Anyone got any help on that one. It is a source of amusement between the two of us. It sounds fine and makes perfect sense to everyone reading it. Then let me be the first to say you are nitpicking. Drew : I shall give it a go. Thank you for the learning, Johnny. Best regards, P. I require constant reminders although I excelled in grammar in my youth and even worked as a junior editor years ago. I appreciate that you cover a few common errors to brush up on, rather than a long list that is likely to blur together.
The best tip I ever received from an editor: If you do not have access to an editor have anyone read your piece before publishing. Any sentence they stumble on should be checked for errors, or simplified if none found. If your guinea pig stumbles, others will too even if the grammar is officially correct. Lachy: There already is such a blog. If nothing else, I can vouch for the latter meaning.
Just read through any rulebook published by White Wolf Games. BTW, I remember being taught in grammar school that putting oneself last in a list of people was considered polite. My personal pet language peeve is semantic rather than grammatical. Meg: whether or not a question is rhetorical has precious little read: nothing to do with punctuation. Else, they are statements. End of story. Work on points for style later — get the message across first.
Have to disagree on 2. The more general point about subject-verb agreement is important, though. Certainly there are rules that apply in any situation but language is a living, breathing thing and must be flexible. Contractions can help your writing sound more natural. I encounter this in almost every article I edit. Just kidding, sort of. Thanks for sharing. Only better. Dump the rest, as in the pretentious subjunctive and the cumbersome he or she construction to make subject-predicate agreement work. Andy Wood : I get the gist of your post and mostly agree. If I had to choose one thing to judge the merits of a piece of writing, it is the quality of the content, not the grammar.
If you use perfect English and your writing is repetitive, boring or borders on plagiarism, then correct verb-subject agreement means little to me. Other elements of communication are far more important. Are you all so picky about it? To think that two nations, over a period of more than years, would develop separations in their common language… unthinkable! We may have a lot of bad habits in this country, but I daresay that the English currently spoken in Great Britain is a far cry from the English that was spoken there years ago.
In many dialects, it is already just about equivalent — regardless of how much it annoys you. Something else will take its place or has. Semantic shift happens in every living language. In the medical world, this is something that would require the use of suppositories. Anyone else bothered by this one? While I guess literally is used accurately in these cases, it just seems unnecessary most of the time. A worthy cause indeed for those writers who take pride in their craft to rise up and counter the onslaught of excuses for poor grammar—from just being conversational to Blackberry and text language.
It has been said that education is expensive, but not as expensive as ignorance. With these writing habits becoming widely acceptable, what will be the cost? Funny, though, how some terms become used by the medical community and lose their other meanings. It has been relatively stable even since ancient Latin times.
In all seriousness, this article was practical and I was able to put it to use immediately. A hundred times, thank you! I like what Johnny had wrote. Its literally earth shaking. We all gots things we could get improved on with grammar. Irregardless: if you had went to look up a lot of this stuff you would have saw that its rite.
By the way, for those taking notes, notice how much more attention this post gets from Johnny not trying to have the entire discussion in the post. Sure, some of these are subject to regional variation or can be argued for as common usage. Sonia — Exactly. I do not know everything. There are as many people vehemently fighting on one side of an issue as there are on the other. Chimps are funny. This post is currently the ninth most popular post on Copyblogger, ranking by number of comments and pingbacks.
That makes me happy. If you have been given suppositories for your impacted wisdom tooth, you need to change your dentist. Funny, because it is improperly used so often. Subjects, verbs, nouns, reflexive, etc…. Thanks for the refresher. Great bit.
That advice seems to help them break the habit! I hear it everywhere. Sometimes it makes me want to scream at the person talking. Come to Australia for a visit. Gimmier lickerish trap an some chicken-an look, fellers, no hens. The best thing is to have a sense of humour and thanks for some of the hilarious input. For all intensive purposes, I hardly never sound like a chimp. I prefer screeching hyena.
These are great. The an historic one is pretty bad. Nice but you left our my most hated one. It makes me grind me teeth and want to punch the person who writes it. I do think myself has developed an emphatic role which I can sometimes tolerate, but most times it sounds stupid. This ship has sailed. Your best hope is to learn to love it. Try it out at least twice a day till it feels natural. Otherwise, you are doomed to fuddyduddyville. Absolutely right. And if literally loses its meaning how will we distinguish the real from the false? Other than common sense, I mean.
I hate relying on that. Literally hate it. WTF is with that? Extremely helpful!!! I always make a mistake on that one. The word they with its counterparts them, their, and themselves as a singular pronoun to refer to a person of unspecified sex has been used since at least the 16th century.
It makes it seem like I am bragging and is just filling up space with no need for it. Everyone began looking for their books at once. Such use is not a recent development, nor is it a mark of ignorance. Shakespeare, Swift, Shelley, Scott, and Dickens, as well as many other English and American writers, have used they and its forms to refer to singular antecedents. Already widespread in the language though still rejected as ungrammatical by some , this use of they, their, and them is increasing in all but the most conservatively edited American English.
This increased use is at least partly impelled by the desire to avoid the sexist implications of he as a pronoun of general reference. Bock, my 5th grade English teacher for giving me the simplest of litmus tests. Parsons out of the sentence. When it doubt, the simplest way to figure out what to use is to leave the other folks out of the sentence. Parsons and me. Great piece of writing. As you say, once or twice is acceptable, any more and my interest is lost. When interesting titles go bad.
Article good. Misleading title that had nothing to do with the post bad. An historically bad title myself was not soon to forget.
Nice article, and no argument with the grammar points. Although we may not like it, language changes. And there are always those that hate to let go. In the rule Was vs Were, what would be the case in the event it was used to describe an action of someone else, i. This made my day! Grammar nerdery is a wonderful thing. I have to stop following this thread, as it shows all signs of going on forever. But until then …. Pretty entertaining stuff! Thanks for this post, John! Very interesting article! Many people with native language different than english do common sense errors in their blogs instead promoting clean and crisp language….
This was driving me crazy the other day. Every source I checked seemed to have a different opinion. Fly, be free. Worry about fluency. And if you already have it, then stop worrying about language and get on with it. Well, yes. He split an infinitive. To me, writing should be invisible. I am trying to communicate a very specific message, and anything that undermines my communication is defeating my object. So I try to avoid them. Just as I try to avoid showing off in a way that might impress and so interrupt the flow of another 10 percent.
Of course, none of this works for a readership that comprises professional writers, because everyone in that group will scrutinize every word.
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No, Marc. I should have said that I recommend that good writers—like good chefs—should focus on their goals to turn on readers or diners rather than to show off too obviously their technical skills. Wow, you literally cut poeple up — including myself — chewed them, and and then spat them out! Truth is, I hate the man or woman who makes these mistakes, too. Are they an hillbilly or something? Just so everyone knows, this post has made me paranoid. See how flexible I am? It just drives me crazy literally! Chimps abound, apparently. Could it concern something other than simply just ignorance? That it shows up in writing demonstrates the way in which grammar is shaped.
Oh Johnny… you had me. I was literally ha going to start telling all that would listen about your brilliance, your beauty surely all grammar snobs are beautiful , your… hmmm, what is the word? Your rightness. And then, much to my chagrin, you committed one of my own pet peeves in comment You cannot come up with a better choice of words? Just tell me that you spontaneously developed a 23rd chromosome and all will be right in the world.
Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. I write both in French and in English, and, like Johnny B. There are writers who are as dangerous as bad drivers. But there is another side to that coin. I try to write as well as I know how. Which may be why I never try to humiliate anyone else when they do. The chances of my ever successfully constructing a bookcase are minimal. The chances of my ever returning a tennis serve are similar.
Pointing and laughing are bad ways to foster talent. Those who are interested in writing will quickly discover the basic rules, and will — like the rest of us — embark on a lifetime of learning. Great post, One really easy tip to add to them is this: Make sure you check a post or comment before hitting the send button. I think we can finally consider that a correct meaning. Meanings change. But after a while even the most pedantic just have to let go. And I think nearly three centuries is long enough. You are not crazy. It sounds better. That is all it takes — how does it sound best.
Of course, the words have to be pronounced correctly, something most Americans seem incapable of. This is how you would manage to read a history book to learn about an historical event, and be correct. It is a rather outdated rule that continues to change over time as we continue to pronounce things differently. Language shifts, but at this point in time, it is still acceptable. People will get angry at you for it, but people will always be there to defend you for it as well because technically both are correct.
Give it another couple of decades, and it may be gone forever. Do you think this is an example of language constantly changing, which I suppose could reasonably be claimed given the number of times I hear it in a week? Or are they getting it wrong and therefore should be corrected? However, they are the source of language change and, when adopted by enough people especially people with power they are considered legitimate language changes. Can you tell me where this is? Should you correct them? At the very least, they should know the more standard meaning of the word lend.
People should have access to that so that they can be best understood by others outside their immediate social groups, and also so that they have more opportunities for social advancement. But explain to them, too, that in school it has a different meaning and you want them to use that meaning for practice. Of course, whether your correcting has much effect is another matter entirely. Peers have more influence on our speech than teachers or even parents. Alistair Keep up the good work and continue correcting. I recently came to the conclusion that language is an evolving thing but there are some words, quite a lot of them, that are exempt from this theory.
I agree, Christine. And that really makes me sad. Cassie How funny. A very good friend of mine, an English teacher, used to tell me that there was no such thing as correct spelling, for precisely the same reason — that language is constantly evolving. I told him this is completely ridiculous. I have also been told that as a Science teacher, I should ignore misspellings and grammatical errors as we should be focusing solely on the Science.
However, my argument is that being able to communicate effectively is part of being a scientist, and if pupils are unable to do that then they are not being good scientists. The British Government had a great idea in the 60s; they decided the best way of teaching English was to encourage pupils to write phonetically. Unfortunately, it was much more difficult to read because of all of the possible phonetic variations and led, ultimately, to a generation that struggled — and still struggles — with literacy. However, we have to aim to uphold the standards so that people can communicate effectively.
By the way, I have a feeling that the reference to chimps was probably made in humour and not intended to cause offence. They may sound very different to you, but to a complete outsider there will probably be far more similarities than differences. The fact that it is that widespread actually points to there being more going on than just a few ignorant kids.
Where are they getting it from? Other than being young, are there any other similarities between the kids socially? Are they of a similar social class, for example? In addition to the geographical variation that we call dialects, there are also sociolects, language varieties among certain social groups which can be defined not just by social class, but also gender, age, ethnicity, even attitudes, etc. The two are not mutually exclusive.
By the way, I agree with you about teaching proper spelling — at least as much as it can be taught. Knowing standardized spelling makes it not only easier to be understood, it also makes it easier to recognize words quickly when reading. Again, it is not necessary that the students always spell correctly. It kills me much more than the five listed here. Another case of people trying to sound intelligent.
Very interesting grammar read, expecially for me as a learner of the English language. Which word sounds correct in that sentence? Then you just add Bob and Mr. Parsons, and me. Some would argue that it is correct if we hear it on the CBC. I just re-read my own blog entry and found a spelling error. Spell checkers have become my crutch. The CBC is certainly not an authority. In addition to some of their usage, there is the matter of how they pronounce many words. I must admit, however, that they do pay attention even if it takes many years.
Best regards from another Anton! I just love it when a favourite maverick shows his anal side! When a person is slated with selecting the committee, then including oneself in the committee is a reflexive act. The speaker is just an object put in the committee with the other objects. Awesome Article …. Dear friend some times mistakes becomes so common that become part of writing.
I ask him: would you like a toast? I think both are okay. Thank you. Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to primary sidebar. Writing can be really no-win. Was vs. Get Grammarly. Next article: Finding Your Village of Customers. Reader Comments Another great piece Johnny. Where do people pick this up? Do high-school English teachers allow it? Blake Waddill. The committee will consist of Bob, Mr Parsons and I. Okay, nobody has yet 1. Called me an elitist butthole for nitpicking these things.
I really have to stop monitoring this thread…. I like the mall Santa story. Anyone want to fight to the death over this one? Sean — One of my favorites, but CB has already done that one. Drew — oops. Go, Be, yup. My bad, busted. RE point 1: are you a slum-lord?? Just curious! Good article btw. Awesome article… It drives me crazy to see bad grammar in blogs — I know I do it too, but it still drives me nuts! Johnny B! Marc — One word: Vegemite. WTF is that stuff? Ground artichokes and bone meal? Anyone got any tips on appropriate use or non-use of these various devices?
Also, no last serial comma. Thanks for the help! Grammar FTW! Re: I and me. You might consider doing the same. Anon, You might consider not being an annoying spoilsport. Good article. My grandmother was a grammar teacher so. Awesome post. Always good stuff coming from you. Forget it. Their examples, with which I agree completely, are: 1. At the bar, two strippers were all over Jim and I. Two strippers were all over Jim and Me. Grammar Posts seem to get folks revved up; you might as well write about religion or politics.
That said…. Not least because nearly all of us are chimps at least some of the time. Further, it forces the writer to conflate two meanings that are distinct: 1. I literally thought this article was great! Hey Johnny, Great post, and a very good read too. Look it up. Meg she who hath no website said: Language change.
Bonzo agree. Bonzo like bananas, consequence-free sex, and literal nit-picking. Sorry, I swore earlier I was staying out of this comment thread. I need help. I had a rant about some aspects of this topic myself just last week. The growth and development of language give great pleasures to its lovers. Sigh — I must be getting old.
I sound like my English teacher from 40 years ago! That one could get epic. Michelle, I was not looking for typos in this article. Wow, this post sure generated a lot of comments!
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Now, I literally feel much better. I am going to challenge you on 4. For example: If I were a cat, I would nap all day. Johnny I just did a little research, which I should have done before asking my question!
You get the idea, we could go on and on in making these things up, and many have! This post has added much dork-laden glee to my otherwise dull day. Hi Johnny, Well, I must admit I am a little nervous to leave a comment that will be full of bad grammar and punctuation. I LOVE this post! Sorry for the all caps. What this post disregards is the evolutionary nature of language. Christine: Take it there, bring it here. This is a clear case of how the English language is being butchered by Americanisation. Well, practically impossible, anyway. What a sizzling debate. Write like you talk—only better.
As many bloggers know, conversational writing is easy, effective and engaging. So seriously, nobody remembers Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp? So, perhaps some caveats are in order when making posts such as this? Wonderful post, J! Also, comment addict that he is, I think he may have in fact perished of happiness. Thank you Peter. Great blog, interesting content…. Great post, Johnny. Does anyone remember being told not to use a colon after a verb? Incorrect- My favorite foods are: chicken, fish, and macaroni Correct- My favorite foods are the following: chicken, fish, and macaroni.
So, how is my colon LOL in my last post? This usually brings some mixed feelings. There are a few problems here. Kids in school are kind of like employees of a company where someone else is the CEO. But no one is the CEO of your life in the real world, or of your career path—except you.
When scientists study people on their deathbed and how they feel about their lives, they usually find that many of them feel some serious regrets. So this is a post about path-making. The idea is that reasoning from first principles is reasoning like a scientist. You take core facts and observations and use them to puzzle together a conclusion, kind of like a chef playing around with raw ingredients to try to make them into something good.
By doing this puzzling, a chef eventually writes a new recipe. The other kind of reasoning—reasoning by analogy—happens when you look at the way things are already done and you essentially copy it, with maybe a little personal tweak here and there—kind of like a cook following an already written recipe. A pure verbatim recipe-copying cook and a pure independently inventive chef are the two extreme ends of what is, of course, a spectrum.
But for any particular part of your life that involves reasoning and decision making, wherever you happen to be on the spectrum, your reasoning process can usually be boiled down to fundamentally chef-like or fundamentally cook-like. Creating vs. Originality vs. Puzzling your way to a conclusion feels like navigating a mysterious forest while blindfolded and always involves a whole lot of failure, in the form of trial and error.
Being a cook is far easier and more straightforward and less icky. In most situations, being a chef is a terrible waste of time, and comes with a high opportunity cost, since time on Earth is immensely scarce. So in my case, fashion is a perfect part of life to use a reasoning shortcut and be a cook. Career-path-carving is definitely one of those really really deeply important things. For most of us, a career including ancillary career time, like time spent commuting and thinking about your work will eat up somewhere between 50, and , hours.
At the moment, a long human life runs at about , hours. Quality of Life. Your career has a major effect on all the non-career hours as well. For those of us not already wealthy through past earnings, marriage, or inheritance, a career doubles as our means of support. On top of your career being the way you spend much of your time and the means of support for the rest of your time, your career triples as your primary mode of impact-making.
Every human life touches thousands of other lives in thousands of different ways, and all of those lives you alter then go on to touch thousands of lives of their own. All lives make a large impact on the world and on the future—but the kind of impact you end up making is largely within your control, depending on the values you live by and the places you direct your energy. Whatever shape your career path ends up taking, the world will be altered by it. In our childhoods, people ask us about our career plans by asking us what we want to be when we grow up.
When we grow up, we tell people about our careers by telling them what we are. Which is kind of a big thing. Which brings us to you. We can group map holders into three broad categories—each of which is well-represented in the river, in the pond, standing on the shore, and at every stage of adult life.
These are people who feel indecisive about their career path. Other people will see a nice clear arrow representing a direction they feel confident is right—but find their legs walking in a different direction. Was it really me?
Extremely fair question. This framework has worked really well for me, so I think it can probably be helpful for other people too. From first principles. In the cook-chef post , I designed a simple framework for how a chef makes major career choices. At its core is a simple Venn diagram. The first part of the diagram is the Want Box, which contains all the careers you find desirable. The second part of the diagram is the Reality Box.
The Reality Box is for the set of all careers that are realistic to potentially achieve—based on a comparison, in each case, between your level of potential in an area and the general difficulty of achieving success in that area. The overlapping area contains your optimal career path choices—the set of arrows you should consider drawing on your Career Map. We can call it the Option Pool. This is straightforward enough. But actually filling in these boxes accurately is way harder than it looks.
For the diagram to work, it has to be as close to the truth as possible, and to get there, we have to lift up the hood of our subconscious and head down.
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The hard thing about the Want Box is that you want a bunch of different things—or, rather, there are a bunch of different sides of you, and each of them wants—and fears—its own stuff. And since some motivations have conflicting interests with others, you cannot, by definition, have everything you want. The Want Box is a game of compromise. To do a proper Want Box audit, you need to think about what you yearn for in a career and then unpack the shit out of it. Luckily, we have someone here who can help us.
The Yearning Octopus. We each have our own personal Yearning Octopus 5 in our heads. The first thing to think about is that there are totally distinct yearning worlds —each living on one tentacle. These tentacles often do not get along with each other. It gets worse. Each tentacle is made up of a bunch of different individual yearnings and their accompanying fears—and these often massively conflict with each other too.
The dreams of 7-year-old you and the idealized identity of year-old you and the secret hopes of year-old you and the evolving passions of your current self are all somewhere on the personal tentacle, each throwing their own little fit about getting what they want, and each fully ready to make you feel horrible about yourself with their disappointment and disgust if you fail them. On top of that, your fear of death sometimes emerges on the personal tentacle, all needy about you leaving your mark and achieving greatness and all that.
And yet, the personal tentacle is also one that often ends up somewhat neglected. This neglect can leave a person with major regrets later on once the dust settles. An unfulfilled Personal Yearnings tentacle is often the explanation, for example, behind a very successful, very unhappy person—who may believe they got successful in the wrong field. The Social Yearnings tentacle is probably our most primitive, animal side, with its core drive stemming back to our tribal evolutionary past. On the tentacle are a number of odd creatures.
This means he craves acceptance and inclusion and being well-liked, while likewise being petrified of embarrassment, negative judgment, and disapproval. More upsetting to it than being disliked is being ignored. It wants to be relevant and important and widely known. There are other characters milling about as well. The judge is also big on holding grudges—which is the reason a lot of people are driven more than anything by a desire to show that person or those people who never believed in them.
Finally, some of us may find a loving little dog on our social tentacle who wants more than anything in the world to please its owner, and who just cannot bear the thought of disappointing them. The Lifestyle Yearnings tentacle mostly just wants Tuesday to be a good day. But like, a really pleasant, enjoyable day—with plenty of free time and self-care and relaxation and luxuries. Life should be full of fun times and rich experiences, but it should also roll by smoothly, without too much hard work and as few bumps in the road as possible.
The part of the tentacle that just wants to sit around and relax will hold you back from sweating to build the kind of career that offers long-term flexibility and the kind of wealth that can make life luxurious and cushy and full of toys. The part of the tentacle that only feels comfortable when the future feels predictable will reject the exact kinds of paths that may generate the long-term freedom another part of the tentacle longs for.
The Moral Yearnings tentacle thinks the rest of the tentacles of your Yearning Octopus are a real pack of dicks—each one more self-involved and self-indulgent than the next. The parts of you on the moral tentacle look around and see a big world that needs so much fixing; they see billions of people no less worthy than you of a good life who just happened to be born into inferior circumstances; they see an uncertain future ahead that hangs in the balance between utopia and dystopia for life on Earth—a future we can actually push in the right direction if we could only get our other tentacles out of our way.
While the other tentacles fantasize about what you would do with your life if you had a billion dollars in the bank, the moral tentacle fantasizes about the kind of impact you could make if you had a billion dollars to deploy. Needless to say, the other tentacles of your Yearning Octopus find the moral tentacle to be insufferable.
Likewise, not doing anything for others can hurt you on multiple tentacles—the moral tentacle because it feels guilty and sad, the social tentacle because this may cause others to judge you as a selfish or greedy person, and the personal tentacle because it may lower your self-esteem. At its basic level, your practical tentacle wants to make sure you can eat food and wear clothes and buy the medicine you need and not live outside.
Then there are the distinct individual yearnings on each tentacle, often in conflict amongst themselves. Or when you want so badly to be respected, but then you remember that a career that wins the undying respect of one segment of society will always receive shrugs from other segments and even contemptuous eye rolls from other segments still. So yeah, your Yearning Octopus is complicated.
Human yearning is a game of choices and sacrifices and compromise. When we think about our career goals and fears and hopes and dreams, our consciousness is just accessing the net output of the Yearning Octopus—which is usually made up of its loudest voices. The stuff in your subconscious is like stuff in the basement of a house. We can go look at it anytime—we just have to A remember that the house has a basement, and B actually spend the time and energy to go down there, even though going down there might suck.
The way to start turning the lights on is by identifying what your conscious mind currently knows about your yearnings and fears, and then unpacking it. Which tentacles in particular are yearning for that career—and which specific parts of those tentacles? You want to find the specific source of the fear. Is it a social tentacle fear of embarrassment, or of being judged by others as not that smart, or of appearing to be not that successful to your romantic interests?
Is it a personal tentacle fear of damaging your own self-image—of confirming a suspicion about yourself that haunts you? Is it a lifestyle tentacle fear of having to downgrade your living situation, or of bringing stress and instability into a currently predictable life? Or are a few of these combining together to generate your fear of making the leap? Maybe you pine to be rich.
All five tentacles can feel a desire for wealth under certain circumstances, each for their own reasons. Unpack it. As you unpack an inner drive to make money, maybe you discover that at its core, the drive is more for a sense of security than for vast wealth. That can be unpacked too. A yearning for security at its simplest is just your practical tentacle doing what your practical tentacle does. Or perhaps what you really want is a level of security so over-the-top secure it can no longer be called a security yearning—instead, it may be an impulse by the emotional well-being section of your lifestyle tentacle to alleviate a compulsive financial stress you were raised to forever feel, almost regardless of your actual financial situation.
The answers to all of these questions lie somewhere on the tentacles of your Yearning Octopus. And by asking questions like these and digging deep enough to identify the true roots of your various yearnings, you start to turn on the basement light and acquaint yourself with your octopus in all its complexity.
Pretty quickly, a yearning hierarchy will begin to reveal itself. Once you have a reasonably clear picture of your Yearning Octopus, you can start doing the real work—work that takes place another level down in your subconscious, in the basement of the basement. Here, you can set up a little interrogation room and one by one, bring each yearning down into it for a cross-examination. Why did that particular Because lead you to want what you now want? And when did that particular Because gain so much gravity with you?
You never stopped to ask yourself whether your own accumulated wisdom actually justifies the level of conviction you feel about that core belief. In a case like this, the yearning is revealed to be an imposter pretending to be an authentic yearning of yours. In a 1 scenario, you can be proud that you developed that part of you like a chef.
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You might even find that some of your yearnings and fears were written by you…when you were seven years old. Humble people are by definition influence-able—influences are an important and inevitable part of who each of us is. The key distinction is this:. Or are your influences themselves actually in your brain, masquerading as inner you?
Do you want the same thing someone else you know wants because you heard them talk about it, you thought about it alongside your own life experience, and you eventually decided that, for now, you agree? The former is what chefs do. And a robot is what you become when at some point you get the idea in your head that someone else is more qualified to be you than you are. The good news is that all humans make this mistake—and you can fix it. Getting to know your real self is super hard and never complete.
Even our conscious mind knows these yearnings well, because they frequently make their way upstairs into our thoughts. These are the parts of us we have a healthy relationship with. Sometimes new parts of us are born only to be immediately locked up in prison as part of a denial of our own evolution—i.
But there are other times when a part of us is in Denial Prison because someone else locked it up down there. In the case of your yearnings, some of them will have been put there by whatever masked intruder had been taking its place. At some point during your childhood, he threw your passion for carpentry into a dark, dank Denial Prison cell. Leave them for another time—right now, search for locked-away career-related yearnings. Or a desire to be famous that your particular tribe has shamed you out of.
Or a deep love of long blocks of free, open leisure time that your hornier, greedier teenage self kicked downstairs in favor of a raging ambition. The other part of our Yearning Octopus audit will address the hierarchy of your yearnings. The octopus contains anything that could make you want or not want to pursue a certain career, and the reverse side of each yearning is its accompanying fear of the opposite.
The reverse side of your yearning to be admired is a fear of embarrassment. The other half of your craving of self-esteem is a fear of feeling shame. What looks like a determined drive for success, for example, might actually be someone running away from a negative self-image or trying to escape feelings like envy or under-appreciation. The person doing the ranking is you —the little center of consciousness reading this post who can observe your octopus and look at it objectively.
This involves another kind of compromise. To get all of this in order, we want a good system. You can play around with what works for you—I like the idea of a shelf:. This divides things into five categories. The absolutely highest priority inner drives get to go in the extra special non-negotiable bowl. The bowl is small because it should be used very sparingly—if at all. Like maybe only one thing gets it.
Or maybe two or three. Too many things in the NN bowl cancels out its power, making that the same as having nothing in the bowl at all. Shelf placement is as much about de-prioritizing as it is about prioritizing. This is inevitable. The middle shelf is good for those not-so-noble qualities in you that you decide to accept. They deserve some of your attention. Most of the rest will end up on the bottom shelf.
Likewise, the fewer yearnings you put on the top shelf, the more likely those on the top shelf will be to thrive. Your time and energy are severely limited, so this is a zero-sum compromise. The amateur mistake is to be too liberal with the NN bowl and top shelf and too sparing with the large bottom shelf.
But like the rest of your hierarchy decisions, your criteria for what qualifies as trash should be derived from your own deep thought, not from what others tell you is and is not trash. Yearnings and fears are impatient and bad at seeing the big picture. Many of the people who have done wonders to make the world better got there on a path that started with selfish motives like wealth or personal fulfillment—motives their moral tentacle probably hated at first.
The Want Box deals with what you find desirable. The Reality Box is the same deal. The goal of self-reflection is to bring both of these boxes as close to accuracy as possible. For our Want Box audit, we looked under the hood of the Want Box and found its settings—your yearnings and fears. When we open the hood of your Reality Box, we see a group of beliefs.
For a career option to qualify for your Reality Box, your potential in that career area has to measure up to the objective difficulty of achieving success in that area. There are traditional careers—stuff like medicine or law or teaching or a corporate ladder, etc. Then there are less traditional careers—the arts, entrepreneurship, non-profit work, politics, etc. These are perfectly reasonable assumptions—if you live in