Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want to get something done in your next internal meeting? F*ck courtesy.

Two weeks ago I attended an all staff meeting of 20 or so colleagues. The meeting required a 177-mile round trip drive and consumed six hours all tolled.

That I directly contributed very little and the fuel, time and CO2 emissions wasted is not the point of this missive. The problem was the meeting was so riddled with useless anecdotes, caveats and content that had zero to do with my work, I left with a high level of frustration because I felt like we didn’t accomplish anything. But, hey, it wasn’t my meeting.

One week later, I hosted a conference call with my boss (who reports to the president) and my boss’ counterpart on the academic side (who, while I do not report to this person, outranks me by a wiiiiiiiiiiiiide margin).

“Paul, this is your call,” boss says. “Go ahead.”

Instantly I moved into a mode I didn’t realize how much I missed. This was my meeting. Absolutely fucking right, and we’re going to get this done my way, which means I’ll get you out of here by the time I promised. And if you’ll indulge me just a little bit, we’ll get everything done we need to get done. I further promise that if I seem curt or rude, I apologize, but it is only in the interest of respect for your time and accomplishment of the goal.

“Thank you gentlemen,” I started. “I want to keep this to thirty minutes and I have five agenda items,” which I then read. At times I feared I was being curt, especially when speaking to two genteel southern superior officers for whom courtesy is highly important. Nevertheless, I was confident I was doing the right thing.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said more than a few times. “But do I understand correctly that this is what you want? Ok. Just what I needed. Next.”

The call ended exactly thirty minutes after it began.

The feeling of satisfaction in my work at that moment was quite strong. I accomplished exactly what I set out to accomplish in the time allotted, managed to keep the conversation focused (even at the risk of offending two superiors), and left with a clear course of action agreeable and hopefully beneficial to all related parties.

My lesson for you, dear reader, is this. We have become overly courteous to the point of productivity loss and ultimately frustration. And yes, the title at the header was intended to draw attention, not to encourage you to be flat out rude.

That said, people would rather get through a meeting on time and accomplish the goals for that meeting than worry about being offended. Set your course, be direct, turn all conversation back to the topic, and move on.

Thank you and goodbye.

Pauly D.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gospel truth: the ethics of sport fishing

Having recently seen a post in my Twitter feed concerning the ethics of fishing for sport, I felt compelled to address it here. It's mostly self-serving for both posterity and clearing my own conscience. But hell, it's my blog. I'll do with it what I like.

Since it is not possible to say it better than David James Duncan does in an interview with David Thomas Sumner from Weber State University, I'm just going to paste it here. Do with it what you will. Meanwhile, I'll be back on the water at the end of  the month.

[DTS] I have a lot of friends, eco-friends, who are good people but who give me a hard time about my fishing habit, telling me I am just torturing the fish. But I argue that there is a certain ethic found through that habit. How do you see it?

[DJD] I wouldn't call it an ethic; I would call it a spiritual truth. It's sacrifice that feeds all of us. Fifty-five pounds of toxic waste generated by the construction of a television set. Something slightly lower, but near that, to build a nice computer monitor. You drive up to the PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] meeting and the grill of your car is covered with dead insects. You become a Jain where you only walk outside during the daylight so you don't crush insects, but you start to get sick and you've gotta take antibiotics and there is a holocaust that goes on inside you. You're killing these innocent organisms. I mean, there is no way to define anything as large and clumsy as a human being that doesn't involve an animal that is eating other animals the same as the rest of nature. We practice a beautiful traditional craft where you and I stand on land, and fifty feet away this creature from another realm is very quietly taking part in the food chain and through a work of deceit—a kind of low-level fiction—and through some incredible technology, we insinuate ourselves into that food chain, and we betray the sincerity of that creature. But in its struggle for life we feel its life in our hands. And that is important. Because we do hold other lives in our hands. Fly-fishing, in this sense, is an avenue to understanding gospel truth.

Amen, brother. Amen.