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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 •

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 

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 

cutting screen time: embracing turnoffs

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Few of us wake up in the morning looking forward to a day of turnoffs.

Yet such days can be filled with the kind of productivity and focus simply not possible without them. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have demonstrated concrete findings that reveal how removing the nonstop distractions of email during the workday not only reduces stress but enables tangibly sharper focus. “We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said informatics professor Gloria Mark, who coauthored the study, “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons,” with a UCI project scientist and U.S. Army senior research scientist, funded by the Army and the National Science Foundation (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr-personality/201304/is-your-e-mail-out-control). Read More 

the calendar's relentless progression: autumn leaves

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The latter part of September perpetually hosts the first day of fall—a time of moderating weather, heavier work schedules and looking ahead. During one’s teens, 20s and even 30s, this annual period typically seems full of hours and days, its farewell comfortably in the distance. Yet into the 40s and 50s, those selfsame hours appear ever briefer, ever more precious. As much as the numbers themselves do not change, our perception of them moves ever faster. While not able to slow the calendar’s relentless progression, making the most of each 24-filled gift basket goes a long way in mitigating it. This applies to finding fulfillment in work and career projects, to spending dedicated time with family and friends, to enjoying vacations and travel, to lifelong learning. Read More 

sitting in traffic: road kill

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The concept of sitting amongst interminable traffic is so widespread and familiar as to make regular clichés seem like fresh air in Beijing. How we respond can make the difference between being impatient and forlorn for the entire day or at peace and productive in light of what cannot be changed.

Do we curse or listen to an audiobook? Do we throw up a thin body part in a form of gesticular cancer or do we put on a foreign language-learning CD? Do we feel stress to the point of needing a heart stent or do we call ahead and let them know that we’ll be late? Read More 

the absence of discipline: canceled checks

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Why is it that ‘discipline’ so often seems like little more than 2½ four-letter words? Or the rebuke of stern punishment? Or behavior as tightly controlled as a bank teller’s drawer? Why is it that typing this singular word into a Google search yields an overwhelming number of articles about disciplining children? Why is it that self-discipline more often than not evokes giving up statin-inducing cheesecake and excessive beer and lazy workdays?

Because that’s where human instinct would have us go. Yet the absence of discipline yields little more than galling gluttony. The hard-to-digest fact—counterintuitive as it may initially seem—is that the joy of discipline is far more sustaining than pleasures as easy to obtain as pints of ice cream or Scotch. Take any kind of work (another four-letter word, but that’s for another time…) that you love and are highly motivated to achieve, then measure how it feels after four or five solid hours of intense work. Exhausted? Sure. Exhilarated? Equally sure. Read More 

key perspectives: fresh produce

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One’s mental and physical outlook has incalculable benefits upon productivity and key perspectives.

So that knowledge and $5 will get you a cup of Starbucks, right? But add somevanilla and cinnamon in the form of what you really believe in and watch the price come down while your cup runneth over. This isn’t some pithy statement borne of over-caffeinated wishful thinking, but a universal truism that remains surprisingly lacking across industries and businesses both large and small. Read More 

the rules we live by: spare keys

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For myriad reasons both secular and spiritual, we strive to live by a set of rules, a group of key tenets, that will best serve the overall good.

But what of the less obvious of these behaviors? What of the aspects of daily life that are not generally seen, obviously recognized or otherwise reinforced? These can be equally if not more important for lives of integrity and productivity.

Do thoughts and self-regard remain humble in the wake of praise? Is gratitude present no matter how hard the work, how deserved the reward? Is conduct that recognizes and embraces others a natural part of every day, of each interaction? Read More