On doing the right thing…

I tried to do the right thing this afternoon. I tried to be a helpful, decent human being. As is usually the case, that was 100% the wrong thing to do as it resulted in a story that I’m not going to tell, but that I’ll have to trust you to understand was the exact opposite of the low-key slide into a long weekend that we usually shoot for here at Fortress Jeff.

For the record, effective immediately, any conversation that starts with anything even close to “Hey I have a favor to ask and it’s kind of a big one…” will be immediate noped on out of.

Sigh. If anyone needs me I’ll be in the kitchen mixing all the drinks.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Being right. A few months ago I told someone I was afraid if X happened that Y would be the result. Now I’m not an expert in game theory, but I’ve got some small experience with strategic and operational planning. I also have a good sense of consequences and second and third order effects. The problem is being able to see a move or two ahead can be a real mixed bag and sometimes. Being right has a funny way of tasting so much like ashes in your mouth.

2. Group Hugs. About once a quarter the workforce is summoned together to participate in our version of a “town hall meeting.” It’s the preferred method here for leaders to give the impression that communication has happened. It’s fine, though it usually contains no more actual information than could comfortably be put in an email message. We all have our part to play in the show. This week’s iteration, though, included a new feature – the back half of the hall was roped off in order to drive all comers towards the front of the venue where we then spend the better part of two hours sitting elbow to eyeball with our colleagues with space feeling like it was allocated by the same people who decide how much space is need for your average coach seat on an airliner. It’s not so much like being treated as a valued employee as it is being made into a human sardine. Just add oil. Perhaps the reason people so often spread out across all 750 seats is we don’t *want* to sit in each other’s lap. Then again your way looks better for the photo op so at least we know where the priorities lay.

3. Charitable overreach. There are several charities I give to year in and year out. There are some I give to once and then never again. The fastest way to get dropped from my list is to bombard my email and old fashioned mail box with supplications for more money less than two weeks after I sent you a respectably sized check. If I sent you money, I believe in your cause and keep an eye on both you and it during the course of the year… but honest to God, if you keep bombarding me with mailers, you will be dead to me forever.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Wasted days. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of snow, but like its liquid counterpart in warm weather, I understand it’s just part of the deal that comes with living in an area that has distinctly different seasons. Snow, however, serves one useful purpose that rain almost never manages to achieve: It can bring the office to a grinding halt as everyone stays off the road in fear of their life. Of course that’s only true when the snow flies on a weekday. When it starts falling before the crack of dawn on a Sunday, well, then it pretty much serves no useful purpose whatsoever. In conclusion, snow should be limited to falling between the hours of 1AM Sunday and noon on Friday. At any other time it’s just a nuisance.

2. Uncle Omar. Last week POTUS took quite a lot of heat in stories involving the White House pulling strings for an uncle who was in the country illegally. At first, I’ll admit that I was part of the chorus. Upon reflection, I put myself in the exalted position of the presidency and one of my own uncles in Omar’s place. In a situation where I wielded supreme executive authority, I’d be hard pressed not to lend a hand where blood is involved. I’m not sure any of the critics are dumb enough to think this is the first president who used the weight of his office to help out friends, family, or significant donors. While I’m not saying it’s “right”, I am saying that it’s human nature. For better or worse, kin is kin.

3. Laying awake. Something has my schedule off… and you can well imagine how happy that makes me. There’s something uniquely unpleasant about lying in bed, staring at the darkness and knowing precious minutes of an already abbreviated night’s sleep are ticking away. Then you read a little. Then you watch some TV. Then suddenly it’s half passed one and your alarm’s going off in three hours. Finally, when sweet, sweet blissful sleep comes, three separate alarm clocks scream to life, dragging you back from your slumber and you spend the rest of the day wanting to punch the world in the face. With a shovel.

Clarity…

I’ve got my faults, no one knows that better or is more critical of them than I am myself. One thing I hope that no one can ever say about me, though, is that I lack clarity of vision. More often than not I manage to cut through the clutter and see the world around me for what it is. That construct becomes my version of the truth. It doesn’t have to be your version of the truth any more than your version has to be mine. The world gets a lot less complicated when you give up trying to convince yourself and everyone around you that you’re all right and everyone else is all wrong. Conveniently, right and wrong generally speak for themselves – but they speak to each of us in different ways.

The trouble comes when we try to deal in absolutes. Maybe there is a universal black and a universal white, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the universe is a bit too complex for that. Don’t bother trying to hide from the complexity. It’s what keeps things interesting, so just go ahead and embrace it.

I’ll never claim to have all the answers. I won’t even delude myself into thinking I have the majority of the answers. What I do have as often as not is a reasonable sightline from Point A to Point B so I don’t get caught flatfooted by too many “I don’t know what to do” moments these days. I’m never 100% confident about a decision – any decision – but since I’m not generally stuck on an absolute right and an absolute wrong, things generally turn out somewhere in the OK range.

If I were in the business of dispensing unsolicited advice, I’d tell you that when in doubt, for God’s sake do something. Any action, even the wrong one is probably better than standing around with your thumb up your ass not doing anything at all. At least if you do screw the pooch, you’ll know what not to do in the future. And that was my moment of clarity for the day.