Archive for the ‘Not Too Much, Not Too Little’ Category



Ruth Minshull

We were playing cards with a new, plastic deck.  My granddaughter kept dealing with too much force and the cards would sail across the table and onto the floor.  After she did this several times, I said, “You know, there’s an ability you might call evaluation of energy.”

“What’s that?”

“In this case the question would be:  how much energy do I need in order to get this card across the table?  Since these are new, and not scuffed up, they are more slithery; so they slide with very little effort.  It’s easy to overshoot and send the card sailing onto the floor.”

“Yes, I know.  But how can I do it better?”

“First you need to change your old idea of how much energy you need to use.  Start by simply dropping each card in front of the player.  Later you can toss it, gently, and get it in the right spot.  You’ll soon work out just how much force you need.”

She caught on immediately, and no more cards hit the floor.

You could call this concept by any number of names.  It’s basically a matter of making a correct judgment:  how much effort do I need to accomplish the objective?  It can apply to many activities.

When I was first learning to drive, I steered violently.  I’d veer sharply to the right, then overcorrect and careen across the road to the left.  Fortunately I got the hang of it before I smashed into a tree or an oncoming car.  I then needed to make the same type of adjustment for accelerating and braking.  We’ve all learned these things, and eventually we drive smoothly without thinking about it.

If we are teaching a child to play catch, we must throw the ball with just enough effort to reach him.  He will learn to catch, but also he must learn how to throw the ball back with the right amount of push–not too hard, not too weak

I’ve noticed that if I really dislike a project, I put off confronting it as long as possible; it seems an insurmountable task (preparing income tax returns, cleaning out the garage–each a particular bête noire of mine).  And yet, when I actually get to it, the job is seldom as difficult as I had expected it to be.  So, we not only use too much (or too little) energy doing a certain thing, we can burn up a lot of useless mental effort in dreading it.

And then there is the matter of our speech–too much, too little, too loud, too soft.  I think there’s an unwritten rule that every restaurant meal must be enhanced by the strident gum beatings of the Loud Talker.  He/she can be sitting clear across the room, yet we hear every penetrating syllable.  This person has never learned to adjust the volume of his voice to reach his listener—and no one else.  Instead, he bellows to the room at large like an actor playing to the balcony.  Furthermore, these windbags are never divulging the secret of life.  No, they are merely monopolizing the airwaves with mind-numbing prattle.

Many people also misestimate the volume needed to talk on a cell phone.  I hear them in restaurants (The rude dolts!) on the street, in the supermarkets and department stores.  In fact, there’s even a name for this phenomenon; they call it cell yell.

On the other end of the energy scale is the Low Talker who never speaks up enough to be heard by the intended listener.  I hate having to ask (repeatedly) what a person said.  Sometimes these people are simply failing to adjust to the surrounding noise level, but many are just habitual Low Talkers.

Also, we often misestimate the amount of energy required to handle others.  For instance, some people invent elaborate spiels to get rid of telemarketers.  I learned that I don’t need to listen to the whole pitch; I don’t need to cook up stories or jokes.  It’s just as effective, and a lot less effort, to simply hang up.

If we are invited to an event and we don’t want to go, we needn’t bother to offer an excuse.  We can simply say, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it.”  I have been surprised to discover that almost everyone accepts this.  It’ll work for practically any goings-on from a coronation to a mud fight.  Most stories (lies?) require too much wasted energy; we don’t need them anyway.

Life becomes simpler after we get this worked out.  We need just enough effort to do the job.  Not too much.  Not too little.

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(c)2010 by Ruth Minshull

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