instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

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 persistence of ego: flash lite

Each of us is born with distinct gifts, to be developed and expanded through discipline or desire, or to be left to fade through apathy or anxiety. They encompass the kaleidoscopic range of human experiences, from construction worker to concert pianist, from doorman to doctor, from gardener to golfer, from proctor to president. Yet why must society make delineations, create class categories, foster exclusivity?

A concert pianist must go through decades of disciplined practice on top of requiring the inborn gifts, yet is a construction worker—who labors through years of apprenticeship and stultifying weather conditions while helping to create homes and offices—any less valuable? Read More 

career choices: post-office

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

What happens after you get laid off from that desk job, the one that was doable and steady but never all that exciting? Or perhaps you just had your fill of getting the morning coffee, going in to the office each day, fulfilling your responsibilities with efficiency if not much enthusiasm, and eagerly awaiting that lifeline and timeline du jour: 5 o’clock.

To be able to turn a static life into one of stimulation and achievement is not an easy leap, and often requires courage to live with the resulting uncertainty. But provided that health is not an issue (a circumstance never to be taken for granted, especially among the younger generation to whom death is a mere mask), why not use the layoff notice or cubicle boredom as a springboard? Why not make the jump into something that enhances, that enables a real contribution rather than the contrition that often accompanies the status quo? Read More 

the corporate ladder: climb and punishment

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

For so many teenagers, it’s simply not an option. Their grades must be exemplary. Their SAT and ACT scores must be in one of those coveted eat-sleep-and-drink percentiles. Their college applications must be loaded with everything from athletics to community involvement. Their college grades must stand out, even when surrounded by standout students. Their graduate school years must reflect pinpoint focus. All of this more often than not leads to punishing 80-hour weeks at that longed-for corporate job, where creativity, freedom and empathy are shunted aside in favor of six-figure prestige and tireless climbing. Read More 

the calendar's relentless progression: autumn leaves

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

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 

using time wisely: autumn leaves

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

In just five days, when December 20th comes to a close, autumn leaves and we brace for winter. How many of us remember the start of 2015 as though it took place a mere few months ago? Then multiply that feeling by 10 and a decade has passed. How easy it is to forego an extra hour for Law & Order, a further hour for Judge Judy, confident that the time could well be made up tomorrow, next month, next year…. Fill in the blanks for any activity that stretches a bit too far and the hours add up like credit-card interest, unable to be recouped and ultimately a waste. Read More 

avoiding the instinct: gesticular cancer

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

That one gesture, that universal conveyance of anger and defiance, that singular finger. Yet beyond what can causally be attributed to this or that surface offense or vernacular veneer, why is it so pervasive? What lies under the skin?

Looking outward: Someone aggressively weaves in and out of congested traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway with the no-holds-barred determination of getting to that McDonald’s or bank drive-thru window 90 seconds earlier. Rather than react with that all-too-common shot of disgust, rather than increase hormones and heartbeats, why not just let it pass? Read More 

sitting in traffic: road kill

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

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

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

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 

on the surface: stock exchanges

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

It’s surely understandable that the small daily interactions most of us carry on each day—be they with bank tellers to retail clerks and everyone in between—don’t plumb the depths of how we truly feel. Who has the time or inclination? Who would go into a Starbucks and, in response to “How are you doing?” confess to feeling poignantly low in the wake of a friend’s or family member’s death? Or, for that matter, on the other side of the compass: “I just came from a six-mile run and feel incredibly grateful to be able to put one foot in front of the other.”

I’ve recently been more deliberate with these kinds of interactions, by responding with a very brief but sensitive comment about life, politics, health, family, education et al. It’s been gratifying to recognize how quickly we can form strong connections with those whom we don’t really know, with the resulting warmth carrying throughout the day. Read More 

putting disagreements in perspective: miniature gulf

The text you type here will appear directly below the image

In both career and personal relationships, how often do disagreements come up—problems of interpretation or perspective, of contracts or property—that cause significant setbacks? How often does the divide seem irreconcilable, the gulf not bridgeable?

Take a moment, though, to consider the broader perspective. Are your days filled with humility and gratitude, or does pride take center stage? Are you graced with intelligence and good health, with skills and resources? If so, is this or that issue really so important for you to fight over? Is it worth the stress hormones and loss of sleep? Read More