I’m supposed to be writing something. Unfortunately I’m having one of those days where there isn’t any one thing that’s fully formed enough to write a whole article on. I’ve had several interesting ideas. This isn’t surprising as I get article ideas often. It’s so common that I developed a system for saving them for later. I put them in my idea bank, where I write down my initial thoughts, and put them in an old candy jar so I can revisit them on days like today. I do this because, as I’ve alluded to, writing good content isn’t exactly a switch you can turn on and turn off at will. You need something to spark creativity. My spark usually comes from my life interactions, so I never know when I will experience something that will turn into a good fully formed article idea. To that end, and to try and try to add some gas to my writing fire, I thought I’d try something new. In this article, I’m going to take three of my older concepts and flesh them out further. For my selection, I picked concepts that have jumped into my head again and again as I experience work and life. After looking at them, they may be mini-articles but they definitely aren’t small ideas.
IDEA I: Mandatory Training in Psychology
In the business world I think that everyone needs to work in HR, at least for a little bit. It’s tremendously helpful to learn how the company really thinks about, and manages its employees. In the life side of the work and life equation I’m starting to come to a similar conclusion. I think everyone needs to get a psych degree. It doesn’t have to be the full four year bachelors. Some sort of certificate will do. Maybe the psychology degree can be integrated into other degrees in the same way that we try to integrate soft skills into our current curricula. The reason why I say this is over the years I’ve seen too many people trying to figure out life through their own experiences. There is a chronic shortage of self awareness and the ability to truly understand the thought process of others. Ultimately this creates continuing fixation on petty issues and emotionally driven decision making.
For parents a big part of this psychological training should be child psychology. Often parents are following models of parenting that they learned from how they were raised. They aren’t aware that their template may be flawed or of all of the various approaches they can take when working with a child with unique needs. Child rearing gets especially contentious when the step-parents are involved. If everyone understood what to expect in child development including all the various emotional needs of the children, then I suspect we’d have much less conflict in blended families.
I don’t think mandatory psychology training will be the panacea for human conflict. We can fully understand the true motivations of others and still vehemently disagree with them. I do think it’ll help more people break self-defeating cycles in their lives. It’ll also allow them to get along with others a bit more. This is of course a pipe dream. Even if I could wave my magic wand and make every single person in school get a minor in psychology, it wouldn’t affect all those who just don’t’ care about understanding the motivations of others. Usually this type of person simply want to stop going to school and get to income producing work as soon as they are able. Ironically these are the people who could use this type of training the most.
IDEA 2: Be Prepared
There is a mindset in the world that I can’t understand. Few people seem to be prepared for the little opportunities that come their way. I know I’ve mentioned it before in my blog or podcast but I’m fairly certain that my desire to be prepared came from my father. Back in the day he used to own a 1969 Chevy Caprice Classic. Although my father was always proud that he had the model with the retractable headlights, the best part of that car was the trunk. It seemed to be as big as my bedroom growing up. Dad used to keep everything in there. He had bins of materials and stuff crammed into every corner and the endless nooks and crannies. I recall multiple fishing poles, crab traps, five gallon buckets, toilet paper, tools, clothing, a grill and extra oil for the car. I’m sure there was tons of other stuff in there that I didn’t pay attention to. He wasn’t a hoarder, and he didn’t pack any of this stuff for any specific outing. He just always had it filled in case an opportunity presented itself to fix something or go fishing, which were two opportunities he always used to seek out.
I’ve taken that lesson and I try to be prepared for whatever eventuality comes my way. I don’t have a car with a massive trunk, but I do keep tubs of ancient cables handy. I’m always collecting digital media that I could use for coursework. I keep shipping boxes around after I’ve received an electronic product just in case I have to send it back six months later. Although it’s always been on my radar, I currently don’t have immediate plans to go out of the country with my family. Yet to be prepared for any opportunity in our modern era of heightened travel restrictions, I made sure to get passports for my children. There are other examples, but these efforts at being prepared are what immediately come to mind.
My earliest memory of the frustration of not being prepared goes all the way back to a girl I dated back in college. She would never bring her ID with her. It used to drive me crazy because we would go out to eat and she could never get a drink with me because she left her drivers license at home. She said it’s because she didn’t carry a purse and her pants had no pockets. Thinking about it now, I’m sure there were other reasons. I guess it was especially frustrating to me because what twenty-something guy doesn’t want his girlfriend to be a little tipsy every time they come back from dinner? Flash forward thirty years and I have the same frustration with my wife, but it’s not about drinks. I think we are long past ever getting carded again. With my wife it’s about my car keys. I keep her key on my keyring but she doesn’t keep mine on hers. I get her logic, it adds bulk to the keychain and it’s annoying to have two keys that look exactly the same as you will often put the wrong key into the ignition. I like to keep both keys at the ready because you never know when you would need to get into your spouse’s car. Maybe it’s raining and you want to drive it closer. Maybe I’m in a meeting and she needs something out of my car for the kids. Maybe we want to switch cars for some reason. It happens often enough where, in my opinion, it’s something you should always be prepared for. For her, the few times a year you need the extra key isn’t worth the hassle and weight of keeping it on your key ring.
It’s not all ID’s and Keys. It’s in many different ways. You can even see the challenge of not being prepared at a macro level with the personal savings rate. Just over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means that when a problem or an opportunity arises, most use credit to address the issue or take advantage of a good situation. Unless you are part of the uber rich who use credit differently than average Americans, the reality is that cash is always king and it allows you to be ready for much of the good and bad life throws at you. The net-net of this is that I’m in the minority. I like to be prepared for as much as possible no matter if it’s the expected or the unexpected. For the rest of the world, not-so-much.
IDEA 3: I don’t need to and I don’t want to: Part Deux
It’s not often that one of my wild theories is proven correct. It’s not because my ideas are so outside the realm of possibility they can’t be right. Usually my commentary is about things that are systemic. In the case of my “I don’t need to and I don’t want to” article, I talked about four different women I know who all were further in life and had an option to work or not. One decided to work and contribute to the world, the rest chose to do less because they could. I concluded the article saying that if we had all the safety nets in place, the human condition is such that I thought most people would choose not to work.
Well the pandemic, or more precisely some of the things that we did to combat the pandemic proved me right. If you recall, we had extended unemployment benefits, moratoriums on evictions, and advanced tax credits for children. All of this was designed to help people with low to moderate incomes stay at home if need be and support them if and when they lost their jobs. But when the factories and restaurants opened back up, statistically, and in my community, practically, much of this population didn’t come back to work. All of the pundits in the media were asking why? Some states blamed the extended unemployment benefits and ended them early.
I had the opportunity to ask a friend about it. He’s definitely in the know as his job is to recruit for the labor force, specifically industrial labor. He is the recruiter for companies who have the kind of job where you don’t need a high school diploma. These companies mostly just need people to be able to read, write, and be intelligent enough to operate a machine. It also helps if the people they hire can get along with others and do some basic problem solving. As I said, during the labor shortage post-pandemic many of these people were in very short supply because they chose not to come back to work. When I asked my friend about it, he said that at first, like everyone else, he thought it was extended unemployment benefits. Then when the extended UI went away, he was mystified why he didn’t see a tidal wave of applications. He thought some of it could be the child care tax credit which lasted longer than the unemployment deposits. Ultimately we both agreed that’s not the cause for people staying away because the payments were not enough to support the household. In the end he concluded that people wised up. He said that in a two wage earner family, where there are daycare payments, those payments mostly cancel out the second wage earner’s salary. His exact words were “they stopped getting the second check, but they also stopped paying the daycare, so when they looked at their bank account it stayed the same.” He concluded that people realized they didn’t need to work, and if they didn’t need to work, they didn’t want to work. Of course having my theory proven correct doesn’t change the fundamental problem of how do you get people to work when they don’t have to work which will be the case if we get our social safety nets where they need to be. Thankfully we now have an entire country’s worth of employers thinking about the solution to that problem. Hopefully they will get creative because increasing real wages may be part of the solution, but it isn’t the only part.
Now that I think about it, maybe if all those employers had to take more lessons in psychology as part of their education, they would be able to figure out what people really need to motivate them to work. Even though they were written as separate commentary, those two concepts fit neatly together making them really seem like different parts of the same article. Now if I could just talk about an employer who motivates their employees to work by occasionally taking them on a barbeque and fishing outing in a 69 Chevy Caprice Classic, then nobody would ever guess this piece wasn’t designed from the beginning to be one singular article. Or was it?
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