Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interview with Johnny Corcoran, PI

I’ve been interviewing people in different occupations just to see what sorts of daily stressors they encounter, and how they manage them.

Today I had the opportunity to interview Johnny Corcoran. Johnny is a great guy who I met at the coffee shop across the street from where I live. He is full of stories. He loves to talk about his interesting experiences as a Private Investigator. His stories have led me to the conclusion that I have nowhere near the stress tolerance that it takes to be a PI. So I sat down with him to ask him how he does it.

I asked him what sorts of stressors he encounters as a Private Investigator.

He says it’s very much a results-based job. However, the results depend on many variables. He is under a lot of pressure to come up with evidence, just as the police are. He can produce the evidence, but it’s useless when you can’t get it in.

He says, “Sometimes evidence can’t be admitted into court. Sometimes clients don’t understand that, but it’s not my fault.”

He can produce all of the evidence, but it’s ultimately up to the judge/jury how to they interpret that evidence.

• There are so many things outside of your control, how do you handle disappointments?

Very matter-of-factly, he said, “I have a contract, which is the only way to do it. Getting money out of them can be tough.”

• Describe some stress responses you’ve seen from the people you’ve been investigating.

“One guy chased me, some people will deny that it is them in the video.” Laughing wryly, he says, “Well it sure looks like you…”

• In a job where stress is pretty much expected, what, in particular stresses you out about the job?

“When the money doesn’t come in, when the jobs aren’t coming in, that is stressful.
The long hours were stressful to my wife because I was always working. The long hours drained my marriage. When you love someone, you don’t want to leave them on their birthday. She got over it, but it adds up over a long time.”

Freelancing is stressful, coping with the highs & lows of a paycheck

He says, in a field where most people either die early or retire early. “I’ve been at it for 20 years, which I think is pretty good.”

• I think that is incredible. How do you do it?

“I ride my motorcycle, for one. Talking about the cases with other people, other PIs, cops, relieves stress. I come to the coffeeshop, go to parties; basically it’s interaction with other people.

And if anyone ever bugs you, you can always say, ‘I know people who know people who rob people.’”

c. 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Laughter truly is the best medicine

It sounds silly, but it is truer than true. The best cure for stress in the workplace [or anyplace, for that matter], is laughter. Don’t believe me? Think back to a time when everyone was stressed out about a project at work, there was an air of tension tinged with urgency. No ideas were coming. People were getting on each others’ nerves, and then Fred farts, and every one busts out laughing for 5 minutes. The mood lifts, and ideas start flowing.

It is often when comic relief of some sort takes place that ideas start generating.

Anna Hart, of Stress Management blog says that when we laugh, “the brain relaxes, refocuses, and is able to think more clearly and quickly. The end result is improved productivity and efficiency. Take time to laugh or smile broadly at stressors.”

A friend of mine was going through a particularly stressful time and came to me for advice. I felt sort of funny, and felt I might be oversimplifying, telling him to just laugh about it. But he came to me within a couple of days saying how well it had worked for him.

Try it to see how it works. Feel free to comment on how it worked for you...

photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/53539456@N00/1509309418/

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Nation of Reptiles

I am stepping into dangerous territory with this blog. Politics are always a source of stress responses. The current climate of fear with regard to Obama’s religion has turned this country into a nation of reptiles, fighting and fleeing with little thought for common sense.

In this country it shouldn't matter if Obama is a Muslim. However with the threat of Islamic Jihad pending, it does to some. Obama comes from a Muslim family, so it would make sense that he would still have associations with some. Should he just neglect his Muslim friends and family because he is not one of them?
That wouldn’t seem a very "Christian" thing to do.

I am not a fan, but come on, give him a break. HIs bad policies are what should be criticized, not the church he attended. As anyone who attended Sunday school should know, being in a mosque, doesn’t make you a Muslim any more than being in a garage makes you a car. [OK, I modified it a bit from what I learned in my Presbyterian Bible school].

Most recently, the Ground Zero mosque is what is causing a lot of stress responses.
Constitutionally speaking, they have every right to build there; the appropriateness of the site is questionable. This issue in particular is causing a lot of fear, for right or wrong. Just as the Dubai Ports deal caused a lot of the same fight/flight responses with opponents.

Photo credit: Hamed Saber http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/884101376/

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Optimum Optimism

One thing that affects the way we handle stress is our level of optimism. Optimism is often scorned in today’s world. Optimists dare not speak up, lest they be accused of having their heads in the clouds or not being in touch with reality. But if we see everything through a pessimistic eye, we will no doubt be stressed and cranky, not to mention unpleasant to be with. So how do we handle the natural everyday pessimism that just comes with the every day experience?

Being an optimist requires work, often a total shift in the way you think and process things. It is very easy to be a pessimist. It is, after all, our primary response. It’s only when we can evaluate and assess the information that we can be reasonable in our expectations.

Susan Dunn wrote an inspiring and informative article called,
Can You be an Optimistic Realist?

In it she says;

Pragmatically speaking – that is, if you want to function in the real world – an optimistic view works better.
It gives you the energy to make things happen, because it gives you positive emotional energy.

Functionally-speaking, it is wiser to be optimistic. Optimism is a tool, therefore. If you can still that voice in your head
that says everything stinks, you can begin to see what you can do about things as they are, some of which, yes, “stink,”
but not all.

Helen Keller, who had every reason to not be an optimist concurs.
“So my optimism is no mild and unreasoning satisfaction. A poet once said I must e happy because I did not see the bare, cold present, but lived in a beautiful dream; but that dream is the actual, the present. –not cold, but warm; not bare, but furnished with a thousand blessings. The very evil which the poet supposed would be a cruel disillusionment is necessary to the fullest knowledge of joy. Only by contact with evil could I have learned to feel by contrast the beauty of truth and love and goodness.” From Optimism: an essay

Pessimism is a product of the reptilian brain. It’s not easy but we can override it with higher brain functions, and not only be happier, but much more productive.

photo credit: Random 2008, Rahim Khoja

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Place

One way to help with our way of attending to things, and overall production, is to have an escape. The artist, SARK frequently speaks of having a magic cottage, but one working mother, named Laura but known in the cyber-world simply as "Lolli' on her blog Better in Bulk, describes having a “Happy Place.” Not as a means of avoiding problems that need to be dealt with, but simply a place to “get away” and refocus.
She says:

Scientists claim that one of the best ways to relieve stress and be a happier person is to find a personal “happy place.” In fact, scientists report that the brain can produce its own antidepressants and going to your ‘happy place’ truly works.
I found my Happy Place last year. I took a path that I had passed weekly on my way to Target and Walmart, the theaters and Kohls. I had seen the trail head many times, but I had never taken the time to find out what was beyond the road. Until last year. Set back from a main road, and only a 20 minute walk from the parking spot, is a little piece of heaven. The moment that I saw this spot of ground, I knew I had found my Happy Place:

With the constant din of life in general, it has become almost necessary to have a haven of some sort. I would reckon that most have this, whether they realize it or not; and those who don’t are no doubt longing for one. Even if it’s a magic cottage in your imagination.

photo credit http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51usGptf5jL._AA400_.jpg

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Energize Me!

I just read a fantastic article by David Lee of HumanNature@Work. His research meshes well with mine on the idea of toxic people at work. He calls them “de-energizers,” though. His article, Are You an “Upper” or a “Downer” To Others? describes the importance of being an Energizer at work.

As one of many who has worked with her share of “Downers,” or “De-energizers” at work, and also a former De-energizer, with tendencies to this day, I found this article to be spot on.

Lee discusses an experiment where Dr. Rob Cross, of University of Virginia, did a study of various workplaces and teams. He basically studied how the groups interacted with each other and their resulting productivity.

He discovered that the smartest people in the group weren’t always the most sought after to solve problems, nor were they more productive. Rather, it was the more approachable who were. It was the “Energizers’” advice most heeded in times of distress.

I can attest to this as well. It doesn’t matter how smart someone is, if I feel emotionally drained after any interaction, I am going to limit face time. Even when it might be beneficial for me to consult them.

David Lee further says, and I would concur that,
"Given the challenging times we face, we all need to do our part to uplift each other. This is not a time to be petty, whiny, or nitpicky. It is not a time to expect others to bear the burden of our bad moods or put up with our disrespectful behavior. If you are an individual contributor and not a manager, this is not the time to say “It’s up to management to improve morale.”

Each employee can have an effect on morale—whether positive or negative—based on whether he or she engages in Energizing or De-Energizing behaviors. At this point in history, each employee MUST do their part.”

Dr. Cross found out that the most productive people were the Energizers. It doesn’t matter how much you know if you can’t inspire action.

photo credit: By Agitproper Todd L. Gilbert


Friday, August 6, 2010

Notes from the Sequel...

I am in the process of researching my next book. From time to time I will introduce the characters, so that you will be familiar with them when the book comes out....


I am listening to the well-coiffed Asian lady I always see at Starbucks or the Borders in the ritzy section of town, tell her familiar stories. They are familiar because I hear them at least 3 times a week. She sits in coffee shops, waiting to accost someone to whom she can tell her tales.

They might be interesting the first time you hear them. Stories from a well-traveled, well- trained opera singer, laced with curse words can be engrossing at first.

Then it just becomes very sad. Perhaps it hits too close to home for me. I have been her at least a couple of times, lonely, bored, reliving a past, or maybe imagined life. She is a widow. My boyfriend, DB says, “I don’t blame him.”

DB simply puts on his earphones,as she starts one of her stories saying, “I’ve heard this before. Like word for word.”

It is all too familiar. You watch her victim smile pleasantly at first, then the smile changes to a plastic mask, as they are wondering when they can interrupt her monologue to get back to whatever they were working on.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review of Waiting for Something to Happen by Jason Dube

by Brooke

Waiting For Something to Happen could be the story of my own entrance into the world of employment. Indeed, it could be any girl’s finding her career-niche story. Ko so perfectly depicts the malaise of a bored 20-something, accented by Dube’s pristine illustrations.

The star is a youngish girl who can’t stand her job. She is so entrenched in her boredom that she wishes for a really good depression, if only for something to do.

It brings back memories of overdramatizing small issues in the workplace not only as a way to feel important, but to amuse myself. Way back in the 80s, it was necessary to do this. Charlotte wasn’t as "happening" as it is now.

“When it comes down to it, I really hate people. I find them annoying and bitchy in general, but I guess it is just nice to feel wanted…at least occasionally,” she says.

The strips chronicle her mundane days in a job she loathes, sort of in a Clerks-esque fashion. The one thing she does enjoy is making copies, because it gives her an excuse to zone out and let her imagination run wild. I can identify with this, as this is the same reason I enjoy washing dishes at my job.

The dull workplace sets the scene for exciting adventures she creates in her own mind, including hiding in a jungle, dodging to avoid a bad review.

She swings between, fear and self-loathing to delusions of grandeur, and back to loathing, in a manner of minutes.

Waiting for Something to Happen is the brainchild of Norrie Ko, but it is a collaboration between Ko and artist, Jason Dube. Ko wanted to write something that was somewhat autobiographical. She states that “Waiting for something to happen” is a dark comedy because “it is reality, but one that can be laughed at.”

c. 2010