I consider myself fortunate to not be one of those people who has an unseemly love for hearing his own voice. Like Mr. Ed before me, I try to make it a policy to never speak unless I have something to say. It mostly leaves me free to observe people’s comings and goings, their small tics and tells, and generally to spend my time trying to read the room rather than just sitting there cobbling together whatever I want to say next.
Once I make whatever point I believe needs making, I’m perfectly happy to fade into the background as things play out to their logical or illogical conclusion.
The result of this long practice is that, to quote Jed Bartlet, “I hear things. I don’t understand most of it, but I hear it.” Hearing the things, over the course of being dragged into a multitude of meetings, having offhand conversations, and overhearing random comments in passing over the last two decades has proven to be a veritable treasure trove of information about this, that, or the other thing. The vast majority is information that may not prove useful today, but that’s available to dredge out of deep memory at the point where it may be useful.
The trouble with sitting on this vast amount of information ferreted away in dribs and drabs is that much of it was never presented for public consumption. The amount of great stuff I have to write about that’s being self-embargoed because I don’t want to burn my sources and methods is an absolute absurdity… but since using any of it overtly risks leaving me out in the cold, embargoed it shall (mostly) stay.
Maybe someday I’ll get around to writing another helpful guide – this time one on not just joining, but learning to survive decades in the bureaucracy. It’s not the worse idea I’ve ever heard.