The Frustrating Elite

“There is apparently some connection
between dissatisfaction with oneself and proneness to credulity. The urge to
escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious.
The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold
logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible.
Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a
crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They asked to be deceived.” –
Eric Hoffer

Hoffer also said, “To the frustrated, freedom from
responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager
to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding
and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the
directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all

Have you ever wondered how frustrated people manage to be so
frustrating? Well, it requires a set of skills that most people don’t have but
can develop, with practice. If you aspire to be among the frustrating elite,
here is a full dozen of the most useful techniques for totally frustrating
people. With time and concentration, even amateurs can become proficient at
frustrating most anyone. The only requirement is to creatively expand these
techniques to numerous relationships and to add new and innovative techniques
as you go along. Read and judge for yourself.

1. Always play it safe; and above all, don’t take any chances.
If it is not in writing, either get it in writing or refuse to do it until it
is in writing. If it is already in writing, ask for clarification. Once you
have gotten clarification, check with a few other people to see what their
understanding is and then ask for a meeting to discuss the confusion everyone
is experiencing.

2. Put most of your time and energy into worrying and hoping
nothing changes. When things do change, ask for written procedures and
clarification. Once you get clarification, suggest that the changes be put off
until everyone has had an opportunity to provide input and to discuss the
long-term implications of the changes. After everything has been discussed at
least twice, take your sweet old time getting with the new program, letting
everyone you talk to know that the changes are causing things to back up and
nothing is getting done.

3. Avoid taking responsibility for anything. Certainly don’t
volunteer and be reluctant even if asked. If you can’t avoid it, ask for
written instructions and check back often for additional instructions and
clarification. If someone tells you, “If you can’t handle this, I will
find someone who can,” you should say, “That’s an excellent idea. I
really have too many other responsibilities to handle this right now

4. Don’t put up with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of other
people. You know how to behave and they should too. If there is anything about
them or the way they do things that you know isn’t the way people should act,
mention it to a few people. Say something like, “I suppose you have heard
what people are saying about so-and-so.” Not one person in a hundred will
resist saying, “No, what?” Now just lay it out, being careful to
emphasize that, although you don’t feel that way personally, other people are
getting pretty fed up with it and that you just want to give everyone a head’s
up about the problems that are brewing out there.

5. Since someone is going to screw something up sooner or later,
you might as well just assume that things are a mess. Even if they seem okay
right now, all you need to do is wait around for a while. To be on the safe
side, you can bring it up in casual conversations now and then. You need only
pick a couple of things that could go wrong since they likely will; and if not,
something equally bad will happen. As sincerely as you can, say something like
this, “Have you thought about the consequences of this or that happening?
Don’t you think we better think this through more carefully and not be so quick
to jump into things we don’t thoroughly understand? We have done that before
and it looks like we would learn. I would hate to see us end up with egg on our
faces again.” Now, when something down-the-road does not work
out as expected, and something will not work out, you then only need to say in
your most concerned voice, “I was worried that this might happen. I will
certainly pitch in and help you with your problem but I’m sure not optimistic.
It’s too bad things are such a mess around here.”

6. Since most people are out for themselves, never take anyone
on an “as is” basis. Just assume that what they are saying to you and
what they are really thinking are not the same. It will help support your
insight into human nature to occasionally ask people if they can completely
trust so-and-so. You will find some who don’t and that proves your point. Now
all you need to do is listen carefully for the inconsistencies and
contradictions in what someone you particularly dislike says to you and to
other people. The fact that that person is not to be trusted will quickly
become obvious. You knew it all along. You best schedule a confidential meeting
with the person you don’t like to offer a friendly head’s up. “Although
I’m usually pretty comfortable with you, I think you should know that there are
some people who are not sure they can trust you. I tell them that they should
give you a chance but…. Well, I just thought you would want to know what people
are saying about you. Of course, I can’t say who feels that way since I told
them I would keep it confidential. I don’t want them to have a trust problem
with me too. If you want, I will keep you posted about what people are saying
about you.”

7. You need to be stingy with your praise for anyone, especially
for people you don’t like. At the same time, as much fun as it is to get into
blaming and accusing, you need to be careful about that too. Remember that
people come and go and you never know which way the winds are going to blow. It
is an, “If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything,”
kind of thing. Of course, if you can think of something nice to say, keep your
mouth shut anyway. If the person asks, say, “I don’t have a problem with
you;” and if someone else asks, say, “He and I have an
adequate relationship.” Be sure to use the same approach with everyone,
since you never know how things are going to go.

8. A similar approach also helps when someone brings up a
problem with you. You can say, “I have avoided being critical of you and
have not bought into the talk. I thought our relationship was fairly good. That
is why this surprises me. I hope our relationship is important enough to you
that this does not get in the way. I would hate for us to get into the kind of
thing you have with some other people. That would be a real shame.” If asked
for clarification, say, “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to get
into that with you. I value our relationship and don’t want it to change over a
little thing like this.” Now, just keep your mouth shut. If all goes well,
the person will not get back to whatever the problem was.

9. When talking with people, focus the discussion only on things
that are not going well. Especially if you are asked something about you, bring
up a problem that is no more than indirectly related to you. Ask what the
person is doing about the problem you have highlighted. Whatever the response,
say something like, “It’s problems like these that make everything so
difficult for us. As you know, when things like that are a mess, they spill all
over everything else. It’s a wonder we ever get anything worked out. I’m
surprised I manage to work things out as well as I do, all things considered. I
don’t know how you put up with it. How do you do it?” Now just listen. If
the conversation gets back to you, deal with any problems or issues by saying,
“It’s like we were just talking. I certainly am going to try some of the
tricks you use to get things to work. I hope you will be willing to share more
of your techniques with me. If it weren’t for you, I can’t imagine how bad
things could get. I don’t know how you do it.”

10. Whenever anyone criticizes you, place the blame squarely on
the person who was at fault; and who, of course, isn’t you. You would have been
your usual superior self were it not for so-and-so. It will help you to give some
thought to this before starting anything, since it may take a while to come up
with a plausible excuse, if it doesn’t work out all that well. Be creative. The
point is that someone let you down. You can say, “The next time, I’ll just
have to do everything myself. That’s the way things are around here. I know you
try; but getting people to cooperate is a real problem. If you want, we can
spend some time thinking about ways you can get more cooperation.”

11. In these days of political correctness and cultural
sensitivity, stepping on the feelings of others may not at first seem like a
safe strategy; but don’t be too quick to go with the popular wisdom. There is
still a lot to be said for old-fashioned rudeness and abrasiveness. You will
need to do most everything you do with a fairly high level of drive and force;
but if you are up to it, the results can be impressive. The key to success is
in the reputation you develop for being ready to go to war over anything. You
are a person of high principle. You don’t enjoy being harsh and abrasive with
people, but your principles won’t let you just sit by and see things going down
the tube. It exhausts you; but you have to do what you have to do. Even if some
people get their feelings hurt, you can’t just let it go. Whatever anyone tries
to discuss with you and particularly if it sounds like things are about to go
south, you need to blow up. Don’t over do it; but you can be rather intense.
“Now I’m starting to get that same nonsense from you. It is bad enough getting
it from everyone else; but I expected more from you. You want to waste our time
talking about trivia when there are serious issues that no one appears to care
about. I’m not going to let you of all people get away with ducking the real
issues. Those points you want to spend our time with would not be problems if
we dealt head-on with the things that actually matter. They are what make
things seem like problems that aren’t problems at all. Do you want to use our
valuable time solving problems that don’t matter that much anyway or don’t you
care either? I really need to know. Which side of this are you truly on?”
There is little doubt which way most anyone is going to go. As an important
person, they likely will opt for the truly important issues, as they are
defined, by you, of course.

12. Never let anyone take advantage of you. Of course, this
starts with not volunteering to do things that just come up and someone has to
get them done. They aren’t your problem; and if you start volunteering for
things like that, the first thing you know, people will just take it for
granted that you will take care of it. There is no end to how people will abuse
your good nature. You also need to be alert for signs of responsibility drift.
That is when things mysteriously end up on your plate when they should not be
there. Someone asks you, “How are you doing with thus and such?” You hesitate,
trying to figure out what this has to do with you; and before you catch your
breath, they continue, “When you are finished with that, there is another
little thing that I hope you will take care of for me.” It is first this and
then that; and before you know it, you are not only being used, you are used
up. Your best strategy is to nip this sort of stuff in the bud.

Perhaps Ayn Rand should get the last word on frustration, “But
neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims.
Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish
unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in
any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless
he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you,
not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.”

Soothing Your Vanity

“Vanity, I am sensible, is my cardinal vice
and cardinal folly; and I am in continual danger, when in company, of being led
an ignis fatuus chase by it.” — John Adams

As is true for Adams, most
people have become convinced that vanity is a bad quality to have. In fact, it
may actually be a cardinal vice which makes it more than bad; it’s terrible. If
one explores this negative pronouncement in more depth, though, it ain’t
necessarily so. For example, Lord Chesterfield said, “To this principle of
vanity, which philosophers call a mean one, and which I do not, I owe a great
part of the figure which I have made in life.” There you go. Chesterfield thought vanity was one of the
keys to his success.

It may be that vanity is little more than one of those things
that is just going around. If so, even you may have a little yourself. As
Blaise Pascal suggested, “Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone
wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.” No less an
icon than Mark Twain said, “There are no grades of vanity, there are only
grades of ability in concealing it;” and there is no end to how clever people
can be when concealing it. To illustrate, Louis Kronenberger suggested this
strategy, “Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of greater vanity in
others; it makes us vain, in fact, of our modesty;” so if you are uncomfortable
with vanity, substitute modesty about being not so vane as some people you
know. Just be sure to cleverly conceal it.

François de la Rochefoucauld is another one of the folks who got
it, “What makes the vanity of others insupportable is that it wounds our own.”
Benjamin Franklin got it too, “Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever
share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter, wherever I meet
with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor,
and to others who are within his sphere of action: and therefore, in many
cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his
vanity among the other comforts of life.” Antonio Porchia also understood,
although he did slip in “ridiculous,” probably as a minor concession to the
vanity police, “Without this ridiculous vanity that takes the form of
self-display, and is part of everything and everyone, we would see nothing, and
nothing would exist.”

Fortunately, there is a much better approach. You can simply
re-conceptualize. What folks refer to in you as vanity isn’t vanity at all.
Rather, it’s merely a reflection of your positive self-perception. It’s what
the psychologists call a good self-image. If someone accuses you of vanity,
just smile and say:

I’m not a giant or a meek little lamb. I am me, that’s who I am.
I’m taller than a cat and shorter than a tree. I’m the very best me you’ll ever

I like to laugh, I like to smile. I like to daydream once in a
while. I’m extra special but I’m still just me. I’m the very best me I know how
to be.

I always try to do my best. I’m good at a lot of things and
getting better at the rest. Here’s the truth for everyone to see. It’s totally
terrific being me.

I could
tell you more stuff about who I am. I like spaghetti and strawberry jam. Here
at last is the most spectacular part. I’m extra special because I’m soooo smart.

F’ing Has A Lot Going For It

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one
is always in the wrong if one is rude.” — Maurice Baring

You definitely don’t want to be rude and undoubtedly avoid what
you have come to think of as rude or vulgar behavior. Eric Hoffer punctuated
the point when he said, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” You
are neither weak nor an imitation of anyone or anything else. You are
definitely your own person and are most certainly not rude. However, there is a
little tip that may come in handy now and then, even for a classy person like
you. It expands your options a tad as you keep your commitment not to be rude
or vulgar.

Have you heard people talking whose vocabulary seems to be so
adjective challenged that everything is F’ing this or F’ing that? It can get to
where it’s hard to tell whether F’ing is a good quality or bad. Of course,
F’ing is also sometimes a verb which one presumes refers to desirable activity
but even that isn’t always clear. The problem here is that F’ing has become a
word that people who are even slightly literate carefully avoid, along with
staying away from people who include it in their active vocabularies. This is
unfortunate since F’ing actually has a lot going for it if managed
thoughtfully. You are skeptical? Read on.

Do you ever have trouble sticking to your personal priorities?
Even worse, do you sometimes have trouble knowing what your priorities are? The
next time you find yourself struggling with what’s important or what deserves
your attention, remember that it’s only a temporary memory laps. You have just
forgotten about F’ing.

F1 = Family: What’s that you are saying? You have higher
priorities than your family? OK. You must be way into money or power or both.
If so, you definitely have no interest in this kind of F’ing. Your kind of
F’ing is quite another approach to success. Let’s hope that you are very good
at it and that the next person you meet isn’t better at it than you. If they
are, you are likely to learn a tough lesson that you are unlikely to enjoy.
Nonetheless, it’s your choice. The rest of us will stick with F1 = Family.

F2 = Friends: Let’s restrict friends to people you could call in
the middle of the night and ask them if they will do you a big favor. Sure, you
can call anyone whenever you feel like it. Friends are the ones who don’t ask
if you have lost your F’ing mind. Actually, they don’t ask anything. They just
say, “Sure,” and wait to see what you need. Do you have a friend like that? If
so, thank your lucky stars and be sure you never do anything to jeopardize such
a special relationship. You have hit the people jackpot.

F3 = Fun: There you go again, mumbling in the middle of this
essay. You are too busy for fun. You have too much responsibility to take time
out for fun. You are going to have lots of fun just as soon as you are
successful. You have your priorities and having fun isn’t one of them. Oh well,
it seemed worth mentioning. While you are keeping your shoulder to the grind
stone, the rest of us are going to take a little time now and then for some fun.
You never know. You might notice us and decide that it looks like so much fun
that you will give it a try, if you remember how. Let’s hope that you still
remember how once you are finished becoming successful and that you are still
up to it whenever that day finally arrives.

F4 = Food: Yes, eating healthy is important and we are what we
eat and there isn’t any free lunch. But since you need to eat, you might as
well make it a priority. It’s better than Fasting which is the only other “F”
word in that category. What is the absolute best snack in the world? No, don’t
worry about regular, every day food. You will work enough of that in without
making it a priority. Think about a great snack, a totally terrific snack, the
perfect snack. Do you have it in mind? Can you taste it? Is it at the center of
your attention? OK. That’s called prioritizing. How will you get that snack for
yourself? That’s called planning. Now, make that snack yours. That’s called
performance. There you go. Prioritize, Plan, Perform. That snack is yours.

F5 = Faith: This one is easy. Have faith in your family. Have
faith in your friends. Have fun while you prioritize, plan, and perform. Most
importantly, have faith in you. If you do, you are assuredly going to be an
F’ing success. Now just how cool is that? Sure, it’s F’ing cool.

The Static In Your World

“When all men think alike, no one thinks
very much.” — Walter Lippmann

Lippmann also said, “It requires wisdom to understand wisdom:
the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.” Combining these truths leads to
an interesting perspective on how one might go about increasing one’s wisdom.
First, associate with people who don’t think alike, who don’t think like you.
Seek out divergent thinkers.

If your quest for thinkers is successful, you will notice that
there is a lot of thinking going on around you. The static in your world begins
to transform into wisdom’s music; but be careful. It’s easy to be seduced by
the symphony. Wisdom’s music may not necessarily achieve the volume and
fullness of the orchestra, the harmony and richness of the choir. As is true
for the music of divergent cultures and societies, wisdom’s music may not at
first be recognizable by you as music at all. In fact, the more profound the
wisdom, the less like music it tends to sound.

Next, don’t confuse the music with the musician. Just remember
Churchill’s admonition that even a fool is right sometimes. That is why it’s
always wise to consider the advice before discounting the advisor, read the
message before turning away the messenger, listen carefully to the music before
dismissing the musician. Wisdom frequently doesn’t come wrapped in a package
clearly labeled, “WISDOM: Handle with care!” Conversely, the wisest among us
are sometimes wrong and not everything that sounds like wisdom is wise.

An additional nugget is embedded in Lippmann’s council. There is
plenty of wisdom to be experienced by limiting your preferences to certain
types of music or musicians. Perhaps you only listen carefully at school or
church. Maybe you primarily listen to people who look and sound like you.
Possibly you are seeking wisdom mostly in books or from your elders. Maybe you
restrict your listening to classical composers and shun bluegrass and
rock-and-roll. However you limit your listening experience, the likelihood is
that you will never notice what you are missing. You don’t normally feel
deprived of the wisdom you didn’t hear. You are merely less wise than you might
otherwise be.