Enlightened Conflict

working with a competent incompetent blowhard

July 21st, 2017

ego at the door

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“I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.”

 

—–

Eric Clapton

 

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“Not everything is about you,” Clary said furiously.

 

“Possibly,” Jace said, “but you do have to admit that the majority of things are.”

 

 

Cassandra Clare

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“Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.”

 

 

William Shakespeare

 

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“Or, rather, let us be more simple and less vain.”

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

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So.

 

ego meter

We all have worked with assholes.

We all have also most likely worked with egotistical assholes.

 

And, unfortunately, we all have most likely worked with competent egotistical assholes. This is the particular type of asshole who actually kind of knows their shit, is overly satisfied with their competence, tells everyone who good they are and says all of this no matter what has actually happened <good or bad>or whether it is actually reflective of reality.

 

I have never really worked for anyone like this <fortunately> but I do know from experience that these people particularly suck to work with because, yeah, they don’t completely suck from a functional professional standpoint … so you cannot completely ignore them and, even worse, they may actually even have some specific skill you may need at some point.

 

What makes it suck for you is that they have some serious flaws <not that they would ever admit it> and that they will take credit for anything and everything they can, they will multiply wins in exaggerated results and effort and diminish, if not even blame others, for lack of successes.

 

They are, and always will be, the biggest self-promoters <assholes> you will capitalism narcissistever encounter.

 

They are, and always will be, the biggest selective users of facts and specifics to showcase whatever self-style & strength they want to portray <their own assholedness>.

 

They are a legend in their own mind <and an asshole to the rest of us>.

 

But, at their best, they are not only competent but can actually contribute.

 

These assholes are tougher to deal with and manage than the incompetent. You can ignore the incompetent <or the ‘less than useful’ or the “beyond their sell-by date’ people>.

Once again … I have never had to report to an incompetent blowhard <or an incompetent non blowhard> but I have had several “senior people who were beyond their sell-by date” who you never permitted in a meeting by themselves <for fear of what they would say or promise> and you always tried to diplomatically curb their responsibilities and impact.

They were not always truly assholes or incompetent just ‘less than desired usefulness’ for the business needs.

 

But the competent blowhards are a bear to deal with.

 

You are constantly sitting there thinking … “Jesus … wouldn’t it be terrific to be able to reap the rewards without putting up with the blowhard bullshit?”

 

I actually found an article suggesting some tips on how you can “harness the superb results these folks generate without having to put up with their acting out.”

 

Whew.

That article was off base. You cannot harness a blowhard … competent or incompetent.

 

An egotistical competent person is … well … an egotistical <typically “narcissistic”> competent blowhard asshole and there is little to get around that.

 

asshole day

 

You just figure out how to get around them, use them the best you can and take them head on strategically <knowing you cannot take them head on all the time>.

 

To be clear.

 

I am using “asshole” loosely here. As someone noted somewhere … the term “asshole” is also used as a euphemistic reference to people whom we classify as “disagreeable.”

 

A blowhard is disagreeable but so can a lot of good people who aren’t narcissistic. Shit. Contrarians can portray some asshole tendencies <see myself as a prime example> but not all contrarians are fucking egotistical self-promoting blowhards.

 

I could argue that since each of us is an asshole to someone the term is always relative. In other words, one person’s asshole can be another person’s hero.

 

Therefore … in my eyes … it takes a lot of effort to be a competent asshole.do not speak again oxygen thief opinion blowhard importance

 

Incompetent assholes don’t know that they are assholes.

Competent assholes KNOW that they are assholes.

 

I am writing this because, unfortunately, this is a conversation we all have in business. Egomaniac assholes are in every business. We have to deal with them and the reality is that sometimes they are in senior management.

They may actually be competent but they are manipulative, obsessive, and aggravatingly boastful and far too often bullies.

They may actually have some aspects of competence and use it to throw anyone around them who also shows signs of threatening competence under the bus at any given opportunity.

They actually do it under the guise of “creating a competitive always improving environment” when they are really simply insecure assholes who want to diminish anyone around them so they look bigger & better.

 

—————————————–

Hayakawa: Use the Right Word:

 

By definition ‘boast’ suggests a self-important and tasteless pointing out of one’s own successes.

 

Occasionally the word can refer to self-congratulation for a victory not yet won.  Brag intensifies the note of tastelessness in boast, suggesting limitless conceit and, possibly, inaccuracy of the claims being made – bragging about imaginary exploits. And then there is ‘crowing’ which suggests a noisy or vociferous bragging of an extremely offensive kind. And ‘gloating’? Gloating is an intensification of crow – although it need not be verbal and sometimes suggests taunting someone that one has bested.

 

By definition: egomania

…. an obsessive preoccupation with one’s self and applies to someone who follows their own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation.

 

——————————————

 

job i am the greatest confidence trump

Look.

 

I don’t mind a manager with a healthy sense of ego, but the true competent blowhards are best to avoid if possible because they have elements of toxicity.

 

In Toxic Workers , a new Harvard Business School working paper, Michael Housman and Dylan Minor look at the paradox of “superstar” workers who outperform their colleagues by 2:1 or more, but who are “toxic” — awful to work with and be around.

 

The connection between toxicity and productivity has been validated in several studies, but the question that Housman and Minor set out to answer is, “are 1%, superstar workers worth the trouble they cause in the workplace?”

 

Using a clever empirical methodology, they demonstrate that, basically, you shouldn’t work with assholes. It’s better to hire two average employees than to keep one “superstar” on the payroll, once you factor in the disruption that your talented jerk wreaks on their colleagues.

 

 

Simplistically the blowhards distort things. They exaggerate good, diminish bad,  consistently use a made up unique formula of uncertainties & lack of clarity, offer alternatives <facts & universes> and serve to only create difficulties in exactly describing what is, and isn’t, actually happening.

 

While accomplishing some things, which if discussed like a normal human being everyone would be fine with, the abnormal human being says shit like: “I don’t think there’s ever been anyone who in this short period of time has done what I’ve done.”

 

Uhm.

 

Unfortunately for whoever says this there is typically some actual proof that someone somewhere has actually achieved a lot more. But that really doesn’t matter to this type of person … all they have to do is do enough and make it look hopeful enough that a group of employees ignore the hyperbole and focus on the fact someone has done something.

 

By the way.

 

confidence is silent

What makes this truly toxic is the fact the competent non-blowhards around this person start ignoring the blowhard and just doing their own thing <and his because even more toxic to a business the more senior the blowhard is>.

 

I imagine my point here is that we all know someone at work whose biggest fan is himself/herself. They exaggerate all their contributions and diminish & deflect any blame or negatives.

Those people make it really difficult to compliment. Our first instinct is to try and deflate <or ‘right-size’> accomplishments so that even good gets diminished so it doesn’t get exaggerated. Unfortunately his sometimes means that even when credit is due the person has just made it hard for us to WANT to give them credit.

 

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“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

 

 

African proverb

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Regardless.

 

We all know some of these people who do not recognize that they are one of those people.

Particularly in business.

 

They aren’t psychopaths and they aren’t the kind of assholes that are raging assholes … these are just the assholes oblivious to their assholedness. Suffice it to say far and away the number one way they justify their existence is “the end justifies the means.”

 

“But I made the numbers.”

“We won.”

“We finished.”

 

All the while ignoring the carnage left behind.

 

The carnage can be lost employees, pissed off employees, tired <emotionally and physically> employees, angry peers and disappointed or abused partners.

 

<lost>

 

extremes managementThey couldn’t keep up or they were not good enough <good they are gone … we weed out those who can’t keep up>.

 

<pissed off>

 

You can’t always pamper people to get them across the finish line <they like me because they know it is all done with ‘tough love’>.

 

<tired>

 

I pushed them beyond what they thought they could do <they won’t be angry once they see how I helped them realize their potential>.

 

<peers>

 

The other managers don’t recognize what it takes to get it done <my project was more important and they won’t be angry once they see the result and how the team responded …or … I am showing them how it should be done>.

 

<partners>

 

They have good intentions but I need to keep them focused on our priorities and objectives and needs <they work for us and need us more than we need them>.

 

Those are the tricks of the trade of the competent blowhards.

 

Regardless.

 

Yes.

Success does matter.

 

No.

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t value ‘the kill’ or even ‘ability to effectively stalk the prey’ in business.

 

But … Yes.

I do believe how you kill or stalk matters.

 

Look.

 

Blowhards can try and convince us of competence in a variety of ways … they can showcase fulfilling promises which does not show the actions of a skilled CEO but rather a bumbling overwhelmed CEO focused on showing action to try and cover up incompetence.

 

I say that because even bumbling incompetent CEO’s can do some things right in a flurry of ‘doing shit.’ I say that because even a semi-incoherent senior business person can do some things right AND justify it in some fairly creative common sense sounding ways.

 

The following is something I found somewhere <I cannot find where> from someone who actually responded to “being an asshole manager” which showcase how a competent asshole business person can quite easily justify their actions.

 

Please note that there is a strong thread of truly competent thoughts.

 

Please note that if I were so inclined I could go back through every point and slice out the slightly self-righteous aspects and showcase how you can actually be competent and not an asshole AND not pamper your employees’ every whim … but I will not.

 

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. not sure how you define asshole, but I suppose being blunt, efficient, and unable to cater to every employee’s wants (not needs) goes a long way. I go out of my way to reward my best employees, give them the resources they need, approve their time off outside of work, etc. I take a pedagogical approach to my role, passing knowledge to my employees that will help them advance their careers (and make my job easier). Yet, I’m still the asshole.

 

Here are some reasons I’m an asshole manager:

 

  1. I’m responsible for making a diverse group of people with varying job roles work together. Try coming up with one rule or guideline that makes everyone happy.

management new

  1. Some employees only work as hard as they have to. And they hate it when you ask them to do more.

 

  1. Some employees (often the ones who only do the bare minimum) expect to be promoted just for showing up. You can print them a crystal clear roadmap to success within your company, and they’ll still paddle along, doing nothing to distinguish themselves, then ask to be supervisor.

 

  1. Ingratitude is the status quo. Once, everyone in the department got tiny raises (three figures). The reason they were tiny is because we shifted our fiscal year; there was a tiny pool for compensation increases. Because someone had left, I was able to get every one of my employees a raise larger than the 1.5% average everyone in the company had to adhere to. I know it’s not a lot, but I put in a lot of effort to make their tiny raises a little less tiny. The fact they got more than the average was clearly explained to them. The response: the raises “were a slap in the face.” Fine. Next time, we’ll spend the money on a clever fucking food truck half of you won’t like.

 

  1. As a manager, much of your employee’s well-being (compensation, promotion, career growth) depends on you. At the same time, this isn’t a day care center; it’s a business, and my job is to get my employees to do their jobs. That’s a hell of burden, and it makes me less likely to be everyone’s buddy when instead I have to be fair and compassionate, but also directive and efficient.

 

  1. In the same vein, employees know how much power you have over things like compensation, so they’re never, ever totally honest with you. Personality problems I constantly hear about third-hand magically disappear when I’m leading from the floor. Also, employees will admit to making small mistakes, which upon five seconds of investigation, turn out to be related to much larger mistakes they say nothing about.

 

  1. Paranoia is the status quo. I can’t explain to employee #1 why I wrote employee #2 up. That would be unprofessional, and would betray the disciplined employee’s trust. Yet if it appears on the surface that I’m being unfair, then the conspiracy theorists kick in and all of a sudden I’m playing favorites. Example: Two employees don’t show up to work. One is written up. The first employee has a documented record of excessively calling in sick, and misses work yet again, without notice. The other, who has an exemplary attendance record, has a family emergency and calls into work in advance. The former would get written up before the latter every time. Employees aren’t privy to these details, so they form their own conclusions baked in resentment. And God help you if the employee who incorrectly thinks they’re being treated unfairly is a woman or a minority.

management bullshit

  1. You can’t listen to music with the N-word in it. You can’t describe the hot girl you met. You can’t tell off-color jokes, listen to Howard Stern, or share clips of that R-rated stand-up comedian. I’m going to write you up for breaking those rules. You may even get fired. The alternative is me losing my job because I tolerated a hostile work environment. So yes, we’re a friendly, down-to-earth, casual company…until tone-deaf legal standards force us to behave otherwise.

 

  1. Millennials, calling into work because you’re stressed isn’t a good excuse. Especially if it happens exclusively on Fridays and Mondays. I’m going to call you out on it.

 

  1. When HR makes a decision to fire you, I’m the one who breaks the news. When finance says we can’t afford that tool to make your job easier, I’m the one who communicates the message. Part of my job is to be the face of the company to you. Your bridge to the massive bureaucracy. Of course I’m going to sound like an asshole to you. And no, I don’t have time to make you feel better about it. So put my picture on the dartboard. Slander me if it makes you feel better about things. As long as you’re doing your job and I’m doing my best to treat you fairly and humanely, the rest is your problem.

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So.

 

That sounded fairly reasonable, didn’t it?

 

I chuckled a little and stopped myself from going back and showing the author where they were … well … as asshole <but still pointing out their competence>.

Being a manager and a leader is not easy. If it were then … well … not only could anyone be one anyone could actually be a good one.

I shared the 10 thoughts above because the difference between an asshole leader, and a competent non asshole leader, can often be defined in shades … not vivid colors <although the result often can be viewed in vivid displays of rich & royal hues>.

And that vivid comparison truly comes to Life if you are viewing a competent arrogant blowhard.

 

I was an okay manager & leader. I did some things okay and some things not so okay. I can honestly say I did get better at it as time went on and I am much better now, and how I discuss leadership, than I was even 5 years ago.

 

I am much better at identifying incompetence and the characteristics one management what growing-global-executive-talentshould look at in defining and judging managers and leaders than I was at the beginning of my career <at the beginning it was just “boy, that feel and looks wrong” and now it is “let me point out the five things which are wrong that makes it feel wrong.”

 

And … I will admit that it can sometimes be a fine line between solid confidence and overestimated ego.

 

What I can tell you is that you don’t need me to point out an arrogant, narcissistic, semi-competent blowhard. You can see them a mile away and even if you just “feel it” you are more than likely right.

 

An asshole is an asshole. Once you have seen an asshole and felt what it is like to be around an asshole … well … you will never forget the feeling.

 

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“Besides, nowadays, almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.”

————-

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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dreams and dream incubators

June 26th, 2017

Family of four on grass with hands up and dream

 

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“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.

I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

 

——-

Diane Ackerman

 

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“Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything.

Those buildings. These lights. This whole city.

 

Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did.

I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.”

 

—–

James and the Giant Peach

 

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Ok.

 

Today I am actually going to talk about dreaming and business.

 

if only dreams wishes

 

Suffice it to say … someone needs to be talking about dreaming because dreamers have been having a tough time of it for a while. Shit. I could argue dreams themselves have had a tough go of it.

 

Pragmatism is the ‘watch word of the day’.

 

Reach for the stars? No way.  You need to think “attainable.”

 

In addition … the outside world seems to get crazier and crazier and more chaotic which encourages the majority of us to just hunker down and get shit done.  It encourages us to not only NOT think about dreaming but even worse …“why dream? I just need to figure out a way of surviving.”

 

All that said.

 

I have two thoughts today.

 

The first is the increasing importance of businesses to an individual’s dreams, and dreaming, and the second is just about dreaming itself.

 

Ok.

The first.

 

I believe the business world is going to start playing an incredibly important role with regard to the future of dreaming.

 

In fact.

 

I believe the successful business organization of the future will be a ‘dream incubator’ rather than the current, more pop culture popular, ‘purpose drive’ organization.

And I say that as a ‘purpose driven organization’ believer.

 

Let me explain.dream wall sitting alone thinking

 

The outside world, as I have noted earlier, doesn’t really seem conducive to dreams and dreaming.

 

The inside world, your job and business Life, is becoming more and more focused on the daily grind and meeting the needs of the grind. In general we are getting squeezed but dreaming, in particular, is getting suffocated.

 

This means there is little space in-between the outside world and inside world for dreams and dreaming.

 

This is where I believe business steps in and maybe sharpens its elbows and creates some space for individual people to remember having dreams can be good and dreaming can actually be a good thing.

 

Businesses can step in and remind people that there is big value in pragmatism and personal responsibility in doing a good job AS WELL AS there may be an equal value in placing a dream or two within the pragmatic ‘do what you need to do’ Life … it kind of adds some rich & royal hues to what could be a duller palette.

 

Now.

Let me address the practical aspect of business and how the idea of ‘dream incubator’ can fit … because a shitload of shortsighted business people are going to suggest they have no desire to have their employees “dreaming” … they want them focused on doing their jobs.

 

Purpose was offered as a glue to hold together, and align, functional behavior <departments & responsibilities> of an organization while providing a deeper value to instill in attitudes & behavior. It certainly offered a version of a North Star from an ethical & moral standpoint but its true objective was to take the place of ‘vision’ in a pragmatic business world seemingly devoid of anything but functional outcome driven behavior.

 

Good intent. Good objective.

 

My belief of ‘dream incubator’ is less functional driven but rather attitudinally driven.

 

My belief is that in a world in which dreaming is not being encouraged a business which encourages you to pursue your dreams WITHIN the business itself will be rewarded <attitudinally, functionally & profitability>.

 

purpose versus dreams organization business 2

 

My belief is that employees, in general, are not driven by their departmental function <which is actually more the ‘keep your head down and do what you need to do’ daily grind> but rather by their dreams — $, ideas, innovations and … well … let me call the last one “perfection.”

 

<please note: this is a simplified version of a more complex organizational idea which I have shared elsewhere, in other words, I know there are more layers to this concept>

 

 

Let me start with ‘perfection.’

 

Some people dream of operational excellence. They get frustrated with politics and missteps and the normal inefficient behavior of a normal organization. These are the ones who offer up the zany process changes which, as a manager, you look at, screw up your face and think “Jesus Christ, what a mosh pit this would be to implement.” And, yet, these are the same zany changes which the organization most likely NEEDS to do to step up from where it is currently running.

 

 

 

$

 

It would be naïve to ignore the fact some employees are financially motivated and that their dreams are tied to more material aspects. They want money and things and your objective should be to inspire them to dream for more and be the organization which can enable their dreams to come true <within the construct of whatever is construed as ‘fair play’ within that organization>.

 

Ideas.

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educateSome people dream of thinking … and thinking up ideas. Imagine a business which encourages the epe who like t come up with ideas actually helps their ideas come to Life … even if they do not directly apply to the business itself.

 

Huh?

 

Here is a secret a lot of good business people know. While we love to talk about focus and ‘staying in our lane’ and the danger of less-than-strategic expansion, the truth is that a business can accommodate a shitload of different lanes if they are actually good lanes <and good ideas>.

I know when I managed groups while I needed people to focus on what they needed to do … I always encouraged them think about new ideas and talk to me about their ideas – even if it didn’t have shit to do with what we actually did to earn our living. Why did I do that? I could offer a dozen reasons but suffice it to say that it offers them a valuable sounding board for whether they have a viable idea or not <which they liked & appreciated> and I would get the brain working on non-related shit <which invariably gets you thinking about your related shit differently — and I liked that & appreciated it>.

Plus. People like thinking about their dreams even if they can’t actually do them.

 

Innovations.

 

I don’t need to say anything about this. This is obvious. The best innovations are usually a reflection of smart dreaming.

 

Ok.

The second.

 

I believe we need to remind ourselves on occasion that it is okay to dream … and dream big.

 

dream window of opportunity imagine

And that relentlessly pursuing a dream can be inspiring … not discouraging.

 

Now.

 

Being a big dreamer doesn’t mean that you walk around with your head in the clouds. It means that you have a purpose … a big purpose that makes your life bigger and fulfills some promise within you.

Of course … as usual … the key is to find a balance. Think ground and clouds.

Maybe think about it as being pragmatic with no guardrails. A contradiction? Sure. But big dreams are a contradiction. As a practical relatively pragmatic human race we would never have them … unless some of them defied the odds and actually came true.

 

Yeah.

Some really do happen.

 

Anyway.

 

I like the thought of business accepting the role as a business incubator and actually re-energizing the human spirit toward dreams and dreaming.

I like the thought of a business being a ‘dream incubator’ is fulfilling a role life & society seem to be abdicating.

 

Look.

 

extraordinary robbedI have always been a huge proponent that business should accept a larger role in driving societal norms & mores and, in this case, I actually believe that in doing so the business acumen & success is rewarded.

 

Whew.

 

Can you imagine how many resumes a business would get if it said “we want you to make your lives extraordinary, help you make your dreams come true, because if you do … we believe our company will be extraordinary.”

 

============

Dead Poets Society:

“Make your lives extraordinary.”

 

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one of those dumb days where

June 13th, 2017

do nothing sloth impossible every day jo

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“We are dying from overthinking.

 

We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.

Think. Think. Think.

 

You can never trust the human mind anyway.

It’s a death trap.”

 

Anthony Hopkins

 

======================

 

“It’s one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray.”

 

Andrea Portes

 

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nothing neon sign

 

“Nothing” days.

 

 

Its hard to believe with all that shit we always seem to have to do and all the shit that seems to be happening around us and all the shit society, people and culture claims we are demanded to pay attention to … there can be nothing days.

The dumb days in which nothing happens <albeit lots of somethings actually happen>.

 

I think this is one of those things I didn’t think about until I actually thought about it — how can a day be nothing when you actually did a shitload?

 

Sure.

 

There are some people who get busy doing nothing <I actually call this ‘the art of looking busy’ and have a piece on his coming up>.

 

But the majority of us do a shitload of something on the days which we tend to i expect nothing still too muchview as having done nothing.

 

And I am not sure that is particularly healthy.

 

You can surely assess what you have done and apply some value less than what you wished you could assess … but even that “lesser value” is not zero, therefore, it is not nothing.

 

Personally I think this happens because the majority of us have a natural resistance to nothing. What I mean by that is being associated with “nothing”, particularly in a country that extols doing, creates some sense of diminishing or diminished.

 

And no one likes to feel either diminished or having whatever we actually did do be diminished to … well … nothing.

 

Anyway.

 

What that means is we will apologize for ‘nothing’ with a variety of reasons – distracted, bored, tired, etc. – because in the end our internal integrity compass wants to point toward something to make us happy.

In fact … someone created something called the Nothing Day which has been commemorated since 1973. The day is literally about doing nothing at all. There is absolutely no purpose or intended structure for this pointless celebration.

 

especially if its nothing days

 

My point isn’t that we should celebrate nothing or doing nothing or even the feeling we actually did nothing but rather that we see “nothing” where there really is something.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

This is even making my head hurt.

 

Let me try this.

 

Far too often we fall into an all or nothing assessment with regard to our day. What that means is we could actually do a shitload but if it doesn’t meet some “something” standard it then falls to a 100% nothing value.

That is nuts.

 

==============

 

“Either I reigned supreme or sank into the abyss.”

 

Simone de Beauvoir

 

==============

 

And I can honestly say its nuts because I do it. I can reach the end of a day with a long list of shit I have done and sit back and say “shit, I did nothing.”

And I don’t think I am that different than a lot of people.

 

I could speculate why we do it but I will not.

 

Mostly it is because we think, think & think about the shit … and overthink it … and it is a death trap.

 

Mostly I think society & culture seems to put an extraordinary amount of value on tangible recognizable outcomes therefore if you just do shit … but the shit doesn’t offer some trophy outcome you can hold up for everyone to see than … well … we think we have nothing to show for it. That is also a death trap.

 

That’s dumb.something and nothing sign

 

Not only is that dumb it is the foundation for one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray type feeling … which is a pretty dumb feeling to have.

 

All I can say is that the next time you think it is one of those dumb days where you did nothing … maybe stop overthinking and make it a simple thought — I did some shit today. I will do more shit tomorrow. And eventually some good shit will happen.

Enlightened Conflict