The Freelancer’s Dilemma: To hustle or to apologize?

Overview

Chapter 1, ‘The Freelancer’s Dilemma,’ is an excerpt from Manners and Mores: A Tutorial for Freelancers Tired of Hustling and Prone to Apologizing. The Table of Contents is included below the excerpt.

How to Order a Copy of Manners and Mores

I live and work in a gift economy. To determine how much you would be able to offer for Manners and Mores, simply ask yourself what you would be able to give wholeheartedly in order to meet some of my material needs, provided that this offering wouldn’t count as a financial burden for you. Such an offering would be an example of ‘just generosity’: neither too much nor too little.

You can make your offer via PayPal, the link to which is hereExpect to receive your copy the following day.

*

1. The Freelancer’s Dilemma

For reasons as much of historical contingency as of personal choice, we are all freelancers now. The freelancer, having struck out on his own in the hope of making a certain form of life work, soon becomes bewildered. It is tough going, he finds, tougher than she had anticipated, and everyone now seems to be doing the same thing: launching the same startup, making the same pitch, putting in more fruitless, harried hours. Whether young or old, whether working with high-end clients or piecing together nickel-and-dime projects, the bewildered freelancer faces a dilemma when it comes to securing new projects or expanding the circle of his likeminded acquaintances: he can either plomp for hustling or festoon his epistles with more and more apologies.

Continue reading “The Freelancer’s Dilemma: To hustle or to apologize?”

Manners and Mores: A Tutorial for Freelancers Tired of Hustling and Prone to Apologizing

Background

The following ebook was written out of the desire to offer some guidance to freelancers who are stuck between hustling to make it and apologizing for running roughshod over others. Yet the Freelancer’s Dilemma, as I call it, can be overcome but only if one learns the gentler art of manners: of greeting, introducing, inviting, praising, thanking, and saying graceful farewells.

I’ve included a copy of the Preface. Below the Preface you’ll also find a Table of Contents. I hope you find it edifying.

How to Order a Copy of Manners and Mores

I live and work in a gift economy. To determine how much you would be able to offer for Manners and Mores, simply ask yourself what you would be able to give wholeheartedly in order to meet some of my material needs, provided that this offering wouldn’t count as a financial burden for you. Such an offering would be an example of ‘just generosity’: neither too much nor too little.

You can make your offer via PayPal, the link to which is hereExpect to receive your copy the following day.

Preface

How to speak well to strangers; how to introduce yourself to acquaintances; the most suitable way of offering praise to others; the finest way of being a good guest; the most appropriate manner of conducting yourself: all of these subjects have traditionally fallen under the general header, ‘manners and mores.’ And yet, the right practice of manners–once important for courtiers and noblemen, for monks and diplomats, at once delicate and prescient, timely and well-timed–has become an art sorely neglected among those frequently taught to individuals receiving a formal education today.

Continue reading “Manners and Mores: A Tutorial for Freelancers Tired of Hustling and Prone to Apologizing”

‘Therefore, I tried the hammer…’: On how not to receive a gift

The impetus for the following letter was a guffaw. Last week I ordered a copy of Hubert Dreyfus’s Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time and, by mistake, had had it shipped to my conversation partner’s residence.  Here: a non-gift for you! Thanks!

In his turn, he had mailed the book to me. On Monday, I noticed that the package was heavy, and when I opened it, I saw that he had included a cache of Harvard Loeb Edition books (if you’re not familiar, these are the creme de la creme). A true gift then! Ah!

In the letter, the literary persona makes an allusion to the color green. The Harvard Loeb books are this lovely shade of mint green.

Dear W,

I noticed first that the box was heavy. Almost immediately, I ruled out the possibility of your sending sandwiches. Also telling against the sandwich hypothesis was the cost of shipping. Who in his right mind would spend $21 on the delivery of sandwiches for one philosopher? I felt convinced that sandwiches could not be the items inside. In fact, I was sure of it.

The thought of sandwiches lingered. As I opened the package, my mind began leaning–perhaps an apter word is tipping–so then my mind began tipping toward exercise equipment. My apartment, I considered, could always use a decent kettlebell. I have pictures of lakes, of swans, a picture of a 50 yr. old view of the Mississippi taken in spring. In addition, I own a foam roller, a couple pair of Tom’s, but yet no kettlebells. So far, I have not given into despair.

Let’s return to the box, shall we? By now, I have managed to lug the heavy thing upstairs, up all 5 flights of stairs. By now, I was dog tired, the light was shining gaily, the doves were doing their coo-cooing, a new afternoon was blossoming like a child’s second set of teeth. I realized the time was right to act swiftly and decisively, and so I did the latter.

First I tried prising apart the package with the aid of my bare fingers. The tape, sturdy and true, did its job, twice it appears: once to hold items inside, a second time to keep prying fingers without. I yanked, the tape stretched, the package yawned, but nothing budged or broke or gave forth. Mussels, clams, first loves dot dot dot.

I admit, I felt frustrated. (Add an adverb here, if you please.)

Next, therefore, I tried the hammer (I lie). No, I went for the scissors that were scintillating near the cutting board. I tried them, and the tape yielded, as if by the Dao. Just as good wood bends without breaking, it is said, so good scissors cut without shaking. By God, I thought. What scissors, I exclaimed. What magical, incisive scissors. I sat and thought long about the properties of scissors. I thought of silver blades and of razor’s edges. I thought of dawns and of new worlds, but mostly I thought of cutting.

After this moment of pure bliss, nirvana, and whatnot and after a 2 hr. conversation with one conversation partner about bliss, nirvana, and whatnot, I returned to peer inside. It seemed time, so I gave myself full-bore and whole hog to the task at hand. Inside, I found Dreyfus’s book. In the end, it came through unharmed. Hurray!, I said. Hurray! So this is what was weighing everything down all along. I felt lighter, as if I had been relieved of a very heavy burden.

Doubt is like that, I suppose, heavy until it is light. Unbearable otherwise. Know thyself.

I took the box to the recycling bin, a few green threads hanging loosely out the back, and thought how fortunate we humans are to have the capacity to reason deductively and, failing that, to proceed inductively. You see how I have managed to make it in NYC so far.

Andrew

Some Educational Notes

1.The literary persona, above, is an unreliable narrator, modeled partly on Swift’s narrator from A Tale of the Tub. If you missed this, then consider re-reading the letter with this conceit in mind. (Incidentally, there’s also more than hint of the mock heroic and the melodramatic about the piece.)

2. Among other things, what is being dramatized is the failure to receive a gift properly. Also a set of moral defects: garrulity, self-absorption, self-deception, insincerity, lack of attunement to reality (consider all the cliches and heavy-handed language).

3. The letter exhibits a series of reasoning errors: errors in deductive reasoning first, then errors in inductive reasoning.

4. A meta-level consideration: by writing such a letter to a conversation partner who is himself an excellent writer (a writer far better than I), I’m attempting to thank him in a form that could prove suitable. (Then again, could also be a second error…) Playful and suitable and fun.

5. One job of good jokes, I gather, is to put our reasoning errors on full display. Laughter is a signal that (a) “we all get it” (mutuality), (b) we acknowledge the error, and (c), by acknowledging the error, we are on the way to repairing it. We are learning to see cues for it next time, to keep an eye out for this kind of error in the future. Laughter, on this construal, is a first step on the road to reasoning better.

‘Or some contrivance awkwardly suitable for the unpleasantly awkward occasion’

Sometimes it goes: once lips to cheek. Sometimes it goes: twice, back and forth, slowly or swiftly. Occasionally, it goes three times. The pressure is also important. So is the touch. Firm or light. Moist or dry. Cheek or air or half-both. As intimacy grows, the lips may get closer or the kisses, on cheeks, a touch or more than a touch firmer yet softer.

I have left out the hugs which can come before, after, not at all, or as a substitute for the one, two, or three kisses. The hugs being light, firm, distant, close, restrained, or not so in nature.

Unless, of course, one nixes the kisses on lips or cheek or cheeks, the hugs together with or separate from or as a substitute for the kisses on lips or cheek or cheeks altogether and goes instead with the handshake (being firm, light, or goopy) or the handshake concomitant with a hug or the handshake followed by the hug and so forth.

Contingencies should also be factored in, those being where the greetings and farewells are taking place in locales such as: on front door steps, in the pouring rain, under a sagging awning, during rush hour, in the midst of a crowded subway car, on a go cart at the local fair, within a dimly lit bathroom, near the stable yard, beside a moving van or a traffic stop. Then one might feel inclined to opt, as is one’s wont, for the wave (choices here innumerable) or the sympathetic head turn (one of my favorites, actually) or some contrivance awkwardly suitable for the unpleasantly awkward occasion. I have not yet mentioned the time, the location, the angle of the sun or moon, the time of the day, the turn of the seasons, the nature of the celebration or its contrary, the number of sheets tussled about on the floor in close proximity to the vacant stairwell. Nor have I taken account of the nationality, gender, culture, customs, local colors (whatever these be), species and genera, linguistic barriers, and diplomatic interests of all the parties present.

In a word, it seems we are in an incredible muddle about greetings, farewells, and all that. It seems our unnative skin and our deracinated mores are to be blamed. One hopes, doubtless without warrant but one can dare to hope, that the saving grace will be whatever occurs after the hello and before the good-bye.

Educational Note 1

There seem to be two stories that one could read out of the history of manners. One is that manners, however conventional, are the actualization of (at least some) morals. When I open the door for you, I am showing deference toward you. The other is that manners run contrary to morals. On this view, they uphold the status quo and stuffy social distinctions and are meant to exclude and remove those from the wrong backgrounds. My general sense is that when morals and manners are in harmony, it reminds us that the world is in harmony. We are drawn together in this fashion, drawn together in grace and gratitude. However, when morals and manners are discordant, it shows us how far apart we have come, how severed we are, how great the distance is between us.

Educational Note 2

In a settled way of life, you would begin to see, over time, the “codification” of certain gestures in the form of abiding manners. An outstretched hand, say, would be both a sign that there is no enmity between us (no weapon in the open hand) and a sign that there is only amity resounding (an open hand is meant to be held and clasped). This “codification” would also put an end to the very thought of the “burden of choosing.” (On the paradox of choice, see Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk.) The thought that we are free to choose however we would like to greet each other and, hence, that we can be mired, endlessly, in a sea of doubt would simply never arise.