Archive for December, 2014

Seen/heard/perceived, but not observed – “tuned out”

2014-12-01 11:22:51 PDT

So, … some several/many weeks back or so, something I noticed. Something on an advertisement. So this ad, a banner ad poster thingy on a bus shelter, turns out it was something I waked by about 5 or more days a week – pretty much at least every single workday, day after day, month after month. Interesting bit I noticed, is what I’d not noticed earlier. Each time I’d seen it before, likely before my eyes/brain had made it so much as about 1/3 of the way down the thing, my head basically wrote it off as an advertisement for some Disney something or another – movie, or merchandise related, whatever. Well, what I finally noticed, text bit further down on the poster. Nothing to do with Disney at all, no mention whatsoever of Disney or anything Disney related on the poster. Just had bit of a Disney-like cartoonish character to the ad, in the way it was drawn and put together.

So, … for better or worse, my head, at least consciously, is often pretty darn effective at “tuning out” stuff it deems uninteresting. E.g. advertisements. At financial institutions, I’ll typically go to ATM, and avoid dealing with actual live human – mostly notably as I really like to avoid whatever the hell sales pitch they may try and throw at me on whatever financial services they may be pushing that day/week/month or whatever. Just don’t want to be propositioned or listen to it nor have to put in the extra effort to convince them I’m not interested. So, … ATM. And ATMs, especially nowadays, have colored screens and graphics, and … yes, advertisements. Always pushin’ some darn thing or another. But ya know, all the years and years I’ve been using ATMs, I can’t think of any specific product or service they were pushing with those ads/displays on the ATMs … not a one – not a single one that I can recall at all. Likewise thinking on-line advertisements with video stuff. Watch some videos … a bunch even. Site includes some ads. Site gives a survey – okay, whatever, sometimes I’m game for it … take the survey. The surprising bit to me (and perhaps also them) is how little I recall of the advertisements. E.g. often I not only can’t say if I saw some particular advertisement or not, but can’t say if I saw an ad for some particular brand or not, or what slogans I did/didn’t see, or which slogans go with which brands. So, yeah, a whole lot of that I mentally just “tune out”. Not sayin’ it’s got little or zero influence, as the subconscious picks up at least some fair bit of it. But a whole lot of it often misses the conscious.

Non-advertising example. Someone made an inappropriate disparaging remark (and not judged by me – so judged by someone else who witnessed it). Anyway, disparaging remark came from someone I didn’t know from a hole in the ground, had never met before, and had effectively if not precisely zero interest in what they did or didn’t think of me. Well, I think my head keyed into the nature of what they were starting to say – perhaps picked it up by (more likely) intonation, or (less likely) body-language or other indicators, and whatever the hell they said, it was really quite as if I’d not heard it at all. I mean they certainly said it in manner and volume and circumstances I could very much most certainly hear it. And it’s not like I was focused on or distracted by something else when it occurred. But, whatever it was they said, as they started to say it, seems to me something in me picked up that I just didn’t give a f*ck about what they were about to say, or were saying, and that I probably didn’t like or disagreed with whatever they were saying or about to say – and it’s like it completely bypassed registering in the conscious beyond that point. Person that saw that occur that was right by me at that time, almost immediately after remarked to me how inappropriate and impolite what the person had said to me was, and it was as if, at least for the most part, I was oblivious to it. I picked up on the start of some trace of some critical remark they were making, and after that – nothing. “Tuned out”.

Mentioned it before, but don’t recall if I mentioned it at all on this blog. But somewhat different context. Someone was talking. I was supposed to be paying attention, but I wasn’t really listening or paying attention at all. Instead, I was distracted, running through my head, the rules of the particular exercise we were doing, how the turns were to progress, etc., etc. – basically focused on a bunch of the overall, while at the same time (we’d just started) totally missing out on what I was presently supposed to be paying attention to. “Oops” – tuned out – unintentionally. I wasn’t even looking at the person as they spoke. Then we were to guess, based upon listening and watching and paying attention to them talk (oops), what they were feeling. I couldn’t think of one single word they said – as I was not paying attention when I was supposed to be giving them my utmost attention and focus. Well, I thought, what did it “sound” like. What did it feel like – based only upon the impression of the sound of what I’d heard, and with zero recollection of so much as a single word they’d uttered. And, I took my guess based upon my impression from that. Others took their guesses too. I was not only the “closest” guess, but the person specifically called out and mentioned that I got it absolutely spot on. Well, sometimes the words get in the way. And often I’m rather to quite good at picking up on intonation. And not necessarily even or at all consciously, but at least subconsciously – and especially on the intonation. Anyway, for better or worse, had failed to watch them, and inadvertently totally “tuned out” on what they were saying … yet still got the intonation and managed to get it spot on working just from the impression/feeling that left me with.

It’s not like I can “tune out” anything and/or everything. May also quite depend upon circumstances, situation, environment, etc. and the “what” in particular. But certainly at least some things in some/many contexts, I do quite “tune out” from, or am at least quite capable of tuning them out.

And can work to relative disadvantage at various times on various things. E.g. when I’m supposed to read and learn/remember something that’s exceedingly boring to me. Such as back in high school, when The Great Gatsby was required reading. I’d read a page, recall absolutely nothing of what I read (my eyes would go over it all line-by-line, but my head would go elsewhere), so I’d reread the page and try to focus more … same results again. So I’d do it yet again (now my head’s getting really frustrated and bored, ’cause it’s not only boring, but it’s seen it twice before) … I’d go over the same page 3 to 10 times, remember none of it – or nearly so, get frustrated, go on to the next page, read that … yeah, same thing again, repeat over ‘n over like that through the whole book. Another example, the movie Halloween. I’d watch it, … starts off with great theme music, then it’s quickly monster dude knife guy chases after and slashes nubile scantily clad young (teens to early 20s) female victims, lather, rinse, repeat – same basic scenario over and over and over again … about the 3rd iteration of that through the movie, and I’m out like a light. Tried watching the movie at least a second, if not 3rd time … same results each time – rather quickly into watching it, it puts me to sleep – literally. Another example – boring mostly redundant training video. Never seen it before, but already know about 75 to 80 % or more of the material (common sense & prior knowledge), the remainder of “new” material (of any substance) being a bunch of specific acronyms and company specific details and some regulatory bodies, functions and relationships of those, and a couple other trivial specific details (two specific numeric quantities). And the video is not self-paced. Can stop it and review or back up or whatever, but it’s mind numbingly slow … at least for me. So, yeah, sure, I watch it, … but I nod off … over and over and over again throughout it. And, at end, I have to take test, and have to pass it with score of 80% or better. I take the test, I pass … with a score of 100%. Absolutely not rocket science, and maybe my subconscious was still skimming the flow of audio. The visual portions were completely unnecessary – would’ve been 4 to 10 or more times faster if they’d just provided a transcript of the training video and nothing else. Well, among other things, sleep is used by the brain to affix memories – maybe that nodding off was useful – video/audio –> subconscious filter/skim –> affix relevant bits needed to short term memory –> pass test with 100% correct. And had to retake that test annually. Yes, next time through, same deal – nodded off lots, passed with 100%. Too, as I think back as a young kid, e.g. much of elementary school – e.g. like especially about/around 2nd grade, I’d daydream a lot while the teacher was lecturing/instructing us. I think mostly because much of it bored me to tears (not literally, but). So, whatever I “had”/wanted to think about, was to me one helluva lot more interesting than most of what the teacher was attempting to teach (and most of it was rather painfully slow paced for me – so it was as if I knew 90% of all the material .. not so much that I did, but more like 10% of the delivery was fresh new first time material, and 90% was repetition of it to try and get us to learn it – by which time my brain had already been exposed to it and it was uninteresting redundancy). So, I’d get in at least some bits of trouble with teacher, e.g. for “not paying attention”. Teacher even had me sent to do a hearing test – suspected I may not be hearing the teacher. Nope, that wasn’t it – hearing tested out perfectly normal. It was only some years later that they more accurately figured it out – a bright student being mostly bored to death by the teaching in class (some exceptions, but mostly pretty bored with it). Was due to school changes and other stuff like that, but eventually, 5th grade teacher referred me to tested for “special class” (which is what they called it where I was at the time). That was an additional class time taken part of each day (or week, or multiple times in the week – I don’t remember specifically), a class “just” for the particularly bright/gifted kids, where they’s mostly give them much more interesting/challenging materials – just the “special students” in the “special class” – a separate teacher/educator/psychologist – whatever/whomever it was they had instruct that “special class” (was same instructor all the time, at least as I recall hearing it, but don’t know that I ever heard more details of the nature of the background/qualifications of the instructor of that “special class” – and was pretty small bunch of students in “special class” – I think like about half a dozen – perhaps at most ten, but I don’t think it was that large). Anyway, after 5th grade (between 5th and 6th, or late in 5th year) I was tested. Not sure precisely what the test was – but I’m sure it was likely “just” and IQ test, or mostly quite similar to that (I wish I knew exactly what it was and what I scored). To this day I still remember two of the questions on the test (not that I was trying to remember the questions) – they were pretty darn trivial to me – at least for the most part, but at least more-or-less moderately interesting at the time. Anyway, I “passed” the test or whatever, … qualified for “special class”. Interestingly, when my 3rd & 4th grade teacher at that same school (yes, had same teacher for both grades at that school), I well remember her reaction upon learning I’d passed the test for “special class” – she was like, “Oh, yeah, I should have recommended you for the test, but didn’t think to do that.” … also, that teacher had been less exposed to me in school, due to moving away and change of school … and later moving back to return to same school again – so that teacher had me for less than a total of a full school year, with more than a total of a year gap between (when I was moved away to other school). When I got to 5th grade, that 5th grade class/teacher was also a most highly excellent teacher … and was also the first time I ever got straight A’s (also the first year I was ever literally getting beat up in fights by bullies, but I’d been bullied plenty before in quite nasty ways – even effectively by a sh*t of a teacher in 1st grade … oh well, life, sh*t happens). Anyway, that 5th grade teacher quite realized my capabilities/potential, and effectively kept me interested and challenged and well working towards and to my capabilities and potential. I think only one teacher before that had ever figured that out. That was in 4th grade (at other school that I was at for bit over an academic year’s span of time … was actually like about one full calendar year plus two months of the following calendar year). When she found me to be dead last on completing an assignment in class, she turned up the heat – threatened to send me to the principal’s office. It had been hours, I was only about half way or so through the assignment (yeah, it bored me … lots, lots of daydreaming and dilly dallying), I think she gave me like only 20 or 30 minutes to finish it (I think most students did the whole thing in about an hour or less), or she’d send me off to the principal’s office. Well, I got it done within that time. So, yeah, guess I was mostly “tuning out” a whole lot of the tedium and boredom of that assignment (which we did very regularly – at least weekly, if not daily). Anyway, 5th/6th grade and beyond, things generally got significantly better for me academically (with some exceptions). First got straight A’s (and a most excellent teacher highly helped that) in 5th grade. Yet another change of schools after that (and hence I never got to go to “special class” – the new school I was moved to had no such program). Anyway, 6th grade – newfangled class – that school didn’t do grades at all for elementary school. Fortunately fair amount of the material there was self-paced – I did very well with that. 7th grade (the first of junior high where I was), I mostly did quite well (lots of but not all A’s), and by late 7th grade(?), or I think it was start of or early into 8th grade, I was getting straight A’s – and mostly got straight A’s (with a couple slight exceptions) from then on through about my first year of college. So, yeah, good, interesting, challenging, certainly is better to avoid me “tuning out”. First year of calculus in college – not only straight A’s – but quite to my surprise, when the instructor let me know specifically how I was doing and what grade I was heading towards or would be getting – I was the top score in the class (though I wasn’t the top score on every single test in the class … but I guess I was often top of the tests, and always well did the homework, etc. – so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, and too, in high school, in graduating class of 600, I was the top math student … though at the time I may not have yet known that – as I was concurrently doing my first year (or 2/3 of a year if we go by units) of college (and for college credit), concurrently with my last year of high school). First year of college Chemistry … from start of class at beginning of year, to end of class at end of the academic year – about 90% of the students didn’t make it through! I was the only one to get get an A grade on both semesters, and the only one to get an A on the 2nd semester. And to give a bit of credit where credit is due – some really excellent school counselors quite set me along that academic track – most notably the doubling up on some high school classes to enable me to get a jump start on college before even finishing high school – a very optimistically rigorous and challenging program that almost no students did, but they challenged me with it and I was highly up to the challenge and did highly well in it (got straight As in every single additional class they recommended I take including through the college stuff I did before even completing high school), and it quite well helped keep me challenged and interested (2/3 of a normal high school load + 2/3 of a normal college load concurrently, + working part time all concurrently eventually turned out to be a wee bit much – but still made it through quite fine and with all straight As on all that (well, except English – always my downfall), so I was quite up to the challenge – so excellent moves and recommendations on their part). And really does concern/worry me now, how schools (especially in California) have had such major cutbacks – and one area of major cutbacks has been school counselors – that much/most of that they’ve just dumped as additional responsibilities of the teachers – and many schools have severely reduced or entirely eliminated the school counselors. Anyway, back on first year college Chemistry … I really missed good friendly “competition”/cooperation too. Fair bit later in 2nd semester I managed to find one (there was only and exactly one) student in the class working on about the same level as me … that was great! Then, egad, almost as soon as I’d barely met them and gotten to know them some wee bit, they were gone. Inquired of the instructor after a bit what had happened. Turned out that student had to leave the class due to a very serious medical condition that had come back. :-/ To this day I still regret not following through on that to see if I could manage to contact them (I didn’t have their contact info – but I might possibly have gotten that from understanding instructor – or have gotten instructor to pass along my well wishes and concerns and my contact info), give some support or whatever – but alas, I was relatively young yet (still only 17), and was quite shocked learning of their situation, I really was just quite stunned, and didn’t know how to react. Don’t think prior to that I’d ever been close to a peer or (potential) friend that was suddenly facing and significantly incapacitated by a highly life-threatening illness. Life, sh*t happens (and some sh*t repeats). But I digress. Anyway, too, e.g. “long boring meetings” – can be very hard for me to stay focused (at least on the meeting!), and I can quite “tune out” – even quite unintentionally (that’s sometimes gotten me in at least some bit of hot water at work … but fortunately really only one place that happened at work, and it was some years ago … yeah, schedule a mandatory (mostly) boring hour long meeting weekly (and early in the morning doesn’t exactly help that), and, yeah, I may not be 100% focused and paying high level of attention to the whole thing – even if I try forcing myself to do so. Oh well. Don’t think I ever missed anything important out of those meetings. My subconscious often tends to listen for key words/phrases – or intonations – and will relatively snap the conscious attention to what’s flying by, if something particularly important/significant/interesting goes whizzing by.

Interestingly, at the same time, some things I pick up in much to great detail. Perhaps topic for some future communication (or blog post or the like).

Under the radar …

2014-12-01 03:21:15 PDT

So, I’ve written about it at least some fair bit before, but much(/most?) of the time, I just don’t want the attention, and consequently I often very much try to and do “fly under the radar”. Typical context is work. Technically, I’m quite to highly competent at what I do. Do my peers know it? They tend to figure it out over time, and rather well, but it’s not like I “advertise” it per se – nor even anything close to that. If anything, much of the time I’ll deemphasize my skills and contributions, etc. E.g. not too unusually for a coworker to totally mess something up, I rescue their behind, and … I don’t take credit for it. Sometimes they may give me credit, often not, whatever, I generally do not want any “big deal” made of it in any case. So, in most all the groups I’ve ever been in, I typically become the “go to” person for many of the more challenging technical matters. But, … “fly under the radar”. Though my work tends to be of consistent high quality, when it comes to managers/bosses/supervisors and the like, how aware of that they are/aren’t, what kind of reviews they give me, etc., it tends to be kind’a all over the map. Doing reviews and such showing me anywhere from somewhat below “average”, to quite excellent … even doing same work, same position and group for years, swap around some manager(s), and my performance review will bounce all over the place in how well it rates my work … without me at all changing how I work or the quality thereof. Whatever, I’m kind’a / rather used to it, and doesn’t particularly bother me. I figure the better managers and such will more-or-less manage to figure out that and how I contribute, and how well, etc. … after all, it’s really their job to know how well I do (or don’t) contribute to the work/team/company whatever, and it’s my job to work, and work well. Not my job to demonstrate or prove to them that I’m doing and contributing what I am. After all, I’m mostly hired for my technical skills, not for my sales/marketing skills (what sales/marketing skills – yeah, pretty close to zilch). So, yeah, I don’t do much (like pretty close to zero) of sales/marketing/promotion – and that also does mostly quite also apply to myself. I remember even back to the days of like Jr. High or so, when they’d do various “career assessment” types of tests. And they’d look at my results for careers in persuasion, e.g. sales, and the counselors / career counselors and the like would look over my results on that part of the test results, and it’s like their faces would drop and their reactions would be like, “Uh, yeah, we’re not goin’ there – we’ll just pass that one right on by.” And, yeah, among other things probably goes right along with being rather highly introverted (yes, also wrote about that, see also earlier test results on that etc.). Don’t recall specific numbers, but often on introvert rating scales, I often test out at about 9 out of 10 or 19 out of 20 towards the quite/highly(/”extreme”) introverted end of the scale. Whatever, is how it is.

So, … “under the radar” … too well? Sometimes I quite wonder if I do that too well, or at least at times. E.g. happens – though somewhat rarely, that, e.g. I’ll get laid off. But more noteworthy, manager has no clue how and how much I contributed to the work and team. It’s like peers hear I got laid off, their jaws drop and they’re like, “You laid off him? You’ve got to be kidding?”, and the manager will have about zero clue what I did for the team. I remember some years back talking with one manager after I’d been laid off, and I was amazed at how extremely little they knew of what I did … really they knew just about nothing at all of what I did or my value to the team. I mean really – pretty darn incompetent of that particular manager … if they’d managed to ask around other peers on the team the would’ve had at least some reasonable clue or better, but seems in that particular case they just didn’t do that at all (or didn’t remember, or whatever), and thus essentially had about zero clue. Or maybe they were expecting their underlings to be running around tooting their own horns as to what they were doing and had done – well I wasn’t, so said manager failed to figure it out. Whatever. I don’t know. I guess another symptom of that too, is typically when I change jobs, I get a substantially better salary. Seems an odd way to get a raise, especially how turnover is very expensive to employers (better managers generally realize when an employee – or even well skilled contractor that’s quite familiar with the environment – leaves out the door, the effective cost of replacing them is typically 20 to 50% of their annual salary). So, yep, odd that. One place even rehired me, after laying me off – with a very nice severance package – and they rehired me for more than they could have raised my salary to (their own internal limitations) if they’d kept me continuously employed. So, yeah, I probably rather “under sell” myself rather to quite a lot. And when I venture out or am stuck looking for a new job, and find the “market rate” for my skills, experience, and track record – it’s typically 15 to 25% higher than whatever I was making where I was or had just been. And that’s not shopping around for “highest bidder”, but looking for right employer, environment, commute, etc., and then seeing what they actually offer me – and it’s typically significantly more than where I’m at at that time, or had just been if I was laid off. In another case of quite possibly under the radar, to excess, supervisor was so out-of-touch, they believed I was informed that contract was expiring and was not going to be renewed (was always continuously renewed before that, and in fact earlier communications indicated the contracts would be continuing), but, nope, didn’t happen – contract expired and they weren’t renewing it, but major failure to communicate it to the contractor – me – which left a whole lot of in-progress stuff cut off mid-stream and left high and dry. “Of course” in that particular environment there was a whole lot of messed up stuff, so that was just one more screw-up on their part. And, needless to say, on that one too, it shocked and surprised the peers. So, yeah, too quite the buzz kill for morale in the group. Yep, how not to handle letting someone go or a layoff or contract non-renewal or the like. Best I’ve ever seen is a whole lot ‘o communication and coordination (it’s not exactly rocket science to do that reasonably well). The worst I’ve ever seen – and seen it more than one place – even if it wasn’t me that was getting laid off – the communication totally lacking and/or contrary to what’s actually done, being done, or what happens (e.g. CEO promises “no more layoffs”, and then lays off a whole lot more workers right before Christmas). Anyway, life, work, whatever, sh*t happens – at least sometimes. But too, I wonder, “under the radar” … cases where I did it too much, … or … more so cases of not sufficiently clueful/competent management or the like? Or maybe a bit of both.

I suppose too, certainly also applies to lots of other contexts besides work. But work is, I think, a bit easier to give as reasonably illustrative example – as much of the construct is relatively consistent, and perhaps more commonly generally understood. Whereas lots of other non-work stuff, contexts, circumstances, players/entities involved, nature of interactions, etc., are, at least comparatively, all over the map.