Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happiness, Part IV

The New York Review of Books considers a squadron of new books springing from the positive psychology movement, which "assumes that human goodness and excellence are as authentic as disease, disorder, and distress." Meanwhile, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert delves into the topic of happiness in this entertaining, enlightening presentation to the TED conference. To review earlier ruminations on this topic, you can go here.


At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found some of your musings on networking somewhat blovatious, to coin a term, for several reasons. I could care less what the duration is between communiqués from another human being seeking guidance about job hunting, so long as the person is someone I respect. And since I know the experience of being “between jobs,” I’m that much more empathic toward those similarly situated. If their presence in my life is fleeting, so be it; they’re out making a living after all. Networking is fine and well, but most of the positions I’ve ever landed I did so without that variable in the equation. Believe it or not, you don’t always have to know someone to land a decent job. And however wonderfully well connected we like to fancy ourselves, most of us are in no position to help “get” someone a job. Sure, we can help person A connect with persons B and C, and they can help move A on to D, E, and F, but most of what happens after the connecting is expedited is up to the gods. (Now that you’ve got me thinking about this, I can in fact claim to have helped two people land jobs, but there was little “networking” involved. I simply served as intermediary. The two individuals were known quantities to me. My belief in their abilities had nothing to do with how often they kept in touch with me. When I learned they were available, I encouraged a boss to interview them. That was that.) Lastly, most normal, gainfully employed working grunts—8 to 5ers—don’t have a whole lot of extra time to “network” in the sense that I imagine you envision the process occurring. Nor do they want to. Networking can be incredibly artificial and tedious and about as worthwhile as the mandatory weekly staff meeting (working stiffs know what I’m talking about). I guess it just depends on the individual. Are you networking to truly unearth otherwise hidden possibilities, or, are you networking because 1) that’s what you’re supposed to do or 2) doing so makes you feel superior to those who aren’t? All of those types are out there, but I don’t have much interest in being in, or being called by, someone in the latter two groups.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think you have a small anger problem, as well as an impossibly constricted definition of what the word "networking" entails. The crucial bit of intermediary work you mentioned surely qualifies. Networking simply entails staying in touch with people. That's all. And when people stay in touch with me just a little, as I like to stay in touch with them, it builds friendships and trust. And in the age of email, I simply don't believe that anyone has an excuse not to. How long does it take, after all, to stay in touch with even 50 people, with, say, one quarterly email? Not much. If you're tired and bummed out and stressed, just turn off the TV one hour a month, and there you've found the time to do what I'm talking about. Anyway, I appreciate your comment, however hostile your tone.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Certainly wasn't meant to be hostile, and as far as I know, there's no anger problem, nor am I even close to being tired, bummed out and stressed. Quite the opposite. Perhaps my comments hit a nerve, or, perhaps you're projecting. What I got from your original post is a sense of entitlement--friends and acquaintances must meet a communique threshold to stay in your good networking graces. I find that mentality arrogant and myopic.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good enough. But I think you're not appreciating an added dynamic here: I'm standing behind everything I say here with my name. You're doing so from the shade of anonymity. Anyway, we got off to a bad start on this topic for one crucial reason which wasn't your fault: it centered on the word "networking," which isn't my word. It was the word used by the article to which I linked. It has negative connotations for all kinds of reasons, including that it sounds transactional: I do X in order to receive Y.

As I explained earlier, I think it's nothing more than staying in touch with friends and acquaintances, and helping each other where and when you can. And yes, people who are in business for themselves--whether they think of themselves as entrepreneurs or not--are far more attuned to the power and importance of staying in touch with your network than the average person who's an employee of someone else and isn't worried about finding new opportunities, clients, gigs, etc. But part of my original point is that the economy is undergoing structural changes, and millions of people once comfortably employed are finding themselves either permanently among the ranks of the self-employed, or at least periodically "in transition." And that's when it really hits you that you haven't kept in touch with others, and thus are in an awkward position to ask for help.


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