Covering Up Mistakes

“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional, and are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce

This certainly puts a different twist on the concept. The only requirement is that one is “A man of genius.” If so, you don’t make mistakes, you merely commit errors, on purpose. Try that one the next time you screw up, “It’s no big deal. I just decided to make this mistake in order to open the portal for discovery.” You can also note that on your resume where you explain why you left your last job.

Niels Bohr said, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” Of course, Bohr does qualify as a man of genius; but to assume that he too is suggesting that those mistakes are the portals for discovery is likely not correct. A little folk wisdom may be more to the point. “Why are things always in the last place you look?” “It’s because, once you find it, you quit looking.”

Confucius has a better perspective, “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” George Washington also joins in on the same side of the matter, “To err is nature, to rectify error is glory.” As you hustle to rectify those errors, it will help to allay your anxiety if you remember Robert Henry’s advice, “Don’t ever be afraid to admit you were wrong. It’s like saying you’re wiser today than you were yesterday.” While you’re at it, though, don’t overlook Frank Lloyd Wright’s insight, “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” Since you are the architect of your success, you would do well to minimize the number and size of the vines required to cover up your mistakes.

Now you know so there you go.

Survival Is Not Mandatory

“Since changes are going on anyway, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them and turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions and events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilized and directed.” It’s not surprising that Dewey bases his approach to change management on active learning. Since change is a fact of life, you might as well make the best of it. Learn as much as you can about the changes in your life and then use them, as much as possible, to your advantage. William O. Douglas suggested that success in using change in your best interest depends, in large measure, on adjusting your thinking to conform to today’s reality. “Security can only be achieved through constant change, through discarding old ideas that have outlived their usefulness and adapting others to current facts.” Francis Bacon also agreed that you need to take charge of change and mold it to your purposes. “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.”

However, there are cautionary voices as you slide into the driver’s seat of your life. For example, Ellen Glasgow said, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” Distinguishing good change from the not so good is an important aspect of the learning Dewey recommended. Arnold Bennett also raised the voice of caution, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” Nonetheless, G. C. Lichtenberg submitted what is likely the take home point here, “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”

The substance of your life is in continuous change. The elements form and then rearrange. Some of those elements you can move and shift. Change can be slow or unusually swift.

It’s an ongoing saga through each twist and turn. You refuse to change. It’s not your concern. W. Edwards Deming discovered the conclusion to the story. “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

Now you know so there you go.

Redesigning Leadership

aeda, John with Becky Bermot. Redesigning Leadership. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011.

…courage is a noble form of stupidity that aids getting impossible things done.

Being prepared isn’t a matter of how much you practice. It’s about knowing that even if you fail, you won’t give up.

Doing right matters more than being right.

The primary challenge for a leader who is a natural doer is to discover the balance between the two; otherwise the specter of micromanagement can easily make a guest appearance.

Competency results in success results in complacency results in failure results in learning how to be competent again.

I’d rather be green and growing instead of ripe, ready to rot.

A leader’s job is to get people on board with his vision–and he’ll try whatever tools are at his disposal to do it.

Someone Still Has To Crack The Eggs and Grease The Skillet

“No man ever wetted clay and then left it, as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.” One may assume that Plutarch intended this rhetorically, since it definitely isn’t literally true. It’s hard to say about wetting clay specifically; but starting a job and not finishing it is certainly not uncommon. The fact of the case is that it’s business as usual for far too many folks. They probably don’t think what they start will be finished by chance and fortune; but they do figure that they won’t be the ones who have to complete it. It’s likely justifiable to conclude that they see this as good fortune, whether anyone else does or not.

Why do people do this? Why do they stop before the job is done? The famous Anon. has been sitting on the answer, “The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.” That’s it. They start with the best of intentions but soon discover that intentions are to accomplishments as a hardy appetite is to breakfast. However you like your omelet, someone still has to crack the eggs and grease the skillet.

Newt Gingrich figured out the “why” of it. He said, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” On the road to success, people get as far as “Perseverance” and then pull over and park. Perhaps they are too tired to continue, too bored to stay focused, or maybe just too trifling to take their responsibilities seriously. Whatever their excuse, they obdurately resist any suggestion that they should buckle down and take care of business. As Henry Ward Beecher expressed the principle, “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t;” and some people just won’t.

Sure, sometimes you come up against can’t and won’t and can’t wins. You don’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources it takes to do what you want to do. At other times, though, won’t is clearly in the driver’s seat. When you reach that fork in the road, Josh Billings has a little advice for you, “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.”

It’s a postage stamp moment. When it’s time to do it, don’t hesitate getting around to it. Remember that you are up to it, so get down to it, and jump into it; and if you think others are blocking your way, Gen. Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell’s motto is worth adopting as your own. “Illegitimis non carborundum.” (Don’t let the bastards grind you down.)

Now you know so there you go.

Are The Rats Winning The Race?

“Be not simply good; be good for something.” — Henry David Thoreau

This is great advice; but try not to be too much of a good for something. There is a Greek Proverb that says, “The excess of virtue is a vice.” Overdoing what you do is likely an example of such a vice. You just don’t know when to quit. Sure, it makes you feel a bit superior; but as Ts’ai Ken T’an advised, “Water which is too pure has no fish;” and that isn’t a good thing. Even Abraham Lincoln said, “It has ever been my experience that folks who have no vices, have very few virtues.” As you see, overdoing it definitely has the potential for getting really unacceptable. Fortunately, George Orwell understood the root of the matter, “On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time;” so it’s OK to have one of those to do lists so long as you don’t overdo it. Here’s how to manage the whole thing.

Is work piling up and there’s just too much to do? Are you getting frustrated with things backing up on you? Does your to-do list keep getting longer with no end in sight? Would you stop and relax if you weren’t so up-tight?

Does the daily rat race leave your head spinning? Is it depressing to see that the damn rats are winning? Are you holding up the world but feeling it slip? Is the balance in your life beginning to tip?

Did your future just flash before your eyes? Was it what you expected or a total surprise? Either way you don’t need to see it twice. Put on the brakes and consider this advice.

Grab that to-do list and a ballpoint with ink. Shortening the list isn’t as hard as you think. Put a checkmark beside jobs actually belonging to you. All other jobs can wait ‘til you’re through.

Look at your checkmarks and handle it this way. Put a + beside tasks you can finish today. Rank the + items from more urgent to less. If it’s hard to decide, quick take a guess.

Take your + list and cut it in half. Cut it in the middle and don’t stop to laugh. What you have left is urgent so approach it this way. Just buckle down and do today’s work today.

Now you know so there you go.

First Rate Version of Yourself

You have a job only you can do. The job you have is being you. At the end of each day you must take a test. Did you give being you your very best?

e. e. Cummings had some words that will take you pretty far. “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” The challenge is never giving your courage a rest. That’s how you give being you your best.

Raymond Hull also had something important to say. “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” What that means you’ve already guessed. You have to be just you to give being you your best.

You can’t be who other people want you to be. You can’t be a spider or a bird in a tree. The spider has its web and the bird has its nest; but you have something special when you give being you your best.

Judy Garland didn’t find her advice on a shelf. “Always be a first-rate version of yourself…;” and Johann von Goethe’s message wasn’t a surprise, “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.”

Confucius was a philosopher who knew how to depart, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Go north or south or go east or west. Wherever you go, give being you your best.

Now you know so there you go.

You’re Just Going Too Slow

“Are things out of control?” This is a most interesting question. You likely ask yourself this question sometimes and experience pronounced anxiety as you consider the answer. The problem is, of course, if things are out of control, there is no predicting the outcome. The possibility of a huge crash is out there and the prospect is somewhere between alarming and terrifying. Even if things are out of control, odds are that the outcome will be acceptable; but…. Perhaps Mario Andretti had a thought worth remembering, “If everything’s under control, you’re going too slow.”

You have both experienced this existential anxiety and have thought about the intense level of uneasiness associated with it. It’s indeed uncomfortable and evokes feelings of self-doubt, frustration, and a sense of helplessness. At times, these feelings can be overwhelming and nearly paralyzing.

If you run this issue by Sparky (a local guru on the topic) you may be quite taken aback to learn that the question itself is a product of retrograde thinking. Sparky will point out that the question is based on an invalid assumption. It assumes that things should be in control and that control is a desirable state. Not being one to stop with a brief comment and a few fries, That Sparky will probably go on to point out that most everyone has been in environments where control was the central priority and the major goal of those in charge.

Did you like that? Was that anymore comfortable? Is controlling the right thing to do? Do you want things to be controlled by you or anyone else? At that point, you may want to tell Sparky to take those fries and….

Once you’ve had a chance to settle down some, asked Sparky a different question. “If having things in control is not what we want, then what do we want?” As you might expect, Sparky says, “Now, there is a great question,” as he gets up and goes out to find some more fries. Giving a great impression of Columbo, he pauses and adds, “I doubt if it is having things in control, though.”

Perhaps the right question is actually, “Are you getting better and better at getting better and better, one issue at a time?” That question is easy. You certainly are, even though you lose the perspective once in a while as you see that you are not yet nearly as good as you need to be, as you are going to be. Still, you are a lot better at it than you were last month and much better than you were last year. When the anxiety comes, and it will, just think about how good you are going to be at it this time next year; and keep in mind what Lao Tzu said, “He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” Now there is an awesome thought! It also goes very well with fries.

Now you know so there you go.

Leave Foot Prints

“Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow.” — Glen Beaman

Stubbornness certainly has its up side. It’s like the famous Anon. said, “Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions.” While you are considering how relaxed you will be though, ponder Doug Floyd’s point, “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” The truth of the matter is that it can quickly get down right boring.

There is another snag that can seriously temp you to stick to the same ol’, same ol’. J. K. Galbraith described it this way, “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” Sure, thinking can be painful; but more to the point, it’s frequently hard work. As Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. ” If you were born tired and haven’t rested up yet, thinking probably just isn’t for you; but…. – and there’s always a “but.” This particular “but” was slipped in by Bertrand Russell who said, “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

If you are like many other folks, you may believe that you are doing fine and don’t need to bother hanging a question mark on anything. You may strongly feel that you are in good company and on the right road; but the famous Anon. had a bit of homespun wisdom worth a moment’s thought, “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path;” and while you are on a roll with the famous Anon., don’t forget that, “Before you can break out of prison, you must first realize you’re locked up.”

Are you ready to make a break for it? If so, Dr. Seuss suggested the perfect strategy for you, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

If the notion of having your own thoughts and ideas causes you discomfort and anxiety, Tolkien had a helpful insight, “Not all those who wander are lost.” At the same time, John Locke had a further insight to help you make it through the transition to thinking for yourself, “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.” People’s disagreeing does not mean you are wrong. It’s like the famous Anon. said, “One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints;” and footprints of your own you will and should leave. As you leave your footprints along the road to thinking for yourself, Satchel Paige had what may be the only advice you need, “Ain’t no man can avoid being average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.”

Now you know so there you go.

Too Much You and Not Enough Me

There is a space between you and me where the balance is just about right, but if the balance gets out of balance, all is not well. That’s true whether you are my child, my partner, my employer, or just someone who wants and needs my attention. In this episode of Audio Tidbits, I give some thought and attention to this balance.