When I Get All Steamed Up

(Originally posted on a 3rd party blog site)

You don’t need to tip me over. You don’t need to pour me out. I’ll handle that myself. This should be posted on my site, but I like to break things up. If nothing else, it will increase my search engine visibility and make it even more likely that when someone searches for “jackson gabbard” they get nothing but me. No dead Kentuckians, no products or companies. No elementary school kids from North Carolina. Just the freelance web developer and designer.

This post comes as an interlude between work and work. Paula Dean is tasting hot peppers on TV across the room and commenting about how if he picks her nose right now, the front of her face will catch on fire. One would think her face would incur chemical burns first and probably never actually catch fire. For skin, and most things, to burn, they have to be completely desiccated. Nothing about Paula Dean seems to be that way, aside from her hair that is.

Today I encountered some word use I hadn’t heard in a long time (circumspect, assiduous, etc.). Uncommon words with highly specific meanings are treasures. As such, you can’t just go flaunting them around in mixed company. For one, doing so marks you as an elitist, a show off. Secondly, most people can’t understand you. Like Dave Chappelle once overstated in a skit, “I cain’t understaaand yoooo. Go back where you came from.” Or something like that. When you present someone with something they can’t understand that they also recognize they can’t understand because they aren’t as educated as you, well, you get a reaction.

That said, I was happy to hear that some people keep the other 90% of the English lexicon alive. The dictionary is a bit like a word museum. Once something gets pulled from public view and placed in a museum, it becomes dated and unfamiliar. Pulling the words out of their glass display cases and jamming them in there with the vocabulary of the peanut gallery once in a while does everyone some good.

It reminds the speaker of the boundaries in communication and reminds the listener that there are words beyond what the average person hears that can achieve communication more quickly. Of course, if the person doesn’t know the word then it becomes a stumbling point. Like my friend Laurie mentioned, if you have to label it (in this case, explain it), you have failed. I don’t know that I agree with that 100% though. You have failed at communicating at 100% efficiency, but you have succeeded in exposing someone to something new. There is value is broadening people’s horizons.

Speaking of altering perspectives, I’m becoming a sociopath. Actually, I suppose I should say I’m returning to sociopathy. I’m probably overstating, but the practicing sociopath in me doesn’t care how you feel about it. It’s not my concern whether you take away a perfect understanding or not. Succeeding in business requires this of me. I spent years breaking myself of the inclination to disregard the way other people feel about things I affect only to find that many of the people I work for are disregarding the way I feel. To them I say, be a wolf, get a wolf. Or, in less metaphorical terms, get a smart guy interested in not getting eaten to the point of being willing to eat you first. Sorry, compassion complicates my sociopathy, so it has to be conditionally applied.

There’s personal growth inherent in the process, of course. Controlling my emotional reaction to threats and dealing with things on a professional plane only is tricky for me. According to research, it’s tricky for everyone since we’re irrational, emotional creatures. However, I want to be a commercially successful irrational creature, so I’m having to learn to feign rationality when things heat up so I don’t do something impulsive that costs me in the long run. When someone tries to take advantage of me, I have to see the opportunity in the adversity (thanks for the reminder Einstein) and make the situation work for me. If I can’t make it work at all, I have to walk away.

The compassionate person in me wants to help the advantage-taker see what they are doing, the victim in me wants to defend myself Malcolm X style, and the eager beaver in me wants to make the person happy, even if that means giving everything away. The business man in me has to win and find the solution that resolves the situation as much as possible without sacrificing me, my time, or any money. Then, after I get the check, I can revisit thoughts of any means necessary and education.

This is very unlike me. If you’re doing something awful, I want to help you see how and why. I don’t want to just make you behave how I want you to. However, I’m dealing now with adults whom it’s not my responsibility to raise. Or at least, whom it’s not my business’ responsibility to raise. So, the wolf gets to call the shots. I suppose a better metaphor is the fox though, they’re much cleverer. Maybe some sort of hybrid–the brains of the fox, the body and bite of the wolf. Wolfox? Folf? Wolx? I suppose a clever conjoining of the nouns isn’t requisite for the idea to sink in, but it would be funner.

Whether it takes a wolf, a fox, or a manatee, I have to keep my eyes open, my pulse level, and my sociopath switch ready to flip. You might want something, but if you didn’t pay for it, you’re not getting it. Even if that means I have to fire you. Lesson learned there.

I realize now that I’ve just made a faux pas (fox paws?). ‘Whether’ followed by three options? What sort of self-respecting English degree holder am I? Every Tom, Dick, and Harry knows the etymology of ‘whether’ hearkens back to the phrase ‘which of two,’ much like ‘either’ and ‘neither.’ ‘Whether’ followed by three options. What’s next–dilemma with four alternatives? Sheesh. Please accept my deepest apologies for the error. Though, if you desire some sort of recompense jingling in hand for the mistake, you might instead find a brief and brisk application of the canines.

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