Enlightened Conflict

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

May 5th, 2017

sad numbers hear listen business

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

 

Evel Knievel

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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.

 

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

 

—-

Bill Bernbach

 

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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.

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.

the ports have names for the sea

April 28th, 2017

hand-ocean-birds

 

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“And the ports have names for the sea.”

 

 

William Auden

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Well.

 

I could quite easily argue that the most fundamental thing necessary to be successful in Life and in business is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s walk in my shoes see my view morality shoes.

In other words … the ability to see what they see, think what they think and understand why they do what they do.

If you have that ability … or maybe it’s a skill … it fosters understanding, ability to compromise, enables at least the possibility to shift thinking and … well … it actually encourages you to rethink some things and maybe unlearn some learnings.

 

I do sometimes look at what is happening in the world and how we seem to have stopped listening and I think of Auden’s line from a poem he wrote about Iceland. I think about it and sometimes believe we are all out at sea floating amongst tides, waves and storms <rarely calm> looking at the ports with names. And, yet, we can never envision that the ports may look out at us and not only view us differently … but also the seas upon which we float.

 

By maintaining our personal view we do not listen, therefore we do not debate <we only lecture> and we certainly never compromise or find some common ground. Instead we all bob around the vast ocean just trying to keep our own head above water and yell at each other for stupidly bobbing around in the water the wrong way <or not the way we are>.

No wonder the ports have a different name for the seas then we do. We call them Black, Caspian, Mediterranean, Baltic, Caribbean , etc.. Ports most likely look out and … well …”a place upon which fools who do not listen to each other float” is what I guess they would name it.

 

I word it that way because … well … it seems like sometimes we forget that we are all trying to figure out a way of keeping our heads above water.

 

Now.

I imagine the reasons why we forget all the commonalities and why we ignore what each other truly has to say is not simple, nor just one thing, but rather a thousand reasons scattered around like quarters on the floor just waiting for someone to ick up. I would bet I have sloppily discussed many of these reasons on enlightened conflict.

 

But I can truly only think of one thing that trumps all the thousand reason to not do what we should be doing – moral imperative.

That may sound high too falutin’ for somethings as simple as ‘listening to each other and discussing’ but truly it is a moral imperative that we try and solve this.

 

We are better as people if we hear an Ann Coulter and Bernie Sanders debating, in a civil fashion, what they believe and why.

 

We are better as people if we hear a Wilbur Ross and Robert Reich debating , in a civil fashion, what they believe and why.

 

We are better as people when the most liberal of institutions open their ears and eyes to the most conservative of believers and listen … really listen … and discuss and say do not conversationsdebate … and realize that most often our differences reside in tactics, possibly in some strategies, but rarely in objectives.

We are even better when common everyday schmucks, like you and I, sit down and listen and discuss and debate <kind of like Heineken just suggested in a fabulous video message they produced>.

 

I believe this can happen if we embrace the moral imperative as people.

Ah.

But there is that ‘moral’ word I keep tossing into this mix.

 

What a divisive word for a word which should be a unitor.

 

Beyond the entire civil discourse and listening and finding common ground discussion it seems to me that a shitload of us are actually embracing what I believe is called ‘moral condescension.’ It’s not that we are just condescending with each other about views, opinions and beliefs … but all of that crap is grounded on an underlying sense of moral condescension <’not only do you have the wrong belief & attitude but you do that because you are not a morally strong as I am’>.

 

Not only is condescension of any type irritating but moral condescension ratchets up irritating to … well … an incredibly irritating level.

 

For the most part most people don’t really have to deal with it because most of us either keep our moral ‘high horse’ in our pocket or share it with friends and acquaintances of like mind.

And most other people know our views and just avoid us if they disagree.

What that means is <a> there is a significant lack of any discourse and <b> when there is we fairly quickly move into our ‘moral condescension mode’ which … well … irritates the other person/people.

 

I do ponder why we hate moral condescension so much. I mean condescension in general is irritating but with morals and morality it just has a tendency to more condescending moralitybring forth a little anger.

 

I would offer to everyone that maybe it suggests we should feel some guilt for some indulgence in the vagaries of life. It suggests that maybe we feel too much … well … about ‘muchness’ without truly examining the barebones of shit without all the muchness attached.

 

The truth is that, for the most part, if you strip away the condescension it only suggests some examination of what we focus on and what we do not focus on … who we possibly deprive something of in what we may truly subconsciously be indulging upon as something ‘we earned’  <this idea, to me, is at the nucleus of the condescension>.

 

Uhm.

You do not earn indulgence.

You earn money & respect <as well as some other nice and not so nice characteristics I imagine>.

 

I say that because regardless of whether you are the moral condescension giver or the moral condescension receiver you should be stepping back and stripping away the indulgence aspects <simplistically … I earned that huge SUV and deserve it … even though some people cannot even afford taking a bus> and try viewing all moral decisions and people’s views in the most stripped down version.

 

I say that because naked we kind of all have the same problems and issues in a harsh world — it is just a matter of degree in most cases.

 

I say that because we kind of have a moral obligation to the fellowship of all humankind and ‘fairness’ <whoever you would like to define that> for all.

 

Look.

 

I fully understand as we bob around in the sea of survival <and self beliefs> we cannot have moral obligations to everyone around the world. It kind of seems to make more sense to understand we actually only truly have moral obligations against the people we come up against. T

he ones who metaphorically enter into our moral space.

 

This suggests a concept of proximity or that proximity matter in morality.

 

Uhm.

Well, yes and no.

 

First … the closest proximity is yourself – you can control your own actions and what you think, do and say.

 

Second proximity then would be the ones closest to us – physically or mentally.

horton hears a who speak out morality

Third proximity would actually be ‘the world.’ And what I mean by that is you have a choice to be vocal with regard to what you see as right or wrong. It’s kind of like the moral version of the butterfly affect. If enough voices are raised even Horton will hear the Whos in Whovile.

 

I say that because distance diminishes the affect your own moral obligation can have a real impact.

 

But maybe what that proximity idea I just shared with you means is that we have some moral obligation to intersect, with ideas, and listen and discuss with those who our space interconnects with.

 

Here is what I know for sure.

 

We do not listen to each other enough these days. And we certainly do not discuss things with an eye toward commonalities anymore. Our differences seem incontrovertible and our civility has diminished to such a point we don’t even attempt to engage in discussion because of such certainty of lack of civility we do not even believe it is worth the attempt.

 

That is a shame. And in Bruce terms … “it is bad.’ The lack of any attempt is, at Find your voice listen speak moralityits worst, ignoring a moral imperative for the greater good.

 

We would all do better if we recognized that ‘the ports have names for the seas’ … and they may be different names than the ones we have given the seas.

 

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Historical note about the line I opened this piece up with … and a thought that sometimes mistakes can lead to a different way of looking at things and thinking about things … and … well … in the end — doing something different than you planed.

 

W.H. Auden describes somewhere how he had written a line, in a poem about Iceland.

 

and the poets have names for the sea

 

and the printer set it up in galley as …

 

and the ports have names for the sea.

 

Auden left it liking the line better. A happy accident.

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not answering questions and deflection

April 21st, 2017

Question Cloud the issue answer business

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obfuscate

This is the word to use when evasion is achieved by clouding the issue.

Creating a smoke-screen.

 

prevaricate, evade, dodge

 

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“When shrouded meanings and grim intentions are nicely polished up and pokerfaced personae are generously palming off their fantasy constructs, caution is the watchword, since rimpling water on the well of truth swiftly obscures our vision and perception.

(“Trompe le pied/wrong foot.”)”

 

Erik Pevernagie

 

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So.

 

There is possibly nothing more aggravating in business than someone not avoid word businessanswering “the” question. To be clear on what I am speaking about … they answer a question … just not the one you asked.

 

I am not going to argue that some questions are not easy to answer.

I won’t even argue that we get asked questions we don’t know the answers to but the situation dictates we make something up <yes … that happens in business>.

 

But abandoning the question completely is … well … complete bullshit.

 

But you know what?

 

I think the main reason it is so aggravating is because it is truly a reflection of intentions.

 

There is even a book called The Anthropology of Intentions by a professor, Alessandro Duranti, who kind of tackles this whole discussion of intentions & words.

He offers us the thought of ‘intentional discourse’ wherein an individual filters words through their beliefs & desires and their plans & goals to guide the discourse <regardless of whether the rest of the people want it guided that way>. In other words, using another phrase he offers us, by engaging in an intentional continuum people ponder their use of words through self-interest motivations <some good & some bad>.

 

By the way … I am fairly sure I mangled his academic masterpiece … but you get the point.

 

Ah.

“You get the point.”

 

I share that again because while we sit there aggravated at someone who completely avoided answering the question asked … we almost always also sit there wanting to invest a little of our own energy trying to assess why they did it. Because, in our aggravated minds, in its most simplistic viewing … avoiding the question is solely about shifting attention – away from something and toward something else.

 

Sure.

It could be something as simple as steering you away from their lack of deflection answer question avoidknowledge and steering you toward something they may actually know.

 

But, in most cases, a full abandonment of a specific question is complete & utter deflection.

 

In the intelligence community they call this effort to shift attention as deflection or misdirection. Magicians do something similar getting people to focus on one thing and away from the trick itself.

Completely avoiding the question is the business version of a distract-the-audience approach. It is this weird moment in which someone pretends to answer the question by actually answering some other question that magically appeared to replace the question really asked.

It’s almost like entering an alternative universe for a while.

 

Sadly. Aggravated or not … the more practiced the deception <the more practiced the business magician is> the more likely you hesitate to step in <and the more you get aggravated as you hesitate> and correspondingly … the more many of these people actually believe deception works.

 

It is maddening.

 

Worse?

If they are good at it … when someone responds to a question by not addressing the points of the question, thereby avoiding the issue itself, it doesn’t create unrelated discussion to the issue … it simply avoids the issue in totality.

 

Well.

..... watching the question being ignored .........

….. watching the question being ignored ………

I am fairly sure we have all sat there in a meeting and watched something like this unfolding right before our eyes.

 

The visceral response, the aggravation, we have to this ‘answer evasion’ situation is most likely found in the revelation it is occurring … watching it unfold before our eyes.

Philosophically, we can see that through some internal conviction to retain something they feel like they should own <their reputation, their title, their perceived intelligence, their whatever> they justify evading the question.

 

Conviction. Yeah. I just used ‘internal conviction.’ This means their intentions reflect they are more important than not only the question itself … but you. You are not even dignified with an answer.

 

It is irksome <at its least worst>.

 

It is loathsome <at its most worst>.

 

Look.

 

I give a partial pass to the asshats you can see who have some answer they want to give everyone, regardless of what question is asked, and blurt it out when given the opportunity. They haven’t deflected the question … they just ignored it as unimportant to what they want to say and have been planning to say no matter what has been said up to that point.

 

It’s the ones you know heard the question … and just ignored it. Or avoided it. Or just didn’t answer it despite the fact they heard every word, every syllable and every intention from the question giver.

 

In other words … they intentionally do not answer the question.

 

<envision a deep sigh here>

 

I want people to face questions head on. And what makes this even more aggravating is that you know these people are quite capable of taking things head on.look over there answer

 

How do I know that?

 

These are the same people who will attack, or ‘aggressively question’, the intentions of the question giver themselves. It is a common tactic for the answer avoiders. The natural instinct is to ‘defend’ … to answer the attack. Fuck that. I want to say … “just answer the fucking question asked.”

 

How else do I know these people are quite capable of taking questions head on?

 

These are the same people who will attack, or ‘aggressively question’, the question itself. This is not a deflection tactic … this is a ‘turn the question back on itself’ tactic. And, once again, your natural instinct is to defend or … well … answer the question you are asked.  Fuck that. I want to say … “just answer the fucking question asked.”

 

And maybe what makes this ‘not answering the question asked’ so maddening is that we, most sane pragmatic business people, tend to sit back <after saying “WTF”> and try and unravel why it happened and what the hell just happened.

Unless you are in an interview scenario <in which you always have an opportunity, one-to-one, to hunker down and hammer out a clear answer> you are most likely in a room with other people and the non-answer has sent at least some of the people careening down a completely different road.

 

That makes it even MORE aggravating.

 

One intentional non answer to a question can completely derail a meeting or a avoid questionsdiscussion.

 

That is intentional discourse. Or how about the other phrase from that academic’s book … engaging in an intentional continuum.

 

Oh.

 

And one last way you know these asshats are intentionally not answering the question is when they cleverly decline to answer the question with the infamous head fake answer … “I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ll work on finding the information for you and then get back to you with an answer” <and they have no fucking intention of ever getting back to you>.

 

Yeah.

 

You know … sure as shit … they have no plans to work on it and will never ‘get back to you’ unless you call them on it.

They are intentionally refusing to answer the question assuming the conversation will move on and, in a laundry list of other shit to do, that this one will either never make the list or be so low on the list they can stiff arm you on answering based on “working on things more important.”

 

Its bullshit. You know its bullshit. They know its bullshit.

 

Well.

 

Fuck you.

Fuck you and the non-answering horse you rode in on.

 

In my mind a good well-articulated question demands some accountability. The one given the question is now accountable for the answer. They may try and deflect and they may just answer a completely different question … but a question asked exists … it does not disappear. You cannot get away from it.

 

Let me share a graphic example of why accountability remains whether the question dodger likes it or not.

 

You open your front door in the morning and there is a nice pile of dog poop avoid question bomb stink business problemssquarely in the middle of your front door opening. You either clean it up or you avoid it. The question dodger never acknowledges the pile and steps over it moving on to something else. The shit stays at the front door and over time the smell increases and the flies crowd around.

A good question unanswered is just like that. And a question dodger cannot avoid the smell in the end.

 

All that said.

 

My message to the asshats who completely do not answer the question asked:  You will be accountable to the question and to cleaning up the mess … now … or later <and quit aggravating me by not answering the fucking question>.

 

 

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Author note:

When I reread this, which took me less than a ½ hour to write, I was a little asshole admittingsurprised by how … well … aggravated the tone was.

Lots of ‘fucks’ and ‘asshats’.

I left it as is because as a 50something business guy who has always attempted to take on what needs to be taken on regardless of how painful t may have been <and career wise possibly less than prudent> I get a little angry about how the business world has become incredibly unkind to the risk takers & truth tellers and seems to reward the less-than-competent and ‘political maneuverers’ more often than it should. That’s my excuse for why I let this one stand as it does.

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Enlightened Conflict