The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People


Human beings, who are almost unique in their ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. ~Douglas Adams

I know what you’re thinking…Jesus Christ is facepalming because of that Harold Camping/phony Rapture guy.

You might also be thinking, “She only thought up seven when there could be millions of habits?”

When you work with the public, as I do, there are patterns you start to notice. Patterns that cause collective Maalox and/or tequila drinking, deep existential sighs, and facepalming. Lots and lots of facepalming.

There is, believe it or not, a difference between stupidity and ignorance. Ignorance can be remedied through a careful course of conscientious living, actual efforts to educate oneself, and humility. Stupidity usually can’t. As the immortal John Wayne once said, life’s a lot harder if you’re stupid. Stupidity, or alternately, insanity, is wanting to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. By this definition we have a lot of stupid or insane people in America. You know the ones: they complain about not having a job while holed up in their mother’s basement chowing down on Doritos and watching reruns of Full House. And they may or may not bathe or change clothes.

I know I’ve wrestled with some of these bad habits, hangups, and vices at different points in my life. It’s part of the human experience. The question is, did I actually learn from my mistakes? For the most part, yes. When I wake up each morning and look in the mirror, I may see someone who has yet to live up to her full potential, but I don’t see an “ineffective.” Want to know what “ineffective” really means? These are just my observations, which you can take or leave, but I see seven real dealbreakers.

#1. Getting way in over your head, and not admitting it.

Like I said, it’s human nature to screw up. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes it’s worse than others: speeding tickets, having kids we can’t adequately care for, putting Harvard on your resume when you really went to Podunk State for two semesters. The best way to stop a bad situation in its tracks is to admit that it’s a bad situation. Then, hopefully stop doing anything which will compound things. The nice thing about Americans is that they’re a very forgiving people. Ever notice how easy ballplayers who do ‘roids get off when they come out and say they’re sorry? Ditto for drug users, spouse abusers, and gamblers. Once you admit you’ve completely screwed up, things get much easier.

#2. Having an entitlement/victim mentality.

Every group, and I mean every group, in history has been exploited at some time or another. The idea of “reparations” or somesuch is nonsense. We are all human beings, and the sad thing is that bigots and racists of all stripes will always be around. It’s our nature. If all you’re doing is sitting around and saying “poor, poor me,” guess what? Most people are not going to give you their sympathy. We are not entitled to things based on our skin color, heritage, gender, or who we like or don’t like to sleep with. Is it any coincidence that some of the most admired people  (Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Temple Grandin, to name a few) are also those who worked the hardest against prejudice and misunderstanding?

#3. Needing to always be right or have the last word.

My late grandfather had a plaque on his office wall which read “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved him…but he was stubborn and had plenty of people who disliked him. I’m pretty sure most arguments start when two opposing forces refuse to admit that one of them could possibly be wrong. It’s no surprise that “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words in the English language, either. Hardly anyone likes a know-it-all or a belligerent bully. Back off and admit your own shortcomings once in a while. One of the hardest lessons I, as an Aspie, have had to learn is that the world does not operate in black and white, but instead in many shades of grey.

#4. Destructive habits NOT in moderation.

I’m not one of these people who thinks that sodium, trans-fats, gluten, global warming, chocolate, red wine, white wine, beer, cigarettes, Happy Meals, or chewing gum or going to kill millions of people. It’s a surfeit of those things which kill millions of people. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and things like enchiladas or Starbucks lattes are great as long as you exercise and enjoy them in moderation. If you’re shoveling Ben and Jerry’s and Pizza Hut down your piehole day in and day out, on the other hand, and consider one flight of stairs a mountain, I’m not going to have much sympathy for you. Ditto if you’re on a ventilator and still need your two packs of Lucky Strikes to get you through the day.

#5. Whining.

Yes, the world can be a cruel and brutal place. But whining is wasted energy. It’s not going to make things better and it’s only going to annoy those who hear it. If you really wanted to change the circumstances, you’d channel the energy differently. There’s a fine line between legitimately talking things out (if you need a counselor, by all means, find one…many work on a sliding scale) but don’t go whining about how terrible your life is when you still have a car, clothes, a roof over your head. There are people who would gladly trade places with you. In fact, about four-fifths of the world’s population.

#6. Bad manners.

One of my favorite sayings advises us to be kind to everyone we meet on the way up, for we may meet them again on the way back down. In my dealings with the public, I almost always remember those with good manners, and I’ll go out of my way to be kind to them. At the same time, I always remember those with atrocious manners too. Understandably, not all of us are going to be Emily Post, but basic civility doesn’t cost a penny, and can be practiced by everyone. If in doubt, check out a basic etiquette book from the library or ask an older friend or family member. Hint: talking on your mobile phone loudly in a crowded public place is never good manners.

#7. “It’s all about me.”

I’d say this goes hand in hand with bad manners…usually the ill-mannered types are also the most self-centered. I actually struggle with this one myself (did you know, for instance, that the root of the word “autism” is the Greek word for “self?”) One important difference I have learned is the difference between being egocentric and just looking out for oneself. I have to take basic care of myself so that I can be functional and help support others in my daily work. But I don’t go around expecting glory and demanding special treatment because of my condition. Nor do I try to draw any unnecessary attention to myself. Personally I dislike where our 15-minutes-of-fame culture is going, in which being famous trumps everything else. Why not try and work on being a better person first?

Note to my readers: it’s been a very busy week, and I’m trying to get my posts back on a semi-regular schedule. If you have any ideas for future posts, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, it’s off to a glass of red wine and dark chocolate before bed…in moderation, of course.

Even TD dances in moderation are OK

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on May 28, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People”

  1. I love this post! Really!
    Words of wisdom.

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