We were living in a short-attention-span society before the Coronavirus began consuming so much of our attention and emotional energy. And now, as the world takes an indefinite “timeout,” our attention span is even more compromised. Today, it seems that most people’s attention is focused on fear, uncertainty, social distancing, hand washing, and stocking up on toilet paper. The world is on hold – temporarily. And so with a rambling mind and lots and lots of time to think… what better time to ponder the meaning of life than right now – for this edition of the Spotlight?
So I thought to myself, “This Coronavirus is hijacking jobs, our freedoms, our retirement accounts, and our lives.” And then I thought about the word hijack. Many of you reading this article are writers and/or marketers. Words are important to us. We pay attention to words. Like willpower. That’s a captivating word, don’t you think? Willpower, the power to take action to attain our will, our desires. A good word especially during times like this. We all need a full tank of willpower!
But what about the word – jack?
Remember, I am social distancing and have some extra time on my sanitized hands. Somehow, my train of thought navigated me back to the beginning of time, to the Garden. The Garden of Eden. Is it possible, I thought to myself, that the storytellers got Adam’s name wrong? I suspect that Adam’s name was actually Jack. It was Jack and Eve, not Adam and Eve. Why do I think this? What other name has so many words attached to it? None.
I suspect that back in the Garden when Jack (not Adam) began checking things out for the first time, he felt compelled to name things after himself. For instance, when he first discovered a sharp instrument to cut stuff, he called it a jackknife (ever hear of an Adam-knife?). When Eve took the apple and gave it to Jack (not Adam), he reportedly cut it up and mixed it with three-grains of cereal and called it Apple Jacks (is there a cereal named Apple Adams?). And when Jack and Eve took their first bite of the Apple Jacks, life eternal came to a screeching halt. You see, it was the serpent that jacked them around.
When Jack and Eve first entered the Garden of Eden, they hit the jackpot: an endless existence of bliss. Word has it, unsubstantiated, that Jack advocated for the “Garden of Jack,” but was overruled by a higher power. Anyway, after the applejack episode… it was jacksh_t for these two. A blissful, endless existence was replaced with the Coronavirus, and life became not-eternal. We might say that Jack and Eve got jack hammered by the serpent.
Have you ever stopped to think about how many words contain the name jack? Carjack, skyjack, blackjack, phone jack, lo-jack, jackass, jack-o-lantern, jackrabbit, jumping jacks, Crackerjacks (comes with a toy), jackscrew, lumberjack… hey, the list is extensive.
Pet Peeves and Annoying Phrases
Once again, with way too much time on my hands, I found myself on a phone call with Michael, a long-time friend. Given the social distancing guidelines, the phone has been my savior. But after some 45 minutes on the phone with Michael, I began to become annoyed at two phrases he used on a habitual basis. “Jay, I am staying indoors and not going anywhere except when I have to buy food. See what I’m saying?”
First, how can I possibly see what he’s saying? I can hear what he’s saying. But come on, we’re on the phone. Not Skype. Not FaceTime. And even if we were to do a face-to-face video call, I would be able to see him, but how on earth would I be able to see what he’s saying? And mind you, he’s using this expression consistently. “I can hear you fine, Michael. No need to see what you’re saying.”
Then Michael says, “I have a few things I want to do today. I want to cook up a few meals for the week ahead, do some vacuuming, and stuff like that.”
Stuff like that? For whatever reason, when I hear the expression “stuff like that,” it reminds me, physically, of grade school when someone scratched their fingernails on a chalkboard. I cringe. And you know, maybe I should bring this up with Michael. If he wants to eradicate this phrase from his vocabulary it would be easy. It would simply require mindfulness, a desire to lose the phrase, discipline, and stuff like that.
So, like I’m coaching a recent college grad, Melissa. Hopefully, not a communications major. Anyway, without exaggerating, almost every two sentences began with the word “like.” Like, this is beyond annoying! In fact, this may be the most-hated of all my communication-related pet peeves. Have you ever noticed that when people use the word “like” to start a thought, and where the subject matter is less than impressive, eyes start to roll? I mean, really roll. Wally says, “Like, nothing is built in America today. I just bought a new TV and it said, ‘Built in antenna.’ Like, I don’t even know where the hell that is. Know what I mean?”
Know what I mean?
Here’s another conversational inquiry I loathe. How many times have you had conversations with people who incessantly ask, “do you know what I mean”, throughout their conversation? Do people think we’re stupid? Listen, if we all speak the same language (in this case, English), we all know what you mean! Honestly, you don’t have to keep asking us if we know what you mean.
Honestly, is this a necessary word?
Honestly, if anyone uses the word honestly to launch a sentence, don’t you think to yourself, hey, everything this guy said in the past must mean jack? Why is there ever a need to use the words: honestly, truthfully, frankly, or sincerely to begin a sentence? (Honestly, I’ve never washed my hands so much in my life, as I have the last three weeks.).
The Law of Ignoring and the delusion that ignorance is bliss!)
In some corners of the earth, many people are taught, and actually believe, that ignorance is bliss: that what they don’t know won’t hurt them. I find this fascinating. If this were true, why do we send kids to school? Wisdom is priceless, isn’t it? If I’m ignorant and don’t know what 6 feet means or how long 6 feet is, for social distancing purposes, how do I know what a safe distance is?
If I don’t know specifically what I have accomplished in past jobs or if I don’t know what I did in past positions to earn my paycheck, how do I create a résumé, prepare for an interview, prepare to negotiate a promotion, or even feel good about myself? How do I communicate my value if I am ignorant of my value? I can’t. And as a result, I have no leverage to land a better job or promotion… and I can never optimally honor and appreciate myself and my value.
Ah, but… did you ever think of this - my ignorance is my employer’s bliss? If I don’t know my value, I will forever be underpaid, undervalued, and probably overworked. And my employer will make out like a bandit. Blissfully.
Then there’s the Law of Ignoring. The Law of Ignoring says that whatever we ignore, will get worse in time (or will come back and bite us in the butt). Ignore the ants in the kitchen, they’ll penetrate the sandwich. Ignore the weeds in the garden, they’ll take over the plants. Ignore the worst case scenario and we’ll be totally unprepared for the worst case scenario – and who knows what consequences that will result in. The Law of Ignoring says that it's important to be wise to reality and consider the consequences of ignoring reality.
Wisdom ignored is opportunities wasted
The Coronavirus and all its side effects are serious life-altering events. There’s nothing funny about what it’s doing to people’s lives around the globe. We all need to stay informed, be mindful, remain optimistic (without being naïve), be patient, and stuff like that.
Humor: How we react and respond is 100 times more important than what we face
Discipline. Personal responsibility. Faith. Collaboration. Humor. All of these traits are important. But it’s the last one, humor, that is so important in maintaining emotional control and a positive attitude in the wake of the Coronavirus – or any crisis. Humor reduces the dramas. It calms the mind so we can better address and resolve the issues we face. Ever since the Coronavirus ramped up in the US, I have made it a goal to laugh - or crack a joke with someone, once an hour during waking hours.
Recently, before the national call to socially distance from one another, I went to a bar with a friend. (We sat a good seven feet away). He ordered a beer. I ordered a “Jack” on the rocks, know what I mean? We decided to split the jack mackerel sandwich. It was a big sucker. And like, once we plowed into our sandwiches, I pointed to two old drunks across from us and whispered, “Art, that’s us in ten years.” Art took a quick look and said, “That’s a mirror, you idiot.”
Laugh, it is the best medicine. And that’s my joke for this hour.