Category Archives: Society

Posts on the many aspects of us wacky human beings interacting with each other.

Toxic People and the Superfund of Life

I’m not sure if it’s El Nino or global warming or the Winter or some mysterious cosmic force only foretold of by Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Hotline, but toxic people have been on my mind.  Some of these have been people I have had the dubious pleasure of interacting with, but more often than not, it’s been friends of mine dealing with this abomination of the human spirit.

In thinking over this phenomenon, I tried to look to the cultural giants in human history for guidance.  There is certainly nothing new about the existence of toxic people – they have certainly existed for probably about as long as human beings have walked the earth… and at least as long as MTV has decided to collect them for the purposes of reality TV.

So I quote the bard:

You’re toxic I’m slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic

Yes Ms. Spears… yes.  I do know this, but it was never going to work out between us in the end.  We come from two different worlds and… umm… wait, where was I again?

Oh yes, toxic people.  I think there are essentially a few different ways to handle this bane of human existence:

  1. Avoid them. Like the plague.  Seriously.  Certain people out there will just suck the life out of you every time you interact with them.  It’s just their nature (or maybe their nurture if they grew up oppressed by a toxic parent).  In the end, they are just not worth the time, aggravation and drama.  And ohhhhh, the drama!  The drama queen/king is really one of the more common forms of toxic people running around.  Sure, there are people out there who look to tear you down with biting comments, but they are more rare than those who seem to have a parade of complete disaster trailing in their wake.  They make me smile and chuckle softly to myself because their dead giveaway to their drama-dom is the line “… and I cannot figure out why all this stuff happens to me!”  If they repeat that a lot… flee.  The reason that all that stuff happens to them is because they subconsciously enjoy the drama (it gives them attention) or they constantly make bad choices that bring it upon them.
    But what if they are your family member or co-worker or boss?
  2. Address the drama: Family members.  This is trickier, obviously.  It can be a little easier with family members because… well… they cannot really fire you from being related to them.  I think in this case you just need to ask more gently when they are in the midst of a drama meltdown “Huh… well, why do you think this is happening to you?”  They may have no idea they are creating their own drama and you need to ease your way into discussing this with them.  If you go this approach and it stays the same or, God forbid, gets worse, then you will probably have to default to tip #1 more often than not.  As harsh as that sounds, think of it this way – if you have brought the issue up with your family member and they continue the behavior and you end up absorbing all the stress, how fair is that really to you?  I know you love them, but a little tough love through the absence of your presence may begin to snap them out of it.
  3. Address the drama: Your boss.  A boss is a harder one because you don’t want to derail/ruin your career or lose your job by ticking off your boss… and if your boss is a toxic person, this is a definite possibility.  I ain’t gonna lie to ya.  The first and clearest option to me is to complete kick ass at your job and be sure you can prove you kick ass at your job.  Why?  Because a toxic boss who likes to pick away at you or create havoc for you will have a difficult time refuting cold hard facts of your complete awesomeness.  Is this easy when you work for a toxic person?  Hell no!  But it’s what you truly need to consider because there are 2 primary benefits of doing this beyond having material to use with your boss if the gauntlet is thrown down: (1) You are making yourself more marketable and prepping your resume for your next step; and (2) Other people in your company/organization/department will begin to notice you are really good which can ease your transition to something new.  You cannot underestimate the power of this second point, especially since other people where you work likely can tell you work with a toxic boss.

As you can see, there are various themes to these tips and avoidance is a piece of it (if possible).  I can see a reaction from people that avoidance is a bad idea because you aren’t really “addressing” the problem.  My response to that?  Umm… yeah, that’s the point.  We are often taught that every problem must be met head on… confronted directly in order to vanquish it like St. George slaying the dragon.  Hogwash.  Why?  2 reason: (1) It’s not your job to fix everyone else in the world, quite frankly.  In addition, toxic people are by their very nature stressful to those around them.  Why seek out stress you really don’t need? My life philosophy these days is to keep things very simple because life adds its own complications just fine without your help. (2) A toxic person has to choose to change.  Yes, your confronting them on it may cause that change, but at some point, it’s like yelling at a wall.  Believe me… I’ve yelled at some walls in my time and they really don’t listen well.  Heck, they may not even listen AT ALL.  Umm… oversharing?

In the end, putting in an effort to handle those people who are toxic is fine… to a point.  After that, let it go and enjoy a life with a slightly smaller slice of happiness.  Believe me, life is much better outside of the Superfund.

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Everyone Else Is Doing It

Ethics.  It’s a word that can certainly grab your attention and one that actually gets bandied about quite a bit in the news the last few years.  Ethics goes to more than just what the law requires (although it certainly encompasses that) and goes to the seemingly nebulous idea of “what is right”.  My full-time “real” job is completely comprised of handling business ethics where I work.  I know, I know… you’re thinking to yourself that it seems impossible that someone with my chiseled features and build is not making a living as an inspiration of nouveau sculptures of Greek gods, but there’s really a lot less of that kind of work than you would think.  Quite a bummer.

I believe very strongly that ethics is not just something that’s “good to do”, but in the business world, it’s also a competitive advantage.  Don’t believe me?  Think of the car mechanic your family swears by because he does great work, doesn’t overcharge and genuinely lets you know when something is wrong with your vehicle.  We will tend to gravitate much more strongly towards those who give us a square deal and we do not feel completely slimy after a business transaction with them.  Plus, a business committed to acting ethically is also going to be a place that is very well-run anyway.

If there is something in the world of ethics (whether business or just personal) that makes my gray matter light up with red flags, it would have to be someone using my all-time favorite justification for unethical conduct.  Yes, that’s right good people… “Everyone else is doing it!” *shudder*  Remember trying that one on your mom?  Remember how that went?  Yeah, me too.

This is why I was so struck by this piece over at Time Out New York from this past Summer.  There is a Broadway revival of The Fantasticks and Ben Brantley from The New York Times went to it and wrote a review.  Generally speaking, he didn’t care for it.  But he did have a little bit of positive reaction to one actor in the piece, Tom Jones:

Unlike much of the rest of this production, he feels like the real thing… [he] gives a perfectly pitched, disarmingly sincere performance that captures why The Fantasticks became the enduring favorite it did.

Mr. Brantley also went on to conclude with an observation of how he thought when he saw the original piece at age 9, he was enchanted.  So on this piece he writes:

And who knows? There may be a few 9-year-olds out there…who will conclude that The Fantasticks is the last word in theatrical sophistication.

Easy enough.  He did not care for the piece, one actor had the feel and spark of the original production and maybe some 9 year olds will think it is a sophisticated piece of theater.

Here’s the problem… the photo below is what was posted outside the theater as a quote from this reviewer:

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Umm… what?  That’s not even in the ZIP code of what the review was and yet, somehow this is what Broadway shows apparently do.  I have seen a bit more of this in terms of selected quotes for movie reviews, but this may be the most blatant example I have seen of cobbling together bits and piece of someone’s words to create a meaning that was simply not present.

To top it off, one of the people responding to this Time Out New York piece in the comments wrote the following:

Mr Brantley’s quote is the reason I bought a ticket to The Fantasticks last week. In a single word The Fantastciks is magical. It is a simple musical, love story, poetically played by a wonderful cast. I have seen The Fantasticks several times, and this production currently playing at The Snapple Theater Center is the best I have seen. But that isn’t why you have attacked this quote and theater is it? I would like you to show me any Broadway, or Off Broadway show that doesn’t pull words from sentences in order to bring in audiences. Why not let the public decide. When I saw the show last week, it was to a sold out house.I don’t care who wrote it, or even didn’t write it. The fact is that it is a true statement. Now really, there must be more news worthy stories out there for you.

Really?  Is there where we have come to?  That if the ends justify the means (i.e. this one woman enjoyed it based on the review so it becomes a “true statement”) so all is right with the world?  Or because other Broadway shows dissect a review done to get enough words in a proper order to create a positive review, we should shrug our shoulders?

Maybe this seems like I am blowing out of proportion something small, but it is something I believe that should matter to each of us as individuals.  Your integrity is yours and yours alone to nurture, protect and develop.  Trust is hard to develop, easy to ruin and then near impossible to build back up depending on the magnitude of the let down.  Just a lesson that if you want to work towards respect (personal or professional), it’s not a sometime thing… it’s an all the time thing.  And the world’s worst attempted shortcut when deciding how to work through a dilemma is what everyone else may be doing.

And before you demand I get off my highest of horses… it’s not about being perfect, but it is about doing your best… and this was not someone’s best or anywhere close to it.  A little effort, people!

What Price Greatness?

You have probably had a conversation with someone at one time or another where the other person talked about wanting to achieve some kind of greatness.  I know I have.  My first thought when someone says that to me is “Do you really understand what it costs to achieve real greatness?”  I’m not honestly sure most people do or if they did, they would still feel the same way about making a run at the mythical brass ring.

There have been a few high profile cases recently of the potential costs of going for greatness.  First, there was the leave of absence (which was later borderline retracted) by University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer.  Meyer is a tremendously successful and incredibly driven coach who has brought success to Bowling Green and then Utah and then finally Florida where he won 2 National Championships.  However, as Coach Meyer has himself admitted, all of that stress and constant pressure did take its toll on him to the point of suffering chest pains and passing out.  So, he first announced taking an indefinite leave of absence… but now it sounds like he will be back in time for next season.  Hmm.

The more recent news (and really huge news here in Connecticut) is University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun taking a leave of absence for undisclosed health reasons.  This has not been the first time something health-related has affected Calhoun, a three time cancer survivor.  I’m a UConn basketball fan and season ticket holder, so I have come to expect at least one time per season, a game where Coach Calhoun bows out part way through the game with some vaguely understood form of illness.  In fact, ESPN has a listing of all the health-related issues that have come up for him over the last 2 years and it’s not short.  Not good times, eh?

Or how about Michael Jordan?  He’s the best basketball player I have seen in my lifetime and is generally accepted as the best, period.  But you know what else?  He has quite the reputation for being a complete jerk because of his hyper-competitiveness.  How competitive?  I remember a former college teammate of Jordan’s, Matt Doherty, telling of a story where Michael came over to his house during college.  Doherty caught Jordan cheating in a game of Monopoly against Doherty’s mother.  Let that sort of marinade for a while in the ol’ gray matter.  I can wait… good and soaked in now?  OK, on we go.

So back to my original premise – at what price greatness?  When does it become too much of a single-minded piece of your life that can wreck anything else that gets in its way?  This reminds me a bit of my piece on how everyone wants happiness, but does 1,001 things that move them further away from it, like a high-powered businessman who earns great money for his family’s future… but he’s never home.

I’m not one to discount greatness at all and feel that those who shoot for that pinnacle of pure excellence in their chosen fields are really a beacon of inspiration for others.  Heck, in my own way I want to achieve a form of greatness, but in a much different regard: I want to a great life which is balanced in terms of personal and professional, as well as in mind, body and spirit.  That balance is what I want greatness in and, at least in my mind, that is something much healthier to strive for.

So feel free to shoot for greatness with every fiber of your being… just be sure you know what exactly you are getting in that pursuit. It can be pricey.

Don’t be that guy – 911 as a cab service

Something I used to do at a previous blog was a theme I called “Don’t be that guy” and since I enjoyed doing it so much, I’ve brought it here.  Why?  Because not being “that guy” will 100% fit in with the goals of this site… because this site is against douchebaggery in all of its various incarnations.

And what a fine first example!  Folks, if you were to hear of someone being super drunk and calling up 911 numerous times claiming to either being beaten or shot at… but actually just wanted a ride to another bar… do you think he would look like the eternally classy Cary Grant (pictured here)?  Or maybe… just on an off-chance… he might look a little like this?  Not that I would judge a book by its cover or a super-sketchy dude with greasy hair by his facial tattoos.  Not me.

And really?  You thought you could somehow fool the police into taking you to another bar by saying you were being shot at?  How exactly was that conversation going to play out?  “Officer… these dudes… I think they were ninjas or something… they were all shootin’ at me and I was all like… POW!  BAM!  And totally dodging bullets… and so now if you could just take me to Louie’s Pub, I would be totally stoked.  For reals.”

Life is a right pageant, people.  Never forget it.

The value of crazy

Looks comfy, eh?I firmly believe in the value and power of crazy.  Maybe not so much in the wearing hair shirts in public while declaring Fred Savage to be the antichrist kind of bat guano crazy… but more the kind of crazy that causes people to stop and stare a little bit while walking away shaking their heads.  The value really lies in the idea of doing something others either do not want to do or will not do because it looks hard or might be a little embarrassing.

More often than not, I have found these are exactly the kinds of activities that have a more beneficial aspect than not for your life.  Whether it’s dancing in public, acting like a complete idiot in a toy store to make your kids laugh or (in my case) doing some kind of really weird exercise… as shown in the video below.

Before I got this contraption (The Prowler in case you were wondering), I used to go out into this same parking lot and push/pull my SUV for exercise.  It’s an absolutely fantastic way to combine strength and conditioning into one efficient activity… but you need to accept the fact that (a) people will stop and stare at you; (b) people will without fail ask you if your car needs a jump (which is actually a very nice confirmation of the inherent goodness in humanity); or (c) the local police will slowly cruise by and stop to say “Look… just don’t get yourself run over.”  All 3 of these things have happened to me and I love it.

If I let the potential for embarrassment get in the way, I would have missed out on a really great exercise. Now that I have my Prowler, I am still going to get the looks… just no instances of people asking if my car needs a jump.  No police encounters yet, but give it time.  I have only gotten to use it 4 times so far.  Those will come… I just know it.

The same with this blog.  If I was worried about any negative comment someone might write on my posts, I would miss out on doing something I enjoy thoroughly and get a lot out of.  So on I write and keep hoping that each post is better than the last.  And Lord only knows I wouldn’t put up videos like the one in this post on YouTube if I was going to mire myself in what everyone else thinks because I know some people out there like or appreciate it, and that’s good enough for me.

So get out there. Be a little more wild than mild.  I’m trying to do so, although some areas are easier than others.  I feel no hesitation in doing certain athletic things that may cause an occasional raised-eyebrow, but believe me… in other areas?  I’ve got a lot of work.  And anyone who wants to join me for some Prowler pushes in the snow, just let me know…