Happy Birthday David!

I turn 21 today.

How do I feel about it? To be perfectly honest. Nothing much.

I can’t grasp if I am simply feeling jaded about the social life of Planet College, or I am just too busy now to take my time to organize Party with the Zhukeeper__ III. No. It can’t be the latter. I was just as busy in freshman year, when I went to meetings from 7-10pm on consecutive weekdays, gave tours at the Visitors Center, socialized like I had never seen humans before, and performed at every possible event - I was just as busy as I am right now. I don’t feel so jaded either - I still enjoy every minute here, executing every action with passion.

But I did not pause my cramming session for Jeffrey Sachs’ Challenges of Sustainable Development class to write down my newfound nonchalance toward birthdays. I am here up at 2am because I have received some “new” happy birthday wishes, a category of birthday wishes that did not exist until this year - wishes from friends that are friends at a different capacity than ever before; wishes from the network.

It is not uncommon that individuals develop a sense of emotional accomplishment within the GCC network and find the need to put them in words. However, getting there (and speaking from experience) can be very tough.

Associates on the Network Management Division have come and gone. There are of course exogenous reasons beyond our control. But chapter advisory is not a job for just anyone. Many have complained the lack of a sense of “accomplishment” and “progress.” Tangible outcomes. The connection between efforts and rewards. The key aspect of an enjoyable job (or in this case, extracurricular activity).

Management is building solutions for a relationship-based problem. It is communicating effectively and understanding the needs of the other person at the other end of the line while proposing solutions in a way that will make “everyone” happy. It is the creation of Pareto efficiency in the realm of P2P communications.

Some examples:

  • When a chapter does not follow through with promises, what do we do? Cut is not always the right answer. They may have done extremely well in the past.
  • A chapter cannot communicate with the advisor assigned effectively. What should I do? We cannot always just reassign - there may not be enough associates to take on more chapters.
  • I am struck by fifteen mid-terms in two days and must be MIA for an extended period of time. I let something slip through the cracks. What do I do as supervisor? “I apologize for getting this back to you so late…” But why not a quick exchange on gchat? “Hey, how you doin? I’m really sorry there’s been fifteen midterms …”
    You are probably thinking: Are e-mail and gchat really that different? Yes - they are.

There are a million decisions that need to be made in every communication. Have you ever found yourself in these positions: What’s form of communication should you use? Text, chat, phone, voice mail, video, or just e-mail? What’s the tone you want to use? What format in the e-mail? Where to bold, italicize, underline? What level of mitigated speech should you use? How to use it? Are you sure you are using it correctly? Should you doubt your phrases? Should you let the receiver know that you’re doubting yourself? What sort of response would you prompt? How might that affect the overarching goal of this communication? Have you double-checked your e-mail? Did you forget an attachment? Did you remember to CC someone? Are you thinking too much about all of this?

Some of these decisions seem minor and probably will not matter in the grand scheme of things. But I am here to argue that they do. Non-physical communication eliminates all possibilities of physical language, which supposedly encompasses 60-70% of human communications. In the world of cyber communication, you are not a person - you are words, fonts, colors, tone, voice, and maybe 1 billion pictures on Facebook if the other person really cared.

Therefore, the considerations listed above determine the success of the communications, and the communications determine the success of the ultimate outcome.

I really appreciate the “new” birthday wishes (even one from Toulouse, France [special shout-out to Marianna for a wonderful e-card!]), because they come from those that I have communicated with successfully. And because of the success of these communications, I found a balance between effort and reward.

Reaching the landmark age of 21 may not mean as much to me on a cultural or social level as it it assumed to for the vast majority of American college students. But the “new” birthday wishes I have received give me a new sense of purpose. The story of my running of the network is a story of how to create Pareto efficiency in organization - using words.