The race to the top (or somewhere)

Dweeb alert. Cause I am. Beware the dweeb.
That realization dawned on me like a slap in the face.
For instance, I was thinking today. A precious day off and I spent it…thinking.
I was thinking about yesterday’s post and cars and I was thinking about my day off and going back to work and…

And let me tell you something. Let me be frank.
For reasons unbeknownst to myself, I’ve never been able to play the game.
When it comes to work. And when it comes to authority figures. I’ve continually sabotaged my good fortune by failing to play the game. It must be played for certain types of good fortune. I can attribute misfortune to the fact that I am constitutionally incapable of playing the game and have thus subverted any success I secretly yearned. This would indeed be tragic. Or I’ve subconsciously sabotaged elusive prosperity (and security) for I simply did not want it as much as others do. Consequently, I have failed to engage those who might help me in a most fruitful manner which would result in my garnering their generosity and good wil

Get it?
I’ve been an avid participant in the work force for over 25 years and I’ve been overlooked many times when it comes to my “advancement” or promotion. I’ve been directly and literally passed over twice for supervisorial roles in favor of another person who had no outstanding qualities to speak of other than that they detoured from their previous route in order to befriend and trade small talk pleasantries with the manager who eventually picked them over me. They played the game.
Do I blame myself? Do I blame?
Who knows. I’m generally over caring about it. I suppose the most irritating aspect of my failures involves standing by while I watch as average or sub-average intelligence is rewarded over what I consider to be my own superior intelligence. But herein lies the key. I’ve fallen into a trap in which I presume that intelligence is in and of itself such a fantastic trait, the deal-breaker, the one-size-fits-all godly quality which trumps all other considerations. Intelligence will naturally find its just rewards. But this is not the case in the work place. In fact, intelligence is but a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of career advancement. I’ve noted that many people I’ve worked with, past and present, lacked what I saw as deep, analytical intelligence. Most. Of course I’ve also worked with many intelligent people as well, but intelligence is largely unrepresented in the march toward corporate rank and reward.

So what does this have to do with yesterday’s post?
Well I started thinking of auto racing. In its many forms and the varied mechanical strengths required for success in each and it struck me that intelligence, as a random quality observable amongst a small fraction of participants in the work force, is but a trivial and burdensome quality to bring to an environment in which the qualities of logic or reasoning power play little part. In such a context, success has everything to do with the ability to conform to the prevailing structural paradigm of the work environment…this involves discussion, the willingness to agonize over these very structural elements that come into play when erecting the organizational workflow, and the intrinsic ability to connect with those in leadership positions where your “constructive” contributions can be aired in a gratuitous flow of “ideas.” All my highfalutin “intelligence” is primarily bullshit because I don’t know how to work the levers; perhaps from ignorance or disinterest, or both. I’ve never clicked with most of my managers. I’ve shared very little in common with them and I have failed to see the advantages in “greasing the ego” as an additional, unstated job duty and the role it must play if it’s “getting ahead” I seek.

For me to say I don’t care about getting ahead strikes me a bit as “drawing the bullseye around the arrow.” Perhaps I’m simply incapable of this charade and I salvage my delicate ego by proclaiming that I don’t want it. Entirely possible. But I really don’t want it. I know I don’t, I feel it. I don’t wish to befriend those I have nothing in common with. There is no job in the world worth that. I’ve only had one manager who I felt any sort of kinship with and I flourished under her rule but a better offer came up at another company and I left. Someone like me who finds it difficult to relate to most people will find it equally difficult to relate to those in authority. Those in leadership roles are not singled out for my disinterest. As they say, the Lord helps those who help themselves. I have no qualms about helping myself, but please don’t ask me to act like I really care about someone who I find at best, annoying, and at worst, despicable. I’ve seen many people swallow their pride and dignity, and their blind pursuit of personal advancement overrode all matters of self-respect.

There is a sheet of disconnectedness which comes between me and most people. I’m unable to find that savory “connection” with most. And it shows. I have been ignored, taken for granted, trampled on, disregarded in my illustriously piddling career!

Well I thought of intelligence (the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts type of intelligence, the piercing analytical intelligence that you probably see in abundance in the STEM fields, but which we see a dearth of in most others). I correlate this type of brute intelligence with an automobile engine engine. Intelligence is horsepower and torque, and its measure of strength is a reflection dispensable power available to propel the car, the ideas, forward. In most racing scenarios, the powerful engine is obviously a requirement, but it may actually act as an obstacle and serve to distract or hamper progress in some.

Take 2 types of race: the drag race and the rally race.

The drag race is centered around pure “intelligence.” The absolute astronomical strength of the engine in conjunction with the adjoining roles played by other elements, such as tires, driver, maintenance, transmission, even the weather conditions, all join together harmoniously to shape a strong racer. In this case, however, the engine is the heart of the beast and all other factors in the drag racer’s performance obediently bow to the engine’s supremacy.

Now the rally is a different monster. Engine power is certainly advantageous, but it must express in the form of a smaller displacement high-revving block which can be used to both brake and accelerate through hairpin turns and slippery surfaces. A rally racer thrives on its ability to maneuver a scattered and curvy race course with road surfaces ranging from wet to brushy to frozen to dusty. Hence, many other mechanical ingredients are at play…the engine does not reign supreme in such a situation. Handling, brakes, suspension…and obviously, a durable and complex all-wheel-drive system are necessary to contend with this race environment. A strong engine (raw intelligence) is useful but will be negated by the car’s overall reliance on other mechanical features as it winds through the unpredictable and inhospitable race course.

The modern day (and I imagine most in the past) workplace is the rally racing equivalent. It is certainly in your best interest to bring a high revving intellect that can be used to extricate you from binds and which can also be relied on to wind down the pace smoothly. But in the brushy jungle of most work environments, raw intelligence is not enough. You need more in order to blaze through the course, for too much power will inevitably launch you on a path of incautious disregard where the context calls for a different set of tools to help make your way through the nuanced landscape of the interpersonal playing field. My own personal vehicle through the years has proven ultimately incapable of handling this terrain. My intelligence is not suited to this style of racing and while the successful are carefully and skillfully using their engine to steer while nimbly heel-and-toeing their way through banked dirt roads, I’m flying off roads into unseen ravines where I will once again wallow in invisibility. My character shines best in a straightaway where I can be allowed to air out my powerful engine.

Unfortunately I came to the race in the wrong car.