Runnin’ Down a Dream

quote - Half the Harm

[A] sense of outrage over being falsely accused never left him. “I learned you can’t always judge a person or a situation by the way it appears on the surface,” he remembered. “You have to look deeply into things before you’re in a position to make a proper decision.”

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In John Wayne: The Life and Legend, the author relays a story about The Duke growing up as Marion Robert Morrison — and how every day he rode eight miles to elementary school on a horse named Jenny. No matter how much he fed his horse, Jenny was still too thin.

Some ladies in town took notice of what they perceived as malnutrition and reported his family to the Humane Society. After a vet examined the horse it was diagnosed to have a disease and eventually they had to put her down. On top of losing his beloved horse, Marion was understandably unhappy with how he was treated.

John Wayne - tomorrow quote

In the book: DUKE, We’re Glad We Knew You: John Wayne’s Friends and Colleagues Remember His Remarkable Life — in the forward is a 1979 article that includes the following:

To him a handshake was a binding contract. When he was in the hospital for the last time and sold his yacht, The Wild Goose, for an amount far below its market value, he learned the engines needed minor repairs. He ordered those engines overhauled at a cost to him of $40,000 because he had told the new owner the boat was in good shape.

— The Unforgettable John Wayne by Ronald Reagan

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This 60-second scene from The Searchers squares with the quote above, and it’s at the bedrock of my beliefs.

“I Told Ya, Didn’t I!”

I can’t say I’ve always come through on my word, but I try pretty damn hard — and I openly acknowledge any error or wrongdoing of any kind. But sometimes we rationalize our ways and need someone to open our eyes to see it. I’ve been immeasurably fortunate to have people do that for me.

A long time ago, a teacher’s admonishment struck my spine in a way that forever altered how I would see things

I think of conversation as a journey — where even the tiniest kernel of truth can alter your course. No matter how much I disagree with another’s view, I’ll look for anything that’s true and work backwards from there. What I find might not change a thing or might change everything, but either way it’s a worthy endeavor. As I wrote 12 years ago:

There’s nothing more edifying than taking a trip to another point of view

Most people fixate over an offense and never get past it — totally missing out on the value of what was being offered. If they had just paused to think it through, they might even find that it wasn’t offensive after all.

My Cousin Vinny is maybe the most hilariously educational movie ever, and this scene is at the core of our culture’s communication divide.

Don’t shake your head. I’m not done yet. Wait till you hear the whole thing so you can . . . understand this now . . .

How can we possibly solve serious problems when we refuse to adhere to some semblance of the fundamentals of making sense? And to do that you need to be willing to entertain information that doesn’t conform to your view.

If you’ve got the goods to back up your beliefs, shouldn’t they be able to withstand scrutiny? 

In Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon, the documentary tells of the company’s comeback after its largest-ever loss of $12.7 billion in 2006. At the helm of its turnaround was Alan Mulally — who faced quality concerns by embracing criticism from Consumer Reports. When he says the following, it’s not some fancy quote to float — it’s a mindset that can make all the difference in the world:

We’re gonna seek to understand before we seek to be understood

This 2:20 scene shows what serious-minded leaders look like (and not just Mulally). Ya gotta hand it to the great-grandson of Henry Ford for having the humility to see what was best for the company by putting the right person in place:
Mulally didn’t invent the phrase — but his version flows a bit better than Stephen Covey’s from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The synopsis for the “seek to understand” tenet is as follows:

Use empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.


At the dawn of my IT career over 20 years ago, I was in over my head on my very first contract. I came from an industrial background of process improvement (manufacturing, material handling, packaging, etc.), so I sorta fell into the programming path. Long story short (“too late” as a witty friend would say) — while I was out of work, my dad asked me to come down and do part-time development for him at the company in the patch below.

Cryogenics Is Cool - clear

Great opportunity to hang with my folks and expand on my Excel skills in Dad’s department. But I took note of the company’s inventory control and reporting issues, so I started tooling around with Microsoft Access on my own time to see what we could do about that. The CEO/owner liked what I was doing and hired me.

I presented my plan and then spent the next 6 months trying to figure out how to do it. ;o)

And it worked like a charm! I had no vision of switching careers, I just saw a problem and methodically solved it. I had every intention of going back to my previous life, but it was the late 90s and IT was exploding.

More money. Satisfaction in solving problems on a daily basis. Tons of cool stuff to learn and build on. And ya know what, I had never imagined having an opportunity to work downtown — so that was super exciting.

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Speaking of Downtown, I was gonna include the Petula Clark song for fun, but I couldn’t resist going with this scene from Seinfeld instead:

Everything was wonderful — except for one big problem: I didn’t realize how little I knew . . .

But a colleague took me under and her wing and opened my eyes to possibilities that paved the way for all that followed. I was pretty proud of the Access application we built (and I made it known that she was helping me).

Some years later I ran into the manager on that gig and we had lunch. Everything was perfectly pleasant until he felt the need to tell me that he was “underwhelmed” with my performance. He went on to say:

I didn’t realize that you didn’t know Access very well, and I let you cut your teeth on that project.

I quietly accepted his criticism because it was undeniably true!

While I think “underwhelmed” is a bit harsh, I don’t blame him one bit for feeling that way (as it took me way too long to get there — regardless of the result). As awkward as the moment was, I appreciated his straightforward honesty — and it propelled me all the more to push myself.

Don’t ya think it would be ridiculous for me to fuss over a fabricated “offense,” especially after all the grace this guy had given me? Wouldn’t it be so much more valuable and respectful to just suck it up? 

It just over a minute, this scene from A League of Their Own perfectly captures the story I’m about to tell:

Nobody threw a ball at me . . . but the effect is the same

There’s not a person on the planet who would defend the pitcher’s unprofessional behavior, and yet in the real world, we defend the indefensible as if it were a call of duty — avoiding any truth that has even a whiff of inconvenience.

Take note of how she wanted her sister to support her by looking away from the glaringly obvious (as we think those closest to us should stand by us no matter what).

I seek no such “support” — as faith in the forthright goes a long way

But Kit wanted to have her cake and eat it too: She wanted to be treated like a professional for all that good that goes with it, but not the bad. 

Even in the last 3 seconds of that scene, there’s educational gold to glean, as a fan shows a form of support that entirely escapes one-dimensional decision makers:

Shake it off, Kit!


I took some boxing lessons many years ago, and I remember watching the trainer pound a medicine ball into those who were seemingly glutton for punishment. While I was not aiming to become a boxer, I had every intention of taking the same blows. Before that day arrived, I had always imagined the pummeling as an agonizing workout, but it turned out to be quite exhilarating — a rite of passage of sorts.

All along it was just an illusion that I had created in my mind, and that fear was far worse than the reality

The teacher beats you with medicine to build up resistance that will ultimately protect you, but first you have to be willing to trust that he’s not out to crack your ribs. Even spur of the moment debates on unimportant matters can be valuable training when you enter the ring with sincerity.

You might try thinking of all encounters as intellectual sparring to keep your mind in shape

Funny how people love to plug the “nobody’s perfect” platitude, and yet I noticed how many of them cannot be corrected on anything. The incorrigible in that camp act like they are never wrong, never rude, never foolish, never over-the-top, never unreasonable, and never insulting.

In the spirit of the “only guilty man in Shawshank” — I’ve been all those things at one time or another.

But not this time . . .

In my stories that follow, they happened because the word of these people was meaningless — devoid of any measure outside of belief (which is the only qualification for truth these days).

Adorning a wall on AutoNation’s floor called Intersection, are the words “Excellence” and “Performance” (along with a wall of history that adds character to the room).

I wonder, would the following be found in your formula for excellence and performance?

WORD_CLOUDSo apparently, even as a contractor, I’m part of “the team” when it comes to getting a Starbucks $5 gift card (wrapped in “We Love You Working Here” imagery). I appreciated that very much — evidenced by the fact that I took a picture from each side of the thoughtful offering:

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Somebody went to the trouble to couple the card with some fine features, and nobody loves the little things more than me.

On that note, let’s give it up for some Sonny James (and whoever it was that added so much beauty to this bliss):

But far more effort was put into that card than the ice-cold indifference in your slapdash decision-making

And undoubtedly, some stiff is sitting there pretending to have a point about how safeguards for employees do not apply to contractors.

Do I strike you as someone who doesn’t know that? So spare me your mealy-mouthed whitewashing of reality straight from the department of the obvious.

Of course contractors can be bounced for any reason, but it’s not about what you can do, it’s about what you should do — showing some semblance of measuring right and wrong through the prism of what you decorate your walls with.

This is not about contractors getting “equality” or even anything close to it. It’s nothing more than demanding enough of yourself to have the humanity for a degree of discernment and proportionality in how you act on the uncomfortable & inconvenient.

And it astounds me that you have not an atom of curiosity to discover that there’s enormous value to found in dealing with the difficult.

If you won’t take my word for it, how about his? . . .


But you opted for the path of least resistance — courageously plugging away at your precious protocol . . .


And why not — when it’s so in vogue?

It’s not my first fight on the front lines of folly by those who mindlessly march to the cavalier cadence of phoning it in . . . 

You cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive spectator. . . . We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them. ― Abigail Adams (October 16, 1774)

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And right on cue come the giants of genius who peddle their poppycock in the pattern they see — issuing textbook trite under the guise of “insight.”

John Adams doesn’t get nearly enough credit for creating this country. With all that he gave up for us, the importance of Abigail’s steadfast support and sacrifice cannot possibility be overstated. These two were the genuine article. Unlike some more-famous Founding Fathers, not only did they not own slaves, they wouldn’t borrow any from their neighbors either.

This quote speaks volumes for how they fell about it:


The shoot-from-the-hip, half-assed “insight” slingers are wildly off the mark by being so self-satisfied in the superficial, but there is a pattern all right . . .

I’ve always clashed with our culture that increasingly values bullshit as currency . . .

The Great Enemy

The blurb for On Bullshit brilliantly defines what I’m out to expose:

Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.

And by the way, the banks built my career — and I’m forever grateful to Bank of America and First Union  / Wachovia  / Wells Fargo (as well as other companies like Cryogenic Tank Restoration (CTR)International Game Technology (IGT) and Hannover Re).

I’ve been in and out the banks in Charlotte since 1998 (10 times in total at BofA for a cumulative 7 years) — almost all of which was contracting. Tack on another 4 years from First Union to Wells. However much I have to say about how the banks fell far short of their own standards, I owe my career to them for the multitude of times they delivered in full — and then some!

On top of all that, I had a blast. I’ve worked with some of the finest people in this business, and they made me better in more ways than I could ever thank them for.

I’ve seen magnificent management at the banks and elsewhere, so my vision of the possible is not a fairytale.

But as our culture has gone totally off the rails of reason, the IT industry played right along — becoming daycare centers to act as a fortress to wall off any form of narcissistic injury.

I wrote the following about 10 years ago:

Who hasn’t had to put up with some jackass on the job? Some degree of that just comes with the territory, but in my industry there has been an undeniable trend of tolerating what would have been totally unacceptable in the past.

It never ceases to amaze me that companies coddle people who personify various forms of the lowest common denominator. Rather than inspire them to rise to standards set by others, the meticulous are asked to accommodate the careless. On top of that, there seems to be a universal rolodex of excuses that gets spun to absolve those in question.

While the banks built my career, they also damn near destroyed it

Before anybody gives me the “boohoo” bit, I have benefited enormously by my many trials. People I’ve met, places I’ve been, things I’ve learned, and eyes on sights I never would have seen without the inhumanity of man.

As I wrote on The Fraudulent 5 (a story about being robbed of my dream job on day one):

As I am a connoisseur of silver linings, I have made the most of my exile that railroaded me from this bank 3 years ago this month. Nevertheless, what was unjustly taken from me is never far from the forefront of my mind. . . .

I wouldn’t want to miss out on any of the experiences that have come my way as a result of this fiasco. From my work in Reno to the documentary I released in May 2014, I have turned my distress into once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

I didn’t get the memo on the justifiable skirting of “Higher Standards” and “Do The Right Thing”

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And then we have Wells Fargo and their fantasy of going far  — dragging dead weight all the way

In one of my all-time-favorite monuments to mediocrity, we have what I call:

The “Patrick’s Patrick” Policy

(named for the resident clown in my 2012 contract)

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Is there some kind of government mandate on employing these people (perhaps as an experiment to see just how much we can take)?

But what’s worse than hiring them is never firing them. There’s not even a hint of “shape up or ship out” anymore.

Another glorious gift from my treasure chest of silver linings is the mountain of material I’ve gleaned for the book I’ve been writing on and off for many years. One of my favorite things about sharing my stories is the gold I get in return. I was telling a friend about the Skeletoes this guy would wear, and while they have their place, taken in totality of the garb of this guy — I found him buffoonish at best.

So I’m talkin’ chapter titles with my friend, and as much as I love my “policy” bit above, I just about died when I heard this:

The Skeletoes Situation

The Skeletoes SituationYou’d never guess that a guy so incurious in the face of inquiry would be a member of Mensa — “the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world.” It’s all the more absurd when you consider that curiosity is at the core of Mensa’s mandate (smack-dab at the center of their virtues).

Mensa Word Cloud

That someone could so easily abandon the aptitude it took to qualify for that club exemplifies the power of pride

It soon became obvious how he flagrantly gets away with his asinine antics. A guy like that becomes a company mascot, as everybody eventually buys into the belief that “he can’t help it — Patrick’s Patrick.” Such collective enabling reinforces his childlike view that anything goes because “I’m jolly ol’ Patrick.”

Purely for the purpose of providing an image, I should admit that I silently dubbed him “Santa Crass” from the start. His obnoxious behavior was off the charts even on day one. Our little group went to lunch and this loud-mouth felt free to push his politics replete with profanity.

It’s important to note that I’m personally not offended by either, and I happen to agree with some of his concerns  — but I don’t care, there’s a time and place, and that ain’t it!

I could see the embarrassment on the faces of my manager and colleague (who was just as sweet as can be and I loved working with her). Let’s call her RightOn. The idea that any manager would be aware of such behavior and do nothing to stop it is grossly irresponsible.

When I approached him about my concerns, he said:

I was impressed with you in the interview — but now I’m tremendously impressed. I’m amazed that you figured all this out in 3 days.

The fact that the manager didn’t like this guy any more than I did was extremely telling . We agreed to give it some time but he made it clear that “Patrick’s not going anywhere.”

What I really wanted to say was:

Fine — then do your job so this bozo doesn’t reflect so poorly on you, your team, and the company.

We gave it a go but the writing was on the wall

When I proposed a new approach, I sent out an email detailing my idea. The next morning, Patrick unsurprisingly pooh-poohed it, but RightOn dropped by my desk and asked if we could do a whiteboard meeting to discuss what I had in mind.

We made some strides but she helped me see that I needed sharpen up the presentation.

I stayed late that night working up a one-page PowerPoint to illustrate the concept, and it was right on the money this time — and I thank her for that.

RightOn represents that rare curious-minded colleague who reminds you of how it’s supposed to be. And contrary to convenient opinion, it’s not about my idea — it’s about how ideas should be entertained (as I’ve spent a lifetime doing for others).

In one of the most pivotal moments of my career, the mere inflection of the word “interesting” caught my attention in my colleague’s critique. I was a little hazy about his input at the time, so a few days later I stopped by his desk and said, “Could you go through that again?”

And now my eyes were open all the way . . .

His approach was far superior to mine, so I scrapped my code and started over that weekend — retooling it until it was all done by 5:00 AM Monday morning.

And by the way, it wasn’t due that day — I just cranked it out it because I was having fun.

I had been enlightened, and what a wonderful feeling to have your idea surpassed by something better. My colleague made me sharper, and I had something new to build on — and that’s a beautiful thing, don’t ya think?

When I sent out an email expressing my enthusiasm and acknowledging the wise one who showed me the way, they all applauded me with “team play” platitudes. For the record, I really liked that group and the manager as well, but I see the lay of the land regardless of likability.

You wanna guess how many of ’em tried it out (an approach that applied to every single project in that shop):

That’s right  — ZERO!

After a little spat that hurt Patrick’s precious feelings a few weeks later — he cried foul and that afternoon I was kicked to the curb. This is what my manager said when he called the contract agency:

Rick’s a rock star and I really like him — but I gotta let him go

I’m not a “rock star” in IT or anything else — but the point of the quote is that it shows just how ludicrous it all is:

That you keep the person you don’t want  — and fire the person you do

That I was terminated is a technicality — because the truth is that the manager and I had an understanding after that earlier meeting. In his mind, he was doing me a favor (and he was probably right). I don’t have any ill feelings toward him, because he’s not some machine in the way he saw things. I didn’t agree with his decision, but I understood it.

RightOn’s kind message below still hits me in the gut:


But it’s not like I wanted to leave, I just wanted Patrick to not be such a poster boy for pampering. I’ve always been a problem solver at heart, so I believe that anything in the way of progress should be dealt with to whatever degree is reasonable.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a manager exercise his inherent responsibility.


The Law of Unintended Consequences is at the core of our country’s ills. I happily belong to the minute minority that feels we’re not informed enough to know the answers to every controversial issue in America. We don’t have a monopoly on virtue — and don’t want one. We’re not only willing to change our minds — we welcome it.

But fundamentally speaking, in trying to create a more sensitive culture, America went way overboard — creating a hypersensitive country is the process. You had good intentions, but you lost your way.

So then we have these jokers on a full-time job at Wells (with a Team Leader who turned into a cheerleader — and a manager who talked a good game)

Wells Fargo - Vision and Values

We don’t want to pressure them, as it might backfire

You mean the “pressure” that’s defined in your “Vision & Values” handbook that spells out the very expectations I espouse?

I could have cranked out the crappiest code imaginable, and as long as long as it “worked” and I met my monthly quota, I’d be on track for a full bonus.

Their “management” style is completely in line with the times (sanctioned as if time-honored traditions of leadership did not exist for reference).

I wasn’t about to waste my time repeatedly trying to convince these people of what they claimed in the interviews. 3 months into the job, I grabbed my goods and walked by the big-shot’s office — took that book above, tossed it on his desk and said:

This book is a fraud!

Tossed my badge in the same place and walked out the door.

And now with their fake-accounts scandal, it’s quantifiable fraud. Maybe the CEO wouldn’t have had to resign in disgrace had he paid heed to my letter:

Wells Fargo - Vision and Values

Note: There are pockets of excellence almost everywhere I’ve been, and that likely holds true for AutoNation as well. But the fact that there are such areas makes it all the more absurd, because you have a North Star to navigate by — but you pay no mind, and it shows.


I love Bill Belichick’s attitude on teamwork:

The main point to me is that [the players] have to be coordinated, and the 10 people have to support what that 11th guy is doing, and vice versa. . . .

The only way that can happen is for there to be discipline, for everyone to be disciplined enough to do their job, knowing the guy beside him is doing his, too, so that you can count on him and he can count on you, and go right down the line.

Bill Belichick

I had some wonderful colleagues at Sally and I loved the environment there, but bad apples and inept managers have a knack for ruining everything.

It never ceases to amaze me how so-called leaders will spin their wheels on symptoms of problems while flagrantly ignoring the root of them. Wouldn’t it be so much smarter to solve the source of a problem instead of having to deal with all those that result from it?

Doesn’t it drive you crazy when people don’t do their jobs — and it brazenly interferes with yours? Making matters worse is once again the collective enabling that invariably feeds these fiascos.

It’s a given that there’s a degree of finesse that’s required when dealing with personalities and resistance, but when that effort becomes excessive — at some point it’s an HR/managerial matter. The mere mention of this Customer Service Rep’s name would evoke eye rolling from everyone in my circle. My manager would openly gripe about her, and he just wanted to get her to sign off on a report and get her out of our way.

That’s incredibly unprofessional. I don’t care what this lady’s like — professionals are supposed to rise above it, remain objective, and proceed with diligence.

Our job is not to “get rid” of people we serve

But no, he’s got his plan that’s out to prove the rep is wrong. He could be right, but his approach skipped over problem-solving fundamentals. He didn’t ask for my input, so I didn’t give it.

Note: In fairness, once or twice before, he told me to come see him if I had a concern of any kind. And he was receptive to a design approach I suggested on another topic.

So he had a few moments that impressed me, but those were offset by his habit of swooping in and making lickety-split judgments based on assumptions and inadequate information.

He once told me that we were “getting off track” from a plan he neglected to mention

And these issues are never isolated — I picked up all kinds of chatter from the team (all of which squared with my limited dealings with him). So if you’ve got a manager who’s always racing around and talks out of both sides of his mouth — “Come see me” doesn’t count for much — because you don’t believe them.

I’ve spent my career putting myself in the shoes of my customers, so I could see that her inexcusable intransigence was partly shaped by poor service. IT was retiring a legacy system and replacing it with something inferior — and my manager didn’t seem to care one bit about that.

There was a time when I would have voiced my opposition, but I was trying to get my career back on track, and I can’t afford that kind of trouble anymore. You wanna run a shoddy operation then you go right ahead, it’s your show. I’ll just do whatever you ask and keep moving on until I find someplace that welcomes what I have to say . . .

Somewhere Over the Rainbow — where leaders lay down the law like this:

If you come here, you are going to need to want to be pushed, to be challenged, to work. If you are here to collect a paycheck, or to show up, don’t come.

— Ric Elias, CEO of Red Ventures

I can just hear my former colleagues from over the years saying, “Well, Rick’s finally lightened up and learned that this is the way it is and he can’t change it.”

I don’t regret trying though

Is it just too much to ask for one tiny space in the world where people challenge each other and welcome it? Where we do right by those who rely on us and deserve our best. And if we fell short for any reason, we would strive to rectify it and reflect on lessons learned. We’d solve problems with a purity of purpose (absent of the ego, pride, and CYA that poisons possibility).

While I have hoped to find a sanctuary like the “academic shop” fromThe Fraudulent 5, even some semblance of it would be satisfying — but the dead certain derailed even those designs.

I’ve continually had to lower my expectations of people over the years — and they had reached rock-bottom

Or so I thought, as that last day at Sally Beauty was a whole new low. My manager presented his plan in a meeting and I had no intention of saying one word in objection.

I was just sitting there going along for the ride — and then out of nowhere the Project Manager says:

Rick, you look like you’ve got something to say . . .

“OH NO!”  — was the first thought that entered my mind

I don’t know how she saw it on my face, because I sure as hell wasn’t trying project anything.

For the first few weeks on the job, I worked day and night to ramp on on a skill set I’d wanting to get into for years. I would arrive at work with my eyes shot and come alive the moment I walked in the door.

And how could you not? Look at this place — is that groovy or what?

And there’s much more: Bright and cheery conference rooms with frosted-glass, ping-pong table, perfect temperature, comfortable cubes, and most people seemed happy to be there.

But I doubt anyone was happier than me . . . I had found some peace, I was fired up for my future, and opportunities at Sally were paving the way.

Soon after I started, I was handed an unfinished customer-service report that should have been a piece of cake. But it was like pulling teeth to get any information from the rep. For one thing, no one in Customer Service wanted this report (especially her). Secondly, she’d already explained a good bit of this stuff to a previous contractor and whoever else was involved months before.

It’s beyond belief that such a tiny task took all that time — and still wasn’t done

Through cycles of polite prodding, it took weeks to get information that should have taken an afternoon. Adding to the absurdity of it all, is just how simple this report was. But nobody pressed it as a priority — so I just went with the flow.

Eventually we started making some strides, and whenever I got what I asked for — I solved each issue in no time. In the spirit of specifics: She told me her report was taking over 2 minutes to render. I asked for an example to test, and 5 minutes later I had it running in 4 seconds.

But the closer I got to finishing it, the more distant she became (repeatedly ignoring emails, chat messages, and meeting invites). All I needed was a few more questions answered and we’d knock this puppy out.

And here he comes swooping down once again to save the day with his “I’m sick of this report” approach to problem solving.

There was never a hint of urgency all on this thing — but now it’s on fire (presumably because it’s tied to a larger project and he was worried about appearances).

Did I really need to request a meeting with my manager to explain the most obvious imaginable solution to dealing the culprit in this equation? I’m not there to babysit your people. If I had the authority, the entire company would be a coddling-free zone.


I’d been biting my tongue on this, but the PM asked me a direct question — and as tactfully as possible, I gave a direct answer.

My manager was not pleased and got combative from the get-go. The big “reveal” was when he shared what the rep said in their meeting: “Rick doesn’t understand what I need.” I paused for 2-3 seconds and said:

That’s BS!

But what I felt like saying was:

THAT is GRADE-A HORSESHIT — and you damn well know it!

Of course, strictly speaking — I didn’t understand what she needed, but that might have something to do with the fact that she deliberately avoided my questions.

You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. After a little disagreement, he stood aside and the Project Manager and I hashed out a timeline. No more polite prodding — I was gonna get the information I needed no matter what it took.

The whole thing would have been over and done with in a few days, and I left that meeting on a mission. I managed to get a meeting set up with the rep for 4:30 and we were ready to rock.

An hour later I got an email from my manager — taking me off the project and asking me to hand it off to a colleague.

I refused on principle alone

This pissant report meant nothing to me (not one thing of interest in it, nothing challenging about it, and I wish it had never come my way). But once something comes into my name, it gets done. I’ve had unfinished projects handed off to me that others with struggling with, and I turned them around in no time.

That’s not to say that I would refuse handing off any project. If I got in over my head and a colleague had to take over, I’d respect that.

But this was a debacle that inept managers caused — and no way in hell would I let him pass this off as something it was not.

By broadcasting my refusal to the entire team — I fully expected to be fired. But it is timelessly laughable to me that . . .

Now he wants to wield his authority, and lickety-split like . . .

The one thing I do feel really bad about though  — is that Melissa & Jason (the lovely people who hired me) — took a chance on someone who already had a mounting number of short stints since I moved to California. But we hit it on off from the first minute on the phone — and the moment I met them in person, it was seamless.

Jason’s quick wit and that sly smile (the clever kind who effortlessly make you laugh — even when they’re making fun of you). And Melissa — just a beaming presence of enthusiasm and jocular joy.

On a weekly basis she’d write a quote on her cube wall for how she was feeling at the time. Look at the artistic elements in the penmanship and color — the style is so Mel (which I saw from the start in her “Let’s make it happen! ” when she gave the green light to bring me on board).


Keep ’em or share ’em!

And then one morning I walk in to find this treat on my desk. I’m happy enough just being there, I don’t need any extras  —  but boy it’s sure nice to be appreciated!

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Great job, great neighbors, great atmosphere — I damn near had it all (even if it’s only a 6-month gig, it was getting me where I wanna go).

But just how much of myself do I have to sacrifice in pursuit of the prize?

Of course, some principles override others. I owed Melissa and Jason for giving me a shot, and had I paused to remember that, that principle would have trumped my disgust in all things revolving around that ridiculous report.

When I sent a letter to the CEO of Sally Beauty, Christian A. Brickman, I got word that they made a fuss over me not going through the proper channels of the agency to express my grievance.


So lemme get this straight — someone writes you a well-crafted case laying out how Sally Beauty blew it on every form of “Culture of Can Do” (in this context), and your concern is the skirting of protocol (the “appropriate” that would block my letter from ever landing on your desk)?

Just this excerpt alone would have gotten my attention if I were in an executive’s shoes:

I don’t expect flawless execution of any ideals, but being miserably off the mark is another matter. I’d much rather write about all the good things at Sally Beauty, but ugliness is invaluable information in the right hands. . . .

I came here on a mission to keep my head down and diligently do my job. That was fine until a few failed to do theirs — brazenly impeding progress. . . .

The debacle that ensued should be an embarrassment to your organization . . .

I didn’t know until just now that Mr. Brickman is also an author (of a book that seems strikingly similar to the very values in my letter deemed unworthy of attention):

Christian A. Brickman - cover

The author’s central message is simply that failure is not something to be feared, but rather to be embraced as a learning opportunity that can shape your leadership style and expand your personal impact on an organization.


Runnin’ Down a Dream is a 4-hour documentary for the ages — spanning Tom Petty’s pursuit of greatness that was fulfilled many times over. I’ve heard him tell of the time he got a birthday from Johnny Cash, and in it the Man in Black wrote:

You’re a good man to ride the river with

Coming from Cash, is it even possible to have a higher compliment?

Runnin' Down a Dream - resize

When Petty passed away, I was thinking about all the bonding that came from his music. We had some good softball games back in the day, and there was this one friend who’d come racing in with his Rabbit blaring Rebels from Pack of the Plantation.

Several years ago I was catching up with that friend, and he invited me up for a visit. In our next conversation he relayed what he told his wife about me:

Rick’s the most honest person you’ll ever meet

He said it with such enthusiasm — and it brought a smile to my face to be remembered as such. 

But none of that mattered on the most world-altering lie of our lifetimes (which I happen to be an authority on). Knowledge used to be respected, but now all you have to do is see an angle and summarily dismiss anything that doesn’t compute with your program. That you know absolutely nothing about what you’re talking about — don’t let that get in your way.

I would add that even if there is an angle, discernment demands that totality be weighed.

That lie I referred to above — they pulled it off with ease by using the go-to template for all-things false in our times:

Defenders of the Indefensible invariably ignore #2 and #3 and distort the hell out of #1:


That you even think that something so complex and convoluted could be explained away so easily — is a monumental problem all by itself . . .

We have all but eradicated reason in our perennial pursuit of ideologies — warfare waged with “opinions lightly adopted but firmly held . . . forged from a combination of ignorance, dishonesty, and fashion” (borrowing from Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom).


Speaking of trench warfare, in the slightly summarized passage below — Russ Hoyle is referring to Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam:

True folly, Tuchman found, is generally recognized as counterproductive in its own time, and not merely in hindsight. In Tuchman’s template, true folly only ensues when a clear alternative path of action was available and ruled out.

Tuchman also stipulated that real folly was most often the product of a group within an organized government. Tuchman alighted on a root cause of folly that she called “wooden-headedness” — defined in part as “assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting contrary information.”

She also saw wooden-headedness as a certain proclivity for “acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by facts.” Wooden-headedness, said Tuchman, was finally — “the refusal to benefit from experience.”

“acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by facts”

Tuchman could have just as easily been describing America as a whole.

I have fond memories of growing up listening to Paul Harvey’s radio program. I love that closing line: “And now you know . . . the rest of the story.” I’ve always loved being enlightened on something I didn’t know or fully understand — even if I feel foolish for not knowing sooner.

I’d rather be embarrassed for 5 minutes than be pleased in my ignorance for a lifetime.

The Rest of The Story

And now, The Rest of the Story: Branded Man . . .

Remember that guitar in a museum in Tennessee
And the nameplate on the glass brought back twenty melodies
And the scratches on the face
Told of all the times he fell
Singin’ every story he could tell . . .

Thanks for all the memories and countless hours of attitude in some of the finest music the world will ever know

And here’s my highest compliment for your place in the cool-cats club:

Who’s gonna fill their shoes?
Who’s gonna stand that tall?
Who’s gonna play the Opry
And the Wabash Cannonball?
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you?
Lord I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes?