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Thread: Should you volunteer for a project if you know doing so very likely will not help?

  1. #1
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    Should you volunteer for a project if you know doing so very likely will not help?

    I've been puzzling over this today (I'm off my citalopram, so forgive me if this is somewhat pessimistic). Throughout my life, whenever I have attempted to volunteer for anything, my contribution has invariably made things worse, not better. It doesn't matter what it is, every project I have ever tried to contribute towards would, without exception, have been better without my input. The only exception was editing Wikipedia, and that's largely because when you screw up someone else will fix it.

    I have a number of disabilities, both physical and mental, most of which weren't diagnosed for decades. My life has been one long excerise in bashing my head against various walls until I found one that gave. And even that I'm having trouble turning into a paying concern.

    I know what you're going to say. It doesn't matter what the outcome, as long as you tried. Really? Would you say that to a doctor or a fireman who, through inexperience or incompetence, got someone killed? And how many lives to you have to negatively affect before you become good enough at something to balance that effect out? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? How many people have suffered due to a misplaced file, or a garbled phone message, or a late delivery?

    I just hope that some day artificial intelligence becomes good enough at predicting our futures that we don't have to waste our lives and others' trying to find what we're good at.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    <snip>
    It doesn't matter what the outcome, as long as you tried. Really? Would you say that to a doctor or a fireman who, through inexperience or incompetence, got someone killed? And how many lives to you have to negatively affect before you become good enough at something to balance that effect out? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? How many people have suffered due to a misplaced file, or a garbled phone message, or a late delivery?
    I absolutely do not know, but I wonder if your apparent rate of failure is colored by your beliefs, rather than the reality; that things are not as bad as you fear they are (and things aren't so black and white). I think people tend to remember failures more than successes, and it sounds like you might be focused more on the negatives and ignoring the positives.

    But, even given that, if the tasks you were volunteering for involved people's lives (like doctor or fireman), then I'd probably have to agree that you shouldn't volunteer for them. But there are plenty of things one could do which would not lead to any dire consequences.
    Last edited by Swift; 2019-Jun-13 at 03:20 AM. Reason: stupid typo
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  3. #3
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    If you feel that volunteering would result in failure, my advice is, don't volunteer for it. But your view of yourself seem to be the core issue that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately this Forum is not the venue to talk about that.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post

    I know what you're going to say.
    No, you really don't. Or you would not have asked for replies.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I just hope that some day artificial intelligence becomes good enough at predicting our futures that we don't have to waste our lives and others' trying to find what we're good at.
    I rather hope it doesn't; that smacks far too much of Brave New World.

    Regarding your first sentence: I've been on SSRIs for decades. It's still a battle to keep that sneaky Clinny D from pushing me off a metaphorical or literal cliff.
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  6. #6
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    Hi parallaxicality,

    Have you ever asked others whether they thought your contribution made things worse, or was of no value? I think you'd get surprisingly positive feedback.

    The reason I ask is because last evening I was with a group of friends doing some training that required close teamwork and we had a small disaster. I was absolutely certain it was my fault, but the coach's analysis made it clear that I didn't do anything wrong. Maybe you're being too hard on yourself.

    More than 10 years ago, in this forum, you responded to a post of mine with a comment that made me feel really good about what I had posted. I generally don't forget stuff like that.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Should you volunteer for a project if you know doing so very likely will not help?
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I know what you're going to say.
    I think both "knowing" that you will fail and "knowing" what the replies would be, fall under what would be defined as "fortune telling"; a fallacy where you are sure you know what an outcome will be even if you actually have no way to predict it. And the perception of failure or negative outcomes is also subject to confirmation bias, you register and recall negatives easily while thinking the positives are "exceptions" or "luck" and minimizing them.

    Note that this is only my opinion based on your OP. That's just what it seems like to me.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  8. #8
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    Has it occurred to you that some tasks are voluntary because they are not complete-able or perhaps the task at hand is not the intended purpose so success is impossible?

    I do Meals on Wheels. I drop off 15-20 meals a day once a week. It's a drop in the bucket. The main point of is to feed people, but in reality, the job is never done or done well (the food sucks). The upshot of it is, often you are the only person who stops in to say "Hi!" and make sure they don't need anything else. I can't help but notice when I go through the whole script and ask every question, the reaction is very positive. Which leads me to believe that other volunteers perhaps don't go through the whole schtick. That is a bummer because the reason I am doing it is to mentor my students in social graces, something that they profoundly lack. I take one or two students door to door, and sometimes as many as 4 to the pick up site so they can socialize, because they are missing that aspect of life as much as the people who receive the food.

    I'm not really "helping". But if you are doing public service, can you really fail?
    Solfe

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    Every one of us is part of the crowd in crowdsourcing. We are all here together because we have a lot of the same things in common. Every one of us matters.
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    Last edited by publiusr; 2019-Jun-22 at 06:48 PM.

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