Cranky rewards

Trailhead: Zaria Gorvett. Why it pays to be grumpy and bad-tempered. BBC Future (2016-08-10).

Eh. Honestly I didn't need any more motivation to be ill-tempered. But I do appreciate the opportunity to know that I can be that way and get something out of it. It really takes away some of the anxiety of knowing that I've been a difficult person to deal with.

The truth is, pondering the worst has some clear advantages. Cranks may be superior negotiators, more discerning decision-makers and cut their risk of having a heart attack. Cynics can expect more stable marriages, higher earnings and longer lives – though, of course, they’ll anticipate the opposite.

I don't act difficult by choice. It happens when I settle into Problem Solving Mode. It's not a decision to go there—something catches my attention, a switch is flipped somewhere inside, the world narrows into a focused beam, and I can be an outright jerk while I wrestle with The Problem, whether it's a real or perceived problem. That narrowing causes the problem to be as large as the world—ignoring it isn't an option. Thinking nice thoughts about it isn't something I do—internally I'm really cranking away trying to find an angle, a solution, and I just don't feel the extra space I would need to have a balanced view of the situation. I just... it is Go Time. And although I'm sorry that bystanders sometimes catch an elbow, that's often after the system has cooled down.

In essence, creativity is down to how easily your mind is diverted from one thought path and onto another. In a situation requiring fight or flight, it’s easy to see how turning into a literal “mad genius” could be life-saving. “Anger really prepares the body to mobilise resources – it tells you that the situation you’re in is bad and gives you an energetic boost to get you out of it,” says Baas.

There is a fuzzy line in there—hard-nosed focus to get something done, and just being a good old-fashioned asshole. The only way you really know the line is there is after you take a few steps over it, after you finally catch an empty second to look around the room and read the expressions. Not again. Sorry.

I'm also not sorry. That mode is my superpower. But it's a superpower with poor control. It's complicated. The tools we wield, wield us.

One thing missing from that article: it's written as if the benefits accrue to the crank. But who really works alone? How does having that so-called mad genius on your team work out for everyone involved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.