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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legacies, never being seen & pondering 2100 posts

June 24th, 2017

blog writing

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just-shower-thoughts:

 

    One of my greatest fears is that someone has written my favorite song, but they’re not famous enough for me to hear it.

 

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“As I make a final right-hand turn onto our street, my GPS informs me that I’ve ‘reached my destination.’

 

‘My destination,’ I laugh aloud to myself.

 

My GPS doesn’t know squat.”

 

Colleen Hoover

 

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“I’m so scared of dying without ever being really seen. Can you understand? “

David Foster Wallace

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“I did something and it was never seen.”

 

Someone’s grave stone

 

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Ok.

 

 

This is written as I ponder my legacy, legacies in general, and my 2100st post.

 

writing-typing-legacy-blog-thoughts7 years 7 months 4 days.

91 months 4 days.

396 weeks 1 day.

2773 days.

2100 posts.

A little over 5 posts a week for over 7 years.

2,100,000+ words <a conservative estimate>.

 

My words and thoughts over the 2100 posts have remained consistent … on November 18th 2009 I wrote my first Enlightened Conflict post and 6 days later I offered my second post and wrote this:

 

… it is in my DNA to be “constantly preoccupied with possibilities of new combinations.” Now. That can make me a pain in the ass to work with. One time a mentor, and a manager I loved working for, once said to me, “sometimes you are a pain in the ass, but I am glad you are my pain in the ass.”

 

And if you visit my LinkedIn site you will see a past client says:

......... Me .............

……… Me ………….

 

If you don’t want to be “nudged” into new ideas and creative solutions – don’t ever call Bruce McTague. If, however, you want to look at things through a different telescope and find 3-dimensional ideas you’ve never considered, call Bruce now. Not tomorrow. He’ll make you uncomfortable, but I firmly believe that if the idea doesn’t make you uneasy, it’s not a big idea. Easy to work with, but always stretching your mind, Bruce is a true business Partner. You’ll grow working with Bruce.

 

2100 posts later and I am still a contrarian, still snarky, still writing about the possibility of new combinations and still a pain in the ass.

 

But with almost everything I write I try and offer pain in the ass type thinking … not fluff. On November 30th 2009 I wrote this: communicating meaningful information so people can make meaningful choices.

 

I am still not a nudger and I am absolutely unflinchingly focused on communicating meaningful information, thoughts & ideas so people can make meaningful choices and think meaningful thoughts.

 

Well.

 

All that said.

 

At 2100 you have a tendency to sit back and wonder what happens if I actually

did something in my Life and nobody notices it when I am gone?

 

And before you think this topic is bullshit or “that’s not something I worry/think about” take a second and think about this.

 

Why do so many people buy symbolic bricks with names on it on a wall somewhere?

Why do we put stars in the ground with people’s names on it?

Why do we have gravestones and epitaphs?

 

We do these things because we want people to remember at least something about us. It doesn’t have to be big … but … well … something for god’s sake.

 

All of that leads me to legacies.

 

Everyone leaves something behind … some footprint.

 

With me … my largest footprint <at the moment> would be everything I have written.

Which makes me slightly wonder what happens with my 2100+ pieces on Enlightened Conflict … does somebody stumble across them and publish some or do they fade way into the nothingness of ‘something done but never seen’?

 

Will someone own my words & thoughts when I am gone?

 

I wrote recently that I own my words and thoughts … therefore … in some way I assume they must have some value <at least to me> … maybe just pennies but of some value.build legacy create something mctague 2000

 

It would be nice to think some of these thoughts get passed around from person to person like pennies — everyone has some, they are often overlooked until needed to complete a transaction and are annoying when you realize you left some in a pocket when you do the laundry.

 

But most importantly I see these pennies being used to create a transaction. In my mind … in this case the transaction is thinking … and maybe a purchase against what I see as the true corruption of our age … ignorance.

 

 

 

Montaigne:

The corruption of the age is made up by the particular contribution of every individual man; some contribute treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, according to their power; the weaker sort contribute folly, vanity, and idleness; of these I am one. It seems as if it were the season for vain things, when the hurtful oppress us; in a time when doing ill is common, to do but what signifies nothing is a kind of commendation.

 

 

 

I admit that I believe these types of pennies are becoming more and more valuable.

 

I believe that because I worry that time is currently painting a portrait of disappearing thought in which all who see this portrait are corrupted by what they can no longer see … and walk away thinking ignorance is beautiful.

 

Yeah.

 

That corruption breeds a sense of everything changing … but in an invisible way. We only see the change in a low level slightly nagging unease & unhappiness. In a way our moral & character health deteriorates despite our relentless pursuit of feeling better through pills, supplements & absurd self improvement plans.

Mentally our focus shifts toward what is visible and away from the invisible <that which creates the unease> and we fixate on what we think we know rather than unlearning what we know.

 

We stop engaging with thought … and even engaging with the thoughtful people <the intellectuals — real & faux> because it is … well … easier.

 

The sad truth is that we are largely doing all of this corruption to ourselves. We do so because conflict is necessary to make the invisible visible … but conflict, and making the invisible visible, is hard & sometimes hurtful.

 

invisible grain of sandWhat does this have to do with a legacy?

I could argue that if your thinking is invisible in some way … possibly a big way … you run the risk of becoming so invisible that when you leave there remains no footprint to mark your steps in Life.

 

I imagine leaving Life as an invisible person has little appeal to anyone. Not that you desire to be the most visible person in the world just that you would prefer knowing that when you were gone who you were just became completely invisible.

 

Please note that I am not tying visible to any success but rather thinking <although I imagine it could be tied to ‘doing something that may truly matter’>.

 

And, while I am talking about the legacy I personally want to leave behind, I would imagine this thought bleeds into almost everyone’s Life. Yeah, in this case, I don’t think I am different than most people.

 

We all would prefer to not be corrupted by ignorance and we would prefer to want to ‘do something’ and, preferably, something dynamic beyond our own purposes.

 

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“[My ultimate goal is] to leave this world a better person, and for me to not be the only one who knows it.”

 

Gavin DeGraw

 

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Ah.

But the idea of being dynamic beyond your own purposes is fraught with peril.

 

It means … well … dreaming big. Okay. It means thinking big <and, yes, I do believe far too often we aim too small and too low>.

 

As for me and my thinking big?

 

I want to attack ignorance as if it is the enemy and, looking back, the majority i will talk about anythingof my 2100 posts have relentlessly unflinchingly, never nudging, attacked ignorance. I have done so using the idea of Enlightened Conflict as a North Star.

 

I believe conflict of thoughts is healthy and believe vocalizing the conflict is necessary for progress. I believe Conflict is natural and will always exist – between countries, religious beliefs, ideologies, the haves and the have nots, etc.

 

And I believe with my writing I have a unique opportunity to insure conflict of thinking can be managed to some extent by encouraging positive conflict or enabling conflict with rules.

 

I debate with people … I write about thinking … I defend our youth … I rant about the old way of thinking … and, lately, I have found a muse in Donald J Trump <in fact … my 2101st post is a Trump business lesson>.

Trump has offered me the opportunity to have a living breathing example of almost everything I detest in business leadership, business acumen and how a business shouldn’t be run.

 

I do not detest him as a person <I don’t know him> I just detest how he conducts himself as a leader and a business person. He has reminded me that passion can inspire thinking and writing and reminds me that business sometimes needs to stop nudging and be more demanding of what is right & good.

 

Regardless.

 

think imagine legacy young learn unlearnIn the end … all I want is some enlightened thinking and new ways of looking at things and often, as a contrarian, I will use someone or something as a foil to make a comparative.

 

This style and way of thinking has proven to be a good timeless way of approaching things because should you view a post in my first 100 you would find it is still relevant and will still contain thoughts you may find scattered in my last 100 posts.

 

Anyway.

 

One last thought on legacies — compromising.

 

I still worry about compromising.

 

I know I have some fear that compromising has left far too many people numb to life … or maybe just numb to their dreams. Or maybe more specifically numb to ‘doing something that matters’ and, certainly, numb to thinking and new thoughts.

 

I still worry about me compromising. And maybe I fear that numbness if I end up compromising.

 

I kind of think this is a legitimate fear.

 

I, as everyone else, certainly want to be happy. Live. And love. And be loved. Read. Travel. See things. Meet people. Meet more people. And learn. And unlearn. And learn some more. Nowhere in there do I see compromise … I only see doing shit. And, in my eyes, nor do I see any ‘nudging’ but rather unflinching doing.

 

Yes. Doing something unflinchingly.

 

Because doing something unflinchingly that can leave the world a better place?

 

Whew.

legacy learn imagine hope mctague

I gotta tell ya … if you even have a glimmer of hope of getting to do something big … something really big … something that matters in a big way … something that someone would recognize someday  as a legacy idea … well … I don’t know. It kind of seems like you have to go for it – uncomprisningly and unflinchingly.

 

I have to think that if am going to lose, I want to know I lost doing something and not losing because I compromised in some way.

 

That said.

 

I don’t want to be known for writing 2000 posts, or however many I end up writing, I would like to have a legacy suggesting I did something that mattered <and someone could point to what that something was>.

 

In the end.

 

2100 posts and counting.

I very rarely have duplicated a thought, I have never run out of new quotes to share and I have never had “writer’s block” or not had something to write and, yet, I have consistently pounded on stupid & senseless business acumen and the misguided tripe people are fed with regard to Life.

 

That sounds big … and, yet, small at the same time. I have to imagine whether someone has written as much as I or not … most people will find that they have done something that sounds big but may look small in the harsh light of reality.

The only way I know to build a meaningful legacy <making what may appear small big> is to do what I do … not nudge and be absolutely unflinchingly focused on communicating meaningful information, thoughts & ideas so people can make meaningful choices and think meaningful thoughts.

 

And, yet, sure … I still do wonder what will happen to everything I have written because … well … at the moment they are my legacy. I imagine I am not alone in thinking that “I did something and it was never seen” on my headstone isn’t really what anyone wants.

For now all I can do is insure that I do something meaningful in a ‘non-nudging way’ and hope it gets noticed.

2000 legacy posts write

 

——————————–

 

About the author:

Bruce McTague is probably considered a sometimes irascible pragmatic contrarian. At the same time he is most likely considered a naïve believer in the inherent good in people and believer in the value of Hope as an engine for real progress.

He has been called cynical and optimistic.

And because of all of that he believes Life, just as people, are a complex bundle of contradictions therefore simplicity is often that refuge of fools.

He believes there is no problem or conflict that cannot be solved if people are willing to face harsh truths and make the hard decisions. He also believes that the world would be a much better place if everyone would spend just a little more time unlearning what they have learned, think a little bit more and that we would all benefit if we became better at articulating our thoughts.    

Lastly, in the end, he believes that everyone everywhere deserves to have hope.

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

 

“I don’t want to be remembered.

 Memories age and you might remember words I whispered in your car but you’ll forget how my voice made your name sound safe. You will faintly remember that there was once warmth in my touch but the skin on your chest where my hands made a home is cold now.

 

Time will steal all the sharp edges that made it seem real. Years will rob you blind and you’ll simply be living with my blurry ghost.

 

That’s worse than being forgotten, so confuse me with another girl in a coffee shop and change my name in future stories. Walk down memory lane and unlock the exit.

Ignore the ghost that packs up the memories and leaves and do me one last favor; shut the door behind me. “

 

write-from-the-start

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rock bottom

June 15th, 2017

 elevator down bottom

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“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

 

J.K. Rowling

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

 

“How do we forgive ourselves for all of the things we did not become?”

 

David ‘Doc’ Luben

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

 

Ok.

 

infinities are relativeHave you ever noticed that rock bottom is actually relative?

 

It is actually not a ‘bottom’ but rather like floors in a high rise building.

 

Someone can see a homeless person and think “rock bottom” and, yet, that homeless person, if asked, would say “oh, I have been lower.”

 

Someone can hear a millionaire recount when they were bankrupt and ‘it was rock bottom’ and, yet, two years later they were a millionaire again.

 

I am not suggesting that a wealthy person cannot see a starving child in a poverty stricken neighborhood as rock bottom … just that they cannot ever envision it is a viable rock bottom for themselves – ‘couldn’t happen to me’ syndrome.

 

I will not argue that people use their own versions of rock bottom as leverage points for progress and moving upwards away from that bottom. JK Rowling is certainly a great example of that <although … it would behoove us to acknowledge that she is an exception and not the rule>.

 

But if you ever want to truly understand how fucked up we tend to view rock bottom just take a second and ponder the wealthy view and how they discuss ‘entitlements’ and monetary safety nets.

 

It drives me a little nuts to hear some millionaire talking about the time they ‘lost it all’ and, yet, they sit in some plush chair wearing a hundred+ dollar tie discussing their comeback from rock bottom as a ‘self-made millionaire who fought his way back’.

 

Uhm.

 

Real rock bottom doesn’t permit you to go from less than zero to multi-millionaire unless you live in some privileged world or you win the lottery.

 

My real point is that rock bottom is relative.

 

The 50something C-level experienced person out of work for several years with dwindling bank balances and no discernible path off of the slippery slope rock bottom crap and me bad day life black holecertainly feels rock bottom. But their bottom is measured by what they had and what they lost … and what they believe they will be able to gain again <if given the opportunity>. And “opportunity” … even at their bottom certainly seems within a ‘hopeful grasp.’

 

Conversely, the hard working blue collar worker constantly on the edge of poverty or “making do” deems rock bottom as losing whatever they have gained … maybe a house or maybe just an apartment in which the adult has their own room and dinner food 6 days a week for everyone in the family. They may not view “opportunity” as hopeful but rather some small step toward relief from some worry.

 

The wealthy talk about ‘understanding’ that kind of rock bottom, but they don’t.

There is no way they do. In their world rock bottom is significantly different and the path out of that rock bottom hole looks significantly different.

 

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

 

“She destroyed too many good things in society, and created too many bad ones, then left a social and moral vacuum in which the selfishly rich and unimaginatively fortunate could too easily destroy still more of what they don’t need and can’t see that everyone else does need.”

 

———-

Emma Darwin

 

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

 

I am picking on the wealthy <mostly because many of them live in some absurd world view in which everyone has the same opportunity to attain the wealth that they have> but everyone views rock bottom thru their own relativity lens.

 

And, in general, that is okay.

 

gota have faith even at the bottom of the blackest holeIt is mostly okay because it is our own self calibration, and motivation, mechanism to challenge ourselves to get what we want. The difficulty happens when you start applying your own self calibration to others.

 

Look.

 

Rock bottom is fairly easy to see if you look around without cynicism.

 

 

Look around.

Entitlement programs represent almost 2/3rds of the American federal budget. Almost half of American households receive some assistance from the government.

 

When we see numbers like this most of us get grumpy and many of us think there is some underlying problem <which is difficult to put a finger on>.

Simplistically the biggest problem is that nobody thinks they’re the problem.

Shit. To be fair. Nobody ever wants to think they’re the problem.

 

Unfortunately, the truth is as long as we continue to think of the rising cultural reliance on government assistance as someone else’s problem, and someone else’s fault, we’ll never truly understand it and we’ll have absolutely zero chance of fixing it.

 

Unfortunately, the truth is that an America assistance culture is far more pervasive than people realize – even beyond the lazy moochers and deserving poor <of which there are certainly lazy moochers but far less than what we perceive>.

Even the wealthy rely on government assistance … just in different ways.

good people defined losses victories

 

Here is the truth. People want more stuff than what they have and everyone hates losing what they have. Therefore rock bottom relativity centers on that understanding – what I have, what I have lost, what I could gain.

 

That formula works if you earn $100 a week or $1000 an hour.

 

The truth is that … well … now everyone feels like they are entitled – even the wealthy — which is driven by a belief everyone is getting rich, or richer, but them.

This makes people become resentful, jealous, angry, and a little selfish. They are working hard and they want their share and they are at their rock bottom and see someone getting what they believe they deserve.

 

Now.

 

People, in general, know this is wrong and people, in general, don’t like this feeling and they resent feeling this way <and acting this way>. They get a little pissed that the definition of rock bottom isn’t some simple ‘same for everyone’ so they start lashing out and blaming other people.

People are milking the system.

People in government <whichever party you want> are creating the problem.

People who don’t look like us are to blame.

People think their rock bottom is more important than everyone else’s rock bottom.

 

And all people want a simple thing to point at and say ”fuck you, I am at rock bottom and I do not want to be here.”

 

Here is a truth.

 

The truth is that it is a systemic issue and, I would argue, our failing to truly understand rock bottom.

 

I will offer a quasi-contradictory thought to end this.

 

As a generalization … wealthy people <say 90% of them> has an absurd concept of rock bottom and fairly consistently misjudge attitudes & behaviors of poorer people at their rock bottoms.

 

Conversely … it is a massive mistake to generalize the non-wealthy and their rock bottoms. While I felt comfortable generalizing with the wealthy <because I believe overall they have more opportunities within their grasp more easily graspable> I am not comfortable doing so with less wealthy people. And I say that to go back to my original opening point – rock bottom is relative and personal.

 

That point is pretty important.

made a bed at bottom of black hole

It is important because we tend to want to create some sweeping program and solution which misses the fact that it is more likely to be successful if we go one-on-one and help individuals assess their rock bottom and help them get somewhere other than a bottom.

 

What I would feel comfortable making a generalization on is the fact that any less-than-wealthy person at their rock bottom has no desire to remain there. They may have no clue how to get out of their hole. They may have absolutely no hope of getting out of their hole. They may exhibit no behaviors that suggest they want to get out of their hole.

But exactly 0% wants to remain in their bed at the rock bottom of their hole.

 

We should never permit anyone to make a bed at the rock bottom. Never.

 

 

steps taking

 

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

 

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”

Paulo Coelho

it is perhaps the misfortune of my life

June 11th, 2017

 

 

good bad person trust reliable

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

 

“It is perhaps the misfortune of my life that I am interested in far too much but not decisively in any one thing; all my interests are not subordinated in one but stand on an equal footing.”

 

Søren Kierkegaard

 

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

 

“I wasn’t much of a petty thief. I wanted the whole world or nothing.”

 

Charles Bukowski

 

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

 

So.

 

Last night I had a little time before I shut down my computer to scrounge around some of my favorite websites for some thoughts, quotes and images.

I don’t really believe in serendipity but within 15 minutes on three different sites I gathered the three quotes that anchor this piece.

............ restless thinking one big adventure ........

………… restless thinking one big adventure ……..

I sat back after copying them and I realized it is perhaps the misfortune of my Life that I am interested in far too much.

My misfortune is that I am incessantly curious, a relentless contrarian to existing thought & thinking and a restless thinker in general. My misfortune is that I see restless thinking as one big adventure.

 

I sat back after copying them and I realized I am not satisfied being a petty thief … I want the whole world.

 

And as I sat back I also thought a little about how I got to this place.

Growing up I remember hearing a lot of “maybe you should be more realistic” type advice.

I remember it chafing.

 

It made me think … well … I should think smaller.

 

That chafed.

 

I am sure the ‘safer’ aspect … aiming toward more achievable things and not stretching too far possibly felt okay … but I chafed on the whole thought of not getting what I thought could be achieved or what could be done.

............. small Life pleasure ............

…………. small Life pleasure …………

Shit.

 

I still do.

 

Going small just seems … well … small to me.

 

And, yes, there is a price to pay for thinking this way.

 

 

Ok.

 

 

I will point out two prices you pay.

 

The first price is restlessness.

mctague misfortune curious 1Oh. And restlessness can make people feel uneasy. It makes them uneasy because you are not easily slotted. People want you to present them with a peg and they can put it in some hole and thinking about it and look at it.

 

People, like me, who have the misfortune of being interested in anything and everything and not satisfied with one thing are more of a box. And while boxes represent some symmetry and some tangible aspect for people to grasp, at the same time, … sigh … it is not a peg

 

 

The second price is wins … as in quantity of wins. Even I, probably a more pragmatic aspirationalist, don’t aim toward some truly realistic things on occasion.

That means not getting done what you want to get done, not getting where you want to get to and not getting, in general, the largeness you desired. In other words … you didn’t get a win while someone who aimed lower or accepted something smaller did get a win.

 

Does that matter? I mean life doesn’t really give out trophies … people do.

 

Yeah. It does matter.

 

Watching others win when you don’t does matter to some extent. And you would be lying if you didn’t admit that.

 

Aiming for it all … or something bigger <more broad> than something smaller <more focused> … and not getting it can make you start thinking smaller.

 

And why do you do that? You want a frickin’ win.

 

And that … well … that can affect how you think and what you do.

 

It does so because many of us are willing to compromise some fairly important things to win on occasion.

 

Shit.

Even more of us are willing to compromise a lot of fairly important things <which they hadn’t even tangibly decided were important to them> in order to win on occasion.

 

Oh.

 

I bring up the second group because they are the ones who don’t get the ones who have the misfortune of wanting bigger things.

It’s like a petty thief most likely scoffs at the master thief.

 

Uhm.

But those people may just call this reality <and, therefore, kind of suggesting those who have the misfortune of wanting to know everything about everything are not realistic>.

 

Whew.

Yeah.

 

athlete reality stringsIt is quite likely that my reality, and those whose reality is similar, fights reality itself – I mean society & culture creates lines of reality of which we get boxed in by with regard to expectations.

 

Umberto Eco is the one who suggested life has “lines of resistance.” This was his version of reality.

 

These ‘lines of resistance’ are established mostly so that we cannot say or do whatever we like with impunity.

The problem with that is they also bring along some baggage … baggage like … uhm … what is viewed as pragmatic & realistic <smaller versions of shit that are achievable by many rather than few>.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

But, thankfully, the lines of resistance can shift.

 

But, thankfully, some can reach across the lines of resistance and gain access to some bigger shit which lies outside the lines of resistance.

 

All that said.

Life, and these lines of resistance, encourage some people … mostly those who have the misfortune to be interested in far too much but not decisively in any one thing to shrink them … encourage them to think smaller and, inevitably, maybe be smaller than what they should be.

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

 

“Most of my life has been spent trying to shrink myself.

Trying to become smaller. Quieter. Less sensitive. Less opinionated. Less needy. Less me.

 what i believe truth opinion

Because I didn’t want to be a burden.

I didn’t want to be too much or push people away. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to be cared for and valued. I wanted to be wanted. So for years, I sacrificed myself for the sake of making other people happy. And for years, I suffered.

But I’m tired of suffering, and I’m done shrinking. It’s not my job to change who I am in order to become someone else’s idea of a worthwhile human being.

 

I am worthwhile. Not because other people think I am, but because I exist, and therefore I matter. My thoughts matter. My feelings matter. My voice matters. And with or without anyone’s permission or approval, I will continue to be who I am and speak my truth.

Even if it makes people angry. Even if it makes them uncomfortable. Even if they choose to leave. I refuse to shrink. I choose to take up space. I choose to honour my feelings. I choose to give myself permission to get my needs met. I choose to make self-care a priority.

I choose me.”

 

Daniell Koepke

 

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

 

Let me be clear.

 

Smaller is safer. Smaller can actually be very satisfying. Smaller, in some ways, can actually permit you to live a fuller Life <although I would argue it’s not really a bigger Life>.

 

And while small, in this case, could be construed as bad or lesser than … it is not. It is simply a viable choice for people with regard t their Life and how they want to live it.

 

Just as those who have the misfortune to want the whole world. That is their choice.

 

And I would argue that whatever your choice we are all aiming tward the same place … lets call it our “home.” That home within. The place within you that either sits on the favorite Barcalounger safe & sound in a Life lived well in smaller aspects … or the one who wanders forever restlessly over hill & thru the dale seeking the next interest or learning or new thing.

 

Personally, I am the latter.

I am a nomad thinker.  I want to know it all. And when I know something I want to know more.

But that topic is for another day.

 

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

“All of life is a coming home. bad-home-is-whereever-you-are

Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us.

All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home.”

 

—–

Patch Adams

 

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

 

 

Today I would suggest whether you have the misfortune of wanting to know it all or whether you believe in something bigger than you or simply believe there is something bigger within you to be found by not wanting it all … your compass & your map resides within … not some external place or location which may appear to fulfill some aspect of ‘home.’

 

 

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

so far out to sea <‘restless’>

 

so far out to sea

     standing on impassive intensity

                     of restless possibilities

oh,

     push back the curtain

of slumbering elements

      of disordered solitude.

stir up a peace of

       desolate despair

                       drowning out a cacophony

       of restless disinterested

                           distant thoughts.

restless sun

               reflects upon the path chosen,

                      stand frozen,

      restless mind

                    wander the waves roaming

so far out to sea

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

 

 

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

==========

 

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

—-

Clotilde Hesme

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

 

“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

 

=========

 

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.

 

persistent setbacks

May 10th, 2017

 setbacks persistent alone

===========

 

“We all have a personal pool of quicksand inside us where we begin to sink and need friends and family to find us and remind us of all the good that has been and will be.”

 

—-

Regina Brett

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

 

“Making the best of things is… a damn poor way of dealing with them.

My whole life has been a series of escapes from that quicksand.”

 

—-

Rose Wilder Lane

 

=========

 

 

Well.

 

We all encounter setbacks in our lives. Some people call that ‘life.’

 

setback speed bumpThe positive psychologists just call the setbacks “obstacles” as if they were some hurdles you just learn to either leap or get around.

 

In other words … it is assumed if you stick to your guns no setback is a dead end but rather simply a speed bump.

In other words … we are offered some simplistic discussions about overcoming obstacles.

 

If you really really think about this … this advice is kind of nuts.

 

Yeah.

You may have to think really hard to come on to my side of this argument.

 

You may have to work hard because as soon as you are old enough to comprehend words you get bludgeoned with advice and wisdom with regard to ‘overcoming obstacles.’

 

In its most simplistic form it is uttered as “if you believe, you can overcome anything” or even the famous “it’s not the mistake that matters it is what you do with that mistake.”

 

You get pummeled with things like this:

 

===============medication over medictaion problemsolving2

“Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no Virtue.”

 

Joyram

 

===========

When you start living the life of your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way.

 

But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

 

Roy Bennett

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

 

 

Well.

 

I don’t doubt the sincerity of this advice but what all of this trite wisdom, mostly offered by wealthier & whiter people whose setbacks are slightly different … okay … exponentially different, then not only the everyday schmuck but those who are in more vulnerable environments seems to overlook is that A setback is manageable … persistent setbacks are a whole different game.

 

I love virtue but after a while you cannot sustain yourself, mentally and physically, on virtue alone when faced with persistent setbacks.

 

What I mean is that we treat setbacks as if they were like a cold … with a little time and some fortitude and some chicken noodle soup you can overcome it and move on.

 

But sometimes setbacks are like a virus … this virus is more like ‘persistent setbacks.’

 

setbacks persistent quicksand

 

And, yes, this is different than what I call “quicksand” or “quicksand setbacks.”

 

Quicksand setbacks are more often in a defined period of time and comes to fruition mostly in a helpless unraveling before your eyes.

It’s like in a football game where one fumble leads to an interception which leads to the other team running a punt back for a touchdown. Everyone fights as hard as they can … but the setbacks stream in a way that drives you deeper and deeper into a hole. Most times quicksand setbacks stop and depending on the quicksand you are in a deep dark fucking hole or just a hole <or something in-between>.

 

A hole is a hole. It sucks.

But most times if you do get your shit together, get your head on straight and maybe get a little help you can get out of the hole <regardless of how deep it is>. And once you get out of a quicksand hole you actually find you have learned some stuff and … well … most times you see future quicksand and avoid it.

 

 

And then there are persistent setbacks.

 

problems overcoming obstacles

….. and, yet, the opportunities can only be found in darker deeper holes ………..

 

They are brutal.

Fucking brutal.

 

You face a setback.

You pick yourself up, recover and get going again. And maybe just as you get going again … well … you get another setback.

 

This one hurts a little more because you knew you had invested and you knew you had done it right … and you still got screwed again with another setback.

 

 

You figure … what the hell … I did it once and I can do it again and you pick yourself up again and get going, recover and you are starting to put the last setback in your rear view mirror and … doh … another setback.

 

 

This one hurts. Hurts bad.

 

But … you know you have no alternative but to get up, try again and get going.

This time is a little different though. This time you are a little more tentative.

Maybe even doubt a little more. You still put energy into it and you are working hard but this time your head is more on a swivel.

 

Uhm.

And then another setback happens.

 

Most will get up and go again. But this time doubt is your companion and while you are trying your best … you are most likely not really your best.

 

And then another setback happens.

 

This is where the trite positive ‘pick yourself up’ people sort of get things wrong.

 

It’s not that you don’t have the desire … you just have lost hope that you will ever get a break or that it will finally be someone else who will have a setback and not you.

 

Sigh.

 

I read this quote somewhere:

 

“Time to bet on yourself, big, huge, gigantic bet on your genius and abilities to change the world for the better because nothing is going to stop you, no force is going to hold you down or get in your way and make you lose your inner motivation again.”

 

 

Well.

 

kitchen-table-study-problems-concerns-home-life-leadThat sound good … really good … but persistent setbacks are a whole different game. You can be motivated, you can bet on yourself and all of those things <which are usually necessary for any success> but … well … what happens if you have to keep on going back to the well again and again and again?

 

What happens when Life just seems to provide one more setback after you have just recovered and gained some momentum for the last setback … which you had done after the setback before that one and … well … you get it.

 

There is only so much anyone can take before they get tired … start having doubts … and then simply lose hope.

Look.

 

Everyone can pull themselves together after a setback.

A quicksand  setback is a little trickier but depending on deeply you sink … most people can pull themselves together.

 

But persistent setbacks? Whew.

 

You aren’t looking for a big break … you are just looking for A break.

 

When in a persistent setback cycle … it is relentlessly exhausting.

 

Your plans all seem to not go as planned.

 

You can do your best, and it may actually be pretty good, and it can still fail.

 

You can be really smart, have a smart idea, articulate it smartly, and it can still be rejected or ignored.

 

You can work harder than anyone else and pour your heart & soul into something and it can still go unnoticed.

 

And all of that gets exponentially harder to take with each ongoing setback.

 

In addition … persistent setbacks take on a darker hue if you start looking around you and see mediocrity winning and rising and some of the least qualified not facing the setbacks you are.

 

Now.

 

I did some research.

And I found how we deal with setbacks depends on how much control someone feels they have over a situation.

 

The study found that changes in certain brain areas were related to persisting with goals after encountering setbacks.

 

Participants more often persisted with their goals, choosing to try again to earn the same academic degree, when they perceived they had control over a setback than if they perceived that they did not have control over a setback.

 

What’s more, activity in a brain area called the ventral striatum was related to persisting with goals in cases where the setbacks were controllable. Participants who showed greater decreases in brain activity in the ventral striatum when they encountered a controllable setback were more likely to persist with their goals.

 

On the other hand, changes in a brain area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were related to persistence when the setbacks were uncontrollable. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is involved in regulation of emotions, and the new study suggests this brain area helps people cope with negative emotions in order to persist in the case of uncontrollable setbacks.

 

 

drowning no water lifeIn other words … when setbacks are uncontrollable they affect us in a more emotional way.

 

Yup. When persistent setbacks seem to continue in ways that are out f our control … well … they fucking kick the shit out of you mentally.

 

 

I say that because I think most of us overlook how persistent setbacks affect the mind.

 

And while I just outlined how I believe it affects an individual … there is also an effect on the people around you.

 

Say you are a parent and you are in this doomed cycle of persistent setbacks.

As a child that is all you see. That is all you hear about. That is what you start thinking Life is more like than what you see on TV with regard to ‘work harder than anyone else and your dreams can come true <or you can do anything you want>.’

 

Let me tell you what I mean by showing you some research numbers I just saw.

 

Among the dozens of research studies post 2016 election I found some number about the working class and education that made me sit up a little and think about this whole ‘persistent setback’ issue and how … if it is affects a swath of the population long enough … can affect their larger attitudes.

 

In an analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic 54% of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble … this includes a whopping 61% of white working-class men <white working-class voters who held this belief were almost twice as likely as their peers to support Trump>.

 

Ok.

That is bad. But it gets worse.

 

This belief is even more prevalent among white working-class Americans under 30.

 

This belief means that they are not buying into the idea that if you do work really hard, if you do study and go to school, you will be able to get ahead.

 

In my persistent setback theory we have an entire swath of America who has given up hope that they can ‘overcome the setbacks and get ahead.”

 

“The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”

<Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI>

 

 

I don’t really want to discuss Trump voters and white working class people today but I do want to make a point about persistent setbacks and how they affect people’s attitudes.

 

Black, white, Asian, American Indian, whatever … persistent setbacks are an equal opportunity hope killer.

 

Any setback sucks. I don’t care how old you are … a setback is a setback and lovers quarrel life and medepending on where you are in life a setback can be crushing.

 

All the positive encouragement to pick yourself up and get going again kind of misses the mark. I don’t offer a solution today I am just making a point and bitching.

 

And all the bitching aside.

 

Everyone just needs to recognize that setbacks come in all shapes and sizes, not all setbacks are created equal, setbacks can be deceiving in their appearances and if you don’t recognize all that you run the risk of missing what someone else is enduring with regard to persistent setbacks.

 

 

one of the saddest business things I have read in quite some time

May 5th, 2017

sad numbers hear listen business

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

 

“Where there is little risk, there is little reward.”

 

Evel Knievel

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

 

 

 

So.

 

I don’t read Advertising Age often. I never really enjoyed reading ‘insider industry’ magazines and now that I am not involved with agencies that much it doesn’t mean much to me except an opportunity to catchup on the news of some people and places I know.

free-bad-advice-business-blog-contrarian

But today a link popped up in my email:

 

 

What’s the Most Risky Thing You’ve Done in Your Career?

Ad Age Asks Participants at Detroit Brand Summit

—-

 

I clicked on it.

 

I figured the advertising business, while often ground down to a nub by brand managers and clients who have an allergic reaction to risk, would offer some good ‘most risky actions I have taken‘ stories.

 

Here is a sampling:

 

 

biggest risk was undertaking Pepsi “refresh project,” a 2010 initiative by PepsiCo to award $20 million in grants to individuals, businesses and nonprofits that promote a new idea that has a positive impact on their community. “We took money off the Super Bowl, a property Pepsi had been on for almost a quarter century, and we put it into a different idea,”

 

 

Tylenol talking about product benefits and pain relief. His team, however, advocated toward making the message about feeling better with a nontraditional campaign including events.

 

 

single biggest gamble: “Leaving BBDO to go to The Abundancy, which was a little startup incubator that was trying to do things differently and reinvent how advertising worked,”

 

 

“It was a first-ever auto reveal with Snapchat,” Lenard said. “Together we answered a lot of questions internally about who is the audience of Snapchat: Aren’t they 12-year-olds who are never buying vehicles?”

 

——————–

 

Ok.

 

I worked in the advertising agency business for a long time … that is oh no embarrassedembarrassing.

 

If that is risk, let alone ‘biggest risk’, in today’s advertising world as outlined by some people who I assume are leaders in the industry … the industry is in a world of hurt.

 

As a business person I have always embraced the concept of risk … okay … calculated risk. No sane business person is flippant with risk.

All risk is assessed and calculated for ROR <return on risk> … as well as RODN <return on doing nothing>.

 

I could argue that between ROR and RODN you aren’t really taking any risks … you are simply doing what needs to be done to be successful.

 

That said.

I was sorely disappointed by how these people assess ‘biggest risk.’

 

Look.

 

avoid question bomb stink business problemsEveryone takes personal risks in business.

 

Not everyone takes business risks. And business risk is very different than personal risk … confusing the two, or even conflating the two, in a business environment is fraught with peril.

 

Yes.

Business risks inherently include personal risk … but personal risks don’t have particular consequences to a larger business risk – they are more your risks than anyone else’s.

 

I say that as a professional calculated business risk taker. I can honestly say that any time I ever assessed a business decision or what could be construed as a business risk I never took into consideration any persona risk I may be assuming. To me it would simply clutter what I would assume is a decision cluttered already with ‘what ifs’, ‘maybes’ and ‘uh ohs.’

 

I always believe business risks revolved around what is best for the business … and you let the chips fall as they may with regard to you personally.

 

Now.

 

Getting back to that sad list of ‘biggest risks.’

 

People can confuse risk with change. Change is change. Any change includes some risk because … well … it is change.

But change, in and of itself, is not necessarily originality. And that is where risk truly resides … in something original.

 

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

 

“Safe marketing is the riskiest marketing you can do.”

 

—-

Bill Bernbach

 

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

 

organization business elephant adpat nimble get shit done

Anything original is never safe simply because it has no real record of behavior & consequences. That means you are modeling and researching and doing a whole bunch of good smart shit to insure it isn’t just a guess … but … sigh … it is just a guess.

 

That is risk. Risk is a … well … thing.

 

Originality is a real thing … a challenging thing … and a risky thing.

And to be truly original … in some ways … you must ignore what exists and what has been done before.

 

You must abandon the safe and secure.

 

Just think about this little factoid about pretty much any great original idea that has ever happened:

 

  • It’s effective

 

  • It’s always preceded by a meeting in which you will hear ‘are you nuts?’

 

Well.

 

Maybe we all need to be a little more nuts.

Maybe we all need to be a little less afraid of the different.

 

Maybe instead we should focus on what I believe almost all business people really do know … the new and untried can generate the bigger gains then simply changing the status quo or ‘what is’.

 

I would note that originality has a close relationship to exceptional.

 

Ah.

The root of that word exceptional?

 

Exception <please note … that is a significantly different word than acceptable … or safe …>.

 

We are comfortable in our cocoon of what is acceptable and sameness but it is making ‘an exception’ … taking that slightly risky step … that truly pays off.

 

used rainbowsIn business … if you have nothing to offer but used ideas, you are just a used car salesman.

 

And does anyone in business really want to be that?

 

<unless they are in the used car sales business of course>

 

And maybe that is why the article I read was one of the saddest business articles I have read in a very long time – there really wasn’t anything original or any monumental change. Some were personal risks and the business risks were more tweaks on existing machinery to fine tune the operation.

And maybe that is what the business world has come to <sadly> … a world in which tweaks constitute risks.

 

Sad. Very sad.

 

I know risk is difficult. But I also know it is much better than always doing the sure thing – always making the safe decision.

 

The problem is if you really want any progress or growth … meaningful progress and growth … risk cannot be avoided. You must seek ‘the exception.’

 

In the end.

 

I do think business needs to embrace a little more risk.

 

But to avoid being sad about what we do, maybe most importantly, I think business should stop calling tweaks risky. They are tweaks. They are attempts to make small big and the truly big too small.

 

And, lastly, maybe we need to start thinking more often “but it might just work.” I wrote about that phrase to make a point about how we, in business, are becoming far too hesitant to make changes.  There was nothing in the ‘biggest risk taken’ article that convinced me my point isn’t still valid. We embrace tweaks to avoid “but it might just work” actions.

 

 

“Biggest risk ever taken.”

road to success business graffiti

 

 

Shit.

 

These should be monumental type questions with monumental type responses.

 

And if you don’t have a monumental response maybe, just maybe, you need to look around what what you are doing and seeing of maybe you aren’t playing it too safe.

And, most of all, if you don’t have a monumental response, you should not try and make something small monumental.

 

Bigger risk deserves better than that.

Enlightened Conflict