Given the absurd discussion going on about the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world I thought I would use it as an excuse to share some business thoughts.
Some background <on the whole Mayan, end of the world, 5000 year calendar, etc.>
If you have not been paying attention … just turn to DoomPreppers on some random cable tv station and watch the doomsayers on that show ‘doom-prep’ for December 21, 2012.
And several films and documentaries have promoted this idea that the ancient Mayan calendar predicts that doomsday is on December 21, 2012. I know. It is kind of crazy.
But even better?
The Guatemalan Culture Ministry is hosting an event in Guatemala City — which as many as 90,000 people are expected to attend — just in case the world actually does end and tour groups are promoting doomsday-themed getaways <huh? … so are there refunds if the world does not actually end?>.
Just in case you have nothing to do then <and cannot get to Guatemala> there are also a couple of college football bowl games on those days … one which is really crappy so maybe the world will end and we will not have to watch the end of the “Beef O’Brady’s Bowl” <Ball State and Central Florida>.
All this crap about the 21st. It happens to be the last day on a 5000 year Mayan calendar …. and therefore many say the Mayans predicted the world would end on that date <of course we cannot go back and ask any of them to be sure>.
<note: many others would say something crazy like “they created a 5000 year calendar and this just may be the last day they actually invested energy trying to plan for.”>
Here is the truly crazy thing <the business thoughts are about to be shared>.
In a business world where we struggle to make 5 year plans, let alone stick to our daily plan, we are giving the Mayans shit for only developing a 5,000 year plan.
We should be standing up and applauding these guys for thinking that far ahead. Instead we panic over why don’t they have a longer plan? Why is their plan incomplete? Couldn’t they foresee the problems this would create ?!? <5000 years later> Why haven’t they updated their plan? Why doesn’t someone else update the plan? Did they actually think through their plan and maybe they made a rounding error?
If they were still around they would have updated the stupid calendar.
Me? I think the guys who developed the longer term calendar were allowed a cacao break and began partying like it was 2012 and never got back to work.
The Mayan calendar reminds me of two business things:
- Long term plans
- False deadlines
Long term plans.
Business today has a love/hate relationship with long term plans. We love the idea of having a path to follow and steps to take and a horizon to gaze at <albeit most of that horizon gazing is actually a bunch of people meeting quarterly debating whether the cloud are nimbus or cumulus and what that means to the long term plan>. We hate not thinking short term. We want to be able to adapt and the ‘long term plan’ is like wearing shackles on an inmate who sees an opportunity to run free.
Suffice it to say, in my opinion, don’t waste the energy … on the long term plan nor loving or hating them.
Shit. We are bitching about a 5000 year calendar and what it means now that it is on its last date. That is our current business culture. No one is sitting back going “man … that was an awesome 5000 year run.” Instead everyone is saying “why didn’t they make it a 5500 year calendar?!?”
In business .. long term plans are shit.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a vision. And a thought of where you want to go … and maybe some guardrails to be sure you don’t go all willy-nilly <that is a technical term for sheer chaos> … but investing a lot of energy, like the amount of energy it would take to develop a 5000 year plan, is nuts. While you are doing all that planning someone else is doing.
And I hate to break the news to you … by the time you have finished your detailed long term plan it has become obsolete <at least one aspect of it> as soon as it is done. It begins to die a death of a thousand cuts/exceptions … but it is a good death. It is a healthy death … called “smart adapting.”
We should dream of developing a successful 5000 year plan of action. But the reality in today’s business world is we struggle to develop a 5 day plan of action without wanting to change it.
Today’s business world would have driven the Mayans crazy.
The 5000 year mark is not a deadline for the world … it was simply the ending of a time cycle in Mayan thinking. Today’s business seems to confuse cycles and deadlines all the time.
A cycle is a continuous flow of shit getting done where an end is a beginning and the beginnings mark an ending. By the way … that is called <in a high falutin’ business consultant thinking> “an effective business process.”
A deadline is … well … when something is done. Finished. No more. Put the file in the filing cabinet.
Here is the problem.
Business leaders like to see ‘completed checks’ next to long lists of things to show that shit is getting done. Therefore it creates a culture of false deadlines.
Huh? Yup. In order to show progress I need to show completion. Say what? Isn’t progress moving forward and not stopping? Silly me.
Companies are strewn with false deadlines. And here is the even crazier thing … employees and middle management isn’t stupid. In fact most are pretty smart. They know they are false deadlines but if they don’t show them <and meet them somehow> they become ‘ex-employees.”
The Mayans didn’t really believe in deadlines … they kind of treated each day as a unique entity. In my eyes? The Mayans would have had the fashizzle of a company.
Let me close with some shit about the Mayan calendar and how present day Mayans think it is a bunch of bullhockey <my term not theirs>.
Here is the even stupider aspect of this doomsday discussion.
Apparently <as we freak out> … we don’t even show the right frickin’ calendar!
Yup. Most stories regularly detail the Maya calendars although displaying the Aztec Stone of the Sun.
And the real present-day Mayans are pissed <because most are young and do not want to die yet … but they also aren’t Aztec so you gotta understand>>.
Looking at the reality of ancient Mesoamerica I guess it could become easy to be confused by two distinct cultures that lived 500 years apart <but … we ARE talking about the end of the world … so little details become big important things … don’t you think?>.
“There’s a lot of conflation between these two cultures. It would almost be like comparing England at the time of the War of the Roses to the Romans or the Romans to the Greeks in the age of Pericles. They are vastly different periods, separated by considerable distances. The societies had many shared features but they were organized in very different ways.” – Stephen Houston (a “Mayanist” – I did not make that up – at Brown University>
In addition … Guatemala’s Mayan people accused the government and tour groups of perpetuating the myth that their calendar foresees the imminent end of the world for monetary gain.
“We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit. They are not telling the truth about time cycles,” charged Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlaljuj Ajpop.
Maya leader Gomez urged the Tourism Institute to rethink the doomsday celebration, which he criticized as a “show” that was disrespectful to Mayan culture.
Here is some fact to insure you don’t plan for the end of the world <at least for now>.
Experts say that for the Maya, all that ends in 2012 is one of their calendar cycles, not the world.
The Classic Maya had almost no tradition of cataclysmic endings. For them, 2012 is just a year when several of their calendars reset, like 2000 for modern calendars. Taube, who is helping interpret the paintings around Xultun, says the 2012 hysteria totally misses the point. It’s not that Maya were tracking the apocalypse but that they saw significance in every new day. With multiple calendars, ancient Mesoamericans had a different combination of dates for every day, each combination having a special significance. Almost as if every day was a holiday.
Lastly <about their calendar>:
“It’s a much more lush view of time … every day is going to have multiple, multiple inputs. It’s going to have multiple shadings of possible meaning. In a way, it’s a richly rewarding way to go through time. You are not just ticking off a day in your calendar. Each day is just percolating with all of these different meanings and recollections and hopes.”
There would be an interesting business management thought. I cannot see any cautious business leader ever accepting it … but, wow, what a company that would be <I would love to work there>.
Regardless. How ‘bout them Maya business leaders. Great thought.