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Nov 11

The World Doesn’t Work Anymore | Part 2 Survival of the Fittest

This article is dedicated to all the guys and gals who cope well, despite our world not working very well.


The Tow Truck Finally Arrived

The Center opened on April 1, 2005 six months behind schedule.  Considering all the snafus, April Fools Day seemed truly appropriate.  We did get our business cards, although one set is lost in transit.  They are somewhere in the Western Hemisphere on a truck-albeit inaccessible to us or the shipper.  It will arrive someday.  Of that we are confident.  The sign is up after three months although it cost $100 more than the written estimate for reasons that have no interpretable logic.  We don’t argue. We just pay and move on!


You might remember the guy who answered, “No,” when I asked if his was a responsive and reliable company and then failed to show up for our first meeting.  So far, it doesn’t seem as if he was kidding.  His graphic designer made up all of our product designs for “The Center for Self-Help.”  It’s not a bad name, just not our Center’s name!  I still think he’s a good guy and I’m sticking with him.  I believe he will come through.


On the positive side, we just ordered a new phone system from a company that seems to have their act together.  It hasn’t been installed yet, but I’ll keep you posted.  The new system has room for 128 mail boxes.  How’s that for grandiosity?  It was either 8 or 128, with no “Mr. In-Between,” so we went for the manic option.


What about the $200 credit you might be wondering?  Thanks to Len it did go through, although I still can’t figure out if another credit that was coming, was ever put on the new card.  One of these days, when I want to pull an all nighter, I’ll call and check.  By the way, two more kitchen guys have disappeared since January.  I’m thinking of calling missing persons.  Afraid they will just say, “Oh, it’s just a kitchen guy.  We get calls every day about them!”


As for our website it has been running with favorable reviews.  We did lose the turning leaf for a few days (our web guy forgot to water it), but it’s back and reliably turning like a puppy with an itch.  As I write this, however, my williampenzerphd.com website is lost in cyberspace.  Type in that address and it goes directly to a mall.  I seem to have been bought out by a company that sells supplies and yet to see the check.  It’s not a bad idea when you think about it.  Reroute other people’s address to yours and greatly enlarge your traffic flow, while greatly reducing theirs (in this case mine!).  It appears cyberspace is dog eat dog too.


Recharging Batteries

Having waited with great anticipation to open the Center, you’d think I’d be out on the streets beating the bushes and spreading the stopglop gospel.  “Au contraire, mon ami.”  I decided to hop on a cruise April 9.  I needed to clear my head, shake the cobwebs loose (and to use three clichés in a row) recharge my batteries.  It’s this kind of advice I’d give someone else, so I’m particularly proud when I am successful at healthfully coaching myself.


My experience is that cruising is a world that reliably works almost all of the time.  True there have been some not so great stories involving viral outbreaks, seventy foot waves or other problems, but those are more the exception.  A typical cruise is a good value, consistent fun and relaxing experience.  The major cruise companies have their act together and pretty much keep it together day in and day out.  I recommend it as a fine way to get away from a world that can be frustratingly inconsistent, irritating, and infuriating day in and day out.


I will, however warn you that cruising can be very glopful.  The old cruise director’s joke is that you came on as passengers and leave as cargo.  The joke is on us, if we do that.   Pack your discipline and will power along with your sneakers for walking and the gym.

For those who don’t recall, glop is anything that tempts us to engage in unhealthy and self-defeating behaviors.  For example, there is glop on a plate, in a glass, casino, or bedroom.  All of that exists, in great abundance, on cruise ships.  Have fun, indulge a bit- but just a bit.  Don’t turn a relaxing vacation into a shame and blame experience.  The consequences to health and wealth suggest we be wise in our choices.


Feedback Part I:

Being away gave me a chance to reflect on the feedback I received from Part I.  I need to address a few issues here.


“You Ruined My Life”

Reactions to Part I were consistently positive negative.  By that I mean everyone agreed with and simultaneously lamented the thesis.  “Yes, the world no longer works as well as it used to but, how did we allow this to happen?”  One friend left me a message saying, “Great article, laughed out loud, you ruined my life!  I will never again experience a problem without seeing it as the world doesn’t work anymore.”  It is that depressive reaction, you will recall, that caused me to stop writing the book many years earlier.  It is precisely that reaction that I want to address here.


“Surviving Ain’t Good Enough!”

A second reaction dealt with the guide to survival part.  While all agreed that laughing is better than crying and patience is a quality worth courting, many became indignant about accepting the mediocrity of it all.  Over and over people expressed the sentiment of the above subhead.  I will address these issues as well in Part II.


“Shove Your Anger Management-I’m Pissed!”

Finally, a small, but vocal minority complained that they struggle to contain their anger.  Their rage leaks out and wreaks havoc with their moods, attitudes, and ability to enjoy themselves.  They appear to have a terminal “bitch and moan” condition, which can be interminable to those around them.  I want to talk about this problem as well in Part II.  I will address the person struck in this position.  I will also speak to the secretary, life partner, business partner, colleagues, friends, and others that surround the person that is tormented by all that fails him/her.


“You Ruined My Life!”

I don’t ever ruin lives, but I do awaken realities.  I am a denial bubble buster. Recognizing the imperfections of a complex world does not spoil or contaminate it.  It just prepares you to take on the problems and challenges, try your level best to avoid them and solve them with emotional efficiency when they come along.


Being aware of the difficulties in a world that works less well serves yet another valuable purpose.  It challenges us to work better than ever in our line of work.  I, for one, don’t want to be part of the masses of asses.  I’m proud that I run on time, return all calls personally and deliver consistently helpful support and assistance hour after hour.  My work world works very well and I hope yours does too.  The best antidote to a sluggish and inconsistent world is high energy and reliability.  If we work better, then perhaps others will follow our lead.  If not, at least we enjoy the prideful feelings.


If we all take that position, the world gains by having a contrarian’s resource that consistently works.  We gain from the reputation, achievements, and prideful feelings of competence and consistency of service.  My “ruined my life” friend took great pride in saying that his company has won many awards (and contracts) based upon delivering high quality products, efficiently and ahead of schedule.  Let’s all shoot for that level of service.  Let us as individuals prove that despite all the problems and pitfalls, our world of work can work well.


Let’s also do it on a personal level.  A man, older than myself, sitting caddy corner to me at lunch on the ship easily tops 300 pounds.  His belly bounces sluggishly off his wobbly knees.  He said, “lets stop at the ice cream bar on the way out” to his equally rotund table mates.  He needs ice cream like I need a double hernia.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.  In a world that doesn’t work well, we need to work better than ever.  Glop is not the answer.  Balance, control, discipline, health, and wellness consciousness is at least, a partial antidote.


Please look around you at the aging process.  Those who have controlled their glop tend to live longer, healthier, more positive and productive lives with greater agility than those who didn’t.  Before you go for the glop, visualize yourself in a wheel chair, taking insulin, hobbling instead of walking, and with quadruple bypass operations.  In that context is the glop worth it?  I think not.  Hopefully, you will agree.  Ruined my friend’s life?  He was only kidding.  I helped to further empower him and you as well.


In addition, counterbalance your world not working experience with ones that do work.  Focus on times that all goes well in a project and when everything works out fine, fair and fruitful.  Like with cruising, hold onto the good times and let go of the less than positive ones as quickly as you can.  Though some days can be flooded with frustrations, others are not so bleak.  Some are down right awe inspiring.  We gotta count it all.

Finally go for the relativity idea I mentioned in Part I.  This works to neutralize our angst and help us see it in perspective.  The relative perspective works not only in terms of medical illness, but also in terms of other countries.  Consider the bureaucratic nightmares of South America, peculiar currency changes around the world, the lack of available resources in many places.  Think about widespread famine and insufficient medical assistance.  Thousands die of hunger or treatable disease every day, while I bitch about not finding a kitchen contractor.


In this light we’ve all become a bit spoiled with unreasonable expectations for immediate gratification and material indulgences.  A strong voice inside says, “appreciate having the basics as well as material comforts, be happy you can enjoy the luxury of a cruise and stop bitchin’ about the relatively minor inconveniences and delays.”  It starting to feel like my batteries are recharged already with three days of R&R to go.  “Ruined your life?”  Not a chance.  Reframed your perspective in a more realistic, protective, and positive way.  Atsa my job!


“I Ain’t Willing To Settle For Survival”

Why not?  What’s wrong with that?  Survival is for the fittest, is it not?  Throughout the history of human existence, survival has been key.  Life has always presented obstacles of one kind or another.  Trust me when I say it was tougher in 1905 than in 2005.


Ironically, most of today’s obstacles are byproducts of our progress.  I sit on a ship at sea and check and send e-mails for 40¢ a minute.  Contrast that with ship to shore phone calls at $18 a minute just a few years ago.  People bitch that the computers at sea are too slow.  Oh, well!  We are all so addicted to speed that we rush our brief lives away.  Slow it down a little.  It’s not a race.


Similarly, I complain about some credit card problems, while forgetting that in 1966, I had none.  Taking a business trip for IBM required getting a cash advance to pay for food and lodging, while relying on our national account to rent a car.  Personal travel required traveler’s checks as well as cash.  All bank transactions were done by hand.


Joe, the grocer, tallied the bill on a brown paper bag- and let you pay another day if you were short.  Yes, the fifties were user friendlier, but painfully inefficient in their own way.  We survived then and we need to survive now.  The better prepared we are for today’s inefficiencies, the more emotionally efficient we can be.  Protecting our personal resources is the point of Part I’s survival guide.


Those who complain that survival is not acceptable harbor idealistic, instead of realistic goals. A utopian world might be nice, but it might be boring.  Our complex world challenges us to grow, adapt, and overcome.  During the years I stayed in the status quo, I lost valuable time and creative opportunities.  I played it safe, but I didn’t play it smart.  I sold myself short by hiding from a world that wasn’t working.  Now I am back in the game protecting my ass(ets) with the same healthy survival strategies that I wrote about in Part I.


To survive should not be embarrassing or demeaning in anyway.  Surviving is winning on the battlefield of day to day life.  Surviving is setting goals and accomplishing them, while dodging all the obstacles placed in our way.  Surviving is looking at a less than perfect world and saying, “I can, I will, I shall, I AM … doing well despite efforts to thwart me.”  In the final analysis surviving is and always has been man and woman’s first priority.  It’s after all, a prerequisite for tomorrow.  Lament if you like, hide if you need to, but always return to a goal directed path that succeeds in overcoming the obstacles of a less than perfect universe.


Finally, if the fittest survive, then it is time to get fit.  Limit glop, maximize activity, exercise and relaxation, and get your mind and body into the best shape you can.  Get addicted to health and wellness so that you can be in the best shape possible to take on the world and survive.  I guarantee you will like the feelings that are associated.  In a world where we don’t have as much control over things as we would like, taking charge of ourselves feels really good.


“Perpetually Pissed and Proud of It!”

I’m not at all angry if you tell me to take my anger management and shove it- but that is a silly thing to say.  Chronic anger is a most unproductive emotion that has only toxic by products and unhealthy consequences.  It is easy to be angry in a world that doesn’t work as well as it needs to.  We can rant about lousy drivers, traffic jams, “stupid” politicians, ruthless merchants, lazy workers, insurance companies and a variety of systems that make no sense.  Doing that, however, makes no sense either.  It is a total waste of time, energy and emotional currency.


Bitching and moaning is like taking money and flushing it down the toilet-only worse.  You are flushing emotional currency away that is difficult to replace.  Save it for when you really need it.  Far worse things will occur in my lifetime than a vintage 80’s kitchen.  See it all on a scale that ranges from frustration and irritation to aggravation to pain and suffering to awful.  Let’s not mistake one for the other.  Let’s not call angst awful.  Let me show you some examples:

I could keep going, but I think you get the point.  Before we shove anger management, perhaps you should try some.  Fundamentally, your anger is hurtful to you and toxic to those around you.  Your response need to be proportional such that frustration and irritation cause mild, if any, reactions.  Paradoxically, they tend to cause stronger reactions than more serious events which most people tend to adapt to reasonably well, all things considered.  Even tragedy initially produces tears and grieving with anger coming later on.  In some ways, the anger over tragedy is not expressed as loudly in many cases as the anger over “stupid” politicians or “jerk” drivers.  We need to do a better job correlating our reactions with our experiences.  The Center for Self-Control can help you learn to do that.


It’s Raining Rage

Living or hanging with a person with rage and anger is like waiting for the next explosion in Iraq.  You don’t know when, but you do know it will come.  And it will come.  Circumstances vary widely, but I meet too many people who suffer abuse by being in the line of fire.  Don’t take it.  It is a very corrosive experience that destroys and demoralizes your sense of self.  Instead, stand up for your self.  Set limits.  Demand counseling or coaching.  If refused, go on strike or leave until the person is willing to work on his/her issues.  Get a new job or a divorce, but don’t tolerate serial verbal abuse, because your boss, mate, or whoever is pissed at the world.  I’m the first to admit that the world can be quite irritating, but also quick to say that no one should suffer as a result.


Ultimately, we have an obligation to cope with it all, without putting our self or those around us in harms way.  If you allow frustrations and irritations to turn into explosions of rage or days of silence and mood, then you have much more serious problems than a world no longer working.  In fact, you may be using the frustrations the world dishes out as an excuse to vent deeper angers that are buried within.  Maybe it is easier to rail about the “stupid, idiot, jerks” than about what and who really wounded you?  Certainly, it is a question worth pursuing in some form of anger management treatment.  In that context, the world isn’t going to get any better, but you certainly can.


Objective Positivism

My colleagues and I have discovered that what we say to ourselves in our minds is very important.  We all talk to ourselves all the time.  Most people use a language we call Subjective Negativism.  In that language everything is problematic and difficult including us.  It is an all or nothing language of doom, gloom, and condemnation.  With it we question our competence, adequacy and worth.  Using it magnifies our frustrations and irritations to awfulness.  It sets us up for angst, anxiety and agitation.


Ironically, it is not a language we typically use with others.  That language is often filled with support, understanding, affirmation and compassion.  We call that language Objective Positivism.  In a world that works less well than you would like, you need to learn that language for your SELF.  It is a language that will really help you to consistently distinguish between angst, agitations, aggravations and awfuls.  It will also help you to truly like and love yourself in a way that is both protective and empowering.  We will talk more about it in Part III of this series and in our half-day workshop program.  Meanwhile may all of your problems be frustrations and may you cope well to survive a world that doesn’t work well too much of the time.


By the way the phone installation went without a hitch.  It was done on time, efficiently and well.  It was managed by caring, responsible and personable people dedicated to their work and customer service.  The one set of business cards still haven’t arrived.  I choose to hold onto the former and enjoy a time when the world does work.  It is most reassuring.  The cards will come soon!


The Center for Self-Control

Helping people conquer hurtful

habits once and for all and forever

(954) 475-1371 x1

(561) 361-1898


We offer individual phone and group coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy to help you:


  1. •Eat healthfully
  2. •Stop smoking
  3. •Stop drug/alcohol abuse
  4. •Eliminate sexual addictions
  5. •Control gambling
  6. •Not abuse the Internet
  7. •Manage anger
  8. •Control worry and anxiety
  9. •Better manage your life
  10. •Improve relationships

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