The Life Autistic: We are your Workplace Engines – Here’s Why

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I remember getting a interesting compliment from my boss on my work ethic; it was as much his own transparent introspection as it was a testament to my drive:

“I have actually let things slip, knowing that you will catch them.”

(And for the record, this was a manager who did and does get things done!)

I was grateful for the feedback — flattered even!

Despite my troubles in other areas (tact, speaking out of turn, saying too much, being too direct, you get the trend) — in both leadership and in individual contribution, there are some ‘autistic features’ that have really helped me.

And they’re common enough among us autists to where they help you.

We’re great at laser-focusing on tasks.

I ended up building all of my Excel skills purely by taking on the most tedious and taxing items that involved spreadsheets, formulas, all that jazz. While I’ve since moved on to more fun tools (hello, Tableau!), my ability to zero in and grind out arduous work paid off.

We’re honest.

For all of our tactlessness, we are at least forthright about when something is great or not great. Back when I managed supervisors, I wasn’t always the most accommodating, nor the warmest, fuzziest manager. But I was honest, and that brought out the best in my folks – the expectations and feedback were always clear.

We’re good with details.

One of my best career experiences was with a global communication team — I was fortunate to be in a role that allowed me to fight for excellence in even the smallest details: pixel-perfect presentation arrangements, fine-toothed grammatical combing, and punctilious analysis of distribution lists, procedures, and more.

We’re quite good engines: driven, detailed, and dutiful.

Hire more of us, please!

The Life Autistic: So I Wouldn’t Make It in the Air Force?

IMG_7770.JPGMy wife is fond of joking, “Hunter was a Navy brat. Now he’s just a brat.” I don’t object, as it’s quite true.

As is the case with many military kids, we often consider joining the service ourselves.

But apparently, that would have been a bad fit for me.

Could I make it through basic? Eh, probably not. Could I survive wearing those big goofy glasses? Not likely.

Beyond that, there was something more fundamental and situational.

I remember frustrating my dad to no end growing up. He was quick to point out my skills, but I tended to get in the way of my own potential.

“Hunter,” he said, “you could be just about anything you want! A lawyer, a doctor, an anesthesiologist! But — not an Air Force pilot.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because you always have to ask why.”

He clarified:

“When you’re flying your jet, and you get that order to EJECT, EJECT — you’re not going to have time to say ‘Gee officer, why do I have to eject?’ There’s nothing wr—’ and then BOOM!” he exclaimed, “you’re hit by a missile.” 

It’d be some sweet irony to write this and say, “Well, hah — I’m a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force with over 200 sorties flown—”

No.

It’s always mine to question why.

That mindset doesn’t always fit everywhere.

I’m far from a rebel – I mean, I survived four years of Pensacola Christian College of all places. But I’m not always a rule-follower either.

I’d like to say I’m just unnaturally curious, but I’m too lazy for that.

There’s a different sort of autistic slant.

We’re quick to question logic — we need things to make sense.

I know that’s not the way the world, society, people always work. But the autistic mind rests in understanding, putting pieces together — if they fit, then that helps dispel so much objection, reaction, and question.

There’s a world of difference between “I’m not sold, but I see the logic,” vs. “I don’t even understand the intent here.”

I’m always one to make reply,
And never cease to reason why,
Theirs but to do and (try not to) die (if I don’t have to)

And for what it’s worth, I could always fly commercial airliners. Not like I’d need to rationalize ejecting out of one of those . . .

Describe ALL the Things!

Every adjective needs a noun, but not every noun needs an adjective. Or something. It is indeed not a truth universally acknowledged that a powerful noun, object, thing is in need of some equally powerful, poignant, cheesy modifier.

We’re all guilty.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong:

I know that you sometimes review writing, and you’re pribably [sic] going to make fun of me for it. That’s OK though, because I don’t think you get a lot of emails because people think you’re too mean. That’s also OK, because you’ll probably point out something I should be working on anyway. Anyway, here’s the first couple of chapters of my book, Unfinished Dawn.

[CHAPTERS REDACTED] (sorry.)

—Jeremy Stark, Westerville, Ohio.

You’re absolutely right. I’ll make fun of you. I am too mean. I don’t get a lot of email. And I’ll point out things you should be working on anyway. Like adjectives and modifiers.

“coiled, razor-sharp, Concertina wire” — Glad you cleared up the confusion here, since Concertina wire comes in a “fluffy bunny” variety.

“smoldering remains and scattered ruins” — Other than ‘and,’ the rest of these words can go.

“He peered grimly through the charcoal ichor of foglike black ephemera.” — This sounds like what a chimney sweep would write about himself to make his work seem interesting.

“He was heavily armed with an AA-12 Automatic shotgun, a potent pair of Glock G26 9mm subcompact pistols, M67 fragmentations grenades strung together like cloves of garlic on his sash, and a custom-designed IMI Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle.” — Too many numbers, clumsy mixed metaphors, weak modifiers (“custom-designed?”).  Are you writing gun-owner fanfic here, or are you going to include a copy of Solider of Fortune for reference?

“The now-cool black clouds of night’s closing pages were turned by the warm, gentle fingers of amberlike dawn’s eager arrival.” — There’s a word for this: sunrise. Use that.

If you’re doing more describing than you are writing, you’re doing it wrong.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).