Reader Mike sent me the following transcript of an email thread he had
with a friend (both nuclear engineers). It’s so good, I had to share
(with Mike’s permission, of course). Basically, they’ve come to the
conclusion that they seek to maximize other people’s perception of them, while minimizing their effort.
After reading their exchange, I told Mike that I don’t think in equations, but that I’ve always framed the idea this way: if I’m doing work that I enjoy, I’ll optimize it even while I’m (inevitably) dropping the ball elsewhere. The hard part to this is finding work that you like doing. Also, in many offices, developing a specialized skill that others don’t have can enhance this effect. If you become an Excel wizard, or beef up your SQL chops, you can do stuff in short order that most people will assume took hours if not days.
I saw a dead fox on the side of the road today, and I thought of you.
why exactly do dead foxes make you think of me?
well, I saw a dead fox, and I thought how it would be funny if that dead fox made me think of someone, and then I wondered who I would like to tell that the dead fox made me think of them, and then I thought you would enjoy it. so the dead fox made me think of you.
i did enjoy it and passed it along to my coworkers, who laughed at both of us for having the relationship that we obviously have.
I am not at work today. I hurt my back yesterday, and I only went in for an hour today.
a new line of questioning:
are you generally considered by others at your work to be an above average performer?
i think i am considered an above average performer… i think with regards to this it is as much perception as it is actuality… like how nuclear engineering is "hard".
Yes, I think I am also an above average performer. Do you think that you are capable of doing a better job?
always. don’t you? i find that it goes in cycles. sometimes i’m just treading water, and other times, i’m creating all kinds of good work.
I agree. Now, why is it that we are considered above average performers, but we could do better? I see three possibilities:
1. We throw in enough good stuff, and seem eager enough to do a good job, that our slacking is not noticed.
2. We are way above average, and even our slacking is above average.
3. We aren’t slacking as much as we think we are.
What do you think?
i think its a combination of the three. if i had to correlate constants, it would go something like this:
Reason = C1R1+C2R2+C3R3
where Ci= a constant with the property SUMi(Ci)=1