Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Putting The Cart Before The Horse (MY Eng #13)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too' and 'old is gold'.

Even before the pandemic struck, there's a buzzword that has been buzzing loudly in recent times: work-life balance

Horror of stories of long hours, over-working, and burn-out has been all the rage across professions from finance and law.

Last week, my good lawyer friend Cassandra Lee was sharing her experience and thoughts in a mental health workshop organised by a bunch of young undergraduate students. Out of the many insightful nuggets of wisdom, one really hit home hard. I don't recall the exact words, but basically she said that people should pick a pick a job and join a workplace with their 'eyes wide open".

Basically, what she means (or so I interpret) is that people should be smart about their choices in life. You want work-life balance really badly? Then maybe you shouldn't be joining a profession that's reputed to be cut-throat and stressful...

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Anyway, this is not about work-life balance (I could go on and on about that), but rather, about a more fundamental problem with young people. They're prone to putting the cart before the horse. Or put another way, they're often impatiently jumping ahead to Stage 4, 5 and 6 without even passing through Stage 1, 2 and 3. Hence, they're prone to look at a problem the wrong way around. If they had actually read the manual and followed the steps, then the problem wouldn't even exist or be a big deal...

Let's backtrack to the problem on work-life balance. Yes, it's a real problem for many people - people who have been working their butts off for years, not getting their just rewards, and having their continual pleas for a less stressful work environment being thwarted by nasty bosses at every turn. There are many toxic workplaces around. People can be heartless and selfish. Life is cruel.

But when fresh graduates rant about work-life balance, I can't help but roll my eyes. Hello? You've barely worked for, what, a few months! Of course the early years to transition from study life to work life is the hardest. Of course a junior will find a task 10x more difficult and time-consuming than a more experienced hand on the deck. Of course newbies are typically given certain responsibilities no one enjoys doing, like urgent photocopying (but that's because others have made their bones, earned their stripes, and gone through the motions - and papers don't photocopy themselves.)

Let's pick another example - students asking me about a tricky question of law when they haven't first mastered the basics. It's particularly annoying when I specifically shared some learning materials earlier on that very same point. If they had actually read the materials, they wouldn't have needed to ask the question (or at the very least, seek confirmation on what they thought the likely answer should be).

But no, because of their laziness, they've asked something that would take me an entire hour trying to explain from A to Z to make them fully understand. And worst still, even after explaining, they would ask me another question the next day on a related issue that they would've understood if they had listened carefully to my hour-long lecture...

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Anyway, chill out. This is not really an off-the-rails rant. I'm not annoyed about people asking me difficult legal questions or about work-life balance. Please ask away, and I'll do my best to resolve your concerns.

But I do strongly feel that people should try to be more thoughtful and resourceful. Do your own research. Exhaust all means at your disposal. Think before you leap. Often times, problems that we face in life are self-inflicted, or surmountable if we really put our heart and mind into it.

A cart that's before the horse can't move. Likewise, expectations before experience can't be fulfilled.

1 comment :

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