The Meh Zone

Thanks to my previous post getting hosted on Meenaks’ blog – the superstar of C2 blogs, I got 31 comments. Thanks to all the commenters. Those comments gave me the motivation to write a follow-on post.

In my previous post , I had mentioned that the tasks that we procrastinate, are the ones that we don’t like. In other words, procrastination is a signal from our brains to tell us about things we don’t like al though, they could still be the beer kind.

I started wondering – what happens when we dislike something totally – hatred?  Are there other signals that the brain sends us about our work besides procrastination, that we could notice and leverage for our benefit?

Let me tackle “Hatred” first. The comments on my earlier post and some discussions with my  wife Priya Raju, yielded this insight – it seems that for most of us, generating a visceral kind of hatred is quite hard. Because it is hard to hate something, it is also hard to become passionate about something [As a side note, FB’s brilliance builds on this insight to give us the Like button which we can press with almost zero mental effort].

If you don’t agree, try listing all the things that you absolutely hate. If you have a few things in that list, that are a product of not just perception (the peanut butter kind) but borne from having real experience, congrats. You now have an established track record of the ability to express extreme emotion about something.

By digging deeper into your emotion of hatred – you can figure out why you hate things, what triggers your hatred etc, you can develop an ability to will that Hatred onto something you choose to hate. But instead of willing yourself to hate something, wouldn’t be possible for you to will yourself to become passionate about something that you want to do – say your work. Perhaps this is yet another strategy in my un-ending quest to understand passion? What do you think?

Assuming, that we now know to harness & express extreme emotions like hatred & passion, is there some other brain signal that we could leverage?

Switching gears a bit, I started thinking about Quality especially High or Extraordinary Quality.  I realized that High/Extraordinary Quality almost always invoke a strong emotion in you – a fantastic meal at a restaurant, a beautiful piece of art, a great display of sporting excellence, a great movie,  a superb song, a great piece of software… anything.

I would argue that anything that you consider great couldn’t have been made by a person or a team that cannot bring to bear extreme emotion. The ability to harness positive extreme emotion (passion) is needed to strive to hit a high bar and the ability to harness negative extreme emotion (hatred) is also needed to eliminate the bad quality outputs. It is said that Steve Jobs had a bad reaction to a shade of yellow in the logo of Google displayed on the iPhone. That is how visceral he felt about bad quality output even in something that most people would consider inconsequential – a shade of yellow of the logo of a partner firm (now rival firm, of course).

Moving back to the brain’s signal. When I look at my work outputs, it is fairly easy to say when I am producing middling quality [if I am producing world leading quality people would notice it, isn’t it? ] . The middling quality output is the brain’s way of signaling to us an extremely important thing about our work –  subconsciously I don’t like the work and hence cannot bring extreme emotions to my work. I may not want to admit that openly, but the subconscious has already figured it out. Without the ability to bring extreme emotions to our work, high/extraordinary quality is not possible to obtain.

Perhaps this is why we live in The Meh Zone – the zone of middling quality. What do you think?

P.S. this post was shared on Meenaks’ C2 blog inside Cognizant.



Leave a Comment



Formatting Your Comment

The following XHTML tags are available for use:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

URLs are automatically converted to hyperlinks.