[PLUG-TALK] Greatness and failure

Keith Lofstrom keithl at gate.kl-ic.com
Thu Jul 25 13:56:15 PDT 2013

On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 10:45:04AM -0700, Rich Shepard wrote:
>   What's foolhardy about starting a business? In today's economy a strong
> argument can be made that it's the most rational choice for many people,
> particularly those of a certain age.

All businesses eventually fail, even those with brief periods of
small or large success.  Less than half of my business attempts ever
created income.  They've never provided as much income as my years as
a corporate mushroom.  I'm pretty sure what I could have accomplished
if I spent my whole life doing that.  But I would never have had the
chance to explore new things as a free agent.  Economically, I'm
foolhardy, irrational.   Lifewise, I pity those who spend their
workdays hoping they will end, who earn money to spend on
distractions to help them forget what they do to earn money.

Nobody, not even corporate workers with families to feed, should
ever surrender to that.  Raising kids in a cheap apartment is
better than raising them to fear 

>   Not everyone who achieves great things makes great mistakes. The only
> valid conclusion from generalizations is that they're always wrong.

If someone does not see the great mistakes others make, they are looking
too selectively.  That is not the worst thing if observers also have
problems with tolerance and forgiveness.  Typically, the blamers are
drawing attention away from their own shortcomings.  But learning from
the mistakes of others, rather than excoriating them, is the most 
productive approach.  

  After the OSCON Ignite talks, I talked with the woman who flubbed
  hers, instead of all the flashy, successful talks.  I expressed 
  my sincere gratitude for her courage, compared to the thousand
  of us schlubs in the audience who didn't even try.  I wanted to
  learn what mistakes she made, and brainstorm about ways to avoid
  them.  We both learned something.  Note to Igniters: No changes
  the morning before your talk!  Put the first 15 seconds of patter
  on an index card.  With some momentum going, you can look up at
  all those hungry eyes.  They are grateful you stopped using cards.

Personally, I choose to evaluate others by their performance, not
their ideology or job title, which often gets me in trouble with
those whose ideologies I mostly share.  Poor performers should be
replaced with better performers, if available.  If not, the scope
of responsibilies should be reduced to match available capabilities
and unavoidable human weaknesses, but never so much as to eliminate
failure.  Work with the material, and let it surprise you.

My major argument with centralist organization (commercial or
political) is that there are are no human beings with the competence
and perfection necessary to meet impossible expectations of high
leadership.  There are plenty of candidates who believe themselves
competent, clamor for the job, and fail, just like the people they
replaced.  There are plenty of fickle sheeple who will follow them
for a while, until the cognitive dissonance becomes too great.  Then
the previous messiahs are crucified, and new messiahs are appointed.

The fickle sheeple keep doing this because they are afraid of the
responsibility and failure that are inseparable from personal
commitment to important tasks.  They expect others to do the work
for them.  When those others inevitably prove imperfect, the sheeple
blame them rather than their own laziness and impossible expectations.

Look around you - there are plenty of problems in the world.  Find the
most important problem within your scope, and wear yourself out grinding
that problem down into a smaller one.  You won't save the world by
yourself, but a billion of you might.  That would be great odds out
of seven billion people, if 6.9 billion of them weren't spending so
much time attacking and undermining each other from their easy chairs.
We muddle through, rather than excel, with 10% of adequate resources.

You don't need permission or a master plan or annointment by JHWH to
get started.  Stop focusing on the wrongness of others and focus on
the rightness of what you can do.  If you aren't making mistakes,
perhaps even great ones, you aren't trying hard enough.  When you
have made enough mistakes, you gain a little more understanding of
the mistakes made by others, and develop the fortitude necessary
to keep working your ass off in spite of them.

So my generalization is not that all great accomplishments involve
great mistakes, but that nothing great is ever accomplished without
risking those mistakes.  If mistakes aren't made, it is a sign that
something far greater was possible and not attempted.

And Rich, you are a hard worker with a good soul and accomplishments
to be proud of, so I'm not picking on you.  But I hope you don't
waste to much of your precious time being upset at those who rocket
past you, mostly burn up, and sometimes become superstars.  There
are essential missions for both the careful and the foolhardy.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993

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