You guys, I was so set to write a cheery Monday post about how I finally took a whole day just to lay on the couch with Chewy and I was so rested and rejuvenated, but then today happened and maybe I’m just not really meant to be a zen person, you know? So, I travel a lot, and I have no excuse for not having my shit together in the travel department. I totally know how to do this. And yet…sometimes not so great at it, turns out. Today I forgot my wallet at home when I left for the airport, which is fairly crucial for traveling (can’t get on the plane without my ID…can’t….do….anything without my credit cards). Dan was already going to win husband of the week because he drove me to the airport even though he didn’t have to, but he really really wins it because two minutes after he dropped me off he got a panicked “OH SHIT I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING THAT I NEED” call and had to rush home and right back to the airport with my wallet. In rush hour. (I’m the worst.) And he made it! And I made my flight. And now I’m sitting on the plane and listening to Adele and all is well. But, you know, maybe I could do a little better. Try harder.
But ok, before that happened I was going to write about The Big Short, and I’m still going to do that. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, add it to your list. Seriously, get out a pen or your phone or wherever you keep your reminders and write down “The Big Short.” I’ll wait. If you live in Minneapolis, it’s showing at the $3 Hopkins theater right now, so you can take your significant other AND buy an icee the size of your head and still pay less than the price of one normal movie ticket. The movie is about the mortgage crisis that caused the global financial crisis of 2008, but that description makes it sound sort of stuffy and intellectual and instead it’s hilarious and so well done. It will teach you about the mortgage crisis, but it will also make you laugh a LOT, and it will make you think critically about the things people do for money and how money can make things go so terribly, terribly wrong.
On the way home from the theater Dan and I got to talking about how crazy the film was (and by film I mean the shocking, absurd, completely factual story of what caused the crash of 2008). And that conversation evolved to how wild it is that there are SO many different ways to make money in our country—and the different ways that we value work. For example, you can take two people who work the same number of hours and put forth the same level of effort, and you can even choose two people who have identical levels of education, and those people can make drastically different amounts of money. And if you dig into that, the factors that I think really influence earning potential the most aren’t things that people ever talk about in education. Like people skills—personally, I see this as one of the biggest factors in whether a person will be successful in any given industry. Yes, you need to be smart and competent at your work—those are table stakes for success in most jobs. But, I think deciding factor is really how well other people like you. At the law firm we used to talk about the “Scranton test” because we were trial lawyers, and the test of whether you really want someone on your team comes down to whether you could be stuck in some podunk town with them for six weeks in trial. Would having drinks and dinner this person make that experience tolerable, or would they be the final straw that makes you stab yourself in the eye with a ballpoint pen just to go home a few days early?
To some extent interpersonal skills are inherent—some people come much more naturally to human interaction than others. But these are also skills that can be learned, and we don’t really teach them. (Not in school, anyway—I guess learning how to interact with humans is a skill that parents try to teach their children pretty often, but why aren’t people skills talked about more in the educational programs that are meant to prepare us for career success? Are people doing this and I just don’t know about it?)
There’s so much more to take away from this film and from the crisis than the fact that people skills are important—that actually has nothing to do with the message at all, it’s just a train of thought that I wanted to talk about. The important message has to do with how we let money, and the power that comes with it, distract us from what is right and good. The characters struggle with the real consequences that the corruption of power inflicts on normal people. And the movie points out the fact that the architects of this disaster weren’t taken to task at all for their crimes. In a country where we imprison people for life for possessing illegal drugs, we didn’t prosecute any high-level corporate officers for tanking the global economy through fraud. Read that sentence another time if it didn’t sink in the first go-round. And then go see The Big Short. You really will like it. Just be careful when you’re drinking your icee, because a lot of the funny lines are unexpected and you might snort and spit it onto your lap a little bit.
P.S. Hello from Music City! I tried to post this last night when I got to my hotel, but the WiFi at the Holiday Inn is a joke and a half. Looks like someone's bloggin' from the lobby the next few days.