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ironiya • this career-oriented blog—published on biweekly Wednesdays—looks at the positive and sometimes ironic sides of a kaleidoscopic range of workplace and life issues, from education and employment to discipline and discord •

the result of inaction: heavy brainfall

The consequences of a lack of exercise are swift and severe, especially as the calendar continues its relentless passage. With an abundance of physical activity, though, the benefits are equally extreme and measurable. Low cholesterol. Strong heart. Vibrant bones and muscles. Little excess body fat. Increased creativity and stamina.

 

But society works against all that in the name of "ease of use." The country as a whole no longer directly reaps the fields or catches animals and fish, instead sitting in offices day in and day out and ordering in. While passing through any thoroughfare in any town in any county in any state, one need not even get out of the car to load up on carbs and saturated fat, a circumstance ushered in by the glorious drive-thru window. Read More 

tireless preparation: personal kneads

Twenty-three thousand overachieving students apply to gain admittance to Harvard's freshman class of less than 2100. Three hundred highly qualified people apply for one job at IBM. The success rate for ambitious musicians to play at either Carnegie Hall or Madison Square Garden is far smaller. The list will always continue…

 

So many exceptionally qualified people find themselves in places not quite what their talents would otherwise suggest. Those less ambitious can simply chalk up such statistics to our highly competitive world and leave it at that, while others will plug away year after year in what will turn out to be a vain attempt to reach the loftier levels of human attainment. Read More 

key perspectives: picture frame

Do you have a clear plan about where you're going?

 

Picture your ideal job; what does it look like? What is its focus, and with whom would you be working and interacting? Is your productivity and efficiency all it could be? If not, what must be done to ensure those twin aspects of valued employment?

 

These questions hold true whether you're an undergraduate or graduate student, new to the job market or otherwise ensconced in a less-than-ideal job. Plan ahead. Act systematically. Are you going into an interview or meeting? Then formulate an agenda even if one is not provided. Reticence has no place within the job market, so carefully consider all chosen paths, then act decisively. Read More 

the easy way out: artificial sweetener

The human drive to become physically sated expresses itself in many ways. In the realm of food, to take just one of a hundred examples, the richer the better. Yet is all that saturated fat in beef, chicken and fish preparations really necessary? What purpose does our society's overwhelming tendency toward sugar serve? Balance the passing moments of pleasure against diabetes, weight gain, inflammation, high cholesterol and blood pressure, and a whole host of etceteras. Yet these preparations overwhelmingly dominate the diets of those within the developed world (burger chains don't sell billions in Bangladesh). Read More 

humility and gratitude: aluminum foil

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What is it about the prevalent tendency toward one-upmanship? Why is it that pride is not always limited to the more interior pursuits of quiet knowledge, of meaningful achievement, of security borne of discipline and hard work? Must everything be on display?

Credit-card companies, for example, began peddling Gold cards in the 1980s as a way to distinguish the truly elite from the merely creditworthy. The 1990s brought Platinum cards. The 2000s even saw Titanium cards. Will the 2010s offer a Palladium card? Can a Rhodium card be far behind? And will an Iridium card grant to access to Mars, having bought everything else our earthly life could imagine? Read More 

the beauty of cobblestone: uneven paths

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When driving, who wouldn’t choose the paved roads, the smooth transitions, the shock absorbers’ gratitude? The initial response may well be likewise when confronted with personal and career decisions, yet is the flat ride always the best?

Instinct may have us attempt to avoid struggling, yet perseverance and character are built upon that self-same struggle and arguably impossible to achieve without it. The twin peaks of satisfaction and contentment are borne from a belief in—and willingness to confront— what lies ahead rather than an escape-at-all-costs mindset that has less substance than a microbe. Read More 

putting it on the line: open doer policy

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Why is it that some people are perpetually out and about, causing things to happen, initiating contacts and contracts, and for whom a day without learning or achievement is a wasted day?

On the other side of the door, why is it that some people go through life passively, causing few things to happen, showing little initiative, and for whom a day without television or lots of time at the kitchen table is a wasted day?

There’s a reason why a certain sneaker and apparel company’s catch phrase has become part of the national lexicon—so very simple and yet for some, ever elusive. Given the choice (and most of us are in fact given it), which course would you choose, or have already chosen? Where is the utility in going through life apathetically? If you’re held back by fear, reticence or a host of other possible barriers, ask a deceptively simple question: “What do I have to lose?” Read More 

ego in the workplace: a bad knows job

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Self-esteem in the workplace can be both healthy and productive, as it points to self-respect and confidence in one’s abilities. Lawyers, for example, having gone to four years of college and three of law school before passing a rigorous bar exam, not only have reason to be confident but in fact must be, given the competition and stakes involved. Doctors require years more training with life and its quality at stake. Executive assistants need to be highly organized and efficient. Insurance salesmen must be well versed in the often-arcane byways of life, home, auto, health and disability. The same parameters of individualized excellence apply to a thousand other professions, which lead to promotions, salary increases, personal fulfillment and positive societal contributions. Read More 

faux support: cup sizes

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Starbucks expresses our ounce options in the faux elegance of Short, Tall, Grande, Venti Hot, Venti Cold and Trenta Cold cup sizes. Wawa is much more utilitarian if no less direct with 12, 16, 20, 24.

How easy it is to lean on this support system when confronted with an endless day of meetings, intense job responsibilities, family obligations and the day-to-day activities that keep our stomachs and bank accounts full. Read More 

rising interest: corporate bonds

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Cutthroat. Merciless. Fierce.

Cold-hearted. Brutal. Harsh.

Corporate executives operating with less ruth than an oceanic whitetip shark.

These descriptions may well still be the norm for the Fortune 500s and Russell 2000s out there, yet more and more corporations are demonstrating a rising interest in the opposite approach Read More