Observe | Understand | Respond

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Center Of Life

Life is very interesting in that somehow, in all forms of life, from a microbe, to a spider, to a whale to a human, every one experiences life as if they are the center of the universe.

People talk about narcissism, or ego, but the fact is, the perception that we are the center of our lives, is hardwired into all lifeforms. I find this fascinating and curious.

There is a mathematical construct beneath this that I would like to understand better.

An artifact of this is that most people think and feel that the way they experience the world is the way everyone else experiences the world.

There are common patterns to be sure, but the assumption that I think this way, therefore it IS this way is not really accurate.

Because I’ve done a lot different jobs in my life, and have lived in many different places, I’ve been able to see how the same patterns repeat in various spaces.

Or maybe, I’m just wired this way. When I was a kid I had more fun organizing my toys than playing with my toys. I was always sorting by different patterns.

I’ll offer an example of what I’m talking about from when I worked as a pharmacy tech in a retail pharmacy.

There was this very bizarre requirement from the corporate level that the pharmacists were to always say that the script would be ready in 5 minutes. Which is unrealistic. But, the pharmacists did what they were told.

The reason why the corporate level had this bizarre requirement probably came from some MBA fresh out of school, with lots of book smarts and no real world experience. It was goals oriented. Which often loses sight of “effectiveness.” Goals are easy to measure, effectiveness, not so easy.

The result was that people stood around waiting because they thought their script would be done in 5 minutes.

However, most of the time it was put in a queue of the scripts ahead of it and on a good day would take at least 15 minutes.

So, customers would hang out in front the of the pharmacy waiting for their script and getting increasing impatient in their energy, because they had been told it would be 5 minutes.

There’s this thing called the 2 minute rule. I remember learning about this when I was teaching leadership while in the Air Force. I’ve heard and seen this applied in all sorts of ways.

True to the 2 minute rule, the customer would realize at about 13 minutes, this is taking longer than 5 minutes and I may as well go take care of something, and leave.

This was frustrating the pharmacists to no end. They felt that people were hovering and glaring at them while they were working. And when the script was finally ready, the customer was no longer there.

After watching this a bit, and seeing the level of stress and tension building and building in the pharmacists. And this is a fairly common reaction among pharmacists which I’ll explain in a bit.

I pulled them aside and suggested a few things to help them better understand the situation.

I suggested that they ignore company policy and tell people the truth. If it will be 15 minutes before the script is done, tell them it will be 15 minutes. If the queue is so huge that’s it’s going to be 45 minutes, tell them it will be 45 minutes.

The truth is actually more respectful to the customer. Every one lives busy lives and and feels stretched for time. No one enjoys waiting unnecessarily.

I also explained that the customers waiting in front of the pharmacy was not thinking at all about the pharmacist. They were thinking about what they were going to make for dinner, or the argument they had with a co-worker that day, or what they need to do next on their to do list, and so on.

People live in the center of their lives.

A lot of people spend an enormous amount of time, energy and focus judging against something that is simply human nature. It’s not good or bad, it just IS.

Lots of suffering comes from resisting what IS.

It’s not effective to try to fight reality, it’s much more effective to work with it.

I remember reading this adage once, and it’s spot on.

Don’t worry about what people are thinking about you, because they’re not.