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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hamburgers and Stephen Covey's Habit #3

Now that I’ve wasted about 45 minutes on activities neither urgent nor important, to wit on fashion blogs and looking once again at Marie Hell dresses and wondering if I dare to spend $275 on a jersey dress and whether I need to always showcase my curves or if I can wear something without a waist and not look like a tent and thinking about belts and cysts and bloating and being short and other body stuff, maybe I can figure out what I want to blog about. 

Let’s see. Well, my friend, let’s call her A, as in alpha, as in the source of all things, asked me yesterday if I’d read Rivka Galchen’s latest short story in the New Yorker. She said, “You have to read it. When I read it, I thought of you.”

Well, I hadn’t, so I did. Just like that. I located the magazine in my house, I sat down, and I read it through. I know. I’m impressed with myself, too. No procrastination. Just reading. Reading instead of doing other things I ought to be doing, if you must know. So procrastination after all. But I digress. I read the story. And it was funny. It’s called “How Can I Help?” and it’s told in the first person by someone who works at a call center and who thinks of herself as a big success, and who slowly reveals herself to be, well, nuts. Screwed up. F**d up. In a funny way. 

And I thought, is this why my dear friend A thought of me when she read the story? Do I remind her of this character who decompensates entirely by the end? 

But it is a really funny story. In one part of the story the narrator refers to a book she read called Happiness, which teaches her the theory of the four hamburgers of life - “there’s the hamburger that tastes good now but makes you feel bad later, the one that tastes bad now but makes you feel good later, the one that is good both now and later, and the one that is bad both now and later.” Farther down in the same paragraph, the narrator mentions, “Another book I read says there are only the drowned and the saved. That also sounds true.”  Indeed it is true, but it is also ridiculous. 

And I thought, is this penchant for reading stupid self-help books the reason my dear friend A thought of me when she read the story? Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s the sheer hilarity of the hamburger of life metaphor for success. I think it’s workable, this metaphor. I could probably map it onto Stephen Covey’s Habit #3: Put First Things First, his habit about personal management. It does bear a passing similarity to Galchen’s hamburger theory. Covey, however, calls his theory the Time Management Matrix, and it’s about how to prioritize your time and your tasks. His matrix also has four quadrants. There’s what’s important and urgent, what’s important but not urgent, what’s urgent but not important, and what’s not important and not urgent. See, it’s kind of like the hamburger metaphor. Because there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes, I believe, said this, a couple thousand years ago, so by now it’s been millenia since there was anything truly new under the sun). Also because I’m creative. 

To summarize, you should locate for yourself those activities that put you in the quadrant of important but not urgent and eat your hamburger there. You should avoid activities that are neither urgent nor important. Perhaps like reading this blog, although I hope not. 

Anyway, as I've said, the story is quite funny, and the narrator unreliable, and the world view bleak, and all of it well written with clever links back to the hamburgers and the drowned/saved thing, but still I asked myself why exactly did A think I should read this? Does she think I’m deluded, too? Does she think it’s funny how stupid advice books are? Does she think I’m like the narrator who says she tries not to be judgy but is?  Is it to warn me of the dangers of those who might actually seek advice from my writings on success? No one would be that silly, now would you, Readers?

In other news: Next week, I will be speaking to an actual editor at an actual publishing house about my book proposal. Send good vibes, Readers! 

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