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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Tuesday June 19, 2007
01:53 PM

Happiness is a learned behavior

[ #33553 ]

One of my clients hired a man-boy a while back who is always unhappy about everything. He works at the order desk, but part of his job is reporting bugs and relaying bugs to me. It's a problem of apocalyptic proportions if the computer can't make subtle distinctions that humans can so it's output is natural-language enough. Nothing is ever good enough. He's dumb as hair, but plenty of smart people do that too.

(Yes, I'm going somewhere with all of this.)

Their board meet a while back, and I suspect this tool of having some influence, but they decided that they weren't happy with their site. This is the site that has all of the custom reporting logic, all of the right popups in the right places, piles and piles of complex business rules, subclassed items for the things that go in the cart so different kinds of items, of which there are several, each have different presentation and business rules, etc.

A recent former client had serious problems and decided that the programmers were just going to have to start giving significantly more -- ignoring that the programmers were a fantastically talented group of people who had already sustained, in some cases for years, an extraordinary work load. Some were fired, many resigned, now the department is a shadow of its former self.

While my resume clearly shows that I've busted my ass for client after client, every interview is guarded, as if I'm a traitor, and no one of authority is just plain happy entertain a qualified member of the profession for an afternoon.

I could go on and on with the examples...

Then people will come to me and say, "why aren't I happy?". I overheard a conversation where a sales guy was having an interview style meeting with a shrink he was considering seeing. He seemed to think that his lack of happiness came from his slightly less than competitive bonus structure and blamed his failures, therefore his unhappiness, on his bonus structure.

Unhappiness is the leverage with which we argue for more. Unhappiness is learned, and it's strategic. You must never give your superiors the impression that you're unhappy with them or even a decision they've made, just that you *would* be happy if they did something or decided something.

Why the old hardware? It's fun, and if you can't figure out how to have fun with an army of old machines, *you're* boring, not the world.

I sometimes get unhappy when I don't get what I want; more often, I get unhappy when other people don't get what they want from me and attempt to punish me for it. I guess I spend so much more time on the bad side of the happiness game that the whole game appeals to me less. Just like low level drug dealers, it's a game that people tend to lose at but are convinced that with the right breaks, they'll start to win, and the game will be worth while. No. No, because getting what you want doesn't make you happy, generally speaking. In many cases, in very real ways, it can make life *easier*, which is what our survival instincts are geared for. More on that in a minute.

You don't have to but watch a two year old, who is just experimenting with the rules of the game without any great strategy in mind. Then think about how, once the rules of the game are learned, they permeate our behavior.

So it's well known that you don't need money to be happy; living a peaceful life doing something that you enjoy in an area with culture, where people talk to their neighbors, and enjoy the simple things in life, is well credited with being a better existence than being a competitive, whiny brat dating/married to a competitive, whiny bitch with a big garage with a nice car in a neighborhood where no one gives a shit about you and frankly wishes you never built your house next to theirs because you obstruct their view and since you're only a neighbor, they're unlikely to ever be able to game you for anything so you represent nothing for them. Just the same, we're healthier when we eat moderately, rather than gorging ourselves. We were designed and programmed for an environment with sparse pickings, not for plenty.

So, if you want to be happy, realize the circumstances are excessive, and that a Geo Metro is still a magic machine that gives you near teleportation like abilities, a two bedroom house still has running water and heat, a 486 is still a general purpose computing device with wide range networking hardware easily interfacable, a low paying job still puts you in the top 2% of the world... yeah, I know, it's the "kids are starving in Japan so eat it" thing. But your parents were right (except about the Japan thing, if they actually said that... there poor kids are most likely to be sent to a monastery and wind up far happier than any of us). In short, cut off the competitiveness -- it isn't needed in this day and age, except for fun (go frag people!), and cut off the consumption (except of intellectual stimulants -- books and all that).

But, for me at least, there's a little more work to do... I jump out of bed, eager to face the day, but a few hours in, my chain has already been yanked a few directions, and I'm trying to do one simple thing before I get on to the real work, and it's clear that several people are holding their happiness hostage contingent upon what I do, for them, and I can never think of any strategy where anything gets done for anyone. "No man shall serve two masters" seems so true, and consulting requires near illusionist abilities to work around that.

But I do get things done now and then... and this is a learned behavior, one that costs me clients and friends: when people won't let me get work done, I get testy with them, pointing out how much they're interfering with my happiness (or well-being, implying happiness) by monopolizing me so. It's a huge affront to tell someone that you wouldn't, in fact, prefer to spend every waking moment on the phone with them, and people seldom, in a battle of happiness-will, counter attack as soon as possible to regain some more turf, making the game take more time than the work you're supposed to be doing for them.

So, I think I understand these freaks, how do I make them behave so I can get work done for them?

-scott

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