Enlightened Conflict

when the right thing to do is impossible

August 12th, 2014

rangers and the truth


“There are tiresome people who say that if you ever find yourself in a difficult situation, you should stop and figure out the right thing to do.

But there are times in this harum-scarum world when figuring out the right thing to do is quite simple, but doing the right thing is simply impossible, and then you must do something else.”


Lemony Snicket








When I saw this I had to sit back and think.





First & foremost I am an unequivocal do the right thing person.
And the thought of not doing the right thing galls me … makes me shiver to the core.

i dont care moments





From a realistic point of view that doesn’t mean I always do the right thing … just that first & foremost I begin with decision making from a ‘what the right thing to do’ place.



And before anyone throws out the infamous ‘how can you know the right thing to do?’ or even the ‘in a harum scarum world it is sometimes difficult to discern what the right thing to do’ is.



99% of the time.








Maybe 98.863718% of the time … figuring out the right thing to do is quite simple.





But, yes, sometimes … doing the right thing is simply impossible.



That is where I pause.



I pause because Lemony Snicket … a silly fictional character … nailed something that has subconsciously haunted me throughout life and my professional career.



And I imagine it has haunted a large group of well intentioned, relatively bright, ‘do the right thing’ people.


Because in the end … Life, and the business world, will not stand by and say ‘that’s okay … your intentions are impeccable … we know you not only want to do the right thing … you actually know the right thing to do” … it actually says … “okay … you must do something else.”do what you must TR


<in other words … “you gotta do something.”>



Truth hurts.



This also becomes exponentially more painful to me because I am also one of those people who unequivocally has a willingness to accept responsibility for the consequences of my choices. The good ones <happily> … and the unfortunate bad ones <unhappily>.






This also means I have to assume responsibility for actually purposefully NOT doing the right thing.






I have a few very close friends who will read what I just wrote and understand how painful that was for me to write.

But you know what?



I think that’s part of what growing up businesswise is about … understanding that doing the right thing is impossible … sometimes.

And that ‘doing something’ is better than ‘doing nothing’ <almost always>.


That doesn’t mean you throw the ‘right thing’ compass away.


In fact … it may even harden you to ‘do the right thing’ even more so in the future.

I think the realization that doing the right thing was impossible sometimes didn’t weaken me in this regard … it actually strengthened my resolve to do the right thing whenever possible.


stars and secrets


It strengthened my understanding of where the North Star of ‘the right thing’ resided even on the cloudiest of nights.




I say that because this is one of those infamous slippery slopes in business.



I imagine some people who actually recognize the right thing to do <and oddly enough … that is actually a skill … not something that everyone is born with> … and find it impossible to do … could very very easily acquire some cynicism which eats away at the hope which resides within the desire of ‘doing the right thing.’



Little by little those people lose hope in being able to actually do ‘doing the right thing’ and begin simply ‘doing what is easiest to do’ <although none will ever suggest it was an easy task … and fairly … I imagine it wasn’t easy>.



Luckily … I am not one of those people.



I do recognize that doing the right thing is impossible … sometimes.



I do recognize that seeing the right thing to do is possible … always.
And seeing the right thing to do is half the battle.


impossible possible

And I also imagine … in my own pea like brain … that when we are discussing ‘doing the right thing’ … if there was ever a time that ‘the impossible is possible’ … this would be the time.



Or at least that’s the way my own pea like brain thinks about it.


foolish consistency

August 4th, 2013


“Consistency is the refuge of small minds” is often credited to Orson Wells … but it is most likely Orson being smart consistent predictableand paraphrasing good ole Ralph Waldo Emerson …




“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”





I have to disagree with Ralphie <which is what I believe his mother called him>.


Consistency and <some> predictability gets a bad rap.


In other words … consistency is neither foolish nor refuge of solely small minds.

Nor is it a hobgoblin of anything <let alone little minds>.


<awesome … I was pleased to be able to use the inestimable, and not oft-used, hobgoblin word on my site>



Please note … I write this as a person who abhors being too predictable … in personal life and in business. I like going left just because the directions say go right … just to see what those who tell you to go right are missing.





Here is an uncomfortable truth <at least to me>.


Most of us like some consistency in our lives. Aw heck … I will admit it … most of us like a lot <as in shitload> of consistency in our lives.



And by lives I mean Life as well as in business.



Despite the fact we so often speak of ‘throw caution to the wind’ <I have often wondered why we actually say that> or that we like to be unpredictable or we like to be spontaneous or ‘be random’ … well … we don’t really.


consistent be-yourselfWe say it … but rarely do it.


We like consistency and some predictability to provide a solid backbone to our lives.

And as a manager of employees you absolutely cherish some consistent behavior day in and day out.






When is consistency a refuge of small minds?






That I will simply refer to as “small living.”


It is consistent just for comfort sake.

It is actually lazy living but made worse because it is living under the guise of something else … lack of any risk. Hence the reason I call it ‘small living.’ This type of consistency keeps you from exploring the bigness Life has to offer those willing to discover what is beyond consistency & predictability boundaries.


Here is what I think about that. That type of thinking, in most countries and consistent disaster inevitablelanguages, inevitably leads to a ornière, rodera, keréknyom,   kiima  <rut> or être en rut, in een sleur, essere in un solco, olla kiima <be in a rut>.




Rut … as in ‘an elongated hole.’




Oh my.


So being too consistent or predictable is living in a hole?



And here is a reminder about holes … they typically <a> have slippery slopes leading down to the bottom, <b> it is really really difficult to stop sliding down a slippery slope once on it and <c> you need someone to pull you out of the hole once you are in it <or you stay in it>.


Just as spontaneity is imagined to be better than it actually is <because the other word for ‘spontaneity’ is ‘surprise’ … and … despite surprise’s incredible reputation … the truth is that most surprises are bad> … predictability can become tantalizingly too attractive.



So I have just said predictability is tantalizingly attractive … as well as consistency … and, uh oh, even spontaneity. That certainly explains why Life can be so confusing at times. All things different but tantalizingly attractive <insert a big fat ‘Yikes’ here>.



Explaining life is a shitload easier than actually living it … doing what needs to be done to maximize it.

Let me explain how difficult it can be.


Life best lived walks a razor thin balance of several things:


consistent and predictable<please note … this is not research but rather Bruce quasi-vapid thinking>

–          Consistent/predicted behavior <a planned list driven life>.

–          Planned spontaneity <think vacations or scheduled parties or outings>.

–          Random spontaneity <shit that just happens>.

And I would suggest <using my research brain knowledge> that this razor thin balance is maybe an 80%-15%-5% <with a +/- 2.5% margin of error> Life mix.



Me … the lover of not being too predictable … accepts the fact that having the majority of Life be familiar and consistent and predictable as … oh, this pains me to admit … good.


Because with some people … using my margin of error … less than 2.5% of your entire Life can actually consist of any true spontaneity … and you could be one of the happiest non-hobgoblins on the face of the earth.



Please note that I believe “planned spontaneity’ is possibly the biggest oxymoron of this generation.consistent spontaneous


We are so obsessed with time and ‘maximizing each available moment’ for fear of ‘wasting anything’ that we actually plan our free time.


This kind of seems nuts to me.


I sometimes believe that in our objective driven world focused on predictability <and measuring success on how well we were able to predict our outcome … even happiness … which seems slightly ludicrous> that we have lost sight of the fact Life is often meant to be lived … to … well … ‘do’ … to discover … and that the discovery is the measurement … not the supposed end value of that discovery.


Do I value the road which was rocky, overgrown and comes to an aggravating dead end as more valuable than the one which was scenic, smooth and ends with a beautiful view?




I don’t know. I would hope that I don’t measure them against each other but rather accept the discovery as the success.


But that is where predictability rears its ugly head.



Predictability and consistency is often measured in today’s time obsessed world as not only the process … the routine … but also in the result.



And maybe that is where I do begin to edge into consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds.



I would be foolish to suggest we don’t all aim for more positive results than negative ones … because we do. Why? Simply because we all want to be happy.



But if you live your life solely focused on ‘only doing what will make me happy’ <or has the highest probability of happiness> based on predictable behavior?



That certainly sounds boring <note: and you still will not be 100% successful in reaching that objective>.



And in business?

It sounds frustratingly non innovative <and a sure path down the slippery slope of mediocrity>.



And maybe that is the point.



Too much consistency and predictability only insures a life of happy <possibly content> mediocrity.



And maybe some people are content with mediocrity … but I would suggest that Life isn’t really meant to be mediocre.



It is meant to be spectacularly exciting … and disappointing. Maybe not all the time <any one of us would eventually get sick if 24 hours a day we rode the world’s largest rollercoaster> but certainly we deserve to see how high we can go … and how low we can get out of.


Because all of that stuff defines our character.

And who the hell wants their epitaph to be “he was consistent & predictable”?


I imagine all I am suggesting is that Life isn’t meant to be little.


Too much consistency and predictability simply insures you have made your Life as little as it can be.

I am not suggesting you have to go hog-wild and ‘live every moment like it is your last’ <which, in general, I tend to believe is fairly crappy advice> but rather … maybe it is challenging yourself to live on that razor thin balance of consistency, planned spontaneity and true spontaneity.



I know this isn’t easy … consistency dangerous freedomand I also understand that there is a huge spectrum of living life possibilities between dangerous freedom and slavery to predictability. I know I personally swing back & forth between the two <which could make anyone’s head a little dizzy on occasion>.


But maybe it is simpler to go ahead and call this type of living as ‘restless consistency.’ Maybe we should aspire to live Life that way … and each of us define our restlessness however we would like … but maintain some restlessness.






It will not all go well.


And I certainly cannot predict any results, good or bad.






Maybe I can predict one thing. Your Life will be bigger.

two sided fact: why we do things part 2

August 11th, 2010

“Cause and effect are two sides of the same fact.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

So. In my ‘why we do things’ post 1 quoted Dumbledore and Aristotle.

How about Waldo?


RW (at least what I call him) Emerson’s work influenced nearly every generation of thinker, writer and poet since his time. He was a philosopher, lecturer, writer and poet and considered one of the great orators of … well  … all time. He was a champion of “individualism” or the ownership of personal ownership ‘cause & effect’ if I stick with that theme. In other words each of us is responsible for what happens (actions and causes).

And I love his thought on cause:

“The ancestor of every action is a thought.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thought to action. Simple. Thoughtful. Something we should keep in mind.


Oliver Wendell Holmes once called his 1837 speech The American Scholar as America’s “Intellectual Declaration of Independence.”

RW (or Waldo) was a great thinker.

Cause and effect Emerson style pertains to the individual. Or maybe better said “self reliance” (which is probably his most well known essay). Fate or chance was not part of his vocabulary.

A key repeating theme in his thinking was the need for each individual to avoid conformity and “false consistency.” He encouraged individuals to follow his or her own instincts and ideas.

It is the source of one of Emerson’s most famous quotes, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (awesome)

What I absolutely LOVE about Emerson’s “self reliance” idea is that it is not anything near antisociety or anticommunity or antigroup. Instead he consistently advocated self-reliance as a starting point for people and not seek it as a goal.

THAT, my friends, is an awesome thought.

He encouraged people to retain the outspokenness of a small child who freely speaks his mind because he has not yet been corrupted by adults who tell him to do otherwise.

He encouraged people to avoid envying or imitating others viewed as models of perfection.

He encouraged people to take pride in their own individuality and never be afraid to express their own original ideas.

He encouraged people to refuse to conform to the ways of the popular culture and its “shallow ideals.”  He encouraged people to live up to their own ideals even if doing so reaps them criticism and denunciation.


Good stuff for all of us.

I guess my point here is you, each of us … every individual … in this type of thinking is responsible for every ‘effect’ in our lives (assuming we step up to the plate and act like an individual and be who we are and act like who we are … rather than follow like lemmings over a society cultural cliff).


I have written several things lately about moments and taking advantage of seconds or minutes as opportunities to go “do.” Emerson, in his belief in individuality, may have scoffed at my literary technique but he would have certainly given a rousing “hear hear!” to the intent behind the thoughts I have been writing.

And with that here is one of my favorite Emerson poems. Favorite in that it is about the opportunity each day represents to each of us … and the disdain “Day” must feel if we waste it:

Days by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,
And marching single in an endless file,
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts after his will,
Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.
I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.

Enlightened Conflict