Listen to your gut feelings

Clara (a.k.a. Mom) was blessed with what I called a built-in b.s. detector for literature, or almost any book, in fact. She had never officially studied literature or literary analysis, but she always read, all the time (as did my dad.) When I was studying English Lit & Linguistics at Tel Aviv University in my early twenties, she studied vicariously: she read all the books on my Required Reading list, though she was already familiar with many and was merely re-reading them (Steinbeck, Twain, etc). She then read my handwritten papers and corrected my English before I typed them up on the huge, clunky Underwood. And she read my exam papers when I came home triumphantly waving my high-marked exams on Henry James, Walt Whitman, Shakespeare etc. But I do not flatter myself that I, or Tel Aviv University, in any way contributed to her inner b.s. detector; it was an innate quality. We – I and TAU – may have just reinforced it.

Clara used to read a story, novel, script or newspaper article and instinctively, unerringly know whether it was good, indifferent, or downright bad. She'd have a hard time explaining in detail, if you asked her. But most times I didn't need to ask. Her brief report and very expressive face gave me all the information I needed.

I didn't quite inherit this trait of Clara's. But I do have something similar, and akin to it, I think. You probably have it, too. It's the gut-feeling that tells you when a certain job is not right for you and you should turn it down: flatly, unequivocally, without hemming and hawing or explaining. Just say No and walk away.

It may be a copywriting or marketing project; it may be a translation or editing job; it may be something else relevant to your field. The phone rings, or an email pops up in your mailbox. The client thinks it's right up your alley; or else he needs it urgently; or no one else wants it; or it's just a seemingly-routine job. You listen, or look at the text or website, and a slight nauseating feeling begins to form in the pit of your stomach; your upper lip twitches in that tiny sneer demonstrated so well by Tim Roth in the TV series Lie to Me. Your inner voice is tugging at you saying "this is trouble; stay away; say no." But for some reason, you switch the warning bells off and take the job. Maybe you didn't have anything else on your desk at that moment and panicked a bit. Maybe the client was very persuasive. Maybe you thought you could fit it into your schedule.  Maybe, maybe, maybe. Whatever the reasons, you live to regret it. The text is horrible / badly written / incomprehensible / boring to tears / infuriating; the pay is lousy; the client a terrible nag or else evasive and unreachable; the thing drags on forever; it gets too complicated, out of hand. Any or all of the above, or plenty of other equally disturbing developments. 

The long and the short of it is: you should have listened to your gut feeling.

You know those Nike ads where you see a person jogging energetically, with the slogan "Just do it"? Sure you do. Well, create a mirror image of it, so that the person is running away from the target..  and change the slogan to read "Just say no". Then hang it somewhere conspicuous and contemplate it once a day.


Jennifer said...

ABBBsolutely right... We just need the guts to listen to our gut feeling more often!

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