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Running around in circles? 兜圈子

中国日报网 2024-01-05 14:07


Reader question:

Please explain “running around in circles” in this sentence: “So, you see, we’re running around in circles – we’ll talk all day and still won’t be able to reach a decision.”

My comments:

Yes, we can see that.

It happens a lot actually. You’re in a meeting where people are trying to make a decision on something. People throw ideas around. Two hours later, someone realizes that they have been talking about the same things over and over again.

Another two hours pass and still people talk about the same things.

The way it goes, you can be sure no decision will be reached at the end of the day.

That’s why the speaker says it feels like they’re just running around in circles, coming back to the starting point again and again.

Running around in circles?

Literally, it’s like a cat running around in circles chasing its tail. Or like kids running around a large tree to amuse themselves.

Like it is with the cat, kids run around a tree just to kill time – and have some fun in the process.

Kids can do that because doing silly things to kill time is what they’re supposed to do. They don’t have to accomplish anything. That’s why they’re so happy.

Adults, on the other hand, are not so lucky. They can’t run around trees just to kill time. That’s unacceptable. Instead, they hold meetings where they get to talk about the same things over and over again.

I’m kidding, but you get the point: Running around in circles, metaphorically speaking, means doing the same things over and over again – without aim or purpose.

It makes people feel they’re not accomplishing anything.

It makes them feel that they’re failing to make any progress.

It makes them feel that they’re wasting time.

All clear?

All right, here are media examples of people “running around in circles”:

1. When John Hering, CEO and cofounder of Lookout Mobile Security, was featured in BusinessWeek as one of the best young tech entrepreneurs, he told the magazine that the “toughest decision” he ever made as an executive was moving his startup from L.A. to San Francisco.

What didn’t get reported was that a 73-year-old named Philip Paul had advised Hering to make the move, in order to be closer to investors. Paul, a gray-haired financier who appears nowhere in Lookout’s roster of executives or founders, nevertheless holds one of the most important titles in Hering’s life: that of mentor.

As technology entrepreneurs seemingly get younger and younger, it’s easy to forget that the difference between a bright technology idea and business success often comes down to the advice and connections of older advisors.

“We see a lot of young people who are very intelligent, mastering technical skills very early, but that is different than building a big or sustainable business,” says Nick Seguin, manager of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which studies and supports entrepreneurial activity in the United States. Seguin says companies often “begin to take off” only when a mentor gets involved.

Hering, now 28, is certainly a success story. His company, cofounded with two college friends, makes software that several million people use to protect cell phones from malware; it is valued at around $1 billion. But he says that in the company’s early days he didn’t know anything about business and relied heavily on Paul for encouragement, as well as to help him shape a business plan and find investors. “We learn from each other, and it’s one of the deepest relationships I have,” says Hering. “I am tremendously fortunate to have met with Phil.”

Other generation-spanning relationships in the tech world have recently drawn attention: for example, the bond between 27-year-old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 66-year-old Washington Post CEO Donald Graham bridges not only decades but also old and new media. But some observers believe that in the current technology-startup boom, there aren’t enough qualified mentors to go around. Exacerbating the demand for business advice is the recent surge in venture accelerators, which promise to quickly help startup companies develop – often by dangling the promise of advice from experienced entrepreneurs. According to some estimates, there are now over 60 venture accelerators in the United States – more than triple the number in 2009.

At any incubator, “the real asset is the mentor,” says Kauffman’s Seguin. But some advertised mentors have so many affiliations – in addition to their own careers – that it’s questionable how much they are really helping. Others may not really be up to the job. “In the technology sector, we believe there are not enough mentors right now,” Seguin says. “It’s an easy title to throw around.”

The scarcity gets more acute the farther a company is from Silicon Valley. For startups in the rest of the country, it can be hard to find the advice needed for success. “We just have to spend a lot of time on airplanes,” says Ben Milne, 25, founder of Dwolla, a fast-growing online payment-processing portal that is based in Des Moines, Iowa.

A dropout from University of Iowa, Milne started his first company at 18 and says he quickly learned the value of connecting to more experienced entrepreneurs. “We kept running around in circles, failing to think big,” he says. “It was a problem I was determined not to repeat.” He now maintains a stable of older advisors both in California and locally.

- The Mentor Advantage, TechnologyReview.com, February 22, 2012.

2. LaTonya Floyd, the sister of George Floyd, who was killed by then Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, said she forgives him for what happened to her brother.

She told that exclusively to FOX 26 cameras who were at an event where a screening of a short documentary of the George Floyd sculpture was premiered.

“I know America may think I’m crazy for saying this, but I gotta get this off my chest,” she said. “At this point, three years down the line, I do forgive Derek Chauvin for what he did, it’s not okay that he did. Ok, but I have to forgive him in order to move forward in my life. I’ve been running around in circles, I’ve been going through a whole lot, and if our higher power don’t forgive us, we’re nothing. We’re lost. We’re outta there.”

“And I can’t keep living my life with this anger, that’s gonna form hate, such as he had,” LaTonya continued. “And it’s going to lead to me doing something like that, because I’m mad, I’m angry. I can’t live with that within me. So I pray for him, and I pray he find peace within himself, and I pray that next time, he kneel down, he’s kneeling down to help someone up, not hold ’em down. God has a plan for everybody. I pray for Derek and I do forgive you, and if you are listening, may the peace of God be with you man.”

FOX 26 also spoke with Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who lives in Houston.

He reflected on this day and where we are as a nation now three years later.

Floyd said at the federal level, he’s still waiting on actions including banning chokeholds and changing “qualified Immunity Protections.”

“All of this stuff needs to be passed,” said Floyd. “If you want to consider this place that we live in in the United States of America to be a great place where people fight to get to.”

While federal action takes time, the immediate change that occurred and continues to hold strong is the awareness his brother’s death brought to so many.

“People are getting a better understanding, and it’s not just Black people, it’s white people out there marching,” stated Floyd. “He was a great person, and to me, I just want people to understand.”

- George Floyd’s sister, LaTonya, forgives Derek Chauvin for what he did, Fox26Houston.com, May 25, 2023.

3. Responding to Victoria’s budget, the state opposition used one of the oldest moves in the Coalition playbook: they accused the Labor government of engaging in the politics of envy.

“The government has proved by its budget this week that it doesn’t like aspiration. If you own more than one property, it’s almost like you’re resented for it,” the opposition leader, John Pesutto, said on Thursday.

“If you want to work hard and send your child to an independent school, you get punished for it.

“If you have dreams, if you have aspirations, they want to target you.”

The criticism of the budget’s tax hikes for large businesses and property investors extends beyond the confines of parliament. Business groups say the measures create a disincentive to invest in Victoria, the property sector says it will raise rents, while private schools warn it will lead to fee increases.

All of the critiques share something in common – they characterise those affected by the budget measures as “ordinary Victorians” – “mum-and-dad investors” – working in occupations such as trades, nursing and emergency services, or taking on a second job to get their children through private schools.

The Liberal party, built on the values of individual enterprise, has successfully prosecuted successive federal Labor leaders for stifling “aspiration” for decades. The strategy is credited with the party’s success at the 2004 election – when the then Labor leader, Mark Latham, took to the polls a plan to increase funding for poorer schools by reducing support for the wealthiest – and in 2019, when Bill Shorten proposed sweeping changes to the federal tax system, including a cap on negative gearing on investment properties.

Indeed, Scott Morrison’s framing of the 2019 election as a “choice between aspiration and envy” has scared Labor off pursuing tax reform ever since.

But according to Kos Samaras, a former Victorian Labor assistant state secretary who is now a pollster with RedBridge Group, the “appeal to aspiration” won’t work as successfully in 2023 as it did in the past.

“The Liberals have got themselves trapped in the Howard era. Appealing to aspiration only works in times of great economic prosperity, as it was then,” Samaras says.

“We are not living through that period now. People don’t think things are going to get better. Quite the opposite.”

Samaras says Daniel Andrews and his treasurer, Tim Pallas, are concerned less about class than they are about ensuring the state is left in a better position for young people.

“It’s not class warfare, it’s generational warfare,” Samaras says.


Dr Zareh Ghazarian, a senior politics lecturer at Monash University, says while the timing of the budget – well ahead of the next election – will help Labor, it does come with political risk.

“In the current climate, cost of living and issues concerning the economy are really high priorities and they are really dominating the public debate. People – regardless of their age or if they renters or owners – will be asking about what this will mean for them, bottom line, and potential future aspirations,” he says.

Ghazarian says there is political capital to be gained for the Coalition in returning to the theme of aspiration, after failing to land a coherent policy platform at the November election.

They’ve been running around in circles without being able to make any clear signals to the electorate as to what they would do that would be significantly different to the Labor party,” he says.

- Class war, aspiration and the politics of property: the heated debate over the Victorian budget, TheGuardian.com, May 26, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


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Second fiddle? 副手


Killer instinct? 杀手本能


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