The definition of complacency is repeating, over and over, the things one is best at and denial would be avoiding the things one sucks at. I remember a McKinsey consultant relating the tale of kicking off a client engagement with the engagement manager and being asked “What are you good at?” My friend replied: “I’m pretty strong at interviewing.”
“So what do you dislike doing?”
“I’m not very good at financial models. I’m more a Word person than an Excel person I guess.”
So of course she wound up doing all the financial modeling and came out of the three months better for it.
As it is in the world of the mind, so is it in the world of the gym. I hate burpees and so I’ve embraced them. I hate push-ups, so I begin every day with two dozen. I hate pull-ups and chin-ups ….. so lots of those. Turkish get ups … double under rope skipping……
There’s something to the old flinty Yankee stoicism of cold showers and thin gruel, a spartan donning of whatever hair shirts life throws one’s way. Railroads weren’t built by localvores or hipsters wearing grandpa hats. No one sent a Foursquare update while laying the first trans-Atlantic cable. Your great-great-grandfather didn’t get pissed off about not being able to synch his phone to his laptop.
I’m thinking about indulgence and denial a lot these days, mostly as I read about the horror of the Civil War and the impossible decisions faced by Lincoln. I can’t help but compare that total breakdown of American society to the absolute failure of our modern Congress to confront reality and drop its partisan drama. Have we gone soft? Is our current debt level, deteriorating infrastructure and lack of global competitiveness due to the fact that this generation, my generation, has never been tested by the miserable conditions our grandparents were? Does a generation need a war and depression to make it tough? If they were the “Greatest Generation” is mine the “Worst?”
It’s time for this generation to drop to the floor and pound out 100 burpees and get serious. Pay off our debt, urge our government to invest in the future the way it did in the 50s and 60s — decades that yielded the semiconductor and internet thanks to government initiatives — and stop pulling down each others pants in the name of partisanship. If the best the private sector can do is a launch bunch of sillyy status sharing services and local coupon distributors for yet another yoga studio then we’re all screwed. Under the flab, under the superficial obsessions, there’s a spartan society waiting to make its mark.
This morning I realized how guilty I am in terms of denial. On the front page is the news of the S&P downgrade and its implications. Dense stuff. Inside was a baseball story about how the unwritten rules of the game have a lesson to teach us about Congress.
Of course I skipped the liver and peas on the front page and ate the sundae on the sports section … time to drop and give myself twenty.