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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 •

true passion: beyond the paycheck

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If your chosen career is motivated by true passion, is the commute really that long? Are the office politics really that onerous? Are the inevitable extra hours really that tiresome? Whether the economy is “firing on all cylinders,” as the analysts are fond of saying, or whether one in 10 Americans are without steady work, there are always options.

Do you love foreign cultures? Learn another language—not out of obligation to work for a multinational company, but from real desire. From embassy to agency, you’ll always have a place to make a professional contribution. Read More 

avoiding the ordinary: canned goods

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What do you bring to the table? Be it a job interview, a brainstorming session or
interaction with a loved one, are your responses built on expected words, conventional notions, ingrained thought processes?

Almost every sphere of human activity can benefit from original ideas, and they hardly need be limited to symphony or skyscraper, to palate or painting, to e-this or i-that. Cause a few sparks—by going above and beyond, by living without fear of others’ responses, by acting from true conviction. 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 

confronting consequences: the glass sealing

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Perhaps the report doesn’t need those few extra pages, or the annual checkup can
wait a few more months, or you’re sure the car can go a few thousand more miles
before its oil change, or the complicated home project is almost good enough, or… or… or.

It’s not unusual to become tired in what can be a difficult economy or with the kaleidoscopic range of daily obligations, to feel that just making it through the most urgent priorities is enough, to leave uncompromising thoroughness for another, more doable day. Read More 

traditional gender roles: malebox

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Traditional gender roles are as outdated as last year’s calendar. Sure, men will always provide the seed, and women will always bear children, but beyond those natural facts, limitations simply don’t (or shouldn’t) exist.

Choose any profession, from prime minister and secretary of state to scientist and professor. From CEO and entrepreneur to concert pianist and composer. From… to…. From… to…. Women can be dominating and abrasive; men can be sensitive and nurturing. And mothers can be breadwinners while stay-at-home fathers can take care of home and hearth. Read about one country’s current struggles (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/opinion/turkeys-politics-of-fatigue.html) and how corrosive it can be to remain bogged down in suffocating norms. Read More 

doing well by doing good: value added

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You’ve worked hard. You’ve attained a level of career success that transcends the vagaries of the economy. You deeply value your significant other and nurture your children or other family members. There is no better time to become a mentor, to volunteer your time, to become a board member or to donate to a nonprofit organization for which you feel closely connected. Here’s how one couple has found much satisfaction giving back by working on community service projects (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/14/your-money/rotary-and-peace-corps-find-renewed-relevance-with-older-volunteers.html). Read More 

give or take: the conventional root

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You’ve decided. It’s perfect for you. It represents a direct way to self-fulfillment, and you have so much to offer. You’ve studied hard, worked hard. The way to make a real contribution has presented itself. What lies at the root of conventional responses, of a course of action widely followed by your competition? So then how to distinguish yourself? Read More 

the result of inaction: heavy brainfall

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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 

the easy way out: artificial sweetener

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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 

tireless preparation: personal kneads

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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