Tag Archives: professional

To People Who Don’t Read

A lot of young people like to make the excuse that they “don’t read.”

Word?

Reading books and writing are among brain-stimulating activities shown to slow down cognitive decline in old age, with people who participated in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes having a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities.

Translation: How do you not read? It’s literally the other way to communicate.

“No, no, I don’t read for fun.”

That’s like saying I’m bad at math because I don’t spend my evenings graphing parabolas.  Like mathematicians are at home begging, “Mom, after dinner can I recite the quadratic formula? I love the way that everything divides by 2a!”

Even so, if you know that not reading is the reason you’re awful, then doesn’t it make sense to start now?

Here’s the thing; there’s some guff on the internet that says something about how “you don’t even use what you learn in school, anyway” or something like that.  That’s complete malarkey – a successful person will figure out how to use most of what they learn in high school to some degree.  But even if you accept that flawed premise, here’s a stone cold truth: Reading and writing are NOT on the list of things you won’t need.

I tell this story to everyone who tells me they won’t need reading and writing skills.  In my first job at a bowling alley, I worked with a coworker/supervisor (I’m not telling which because that’s too specific for creepy internet stalkers) who wanted to advertise a special deal: Pepperoni pizza for $1.00 a slice.  He had the bright idea of making this special appear on the score screens of all 32 lanes in large letters that would march across the screen.

“Peperroni Piza, $1.OO per slise – munday thru thirsday!!!”

Not only is every word except “per” and “thru,” (an acceptable abbreviation) misspelled, but he even had a typo on the part with “$1.00,” because he used O’s instead of zeroes.  Yes – dude misspelled a number.  I was mortified and had to fix it immediately, and of course, anyone who saw it was probably similarly mortified.

I’m not stopping the story here, though, as a cautionary tale where all listeners go “Well, I’m not THAT bad!”

The reason I tell that story is to deliver a message: If you write without capitalizing, it’s exactly as noticeable as this situation.  If you can’t write three sentences without showing why you didn’t get a diploma, it will look exactly the same as if you had written that pizza sign.  If you can’t read in the work world, it will be noticed and seen in exactly the same way as I, and now you, look at this guy.  There is no way to reveal a lack of reading and writing skill that isn’t embarrassing, except in school.

In my head, I feel like even youths caught up in gang activity might even be like “I’m gonna trust you to have my back?  I’m gonna trust you with a gun?  You didn’t even pass English 1, man.”  After all, if you can’t sit still long enough to learn how to read with people paid to help you, how are you going to fend for your life in this world?

I’m not saying people not good at these things have no value; I’m saying that there’s no way to hide it or ignore it.  It’s not like a scar you can conceal.  In most cases, within minutes of knowing you and hearing you talk, reading your texts, or viewing your Snapchat, employers, friends, enemies, and everyone else will know whether you would sell “piza” or “pizza.”

Here’s the kicker: Even people with similarly bad or worse spelling and grammar can tell when someone can’t write.

“I never read when I was young, Mr. Phan, so it’s too late for me.”

A lot of people seem to think that if you don’t start reading at a young age, then you’ll never become good at it. And I see why they might think that.

According to studies done by the University of Oxford, “Young brains do tend to be able to absorb new information better than old ones, although not necessarily to integrate it as well with what has been learned previously.”

That’s why little kids can’t take over the world. Little kids can learn faster, but older people use what they learn better.

That’s why I’m better at arguing than you are.

However, learning how to read at an earlier age doesn’t mean a rooster’s crow.

“Being taught to read at an early age (such as five years old) does not ultimately result in better reading skills, and if it replaces more developmentally appropriate activities, then it may cause other harms.”

Studies conducted in 2015 indicate that

“there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the United States that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success.”

You can start NOW!  So what if it’s harder for your mind to absorb?  You’re also older – perhaps more mature now, and better able to suck it up and do the work.  It’s never too late to improve your reading skill.  Gorillas are doing sign language, man!

“Mr. Phan, I don’t have any books!”

Get a library card, homey!  Plus, I’ve got some more tips and tricks for you:

1: Borrow books from people.

The reason you want to do this is because, for many people, reading isn’t attractive because it’s a solitary activity, and we like to be social. If you borrow a book from someone, you instantly have someone else who also read the book, so you can talk about that one epic scene where the warrior slapped the king in the face. For bonus points, ask teachers! They’ll probably let you borrow some stuff!  You also will make more friends who also read, a really important thing that can help if you need to be surrounded by a positive atmosphere.

2. Read your interests.

Don’t be afraid to re-tread some of your old interests. See a movie recently? Read the book. Reading a book of a story you already know lets you not stress out about understanding the plot and instead can let you focus on other things – like the differences between the two.  Find the sequels.  Find other books by authors of books you already read.

3. Watch all of your movies with subtitles.

Even if you think you’re ignoring them, your brain will actually do a lot of work without you knowing. Also when you don’t hear something, you’ll instinctively look at the subtitles before bothering anybody with questions. Lastly, hearing the words being used will help expand your vocabulary and also help you recognize difficult words. That’s right, you can watch Terminator 2 and still increase your reading level.  Arnold definitely taught some people how to say “cybernetic organism.”  Netflix offers captions for almost everything.  This is great for rewatching movies that you’ve already seen.

4. Pronounce long words.

Sound that stuff out! I can’t stand it when someone’s reading in my class and they get to a word longer than two syllables and stop dead.  Everyone in my class now knows what I want them to do: Be brave. Sound it out, say it the best you can. If you say it wrong, say it wrong forever until someone teaches you the right way. You gotta keep a growth mindset. You’re not going to learn how letters work in the awful, complicated world of English unless you’re wrong first.

This will also help you if you learned to read by sight (memorizing words) vs phonetically (sounding them out.)  Reading by sight with memorized words leads to students being stopped in their tracks at even the most rudimentary words.  It’s like teaching someone to skate and then expecting them to be able to dance – and then finding out they never learned to walk.  Sound out the words.  Do that old-fashioned thing in Sesame Street where they combine two signs into one word.

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5. Google stuff.

Google is a verb here, but it works as an adjective too.  Ask Google what stuff means.  Most devices will allow you to do this in seconds.  “Okay Google, define equilibrium.”  It’s over.  There was a time when if you had questions about something you read, it meant consulting this:

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This is a real photo from the place in which I grew up.

Those days are gone.  In seconds you’ll know that equilibrium means “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced,” AND is also an underrated action movie with Christian Bale and Sean Bean about a dystopian world that destroys books and drugs people into happy submission.  How can encyclopedias compete?  The only possible answer is: by looking so wonderfully photogenic.

It’s never too late to learn to read skillfully… until you embarrass yourself.  Blogs are a great start.  So I suppose, while you’re increasing your reading level, enjoy your stay, and feel free to click around!

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The Gift of Discomfort

Some have the goal of wanting to live a comfortable life.  That’s groovy.  Comfort is indeed a lofty goal – to find that set of preferences that are just right for you, until the ultimate man-cave is complete.  Sure, why not?  Especially in a home, find your comfort.

Professionally?  Get that out of my face.  Nobody appreciates the comfortable employee.  “I’m just the mechanic, I don’t do nothing else.”  I’d write reverse work recommendations for that guy if he ever had to change jobs (by force, of course, considering he’d never want to move.)

In fact, everyone should be uncomfortable for a lot of the time.  I don’t know why, but there’s a large push even in child education not to make people “uncomfortable.”

Oh, don’t make that person go on stage, he has stage fright.  Oh, that person doesn’t like writing, can we give him the test orally instead?  Wow he’s so smart now!  He got an A on the test!

Not if it’s a WRITING test, smarty pants!

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“We want people who only do what they’re trained to do, and never do anything that makes them uncomfortable.” – No Employer Ever

How we handle discomfort is how we are judged as adults.  Unless you think you’ve experienced everything you need to experience by junior year.  Being an adult is doing things you don’t want to do in places you don’t want to be in order to get where you want to go.

You think in college you’ll have done everything before?  You think in college you won’t have to risk embarassment in front of your entire class?  You think the work world wants someone who won’t risk discomfort?  Are you going to just work “comfortable jobs,” – which, at entry level, reside comfortably on a list above the words “None, you idiot” – ?

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I remember when being around people unwilling to risk themselves and put themselves out there was a daily thing, and let me tell you it was the hardest thing in the world to respect someone who resented the world for not bringing itself to them.  They would wonder why they didn’t get good things or recognition for ambition, and would even feel and express resentment and jealousy for those around them who did put themselves out there.  I’ve long since cut those people from my life – or in some cases, was fortuitous enough to be cut from theirs due to that same resentment.

My response now can be best expressed through the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

7 Ways to Maintain Professionalism

“How did this happen?” you might ask yourself one day.  Your job has become a drama nightmare with hurt feelings, drama, and rumors affecting your professional life at every turn.  Sometimes it’s a matter of being a part-timer in a sea of full-timers who live their jobs.  Other times you’ve just rubbed someone the wrong way who can’t separate their work lives from who they are as a person.  So here are some ways to maintain your professionalism and keep your job from being an uncomfortable place.

1. Remember that your job is not your life.

It’s your job.  Your career is very important to you, I’m sure, but nothing that happens there should affect who you are as a person.  It should just reflect your work performance.  People who say things about you don’t know you.  So why should you care what they think?

2. Apologize.

What do people have against being wrong?  Take one for the team.  The problem is everybody is so afraid that someone else is going to jump all over them if they show weakness.  Simply apologize, even if you’re not sorry.  “I’m sorry, man, that must have been my mistake.” has never made any enemies.  Don’t explain yourself either.  Just say you’re sorry, that it won’t happen again, and then make that the truth.

3.  Keep your mouth shut.

Don’t share what other people tell you, even if they didn’t call it a secret.  Make it a given that whatever is said to you stays with you.  Even small things.  If someone asks “why didn’t you just tell so and so this or that?” say that you didn’t think it was the professional thing to do without permission.  It will gain a massive amount of respect.

4. Do you.

Do your job.  Don’t worry about other people not doing their job.  Do YOUR job.  If their job impacts you, do what it takes to make up for the slack, then make sure your job is on point.  Anybody slipping is going to get caught eventually.  Don’t mediate an argument you’re not in, don’t corroborate a story someone gives, just do you.

5. Keep your personal opinions to yourself.

Nobody cares what you think about that coworker having a baby so young.  Definitely don’t comment on policy.  If you want to talk about it at home, have at it, but at work you definitely don’t want to be associated with the complainers.  People who would have you join their complaint often have some kind of seniority to back them up that YOU don’t have.  Better to be mysterious.  Especially if you’re working a part-time job and/or paying your dues, just be comforted that this isn’t the endgame for you, and that you’re passing through.

6. Remember names, and in the second person use them often.

Refrain from ever talking about people in the third person, lest you become a rumor-monger.  However, when talking directly to that person try to name-drop as much as possible.  People like hearing their own name from people talking to them.

7. Look busy.

My dad taught me this one.  He used to be ahead of schedule in everything he did.  At work, he finished his project early.  This meant that he was one of the only people not on-project when it was time for layoffs.  Which meant he was laid off for being off-project.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the best; if you look like you aren’t needed, then you probably aren’t, they figure.