psychology Archives - The Jose Vilson


On Being Difficult

by Jose Vilson on July 24, 2011

in Jose

A few weeks ago, my good friend John Holland and I were discussing some really good conversation ranging from music to education. Every time we have a conversation, whether it’s by ourselves or in a group context, the back-and-forth reminds me of a never-ending ladder. One time, as we got into this type of discussion, I remember being thoroughly exhausted from work and him being on the opposite side of the spectrum. Thus, I thought he was talking too much and he probably thought I was saying too little. In the midst of the conversation, he shared that he had too much coffee and chocolate in a really short span.

I remarked, “Explains a lot.”

It was comically terse and grumpy. Of course, John laughed it off but said in a subsequent and reflective conversation, “Sorry for being difficult.” I thought about it for a second, and replied, “It’s OK.” What I should have said, and which is why I appreciate many of the people in my circle, is “It’s OK if you’re being difficult because at least you’re being difficult in order to make true progress.” People don’t get that being overly critical can work against you if you’re almost always difficult and for no real purpose. People don’t respect that, and while they might acknowledge you in person, they’re thinking less and less of you every time something critical comes out of your mouth.

Rather than list the ways in which one can tell the difference between someone who wants to make progress and someone who’s self-interested, I’ll give you a few situations. How about the person who jumps into a conversation to negate whatever you and your friends say but, only after, asks what the conversation was about? How about the person who can astutely point out a problem with a situation but doesn’t see the irony in how they too contribute to that situation? How about the person who gets mad that you did something or said something first, so they prefer to not support you even if it’s a great idea?

You get the gist. Those that I find most helpful to my work push my buttons, but know when to turn that off. They critique carefully and don’t mix the personal with the professional. They only give you criticism in regular doses. They’re not as consumed with who got the “good” done so long as the good got done. They ask questions not because they know there’s no answer to it but because it’s important and relevant to the thought processes necessary to get to the next step. They offer another point of view for the sake of the whole, not for the individual.

Too often, in number-driven clusters, the push towards the former sort of criticism takes places, and too often. If you ever get the chance, find friends like the latter. Just be careful when they’re hopped up on too much sugar and caffeine. You’re in for a ride.

Jose, who wants to know whether you’re coming with me …


Michael Jordan’s Principle: Address The Haters

by Jose Vilson on September 28, 2009

in Jose

Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech (and his career, for that matter) read like a diatribe against wrong decision-making … and our fundamental ideas about sportsmanship. For those that have lived under the sea for the last 30 years, Michael Jordan’s arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, surpassing records and racking up a highlight reel the size of any big-budget movie. Words used to describe MJ during his tenure as the most dominant shooting guard to play the game: “cold-blooded,” “merciless,” “exacting,” “superlative,” and “focused.” 6 NBA Champions and the Most Valuable Player in each, 5 NBA Regular-Season MVPs, 31.6 career scoring average (tops in this category), and those accomplishments came right after taking over the throne for both Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who both alternated the crown for greatest players in their era.

His ascension into absolute reign signified a bit of a revolution for the league and sports as a whole. For all the moments, measurable and immeasurable, he chose a ceremony that ultimately cements the greatest and finest basketball coaches, broadcasters, writers, and players alike with a scribe that addressed  his most vital dissenters. While he also found time to laud a few people along the way, he innovated the idea of revenge in sports and using the vitriol and slights directed at him to fuel his next performance. His trash talk on the court was about as legendary as the actions he put to those words, and what he’d do after a mind-boggling play ushered in a new showmanship that tied Jordan to the bravado we see displayed all over sports as a whole. Indeed his truths were self-evident.

I’ve contemplated a bit on this tremendous speech, and wondered how I should feel about it. It almost seems petty for Michael to use that stage to show disrespect to the decisions and perceived slights of people who didn’t have a post-trip rear view mirror from which to point their decisions. Dean Smith can’t be blamed for not letting him on the national magazine covers nor can Buzz Peterson be blamed for starting ahead of him. It revealed a sort of arrogance and pettiness that always rubbed anti-Jordan sports fans the wrong way. An assassin in the figurative form of the word, he couldn’t just win; he had to kick everyone in the teeth in and crush any spirit they had in thinking they’d actually beat him.

Then I sat there and thought how that sort of mentality applied to my life and others who I’ve seen succeed around me. For all the times many of us laud those who remain humble, we gravitate towards those who’ve put their money where their mouth is. They’ve put in the long hours behind the scenes, perfecting their shots, reflecting on their practice, saying less about what they’re going to do and trading those points in for points in the field of their choosing. They have a sharp attention to detail and debunk risks in the face of actual personal progress.

Detractors seem to serve a greater purpose than most of us never pay attention to: they help redefine and sharpen who we are as people. Those of us who do great work in our fields always need a reminder of the obstacles facing them in their journey. I understand why people  may not like him as a man after that speech, but the hubris and self-idolatry made Michael the man he is today.

I call this the Michael Jordan Principle: if we want success, address the haters, don’t ignore them. The minute we do, it shows that anyone can test our mettle. The best way to respond to the denigration doesn’t necessarily come in verbal form, but in one’s actions after. Do we prove people right by not doing anything about what was said or wrong by becoming passionate about reaching our goals?

This is, of course, within reason, because sometimes a detractor is really a friend in disguise. For instance, Phil Jackson pushed Michael Jordan to give up the  ball more in favor of letting the whole team grow, and thus winning championships instead of scoring titles. Overall, the Michael Jordan Principle shows how, many times, the best approach to personal growth is using the negative energy thrown at you to grow and not letting it weigh you down.

Jose, who only liked Michael Jordan only after he retired for the 3rd time …

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If You’re Nervous, That’s a Good Thing

by Jose Vilson on September 7, 2009

in Jose

insane_eyes_babyAnyone whose too confident in their first day of school is an absolute liar and has hypnotized themselves into thinking they’re too cool for school. Even those of us who spent all of the summer planning whole units for the year and / or already have all their lesson plans from years past memorized and honed should always have a sense of nervousness and even anxiety about their craft. I’m not one to make such bold statements, but follow.

In the areas of performance, nervousness and anxiety usually indicates either a negative or positive attitude towards an event. It obviously means that they actually care about the result of the event. They’re also thinking about whether their actions or inaction led to that next event happening. Now, if people do prepare and prepare well, there’s no escaping that bit of nervousness because they care enough about the result to have prepared for what might happen. Those that don’t even prepare, though, have a less likely probability of actually caring about the result (at least until after a negative result happens).

So it goes without saying, I’m a little jittery. Last week, I’ve been preparing for my fellow teachers to come and prepare their rooms. Due to the latest stipulations dealt by the Department of Education, they had less required days to show up. By my informal estimates, about 13% of teachers came in a week before to prepare their classrooms. I personally couldn’t partake too much in classroom preparation as I had to prepare for this new role I’ve been racking my brain about.

In the meantime, I’ve also tried to exude a lot of confidence about my latest journey (with a tint of swagger). I’ve prepared a syllabus and an agenda all for the first two days. Thus, I can’t help but get nervous about what may or may not happen. Let’s hope the next 182 school days are my most successful ever. Just the thought alone makes me jittery.

Jose, who almost didn’t even tag this blog knowing I need to start ironing …


The Mouth and The Giggler

December 9, 2008 Jose
Girl Scream

I have these two students, who I’m calling the Mouth and the Giggler. Both of them have garnered notorious reputations as girls who are far too loud for their own good. They went to the same school last year, but not our school, unfortunately. For if they did, they may have learned a few things, […]

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One Time 4 Your Mind

November 26, 2007

I just read a third installment of the 40th Anniversary edition of Rolling Stone (yes, I’m a subscriber), and read an awesome quote from Al Gore (who I honestly believed in since 1999). In response to the question of how to engineer sweeping social and political and industrial change in a short period of time […]

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