance. In this sense, the source of novelty is internal. Another person is the observer and you (ie. your gifts, talents, insights, etc.) are the novelty that is being observed.

Most people will never take a trip to psychedelic space, but nearly all of us will know what it’s like to temporarily occupy the space of being flattered by another person. And this is a far more dangerous and deceptive space to occupy. When you get intoxicated by praise or the pursuit thereof, It leads to a lifestyle of trying to replicate the behaviors that led to the praise instead of seeking new opportunities for improvement. Once you get addicted to being adored, you personal growth becomes paralyzed by astonishment.

There’s an old saying that goes as follows: “If you meet Buddha on the path to enlightenment, kill him.” The idea here is that you should never allow your reverence for anything or anyone to delay your pursuit of self-realization. That’s relatively easy advice to follow until you wake up one day and realize that your commitment to personal growth has transformed you into a Buddha in someone else’s eyes. In cases such as these, following the adage becomes twice as important. In order to realize your full potential, you not only have to kill your own Buddhas, but you also have to kill your need to be somebody else’s Buddha.

Refuse to be paralyzed by astonishment….even the astonishment that others feel after you’ve created value for them.

Office Hours (Episode 3): Finding Friends, Working Creatively, and Selfishly Creating Value at Work

Whether its a church, a workplace, or a college campus, the status you have in a specific local setting is different than your status in a larger context.

It is easy to forget it and get stressed about your lack of status in a certain context. This is especially common for young people at school and at work. They get wrapped up in small games to win favor in small contexts.

It’s important to remember the world outside of your workplace so that you can win influence when it serves your long-term goals and avoid the game when it doesn’t.

This week on Office Hours, Isaac and I discuss contextual currency and answer your questions about relationships and relationships to work.

1) “How do I find smart friends?”

2) “How can I become more of a self-starter at my job?”

3) “How do I respond when my employer makes me do something that isn’t my responsibility?”

Topics Discussed:
– Contextual currency and Applebee’s cool
– Deciding when to play the game
– Finding good friends
– How to become more of a self-starter at work
– Creativity as a discipline
– Selfishly doing your job as good as you can

Check out the new episode of Office Hours now on iTunesYouTubedirect download and all major podcast platforms.

The World Doesn’t Pay You Enough to be Nasty

Photo credit: Andre Hunter

Being nice is overrated, but so is being nasty.

Nearly everyone has a story or two about how they got their way by being caustic or combative, but unless you plan on becoming a public figure who consistently rakes in a decent chunk of cash for being a shock jock, being nasty will likely work against you in the long run. When you compromise your composure, you usually compromise your ability to win as well.

Even though it’s overrated, there’s a reason why people like to get nasty. It’s a lot easier to start a fight than it is to take charge of your life when things seem out of control. Our desire to manipulate others often stems from the need to compensate for our own inability to feel a sense of agency in relation to our goals. We enjoy pulling other people’s strings because those are usually the only strings we know how to pull.

People who routinely rely on nastiness as a strategy for being heard, gaining respect, or getting their way typically fall into five categories:

  1. They’re wealthy or powerful — These are the sociopaths who have a level of privilege/prosperity that insulates them from the consequences that would completely bury the average person.
  2. They’re shock jocks — These are the comedians, commentators, performers, and personalities who have found a way to merge their delight in nastiness with their personal brand/public image. They may or may not be wealthy/powerful, but they are able to get away with things that would destroy most people simply because they’ve built a reputation for being shocking or unpleasant.
  3. They’re Trolls — These are people who simply “get off” by triggering negative emotions in others. Some trolls are clueless. Some are conscious. Some trolls are correct in what they say. Some trolls are crazy all the way. Sometimes trolls succeed in ruffling feathers. Sometimes trolls fail to make any impact at all. The distinguishing mark of a troll, however, has nothing to do with any of those things. What makes a troll a troll is their craving for “dark ecstasy.” Trolls get high when they have a reason to believe that they are the primary causal factor in someone else’s anger, sadness, insecurity, etc. For a troll, dark ecstasy is worth the time and inconvenience. That’s why they always outlast you. While you’re busy fighting them, they’re busy feasting on the emotional energy generated by the fight itself. As you become more drained, they become more satiated.
  4. They’re careless — By “careless,” I don’t mean the colloquial sense of being reckless, irresponsible, or arbitrarily nonchalant. I mean “based on the costs/benefits as they perceive them, whether their judgments are accurate or inaccurate, they genuinely don’t care about the consequences of being seen as a nasty person.” This may be because they feel morally justified in some kind of way or because they see themselves as having nothing to lose. Regardless of motive, the people in this group have established a high tolerance for the social disapproval that comes with the role they’ve decided to play.
  5. They’re clueless — These are the people who simply lack the long-term vision or social intelligence to see how much damage they’re doing to their social capital, networking potential, and public reputation. This is usually combined with the fact that they’ve experienced some short-term effectiveness here and there with getting what they want through immature/intimidation/invalidation tactics.

People in groups 1-4 may be repugnant, but they’re quite easy to understand and predict once you figure out what drives them. And most importantly, people in these groups rarely see themselves as victims. They’re too busy making victims of other people. And even if they were initially inspired by the experience of being a victim of some kind, they have successfully numbed themselves or insulated themselves from the various ways in which others might punish them for their nastiness.

What I find most interesting, however, are the people in group 5. These are the people who frequently get nasty, but who also frequently get frustrated when the world responds antagonistically to their nastiness. Think of the keyboard warrior who tries to emulate his favorite political commentator by posting mean-spirited things online in order to trigger someone on the other end of the political spectrum. Then when people misunderstand him or attack him or label him a [insert slur of choice here], he loses his cool and feels like he’s being treated unfairly. Like the the people in groups 1-4, the people in this group like to get nasty but they lack the abilities/advantages that allow the other groups to deal with the negative consequences.

Unlike his favorite political commentator, the keyboard warrior doesn’t have a book whose sales are going to increase in response to all the insults being hurled at him. Unlike his favorite comedian, he hasn’t developed the thick skin, or the cash flow, or the social standing, or the large alliances that enable him to keep his existing job or get a new job in spite of his online rants. While being nasty generates a short-term feeling of relief, it results in negative reactions that cause this person to be worse off than before.

This phenomenon extends well beyond politics of course. The world is filled with people of all ages who get unpleasant wake-up calls alerting them to the fact that someone doesn’t want to befriend them, date them, hire them, work with them, put up with them, or trust them because of their self-perpetuated reputation for being nasty.

I recently watched a movie called The Florida Project in which one of the characters found herself in a situation where she really needed a favor. Due to a recent change in policy, a hotel she needed to spend the night at was roughly $10 above her budget. As soon as the front desk receptionist informed her of the price, she immediately lost her cool and gave everyone who was in sight a piece of her mind. She told them how stupid their policy change was and she demanded (not requested) that they lower their price to the rate she was expecting. The hotel manager refused to accommodate her request.

After a prolonged commotion, a guy in the lobby decided to play the good Samaritan and put up the cash necessary to pay for the room. I was shocked by what happened next. The hotel manager tells the guy he can keep his money because they didn’t want a customer like that lady staying at their hotel. Do you think the lady learned her lesson? Of course she didn’t. She got even angrier and decided to protest the decision by pouring her entire can of soda on the hotel lobby floor. Then she went outside and wept because she couldn’t catch a break. This is the life of the clueless: Never afraid to get nasty when other people don’t give them their way, but always managing to be shocked when no one wants to put up with them.

When wealthy celebrities get nasty, we aim straight for their heads. Then we tell them to publicly apologize, get rehab, and devote lots of time to becoming a better person who services their community. And in most cases of which I’m aware, there’s justification for this. But the amount of people who will ever procure the “advantages” belonging to groups 1-4 are relatively small. Most of the nasty people in our world belong to group 5. They care very deeply about what others think and they need a significant amount of goodwill/cooperation from others in order to achieve their goals, but they’re clueless. They’re clueless because they consistently undermine their own ability to create the results that matter most to them via a lack of social/emotional IQ. The people in group 5 often end up being more harmed by the consequences of their nastiness than by the things they get nasty about.

If you really want to help rid the world of nastiness, don’t focus on Hollywood and Washington D.C. alone. Help the clueless ones. And try not to be clueless yourself.


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