Monday, June 6, 2011

A Bit About Myself and the Ways I Think and Act

Every so often I will post something here that is more about myself than some topic in the larger world. This is one of those posts. I do this to help people understand my perspective on the world on which we live.

Two years ago I wrote a posting titled An Interesting Side Comment by Michael Griffin, The point of that post was to get people -- especially engineers and scientists -- to think about the way they worked and conducted their lives and the impact such things had on their work. It can be hard to convince some people that they will accomplish more and produce better results if they go home and get some rest. Some people want to believe that the person who spends 80 hours/week at work is far more committed and is accomplishing far more than the person who works only 40 hours/week. Yes, for a short stretch, you can put in a great number of hours -- but over the long haul you cannot.

That posting got a few comments on the blog. What is interesting are some of the criticisms I received in person. People told me the piece was more about myself than anything else. I did use myself as an example of an outlier and compared myself to people who were even more outliers than I was to help illustrate the phenomenon. If you read the piece, though, you will note that I cite books that I have read as well as other people describing the situation in various ways. I don't think the piece is about myself. The people who challenged my piece all had some professional commitment to aerospace in general and NASA in particular. Currently I am on the outs with these people. They even sent me a letter banning me from their meetings. I did go to one of their luncheons -- and was given a warm welcome by some of the people there. I wasn't chased away. Perhaps my status has not been communicated to all -- even all in leadership positions.

In some ways I am an advocate of change in society. One change I would particularly like to see is more time for rest. More rest makes learning new things easier. Get a teenager up at 4 AM for ice hockey practice and that teenager will have much greater difficulty learning something like calculus or, even worse, quantum physics. Let's not even consider dating.

People who are under attack of some kind are most interested in getting some peace. One way some people choose is simply to surrender to the people attacking them. That isn't all that healthy, though. What is more likely to happen is said people will become even more entrenched in the ways they think and act. That's why I normally try to establish friendly, respectful relationships with said people. Sometimes that approach works. I'm also willing to change my views sometimes. I don't claim to be some sort of godlike figure who is always right. I've made too many mistakes in my own life.

One way I try to communicate my ideas is by bringing up something surprising in a hopefully friendly way. Telling a conservative Roman Catholic that they share one belief with the most liberal of Episcopalians can get their attention. Telling these people that they, like the most liberal of Episcopalians, approve of men and women getting married and having children, surprises them. Who on earth would disapprove of such a thing? Informing them that work life balance for too many young people in tech fields essentially makes marriage and family nearly impossible gets their attention.

I will say I am under attack in some ways. I have been all my life a member of the American middle class. In recent decades people such as myself have been put under some very severe attacks. 40% -- perhaps more -- of people in their 50s are being fired out of their jobs. Most lose practically everything they have saved up in their lives. I'm not quite as bad off as that, but that is probably because of a more frugal than most lifestyle. Still, though, I can see ways that this strain has shaped me. One way involves religion. I and my family has been Episcopalian or Anglican for centuries. This is an important part of my being. 20 years ago I was friendly to just about anyone, regardless of religious belief. Now I have to watch myself that I do not react negatively to the views of somebody else just based upon religious differences. That;s just one example.

Enough for now. I don't want to bore people too much.

No comments: