A really intelligent man feels what other men only know.
Montesquieu, Essai sur les causes qui peuvent affecter les esprits et les caracteres, 1736
This is the old grey hair intuition capability. How often have we seen how the inexperienced manager handles an unforeseen problem. It becomes a project. So he has to appoint a committee, establish its scope, determine its objectives, write down the deliverables, prepare a time schedule, hold regular meetings, invite the top brass (for impression purposes), prepare and distribute minutes to everyone, hire outside consultants, establish their budget, maneuver 3 people to directly report to him, have 10 others indirectly report to him, make sure his project is written up in the company newsletter, get his photo on the intranet, issue progress reports every month, then finally realize that the issue will never fly. On the other hand, the experienced guy simply has a gut feel for the matter and immediately says no. Then he pats the other guy on the head and says, “one day son, one day.” / © Bill Storie 2013
The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.
Solomon Ibn Gabirol, The Choice of Pearls, circa 1050
“Things just ain’t what they used to be when I was a lad.” How often have you heard that..? One of the core elements of a civilized society is good manners – yet nowadays, the number of people who simply don’t know the difference between good and bad manners is staggering. Where people used to feel shame or hesitancy or embarrassment, is no longer the case. The culture of the business world is determined to a great extent by the ability to make money – and in many cases, the need to make money, to the exclusion of fairness, common sense and manners is the driver. What makes this worse is that even with well-educated, senior executives, their lack of even knowing what good manners look like is staggering. I have often sat at a business dinner where one (or more) people hog the conversation – or only talk to the only other person that can help them – or just act boorish. Their raison d’etre is that the making of the deal, or the making of money, or just winning, is the sole objective of the event. It can be nauseating to be stuck in a situation where, because of the bad manners of a senior executive, you have no alternative but to sit tight. If he is the boss man, then even worse. He should know better, he should recognise the existence of others at the dinner, he should be more gracious. Forget it. He’s a nouveau riche sans class. / © Bill Storie 2013
Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.
Josh Billings, US Humorist (1818 – 1885)
As you get older, people typically believe that you get smarter. Some people probably do. Most don’t. People also tend to think that if you take your time to answer a question, that you are actually thinking through any number of scenarios from your own life, so that you can come out with a great answer. People usually afford you time the time to remain silent for a wee while. “It’s an age thing” they think. No it’s not. I’m being silent because I’ve nothing to say. The silence tactic is also one of the most powerful ways to win an argument. Most people believe that an argument must have back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It irritates people if you say “OK, you win.” And close the argument. They are usually incensed. An argument is only worth having if you can over-shout the other person. So, the best way to win, is to say nothing. It’s better if you are face to face, because then they see your facial and body language as well. The shrug of the shoulders (“I really don’t care”) plus the silence is a winner, every time. The other advantage of silence is that you always look like you are a classy person. You don’t get into mud-slinging speech, you don’t get into a shouting match, you don’t say things you wish you hadn’t said, and so forth. Silence, in an argument, really does give you an air of superiority. “I won’t lower myself down to your argumentative level.” Silence is indeed golden. / © Bill Storie 2013
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Dorothy Parker, US author, humorist (1893 – 1967)
A few years ago, the car dealerships here introduced those big SUV autos. Given our small country-style roads there was absolutely no need to have them. We don’t have enough road systems to get out of third gear. Yet, the car dealers were being knocked over in the rush by people with money to burn. They were the most expensive form of transport around these parts. Every yuppy in the place had to have one – they were even dumping one-year old cars to get this new icon of wealth. Prosperity without purpose. One of my friends bought one. When asked why, he said, “Just had to get one.” The fact that it is too big for him, his wife and his grown-up children to drive, is irrelevant. Then we have the nouveau riche couple who fly off to some Caribbean island on a private jet. I’m, not talking about the Bill Gates of this world, I’m talking about some kid who grew up in mediocrity, collects a few dollars, then splashes out big time. I have no problem with people doing well, making money and indeed spending it – but when they feel the need to splash it in the faceoff other people, less well-off, I draw the line. If you can afford it, then fine, go spend it – but don’t broadcast it on your Facebook page. / © Bill Storie 2013
An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.
Anatole France, French novelist (1844 – 1924)
The vast majority of people, particularly in the business world, make the same mistake time and time again. They know when to speak up, but rarely know when to shut up. If you know your subject by all means talk about it – talk about it often, talk about it loudly, talk about it intentionally. But if you do NOT know the subject, then do us all a favour, do not talk about it often, do not talk about it loudly, and for heaven’s sake, please do not intentionally make your self look stupid. Accounting is a strange science. I should know – I’ve been doing it for over forty years and still don’t get it fully. As a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, I can say that and get away with it – we’re a fairly democratic bunch who believe in freedom of speech (I hope). Yet, every day I meet people who seem to know more about accounting than I do. Just because they have a credit card, which is about as close most people come to managing their finances, does not mean they are accountants. Yet, many think they are accountants. It infuriates me. I don’t tell the butcher how to cut steaks. I let him do his job and wrap it all up for me. / © Bill Storie 2013
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once
Bertrand Russell, English Philosopher (1872 – 1970)
“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.
We have done so much, for so long, with so little that we are now uniquely qualified to do anything with nothing.”
Konstantin Josef Jireček, Czech historian (1854 – 1918)
Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, English novelist (1775 – 1817)
How many times have you been walking along the office corridor and a senior manager is walking towards you – you say, “do you have a minute..?”, and the first thing he does is look at his watch. How self-important are these people..? Yet if one senior manager stops another senior manager, he doesn’t look at his watch. Go figure. I actually do not possess a watch. I haven’t owned one for almost 30 years. The last watch I bought was a “Rolex” from a street vendor with a small black briefcase on Sixth Avenue New York. I wore it for a about a year (it was admired endlessly), then one weekend I took off my watch and laid it to the side – the weekend lasted longer. I swear. I wasn’t constantly checking my watch to see what time it was, and thus I wasn’t seeing the weekend disappear. I liked the apparent long weekend concept. So, after doing that for a few months I took the watch off every day. I don’t miss it. If I do need to know the time I’ll check my computer, or some distant clock, or even ask someone if desperate. I have travelled the world and have yet to be stuck for knowing the time. I always get airplanes when I need to. Keeping a watch on my life seems a pointless task. / © Bill Storie 2013
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)
I was a section leader on a huge software project a few years ago. Like many others on the project, I easily identified the clowns – inmost cases, dare I say it, they were IT clowns. No idea whatsoever of how to run a business. The software had the ability to work in various foreign currencies, but each one required separate configuration, to accept FX rates etc. The IT guy in charge of this issue came to me for a list of currencies we used – I gave him four primary, and two secondary currencies. I assume the configurations were complex. Then he comes back – with 24 currencies. His rationale was that we will need them at some point, so better to configure them now. I advised him that in 150 years of business, we had never done a single trade in Swedish Kroner (or most of the others). The project failed. A year later, an identical project, only this time using different software materialized. The director in charge asked if I would section-lead again. I asked who was in the project this time, then I said, “If you believe that by having the SAME people, doing the SAME things – only, you expect a different result this time – keep taking the pills. The new project went swimmingly along the precise same path of stupidity as the first one. Now, there’s a surprise. / © Bill Storie 2013
The Traveller and Fortune
A TRAVELER wearied from a long journey lay down, overcome with fatigue, on the very brink of a deep well. Just as he was about to fall into the water, Dame Fortune, it is said, appeared to him and waking him from his slumber thus addressed him: “Good Sir, pray wake up: for if you fall into the well, the blame will be thrown on me, and I shall get an ill name among mortals; for I find that men are sure to impute their calamities to me, however much by their own folly they have really brought them on themselves.” Everyone is more or less master of his own fate.
My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.
Edith Sitwell, English biographer, critic, novelist, & poet (1887 – 1964)
I think this sums up a perfect day for me. I love to read. I really love listening to good (usually classical) music. But I really, really love silence. Looking out of my window at home where I can literally watch the grass growing is relaxing, albeit quite boring – however if I can do it in complete silence, then I am at peace. When I’m writing, I usually wear headphones to (a) cut out annoying noise from others and (b) to get the “fix” – the stimulation I get from quality music is immensely inspiring. I can literally write for hours if I am listening to the right music. If I am making a speech, I will use my iPod, with selected music playing, as I build up to speaking time. It is amazing how much creative stimulation I get from good music – but it must be listened to in silence i.e. apart from the music itself, there cannot be any other noise annoyances. I’ve never understood why some people must have people around them all the time. Can’t they entertain themselves. Over the years when I was traveling regularly on business, and spent countless nights in a hotel bedroom on my own, I developed a liking for being on my own. There was no alterative – simple as that. Watching TV in the room, or even watching the dreaded blue movies, did precious little for me I have to say. And the hotels I stayed in, while they were never that bad, rarely had views of the Champs Elysees from the bedroom window. So, what else to do. Read, listen to music, and enjoy the silence. Ah yes, those were the days. / © Bill Storie 2013
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
Mark Twain, US humorist, novelist, short story author (1835 – 1910)
I believe that most people – well, most normal people – all have one thing in common – they lack confidence. I do also believe it comes with age – so now in my latter years I am one of those annoyingly confident people who whistles his way through life. Doesn’t that just annoy you. It used to really annoy me when I came across older people who were like that. However it truly pissed me right off, when I came across people who were confident like that but were in their young years. Now that really is annoying. I never trusted men in braces (or suspenders if you’re American). I still don’t. They always leave the impression of needing help and support due to a lack of ability to hold their own. I’m being facetious of course. But, I bet the next time you see a man dressed like that you’ll pay attention – and find out that this fellow not only has supreme confidence, but exudes ignorance. The combination is frightening. / © Bill Storie 2013
As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it, if I choose to read, or play, on the computer, until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50, 60 & 70’s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I will walk the beach, in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But, broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905
US (Spanish-born) philosopher (1863 – 1952)
I know that I can’t remember every single thing I’ve done in business over the many years. That’s called “recall”. But I think it’s fair to say that if I’m doing something which has a vague feeling of déjà vu, I tend to know it. That’s called “recognition.” It still stuns me when I see an old movie, or an old documentary, or read in a magazine about something that happened years ago, that I can get that eerie feeling of having been there, or somehow know about it. So the chances are that because I can’t remember or recall things, good and bad, that I did in the past, and thus probably have repeated them – but fortunately if I get a hint of something that helps me recognize it, then I hopefully can stop myself before I repeat it. The problem is of course that sometimes I just can’t remember if I recognize something – or even worse – someone. “I recognize you, but I can’t recall your name..!!!” / © Bill Storie 2013
“Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.”
Anatole France, French novelist (1844 – 1924)
My biggest quandary as I’ve got older, and approach retirement age, is what to do with myself if I do retire. Much as though I bemoan everyday office life, full of the clowns in business, I have to admit that it gets me up in the morning and gives me purpose. Three close friends retired over the last five years – to play golf, to travel, to garden, etc. Their aspirations were high. Not long ago I bought lunch for each of them – but individually. To a man they had all found a small part time job. They were bored out of their skulls at home. The initial burst of peace and comfort and relaxation, had all but faded. They were more uptight now in retirement than while fully employed. So I don’t think retirement is for me – my nerves couldn’t handle it. I mentioned this to the owner/manager of a local supermarket. I said I’d come work for him. When I told my three friends about this, they all said I was nuts – well, that was a few years ago. Now they’re thinking about talking to the supermarket guy. / © Bill Storie 2013
“A really intelligent man feels what other men only know”
Montesquieu, Essai sur les causes qui peuvent affecter les esprits et les caracteres, 1736
This is the old grey hair intuition capability. How often have we seen how the inexperienced manager handles an unforeseen problem? It becomes a project. So he has to appoint a committee, establish its scope, determine its objectives, write down the deliverables, prepare a time schedule, hold regular meetings, invite the top brass (for impression purposes), prepare and distribute minutes to everyone, hire outside consultants, establish their budget, manoeuvre 3 people to directly report to him, have 10 others indirectly report to him, make sure his project is written up in the company newsletter, get his photo on the intranet, issue progress reports every month, then finally realize that the issue will never fly. On the other hand, the experienced guy simply has a gut feel for the matter and immediately says no. Then he pats the other guy on the head and says, “one day son, one day.” / © Bill Storie 2013
The Fox and the Leopard
THE FOX and the Leopard disputed which was the more beautiful of the two. The Leopard exhibited one by one the various spots which decorated his skin. But the Fox, interrupting him, said, “And how much more beautiful than you am I, who am decorated, not in body, but in mind.”
The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea
A SHIPWRECKED MAN, having been cast upon a certain shore, slept after his buffetings with the deep. After a while he awoke, and looking upon the Sea, loaded it with reproaches. He argued that it enticed men with the calmness of its looks, but when it had induced them to plow its waters, it grew rough and destroyed them. The Sea, assuming the form of a woman, replied to him: “Blame not me, my good sir, but the winds, for I am by my own nature as calm and firm even as this earth; but the winds suddenly falling on me create these waves, and lash me into fury.”
…….. I am a gentle, kind man until I am provoked
“Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.”
Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 – 1900)
Maybe it’s an age thing. More likely it’s a seniority thing. Sometimes, it’s probably the power to hire or fire, or grant a salary increase. So, if it’s none of the above, then I too feel that I must be wrong when people agree with me. I suppose I should sometimes believe that people agree with me because I just might be right. I’m smart enough to know how to make a difference, and dumb enough to believe I can. Then again people may just agree with me to humour me, agree with me, pat me on the head, then toddle off somewhere else. I really do wish that sometimes I knew. Then again, as long as they don’t disagree with me, maybe I should be grateful (and keep my mouth shut). / © Bill Storie 2013