career

Seven Work Hacks for the Modern Office

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Believe it or not, no actual work has been accomplished at this desk in over six months.

Let’s face it: you’re lazy as hell. You know it. I know it. You don’t want your coworkers to know it. But what’s your lazy ass to do, right? This is America. You  can’t climb the corporate ladder without sweating a little, right? Wrong. You don’t have to work harder to keep your job and get promoted. You just have to not work smarter. Follow these seven simple tips, and I promise you’ll be well on your way to achieving the American Dream of getting paid way more than you deserve.

  1. Make use of the 80/20 rule. I’m not talking about the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. I’m talking about how 20% of the time you should make a big show of busting your ass, and then the other 80% you can do nothing. People are natural generalizers. It’s instinct. We try to notice patterns because it’s often inefficient to try to get to the truth of the matter by collecting enough data. You can take advantage of this by giving off the appearance of a pattern of hard work. Once people get that impression of you, you’ll have to fuck up pretty badly to get them to think anything else. As hard as this may sound, I’d recommend really doing a stellar job on your first project. Do way more than is necessary and in such a way that people really take notice. Make a presentation that wasn’t asked for. Stay in the office until everyone has left. Show up before everyone else. Then, after your reputation is established, come in late, leave early and do whatever the fuck you want. Now, I can already hear your objection. “Buhh…but I’m lazy. I don’t want to have to do that.” Not to worry. Where there’s a lack of will, there’s a prescription, which leads me to Tip 2.
  2. You now have ADHD. Go to a psychiatrist and get yourself an ADHD diagnosis. It’s not hard and if your shrink doesn’t think it’s the right one, shop around. This is important for two reasons. First, it will get you an Adderall prescription. Adderall is the best. If they want to prescribe you some other drug or, god forbid, behavioral therapy, shop around. You might be able to weasel your way into the right drug by claiming allergies, but it’s probably easier to just go to another doctor. Adderall is useful for those times when you’re busting your ass to give the appearance of being a hard worker to establish a good reputation you can later take advantage of. You probably wouldn’t be reading this article if that sort of behavior came naturally, so why not make it come unnaturally instead? Trust me, this shit will make you a bionic work cyborg from the planet Allnightus. You’ll actually enjoy doing work. It will make even the most mundane, pointless shit seem impossibly interesting. Sound good? Good.
    The breakfast of champions.

    The breakfast of champions.

    Now, the second reason you need ADHD is that it will give you a medical alibi for poor performance and may even get you some special treatment if you claim it as a disability. Have trouble getting the report done on time because the new Destiny DLC dropped? Sorry boss, it was my ADHD. I just couldn’t focus. I’m working real hard on it with my doctor. Just don’t feel like working today? Sorry boss, I’m trying but this ADHD is killing me today. Trust me, they’ll give you a pass. Disciplining you for a medical issue is a dangerous game. They won’t want to poke that hornet’s nest with a 20 foot pole. They’ll only do something about it if your performance gets crazy bad, and if that’s the case you can threaten to hire a lawyer and/or take your case to the media to try in the court of public opinion.

  3. Wear a tie or whatever it is snappy dressers of your gender wear in your workplace. Make a little effort on something you don’t have to do and people will assume you put effort into the things you do have to do. It’s a well known fallacy of the business world that well-dressed people work harder. Maybe some of them do. I don’t know. What I do know is that people will assume you work hard and give a shit if you dress like a boss.
  4. Don’t worry about getting written up. Write ups are the currency with which sanity is bought in the modern office. Large corporations are bureaucracies as byzantine and arbitrary as the federal government. It’s not a question of private vs. public that makes companies efficient. It’s a matter of size. The government becomes bureaucratic because it’s massive. Get enough humans involved in any type of organization and it’s pretty much inevitable that it will become chock full of random, pointless rules only the most anal retentive employees care about. You’ll find that the more time you work in the place the more you start to care, too. This is called insanity. Don’t fall into this trap. Getting written up doesn’t matter one goddamn bit so long as it doesn’t affect your ability to get promoted. I mean, for fuck’s sake, you think when Coca-Cola interviews a new CEO it gives two shits that Joseph in Accounting wrote him up for improper tabbing of his folders? Fuck that. The only people who care about that shit are the sort of lower level administrative employees who’ve been stuck in the same stupid job for 25 years and have nothing better to do than get in a huff about petty shit.
  5. Memorize popular buzzwords and trendy business concepts, then spout them off to your coworkers to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about. We’re talking about the latest pseudo-scientific concepts, “lifehacks” and trendy business methods, as well as the classic empty bromides and corporate speak. We’re talking your disruptive innovations, your synergies, your butter coffees, your burning passion for fucking everything, your leaning in, your doing more with less. Any of that bullshit will do. Talk about how you try to have a personal relationship with your Lord and Savior Steve Jobs and go on and on about how he revolutionized literally everything you do, from taking a shit to making coffee into the beautiful, magical, made in Califuckingfornia experience it is today. The purpose is to create a smoke screen of value around the fact that you’re actually doing nothing. Your whole career is going to be like one of those false second stories they used to put on the front of buildings in the Old West. Trust me, that’s what you want even if you think you don’t. If you didn’t want that you would have gone into a real profession like science or teaching or medicine or something. Only tools and aimless, lazy shits like you and me go into business.
  6. Never admit you don’t know the answer. Honestly, if you’ve been at your job for more than a year you should know this by now, but I include it because people still manage to make this mistake. People wouldn’t ask you the question if they knew the answer, so how are they going to know if you’re wrong? Nobody in the business world really has any clue what they’re doing. They’re all either lying or deluded. In fact, usually you start your career lying and by the end of it you’ve started to believe your own bullshit. That’s called personal development. Business is all about appearances. The appearance of confidence is far more important to success in the corporate world than actual competence. That’s called leadership.
  7. Delegate, delegate, delegate. You don’t have to be in management to delegate. Anyone can delegate work to someone else so long as that person is willing to do it. This is a high risk, high reward strategy, mind you. It can easily garner you a reputation for “pawning shit off” on other employees, so be careful. I recommend biding your time, taking careful stock of the personalities and habits of your coworkers. What you need to find is that classic combination of workaholism, self-importance and spinelessness: the sort of person who thinks their dumb job actually matters, busts their butt all the live long day and won’t fight back no matter how much shit they get stuck with. It shouldn’t be a problem finding one of these little turds. Big companies love them because they’re willing to sacrifice practically anything for the same price as a regular employee. A good place to start is to keep an eye out for the sort of person who seems like an adult version of Butters from South Park. A key indicator is an aversion to profanity. Listen for expressions like heck, darn-it , rats and, if you’re really lucky, drat or fiddlesticks. Also look for frequent, overt expressions of gratitude, talk of “getting stuff done” on the weekends, an unusually high interest in lawn maintenance, a tidy haircut that wouldn’t be out of place in 1956, excessive patriotic zeal and someone who doesn’t drink caffeine, let alone alcohol. You’re basically looking for a Mormon, in other words.
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How to Make Acting a Safe Career Choice

Trading Excess Potential Payout for Better Odds of Success as a Means of Making Dream Jobs Safer, More Feasible Career Options

One time when I was a child, our teachers gathered us in the gym to hear the principal speak about planning for our future. I don’t remember much about the speech, but one thing did stick with me: his talk about the foolishness of trying to become a professional athlete. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with being a pro athlete. His point was the same point most of us make to anyone who thinks they’re going to go pro in something fun: the odds that you’ll succeed are extremely low. Even if you’re an amazing player, even if you’re the best in your whole school, that odds are still stacked high against you. It’s a gamble, in other words, and you’re wagering a piece of your life. You’re putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into playing this sport, time and effort you could be expending on learning a more marketable skill, so if you don’t succeed you might not have a lot of alternatives. And odds are you won’t succeed.

This problem is inherent to all occupations that are what I call high-reward-high-risk careers (HRHR). I’m talking about things like acting, art, music, and, yes, sports. These tend to be fields that a lot of people enjoy doing in and of themselves and are highly competitive. Therefore, you must have the skill or luck of a god to succeed. They’re basically the career equivalent of investing in highly speculative stocks. Sure, there’s a chance you’ll become filthy rich, but more than likely you’ll lose your money. As with most financial things, prudent people take the smaller reward with safer odds.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no law of nature that says you must risk it all to pursue a dream job of this variety. Many people who want to enter these fields would be happy to settle for a simple living wage in order to be part of them. Sure, maybe some people are attracted to them because of the big bucks they see the top performers get (sports in particular), but the people who really love the fields don’t even care if they got rich off of them, they just want assure they won’t end up unemployed and homeless in the future before pursuing them as a career.

Take acting, for example. My girlfriend’s brother is doing a master’s program in Theater and wants to be a professional actor. He is well aware that the odds he’ll succeed are slim and that getting a master’s degree is going to saddle him with a lot of debt for a skill that’s not very marketable. It’s a gamble, but he does it because he loves acting. Not that he wouldn’t want the big bucks, but I’m sure he’d jump at the opportunity to make a living wage at it instead. The point is being able to do what he loves for a living, not getting rich and famous. If there were some way he could act professionally that just paid the bills he would be happy to take it.

I think there is such a way.

By the nature of HRHR careers, a few people get tons of reward and the rest get nothing or next to nothing. But, what if there were a way to spread that reward around, and therefore, the risk? What I’m talking about is a sort of HRHR insurance, though it would function more by means of a contractual vehicle between professionals than from a payment premiums in the event of disaster like most insurance. People who aren’t yet making the big bucks can’t, after all, pay premiums. The way it would work is a certain number of HRHR professionals get together and agree to pay a certain percentage of their earnings for a certain period of time (the agreement could last for life, but I think that’s a bit much) into a trust fund in the event they are successful. This trust fund, then is used to supplement the incomes of the rest of the parties to the agreement whose incomes are below a certain threshold so that they may pursue the work they want without having to worry about whether it pays enough for them to survive.

The underlying logic of this is that the odds that any given one of them will succeed are low, but get a big enough group together and the odds that someone in that group will succeed become quite high. For example, if you get 1,000 serious (as discussed below, strict screening with a high bar will probably be necessary for this to work), professional actors together, the odds that any given one of them picked at random will become a famous celeb and make millions a picture are low, but the odds that someone in the group will become a famous celeb making millions are quite high. It will certainly take some math and careful planning to figure out a feasible number with an appropriate standard, but as the group gets bigger there will be a sweet spot where it is big enough that success is all but guaranteed for at least one person in the group. And if more are successful, that’s all the better.

The real question, then, is whether the size of that group will be small enough that the people who do become highly successful will make enough to support the rest of the group. This is why screening is so important. The group itself must ensure that its size does not get so large that the potential payout makes it no longer worth it. Therefore, the group must screen applicants for quality and seriousness to ensure they actually have a halfway decent shot of succeeding, which may entail some very stiff competition. There is still no absolute guarantee anyone will succeed, but even if the group must be kept to a size to make the potential payout worthwhile, and that only gives them a 1 in 3 shot of someone in the group succeeding, that’s still far better than the 1 in a 1,000 or more odds they would get on their own.

Screening also goes to the issue of motivation. The problem is you might get some people who try to get on board one of these with no intent to truly try, but simply to collect the check when one of the others becomes successful. Screening these sorts out is, of course, no easy task, but it should be possible to limit these sorts enough to make whole project tenable. After all, most of the people who go into HRHR professions do so out of a passion for the field. How many artists or actors or famous musicians are simply in it for the money? If that was all they wanted they would be far better off going into investment banking.

So yes, even with something like this in place, HRHR occupations will probably still have some risk to them. The point isn’t to make this sort of thing risk free. No career is. Plenty of people go to med school and don’t become the type (or any type) of doctor they wanted to be. The point is to make it a reasonable level of risk. Functionally, it’s not much different than 100 people buying 100 lotto tickets and agreeing to split the jackpot. They increase their odds of success 100 fold while still expending the same amount of money and incurring the same level of risk. The idea is that they are willing to exchange some of the potential reward for getting better odds because they view the reduced reward as still worth it. Really, it’s a balancing act. They’re trading excess potential reward to improve the horribly low odds.

The beauty of these sorts of agreements is they cost people nothing extra on the front end to sign up. For HRHR pros, if none of them succeed they have spent nothing other than the time and effort of trying to succeed in such a career, something they would have expended anyways trying to become an HRHR pro. But there’s a good chance one of them will succeed and they’ll all get a moderate payout for doing what they love, which hopefully will allow them to continue doing what they love.