Friday, January 16, 2015

The Sociapath

I frequently get comments on this blog to the effect that I am a sociopath and need professional psychiatric help.

I brought up the topic at a holiday party to the group of mental health care professionals standing in one corner of the kitchen. The group included men and women.  Mostly they have known me for several years and have heard stories about me going back to 1983. I asked them, "Am I a sociopath?'

There answer was: "No more so than the typical college professor that must tell weeping freshmen  girls that they are going to fail because the girl did not do her homework.  That is, the task takes a certain amount of bluntness that a self-pitying girl will take as sociopathic tendencies.

The bottom line is that since I am telling truth about my knitting and spinning, I am not a sociopath.

People notice that I am not very good with faces and names, but as long as I show deep and abiding concern about people and their welfare, this is not diagnostic of being a sociopath.  Nor is pride in a real skill. The surgeons in the group understood that some groups of people must be absolutely certain of their skills.  If a surgeon or an engineer makes a mistake there is a good likelihood that one or more people will be injured.  If an engineer depends on information about hazardous, radioactive, toxic or carcinogenic materials, and that information is wrong, or incomplete, then likely somebody will be injured. This must not happen!

At Bechtel, one way to get promoted was to find a mistake.  One way to get demoted was to make a mistake. At Bechtel, mistakes and the comments identifying them were taken very seriously. On one 3-page policy memo I wrote, I got more than a thousand negative comments back from my manager, his manager, program managers, and so forth.  I did not back down, because I had absolute confidence in my skill and the approach.  I called my mentor, and he said, "make sure you are correct and go ahead!" Ultimately, my management chain earned a $10 million performance bonus for the program outline in that 3-page policy memo.

I did all of this to protect people.  To protect people from nitrates, halogenated hydrocarbons, PCBs, radioactive waste, asbestos, heavy metals, and all of the nasty stuff on our scope of the site.  To keep these people safe, I had to get the science correct and properly convey the information to the 600 professional engineers that were doing the actual design work.  People who care about people are not sociopaths.  These days much of my life is consumed over how people can have a better life under conditions of global warming.  I really do care about people.  It is just that I really do think that girls that do their homework have better lives than girls that go weeping to the professor.  I think that many of the women that comment on this blog never learned to do their academic homework. That is considered bluntness, not sociopathy, because I want them to do their homework and have a better life.

In my spinning, I still get the science correct.  Anybody that does not believe that, has not done their homework.  What is in the top of my spinning basket?  A digital tachometer, so I know how fast my wheel is running today. I measure what I get.  My spinning is measured performance, not subjective ego.

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