Here’s a thing that happens: “We tried your advice by not trying your advice except partly where we did what we want but gave it your labels and it didn’t work and therefore you are wrong.”
Now, if you’ve given that advice for many years, and followed it in your own endeavors, and you, your teams, and many others have succeeded with it, what are you to make of such a statement?
Well. Let’s not hedge, the world has too much hedging, the truth is the first fifty times one experiences this one is likely to assume the statement-maker is some kind of fool.
“Doofuses gonna doofus.”
Sooner or later, some trade pundit will enact an emperor-has-no-clothes stance from this statement. There’ll be articles and videos and interviews. When that happens, it’s hard to hold the doofus line, one wants to extend the original epithet: a *malicious* *scheming* fool.
Eventually, journalists and researchers get in the game, and it gets even harder. In the interests of compression, they elide the part about “except partly where we did what we want and gave it your labels”, and the quote becomes “It didn’t work.”
I have to tell you, it’s ridiculously hard for me to keep my equilibrium in these situations. It hurts. I mean, seriously, it just *hurts*. It gives me a stomach ache and it makes me want to cry. I often think the right thing to do is to give up.
The worst part: it puts me at more or less perpetual risk of becoming an abusive asshole. When people are saying and doing things that hurt you, a perfectly normal response is to get them to stop it, by any means necessary, including words & deeds I’d normally regard as immoral.
We’re all capable of being mean, of course, what with there being good days and bad days, but I’m talking here about trend, and even policy, not about the occasional lapse. That’s not the direction I want to go, not now and, by conscious decision, not ever.
So, what to do?
Here’s the answer I’m working out and working on…
By the time I receive that statement, the problem is actually beyond solving. It’s like a symptom that appears very late in the course of an illness. There is really no retrospective treatment. The illness will run its course, and whatever I do will be palliative, at best.
That’s an icky metaphor. I’m not suggesting that people who don’t take my advice are ill. I’m saying not taking my advice while purporting to, then declaring that it doesn’t work is indicative of a problem that is already past. Simply put, my advice didn’t take effect.
I see only two vectors, going forward:
- Give better advice, and
- Give advice better.
They don’t seem opposed, so I’m aiming at combining them.
There are a lot of components in play, and part of me wants to start expanding on all this here and now. But I won’t. It’s too disorganized, too new to me, it uses weird language people aren’t used to, it seems to differ with a great deal of received wisdom. It’s too much to fit.
I can foreshadow, though, at the meta-level: How can I (re-) create the experience(s) of improving one’s world without having an endpoint in mind?
How can I work with not against what is human, making local choices thar are not aimed but oriented, taking my ideas from my advisees, and repeating that process again and again? Because that, I think, is what I want to do.
Thanks for reading along!
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