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Welcome to My Nightmare

The entire management staff of the credit union had gathered for a presentation about how to get the most out of staff by recognizing the differences in how people are motivated.

I barely qualified to attend the meeting since I was merely a supervisor. Along with the other supervisors, the meeting included directors, vice presidents, and the CEO. It was certainly one of the better meetings we had, and the topic of how people’s minds work has always interested me.

We took a test called Personalysis that the moderator would analyze during lunch, and the results of which would be disclosed at the end of the day. We then were asked to come up with a single word that best describes us from our perspectives.

As he went around the table, words like "leader," "creative," and "devoted" were offered up. He finally arrived to me. I offered up the word "iconoclast" to describe myself. The meeting stopped. No one knew what the word meant, not even the vice president who was an aspiring author, nor the moderator.

It was just another incident that I passed off, this time attributing it to studying vocabulary that must simply have been something others did not take the time to study.

There was the time in eighth grade math when the teacher challenged me to do a difficult division problem using a method I created to calculate earned run averages before I learned the "proper way" to do long division. My classmates laughed at the teacher when I showed him I could solve the problem. He was a really good teacher, and I did not do it to embarrass him. But there they were: people who could not solve the problem the proper way acting like they had accomplished something.

There was also that time in ninth grade algebra when the teacher had me come in after school to disclose how I was cheating because I was getting the daily work and my homework done in class with time to spare. When I told her I wasn’t cheating, she had me solve some problems she made up so there was no way I could have memorized the solutions.

Even though I didn’t recognize it, she apparently did.

The day after that test, she told the class that I would be made available to tutor my classmates after I finished my work. She also had taught long enough to know better than to leave me with nothing to do but be disruptive once my work was completed. My yearbook that year was filled with comments about how much guys who did not want to hang out with me, and girls who would not dance with me, appreciated me for helping them pass that class.

It, whatever "it" is, has always been rather hollow like that. This management meeting was no different. Those in attendance realized they could come to me to help solve difficult problems. They would do so with regard for me as highly capable, but not as a peer.

The number of incidences like this have now accumulated sufficiently for me to realize that I have not been blessed with common sense, but, rather, I have been cursed with uncommon sense.

I have no academic credentials that I can submit for understanding philosophy, physics, or relativity. They simply are not that difficult to understand - at least they are not difficult for me to understand.

It is also the likely reason I find myself more introverted these days. When attending gatherings of family or friends, I find myself wanting to find a corner to hide in after fairly short discussions about how stupid a coach was for running a certain play by people who could not coach a little league team to an undefeated season, why the government cannot help people with regulations and programs without ruining the economy by people who benefit from those regulations and programs, or how anything that is beyond the common person’s scope of understanding is definitive proof of God or ancient aliens for people who need to grasp an explanation for everything even if it means believing in supernatural forces.

There is no appreciation for infinity, let alone an understanding of it. Everything must have an explanation, or there simply cannot be an explanation other than some wild explanation. Possibilities are not considered. Probabilities are not calculated. Thought simply consumes too much time, so why not give it no thought and pretend we understand because we believe.

It worked for Aristotle. Despite his massive contributions, his certainty set mankind back 1,700 years, so why not emulate him - except for the contributions, of course? Those contributions require thought, and who has time for that?

Anyway, the meeting was nearing the end. It was time to learn about our Personalysis tests. The premise is that people are motivated by four basic things: money and rewards, recognition, greater authority, and more independence. The test was designed to create a four sided figure that would distort into the areas by which we are most motivated.

As he showed us our results publicly, some of the figures were dominantly in one of the areas. Some of the figures were fairly evenly placed in two of the areas. He saved me for last. He said in the years he had been doing this he never had a result that was as evenly balanced in all four areas as was mine. It was nearly a perfect square.

He said he really didn’t know if that meant that I was equally motivated by all four things, or if it meant that those things were equally unimportant to me. Neither did I, damn it! This was his test! I wanted to learn more about myself, and all he could tell me about me was that he could not tell me what my test results meant!

It’s a nightmare, I tell you, to be cursed with uncommon sense.

Explaining to a CEO that a program that gets the deposits in a day earlier does not make extra money one day, but every day; explaining to a CPA that a contra account that reflects the difference between cost and market is not affected by profits, but only by fluctuations in market value since the costs are fixed; explaining to a teacher that dividing by .95 rather than multiplying by .05 does not correctly identify 5% of a value, but rather it reflects what that value is 95% of: it is both exhausting and unrewarding.

There are times I wish I could simply say "yeah, that makes sense," and not be a smart ass for saying it.

Some other things I've written about: