you are not the only variable

Jay Clouse Uncategorized

A couple years ago, I saw a headline that I thought for sure was the Onion. It read “Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time” and it was not an Onion piece, but a piece in the Guardian.

The point of the article is this: nobody in any industry, from any walk of life, in any position of authority, has anything figured out. Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

I love this article. Since reading this article a couple years ago, I’ve applied that understanding to matters of public policy, law, procedure, etc. Somewhere, there was someone with a deadline to get this work done. They were overworked, underpaid, and frankly probably didn’t care as much as they could. They completed the work at the deadline and passed it up the chain so they could go home and be with their families. The next link in the chain had their own deadline in turn, put off doing the work, got it to 95% of the place it needed to be, and moved it into the next phase.

This happens all the time – and sometimes that last 5% leaves some absurdity or issue that can be exploited and/or improved upon. Sometimes it’s next to impossible to get that piece changed for decades or centuries. Innovation!

This doesn’t just exist in matters of “work” or deliverables though – it exists in relationships.

I’m probably a little too aware of how I interact with people, and definitely guilty of over-analyzing. I can’t tell you how many times I think, “Well if I would’ve said this or done this instead, maybe…” And sometimes I beat myself up because the outcome of an situation isn’t my desired result. Surely, I did or said something wrong. It’s wholly my fault; I could have done something different or better.

But here’s the thing: I am not the only variable. When I analyze interactions like this, I’m operating under the assumption that the outcome is completely dependent on my inputs. But that just isn’t true – I’m not the only variable and I don’t operate in a vacuum. The other party of the interaction is also a complex system of equal confusion, doubt, conflict, insecurity, you name it. It’s not a perfect system with some sort of magic sequence or code and there’s not a set of buttons you magically press that are going to get your desired outcome every time. It’s unpredictable.

Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

I’m going to channel my inner Anne Frank here, but I think that all humans are desperately trying to connect with one another. We are just really bad at communicating sometimes. But if that’s true, we could be in a worse spot.

Bonus: If something isn’t breaking your way, try a high-pitched “not feelin’ it”


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