22-hour Piñata

What’s your 22-hour Piñata?

Excerpted from a February 15, 2013 column by Allison Vaillancourt, VP of Human Resources at University of Arizona

 A couple of years ago my daughter’s Spanish teacher required students to design and construct a piñata.  Ever ambitious, my daughter, who was 16, decided to create a large butterfly.  She began with great determination, but after 90 minutes of focused work gluing tiny pieces of tissue paper she began to despair.  She calculated that the gluing process would take at least another 16 more hours.

I urged her to rethink the project.  “You can either design a smaller piñata or dump this project and do all of your other homework.” My advice was not well received, and I got a lecture about excellence in all matters.  I persisted, of course.  “This is a ridiculous project and does not merit this much energy. Other than gaining a more profound appreciation for the patience of people who make piñatas for a living, you aren’t going to get anything out of this experience.  Not everything in life is worth doing well. Some things aren’t worth doing at all.”

My advice was ignored, and the gluing continued, not for 16 more hours but for 22 total hours.

Since that time I’ve seen my fair share of 22-hour piñatas.  They come in many forms, including overly complicated events, projects that involve too many people, and not-terribly-important presentations that took days to develop.  When was the last time you created or encountered a 22-hour piñata?

RESPONSE: “Not everything in life is worth doing well.” A former vice president at my university used to put it another way. When tasked to generate yet another long and dull report whose significance would have been dubious, and that would have ended up in a big binder, archived, and never digested, he would say, “I want us to get a C on this.”

A grad student friend of mine put this Thesis Instructions together for his ethnomusicology thesis… (he was a little cranky then)

150 pages (let’s not get greedy); keep it conversational and make sure that no music is considered any worse or better than any other music.

make sure to follow this word distribution model:

reify (and derivatives): 15 instantiations
privileging: 58
destabilizes: 9
animates/throws into relief: 33
undergirds or undergirding: 371
co-present: 16
“at stake”: 902
 “bears out”: 45
“affinity group”: 36
modality: infinite