Enlightened Conflict

testing norms and what is legal

May 15th, 2017

never too good at following rules

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“I am free, no matter what rules surround me.

If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

 

Robert A. Heinlein

 

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“Rules are for children.

This is war, and in war the only crime is to lose.”

 

Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

 

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Ok.

 

hoist the black flag rulesWe have a shitload of regulations, laws and rules to abide by every day.

 

We set out explicit rules and guidelines and sometimes these appear as laws. They are meant to showcase a red line for behavior.

 

That said, boy oh boy … we sure do bitch about how many laws we have and how many regulations are in place and how many rules we face that curb our success. The government is most likely the main villain in this story.

Most of us act like government sits around coming up with rules and laws and regulations simply to stifle freedom in our lives – personal and business.

 

It may behoove us to think a little more about why those rules, regulations and laws came about and how we still have some room to navigate which is a playing field called “norms.”

 

It may behoove us to think a little more about the fact we suck at self-regulation. In fact, when left to regulate ourselves, within a capitalist environment, the arc of behavior bends toward some fairly heinous behavior.

 

What happens is that some start pushing out beyond what most people would integrity has no need of rulestend to believe is ‘integrity driven behavior’ and with each push what is acceptable becomes broader and broader.

 

So what we have done in the past is to step in, slap the wrist of those who have bent the arc toward what is not really the best for all and then set up some regulations to insure our self-regulation has some fences to corral us.

 

That said.

 

We do have some norms.

Some ‘accepted beliefs’ for some specific roles and responsibilities.

 

It’s like we assume if you become a CEO of a business that you will not instigate any illegal behavior and you will tell the truth with regard to what you are selling & offering.

Yes there are laws and regulations but, in general, a business sets its own behavioral compass – within which there will be things unwritten but accepted.

 

 

It’s like we assume if you decided to accept the responsibility of a public servant you will share your tax returns to show how you have earned your money in the past, you assume that you will cut ties with your business to insure no conflicts of interest and you assume you don’t fire people because you don’t like them.

 

All of those things may be legal to actually do but norms suggest they are not the right things to do.

 

Norms, in my pea like brain, reside outside a buffer zone just prior to reaching one of these red lines. They are usually unstated and they are usually simply expected for those who uphold some integrity and they are usually just done by the people who truly matter.

 

Ah.

breaking rules HagyBut let’s remember … most times norms reside within what is a larger legally acceptable behavior.

Why does that happen?

Because most people who set up rules and regulations and laws desire to give people some freedom to act and make their own decisions.

 

That said … to be clear … you can do a shitload of legal things in life, business & government which when viewed honestly can look and smell really bad.

 

I have worked several times with people who have constantly suggested “but it is legal.” And 90% of the time I have felt uneasy about what we were about to do. Not that it was illegal but rather it <a> tested what I would consider a norm and <b> it was clearly in that buffer zone that got too close to the red line.

 

There will always be people who will dance on the icy brink of the red line and these same people will dance while singing “it is legal.”

 

It is a hollow song to sing and it always sounds slightly out of tune.

 

Anyway.

 

Let’s just say there are two basic types of people:

 

  • Those who see norms, and normative behavior, and see it as guidelines for right or wrong <an subsequently check laws, rules and regulations to be sure all is good & legal>. In other words behavior doesn’t have to be dictated by some rule or law but more often than not “what seem like the right thig to do.”

 

 

  • Those who see “anything that could be deemed legal”, or, conversely, “if it is not expressly forbidden than it is permissible. These people don’t ever ponder “what seems like the right thing to do” because, to them, if it is legal it is right.

 

 

People have a lot of leeway to do non-criminal bad actions.

rules do not why not

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“Look, that’s why there’s rules, understand? So that you think before you break ’em.”

 

Terry Pratchett

 

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And I tend to believe most times rules & laws are not rewritten is because people break them <because they have done their job>, It is when people start ignoring norms where rules & laws get rewritten.

As soon as enough people, or prominent people, start doing things that the norm had suggested up to that point was ‘not the right thing to do’ people sit back, shake their heads a little sadly … and say “well, I guess we need to set up some rules.”

 

I admit.

I am both a norms guy and a law/rules guy.

 

If you give me the rules & the laws I believe I can win within them. And win even without bending their interpretation.

 

If norms are established and the norms reflect ‘good’ and not ‘bad behavior’ I tend to place them right beside all the rules/laws you gave me and say exactly the same thing … I believe I can win within them.

 

following the rulesBut not everyone thinks that way.

 

Some people don’t care about ‘good behavior’ all they care about is ‘legal behavior’ <what is technically legal>. It is these people who actually create the need for rules, regulations and laws.

 

So maybe when we start bitching about all the rules, regulations and laws we have that seem to restrict some things we tend think are kind of okay to do … we shouldn’t blame the institutions which created them … we should be blaming the people who forced their creation.

They are the ones who absolutely suck at self-regulation … actually worse than most of the rest of us … and we pay the price for their behavior.

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

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“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day.”

—-

Clotilde Hesme

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“There is a construct in computer programming called ‘the infinite loop’ which enables a computer to do what no other physical machine can do – to operate in perpetuity without tiring.

 

In the same way it doesn’t know exhaustion, it doesn’t know when it’s wrong and it can keep doing the wrong thing over and over without tiring.”

 

—–

John Maeda

 

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So.

 

ideas within organizationLeading an organization is not like running a race … well … at least it is not like running a sprint.

 

Okay.

I am being stupid.

 

It’s not like running a race.

Nothing like it.

 

It is more like managing the health of a body in which you do want some exercise and you do want some healthy eating and you do want to insure proper amount of sleep.

Suggesting you want to run a business like you are in some marathon is silly and misguided.

 

It is just as misguided to think about an organization like a machine with gears and moving parts and keeping it well-oiled and full of gas and shit like that.

 

I say all of that to talk about organizational exhaustion.

 

If you stay away from silly metaphors about what an organization is, or is not, simplistically you are trying to insure your organization is putting forth a proper amount of effort against the efforts you want it, and need it, to be working against. This is a daily, weekly, monthly and annual leadership objective.

 

Different leaders have different styles working against this objective but, simplistically, that is the objective.

 

Now.

HOW you meet this objective typically takes some experience.

What do I mean?

 

I assume most leaders do not inherently know exactly how to do this … pacing an organization takes some experience and some practice, some mistakes and some successes and then you zero in on how to do it well <or just keep getting better at it>.

 

Using me as an example … I liked a hard charging group when I got to a eat sleep work organizational exhaustionteam/group management level. And I, personally, would be ecstatic if I didn’t have to sleep and I could go 24/7.

And, in the beginning, that was my vision for my groups.

 

By the way … in general … good intentions … bad idea.

 

But what that meant was that I probably learned this lesson, pacing and applying effort appropriately, too slowly <and I most likely will have a bunch of past team members chuckling painfully in agreement>. Going hard charging all the time is not sustainable — you juts have a constantly exhausted group.

Effective hard charging doesn’t mean 24/7 it means picking your moments and going hard.

 

That said… in desiring to have hard charging organizations there were certainly some lessons anyone would learn to limit needless organizational exhaustion.

Here are a couple I learned along the way:

 

  • I had to be consistent.

 

It doesn’t get discussed often enough but expectations go both ways. As a leader setting clear expectations is certainly expected <and I will mention that in my second learning> but it really helps an organization if you establish clearly what people can expect of you – behaviorally and attitudinally.

 

Words surely matter.

Setting expectations surely matter.

Actions surely matter.

But consistency matters above all. No leader is perfect and no leader will make the perfect decisions, let alone good decisions, all the time. Therefore it becomes incredibly important to just be consistent. Your organization, and specifically people, will become better accustomed to where you will be really really good and where you may be slightly off <and they will naturally accommodate both>.

 

In other words … your consistency actually offers your employees some direction for what they should do. Your best people will assess situations and know where you are consistently most likely right on, know the things you consistently overlook and know where you consistently leave some spaces for them to ‘do their thing.’

 

  • Keep some strong threads of consistency.

 

Threads of consistency permit an organization to not have to think about some things.

There were some really simple tactical things that I could control.

 

  • What do you mean <clarity in articulation>
  • Where are we going <set a visible North Star>
  • What do you want me to do <pragmatic expectations>

 

organize fish

If you could keep these three things solid and not have people milling about talking amongst themselves on these three questions you were staying ahead of the game.

 

It permits your organization to progress and not be stagnant. It permits your organization  to not invest unnecessary energy against those things and apply energy against doing shit.

 

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t have to do these things.

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t do these things at their own peril.

The peril? Exhaustion. frustration. Waste energy.

 

Not doing these things has an expense to an organization and mostly that is defined by two things – time & energy. I would point out that both of those things are not infinite resources to an organization. I point t out because if they are finite than you better have them available to you when you actually need them.

And that is why I chose to not use an organization as a race metaphor at the beginning but rather an organization as a body metaphor.

 

Look.

 

As a leader of larger organization you can hide your misjudgments or poor decisions in a variety of creative ways … mostly by shifting resources from one group to another or have another department assume some different responsibilities or by shifting some people into the work gaps or to buttress the best people who are flagging with some support.

 

But that is also not sustainable.

 

organizational exhaustion battery

The organization gets exhausted doing all that maneuvering … in addition … they get exhausted by you doing that.

 

I will admit that I got better at this as I moved up in responsibility. And, I will admit, I partially got better at it simply because I had more moving parts, departments and groups to manage. That is because I loved working 24/7 and I thrived with the energy of solving problems and … well … just energy. In a larger organization there is always something going on, some project or problem or initiative somewhere within an organization that needs attention or needs a little ‘push.’ This naturally permitted me to let one part of the organization ‘rest’ while another part of the organization ‘ran.’

 

Oh.

Think about that a second or two if you will.

 

What I just suggested is that an organization as a well-rounded circle or the classical myth of a ‘well rounded person’ is … well … simply a myth. In fact … the idea of it creates a false narrative in our heads.  As an organization learns and thinks and gains experience it does not expand smoothly but, rather, raggedly. Day after day, despite the fact it may feel like business is a grind or it may even feel too fast <or too slow>  an organization is constantly running toward some thought and experience … or … leaping from danger or something  disagreeable or some problem or some success and … well … suffice it to say it is anything but balanced.

And it is certainly not creating any smooth well rounded growth.

 

My main point?

 

exhausted all possibilities tried everythingThere is no such thing as a well-rounded person and there is no such thing as a well rounded organization. A leader may certainly aspire to create a well-rounded organization but, even at your best, the organization at any given point in time is some shape other than a circle.

The good news is that this means organizations also naturally get excited to explore the edged forays into interesting things and, in parallel, get snagged on the ragged edges of unexplored thoughts or even second guesses with regard to the lack of smoothness in what is happening in departments, groups and efforts … as well as thoughts and growth.

 

Yes.

I will point out that this is why an organization can feel slightly uncomfortable on occasion as employees, departments and groups wrestle with this discomfort, as well as dealing with the ragged edges constantly poking at everyone, but I will also point out that is why the things I mentioned earlier become even more important –the consistency, the clarity and the lack of chaos.

I will also point out that his kind of ‘uncomfortable’ is okay. Ito a leader it is actually a sign that things are going okay and the organization is not stagnant <and good leaders know how to point out good non-stagnancy to calm uncomfortable>.

 

All that said.

 

I can unequivocally state that no organization is successful when needlessly exhausted. They can be tired at the end of the day but exhaustion is a symptom not of ‘a good day’s work’ but rather unnecessary mental stress trying to get things going, understand what to do and what to say and kibitzing over why it is so hard to get what seems like normal shit done.

 

When an organization is running well … whether the 350 million, 350 or the 35 organizational exhaustion balancing workrecognize it … there are many days when the 1, the leader, leaves the office exhausted.

And the one is exhausted despite the fact that 349,999,900 people, 341 people or 34 people went to sleep that day feeling pretty good about their day and their needs & wants & hopes took one step forward that day … and they are a good tired … not needlessly exhausted.

 

Oh.

Despite the fact the one went to bed exhausted that one will arise the next day fresh because the organization is ready to go again the next day … and not organizationally exhausted.

 

I will end by pointing out that an exhausted group, an exhausted department or an exhausted organization is the sign of poor leadership. And, most importantly, it is a precursor to signs of inefficiencies and declines in measured productivity.

 

We often beat the crap out of ourselves

May 4th, 2017

beat the crap bad days people life

 

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novice-heartbreaker:

 

    Reminder: Everyone has bad days, you don’t have to be your best self everyday.

 

Everyone has days where they are sad, cranky, or lazy.

Don’t beat yourself up for being human, you’re ok. What counts is how you handle yourself and treat people on a regular basis.

 

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Well.

 

I tend to believe everyone thinks Life does a fairly good job of beating the crap out of us almost every day. It tries to beat optimism out of us, hope out of us, positive out of us as well as … uhm … compassion, empathy, fellowship and almost everything good.

It doesn’t always succeed … but it surely tries to beat the crap out of us.

 

And, yet, despite knowing all that … we still beat the crap out of ourselves.

 

It is kind of a little nuts when you think about it.

push-through-bad-days

 

Its nuts because most people don’t set out every day thinking “boy, I hope I have a bad day and do some bad shit.” Most of us set out each day with the intention to do something good … not bad. Most people do the best they can.

 

And, yeah, sometimes that best isn’t that good … or maybe just not as good as our good really is. But that doesn’t mean that simply because we have a bad day or are cranky or even a little lazy that we still don’t do something useful and, in general, conduct ourselves in an honorable fashion.

 

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“The purpose of life is not to be happy.

It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Look.

beat the crap love myself

I am not suggesting you have to sit around and say “I love myself.”  All I am saying is that you don’t have to beat the crap out of yourself for being human.

 

You have some bad days.

 

You have some days when you are cranky and not particularly pleasant to be around.

 

You have some days when you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning … but you do … and everyone around you wishes you hadn’t.

 

You have some days when you do not feel energetic … may even feel lazy … and you don’t really get shit done that day.

 

None of those things make you bad.

None of those things make it worth beating the crap out of yourself.

 

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“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Days come and go, opportunities come and go and your ‘bad’ comes and goes.

That’s the way Life goes. You can beat the crap out of yourself if you want but it seems like, if you think about what I just wrote, you would pretty much conclude that even your bad days while they could be better could also certainly be worse.

 

Uh.

That’s called Life and that’s called ‘being human.’beat the crap poo poo people on you

 

Let’s face it.

Every day someone is gonna point out you are having a bad day … and you may not even being have a bad day for fucks sake … it just may be a bad moment.

 

Let’s face it.

Every day some jerkwad is gonna look at you as if you had done something wrong even when you do something right.

 

Let’s face it.

About the only time someone isn’t going to be giving you shit is if you act like a robot … and even then someone is going to bitch about you being ‘too consistent’ and too much like a robot.

 

 

Anyway.

 

beat the crap situation define 1

I have used a couple Emerson quotes/thoughts today because  he abhorred how society tried to grind everyone into a simplistic repetitive cycle of ‘expectations, reward & recycle.’

 

He abhorred how society beat the crap out of people their individuality so that they turned into something that they weren’t born to be.

 

He abhorred the fact the more we got the crap beaten out of us by society & Life beat the crap situation define 2the more difficult it was to break free from the grip of what society expected and demanded of us.

 

No one said that being yourself was easy.

And it seems like beating the crap out of yourself doesn’t make it any fucking easier.

 

Everyone has bad days. What counts is how you handle yourself and treat people on a regular basis.

 

So stop beating the crap out of yourself … that is Life’s job.

and, just think, we have 1300 more days of this

May 1st, 2017

 

 

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 pretending-to-be-normal

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?”

 

“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?

 

Why could that one not have been worked out?”

 

President Trump said during Washington Examiner interview today

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In 2013 bibliographers estimated that more than 65,000 books have been i-cannot-believe-that-happened-what-is-going-on-ouch-ponderwritten about the Civil War.

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

 

 

======= GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: Abraham Lincoln =======

 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

a profoundly mediocre person

April 30th, 2017

easy hard said

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“I thought it would be easier.”

 

Donald Trump

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“It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”

—-

 

Donald Trump on anti-missile defense system

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

 

Well.

 

Today we begin day 101 of the Trump administration. And while I truly wanted

.......... Trump administration .......

………. Trump administration …….

to suggest that the administration had evolved from clown car status to even possibly a Hyundai status < or at least to a Lada> the leader of the administration, the driver president as it were, seems to want to continue being … well … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

Sad.

 

Sad not in that mediocrity is a bad thing but rather he continues to not see mediocrity whenever he looks in the mirror.

 

Mediocre? The two opening quotes came directly from his most recent interview … this one with Reuters <whose reporter I would give a raise to simply for not laughing out loud at times>.

They seem to sum up everything that makes me think Trump is just a profoundly mediocre person <and, unfortunately, my president>.

 

Frankly, I need to stop reading interviews he gives. Every time I do I <a> laugh out loud, <b> shake my head , <c> am mortified that someone like this is actually leading a country let alone talking with other incredibly qualified people leading their countries and <d> get angry. He always sounds like be believes he is the most interesting man in the world writing his own lines for the “Most Interesting Man In The World” advertising campaign.

 

<note: the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world was actually an interesting man>

 

Sad.

 

I will respectfully disagree with one of Trump’s most ardent followers who suggested yesterday that “that’s how a CEO makes decisions” because the typical CEO does not make decisions like this, does not use words like this nor do they behave like this.

 

All that said.

Another long interview and, once again, we gain some insight into the small brain of the “big handed” Donald J. Trump. He is foolishly naïve … often stunningly ignorant … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

What did he think the Presidency was?

 

Who thinks that being President is easy?

 

Who thinks it’s not a lot of work?

 

How could he be so blind sided … I mean … geez … all you have to do to see the difficulty and complexity of the job, and how that mental burden physically affects a President, is to look at before and after pictures of literally every President <who wasn’t wearing a wig>.

irresponsibility made easy

 

Even in this interview … one 99 days in <so he has had some experience to incorporate into his attitude & behavior> he still sounded like the guy at the end of the bar after having had one too many beers … talking about how he could be as good as any CEO in the world. From the corner of the bar everything looks easier … those of us who have seen the corner office knows it just ain’t that easy.

 

It’s a real job which has real challenges which requires some real skills and demands some real self-awareness.

It’s a real job and not one that resides solely in some imaginative place in which someone sits on a throne where decisions are untouchable and things get done with a word – a presidency may be the world’s most difficult job.

 

Given what I sense was his perception of the job, its responsibilities and its ‘power’ I can only imagine the bitterness he must feel confronted by the stark truth that in the ‘real job’ <not the one he imagined> he cannot simply do what he wants to do and not everyone respects him <if not admires him> simply because he won ‘the crown.’

 

Sad.

 

But lost among all of this “Trump all the time” coverage are the people who voted for him. As he called them “the forgotten American.”

 

You know what? I actually agree with him with regard to a lot of these people. Lots of people and their legitimate grievances were forgotten as we obsessed over a variety of well intended causes.

 

popularity mediocre peopleThey have a cause too … not just survival but economic opportunity and an opportunity to contribute as Americans should contribute.

And these people will pay the price not because as a mediocre president Trump ignores them <as many presidents have in the past> but because he raised their hopes and he is so mediocrely competent he cannot meet even the lowest hope.

 

Oh. That is not just mediocre … that is an asshat.

 

He is a mediocre man whose most immediate concern at the point of any decision is the Trump brand <which, at its core, is built around an image of ‘winning’>.

 

Oh, yeah, that win thing.

 

I cannot explain exactly what my feeling was when I read that in the middle of a discussion with reporters <on day 98>  about Chinese President Xi Jinping Donald J Trump stopped  and handed out copies, to each reporter in the room, of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

 

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red.

“It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

 

Oh. Now I know how to explain that feeling – mediocrity.

 

A mediocre man seeking to make everyone feel he is not mediocre.

 

A mediocre leader seeking to find ways to suggest he does not do mediocre sigh-thought-bubblethings.

 

Sigh.

 

On occasion we get glimpses of what I would call, if I were generous, … encouraging signs of reality buried in the bluster. Signs that he knows how difficult the job is <which sucks compared to his incoming beliefs> and that he is woefully unprepared for it all.

 

And when I am generous I start to think he could get better at it.

I hope so.

 

Oh.

Who am I kidding? He is a 70 year old, bombastic, thin skinned, desperate for approval, narcissistic, mediocre asshat. He is not going to change. We may see a glimmer of ‘good shit’ on occasion but I can almost say with 90% confidence level he will remain who he is … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

In the end … his desire to create entertainment and the constant image/perception of ‘doing something’ only creates more uncertainty & angst than it does real solutions & progress.

 

Beyond the fact he doesn’t act the way we should expect a leader of a business to act <let alone a president or a global leader> he verbally and behaviorally:

 

  • remains a constant threat to free speech, free press, independent courts, checks and balances with congress, minority rights

 

  • treats laws on nepotism and conflicts of interests as though they don’t exist

 

  • lies so habitually that we now hesitate to trust anything he says

 

  • is constantly amazed that the job is as difficult as it is, the world is as complicated as it is and that maybe the people who had been doing things in the past just were not as stupid as he thought they were

 

All of which provides constant evidence, to us, that so far is he is an utterly incompetent President.

 

Yeah.

 

only the mediocre quoteSorry to tell everyone but underlying all the glimmers of hope resides the one underlying truth of the moment … he is a bullshit artist and a profoundly mediocre person and that is what we should expect from day 101 on.

 

As one article summarized it perfectly — Trump is simply a profoundly mediocre person tragically unfit for the presidency.

 

He was on day 1. He was on day 100. He is on day 101. And he will be on every foreseeable day from this day on. A mediocre person who only sees an extraordinary person when he looks in the mirror.

 

“I thought it would be easier.”

 

Sad.

the dark days bad days sad black hole life

 

<and, yes, I will continue to criticize him as long as he stays in my criticism crosshairs on my chart>

 

Enlightened Conflict