"You Say Tomato, I Say..."

Maybe I missed the memo but when did corporate speak hijack everyday English? I’m certainly not brilliant with the English language but even I have some questions.

For years now I have had medical insurance and been happy with the cover it has provided. But recently I have discovered that I have medical coverage rather than medical cover.

My telephone bill has switched from providing me details of my telephone use to listing my usage.

In my professional career of emergency management the evolution of emergency warning signs are all now signage.

Catching up with friends for coffee today provided that light bulb moment where this realisation was called out and lead to plenty of discussion. Whilst speaking about our coffee consumption my friend was mentioned that he drinks coffee on a daily basis, which lead me to reply that ‘perhaps you drink coffee daily.’ That started us thinking and a few examples later we realised that we are in the midst of over investing in our everyday speak.

For instance, I recently helped another friend with a resume for a job application and every mention of managing a budget for previous projects alternated between ‘allocated budget’ and ‘budget parameters’. I contested that ‘budget’ would do, simply because a budget is what you’re allocated and it does have parameters that’s why it’s a budget.

Interestingly, terrorism has bought us new language, the most prominent of which is ‘radical-ized’. I had contended that a terrorist is not radicalized but a radical to which my wife’s theory was that perhaps the term inferred that they had been subverted rather than naturally becoming a radical. This made some sense so I let that one slide.

However, the rise of the word burglarized cannot go overlooked. (I know, I know it’s somehow made it into dictionaries but seriously??).

Being burglarized is intended to mean that a burglar has burgled your house or apartment and when the police catch the person they will be charged with burglary.

Taking the ‘radicalized’ argument mentioned previously contends that someone has been burglarized into becoming a burglar.

Lastly, the buzzword in the emergency management game right now is ‘resilience’. Organisations are now seeking resilience as it fortifies the organisation on many fronts rather than just conducting business continuity or emergency management; it’s a holistic approach. But this too has somehow morphed into ‘reciliency’. WTF? If you have resilience you are resilient - that’s it.

I’m thinking there’s an unneccesarryness to the enhancementation of over-specificationized of articulatization in this time poor world.

Just sayin’.

2017 Year of the Asshole.

If we look back a couple of years 2015 was a watershed for mindfulness. In business, it was no longer just a fashion for funky tech and media companies. Some of the world’s most recognised brands adopted mindfulness, as a mainstream health and performance approach. In Britain, a Mindfulness All-Parliamentary Group published a report, taking the mantle as the first government in the western world to focus on how meditation might enhance policy development.  Furthermore a UK Mental Health Foundation survey found a 59% of people had heard of mindfulness.

This is not solely a European trend. In 2015 an Australian survey conducted by Safe Work Australia looked into mindfulness in the workplace across a range of different industries. The Research Brief – Mindfulness of work health and safety in the workplace provides a summary of key findings from the study.

So all this looked to set 2016 up to be the year we all took stock of what was going on around us and became a little more mindful of our actions and words and how they affect others and how we act and react to the actions and words of others too. Not just at work or in developing government policies but in everyday day life.  Whilst meditation and yoga circles were the early adopters of all this, they flourished as mindfulness became the new buzz-word.

But, what does 2017 look to derive from this groundswell of mindfulness? Should we all hold hands and sing Kum Ba Yah as we all act more responsibly and show more tolerance to others?

Nope. My prediction is that 2017 is the year of the asshole! Simply because mindfulness seems to have been a total failure. It was and is a fading trend.

Most if not all of us probably don’t need to look to far to find an asshole. In all walks of life they are there and growing in numbers daily. You may know them as a ‘yob’ or yobbo’ or a ‘redneck’ or a ‘bogun’, it just depends on where you come from, but one things for certain the term asshole unites these self-centred uncaring ignorant people.

My apartment building has many. From that person that leaves the apartment at 6.30am every morning and lets the exit door slam so loud that 3 storeys up I can not only hear it but also feel the building shudder. You’re an asshole.

The woman in the apartment below me to whom I have been saying good morning to for four years when we meet in the hallway and who now has only just moved herself to raising an eyebrow in response but still cant bring herself to utter ‘hi’ or any other reply for that matter. To her neighbour who smokes constantly on his balcony and then flicks the cigarettes into the courtyard below. You really are an asshole. You are the only smoker in the entire building and you think nothing of rubbishing everyone’s home.

Looking a little wider. To all those drivers that feel it is fine to double park on a main road and cause all sort traffic chaos because whatever they are doing is sooo much more important than the whatever the occupants of the 20 cars now backed up behind them are doing (including me). You’re an asshole and one day you’ll cause an accident.

To all those that think we all deserve to hear your phone conversation whilst on public transport or in the airport lounge. Hey asshole, your phone is not an old fruit can with string tied to another can, you don’t have to shout nowadays.

When running for public office, let’s say President for example. We’ve learned that you don’t have to have any regard for the truth, women’s rights, or the rights of anyone (except your own) for that matter. You can make up any stories and pass them off as facts, insult anyone and basically own the term asshole.

Looking at countries and if a true asshole quality is caring only about oneself then perhaps Brexit was a collective asshole event?

So whether you are my neighbour, someone I’ve encountered on public transport, seen on TV, a President or a country, 2017 is shaping up to be your year so you’d better get it right.

Here’s my tips to make you the best asshole you can be

1. Act confident, pushy and assertive, don’t smile or say hello and definitely don’t hold the door open for others.  However, if someone holds a door open for you then act like that’s what they should be doing – don’t say thanks or even acknowledge them.

2. Become an asshole role model by making sure that your deplorable behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed. Be loud and obnoxious at every opportunity. Warning: If you don’t want to be elected President then don’t boast about grabbing women by the pu***

3. Do whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.

4. Be dominant and exhibit intimidating behaviour at every opportunity. Swear in public places and when children are around. Throw your rubbish on the ground; trashcans are for whimps. Besides it give someone that is less important than you something to clean up.

5. Drink too much of these in no particular order, alcohol, caffeine and energy drinks.

 6. Absolutely do not ever show any interest in others.  You and you alone are the centre of this universe. Interrupt others when they speak. Their thoughts, opinions and ideas are never as good or important as yours.

7. Undermine others, particularly if it takes the heat off you. Play mind games to manipulate others and keep them guessing and confused. Criticise in public and praise in private; don’t let anyone overhear you saying anything that could be construed as positive.

8. Remain focused. Remember, this is all about you, nothing else matters. Don’t waste time with people if they can’t help you.

9. Never, ever admit mistakes.  

10.  Parking spaces, traffic lights, speed restrictions and lane markings are only suggestions. They don’t apply to you. Park where you want, don’t use your indicator when turning and the car’s horn is the only function you really need to know how to use.




The Multitasking Myth

We’ve all heard it repeated perhaps for our entire life and career; women can multitask better than men. It’s a universal fact. One that has formed the basis of many discussions, arguments and even stand-up comedy routines.

Except for one problem. Multitasking is a complete myth.

Multitasking is where you are trying to do more than one thing at the one time. In theory we are saying that we are focusing on two things at the one time. Impossible because the brain doesn't work that way! The brain cannot focus on two things at the one time, what you are really doing is swap tasking - just swapping your focus from one task to another very quickly.

McGill University Psychology Professor Daniel Levitin says that “Switching concentration across tasks comes at a neurological cost, depleting chemicals we need to concentrate. In a number of studies from MIT and others that what we're really doing is we're paying attention to one thing for a little bit of time and then another and then another and then we come back around to the first.”

One proviso before I go any further though – we can multi task simple things as long as one of them doesn’t require our attention. For example walking and talking on the phone, we don’t actually focus on walking so therefore we can do two things at once. However, as soon as walking requires our attention (for example if we get lost and have to think about where we are going) we can no longer continue the conversation on the phone.

That’s because these are separate projects that are occurring in separate parts of the brain, they require a separate start time, a separate monitoring process. You end up dividing your attention into little bits and pieces, not really engaging fully in any one thing. All that switching across tasks comes with a neurobiological cost. It depletes resources. So after an hour or two of attempting to multitask, if we find that we're tired and we can't focus, it's because those very neural chemicals we needed to focus are now gone.

Swap tasking has been shown to reduce our performance and stress our brain. One study in the UK showed that the cognitive performance of people who had been multi-tasking all day was worse than people who were stoned (been smoking marijuana) which speaks volumes about how bad swap tasking is for our brain.

Don’t believe me? Try this.

Grab a timer and a blank piece of paper. Write the sentence:

“Multitasking is swap-tasking”

But before you do, the way you write it is, write one letter of the sentence and then below it write the first letter of the alphabet, then write the next letter of the sentence and then the next letter of the alphabet. Keep writing one letter of the sentence and then another letter of the alphabet. It will look like this.

M u l t i .......

A b c d e .....

Keep writing until the sentence is complete and the alphabet is written below it

Note down the time it takes you.

Now repeat the exercise writing the sentence in full and then the alphabet in full. Do not go from one to the other; just do the sentence and then the alphabet. Note down the time it took.

What you will notice is that the first method will take you 4 to 5 times longer than the second method.

In the first method you are multitasking it (swapping your focus from one task to the next) while in the second method you are completing one task and then moving onto the next one.

There are some jobs that require, not multitasking but instead the rapid switching science is proving to be the case; Air Traffic Controller, Translator or Stock Market Trader for example.

We can take a tip from air traffic controllers who, as part of their rosters, are required after every hour and a half to two hours of work it's mandated that they take a 15 to 30 minute break. As Professor Levitin puts it “That means an unplugged disconnected break where they go for a walk or listen to music, they exercise, something to restore all of the burned up neurochemicals.”