Tuesday (But Really a Monday)

Good morning everyone.

Had a delightful four-day weekend and now I’m rested and refreshed for the week. While I cannot say that I am excited to get back to work, it will be good to talk to my staff, who I care about and respect. They are wonderful to work with and I am a lucky man.

This weekend was a useful meditation on why hobbies are essential and how satisfying doing projects around the house can be. I brewed a batch of beer (English Mild) on Sunday. I’d forgotten how nice it can be to have a project with a defined scope to work at for half the day. To say that I started and finished something in one day was pretty great. As I write this the yeast is turning that wort into beer, and it should be ready for drinking in about six weeks.

My son and I also ripped out the old green carpet from our upstairs hallway and staircase yesterday. It was a bit of work, but he was a big help and by the time we were finished the hardwood floors were showing again. They could use some refinishing, and I’ll get to that in time. My son was a big help, I really couldn’t have done it without him.

In other news, I’m getting old and by the end of the project yesterday I needed SO MUCH ADVIL.

Other things top of mind as we get back to the work week:

  • Biden campaign sign theft continues here in Medina County. A friend’s 3′ x 5′ Biden banner was stolen from their property…didn’t even make it 24 hours. People are awful.
  • It’s been a week sing giving up caffeine and I feel good. I don’t miss the rushed, panicky feeling I used to get from drinking too much coffee. I didn’t realize how much it was causing me anxiety. My head is in a better place since giving it up.
  • Still working on the sugar reduction. Right now the only added sugar in my diet is the stroopwaffle that I have with my morning brew. It’s nice start to the day and I don;t find myself craving sugar the rest of the day.
  • I’m down to zero dairy, which is helping the inflammation in my joints. Yay!

Finally, I’ve found the perfect morning drink. Two tablespoons of good decaf coffee, two tablespoons of Crio Bru, and good shake of cinnamon. Combine in a pour-over device and add 400ml of water at 205 degrees. Add cream/nut milk if you are in to that sort of thing.

Transparency and Trust

In yesterday’s post, I made a comment about transparency being the opposite of trust. A good friend asked for me to expand on that. And here we are.

In my experience, trust is about a belief in the reliability of of someone or something. That someone is going to do what they say, or that they will act in a way that is consistent with what you know of them. And generally, this means that you believe this in absence of any evidence at that time. That is, you’ve seen the pattern and you believe the person will adhere to that pattern with you needing to verify, that they are doing so.

Transparency is observing the steps or process or actions of someone or something without obfuscation. It’s first-hand knowledge of a pattern or process.

This is what drives my comment about transparency being the opposite of trust. If you have to personally witness or verify someone’s actions, that’s not trust. That’s the opposite of trust.

I believe you can use transparency to build trust, and I believe that’s how trust begins. You observe someones actions, and once you are convinced they will act that way all the time, you can trust them. But saying, “I trust you” and then checking up on, or in the case of the office micromanaging, someone’s actions is not trust. Demanding total transparency all the time is not trust.

If you “trust but verify” you are not trusting. And so, in the context of my last post about the stress of work, there is often a big tension, when management says “I trust you” and then acts in the opposite manner.

Stress

Stress is just part of life, and I recognize that. I think, however, that the amount of stress I experience is driven by two factors: false urgency and cognitive dissonance.

False urgency comes from the perception (imagined) that everything at work is on fire all the time. Some of this is internal — I run a team that runs the website for a well-known company. There are a LOT of requests. I take them all seriously. Because I take them so seriously, everything feels like it’s on fire all the time. It’s not. There will always be requests. Some more important than others.

Another side of false urgency is urgency for appearances. Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’d like to see you display a sense of urgency around this”? Urgency should be reserved for actual urgent matters, not used a whip to flog co-workers into burning themselves out.

The second piece, cognitive dissonance, is something that has become a real problem. Conventional management practices are pretty sterile. Many of the practices that comprise “professionalism” are designed to suck the emotions out of a situation and turn relationships with human beings into replaceable cogs in a machine constructed from human resources, or my new least-favorite term, human capital.

This is not how I choose to relate to people, be it my staff or my bosses. I think there is a big difference between being a mature adult in a situation by navigating the emotions of the moment and have a series of tricks and techniques to get past people’s emotions to make them do what you want them to do. The way businesses run today is more like machinery than humans with agency and skills coming together for a common purpose.

I just don’t support that worldview. But I have to live with it because of the positions I have held over the years. I don’t think it works well and I think it robs people of the dignity of being a true professional. To me, a professional is someone who has opinions and a definite point of view on their area of expertise. They should be respected and trusted for the knowledge they have in their field. Instead, we have a lot of talk about transparency, which is the precise opposite of trust. Instead, there is an expectation that you go along to get along instead of helping to steer the ship.

Combine that with the mixed message that your HR department wants to create a culture of passionate individuals who believe in the company’s mission. You cannot have passionate cogs in the machine. Those two things mutually exclusive. Unless you are looking for cult members.

I want to be clear, I’m not calling out my employer in particular. I’ve seen this play out over any over again at nearly all of the companies I have ever worked at. It is very difficult to be an individual when the dominant theme is “One of us…one of us…” It’s part of the management classes I’ve taken. It’s part of the idea of corporate culture.

And so, the delta between what is desired and who I am on the inside and what I believe about people is another stressor. The fact that I have some very Gen X attitudes about corporations doesn’t help.

This is why I use my addictions. Something to help me move past the emotions. Something to dull them. Something to help me bypass the frustration. Something to keep me motivated and…well…docile.

I’m pretty ashamed of that last part. But the frustration and anger are hard to get past sometimes, and they eat you up from the inside.

So you find ways to cope. Even if they hurt you.

So far, so good

I’m 24 hours in, and I feel pretty good. No caffeine headache from withdrawal yesterday, and I’ll take that as a win. That was my biggest concern. I used to get terrible migraines if I missed my morning cup of joe. That didn’t happen this time. I’m relieved.

I slept like a baby last night. Around 7:30 I started yawning and was out by 8:15, which is odd for me. Normally, I’m up pacing the house until at least 11pm. Not so, last night.

I’m curious to see what affect this has on my anxiety and depression. This past February I took medical leave for several weeks because I had an episode and needed rest and treatment. New meds regimen, new meditations, etc. And it’s been helping,. but not as much as I would like. I suspect not taking in speed every day might help. What do you think? 🙂

A friend recommended Crio Bru to me as a replacement for coffee. It’s ground roasted cacao beans and has less caffeine than decaf coffee. It’s really delightful. I’m using it to replace my daily coffee ritual — my cuppa when I sit on the back porch and listen to the news in the morning and a second after lunch. I take it with some almond milk creamer, and it’s a treat.

And that brings me to the other two things I am giving up as part of this: dairy and sugar.

Sugar is pretty obvious…a man with type II diabetes should be managing his sugar intake as a matter of course. Sugar, however, makes me feel better — until it doesn’t. So this one is going to be tricky. After 24 hours I haven’t had the cravings I was expecting, which means they are probably lying in wait for me today. Wish me luck.

Giving up dairy isn’t about it being a addiction (well, not as strong an addiction as sugar, anyway). I have become lactose intolerant as I have gotten older. It is a major irritant which causes me to swell up like a balloon, makes my nasal passage close so I’m stuffy all the time, and has certain deleterious gastrointestinal effects that I won’t detail here. The good news about this is that it forces me to break other patterns of eating because dairy cannot be a part of my diet. I’ve given up dairy in the past, and I’ve always felt better.

Of course…all of this…the cycle of stimulants and depressants, the sugar highs, etc all point to something I need to address: stress. More on that in future posts as I unpack that box.

And so it begins

Remind me…what are you doing?

Well, I wanted to get some of my addictions under control. I use caffeine and sugar quite a bit to make it through the work day, and then wind up needing sleep meds to sleep at night. I want to get this under control. As much as I love my morning coffee, I drink too much of it throughout the day just to keep up the energy to do what needs to be done.

The sugar is all about eating my feelings. It gives me a nice hit, and I feel better. But it’s killing me. So that needs to stop.

My hope is that my sleep and mood will improve. Because right now, at the end of a day, I’m am completely exhausted, crashing from both of my drugs of choice.

Ok…I follow. So why did you shave your entire head? Beard and all?

The face of a man trying to get excited bout decaf.

I needed a fresh start. I needed a change. See…when I peel away my additions, I’m going to wind up delving in to the things driving them…my career, my lack of self-care, etc. I use my addictions to cover up a LOT of emotions. I realize that this is pulling the thread which ultimately, if I don;t give up, will lead me to the life I want to have.

And lest you think I am blaming the World for making life hard, no…that’s not it. I am an extremely fortunate man. I got me a backpack or two full of privilege. I’m not happy with the way in which I live my life at times. I want to correct that. Peeling away the numbness that my addictions allow me will force me to deal with some of the things I’ve been putting off for a long time.

I wanted to mark this point in time. I made a vow to myself, and I wanted some way to make it real in a way that I can see it every day. It is a largely symbolic gesture, but as I get older, this symbolic gestures have more meaning to me than before. I want to embrace that and honor that part of myself. It’s a part of me that does not get a lot of air time as I slog away in the business world.

Ok. I get that. So what’s next?

I’m going to keep writing here. I’m a little concerned about the caffeine headache I will get later today. And giving up sugar is going to be HARD. Today, I’m just buckling in for the ride. One day at a time.