Passing the Tater

You remember the infamous childhood game of hot potato surely? In case we all played by different rules, here’s the gist of the game as dictated by the internet:

“Start the music. The person with the ball quickly tosses it to the person to their right. Continue tossing the ball quickly to the person on the right until the leader stops the music. The person holding the ball has the “hot potato,” and is out of the game.”

That’s it. You know, hot potato. A more deadly version might involve a live grenade, but surely we’re above such apocalyptic meddling.

Another version involves our economy (that of the U.S.A). What an ugly broad term. How about we focus only on the housing segment of the economy.

Houses. Americans seem to love the shit out of sinking thirty years of work and debt into these behemoth “investments.” I get it though.

Houses, when paid off, offer the level of security and individualism almost every human craves deep in our mitochondria. Beyond taxes, regular maintenance, acts of god and man, a house is a nest. Mammals love nests.

If I could, I would probably buy a house. But not if it required a soul-sucking mortgage, and certainly not right now. Back to hot potato.

The drunken economic cycles that comprise the American economy are simply child-like games of hot potato. Only none of us get to be the leader that stops the music and laughs at the fools still holding that hot little tater/house that lost 40% of its value in a month. So much for that “investment.”

Tech companies do the same thing, especially in Silicon Valley. Pump up the hype on your company, raise some rounds of funding, and then get acquired for a hefty sum. Nevermind the lack of a clear company vision. The economic music is still playing. If anything, the acquiring party can pump up the valuation even more and still pass the tater before the music stops.

But the music will stop. It is built into the system. I don’t get my jollies on explaining economic theory, but if you’d like to dive deeper, these guys will gladly edify you. It sure would be nice if this didn’t happen, but it seems that actual economic reform is a language rarer than Tagalog. This used to upset me more, but nowadays I’ve tried to understand the deeper lessons from those I despise and try to avoid throwing steaming spuds where I can control it.

Tater passing doesn’t have to be broad and institutional in scope. It can regularly occur in the smallest institution, the couple, and any group size in between even concerning the most asinine tasks. Going to the corner store to get a few essentials instead of just taking time to go to the grocery store and get the whole list. Taking the last cup of coffee at work and not making a new pot. Not taking great notes on a business call then passing it off to an associate with no explanation. There’s a lot of hot taters everywhere you look once you start noticing them.

And that’s what we’re really here to talk about. Get your head out of ass. Of course, we can’t take care of every pressing task and cater to everyone’s desires, but we can all be a lot more useful than we currently are. And being useful tends to lead to great rewards.

I can think of no greater reward received than one for actually being useful. Become the kind of person who doesn’t cut corners or passes the hot potato. Eventually, we can rebel against that leader in control of the hot potato game, but not until we understand that it is no virtue to continue the game.

Hold on to the potato. Grow some callouses and find the benefits/rewards of owning the difficult task.