My friend Sebastian has a great way of asking simple questions that create good discussions. We were talking about someone getting offended at something and he asked the not-quite-rhetorical question: why do people get offended?
You and I, he said, never get offended.
Being offended seems to have become a national, if not international, pastime. Anything that happens is examined not for shreds of decency and positivity, but for something to be offended about. Statements are taken out of context, magnified, and imbued with extrinsic meaning.
And people love it. Sensationalist headlines allow them to hop onto the bandwagon and be offended, maybe even more offended than the writer of the headline was.
People probably become offended for a complex mix of reasons, but I think a big one is that it is an instant dose of superiority. If you say something and I disagree with it, I have to put my brain to use and come up with logic that counteracts your position. Or I can see that I was wrong and agree with you. That's hard, and even harder if I think you're smarter or more informed than I am.
But if I become offended, I immediately gain moral superiority. Whether your statement is true or not is not even relevant anymore, because it is offensive. And, best of all, I need nothing to substantiate my feelings. If I am offended, I am right.
A great example is Martin Shkreli, the "most hated man" best known for raising prices of an HIV-related drug. People hear about the increase and are blind with rage. But if you actually look at what he's doing you realize that he gives 2/3 of the drug away for free and devotes 60% of his budget to R&D. He's made no money personally from the company and his goal in raising the price is to come up with one that doesn't have the horrible side-effects the current one has. He can be obnoxious at times, but is not so evil.
I'm not going to convince the world to stop being offended, but since you're reading my blog you're probably interesting in fixing your own blind spots like I am.
I suggest to you to never be offended. It is a weak emotion, and you should notice when it rises up and search for an alternative. Maybe it's understanding. Maybe it's resolve to find logical flaws. Maybe it's humility to admit that you're wrong. Maybe it's serenity to accept that not everything in the world will be to your liking.
Some mental states take personal strength and practice to maintain. Being empathetic is much harder than being dismissive or condescending. Forgiving someone is much harder than punishing them. Accepting someone is harder than rejecting them. Being objective is harder than being offended.
These mental states aren't better because they're more difficult, they're better because they reflect a more accurate view of the world, and because they move you towards truth rather than comfort.
Photo is of some banana slugs in Santa Cruz last weekend.
Speaking of Sebastian Marshall, I REALLY like his new series, The Strategic Review. If you like my writing, you will love these weekly emails he sends out. Subscribe here.
So why was he smirking before Congress and saying that the reason he raised prices was because he could do whatever he wanted? I saw a different side of him -- can someone explain?
I already know that this post is going to get a lot of negative comments like the religion one. And that's because this "every vote counts" dogma that everyone loves so much shares a lot with religion. It's a belief that's held true without a single bit of compelling evidence, and it's a strong belief.
But before I get into that, let's talk about some other things.
First, Obama won and I'm happy about that. I don't think that he's a superhero like a lot of people do. When I look at his positions I disagree with most of them. I disagree with most of McCain's positions as well.
My post before this was a kind of therapy / Buddhism / personal growth kind of deal, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about how to run effective teams and to be a responsible, thoughtful manager of people. It is my work: I am a lead engineer at Bungie, an independent video game developer of about 300 employees (though not for long, we're growing.) There are some unique aspects to making videogames, and I'll use game development terminology here as I refer to, say, texture artists or sound designers or programmers, but when I talk to friends in different creative industries - film, industrial design, other software development - I find these themes are pretty universal.
If you're going to manage people, you're going to have a lot of conversations about employee performance. It's just bound to happen. Sometimes, like during reviews, it might seem excessive. You might wonder if's worth all the time it takes. It is. It's OK that you spend a bunch of time on this. As a manager, that is your job. It's your job to have well-formed opinions about how you evaluate people and how you work with them to help them grow. If you aren't spending time on that, then you may be succeeding as a leader, but probably not as a manager. Apples and oranges.
It is, however, important to spend this time well. During conversations about performance, everything you talk about should boil down to one thing: the value they contribute to the team. What is their value, and how can they become more valuable?
I find a lot of review conversations tend to focus on strengths, weaknesses, and specific work results. These seem like reasonable topics, and there's value there, but I also find this often leads to a review that looks like this: