This past Wednesday I lost who I have to consider my best friend these days, after being together over eleven years. I adopted Annie from the Asheville, NC Animal Shelter shortly after moving to Asheville from my home state of South Carolina. I even sold my Porsche and got an Explorer so I could haul her around in comfort vs. style, and Annie ended up outlasting not only that Ford Explorer, but the marriage that would come several years later. She’s been with me through thick and thin and was always loyal, which is more than I can say about certain other females that rambled through my life and made similar promises.
I almost didn’t adopt her. I was walking out of the pound when the girl that worked there urged me to play with the German Shepherd/retriever mix that had been dropped off a week earlier. I was looking for an older, larger dog, and a female. And she was a little smaller at 65 pounds than I was looking for. Older dogs are the last to go at shelters, which is a shame because they’re housebroken, appreciative, mellow, and you already know what their personality is like. When you adopt a puppy, you don’t really know how they’ll end up. But Annie was 5 years old when we met. She was very smart, which is a nice trait to have in a dog. Having a dumb dog isn’t fun, and there are some out there. I’ve had one before, and they can be frustrating. But Annie was as smart as a dog comes.
I decided that she would be a good companion and left the shelter with her on December 7, 2006. And she was by my side from that point on, through a lot of craziness. She got to see the beaches of South Carolina, the Blue Ridge mountains, swim in the Gulf of Mexico, travel through the Smoky Mountains, and live in three states. She helped me earn my MBA in Tuscaloosa, hiding out in our tiny little graduate student apartment. She accompanied me on hundreds of miles worth of walks all across the South, and we saw some beautiful sunsets and sights during many, many colorful seasons. Fall walks around the Grove Park Inn in Asheville were beautiful, and she loved to play and swim in Lake Martin with my cousins’ dogs in Eclectic, Alabama. She had a squirrel-chasing problem which she managed to give up, thankfully. I was always worried a car would be the reason that we’d have to say goodbye to her. In fact, it was old age, as she lived a long and happy life, which was as comfortable as I could make it for her. She deserved it. The period during which we were together was not missing hard times, for sure. And she was there for me each and every time I needed her. I’m not saying she knew how much support she provided, which of course has its limits when it’s being rationed by a 4 legged mute with a relatively low IQ and who is only able to see things in shades of grey.
But she did know she provided a service to our small pack of two. Other than clean-up duty, I mean. She lost her hearing around age 12, which I blame myself for. Long trips with my music turned up to 11 definitely wasn’t good for a dog’s sensitive hearing, which I always felt bad about. But the deafness did provide relief and peace from the horror or fireworks, thunder, and other unexplained far away demonic sounds that terrified her to the point of trembling in fear. I could usually get her to relax eventually, however. Often that kind of stress would release some of her coat and undercoat, which she shed twice a year, but for very extended periods. I have to think that over the years I brushed, vacuumed and swept away hundreds of pounds of blonde and black fur dropped by her. It never bothered me, but she was a prodigious shedder. And a beggar. She got the brains of a German Shepherd and the manipulative skills of a retriever and knew how to work a kitchen.
She was well into her 16th year of life when she finally had to say goodbye. I had tried to prepare myself for the event for years preceding it, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. It was impossibly hard to say goodbye to such a good friend who gave so much and asked for so little. She was everything anyone could ask for in a companion and offered whatever she could to me unconditionally and with a big bushy wag of her tail. She was an exceptional dog.
As part of an interview process, I recently took a predictive index behavioral assessment evaluation. I appreciated the people looking at me taking the time to evaluate me in more depth than just my resume and a phone call. Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs test, which precipitated from Carl Jung’s work and slots you into four categories, eg: ENTJ. I love these types of assessments and have always been fascinated by human psychology. I considered majoring in psychology for a while in college and took enough classes in it to nearly do it. And I read a lot of books that dissect the mind and tinker around to see what make us tick and causes us to behave the way we do and make the decisions we do. As a marketer, I’m passionate about consumer behavior, aka human behavior, which bumps up against sociology as well. It’s fascinating to study people as individuals and how we act collectively in certain situations, in certain cultures. It usually leaves more unanswered questions than answered ones, but it’s fun and fulfilling to know how we’re wired and engineered. I also find it helps interact with others more easily, which is also why I suppose I was asked to take the test. They wanted to know who they were dealing with.
Most of these types of tests ask you the same questions over and over in different ways. And you sort of know what they’re getting at. In other words, you can easily manipulate them. But that’s not advised. Unless you truly just don’t care about your results and the purpose for which you’re taking it. Answering them honestly and thoughtfully will yield some interesting insight as to who you are and how you work, and people being people, everyone loves to know about themselves.
This Predictive Index test is different, however. I did a bit of research on the company and history of the test and how it’s built, because it’s only a 2-page test, with a list of adjectives. All you have to do is indicate how you think others view you and how you view yourself, or how accurate the words are to that end. Many of the words are synonyms, and being an English major, I also found this test to be even more interesting for the choice of adjectives used and their subtleties. The test has been in use since 1955, which is a LONG time ago, for the psychological field, so one would expect accurate results, right? Here’s how they developed the form:
Adjectives for our form were field tested with results from more than 136,000 people and went through content review, psychometric review, and fairness review. The assessment was then given to a global norm group of more than 10,000 people. Norm tables and scoring models were updated and verified before finalizing the form and sending it through a multilevel translation process and regional review.
I found my results to be surprisingly accurate, inasmuch as I know myself and consider how others describe me.
I later took a DISC assessment, which is a 24 question “test” in which you arrange a series of adjectives in order of how you feel they define you, from most to least. The adjective sets that you must arrange sometimes have nothing to do with one another, which makes you choose a hierarchy of traits. As with the Predictive Index, you can tell the words were carefully chosen, and what the exercise is aiming at. But I take them seriously, since trying to game the thing is pretty poor form and will end up only hurting me and the company.
Not surprisingly, it reflects the results the Predictive Index found. I’m results-oriented, care a lot about quality and details, have high standards, can communicate well, am careful and deliberate, and don’t have much patience, which I’ve always struggled with. The funny thing is, I consider myself patient. Our perception of ourselves and how others view us being different isn’t news to me, though. That’s the case with nearly everyone, I’d imagine. It’s like hearing your voice for the first time compared to what you think you sound like.
People think about money a lot, and I’m no different. Especially recently, since I’m looking to make more as well as facing paying a lot out to people for various goods and services. Rent, legal bills, utilities, loans, maintenance, and much of the same things everyone has. Probably not in the same ratios, however.
I have mounting legal bills because of a divorce that has been in proceedings for around 7 months. We’re no closer today to closing our case than we were 7 months ago, but I’ve managed to amass thousands in legal bills for my lawyer’s services. That got me to thinking: what other jobs and fields are there where people get paid not based on results or outcome, but on product, and in some cases, just showing up day after day? My lawyer is very skilled in the courtroom and drafting/filing paperwork. He is very unskilled when it comes to managing an office (aside from reliably sending out invoices) and closing cases. But for divorce lawyers, there’s a conflict of interest in how they are compensated. It behooves them to keep the cases open because an open case represents a money tree. If he/she needs money, file a motion. Send an email or make a phone call. They bill down to 6 minutes at a time in some cases, and it’s not unheard of a divorce lawyer to charge $375 an hour. The retired judge who was handling our second round of mediation, which failed as expected, was surprised to learn my lawyer “only” charged $275 an hour. And for the mediator to show up and accomplish nothing, he himself was paid hundreds of dollars, as was my attorney. They basically passed notes back and forth between my wife and me on our behalf until I was forced to walk away.
In much of business, business owners hire employees based on their output capabilities. Labor is like a machine and is judged and paid based on that premise. It’s not depreciable, however. When looking for a job, the candidate must show that he/she can produce quality work consistently, under stress or whatever the position entails. That’s why it’s good to have a job where you can quantify your work accurately. If you have one where it’s tricky to measure your output, so that you can justify your wages and justify increases, you might find yourself on the low end of the pay scale. Secondary school teachers face this. College professors don’t because their value to schools is in the ability to publish articles. The teaching aspect isn’t what is compensated, which is proven by the difference in what adjunct teachers are paid and tenure-track professors are. The difference between the two is only that the latter is expected to publish, and do service. The number of articles and level of journals that they appear in is easy to see, and the ones that do so at a high-level research school are paid more than those a lower level teaching school.
Government administrative jobs usually are viewed and compensated more on input than output. But that varies of course. In some cases, compensation is simply a reflection of what the other guy is making somewhere else. Although the public county school system I live in is one of the most poorly run in the country, the new superintendent just received over a $100,000 raise because that’s what some other people make elsewhere. It had nothing to do with the fact that the school system is on probation for all sorts of violations, the state is threatening to take over, and the superintendent was already doing the very same job for $100,000 less. Meanwhile today, teachers are picketing at the state capital and threatening a walkout over their pay packages.
Doctors are paid similarly as well, and “earn” comparably high salaries. They are paid whether you get well or die, however, not on the quality jobs they do. Just on whether they attend to you as a patient or not is why they’re paid. It’s why I’ve had to bring my little daughter to see a doctor, even though what was to take place could have been done over the phone. In order for the doctor to be paid by the insurance company, he needed to have the patient physically standing there.
Engineers are paid well, but they are paid on quality and scope of work. Makes sense. Executives are similarly paid. There are goals and metrics in place they must achieve. A lot of people speak poorly of the amount of money a CEO makes, but at least he/she can justify why or why they didn’t earn the money. The same can’t be said for many other professions though. It makes you wonder what types of people gravitate to each type of job? Some people are fine being judged by their work and have their pay depend on their productivity, like most salespeople. Others rely on protections to warrant a paycheck, whether they do a good job or not, or at all. Union jobs, tenured jobs, political jobs, etc…