Thursday, October 13, 2011

It gets better...right?

I have a five year old niece-in-common-law, and for all intents and purposes I’m just going to call her my niece from here on out.

I was babysitting my niece and we were watching every child’s favorite show: College Football.

I asked my niece, “Do you like football?”

She responded, “No. Hockey!”

It’s true. The kid loves hockey and even putt-putts in a perfect Happy Gilmore hockey-stick-swinging stance. I have no problem with hockey and changed the channel to whatever NHL game was on at the time.

I asked her if she wanted to play hockey and she said, “YES!...but...it’s really hard to stay up on those things.”

My niece was trying to describe how painfully awkward it is to try to balance on ice skates, let alone swing an L-shaped stick to command something that’s the size of a hamburger.

Then without really thinking, without really comprehending what I was saying, I gave my most natural, innate response, “It’ll get better...when you’re older.”

As soon as I spoke those six words I was overcome with memories of my childhood: adults towering over me, squeezing my cheeks, and chanting “It’ll get better when you’re older” – a response fitted for everything from homework, acne, rude children, and the limitations of a childhood palate.

I wanted to vomit. My niece, on the other hand, smiled at me and then went back to throwing the bouncy ball she had been playing with; seemingly unfazed.

I was sick with myself because I am a liar.

I told my niece things get better no matter what – as long as you grow up – but do they really? Is there a magical switch that flips between childhood and adulthood where everything is easy and every action comes naturally?

I don’t know if my niece is going to be a good skater or not when she grows up – but she has to be, thanks to me and my stunning logic.

Perhaps it is the optimism that is childhood that compels us adults to paint pictures of perfect worlds. We are determined to preach to children: you will be good at anything and there’s nothing to be afraid of.

An overwhelming amount of children grow up in this bubble of positivity to only be slapped in the face by reality later. Things don’t always work out the way you want. Things aren’t always as easy as they seem.

I was the head coach of a varsity lacrosse team for three years and there is one common thread that seemed to tie (almost) all of my players together: Entitlement. I had players who said we shouldn’t do any running during practice because it's "hard" and "not fun." I had players who would disappear for the last half of the season and show up for the end-of-season party expecting awards and presents.

There was a general lack of accountability and work ethic. I found myself running into a lot of parents who shared the mentality, “I paid for the season, so it doesn’t matter if they show up or not because you’ll still get the money.”

Sigh.

I would like to believe there are parents who still expect their kids to try and give a real effort at something. Anything. I would hope that parents would encourage their children to work their very hardest and to see a goal to completion.

I spent a lot of hours wondering how these parents could be so blind. I wondered how the parents never realized they were molding children into people who believe you've earned something just because you're breathing.

Then there I was, “coaching” my little niece on how hockey is going to magically come easy to her just because she’s older. I felt like a hypocrite. I spent so much time frustrated with my Entitled players, and I had just caught myself pouring gasoline on the fire.

This is what I should have told my niece, “You’ll get better with practice!” I should have given some indication that it takes work to be good at anything. It takes time and dedication.

But my niece seemed ok. Hopefully this will not reverberate into some long-lasting psychological issue where she finally reveals to a therapist years later, "My Uncle Brook told me I'd be good at hockey no matter what!"

That's what I plan on giving all children of the world: a strange blog post and false hope.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

6 Ways to Make it Look Like You're Working When You're Really Not

There you are – at work. You don’t want to be at work. You don’t want to do work stuff. You’re fantasizing about being fanned by a topless individual on a beach while drinking something out of a coconut that tastes like sugar but makes your insides feel like a speakeasy.

But there’s no escape for you and no exotic vacation on the horizon.

So I’m here to help. The solution to the “I don’t want to be at work!!” problem is to make your physical body remain at your work station while your mental self floats away to an alternate universe where jobs don’t exist and people are actually happy.

Here are 6 ways to make it look like you’re working when you’re really not.

#6. Check Facebook with a serious face.

I have not performed any survey or relevant statistical analysis, but I am willing to guess that at this very second, 456,234,371 individuals are checking Facebook while at work. The secret to making it look like you’re working – when you’re really checking Facebook – is to do it with a serious face. I don’t care if you’re looking at pictures of your baby niece with birthday cake smeared all over her face, or pictures of your college roommate getting thrown into a pool during their wedding reception – don’t laugh. Don’t smile. Better yet, squint your eyes a little, because you’re really focusing on your job. (The same is applicable for Twitter and other social media outlets.)


#5. Keep a notepad open on your desktop.

Maybe you have a snitch of a co-worker or boss who likes to do frequent walk-bys. Here’s the key to looking like you’re working: keep a notepad (or word document) open on your desktop. As soon as a coworker is within ear-range, type as fast as you can in the notepad. Don’t bother typing real words or forming sentences – you’re going for the illusion of “busy” here.

Something to keep in mind is that it looks painstakingly obvious when someone rounds the corner and you lurch for your mouse to click on something that looks “more productive.” This is where using the alt+tab function will save you. Hold down the alt key while tapping the tab key and you can navigate between programs without having your hands leave the keyboard. You’re welcome.


#4. Have an excel file open. Always.

Most jobs nowadays require some type of excel file. Whether you’re using it for mathematical purposes or just making an organized list or schedule, excel is a mainstay. Having an excel file up makes you look all the more impressive and is a great “work task” to have up on your screen – especially if you have a boss who likes to make unannounced, over-the-shoulder visits.

Of course, make sure it’s not just a blank excel sheet. That’s suspicious. Again, use your alt+tab skills to navigate to your excel page in an instant.


#3 Make a list.

This list needs to be old school, with real pen and paper. Keep a piece of paper and a pen just in front of your keyboard. Let’s say you’re watching that thing on ebay that ends in twelve minutes and your boss pops in – change your screen, grab the pen, and focus on that piece of paper.

Your boss will ask, “What are you working on?”

You: “Oh, I’m making a list right now.”

Boss: “A list for what?”

You: “I just feel like I’m juggling a lot of things right now and I’m trying to write a to-do list by order of priority.”

Boss: “What is it that you’re so worried about?”

You: “I really feel too bogged down to say one thing. I just need a minute to sort my thoughts.”

Your boss, most likely, won’t argue with that. You’re free to go back to ebay and rethink your minimum bid.


#2 Visit your favorite news websites, IMDB, ESPN, whatever.

Everyone reads online articles while sitting at their desk. The secret is to read your articles in “Print View.” If your boss, or snitch coworker, sneaks up on you and they see nothing but flashing Netflix ads, they’ll know something is up. That’s the magic of Print View. It takes away all of the advertisements and you’re left with a big block of text to read which is far less incriminating.

#1 Schedule a meeting with your coworker friend.

Juuussstt about everyone has that ONE friend in their office that they bitch to and might actually elevate to “friend” status. Schedule an in-office meeting. Make sure you bundle up lots of papers and you look really busy. Then discuss all the inappropriate things you want to talk about and how much you cried during The Biggest Loser the night before.

The trick is always and again, no smiling, no laughing, and give a 100% “I’m really working super duper hard” poker face.