Minimum, Minimum – Bah, Humbug!

Looking back, I suppose my “teacher burn-out” in my educational career began with the fad of Minimum Competency Standards. Although I was not able to speak eloquently of my distrust of the concept at the time, in retrospect I can now understand that seed of displeasure which lurked within me.

 

True learning does not come from achieving minimum standards; true learning is measured by that which is beyond the minimum. After all, what credit should be given to that person who only does what everybody else does? What person is recognized as a scholar, who knows only what everybody else knows? Heroes are those who go beyond the minimums; heroes are those who do those things which most other people will not do. Scholars are those who already know what others have not yet learned.

 

It is not enough for a student to gain learning by study. True learning comes from action which produces results. Sometimes this can be called experience. Not all action produces positive results, but even learning which comes from negative consequences can be a positive outcome.

 

In today’s culture, far too many people have accepted “Minimum Standards” as their personal goals. The very idea that a “Minimum Wage” should be a “Living Wage” is an idea that comes from a “Socialistic Perspective”. It is a leveling of humanity in which everybody shares the same level of misery. In recent years, the Chinese government has expressed a concern about the “lack of creativity and invention” by its younger population. Perhaps it sounds too simple to attribute such a lack of creativity and invention to a lack of a need to do better than the minimum, or to contribute more than the minimum. The mantra of Communist/Socialist: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”

 

Perhaps, the level of invention, or lack thereof, may be attributed to a felt need to stand out. When first stated, the concern that all people have a right to have their “needs” met by society sounds like an irrefutable statement of compassion. However, the human condition allows people to become comfortable at their “minimum level”. At the level of the cave dweller it becomes: “If I am warm, I can sleep; I don’t need to gather more wood for my fire.” Problems arise when the cave dweller awakes to find his fire is low and a storm is raging outside the cave. The cave dweller sees that the easiest source of more wood to be the supply that his neighbor brought in before the storm. The petty crime of stealing a twig becomes a war to decide who gets the woodpile.

 

And so it is in America today. America has groups of people who demand an increase in the minimum wage without considering any increase in the “value of the labor”. This is the miracle of “Capitalism”. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a pathway to your door.” For proof, look at the chemical company which realized the limitations of mousetraps and then created “mouse poison.” That company, incidentally, is now selling that patented chemical to the medical community as a “blood thinner”.

 

Since I have been distracted, I would invite any reader to provide a concluding paragraph to this post.aavelken

And Tomorrow, who will know you were here?

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

**The speaker describes a meeting with someone who has traveled to a place where ancient civilizations once existed. We know from the title that he’s talking about Egypt. The traveler told the speaker a story about an old, fragmented statue in the middle of the desert. The statue is broken apart, but you can still make out the face of a person. The face looks stern and powerful, like a ruler. The sculptor did a good job at expressing the ruler’s personality. The ruler was a wicked guy, but he took care of his people.

On the pedestal near the face, the traveler reads an inscription in which the ruler Ozymandias tells anyone who might happen to pass by, basically, “Look around and see how awesome I am!” But there is no other evidence of his awesomeness in the vicinity of his giant, broken statue. There is just a lot of sand, as far as the eye can see. The traveler ends his story.

 

** **

In A Nutshell

Late in 1817 Percy Shelley and his friend Horace Smith decided to have a sonnet competition – that’s right folks: a sonnet competition! For the subject of their sonnets, Shelley and Smith chose a partially-destroyed statue of Ramses II (“Ozymandias”) that was making its way to London from Egypt, finally arriving there sometime early in the year 1818. In the 1790’s Napoleon Bonaparte had tried to get his hands on the statue, but was unable to remove it from Egypt. That’s partly because it weighs almost 7.5 tons. Shelley, like Napoleon, was fascinated by this giant statue.

One More Thing

One More Thing

From my days as a new insurance agent, I recall a chat with one of the “top producers”. My question, “Looking back to your first 3 or 4 months in the business, what did you do differently from those who started at the same time but are no longer in the business?”

His answer, “At the end of the day, I would do ONE MORE THING.”

My response, “Huh”

The clarification, “Do you know how at the end of the day, everybody knows that it’s the end of the day? Maybe it’s when the bell sounds or the whistle blows. Maybe it’s when the clock reaches a certain time or the sun goes down. Maybe it’s when the last dishes are washed. But at some point, people mentally shut down intending to do NOT ONE MORE THING. That’s when I would force myself to do ONE MORE THING. I would make one more phone call, write one more letter, complete some form on my desk, read something technical, file the accumulation of stuff on my desktop. When others quit, I did one more thing and that has become a habit.”

So last night I tried it. As I was making my list for today, instead of writing something on my list, I wrote three checks and a letter — two items that never even got to my list of tasks. This morning, when I walked into my office, I thought, “Gee, if, for the last month, I had been doing what I did last night, there would be 30 things that I should do that don’t need to be done today.”

For those that don’t get it yet: Perhaps making long lists is really a waste of time, perhaps it is really your way to get out of doing something. When you are making those comprehensive lists of things that need to be done, you are actually avoiding doing something. Would it be better to (1) identify only three things that could be done, (2) identify which of the three is most important for you to do right now–but according to your long term goals, (3) do it, (4) repeat number 1? Then at the end of the day, when your mind is packed and ready to go on vacation, promise your mind the vacation if it will just stick around to do ONE MORE THING.

#OneMoreThingaavelken