“Name something that you’re passionate about”
I froze. I was sat opposite an interviewer at an assessment centre for Change 100 – a charity scheme that helps disabled graduates into work. “there’s lots I’m passionate about” I jokingly remarked, taking a few seconds to calm the whirlwind that had just ensued in my mind.
“I’m passionate about honesty in journalism. I did my dissertation on ‘fake news’…and I became interested in trying to discover the truth. That’s what I’d like anything I do to be focused on, whether media or research. I think that relates to my strengths…I try and be honest with people, about my abilities. What I can do and can’t do. I’m always trying to learn”
*Internal screaming* what on earth was that? I’d just given them a long answer on honesty in journalism, that tried to connect ‘fake news’ with being honest about your abilities! That couldn’t be called straightforward.
Skip ahead. It was the Thursday before Easter 2019, I was stood on a train platform in Oxenholme for a camping trip when I received a phone call: I’d been successful and secured a placement in communications!
Like a spider slinging a web, I began to make connections. Honesty led into seeking truth, leading into Communications: Gotcha! Later I was invited to be an assessor at a Change 100 assessment centre. I heard answers on everything from animal habitats, to the similarities between washing machine and career cycles.
Hearing different explanations of subjects which are seemingly related is fascinating. I’m not patting myself on the back here. Sometimes not being able to think simply is a pain. That’s why people use mental shortcuts.
Mood’s are one example. If we’re ‘happy’ that’s probably due to a range of factors causing chemicals to be released in our brain, and calculating a series of memories to find the right emotion. One description doesn’t cut the mustard. (This is why I don’t get invited to family barbecues)
However, little did I realise, that skill would come in handy.
Connections and Coronavirus…..
Coronavirus is incredibly significant and complicated, so we find ways of simplifying the problem.
Example: Flatten the Curve – Basic idea: there is a line which represents NHS capacity, we need to keep the curve i.e number of infections below that line, to stop our hospitals becoming overwhelmed. Simple enough.
Clearly, hospital capacity is a complex problem. However, here’s a simple way of distilling the issue, and getting everyone to stay at home, practice social distancing, and wash their hands to the opening bars of ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance (That was the song right?)
However that doesn’t mean we should always opt for simple explanations. Here are some case ready examples of where drawing comparisons proves useful.
- Historical parallels: During the Ebola epidemic, misinformation became a problem in the DRC. Media platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, have been used to promote conspiracies since they entered popular culture. Perhaps that raises questions about being wary of misinformation now?
- Personal Parallels: Different people deal with lockdown in different ways: some by emphasising healthy routines such as excersise and hobbies, others by making lists of everything they are going to do post lockdown. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. What tactics can apply to yourself and what can you learn from them?
- Organisational Parallels: There are widespread changes to society happening from regional governments opening up their archives, to police using new technology to communicate with the public, to the entertainment industry looking for new ways to raise funds. What can organisations responding to the Coronavirus learn from each other?
As shown, we’re constantly making links between different events or elements often without realising that’s what we’re doing – some doing this more than others. Drawing those similarities can pose some important lessons about how we organise our societies, our personal lives, and our institutions. Elements like watercolours: working in tandem with one another to create an expansive if perplexing picture.
I argue, we should not be dismissing these connections as insignificant, yet instead taking more time to analyse them and see what we can learn.
An Atypical Perspective…
- What are you passionate about?: This is a great place to start making sense of the world. If you’re interested in ancient history, there might be societal lessons you can apply from the past. If you’re into music, that might be a cornerstone in your emotional development, as you sympathise and relate to the feelings on display.
- Look further than shortcuts: Mental shortcuts like ‘this worked last time’, can be incredibly useful for finding ways of thinking about a problem. However, they can also provide oversimplified answers. If there’s a complex or difficult problem like poverty, or mental health, its always worth taking a detailed look at the causes, if only to give yourself a well rounded view.
- The most insignificant of links can be valuable: Don’t dismiss connections because they seem flimsy. There’s no absolute connection between journalism and self-assessment. However, that view gives me a way of looking at things that allows me to hold myself and my work to a standard, and apply analysis, investigation and precision to different elements in life.
On that note, I will leave you with a reminder to stay inside, wash your hands…and thanks to the song lyric initiative, I’ve got just the tune!