Do Not Play with the Children

The children were nestled all snug in their beds …

Whoops! Wrong holiday. This is New Year’s Eve, not Christmas Eve. However, since I’ve spent the day with my grandgirls, it feels like Christmas to me, with all the blessings that family time with children brings.

I also did some reading, primarily because I received strict instructions when I arrived last night. Do NOT play with the children all of the time; they need to play by themselves. Consequently, I just sat in their playroom and kept an eye on them while beginning the book BLINK: THE POWER OF THINKING WITHOUT THINKING by Malcolm Gladwell.

I picked it up in the Salt Lake City airport during my layover there. It’s supposed to help those who read the book become better decision makers. After this past year, I’ve decided I need all the help I can get. The blessings of the year had nothing to do with decisions I’d made, and the challenges had everything to do with my decisions.

For four years, I worked for an employer whose organizational structure was not compatible with my style because (a) I dislike moving, (b) I loved my little house with colored walls, (c) I had a great deal of admiration for many of the people in the community, and (d) one of the women with whom I worked acted as a buffer, making the rest bearable. During this time, I turned down the opportunity to own my own weekly newspaper as well as several excellent job offers. I worked long hours, won a few awards and told myself no job was perfect.

When a new general manager has hired, the organizational balance shifted and it was necessary for me to move on. She and I worked together as well as the proverbial oil and water combo; I was not entirely surprised when my employer decided she had more to offer his organization than I did. I had hoped to establish my own timeline for leaving, but that did not prove to be the case. Fortunately, I was offered another position before I was fired. Unfortunately, the new position proved to be less than satisfactory and I was out of work five months after moving across state.

I’m not complaining about the move, though, because I had the good fortune of joining an incredible parish family, one that’s inclusive and has given me a true home. I hadn’t even realized how lonely I was until I found this place where so may people made me feel welcome and where I’ve been able to use some of my gifts. I cannot take for granted this precious gift at this point in my life.

That being said, getting a job appeals to me, especially since it does not seem likely I will win the lottery. This time, I would like to work for someone who values the work I do, at least a little, and I would like to find a permanent position. Once upon a time, I enjoyed the opportunities inherent in new beginnings. These days, I would prefer the comfort of routine job responsibilities and familiar surroundings. So, how do I manage this?

Gladwell’s premise is simple: we can make good decisions quickly, but we can also be wrong. However, if we learn to identify the factors which mislead us on a fairly consistent basis, we can overcome their influence and become better decision makers. Thus far, I’ve read just under 100 pages, and the book is making sense.

The introduction lays out the premise, which I just summarized. The first chapter discusses research on “thin slicing,” the ability our unconscious has to find patterns in situations very quickly. The second chapter discusses factors that influence the unconscious. (I’ve underlined a couple lines from this chapter because they appealed to me so much: “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we really don’t have an explanation for.” Since I am a storyteller by nature, I find amusing the idea that storytelling is a problem.)

Chapter Three, which I’m reading at present, discusses the William Harding Error. Apparently, Harding was the worst president in the nation’s 200-year history. Apparently, he wasn’t very bright, but he looked like a president. Even though he was gambler who liked to drink and was a womanizer, he won the highest office in the country due to his appearance. In other words, we have preconceptions that may mislead us.

Thus far, I haven’t read anything that’s sent me scurrying for my journal in order to reflect upon this past year, but I do find myself fascinated by what I’m reading. In the long ago days when I was working on a Master’s degree in education, I studied the intuition in a class on gifted education. From that I learned to trust my gut as well as my head in decision-making, although it did nothing to alleviate my gullibility. Too often, I have ignored both my gut and my common sense to respond to a plea from someone who wouldn’t do themselves what they were asking me to do. I suspect I am gullible in these situations because I have a deep commitment to the common good.

That being said, I’m getting too old to put my livelihood on the line over and over to benefit others. There’s got to be a way I can be financially secure and self-sufficient without being selfish or self-centered. I just have to find it. Hopefully, if it’s related to decision-making, BLINK will help me. Even if it doesn’t, the book is definitely worth reading.

And since I have been instructed to let the girls play by themselves, it’s good to have a book in hand that’s at least interesting — maybe not as interesting as they are, but I am not sure anything is more interesting to a grandmother than her grandkids.

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