I love books. I love how they look on the shelf, the smell of ink and paper, and the heft of a 900-page doorstop in my hand. With that said, I absolutely do not love all books equally.
Some books, I pick up after reading a positive review or finding something interesting on the front flap. I’ve gotten to be a pretty decent judge of what I’m going to enjoy and what I won’t based on a quick assessment – even if that means literally judging a book by its cover. Sometimes, though, I get it wildly wrong.
I’ve heard that some people can just stop reading a book they find they’re not enjoying. Being able to just walk away and find something more interesting feels like it must be awfully freeing. I can only wish I was that kind of person. You can probably count on one or maybe two hands the number of books I’ve ever just given up reading because it turns out I have no real interest.
Me? Yeah. I’ll grind through a book, no matter how dull, just because I’ve started it. Once I’m a chapter or two in, I’m going to finish even if it’s an absolute slog. Sure, even from these books I pick up a few worthwhile nuggets, but finding them is more chore than joy.
As it turns out, there are occasionally times when raw determination to see things through to the end is not in any way helpful… I don’t suppose you’ll see that little gem on a motivational poster, though.
1. Counting. Look, I’m about as math challenged as any adult human being can be. I avoid dealing with numbers whenever possible, but there are some moments when it just can’t be avoided. Taking a quick look around and finding out how many people should be in a room, how many are in that room, and then figuring out where the balance of the people actually are shouldn’t not create the most difficult task known to man. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. And it definitely shouldn’t take six hours to arrive at an “inconclusive” answer. Being able to find your people in the event bad shit happens is kind of a hallmark of supervision – or it least it was back a million years ago when I had that particular rose pinned on me. Being forced to admit in public that you can’t count up your people should be a source of great shame to you and your family.
2. Layers. You know what would make an already pretty top heavy organization even more frustrating to deal with? Yeah, adding another layer of management on top of the five already in place between the working level and decision makers. For all of the vaunted effort put in to “right sizing” and “workforce shaping” it’s like no one can get past doing it the same way we’ve been doing it since George Washington was a private… because additional layers of management are exactly the cure for anything that ails a big, bureaucratic organization.
3. Patience. Some greybeard long ago said that patience is a virtue. I can only assume that this individual didn’t actually have anything he was looking forward to. So polite society says we’re supposed to be demure and pretend that the waiting around doesn’t bother us. It’s not something we’re supposed to admit, but in my humble estimation, the very notion that we should be happily patient reeks of utter bullshit.
I know I was busy today. I have the meeting notes, calendar invitations, and seemingly endless chain of emails to prove I’ve done something today. I try not to delve too deeply into differentiating simply being busy and actually getting things done. The two are most decidedly not synonymous. I’ve long since given up on making an official distinction between the two. In my estimation on any given day as long as you look busy, people will assume you are busy. That’s one of the great double edged swords of working for Uncle.
So is there virtue to being busy even if you don’t really have anything to show for it? Well, it passes the time if nothing else. When you live your life eight hours at a time, I suppose that has to count for something. A quick eight hours is usually preferable to a slow eight hours. That’s not universally true, of course, because there are some days that go quickly only because they are so full of unimaginable levels of stupid. Stupid can be a deal breaker – because at some point things can easily get so far sideways that a slow day would just be less anguished.
I can sit here and ask myself what kind of day it’s been, but that probably misses the real point. Just now, busy or slow, it’s the best kind of day – the one that is quickly receding into the rear view of life. I’m not nearly that Zen, of course, but I have important business to attend. After all, dogs and cats aren’t going to learn to live together all by themselves.
Whomever decided that patience is a virtue should be clubbed about the head and neck like a baby seal. I can only assume that anyone who thought sitting around quietly waiting for something to happent to them, must not have had much worth waiting for coming their direction. Yet, here I sit; anything but patient and without the first thing to do about it other than continue sitting here waiting. That and railing against the virtue of patience, of course. I suppose they can make me wait, but there’s no power in heaven or on earth that can make me like it… or even want to like it. Gratification has been sufficiently deferred and I want it now, damnit.
Yes, if you’re wondering, it feels better now that I’ve said that. I’ll be busy marking time if anyone needs me.