“What is this magical key to success you smart people have?”

Life and career advice for those outside your WoT isn’t really a thing. Forget the self-help books, forget the wasted pulp, and most definitely forget the TED talks. Nevertheless, a conversation is most definitely a thing and I can never turn down a good one (or a request for honest advice, for that matter). Since this combines both, here’s a recent thing with Contravex commenter flosss aka Dynamictypo :

פּוֹעֵל : I’ve met you at Concordiai twice. Once was when you delivered a presentation on Bitcoin, the other was when you delivered a presentation on the Board of Certification papers. Then I also attended a BEMU meetup.ii I don’t know if you explicitly remember me, from my email you can probably deduce my name is [Dynamictypo].

I am seeking guidance on this career choice to become a Public Health Inspector.iii I have had to do a great deal of soul searching lately. This is my situation. I did my practicum in South Zoneiv over the summer, I got my certificate a few months later around Christmas 2015, then for the last 8 months I’ve been screwed by every recruiter and manager I have dealt with. I got 12 interviews, and 12 nos.

I’ve been piecing together why some people just get success handed to them in life and then I have to crawl through glass to get the scraps from those same people. In my head, I’m constantly going back and forth between “things worth having take sacrifice, be patient” and “fuck everyone, they can shove their silver spoons up their asses”v

Nelson Fok literally told me in person I was the only student who didn’t get some kind of casual work after practicum. That is basically like saying “congratulations on winning the saddest asshole of the year award.”

So what’s the deal? Didn’t I apply to everything before the end of my AHSvi contract? No, I applied to everything that came out. Didn’t I have this conversation with my manager about what to do next? No, we had the conversation, and he basically told me I was up shit creek without a paddle since all of the SZ inspectors are in their 30s and just bought houses. Am I a shitty inspector who should just learn when to quit because nobody wants me around? Well CIPHIvii didn’t think so, and that is 100% certified bullshit because I know for a FACT that there are ex-student inspectors in casual placements today who are not just mediocre pseudo-intellectuals with no drive, but are piece of shit human beings as well.

I guess what I’m wondering is, what is this magical key to success you smart people have? What do you keep doing that makes sure that everything you do turns out OK in the end, because there is no way it’s just arbitrary. Every last interviewer has said being external and having no experience makes me impossible to hire regardless of having jumped through all these motherfuckers’ hoops. Is there a way to break into the market through the “side door” and get relevant experience? Or is that just another monumental waste of time?

Don’t feel pressure to reply right away, but I’d like to hear your thoughts when you get a second.


נָסִיך : I certainly remember you and I’m sorry to hear that your experience in the PHI field to date has been such a morass. For what little it might be worth, I see your situation as being the result of a few things, some of which are in your control and some of which aren’t.

1. Location : Ok, you’ve applied to be a PHI everywhere in Alberta, but the fortunes of this particular career path vary greatly from place to place depending on the government in power. And since ours is a bit of a mess atm, what about other provinces ? We have a national certification after all and it’d be a shame not to leverage that. It’s not as if our ancestors hesitated to move to new cities and even countries for economic opportunities when the need arose (and even if they hesitated, they still pulled the trigger). Yes, the jobs in Alberta pay the most on paper, but it’s far better to have some of a little pie than all of no pie.

2. Timing : Yes, you’re at the tail end of the baby-boomer echo generation, meaning that, as your SZ manager said, many of the positions replacing the baby boomers have been filled. That being said, and thankfully for you, the field is ~50% women and many of them will take maternity leaves eventually, and many of them several times, presenting excellent opportunities to get your foot in the door, though I can see why the casuals would be favoured here… Sure, it’s (intra)generational warfare, but what isn’t ?viii

3. Intelligence : While no one will accuse you of being too dumb for the job of being a PHI, there is such a thing as being too smart (at least in the cynical-skeptical sense of the term as favoured by Eastern Europeans). For the same reason that the police force won’t hire someone with an IQ of 120, any bureaucracy intent on perpetuating its own existence will have similar hiring constraints, although obviously not explicitly (that’d be racialist). While this type of intelligence in and of itself isn’t evil, it’s most certainly anathema to the puritanical kumbaya kulture of large governmental organisations.

4. Disposition : It’s one thing to be intelligent, it’s another to brandish it impolitically. There’s no such thing as a shitty inspector, only one who doesn’t fit in. AHS is a highly political organisation, but it’s also an organisation dominated by nurses (ie. wimminz). As such, treading lightly, positively, and with big glued-on smiles is sine qua non for success in that environment. While I have little doubt that you can be nice when you want to be – generous and thoughtful even – AHS is looking for out-going and bubbly personalities like those of little girls, which, based on your comments on Contravex and our few brief encounters, probably isn’t what you’re all about, nor have you had the decade-and-a-half of theatre training needed in order to portray a convincing semblance thereof, as I have.

In summa : Patience is a thing, moving out-of-province is a thing, and realising that just because you think you’d be good at something and just because you’ve spent some time and money in the pursuit of said same thing doesn’t guarantee that you made the right choice. Life is about risk and risk mitigation. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, don’t cry over spilled milk, take whatever piece of whatever pie you can, and never for a second think that you deserve more than you have. You deserve exactly what you have.

As to the “magical key to success you smart people have” have, I can but quote The Pawnbroker (1964)ix :

Jesus Ortiz: Say, how come you people come to business so naturally?
Sol Nazerman: You people? Oh, let’s see. Yeah. I see. I see, you… you want to learn the secret of our success, is that right? Alright I’ll teach you. First of all you start off with a period of several thousand years, during which you have nothing to sustain you but a great bearded legend. Oh my friend you have no land to call your own, to grow food on or to hunt. You have nothing. You’re never in one place long enough to have a geography or an army or a land myth. All you have is a little brain. A little brain and a great bearded legend to sustain you and convince you that you are special, even in poverty. But this little brain, that’s the real key you see. With this little brain you go out and you buy a piece of cloth and you cut that cloth in two and you go and sell it for a penny more than you paid for it. Then you run right out and buy another piece of cloth, cut it into three pieces and sell it for three pennies profit. But, my friend, during that time you must never succumb to buying an extra piece of bread for the table or a toy for a child, no. You must immediately run out and get yourself a still larger piece cloth and so you repeat this process over and over and suddenly you discover something. You have no longer any desire, any temptation to dig into the Earth to grow food or to gaze at a limitless land and call it your own, no, no. You just go on and on and on repeating this process over the centuries over and over and suddenly you make a grand discovery. You have a mercantile heritage! You are a merchant. You are known as a usurer, a man with secret resources, a witch, a pawnbroker, a sheenie, a makie and a kike!
Jesus Ortiz: [long pause] You really some teacher, Mr. Nazerman. You really, really’s the greatest.

So no, success isn’t arbitrary. It takes generations.



פּוֹעֵל : My heritage is basically my mother who grew up on a farm with heaps of faith, but no business sense of how the world works. My dad is an inspector, but of boiler vessels making sure they don’t burst and kill people. I think in the context of that story, I would be much closer to the beginning. I don’t have “nothing”, but believe me, I learned to be an academic through the school of hard knocks and many years of being straight out-competed by kids who’s families had been white collar for decades at least. My parents probably figured on me becoming a laborer. That’s just the reality of what I’m coming from. I saw the trades people my dad worked with, didn’t like how simplistic their lives were and decided from an early age not to go that route. Drinking Budweiser while watching mind programming for 6 hours after work didn’t cut it for me as a dream. Then I grew up in St. Albert, the most pretentious of suburbs anywhere in this province, maybe even Canada. Then I’m dealing with a world where the middle class is getting squeezed out as fast as we can create unskilled jobs. Long story short, in that intergenerational picture, I would be taking a BIG leap, and there’s a hundred feet to the pavement below.

But my victimhood complex is showing, sorry.

I have applied. everywhere. Every province, all the territories, the Yukon, the maritimes, the states, New Zealand, Ireland. I’m taking my NEHA exam for the US equivalent on Saturday (probably gonna bomb it, meh).

But this:
“There’s no such thing as a shitty inspector, only one who doesn’t fit in”
Yes Bingo. Not to sound arrogant, but my knowledge during practicum was on par with established inspectors. But everything was not peachy. In my evaluation they said I “lacked tact” and had an abrasive demeanor. That is AHS speak for, “He is a direct communicator who doesn’t have flair for elaborate indirect passive aggression” and “He didn’t care to participate in inane office gossip which seemed to him a superficial waste of time.”

Yes, I like being a man, a strong man, who also happens to be white. Those are like the three fatal political correctness strikes in a PC obsessed organization like the government. And 100%, I am all those nice adjectives you used – generous and thoughtful – probably in a more genuine fashion than those who put on the plastic smile 24/7. I am just stoic 90% of the time. Sorry, not sorry! It definitely didn’t help that in my past employment as a welder and line cook that it was not uncommon to find someone shouting in your ear 6 inches from your face, or when someone was describing what the welding rods do, it required four F-bombs to accomplish this task. You are an island in those jobs, you gotta be John Wayne. But by month 3 of practicum, AHS had beaten that out of me with a baseball bat. I fell in line.

How you manage to point out that state dependents are less intelligent in the bigger picture (if I’m interpreting this right), very subtle, haha.

“…never for a second think that you deserve more than you have. You deserve exactly what you have.”
Man, I almost wish I had this playing on repeat in my mind some days. This is gonna get metaphysical. My moral code goes: “everything should be just” But the universe is a big vast place where randomness is the rule and not the exception (I sound like Malcolm Gladwell there). I have yet to learn to live with this. Personal choice is a real thing, but only to a point.

But thanks Pete. Sometimes you need to hear things explained better than “shit happens, bro.” The brain has a way of running in circles if curiosity isn’t satisfied. That actually helps.

And people have said that to me verbatim “shit happens, bro.” I get a slight stabby sensation whenever I hear that expression now.

I’m going to go for the NEHA exam. I’m going to go for OHS jobs now as a primer for initial experience. I’m also going to get my French ability internationally evaluated, so I’m not without a plan. At least I have that.


נָסִיך : Glad to hear that you’ve already thought outside the box in applying abroad, even if, of course, this is a government monopolised field and you’ll soon find yourself right back inside the box you were hoping to escape. Alas, if more people heeded Taleb’s advice and worked a decade at a Real World Day Job, the world would be a saner place. Though whether a PHI is an RWDJ remains open to discussion. For those practitioners spending more time in the field interacting with business owners, operators, and lowest common denominator residential tenants than around the office water cooler gossiping about the secretary’s low-cut top, I’d be inclined to say yes.

Still, you won’t find it easy to fit in any government job where you insist on clinging to being a real man, a strong man. Tempering your forcefulness (and the chip on your shoulder) isn’t moral, it isn’t just, but it is what’s required of government employees. If you know this, you can work on handling it, at least until you’ve been paid out for a few years on that sweet, sweet dole and can leverage your experience into something more suitable. Despite what socialist idjits will try to deceive you into believing, you don’t have to love what you do. But you do have to get paid and you do have to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.

Wishing you the best on your exams,


פּוֹעֵל : “If you know this, you can work on handling it, at least until you’ve been paid out for a few years on that sweet, sweet dole and can leverage your experience into something more suitable. Despite what socialist idjits will try to deceive you into believing, you don’t have to love what you do. But you do have to get paid and you do have to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.”

>True that brother. Thanks,

___ ___ ___

  1. Concordia University College of Alberta is located in Edmonton. I was a student there and shortly thereafter gave a handful of lectures. It’s a charming little school, smaller than my high school was and far more humane than the behemoth University of Alberta for it. In fact it’s so humane that I’ll be taking an entry-level computer science course there in the Fall. Y’know, to meet some chicas.
  2. BEMU = Bitcoin Edmonton Meet-Ups. It was this “community” thing back when before I knew WTF TMSR~ was, back when I saw a future for Bitcoin but couldn’t quite see my way above the herds of redditards and their bleats of “adoption.” It’s all good though : people get sick, and then they get better.
  3. For a brief period in the early 2010s I was one of the rising stars in this field (no small matter in a field of only 200 in the whole 3mn person province). Eventually, there was only so much punching in and punching out that I could spiritually handle. Seriously, can you believe that instead of performance goals they had performance limits ? Fuck that with your mom’s mouldy dildo. So I pulled the ripcord, landing in a more diversified and less structured bed of roses. Sleep ad libitum FTW!
  4. ie. Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and area. This is a much more sparsely populated portion of the province so the PHIs there are generalists compared to the specialists in Edmonton and Calgary. SZ PHIs would inspect restaurants, daycares, swimming pools, farms, residential rentals, tattoo parlours, hair and aesthetic salons, and food production facilities, whereas the big city folk would inspect only one or two of these different types.
  5. Anyone else notice the chip on his shoulder. I think the new NASA Jupiter satellite can see it.
  6. AHS = Alberta Health Services, the largest employer in Alberta and one of the top-5 largest in the country with >100k employees. Most of them wimmin!
  7. CIPHI = Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors. I still maintain my certification with them, though I’m listed as “retired.”
  8. The housing market sure as fuck is. I should know, I’m currently in the market for a little kulak fambly residence and fuck me if 2.23% interest rates aren’t blowing the roof off the market, even outside of Vancouver and Toronto.
  9. Epic clip of Rod Steiger performing this scene here. You may also recall Mr. Steiger as Komarovsy from Doctor Zhivago.

7 thoughts on ““What is this magical key to success you smart people have?”

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  3. Mitchell Callahan says:

    How’s the intro to Comp Sci course ?

    • Pete D. says:

      Pretty straight-forward and I’m glad I’m taking it so far. I was overdue to go back to kindergarten. I wasn’t cutting it in grad school.

  4. […] the umpteenth time and until I’m hoarse in the throat, YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU GET. Nothing more. Now I’m not saying it’s your fault by any means – causation is too […]

  5. […] thorn in the side of the self-loathing and unsuccessful, overcoming them isn’t just “some secret that you smart people have.” While usually framed as an eternal Manichaeistic debate between lightness and darknessi […]

  6. […] well and good to celebrate our successes in life,i lest my dear readers think that I’m “smart” much less that I “never suffer adversity,” I can comfortably assure you that any […]

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