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August 26, 2018: A Most Remarkable Day

I often think that Raudi came into my life in order to teach me some valuable life lessons. She’s my best teacher; although on my part, I need to make the all-important connections.

The most valuable thing she’s taught me is the importance of remaining positive. And to this end, I have been using positive reinforcement techniques with all the animals. Negative reinforcers aren’t nearly as effective, and punishment is totally ineffective. I know this because I see it – a word of praise goes a whole lot further than a rebuke. I sometimes still slip, but most of the time, when stymied by an objectionable behavior, I come up with a way of dealing that’s more positive than not.

I also know the reason why positive reinforcement works. Kind words or thoughtful actions stimulate the amygdala, and this brings about a more receptive attitude.

A very good load

I’m attempting to apply what I have learned in being around animals in working with humans. I don’t always get it right, but I now know when I have gotten it wrong. There are four levels of understanding – unconscious incompetence, unconscious competence, conscious competence, and conscious incompetence. My knowing when I have gotten it wrong is conscious incompetence. I am aiming in my dealings with others of my species for conscious competence. I am so not there yet.

But today I came one step closer to conscious competence. I learned a great deal in working at the Alaska State Fair Recycling and Sorting area. I walked into a situation where no one was happy. I at first groused about yesterday, and the poor work ethic of a few younger volunteers. I then realized that it would be far better for me to instead be upbeat and cheerful, for the nasty weather (rain and wind mixed) had put a damper on everyone’s spirits.

One of the volunteers was a young woman, a troubled teen ager. She was in the shed, crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me in so many words that no one was treating her very well. She was doing community service work and wanted to go home. She had five hours left to go. I of course took her under my wing and had her work with me. Her work ethic was non-existent – she complained a lot and did very little. I could see where she tried other’s patience. And she did try mine a bit. I just kept reminding myself that this was a very troubled individual, and the best I could do was keep tabs on her for the remainder of her community service shift.

I did not micro manager her. But I kept her within sight so that she was at least situationally accountable. And any time she did anything useful I praised her for it. She finally sat down at the base of the sorting table and both listened in and contributed to the other kid’s conversation. And then she did some sorting, still sitting in the chair next to the others. She also took on the job of hosing down the sorting table. And she gave me a hand removing the large bags of recyclables from the frame and putting them in the roll-offs.

I was lucky in that I also had a crew to work with who were motivated to work, one of whom was a large fellow who had a strong work ethic. The others, without even realizing it, imitated him. I asked and got help from everyone. I praised everyone repeatedly, and I told all what a good job they were doing. The end result was that they busted butt and even assisted me with cleanup. Yesterday I got stuck with cleanup.

And I was lucky in that the fellow who runs the Lucky Wishbone, a chicken vendor, and I struck up a conversation when I went to assist him in putting the cardboard in the dumpster. He gave me a voucher for eight pieces of chicken before we parted company, so I made sure that everyone doing the late afternoon shift got dinner. We sat down at the picnic table and ate together. This gave everyone added energy and created a much-needed sense of comradery.

I concluded the work day feeling like I do with a good session with the horses – more energetic and with an added bounce to my step.

Yep, conscious competence here at work.

Next: 238. 8/27/18: At the End of a Long Day: The Recycling Chronicles

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