I was at a meeting last week where my supervisor was explaining “how to become more effective as individuals in order to effectively organize reorganization.” I thought, what’s so great about being effective? For instance, what if you’re a garbageman? If you became really effective and well-organized then maybe you could pick up and dump everybody’s trash twice as fast as you do now. What would happen then? Your boss would assign you twice as many houses to pick up trash from, and you’d get a double hernia from lifting twice as many stinking cans of garbage.
On the other hand you could, as my boss often does, use me as an example. He’s always pointing to me and saying things like, “How come you always look so smug and relaxed while the rest of us are out here busting our butts?” or “Don’t you have something better to do than read the comics and play computer games with all your little goof-off friends on the Internet?” In other words, “What’s your secret for success?”
Well, I thought about it for a couple of minutes, while he was cleaning up the coffee he’d spilled all over his carefully prepared notes, and I came up with the following seven habits which can help practically anyone avoid personal and professional problems, whether they’re someone else’s or your own.
Habit 1: Be Inactive
Everyone at work is rushing around trying to meet some impossible deadline, and frightening each other with warnings about what the consequences will be if your company is late. Don’t get sucked in! All deadlines are imaginary. The universal clock stretches out to infinity, and by then nobody is going to care whether or not the Disney contract for more cuddly little peg-leg pirate dolls got completed by September 1, at five o’clock, or mind that you were at the steam baths that afternoon getting a rubdown and knocking back a few cold ones.
Habit 2: Begin at the End (or “eating dessert first”)
What’s the first thing you do after you’ve completed a successful project? Go out for a night on the town! Celebrate, party, take a little trip to the Bahamas! Instead of putting off your reward until the end of some endless project, take your reward first. This will encourage you to start new projects that you might otherwise be avoiding. But can you really afford some extravagant reward before you’ve even done a lick of work? Of course you can, that’s what credit cards are for. So go out and get that big new stereo, buy that candy-apple red jet ski, satisfy your inner lusts. By doing this you’ll force yourself to make it through even the most tedious and meaningless projects in order to keep from having your playthings repossessed or your lowly status revealed to all those hot dates who think you own the company.
Habit 3: Do Everything Twice
Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, especially after you’ve fouled it up the first time. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes, so the more we make, the more we learn. And if you have to do the same thing more than twice, that’s OK, too. In fact some of the most content people I’ve come across in life are ones who have found their niche is to do the same thing over and over and over again, until they’ve finally been granted tenure.
Habit 4: Think No Win / No Win
No Win/No Win is not a technique; it’s a total philosophy of human interaction. No Win/No Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks to plant the seed of doubt and suspicion in all human interactions. With a No Win/No Win solution all parties feel troubled by the decision, and so are unlikely to want to work at trying to implement it. By paying lip service to the original problem, and then trying our best to ignore it we save ourselves a great deal of time that can be much more pleasurably spent doing the daily crossword puzzle, or going out to Senor Taco for an order of nachos with extra cheese. No Win/No Win is based on the paradigm that no matter how hard we try we will inevitably find out that we’ve contracted some horrible incurable disease, and wish we hadn’t wasted so much of our time doing stupid drudge work, and kissing up to a boss who keeps the first cubicle where he ever worked in his office as a memento.
No Win/No Win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s no way.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then, Failing That, Seek to Confuse Everyone Else So They Can’t Figure Out You Don’t Have a Clue
If you could really understand what was going on around you it would probably help you relax and get on with your agenda of relaxing even more. However, you missed the last three major meetings and have about as clear of an idea of what your manager wants as a sea slug does. Don’t worry. Just act as though you know exactly what you’re doing. Everyone else in your department feels just as insecure about their knowledge, even if they’ve been trying to pay close attention. That’s because management works overtime to keep the employees terrified and in doubt. They call it, “Keeping the staff on their toes.” Seek to imitate the managers, and confuse your co-workers even more, by pretending you know more than anyone. Of course, you must act as though you don’t have the time or interest in sharing any of this knowledge. Continue this type of behavior long enough and you may find yourself up for a promotion.
Habit 6: Uncooperation (or “I did it My Way”)
Cooperation takes forever. First you’ve got to have meetings where everybody feels the need to get their two cents in. Then you’ve got to read the minutes from the previous meeting where everybody got their two cents in. Then you’ve got to compromise and come to some sort of a consensus, which means that everybody is supposed to make sacrifices for the greater good, but really means that nobody gets what they want. Uncooperation is much simpler, and even has the veneer of being high principled. Stand up for what you believe in! Don’t give in. You can also think of this habit as acting like a three year old. (He won’t stop dumping all the cereal on the floor unless he gets his way.) Call it whatever you want, the important thing is this: It’s much easier to do things your way than try to please a bunch of people who are always complaining no matter what. Your way is as good as any other way, and if they don’t like it, tough.
Habit 7: Cutting With a Dull Blade
Consider the following story: John is a handyman extraordinaire. His home workshop takes up his entire basement and is filled with tools for doing every imaginable kind of job, from carpentry and plumbing, to auto mechanics and spot welding. He is impeccably organized, with tools and supplies in their places and a complete reference library for unusual problems that may crop up.
Tony, on the other hand has all his tools piled into a corner of his garage, next to the fertilizer and the lawnmower that broke three summers ago. The garage roof leaks, so half the tools are covered with rust and an unknown animal has torn apart some greasy rags and made a nest in his tool box.
Who would you go to if you needed to borrow some tools, John or Tony? That’s right, you, like almost everybody else with any sense, would bother John. “Good old John, he’ll know what to do.” “Good old John, he’s got a torque wrench he let me borrow, I’m sure he’d lend it to you.” Good old John winds up spending all his free time helping every would-be do-it-yourselfer and his cousin, and tracking down all the tools that somebody forgot to return last week. Tony, on the other hand lays down on the couch with a six-pack and watches the doubleheader. On Saturday night Tony goes out cruising for burgers while John is still in his garage trying to put back together somebody else’s automatic transmission.
Keep your blade sharp and you’ll spend all day cutting up the wood the neighbors bring, keep your blade dull and you’ll have all the time you need to saw a few logs.
Remember, what’s important in life is the journey, not the destination, particularly if you’ve never been able to figure out how to read a map and are too arrogant to ask for directions. Besides, why bother setting lofty goals for yourself when you may get lucky this Friday and win the Megabucks lottery. In the meantime, following the Seven Habits will help you maximize the pleasure of wandering around aimlessly on the road to nowhere.